Space Case [CS; Translinguistic Other]
With cassettes like Space Case, who needs vinyl? Translinguistic Other did a great job on this tape, producing a ‘BOOM’ you don’t normally get from the relatively cheap medium. So just who is this JJAAXXNN? Does he jack in? Does he jack out? Does he like Apple Jacks? Is he obsessed with earphone jacks? Until those questions are answered we won’t truly know, but his spaced-out work here allots plenty of hints. His is a hyper world, full of mechanized beats that lay the high hat on heavy, bass bumps that hit the brain like lumps of caw-caine, synths launching to the sky, and… well actually that’s pretty much it. You’d think the concoction would get stale but it goes down like Jägermeister, so get ready to head back to the bar a few times no matter how much coin it costs ya. Reminds me of the Laser Palace label most of all, along with a lot of the other folks in cassette culture who, like me, don’t see the tape as a conduit for drone artists and little else. Also: CFCF, Dof, old M83, and other acronym bands you’ve probably forgotten about by now, and for good reason. Consider Space Case an update to that shit.Links: Translinguistic Other
The Fun Years
One Quarter Descent [CS; Spring Break Tapes!]
The Fun Years is one of those bands you just assume no one knows about. It’s not like they are totally elusive, complete shut-ins or anything, but they are still pretty quiet about everything – not much in the way of interviews with the group, they never play shows or tour… I am not entirely certain they even live on the same coast. They’ve responded to my e-mails, but their replies are always extremely short and leave me with many questions unanswered. Details! I wanna know DETAILS! And yet, the turntable + baritone guitar drone-duo manages to appear from the ether once every couple of years with a stunner that sells out instantly, having forged a strong and devoted following over two stone-classic drone LPs, 2008’s Baby It’s Cold Inside and 2011’s God Was Like, No, both with the incomparable Barge label. Here is 2014’s installment of said sold-out stunner: One Quarter Descent, this time with Spring Break Tapes! and curiously out on cassette, although this here reviewer is certainly not complaining since the sonic depth the group’s known for somehow sounds deeper than ever, even with the limited scope of tape. The music’s molecular make-up will definitely be familiar to fans of the band, textures slowly woven into a warm blanket of fuzzy bliss, all with that sepia/scratched-lens filter on everything, giving off those faint and glorious feelings of fond (if blurry) memories. With this release, they do a really nice job making their drone three-dimensional; motifs arriving softly, tremolo tones dropping lightly into the mix like rain in a pond, and the subtle ripples drifting off into a distant background as newer guitar refrains gently wash on top. I kind of think of it as like an opposite-ocean, with the waves pushing out into the endless sea… and there’s a beautiful blood-orange horizon out there, by the way, and a sailboat drifting. And a man on the sailboat, all alone, thinking about something. Or someone he misses. He is crying a little bit. Goddamn, it’s fucking gorgeous, and I’m done writing about this album now. It’s the best.Links: The Fun Years - Spring Break Tapes!
Diegesis [LP; Moniker]
I loved the first ONO record on Moniker so much I felt a letdown coming on. The elusive ensemble’s Diegesis, however, obliterates my concerns by stubbornly swerving even farther off the grid than its predecessor. None of the genres I’ve ever heard of apply to ONO, so we’ll have to take it slow as we identify what we’re dealing with here. Not sure who the singer is (P. Michael maybe? Liner notes, you have let me down.) but he’s a schizo to say the least. I hear traces of Wilderness and the bloke from Chameleons in the vocals, albeit with more of a street-preacher mentality, yet that’s only the beginning of his vast store of identities. The goal is to provoke the senses and revoke the power structures that have led to the enslavement of us all. To that end, ONO reach through several layers of history to grasp for inspiration, from Psychic TV to jammy Jimi rock (“Burning of the Midnight Lamp” is covered, even) to The Residents to 80s underground experimental musics in general to gospel to absurdism, the latter being perhaps their most potent weapon. Recognizing the futility of it all is the first step to a heightened understanding of why it’s important to stay motivated while there’s still time to act. Most bands try to figure out what is going on with the world. ONO sit back in tall buildings and laugh at the ridiculousness of it our “stainless steel” culture, and that has made all the difference.Links: Moniker
Message Centre [CS; Fixture]
Five years is far too long in between Brave Radar albums, but when you’re on the fringe of poverty and pauper, sacrifices must occur. Considering I would have been too poor to buy a cassette of their during large swatches of that time, the wait has been worth it. Message Centre reignites the Micky Dolenz simplicity that made them such a find all those years ago (and a great inclusion on Kinnta’s The Lemon Tape in 2012). There is nothing fancy here, the result of a band on a budget but understanding how to get the most out of the least. It’s classic pop ruminations sung sweetly and played quickly. Not to tie the band’s fortunes to the Oneders but this is the evolution of Playtone with the same State Fair ethos of coming out, soaking up the admiration of young girls in tight sweaters and boys in letter jackets. Plug in, play, and get off the stage before the crowd gets bored and moves onto something else. But that part of the equation never happens. Something about the warm embrace of these tunes makes you smitten with Brave Radar. And like that first rush of stomach butterflies and goosebumps, you never forget it. You may have long thrown away your first love but the feeling remains. Message Centre is that fuzzy memory that keeps you chasing the phantom. You can settle down with Brave Radar, you’ll always have that chill.Links: Brave Radar - Fixture
Washed Against The Rocks [7-inch; Handmade Birds]
Dominick Fernow’s mutability keeps me fascinated. Even narrowing his oeuvre down to his Prurient moniker the range of styles is vast. Compare the ashen, nigh-drone, emptiness of Time Began in a Garden or The Golden Chamber to the sanity destroying noise washes of The Black Vase or Pleasure Ground, versus the polarizing clarity and rhythmic foundation of Bermuda Drain and you’ll get the picture. He appears to not care what you think or if you are even listening.
Washed Against the Rocks is no exception to his apparent disregard for audience, and be thankful for it. Yes, there are the migraine inducing pitches that we all bought the ticket for and that make the noise “purists” (how can that even be a thing) get tumescent. Also on display are beats, an ever increasing sense of composition, and something bordering on beauty. Noise may be all about mood and texture, but here is something treading dangerously close to emotion, something with a sense of time and loss. There is supposed to be another Prurient album coming sometime this year, and I’m not sure if I want it to be like this single or not.Links: Handmade Birds
The Thirteen Kisses [CS; NNA]
I wish I knew the story of Thirteen Kisses. But it’s in another language. It is a foreign story. I can see what’s in the story, the characters and setting. There is a woman with ravishing red lipstick and a large-brimmed hat with a flower poking out the back of it. She is very beautiful and from another time. Violins twirl from the back of her dress behind her as she walks by, trumpets and trombones lining the sidewalk for her promenade. And a man–dark, short hair lines his brow with a part to the side. He wears a suit, the sauntering drums and bass see him in a confident strut heading the opposite way, moving toward her. He is confident. He has a motorcycle. They hop on and go for a ride. And I can see all of this because the language is so clearly and fluently expressed – and we all know this language. It is the language of falling in love on gondola rides. It is beautiful and serene, but also fiery, fraught with peril. Tredici Bacci makes a movie out of it, with plenty of high drama, steamy love scenes and tense stand-offs. An opera, a stage of it, blood red velvet curtains towering over a damsel on her death bed, singing her last goodbye. No… No, I don’t know the exact story of Thirteen Kisses, remember? But I know this much: The story of Thirteen Kisses does have a happy ending. You’ll be dancing.Links: Tredici Bacci - NNA
Self-Titled [CS; Constellation Tatsu]
For some reason, the retrospective design of the latest Constellation Tatsu batch has me remembering PBS programming of yore, particularly Secret City as it applies the similarly named Unicity. Thanks to an overindulgence in astrophysics (I need a break from the Ship of the Imagination), I was prepared to tune out this galactic artifact. But I couldn’t. It wouldn’t let me. It hurled by like a meteor on course to destroy my world, to make me rethink how I was viewing the astronomical. So I returned to the solace of Secret City, not so much for a drawing tutorial, but for the purpose of transforming lines and shapes all too familiar into new representations and ideas. Turns out Self-Titled isn’t another jettisoned trip into outer space but rather into the outer reaches of where we are and where we could be. Imagination is a powerful tool and though it can grow dull from neglect or run amok from too much use, making sure it remains part of your balanced daily breakfast is crucial to understanding. PBS really did transform me into a sinkhole of liberal idealization and free-thought. Otherwise, I might be some dweeb too cool to give Unicity a chance and rediscover a part of myself not out of nostalgia, but of necessity, to continue to grow.Links: Constellation Tatsu
First Demo: 12/29/80 [7-inch; Dischord]
S.O.A. nee State Of Alert were active in the early 1980s and played Blur to Minor Threat’s Oasis, if you get me. They were rivals, ready to slit each other’s mother’s throats if that’s what it came to, dedicated to the tribe to the end. Hardcore never recovered after bands like S.O.A. either broke up or turned to metal, and Henry Rollins, so synonymous with anything but punk these days, along with his motley crew of locals is almost suspiciously game on First Demo: 12/29/80, his voice raspy and shitty and rowdy like a drunken beaver with a lethal chopper-tooth. It’s true, what they say: None of them rocked quite as hard as Bad Brains. But the fury they managed was ample evidence of their fruitful future, as Rollins rode this hard-ass rollercoaster straight into Black Flag and blew minds under their hospitality as well. At eight songs First Demo is a solid investment that gets better with every flip, fast, strong, and direct to your throat. Only $4 direct from Dischizzy, a name you’ve always trusted.Links: S.O.A.
BRAINCLUB Vol. II [12-inch; Holodeck]
Extremely limited (150 copies per volume) and barebones, BRAINCLUB is a culmination of outsider Austin. As I type it, the sumabitch in me scoffs because how more outside the lines can the Texas oasis become? It’s known just as much for its event horizon as it is for its neon lights and huge music showcases. Yet here I stand stunned at what I’m learning about a town that I have some experience with but has yet to hold me to her bosom as so many before and after me. Cerberus familiars crop up on this 7 track follow-up (Silent Land Time Machine, Ex-Person) but it’s the exotic sounds that make me see Austin a new light. Bill Converse opener “Baboonatic” is 100% Silk turned down 25%, because I can only handle about 75% Silk (less for Rayon). Pizza Hut is likely to get its pizza cred disrupted by fervent coverage of that Home Alone kid’s VU pizza shits and giggles take-off, but “Rockets” is a white-sauced delight for fans of avant 90s bands that were gone before they ever began. That makes Pizza Hut far more respectable and blog worthy than a filthy animal. Malcolm Elijah may be the keystone, combining a rich tapestry of notable sounds past and present into a composition not too far remove from early Sean McCann (before McCann went head first into classical). A new presentation to something familiar, though that is the M.O. of BRAINCLUB at its heart. A quick listen of outsiders truly disrupting from the inside. They are part of Austin, unafraid of the connotation or stereotype. From that perch, they’ve taken expectations and turned them into blown up bucket list goals. Smart men and women messing up all your Cheerios.Links: Holodeck
Leafy Stiletto [CS; Already Dead]
The reels of this Already Dead Tape can barely contain the blood-boiling, neck vein-popping enthusiasm of a singer like Ireland’s Paddy Hanna. As the billowing bass rumbles the cones of your speakers and the driving drums nearly derail the entire thing, Hanna’s vibrato falsetto flutters its way out into oblivion. And the music almost suffers for it, the vocal missing a couple of the higher notes by an eye-squelching hair at the most-intense, barrier bending moment. But it’s a necessary trade-off and the kind of buy-in that’s ultimately needed for an exceedingly sweet pop tune like opener “Rosslare Tapes” to succeed like it does; if you can tell that they don’t really care, then why should you or me or anyone else? And that’s one thing you can’t really question of Hanna: his commitment to his songs. Whether he’s on acoustic or electric guitar, draining his pipes on a harmonica, strumming his way across a ballad or banging out a burner, you can bet that nine times out of ten he’s being damned cheerful about getting the chance to do it. And none of that really describes the cleverness of the songs themselves, the quick turns of phrase, or the sheer knack Hanna’s got for crafting impossible-not-to-hum-along-to melodies. It’s the kind of music that comes with built-in hooks and invisible string to magically lift the corners of your mouth when you hear it. Lips permanently pursed in a whistle, toes restlessly tapping; this is what becomes of the happy tunes of Paddy Hanna.Links: Paddy Hanna - Already Dead