STOP THE DAMN PRESSES!
Mmmmmore essential Summer jams:
The Clear Spots are the three Bugaj brothers (or two brothers and a cousin or a dad and his two sons or WHATEVER) and a fellow named Kevin Moist kicking up a rowdy free or no wave two guitar/ bass/ drums racket on the "Mountain Rock" CD-R. Look past any obvious homage of the name, drink it down like the slightly tainted mountain spring water it is, and you just may see blurred visions of small glassy eyed woodland creatures scurrying in broken spirals about a Pennsylvanian hillside, drunk on bad ale and strange berries. These are ten tracks of barn-burning fuzz clang (actually recorded in a farmhouse!) and noise ragas that bite hard whether exploding like volcanoes or pluming as incandescent smoke signals. It all owes something to pals Bardo Pond, the long lost Juneau and the most damaged Mirza—spontaneous and raw but always moving forward towards some ultimate catharsis. Tracks like “F.O.” and the 12 minute skronk prog opus “Hawk Wallace Pine” should send Dead C and Skullflower fans somersaulting through the crop circles of his/her gray matter with their propulsive webs of distortion and cracked rhythmic flow.
"Ruskeatimantti" (Tumult) by Finnish Avarus is something more clattery and cosmically (de)tuned. This 2 CD is an excellent all encompassing jumping off point for these manic Tampereians, drawing together a few of their long gone early CD-R and vinyl releases, all deserving of a larger, more permanent pressing. This spastizoid Beefheart cum Yahaweh insanity is not so easily digested on first listens, but sometimes such a sound is just what the witchdoctor ordered, and it tends to go down better after a few piña coladas. Also, the excellent extended kraut-freakout "A-V-P" is included in all its Ash Ra Tempel worshipping glory.
The Gray Field Recordings latest is a limited CD-R entitled "Hypnagogia," and if the title isn't a hint, the first track--"Bloodstream (Runey Moon Version)"--should tell you where this (mostly) one woman band from Oklahoma is coming from. It's a bewitched brew consisting of spliced lysergic noise pieces, tribal percussive eruptions and gorgeous archaic folk spells that should appeal to anyone who ever chased Nico's "Desert Shore" with "Musick to Play in the Dark" or Current 93's "Thunder Perfect Mind," but like her forebearers, she's not derivative at all. It can be ordered directly from Anticlock Records.
Falling further down the rabbit, er cat, hole is the brotherly drone duo, My Cat is an Alien, whose "Through the Reflex of the Rain" comes via the excellent Free Porcupine Society. The Opalio brothers incorporate electric alien guitars, "cosmic effects," toy keyboard/ piano/ xylophone, field recordings and more into dense clusters of static drone and fractured almost folk across 39 mins of building aural hypnosis. The intensity is glaring for such a repetitive piece, with things picking up at about the 10 min mark with percussive clatter and meandering guitar plucks before the oscillating organ shifts to another key entirely and things get maximal in the best way. A lot of folks are making these sorts of damaged extended trance pieces lately, but MCIAA resides in another sphere. On a similar, albeit more minimal tip, comes the excellent "Czechoslovakia" CD-R from With Throats as Fine as Needles (Celebrate Psi Phenomenon). The duo of Campbell Kneale and Pseudoarcana head honcho Antony Milton is more claustrophobic and piercing than the above, which makes sense given it was captured in abandoned bunkers and tunnels in the hills of Wellington. The end results are the sort of relentless void scapes one would expect from all involved, lent a damp resonance via their musty surroundings. Two tracks of windswept tunnel vision, the the sort of headphones bliss I can't get enough of, and the echo chamber aura only further distorts/enhances an already intense sound that falls somewhere between Mirror and noisier early Popol Vuh.
Pefkin is one half the very cool, very underheard late 90s Scottish duo Electroscope. The "Asa Nisi Masa" CD-R (Foxglove) is the first thing I've heard from from Gayle Brogan since then. Skeletal, fractured bedroom folk and feeback with occasional hushed vocals falling somewhere between the Charalambides and early Sarah Records. More like sketches than songs, lending the entire, and very brief--23 min--affair an intimacy that could draw comparisons to Nico and Alastair Galbraith and little else. I'm also happy to finally have a chance to wrap my ears around something by Ben Reynolds. "Oh Joy and Beyond," also on Foxglove, has a wondrous ethnic folk quality that I suppose could most easily be compared to Pelt, but that's only on the first track. Elsewhere we get tribal space jams and dense minimal journeys growing more massive with each swing of the pendulum. What makes it more than just another drop in the "avant folk" bucket is the the way Reynolds explores deep drone, homemade electronica and pure raga with equal mastery, blending them all into one gorgeous little ride. One of the best CD-R's I've heard in 05, though I'm not sure if it was released in '05.
Nagisa Ni Te's "Dream Sounds" (Jagjaguwar) CD is yet another essential offering from everyone's favorite dream folk duo. Three old songs, one new one, all recently re-recorded with maximum headphones ingestion in mind. It's not really a greatest hits, just more aural gold ripe for mining. I will review this thoroughly soon, so there's no need to get all specific on yr ass. Let's just say that David Grubbs' description of Nagisa as a dreamier Crazy Horse is pretty on the mark. Both Yo La Tengo and Galaxie 500 come to mind too, but Shinji Shibayama and Masako Takeda have one of the most unique minimal folk pop vibes, and Shinji is a master guitar player who makes every note shine with the brilliance of a thousand stars. Case in point: the 20 min epic, "True Sun," which is sort of like Nagisa Ni Te's own personal "Cortez the Killer."
Peter Wright's "Yellow Horizon" (Pseudoarcana), the latest from the New Zealander by way of England is easily one of his greatest. Carefully constructed ambient mood pieces drawn almost entirely from guitar and effects, careful and deliberate plucks and drones. Roy Montgomery, Loren Mazzacane Connors, early Labradford, Fripp/Eno could all be reference points, but Wright has his own signature somnambulant aura as he hits the golden chord repeatedly. Highly meditative stuff that teeters on the line between deep meditation and more song based melodic bliss. "Tone of the Universe (=Tone of the Earth)" (Pseudoarcana) by Various Artists is a strong contender for comp of the year so far. Included among its ranks are some of the most important out noise artists today (Keijo, Peter Wright, The Nether Dawn, My Cat is an Alien, Vibracathedral Orchestra, AM/Uton, Blithe Sons, CJA, Anla Courtis, Birchville Cat Motel, Seht, Of, 1/3 Octave Band, The Skaters and plenty more) spread out across 2 CD's with galactic tonal eminations as a loosly binding theme. Brilliantly edited and arranged from start to finish.
And now let us get proggy wid it. Circle's "Forest" (Ektro) is the northern most masters' ultimate harmonic convergence of trippy acoustics and throbbing exploratory repetition. Amon Düül II, Can and more come to mind, only these gems originates from Pori, Finland. This is one of the first Circle albums that I've come across to continually fascinate from start to finish while maintaining a mellower incantatory aura. Arguably more transcendental is the lovely sophomore effort from urDog, "Eyelid of Moon" (Secret Eye). The Rhode Island trio tones it down slightly this time in favor of a more minimal head space, although the rambunctious pieces are still there, too, and quite funny in an early Soft Machine/Pink Floyd sort'a way. "Paths of the Meridians" sounds like an homage to early 70s Nico, and the title track would've fit just fine on Amon Düül II's "Tanz Der Lemmings." Yes, that is praise.
That's it for now, but I've recieved plenty of other packages recently from Drag City (new GHOST DVD!), Eclipse, Social Registry, Music Fellowship, Volcanic Tongue, Jagjaguwar (new ONEIDA!) and more, so don't be surprised if I post another one of these mid Summer roundups in a week or two. Also, thank you to the nice fellow from the Foxy Digitalis forums who sent me the copy of Peter Walker's "Rainy Day Raga"--definitive stuff. Cheers!