Archive for the 'Experimental' Category
When any band says that their new release will be released on 10” vinyl, you get the sense that its not developed enough to be on a full sized 12” or that its going to be weird. Radiohead’s 2011 nearly EP length album ‘The King of Limbs’ is a little of both. Awkward sound clashes open your ears in the opening track “Bloom” are meant to be off-putting with several time signatures going at once, furthering the notion that all 10” records are experimental to say the least.
As for the sound of the album, its rhythmically driven with the bass and percussion taking on some of the largest rolls every for a Radiohead album. The guitar stays in line with the rhythm section, which is powered by loops and sample sounding bits.
The most familiar sounding track by far is “Little By Little” which brings back some memorably warm guitar tones. Thom is such a tease with his melody leading the song anywhere he chooses for it to go. The guitars follow and the head nodding backing beat sounds like a lo-fi recording of a crack pot inventors’ mechanical toy of the day.
I won’t say this is a dance album, but I did almost feel like I could dance to a couple tracks, which is something I’ve never felt while listening to any Radiohead track before. The beats could even be mistaken for a drum line drum-off. “Feral” highlights the beat driven work with minimalist keyboard bass and blip/glitch laid over it.
I don’t know how many Radiohead songs have hand claps, but “Lotus Flower” is the first track I’ve ever heard actual hand claps on. They sit panned left in your headset, but aren’t very produced. At times sound if they were recorded in a hotel room with unexpected echo and thrown in the mix to keep the weird 10” inch vibe going as the tracks become more like recognizable. The odd off-beat hand claps stand as a firm negation of Radiohead being even remotely near mainstream dance music.
No ballads on this album. However, the beat does slow, the slowest track being “Codex” is highlighted with Thom’s vocals and a familiar piano accompaniment. The simple track quickly fades into sounds of insects and nature that beckon the intro of an acoustic guitar for track 7 “Give Up the Ghost”. Vocal parts are split into 3 with a repeated chorus in the left speaker, and a fuzzed out version of the lead in the right with the main voice sitting in the center channel. The most layered track vocally, Give up the Ghost was one of the most emotional cuts painting for me a picture of springtime, surrounded by tall swaying fields.
On the first listen through, “Separator” was instinctively the most memorable. I wasn’t sure if it was because the middle of the album was nearly seamless, or that the experimental form from the beginning had not had time to be soaked up. I really get into the track about halfway through when the dry guitar enters with its loopy section that is much more reminiscent of a math rock band lick that something from former near rock guitar gods once proclaiming that you won’t be a nothing anymore if you just play guitar. A good ending to a good album. I really feel sad as it ends. It is too short my mind tells me. I feel like its really starting to take off and go somewhere, and then its just over. Oh well. Music can’t really transport me out of a cubicle anyways. So if OK Computer was the eye awakening the world needed, then The King of Limbs is escape that we all attempt to make, but can never successfully manage.
If you’re poor, stream it below:
Mighty mesmerizers from Marcia Bassett solo + live with guitars + effects pedals. Side A Glistens with solar power like sunbathing and falling into alpha wave drenched delicious dreams. Oceanic sounds as if suffused with wale songs for a maximalist droner. Side B takes you from drifting to drowning like a percolation pond of power tools. Ambient alien-scape full of mega-intensity. Heavy hypnosis.
Hair Police is a NOISE/PSYCH group out of Lexington, Kentucky featuring members Mike Connelly (Wolf Eyes), Robert Beatty (Burning Star Core), and Trevor Tremaine (Burning Star Core). Droning screams, alarm sounding keys, distant drums, and slowly sideways pick scrapes equate to a nightmare of analog terror. Side B is sounds of sullen sunken ship exploration using radiation detectors and underwater saws. The drums leave us and amp tones distort like a trip down a conveyor belt. The final track is an array of lost signals against a constantly swinging rusty gate.
Bi-coastal artists collaborative percussive clash creating the lesser known, yet longer lasting experimental stepchild of Drumline. Unlike that shitty movie, these guys use more sounds, play improvisational self composed pieces, and ahem; a glockenspiel. Mike Pride of New York City, has studied under the likes of Amir Ziv, and more recently, his mentor Milford Graves. He adds sinister vocals at points as well as electronic freakouts, but offers no words. Pride runs the studio FUNHOLE where this album was produced live! Japanese born Marcos Fernandes recently played the KFJC pit (04-2007) and is an active live performer in the San Diego scene. This particular release came from Fernandes and Pride meeting in Japan while both on tour in 2005. They later decided to take a day out of their lives to record this tasteful piece of percussion art fusion. A Mountain is a Mammal starts out with acid jazz fluxations, enters into a 27-minute piece with surprising sounds of bells, and ends with evil earth imploding electronic experimentalism.
Self-released CDR by Providence Rhode Island’s Raphael Lyon, aka Mudboy, is neurotic noiseter with releases on lables (Foxy) Digitalis & Not Not Fun. Mudboy sports custom bent instruments, self-built hybrid electric organ/digital keyboard (called the Mudboy Mini), & even composed/performed on a Wurlitzer for a free live ’05 performance at the PPAC in Rhode Island. This release is the second volume of Mudboy BEATS (series II) feat. DJ Jassy Jexx, and mashes up heavy industrial drone with Freakcore loops, drips and cuts. Two long tracks 20-minute tracks and 2 shorter 4-minute ones dissect heavy hitting bass, hip-hop & obscure sound clips, to construct homeless shelters for lost Burning Man’ers experimental minds.
Four Songs & Ten Inches of the infinite underworld. Seattle is back on the map thanks to warm and fuzzy analog snail-tempo electro tripsperimental drone. Halloween is everyday for members Slicing, and Grandpa whose work never forgets to include a steady beat beneath the psychedelic layers of effects-laden guitars, feedback and illiterate ramblings. And that covers only the first two tracks on the A side. The B-side follows no rules, nor beat and is noisy like an autistic brain seizure. Think of any Japanese B horror movie, layer all their soundtracks and you’ll soon be opening up for slicing G. Dental drills, blister filled embolisms, and botched abortions as a giant mecha-warrior defends his title as world leader against the forces of wind, earth, fire, water and heart.
Drum Machine Mayhem meets electric avant virtuoso guitar. Solo release by NYC’s Mick Barr of Orthrelm, The Flying Luttenbachers (formerly) & Crom-tech (duo with Hella drummer Zach Hill). takes the butt-rock out of metal guitar and births instrumental madness. I challenge any listener to discern time signature in any track. Nine songs (3,4,5,8,9,10,15) are purely guitar as this Fullforce Composer Series release by TZADIK seeks Guitar Hero status among hipsters and D&D fans alike. Produced by John Zorn, expect to be thoroughly impressed and confounded by the speed and compositional creativity evoked through the hands of a reincarnated Chopin or Beethoven.
Two (female) artistically intoxicated folk heroes out of Santa Cruz, CA forcibly mate piano/organ tones with a battered accordion and to produce a tone-deaf clarinet baby. Coulda been the American soundtrack to Amelie. Mismatched lyrics that don’t make sense, are spoken over each other and sung by both Silvie Margot Deutsch (piano) and Zoe Ruth Cusmus Latta (accordion). Songs are sweet and sincere, as erratic as an unrehearsed kids choir with track #2 Little being the ultimate display of their witty sound. I hate to say the term cutsie, but sometimes in many tracks, that’s the only way to describe Belly Boat’s take on Raccoons, love and Agnus Dei.
Drums. Percussion. Rhythm. These make up the base of the organization of sounds known as music. When I was in high school band, there was something special about being a part of drum corps. When we played parades, the rest of the band would shut the hell up every couple of pieces, and let us percussionists show off the precision of rhythm. On Ensemble delivers that mysterious, hypnotic attraction to beats with the release Ume In The Middle. Melding together traditional Japanese Taiko music with modern electro and jazz, the CD delivers delectable beats and blips with a dash of drone.
The album opens up with the first two tracks “Yamasong” and “Hisashi,” keeping it nice and slow with droney chants and traditional-sounding flute. I was fooled into thinking that the rest of the CD would be the same, but I was treated to breakbeat paired with chopped-up samples in track 4 “Hiroya vs. Miniboss,” electro blips and beeps in track 7 “Silverback,” and downtempo instrumental goodness in track 9 “Yamasong (Remix).”
Rhythm transcends stylistic differences and is present in almost all forms of music; therefore, it’s nice to see On Ensemble proving this point with the ability to skip through different types of genres (and varying complexity in the rhythms). For example, track 7 “Silverback” sounds like material by WARP’s Plaid (if they had access to some really cool drums, of course) with the ensemble’s appreciation for IDM, and track 3 “Waiting” included plenty of sunny vocals and bright chords. Track 8 “Bounce Back” is something for drum corps members to appreciate. Combined with a splash of flute, the percussion shows off how On Ensemble plays as one with the precision that all percussionists strive for.
Ume In The Middle is slated to be release May 5, 2009, so keep your eyes open!
Forget what you think you know about electronic music and enjoy something different and refreshing yet freakishly familiar. The Dino Soars offers laid back hip hop beats alongside some sugary dance tracks inspired by the hot days of disco where music wasn’t held back by genres or being typecast as ‘electronic’ ‘indie’ and therefore limited to a esoteric musical audience. For Stegosaurus Rex, every listener is equal and he offers audible appetizers in this, his first of many albums to come. Instead of releasing 4 individual EP albums, this mega CD compiles and mixes them all into something almost random at times, with wild mood swings and gentle downtime.
Listen closely to his single on the album, track #13 “Nowhere To Run” and you may notice similarities to Ladytron’s “Seventeen”, but scarier still is its connection to Crystal Castles and their track “Crimewave“. While the self-titled Crystal Castles album was released one month earlier than The Dino Soars, the single “Nowhere to Run” had been out 2 years earlier as a single. Whether or not they took any influence from the track is inconsequential in the end because the two bands are obviously contemporaries with roots following back to Ladytron, Miss Kitten, and likely Kraftwerk. When asked of the similarities between the tracks however, Steg Rex comments, “I didn’t know who Crystal Castles was 2 years ago when they friended me on Myspace, after I had released the Nowhere To Run Single.” So it is possible that Stegosaurus Rex inspires bands like Crystal Castles. Either way, each band shoots off into different directions as Rex moves into the French inspired disco house realm with amazing cuts like “Fleeting Disco Do” and “Polar”. One of my personal favorites is “Mike Myers”, inspired by Michael Myers Halloween series, its IDM leanings have me respecting Steg Rex’s wide array of musical taste. Check out the video for Nowhere to Run on Youtube.
Re-release of the 1983 cassette comp under Iham Products and FOPI. The album features shorts clips, most under a minute with clips like a 39 second Frank Zappa interview to to a piece by Charles Manson called Charlie and his MAM. Compiled by David Tibet (of Current 93), many are looped, foreign language and mostly of Throbbing Gristle material. This stands as the missing piece of the jigsaw between Coum Transmissions, Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV including rehearsals, radio bytes, phone calls, unreleased demos, interviews and ultra nonsense. The original release was issued in February 1983 as the fourth, and final issue of the Nanavesh magazine (The tape was the issue and didn’t include a written publication with it). The magazine concentrated initially on Throbbing Gristle and with its demise it moved onto Psychic TV. 23 Drifts To Guestling is a retrospective tape of Throbbing Gristle & basically a magazine on tape. It contains an interesting insight into TG with messages from their ansaphone, some material, an interview with Genesis following the ‘Prostitution’ exhibition at the ICA, an interview with American spree killer Gary Gilmore, a chat between Genesis and Monte Cazazza, bits and pieces of songs and a few death threats over the phone. It makes compulsive listening because it’s so strangely put together and it’s a good insight into the character of Mr P-Orridge.
Sorry, there is no sax as the cover art alludes, but plenty o’ speedy tempo, guitar sliding NO WAVE action by this Vancouver BC trio. A-tonally amped, shouting, gorilla style drum spasmatics. The vocals are rhythmically in tune with the drums and other parts of the song rather than offering and steady melody. Check out the included liner notes for you fill typewriter typo lyrics about guns, knives and snakes on one side, and a barrage of band live show posters on the other. During the last few years Shearing Pinx have shared the stage with Gay Beast, Animal, Twin, Lightning Bolt, Health, and Leviathans to name a few. They have an upcoming tour in April of 2008 with headliners AIDS Wolf. Overall, the Pinx sound is anti dance pop music for people who still wanna dance. Powerful screams quickly become trippy instrumentals as side A ends, with side B picking off right in the middle where they leave off. Some howling guitars, play tone plucking, silly slides sonically sweet stuff from Erin Ward (guitar), Jeremy Van Wyck (drums), Nic Hughes (vox/guitar), and Nic’s own label, Isolated Now Waves.
Big hole, white label vinyl, limited, live performance by former Wolf Eyes member Aaron Dilloway and John Wiese of (Sunn O))) back in 2006 in the UK at a place known as Chislehurst Caves. These man-made caves stretch 22 miles long under the eastern suburbs near London, used for such things as mining chalk & flint, they were also used to shelter the Brits during WWII air raids. Even more interesting, the caves are speculated to have been used by the ancient Druids and also by the Romans and Saxxons. From this very rich background it would seem there was little left to accomplish until more recently when the caves began to be used as a music venue. Bowie, Pink Floyd, The Stones, and Hendrix have all played there, and now too have ear-piercingly experimentalists Dilloway and Wiese. Art noise meets electronic crunch. Three untitled tracks totaling over 8 minutes of pure noise in possibly one of the nosiest settings imaginable. Imagine sounds of Satan vs. television fuzz in a battle with loop pedals plummeting asunder with each attack. Frequencies so high they may reinvent hearing by broadening the spectrum of the human ear. Later sounds resemble background tones of the Atari 2600 game Wizards of War. Loopiness to the point of near locked groves, but leave your patience at the door as no track even reaches 5 minutes in length, distance or circumference.
Beautiful Baltimore instrumental duo of Nathan Bell of Lungfish and Arbouretum’s David Heumann. Drifts out and outer into subconscious subspace, 10 strokes above par. Recorded in Kentucky, these men of rock envision a dustbowl full of baritone and orbital spirit guitars, the bowed banjo, and amplified kalimba. If that’s not enough for your tripp into oblivion then your momma taught you wrong, and listen for the sexy trumpet smattered all over the B-side cut Ephaphatha. Themes of flooded spaces with secret hide outs and endless network of sprawling wires like rays of the sun, Human Bell takes elements of Godspeed You Black Emperor and strips them down to the soul. Much like them, it may be difficult to remember much of the melody after even multiple spins, however like their theme, they aim isn’t set to stun. Moody and morose, most build-ups perish as they build, quite opposite of powerfully moving music. Could very well be a good theme to a slow escape, or a lukewarm flood lifting you out of your seat and into the ocean ever so gently, and then leaving you there to float away. Like the best moments in life, enjoyable during the ride, but lost forever after the moment is gone.
Limited press drone dream split between A side Cloudland Canyon of Germany and Midwesterners Mythical Beast. Instrumental track for the kraut droners on the front, while the flip features seductively sad vocals by Mythical Beast’s female lead singer Corinne Sweeney. Haunting and minimal with no drums, she is backed by guitarist Jeremiah Cowlin, and bassist Aaron Hawn. Very serious and depressed sounds without the look at me emo attitude of the mainstream. Slow and steady vintage sounds fill every crack with Sweeney’s low slumbering notes. Mythical Beast will be performing in the Not Not Fun SXSW showcase along with Pocahaunted & Robedoor March 20th 2009. Cloudland Canyon is an analog duo of early-era drone, mixing tribal beats with simple repetitive but building nowave vocal drones over 70’s kraut guitar much like psychsters Ash Ra Temple and Embryo. The only sad part is that they only contributed one track to this split, and it’s also at 45 RPM. Ignoring the lo-fi elements of the recording, their classic sound is massive and methodical, like a trance dance into sacrificial volcano. Faust and German Oak fans will like their work, which has also been released on the Holy Mountain and Kranky labels.
Lovely low deep male vocals (provided by Alexander Hacke of Einstürzende Neubauten) float in ambience, minimally droning with surprise beats. Recorded in Berlin, this German foursome is made of 2 percussionists, Tony Buck & Steve Heather, along with guitarist Martin Siewert, and zietblom on bass. Trippy drugged out feel to much of the album with fuzzed out one note surf style guitar delayed fuzz solos leading the way like a super stoned version of Green Milk from the Planet Orange. Mathematical plays with timing and meter on the lap steel guitar along with a percussive eastern vibe make heaven a much easier place to reach. Relaxing vibes are at a peak with the two guest vocal cuts Scarlet Woman and Prince Priest. But beware; sweet heaven is full of demons just like anywhere as luscious vocals turn into nightmarish Golem growls. Side B opens up nearly 4 decades ago into an age where 6-minute intros in rock music was the norm. Keyboards and industrial cymbal hits join the infinite fretless foundation of sadness envisioned by the band. With their musical canvas they paint landscapes with more freedom and even less optimism than Philip Glass’s audial work in the 1982 film Koyaanisqatsi.
1990’s Psych-rock-garage group from Harrisburg Virginia made up of members Sexua on vocals, Lmil on drums, Kshake on guitar and Ame Dread on bass. Part gimmick band, the groups thing was to dress up in different costumes for each show, as they did a puppet show one time and wore only vines another. Featured on this album is a cover song of the 70’s psych group Ultimate Spinach cut Hip Death Goddess (Ballad of the). The recording is by Warton Tiers who also did many of the early Sonic Youth albums. Its god a bit of the Sonic Youth and Fall vibe to it but without the seriousness to continue doing the act for more that the few years they were together as a college band at James Madison University. Think of a milkshake gone bad, left out on its own in college, getting drunk and figuring out how to make a lasting impression upon the world, and the audio slop will begin to make sense. The packaging for the original vinyl release which I unfortunately did not get, included a 3-D poster of the group, gorilla 3-D glasses (w/ scratch and sniff banana), chopsticks, a 12-page booklet full of art, a mermaid drinking glass companion, a hot dog bag, a 2nd poster/insert, and a nudie Teen Beat matchbook with the wise words “Relax Brother Relax” scrawled upon it. Most tracks on the album are short demo sounding chucklets and included as a bonus track is the last track, a live recording called Cave Bacon, Volume 3 which includes captured sound of about 4 minutes of vinyl crackling and the end of a vinyl.
Fusing improvisational Java music performance and electronic composing is Gregory Taylor of Madison Wisconsin. This is his first musical work, piecing this 7 track CD together live by creating samples and loops of an improv. electronic composition in the vein of Post Modernist and gamelan style music theory. Ambient and soft sounds ring like a cross between soft glass harps and organic wooden church bell. Glitch influence breathes lightly over the entire album that is free from silence and seamless throughout. Minimalistic in ways much like Brian Eno yet closer to Phillip Glass, Taylor uses synth tones performing in both Indonesian pentatonic scales Slendro and Pelog. Many of the track titles come from the Javanese note names of the Slendro and Pelog scales whose 5 notes were named after body parts. Note #2 – gulu – meaning neck, note 3 dada – is the chest, note 5 – lima – is hand or five fingers, and - nem,- note 6 referring to the male genitalia. The scales sad sound sets the mood of this album as its use in countries such as Bali were for cremation ceremonies. Celebrating Indonesian traditions and expanding it into the digital age, watch out for the easy New Age classification of his 25 year devotion to the sounds of Java.
Bienvenidos a Miami as Will Smith would say, yet somehow this trio didn’t hear him and dumped a blown out garage band in your lap full of cute art J. K. Rowling-esk lightning bolts, robots assembled out of the remnants of The Brave Little Toaster and as promised, bunnies. Drumstick hits tap out the start of this recently made OOP 7” delivers the robotic electric side of the bunnies. Loopy varying speed vinyl sounds with vocoder vocals and rock loops like Trans Am if someone made them record on a 4-track. The 2nd track features a short punk track with snotty Vandals style lyrics about how its “not about my sweater, not about my shoes…. I’m wearing beautiful pants”. Glad to know life is so simple over in Florida. Flip this over to find subtle psych behind bass driven lo-fi garage like slower instrumental Clash meets a druggier instrumental version of The Cure. Fun times ten as the album ends with some planned or unplanned cell phone to speaker interference. With all the choices of sound directions to go in, the Bunnies leave you wondering if in the future they’d rather open up for Abe Vigoda, Moldy Peaches, or Justice.
Blame Xiu Xiu for being so good that that they will have follower groups for the next 20 years. Eyes is one of those bands, but thankfully they don’t even try to polish themselves and come off sounding much more like I.B.O.P.A. the earlier project of Xiu Xiu frontman Jamie Stewart. The group is a duo plus many, made up of Nail In The Coffin label head Jorge Tapia and William Harris. From their Midwest headquarters in East Molina Illinois, Eyes aren’t your average corn herders, with their heads stuck in cassette tape culture a indicated by the infinite amount of OOP releases and lathe cuts on their discography, not to mention an upcoming comp alongside artists Zombi. They’ll have upcoming shows with the Chinese Stars and are inspired by Sun Ra as you can hear from the acid jazz breakdown of track 5. Soular Lust. Much of the other sounds on this album tributes 80’s electronic and New Wave with hyper Halloween tremolo vocals and over-amplified everything (piano, guitars, drum machines). Expect the tremolos to keep coming with each track in the album as if an old sweaty pair of yellow and black adidas sweatpants anthropomorphized into a rainbow garden of gay core fannypack dance team hand slapping professional B-boy image assistants, who’s primary duties include making sure everything you drink is fluorescent and no actual beads of sweat form on foreheads across the nation.
Decade long droners stoners Japan’s own space super fab five take psychedelic turns at speeding you through long drip out trips in long movements around 8 minutes a piece and as long as 22 minutes! You may notice this release includes vox/drummer Pikachu who sings beginning of end of movement 2 with her Native American chantingin the right channel while singing on the left. Also the prog, one cannot forget the progtastic way in which the band behind her keeps the livid rainbow forms floating in your cornea. Don’t miss out on the ultracheese classic Casio keyboard sounds in movement one. And while over 3/5ths of the bands members are bearded, do not underestimate the potential hidden beard factor which Pikachu, a current member of the band Afrirampo, may have. For those who just want a small scoop, skip to the shortest movement #4, at 4 minutes including amazing Glockenspiel performance you’re psych-tooth will fall out before you even leave the meth lab. Are these crazy band members just another innocent surf band or are they lifted spacemen drifting into the depths of darkened obscurity? Either way enjoy on your upper/downer of choice and be prepared to have your mind reprogrammed by hyperactive braintrolls with severe ADD.
FYI: Acid Mothers Temple & the Cosmic Inferno differs from the Melting Paraiso U.F.O. not only in line-up but also in style of music. The Cosmic Inferno generally plays much heavier, hard-rock inspired psychedelia, and experiments more with effects pedals. (wikipedia)
IVG is the third release by French label Poutre Apparente featuring more than a baker’s dozen of tracks split between various artists. This CD version put out by Born Bad Records (tracks are in a different order) is for those who prefer listening digitally to their experimental music. The themes and sounds of the CD are certainly disparate, spread across the release in haphazard fashion. Blending together tracks from some of the most experimental of the avant-garde artists of the time, IVG shows us the temporal uncertainty of an almost undefinable genre, being created in a time that was post-industrial, post-modern, and certainly post-punk. Instead of being melded together as a cohesive movement, the electronic, poppy, and punky tracks on the CD are like islands reaching towards each other through the receding waterline, almost-but-not-quite joined. In this same way, we see all the different types of influences to New Wave/No Wave on the release. A few different tracks stand out for different reasons. For example, track 4 “Indicateur Ou Drageur” by Nini Raviolette references French mod pop and 1960s rock ‘n’ roll with its fuzzboxes and heavy reverb. Track 11 “La Roue De Bicyclette” by D.D.A.A. is a droney, minimalistic presentation of hypnotic repetition. Finally track 12 “Le Manoir Du Chat Noir” by Atom Cristal is quite synth-heavy, exploring the on-the-verge world of synthpop atmospherics and analog drum machines. IVG is by no means an easy listen, and even at its roughly 40 minutes might seem lengthy. However, with each new listen, one can find beauty and musical order in the apparent abrasiveness of the tracks, and come to understand a whole era of music a bit better.
Bitcrush is a solo project of Mike Cadoo, focusing upon rock-based musical elements. Shimmer And Fade is a remastered reissue of the 2005 digital release of the same name (this time out on CD, limited to 1000 copies) and it includes 4 bonus tracks. The art references the original, but it is slightly different, being a bit cleaner.
Moving on to the music, the CD begins with dissonant, droney guitars layered over each other, signaling the album’s mood, austere and introspective, and set over sludgy, spacey rhythms. Distant and melodic, Cadoo’s music slowly explores harmonies and textures without making the music too experimental and unforgiving. Reminiscent of rock/metal-based shoegaze projects such as Jesu, Cadoo favors instrumentals over vocals, and makes sure that guitars don’t overpower the sound, using them only as a way to layer smooth, complex polyphonies over each other. The tracks also incorporate Cadoo’s previously honed skills and know-how of breakbeat rhythms and glitchy production. While most of the tracks are Warp-worthy, the real gems are (surprisingly) the tracks that sound a lot more rock than electronic. Warm and optimistic, they are listenable and easy to follow. For example, track 3 “No Bridge No Water” is a five-minute exposition of brightly melodic synths and strong alternative rock guitar riffs. More pop-structured than the other tracks, the song unabashedly skirts the line between accessibility and sophistication. Track 10 “When Swallowing Becomes Difficult” sounds like something off Ghostly International, being cute yet introspective, with a touch of bittersweet euphoria. These two tracks stand out from the others and bring to the album a bit of avant-pop energy from within a much more downtempo sound.
Marvin Ayres is a British composer of ambient soundscapes, mixing together minimalistic, yet dynamic melodies that swirl around different genres. A master of polyphony, Ayres draws from the harmonic traditions of Medieval plainchant, to the glory of Renaissance vocal works, to the ultra-experimental pieces of the musical genius Gyorgy Ligeti. By combining the breathtaking beauty of repetitive melodic themes with the movement of sound flowing in and out of dramatic tension, Ayres creates music that resides between glorious and muted, pious and indifferent, beautiful and worn. The CD opens with “Androgynous Weave,” an almost perverse reversal of the sacred minimalism of Arvo Part. Repetitive and hypnotic, it certainly leaves a mark on the mind, but with a decidedly barren tone. Track 8 “Do You Hear Me Now?” sounds like Medieval plainchant, but with a beautiful mix of polyphony, building up to an almost sacrosanct wall of piety, but pulling us out of our dreams of the old by layering a thick barrier of reverberation and clean-cut audio. Most of the CD brings a sense of barrenness and austerity to the listener, with a slight touch of pessimism. However, by listening close, one can find the shimmering light of emotional apex at the beginning of track 2 “Soured Alchemy,” bringing to the audience a sense of finality and peace, executed beyond the bounds of temporality.
Two experimentalist groups from New Jersey collaborate in “Hear Less/ No Good Trying:” Dälek, an alternative hip hop duo comprised of MC Dälek as vocals and Oktopus in production, and Ifwhen, ex-All Natural Lemon & Lime Flavors with Merc (guitar, production, vocals), Kentaro (bass), Mary MacDowell (keyboards, viola), and Yuko Sueto (optical controller).
“Hear Less (Seymour)” opens with a twang of a guitar, grinding bass, a jarring organ, and drumbeats, set in minor key. This track exudes a dark atmosphere, reminding you of original hip hop meets Phantom of the Opera. Both groups are influenced by shoegazer band My Blood Valentine and it shows in this opening track with the distortion and droning riffs during the bridge, emulating The Beatle’s psychedelic rock song “Revolution 9.” In the end, the jarring organ and bass are emphasized in a repetitive, dissonant melody that eventually dissolves with the guitar ‘twang’ heard in the beginning.
The second track “No Good Trying” opens with a heavy bass like the first track, a drum machine and acoustic guitar which emphasizes the percussionist techniques, similar to Kaki King’s “Ritual Dance” as heard in August Rush. The melting styles of Dälek and Ifwhen produce yet another song that brings about a feeling of inertia or reverse momentum. When they introduce an electric organ, it gives the song a Celtic feel. The bridge shifts from a slower tempo hip hop to a faster vibrating organ blending with keyboard and guitar, bringing in a jazzy ambience seemingly set in 3/4 time. Beginning with guitar riffs and ending with cymbals, this is another experimental track fusing sampling and shoegazing.
The third track is a Deadverse Remix of “No Good Trying.” Opening with celestial keyboard, drums and intensifying echoing vocals, the song eventually distorts the vocals to the point of incomprehensible language and dissolves completely. In the last track, the Deadverse Remix of “Hear Less” opens with lyrics sung in echoing acapella. The drums enter, as the song alternates snippets of an electric organ and a pan flute set in different beats, creating yet another psychedelic ambience.
Overall, the collaboration of these amazing experimentalist and alternative hip hop groups produce unique industrial hip-hop, effectively using their sampling and shoegazing to exude a dark atmosphere of dissonant and amorphous sounds. Yet, it only makes you want more of this fusion of alternative hip-hop and psychedelic rock.
Unsettled On An Old Sense Of Place is a release by Gustavo Aguilar, experimental percussionist. Throughout the CD, Aguilar pieces together different bits of avant-garde electronic, jazz, and percussion to create challenging tracks of various lengths. Although comprised of only 6 tracks, each track contains plenty of complex ideas made for the listener to digest. Aguilar employs the help of other very accomplished artists to help with vocals, strings, and a variety of other instruments to bring forth the essence of tonal balance through the scraping, the tapping, the plucking, of various materials. In track 2 “Contrafactum For Scelsi,” Aguilar puts his percussionist tendencies to use as he taps out a series of sounds from the different surfaces available on a guitar, going beyond what is normally thought of as playing (on the strings). He shows off his virtuosity in percussion by showing us syncopated, accented notes, building in intensity as he presents the whole range of energies present in such a performance. Track 6 “Wendell’s History” is a track featuring poet Wendell Berry’s work, crisp vocals layered over hypnotic, sparkling glockenspiel-playing. Quite possibly the most amazing track on the CD is track 4 “Dirac’s Theory,” (named after physicist Paul Dirac) a unique 3-minute long drum solo. Playing only a snare drum, Aguilar shows us once again not only his virtuosity on percussion, but also the possibility of sounds that exist (or can exist) within one single instrument. The tracks on this CD might be slightly abrasive at times, but they certainly yank the listener (and the musician) out of their comfort zones, showing them the possibility of sounds that are not popularly utilized.
Wildly schizophrenic, Venetian Snares latest offering Detrimentalist can best be described as auditory cocaine. Alone, all nine songs are 4-6 minute breakcore panic attacks, yet when listened to in order an uncanny cohesiveness emerges. As a genre breakcore has an incredibly liberal interpretation, but Detrimentalist may be one of its few quintessential examples. Uninhibited and wildly abstract, the album thrives in its own recklessness. It is laden with arcade style passages and will sound familiar to anyone who has played UGA’s video game Rez, in fact I’m damn surprised Venetian wasn’t on that soundtrack.
Any album with a song named “Poo Yourself Jason” must be approached with a degree of levity, but don’t be fooled into thinking that Venetian’s not going to deliver some epic cuts. Namely the culminating “Bebikukorica Nigiri,” which I’m certain would be the song playing if MegaMan and Link were ever fighting to the death on top of a New York highrise. “Nigiri” differs from other tracks because it has a motive which comes back more ornamented and inspired each time around. Yet, the contrapuntal textures Venetian massages into songs like “Sajtban” and “Circle Pit” demonstrate his versatility and are equally engaging.
Detrimentalist’s longest and most sporadic track is “Flashforward,” a 400 second tour de force reminiscent of the earlier, rawer Chemical Brothers. “Flashforward” is in effect a microcosm of the entire album; Atonality coaxed into confluence by an artist who is often eccentric, but never dull.
Lucibel Crater is a New York 3-piece band, cranking out bits of funk and jazz elements along with some indie shoegaze. The Family Album is a 10-track exploration of eclectic elements coupled with lush instrumentals and Leah Coloff’s singing/spoken word. Oftentimes moody and mysterious, the music definitely does not drag. For example, track 6 (”Blue Stationwagon”) is a long jazzy instrumental piece, sounding like semi-improvised explorations of sound set on top of brilliantly frenetic drumming. If The Doors had known shoegaze, they might have made something like this, bringing a harder edge to “Riders On The Storm.” Track 9 “Swimmers” broods on for the first 3 minutes of the track; the guitar theme then mixes with the drums at the 3-minute mark, congealing into a catharsis of dissonantly beautiful melodies, before abruptly ending at around 5:30, shaking the listener out of its kaleidoscope of manic action. The best piece on the CD is arguably track 7, “Where You Are,” showing off Coloff’s excellent vocal talents and enveloping the listener with a haunting, repetitive melody. Perhaps not as focused as it could be, The Family Album nonetheless showcases the project’s excellent musical ideas.
Producer Simon Smart’s project Sonanaut is focused on music that could be classified as ambient house/acid jazz chillout. Not quite as funky as Ninja Tune (acid jazz), nor as mainstream-sounding as Naked Music (deep house), and certainly not as experimental as Eno (experimental ambient), Smart crafts music that rests between all of these genres, incorporating clean, layered soundscapes along with some dubby beats and slow, sludgy trip-hop sonic aesthetics. In addition, he samples other sources to link to the bigger musical community. Track 8 “Don’t You Know?” is quite possibly the best one on Sinking Upwards, and brings together beautiful electronic drumbeats, phased-and-filtered synthesizers, and complex harmonies, into a piece reminiscent of some of Morgan Geist’s more abstract work. Through Smart’s smooth movements and transitions between tracks, we hear rehashes of musical themes that make up the core of previous tracks on the CD, bringing compelling coherence to the entire release. This is definitely good music for chillout fans, and many others will be interested in the collection of Sonanaut music videos as well.
The misguided trio who is actually a 5-piece has done it again, but this time on 12 inches of fury. Monkey Power Trio gets together once a year and spends a few days writing and recording original songs. Their 2007 release “House of the Mechanical Sun” is actually made up of 2 recording sessions from 2005 and 2006, which took place in Minneapolis and Oregon. They decided to ditch cover art and have commandeered old Beatles, Hitchcock and kids record jackets for the limited to 150 release I was fortunate to come across. As usual the bands songs are all a bit off and many from the Oregon session are accompanied by a fancy song flute. Their rap song ‘Another Year’ puts them in the indie Weird Al realm. ‘Meaty Girls’ may get a chuckle out of your gut but I still think NOFX did the fat girl praise better. I like Monkey Power Trio’s more innocent songs, like ‘Hop On The Monkey Bus”. Its like those Six Flags commercials where someone so stupid and creepy looking is dancing and flailing their arms so maniacally that you can’t help but wanna join them. Tracks like ‘Little Billy Oshin’ just plain scare me. Do they have something against Billy Ocean? I wouldn’t want that fuceker living in my foreskin! His “Jewel of the Nile” soundtrack hits were enough for me. It’s too bad this isn’t a cd, since it flows well from start to finish. Perhaps all guilty pleasures include vinyl in some way shape or form. Oh yea, “I live in the suburbs, I drive everywhere, my back always hurts and I’m losing all my hair” sounds like Happy Monkey Trio is content in Orwellian 1984.