Hintz, Daniel – “S/t” – [Self-release]

Max Level   10/1/2012   7-inch, A Library

Local dude. Self-described minimalist. Two tracks of solo guitar atop faint background noise such as traffic and voices. All open-string droning-type stuff with no fancy fingering. Hintz either didn’t bother to tune the guitar, or he carefully tuned it to get the desired effect. Does it matter which? To me it doesn’t. One short track on each side of this clear 7″.

Shanley, Scott – “No Title” – [Self-release]

Max Level   8/28/2012   A Library, CD

Here’s an array of soundscape-type things. They never go totally into noise territory, but many of them are heading in that direction. What you get is sample-mania and sound processing. Clicks and cuts. A few dirty rhythms here and there. Layers of muddy electronics. Track 2 has an insistent motorik beat with a three note melody and then other things on top of it–it also has a false ending, fading out and then fading back in again with about a minute to go. Track 13 is much longer than the others–pretty much a rumbling drone throughout. Some of the tracks cut off cold at the end. I enjoyed sitting back and listening to this CD, often wondering how the various sounds were made.

Comiskey – “Relays” – [Self Released]

Max Level   8/28/2012   A Library, CD

A 3-track EP, 16 minutes of chilled-out blisscore from this solo artist, out of the Denver area I believe. Track 1 is haunting and atmospheric with ghostly vocals. Track 2 starts off with bleeps and bloops, then evolves into a layered keyboard drone. Track 3 features a lot of sequenced upper-pitch notes and patterns swirling around. I wish the tracks themselves were a bit longer and this EP had a bit more material on it because I really like what Comiskey’s got going on here.

Musique Fragile [coll] – [Constellation]

Max Level   7/31/2012   12-inch, A Library

A wonderful, beautiful, ambitious release from Constellation. Actually three separate releases by three different artists compiled in one box set. The music is cool and interesting, and the sleeves and goodies (posters, art cards, etc) are all gorgeously screen-printed. Volume 1 in a series and I hope the subsequent releases are as nice as this one.

Disc One: Les Momies De Palerme – “Brulez Ce Couer”
Floating female vocals and somber atmospheres. Xarah Dion and Marie Davidson play Casios, Moogs, Farfisas, harmonium, etc. A3 and B5 are the only tracks with beats.

Disc Two: Khora – “Silent Your Body is Endless”
Matthew Ramolo plays what sounds like keyboards, bells, and stringed instruments. The pieces fall somewhere between drones and loops. Lots of filigree and tinkling stuff. The last track builds up to a multi-layered guitar crescendo that sounds like a noisier Mike Oldfield.

Disc Three: Nick Kuepfer – “Avestruz”
This is the most active and rhythmic of the three discs. Many short tracks, so there’s always something new. Repeating patterns of guitar and accordion and maybe some bowed instruments. Samples and field recordings are used too. Recordings made on 4-track cassette, dictaphone, and laptop. Final track is a live guitar/vocal performance by somebody who isn’t Nick Kuepfer, complete with psychotic birds whistling.

Note: An LP and a CD version of each release is included in the package.


Leaving Earth – “Ejecta” – [Feral Fang Media]

Max Level   7/10/2012   A Library, CD

Leaving Earth is, not surprisingly, all about outer space. It’s two people making sound/noise pieces that indeed sound otherworldly. Some are heavily electronic while others are more like ambient field recordings, from some strange alien fields. A few disembodied and processed voices here and there. Overall this CD has a bit of a muffled sound and a claustrophobic feel; no doubt listening to it from inside a space suit would make it sound like this if it didn’t already sound like this. Track 8 starts with a warning by a military guy to be on the lookout for a secret upcoming war, and Track 9 doesn’t do much until about 30 seconds in; then it’s a computer-generated message warning us of secret government plans and our imminent doom.

Reiko, Ike – “You, Baby” – [Bamboo]

Max Level   7/10/2012   12-inch, International

Sexy Japanese pop from the ’60s-’70s, sung/spoken/breathed by Reiko, who starred in a series of sex-packed action movies full of chases, fights, ripped blouses, and erotic interludes. The music is slow-ish pop with touches of jazz and exotica; horns, guitars, vibes, sax… perfect for the ’60s bachelor pad. Practically every track features Ms. Reiko gasping and moaning with pleasure, and one track (Love Slave) even has spanking/whipping sounds that are answered with… moans of pleasure, of course. Deranged laughing on B5, and a cool soprano sax solo on B6. Many of the songs have a weird extraneous sound that I can’t identify; it sounds like a dog whining at the back door, but I’m sure that’s not the case. No matter–this record will provide a sexy good time for all.

3 Moons – “Kult Ur O Man Cor” – [Psyop Recordings]

Max Level   6/26/2012   A Library, Cassette

Drone-based musical adventures, layered and overdubbed on a 4-track Tascam. You’ll hear some noise elements, scrambled sounds, and messed-up vocals now and then, but for the most part this seems to be guitars and other instruments playing patterns and making textures. Tracks 3, 7, 8, 9 and 10 are pretty laid-back; the other tracks are more on the fidgety side. Nice concepts here. I think this is a one-man project but I’m not sure.

Mezei, Szilard Quintet – “Cerkno” – [Leo Records]

Max Level   6/11/2012   CD, Jazz

Mezei is a Hungarian Serb who composes music for, and plays viola in, all sorts of settings from solo work to duets, trios, and larger ensembles such as this quintet. On this live CD he leads a stellar group (viola, clarinet/sax, piano, bass, and drums) through some adventurous jazz compositions at a 2006 concert. Brainy jazz, but with lots of thrust and movement. These guys are fantastic players and the recording job is just right. Sometimes the sound will remind you of various other jazz groups that feature a violinist, but Mezei’s viola adds a different flavor–mellower and part of the group sound, teaming up with the other instruments and not always clamoring for your attention with high notes and solos. Tracks tend to run into one another, with breaks for applause between only a few of them.

Yves / Son / Ace – “Unsung” – [kill shaman]

Max Level   6/11/2012   7-inch, A Library

Scuzzy solo recordings by Matthew Ford. Short tracks (1 – 2 minutes.) Blues-pop-rock with vocals. Distorted guitars or keyboards or whatever. Everything more overloaded than everything else. Delay pedals. If you like real drumming, forget about it– on this record you get a machine on some tracks and what sounds like a bunch of junk being hit on the others. Cool harmonica on Side B. Dig it.

Simmons, Desmond – “Alone On Penguin Island” – [Wmo]

Max Level   5/28/2012   A Library, CD

Punk-damaged British art rock circa 1979-81. The music is minimal and repetitive with vocalist/guitarist Simmons sort of chant-singing. He’s not doing anything groundbreaking here, but if you liked Wire’s (and Colin Newman’s) early work as I did, you will no doubt find this worth a few spins. The Wire connection is too big to overlook–Newman and his fellow conductors Robert Gotobed, Bruce Gilbert, and Graham Lewis were collaborators, though not all at the same time. Most of the tracks are 1981 studio recordings supervised by Gilbert and Lewis, and I’m not clear on who the players are–unless I’m missing something, no musicians are listed. The drumming on a few tracks sounds Gotobed-ish (yay, a new word!) so I’m guessing it’s him; it could be Simmons playing everything else or maybe Gilbert and Lewis lent a hand. Toward the end of the CD there are several previously unreleased live tracks by three different groups he was involved with, and the musicians are credited on those. The title track is an eerie instrumental.

El Doom & The Born Electric – “El Doom & The Born Electric” – [Rune Grammofon]

Max Level   5/21/2012   12-inch, A Library

Norwegian progressive hard rock that keeps moving through complex arrangements. No tedious riff-rock here. If you like fearless guitar-slinging and a solid rhythm section, this is right up your alley. Ole Petter Andreassen handles lead guitar, did most of the composing, and produced the record. He’s also the singer, and, well… I’m not crazy about his voice; a little of it goes a long way. If they could have gotten, say, Rob Halford in, this would be just about perfect.

Black to Comm – “Earth” – [De Stijl Records]

Max Level   5/21/2012   12-inch, A Library

A looped and layered collage of unusual sound sources such as bells, singing bowls, autoharp, musical saws, vinyl and shellac records, metal objects, and harmonium to name but a few. Originally composed –under the influence of heavy painkillers he says, and it really shows– by Marc Richter (aka Black To Comm) to accompany the silent film “Earth” by Singaporean visual artist Ho Tzu Nyen. The film is a post-apocalyptic vision of the earth strewn with junk and rubbish and many bodies who slowly come to life and then I’m not sure what happens after that. This would seem to be an excellent soundtrack for such a film. Sort of nightmarish but not in a scary way. David Aird contributes odd floating vocals.

Kelvox 1 – “Grazed Red” – [Aagoo]

Max Level   4/24/2012   12-inch, A Library

Here’s a UK trio (synths/sampler,bass,and guitar/vox) spinning out two long mesmerizing tracks. The starting point seems to be a yearning kind of 80’s-style pop, but it’s slowed down and floating in a sea of extreme reverb. Sort of like Human League on quaaludes. The vocals, somewhat down in the mix, seem tuneful but they aren’t really–they’re just kind of there every once in a while during the side-long tracks; meanwhile all kinds of other stuff is happening: snakey guitar lines, deep bass tones, minimal but insistent programmed percussion, dub effects coming and going, subtly layered synths, and many sounds of indeterminate origin. Side B is the noisier of the two; more industrial sounding I guess. Both sides are well worth experiencing.

Kommissar Hjuler Und Mama Baer & Ninni Morgia/Silvia Kastel – “Two Couples” – [Ultramarine]

Max Level   2/28/2012   12-inch, A Library

This record is just too damned weird. Deranged German couple on one side, incomprehensible Italian couple on the other. On the Kommissar/Mama side there is talking, and somebody repeatedly hitting something squeaky, then Mama’s agitated voice shrieks and wails and howls while Kommissar taps/bangs rhythmically on a guitar. Two short pieces and one long one; all of them cut off suddenly. The Ninni/Silvia side is more listenable and less random sounding than the other side, but still kind of a mess. It seems to be mostly electronic sounds, and there is nothing I recognize as a voice until the last track, which is probably the closest thing to music on this record–all psychedelic guitars and heavy reverb, and eventually some Yoko Ono-inspired squealing atop a throbbing background. I kind of enjoyed listening to it but now have a headache as a result.

Sachiko – “Anro” – [Utech Records]

Max Level   2/28/2012   A Library, CD

One track, 37 minutes long. Sachiko (from Overhang Party and other projects) journeys alone through a strange, unknown place, offering her voice, viola, recorder, and percussion as her prayers for safe passage and understanding. Though the traveler is surrounded on all sides by unknowable ancient things watching, the path must be followed. This hypnotic, ritualistic piece sounds like an apprehensive walk through a fog-shrouded Japanese drone-forest at dusk. Eerie and powerful.

Lost Domain, The – “Drunken Sailor” – [Negative Guest List]

Max Level   2/20/2012   7-inch, A Library

Side A of this 7″ presents us with a heavy mixture of blurting horns, fuzzy guitar and organ, stiff drumming, and a few gruff vocals, lashed together into a loud clunky version of the traditional lament “What Can You Do With a Drunken Sailor?” If Old Time Relijun jammed with Painkiller, it might sound like this. On Side B we encounter a rough and treacherous tone-scape type of thing with moaning instruments, feedback, and cymbals. Recorded (rather badly) in 1999.

Mimeo – “Wigry” – [Monotype]

Max Level   2/20/2012   12-inch, A Library

Four side-long sound worlds to get lost in. Here is an orchestra of ten, armed with synths, computers, sampler, electronics, prepared guitar, and a piano, playing live in a beautiful old church in Poland. The naturally reverberating interior of the church adds a pleasantly warm depth to the proceedings. These players have been working together for over a decade, so they know how to listen, what to add, and when. Nearly 90 minutes of material here, constantly moving, layering, shifting, droning, ringing, humming, clicking… to me it seemed to be one collective organism evolving and changing, not ten separate people making sounds, and I really enjoyed it from that perspective. Each side has a range of sounds from soft to loud, but overall Sides A/B are the quieter sides, and Sides C/D are noisier and get more intense.

Mattin – “Exquisite Corpse” – [Azul Discografica]

Max Level   1/31/2012   12-inch, A Library

Just so you know, I saw a review online that called this “one of the most unlistenable records ever.” Here’s the deal: Anarchist punk improvising artist noisemaker Mattin (Basque by birth but now a troublemaking citizen of the whole damned world) wrote a batch of extreme, socially conscious, the-world-is-fucked lyrics and recorded them in his jabbering nonsense of a voice. Then he enlisted three musicians (guitar/piano, bass, and drums) to come up with backing music, giving them exactly three minutes per song to do whatever they wanted and only one take to get each song right. And oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention that none of the players ever heard the others or even the vocals; they had the lyrics for inspiration and that’s all. They had no idea what the vocals sounded like or how the other musicians were dealing with key, tempo, or style. Not that it mattered. Mattin piled the parts one on top of another and called it a mix. Boom, done. It sounds pretty much like you would expect it to, all loud chaos and sharp-edged randomness, making absolutely no sense. I enjoyed this record in spite of it being completely unlistenable.

Interplanetary Remixes [coll] – [Wfmu]

Max Level   1/30/2012   CD, Jazz

Our friends at WFMU put their own spin on Sun Ra’s music with a wide variety of results. He is a good candidate for remixing because that loose space shuffle of his always seems to have plenty of room in it for just about anything: skronky saxophones, June Tyson’s distinctive vocals, odd dialogue and spoken word passages, doo-wop, Batman clips, some droning things… His spirit and energy pervade these tracks no matter what WFMU’s intrepid remixers came up with. Obviously a labor of love, the music mutated but with respect for the original, and I think Sun Ra would have appreciated it.

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