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Pampers – “Pampers” – [Jack Shack Records]

abacus   2/22/2012   7-inch, A Library

4-piece lofi garage rock out of Brooklyn self-described ‘thug pop.’ Lead by Carl Cirone on vox/guitar/tapes who heads up new label Jack Shack Records, also got drums, guitar and a guy on bass and uugggghhhh. Unintelligible lyrics lost in the dense guitar fuzz and noisy feedback solos laden in chunky riffage. Samantha takes a little more 60s garage pop approach. Distribution assistance from Permanent Records.

Kang, Eyvind – “Visible Breath” – [Editions Mego]

abacus   2/22/2012   12-inch, A Library

Three compositions from the luminous avant-underdog who has worked with names from Six Organs of Admittance and Master Musicians of Bukkake to Bill Frisell and Wayne Horvitz (or Animal Collective and Mr Bungle). Side A contains two pieces that materialized during some 2008 collaborations with Sunn O))).?? Ensemble includes himself on viola, and violin, voice, glass, pianos, horns (trombones!); despite the dense lineup, the music is tremendously subdued and humbling in its minimalism. Looming ominous nebula and echoes of ghostly whale calls in a vast, icy ocean evoke images of the title track while Monadoxology seems to be some kind of tragic medieval love story with startling plot twists within its meditations on tonal/harmonic relationships. The B-side came about in 2011 and doesn’t include Kang, rather explorations of harmonics and ghost tones on pedal steel guitar and modified cello. Delicately rhythmic, rich, textured drones that sometimes threaten to tear apart but maintain a translucent serenity. Out on Ideologic Organ: sub-label of Editions Mego headed up by Stephen O’Malley…

Brotzmann, Van Hove, Bennink – “Tschus” – [Cien Fuegos]

abacus   2/8/2012   12-inch, Jazz

Tschus, meaning goodbye in German, is a reissue of a 1975 LP originally out on FMP of this trio of Euro jazz freaks that collaborated a lot at the time, carrying forward the legacy of free jazz on that side of the pond for decades. We see a rare playful side of Brotzmann (Germany), who doesn’t fall back on the caterwauling screams as much and delves into some twisted, smoky jazz melodies tethered by the textural sound sculptures of multi-faceted Bennink (Netherlands), who plays everything from drums to clarinets, toy noisemakers to the studio walls and floors, injecting a strange humor into everything he touches. Van Hove (Belgium) seems to embody the entire jazz idiom and beyond, filling all the spaces between with his unique sound, simultaneously chaotic and cerebral. The players freely drift away and together on their own listless trajectories anchored in on a single wave of consciousness. Each track has a distinct personality and the album has the momentum of a discordant cycle of dream sequences that evoke a confusing array of images that leave you emotionally squandered. Endless Jack-in-the-box spinning, whistling workers at a tiny toy factory, particulate deconstruction of cacophonous circus extravaganzas. The album ends with a painful rendition of the title, sung by Brotzmann in true sappy lounge form.

Gayle, Charles Trio – “Streets” – [Northern-spy]

abacus   2/8/2012   CD, Jazz

Carnivalesque, broken street sounds and frantic soul searching from Charles Gayle, still with all the guttural intensity that he adopted playing the streets of NYC for decades before being pulled into the recording studios in the mid-80s. Here he resurrects a character Streets the Clown that he enacted throughout the 90s to put forth his message. Though Gayle also plays piano, bass clarinet and more recently, bass, here he is on his bread and butter tenor sax with his bread and butter lineup bass-drums. Roland’s articulate harmonizing keeps the explorations firmly rooted in jazz territory while never falling stagnant while Thompson telepathically punctuates every statement with gusto. Gayle’s sound is huge and spiritual in the vein of Ayler, Coltrane blending blues, bop and gospel with some very raw, bestial inflections. (1) starts off strong with scalding hot licks all around while (2) is a little more restrained, almost wry and witty. (3) Gets boisterous and (4) brings a merry-go-round sound from the gospel clown that gradually breaks down to a waddling frown. (5) marching band rhythm manifests into a driving funky bop groove and swirls and crumbles to a fiery vortex while (6) displays some contemplative lyricism as a more tragic ballad with hopeful leanings. (7) closes with a viciously confrontational piece that is so exposed and naked it is painfully gut wrenching. Gayle’s sound has drifted into melodious territory lately as he reignites his spiritual underpinnings. Even at 72, he still seems to be finding himself.

Gravity Adjusters Expansion Band – “One” – [Paradigm Discs]

abacus   2/1/2012   A Library, CD

Open-ended freeform improv from a bunch of Bay Area musicians (and not) centered around jazz drummer Lee Charlton and sound/visual artist Richard Waters. The project is all centered around Waters’ kinetic sound sculptures such as the predominant waterphone, a bowed acoustic metal synthesizer that uses water in its resonator for pitch tuning and bending in some dizzying microtonal sways that sound like alien whale calls. This is a reissue of their 1973 LP (with 15mins extra material) released on some small Californian label Nocturne Records. Lush, underwater textures peppered with the clatter and clang of water gong drums yet locked in a distinctly jazz inflected harmonic fishbowl. Shimmering steel overtones atop primitive drone oscillations with rumbling and merging reverberations. Drowning melodies portray a raga mythos, telepathically??warbling mutant soundscapes in a warped muted timescape. There’s a few traditional instruments like bass violin and keyboards making cameos but never in standard form. The open membership and formless, delusional escapades must account for the lack of knowledge about these guys despite having influenced artists from Lalo Schifrin to the Grateful Dead.

Kellar – “Beloved Dean of Magic” – [Foolproof Projects]

abacus   1/31/2012   A Library, CD

7 molten slabs of searing psych jams from this Brighton, UK trio compiled from hours of jamming in former public restroom turned underground studio The Black Bunker. Blistering guitar noise oscillating within some aggressive rock riffage cycled through kaleidoscopic variations in a concrete wall of pounding metallic magma. Electronic emissions induce astral projections as you blast off to the furthest reaches of time into a swirling void and are torn into a sea of particulate matter. Evokes images of wizards at war as a tribute to first great American magician Harry Kellar. “Time-stretched to tape loop around Neptune and back.” Play it loud!

Toll – “Christ Knows” – [Cold Spring Records]

abacus   1/26/2012   A Library, CD

Excavated from the hellish core of the earth, this is a reissue of a 1986 LP on Broken Flag from label creator and Ramleh/Skullflower contributor Gary Mundy’s side project. With him here are Mathew Frith, Tim Soar and appearances from pre-Stereolab Tim Gane and Paul Lemos from Controlled Bleeding. Some dank and evil UK industrial noise mixed into dark-wave noir. A vampiric drawl crawling out of the sewers, grinding and piercing amidst caustic guitar volts like exposed wires. Though the vocals are definitely a product of their times, the tortured howls and haunting chants reminiscing of a forsaken life make you feel dirty, disheveled, dejected and delusional. It has a distinctly subterranean feel like a lost message from mole people of forgotten subway lines with cavernous drones at booming low frequencies. The sludgy bass lines maintain the machine rhythms within this sea of noise and snippets of creepy overdubs bring a whole new dimension. Paranoid images of haunted playground swings, wind through chandeliers in dripping dungeons, spiders crawling inside rusted pianos.??

Heatless Ark – “Blank Realm” – [Not Not Fun]

abacus   1/25/2012   12-inch, A Library

Born out of the oppressive heat and amidst and against the beer soaked party scene of Brisbane, Australia, this psych collective with 2 previous cassette releases have compiled hundreds of hours of improvisations, edited and trimmed them down and pieced them all together in a mess of overdubbing for this towering achievement of weird no-wave punk mixed with chandeliers of crystalline noise on a floating psychedelic excursion. They describe themselves as shoegaze thrash, and it seems appropriate though I’d say its much hazier, drugged and lethargic, evoking a dark, cloudy synesthesia. The movement seems strangely intuitive, probably since three of them are siblings, as they weave in and out of tightly controlled tangents that can’t shed their loose feel. Rhythm seems to be more of a subtle insertion with guitars and drums leaving at will, leaving just dense swirls of electronic noise and ethereal synthscapes driven by crunching bass interventions and haunted, nightmarish vocals. There is a solid kraut influence with the wide variety of sounds within a single construct, and the title track is the most conventional while still maintaining unsettling feel. A ceaseless march into heat stroke hallucinations. Enjoy

DJ Format – “If You Can’t Beat ‘Em” – [Pias]

abacus   1/24/2012   CD, Hip Hop

2005 release from this UK producer DJ Format (or Matt Ford) along with regular collaborator Abdominal and Canadian MC D-Sisive (and cameo appearance from Chali 2na and Akil). Old school body rockin’ block party beats laced with plenty of 70s funk loops and stabs of classic soulful sounds. The samples here are definitely keys oriented with lots of piano and, organ and keyboard lines driving the grooves. Lyrically, Abdominal provides some real down to earth conversational storytelling, especially on 3,4, and 6. He displays his verbal dexterity on 2, 7 and especially track 9 where Format gets a chance to show off his scr-scr-scratching. The two instrumental tracks showcase Format’s production skills and track 10 slows down for some mellow moodiness. This shit will get you groovin’ all the way through and belongs in the funk-soul library just as much as it does hip-hop. FCC – 2,7,9!

 

Hiroshima Rocks Around / Bipolar Bear [coll] – [kill shaman]

abacus   1/23/2012   12-inch, A Library

Kill Shaman Records teamed up No=Fi Recordings out of Rome for this split release featuring two bands of the angular post-punk variety (with members that run each label). Hiroshima Rocks Around,??who describe themselves as shoegaze thrash, hit you with some raucous and abrasive garage grit like chewing broken glass. Screeching guitar, brutal drums and all sorts of maniacal distorted derangement, not to mention some tasty sax skronk on 3,4. Bipolar Bear??slows it down a bit for some slightly cleaner yet still jilted, post-rock sounding stuff with a dash of psych. Blankets of reverb encase the vox and guitar but still maintain a solid percussive feel with kinetic bass lines dominating.

PGM: All short tracks (2-3 mins) with short segues FCC on HRA trk 2

Wilson, Delroy/Prince Jammy – “Dub Plate Style: Pressure Sounds 64” – [Pressure Sounds]

abacus   1/18/2012   12-inch, Reggae

Delroy Wilson was a hit songster outta Trenchtown that got discovered by Coxsone Dodd at age 14 in 1962. The pair of them went on to produce a bunch of classic material through the 60s and he went on to produce cuts for folks like Bunny Lee, King Tubby and here, Prince Jammy. He’s got a soulful sound that was as influenced by R&B and pop music as it was by his island roots and he was known for doing mostly covers that suited his style, instead of writing his own material. He was much more of a storytelling sort of singer and his material could be judged as the Jamaican counterpart to our country-western ballads. The material for this album was originally produced with Bunny Lee and here we have a Prince Jammy remix done at King Tubby’s studios. There is an apparent sound system orientation with the bottom heavy grooves and drum/bass rhythms, with some subtle keyboard injections throughout to emphasize the beat (horn solos on 10,15). A bunch of songs about love, struggle and partying. There seems to be a misogynistic orientation with a lot of stuff about disloyalty and cuckoldry (and one song about beating his girl). Disregarding that, this is some upbeat island dub that’ll get you groovin!

Xenakis – “String Quartets” – [Mode Records]

abacus   1/11/2012   A Library, CD

A collection of string quartet compositions (performed by up and coming Jack Quartet) from this pioneer in musical theory and electronic experimentation with a background in architecture and engineering. These pieces explore the sonic capacity of traditional violin, viola, cello from a perspective that is completely nonlinear and multi-dimensional, weighing both formal and sonic relationships in music. Tetras ??balances traditional structure and visceral sonic destruction while exploring the possibilities held within sliding glissando techniques. The quartet here acts as a singular unit, producing ornately layered textures, oscillating timbral colorations that explode into pointillistic spatterings of pizzicato notes. Tetora??produces nervous contrapuntal themes with circular melodies sliced by flat, metallic attacks that use no glissando or vibrato. This piece is based on an intervallic configuration called “sieves” that do not repeat at the octave so that they produce different melodies and harmonies depending on octave and transposition. ST-4??is the culmination of a bunch of experimentation in computer modelling and wasn’t originally intended as a string piece. Here he uses algorithmic compositional techniques that combine basic axiomatic models of music with probability theories, a form he calls “stochastic music.” Here we have a dizzying balance of plucks, strikes, bows and scrapes anchored in bouts of silence. Ergma??is based on the abstract geometries of the Dutch artist. Thick sonority rich in harsh chromaticism and relentless dissonance. Stripped down to its barest form, abandoning all extended techniques and modalities, this piece isn’t as rich in variety of sound, but equally powerful. Xenakis had a unique style that was equally formal in its categorization of sonic chaos and abstract in its harnessing of traditional musical forms. This will redefine your definitions of string quartet music!

Afternoon Saints – “Shirley Jangle, The” – [(K-RAA-K)3]

abacus   1/11/2012   12-inch, A Library

A meeting of saints indeed! Legends of the experimental world unite to create this masterpiece of sound art, noise and free improv. We have here Lee Ranaldo doing supremely understated tonework on guitar, David Watson on bagpipes providing a consistently tense underbelly of drone and doubling on guitar. Christian Marclay adding an eclectic??spontaneity of sound with his turntables and Gunter Muller punctuating the complex textures via electronics and percussion. (Did I mention Jim O’Rourke does mixing on four tracks?)??Three sides (DO NOT PLAY fourth side etched by Ranaldo) of improv-drone work at its best! Electro-acoustic sound collage of bubbling sonic??bionics overlapping lumpy liquids that simmer and buzz within interstellar apertures; a familiar treasure trove of tweaked oddities excavated from underwater caves and unearthed through haunted highway radio-dial explorations; chunky hip-hop squeaks churned through an industrial grade grinder erupts in a geyser of scalding bagpipe improv; victorious fanfares amidst ghostly incantations and echoes of classical guitar poetry torn at the seams within the undulating countryside. Drop the needle anywhere and forget yourself.

Blank Dolmen – “Wuzzermatic” – [Atro.Fact]

abacus   1/4/2012   A Library, CD

Lost tapes of Raffaele Cerroni recovered in 1999 by Italian independent label Atro.Fact. All the recordings were done 1983-1994 by Cerroni’s project Mushroom’s Patience and contain a mix of synth drones, found sounds, acoustic experimentation, broken drum machine rhythms and tape manipulations; also some muddled vocals on 5, 13. Sounds of synthetic, sepia-like soundscapes saturated with corroded plastic. 2-4 have an especially Lynch-esque feel to them with a paranoid serenity that is deceiving. 7 gets astroweird and then we jump into a spaghetti-western jazz lounge on 8. 10 gives us a suspenseful arcade adventure and we got some underwater lounge grooves on 12. The album feels like buried treasure from the 80s, we’re lucky to have it.

Burial Tree – “Outer Dark” – [Not On Label]

abacus   1/4/2012   A Library, CD

Burial Tree: tree or structure used for supporting a corpse or coffin. Gritty, sludgy funeral doom? No. Stark and forsaken? Yes! The album opens with a Hank Williams cover delivered solo cello style in the spookiest most tortuous rendition possible, then the rest alternates between ominous windblown drones and desert-dirge rock epics. 3,4 and 6 contain the headbangers, with ceaselessly subdued, infectious riffing in the vein of 90s slowcore vamping with subtle prog and psych elements. The drone tracks 2,5 are expectedly dark and blissfully brooding. The album closes with another unsettling cello solo backed by some church-like moody moogscapes. Hop on your harley and ride out along the barren desert landscape!

Asian Women On The Telephone ( A.W.O.T.T) – “Freedom As Mama Told Me” – [Self-release]

abacus   12/14/2011   A Library, CD

From the Muscovite pranksters’ minds to your bleeding ears. There are just 51 copies of this US tour only set that comes in a very confusing silk-screened folded puzzle of a CD case (hanging on the wall by mambo loco). You could listen to the entire two discs trying to decide if this is primarily a noise piece or rock album and never quite decide. The album starts off with the most unapproachable, screaming, indecipherable rant and quickly descends into all sorts of post-apocalyptic industrial grooves, raucous grinds billowing plumes of distorted anthems, and very danceable ritualistic psychedelia. The entire album is drenched in noisy distortion, haunted echoes and all sorts of nonsensical jabs but for the most part maintains a solid groove that could get you doing a shuffle as easily as it could get you breaking everything in sight. Just wait till you leave master…

D. Charles Speer – “Arghiledes” – [Thrill Jockey Records]

abacus   12/14/2011   12-inch, A Library

A trip to the Greek underworld complements of No Neck Blues Band guitarist David Shuford (aka D. Charles Speer). His solo work has traditionally been explorations into the roots of American music and the perverse influence of honky-tonks and all the drugs and alcohol that came along with them. Here, however, he explores the similarities in the Greek ‘Tekedes,’ though with a heavier influence on space and improvisation. The album weighs heavily on the bouzouki (saz equivalent) and more specifically, serves as a dedication to the father of the instrument Markos Vamvakaris (second track is a recreation of his song that translates to “The Sniffer” of drugs no doubt). Each side moves from traditional Greek/Anatolian instrumentation and structures into more open, freeform psychedelic sounds that introduce Western instruments and sounds in a very tripped out, narcotic ambience. There is a wide variety of styles and sounds here and no track sounds like any other. Check out the liner notes inside for in-depth track descriptions. Limited edition 500 copies!

Gebbia, Gianni – “Arcana Major / Sonic Tarots Session” – [Rastascan Records]

abacus   12/14/2011   CD, Jazz

Gianni Gebbia is a Sicilian sax mercenary who gigs all over the euro-jazz festival scene. Here, however, we have an intimate exposition of his seemingly effortless virtuosity. First off, this is a genius concept project as each track is an improvisation around each tarot card within the Arcana Major deck (check out the ‘game’ explained on rear). All solo explorations of the infinite sonic possibilities that the saxophone has to offer, we have here a centrifuge of tone poems composed of introspective and entrancing repeated arpeggios, enigmatic modalities, desperate struggles to grasp concrete ideas and formless, swarm-like drones. His circular breathing techniques allow for endless sweeps that explore every possible harmonic variation within his tonal journeys. The entire history of the instrument, from classical to modern jazz, is contained within, so intimately executed that you can hear the streams of breath and mechanical clicks that produce every sound. This entire album has a philosophical and narrative flow to it and could be listened to as one piece. Mix it, use it as interludes, play it on its own, just play it!

Pet Bottle Ningen – “Pet Bottle Ningen” – [Tzadik]

abacus   12/7/2011   CD, Jazz

Young, budding trashers from the NY Downtown scene burst onto Tzadik with this torrential release. Pummeling jazz fraught with a chaotic chimera of constantly morphing and moving ideas, building on their own math-confused complex of deviously creative rhythmic melodies, perpetually losing themselves in the spontaneous freedom of formless furies. Numerically challenging, relentlessly defiant and dubiously comedic, this trio leaves you dazed and dazzled from their seamless exploration of abstract compositional techniques and conversational improvisation. Scanlon hits you with a crumbling wall of distorted guitar noise and a ratcheting jangle of broken, finger-tapped melodic lines while Yoshida’s caterwauling coagulation of squeals, squeaks, skronks and screams seems strangely coherent along with Miller’s tornado of stop-start precision. Amidst this, track 4 lays down a funky hip-hop beat, while at 6 we reach the eye of the storm and track 11 offers a mysterious noir-tinged serenade. A very, very Tzadik release…

Cardiacs – “Radio 1 Sessions: The Evening Show” – [Strange Fruit]

abacus   12/7/2011   12-inch, A Library

Live studio session on the BBC-1 Evening Show with prog-punk overlords The Cardiacs. These tracks are early 1987 recordings from their 1988 and 1989 LPs and contain their ‘hit single’ “Is this the Life,” which is definitely not the highlight of the album. The other tracks are delightful samples of Cardiacs’ signature prog-rock mania, dropping all conventional songwriting styles for a charming unpredictability that inspired many for years to come.

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