Disambiguation is the debut release from Cruel Diagonals, the experimental electronic project of Oakland/LA-based sound artist Megan Mitchell. Each track fuses the sounds of the ancient and the modern into dark, dreamlike ambient works, all held together by Mitchell’s stunning voice. Her vocals, treated with reverb and layered into hauntingly beautiful harmonies, are woven with minimal rhythms (T2, T4, T5, T8), dark drones (T6, T7, T9), or slowly building storms of noise (T7). Also worked into the tracks are field recordings from the ethnomusicology archives from the University of Washington, where Mitchell was a student. In these nine tracks she expresses the search for sense in the senseless, arriving at some conclusion in her final incantation.
2018 beat tape, the fifth in a series from the Boxcutter Brothers, a collaboration between California beatmaker Drasar Monumental and Ayatollah, a prolific producer from Queens. On Side A, Drasar represents the West Coast with five tracks of dense and adventurous sampling, (including some Bollywood dance tunes on A3, dark piano loops and electro beats on A4 and A5). But despite the beautiful backing tracks, the feel on this side is aggressive, violent, and razor sharp. Side B cuts the other way – Ayatollah delivers the more laid-back of the two sides, but it still crushes. Killer soul samples, heavy beats, and a couple of cameos from Sun Ra (B5- amazing) and Barry White (B6). From local SF label 77 Rise. FCCs on A1, A4, A5
Psudoko (formerly Parlamentarisk Sodomi) is Steinar Kittilsen, a one-man time-travelling prog-grind-math-core band from Trondheim Norway. This cassette was released in 2014 on Drid Machine, but recorded much later.
The sound is an adrenaline-heavy mix of prog-rock, math-rock, punk-rock, and butt-rock. Impossibly fast, impossibly intricate, and impossibly powerful. Highly controlled chaos.
Thumping bass lines and break-neck blast-beats. Fast, angular riffs that turn on a dime. Guitars that scream, scribble, and shred. What really sets this album apart is the meticulous arrangement and orchestration found in each track. Brief and beautiful piano interludes balance out blistering guitar solos. Violins sing and bells chime with perfect clarity alongside distorted strings and fuzz.
The future is here, and it is fast.
This album starts with what sounds like being in the fiery cockpit of a 747 crashing though the San Francisco fog. Suddenly the left wing rips off, instruments are malfunctioning. You can almost hear the sound of screaming passengers in the background. The plane quickly loses altitude and it seems the plane may crash into the water, extinguishing the flames. Everything gets real quiet. Where is your flotation device? Not all hope is lost… then it fucking explodes, fucking flames everywhere, faces melting off, no more hope. And that’s just the A-side…
This jet fuel melts steel beams!
Two killer musicians featured here, Tom Weeks on alto saxophone and Camille Emaille on percussion sounds. Recorded in Oakland 2016, what we get is what I’m calling surreal jazz. Certainly skronky, certainly noisey, and possibly jazz, but without leaning toward one or the other. Waspy wisps of wings around the corner, fluttering brushes, clips and clops, the bowing of a saw, perhaps, and what I’m sure is a goose having on orgasm high on acid.
Hazy, smooth, and rhythmic lo-fi electro-acoustic compositions from Moody Alien, an anonymous artist from Thessaloniki Greece and proprietor or the Thirsty Leaves Music micro-label which put this cassette out (edition of only 50).
Warm samples of acoustic instruments are layered, blended, and tweaked. Recordings of scattered chords, echoey drones, and flowing melodic patterns mix with field recordings and sparse, distant vocals. The layers are deep, but not dense. The result an enveloping, dream-like feeling of mysterious familiarity. The pieces each build carefully and in their own way, some juust baarely venturing into heavy free-folk proto-grooves before retreating back to the comfort of a nice drone.
A rich variety of instruments are on display here. Moody Alien plays classical guitar, 2 harmonicas, trumpet, cello, double-bass, glockenspiel, toy piano, numerous household objects and “a few body parts”. The credits call out several other musicians who lend their unique sound on different tracks: electric guitar on T1, bouzouki on T2, trumpet on T4, dulcimer on T4 and T5, and more!
Beautiful, rich, and heavy sounds.
A Balalaika is a Russian stringed instrument known for its triangular body. This cassette is the third installment of noise music performed on a Balalaika, released on Stauropygial Records out of Russia.
It’s difficult to tell that there is even a stringed instrument on this cassette, let alone a Balalaika. It shrieks, squiggles, screams, and only occasionally shreds. All this is soaked in layers of reverb, heavy distortion, autotune oblivion, and pervasive piercing feedback.
There are two side-long tracks, each with a lot of variety. Depending on your mood, some sequences may be harder to take than others. But it’s different, and oddly compelling, and the sound is going to change in a few minutes anyways, so stick with it!
Yet another deprogramming session from LA’s Harsh Noise dealers at Oxen, the label run by Unsustainable Social Condition and Leah P. This time our contestant is Abe Mason from N. Carolina., his mouth full of dust and tape. There are two tracks on side A and 3 on side B of this 2018 scorcher, and both ten-minute sides track together (wink). Side A is skittery and explosive, like coming down from methamphetamine (I’m told). Small movements in dim corners of abandoned factories. Suddenly the broken machinery springs to life; splats, tearing. Side B grinding rattling creaking, electronics and metal and a continuation of the general ‘cut-up’ theme also explored recently by Japan’s Scum on this same label.
It all seems to be pretty intricate sound design work even by the standard Oxen enforces. Very much in stereo, and kind of like a child “with ADHD” (cough) it can’t settle on any noise texture for more than about half a second. I dunno if it’s improvised or composed or waddaya waddaya, but I declare it truly impressive noise. Apparently Mason has also released quite a bit under the name Thirteen Fingers.
Pure electronic harsh noise devastation chopped into breathless adrenalin bursts. The only recognisable human sound anywhere is a brief sample of maybe a standup comic on the final track who pops in to say “It’s all just a waste of time… doesn’t matter.” Indeed.
Inzane Indiana trio of Drew Davis, Tim Gick, and John Olson of Wolf Eyes. This cassette collects recordings of live sets from around the Midwest during the Fall 2017. The first two tracks on Side A are slow burning, late night jams recorded at some dude’s apartment. Droning horns, temple chimes, and what sounds like a harmonium give these tracks a heavy, ritualistic feel. The next two tracks are live recordings from one of Olson’s infamous Psy Jazz nights at Trixie’s bar in Detroit. The first is a thick, twisted throng of brass sounds (T3) while in the second, deep electronic drones and distorted recordings of chanting provide the backdrop for the horns in the foreground (T4). The final track was recorded (secretly?) in the Japanese gardens of Michigan State University, with the chanting voices and echoing sax rising again from the dark mists of Lansing. Now That’s What I Call Psy Jazz!
Two longform hallucinations from Seattle-based sound artist Kole Galbraith. Our copy of his latest cassette release found its way to the station during his visit to the Pit in June 2018. On each side of the tape, Galbraith uses an electric guitar with effects to create two contrasting scenes. The earth rumbles in “Cordilleran Rupture” (A), as rough electronic sounds collapse into a massive drone sinkhole. Justin Lazar and Paul Walsh assist with noise on the track. “Burnt Hair on Disautel Pass” (B) is a desolate landscape, swept by roaring winds, with chimes and blunted guitar plucking appearing like distant points of light. His first release (here) can be found in our library.
On the list of inspirations for this album that includes Keiji Haino and Syd Barrett, Patrick Neill Gundran cites, “that scene in Aliens when one of them gets shot in the head by Lt. Vasquez and writhes around in that air duct” as another major influence. This album is two 19-minute long tracks of subtly fluctuating improvised wall of noise. Recorded on high bias cobalt tape, this 2015 release will be the perfect accompaniment to your morning commute.
Grim is the Japanese industrial/power electronics project of Jun Konagaya. Previously, Jun worked with Tomasada Kuwahara in White Hospital, releasing one full length album, 1984’s Holocaust (in our library), before parting ways. The first Grim album followed shortly after in 1986, the incredible Folk Music. Jun continued releasing work throughout the 80s (including some surprisingly gorgeous folk), and then took an extended break to pursue his tenkoku practice. He returned to Grim in 2013, and his new material caught the attention of Tesco Organization, who released 2016’s Orgasm and brought Jun to Europe for his first international shows. Since then, both his old and newer material have been more widely released and his work has deservingly found a larger audience. This cassette EP was originally released at a show in Tokyo in Spring 2017.
Throughout Jun’s works, extremely harsh electronic sounds, aggressive rhythms, and confrontational vocals mix improbably with traditional folk sounds and even beautiful melodies. On this tape, Jun uses acoustic instruments like Tibetan shaman’s bells, drums, Indian pugi, and guttural vocal, almost throat singing techniques. The title track (T1) sets a dark, droning temple atmosphere, “Summons” (T2) drives with an fierce tribal rhythm with ringing bells, “Goddess Moth” is beautiful unfolding synth piece, and “Nine” finishes with ruthless screamed vocals. It’s over much too quickly, so I hope we can soon get our hands on more of this consistently terrifying and beautiful work.
cascadian doom folk of the apocalypse, this group of ladies from Olympia perform acoustically and by candelabra because when the end comes there will be no electricity. somber, sparse yet uplifting in the most dismal of outcomes, vradiazei literally translates from Greek to “getting night” or “darkness comes” they lost their banjo/bouzouki player to motherhood, life eats away at us all one by one. vocals on the B side
One-man noisegrind from music journalist Shane Mehling, also of the WA post-hardcore band Great Falls. Bandmate Demian Johnston (see also: Sutekh Hexen, BLSPHM, noise work under his own name) runs the label.
Side A = Blown-out mathy bass assault, probable drum machine doing the full blast thing, Pig Destroyer style hardcore vocals. The last track resolves itself with about one minute of feedback.
Side B = Single piece of nearly unlistenable feedback manipulation.
A sleek and deadly example of a confrontational genre, somewhat akin to the more musical excursions of longtime KFJC favourites Sissy Spacek.
The original Synanon was a drug recovery program founded in Santa Monica that turned into a criminal mind-control cult. Couldn’t be cultier than 12-step, though (rimshot!).
Both sides about 5 minutes. The label founder says: “I am hoping to release some more of his stuff but it’s impossible to get him back in the damn studio. He spends all his time battling blackberry bushes.”
Way-too-short EP from Belgium’s Lemones. Originally released in 2016 on clear vinyl 7″, and recently re-released by Moscow’s Post-Materialization Music label. This cassette is one of only 50 copies.
Lazy lo-fi shouty noise-rock. Thick and crumbly beats that go everywhere and nowhere. Plodding baselines and meaningless lyrics. “Young Professionals” (T-3) is the fan-favorite, but all four the tracks have something unique to offer.
Limited edition cassette from Christoph Petermann out of Berlin, released on Russia’s Monopolka label.
Solid weight heavy noise, but not overly harsh or hateful. The tracks are all pretty short for easy consumption (most clock in at a *exactly* one minute).
Static blasts under layers of reverb. Unintelligible screams and wails. Broken electronic toys. Crunching looped annoyances.
I wouldn’t call the music “funny”, but Petermann’s sense of humor clearly is clearly evident. He performs in Bermuda shorts, a leopard vest, sunglasses, and inflatable swimming pool arm bands.
This 2018 release comes to us from Bizarre Audio Arts, a label that often pairs up some of the major names in noise/experimental music for split cassettes. The label’s founder, Leo Sabatto makes up half of the current lineup of the enduring Pittsburgh noise project Macronympha, with founding member Joseph Roemer. Their track is on Side A of this glitter-flecked cassette, and on the flip side is din-i-ilashi, the solo project of Japanese electronic artist Osamu Kishimoto.
“Sure Thing to Do” (A) begins two parallel layers of corroded sound – whistling feedback and wandering dark melody. Six minutes in the track arrives as the sounds launch into a massive and teeming wall of noise. The real centerpiece of the track is the breakneck blast beat that emerges about halfway in, takes center stage, and then pummels its way through screams, sparks until the tape runs out. The B side track, “Non-Doership” as you might guess from the title never reaches the same level intensity. Instead Kishimoto pursues dynamics and flow, with ringing carnival tones moving into unpredictable whorls of static, feedback, laser beams and buried songs.
Self-released 2017 EP from this Japanese grindcore duo of Fuckin’ A and Frozen Panty, not to be confused with the other Cunts in our library. Drums and vocals ONLY. Drummer Fuckin’ A delivers total destruction, alternating his playing from machine-gun precision to a total sloppy mess, while Frozen Panty howls, slobbers, speaks in tongues like a raving lunatic. Each side of the tape is a quick blast of projectile vomit and other bodily fluids – within five minutes the load’s blown.
Illium is the 2017 debut release from LA beatmaker and producer Huxley Anne. Genre-wise this is all over the place, with elements of hip hop, techno, noise and new age, and, sometimes, the unfortunate aftertaste of forgettable fads like dubstep or witch house. But I can get past that because these tracks hit hard, with heavy, warehouse-shaking bass pulses roaring throughout. While “Aphro Dye” (T2), “Nin” (T3), and the aggressive “Ashes” (T4) seem made for the club, on other tracks the beats are paired with unexpected elements: laid-back guitar loops on “Celadon” (T5), mystical drones and harp on “Igredo” (T6), sitars and chants on “Aesop Fable” (T7), and music box chimes on the downtempo “Dragoon” (T8). Released on the LA experimental/hip hop label Dome of Doom.
Self-released 2006 album from this rotten Danish black metal project, with members from Solhverv, Wolfslair and Luciation and others, re-released on cassette on the Ukrainian label Night Birds. The first thing that struck me on opener “Stenknivens Blot” (T1) was Bestial Butcher’s absolutely inhuman drumming. He races along at an vicious speed, but then shifts into different rhythmic patterns. The variety in the drumming – aggressive churning, dramatic sweeps – add different dimensions to the tracks, and give the album real complexity, but without crossing into overly technical prog territory. I liked the first track so much that it took me awhile to get into the rest of the album, but when I did noticed the melodic elements throughout – hardly pretty and still pitch black, but really appealing. Take the descent-into-madness guitar on “Crimson Spirit” (T4), or the main theme of “Den Naadesloese” (T5) that had me banging my (non-metal) head on Caltrain. The lyrics in Danish glorify the kings and warriors of the Viking era, though a few tracks are in English, including T9 and T10 with FCCs. Couldn’t really make out the lyrics on T4 and T11, so play at your own risk.