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Steffey, Daniel – “Chloros” – [Edgetone Records]

Noise and experimentation from Mills College student Daniel Steffey.

Steffey explains that “This music was written in 2009-2010 and explores the audio qualities of radio and sine waves and how they interact with each other along with other mechanisms such as feedback, digital manipulation, and analogue distortion.” Steffey used shortwave radio, Audacity, Max/MSP, custom built feedback boxes, 1/4″ reel-to-reel tape machines, cassette recorders, and an HP oscillator.

The album as a whole is a collage of buzzes, hums, whistles, clicks, drones, crackles, beeps, static, and white noise. Most tracks feature challenging noise, but some moments are gentle in comparison. Track 2 has violins. Track 10 was chosen for the 60×60 Concert Series which showcases works that are 60 seconds or less.

  • Reviewed by Apollo on March 15, 2011 at 9:47 pm
  • Filed as A Library,CD
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  • Hagor – “Demo (2010)” – [Nutzz Recordzz, The]

    Black metal and darkness from Redwood City.

    Their black metal is mainly fast, raw, and noisy, and these recordings are intentionally very lo-fi. Some songs have tortured screams and some are instrumental. In addition to the black metal songs, the band also records dark, keyboard-based interludes which are influenced by dark ambient, medieval, goth, and ritual music. These interludes sounds like soundtracks to horrifying, obscure VHS tapes.

    Though much of their music has yet to be released, the band has been recording (straight to tape) since 2006. The members of Hagor are Xaphan (drums/guitar/keyboard/vocals), Abraxas (guitar), Tavarish (guitar/keyboard/bass). All three members are involved in other projects such as Dark Echo, Tetrapharmakos, and Axaxaxas Mlo.

    Interludes: #1, 5, 7, 12, 18, 21
    My favorite of the black metal songs: #10

    Track lengths range from 23 seconds (#3) up to 5 minutes.

  • Reviewed by Apollo on March 15, 2011 at 9:42 pm
  • Filed as A Library,CD
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  • Megaptera – “Staring Back At You” – [Malignant Records]

    This collection compiles rare dark ambient / death industrial tracks from Sweden’s Megaptera. The collective was active from from 1991 until 1999.

    Megaptera combines rumbling drones and repetitive, metallic noises. These tracks range from creepy to disturbing. The sounds are often mechanical and conjure a vision of a bleak future. The music emanates from a cold, dark, dystopian cityscape.

    Tracks 4, 5 and are 8 noisy, and lead you through a gruesome factory, with #8 (appropriately titled “Mass Murder”) including sounds of torture. The rest of the songs are ominous.

    I particularly liked track 6, a nightmarish drone with disembodied voices. Track 12 is an excellent collage. Around the 4 minute mark a keyboard creeps into the mix, sounding like it is being played in a speakeasy in the nihilistic world that Megaptera portrays. About halfway into this 17-minute track, a religious chorus leads into the preaching of a Texan evangelist who yells about Satan and temptation until the track ends.

  • Reviewed by Apollo on March 4, 2011 at 12:46 pm
  • Filed as A Library,CD
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  • Mogwai – “Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will.” – [Sub Pop Records]

    Post-rock from Glasgow’s Mogwai. On this release, the band is joined by Luke Sutherland on vocals, violin, and guitar.

    Tracks 3 and 6 are gems that show that the band can still reinvent themselves and the genre. “Rano Pano” is a stunning song with a distorted, yet beautiful melody. “Letters to the Metro” is my favorite song on the album. The weeping slide guitar is reminiscent of Mogwai’s 1999 album Come On Die Young. The elegant film-noir piano and sizzling ride cymbal push the song into a jazzy territory that the band has never really explored before. These elements, along with chorus-heavy keyboard and white-noise sound effects, create a haunting, gorgeous masterpiece.

  • Reviewed by Apollo on February 14, 2011 at 10:33 pm
  • Filed as A Library,CD
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  • Supersilent – “9″ – [Rune Grammofon]

    Eerie, spooky, haunting, droning organ improvisation. The perfect soundtrack for a haunted house or vintage horror film.

    Supersilent is a Norwegian improv group: Arve Henriksen, Helge Sten (aka Deathprod), Stale Storlokken. This is Supersilent’s first release since the departure of drummer Jarle Vespestad. The trio abandoned their usual instruments and electronics and instead play only Hammond organs on this release. The album was recorded live at the Henie-Onstad Art Centre, near Oslo.

  • Reviewed by Apollo on February 14, 2011 at 10:25 pm
  • Filed as A Library,CD
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  • Wet Hair / Naked On The Vague [coll] – [Night People]

    Lo-fi psychedelia from Wet Hair (Iowa) and Naked on the Vague (Australia).

    Wet hair is keyboard-driven with male vocals. A1 and A4 have live drums, A3 has programmed beats. Track 2 is instrumental.

    Naked on the Vague is guitar-driven with female and male vocals and subtle programmed beats. B4 is spooky.

  • Reviewed by Apollo on February 14, 2011 at 10:20 pm
  • Filed as 12-inch,A Library
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  • Double Dagger – “More” – [Thrill Jockey Records]

    Post-hardcore / post-punk from Baltimore, Maryland. Double Dagger is a trio with drums, bass, and vocals which are mostly yelled or spoken. Their sound is influenced by the DC / Dischord legacy. It’s loud without being heavy. There are both aggressive and introspective moments, with the final song being the most aggressive song on the album.

    LANGUAGE: “Surrealist Composition With Your Face” (B1)

  • Reviewed by Apollo on February 14, 2011 at 10:16 pm
  • Filed as 12-inch,A Library
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  • High On Fire – “Snakes For The Divine” – [E1]

    Heavy metal with stoner, punk, thrash, and hardcore influences. Heavy riffs, triumphant leads, and shredding solos from Sleep’s Matt Pike. Virtuoso double-bass drumming from Des Kensel. Lots of (violent) biblical imagery, including the title track which Pike says is about Adam and Eve having reptile DNA.

    #5 tracks into #6
    LANGUAGE: track 4

  • Reviewed by Apollo on February 14, 2011 at 10:11 pm
  • Filed as A Library,CD
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  • Al Qaeda – “Econo” – [For Noise's Sake]

    Somber guitar juxtaposed with fuzzy ambience. Track 2 is the noisier of the two, but both songs are actually quite pretty. Al Qaeda is an experimental group from San Francisco. On this release they play as a trio. These tracks were recorded live in the Pit at KFJC in 2009. Released as a CD-R on For Noise’s Sake (Madrid, Spain), edition of 50. Both tracks are instrumental.

    1. Saint Peter (13:03)
    2. Yellow Jacket (12:46)

  • Reviewed by Apollo on February 14, 2011 at 10:06 pm
  • Filed as A Library,CD
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  • Servile Sect – “Realms of The Queen” – [Ecstatic Peace!]

    Servile Sect is a duo from Humboldt, CA and New York, NY. The band combines layers of noise, psychedelia, and black metal. The cacophony and textures are overwhelming, but concentration reveals melodies buried deep below the surface.

  • Reviewed by Apollo on February 14, 2011 at 10:00 pm
  • Filed as A Library,CD
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  • Mamiffer/House of Low Culture [coll] – [Utech Records]

    House of Low Culture is Aaron Turner from Isis. Mamiffer is Faith Coloccia (Turner’s wife).

    1. Mamiffer “Uncrossing” (12:36): a cinematic post-rock composition featuring piano, synth, and organ. A thunderous ceremonial drum echoes throughout the piece.

    2. House of Low Culture “Ice Mole” (21:01): In the first movement, Turner chants over thick drone. The second movement is primarily somber piano, with a faint guitar accompaniment. The third and final movement is a wall of noise ending with a few riffs on guitar as a coda. This track includes Coloccia on guitar and Z’EV on percussion.

  • Reviewed by Apollo on February 14, 2011 at 9:54 pm
  • Filed as A Library,CD
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  • Gog – “Heavy Fierce Brightness: Spells of The Sun” – [Utech Records]

    48 minutes of amplifier worship from Arizona’s GOG. Three long tracks of dense, noisy drone doom. Gog is Michael Bjella on guitar (…and noise). Bjella is joined by his Black Hell bandmate Josh Bodnar on drums. Track 1 has a few minutes of dark ambient sounds before harsher sounds take over. Track 2 (the only song with drums) ventures into the metal territory of Earth and Boris. Track 3 is relentless, screaming, crushing doom in the vein of Black Boned Angel.

    1. “Spells of Shadows” (8:19)
    2. “The Opening” (18:47)
    3. “Heavy Fierce Brightness” (21:02)

  • Reviewed by Apollo on February 14, 2011 at 9:49 pm
  • Filed as A Library,CD
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  • Montgomery, Roy / Grouper – Split [coll] – [Grouper Self-release]

    This split pairs Portland, Oregon’s Grouper (Liz Harris) with New Zealand’s Roy Montgomery.

    Montgomery’s first track is an 18 minute bluesy acoustic guitar raga. The track is a live recording of a song that Montgomery originally released on the Harmony of the Spheres compilation and is based on a piece by Sandy Bull. Montgomery’s second track is a dreamy song with layers of guitar.

    Grouper’s half is a 4-song suite (“Vessel”), which begins and ends with mysterious field recordings.
    -”Hollow Press” is a haunting a cappella (save for the windy roar which accompanies Harris’s multi-tracked voice).
    -”Vessel” is a somber hymn sung over a hazy keyboard melody.
    -”Hold the Way” is a simple keyboard melody with the clearest vocals of this set.
    -”Pulse” is a couple minutes of contemplative keyboard which give way to the sound of a dog barking and more unidentifiable sounds.

  • Reviewed by Apollo on February 14, 2011 at 9:43 pm
  • Filed as A Library,CD
  • 1 comment
  • Wet Hair / Peaking Lights [coll] – [Not not Fun Records]

    A) Wet Hair: Noisy psychedelia with muffled keyboard and programmed beats. Wailing, distorted vocals.

    B) Peaking Lights: psychedelic lo-fi dub, with reverbed guitar, throbbing bass, and female vocals.

  • Reviewed by Apollo on February 14, 2011 at 9:37 pm
  • Filed as 7-inch,A Library
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  • Milligram Retreat – “Falun Gong” – [Enfant Terrible]

    Dutch project/label. A collaboration between electronic music producer Maurice Hermes and visual/performance artist Renee van Trier. A lot of this sounds like an 80s sci-fi soundtrack, but some tracks include elements of synth-pop, techno-pop, coldwave, ambient, drone, goth, and industrial. The majority of the album is dark, but there are some pretty parts, too. All of the tracks are unique, but most of them feature a lot of synthesizer.

  • Reviewed by Apollo on February 14, 2011 at 9:32 pm
  • Filed as A Library,CD
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  • Ducktails / Rangers [coll] – [Not not Fun Records]

    Both sides feature guitar over simple beats.

    A) Ducktails: Two short instrumental songs that track together. Both have chorused electric guitar, but the first song also has acoustic guitar. The second song has bass and hints of psychedelia. This made me nostalgic for Apartment Life with Mitch LeMay.

    B) Rangers: Upbeat instrumental with flanged guitar and programmed drums. Sounds like the theme song to a late 80s/ early 90s public access show. This made me nostalgic for the era of neon fashion.

  • Reviewed by Apollo on February 14, 2011 at 9:25 pm
  • Filed as 7-inch,A Library
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  • Wooden Shjips – “O, Tannenbaum / Auld Lang Syne” – [Sick Thirst Records]

    Psych-rock band from SF, w/ hints of krautrock, garage, and surf. This quartet features fuzzy guitar, reverbed vocals, warbling organ, steady drums, and a clean bass tone. This 2010 12″ re-releases two tracks originally available on a limited 2008 cassette. Both songs start as somewhat traditional holiday songs, then evolve into psych jams, then descend into swirls of guitar soloing and feedback.

    A: “O, Tannenbaum” (8:11) instrumental with sleigh bells throughout. Builds to fast, staccato, ending. Ends with locked groove of sleigh bells.
    B: “Auld Lang Syne” (8:54) echoing, undecipherable vocals. Abrupt ending.

    Both tracks can be downloaded at: http://freemusicarchive.org/curator/WFMU/blog/Wooden_Shjips_for_the_Holidays_2009_edition

  • Reviewed by Apollo on February 14, 2011 at 9:05 pm
  • Filed as 12-inch,A Library
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  • Gruel – “Gruel” – [At War With False Noise]

    UK sludge metal band which draws from doom metal, post-metal, stoner metal, and dark ambient. 4 songs, each about 15 minutes. The music reminds me (at times) of mid-90s neurosis, but the vocals sound like Lemmy Kilmister vomiting. The guitar is mostly heavy, and the drums are mostly simple and pounding. All tracks include passages of dark ambience, including chanting, ceremonial percussion, and field recordings from French caves and the coast of England. The abstract lyrics are mostly unintelligible, but the imagery includes birth, death, blood, fire, night, despair, and the band’s own dark mythology. Track 3 is faster and thrashier than the others.

  • Reviewed by Apollo on February 14, 2011 at 8:57 pm
  • Filed as A Library,CD
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  • Derschlaeger – “Blogs” – [Dirter Promotions]

    Derschlaeger features Zappi Diermaeir (of Faust) on drums and “tools,” and includes other artists on keyboard, guitar, bass, “sounds,” and voice. The album is a one-hour sound collage broken into four parts. The mix includes ambience, noise, jazz, and classical as well as German “schlager” music. Schlager is loosely translated as “hit,” and the band defines the style as “typical german popular songs mainly from the 60ies. Very easy tunes with easy lyrics.” One of the schlager tunes on the album is a German version of Petula Clark’s “Downtown” (track 1). The direction of the music changes often, and without warning, as if scanning through the dial. Much of the album has a hallucination/ David Lynch feel to it.

  • Reviewed by Apollo on February 14, 2011 at 8:39 pm
  • Filed as A Library,CD
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