PROTECT-U “U-Udios One” (U-Udios)

We’re not gonna start rummaging through my hard drive, that much I’ll tell you right off the bat. We’d find some half-finished ideas from years ago – MAYBE. Most likely we’d unearth some incompetent jamming or covers of terrible songs. It would really just be incredibly awkward for all involved, but mostly it would be an uncomfortable journey into my inept past. I don’t think I could take getting crushed by that type of embarrassment again.

For Aaron Leitko and Mike Petillo, aka Protect-U, also proprietors of fine items at U-Udios, scrubbing the underside of every file folder in their hard drive was a much more rewarding experience. “U-Udios One” collects the unreleased material gleaned from this exercise, the product of two and a half years of work following Protect-U’s debut “Free USA.” It’s … it’s way cooler than anything that’s ever been on my computer, I gotta admit. Even if these tracks were cobbled together for the sole purpose of allowing them to see the light of day, there’s a coherence of composition here that presents a unified listening experience.

Sparse electronics verge on breaking through to techno at times, but mostly they skitter and squirm in lo-fi burrows, emerging from the murk periodically to see what’s going on outside. Often Protect-U latches onto a mood and hovers there, exploring in detail the alcoves and crevasses of their position, fiddling with pieces and fragments until they stretch into fully formed passages. The exploration, the experience, is the key, and each track is the tactile result of audio excavation. Hard not to get excited about something like that.

Now, if only I had something good to put on a tape…


FIELDED “Drip Drip” (Deathbomb Arc)

I tend to take in the music of Fielded like a detective takes in a case file. Every release by singer/producer Lindsay Powell is like a dossier, filled with disparate accounts that, if only arranged in the right light, could unravel the mystery. In her albums, Fielded vacillates between beauty and horror, at any given moment filling the role of the victim, witness and perpetuator—the object of another’s pleasure and subject of her own pleasure. But Fielded feels like more than a persona. With each release, Powell seems to be travelling psychically inward, slowly circling towards a traumatic kernel that provides the project its eroticism and terror.

It began for me with 2010’s Terrageist. Occult beasts stalk the sonic corners of that record, concealed by the oozing layers of Powell’s multitracked, multioctave voice. The LP contains a fold-out with inked sketches of these demons—chimeras of fur, teeth, and claws that lurk beside lyrics that are handwritten like desperate dispatches from another dimension. “Did he lay his hands upon you, with indifference? Did he soil her for pleasure, was he wanting it forever?” read the words to “Reason,” sprawling across the page. Listening to Terrageist transports me to Fielded’s own private Carcosa, or Black Lodge—a place of fantasy, somehow tethered to reality.

The gothic claustrophobia of Terrageist opens out in 2013’s Ninety Thirty Thirty, the first hint of Powell’s willingness to expand into pop territory. Sonic remnants of Terrageist persist, such as the distant bells, wailing wind, and close whispers of “My Hand, Meant Only for You,” but these moments are largely driven away by techno-pop sawtooth waves, arpeggiating synth bass lines, horn stabs, and saxophone solos. The lyrics, too, hover between light and darkness. “Chapel of Lies” dwells on unearthly horrors, and the titular protagonist in “Doctor” seems immediately sinister, as if one of the demons from Terrageist followed Fielded out, taking on human skin. Yet hints salvation appear in songs like “Arms of Heaven” and “Eve of a New Moon.” Ninety Thirty Thirty is ultimately an album that struggles with itself, and within that struggle, things still remain concealed. “Hold, stop. Let up the secret. Are all the secrets gonna drive you insane?” Powell sings in the “Gabrielle.” “Hold, stop. You couldn’t speak it, but I can feel it like a fire getting stronger each day.”

If Terrageist is about bondage, and Ninety Thirty Thirty about struggle, Drip Drip is about confrontation. There is no more mystery here—the secr¬ets are spoken with a crystal-clear testimony in the first minute of “Persephone (Intro)”: "I swear the kindness lies/'cause I see myself in the kindest eyes/but I keep seeing the devil between my thighs/wish I could shake that night." Over a dub-style backing track for the remainder of the song, Powell goes further: “I try again and again to be free and forgive myself/Try to remember to breathe that I’m fine and well/Try to remember to speak but to no avail/You are the one to blame/Your actions were louder than words and gave you away/And I have so much rage/Just wanna live to see a brighter day/release me.”
By the end of “Persephone (Intro),” Powell has expelled her demons—not so much to exorcise them, but to clinically examine their nature. The diagnosis, it seems, is male fragility. In the second track, “Baby Boys,” Powell exclaims “[You] wanted someone to sex you perplex you make you feel like you are an artist/man I’m just being honest.” It’s a lyric from a muse unchained, no longer able to silently tolerate the artist’s continual need for validation. Powell’s admonishment of the brittle male ego continues in “Fix Ya,” which takes on a more contemporary concern: “Rather see me through a screen/Addicted to catch-and-release/Does this satisfy you, Daddy?/Does it make you love me madly?” Considering the preference for mediated fantasy over the courageous embrace of reality (a symptom intensified by the digital age, creating bad hookups at best and incels at worst), Powell concludes with a shrug: “I wish I could fix ya.”

The exasperated ambivalence of “Fix Ya,” is countered by a more proactive, almost pedagogical approach to male fragility taken in “Drip, Drip,” a sex song of the “let’s take it slow” vein that takes on a deeper meaning when surrounded with the other tracks on the album. “We don’t need to be in love, we just need to be aligned,” Powell exclaims at the height of the otherwise subdued track. It’s an appeal that is quite literally the least one could ask for in a sexual encounter, a request so foundational it shouldn’t need to be articulated. But then again, we live in a time when sexually abusing women multiple times for the validating chortles of prep school bros won’t keep you from highest halls of the American judiciary. Baby boys, indeed.

This isn’t to say that in Drip Drip Powell has abandoned her more esoteric lyrical inclinations to be down-to-earth and practical. Songs like “Am I All,” “Married to the Body,” and especially the powerhouse “Heart of Darkness” are as sophisticated as any of her previous works, abounding with allusions and contradictions speaking to the more profound aspects of human existence. To that end, Drip Drip is also Fielded’s most biblical work to date, bookended by supplications to the Virgin Mary in the first track and exaltations of “Halleluiah” in the last. The album’s cover makes a clear reference to the Garden of Eden, as do many of the lyrics—a seeming obsession of Powell’s first revealed in Terrageist’s “Demon Seed.” Coupled with this are references to prayer in “Light it Up,” and the soul in “Drip Drip.” The organ pad behind the upbeat “Higher Love” additionally hints towards a desire for something a bit more transcendental than a better lover.

It isn’t the lyrics that give Drip Drip its unprecedented directness, then, but rather the music. The instrumentals throughout the album are much more sparse than those encountered in her previous work, and ballads like “Set in Stone,” “The Vow,” and “Am I All” practically lack instrumentals altogether. Powell seems increasingly confident in the strength of her own voice, and is hiding less within pitch-shifted, multitracked choirs. When such choirs do appear, they are quicker to invoke church than howls from the abyss, or they take on a much more percussive role, as in the interlocking staccato vocal stabs panning between earphones in the trap-inspired “Light it Up.” As her skills as a producer become more refined and direct, Powell maintains her intellectual virtuosity and existential curiosity while creating her sincerest, most direct album to date.

Hannah Arendt’s famous profile of Adolf Eichmann concludes with the assertion that the most horrific acts of evil do not often occur from the long machinations of the cunning and malevolent, but by the stupid acts of scared nobodies. In Drip Drip, the beasts first introduced in Terrageist are stripped of their teeth and claws, and what remains are frightened baby boys, whose cruelty is but a feeble attempt to eradicate a gnawing sense of insecurity and inadequacy. “Fear in men breeds the death of love,” Powell sings at her most triumphant in “Loving a Man You Can’t Touch.” For the more cynical, perhaps Powell’s three album-long confrontation with her own demons is nothing but a slow airing of dirty laundry, an unrequested confession. But really, what’s a more noble pursuit of music, if not to confront trauma and heal? Selling records? Proving your great artistry to the world? Drip Drip is dedicated to survivors, and to the extent that this album helps draw out and eradicate the poisons of misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia, it is a welcome and necessary work. If it suits her, I would even say: God bless Lindsay Powell.

HOUSE OF CORRECTIONS: An earlier version of this review misquoted some of the lyrics. Our apologies to the artist.

--Ben Dumbauld

LIMBC / J. BAGIST “Split” C40
(Property Materials)

Limbc, from Allston, Massachusetts, utilizes disruptive electronics to juxtapose tranquility and mayhem, injecting pulses and charges over synth soundscapes like computer viruses that gradually reduce the integrity and functionality of a machine. If you imagine that a computer’s CPU functions like a human brain, these elements introduced to the processing functions act like attacks on an electronic limbic system, which – whoa! – sounds an awful like if you said “Limbc” out loud. Probably not a coincidence. By the end of Limbc’s side of this split on Property Materials, your computer may still be functioning, but it’s certainly way more under the influence of the invading code than your influence anymore. The takeover may be hostile, but there isn’t a single shot fired, as Limbc’s nuanced and textural approach washes over the terrain and evolves along with it.

J. Bagist is only interested in navigating Sewer City, 2065, and getting the heck out of there (probably).

The Bostonian and Property Materials head raconteur drips synth weirdness on his side of the split, as “Riots in the Vegetable Garden” and “Alien Blur Dissipates in Gutter Twilight” explain all you need to explain about what’s about to happen, what you’re about to hear. The creeping decay of Bagist’s long-form explorations of the fictional city inhabit every corner of every note and rhythm, every triggered effect and synth patch. You wallow in it for a while, getting the feel of the place, darting down side streets, checking your map, hoping like hell you’re not being chased by any… Oh, crap. Almost three-fourths of “Alien Blur” features a blaring klaxon effect that essentially makes you feel like you’ve been pinpointed by a hovering searchlight. It’s exhilarating, and awesome, and makes me want to run and get the hell out of Sewer City. Fortunately, it’s highly unlikely I’ll be alive in 2065, so.

Did I mention this tape has a green glitter shell? I didn’t? Well, there you go.


KAR’NAM “Autodidactic” C32 (Property Materials)

Kar’nam is like a human digeridoo – an “om” machine with controls set for the heart of the all-seeing “I,” the center of the mind, the core of the inner being. Building vast, drifting drones with whatever’s around, Kar’nam lets eyes close while kaleidoscopic psychedelics play on the back of the lids. I’m not gonna say for certain that it’s all looped voice, but it sounds an awful lot like strictly looped voice. The haunting mesmerism of “Autodidactic” trips through your wires like spiritual electricity, a charge from a higher plane of existence that can only be reached through ritual cleansing of the mind and spirit.

Not unlike Jordan Reyes’s Revenant project, Kar’nam’s formula begins with the loop-based building blocks on which are built structures of intense sound, but “Autodidactic” allows for a more careful and gentle exploration of the psyche. It’s heady, though, bubbling and fizzing till you feel weightless, buoyed by the sound to an unknown destination, but one whose shores are welcoming for all seekers of inner peace. “Divide Yourself,” especially, with its Eastern scales, really takes on a mystical identity, rippling out through space and time into the great infinite beyond. But only for its fifteen or so minutes. (What? That’s how long it lasts!)


LULL “The Birth, Life, And Death Of A Perfectly Ordinary Person” C30 (Howling Frequency)

Okay I think I have been doing this wrong. Over thinking or not thinking at all and letting the flurry of ideas just pour out unchecked like scantrans rubbed with chapstick. Not a lot of people know that trick. Though it didn’t ever work really so maybe it wasn’t a trick and we were all just tricked. Hmmm… Okay I am going to brief during the lull. That is our band up on review right now. Only took us a year but we are making progress. Life was on pause but the tapes never stop and I promise I will spit didactics to each one I get based on the effort put in by the sender. Oi. So lull who spells there name with all lowercase letters always I read somewhere are going to be pissed to find out we have our own yarbles & etiquette rules here and we are your antithesis. Neat word huh!? So the artwork is neat though I didn’t realize it was a bridge for a good ten minutes. You have to rotate it 90 degrees first. I’m horizontally inclined or whatever. But as I open this which is pro shrinkwrapped I can’t tell if it is homemade with style or a short run from a small dubber. Who cares really… oh yeah YOU do!

Nice fancy cardstock material and very clean print job. Inside has credits and a photo by Anna M. I guess. Lull is tommy and brandon it says. Oh sweet I know them. A few times over actually. Popular names for kind hearted boys in my world. Kinky! The album itself has my kind of title as well. It is called in all lower case again… “the birth, life and death of a perfectly ordinary person”. That is some deep stuff there and I am not being sarcastic. I am being sardonic and so are they I am pretty sure. It’s clever as it is purposely underwhelming or maybe it makes you think about your poor neighbor lady who is all alone and old and feeble and not with many if anybody at all to keep her company besides her 12 cats that will likely eat her face off after she goes but before she is found by one of the curious neighbors eventually after the mail and newspapers have piled up for a week or so. Yeah I really need to go next door more often like a good eagle scout would have in his younger arrow of light days. I am a disgrace… and her house smells like mouldy national geographics from a century ago and a mist of cat piss can be tasted the second you step foot into the house. Pretty tape though. It has a clear shell with a blue metallic liner inside and they cleanly printed out labels too that are stuck on their clean and not rolling up on you anytime soon if ever. Nice. Excellent tangible. They may be sold out by now but F it i’ll help drive up the discogs price then for them eventually. Hopefully up anyways. I do have enemies in high places. Like God and those guys that write stuff in the sky with planes for hot cash. Also tree monkeys and all species of birds. I will spare you all those stories though as my tummy hurts right now. Wah!

Okay okay... Upon insertion and tape rolling in comes the lull. Fun name to say. Immediately I think math rock. Do people even call it math rock anymore? Did they ever really? Thinking yeah this is definitely post-rock then but then the vocals kick in… doh! But they are good so don’t worry math club nerds. I’m just kidding math is cool sometimes. So I will go look and see what they think they are genre wise on their bandcamp. Yikes. Lull’s bandcamp page has shoegaze which is appropriate but it also says... screamo! Which i refuse to acknowledge is a real thing. I disagree with that tag applied here. This is better. This is much better actually than that dross that lives under such a sub mutant ninny of a genre name. I hate screamo. It is the devil. Or something not as cool entirely. Hate me emoticon children I thrive off it actually. From the name to the well mostly the name is just horrendous for a genre or anything. Only Nu Metal is worst but they are close to the same in my mind. Luckily I don’t know shit from shinola really so uncrunk those panties you just twisted and reapply any mascara they may have run while I do the same honestly but for different reasons (i am watching my soaps… my mom got me hooked at a young age shut up)

By the time I reach the second song which I will not name as it has an absurdly long Godspeed Y.B.E. type name they even show a hint or two of Neurosis to me. Think Souls At Zero played by two indie kids though. Maybe that is a stretch though. The other songs have none of that but are still cool. From haunting to surf pop back into their loose but heavy still post-hardcore start stop rhythm. This could be loose aleatoric compositions maybe and these guys are just in cahoots with each other. Those are always the best partnerships and would explain the two man rule enforced herein. But this is all mere speculation and I am going to actually shut up and hope you go hear it for yourself friends. As these guys are neat and if you stare at your chucks or vans or ugly hobbit toes since it’s summertime for fun all day long then you’ll welcome this addition to the gazzer cult you and your friends have. Just don’t call it screamo my god. Please don’t.

Cheers and Oi. Sorry I took so long lull guys. I am a cunctator and I pooped the bed on this one so sue me if you mad but I do hope you are glad. Also I have nothing but debts for property and possessions… so good luck with that!. Check this one off the list now. So I just want to say that I love you Tommy and Brandon and keep on rocking those algebraic theorems or whatever you call them my dudes. Yeah we know we suck… but we are still better than that blog at least.
Yeah I said it.
Somebody call Larry H. Parker!

(DISCLAIMER: I speak only for myself. ‘We’ is the royal ‘we’ like the dude says... FYI)

‘TBLADOAPOP’ found on:

Howling Frequencies
as well as:
lull’s own personal bandcamp

▬Andy Tithesis

DREAM “Live Dream Demonstration” C51 (Freaks)

Oakland’s very own Dream raids the warehouse of 90s noisy dream-pop pedals, loop stations, & drum machines, & then cobbles together a living, breathing, Frankensteinian collage of hazy disorientation and sway. Through shimmering synth waves, distant, dissociated vocal melodies, anti-sync percussive textures & modular joy-stickery-recurrence, “Live Dream Demonstration” drags the listener along a chalk-outline, separating "hypnotic" and "uneasy", smearing dust & ash sporadically across their venn intersections, where smooth patch cable might weave into skin.

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

MYKEL BOYD “New Landscapes” C34 (Park 70)

Now THIS is what I’m talking about – powerful magnets and microphones making intense drone/noise for getting completely lost in. Why more musicians don’t employ magnetism in a way that warps the crap out of their sound sources is beyond me. Is it because magnets could destroy gear? I’m too lazy to look that up, but I know you can wipe a hard drive if you’ve got a magnet powerful enough.

I’m guessing that’s why Mykel Boyd stuck to microphones and kept everything out of reach of his laptop. (I wonder if you can manipulate Garageband files through the screen?) Good thing, too, because otherwise we probably wouldn’t have tapes (especially not the accompanying MP3 downloads) if Boyd had done something ill-considered with the magnets. Instead we get “Solar Tradition” and “Clear Ghosts Forever,” the results of the experimentations. Like their titles intend, these tracks each exhibit a distinct long-form characteristic, the former fizzing like molecules in the sun’s corona, the latter reverberating just out of reach of our physical plane. Or something like that.

Moral of the story: magnets make good instruments when applied properly, and they are applied properly on “New Landscapes.”

Mykel Boyd

Park 70


PSYBO “Wherewithall”

Transplanted Canadian who was a former founding member of Toolshed somehow manages to connive his two ex-cohorts into helping with this solo album-which laid unreleased for some time after completion. Enter Hand Solo Records and next thing you know the nealy forgotten album drops.

Psybo is a competant if not noticably unique rapper. His material is strong nad the production complements the performance rather than overwhelm it. As it turns out, the contributions from his  two former ppartners are immense and without which I can’t imagine this tape beng as good as it is.

The strength here is the material itself. Strong rhymes and clever word tuerns make for an attentive listen.  This album, more than anything else, makes me want to hear what Psybo will come up with next.

It should be noted that the label, Hand Solo Records has a good number of rappers with releases available through their Bandcamp site.

-- Robert Richmond

FOREVER HOUSE “Eaves” (Infrequent Seams)

Oh god, everything just SUCKS, right? I get it – I was a teenager most of the nineties, as I imagine Forever House was (they basically admit it in their liners). We have the same ennui, the same gray in our beards, the same directionless search for meaning – well, singer and cellist Meaghan Burke doesn’t have a beard. But still, we’re a bunch of walking neuroses with no way to release that pent-up frustration and little hope for stuff to get any better anytime soon. It’s almost as if we were … still teenagers.

But no, we’re not – god knows we’re not! But it’s still exhilarating when a band comes our way and traffics in those old feelings, the ones we’ve tamped down in order to live a more restrained, more adult life. Forever House lets us dig back into the old store of angst, allows us to scratch off that scab from what we thought was a permanently healed wound. Over nine rippers, the quartet blazes trails once trod by PJ Harvey and Sleepyhead, obliterating the overgrowth and torching whatever else naturally encroaches upon a metaphor about a path. Yes, everything still sucks, and yes, sometimes we’re allowed to rage about it, no matter how old we are.

Forever House couldn’t say it better themselves: their “debut album of sloppy math and wasted love themes” arrives right on schedule, just when I’m about fed up enough but can’t channel my disillusionment into anything productive. Now I guess I can, with a little help from … Forever House.