Sunday, September 30, 2012

Nils Frahm - Screws

is offering up his new opus as a free download, as well as available physically from Erased Tapes.

Berlin-based pianist and composer Nils Frahm didn't let a broken thumb slow him down. Instead of taking a forced sabbatical, that would've lasted months, he instead wrote 9 gorgeous miniatures for 9 fingers. 9 compositions for solo piano, unaccompanied and unadorned, the music is glacial and patient, resonant and laden with intention. He has absorbed the strengths of Satie's virulent strain, but ditched a lot of the frivolity the French are famous for. Anyone who got into either of Gonzales' solo piano records will be in heaven. Perfect music for window gazing, watching the oncoming fall.

Nils Frahm tends to be associated with what is called 'Neoclassical' music, sometimes known as 'Modern Classical' or maybe merely 'Ambient', but he has discarded a lot of the stylized elements, the clicks, cuts, groans and droans, to make something bare and timeless. The singularity of style is approaching, and we are reverting back to pure MUSIC: melody, harmony, rhythm. I foresee a renaissance in all things classic. You will begin to see trad jazz, chamber quartets, Baroque counterpoint. Everybody is mining the past, to become their truest selves, and its like we're living in a timeless void, devoid of genre restrictions and exclusivity. Everybody is trying to make their heart's music to the best of their abilities, and Nils Frahm has the chops and expertise to make an emotional statement, to conjure a mood. It is nice hear to something unaffected, unstylized. Honest and simple and very, very effective.

Screws, and anything on Erased Tapes really, is perfect reflective music for the abandoning summer, for the onset of Autumn. Frost creeps over the windows like a cataract, a lifetime of memories emerges from the sudden stillness and dark. The 9 songs of Screws can act as an amniotic cathedral of emotions, a holy temple of reverberation, recombinant sounds forming crystal shifting clouds of ringing piano beauty. It can bring tears to yr eyes, and peace to yr heart. It can quiet yr mind, it can make you a better person.

Nils Frahm writes beautiful music, which he is making available digitally for free, with hard copies available from Erased Tapes.

if yr in or around Portland, this evening, you can see Nils live, at Classic Pianos, with Marcus Fischer.

Nils Frahm with Marcus Fischer
Classic Pianos
3003 SE Milwaukie Ave.
Portland, Or 97202

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Stars - Set Yourself On Fire

"Anyway... I've started to make a tape... in my head... for Laura. Full of stuff she likes. Full of stuff that make her happy. For the first time I can sort of see how that is done." - Rob, High Fidelity

In a rather unexpected turn of events, i have momentarily found some love in my normally bleak, vicious life. "o no," you might think to yrself, "does this mean he's gonna stop posting nasty noise & misanthropic black metal?" Not by a fucking long shot. For one, there's still plenty of emptiness and pointlessness to existence, even while in the throes of romance and two, this chick's cool, and likes all manner of harshness. Encourages it, even.

i'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that for all my years, and all my love interests, hardly ever have i ever stopped to consider another person's aesthetic, to step behind their eyelids for a moment and try to figure out what makes them tick. I've remained relatively distant and disaffected over the years, preserving my hide and soul at all costs. But i ended up making music with this girl (we play in a band called meta pinnacle), and over the months of writing and learning songs with this person, i ended up taking on some of her taste, by default, trying to make shit sound as best as possible.

We've covered 2 songs off of this record, so far: 'Your Ex-Lover Is Dead' and 'Sleep Tonight,' both of which i love. For some, to hear Set Yrself On Fire 7 years after the fact, one may be tempted to disregard it as another jaunty post-punk orchestral pop record that anybody vaguely familiar with Death Cab For Cutie or anything rubbing up against Broken Social Scene sounds like. Its dismissive, and indicative of some of the challenges facing us as a listening public, these days. There were times when you may only get one new album a month, or maybe once a week, tops, which means you'd have at least 7 days to assimilate the intricacies of song-writing craft etched on the grooves. SYOF's strength, like many or most things in life, lie in the details, like the gentle, drifting guitar on the tail end of the title track, or the string and horn arrangements on 'Your Ex-Lover Is Dead'. In a lot of ways, Stars' sound like DCFC or The Strokes being backed by The Lefte Banke. And the thing of it is, if you don't immediately discredit this record like some hipster prick and actually give it a bloody chance, you may realize that there are aspects of music with far more street cred, like the vocal interplay between Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan, which bring to mind the heavenly harmonies of My Bloody Valentine, or the dreamy delayed guitar that sounds just like epic post-rock. The arsenal of unusual instrumentation bring to mind old, good Belle & Sebastien, and the overall effect is of a multi-hued, many-textured mature record.

I had totally burned out on mid-'00s Indie Rock, one too many Postal Service listens possibly, but this girl has forced me to open my eyes, re-consider my position, and make me wonder what else i might be missing.  There's a shitload of good songs on this record, the production rocks, and there's enough interesting aspects to overlook the bullshit Julian Casablancas aping.

There's going to be a lot more, where this came from...

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Hungry Ghosts - Self Titled

so i have been wrestling in the real world with my involvement with music, what the fuck am i hoping to accomplish anyway, and why am i doing this? You write a blog, and all the links get taken down. You throw a show, the musicians are all amazing, but nobody shows up. This is not belly-aching, this is problem solving. What exactly am i trying to do?

The reason i started J's Heaven, in the first place, was to shed the light on maybe some older or more obscure musicks that there's no way to promote, otherwise. Most 'official publications' only want reviews of albums released that year, at best, and dusty slabs of inspiration from the past get swept under the rug, unless they get re-issued or somebody dies.

For me, it all boiled down to THE ALBUM, using the format of an album review as some pagan invocation to transmit flashing passion from my brain pan to yrs. You see, i have a curious mind. You might almost call it Faustian (lord knows it'll damn my soul, one of these days) and i seem to have no choice but to continue to unearth new gems. Most of the time, its doing research for my own music, listening with open ears and an open mind. So its all been very convoluted, with multiple motivations occurring simultaneously. Mostly, it is to take a sliver of my mind, my life, remove the setting and place it in the ether, for other travellers to stop and bask and rest for a moment. I take these mornings of French jazz and harsh noise, and i give them to you. There is magick happening, all around you. Inspiration, illumination... this music has been the soundtrack to my evolution. It has made me a happier person, even if i have had to walk down a hallway of daggers to get there.

Hungry Ghosts has been my favorite recent discovery of the month (although its more like last month, i've been out of town for a bit) so i basically just picked this one to start, before delving into some ambitious shit i've got in mind. Hungry Ghosts are from Australia, and it was primarily the work of one J. P. Shilo, who's gone on to do some pretty high profile collaborations and film soundtrack work. This is their debut LP, recorded with Rowland S. Howard (of The Birthday Party/Crime and the City Solution fame). Its an LP of evocative spectral noir, music for dark night of the soul. This is Doom Jazz if it were played out at the Moulin Rouge, there seems to be a Parisian hint to these desert landscapes, what with the accordion and fiddle and whatnot. They sound a lot like Earth, in their dense desert-y guitars and mournful cello, but mixed with Kiliminjaro Darkjazz Ensemble playing Debussy covers. This is post-rock, before it got pigeonholed into a cliche, mixing elements of jazz classical and movie scores into a colorful tapestry that will unravel behind yr eyes like a wormhole, like a depth charge.

And that's the thing: this is classic music. Timeless. It came out in 1999, but its new to me, and i'm pretty sure there's bound to be some folks out there that haven't heard this one yet. The instruments are gloriously, glowingly recorded by Howard. The guitars tremble like starving pilgrims, and the keyboards shiver like moonlight on a frosted windshield. The violins are weeping for the lost, but the accordion saws away like Nero. I am quite convinced that this music will make you a better person. To watch a rock band churning out psychedelic chamber music is awesome to behold, the way all the different instruments weave around one another, silken and sinuous. This band truly were at the peak of their powers! If you dig the Western melodrama of The Dirty Three, this one's up yr alley, or even good ol' psych rock like Bardo Pond. There is not one mis-placed note, and it just gets better with repeat listenings. This may become an old friend, a new favorite. It has for me. Let it be the soundtrack to yr late summer, wherever you are.

JP Shilo's been re-issuing some of the Hungry Ghosts stuff on Bandcamp, and has been releasing some new stuff as well, so i'd advocate supporting this extremely talented musician.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Torn ACLs - Real Risks

File Under: The Torn ACLs

The facts:
  1. a pop band from Seattle, Wa.
  2. There are four men in this band.
  3. They are - WILLIAM CREMIN
                            - MILES RANISAVLJEVIC
                            - JASON TABERT
                            - TIM MCCLANAHAN
  4. Real Risks is a 5 track EP, released on 7.13.12 on CreeperSpeak Records
  5. The Torn ACLs played as part of the final day of Goat's Head Fest, here in Portland, where they were nice enough to give me a copy of this disk, for review. 
The speculation: 
  1. They remind me of Death Cab For Cutie. A lot. They write sharp, clever pop songs with clear ringing guitars, heartfelt slightly whiney vocals and sweet, sweet harmonies. There is a tradition of emotional, bookish white boys making edgy pop music. It goes from The Smiths through Elvis Costello to Belle and Sebastien. We tattoo our hearts on our biceps; we take up smoking and never look back.
The thing many don't realize is there is a punk rock attitude to this polished prettiness. Its the rebellion of people who have decided to become intelligent and tasteful to smite their enemies. They rise above, and often times it is the record collections and the all ages hardcore shows that make sanity possible. Serge Gainsborough as Holy Grail. Jacques Brel serves as psychopomp to a better world; chic vintage furnishings and pretty women. Insomnia and intoxication. 

When i'm reviewing a record, the first question i ask is 'What is this object's reason for existing?' Why have its creators decided to make this tiny painting/sound collage and ship it out into the stratosphere? With Real Risks i get the sense that The Torn ACLs are attempting to perfect a formula. Its like they listened to The Photo Booth and Castaways and Cutouts a ton, and been like, "We can do that!" In many ways, they succeed. The vocals are rich and resonant, the guitars shimmer and sparkle and cut. The whole transmission seems intact. This is impressive, considering that they recorded the EP themselves, and had it mixed at Park Audio, in Nampa, ID. It is not easy to get a big studio sound yrself, trust me. The five tracks are over in a flash, and leave you hitting repeat. The kind of thing that'll stay in yr car for a month. A soundtrack to a season; maybe that's why they've made it. I can definitely say that this document is appropriate for the Northwestern summer; the creamy cerulean of the cityscape on the cover, the breezy guitars. A prime score for porch dwelling and skygazing. 

So here's the thing, i'm going to cut you off at the pass. A certain type of hipster will rain down scorn and derision on this 4 peace. They are emulating their inspirations; they are refining a formula. You have heard shit that sounds like the Torn ACLs before. Is there anything wrong with that? I've heard shit that sounds like The Beatles, before and since. I still like The Beatles. I still like people that sound like The Beatles. You've got to peer beneath the varnish, kids. Can't just react and respond. Watching The Torn ACLs play live, their sound was dialed in and they seemed to know what they were going for (even if the guitars were a touch too loud, a mistake that 90% of bands make, especially in small rooms.) On top of that, they were gracious human beings, stoked to be working their craft. Generous and optimistic. They got smooshed last minute into the Goat's Head fold, and they were totally cool and easy to work with.

They're pretty new, and exactly the kind of thing we like to promote here at J's Heaven. I look forward to when they start breaking new ground and record their Trout Mask Replica, although maybe they never will. Maybe it is impossible to say something new, at this juncture. I don't really care. I like music as much as i ever have, and i don't judge folks for sounding like other folks. A million points of bright white light.

If you were not one of the 15 or so people that got to see The Torn ACLs at Ella Street last Sunday, you get another shot, tonight at Backspace. All ages.

Real Risks is available for 3 bucks, digitally, and five dollars for the CD, which is really rather lovely and sounds great. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Body Swap

saw these dudes last night @ the Kenton Club w/ Insect Factory (which i spoke ov over here). Insect Factory has gotten better and better, since last i saw him 4 years ago, but the first band was utter math-drek; i had apprehension going into Body Swap's set. However, the Kenton Club is a laid-back, working class bar kind of place, and i was a little buzzed and tired, so fuck it. Why not watch these dudes play their transparent drum set? Jeff Barsky likes 'em.

Body Swap come from San Fransisco, which has always been and remains a capitol of psychedelic rock. The Grateful Dead are from there; so is Six Organs of Admittance. Neurosis lives near by. They seem to channel two-chord eternal rock 'n roll better than just about anybody. And i always forget how much i like amniotic trance jams.

This brand of trancey, propulsive dervish music, honed by the giants like Grails' and Bardo Pond will always be by and for the heads. People who stay up late, burning incense and listening to records. Perhaps owning some form of semi-precious stone collection. They probably play in one or more bands, themselves. Funny, but 12-minute long instrumental grooves have never seemed to catch on in the mainstream. But if you give 'em the time of day, yr body might start to sway like a charmed cobra, the third eyelid may start to shutter yr everyday vision, and if yr lucky, you may start to see stars.

The thing with Body Swap is that the tone is so tasty; the drums lay into a doomy, middle-eastern lockgroove, and the bass and guitars are syrupy, thick rich and o so sweet. Like honey. This music is decadent, hypnotic; a tavern raga, a plugged-in hookah cafe. A flying carpet; a flying saucer. It kind of hits like a SOMA injection.

Bardo Pond were some of the earliest contemporary underground Psych music i had heard, and others culled from the pages of Ptolemaic Terrascope (which remains essential reading for cognoscenti, along with the Galactic Zoo Dossier by Plastic Crimewave). I had been, and remain, a fanatical shoegaze freak, looking for the ultimate melt, the far-off gaze. I had finally moved to Chicago, and felt that i had escaped the Suburban Hell in which i was reared. These kraut grooves remind me of that first autumn, post-divorce, as i was mutating into the post-punk industrial noise shaman that i would later pretend at. It has a feeling of newness, of adventure.

This music won't work, if you won't let it. You have to give it the time of day. Not everybody takes the time of day for 15 minutes of trance dervish worship. But it'll improve yr life. And yr imagination. Body Swap don't seem to have a shitload of material out there, yet; some SoundCloud material and a new split with a band called Deep Earth, who also seem kind of sweet. You can hear smatterings of each on their bandcamp,  and buy a tape for 5 bucks. If you live in the NorthWest, you can catch 'em tonight in Seattle @ the Rendezvous, and again in Portland on Fri. at some house show.

I'm telling you, getting to check out music like this for cheap or free is a precious thing. Catch 'em now, while they're still unknown.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Insect Factory - Terrastock 7 CDr

i've been wanting to talk about the music of Jeff Barsky, and of my experience at the seventh Terrastock, since the fucker occurred. Procastination and over-speculating on the relevance, prevented me from speaking, until now. But the fact of the matter is that these 3 days in Kentucky were one of the highlights of my young adult life, and Insect Factory's music is a mighty simulacrum of all that is right and holy with the Terrastock; with Psych music; and with what we're trying to do, here at J's Heaven.

I had just gotten the most badass shout-out from Wooden Shjips for being the only person dancing during the whole weekend (Boris, Paik, and Motorpsycho will do that to you), and i got to talking to Barsky at his merch table. He found out i had taken a Greyhound bus from Denver to Louisville, and gave me a copy of this CD, in appreciation. This was back when i was just starting to dream of being a journalist, but still very reluctant to approach musician's. This gesture always meant a lot to me, and endeared me to his cause.

Insect Factory make good drone music; kind of a hard thing to qualify, other than the fact that it is warmly recorded and dreamy in cast. It puts you into a pleasant, kaleidoscopic revelry while listening. When i saw him live, he was performing with the classic noise guitar, pillowy delayed dream guitar set-up, and he was joined by a hammer dulcimer that added a nice world element to the elements. At that time, drone was still a pretty subterranean phenomenon, and i had not had a chance to see it live, much. His performance made a mark, in my mind, and lit a fire to make this kind of music, myself.

Recently, recalling the Terrastock, i thought to peak in on Insect Factory, see if he was still around and playing, and it turns out he was hard at work, touring and releasing a new record, Melodies From A Dead Radio, which he was nice enough to send me a copy of that to review (which i still need to get around to doing). This is the kind of thing that makes the underground tick: i've had skads of musicians send me packages with tapes, records, t shirts, swag galore. These people are dedicated to their art, often times paying out of their own pocket. When i got in touch with him, Jeff remembered who i was and was friendly and approachable, in text. This is the kind of thing that will win you fans. We build connections, one at a time, and here at J's Heaven, i'm at trying to spin vortices and interstices out into the unknown, into the ether.

This CD was made especially for the Terrastock. Its 4 tracks of mesmerizing guitar formations, filligreed with loops and layers of harmonium and bells. This is proper trance music; it lulls you into a theta state, it makes yr head sway like a cobra's. After four years, and about 10000 records later, i STILL say Insect Factory make good drone music. There seems to be a human core here, an emotional element. The visions it conjures seem much more colorful and surreal than a lot of the xeroxed, post-industrial blastitude of much of the genre. It is dreamy, without being narcotic. More LSD than heroin hit. It sounds like the sun, gradually sinking behind a line of Cumulus clouds - all rose and indigo. There's only four tracks, but its over an hour long. This CDr is like a magic carpet ride, and it takes me back to some of my favorite memories.

I am putting this up today because if you happen to live in the greater Portland metropolitan area, Insect Factory is playing a free show at the Kenton Club tonight. He comes from D.C. so he doesn't make it to this side of the sandbox all that often. He's also playing somewhere in the Bay Area, tomorrow night. Don't sleep on this one, here's a talented artist who is still unknown enough to know. A genuine, delightful human being, that is making genuinely delightful music. Take a trip, and tell yr friends.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Black Tape For A Blue Girl - The Rope

i've had a nearly insatiable appetite for dark, atmospheric folk music lately. This has led me back down a mouldering tunnel towards Goth's dark light. Black Tape For A Blue Girl was one of the first goth bands i found. I had to have my friend tell me the name six times, before i got it. Prior to that, i was getting into the early '90s grunge radio rock, the likes of Blind Melon, R.E.M., Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana; all of which were angsty and dark, in a flannely kind of way. I had first heard the term Gothic used in conjunction with Danielle Dax's Jesus Egg That Wept, and found a kindred spirit in its deep southern creepy crawl. I'd been obsessed with the nocturnal since childhood. I used to have dreams of being a vampire since age 11, even going so far as to file my canines to points and refusing to enter the light of day sans sunglasses. I felt a sparkle, a goose-pimpled freefall down a rabbit hole of drugs, sex, magick, madness. I was leaving behind the safety of conventional morality and cookie cutter paradigms, spending all day hiding from the sun, burning incense and losing myself in the paintings of Salvador Dali. I stumbled upon Baudelaire's 'continued derangement of the senses' quite on my own. Black Tape's ambient interludes, stirring strings, and blasted lyricism would guide me...

It has been interesting going through this record again, with adult ears. Some of it has not aged particularly well. Some of it is melodramatic in the extreme, such as the title track "The Rope" with lines like "i see my answer on the end of a rope/the room too cold for me/Cut out my eyes they forgot how to cry/the pain too strong to see." I mean, i've written plenty of prose like this in my life, but thank all that is unholy, most of those notebooks have been lost in fire and flood. Then there's the guitar on "Memory, Uncaring Friend" which sounds like a fishbone out-take, and sometimes the bass sounds canned and straight-to-DAT, gives it that horrid Halls & Oates sheen. And then there's the vocals of Oscar Herrera (for the longest time i thought the voice of Black Tape was Sam Rosenthal, the mastermind behind Projekt Records), who is gothy in the extreme, sort of like Rosetta Stone or Fields of the Nephilim, people copping Andrew Eldritch and Peter Murphy, all that was 'Gothic Rock' as it would be known by Mick Mercer.

However, with the recent appreciation of Shoegaze and 80s drum machines (like A Place To Bury Strangers, Crocodiles) and with Neo-classicism finding a foothold in the underground (Johann Johannson, Library Tapes, even Stars of the Lid) our ears may be attuned to find the gems of this recording; the psychedelic tribal beats, the glorious grit of the Korg Poly61 and the  Moog Realistic Concertmate MG-1, that makes parts of this record sound like some cabaret from A Clockwork Orange or Blade Runner. Futuristic Nostalgia. The way they use Digital Delays would be adopted by every atmospheric dream rock band that would come after. Those that appreciate the doomed, fatalistic romance of The Cure and Joy Division should be able to find something to cling to, in this darkness.

Projekt Records, and a lot of 80s goth had a very psychedelic take on dreariness. I get this sense of imported rugs and low light, like a Parisian cafe in a holographic universe. It seems plastic, stylized, but the emotions and appreciation are genuine. Goth always had a hedonism, a sensuality, to it - blood and wine and insomnia and damaged visions. Dragging yr way through the gutters, crawling across a carpet of stars to approach the absolute. Ripped velvet and blood-spattered lace; the tail-end of the 20th century had no appreciation for aristocracy. Some of us were dancing in the ashes as Rome burned. Escapist and visionary.

This recent string of posts has found me investigating the earliest work of musicians that have been infuential on me, trying to isolate and evaluate the various strands of aesthetic without nostalgia, but also apart from the endless wheel of innovation. Newer does not equal better; all history is now happening simultaneously, and it us up to us to make up our own minds who we are, what we like, what we are trying to say. I find Black Tape's doomed sensuality worthwhile, and the tones are soothing to my cochlea. I could do without some of the self-indulgent vocals, and i am curious to see how they modified over the years this band was active.

Expect more obscure, archival footage like this one, in the coming moments. I'm vacillating between the current and the past, trying to get my head together, and also to become familiar with my own creativity.

(link removed, but i suggest that you seek this out.)
Projekt store

For those that dig this, Projekt released a 2cd version a couple of years ago, with an additional disk of Projekt bands re-interpreting these songs. I believe it was re-mastered from the original 4-track tape, as well. Look into it.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Death In June - But, What Ends When These Symbols Shatter?

But, What Ends When These Symbols Shatter? is the first Death In June record i heard. I didn't get it at first. I'd heard of Douglas Pearce's connection to the Throbbing Gristle/Coil/Current 93 axis, but i was used to Coil's demented electronica, and i sure as shit wasn't expecting a pagan folk record! Luckily, i had enough grounding with bands like Dead Can Dance and Black Tape For a Blue Girl, so i was not entirely allergic to strummed acoustic guitars. I had a fondness for the lush, echoey ambiance of this record, and its creamy thick-stock album cover. I maintained a skull-shaped hole in my heart for DIJ, and never really listened to them very much...

Fast forward 15 years, and i am now finally getting around to examining old favorites, trajectories and blind corners barely navigated. I have found myself blind obsessed with anything resembling occultish folk music; whether that be the soundtrack to The Wicker Man or a Fairport Convention record, or even old Blues. I cannot properly describe what has ignited this fascination (it was mostly a chance encounter with I AM THE LAKE OF FIRE), and i just feel the need to surround myself with incantations and prayers.

This whole community of musicians, like Douglas P. and David Tibet; John Balance and Chris and Cosey - they all have the reek of incense and candle wax about 'em. But they're all making different strains and strands of the sound. Death In June's offshoot came to be known as 'Industrial Folk' or simply 'Neofolk'. His lyrics typically explore Germanic Heathenery and runes, World War II, anti-Christian sentiments, and other vague ennui about living in general. Whereas once i found most of these artist's works to be pretentious in the extreme, i have learned a certain fondness for proper British vocals incanting Romantic poetry, like Syd Barrett scoring an Alfred Lord Tennyson sonnet. As usual, (and this is typical of any attempt at writing about music), once my interest has been engaged, i begin to listen further and deeper. I am noticing new intricacies on BWEWTSS; the oceanic synth on album opener "Death is The Martyr Of Beauty" or the filigree of muted on the title track. Existential folk ballads have never sounded so good. Turns out that four of these songs, "He's Disabled," "The Mourner's Bench", "Because of Him", and "Little Black Angel" are covers or re-interpretations of Jim Jones' People's Temple Choir, he of the toxic purple Kool-Aid.

Part of why this record stands out to me is that i had to go to great lengths to procure it. I used to take the train up to a record store called Evil Clown on Halsted in Chicago, that would have masses of Belgian and Japanese imports from Dead Can Dance, DIJ, Coil, NWW, Z'ev. All those names you read in books.... You could hang out there and listen to CDs, thumb through magazines. At that time, these imports would run $30 a bang, and you would spend hours spiralling over decisions, losing yrself in cryptic b&w album art, deciphering lyrics, swimming in runes and mysticism. These were the first forays into illumination,  that would later haunt my every waking breath. Due to restricted access and funds, not to mention the romantic associations of Chicago's grey pavement and dark culture, these records made an imprint on the nervous system, a mythological resonance. It doesn't mean that they're good, however. Part of what we're charged with, now, is to look at the past without rosy goggles, to call 'BULLSHIT' when necessary, but also to not discredit something merely because its old, or has already said its piece. Records still have the ability to transmit this radioactive specter, but not when yr just clicking down the line, sucking down records like a tube of Pringles. Any song is its own world, capable of getting lost in. So much magick just waiting to be discovered, in appreciation. And i'm here to tell you, that certain music, when approached with appreciation and an open mind and ears, can really ignite some fireworks in yr psyche. I can honestly say, after 15 years of listening to experimental music, that i am a better person for it.

I find the romantic and surreal air surrounding this recording, with its rich nuanced production, to be inspiring and educational. Douglas P. shows how you can re-interpret the classic folk/pop medium into transcendental poetry. The horns and bird-calls and organs and ghostly vocals keep the listening engaging, lurching forward, falling inward. The 40 minutes of BWEWTSS? are over before you know it, passing like a Kubla Khan dream. I can hear strains of DIJ's pagan poetry in the apocalyptic monologues of A Silver Mt. Zion and in Julian Cope's later adoption of the druggy druid mantle. If Bob Dylan stood for the New, Weird America, then Douglas P. David Tibet John Balance Genesis P-Orridge stand for the Old, Weird Britannia.

I am excited to get back into Death In June, and to also rediscover the post-punk/Industrial Underground of late '70s/early '80s England. Fucking stoked that this stuff is around and available, it was like a fucking moldy grail for the longest time. One more brick of the Akashic Records arises.

Should you find yrself intrigued, and want to know more, is a treasure trove of articles, interviews, rare recordings, and interesting links, to shoot you further down the spiral.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

At The Head Of The Woods - Beyond Time And Space

[ L I S T E N A N D B R E A T H E ]

At The Head Of The Woods are beyond time and space. This record, released on the Summer Solstice of 2008, sounds like lying on yr back, beneath a mossy oak tree, staring at starlight. There may or may not be fire. You must drift off for a moment, you feel yrself drift to the sky on a carpet of red cedar smoke. As you rise, you gain perspective; you notice the grandeur of grand forests, but you also see/hear/feel the devastation. The whine of homeless owls. The flies of pestilence. Cascadia seems to foster a vague form of nature worship. The enormous trees, millions of species of flora and fauna. It is impossible not to empathize, not to be driven to one's knees in respect and humility. There comes a point when the bark of a chainsaw biting into wood feels as if it is entering yr own flesh. You have become a black metal warrior, at that point, and it don't matter what yr music sounds like. There is an unbroken thread from Panopticon to Mt. Eerie to James Woodheads' At The Head Of The Woods Project. You would be forgiven for assuming some kind of atmospheric post-rock/metal, something like Windmills By The Ocean or Year Of No Light, but ATHOTW is walking his own path. On 'Beyond Time & Space' you get a 70-minute excursion of free-floating Floyd guitar, synth drones, and field recordings. There are lyrics, pertaining to the sky the earth the soil, but its all so luscious and drawn out, its hard to pick out what he's talking about. The comparison i was most keen on was a resemblance to Black Tape For A Blue Girl, there's a hint of Sam Rosenthal's ethereal masculine vocals, which is a style that has been moldering and unused for at least a decade. Beyond Time And Space sounds like a darkwave band making a space-rock record, record live in a cluster of Willow trees. I saw James Woodhead at the local Psychopomp event, last week at The Lovecraft. For that occasion, he played a droney synth set that sounded like Bach on ketamine. Through him, i found out about a regional collective called Glassthroat Recordings, which seems to focus around Seattle and Portland. They feature my favorite brand of nature worship, magickal and mysterious and unfettered by genre. They've got metal acts, dreamy droney soundscapes, dark romantic folk. I just found out about this shit last Wed. and i am a man obsessed. I look forward to going through their entire catalog, and exploring the dark woods of my mind. If yr from here, check 'em out, go see 'em live, buy a t shirt. If yr not, listen and wonder just what the fuck we've got in the water, up here in the corner. Highly, highly recommended. Distinctive artist with a singular style and something to say. Emotional yet still visionary. New favorite. You can read a sweet interview that James did with the equally sweet Heathen Harvest magazine here. You can stream the whole record here:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Flatline Construct/Richard Ramirez/Prurient - untitled

Real noise is undeniable. It consumes yr inner world. It incapacitates you. There is a peace in this, finally an excuse to relax; to do nothing. This is perhaps, to the 2000s, what a Gong record, or some other tripout fantasy might've been. Except we're too damn anti-social (or at least we were in 2000 when this was made). Like black metal, this is music made for headphones and introversion. To listen, and try and take in what the artist is trying to say. Dominick Fernow has been prominent lately. His last record, Bermuda Strain, crossed over beyond the noise underground, to wide accolades. He is known as THE NOISE DUDE. He's been releasing a never-ending onslaught of tracks with Vatican Shadow, as well as running Hospital Productions, out of New York. His discography under his Prurient name is as long as yr arms. If yr gonna talk about name, i thought it only pertinent i find out what this guy is about. This collaboration between Richard Ramirez, Flatline Constructs, and Prurient was originally released as a cassette box set on Let It Rot, and later put back out by Hospital Productions as a CDr by Hosptial. It came wrapped in red paper, in a plastic bag. There were only 500 made. A true noise document. This is true white noise - pure oscillator fuckery. Classic noise walls. Subwoofer machine rumbles. The possibility of frequencies.

The artists seem to take turns filling up the stereo field; its interesting to wonder who did what. Mostly gently mastered, this Harsh Noise sounds soothing. There are some shrill high frequencies, but not nearly Japanese. The machines rub yr thoughts; this is Rise of the Terminators. Terminal underground. Black mold. Scrubby and coarsing. This is a great place to start if you've ever heard the term 'Harsh Noise' and not known what it meant. This is pretty classic/subsuming static and low square-wave factory growl. High frequency belt-sander gives way to jackhammer between yr ears. Its visceral, and at this point yr along for the ride. Getting inside a harsh noise record is like getting lost in a story. Letting imagery unfurl. I made a pact, long ago, that anytime i would listen to a noise record i would not hit stop, for any reason. See the story through to the end. This release is made up of two untitled tracks, the first nearly half an hour, the second over. This is for the die-hards. Over an hour of harsh scraping and soothing rumbling. Furious hornets' nests of brown sound, a rushing pit of hell. There is a furnace-like quality to the first track, belching tongues of flame, while the radio blares in between stations.
One must wonder: why do we do it to ourselves? What makes us compelled to listen to and make such abrasive sounds? And what marks a successful noise artist?
 I found noise, searching for extremes. I had seen the tag in record stores. I was bored with Death Metal. I wanted everything to shut down; i wanted to drown in sound. What i found, through listening to machinefuck death thrash, is a way to make music of the sounds around me. Various cities, around the country; constant rush of train and conversation. Tiny phones making tinny beats; one time i was listening to a clicks 'n cuts compilation, and didn't realize it had ended for 45 minutes. I'd been listening to the radiator and refrigerator buzz. Tuning into the sounds around you, yr nervous system wakes up, enlivens. You begin to see the world as art.

I saw a picture of Tetsu Inoue recording his cooking eggs with a shotgun mic. Constant manipulation.

And of coarse there's the hardening mechanism. The willingness to plunge one's self into the reptilian brain's nightmare. Pure sensory overload; total submission and captivation. There has long been a tie between noise and submissive sex. The death drive made visible? The rage of the working class? To me, its a sonic ritual. I put on these headphones, and i hang in a Witch's cradle of sounds. I am interested in the tones. In the frequencies. I like the way the high sine waves interact with the spiky low end. Its got a binaural trancey effect. I won't lie, noise music is trippy music. Its a real head-fuck;if you like to zone out with a record with a pipe in yr hands, Prurient can take you to some interesting places.

I thought i'd start at the beginning, with the earliest Prurient release i could find, as a way to get an undiluted cross-section of various prominent noise artists. Try and establish a motif, a modus operandi. What i hear are fairly deft machinists - probably running some pedals and a mixer. Feedback loop, maybe. They really do kick up a pretty impressive squall, though. These noise walls are particularly scathing. A noise wall is when a musician turns the white noise all the way up. Its like hearing an old television, tuned to snow, amplified to infinity. Its static all the way. That's part of what defines this as Harsh Noise. A defining characteristic. They also seem adept at either editing, or quick juxtapositions in a track. It seems like they know what they are doing, what effect they are trying to achieve. A clear statement; unabashed. This kind of limited edition release is usually intended as a document, or an experiment, between bigger profile full-length releases. This kind of thing is made for the underground; pedaled at shows at people's houses. If you'd like to know more about noise, this isn't a bad place to begin.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Grouper - He Knows, He Knows, He Knows

Here's a tiny sliver... Grouper seems to exist on her own plane. Calling through the mist, reaching out through the windows. Seeking connection, yet defying it. Liz Harris' ambient drones have heart, a heart that is broken. It is black eyed and sullen and bewitching. This miniature album (it was released on a 3" CDr and vinyl 7". It came out between Way Their Crept and Wide. On it, she explores the limits of her voice, which ripples like a pond in the woods over the course of these three tracks. She sounds entirely sweet, seductive. A siren that calls you to sharp rocks. Edges you further on into the night-time. Like the work of Leyland Kirby, aka The Caretaker, she uses reverb and delay to give a sensation of recollection, and the loop-y subject matter of the material makes it seem like a memory played over and over. Someone you can't forget? What compels Liz Harris to construct these worlds? Is she just that anti-social? My friend said once that Grouper's music was like someone in a bedroom, nodded out on junk, slowly rocking and absently strumming a guitar. Only this time, even the guitar is missing. There is nothing to hold her down - she is otherworldly. I heard another reviewer mention the works of Arvo Pärt, these three songs also seem like spectral choruses. I finally saw Grouper play live, as part of the Improvisation Summit Of Portland (you can read about that here if you like. She played in a nearly black room, with a dancer swinging a lantern like the hermit. Her music put owls in my mind, cast shadows of branches. People like Grouper are part of what lured me out towards the NorthWest, i just felt this compulsion to be NEAR them. People like Grouper, Earth, Daniel Menche, Pete Swanson (not sure if he's still here or not). Finally being in the same room with Liz Harris, breathing the same air; it was something i'd been ANTICIPATING. It seemed fated. To see her live, was to re-appreciate her music. I've been listening to this year's Mirroring project with Jesy Fortino of Tiny Vipers, as well as the epic A I A : Alien Observer. She's inspiring; its like she'll lead you down a dark tunnel with a lantern of stars. She'll show you drawings on the wall. She's one of the masters of the modern drone and loop. Raw heart. Direct appreciation. A shadow on the walls of yr mind. This is witchcraft... Grouper's music possesses you. It made me feel like i want to listen to this person every day. I want to fall in love, and have my heart broken. I want her to tell me stories. I've decided to hear every note of music that she's made, let her wraith-like sadness and distance transport me. To a shadowy place, full of soft white light. Speaking softly. Slowly. Sometimes not at all. The sound of evening falling, the streetlights arising. Memories of Autumn. It is black-clad and it is smoking.
 Lose yrself...

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Coil - Bee Stings

Where's the bells?
Where's the bats?
Where's the summer?
Where's the keyboard?
Where's the instinct?
Where's the patience?
Where's the tiny golden books? 
     - Glowworms/Waveforms

We're soldiers of my soul
- Summer Substructures

Summer is a time of growing. A time of adventure, of energy and vitality. The seeds that we have planted in the Spring shall come to bloom in the summer, yielding abundance, and gathered in the Autumn chill. In winter we reflect, and scheme.

In 1998, British occult noise sculptors Coil released a series of limited-edition 7"s. Bee Stings was released on the summer solstice. At the time, i was a devoted collector of all Coil related ephemera, and had money at the time. I hopped off the road and made a special trek to Gopher Sounds, in Flagstaff, Az., to buy this on yellow wax. 

Used to hearing Coil in their dark Industrial tatters, i was surprised to find this esoteric transmission full of haunting electric viola, courtesy of William Breeze (a member of Current 93 and Psychic TV) and pagan poetry incanted by Jhonn Balance (R.I.P.). It reads like William Blake and sounds like High Mass, but with light traces of Industrial drum machines and swirls of gelatinous noise. This is like like listening to modern classical music, high on cough syrup.

This version is from the collection Moon's Milk (In Four Phases), which collated all four Equinox recordings. Its got three tracks, "Bee Stings," "Glowworms/Waveforms," and "Summer Substructures." The original 7" only had "Bee Stings" and "Glowworms/Waveforms". There was also a CD EP version of this released with the additional track "A Warning from the Sun (For Fritz)," which was dedicated to a friend of their's who had committed suicide earlier that year. 

Coil were always about bridging the gap between tradition and the future. They revered 20th century art movements, like Dada and the Situationists, along with gay club culture and the works of their Industrial Records brethren (Genesis P-Orridge, Z'ev, Chris & Cosey, Current 93, Nurse With Wound). They were creating their own reality, free of history and of dogma. They championed the works of occultists like Aleister Crowley and Austin Osman Spare, and spoke freely of re-designing one's own consciousness, through techniques like psychedelic drugs, ceremonial magick and tantric sex. They were uniquely British in their tone. One can picture Druids gathered around stone monoliths, when listening to this musick. 
Coil led many black-clad lost souls down a subway tunnel of myth, magick, poetry, high art. This is vipassana for performance artists. Not secular, not wholly religious. Music for mutants in the in between spaces. Its a terrifying road, full of uncertainty. There are many briar patches and stalking wolves, when one leaves behind the lighted path of Consensual Reality. But there is healing to be found by the firelight. One can overcome conditioning, free one's self of desire and suffering. Spread the wings of consciousness, and soar on wings of imagination.
Today is the summer solstice. My band, Lore Acts, is playing at a noise ritual, in the woods of SE Portland, with a gathering of occultists and unicorns. When i first heard the music of Coil, it seemed alien and incomprehensible. I spent a decade longing for gear, and feverishly plotting what i would do, when i had it. Today is a dream come true, and like all dreams, sometimes it is a nightmare. There is no surrender and no compromise when one is one's own MASTER, and no one to blame but one's self. Time to do the laundry and take out the trash. Time to write those heartfelt letter's you've been meaning to write. Here, in 2012, we have it all at our fingertips. The world spreads herself wide to us. The Akashic Records are rising. Widespread empathy is just around the corner. We are right on the edge of telepathy. Today, i humbly invoke my higher self, ask it to spread its wings of dark light in every corner and crevice of my consciousness. I invite you to do the same. God is alive. Magick is afoot. You can be whoever you like, this time around. Today, light a candle and say a prayer; banish cynicism and defeatism forever. We need not be slaves to our demons; they are figments of dust. 

Keep on fighting the good fight.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Jandek - Ready For The House (corwood #0739)

Ready For The House is the first album from Jandek, notorious texan recluse detuned poet savant. Originally released in 1978, originally released under the name The Units, he sold all of 2 copies in the first two years, until a DJ from WFMU picked up his cause. He is the definition of an outsider artist - he has only given one interview, to Spin Magazine, during his 34 years performing. He releases music on his own label - Corwood Industries - the album titles bearing crisp Midwestern serial numbers and dreary homemade covers (like the one pictured left). Yr not really sure who he is, or why he does what he does, other than the insidious need to creep out his sneaky tortured blues into the world. On Ready For The House Jandek mostly strums one eerie dissonant maltuned guitar chord, "tuned to black keys" he claims. Its dissonant and jangly and antagonistic. Jandek is not coming to you. You must go to him, sit for a moment in his vacant armchair and appreciate where he's coming. He whisper yodels apocryphal doom blues, vague and unsettling, like the line, "I got a vision, a teenage daughter/Who’s growing up naked in the afternoon" from "Naked In The Afternoon" - the first two lines of the record. He seems like someone who might be muttering to himself at a party, if he ever ACTUALLY ended up at a party, who kind of worries you, and then you realize that he's actually spouting profound poetry. It seems mad, haunted, but it is beguiling. Cryptic. It lures you in.

When i first heard Jandek it scourged my mind. It was a track called "When The Telephone Melts" off of You Walk Alone. Downloaded it back in the KaZaa days, one track at a time like. I had probably heard about him via Thurston Moore or Kurt Cobain, or some other esoteric rock champion. It was not what i was expecting. It really doesn't have much of a rhythm, and the songs tend to go on for a LONG time. Here's the thing, that i have come to suspect, is that Jandek is essentially a poet, perhaps a sound poet. But he sets his poetry in mood and time, sending it out into the world to infect various isolated bedrooms. I hated it, to be honest, or didn't have time for it at least. But i could not forget it. Those drab unexceptional covers would not leave me be. The mystery enticed me, it seems like the man is conjuring and battling demons around a reel-to-reel tape recorder. Or channeled from the dearly departed. He doesn't show his hand, Jandek's music stands like a work of musical magick, and there's a lot of it. He's released over 50 records, with a wide array of styles and sounds.

He's the kind of person that i WANT to pay attention to. I want to listen to what he has to say. The first dozen times you hear this record, it may sound like indecipherable noise, a never-ending blur of nonsense poetry and amateur guitarring. And then you start to like it. And then you start to find excuses to be by yrself to listen to Jandek. To stare at those covers. To time travel.

This is my favorite Jandek record, the one i've listened to the most. I still really can't say that i know it. Was pretty pleased to find a lot of the lyrics available online, realizing that the words are more poetic and bone-chilling than i had realized. Helps me dial down and zone into the songs. Reading as the song goes along, like the old school LP days. After recent immersion in psychedelic folk outings like I AM THE LAKE OF FIRE (which i spoke of here)i'm in a pretty good place to delve into this one. Prying around at pre-existing literature that has already spoke on behalf of this record, the wiki and All Music take on things. Pleased to find a page of press links all over the internet, including a suggested listening list. Like i said, he's got over 50 records, it can be hard to know where to start with The Representative. It made sense to start at the very beginning. I would actually like to listen to every one of his records. While listening to Ready For The House, i discovered that i actually ENJOY this music. It sounds soothing in my ears. I am glad for the opportunity to learn the words to his songs, and can even envision singing along some day! At one point, i despised Jandek's music, thought it was atonal abrasive noise. Now, there are times when Jandek is my #1 listened to artist on I have changed as a person, while contemplating this artist's work. He has built a haunted room in my mind, where all sorts of interesting and also dull things take place. Like he said on "European Son," the Velvet Underground-esque closer, "It’s a long time spell".

Chasma - Declaration of the Grand Artificer

Don't call them cascadian black metal.

Even if they kind of sound like it.

Chasma are a 3-piece from Portland. They play a style of psychedelic black metal that will definitely thrill fans of Wolves in the Throne Room or Panopticon, but they blend in elements of shoegaze and post-rock to create an impressionistic blur. The overall effect is like having a flying dream over a gray stony landscape, and the landscape is weeping.

The black metal that has been coming out of the Pacific Northwest lately takes the classic black metal formula, machine gun rhythms and shrieking vomitous vocals, but then adds touches of psychedelic metal, a la Isis. A truly fucking epic sound. It sounds like a person berating God at the foot of a mountain, alone in the wilderness. Its much more emotional, where the original Scandinavians were more psychotic and demonic. Declaration of the Grand Artificer may have a heart, but it also seems elemental. As the Moribund Records website put it, 'Mystical yet emotional, of the earth and yet aiming for the cosmos'.

Declaration was originally released as a 12", and was a scant 33 minutes. This version, however, comes with a bonus track that tacks on an extra 10 minutes, "Dimensions In Lament". Its a good thing, too; this record, and this band in general, work best when you get into their world for a while, let its snowy whiteness wash over you. Get lost in it. Each of the tracks starts off in traditional post-rock fashion, quiet and pretty, but with far-off sounds of suffering. Cacophony quickly takes over, the singer really pukes out the words and the drummer delivers a wall of annihilating percussion. The kick drums could be a little higher and tighter, if they want to achieve the ultimate mind-melt next time around. The guitars stay distant, floating on wings of delay; pretty much clean for the duration. Sounds a lot like Mogwai or Explosions in the Sky, which makes for an interesting hybrid.

Saw these dudes live the other day, as part of the Northwestern Black Circle Fest, (you can read my accounts of those unholy gatherings here, here, and here. They were definitely the youngest and least theatrical of all the metal bands i saw that weekend. Just three skinny, angsty white-boys thrashing away. I was impressed by how barebones and lean it was, and also how taut their performance, slipping effortlessly between climactic post-rock builds, psychotic black metal, and brutal sludge, all with an effortless flip of knee length blond hair. At times, they could be a little close to metalcore for comfort, but this is a common threat amongst a certain age group. Kids that grew up with pop punk and the Dillinger Escape Plan. I was also impressed with how they were attempting to move black metal in different directions, to open it up, and emphasize some of its really psychedelic, visionary qualities. They were also the only representatives i saw of the recent Cascadian scene, which i really like. It sounds like a dark forest at night. Chasma seem colder than that, though, more like a vast tundra. They're trying things out, and they can really fucking play. If you live in Portland, definitely check them out if you get a chance. I've been to so many good shows in the past few weeks its sickening. Thinking a lot about music and writing, so i hope to get busy over here in the upcoming days.

Friday, June 15, 2012

:Lackthereof - Forgive Yourself:

      As you gasp/blabber for air in the dark sine waves, Menomena member Danny Seim hoists your dripping body onto his safe and sound dinghy. As captain, he departs on his new album Personal Strength under the moniker Lackthereof. Having self-produced records for close to 15 years, he now describes his greatest hinderance in his latest work: himself.

     Track after track on his eleventh album, you can hear his new promise for better worlds and safer lands. Not to hate, but to love; to eradicate his blame for his faults ( such as religion and father figures) and then instead take the lessons given and learn from them. Weaving through his tales note by note, the nostalgic beats of his adolescence appears; swaddled and nursed into oblivion. While an optimistic tone through verse, his orchestration speaks differently. It is either a brave disillusion or a characteristic  of chosen ignorance in a world weary man. Having toured the globe with the now fractured wunderkinds Menomena for an entire decade (keyboardist Brent Knopf split to work on heading Ramona Falls), Seim chose not to slow down but to speed up and produce a record to gather his thoughts from a jarring time. While you could say this album can be a grand reflection (and in part it is), it is actually a test of strength for Seim as well.

As part of what is called The Twenty Song Challenge, the entire album was conceived, recorded, and mastered in 24 hours. The journey leaves his body battered and salty, but his spirit renewed. While his thoughts nip at his heels, you ride through his soundscapes with him. The wind is a crisp percussion, the rolls of synth and the steady beat that it makes as it crashes against his small ship takes you somewhere that provides comfort in crushing disparity; a cleansing feeling after laborious work driven to the point of madness. As he shoves off for newer shores to discover, the small parcel of land where he has left you leaves you breathless; and a little better than before.

Lackthereof's 11th album, now weaved from 20 songs into one continuous piece, is free. You can download Personal Strength at Menomena's website here. Menomena's new album Moms will also be released September 18th of this year (2012).


Noah is one half of Blind Lovejoy and is a member of the Goat's Head Manor family. You can find more info on the collective's work in the upcoming website that he is currently developing at

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Neurotic Wreck - Leave Tonight mixtape

Neurotic Wreck is a young post-dubstep producer, coming out of the North West of England. He's also coming out of the post-punk idiom, like Joy Division/New Order, but says that Justin Broadrick's Jesu is as much an influence as The Weeknd. Dan Shea is definitely reminscent of the ghostly white boy r&b that has been recently popular, crisp machine drums and electric pianos, wiry bass-lines. Maybe a disco beat. Death Disco, like the Throbbing Gristle/Psychic TV misanthropic acid body music. Hand-made techno, gloomy eyed synth-pop; a misty English quality, The Smiths, et al, an androgynous seductiveness & manic depression. Moody. Romantic. Possibly drug addicted. He does call himself Neurotic Wreck.

He reminds me of the mirrored shade of Burial's history, that 2 am bedroom confessional quality, dancing in slow motion. Driving on ketamine. Post-rave, ecstacy burnout. High. 

Dan Shea got in touch with me, sent me his music. Thought i might like it, thought you guys might too. It has a similar heart to that Weeknd record i put up recent, kind of disaffected bitter love songs with a dance beat. Dan's got more of a Joy Division quality to his songs, though, with stark electric guitars and reverb-ed baritone vocals. The beats are tight and crunchy, they fit perfectly in the ear holes. The levels on everything are close to superb, the vocals are a bit loud at times. One of the only problems is a problem a lot of us are having right now is how to get yr shit sounding produced (or do you want to) with a bedroom studio? Guitars and drums sound like they're happening in different rooms, cuz well, they are! Homestyle producers and sound-engineers are getting pretty slick with their tricks, and you can get some remarkable results. But we've all got to be beholden, constantly striving to better our crafts - to figure out better what they are trying to say.

I'm impressed with Dan Shea. Looks like this is his first release so far, and there are actual SONGS here. Like the kind of things you would  buy on a record. Fully realized. Mature. He's got something to say. One of the only downsides is he sounds too much like his influences at times, a bunch of pieces stitched together. But how to avoid sounding like the music that you love? Should you even try? There's that darn simulacrum again...

i particularly adore a lot of the bands that neurotic love, so this is the shit, in my world! New Order vocals with Justin Broadrick beats, that sounds like dancing in slow motion? I can't get enough of this shit, these days. That it be low-down is pretty much a requiaite, or at least a favorite, is that be leaden, deaden hued. For the dead of night. Low wattage. I love the lull, and this mixtape has a nice phat round bottom end that feels particularly good in the late afternoon.

I want to hear more....

Saturday, June 9, 2012


there is something about this music...

let no one deceive you, there is another world
it is within you
every boy and girl
there is a kingdom
there is a king
the cosmos is his dominion
everything ever was will ever be

o lonely soul
how beautiful you are to behold
you are not alone
its high time you come home

These are lines from the opening song 'I Am The Welcoming Angel'. It sounds like a love song to the milky way, like something by william blake sound to dry sparse nylon-string guitar. Mystical folk music, it implies holiness.  ((and also heresy))

Came across I AM THE LAKE OF FIRE opening for Viking Moses at Ella Street Social Club a few weeks ago.  Turns out that its the solo project of someone named Davis Hooker, who's been plugged into a certain rung of Portland's nether world for some time. He has played solo and in bands like A John Henry Memorial, Water Graves Of Portland, ...Worms, Rob Walmart - a vast neural network of collaborations, alter-egos, nom-de-plumes; recorded in Orthodox church halls and people's garages. This heavy metal mutant folk is part of what dragged me out to this part of the country.

He has albums out on Marriage and Wil-Ru.. A dark chasm of music opened up before me. He's been affiliated with the likes of Adrian Orange (they play together in the Watery Graves), Mt. Eerie/Phil Elverum, the K Records/Anacortes, Wa. axis.They're all hyper-prolific and eccentric, kind of skewed but endlessly creative.

When i first heard Davis' music, i didn't have much of an opportunity to pay attention. There were friends around, and i'd probably been listening to music for 7 hours that day, in the never-ending bid to stay current and up to the second, hearing every new thing that comes out. The rigors of being a music journalist; attempting to care and be engaged and listen, over and over and over again. I made a note to listen to I AM THE LAKE OF FIRE again.

Trawling through the sparse detritus of the underground's traces on the internet, came upon I AM THE LAKE OF FIRE's bandcamp, 5 slight tracks with a sketchy pencil drawing of what looks like a greek temple. The tracks had names like 'I AM THE PRINCE OF THE AIR' and 'I AM LUCIFER'S PRIDE'; kind of an Old Testament destroying angel that seemed to have profound occult under-pinnings that are oblique and mysterious.

something came alive for me
things began to make sense
this music has change me
sort of fell into this world; like a daydream, or a fever - i came under its spell
what makes something yr favorite?
is it a memory of the live experience?
Understanding the people that make it?

i see it like frequencies
some of are tuned to the same hum

I am no expert on Davis Hooker's music. It makes me curious; i want to experience it over and over. These days, it seems like you have to make a choice to stand by something - to champion it. Some mad impulse in the spur of the moment, you get a tattoo. Something about the rough hewn hermetic quality of this music and art snagged me like an inverted cross. Coming upon his tumblr account, Great Horned Owls, i found pages of backwards photographs and cryptic stories. Its like getting possessed by somebody's imagination. They peer inside you for a moment.
I AM THE LAKE OF FIRE sounds like judgement day. It seems like things are coming to a head. Its like Godspeed You! Black Emperor said : "Kiss me, yr beautiful/these are truly the end days." It may be dark but at least its romantic. Beyond gods and morality, we glow in the neon. Shine like dark stars. Music is like magick, you plant visions in someone's head. Make dreams a reality.

Davis Hooker lives in Portland. It seems like he plays around a great deal (although he's out of town right now) and is unknown and playing tiny places for cheap or free. He, and all his friends, are a rich ore of mutant weirdness and dark arts.

I highly recommend you take a moment and listen to this 16 minute EP. You can check it out online, or pay him $1.23 and keep it forever. He also has some memorabilia for free. The battle of the black cloud trilogy is available for whatever price you like, and here's a sweet show he did with a radio program called Phoning It In.

This urge to descend into visionary music, to be transported. Some would call it experimental, a work in progress. That's part of what these bandcamps and facebooks and soundclouds are about, its walking the journey unfold. Its like getting to know someone. I'd like to get to know Davis Hooker, and his friends. I respect what they do. It inspires me. Makes me want to carpet the internet with moldy books and stars and field recordings of Sri Lanka.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Skincage - Axon (bandcamp)

Jon Ray has described his music as Dark Ambient, but this is not some Brian Wilson acolyte falling asleep on the bass register of his synthesizer. Instead, this is the kind of Dark Ambient that makes you think of Hellraiser, that makes you think of Space Madness, things vast and unknown to mankind. Skincage's music will make you confront yr shadows, it will chain you to a rock and feed you to the hydra. You shall sprout wings and you shall also plummet from spiral heights. You will question, but it will be worth it.

Jon Ray was way ahead of his time, and has never gotten his just desserts. In 2000, when Axon was released, the only attention paid to the likes of Coil, Autechre, Throbbing Gristle, or Nurse With Wound was by reformed goth kitties living in their mother's basements. Reformed Skinny Puppy admirer's that broke up sounds on cheap software, before there was widespread analysis of the works of Pierre Umiliani or Delia Derbyshire and the Radiophonic Workshop. Now, there are whole philsophical chapters that are cited the late 70s mutant militant Industrial Current as inspiration (several different reviews of the most recent Shackleton release, Music for the Quiet Hour/The Drawbar Organ EPs, have mentioned Coil as a reference point) or the horrorshow decadence of Demdike Stare's late-night mind movies, the time is right for people to hear Jonathan Ray's Skincage music for real.

One of the things i am constantly asking myself is what music should i talk about, spread around, here at J's Heaven? Obviously, its whatever i'm into at the moment, but i hear so much bloody music that its hard to even know WHAT i AM into, these days. So, one distinction are actual artifacts, things that are handmade and are able to stand out in yr muscle memory. Something to hold on to. Another thing is the past, before the world flooded with every sound imaginable. I have found that often whatever artist or album introduces you to a new genre, or a new way of thinking, is the one that will come to represent all the subsequent discoveries. The opener of the ways.

The third signifier that helps music to stand out is if i actually KNOW the person responsible. It adds whole galaxies of depth and meaning to their art, and it is thrilling to finally acknowledge (now that i'm not totally choking on jealousy) that i have known some fucking talented individuals in my lifetime. It has been constantly motivating to exchange words and ideas with fellow fanatics and zealots over the years, and they believed in me, even when i did not in fact believe in myself. Jon was probably more influential than just about any other human in my growing obsession with sound and sound manipulation. He would patiently answer my e mails regarding free software, what the hell MIDI was, what kind of synth i needed to sound like Sleazy and the crew, what effects were and how to use them. He was the first circuit-bender i knew; (after Axon he would get heavily into hacked hardware and toys, and began to focus more on live performances. That same period found him moving from his native North Carolina to Tucson, Az. and it has been fascinating to watch him come into his own as a legit sound artist, to get married, to find a satisfying way of life). This is music made by one of my FRIENDS, and it is considered antithetical to talk about yr friend's music, and i find that the stupidest thing ever. Axon is a stand-up release, wrestling with the leaden influences of the electronic geniuses of the past, of whom it seemed we could never escape or surpass, and moving into a future of precision, refinement, self-discovery. I would be a quite different person than the man i am today, without the existence of this record.

Since the days of beginning under Jon's tutelage, i've listened to tens of thousands of noise, drone, and ambient releases (both dark and light), and sitting here at my table in Portland, this music sounds fresher than when i first heard it, and i have the ears to comprehend, and appreciate, what my friend was doing 12 years ago. Danceable beats and moments of unexpected beauty give way to disorienting dream logic: snippets of conversation and bass drones. His music reminds me of watching a firework display underwater, or watching something ENORMOUS walking around a barren landscape. Skincage's music is the kind of music i hope to spread around, via J's Heaven, in that it makes the world a more magickal and surreal place. It is visionary, and emotional at the same time. His records have scored some of the most magickally potent moments of my life. It seems to open up a portal, there seems to be a real CURRENT flowing through the aether on this one. Psychic transmission? Choatic servitor? You be the judge.

My only regret is that in the recent Bandcamp re-issue, that Jon still has not restored Ichor, which the label talked him out of including, because it "interrupted the mellow flow of the record"! Can you imagine? With track names like Parasight and The Bruised Mandala, you might suspect that this is not merely music to soothe and seduce. This is music to open you up like a puzzle box, pry open yr third eye, and introduce you to the nether quadrants.

Jon says that if he could sell ten copies of the bandcamp record, he would buy a piano and produce a record of the results, so i'm counting on all of you for that piano record. Find him and like him on FB, lets show some love to this under-heard master of autumnal rumble.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Wolf Eyes Interview

A recent episode of The Out Door, via Pitchfork, featured a lengthy dissertation on the manifold offshoots of the Wolf Eyes crew; Nate Young, John Olson, Mike Connelly. I know a lot of folks out there became introduced to the gnarly noise underground via the prolific output of these rust belt natives, and in a lot of way they are the prototypical Noise band. Hyper-prolific, questionable quality control, super hands-on and hand-made. I became introduced to terms like lathe troll and circuit bending via these monsters. It is appropriate to consider the remarks of these mainstays, and some of these comments shed some light on recent thoughts i have been delving into.

There was a quote from the John Olson sector that resonated with me. He said:

"We were blindly going forward and not really considering and reflecting, but I think that if people don't stop and consider what they just improvised, they'll never get better."

He was talking about the libetation of learning some music theory, to better understand what he's been creating and embellish upon it. Not to replace the chaos factor but to expound upon it. As he put it, "I could do something that was totally abstract within musical confines."  This shows a clear line from free jazz, where Wolf Eyes have always affiliated, working with legends like Anthony Braxton on the Black Vomit record, through 20th century avant-garde musics, the kind of thing you'd see at a white washed gallery space, probably with some contact mics and lots of quiet groaning. Plates of cheese served afterwards. This raises a question i have long considered, and started to write about, regarding the purpose and possibilities of Noise music, and also the pertinence of music journalism.

Let's face it, there's a WHOLE SHITLOAD of music out there. Why are we all compelled to put it out there? In the case of noise, or any kind of improvised music, the process IS the purpose, and following bands over the span of years is to immerse yrself in their aesthetic, to live in their worlds. Funky tapes, hand-made patches, a non-stop onslaught of releases, probably just to pay for gas to get to the next basement. What we are left with is a career in time-elapse, and the question is: "Is it actually worth listening to? Does this need to exist? Is it merely ego fulfilling, or bullshit knob twiddling? Are these guys fucking with me and taking my money?" I mean, c'mon, Merzbow has released like 500 records. Does it need to exist? But it DOES exist, and i have a curious, librarian brain, so i have the need to KNOW to EXPERIENCE. So its a matter of slowing down the torrent, and looking at the individual droplets.

One thing is that less-than-commercial music isn't given the benefit of attention, or analysis. Bach wrote a shitload of cantatas, and you can be rest assured that every harmony, slur, fortissimo and glissandi has been written about at length. Just because something is made from broken machines and hacked laptops does not mean it is unworthy, or because it wasn't made in some famous studio for a million dollars. Some kid's YouTube or SoundCloud is just as culturally relevant as a Shostakovich quartet. Its a matter of, "What are you trying to say?" and are you pulling it off.

I feel like the rush to constantly innovate is decelerating, as we are all realizing how futile that is. We can't pretend that we haven't listened to 3 TerraBytes worth of music in our lifetimes, no matter how old you are. I can speak to a 20 year old, and be like, "You know, its like gamelan," and they will catch my drift. We're slowing down and taking stock of who we are and where we've been, assessing our strengths and weaknesses. Which is why i am drilling down into individual albums + singular artists. The simple fact of the matter is that my brain is ADD as fuck, and follow-up is a bitch. I'd love to hear every Chopin nocturne; every drip of Masonna's beastly oscillators; every dubstep remix and obscure 12". As we are taking stock of the entire output of recorded history (that's including books and movies) we have the potential to fast-forward evolution, fitting two thousand years into two. But the thing of it is, it requires total self-mastery, utter discipline. We are lost and formless without it. We could become radically evolved, and even solve some of humanity's perpetual woes along the way, but we must not kid ourselves. I often times say i am 'working' on the internet, when i am spacing out and clicking mindlessly. In this time, when there are no Lords and no Saviours, we must be our own gurus and our own taskmasters. But we can't become neurotic and anal, either.

This is the purpose of this esoterically titled 66.6 series. As i'm sure yr aware, there's a popular series of books called the 33 1/3 series, where an author meticulously dissects an album that they love, and expound upon it at length. I somewhat sarcastically modified this to the 66.6 series, which is of course, 66 2/3s, 'cuz i'm a low down dirty necromancer. Rather than focusing upon one single artifact, i will be looking at whole careers, eras and epochs. Trying to look at the bigger picture, and to see what is says about us as humans, and why we listen to such things. I will be talking about records from famous and influential noise musicians, through up and comers, posting relevant cultural artifacts along the way. There's a whole dark continent of heady philosophy that has tied itself onto this beast, and it is the work for which i am most pumped. 

you can read the whole interview here.