Monday, August 30, 2010

Kemialliset Ystävät - Ullakkopalo

Kemialliset Ystävät
(2010, Fonal)
RIYL = Paavoharju, Black Dice, Prefuse 73

What can I say; listening to Kemialliset Ystävät makes no logical sense. Ullakkopalo is the latest in a long history of deranged freak-psych adventures from the band and it delivers with similarly delighted, confusing, and totally bizarre results. Based on my recent streak of surreal (anti)reviews, you might’ve thought Kemialliset Ystävät would be the perfect band to send me off into some ridiculous, fabulist mind-trip. Yet, somehow Ullakkopalo has cancelled out any type of coherent imagining in me. The record works to disassemble thought, to confound, to set low one’s sense of cognitive stability. It’s madness, it’s noise, but a pleasant (if ultimately disturbed) madness, and noise music for lovers. Though I’m not sure what that all really means. I guess all I’m saying is that you can listen to the noise-madness on Ullakkopalo and still have a chance at getting away with your soul (though the gypsy maids may have scrubbed it weird in the process). Ullakkopalo, in comparison to their recent tour-only Harmaa Laguuni and last "official" full length in 2007 (their self-titled masterpiece), feels a bit more free-wheeling, a bit more collision-heavy (and what is Kemialliset Ystävät’s music but a series of collisions?), which may make it slightly more difficult, but honestly, who can tell what any one person will take from listening to these Scandinavian weirdoes? It’s anyone’s guess whether or not you’ll still be using ears for hearing, eyes for seeing or feet for walking after the experience. Once Ullakkopalo is through with you, you’ll be lucky if you don’t have an extra set of arms (unless, of course, you’re into that kinda thing). Happy listening.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ou Où - Baron Von Baron

Ou Où
Baron Von Baron
(2010, self released)
RIYL = Our Sleepless Forest, White Rainbow, The Fun Years

It’s a thing, really, to be eaten alive. Particularly, I think, when you welcome it. Welcoming it is difficult; I’ll be the first to admit. It’s a tedious decision for a tedious event. I prefer to be consumed by those without teeth or by those who’ve been de-toothed. It turns the event into a series of constrictions and I’m comfortable with that. A tight wetness around my feet and then ankles, a contraction that then slackens lightly before advancing. And, to the extent that one can prepare for and complete the process of being consciously consumed, there are six stages of mental clarity that the practice provides. 1 – “Iedna” – this first mental station applies in all instances of being eaten alive, but is particularly vibrant in the event that you are devoured by a large water-dwelling snake, and is characterized by an immediate deterioration of the senses followed by their slow reintroduction, starting with sound and ending with taste. 2 – “Fernlinden” – most common when being removed from outside a body and into its internal casing by packs, but faintly resonant in all live consumption cases, this second mental condition is popularly described as a clumsy, tone-heavy moment that breeds silliness into an otherwise foggy vision and translates sound into touch (that rhythmic advance, jaw over knee). 3 – “Bellerive” – a common “regrets” period, this mental state stifles onset feelings of anxiety by employing mental glitching for purposes of mindnumbing (also, at this point one will also begin to communicate with the one who devours them subconsciously). 4 – “Silverwood” – this is when things get real; why would you welcome being eaten alive? Fear, confusion and violence ensue pleasantly (and with particularly interesting results if you have chosen an elk as your devourer). 5 – “Cascade” – as the longest period in the process of being consumed, station five focuses on Godliness and the likelihood that one is going to be provided “grace”. A serene but searching period. 6 – “Ferlinden Version” – commonly referred to as “the float” or “the wave” for its twinkling atmospherics and deluded sense of happiness. The six stage process has been recorded by the St. Louis duo, Ou Où, and released in the buffalo format. Adventurous drone for the healthy hearted experimenter. I know this because I type to you from inside a buffalo. Its name is Baron Von Baron. Allow her to consume you.


Ou Où on Bandcamp

Monday, August 23, 2010

Male - German For Shark

German For Shark
(2010, Other Electricites)
RIYL = Supersilent, Zs, Splint!

The situation for Male is that they need to scrape clean an abandoned warehouse and all they’ve been provided with as far as tools go is instrument scraps. Some drum sticks to shudder the dirt from the walls, to scour the metal piping and its stains. A trombone to catch leaks and distribute cleaning sounds into the corner pockets (gets rid of those vermin). A guitar for sweeping or to be used as a hammer. This dilapidated piano – one with wheels on the bottom – to roll out all the scraps. These in addition to a muffled cornet, some crack-keyed vibraphone, a wobbly sax, and a bit of processing equipment, or something. I guess the janitor had been a jazz man. The band, Male, found that it was important to make the sound of cleaning exotic. In this way they were able to corrode the mess twice as fast based on the mentality of that mess being corroded understanding its process, ear-wise, in a much more adventurous manner (ya dig?). Of course, when in the process of a clean scrape, it can be difficult not to get sidetracked with your instrument at hand. To allow the guitar strings to pulse; to lay down some strict percussion; to hollow out the room with some mad-hot drone. And the tapes were running. Why not pass them off to some historied friends for remixing? German For Shark is a split of tension building free jazz and waterfront drone that cuddles perfectly into every corner and crack of a place, cleaning it out audibly. And you know what they say about cleanliness…


Male on MySpace

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Greg Haines - Until the Point of Hushed Support

Greg Haines
Until the Point of Hushed Support
(2010, Sonic Pieces)
RIYL = Arvo Part, Peter Broderick, Nico Muhly

It’s been a bit since Mr. Haines’ debut album, Slumber Tides. He was young then, right? We were all like, “OMG, he’s only eighteen?!” I was all like that at least. Now the boy’s back with what I am accepting as his proper follow up four years later and still, how can you not be baffled by neo-classical orchestration of this caliber coming from a twenty-two year old? Goodness gracious me. Just give me a second to try and clear out all my ageist apprehensions. There. So, in spite of everything I’ve just written – and I would mention this regardless – Until the Point of Hushed Support is marvelously mature in stature. A cordial being on the surface – tall, mannered, perhaps with a long coat over his suit – the album operates slowly, coldly and in an unexpected twist, murderously. At least it’s murdered me. Amidst its slender, ringing tones I conceive slender fish-cold hands reaching out from the tall man in order to extract my insides; to hollow me. It's hollowing music. Until the Point of Hushed Support is a back alley endeavor, though not the grimy sort. This is high-class crime, bred of meticulousness and artistry. That which takes place behind the opera house. Even as a victim, the cold, fingered extraction of the soul is of the most beautiful theater. Blood is black is minimal is frozen now. The tall man takes special efforts to comfort you as you drift away. Before suitcasing your life. And the drift, that final ascending lift, resonantes more gorgeously than life ever seemed to. It’s a minimalist affair, but for those patient few who find their way through the expanses of Until the Point of Hushed Support, allowing their movements, their consciousness and all, to be strung for puppeting, the results are breathtakingly beautiful.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Aaron Martin - Night Erased Them All

Aaron Martin
Night Erased Them All
(2010, Sonic Meditations)
RIYL = Johann Johansson, Greg Haines, Sean McCann

Instructions for Aaron Martin’s latest album, Night Erased Them All, are these: listen alone while driving at night. Inasmuch as Night Erased Them All is a gorgeously muscular escape into altered consciousnesses (which it very much is), this may not be the safest idea. I imagine while listening (home safely, headphones snug) some poor soul venturing out into black summer air in his '93 Saab, in her 2002 Accord, turning through the local neighborhoods, becoming intoxicated on the beautiful orchestral movements, the brooding strings and thick almost dooming bass, the contortions, and sinking into the earth, the hood of their car skimming just above the gravel plane of the pavement as their vehicle dips lower and lower into the top soil underneath – missing stop signs, undaunted by stop lights – before descending too low, missing a turn and driving straight into the basement of some unsuspecting, some slumbering home. That’s how I figure it. And though it would be an amazing way to go out, I don’t think I’m ready to be bloodied in some foreign basement, primal vocal harmonies cooing through my speaker system. However, if you happened to be resiliently awake and pining for the night air, I won’t stop you. One thing concerning Mr. Martin’s instructions are important however: that you be alone with Night Erased Them All. This is isolationist music. Headphones, as I mentioned earlier, are important. And, in addition, this is night music. Brilliant and seductive, beautiful and engrossing, and black black black. The album consists of two 15 minute tracks with a magnificent flow through neo-classical tributaries to droning Niles. Aaron Martin’s second success this year, and perhaps his crowning achievement. There is something different to take from every release Martin sets free, but Night Erased Them All just seems all that much more provocative. A must.


Aaron Martin on MySpace

Friday, August 13, 2010

Graham Lambkin - Softly Softly Copy Copy

Graham Lambkin
Softly Softly Copy Copy
(2009, Kye)
RIYL = musique concrète

Because it needs to be said: Softly Softly Copy Copy is perfect. Absolutely. Composed of two pieces of music/sound of exactly the same length, 20 minutes and 40 seconds, Lambkin offers two versions of out composition that simply drive a texture obsessive like myself into dizzying fits of excitement and joy. Despite my excitement, the album provides a fairly placid experience. With a mix of found sounds, electronics, violin and other…things…Softly Softly Copy Copy is perhaps the most pure and cleansingly assembled experimental collage piece since The Kallikak Family’s May 23rd 2007 (my favourite album of this past decade). Lambkins methods and tones remind me of a much more languorous version of John Wiese, maintaining Wiese’s ear for interesting texture and collage but removing it from a harsh noise context. There is just so much to sink into here, to swim in. I’m obsessed, but I won’t go much further. Just know that this bristling, ghosting, spacious, watershed of an album exists and it is that good.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

PaperNoise Mix V2

New reviews are on the horizon, but in the meantime I thought I'd send you over to PaperNoise, my zine-based side project. I've upped a new noisy, summery mix to corrispond with the printing of our second volume. Check it here:


Friday, August 6, 2010

Tim Cohen - Laugh Tracks

Tim Cohen
Laugh Tracks
(2010, Captured Tracks)
RIYL = Fresh & Onlys, French Quarter, singing with an acoustic guitar

Cohen, of the fancypants garage rock band The Fresh & Onlys, has now blinked onto us this, his second solo album. And while his debut was pleasant, Laugh Tracks is much better. Everything is still shoe string (as I imagine it will always be with Cohen), but on Laugh Tracks the hooks are there, the songs are ripe, and everything sticks. There is a slack feeling of Cohen enjoying himself on the album, self-assured and beaming with quality and consistency. La la la, what else is there to say? Great grand goodness with an acoustic guitar and all that pithy blah-talk. That’s it, I’ve nothing more. Listen and learn yourself.


Psychedelic Horses Hit - Acid Tape

Psychedelic Horses Hit
Acid Tape
(2010, Fan Death Records)
RIYL = Times New Viking, Guided By Voices, The Hospitals

While it’s true, I am slowly overcoming my apprehension towards swearing (though, only in terms of absolute necessity when writing fiction); still, old habits die hard. And I still love calling these guys Psychedelic Horses Hit (almost, but not quite as much as Jackie-O Samuel L. Jackson). Why the hell (see!) am I even reviewing this tape? It’s totally sold out now, as far as I can tell. I‘ve had it for awhile and I only started listening to it after the hype had been confirmed and the tape disappeared. So, this review could really only be for two purposes. 1. To rub it in your face that Acid Tape is the grimiest, best lo-fi noise pop album of the year and you’ll never even have the opportunity to buy it. And 2. To make a case for it being reissued…on vinyl! Please please please. Actually, on any format would be great because, honestly, Acid Tape is everything it purports to be. And, on top of it containing absolutely delicious portions of pop genius, scratchy ear candy scratchiness, and rock n’ roll abandon – the band has created noise pop dub! Really, “Hard As It Gets (Chill Sax Mix)” is sooooooo awesome (and so chill). I imagine that Blues Control would have loved to have set that tune to tape. Too bad, Psychedelic Horses Hit beat you fools to it. Really honestly though, Acid Tape is one of the best albums of the year. You’ve been hearing that a lot from me probably, because it’s been a great year really really. But I’m talking best-of-the-best here. I know I haven’t heard the new No Age album yet, but there is only a 1% chance they could get within a 100 yards of the genius on Acid Tape. That good.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Chris Abrahams - Play Scar

Chris Abrahams
Play Scar
(2010, Room40)
RIYL = Lawrence English, Keith Fullerton Whitman, The Necks

In addition to aural maturity, there is a rich religiosity brewing throughout Play Scar. Not, though, that new wave religiousness so often caught up in these new experimentations (the immature ones), but a thick, meaningful presences, almost Christian – not to categorize Abrahams – in the way it sets itself pleasantly in the pews, reassuring you while enabling the wholesale destruction of everything outside your periphery. I, personally, subscribe to a form of Christianity myself, perhaps an odd one; one that has been mythologized (quite wonderfully) by the penchant its members have for growing horns. Still, I’m not oblivious to the institutional nature of things, how the history of faith organizations have systematically collapsed millions; billions even. It’s a conflict between the deep rooted essence of the faith’s most principled tenants and the cloistered, maniacal fingertips of its so easily manipulated body - like a costume awaiting a bolt of blood and flesh. The complications here are part of the beauty of it, almost. Where am I, what am I talking about? Music? Abrahams work on Play Scar perhaps doesn’t fit wholeheartedly into my religious deviations, but it does, in its own way, assert itself as principally astute and pure, while still managing a gloriously secular, pulsing aesthetic. Abrahams’ master here. A sound engineer of incredible depth and intelligence. A teacher of what is possible, of skill, restraint, texture and volume. So, kiddies, with your laptops and pedals, look up – this is how it’s done, and these are the ways to do it. In this category, Abrahams aligns himself with the likes of Fennesz and Keith Fullerton Whitman, though neither of the two have managed something at the level of Play Scar in recent years. Thankfully Abrahams came to bat. Play Scar, in addition to being smart, tinny and confident, is wildly diverse without feeling like patchy or thrown together. Really, in the simplest terms, it’s an epic, in that spiritually grandiose way. Like art. That white-pure art. What more could you ask for? (A competent review.)


Play Scar stream on Boomkat