“It sounds like therapy for a generation who grew up with the internet, where the density and modularity of music has flourished at such a rate that we never get time alone with just one song or idea anymore.” - Adam Devlin, Tiny Mixtapes.

The tendency to treat Giant Claw's music like a clown-car of impossible ideas of horizontal importance is to miss the cohesiveness of Giant Claw's output and albums, even if that palate is as big and ever-expanding as...well, the internet. On This track donated by the Columbus, Ohio musician we find Giant Claw tackling extreme modes. Swinging from the playfulness of the synthesized oboe and the cultural significance of punctuating beats with a gunshot. Except this isn't punctuation. The gunshot kills the track right as it reaches its zenith. Literally. But, in experimental music, unlike American lives, there are second acts and infinite lives.

Like all Heligator releases all proceeds go to the Malindza Refugee Camp Library in Swaziland, Africa. There has been some turbulence at the camp, your donations help keep open a library (and pay the stipend of a librarian) that is an oasis of stability and hope in the otherwise turbulent life of a refugee.

Malindza Refugee Camp Blog

Friday, February 27th, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)

Doubt is a sacrament for all those who are unfortunate enough to value self-actualization over social conformity. I feel you, Kristina Esfandiari. Esfandiari who most recently just got done playing a stint with the overpowering shoegaze outfit Whirr, wrote the songs on this EP after a crushing breakup with a literal brand of charismatic Christianity. Doubt is the consummate break-up record with a worldview. In it, we hear and feel the natural cycles of grieving compressed and realized in a short 20 minutes of drone-metal riffs, post-rock catharsis and release and funeral-slow percussion with Esfandiari's throaty croon detailing in in exquisite detail the pain it feels to be the protagonist in a break with the totality of something like a fundamental religious belief and community. I feel you, sister.

Esfandiari takes us through the anger, sadness and often empty self-liberation that accompanies the bright, noonday exit of disbelief and the realization that all of your family and friends are back in the cave. Back in the cave praying, and really, really worried and scared, often misinterpreting a move for your mental health/need for a congruent world-view with an accusation of their lack of intelligence. This shit is hard. And Doubt doesn't make it seem easy. It wallows in distortion, sets its beat to the sickening thud of skin against brick and plays riffs that would sound exuberant in 90's thrash to a codeine-induced fog. The guitar work on this album is astounding, from the soaring tremolo overtones on "King of Swords" to the mechanical whine of "Burn" it saturates and gives lift and light to the record. Esfandiari's voice here is a thing of versatile power. A throaty croon that floats over mournful feedback-drenched soundscapes, nestles between melodic riffs or explodes into powerful, belting choruses that retain the grit and sandpaper worn qualities of the album's grey and black palate. 

There really isn't much out there better than this four song EP. This has been the soundtrack for my late-stage apostasy. It is a therapeutic break-up album if there ever was one.  

Purchase Doubt on The Flenser

Thursday, February 26th, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)

No, you don't have to double-check your calendar... it's totally almost March, ain't gonna deny it. For whatever reason I'm still stuck in the bowels of 2014 Hell, trying to claw my way back into some semblance of being "on top" of this game somehow. Which... let's be honest, that's just never gonna happen. Anyway, I think that a lot of folks maybe think I ONLY listen to cassette tapes, which is just not true (although don't get me wrong... I love me some cassettes). But as a matter of chance, I recently acquired a gorgeous new Luxman PD264 tunrtable, meaning I was able to move my beloved Pro-Ject Essential off to the side and over next to my desk with a headphone pre-amp hookup, which now allows for me to review stuff while having the deck at arm's length. Clutch. So that, my friends, was the key to me finally getting this little piece of work done -- I've been newly inspired to play some catch-up on some long-overdue reviews (of which more are certainly to come... hopefully-certainly, but yeah, pretty sure this time). And anyway, no apologies! Why would I apologize for doing this? I'm crazy enough as it is for even trying, so you're gonna get it, and you're gonna deal with it, dammit. Here are five LPs that blew me away last year, and stay tuned for more.



King Tears Bat Trip

King  Tears  Bat  Trip

(Debacle Records)
Debacle Records really did us all a big favor saving King Tears Bat Trip from obscurity by putting a face on this record. Specifically, that’s a lion’s face on this record, spinning around your turntable as the 18-minute A-side “Stolen Police Car” beats you down to a bloody pulp. Once a cassette/digital affair back in 2012 on Hanged Man Recordings, the long-running Seattle label’s stunning picture-disc edition of this incredible album is a thing of pure joy, one that comes in a terrifyingly loud and abrasive package of relentless drumming, squalls of roaring guitar drones and heart-stopping saxophone solos to round out this insanely talented and versatile group. Drum-circle core is now a genre, by the way, and it’s a genre of one: King Tears Bat Trip. The mighty. The miraculous. Absolutely essential.


Local  Agent

(Umor Rex)
Brad Rose: Seasoned noise’ist, or hip-hop producer for hire? Uh… can it be both? Even the stuff that doesn’t have any kind of a real defined backbeat on this record still has the slow roll-and-heave of something heavy, something dripping with dark rhythm. It’s suitable for some mic-spit to be sure… but make no mistake! This is still Brad Rose we’re talking about, the mastermind behind Digitalis Industries and progenitor of the Foxy Digitalis webzine of lore, so of course his real focus is on the scrambled-egg-synths, the atonal micro-chip melodies, and the general making of the unworkable somehow totally and cosmically work. This is music suffering a circuit-bent mainframe, slightly impaired in one way, while gaining an adverse amount of proficiency in another area to balance things properly. A man of many projects and guises, and now a father, Rose’s own musical projects gradually feel like they're getting farther apart from each other, but that has only translated into more focused and detailed work, and in the case of Charlatan, that means that each individual blip, pop, pipe, and fizzle you can find with Local Agent is given a particular shape and trajectory, its own character in each track’s own little narrative. While I admit that I’ve only really engaged with a fraction of what this man’s put to tape/wax/mp3, of that small fraction, this one rises to the top as easily the best Rose-related project I’ve yet to encounter.


Future  Machines

(These Are Not Records)
OK, so this stuff can be a head-thuddingly difficult to process to put yourself through. (A process, yes, although there are really only two steps here: press play, allow brain to explode... Possible third: clean-up). It's incredibly patience-testing, with its... constants. Constantly constant, the onslaught of synths and restless rhythms, piling up and up, melodies leapfrogging each other and those high frequencies raining down on drones of rapid-fire baritone. Because everything stays basically one tempo and one volume, which is some kind of a "FASTLOUD" mash as far as I can tell, it stands to reason that this can wear a little on the ears. Worth it. Completely engrossing and relentlessly chaotic but (for the most part) incredibly balanced as well. Along with Panabrite, Black Unicorn, Brain Fruit, and Grapefruit, Patrick R Pärk is easily ranked among synthesizer masters of our age. Oh, also: Blood-red clear vinyl edition of (100) was done, nightly tucked into a cool half-wrap 12-inch sleeve and goldenrod insert. Terrific release.


High  End

The People's Higher Order of Royal Kinship here followed a flurry of cassette releases with easily the most texturally rich and rhythmically fertile music from Neil Renalda to date. Tilling the sonic soil with meaty rhythms and tender textures run through the slicer and chopped into staccato bits, High End managed to pack its meager dots of sound in tight enough to give the music a weighty girth.
 The rhythms themselves aren't all that unfamiliar, but they sure feel new when sounds are constantly swiveling back and forth, samples of fireworks, drippy faucets, and robotic voices all balled up into mutant, tip-toeing hip-hop beats, and synths getting caught in a CD-player-skip stutter. If you were getting sick and tired of the whole "producer" schtick and were looking for someone doing things not just a little, but a LOT different; from a different point of view, say, that of an alien space-station rather than the proverbial bedroom, PHORK is gonna be your best bet.

The Deep Freeze Mice

The  Best  of  the  Deep  Freeze Mice

(Night People)

One of the great atrocities of 2014 is the way in which Crawford Philleo failed to provide coverage for a perfectly amazing reissued collection of perfectly amazing songs by a perfectly amazing band called The Deep Freeze Mice. Fronted by a friendly and responsive gentleman named Alan, who released most of his band's music and other obscurities on his own label Cordelia over the years, the Mice gave it a very good run for the better part of a decade (namely the 80s), puckering up their punk chops while zigzagging through diagonal pop songs, and doing it with a hot-stuff organ player (that a Farfisa? Damn.) With jumbling sections ricocheting like a DEVO tune, the sweetness of the Velvets, and just the right amount of a sour crassness, these guys were just way too brilliant and way too much fun for me to be keeping this to myself, right? So, there you go. You all must know this band, and now, with this collection, there's never been a better time to get acquainted.

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)
Most Forgotten

Most Forgotten is S.Maharba’s first long-form release in nearly seven years, a compilation of tracks he recorded for various projects between 2006 and 2014--some saw the light of day, some did not. Despite its odds-and-sods nature, it plays very well as a cohesive and satisfying whole. His self-titled debut felt like the long-lost follow up to Since I Left You, which featured disembodied French pop vocalists crooning over blown-speaker kickdrums and harp arpeggios, but as this compilation shows, he’s willing to spin off in any number of directions. The summer breeze opener “Bruised Legs” quickly gives way to “She A Crook,” the seven-minute throbbing heart of the album. The furious drumming settles into a groove halfway through, giving way to wasp nest guitars and a jarringly pretty violin coda. It’s the most compelling and impressive track I’ve heard from S.Maharba to date.

There are a few bonus tracks from the first LP which make you wonder why they weren’t incorporated--”Loneliness” and “Making You Cry” would have done a good job of rounding out the too-short record. But they shine here. “For Jasper” is the would-be single, its dryly delivered hook buried in centipede synthesizers and a lock-step bass groove. “Where” is hiding midway through the second half, and it somehow escaped my notice on first listen--my mistake, as it may be the most beautiful work on the album. “2009-made it for someone, they never used it,” reads the liner notes. Their loss.

From the off-kilter synth lurch of “Worshiper” to the Peggy Lee-sampling “All Over Now,” Most Forgotten’s far-flung 20 tracks nonetheless have a signature sound to them, with warm vinyl crackle and vertiginous tape flutter throughout. The Ipswich producer seems to work at his own pace, so it’s hard to know when we might hear more from S.Maharba. For now, this compilation is at once an excellent introduction to his work and a perfect summation of his career to date.

Nat Tracey-Miller

Purchase on Bandcamp

Monday, February 23rd, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)

Baldruin - Miniaturen

Miniaturen or "miniatures" in German consists of 21 tracks with a running time of about 31 minutes. Needless to say this album represents a sampling platter of Johannes Schebler's synthesizer and sound recordings rather than deep meditations. In these relatively short tracks, however, Schebler finds new and novel means in which to convert everything at his disposal in the service of some bent idea of pop music. Heavily pawed keyboards, bubbling beats, softened distortion, sound inputs from every source (mouth, bells, jars, plants) that are synthesized to some Frankenstein level of overwhelming their master. The textures and tonal qualities range from earthy and aquarian to ethereal and space-adjacent. Organics sampled to sound electronic in origin and electronics sampled to sound organic. Miniaturen is a record sounding as if it was conceived at night after a disjointed, not at all unpleasant dream, and this is the means in which to conjure it back in exquisite, dioramic detail.

Purchase on A Giant Fern


Developer - AGF24

9:00 AM. My inner ear turned inside of me and said, "fuck, really dude?" the split-second I pushed play. I wouldn't say that is necessarily the wrong response. Developer's harsh, cut noise takes no shortcuts or dampens the contact mic stabs of tortured tones straight through the cochlea. AG24, however, isn't a monolithic slab or uninterrupted sandstorm, rather it is a cut-up pastiche of harsh sounds edited with care and acute precision. Dayton, OH has noise on lock. I work there on the weekends and I always stop by Omega Records to check out their impressive collection of noise cassettes and records. Besides finding two copies of past Goldrush Cassettes (!!??) I've found several of the artists I am covering on this blog put out by a Portuguese based label. Besides destroying my ears in the morning, realizing that the world is smaller than I ever imagined is one of the many pleasures of writing about music.

Purcahse on A Giant Fern


Head Dress - Deicide

Precious little can be found about Head Dress online, but this slab of granular drones, terminally modulating noise-scrapes is enough to warrant some significant attention. This is situated very much in the left-field of noise-influenced ambient, but it is hardly an unpleasant listen. I am particularly drawn to the surging, peaking synth lines set free at regular intervals from "LRA Effigy", the consistent harshness of "SSM (for AS)" that gradually fades into the dying signal of sentient machinery, the downtempo beauty and blown-out beat palate of "mpdrumssssKRGx2". This one of the few noisier records I found myself studying to and walking to - a very selective canon if I may say. So, Head Dress. Quit being a stranger. You've shared your beating mechanical heart with us, let's see the rest.

Purchase on A Giant Fern


Masayuki Imanashi - Cycle

I made the observation a few weeks back that I listen to way to much drone music after hearing some random ambient machine sounds and thinking, "who is this?". Likewise, it is easy to get caught up in Masayuki Imanashi's Cycles and forget that this was ever touched by human hands. The sounds are not random or aleatoric, per se. Rather, the listen is intensely personal. Like voyeuristically observing the inner lives of machinery in their most private moments. It is an immersive journey through a high noise floor of static, short stabs of harsh noise, oddly organic mechanical sounds all stitched together with such purpose it is art the same way that painfully recreating Alpine Germanic villages is art. Not in the interpretation but in the act of recreation. In this case it is the recreation is forcing a Radioshack worth of electronics forced through a cheese grater and mechanical insects captured on magnetic tape. Cycles is worth losing yourself in.

Purchase on A Giant Fern


Sindre Bjerga - A Thousand Nothings Beocme Something

A Thousand Nothings Become Something is a brilliant title for Sindre Bjerga's latest cassette recorded live in Seoul. Bjerga, a Norwegian sound artist who has collaborated with Tome favorites in the past including Micromelancolié and Anla Courtis, takes us into moments of pure improvised genius. Moving from crackling drones to heavy tape manipulation of yesterday's pop hits, the entire movement is a catching, clunky (in the best sense) ride through semi-improvised manipulation of Bjerga's elements. In Bjerga's case those elements include a variety of inputs including prerecorded music on cassettes manipulated at Bjerga's caressing or destroying whim. Ultimately, it is benevolence that wins the day in the end. A thousand of of unconnected parts are broken down to their elemental nature and patched together with little more than intention and innovation. A thousand props to Sindre Bjerga for recording and capturing the firing of the synapses (both internal and external) that create fearlessly fucked art.

Purchase on A Giant Fern



Sunny Dunes - Whims of a Rainy Day

I encountered this tape from Lyon, France duo Sunny Dunes as I waited for a bus, half-frozen in Cincinnati's latest deep freeze. The result was an immediately inner-warmth that comes with the brain immediately recalling the sounds of warmer climates. Side A begins with field recordings of an idyllic lakeshore during summer. Children laughing, the stereo-panning recording of a child running across a wooden dock, before moving into tonally sweet, floating synths whose ghostly reverb follow lines with a decaying sense of grace. These synth lines are eventually met with equally ethereal drones until they reach a climax of sorts before pulling back until just the floating, swirling, heavily pawed drones remain and are paired with the pitter-patter of electronic beats. Side B begins a bit more distressed, intense, arpeggios lines over slightly more worried synth lines, interrupted by static, disembodied carnival organs and deconstructed synth jingles. Keep a stack of these on deck for the next few weeks America. It's gonna be alright.

Purchase on A Giant Fern


Wether - Take Notes

Rounding out our journey through A Giant Fern's massive tape batch is Wether, a heavy exposition of rapidly descending and ascending pitch-shifted synths parsed out over tremendous spans of space and time. Laser-gun, spacecraft emergency protocols filtered, isolated and manipulated until it all starts to make sense. "Warm Rejections" run synth arpeggios is S U R V I V E, Blade Runner and Beyond the Black Rainbow processed into a near seven minutes of white-knuckle drive mixtape through what expanses of came before the big bang. "Let's Talk About Space, Baby" is a call into the void of virgin space-dolphins. These deconstructed synth compositions are welcoming in their pure dedication to the instrument itself. Someday we are going to find the "brain" patch (a matter of correct wiring, I'm sure) and synthesizers will sing unaccompanied. It will sound eerily familiar if you've got this tape somewhere on your shelf.

Purchase on A Giant Fern

Friday, February 20th, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)

When I found out about this collaboration between Columbus, OH multi-disciplinarian Mike Shiflet and Rhode Island's finest guitar snake-charmer John Kolodji (High Aura'd) it was like the veil split and I got a fist-bump from god. In our little corner of the universe collaborations like this are massive and it is even more affirming when a piece of music delivers on every promise made. First, the cover. A non-musical aspect of ephemera that adds to the listening experience in so many ways. This is the image I immediately jump to whenever I hear about opium dens. The music that follows tracks lucid, reality-augmenting stimulus like any good (or socially corrupting) drug. The twin-guitar explorations carve out space for delicate passages over the faint roar of reverb and distortion on "Covered Bridge" and passages on "Demon Haunted World" counter noisy, full-throttle dives into troubled seas of heaving and serrated drones on "Still Life with Wound". The video for the album opener "Parlour Games", was shot by Mike Shiflet, and depicts the relationship between two women set to September's last grasp at summer idyll before settling into winter's temporary death. Shiflet's color saturation gives the short film a distinctly drawn-in effect, reminiscent of the silent films that "Parlour Games" pays homage to. The result is a completely rejuvenating, renewing effect on the piece of music. Against the backdrop fo the subtle cream color palate and the blown-out, yet mysteriously subtle greens, the washes of feedback seem to recede and the delicate melodies that Shiflet and Kolodji weave around each other immediately jump to the foreground. This is some required 2015 listening.

Purchase via Boomkat

Thursday, February 19th, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)
Barons Court

Barons Court, Sarah Davachi's latest on Students of Decay, lays her tones as flat and straight as the two-lane blacktop across Kansas. These five compositions are electro-acoustic studies in sustained tension. Tones run expectantly into some known future. When they break, they don't crescendo, rather they coax and guide a bevy of acoustic instruments into Davachi's mirror lake of synthesizers until they join their voices together in a golden siren song of the undamned.

There is a lot behind this record. Davachi, as you will read in every review (including this one) was classically trained at Mills College and retains a studious, measured air that hangs thick like the dust of leather-jacketed library books through the filtered sunlight of eternal afternoons. Davachi's undergraduate work was philosophy, her graduate work, however, takes on living and breathing, yet very ancient prophets. On Davachi's latest record she wrangles several legendary synthesizers to do this charm work: Buchla's 200, Music Easel, EMS Synthi and the sturdy Prophet 5. These synths are accompanied by cello, flute, oboe and viola as coaxed into swirling, slightly modulating synths or into providing the shading gradient to Davachi's sustained synth work. 

For as much attention is put to creating tension-filled passages that ebb and flow but never quite crest, there is quite a bit of dynamism at play. Swirling below the surface or floating above what is naturally aurally noticeable is a world of tones flitting in and out or bowing themselves across wide open spaces like an unfolding canopy across a ink-black sky. "Wood Green", by far my favorite track on the album, is the best representation of this. Starting with what sounds like pure synth tones are eventually joined by strings caught and mid-bow and extended forever and the ruddy vibration that hangs in the air long after a note on a piano is struck. It is a bit difficult to pick out what every instrument is doing where. What tonal qualities may be assigned to the viola over the cello, for example, but in the service of Davachi's swirling, kaledioscopic sound palate, they are additive voices calling for peace or truth, or whatever you expect when you put on a record with such obvious meditative qualities as this.

Purchase via Students of Decay

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)

Peripheres, in the form of a sonic map of sorts, tracks Spheruleus' physical surroundings living in the marshy fens in Eastern UK. Peripheres are manmade rivulets and dykes made to manipulate water flow through fields. Likewise, on Spheruleus' latest record, the UK-based sound artist relies on heavily maintained and edited soundscapes to create completely new tapestry out of acoustic recordings and sampled electronic inputs to create a brooding and rhythmically downtempo piece of fine craftsmanship.  

On a cursory flow through the languid tempo that courses through the record we find Harry Towell creating 3-4 minute pieces that run acoustic instrumentation - acoustic guitar lines, jazz-influenced piano lines, reedy woodwinds, various stringed instruments muted brass - through a tightly guided sampling and chopping with augmented acoustic and electronic beats stitching sketches of  into minimal, halting, downtempo compositions. These instruments are either diced into small, repositionable bytes of sound or are looped and elongated to create hypnotic droning effects. Towell relies heavily on sampled field recordings to weave into his rhythm pattern. Household sounds of tabletops, the satisfying snap of a dried branch, the hollow plonk of an empty brass bowl and a thousand other unidentified pedestrian sounds find their way onto this record. Often, Towell will rely solely on his close editing to weave the downstroke on an acoustic guitar into a rhythmic pattern, or will utilize an old skipping vinyl record to take its place as the rhythmic backbone. The result is half Nujabes, and half Caretaker, half Fennesz, that equals a sphere...right. Geometry, help me out.

Eilean Rec has been putting out some stunning records lately. There are like two more of these limited edition copies left. Don't sleep on this.

Purchase via Eilean Records

eilean rec. 86 : spheruleus - ploein (02.02.15) from M.V / EILEAN REC. on Vimeo.

Monday, February 16th, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)

This video is a 2001 type odyssey through some subconscious minecraft training exercise and the soundtrack is a banger. Baltimore's Abdu Ali is something to behold. Totally authentic, radically positive auteur scrawling tome-length messages of hope and transcendence in drill beats and warped elevator music. We should be so lucky to have someone spitting such paralyzing truth with a barrier to entry so low. 

Purchase from tape from Deathbomb Arc

Thursday, February 12th, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)
Stage Hands

Stage Hands, Brandon Locher's follow-up project to his everything-and-the-kitchen-sink free-jazz ensemble The Meets, is what It Happens Outside would sound like if all of those "outside" sounds were digitized and synthesized into Locher's Abelton Push and Gerald Mattis' expressive live drumming. For Stage Hands, the impressive arrays of sounds both sampled and live Happen Inside. There is a lot in here. And for the depth and breadth this record covers, it feels compact and sturdy. Brevity and completeness instead of endlessly feeling out new sonic territory.

There is a reason no one prints the response to the question, "so, uh, how did you come up with your band name?". Because it is an incredibly boring question and incredibly boring response. "Um, because it sounds cool." "Um, it is a French literary term for the relaying of obscure and antiquated terms because band names are inherently meaningless." "Um, fuck you for asking." So, naturally, when I asked Brandon Locher the epitome of the banal music journo question, "so, uh, how did you come up with your name" I wasn't expecting to hear a response I've been ruminating on for months.

Locher explained that the idea came after sampling the piano line at the center of the eponymous opening song. That through surrounding the piano line with accoutrements such as electronic programmed beats as well as other sampled and digitally produced sounds - endlessly tweaked and manipulated to infinitesimal degrees - along with Mattis's lock-step groove and emotive fills, they were acting as stage hands of sorts, setting the scene wherein the piano would deliver its best lines in the context of something else.

Stage Hands, however, do not operate in anonymity. Their mitts are all over these tracks. Locher's ability to populate every possible space with melodic synth lines, skittering drum patterns, start-stop abruptness and golden long-playing tone massaging. Mattis's drumming can leap into playing funky, muscular lead rhythms or slink into the swirling sea of roiling rhythm patterns, his splashy fills and minimal effect-pad rhythms blending into the layers of tones and melodies that make their presence known and then recede back into the pregnant ether.

Can we talk about "#unabomber", Stage Hands collaboration with singer-songwriter The One and Only Matt Miller? I've stated in other places that Matt Miller is one of my favorite songwriters in a long time. In this track, considerably longer and darker (tonally and content-wise than most of the album) you hear some of Miller's whip-smart and doggardly clever lines covering NSA surveillance, drone warfare, the housing market crash, fracking and antidisestablishmentariansim. It is a clear stand-out on the album make the best use of Stage Hands maximalist song structures and Miller's earnest, searching voice.

There is more in here than can fit on Locher's hard drive. Humanity is in full display on this record. It happens inside but only through the careful arrangement and scene-setting of two humans working in synchronized connection with one another.

Purchase via Stage Hands Bandcamp

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)