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.


poppyallgood said...

Exceptional selection of rekkids this time, bub. Spot-on descripts as always.

gd said...

thanks for the good words!

FYI, no computer music on any of the tapes you reviewed! strictly modular synth explorations - lots of live / improvised recordings then edited together over many months (except for full spectrum)

L said...

Thanks for the clarification, Greg. I'll just say I was using "computer music" purely in a metaphorical or descriptive sense in this case.