Phill Niblock: Touch Five (Touch, 2013)

October 24, 2013 at 12:22 am | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Phill Niblock: Touch Five

Phill Niblock: Touch Five

Celebrating his 80th birthday this month, here’s the newest work by legendary minimalist drone composer Phill Niblock. His drones are microtonal; on the surface, it might just sound like one note played endlessly, but listen deeper and there’s plenty of subtle changes and alterations. It’s a thick cloud of drone, but you can tell that it’s still being played by humans, even while it’s being manipulated by tape or computer. “FeedCorn Ear” is a cello piece and does subtly progress, it definitely ends up on a higher tone than it starts. “A Cage Of Stars” is a piece for electric harp, which is bowed and doesn’t sound at all like a harp; it’s a longform drone which very gradually adds and subtracts notes, in a very hypnotic way. The second disc consists of 3 different performances of the piece “Two Lips”, each by different guitar quartets: Zwerm, Dither and Coh Da. This piece is played by musicians listening to tones through headphones, and playing what they’re hearing. There’s two different simultaneous scores, but the musicians are all in the same room and playing together, unaware of what’s being played in the other artists’ headphones. Half the group is playing a straightforward tone, gradually shifting and adding microtonal embellishments; the other half of the group is doing the opposite, starting out by adding variations but then gradually playing a straightforward tone. Of the three versions, the Dither recording seems to be the most tense and dissonant, with Coh Da’s being the most downcast and dreary. Zwerm’s is maybe more balanced than the other two, and might have the most noticeable variation, but it’s hard to tell.

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LX Sweat: City Of Sweat LP (Not Not Fun, 2013)

October 16, 2013 at 11:37 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

LX Sweat: City Of Sweat LP

LX Sweat: City Of Sweat LP

As if the artist/title combo weren’t enough, the “Windowlicker”-esque pitched-down “awwwww” that opens this album lets you know that you’re in for something NASTY. This is where NNF enters the hazy, heavily vocodered R&B makeout zone. It’s not straight up R&B per se, but it’s slow, sensuous, and (obviously) dripping with sweat. Really detailed bump-and-grind beats and arpeggiated synths, and masked robotic vocals. “We Can Make It” takes a detour into syrup-doused disco, and the track actually called “Syrup Ritual” is even more slowed and slurred. “Addicted To Your Love” is where things start to turn from lust to desperation, and “XXXXXX XXXXX XXXX XXXXXXX” sinks deeper into this, slowing down a Minnie Riperton sample and reveling in a sulking, sluggish tempo. While LX Sweat uses a lot of skittering hi-hat percussion and bass-heavy kick drums and day-glo synths common to so much music today, there isn’t the same sort of hedonistic, context-free glitz of so much electronic music referred to as “trap” these days. This sounds intoxicated, sure, but it’s but it feels like it’s actually working with its emotions rather than drowning them out in alcohol and drugs. The last two tracks are called “Heavy Rain” and “Fresh Air”, and I think that juxtaposition speaks volumes. It’s overwhelmed by life and drowning in a torrential downpour of emotions, but it still finds a way to breathe and reflect and be refreshed.

Night Sides: s/t tape (Fixture Records, 2013)

October 16, 2013 at 10:24 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Night Sides: s/t tape

Night Sides: s/t tape

This one’s been sitting on my desk for a while, and I finally got around to listening to it today because yesterday I finally got around to reviewing the Fixture Records sampler I’ve also had sitting around for a while, and I was really interested in this group’s tracks and wanted to hear more. As those 2 songs suggested, this is really drifty, dreamy, floaty, and sometimes just barely tethered to this earth. “Hunny” wails sort of like Les Rallizes Denudes minus the paint-peeling distortion, and “Shadows” has a hint of a nervous, stammering beat under the punch-drunk moaning. As with the Fixture comp, “Blue Light” still remains the highlight, with spectre-like vocals floating over a faint drum machine and organ pulse. My friend described it as Nite Jewel singing over Suicide on sleeping pills. The a capella cover of The Everly Brothers’ “All I Have To Do Is Dream” still haunts, and while the next track is called “Sleepwalk”, the final track “Lullaby” almost sounds like it could pass for a very loose interpretation of Santo & Johnny’s “Sleepwalk”. If it was actually performed during sleepwalk. Tape still available on Fixture Records’ Bandcamp.

The Meets: It Happens Outside LP (My Idea Of Fun, 2013)

October 16, 2013 at 10:02 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

The Meets: It Happens Outside LP

The Meets: It Happens Outside LP

This is the type of release I just file as “post-rock” for convenience’s sake just so my brain will shut up and I don’t have to argue with myself about what to call it and how meaningless and inaccurate that term is. But since I’m actually reviewing this album, I’ll explain a bit more. At least as much as I can just listening to a CDr promo with no liner notes. This album is a pretty free-flowing collage of drum grooves, turntable scratching, harmonica, horn squawks, oblong strings, and meandering bass guitar. Apart from the 7-minute space-out “As a Period in Which Nothing Happens”, most of the tracks are fairly short, about 1 to 3 minutes, and they all run together, making it hard to really pick out highlights, as this seems intended to be digested as one singular piece. The opening track starts with a shruti, some fizzing static, a few isolated guitar plucks and drum hits, and a trombone, so that’s intriguing enough. From then, it’s a pretty choppy, processed, free-flowing mish-mash of beats (live and programmed), scratching, woodwinds, and delicate guitar and bass. Very spontaneous and jumps from idea to idea, as if the group came up with a lot of them and wanted to just use all of them, no time to sort them all out and make sense of them. It’s really around the middle of the record that the ideas seem to come together more coherently, and begin to sound like something greater than just random jamming. “Even When The Time Comes” could even be the soundtrack to a scene in a weird futuristic spy movie, with its horns, vibraphone and easily paced beat, with scratching and electronic bursts on top.

v/a: Fixture Records Sampler 03 (Fixture Records, 2013)

October 16, 2013 at 12:19 am | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

v/a: Fixture Records Sampler 03

v/a: Fixture Records Sampler 03

The Fixture Records sampler from 2011 got a lot of airplay in my car, mostly due to the brilliance of Silver Dapple’s “Slip Stitch”, which was my jam of the summer, and eventually year. Here’s their newest comp, which may or may not be available online anywhere, but I’m guessing they’ll probably send you one if you buy something from them. Maybe. Anyway, this one continues the abstract lo-fi garage-rock and dark synth-pop of the previous comp, opening with Mavo’s jangly “Totally Tired”, which riffs on VU and (obviously) The Fall. From there, it varies from poppy to vaguely funky to ethereal to dark. Freelove Fenner’s tracks are minimalist and blank-faced, but still have a bit of a swinging, surfy jangle to the guitars. Homeshake is an artist who’s toured as a live guitarist for Mac DeMarco, and he has a similar kind of easygoing mysterious retro vibe to him. The Cresting tracks are shadowy and shrouded, with “Bucks Vs. Pacers” featuring a dripping drum machine and spare, gentle synths, “Wolfe Pack” beginning with minimalist pianos and ending with some sort of distant field recording. Night Sides (who I have a tape by, which I still need to get around to listening to and reviewing) do some seriously beautiful floating ethereal pop, with “Blue Light” wailing away over a pittering drum machine beat, and “Dream” being the Everly Brothers cover that I felt like White Poppy hinted at on her tape on Constellation Tatsu tape, except this group does more of a straightforward a capella cover, instead of turning into shoegazey dream-pop. Chevalier Avant Garde contributes two songs which aren’t on their new LP, with “In Ruins” being more of a dour synth-pop anthem, and “Prepare” being a hypnotic sequenced oddity, sort of reminding me of some of Arthur Russell’s more synth-driven dance experiments from the mid-’80s, except this track doesn’t feature a beat at all, just some incidental cymbal-like sounds. Dirty Beaches provides two instrumentals, one a sleepy organ drone and the other being a tape-hissy country lament with harmonica. Femminielli does his intriguing minimal-synth French spoken word thing. Jef Barbara’s track is similar, but more uptempo and song-like, with something almost approaching a chorus at one point. A lot of the more straightforward lo-fi rock stuff on here doesn’t do it for me as much though.

v/a: Traces Two LP (Recollection GRM, 2013)

October 15, 2013 at 11:33 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

v/a: Traces Two LP

v/a: Traces Two LP

I missed out on Traces One (and I can’t find it anywhere, at least not on physical form) but otherwise I’ve been buying all the other Recollection GRM releases, and very slowly getting around to listening to them all. I totally love all this old musique concrete, so I feel like this is an important series of releases to pay attention to. This compilation gives some exposure to lesser-known French composers that I haven’t heard otherwise. Dominique Guiot’s “L’oiseau de paradis” is a cinema-inspired soundscape, juxtaposing squawking sounds, whistling sine waves and fluttering tones, and cutting to and from different scenes with little warning. Pierre Boeswillwald’s “Nuisances” is a collage intentionally utilizing sounds which might have been rejected by other artists in favor of “better” ones. These end up being a series of scrapes, whirs, roars and slide whistle-like tones, and comes across like a sort of bizarre, malfunctioning carnival ride. Rodolfo Caesar’s “Les deux saisons” is based on improvisations for glass organ and a frequency modulation device, and is a series of squeaks, creaks and twitters, some of it with an oddly timestretched-sounding texture to it. Probably the highlight of the collection is Denis Smalley’s “Pentes”, featuring a succession of globby, gelatinous explosions, like a starcraft gliding through space and continually ending up crashing in a crater full of purple ooze. As ridiculous as that sounds, it ends up getting pretty isolated and possibly even frightened for a minute, before Northumbrian pipes drift in, and then the globby explosions resume. Reading the liner notes, these are all early pieces by artists who came to prominence as electro-acoustic visionaries later on, and some of their works have been (unofficially) re-released by Creel Pone, so I think I have more exploring to do.

White Poppy: s/t LP (Not Not Fun, 2013)

October 15, 2013 at 10:37 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

White Poppy: s/t LP

White Poppy: s/t LP

One of my most anticipated LPs of the year, after an excellent live performance at SXSW and a truly brilliant tape on Constellation Tatsu. That one’s going to be hard to top, as it’s one of my favorite releases of the year, but this LP is no disappointment. That tape consisted of top-notch ethereal lo-fi ambient pop, and this album is definitely more polished and song-driven, there’s drums and a bit more of a surfy shoegaze sound, especially on songs like “Wear Me Away”. “Today Tomorrow” seems to celebrate and revel in obscurity and mystery, softly chanting “you don’t know me, you don’t” under cascading guitars. “Dead Night” keeps its vocals free of lyrics, burying them under shimmering guitars. “Emotional Intelligence” gets more deep-spacey than most of the songs on the album, but still has a heartbeat pulsing through, before getting overloaded with distortion and suddenly ending. The album picks up from its spacey middle and gets poppy again, culminating in the sedated new wave bliss of “Dizzy”. The album kind of nods off to dreamland after that, ending with the multi-tracked sleepgaze of “Existential Angst”. Well done.

Derek Rogers/Good Willsmith: split tape (Hausu Mountain, 2013)

October 15, 2013 at 9:48 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Derek Rogers/Good Willsmith: split tape

Derek Rogers/Good Willsmith: split tape

Another volume in Hausu Mountain’s split tape series. Ultraprolific dronelord Derek Rogers does side A, starting off with some elastic guitar tones dipped in fuzzy distortion, not unlike Fennesz, then unstably drifting through scanner-like static noises and cool-blue synth tones, and then ending up with a lightly dancing bright tone which frays out at the end. Good Willsmith (who I saw open for Negativland) do a sort of multimedia sample-heavy drone, with lots of bird calls and shredded, mulched dialogue. It builds with soaring guitars, wordless vocals, and somewhat orchestral-sounding synths, sounding equally bold and terrified. The bird sounds don’t let up, chirping through the entire 15-minute piece, and vocals and other sounds get mutated by a Kaoss pad, further distorting the strange atmosphere.

Füxa: Dirty D (Rocket Girl, 2013)

October 15, 2013 at 9:20 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Füxa: Dirty D

Füxa: Dirty D

10th album from Detroit space-rock group, with more emphasis on “space”. Not as much vocals or guitars as some of their other stuff, but their albums can be pretty varied. Steel guitar legend BJ Cole guests on several tracks, and Britta Phillips guests on the album’s final track. Starts off with a lot of spacey ambient instrumental or near-instrumental tracks. “Shout Out Loud” is the first track with full vocals and beats. “Sun Is Shining” is a fun mantra-ish uptempo track with drum machines, lots of synths and THEREMIN, and a female voice repeating “see that the sun is shining, don’t let it burn your eyes in.” “Dirty D” is midtempo drum machine, moody synths, and constantly flickering electronic sound throughout the entire song which doesn’t change. “Forward” is a dramatic, lush synth instrumental, and “Razzamatazz” is a waterfall-like vibrant drum machine/synth instrumental. “Whisper” is an upbeat synth-pop instrumental with lots of squirmy, wavey synths. “Unknown” is one of the more guitar-driven tracks, but it’s still covered in pastel synths and drum machine beats. The final track is this album’s sedated pop cover, following their last album’s version of “Our Lips Are Sealed”; this time it’s a dusk-lit cover of “Stand By Me”, with Britta Phillips singing a bit of Linda Ronstadt’s “Different Drum” at the end.

The Onliest Souls 10/13/13

October 14, 2013 at 9:20 am | Posted in The Onliest Souls | Leave a comment

Fill-in for Isaac Levine’s outsider music specialty show.
The Onliest Souls 10/13/13
5:01 PM The Shaggs ~ Philosophy Of The World ~ Philosophy Of The World ~ Rounder
5:03 PM Lucia Pamela ~ Walking On The Moon ~ Into Outer Space With Lucia Pamela ~ Arf Arf
5:07 PM Half Japanese ~ School Of Love ~ 1/2 Gentlemen / Not Beasts ~ TEC Tones
5:08 PM Daniel Johnston ~ Almost Got Hit By A Truck ~ Yip/Jump Music ~ Eternal Yip Eye Music
5:12 PM Jimmy ~ Spin The Bottle ~ 7″ ~ Fatima Records Inc.
5:16 PM Robert Alberg ~ Dust In The Wind ~ Acoustically ~ self-released
5:19 PM Jandek ~ You Painted Your Teeth ~ Telegraph Melts ~ Corwood Industries
5:22 PM Shooby Taylor ~ How Great Thou Art ~ cdr
5:35 PM unknown ~ You’re Just In Love ~ mp3 ~ 365 Days Project (2003)
5:37 PM R. Stevie Moore ~ No Body ~ Personal Appeal ~ Care In The Community
5:39 PM Alvin Dahn ~ You’re Driving Me Mad ~ Songs In The Key Of Z Vol. 2 ~ Gammon
5:43 PM Wizz-O (Chris Palestis) ~ Don’t You Want Me/I Love Rock-N-Roll ~ mp3 ~ 365 Days Project (2003)
5:49 PM Shakin Jake Woods ~ Fat Bacon ~ On The Move ~ Ed Special
5:51 PM Bingo Gazingo ~ Everything’s OK At The OK Corral ~ Bingo Gazingo ~ WFMU
5:58 PM unknown ~ Carry On My Wayward Son ~ mp3 ~ 365 Days Project (2003)

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