Grizzly Spectre - All of Them Witches (Self-Released, 2014)

What a difference a few years makes. Last time we checked in on Grizzly Prospector (now operating under Grizzly Spectre for this project) we heard an artist reveling in the tense and inflection of a bygone era: short depression-era folk songs that rarely ran beyond the two minute mark. 2014, the SLC-based Parker Yeats has stripped the entire apparatus down to brass tacks (literally down to sheer mechanical action of the downstroke on a guitar) and then stretched and slowed the entire composition to a fraction of its original speed. The result is a droning, ghostly masterpiece of guitar, voice and synths. All of them buried. All of them sunk. And a what a voice it is. Yeats voice floats up through the floorboards, reverberates through empty apartments and high ceilings/sealings. Echoes of Yeats' bellow creating spectre-ish doubles of each other. The synth work here donated by Michael Biggs sound impossibly organic, like a bowed cello under a thick blanket of reverb. Grizzly Spectre works well as a moniker for what Parker is doing these days. The album spectre-like in that ephemeral, barely-there connection between two planes of existence, but is also very much tied to the West. A sense of unhedged expansion and discovery, a landscape seldom seen. Grizzly Spectre: a lone pioneer crossing the plane.

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Hakobune / Oliwa / Former Selves / Panabrite  - Oceanic Triangulation (Inner Islands, 2014)

This is the maw-fuckin' dream team right here. Three continents, four artists, two tapes, one hour of completely zoned relaxation. Enough on here get through a particularly dense and mind-numbingly boring textbook chapter on the "History of Supervision in Social Work". Can't make this stuff up. Srsly tho, look at this line up. The Japanese sound-sculptor Hakobune, whose tape Seamless and Here on Patient Sounds (Intl). is the most pleasant and beautiful piece of guitar music produced this year, starts the tape(s) off with a confident statement of purpose. An introduction glistening in golden reverb and far-away drones. Buenos Aires-based Oliwa, another contender for most transcendentally peaceful album of the year, follows up with a slow-burn, wandering synth track. A meander under a lush, thick canopy of thick, humid drone and meditative synthesizer played in some celestial key. Former Selves, who released a genius split with Original Flowering Earth on Crawf's Planted Tapes a while back has crafted a placid, tranquil pool of undisturbed beauty. There is an unspoken sense of tension floating somewhere below this track. Like the dams and lagoons in Swaziland guarded by a seven-headed snake that controls the weather (once again. Can't make this stuff up) this is something to be approached with respect and caution. Throw your coins to appease whatever ancient God lives below and bow out. Lastly, Panabrite (Goldrush 2012 alum represent!) is on to the most terrestrial of all artists. Starting out with the damp drip of a cave dwelling before launching into some truly virtuoso Bach-style fugue synthesizer shit before exploring more tranquil space before roaring (in the way these ambient-drone dudes do) into a crescendo of sorts with soaring guitar lines and textured synths ruminating below before fading out into field recordings of an open field. Incredible stuff on these tapes. 

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Zach Zinn - The Spiral Organ (Live God Collective, 2014)

Continuing with the more meditative, New Age-y vibe of the first half of this Tape Haul (it is about to get real noisy real fast on the next edition) the furthest flung member of the impressive Cincinnati-based Live God artist collective, Zach Zinn (Olympia, WA) has created a beautiful collection of drone-based compositions that feature some lovely looped woodwind and thumping tribal percussion. On the heels of the excellent Time and the Diamond, Zinn joins artists like Les Halles in exploring how woodwind instruments (I think that is a processed flute...) can add a layer of density, texture and Mayan-like zen (although I doubt the Mayan was a very zen-like culture) to already dense and muggy loop-based music. The space Zinn finds is pretty miraculous. Never one to overcrowd his compositions, Zinn incorporates rhythmic looping of instrumental passages if minimal percussion (infrequent tribal beats or tape loops) are not already present. This gives the entire tape a hypnotic, slightly sea-sick lurch forward. Woodwinds ride the crest as a top-bar melodies or are folded into the frothy, roiling surf of other auxilliary instrumentation such as harpsichord, harmonica and guitar. The Spiral Organ is a confident next step for Zinn, one that I find myself returning to on a frequent basis.

Monday, September 1st, 2014 | Add New Comment (0)

Scrolling through my facebook feed this morning left me supremely bummed out. Ferguson, friend-of-a-friend shot in his car for no reason, violence and all the justifications for violence. Then this showed up in my inbox. This piece of positivist jamn. A reconnaissance into the void of human spirit, report back: "it gets better". Sometimes you gotta ride that sine wave to its deepest pitch for the corresponding high. Anger turns into catharsis only if it channeled appropriately. CLIPD BEAKS has been my divining rod for a few years now.

Listening to the Oakland-based CLIPD BEAKS track is like watching a knot unwind itself in reverse. A focused, stereo-panning, bass line joined by sea-bird calls of angled distortion, until shortly after the drums kick in, all hell breaks loose. "FKWRK" turns into propulsive, limbs-a-flailing crescendo of dosed, Hoarse Loads-era noise with the openness and expansiveness off of anything off their latest tape Lost Offering. A Gordian knot of voices and mantras petitioning an empty sky.

Heligator is unspeakably honored to have CLIPD BEAKS donate a track to the cause. Every dollar spent at Heligator Records goes directly to the Malindza Refugee Camp Library in Mpaka, Swaziland. The proceeds from Heligator go to maintaining the library (literally keeping the lights on) and providing a small stipend to the volunteer, refugee librarians. The library is home to over 1,500 books, two computers as well as English and French classes taught by refugee volunteers. To learn more about the Library and where your money is going please visit the Library's blog at:
malindzarefugeecamplibrary.blogspot.com
There's nothing like donating to a good cause, getting incredible music to replace the bum jamz happening around the world. Maybe even more satisfying than dumping a bucket of ice water on your head. IDK. FKWRK, tho.

Thursday, August 28th, 2014 | Add New Comment (0)

It is here. The full line up of the Goldrush 2014 Music Festival in Denver, CO is upon us. And it is something. Check out the full list below. New additions are in bold with accompanying pictures. These include Wolf Eyes! Eric Copeland! Guerilla Toss! Howling Hex and so many more Make sure you check out Goldrush's Official Site for more information and to buy tickets. On behalf of the whole Tome family...Hope to see you there!

Wolf Eyes (Detroit, MI)

Eric Copeland (Brooklyn, NY)

Mount Eerie (Anacortes, WA)

clipping. (Los Angeles, CA)

Guerilla Toss (Boston, MA)

DVA (Parbudice Pardubicky Kraj, Czech Republic)

Thug Entrancer (Denver, CO)

Good Willsmith (Chicago, IL)

Kevin Greenspon (Los Angeles, CA)

Reighnbeau (Albuquerque, NM)

The Howling Hex (Denver, CO)

Sparkling Wide Pressure (Mufreesboro, TN)

Stag Hare (Salt Lake City, UT)

Trabajo (Brooklyn, NY)

RUMTUM (Denver, CO)

Mezzanine Swimmers (Brooklyn NY)

Fingers of the Sun (Denver, CO)

Braeyden Jae (Salt Lake City, UT)

Homebody (Denver, CO)

Church Fire (Denver, CO)

Aja Vision (Oakland, CA)

Sister Grotto (Denver, CO)

Champion (Denver, CO)

Docile Rottweiler (Denver, CO)

CP208 (Denver, CO)

Horse Latitudes (Denver, CO)

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014 | Add New Comment (0)

GOLDRUSH Music Festival is upon us.

GOLDRUSH 2014 WEBSITE

We can hardly believe we’ve made it to where we are now, but we are sure glad that we’re here and that we’ve brought our friends along with us yet again to share in this annual autumnal event. That of course means of bands, artists, sponsors, labels, writers, bloggers, and projectionists — all just for starters. As such, GOLDRUSH is now more than ever much more than simply a music festival. In its championing of the experimental community above all, GOLDRUSH has itself become a community. In its presentation of the progressive arts, GOLDRUSH has itself become a work of progressive art. GOLDRUSH is a collage, a combination, a pastiche blend of artistic mediums,styles, looks, sounds, feels, feelings, colors, shapes, sizes, moods, and music, pulling as much beauty from as many different corners of the map we can and pasting it all together into an interactive, living experience.

For our fourth edition, we’ve pulled out all the stops. GOLDRUSH 2014 represents our most ambitious project to date from a line-up standpoint alone. Match the unique and daring blend of music we’ll be presenting with our first ever record fair, a cassette compilation for the history books, an exhibition of local artists, experimental film projections and Denver’s definitive music journal in the form of our yearly ‘zine, and you’ve got something truly special. And we sure hope you’ll join us.

As in years past, GOLDRUSH could not be possible without the support of our amazing network of sponsors — record shops, ice cream parlors, cassette labels, music blogs, book stores and more have all shown their support this crucial effort, and we invite and welcome friends from all facets of our community to join in that effort. We are currently securing sponsors of all levels for GOLDRUSH 2014. Our mission remains to connect not only our community to one another, but to the world around us through progressive music. If this appeals to you or your business' ideals, and you'd like to be a part of this pioneering Denver music festival, please email info@goldrushmusicfest.com.

We are announcing the artists performing at Goldrush in waves. With no further ado here is the first wave of artists....Heaps more to come: 

mount eerie (anacortes, WA)

clipping. (Los angeles, ca)

thug entrancer (denver, co)

Good willsmith (chicago, il)

kevin greenspon (los angeles, ca)

stag hare (salt lake city, ut)

trabajo (brooklyn, ny)

rumtum (denver, co)

braeyden jae (salt lake city, ut)

homebody (denver, co)

sister grotto (denver, co)

champion (denver, co)

cp 208 (denver, co)

 

 

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 | Add New Comment (0)

Plains - Stone Cloud (Happenin/Nouemnal Loom, 2014)

Replacing the jittery, smack-seizures of the Lower East Side for the Sweet Tea sipping eternal afternoons of Alabama, Travis Swinford's uncanny knack for sounding like Lou Reed at his most content makes a strong contender for one of the finest psych-rock entries of 2014. Granted, you only had to read one sentence to get that Swinford-Reed comparison, much of Stone Cloud transcends easy comparisons and finds its biggest returns in Swinford's surreal guided imagery, compositional tightness that is adept enough to sound loose and banged out in one golden afternoon (eternal and FINALLY cooling off a bit). While most tracks wouldn't sound too off on a Transformer outtakes colleciton, Stone Cloud includes several outstanding tracks such as "Jessica", which centers on a dangerously addicting riff pounded out ad nauseum that gathers intensity like a proverbial snowball, and "The One That Took the Eye", whose Serge Gainsbourg-like pairing sophistication and nonchalance with one really killer guitar solo. Swinford finally caves into his kraut demons in the album's intense closing track which rides a motorik beat through a shambolic cloud of bent guitars and Swinford's adjacent croon. 

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Marcus Rubio - Land of Disenfranchisement (Already Dead, 2014)

Coming off a string of compositions made up of field recordings and fluctuations in microphone feedback, Land of Disenfranchisement - a fully fleshed out pop record full of whip-smart social commentary - came as a bit of a welcome surprise. And in this record we can hear Rubio settling into his role as an arbiter of resigned bitterness over an expansive palate of lo-fi landscapes that acts as a clearing house for Rubio's many musical personas and proclivities. Take, for example, the sheer breadth of a track like "Brodayte Weekend 2K10 (No Regretz)". It starts as an ambient low rumble, breaks into a bubbling synth track and by the end of 2:38 (!) Rubio pulls in a ruddy fiddle, swirling organ and heavily strummed power chords. Brodayte, however, doesn't play like cut-and-paste garageband schizophrenia, there is a distinct melody running throughout the track shepherding and corralling all these disparate musical voices. This is one of the real strengths of this record. There is some golden mean running throughout the record of insidiously sly and clever melodies that pull the listener through whatever eye of the needle approaches us. He makes such a compelling case through melody and strong songwriting - focused on unworthy attachments - that we accept whatever compositional water we find ourselves in. I'm not saying that this is a record full of anachronisms. Most of the tracks are understated, shuffling, folk-tinged beauties. A kind of tape that gets stuck in your player for days at a time because there is never not a time when it is appropriate. But when Rubio starts flexing, pulls some heavily reverbed drone sandwiched between two perfect pop songs, we are willing to go there because we have our Virgil through the Land of Disenfranchisement. One of my favorites for the year of our Lord 2014.

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Decade in Exile - Transit/Pulse (Crash Symbols, 2014)

Taking on some pretty heavy themes following the passing of his father, Duncan Lloyd takes on death and transition time (instantaneous? light years?) between this world and whatever is after here through creating a terranium of sadness in which these ideas are played out through the careful observation in a contained space where questions of faith and life can take root. Split between two sides, Transit is split between spectral, shoegaze-folk and multi-tracked guitar loops overwraught with every drop of emotional transference wrung from them. These multi-layered guitar lines and drones are reminiscient of the kind of worlds Yume Bitsu tried to create, and more specifically with their raga-like leanings in the percussion, more akin to the spiritual realm of post-Bitsu Adam Forkner projects. Pulse is a bit more a subdued affair, much less focused on world-configuration than sending transmissions with enough signal strength to reach the other side. Long, sustained drones of amplifier-destroying severity punctauate this side of the tape. One of the most beautiful meditations on passing and the afterlife since Panda Bear's Young Prayer.

Wasted Cathedral - Pleasant Valley (Adhesive Sounds, 2014)

Pleasant Valley is a creeping motorcade of repetition and drone, a beat tape as dictated by Vangelis, an endlessly listenable series of looping, ever-ascending tendrils born from static and grit shooting forth straight into the sun. And this is the sun's communique back. Flecked and shedding beams of pure light on its descent back to its earthly grave. Chris Laramee creates some all-encompassing, completely engulfing compositions that don't rely on the club-like (as in weapon) tendencies of kraut to railroad the beat into infinity, but rather the club-like (as in this) repetition found in dance music. A communal practice of repetition to slow down time. Thats why, in light of tracks like "We Depart Memphis Moons" I want to call this a beat tape, even though I am not really sure what that is or if that is a thing. These tracks push a sense of laser-focused attention to the way in which the pulsing, eternally repeating beat interacts with the hazy, soft-noise drones emitting from a boombox experiencing some serious R.E.M cycle sleep. Otherwise, the eponymous "Pleasant Valley" finds its sanctity in repetition of sampled strings layered on top of each other creating subtle, ghosting movements of overwhelming beauty. "Blood Diamonds" ends the tape with a compelling, long-form exploration into creating sacred space via tape, a forever-drone decaying under the weight of some serious Basinski style tape destruction. 

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Nate Henricks - Neon for No One (Crash Symbols, 2014)

Nate Henricks opens Neon for No One with one colossol pastiche. The 10 minute + "Dead Fox Waltz" is comprised of three or four song-songs segued with a dense soup of swirling musical voices. This song (probably an EP unto itself) sets up the rest of the tape in a brilliant way. It exposes Henricks as a songwriter of great repute in the song-songs and a brilliant sound-collage artist in the gaps. On Neon For No One these two personas exist in perfect concert with each other.  These folk-tinged, shuffling mid-tempo tunes are beguilingly simple. A melody strong enough to carry any song is meticulously fucked with until a bright, shiny new creature arises. A tune simple enough to get any toe to tapping, yet bathed in enough lo-fi aural light to keep an audiophile's ear to the stereo. It's the songs. Really, the songs. "No More Shows" narrates the sad D.I.Y self-immolation of every great punk venue in your rinky-dink town. "Too much dumb behavior/too much broken equipment..." Sound familiar? If not, let Henrick's spoken word bridge lovingly dictate how your ethics and ideals of a community-centered "scene" is ruined by too many egos and too many drugs and vulture-like commodification of cultural colonialists hoping to cash in on the next big thing. "Sometimes I Die" is a cavernous, slow-build of a song that staggers its way to a sweeping, cathartic climax full of heartstring tugging strings, major chord flailing, distant martial drumming and Henrick's voice dripping with a sweet sense of ennui haunting through the entire composition. Too much perfection. Buy this.

Ryan H.

Thursday, July 10th, 2014 | Add New Comment (0)

Live God Collective came to my attention a few months ago after (missing) a performance by Apartment Mouth in Cincinnati where I currently reside. I was introduced to this collection of renegade artists and musicians by Boyfroot's Jay Harmon, a musician we here at the Tome have long admired. Live God took me through a backdoor portal into a world created by a group of unheralded artists creating music and art virtually out of any spotlight here in Cincinnati. While some have received significant blogger accolades, most of these artists represent that one-in-a-million bandcamp find that alerts you to the sheer vastness of how many people exist who make weird, unearthly music and put it out there for public consumption without much thought for compensation, and how will never truly have any sort of handle on what is out there and how much of it you will never hear. This is stuff that deserves to be heard. It is dark, dank and occasionally totally brilliant. It comes to us with the smell of unfinished basements and stale weed clinging to its garments that follow it into public, alerting you to the fact that its home is not your world and daring you to follow it into that part of town you've glimpsed from the freeway but never quite felt comfortable going into alone. The albums below represent Live God's 2014 releases thus far.

Live God Collective

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Apartment Mouth - The Vile Dialect

A totally depressing, guttural trudge through half-vacant apartments and weed-covered lots. Lots of eyes on you. Smell of anxiety like mold on half-rotten cardboard boxes. a feral bag of Hot Cheetos torn free from a nearby fence crosses your path and onto the street. Danger. Sweat. Apartment Mouth, a distinct type of dental rot caused by eating right before bed, is a collaboration between Live God artists Keiki and Boyfroot, and boy does it seeeethe. It writhers in unpleasantness and guitar feedback under the hands of Keiki and mutant, idiot beats are trawled up via a mic cable straight into Boyfroot's fucking soul. Some of the most dire stuff I've heard all year. Ponderous riffs and disembodied vocals coming from those flats condemned to demolition. Where will ghosts go after we have taken their homes?

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Sal Lake - Sodyolk

Sal Lake (no relation to the city of Salt Lake where I spent my early 20's) has a streak of eclecticism that runs a pretty deep chasm through this relatively short album. Songs (in that capitalized "S" sense of the word) range from tape manipulation, harsh noise, sample-based collages to droning, synth-based compositions. The two highlights below of this are cross-samples of these tendencies in Sodyolk: freak-the-fuck-out to compositions with enough patience and grace to invite deep listening. "Burgerbreath" is the most straight-forward noise track on this album, borrowing heavily from Kevin Drumm's dips into militant knob-twisting abuse, this 1:12 track is a palate cleansing raid on the senses. A perfect antidote for an afternoon spent trying to unclog a drain only to break the tool you were renting (FML). "Fussle" is many things, a post-IDM, industrial-lite slowburner with free-floating, pitch-shifting vocals and a quite beautiful repetitive synth call ...a signal to other sentient instruments. A machine's mating call. Pretty great stuff.

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First Dog - Music for Paranoid Cartoons

Both First Dog (formerly First Dog to Visit the Center of the Earth) and Boyfroot (then Boyfruit) were some of the first musicians to contact us to review their stuff. That was back whent they were still in high school. Now look at them running labels and art collectives and stuff. And this, this hour + wade into some of the best synth-based music I've heard all year. Present throughout are First Dog's playful and minimal melodies, all warped and sunbaked, cracked beats, swirling, buzzing guitar solos. First Dog never really went anywhere after relasing several fantastic releases including Every Machine On which Foxy Digitalis (R.I.P) awarded a "perfect 10". This is simply where we have decided to pick back up the trail, a place where First Dog is creating sprawling, melodic, beat-heavy records that are endlessly listenable, probably danceable (somewhere in this galaxy) and quite possibly one of the best things you will hear this year.

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Boyfroot - Drug Lord Wizard

Boyfroot - a self-proclaimed "demonic trap lord" - is never not making music. Fully invested into a culture that favors off-the-dome rapping into a cell phone that is never not on you and later piecing these together into a composition, Boyfroot's rebirth as narrator and arbiter of all things "darksided" from a loop-based electronic artist which Nick Potter accurately and lovingly described as a "troop of retarded elephants" has been a seamless delve into the Midwest's utterly bleak description of urban life by sixteen year olds claiming to tote AK's. This has yielded some pretty terrific results (including a Tiny Mix Tapes "Eureka" nod). Drug Lord Wizard follows on the heels of those successful mixtapes by pairing dreamlike, ambient soundscapes with crisp, skittering trap beats and Froot's pitch shifted, multi-layered voice narrating all types of deviant behavior. At this point this isn't the venue to discuss persona, appropriation, or anything like that. Drug Lord Wizard is a crystalline statement of Boyfroot's intent to compose incredibly well-crafted atmospherics to the immediacy and freedom of revealing your darkest and most twisted thoughts without any intermediary. 

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Keiki - CBK II

As one half of Apartment Mouth, Keiki has created a record that is sludgy, intense, and pretty difficult to get through. CBK II is an expressionistic, immediate guitar record that provides a glimpse into the transference between a musician's brain and instrument. A privileged glimpse of improvisation that does not follow perfect scales or aims at proficiency (not saying that this is anything but proficient), rather CBK II revels in the close proximity of mic to mouth, the aleatoric moan, the omnipresent drone, the harsh squeals of feedback oscillating madly over a wall of distortion. Ultimately, this is a guitarists record, a record filled with anxious discovery of what the amplified instrument can do. On "Error Control" these sounds are packaged and processed and let out in forced, controlled blasts of machine gun regularity. "The Traveler" is a long form, droning masterpiece of sludged-out heaviness that creeps and bellycrawls on its 24 + minute journey from lament to cemetery wail. CBK II is a necessarily intense record, and one doesn't give up its treasures easily.

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Zach Zinn - Time and the Diamond 

Zach Zinn, a rare non-midwesterner, creates beautiful, contemplative meditations that seemingly offset and/or counterbalance much of what we've heard on Live God. Not that Keiki's guitar destruction is any less spiritual or there isn't some kind of zen-like quality to the surety that Boyfroot will kill, smoke or fuck anything in his path (oneness of mind and purpse), but Zach Zinn's compositions surrounded by cystal-studded synths, processed and modulated woodwinds give Time and the Diamond a sort of studied, world-weariness of an attempt at communicate with the divine through ritual and drone. Huge, oceanic swells of noise underscore blinking, repeating bell sounds, mournful woodwinds, shamanistic vocals, tape manipulation, looped percussion and improvised synth lines. This is the kind of New Age dispatch that artists on Constellation Tatsu or Moon Dial Tapes are really proficient in making. This record, however isn't a maudlin, floating affair. The Celestial comes in mud-flaked and with bags under its eyes. The kind of happy, tired perfection that comes with lots and lots of practice and time in repetition. Beautiful stuff. 

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

 

True Neutral Crew - #POPPUNK (Deathbomb Arc, 2014)

Last year TNC dropped #Monsanto, a sprawling (for a four song EP) vision of the future of Hip-Hop. Featuring members of Foot Village, Clipping and I.E, that spooked EP sent reverberations around the horn to discerning listeners. With those reverberations was also a warning. A warning that #POPPUNK was in the works. #POPPUNK as a title is a bit more on the nose than the actual music itself. If you expected a record made with guitars, bass and drums or a terrible mid-00's bastardization of hip-hop and punk, you would be only half right...half of the time. #POPPUNK captures the battled punk spirit of killing sacred cows as trodden out in their opening track "Modern Art", a track that rails against equating intention with creation. That song is replete with bright, simple melodies couched in the voices and aspirations from a hundred different sources. That track also serves as a debut of TNC's newest crewster, Sir Benedick the Moor, whose elastic, hyper-kinetic flow is a welcome addition to the loose group that defines itself in spurts of intense collaboration. This collaboration eschews any sense of easy answers that the record title would give of  "hey, deyre rapping over pop-punk!" explanations and instead dips into left-field production that works on the strength of the crew in total instead of a showcase for each individual's talent. "New Shit" is one of those workably great tracks where everyone, including Brian Kinsman's awesomely nasally flow shows up to absolutely kill the track. There are stops and starts, the eponymous "Pop Punk" is as close to pop punk as we're going to get, "Can't Stop Loving You" is a cavernous, mid-tempo ballad sung in Spanish featuring I.E rapping on last half of the song. Everything in between is as raucous and thought-provoking as TNC wants/is capable of producing.

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Tideland - Lull (Sterling, VA Records, 2014)

Tideland from Sterling, VA on Sterling, VA records. I know the kind of pride/revulsion of coming from middle-class suburbia. Places where planned, covenant-controlled communities wind with sprawling, serpentine precision through former forests/plains and everyone has a backyard and driveway. Of course you can't mention Sterling, VA without Pg. 99. As I am finding, however, Pg. 99 is a very visible head to a legion of suburban punks sweating it out in basement shows and legion halls. Tideland, probably the most notable group to form out of Sterling in the recent years, is well into their young career of crafting shoegaze inspired melodic rock songs that ring and shine with that crunch that died away when alternative rock stopped being a thing. There are probably a billion "90's" band that one could point to as touchstones for this record full of hummable hooks, dueling guitars and waves of distortion that crash in deafening waves. Failure, Hum, Superchunk and recent revivalists Pity Sex come easily to mind. This is a record that deserves to be played way too loud through decaying car speakers with the windows down because the AC is broken and you don't earn enough money from delivering pizza to get it fixed.

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Wreck and Reference - Want (The Flesner, 2014)

Want as a record is a thing that leaves scars. An unrelenting dive into self-loathing and unredeemed angst that is difficult to shake. A record that splinters into a thousand shards the minute it hits the turntable. Unsettling and and leaden without a downstroke on a guitar or a single bass line. Wreck and Reference is consisted solely of Felix Skinner on midi-controller/synth/piano/vocals and Ignat Frege on drums. This sparse line up belies just how huge these tracks can get. Skinner's electronic compositions range from snarling, minimalist seas of distortion and glass to pulsing, halting waves of modulated blood pumping through a robotic aorta. Skinner's voice takes center stage here moving from tortured scream, husky growl, fraying croon to monotone spoken word. These iterations often fall over each other in the attempt to expel the breath out of his lungs like Skinner consumed poison or these words were put into him by a non-benevolent being. Something needs to come out. The human mouth can only contort itself in so many ways and lungs can only handle so much strain until they begin to flake and detach themselves. Frege's expressive drumming is strangely not the heaviest thing on this album. He can pound out powerful, cavernous lines that pummel unforgivingly, but often they are understated and mixed pretty low so as to let the listener roil and seethe in the carefully crafted electronic atmosphere. The Flesner can do no wrong this year. Every release has been an incredibly powerful, boundary pushing endeavor in the world of heavy, intense music.

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Salazar - Saudade (Self-Released, 2014)

A perfectly composed, perfectly paced record full of understated beauty that is easy to lose an afternoon in. It is not often that these kind of polite, earnest indie rock records have this immediate of an effect on me. But here we are with a record that easily matches the compositional complexity and high falutin crooning vocals as a band such as Grizzly Bear, Midlake or any group like unto them. Saudade takes time in revealing its tricks. Insidiously hooky melodic lines couch themselves in prog-lite guitar and bass lines, only revealing themselves in memory or repeated listens. Perfect for late afternoon house cleaning, dinner party hosting, Saudade is a non-confrontational album that still retains enough backbone to fade into obscurity in social settings and enough aural meat for this to be a serious headphone affair. Melodies, jazzy time signatures and instrumental flourishes manifesting themselves as each track meanders and moseys to its eventual demise.

Saturday, June 28th, 2014 | Add New Comment (0)

Edible Onion, a small-run label out of Philadelphia sent out two records that, while light-years apart from each other musically and reference-wise, are both sonically adventurous and definitely worth having in your library. 

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wei zhongle - raised high/brought low

A lot of the music we write about on the Tome is the saga of musicians trying create new references out of old sounds. A guitar drone will be processed to sound like a...building falling onto a mattress of sea foam. A synth line will be stretched to mimic an...ancient magnetic storm still raging inside a seashell. Wei Zhongle, however, plays deeply unsettling music, not because it is unfamiliar, but because we have heard this music before, vaguely know the context but really stop short beyond just knowing about this kind of music. The Eastern modes of music that Wei Zhongle synthesize are just on my periphery of musical understanding. I guess the closest reference would be Steve Reich's Gamelan music mixed with the stop-start headiness of unapologetically obtuse bands like Skeletons, or Trabajo's appropriation of Eastern music into fuck-all dance parties. But that still doesn't do this justice. Fully enmeshed in Indonesian traditional music, Chinese orchestral and African percussion, Wei Zhongle plays brain-squeezing music focused on repetition and Eastern scales. Woodwinds pulse and stab, falling all over an prepared electric guitar in some kind of insane tuning that makes it sound like a giant strumming telephone wires while Rob Jacob's voice stretches from falsetto into a guttural, nasally howl. These are things that we know have real-world musical references. They have been listened to by millions of people. To Western ears, however, cocked at such a slant we can hear a whole musical formula begin to untangle itself and reform new connections within our brain. Having spent a great deal of time with this record, I can firmly say that this is a pop record, a slavishly devoted, freakishly intelligent pop record that will burrow into small nooks and crannies in your brain and replace whatever formulaic Western pop song was there with sliding, staccato sharp melodies that seem counter intuitive at first but eventually become the new norm. Your reference may not be Eastern Music, it will be Wei Zhongle. 

still sweet - pirouette 7"

The loneliness of mid-tempo pop song. Still Sweet is a dead reckoning of 60's girl groups, downer/outsider pop filtered through the haze of working class aspirations of producing something meaningful before being shuttered in the ground. Still Sweet is one of Benjamin Schurrs (Br'er) and Darian Scatton's (Scallion, Br'er) stranger projects. Even though the dude is on bass and percussion he can still manage to suck the life out of a funeral party. With Scatton and Gabrielle Smith (eskimeaux) at the driver's seat, the moroseness that accentuates much of Br'er's work is filtered through a faintly rose tinted glass. The doo-wop time signatures, the interplay between male-female harmonies make this a wistful, late-night sort of record whose darkness glints just below the sweet surface.

Listen on Edible Onion

Ryan H.

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014 | Add New Comment (0)

Pretoria, South Africa's psych-punk two-piece were kind enough to donate an EP's worth of material to Heligator. And what an EP it is. These four tracks seethe with a sense of dread and dissatisfaction, writhing in vitriol and righteous indignation. They are also big, bombastic rock songs that sound as if they were coming up through the cement from a sweaty basement show. Make-Overs recreate this kind of adjacent intensity, moth-to-flame draw by keeping the mix somewhere in between fidelities and the amps always up to ear-bleeding level.

This is the kind of punk I knew was happening somewhere in South Africa when I traveled through there. Make-Overs lay it on thick with a minimalist approach to rhythm and melody, piling on tons of reverb and a spooked vocals creating an irresistible mix of punk, blues and kraut-inspired psych for international consumption.

As this is Heligator's first international release, it is fitting that it comes from Pretoria, South Africa. Pretoria's close proximity to the refugee camp in Swaziland brings it all back home a bit.

All proceeds from your purchase directly to the continued maintence and existence of the Malindza Refugee Camp library in Mpaka, Swaziland.

Check out the happenings on Malindza Refugee Camp Library's blog

Purchase from Bandcamp below:

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014 | Add New Comment (0)

Siavash Amini - Till Human Voices Wake Us (Umor Rex, 2014)

Your (and my) ignorance of Iran's powerful experimental music community is excused. But after 2014, you can no longer hide behind this veil of ignorance. This year has already seen two incredible releases by Iranian artists putting out  ambient-drone records that rank as some of the most haunting and beautiful this year. Porya Hatami's Shallow and Tehran-based Siavash Amini's Till Human Voices Wake Us have found have made their way over to the States and found physical releases on Tench and Umor Rex, respectively. Amini's work is centered around sparse guitar passages that are either played clean with relatively little adornment or are processed beyond recognition. These passages are lightly brushed over deep, muted swathes of airy drones and a roaring low end. Taking cues from T.S Eliot's collected works, Till Human Voices Wake Us take up much of that mindspace: floating somewhere between signifiers and the deep chasm of the randomness of the unconsciousness, fugue-states and crystal-eyed prophecy. Fans of Fennesz and Asfandyar Khan have found a kindred spirit.

Siavash Amini Bandcamp

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White Suns - Totem (The Flesner, 2014) 

Following up a pretty universally loved album sophomore album, White Suns are back with another controlled detonation of surgically accurate noise-rock chaos. Heavy on both the noise and the rock, Totem is equal parts cathartic fist-into-brick pure aggro release, dread-filled ambient passages waiting for all things dreadful to fall in the next breath and brilliant spoken word interludes in between caustic blasts of a contact mic dragged along a road at high speeds. While there is much to keep a listener at arm's length (taken in during one sitting is a challenge worth taking) there is enough structure here with build-ups, tsunami-sized climaxes, plenty of riffs, heaps of shredding and WWIII breakdowns. Rock band dynamics with harsh noise tendencies, White Suns uphold a pretty fine history of bands who have finessed this line of harnessing noise within a refined structure. White Suns are carrying on the legacy of bands like Jesus Lizard or Hovercraft to its violent, brutal end. The Flesner has had a flawless 2014 thus far. Totem may be its brightest diadem. 

White Suns bandcamp

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German Army - Millerite Masai (Yerevan Tapes, 2014)

If you were around in the mid-19th century, chances are you were pretty sure the world was going to end. Like any day. It is fitting that the San Bernadino's latest tape pairs one of the world's longest running intact cultures, the Masai, with the time-bound doctrinal understandings that put the end of the world before the polio vaccine. German Army works a bit in each realm. Layering ancient Eastern percussion loops with transient, and definite time-and-place elements of weirdo industrial beats (BPMs at L.A traffic pace and screwed dooowwwn), murky, downright toxic drones, and smatterings of twangy, surfy guitars. The result is something that crawls on its belly and eats dust, the opposite side of that beautiful fall leaf on the ground. Vocals are present through much of the album, however, Peter Kris's voice is often put through a bevy of filters and mixed waaay low in the mix giving it a disembodied, found-sound character. Intense, with that feral odor of loosening associations, but also extremely precise and intentional. Long live our false predictors.

German Army bandcamp

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Invisible Elephant - Sleepwalking (Self-Released, 2014)

Lovingly deconstructed shoegaze from the depths of a bottomless pit located somewhere near Blackpool, UK. Rising out of these depths are compositions that build and brood with swirling, looped guitar parts that float with such easy ambience it is difficult to get a sense of their source until they coalesce and ring out in a powerful sonic attack of amp-destroying bliss. While there is plenty of space here for hushed vocals barely making it out of the throat hovering over a churning sea of guitars tuned to grey noise, there are moments of remarkably assure, confident songwriting that channels the airy pop experimentation and wistful ennui of 4AD artists who saw the horizon between pop composition and glorious noise making, sleep and waking, and claimed it as their own. Rightfully released on cassette, Sleepwalking is one of those records I kept coming back to, even after I thought I had shelved the visceral sadness it exudes. There is something about it, especially the track "From the Bottom of a Well" that never let me get to far without having to hear it again. Once I see the clouds darkening I instinctively know what tape is next on deck.

Invisible Elephant bandcamp

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Les Halles - Invisible Cities (Constellation Tatsu, 2014)

Lovely meditations with flute and strings. If I didn't know any better I would swear this was a lost recording of a South American pan flute ensemble that was recorded in the seventies or early eighties, traded and highly sought after in the New Age home recording movement and then resurfaced after an estate sale and a lucky find amongst unmarked tapes and MYST CD-ROM games. But that is not how this came about, right? Anyone? Regardless, this is a perfect record to completely disconnect to. Heavily processed flutes and synths ring out in dawning ribbons of pure spectral light through some technicolor early dawn light. The entire thing is recorded in an extremely direct manner. It is an easy tendency to distract the lightness of this record by making it sound far away or adjacent, Invisible Cities is forever right up against an audio space that is recreating itself in its own likeness. A city reproducing facsimiles of itself like the spores of some smashed dandelion. Just as airy and light.

Les Halles bandcamp

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Dead Rider Chills on Glass (Drag City, 2014)

Todd Rittman leads a mutant brigade through an album of enough twists and turns to call the very elemental nature of this composition into question. What is this? Not what kind of music is this, but what exactly is this? If there is truth in song titles, then "Four Cocks" would be the skeleton key. Chills on Glass is a collective evacuation of more than a couple decades (Todd Rittman was the weirdo ripper behind U.S Maple lest we forget) of a deep obsession with music: studying it, playing it and then lovingly fucking it up beyond recognition. Not just a semi-logical juxtaposition (Funk/metal, spazz-electronica/dude-rock) but literally taking a bass line from your favorite Sly and the Family Stone record and breaking its nose with your fist...and then not stopping until it is a pulverized mess that now sounds like a sound effect off of Silent Running sputtering out of a freshly dropped amplifier. Rittman's feral non-sequiters and strange hip-hop cadence often dips from street preacher shaman trance to Boz Scaggs blue-eyed soul to Tunde Adebimpe croon in the same song and often in the same breath. Rittman is old enough to be my dad but keeping up with him is exhausting. In fact, TV on the Radio might be the closest thing we have here to a low-hanging comparison. But TV on the Radio does not account for the sheer damage this record does to the psyche. You should listen to it. We should talk about. I can bill for it.

Dead Rider site

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X.Y.R Arktika (Constellation Tatsu, 2014)

Arktika is the latest tape from Vladmir Karpov, 1/2 of Russia's finest ambient exports 2muchachos. We've written extensively on 2muchachos as a group before but somehow Vladmir's solo stuff has passed us by. That is a shame because this is some of the best stuff put out by the collective. Not straying far from the Muchacho line of best fit, x.y.r  is a study on warm, melodic synth lines with no-frills beat patterns with a BPM set to canter. The title of the tape sums up perfectly the mood and drift of the x.y.r's compositions. Endless and unchanging as a vast ice field, a sparkling white landscape with gradual shifts in composition and color that offer glimpses of variety and changeability but are obviously variations on a theme. That theme is what makes Arktika such a compelling record. The deep pulls of synth-based drones, those sparkling melodic lines repeating themselves and accruing new meaning on each pass and field recordings nestled deep in the recording alerting you that somewhere, beyond this lifeless expanse, life is teeming and real. Could not recommend this record enough for late night grad school excursions into dense text or early morning dog walking in the dead of winter.

x.y.r bandcamp

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Each Other Being Elastic (Lefse, 2014)

Each Other is one of those bands you really hoped would "make it". After releasing a bevy of EP's and spots on compilations (many of which were with our friends over at Prison Art) the Montreal trio have found themselves on Lefse Records with a proper debut album. Being Elastic maintains a lot of the charming qualities that made us love EP's like Heavily Spaced and Taking Trips. It was recorded directly to tape replete jaunty bass lines, ringing guitars that are free and clear of any distortion and upper-register vocals recorded and mixed deep in the mix. There are still those stop-and-start dynamics that suggest whiplash but result in head nod. Situated somewhere between Women and Young Marble Giants, Each Other is quintessential indie rock no one is making anymore. 

Each Other bandcamp

Monday, May 5th, 2014 | Add New Comment (0)