J BUTLER “Found” C30 (self-released)

Butler’s a guitar and synth man. How do I know? I’ve read the description, which is a pretty key activity if you want to do this writing thing (pro tip). Because he’s a guitar and synth man, Butler’s also prone to experimenting with tone, length, mood – pretty much anything you can experiment with on the ambient and drone side of things. Fortunately, Butler’s got a knack for wringing every last drop of emotion from his setup.

Synths like electricity course across the sound spectrum, and twinkling melodies accompany it as it darts from node to node. Starlight triggers nostalgia, but it’s still the byproduct of massive nuclear reactions. Heart holds as much as it can, can only burst as it fills to the breaking point. And here “Found” washes the chilly shores as it cycles through its delicate entreaties. Easy, then, to shut one’s eyes and get lost in the environment Butler creates.


TL3SS “EP I” C42 (Terminal Frost Productions)

This is wish fulfillment, isn’t it? Cold electronics, “Terminal Frost”? Sounds like there’s a Floridian trying to escape the heat in any way possible… And who can blame them? TL3SS’s EP I is like an Alaskan glacier slowly chipping itself into the sea as the air warms around it, a last-ditch effort at overcoming the encroaching heat death of the universe … or at least our planet. And I have to ask, is TL3SS a robot? If so, there’s a much better chance that TL3SS is simply setting the stage for its own personal existence following the mass extinction of the human race.

If it gets that far, that is. Let’s hope it doesn’t!

Still, there’s a pessimism in EP I, or is that an optimism? Depends on the perspective, I guess, with the balance tipping in favor of the machine. Who knows what elemental programming courses through the data ports of whatever battery center constitutes the heart! In the end, we are meat, and we will decay. In the end, TL3SS will last far longer, and rule in our stead.

Or just exist and perform tasks; not exactly sure what “rule” means either.


SWAN WASH “Swan Wash” (Sister Cylinder)

This was that, when we guessed how to scrub a swan so that it would be proper clean and not just “nature clean,” whatever that meant, my high school science teacher! Jeez. This Swan Wash is darkwave-y sweetness with lots of delay and hammering low end. A power trio, three imaginary boys! With guitar strings that chime and drums and bass that pummel, it’s easy to scrub Swan Wash like an actual swan and behold the churning pain beneath. Spitting back into the face of convention to battle the ennui of modern living, Swan Wash keep it close, keep it secret, and let us all in on it.

Well , we chosen few anyway.

Sure to please the Alternative Nation set still plugging away at what passes for the daily grind, Swan Wash is a throwback, a delectable morsel of treated guitar and driving rhythm. Make sure you figure out how to get your hands on a copy if you’re going to be reenacting any movies John Cusack happened to be in. My Better Of Dead cosplay group is getting together next week.


CUBE “Wet Housing” (Anathema Archive)

Cube! What are you, Cube? Grisly sonic tectonics break the geometric surface, obliterate the foundation. It comes fast, it comes slow, it comes however Cube wants to do it, to destroy itself and the pedestal upon which it’s displayed. Damaging dub action meets the nocturne, eine kleine klubmusik, but where mannequins are posed motionless and the music makes them fall apart. Their limbs first, obviously, legs and arms, they fall over and come apart further, heads fall off, some split at the torso. Then the pieces rumble to life and move more than they did when they were part of a whole. This is the mystery of Cube, the mystery of Wet Housing and what it stands for in direct relation to a mass of plastic body parts, and the mystery of Anathema Archive’s involvement in all this. If we’re sure about anything, we’re sure no one’s up to any good. If we’re sure about anything, we’re sure this is in our skin and blood.

Which just so happens to be marked as “Evidence.”




Oh, no, please, don’t even try to peg Richmond, Virginia, duo Among the Rocks and Roots. There’s so much shift here that pinning down the band would be a fool’s errand. Ostensibly metal, ATRAR mix in so many other different styles and elements that you’re guessing almost as constantly as you’re reaching for the rewind button, ready to relive one weird and incredible passage after another. And you’re dealing with passages, not tracks. The four compositions on Raga stretch for a total of 90 minutes. That’s … a lot of music per track.

Death metal and crust collide with hardcore and noise rock, plus a heavy dose of atmosphere that would sound out of place on a hidden Melvins track (those drums can get so airy!). You gotta fill twenty-minute-long tracks with something other than massive riffs and galloping beats, right? We can’t all be Olympic athletes. So ATRAR get positively shamanic between bouts of chaos, floating meditatively over liquid bass and introducing positively sing-song vocals (see “War Song”) or an ethereal guest spot (Laura Merina on “Salvation”). It all feels like an enormous pagan ritual celebrating the decay of the world or the reversion to simpler means. At any rate, Raga is a triumph of musicianship, and the untraceable pathways blazed through it reveal delightful surprises at every turn.