Akito Nakatsuka
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link [CS; Auris Apothecary]

The battle within oneself is at the heart of The Adventure of Link, and though it’s waged against a vile outside enemy, the ending finds titular hero Link against his shadow; light and dark always locked in eternal struggle. It’s the similar tack of Nakatsuka’s iconic soundtrack. Though it may be for a mere video game on old technology, do not doubt its resonance and impression. The music of 8-bit games has spawned a sub-culture obsessed with the classics as it creates new, detached pieces. But what Nakatsuka captures is the excitement of exploration and the inevitability of growing up all in the vale of the shattered. Link’s world is shattered by the spell cast on Zelda after saving her from Gannon’s clutches. The Adventure of Link is separate from The Legend of Zelda, both in terms of goal, ultimate enemy and game play. The soundtrack captures all of it, romantically presenting safe havens such as villages with airy compositions while making quests into caves and temples dense with worry and peril. Auris Apothecary’s packaging finds Nakatsuta’s classic packaged on a golden cassette with nothing more than simple titles to best explain the music and the settings. There’s nothing to distract from the music except the nagging need to just play the damned game!

Links: Akito Nakatsuka - Auris Apothecary

Ralph White / Sun Araw

“Lord Franklin, A Child Ballad” b/w “Thrasher”

[12-inch; Monofonus Press]

This is one of those splits you didn’t know you needed in your life. Never would have paired Sun Araw and Ralph White outside of live shows with one another, but it makes sort of mangled sense once White starts in with the African percussion and what-not on his side of Lord Franklin, A Child Ballad / Thrasher. It’s mostly acoustic guitar, laced with old-timey fiddle, percussion, and other embellishments I can’t quite identify, and it’s all breathtaking in a way previous White recordings haven’t been for me. Impressive; daunting, even. More interlocking, coruscating parts than are traditionally associated with this brand of Americana, and much appreciated they are. Sun Araw, as you’d expect, is in a much spacier place than White, filtering a succession of muffled guitar noodling through silk curtains of synths. Closer to Boredoms in spirit and, once the vocals kick in, Amen Dunes than anything else I can think of at this hour, you’ve got to respect what Cameron Stallones does with “Thrasher.” He’s a pretty whacked guy, and I must admit I hadn’t realized how far he was pushin’ his aural exploits. Good to know.

Links: Ralph White / Sun Araw

Kink Gong

Voices

[LP; Discrepant]

It doesn’t get much more spiritual than Voices if you’re into the whole field-recordings-of-ethnic-musics gig. Much like the Gonzo & Lowdjo triple-tape series, also released on Discrepant, this splendid LP by Kink Gong (aka Laurent Jeanneau) transports the listener to an entirely new habitat and makes no apologies for the lack of the usual noise/indie/experimental signposts. Jeanneau has a knack for arranging the din into palatable shapes, though this is far from easy listening. You have to believe. The first track reminds me of “Water Wings” from that second Dan Deacon record, if that matters. The looping becomes overwhelming, for sure, which renders the subsequent ambient-ish portions of the record that much more welcome. The source material for this gem was collected in the southern regions of Yunnan and Guizhou in China as well as in Sapa, North Vietnam, and Phongsaly, but that’s not important right now. Just tune in and blast off to one of the most interesting recordings of the young year. WOW.

Links: Kink Gong - Discrepant

Pousse Mort

Electric Snake Mutilation / Elevator

[2XCS; Skrot Up]

A rambling double-cassette that flits between several styles in a short amount of time? Normally I’d say, politely, FUCK NO, but Pousse Mort carry enough artillery to compete with even the German Army that’s been barraging the world with tape shrapnel. (Note: I just replaced the batteries in my Walkman and PM aren’t quite as corroded as I thought; still harsh though.) It’s the enthusiasm, rather than the paper-thin musicianship (though it is there), that brings Electric Snake Mutilation / Elevator across, so don’t go into this expecting any shredding. It’s beat machines and synth patterns that go bing… bing… bing. Also vocal ranting that reminds me of Manual Zombie and sub-level garage riffs. Near the end of Side A of Snake Mutilation there’s a sequence that might be the ultimate collage of post-Nintendo, age-of-Mincemeat Or Tenspeed values, yet it fades quickly. SHIT! A puzzling release you’ll have fun piecing together; I guarantee it (can I sell you a suit?). 50 copies = ouch.

Links: Pousse Mort - Skrot Up

Tony Conrad & Charlemagne Palestine

More Aural Symbiotic Mysteries from Belgie

[DVD-R; Taping Policies]

In the interview that opens up this DVD-R, Charlemagne Palestine discusses how his and Tony Conrad’s “chops” had hit some kind of mystical stride when the two reunited after a 30+ year hiatus since their time playing together in the downtown scene (re: The Kitchen, etc.) of New York in the late 60s and early 70s. Chops? This is drone Mr. Palestine, what the hell are you talking about, chops. Watch the DVD. You’ll see, I promise. This reprisal of the two’s classic collaboration on Sub Rosa (An Aural Symbiotic Mysterie, 2006) is expertly dedicated to the realm of the visual with this release, well captured by cameras from a number of inside angles, perspectives and vibrant, living sound to give this symphony for zombies a thrilling animation I wasn’t sure would be possible after the first five minutes or so. But with time, things get intense. Palestine’s palms slam into the grand piano with precision and a sensual sort of power, like a butcher artistically tenderizing a side of meat with his bare hands. And Tony Conrad, at 72 years old when this was shot with his violin bow strings hanging out, flying all over the place, proves to be the hot mess of drone, that’s no bullshit neither. The two pack about as much motion into this stagnant cluster of notes imaginable, and the result is nothing short of stunning. At 43 minutes, it’s almost not long enough.

Links: Tony Conrad & Charlemagne Palestine - Taping Policies

Greymouth

Giant Squid

[CS; Dungeon Taxis]

Remember the excitement of the first time you wrote a song. Sure, it was likely just a couple of chords played loudly but that exuberance cut through you. VU may be the root of rock and roll but there’s nothing as crucial as self-exploration that tickles all the senses. That’s the bedroom enthusiasm of Greymouth, two man-children leaving the home nest of New Zealand for Tokyo, marrying their old pound-and-ground days with the kinetic fever of Japanese garage and noise. This cassette is all careless din; the unrelenting strums of punks trying to break strings. They’re going to out-punk the old farts still declaring what can be given such a holy bequeathing. To hell with it all, this is the crash course in what exists outside of rock and roll. Punk is dead, but Greymouth survives. The basement is gone, by the cramped apartment lives.

Links: Dungeon Taxis

Toddlers

Slopes

[CS; Double Dot Dash]

From the label that brought you Workin’ Man Noise Unit and an excellent Blackhoods tape earlier this year comes another Toddlers joint, a winding staircase of bass-led, arpeggio-heavy rock that seems almost a patient, heady reverse-doppelganger to technical bands like Hella and Dilute while flaunting the same ridiculous chops when they need to. Then the vocals come in and shit, I’m thinking Shudder To Think and Cheval De Frise and fuck, Dead Science isn’t out of the question even. As Flavor Flav would say: It all adds up to a funky situation. Just when you assume they’re playing it straight they wet your whistle with another jump-kick and you’re on your ass. Maybe a tad tiring over two full tape sides of action, almost too much of a good thing. It’s up to you to decide if that’s possible. Ltd to fitty copies.

Links: Toddlers - Double Dot Dash

The Hecks

Trust and Order

[7-inch; Moniker]

It’s like the new garage fixation (Sic Alps, The Beets, etc.) as heard through a foghorn: The Hecks come from a rich tradition, and the duo add a ton of intrigue to their arrangements by way of spacious, well thought-out-but-still-suitably sloppy, slowly building sequences. Vocals straight off a Leisure Birds LP and lots of string-scraping at the top of the guitar neck (does that ever not work?) also bolster the title track of this almost too-sweet 7-inch. The B-side, “The Time I Play With My Puppy,” is even more devilishly fascinatin’, hitching its wagon to a star that ain’t been charted yet and drifting into a comfy strum abetted by uncomfortable high-end feedback. So seemingly aimless, yet so pure and bursting with scalding life. A bit of a noise tangent closes out the flip and we’re done, nice and tidy. Not a 7-inch you’ll soon forget.

Links: The Hecks - Moniker

Kyle Landstra

Sage

[CS; Cosmic Winnetou]

I’m not entirely sure there’s such a thing as a “household name” in cassette-culture drone artists, but if there is, Kalamazoo’s Kyle Landstra might be one. With solid releases from Sonic Meditations and Already Dead Tapes (among others, to be sure – I can’t vouch for all of them, although I’m inclined to without having heard them), his latest for German imprint Cosmic Winnetou might be the standout of the bunch. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve gotten a nicer tape deck, speakers, etc. since last I’d heard from Landstra… but somehow the harmonies on Sage sound fuller, rounder, just bursting with colorful beauty (as the cover art might suggest). Landstra here breathes a life force of sheer energy into his synthesizers. In fact, Sage and its hyper-fidelity nearly defies the cassette format altogether; this is Landstra as brought to you by THX. One side glides whilst the other grinds - that seems to be the delineating feature between the two. And since both pieces of music are essentially studies in the centric tone, harmonic frequencies up and down the spectrum (akin to Fibonacci, although there is a prominence of the major fifth interval), Sage as an album relies most on elements of dynamics, which happens to be where Landstra just skies it out of the park, creating the thrill of a free-fall out of something disguised as planar or monotonous; by the end, you’ve really been through something important. Pure drone decadence, folks, this one is sure to land on a number of year-end lists (present company included). Somebody press vinyl for this guy already.

Links: Kyle Landstra - Cosmic Winnetou

Creationists

Holy Wisdom

[LP; Super Secret]

How many bands these days are truly influenced by Fugazi and possibly Hot Water Music? Not many that come across my desk, so Creationists have that going for them out of the gate, though they hew closer to pure punk than either and flirt with trumpet more than you’d expect. Holy Wisdom is full of uptempo rock with a production haze like early morning fog. The high-register, chiming guitars, when allowed to roam, might be their best asset, but they’re a well-rounded crew of noisemakers, and with the many options available today it all comes down to preference; in fact, at this point you already know if this is your bag or not, so why do I bother to go on? I say give Creationists a chance, particularly if they hit up your town, as the rumbles of Holy Wisdom seem ideally suited to a live situation. Plus they really stretch out on Side B with some Cramps mannerisms and more of those guitar assaults. Pressing of 300 that just won’t quit.

Links: Super Secret

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In this ever-expanding musical world, there's a wealth of 7-inches, cassettes, CD-Rs, and objet d'art being released that, due to their limited quantities and adventurous sonics, go unnoticed by the public at large. Cerberus seeks to document the aesthetic of these home recorders and backyard labels. Email us here.