Sunday, June 27, 2010

let the drones of summer begin

Liz Allbee -- THESEUS VS. [Resipiscent]

This is weird, weird, weird -- you have been warned. The unclassifiable sound and bizarre antics of eccentric Berliner Allbee's second release call to mind the whacked-out experimentation of Sun City Girls and Caroliner. Field recordings of everything from barn animals, coughing, waterworks, and other sounds too mutant to readily classify segue into actual snippets of music (extremely strange music, to be sure, but still... music), resulting in a collection of unusual soundscapes and musical pieces broken up by all sorts of sonic weirdness. The instrumention on this album encompasses everything from acoustic guitar and woodwinds to pulsing sheets of electronica and the occasional blast of noise; this is work that hopscotches freely across genres, sometimes mating very different elements in exotic ways. The effect of the entire album is that of a cut-up soundscape that occasionally incorporates recognizable passages of music but is otherwise mainly abstract, informed by electronics and field recordings. Disparate elements are assembled in baroque compositions that owe more to the genre of musique concrete than anything else. Good, yes, but very weird. (Did I mention it was weird?) The disc comes in a handmade box with a silk-screened cover, limited to 350 copies.

Liz Allbee
Resipiscent

The Body -- ALL THE WATERS OF THE EARTH TURN TO BLOOD [At A Loss Recordings]

This is certainly a departure; the band is heavy enough to be on a label devoted to sludge and stoner rock, but opens with a nearly ten-minute choral piece with vocals provided by the Assembly of Light Choir. Of course, since the band is from Providence, RI (home to an assload of noise-rock bands and just a spawning ground for much musical weirdness in general) and has members from / ties to bands like Made In Mexico, Otesanek, Bonedust, and others, it's only inevitable that the beautiful vocalizing will eventually give way to something grimmer, and sure enough, it does -- before "A Body" ends, the choir is vocalizing over one of the heaviest and most doom-laden rhythm sections ever. Seriously, the bass sounds more like the sampled sound of a slow-motion earthquake and the drummer sounds like Thor beating mountains into submission with his magic hammer. "A Curse" is driven by rhythms and grinding electronic sounds reminscent of Swans circa GREED, but layers of droning synth and other sounds create a surprisingly rich and harmonic sound of startling beauty -- all of which is pulverized into dust when the mammoth bass and guitar sound comes in, accompanied by horrific vocals. More unusual vocal stylings crop up in "Empty Hearth" -- in fact, the startling vocal presence of the AOL choir, often acting as a counterpoint to the terrifying sounds of the band's regular vocalist, are a significant component in the sound of this album. "Even Saints Knew Their Hour of Failure and Loss" is probably the closest the album comes to a traditional doom track (albeit one leavened with gospel-style vocals); it opens with forbidding bass from another dimension and when the percussion shows up, it's of the decidely slo-mo variety. Once the choir drops out, the track gets even heavier, becoming so sonically dense that you wonder how the studio kept the room from caving in while it was being recorded. The rest of the album is every bit as heavy and unrelenting, with the experimental vibe shining through on occasion (catch the enigmatic sampled conversation running through "Song of Sarin the Brave," for instance), culminating in the fourteen-minute epic "Lathspell I Name You," a sonic implosion that seeks to drive nails into your skull. Rooted in the intensity and experimental nature of bands like Swans and Khanate, the band combines an unusual combination of sounds with excellent songwriting and heavier-than-lead playing skills to create one of the most unique (and supremely heavy) doom albums since Khanate called it quits. Prepare yourself for a blood-soaked battle between beauty and violence. Guess which one wins.

The Body
At A Loss Recordings

COMA -- BIG WORDS [Edgetone Records]

COMA stands for California Outside Music Associates, which is as apt a description as any for this noisy experimental trio (John Vaughn on sax, voice, and electronics, Dax Compise on percussion, and Zach Silver on electric violin and theremin). The seven tracks on this album are a series of improvised explorations -- percussion-heavy, free-form jazz type explorations -- made even more interesting by the heavy use of efx and gadgets. Many of the sounds in "Veridical," for instance, are routed through an extremely grainy fuzz box, giving the improv piece a texture more akin to noise than free jazz. "Nankeen" is a bit closer to the usual improv sound, dominated by droning, squealing sax and circular percussion. The rest of the album is largely split between more traditional-sounding improv pieces ("Folketymology," "Whydah") and efx-driven pieces ("Scaphoid,""Rectrix"). On "Perambulate," the sax is put through a wah-wah to amazing effect; this is possibly the highlight of the album. The album overall is an intriguing document of the possibilities inherent to adding and subtracting electronic efx from improvised pieces, and a highly energetic and entertaining one at that.

COMA
Edgetone Records

Dead Letters Spell Out Dead Words -- NO WORDS cs [Land of Decay]

The band with the long, unwieldy name is the work of Swedish musician / designer Thomas Ekelund, and this release combines tracks from two obscure and limited releases now out of print. The tracks were originally recorded in 2009 and this version includes artwork by Terence Hannum. The A-side consists of two variations of "No Words"; the first is a pensive, minimal track strongly reminiscent of early Tangerine Dream, featuring a melancholy synth loop that is eventually joined by repetitive bass lines and spare percussion. The synth loop drops out halfway through and is replaced by cryptic rattling noises buried under icy keyboard drones, until a percolating bass line fades in, accompanied by a chorus of strident drones. The end comes via a simple but dramatic chord progression on the keyboard that continues even as everything else dies away. The second version is a radically remixed version that reduces the track to an even more minimal bedrock of drone over a muted rhythmic loop. Over time the loop grows louder and more prominent as the harmonic tone of the background drone becomes denser, but even at its apex of activity, this is still a pretty subdued drone track. The flip side, "Forget Forgive Regret," is just under twenty minutes and is a much darker and brooding piece of work. A slow but persistent rhythm that sounds like a distant gong reverberating in the far corner of a darkened dungeon forms the backbone of the track as a black drone hums in the background until disturbing noises begin to creep in, like the sound of metallic roaches attempting to escape from captivity. The parade of incidental sound continues, but the distant, booming rhythm and near-static death drone remain the primary forces at work, giving the track a desolate sound. It does get louder and the drone more harsh toward the end, but mostly the track is about distance, simplicity, and subdued sound. Land of Decay deserves a commendation for making this obscure but potent work available to an American audience, even if the pressing is limited to only 100 copies.

Dead Letters Spell Out Dead Words
Land of Decay

Dromez -- GRL ITZ FR U [self-released]

Oooo, such crunchy, crunchy noise...! Liz Gomez uses some archaic, fucked-up equipment and gruesome amplification to create seriously aggressive sheets of sound. The eight tracks on this ridiculously limited (ten copies) cd-r are a series of manifestations of sick-sounding noise spirits. The tracks are not terribly long -- the disc's entire running time is just under twenty minutes -- but they're potent, and despite being composed of mechanical-sounding drones, harsh tones, and other sonic weirdness, they're not just relentless, wall of noise exercises in sonic violence. There are some seriously loud moments, and plenty of grim sonic action all over the place, but the tracks are focused even when enveloped in chaos. Unlike some noise albums, concepts don't wear themselves out here; ideas are not beaten to death through endless repetition. The songs remain short and to the point, while the sound is generally complex and abrasive. This is good stuff. Too bad the disc is so limited. Perhaps someone out there will hear it and be impressed enough to put it out in a bigger run. In the meantime, there's plenty of listening available at the Myspace page.

Dromez

Andre Foisy -- AFTER THE PROPHECY cs [Land of Decay]

If the name is unfamiliar, it's because you haven't been paying enough attention: Foisy is one-half of the godlike Chicago noise duo Locrian. This cassette, on the band's own label, features two tracks (repeated on both sides), and the big surprise is that these tracks are less about noise and more about psychedelia and drone. The first track, "The Great Disappointment," opens with the looped sound of neo-folk guitar over a background of subterranean drone. It's a fairly static track in that it doesn't really develop much, but it's also not long enough for that to become a problem, and in the meantime it certainly sounds swell. The rest of the side is taken up by the considerably longer (21 minutes or so) "Call to Clarion: Flee That Flood," which opens with trancelike harmonic bass lines and complementary guitar arpeggios and gradually but inexorably expands into a series of drone-heavy movements. At one point the drone action is augmented by peals of noise like a whirling army of knives, but eventually that noise is transformed into something considerably more appealing, a sound rich in harmonic overtones. The bass-heavy rumble that kicked off the track returns long enough to usher in a new direction to the track, one in which the drone becomes more subdued and the guitar action more minimalist... then the looped neo-folk guitar returns, accompanied by a strong drone that rises and falls, then drifts into muted, jangling movements of delayed guitar lines and more haunting drones that eventually dwindle away into nothingness. Unlike Locrian, this material is more meditative than soul-crushing, but it's every bit as brilliant as the work of that band. It's also limited to 250 copies, so you should move on it.

Andre Foisy
Land of Decay

Generalissimo -- WESTERN MEDICINE [Arbeit Macht Dinge]

They use the same lineup format favored by the Band of Susans (three guitars, bass, and drums) but sound more like Breaking Circus -- now that's an Oakland band, all right. California's funkiest city (touched by the hand o' Sun Ra, whose SPACE IS THE PLACE film was shot partially in Oakland) is currently home to a number of bands mixing industrial, metal, punk, pop, and more in weird and interesting ways. Including former members of Angel Hair, Boyjazz, and Stay Gold Pony Boy, the quintet's sound is built around catchy hooks and a rhythm section that encompasses both Devo's quirky motion and Killing Joke's intensity; catchiness abounds, and the band's energy recalls the golden days of hardcore and punk. The sound is something far stranger, even when it's super-catchy. At times they sound like a futuristic rockabilly band. What sets them apart from a lot of clever indie bands is their enormous energy and impressive talent for catchy riffs. Tracks like "Pale Mercy," "Winter Along the Sava," and "Helicopter" abound with pop hooks imbedded in performances more rooted in punk's primal fury. All the material is presented with plenty of energy and chops, and while there are moments that recall other bands (especially Melvins, Devo, and Dead Kennedys), the totality of their approach is reasonably fresh and certainly engaging. They also get lots of bonus points for their totally devolved, PIL by way of Gary Numan deconstruction of the Ramones classic "Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World." You should also visit their website, which is unspeakably cool. The attention to detail they lavished on the website is every bit as present on their album. (Which is available in 12" vinyl, by the way.)

Generalissimo
Arbeit Macht Dinge

Tommy Jay and Mike Rep -- THE GRIM-O COMIX SEQUENCE lp [Columbus Discount Records]

How behind am I on reviews, you ask? This is how behind I am: in the month or so since the latest dispatch from CDR arrived here, this fine record -- limited to 500 copies, 100 of them on green vinyl -- has already sold out. OOPSIE! So I guess the review you're about to read is sort of, technically speaking, kind of irrelevant, but they sent the LP and it's a fine piece of work plus was probably real expensive to send (death to the postal maggots and their eternally rising prices!), so I'm gonna review it anyway, just because that's how we roll around here, okay? Besides, you never know, they might reissue it and then how would you know all the stellar reasons you should glom it, right? Right? Yo? YO? Ahhhh, WHATEVER....

Anyway. The album. You want to know what it's all about. Well, here's the deal -- it's a rock opera of sorts that Tommy Jay and Mike Rep recorded in 1974 (!!!) shortly after graduating from high school. (Check out the back cover for their high school photos and see just how young they were.) Themes on the record include slaving for minimum wage, not getting laid, bumming out over the harsh realities of joining the adult world, and the belated discovery of their mortal insignificance in an indifferent world -- you know, that kind of thing. The material on this album was originally thought to be lost, but Mike Rep discovered the reel to reel tapes in a box in 2009 and dutifully reconstructed the album from said tapes. The age of those tapes and the indifferent nature of their storage means there are periodic glitches in the sound -- drop-outs, wow and flutter, and so on -- especially on most of the first side, which was mastered from third-generation cassette tapes. Is it lo-fi? Oooo, it is so lo-fi it will make your heart (and maybe your delicate ears) ache. The warped sound only adds to the poignancy of these tracks, and if you can't deal with that, you don't deserve to hear anything this label puts out anyway. Rep and Jay both contribute hilarious liner notes that leave no doubt as to the offhand, punked-out origins of the songs, some of which feature Rep playing a baritone ukelele upside down. (He also reveals that Lou Reed was a huge influence on the album's sound, an influence that Jay also cops to, and the influence is indeed evident, which makes plenty of sense given the period when the tracks were recorded.) The sound of the album could best be described as Lou Reed and Bob Dylan playing garage rock on cheap acoustic (and occasionally electric) guitars, recorded on primitive equipment in somebody's garage. (In truth, most of the recordings were made in the basement where Jay's parents lived, with the remainder captured on tape in the apartment they shared while Jay was attending Ohio State.) For a couple of novices, the songs are surprisingly solid, and since this serves as a starting point for the career trajectory of both players, it's interesting purely as an archival document -- you can trace many elements of their current styles back to the sound they were grappling with on this album, especially in their experiments with reverb and delay on some songs. Is it the greatest thing either one has ever done? Well, probably not, but it's still a lot better than you have any right to expect from a couple of freshly-minted high school graduates in the Watergate era. It's definitely worth hearing, and absolutely essential if you're already fans of either man. Better hope CDR springs for a second pressing.

Mike Rep
Tommy Jay
Columbus Discount Records

Neil Jendon -- MALE FANTASIES cs [Land of Decay]

Formerly a member of bands like Catherine and Reliable Sound Products, Jendon gets his solo gig on here with five tracks of drone noise created using a Korg Lambda, Doepfer modular synth, and various efx pedals. The first salvo of sound here appears in the form of gritty clouds of dark drone on "Red Nurse," where the sonic terrain is dominated by various buzzing noises in the foreground and bleak synth washes in the background. This track segues seamlessly into "Vigilante!" and "Red Nurse" -- so seamlessly, in fact, that the entire side appears to be one long track -- and the ice-like synth drone acts as the anchor for all the buried sonic effluvia happening around and beneath that sound. Side two of the cassette opens in a similar vein with "Sister, Impure," where there's more endlessly bleak synth in the background and a swirling miasma of muted, dirty noise upfront, a sound that manages to be subdued and edgy at the same time. By the time the track segues into "Pillars Before the Sea," the synths have burned off, leaving only the swirling noise element; then light synth drones begin to creep back in, steadily growing stronger and more prominent as the noise recedes into the background. At last the synths turn into a steady hum like the sound of a blown-out amplifier as warbling noises waft up from nowhere and mutate into the sound of UFOs hovering overhead, waiting to descend and lay waste to an unsuspecting world. Dark, brooding, eerie stuff, and limited to 100 copies.

Neil Jendon
Land of Decay

Marinos Koutsomichalis -- MALFUNCTIONS [Agxivatein]

Greek sound artist Koutsomichalis is a conceptualist, a designer of sound installations that function to present the public with sounds linked to intellectual ideas, and on this disc he is concerned mainly with what he calls "obscure or unwanted sounds" -- that is, sounds that result from malfunctioning equipment. Amplifier hum, feedback, static, and other sounds that one would normally attempt to avoid in the usual application of sound generation equipment are the focus of his work here, with each of the seven untitled tracks devoted to some different aspect of broken sound. Don't let the academic-sounding nature of this outing fool you, though; there's some high-quality noise on here that can be appreciated even without getting into the intellectual end of things. This is a sound experience with appeal to both experimental conceptualists and noiseheads lusting for harsh tones. It's also nice to hear from Greece, an under-represented country in the kingdom of noise. This first edition is limited to 72 copies, incidentally.

Marinos Koutsomichalis
Agxivatein

Marinos Koutsomichalis -- PERIPATETIC [Agxivatein]

This Greek label specializes in promoting the work of sound installations and organized sound germane to a post-modern aesthetic, and this disc -- by the label's founder -- definitely fits the bill. The title is an adjective for "traveling from place to place," an appropriate title for a collection whose theme is the sound of the city and composed of field recordings made in Amsterdam, Antwerp, Athens, Berlin, Brussels, Gent, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Vienna, and York. The sounds are presented almost entirely in their original recordings -- post-production editing was limited largely to trimming out some portions spoiled by overmodulation and handling noises -- and it makes an entertaining guessing game to try and figure out which sounds originated in which cities. The sounds themselves consist mainly of conversations, street noises, transportation sounds, and the usual sonic detrius present in any major city. It would be interesting to know how he chose to layer the field recordings, for despite the wide variety of sounds and the vastly different character of each city, the single forty-plus minute track has a distinctly composed feel; it flows like a cryptic travelogue that reinforces the idea that cities of all nations are united through certain sounds. No indexing has been provided as a deliberate method of thwarting any attempt to associate certain sounds with certain cities, and indeed the origin of the sounds on this disc are a discreet mystery. This is the first edition, limited to 180 copies.

Marinos Koutsomichalis
Agxivatein

Kozeljnik -- DEEPER THE FALL [Paragon Records]

I didn't even know Serbia had a black metal scene, did you? Nevertheless, it is apparently true, for this duo hails from Belgrade, and their chilling brand of violent, depressive black metal is pretty happening. Think Enslaved, Mayhem, Corpus Christi, and so on -- this is aggressive stuff, with plenty of blastbeat drumming, barbed-wire guitar histronics, and possessed vocal shrieking. In its slow moments there's a hint of progressive sound akin to prime Bethlehem, but the rest of the time the sound is like a knife in your face. There's nothing terribly innovative happening here, but the production is good, they burn with fearsome energy, and their chops are pretty spot-on. There's also enough variety happening in the six tracks to keep things interesting, even if they frequently wear their influences on their chain-mail sleeves. They certainly have the antagonistic hate vibe down cold, especially on the mid-tempo "Void to Final Consumption," one of the heaviest and most melodic tracks on the album. Bonus points for the exquisitely lo-fi intro and crazed tremelo picking on the title track.

Kozeljnik
Paragon Records

Lid Emba -- TERMINAL MUSE: RED [Stickfigure Records]

This cd-ep is the first is the first installment of the "Terminal Muse" trilogy (with each installment limited to 100 copies). Mastered for maximum unease by James Plotkin, the five tracks of dark psychedelic noise on this album are a towering testament to the healing power of efx abuse and truly peculiar ideas about juxtaposing certain sounds and patterns in eccentric methods. On "Oblivion Core Decoy," galloping percussion and bold beats generate compelling rhythms in a haze of electronic frippery; at the end, pounding beats and bleats of manipulated sound blur into highly irregular rhythms on " Terminal Muse" only to revert back to insistent beats and bizarre sounds. The other three songs are every bit as starting and otherworldly. The ep's short length coupled with high-quality songs leaves a most favorable impression. This is a high-quality mix of drone, dance beats, noise, and improvisational composition -- all of which makes it sound far more formal than it really is. You don't need to know how the inner parts work here to enjoy the results.

Lid Emba
Stick Figure Records

Ludicra -- THE TENANT [Profound Lore Records]

This San Francisco band featuring members of many other bands (including Impaled, Hammers of Misfortune, and Agallaoch) has been getting plenty of attention lately, much of it due to the release of this brilliant album, their fourth full-length release and first on Profound Lore. The attention is well-deserved -- this is one of the two best metal albums I've heard so far this year (the other is the new one from Burzum, if you're curious), and surprisingly accessible for something so fearlessly unorthodox and filled with soul-crushing heaviness. Ludicra started out as a black metal band, but its sound has expanded and grown over the course of the past few albums, and here reaches full flower as a sound that seamlessly integrates elements from black metal, punk, goth, and prog into a dark and complicated aesthetic. The seven long tracks on the album unfold in movements that encompass many styles, but the band's songs are more than just a bunch of complicaed riffs strung together over some heavy beats. The structure of these songs is one in which there's plenty of density to their sound, but also plenty of space, with elements (riffs, beats, vocals, etc.) staggered in strategic fashion to raise the intensity and complexity of the songs while retaining a simple, heavy core. The band's sound is heavy but full of nuance (check out the beautiful acoustic guitar passage over some minimal but highly interesting beats at the end of "The Undercaste," or the hypnotic ping-pong guitars that open the title track and the increasingly insistent beat that ends the song), and the presence of two radically different vocalists -- one raw and horrifying, the other beautiful and ethereal -- adds yet another layer of complexity to the sound. Part of what makes this album so great is that the songs have obviously undergone a long period of refinement; the arrangements (and the core sound) are baroque enough to qualify as black metal, but the other elements worked into the sound and the songwriting style are far closer to the heyday of progressive rock. Prog rock was rarely, if ever, this heavy, though (especially where "In Stable" is concerned, the album's heaviest and most unquestionably full-on metal track), and unlike a lot of prog rock, here the excesses have all been stripped away. Everybody into progressive metal should hear this.

Ludicra
Profound Lore Records

Melvins -- THE BRIDE SCREAMED MURDER [Ipecac Recordings]

Even for the Melvins, kings of all that is weird, this is a deeply strange piece of work. Since the departure of bassist Kevin Rutmanis and the addition of the swell duo Big Business, the reconfigured band -- now featuring two drummers -- has steadily staked out a position deeper and deeper out in left field. Sometime over the past couple of records, King Buzzo apparently discovered that his new bandmates were swell singers, and their experiments with different lead singers and extended harmonies reach their apex here; from the crazed martial call and response bellowing on opener "The Water Glass" to the eccentric vocalizations on "PG x 3" (taken from the swell movie THE PROPOSITION), this album is an orgy of massed vocals. Then there's the increasingly complex and out-there percussion; now on their third album with two drummers, they have grown used enough to the arrangement to grow incredibly bold, and the rhythms and twisted time signatures here are definitely the strangest they've ever attempted. Now that I have you sweating over the idea that they've crossed over into jazz-fusion territory, let me reassure you that the mighty, meaty guitar riffs for which they're know are still entirely present. They aren't the dominant feature this time around, though -- percussion and vocals are definitely the stars in this production (which, incidentally, also includes some synth doodling here and there, but that's not so new, as they've been sneaking that in for a while now). Buzz has been gushing in interviews lately that he thinks this is the band's best record, and I think he might be right; it's certainly one of their most unusual outings, and a not so subtle reminder that they are probably America's best (or at the very least, most unpredictable) rock band happening now. Their deeply perverse and almost totally unrecognizable retooling of the Who's "My Generation" just adds to the whacked-out vibe. You need this. Let me repeat: YOU NEED THIS.

Melvins
Ipecac Recordings

Ava Mendoza -- SHADOW STORIES [Resipiscent]

The latest example of the kind of whole-grain musical goodness to come from Oakland, CA is solo guitarist Ava Mendoza, whose debut album frequently channels the spirit of eccentric avant folk legend John Fahey. Like Fahey, she mixes intriguing, even inspired covers ("The Tennessee Waltz," "Goodnight Irene," "Kiss of Fire," and two different variations of the Skip James classic "I'm So Tired") with tunes of her own, all performed in a style that begins with well-executed and traditional classical guitar stylings and ends with mutant experiments in effects abuse and avant leanings. The earlier tracks on the album are steeped in a traditional style executed with dazzling aplomb, but by the fifth track, "Don't Pity Me (Up In Flames)," more unusual elements begin creeping into the mix (in this case, the emergence of ghostlike reverb abuse). Then we come to "The Furious Harpy Who Followed Me Everywhere," a track whose muted, kaleidoscopic sounds and reverb-tinged sound effects would not have sounded out of place on Fahey's final album, RED CROSS -- this is the point where things start moving seriously into experimental territory, as the track eventually evolves into a series of dark ambient drones and a dirty psychedelic interpretation of classical technique. The descent into all that is avant continues over the rest of the album -- "In My Dreams," for instance, is a sonic abstraction dipped in musique concrete and leavened with pealing, squealing guitar runs before settling into a more pensive, ambient mood -- while the final two tracks return to a more accessible sound. The material is well-chosen, the playing excellent, and it's heartening to see that the dizzying love affair between the avant garde and acoustic guitar that began with John Fahey is not going to die out anytime soon. Devotees of Fahey and Jack Rose (RIP) will want to hear this.

Ava Mendoza
Resipiscent

Mister Vapor -- LIGHT AND VAPOR [Black Drone]

Thank Ra for the Black Drone website, or else I never would have known what any of the titles were on this five-track album -- my promo copy tragically does not list the titles, boo hoo. But that's okay, because the tracks are all instrumental and you don't need to know the titles to appreciate the spaced-out cosmic drone at work here. This is actually the work of Thomas Park (of Mystified), featuring five tracks (three short, two quite long) that began life as field recordings and were then processed into melancholy sheets of dark ambient drone. "Light and Vapor," at less than a minute, leads into "NV," and both are mysterious sounding but subdued works; they lead into "Metrodrone," however, a nearly nineteen-minute exploration of reverb-heavy, slo-mo space drone suitable for getting your smoke on. "Risk of Delay," a four-minute interlude of flanged rhythmic oddness, breaks up the eternal crippling drone a bit before settling into the 21-minute fogbound closer, "Urban Layers." There's nothing particularly tricky or groundbreaking going on here, just plenty of deep-space drone that will take you on a long and drifting journey through the comsic side of your psyche. Definitely worth checking out if you're down with the drone.

Light and Vapor
Black Drone

Phylum Nematoda / Breakdancing Ronald Reagan / Bad Radio Aggression Disorder -- s/t 3-inch cdr [self-released]

This is a pretty cryptic collection of noise-related madness -- there's very little information regarding the bands, but as far as I can tell, the three bands here are different guises for Jonathan Cash and Bradley R. Phylum Nematoda is particularly mysterious, with no Myspace page or any other site available on the internet (at least, not that I can find); they contribute "Metaphobia," a noise opus in eight parts, which consists of dirty-sounding mechanical clanking slathered in sonic grue and lots of distortion. It's not particularly in your face, but despite the relative lack of aggression, it's definitely abrasive, with a repetitive feel that's either hypnotic or maddening, depending on how much you dig the mod, stylish sounds of Gerogerigegege. The sole (untitled) track by Breakdancing Ronald Reagan is considerably more paint-peeling, drawing as much on the pained sonic hate of Richard Ramirez and the Hatanarash as the aforementioned Japanese masturbation artists; it gyrates with morbid intensity, wallowing in a pit of rumbling noise and muffled, shrieking vocals interspersed with the sounds of unorthodox electroshock treatment. This is a fine soundtrack for beating people to death with bricks. The remaining four tracks are courtesy of Bad Radio Aggression Disorder, who appear to specialize in a virulent form of death noise disco. Burning, churning rhythms swaddled in fuzzed-out distortion and chanted (and incomprehensible) vocals create a vibe not unlike angry pygmies jabbing you with spears as war drums pound around you. It's not a painful form of sonic destruction, but it does have maximum annoyance potential, if you're looking for something to use in torturing your irritating neighbors. Swell, swell stuff, and limited to fifty copies.

Bad Radio Aggression Disorder
Breakdancing Ronald Reagan

Power Monster -- BLACK MARKET... 3-inch cdr [self-released]

Whoa daddy, this is LOUD... two tracks, just under twelve minutes, both untitled, and from the word go just a skull-pulverizing wall of grating white noise. I'm not sure what the title is (the last word is indistinct); the packaging is every bit as lo-fi as the sound, which is too bad, since this is one of the most cheerfully obnoxious-sounding noise releases I've heard in a while. This will screw your head on backwards at high volume -- it's all screeching, stuttering, howling, bulldozers falling into a minefield white noise hell, with plenty of unpredictable jump-cuts and no redeeming social value whatsoever. Ali Pharmakidis has clearly been paying attention in Noise 101. She brings the noise in a real and violent way. Viddy well, harsh noiseheads, viddy well... this is the real sound of ultraviolence. Tragically limited to 50 copies, so you probably should get up off your ass and acquire this quickly.

Power Monster

Rale / 3 Headed Monster -- s/t cs [Soundholes]

I picked up this 24-minute tape at a recent noise show at Trailer Space Records and that's about all I know on the subject; I'm not even sure which of these two bands I actually witnessed. Rale (aka solo dude Bill Hutson) opens the first side with one long track bearing the brilliant title "Someday A Gentle God Will Grant Me Ignorance" (a title Harvey Milk wishes they had thought of first, I'm sure), a floating and vibrating slice of minimalist drone / hum that burbles along in gentle, soothing fashion without ever really going anywhere. But "going somewhere" isn't the point; this is the kind of sound designed to let you zone out, and zone out you will, believe me. The sound is sort of vaguely reminiscent of early Organum; there is some variation in the sound, especially toward the end, when the floating hum gradually evolves into a gritty kind of sandpaper noise, but otherwise it's all subtle and highly enigmatic. On the flip side, 3 Headed Monster (featuring William VanGorder, of Other People's Children and Weak Sisters) lays down four tracks of screeching, hellish feedback and white noise that frequently sounds like the heavily distorted sound of someone screaming in a sonic whiteout. Actually, after the initial burst of violence, subsequent tracks are more about variations on harsh noise than exercises in pinning your ears back; on each new track VanGorder takes a different route to sonic punishment. Just when you think he's gone soft, though, he brings back the howling and screeching, significantly upping the intimidation factor at choice intervals. The decision to pair two wildly different artists on one cassette turns out to be a good one -- there's plenty of prime drone / noise meat here. Limited to 102 copies.

Rale
Soundholes

Random Touch -- THROUGH THE LENS OF THE OTHER DIMENSION [Token Boy Records]

The latest release from this incredibly prolific trio finds them in more of an ambient mood, with sixteen tracks that are largely steeped in reverb and drone, tracks that could pass for soundtrack music. At times accompanied by disembodied choral vocals, much of this music is subdued and pensive; still, there are more exotic-sounding improv workouts like "Corresponding With Emily" and the percussion-heavy "On Public Private Property" to keep things lively. The tracks here are less concerned with conventional song structure and meaning and more with the sheer abundant properties of sound -- aside from the relentless improvisation in tracks like "Opening the Box," much of what's here has obviously been processed and subjected to all sorts of interesting efx. The result is a sound that blurs the line between the outer fringes of improv and soundtrack music. The album comes across as the audio documentation of a surreal and dreamlike journey buoyed by unexpected experiments in sound and imagination. As with everything else the band has done, the sound is excellent and the playing sublime. These cryptic adventures in abstract sound will surely do wonders for those with open minds and improv-starved ears.

Random Touch
Token Boy Records

Venison Whirled -- HYRRS TO ISIS [Sister Skull Rekkids]

Seeing Venison Whirled play an excellent set recently at Trailer Space Records made me go back and root around in the review stacks and pull out this album. All of the Venison Whirled albums so far have been unified by Lisa Cameron's minimalist approach -- generally using just a resonating snare drum, some efx gadgets, and a contact mike or two -- and this is no exception. Three long tracks, all recorded by mad sound-scientist Douglas Ferguson at the Still one day in January, 2008. All live, no overdubs. This album is very much what the Venison Whirled live show sounds like. The tracks are not so much "songs" as three different improvisations featuring great, eerie feedback tones and a highly textural approach. There are long stretches of inaction (or minimal action) that allow sounds to build and develop, slowly but inexorably mutating and growing louder through the simple application of physics, before being abruptly steered in another direction. The drone-fu is often expressed through loud noise passages (like the second track, "the word," which is dominated by the wavering feedback drones of a high-pitched noise like the sound of a bug zapper turned up far too loud), but the tones and textures, even when grouped in some approximation of a movement within the piece, are controlled on the fly by canny song structuring. My favorite of the three tracks (all of which are excellent) is the final one, "speech," a totally boss concoction of wavering, shimmering noise loops fed through generous amounts of efx (including mountains of reverb and plenty of ping-pong delay) over a simple but insistent beat. It's all strong stuff, but you'll have to do some work to get your hands on a copy (getting one direct from Lisa may be your best bet). You should think about it, because iit's totally worth the effort.

Venison Whirled

Weak Sisters -- OPPOSITE / DAY cs [Throne Heap Devotional Music]

This thirty-minute cassette opens deceptively, with some (appropriately) weak-sounding minimalist noise that eventually bursts into a wall of white noise. This is good stuff, too; not particularly groundbreaking, true, but there's plenty of variety and energy to these tracks, which are very heavy on the grinding wall of noise hell. Titles like "The ants for a ship to sail the flood" and "The girl emerges through the fire ants" also hint at a sensibility that's a bit different than those of your usual harsh sound engineer. There are some really obnoxious moments here, too (such as the flanged buzzsaw sound and chorus of screeches in "... fire ants," for instance). I also like the way the tracks tend to end abruptly, without any warning whatsoever. Side two is definitely the more violent one, with plenty of apocalyptic sounds like Buicks falling down elevator shafts and mountains exploding. Aggressive and often confounding; limited to ninety copies.

Weak Sisters
Throne Heap

1 comment:

Gavin said...

Thanks for the nice words about Lid Emba's "Terminal Muse: Red"!

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