AH! KOSMOS- Bastards (Denovali)

For her first proper release on Denovali, Istanbul-based producer/conjurer Basak Gunak creates dark, lyrical compositions that wrap acoustic and electronic instrumentation around Gunak's throaty baritone voice that ranges from a powerful croon to whispered spoken word passages the way the rings on trees tell a story of inward fortification and outward (perhaps painful) expansion. When we cut deep into the heart of these tracks, passing layers of electronic programmed percussion, lines of distorted guitars, dense near-eastern drumming, samples of snippets of everyday life re-contextualized and stacked in jittery, paranoid strands of audio we get into something that sustains these disparate elements and holds them in useful tension. What "it" is held very close to the chest. An overwhelming sense of hope with its corners darkened by paranoia and fear. A sustaining force that begins with Gunak's innate sense of melody - building ascending synth and guitar lines and slowly layering her vocal melodies until they become one in the mix - and then grows outwards, incorporating sounds from outside her window, musical ideas borrowed/lent from collaborators until the center holds but the peripheries are stretched thin and always searching for that next hit of inspiration. Bastards has my vote for one of the most rewarding discoveries of an already packed 2015.

Purchase from Denovali

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Demian Castellanos - The Kyvu Tapes Vol.1 (1990-1998) (Hands in the Dark)

After listening to these collections of home recordings by Demian Castellanos - founder of The Oscillation - one gets the sense that there are hundreds of tapes that could be released that are just as filled to the brim with incredibly moving, forward-thinking guitar compositions that sound completely at home with 2015's bumper crop of spiritually-minded guitarists using their instrument to reach a higher plane. In fact, these compositions are what I imagine are on a 24-hour loop in the brain of someone like Castellanos - as if someone stuck a stereo cable in and pushed record. What we have is a constant under-drones pulsing and oscillating, panning from ear to ear as Castellanos's heavily processed guitars either stack layers and layers of unsourced sound until all sound ever created exists between the peaks and valleys of a thousand oscillations or pieces the veil in Peter Walker influenced ragas or clarion-clear guitar solos that begin by floating on the same frequency but then begin to steer the composition into unexplored sonic terrain. Perhaps the most celebrated example of this is on "Lizard Raga" (one of the two "official" ragas on the tape) where Castellanos casts his eliding, sinewy guitar lines into a sea of oscillating drones and comes back with sounds and ingenious moves on the guitar that lie just outside of consciousness - like catching an weird deep-water sea creature in a relatively shallow river bed. Castellanos can also build upon structural and less-abstract material with similar effect. "Photon Waterfall" builds upon a minimalist ascending guitar line that accrues meaning each pass through the loop pedal. We somehow get the idea that Flying Saucer Attack was one of the few acts that dwelled on hazy, warm looped guitar passages when we reference acts from the 90's as direct influences on some of the directions that ambient guitar-based music has taken. Kyvu Tapes draws a straight line between  Castellanos' drone-based compositions and today's musicians coaxing guitar tones into the realm of the ethereal.

Purchase from Hands in the Dark

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China - Towards the Sun (Self-Released)

Raphi Gottesman's Signed, Noisemaker is one of those tapes that has never really left my player. In it, the multi-instrumentalist shows a sincere and humble knack for crafting melody and mood in compositions that are complete in every way. Gottesman, with China - a proper band-band EP with Michael Tapscott (Odawas) and Jason Quever (Papercuts - who donates some gorgeous strings here) - create perfectly sunbaked, Laurel Canyon country-tinged, free-floating deep-cut LP rock of the late sixties filtered through the modern day exodus out of San Francisco, a move directly tied to the 60's exodus into the city's loving embrace. This is music for hitching up the wagon and ho'ing out west into the land of displacement - the sun always on the back of our pioneers as they flee the bright, cultural wasteland of tech-industry wealth - not the diseased-gum gnaw of Midwest poverty and squaresville Dads. These are songs for the diaspora, and they are beautiful - the same kind of feeling of stumbling across a dusty LP of long-haired dudes and hearing some of the most transcendent melodies and harmonizing this side of Garcia. Fans of recent troubadours The Lowered, Midlake and Howe Gelb should find ample purchase in these five songs.

Purchase from Bandcamp

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Metatag - Surrender (Hel Audio)

All we have are our mistakes. Genetic aberrations unlock hidden potential to adapt and evolve. What wipes out large swathes of the population allows a small minority to develop resistance and flourish. But machines aren't supposed to make mistakes, right? That's why we built them. External brains that are capable of specificity unencumbered by consciousness that we could never even aspire to. But somewhere, knocking around in the hardware, are misfirings, loose connections and random events that create mistakes or half-formed, mutant children of a perfect system. Clocking in at 2-minutes shy of an hour, Metatag's second full-length on Hel Audio, does not shy away from displaying these weaknesses and flaws. The decayed tones of a dying synthesizer, the glitch of audio data spat through spools of wiring are written into these songs, creating moments of unintentional beauty and useful aberration. The Norwegian duo's commitment to creating 22 stand-alone, cloistered units of music is impressive. By rarely, if ever, changing tempo or melody once locked into a 2-3 minute groove allow Metatag to explore the rich underbelly of machine-created music, delving into tones that dissolve or sputter into productive decay while allowing the steady minimal synth lines to remain in the driver's seat. Surrender, at times veers into dark drone-based compositions instead of riding the arpeggio sine wave for an hour. The darkly cinematic quality of each track suggests a dystopian future that has been ruled by Vangelis's pulsing synthscapes in his Blade Runner soundtrack. Any attempt to not notice that influence is impossible, but Metatag manage to create something even colder and perhaps even a bit more futuristic. The seedy future-ghetto, Chinatown replaced by clean, symmetrical lines and curved angles: more Kubrik's vision of the distant future in A.I. than dystopian battledome made of recycled sports equipment. Perfect tunes for nighttime bike riding through the city.

Purchase from Hel Audio

Monday, May 18th, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)

Family Underground - No Host. No Guest 

Danish drone duo make improvised guitar music that would sound breezy if not under the harsh light of distortion, fuzz and steerage of passages straight into dark, forlorn places we were warned not to go. With that said, the twisting passages of seriously spooked guitar work float on a never-ending cusp of a great idea that shatters on impact into a thousand strung together fragments of its once ideal self. This spectral shattering creates shards of fuzz-laden naked guitar improvisation, a brilliant Krauty approximation of Hookworms on a dangerous level of sedatives and bluesy sky-ripping lines that ascend in archangel triumph out of a shimmering sea of angular guitar tones and overdubbed piano lines. The price of entrance is relatively high, but the rewards come frequently and intensely. Try not air-guitaring along to "The Original Freezecult" and all associated passages of transcendent guitar communalism and secret language sharing. Constant breakdown. Constant renewal. 

Eye - The Future Will Be Repeated

The Future Will Be Repeated is a whiplash call-and-response record of some of the greatest New Zealand noisemakers around today. Recorded live, these tracks capture the dynamism of this supergroup of sorts. Equal parts sea of contemplative interplay between guitars, percussion and electronics involved in an animalistic courtship ritual that explores sweet, understated tones that pulse, scrape and fill in politely for each other when the chance to explore gaps in the composition arise and fuck-all displays of power and violence (but not powerviolence) on tracks like "Owls at Noon" that recalls the glory daze of other NZ and Ba Da Bing stalwarts Dead C. Frantic, but never unhinged, drumming races to an epic climax with a sea of distortion and fuzz while a single line of lead guitar distortion stays just above the fray like a nervous surfer trying to outrun the a wave much bigger than he intended to ride. That kind of works for this record. A sound this huge was never intended to be contained by compressing bits of data. Other, quieter tracks work quite well for the walk home, but something like "Owls at Noon" will always keep us watching our backs, realizing we are caught in something a bit too big for casual listening. "Skeleton Key", the aptly named sum of this records parts, serves to bring us back home. Equal parts contemplative improvisation with the ongoing maw of the cavernous potential to decimate always kept just at bay.

Peter Kolovos - The Wolf Should Ever Be Lone

Another, "you had to be there" albums of live recordings of a guitar player with almost superhuman dexterity, stamina and timing. Kolovos knows that exact moment of when to let a violent, shuddering, quivering line of deconstructed rummage sale of misfit tones bleed into rumbling seas of amplifier-destroying distortion that soothe the psyche in ways you never thought possible after watching/hearing a guitar take such abuse with welcome and full-disclosure on its telling. Or when to throttle back and lay golden, naked tones minister to the infirm. Kolovos reaches climaxes on "Seattle" and "Portland" that rarely change in tone but rely on the ancient hand-around-the-neck strangulation and mandible strength that led our ancestors out of caves and into the lone and dreary wilderness in search of prey, along with the schizophrenic crack-ups and piercing, blinding light and sound that came with revelation from on high from older, angrier gods.

 

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)

Ed Hamilton - Arabesque

Built around the first four chords of Debussy's Arabesque and then put through a bevy of electronic manipulation and acoustic interpretation, Ed Hamilton's ode to the fertile ground of Debussy plucking a handful of chords out of a near infinite combination of choices is one of 2015's most intriguing and captivating listens. Much like the ornamental design of intertwined lines (thanks wikipedia) of the arabesque pattern that seemingly have no beginning or end point, Arabesque's passages of processed tones - drawn out into huge droning arcs or run through tape manipulation to give an ebbing, throbbing star-death quality - weave themselves in and out of Hamilton's expressive interpretation of Debussy's introductory notes on piano - both prepared and straight - as well as ruddy strings, wordless vocals and elegiac brass that sounds like it is being played and recorded miles away across a fog strewn fen. This is an album that unfolds itself in linear fashion, but in such a subtle way that the beginning is obscured by the gradual layering and latticing in tones that tracing a line back to an impetus is impossible. We are caught in the eternal now of a line without beginning or end. 

Purchase from Bandcamp

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Drombeg - Notes from the Ocean Floor

A modern-classical album with all the emotional heft and deft moves of a post-rock album. Huge swells of orchestral strings on the ever-ascending, near religious revelry of the crescendo, long diminutive passages of piano being played against resonant passages rooted in the minimalist tradition of repeating passages gathering meaning as they gather momentum. Drombeg's short-ish EP brings to mind some of the best ideas Rachel's or Balmorhea ever came up with and placed them in the context of a rocky coast somewhere along Ireland's deserted coastline. Samples of childhood idyll and electronic manipulation of strings and piano often stand in for the on-the-nose emotion-evoking musical movements, while songs like "Horses" hold looped passages in tension with no identifiable resolution. Sweeping passages of electric guitar and wordless choir sample on "Jeremiah Holding Hands" fold in on themselves to create something wholly frozen in time and triumphant. Notes from the Ocean Floor is an EP holding an incredible amount of promise in a short amount of time.

Purchase via Bandcamp

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Wolf Maps - Sun Ghosts

A distant, fully fleshed-out world existing in the abscess of a busted eardrum, or, the no-firm-line guitar drones of Wolf Maps exist in a nocturne world of 3AM where everything is slightly fuzzed out and augmented. The three tacks on this album track a linear progression of loud, blown-out drones to extremely-fucking-loud-blown-out-drones all while never hitting a harsh note or dwelling much in distortion. Rather this is an all-grey, all muted reference point drone that manages to be all-encompassing without sacrificing the beautiful, mid-range tones that spread themselves across this record like a blanket of thick fog. Unshrouded guitar lines occasionally break free and offer a point of reference, but otherwise, you are rudderless and directionless in a sea of transcendent tones. An astute, perma-beautiful ambient-drone EP.

Purchase via Bandcamp

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

Head Dress - Mesa (Horror Fiction)

This Head Dress tape out on Horror Fiction came like a burst of light through a smudged and dirty window. The previous Head Dress tape we covered - Deicide (A Giant Fern) - was a heavy name for even heavier light/dark noise filtered through deconstructed beats and scraping drones. Mesa, however, is a crushing meditation played out on lone and dreary riffs that accumulate more dread and audio detritus as they are repeated over and over. Heavy and spacious, recalling the "magic, murder and drug abuse" of the Southwestern landscape that this tape reinvents. Aside from ponderous and chugging, things get downright thunderous as Ted Butler unleashes an electrical storm of spleen-rattling, blown-out distortion towards the end of Side B. I can listen to this for days and never get sick of hearing that riff played out in ever expectant doom. Fans of bands like Barn Owl, Earth or Thrones should be salivating over this.

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Sal Lake/Keiki - Split (Live God)

Very rarely do I ever take notes when I listen to albums for review. I did for this split between Sal Lake and Keiki, two very fine noiseniks cranking out positivist psychedelic noise for the iniated. Reading back through those notes a week or so after writing them was something like remembering a dream that made such perfect sense while in it that you mistake it for a remembered past. For example, once I had a dream where I constructed a completely plausible plot scenario in the second season of The Wire. To this day when I watch it I can never be sure if what I dreamed about actually occurred or not. Relistening to this tape my observations of "breaking into tribal drumming...Popol Vuh" on Sal Lake's "Lungsack", the  "peaking, decaying harshness" on "Betterhomesandgardens" or the   "winds of harsh noise" that wash over the gentle synth/guitar drones on Keiki's "To Listen, To Love" make even more sense after a week of digesting the psych-noise contained within. This tape is immersive on so many levels. Keiki's harsh tones wash over you without the abrasive jolt of so much of this ilk. It is like being pulled away in a riptide, you are caught in a gentle current until you realize the shore is much too far for you to swim back to. Sal Lake's  muscular rhythm section gives rudder and direction to his tapestry of outerspace sounds. A highly enjoyable split by two of Ohio's up and coming drone/noise dudes.

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Jung an Tagen - Aeussere (Orange Milk)

Another impossibly good release from Orange Milk. Jung an Tagen is Stefan Kushima, an Austrian native whose icy synths belie a surprisingly warm human heart to what could otherwise be a gallery-bound sound-art installation. Aeussere is held in acute tension between passages that could snap into a thousand fractals from the brittle, diamond cut beats and synth lines and the smeared orbs of color that reach back to a time before solid lines and differentiated color schemas. To a post-gill, pre-cognition experience of being completely immersed in sound of indiscriminate origin - like being in the womb at a Four Tet show - our mother's belly against the amplifier. There is probably a straight line between womb-like coffin of sounds to linear, austere beat structures of this record, but it is much more fun to take this in outside of time, to let both happen simultaneously or at least in disjointed order. Time slips or God-like omniscience. The last minute and a half of "Nie and Nammer"...Fuuuuuuuuuuuuucccckkkkkk. I can't even.

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Lesionread - Greatest Hits Vol. 1 (Live God)

I wish I had the confidence of Lesionread. Seriously. This is one of the most self-confident, fully-realized, lived-in worlds created by someone probably a lot younger than me with boundless energy and a touch of mania. Greatest Hits is auteur on god-mode. How many minutes are on a tape? Fuck it, run that thing til it runs off the spools. Vol. II is probably rotting away on his computer just waiting to see the light of day and Vol. 15 is already in the works.  The only comparison I can give to the sheer audacity of this record is Jerry Paper's Big Pop for Chameleon World, Sir Benedick the Moor's El Negro or...Justin Timberlake. A tape that trawls all genres and knows no boundaries. Demented 11th dimension pop bleeds into banging warehouse-party beats next to augmented rap that unspools into aural-art noise attacks. This should be getting all the hype right now. There are some certified hits on this record. When will "Art All Day" be our generation's anthem of post-collegiate angst? Not that this is all extroversion. Between the meat-slab thud of beats, saxophone interludes both recorded and synthesized, are some hyper-confessional lines whispered into a microphone late at night. Yoni Wolf said it best when he said, "sometimes you gotta yell something you'd never tell nobody". By making certified club bangers out of our most guarded secrets is as cathartic as it gets. A 21st century version of bloodletting. Someone please get on Lesionread's level.

Monday, March 23rd, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)

Cambo - Patronage and Pork (Crash Symbols)

Next level beat tape from a relatively enigmatic producer. Patronage and Pork plays on the gritty past of a drum machine's former life hiding in Main Street pawn shops and studios under the patronage of drug money. The new Medici's of Flatbush have commissioned the representations of their religious myths scrawled out in a sequenced boom-bap drug through the dizzying highs and lows of chemically induced escape through laser-like synths that drip dopamine like rain through open rafters. This tape is on point. Samples of self-help gurus, rapped interludes, squealing, squashed synthesizers, peaks and valleys of loud-soft dynamics, martial lock-step of a beat pitch-shifted beyond the point where it could look in the mirror and recognize itself. All very familiar and strange.

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Aphasiacs - Debtor's Paradise (Crash Symbols)

And thou shalt forever bang thy head until thy neck shall break. When God handed down this rule he did so, not by commandments carved into stone, but through a forever-ascending populist dancefloor banger that is unrelenting in its litigiousness. If you are caught lacking, or your mind wanders for a minute, a machine gun BPM or swirling arpeggio will grab you by the scruff and throw you back into the deep end of obedience by compulsion. For our God is a jealous and God and will have no other space of your cranium that is not filled with beats sprinting a marathon or hacienda-style throwbacks to four-on-the-floor hardness with skittering breaks over tape-decayed Glass-style surging and swirling. God also doesn't care about double negatives or run-on sentences. This testament to dance music will be erected and desecrated on every county courthouse lawn in secret bohemian gardens. Consider this canon.

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Nico Niquo - Epitaph (Orange Milk)

Epitaph is a strange name for this tape. Ostensibly, Orange Milk Records has putting the nail in the coffin of genre distinctions for some time, using the internet's trawling net to scrape together entire ecosystems of micro-genres to explore, extract and piece together in a lived-in, no-rules frontier. Perhaps no tape has done this with more grace and exactness of vision of Nico Niquo's Epitaph. It is full of beat-heavy compositions that pair trill high-hat breaks of trap with the triller high-hat breaks of yesteryear's downtempo/chillout, often following each other in the same pattern. Synths sound as if they were pulled from some Windham Hill retrospective and then processed through some ancient text-to-voice software. Free jazz samples, hotel lobby piano lines, pitch-shifted vocals that go hard AF. These wash themselves with a soapy film across tracks that leave plenty of breathing room before being jarred out of this meditative state by beat-heavy movements. This never quite interrupts the tranquil vibe of this tape. These two worlds live in the same neighborhood, a click away I suppose, and indicative of our schizophrenic musical tastes when the vaults of ownership and genre distinctions are thrown open. Somewhere, in that liminal space between our proclivities and general moods, lies this tape by Nico Niquo, an ear shaped as a modem, its output only a fraction of the insane amount of data being taken in. One of my favorite pieces of music in 2015.

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Strange Orbs - Strange Orbs (Live God)

Strange Orbs is one of the favorite things in my tape deck these days. A percussion-driven tape that teeters between psychedelic guitar and synth lines, arcing drones and scraping, harsh noise. In service to Strange Orbs' galloping beats, sometimes simply the weight of itself surging and tumbling over itself, these disparate elements become two heads of the same coin, both creating an atmosphere of unease and tension but never giving over to misanthropy or nihilism. There is tension, and probably some disgust, but this exists at the edge where tones begin to shed their sweeter tonal quality and nudge into the realm of bad trips given a soundtrack, instead of at the blackened core where world views are formed. When the needle goes into the red it does so in short, rhythmic blasts that are eventually folded into the texture of the track in the vein of Wolf Eyes' Burned Mind with considerably less firepower. They become a cathartic release that snap and contract with every involuntary head nod. Ambience rooted in improvisation is at the heart of this record, but when its parts coalesce there is little out there that sounds better than this.

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)

Private Elevators - First Feelings

Adrian Knight was one of 2014's most intriguing artists. Pictures of Lindsey was a perfectly self-effacing appropriation of innocuous sitcom interlude/opening credits that was adventurous in its exploration of the facile, churning out funny, touching and ultimately affirming situational pieces in the process. Turns out, Adrian Knight and musical partner Matthew Evans, turn down for beautiful ambient music composed of decaying tones and elegant ascending and descending three-note lines. A lot of ambient music seems to operate on the process of finding the golden middle of tones and stretching them into infinite streams of light with no sense of creation or extinction. "First Feelings" has much of those effused drones sustaining the hour + tape, however, the most emotionally resonant aspects are the peaks and valleys where fingers press down heavily on synthesizers to create simple running lines that cut through the ambrosia-thick drones and then peter out and die with the elegance and somberness of a William Basinski-style tape death.

Purchase from Perfect Wave

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Forest Management - Sharper Focus

Sharper Focus, along with 2015's Encounter are engrossing, enveloping nighttime/early morning records. Sharper Focus relies on slow, building movements that increase in intensity and tension until reaching the quietest of apexes. With this on in the background or low volume, you probably won't get it, however, close listens reveal the ponderous mechanical motions of heavily pawed piano chords with distinctive cresting and resolution. Much of the record does, however, exist in those disorienting moments when you slowly come out of some deep REM-cycle sleep and the edges of familiar things are blurred and slightly out-of-place that persist well into the first cup of coffee. With this warm, somatic soup serving as a baseline, those distinctive movements stand out in sharp relief.Transcribed onto tape these dream-like passages become a bit more grounded in the physical realm, however, with a majority of the tension being resolved in the subconscious.

Purchase from Perfect Wave

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Tropical Rock - 3 Lewej

Tropical Rock is a collaboration between Kathleen Baird - whose work with Spires that in the Sunset Rise we've gushed over - and Camilla Padgitt-Coles (Ivy Meadows). The two explore some marshy, magical worlds through improvisation with Baird on the Casio PX800 and Padgitt-Coles on the Tenori-On. The result is an airy, spacious field of clanging, chiming tones and playful melodies that embed themselves deep into your neural pathways. Many solely improvised works are cloistered experiences. Albums to experience all at once - a celebration of spontaneity and connection. 3 Lewej was a tape I found myself coming back to over and over again. It may have been the novelty of the Tenori-On, an instrument I've heard referenced to, but never on full-display. More than anything it is those moments of undeniable genius that find the two musicians in total synchronicity with each other. Strange-yet-familiar tones settling in comfortably next to one another like they've known each other for years. The result is unmistakable and hard to shake.

Purchase from Perfect Wave

Monday, March 2nd, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)

“It sounds like therapy for a generation who grew up with the internet, where the density and modularity of music has flourished at such a rate that we never get time alone with just one song or idea anymore.” - Adam Devlin, Tiny Mixtapes.

The tendency to treat Giant Claw's music like a clown-car of impossible ideas of horizontal importance is to miss the cohesiveness of Giant Claw's output and albums, even if that palate is as big and ever-expanding as...well, the internet. On This track donated by the Columbus, Ohio musician we find Giant Claw tackling extreme modes. Swinging from the playfulness of the synthesized oboe and the cultural significance of punctuating beats with a gunshot. Except this isn't punctuation. The gunshot kills the track right as it reaches its zenith. Literally. But, in experimental music, unlike American lives, there are second acts and infinite lives.

Like all Heligator releases all proceeds go to the Malindza Refugee Camp Library in Swaziland, Africa. There has been some turbulence at the camp, your donations help keep open a library (and pay the stipend of a librarian) that is an oasis of stability and hope in the otherwise turbulent life of a refugee.

Malindza Refugee Camp Blog

Friday, February 27th, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)

No, you don't have to double-check your calendar... it's totally almost March, ain't gonna deny it. For whatever reason I'm still stuck in the bowels of 2014 Hell, trying to claw my way back into some semblance of being "on top" of this game somehow. Which... let's be honest, that's just never gonna happen. Anyway, I think that a lot of folks maybe think I ONLY listen to cassette tapes, which is just not true (although don't get me wrong... I love me some cassettes). But as a matter of chance, I recently acquired a gorgeous new Luxman PD264 tunrtable, meaning I was able to move my beloved Pro-Ject Essential off to the side and over next to my desk with a headphone pre-amp hookup, which now allows for me to review stuff while having the deck at arm's length. Clutch. So that, my friends, was the key to me finally getting this little piece of work done -- I've been newly inspired to play some catch-up on some long-overdue reviews (of which more are certainly to come... hopefully-certainly, but yeah, pretty sure this time). And anyway, no apologies! Why would I apologize for doing this? I'm crazy enough as it is for even trying, so you're gonna get it, and you're gonna deal with it, dammit. Here are five LPs that blew me away last year, and stay tuned for more.

-Crawf

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King Tears Bat Trip

King  Tears  Bat  Trip

(Debacle Records)
 
Debacle Records really did us all a big favor saving King Tears Bat Trip from obscurity by putting a face on this record. Specifically, that’s a lion’s face on this record, spinning around your turntable as the 18-minute A-side “Stolen Police Car” beats you down to a bloody pulp. Once a cassette/digital affair back in 2012 on Hanged Man Recordings, the long-running Seattle label’s stunning picture-disc edition of this incredible album is a thing of pure joy, one that comes in a terrifyingly loud and abrasive package of relentless drumming, squalls of roaring guitar drones and heart-stopping saxophone solos to round out this insanely talented and versatile group. Drum-circle core is now a genre, by the way, and it’s a genre of one: King Tears Bat Trip. The mighty. The miraculous. Absolutely essential.
 
 
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Charlatan

Local  Agent

(Umor Rex)
 
Brad Rose: Seasoned noise’ist, or hip-hop producer for hire? Uh… can it be both? Even the stuff that doesn’t have any kind of a real defined backbeat on this record still has the slow roll-and-heave of something heavy, something dripping with dark rhythm. It’s suitable for some mic-spit to be sure… but make no mistake! This is still Brad Rose we’re talking about, the mastermind behind Digitalis Industries and progenitor of the Foxy Digitalis webzine of lore, so of course his real focus is on the scrambled-egg-synths, the atonal micro-chip melodies, and the general making of the unworkable somehow totally and cosmically work. This is music suffering a circuit-bent mainframe, slightly impaired in one way, while gaining an adverse amount of proficiency in another area to balance things properly. A man of many projects and guises, and now a father, Rose’s own musical projects gradually feel like they're getting farther apart from each other, but that has only translated into more focused and detailed work, and in the case of Charlatan, that means that each individual blip, pop, pipe, and fizzle you can find with Local Agent is given a particular shape and trajectory, its own character in each track’s own little narrative. While I admit that I’ve only really engaged with a fraction of what this man’s put to tape/wax/mp3, of that small fraction, this one rises to the top as easily the best Rose-related project I’ve yet to encounter.
 
 
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Kösmonaut

Future  Machines

(These Are Not Records)
 
OK, so this stuff can be a head-thuddingly difficult to process to put yourself through. (A process, yes, although there are really only two steps here: press play, allow brain to explode... Possible third: clean-up). It's incredibly patience-testing, with its... constants. Constantly constant, the onslaught of synths and restless rhythms, piling up and up, melodies leapfrogging each other and those high frequencies raining down on drones of rapid-fire baritone. Because everything stays basically one tempo and one volume, which is some kind of a "FASTLOUD" mash as far as I can tell, it stands to reason that this can wear a little on the ears. Worth it. Completely engrossing and relentlessly chaotic but (for the most part) incredibly balanced as well. Along with Panabrite, Black Unicorn, Brain Fruit, and Grapefruit, Patrick R Pärk is easily ranked among synthesizer masters of our age. Oh, also: Blood-red clear vinyl edition of (100) was done, nightly tucked into a cool half-wrap 12-inch sleeve and goldenrod insert. Terrific release.
 
 
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PHORK

High  End

(NNA)
 
The People's Higher Order of Royal Kinship here followed a flurry of cassette releases with easily the most texturally rich and rhythmically fertile music from Neil Renalda to date. Tilling the sonic soil with meaty rhythms and tender textures run through the slicer and chopped into staccato bits, High End managed to pack its meager dots of sound in tight enough to give the music a weighty girth.
 The rhythms themselves aren't all that unfamiliar, but they sure feel new when sounds are constantly swiveling back and forth, samples of fireworks, drippy faucets, and robotic voices all balled up into mutant, tip-toeing hip-hop beats, and synths getting caught in a CD-player-skip stutter. If you were getting sick and tired of the whole "producer" schtick and were looking for someone doing things not just a little, but a LOT different; from a different point of view, say, that of an alien space-station rather than the proverbial bedroom, PHORK is gonna be your best bet.
 
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The Deep Freeze Mice

The  Best  of  the  Deep  Freeze Mice

(Night People)

One of the great atrocities of 2014 is the way in which Crawford Philleo failed to provide coverage for a perfectly amazing reissued collection of perfectly amazing songs by a perfectly amazing band called The Deep Freeze Mice. Fronted by a friendly and responsive gentleman named Alan, who released most of his band's music and other obscurities on his own label Cordelia over the years, the Mice gave it a very good run for the better part of a decade (namely the 80s), puckering up their punk chops while zigzagging through diagonal pop songs, and doing it with a hot-stuff organ player (that a Farfisa? Damn.) With jumbling sections ricocheting like a DEVO tune, the sweetness of the Velvets, and just the right amount of a sour crassness, these guys were just way too brilliant and way too much fun for me to be keeping this to myself, right? So, there you go. You all must know this band, and now, with this collection, there's never been a better time to get acquainted.

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)

Baldruin - Miniaturen

Miniaturen or "miniatures" in German consists of 21 tracks with a running time of about 31 minutes. Needless to say this album represents a sampling platter of Johannes Schebler's synthesizer and sound recordings rather than deep meditations. In these relatively short tracks, however, Schebler finds new and novel means in which to convert everything at his disposal in the service of some bent idea of pop music. Heavily pawed keyboards, bubbling beats, softened distortion, sound inputs from every source (mouth, bells, jars, plants) that are synthesized to some Frankenstein level of overwhelming their master. The textures and tonal qualities range from earthy and aquarian to ethereal and space-adjacent. Organics sampled to sound electronic in origin and electronics sampled to sound organic. Miniaturen is a record sounding as if it was conceived at night after a disjointed, not at all unpleasant dream, and this is the means in which to conjure it back in exquisite, dioramic detail.

Purchase on A Giant Fern

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Developer - AGF24

9:00 AM. My inner ear turned inside of me and said, "fuck, really dude?" the split-second I pushed play. I wouldn't say that is necessarily the wrong response. Developer's harsh, cut noise takes no shortcuts or dampens the contact mic stabs of tortured tones straight through the cochlea. AG24, however, isn't a monolithic slab or uninterrupted sandstorm, rather it is a cut-up pastiche of harsh sounds edited with care and acute precision. Dayton, OH has noise on lock. I work there on the weekends and I always stop by Omega Records to check out their impressive collection of noise cassettes and records. Besides finding two copies of past Goldrush Cassettes (!!??) I've found several of the artists I am covering on this blog put out by a Portuguese based label. Besides destroying my ears in the morning, realizing that the world is smaller than I ever imagined is one of the many pleasures of writing about music.

Purcahse on A Giant Fern

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Head Dress - Deicide

Precious little can be found about Head Dress online, but this slab of granular drones, terminally modulating noise-scrapes is enough to warrant some significant attention. This is situated very much in the left-field of noise-influenced ambient, but it is hardly an unpleasant listen. I am particularly drawn to the surging, peaking synth lines set free at regular intervals from "LRA Effigy", the consistent harshness of "SSM (for AS)" that gradually fades into the dying signal of sentient machinery, the downtempo beauty and blown-out beat palate of "mpdrumssssKRGx2". This one of the few noisier records I found myself studying to and walking to - a very selective canon if I may say. So, Head Dress. Quit being a stranger. You've shared your beating mechanical heart with us, let's see the rest.

Purchase on A Giant Fern

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Masayuki Imanashi - Cycle

I made the observation a few weeks back that I listen to way to much drone music after hearing some random ambient machine sounds and thinking, "who is this?". Likewise, it is easy to get caught up in Masayuki Imanashi's Cycles and forget that this was ever touched by human hands. The sounds are not random or aleatoric, per se. Rather, the listen is intensely personal. Like voyeuristically observing the inner lives of machinery in their most private moments. It is an immersive journey through a high noise floor of static, short stabs of harsh noise, oddly organic mechanical sounds all stitched together with such purpose it is art the same way that painfully recreating Alpine Germanic villages is art. Not in the interpretation but in the act of recreation. In this case it is the recreation is forcing a Radioshack worth of electronics forced through a cheese grater and mechanical insects captured on magnetic tape. Cycles is worth losing yourself in.

Purchase on A Giant Fern

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Sindre Bjerga - A Thousand Nothings Beocme Something

A Thousand Nothings Become Something is a brilliant title for Sindre Bjerga's latest cassette recorded live in Seoul. Bjerga, a Norwegian sound artist who has collaborated with Tome favorites in the past including Micromelancolié and Anla Courtis, takes us into moments of pure improvised genius. Moving from crackling drones to heavy tape manipulation of yesterday's pop hits, the entire movement is a catching, clunky (in the best sense) ride through semi-improvised manipulation of Bjerga's elements. In Bjerga's case those elements include a variety of inputs including prerecorded music on cassettes manipulated at Bjerga's caressing or destroying whim. Ultimately, it is benevolence that wins the day in the end. A thousand of of unconnected parts are broken down to their elemental nature and patched together with little more than intention and innovation. A thousand props to Sindre Bjerga for recording and capturing the firing of the synapses (both internal and external) that create fearlessly fucked art.

Purchase on A Giant Fern

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Sunny Dunes - Whims of a Rainy Day

I encountered this tape from Lyon, France duo Sunny Dunes as I waited for a bus, half-frozen in Cincinnati's latest deep freeze. The result was an immediately inner-warmth that comes with the brain immediately recalling the sounds of warmer climates. Side A begins with field recordings of an idyllic lakeshore during summer. Children laughing, the stereo-panning recording of a child running across a wooden dock, before moving into tonally sweet, floating synths whose ghostly reverb follow lines with a decaying sense of grace. These synth lines are eventually met with equally ethereal drones until they reach a climax of sorts before pulling back until just the floating, swirling, heavily pawed drones remain and are paired with the pitter-patter of electronic beats. Side B begins a bit more distressed, intense, arpeggios lines over slightly more worried synth lines, interrupted by static, disembodied carnival organs and deconstructed synth jingles. Keep a stack of these on deck for the next few weeks America. It's gonna be alright.

Purchase on A Giant Fern

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Wether - Take Notes

Rounding out our journey through A Giant Fern's massive tape batch is Wether, a heavy exposition of rapidly descending and ascending pitch-shifted synths parsed out over tremendous spans of space and time. Laser-gun, spacecraft emergency protocols filtered, isolated and manipulated until it all starts to make sense. "Warm Rejections" run synth arpeggios is S U R V I V E, Blade Runner and Beyond the Black Rainbow processed into a near seven minutes of white-knuckle drive mixtape through what expanses of came before the big bang. "Let's Talk About Space, Baby" is a call into the void of virgin space-dolphins. These deconstructed synth compositions are welcoming in their pure dedication to the instrument itself. Someday we are going to find the "brain" patch (a matter of correct wiring, I'm sure) and synthesizers will sing unaccompanied. It will sound eerily familiar if you've got this tape somewhere on your shelf.

Purchase on A Giant Fern

Friday, February 20th, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)

Heligator Records (run by Tome founder Ryan H.) is extremely excited to bring to you this collection of gold-bathed guitar tones by American-by-the-way-of-Sweden Lee Boyd, who records under the name cloudsound.

To me, "II" sounds like it was birthed in discovery. It is an effort to capture moments of unexpected beauty when a pedal is turned ever-so-slightly, or that moment right before dusk when the sky explodes into radiant oranges and reds. "II" is full of moments like that. Faintly oscillating guitar drones, opaque guitar lines etched with waves of distortion that crest just at the right moment. This album is about trying to stake a living in those moments.

Turning on the sustain pedal is the aural equivalent of taking a picture. We could live in this hope forever.

As always, all proceeds from the sale of "II" will go to the Malindza Refugee Camp Library to pay for the general upkeep, supplies and stipend for the librarian. The camp has been experiencing a rough time. Your donations go a long way.

www.malindzarefugeecamplibrary.blogspot.com

Monday, January 26th, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)