The Frightening Lights
The Frightening Lights [LP; Bruit Direct]
It’s of little coincidence that French label Bruit Direct would end up releasing a Melbourne-based chanteuse’s brilliant interpretation of chanson. Though I doubt it was Elizabeth Downey’s intent or even the direction of partner Dan Hawkins’ noir-ish accompaniment, the winsome darkness can’t be ignored. The band’s self-titled is richly textured with Downey’s milky croon bolstered by Hawkins’ powerful restraint. This is likely to be compared favorably to any Russian Roulette pairing you would like but there’s a particular namedrop that comes to mind: Sandoval and Roback. Not far removed from Wilhelm and McGee. Both twosomes quite familiar with lyrically driven Still Lifes. At this point, it’s unfair to continue pouring words onto a perfect canvas. I fear of scaring away too many suitors. I worry that covering this with fervid rapture will spoil some of the humor and sweetness. Let’s all practice the restraint of Frightening Lights because it will serve us all well. Needless to say, highly recommended and well worth the tariffs and taxes.Links: Bruit Direct
Asleep in the Shattered Mirror [CS; Skrot Up]
You’ve heard a lot of the tools Xunholm use to furnish Asleep in the Shattered Mirror, but odds are you haven’t heard them delivered in quite as thoughtful a manner. Skrot Up’s latest find emerge from the Not Not Fun/NNA/Spectrum Spools hemisphere of the underground sound globe and outdo a lot of their peers by hewing to a very cold, clinical, dare I say German, path. It’s wondrous to behold the first couple of cuts on Side A; it almost seems as if they’re incapable of making a mistake. Synths swirl, lasers blaze, comets glide across the blackness of eternity and… I think there’s a drum beat in there somewhere, tangled up in digital bile. These mystical beginnings I speak of serve as a mere introduction to a future-world wherein the only constant is change. There’s a soundtrack-y quality to it all that transcends the cheaper Goblin-style hallmarks of the art form and zoom right in on the good stuff. “Wind in Her Hair” has an Interstellar feel to its all-out gallop, while “Betrayer” lulls you to euphoria even as it portends future-dread. I don’t want to give away any more; cough up the price of a ticket (come to think of it at $5 or so these tapes are a much better value than a $13 movie-theater stub) and take the ride yourself.Links: Skrot Up
Mind Over Mirrors
The Voice Calling [CS; Immune]
The Voice Calling lives up to its title: though it’s far more duplicitous than at first listen. Otherwordly Jaime Fennelly has found his musical kin with the addition of Haley Fohr. The dual specters haunt their strongest instrument throughout: harmonium (Fennelly) and voice (Fohr). Most striking is the restraint from both. Fennelly creates winding, repetitious melodies that wrap around those chosen moments when Fohr bellows from the pit of her stomach. The results are a fantastic howl bridging the spiritual twang of previous Mind Over Mirrors without betraying the stark realism of Fohr’s solo work as Circuit des Yeux. What is different with the new configuration of Mind Over Mirrors (however long it lasts) is Fennelly’s harmonium is often the lead vocal, as Fohr’s voice becomes the base of the melodies. The album isn’t so much a shift in the Mind Over Mirrors aesthetic as it is the first real experimentation of Fohr’s voice uncut from her jagged guitar playing (which does make an appearance on the album’s closer, “Calling Your Name.”). Likewise, Fennelly fleshes out ideas using the deep vibrato of Fohr. The furthest out vibes (“Whose Turn is Next,” “Motioning”) are where the configuration becomes one; where this is not just a tossed off collaboration. Though The Voice Calling may be built on each’s ability to define their instrument, it also proves they are not bound to it. A toast to the beginning of a beautiful friendship, and hopefully not the quick rise and fall of a singular idea.Links: Immune
Young Flower [CS; Self Released]
I find it hard to buy physical versions of music that aren’t somehow “special” these days; there is too much shit in my already cramped living space to rationalize paying twenty dollars for something that, after the initial month of listening, goes on the shelf.
This being said, the Power Mystery cassette currently in my deck is something I am quite glad was introduced into my increasingly claustrophobic bedsit. It’s the full package; a j-card printed on picture-paper (is that what it’s called?) with the Kodak watermark visible on the backside, wrapped around a home-dubbed Maxwell C60 that’s only identified by a white sticker with “Aug 2014 *this side only” carefully written on it. As for the music, picture this: discovering a cassette in your parent’s attic of the long-thought-lost recordings made by your uncle (who never publicly performed but was often heard, through the walls, softly strumming his guitar in the early hours of the morning) shortly before his death. Okay, that’s a bit much, but the music here is soft, warm and has the strange quality of being familiar without being dull or ordinary; like something you find rather than something you buy. Which, happens to be exactly what I mean by “special”.Links: Power Mystery
Hyrrokkin / Doug Scharin’s Activities Of Dust
Sephfus [7-inch; New Atlantis]
Hyrrokkin = Don Caballero, aggression, loosely splayed high-hat height, Hella, avantist jams for the commercially foolhardy, wrath, By The End Of Tonight, devastation, shifting time signatures, cartoonish demons that drop a wicked axe, Race Car Riot, paper cuts on your brain (SLICE!), bluppa-dupe dupe dupe-duppa-duppa CRASH CYMBAL SMASHED-THEN-DAMPENED, freneticism (my word), instrumental elitism(?), global psych-mulch schism, Dilute, precise yet scattered, smooth yet hops-y, time in a bottle shaken HARD; rejoice.
Activities Of Dust (Doug Scharin) = Oxes, take the long way home, twisted, mangled mini-chunks of riff, chaos, Colour Bük, that part of the guitar that no one ever plays, air-traffic control frequencies, rattle/humMmm/cocaine-bump, NZ-import silt-sludge, that instrumental album Jennifer Gentle put out, that album you and your buddies didn’t put out, tight bass underneath the sway of blurry drums, sirens, a pair of ruby-red earrings she wears when she wants to feel confident — in a song, spare pair of scissors to run down the hall with, clinking bells, Guardian Alien, blasted bottle caps and firecracker’d G.I. Joes.
Sephfus 7-inch = blue vinyl, limited copies, \^^/Links: New Atlantis
Blind Thorns [LP; New Atlantis / Cheap Satanism / Offset / Tandori]
I’m going to try and tamp down my excitement for Blind Thorns’ self-titled LP on four — count ‘em, FOUR — different labels, but… lord, it’s going to be tough. I simply wasn’t prepared to ride this record bareback. There should be a warning sticker on this motherfucker and I’ll tell you why: For all their tension-building subtlety, the Thorns also can tear your damn head off and shit down your neck. I learned this from “Orbital,” probably the sickest, shreddiest cut I’ve slice myself with since Hella and that Racebannon album remixed by Merzbow entered my life. It’s probably the nuttiest one minute I’ve spent listening to music, and it’s only the start of this aural journey through the nether-regions of the soul. We’ve also got Aa-style ritual tom-tom sacrifices; longform exercises in modality (think Zs); all-around chaos circa Fadensonnen; grunts reminiscent of Arrington Dionyso at his most violent; and even a bit of Raccoo-oo-oon pops up within the monstrous valleys of this seven-song beast, which I fear I’m not foreshadowing effectively. But I must forge on or admit defeat: The most salient song on offer might just be “A Railway Diversion,” a creepy coupling of abstract guitar in the style of a more minimalist Slint, cymbal rolls, random percussive ‘plink’s, picks scraping on shiny strings, and soprano warbling (or at least that’s what I think it is). There exists no vocabulary that could even capture a gleam in this track’s eye, but a particular band name keeps popping into my head: The great Black Neck Band Of The Common Loon (not to mention Weasel Walter/ugEXPLODE in general). Also captivating is “An Explanation Of the Birds,” an entry with no true center and, as such, has no rules to follow. Expect more of those pounding toms blasting out a tough-to-pin-down rhythm, atmosphere to spare (this could be an ambient track and it’d still be able to cup my ears in its hands), and a double-dose of what sounds like whale calls. And that’s all I got folks. Blind Thorns, for a band with exactly one album out, display uncommon maturity, betraying the trio’s experience in other bands of note (AHLEUCHATISTAS among them). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If you ain’t lookin’ underground, you’s missin’ it.Links: New Atlantis / Cheap Satanism / Offset / Tandori
Skyscraper [12-inch; AVANT!]
It’s funny to see Front 242 mentioned in press for Skyscraper because they’ve been on my mind as well. They never really broke huge but they also never went away, through all these years, and it’s fascinating to me that young people today GET it. It’s a bit like the resurgence of Steve Hillage (ex-Gong), who discovered that he was back IN when he happened to walk by a rave venue and hear one of his songs (something from Rainbow Dome Musick, I believe) being looped over a beat. Hayden Payne, at the helm of Phase Fatale, displays a lot of the talents you look for in a cold, distant, desolate techno artist with fond memories of electronic music of old (despite a lack of actual experience with said decade by dint of his young age). He conjures unique sound tunnels by fusing (relatively) rhythmically complex future-beatz to simplistic key swipes and other such effects, interlocking several moving parts with skill and the drive you need to get attention in a world full of sweaty DJs. I must admit that at first blush, this record wasn’t happening for me. Therein lies the flub, on my part, however: I hadn’t experienced it in the right mindset. If you’re ready to give Skyscraper a close listen by all means let it marinate and soak into you, and don’t go ‘previewing’ the first few seconds of every track looking for familiar cues. Phase Fatale need time to find a home in your head, and once in, they need space to build up to a frenzy that I guarantee you is coming.Links: AVANT!
New Cowboy Builders
Black Moses [7-inch; Self-Released]
Somewhere in the abyss where mclusky drowned, the remains reassembled into a clunky goo of seaweed and saltwater. They emerged, fully disfigured and totally cool with it. The same lightsaber cocksucking attitude struggling with the bends. The resulting amalgamation were anointed New Cowboy Builders and took to tiny black fetish material. Black Moses is that visible gnarl of scar tissue and ne’er-a-care. It rocks in all the right areas, breaking pool cues over heads when needed and chugging down a few pints to dull the pain at the shore pub. It’s a sea shanty of contradictions about how rock is interpreted by those who “moved on” and those who still see it as “salvation.” Black Moses has parted the abysmal waters, drudging up a people with a sound we have dearly missed. I’m sloshed.Links: New Cowboy Builders
Binary Marketing Show
Anticipation of Something Else [CS; Already Dead Tapes]
From the nether-edge of the Beach Boys pop-universe cries the Binary Marketing Show. They are a band at a distance, some inter-galactic nega-pop oddity from light years away, beamed into our hazy ozone with harmonies from a chorus of alien voices, glowing synthesizer melodies, and clockwork-mechanismic beats. With its weaving structures and complex grooves setting each track’s pace and tone, Anticipation of Something Else isn’t only a brilliant exercise in experimental song writing, it is also one of the better sounding releases I’ve heard this year from a production standpoint. The duo makes these catchy songs catch you quicker by having a really good sense for the environmental conditions of the sound table. They know their space intimately, its total volume, temperature, humidity, and they shape it all into a comfy pillow of pop music, so easy and wonderful to sink into time and again. Aside from having a bit of excessive extra blank tape on both sides than I’d like to see/deal with (OK, pretty trivial/petty criticism there, but I feel like I should mention it anyway), Binary Marketing Show nonetheless makes for one of the more scrumptious discoveries Already Dead Tapes has fed my hungry ears over the past couple of years. Big recommend.Links: Binary Marketing Show - Already Dead Tapes
Walk in White [7-inch; AVANT!]
When thinking about Handofdust it’s best not to consider what’s wrong about what you’re hearing but what ISN’T wrong, as in, any notions of traditional ‘rock’ production and performance don’t apply. The singer spits all over the mic, the high end gets scratchy if it shows up at all, and when the guitarist/bassist stretch out together and thrash a little, the drums all but disappear. These traits will get you kicked out of most columns, but that’s just what we DO here at Cerb-a-derb-derbs; bring us your tired(-sounding), your poor(-sounding), your huddled masses and we’ll figure the equation out ourselves. In this instance I hear a smidge of Wilderness, a ton of desert-style Morricone guitar (at least on the title track), and, most of all, the post-folk, MacGyver-style craftiness of Inspector 22. I’ll admit, however, that I’m having a tough time putting my finger on what exactly it is that this trio DOES. They have a way of going quiet on the verses then brick-jamming the chorus that seems almost Pixies-ish, yet beyond that aspect (and frankly I’ve found Pixies’ quiet-loud dynamic to be overstated, much like Hemingway’s supposedly short, punchy sentences) there’s very little in common. Guitar strings are seemingly bent out of tune, a mystical mode is achieved, and the choruses thrash out the momentum so fervently, yet abashedly; how do they do that? So I’ll say it again: Handofdust excel at driving home a particular gnarled rock essence that leaves me grasping for straws where influences are concerned. All I can really say for sure is I’ll sign any petition Handofdust send my way and veto any bill they argue against. You spin a lo-fi yarn this effectively and that’s your reward, every damn time. Take note.Links: AVANT!