Kill West - Smoke Beach (Dismal Niche)

Day-uuummmmnnnn. Argentinaian psych-rockers have the dense, pulse-light emitting drug haze of a summer record on lock. Buried under a pall of reverb so thick you need a gas mask to get through Side A, Smoke Beach is one of those petal stuck on motorik groove, windows down, black leather tassles flowing #projectbadass tapes that get stuck in your tape player because outside of native climate - stopped at red lights, hands drumming on the steering wheel to each fill - it will whither and then evaporate into the thick steam it has been emitting from your console for the past 30 minutes because each track is a burner. A small sample of some of the amazing music coming out of South America as of late that has found a good home on one of our favorite labels, Dismal Niche.

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The Funs/Sad Horse - Weirdos (Manic Static)

Picked this tape up from The Funs / Sad Horse show (complete with beer koozie) with Ampline in Cincinnati. Looking at the size of pedal boards of each respective duo tells you a little bit of what to expect from each side of the split. The Funs Jesse Rose Crane's pedal board was a neat, pristine box of blinking potential which she uses to cloak wistful pop songs under a pall of soft-water noise that is corralled from all-lights on to a melodic lead guitar line or is used to seriously fuck shit up as all out war against your defenseless inner ear. Sad Horse's rig is austere and essentialist as their spiky, flailing art-punk on their side. I think EV used a fuzz pedal...once. Likewise their songs on this split are stripped down to the brass-tacks. Emotion and dynamic are dictated by speed, tempo and how long a drive it was to (blank) city. Crucial art-punk jams from Chicago and Portland, respectively.

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Dustin Lovelis - Dimensions (Yellow K / Porch Party Records)

Time-warp harmonies that draw from equal parts late 60's tempered psych and brittle satisfaction of Flying Nun New Zealand pop. Dimensions finds the multi-instrumentalist behind an array of crunchy, reverb heavy guitars, lock-step drums and swirling synthesizers that play in harmony with Lovelis's sweet, sun-baked harmonies. It's hard not to listen to these songs without cracking a smile. Summer will end, time will gnaw you into a Doom-influence-Drone stretch soon enough, but while we have the light and the heat and tape players in our parents' cars lets roll the windows down and let the confused, bittersweet young man petition the gods of an almost-Aquarius age with an offering of their psych-pop put through a mortal lens, like fire was our attempt to steal lightning. 

Friday, July 3rd, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)

Heligator Records is a non-profit record net-label created by Ryan H. to help continously fund the Malindza Refugee Camp Library  in Swaziland, Africa. This is our 21st release.

This piece of living, breathing drone and voice comes to us from Kiev, Ukraine based Creation VI. A longform piece that moves from lush sustained tones to augmented woodwinds, harmonica, field recordings from the Black Sea and those haunting, exploratory vocals that search endlessly for transcendence between pitches of operatic highs and monastic lows. Taken from a live set Creation VI performed in Moscow, this track is an ideal opportunity to blissfully explore some inner-space before hectic workdays or post-weekend recovery. All proceeds from the sale of this track will go to help sustaining the Malindza Camp Library, which, I am happy to report is on the up-and-up. Just got a proposal to put in lights so students can study after dark. Your proceeds make this happen.

http://malindzarefugeecamplibrary.blogspot.com/

Thanks for listening. Donate if you can. Enjoy the positive vibes even if you can't.

 

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)

Back when music blogs actually seemed to have some clout in predicting and in some cases driving musical trends, I had a go-to that I read on a daily basis that informed my music listening more than anything to this date. It was there that I read about Basinski, Natural Snow Buildings, Jasper, TX alongside reviews of more mainstream releases on major-ish indie labels. That blog was Forest Gospel run by husband-wife duo Nick and Erin Potter. As luck would have it we both lived in Salt Lake City and quickly became very close friends. Six years later Nick and Erin are still incredibly dear to my wife and I and in this podcast I sit down with Nick and begrudgingly (on Nick's part) parse out his influence on my writing and desire to start a blog, qualities of experimental music that are attractive to both of us as listeners, our shared religious histories and discovering music in the early 00's.

Nick and Erin still post about art and music on Forest Gospel: http://forestgospel.blogspot.com/ 

Nick's Tumblr page with illustrations and comics: http://nickfrancispotter.tumblr.com/

The Potters' Etsy page where they sell their screenprinted show and movie posters: https://www.etsy.com/shop/potterpress

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)
Chantepleure

This album has lived with me since February. It has lived as compressed data residing on my I-Phone that is never more than five feet from me, and  lives now as a stately black vinyl circle currently spinning in our front room. But more than that, it has lived in an through me as a totem of sorts, both a vex and an usher to my begrudingly accepted companion, that faithful dog of sorrow that follows closely at your heels following a loss. 

I'm not sure how much Alex would appreciate a throrough biopic-style rundown of where this record came from. It is safe to say, though, that the creation of this record, as cathartic as it is for the listener, was necessary and vital for Cobb to create. It was, and probably is now even more, a totem. There is an undercurrent beneath this record that is instantly recognizable to those who have experienced loss, something that connects and binds us to the universality of defeat and the eventual hope that glints at the edges of long nights.There are sustained tones on this record that both soothe raw nerves and also dredge up nostalgia and sadness burrowing under mounds of scar tissue. It is a beautiful relic to a lost war. 

Chantepleure - "To sing and cry at the same time"

The album opens with "Prayer Ring", a piece composed of elegiac tones that lap, one after the other, in cresting and receding waves of sonourous guitar drones. It is strange, listening to the first 30 seconds of this song, without hearing my voice. I used this song as an introduction to my first ever podcast for Tome to the Weather Machine where I interviewed Alex. which, in that interview, we discussed our mutual appreciation of Flying Saucer Attack. In "Prayer Circle" and in Chantepleure we hear sounds that have their origin in hearing Rural Psychedelia in his formative years and then tinkering and practicing for hours to hone something similar, and then a lifetime to understand just how powerful and soothing creating guitar-based drone can be, especially in the loss and dissolution of a relationship, the impetus for creating this record.

The quality of the tones are tethered to sustained, omnipresent ones and the drifting, clarion ones that stand in muted relief against the off-white cloud of delay and reverb that remind me of walking home in a light snowstorm. Small interplays of snowflakes in updrafts, thin curtain of white against a grey sky. In this way, Chantepleure while retaining obvious musical movements - usually in the form of opening, collapsing, and reopening cyclical structures - is a record teeming with tiny movements that may only reveal themselves for a few bars before retreating into the song's superstructure. Small melodic fragments in unusual pitches show up unexpectedly in the album's longest track "Path of Appearance" making it an utterly compelling 16 minute listen.

For some Chantepleure will be a record that demands careful and repeated listens to get the full musicality of it. For others, especially members of this tribe, 30 seconds will be enough to know that a kin has created this record. Something in it will strike you straight to the core and this record will become a relic fulfilling whatever needs you may have of it: A vex or an usher to memories and associated emotions of loss that come with, wagging their tail and getting their muddy footprints all over your new couch.

Purchase from Students of Decay

Ryan H.

Monday, June 29th, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)

This video is how I imagine the mind of a ritalin-prescribed, medication non-compliant, edgy teen in 2015 functions. A never-ending cascade of emoticons, fucked-up Reddit rabbit hole images and free-associating 90's cultural references without the privilege of growing up in the 90's. We have reason to fear the youth...I know you didn't ask for this video. For me, it is very early here, and I just consumed, within an hour of being awake, about all the visual/cultural information my great-great-great-great grandparents did in their entire lives. And so what do I do with it? I share it, of course. This is the way the virus replicates. When you have such wealth only a scumbag keeps it to himself. Banging, forever-ascending arpeggios from the Paris/Phnom Penh duo Dorcelsius perfectly scores the infectious, seizure-inducing bad-trip by roving, maniac Moscow-based Huckleberry Friend. None of us are the 99 %. Everything is the internet. Internet is everything. 

Komodo Commodore - Dorcelsius from Huckleberry Friend on Vimeo.

Friday, June 26th, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)

I am pretty ecstatic to be sharing this wonderful slab of cumulus noise, erased vocals and beautiful Highlife-influenced lead guitar on my favorite cut from White Poppy's near-perfect album Natural Phenomena. The album's most vocal-rich composition, "Confusion" is a startling juxtaposition of massive waves of purified distortion surging below Crystal Dorval's relentlessly upbeat bass line and upper-register arpeggios. The former bring welcome comparisons to fellow crystal-energy summoning compatriots High Wolf and Stag Hare. Perhaps it was the isolation of recording this album alone on a Vancouver Island farm for 9 months or the perpetually low-cloud cover of the Northwest, but the ultimate positivism and healing that comes from this track and Natural Phenomena at large is written from the struggle to pull something beautiful and crystalline - and in the case of "Confusion" - universal and crowd-pleasing when all of our instincts and climate tell us to burrow into ourselves and create 4 hour long drone pieces that will rot on our hard drives. When these instincts win the day we get something like Natural Phenomena and "Confusion".

Thursday, June 18th, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)
Vales

On Memorial Day I received a phone call from my mother informing me that she was in the back of an ambulance with my father who had collapsed while on a bike ride together. She and the paramedics had been doing CPR for the past 30 minutes to no avail. When I got ahold of her she was at the hospital. She sounded exhausted and through a quivering voice, stronger than it should be, told me that my father had passed on and was now beyond this vale.

A vale, especially in the language of my family's religious identity, refers to the gauze-thin separation between the living and the dead. At times when we feel the connection between the living and the dead begin to unravel, we refer to the vale being thin. In the debut record written and by Asa Horvitz, a vale refers to, in a spiritual sense, "a depressed emotional place – the vale of tears... the valley of the shadow of death... a long depression or hollow... the world regarded as a place of troubles, sorrow, and weeping, and the world regarded as the scene of the mortal, the earthly, the lowly... the way of dreams, reflections, fantasies, reveries... where events are deepened into experiences."

Asa wrote and recorded this record after his friend and musical partner Dominic passed away unexpectedly at 23 of a stroke. This is a record written and played while physically and emotionally in that vale. Listening to this record in the context of my father dying, I too have been in that vale, as a listener and a critic. But this transcends that. I listened to this record as a companion while experiencing my own grief, somehow reaching through the vale - so to speak, to grieve, with you, Asa, at the loss of your friend, and feeling somehow, that the universally awful and life-defining experience of unexpectedly losing someone close to you was being made explicitly personal to me, a complete stranger. I'm with you, brother.

In composing this record, expertly played with a small ensemble combining the emotional heft and instrumental lyricism of Nico Muhly's vanguard-leading neo-classical and the knotty avant-pop of Nat Baldwin or Liam Singer, Horvitz turns tragedy into an engrossing treatise on loss that feels universal and acutely personal. Asa's voice soars over ruddy, bowed cellos, baroque piano movements and elegiac slide-guitars, or answers, in call and response, to a chorus asking tough questions.

What is a young man, what is?

More than an album, Vales is a multi-faceted piece of art. Accompanying these songs is an interactive website wherein the user can watch footage shot against locations and images that, I imagine, must have been Dominic and Asa's favorite haunts. Streams where Dominic caught and studied Salmon, the subdivisions and industrial sites that litter Northern California's beautiful coastlines and mountains. These have become hallowed locations. Vales within themselves wherein equal parts mourning and celebration take place. Any listen to this record should be accompanied by this interactive website (note to the user: scroll right) for full effect.

Valesvalesvales interactive website

But what happens to this grief after it has been excised by something like an album, or a good cry when you finally find yourself alone? For me, it has been waiting in the corners, or deep inside my pocket and brought the surface through random free-association. Driving past a crime scene where the police shot and killed a young black man while on the way to an appointment with a client who has an astronomically higher rate than me of dying a violent death made me, through clenched teeth and tears, and in the most professional, Social Worker way, tell him that life was so precious and that I loved him and could not imagine going to his funeral because of some bullshit in his neighborhood. Or when Crawf told me he wanted Space Lady to play Goldrush and I remembered how my dad used to make up stories before bed that centered around a toddler who, inexplicably, could pilot a space craft. It is in these moments that I remember him, and the sadness is not unwelcome, it is a comfort because that is all I have left of him.

I loved him like the tide, I don't know why

Except, not really. 

I swore I saw you there, was that you?

In the way my sentences trail off into space before I finish another one? 

I swore I saw you there, was that you?

In the way my brother and my father's suits hang off their broad shoulders when they have their back turned to me, craning their neck down to laugh while in conversation with their peers?

I swore I saw you there, was that you?

In my unmanageably thick hair that can only bear the resemblance of a part or styling?

What is the spell?

This has obviously been the hardest thing I've ever gone through. I've found companionship in an album that does not flinch when it stares the void. I've also been completely humbled by those who have reached out, many, who never knew my dad but wanted to participate expressing empathy, in participating, brick-by-brick building up a house that crumbled under the weight of tragedy. I hope that one day, whoever, you are I can do the same for you, as a friend and as a receiver of a major karmic load.

This brings me to the crux of this album. Loss and why visual/geographic reminders of that loss aren't to be avoided. Because in them, for a split second we can reach through time and space and sit and stay with our dead, in life and in memory. There is a weight there that tethers them to earth.

From Asa...

"I think it’s hard for us in our culture to accept anything that slows us down, stops us cold, makes us sad and humble and lowly and reminds us that we are creatures. But we all know that there are many, many things do this, over the course of a life. And maybe this isn’t so bad, because these things – although they’re often tragic – force us to forget our schemes and plans and really show up for life, they call us to the things of the world. VALES, then, is a place where we can pause, stop, and listen, and reflect, feel our bodies and look around and remember that we are creatures with sorrows and pains and joys and this is in fact a wonderful thing… A series of deep pools, sheltered valleys on the internet."

Amen.

Ryan H.

Purchase from Bandcamp

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)

The "Beasts in the Garden"'s video, with its sharp alto-sax stabs and fluttering flute, serve as an effective visualization of the rich, Eden-like soil that Ka Baird and Taralie Peterson tilll on their eponymous latest album. Returning to instruments that have been gathering dust in parents' closets next to old yearbooks and many-times-raided piggy banks, Baird and Peterson dig out the flute and alto sax respectively to create lush, minimalist-influenced passages that meld Riley-esque cycles into heavily processed acoustic instrumentation and electronics buoyed and narrated by Baird's fearless operatic vocals that explore and mine richness and timbre out of any pitch. 

The accompanying video, a lush, many-filtered, tight-aperture affair that explodes into kaleidoscopic visuals of richness and depth only captured on film, is perpetually critter-view. A type of POV walk-through of front yards and city-lots as experienced by weasel or mink. In a way that serves as a nice visual bookmark for Baird's voice on this track. Slinking through pitch and hue until it explodes into kaleidoscopic bars that showcase Baird's ability to ring emotion out of the tiniest of pitch changes.

Centered squarely in the Chicago improv/jazz community, this album sounds like it was inspired by countless jam sessions with some of Chicago's most fearless. "Portabittaclog" is a mid-album punch in the face. Full of faint tribal rhythms, heavily plucked string instruments , with Peterson's Ayler-influenced skronks and wails and Baird's flute scratching the ceiling of the upper register and her voice dipping into a ragged baritone. Beasts in the Garden is an affecting, color-filled document that sounds way better than it sounds on paper: Two friends play instruments they haven't touched since high school play free-jazz influenced, minimalist compositions. In fact, it sounds way, way better. This, hands-down, is my favorite and STITSR to date. 

Purchase here

Beasts in the Garden by Spires that in the Sunset Rise (film by Lori Felker) from Lori Felker on Vimeo.

Monday, June 15th, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)

Try to place this stringed instrument on Colleen's stunning, minimalist single off the upcoming Captain of None. Too guttural for the guitar. Too full-bodied for a baritone ukelele. Ok. Time's up. It's the Viol de Gamba. But you already knew that because this kind of music - both understated and incredibly intense - warrants frenzied google searches into WhoTF this is, and WhatTF this is. Given Colleen's longetivity (first US tour in 8 years folks), these kind of astoundly simple sounding, but acoustically complex compositions have inspired frantic internet searches for awhile...or since its Thrill Jockey, frantic searches of catalog inserts in LPs/CDs to find moar, moar moar. Accompanying this song we get a closed off, hidden world of minerals and plant life shot in sharp HD that ties us to the natural world, of the fluid that pulses at a cellular level through all forms of life and the iron in our blood magnetized and slowly turning to the moon whenever it pulls away from us. Truly astounding work.

Videodrone brought to you by Ryan H.

Thursday, June 11th, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)

Micromelancolié – Low Cakes (BDTA, 2015)

Micromelancolie has just released one of 2015’s most unexptectedly great albums. Last time we checked in with the Polish auteur was with the release of Ensemble Faux Pas  on A Giant Fern. That album full of surging, staticy drones and stabs of harsh noise did nothing to indicate Low Cakes’ pastiche of hip-hop samples, off beats and melodic drones. Every track on Low Cakes is a cloistered universe of sounds and actors moving with their own internal logic. In many ways the left-field samples of snippets of conversations, demo-reel intros and screwed-low soundcloud gems feel and sound similar to cLOUDEAD’s combination of combining outtakes and the unintentional beauty that comes in the discovery of tones massaged into spaces between percussion that always hit just a split-second off, but thrown open to the internet and filtered through a Polish musician’s particularly obscure lens. Drones elide into heavy, aleatoric beat-fueled madness between synth arpeggios that could be the entire melodic lynchpin in other tracks, but are relegated to background status here, sharing face time with other auxiliary sounds and melodies or are stopped dead in its track by vocal sample that completely takes control of the track’s trajectory, taking the track to a grinding, unwinding halt before rebuilding it around a rapped interlude or vocal sample pitch-shifted to an uncomfortable timbre. This is the Jamie xx album for Polish noise fans.

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D.F.W K.B.D & J.G – A Chance Happening 27/08/14 in Brasserie Beubian (Shaking Box, 2015)

For those of you who book experimental shows know that the expectation for attendance can be low even if you live in a city where experimental shows usually kill. I’ve been there, filled with trepidation that those 35 people who clicked "yes" on facebook would actually show up to a Tuesday night drone show at some dive bar in the formerly-industrial part of town. For those of you who actually attend said shows: thank you. From the bottom of my heart. What should have been a particularly incredible show in Calgary with Devin Friesen A.K.A Bitter Fictions (2014 Tome favorite) and James Goddard (Skin Tone), instead turned into one of those worst-nightmare situations. Only one non-musician showed up. That brave soul was none other than Kyle Bobby Dunn (who you may remember as having the BEST RECORD OF 2014). This poorly attended show turned into an impromptu jam-session that was recorded for posterity sake. The result is something truly staggering. Between banter with the bartender about Hitler’s favorite composer and other small talk are massive, cathedral-sized improvised compositions played into the void of an empty bar. Dunn, who was not planning on playing that night, contributes by the means of a piano located next to the performing area. Plucking out singular notes and coaxing cavernous sounds from the maw of the open mouth of the piano, Dunn’s piano weaves itself in and out of Friesen’s massive-sounding guitar and tape compositions and Godards subtle crafting of electronic tones and minimal – almost incidental – percussion. If these three played a show in Cincinnati, I promise I wouldn’t be the only non-musician to attend. So…think about it.

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Drowse – Soon Asleep (Apneicvoid, 2015)

In the mental health field we refer to the effects of anti-psychotic or serotonin reuptake inhibitors in terms of management. The idea is that medication dampens the acuity of symptoms without eliminating the root cause. The dampening of the acuity of the symptoms often has unintended consequences – like the dampening of the acuity of every other emotion. Kyle Bates’ solo output under Drowse, so far, has put out two powerful treatises on the individual effects of prescription drugs – putting an aural soundtrack to the woozy, disorienting effects of purposely altering your brain chemistry. Soon Asleep is a massively more superior record to his initial debut EP Songs to Sleep On in every way. Hazy, atmospheric guitars melt into far-off and receding synthesizers in horizonless fog. But with mastering abstraction also comes a newfound compositional clarity. Underneath the thick pall of perfectly balanced overblownness of major chord riffage under metric tonnage of reverb and crystalline synthesizers echoing from some lower rung of heaven comes Bates’ voice, corralling and guiding the billowing storm cloud into blissful shoegaze-pop narratives of dissociation and dislocation that come from ripping apart and reforming one’s brain chemistry. Not only is this compositionally light-years ahead, but the way in which Bates’ is able find tones through deft guitar-synth interplay that ache and bleed around the edges while holding a golden beam of light in its core is the equivalent of meditative breathing exercises for machines. One of the most personal and arresting albums to date, Soon Asleep comes from the depths of human despair but ultimately serves to be one of 2015’s most cathartic and immediate releases.

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Orlando Scarpa Neto – Transporte Publico (Self-Released, 2015)

Orlando Scarpa Neto is a Brazilian musician who has found a way to translate one’s daily commute on public transport into five compositions with guitar and electronics that find purchase not only as a travelogue for the weary commuter but as a guitar record that is versatile and sturdy enough to fill many different roles. Neto’s compositions range from stark, solo guitar playing serrated arpeggios chopped into accelerating ascension, or laid bare beneath light touches of reverb and surging, pulsing electronics that fill in corners of repeating guitar lines with static dread. Other times Neto’s guitar lines are sharply defined ascending lines cutting streaks through the sky like powerlines on a cloudless day. Neto composed these tracks using his daily commute into Rio De Janeiro as inspiration. Even without this exposition, these tracks retain a sense of travel in their ascending guitar lines that gather speed on each pass through Neto’s subtle use of accumulating manipulation of single lines of music. These tracks have a destination in mind and it is straight into your subconscious.

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)