Archive for the ‘music review’ Category

Mystified – “Sovereign”

November 18, 2015

So here’s a release that needs a little unpacking– in 2001, Robin Storey released an album under his Rapoon solo project called “Cold War: Drum ‘N’ Bass,” which set Storey’s ambient looping against drum and bass figures. Although I wouldn’t have guessed at the theme in a million years without the help of thematic titles and imagery, the music largely functions as a means for Storey to re-examine the beauty of his own remembered places from childhood against the omnipresent apparatus of the military and state. Although I enjoy Rapoon, (and perhaps to a greater extent, Storey’s involvement in Zoviet France) there is a definite English sensibility to the music that, as it draws heavily on memory and shared experience, I will freely admit I am not able to entirely share. Works from The Advisory Circle or Belbury Poly are similar in this regard.

Still, some of these nostalgic elements are shared– and unfortunately, so is the experience of growing up and realizing that some of these fond memories contain more menacing elements. Perhaps this is the experience that Mystified draws upon for his self-described “tribute” to “Cold War: Drum ‘N’ Bass,” a freely-released collection called “Sovereign.”

For Mystified’s part, the unpacking is likely in two parts. On the one hand, a colleague and fan’s personal history with the original album itself. Mystified has always been up-front with his admiration of Storey, and of the Rapoon project in particular. Although Mystified releases happily carry their own weight (or I would not deal with them at all) there is doubtless a certain artistic push or inspiration that must be acknowledged. On the other hand, there is Mystified’s own experience of re-examining memory– of course, it is complicated by the prior concerns. It’s a conundrum, a loop, formed from another’s memories and experiences; impossible for an outside party to fully discern.

So where does that leave the listener? Perhaps, right where Mystified intends us to be– suspended in an uneasy repetition of shadowy motives and retreating understanding. Like “Sovereign” itself, the simplicity is only skin-deep, and the complexity is entirely dependent on how far you’ll continue into the rabbit hole.

Mystified – “Sovereign” on Treetrunk

Jack Hertz & Mystified – “Inuksuk” ( An overnight review)

November 17, 2015

I enjoy listening to music while I’m going to sleep, letting it play throughout the night. Some long-time favorites include Brian Eno’s “Thursday Afternoon,” as well as “Neroli;” many of Lou Harrison’s orchestral works, and several recordings by Z’ev. Lately, I’ve enjoyed “If I Was,” by The Staves. It’s a difficult thing, to guess up-front whether an album will work for an overnight listen, and occasionally I find myself dreadfully wrong– though I enjoy his work tremendously while awake, I found a Phill Niblock album to be a nearly suffocating experience when trying to sleep. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t picturing a sleeper at rest, so your experience may vary. It seems to me that the best works for sleep-listening act as a tether of sorts, allowing for the sleeper to travel outward, while occasionally providing a reassuring tug from the waking world.


At any rate, I’ve been enjoying Jack Hertz & Mystified’s “Inuksuk” album for the Aural Films netlabel– I’m not always the biggest fan of Mystified’s collaborations, but this one seems to work well, with a good blend between both artists. I’ve largely given up on figuring out who did what, despite some early theories. At it’s best, “Inuksuk” delivers on what I’ve come to expect from a Mystified outing– thoughtful ambient works bathed in somewhat uneasy semi-rhythmic looping patterns. That sounds clinical, but Mystified does this very, very well time and again, with a knack for catching your attention just enough here and there to keep even the simplest figures remarkably fresh throughout. As far as I’m concerned, these moments are the titual “inuksuk,” dotting the sonic landscape to give the listener a sense of place, perhaps even in one’s dreams.

Jack Hertz & Mystified – “Inuksuk” on Aural Films


Two new reviews– Pelt “Effigy,” and Marc Behrens “20 Zonen”

October 26, 2012

My Musique Machine reviews are adding up– be sure to check them out! Here’s one for the new double by acoustic-droners Pelt; and here’s my take on “20 Zonen” a bit of radio sound-art by Marc Behrens. Cool stuff all around, dig it.

New review posted– “Hot Choice” by Breakaway

September 28, 2012

You can check out my latest review at Musique Machine— this time, of a trio on the Peira label, out of Chicago.

New Reviews: Bramble, Harry Pussy, Ross Adams

September 23, 2012

I’m writing for the Musique Machine webzine now– so I’m back in the music reviewing game. If you get a chance, check out my first three reviews:

Bramble “Cyclic Stasis” (Bottle Imp Productions)

Harry Pussy “Let’s Build A Pussy” (Mego)

Ross Adams “Nord Rute” (Gruenrekorder)

Of course, I’d love to hear your feedback about these as well. Leave a comment here, or at the Musique Machine site. Thanks!

Startling Moniker’s Top 12 Best Happy Neat-O List of 2010!

January 1, 2011

Amazingly, this year’s Best Happy Neat-o List is on-time, a nice touch for its 5th Anniversary!  But professionalism be damned, I’ve decided to add 4 “honorable mentions” this time around– obsessive music geeks take note, and please adjust your Star Wars figurine/obscure sound art purchase budgets accordingly. As always, this list is given in no particular order:

1) Violet — “Violet Ray Gas and the Playback Singers” — Quite simply, this one scared the bejeezus out of me during my first listen. Zeromoon do a fine job upholding their “intelligent noise” claim with this truly dark, and at times harsh, slab of crisp and disturbing electronics. It’s the sort of disc you’ll handle with care for fear it might actually cut you, no shit.

2) Mark Peter Wright — “Inanimate Life” — A strong debut release for the 3 Leaves label, featuring a series of odd field recordings from Wright taken from within bushes, hand rails, flag poles, and the like. If you’re looking for more of a “hands-off” use of field recordings in a non-travelogue setting, this disc is for you. Bonus points for classy packaging, and Wright’s own 3″ commentary disc included with the album itself. Correction: This is not the debut release for the label, as the release page clearly shows. Not sure where I got this idea. Past releases include works by label head Ákos Garai, Lasse-Marc Riek, Scott Sherk, and others.

3) Various — “Zelphabet” — At this point, I can honestly count the GX Jupitter-Larsen-curated “Zelphabet” series among my reasons for continuing to exist. If caffeinated beverages and photobooths were to suddenly disappear, I’d have an awful day, but could pull through with the help of these generous and ear-opening entries which have continued to reveal an increasingly faceted noise universe– an aural equivalent of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field survey.

4) The Painful Leg Injuries — “The Anomaly That Had Gotten The Better Of Me” — Serious weirdness from the OKSRNA label, and a contender for my favorite release employing circuit-bent instrumentation. Deceptive “simplicity” reminds at turns of Frank Rothkamm or George Korein, especially in the ability of PLI driving force Bill Byrne’s apparent ability to perform a total brain dump onto CD. Remarkable stuff, highly recommended for those who need their sonic oddities at full strength.

5) Gen Ken Montgomery — “Birds + Machines” — I don’t know if anything Gen Ken Montgomery does is “good” or not. What I do know is that even among sound and listening enthusiasts, Montgomery is a cut above, being absolutely fascinated with sound in such a way that life must surely be a constant source of amusement and interest. This disc is further evidence to the fact, radiating with Montgomery’s passion and infectious excitement.

6) Fat Worm of Error — “Ambivalence and the Beaker” — This one might be the strangest entry on this year’s list, but frankly, I’d expect that from a Resipiscent release– most of which seem to share an uncommonly cracked musical vision. But this… well, it’s the work of madmen. Staring at the sun, gibbering and naked, clutching a thousand-page handwritten manifesto kind of stuff. I have no idea what to make of it, but so far I’ve been happy not to ruin the experience by trying. Be sure to fill out your mental history intake forms if you plan on playing it back-to-back with The Painful Leg Injuries!

7) Amy Horvey — “Catchment” — Stunning self-release for trumpeter Horvey and friends, coming out of left field for this listener. Clear and un-embellished recordings highlight a series of playful and interesting sound actions– improvisation with distance and space, volume dynamics, setting, etc. Very well realized material; I’m certainly looking forward to Horvey’s next outing.

8) Ernesto Diaz-Infante, Manuel Mota, Gino Robair, Ernesto Rodrigues — “Our Faceless Empire” — Quite possibly the most inscrutable recording on the list, and paradoxically, one of the most intimate. Featuring the work of this one-time quartet of experienced improvisers, “Our Faceless Empire” channels amazingly nuanced playing at every turn, buffeted by mysteriously coordinated changes of direction and intent. A high-water mark for improv, highly recommended for deep listening.

9) David First — “Privacy Issues” — Here’s another one to sail away on, XI Records three-CD retrospective of David First’s droneworks spanning from 1996-2009. Extensive liner notes bring a lot of pertinent and interesting information to light, and the recording quality is top-notch throughout.

10) Tom Hamilton — “Pieces for Kohn/Formal & Informal Music” — Two-disc anthology of early Tom Hamilton works on the Kvist label, and a surprising entry into this year’s list in regards to the age of some of these pieces, each of which has its roots in the early to mid-1970s. Regardless, I had a blast listening to this one, particularly the “Crimson Sterling” series on disc two. Kvist thankfully gives Hamilton the proper treatment, with thorough liner notes and smart packaging.

11) @c — “0°-100°” — Rarely has any single disc received so many positive listener comments in a year than @c’s  “0°-100°” release for the exceptional Monochrome Vision label. I have been continually surprised at the ability of this meticulously-produced work to generate so many different ideas within listeners. Everything from submarine voyages to enormous growing forests have been cited as thoughts conjured by reporting listeners. Who knows what you’ll end up hearing?

12) My Fun, John Ira Ebersole, Kimberly Ellen Hall — “Camaraderie” — Without a doubt, the classiest release of the year, from label The Land Of. Hall’s design work, which has permeated the feel of The Land Of releases, is on bold display here. Throughout Ebersole’s included small book of poetry,  Hall’s jaunty sketches find themselves quite at home. My Fun’s collage of field recording and found work is a gentle counterpoint to both, seemingly accompanying the others’ contributions, rather than simply providing a soundtrack or inspiration to either. The Land Of has long been a label to watch, with “Camaraderie” surely the central piece of evidence why. Highly recommended.

The following four “honorable mentions” might throw off my numbering scheme, but they also deserve a place in your stereo, or on your shelf:

Warm Climate — “Camouflage On the River Wretched” — Stunned Records
Robert Ashley — “Atalanta (Acts of God) Volume II” — Lovely Music, Ltd.
Mari Kimura — “The World Below G and Beyond” — Mutable Music
Ava Mendoza — “Shadow Stories” — Resipiscent

Think you’ve got everything now? Check out the Top 12 Best Happy Neat-O Lists for 2009…. 2008…. 2007, and 2006!

Top 12 Best Happy Neat-O List of 2009!

January 1, 2010

Well, what do you know– this year’s list is right on time, and it actually has 12 entries! (Well, one is a repeat. But it appears there is hope for my stunted mathematical abilities, no?)

Having picked myself up from the 78 rpm-induced wreckage of last night’s party for one, I’ve found that 2010 is presenting me with the challenge to improve my broadcasts and my reach as a researching DJ. We’ll see how it goes, but for now, enjoy my Top 12 Best Happy Neat-O List for 2009! As always, these are presented in no particular order.

1) Rothkamm — “Frank Genius Is Star Struck” — Rothkamm didn’t make my list for two years running because I’ve got nothing better to listen to; he’s on here because the man is absolutely freakin’ brilliant. More than any release this year, I just couldn’t stop smiling whenever I put it on. Definitely one that blurs the lines between high-concept sound art and lowest common denominator pop disco… it’ll leave you baffled, entertained, and amazed all at once– and probably within the first few tracks.

2) Various — “Dictaphonia” microcassette series — Florida’s microcassette champion Hal McGee’s ongoing work curating the Dictaphonia volumes (five so far) also deserves to be on this list, not only for putting the micros back in the spotlight, but for encouraging so many disperate artists to begin stitching together a fractured picture of the artistic possibilities locked inside such ubiquitous recording devices. Purists will appreciate that these releases maintain a mechanical continuity– unless you miss the point and download them from Hal, you’re going to need a microcassette recorder to hear them as well!

3) T.D. Skatchit & Company — “T.D. Skatchit & Company” — Tom Nunn and David Michalak perform with selected guests, mostly using Nunn’s homemade “cardboard synth” Skatchit instruments. The results are bewilderingly complex, and often truly beautiful. Standout tracks feature vocalist Aurora’s extended technique, resulting in phenomenal improvisations not out of league with those of David Tudor’s electronics work or Joan LaBarbara’s sound paintings.

4) Thanos Chrysakis, Wade Matthews, Dario Bernal-Villegas — “Enantio_Dromia” — In my opinion, it’s damn near impossible to go wrong with an Aural Terrains release. Although this disc was well out of my depth to review properly, I have sincerely appreciated the incredible level of musicianship that is maintained throughout these fully-improvised works. While this quality alone couldn’t put any album into my year-end list, it is the fact that I find it identifiable among music that eludes me so thoroughly– I’ve found that a sense of confusion is not entirely unhealthy when confronting experimental works, tossing us about in our thoughts leads to new perceptions and understandings. I’m not at the end of my journey with “Enantio_Dromia” yet, and I doubt I will be for quite some time.

5) Yoshihide Sodeoka — “Video Metal” — Of course, there’s also room for spectacle in the experimental community– in fact, some of the recordings I most treasure seem to have their roots in one absurd or grandiose gesture or another. And while this isn’t exactly Stockhausen’s “Helicopter String Quartet,” I can imagine where some similarities exist. Besides, how often is it that you don’t have to be ashamed to own something with titles like “Psychedelic Death Vomit” and “Electric Hair Doom”?

6) Various — “Go Ahead, Copy This Noise” — Should I take shit for being on this double-disc compilation of Southern Illinois noise artists and later putting it in my year-end list? Please. I’ve got two tracks in Dictaphonia as well, and I’m not even blushing. It’s true, I may have no ethics– but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a kick-ass collection. Plus, you just know it’s going to be a collectible someday, most likely re-released on some Dutch label with intense liner notes and a wooden box. That thing’s going to be expensive too, and you’d have to hunt for it on eBay. Better just download this one now, and save yourself the hassle.

7) Neil Rolnick — “The Economic Engine” — This is why I always present my list in “no particular order.” Clearly, my noise activities aren’t any threat to Rolnick’s absolute ability to command my stereo for days at a time. On his third release for Innova, Rolnick presents a compelling four-part picture of modern China, and it’s a set of works that really gets me excited to have heard them. It doesn’t hurt that this is fertile material for intellectual consideration as well– it ought to at least hold me until Rolnick’s next offering.

8) Renato Rinaldi — “We Shall Overtone” — My favorite unexpected noise of the year, and rather strange stuff to boot… well, strange enough that even Last Visible Dog doesn’t quite know how to describe it. If you were excited about the potential (somewhat) unrealized in their Yermo release, you’ll really dig this disc, which is firing away on all cylinders towards destinations unknown. Recommended for adventurers.

9) Chefkirk & Ironing — “Notorious” — Ironing’s tape delirium goes surprisingly well with the spare no-input mixer contributions from Chefkirk, much more so that I would have expected. This is the Hymns label’s second entry in my Neat-O lists, so consider it your heads-up for picking yourself up a copy of this one– you’ll be happy you took my advice.

10) Matt Weston — “Seasick Blackout” — I haven’t been this excited about an EP since… well, I don’t know when. I’ll grant you that I’m a bit manic, but my sustained interest usually means I’m on track. “Seasick Blackout” has got me riveted, and I’ve played it for anyone I can corner with a speaker and 20 minutes to spare. If I beat you over the head with one release this year, it’s this one– so go get it, and buy an extra for a friend.

11) Eyes Like Saucers — “Parmalee, Tribute to a Dog” — This one might be a bit time-weighted, I’ll admit. It’s hard to tell whether or not I would have still been hot on this one if it had come out in January, but that’s the nature of chronology, eh? Regardless, I’ve dug enough of Eyes Like Saucers to know that I continually enjoy his lo-key improvisations, particularly so for their spare aesthetic and highly-individual sense of direction. I also note that it’s a disc that I’ve been returning to on a regular basis, which is always a plus.

12) Various — “Zelphabet” — I mentioned GX Jupitter-Larsen’s ongoing series of 27 noise releases last year, and I meant it when I said they were worth your while. They’re on the “I” volume now, and I’d feel bad if I didn’t mention to you all again how much this series has consistently maintained my interest and my respect. If you’re missing out on these, get your shit together before any of them sell out. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Already own all of these? Go check out my lists for 2006, and 2007, and 2008 then!

Reviews for 12/14/09

December 14, 2009

Pendulum – “Pendulum” – Medusa Critical Publications

Improvisational duo featuring Randall Hall’s extended saxophone technique and Jonathon Kirk processing and manipulating the sound via laptop.  Songs like “Continuity of Etz’nab” showcase Hall’s tremendous ability to wring new sounds from his instrument, such as the hollow percussive noise used to great effect here. During their best moments, each track blends Kirk and Hall’s contributions so thoroughly that listeners will be hard-pressed to determine who is creating a specific sound– indeed, a significant portion of “Pendulum” finds each performer musically tied to the other, with neither in full control of where their contribution will proceed. The result is an experience a bit more immediately engaging for listeners; as “Pendulum” takes form it dips, stretches, and reacts like something alive.

Art Jerks – “Dysphemism Treadmill” – Bat Hot Axe

“The things you like are in place, and are ready to be damaged.” Appropriate words, spoken by STARTLING MONIKER favorite George Korein, as he opens this superbly weird album. Not that this is a confrontational disc– if anything, the Art Jerks create a rather open musical environment throughout– but because each track manages to shrug off all intent save its own. Each outing becomes its own petri dish, letting music grow into new shapes that may or may not be useful. Take “Globe of Hubris,” for instance. Across what is initially a stuttered march beat, wheezing horns slink over a plodding bassline, terminating in a series of record-skip codas. The initial reaction is “huh?” Being more than a little odd myself, I’m inclined to think this kind of play is a good thing.  Although one might easily accuse “Dysphemism Treadmill” of simply screwing around in the studio, it might also be thought of as a kind of outsider science, challenging assumptions that music “has to” hit certain milestones before being taken seriously. “I did it my way and it sucked, but I still refused to give it up” Korein says at the disc’s closing. Perhaps he’s right… what’s the use of listening to an artist if they’re giving us anything less?

Keeping in theme with the album title, here’s a bad review of the disc. Turn it into what you will. Please note that their writers have been known to “eagerly await” records by Dream Theatre, and even enjoy them. Adjust your bullshit meter accordingly.

Reviews for 12/10/09

December 10, 2009

Neil Rolnick – “The Economic Engine” – Innova

Rolnick’s third album for Innova Recordings, “The Economic Engine” is currently top of my listening/dissection pile. Although I’ve never been a formal student of music, I’ve been having a very good time formulating ideas about the juxtaposition of Eastern and Western instrumentation in Rolnick’s China-inspired titular four-part suite. Complicating matters is the electronic processing of the instruments, sometimes yielding a boldly distorted call-and-response, or sometimes subtly making a tweak in pitch. I especially enjoy the second movement, “Farm to Factory” which is as fine a musical setting for the range of human experience in Chinese society as I can imagine– from the slow, cyclical days known to farmers the world over; to the headlong rush towards modernity witnessed by so many during this past Olympics. Also included is “Hammer & Hair,” which utilizes the acoustic sounds of a violin bow and piano hammers, creating an interesting blend of jazz and more abstract sounds.

Ralph White & The Horaflora Sound System – s/t – Resipiscent

Three multi-layered improvisations with kalimba, fiddle and banjo piped through a prepared speaker array recall Ross Bolleter’s work with playing decayed pianos, with an additional patina of electronic clatter throughout. The first track, “Buzzard and Rattlesnake Share a Meal of Honeycomb,” is by far the most raw. Recorded with binaural microphones, it sounds better with a good set of headphones, where the buzzing kalimba really has a chance to emerge from the general froth of distortion. “A Space Between a Chimney and a Swift” continues the instrument abuse, albeit in what seems to be a more controlled manner. Often, the effect is lovely, with bludgeoned echoes ringing in agreement with the melody. Don’t listen to anyone who compares this to Konono no. 1, by the way– though I’m sure the comparison will be made by any number of writers searching their pretty little heads for thumb piano players, this album has very little to do with “Congrotronics” beat-driven tunes save instrumentation. If anything, White’s far more like the fellow in my next review…

R.P. Collier – “Let Them Eat Flarn” – Self-release

I’m not for certain that this is an official release just yet, but seeing as how it’s in my stereo, I’m going to make mention of it here. Combining futuristic synth-work and handmade kalimbas, Collier sketches a weird universe of glassine forms moving about on unknown business. “Deploy” is a hoot– a good number of more recognizable synth samples (whistle, cowbell, hi-hat) jumble about, forming temporary rhythms before re-assembling in a series of new ways over time. As this disc was Collier’s response to my recent call for “future music,” I guess he figures the cowbell has some life in it yet. “Mang” closes the album with a hectoring cloud of synth chirps, burbles, and imperfectly-received transmissions from 20th century Earth’s island culture. It’s a strange existence for our descendants, sorting through the cosmic flotsam of our radio existence… but send R.P. a message and you might get to hear it today!

Reviews for 12/8/09

December 8, 2009

Matt Weston – “Seasick Blackout” – 7272 Music

This is not an EP. It’s a three-track, sixteen-minute treasure, filled to the brim with Weston’s signature percussion and electronics. If Tom Waits was an orca (a drunken orca, natch) then he’d make music like “You’re Not That’s Right,” which opens the disc. Off-kilter, sobbing kettle drum noises issue mournful wails amongst the careless clattering of tin. “I Just Saw Fog and Dust” brings us to a clearing in an electronic cuckoo forest, where Weston is a one-man Arkestra. Amazingly, this doesn’t seem too hyperbolic as I listen to it for the umpteenth time today. But really, nothing compares to the final act, which I have described poorly as sounding like an ocean liner AND a freight train capsizing in the Arctic. “This October, All Octobers” is Weston’s opus– an arresting and majestic work of musique concrète that not only evokes nostalgic disaster and sci-fi film, but simultaneously re-awakens listeners to the immense power of sound. Most highly recommended.

Tomoko Sauvage – “Ombrophilia” – and/OAR

I’ve a special love of water music. Recently, I fashioned a weighted multi-ziploc bag enclosure in which to sink my microcassette recorder in the tub. I floated a few Corelle salad dishes about, dripping water inside them, while gently tapping their sides with a pair of homemade superball/chopstick mallets. I ended up with about 10 minutes of ethereal, globular beauty captured roughly in a tiny tape. Turns out that Sauvage did something similar, substituting wooden spoons for my mallets, and hydrophones in place of my sunken tape recorder. I might be a little jealous to find something so close to home making its way to and/OAR, but who wouldn’t be? However, Sauvage has done it properly– exploring many angles of her setup, from a calming refractive series of chimes to a frenetic clashing of dishware; and making a full-length study of the possible sounds that could be achieved. And of course, it all sounds great. Every soft stroke of wood upon porcelain is perfect, and the reflection of sounds from off one another audible as well. Lovely stuff.

Beth Laurin – “1984” – Firework Editions

Here’s a strange one… multi-media artist Beth Laurin curates an assemblage of tape recordings made in 1984, creating low-key creations to no apparent purpose. Occasionally, something drifts out of this slow-motion hodgepodge to get your attention, but mostly, its just one aimless cut after another. “What do you say about eating?” she asks in one track. Later– “This is so dangerous. It could go on forever.” Yeah, it seems that way.

Reviews for 12/7/09

December 7, 2009

Various Artists – “Crows of the World, Volume 2” – Last Visible Dog

It took an extra year, but economics being what they are, I’m still happy to see Volume 2 of this set make it out of the gate. As nearly as I can tell this is an entirely new group of artists for this compilation, though it’s still well within what you’d expect from Last Visible Dog. Excepting “Skull Death Dive,” the opening burnt-out garage jam from Bury My Heart, this is a rather subtle disc. Ashtray Navigations and RST evince a heavier end of drone; but selections like Juppala Kaapio’s “Kagami Hebi” and Renato Rinaldi’s “The Bite” are gentle tours through an aural wonderland of unexpected sounds and odd direction. Basically, a lot to recommend already– but in truth, the highlight of the disc is “Movements Under Water” by Bosch’s With You. I was hanging Christmas lights outdoors while listening to it, and didn’t notice until much later that I had been mentally comparing the sounds of its slow-motion ringing to how I expected the twinkling lights to look. Strange thoughts for an afternoon here in Smallsville. Thanks, LVD!

Various Artists – “Serge Modular Users 2009” – Resipiscent

Go fig– a totally geeky compilation devoted to a synth I’ve never previously heard of, and it still manages to be completely enjoyable. This is synth how I like it: fifteen tracks of analog exploration, soundscapes, gut-shaking bass, and general weirdness. John DuVal’s “Distress Call” and Cebec’s “Transformer Substation” take a fairly understandable direction (alternately evoking a plaintive signal from deep space, and electrical mayhem), but others’ contributions are far more abstract. Still, if I drop the title of Carlos Giffoni’s “All the Mistakes I Made During the Caribbean Winter;” I have no problem getting into his bumpy, meandering series of increasingly hectic bleeps and buzzes. Most importantly, everyone involved seems happy to let their synths be synths without attempting to simulate trumpets, pianos, etc. A good set of liner notes (including complex directions for using one’s own Serge as a vocoder) complete this disc; which I recommend for fans of vintage electronics, Louis and Bebe Barron, and banana plugs.

Markus Jones – “Send & Receive” – Con-V

The Serge Modular compilation got me thinking about this free netlabel release, from May of this year. Markus Jones took what might have been an opportunity for some IT workplace phonography, and turned it into something much better– a chance to record actual sound transferred across a network, utilizing some 16 servers and 1200 ports for the sound data. The result is a highly-varied pulsing cloud of sound events, oddly seeming to have some internal structure that occasionally comes across to the listener. This isn’t a straight recording, Jones does mention some real-time manipulation of the sounds, but “Send & Receive” retains an exotic quality nonetheless.

Reviews for 12/4/09

December 4, 2009

Tom Nunn and David Michalak – “T.D. Skatchit & Company” – Edgetone Records

Nunn and Michalak form the core duo for this remarkable series of improvisational pieces featuring Nunn’s latest soundmaker– the Skatchbox, which basically amounts to the world’s first cardboard synthesizer at this pair’s more-than-capable hands. I don’t doubt that these two could carry the disc on their own, but happily, they invite some friends along. I particularly enjoyed Aurora’s guest vox (she apparently being of the mono-monikered people of Cher Town) on “Gargoyle,” where alarmingly videogame-like Skatchbox sounds burble alongside the sing-song of what I’ll describe as Littlest Pet Shop jacuzzi erotica. Everything I’ve heard from Nunn so far has been pure genius; but this album is his best yet. Pick it up and hear why I’ve been letting all my electronics languish in the garage!

Noertker’s Moxie – “druidh lacunae” – Edgetone Records

A nice collection of quartet and quintet semi-improvised pieces featuring Bill Noertker on contrabass. Not the sort of thing I’d personally consider essential, but I’m qualifying that by adding that my jazz background is rather slim. But, for every piece like “L’Elephant Blanc” that was a bit too in the groove to capture my interest, there tended to be another– “Whirligig,” for instance– that pulled me back. The repeated theme of “What the Water Gave Me” is also quite pleasant, and wouldn’t feel too out-of-place on the next disc, either…

Eddie the Rat – “Food for the Moon Too Soon” – Edgetone Records

I’ve actually had a work copy of this one for nearly a year, but I’m still finding new life in it with every play. Hard to believe that an album this utterly luxuriant was recorded in a public access television space! Blessedly weird, cyclical structures form sort of a rib cage which the ensemble populates with all the usual biological ephemera– drunken chimes, ringing guitar… it’s the land of forms, as brought to you by the nightmare circus metaphor division. As odd as “Food for the Moon Too Soon” can be, I still find a positive (and sizable) listener response every time I’ve played it on my show. Recommended, especially for persons who need to wring a lot of listens from a single purchase.

Go-Go Fightmaster – “Sound 1” – Edgetone Records

Here’s one I just can’t seem to get into. I think the problem is the inclusion of a bit too much all-purpose free jazz skronk in the mix, even if it is usually doled out in miniature half-minute tracks scattered across the disc. At other times, a martial linearity gets me down. If “The Cosmic Cogitator” reminds you of anything but some of Tolkein’s Uruk-Hai marching off to war, I’d be surprised.

Prog-O-Caust 2009

June 4, 2009

DJs Tim Ready and Micah Moses presented the Prog-O-Caust this past Saturday, on their Radio23 program “Public Sensory Radio.” I missed checking it out live, but you can join me in digging part one from their own archive.

These guys definitely appeal to my misanthopic side– dig this bit from Ready’s absolute takedown of Dream Theatre:

“…never has a band so ill-adept reached so far past its grasp for the moniker “genius”! Sterile, indeed; for 20 years overplaying and soloing to no end, and never for a moment did the seed of creation take- Oh, how pitiful to masturbate so incessantly and be capable of only ever shooting blanks.”

I also love his description of James LaBrie… perfect!

“Somewhere between Don Dokken and John Ashcroft, his shrill mauling of already terrible material produces something gorgeously rare- The Thing Which Can Not Be Parodied. With more octaves than restraint at his disposal, LaBrie shrieks and caterwauls like a show-off Castrati trying to convince the Pope that all little boys can still be useful, nuts or no nuts.”

I’m planting things today

May 2, 2009

I really dig Dubbio Nil‘s newest mini-cdr for the Hymns label, “Seed, Fruit, Thorn.” As you may recall, I like ambient music that isn’t boring. In fact, I’m incredibly picky about it. If I didn’t like Brian Eno so much, I’d even say I dislike ambient music– which is why I’d rather say that this little 16-minute wonder is “quietly active” than ambient. It doesn’t hold my attention, but it does require it. Do you understand the difference?

My copy came with a Poncirus trifoliata seed, not exactly the most friendly plant. Known for possessing rather nasty hook-shaped thorns, I imagine it will also require more than a little of my attention! Here are two Dubbio Nil videos to keep you busy until your copy arrives in the mail:

Hotel, Hotel – “The Sad Sea”

March 25, 2009

Texas-based quintet Hotel, Hotel take the schooner out for an unexpectedly long spin in this full-length release from Silber Media. As with their previous efforts, “Over Sea, Under Storm” and “ALLHEROESAREFORVERBOLD;” this disc is an ultra-lush affair– and as an added bonus, the packaging is finally starting to catch up.


Excellent recording quality features throughout. Although the thrum of the propeller engines may be conjured through layered bass and guitar echoes, you’ll never feel like you’re trying to listen to it in a ship’s hold. On the other hand, a bit more of a murky quality might have worked– it’s really more dependent on what the listener thinks Hotel, Hotel was hoping to accomplish. Andrew Liles 2006 release “The Dying Submariner” was far more grim and immediate; whereas “The Sad Sea” seems to chronicle comparable events outside the first-person perspective used in “The Dying Submariner”. Think of your own needs as a listener before rushing out to pick this one up. If you want to be ON the boat, this might not be the right album for you. If you want to watch it’s last journey, and revel as mans’ work succumbs to the sea– well, this is your disc.

“The Sad Sea” is available from Silber Media as release [064]. They’re also cool enough to put “Over Sea, Under Storm” up as a free download.

Think DaveX is full of shit? Read someone else’s review while you suck eggs!

American Band – “Low Fiction”

March 23, 2009

When did noise get some damned complicated? I’ve been sitting here, wondering whether or not I should call this “power noise”– not because I’m all that worried about the precise genre placement of this particular LP, but because there are so many people who ARE. Slapping any label on a release tends to alient half the potential audience, especially in today’s niche-happy post-Napster world.


So let’s just say that American Band’s “Low Fiction” is “powerful” noise. Powerful at times in the classic sense of being overwhelming, and powerful in a literal sense; listeners should get a real physical reaction to tracks like “Stripping,” which features some sort of grinding tool being shoved about in a highly-reverberant environment. “Outnurture,” from the less-controlled B-side of the record, sounds a bit like a more live Merzbow performance; formidable sheets of noise fill every available space.

Personally, I’m more excited about the A-side material. American Band does a good job of balancing the feral quality of these noisy constructions with their own need to get the sounds doing something useful. Too much control, and they’d be domesticated, too little… well, that’s a different sort of album that nearly anyone can make. Temperance lets American Band show off the wild beauty of these sounds, which often retain enough of their original form as to be tantalizingly difficult to identify (for those of us obsessive enough to care.) At least one track had me puzzling about a half-remembered sound, holding my hand out to see if muscle memory could remind me what object created it. A trip to my garage to quickly scan my woodworking tools yielded no clues– this is powerful noise.

“Low Fiction” is available on Hot Releases as catalog number HR009.

Don’t believe DaveX? Here’s someone else’s review!

Potpie vs. Krzysztof – “Appalachia”

January 22, 2009

Backporch Revolution label mainstay Mike Karnowski contrasts two of his aliases with each other, on this bluegrass-themed experimental EP. It’s certainly not a combination you see very often, but Karnowski holds it together with his Potpie persona churning bluegrass sound files into an increasingly complex ball, and his Krzysztof side doing more of what I expected from Potpie– agile sine wave manipulation “inspired by” bluegrass music itself.

Don’t ask me how the Krzysztof track, “Descending Moonshine” is anything like bluegrass, though. Living in Southern Illinois, I thought I’d had my fill of the stuff. Apparently, Karnowski hears some untapped elements there, and it is refreshing to hear an artist visiting older territory to see what might be created anew. The Potpie track “Cold Mountain Breakdown” is a nice result– part Steve Reich, and part abstract electronica– but really a bit too stripped-down for either. “Cold Mountain Breakdown” lets the sound snippets speak for themselves to create a somewhat disorienting mixture of familiar fiddle lines, banjo licks, chords, etc. In their new context, they dart amongst one another playfully, less constrained than in their traditional support roles within songs.

Not a lot more can be said about this disc without ruining it; after all, it’s a limited edition EP clocking in just under 20 minutes. The cover art is a bit of wonderful illustration in a Russian or Polish folk style, and the whole thing comes in a decent heavy cardstock folding slipcase.

“Appalachia” is available through Backporch Revolution as [bpr-035].

Up-Tight – “Live at the Lucrezia”

January 22, 2009

126Not to be confused with Up-Tight‘s 2004 release of a similar name, “Live at Lucrezia” is a thoroughly entertaining and well-filmed DVD– a happy first for label Last Visible Dog and the these Japanese psych-rockers themselves.

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Although the “Live at” portion of the title suggests an actual live gig with an audience, this DVD features the three-piece straddling a line between music video and and a fully-live performance, playing for an equal number of camera-wranglers intent on providing a bit of their own art to the mix. At first, the “Cinema Variete” crew keep things simple. A bit of disco ball, liquid lights— but otherwise, just a simple shot of highly-photogenic vocalist Tomoyuki Aoki doing his thing. It isn’t long that the effects kick in, though. Aoki’s guitar turns to rubber, Shirahata’s hands make tracers out-of-sync with the beat, and multiple layers and camera angles pile up into a frenetic visual dance. Thankfully, and much like Up-Tight’s playing, these visual tricks are tightly-controlled and purposeful. At times, the overuse of lens flare gets a bit bothersome, but it’s hardly the worst mistake that could have been made.

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As for Up-Tight, I had only known them from the inclusion of their music in the “Invisible Pyramid” 6-CD set from a couple years back. In that setting, I’m sorry to say that they were easy for me to overlook, bewildered as I was by so many intriguing artists and songs. “Live at Lucrezia” has fortunately given me a more dedicated chance to meet these artists. Up-Tight’s focus on definite songs also helps; I was fearing the affair might be an hour-long plunge into a formless acid jam. While these have their place, it’s rarely the best way to encounter a musician for the first time! A display of untempered jamming most likely would not have produced such an emotional and musical range, either. “Day Dream Believer” opens strong, quickly building into a fairly aggressive workout. “Cool Eyes” and “Never Come Morning” explore more subdued territory, from near-ambient to pulsing drones. “Sweet Sister,” probably my favorite of the four, drops unexpectedly out of a wonderfully rhythmic orbit into a free-time noise melange; jarring at first, but utterly appropriate.

Recommended! “Live at Lucrezia” is available on Last Visible Dog Records as [LVD DVD 126].

Seeded Plain – “Land Tracts”

January 16, 2009

seededplainLimited-edition improv from Midwestern odd-instrument builders Jay Kreimer (The Mighty Vitamins) and Bryan Day (Eloine, Shelf Life) on the Featherspines label. This one reminds me a lot of the Day/Polipnick project “Nagaoag;” with its free-time meandering, random vocal outbursts, and unknown instrumentation.

Of course, that’s a big part of the enjoyment here. What could be making the mechanical lion growling? Why does everything sound like it was recorded underground in a colony of 50-foot ants? What mad carpenter fashioned the instrument that sounds like lightbulbs being shattered while sliding down a de-tuned guitar?

“Land Tracts” is quite bewildering, but at turns– and mostly due to Kreimer and Day’s unerring sense of aural nuance– it possesses a true organic beauty that simply does not exist on so many improvisational recordings. I’m sure I’ll never find it again (natural beauty is always elusive and wild) but one of my favorite moments so far was hearing an unexpected transition to a more quiet atmosphere. In just a few seconds, every sound nestled amongst the others, like a heavy blanket settling gradually upon a bed.

With only 60 copies printed, my advice is to grab this one quickly if it sounds interesting to you. If you miss it, go back and pick up “Ductworks” from Day’s “Shelf Life” project.

Available now as Featherspines/17.

Startling Moniker’s Top 12 Best Happy Neat-O List of 2008!

January 13, 2009

Yes, it’s mid-January 2009. Let’s just say I’m fashionably late, and leave it at that. Or think of this list as your buying guide– if you’re spending this coming Valentine’s Day alone (perhaps tearfully re-organizing your record shelves?) see to it that you order a bunch of these fantastic releases to cheer you up. Just as last year, I will be treating my inability to count as less of a handicap, and more of a endearing eccentricity. And now, in no particular order, here are the Top 12 13 Best Happy Neat-O List of 2008 winners:

amo_2001) Mooey Moobau — “All Murmur of Our Mothers’ Waters” — Earlier this year, I referred to this disc as “dictio-fuckery,” a term which captures the pure glottological delight of rolling words back and forth on your tongue until all meaning is lost save for the sweet sonority. As a child, I once said the word “question” repeatedly until I couldn’t figure out if I was saying it correctly at all. This could have easily been the accompanying soundtrack.

40782) Eddie the Rat — “Out Behind the 8-ball” — Privately, I think of Eddie the Rat‘s Peter Martin as  a more unruly modern-day version of Harry Partch. This may not be totally accurate, but hey, it’s my head. Still, what with the brash polyrhythms coaxed from oddball homemade percussion instruments, I may not be too far off. But where Partch carried elements of the American folk landscape back to a greater listening audience, “Out Behind the 8-ball” mines South Asian influences, resulting in something like a post-trepanation Les Baxter album. Lovely!

40773) Jess Rowland — “The Problem With the Soda Machine” — Here’s a weird one for you. Rowland comes across some intra-corporate vending machine related e-mail drama, and decides to set it to music. In less capable hands, a disaster. For Rowland, one of the most immediately loveable albums right out of the box that I heard all year. Order this, and I’ll tell your future as a free gift: you’ll soon find yourself singing “we are faced with a choice about the future of the machines.” (Psst, this disc and #2 are from Edgetone Records. Order them both, and you’ll save on postage!)

frank-rothkamm-just-3-organs4) Rothkamm — “Just 3 Organs” — I used to think that if I had math skills, I would have made Rothkamm music; that’s how much I enjoy what he’s doing. But lately, I realize that nobody can make Rothkamm music but Rothkamm. It’s really the only similarity this list of albums shares– it’s strange stuff, a unique product of a unique mind. Simultaneously sound-obsessed and math-enabled, “Just 3 Organs” visits a series of hyper-organ works upon us. It’s a post-Second Life music, both virtual and yet displaying the umbilicus of its creator. If my ongoing fascination with Rothkamm hasn’t got you to pick one of his releases up yet, now is the time.

5) GX Jupitter-Larsen’s “Zelphabet” Series — Didn’t I say it best already? “Like the RRRecycled tapes, but done with some class, and considerable more attention to quality.” This 27-CD subscription (or buy ’em individually!) series shows why Jupitter-Larsen is the Bruce Schneier of noise– he’s got deep connections, and even deeper knowledge. Each disc is like sitting at the knee of a master, so you better believe they’re worthwhile.

cc_elementalshifta6) Cristopher Cichocki – “Elemental Shift” — This is the kind of release that only comes around once in a blue moon; a perfect artistic statement in its own right, but also able to vividly enhance one’s perception of many other unrelated works. Undoubtedly, this was my favorite release of the year– I couldn’t shutup about it, either– so there’s more of my gushing here and here.

mangler-redbeard7) Warm Climate — “Mangler Redbeard” — Apparently the locus of many LA experimental projects I’m currently enjoying, Warm Climate’s Seth Kasselman recorded “Mangler Redbeard” in a month as part of an online challenge… true evidence of how hard inspiration can strike! Equal parts glam-rock and bizarro-world influence, this ugly little bit of Xerox-and-CDR should not be missed.

tefasimage8) Glenn Weyant — “SonicAnta D-Construction Series” — If you’re looking to develop an ongoing relationship with something truly unexpected, consider subscribing to this series of CDRs. They from full-length explorations with a Honeywell fan; to sonic smorgasbords of homemade instruments, field recordings, and Weyant’s trademark border-fence-and-violin-bow collage. Wild and heady stuff, crafted by someone with a palpable love of sound.

9) George Korein — “Another Corpse” — I can’t seem to nail down exactly when this disc came out, so I’m going to be bold and claim it for 2008. As always, Korein appears to have dropped in from somewhere out in space, content to mystify Earthling listeners with another art-fractured gem. Describing Korein’s music always reminds me of an old Rolling Stone review for Missy Elliot, “She jumps so far off the heezy, she lands right on another heezy.”

10) LX Rudis — “Audible Method 1.43” — I don’t have a lot of info on this one, but I’m still super-excited to hear a live-studio-CDR hybrid disc such as this. Field recordings, live performance, editing, mastering all get mixed up quite thoroughly here. It’s hard for me to make this sound as amazing as it actually is, the mystery of whether you can actually acquire a copy makes it every more fun. Better check with Rudis at his MySpace profile… and while you’re there, dig his blogged bio for fun bits about trying out for tuxedomoon and the Dead Kennedys.

transe_des_mots11) Frederique Bruyas — “La Transe Des Mots” — This is the album that got me thinking, “gee, I really need to learn French.” It’s a one-two punch of bibliophile elan and Diamanda Galas’s swagger, and well worth your time. Bruyas collaborator Pierrejean Gaucher’s dexterous fretwork surprises at all turns.

51tixbrjyxl_sl500_aa240_12) Annea Lockwood — “A Sound Map of the Danube” — A triumph, which all sound enthusiasts should own. Lockwood not only covers the entirety of the Danube in this three-disc hunt for the river’s voice, but features many inhabitants whose daily lives are shaped along its way. This is fascinating listening, perfectly captured in a sumptuous release from the always-worthwhile Lovely Music Limited label.

bnn21_313) Lee Hangjun, Hong Chulki — “Expanded Celluloid, Extended Phonograph” ( 확장된 셀룰로이드, 연장된 포노그래프 ) — An astounding film demonstrating a concept vital to understanding many of the fine releases from Seoul-based Balloon & Needle label, that of “cracks” or “gaps” in media. For Hangjun, this takes the form of not filming anything, but rather choosing to work directly with the film itself. For Chulki, listeners are confronted with the sound of recordless turntables, or of the “meta-record” created by putting two needles to digital time-code vinyl records. It’s a world where sound influences itself, and raw film finds a place in the spotlight, and is definitely a world worth your visit.