Buried Finch [CS; Sanity Muffin]
Sanity Muffin boss (<– new favorite phrase) Billy Sprague is back with a new album under his Galena guise following a very excellent LP release called Grave News for You from way back in the stone ages of 2011. A couple of key differences find their way into the unique electro-acoustic setup Sprague continues to bring to the table (working here with the same core instrumental setup that includes a bevy of synthesizers and some baritone guitar), not the least of which is the album’s exceedingly dark demeanor. Galena has been known to spelunk in some dimly-lit caverns of groove, but this stuff ditches any kind of buoyancy for some truly sludge-ridden affairs. Imagine a gondola boat ride through the sewers of hell and you’re getting close. That is to say that bass tones prevail of course, seismic waves of them rolling in as a tide of muck with scattered beats along the shores. Vocals are more prominent this time around, but man are they buried, covered in a muddy mucus and slowed down to a crawl or chanting creepy spells. But the thing that really sets Galena apart, and indeed one of the few things that did carry over from his previous record, is the music’s gentle touch. It’s deep, dark, bleak and menacing, sure, but there’s a softness here, a certain grace that’s tough to describe and even tougher to deny. The j-card indicates there’s a Soft Cell cover in here, but more often the album really reminds me of the way I felt after listening to the Moëvöt collection Sprague released on his label sometime last year, and if the specific genre of that guy’s music itself didn’t rub off on Galena for this outing, the feeling of forgiving blackness sure as shit did.Links: Sanity Muffin
Personnel [7-inch; DoubleDotDash]
“Modern Drab” is one of those post-punk songs I can imagine will start showing up places in the future. In movies, maybe even ads. Who knows, it’s a different world now, and I want to believe these things can be achieved by a spike-y group of backward nihilists like Personnel. You’d never guess from the roughness of “Consumer Electronics” that the band would be capable of such a level-headed stab at jangle-punk. And yet there “Drab” is, glittering in the sun. So few will be ready to navigate all the levels Personnel betray within the marvelous complexity of this track, yet that’s part of the appeal for folks like me. “Hysteria” is another pivot, an attack on the senses that conjures, against all odds, Pink Flag (so few manage it) in all its glory, bare and bridling under the weight of modern culture. Devotees of Superior Viaduct and Smartguy, savvy as you already are, should show the proper deference for Personnel and what they achieve in the here and now. Snatch this self-titled 7-inch up before it drops off into the void its 200-copy run guarantees.Links: DoubleDotDash
Distant Works I [CS; Proposition]
There’s a certain kind of excitement a nerd like me gets when opening up a release with a catalog number like the one on this cassette tape: prop01. It is The First release on the Proposition label, people. I have It. But all that cocky, conceited energy sure does get swallowed up and laid to rest when the spools start spinning and the elegiac, mellow mounds of tone start rolling out from Secret Pyramid’s tape loops. Distant Works I is “distant” in the sense that the drones themselves are away off on some sunset in another star system, solar winds whistling in between. But it is also temporally distant – these works were created back in 2010 and were only mixed/mastered during the last year. Synth, piano, and looping effects went into what is heard in the music, a mix of elements that transforms itself over time from basic rising drones into near-symphonic pieces full of drawn-out chords stretching, hanging out over cliffs before crashing down into the next of its harmonic progression. While the tape contains within it a certain deepness, the amount of textures used feels limited (discerning the differences between side A and B, for example, takes some pretty careful and close listening), and those textures fill up every single second of sound available on the C30. Nice use of dynamics, plenty of rise and fall action going on here, but Secret Pyramid would benefit from looking at negative spaces within his compositions as well. Regardless, Distant Works shows a lot of poise and control on the part of its composer, and if this is what was going on four years ago for him, I’d be very interested to hear where Amir Abby’s instruments are taking Secret Pyramid now.Links: Secret Pyramid
Delirium & Dark Waters [7-inch; Magnetic South]
As most like-minded bands chase the future, Thee Tsunamis retreat deeper into a kitschy past. And in that womb of horror b-roll and microfiche news print, Delirium & Dark Waters exists as the testament to rock and roll as an ancient storytelling device; the evils and ills that society still has not exorcised. Thee Tsunamis are always in the midst of a horrible night (for a curse), running around in the Mystery Machine to unmask misbehaving men, feral sexuality, and forgotten anti-heroes of swamp blues and psychedelic panhandlers. One giant ghost hunt that uncovers so much to drive us toward our eventual evolution. Until such a time when we advance toward whatever bright future we’ve promised ourselves in the annuls of science fiction for 100 years, we’ll keep our noses in the pulp of Delirium & Dark Waters. At least in these depths, we’ve found kindred spirits that see that there’s much to still understand about the past before we can move on. All that garage and surf to rejuvenate our poorly souls. May Thee Tsunamis have mercy on us until, letting us rejoice in their splendor before the Rapture.Links: Thee Tsunamis - Magnetic South
Three Circles [CS; Posh Isolation]
Being alone is underrated. Not in the sense of friendless or being sans significant other, but physically alone. Things like being the sole inhabitant of a house, the last person at work, walking the disused hallways of an abandoned factory, or sitting down in a forest made endless by the lack of another human for miles. They are quiet moments to be still and compose thoughts, to let down all possible walls or masks.
3 Circles seems to be a withdrawing into such a place. It starts with rattles and thumps: the sounds of others moving around our environment. Then voices come, but they are distant, already the listener pulls back from humanity; a journey towards isolation begins. The second side opens with fog settling in, a physical manifestation of the space we put between ourselves and other humans. But what is discovered in seclusion is not the tranquility of an unperturbed mind, but the roiling ocean of thought freed from its shackles. We first panic thinking that this is a mistake, that we must go back and find a way to undo, to recant, to take back those first few steps. But peace comes in letting go, in realizing this battle was lost long before today, and in letting everything come to a final stuttering halt we have reached the place we wanted to be all along.Links: Posh Isolation
Geocities [CS; Already Dead Tapes]
Time is running out for your dear friend Strauss two-fold: First, I have to have anything that I wanted to review from 2013 submitted by FRIDAY (!!!!), and second, Ou Où, from what little Facebook rumors I’ve spied, appears to be on the fritz! One of the dudes is moving away from St. Louis or something? I dunno, none of my beeswax, but I figured I’d better take what little chance I had left to shed some light on their last proper release, which is a cassette tape on a label they’ve been with since about as far back in the Ou Où canon as I can remember. And as my typing fingers race to the finish line to get all my work submitted, Ou Où has been right there chasing me down. These “Geocities,” as it were, have volatile landscapes, all silicon peaks and valleys, circuit board streets with stoplights that never turn red. And the electronic duo keep all cylinders pounding hard throughout, the pace might slow at times, but the intensity’s forever cranked to 11 with the heart of the bass throbbing all along, pumping blood through the tape’s glowing, pulsing veins. Hitting on all the pleasure centers any fans may have recognized them for here-to-now, the duo drones where appropriate and cuts the beat into trigonometric shapes wherever else appropriate, but it’s best when they do both at the same time (which is, thankfully, the strategy for the bulk of this excellent album). Overall things are just tighter here, somehow the group harnessing their elongated forms into an almost-pop release that really moves along, no section dangling for longer than it needs to dangle. I’ll neither confirm nor deny the rumors I may or may not have started toward the beginning of this article about the band’s supposed non-future. Act now, buy some of their music and let them know you won’t stand to see them go. Together, we can all make a difference.Links: Ou Où - Already Dead Tapes
Eight Pieces for Solo Guitar [CS]
Scabs and all; it’s the sound of playing guitar in which Eight Pieces for Solo Guitar elegantly floats down its sea of Alphabets and milk (at least that’s what Michael Wohl’s cover resembles). The Seattle musician eschews the city’s current penchant for pop folk and synthesized experiments in favor of some traditional plucking, sliding, and strumming. All the old analogies myself and myriad reviewers have unpacked for decades worth of Fahey/Basho/Kottke revelry could occupy your hotel room with this album (Wohl even includes his own brand of Fahey’s “Poor Boy Long Way from Home”) and so what? When you turn to isolated guitar signatures for vacation accouterments, it’s what you want. Eight Pieces keeps it bare so you can hear the skill and jubilation of playing guitar rather than the heady study of the art form. That way Wohl makes sure to leave space in your luggage for the plush hotel robe, as warm as the music Wohl envelopes us with on what is hopefully just the start of his travel agent/guitar aficionado cross-over career.Links: Michael Wohl
Hurricanes Of Love
Quintorian Blues [2xLP; Feeding Tube]
I admit I was enjoying the acoustic guitar leads of this release just fine before Frank Hurricane, leading man of Hurricanes Of Love, starting yammering and tellin’ stories and shit, yet there’s something about this fella. I dig what he does. He rambles on and on, weavin’ yarns I assume are from his life, and even as he slips hints of humor into his tales the focus is never lost, and when he cuts out and the instrumentals (sounds like two gee-tars to me) rise above it’s an inspiring thing. He also attempts melodies, and while I’m not sure how successful he is in that endeavor, I don’t have a problem with it anymore than I have a problem sippin’ gumbo juice outta Dr. John’s bluesy asshole (wait, you didn’t have to do that?), dippin’ a little Dylan in my cheek, or goin’ all bohemian with Banhart. Feeding Tube are simply masters of the left-field find. Such rural, soulful sounds, undercut by Hurricane’s theatrics, make for a grainy brew you’ll need to let sit for a spell before you chug. Some of it might get caught in your beard regardless, so buck the-fuck up chump.
Ichi Ni San Shi
Slow Truth [LP; Super Secret]
Punk-punk-punk; every time I review a punk record on this site I mention how there just isn’t enough coming into Cerbs, and never has been. What gives? Super Secret has been filling the void, or helping to, for a few years now, so when this Ichi Ni San Shi LP came in I figured I was in for another serving of punkin’ pie. What I/we (we’re all in this together, right?) got instead was a band more in line with Silent League, Of Montreal, or maybe even Half-Handed Cloud and recent Sufjan, rife with electronic elements and vocals that quiz the ear on quirk. If you were to describe their sound to me, I’d likely bristle and refuse to even give it a chance, and while at times during Slow Truth my instinct to move on kicked in, I’m glad I stuck around because there are beguiling experiments afoot. “Watch Them Grow” is a prime example, starting as an irritating, awkward interaction between elements that seem miles apart, then morphing into a positively enlightening experience with the help of a few well-placed synthpeggios and a momentum that, once it picks up, just won’t quit (kind of like this sentence, which through parenthesis is still alive!). That guy from Vampire Weekend keeps pumping money into his synths, or at least I hope he is, and he still can’t get his rig to imitate trumpets as effectively as these guys do. Just for the record.Links: Super Secret
The Space Between Us [7-inch; Joyful Noise]
What does a man possess if that man possesses nothing? The clothes on his back, the tool(s) of his trade, and the comfort of the road. For a man proclaiming to be perpetually traveling–without a home–one wonders what C.J. Boyd has beyond the simplest means to identify himself. But maybe it’s the wrong question. Not to get all Tyler Durden, but we have become possessed by our possessions. I’m not giving up anything hard-gained, but I can’t help but feel that C.J. Boyd is passionately (if exhaustively) living out the nomad in all of us.
But it renders his music breathtaking. That is literal. Every time I put the needle down on his records, all the air goes straight to the abyss of Boyd’s rumbling bass. It feeds on it like fire, belching up a smoke stack as it washes over the room. The Space Between Us serves as a 14-minute teaser to Boyd’s upcoming album but is greater served as its own entity. Two 7-minute tracks of menacing, hard-knuckled musings that hum like the pavement underneath Boyd’s tires. There is no need for wanton mentions of life on the road or unending weariness; the excesses of classic rock stardom do not weigh heavy on Boyd’s conscious. His life as a vagabond is chosen because to survive in music today, you must be a road warrior or a hit maker. Boyd’s craft is not the latter and be glad it isn’t. These are hits of a different caliber, and the power within these 14-minutes speaks volumes of what true gifts Boyd possesses. They are more valuable than just about any commodity I own.Links: C.J. Boyd - Joyful Noise