Saturday, September 1, 2012

the clearing at the end of the path is in sight.

NOTE: All good things must come to an end, and that includes this blog. After eighteen years and nearly three thousand reviews, I'm currently winding down TOTDA so I can move on to other things. This will be a controlled shutdown -- since there may be packages in the mail already, I will still accept and review anything that arrives in the mailbox through the end of September, and I intend to spend the next month or two reviewing everything that's already here. Anything that arrives after the end of September, however, won't get reviewed. The blog and its archives will still continue to exist, but will no longer be updated once all the existing reviews in progress are finished.

The reasons for the shutdown are many, but the main one is the simplest: after so many years and so many reviews, I am burned out. Rather than continuing the blog just to receive free goodies while churning out increasingly mediocre / jaded reviews, I would prefer to quit while I'm ahead. I'll miss the joy of discovering new, exciting obscurities, but I won't miss the enormous amount of time constant reviewing takes from my band and my personal life.

In the meantime, the reviews continue to roll on….

Altered States of the United Snakes -- PAGAN TIGER SWING BAND lp  [Lost Treasures of the Underworld]

Man, this is a confusing record. Because it was recorded at Columbus Discount Recordings, I thought it was on that label -- but no, it's actually on another label entirely, something that's not made terribly clear by the album's deliberately mystifying packaging and liner notes. It certainly sounds like it could be a CDR release; it's all about the lo-fi, mind-melting psychedelic garage rock experience. Just to make things more confusing, there are apparently a couple of unlisted songs (meaning, the scribbled titles on the jacket are not terribly helpful), and the songs themselves are deeply mysterious, sounding something like the product of members of an obscure religious cult jamming in the temple basement. Half the time the treble-heavy guitar sounds like a piano fed through miles of reverb, and while the bass and drums provide a regular (if sometimes ramshackle) rhythm section, the addition of "oscillating feedback" adds a spaced-out layer of sound that makes it all the more otherworldly. Even more intriguing is how the guitar and oscillator tones frequently mimic the sound of a demented gospel choir -- or maybe those really are vocals buried in the background and drenched in so much echo that they're indecipherable; certainly the liner notes appear to include lyrics, although they're written out in such a primitive form of hen-scratching that it's hard to tell. (There are clearly discernible vocals on a couple of songs, but that doesn't mean there aren't hidden ones elsewhere; this is definitely a band that likes to play it close to the vest.) I can't decide if they were high on drugs or Jesus when they made this, but either way, it's a pretty surreal listening experience, and definitely one that's probably best appreciated while under the influence. The vinyl is limited to 300 copies (100 on black vinyl, 100 on white, and 100 in fluorescent swirl), housed in hand-drawn / silk-screened jackets repurposed from old record jackets scavenged from the Used Kids Records free bin.

Book of Shadows -- COSMOS-MOTHER [Instincto Records]

More whole-grain psych goodness from Austin's Book of Shadows, and this time they're just full of surprises, starting with the opening track "Moon Pie," which features Sharon Crutcher's ethereal wailing over a cyclotron of whirling noise; until her voice came in, for a moment I thought I had dropped the wrong cd in the platter. The tracks this time around are also generally shorter, with only four of the eleven tracks over six minutes and several under three and a half minutes. (Of course, there are exceptions like "Falling Star," which is nearly 21 minutes long.)  "Your Reflection" is a bit closer to the band's usual fog-like sound, but still noisier, and even that noise is swaddled in an eternity of reverb; by the time "Stardust Faded" arrives, the band's more subdued side has returned, with gently reverberating rhythms and slow drones creating a near-pastoral ambience over which Sharon's wordless vocals float like clouds. The album's centerpiece is the aforementioned epic "Falling Star," which starts off with heavy droning noises and processed sounds that gradually grow into a swirl of eddying sonic drift coalescing around an almost inaudible hypnotic riff that could be a guitar or keyboard part before drifting off into the ether again. Other standout tracks include "Alchemist," featuring a stately bass line and counterpoint guitar, "Stringkey" with its tinkling vibes and unorthodox percussion, and "Crickets and Tree Frogs," which does a fine job of using musical idioms to recreate the sounds implied by the title. Once again Austin's best proponents of dreamlike space-rock do not disappoint.

Cheater Slicks -- GUTTURAL: LIVE 2010 lp [Columbus Discount Records]

Legendary in garage rock circles, the rocking trio known as the Cheater Slicks formed in Boston in 1987, moved to Columbus, OH in 1996, and have been rocking the house on stage and otherwise from day one. As the album's title attests, this is a live recording, with eight tracks taken from different shows throughout Columbus in 2010, but there's more to the story: this is actually the first of three volumes designed to showcase their best songs in the setting that best suits them, on stage. For a band known for its rousing live shows, it's a little surprising to discover they've never had a live album to represent that aspect of their existence, and this three-volume series is designed to correct that. Listening to the album, it's not hard to see how they gained such a legendary reputation -- this is intense stuff, raw in sound and loud in volume, that perfectly encapsulates the entire purpose of garage rock (namely, good and catchy songs played with wild abandon and a total indifference to fussiness, at a volume capable of sterilizing cockroaches). I'm not sufficiently bumped-up on the band's catalog to know how iconic these songs are to the band's established audience, but they certainly burn through all eight tracks like their pants are on fire -- these are seriously rocking tunes. Essential listening for garage rock enthusiasts and fans of high-octane, no-frills rock and roll.

Cheater Slicks -- LIVE VOL. 2: 2010 lp [Columbus Discount Records]

The second volume in the Cheater Slicks live series isn't quite as frantic as the first one, focusing more on mid-tempo ballads (or what passes for ballads in garage land, anyway), but it's still plenty intense and every bit as noisy as the previous album. The seven tracks here were taken from the same three shows recorded in 2010 that yielded the previous album's eight tracks, and thus the sound is similar (and consistently good, at least by lo-fi garage standards); the only difference here is that band generally substitutes groove for velocity this time around, giving the album a certain swing where the previous album more closely resembled hot rods racing across the desert. Which is not to say the album doesn't have its share of white-noise moments, because it does -- but even then, they're more about the primal stomp this time around. They still make a plenty ferocious racket, though, and this album is every bit as essential as the previous live collection.

(D)(B)(H) / Seeded Plain + Hal Rammel -- split lp [Gilongo Records / Friends and Relatives Records]

Enigmatic stuff from Seeded Plain (and pal Hal Rammel) and another artist even more cryptic and obscure. The (D)(B)(H) side is entitled "Bad For Business" and consists of four improv musicians -- Justin Rhody (trumpet, tapes, guitar, harmonica, cymbals), Kray Korbella (metal objects, tapes, guitar, radio), Marty Belcher (saxophones, metal), and Daniel Wick (percussion) -- making odd squiggly noises in the name of art during a session recorded on WFHB community radio in Bloomington, IN during the summer of 2010. Like most free improv records, if you aren't already down with the concept, it will sound like nothing more than a lot of random bleating and squeaking, but there's plenty to appreciate here in the tones and eccentric sounds they generate, and unlike a lot of improv bands, they leave plenty of space in their sound. There's a lot going on, sometimes even many things at once, but it rarely grows so overwhelming that you can't pick out the individual instruments, and much of the time those separate instruments are left to weave around each other rather than together, creating a sound that's persistent without being exceptionally busy. The four tracks from the flip side feature Seeded Plain (Bryan Day and Jay Kreimer) using homemade instruments and Hal Rammel using an amplified palette to create an exotic array of percussive noises and peculiar sounds. Their approach is brighter and busier, but still very much in the skronk vein; there's no readily discernible attempt at structure happening here, just a dizzying avalanche of weird sounds and tones circling around each other, like alien ships looking for a place to land. The album comes with an insert featuring liner notes and artwork, housed in a repurposed thrift-store record jacket broken apart, turned inside-out, and repainted on the cover. You can't get much more DIY than this, doom childe.

Friends and Relatives Records:

Death Factory -- MACHINEN UNTTER KONTROLLE [No Visible Scars]

Michael Krause is Death Factory, where he serves up gruesome noise soundscapes influenced as much by horror films as noisy acts like Merzbow and Throbbing Gristle. The anti-musical direction at work becomes immediately apparent with the opening title track, where ugly, distorted noises and devolved machine rhythms blast away to menacing effect, eventually morphing into caustic sounds fed through delay and repeated like a rhythm as other ugly sounds ebb and flow over the top. By contrast, the second track -- "Manifestation of Fear (3rd Version)," inspired by the film PHANTASM -- slowly builds from silence to electronic chittering noises, gradually adding machine rhythms and other ominous sounds as it builds in volume and intensity to a hypnotic climax. The rest of the tracks follow a similar theme of integrating harsh noise, sometimes violent dynamics, and machine rhythms to create unsettling soundscapes dominated by noise, overmodulated sonic excess, and abused electronics. One track of particular interest is "Demitri's Dilemma," another slow-burning buildup to excess inspired by the horror film BEYOND THE DOOR, where machine rhythms and hissing sounds fade in, augmented by sinister samples from the film and more unsettling noises of dubious origin. Seven tracks total, all of them long and filled with sonic bedevilment intent on filling your ears with filth.

Eloise + Yagihashi Tsukasa -- SCATTERED HANDS cs [Feral Tapes]

This brief cassette -- approximately seventeen minutes -- features two tracks on one side and one more on the other, all created by the duo of Bryan Day (homemade instruments, electronics) and Yagihashi Tsukasa (saxophone, voice, long strings). Like almost everything Day (the guru behind the Public Eyesore and Eh? labels) has been involved in, this is amorphous, improvised music of a deeply mysterious nature, less about songs and more about sounds and textures. Even with the instruments listed in the liner notes, it's difficult to tell what's being used to make these sounds, as the traditional instruments are employed in unorthodox ways and Day's homemade instruments are probably designed to create unfathomable sounds in the first place. The two interact in a manner that leaves lots of space between the inexplicable noises, occasionally coming together to create layered sounds but more often giving each other room to solo (in their own peculiar fashion). This sounds like it could have been an Eh? release -- it's certainly strange enough -- but there's a certain fascination for the listener in hearing these strange sounds and trying to imagine how they were created, and their compositions are nowhere near as random as one might expect from a cursory listen. Still, it will probably be a challenging listen for anyone who's not already hep to the arcane world of freely improvised music.

Bryan Day:
Yagihashi Tsukasa:
Feral Tapes:

Ehnahre -- OLD EARTH [Crucial Blast]

You'd have to figure that any band containing two members of Kayo Dot (guitarist John Carchia and bassist / keyboardist Ryan McGuire; the trio is rounded out by Ricardo Donoso on percussion and electronics) is going to be a little bit out there, and you'd be right. On their third album (and second for Crucial Blast), they take elements of death metal, doom, prog rock, black metal, and free jazz and fuse them into twisted funny-car shapes in service of compositions as eccentric as they are innovative. This is a band strange enough to hold their own on a bill with OVM (who share their avant-garde tendencies and unusual approach to sound and composition), the only other band I can think of who even come close to resembling their highly experimental sound. Consisting of the song "Old Earth" broken into four distinct parts, the album fades in with the sound of a scratchy old record and resolves in a passage of slow, almost bluesy guitar chords that grow progressively more distorted and dissonant until the band comes together as one terrifying, monolithic entity to thunder through bursts of jagged metal howling and complex beats interspersed with just the grotesque guitar chords again. Things only grow more intense from there, as the guitar switches to frenzied bursts of shrapnel accompanied by bursts of superhuman drumming and subsonic bass crunge. Part II opens with strings suitable for a jazz composition, and continues in this vein for a while with intermittent guitar motifs, focusing mainly on the tones and interplay between the guitar and strings (and later the bass); the percussion doesn't even make an appearance until about seven minutes into the song, and even then its presence is muted. Toward the end things do start to build into a more complex interplay between the instruments and the percussion does get busier, but it isn't until the arrival of Part III that they descend into pure blazing fury, doing their best to approximate a more metallic version of RED-era King Crimson, with some of the heaviest moments on the album. On Part IV, they rev up the velocity and begin to churn out absurdly complicated beats and guitar parts at a frightening speed before slowing the tempo down to a crawl and reverting back to the more spacious sound that opened the album before getting strange and heavy again. Special mention should be made of the vocals, in which harsh death-metal growling is used to spew forth from the text "Old Earth" by Samuel Beckett. If you ever wanted to hear a metal band channeling the spirits of King Crimson, Last Exit, and Sun Ra all at once, this band is for you.

Friend Collector -- S/T lp [Terra Firma Records]

Baltimore's Friend Collector bills themselves as a punk band, and there's some truth in advertising there, but what they really remind me of is the early wave of bands on Amphetamine Reptile -- they have the same kind of punishing, noisy sound and intensity as bands like Hammerhead and Unsane, and come pounding out of the gate with "Bandwagon," whose noisy guitars, loping drums, and anguished vocals are not too far removed from the sound of the early Unsane singles. A new dimension to their sound appears with the melodic bassline that leads the way in "Pinpointing the Enemy," but the paint-peeling guitar sound owes as much to early Swans as it does to anything from the AmRep catalog, while the punk credentials are established mainly through the song's lurching groove and the sense that everything might fall apart at any moment. "Arousing Prejudice" follows a similar trajectory (and the same tendency to steadily build to a white-noise frenzy), but the marginally slower tempo and simpler beat on "Least Offensive Option" give it a more doom-laden feel. On the flip side, we have two short songs and a long one; "Assertion" thrashes with far more speed and violence than anything on the first side, and "Expert Testimony" has just as much velocity but is even heavier. The epic final track "Stacking the Deck," though, dials the tempo back down and works in some excoriating white-heat tornado guitar Carolyn Master would have been pleased to toss off during her tenure in Of Cabbages and Kings. All in all it's a pretty impressive debut, although the vocalist's pained howling is almost certainly going to be a sticking point for a lot of people (even though I think they lend a chilling aura of desperation to the proceedings). The physical version of the album is limited to 300 copies and comes with splattered color vinyl, stickers, and a download code for the digital version, which is available on Bandcamp.

Funerary Call -- FRAGMENTS FROM THE AETHYR [Crucial Blast]

I don't much about this band beyond the fact that this is their fifth album (with another out recently on Malignant Records), but this is definitely right up my alley, with an eerie sound incorporating the more sinister elements of dark ambient, industrial, black metal, and noise into one hellish form of bleakly elegant audio sickness. Working in the same ballpark as bands like MZ.412, Gnaw Their Tongues, and Aghast (the brilliant Norwegian duo who released one stunning album before disbanding, not the other one), they present here three lengthy pieces featuring curdled electronics, shrieking noise, and dark ambient atmospherics, all the better to unsettle your senses. The first track, "Libation," evokes the sensation of demonic spirits rising to the midnight sky from a chasm spewing noise and dissonance; fried electronic rhythms sputter to life and die away amid the dark ambient rumble and the sound of an approaching cyclone, and while it's not ultimately as noisy as it threatens to become in some places, it certainly does an admirable job of creating an alien sense of dread. It also works nicely in setting the stage for "Fragments," the eighteen-minute centerpiece of the album, which opens with exploded glitch electronics, titanic swirling sounds, and minimal percussion so processed and heavily enveloped in reverb that it's barely recognizable as a drum sound. As the violence gradually subsides, there's a lengthy segment involving processed orchestral sounds that begin with simple melodies and grow in complexity, adding timpani and elements of noise along with droning strings until the piece comes to an abrupt halt. The final track, "Transference From the Void," opens with haunting orchestral ambience, but the drones soon become more shrill and rhythmic segments appear along with the occasional lone drum hit and, from time to time, unearthly vocals. Outside of the unexpected percussion hits and brief vocal bits, the track is largely nothing more than atmospheric ambience, but a highly chilling ambience it is. Ominous and brooding, with a feel at times (especially in the third track) that comes closer to matching the eerie sound and brilliant of that first Aghast album than anything I've ever heard.

Hellgrammite -- II cs [self-released]

Such a strange sound… this Seattle trio exist somewhere in the sonic netherworld between sludge, psychedelic black metal, and doom, and their primal ooze reminds me a lot of Same-Sex Dictator, which is not terribly surprising since the bands share a member, drummer Justin Straw. Here, Straw plays with two people instead of one (guitarist Chad Allen and bassist Ben Rainbow), but that means their sound is that much heavier and weirder, especially since Allen has a psychotronic approach to guitar that takes the innate heaviness to unexpected places. There are four songs on the cassette, and they're all as heavy as they are weird, possessed of a certain sound reminiscent of primitive black metal but shot through with plenty of psych influences (mostly due to Allen's alien guitar antics). Those who like their weirdness on the heavy side will want to check this out.

Lingua Fungi -- VIGIL FOR THE SNAIL LOVERS cs [Fort Evil Fruit]

Oh, I like this… bleak, epic sheets of drone courtesy of Finnish soundscape artist Jaakko Padatsu, who is also a member of Asio Otus. This is the band's third full-length release (along with a split with Shrine and a collaboration with Alio Die), featuring material originally recorded in 2009, and it's incredibly dark, mesmerizing stuff featuring the inventive use of acoustic instruments, field recordings, and synth programming. The opening track, "River of Remora," is a dark and minimalist keyboard drone with incidental sounds happening periodically in the background, but always in a subtle fashion that doesn't disrupt the monolithic drone; it does a beautiful job of setting the album's dark tone, which is reflected in the cassette's morose artwork (see label site for a picture of said cover). "Point to the Saints" makes more use of field recordings in the form of unsettling noises like water dripping in a sewer along with more moody drones; it segues into "Bird Mouth Trajectory," where the drone takes on a more rhythmic aspect as the found sound continues to ripple periodically in the background. The flip side is taken up by two lengthy pieces: "Vigil for the Snail Lovers," another minimalist power-drone accented by mysterious glitch noises and other incidental sounds, which bleeds into "Wave Fills the Empty Vessel," in which the sound mutates slightly but the drone still remains enormous and hypnotic. Limited to 100 copies; includes a download code.

Mascara -- BUDAPEST / CHICAGO cs [Centipede Farm]

This is a mysterious beast, approximately an hour of short, noisy vignettes loosely based (I think) on the experience of living in / traveling around Budapest and Chicago. The sound on these twelve tracks has a distinctly analog feel to them, and they are mostly collages of sound featuring field recordings, distorted electronics, analog synths used for textural purposes, and snippets of random conversation. The sounds involved vary from track to track, but they are consistently applied with intelligence and a keen understanding of dynamics, flowing from one track to the next in an organic manner that never feels forced. The sounds employed also have a distinctly urban feel that makes the album sound like a musical travelogue, with the sensation of moving from one city district to another, almost as if the entire work were simply the sounds of the two cities mentioned as heard from the open window of a moving car. There are some tracks on the flip side that are more electronic and drone-oriented, and even several with percussion that approach being actual songs (as opposed to merely a sound collage), but the album's main concern is depicting the aural sensation of moving through the urban landscape, and it carries out that theme well.


How do you know a musician is from Austin? Because he or she is in too many bands for you to count. That's how you end up with a band like Mema, which contains members of Gym Mat Nap, Aunt's Analog, Sex Bruises, Epop Nivek, Dromez, and probably a lot more I don't even begin to know about. With such a diverse group of players, you might well expect an album filled with strange sounds, and in that respect you'd be absolutely correct. There's only five tracks here, but they're good ones, filled with all sorts of electronic frippery, hypno-rhythms, dissonance, and most of all, noise, all mixed into a psychedelic mindfuck. That's especially true on "Make It So," where ass-quaking beats appear and vanish in hocus-pocus fashion over electronic bleats, hissing beds of noise, and other disorienting sounds. The same basic ingredients get disassembled and rebuilt on each track, but the constant fixtures are groovy electronic textures, hypnotic rhythms, and plenty of noise for texture. They also get an eternity of bonus points for the brilliant title "He Was A Terrible Rapist, But He Had the Softest Hands," I title I wish I had thought of for my own band. Sexy beats + groovy electrobleat + grotesque noises = all the disorienting effects of mind-altering drugs at a fraction of the cost and without a hangover afterwards. You need.

Phoned Nil Trio -- AR B OK ALOU cd + 7" + cs [Blackhouse / Colbeck Labs  FTAM, Maxcorp Industries, Rainbow Bridge, Ursa Major]

Okay, this is an interesting release: a collaboration between several labels (two of them so small and obscure they don't even have an internet presence, apparently) resulting in a "box set" that consists of a cd, cassette, and 7" single, all housed in an origami-style sleeve with inserts (the cassette shell is glued to the outside). The trio consists of Peter J. Woods (industrial percussion, vocals, pedals), Neil Gravander (tapes, vocals, turntables), and Dan Schierl (modular synth); Woods may be familiar as the mastermind behind the FEAR triple-cassette reviewed here a while ago, while the other two are probably best known for their own projects (Lucky Bone and Dan of Earth). Just to make things spicy, the different formats reveal different sides of the group: the 26-minute cassette is an exercise in lo-fi minimalism, with peculiar sounds rising intermittently to break through the tape hiss that serves as their "musical" bedrock. The sounds in question cover a lot of ground, including loops, samples, tortured instruments, and oscillators; the only thing they have in common is their brevity -- sounds and tones burst to the surface just long enough to announce themselves before disappearing again, without rhyme or reason, creating an unpredictable and surreal listening experience. The single finds them exploring a mix of harsh cut-up noise, synth-bleat rhythms, and distorted vocals, with the volume shifting from near silence to explosions of sound, while the cd is more about minimalism, fueled by small, cryptic sounds and tones connected by long stretches of silence (or near silence). Occasionally there are bursts of ear-frying noise, but mostly the cd's approach is considerably more restrained. Some of the later pieces on the disc are more chaotic and violent, through, which does wonders to keep things from growing monotonous. The cumulative effect of this three-pronged onslaught is to provide a detailed look at the band from several directions, and this sizable body of work is equally matched by the colorful packaging that cleverly manages to contain all of the media formats into one unique package. This is definitely one of the more interesting conceptual designs I've ever seen, and one of the few where the content and the packaging are equally impressive.

Pregnant Spore -- I AM IN LOVE WITH MY OWN SINS [Banned Production]

You can always count on Pregnant Spore to deliver unsettling, abstract weirdness, and this cassette is no exception. It's short -- a C15 -- but it's potent; on the A-side, "america's sweethearts part 1" offers up a mumbling conversation that sounds like the mournful ruminating of a drugged-out hippie as crunchy noise creeps up slowly but surely to obliterate it, and on the flip side of the cassette, the second part of the track is an orgy of squealing noise, glitch sounds, and other audio ugliness that eventually fades into wave-like noises made even more unnerving by erratic panning from speaker to speaker before finally fading out. The short running time not only prevents things from getting stale, but it makes this cassette an excellent starting point for those curious about the band's enigmatic aesthetic.

ST 37 / Linus Pauling Quartet -- split 7" [???]

Well, this is interesting: I have no idea who released this split single, so I guess if you want a copy, you'll have to get it from one of the bands. And you should definitely want it, because first and foremost, it features Austin psych wizards ST 37 covering the Helios Creed classic "Lactating Purple," and I can't imagine a greater and more fitting mind-meld than these psychotronic luv gods covering one of the best songs by the more demented half of Chrome. Even if it the cover were shit (which it isn't, by the way), just the mere concept is so brilliant they deserve some kind of key to the psychedelic kingdom just for doing it. As it is, their cover is every bit as noisy, skronk-laden, and tripped-out as the original, while still retaining the band's own identity. On the flip side, the LP4 track, "Monster," is a heavy slice of psych in its own right, filled with forceful beats and reverberating guitars threatening to shake themselves apart while remaining surprisingly melodic, even catchy. The single even comes on colored vinyl -- yes, you guessed it, purple. Brilliant stuff, and worth seeking out.

Naythen Wilson -- THIS IS A DEATH DREAM cs [Fort Evil Fruit]

Jandek fans should eyeball this with some interest, for this cassette features Naythen Wilson -- a tirelessly prolific dude with over seventy solo albums to his name in addition to work with many other bands -- covering the most uncoverable artist of them all, the semi-reclusive enigma known as Jandek. My first-hand knowledge of Jandek is spotty -- I've heard about a dozen of his early albums and found them all mysterious and inexplicable -- but Wilson certainly does an excellent job of capturing Jandek's broken-folk sound and mystery, while making his songs considerably more listenable. The main problem most people have with Jandek is twofold: one, he favors a guitar sound most would define as severely out of tune, and two, his voice, while compelling, is not the most listener-friendly delivery mechanism, particularly when spouting cryptic lyrics over minimal, seemingly half-formed songs. Wilson fixes the two major issues, but leaves everything else alone, retaining the surreal, half-finished feel of the original songs. Like Jandek, he enlists outside help on some tracks -- vocals from Nicole LePera on "Om," lead vocals from Ken Hallowell on "Nancy Sings," electric guitar from Preston Spurlock on "Ghost Town by the Sea," and drums from Joel Kaplan on the title track -- but the sound of these songs, regardless of the personnel, still retains the doomed, alienated essence of all that is Jandek. This is spooky, spooky stuff that sounds like it was recorded in an empty back room of a deserted house, and many of the tracks are swathed in acres of reverb that only add to the disorienting sound. You don't have to be a Jandek fan to appreciate this, either; this is morose doom-folk with plenty of appeal even to those not hep to the Jandek mystique. The cassette was released with the permission of Corwood Industries and is limited to 100 copies; it also comes with a download code for the full album that also includes a 17-minute bonus track, "Worthless Recluse."

Wreck of the Hesperus -- TERMINAL EULOGY cs [Fort Evil Fruit]

Dublin's sons of sludge have been around since 2004, with two full albums and a number of split releases to their name; now Fort Evil Fruit has compiled their first two demos onto one cassette, giving us all a peek at the band's early sound. Side A consists of the TERMINAL DIRGE demo from 2004, featuring four gruesome slices of primitive, downtuned evil marked by creeping death tempos, subterranean tones, and drumming that would be almost jazz-like if it weren't chained down to such stunted tempos. Everything's so heavy that it's often hard to tell where the bass ends and the guitar begins, and in an unusual move for a sludge band, much of the time the drummer provides the memorable hooks while the guitar and bass flow over everything like lava; there are riffs, yes, and fine ones at that, but there's also weird, droning noise and strange effects, along with riffs now and then that sound suspiciously derived from non-metal sources. The vocalist doesn't pop up all that often, but when he does, he delivers a convincing death-croak that only adds another grim texture to the funereal dirge. The addition of choral voices toward the end of the demo, along with a descent into deliberate audio crunge, only adds to the ongoing weirdness.

On the flip side, the EULOGY FOR THE SEWER DWELLERS demo from 2005 consists of two long songs with a much shorter one sandwiched between them, and it's even stranger than the first demo, with "The Dull Fog of Eternity" taking its time to materialize via creepy ambient sounds and a brief spoken sample before exploding into violent life. From there the band moves in unexpected directions, allowing the relatively upbeat tempo dissolve into more slo-mo creep, dominated by more near-jazzy drumming. The rest of the demo plays out much in the same fashion, with slow wasting death by fuzz occasionally waking from its narcoleptic state to flail about for a few moments before sinking back into the ooze again, all the while punctuated by singularly inventive drumming. Tragically, this cassette -- limited to 100 copies -- sold out before I could get around to this review, so you'll have to scour Ebay for  a copy of your own….