Thursday, April 26, 2012

Glue Horses

Glue Horses sound like driving down the open road, or perhaps walking next to it. The sun burns yr skin, there are beads of sweat along yr brow, you've got shivers, but yr not sure if its heat-stroke, excitement, or a hang-over from last night. They are affiliated with legendary Portland busking outfit All The Apparatus, preaching the gospel on streetcorners and alleyways since 2010, but Glue Horses are their own beast.

I submit, for yr consideration, a live recording made in the basement of Goat's Head Manor, back in October, when i was new to this city. The sound of the Bremen McKinney's accordion, the thump of the suitcase percussion, Will DeLance's warm worn vocals and soulful guitar, perfectly reflect the feeling of coming off the road, strewing belongings everywhere, life being held together with twine and a prayer - its scary as hell, but at least yr living.

Glue Horses are one of the musical cornerstones of Goat's Head Manor, i often walk in the front door to the strains of their upbeat gypsy jazz punk. One of my roommates, Jonah Lee, has taken over the drumming duties, and his precise, driving beats are the perfect pulse for this modern Romany fairy tale. They've also added a new vocalist, Madi Goldsmith, who further fills out the sound with perfect, feminine harmonies.

As i've listened back to this recording, converting the mp3s and such, i get the sense of standing at the crossroads, looking back and reflecting on the past, and getting excited about the future. Here at Goat's Head Manor, we are constantly surrounded by stunning musicians - this place is a cathedral of sound, and this group of friends that have adopted my hobo ass are constantly inspiring and provoking one another towards excellence. We're all finding our place in the world, finding the right musical family but remaining a collective, a unity, a whole. We stand around the beet-stained chopping block playing rhythm games, laughing and crying, but maybe its just the onions, talking about everything. Hilarious and deadly serious, and always heartfelt - i feel like i am in the primordial soup of creation, and we are inventing the future, we are re-defining the present. This recording also marks the first of an endless onslaught of recordings from Goat's Head, made in the basement where i sleep at night, my dreams filled with the ghosts of countless house-shows and jam sessions, my molecules singing with musicmusicMUSIC!

This recording is merely a stop-gap solution for the real deal, Glue Horses live and in person, sweaty raw and naked. This Saturday, they're playing an awesome show with like minded klezmer punk dance band Chevrona, who sound like an orthodox Russian wedding band after huffing ether out of a brown paper bag for two-and-a-half hours. Saturday night is going to go off like a powder keg, and Glue Horses have been practicing like lunatics for weeks, and are bound to be tight as a jack-rabbit. As an added bonus, Alex Geer from fellow Goat's Head favorites Damn Divas,  will be holding down the groove on the bass guitar for the festivities, and if Alex is involved, you just know its gonna be hot!

Glue Horses in Oct. - live @ Goat's Head Manor

Crowning The Eagle: A Celebration of Polish Heritage @ McMenamin's White Eagle


Friday, April 13, 2012

mnttaB - 4,2, and 3 EP

5 tracks of slamming distorted beats, chantalog vox, burning synth - they claim you can't dance to it (you can but you will look daft), but i disagree! This is firmly in the pocket, down-right groove-laden if you ask me. File under death-disco, noise punk - if you like PIL, Lightning Bolt, old Screamers, dig it!

I've been spinning this one pretty relentlessly since it came my way. The five tracks hit like an adrenaline rush, go down like a shot of espresso. I love the burned out, lo-fi way its recorded, there's just nothing quite like synth punk for that feeling of decay and dystopia. Glad this one came my way, and will definitely be listening further.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Nothing Lasts Forever with Dhug Diario & Donovan; The Lovecraft Bar, 4.11.12

Nothing Lasts Forever is a monthly night of experimental horror music. Each second Wednesday of the month a different group of artists collaborate to create a dark atmosphere. Hosted by Portland's best Horror theme bar, The Lovecraft.

This month's installment of Nothing Lasts Forever was made up of Dhug Diario & Donovan, who together make electronic music under the bizarre moniker Chickenhed. They were joined in a collective improvisation with host Jonathan Christ, to create a bizarre three - headed biomechanical noise machine, with visual ambiance added by Dustin Christ (no relation), who was showing existential German cartoons and scenes from Hellraiser 2. The overall effect was of a spooky hall-of-mirrors, straight to hell.

The three musicians were all perched over glowing laptop screens, running a variety of sound-mangling software, manipulating samples and loops from household objects and acoustic instruments and mashing them into unrecognizable to create a kaleidoscopic jello salad of flangers, beat-repeaters, resonators and reverb; they had the local vampires and zombies literally writhing on the floor, freaking out the squares who wandered in off of Grand Ave. At times it sounded like a funeral for Mega Man, at times it sounded like out-takes from the Escape From New York soundtrack, the whole was satisfyingly murky and deranged; nostalgic yet of the moment. Listening to the loops fall in and out of sync was lulling and hypnotic, my eyes were beginning to roll up in my head, and only the intercession of my friend Nathan prevented me from drifting off to the 5th dimension, right in front of everybody.

It was impossible to tell what each musician was adding to the mix, the mark of a truly accomplished improvisation. They were tuned into each other, and looked as if they were having a good time. I'm not yet familiar with the works of Chickenhed, and it was the first i'd heard of Dhug & Donovan, but it seems to be satisfyingly surreal, and there's a shitload of free material on their website, so it looks like i've found a new band to love. There was the best turn out i'd seen so far, everybody was friendly and talkative; new allegiances were made, old friendships were re-kindled; Nothing Lasts Forever just keep getting better and better.

Jonathan Christ does a good job of re-inventing what horror music actually means, anywhere from electro-acoustic improv to harsh noise, introducing a diverse array of the dark pleasure of Lovecraft's infernal ambiance. It is a refreshing addition to Portland's somewhat schizophrenic experimental music scene. The sound is good, and listening to people improvise noise music for hours is always a good time. Good place to make some new friends, to zone out and channel spirits, to draw or write or drink and make out. Some people even dance! Considering that there's no cover charge for these happenings, and there is just no excuse to not make the jaunt, every second Wednesday. Don't miss out!

Dhug Diario



Jonathan Christ

The Lovecraft

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Barry Brussea, Cotton, Waver Clamor Bellow @ The Waypost; 4.6.12

The Waypost was the perfect venue for the intimate, unadulterated acoustic tones of the evening; inside, it seemed like a mash-up of an Old English tea-parlor; all elaborate tapestries on the walls, busts on the piano, with a Old West speak-easy. The lights were low, and the crowd was there to listen.

I've seen Barry Brussea a number of times, at this point, and have definitely noticed that this attention can make or break his music. One man, one voice, a nylon string guitar, a couple of pedals, it's subtle music - but when you are in its thrall, it will wash over you, breaking like waves, removing you from consensual reality into a place archetypal and emotional. Barry is a master of atmosphere, and with the mellow vibes of The Waypost supporting him, he played the finest set i've seen him play so far, even without the presence of his brother Jimmy on drums. He got the tone and mood dialed in completely, his guitar was impeccable, coming through a classy Marshall amp. He played a set of material from his last record, A Night Goes Through (which i talked about over here,) interspersed with some brand new material, he's got a new record coming out soon, and some material that he rarely plays live, a spoken word number with minimal guitar textures, droning Hazerai delay, that sounded like a Raymond Carver story scored by Olafur Arnold, all about jumping off a roof into the hedges. Barry's music is all about the details, the little touches, from the way he packages his records, to the wordless cooing in a soaring falsetto, like on the encore 'Thrift Store Buzz" which had the crowd singing. A moving experience, a good place to be on Good Friday.

Cotton was expanded to a four piece for this occasion, fleshing out Jim Han's maudlin, sarcastic honky-tonk minimalist folk with stand-up bass, backing vocals, accordion, piano. Jim's unassuming stage-presence is really facilitated by the additional musicians, he can really be his dry humble self, without having to shuck and shill. His guitar was mainly dry and clean, the upright was round and full, Lily Valentine was a nice addition, adding vocals, little keyboard parts, and some tambourine. Cotton's music really excels with the presence of female vocals, the three part harmonies filled the room, let the sound take wing. The icing on the wedding cake, was Jeff Kelley on accordion, piano, kick drum - dude's a total badass, and he ripped some awesome country piano solos, really bringing the speak-easy vibe to life. It is clear that they are all consummate musicians and care about what they are doing. Cotton are quickly becoming a favorite - i am honored to have such a dedicated and talented musician living in the same town, often playing shows for free, for the love of music. On this particular evening, Cotton's blend of faded romance, bittersweet romance, c & w drunken sway, and hummable melodies probably saved my sanity, just what the medicine doctor ordered. I wrote about Cotton, previously, with a link to their last album, check it. Love it.

Waver Clamor Bellow were an unexpected delight, a two piece instrumental duo, electric guitar and an army of pedals, and amplified viola, they created some of the most beautiful looping, drones i've heard in a minute - rippling fingerpicked arpgeggios on the guitar with the sawing sonority of the viola, rich and lush, run through delay and a big muff (!), their 45 minute set reminded me of Dirty Three or even Godspeed You! Black Emperor, but way more optimistic and colorful. The interplay between the musicians was near-telepathic, totally in tune with one another and able to pull off intricate ebb and flow arrangements. it was like a mixture of improvisation with a chamber ensemble, which is very hard to pull off well, without falling into the stuffiness of either. Instead Waver Clamor Bellow are creating something timeless and classic and brand-new. Again, like with all the other acts, the tone was impeccable and the audience was appreciative, allowing WCB to really raise the shakti, get something immense and powerful going on, climaxing with the finale, which was built of bowed guitar, clanging and looping, bowed glockenspiel for that temple bell sound, pizzicato viola plucking, that would've done Andrew Bird proud, that settled into a cresting, soaring bowed melody. Fucking outstanding.

If anyone happens to live in Olympia, Wa. and should read this today, Barry Brussea and Cotton are playing together again, along with soul-sister Leah Bee, Jake Kelly, and Snail Party, at the Swamp House. Should be transcendental.

Lustmord - Metavoid

1The Ambivalent Abyss 12:14
2Blood Deep in Dread [feat. Steve Roach] 7:54
3The Eliminating Angel 11:45
4Oblivion 6:35
5The Outer Shadow [feat. Paul Haslinger] 6:44
6Infinite Domain 8:27
7A Light That Is Darkness 4:54
8Insignificance 5:00

"Outside the narrow confines of our intellect, larger forces are at play, and some things may best remain unknown."
- lustmord

Days in a daze, thoughts cancelling each other out, a quiet bang that leaves me staring, twitching ever so slightly. Sweeping the floor, trying to cope... it gets me thinking about the Void. And the void gets me thinking about Lustmord.

When i'm in this expansive inky black philosophical mode, i want music that seems as big as the night sky. Distant and cold and empty. Dark ambient fits the mood perfectly, and Lustmord is the acknowledged king of Dark Ambient. So, even feeling empty and dead, i'm still interested in pursuing what makes people considered the master of their genre? Is it just that they create a template, that others then mime? Does the music hold up over time, or is it merely spur of the moment and ephemeral? In the case of many/most noise and experimental musicians, they tend to release boatloads of albums, that are often interchangeable. But buried in this xeroxed tomes, there's a whole history of avant-garde music and art history, a college lecture series on the triumphs and embarrassing defeats of all the funky co-op movements that have come before.

I picked Metavoid arbitrarily cuz i liked the name. I've mainly only been familiar with Lustmord's early '80s stuff, to date, with lots of horror movie chorused keyboards, distant Gregorian chanting, and unsettling clatters and knocks. Brian Williams music has a touch of the ghost train about it, its not legitimate satanic ritual in the woods music, its the facsimile there-of. He's taken a lot of shit for writing 'video-game music', but i feel like, in this day and age when horror-core Carpenter fetishists, the likes of Umberto or Demdike Stare or even Oneohtrix Point Never, this music actually stands to be appreciated now.

I like the way this record sounds; its not as demented and mind-boggling evil as Paradise Disowned, but it is pleasantly bleak and vast. The synths sound cheesy and 80s, like from some movie with a big plastic clam-shell, and the whole affair does have a hint of late 90s Projekt world music ethno-trance minimalism, that has not necessarily held up that well over time (note the presence of Steve Roach on Bullroarer), the music is well-produced, the sounds are well-placed and well-recorded. It seems cohesive and intentional, melodic and thought-out. Brian Williams had clearly learned quite in a bit, in the 20 years he'd been making music at this point.

If you ever appreciated Danzig's Black Aria, if you close yr eyes and just listen to the music during The Sentinel, if you've ever questioned yrself, or yr sanity, or if you want a quick peak behind my eyeballs at 2:04 am, check it out.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Nurse With Wound - Chance Meeting on a Dissecting Table Of A Sewing Machine And An Umbrella

i'm going to let you in on a little secret; one of the main reasons i got into writing about music was solely as an excuse to sit down and listen to it. I have a very active mind, that tends to bounce across 15,000,000 topics in a day, until i'm a drooling imbecile by 12:30 a.m., after having successfully lived 12 lifetimes in 24 hours.

I am fascinated, and curious, by records that are considered 'classics,' that have a fetishistic quality about them. I feel like this feeling of religiosity oftentimes is due to the music leading the listener into uncharted territory, revealing a brand new continent of unexplored thoughts, associations, inspirations, values. A good example would be Radiohead's Kid A and Amnesiac; forward thinking art-rock from the early 00's, right? But if you read interviews from around that time, Thom Yorke claimed that those records were Radiohead' s attempt to make classic German psychedelic rock, and that if you liked their last two records, you'd do well to listen to Can and Neu, and Bowie's Berlin records, and i ended up getting turned onto a whole galaxy of acid-fried krautrock.

In the case of Chance Meeting, NWW's first album, release in 1979 on Steven Stapleton's own United Dairy label, there are several different traditions, weaving into an intricate tapestry of sound and ideas; between the S&M cover art, the title that references "Maldoror" by Leuatremont, and the infamous NWW list, with hundreds and hudreds of obscure art-house bands, some of which supposedly never even existed, Steven Stapleton and cohorts lead the listener down a hall of mirrors to the inner sanctum of 'serious' continental 20th century experimental music, the likes of Stockhausen and John Cage and Xenakis, with the utopian psych-rockers, like the Amon Duul's or Faust; to the then current school of Industrial terrorists like Throbbing Gristle, this record leaves you with a lot to chew on.

Musically, the title of the record is pretty astute: a chance meeting indeed - hippie guitar heroics ("he sounded like fucking Santana") meet with shards of feedback and ring modulation, mixed with tiny vignettes of tape and harmonium. Steven Stapleton has claimed that he was trying to make legitimate surrealist music, like a Salvador Dali painting put to tape; there is a rhyme and a reason, but a very tenuous and deranged one. This music can cause intense reactions in people, the abrasive nature of some of the sonics, and the abstraction and defiance of form or structure, make it a pretty uncommercial listen. It sounds almost friendly to me, 14 years after hearing it for the first time, but that's just because hours and years spent drilling into the NWW list and Steven Stapleton's back-catalog has driven me utterly, and unequivocally insane.

Part of what i am hoping to accomplish, by considering and drawing attention to older records, is the question, 'Does this stand up, in this day and age?' Steven Stapleton, along with John Fothergill and Heman Pathak for this record, had never made music before bullshitting their way into a recording session. What you get is the youthful and cacophonous exploration of sound, structure, and technology; unfettered and free, in the Albert Ayler sense of the word. Its exciting, and interesting to listen to, but makes Chance Meeting... any different or better than 17,500 youtube channels, soundclouds, and blogs out there, with people begging you to scope their sounds, other than this record is considered classic, a masterpiece? Does it hold up? Is it worthy of yr time and attention, possibly yr money? I feel, in the case of NWW, Steven Stapleton is a genius, an artistic force to be reckoned with. It seems like many meticulous hours were spent on these four tracks, and there is something to be said for care and craft. On top of that, Stapleton was well versed in the entire canon of underground music of the 20th century, and firmly grounded in the European surrealist/dada arthouse aesthetic, wicked smart, misanthropic, and ultimately hilarious.

The British proto-industrial has long held a special place in my heart and mind, since i was a fledgling goth kid with a head full of coil and acid, discovered art, magick, and my own soul, simultaneously, and are largely responsible for the creature i have become. I hope to post more of the records that have been hugely influential on my journey, in the coming weeks. It was nice to have an excuse to pull this one out and give it a 19th critical assessment, to see the ways in which i have changed, and the ways in which i remain unchanging.

Listening to Nurse With Wound will blow yr mind. It'll change the way you perceive sounds, the way you hear music, and the whole world becomes a macabre sonic automaton, a Brother's Quay music splayed out before yr eyes. It can make yr life more haunted, more meaningful, more romantic, more abstract, but it is not the easiest paths. Expect migraines and possibly night terrors. Spontaneous erections and weeping. Madness. Sublimity. Good art. Goodnight.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Dive Signals - 10,000 Tropics

Here's a pleasant warm breeze that swirled its way into my mailbox; Dive Signals is one Angel Ortega, a bedroom producer from Orange County.

Like a sunset on a cloudy day, warm and gauzy; pink, orange, and red. Colorful drones and smooth downtempo beats that caress all the right pleasure centers, this is like viewing instrumental hip-hop or 90s trip-hop at the bottom of the ocean. A narcotic haze hangs over the whole record, a warm summer lull. This would've been called Folktronica at one point, with its cheap and easy strumming guitars and head-nodding beatbase; if anyone happened to dig that Bibio record i posted a long time ago, or the 2muchachos one, for that matter, will be into this. It could appeal to Grouper and J Dilla fans alike.

Ortega uses the cheapest imaginable gear, with every element tweaked and polished; reverbed, EQed, run through various guitar pedals, 10,000 Tropics is a unified whole, a singular experience, best served up on pillow-y headphones, perfect soundtrack for new spring ambling. Dive Signals is an up and coming talent, only two releases to his credit so far, and 10,000 Tropics can be had, for whatever price you deem worthy. I've really been enjoying this one. Let it be the score for the coming blossoms, pollen and bees.