REVIEW BATCH #4 – G Sweems / Tricorn + Queue, Aloonaluna, Heatsick, Sylvester Anfang II, Weirding Module

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G Sweems / Tricorn + Queue “Split” (Housecraft Records housecraft no. 135, 2012)

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Here’s a few words about this hyper limited Housecraft split, released during the wet, wet summer of 2012…

G Sweems (aka Kaisha King) gets things underway with “From a Great Distance”- scuffed sounding backwards keyboard loops do their thing over cute ’80s synth bass and bell-like tinkles, after which a phased steam train-esque huffing enters the zone, accompanied by low sustained notes and far off dream drift. Nice!! “Red Delicious” (a collaborative piece with Jeff Astin’s Xiphiidae, apparently) is next- its combination of low bit rate electric piano, angelic rippling arpeggios and a simple three note bass loop is pitched somewhere between some forgotten slice of Tropicalia and old 16-bit computer game music and would make the perfect soundtrack to your next psychedelic holiday on a paradise island. As the piece winds on, the sound becomes more and more degraded, before a sun-warped Mariachi melody floats in, eventually joined by a heady drone, taking things to a weird good trip/bad trip netherworld. “Bayou” redresses the balance somewhat with its sweet, though clichéd New Age blend of held synth chords, water sounds and bird calls, followed by a stretch of Oriental sounding glitchy high tones. Good stuff overall, particularly “Red Delicious”. I’m looking forward to checking out further Sweems for sure!

T+Q (the duo of Kane Pour and the aforementioned Jeff Astin) weigh in with the side-long opus “Mona Versa”, which opens in a ‘jazz fusion gone lo-fi’ fashion with assorted electric piano noodlings underpinned by hollow, ethereal drones. Imagine a bootleg recording of a late night Mike Ratledge rehearsal circa The Soft Machine’s “Third” album captured by his next door neighbour and you’re somewhere close. After a good few minutes this section cuts out suddenly and is replaced by much closer and warmer sounding church organ-esque swirling drones with vague field recordings pushed way into the background…or am I just imagining them?! Following this stellar opening, unfortunately “Mona Versa” then turns into a disappointingly vanilla ‘drone slideshow’- heavily blurred guitar loops and/or synth washes bob along in an inconsequential, anonymous ‘background music for aquariums’ kinda way right ’til the end, leaving me decidedly unmoved. As with certain pieces on the B-side of Pour’s solo tape “Wand in the Beak of the Yellow Bird”, this stretch feels pretty half-baked- perhaps a little more musical flesh on the skeletal ambient framework would’ve lead to a more satisfying listen? We’ll never know now! So, not the greatest material I’ve ever heard, but I guess lopsided Tricorn is better than no Tricorn at all!

All in all, there’s some cool music to be found on this split, but truth be told it does feel like a pretty minor entry in the vast Housecraft catalogue.

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Aloonaluna “Bunny” (Hooker Vision HIV105, 2012)

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Following a few releases on Concertina Records with an expanded lineup of performers, “Bunny” was the first Aloonaluna effort produced solely by founder Lynn Fister. It came out on the dependable Hooker Vision, the label with the dodgiest catalogue numbers this side of err, my own…

Despite a promising intro of warped fairground sounds and poignant piano arpeggios, “Southern Terns” doesn’t get things off to the best of starts, the problem being the ensuing unappealing soupy mess of yowly vocals that hovers in and dominates the mix. Some way into the song a lone ray of organ light attempts to penetrate the gloomy grey vocal cloud, but its efforts are in vain. Thankfully the vocal excesses are pared back on the early Low-esque “Locusts Kiss”, to the point where it’s possible to make out some lyrics about “walking around in your underwear”- excellent!! This time the musical accompaniment comes in the form of a lone, chunky electric guitar chord and light sprinklings of xylophone. The track ends with a sleepy, mantric jam. “Bloodletting is So Boring” is a bit more animated than the opening tracks, with simple, light as a feather keyboard triads and dreamy, “Loveless”-style sighing vocals, all carried along by circuit bent Casio beats, while the following “Watercolor Rabbit” does the whole smeared, slow mo Grouper thing much better than “Southern Terns” managed. The A-side’s closer is “Antarctica”, which, for a minute or so, inhabits a strange electropop kinda place, with slightly tentative, cooing vocals over a brain-razzing two note synth figure, before a freeform section of improvised electronics floats in, then back out again all too soon. It’s a shame that neither of these sections really gets the chance to develop- with a bit more work, “Antarctica” could’ve been a monster!!

“Boom Boom Porn Radio” opens the B-side in a spooked as hell, desolate kinda way with its ‘wind blowing around a long, dark corridor’ drones and vocals, minimal guitar picking and pitch-shifted animal noises (dogs, perhaps). Next up, “Saturday Came to Fly” is a shambling, bluesy number (with whistling!!), while “Seedling, Wait to Grow”- all muffled vocal lines and sparse beats- sounds like a field recording of a bunch of noisy spirits having a late night minimal techno party in the woods outside someone’s house. “Fall Like Leaves” is a melancholy affair- a haunted vocal melody sits atop a two chord electric guitar pattern and a throbbing waltz beat. Brooding synths fade in eventually, but unfortunately the song peters out before they can really add much. Once its playful, skittery intro is over, the main portion of “Electric Firefly” consists of a nursery rhyme/folk song-simple vocal melody, backed by a watery drone and delicate drops of xylophone. The sweet, ‘dozing off on the river banks’ vibe I get from this song is spoilt somewhat by the ill-fitting guitar outro, though. Darn!! The combination of a cool, naive Casio beat and a truly lovely organ motif on the penultimate track, “Micah Across Silver Oceans”, brings to mind the much underrated 1998 album “Pulse of the Rooster” by Richard Youngs and Simon Wickham-Smith. It’s a shame Lynn didn’t crank the vocals on this occasion, though- as a result they never quite interact with the music as much as I would like. “Bunny” goes to ground with the volume-controlled sine wave-y melody, nice vocal layers and ultra minimal beat of “Lost and Strange Creatures”.

Ultimately this tape is a rather frustrating listen- don’t get me wrong, there’s some good stuff on here for sure…it’s just that there’s nothing GREAT, which is a shame ‘cos the potential is definitely there for a clutch of the material, but due to the various flaws noted above re: the production/the arrangements of the songs etc, nothing quite makes it to that level.

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Heatsick “Pre-Cum Fog Ballet / Total Afternoon Sundae” (Relax With Nature no catalogue number, 2008)

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This handy little box bundles together two hard to find ‘pre-fame’ releases from the earliest days of Steven Warwick’s Heatsick project, both of which were originally released on Alcoholic Narcolepsy in 2006.

“Pre-Cum Fog Ballet” begins with a primitive mono-chordal trance jam- all steadily strummed acoustic guitar, a featherlight synth drone and simple, looping raga guitar mini-melodies. It sounds a lot like something Siloah might’ve kicked around circa their 1st album and indeed- the ‘zonked out hippies jamming eternally in a damp, dingy barn somewhere in Europe’ vibe I get from the music is furthered by the warm, hissy sound of the tape. After some time, mewling alien kitten synth sounds enter and eventually begin to dominate the mix, thus concluding the side. The B-side of “PCFB” consists solely of what sounds suspiciously like further mutations of said alien kitten mewlings- the piece starts off sparsely with whooshing, gritty tones and gradually becomes more layered and ominous sounding as it progresses, though after a while it gets a little tedious. I dunno- maybe I was just hoping the cultic jam from the A-side would fade back in at some point??!! Yeah, that might’ve been nice…

The first piece from “Total Afternoon Sundae” (“Previously Unseen Brook”) is another side-long affair. It melts forth from the speakers with yet more mewling, which sits atop a bed of ‘power chord’ organ goings on. Wobbly, swooshy, grainy noise then burrows through the heart of the drone action, eventually unmasking itself as a mid-register organ cluster, fading in and out like a mad bastard and eventually shifting its shape to that of an atonal Krauty shimmer, before levitating itself over proceedings for the final minutes like some kind of tormenting spirit. Cool!! The concluding side in this Heatsick double bill features four much shorter pieces (“Later Mirror”, “Exactly, Exactly”, “Singing Mist” and “Unspent Realisation of Dawning Release”), though I counted err…about five haha, so I dunno exactly which title corresponds with which piece. What I do know, however, is that Steve goes veritably backwards sound bonkers for the first few minutes, offering up a brief flurry of metallic Industrial tones, followed by warbly Far Eastern psych keyboard noodling, then a modal drone on the same voicing…hmm- so far, so underdeveloped, though I suppose the drone might be ok for practising yer scales over, if nothing else. Once this fit of sparse reversed-ness has passed, Warwick gives us something a little more substantial, first of all tinkling his keys in a naive fashion and coming over a bit like “Ralf & Florian”-era Kraftwerk or Cluster circa “Zuckerzeit” in the process. Before long though things descend into loop/delay pedal hell, the piece sounding uncannily like the soundtrack to your next ‘stuck in Satan’s toy shop’ nightmare as a result. To finish, ol’ Steve gifts us a further slice of the Orient in the form of a theme from an imaginary 1980s martial arts arcade game. ‘Tis a sweet little tune for sure, but it might’ve been sweeter without all the drone malarkey that slithers in and clogs things up.

Nowadays Warwick’s Heatsick material is more dance-oriented and is quite a hit in the clubs (from what I can gather he’s particularly popular in Germany, where he’s now based). Obviously the kind of music gathered on this compilation would go down like a shit sandwich in a club environment, though the loop-heavy, minimal approach found throughout the two featured releases is still apparent in his latterday shizzle…plus it’s funny to think that Warwick still performs and records with the same knackered old keyboard that we can hear on “Total Afternoon Sundae”!!

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Sylvester Anfang II “Van Stekene tot Zomergem” (Sic Sic sicsic045, 2013)

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Sylvester Anfang II are- of course- the psychedelic improv offshoot group to the long dormant Silvester Anfang. “Van Stekene tot Zomergem” was released by the German label SicSic in a hand-numbered edition of 110 in early 2013 and sold out in what seemed like ooh, all of 20 minutes…

The tape opens with “Fakir van de geest”- a slightly murky/crusty Middle Eastern jam, located somewhere between Siloah (yes- them again, though the “Sukram Gurk” album this time) and something off the soundtrack to Jess Franco’s “Oasis of the Zombies”. Instrumentally we’re talking cool snake charmer guitar, loose drumming with plenty of tom and splashy cymbal work, lolloping camel’s head bass that occasionally breaks off into a nightmarish tritone trance pattern and an organ noodling away quietly behind a moonlit sand dune. The jam doesn’t change much save for the guitarist adding touches of fuzz and/or wah to proceedings, but it doesn’t much matter- ’tis a nice place to stay awhile.

The fresh, green “Undulatus Asperatus” is next- sonically it kinda opens a window and lets out some of the pungent smoke that “Fakir…” leaves behind with its dreamy and reedy out of focus loveliness from a melodica or accordion (?), ever-changing, cute IDM-type synth bass and assorted echoed percussion and guitar tinklings coming and going as and when they please. The track becomes much dronier as it progresses, but the sweet, pastoral, almost-but-not-quite melancholy feel remains. A violin subliminally enters the mix and solos away nicely towards the end.

The B-side commences with “De likkepot van de Duivel”, which can be neatly summed up by the following description- “doomy booming bongos, rich medieval harmonium wanderings, sharp and twangy surf/raga hybird lead guitar and a smattering of flute for ten and a half minutes”. Like “Fakir…” it sounds pretty darn ‘vintage’ and if you put it over some sort of weird sacrifice/ritual scene in a tripped out ’70s horror film it’d fit perfectly (oh wait- they already did…see YouTube…the film is “Sisters of Death”).

“Lof der zotten” closes the tape and consists of zoned out acoustic strumming, wah-goat mouthdrone action, moronically simple tambourine shaking and some pretty cool unpredictable/’selective’ drumming. Said drumming doesn’t quite manage to stop this being the least inspired jam on the album, though- on the whole it sounds like something SAII probably churn out in their deep, stony sleep.

As you might be able to guess, I find the A-side to be stronger than the flip, but overall “Van Stekene tot Zomergem” is not a bad effort- it’s not the most significant of Anfang releases by any stretch, but if you already like what they do, then this is worth picking up for sure.

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Weirding Module “Enter the Canyon Entrance Entranced” (Senseless Empire no catalogue number, 2010)

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As well as being a kind of weapon in David Lynch’s film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s “Dune” novel, Weirding Module is also the name of Michael “Awesome Color” Troutman’s solo electronics project. This tape came out in 2010 via Troutman’s own Senseless Empire imprint.

The slow build 16 minute “Detroit, Michigan – Traveling” is the first track on offer- it begins with ‘on the one’ ’80s tribal/industrial rhythms and croaky/bubbly acid basslines, followed by sulky single note synth interjections and eventually several overlapping minor key melody lines. With all these elements in place the track resembles Conrad Schnitzler at his most focussed and carries a distinctly chilly, dystopian mood- both good things in my books.

Distant conga patterings open “Atlas Drugged”, to which Troutman adds a misty two note synth loop and a bassline ripe with urban melancholy. Some way in unsettled freeform synth squiggles and ‘ghost in the machine’ random static noise threaten to turn the piece into an industrial nightmare, but things never fully darken- the original loops and rhythms are never completely swallowed up.

After this duo of epic A-side tracks, the flip’s palate cleansing curtain-raiser “Weapon of Choice” features catchy mid-paced Krauty bass pulses under frothy glitches and rusty gate loops- nothing much else, though it sets the scene nicely for the closer “Surfacing Thoughts”- a 20 minute plus monster of a jam. Like “Detroit…”, “Surfacing…” takes its sweet time to build with a simple three note synth riff and various quiet loops/drones hovering in the background. Eventually the riff fades, after which we hear a loop of trumpets (??) in glorious ‘on hold’ fidelity, then an echoed bass pattern, which starts quietly, then gets meatier and altogether more neighbour unfriendly. Then, for what seems like FOREVER, Troutman teases out complimentary synth doodlings and spooky modified vocals on top of said pattern. It’s all very minimal and subtle, but I think it’s pretty cool- there’s always just enough going on so that the piece doesn’t stagnate.

I picked this tape up pretty much solely because I liked the artwork, so it’s nice to report that the actual musical content doesn’t disappoint- while it never gets as psychedelically lurid or gaudy as the cover may suggest, it still manages to take me to strange, intangible places, which is ultimately what I want from my electronic music!!

REVIEW BATCH #3 – Pine Smoke Lodge, Obscene Caller, Bermuda Link, Andreas Brandal / Blood on Tape, Robedoor

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Pine Smoke Lodge “El Ahrairah” (Sweat Lodge Guru SLG001, 2010)


As you may have already guessed from looking at the catalogue number above, this little yellow peril was the first release out of the gates from Sweat Lodge Guru (which is currently ‘on ice’, unfortunately). Come to think of it, Pine Smoke Lodge haven’t put anything out in a fair while either…hmm…double bummer…but anyway- let’s skip back in our minds to happier times when both were very much fully active and get this review party STARTED…

“El Ahrairah” (rabbit speak for “prince with a thousand enemies”) is structured the same across both its sides, offering up a 22 and a half minute monster first, then a sub-10 minute ‘palate cleanser’ to close. With the first double digit beast, “Evenk Tent”, we’re instantly thrown into a wild mesh of sound, pitched somewhere inbetween ‘devotional’ and downright scary- clanging bells, high peaking shards of noise and low arcing groans are the order of the day. Eventually certain looping patterns emerge from the fray, offering up glimpses of beauty. As the piece progresses, an angelic vocal loop floats in, quickly followed by a murky wall shaker of a drone, over which the duo chuck in massively reverbed jarring sounds- feedback-esque snatches of birdsong (or are they birdsong-esque snatches of feedback?), the ringing of a school bell and what could very well be the sound of a hand powered whisk grinding into a stone wall. After a time the claustrophobic, metallic ‘mesh’ present from the early stages of the piece fades completely, giving things a more spacious, cavelike feel…the ‘whisking’ is looped atop the remaining sounds…then things plateau…for a long time…indeed, it feels like “let’s keep this stuff running while we go for a smoke and/or make a cup of tea” syndrome has kicked in, until some kind of New Age-y woodwind instrument flutters to our rescue, heralding an end to the reverbdroneloopy frolics and ultimately an end to “Evenk Tent”! To be honest, I could’ve done with a bit more of said flutterings rather than the persistent err, ‘whisk/wall interplay’. That said though, this is still a pretty cool piece.

“The Children and the Child” is up next and it’s a goody! It gets underway with a drone reminiscent of Richard Youngs circa “Festival”- y’know, blissful, but with ‘bite’- under which a solitary synth gurns and burbles. Further down the line we’re treated to almost subliminal “aaah”-ing lady vox and occasional loud smashes of white noise, after which the piece drifts into a much more noticeably melancholy zone thanks to some gorgeous additional chord drones. With the end of the side approaching fast, PSL bring in some high bowed metal tones to great effect. A spiffing effort!

“Eternal Ground Imagery” is side B’s marathon jam, though unlike with “Evenk Tent”, this time we’re eased into things more gradually, with a distant loop of echoey violin torture and gentle metal tinkles hovering over a vaguely threatening guitar feedback or organ drone, which always pulls back just as you think it’s gonna ROAR in your face. Slowly but surely the intensity builds, as bowed guitar and violin loops pile up, turning things…not quite ‘melodic’, but certainly a lot friendlier than they were at the top of the piece. With everything circling nicely, Matt and Hillary nip off for another long fag break, though to be fair this is a much better place to be stuck than the one in “Evenk Tent”. I guess in these sorts of “eek- nothing seems to be changing!!” situations, you can either feel swizzed or you can try and lose yourself in the sonics- thankfully for me this particular extended passage errs toward the latter option! Again, a woodwind instrument signals a change, tooting its refrain from a faraway hilltop, after which a sound like someone scrubbing clothes in a river enters the mix, leaving “Eternal Ground Imagery” to fade back from whence it came.

Closer “Munkh Khukh Tengri” (Mongolian for “eternal blue sky”) rides in on a tribal pulse beat and frail, ‘as if played in a deserted school classroom’ xylophone/bicycle bell jinglings, which sandwich the subsequent ‘mammoth stuck in a tar pit’ horn tones and assorted rattles and whines from hard to place sound sources. A short while after the peyote takes hold, as it were- an excitable yelped chant commands your attention, which is soon joined by ominous rumbles and swathes of bowed guitar. The sounds swell to a point where our friend the pulse beat is all but obscured, then- whaddayaknow- just before the piece comes to its abrupt end, we’re treated to one last dose of woodwind! And it feels good…

Overall, “El Ahrairah” is a fine piece of work for sure and will be of particular interest to those into music that inhabits the twisted netherworld twixt free folk and noise.

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Obscene Caller “Attachments” (Scumbag Relations no.143, 2010)


As far as I can see, this was the fifth release by Obscene Caller, one of several projects by Scumbag Relations’ head honcho Eric Frye.

Side A begins with what is probably best described as a stretch of low key kitchen improv- what could very well be a bunch of pots, pans and jars are rattled about and struck with some kind of implement (a wooden spoon, perhaps?) in a freeform manner, before being abruptly cut off by a quick succession of groans, scrapes, rattles, squeaks, whistles, rustlings, tinkles, knocks and hisses. It literally sounds like Frye is walking about his pad with a hand held tape recorder, jamming about on whatever household appliances he has to hand, opening windows to record the sounds of the streets outside etc. One standout snippet involves Frye blowing down a plastic pipe- nice circular breathing!! He keeps things pretty sparse for the most part during this ‘audio scrapbook’ section- apart from the occasional background hum/drone, there’s never more than one sound happening at a time, though the performances are active enough to still be engaging. The sounds are kept natural and raw, though I did detect a touch of reverse reverb (maybe??) in a couple of places. The side concludes with another slightly longer passage, which includes the sound of a ping pong ball bouncing on a table top (or thereabouts!!).

The first few performances on side B feel a little fuller and more developed than those on side A, with Eric multi-tasking like a demon- for example, droning on a metal pipe while simultaneously creating small skittery sounds with err, other stuff. This particular section is perhaps the highlight of the tape for me. As with the A side, we’re then treated to a collection of shorter, sparser bits, including the sounds of masking tape being ripped off a cardboard box and coins being rattled about inside a jar.

“Attachments” is a strange one for sure- it doesn’t particularly feel like it’s working towards anything or that it’s trying to send out any kind of message, but yeah, taken for what it is- an extremely intimate half an hour or so of collaged improvisations on ‘non-standard’ instruments/field recordings- it’s still pretty enjoyable, though I can’t see myself ever playing it that much.

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Bermuda Link “Exit” (Excite Bike EXBX-104, 2009)


Bermuda Link was, of course, a short-lived duo project made up of the many-monikered dudes Jeffry Astin and the ‘notorious’ Josh Burke. Despite the brevity of their time together, Bermuda Link managed to pump out a fair amount of releases, of which “Exit” is the easiest to get hold of.

I’ve no idea which side is which ‘officially’, so I’ll just comment on them in the order I played them. The first side has a brief muffled intro of squonks, warbles and vaguely Arabic noodlings, followed by a longer section of dark judderings/drones and primitive low bit rate vocal modifications, all of which conjure up images of dirty industrial estates, seedy back alleys and abandoned warehouses in my poor addled brain. Said ‘industrial menace’ eases somewhat with the introduction of a synth drone that coats the outer edges of your speakers in a thin blue/green fur. This carries everything along nicely up until a glitch section, in which a ghost tries its hardest to sing us a happy little tune through an ancient, malfunctioning radio sequestered away in the back of a fusty junk shop. A ‘typical’ peaceful, airy Sky Limousine-y part then drifts in while we’re not looking, which builds gradually, before being interrupted by what I can only describe as a ‘mid-plane flight drone’…yeah- if you can imagine nodding off on board a plane and having a wonderfully vivid dream in which you’re travelling through fluffy clouds on the wings of a giant dove, then being woken up with a start only to remember that you’re actually mid-way through a turbulent flight with some crummy budget airline or other, well err, this sudden transition feels just like this!! As the side winds down, the dreamy ‘dove’ drone floats back in, before giving way to more plane noise.

At the start of the flip side a plethora of garbled, reversed sounding video game sounds sit atop deep, cold drones, which segue into further spooked vocal modifications (lots of delay/pitch shift action goin’ on here). Eventually a beautiful aquarium synth line enters the mix, doing its beautiful aquarium-y thing beneath detuned radio sounds. A second dose of odd low pitched/delayed vocals turns out to be the intro to a strangely familiar alt rock song, which chugs along underneath an oppressive rumble and various fucked up drones, making you feel like it’s 1993 all over again and you’re conked out on the sofa having a ‘flu induced nightmare with MTV playing in the background (poor you!!). As the plundered song melts away into nothingness, a whole muddy mess of stuff hovers in to replace it, wrapping things up rather nicely.

“Exit” certainly covers a fair bit of sonic terrain within its brief running time, factoring in and mixing up many ideas familiar from Astin and Burke’s solo endeavours, mostly to interesting effect, though sometimes to the point of impenetrability. So yeah- if you like your music dense, murky, screwed up and unpredictable (though maybe not so unpredictable in this case seeing as I already told you what happens- make sure you wipe your brain clean once you’re done reading this), then give it a go by all means.

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Andreas Brandal / Blood on Tape “Split” (Rotifer Cassettes RC46, 2011)


The excellent Rotifer Cassettes put out this interesting pairing of prolific Norwegian drone man Andreas Brandal and the US duo Blood on Tape a couple of years back in an edition of just 68…allow me to say a few words about it…

Mr. Brandal gets things underway with a simple, but rather effective Conrad Schnitzler-esque piece consisting of a basic minor key melody over a shifting backdrop of synth textures- from fast pulses to high and low drones. Later in the piece an atonal dronescape takes command, seemingly replicating the sound of a plane flying overhead (very closely overhead in this case!!). The second piece on offer opens with a chilly, sawing drone and *that* same bloody progression that you’ve heard in a million Black Metal intros/interludes, but *still* can’t get enough of (you know the one!!), before things get way more spacious, but no less moody. AB’s third contribution warbles in a dissonant fashion, until some brittle Spaghetti Western guitar chords and a lovely, ghostly ‘school science’ synth melody prick your ears up, then lastly he gives us a wonderfully macabre synthesized funeral march with echoes of Eastern European folk music, which concludes in a melancholic free time manner. Great stuff for sure, though it’s kind of a shame that all the tracks were left nameless- stirring sonics such as these deserve evocative titles, not relative anonymity dammit!! But we can’t always have it all, I guess…

Blood on Tape’s side sprawling “Sunless Spirit” (this is the title given on Discogs- there’s no mention of it on the tape insert) floats in with an ominous, churchy drone, rusty gong washes and far off guitar melodies, all adding up to an undeniable dark medieval dream vibe. Further into the piece, the guitar breaks through the mix a little more with peals of impassioned single note ecstasy, while the organ/gong drones continue to swirl up inside the church dome. At around about the halfway mark, some kind of accordion/concertina tune ushers in a different, much more oppressive section- reverbed cymbals sulkily skirt the edges of the mix, while dark, heavy tones swell and swell, before spunking out triumphantly into Black Boned Angel/Sunn O))) realms- all ‘shifting tectonic plates’-style guitar chords and wayward lead. Following this veritable doom-gasm, the ‘air clears’ somewhat- assorted smokey drones, rippling harp-esque arpeggios and drifting clean toned lead guitar doodles bring us back down to earth and light our aural post-coital ciggie, as it were, after which a steam train chugs into the mix (no- really!!) alongside a persistent microtonal synth/guitar drone, bringing things to an end. Fantastic!!

This is a stellar split of shadowy, remote sounding material- well worth checking out if that’s your particular bag.

***

Robedoor “Stoner Reaper” (Fuck It Tapes FIT036, 2007)


A scalding guitar feedback drone gets things underway on this 2007 effort from the boys Brown. Said scorching tone belongs to the titular track, which occupies about two thirds of the A side. “OK, but how does the piece develop after this molten beginning??!!” I hear you scream- with echoey amp shakings and hollow beatings…with sudden swooshes of white noise, that’s how!! Once these wicked additions have ceased to ravage your speaker cones, the initial drone foundation becomes more noticeably layered and complex, as a rough audio approximation of a biting, frosty wind whistles in the background. With everything rumbling along nicely, high vocal cries begin to skim the underbelly of the drone- they are atonal to begin with, but eventually they tune to the drone, turning things ‘a bit raga’ in the process!! Following this modal plateau, the vocals disappear down the same black hole that swallowed all of “Stoner Reaper”‘s previous sonic garnish and various feedback frequencies swoop in to replace them. I hoped that the piece would begin to scale to a higher sonic peak at this point, but- the odd teasing spike in volume aside- unfortunately it didn’t happen. Shame!!

“Opiate Cloak” is up next and it’s a much uglier piece than its predecessor. Overloaded practice amp vocals and obscure grumblings ooze above a dissonant, machine-like looped drone for the first half, until primitive floor tom beats bludgeon their way through the chaos, gradually growing louder alongside the increasingly twisted and disturbed vocals. Yet again I readied myself for the mother of all climaxes, and when someone started twatting some cymbals I thought I was gonna get one (or a drum solo at the very least haha), but yet again I was denied the pleasure- instead the “…Cloak” crumpled into a sloppy heap and the side rolled to a close.

Side B is stuffed to the gills with a piece entitled “Nightmare Traverser”- its opening drone is a wavering, seasick one, to which our Robedoor friends add tentative caveman drums and swallowed mic groans that occasionally billow into feedback clouds. Some minutes in, waves of disgruntled yeti guitar fuzz rear up, adding further to the piece’s woolly, stuffy atmosphere. Then, following a short but sweet bit of vocal/floor tom interplay, “Nightmare Traverser” enters its main phase- the drones and fuzz take a back seat, the vocals shift off again into a private improv realm, whilst the ever more prominent/dominant drums hold down a simple, incessant beat. This long ass stretch of slack, grimy, grease flecked basement trance reminds me of the great, but sadly underrated Big Whiskey album “The Bloated Museum of Treachery”. Mmm!! Eventually things wind down and peter out, the nightmare evidently traversed quite enough for one evening!!

So yeah- “Stoner Reaper” has a pretty good A side and an excellent B side. Sounds like a party to me!! Err, maybe…

REVIEW BATCH #2 – Super Minerals, Sundrips, Kane Pour, Brother Raven, Banana Head / The Phantom Payn

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Super Minerals “Digitalis Bonus” (Digitalis Recordings no catalogue number, 2008)

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What we have here is a rather rough ‘n’ ready C32 of live material that was only made available to the lucky pre-orderers of the Minerals’ epic “Multitudes” CD back in late ’08.

Side A’s opus, “Ich Bin”, carries a distinct “wandering through a moonlit forest” vibe, with its chilly night air drones and bird twitters, which gradually grow louder and louder. There’s a real sense of anticipation in these early stages of the piece, as if Super Minerals are soundtracking a quest for some kind of great forest spirit or giant Frog God or something. Eventually, delayed pings and whooshes join the fray, upping the intensity further. After a few minutes of this, you may begin to wonder if said Frog God will ever show himself- well, he does and is sorta scary, but he only sticks around a few seconds, leaving behind a thick glob of flanged drone in his wake. In the dying minutes of “Ich Bin” he re-appears and levitates to the forest canopy on a high drone that threatens to swallow everything, but doesn’t, the big ol’ tease of a drone!!

Side B is home to “Live at Cluster Pines”, which starts with more airy drone capers, backed by an incessant Krautrock-y pulse, which sounds a bit like distorted woodblocks, perhaps. High feedback whisps enter the mix and skit about, before dying back down. At this point, everything settles into something resembling a Sunroof! backing track- i.e. a dense cluster of drones and gurgles minus the wild lead guitar abuse. After this, the feedback whines rejoin the party, though this time they’ve brought an array of forest creature warbles/mating calls with them (as you do), which carry the piece along up until its rather abrupt ending. Yes indeed, before its natural conclusion, the recording cuts out, meaning we can only wonder what fun and high jinks happened after this- ho hum!!

So- nothing too mind blowing on offer here, but if you’re after a short-ish fix of (mostly) non-threatening drone (yes, that word again!! Better get used to it!!) to blow away a few cobwebs on a Sunday morning, then you could do a lot worse than this!!

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Sundrips “Misplaced” (Digitalis Limited ltd #221, 2011)

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Here are my thoughts on “Misplaced”- the second tape that Canadian duo Sundrips jammed out for the Digitalis Limited imprint.

The A side kicks off in a nice “New Age of Earth” by Ashra kinda place, with a bright and bubbly sequencer pattern doing its thing alongside warm synth harmonies, a “Selected Ambient Works Vol. II”-esque synth loop and quiet guitar chimes. After a time, the sequencer fades allowing some ‘ginchy’ flanged synth to dominate the mix, though before long it breaks back through along with the Aphex-y loop, bringing the piece to an end. A cool opener, if ever there was one.

The second piece features yet more fast flanging synth, coupled with moody chordal washes, but after just two minutes everything fades. Nooooo!! I really could’ve done with more of this one, but alas…

Side A’s closer keeps up the melancholy mood- its brooding drones and snatches of melody coil around each other freely, before a vast suspended cosmic chord floats in like green space dust, giving you a nice, fuzzy, green space dust-y feeling inside.

The first piece on the B side offers up a bunch of freeform, slightly metallic sounds to begin with, which brush up against warming drones and a far off, looped clean guitar squiggle. The bleeps and bloops that enter soon after bring to mind Conrad Schnitzler and are a fine addition to the mix for sure, but the piece as a whole is nothing to get too excited about, really.

Luckily things pick up again for the closer- a beautiful, “standing at Heaven’s gate” drone flutters in and is punctuated by odd mosquito/trumpet-esque synth stabs. From hereon in, things just get better and better- another heavenly drone- somewhat ‘smoother’ than the first- emerges, along with a triumphant four note theme, on top of which the ‘drips drape even more loveliness in the form of synth and E-bowed guitar melodies, upping the celestial quotient tenfold!! This is easily my favourite piece on the whole tape.

So, “Misplaced” is perhaps not the most monumental entry in the Sundrips catalogue, but if you’re a Kosmische fiend, its bookending tracks are certainly worth checking out!!

***

Kane Pour “Wand in the Beak of the Yellow Bird” (Housecraft Records housecraft no. 91, 2009)

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Kane Pour is, of course, one half of the supremely mysterious Tricorn & Queue and has also released music under such aliases as Pospulenn and Hundreds. “Wand in the Beak of the Yellow Bird” (the first tape that he put out under his own name) came out back in May ’09, so yeah- to put it in its correct err, ‘cultural context’, that was what- roughly halfway inbetween everyone going mental about swine flu and Michael Jackson dying?? Something like that…but we move on…

The tape begins in a very sweet place indeed- minute after minute of reversed sounding warbly/wow-ing purple hued dreamworld gorgeousness gushes from the speakers and coats your eardrums accordingly. It almost sounds like it could be a section from the excellent Moolah record “Woe Ye Demons Possessed” that’s been sped up and looped. At just the right moment, the ‘twinkly’ aspects of the piece then drop out completely, leaving a bunch of underlying flutey “Loveless”-esque drones to ebb and flow, like a tide of lavender scented goo. Just in case you were missing them, the trebly twinkles re-appear towards the end of the piece, but this time around they’re just flashes…little audio hallucinations…truly lovely stuff!!

Personally speaking, after these 9 and a bit minutes of greatness, I wasn’t particularly hankering after anything else to round off the side, but Kane gives us a sub-40 second snippet of electric guitar anyway- an unaccompanied Durutti Column-esque clean toned chord progression. Hmm!!

Upon flipping the tape, we’re then treated to a nice, but unchanging daub of “Another Green World”-esque guitar, which floats about in a peaceful and meditative way for a couple of minutes. It’s a shame that Kane didn’t develop this any further- with just a couple of overdubs it could’ve turned into something very cool indeed.

The tranquil mood is interrupted somewhat when we hit track B2 and its ominous alien construction site noises- all low judderings and high drillings. Kooky!!

To round things off we get a pair of very lo-fi and distant sounding pieces, consisting of guitar loops just on the cusp of distortion. The second one ends with a brief cameo from the alien construction workers, who perhaps felt they didn’t get enough air time earlier on in the side, so thought they’d hijack proceedings, guerilla-style.

Overall I can’t help but feel that the rest of the tape pales in comparison to its glorious opener- the remaining tracks feel more like works in progress/seeds of ideas and are ultimately much less satisfying to listen to. I’m sure Kane had his reasons for keeping things sparse, but to be honest I’d have preferred the pieces to have been fleshed out a little more.

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Brother Raven “A Sound Like Wailing Winter Winds is Heard” (Gift Tapes GT005, 2009)

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This here’s an early one by the duo of Jamie “Million Mists” Potter and Jason E. “Spare Death Icon” Anderson, released by the latter’s Gift Tapes label.

Following a blink and you’ll miss it “Intro” piece consisting of various synth frequencies, “After Burner” kicks in hard with a hyperactive sequencer pattern, which brings to mind ’80s action film soundtracks or indeed ’80s video games (at least I presume the piece is named after the old Sega arcade game). Just when it gets to the point where you think a beat is gonna kick in, things mellow out considerably, the ‘action’ being replaced with breathy drones.

The next piece, “Norwegian Dude”, is an improvised sounding blend of curious snatches of synth melody and wow-ing drones, while the side’s closer “We Live in a Seal Zone” features a pretty Oriental-style loop, later doubled up with a bassline, which are accompanied by far off tinkles and moody swathes of lead synth.

Over on the other side, “Whalehuntingfloats” is the longest piece on offer, at a little over 7 minutes. It begins with simple, ‘see-sawing’ notes, which form innocent “Sowiesoso”-esque phrases. Deeper floating tones enter later on, along with whalesong synth squibs. This piece has a very lovely kind of atmosphere indeed.

“Armon” brings the curtain down for “A Sound…” with its stumbling drum machine, buzzy 4 note synth loop, bassy pulses and tentative lead synth scribbles. Just as the track starts to ‘pick up steam’, though, it cuts off. Booo!!

Yeah- if there’s one thing ‘wrong’ with this tape, it’s that it’s too short!! Don’t get me wrong, the tracks themselves are cool, but (“Whalehuntingfloats” aside), I definitely found myself wanting more. It was like being served a tiny portion of a delicious meal. I wanted my belly filled, dammit!!

***

Banana Head / The Phantom Payn “Split” (Goaty Tapes no catalogue number, 2011) 

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A two-way split from Goaty Tapes head honcho Zully Adler (aka Banana Head) and veteran German lo-fi psych dude Jürgen Gleue (aka The Phantom Payn).

For his side of the split, Banana Head offers up his usual treble heavy, reverb soaked blend of guitar, unintelligible vocals, garagey keyboards and sparse percussion. Things start off ok with “Open the Kimono”, which pits an early Kinks-style riff (that runs through the whole piece) against a jangly suspended 2nd chord drone. For the ‘bridge’ of the song, Zully jangles through a couple more chords, though the brief flash of harmonic pleasantry that this creates is all but obscured by the overly misty mix. “Open the Kimono” is about the best song on offer here- the other three don’t really do much of interest. “Chili Heatwave” is a crooned two chord Doors-y groover, which sounds quite promising to begin with, but really is about 4 or 5 times too short to successfully establish any kind of trancey psychedelic atmosphere. “Poison Chain” eases up on the reverb somewhat and sounds like something you might find on one of those early Smog records (i.e. the ones you never listen to). BH’s final offering is “Roidhead”, which sounds suspiciously like a ‘made up in 30 seconds’ bedroom demo…albeit a weirdly almost-Neofolk-y ‘made up in 30 seconds’ bedroom demo. So, not the best really- I much prefer his side of the 2010 split with Rosemary Krust.

As for The Phantom Payn, well- I’d never heard any of his stuff before I stuck this tape on, though I remember ‘watching’ one of his CDs once on eBay about 6 or 7 years ago. I didn’t bid for it. Anyway…TPP’s first cut, entitled “Selling an Old Wet Shoe”, consists of little more than a pretty, folky electric guitar chord sequence and a vocal that flits between sounding like Jandek, Lou Reed and Kevin Ayers every few seconds, which is no mean feat!! Just like with seemingly every other fucking song I’ve written about lately, though, it doesn’t last long enough!! God, what’s wrong with me…”Experimental Life” is an acoustic cut with buried/reverbed vox and little snatches of fuzz guitar. It almost sounds like a demo version of some obscure ’60s Freakbeat gem…well, it would if you cut out the pointless dissonant, spazzy bits, like. “All Comes True” is a chuggy Reed/Thurston-y song with a lead guitar overdub that flits between being good and shit seemingly at random (just play properly, FFS!! Face it- you can play the guitar quite well- you’re not Jandek or solo era Syd Barrett, so stop with all the fake ‘incompetence’!!). “Girl on the Beach” could’ve been awesome- ’tis a spooky harpsichord/bass/vocal thing, like something off Billy Nicholls’ “Would You Believe” or one of The Rolling Stones’ psych-era records- but it literally lasts all of about 5 seconds. Arrgghh!! The closing song, “Sittin on the Bed”, is a pretty jangler with a distinct Byrds-y vibe. It’s ok, though I could’ve done without the irritating out of tune guitar or synth melody in the background.

I’m not sure if these sorts of people exist, but truth be told I’d only really recommend this tape to serious devourers of mostly impenetrable, wildly erratic and often fairly half-arsed lo-fi singer-songwriter fun and games. If that doesn’t sound like your cuppa tea, then save your pennies!!

REVIEW BATCH #1 – The Creation Room (Richard Youngs), Sick Llama, Calypso Borealis, Jim O’Rourke, Hobo Cubes / Mpala Garoo / Architeuthis Rex / Banana Pill

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The Creation Room (aka Richard Youngs) “The Creation Room” (no label, 1988)

The Creation Room - s/t

In my books, alongside Steve Stapleton (Nurse With Wound) and Matthew Bower (Skullflower, Sunroof! etc), Richard Youngs is the finest ‘underground’ star the UK has ever produced, so naturally when I read about his earliest solo sonic endeavours as The Creation Room a few years back in Wire magazine I was itching to hear them. Unfortunately it took me several years to get my hands on just one of these ultra obscure releases.

The A-side of this humble cassette features two home recorded a cappella pieces from summer 1988- “Apricot Tree” and “Will to Tedium”. The former is an English-translated version of the traditional Armenian song “Tsiriani Tsar”, as adapted by the composer Komitas Vardapet. Youngs’ take on “Apricot Tree” is a little wobbly and wayward in spots (though to be fair it’s hardly the easiest tune to get to grips with!), but is impassioned and powerful on the whole. The two sung sections of the song are broken up by a brief whistling interlude. Stirring stuff!! “Will to Tedium” (recorded a few days later) is a lot more light-hearted in mood, featuring a repeated multi-tracked nonsense chant over thigh slap percussion. The chant goes on and on and on with subtle variations here and there, before abruptly coming to an end. I’m sure this piece would get on most people’s nerves if they heard it, but after a few plays I quite like it! Not sure what that says about me…

Anyway, the B-side is home to the epic “Nineteen Used Postage Stamps”- recorded live in a St. Albans pub in 1987. This is an excellent piece- 13 glorious minutes of Youngs’ unique voice swooping, droning and occasionally yelping over a gorgeous quick-strummed two chord acoustic motif. “Nineteen Used Postage Stamps” was actually reissued on the ever-so-slightly less limited CD-R “20th Century Jams” in 2007- the only Creation Room track to receive such an honour as far as I know!

Overall this is an interesting little release from the primitive Youngs, but there was much better work to come in all the areas explored on this tape- see “Summer Wanderer” for his best a cappella material, “Lake”- his first collaboration with Simon Wickham-Smith- for examples of his eccentric prankster/Dadaist streak and “Sapphie” for guitar/voice minimalist wonderment!

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Sick Llama “Born Again to Die” (American Tapes AM345, 2004)

Sick Llama - Born Again to Die

This was the second ever release from Heath Moerland’s Sick Llama project, “busted” (just like its predecessor, 2003’s “Put Down”) for John Olson’s legendary American Tapes label back in 2004. It consists of roughly seventeen different noise miniatures…here’s a lowdown on the sounds…

Side A (or at least the first side I played when my un-rewound second hand copy showed up in the post) starts with a couple of minutes of what sounds like a group of hissing, rasping demons incessantly revving the engine on a motorboat. Cool!! Next up we get a recording of androids having a cutlery fight inside their no doubt swanky android canteen. By piece three Heath is seemingly feeding a flock of distressed seagulls and a laughing tramp to a giant rotating Leslie speaker. Eek!! Not even cool underground noise dudes can get away with shit like that though, so inevitably come piece four there’s a police helicopter on Heath’s trail, but it’s ok ‘cos before long the chopper’s got a UFO in hot pursuit through the night sky and I’ll be damned if the aliens on board ain’t desperate to abduct the cops to indulge in a spot of anal probing. Yowch!! The next piece takes us to a deserted school playground where the wind is having fun tickling the mic and rattling a few tins of beans about on the concrete floor. There’s a different kind of wind blowing through piece number six- probably as a result of munching the beans from piece five, two speaker-panned ogres decide to have a farting contest, after which someone switches on a high powered vacuum to clean up the resulting shitty ogre mess. The side concludes with a recording of a dosed up TV news reporter trying to find her way out of a maze filled with squeaking metal gates and dancing tin openers. Awesome!!

The other side kicks off with a gnarly guest appearance from none other than Lord Satan himself, who possesses a bit of factory machinery and whips up a real shitstorm in the process!! Go Satan, Go!! Meanwhile in a cave full of noisy bats, Heath has close-mic’d himself eating cereal and is throwing metal railings about. As you do. Following this we’re off to a clock factory, where a giant grey rubber ball is having a great time bouncing about, as giant grey rubber balls are wont to do. The next three pieces last a matter of seconds each- my favourite of these is the recording of clucking chickens jamming some mean minimalist drone organ!! Speaking of organs, following this trio of bitesize junk nuggets, Heath rises up with his through the floor of a haunted amusement arcade like some kind of Stoner Phantom of the Opera, busting out half-remembered fragments from long lost ’80s slasher films. Creepy!! Ever wondered what it’d sound like if you dropped a load of ‘service bells’ (the kind you get in old style hotel receptions) into a cement mixer?? Well, look no further than the eigth piece!! The answer is “rad” btw…anyway- remember the demons from Side A?? Of course you do!! Well, it turns out they got bored of fucking about in their motorboat, so later on they cruised by Heath’s Haunted Arcade and had a few goes on an old driving simulator game. Luckily Mr. Moerland was on hand with his 4-track to record their efforts for piece nine. You’ve got to feel sorry for the asthmatic robogoat that closes out the side, though…find that sucker his inhaler, pronto!!

All in all this is a cool, original tape and it ably demonstrates that Heath had his shit sorted right from the start. One criticism, though- what’s with the massive expanses of silence at the end of each side?? “Born Again to Die” contains less than 15 minutes of sound per side, yet it was dubbed onto a C60 cassette!! Actually, this is the case with a few Sick Llama tapes that I own (mostly the stuff Heath put out on his own Fag Tapes label). Perhaps it’s meant as some sort of conceptual ‘anti-art’ statement…or maybe Heath can’t be bothered tracking down shorter tapes to dub onto?? Either way, it’s sort of annoying…but I’ll get over it.

***

Calypso Borealis “Sainyinan Daji” (Existential Cloth Recordings ecr41, 2010)

Calypso Borealis - Sainyinan Daji

The debut release by this French enigma starts off in a foggy, “half-awake in a dew-dappled garden” Sunroof!/early Hototogisu type zone, with hesitant clean guitar noodles, childlike xylophone tinkles, free folky percussion patters and brittle waves of distortion doing their thing over a reedy organ drone. About halfway through the piece (which is entitled “Epoung Nou”) a different, slightly darker drone hovers in and juxtaposes itself against the seemingly oblivious xylophone, while splashing cymbals and wah-ing synths battle for your attention somewhere off in the distance.

The next piece, “Kyangabukama”, could qualify as a lost transmission from the Planet Gong with its bizarre alien drones, subtle gliss guitar and “birdsong from the heavens”-esque synth twitterings.

“Oldonyo Sambu”, the third and final piece on side A, brings us swiftly back down to earth with a jarring “Jon Lord asleep on the keys during a session for “Fireball”” drone. Assorted wavering tones and a yearning organ motif occasionally break through the harsh wash of treble, but are soon swallowed up again.

Side B contains just one piece, the 12 minute long shapeshifter “Kimpatp-Eku”. Various ideas explored on side A are expanded upon and combined here, particularly during the opening minutes where further cosmic drones, groans, gurgles and chirps float above a heavy, devotional percussive attack (imagine jamming Limbus 4’s “Mandalas” at the same time as a Space Machine album and you’re there!!), before giving way to fizzy, ring modulated sounds. Eventually the percussion instruments settle into something more rhythmic and the once intense drone action quietens to a murmur, as short loops, wisps of guitar feedback and other one-off sounds come and go in an hallucinatory manner, bringing the piece to its conclusion.

This was a strong opening statement from Calypso Borealis- it’s just a shame it was so limited.

***

Jim O’Rourke “Some Kind of Pagan” (Sound of Pig SOP 224, 1989)

Jim O'Rourke - Some Kind of Pagan
I have to say, I approached listening to this tape (Jim’s first ever full length release as far as I know) with a certain amount of trepidation, as most of his early works that I’ve heard leave me pretty cold. Thankfully the second “Hold These God Damn Chickens” started tumbling out of the speakers with its briskly-paced prepared guitar scrapings my fears were alleviated somewhat, as it sounds closer in spirit to something like “Remove the Need” (yay) rather than “Tamper” (nay) or “Disengage” (double nay). From what I can make out, said scrapings are most likely the result of O’Rourke bowing the top couple of strings, on top of which he soon adds distressed janglings, feedback tones and what sounds like an oil drum being smashed with a hammer. It’s not, though…according to the sleeve notes every track on offer here is a solo guitar performance with no overdubs and no electronic processing other than reverb!! So, in other words *somehow* Jim made these fairly varied sounds happen simultaneously and he used the absolute bare minimum of smoke and mirrors gadgetry to achieve them. Impressive!! If you have any idea how he did it, send your answers on a postcard to…

“Bound Up With Memory : In the Waiting Place” starts off with atonal plinkings and deep gong-like tones- freeform at first, then after a minute or so Jim teases out a relaxed rhythm with the same sounds. From hereon in, however, any notion of ‘pulse’ or rhythm goes out of the window. Stuttering, spluttering whines of feedback emerge, drifting over the ‘gong’ tones, which by now have become much louder and more distorted. For the last few minutes Jim cranks up the reverb to such an extent that the remaining bongs, whines and clanks from his guitar sound like they’re playing inside an aircraft hangar, or some such cavernous industrial space.

“Stayed a While Then Went Away” (the first piece on side B) opens with the sinister chiming of Satan’s own grandfather clock, backed by what sounds like metal tacks being dragged across a chalkboard. As if things couldn’t get any more wince-inducing, Jim then adds screeching dentist’s drill-esque feedback to this mélange of sonic torture, along with enormous bowed tones. At around the 8 minute mark all hell breaks loose…sounds fly about with wild abandon…it sounds like a whole band’s worth of people (and a dog- I can definitely hear a dog in there somewhere) going apeshit…remember, though- it’s not…it’s just Jim and his axe making the racket…after a couple of minutes the insane freak outery subsides, the clock chimes once again and the dentist resumes his drilling…

The next piece, “Solving Problems Until They All Disappear”, alternates between creepy mid-range bowed dronings and nice groaning feedback sections, while the closer “Heaven is No Longer Paved in Gold” consists of far off sounding atonal driftings, similar to the final minutes of “Bound Up With Memory : In the Waiting Place”.

If you’re bonkers for AMM, Keith Rowe, early Organum, “Homotopy to Marie”-era Nurse With Wound, Fred Frith’s prepared guitar stuff, Coil’s “How to Destroy Angels” etc then you definitely need “Some Kind of Pagan” in your life to provide you with your next spooked out, rusty, metallic improv fix.


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Hobo Cubes / Mpala Garoo / Architeuthis Rex / Banana Pill – Split (Jozik Records JZK007, 2010)

HC / MG / AR / BP - Split
Here’s the scoop on this nice four-way split, released by Banana Pill’s Jozik Records back in that funny old year we called 2010…

Hobo Cubes’ “Utopian Ocean” kicks things off on the green-stickered side (there’s no ‘official’ A or B side to this tape- the sides are identified by sticker colour) with delayed seagull cry guitar and (perhaps) flute dancing about on top of a curious droning loop in a ‘Fursaxa at her most wayward’ kind of fashion. “Dream Freeze” starts off sparsely with primitive drum machine thumps and alien organ warbles, before several small plasticine people enter the jamscape and begin vocalising down a narrow drainpipe. The piece ends with a pinch of spooked delay guitar. “Secret Reality” is Hobo’s final contribution to the split- a thin sheet of atonal drift and a waltz-time pulse beat lead into more bad trip woodwinds and some kind of incessant hairdryer-esque wailing. As the piece progresses, the beat speeds up and the wailing pitch-shifts higher and higher, giving the whole thing a definite ‘fairground ride from your worst nightmare’/”shit, everything’s spiralling out of control!!” vibe. Great!! Not a wasted moment here- all three tracks build to the action fast, then cut off before they have a chance to get tedious.

Mpala Garoo (aka Ivan Karib, also of the excellent duo project Kon Tiki Gemini) follows with three tracks of his own. The first, “Open Way Up High”, features a drum machine and clean toned electric guitar, both of which are fed through a delay device. The guitar figures start out fairly Velvets-y, but by the end we’re in “Let Down” by Radiohead territory. Quite a nice start to proceedings. “Primitiitoo” features catchy “Graceland”-gone-lo-fi guitar lines on top of a (presumably) sampled African beat. Other sounds, like subtle washes of organ are brought in as the piece progresses. The last Mpala offering is the solo electric guitar piece “Sister Lightning”, which moves through some serious early-Durutti Column zones. So much so, you could probably pass this off (in certain circles) as a newly unearthed, crusty “The Return of The Durutti Column”-era home demo!! In complete contrast to Hobo Cubes’ muddy atonal chaos, Mpala Garoo’s material here is sweet, melodic and uncluttered, but ultimately is a bit too…skeletal for my tastes. A bit more sonic depth might have been nice.

The blue-stickered side opens with the sole offering from Italy’s Architeuthis Rex- the epic “Victimae Pischalis Laudes”. It begins in a fairly peaceful way with backwards tribal drums, glassy synths and vocals doing their New Age-y thing, until what sounds like a chorus of croaking tree frogs heralds a change- a fat, grumbling drone creeps in alongside a blaring synth line and ’80s Industrial-style drums, turning shit considerably darker, vibe-wise. Eventually the synth blarings drop out, leaving the drones ‘n’ drums and an odd metallic pinging sound to plateau for a good while. Hereafter, the piece becomes a psychedelic mix and match, with all the above sounds (and possibly some new ones- it’s hard to tell!!) coming and going in myriad formations. I figured it was pretty pointless trying to work out exactly what was going on by this point- instead I let the remainder wash over me and drown my senses in waves of pulsating colour and psychotropic fervour. It’s recommended. Anyway, for what it’s worth I’d say this is probably my favourite piece on the whole split- marvellous stuff!!

Lastly, Finnish boy/girl combo Banana Pill offer up two long-ish assemblages of charming audio jumble. “Bonfire” begins with an airy organ drone and a repeated ‘electric period’ Jandek-esque 2 chord guitar phrase, before ’90s electro-style synth bleeps and ethereal female vocals slip into the mix. Everything floats about nicely for a few minutes, after which the drone vanishes and the guitar breaks off into twangy improv. None of the sounds in “Bonfire” ‘gel’ particularly, but the piece still manages to be wholly satisfying. Which is nice. “Hole in the Ground” also has a droning foundation- this time of warm, major key bowed electric guitar and synth, on top of which the duo place weird whooshing noises (presumably the result of an electric guitar connected to an obscene chain of effects) and a clipped organ phrase. As the piece nears its end, the drone quietens and some kind of haunting/haunted vocal comes in- not sure if it’s a human voice or like, whales or wolves or some shit, though. Oooh, the mystery!! Whatever the case, this is another great track. Yeah!! If we’re playing ‘side wars’, then this ‘blue’ side definitely wins out overall.

In a nutshell, this is a mighty cool split- varied enough so that short attention span cretins like me don’t get bored, but unified enough in its homespun fuzzy-round-the-edges-ness to still make me feel all nice and ‘complete’ inside when it’s over. If that makes sense??!! Err…OH YEAH- and did I mention that it comes packaged inside a cloth bag?? Woo!!

WELCOME TO TAPE SAUCE

(Most of) The Collection
Brilliant- just what the internet needs…another TAPE REVIEWS BLOG!!

Yes, for some reason I’ve decided it might be a good idea to start reviewing some of the tapes that I own. Each future blog post will contain five reviews, with pictures to accompany each- nothing more, nothing less.

The first batch will follow shortly…

Enjoy!!