Giant Claw
Tear in Static [CS; Singapore Sling]

Writing about Giant Claw’s output in relation to video game music seems kind of lazy and reductive, so I have had to resist the temptation. But since I found out that he is actually doing music for a video game soundtrack, coupled with my experiences here on Tear in Static, that effort has become tougher than ever. Fuck it: Both sides of this tape could be a boss level on an old Mega Man game for NES. That’s just how it is, man. The trotting beats make this a pure side-scrolling adventure with plasma beams of synthesizer chords laying down the foundational conduits for those wave melodies to flutter their way past. And many of the tracks have a dark, pensive undertone to them – aggressive, confident, but aware and wary of the dangers that lie beyond the bevy of henchmen and lava pits that have yet to be traversed. I don’t remember the Giant Claw moniker coming with anyone besides ex-TMTer Keith Rankin behind the keys before, but this one has a couple of tracks that make use of additional musicians Brian Baker and James Webster. Of interest! Giant Claw released a lot of music in 2013, and this short tape has some of my favorite of the bunch on it. Which is saying a hell of a lot, by the way.

Links: Giant Claw - Singapore Sling

Cairo Gang

Tiny Rebels

[12-inch; Empty Cellar]

Tiny Rebels will slap handily in the face anything you thought you knew about this remarkable band. Cairo Gang accomplish so much, from so many angles, through the title track alone it’s astonishing. “Take Yr Time” might be even better, affecting a Byrdsian, maybe even Lovin Spoonful, sense of harmony atop a decidedly exotic backdrop replete with tambourine chug and slam-dam-a-lammin’ tom-tom runs. It’s exciting just to know music like this exists, really. Do we ever stop and think about all the little sound-miracles happening every goddamn day? A lot of bands try to change their approach from song to song in an almost always futile attempt to escape classification. I’m glad Cairo Gang avoid such trivialities, writing the best song they can, over and over, landing them lockstep with their contemporaries yet ahead overall. It’s sick how far James Mercer has fallen off the path, and then you have a group like Cairo Gang, still givin’ it all like that first Dios album before they became Dios (Malos) and put out that shitty record. Spun at 45 RPMs, too, for that showroom shine. I’ve always been an EP guy, but even if you’re not you owe yourself this one.

Links: Cairo Gang

New Bums

Slim Volume

[7-inch; Self-Released]

First off, Chasny’s mustache is 70s porn star awesome. If he had a paunch belly and was a fame whore, he’d potentially be the Ron Jeremy of new weird genres of his choice. I’m sure somewhere he has that scribbled in a diary. Quinn, on the other hand, seems resolute, steeled to make music with a friend and to ground the duo’s facial hair aesthetic by appearing mostly clean shaven. When they flipped the coin to decide who got to grow the ‘stache, Quinn was well aware that his baby face would likely be a just outcome.

But this is more than facial hair, this is about Chasny adding yet another friend to the backyard plastic pool to play games and swim laps. As New Bums, the guitar twosome display a different set of chops beyond the follicle. This is a duo more concerned with stripped down rock, the sort of psych-pop hybrids that meld with early blood brothers Jim and Will Reid. There’s a bare soulfulness to the simple melodies and effortless doodles of Quinn and Chasny, no surprise to fans of either (or both). Something that seems so mundane – a newly minted friendship – can seem so fragile in the light of day, especially with the sadder timbre of Slim Volume. But New Bums seem rock hard with a full-length and a tour on the horizon. So consider this a baby picture, when the lads had quaint expressions before the ZZ Top beards and Eliminators began piling up. Facial hair and guitar chops is straight cash money.

Links: New Bums

Tapers

Text

[CS; Already Dead Tapes]

Tapers is a duo doing a deep dub reggae-inflected… something on this release. I can’t quite call it one specific genre or style, but at the same time it’s not unrecognizable by any stretch. But the soothing, breathing nature of the production will temper any kind importance attached to the of grasping such trivialities anyway: Tapers makes a hammock-swaying type of cassette tape here with Text, swooshing in samples and effects atop a set of gently rolling undertones that stand strong out in front. Headphones reveal the true deepness of it all, even some whispering vocals buried under the mounds of bass, making Side A especially immersive. Side B turns the mix to more of a mournful tone with a piano refrain haunted with swirling, ghostly noises hovering close by, although on the whole things keep quite pretty and soothing. There’s also some field recordings and a number of different instruments used on the album… but nothing especially confrontational or too committal here, just sheer niceness for the most part, Text acting like an off-switch for your brain, perfect if all that crazy everything else in your life has you just way too wound up for your own good – a pretty impressive feat for a record that really has a lot going on to be giving the notions of such ease and simplicity.

Links: Tapers - Already Dead Tapes

Quttinirpaaq

Let’s Hang Out

[LP; Rural Isolation Project]

I can’t remember; is it good not to be able to hear what’s going on in a song? Oh yeah, it is, we learned that through Psychic Paramount and Guardian Alien, did we not? Now that we’ve got that settled, allow me to present Quttinirpaaq, perhaps the only band with jams – and a moniker – even sloppier than Tonstartssbandht at their crustiest. But truth be told I’ve dealt with these Quttinirpaaqians before, and they will gnarl on your ear-bone like a rottweiler on a hunk of man-meat. Let’s Hang Out isn’t a go-through-the-motions proposition. You have to invest in what they’re doing or their sinewy ghost-chops will float right past you. ‘Round the end of Side A there’s a section that sorta sounds like I thought Cold Cave were going to sound like, before I actually heard them (and was disappointed). This Karps out just a bit, too, and it’s been wayyy too long since I thoughta that band, so thank you, Qutt-Qutt, for the privilege. Dare I mention Neptune, as well? (Yep, think I’d better.) This record, on clear-with-red-splatter wizard-wax, is… a mighty fine record! Ho-ho-ho muh-fucka; 300 copies.

Links: Quttinirpaaq

Dissipated Face with Daniel Carter

Live at CBGB 1986

[7-inch; Roaratorio]

Though the Lower East Side and places like Downtown Brooklyn seem quite sterilized at this point, a quarter-century ago they were far less so, and continued to give rise to a healthy scobe of musical-artistic collision. In 1986, punk had already burned out; so had no wave and post-punk (mostly). Free jazz and improvised music were still a going concern though with the dissolution of the lofts, the presentation of that music was once again a bit more underground. But in those spaces between musical foments and the critical hurry to document, groups appear to get done the business of making art.

In the mid-1980s, Dissipated Face were one of a number of groups weaned on New Music Distribution Service catalogs, cut-out bins, and ready to occupy something of a vacuum. Punk rock, prog, free jazz, funk, modern composition and Downtown art scum were all part of the landscape and exactly what went into their melting pot. Consisting of guitarist Kurt “Hologram” Ralske and Stephen “X. Dream” Popkin and Ben “Face” Munves trading off bass, vocals and drums, their approach ranged from cut-throat punk slop to unhinged bluesy sleaze (the wonderfully bizarre “Streets Of New York” with its hardcore breakdowns). The guest appearance of alto saxophonist Daniel Carter on these four archival cuts recorded live at CBGB in 1986 adds an extra dose of fire to the proceedings. A regular in the groups of bassist-composer William Parker and a fixture in the New York free jazz environment since the mid-70s, his jubilant squall nudges Ralske’s wiry, feedback-drenched statements to unbridled heights. Given more room to stretch it would be interesting to hear what these players could accomplish, but the seven-inch format gives these tracks an extreme urgency, as though if one blinked the music’s gifts would be lost. Thanks are due to Minneapolis’ Roaratorio Records for releasing this snapshot (replete with Raymond Pettibon artwork) of an ecstatic DIY moment.

Links: Roaratorio

Kösmonaut

Future Machines

[LP; These Are Not Records]

It’s dangerous to start off a calendar year with a record like Future Machines because I’m not sure if it can possibly get better from here on out. Kösmonaut, their moniker teasing a kraut/prog sensibility, surge so far beyond the borders of that ridiculous genre it’s sick, approaching space from the opposite end of equally inventive bands like Kraus. Or maybe Mudboy commandeered the Star Trek Enterprise and set his phasers to ‘arpeggiate’ (I hope DeForrest reads this). Or maybe Popol Gluant got ahold of some new machines and built a new city, THIS city, on prog ‘n’ roll. Or maybe Patrick R. Pärk is the John Zorn of future-prog and is just getting started (though he’s already held auditions via Deep Distance and an imprint of his own). I DON’T KNOW. I DON’T KNOW. I even feel like there’s a pinch of Demdike Stare, minus the beats, tucked in here like a mini-baggy of heroin in Jonah Hill’s sweet ass. Spectrum Spools/Emeralds/etc. and OPN too. My head is spinning a bit, and the presentation of Future Machines, as with other These Are Not Records releases I’ve detailed in this section, is flawless enough to virtually guarantee its 250 copies, 100 on blood-red wax, will be jettisoned imminently. (Spoiler alert: There also appears to be a full-length from Landing on the TANR horizon; be ready.)

Links: Kösmonaut

Ahnnu

Battered Sphinx

[CS; NNA]

I’ve flipped this one over so many damned times I have no idea what’s side A and what’s side B anymore. Not that it especially matters, nor is that to say that each doesn’t have a unique set of textures and weirdo non-forms of its own. Indeed, as the minutes tick past throughout my work day (what time is it anyway?) and I continue to keep this tape in my Walkman, Ahnnu creeps forward with his mutant, constantly mutating meta-world of free jazz, hip hop, pitter-patters of peripheral noise and ambient music. It all coalesces into a twinkling star on my horizon: the end of the day is just a few more flips away (I think). Yes, there’s a brief light at the end of the tunnel, a glimmer of hope to be found within the cloudy misery of my miserable, cloudy day. Battered Sphinx glides along an oil slick and bubbles like a boiling tar pit. It bleeds maple syrup and … and it’s been drinking. Tones yawn and stretch like they’re waking up after a night of heavy clubbing (at the club, or actually being clubbed in the head with a club – either works), eyes blinking open like they’re coming out of a cough medicine-coma. And while I sit here and try my hardest to figure out the significance of a title like “Battered Sphinx,” Ahnnu’s representation of the beaten effigy is all cigarette smoke curling around pianos and double basses, which leaves my massaged brain tired and confused. Best to leave the symbolic significance stuff to Ahnnu I guess and enjoy this dose of cosmic relaxation for what it really is: One nice, nice dose of cosmic relaxation.

Links: Ahnnu - NNA

Hakobune

Looping Around the Forest I Thought I Remembered

[CS; Constellation Tatsu]

Embrace the embryonic, naturalistic ease of Hakobune. Every time I come back to the Japanese master of tranquility, I feel more childlike and less stressed. But Looping is much more than a meditative mantra or a momentary attempt at recapturing lost youth. With similar run times, each song speaks to our inner rhythms, helping to concentrate unparalleled thoughts into similar streams of consciousness. We can begin to notice the patterns of our routine and then begin to stretch them thin. Looping is about finding the details in our larger picture, breaking our habits to see what we’ve been missing. It’s a subtle trick Hakobune has played on more than 30 releases. It’s been training for this; the time when our patience and practice can be honed to spot those integral moments beyond our peripheral. It’s been a gentle coax from Takahiro Yorifuji, carefully crafting an identity and tone. But now we must pay attention to everything around us, for letting it go to waste not only sours our relationship with this broken cassette, but with the shattered reality we’ve neglected for too long. The sun rise; the falling dew; the frolicking deer; the flat tire, the busted gasket; the missed mortgage payment; the sick and the hungry – it’s all part of our beautiful world and with focus we can understand it. With Looping, we can better it.

Links: Hakobune - Constellation Tatsu

tooth ache.

Flash & Yearn

[LP; Feeding Tube]

I was ready to pitch my review-tent for the night when a lovely female voice, in the form of Tooth Ache (Why do I feel the need to say ‘female’? I don’t know.) begged me to stay. And I did, through the entire Flash & Yearn LP, and now I’m convinced she’s the princess from Neverending Story, encased in crystal and the glorious synth-peggios of the past. Hearing this witch house-tinted journey unfold, I figure: Soft Metals but better, or: This is where Portishead might have gone, had they taken shit seriously after those first few records and kept at it. Alexandria Hall dominates every song with her vocals and I don’t hear any reason why she shouldn’t, despite the quality of the arrangements. We’ve all heard a lot of synth programs over the last few years so I’m not gonna recommend it unless it’s top of the line. It’s sort of like an Editions Mego solo keyboard album fronted by a sexy chick. That’s totally reductive but doesn’t it sound kinda good?

Links: Feeding Tube
  

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.