People Like Us is the type of artist that I could just go on forever about, I seriously think Vicki Bennett’s audio and visual collage work has been a major influence on how I perceive reality. Her works typically combine stock footage, common-knowledge melodies and glitch noises, subverting sounds and images you might have seen and heard many times before and take for granted, and turning them into something surreal and special. A lot of her work is available for free download online, but the releases that have particularly rewired my brain the most are Abridged Too Far and Wide Open Spaces, so start with those first.
This DVD is the latest of PLU’s ongoing collaborations with Ergo Phizmiz, a like-minded sound collage artist, who also has tons of music available for free download online, and who specializes in warped covers of pop music (such as this collection of R&B/hip-hop covers, plus the entire VU White Light/White Heat album). He also sometimes releases his own quirky offbeat solo material, such as the recent Eleven Songs album. He has a really dry, deadpan style, sort of like Ivor Cutler, but combined with songwriting closer to Syd Barrett or Robyn Hitchcock. Previous PLU/Ergo collaborations have resulted in truly warped meldings of sampled material (just try and not lose your mind during “Social Dance Song”, along with songs utilizing the duo’s own vocals (sometimes silly, such as “Gary’s Anatomy”, other times surrealist and touching, such as “Withers In The Whist”, both on Rhapsody In Glue). On this DVD, the duo creates split-screen film collages (leaning heavily on Dali and The Marx Brothers, among others) and creates a soundtrack, less sample-driven than their previous works, but freely borrowing from and lapsing into familiar melodies, and occasionally featuring their own vocals. It sounds a little closer to Ergo’s works than Vicki’s. Musically, the most touching moment is “Magic”, which repeats the lyric “I’ll never forget the moment we kissed” until it just drills itself into you, as well as quoting the standard “That Old Black Magic”. Along with the DVD’s final track, “Moon” (which cribs from gospel hymn “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”), it’s also been released on a blue vinyl 7″ which is also well worth owning. The audio for this DVD is available as a free download on the Illegal Art website, but the DVD versions of the songs have added sound effects as well as visuals, so the download works as a soundtrack without the incidental sounds. Still worth grabbing and listening to on its own merit, especially since it’s free. Lovely, amazing stuff as always from PLU, and if all the free downloads of her music that I’ve linked aren’t enough for you, she also does radio on WFMU sometimes with a show called Do Or DIY, and she also curated Radio Boredcast last year, 744 hours of audio focusing on slowness and our ambiguous relation with time.
Still making my way through all the Constellation Tatsu promos I’ve had on my laptop for months. I’m pretty sure at least one of them was supposed to be some sort of soundtrack, and listening to this one, I thought this was it, but I don’t think it actually is. The presence of several variations on the main theme throughout the tape make it feels like one. But basically it’s a half hour of languid guitar instrumentals, with occasional synth washes. Everything’s under the 4 minute mark, and mostly pretty melodic, so it establishes an idea quickly and moves on, but sometimes returns to a certain idea, such as the title themes or the tracks called “Dirt Swell”, which have an appropriately swirly distorted guitar sound. Kind of spacey, but in a contained sort of way, if that makes sense.
So the fact that SLGTM has reformed with a new lineup, is playing shows again, and will be releasing a new album this May, is certainly welcome, exciting news for sure. But something at least as exciting is the fact that Polyvinyl has reissued some of the band’s earliest material on vinyl. The band’s self-titled album was originally released on vinyl on a mysterious label called Hereforeveralways (which would end up being the name of one of my favorite His Name Is Alive songs a few years later), but then was given an expanded CD reissue on Fred Thomas’s previous, now-defunct label, Ypsilanti Records. I bought that in college when I first got into this band, and it’s always been a favorite of mine, being a weirder, not-quite-developed version of the band that released All Your Summer Songs and Every Night. So now having this album on blue marbled vinyl is flooding back a lot of memories. Similar to Stars On ESP-era HNIA, this band has sort of a warped time-machine take on ’60s pop, sort of taking Phil Spector’s wall of sound to a not-necessarily-logical conclusion, and allowing bits of dub, noise, Afrobeat and whatever else seep in. The whole album is incredible, but the majority of the first side is just truly mindblowing to me, still to this day. It starts with a different, Ted Leo-less version of “Ambulance”, with no drums and lots of noisy dub delay. This goes into “I Wish I Could Cry”, which Erika Hoffmann-Dilloway sings, and is just a really crazy over-distorted bopping early rock-and-roll style song. “Ladder” is another gloriously echo-drenched song, with lots of midnight sax and a bit in the middle where the two vocalists do a brief spoken dialogue part. After this is a short song called “Obstacle” which carries on the melody from “Ladder”, and this segues perfectly into “Everyday” a truly incredible song which just goes off the deep end with distortion and delay and dub effects during the second part of the song. I just love this sort of weird dub-noise-pop that SLGTM did so well back in the day that nobody else really seemed to do anything like. I don’t want to go through every track on this album, but they’re all great, there’s some slow jams, some more confused/disturbed type moments, some crazy distortion effects, and some bird calls. It’s essential. If you didn’t buy the CD release, you can get it on vinyl now, so do it. Also now out on vinyl is Love Will Find You, which I think was supposed to be released on Polyvinyl around the time of All Your Summer Songs, but ended up only being given a really limited CDR release at one show, or something like that. If you’ve been following the band all this time, you’ll probably recognize most of the songs in some form or another, as a bunch of them have been on singles, compilations, other albums, and the Sound On Sound rarities CD comp that Redder Records released in 2006. But this vinyl issue has 19 tracks worth of rare early SLGTM, including a vastly superior version of “Diary” to the one that Polyvinyl released on a CD EP in 2003. There’s also lots of Erika vocals, all the “Store” songs (“Liquor Store”, “Record Store”, “Pet Store”), and a whole bunch of songs on side B of this record that weren’t on the original CDR (not that I had a copy of that anyway). And different version of “We Can’t Work It Out” (this one has a drum machine) and “Lift Me Up” and “Just Keep Walking” than the ones on Every night. I feel like there’s a couple songs I hadn’t heard before, or at least they didn’t stand out to me before, like “Parking Lot Blues” and “I Get So Excited”. Anyway, another incredible reissue, so glad to own both of these on vinyl now.
Isengrind/TwinSisterMoon/Natural Snow Buildings: The Snowbringer Cult (Students of Decay, 2008/reissued Ba Da Bing, 2013)March 31, 2013 at 2:36 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment
I guess I’ve been missing out on Natural Snow Buildings, they’ve been releasing CD-Rs for over a decade, and only in recent years have there been larger-scale CD and vinyl releases. Last year Ba Da Bing reissued a triple CDR from 2008 called Night Coercion Into The Company Of Witches, and I dug what I heard from that when we got it at the radio station, but now we got this double CD featuring music from both the duo’s solo projects as well as NSB proper, and I’m pretty enthralled by the whole thing. The general tone seems to be dark psychedelic raga-drone-folk, with sitars and flutes and some percussion. The Isengrind tracks tend to feature far-off wordless vocals and small handheld rattly percussion, while the TwinSisterMoon tracks tend to feature more pounding drum rhythms, and harsh droning textures mixed with gentle acoustic melodies. There’s also a few tracks of fragile, close-miked acoustic folk, sort of like Vashti Bunyan, but with more of an amplified contact mic sort of feel. The disc’s final track, “Understars”, has a more distorted vocal and just a really heartbreaking melody. Just an absolutely devastating song. The second disc, which is all Natural Snow Buildings, obviously has a little bit more of a fuller sound, being a collaborative project instead of solo, and there’s a bit more room to stretch out, with a few tracks topping 10 minutes. Again, just really dark, transformative, hypnotic drones. Being 4 vinyl LP’s worth of music, it’s a lot to digest, but it’s easy to get lost in, so this has been on repeat a lot more than most things I listen to for review purposes. Incredible stuff.
3:01 AM timezone ~ world destruction (original 12″ mix) ~ change the beat: the celluloid records story 1979-1987 ~ strut/celluloid
3:06 AM xander harris ~ undead armageddon ~ poison belt ~ synthseries
3:10 AM isengrind ~ wooden false face ~ the snowbringer cult ~ ba da bing
3:15 AM primitive motion ~ flow form ~ two ellipses ~ a guide to saints
3:21 AM benoit pioulard ~ margin ~ hymnal ~ kranky
3:26 AM destruction unit ~ exterminate ~ void ~ jolly dream
3:29 AM blank realm ~ working on love ~ go easy ~ fire records
3:33 AM saturday looks good to me ~ your small heart ~ love will find you (red vinyl reissue) ~ polyvinyl
3:35 AM the shivas ~ thrill yr idols ~ whiteout ~ k
3:39 AM bill baird ~ les paul pointillistic ~ spring break of the soul ~ pau wau records
3:42 AM la big vic ~ charlotte francis practice ~ cold war ~ underwater peoples
3:47 AM wild belle ~ love like this ~ isles ~ columbia
3:50 AM amatorski ~ 22 februar ~ tbc ~ crammed discs
3:55 AM steve coleman and five elements ~ cardiovascular ~ functional arrhythmias ~ pi recordings
4:00 AM curtis hasselbring ~ make anchor babies ~ number stations ~ cuneiform
4:05 AM dylan ryan/sand ~ mayan sun ~ sky bleached ~ cuneiform
4:07 AM fela kuti ~ expensive shit ~ the best of the black president 2 ~ knitting factory
4:20 AM el rass + hamorabi ~ souret sourya ~ khat thaleth ~ stronghold sound
4:23 AM jerusalem in my heart ~ yudaghdegh el-ra3ey walal-ghanam (he titillates the shepard, but not the sheep…) ~ mo7it al-mo7it ~ constellation
4:28 AM guapo ~ tremors from the future ~ history of the visitation ~ cuneiform
4:39 AM bogdan raczynski ~ side a ~ i will eat your children too! ~ rephlex
4:46 AM beastie boys ~ negotiation limerick file (ganja kru rmx) ~ 12″ ~ capitol
4:52 AM knifehandchop ~ i’m sorry miss pollard ~ respect to all the haters ~ tigerbeat6
4:56 AM christoph de babalon ~ appetite4destruction ~ attitude ~ tigerbeat6
5:00 AM xander harris ~ the piper of soggoth ~ grave command: all hallowed hymns ~ unseen forces
5:03 AM mozzart ~ devil’s rendezvous ~ 12″ misprinted with the wrong record’s label on it ~ popular records
5:10 AM adrian younge/the delfonics ~ stand up ~ adrian younge presents the delfonics ~ wax poetics
5:13 AM charles bradley ~ confusion ~ victim of love ~ daptone
5:16 AM fol chen ~ a tourist town ~ false alarms ~ asthmatic kitty
5:20 AM carmen villain ~ made a shell ~ sleeper ~ smalltown supersound
5:24 AM hookworms ~ what we talk about ~ pearl mystic ~ gringo records
5:30 AM william tyler ~ we can’t go home again ~ impossible truth ~ merge
5:36 AM low ~ amethyst ~ the invisible way ~ sub pop
5:41 AM dump ~ christmas card ~ superpowerless ~ morr music
5:45 AM thalia zedek band ~ go home ~ via ~ thrill jockey
5:49 AM colleen green ~ heavy shit ~ sock it to me ~ hardly art
5:51 AM patrick elkins/chelsea jordan ~ pony modifications ~ pills in my pocket ~ toothless eyeball
5:52 AM the history of colour tv ~ mend ~ emerald cures chic ills ~ saint marie records
Thanks to Yola Fatoush for stopping by the studio for a mix/live set for the first hour!
10:00 PM isao tomita ~ arabesque no. 1 ~ snowflakes are dancing
10:05 PM yola fatoush ~ LIVE IN WCBN STUDIO!!!
11:00 PM long distance poison ~ signal i/ii (shawn parke rmx)
11:05 PM villa ~ mint (instrumental edit)
11:08 PM µ-ziq ~ vinxel
11:14 PM james t cotton ~ on time
11:21 PM sticky ~ pedal riddim
11:26 PM phon.o ~ black boulder (scntst rmx)
11:29 PM vision ~ vortex
11:34 PM m geddes gengras ~ night work
11:38 PM marcel dettmann ~ linux
11:42 PM k hand ~ i can’t take you leaving me
11:47 PM polysick ~ citylights
11:52 PM juju & jordash ~ powwow
11:53 PM two lone swordsmen ~ rico’s helly
New solo kosmische synth project of Jimy SeiTang of Psychic Ills and Rhyton. Abandons the jammy psych-rock of his other bands for free-flowing synth explorations, and a few beat excursions. “Celestial Stems” starts things off and basically describes itself, a shimmering star-gazing beatless mood-setter. “Hindsight” ventures into pastoral downtempo techno, with lush synths and cavernous dripping effects. “Drift” has blippy beats and kind of a cool snarl to the synths, sort of feeling like it’s strutting past you wearing pitch-black shades, but not entirely in an aggressive or cocky way. “Taiga” has a similar type of cool electro-pulse, with gently pulsating arpeggios and some icy synths making their way to the forefront at about 2 minutes in, and remaining there for the rest of the track, growing a bit more towards the end. “Athanor Ascension” gets slightly more sinister, with a tense bassline and slow but considered beat structure. A few shades/patterns of synth textures are layered, leaving you with a clever stargazey sequence as the track ends. “Fade Into Bolivian” ends the album on a real ponder-the-cosmos note, with some very sci-fi alien-seeking synths, plus some birdcalls and dripping rainfall for good measure. Overall, a really good synth album, not too high-concept or complex, but appropriately cosmic and cool, without being too cool for school.
This was my 7th trip to Austin for SXSW, but the first one that I actually drove down there instead of flying. It’s also the first one where I brought a camera and tried to take a bunch of photos. I just got a digital camera recently and I’m still sort of learning how to use it, so bear with me here.
We had just arrived in Austin the previous afternoon after driving for a day straight, and none of the SXSW shows really started until Tuesday, so Monday was just a driving around Austin and record-shopping kinda day. Unfortunately a bunch of cool stores have closed since the last time I visited Austin (namely Backspin Records and Cheapo Records), but my favorite store, End Of An Ear, is still there.
We walked around South Austin for a bit and looked around at some other buildings.
Not too much happened this day, mostly just wandering around downtown waiting for stuff to start happening. We went to the Texas State History Museum for a bit, went to some steampunk bar and saw ASSACRE, I went to The Hideout and saw Twigs & Yarn (whose album I reviewed for Foxy Digitalis) and then ended up at Barcelona and saw Dark Sky and Jimmy Edgar and Travis Stewart (aka Machinedrum).
Lots more wandering around and taking photos of stuff. I got up early so I could see Sun Araw at 1PM (who were 2 guys this time instead of a solo project the first 2 times I saw him and a full band the last time, and had a bit more of a dancey sound this time out), saw Ducktails at the Fader Fort (who have become a full band since last time I saw him, a few years ago at a friend’s house in New Brunswick, NJ), saw Troller twice (awesome band, review of their LP coming soon), was going to see Jandek but he cancelled, so I went to Elysium and saw Andy Stott and John Talabot instead. Andy Stott absolutely killed it, he started out with the slower Luxury Problems type tracks, then accelerated to more breakbeat-heavy stuff, like the stuff he did a few years ago under the name Andrea. I only stayed for half of John Talabot’s set, but it sounded pretty good.
First thing I did this day was see ’70s Detroit proto-punk legends DEATH, who played a free afternoon show at what used to be Emo’s. They have a documentary about them now, which I hadn’t heard anything about up here in Michigan, so maybe it hasn’t been playing anywhere here, or maybe I just haven’t been paying attention. But their incredible album …For The Whole World To See was recorded in 1975 and finally released in 2009, and now they’re doing the whole reunion thing and releasing a new album soon. After that, I saw Disclosure, who played live keyboards and electronic drums, and sang one or two songs themselves, but most of the vocals were by female vocalists who weren’t present, so they were just played as samples. I also saw Destruction Unit at the suggestion of Kristin, and I also went to a juke/footwork party at a small art gallery on Congress Avenue. There seems to be a pretty active juke scene in Austin, and they have legit connections with the Chicago scene, as evidenced by this compilation and the fact that they got DJ Spinn to play at this party. There was a good circle of footwork dancing when I first got to the party, so I took a few pictures of that, but then it sort of faded away and they stopped playing footwork music until DJ Spinn got on the decks towards the end. The Bug was supposed to play two sets that night, and I went to the earlier one so I could catch the last bus back to my friend’s apartment so I wouldn’t have to stay late and catch a taxi, but he never showed up to the early set (he did show up to the later one and I wish I’d made it out for that one because Zac said it was incredible). We were also supposed to interview The Bug the next afternoon but he never showed up to that either.
Well, me and Zac were supposed to interview The Bug, but the promoter and label were having troubles getting in touch with him, so he was a no-show. So I hunted around for some grub and ended up at a day party that JD Twitch (of Optimo), Jackmaster and Rustie were DJ’ing at. JD Twitch and Optimo both played awesome sets, but the sound wasn’t always so great and the crowd wasn’t always into it. I’m not a huge fan of Rustie’s music, but his set sounded really good, and the crowd was really pumped. The main thing I was excited about Friday, however, was the Not Not Fun showcase at the Hideout. NNF has been doing at least one showcase at SXSW for a few years now, and every one I’ve been to has been amazing. In previous years I saw Ducktails, Robedoor, Sun Araw, Barn Owl, Pocahaunted, Dylan Ettinger, Umberto, High Wolf and others. This year the major draw (for me, at least) was Xander Harris, but every set was incredible.
This was the last day of shows at SXSW, the next day we started driving back to Michigan. We saw Jad Fair in the backyard of some bar, there were maybe 20 people there tops, and he didn’t like how soundcheck was going so he just played his unplugged electric guitar right in front of the crowd, and it was awesome. I saw Bernie Worrell (keyboard genius from Parliament/Funkadelic, Talking Heads, etc.) at another outdoor backyard show, and even though there were a lot of sound problems at that one too, his set was also great. He said at one point that George Clinton might show up if he made it through the traffic, but that never happened. After that I saw a bit of a set by Kid Congo Powers (who was in The Cramps, The Gun Club, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and a ton of other bands). I also saw Octant, an artist who programs robots to play instruments for his live show. I have his first album from the late ’90s and I liked it a lot, so it’s cool that he’s still around. The main thing I was excited about this night was the Moog showcase at Elysium. Austin’s synth store Switched On sponsored this, and they had demos of a bunch of newer Moog synths at the show. The first artist I saw at this show was Kontravoid, who was okay, but the second was S U R V I V E, who were mindblowing. And after that was Xeno & Oaklander, who I’ve wanted to see for a long time, and they were awesome as well.
Elliot Bergman from NOMO started a group with his sister Natalie. They released an excellent 12″ a year ago (the first and last tracks on this album), and now they’re on a major label, playing major TV shows, and just getting the major “up-and-coming band” hype. As a longtime NOMO fan, this project definitely sounds like a logical extension of that band’s sound into the realm of pop music. There’s still the tight Afrobeat rhythms and horns, some dubby reggae elements, but a bit more streamlined and poppy than NOMO. Natalie’s vocals do a sleek neo-soul thing, kind of like Amy Winehouse but not nearly as much of a powerhouse. Elliot takes the mic during “When It’s Over”, warning someone that “he’s no good for you”. Otherwise, it’s Natalie’s show. 1, 8, 10 are the most reggae-heavy cuts, 4 is maybe the most Afrobeat-inspired. Really a solid album, I’m curious if it’ll actually live up to the hype.
I reviewed one of this guy’s older albums for the radio station a few years ago, but that was more of a droney experimental thing. This one is sunny, beachy indie-pop, with detailed instrumentation and quirky, playful humor. The first side of this 2LP monster contains a chillwave cover of Christopher Cross’s “Sailing”, which you think would’ve happened in 2009, but somehow it didn’t. It’s actually kind of perfect. On side 2, “Sewage Sirens” segues into “Bow Down To The Brain”, and both have pitched down vocals which definitely bring to mind Ween. Which makes me consider that this album might be a modern, post-chillwave era update of The Mollusk, with a pleasant spring break theme replacing shiver-me-timbers piratry. “Lost At Sea” is a bright, echo-heavy pop song with lots of pianos and cellos. Tracks 7-10 are mostly instrumental, with “Big Sur Reverie” being more light and uptempo, and “Marooned” sounding appropriately lost. “Black Fritz” is more lowdown and bluesy, with distorted guitar licks and cello. “Lake Eerie” features more heavy, deep strings, but in a twisted, sinister manner. “Shave” brings back vocals, with a laidback beat and more strings, and this beat leads into “Blob”, a spoken word rant about mass consumerism, which seems to introduce a story but I’m not sure if the rest of the songs are supposed to be part of that story. “Inflated Head” is another brief spoken word piece over some clanky percussion. “Les Paul Pointillistic” is another jaunty guitar instrumental which again can’t help but bring to mind Ween for some reason. The album ends with “Santa Claus Of The South”, another fuzz-heavy epic with a hidden ending.