"Tartarus" (Self-released)

 SIDE A "Muskrat Tail"

Hyper wet vocals vibrate monotone nightmare "siri" lyrics that are incomprehensible. Amplifier feedback and effect pedal super slow chord progressions linger and barely convey a structure. The mastering and mixing of this drone out is well crafted. Borrowing from the Wolf Eyes playbook the vocals sound not like voice but rather vocals as instrument to assist gizomos and gadjet sonic effect modulators! Nightshade & Gel Nails portray a dingy and foreboding mood that is psychedelically meditative while sounding sonically avant-garde and bad ass.

Side B "Fast Food for Fast People"

Wobbly tape loop opens side B. It frankly makes me a little sea sick. Then modulating synthesizer escalating hum acts as a rhythm as frequencies melodically descend like depressed bombs. Everything is a little too casual, most notably the vocalist who is awkwardly not in tune. There's J Mascis whiney and then there is this guy whiney. His lyrics are too distorted to be easily comprehended leaving its overly emotional tone unsympathetic. And it's frankly just mixed too loudly. I miss the inventive dirty keyboard noise in the background that are actually playing some interesting major/minor chord progressions, but they're drowned out by the lead singer's psyched out vocal effects. It's too bad because with a little more studio time on this one it could have been just as successful as side A.

In fairness, both songs provide a lyric sheet. And the lyrics are really, really good.

The cassette itself has a minimal yet tasteful silkscreen job with various stamps to show its DIY authenticity.

--Jack Turnbull

HUMAN ADULT BAND "Creepy Classics" CS (D.I.H.D.)

Here is a nice DIY crafted four song EP. It contains 3 originals and a Neil Young cover from his Ditch trilogy era classic album "On the Beach" - "Vampire Blues". The songs seem authentically bummed, exhausted and frustrated but also pleasantly revealing in the bliss which is making poor life decisions late at night. An anything goes noise philosophy is apparent in the band which leaves the originals sounding like the Birthday Party played by Velvet Underground loving Brooklyn NYC burnouts.

The players sound as if they suffer from insomnia. The singer doesn't have young Nick Cave's peppy, crooning wolf howl or the intensity of Australia, 1981. This being said, the character he portrays in song is captivating nonetheless. While strained and bleak, the singer can get into some hardcore territory. He has the cathartic and forceful bark of the guy in Pissed Jeans. On their "Vampire Blues" cover, he does not have Neil Young's signature Alto range, but his voice is distinctively passive aggressive which gives the song's blues structure a nice punk rock charm.

The guitars are distorted and frantic but at their least meandering and helpless. They never give up however; the band has the energy of rock and roll and even when they play on only fifteen minutes of sleep the music is still more fierce than the bleeps of robots. They are playing some harsh noise here with rock song structure, but it is still music that is warm from tube hum.

I bet this band would be interesting to see live, a mixture of Lou Reed cool with Nick Cave mean and a heartfelt impersonation of Harry Pussy guitar playing at half speed. Pretty good tape, it's like 15-20 minutes, check it out.

-Jack Turnbull

"From a Soundtrack to the Anabase of St-John Perse" C42

"Concerto For Housekeeper and Other Dances With Phoebe" C60+C102 Box Set
(Imminent Frequencies)

Just a brief heads up on two interesting releases I just heard about on the Imminent Frequencies label:

Second reissue of this cool 1995 album from the duo of Bruce Russell (Dead C.) and Alastair Galbraith, originally issued on Corpus Hermeticum on cassette and put on vinyl in 2000 by Bluesilver records.  Limited to 150, check it out.

Another archival release available from the label that is worth picking up is the Philip Corner cassette box. Corner is a founding member of the Fluxus movement and this album contains plenty of interesting clangs and drones.

Pure Horsehair's new album, "Ambergris", not to be mistaken with the musician Ambergris, presents a musical range from wood cabin freak folk jams, early "Microphones" territory (before it was Mt. Errie) of blurry and harmonized vocals, psychedelic story-land underwater blues to a subtle, under played dedication to dark synthesizer melodies, drones and drum beats. This cassette is one of the most well executed and challenging I've heard in a while.

All the songs are understated downer bad trips but still highly organized, complex in structure and well orchestrated into quartet or trio parts. My guess these recordings were done with a four track? Phil Spector "wall of sound" influence is somewhere deep in here as various guitar tones, keyboards and unexpected harmonies bounce around. Good examples of this can be heard in "waxwing", and "first fig".

A big part of Ambergris's successful sound is his ability to utilize cold, synthetic keyboards and analog effects to feel warm like the humble, introspective acoustic guitars they are mixed with. The most anatomic Ambergris gets is on "high hopes", but then brilliantly the tone switches to some early late 60ties bad ass rock drawl in "as if". The drums are still 8-bit but it is hardly distracting jarring. It doesn't sound tacky like overly digital music. It is so precise in repetition however it becomes transcendental and meditative. And my god, these blues lyrics on this song are AMAZING. The singer's voice isn't distinctive like a Bob Dylan or Neil Young, but he has pipes and range. It is also a laid back but still authentically sad voice, which melts in very well the cassette's overall DIY casual typewriter aesthetic. This is a great tape.

The cassette only lists an e-mail: ... Pure Horsehair does have a bandcamp but his recordings sound far superior in tone on cassette over a Soundcloud. It's the difference salt can add to food.

--Jack Turnbull

JAAP BLONK "Songs of Little Sleep" (Scumbag Relations/Sleepy Cobalt Sound)

On a loosely conceptual album concerning the entering and exiting of sleep, its cycles and the subconscious, Dutch composer/performer/video artist Jaap Blonk fractures into a chamber ensemble of clones of himself, extending far past the outer limits of extended vocal technique.  

Jaap forms the base of his repertoire around a lineage of Dada sound poets, his recording of Kurt Schwitter's 1922-32 masterpiece "Ursonate" being his most well known.  His live performances border on scholarly presentation- he's an expert on this subject and one of the few preservers of the literature on the underground circuit.  As in the Dada tradition, Blonk's pieces are based on phonetic vibrations with no logical context, only emotional/aesthetic.  As if aurally observing a sleep study, you hear Jaap enter into a deeper subconscious state- yawns turn into low guttural grunts and blistering harsh noise coming unbelievably from a human voice.  Tossing textural scrapes and use of electronics allow for plenty of sonic variation on this extended player, though i'd be just as convinced by the vocal alone.  

- -Matt Robidoux


Now that we're really starting to feel the frosty breath of old man winter, I thought it would be appropriate to share this awesome double cassette compilation of covers by artists all across the underground spectrum.  Featuring tracks by the likes of Alvarius B (Sun City Girls), R. Stevie Moore, Carla Bozulich, Amps for Christ, Charlie McAlister, Simon Joyner (and tons more I've never heard of) this hot compilation will be sure to keep you toasty during the dark days of the impending season.

BIG BILL "A Hard Day's Bill EP"

 Here's two eps for the price of one that's something everyone can get behind for the upcoming Holiday season. These two bands exhibit a wide melodic and rhythmic range. Do you like Modest Mouse, Death, Grateful Dead jams, Mountain, Wavves, Blink 182, the Beach Boys or Buddy Holly? If you said yes to one or more of these contributors to the ROCK than this 2013 gem of a two band rock/roll album split can fulfill at least one of your sonic protopunk desires. This release is strictly for the KIDS who are still pumped on skateboarding, Alicia Silverstone and their newly acquired Fender Squire. It bursts with enthusiasm, energy and youth but also shows an impressive song education by referencing tones and rhythms from so many different eras. I get images of high school hallways and school cafeteria food fights. References to Bill Murray and some pretty clever lyrics are in these songs. Both singers of both bands have good voices that are well harmonized with other members.

A couple highlights:

* The angst lonely bedroom song Genevieve focuses on the passage of time and it's a Archie Comics pop romance of a good punk song. "We used to call you Jenny, ... but now you go by Genevieve" - HEART MELTING! It's like a younger and less soothing Roy Orbosne. I feel like I am listening to the fucking Beets on Nickelodeon's Doug, (Not the Brooklyn band ... although that band is the fucking best). There are some great major to minor chord transitions in the song as well.

* East Sides Lies is my favorite song because it sounds like early DEVO mixed with the cartoonish Angst of the RAMONES. But it also contains a solo that emulates and equals the greatest liberating riffs and hooks of DEATH.

Big Bill is a little more garage with some poppy bass lines and party rock beats. The vocalist even sounds a little like the CRAMPS or even, again, an early demo DEVO. Their fun party rock song Get with the Goblins is like if the lead singer is attempting to impersonate an alien from Mars with his domineering, staccato alto-tenor. They are surprisingly surfy, even hitting some Fred Schneider recorded by Steve Albini solo album territory (It's not as good as that album mind you, just reminiscent).

... This recording is distinctly inspired by the city is it recorded and mastered in, Austin Texas. It equally captures the energy of an Austin concert with that cities' strong commitment to home recording culture. GREAT guitar solos and psychedelic tones similar to the gnarl of MOUNTAIN.


Artwork by

-- Jack Turnbull

TASHI DORJI "Hills Rose Up....." (Turned Word)

Beautiful solo guitar tape, no effects pedals.  Somewhere in-between Derek Bailey and Robbie Basho, but trending closer to the Englishman (I swear I just wrote that before looking at the label's description quoted below).  Lovely screen printing.  Always a treat to get new releases from this fantastic label, sometimes stylized as Trd W/d.

I found myself out in the gardens’ July sun pencil scratching onto an old receipt. All about friend and improvisational guitarist Tashi Dorji and how wonderful he is and how much I adore his music. Thinking about the time we were jamming and some sound I made on the guitar caused him to outright belly laugh. And some scrawl about the story he once told me, about how the prince of Bhutan had asked him to play some Elvis songs in Thimphu , and Tashi declining the request. Or the countless times that we shared a meal together, or a fire. And how Tashi showed up at my job once, dragging me away because I was overstressed and needed food. “I’m way too hungry to cook now…..and plus, all the food that I have at home would take far too long to make, “ I whined.

He calmly demanded that I list the things I had lying around. Next thing I knew we were eating the most toothsome dish of something so simple. Potatoes, tomatoes, a little oil and some spices. Maybe one more ingredient? His presence and his music is like this too. Bare of pretension yet full of newness and uncompromising inertia. Seemingly quick, sharpened and then mellowed, presenting an intensity to fall into the moment and nourish oneself with the ingredients at hand. Reminiscent of the rythmn experiments of Derek Bailey, the lavish east leanings of Robbie Basho's playing and the intensity of Bill Orcutt's attack. Featuring the artwork of Amy-Moon. Offset printed
. -- Dan Beckman