Crown Larks - Blood Dancer (Spacelung / Landbreathing, Already Dead, 2015)
Crown Larks are a Chicago sextet that create some of the densest, tightest psych, free-jazz jams, that, when broke open, unspool into some the most glorious strains of forever-ascending squalor I've heard all year. Blood Dancer, at 7 tracks feels massive. It is a record that I've only been able to take in single settings a handful at times. Taken in small chunks it easy to appreciate the lumbering, meaty rhythm sections that weave in and out of deft Kraut-inspired bass lines that gradually take an exit off the autobahn into the grimiest of Chicago neighborhoods where all hell breaks loose under the weight of three brass instruments soloing above that locked-in bass line and some of the best out drumming that is able to trade flashiness for brass-tacks before selling it all in an eight-armed pummeling as the track looses its moorings and leaves the city, the planet and all known multiverses behind. It is really inspiring to see a band deliver on the promise of some of the finest prog-influenced, noise-bred bands like $keletons, Clipd Beaks and ZS that gained traction in the late aughts and are now being delivered in massive ways by newcomers like Jobs and Crown Larks. Plus, I heard they might play at something, somewhere, that totally rules. But you didn't hear that from me....
P.S. When I googled, then google imaged "what is a six-piece band called?" I came across this photo, which totally unrelated to the review, is absolutely incredible. Please view.
Andrew Tuttle - Slowcation (A Guide to Saints, 2015)
As part of Andrew Tuttle's slowcation through the States from his native Brisbane, Australia, he made a stop in Denver during 2014's Goldrush Music Festival. I was thrilled to make the acquaintence of someone whose work I've admired while he recorded under the moniker Anonymeye as well as his work with A Guide to Saints and Room 40. Tuttle was gregarious and seemed equally thrilled to be at Goldrush, sitting through every set, making acquaintances with individuals he has had equal admiration through musically and kindling IRL relationships that exist because of the internet.Tuttle's output on his latest solo output was written and recorded mostly during this trip and is written for Tuttle's native banjo and manipulation of electronics. Tuttle's banjo technique has been written on extensively. Wringing minimalist lines played at hyperspeed make the steel strings of leather gut sound percussive, much like the ramping up of trance-inducing tribal ceremonial drums. The electronic compositions on Slowcation, a different animal in themselves, focus in on soaring, droning overtones while pitched micro-melodies run riot just at the threshold of our brain's ability to pay attention to several sounds at once. The album's most illuminating track "Post-Meridiem Construction", a collaboration between Tuttle and Matmos's M.C. Schmidt, finds both artists in conversation between Schmidt's beautifully augmented synth lines and Tuttle's elegiac banjo. The result is a fascinating electro-acoustic narrative of two men fully in control of their craft. That follows the course for much of this album, deeply-felt, emotionally resonant synth and banjo passages held at perfect tension with Tuttle's highly experimental, intellectually curious synth explorations that produce something that fires on all synapses on the musical pleasure scale for much of our readers.
Hidden Persuaders - Elegies and Curses (A Giant Fern, 2015)
It is fitting that the Hidden Persuaders' name also shares the title of a book detailing how corporate psychologists play on our fears and desires to sell us stuff we don't really want/need. At the tail-end of late-era capitalism our fears and desires aren't ours anymore, rather, part of a collected subconscious no longer manipulated by symbology and totems that chart our developmental progress but manufactured by the book/movie representations to sell products that help us achieve/eliminate said desire/fear. I've felt a lot of things while listening to music. There have been very few that approach genuine fear. Elegies and Curses gets close. Glacially slow Black Metal played over and between excellent sound art/collage that has punctuated Hidden Persuaders' earlier releases. The space between plodding bass riffs and the next distortion-filled riff are filled to their breaking point with menacing drones, black syrup synths, stabs of contact mic static and the undeniable sound of a fist through glass...perfectly synchronized to fall on the downbeat. Elegies and Curses is a masterfully heavy, downright disorienting release that skirts the outer edges of metal and plays it back through a filter that is somehow even more scary and fucked up than the trumped up tropes that it has come to embody. Highly recommended.
Our Love Will Destroy the World - Carnivourous Rainbows (Ba Da Bing Records, 2015)
"NZ noise royalty" was the descriptor from Ba Da Bing for Campbell Kneale's latest release under the moniker Our Love Will Destroy the World. Honestly, nothing could be closer to the truth. To break that down, New Zealand has a storied history of releasing skewed versions of pop and noise to the world at large, a cursory glance at Flying Nun's back catalog or, you know, the Dead C reveal a crowded list of notable weirdos. Royalty, although having nothing to do with meritocracy (which the sole factor behind Kneale's repute), gestures towards being an ambassador to other countries, representing the best of your home. Kneale certainly has done that. On Carnivorous Rainbows, Kneale's glorious knob-twisting, guitar-mangling, tone-wrangling is on full, glorious display here. Not leaving a single space available for quiet reflection, songs on Carnivorous Rainbows are filled to the brim with the tail-end or mid-thought gestation of million great ideas. Building, tribal percussion on "FUZZ LEGION MAJESTY" is joined by upper-register tonal fluctuations that squawk like tropical birds spooked by an ancient tribal ritual. Bleeding-out guitar attacks smear across the sky like bloodthirsty, chemtrail rainbows given, not as a promise, but as a warning that we are held at the capricious whim of an old god who would rather wipe us all out than course correct. Percussion shows up a lot of this record, sometimes as the backbone on tracks - see "FUZZ LEGION MAJESTY" - or explored in auxiliary roles, flitting in and out of the polyrhythmic (but not tempo-less) "MINIATURE BAMBI SUPERLAND". On the epic closer "HADES IRON HORIZON", fully-developed guitar drones and - what sounds like a bagpipe played on a KORG MS020 - lap gently like a congealing, molten sea while lone piano notes succumb and eventually suffer and die with the rest of us, completely submerged and burning in a sea of endless bliss...Our Love will Destroy the World.
Ken Camden - Dream Memory (Kranky, 2015)
In an album that blurs the line between guitar, synthesizer and voice, Dream Memory pulls together sounds that have their origin wholly outside of this world, or, at least, explores their organic origin beyond all recognition. To start with voice, Dream Memory has quite a bit of it. However, once you get past the album opener "Adenosine" you begin to lose track of it. That is because that track -whose wholly unique vocal sampling Camden pulls from Angel Olsen and Emily Elhaj - stitches together samples of the human voice transcribed to tonal variation and then plucked out, on what I imagine, is a synthesizer keyboard or a fretboard on a guitar interfacing with a synthsizer...this whole thing gets very confusing. But to track the subjective, lived experience of this record is pretty straight forward. The analog warmness of this track is stretched throughout the entire album, illuminating an album that, on its onset, shines with a cold metallic hue. This couldn't be any further from the truth. There is nothing robotic about this album although in its tonal range we find hints and remnants of sci-fi experiments in sound from old 50's classics played in black and white late into the evening. It pulls and coaxes voices from a variety of sources (human and otherwise) that hit a tonal sweet-spot that is above species consideration, or instrumental origin. It exists, somewhere in the haze between intellectual scrutiny and the subjective feeling of light and warmth that it brings.