Cincinnati, OH has been my home for a little under a year at this point. While there have been a smattering of bands that have really captured my heart (here's looking at Gazer, Mardou, Zijnzijn Zijnziijn, Mephetic Husk and the indomitable Pete Fosco) nothing quite captures the burnt-over core of the Queen City (who has recently been wearing lipstick again with some large scale gentrification projects) as the latest local-band-makes-good trio Tweens. Following a tour with the Breeders fueled by a word of mouth recommendation to Kim Deal, Tweens have released their proper debut on Frenchkiss. The record is full of these unabashed brawny, saccharine power-pop tunes that create new neural pathways for command hallucinations. Triggers include: Tweens. Symptoms include: involuntary fist-pumping, recreating adolescent deviant behaviors while over 30. 

Bridget Battle sells me records at Black Plastic.

How could you listen to this song and NOT imagine a prom-like setting?

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014 | Add New Comment (0)

Clipd Beaks have the tendency to create some pretty striking visuals to their music. I remember the first introduction to my favorite album of 2010 was the video for "Visions". That video may be one of my favorite pieces of lyrical storytelling of all time and it was one of the first videos to really kick off the Videodrones section of the Tome. Fast forward three years, and "Tied Sky" ends up being my favorite song of 2013. I love the way it filters remembrances of early Appleseed Cast through a deep bong-hit of southern California psychedlia. The visual companion to this song is something that Clipd Beaks do best, making the profane a little bit more sacred. This video makes moments from a schloky, late-60's sci-fi flick (directed by Peter Bogdanovich!!?) into a fever dream of ritualized fire worship and creation-myth archetypes. And mermaids. 

Clipd Beaks - "Tied Sky" from Moon Glyph on Vimeo.

This Videodrone brought to you by Ryan H. 

Friday, April 11th, 2014 | Add New Comment (0)
Shelter Death / Submerged Canoeist

At first I thought this was one artist called Shelter Death, and that the album was called "Submerged Canoeist." Then, after staring at the tape a little longer, I thought that maybe this was a split release with one of the sides belonging to Shelter Death, and the other to someone else called Submerged Canoeist, which made things difficult for me because the tape is jet black with no label or imprinting, so I couldn't figure out who was who. Now what I think is that both sides of the cassette contain music composed and performed by both Shelter Death and Submerged Canoeist as a collaboration. I am going to go with this assumption for my review here, because the entirety of the tape has a nicely threaded musical theme and style throughout, which supports the theory, and also it just makes things easier for me. If this assumption is incorrect, please feel free to let me know.

Ok, so with that out of the way, we can look at this at this exceedingly dark slice of sonic psychedelia for what it is -- a mighty whoosh of distortion carrying otherwise harmonious guitars and maybe synths across your mind's eye with a pensive push and spine-tingling, nervy tension. What I like best about stuff like this, when it is done properly, is the way in which uncaged, unhinged and somewhat random sound effects like feedback are reigned in to produce highly musical effects. Sonic Youth, especially on something like the second half of "Karen Revisited," are masters of this -- spinning sounds that should be out of control into tight balls of beautiful music. Here, the two expand upon that idea, extracting moments of aching beauty and invoking emotional senses of dark longing from the shrieks and hisses of overblown amplifiers, and actually extending and accentuating these feelings into even longer, more fully-realized song structures. And yep, I'm calling these "songs," since the tracks find themselves as fully formed with intros, arcs of rising and falling action, and then finishing things off with moments of sonic punctuation. There's also some eerie vocals thrown into a few tracks to further solidify the performance of structured, measured works, and that vocal also happens to be very beautiful, lightly reminiscent of Thom Yorke's alien-ghost croon.

A mysterious tape for sure, not the fanciest presentation, but musically rich with ideas that are well defined and executed -- Shelter Death and Submerged Canoeist both arrive as noise-ists who tear sheets of static and dig through shards and shrapnel to find beauty somewhere beneath. Blackness, as it turns out, is not just a scary negative void. It's a canvas rich with color.

Via Injection

Crawf

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 | Add New Comment (0)

Former U.S Maple guitar noisenic Todd Rittman's post-one-of-noise-rock's-most uncomfortable-bands project is back with a pretty strong opening volley from their new album Chills on Glass. Keeping with the uncomfortable vibe, the panel-puzzle rearranging of the band members face is as close and as distancing as any U.S Maple guitar-screed/super-confessional-lyrics song. So much skin. It is nice for once to feature a video with something called a recording budget every once and awhile. "Blank Screen" is an excellent exercise is controlled bursts of shizo-typal noise while keeping everything corralled in a danceable, rhythmic rockist track that rubs shoulders with TV on the Radio, Liars and even The Faint, all bands (with the possible exception of the Faint) who would be beneficiaries of U.S. Maple's fearless deconstruction of rock n' roll rather than contemporaries. With the strength of this single I am incredibly excited to dig into the record.

Dead Rider Drag City page

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 | Add New Comment (0)
Call, Response

Of the many wonderful aspects of creating music in our hyper-networked, hyper-digital age, perhaps the one dearest to me is the ability to collaborate at a distance. Not only is it now quite easy to partner up with others we may never meet in “real” life, but virtual collaboration offers us a new set of possibilities as well as useful problems to negotiate. In lieu of face-to-face interaction, the sounds themselves often assume an even larger role, as they not only convey core ideas and intentions between the musicians and listeners, but between the musicians themselves. This can be a heavy weight for the music to bear, but when it does it's all the richer and more substantial because of it. But how often do we stop and consider the actual process of virtual collaboration? What does it entail and what is required of us to meaningfully co-create at a distance? Despite having become common practice, analysis of this particular brand of sonic dialog is rather absent from the sounds themselves.

At the center of Call, Response — a wonderful LP from Own Records by David Andree and Josh Mason— is an investigation into the act of collaboration. It's a work that's processing ideas of dialog and distance, communication and performance. Sometimes this discussion is realized quite literally, as in the case of a back and forth between plucked acoustic guitar and a collage of tape and field noise. More often, though, Andree's and Mason's realizations require taking a step back and looking at the work as a whole. It's an LP full of ebbs and flows and outright breaks, where once resonant tones grow mute and opaque and bells ring out above static and hiss. These are the cadences of discussion and debate, of aural negotiation, and in taking part of this dialog as listeners, we get the chance to track the progress of Andree and Mason as they work toward a deeper awareness.

Unlike many collaborations that rely heavily on digital software and transmission, Call, Response is made up of magnetic tape that was mailed back and forth, bearing the imprint of each's efforts. There's an added directness in such a physical approach that, when coupled with the duo's real time recording restriction, lends the entire project a wonderful performative quality. Call, Response addresses something very necessary in regards to collaboration and, thus, is a very welcomed effort. It's music with consequence and meaning.

Cody

Own Records

Friday, April 4th, 2014 | Add New Comment (0)

Lake Mary is not an island. Nor a lake. Lake Mary is a billowing white canopy in which friends crouch beneath and play their instruments for a season. Some come and go. Anchoring Lake Mary as a home to return to after some spring-time roaming. Others stay for a time. Make themselves cozy, and pick and play and drone and zone for a few revolutions under radical hospitality and pro-active selflessness.

Visit is a peek into the Lake Mary universe of friends old and new. Lake Mary is led by Chaz Prymek, a huge-spirited musician who used to vagabond across the states by any/all means necessary but always found his way back to his home cradled in the Salt Lake Valley. Recently, Chaz has put down some pretty deep roots in Denver, CO (well, Evergreen to be exact) and has expanded his once solo-project into an ever-expanding benevolent empire of communally-minded musicians who fly no flag, disregard invisible borders, but who are patriots nonetheless.

Visit is comprised of past and current Lake Mary members, contributors, friends and well-wishers. These are ten exclusive tracks from Tome favs like Silver Antlers, Nathan Wheeler as well as contributions by members of one of Denver's most successful indie exports Paper Bird. Chaz and co. graciously donated these tracks to Heligator as part of our mission to continuously fund a library at the Malindza Refugee Camp in Mpaka, Swaziland. All proceeds go towards that end. Your financial support goes towards purchasing supplies and necessities for the library as well as providing a stipend for the volunteer refugee librarians. Thanks.

More info on the Malindza Refugee Camp Library can be found at: http://www.malindzarefugeecamplibrary.blogspot.com/

Plus, while we are at it, here is a video I made in collaboration with Chaz about seven years ago for "Significant Human Losses" - Ryan H. 

Friday, March 28th, 2014 | Add New Comment (0)

This video makes me feel uneasy. And not exactly in the good way. The mix of the jarringly abstract and glimpses of the real-world source material that intrude into this nightmarescape give me the queasy feeling that something dreadful could happen any moment. By dreadful I mean a flashing image that will never leave my psyche. Like Captain Howdy in The Exorcist. I really do enjoy how the degraded film gives pedestrian objects a sinister, abstracted sheen. Organs become serrated teeth, ripples become sine waves and arches become claustrophobic tunnels. All this over Naucke's persistent footrace through hollow-bodied (literally sounds like a digeridoo and a jaw harp had a love-child) beats and swirling, disembodied vocals. Very strange, wonderful Videodrone find.

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014 | Add New Comment (0)

 

 

Last summer I got a pretty great package in the mail from a small tape label operating out of Jim Thorpe, PA. These were some gloriously bizarre tapes coming out of the outer Fracklands of East-Central PA. Vwyrd Wurd continues its angled, awkward lope towards transcendence with this latest batch of four wondrous slabs of magnetic tape. I give you the Vwyrd Wurd Tape Haul II: The Rewurding. I can honestly say this is one of my favorite small-run tape labels churning out music. Enjoy!

Wondertaker - S/T

First release on this journey through the murkiness of PA's densly forested netherlands is Wondertaker's self-titled swath of deep psychedelia that is equal parts ritualized droning of neo-psych East Coasters Bardo Pond or Espers with early 00's The Smell's perchance for dancibly rhythmic but completely unhinged cacophony. Michelle Osztrosits possesses a deep, mahogany-timbred voice that can coo and invite while reciting some of the more melodic lines of "Aging Backwards" or "Pretty Ones" that recall the strength and narrative structure of artists like Clara Engel or Carla Bozulich, or completely tear apart a stereo system when folded into pummeling white-sea swell of a composition like in the last few minutes of album closer "Thoughts". Wondertaker has the ability to sprout easily hummable melodic song-songs out of thin air and then drag you through the rich loam of excavated noise where fidelity and a high, staticy noise floor are used as another instrument in the swirling miasma of noise-laden passages. 

Nocht the Only Ghouls - Wolvfen

Nocht the Only Ghouls' 2012 self-titled release held the Tome (with a lot of other blogs) under hypnosis with their deeply-felt neo-folk approximations of a less sinister Death in June album filtered through Eastern PA's rolling, wooded hills obscured by clouds. Wolvfen is a welcome return by Earnest Knuckle, the leading Ghoul in these closed ranks. Wolvfen is a record dampened by that kind of mist that just seems to cling to your body without any idea of direction led by gravity. It just hangs there, suspended and weightless. NTOG's organ drones do this. These drones aren't an omnipresent element of the atmosphere. It is the atmosphere. Within this atmosphere micro-bursts of obscured saxophone, contemplative guitar, banjo, pianos and the human voice are plucked in and out the environment at large before succumbing back to their natural elements. Nocht the Only Ghouls has created two works of endearing quality and beauty here. Works that are bleak and endless as a 24-hour night but contain a faint, beating heart of un-busheled light that gives out just enough to see rounded edges and muted colors. One of the best releases of the year.

Falcony - Erode the Person

Falcony, Adj:  describing the way a dread filled guitar passage circles and swoops with the precision and terror of a bird of prey.

In the tautological sense, Falcony is waaaay falcony. The falconest, solo-guitar, distortion-bred release of the year. Falcony isn't simply Sun O))) volume swells and sludge-tempo riffage, Falcony plays in the same sort of distorted-blues lens of a noisier Marisa Anderson or Ava Mendoza built around a few Funeral Doom dirges. Side B, "Barren Earth" deals in some very pretty telestial tones and shimmering drones.  It takes a lot brawn to massage these massive swells of noise into 20 to 16 minutes chunks of charred half notes floating detached from a smoldering pyre. And when I mean brawn I am talking Joe Preston girth. One of the best solo-guitar works I have heard all year. Definitely the one with the falcony turned up to 11.

Near Earth / Broken Key - '93 EP / Cold Open

I can't really put my finger on why I love the Near Earth side of this split so much. It could be because it reminds me heavily of my favorite post-Christie Front Drive Coldwave band Antarctica who put out a super ambitious 2xLP album and then faded into obscurity. They had a similar approach to low-key, downtuned mixture of live instrumentation and electronic programming/synths-a-buzzin'. There are a bunch of undiscovered antecedents on Absolutely Kosher like the Swords Project or Summer at Shatter Creek that Near Earth would fall nicely between if I were to make a mixtape of my favorite psych-influenced downtempo indie bands from the early-mid' 00's. The guitar work on this record takes a lot of ques from that hazy, endless noodling headtrip of the Second Summer of Love Stone Roses/Happy Mondays explosion. These two points alone put this side of the cassette in a very special place in my heart. Rounding up the B-Side is the sample-based electronic music of long-time vw acolyte Broken Key. The Cold Open side of the split covers quite a bit of musical ground, from chiptune freak outs, to dub-heavy trip-hop, gloomcast post-industrial, grimy noise to absurdist, sample-heavy cuts reminiscent of some of the old-school vinyl sampling of Stones Throw Records. Near Earth / Broken Key is a hair-raising inclusion to the Vwyrd Wurd family of left-field influences and anachronistic geography.

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014 | Add New Comment (0)
The Unnatural World

At this point, what can we say about this record that has not already been said? The only real point about talking about this record is if anyone, by some ungodly slight, has not let this deep, ritualized darkness seep into your soul like some kind of purifying, vampire-flame-retardant light. You need to stop whatever you are doing and get on that. Now now now. This is a record of unrelenting power and moments of crystalline, clear beauty. Quite possibly some of the best sounds I've heard all year: pulverizing bleakness of the general milieu, the way HANL is able to process and condense this into serviceable pop songs, the way light still shimmers and threatens to overtake the entire composition if not now, then someday when we find ourselves out of this black hole. Until then, The Unnatural World wallows in the gloom, not because it enjoys it, but in that way we never really feel lukewarm water when immersed in it. It takes quite a bit of conscious thought to realize you're in it.  From being held under by the incredible weight of tremolo-picked guitars being played at ear-splitting levels being played in a cavernous sub-lair a few dozen feet beneath your house during the album opener "Guggenheim Wax Museum" to the organ-heavy, tree-breathing, Chinese water-torture slow-burn of album closer "Emptiness Will Eat the Witch", the unnatural world so closely mirrors ours that we forget we are suspended, floating motionless in troubled waters.

These are troubled waters and The Unnatural World does not sound like a fun record to make. But it sounds absolutely. fucking. crucial. Dan Barrett and Tim Macuga sound like they are making this record out of sheer necessity. Not for fun. Not ever. Since 2003. It sounds like two men creating something as if something very bad would happen if all this dread were not exorcised directly to tape, recorded, packaged and shipped via "Ox Blood Haze" colored vinyl. The product is a record that seamlessly ties together a number of disparate genres united by one black flag. Doom, shoegaze, black metal, goth, drone and a mongrel form of lo-fi glitchy electronic music are caught in The Unnatural World's gravitational field and processed through two ears with inexplicable taste in pop music. 

HANL have created two records (2008's Deathconsciousness is unhallowed ground for a lot of people) that shoulder a lot of hope for the underground's ability to create a new musical landscape for itself separate and distinct from the monolith and all of its reaching tendrils. The Unnatural World is a bedroom recording. Bedroom recordings don't sound like "bedroom recordings". They sound like music. This music sounds like it was never touched by any recording device. It sounds as live and living as if it were constantly recreating itself in your basement and seeping up through the floorboards and absolutely drowning you with it's unrelenting tenacity to follow every good idea until it eventually bears fruit. I'm telling you. This is one for the books. Buy it. Drink deep.

Ryan H. 

First run press is sold out. Pre-Order here.

Monday, March 17th, 2014 | Add New Comment (0)

This is some serious slow-burn, green wood approach to making music. So much smoke, so much hazy, otherworldly, aromatic, attempts to build something that would burn up everything. But what we get is a smoldering center, a faint orange glow that refuses to give up long after we did. That's what holds this shimmering, melancholy track by UK shoegaze/drone artist Invisible Elephant together. "From the Bottom of the Well" contains enough emotional heft to knock a house off its foundations, but instead blows in like a feather, and with our wood green and unmet gives it just enough to survive. We are really, really pleased to be able to debut this video from Invisible Elephant's newest LP Sleepwalking out on Two Hands Records. Pre-Orders are available. Serious trance-inducing, 4AD/Eluvium inspired shoegaze bliss. Enjoy.

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Wednesday, March 12th, 2014 | Add New Comment (0)