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!!

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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!!

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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!!