“Wring the Rag”
Lee Noble is such a major d00d. For years, Noble has been releasing consistently excellent records full of drone-based bedroom pop experimentation through a myriad of labels — including his own No Kings imprint — and his latest, Ruiner is undeniably among his best work. Ruiner’s nine tracks marry doomy synths/electronics/tape collage to folk-like forms, creating a brooding yet beautiful work of lo-fi isolationism. When listening to Ruiner, I’m often reminded of other isolationist touchstones such as Arthur Russell’s World of Echo, early Smog, Andrew Chalk, and even Grouper’s recent work. While there are musical elements from each of these artists present in Noble’s sound, they’re most unified by mood: Noble’s compositions conjure the same sense of a solitary individual playing into the void.
This feeling of expansive desolation is perfectly captured in the video for Ruiner’s “Wring the Rag.” The track is one of Ruiner’s sparest, and the austere, grainy footage of various landscapes parallels the song’s sonics while providing a representation of the record’s isolated abyss as a whole.
Ruiner is out now via Bathetic Records. You can watch the video for “Wring the Rag” above.
Lil Ugly Mane
“On Doing An Evil Deed Blues”
After flooding Bandcamp with almost two hours of “Instrumentals and Unreleased Shit” in the form of the sprawling THREE SIDED TAPE VOLUME ONE and TWO, Lil Ugly Mane’s trudge to the hip-hop finish line continues with the release of the first single from what he says will be his final full-length. The Richmond-based MC/producer’s 2012 epic MISTA THUG ISOLATION slides its grimy tentacles deeper into our consciousnesses with every spin, still eluding classification in basement discussions and iTunes libraries everywhere (“sludge-trap?” “noise-hop?” “really frightening”). Now he sits before his Tascam MF-P01 Portastudio with a mic in hand, tracking verses straight to the tape that will serve as his swan song, PRELUDE TO PANOPTICON/EXIT TO EUPHORIA(PATRIOTIC DRYHEAVE).
The eight-minute “On Doing an Evil Deed Blues” encapsulates the bittersweet vibes of this moment on the LUM timeline. The sweet: a knotty song structure, front-loaded with a collage of D.I.T.C. lines that blossoms into multiple hooks and lengthy verses; a beat that coasts along on a wispy vocal sample above bone-thick bass drums and unhinged hi-hats; the Codeine Demon in full-on Golden Age reminiscence mode, “spitting Raekwon bars to the mirror just to hear it.” The bitter: his taking-to-task of the rap game for trends of violence, hedonism, and greed; his deep Things Done Changed mentality RE: his current notoriety vs. his previous pressure-free obscurity; his declaration that “rapping ain’t my grind/ I just used to like to rhyme.” We can all share in the massive bummer that some of Lil Ugly Mane’s most honest, ferocious moments on the mic to date — stripped of fantasy and horror-core affectation, for better or for worse — reach us as part of his goodbye.
• Lil Ugly Mane: http://liluglymane.bandcamp.com
“Contractor Corpses Hung Over the Euphrates River”
Usually foreplay should last a little longer, but today it’s straight to the hurtin’ and squirtin’. We already know that the new Vatican Shadow album Remember Your Black Day will be airdropped upon the previously unsuspecting world come October. The question on everyone’s lips now is, “What will it sound like?” Are we in for more of the reliable VS doom, dirt, and beats? How consistent can an artist be before people start to get bored and want novelty beyond new track titles obliquely referencing world events?
The good people at Fabric have an answer in the form of “Contractor Corpses Hung Over the Euphrates River.” This is Vatican Shadow in true form, back with the dust-caked synths to bring oppressive, Middle Eastern heat to your living space. Consistency is great, and this is endless entertainment at its finest, but where is the fire of a VS live performance? At what point does the seething resentment of this messy modern world spill over into the kind of rhythms that can pound you to your knees on a dance floor while forcing a view of modern warfare and politics in front of your face?
Maybe it is here, buried a little deeper? Maybe it’s on the accompanying When You Are Crawling EP that’s been scuttlebutting about. The best thing to do when you’re crawling is try to figure out how many drinks you have had and find the nearest unoccupied toilet. Sounds like a helluva night. Keep your fingers crossed that that is what’s in store for Vatican Shadow followers. For now, just put this track on repeat and let the future crawl and/or boogie towards you.
• Hospital Productions: http://hospitalproductions.net
Kyle Bobby Dunn
“Boring Foothills of Foot Fetishville”
Is it pearls or
Evening mist, or my tears?”
– Hakushū Kitahara
It’s raining in Queens, NY; sadly it is 2013, and I am still struggling to write about Kyle Bobby Dunn. Since failing to review A Young Person’s Guide to Kyle Bobby Dunn in 2010, and since having interviewed Dunn for some graduate work I abandoned earlier this year, I have written maybe four sentences about his work in total, all of which were placed within a parenthetical (where many words, caked in the author’s ego, should probably remain, if only for their subject’s sake): a mere aside to the one point ever unspoken —err, unspeakable.
(When I was 16 and living in the suburbs of Las Vegas, I worked in the dairy refrigerator of a Vons supermarket. I liked it because it was quiet and the work was simple. Plus, the process of freezing — going from wild stream to ice cube, from the playfully interrogative is it? to the dull solidity of it is — bothered me. Why I prefer a refrigerator to a freezer. Let milk be milk, I say, all questions about it. In the afternoon, from behind the chilled doors, I looked out at shopping families. Observant children sometimes waved somewhat absently, as if unsure I was really there, knocking over innumerable yogurts. I would smile at them from behind my milk-rack veil. If a coworker entered the refrigerator, my world, I invariably felt as though I had done something wrong. Smiling at children like that.)
• Kyle Bobby Dunn: http://kbdunn.tumblr.com
Dedication 5 [mixtape]
Call it the curse of the moth butterfly thing: Lil Wayne, rapper/rocker/skater/entrepreneur/Mountain Dew spokesman extraordinaire, got stood up by both the VMA and BET selection committees. No nominations, no performances, nada. Talk about FOMO. On August 24 — better known as the eve of the Twerkapocalypse — Weezy took to Twitter to apologize for his artistic shortcomings: “Noticed I wasn’t nominated nor involved n da MTV VMA’s nor da BET awards…I apologize to my fans and I promise 2 work harder if it kills me.” That promise has been at least partially realized in Dedication 5, the latest installment in the New Orleans rapper’s mixtape series.
Upon initial listens, it appears that Wayne has been taking strides to avoid some of the most prevalent pitfalls that plagued his past releases: namely, bogus rock instrumentals and Auto-Tuned overindulgence. Instead, he revives the M.O. of the first few Dedications, delivering solid verses over the instrumentals of hip-hop’s latest, greatest hits (“Fuckin’ Problems,” “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe,” “New Slaves”). He’s also scaled back the dick jokes for some clever quips, instead opting for some musical trivia; “And if it’s war call me, fuck Tyrone,” he raps on “Before Tune Gets Back,” alluding to Erykah Badu’s “Call Tyrone.” But even if there are flashes of “A Milli”-era brilliance on Dedication 5, the tape can’t always manage to cast off the clunkers (“Had a phone in jail/ That’s a ‘cell’phone,” “I’ll have people looking for you/ Like a reason”). Still, it’s leagues above I Am Not a Human Being Part IV and a more-than-suitable act of reparation from a superstar. Oh, and plus: features from Chance the Rapper and Vado!
• Lil Wayne/Young Money: http://www.youngmoney.com
Black Marrow / Sleeping Beauty / The Invisibles / FAR
Though we haven’t heard a full-length album album from him since 2009’s jawdropping By The Throat, Ben Frost has poured time and energy into enough projects to warrant the “scenius” distinction coined by his former mentor Brian Eno: a central figure within a “whole ecology of ideas that give rise to good new thoughts and good new work.” Within the last two years alone, Frost has collaborated on film soundtracks, produced acclaimed records, directed and scored an adaptation of Iain Banks’ The Wasp Factory, and assembled a powerhouse live ensemble with Greg Fox and Shahzad Ismaily — musicians who will most likely figure into his unannounced forthcoming solo work (*droooools*). While we pine for news on this pup, which admittedly biased but also not-to-be-fucked-with co-producer and Swans member Thor Harris has called the “greatest record of our time,” we Frost fanatics can find solace in other sterling examples of his scenius: four soundtracks that recently appeared on the composer’s Bandcamp page, comprising more than two hours of previously un-or-barely-available music made for film and drama between 2010 and 2012.
Even out of their original contexts, Frost’s compositions contain enough detail and gravitas to spark dead-serious cinematic reveries in your own brainspace. The four soundtracks share the sonic trademarks that made his solo albums so killer: unpredictable decisions in instrumentation and production style, roomshakingly high-fidelity industrial noise and sub-bass frequencies, a dynamic sense of structure and development across relatively short track lengths. Put on Black Marrow and face down the same wolves that terrorized your internal landscape on By The Throat. Find much beauty and very little sleep in the miniatures and the culminating title track of Sleeping Beauty. Wonder, based on FAR’s inspired showcases and manipulations of the female voice, how much influence Frost has derived from Iceland’s finest since he moved to the country in 2005. Follow The Invisibles’ prepared piano and low-end drones on a journey through uneasy territory.
You can stream all of these soundtracks below, or fork up the well-deserved funds for your own digital copies. We’ll keep all ears and eyes out for an update on new Frost material.
• Ben Frost: http://www.ethermachines.com