HMDS / BOBAGEMMA split (no label) or HMDS “Bobagemma” (no label)

You kind of never realize how crucial context is to understanding something until suddenly you don’t have any. Like right now. I have no idea how this CS came to exist in my backpack, no internet-roving reveals anything on either band, and the only info on the hand-crayoned slip of an insert is “TEN SONGS recorded in 2005? or so.” So maybe the band name is HMDS, maybe that’s the tape’s name, maybe that’s the label? Let God sort it out I guess. Whatever, both sides are wandering instrumental basement alt-rock in the innocuous-but-likable style that filled countless forgotten mid-90s 7 inches currently collecting dust in countless college radio closets. Quirky, noodly, peppy and sprinkled with keyboard hooks and little guitar parts that remind me of Thinking Fellers Union or Polvo or other bands I haven’t thought about in 10 years. If this is yr band please get in touch and explain yourself.

ANNI ROSSI “My Grandmother Was A Church Organist” (Folktales)

Chris/Whitman unearths (reissues?) a hissy little C30 by this precious itinerant viola virtuoso that’s probably one of her more likable discography entries, at least for those listeners not already heavily into the hyper-literate coy/cute indie-folk approach espoused by Rossi and Joanna Newsom and Mirah and The Decemberists and The Blow and a thousand other college radio spokespersons. ‘Cause unlike some of her more Pro-Toolsy “this is my music” full-lengths, My Grandmother... was recorded in 2004 in a practice space at CAL Arts on a VERY dusty thrift store tape recorder, so every song is harshly distorted with hiss, raw room ambiance, and cheap compression, thus distracting from a lot of the self-conscious lyrical preening and weepy melody choices. Whether intentional or not, the fact that the whole thing sounds like shit really saves a lot of the songs from ending up in the dorm-room sob soundtrack bin. There’s also some cheap-as-hell keyboard beats in a couple places that further muddy stuff up in an appealing way. It’s also dedicated to her deceased Grandma Lorraine so a lot of my nitpicking is obviously sort of beside the point. Comes with a full-color mini-poster/drawing too if you’ve got some wall space yr lookin’ to fill.

JERRY BINKELE AND HIS HAPPY HAMMOND untitled (Scumbag Relations)

Utterly baffling 1920s-sounding C24 of generic jaunty guitar/organ instrumentals that sound like muzak for a cartoon circus or Disney saloon where Steamboat Willie would kick it. Totally non-modern and deeply irrelevant, regardless of whether this is vintage or just a ‘joke/prank’ thing. Did Scumbag just hijack audio from an old thrift store LP? Would be pretty shocked if this was a 2007 recording of a 20-year old into underground noise (like everything else on this label). Can very clearly see myself being buried in my grave before I ever throw this in the tape deck again.

FLEA APPARITIONS / DOLDIS split (Heavy Nature Tapes)

Another one from Ryan LaLiberty's (Colossus) newly minted tape label, with two apparently new projects. Flea Apparitions plays up a collage style with hit or miss moments but becomes grating in its incessant drum machine tapping and sample triggering. This is thankfully left aside a few minutes before the conclusion for a considerably mellower carpet of melodic (but still distorted) tones. Although at that point it could be an entirely different band.
Doldis' offering is cut from the tried and mostly true harsh noise cloth. It's definitely not too shabby, although occassionally lacking the timing and compositional flow of a more accomplished work. Still, nice use of varying textures and moving elements within the larger frame of all-encompassing KGKGGHHHGH! (sound of harsh static).

WARMER MILKS “In This Room” (Fuck It Tapes)

Mikey T. continues his careless hopscotch hitch-hiking across musical modes, this time sitting on the edge of a hotel bed and playing 11 very straightforward, mid-fidelity singer-songwriter tunes into a microphone. Two are covers, the rest are originals, but it doesn’t much matter as they all operate in identical emotional terrain: slightly bummed, strum-heavy, mumble-folk. The lyrics are rarely discernible and never memorable, and the acoustic guitar-work is mellow and traditional (makes even straightjacketed normalcy folk outings like “James and the Quiet” seem wildly psychedelic). On a couple tracks he lets things fray a bit at the edges and get slightly free/outsider but that’s very much the exception not the rule. Once again I reach the conclusion of a Warmer Milks album feeling strangely let down and confused.

COLOSSUS "Throne" (Heavy Nature Tapes)

It's been a long minute since Ryan LaLiberty's solo project first appeared here. Long, that is, considering the bewildering avalanche of new releases that comprises tape culture. As "Throne" makes evident, LaLiberty has devoted some considerable energy to focusing his sound since earlier recordings. Happily, the practice is paying off, as this tape shows a more mature, all around greatly improved Colossus.
Both sides are divided into segments, most being rough cuts which jump directly into the action. The pieces vary in mood but atmospherically keep spelunking in the same caverns. Colossus is still a guitar-dominated project, and one could easily trot out the usual Earth/Sunn0))) references to describe the buzzing resonance and low-end amp worship. But "Throne" does wander off that much beaten (though still enjoyable) path several times, and there finds its greatest strengths. Side A's closer "Dod Djur" is one of the more psychologically affecting creepy crawls this reviewer can remember of late. With hissing voices shifting backwards and forwards, insect noises, swamp gurgles and a rumbling bass that's faint enough to be felt more than heard, it could be the result of an ill-fated walkman left for some overnight field recording in Mordor. "Throne" also bears the distinction of a multitracked work which sounds more like a live group session than something extensively recorded over. Particularly in the way which LaLiberty experiments with vocals and subtle background noises, one can pick out inflections of early industrial music, which is unusual for a young project these days. It's disheartening that "Throne" lacks in the edition department (only 30 copies?), since the recording and the insert (black print with stamped/lithographed appearance on dark heavy paper) make for a solid combo.

GOLDEN CUP "Eye Mith" (8MM)

Rarely does drone evoke feelings of celebration and splendor. Rarely is drone done by experts. Here is a tape that beats the odds in both categories. "Eye Mith" is a gorgeous release primarily built out of drones of joy. While not as pure as the Nu-Age revolution, currently going on in both noise and noise-rock alike (see Infinite Body, Abe Vigoda, HEALTH, etc), demands; there are also enough bells and synths worked in here to turn on anyone hip to the now. And not that I want to put down the Nu-Age movement (because things must always stay in motion), but these recordings will definitely still sound alive and amazing in 10 years while much of the genre-creating of Nu-Age probably will not. Much of this life/energy that Golden Cup creates comes from their delicate use of overblown channels while recording. Just enough to make things sizzle and vibrate, but not so much that anything becomes murky or aggressive. Put this on the next time you celebrate a victory!

VILLA VALLEY / OUBLIETTE split (Excitebike Tapes)

Part of Dan’s “Catch Up” series of tapes, where he finally gets off his comfortable ass and releases masters he’s been sittin’ on since 2006. Fortunately for EXBX’s rep, no-fi noise misery like these two sides can never age – it was born/recorded rotten so it can’t really get any worse. The VV jam is a ragged trawl through gross blown-out electronics with no light at the end of the tunnel, just another tunnel leading into another tunnel. This is what it sounds like to a mole digging through the dirt beneath a war zone: loud and shitty. Oubliette’s side is even more hostile if you can believe that, total anti-musical feedback flat-lining, a storm of hornets stinging your brain a billion times in a row while you throw yourself in front of an SUV to make the noise please stop. I made the crazy mistake of rocking this CS on headphones. It won’t happen again. (P.S.—Dan must’ve been in a REALLY ironic mood when he collaged “Music To Gladden The Way To Heaven” on the spine of this fucker).

STRANGE WATER “Sunken By Seaweed” (Excitebike Tapes)

Dan from Haunted Castle/EXBX and Mike from Arbor/Treetops (everybody’s just a composite of backslashes these days, aren’t they?) hang out with a 4-track and make sound FX. The bulk of this CS sounds submerged in….strange water? Hence the ‘band’ name I presume. But, yeah, it’s a very rumbling heavy flow of audio they’ve decided to document here, pretty tricky to discern anything in particular happening, music-wise. Some scrapes get a bit sharper, sometimes it’s just a numb expulsion of waste matter pumping out of a rusty pipe into a landfill. No vocals, no percussion, no breakdowns, no idea who the heck’s doing what in this tag-team. At a certain point – when yr ears are just DRENCHED in the Strange Water scene – it gets easy to theorize that Dan and Mike have left the recording room and are just chillin in the kitchen sipping on some Arizona Ice Teas. Cause fluctuation/variation definitely ceases and all that’s left is the endless electricity. And when I say ‘endless,’ I mean C60 style. You might wanna take a walk to grab some fresh air before diving back into this beast for side B, cause it’s another infinity of waterlogged distortion. Strictly for diehards. Or Mike/Dan.

BUDWEISER SPRITE "Mouthbreather" (Iatrogenesis)

The importance of band mythology/audience mind-shaping is typically influenced in equal parts band name, release art, and actual sounds when it comes to noise. Well, in all pop music actualy, but in a unique way for noise due to the particularly abstract nature of the sounds. While emotional pitch is definitely well under control by the experts, even the masters often use non-musical elements to help steer an act into a very particular place in their listeners' minds. Case in point: Shitty Vibe Smasher. Fellow Portlandites Yellow Swans have self-identified politically since the get-go, but Shitty Vibe Smasher are a little more merged as a noise/politics act. In other words, they are politics in action. By name they set forth on the more rarely blazed trail of "happy noise"... or more accurately: hero noise (a defiant political stance indeed.) And with Patrick Mair aka Glamorous Pat at the helm you know that the sunny side of noise is well represented. Of course, this is not just Pat's act, this is a group... this is that communal act which further pushes their sound from the vague realm of ambient noise into a clear Utopian smile zone. And it is here, at long last, that we get to the actual review in this text: As a member of Shitty Vibe Smasher, Daniel Rizer sacrificed self for the benefit of the whole and to lift identity to it's hoped pinnacle. As Budweiser Sprite though, Daniel defies the types of expectations that band names set forth, and delivers some of the most rockin' NOT RIDICULOUS noise that a dood named Budweiser Sprite could ever not be anticipated to make! Cassette manipulation, 4-track mixer feedback, and a passion for finding the true energy of sound are the tools used. Still extremely positive sounding, the use of aggressive loops and growling half-magnetizations invokes foot stomping at its most wild and foreshadows even more rock when being pensive. Daniel Rizer's silly stage name only elevates his expert use of the wide world of possible sounds (from murky to shrill to you name it) to put together a uniquely rock sound by virtue of the smile you wear upon seeing the whole picture. Not a surprise coming from a member of Shitty Vibe Smasher. Not just amazing music, but masterful entertainment all around.

MV + EE “The Ground Ain’t Dirty” (Fuck It Tapes)

Vermont’s most stand-up citizens (except for Ben and Jerry) unleash a little more of that homespun hippie-folk-raga beard-divining they keep touring the world with. I couldn’t really jive at all with the macho/retro studio slickness of Gettin’ Gone so I appreciate this CS’s sonic scene immensely by comparison. Tape-hissy drone-folk of the laid back and lonesome variety, played with the confidence of a couple so comfortable jamming together they don’t even have to pay attention any more. A few of the tracks seem pretty phoned in (but not in a bad way) and a few really shine as rough-cut gems from an inner mental mine that just keeps givin’. With a nice J. Earl fold-out j-card that reminds me of some Krazy Kat warped western landscape: a simple horizon line, some moons, a tree, and emptiness.

PEDALPHILE “Rather Ripped” (Wagon)

Really disgusting C30 of bubbling mud from Ryan of Emeralds’ solo world. The cover is a hideous color portrait of a child with a terrible skin disease and his/her eyes covered up and the spine is stolen straight from Sonic Youth’s Geffen-copyrighted “Rather Ripped” font, so this thing’s agenda is pretty clearly to fart in the face of whoever’s got their ear to the ground (to drive the point home the tape opens and closes with someone/Ryan reading an “Adult” personals ad). Musically, the A side is indistinguishable low-end ooze that just rumbles numbly and drips into the cracks in yr ears in a weird motion, but the B is a way more “heard this before” man-with-a-mixer style jam. It really just sounds exactly like a Behringer plugged into itself and casually fucked around with…that aimless putt-putt-putting noise everybody who owns a mixer is familiar with. At the end it gets a little louder and loopier (like when you turn the ‘high’ knob up and the ‘low’ knob down) but the overall vibe is more ‘technological demonstration’ than ‘aesthetic creation.’ For whatever the freak that distinction is worth to anybody.

HUMAN ADULT BAND “Impotent & Filthy” (Abandon Ship Records)

You know those bands with band names where it sounds like they got so tired of trying to think of good names that they ended up picking something bizarrely literal and boring? Like Average White Band and American Music Club and The Music? Well it’s cool that the underground sludge-noise community has a representative of that school of thought with Human Adult Band. I heard a previous tape by them on Bone Tooth Horn a long time ago and it didn’t stick out in my mind at all and I can’t say that this does much either. It’s basically a mild-sounding live set of theirs recorded at a place in Philadelphia called “Th’ Big Pink” that treads from plodding sleepy murk-marches to noisier chant rock exercises. The audio gives the impression the show was basically empty (there’s not much applause between songs, though they do inexplicably bother announcing the title of every song they play) and things never seem to rev up to a higher intensity level, nor do they zone-out into repetitive trance territory. It’s kinda just a mid-energy road to nowhere. I dunno. Live shows are a headache to document properly, maybe that’s the culprit here. Either way I doubt this is the place to start if you want to get into these dudes’ discography.

BLUE SABBATH BLACK CHEER "Blue Sabbath Black Cheer"/"Catacombs"/"For The Sickly Weakling" (Gnarled Forest)

These three cassettes, the first a c20, the latter two c30's, were all released simultaneously, in nearly identical packaging. Taken together, the result is a satisfying eighty minute piece, far exceeding the expectations of a listener put off, perhaps, by what may be the dumbest band name in underground music right now. If they were to actually pay tribute to the influences to which they so shamelessly refer in their music, a more appropriate name might be Wolf Police Hair Eyes. Which brings me to my dilemma: the music on these tapes is good, really, but from my old codger-like perspective, it is pure throwback. If I hadn't seen the artwork, I could have been convinced that these tapes were Wolf Eyes recordings from eight years ago. And that's fine, I suppose, for younger noise fans who may have never heard the pre-Sub Pop Olson, Young & Co.-- that music was good too, in its time. The horror movie atmosphere and spooky vocals, the buzzsaw electronics and slow pounding beats, the dogshit production quality. When done right, it really worked. Which prompts the question: when a bands moves on before its audience is ready, who fills the void that is left? It's certainly possible that pleasure may still be mined from the methods that Wolf Eyes left behind years ago. If it's still good when Blue Sabbath Black Cheer show up and start reassembling the pieces, should the audience just shut up and enjoy it as the next best thing, or attack them for being creatively bankrupt rip-offs? I'll take the former approach and say that these tapes should be enjoyed, even if one does it as nostalgia. Truth be told, this stuff is really engaging. BSBC are a tight, well rehearsed band, with thoughtfully composed tracks and an undeniable energy. Some of the material on these tapes come from live shows in Seattle and Portland, and they must have been impressive experiences for everyone present. (The rest of the tracks were recorded "in a shed in the woods" in case anybody doubted the band's kvlt authenticity).

UNIQUE OIL FREE AIR "Untitled" (Trapdoor Tapes)

Unique Oil Free Air has a few other releases on this Australian label, although this untitled cassette might collect the earliest material from what looks to be a very long-running project. Given that the liner notes state "tracks produced from 1989 to 1991," one wouldn't be surprised to hear the sort of distorted sample collages and feedback loops that the likes of Gerogerigegege was known for during the same period. If that reference gets the juices flowing, you would probably do well to check out the samples on UOFA's Myspace page (here). Includes glossy color insert.

GRYN BRVS "Grail Fruit of Les Prix Chauns" (Pendu Sound Recordings)

"Grail Fruit of Les Prix Chauns" is a live recording from the UK duo of Stuart Fernie and Ian Murphy (I've heard the band's name pronounced "Groin Bros.") rummaging in the free improv bin of assorted oddities and obscure sound sources. On side one, a zither strumming harplike arpeggios emerges from vibrating background static. Also on hand is a droning acoustic instrument called a "wyrn," a construction of Fernie's which according to the label description is like an Irish digeridoo. Add to this a violin, thumb piano and other assorted small instruments and percussion as well as humming electronic tones and you've got a very textually diverse arrangement. Considering this, the sound is quite sparse with quieter acoustic sounds in the foreground shadowed by feedback-heavy bass oscillators for most of the duration. Comparisons to modern European clatter units like My Cat is an Alien wouldn't be out of reach. Pendu Sound's packaging is saturated in hand assembled colors and stencils with a full-color collage insert. According to the label's web site this one is still available, so grip onwards.

PANICSVILLE / OUBLIETTE Split (Hung Like A Horse?!)

Surely the pairing of Andy Ortmann and Seth Oubliette was a match made in noise purgatory, because even sixty minutes of material hardly seems enough. Panicsville's "Brain in the Cat" (probably a description of the album cover, which is as disgusting as you might think) could easily stand as an album in itself and is as diverse a work as anything Ortmann has released. "Gates of Hell" begins with a slow ambience but is quickly consumed by off-kilter junk rhythm loops, bagpipes (!) and greasy tape canoodling. "Horsemen's Club," "Pregnant At Birth" and the title track follow with similar collage techniques, rarely still but executed with great timing. Ortmann has a hundred methods of creating sound and enough bizarro ideas to match each one. Gurgling analog bubbles, tape decay, disorienting stereo effects, abused samples, harsh circuit-blowing cacophony- it's all there, like a gearhead's personal mixtape or a symphony for ADD degenerates. The superb mastering reveals every nauseating detail.
Oubliette's side is equally great for totally different reasons. The premise is simple: 1) cut up some Halloween sound effects records, and 2) turn on lots of distortion. Thus the greatest noise Halloween party tape ever was created. There are twelve tracks in all with slight pauses in beween, although it's not obvious why. It might have been the fun of naming two-minute snippets like "Enjoy the Scarf" and "Sad Bridal Shower," but "Never Enough Horror" sums it all up. RECOMMENDED!