APF Ant-1 (Vwyrd Wurd, 2014)

From what I can gather (and it took me a minute) APF is the moniker of San Jose, Costa Rica noise-drone dude Árböl Pájarö Fuegö, who for the sake of diacritic marks I will refer to as APF from now on. I don't know what cosmic alignment brought APF and Vwyrd Wurd together, but somewhere, under some portentious astrological happening, these two found each other, and it is a match made in consumer electronics, bedroom noise-making heaven. APF's compositions move from lo-fi acoustic jams, to longform noise pieces with scraping, chiseling pulls of harsh noise, to understated drones that copulate freely creating ghostly mutant spawn of one another. APF often works in extreme frequencies such as the punishing "1953" and high-pitched pulls on "Monique". For much of the album, however, APF is able subdue and tame these proclivities and work with tones and frequencies that dance on that knife ridge of dissonance and equitable beauty. It is a fine line and APF walks it well, often many of the best returns being when that tension is most evident. Costa Rica/P.A connect.

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Mooninite Soda (Hel Audio, 2014)

In the post-IDM world of blurring the edges between organic and digital sounds is there better purchase than the soda can? The sharp crack of an opening can, the bubbling CO2 that rises from the sound of liquid being poured onto a glass cup with ice cubes. Brilliant right? Soda by SLC-based electronic musician Mooninite is not only a celebration of the endless sample-ability (which he uses to great ends) of Utah's substitute vice but the sheer world-conquering ubiquity of the drink. When I worked at the refugee camp in Swaziland, Coca-Cola often was easier to obtain than water. Mooninite is not only able to exploit the soundscape in a can potential of soda as a conceit, but create a record of downtempo beats that snap like brittle twigs, skittering drum machine breaks and bucolic, Balearic-inspired synth arpeggios and beats that pulse and bounce with tightly regimented precision all while fronting a casual playfulness. It is always exciting getting a package from Hel Audio. Soda is a step further in shaping Hel Audio's overall aesthetic and reputation for forward-thinking electronic music.

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D O R C E L S I U S Peter Prince et le Mont Analol (Vwyrd Wurd, 2014)

Last entry in Vwyrd Wurd's expanding, benevolent empire. Dorcelsius, a French duo splitting time between Riga and Paris create worlds inside of worlds full of driving, intense house beats that belie the dancefloor conotations for an intense, personal listen. Holy shit, this thing is on 10. Syrupy, sludgy synths reigning over the intense snap of snare drums in heat. Throwback to some formative Detroit/Chicago techno with a total absence of the cool, self-absorbed detachment that we Americans tend to associate with French electronic music. Rather, there is a fully-embodied, tactile engagement with the music as a function of the mind and the body. Knobs are turned, patches plugged in, chords on synths heavily pawed. There is so much human in this beating mechanical heart. Algorhythmic euphoria. Post-industrial messiness and skronk searing holes through the crystal city facade of Parisian nightclub music. This is super plugged in. Vwyrd Wurd never ceases to amaze.

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Braeyden Jae - Gutted (Spring Break Tapes! 2014)

I'll be damned if these weren't some pure-as-the-driven-snow, purified winter drones. No, quite literally, I will be damned. You see, I've put all of my trust and faith into music as surrogate deity. When corporeal, Republican-leaning God(s) cease to invoke wonder and majesty, I will always have the limitless and endlessly captivating channeled-but-uncreated pool of sound to pour devotion and worshipful reverence into. I'm not not saying Braeyden Jae is a prophet, but maybe an oracle? A clairvoyant? Someone able to crystallize and condense whatever mysterious force moves through the cord connecting bass guitar to amplifier. Whomever or whatever he is, Braeyden Jae has created his second in dense, heavy and emotionally resonant drone tapes this year. I am thrilled this one found its way into the hands of Spring Break Tapes! A label I have boundless appreciation for. On Gutted, Braeyden moves his way through two longform drone pieces that start from the ground floor of a low jet-engine's roar and moves to, when Braeyden really opens up the throttle, being inside of a volcano on some Celestial, near-heaven moon. Just try listening to that moment, about 5 1/2 minutes into "The Purpose of Purposeful Delay", when Braeyden just tears into this controlled and corralled wash of feedback, rending the veil a little bit to catch a glimpse of all possible futures and pasts of whatever note he is holding infinitely. One of 2014's most thrilling musical moments.

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There are things in Cincinnati. One of them is no shortage of incestuous pop-punk bands whose whole transcends the sum (melodic, relentlessly uptempo pop-punk) of its parts (members of equally incestuous punk bands). Sleeves is a young band in terms of membership and total time spent playing together, but as a group  represents some of the best of this bumper crop of the loud and fast (Vacation, Black Planet, Swim Team) flourishing in the Queen City. Sleeves is comprised of John Hoffman (Dead North) and Dylan McCartney whose post-punk band Mardou will one day save us all. On their debut tape, the duo (now rounded out as a trio with addition of bassist Alex Collins) play overdriven, hook-filled pop-punk loud, fast and with all the pent-up sexual frustration of a flagellating  zealot. Unplaced and channeled angst and ennui is voiced in the distinctive rough edges on the lines traded by Hoffman and McCartney's trading vocal lines. Remember how raw and tuneful those early Thermals records were? Sex is Stupid has that limbs-flailing intensity and youthful purpose writ large across the fat spine of an under 20-minute tape. I turned 30 today. This kind of stuff still makes me feel like I can move mountains.

Monday, December 8th, 2014 | Add New Comment (0)

Alex Boatman // Handsome Pants The Winner Squeaks By (Vwyrd Wurd, 2014)

I am out in the woods here. Sitting in a Central, PA dive under the glow of a flickering Yuengling sign and the drawl of imported fracking rig workers mixing with the post-Appalachian twang of townies coming up with some very trenchant critiques of Obama's tenure as president and totally not racist reasons as to why he should resign. In the corner are two scruffy looking musicians posted up and armed with guitars and the carcass of a case loaded with dozens of blinking pedals at their feet. Their music is an incredibly literate, bravely experimental blend of lo-fi tunesmanship of Guided by Voices speaking the language of deer season and frigid mornings that come waaay to early. It is a voice that never got out, but absorbed outside music through the internet and unbelievable vinyl hauls at local thrift shops. The PA barely makes it over the bar banter. But it is there. That sweet melodicism of a classic pop hook buried under the perennial fuzz and sea-sick lurch of self-taught musicians giving voice to the life of perennial outsiders brave enough to bring Belle and Sebastian and Townes Van Zandt into this atmosphere of booze and socioeconomic displacement. The banjo, guitar and twang is the country, the back-tracked looping, vocal sampling  and field recordings is the town. Both exist, idealized, in the mind of anyone trying to analyze this excellent collaboration between Central, PA weirdos Alex Boatman and Handsome Pants on the always impressive and befuddling Vywrd Wurd as well as trying to imagine the setting of seeing this kind of experimental rock live in a Central, PA bar.

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Dung Lung Wood Ear, More Deer (Dismal Niche, 2014)

Another woodsy, out of the way place where the love of friends and near-family pulls me every year. Columbia, Missouri is the home to a major collegiate institution, New HQ of Forest Gospel and the newly resurrected Potter Press (consequently our best buds in the world), a great record store called Hitt Records, boss film festival called True/False and one of the most fascinating tape/record labels to come out in the past few years. Dismal Niche is responsible for a slew of great releases including the rise of Nevada Greene whose tape Across our Wide Misery has been a staple listen for me. Witness this weirdo of all weirdo folk tapes to grace my tape-player this year. It is a beautiful thing, this unmastered straight brain-to-tape release of unrestrained jubilance. Dan Fister plays completely out folk-rock in the vein of Woods trapped in a cabin over winter, under the sway of a radical Swami with a touch of Stockholm Syndrome. This is the opposite of a bad-trip, though. Fister's raw voice rising above the clatter and clang of banjos, guitars and country-fried drumming just on the edge careening out of control. Dead Kennedys' surf politics getting its snout into folk-trance of MV & EE. Dung Lung's compositions ride the lightning between straight-up and acid-rattled. Lyrics sheets reveal ramblings coalesced into introspective trips into real-life relationships and solipsistic voyages into the subconscious. Real weird. Real worth it.

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Bitter Fictions Derelict Drift (Shaking Box Music, 2014)

I am a boll weevil for this kind of solo-guitar drone and long-form prettiness. I can't get enough of this granular, fortifying, droned-enough to be writing/reading music but astute and arresting enough to justify several close listens. From beautiful, to downcast ,to downright powerful/terrifying, Bitter Fictions hit every shade from gray to black. To wit, Devin Friesen's Cure inspired, reverb heavy, minor-chord riffing on "Just U" evoke enough forward momentum to accompany brisk walks under the solid gray sky under the hue of dirty marble. The album's centerpiece, a pulling, drifting, surge-channeling 15 + minute masterpiece was written for Friesen's opening slot for Merzbow earlier this year. The track's expansive palate recalls another Canadian guitar-wrangler, Secret Pyramid. Although across the frigid Canadian plains, Friesen has a special connection with Amir Abbey's solo-drone work. Both channel the guitar's ability to create emotional landscapes of affect and mood as flat and pulverized as the great Canadian breadbasket, harness feedback and squalor to poignant, walloping ends and a perfect ability to actually play the guitar, you know with chords and fingerpicking and all that formal, music lesson egghead stuff. This is one of the finer guitar records of 2014. A year that has not lacked in super-fine, granular guitar records.

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Poor Diet/Under Sixteens Split (Vwyrd Wurd, 2014)

A burrito held high as unifying symbol of youth culture. Eating cheaply and poorly to save money on instruments and recording equipment in unheated lofts above abandoned hardware stores. This is some pretty brilliant jangly guitar bangers in the vein of Burger Records and The Sonics (whom Poor Diet cover quite adeptly). Power chords and soaring lead guitars will always resonate deeply within the heart of every late twenty-something who regretfully did not spend his early twenties wasted and wringing out beautiful sounds from busted guitars in basement shows and short-lived all-ages venues. There is a poignant longing for garage rock dreams unfulfilled and stifled by a quick leap into the false security of a premature adult lifestyle. No longer determined to hide from hedonism, this type of beer-fueled guitar rock is a soundtrack to a prolonged adolescence I never had. I am content, in moments that fold into the righteous racket of Poor Diet and Under Sixteens, to live vicariously through the melodic hooks, broken-speaker lo-fidelity-out-of-necessity and melodicism that somehow gestures towards being heartbroken and totally stoked on life 'cuz we get to play tonight and I heard we might get a cut of the bar sales. "Vice Grip" may have one of the best hooks/lead guitar-mony of 2014. Perfect split from perfect post-punk garage rippers.

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Poi Teenage Dolomites (Dismal Niche, 2014)

I've had a lot of really fantastic Kraut-inspired synth minimalism delivered to my doorstep this year. Austin, TX and Provo, UT hold it down as hotbeds of motorik bass lines and swirling arpeggios playing ad nauseam into some neon-bathed night. Poi's latest tape for Dismal Niche is a new contender for Columbia, MO being another unlikely breeding ground for this kind of ponderous take on 70's Kraut and 80's drum machine worship. Near-perfect in its execution, Teenage Dolomites rarely lets up from its laser-like throttle on an hour long composition that doesn't race as much as it keeps a steady, two-hands-on-the-wheel ascent onto an Autobahn spectral highway. These are takeaways from an album that is built on reproducible bedrock but shrouds itself in an air of mystery. Trance-fits and intermittent zoned-out stares of millennials crashing on the shores of adulthood and/or making a do-or-die stab at serious art-making. I don't see why those two things don't have to be mutually exclusive. Case in point. Teenage Dolomites.

https://poimusic.bandcamp.com/releases

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Demonstration Synthesis DS5 (Vwyrd Wurd, 2014)

I am stoked for this collaborative venture of Montreal-based Demonstration Synthesis ( whose DS3 on Adhesive Sounds I sadly never got around to writing up) and Vwyrd Wurd. This time, on DS5, I'm no slouch. This perfect collection of kaleidoscopic turns and twists of evocative and emotive synthesizers is a lovely comedown after a hyped and hurried day. Call this the anti-kraut, this tape is composed of semi-improvised synth jams that float and at a pace completely unfazed by people's busy schedules or the pace of famous German highways. I love how this tape finds and taps into melodies seemingly out of midair as quietly surging arpeggios ripple with complete ease beneath. There are some piercing, clarion clear lines that cut deep and hang in the atmosphere for a few seconds after the tone has diminished. At other times, like on the incredible and incredibly short, "Juno III" Daniel Leznoff and company work a waltzing rhythm into their lovely synth lines like a figure slowly appearing out of thick fog. Much of the tape, however, is a study in patient, giving tones that bend and turn, forever leaning towards some golden mean of synthesized sound. 

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Arnvs Peitre (Vwyrd Wurd, 2014)

It is great to see Central, PA based label Vwyrd Wurd branch out from their very tightknit niche of weirdos making forward-thinking music in the heart of fracking country. Arnvs, Mexico City-based synth-slayer/beat-layer makes danceable ambient music that is heavy on the John Carpenter affected synth sounds and a 4-4 house beat, I guess you can say that Arnvs makes Haunted House music (get it?). Huge rave-ups and post-industrial breakdowns. "Voodo & Blood" sounds like an incredibly dark take on the melody from Schoolboy Q's Collard Greens. In just a short amount of time Vwyrd Wurd has gone from a geographically insular label to releasing tapes by artists encompassing all of North America. An impressive feat, as the output, especially this tape by Arnvs is particularly astounding.

Sunday, December 7th, 2014 | Add New Comment (0)

This is Sparklingwide Pressure's second release for Heligator Records.

Frank Baugh is Murfreesboro, TN's shining hope in intense, drone-based experimental music.

Baugh's latest EP for Heligator is all about the beats. For those of you familiar with SW's flowing, languid guitar and synth paired with stabs of sharp, atonal noise, framing something like this on beats may sound anachronistic. But it totally makes sense.

"Square" starts with pulsing, unrelenting tom-hit while pitch-shifted everything swirls over and beneath. "Blended Ghost House" pairs looping free-jazz woodwinds with a seriously deconstructed boom-bap before the track changes into an entirely new animal. "Triangle's" beats are gorgeous and lush, paired with a shoegazey haze of processed guitars, Baugh's sonic landscape strikes a chord to other Heligator alumni Landing.

Easily one of the strongest Heligator releases. Hope you love it as much as I do.

As always, all proceeds go to the library at the Malindza Refugee Camp.

Purchase and donate below.

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

*Heligator Records is a non-profit record label run by Tome to the Weather Machine founder Ryan Hall. It exists to continuously fund a library at the Malindza Refugee Camp in Mpaka, Swaziland.*

I remember being at a Stag Hare show years ago, listening as thick, syrupy drones slowly coalesced into a heavy, beat-driven crescendo. Most of the audience, myself included, took some time to come out of the deeply-felt meditative trance Stag Hare's soothing tones had pulled us beneath. Someone in the audience, a bit incensed at the rest of his peers, yelled out "come on! This is dance music!".

That it is.

Kinetic energy bridges that gap between body and mind. Flailing limbs are more effective than head nods to expedite this process. "Star Valley" follows this similar trajectory. Long pulls of peaceful drones over strummed major chords, buzzing synths crackle like telephone lines. Then the beat drops. "Star Valley" is reborn.

"Come on! This is dance music!"

We are lucky enough to Stag Hare donate a track to Heligator Records to assist the cause of continuously funding the library at the Malindza Refugee Camp in Mpaka, Swaziland. We caught Garrick at a particularly prolific time. HIs three-part series just dropped (staghare.bandcamp.com) and "Star Valley" takes elements from each tape and weaves them together into this glowing tapestry. A wizard's cloak full of sacred geometric symbols.

All proceeds go to maintaining the Malindza Refugee Camp Library. To find out more about the cause please visit the Malindza Refugee Camp blog at: www.malindzarefugeecamplibrary.blogspot.com

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014 | Add New Comment (0)

Five years ago this month Salt Lake City based musician, Skyler Hitchcox AKA Silver Antlers (now operating under Artistic Violence), dropped his first proper record. 2009 was a heady time in Salt Lake City amongst a tight-knit group of experimental musicians. In Salt Lake City, as I am sure in any city with an oppressive monoculture, there is a strong counter-culture that is built up in opposition and defiance to the dominant culture. Fighting against something builds camaraderie as any gains are generally hard-won. I'm no SLC historian, in fact only a transplant for about five years for college, but this sentiment seemed to embolden SLC punk/metal pioneers in the 80's-90's. Growing up in Denver I heard crazy stories of the outright violence of Provo's straight-edge scene and had heard Iceburn's blistering jazz-based hardcore on Revelation Records. By the time I got to SLC in 2006 it was a pretty dead scene. A lot of alt-country, a lot of screamo and a whoooole lot of misanthropic metal acts by 80's/90's punk holdovers.

SLC's prominent experimental musicians (I don't think it ever grew to anything resembling a "scene") came from unlikely spaces, mainly SLC's suburban north. Northern SLC is an interesting place. Hard-scrabble, economically depressed mining towns butt up next to upper middle class tract home suburban sprawl. There were literally wrong sides of the track. I never got the sense that these kids from up north embraced the violent reactive rebellion of SLC's punk forefathers. Rather, they were self-actualized enough to create art completely separate from either prevailing culture. They simply did it. What grew out of that small band of young musicians were several musical statements, that looking back, seem incredibly prescient and musically astute beyond the relatively young years of these musicians.

I met Skyler outside of a cancelled Owen show outside of the Avalon. We saw each other around, mostly at Kilby Court (I don't think he was 21 at that point) and I saw him perform under his moniker as "Mothers of Sons" a time or two either at Kilby or house shows. A few years later, when Black Blood of the Earth dropped I don't think I quite grasped how good this is. I wrote a glowing record review in my typical hyperbolic style. But listening to this record five years later, I am only now understanding its weight: not just for a young 20-something, but as a musical statement of intense focus and personal expression. This thing is way heavier and noisier than I remember. Listening to it now, out of context from the rest of the music that was coming out of SLC at that time, it takes on a new dimension. Maybe I am in a darker place than when it first came out in 2009. 2009 was a great year for me. I had just gotten married a few months before, I was about to graduate college and the elements of what has blown into a pretty major faith crisis were only starting to materialize.

Silver Antlers always seemed a darker foil to a lot of the lighter drone/beat based ambient music that characterized seemed to characterize SLC at that time. Black Blood of the Earth is full of some really intense moments. These come in the slightly-off tribal drums, distorted guitar loops and oscillators that turn the crescendo of "VI" into an Argento film soundtrack on a Bardo Pond bad-trip. Amanda Mae Hancock's violin reaches pinnacles of Warren Ellis-like ability to set desolation mood pieces. There's a choral outro!?

The album is a beast. A dark side of the prism of SLC's nu-new age. A clear-eyed statemenet of purpose that was criminally overlooked at it's time. I interviewed Skyler to see where he was at five years after his debut and where he is at now.

Tome to the Weather Machine: Black Blood of the Earth was released five years ago. 2009. Can you tell me a little bit about where your head space was at when you released it? Where were you at personally. What was going on in your life that may have played a role in its overall sound/direction.

Skyler Hitchcox: I had actually been very recently broken up with after a nearly 2 year relationship. If I recall correctly, I pressed record on the first movement of the album only a few days after the whole thing had dissolved. I was sad, confused, and needed
something to pull my brain out of that world. The album was a good escape to let me enter a strange world that I'd dreamt about a few times. This was the soundtrack to my newly alone and confusing world.

TTTWM: I remember 2008-2009 as a specifically prolific time for SLC artists.
What was in the air around that time that may have contributed to BBOTE. Did other SLC artists influence the album's sound?

SH: It was a great time for people working at the time. This was RIGHT after A. Star records had decided to throw in the towel and Moondial was starting to get real.
Me and a few friends (Aye Aye people, Stag Hare, Tenants of Balthazar's Castle) all got together, had a few drinks and screen printed all of the sleeves in my parents' garage in Nowhere, Utah. It was really fun. Simple. There seemed to be this feeling
among a lot of us (maybe just me) that things were about to change. Stag Hare's Black Medicine Music was really exciting me. Tenants' had The Moon. I had that split with Seven Feathers Rainwater. Everything was right on track. Good friends were putting out really inspiring pieces of art.

Andrew (Aye Aye), Garrick (Stag Hare), Michael (Tenants), Casey (Cult Leader) and my pal Amanda actually all contributed.

TTTWM: Going back and listening/remastering with fresh ears, what stands out to you? Anything that makes you pat yourself on the back or cringe?

SH: I feel like, and always have, that the last 15 minutes of the album are some of the strongest moments I've had (and will?) as an artist. Sometimes when I listen back to this album there are moments where I don't feel like I wrote it at all. Almost like amnesia.
By that, I mean I remember writing it and recording it, but it doesn't entirely feel like me. At the risk of sounding really corny... I feel like someone or something had spoken through me for those few brief moments.

TTTWM: What was the response locally/blogospherically when it came out?

SH: I honestly don't think very many people cared. It wasn't something people talked about or wrote much about. I was just glad to be done with it. It felt nice to finally have a sigh of relief and mentally say to myself, "We can move on now..."

TTTWM: What has changed since the release of BBOTE? Have any of the circumstances that led to the album's inception changed and in what way?

SH: At this point I'm less interested in my own life. My struggles are much less important on a worldwide level. I'm now more interested in other people's lives. These are the kind of things that I want to write about. Hundreds of children going missing, gay-bashing,
true sadness, etc. Real world problems rather than me being bummed that it took 20 minutes to get pizza. If I have a voice, I feel I need to use it. The world is a wreck and we're all sinking together. Let's at least acknowledge that and sink together if we have to.

TTTWM: Future plans for releases now that Silver Antlers is dead?

SH: Well, like you said, Silver Antlers is dead. I'm now making music as Artistic Violence. I'm hoping to have my first album, My Love For You Is Slowly Drowning, out early next year. Hopefully sooner, but hope in one hand (as they say). Thanks for your time!

Listen to/purchase Black Blood of the Earth here:

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 | Add New Comment (0)

 

ØjeRum - There is a Flaw in My Iris

We will kick this off with my favorite tape in this bumper crop of fine music from around Europe as curated by Portugal's A Giant Fern. ØjeRum is a Danish composer of feather light compositions comprised of acoustic guitar and voice, usually accompanied by field recordings or auxiliary noise. What he can do with this limited palate is astounding. From the first down stroke ØjeRum creates space where feeling wistful and nostalgic and all sorts of ennui is appropriate and welcome. The space between those barely strummed guitar lines are mile-wide chasms to hurl all your insecurities about the future and in return get back memories of being brave. ØjeRum's voice, a deeply understated thing, often sounds like it was recorded in another room or right up close, whiskers scratching the mic. This immediacy and intimacy make this album so familiar sounding although it comes from multiple time zones away. Getting this tape in the mail is the equivalent of finding a t-shirt from your home town in a thrift store thousands of miles away. The usual questions come up, but you are just happy to see something familiar. Fans of Padang Food Tigers and Lake Mary will dig this.

Micromelancolié - Ensemble Faux Pas

Polish ambient-drone artist, Micromelancolié, creates sparse, three-dimensional recordings that pulse and crackle with expectant dread and tension. Side A of this tape is all waiting. Hands taped to a chair while the sky gathers black, sick looking clouds.Wind chimes that are intended to sound soothing pierce through a thick silence. Magnetism going haywire in an inky, green sky. These tones are patient. Splayed out across miles and miles of farm land. Listen to them loud enough and they transcend atmosphere, creating submerged and inherent melodies while thunder rumbles somewhere off the East Coast. A tropical storm waiting to be flattened by the plains. Side B, that storm hits sometime past midnight. Long, droning horns announce its arrival. It doesn't come in a harsh-noise onslaught, but rather a slow build of woodwind instruments, bells and distinctly ominous tones that pass over like the angel of death, leaving an uneasy sense of calm in its wake. A single bell chimes in a church we huddle in for safety. Ensemble Faux Pas is full of these fantastically eerie tones and sustained melodies that keep your ear always crooked towards the speaker in anticipation/dread.

The Hidden Persuaders - The Bone Forest

"Night's Black Agents", tho. Seriously. A distillation of Wolf Eyes short-blast harsh-noise with the melodic, ominous post-industrial tonality of Ben Frost. I realize I'm pulling out some big guns for comparison, but to me, nothing gets better than this. Noise that has distinct parts, plenty of slack space, ace sound-design that incorporates field recordings of everyday sounds being turned into terrifying trips to the abyss. The Bone Forest follows this lead for much of the tape. Andreas Brandal is able to successfully marry dark and noise-laden that burst and bloom into speaker destroying stabs of contact mic/black noise with melodic undercurrents that provide a placid noise-floor that is never completely enveloped by the face-stabbing shards of harshness. Tracks like "God Beast" are crackling, static-filled passages full of oscillating synthesizers and the strange hum that rattles through one's body after standing beneath power lines too long. The Bone Forest incorporates harsh-noise, industrial synthesizers and percussion, goth bass lines and long-form drones to create something wholly blackened and sinister but completely listenable.

Roadside Picnic & Charles Barabé - Worn Paths in Crown Dust

Lastly this brings us to this collaborative tape between Roadside Picnic and Charles Barabé. An hour-long descent into swirling, ambient passages, bugged out electronics, contact-mic scrapings, dripping, feeding field-recordings and long drone pulls that scrape and drag across dirty basement floors. A sweeping, all-encompassing, diving, droning, pitch-shifting push and pull between two artists sharing similar sonic space. Both sides of the tape cover an incredible amount of terrain, fucked electronic passages bleeding into ambient segues blending into power electronics down-tuned and slowed waaaaay down. It is safe to say, there are tones on this tape that have never been recorded before and will never be recorded again. Hours of tinkering meets on-the-fly improvisation that yields frighteningly astute results. This is a tape I've been trying to shake for a week or two now, but I always find myself stuck in the middle of some passage. Trying to find my way out of whatever hellish miasma/stuck between stations noise that beckoned me to dip my toe into. Now completely submerged I may never come up for air. Highly recommended.

Friday, October 17th, 2014 | Add New Comment (0)

As all gerund ending verbs, the "ing" indicates continuous happening. In print: eternal life. An ever present now. An infinite process. Landing, a part of our aural landscape for more than 15 years (releasing albums on K Records, Ba Da Bing! and Geographic North), are ever present in that flux. In this latest track, you hear a band who have been in a sonic relationship that outlast most marriages, yet still surveying new ground while staying rooted in the same krauty, spacey, expansive palate that brought them together as college students in the most un-college towns of college towns: Provo, UT (now all grown up and living in Connecticut).

You may notice a few things about this track. Live drums are back in a major way. That muscular bass line punching holes through the swirling reverb drywall with sewing machine precision. The way Aaron Snow's guitar just tears into the fabric of the track after the first verse with equal parts noise and shimmer.

Landing recorded this track exclusively for Heligator. Aside from being an incredible musical statement, Snow's lyrics get at the heart of what Heligator strives to do. "Why can't you see me/I'm not invisible" is really what the refugees at the Malindza Refugee Camp are trying to say.

Forced to leave their homes because of war, political instability, xenophobia (or all of the above) these refugees want people to know they exist. Not only that they exist, but they are surviving and, against all odds, thriving. They are building libraries, teaching each other and learning/connecting to the world that they feel has largely ignored them.

Your purchase of this track goes directly to the Malindza Refugee Camp library and librarians. Funds go to keeping the lights on, repairs and providing a small stipend for the refugee volunteer librarians. Rarely do you get so rewarded for your generosity. But...here we are.

Buy/Download here:

Please check out the Malindza Refugee Camp Blog for updates on happenings at the library: www.malindzarefugeecamplibrary.blogspot.com

Monday, September 29th, 2014 | Add New Comment (0)

Keiki - Living/Breathing (Live God, 2014)

Keiki's latest noise tape via Cincinnati's best outsider artist collective is a document of semi-improvised, brain-to-tape harsh noise that lives and breathes in a sort of stuck, liminal space made up of sweltering afternoons paralyzed inside, outside-looking-in observations of normal interactions that seem insane to you and those times when you want nothing more to bury yourself in a cloak of thick blackened noise. Living/Breathing provides the soundtrack for all your special moments. As a noise tape, one that is full of serrated metal-on-metal scrapings, these sounds of a computer vomiting up a full hard drive and the sound a building makes right before it collapses, Living/Breathing works very, very well. Beneath the surface there is a quivering, beating heart and a forlorn voice making its way out of the catacombs making Living/Breathing completely listenable. There is nothing assaultive on this tape, any ill-will is directed inwards and does not bash your face in. For example, tracks like "Always Wrong", which takes a strange 50's girl group meets Shankar Jaikishan bass-percussion line and marries it with melodic pulls of noise that corral and condense all of this harshness into a weirdly melodic line. This thick miasma of keys, contact mics and bass guitar is the kind of stuff that is crucial to sink into when you are at your worst. There is enough of a shimmering, golden edge that it offers an echo and a reminder that fall is around the corner and the god-awful humidity will subside for a season. Until then, sink in and live with it.

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Public Housing - Public Housing (Torn Light, 2014)

As a Case Manager I spend a good deal of my time in Cincinnati's public housing or public housing adjacent areas. From my experience and conjecture, if public housing (the physical structures) had sentient souls and phalanges and were given guitars, drums, oscillators and a feral saxophone, their album, also called Public Housing, would sound note-for-note like this. Or Rich Homie Quan (whom I love). OMG. "Type of Way Public Housing remix". Get on it. Public Housing echoes a lot of the bleakness and despair, while none of the vibrancy and community, that our most benignly named prisons for the economically depressed seethe with. Dragging its staggeringly slow BPM through a thick slew of ravaged guitar solos and intentionally sick sounding wheeze of drilling, buzzing and whining electronics, Public Housing is a supremely weird take on an almost Doo-Wop approach to slow and crashing percussion with distinct penchant for the vulnerability and verse-chorus arrangements of a severely fucked version of the blues. This is gut-wrenching stuff. Sheer Hellish Masala of harsh noise, sludge and no-wave skronk filtered through busted equipment and malicious intent. It is terrifying and monolithic, towering and ever-buzzing, a place not be around when the sun goes down, just like, you guessed it, a college dorm. Public Housing forever.

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Sloths - Twenty Years (The Ghost is Clear/Don't Live Like Me/Illuminasty, 2014)

I became acquinted with the Portland three-piece Sloths via Kyle Bates shoegaze-drone project Drowse. I've gained immensely from blazing through their back catalog on an especially long run. Their latest EP, Twenty Years is their most assured and clarified statement of purpose to date. A lot of bands who do this really intense mathy hardcore with moments of major-chord brilliance, black metal and post-rock bridges have the dynamics all wrong. Instead of stopping the song dead in its tracks to get all twinkly and sappy in the name of dynamics (or dramatics) before gaining steam before an "epic" breakdown, Sloths are pretty consistent in keeping their songs focused and linear, utilizing tremolo-picked guitars to augment some particularly blistering chorus or some Isis-like bridge to give just enough breathing space by leaping into another jerky, mathy and HEAVY breakdown. Centered around the themes of loss and suicide, the EP comes to a final and ultimately hopeful note amongst beautifully crushing guitars, blast beats and guttural screams of acceptance of leaving the dead buried and living just to live. Included on the EP is a killer cover of Slint's "Breadcrumb Trail" that is a faithful recreation if I've ever heard one if those Louisville dudes listened to a ton of Neurosis.

Friday, September 5th, 2014 | Add New Comment (0)

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)