For Madmen Only
Cult Favorite is New York. Producer A.M. Breakups’s sound was born upstate, and despite years making noise in the NYC underground, the rust belt embedded in his sound. Brooklyn’s own Elucid is his city in rhyme form, urgent, grating, unassailable; a leviathan.
People are going to hear this album and immediately compare the duo to Death Grips and Captain Murphy, because like the former, they feature a gruff-voiced, dark-skinned MC rapping over a light-skinned producer’s unconventional beats, and like the latter they’ve sampled Heaven’s Gate cult leader Marshall Applewhite. Both comparisons are to be expected, but neither is entirely appropriate, as this project is (1) clearly, concisely structured and (2) altogether absent of spectacle-over-substance gimmickry. Don’t catch feelings over it though. Sometimes it takes a demanding listen like For Madmen Only to expose your favorite flavors of the month for the non-threatening panderers they truly are.
What Eluicid lacks in tongue-in-cheek wordplay he more than makes up for with nuanced displays of visceral honesty. His vocals are hit with a healthy dose of reverb, delay, and other effects, but these never function as crutches or cover-up; that ominously menacing mic presence is all Elucid. Likewise, A.M. Breakups’ sound never fully descends into noise territory; instead, it remains firmly tethered to the producer’s strong sense of melody. This is a good thing. When it comes to “alternative” or “progressive” music, it’s easy to bend genres through entropic madness — much more difficult and risky to try pushing the envelope while remaining faithful to a pre-existing structure.
For Madmen Only is available today via download or limited-edition 180-gram vinyl. If I’d one complaint, it’d be that the album is too damn short, but the replay value is tremendous and the Deluxe Edition tacks on an instrumental version as well two additional tracks in the form of Elucid’s “noise experiment,” Exit Tapes. Only 300 copies though, so hurry up and buy.
For no less than two thirds of my life, I’ve been a doodle addict. I think it’s safe to say that all of us were, at some point or another. Hopefully none of you had the somewhat traumatic experience I had in the sixth grade when my English teacher deducted a full letter grade from an assignment because I made the absentminded decision of doodling cute little dragons in the margin of my Old Yeller notes. When you think about it, doodling isn’t merely an act of scratching out stick figures on the back of worksheets or old Rite-Aid receipts. It’s a ritual, a chance to take the ugly blue-lined landscape of a notebook and breathe a little life into it, or at least enough life to keep you from falling into a bored slumber. Brian Chippendale understands this distinction, and from it, he has derived the video for Black Pus’ “1000 years,” a digitized flip-book of doodles from his schoolboy years. Against the yellowed, planar backdrop, knights clash swords, dragons spew fire, and floating eyeballs shoot death rays. A hero appears, then vanishes. It’s an elementary-school epic, nostalgic for the days where our imaginations ran free, complete with a frantic, boyish soundtrack.
Swan Ride to StrobeLand
It might have been in some cobwebbed corner of the net, maybe under a fallen log in the deep dark woods, or next to a cryptic phrase chalked on concrete — a lover’s plea, a conspiracist’s warning? — that I first came across Sally Strobelight’s 2006 debut LP, Starships In Silhouette. I can’t remember exactly, which somehow seems appropriate. There’s something indescribable about its coldness, the end of the world, yet those cruel and chilly surfaces inexplicably combine heavy beats and acoustic sounds to drag the listener into an echoing world of encompassing warmth, of repetition that comforts and disturbs, of whispers direct yet overheard: “acoustic avant psychedelic of a cough syrup ghost world.”
Fast forward seven years — of plenty or of famine? — and Strobelight returns with Swan Ride to Strobeland. Here, her dubby echoes and drifting, haunted phrases illuminate a darkness where Starships In Silhouette confirmed it. “Kaleidoscope visuals and slow motion aerobic workout may occur … Subconscious communication with intergalactic consciousness is also probable during this time.” We come in pieces…
• Sally Strobelight: https://soundcloud.com/sallystrobelight
Mass & Volume
1. The Onset:
…what ? This is… 25 minutes of unreleased Pig Destroyer material?? And it was recorded in the same sessions as Phantom Limb? Are you telling me that almost one full hour of PxDX material is reaching my eardrums in the unhallowed years of our demonic overlord 2012 & 2013 (including last year’s triumphant Book Burner LP)? Yes, perfect, thank you, all is clear to me now and I’m ready to dive into this.
2. The Moment of Reflection:
The band unearths Mass & Volume now as a memorial to Relapse Records’ director of sales and marketing Pat Egan, who passed away in February. All sales from this release benefit Mr. Egan’s daughter. My $10 goes to a good cause, I think, as I download Mass & Volume at the office. No one else will hear anything, I think, as I put on my headphones.
3. The Listening:
Six minutes in, I black out. I slip out of the chair and curl into a fetal ball under the desk. When my boss kneels and leans in close to check my breathing before reporting to HR, he catches these sounds blaring from the earbuds: tamburas, an inhumanly slow beat, giant chords allowed to sustain and drone out indefinitely, garbled shrieks, choral synth pads melding with feedback, chants. “Sounds like ‘Leng Tch’e’ or the intro to Lysol or ‘Under Rotting Sky’ or something,” he thinks. (Say what you will about his snacking policies or his aversion to overtime, but the man kinda knows his shit.) “Whatever it is, it’s definitely NOT Pig Destroyer …right?” Still crouched over me, he puts on my headphones and listens. The cycle begins again.
1. The Onset:
…what ?? This is… 25 minutes of unreleased Pig Destroyer material?? Recorded in the same sessions as Phantom Limb? Are you telling me—
Thoughts On Air
Moonlit Mind [EP]
There’s something going on with songs these days, and I just can’t quite put my finger on it, but Thoughts On Air’s latest free-for-download release is exactly it, so I’m almost inclined to let the stream below do most of the writing in this post. But I’ve heard this sort of spook-psych thing happening with others (Sparkling Wide Pressure, for example), folks pawing at guitar strings and recording vocals through what sounds like a tin can before being blown to hell, then spinning the whole mix around in a centrifuge to pump out something as wholly beautiful as it is a little scary, maybe untrustworthy. This music can turn on you, at once achingly gorgeous before tremolo effects bounce things around like blinding lights in a room full of mirrors — an otherwise lovely ballad becomes a thing of soft terror.
Thoughts On Air has amassed a hefty discography of limited run tapes since 2007 or so. Better late than never to start dredging up the past.
• Thoughts on Air: http://www.thoughtsonair777.blogspot.com
Kleenex Girl Wonder
“Thelema And Louise”
On March 26, Graham Smith, legendary lo-fi master and self-proclaimed “coolest person alive,” will make his triumphant return with Let It Buffer, Kleenex Girl Wonder’s 12th full-length and the band’s first since 2011’s Secret Thinking. This time around, Mr. Smith promises such aural treats as “a rap song in rock’s clothing” and “more multisyllabic rhymes… that you can shake a wordstick at.” Even though we still have to wait a few more weeks for Smith to release “Let It Buffer,” he’s allowed us the privilege of premiering the clip for “Thelema and Louise,” the album’s crunchy contemplation on love, sex, and creepy 20th-century mysticism.” In the video, Smith dons some spooky glow-in-the-dark makeup, transforming him into a Joker-ific version of the dude in this GIF. At one point, we see a lampshade printed with a blown-up image of Smith’s face, which is sort of creepy, but also inherently awesome. Just like the song.