Friday, December 09, 2011

Arcane Rifles Green Eyes Will Save You 7" EP (Self Release)

Here's a raging blast of pure garage mayhem from a Lexington unit which boldly rides the line between screaming off the rails psych punk and a Kentucky tornado. Dead Boys, Stooges and early Red Krayola can be heard in the pummeling squall which comprises both sides of Green Eyes Will Save You, and I can't really pick a fave as they both kick my ass. Highly recommended for real rawkers everywhere, procurable via digital download or vinyl 7" at their Bandcamp page.

Monday, November 28, 2011

RIP Ken Russell, visionary director of "The Devils" and "Altered States." "Altered States" is the first movie that freaked me the fuck out as a young impressionable pre-tween. "Dawn of The Dead" was the second.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Fossils / Darksmith Million Year Spree (Kye Records) LP

This recent split from Graham Lambkin's Kye label brings together two of the more interesting dark-weird-noise projects of recent times onto one platter of found sound scrape and drone. With literally dozens of releases under its belt, Hamilton, Ontario's Fossils specialize in a handmade abstract noise that creeps and crawls its way into the listening space like a viral contamination. I'm thinking very early Sandoz Lab Technicians gone trash ambient or the Shadow Ring at their most minimal; but where both those ensembles are more concerned with structure vs. anti-structure, Fossils is all about jagged textures and surging post-industrial landscapes, or perhaps more accurately, pre-human landscapes.

The source of all these strange sounds is questionable at best, but that's part of the fun. Wind blows and distortion crackles throughout "Wider Knowledge of Man I-III" as post-industrial rhythms clank and groan beneath a surging tone that sounds like some sort of archaic engine revving to infinity. Things get more sinister with the subterranean excavations of "Snared On Broadway," which opens as a piercing high pitched whine that slowly dissipates to an inevitable drone death. It's the best thing found here, though too short. Graham Lambkin mixed both tracks, and his fingerprints are evident to anyone who's spent some time with his work with Jason Lescalleet or his recent solo outings.

The Darksmith side is a good bit subdued compared to the excellent Total Vacuum, which dropped on Hanson last year, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Its tense sheen of low murmurs and metallic scree invokes the quieter side of The New Blockaders one moment, the ambient bass hums of an interstellar trash compactor nestled away in the deepest reaches of space the next. It's less intense than what I've come to expect from Tom Darksmith but no less dramatic and requires maximum volume for proper sonic submersion. Mastered by Jason Lescalleet and highly recommended for fans of the rougher side of electro-acoustic sound art.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

More Minis

Matt Valentine What I Became (Woodsist) LP - Dropping roughly around the same time as MV & EE's Country Stash, What I Became is MV's first solo album in seven years, which makes it long overdo with its bearded mystic sitting atop the Holy Green Mountain vibes, but far be it from me to complain. MV continues his fascinations with pan-ethnic trance states, bong smoke and Philip K. Dick dissections across six tracks of hazed out mountain psych folk.

Jim O'Rourke Old News No. 5 (Mego Editions) 2LP - Sprawling in more ways than one, ONN5 actually spans 20 years of Jim O.'s recorded output with two tracks from the early '90s and two from the last couple years seamlessly merged together to tell a continuous aural narrative. Employing analog synth and tape works across sidelong pieces of deeply immersive sound sculpture, these pieces run the gamut from cycling corrosive drone workouts to fluctuating trance synth lines with a multitude of chiming, clicking points dropped in between. Not to be missed.

Jim O'Rourke / Christoph Heemann Plastic Palace People Vol. 1 / Plastic Palace People Vol. 2 (both Streamline) both CD - Two fine platters of minimal duo work from these masters of avant-garde shadow drone. These two releases feature pieces that are nearly 20 years old but tweaked and mixed more recently. Specifically for Heemann, they offer a snapshot glimpse at his progression from the cut-up/industrial work of HNAS to the more minimal environmental drone work he mastered in Mirror (also featuring O'Rourke at times). O'Rourke was newer on the experimental scene at the time, but there's no denying the kinship both exhibit across these evocative drone pieces. Vol. 1 has a more mechanized Surrealist NWW/HNAS feel. Vol. 2 features one extended track that proves equally compelling while throwing tribal percussive pulse on top of the expected blissed out hums and whirrs. It's probably my pick of the bunch, or at least the more inviting of the two.

Call Back the Giants The Rising (Kye) LP - Wonderfully odd collection of minimal synthscapes and detailed scifi dream composition from Tim Goss (The Shadow Ring), gathering influences from all over the sonic map (early ambient Eno, a dash of Suicide, Heldon and early industrial) to arrive at something that's at once (mostly) seductive but still suitably weird.

Concern Truth & Distance (Digitalis/Latrogenesis) CD - Another fine slice of ambient drift from the Digi-folk, courtesy of Gordon Ashworth, brother of Owen (Casiotone for the Painfully Alone); starts with a quiet celestial hum and breaks right on through to the stellar plane on the 17 min title track, a monumental head cleaner. The next two shorter tracks provide more rousing pathos and enveloping shimmer to drift off to.

Wet Hair In Vogue Spirit (De Stijl) LP - Wet Hair inhabits a vintage sonic space with In Vogue Spirit, evoking classic Neu, Silver Apples and Spacmen 3 across 8 tracks of blissful motorik psych pop. This is their first LP for the always dependable De Stijl, and finest long player to date by my count. Bubbling, pulsating trance rock from top to bottom.

Gunn-Truscinski Duo Sand City (Three Lobed) LP - Gotta love Steve Gunn. Gotta love the Gunn-Truscinski Duo which is Gunn on acoustic raga blues guitar and John Truscinski on percussion. Here they weave spectral raga spells in the vein of John Fahey, Sandy Bull, Six Organs of Admittance and the late, great Jack Rose to glorious effect across 4 tracks of jangling, hypnotic bliss that brings light into the dark space and ultimately leaves the body behind. Highly recommended for this sort of thing.

Factums Guilding The Lilies (Night People) C45 - Fine collection of early Factums musical weirdness ranging from bedroom art noise experiments to rinky dink new wave and third eye tickling pseudo raga jams. I'm into it.

Cultus Sabbati Decent Into The Maelstrom (Land of Decay) C30 - The place where ambient black metal and doom meet free noise. Cultus Sabbati do not perform as much as document dark rituals, or something to that effect. Whatever the case, this 6 track grim noise fest is one of the more original documents that's come across my desktop of late and is assured to put the deep listener into a despondent hallucinatory haze.

Skullflower Fucked On a Pile of Dead Bones (Cold Spring) CD - Took me a bit, but I cannot deny the fury of the destroyed harsh noise/black metal hybrid found here. Rudimentary riffs and percussion beneath screaming distortion squalls recast as tribal trance states. Face-melting hate grind so far over the top if's not even funny (yet, it is). At lower levels these "songs" become something other than sheer noise terror -- oceanic ambient skree, let's say.

Amen Dunes Through Donkey Jaw (Sacred Bones) LP - Feels like the second coming of Syd Barrett fronting the Velvet Underground instead of that other band. Dreamy, broken, lost, sad, harmonic voyages for the affectionately disillusioned. Destroyed torch songs for sad drifters and stoned bedroom dwellers alike.

Various Gaman: A Ceremony For Japan (Electric Temple) 2CS - Very happy to see this benefit comp finally materialize. I know ET ran into some production issues, and I'd all but forgotten about it before finding it in my box a cpl weeks ago. The last time I was this bowled over by a various artists collection might just be the first time I chanced upon the Succour comp, released by The Ptolemaic Terrascope some 15 years ago. Gaman is an epic set, two full albums of material that easily represents some of the most important music in the psych underground today (Steve R. Smith, Glenn Jones -- here tackling Fahey's "Portland Cement Factory," Sic Alps, Amen Dunes, Hive Mind, Lorren Conners, Zelienople, etc) and newer but no less exciting folks like Angel Olson, doing the ghost of Townes Van Zandt proud with her rendition of "She Came And She Touched Me," Forma, Animal Hospital, Derek Rogers and the woefully under-heard Phantom Family Halo. Even Pete Stampfel of the Holy Modal Rounders gets in on the beauty with a fingerpicking bluegrass oddity, "Castor and Pollux," performed in duo with Eli Smith. The rest of the tracks run the gamut from dusted ambient folk drift to bleary eyed free jazz, PSF- like mellow guitar psych, Komische electronics, holy organ meditations and much, much more. A heartfelt sonic message of healing and love, beautifully packaged, and delivered right on time. I hope there's a second pressing on down the line. Though the tapes are sold out, you can still purchase the digital version at Bandcamp.

Coppertone Best of the First Six Months (Night People) C32 - This is the kind of tape that comes out of nowhere and burns its way into the gray matter for longer than a minute. An otherworldly hybrid of synth pop/cold wave, early industrial, homespun art pop with distorted fem vocals that sound piped in from an alternate dimension ruled by gleaming robot Goddesses of the ethereal night. Delightfully warped and engaging.

Locrian "Dort Ist Der Wig" / "Frozen In Ash" (Flingco Sound System) 7" - Stellar single featuring a humdinger of a Popol Vuh cover (taken from their heaviest album, Letzte Tage - Letze Näcthe) recast as a blistering hybrid of Spiderland era Slint and early Flying Saucer Attack distorted squall. The guitar dynamics on this one remind me of Wire circa 154 in a wonderful way. The flip is an inspired black metal wind storm with tortured vocal howls that give way to some beautiful Paganist acoustic guitars. Wonder what Florian Fricke would think of all this?

Blasted Canyons Blasted Canyons (Castle Face) LP - More ginchy San Fran garage syke via John Dwyar's (The Oh Sees) label featuring a former member of Bare Wires (and other folks I don't know), harnessing a mighty thunder across these 13 high energy fuzz punk onslaughts. As we all know, Hawkwind really did invent space punk. Bands like Blasted Canyons provide the next evolutionary step up the cosmic ladder. Destroyed yet infectious psych anthems for the tomorrow people.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

May you live in interesting times, as the old proverb says. The Occupy Wall Street movement and all the other occupations happening throughout the States qualify as interesting. I don't know what will come of it all, but this graphic -- nabbed from a Facebook wall -- suggests things are way out of whack, assuming it's even remotely accurate. Who knows? I'm usually not one for taking political positions, but I always pay attention to what's going ahn. For more on the game changing implications of this movement and why things may never be the same again, check out this article by Douglas Rushkoff, a one time member of Psychic TV(!) and media theorist. Also amused by all the Youtube clips of various media outlets' coverage and attempts at ridiculing the movement.

Deeply saddened by the passing of Scottish string bender Bert Jansch, one of the most laid back and understated of all the great guitar gods. Jansch was simply a giant of folk, blues and jazz and pretty much defined the British folk rock sound as a solo performer, in duo with John Renbourn, and finally in his incredible group Pentangle, an intricate, soulful mix of all of the above that released a string of highly influential albums in the late '60s and '70s such as Cruel Sister, Pentangle and Basket of Light (the first one I ever heard). For a supposed folk rock band, Pentangle was always so much more. Solo Jansch blazed a trail that stretched from 1965 to 2006 and proved equally inspirational. Some clips:

Here's a tasty clip of Jansch (with a glimpse of Mike Nesmith) during the sessions for L.A. Turnaround

And a fond farewell to the great square jawed Charles Napier (of Russ Meyer films and well beyond), Steve Jobs and Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth.

Finally caught up with Breaking Bad, and loving it. Walter White enjoys the unique position of being the shows protagonist and antagonist. In each passing season he becomes increasingly harder to like or care about, but there are other rad characters (Hank, Jesse, Gus) to latch onto and keep us guessing. Walt is what we're all afraid of becoming in our rise to the top, and what some of us became long ago. I'm glad there's one more season left. I also recommend the movie Drive, which is kind of a cross between Michael Mann's Thief and Monte Hellman's Two Lane Blacktop with gorgeous night shots of LA, a bare bones narrative and excellent score that combines Angela Badalamente's dreamy synthtopia with memorable synth pop gems that came out today but sound like some sort of alternate version of the 80s where everything was cooler and had more depth (even if it didn't). It's a throw back that's actually something of a step forward. Killer supporting work from Albert Brooks and Bryan Cranston, Gosling's all steel and ice as the quiet driver. Carey Mulligan literally glides through the frame as the unconventional love interest. Keep it practical, Keep it to the point. Director Nicolas Winding Refn is one to watch.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Wombcast 1: Oh Lord Please Let It Rain...

Oh Lord Please Let It Rain... is what I hope will become a regular thing here at Womblife (if everybody else can do it, so can I!): Wombcasts are mixes of songs and pieces I like lately strung together like pearls on a string to tell a sort of audio prose poem story about whatever and whenever. In this case, a rumination on the weird burning times we're living in (mostly) inspired by fire, water and Texas.

Right click individual tracks to download.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Mini Reviews Pt. 3

The Men Leave Home (Sacred Bones) CD - Latest from this Brooklyn 4 piece offers up squealing old school noise punk with an anthemic edge riding stomping bass/drums and wiry post punk guitars, buried in so much angular riffage you'll never guess what the hell their singing about, though the first track appears to be a mantra of the words "Die, I don't wanna die" over a hypnotic psych punk squall like a garage Hawkwind (or Spacemen 3). Speaking of which,"()" is almost a destroyed cover of "Revolution". Hear The Men live on WFMU here.

Birds of Maya Ready to Howl (Richie Records) 2LP - Mike Polizze's (Purling Hiss) other band, so you might know what to expect: less pop and more PSF garage snarl across three tracks (one short, two long) that open on a semi-controlled note and dissolve into white noise oblivion. Scuzzy, vintage, fuzz drenched Stooges worship cracked over the head with a bottle and bleeding out all over the puke green shag carpet.

Art Yard "The Law" B/W "Something In Your Eyes" (Ride The Snake) 7" - Sweet single of two cuts originally dropped on a Propeller Product comp cassette way back in 1981, offers up a convincing blueprint for what would become the classic Matador Records sound or identified as Paisley Pop soon after. Somewhere between Mission of Burma and early Teenage Fanclub. Very tasty.

White Hills Live On WFMU (Who Can You Trust?) CS - Oh hell yarss, Live... is a fine live set by Brooklin's White Hills recorded for the legendary WFMU. Features choice cuts from Heads on Fire and the excellent self-titled LP, among others. Nodded heavy jamming and deep space Hawkwind worship, plus a fine little interview too! Live... shows us a psych power trio operating at full capacity, course set for the heart of the nearest sun.

Gnod Ingnodwetrust (Rocket) LP - Fresh off their dandy 2LP collaboration with White Hills, England's mighty Gnod returns with this amazing two track psych rawk opus that's as fun to look at as it is to freak to. Strobe lit pulsating grooves, stomping heavy psych freakouts, post Loop guitar trances, from the void vocal howls and socio-religious commentary all compressed into a tight green ball and stuffed into the bong of God (Gnod), and that's just the first track. Serious contender for psych freakout of the year. Pressed on cocaine white wax.

Eternal Tapestry & Sun Araw The Night Gallery (Thrill Jockey) LP - Brilliant meeting of the heads across four tracks of spontaneous smoke and dust looks to be the single most important collaborative psych record since Tom Carter set foot into The Lemur House to record 4/23/04.

Boris Attention Please / Heavy Rocks (2011) (Sargent House) both CD - Two new blasts from these former monsters of doom. No doubt, some heads feel betrayed by Boris's development in the last few years, but I'm not one of 'em. Attention Please offers a decent mix of shoegaze, high velocity electro rock and J-Pop (that's Japanese Pop), which makes it perhaps the farthest outside the realm of expectation so far, though a couple of the dreamier tracks on Smile hinted in this direction. Guitar Goddess Wata handles most vocal duties; the mood is bubbling and kind'a mellow. WTF!

Heavy Rocks (not to be confused with Heavy Rocks 2002) is more in line with what you'd expect from the groop, perhaps closest in spirit to Rainbow (w/ Michio Kurihara, playing on half the tracks here), split down the middle between up-tempo metallic crunchers and more spacious, erm, heavy jams. Heavy Rocks if you will. Not essential but not crap.

Li Jianhong Classic of the Mountains and Seas (PSF) CD - Outstanding solo guitar work from China's Li Jianhong comprised of blistering smokestacks of distorted howls and endless acid leads that sound like a chance meeting between Keiji Haino and Roy Montgomery. Transcendent and visceral as all get out.

Horseback / Locrian New Dominions (Utech) LP - Lovely/grim collaborative LP from the mighty Chicago noise ambient trippers Locrian and the equally monolothic Horseback, split down the middle between defeated black metal/drone hybrid and stoic apocalypse doom mantra.

Wire Red Barked Tree (Pinkflag) CD - The long playing follow-up to Object 47 sees these art punk legends coming full circle and returning to the oblique perfection of their most vital period (Chairs Missing, 154). Further down the road and not as rabid as their classics, but still compellingly recorded, alternately snotty, brash, ethereal and completely worth my time.

Monday, August 01, 2011


Old news but still Worthy of Womblife Recognition:

Episode 1 - Pad Thai

Episode 2 - Easy Meal Ideas of The Ages

And finally a fond farewell and best wishes to my dear friend and soul brother, Travis Johnson, who will be leaving Dallas for the sinewy byways of The Crescent City in two short days. I'll be visiting occasionally come Hell or High Water, rest assured. Much love, and may the waters of good fortune rain upon thee, my friend.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mini Reviews Pt. 2

Earth Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I (Southern Lord) 2LP - The first of two proposed Earth albums in '11 offers dusted gnostic space blues from Dylan Carlson and company, and is likely the deepest, most hypnotic Earth record to date. It's a literary trip through the dark spaces where every drum strike, cello trill (courtesy of the same player that backed Nirvana during their Unplugged performance) and carefully placed guitar note bleeds with a foreboding resonance across the ages. The 180 g vinyl version (mine was pressed on red and features an awesome etching on side D) is a sheer delight on every level.

The Body Anthology (Corleone) CD - Over the last 8 years this Providence duo has released a handful of CD-Rs, splits and such -- all compiled here. More lo-fi and gnarled than the exultant/wretched All the Waters of the Earth Shall Turn to Blood, Anthology is 16 tracks of destroyed apocalypse doom, hardcore sludge and power electronics with shrieking witch howl vokills. Includes five covers by the likes of Danzig, Crass, Judas Priest and Sinead O'Connor(?).

Aaron Dilloway Lip Syncing To Verme (Hundebiss) LP - Excellent package from this Italian label of what's easily the most satisfying Dilloway solo platter I've heard to date (not that I've heard many); the weird tape music and found sound post industrial collages displayed across these five tracks are simultaneously spine tingling, hallucinogenic, mind bending, never boring. A triumph of experimental sound sculpture top to bottom.

Umberto Prophecy of the Black Widow (Not Not Fun) LP - Amazing record of scifi synth splay and soundtrack music by a fellow named Matt Hill aka Umberto. It's safe to say he's obsessed over the music of Goblin and Fabio Frizzi with endless fascination while throwing in a few German progressive moves to keep it stoned to the bone. One of the finest synthscape soundtrack records I've heard all year.

The Oh Sees Castlemania (In The Red) CD - Probably should'a got the vinyl on this one as it also comes with a wicked etching on the 4th side, but can't have 'em all. This is a KILLER slice of psych punk folk what's-it that delivers hit after hit of garage fuzz plop delights with amazing titles like "I Need Seed", "Pleasure Blimps", "Spider Cider" and so on.

Puffy Areolas / Purling Hiss "My Hell" / "Walking Down the Street" (Permanent Records) 12" Single - This is one of them hot-shit Record Store Day releases. Ty Segal's Ty.Rex was another, and of course Big Star's infamous Third, etc and so on. So while the wax may be impossible to find, that in no way diminishes the fact that it features two of my favorite modern psych slop groops, each offering up two ripping epics to the old gods that kick ass and melt face. Got to give the Golden Gloves to Purling Hiss, though, with the righteous Stooges worship of "Walking Down the Street".

TV Ghost Mass Dream (In The Red) LP - Another excellent splatter from ITR. Mass Dream is equal parts art punk slop and no wave surf. Warbling Pere Ubu vox and lashing through the smokey darkness distortion are the order of the day across ten unhinged ragers that run the gamut from the deathly dirge of the destroyed squall of "The Inheritors" to the angular garage surf riffage of "The Degredation of Film". The mood throughout is fucked and caustic, but I still can't help but shimmy my ass off through every second of its 35 mins.

The Flaming Lips with Prefuse 73 The Flaming Lips with Prefuse 73 (Warner Bros./Lovely Sorts of Death) 12" EP - Heavy wax on many colored vinyl. No two are the same. Limited to 2000, so it's already gone. I was shocked by how much I liked the 'Lips' collaboration with Neon Indian, and this is even better as Wayne and Steve's synthonic art pop gets dosed in Prefuse 73's electro noise hop to conjure drill 'n' bass Suicide homages, acid muzakscapes and spaced out glam folk oddities. Mighty weird Oklahoma disco right here.

Religious Knives Smokescreen (Sacred Bones) LP - So nice to see this quartet back in action. New drummer, but not much else has changed (thankfully). The vibe is still about simple, repetitious trance riffs built around guitar and organ and hammered into your brain with slamming percussion and bass beneath echo drenched vocals that invoke a hostile dread in the classic New York watch-your-back vein. Zoned fuzz smokestacks from the paranoid basement.

Rene Hell The Terminal Symphony (Type) CD - Seemingly scattered electronic sound sculpture is actually a careful assemblage of quasi-symphonic rhythms, noise and strings across ten compact journeys through glitchtronic psychedelia. Top picks: the bubbling Kraftwerkian "E.S. Des Grauens In Fifths", the synthedelic chamber bleeping "Baroque Ensemble Coda", the fragile crystal chandeliers of "Juliard Op. 66". More fun than Switched-On Bach, and a whole lot more stoned.

Various Artists Pacific Support (Draft) CS - Another excellent comp to benefit the victims of the tsunami in Japan that rivals Thrill Jockey's Benefit for the Recovery in Japan in terms of quality (if not quantity). Some of the same names on said comp appear here (Greg Davis, Keith Fullerton Whitman) along with Rene Hell, The North Sea, Carl Calm, Flower Man (CC and FM are solo projects related to Caboladies), Golden Retriever, Make a New Memory and so on across what amounts to a more electrocentric journey through bubbling ambient space, minimal drone wormholes and quantum sonic mechanics.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Mini Reviews Pt. 1

Tim Hecker Ravedeath, 1972 (Kranky) CD - Translucent clouds of minimal shimmer and electronics conjured from computer, piano, guitar feedback, pipe organ and synthesizer. Glowing portals to an imagined nostalgia for the time right before the analog world became a digital nightmare. Here's an excellent video for opening track, "The Piano Drop".

Mind Over Mirrors The Voice Rolling (Digitalis) LP - 7 tracks comprised of Indian Harmonium and effects by Jaime Fennelly (of Peeesseye) that totally destroy any notions of what a meditative harmonium/noise record should sound like. The Voice Rolling is a highly visceral, hypnotic ride that feels like something of a landmark with its mixture of the most zoned out Komische synth drones and third eye tapping minimalism. Get a taste at Soundcloud. And a companion tape just dropped on Gift Tapes.

Twells & Christenson Coasts (Digitalis) LP - John Twells of Xela/Type Records and Matt Christensen (Zelionople) get together in a room and play a host of instruments, captured to vintage 8 track before Twells takes his sweet time mixing and tweaking it all down into two mammoth side long epics. The mood is dark and hypnogogic with dense clouds of feedback and murky distorted electronics, with enough texture and buried melodies to reward repeated deep listenings. Check out the wunderbar second side here.

Eternal Tapestry Beyond the Fourth Day (Thrill Jockey) LP - Latest levitated vinyl release from these trance inducing cosmonauts offers steady growing space mantras indebted to Amon Düül II, Träd Gräs och Stenar and early Pink Floyd. Quite fine for those enamored of late night lavalamped bong sessions and the mighty Bardo Pond. Review of their collaboration with Sun Araw forthcoming.

The Spits Kill the Kool (In The Red) LP - This odds and sods collection from these fuzz punk veterans came in an issue of 600 and sold out in a matter of weeks, but it can still be heard via other means. Rip roaring scifi garage punk for weirdos and spazz freaks alike, and one of the most addictive long players I've heard all Summer. Highly recommended!

Apache Dropout Apache Dropout (Family Vineyard) LP - Awesome minimal garage boogie trio from Bloomington, IN arose from the ashes of Hot Fighter #1 and John Wilkes Booze (remember them?) to deliver a balls out masterpiece in their self-titled debut. Sounds like the Velvets gone off the Bo Diddley deep end, occasionally blasting everything apart with frenzied walls of white noise distortion, but still compact and boogielicious every second. Easily the debut of the year.

BJ Nilsen & Stilluppsteypa Big Shadow Montana (Helen Scarsdale) LP - This drone noise trio's seventh (!) studio album is just what you'd expect from the revered Helen Scarsdale Agency -- a cryptic mass of analog drones, indecipherable source material and other found sounds sculpted into two side long journeys through the pscychedelic void. It's all very hazy and disorienting, though halfway through the second side a lovely carnival melody appears that one hopes will never end and elevates this strange beast into the higher realms of post industrial psychedelic brilliance.

Greg Davis States (2) (Goldtimers) , States (1) (Cassauna), Eyebright (Agents of Chaos) all CS 40 (or so) - Man alive, third eye voyager Greg Davis has been one busy tape recording psych noise explorer in 2011. I found no less than three 40 min tapes bearing his name in my mailbox over the last few weeks, all reproduced on hi-bias chrome cassettes. These suckers sound as good as vinyl. States (2) (though released first, the second part of the series) introduces us to Davis's recent sojourns into the modular synth multiverse, which means it's not far from Keith Fullerton Whitman's recent output: playful, discombobulated computer music that covers a wide variety of moods and topographies (from full on power electronics to deep space minimal surges and all points in between) with only hints of melody rising from the synapse-frying sonic melee.

States (1), via Important's in-house tape label, offers basically the same in a slightly more subdued form and is probably my pick of the two, though both are quite similar in tone and execution. It's a bit less schizophrenic but no less disconcerting with jarring erratic tones giving way to minimal skittering/bleeping soundscapes that sound like the inner workings of some primitive mainframe piped in from an alternate dimension. Throw in a few bliss-inducing arpeggios and an all around air of unpredictability, and you've got yourself a tape of delightful computer music.

Eyebright collects two live recordings from last year, "The Identity of Relative & Absolute" being more in line with the above two releases, though Davis incorporates some mind-bending spoken word into things and does it all in real time with no overdubs. The flip, "Full Spectrum (Part IV)" is a live continuation of the two gorgeous minimal/New Age pieces found on his Digitalis tape of the same name, which is easily one of Davis's finest meditative bliss-outs, and this piece follows suit nicely. Absolute and beautiful.

* I use the term "computer music" above more in a descriptive sense for a particular sound as I hear it, and not in the sense that any actual computers were used in the production of these recordings.

Imaginary Softwoods Imaginary Softwoods (Digitalis) 2LP - Definitive version of this modern classic (not to mention the one you can still find). Imaginary Softwoods is one of John Elliot's (Emeralds) most revered solo projects, and it's not hard to see why based on these 12 tracks. Simple repeated synth lines buried in fuzz and grime, warped via pitch shifting and other effects to reveal the dark machine hum of the deepest stellar regions. Mastered by James Plotkin. Call it deep space garage ambient.

Outer Space Outer Space (Arbor) LP - It would appear Elliot has a thing for, erm, space. If Imaginary Softwoods is the darker side of his synthedelic wormhole trips, then Outer Space is an altogether cleaner and more pristine journey through the fabric of existence with its glass houses of intricately assembled melodies and driving electro harmonies riding waves of phase shifted distortion and motorik grooves. I'd be lying if I said this wasn't highly indebted to the late 70s/early 80s synth explorations of Manuel Göttsching, Wolfgang Reichman and of course Kraftwerk, but make no mistake Elliot is owning the genre here and even taking it to bold new regions in the process. Glorious.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sagas Between Worlds (Greenup Industries) LP

Sagas is the most recent solo incarnation of Matt McDowell (Dire Wolves, Arco Flute Foundation, etc), and Between Worlds is his debut foray into the vinyl format. So far I've heard a couple of McDowell's tapes under the Sagas name, and everything I've heard by Dire Wolves has delivered the goods via lumbering smokestacks risen up from the most zoned cosmic depths.
Between Worlds is an old school acid rock freakout -- vintage to its core, trancedelic one minute, head charging into the Dead C void the next -- with a few oud-inistic ethnic detours along the way.

The first side features three fresh-from-the-primordial-aether jams. "The Hidden Variable" is a levitated organ/acid guitar soaked chant that wastes no time invoking a sense of otherness and sacred devotion, while "Scrapyard" offers collapsing free jazz deconstruction. The real standout though is "Bad Karma Blues" with melting Blue Cheer acid leads and a rampaging space punk climax. Fans of the most destroyed Komische rawk (Amon Düül II/Ash Ra Tempel included) and PSF Records will eat it up. On the flip, off kilter banjo raga is dispersed with subtle percussion and effects on "Hope Springs Vernal" and "In The Hall of Mandos". The harsh distorted oblivion of "Better Times" invokes the spirit of McDowell's earlier solo guitar rippers (such as the Headlong Into The Fire EP on Mike Tamburo's New American Folk Hero imprint). It's surely a good thing McDowell hasn't abandoned this more abrasive side of his sonic persona, as the resulting contrast only further heightens the drama of what's happening here. This makes plaintive closer "Soon A-Comin" that much more of a sweet come down with solo acoustic in the country blues vein, though the whole record's primitive and homespun every second with McDowell playing all instruments in his home studio. The under water sonar-infused cover art is by Brad Rose of Digitalis Records/The North Sea fame. Between Worlds is the real deal, out of space/time holy psych for those who like to dig deeper and roam off the beaten paths.

* Check out Inez Lightfoot's video for "Bad Karma Boogie" here.

Monday, July 04, 2011

The Return of Indie Pop (Just in Time for Summer)!

Ducktails III Arcade Dynamics (Woodsist) LP - Dreamy post shoegaze from this one man band is more song-based than past releases; ideal for a day by the pool or laying under your favorite shady tree in the cool afternoon breeze. 11 tracks that alternate between barely there instrumental sketches and actual strummy songs that drift by like mossy landscapes seen on riverbanks from inside an inner-tube on a daylong glide down your favorite lazy winding river. Plus there's a song called "Art Vandelay". Possibly the ideal Woodsist release.

Jerusalem and the Starbaskets Dost (De Stijl) LP - This is the second official LP by this awesome duo from Columbus, Missouri and first that's widely available. I actually still have a CD-R that came out on Digitalis's Foxglove series back in '05? '04? Must say they've come a good long way since then, as this fucking ROCKS! Stoned to the bone fuzz anthems one minute ("Pretty Patty"), lost in the West Coast summer heat Byrds worship the next ("First Cigarette In The Morning") and plenty of distorted melodic strange bits and wild eyed jams crammed in the spaces in between. The lazy fuzz groove of "Chinese Rifles", which erupts into an awesome mid-tempo blast off halfway through, is fuzz pop at its finest, but the whole record is a joy to behold every second of its 31 minutes. Highly recommended, in fact!

Low C'mon (Sub Pop) CD - So good to see these veterans back doing what they do best (and sounding more like Galaxie 500 than ever). If you haven't seen the video for "Try To Sleep" by now, then you officially live in a cave somewhere sans wifi. The rest of C'mon may not match that level of narcotic shimmer, but as the title suggests, Low is actually lookin' to have some fun these days. This is almost their Summer record with something like "Witches" (complete with banjo pickin') and the aforementioned gem kicking up to a nice shuffle. Elsewhere they unspool the classic Low formula of simple guitar melodies beneath timeless harmonies. "Done" features syrupy pedal steel. The 8 minute "Nothing But Heart" is Neil Young gone shoegaze and builds to a hair-raising crescendo that you hope will never end. Closer "Something's Turning Over" is just as good. C'mon is Low renewed, at their brightest, and occasionally ready to rock.

Times New Viking Dancer Equired (Merge) CD - A kinder, gentler Times New Viking is still worth my time. The GBV influence is felt more strongly than ever on many of these scruffy pop gems, which just means you might think of Wire or The Clean as well as past TNV anthems when cycling through these 14 tracks. One thing that you wont really find is any annoying feedback or skree to derail the sweet pop parade of gems like "Try Harder", "California Roll", "Fuck Her Tears", or "No Room To Live". Not bad at all.

Woods Sun and Shade (Woodsist) CS - The followup to Woods' awesome At Echo Lake is another sweet groover of hippie psych/indie pop that has enough tuneful moments crammed into its hazy veneer to make it appeal to the Matador crowd just as easily as it does the mushroom brigade. What that means are fuzzy slices of folky pop with hooks galore that nod to West Coast country psych (then and now), The Kinks, Krautrock and even 80s Creation Records (Felt and Jacobites) all wrapped up in a warm, vintage production and doled out at a nice easy pace. Nothing here is revolutionary, but then who really wants to blow anything up? Sit back, relax and enjoy the Sun and Shade.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Cross-Legged Hippie Mystics and Subterranean Astral Goddesses

Theo Angell Tenebrae (Amish) CD - I meant to scribble a few words about this one ages ago, but that's okay since this is a one man operation. Angell of Hall of Fame and whose Aeraplinth album for Digitalis made such a striking impression a few years back, here weaves a more mystical spell of wandering acoustic apparitions lead through the dark spaces via his eerie naked vocal and understated minor key strumming, at times accented by percussion and Samara Lubelski's abstract violin, as well as the Hillside Tabarnackle Singers (this time including Matt Valentine, P.G. Six, Tom Greenwood and Lubelski). Elusive lyrics as inspired by mountain song, religion/theology and outside folk songwriting as they are avant-garde cinema and Dadaist worldplay coalesce into roving journeys through the backwoods of the mind. At once deeply esoteric and all too accessible -- welcome to the strange and wonderful world of Tenebrae. Stand outs to this listener, the gorgeous meander of "Never Heard That Baby Cry" and the sinister title track.

Arborea Red Planet (Strange Attractors) LP - The fourth album from the husband wife duo or Buck and Shanti Curran is a meditative slice of introspective astral folk as inspired by the great woods as the old troubadours (Patty Waters and Tim Buckley are given nods) and the new weird folkies that I've championed here over the years. I'm not really sure what to say about Red Planet other that it's a minimal soul-stirring knockout, with languid beauty anchored on Buck Curran's steady string work (guitars and many stringed things) and Shanti's ethereal vocals as exemplified on their stunning rendition of "Black Was the Color" and Buckley's "Phantasmagoria in Two" and Shanti's plaintive banjo picking. "Spain" (featuring Helen Espvall of Espers on cello) and "Careless Love" are soft, simple lullabies for the brokenhearted, while tracks like "Arms and Horses" and the hidden final, "Torchbearer" -- written in response to the loss of Shanti Curran's father -- offer more instrumental and emotional resonance to wander through. A record for letting go and accepting whatever's next.

Current 93 Honeysuckle Aeons (Coptic Cat) CD - How strange Honeysuckle Aeons sounds at first, even by Current 93's standards. Compositionally, it's something of a return to the stripped down piano ballads of Soft Black Stars and Sleep Has His House, but with new accents in the form of a ghostly theremin whir that haunts half the tracks and droning organ the creaks through the rest. It's a sensible enough progression from the hazier passages of last year's Baalstorm, Sing Omega, but I like this more. It's more stripped down and focused at the same time, and David Tibet hems in his vocals a good bit over more memorable melodies. In its own quiet, understated way this just may just be the best C93 album since Black Ships Ate the Sky, and the most softly haunted since Soft Black Stars. Listen to it late at night by candlelight.

Metal Mountains Golden Trees (Amish) CD - Helen Rush was one of the main contributors to the legendary Tower Recordings, but then so were PG Six and Samara Lubelski at different times. They comprise the trio of Metal Mountains, which makes this half a Tower Recordings reunion, or at the very least a psych supergroup of some note. To say Golden Trees is minimal hypnofolk masterpiece is no exaggeration. Its mix of ethereal fem vocals, acoustic/electric guitars doused in vintage reverb and fuzz, all rendered in immaculate yet vintage hi-fi production, is destined to send chills down the spine and elliptical spirals through the gray matter. At least that's the case with opener, "Structures Inside the Sun", a knockout of acid folk splay that's as good as anything along these lines I've heard recently. The rest of of the album follows suit and honors the Tower Recordings/Hall of Fame (Sabelski's other avant-folk trio, also featuring Theo Angell) tradition to admirable, eloquent effect.

Marissa Nadler Marissa Nadler (Box of Cedar) CD - Nadler's fifth album, first for her own label, is getting recognition all over the place, though I have to wonder what all those NPR worshiping coffee sippers in their adirondacks would've thought of her contributions to last year's Xasthur album, Portal of Sorrow. This is much more, hmm, digestible. Stronger influences from 50s country crooners and 60s pop chanteuses are felt, along with a heavy dose of the dark shoegaze drone glaze that's been seeping in since her third album. This is easily Nadler's most produced and sonically accomplished record yet (and that's really saying something), but she still manages to sound like something dug up from many decades past, her velvety mezzo-soprano lost in sad wonder of what could've been, eternally unsatisfied and looking to the horizon of come what may. Surely not for everyone but I'm still buying it. A solid mix of fingerpicking old world folk craft and modern soft pop for sad eyed dreamers.

Six Organs of Admittance Asleep on the Floodplain (Drag City) LP - Asleep on the Floodplains is Ben Chasny's follow-up to the masterful Luminous Night, and it's once more a fine mix of stellar songcraft and textured primitive raga jams. It could be said there's nothing really new here, but then there's nothing really new under the sun. The way Chasny manages to continue to matter is via his rich sound palette (every instrument is played by him this time 'round) and memorable melodies -- "Hold But Let Go" is yet another keeper in his considerable catalog of keepers -- while "S/Word and Leviathan" delves more deeply into mindless devotion with a droning wash of blazing raga picking, organ and vocal chant, the kind of dark mystery Chasny's been exploring since the beginning. It's dedicated to Process Theologian Catherine Keller, which doesn't surprise me in the least. She's the kind of thinker we could use more of during these uncertain times. Yet another gemstone in the Six Organs psych folk crown.

Jesse Sparhawk & Eric Carbonara 60 Strings (VHF) CD - Jesse Sparhawk plays 38 string lever harp. Eric Carbonara plays 22 string upright Chaturangui guitar. Together they weave a delicate spell of meandering raga that stretches out across two epic duets that maintain a constant, evolving balance of plucked straight from the aether harmonies across 35 minutes of vibrant string meditations landing somewhere between new American psych folk and a more Eastern tinged Popol Vuh. 60 Strings is another minimal beauty from VHF that manages to stand out from the psych folk heap, and I hope merely the first of many fruitful collaborations from this promising new duo.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Various Observational Musings and Cornucopic Dabblings

I sure love me some coffee. Keeping it under 3 cups a day these days though. Not getting out as much on the social scene but still trying to be semi-active and by and large a good bit healthier. Drinking less. Not smoking at all (mostly). Longevity is the key my friends. I miss a lot of folks, but I keep in touch through other means and keep soaking up the sights and sounds. As a result, I'm mostly spending all my saved bar money on records and DVDs. The new pile is high and deep! Trying to work through it inch by inch this Summer and catch up with some promos as well. Many, many amazing releases have passed over my threshold in the last few months, some listed below:

  • MV & EE Country Stash (Three Lobed)
  • Matt Valentine What I Became (Woodsist)
  • Woods Sun and Shade (Woodsist)
  • Sagas Between Worlds (Greenup Industries)
  • TV Ghost Mass Dream (In The Red)
  • The Spits Kill the Kool (In The Red)
  • Thee Oh Sees Castlemania (In The Red)
  • Angus Maclise/Tony Conrad Dreamweapon III (Boo-Hooray) LP - a definite highlight of the year so far.
  • Religious Knives Smokescreen (Sacred Bones)
  • Apache Dropout Apache Dropout (Family Vineyard)
  • Umberto Prophecy of the Black Widow (Not Not Fun)
  • Rene Hell The Terminal Symphony (Type)
  • Jerusalem and the Starbaskets Dost (De Stijl)
  • Wet Hair In Vogue Spirit (De Stijl)
  • Parasites of the Western World Parasites of the Western World (De Stijl)
  • Boris Attention Please and Heavy Rocks II (both Sargent House)
  • Group Doueh Beatte Harab and Zayna Jumma (both Sublime Frequencies)
  • Jim O'Rourke Old News #5 (Editions Mego)
  • Seijaku Mail From FUSHITSUSHA and You Should Prepare to Survive Throug Even Anything Happens (Doubtmusic)
  • Psychic Frost Psychic Frost (Deep Water)
  • Evening Fires Holy Ghost Explosion (Deep Water)

...and a whole slew of tapes. Hope to get a good chunk of these reviewed in the coming weeks. Without a doubt, one of the most amazing things I've picked up this year is the Van Kaye + Ignit career spanning 5LP boxset, Anthology 80 - 85, lovingly packaged and remastered by the always excellent Vinyl On Demand label out of Germany. Connoisseurs of Cold Wave, Synth Pop, Experimental New Wave on down the line definitely should check it out. The wax is heavy, the package stunning, and the music quite incredible. Also found myself pleasantly knocked out by the uber-gay '80s synth pop stylings of Ford & Lopatins's Channel Pressure (Software) -- one half of which is Daniel Lopatin of Oneohtrix Point Never. Get a taste here. In the same listening session I discovered the Turkish Psych rock/surf explosion of Hayvanlar Alemi's Guarana Superpower (Sublime Frenquencies), which bears more than a passing resemblance the ethnic acid eruptions that Rangda has been unleashing on the masses in recent times.

Otherwise, I dug Season 1 of Game of Thrones so much, that I'm now reading the first book of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. Call me crazy. Really digging Treme this season, and happy to see True Blood back among us. Witches, necromancy, fearful fairies and vampires with political ambitions -- what a tangled web Alan Ball weaves! Loved Takashi Miike's 13 Assassins, Malick's The Tree of Life (filmed partly in and around Dallas) and still need to see Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams, preferably in 3-D. X-Men: First Class gets an endorsement, as does Super 8 (barely), and Bridesmaids was, of course, hilarious. I've not seen much else new stuff beyond that. Hangover 2 was okay I s'pose.

Been mostly watching a bunch of Netflix streaming movies of late. Terrorvision, Irreversible (blegh but pretty good), Masters of Horror: Cigarette Burns, Yojimbo, Black Death, They Live, Sling Blade, John Lennon: Plastic Ono Band and My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done all provide moderate to high levels of art and entertainment, especially that last one for Herzog/Lynch freaks. That's all for now with more to come. And congrats to the Dallas Mavericks. Guess you guys finally earned it. Dirk FTW.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Valerio Tricoli / Thomas Ankersmit Forma II (Pan) CD - From the same label that brought us Keith Fullerton Whitman's Disingenuity b/w Disingenuousness LP comes Forma II, recorded across two years by Ankersmit and Tricoli, here exploring the electro-acoustic/music concréte micro-verse via Serge Modular Analog synth and saxophone, run through a barrage of computer and tape manipulation across six tracks ranging from 6 to 15 minutes. The results are deeply textured sound dreams that merge the organic and mechanic into a blur of abstracted tones that sound as "natural" as the para-mechanical world we live in, where subatomic events are an every day, perceivable occurrence. Here they're blown up under the microscope, dissected and exploded apart before being reassembled into gorgeous minimal/drone/noise hybrids ideal for high-fidelity submersion thanks to Rashad Becker's excellent mastering job. This sounds incredible on the proper system. Pan's proprietor Bill Kouligas (Family Battle Snack, Sudden Infant) and Kathryn Politis provide the brain-tickling cover art. Not a second (or sound) wasted.

Æthenor En Form For Blå (VHF) 2LP - The latest dispatch from Stephen O'Malley's abstract drone/doom/improv ensemble is another moody trawl through the dark waters of atmospheric spontaneous live performance. Percussion, guitars, bass, Fender Rhodes and who knows what else are employed with two members of Ulver -- Daniel O'Sullivan and Kristoffer Rygg -- and Steve Noble rounding out the quartet. These seven tracks were culled from three live shows captured in Norway in 2010, though you'd be hard pressed to discern such given the sound quality and music concréte like detail of much of what's captured here. The results offer up at times nightmarish, bass heavy delirium, and at other time almost skeletal prog metal infusions -- see the ghost doom mid section of "One Number of Destiny in 99" -- which almost immediately drift back into the foggy depths from whence they came. En Form For Blå may not be as strikingly formidable as its predecessor, Faking Gold and Murder, but what it lacks in immediacy it more than makes up for with progressive scope and surreal mood. A worthy addition to this ensemble's legendary discography. Pressed on lily-white vinyl to make it all go down that much easier.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

This Is My Music: Vol 8, Part 2

Alvarius B Baroque Primitiva (Abduction) CD - I sadly missed the boat on this beauty in its vinyl format for the legendary Poon Village label, but Abduction pulls no punches with the CD version which comes housed in a heavy, lush book styled package that's as fun to hold and flip through as it is to molest with your eyes. The 6th release from Alan Bishop's long running solo project is a stoned cold masterpiece of ethnic Middle Eastern weirdness meets other worldly (and World) folk blues. Tracks like "Humor Police" and "Well Known Stranger" are classic Alvarius B by any measure, though every thing found here is absolutely beautiful and ranks with Alan Bishop's finest. He tops things off with a gloriously deranged cover of "God Only Knows" appropriately retitled "God Only Be Without You" that builds to some finely fucked effects weirdness and tape trickery. A serious contender for top of the pops in 2011.

D. Charles Speer Arghiledes / D. Charles Speer & The Helix Leaving the Commonwealth (Thrill Jockey) both LP - David Charles Shuford's (of the No-Neck Blues Band and other mysterious subterranean ensembles like Eno's Slaughter and Egypt is the Magick #) inaugural TJ long players offer what are easily two of his finest works to date. Arghiledes is a weird trip to the Greek underworld, offering a his own unique take on roots music with Shuford on an arsenal of ethnic instrumentation (trichordo bouzouki, balamas, worry bead percussion on whiskey glass and more), acoustic/electric guitars along with a heavy dose of studio trickery and his at times treated vocals to conjure something quite unlike anything else I've heard from him. It's clear Alvarius B. doesn't have a monopoly on odd reinterpretations of Mediterranean folk music, though "Wildlife Preserve" actually does sound kind of like a D. Chares Speer song. Shuford plays and mixes everything himself, and surprise, surprise, this one gets the highest recommendation for fans of the weird. Extra bonus points for the most excellent song-by-song notations by Mr. Shuford himself.

Besides sporting the eeriest cover art of 2011, Leaving the Commonwealth gets my vote for the most rewarding album from The Helix so far. Shuford's vocals are crisp and upfront, and his band plays with a loose grooving cohesion that would make giants of the fusion enthralled '70s blush in envy. The Grateful Dead, Flying Burrito Brothers, even The Allman Brothers could be dropped in the influence pot, but I personally like this more than I ever liked the Allmans. What ya get is rollicking country rock mixed to fluid post boogie perfection. There's even a couple nods to Zeppelin and UK prog folk thrown into the mix, but deceptively so. You can tell these guys have been playing together for years and have just really cohered as a jamming unit. Of particular note is ivory tickler Hans Chew's work on the keys -- he dropped a beautiful solo record last year for Three Lobed which is long gone on vinyl but still available on MP3 -- but that in no way defers from the magnificence mustered here by the rest of The Helix.

Elklink Rise of Elklink (Kye) LP - Here is a truly fascinating document from the duo of Adris Hoyos (Harry Pussy) and Graham Lambkin (The Shadow Ring), originally issued for the Polyamory tape label almost 10 years ago. Utilizing nothing but the sounds of their voices and various effects, these two weave a concoction of unsettling surrealist rumbles and whispers that starts out like some perverse Dadaist spoken word dissertation on bodily corrosion -- "Tension Tec" -- before slowly dissolving into a blur of gastric groans and creeping, hissing tones that become all encompassing and completely entrance as the duo plays with volume and tonality, yielding all manner of textual sonic mayhem. Words can't really do it justice, but the results are highly recommended all the same, and it's actually a lot of fun once you get past the initial shock of the opening. Somewhere between field recordings of the jungle at night, a whistling tea kettle and the inner workings of the human digestive tract.

Alastair Galbraith Mass (Siltbreeze) LP - So nice to see Alastair Galbraith busy composing and releasing songs again, as he's one of the most compelling tunesmiths on the planet, offering up a strange stew of tonal abstraction and lonesome outsider folk gems that strike at the heart of human sadness with an authentic voice and a soulful piety that's all but absent in modern music today. Sure you hear something approximating Galbraith's heart in larger scale releases, but so much of it's for show and clearly designed to rake in the dough, while Galbraith continues to work his magic seemingly in a void down in Dunedin, New Zealand, indifferent to whether anyone is paying attention or not. He weaves spectral elegies for heroes fallen -- the brief hypnosis of "Poem for Moondog" -- and timeless anthems for a broken world -- "Money is So Sad" -- while the rest of the world keeps on barreling down the tracks, oblivious to the bridge out sign directly ahead.

Mark McGuire Living With Yourself (Mego Editions) CD - One half of Emeralds gets down to business on the solo tip with this haunted exercise in guitar and field recordings which alternates between vibrant guitar pieces, such as the exquisite opener, "The Vast Structure of Recollection", going from acoustic strums to massed distorted squalls before settling into a mantra of looping Riley-esque formations, and on to the bubbling post Frippian tone spheres of "Moving Apart". Mix in some field recordings (which appear to be taken from McGuire's own domestic space and family gatherings), actual melody, composition, and even crashing percussion on closer "Brothers (For Matt)" and you've got yourself an undeniably human slice of modern psychedelia for lovers of guitars, noise and nostalgia the world over.

Peaking Lights 936 (Not Not Fun) LP -- Aaron Coyes and his partner Indra Dunis -- who just welcomed their own little ball of light into the world -- have dropped their dub psych magnum opus with 936, the second official Peaking Lights album (third if you include Clearvoiant, more an odds and sods type collection), which continues the great illumination through electronic sounds, monolithic bass and beats. Dunis's vocals come more to the fore here as the duo marries their trademark minimalist electro song craft with dubbed out percussive thwacks and bumps with results that fall somewhere between mid '70s Eno and the Lee "Scratch" Perry if such a collaboration had actually dropped on Xpressway in the mid 90s. Ultimate dance party space groove for head-jammers and space-dwellers alike and destined to be thee party record of 2011.

Vincent Over The Sink Dust Studies (Kye) 7" - Another brilliant excavation from Graham Lambkin's Kye label, Vincent Over the Sink is an obscure Australian duo I know nothing about that specializes in a hazy minimal abstract dream music across the 4 tracks found on this 7", striking a delicate balance between detached melody and dissonant otherworldly visitations that land somewhere between early Dead C, Omit and Lambkin's own outer communiques with his brilliant Shadow Ring project, but somehow Vincent Over the Sink manages to be deeper, stranger and more lost than all of the above. How is this even possible, ye wonder? Buy this 7" and find out. Highly recommended indeed!

Volcano the Bear Hotbites Live At the Nightlight (Blastocoel Sound) LP - The latest live album from the always stellar Volcano the Bear is simply a stunner and easily rivals their recent studio output in range and execution, and performance wise it just may do the studio albums one better with its white hot spontaneity, which begs the question why, oh why was this fantastic package limited to just 100? Soooo glad I scored a copy as its many revelations have left my mind stretched, poked and kneaded like fine dough. A masterpiece, me thinks, and if you haven't procured your copy by now, better luck next time, although it looks like Time Lag may still have a few copies.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

This Is My Music: Vol 8, Part 1

Chris Cogburn / Bonnie Jones / Bhob Rainey Arena Ladridos (Another Timbre) CD - Arena Ladridos is one of the many artifacts I picked up at the Nmperign show that happened last March in Oak Cliff. These two compositions were captured in Austin and Marfa, Texas by the trio of Cogburn (percussion), Jones (electronics) and Rainey (alto sax). As with Rainey and Cogburn's other ensemble work, the trio merges ambient noise and instrumentation, composition and improvisation so deftly that it's all but impossible to tell where one ends and the other begins. Arena Ladridas is about dissolving these boundaries in the same way that wind and erosion eventually break down rock, plant and bone into fine grains of dust. It's a gradual process. The same could be said for the sonics explored across these two extended pieces. "Govalle" is the quieter of the two with Cogburn's ringing bells and abstract percussion bumping up against Rainey's wind and Jones' electronic bleeps and bloops to reveal haunted portals of textural fascination, while "Marfa" builds to something more piercing and atonal as the album's title would suggest. It honors its namesake as Marfa is both a landscape marked by intangible, breathing lifeforms but also harsh and uninviting as only the high deserts of West Texas can be. This one works very well at louder volumes for deep immersion but is also perfect turned down low for reading, writing or folding laundry.

The Doozer Great Explorers (Siltbreeze) CD - The Doozer is a young fellow from Cambridge, UK who clearly has an affinity for Syd Barrett and off kilter home recording, but like Alastair Galbraith and Mudboy, he manages to take that inspiration and recast it as something fairly unique and playfully his own. Great Explorers sneaks up on you and digs into your skin like a small woodland creature you've mistakenly fed cheese nips when you knew you shouldn't have. Its mix of tinkering percussion, acoustic/electric guitars, vintage synths, pipe organ, effects and Simon Doozer's own eccentric vocals are undeniably charming and affecting with a sound palette that's alternately hummable pop and outer collage.

Ensemble Economique Psychical (Not Not Fun) LP - One of two EE LP's dropped in 2010 (the other Standing Still, Facing Forward on Amish sold out at the source, as did this one, but you can bet your original private press copy of JD Emmanuel's Wizard that both are still haunting your favorite mail order catalogs if you do the digging). Ensemble Economique is Brian Pyle of The Starving Weirdos in Holger Czukay solo drone abstraction mode, and Psychical is a fine mind-bending slab of avant-strangeness, honoring its vintage video box art cover with old school scifi themes rubbing up against Delia Derbyshire synth splay, percussive clatter and Tom Carter's fuzzed out string bending to conjure haze-inducing portals to other worlds that are weird enough to disorient without ever being harsh or unsettling. Psychical easily rivals the best The 'Weirdos have dropped (including their stellar live album with Tom Carter and Shawn McMillen) and is the best thing released in '10 that I didn't actually hear in '10.

Chris Forsyth Paranoid Cat (Family Vineyard) LP - Hot on the heels of the most excellent Pestilence & Joy LP with his stumbling groan behemoth, Peeesseye, Philly's Chris Forsyth steps out from the shadows once more with the enchanting Paranoid Cat. I've really only just gotten wise to this guy's solo work in the least couple years, but it seems there's no better time than the present, as this fine four track platter proves, Forsyth's sonic fruits are ripe for pickin'. Each one of these groove flights are wonders of ecstatic post roots / Velvets evocation. Whether zoning in on the side long building space raga break-through of the title suite or cutting loose and shimmying to the Canned Heat/John Lee Hooker trance of "Pharmacist Boogie (For Jack)", Forsyth and his band -- including the great Hans Chew -- strike a compelling mix between tightly wound blues and loose abstraction with an appropriately baked tone that fits in well with today's current crop of unclassifiable roots revisionists.

Jason Lescalleet Music for Magnetic Tape (Arbor) C20 - Music for Magnetic Tape offers a stellar 20 min drift of aural hypnosis from this master of music concréte and tape loops. Side A is a wash of effected piano strikes dispersed with bleary feedback runs that crashes into a wall of jarring distortion like a burst of shattered glass before faintly drifting into entropic dust and a few more well placed piano strikes. Side B is the faint resonance of said explosion, a murmur of enveloping cosmic hum before the final chilling fade. An elegiac piece that would fit perfectly over a collapsing Tarkovsky dream sequence.

OoioO Armonico Hewa (Thrill Jockey) CD - There's some question as to the proper pronunciation of the name of Yoshimi P-we's Boredoms offshoot, something of a spastic cross between the The Slits and Fela Kuti's Africa 70. It's tempting to sound it out in three continuous syllables, but apparently it's said more like the ladies sing in their wordless song mantras: o-o-i-o-o. This actually makes sense if you're in any way familiar with the strange other worldly vocal histrionics that OoioO specializes in. Armonica Hewa, their 6th full length, is a freakbeat blastoff from the opening note that really hits its stride by the time of the jungle squawking of third song "Irorun" -- its "oooahhhhs" over King Crimson guitars, random key strikes and weirdly timed percussion coming to the fore. The new age synth sound-bath opening of "Ulda" is a slight reprieve before exploding into glorious solar siren song and settling into a mellow groove that alternates between tribal percussion and modulated synth whoosh. Besides that, at only 90 seconds, the glorious "Hewa Hewa" might just be the best thing on here.

Weird Weeds Help Me Name Melody (Autobus) LP - This Austin ensemble hits their stride on their third long player which sounds less oblique and more hummable than previous efforts, and that doesn't bother this listener one iota. Imagine a world where Slint never died, joined forces with Gastr Del Sol and left the gothic nightmares and Dadaist word-strings behind in favor of sheer mood and mesmerizing pop musical interplay. Easily their best, most infectious platter to date. No pretension, uplifting and refreshingly out of step with so much of what's going on today. What art rock's s'posed to sound like. Also, coolest hedonistic album cover award of 2010 right here, folks!