Anna Burch/Fred Thomas: split 7″ (Polyvinyl, 2018)

November 24, 2018 at 7:24 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Anna Burch/Fred Thomas: split 7″

Anna and Fred both released fantastic albums this year, and they recently toured and put out this tour-only single. Anna’s side is a steady, lovely tune with lots of snowy echo over the vocals, and a general easygoing tone but typically cutting lyrics (“said a little Irish prayer, when all I wanted was for you to care”). Fred’s side is in the vein of his recent albums, pairing hooky indie rock with wordy narratives about touring, avoiding cops, and more importantly, the thoughts, feelings, and realizations surrounding all of these, eventually arriving at the point that “you could be happy”.

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Bonnie Baxter: Ask Me How Satan Started tape (Hausu Mountain, 2018)

November 24, 2018 at 7:15 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Bonnie Baxter: Ask Me How Satan Started tape

Kill Alters’ Bonnie Baxter goes solo with this astounding tape of overloaded rhythms and fractured vocals. This one builds gigantic boulders of thunderous, speaker-ripping beats, all polyrhythmic and constantly building and mutating, amalgamating juke, industrial, techno, and punk. The distortion on this album is just absolutely delicious. “Vivid” is the hair-raising centerpiece, and a glorious nightmare that I never want to end. At a couple points throughout the album, excerpts of a childhood conversation where Baxter asks her mom to, yes, “ask me how Satan started” pop up, balancing innocence with evil. The first three tracks on the second side stand alone as their own majestic hell-suite, and the tape ends with “Satan’s Angels”, a frightening yet somehow soothing collage of an evangelism broadcast, ethereal cooing, and hazy industrial droning. A very fresh, original take on rhythmic noise, and a flat-out exciting release.

Don Fiorino/Andy Haas: American Nocturne (Resonantmusic, 2018)

November 23, 2018 at 10:06 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Don Fiorino/Andy Haas: American Nocturne

This album captures live, overdub-free improvisations between guitarist Don Fiorino and Andy Haas, who plays sax, electronics, and drum machines. Fiorino plays lap steel and “glissentar”, so there’s a slippery, fluid, weeping tone to much of his playing, and Haas often sounds like he’s playing digital tablas or scratching turntables, in addition to layering blankets of sax on the title track. There’s never a locked-in rhythm here, it all sounds fuzzy, gelatinous, and malleable. Lots of pitch-bending and flipping and stretching, yet it doesn’t sound as blasted or druggy as, say, Black Dice/Eric Copeland. Fiorino’s playing still has an earthy quality to it, sometimes veering towards country while floating closer to desert blues on the epic “Days of Jackals”. Other times, it’s more of a detached downtown skronk. The sounds contrast, but they never really feel like they’re clashing, even if they rarely seem like they’re trying to interact with each other. It’s somewhat challenging to listen to, but instead of seeming confrontational, it invites you to join in somehow, and following the individual sounds becomes an adventure.

Shnabubula: Game Genie tape (Ubiktune, 2011/reissued by Hausu Mountain, 2018)

November 23, 2018 at 9:08 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Shnabubula: Game Genie tape

How on earth did it take this long for Hausu Mountain to release a chiptune album?! Unless I’m forgetting something. But considering how the label’s visual aesthetic is heavily based on pixelated artwork (as well as, well, millions of other things), one might initially think they’re closely related to the chip scene. This is the first (AFAIK) cassette release from scene veteran Samuel Ascher-Weiss, who contributed to the infamous/controversial Miles Davis tribute Kind of Bloop nearly a decade ago. This album, originally released on Bandcamp in 2011, owes equally to 16-bit video game compositions, jazz fusion, prog-rock, and J-pop. It’s filled with complex time signatures, virtuosic playing, and an overall sense of embarking on a grand quest, but with an undying sense of optimism and glee. It is, without mincing words, a pure joy to listen to. While always sounding like it’s emanating from a vintage console, the music always bursts with excitement, and so much passion is put into the arrangements. “Aqua Fever” is the most “live”-sounding track, with acoustic-sounding drums and fluid bass soloing, while the title track is arguably the most overwhelming and complex (although really, all of this is). I must admit that even though I’ve always had an enormous amount of love and respect for the chiptune scene, I haven’t paid much attention to it since I moved from New York in 2009. This tape reissue is a reminder of how creative the scene can be at its best, and Game Genie was entirely worth digging up and presenting to a new audience.

Pepper Mill Rondo: E.D.M. tape (Hausu Mountain, 2018)

November 23, 2018 at 8:01 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Pepper Mill Rondo: A.T.M. tape

Where to even start with this one. This is 100 minutes of Good Willsmith’s Doug and Max collating the entire contents of the internet and spewing it out in jagged, irregularly shaped chunks. A long time ago, there was this website someone told me about that I posted a link to in the Secret Stash section of Foxy Digitalis, that was called something like “Neverending Glitch,” and was something along those lines, somehow harnessing all the websites and live streams and feeds and everything else online and producing a mutated ever-shifting audio-visual glob of everything. I assume it’s long gone, I had it bookmarked once but I assume I got rid of it when the site wasn’t active anymore, but it would make a perfect accompaniment to listening to this tape. It’s an overwhelmingly intense barrage of media soundbites, shreds of everything on the radio or on TV, and lots of drunken karaoke sessions, all supremely glitched and splattered. It’s not entirely random, however. “I’m Sitting In A Room” reconstructs the text of Alvin Lucier’s legendary avant-garde piece using lyrics from pop songs. Some collages focus on specific genres (“I’m A Guy That Makes Classical Music Collages” is self-explanatory, “Pepperoni Stick Is Bout 2 Breakup” regurgitates nu-metal). “Lesser Artists Borrow, Great Artists Vape” is a painstaking, mind-numbing montage of rapidfire references to all things aesthetic, Eccojams, Floral Shoppe, and vape pens. “NO MORE FAN MAIL” steamrollers over the Beatles, and “Subscribe or Die” mines videos from Patreon pages, boiling the internet down to a bunch of loud voices begging for your money. Describing something as “everything” is such an over-used cliche, but in this case, not doing so would be selling it short. Doug’s glorious solo effort These Magical Numbers, consisting entirely of YouTubed renditions of the national anthem played at the same time, was American patriotism at its most purely obnoxious blown up into a harsh noise wall. E.D.M. (here standing for “Ecstatic Dissonant Mashup”) is another logic-obliterating reflection of our current times. Totally essential.

Colin Potter: The Where House? 2XLP (ICR, 1981/reissued by Dark Entries, 2018)

November 23, 2018 at 5:22 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Colin Potter: The Where House? 2XLP

This is a deluxe reissue of one of the many cassettes Colin Potter released during the early ’80s, long before he became a major contributor to Nurse With Wound. Recorded entirely in his home studio, every song feels like it was recorded in a different part of the house, and all of the furniture, books, artifacts, mice, and even ghosts can somehow be heard in these songs. The first side alone switches from lo-fi avant-pop to ghostly drone to racing minimal synth to drugged-out, pitched-down creepiness (apparently involving a “secret police interrogation”). On the second side, “Later, That Same Night” is extremely trippy proto-techno with layers of backward sounds, a rotund bass line, and blazing guitars. “Ssroi’asitjk” sounds like the same track backwards, making it unclear which direction is which. “Leer” continues with the backwards escapades, this time in a speedy waltz tempo. “Jackpot” is also fast and playful, but also kind of off-balance and a bit sinister. Then there’s more than a side’s worth of bonus tracks, mostly recorded after the main album, and they similarly range from haunted soundscapes to entrancing loop explorations. While all of this maintains its homemade quality, the remastering job here is absolutely phenomenal, and it sounds way cleaner than its creator possibly could’ve imagined. Not a tiny bit of tape hiss, and a full, detailed mix. Another essential Dark Entries release.

XOR Gate: Conic Sections LP (Tresor, 2018)

November 23, 2018 at 3:49 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

XOR: Conic Sections LP

Commissioned for an exhibit in Miami’s ArtCenter South Florida, this album by Heinrich Mueller (Drexciya, Dopplereffekt) is a continuous work made up of weightless synth sequences and detached melodies. It’s every bit as scientific and clinical as Mueller’s post-Drexciya work has been, but there’s still human sentiments behind the sparkling melodies of pieces like “Ellipse”. It definitely nails a feeling of being trapped in space and longing for any type of connection to anyone, but not in an overbearingly gloomy way. This isn’t as immediate as his most well-known work, but it does reveal itself the more you listen, and of course it’s essential if you’re like me and you need to own everything he and/or James Stinson have ever released.

v/a: Never Normal Soundsystem Singles tape (Never Normal, 2018)

November 23, 2018 at 3:00 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

v/a: Never Normal Soundsystem Singles tape

Suzi Analogue’s Never Normal label released a series of digital singles this summer, mostly by up-and-coming artists. All of them are collected on this tape, which is available digitally or from Suzi in person. Most of the tracks are short and high-impact, starting with a footwork-influenced track from WORKFLOWW, Suzi’s project with Teklifer DJ Earl. Then there’s the choppy breaks, disco loops, and booty taunts of Ted Kamal’s “Coochie”. Following futuristic rap from RADiA and Nappy Nappa, there’s hybrid footwork-electro from J Words, whose “Dial” is light and speedy but also a bit jittery. On the second side, Ziggee Gold’s “Ode to Davina” is a highly intriguing bit of floating electro-R&B which suggests a lot more to come in its minute run time. The biggest eye-opener for me, however, is “They Still Hating” by No Eyes. Taking footwork-jungle hybridity to new extremes, this 11-minute monster encompasses too many emotions to count. It’s vicious, it’s savage, it’s sweet, it’s alienated, it’s hopeful, and it just bangs so hard. Somehow I’m being reminded of Christoph de Babalon, although this isn’t nearly as bleak. But it’s just so ambitious and overwhelming and powerful. Easily my favorite new artist of the year just based on the strength of this track.

iZueL_: We Will Never Be So Cool (Degenerate Trifecta, 2018)

November 23, 2018 at 2:36 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

iZueL_: We Will Never Be So Cool

iZueL_ is a new name to me, but the Munich-based Spanish techno producer has been releasing a ton of music the past few years. The ten tracks on this album are all absolute belters. Very heavy and doomy, and highly focused while still having a human adrenaline rush to it. Some of the tracks are just solid, barreling techno (particularly early standout “Scripturam” while others have more intricate beat patterns (such as opener “PT5-2”). “JustAnotherLoopyDruffiTrack2” is an exquisitely arranged panic attack which just keeps descending to deeper levels of chaos. “Loopy2 (Primavera)” is far more optimistic, and even has a vaguely chiptune-sounding melody. This is all incredibly solid, inventive, and functional techno from a name worth looking out for.

Black Noi$e: Illusions 2XLP (Vanity Press Records, 2018)

November 22, 2018 at 5:32 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Black Noi$e: Illusions 2XLP

Vanity Press Records’ first-ever full-length album is from Detroit hip-hop/house (but not hip-house) producer Black Noi$e, who released EPs on Vanity Press and Portage Garage Sounds last year. This album is filled with classic house vibes which are slightly broken and twisted. “Wake Up” is spacey and soulful, with glimmering piano fragments and a classic chugging house rhythm, sometimes augmented with a few extra kicks. “Ninety6” is co-produced by both Teklife’s DJ Taye and FXHE’s John FM, and it fashions a trippy, psychedelic loop to a stripped-down yet detailed house beat. “Jump Off A Building” hybridizes grime and house from an American perspective, fusing factory clanging with Godzilla horns. “Sunrize” is nothing less than what its title implies, with a truly hopeful melody fading in and shining through, in addition to shades of fluttering sax. “Pandemic” is closer to Stingray-esque electro but with sinister strings floating around. “B Lvde III” is a contaminated trap instrumental with clattering percussive loops and a thin but abrasive layer of swirling distortion. Screwball electro track “Oizo” is nearly wacky enough to resemble its namesake. “Xchange” is another grime-leaning house track, with brassy, waving bass dancing over its insistent, ticking beat. “Nite Drive” is exactly what it sounds like, and the type of melodic, cruising techno which could’ve come from nowhere else but Detroit.

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