Over the past few years Damon McMahon’s Amen Dunes project has been serving up loose and crackly, almost improvised psych-raga jams. Recall last year’s super-limited The Spoiler and 2011’s Through Donkey Jaw (TMT Review). Now we’ve got a brand new full-length called Love on the horizon (“horizon” = May 13, fyi), and where McMahon’s pumped out “largely improvisational first-take affairs, recorded in a matter of weeks at most” in the past, he says Love took him close to a year-and-a-half to put together.
You can feel all that extra time leaking out from the core of “Lonely Richard,” which comes across pretty staid and pulled-in-close. The scratchy patina of reverb gathers all the sounds together here instead of jangling them apart (cf. “Ethio Song,” from the Ethio Covers 7-inch, or “Christopher” from Through Donkey Jaw), and everything’s rubber-banded up tight by the background violin. The whole deal softly, softly chugs along partly because of that little drum beat, the one that practically lopes while it loops. It’s all quarter note snare, kick on the “ands” of three and four. You know, the one that I irrationally associate with The Breeders every time I hear it but for some reason on a cursory skim through The Breeders’ catalog can’t come up with a real reason why that’s the case? Maybe you actually didn’t know that, because now that I think of it, that’s a pretty specific piece of information about me and why would you know it? You know it now at least. One slightly more relevant things you also oughta know is that Iceage’s Elias Bender Rønnenfelt is featured on this track, and, woah buddy, he even gets his duet on with McMahon on “Green Eyes” later on in Love.
• Amen Dunes: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Amen-Dunes/226703240696221
• Sacred Bones: http://www.sacredbonesrecords.com
“I put on the new Artificial Brain album and it ______ my ______” (• melted • face) (• battered • torso region) (• shredded all of • ligaments into goo) (• extracted • brain without anesthesia). To describe music they love, some metal enthusiasts default to expressions of bodily destruction and physical violence. The use of this shorthand does not necessarily betray violent or destructive tendencies in the speaker. Stylized verbal brutality, embellished with gory details, attempts to distill the extreme qualities of the music into a succinct mental image. “Artificial Brain drew in close, sized up my frail little body, and punched me right in the kidney.”
“Whoaaaa whaaat? I didn’t know the dudes in Artificial Brain _____ so ______” (• destroyed • hard) (• could play • fast) (• were • shredtacular) (• slayed • completely). Successful technical death metal projects harness the dexterity of their musicians to overwhelm the listener into a state of ecstatic paralysis. This can verbally manifest in bursts of hyperbole and nonsense intended to match the intensity of the musical experience. Over endless writing sessions and rehearsals, players hone their tightly structured compositions into a state of perfect synchronicity that could still sound to the uninitiated like a torrent of senseless noise. The precision of their performances yields willful insanity. They construct a specific chaos. Having tasted flavors of this chaos over and over, the enthusiast comes to discern and relish in the order beneath it.
Artificial Brain gets there. They stand apart from their tech-death peers by way of jarring tonalities and descents into down-tempo doom. Like forefathers Gorguts, the band regularly abandons a song’s development without notice in favor of mind-rending digressions of riffage. Like antecedents The Faceless, their sci-fi lyrical themes, forays into mutated synthesis, and bonkers album art conflate into an otherworldly atmosphere to complement the physical reality of their performances. Recorded and mastered by terrestrial metal deity Colin Marston, the album’s every blastbeat, intertwined guitar line, rapid-fire bass run, and guttural howl reach your eardrums with clarity. Stream Labyrinth Constellation below and expose all your weak spots for punishment — or order the album on CD from Profound Lore.
Reading like a seismograph, that screen-wide glance into audio-waveform streams on SoundCloud is a warning. How deep does it get? This wall of crests “M4U” from the upcoming ENDO KAME album MUSIC 4 EON GREEN on Beer on the Rug is a dynamics-free descent into the muck. The kind of unrelenting bass sounds uncontainable by any size of output. A gentle hum slowly vibrating along the ceiling like cigarette smoke trapped in the basement. The only change swirling from the slow peaks of high-end whispers. A sudden light through the window, as the sun penetrates between the cracks in silhouettes dotting the horizon, emptying the dark tones like a leak. And we’re back where we began, but the breathe of fresh air tastes like concrete. And techno.
MUSIC 4 EON GREEN is the third Beer on the Rug release of 2014, and thus far, it appears as digital only. Breathe it in over at the label’s Bandcamp page.
“Willow And The Dogwood”
Talk West’s Dylan Aycock is seemingly fascinated by dichotomy between acoustic instrumentation and subtle digital processing. On the project’s most recent album Black Coral Sprig, Aycock blends several simple folk based melodies with various electronics and found sounds to create beautiful drones that blur the line between the organic and the processed.
Album centerpiece, “Willow and the Dogwood” is a particularly interesting example of this process. The track essentially functions as a theme and variation on a minimal guitar figure, but as Aycock gradually introduces new harmonies on top of the initial melody, he increases the decay of each attack as well, which creates a near-organ like tone at times. This, coupled with the delicate white noise that underscores the track, raises the question, “Is what we’re hearing is entirely solo guitar?” The white noise could be amp hum, but it could also be an extremely subtle field recording, just like the accumulation of harmonics towards the end of the piece could be the result of decay or a well-placed synth. These vagaries are what make Aycock’s work endlessly fascinating. The dude is excelling at creating lovely music that continually questions where one sound ends and another begins (if a new sound begins at all), while marrying folk simplicity to sonic complexity.
Black Coral Sprig is available from Preservation now. You can listen to “Willow and the Dogwood” below.
“leave the fiend to his dark design against the tyranny of heaven”
Mmmm this is good. “leave the fiend to his dark design against the tyranny of heaven” reminds me of DeForrest bugging out to music. He and I, and Grant and his wife saw angel 1. play ball at Body Actualized Center last December. And it was nearly paradise.
But lemme pick that music talk back up. Having already (officially) released a cassette this year (Jan. 4) on empire label Beer on the Rug, angel 1. is continuing to make it rain on all sorts of power-ups. Aside from it’s lengthy title, the entire six minutes and 30 seconds of nirvana here is much like our universe. There is no real beginning or end. Boarders and walls and edges just don’t exist. As well, it’s totally like going from a fancy ballroom to the dumpster out back. Nearly seconds between muck-noises and pure HD sound is heard, and all you can do is “Fuck on it.” So fuck on it and stream it below, ‘cause angel 1. is keeping his profit gain in the sound-collision masterpiece that is “leave the fiend to his dark design against the tyranny of heaven.”
Stephen O’Malley has populated the catalog of his Editions Mego imprint Ideologic Organ with extreme music on both ends of the spectrum. Unrelenting black metal, noise, and/or drone opuses (see: WOLD, Sunn O))) rehearsal recordings, Okkyung Lee) coexist alongside rituals of minimal ambience (see: Jessika Kenney & Eyvind Kang, the almighty Phurpa). Lone, the forthcoming LP from Japanese singer-songwriter Ai Aso, casts its quiet beauty into the latter category.
Ai Aso’s music, played live with utter simplicity on guitar and synth, inches toward a state of sublime non-performance. Her hypnotizing vocal melodies crystallize every close mic-ed syllable into a drop of emotional expression. Her stripped-down incarnation of “acid-folk” inverts the earnest performance style of Kazuki Tomokawa and Keiji Haino to its polar opposite: no spit flies, no strings break, no ear plugs are required. Songs emerge as benevolent whispers under the dimmed lights of a café. Many of Lone’s compositions have appeared in previous incarnations on Aso’s severely limited physical releases (like あいだ [Aida], her 2009 album on PSF). Their words and sentiments reach us through this live performance recorded in 2012 as sincere remembrances of her past, at once weighed down and liberated by the passage of time.
On “Date,” streaming below, Aso trades her guitar accompaniment for a narcotic two-chord keyboard progression. In the right mindset, the juxtaposition of her vocals against the shrill oscillations and percussive attacks of her synth notes will lull you into a trance. Concentrate, and let go.
Lone arrives on March 31. You can order it now.
• Ideologic Organ: http://editionsmego.com/releases/ideologic-organ