Saturday, April 30, 2005

Foxglove continues to be one of the most active limited CD-R series in all the lands, and this stuff rarely disappoints, more often than not serving as a viable window into some of the finest home-recorded noise experimentalists in the world. Surefire is now distributing all of it, some of which is discussed below. So mosey on over there if so inclined:

Second Violin "Extinguished by Beating" CD-R - Glitchy layered drones, voices, sampled percussion and feedback refabricated as stupefying sonic voyages into the bottomless unknown. Occasionally threatens to develop a hook but mostly displays the slightest ghost of mobility. That being said opener "Room 347" goes from a dreamy industrial ooze to an actual pulse. The second track is a mass of layered vocals that recalls the early voice experiments of Cab Voltaire and The Hafler Trio. CV in the mid/late 70s when they were lost in creaking drone space and had yet to hone their fine edge. Also deep Kraut droners like Cluster and Popol Vuh at their most malevolent. The murky harmonics occasionally even sing to the soul.

Culver "Day of the Maniac" CD-R - A lone guitar is plucked for lost souls. Minimal whirring heard in the distance slowly grows like the coming day. The sense of space is palpable but the plodding rhythm makes sure this day is getting hotter and longer by the second. Loren Mazzacane Conners comes to mind, but lent a dreamier feedbacking blare like sunflares bouncing off a camera lens. The way the rudimentary guitar is augmented with layered plucks, low murmurs and backwords effects at various spots add an inscrutable haze to the tones.

Leannan Sith "In Search Of..." CD-R - A fractured "noise" spell that alternates between hummable oldy folky singalongs and pure head-scratching atonality, which means you might find yourself thinkin' Johnny Cash on smack one track, Dead C-ian waves of squlelch crossed with Comus on the next. Buckles and jerks in all sorts of zany directions and almost loses me entirely only to push the plunger down and shoot warm love all through my body. Country fuzz folk from the mountain children of Saturn (by way of Florida).

Brothers of the Occult Sisterhood "Lucifer's Bride" CD-R - Aussie brother/sister duo get panethnic with 5 swirls of acoustical raga mayhem and more frenzied sandstorms. The magic comes on like a warm breeze on the opening track which gets knocked off its axis by head-tickling metallic bowls. Elsewhere they combine tribal evocations with native chanting and scorching guitar smear. Throughout, all manner of wind and shaker instruments accent the loose, primitive feel. Amon Düül and early Ghost come to mind at times, maybe Matt Valentine and Erika Elder gone prog? All in all I prefer the more shamanistic parts, combining the finer elements of heaven and earth.

Jerusalem and the Starbaskets "Darkbasket" CD-R - Strummy lo-fi folk pop crumbles into clattery free drone and back again. The opener makes an impression as it builds from tormented loner warbling over guitar to tense strumming and feedback. This mostly feels like sketches or impressions of fever dreams, often delivered in dire all-or-nothing mode. The guy's gotta unleash it or someone will die. Each extended track alternates from rumbling sound sculpture to meditative acoustic passages replete with haunted voices and vocals. Mostly works well, see-sawing between cruddy feedback sculpture and soul searching acoustic introspection.

The Cone Bearers "Dew Drops on Grass Blades" CD-R - Improvised ethno sound dreams conjured on the day before Halloween in Tulsa, OK. They weave a timid drone melody early on with ornamental piano, bells, bows and more, while other pieces have a more billowy folk aura with ambient tones woven throughout joyful strumming: the spirit of the waking forest. My favorite moments are the more meditational dreams and meandering acoustic pieces. Though it's all pretty much meandering. Folky Jewelled Antlers, Six Organs and early Ghosts dancing in the green morning mist.

Terracid "Transcendent Reign Inheritor" CD-R - Somehow related to the sinister Brothers of the Occult Sisterhood mentioned above, this is some mighty fine free psych drone that builds to majestic heights with fem vocals gliding over exploratory screech and hiss at the start. The rest of the way we get mind-melting massed feedback and destroyed improv folk that wouldn't sound too out of step to any Tower Recordings junkie, but this is a messier more in the garage trip and mostly kicks some bung all the way through. ...Total and the Hototogisu obsessors might dig.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Snatched from Running the Voodoo Down, here is a fantastic essay detailing the latest cooption of youth culture by DA MAN perpetrated, interestingly enough, in the form of young female "pop singers" who wear Motorhead shirts in their videos. The author's dissection of the core values of metal is right on, though I question his contention that true metal can't be ironic when bands like Fantomas, the Linus Pauling Quartet and even Sabbath themselves have seemingly proven otherwise.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

I've started to update this friggin thing multiple times in the last month, but something keeps coming up--diversions, technical failures--you name it. I even started to write a post about the constant barrage of distractions that befall all of us every day, but I got distracted before finishing. As a result I have a small mountain of recent acquisitions, many of which probably wont get mentioned that should, but one never knows with me and my "sense of organization." So I give you some brief (or not) sketches of recent albums that have my heart rate ascending:

The Soundtrack Our Lives "Origin Vol. 1" (Republic/Universal) - I love rock, dude. I think I always will no matter how cynical I may become. I'll also grow bored with it, turn my back on it, drunkenly denounce it as little more than the skittering drone of a hamster running on a treadwheel, but then something will happen. A darkness will fall, and I'll throw on Buffalo Springfield's "Bluebird" or what have you, and get that righteous fever all over again. Hasn't failed so far, anyway, and these Swedish superstars seem to understand it all in a way that few others can. A lazy listen to TSOOL could yield expected dismissals and accusations of shameless plagiarism, but read the name again. The Soundtrack of Our Lives are shameless "classic rock" raconteurs, celebrants of a bygone era when the music we loved, everybody seemed to love, was actually on the charts. The Soundtrack revels in rock's most worthy cliches while leaving most of the bullshit--AKA Axl Rose--behind. This is a well produced album (all of 'em are) with blatant nods to The Who, Buffalo Springfield and of course the Rolling Stones, YET it's still somehow fresh (enough) and worth my time. These guys toured with Oasis, and I'm not a big fan of those cocksuckers, but the pairing actually makes sense given that both bands have a similar appreciation for the so called golden age of rock. Oasis aint near as bad as indie rock dogma would suggest by they way. "Origin" may be the least rewarding work to date from these guys, but it's still worthy of the name.

Michio Kurihara "Sunset Notes" (Pedal) - One of the most explosive guitarists alive today. His performances with White Heaven, Ghost, Mainliner and Damon and Naomi (to name a few) all speak for themselves. This solo debut has nine disparate tracks, ranging from flambed spaghetti western rawk to shimmery guitar pop. Through it all that unmistakable tone guides the listener through fuzzbox eruptions, minimal guitar scapes, fried surf rock and mellow pop not at all far from Nagisa Ni Te. Not the shredding freakout expected, it's a subtler, more varied journey through some of Kurihara's favorite sounds and styles. To think one day rap-rock-country phenom Big and Rich will be inducted by the RNR Hall of Fame and this guy wont even get a lifetime achievement award.

The Stars "Will" (Pedal) - Not the swooning synth pop band from Montreal, but Japan's premier heavy psych punk behemoth. The Stars are a quartet that features half of the legendary White Heaven and once more includes Kurihara. The Sound? Pristine early 70s proto metal blues like Mc5, Led Zeppelin and Cream thrown into a crockpot and simmered to a boil. Singer/guitarist You Ishihara has been working for 20 years to cultivate the ultimate Japanese approximation of bad ass English rock god vocals, and he's about as close as he's gonna get on opener "Everlasting Daylight," a monster of booming, heavy grooves and soaring power chords. Pulverizing and blissful at the same time, the stadium sized melody approaches the most divine heights of garage psych, only to be outdone by the blistering soloing of Kurihara, on fire throughout. The slower, softer moments are just as good with intricate dual guitar interplay that brings to mind Television. Those digging on the new wave of Japanese guitar psych (Up-Tight, Miminikoto, LSD-March) are gonna be absolutely blown away.

Angels of Light "Sings Other People" (Young God) - Michael Gira got his latest signing the Akron Family to be his studio band on the Angels' 4th album, and it easily rivals their best (mainly the last two). "Sings" is pretty much Gira at hit most whimsical with some shimmery ethereal moments interspersed throughout. The centerpiece "Dawn" sums up his journey till now with his typical emotional intensity in well under 3 minutes, and it just happens to be a song of contentment, thank you very much. Its twangy blues melody under a warm rush of harmonies from the Akrons under Gira's easy going delivery is one his most seductive moments to date. It brought me to my knees last night about 1:30 as I played it over and over again in a dark room. It's not the only classic on here though. Gira's all about quality control. An album of "love with no sentiment," as he sings on "Dawn," that steps away from the somberness of the last record towards something closer to joyful release.

Akron/Family "S/t" (Young God) - Gira has done it yet again with the signing of this young combo. In 2001 is was Calla, 2002 Devendra and now he invites the wonderfully off kilter art pop of the Akron/Family into the stable. And I suppose I can say that Gira knows me well, because this is one of my favorite new discoveries so far in 2005. The balance between gentle, fractured songcraft and shimmery head-swimming minimal bliss is conjured as well as anyone out there today. The effect brings to mind The Band inhabited by the warped spirit of Daniel Johnston or a much more ambitious Grandaddy. Stoned folk pop with tape noise, field recordings, bizarre head-swimming sonic effects and grandiose arrangements that rarely open up to reveal a wall of sound, but when they do...Look out. Flaming Lips, Eno, later Swans, even the poppier aspects of the Jewelled Antler also come to mind. Su-weet.

Tower Recordings "Message From the Celestial Explosions" (Holoscanner Consciousness) - “Message From the Celestial Explosions” can basically be seen as a freer sister to the recently hatched and more widely available, “The Galaxies' Incredibly Sensual Transmission Field of the Tower Recordings.” The folk and blues shadings are less apparent this time out in favor of blurred dispatches from distant faded galaxies. These five pieces touch on later Sun Ra, Sandy Bull and spacey Incredible String Band, matter and antimatter, alternating between meandering improvised space jazz, primitive noise, free folk in a way that only the ‘Recordings can. It’s evident from the first track that they’ve grown dramatically as improvisers over the last decade, or maybe this 30 min voyage is just edited with maximum transport value over a very short period in mind. Either way, no wasted seconds to be found. They peak just over halfway in and don’t let up till the promise land is revealed in rippling cosmic waves of effected ethnic drones. Enveloping opium trances for those who long to flee this world on a regular basis.

Sun City Girls "Carnival Folklore Resurrection: Radio One and Two" (Abduction) - This 2CD was originally conceived and edited for transmission on WFMU freeform radio, and I'd say it ranks with the finest in this most splendifurous archival series. It pretty much touches on all aspects of the Girls' stupefyingly unique, and often absurdist, approach. First track is a mind blowing cutup of Buddhist funeral chanting morphing into random DJ dialogue and then into the daintiest Far East synth pop number you've ever heard, all sprawled out over 13 minutes. Glorious stuff, it also represents what's going on at Sublime Frequencies to the hilt. There's hilarious twangy pop, lo-fi noise, jazz skronk, answer machine messages, station ID's and much more, all stamped with the SCG's uniquely subversive/surrealist slant. Even dear old Uncle Jim gets in on the action with a stoned recital of historical metaphors and self aggrandizement that culminates in such lovelies as "That's right, there's me...and yer not" and "Just be careful. You wouldn't wanna get your dick cut off in public would ya?" spoke-sung in a voice that can only be described as familiar.

Digitalis Watch:

The Golden Oaks "Autumn Testament" (Digitalis) - They came, they saw, they took stringed instruments in hand and fell back on a bed of gold and green stroking and plucking the sound they heard. The title track is the forest awakening from a cool slumber with shakers and ambient chirps blossoming into trance inducing acoustic guitars and Keith Wood's high vocal over distant chants and cello. The much longer "Candles Dangling From Boxwood Branches" posits drifting acoustic strums against field recordings and shimmery guitar feedback before voice sings a hymn to the birthing dawn, then welcomed as a celebration that develops into a gorgeous piano/drone drift. Brian Eno AND Harold Budd combined couldn't do it any better. A more exultant air greets the noise folk of "Arisel Arisol" before deep space is further defined on the epic "Hushed By Bells" with strings and low humming feedback backing vocals wandering through the haze before it opens up to a mellow raga. "A Fog Has Lifted" closes with an ambient swell of strings and drones over animated clicks and scratches in an effect close to a meditative Birchville Cat Motel. Strong debut, hinting at greatness to come.

Braspyreet "Maamme Laulu" (Digitalis) - Clattery free/art rock from Fins who've been drinking the bad water. They kick up a stoned racket that falls somewhere between Beefheart and Throbbing Gristle on the opener and totally kick much caveman butt in the process. Elsewhere the spirit of the mighty Avarus looms large, and of course No-Neck Blues Band. These people turn up the insanity/intensity though, reaching the breaking point with blood curdling screams over white noise before they're through. I have a thing for such nonsense derived from free jazz, blues and tribal spells, and they know how to make the more atonal detours pay off well. Some parts are bound to click for those familiar with Braspyreet's contemporaries. The entirety is sure to scare and/or annoy most anyone else.

Matt Rosin and Dead Raven Choir "Fire Mouth" (Digitalis) - I wasn't sure how to take "Fire Mouth" at first, but after a few listens I'm starting to think I may never escape its clutches. This postal collaboration features Smolken on tenor banjo, troll cittern and double bass. Matt Rosin sings, plays piano, mbira, wine glasses and resonator jar. The tracks are mostly what we'd expect, skeletal folk dirges with Rosin's baritone vocal crooning over top. The voice takes some getting used to, but it's not a bad thing. I believe the word is character. His piano against Smolken's double base occasionally lends a slight broken jazz quality (Gastr Del Sol comes to mind), while other pieces alternate from meandering picking and plucking/ droning vocals to percussive clangfests and meditative torch songs. Say what you will about this stuff; it's unique, and "Fire Mouth" evinces some growth while maintaining the blackened soul quality of earlier releases. A few moments are even downright beautiful. Along with the brilliant "Sturmfuckinglieder" 3" CD-R, my favorite DRC release to date.

That's all for now. Expect a few more posts in the coming days, including a bundle of recent Foxglove CD-R's of varying note. Check out the latest update of Foxy Digitalis too. Featured this time are Hiroyuki Usai (the man behind the amazing "Holy Letter" album reissued last year on VHF), Baby Dee, Satwa, Pumice (Get "Raft" on Last Visible Dog NOW if you haven't), Lau Nau, Gayle Brogan, My Cat is an Alien, Brooklyn Noise (Black Dice, Sightings, Excepter, Double Leopards, etc.) Sublime Frequencies, and the Aanitarha fest in Turku.