Portland’s Blankstairs really take their time with things, both collectively and beatwise. The artists involved have been pounding Pacific Northwest beat music for a couple of years and are just now getting around to their second release as a label, and first proper work of music – BST001 being a collection of the aforementioned artists.
This self-titled YIOTA EP drag-drops out through cresting minutes of full-moon waves lushed in ambient luminescence. And when the beat does hit, it probably hits hard. It’s hard to tell with all of this space between us.
• Blankstairs: http://blnkstrs.com
Pulse Emitter / Hakobune / MJ Guider
Constellation Tatsu Winter Batch
Premier synth/ambient tape label Constellation Tatsu bundled their newest batch of tapes with a jar of infused honey, which sits right now on a window ledge in my kitchen, thawing out from its journey through winter-blasted lands to get to my doorstep. Constellation Tatsu also bundled their newest batch of tapes with all of my deepest dreams and emotions, which swim around my brain in a mist of delayed synth lines and processed guitars, waiting to pour in some form or another into this little box of text. Let’s check ‘em out:
Awe: I marvel at the scope and depth of Pulse Emitter’s solo synth performances. Daryl Groetsch stuffs each of his sessions to bursting with intricately interlocked leads, glistening analog textures, and slowly evolving harmonic structures. His work bridges the gap between deliberate kosmiche arrangements and ecstatic improvisation, and remains the drone/noise underground’s most vibrant connection to the New Age movement of the previous century. As with any Pulse Emitter release, I listen to Equinox and emit four or five audible “Ooooooh”s per track.
Reverence: Hakobune’s catalog of ambient guitar improvisations has elevated him to the status of a holy being with spiritual significance in my life (see: A, B, C). His live tones, masked behind a curtain of delay and reverb, force me to reevaluate music I previously considered beautiful. I listen to the five-minute sessions of looping around the forest i thought i remembered and feel as though I’m hearing nothing more than the slow rotation of the Earth as perceived from space. The oceans whisper from this distance, and I am one drop of moisture suspended in orbit above them, truly chilling.
Surprise: I didn’t expect to discover a slice of post-industrial shoegaze synthpop among Tatsu’s catalog, but along comes MJ Guider to reveal the error of my assumptions. Green Plastic airs out a series of anxious atmospheres over a backdrop of drum machine thuds and cavernous synth drones. The arrival of each vocal line or new melody breaks my reverie and snaps me back to the “real world,” where a jar of infused honey sent to me by one of my favorite tape labels sits on a window ledge in the kitchen.
Pick up the Winter 2014 Batch from Constellation Tatsu now or live an emotionless, honeyless life forevermore.
July [album teaser]
Yuuuup. Marissa Nadler. Bringing that serious folk back in action 2014-style. Yeah, sure, she’s worked with Xasthur, as Jeff reminded me. But recording at Avast Studio with producer Randall Dunn (Earth, Sunn O))), Wolves in the Throne Room)… mmmmdamn. July hitting reality next month via Sacred Bones should be dark. No doubt. First single here and the rest of her work here.
What an insane juxtaposition, though. I mean, it’s totally Sacred Bones’ brooding style: releasing a bare-ass folk [Editor/Writer’s note: listened to the album entirely yesterday and it’s not so bare-ass folk as it is abundant in sorrow; hi!] album entitled July in mid-winter, produced by a dark-ass dude, and written by the sweetest of sadness. Let’s be real, Marissa Nadler can swoon armies to death. She could’ve probably sung down the Berlin wall. Dimensions will open up when July hits record players. Follow that rabbit hole. Become infinity! Pre-order the gateway that is July by Marissa Nadler here.
The day my stomach turned into a bass drum I awoke in agony. You’d think the heart would take a key roll to provide some kind of beat in such a situation, but actually it just carried on with its own rhythm, selfishly out of time, each sodden squelch of life seeming to say “Don’t look at me BRO, I’m just a pump for you’re weird-tasting juice of life.” None of my trousers would fit around the large rim of my stomach-drum, which rattled with the late night pitta-bread and fried egg snack I’d digested, drunk, a few hours beforehand. Consequently, I was forced to fashion a toga from an old bed sheet in my washing pile.
As I stood to attach my new attire the drum in my tummy began a steady THUMP THUMP THUMP, not painful at all, but loud. I felt behind me to find that my spine and coccyx bone had morphed into an impressive wooden beater, which swung like an erect tail at the taut skin of my stomach drum, keeping a perfect beat to some invisible song in the sky. I tried to hold this beater still, to stop it’s swinging and pounding for just a second, but it proved stronger than my feeble hands. The eggs and bread rattled impressively behind the translucent skin of my tummy-drum. I watched in awe as they steadily broke down into smaller and smaller pieces, until the food finally turned into a small pile of digested dust, the beater slowed to a stop, and I felt overcome with hunger.
But enough about me, lets talk about Nope, a band from Bradford/Leeds (depending who you ask, I argue for the former), who play classic rock with two drum kits and rock harder than any one man band could ever dream. “Walker” was, “written and performed by Nope as part of a film/music collaboration with Eoin Shea [who also did the excellent artwork for their last album Revision.] for RECON 2013,” an ace festival of experimental art in Yorkshire, UK, that will be happening again this year.
Steve Gunn & Mike Gangloff
Tong a few logs onto the fire and switch on the turntable. If either of the names GUNN or GANG(-LOFF) on the album art above strike a gong in your musical memory, you know what to expect from the very first note of their collaborative recordings: pristine phrases plucked from an acoustic guitar, bowed from a fiddle, and pounded out of percussion; “songs” that wind through the underbrush, achieve moments of meditation, and double back to return home; a holy amalgam of performance strategies culled from the American Primitive, Indian classical, and contemporary drone/minimalist traditions. Steve Gunn and Mike Gangloff deepened their already bottomless catalogs in 2013 with the solo full-lengths Time Off and Poplar Hollow, funneling ideas and tones they’ve explored in Kurt Vile’s live band and Pelt, respectively, into more concise compositions. As much as these albums testify to their strengths as songwriters and bandleaders, both men perform as comfortably outside of set rhythms and chord structures as within them, with results no less sublime.
Melodies for a Savage Fix finds the duo stranding themselves in a secluded cabin sanctuary and making music to strand oneself in a secluded cabin sanctuary to. The album’s five sessions range from a country-fried raga exploration led by Gangloff’s sighing fiddle, to a banjo/guitar bluegrass jugalbandi, to a slide guitar in conversation with cavernous gong hits. But the seventeen minutes of “Topeka AM,” streaming below, fill most of the B-side with the LP’s most expansive improvisation, exuding enough heat to stay warm through the subzero season(s). Snow gathers in the windowsills while Gunn’s right hand conjures a busy stream of twelve-string sixteenth notes that treads the tonal line between ecstasy and reverence. Panes frost over as Gangloff responds to Gunn’s shifting harmonies with whatever instrument he deems appropriate at the moment (harmonium, bells, shakers, drums). The few rays of sunlight cast across the floorboards recede as the tempo picks up before the climax.
Melodies for a Savage Fix is available now from Important Records.