Hollan Holmes: Milestones (Spotted Peccary, 2020)

February 20, 2020 at 8:41 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Hollan Holmes: Milestones

Hollan Holmes’ first Spotted Peccary release is an excellent set of post-Berlin School, sequencer-driven space music. Most of these ten of these tracks surge forward, cruising deep into the stratosphere without idling for a moment. This is not merely pretty background music or zoned-out droning, there feels like a definite purpose to all of this, and even though it might not be as bombastic or ornately arranged as an opera or a neo-classical metal record, there’s a comparable level of passion here. “One Giant Leap” points to the desire to explore new terrain, using a familiar Neil Armstrong sample. “The Truth Laid Bare” almost sounds like a Mike Paradinas melody, but filled with heartache, and minus the crazy beats. “Slipstream” is a bit more of a relaxed drift, it definitely feels like an easing up compared to other tracks. “West Texas Backroads” feels like you’re driving along said roads and only following the stars to guide you — you have no clue where you’re going to end up in the morning. “Bulletproof” is where things start getting a bit dramatic, and even quite sorrowful. “Inner Sanctum” starts out cold and mechanical but quickly melts away, sinking deeper as the heart cries out louder. “Ayyappan” is where it all winds down, looking back on all that’s passed and putting serious consideration into what’s left to be done.

Suumhow: Secuund (n5MD, 2019)

February 9, 2020 at 12:55 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Suumhow: Secuund

Suumhow wasted no time putting out a follow-up to their startling 2018 debut. This isn’t all that different — it’s more IDM with abrasive, crunchy beats and reflections-on-a-pond melodies — but it’s just as excellent. It moves from harsh, scattered blasts like “Muuscl” and “56” to more straightforward, pattern-heavy rhythms like “Bora Bora”, and several tracks have jumbled, subliminal voices underneath. “Cabin” is prime winter hideaway music. Really, all of this is a good soundtrack for snowbound seclusion.

Spray Paint: Into the Country LP (12XU, 2019)

February 1, 2020 at 1:37 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Spray Paint: Into The Country LP

This is Spray Paint’s first album since 2016, and it was actually recorded that year. The band has slowed down their pace, and two of the members have moved to different countries, but they’ve released a few singles, including a Live at Third Man EP and collaborations with Protomartyr and the Rebel, and they reunited for a Monofonus Press R.I.P. weekend last year. This album is pretty different than their others — it’s not as heavy on mind-bending guitar noise, and there’s a surprising amount of electronics and drum machines. The vocals are as acerbic as ever, and some of the lyrics are apparently sourced from Info Wars comment sections. “Keep on Googlin'” is an early highlight, with a buzzing, galloping rhythm leading up to the piercing refrain “Please never talk to me.” “BRW’s Theme” (presumably referring to the Rebel’s B.R. Wallers) has sort of a nervous bounce to its rhythm, and the lyrics are just as twitchy and uncertain, yet it somehow ends up being the album’s most chipper song. “Bed Death” is basically their idea of techno, with a bleak, pulsing beat and heavy echo on the vocals, which sound like they’re being shouted down a well. “Bins Out” is two minutes of jagged, high-speed guitar terrorism, and “Can’t Help But Kill” is 80 seconds of pure anxiety in public spaces. Nine-minute Final track “Cleaning Your Gun” is a profane, synth-laden descent to the depths of the internet.

Rocket 808: s/t LP (12XU, 2019)

January 31, 2020 at 6:24 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Rocket 808: s/t LP

Rocket 808’s 2018 debut 7″ was a very pleasant surprise, making vintage drum machines and twangy, distorted guitar riffs sound like the most natural combination in the world. Now we have a full album of the stuff, and it’s another motorik cruise through a Western desert landscape filled with big neon signs which have been flashing nonstop for decades. Early on, he covers Suicide’s “Ghost Rider”, seemingly getting the most obvious comparison out of the way quickly, and simultaneously beaming the song into the past and the future. However, he doesn’t sing on much of the album; the focus is more on Link Wray-inspired guitar shredding. “Digital Billboards”, the A-side of the previous single, still sounds like the Cramps recording an instrumental demo with a drum machine, and much of the other songs follow this lead. The other cover is a synth-punk update of Ersel Hickey’s rockabilly chestnut “Goin’ Down That Road”, with a dilapidated drum machine slap matching the song’s “boom-chick-a-boom” refrain. Following the similarly racing (but slightly slower) instrumental “Black Test Car”, Rocket 808 joins the elite club of bands with self-titled songs on a self-titled debut album. “Rocket 808” features acoustic drumming along with the 808 pulse, as well as a brief guitar/drum freakout.

Rabbit Ears: Should Be Fine 7″ EP (self-released, 2019)

January 28, 2020 at 7:23 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Rabbit Ears: Should Be Fine 7″ EP

Detroit trio Rabbit Ears play instrumental rock which is sort of in the nexus of surf, garage, and spy themes, but not beholden to one particular style. They could be part of a soundtrack to a suspenseful movie, but they also work perfectly well as stand-alone songs. They play around with time signatures here and there, particularly on the first two songs, but it’s never unnecessarily complicated. The B-sides continues in the rough surf-ish mode, with “Shadow Creep” having some bluesy guitar riffs and “Rabito” sporting the record’s only vocals (it’s just a shouted exclamation of the song’s title). Pleasant stuff all around.

The Moonset Production Company: s/t (self-released, 2019)

January 25, 2020 at 3:18 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

The Moonset Production Company: s/t

This one was handed to the radio station by the artist, but there’s barely any information about it online. The few pages that turn up when searching the project name also turn up the name Othercast, perhaps that’s the name of the artist, or label? Anyway, all that really matters is that this an incredible assemblage of lost transmissions, ghostly voices, and rave flashback beats. A lot of it brings to mind the Ghost Box aesthetic, but “Tonight’s Program” is more overtly techno-influenced, with old-time radio announcements popping up like speech bubbles over breakbeats and exuberant synths. The sounds dissolve into memories and scrambled signals during the interludes, but they’re summoned back to life with the more beat-driven tracks. A Balearic guitar riff emerges near the end of “One Moment Please”, then the more abstract “sky circuitry” sounds like a brief dip into Nurse With Wound’s nightmarish universe. “We Apologize for the Continued Interruptions” has more crunch to it, particularly due to the slowed-down jungle breaks, but the rest of the album doesn’t quite get as heavy. This is an absurdly good album that just seemed to materialize out of nowhere, I can’t imagine this one’s going to stay obscure for long. Lovers of all things hauntological will be instantly in love with this one. Also, the CD version contains a short unlisted bonus track that isn’t on the Bandcamp download.

Special Request: Zero Fucks (self-released, 2019)

January 25, 2020 at 2:37 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Special Request: Zero Fucks

Paul Woolford released no less than 4 Special Request albums last year, with the back-to-basics hardcore of Vortex receiving the most applause and club play. He’s saved the hardest (and best) of them all for last, and Zero Fucks is indeed the most IDGAF thing he’s released. While all his other albums were released by Houndstooth, this one was a Bandcamp freebie, and it’s easy to hear why — there’s bootleg edits of Jay-Z and Travis Scott songs here, which might’ve prevented their release through an official label. Brief soundbytes from Francis Bacon and David Lynch are included, attempting to explain the chaotic nature. The highlights are absolutely vicious “Spectral Frequency” winds frazzled breakbeats up for a long stretch, until it all breaks through and slams out, taking no prisoners. Others like “10 Missed Calls for the Reload” and the deceptively soft (at first) “Quiet Storm” follow the time-honored formula of deadly jungle tracks laced with tender R&B samples. “Elysian Fields” has probably the biggest contrast between sweet, chiming melodies and bash-your-skull breaks. And in case “10 Missed Calls” weren’t enough, “Timelapse/20 Missed Calls” is an extended VIP which pushes it further down the long, dark tunnel. Closer to a mixtape than a standard album, Zero Fucks nevertheless finds Woolford firing on all cylinders.

df0​:​BAD: Absolete (Cock Rock Disco, 2019)

January 24, 2020 at 11:55 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

df0:BAD: Absolete

Revisiting breakcore’s early Amiga and tracker days, this is a set of vicious breaks and sinister chiptune melodies using vintage equipment twisted to its limits. Bitcrunched, mangled breakbeats and chase-scene game music butt heads, resembling a soundclash between Abelcain and Bit Shifter. Chipbreak that’s out for blood but maintains a sense of cartoonish glee. “Ataripr0n” is a bit more happy-go-lucky, but the likes of “Fevered” and “Amiga Blood Circus” are more fiendish and head-battering, while “Better Find Out” is a gabber-rave knockout. All of this is extraordinarily fun and refreshing. Free download from Jason Forrest’s Cock Rock Disco, which still functions as a netlabel and occasionally releases incredible things on Bandcamp, such as this.

Wolff Parkinson White: Favours (Colonel Beats Records, 2020)

January 23, 2020 at 9:01 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Wolff Parkinson White: Favours

Jochen Rueckert is a jazz drummer, but he doesn’t lay a finger on his drum sticks when he makes electronic music as Wolff Parkinson White (a project named after a heart disease he’s lived with). Instead, he programs hyper-complex rhythms and harmonics with rapidly changing time signatures, often involving quarter-tone scales. On his Bandcamp, he recommends Venetian Snares’ Huge Chrome Cylinder Box Unfolding as well as releases by Vytear and Binray, and this greatly points to his direction — highly intense breakcore and IDM that doesn’t actually use breakbeats, and has no signifiers of rave or club culture. Yet as precise, angular, and sometimes menacing as these tracks are, they’re not gigantic, deeply layered slabs of sound. They’re like a vast, intricate network of wires buzzing at light speed, but there’s plenty of space left between them. On this album, he partially fills that space with a variety of guest vocalists, perhaps most surprisingly including Norah Jones (although she once played in a band with DJ /rupture, so she has at least one other connection to the experimental electronic world). For the most part, the vocals drift smoothly over the electronics — they usually don’t try to imitate the convoluted rhythms. There are moments when Rueckert scatters and dices the vocals, though, particularly “What’s True” and “We Are All Dispersed”. I’ve always appreciated when breakcore/glitch artists manage to incorporate more “musical” or pop-influenced elements and vocals into their work and actually manage to make it work instead of sounding gimmicky. Venetian Snares has done it a few times, maybe you could count Squarepusher’s “My Red Hot Car” (if that doesn’t push the edge of irony), the one album by About approaches that territory… otherwise, good examples are few and far between. Of course Björk has been singing over unconventional rhythms for ages, so that also seems like a precedent for this direction. Anyway, I think it’s pretty obvious that I really appreciate this album. Breakcore and IDM have always been close to my heart, and I love the nerdishly complex side of the genres as much as the more melodic side, so it’s fascinating to hear an accomplished jazz musician approach this realm and make something as human as it is hardcore.

Danger Room: Rick Owens Prank (Funny!!1) (Safa Collective, 2019)

January 22, 2020 at 10:34 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Danger Room: Rick Owens Prank (Funny!!1)

Closely related to Ann Arbor art-rockers Satan Face, Danger Room is a basement-dwelling noise act deconstructing rock and jazz forms. Released on Christmas, this tape starts out with some hissing and buzzing before someone starts mangling a guitar, and then an oscillator, or tape deck. Some overdriven guitar effects piledrive everything into the ground for a moment, and a lengthy track called “Reverse Cuomo” is filled with demonic screaming, seemingly in direct tribute to Masonna. It would be hair-raising if the piercing feedback and tape manipulations didn’t throw it all into the realm of the absurd and hilarious. HWAHHHHHH!!!!! The second side is taken up by “Jazz (we don’t got)”, which has wailing reeds snaking through hissing synth eruptions. It gets noisy and chaotic, but not in the same ripping-your-brain-from-its-stem way as the first side. There’s measured stretches, and more primal screaming, and more piled-on freak-outs. It also takes a long time to finally die off.

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