Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Rene Hell/ Three Legged Race "violin petal (auden)"/ "whipped secrets" (Arbor) LP

New waves from Beatty and Witscher. Lots of space in these class A constructions, but it is dealt with differently on each side.

Starting with the Three Legged Race; the guy knows how to build a loop. The first part (of a three part piece) swings clouds from the start evoking last centuries ambients from Satie to Frippertronics. Wafts of refined topicality curl around the edges and an extra dimension is being explored way underneath. Part two drops us into the slippery goop of Beatty's rhythmic synthesized undulations. For a second we are jamming with Keith Hudson, dubbed and dripping but somehow still doing 120 on the freeway. Part three picks up right there. Clicks and kick-backs, cell phone worship, ghost in the machine. This is techno if you can believe it. No seriously - it's techno. But it's hardly there and breaking every couple of bars. In other words, it is just what the doctor ordered. This world is fruitful. We're journeying between three tones here for a while, just living, picking apart, deconstructing, teasing, goofing. It's a gas. Then, a call from across the void inevitably sounds - the machine wants its own agency - and the laser guns come out. Beatty battles for control in a neo-western decomposition between machine and magic.


Part one of Rene Hell's (Jeff Witscher) four-part "violin petal" piece dredges psychedelic detritus from the retired landscape. I hear voices sometimes. I am vaguely stimulated. I get lost between lines. Which is impossible. Part two could be a Ducktails setup from the get. But rather than jamming a tune over the top, Witscher punches in the pentatonics and then hands over the controls. This stuff is more long-form, more landscape than "Landscapes", and decidedly darker. It never blows it's load, it just moves in and out in a blissful, cyclical march. Everything expands out from center, spinning around and around, influencing everything else in this small, wonderful, insular spot. Part three could be titled "Consequences" (it isn't), emerging out of the fog like a smug executioner. This is essentially a drone piece, but nothing is being "sat on" here. The seems are well joined and no one tone triumphs over the others. The record ends with "exit room 808" - a wonderfully wobbly Wizard of Oz finale wrap-up to warp your mind back into reality. After just one side with Witscher, you get the feeling that you have been changed permanently. I think I need to go outside.

Edition of 400. Available from Arbor themselves.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fat Worm Of Error - "Broods" (Open Mouth/ Ecstatic Peace) LP

I am always really surprised and impressed when I hear a record that is both dense, detailed and demanding and somehow, at the same time, still light and playful. The new Fat Worm record out last month from Open Mouth and Ecstatic Peace really encapsulates this balance. There is so much to get from this wonderfully produced crop of new songs that it is hard to know where to begin talking about it. One of the first things that comes to mind is the generous forays into electronic improv territory that pop up all over the place. I was pleasantly surprised to find breakdowns which venture off toward early electronic/tape land; Xenakis or Niblock (or something) sprinkled throughout and between. Of course, we also get plenty of the bizarro groovy gravy twang jamz that we have come to expect from FWOE - up the whazoo - thank God (or someone). Whenever the stretched-rhythm pulse starts pulling I can't think of anything other than Chris Cooper and his mustache - the image forever burned into my mind - yanking and popping the two strings that are left on his guitar like it's a bow and arrow, and jumping and kicking like Eddie Van Halen.

This is a truly free group of musicians. You actually have never heard anything like this before. And the only things that come remotely close are other bands that members of Fat Worm have participated in at one time or another - Deerhoof, Caroliner... I was interested to learn about just how much structure went into constructing these 'songs'. It makes perfect sense - these guys are no amateurs, they have all made their rounds with various projects of various styles and orientations, and they can all really articulate themselves on their instruments at this point. As far as I am concerned, it doesn't get much better than smart people, putting a lot of energy into making some really smart music, clearly having a lot of fun in the process, and in the end coming up with something that is utterly absurd. That is Broods.

The record actually has a great deal of space in it. With Broods, the band has found a way of making their seasaw - filling eachothers pauses - busted polyrythmic malflow work. Tempo? Ha! Neel Young (the drummer) learned to play from his dragging muffler. Tempo depends on what gear your in. No, but seriously, these guys are tight. That may sound odd talking about a band whose total goof-art-ness makes Captain Beefheart look like a Tea Party rally on Dramamine. But I can't find a moment throughout Broods that sounds sloppy. Sure the thing may leap from a Seinfeld bass fill to a Byzantine keyboard lick to a laughing/crying vocoded cryptic dream-poem, but it holds itself together.

Speaking of the vocals, Jess Goddard is almost as much fun to listen to on the record as she is to watch on stage. Well known for her homemade costumes and frequent (like between every song) costume changes in live performances, Goddard delivers speech impediments from the crack between command and inquiry. At one point in the record she shares with us some details about lunch: "The vulgar potentate has ruined my lunch, with septic debate and a nasty caramel. Techniques to rate scribble scribble as crum-yum then vacate, flush, undo, become." Waxing philosophical while simultaneously trying to clean up the vomit is the fuckus.

One of the things that I love about Fat Worm - which was more then evident at the Elevens on the night of their record release party - is how they bring people together. They are a feel-good band, and I mean that with the utmost sincerity. Whenever Fat Worm is playing the bill people seem to lighten up a little bit. Everyone laughs, giggles, maybe even dances a little and overall people have a good time. For that alone these guys are an absolutely integral part of the Western Mass thing.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Jon Lorenz - "interlayer" (GNS) CS

A couple of new GNS releases here. Lets get down to it.

Exactingly sick tape out of nowhere - well not actually out of nowhere - actually out of North Adams, MA on Nathaniel Brennan's (Cruudeuces) Ghetto Naturalist Series label. Jon Lorenz from Wasteland Jazz Unit lays down an hours worth of nasty-tight spare to the bone-scraping hit the horn creations on this c60. The tape starts bleak-city, as in: empty. As in: "Go ahead, knock the door down bitch cuz' their ain't no one home!" Dust for about forever before ol' Jonny starts in with his growl. And boy does he growl. This is not what you might expect from the guts-splatter horn in Wasteland. This tape is way more exciting than most Wasteland stuff because so much less happens. Instead of staring into the sun for long hours fixated by the glistening burn of 'truth', we are blessed with round after round of well-worked devotional brass forcings that would shut up even the most insatiable horn-addicted deconstructionists.

To say nothing of the ground! Meanwhile: surfaces of ocean hum and what sound like impossibly long and consistent comforting snare rolls dwell in the background. The stones outside my house are listening. They are eager to hear what this sage of ancient dull presence has to say. At times the 'space' of the cassette takes the fore and pushes Lorenz's horn behind it. But that doesn't keep his consistently engaging offerings from coming. Reduced to a lichen squeak, the horn at these buried moments keeps pace with the sound of the leaves falling.

And just when you thought it was over, Lorenz makes a final statement that rips open and lets out the last of it - like Dolphy at his most free. Incredible tape. He never looses focus and keeps me in the pocket for the whole hour.

Edition of 40 - great Riggsian art too by Thomas Gerendás. Sold out on the GNS website but you might be able to get it still at Flipped Out or somewhere.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

ISA CHRIST/CRUUDEUCES Split - "Human Error" (GNS) 7"

Isa wastes no time and totally murders on side A - definitely for harshies big time. Dark dark 2010. All over the map with snap backs and tubular zones, strings and escape routes into gripping thudcracks and falling off the rock wall when you were nine. Hints of power tool abound and a nice aroma of speedball-blitzed didgeridoo nipple sucking emerges from time to time. Overall a very balanced platter. Cut and dried. No domes left unturned. No homes left unburned.

The flip (cruudeuces) is just as mangled, but bears greater gifts to the more inquisitive listener. A roadway is laid out - thick and flat. It pulses with sameness-and-yet-not as we cruise down it. For a while we are accompanied by flying, screaming creatures. They soon die off. Accidental overtonology settles the stomach, the feet, the jaw. The same coddled memory recalled by our senior escort on this non-journey bellows out over and again. A peace results. And a decidedly interesting piece at that.

It is hard to place these guys. There is something distinctively northern about their grime. Long-form for sure, but enough action to keep you checking in. A lot happens on this 7". Pick it up at your nearest valley music store (I know Nathaniel dropped off copies at Feeding Tube and Mystery Train) or online at the GNS blog: Ghetto Naturalist Series

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

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Wicked Fag - "Wicked Fag" (UUU) CS

Wicked Fag is wicked good, junk in the trunk of the cadillac, sleeper Buddy garage rock from Pittsfield, MA (for the time being). Now if you've never been to Pittsfield, there are some things that you should know...

Since sometime early in the 20th century, a well-known company called General Electric decided that Pittsfield, MA would be home to its transformer and capacitor divisions. They made transformers, capacitors, and regulators there, to be used in the power grid throughout the country. All well and industriously good, right? Sure. Until they starting using PCBs, polychlorinated biphenyls, a man-made chemical manufactured by Monsanto, as a non-ignitable insulating fluid in its products. PCBs give you things like liver damage, rashes, lesions, irregular menstruation, lower immune response, and who knows what else. Well to make a long story short, GE was dumping PCBs into Silver Lake which lies in the center of Pittsfield and flows into the Housatonic River, which flows through Massachusetts to Connecticut. the mastermind behind Wicked Fag is Vincent Ditore. Who, as far as I know, grew up in Pittsfield. Now I'm not blaming GE or even the PCBs directly, but something is off in Vincent's head. Fortunately he likes playing rock music. The result is a subtly twisted, all together damaged, but then bent some more, set of songs. With titles like "[Don't] Dream + Drive!" and "Theme from Wicked Fag" it's clear that some synapses are making contact with each other, but don't be surprised if these tunes take you by surprise.

This is a demo tape with six songs, none of which go past the two minute mark. I've heard that Vince wrote these songs years ago and they have been decomposing until now. Well, I think they have resurfaced at the right moment. The summer of crunk'd ice cream truck jams, and haunted house funk. The time that I saw Wicked Fag play it was Vincent and some rag-tag bunch of scuzzed-out (I mean that with the utmost flattery) Pittsfield kids who called themselves the Prick Bastards. It was at a place called Rebel Sound Records (more on that later), and the "band" hung a big sheet with the words "Wicked Fag" scrawled on it behind them. I found a picture that indicated to me that this was not the sheets debut.

The tape starts off with a true classic of wonkery: "[Don't] Dream and Drive!" The drums are perpetually stuck, the bass is way too voluptuous, the riff pounds round and around, always the same, but never the same twice. Perfect groove. On the second track, "Amparo", Wicked Fag continues to deliver spartan butt fuzz jams with mumbledoubt ramblings about some dude named Amparo. Harmonica says "Hello!". All coated in dense strips of muted fidelity. Next up is the ever-more-jamworthy "Mr. President" - what can I say? Not quite the passionate call for reform that the title might suggest. The feeling here is decidedly more isolated, detached and incomprehensible. But brazen as all hell. This isn't rebel music, it is Survivor music... just got voted off of the island stuff. Wicked Fag is a law unto itself. And in it's own way, real catchy and filled with funk. Don't get me wrong, this isn't any of that Cavebears shit. These dudes may only know how to play half of their instruments, but the damage is addictive. And for that matter, its as dry as a hooker's... spit. Can you say Rocky Horror Picture Show? Mfffgooorrnshhhshhhnmmaa!!

Wicked Fag's myspace keeps getting deleted because of the offensiveness of the band's name. Whack attack. I think the tape is coming out soon on Triple U. For the time being, you can download it here. Triple U just released their debut Suuummuuur Sampluuur which you can download at their site. Keep your eyes peeled.