A Story Of Rats
Vastness and the Inverse [LP; Translinguistic Other]
With an exquisite jacket that registers somewhere between Fredrik’s Trilogy and Chrome Jackson’s Chrome Forest, A Story Of Rats’ album art for Vastness and the Inverse stimulates the senses just as a record cover should, and the music behind the images is even better, betraying all sorts of familiar traits but never settling on an established genre. For example, there’s a lot of screaming/screeching/beseeching and general heaviness, but I’m not sure if I hear a guitar (if I do, it’s been heavily treated). Could this be the slowcore answer to Circle Of Ouroboros? Call it black drone-rock, post-doom, continental drift, or even dark cloak; regardless of the nametag you pin to its breast, Vastness and the Inverse is an exceedingly worthwhile investment, replete with black magic and the wizardry it requires to expand upon the post-metal strain Hydra Head bands abandoned half a decade ago. However, when it comes down to it, I’d connect A Story Of Rats to Bardo Pond, Religious Knives (particularly the Side B entry, “Huldufólk”) and Jennifer Gentle’s instrumental psych LPs as quickly as I would any group affiliated with HH. This is a true hybrid, though the soul behind it is purebred. If this record were a Kinko’s card, you’d pre-load it with 300 copies, ya dig?Links: Translinguistic Other
Divine Malice [12-inch; Auris Apothecary]
From the heavy metal thud of “Bleeding Ocean,” I know I am lost in the sea of Divine Malice. I am not a metal fan, but good music–challenging music–is my Plymouth. I have hit the shore hard, not heeding the rocky coastline and overlapping waves. Medusa are my guide into this new land and I could not ask for a better set of scouting eyes despite our crash landing. This one-sided 12-inch is all gristly meat, plucked fresh from Mother Earth as we raze what once stood as peaceful land and in its place transplant the old world’s monolithic riffs and flowing tendrils. But wait, we see recognizable faces. There’s Ozzy and Halford, the sun shining behind them like the glow of a hundred angels of lace and leather. But they yield to Medusa as we scorch the land and turn the soil to raise a new crop of inscrutable fans who ne’er back down from their well earned badge of honor. They traveled the miles, they endured the sickness and shame, and their gods led them to this plot of land to carve in their image. It’s Medusa’s to do what with what it will now. Bow your heads and pick up one of only 300 writs that exist of this mystic voyage.Links: Auris Apothecary
Earthen Sea / Insect Factory
Split [12-inch; Earthen Zone / Insectfields]
This split knows very little about itself. It knows who it is, but only by name (Earthen Sea on one side, Insect Factory on the other). And it knows what it is (a beautiful vinyl recording with kick ass Gas-homage artwork on it). This split does not, however, know what it is called (no song titles), or exactly what went into the sounds on each side of it (no production credits). It doesn’t know who did the artwork and it’s not even sure what year it came out. So the gaps of information left out of the record’s presentation to me, the listener/reviewer, are going to have to be filled in with my keen listening and supreme review-researching skills to the best of my abilities, which of course I don’t mind employing at all, especially given the excellent musical content that is here.
Earthen Sea is the meditative (also eerie, pensive) product of Jacob Long, and is a wallowing ebb and flow of dynamics that breathe slowly out from a set of synthesizers. It’s a surprising sound for a guy made marginally famous for previous work with noise/art-punk bands like Black Eyes and Mi Ami — that here, he’s painted a barren, burnt sort of landscape that is dusty and dry, swept periodically with soft sonic winds and underlain with a relentless, methodical portion of rhythm from a bass drum voice of some kind. Eventually, the piece morphs itself into a more inviting pool of cooling major chord-consonance, the composition of which has notes sifting through one another, as liquid.
Insect Factory’s half is the sprawling guitar + pedal board + amp music of Jeff Barsky (also of DC noise-rockers, The Plums). Before this side’s final minutes of clean, humbling guitar balladry (seriously lovely, lovely stuff), the listener is met with a confrontational sound made up of a series of consecutive electric shocks that successively interrupt an unfailingly screeching wail. Where Earthen Sea was content to wade in almost exclusively bass tones, Insect Factory floods the headphones with oppositely higher (much, much higher) frequencies, offering an interesting backdrop for patchy melodies to sputter out of Barsky’s straining amplifier. What’s especially nice is how the sum whole of the Insect Factory sound is one that manages to not be so harsh. Despite the words I’ve chosen to describe the sounds (which I think are fairly accurate), this music doesn’t grate or drag nails ‘cross the chalkboard of your brain. Insect Factory paints. It hums. It sings. It’s beautiful. If it hasn’t been made apparent yet, I’ll just go ahead and say straight up that this is a killer split, man, but a suggestion if I might: Don’t be afraid to tell your audience who you are, or what it is you’ve done. They want to know.
Earthen Sea / Insect Factory - Earthen Zone / Insectfields
Secret [10-inch; Joyful Noise]
What a thrill to see this great group get back together before it’s too late. The nifty Secret 10-inch (small run of green vinyl is already gone of course) is a teaser for an upcoming LP, but none of the tracks – I repeat – none of the tracks will be on the album I just so pertinently mentioned. You got me? You feel me? I fuckin’ hope so because I’m gettin’ all nostalgic hearing these tunes. I know that’s a dirty word but let’s just be honest about how magical it really is when a song, particularly one with heavenly jangly guitars, hits you and transports you back to more innocent times. One of life’s great pleasures, that, and while I was never a frickin’ Sebadoh freak by any means (strangely the Kids soundtrack houses my favorite non-Dinosaur Jr Barlow material, care of Folk Implosion/Deluxx Folk Implosion) I wasn’t immune to their charms then and I’m not now, particularly because the gorgeous “I Don’t Mind” and “All Kinds,” which both close out Side B, are two of the best Sebadoh cuts I’ve ever heard. It’s funny how non-lo-fi Sebadoh sound now that my daily audio regimen consists of 74-77 percent fuzz; shit who produced this, Bob Rock? But seriously, there’s nothing like Sebadoh, so don’t take them for granted this time. I know I won’t.Links: Sebadoh - Joyful Noise
Wounded Laurel [CS; Hospital Productions]
This is music for a fallen world.
A military procession marches through abandoned, war-ravaged streets, burnt out hulks of cars marking the path to their destination. Today a leader is recognized for both a glorious victory and continued military achievement. The soldiers are tired. The victory laurels have wilted in the sun, been dropped, dusted off and straightened.
This is music for an old war. Strings sink from melody lines into distorted squeals as the musicians grow tired of repetitious phrases. Muted choirs, originally espousing virtue, truth and the rightness of human endeavor, become muddled and eventually totally undercut by an ever nearing bass hum. Everything drifts downwards. Every tune becomes a requiem.
When Christianity was still young there were Military Saints; soldier converts who objected to the religious practices that were part of everyday Roman military life. One of the first of these was Saint Sebastian, who was eventually martyred for his beliefs. The only words inside the packaging for Virile Games’ album Wounded Laurel are several lines from Claude Debussy’s mystery play entitled The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian: “Oh archers, I must die/My destiny must be fulfilled/That I am killed by the hands of men/Your hands…your brotherly hands/I tell you, I tell you/Whoever wounds me most deeply/Loves me the most.”
This is music for faltering faith.Links: Hospital Productions
apt j(ext)ie irrchie
Night Wearing Feathers / Sunshine Bus Rider [LP; Black Horizons]
apt j(ext)ie irrchie is the melding of two minds (MS Waldron, nee irr. app. (ext.), and At Jennie Richie) that were meant to break head together, Night Wearing Feathers / Sunshine Bus Rider emerging like demented offspring and instantly soaring into the deepest of skies. You get sharpened screwdrivers stabbing into colossal voids, spraypaint cans being shaken, beehives disturbed, doors squeaking on rusty hinges, distant drones, lonely chicken-scratch, and sobbing radiators to pass the time. Despite the preceding descriptors “Night Wearing Feathers” (recorded/released in 2006 originally as a 3-inch CD-R) is inherently subtle until an electric shock-current cuts through the static and the remaining sound fragments are left to shuttle aimlessly around the room like blind cockroaches. “Sunshine Bus Rider,” cut in 2012, has that liquid-crystal feel we all find so bewitching these days, and that’s not meant to be a slam; we like this shit for a reason. The entrance of hand drum (samples?) and the snoring of a gigantic beast further complicate the matter. As the track rolls on like a mystery tour you (I) wonder why you (I) even tried to summarize “Sunshine Bus Rider” in the first place, as you’re (I’m) too blinded by its light (not to mention revved up like a deuce). Very surprising, is Side B, until you remember that one-half of this collaboration (irr. app. (ext.)) is known to consort with Andy Ortmann. AHA!Links: apt j(ext)ie irrchie - Black Horizons
Marshall Faulk: Primetime [CS; Warm Ratio]
You’ve often drooled on your pillow as dreams of a world where the NFL, footwork, and Rob Gordon fuse into an amalgam of quick steps, faster dancer moves and non-stop commentary on your favorite sport (music) and pasttime (football). It’s a sinister but exciting juxtaposition that, when you wake and wipe your face, you are upset to see unavailable in your real-life peripheral. The work of Pete Friel under hall of famer pseudonyms came close but the beat wasn’t there. Well, your nightmarish wait is over because here’s the mash-up of your dreams (and those of David “Moose” Adamson and Chris Madsen). As Tuffblades, this Tecmo Bowl of juke and jiving is the post-apocalyptic NFL: the one where steroids has wiped away human existence in the sport, players replaced with robots programmed with the entire history of the league, malfunctioning when the splatter of robot parts wasn’t nearly as enticing as flesh and bone. Yes, we are a Gladiatorial state and we need blood! Tuffblades won’t deliver a good crunch or have you askin’ for tough actin’ Tinactin but it just made for the oddest cassette you’re to hear this year–and an even odder review since Andre 3000 whispers sweet nothings into my cauliflower ears. Lift your arms and be ready to receive this Hail Mary of hip-hop glitch happiness. Damn, it was the statue of liberty! All I know is, you better hit up Indianapolis’ LUNA Music for a copy of this playbook before the new offensive coordinator changes ‘em during training camp.Links: Warm Ratio
Morbid Reality [12-inch; Eolian]
As gnarly as so many flustered fathers are (just realized I’m writing this on Fathers Day), Drunk Dad exist beyond the pale, slobbering and demanding loyalty even as it’s threshing you about like a bright-colored bead in a baby vacuum. Morbid Reality, for a four-song 12-inch, unfurls a personality hairy as a woolly mammoth and crushing as when that mammoth sits on your grape of a head till it goes [pop]. When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth might be an appropriate aggregate in all things intense, and a ton of long-gone bands of the SS/T&G/old-school grunge/post-Karp school of hard knocks factor somewhere in the heaviness. Drunk Dad differentiate themselves from the rest through vehement investment in rhythmic complexity, not to mention noise delvings that seem to be more than just a passing fancy. The singer cracks open his mic from dozens of angles too, screaming like a fascist soldier and wheezing like a pig when the situation demands it. Between this and that Mines record this might have been the best aural week of 2013 so far. Truly a calendar year that keeps on givin’. Keep ‘em comin’ y’all!Links: Drunk Dad - Eolian
Just Another Thing That Got Ruined [LP; Lake Paradise]
Just Another Thing That Got Ruined is a tough record to review. Every comparison I come up with seems reductive, every descriptor a cop-out, and so I reach super-deep into the ol’ bag of tricks and the best I can come up with is… Detachment Kit and Ganglians gang-banging Fat History Month while Erode & Disappear and Capillary Action watch? I’m at a loss for wordz (the phrase ‘post-emo’ even popped up, though I redacted it; this parentheses doesn’t exist!), and thankful for the privilege. Mines keep a low profile, yet there’s seemingly nothing they can’t do. They’ve got guitar theatrics, full, rich, mahogany melodies, and the percussionist needed to link the sprawl together. And when they let-fly they go KABOOM when you least expect it, viciously leaping into throat-rippin’ riffs and speed-strumming Mogwai would be proud of. I get the creeping feeling the folks behind this have had fingers in other pies I’ve enjoyed, but I won’t speculate (such is the devil’s business). What I will do is guarantee most indie-rockers will be squarely in the ‘hell yes’ category when they let Just Another Thing That Got Ruined into their stolid routine. One-hundred sweet-looking pink copies, 200 black copies, all thick as a herdsman’s cock.Links: Mines - Lake Paradise
Mounds of Earth [LP; Symbolic Capital]
I wouldn’t have expected such soothing Mounds of psych’d-out synth-prog sound from a former USAISAMONSTER member (Tom Hohmann); props for goin’ there, old chap. Mounds of Earth has a mystical quality to it, whirling several genres into gold and encrusting them with jewels. Quasi can’t be ignored as a touchstone (nor can, for that matter, Zorch), nor can a host of other more blurry precedents (Zac Nelson, Suicide, Spacemen 3/Spectrum, Silver Apples, synth music in general, the gooey instrumentals of Beach House and even Mates Of State), but Mounds build a psych castle all their own and guard it fiercely, rarely deviating from the style they’ve dedicated themselves to. You wonder, after awhile, how many angelic cascades of synth (almost akin to those of Wizzardz, if you remember that Lightning Bolt side project) you’ll be able to endure. The duo endeavor to transcend such concerns, working within a broad range of textures and colors even if the root fruit remains untainted and true. The vocals often match the thrust of the keystrokes, and normally that approach can grind the ears down as well, and while it’s a slight problem it’s nowhere near as pronounced as it often is (think about a lot of the synth groups out there). I can’t see a reason not to convert, Mounds of Earth serving as a synth sanctuary.Links: Mounds - Symbolic Capital