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!