Troy Schafer

Untitled No. 3

[CS; Cabin Floor Esoterica]

The works of John Cage often encouraged the audience to explore the non-music; the space which exists between the cacophony of the stage and the din of the crowd. It’s still a fantastic device, be it the airy distance in works from Loren Connor to the distractions of the uninterested as portrayed by Food Court. Troy Schafer will have none of it, filling up every piece of available real estate with some sort of concentrated noise and idea – the moments of silence merely a quick rest stop before another aural assault. Untitled No. 3 takes the opposite approach of Cage’s endpoint though the journey to get there still seems in line with the experimental composer. Schafer deconstructs the idea of sound artistry on each side of this cassette, blending violin with electronic caterwaul to produce a disturbing portrait of what happens when senses are overwhelmed. This isn’t about distractions taking away from art, but rather distractions as art. This has been out since March and it has taken me this long to really digest Schafer’s latest, because much like my admiration for modernist composers, I have a need to place such work on a pedestal. The breakthrough discovered upon listen after listen of Untitled No. 3 is to destroy that school of thought. If Schafer is beholden to any previous generational philosophy, it is buried beneath the rubble of this explosive set. Cage may have caught the sounds of a living city, but Schafer has captured its death rattle.

Links: Cabin Floor Esoterica



[7-inch; Broken Limbs]

I feel weird when people talk in the past-tense, like this cat at Easy Street Records in Seattle once said to me, “Yeah man, I used to collect a lot of stuff on Marriage (Records).” To me it’s like, “USED to? More like: Did, do, and will forever,” knowhatImean? Like, why do entire genres and ‘scenes’ have to die before people realize they were cool and/or worthwhile? I remember Daughters telling me not a single person in the United States cared about their former band As The Sun Sets until it was already broken up, or, like, you can buy thousands of comics and never bumble upon a truly monetarily valuable collector’s item. But shouldn’t every comic be valuable to collectors? (Or something?) I could go on about this all day, of course, and it wouldn’t change a thing. And yet the kids DO seem to get it, or at least they’re trying. A lot of new sub-metal stuff in the power-violence realm is starting to rear up and kick my ears in the teeth, including releases on Iron Lung I’ve covered here and elsewhere (in particular TRTRKMMR, those guys bang it hard) and material birthed by the Halo of Flies label (not to mention Fragile Branch, Ivory Antler, others I can’t remember). These are of course just a few isolated signs of life, but what about this Broken Limbs outfit, dealing in death yet keeping it real, putting out André Foisy tapes side by side with bands like Ramlord who might not conceivably be able to find a home anywhere else? It’s the circle of life, my friends, and this self-titled 7-inch will have you feelin’ the love. “The Breached Sanctum” sluices through the tunnel of life like a slick metal production at first, then belly-flops into more conventional, yet more satisfying, hardcore poundage led by singers that both shriek and croak in a hoarse wail. A gaudy cymbal bell and double-bass throttling later, and I’m wondering what the fuck I can say about Ramlord that hasn’t been crammed down your ears already (if you’re listening to the provided sample, which you always should be; that’s how this works), and I’m barely into the flip, a rager that takes the vocals even further into post-Dystopia aggro-wolf territory and the guitar/drums/bass further into a coma laced with fuzz and endless rhythmic pummeling. You’ll get all nuts when the tempo goes warp-style and the snare cracks like shotgun blasts, looking forward to the day when Ramlord might, say, get involved in a recording of more substantial duration (already happening: split 10-inch w/ Sea Of Bones forthcoming). Until then, stay dark, stay open, stay dreary, and let the new wave of the new wave carry you to the next one.

Links: Broken Limbs

Everday Loneliness

False Validations

[LP; Amethyst Sunset]

A wobbly meditation from returning champs, Everyday Loneliness. A name chalk full of musical innuendo and spirit that it brings you down before putting the needle down. But the power of Jon Borges has always been to uplift from areas of self-doubt. Alone moments turned to positive reflection rather than dour recants. Drone has this power, to tap into the psyche and draw from it the strength we need. Whether Borges is a master at such a superpower or just an active pupil in training, False Validations plays with the notion that music is balm even though Borges is applying a thick coat of it to our burnt areas. The album is soothing, comforting. Though it holds up the vibrating mirror, it also casts sounds of encouragement. It’s as if Borges is questioning the source of validating culture by creating a composition that is affirmation after affirmation of the human spirit. By creating “fake” sounds, he realizes something “true” to form about the music format as well as himself (and by proxy, others). And yet for all this projected academia, False Validations is just a very good listen from an artist and label that has been missing, and sometimes longing is all that is needed to make something good even better. Damn it, I just invalidated this whole review by giving in to Borges’ title!

Links: Amethyst Sunset

Albert DeMuth

Albert DeMuth

[LP; Self-Released]

Opening Albert DeMuth’s album is the first challenge. Wrapped like a gift in golden tissue, it rips and tears no matter how carefully you remove its tri-fold present. It’s a simple metaphor for the music of DeMuth, a solitary brood of overpowered guitar and deep vocal riffs. The golden sun is really a bright light that will be ripped to shreds by the darkness that will always come. As for DeMuth’s take on such a muse, the results are as surprisingly great as any gift – even if it’s lavishly packed coal. But coal is just an unprocessed diamond, so I will dig up the earth and put it back in the ground for a few more thousand years of bankability. In the meantime, I’ll keep DeMuth above the crust, even if he’s a bit crusty himself. We all need that prodding to face the day headfirst, to crash into it without padding and to fall down on its sword daily. We finally have the real soundtrack to those miniature crashes we endure every waking moment when agony overtakes ecstasy. A golden lining to a gray cloud.

Links: Albert DeMuth

Nils Quak

Tage Später Sind Es Jahre

[CS; Cosmic Winnetou]

Some ear-drum drilling drones from Nils Quak, sorcerer responsible for conjuring up the mighty electric winds found on this new issue for Cosmic Winnetou. I’ve blazed my way across this journey a number of times, but it’s only now on some nice headphones that this one is really accessing my imagination, so fair warning that this is no casual ambient affair we’re dealing with. Tage Später Sind Es Jahre (or “Days Later Years Are There”) on speakers can be deceptively flat – this is more detailed and involved, a spatially immersive area in need of investigation, which of course requires some private concentration. Its sprawl, while wide and sweeping, is also direct and concentrated, focused and zeroed in on digging past your defenses, taking you by the pineal eye through a network of inter-dimensional space-time portals. So just let it do that, throw on the decent cans and watch the twisting electrics eels of sound on side B spiral directly into the brain. This is a paralyzing event, a slow-motion attack overriding the circuitry of your mind with its throbbing strobes of electrons and surging waves of the cosmic tide. Things crumble toward the latter portion of each side into glitchy, gurgling crunches of audio, scenarios established by a knob that’s been twisted just-so – that’s Quak hovering above there, peering down into this universe over his spectacles, sweeping up the glorious worlds of harmony into dusty piles of rubble.

Links: Nils Quak - Cosmic Winnetou

Soft Shoulder

Von Guts

[7-inch; Deliberate Indifference]

Everything James Fella touches seems to turn to un-mellow gold. Soft Shoulder are not an exception to that trend by any stretch, turning in two versions of “Von Guts” that sound different enough to justify the repeat. My kinda mind flashes right to Shearing Pinx when I hear riff-shanking rock with vocals echo-drenched as a canyon mouth, and Fella’s Gilgongo label has released some of ShxPx’s stuff, but I know in my heart there’s a lot more to Soft Shoulder than that. In addition to the side of them that acts like a super-lo-fi version of early Abe Vigoda or maybe Gay Beast/Arab On Radar, there’s a noise and garage-rock wrinkle that only shows up when they burst into a bridge without any mic-barking. Mostly, however, it’s that elusive angular post-hardcore/-Fugazi/-Black Eyes sound that still doesn’t have a proper genre tag (let’s do something about that, people, this is ridiculous) after all these years. When SS mash that “Von Guts”-proper riff into the ground like fish brains it’s like a pendant going back and forth in front of your eyes, hypnotizing you, leaving you ready to perform whatever task Fella asks of you. Don’t drink that Kool-Aid, friend.

Links: Deliberate Indifference

Creature Automatic

Dust Clouds May Exist

[LP; Telegraph Harp]

Rock-pop rarely gets its day in the sun. Music media has followed the lead of the business, badly fracturing into subsections and niche coverage that good music can and will fall through. Thankfully Robbie Lee has gifted us with Dust Clouds May Exist in the guise of Creature Automatic. With a resume more attuned to pop and avant oddities, it’s mind-expanding how tapped into timeless rock Lee is throughout DCME. Just like the forgotten genre, it’s nestled in an odd space that places it as GBV meets Plush; a haphazard melody somehow comfortably orchestrated and carefully considered. There is an easiness with which these songs pour from Lee, as if he were a sponge over-filled. The holes are spewing forth a soapy froth of pop goodness that was wiped from mainstream consciousness over a decade ago. So as it was scrubbed clean, it shall now come back to clean up the messes of our blogosphere that have become too concerned with breakout artists and the debut track arms race. Let this be slipped to you from a big brother or older acquaintance. Let it be whispered about and tucked away in half-read ‘zines. When you come to it, be it now or in 20 years, you’ll wonder how the world went so long without hearing it.

Links: Creature Automatic - Telegraph Harp

Secret Boyfriend

They’re Playing Themselves


The image on the front of this album is well chosen. The music here feels like someone’s head being chunked apart and distorted into snapshot musical entities; emotional tangents given momentary life of their own. And diverse creatures they are: fairly-straightforward electronics to painfully-harsh noise, rounded out with slow, muffled, clouds of synthesizer. It’s as though the whole brain is being poured out which, yah know, would pretty well damage the head.

And who is playing themselves? Is someone being played like an instrument, are they creating music from their being, or is it the colloquial sense, like someone is fooling themselves? While it is very likely the latter, I like to think of it as the former, almost a response to a question:

“What are they using to make those godawful sounds?”

“Oh they’re playing themselves.”

Meanwhile, some kind of Tetsuo-esque composite of wires, electronics and cords is on stage, crashing around and creating an alternately migraine-inducing and euphoric series of direct feeling-to-sound expressions. That’s really what music, noisy or otherwise, should be though right? We want some kind of emotional component that we can cling to, even if it cuts us open when we hold it.

Links: GROVL

Slim Twig


[7-inch; DFA]

To appreciate the latest nugget from Slim Twig is to understand that as 4/20 influenced as it is, “Cannabis” is in fact a very tight jam that has little to speak of in terms of being influenced by a bong load or its original version. Sure, its 5 1/2 minutes of instrumental awesomeness is better enjoyed with a spliff, it’s just a rad song. And frankly, as bombastic as the A-side is, it’s B-side “Fadeout Killer” that is the more extreme of the two songs. Where “Cannabis” is a loud celebration, “Fadeout Killer” is a deeper, stonier tune. Whatever prompted the impromptu drop, it’s a much needed dose of Slim Twig’s outrageous neon rock love.

Links: Slim Twig - DFA

Tashi Dorji

Blue Twelve

[12-inch; Blue Tapes / X-Ray Records]

Conventional understandings of the limitations of the classic guitar setup have long since been rendered meaningless by a bevy of players ill-satisfied with the sound of a standard strum. But in the case of Tashi Dorji, who is certainly among the experimental elite, the aim seems to be to refigure those tired techniques into a new dialect of musical composition. Unlike someone like Hubble’s Ben Greenberg, who wants to divorce the artifact’s inherent acoustics from itself, transcending the Platonic form of the instrument, Dorji uses the textures we all already know are there to his advantage. That is, so much of what we hear on Blue Twelve just plain sounds like a guitar – plucked strings lifted from the sound table of a six-stringed block of wood and an amplifier. However, that guitar, and Dorji as the voice behind the object, is speaking an entirely different language to us. Some of it has to do with the musical theory behind what’s going on, bouncing around scales like Schoenberg schooling Derek Bailey on the oddball tonalities that flit their way across these manic improvisations. But with the added element of volume control, warbling tremolos, and the eye-popping gymnastics Dorji flexes around the fret board, the playing produces some of the most alien music from some of the most familiar sounds that I’ve ever come across. Much of it is torrential, aggressive, sharp — but not all; Dorji’s electric tone, unencumbered by outside effects, is uniformly rounded with smooth, clean contours that allow for the aggressive pin-pricking guitar plucks to cut through with the intimidating confidence of an opera soprano. Headphones is an absolute must here to pick up all of the nuances, especially when the volume knob is cranked left, leaving only the wire strings themselves to carry the music forward (which amazingly, they do). Absolutely one of the best vinyl releases of the year, and an incredible debut for Blue Tapes’ transition/addition of this newly-minted X-Ray Records sect.

Links: Tashi Dorji - Blue Tapes / X-Ray Records

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