Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Minor Update...


"May You Live In Interesting Times" - Mark Twain

"Out With The Old/In With The New" - Lotus, Bellweather


No music today, just some thoughts. Relating to music, of course, cuz that's just how i am.
Saw the up-and-coming electronic jam band Lotus last night, and while i have heard them before, and even enjoyed their sounds, last night was the first time i really GOT IT. I've been watching people spar with their love of jam and rave, moody indie rock and classical soundscapes, for the better part of the last decade, to varying degrees of success. But, all of a sudden, in the last 2 years or so, i feel as if the shit has hit the fan, there are hordes of bands that are out just killing it, night after night, coming into their own style and sound. Mutant hybrids twining beneath the sun. This is a great time to be a music fan. This is a great time to be a human being.
But with great power comes great responsibility. I think many would agree that there's something special hanging in the air, these days, these are very interesting times indeed. Only the most hardcore nostalgist would pine for '70s, '80s, '20s, claiming that there's nothing interesting going on. We have increasing access to the history of every culture that has ever existed (that we know of), and oftentimes we have it in our pocket. Thanks to new software like the ever impressive Ableton Live, and the new battalion of grid controllers, we can lay our hands on sound direct, weave weft and warp. Genres and small minded thinking are melting like wax figurines in the oncoming pyrochastic flow.
Shit's coming down. The kids are growing up, and mastering their toys. An unprecedented amount of control and finesse is there, for those that would take it. But gone are the days of harsh task-masters, stern disciplinarians with iron rulers by yr side, waiting. You wanna overdose and die? No one's gonna stop you. You want to spend a decade on the internet, playing at being a genius, citing statistics at a parade of dinner parties? Go right ahead. We are moving into orbit, beyond the gravity well of castes and obligation. It is up to you to keep yr backbone.
I, for one, get lost in the data-stream, in a never-ending quest of ultimate knowledge. I want to know the songs and sounds of every inch of this globe, and others, if y0u happen to have it! But its never gonna happen. I'm never gonna burst forth in a silver Samaddhi of knowledge and wisdom. I feel my personal trajectory on this earth is one of creation; words and music being my favorite. No amount of study, no amount of preparation, is going to do that for me, or take away the fear of actually putting something in front of a human audience.
There are great rewards for those who would accept the challenge of this present, who would be brave and noble and wise. Let's not forget the virtues of the past, in an attempt to be absolutely modern. We've got to be more than kids, striving to have the new, flashiest toy. We can do anything we want, this time around.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cave - Pure Moods


One from the road...

After noticing an upsurge of interest of Cave's Psychic Psummer, discussed earlier, i thought i would dig up some more nuggets from these Chicago gruvmeisters. Dug out this 12" from 2010, chose it to inaugurate this particular homecoming journey.
I'd say Cave is perfect driving music, and it is, perfect... pummeling and repetitive and hypnotic, like 60 miles of highway blinkers, v-8s pounding burning petroleum through firing pistons, but i think it would be ever more accurate to say that Cave is the highway itself, an eternity of tarmac, stretching out to an infinitude of possible futures. Theirs is music of motion, rocking but calm, hypnotic but adrenalized. Its like being in the belly of a jetplane, thinking about what yr gonna do when you land, thinking about where you came from. 25 minutes, 3 tracks... this is a perfect, condensed vision of the group's sound and strengths. American kosmische, homage to a highway in Wyoming rather than the Audobon.

This was the perfect beginning for this voyage, got my motor's running, my engine revving. Got some momentum. Like a hummingbird, vibrating so fast i found some calm, some peace and contentment, to come back to my birthplace, to face family and long-lost friends, to stare down ghosts of former fuck-ups. I feel brave when i'm moving.
Once i landed, and found that old familiar stillness, and there will be more on that later...

Got a chance to get a computer, and i had prepared to write this one up ahead of time, so i took the opportunity. Going to see the band Lotus in Chicago tonight.



Pure Moods

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Give thanks...



Just to let y'all know i'm out of town at the moment, but will be back to homebase shortly, and back to beavering away. Hope everybody in the states had a good holiday.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Radio Show: Typecast

For this week's edition of Radio Shows, i'd like to bring to attention Type Record's Typecast. Type Records, helmed by one John Twellis, is a hallmark of exceptional care and craftmanship, a true institution of the underground. Bringing out releases from divergent artists like Xela, Yellow Swans, Peter Broadrick, Svarte Greiner, the list goes on; with consistently gorgeous design, hand-picked to suit the microcosm contained on the grooves.
The Typecast is a good simulacrum of the label's aesthetics, where really, anything goes, and usually it goes really well. Many Jsheaven stalwarts have provided mixes: Xela, several manifestations of Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, several incarnations of Brad Rose, William Fowler Collins, Svarte Greiner. During these hour-long shows, you may hear anything from harbor seals to Patsy Cline. The mixes stand up well against the test of time, you'll want to keep these, add 'em to yr commuting queue. Its kind of amazing you can get shit this good, for free. Sometimes its good to be an underground music fan.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Shostakovich - String Quartets 4 & 5 (Manhattan String Quartet)

"The monstrous disharmony of war has come to an end. Henceforth, the fingers of violinists will lay down the machine guns they have been gripping, and will again touch the obedient, singing strings of their violins-touch them with inspiration. Now sounds the bright melody of peace and creative work." - Dimitri Shostakovich

Yet things would not be as optimistic as Shostakovich, and many other Russian artists, composers, and film-makers would have hoped. These quartets, written during the period between 1946 - 1952, proved to be a dark one in Soviet History. Having already endured the pre-war purges and the grist-mill of WWII, artists hoped that the return to peace and security would allow Stalin and his cultural commissars to ease their grip on artists.
This did not prove to be the case, and millions were sent to Siberian labor camps, had their lives, families, and careers destroyed, under the cultural scrutiny of Andrei Zhdanov. In this climate, Shostakovich would not dare to undertake any symphonies or grandiose statements, having already been flogged by the critics for formalism, pretentiousness, modernism. Shostakovich served as a favored whipping post against the avant-garde, and other forms of 'dissident' thought.
During this period, Shostakovich frequently turned to string quartets and film music, which were considered minor and of less consequence, and thus paid less attention to. In these outlets, he would rage and poke fun, declaim his unbent spirit against totalitarian regimes, like 'signing' his work with his trademark 'DSCh' theme, a sequence of D, E flat, C, B natural, as notated in German, and standing for the composer's initials. This music is private and haunting, explosive and contemplative. It serves as a sort of diary, of a unique and troubling period in Human history, written by a man well-familiar with his emotional landscapes, and an eloquent tongue and pen, to set it down for all time.
Shostakovich's string quartets have been a personal favorite. The string quartet is one of my favorite instrumental combos, small and focused and intimate, allowing the performers to really vibe off each other, to reach soaring crescendoes of passion and revelation. I always find it invigorating, and thought-provoking to consider the risks that Shostakovich took, and the overwhelming urge to express himself and be true to his artistic vision. Often, i find his symphonies to be rather bloated and grandiose, as was expected of him, and of Soviet Realism. Militaristic, and democratic. Modern flourishes were considered self-aggrandizing, and degenerate. So he snuck it all in, in his quartets and film music.

I've been house sitting for a friend, during Nov. and have been allowed access to her music library. She plays cello, and played with a variety of New York ensembles, during the 80s and 90s. I offer this selection, to start, as its something i'm pretty familiar with, and i've been listening to a lot this week. I'm hoping to provide little slivers of insight and inspiration, in this space, pockets and corners of stories and lives. A brief glimpse behind the eyeballs, perhaps even a momentary consideration of what it is like to be someone else.

Music is all around us, every second of every day, and everybody seems to have their own passionate soundtrack. The idea of 'better' or 'best' seem to be rapidly disappearing, to be replaced by personal preference. Someone quietly murmuring, 'this is what its like to be me.'
I'm not really hoping to be authoritative, more like subjective or impressionistic, although i do hope to continue to hone my craft at writing, and making music of my own. I'm hoping to provide slivers of moments, melodies and moonbeams, pockets of prose and collected recollections.


ps... the file name is slightly misleading, as its only the 4th and 5th quartets, but the quality is super good! I hope you enjoy.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Gonzales - Solo Piano


Middle of the night. Can't sleep. Have to be up in a couple of hours. Not wearing glasses. Vision blurry.
The perfect compliment and antidote to this high-tensile situation; the solo piano record from Feist producer Jason Beck, aka Chilly Gonzales, aka just Gonzales. Here we have the maestro weighing in with 16 tasteful, masterful arrangements: graceful, subdued, classy. Apparently the man has been playing piano since he was 3, and it shows. Similar in mood to the piano reveries of the Erik Satie, whom i've written about before on this blog, or Debussy's lighter moments.
Tuneful, melodic, poignant, bittersweet, contemplative; if a picture is worth a thousand words, then an album of instrumental suites must be worth a million. I'm not gonna try.
I've been rocking this all week, quietly meandering about the house, watching the seasons shift through the window, the first fall of snow. My musical tastes have tended towards the subdued, so my posting reflects as such. Hopefully y'all are curled up by a fire somewhere, (or enoying the sunshine, if yr on the other part of the globe).



ps... i'm not sure how the quality is on this one, i'm away from my main computer, and haven't had a chance to check this link. I'll re-up if its not up to snuff.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Fuzzy Lights - Twin Feathers

Today, i bring you some more Fuzzy Lights, as glowingly referenced in yesterday's Wire Tapper post. As usual, i loved what i heard and wanted to know more. Hunted down a copy of their most recent record, Twin Feathers, released in Aug. on Little Red Rabbits Records.
Obscura, the track featured on the Wire Tapper starts thing off like an americana chamber ensemble, keening fiddle reels and bowed saws, apparently written on the fly after a late night's party. But they quickly take an abrupt right and morph into a dreamy, folk-rock band, for tracks Fallen Trees and Through Water. This seems to provide the roadmap for Twin Feathers; dreamy, folksy tunes interspersed with cinematic, instrumental mood pieces.
Fuzzy Lights, centered around husband and wife duo Xavier and Rachel Watkins and recently augmented to a 5 piece, have clearly absorbed a wide range of sounds and influences, and internalized them to make something unique and special. Obviously steeped in the sounds of traditional post-rock such as The Dirty Three and A Silver Mt. Zion, but equally indebted to British wyrdness like Fairport Convention and The Incredible String Band, and a healthy dose of classic Slo-Core like Yo La Tengo or Red House Painters, they take what is best from all those styles and make it serve their ends, avoiding cliche.
The best thing about this band, and drawing from such a broad pallette, is the wide range of moods, textures, and instrumentation it makes available. Hearing the interplay of viola and harmonium on Lucida, warmly recorded to cassette, is thrilling. The Museum Song, apparently improvised to accompany Chris Marker's film La Jetee, uses the viola's ability to tug heart-strings to masterful ability. You'd have to have a heart of stone, have to be the most jaded and cynical of hipsters, to not be moved by its beauty. The vocals are also wonderfully recorded, and, while the lyrics do not stand forth and proclaim themselves, i look forward to some intensive headphone research of this album, in the weeks to come.
Another reviewer claimed that every song built to a climactic wall of sound, and i disagree. Twin Feathers is not about bombast and fury, although it occasionally unleashes the storm. It is more about mood and ambience, creating a pastoral drift to explore and get lost in, like an early morning mist.










You can hear a mix that they recently did, for arctic circle, as well as a live set with some interviewage, over here: Arctic Circle Radio

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wire Tapper 24

In this month's edition of Wire, there's a feature on Radio Art. Must be something in the air... or maybe they're reading this blog? Regardless, they've pointed me in the direction of some excellent transmissions, that i can't wait to explore.
Also acted as signpost with the new Wire Tapper CD, a little lagniappe for physical supporters. 20 tracks, and i'd heard of maybe 1. The amazing, sometimes daunting, often frustrating thing about music is that no matter how much i read or study, poring over playlists or unearthing new compilations, and there's a plethora of names i don't recognize. I've dived into a bottomless pit. But that's part of my function here, for you, dear readers: to elevate cream from crop, chaff from wheat. An alchemical factory, to boil out the impurities, and let the pure gold shine forth! Based entirely on my preferences and listening habits, of course.
I found this edition of WT to be a rather enjoyable listen, although not entirely. There's definitely some new and enticing sounds, drawn from a number of disparate sub-genres: drone, electro-acoustic, clinical electronical, chillwave, even a smattering of drone metal.
The real winners of this collection, that had me diving for Google, were Fuzzy Lights, with a gentle form of pastoral post-rock, finger-picked guitars and bowed saws, but this is more Boxhead Ensemble than Do Make Say Thing. Sort of a modern take on a chamber ensemble, with a dash of Eastern European paprika, to flavor the mix.
The other highlight is a triptych of rumbly drone pieces, from DSM 1V, Gentleforce, and Israel Martinez, that really flow together as a whole, staining the nighttime air of my friend's apartment, ebbing and flowing with sound of hissing heat, refrigerator hum, tap-water drips. Subtle, nearly subliminal, a care and a craft to resolve the unpredictable equation of what makes for engaging soundcraft. Very enthusiastic to hear more, from these young contenders.
Wire always serves as a source for interesting unheard sounds, although i don't always agree with their tastes. The writing is excellent, and i always end up learning something new. It was worth the $11 i spent, on a whim, even though i'm broke as shit right now, largely in part to the several days of listening pleasure i've gotten from this disc.













Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Red House Painters - Song for a Blue Guitar


I've been working on putting together an RHP compilation for a friend, for the past week, so i've been re-evaluating their back-catalog, trying to find my favorite songs, a good flow, and just to generally get to know their material better. I realized, after i had the list written down, is almost half of the tracks i'd selected were from this album, Song for a Blue Guitar. Recorded in 1996, it is the ultimate intersection of Mark Kozelek's earlier, introspective styles and the wide-screen slo-burn jams to which he would progress. The sound is clearer and stronger than the earlier albums, but still has more lo-fi grit than Ocean Beach or Old Ramon.
This is the perfect time of year to re-visit the work of Mark Kozelek and co. Really digging in, i've been surprised at how well this music stands up, how many intricacies that make up excellent song-writing. The songs are beautiful, the tone is sublime, the production is suitable. This is a band in their prime. Its worth noting that this album would result in RHP being dropped from 4AD, for too many lengthy jams. But this time around, Kozelek was channeling Neil Young, rather than John Denver, and he would not be censored. Another RHP album would not hit shelves for 5 years, and it would be their last.
I think this would be the best place for someone to start; with the mournful folks of Song for a Blue Guitar, Trailways, or Priest Alley Song; the nostalgia of Have You Forgotten; or the barn-stormers Make Like Paper and Silly Love Songs. The one thing, that is most glaringly obvious upon considering any Mark Kozelek project, is that he is a stunning guitar player, and on this album mood and tone match skill and inspiration, make for a glorious whole, where nothing is out of place. No flubs. No mis-steps. No filler. How often do you find that?
The perfect accompaniment for the late autumn.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Radio Show: Electronic Explorations

Electronic Explorations is the brain child/labor of love of Rob Booth, a denizen of San Fransisco's nether-world. Featuring, in his own words, "electronic music’s hottest property, a deviously crafted patchwork of carefully sewn rhythms, sonic contortions and delicate melodies. Dubstep, minimal electronica, techno and advanced soundscapes," each episode is a 90 minute excursion into the creme de la creme of the electronic underground. Obscure, and under-represented talent abound: to quote the man, himself, "Producers who rarely see the light of day, too busy in their own homes, making some of the most arresting, forward thinking and intelligent music," his show is an excellent resource for unearthing whats moving and shaking the headphones and dancefloors, the world over. He has featured mixes from such innovators as The Kiliminjaro Darkjazz Ensemble, Scuba, Surgeon, 2562, Mike Paradinas, Kid 606; the list goes on and on, and is also full of names you've never heard, but still stack up against the heavy-weights. The shows are expertly sequenced, and can be listened to over and over. He keeps the dialogue to a minimum, preferring to, "let the music do the talking."
There is a favoring towards sounds of the dubstep spectrum, although interspersed with moments of slick Detroit techno, breakcore, and IDM, owing in part to his influential correspondence with BBC dj Mary Anne Hobbes, and getting excited over the burgeoning scene he was discovering, via her playlists. One of the most exciting aspects of his sets is hearing good dubstep sets fresh, as at times i've gotten bogged down with the leaden weight and preponderance of tired imitators that seem to muddy the waters. As dubstep was emerging, i was a tireless advocate, its sound appealing to these old goth ears, reminding me of the middle-of-the-night mood sections at parties, when shit got real chill and ambient and weird. Seemed to be a mixture of breakbeats, odd Coil experimentalism, laid back atmospheric dub grooves, the omnipresent visceral presence of the BASS. It sounded great on headphones and in clubs. It was new, it was obscure. It was breaking new ground daily. Its nice to feel that rush of excitement, again, and to be reminded how many bloody brilliant producers and djs there are out there these days.
131 episodes and killing it every week. Do yrself a favor.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Nils Okland - Straum (rune grammofon, 2000)

Stumbled upon this, somewhere along the way, got in my head that i'd share with you fine folks. Nils Økland plays the Hardanger fiddle, a tradition Norwegian instrument much like a violin, but with either 8 or 12 strings, tuned to sympathetic resonant frequencies. He moves freely between traditional folk music, improv, and modern classical, forsaking the purists and playing a preponderance of his own compositions.
I heard this referenced as a drone album, and there are some droning strings, to be sure, but the overall mood of Straum is of a modern, contemplative classical feel. The fiddle is the main attraction, beautifully recorded in various churches, and augmented by organ, harmonium, trumpet, guitar, and some wordless female vocals (if they are words, they are words that i don't know). The result is 15 tracks of subdued loveliness, each note given room to resonate and soar, although there are a few impressive 16th note runs, just to show Nils is no slouch. I am often reminded of mournful celtic music, probably for the fact that it is mainly fiddle melodies, but i would say that several continents are crossed, and this is music that knows no boundaries, including time.
Stark and subtle, beautifully recorded, and emotionally resonant. For those that enjoy the sound of acoustic instruments, that like to see boundaries smashed and new forms arise from ash, then this is for you. I came upon this accidentally, and can say that i feel my life is enriched, for it. Played after 8 hours of hour, an unexpectedly lovely calm Sun. evening. Sometimes life is full of wonderful surprises.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Denver After Dark


Denver After Dark is a compilation of underground sounds from the Mile High City, burgeoning artists, who will probably be household names in the next two years, or at least deserve to be. It is a decent encapsulation of sounds that drift from doorways of clubs like the Hi-Dive, Rhinoceropolis, the Larimer Lounge, long into the night, drifting on fumes of PBR and American Spirits. The sounds are as diverse as the many different types of people you'll find here, but still manage to flow together to be a pretty listenable compilation. You'll find Chillwave/Witch House/whatever represented here by the sounds of Modern Witch, with their retro-drum machine fetishism and indistinct goth murmurings, but the synth bass is sweet, catches in yr craw, draws you in. You'll find distorted club Pop, destined to be mangled by 12" subwoofers from those that know, from the husband and wife duo of Hideous Men, who are wonderfully gifted at writing skewed but expert pop beats, and are wonderfully nice people, to boot. They gave me a ride to the bus station, once, so make sure you check their tunes.
You'll find electronica, in its various mutant striations, brought to you by Hollagramz, c.db.sn., Flashlights, and Peddahblak. The c.db.sn track, Airport, is detailed and polished, a minimal trancey dubscape with a light-touch that still moves. This dude, one Chase Dobson, obviously knows what the fuck he's doing, and i look forward to showcasing him more, here in the future.
Rock makes a brief cameo here with the final trinity of artists, Woodsman, Gauntlet Hair, and St. Elias. Woodsman are a n instrumental rock trio who absolutely tear the roof off live! Their track, Balance, is a more subdued affair; a pulsing, tribal locked groove affair, that sounds like a Sonic Youth jam, picked up somewhere in the middle, or some lost Kraut nugget. Gauntlet Hair bring it with garage pop, as in yr neighbor's garage, if he lived two blocks away. Like, distant. Good songwriting sensibility, though, nice splashy 70s reverbed guitar, and pounding 4 to the floor backbeats. Solid, yet airy, simultaneously, with an emotional undercurrent to the vocals. They have already been noticed by the p4k, so are probably already familiar to many of you, but i seriously dig what i have heard from these kids. These guys, as well as Woodsman, will be on tour of the West Coast for the rest of the month, so check 'em out live, if you get a chance.
The final track comes courtesy of St. Elias, titled Welcome to your Doom, which is not nearly as metal as it might seem, more like a 90s guitar indie math rock band. Hints of Don Caballero, pummeling menace of Shellac or Polvo. Didn't even know these guys existed. Sure am glad i thought to find this for y'all. Don't even know what's right under my nose.

TRACKLIST
1.) Brittany Gould & Cory Brown: “Nite Chimes For Lucid Lovers”
2.) Modern Witch: “Running”
3.) Hideous Men: “Fantasy Cloak”
4.) Hollagramz: “Magnet Flow”
5.) c.db.sn: “Airport”
6.) FLASHLIGHTS: “Apple Trees”
7.) PeddahBlak: “Make It Funky” (curator of compilation)
8.) Woodsman: “Balance”
9.) Gauntlet Hair: “All Eyes”
10.) St. Elias: “Welcome To Your Doom
This can be had, straight from the horses' mouth, here

Hideous Men-Fantasy Cloak [mp3]

I hope to cover more local culture here, in the near future. There's some neat shit, going on in the mountains, and by focusing on the talented artists and quality people i occasionally meet, it will help me forget how i'd rather be living in Olympia.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Review: Caldera Lakes (DØD UNIVERS)


"A featureless silhouette is glimpsed at the bottom of a shimmering lake. A long lost love is seen through the frosted window of a winter cottage. Always on the outside, always peering inward. Leaning hard against solid matter, you feel you can push right through. Suddenly you can sense the space between the atoms of perceived reality. All at once it is stretched out before you, the passage of eons, life from plasma, the births and deaths of galaxies. To grasp it you must lose it. You are and always were cosmic dust. Insignificant. The detritus of stars." - from DØD UNIVERS blogspot

Three Tracks of barely contained, but well constructed, maelstrom.

This newest transmission from Caldera Lakes is the closest recorded approximation to what they are doing live, at the moment. Eva Aguila, of Kevin Shields, produces a wall-of-sound with a cornucopia of different instruments and homemade electronics, while Brittany Gould coos and shrieks and vents over the frenzy. They are both obviously very adept at what they do, which makes for that rarest of anomaly, masterful noise music. The presence of the human voice provides an emotional hook to hang yr hat, while the blistering fuzz and shimmering soundscapes disorient and perplex.
This recording, and their live performance, utilizes some tibetan singing bowls, bells, and chimes, which gives the proceedings a ritualistic flavor; exotic flights of fancy behind opiated eyelids. Brittany Gould also has a deft touch with the pedal-board, and a real finesse looping her voice, a simulated choir, a mumbled catharsis. 3 tracks here, flowing and blending together, mostly atmospheric, as hinted at with track 1 title, Contained Etherealness, only to be t-boned by a blistering white-noise assault on the end of the A side, the tail end of undefined, a pure noise assault that would make Boyd Rice proud, only to decrescendo back into melodic territory, and then the flip. These ladies will keep you on yr toes, keep ya guessing, no easy answers, no party lines. Just a world, a swamp, a forest, to wander in, to get lost. Either yr down for the journey, or yr not.
The packaging on this cassette is so unbelievably gorgeous, it made my heart sing to hold it in my hands, a glad hallelujah for art objects, tangible and lovingly crafted. I had the good fortune of seeing them open for Sonic Youth in Denver a couple months ago, with a stunning live set, and i believe i scored this miracle for maybe $7. At times it is sweet to be a fan of underground music. It can be had from the label for $9, and i really must insist that each and every one of you buy a copy, until they're all gone, and then they'll make more, or just release more music. The spectacular show reminded me of this duo's existence, and listening to this tape several times over the past couple o' months has really whet my whistle for this band's music, and for experimental music, in general. They really are something special.

You can check out some free tunage, that they've upped themselves, over at FMA:
http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Caldera_Lakes/The_New_Caldera_Lakes_Album_Rough_Cut/

and you can buy this gem here:
http://soundofadeaduniverse.blogspot.com/

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Trash

Here's a couple of albums from this esoteric New Zealand quartet. Featuring members from other quality underground Kiwi bands such as The Dead C, The Verlaines, The Alpaca brothers, this band is considerably under rated, and due for a renaissance.
The first album, for yr consideration, is Gritt and Butts (album cover pictured left.) Its cover art is a good indication of what lies inside, smeary impressionistic lo-fi guitar sturm and drang, it would be fitting to call it a collection of great Sonic Youth outtakes, if not for the fact that the SY were obviously ripping this sound to begin with. Buzzing guitar scree, and absolutely PUMMELING drumming takes this release to the next level. Embracing all the strengths of intimate lo-fi gems, it is warm and fuzzy, intimate and non-commercial. Not striving to impress, nor to exceed, more like express, and what becomes apparent, through all the hiss, is the strong songwriting sensibility, a shiny poppiness beneath the murk, as is appropriate for its Dunedin genesis. Full of post-Velvets dirge and pigfucker thump, assimilating all that is great of underground rock of the last 2 decades, particularly of a hypnotic, 2 chord variety.
Mihiwaka was their third LP, and is decidely more polished. Still experimental, occasionally sprawling, but the guitars spark and spit in glorious hi-fi, clean and clear and sharp and menacing. Glider to Sam, the second track, is a truly great song. Impress somebody on yr next obscure mixtape. I don't know this album as well, mainly having heard Gritt and Butts and (Not) Gate, their second album. Picked both of them up at the Reckless Records in Chicago for 3 bucks a piece, and proceeded to have my head blown wide open, becoming a fanatical devotee of New Zealand noise rock. Listen to these two, and you'll see why.

Trash were:
Bruce Blucher (the Alpaca Brothers, Cyclops, Pointy Little Stick)
Paul Cahill (the Alpaca Brothers)
Robbie Yeats (the Renderers, Dead C, the Verlaines)
Andre Richardson (Doramaar, Cyclops)

If anyone has (Not) Gate, i can't find it anywhere, having spaced my cd copy during my chaotic 20s. Fans of Dead C, and The Verlaines, take note, rejoice! Also This Kind of Punishment, and generally the whole underground NZ/Xpressway thing.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Dark Arts

Here's some leftovers from my Halloween extravaganza, that didn't quite get put up on time. More autumnal in general, than specifically pumpkin oriented, i thought they'd still be a welcome addition to the season.
Autumn is a time of flux, the world goes to sleep for another year. The old generation dies off, to make way for the new in the spring. At first it is quaint, nostalgic; faded quilts and handkerchiefs, old photographs, drifts on smoke on increasingly chilly air. A time of nostalgia and remembrance. Then the death throes, the flailing: the breeze grows fangs, shows it heart of darkness. Homeless, drunken men freeze to death in alleys and doorstops. The trees all bare.
You can resist it, struggle, try to hold on to outmoded concepts and identities, or you can dance with the spectre, realize that Death is a transformation, a chance to come out of yr cocoon, to bust out of stasis.
I have here an autumnal mix i made, entitled Dark Arts, first focusing on the nostalgic, warm sweater side of the fall, then segueing into dark ceremony. It features such psychonauts as Six Organs of Admittance, Dead Raven Choir, Silvester Anfang, Green Pajamas side-project Goblin Market. It has a track by Donovan Quinn, who was a recent discovery, whose full time job is with the Skygreen Leopards, of Jewelled Antler fame, whose corpus features much fitting Oct. melodies. If anyone out there happened to have a copy of his most recent work, 'Your Wicked Man,' i'd love to hear it. I think it should provide a stirring addition to yr internal soundtrack, and perhaps introduce some to the darker side of the psych-folk phenomenon.
As an added bonus, we've got a JSHEAVEN ORIGINAL, a mini-mega mix: haunted soundscapes
and creepy music, with a few post-production bells and whistles. An imaginary journey into the woods
at night. This is my first attempt at publishing an original mix, brought to you by my dear, sweet
friend Ableton Live. A canny listener may recognize some morsels from some of the albums i featured
in Oct.
I had a blast putting all this together, so i hope y'all enjoy. Thoughts and feedback would be appreciated, as this is something i've been wanting to get together for a while, inspired by the multitudes of skilled curators out there. It gives me a chance and an excuse to spend some quality time with my record collection, to get to know one another better. I hope to put more original content out into the world, to be creative and express myself. That's pretty much why i do this thing. A skylight into my daydreams and nightmares.
I'm also recording original material lately, some of which may first see the twilight here.














Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Review: Barn Owl - Ancestral Star


I would like to clarify something: many people claim that Barn Owl, the duo of Evan Paminiti and Jon Porras, create soundtracks for Western Skies, the age-old 'scores for films that don't exist,'. I think it is more apt to say that Paminiti and Porras CREATE WORLDS, whole geological strata; flora and fauna; weather systems and patterns. There is no sense of human drama, no fleeting flitting narrative. The 10 tracks that comprise the duo's 3rd full-length EP conjure vast landscapes; where the listener can park the car, get out, stretch the legs, explore.
Clearly in the drone/raga-rock tradition, they are more indebted to the guitar flailings of John Fahey and the Tacoma camp, as well as other mystics of the wide-open spaces, than Dylan Carlson and the like. However, there is a smidgen of Black Sabbath dirge, alongside pulsing harmoniums and bowed guitars, chanting, hypnotic violin, temple bells and throbbing synthesizer. The best thing about The Owl is they seem to encompass the strengths of all manner of ritualistic, droning music: the tone, the attitude, the volume, the sheer physicality of sounds eeked out from fingers on wood and string. I've heard it said that they create 'Elemental Music', as in music created from the elements, and i'll go along with that. It is of the Earth, their music has the power of tribal ritual. It will take you places, if you let it.
I've heard others say that this album drags, that it is excessive. I think it is a matter of taste, and what you look for in a listening experience. The thing that i like the best about this album, and their entire back-catalog, (of which i am a slavering devotee), is its infinite properties. Like the 10-minute title track, the guitars and synths seem endless, unwavering, and it really gives an active listener to dive into the nuances of sound, to really feel it in yr bones.
Barn Owl is at the top of their game, and i think this is a landmark of so-called 'drone music'. Much experimental music is excessive and noodly, odd gems emerging from muck, moments of unexpected grandeur amidst chaos and confusion. This is the first time the band had a chance to take their time in a studio, and the song-writing and album sequencing seem taut and focused. They embody all the strengths of a wide-range of ritualistic styles: the burning, sludgy electric guitar of Nadja or the solo work of Aidan Baker; the beautiful, acoustic guitar and wheezing harmonium of Six Organs of Admittance or Sir Richard Bishop; the Americana minimalism of Henry Flynt and Angus MacLise. Its got the power and presence, the interesting textures of post-rock, but stripped of its cliche. Its got the smoky, ceremonial demeanour of a psych-folk collective. Its pretty much got it all.
Barn Owl have raised the bar, and created a world, that i hope to get lost in, over and over. For fans and n00bs alike. Someone said, 'Barn Owl carves epics out of ash,' and i couldn't agree more. It is out today, courtesy of Thrill Jockey.



Radio Show: Exotic Pylon


Here's the beginning of a new series i am planning, shedding light on radio shows
of excellence, both on-the-air and through the wires.
There is something mystical about the radio, disembodied voices coming to caress
and confront you, wherever you are. From the crackling cicada buzz of the AM dial, to
freeform freakouts from Finland, its like a circuit-ouija board, imparting wisdom and
sometimes bringing doom.
Sometimes i get tired of trying to be a music expert. Sometimes i can't think of what to
listen to. Sometimes i think i know it all. Turning the dial relieves the strain of playlists,
biographical information, statistics and formula. It swells and fills the air, blowing like a
cool breeze. EVERY TIME i listen to the radio, i hear something i've never heard before. I am
freed of the pressure of trying to be an expert, and i can just be a listener, and a fan.

To kick-start this on-going endeavour, i bring you the Exotic Pylon, brought to you weekly on Resonance FM by the consistently charming and worryingly hard-working Johnny Mugwump. The show is a bastion, a mainstay, a pillar of the British school of hauntological High Weirdness, Ghost Box weirdoes and Mordant maniacs, as well as other strands of experimental mutation. An excellent source of information, he's done shows on J. G. Ballard and stories by Thomas Ligotti, exclusive mixes from Moon Wiring Club, Position Normal and live in-studio performances from every strata of the underground.
The Pylon is a wonderful source of undiscovered gems. I came across the show, when i had pretty much scraped the bottom of the Ghost Box, exhausted The Caretaker discography, thought i had seen every horror movie worth seeing. I was lamenting! I was at wits' end. Through the graces of Johnny Mugwump, i have discovered the joys of the Moon Wiring Club, who has become a personal favorite, as well as Dolly Dolly, whose mixes i have enjoyed immensely, although i have yet to lay hands on a long-player. The mixture of weirdness, wackiness, kitsch, and sheery bloody-minded horror and darkness is right up my alley. I consistently listen, an hour to an hour and a half a week of bizarrity that i always look forward to.
You can download all of his shows from the website. You may start with last weeks' Samhain festivities, a bit behind the time, but a nice memento of the season. It features some exclusive tracks off of the forthcoming Moon Wiring Club record, for which i cannot wait, and the Dolly Dolly mix is wack! I also HIGHLYHIGHLY recommend listening to each and every episode of the Weird Tales for Winter, which are glorious. I have heard that he plans on doing a new series, this coming winter. Glad tidings, indeed!


Got a favorite radio show or station? Post 'em up, i'll write 'em up!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Garden on a Trampoline - Near-Life Experience


Newest release from my dear friend James Eric, finds him exploring many different variation of instrumental music; from scorching, guitar-driven post-rock, to Aphex Twin ambience, and at times veering close to wacked-out breakbeats. This release is perhaps one of the most adventurous i have heard from G.O.A.T. to date, skipping styles and sounds like a smooth stone over still water.
Perhaps the most noticeable attribute of this music is its emotionality, its beating pulse that is ambiguous and moving with its lack of vocals, of spelled-out narrative, to tell you what to think. The impression i am left with is inhabiting the emotional states of the Artist at the time of its inception, lonely inspiring nights in the bedroom, hunched over keyboards and audio editing software, spelling out silent stories, wordless cries, howls, lamentations, and laughter.
Production is clear and clean, and for the most part suits the songs well. Extra super-cool points for guitar tone, delayed electric guitar falling down like autumn rain, occasionally burning like a solar eclipse, bringing to mind Robert Fripp's classic work with Brian Eno, circa Another Green World. Intricate acoustic guitar lines provide the heart and soul and tear ducts of the work captured therein. The bass guitar (a 5 string, i happen to know,) growls and hisses, and provides some grit and muscle, that i feel is sometimes lacking in the world of G.O.A.T.
This album also goes to show that Mr. Eric is no slouch at programming beats, tipping his hat to NIN and other progenitors of the Industrial Revolution, whose sounds were in vogue when Mr. Eric was sharpening his chops and pen. Some songs find him experimenting with ambience and sound-design, and really illustrates his musical ear, as disparate elements hang together to find unlike symbiosis, multi-limbed mutant children, dancing in moonlight. It is an angle i'd like to see him pursue further, as he seems to have a knack for it, and it calls to mind all kinds of delightful, subjective imagery.
The only real detraction of this album is a fondness for digital sounding keyboard pads, which to these ears calls to mind cut-rate movies from the '90s, when producers realized they didn't have to pay orchestras for soundtrack work anymore. There is a Bjork quote, which i have taken to heart, re: synthesizers (and she should know): "Plastic can be beautiful, as long as it looks like plastic,". As you probably know, i absolutely adore much electronic music, but i approach synthesized with much caution and trepidation. Many of the keyboard tracks on this album work out just fine, particularly the chiming bell tones and the parts that sound like Twin Peaks, (and i do realize that score is about as synthesized as they come).
Stand-outs off this album for me are Bed (with its Frippisms) and the trinity of tunes in the middle of the album; A Silence that Almost ... which is a total class act, albeit with some questionable synth, for its driving pulse and charging melody, Melatonin for its moody, nocturnal vibes and textured production, and A Song for Kaytee which is just beautiful, and has the sounds of dolphins chattering!
This album has been one of my favorites by James Eric, whom i have watched develop and mature over the year. I am most intrigued to see where he goes from here. I think the best thing i can say for this record, is that it seems to progress, to explore, to tell a story, which is one of the challenges of instrumental/ambient music, and to do so without resorting to Explosions in the Sky formulaic bombast. Not that i got anything against the ol' P.R., but it has been done and done and done some more, so if yr gonna do crescendo rock these days, you better be real fuckin good at it. This album is more subtle, more textural. I've listened to this record probably 5 times, while putting this piece together, and i am still enjoying it on my headphones at this particular moments. That is probably my highest mark of excellence.



I am getting situated at a friend's house, where i will be staying for the month, and where i intend on doing much writing, and getting this here spot up to snuff. There will be some runoff from my Halloween bender, and some original rips of stuff. I've come across much goodness in the past few weeks, y'all will not be disappointed!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween Week: Day 5, Soundtracks

I used to date a girl who would say, 'I could probably watch horror movies, if it weren't for the music,'. Got my wheels spinning on the importance of music and sound-design in horror and thriller movies. Atonal strings, to build the tension, to alert you to the fact that someone is probably about to bite it. Heavy breathing and first person POV, to let you know (or at least think) that a psycho is watching the character, who is probably about to bite it.
Truth of the matter is horror movie soundtracks have a lot of qualities that i like in any ol' music, which is to say it is dark, demented, and generally fucked up. And they can get away with being totally unrestrained and over the top, which is something many, say Metal, bands just can't pull off, without being cheesy as fuck. So its nice to sometimes lay the atmospherics on thick, to know, "i am listening to horror music," and that is okay.
So i've pulled together some odds and ends, certainly not definitive, but most of which is damn fine. Hopefully, if yr anything like me, you don't just pull these goodies out a week out of the year, cuz yr not gonna get through this list in the next two days. Unless yr a real freak, in which case, i like you.
Included here, you will find yr standard, 'creepy music, interspersed with dialog from the movie,' as well as straight orchestral scores. You will find creeky haunted house tunes, vintage '80s synthesizer blasts, as well as a some vintage bloopy sci-fi, just to cover all the bases. I think you will find that all the examples i have provided stand up on their own, whether you've seen the movie or not, and are not pure schlock novelty.
Of the batch, probably my favorite is The House of the Devil OST, which has more eerie atmospheric piano pieces than you can shake an inverted crucifix at, with a second runner up going to the Phantasm OST, which is surprisingly listenable. Noteworthy also is the classic Goblin soundtrack to Romero's 1978 Dawn of the Dead, and i am also including the music that got used in the worldwide distribution, which i've not heard yet, but will probably rule.
I hope yr having a good Halloween week, and enjoying the treats i've been putting up here.

OSTs



Fri the 13th part 1











Phantasm OST











House of the Devil OST










Goblin version
Incidental Music (unreleased)







The Terminator (definitive edition)













The Abominable Dr. Phibes











Forbidden Planet









The Wicker Man











Carnival of Souls

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Halloween Week: Day 3, Concerts



One of my ultimate favorite Halloween traditions is to go out and see live music. Seems to really embrace the ritualistic nature of the day, for me, harness it with the collective will of hundreds or thousands of fellow participants. A kind of mass ritual. With the trimmings and trappings of phantasmagoric costumes, the frequent presence of drugs and sex, (for those that are into that kind of thing,) and the volume and SWEAT that accompanies rock'n'roll/rave/wherever you happen to be, its no wonder that this is like my Pagan Christmas/New Years. The ultimate Release.
Not to mention the fact that most musical acts are moved by the ambience that hangs in the air, and a lot of the time, you get shows that are DARK and HEAVY as hell. My favorite.
Halloween is also a significant anniversary in my life, had a number of life altering events occuring on and around these days. So it tends to call up a lot of memories, along with the typical childhood nostalgia aspect, all of which makes for a heady brew that can be channeled into a magickal snowball and flung at whatever. Probably the most significant, as in life-altering, event of my life was when i got married in Las Vegas on 10.31.98, coming up on 12 years ago. The marriage itself didn't go well, but the wedding was a fucking blast. Seeing Phish play at the Thomas and Mack Arena was my honeymoon.
Almost as influential as my rapidfire descent into poverty and adulthood, and eventual divorce and all the other craziness that was to follow, was this was the auspicious day when i was to become a Velvet Underground devotee, the band wearing VU's 'Loaded' as their musical costume that night. I was blown away by the druggy/poppy atmosphere of the record, mixed with the dark magick of the night and the sensory overload of being in Las Vegas, hooked me immediately and left me a drooling, slavering convert, of which i remain to this day.
So my secret alterior motive for this post, which is one i've been harboring in my heart for a while, is to contend the fact that PHISH IS A GOOD BAND. A fucking great one, as a matter of fact. I will probably not win any converts on this contention, but i want this to be the kind of place that really embraces contradiction and paradox, that shuns posing and posturing and the popular opinion. I really and truly love a lot of fucking hippy music. They are great fucking musicians (though not perfect, and prone to excess and lack of discretion or self-editing or restraint.)
My years following and listening to Phish have probably been the most influential on my listening habits and musical taste, to date. One way or another, i ended up getting into, because of this band: Talking Heads, Frank Zappa, the Grateful Dead, My Bloody Valentine, Pavement, Tom Waits, and the universe of improvised music, such as jazz.
So today, i am posting all of Phish's musical costumes, over the years. The White Album, Quadrophenia, Remain in Light, Loaded, and Exile on Main Street. I think every one of these shows is utterly amazing, and well worth checking out. I was gonna post some other bands playing on Halloween, but i ran out of time.
A bit of a long shot, but if anyone reading this happens to have a copy of Spiritualized playing at the Metro in Chicago on 10.31.01 and cared to share, you would have my eternal gratitude. I do believe there are copies floating around, somewhere, and that was one of the most magickal Halloweens i've experienced so far.
This year, unfortunately, i don't think i'm getting into anything too wild and crazy. I'm pretty introspective, at the moment, and there's nothing too mind-blowing going on, and i've got some financial considerations to take care of, so it may be a contemplative one for me, this year.





Part 1
Part 2







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Part 1
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Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Halloween Week: Day 2, This One's for the Spooky Kids


Here's something a little more, whimsical, after yesterday's harrowing horror-fest.
When i was a kid, i wanted to listen to records like these all year long. I requested this haunted house record in June, last day of school, and was looked at like i'm insane. Those records are only for one day a year, heralded with black and orange crepe paper. I beg to disagree, citing a well-known Ministry anthem whose name i will not speak.

The Chilling, Thrilling Sounds... sets the mold for a particular type of novelty record; one side of spooky, campfire tales, one side of foley sound effects, for yr own insidious purposes. It is pretty much the pinnacle of the form, but i am also including a number of emulators, sold out of the back of Monster magazines in the early '60s.

The other style featured here are straight up spooky tales, a number of classics from Masters like Ambrose Bierce, Edgar Allen Poe, one even narrated by the virtuoso of horrific voice-over, Vincent Price. I am happy to report that a number of these stand up on their own, even outside of the calendar date, featuring, well, good writing! Ambrose Bierce's An Incident at Owl Creek Bridge is classic haunted Americana, even if it seems hackneyed in retrospect, having been cited and ripped off so often. It was also a real pleasure to re-discover The Fall of the House of Usher, which i probably haven't read since early adolescence. The reading by Richard Taylor is highly effective, with some sweet atmospheric music that i would probably listen to on its own.

One of the real treasures of this post is an album called Drop Dead! An Exercise of Horror by Arch Oboler, who was a long time actor and producer of a radio program called Lights Out!, which is also excellent and may show up here at some point, especially if y'all are interested, and this particular artifact is quite frankly, fucked up, especially considering the year of its origin. Its only real stumble is the last track, the morality play of The Laughing Man, but it was typical of the day to use science-fiction to point out that we're blowing ourselves up and poisoning ourselves.

I've had a blast listening to these all day. Pull out yr flashlights and stick 'em under yr chin. Sit in a circle, with only a candle for illumination. Shun the years of cynicism, and let the adrenaline rush of creaking doors and chains thrill yr senses!

oh ps... you should check this Folktellers record, its an excellent collection of American ghost tales.

Photobucket Drop Dead! back Drop Dead! An Exercise in Horror


Fright! Fright!

Terror! Terror!

Horror! Horror!

Nightmare Nightmare

The Haunting The Haunting

Thrillers and Chillers Thrillers and Chillers

a coven of witches A Coven of Witches' Tales

Tales of Horror and Suspense Tales of Horror and Suspense

The Folktellers The Folktellers - Chillers

Chilling thrilling sounds Thrilling Chilling Sounds of the Haunted House

oh pps.. you should really check those ray taylor poe readings! Utterly psychotropic, and the nearly free-jazz freakout guitar of The Pit and the Pendulum sounds like it could've been played by Derek Bailey, and must be heard to be believed!