5 Pieces [CS; Posh Isolation]
How important is it to understand the process of how something was created? Certainly context is good, but how does one weigh the results of an effort with the process of the effort?
The results on Jacob Kierkegaard’s “5 Pieces” are breathtaking. Three cassettes of manipulated field-recordings and experimental drone, finely-tuned for auditory exploration. There is so much space in which to get lost. Focus on one curiosity-inducing sound in each piece and try to follow it through a forest of alluring ambient sound or just allow the whole fog of noises to engulf you and pull you down.
What pushes it from just “extremely good” to “fascinating” is the liner notes about the process. We are given descriptions of the creation of each track; where and when it was recorded and the exact way the sounds were produced. It gives the listener mental toys to play with, like the prompt for an act of improvisation.
Do we need this though? Well, “need” is a strong word, but I can’t honestly say I would be as enamored if that information were not provided. It adds a richness, making the music not just exciting listening but exciting to think about.Links: Jacob Kirkegaard - Posh Isolation
Debre Damo Dining Orchestra
Debre Damo Dining Orchestra [7-inch; self-released]
The Debre Damo Dining Orchestra are a Copenhagen-based Afro-jazz ensemble who’ve just self-released their debut single, a gleefully anachronistic two-sider that blends the raw tenor slink of Hans Dulfer, plugged-in Ethiopian jazz of Mulatu Astatke, and drone-heavy psychedelic processionals. Fronted by saxophonist Søren Lyhne Skov, the group as it is on this record (there is some variance) also features organist Peder Mertner Vind, bassist Andreas Halberg and percussionist Matthias Arbo Klein (F.W. Smolls). One usually thinks of jazz and improvised music as the realm of LPs and CDs, at least when we’re talking about documentation, but in Scandinavian jazz EPs and singles have been a pretty common medium since the Fifties.
Skov’s tone is hard-bitten and sinewy, with a graininess that wouldn’t sound out of place on any number of avant-garde releases; alto and tenor are overdubbed in the thematic sections and as an accent in “Yesega Wat,” and in three minutes there’s not a ton of stretching room, but Skov certainly establishes himself as a heavy blower against a steady and condensed rhythm section. After a bit of heel digging, Vind enters with brief and particulate organ flourishes, but the piece wraps up as quickly as it began. The flip, “Minem Aydelem,” is a fuzzy analog down-tempo number, dry laconic beat and vibrato-heavy organ pulses augmented by pillowy saxophone lines, with Klein’s array of cymbal clatter in sharp contrast to a heady stew. Steely tenor rises out of the murk for a few brief yelps, and this isn’t an entirely atmospheric piece by dint of its audible tautness. The music on this single wouldn’t have sounded at all out of place in a Scandinavian basement club nearly forty years ago, and it’s heartening to know that there’s probably quite a bit more where these tracks came from – consider your appetite whetted.
(NOTE: Video is NSFW)Links: Debre Damo Dining Orchestra
A Tape [CS; Handmade Birds]
I’d like to personally thank Helena Hauff and Handmade Birds because I could have SWORN I was getting into another drone debacle with this one. I could smell it. And once again, care of the label (and don’t forget, it’s run by that guy from Pyramids, another project that astounds me) that always mind-fucks me, I’ve got another burner on my hands that resists easy shelving. A Taperawks it with big, bouncy beats, synths that tell time, hand-clappage, and, as with most electronic musics, manipulations that spare us the redundancy of too much robotic thinking. It’s vexing because I know of a lot of electronic acts in the same vein but none that make sense in the context of this particular review. Helena Hauff meddles with her wares too much like a noise musician to be considered a traditional DJ, which is… actually a great problem to have, especially when, near the end of Side A, an angelic cloud of sound hovers through and drips some drone and pin-prick synth sequencing on us; heavenly.Links: Handmade Birds
Across That White Plain [CS; Absenter]
Should have saved this one for a cloudy day I guess, but I swear the chilly whispers of Gossimer are enough to banish Spring to a black hell on their own. It’s cold, I tell ya. Cold and fragile, and like an ice carving, Gossimer is also a sparkling beauty, tears streaming down its melting face beneath the March sunshine. Across That White Plain brings us the latest spook-folk tunes from Jennifer Williams, an aching collection of ballads so delicate, they nearly crumble under the music’s emotional weight. It’s all carefully etched into a palette of wax paper, spare arrangements of vibraphone, piano, and percussion laid down like straw bedding for Williams’ mousy voice circle around, like a house cat nervously exploring new terrain, wondering if this is indeed the safe spot to sleep that it appears to be. The songs center around a fingered guitar/vocal underbelly as sampled instruments interject like horror-holograms, swooping in to cast a cloud of uncertainty over otherwise quite lovely and optimistic sounding melodies. It’s the type of feeling you get when you’re not quite sure if you’re having a wonderful dream, or a terrifying nightmare, music that can turn on you in an instant, figuring the listener with the inexperienced eyes of a young child – curious, but maybe a little skeptical, of the beautiful things presented by the world.Links: Gossimer - Absenter
The Future Will Be Repeated [CS; Ba Da Bing]
From the band that brought you my favorite album of 2014 and a label that continually blows my ever-loving mind, we get another dense set of eroding drone from Eye. The Future Will Be Repeated is a far angrier belch from these veteran New Zealand – a hard squall with all the rawness of live recording but none of the blind grasp of live improvisation. Existing somewhere between melody and noise, we find that indeed we are doomed to repeat our future and call it the past. Rather than heap a bunch of way points into their caterwaul, Eye blast right through it with the speed of a juiced DeLorean with a cattle catcher attached. It rakes up all the influence from historical to allegorical; a metaphor for artists who aren’t bound by modern sounds, only to find themselves heralded as futuristic 20 years later. So is the conundrum with The Future Will Be Repeated because it’s clearly happening in these sets and yet we’ll all default to it as some past act. But we’ll flip through our communal album collections and find no such thing but yet here it exists. And it shall go ignored because of its format and its difficulty. In the future age, it will be unearthed by whatever the replacement for music blogs will be and re-purposed and re-introduced to a crowd that will shower Eye with praise for being so forward-thinking. It’s a self-fulfilling cycle so those of us with keen ears can enjoy it now while the artists go unappreciated and their work is cheap. Begin hording now!
Links: Ba Da Bing
15/6/2014 [CS; Misery Loves Company]
I’m shocked more deep-indie bands don’t sound like Mands, corrupted by AIDS Wolf and Pissed Jeans and unleashed upon the world like an incurable virus. It’s almost as if Arab On Radar never existed as it is, and the last Shearing Pinx LP I personally heard came out in 2011, so when a band like Mands knock on my door I snap to attention. 15/6/2014, however, is a cassette I’m going back and forth on a little. As grateful as I was at first to hear the trio of Kaity Zozula, Amy Macdonald, and Tim Keen dredging up such sick post-noise-rock nastiness, I realized at certain spots the vocals were driving me crazy. DON’T FREAK OUT EVERYONE; Mands will be fine, and their live prowess is likely a better environment for their wares. The singer tends to get stuck in a monotonous key at times, particularly when she repeats herself (and of course she’s not the first noise-rocker to go there, not by any stretch). It’s sort of the difference between sitting down and writing solid melodies or just flowin’ off what the rest of the band is doing spontaneously. The latter feels better at the time, but in the long run it might make sense to pick up the pen. Hey I could be wrong, and the mind-numbing brick-slap of the instruments kick up enough dust to render the vocals a moot point. Especially considering how few n-r tapes come in to Gumshoe HQ, I give 15/6/2014 passing marks, if not unequivocal support.Links: Mands
Ain’t Scared of Shaka [CS; Tranquility Tapes]
It’s the disassociation of youth culture to rebel against what it believes to be a constraint. So how wizened Brad Rose and Josh Mason (known as Old Svrfers) came to such a stark uprising against modern experimental convention is beyond me. It has something to do with not being punkish or louts, but wanting to to push themselves and each other into something unfamiliar among the all-to-familiar. Which is the real artform of rebellion: making everyone else uncomfortable about something that should fit snug like a well worn bodysuit. Ain’t Afraid of Shaka isn’t so much new in its oldness, but in terms of borrowing from both’s adolescent past to create something emboldened by their present to create both a memory and a promise. I was thinking it’s all very Point Break; the interplay and double speak of Bodhi and Johnny Utah represented in the lawlessness of Rose’s synth and moral fiber of Mason’s guitar, both switching roles as needed. Besides, who reading this has any idea what Point Break is anyway but an old person film that has NOTHING on post-hipster dissent. We’re being told to catch the last big wave by the kids nipping at our heels but fuck ‘em. I’d rather ride out on the boards of Old Svrfers. This isn’t revolutionary for the sake of upsetting the norm, but because it’s all Mason and Rose know.
Kids would get ‘em when they come back in…but they’re not coming back.Links: Tranquility Tapes
Ildsvanger [LP; Posh Isolation]
Posh Isolation co-released Ildsvanger with Final Agony Records, bridging an unnecessary gap that has kept indie-rock and metal at arm’s length for as long as I can remember. Perhaps this cooperation will result in similar collaborations in the future? What I CAN express to you in no uncertain terms is Slægt put old-school black-metal at the forefront of their sound and, over 10 tracks, show no signs of relenting. Denmark’s Oskar J. Frederiksen, who handles everything save the drums, has located a sacred spot with his angry, yet somehow soothing scream. While his mystical compositions don’t exactly stand out like a beacon from the rest of the black-metal material bombarding the faithful, Ildsvanger is a rock-solid debut. It adheres to a strict code of sound that doesn’t become tiresome no matter how many times you crank it, and hits as hard as anything you’ll hear from genre darlings like Ash Borer and WITTR. Maybe next go-round we’ll hear Slægt enter more experimental territory circa Servile Sect; until then, Ildsvanger will keep your ears filled with flames.Links: Posh Isolation
A Wolf Should Only Be Lone [CS; Ba Da Bing]
Peter Kolovos is broken. Hearing it fall apart with scratch and claw is as heartbreaking as it is entrancing. Maybe we should help him, but then the far out guitarist would not be creating the magnificent work he’s etching from steel and wood. Kolovos falling apart is also keenly aware of the sound of the Pacific Northwest; a mythical and oft-changing “sound” that has been a commodity and a commercial for the two hubs of cultural (Portland and Seattle) that have sprung forth from the post-grunge-silicon-sludge. “No Daze” is the winter drizzle of Seattle and yet its temperature rarely drops below 40. It’s the hum of the bus engine as it cuts through all those gentrified neighborhoods still teeming with rebellion and scum. “Pure Fire, I Understand Consumption,” is the artier, lighter take. It’s Portland as seen from its Rose Gardens , all its Midwestern-like sprawl unfurling before you like the ripples traveling throughout Kolovos’ strings. It’s the pluckiness of the younger sibling, now beginning to eclipse and overtake its nerdier, dour brother to the North. Part of it wants to break away completely from the shadow; the other is hungry and ready to devour its fraternal twin. Of course, this is just an album of awesome guitar sketches from a man whose built a modest legacy on shredding, so maybe I’m reading too much into it. But if you’ve experienced the world from those forgotten American cities, you tend to project. Isolation does crazy things to us wolves.Links: Ba Da Bing
Plays Popol Vuh [LP; Dreamsheep]
A long time has passed since a peep has been heard from Cosi and he returns with a Popol Vuh covers album featuring Paul de Jong and Zac Nelson. What a triumphant return it is, hearing his saxophone blaze through classic Popol Vuh. But it seems a story too easy to write: the comeback, the guests and the well regarded experimental band of 40 years ago re-imagined for the 21st century. I keep coming back to those near 7 years of relative silence from Cosi. What does Popol Vuh have to do with those years and how do these interpretations speak to that time away? There MUST be some deeper meaning that eludes my careful detection, or perhaps – like all good music – I’m projecting myself onto that absence. Perhaps I’m the one who has been holed up, barely communicating for seven years. No, there must be a fault in Cosi. So I keep searching through the ramshackle train sample, the glorious sax crescendos, the spastic electronic melodies but all I find is magnificence. A musician reintroducing himself to old fans and new converts through a muse which we can all relate. A brilliant stroke of tasteful tribute and mad scientific pursuit. Whatever Plays Popol Vuh represents, it’s not loss. It’s not regret. We can all agree that Cosi is back and that is a good thing, no matter the toll those seven years have taken on our psyche.Links: Dreamsheep