Music Reviews

A Darker Shade of Grey [coll] – [Prank]

whngr   7/27/2022   A Library, CD

East Bay Crust Lords do battle with New Mexico Legends… everybody wins

Absolutely crushing Hardcore Punk / Thrash with Doom and Metal elements by two projects from New Mexico that were adapting exceptionally well to the changing sonic landscape. Grimple takes the slightly more conventional (at the time) approach with a blistering attack, mind shearing aggression, and shredded throats. Logical Nonsense unleashes a more technical offering with especially compelling (at the time) vocals that utilize the one shrieking, one bellowing mode made popular By Neurosis a few years prior with a bit of clean vocals and a single spoken word track (Track 16 “Untitled”) that provides an interesting though emphatically nihilistic palate cleanser after the barrage of suffering and malice unleashed by these two underground juggernauts.

This split was integral to my experience of life in the South Bay circa 1994. It is impossible to separate these tracks from my experience on this planet. So strong is the link of sound to memory, I am unable to stop from being propelled back in time. Just out of high school and overwhelmed with the gravity of adulthood, the miserable economy, lack of opportunities, and the ferocity of the music in “my scene”. I had taken 8 hits of liquid the summer of Junior year and my brain was absolutely fried. I had to abandon the drugs that had been my primary motivation for the few years prior and find whatever solace I could in the music that seemed to speak for me. In 1994 we were just post “Souls At Zero” which simply decimated the sonic landscape. Stripping bare our skeletal frames, our flesh turning to dust in a blast furnace of aural, and perhaps, cultural cataclysm. It was readily apparent that the future could never be the same and many of the musicians, bands, and artists felt that this was a changing of the guard and that intensity was the currency that provided salience. The gauntlet was at our feet and you either sat the fuck down and enjoyed the show, or your dug deep and stepped up to toe the line. I believe this album is an important response to a transformation happening in the scene, with both Grimple and Logical Nonsense answering the call to arms with their respective take on Crust/Hardcore Punk which, coincidentally, was something that Neurosis was moving away from. But we still wanted it. Christ, we needed that link to the past that was being torn asunder. Anarcho/Peace/Crust or whatever (Crass, Discharge, Rudimentary Peni, Extreme Noise Terror, Nausea, Amebix…) was a language we knew and trusted.. and we were not letting go… not yet anyway. Reveling in the visceral and evocative pushing of air and the dissemination of beliefs that were at merciless odds with the status quo and the “System” and musicians simply dripping with technical prowess. We worshipped at this altar. And however bleak the world was, however hopeless our lives were, no matter how far we might fall into this life devoid of meaning and filled with iniquity, crushed by a society that had no place for us, and doomed to fail in a ruthless game where the cards were stacked so high against us… we could put on A Darker Shade of Grey and feel just a little less alone. And we did. Over, and over, and over again. We would also see them when they rolled through or in Grimple’s case on the rare occasion when they would cross the bridge (so feverish was their East Bay pride and their Hispanic heritage) at a time when Oakland offered a very clear and present danger to punks, but they would cross the bridge on occasion, and they would slay… along with Logical Nonsense who were/are also of indigenous ancestry, contributing to the legitimacy of a message of oppression and of suffering. Something that was deeply respected in a scene built on woe. I didn’t intentionally stop listening to these bands but I had wallowed in these kind of sounds for years, neglecting compelling and incredible facets of a diverse sonic tapestry that I needed to explore… (curiosity killed the crust-punk) and contributed (unintentionally) to becoming a slightly more balanced human being, less bitter, cynical, and hopeless. Besides, I was thoroughly steeped in misery… absolutely fluent… and besides, this album was in my marrow.

Oakland / Santa Fe -1994


Track 1: fuckin’

Track 3: fucker, fuck, fuckin’, shit, bitch’

Track 4: fuckin’, fucking

Track 6: fuckin’, fuck

Track 7: fuckin’

Track 9: fuck, fuckin’

Track 10: fuckin’

Track 14: fuckin’, fuck

Track 15: fuck you (pig), fuckin’ (swine)

Nordvargr – “Pyrrhula” – [Cold Spring Records]

whngr   7/27/2022   A Library, CD

Haunting Dark Ambience

Medium to short length foreboding drones, creepy minimalism, and spooky abstractions from one Henrik Lennart Nordvargr Björk, who’s prodigious output under various titles (Pouppée Fabrikk, MZ. 412, All Hail the Transcendent Ghost, et al.) and genres has spanned more than three decades. Björk explores many different themes but appears to gravitate towards the turmoil of Europe in the 20th century and does so through myriad stylistic tributaries often employing electronic and synthesized sounds though he has stated that he prefers to record more traditionally, being drawn to the sounds of pedals and instruments over computer rendered audio. All tracks are heavy, deep, and quiet but if you’re not in the mood for stabbing into the darkness, might I suggest track 7, “Aryana of the Open Wound”.

Sweden – 2008

DJ Female Convict Scorpion – “A Taze Against Rhyme” – [Self Released]

whngr   7/27/2022   A Library, CD

Sound collage for the adventurous, dosed, and adventurously dosed. Colorful and composed.

A genuinely inscrutable sound buffet that defies all categorization though a tenuous thread of “jazz” seems to tie these heterogeneous tracks together. Soft trains, choral elements, film score, whimsical electronic musing, pitch shifting, sad smoky horns, echoes, swells, jabbing stoner bass, psych guitar, gentle latin jazz percussion, simulated (?) sitar, sad and subdued blues guitar, sullen violin, Nico (?),  and on, and on… Volunteers who enjoy eclecticism and the perversely atypical will revel in these profoundly odd but also seemingly refined tracks. Drugs? No drugs? The choice is yours, dear listener, but if or how one chooses to modulate their biochemistry they will find themselves on an unusual and fascinating journey. It is one with abstract twists and acute turns but there isn’t even a hint of sadism from Josh Pollock (3 Leafs, Daevid Allen’s University Of Errors). Like a coyote during a peyote voyage he will guide you through strange realms but offer no cruelty, not a hint of sadistic sentiment will be felt… until the final track (Jazz Losin’ It) when we are struck by a massive detuned threnody for fourteen seconds of doom before pitching us abruptly into some ragtime shuffle bits, overblown horns, more obtuse angles and aural genuflection.

San Francisco – 2021

K2 – “Demokratika Spastika” – [Rural Isolation Project]

whngr   7/27/2022   A Library, CD

Diverse Electronic Disorder

A wide variety of unsettling abstractions that feel like the dreams of a spiny lobster soaking in ice water in its final moments of life. Jarring yet psychedelic. A sense of foreboding, an eagerness for it to end, and a masochistic urge to hear what might happen next.

K2 is one Kusafuka Kimihide aka Gewaltische Anus and Sakishima-no-Labia has been active since the early 80’s, has over 200 releases credited to him, and currently resides in:

Shizuoka, Japan – 2022

The Burning Reprieve / Shifting Transcendental [coll] – [Martyrdoom Production]

whngr   7/27/2022   7-inch, A Library

Death Doom Deities

Witchrist of Auckland, NZ are, along with Diocletian, one of two bands that comprise a (sub)genre of Death Metal that they have deemed Doom Cult. Brutal, guttural, and low-end, Witchrist state that they are less musicians than practitioners of a “dark ritual” that is thematically centered around Hindu mythology, a theology that was part of the band’s upbringing. This is the murkier of the two sides, raw and without relent, sorrowful howling guitars add a haunting atmosphere to the sludge that rides just above the battering of double drumming and trash cymbal crashes. Occutorture (gtr) is also a member of active and excellent Death Metal project Distant Fear.

Antediluvian are a three-piece from Edmonton, Canada conceived of by Haasiophis (gtr/vx) and Mars Sekhmet (drms) in 2006. Guttural, brutal, and while very low-end employ more guitar slaying than the project on the reverse side of this 7″ (and the globe). Frenetic trem-picked runs soar and dive over a distinctive diaphragmal bellow. Haasiophis has an academic background and a profound interest in history, archaeology, and theology which informs the themes that inspire the un/holy direction of this project. Worthy of note is that Mars Sekhmet is also Nebel Torvum and that she has several compelling medieval/dungeon synth releases under this alias and Haasiophis is also known as Raphaim Specter in the project Black Death Cult, an active Black/Death/Doom project with interesting electronic accompaniment.

CA/NZ – 2014

Stelzer / Murray – “Commit” – [Helen Scarsdale Agency]

cinder   7/27/2022   12-inch, A Library

Duo project from Howard Stelzer & Brendan Murray. Fogged out, icy drones created by their subconscious. Murky, ominous, haunting and mysterious. Track 2 has a bit of The Black Lodge feel, with whipping shadows and ghostly words. Effected sounds, drenched in pedal delights. Hypnotizing dream states.

Forgiveness – “Forgiveness” – [Not Not Fun]

cinder   7/27/2022   A Library, Cassette

It’s a downtempo, trip hop excursion floating through magic hour pastel hazed clouds, straight from Moscow. Chilled, laid back beats in half time… the feeling after that first sip of Cabernet. Subtle, sublime, summer synthy splendiferous-ness.

Books, The – “Way Out, The” – [Temporary Residence Ltd.]

cinder   7/27/2022   A Library, CD

A humorous blend of electronics, strings, rhythm & cut up sounds. Duo of Paul de Jong and Nick Zammuto, out of New York. The story is that they’d scout out old home recordings, vhs and cassettes from estates, thrifts and sales to use as their samples. It creates a fun listen akin to People Like Us, Negativland & Bran Flakes with a dash of electronic quirk of Matmos. A few have some singing, on the indie tip. Laptop pop, with a twist!  

Taha, Rachid – “Diwan 2” – [Wrasse Records]

aarbor   7/27/2022   CD, International

Rachid Taha’s work has been in our library for 30 years. Diwan 2 from 2006 has Taha singing with an all-star lineup of musicians. The song lyrics are in French or in Arabic. He’s Algerian and grew up in France. His musical style has been called “Rock and Rai”. He wanted to sing the songs that influenced him and pay homage to his culture. On Diwan 2 the first two songs are from Blaoui Houari [2], a major star in Algeria in the 1950s, and Mohamed Mazouni [1], whose Ecoute Moi Camarade was discovered by Taha in his parents’ attic. They are updated with classy, rhythmic production work from Steve Hillage, making use of anything from hand drums to sweeping strings. Taha proves that he can handle slinky, declamatory songs and ballads. The best tracks are the two written by him and Hillage, [5,7] with the reed flute and percussion driving on his urgent vocals. AArbor

Morgan, Sally Anne – “Cups” – [Thrill Jockey Records]

aarbor   7/27/2022   A Library, CD

North Carolina multi-instrumentalist Sally Anne Morgan tills the soil of old timey music, folk practices old and new, and psychedelia to create music that reaches out beyond its roots. Cups dives headfirst into the waters of the Morgan’s unconscious mind and plumbs those depths for swells of fertile brilliance and awe. Cups includes both improvised and composed pieces. There’s pensive, looped fiddle, tiptoed banjo, sunny parlor guitar arpeggios, droning dulcimer and percussive ripples.
The pieces push outside the rigid bounds of the fiddle tunes that Morgan was raised on, and embrace the inspiration of a moment. Morgan’s composing and recording process was less centered on capturing the perfect take but on finding unique moments and combinations of sounds that reflect back distinct parts of herself. The steady strums of banjo and flutters of fiddle on “Prune” [2} were initially laid atop tambura which was subsequently removed from the piece to give a stronger sense of space and slower pace. Scattered glockenspiels speckle “Night Window” [1] as fiddle loops compound and the evening air spills through open cabin windows. “Through the Threshold” [6] recalls the fiddle tune “Sugar in the Gourd”. Cups, which is named for the tarot card of the same name, is a set of casual yet graceful pieces – devotionals to the mundane and everyday. Simple pleasures like home cooked soup after time spent away which becomes a joyful, sprawling dance of melodies [7]. Pythagoras [4] is about the dilemmas of pastoral life and the impending slaughter of her first ram. “Everything about these songs is deeply intuitive, from the gut, trying to not think about it with my conscious mind,” she says. “In many ways my path as a musician has been a slow lesson of turning off my thinking rational mind and learning to trust my body and subconscious.” AArbor,

Mystic Charm “Shadows Of The Unknown” [Nuclear War Now! Productions]

atavist   7/26/2022   12-inch, A Library

Slow- to mid-tempo doom with deathy elements, a pummeling march laden with a bit of atmosphere. There’s nothing extra. Riffs are laid down purposefully like chiseled stones to raise a rough-hewn tower from which the evil in this world can more clearly be seen. Earlier this year Nuclear War Now! Productions released this double LP, consisting of material recorded in 1994, 2001, and 2017. It takes its name and album cover artwork from the band’s only full-length release from 1994. In the middle of Side C, with the track “Hell Did Freeze Over”, the 2017 EP “Hell Did Freeze Over” begins. The “Hell Did Freeze Over” stuff was originally recorded in 2001, but the remaining band members working on it were dissatisfied with the result, so they brought back the original vocalist, Rini Lipman, in 2017 and completed it properly… A circuitous route for this double LP, to be sure. I suspect the effort was made because this group from the Netherlands, as sporadic as their output was over the years, were on to something. The vocals of Lipman in particular are exceptionally evil and paved the way for those who dared to follow. Where the 1994 tracks are raw and spare, the 2001/2017 tracks demonstrate additional refinement. Lipman’s vocals are maybe a bit more evil, and a different drummer ups the technical mastery. The tracks named after the releases are intro tracks, but otherwise you can drop in anywhere for a consistent execution of no-frills death-doom. FCCs tracks D1 and D3.

Sjunde Inseglet – “Kalontas Auton Pou Onomazetai Satanas Kai Diavolos” – [Ajna Records]

karma   7/26/2022   A Library, CD

2018 release by Sjunde Inseglet (lit. “The Seventh Seal”), occult/left-hand path project out of Sweden. Two tantric 20 and 24 minute tracks. The tracks feature tribal bells, drums, and gongs – but the nature sounds (e.g. ocean, volcano) on the tracks give the album an etheral, elemental quality. The cyclical beat gives a ritualistic feeling; the album name translates to “A Calling of the One Called Satan or the Devil.” Regardless of creed, anyone who likes dark instrumental music will enjoy the album. I’ll carry these tracks in my mind like they are a bowl brimming with fresh milk. The music could be simpler, or more complicated – but they’re enough for me.

Vic Bang – “Lira” – [Kit Records]

Max Level   7/25/2022   A Library, Cassette

Colorful, percussive, sample-based compositions by Victoria Barca aka Vic Bang, who is based in Buenos Aires. The tracks are crazy catchy and don’t sound much like anything I’ve heard before. The way the perky rhythms and ingenious sounds are assembled push my happy button bigtime. If this doesn’t put a wide smile on your face, I don’t know if we can be friends.

PTRKLLR – “Live in Earth” – [Self-release]

Max Level   7/25/2022   A Library, CD

PTRKLLR = Peter Keller who is doing improvised situational performances on this 2020 release, using whatever materials/objects are at hand. Anything can produce a sound; the trick is to hear it for what it is and use it. Celebrate it. A creaking wooden floor, a baseboard heater, a plastic water bottle, a discarded cardboard cutout of ABBA, leaves and grass… those are just a few of the sound sources used here. The artist uses terms such as “acoustic noise textures” and “gestural field recordings” to describe his work, and that should give you a pretty good idea of what’s going on here. lowercase noise with a capital lowercase L. Fantastic.

Bad Acid Trip / Benumb [coll] – [Agitate 96]

whngr   7/22/2022   7-inch, A Library

Nor Cal vs. So Cal Power Violence / Grind 

Explosions in the key of neural meltdown.

Strangeness (Bass breakdowns). Spit (Back of the throat). Some hooks (Bait the hook, catch a listener). Samples (B.A. Baracus). Short (Be diligent).

California – 2000

Basinski, William – “Silent Night” – [2062]

whngr   7/22/2022   A Library, CD

Synthesized Solstice Somnolence

Dulcet electronic hymns and loops that bathe the listener in angelic washes of sound that float and fade… but will leave you as unstained as the Virgin Mary’s britches…   and taper off entirely at 40 min 50 seconds giving us space and time (about 20 Minutes) to reflect on the remote sound of chirping insects, providing a kind of asymmetric cadence to the lilting and tranquil drones.

This “meditation on the birth of Jesus” is entirely composed on a Voyetra 8 synthesizer which apparently includes the (very convincing) mating sounds of insects. Which, unlike Mary, are able to exercise free will, allowing them to attempt to satiate their primal urges and conceive without divine intervention. This album could be subtitled: The Cricket Christ.

Slightly spooky cover art by James Elaine.

Texas – 2004(?) – 2014(?) – 2018(?)

Tlaotlon – “Squirt Image Flex” – [Trensmat Records]

cinder   7/21/2022   12-inch, A Library

Chaotic yet rhythmically cohesive. Layered sounds, pulsing, throbbing and churning through loopy electronics and sandy beats. Each texture glides through their own world, yet all come together in tendriled form. Vapor waved but with a side of coke. Enchanted vortex of swirls and twirls.

May, Ego Ella – “So Far” – [Tru Thoughts]

puplaif   7/20/2022   CD, Soul

Ego (pronounced eh-go) Ella May’ is a South London based singer and songwriter. She started writing in her early adolescence and got more serious with singing, guitar playing, and producing by her late teenage years. ‘So Far’  is an anthology of her recorded songs, compiled and re-released on Tru Thoughts in 2019. She considers the album to be a final farewell and shedding of her old self. Despite this departure, the tracks here represent an important passage in her evolution as an artist. Her balmy, incandescent vocals meld with compositions and beats cooked up by a number of contributing producers. Together they create a delectable fusion of neo soul, jazz, and alternative hip hop flavors. Her lyrics give you a little peak into what’s going on inside her head as she tells stories about love, music…the things that make the world go round.

Chaz Emphatic – “Base Layer Blues” – [Last Stab Records]

puplaif   7/20/2022   12-inch, A Library

Self-described moody, reflective, instrumental hip hop. Chaz Emphatic has been making music since 1992 as part of the underground rap collective, San Francisco Street Music (SFSM). In addition to SFSM and his solo work, he’s also involved in other collaborative projects on the Last Stab Records label such as Mummy Club. He’s very transparent about the equipment he uses (it’s listed on the back of the album and online) and he’s got a number of videos out there demonstrating his favorite tools for making beats. On Base Layer Blues, Chaz Emphatic draws samples from 90s hip hop, jazz fusion, and beyond, sculpting them into his own unique, beat-driven creations. There’s definitely sonic variety here, while the album as a whole hovers on the chiller side of vibrations. The tracks are mostly instrumental, featuring melodic guitars, saxophone, and keys paired with drum machine beats and periodic vocal blips.

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