Music Reviews

Hyrrokkin / Merzbow – “Faltered Pursuit” – [Sleeping Giant Glossolalia]

whngr   1/5/2022   12-inch, A Library

Weirdo freak-out three piece Hyrrokkin (Yellow Springs, Ohio) join forces with seminal noise project Merzbow (Tokyo, Japan) like an international, sonic sūpā robotto, four separate entities uniting into one electronic ultra-unit, sworn to perforate eardrums and undermine sensible sound appreciation. 

Side A consists of two slightly more subdued, though still raucous, tracks with conventional instrumentation employing poly-metered art rock bursts, processed accordion and diminutive electronics. The reverse is a more oblique collection of mid-weight electronic abstraction and sound collage with meandering, buried vocals and apparently is a remix of side A by one Rob Mazurek though without knowing such one might be hard pressed to hear the source material extant in the side long track.

The name Hyrrokkin is taken from Old-Norse mythology. She was a jötunn (an entity that is similar to a frost giant that is not necessarily dissimilar to a god or a troll) who played an important role in the last decades Iceland’s pagan beliefs.
Merzbow or Mertsubau is drawn from the Dadaist, Surrealist, Constructionist, work of Kurt Schwitters who informed Masami Akita’s interest in the junk art aesthetic.

Transglobal – 2021

Cougar On a Meth Binge – “Dreamy Pea, The” – [C.S. Hellmann]

whngr   1/5/2022   A Library, CD

Cougar On A Meth Binge is a bit of an antonym as the sultry, subdued sounds on “The Dreamy Pea” are pulled from lead singer Lauren Alegre’s dream diary and contain mellifluous, floating, lilting, minimal pop for the sleepy and somnambulant. Recorded at Savvy Rest Natural Bedroom, a mattress store in Berkeley, reinforcing a commitment to the extrusions of the subconscious. Track 4, “Cutie Face” has a slightly more driving rhythm but retains some of the drifting Alpha-wave subliminal exposition present in all of these beautifully sweet and woefully short tracks.

Oakland – 2018

Dissevelt, Tom & Kid Baltan – "Fascinating World of Electronic Music, The" – [We Are Busy Bodies]

cinder   1/5/2022   12-inch, A Library

A reissue of the great 1959 album from Dutch electronic musicians Tom Dissevelt and Kid Baltan. It’s spy noir jazz, electronic squiggles and squirms, playful rhythms, BBC Radiophonic Workshop-esque, 50’s Disney documentary & mid century futuristic visions all mixed together. Magical, charming and whimsical fun! Each track really tells a story with the layout of sounds and themes.

Century Plants – "Intrinsic Geometry Vol. 1" – [Tape Drift Records]

cinder   1/5/2022   A Library, CD

Duo out of New York. These improvised tracks were recorded without overdubs in August 2014 and April 2016. Drifting endlessly through haze covered hills and sun drenched highways. Guitar and electronic drone explorations that relax you into a deep hypnosis. Lovely textures and tendrils of wafty psych.

Blectum From Blechdom – "Deep Bone" – [Deathbomb Arc]

cinder   1/5/2022   12-inch, A Library

Duo of composed of Kevin Blechdom (Kristin Grace Erickson) and Blevin Blectum (Bevin Kelley). Quirky, magical and entertaining spunky electronic cacophonies of interesting sounds and whimsical treats! A few with effected vox in robotical ways. Super fun and playful.
Two covers – Jackie (written by Jacques Brel, Gérard Jouannest, and Mort Shuman), and Noise About Boys (Olsen Twins, haha) featuring Eugene S Robinson beat boxing (Oxbow)!   

Wasted Cathedral – "I'm Gonna Love You 'til The End of Time" – [Centripetal Force / Cardinal Fuzz]

cinder   1/5/2022   12-inch, A Library

Hypnotic, drifty and transcendal. Solo project of Saskatoon-based musician Christopher Laramee (Shooting Guns, The Switching Yard, and The Radiation Flowers). This is definitely one to bring together both the psych heads and the electronic peeps. It’s chill, has a downtempo vibe, but also uses droned guitars and pedals for a floating tendril feel. Has the perfect rainy day, window gazing, cozy blanket and hot sipping broth vibe. They say if you’re into Flying Saucer Attack, DJ Shadow, Spiritualized, and Portishead (no vocals) you’ll dig this and I agree. Lovely!  

Chaudhary, Amanda – “Meow Meow Band” [CatSynth Records]

Max Level   1/3/2022   A Library, CD

Good-natured, jazzy electronic pop from Bay Area mover and shaker Chaudhary and a talented cast of players. The first track is a mysterious invocation of some kind that sounds very different from the rest of the tracks, which tend to be bright and uptempo. Chaudhary’s keyboards and synths are the backbone of these tunes, some of which also feature nice saxophone work by Steve Adams of ROVA. The rhythm section (Jamaaladeen Tacuma on bass guitar and G. Calvin Weston on drums) shines throughout. Tracks 3 and 5 are instrumentals and track 6 is mostly so. Those are the tracks I prefer.

Grouper – “Shade&” – [Kranky]

humana   1/3/2022   A Library, CD

Liz Harris is Grouper, and sadcore is one of the ways her music is described. I would say it does appeal to the sadness within, especially “Ode to the Blue” (3). Her folksy, high-pitched voice and lovely guitar (both of which find their element in track 2) will appeal to many (especially fans of Marissa Nadler). The last track is my favorite because it is more melodic and less hazy than some of the other tracks. Although I have no idea whether Grouper refers to the fish, it seems an apt moniker for this music that is “heavy-bodied” and “found in warm seas”–Harris’ voice may stir sadness, but the feelings it stirs are warm.

Platonos, Lena – “Balancers” – [Dark Entries]

humana   1/3/2022   12-inch, A Library

These are poems set to electronic backgrounds that were recorded between 1982 and 1985 by Greek electronic musician, composer, and poet Platonos. The liner notes describe the meaning and inspiration of each song, which is nice for those who can’t understand the very earthy Greek. A couple just have field sounds and electronics, while most of them focus on the spoken words of the poems set to minimal aural backgrounds. These previously unreleased tracks fill a nostalgic niche.

Gateway “Flesh Reborn” [Chaos Records]

atavist   1/3/2022   A Library, CD

Descend into the black cavern and hear the voices rise echo around you in a foul greenish glow—thundering drums, viscous guitars. Belgium’s Gateway craft the massive doom-hammer riff and frequently ratchet the tempo up to a solid gallop. There are some instances of odd vocal textures paired with the rancid crypt breath. The first three tracks are relatively short and quickly unfurl the pummeling onslaught. The title track, in contrast, is the longest and closes out the 26 minute EP, a mournful dirge that, in time, introduces a ghastly riff, but otherwise keeps the tempo low and the atmosphere thick with decay. 

Aldebaran “…From Forgotten Tombs” [Kreation Records]

atavist   1/3/2022   12-inch, A Library

This 12” from 2008 compiles tracks from a couple of this Portland, Oregon doom band’s early 7” and split releases (plus a cover of “The Ghoul” by Pentagram). A little stonery, a bit crusty, all cranked into the red and heavy. Appropriately foul vocal stylings, guitars perpetually on the verge of careening into unrestrained feedback. They dig Lovecraft, and track 3, “They Bend the Trees and Crush the Cities” is instrumental save a Yog Sothoth incantation audio sample. “Aldebaran Red” is the big epic track, and “Tower of Famine” has a bluesy riff that gives way, in the middle, to a wild sprint before stumbling, as if catching its breath, into thick plodding doom. “The Ghoul”, with its satisfyingly ghoulish lyrics, closes out a consistent record. Every track does the trick.

Nadja “Sonnborner” [Broken Spine]

atavist   1/3/2022   12-inch, A Library

Two contrasting sides of a 12” from the stalwart minimalist guitar dronescape pioneers Nadja. Side A, played at 33rpm, is a 21.5 minute sonic landscape that slowly builds and builds from a quiet, somber beginning into a classic Nadja wall of sound via plaintive swells of strings. Having led the listener through the storm, the track fades out into an extended passage of haunting strings. Side B, played at 45rpm, consists of three quick, high-tempo and high-energy tracks followed by a slow tempo closer. Though distinct, the side B tracks essentially run together—the pauses between them are almost non-existent. Slabs of distorted drone wash with pounding programmed drums cut through with straight up metal riffs. Ghostly whispered growling vocals amidst a wash of echo. “Stillborn (A Fragment)” provides a respite from the onslaught, sunlight breaking through the thunderheads—but it clocks in under 2 minutes. Sunborn (Coda) wraps up the album with a return to Nadja’s typical tempo, eluding to side A before sinking under its own weight. This release sees Nadja trying out new textures and compositional structures and the result is moving and intriguing.

Bullwackies All Stars -Dub Unlimited – [BCP]

Thee Opinataur   12/31/2021   12-inch, Reggae

These dubs are from some of Lloyd ‘Bullwackie’ Barnes’s earliest recording years at the original White Plains Road studio in NY. Most of them reworked singles from various labels with the core rhythm tracks straight from Jamaica. The sound quality on all of these is good, clean, solid sound. But I sense they may also have lost some of the original grittiness in the digital transfer. Good track diversity, with soothing, relaxed dubs and hypnotic rhythms to fat & funky chill-out beats. Two to four-minute dubs to mellow out and lay back to.

Originally released in 1976 on his Senrab label (Barnes spelled backward) Re-released in 2006 by Berlin duo Moritz Von Oswald & Mark Ernestus via Basic Channel.
Barnes was a protege of Prince Buster while in Jamaica and played his engineering roots at Treasure Isle studios before moving to New York. Wackies was one of the first Reggae labels based in the US and is still going strong today.- Thee Opinataur

Kasai, Toshi – “Plan D NE” – [Joyful Noise Recordings]

whngr   12/16/2021   12-inch, A Library

Percussive Analog Synth from the industrious visionary Toshi Kasai of Big Business, Altamont, Deaf Nephews, engineer, producer, and collaborator of and with innumerable projects from Melvins, Totimoshi, Helmut, to Tool, et.alia, explores an anachronistic fantasy world evoking drug-addled dragons, alien psy-ops, aquatic sleep paralysis, and more artifice of one’s subconscious mind in a universe of seemingly unconstrained creativity that despite often feeling improvisational still flirts with the obsessive mad artist trope that I tend to enjoy.

A kind of sound engineer’s sandbox, Kasai employs several drummers from his esteemed (and varied) circle to ensconce themselves in his sonic throne festooned with MIDI triggers while he fondles his copious collection of analog synthesizers that can resolve to a sort of svelte prog. Only two instruments but with layers and complexity that may send some of you back to that Love In back in ’72 when you mixed your opium with your acid, felt your mind dissolve as the oil-lamps churned… and sound became your savior or perhaps more currently, a Nyquil overdose filled with aural hallucinations and irregular heartbeats.

You’ll probably dig this album in headphones. There are some spatial aspects that bend the mind and while the mixing feels carefully considered, the performances are at times chaotic and frenzied, while the element of improvisation (ostensibly) lends a note of immediacy existing simultaneously under a highly buffed post-production polish. There is courage and honesty in the arrangements and a sense that giving yourself up to the moment will yield otherwise unattainable results. Is it art or an exercise, an installation or a happening? Whatever it is, it isn’t easy… benefits from multiple listens, may be unrepeatable, and has no rival… excepting the other three three slabs from the four EP set, coming soon.

Los Angeles – 2021

Computer – “American Digital Prayer” – [Skrot Up]

whngr   12/15/2021   12-inch, A Library

A buffet of mostly palatable sound collage with a sprawling variety of sonic ingredients dumped on our plates and swirled with a wry wink, a nod, and perhaps even a résumé. 

Possibly the most diverse (neuro-divergant?) collection of sounds this volunteer has attempted to review on two side-long tracks. Profoundly bizarre, slightly humorous, abstract, and oblique sounds that tend to be unnerving but rarely dissonant and even more infrequently harsh. I, for one, found the country western vocal with guitar accompaniment portion on side A to be the most unsettling (about 25 seconds worth all told), but you may find the chicken clucks, soliloquy, monolog, lecture, and dialog between, intellectuals, lunatics, distressed townies, and artificial intelligences to be more disturbing. A leaning tower of previously unrelated sounds are sewn together with a thread of digitally generated abstractions including hip-hop, clip-clop, samples, and simple pimple problem goblins, dog barks, drowning sharks, sinking arks, and shimmering digital trouble bubbles. Side B is moderately less disjointed and a skosh more serene but contains many of the same elements and may still test the aurally thin skinned among us.

Computer is Kyle Borodkin (marketing/front-end developer, game designer, with (a) “demonstrated history of working in the airlines/aviation & GIS [Graphic Information Systems] industries”) of Seattle (now living in the Bay Area) and cohorts, James Vail, John Laux. Self ascribed on Discogs as:

Experimental, Abstract, Donk, Ghettotech, Happy Hardcore, Footwork, Gabber, Halftime, Rhythmic Noise, Musique Concrète, Vaporwave, Sound Collage, Psy-Trance, Leftfield, Skweee, Ambient, Dialogue, Comedy, Experimental, Sound Art, Field Recording, Ghettotech, Noise, Therapy, Special Effects, Sermon, Religious, Rhythmic Noise, Public Service Announcement

Originally released on cassette on April 1, 2020, this LP comes to us in late 2021 (about a year after we received the cassette) on Skrot Up and gives “special thanks” Stephen Spielberg’s 1971 action-thriller “Duel” on their bandcamp.


Cold Wave [coll] – [Soul Jazz Records]

cinder   12/15/2021   12-inch, A Library

Another killer compilation from Soul Jazz. This features current electronic acts that have all been influenced in sound by the early European cold wave artists of the late 70s and early 80s. Drum machines, lo-fi recording techniques, no wave post punk faux dance beats. Mostly instrumentals, some with vox. Cited influences call to Suicide, Patrick Cowley, The Normal, Martin Hannett, Laurie Anderson & Public Image. Soul Jazz always providing the best!

CIA Debutante – "Music For Small Rooms" – [Ever / Never]

cinder   12/15/2021   12-inch, A Library

Duo of Nathan Roche & Paul Bonnet out of France. It’s murky, lurky, stalker-like electronics with deadpan blase vocals. Ooooey gooey textures and gurgley synths with hints of The Shadow Ring & Cabaret Voltaire. Listen with one eye open, as they might be crouching in the darkness behind you.

Headboggle – "Digital Digital Analog" – [Ratskin Records]

cinder   12/15/2021   12-inch, A Library

Local San Franciscan, Derek Gedalecia creates modern day “library music”! But seriously, it’s magical, quirky, bouncy, soundtrack-esque, synth lounge electronics. MIDI and digital synths as well as a Steinway grand piano create the sounds behind the title “digital digital analog”, as well as it being recorded and processed digitally, and pressed onto vinyl – analog. Shorter tracks, mostly under a minute each, of zippity zappaty rhythmical excursions. It’s adorable, cheerful and delightful – a rainbow lit floating carousel of smiles in the sky! 

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