Vigroux, Franck – “We (nous Autres)” – [D’Autres Cordes]

abacus   8/22/2012   A Library, CD

Vigroux is a French experimental electro-acoustician, turntablist, guitarist who has collaborated with the likes of Elliot Sharp, Zeena Parkins, Joey Baron and Ellery Eskelin. This brilliant record has an amazing grasp of space and punctuation, never absent of stimuli yet never overwhelming in drowned out noise and constantly progressing, never dwelling on one aesthetic. The album begins with an ominous blanket of tentatively shifting stringscapes and operatic singing that build and drop without warning and moves into a grating saw of metal buzz drone set against a brooding rhythmic backdrop. The beat throughout the album is just enough to get you shifting with bass so deep you feel it in your core, and a crunch to make you snarl. Just when you feel your senses overboil the sounds cut out and all we hear is a record needle spinning a splatter collage of found sounds against delicate swells of ambience. The void is quickly flooded again with pounding bass alternating against silent tones. We’re lost in interstellar travel or visited by ghosts in a haunted hospital room, trying to sleep with the TV left on in the other room. The album closes with a 15 minute immersion of differing densities punctuated by the sparse, earth shattering beats. Is it power electronics? Dubstep? you decide…

Liminanas, The – “Crystal Anis” – [HoZac Records]

abacus   8/22/2012   A Library, CD

I’ve always been a bit of a Francophile and with The Liminanas debut LP last year I discovered a love of French pop. This is definitely situated in a 60’s sound with the heroin haze of Lou Reed, and a fun-loving eclecticism that reminds me of Os Mutantes, all brought together with allure and seductive charm perfected by Gainsbourg/Bardot. The music here, though is timeless, with captivating melodic hooks that leap out from the??psychedelic??swaths of organ and classic guitar fuzz, with some banjo, glockenspiel, “yukelele” and others thrown in for good measure. Lionel is credited as playing most of the instruments while Marie plays drums but they got some friends helping out as well, especially live. The vocals drift between the suave spoken French (2, 5, 7) and some English pop singing (1, 3, 4, 6) with the thick, endearing accent and bathed in reverb so as to be mostly unintelligible. Tracks 9, 10 are sung in French and are particularly charming, one grooving number and one sleepier ballad. 8 and 11 are instrumental, allowing you to navigate these pleasant daydreams without narration. Light up and drift away…

Los Caballos De Dusseldorf – “3” – [bimbo tower records]

abacus   8/15/2012   12-inch, A Library

Group of silly Spaniard spinsters messing with hacked and recycled electronic circuitry and circuit-bent old toys and gadgets (they call em ‘doorags’) to make what they call DIY experimental electronic trash punk, but sounds like a bunch of mashed together classic video game music on tweak. All sorts of overlapping and looping computer generated sounds that have a very kitschy feel, and would be cheesy if they weren’t all thrown in a mixer together to create this smorgasbord of awkward, jittery rhythms and odd, noisy collages of sound. The beats are steady making this a very approachable album with something for everyone; we got some funky drum breaks (10), robotic bird sounds and galloping horses (2,7,12), warped and broken alphabet recitation or distant hallway voices (3, 14), telephone dialing or fuzzy buzzing melodies (4), even some final stage boss battling amidst marching saints and sugar plum fairies in a raygun firefight (11!). There’s really too much going on to name it all, but check out the longer tracks for a traffic jam of wind-up toys and a chaotic closing war scene leading to funeral ballad (5,15). Get your bounce on and jiggy!

Elklink – “Rise of Elklink, The” – [Kye]

abacus   8/7/2012   12-inch, A Library

Reissue of 1999 cassette release under Polyamory with Graham Lambkin of Shadow Ring collaborating with Adris Hoyos of Harry Pussy (also joined by Tim Goss from S.R. on one track). This was recorded around the same time as the last Shadow Ring LPs and has a lot of similar experimentation going on. A meaningless monologue manifesto descends into vocal vexations and oral oddities with multi-layered vocal concrete musings and morphings. Anatomical anomalies and intestinal gesticulations emerging from the mouths of these depraved ear-molesters: all sorts of slurping, squirting and groans; lip-smacking whispers and consonant crashing mumbles. Uneasy moments of quiet and silence challenge our patience, whether with sporadic cuts as on trk 3, or sleepy snoring that just drops to tape hiss for the last 30 secs of??trk 4. Satanic not in the sense of darkness and doom, or even the searing misanthropia we would expect from scream-queen Hoyos, rather through a sense of irrevocable dementia and sinister silliness. This is especially apparent with occasional intercom voices and telephone ringing that drops in out of nowhere. Words, as unintelligible as they are, only appear again on trk 6??with some prattling poetry, and then some broken ??static and gentle cooing to close this severely disorienting release.

Gustafsson, Mats & Nilssen-Love, Paal – “I Love It When You Snore” – [Weird Forest Records]

abacus   8/1/2012   12-inch, Jazz

More death-defying free improv from these avant-skronk superstars. Gustafsson graces us with his special brand of raw, bestial horn playing that is as percussive as it is textural. He produces such a dense, vibrant jungle of sounds, we need his yelping and gasping for air to remind us he’s human, not a snarling hyena, bellowing elephant, squonking goose or a buzzing dragonfly. Nilssen-Love plays the set with unrelenting, visionary velocity, applying and endless supply of bends, scrapes, rolls and hits with impeccably crisp and fresh technique and spot-on stop-start intensity. Their telepathic capabilites are made especially apparent on the 7″ recording of their first encounter together at an improvised music festival in Stockholm in 1998. They jump into flurries of chaotic precision with such immediacy its as if they were of one mind. Their sounds blend seamlessly into one another facilitated by??the sputtering, percussive delivery of Mats (not to mention the spiderlike tapping of his keys), producing one organic sonic entity full of epileptic jittering and imaginitive timbral exploration.

Pod Blotz – “Swamp Command, The” – [Fish Pies]

abacus   8/1/2012   12-inch, A Library

A dripping, disfigured phantom creeps out of mutant swamp caverns in this brain-bent noisescape from mad scientists Loachfillet and Froth Fingers; (supposedly some of the Caroliner dementia flows in the veins of this project, but who knows…) Pipe organ tweakery echoes through chambers, bouncing off warped stalactites and awakening the myriad deformities that lurk in the depths. Sludgy not in the heavy sense, but like trudging through thick ooze; noisy not in the abrasive sense, but like a circus of broken circuitry with phrenetic radio signals and acid-arcade chaos alike. Parts reek of toxic trash while others taste like metallic mud…with some cotton candy fiberglass thrown in. Rabid seagulls feeding on dancing mollusks, clown-bot convention in a freeway tunnel with the phantom playing the soundtrack, peaking on a broken fairground roller-coaster to nowhere. Recorded 2006, debut vinyl release.

Zinn, Howard – “a People’s History of The United States” – [Ak Press Audio]

abacus   7/25/2012   A Library, CD

AK Press brings us some more agit-prop from influential historian and activist Howard Zinn. This is a lecture he did at Reed College in 1995 to coincide with the publishing of his book The People’s History of the United States.??Here he talks about his position in the profession of history and how he came to adopt the radical perspectives he espouses. The tone is very conversational, with not too much proselytizing and a lot of humorous interjections and comparisons. The first section of the lecture focuses on the profession of history and historiography, critiquing the cult of objectivity that infects academic historians and challenging mainstream historical perspectives. The real meat of this lecture starts off at the end of disc 1 and leads into disc 2 where he talks about his exploration of labor history and involvement in the civil rights movement and the effect this had on his point of view. With this framing he leads us into a discussion of the dynamics and potentials for social change through education and freedom of information. The importance of revealing the history of anti-systemic struggles becomes a source of inspiration for those discontented by the state of our union and seeking models for future transformations.

Apogee Sound Club – “Belligerent” – [Fullyintercoastal Records]

abacus   7/25/2012   7-inch, A Library

Angry, disjointed scrap rock with a strong political focus from this SF trio. While this has a distinct punk sound, they reject this term, opting for a more open ended, anti-authoritarian ideology of underground sonic energy. Side A contains the hits, with muddy guitar-bass interplay that is persistently gritty without losing its groove assisted by some consistently dazzling fill-work by drums. The second track is a rollicking instrumental with guitar and drums locked-on and an almost bluesy sound amidst the mania. The B side starts with another kicker that throws some tweaked surf swells in between verses and ends with a slowed-down story time anthem about getting your ass kicked by friendly neighborhood peace officers. Check out the agit-prop included along with the sing-along comic book. Awesome debut release from these rising stars of the SF underground!

Exusamwa – “Phase IV” – [100% Breakfast]

abacus   7/25/2012   A Library, CD

Venture into the depths of this labyrinthine anthill where the insect armies prepare for invasion. These ants mean business with their rip-roaring post punk assault complete with raw, relentless riffage, tiny, pipsqueak voices, and plenty of searing feedback from the cricket section. There are lulls between the ceaseless cockroach moshpit; the first two phases??are brief soundclip interludes; also, on track 10 we get a nice little ladybug lullaby and track 15 gives us some space pop with demento vocals crawling into our aural cavities beckoning our communication. With 15 tracks in 20 minutes this moves quick and tracks all the way through so you could play tracks individually (with appropriate fading in/out) or play the whole thing as one big anthropod opera. Beware the rise of the bugs….PHASE IV NOW!!!

Liver Cancer – “Children of The Vortex” – [Love Earth Music]

abacus   7/18/2012   A Library, CD

More industrial-grade power electronics from this devilish duo out of Sacramento/Roseville. These guys take caustic, grating noise through all sorts of chaotic yet mesmerizing variations in tone/tempo/timbre with all the peaks and troughs to keep you hooked. Sheer force of an iron foundry with the destructive power of molten steel or a pummeling tsunami. Tweaked like dirty street drugs and bleak like an icy blizzard, with satanic ghouls tearing in and out. The album opens with apocalyptic incantations and the one perceivable FCC??before unleashing the fury. On 3??chainsaws give way to a rolling avalanche of twisting feedback distortion and static deformities. Did I hear sirens or am I losing my mind? The faraway chug of a train offers momentary peace from this constant cathartic release of painful sonic hatred. On 7??we’re locked in a leaking decompression chamber where darkness opens to an ominous nightmare with nefarious demons creeping out of your subconscious. The album closes with an otherworldly dialogue of goblin like tongues and ogre-ish grunts and growls. Pure misanthropia!

Wishart, Trevor – “Fanfare and Contrapunctus / Imago” – [Pan]

abacus   7/17/2012   12-inch, A Library

Three pieces by composer Trevor Wishart, a visionary sound artist who has experimented with modern classical and musique concrete since the mid 70s. Side A contains two free improvisations from 1976, produced at the electronic studio at the Sydney Conservatorium before the birth of computer music. Fanfare begins with some constipated whale sounds on french horn / “soft trumpets” that are chopped and warbled in a flurry of bubbly shapes and textures. Grandiose and regal as the name suggests but in very twisted form. Contrapunctus brings the study of counterpoint to a hilariously disturbing extreme with cartoonish vocals and toy sounds chaotically emerging from the familiar warped horn wanderings. Side B is one sidelong piece composed in 2002 using the sound of 2 whiskey glasses clinking together to morph and manipulate a la computer software. Radical transformation of simple sounds into a complex array of images without ever fully abandoning its source. Minimal in approach yet dynamic and immersive in scope. Despite the organic source material, these pieces have a very animated and synthetic feel, infected throughout by Wishart’s demented sense of humor.

Mirroring – “Foreign Body” – [Kranky]

abacus   7/11/2012   A Library, CD

As a collaboration between Liz Harris (Grouper) from Portland, and Jesy Forentino (Tiny Vipers) from Seattle, this project is dripping with the thick, aqueous, pacific-northwest fog. Classical folk songwriting immersed in an acid washed, narcotic drowsiness like a dense marine layer rolling over grandiose headlands with overwhelming grace. Misty vocals and ethereal guitar sweeps drown away in the harmonic swells of luminescent drone. The Forentino led tracks (2,5) have a little more traditional feel, with guitars and vocal featuring more prominently, otherwise the tracks drift listlessly and dreamily. We float from track to track so delicately it’s like the wind is pushing us along, gently pulling our eyes closed all the way to the final sleepy lullaby. Warms you and calms your breath like hot tea on a rainy afternoon.

Rowe, Keith / Fennesz, Christian – “Live At The LU” – [Erstwhile Records]

abacus   7/11/2012   A Library, CD

Live collaboration between guitarists / sound artists Keith Rowe of England and Christian Fennesz from Austria, performed at Le Lieu Unique in Nantes, France May 10, 2002 as one continuous 43 minute piece, broken up here into 4 tracks for listener convenience. Keith Rowe seats himself in familiar territory, exploring minimal electroacoustic experimentation, drawing Fennesz away from the pop inspired sweeps and swells (though we do here a quick blip of muffled dance music in track 3). Throughout the piece the setting fluctuates between a seemingly abandoned hospital setting and some kind of lush robotic jungle; morphing from the flickering hum of fluorescent lights to the buzzes and clicks of of surgical devices, subtle insertions of operating room voices cybernetic swarms of insects circling in ear-splitting persistence. We can feel dense surges of electrical current rush through the entire piece, filling the void between the tweaked scratches and ticks, mammalian squelches and growls. Towards the end the humming drone phases and shifts into metallic wobbles on the edge of electrostatic collapse.

Pedestrian Deposit – “Kithless” – [Arbor]

abacus   6/26/2012   12-inch, A Library

Pedestrian Deposit has taken on an almost entirely new form since Jonathan Borges added cellist Shannon A. Kennedy in 2008, with the abrasive leanings morphing into more restrained yet still unsettling textures. In the first track, a brooding torrent assembles beyond as a solitary cellist plays into echoing canyons. The sounds of a trickling river and crumbling earth pervade until the storm finds its way through the entangled landscape, drenching us in a light veil of freezing rain. As the storm passes and silence takes over, the cellist proceeds to bathe in the icy waters that surround her. The second piece begins again with haunting melodies from the cellist, basking in her naked beauty. Gradually her music is disassembled and deconstructed through distorted processing and the fierce underbelly of Borges’ violent history of feedback destruction breaking through suddenly and sporadically. Night ensues…

Pop. 1280 – “Thirteen Steps” – [Blind Prophet Records]

abacus   6/20/2012   7-inch, A Library

More hard driving cyberpunk from this group of NYC derelicts released in between their 2 Sacred Bones LPs. They have a heavily polluted, synth driven sound that is simultaneously catchy and caustic, with some dense, noisy moments interrupting the otherwise straightforward song structures. Dead Hand gets??especially aggressive, with some crunchy bass-lines, scrappy drum hits and an iron wall of guitar feedback. This feels like junkyard wars in the year 2080

Drainolith – “Ain’t No Sunshine” – [Sun Ark]

abacus   6/19/2012   A Library, Cassette

No direct relation to the classic Bill Withers tune, but this debut solo release from AIDS Wolf guitarist Alexander Moskos does have some soul! We have the jarring angularities that made his previous work so painfully pleasant, but with a much more constrained, personal approach. The first two tracks are a little deceiving, with sparse, jilted tonalities and awkwardly paced drum machine hiccups but then we fall into warped guitar noodlings that are much too?? soggy to be outright blues, but maintain a distinct twang and blues phrasing. The fuzzy, muted distortion gives it a claustrophobic, trapped in plumbing, feel, where the twisted guitar tangents swirl into the sewer depths with all the other human waste. Only 150 copies and out on Sun Araw’s Sun Ark label.

Normal Love – “Survival Tricks” – [Ug/Explode]

abacus   6/6/2012   A Library, CD

2nd full length from this quintet of Philadelphia transplants invading NYC with their dystopian musical mutations of post-punk popsicle proportions. We have all the glitter and frill you expect from the post-bubblegum generation complete with a spattering of reactionary angularities and spontaneous structural deconstruction to tear it all down. Almost like if Disneyland ran at double speed and we all loaded up on pixie sticks and Dr Pepper to try and keep up, but the rides keep breaking anyways. Some tracks get all cyberpunk like a dance party on Mars while others send you to the stars with jarring interplanetary assaults, but its mostly just pure manic hysteria. The album is truly symphonic in scope with moments of eerie operatic encores or dynamic narrative interludes. It is at the perfect meeting point of erratic no-wave noise rock and contemporary composition, fitting neatly into the ugEXPLODE mold. Burn baby burn….

Davis, Miles – “Live In Rome & Copenhagen 1969” – [Gambit Records]

abacus   6/5/2012   CD, Jazz

Previously unreleased live recordings from Oct 26-Nov 9, 1969 European tour after recording In a Silent Way and before heading back into the studios for Bitches Brew. Miles appears here with Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette a quintet he called “a bad motherfucker” (though he used that phrase for just about everything). Miles was disappointed Columbia hadn’t recorded anything from this tour, however he was unaware that European TV and radio stations, along with some audience members had recorded pieces of the tour and so here we have excerpts from a performance in Rome at the Teatro Sistina on Oct 27 (CD1 and CD2 trks 1-3) and one at the Tivoli Konstertsal in Copenhagen on Nov 4 (CD2 trks 4-8). The recording quality isn’t great and we only get pieces but this fills a small hole in the recorded history of this master, arguably at a peak in his career. The Copenhagen concert has better recording quality and I think a better performance (one complete recording!).

PGM: CD 1 (1-3, 5-7) tracks , CD 2 (1-2, 4-8) tracks

White Suns – “Sinews” – [Load Records]

abacus   5/30/2012   A Library, CD

With their first release out on ugEXPLODE and this one on Load Records you know this has to have some power and unpredictability and yes, another full-assault, iron blitzkrieg from this blistering Brooklyn trio. An overwhelming leviathan of scraping guitars and ceaselessly pounding drums interrupted by sudden, nerve-wracking drops and builds that threaten to tear apart but never give you the privilege of release. Fire Sermon especially tests your patience with minutes of a tense, monotone buzz that teases you with burgeoning drums and rivulets of feedback seeping through the seams of this destructive monster inflating beyond its means. They constantly hold you just over the precipice, at times curbing the onslaught as on ??Flesh Vault,??so that they can recite to you their desperately painful and powerful poetry, revealing the bleak vastness of their wreckage. Oath??closes with an apocalyptic anthem that tortures your senses with expectations all the way to the very sudden, cold conclusion.

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