Onho [8-inch lathe; PseudoArcana]
So I made a pledge on these here pages not to mention a certain island nation that neighbors Australia that produces a lot of odd yet warming pop music. So I promise to stick to it even when the artist in question hails from said nation. Because this isolated, reverberating 8-inch plump on 8 minute tracks per side has little to do with the same lush, open landscape in which it was birthed. It helps that the eponymous “Ohno” is actually a soothing drone created from an Indian instrument the tanpura. Though the tonal tendencies occasionally cross into the exotic, it often holds steady in a more modern repose. Slightly more akin to worn out Lululemon than authentic robes and shawls, but none the less more centered and spiritual that the host of suburban women adopting Yogi couture. “Death to Kali” is done with the very traditional pipe organ, placing Meek’s second piece further away from some Donovan trip. This is Ravedeath Hecker and not solely based on the the instrument of choice, but in the even-handed use of harsh tones atop a gentle melody. A wind whipping through the green valleys to the scenic beaches. No, I made a promise and I will keep it. But it helps when said nation really has not one discernible musical identity but myriad ones. Meek proves that inspiration goes beyond his surrounded home and his time spent touring the rest of the world truly makes Ohno a global experience without the filter of where his passport says he lays his head.
Transient [CS; Golden Cloud]
Only one side in and I’ve already got the old typewriter out and my fingers are flying next to my spirit being, miles high, bobbing along a drifty hypno-trick by Lake Daggers, who is Wyatt Montgomery Worcel. That’s the first time I’ve ever read that name or typed it down, and it looks like he’s only got one other thing available so far (a forthcoming split?), so if it’s new to me, maybe it’s new to you too? What’s not totally new to me is hearing another noise-guy answering the call of the tasty-beat-maker draught the hip-hop scene may or may not be struggling with (I guess I can’t really say for certain, alls I know is that I’m not really listening to the modern hip-hop scene, but I very much am getting my beat-kicks out on these weird-ass cassette tapes). Don’t mean to pin Worcel here down with that “noise-guy” platitude either, but I hear it with the TERRODOME guys, Charlatan to an extent, Paw Paw, Potions out in Chicago… artists seemingly looking for (and finding) new ways to get your head-nod on that start with a mesmeric ambient cradle of buzzy background synths or droning drawls of guitar strings, and lets the grooves carve their way in nice and easy. In the case of Transient here, Worcel’s version of this fuzes a buzzing, ever-present radiance of ecstatic color with a nice array of percussive textures built into balanced grooves. With silvery guitar melodies that swirl like liquid mercury driving it along, it’s the kind of thing that at times makes perfect sense as a strait zoner, at others pure dance-floor fodder, and very often it’s both at the same time (this tape’s real sweet spot). A prime cut of meditation meat to chew on.Links: Lake Daggers - Golden Cloud
Size Queen / Jane La Onda
The Spectacle / Buy Buy Buy [LP; Feeding Tube]
I saw Guerilla Toss last year and don’t remember much about Kassie Carlson because it’s tough to concentrate on characteristics of people when they’re blurry as fuck and surrounded by sounds that could bludgeon out a devout terrorist upon contact. But hey, if GToss is any indication she knows her stuff, and this collection of two sold-out tapes, one per side of vinyl, fleshes out her place in the underground world outside of that band everyone’s been talkin’ up for a good while now. Her Jane La Onda nom de plume carries with it a strange mystique, a tinny, toybox sound that changes shapes constantly as she spits coy nursery rhyme-style verse(s) post-Cocorosie. Buy Buy Buy is an interesting sojourn, but to me this material would have sounded just fine on tape; the real gold here is the Size Queen side (in my twisted mind) because its coldwave sensibilities are bettered by the vinyl format. I also feel The Spectacle plays to Carlson’s strengths just a bit more, teasing out the softer side of her voice and offering an elegant landscape consisting of lush, green beats, a misty-blue rhythmic spray, and cute lil’ bass lines that contribute more than you’ll realize at first. Vaporwave heads will want to claim Size Queen for their own but don’t fall for the ruse, brother; it ain’t legit. In other news, note the several instances of coruscating, often call-and-response, pitch-bent vocals, both higher and lower, as they fly across your ear’s path like sparklers dazzling your eye; now that you’ve noted them, enjoy them and contextualize them… My work here is done.Links: Feeding Tube
Ascension or Whatever [CS; Holy Page]
Holy Page is a label I haven’t had a good chance to dig into, but from the two tapes I have heard (this one here and the pleasant pop tunes of Stephen Steinbrink), it’s clear the imprint has a pretty wide footprint on the experimental music landscape. Here’s an odd little beastie from Mold Omen which is a duet between Mike Pursley and Andy Livingston, two noise-ers from out in Baltimore. The duet-feel is palpable here, rare for an album I’d have no problem throwing straight into the weirdo-noise category (my very favorite category!), where knobs and effects often swirl, smash, and smear sounds together into an ambient wash. But with Ascension or Whatever, the tracks typically carry a plucked (or droned) amplified guitar part and an accompanying percussion element, distinct voices working together in concert, even lining up rhythmically at times. And although those elements are arranged in slightly (or radically) different ways from track to track, the mix maintains its aluminum can sheen with tinny frequencies and hardly any bass to give the group a distinct “sound.” In a strange way, even though this music is largely formless, often abrasive, a borderline-brain-irritant, some of the pieces give the same feeling you can get from the great power-duos. But for the most part this is obviously absurdist work with a few moments of eardrum-shredding feedback, tons of atonal hoopla, and an overall attitude of “who gives a flying…” – These guys are masters of not taking themselves too seriously, obviously imbuing their work with the sort of twisted sense of humor that comes with experimenting with high-voltage currents and the occasional accidental self-electrocution. And because of it, Mold Omen is maybe better than it thinks it is, which is kind of scary. Good for us, bad for them? Or bad for us? I can’t decide, this shit’s fucking weird, guys.Links: Holy Page
Order of Disappearance [CS; Cosmic Winnetou]
The music contained on this little cassette makes me long for isolation in a way few other things have in recent memory. I feel that to experience its true impact I need to find a little fog-shrouded coastal town, and walk the streets completely alone in the early hours of the morning. Dewey sidewalk underfoot, wandering aimlessly, at some point I forget that I am even wearing headphones, and the music blends with the grey 6AM light and the gauzy glow of street lamps minutes from turning off. A feeling of total separation from the world, of being in a place without future or past, where everything is a long, fog enshrouded infinite moment would be crystallized by that combination of music and environment.
Really such a fantasy boils down to a desire to escape from the ins and outs of life; duck out of the hail of ultimately trivial bullshit that makes up a seemingly ever larger portion of our days as we age. At 26 my jejune struggle not to capitulate to the “realities” of day-to-day living is straining from the constant assault of “adult” life. Which just makes these little 20 minute escapes matter all the more.Links: Micromelancolié - Cosmic Winnetou
Wait for the End [12-inch; Iron Lung]
If you’ve ever been in a chokehold you know what it’s like to be taken hostage by Pleasure Cross and throttled until yr dead. But it’s not that simple; before your end you must rattle through two 45 RPM sides of post-power violence, quasi-metal scrum, only pausing for breathes and to wipe the tears of jubilation-mixed-with-sadness away. Like most worthwhile bands that rely on heaviness and heaviness alone to win the day, PC have done their homework. Wait For the End is full of diversions and digressions that trigger the ear and keep the brain occupied while the heart is being pounded and denied its ration of blood, the co-vocals ringing of Man Is The Bastard, a ton of old Ebullition/Corrosive bands (speaking of the later, some of that old LiA stuff is being reissued soon), and The Locust (which is not at all a slam in my book). Don’t forget the 45 speed, either. It, and the heavy deluxe vinyl, makes a huge difference; these aren’t just sub-level audio artifacts, they’re collectibles that’ll fuckin’ last. Is this brand of soul-cudgeling gaining new footing in the underground? Jesus Christ, I sure the-fuck hope so. Let’s get heavy.Links: Iron Lung
Terrordome vol. VII [CS; Live God]
“A new album from the master of terror and suspense,” read the words printed along the spine of this beast’s back. If you know Boy Froot, then you know these words aren’t exactly wrong. He’s the Murnau here of a film called “Terrordome vol. VII,” the next in the series of vicariously vicious villains, collected once again into scene after blood-curdling scene. This one’s just brimming with the gruesome, the gripping (A couple of chase scenes?), the psycho-sexual, the violent, all expertly orchestrated into a really cohesive mix of experimental hip-hop (although I’m remiss to call this stuff “hip-hop” exactly). The seventh TERRORDOME stands out a little from the previous six collections Froot’s assembled in that there’s no rapping or vocals whatsoever, save for a few samples, which is ok by me given the fact that the usual suspects (Bonglestar, WRS, Night Park) bring some of their best work to date. And that’s not to mention the new characters making their first appearances in this sequel. Of particular note is Foxtrot Stowaway, who steals the show early with the crawling second track, “Face Planting Castles,” a subtle banger that unwinds like a Detroit techno tune that’s been to hell and back. The whole scene these compilations represent, which includes ambient players, noise players, hip-hop players, synthscapers, beat-makers, on and on… it’s all just getting better and better while remaining criminally overlooked in experimental music circles. So jot a note down in your mental pad about Live God Records, Boy Froot, and the entire TERRORDOME gang now and impress your nerd friends at the next weirdo-convention before vol. VIII drops and blows everyone’s minds.
”Links: Various Artists - Live God
Seeami x Albino Deers
(EP) [CS; Adhesive Sounds]
In a Venn Diagram which represents the music of the Olympic games and the music of the Eurovision Song Contest, the overlap is where Seeami and Albino Deers exist. A day in an age yet to come where traditional National Anthems cease to exist because they are too utilitarian, replaced by the works of wunderkinds that are shaping 21st Century works of musical art. When the pageantry of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies is also a heavily watched and voted content itself. Where everyone stands on a podium with their Uranium and Plutonium medals glowing brightly in a sea of humanity that is embraced by all in a swirl of post-20th Century sounds. It’s a lofty idealism instilled within (EP) but it’s there, proudly beaming. Where collaborators in New Zealand (I lost my bet) and Rome can come together to create music that is truly Olympian. Where we no longer care about who is most fashionable or which country dedicates more state funds to feats of athleticism, but where we cheer for the most heroic stories and the time honored tradition of (wo)men overcoming physical forces without bulldozing, slashing-and-burning, tunnel jacking, underwater drilling, et al.Links: Adhesive Sounds
Spirit 1992 [CS; VAALD]
Floating around my head, I find the image of a photograph heated with a lighter until it starts to ooze and blister, faces and environments running together in a toxic, blackened swirl. That image seems potent tonight; somehow the warm disintegration of memory is too on-the-nose. Along with it there is a noise so numbing, so single-minded in its drive that an intimation of fatalism settles in around the less distinct edges of my thoughts. There is a constant shredding and reconstruction of a dream, as though that is all I can do: what I have to do. I have abdicated my choice and now endlessly go back and tear it open, sift through its guts trying to figure out what part went so badly wrong. Then it must be reconstructed, pieced back together, as best can be remembered, only to obsessively rip it open once again, double-check every wire and gear, making sure it’s all just as it should be. Step back and it is not quite recognizable now, not accurate, not true. Maybe it’s best just to let the memory burn away, sweep up what can be salvaged, and take this tape out of my damned cassette deck.Links: VAALD
Four Pi [7-inch square lathe; Self-Released]
I remember the day this square lathe came in. I thought to myself, OK, review this one in a few days and MOVE ON! Then a few days became a week became a brain fuck so intense I didn’t land on my feet until just now (whenever THAT is). So… here we are! And Four Pi is spinning on my record player and kicking up a menacing little mini-ruckus that inches forward like a slug army taking a mountainside. Ryan Huber gives us the ol’ Fedora Corpse treatment: foggy dronoise that, at times, seems to contain a rhythmic pulse, albeit a barely detectable one. Huber dons static noise like dark shades, slipping into alleyways and playing through before you know what hit you. I’m not trying to phone in this review but there’s only so much I can say. I like what I hear so far, a lot, but what’s next (OK I actually know what’s next)? It would be ridiculous to imbibe such a cool lil’ record then never hear (literally) from Huber again but it happens all the damn time, and I feel like a whore afterward (I don’t). Keep in touch Hubro!Links: Ryan Huber