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Music Reviews

Den Arkaiska Rosten – “Tzigah Idhe” – [Cloister Recordings]

lexi glass   4/9/2017   A Library, Cassette

This Cloister Recordings cassette is the second release from Sweden’s Den Arkaiska Rösten (“The Archaic Voices”), the project of Girilal Baars and Per Åhlund. Baars is a professionally trained vocalist who has previously worked with the vocal group Äijä, a composer of operas, and a sound engineer. Åhlund has several solo sound art/electronic projects and has worked with Sophia, among other bands.

This cassette holds two sidelong pieces in which the sounds of the voice, in all of its many forms, are used to create a twisted, haunting landscape. Sounds of mouths, tongues, teeth, saliva, and breathing become howling winds and falling water. Deep utterances that resemble traditional throat singing rise from the lowest register, and a chorus of droning chants builds and closes in. Individual voices can be heard singing melodies or wails of regret, but soon disappear back into the fray. While vocal sounds are the main focus, weird electronics and drum beats can be heard humming beneath. The overall effect is like the spirits of everyone that’s ever lived rising from some ancient burial site to deliver us this cryptic message: it was like you said / it was not like you said.

Electro-Haram – “Taharrush Gamea” – [Post-Materialization Music]

Louie Caliente   2/25/2017   A Library, Cassette

From Russia’s experimental Post-Materialization Music label comes this bizarre cassette of extremely lo-fi “ethnodub”. The album name “Taharrush Gamea” is Arabic for “group harassment”, and usually refers to mass sexual assault. Very little information about this album or the artist exist. Only 31 of these cassettes were produced, and the artist’s other albums have been released on recycled soviet-era reel-to-reel tape, and 3.5″ floppy disk.

The cassette is seemingly designed to make you wonder if your stereo is busted. It’s an hour of international pop music, played at the wrong speed through unreliable equipment, mixed with crunchy record scratches, cut-up tape loop squiggles, and spooky spoken-word. Broken electronics buzz and hum throughout, and the whole thing sounds like it was recorded underwater. Samples (actually entire songs) are appropriated from a variety of sources: Bollywood dance tunes, Eastern Orthodox chants, Thai power-pop, and (as the artist’s name implies) middle Eastern folk. The result is disorienting (to say the least), like a bad acid trip through the depths of the international library.

Blind Spring – “6” – [Manatus Musicus]

lexi glass   1/23/2017   A Library, Cassette

2016 debut cassette from Cleveland’s Blind Spring, featuring members from several other groups, including the Red Sparowes, Terminal Lovers, Keelhaul, and the experimental jazz project Lost Head.

Deep sea divers experience a condition called nitro narcosis, an altered mental state that arises from breathing air in a high pressure environment. This cassette sounds what that must feel like – a strange, hallucinatory aquatic voyage. “Pilotage” (T1) opens with underwater echoes and distant melodies; later, electronic sounds appear from the depths like fluorescent sea creatures. “Open Circuit Buoy” (T3) is a 15-minute piece that begins with a dark beat-driven section that opens up into a gorgeous jam, with layered guitars, steady drumming, and an abrupt sample at the end. “Rebreathe” (T4) is another long-playing (25 minute) highlight that plunges to the darkest depths – there’s haunted piano, theremin-like bubbling, electronics with the bends. The cassette ends with “Nitro Narcosis” (T5), with drumming, bells, and electric keys finding a quiet, unhurried groove before fading away.

Young, Andrew Scott – “Warm White Light” – [Baked Tapes]

abacus   12/25/2016   A Library, Cassette

Seattle’s Andrew Scott Young is creeping up to be a heavy hitter in the free improv experimental world, hitting the scene playing alongside Weasel Walter’s ‘American Free’ release in 2009 and steadily giggin around the country since. here we have a 2013 release that strays from his usual extended technique free-scrape for some out-of-genre experimentation. the A-side opening with sawed bass string bird calls and spiderleg piano mashing, a tribute to his HS music teacher this feels a sort of new-classical tribal-ritual; blistering reeds sing a windsong with buzzing voices mumbling along and a Himalayan clatter of percussion explodes into a fireworks finale. the B-side plays around electronics, squelchy circuit beats with a parent’s garage sort of lo-fi feel in an 80s action flick aesthetic. the title track seems to have lost the beat and got fixed on a groove skipping about a bit before catching the glitch again. not enough recorded works yet but definitely a name to keep an eye out for.

Amalthea – “Amalthea II” – [Cloister Recordings]

lexi glass   12/4/2016   A Library, Cassette

This 2016 cassette is the second release (check out the first here) from Gothenburg, Sweden duo Amalthea (Jonas Lindgren of Aether and Michael Idehall). Cloister Recordings describes this tape as a mix of “minimalistic industrial” and “noise pop,” which seems like an impossible combination until you dive into these four hypnotic tracks. On the one hand, there are the sounds of pure dread: in T1, a leaden thud falls on each beat, making the seconds drag by achingly; T2 is a long, lingering drone; T4 heaves with agonized wailing and dissonant, distorted tones. But on the other hand, there’s flashes of beauty that keep the whole thing from being a total downer (no offense, you know I get down with a total downer now and then) – take T1’s repeating melodic bass line, the dappled tones in T2, the brilliant stabs and rhythms of T3, the rich, strange harmonies that murmur through T4. The contrasts come together to create an experience of gorgeous, satisfying pain.

Granli, Gaute/Ruffle [coll] – [Self-released]

lexi glass   11/28/2016   A Library, Cassette

This fine split cassette from Norwegian sound artist Gaute Granli and Denton, TX noise duo Ruffle proves that even in 2016, there’s still new, strange sounds to be strangled out of a guitar.

Side A: Four short tracks from Gaute Granli. Broken, gnarled, detuned guitar sounds, wailing vocals, demented electronics lurking in the background, primitive rhythms. If I was forced to pick out the Texans on this split just listening blindly, I’d be fucked!, because I swear I hear a backwoods twang in Granli’s playing. These tracks don’t have the volume of his live performance in the KFJC pit from last year, but they’re no less raw and unsettling. Check out his other stuff – both his own solo work and as one half of Freddy the Dyke.

Side B: Ruffle (Rick Eye on guitar and Princess Haultaine III on electronics) brings a louder take on the guitar-centered piece. Rick Eye provides the live-wire skronk spark, Princess pours on the junky electronic fuel, and everything combusts in this ten-minute trash fire explosion. Burn it down, y’all!

BROKEN CHIP // KLANGBERG [coll] – [3BS Records]

Kai Sync   11/1/2016   A Library, Cassette

 

This is a two track EP from 2015 with ambient synth material washing in and out style cassette compression wobble style. Somewhat like Boards Of Canada didn’t include drums to two tracks. The first one – Broken Chip – Kind — is mellow and introspective, the second track — Klangberg’s 0.5 — has an ending where more energy is introduced in forms of Tangerine Dream style arpeggiator synth waves at the very end.

Stromboli – “Stromboli” – [Maple Death]

billiejoe   10/26/2016   A Library, Cassette

It’s not your grandma’s cooking. It’s Nico Pasquini from Italy. Lap steel guitar and analog organ. Sounds like electro industrial noise. Nice crunch with a side of beats. It’s really quiet so turn it up!
— Billie Joe Tolliver

Scum – “Upside Down” – [Oxen]

billiejoe   10/26/2016   A Library, Cassette

Scum (sou inomoto) is from Tokyo. It sounds like harsh noise and is a self-described cut up noise project. Scum has been making these audio assaults since 2010. “Unconscious disharmonic malfunction.” Side a is a healthy 17:15 and b is a decent 10:00 or so.
– Billie Joe Tolliver

Blue Sixteen [coll] – [Blue Tapes]

lexi glass   10/10/2016   A Library, Cassette

This 2014 split cassette from UK’s Blue Tapes features Oakland’s Stillsuit (Jaime Clark, Marissa Magic and Vanessa Harris) and Brighton, UK duo Map 71 (poet Lisa Jayne and drummer Andy Pyne).

Stillsuit contributes “16” (T1), and at 11 minutes, it’s an obvious stretch for a band that cranks out short, vicious punk songs. To be honest, I wasn’t into the slow, psych-y start – it’s trying to be heavy but the sound’s thin. Around 3 minutes in, things improve – the guitar lines move in strange progressions, the drums pick up speed. By the 6-minute mark, the vocal bellows turn to screams, and the track bares its teeth.

I found Map 71’s side of the split, six tracks in all, more compelling. Pyne composes varied backdrops for Jayne’s spoken word – improvised drumming and electronics (T2, T6), ominous stabs (T3) and swirls (T5) of synths, tense beats (T4), and echoing bells and scraping sheet metal (T7). Jayne’s poetry alludes to surgical procedures, anatomy, the process of creation, materials (concrete, plastic, metal, glass, shattered mirrors), the futility of bottle blondeness and femininity in general, and more. Jayne’s delivery is direct and formidable, calling to mind one of her heroes, Vi Subversa of the Poison Girls.

Dig for more stuff from both groups in our library.

Nonyana Tsepe & Ribaneng – “Leseli La Ka” – [Tlaile Music]

mouthbreather   10/4/2016   Cassette, International

South African duo offering up and energetic mix of accordion, beats, and spitting fast Sesotho dictation. no information for this release, and its quirky…
I feel like I’m being lectured for being a peep, while a pirate party goes on in the peripheral. tk 3 and 8 have less of this feeling.
good for some energy in a lethargic set

Salsa Pile – “Original Memory Apprehension Goggles, The” – [Ratskin Records]

lexi glass   10/2/2016   A Library, Cassette

Salsa Pile is a pile-on of Ratskin Records‘ brightest starz: Crisperion Fett, Todd Dickerson (solo as Soup Purse), Jsun McCarty (Nerfbau, Styrofoam Sanchez, solo as Alienslang), Ryan King (Styrofoam Sanchez), and label founder Michael Dadonna. This 2010 cassette is the pile’s sole release that holds two sidelong (~30 minute) noise freakouts. The tracks were recorded in San Diego, and you can definitely tell – this isn’t dark, gritty or facemelting noise. Ratskin’s blurb mentions “microbials” and “slime” and that’s not far off; there’s a biological, digestive feel to the squeaks and spasms of electronics. Side A is a day in the life of a single-celled organism farting around its environment, silence punctuated by sensors pinging and actuators revving. Side B is a population of the bugs and its riotous community dynamics – eating, writhing, fucking, secreting, dying – all inside the bowl of salsa on the KFJC fundraiser snack table. Yum!

Repulski, Graham – “Re-Arranged At Hotel Strange/Contaminated Man/Boy Lung” – [Shorter Recordings]

lexi glass   9/11/2016   A Library, Cassette

Sprawling three-cassette box set from the Philly lo-fi indie rocker. In all there are 41 tracks, but most clock in at under a minute, so getting through the material doesn’t feel like a slog. I am obliged to re-remind you that Graham lifts his entire approach to making music from Bob Pollard: the Alien Lanes-era fuzzed-out sound, the bite-sized track lengths, the clever sketchbook lyrics, the mastering by T. Tobias, the truly prodigious pace of musical output. This is hardly a criticism – maybe more artists should focus less on sounding new and more on just sounding good? And there’s plenty of great! moments to discover in this tape trilogy.

Re-Arranged at Hotel Strange (T1-12) teems with warped pop sounds (best exemplified by T7, T10), mirroring a theme (I think I hear?) about how time warps your universe, moving the center of its orbit away from your old priorities (work, girls, shows), and towards the well-being of a tiny human.

Contaminated Man (T13-25), the meatier, moodier and best of the bunch, sounds like rewinding and looping the tape that holds your memories – the music and movies from your childhood (T15, T17, T23), the embarrassing events (T21), the late nights obsessively crafting fan fiction (or was that just me?) (T22), until you arrive at the unrecognizable present (T24).

Boy Lung (T26-41) has a sweet, nostalgic feel (T26, T33, T38), but with a strong undercurrent of bitter regret (T31, T34, T35). Rewind and replay!

Star Turbine – “Altitude” – [Sonic Meditations]

billiejoe   8/31/2016   A Library, Cassette

Doomy droney fuzzy spacey twinkly bright heavy deep meaningful. Self-described, “Improvised space age explorations” from Sindre Bjerga and Claus Paulsen from Copenhagen. I really liked it and want more, something that doesn’t happen that often.
— Billie Joe Tolliver

Atrament “Eternal Downfall”

milo   8/13/2016   A Library, Cassette

Interpretive: A man riding horseback in a midnight battle plows through the enemy line, as a tide of corpses in the making parts before him like Moses at the Red Sea. Underneath, the steed gallops at a ferocious pace, with only victory on its mind, the blinders fixing his vision ahead–only ahead–until the final battle, whereupon his charge will dismount and behead the leader of the fallen enemy. He knows not the possibility of failure. The riders arms propel his mace deep into the skulls he now crushes with ease, a level of mastery won only through years at war.

Descriptive: Welcome to a nearly continuous festival of punishment. This Bay area four piece (guit/drums/bass/vox) has refined a particularly dark and simple approach to aggressive music. They’re tight, achieve a coherent sound, and the vocals are gruff enough to hit the spot without sounding comically evil. Bursts of three quick notes from the sludgy guitars ride atop fast-paced drumming; most tracks have a distinctive break from this before looping around for a second pass. No hooks or particularly memorable riffs; the focus here is on creating a wholly pummeling auditory experience. Memorable bits: the solid mosh in Sunken Reign (#2), and guitar flourishes & work around the kit in Hericide (#5). Dusk Abuse (#11) wraps things up nicely. This 2016 release has received support from multiple labels for the different formats, and these guys are delivering a superior product compared to their peers.

Short: straight up hardcore band dresses up as death metal band for Halloween, decides they like the outfits.

Corum – “Black Or White Orpheus 2: Place of The Hidden Sun” – [Lost Discoveries]

Louie Caliente   7/31/2016   A Library, Cassette

Corum is Grant Corum, a graphic designer, sound artist, and member of Million Brazilians and many other bands. On this cassette, he is inspired by Indian shrines and rituals, transcending time and reality, awakening higher levels of consciousness.

Looped breathy beats and shimmery atmospheric synths, very flowing and rhythmic. Lo-fi trance-like vocals. Lots of layers that combine, meld, and disorient. Reminded me of a mellower, more spiritual Black Dice.

Extensive liner notes liken singer and trickster Michael Jackson to a modern day Orpheus, a divine creature full of magic and a symbol of metamorphosis.

Lotions and Creams [coll] – [Ghoul House Records]

Louie Caliente   6/18/2016   A Library, Cassette

2014 West Coast Tour compilation cassette from these three heavy indie post-whatever bands.

Trumans Water: Odd-ball “squiggle-core” with a fast and fervent pace. Dissonant yet intricate guitar work. Definitely noise rock, but more rock than noise. Covers of MC5 (track 4) and Kinks (track 16) are simple and straight-forward, but still maintain a unique sound.

Octagrape: The most melodic of the bunch. Sing-songy hazy-dazy distortion-soaked rock with a SoCal beach feel. “Medicinal Glop” breaks the mold with a long psychedelic pop-punk meltdown.

Permanent Makeup: Florida post punk. Paranoid ranting lyrics. Aggressive and angular guitar riffs coupled with rumbling bass lines. Occasional improvisational breakdown.

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