You strut down the beach promenade, clutching an irn brew ice cream, and the smell of fetid sea water clings to your skin. On the distant horizon sits a gleaming white yacht. Something about its perfect contortions of plastic and fiberglass feels… dirty. There’s an inescapable seediness to such shining, high-cost islands of personal pleasure. This is helped by the faint smell of sewage still lingering after your impromptu dip. Luckily, we are all too polite to say anything.
Miracle Strip do well to show us the cracks. “Girl Gang” is three and a half minutes of thrusting, roughed-up pop music, imbued with a narrative flare that seems rare in much contemporary song writing — filth, mystery, sexual tension — the luminescent panels of some modern noir comic book, set in Scotland of course. The record contrasts a plunging lead vocal that works to recall, then escape, your favorite bass-baritone — Stevie M? Aidy M? Scotty W?! — with a collection of stolen synths that summon a moment in-or-around 1982, when we’re told that the future last really sounded like the future.
Stripped back down to your Speedos, you stand, feet blue in the cold lapping waves. What can we do but wash in the dirty water?
“Girl Gang” is released as a limited-edition deluxe 7-inch white vinyl on October 21 via Glasgow gig promoters/micro-indie label Simply Thrilled Records. If you are in this neck of the woods, the record will be launched with a headline show at Glasgow’s The Old Hairdresser’s on Friday, October 25.
The single also has a rockin’ bunny-trip of a video to accompany it, filmed in Rio De Janeiro.
The first time I saw Cellular Chaos (Admiral Grey – voice, Weasel Walter – guitar, Kelly Moran – bass, Marc D. Edwards – drums) was at the dearly departed Brooklyn venue Zebulon. At that time Ceci Moss was the bassist, with the group bringing together low-end sludge, Walter’s Bob Quine-inspired slick guitar howl, Grey’s martial chants, and Edwards’ taut, walloping metronome. In this they were incredibly disjointed and highly effective. This was certainly in part because the guitarist was careening into the tables of the seated audience, sending glass candles and wax everywhere. In the year since that gig, with Moran in bass chair and occupying a Tim Wright-like role, Cellular Chaos have tightened up their music considerably while retaining near-reckless abandon. With a ghoulish glamminess and an unsettlingly vague sexuality, Grey is a powerful and confusing frontwoman, though the band certainly has its own valuable instrumental orbit — equal parts Lake of Dracula and Jack Ruby.
All of this can be quite difficult to contain on record, but the sound of “Adviser” (from their eponymous debut LP on ugEXPLODE) is more akin to a bottle exploding — tinny and played at a breakneck tempo (compared to live settings), with speed and brazenness that slip past Teenage Jesus and Black Flag into electrifying singularity. Grey’s vocal delivery pierces and shouts, yet is imbued with an aridness that slides around the ensemble’s jagged clamor. It’s interesting to hear Edwards in this context too – he’s a free player who has worked with Cecil Taylor and David S. Ware as well as leading his own units. He has described working in Cellular Chaos as pure athletics, requiring an entirely different set of responses. A band that is frighteningly dry on disc and a wet, unruly experience live, Cellular Chaos are a strange and powerful brew.
Streaming below is the premiere of “Adviser” on their eponymous debut LP Cellular Chaos out now via ugEXPLODE, and experience them on a still-materializing tour starting November 1 in a town near you.
[Photo: Justina Villanueva]
Whoaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa BUH BUH BUH BUH BUHB UHBUHB BUH
Based on the simple concept of reflecting and distorting shapes and images, Emptyset present a video from their upcoming album on Rastor-Noton. Precise and machine-like, the track is a singular concentration of small variances on a single theme: a violent, dramatic pulsing note that feels like an incredibly strong, headache-inducing nicotine hit that is also a sledgehammer. Why would somebody enjoy listening to this? Why would somebody enjoy anything? This isn’t an existential conversation, it’s a SONG. A “Fragment.” That’s all. A good song too.
Not as violent, but equally entrancing, are the visuals accompanying “Fragment,” which presents a slideshow of right-angle Rorschach blots that come straight out of your worst street-sign-influenced nightmares. It may be because it reminds me somewhat of my psychology lecture this morning, but this one is guaranteed to put you into a trance for 3 minutes and 19 seconds. After which you will probably go back and try it again, just like nicotine, when you were 12, you sneaky devil you.
Sometimes I get stuck on one genre/sound, listening to broken drum beats through tape hiss and vinyl crackle, or trying to hear chord changes through walls of feedback. I forget that one trend doesn’t overtake all music. Usually just consists of the small corner of my active listening. As an audience, we follow sounds like we follow artists.
Salt Lake City’s Gothen is a breath of fresh air, considering all of the beat crap I’ve been obsessing over. It’s as if I’ve forgotten things can be beautiful without first being broken and repurposed. And this Gothen quality of folk-like currents flow full of sparse moments. Shoot, the breathing room is practically an instrument in itself.
Gothen’s self-titled debut is available now as a digital download, though I expect to see that under the heading of a label real soon. Music of this quality rarely goes unnoticed through the connected transparency of the internet age.
• Gothen: http://gothen.bandcamp.com
“The Old Straight Track”
Lights dim, limbs relax, and abdomens begin to move as if on their own as new material from Ricardo Donoso breaches the blood-brain barrier. If last year’s masterful Assimilating the Shadow swayed with the listener through the last stages of the night’s festivities — eyelids drooping, all drums absent, tendrils of light stretching out over the horizon — the forthcoming As Iron Sharpens Iron splinters the timeline off into an anxious stroll home, with long hours and miles ahead before dawn. Donoso’s utilization of more percussive synth patches this time around punctuates his wide mixes with the onset of each new voice: squelches spasmodically pan between speakers; rushes of noise static segue between passages; bass phrases hammer through the bottom of the stereophonic spread. The attention to tonal detail aligns his lengthy pieces as much with the drone/noise underground he explored with other projects (Perispirit and Ehnahre) as the psytrance antecedents on the “club”-“friendly” side of the electronic spectrum.
As Donoso stacks syncopated rhythms across his grid, “The Old Straight Track,” premiering below, gathers the momentum to break your nocturnal reverie for a moment and beckon you down the right alley to the fire escape stairs behind your apartment. You catch a glimpse through a window on the way up of an LED strobe spot pulsing quick R -> G -> B -> R &c. across the wall in a candlelit second floor back room historically still alive this time of morning with a bass drum and moving humans, left oscillating on accident. No one in sight, no music. Guess they all already crashed. Maybe they went out to find food still open. You expect them to get back home five minutes after you slide into bed — kick open the door, turn on the PA, resume with volume lowered to maybe like 6/10 (from 8) but still enough to keep you up, which is fine, actually — but it never happens. It looks like you might have to try to close your eyes and go to sleep, or something, like as if right now it’s even p os sibl e — “…” (You’re already out.)
“The Old Straight Track” appears on the first of two 45 RPM 12-inch releases from Donoso, which together constitute a proper full-length: As Iron Sharpens Iron / One Verse Sharpens Another. Both volumes arrive via the ever-mind-altering Digitalis before the end of 2013 — As Iron on October 28, and One Verse on November 18. Keep your eyes on the Digitalis webstore and all your favorite distros for the moment to grip.
Guest Mix: M. Sage
Sunday Is Raining
The greenest greens are the colors that make your feet twitch when you think about them on the sofa. There is nowhere to go, because outside it’s dreary and inside it’s cheerful. We’ll stay here two, maybe three groups of hours. We have plenty of time. Sooner than not, it’ll be sunny outside, and we’ll pack a wax and go sloshing about on the streets only to get caught in the loose droplets underneath the trees. The tallest ones always taste the sweetest and the most surprising. It’s raining and it’s Sunday in Washington; what more can you except?
This mix was tastefully donated by experimental Fort Collins-based artist Matthew Sage, who is the proprietor of the Patient Sounds imprint and who likes Tape the band, which is good. It is very good, in fact, because I get very weak-kneed for Tape, and they are impossible to find on the internet. M. Sage’s latest cassette is called Scatter the Cabal, out now on Mirror Universe. Now, enjoy your rainy day. It’s raining right now.
Stream below, and subscribe to our podcast here.
[00:05] Thanksgiving - “Welcome”
[04:21] Padang Food Tigers - “Pymers Mead”
[06:53] Six Organs Of Admittance - “Home”
[11:10] Keith Freund - “He Noticed Im Alive…and Other Hopeful Signs”
[13:37] Chihei Hatakeyama - “Towards A Tranquil Marsh”
[18:16] Tape - “Sponge Chorus”
[23:06] Biota - “Life Like Our Own”
[24:55] Fjordne - “After You”
[30:00] Hedia - “Apnoea”
[37:45] Olafur Arnalds & Nils Frahm - “A2”
[41:45] Panabrite - “Janus”
[46:00] Sacred Harp (Daniel Bachman) - “Rappahannock (jr)”
[50:01] Bexar Bexar - “Oil Thumbprints”
[52:48] Seven Fields Of Aphelion - “Wildflower Woods”
[57:29] Weathering - “Gather Dust”
[60:05] Bonnie “Prince” Billy - untitled (from The Letting Go)