Music Reviews

Pure Ground – “Protection” – [Chondritic Sound]

incognito   12/18/2013   A Library, Cassette


New 23min release from LA recording duo Pure Ground, in a limited 100 tape edition. I’ve seen people describe this as minimal wave and industrial; it’s got a lot of minor chord synth progressions, and simple drum machine beats; I’m going to go out on a limb and call this “Margaret Thatcher Era Re-Enactment” wave. Dark-ish, not terribly complex lyrics and themes, lofi-recording aesthetic with hidden pop aspirations. A fun listen.

Head Cleaner: a Louisville Music Compilation [coll] – [Gubbey Records]

Naysayer   12/1/2013   A Library, Cassette

Is Louisville the other Austin? This Gubbey Records two cassette, 46 song compilation celebration of all things Louisville, Kentucky right now at the end of 2013 will have you thinking that. Though they are not trying to be any other place than Louisville. Instead, they are honoring their city and all that is outstanding about it musically. And honor it they have. For over 2 1/2 hours the music that spills forth from this compilation is a reflection of the diverse musical creativity coming out of this interesting place. Gubbey Records put out an open call for music to be included in this collection and the selections came pouring in, the results being “Head Cleaner: a Louisville Music Compilation.” All artists are from Louisville and most do not have any other recordings out on LP, cassette or CD format. Which is amazing.
So what does it sound like? It’s easier to ask what it doesn’t sound like. One track after another, the sounds and styles change, each keeping you wanting more. Old timey country, noise, bluegrass, drone, metal, ambient, acoustic vocals, guitar noodling, trash rock, geek folk, alterna rock…… it just keeps coming and coming forward, track after track. The quality is astounding. The diversity is jaw dropping. And after 2 1/2 hours it just leaves you with a big smile on your face, happy to know about the good stuff that’s going on out there in the world.

Drake, Molly – “S/t” – [Squirrel Thing Recordings]

humana   11/17/2013   A Library, Cassette

These home recordings from Nick Drake’s mother are sweet and nostalgic, with themes such as reminiscing, birds, picnics, and more. Her lilting voice is lovely for the most part, and painful in a way because you can hear the voice of a mother in it, one who has put a lot of herself aside for her family, but who has something creative bubbling up within that demands expression. Very homespun and quaint.

SKOZEY FETISCH / HORSEFLESH [coll] – [Ratskin Records]

cinder   10/27/2013   A Library, Cassette

Super short cassette! Over before you blink, with both tracks at 2:30 each. Skozey Fetish’s track is the beginning of your neural mind operation. Setting you down, tape manipulations with zipping and zapping, subliminal words…. your eyes are getting heavy as the doctors fine tune their instruments. Horseflesh is the full on mind wipe. Plugged straight in, electronics are flowing statically right into your brain. Rolling, grumbling, riding wire taps and electrode maps.

Conscious Summary – “Father’s Day In The Park” – [Self-released]

abacus   10/16/2013   A Library, Cassette

Sound artist Samur Khouja seems to produce something new and different with every release/performance, dabbling in light ambience, harsh noise, folksy children’s music and all sorts of in betweens. This masterpiece of a cassette incorporates all these styles in the most cohesive and all encompassing fashion. On the title track we find ourselves on an epic interstellar journey, drifting amongst glistening nebulae and gazing out at the endless array of celestial bodies. 35 minute long track that is gentle, ethereal and somewhat eery in recognition of its vastness. On 13 Again we drift into an electrical storm, holding on for dear life as our spacecraft is torn apart piece by piece being sucked into a vacuum, lacerating space-time very…very…slowly… The chaos of disintegrating form assembles itself almost rhythmically before swirling into a desolate void (8:45). For the next 20 minutes we’re drifting through space again, mimicry of journeys past, only something is off; light and life are nowhere to be found. We wander lost for another eternity only to find this reality again crumbling before our eyes very…very…slowly… On the next two shorter tracks we’re seemingly on another voyage but are soon reminded that all reality is lost, never to be found again. Bizarre daymares of rapidly intersecting fantasies and horrors; delicate and playful folk tunes and arachnid tone showers fight ghastly faceless voices with explosions of feedback and then suddenly drift away listlessly. Searing saw blades wake us back to oblivion, or is it some sort of screeching creature? Either way it only serves to lull us back into a deceivingly somber sleep, never to fully wake again. Sweet dreams.

ReDeMeR – “Recombinant Chaoscillation” – [Teen River]

abacus   10/2/2013   A Library, Cassette

These Chicago wasteoid sweeties spew out 13 short tracks of junk metal vomit punk for seesaw sauntering and juice-box spiking. Cookie monster Connie-oH! and his chorus of playtime chubby buddies twist and jiggle in unashamed chain-gang bang-waves. Thee Agitator bumps and bumbles along holding the group together in ramshackle stop-start rabble while Manic Lost Kaos and The Ghost Amoeba chunks and barrels through the bass lines. There’s definitely FCC on Piece O Shit, but elsewhere who knows, maybe 6, 7 and 12 all fuck about but you really can’t tell with the over-methed sloppy floppy vocal flailings. Tweakers on too much Robitussin? It’s goofy and giddy for sure. Or road hogs stuck in infantile potty phase, Definitely grimy and gory. I say all of the above.

Crystal Shipsss – “Crystal Shipsss EP” – [Three Ring Records]

humana   9/5/2013   A Library, Cassette

As promised by 6, this is a treat to listen to, as it is fun making out the lyrics that stand out in often dark contrast with the upbeat tempo of the music behind them, especially on the last track. Jacob Faurholt’s voice is rather wistful as he sings about subjects such as “I hope we’ll learn to cope as chill, just as children are” (1); “Cause I can’t take it, seeing those lovely bones, crushing like a skull beneath the ties of all we’ve learned” (2); “I hope I get home before it gets dark” (3); “I hope, I hope, I hope” (4); “Feel like a cat jumping from the third floor, not landing on my broken legs; there’s a time of day when you want to open the presents before the Christmas bell rings” (5). The guitars are hazy and garagey, the drums add a pop element, and the voice, as I said, is the finest instrument. This is like a Christmas present that surprises you with its cool messages wrapped inside misleadingly cheerful paper.

Black Scorpio Underground, The – “S/T” – [Worthless Recordings]

abacus   9/4/2013   A Library, Cassette

Dismal abysmal drone of the deep industrial vein from THEE SLUGLORD, a mysterious entity lurking in dark corners of the LA wastelands (Long Beach specifically). Bleeding thick rivulets of sinister doom and nefarious torment, these two 9+ minute pieces will creep into your nightmares and haunt your psyche. Not as harsh and punishing as some other works, delving deeper into his subconscious with tortured shrieking and misanthropic vocal samples lingering distant through thick smoke. The assaults will sneak up on you, though, flooding from unsuspecting alleyways, only to slink back to unsettling ambience. Play it loud and inherit the hate and desperation of our degraded human race

TALsounds / Greyghost [coll] – [Hausu Mountain]

cinder   8/30/2013   A Library, Cassette

Two 20ish minute tracks from two solo artists. TALsounds is Natalie Chami. She brings super dreamy, whimsical, airy looping and twisting ambience. Synths and voice roll over each other like grape vines. Dewey, misty and pretty. Greyghost is Brian Griffith. Radio frequencies shifting and fading. A plucked guitar loops and lapses in time. Thoughtful memories and mind racing meditations. Very soothing and relaxing cassette. Great for laying in a meadow on a warm summer afternoon.

Noxagt – “Kill Yr. Ego, Oslo 13.08.03” – [Drid Machine]

abacus   8/27/2013   A Library, Cassette

Live performance from the noxious Nords, the lords of LOUD, ear-rupturing Noxagt. They’re joined by local legend Billy Anderson, record producer, recording engineer and musician who has worked with hundreds of bands like Eyehategod, Fantomas, Mr Bungle and many many many others. Definitely no turning down here, this shit is brutally overdriven and face-smashing as their concerts should be. The first track is just some banter from Billy while they wait for Lauritzen to get to his drums (some good Metallica references though). The rest is incessantly pounding noise rock with Billy screaming some deep throaty vocals that just sing ego death. They never let up, except for a briefly beautiful folksy viola solo from Erga to start off Blast From The Past, fitting indeed (and some Hey Mickeys thrown in for good measure). Instrumentals on 4 and 6 make you maybe miss Billy’s sweet voice, but they’re just too fucking good. Bring that volume up and let it all just crumble down. Everything breaks.

Tubman, Ron / Sugarm [coll] – [Hausu Mountain]

surferrosa   8/23/2013   A Library, Cassette

Vol. 3 of the Mugen Series – a cassette collection featuring live, single take performances of spacious and psyched pieces by eight artists in total. This volume presents three pieces by two artists taking a jaunt through acoustic-electric fields. Ron Tubman draws a floating, phased out dream-land hovering over an island of TV static. Finger picked guitar wanderings meditate over an ocean of synthy squaggles and gritty ripples. Sugarm builds a soundscape of shifting tones and wobbling oscillations. Minimal and feeding back, riddled with tip toe alterations.. delicate noise tilting in and out of pricklier phases. -Surfer Rosa


Shingles / Millrod, Josh [coll] – [Hausu Mountain]

humana   8/18/2013   A Library, Cassette

The first two songs on this cassette are lovely, with 1 starting out quiet but then gathering a drone presence and ascending into an epic loveliness that you can imagine filling the space between stars. 2 is another very pretty soundscape, soothing and inspiring at the same time. These are both from Shingles, aka Jesse DeRosa. 3 is a longer, more edgy piece where the trumpet makes itself known in a pronounced way. Josh Millrod is the musician here, and the trumpet has “Stradivarius” in its title.

Domus Mactibilus – “Rehearsal 2013” – [Brotherhood of Light]

cinder   8/9/2013   A Library, Cassette

A part of some such of Brotherhood Of Light. Three tracks of varying lengths. Super lo-fi experimental noisiness. It’s so distorted that it’s hard to sometimes really get what’s going on. Sounds like possible guitars, some feedback here and there, really high levels, and some electronics? Fuzzed, crunchy and munchy. There’s some rhythm that’s taking place, but it’s like you forgot your earplugs while standing next to the stack of speakers, with the engineer that doesn’t know how to adjust levels. I like it, sort of a mystery.

Birds You Once Knew – “Synth Miniatures” – [Donkey Disk]

Naysayer   6/19/2013   A Library, Cassette

Birds You Once Knew have done an interesting thing on their new project “Synth Miniatures”: in approximately 30 minutes they have made a history of synthesizer/dance/electronic, music from the late 1970’s to today. Donkey Disk, the label putting out this cassette, states it’s a tribute to roland (as in Roland synthesizer) and sequential circuits. It definitely is. The first track sounds reminiscent of Kraftwerk with those poppy, somewhat happy beats. Very consistent. Very smooth. With each sequential track we move through the different ways the synthesizer and partner tools were used to make music. Does that sound a bit like Depeche Mode? Was that some techno and electro clash? Oh oh, here comes the IDM. Now do not, in any way, take this as a negative. It is positive plus. These cuts are so fun, so enjoyable and very well executed. I have listened to this many times, just dancing around the house smiling at the references and styles. I dare you to play it straight through, it’s really that well done. Have fun with it. Thumbs up for Birds You Once Knew.

Concrete Island – “Conrete Island” – [Sleep Genius]

Naysayer   6/19/2013   A Library, Cassette

Concrete Island is Scott Moore and Dave Coen who make real industrial music. On the new and interesting to watch out for Sleep Genius label out of San Francisco, Concrete Island have created four tracks that seem to use recordings of machinery, field recordings of maybe trains or trucks, not sure, but definitely heavy equipment. They let it play through, layering some of the sounds into beautiful complex rhythms. This is industrial music like in the beginning of the genre. The pieces put a smile on my face as it brought me back to recordings of Throbbing Gristle, or reminded me of soundtracks made for dadaist and surrealist films of the early twentieth century. It also reminded me of just happening upon a big piece of machinery running, or a train passing, or a factory working and my stopping to listen to the lilting and subtle changes of the sounds created. It might be harsh or dark and oppressive to some, and the track titles suggest those feelings. I find this soothing and calming in a twisted industrial way. Just pop it in the tape deck and let it play through.

King Woman – “Degrida / Sick Bed” – [Sleep Genius]

Thurston Hunger   6/12/2013   A Library, Cassette

I come to herald San Fransister Kristina Esfandiar as King Woman.
Her voice brims with absinthe and pillows you into a state of
surrender. The first cut, “Degrida” (as in degradation) has
a familiar acoustic guitar skipping in the graveyard before
her voice opens up like a hollow tree, or an endless open
grave. You fall in, synth trails behind. Even as her voice
pushes up into the octaves for a sort of sleep yodel, you
fall deeper. “Sick Bed” slows the pace with a rocking chair
of distortion guitar as accompaniment. But again the focus
is Esfandiar (moonlighting from her Whirr project) and her
voice, dipped in delay, cloaked in reverb and occasionally
multi-tracked. Too beautiful for me to belabor the cassingle
format, and striking hued in blue sound to contrast with
the red cover and actual cassette. Here’s hoping these
two tracks are just a soiree, and a full coronation awaits.
-Thurston Hunger

Phork – “Entertainment” – [NNA]

Belladonna   6/12/2013   A Library, Cassette

aka LA based Neil Reinalda. Its a quirky little cassette release filled with abstract and random electronic sounds. Experimental noize to glitch to techno tracks, its all over the place but in the best way possible. You can dance or you can just trip out on it. Enjoy!

Battery Davis [coll] – [Teen Action]

surferrosa   6/11/2013   A Library, Cassette

Teen Action Records, based in Sf, delivers a handful of local noisters and dronesters. Kicks off with Copy Lake, a stoney Dr.Jekyll jam turned Mr.Hyde noise-out..speckles of space gun synth sounds and distorto alien abduction. Ringing and wobbling hippo-hypnoses from Seven Lies.. dub with sharp teeth through a shroud of haze. Weird Habit breeds Loopy loops and sample slop for a slow plod electro repetitious whistle.. halfway through, part two brings a bloated voice with broken speech and unaligned beats. Side B starts with Coagulator summoning the uber-drone oscillator..breaking into helicopter pulsations. Abyss of Fathomless Light comes with relentless stutters of an analog synth.. haunted and manipulated..Italian horror flick turned into tribal insane asylum war dance party. Closing things with Styrofoam Sanchez, channeling messages from Hell via Satan’s minions. Body function electronics with a gurgle garble schizo doom gloom death plod. Dig in. -Surfer Rosa

Rajkowski, Miroslaw – “Reference One” – [Nd]

abacus   6/5/2013   A Library, Cassette

Polish tripper turned Eastern monk active in the 80s and 90s. He is a master of overtone singing, having practiced since 1985 when he was at Wroclaw University (where he now teaches). Meditative droning vocal experimentation with a focus on far Eastern styles of voice, but with Western classical influence and some more impovisational extended techniques. Tracks 1 and 4 incorporate his homemade Tambura to space out along with while track 2 features him on voice alone. Track 5 is set amidst raw, lo-fi field recordings of a local park, making for a much more immersive experience. Tracks 3 and 6 are snippets from radio interviews in Polish that serve well as mixing fodder or to just play alone and confuse listeners. A valuable historical document of an interesting lesser known character.

Parashi – “Book of Nothing, The” – [Cave Recordings]

surferrosa   5/15/2013   A Library, Cassette

Sinister sound-scapes composed of (and this is my guess) analog electronics and tape manipulation of instrument based noise and human vocal sounds. This is certainly not harsh, but I wouldn’t call it pleasant..eerie in its nature, full of oscillations and open space. The music here is minimal in a way, but certainly not static, that is, these pieces move (even the longer ones) adding layers, tones and sound sources as each track progresses. Behold the beautiful hiss of magnetic tape..with all of its cracks and pop, sounds like wood burning in a fire. A constant ring will fool you into a hypochondriac’s tinnitus…hear the moans of mechanical whales singing to each other.. along with layered and processed sounds of human mummbles and yells on track 2, particularly towards the end. Tangled, desolate yet somehow heavenly… cracked and buzzing.. like the natural noise of an urban habitat which you struggle to place your finger on.. an ever present symphony of tones which you cannot escape. -Surfer Rosa

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