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
It’s All Point Blank [CS; Beer on the Rug]
Hey, Digital Natives tape on Beer on the Rug… dude, you are DRUNK. Woozy, warped and wobbly, and what is up with your hair? And actually, are you a werewolf or what? And how are you still so damned sexy right now? That is, how are you sexually invincible, man? You’ve seduced and destroyed me from the inside of my ear canal out, and it’s seeped into m’boots, and I have this odd, uncontrollable boogie deep inside me and it’s your bad because you are so, so bad. Confounding really, these lurching humps of scratched-lens-filtered funk, bizarrely discordant but fresh and fly with that slap-bass, and the flutes and the horns too, and the worst (best) part is that you know all of this. You fuckin’ know it, man, all quick witted with that crooked smirk on your face, that bead of sweat dripping down your rolled chin. Cop car chases and tiki bars, and vintage Penthouse pornos and everything. Just stop. Or, well… wait ‘til you finish that next track up, and then stop. Or, you know what? Just don’t stop. Also one more question, and that is why do you have a sample of a reading of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” on you, oh Digital Natives tape on Beer on the Rug? The confusion mounts, the plot thickens, and you bet your sweet ass I’ma watch the next episode.Links: Beer on the Rug
Unsecured [12-inch; Modern Love]
Skipping right to my favorite Unsecured track (as time is short in Cerbistan), “Plutocracy” is like the scene that finds Arnold Schwarzenegger in a gun battle in the middle of a factory somewhere: Random bursts of steam escape from screaming pipes, a low rumble sets the scene for the violence to come, and mechanical sounds tick off in intervals. Miles represents the perfect companion project/guise to accompany Demdike Stare and/or other of their ilk (Metasplice/Andy Stott/etc.) down the never-ending tunnel of Electronic. Unsecured is technically an EP. Still, you give me 33RPM and two full sides of music, nearly 30 minutes in all, I tend to see you as an album. There’s nothing lightweight or in-between about it, “Blatant Statement” living up to its name via a buzzing, surging, liquid-digital flow that’s insistent as it is intense and “Technocracy” making its convincing aural arguments atop a bed of menacing, earth-shifting low-end and mixed-green rhythms. The UK is swamped with a glut of electronic/dance releases, so it’s kind of nice to appreciate some of the more intriguing developments from these shores, isolated from the deluge.Links: Modern Love
Mary Plum Musket [CS; Treetop Sorbet]
Remember when Bob Pollard was so drunk that anything he did was considered lo-fi? Then he went and got earwhigs, better liquor, fell upon his English degree, and was just pretty good rather than great? The bloated Dayton Elvis, if you will. Well, Honey Radar will take you back to the fit and trim Bob, the one packing away the beer and able to still be an adequate poet that got to the heart of the matter on four dusty inputs. Mary Plum Musket is that brief remembrance but so much more, as Philly’s Honey Radar also dabble in destruction–not of legacy but of sound. “Roughing up the Painter” and “Mason Neck” are lazily sung explosions of pop brilliance before the tape devolves into rudimentary jams that deconstruct the very premise MPM first presented. Yet it’s all catchy and fun and drunk, like days of yore spent playing horseshoes in a hilly backyard without a proper pit or starting fights at bars with frat guys just to see what would happen; before you realized those 5 years better be put to good use and debt collectors came calling about student debt. This is what it paid for and this is what it’ll get you. Professor Pollard knew it was nigh but it has yet to poison Honey Radar.Links: Treetop Sorbet
Tristia [CS; Worthless]
So good to hear from Rat Catching again, but Tristia sees the solo outfit of Jennifer Melinn (Fedora Corpse Records) in an even more aggressive mode than where we left off with that full length LP on her label. It sounds to me like Melinn locked herself in a closet with a batch of corroded Mincemeat Or Tenspeed tapes, or bagged her synths and tossed them into the ocean and then retrieved and tried to play them. It would have been a lot easier to follow the Mudboy route so props to RC for not going there again. A more flame-breathing tape you will not hear outside the auspices of the metal hordes. Some of Sutekh Hexen’s barer, noisier drones even register, and don’t think “Pelts!” is surrendering a damn thing. What a goddamn scorcher Tristia, eloquent as the collection of Ovid elegiac couplets for which it was named, yet mean enough to break your arm.Links: Rat Catching - Worthless
Messiah [CS; Sunshine Ltd.]
Come in…come in! Breaker breaker this is an alien lost in the recesses of time and space. My spaceship is experiencing mechanical failure and I don’t know if anyone can hear this but I need help. I know much of your solar system has been fed a bunch of Hollywood propaganda about big headed, bug-eyed beings from outside your depth of knowledge but I am none of those things. My head is small, my eyes correctly proportioned. My breath doesn’t even smell bad. But back to the matter, my ride is steaming. I think the hyperdrive is on fire. It’s all to do with picking up Brad Rose and Nate Young. Knew I shouldn’t have beamed them up. They started playing with all the glowing buttons on the console, believing it to be some futuristic instrument to save mankind from music. Turns out it’s just the control panel for my used UFO. Anyway, I don’t need saving from the smoking and sputtering of the ship, I have the training to fix it. But every time I make one repair, Rose and Young cause two more ruptures in its place! Can someone come and take them back to Earth? I’ll pay your gas money. Just make sure you bring a jalopy without anything that can be made into an instrument.Links: Sunshine Ltd.
Vision Burst [CS; Singapore Sling]
If you’re the patient type, you might want to steer clear on this one — nothing here remains constant for more than a nanosecond or so. Each and every little thing on this tape is instantly circuit-bent causing all sounds heard to swivel, swerve, prick, and pommel the brain at blistering speeds through random sorts of non-structures. Of course, this means that on a second-by-second basis, you never know exactly what you’re going to get. But whatever it is, it’ll probably be a high, roughly textured frequency. And that screeching high and rough frequency will probably be coming at you fast, fast, fast; really really really fast. That’s most of the fun of Vision Burst, just how bug-eyed it really is. Even better when things finally release and relax a bit, Seth Graham peeling layers of noise sheets back to give the listener a glimpse into more manageable focus-groups of the billions of sound-particles that go into the petri dish where this stuff grows - tiny little melodies and things. Microscopic, super-sonic, ostensibly out of control, yet also molecular in a way. “Songs” here aren’t nearly as random as I’ve described them when you can step back a little, let them exist within themselves as wholes. Molecules built around nuclei, sure. What else to say…? “Mind-blowing” certainly comes to mind.Links: Henry Dawson - Singapore Sling
The Education of my Rubber Dolly [CS; Watery Starve]
Music that references pornography in either packaging or song titles is not an uncommon thing. It’s so common in the Noise community that there are even bands that exist largely to mock that particular trend. It’s not quite so prevalent in the DIY community though, at least not yet, so Courtney Asztalos and Michael Arcos’ choice to, ostensibly, reference an old school Karezza fetish video with The Education of my Rubber Dolly EP puts the hook in pretty deep. For a certain kind of pervert, anyway.
Bedroom proclivities aside, the music on this grey C15 is enchanting. Female vocals are nestled snugly in a nest of synthesizer and reverb that seem calculated to create just the kind of intimate, and somewhat lustful, atmosphere suggested by titles such as “Alone With You.” The album falls short of Lynchian levels of psycho-sexuality but, possibly thanks to being recorded live in a single day, it has the kind of dark and looming atmosphere that man would probably appreciate. The whole thing is a bit more Crazy Clown Time than Julee Cruise, though.
It’s noteworthy that lusty, airy, night-music on this cassette is not accompanied by images of latex clad forms as suggested by the title. Instead there is gorgeous watercolor (probably generated by the hand/brain of Lynn Fister, who runs the Watery Starve label) and the image of a girl on a leather sofa in a child’s Halloween monster mask. There is possibly something to the contrast of sexual objectification suggested by title and sinister whimsy of the imagery. The games of youth become entirely different types of play as we grow.Links: Jane Jane - Watery Starve
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link [CS; Auris Apothecary]
The battle within oneself is at the heart of The Adventure of Link, and though it’s waged against a vile outside enemy, the ending finds titular hero Link against his shadow; light and dark always locked in eternal struggle. It’s the similar tack of Nakatsuka’s iconic soundtrack. Though it may be for a mere video game on old technology, do not doubt its resonance and impression. The music of 8-bit games has spawned a sub-culture obsessed with the classics as it creates new, detached pieces. But what Nakatsuka captures is the excitement of exploration and the inevitability of growing up all in the vale of the shattered. Link’s world is shattered by the spell cast on Zelda after saving her from Gannon’s clutches. The Adventure of Link is separate from The Legend of Zelda, both in terms of goal, ultimate enemy and game play. The soundtrack captures all of it, romantically presenting safe havens such as villages with airy compositions while making quests into caves and temples dense with worry and peril. Auris Apothecary’s packaging finds Nakatsuta’s classic packaged on a golden cassette with nothing more than simple titles to best explain the music and the settings. There’s nothing to distract from the music except the nagging need to just play the damned game!Links: Akito Nakatsuka - Auris Apothecary
Ralph White / Sun Araw
“Lord Franklin, A Child Ballad” b/w “Thrasher” [12-inch; Monofonus Press]
This is one of those splits you didn’t know you needed in your life. Never would have paired Sun Araw and Ralph White outside of live shows with one another, but it makes sort of mangled sense once White starts in with the African percussion and what-not on his side of Lord Franklin, A Child Ballad / Thrasher. It’s mostly acoustic guitar, laced with old-timey fiddle, percussion, and other embellishments I can’t quite identify, and it’s all breathtaking in a way previous White recordings haven’t been for me. Impressive; daunting, even. More interlocking, coruscating parts than are traditionally associated with this brand of Americana, and much appreciated they are. Sun Araw, as you’d expect, is in a much spacier place than White, filtering a succession of muffled guitar noodling through silk curtains of synths. Closer to Boredoms in spirit and, once the vocals kick in, Amen Dunes than anything else I can think of at this hour, you’ve got to respect what Cameron Stallones does with “Thrasher.” He’s a pretty whacked guy, and I must admit I hadn’t realized how far he was pushin’ his aural exploits. Good to know.Links: Ralph White / Sun Araw