Tuesday, September 28, 2010

x.o.4 - "Exile" (Open Mouth) LP

This record has been a while coming. First recorded in 2008 and worked on for some time after that, it is high time that Exile makes its appearance. Nauseatingly austere compositions cover both sides of this near perfect record. At moments (like the way side A begins for instance) one hardly feels as if they are listening to anything other than the room they are sitting in, much less sound that has been organized intentionally, much less a musical composition. And then, out of the blue of this disarming zone, the x.o.4 trio emits meticulously framed slices and fragments of electronic intrusion. They come suddenly, these pieces - I don't quite know what to call them - samples or techniques - and vanish invisibly.

Side A rings true from the beginning. Breaking cleanly and spacious scuffling before the tide starts rising. Deep to chirp and infinitely suppressed explosions. And then the mouth starts. Jaws of electro-lust slobbering for pockets of air. We are drilled for a while, stretched, scratched and thinned. It is tempting to call it "textural" so that you know what I am talking about. But it is not "textures" because "textures" don't dig into your body and invade your mind like this.

This record marks decidedly new territory for x.o.4. The work here is obviously more refined, but it is also somehow more intricate, passionate and dangerous than their past releases. There is a terrible insect positioned just out of sight. It never strikes, but it kills sharply and accurately nonetheless. One becomes so transfixed, so utterly lost in the inevitability of death by insect (this particular one) that all hope is crippled and reduced to zero. The project of life is over. We've been kicked out. ...And then something changes. Suddenly that impossibly seductive tone is over and it has been replaced by a sound so thin, so fragil and irregular that it resists nearly every kind of contact. The group snap in and out of these singular zones, dragging our consciousness with them.

You hear people talk about the "space" of a musical composition - how such and such a composer sends us "from here to over there" or how this or that piece is "expansive". Well, I can catch that ride - I like the think about music in spatial terms. And one of the things that makes the material on Exile exceptional is the way in which these guys deal with perspective. I get the distinct feeling while listening to this recording that I am observing the inaudible world with a microscope. Things that appear too minuscule to be heard get amplified to the point where they become sizable structures full of detail and complexity - up close for the ear to examine. And then (to heighten this sense of perspective) events that seem as if they should overwhelm the composition are sent to linger in the background - compressed or filtered or squished so much that they are reduced to their bare minimum. What we are presented with feels both familiar and utterly alien at the same time.

Another thing that sets this record apart from other x.o.4 is the degree to which it is produced. From what I understand, Nace and Meginsky spent a good deal of time working with the sessions that they initially recorded to get the material into this final state. That, and the record was mastered by Bhob Rainey. Bhob's ears are all over this stuff. You can expect sustained focus on pure air, as well as various subtle deviations from pure air. And then be ready to have your mind suddenly opened. Blown.

Best of 2010.

Get it here: mimaroglu, RRR, Flipped Out

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Justin Rhody and Matthew Himes - "Romantic Love" (Lighten Up) CS

School has started up again (I teach at a boarding school) and that has meant that I have been flat out for the last two weeks. Reviews will be slowing down now for a while, but I am going to try to keep it going. I would like to be able do a couple a month. I would also like to really focus on things that are being produced locally - in the North East region - as much as possible. So that is where that is at. Now...

This is a tape from the good people at Lighten Up Sounds in Lake City, Minnesota. It was recorded, however, this past winter in Belfast, Maine - so I am going for it in the region.
Pretty desolate offerings here. Sounds like a deuzy of a day down Maine. Nothing to do, no where to go. The feeling of being inside your head for too long. Elements, thoughts, ideas float away without notice - never to return again. Others linger forever, drilling themselves a home between neurons. Dark zones for sure. I think about how some finger picking would be nice. So zoned that I think I hear it. Out of no where. Fingerpicking - there it is; buried alive. But it is actually in there. At points the sludge is so thick that it vanishes. Nothing left, then... straight rocky winter wave waylay. Picturegrotesqueness.

Hints of the Jazzfinger mode here: soothing harshness and open-ended tone-load. Also with a dose of Sick Llama stagnation. These two dudes (Rhody and Himes) are doing something right. God knows what it is.

Justice is served out back with ghost-crew wails; the church bell is being methodically rung and destroyed simultaneously. Feedback and intonation slathered on the walls of an ever expanding, empty room. And strangely, there is still some air in here - still some room to move around even. Hesitation and dwelling in difficult spirits persists. Textures lay naked despite the ongoing dim-hum pulse persuasion. Not drugged, but Debbie downer for sure. These jams (sounds like 2 pieces on side A, one on B) are really negative; and almost more so because of their lack of aggressiveness. Wallow city 2009. The sky is falling, the sky is falling, in Belslow. No seriously. Get down there.

After 24 minutes, the tape ends utterly unresolved - as quandarified as it begins.

Keep your eye out for several good-looking forthcoming releases on Lighten Up, including: THE SAVAGE YOUNG TATERBUG 10", CAETHUA/SHEP and ME split LP, and DAVE CINTRON CS