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 Last.fm. 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 www.goatsheadmanor.com.

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.