Wednesday, January 17, 2018

OZEAN “Ozean” C15 (Lavender Sweep)




Simply gorgeous. Ozean recorded these three songs in 1992, forming in the wake of a RIDE/Lush double bill and a fortuitously placed flier seeking a guitarist and singer. Yeah, this is right in my wheelhouse – you want a Cocteau Twins/Lush/Slowdive hybrid? Look no further. Originally released as a demo, these three songs have been remastered and released now, in an era when pretty much every shoegaze band is reforming and finding newfound success. Too bad Ozean was fifteen years too early – they would have been huge now, probably. Gauzy and heavenly, melodic and distorted, Ozean fits right in with their contemporaries. God only knows what might have been.

--Ryan Masteller

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

VOICE OF CANVAS “Semaphore EKKO”
(Do You Dream of Noise?)




Cinematic: “of, relating to, suggestive of, or suitable for motion pictures or the filming of motion pictures”

A modus operandi becomes apparent for Voice of Canvas upon the very first note of the very first track – strike that, before the very first note of the very first track is even played. “Cinematic by Definition” serves both in title and execution as a mission statement, following which SEMAPHORE EKKO is easily understood and appreciated. Similar in scale and scope to film soundtracks that capture the grandeur of location (and it helps when the film is set in a location that becomes an integral part of and potentially overwhelms the action), SEMAPHORE EKKO almost fully becomes a film in itself, not even needing the crutch of a visual medium to establish its plot. It doesn’t hurt that the jcard is adorned with mountain, though. There’s a grandiosity about that snow-covered peak photographed in black and white, monolithic in its presence and conveying a heightened sense of the dramatic to any who view it. Turns out that Voice of Canvas is awfully good at soundtracking mountains.

It’s good that VoC is back, then – not much has emerged from the Swedish artist’s camp since 2010, and if that time was spent gestating the ideas that would become SEMAPHORE EKKO, then bravo. Not unlike Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannson, whose FORDLANDIA is simply breathtaking (and who I wish was providing the music to BLADE RUNNER 2049, but hey, if you wanted Vangelis, why bring in Jóhannson in the first place?), VoC, using all the studio tricks he can muster, creates a huge sound out of stillness. Part ambient, part electronic, solo but with an ear for enormity, SEMAPHORE sneaks up on you, drifting through “Cinematic by Definition” and emerging into the sort of trip hop excursion “Solid Venue (Edt).” It’s “I Call You,” though, that solidifies the whole endeavor, as VoC adds spaghetti western acoustic guitar and ratchets up the spectacle of expectation as if following a gunslinger who wanders into an arctic frontier town under an aurora borealis. From there the sparseness of keys and frigid atmosphere take over, and VoC never loses his vision as he progresses. The music halts these imaginary moments in time, allowing your mind to take the narrative over and build its own backstory and resolution. In this way, Voice of Canvas is maybe more of a cinematographer than a musician – maybe even a director, bringing together the pieces of his singular vision and presenting them as a unified whole.

Voice of Canvas
Do You Dream of Noise? (hope you can read Swedish)

--Ryan Masteller

Monday, January 15, 2018

NAMO
"Only Human…Only Machine" C53
(Dystopian Caveman)




Long Beach’s “Namo” churns out late 20th century hip-hop beats with production-aided ambiance and texture that only the 21st century can provide (well, from a bedroom’s laptop, anyway), and this long-running document is surefire proof that jungle-beats, expertly-tweaked bass presence, and good ol’fashioned hip-hop bass-snare scaffolding can be interwoven to host a diaspora of classic themes that promote productivity, increased heartbeat, and maybe a li’l chair-anchored exercise. Coming to a cubicle near you!

https://dirtychimusic.bandcamp.com/album/only-human-only-machine
and/or
http://dystopiancaveman.com/

-- Jacob An Kittenplan


Sunday, January 14, 2018

STORCH INTERIOR EXTRACTS “Remote Assistance Failure” C40 (Cellar)




Not on this Earth, you don’t. REMOTE ASSISTANCE FAILURE is a cosmic signal. That is all. There is nothing suggesting that Storch Interior Extracts is from this arm of the Milky Way, not even the fact that its transmission is recorded and encoded and released by Prague-based Cellar Tapes. You can’t make these noises on this planet, it’s just that simple. Well, maybe your computer can make them – they’re sort of variations of the clunks emitted when you try to perform a function that doesn’t work on it. But your computer certainly isn’t smart enough to rile those tones into infinitely clustering patterns that shift and evolve over time! (OK, maybe it can. Dang, computers are smart!) Point is, the more you listen to REMOTE ASSISTANCE FAILURE, the more you’ll understand that the soundwaves billowing at you are some sort of mathematical communication from another part of the universe. Maybe the source has obscured its coordinates within it? Regardless, hiding a message in a file marked “Home Electronics Tutorial” that only emerges once the conditions are met is a pretty neat extraterrestrial trick if they’re looking to narrow their human contact down to someone who meets specific criteria. I mean, I think it is – how else would an advanced alien race attempt to contact a potential new space buddy? I mean, besides just showing up and announcing themselves like adults. If it was me who had just discovered these guys, I’d be way more forthcoming about it. Because I’m not a whiny space baby. Storch Interior Extracts are probably not whiny space babies either, I’m just saying. What I’m also doing is enjoying the hell out of REMOTE ASSISTANCE FAILURE. I think it’s resolving into clarity, and resolving pretty nicely, if I do say so. Message received – now I’ve got to decode this thing. I’ve wasted enough of your (and my) time, anyway. Now I’ll just run this thing through my trusty Texas Instruments BA II Plus. That’s a calculator. I doubt anything’s going to happen.

Cellar

--Ryan Masteller

Saturday, January 13, 2018

GERMAN ARMY “Pacific Plastic” (Seagrave)




Let me read into this.

First, that cover is what, a … cross-section of something? Looks like it, and judging by the release on SEAgrave and the term “Pacific” in the title of PACIFIC PLASTIC, I’m going to go with a cross-section of ocean, no matter how alien it actually looks. Maybe it’s an alien ocean. Maybe it’s the Pacific Ocean after generations of evolution. Why else would it contain odd polygons? Because aliens use polygons in the oceanographic studies. DUH.

I mean, I’m obviously wrong. Most of the track titles point to places that don’t even come close to the Pacific Ocean (actually having more to do with Africa), so let’s talk oceans in general, and civilizations that border them, rely on them, etc. Or let’s not – you need a break from me doing that, don’t you, digging down into some rabbit hole to follow a red herring or other crammed-in animal metaphor that will only bring ruin and frustration? Eff it, let’s just listen to this thing.

Maybe you’re expecting this, but tribal exoticism wrapped in proto-industrial electronics is the German Army way, and PACIFIC PLASTIC is no different, for the most part. And even though that sounds like a distinctly active description, the mood is a languid one, borrowing from equatorial summer afternoons. This is as relaxed a vibe as GeAr is likely to get without going full Peter Kris ambient on us (save for a couple spots, like the title track and “Svaneti in June”). What we get are meditations on scenic vistas stretching to the seas, of national parks and tiny islands, ancient kingdoms and towns bordering safari camps. The sounds could easily complement a nature or anthropology documentary or a film set in a location mysterious and unusual to Western eyes. Regardless, GeAr tap into indigenous wavelengths, reveling in the environments that humanity hasn’t fully destroyed yet.

Where does that leave PACIFIC PLASTIC? Is it a call to reassess modern civilization through a different lens? Is it an admonition of our reliance on the manufacturing sector? I wonder, then, if it’s bad or not bad that I have this plastic tape in my possession. I guess if I don’t throw it in the ocean, I’m in good shape. Enough – I already said I wasn’t going too deep here. And Alien polygons… what an idiot.

German Army
Seagrave

--Ryan Masteller

Friday, January 12, 2018

MALA VISTA / CHARLIE'S STRIPE "Split EP" (WFBR)




What's for Breakfast Records is a punk rock cassette label that tends to pair up an American band with a foreign band.
Their latest EP features Mala Vista from Brooklyn, New York
and Charlie's Stripe supporting the other side of the tape with their Italian punk rock licks.
The Mala Vista side rocks us back to 1977 with
"Locked Away". They then bring us into what could be an 80s rock song with "Shake", it's got kind of a of a Gaza Strippers feel to it

On the B side, oh wait a minute, there's no b-sides! Just two more solid rock songs. anywho, Charlie's Stripe gives us their poppy upbeat song "Jay".
I feel like love is around us too.
They then close the EP with "Waste Your Time", another upbeat punk rock song.
Though, I feel like the EP could have been mastered a bit better, due to the volume being way lower on the Charlie's Stripe side.
I suspect if you are getting this you are supporting one of the bands and will just listen to the mp3 versions.

Cassette comes in a red colored shell, and includes stickers.


http://wfbr.storenvy.com/
https://wfbr.bandcamp.com/album/mala-vista-charlies-stripe-split

-- Chuck Wolfe

Thursday, January 11, 2018

LUUREL VARAS
"Leisure Time" C57
(Crash Symbols)




Estonian synth-psych beatmaker, genre-blender, and all-around goodtimes-provider Luurel Varas finally serves up nearly an hour’s worth of even-keeled neck-waving soundtrackage for the bad-ass Crash Symbols label, and it’s pretty much perfect for zoning out, computer work, and/or barbequing. While listening (on repeat), whenever I’ve let the music fade to the backburner of my mind (doing something besides focusing on the various, rich layers) I’ve consistently ended up feeling transported back to A Tribe Called Quest’s hey-day, feeling those grooving, jazzy themes all over again, but this time with a more subtle, texture-driven bent (via synthesizer manipulation) that gives this release a quality not yet explored (exploited?) just yet. At other times, I’ve felt Bill Leeb’s remote presence, recalling ethereal atmospheres reminiscent of turn of the century Delerium (think “Karma” or “Poem”), and all of these things are not only good, but pretty great, especially since one genre’s flavor doesn’t get the spotlight for too long.  Tape is nearly sold out already (and rightly so), so keep an eye out at your local shop.

https://crashsymbols.bandcamp.com/album/leisure-time
and/or
https://luurelvaras.bandcamp.com/

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

Monday, January 8, 2018

MORE EAZE / A.F. JONES & STEVE FLATO
(Astral Spirits / Monofonus Press)




I’m immediately enamored of the names on this release: “More Eaze,” “Jones & Flato,” “Bhob Rainey.” They flit across the edge of my mind like “astral spirits.” As the More Eaze side begins, I’m looking at the cover art and I feel like I’m in the world of Academia-meets-Street-Rapper. I’m mesmerized by the juxtaposition of strange names and the ambiguous punctuation marks that separate them. Steve Flato is a beautiful sounding name, so beautiful that it must be a fake, an alias of some sort, but it isn’t.  “All instances of synthesis and sound captures…” Yes, this is a true instance of synthesis and sound capture—a true rattle from the bottom of the well. Jones & Flato sound like a haunted grain silo. More Eaze sounds like a spaceship. Then Jones & Flato and Bhob Rainey (another beautiful, fake-sounding name) put me to the test with a long, high-frequency segment. Ouch! Steve Flato is interested in the use of music “as a therapeutic tool,” but to me, this last part was just painful.

Eazejonesflato.bandcamp.com

--Kevin Oliver

Sunday, January 7, 2018

3 MOONS “3WordSword” (Sonic Meditations)




“Meditate and destroy,” goes the saying, and 3 Moons follows it across the dusty wilderness. In the midst of the landscape the duo draws power from extrasensory sources, each breath in and each “Om” out a consolidation of strength and force they keep in reserve. Jefferson Zurna and Dena Goldsmith-Stanley use that power to transform psychic spaces, terraforming your very innermost being as if it were physical topography. Like Trinity in the Nevada desert as viewed from a distance, 3WORDSWORD contains all the intensity of a nuclear explosion but muted, its low rumble only the tip of the iceberg of the supernatural force contained within. 3 Moons are thus shaman, using telepathy to draw you ever further away from civilization to places where spiritual upheaval can truly occur. The drones improvised with “rumbling sheets of feedback, guitar figures, hypnotic reeds, and cryptic electric piano” penetrate every fiber of your being, coursing through your body and mind and interacting with the basic construction of your DNA. You different yet? You should be – I feel like every second 3WORDSWORD is playing is a second of sonically induced evolution. Pretty soon I won’t resemble a resident of this planet anymore, a human being. Then something like “E.T. Drone Home” will be more than just a cleverly worded song title—it’ll be a portal to a new plane of existence. How cool is that going to be?

3 Moons
Sonic Meditations

--Ryan Masteller

Saturday, January 6, 2018

BE; "At the Start" C60 (Tingo Tongo Tapes)




BE; be an improv group that uses looped guitar (generally treated as percussion and occasionally drone), voice (also looped), percussion and pedals to achieve maximum chaos. At times minimal, but mostly maximal, these folx bang and clang out anti-rhythms for the…well…what’s the opposite of “masses”? It’s an acquired taste, and one that’s really needed to get into a live recording that wasn’t mixed via soundboard. The tape’s mastering is looooow, so you’ll get your dosage of tape hiss, for sure. Was that intentional? Who knows! One thing is for sure, Tingo Tongo Tapes gives zero fucks about tonality, cohesiveness, or pretty much anything to do with pop appeal. If that’s your thang, you’ll fucking love what they have to offer. Explore via the link below.

https://be-am-it-is.bandcamp.com/album/at-the-start
and/or
https://tingotongotapes.bandcamp.com/

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

Friday, January 5, 2018

HOLIDAY "Holiday" (Wiener Records, 2015)


Matthew Sweet fell through a fuzz box and hit a couple of shoegaze bands on the way. The drums are in my mouth and that synth came from somewhere in the 80s.

Driving rock beats with some seriously gorgeous male voices singing harmonic leads (presumably this is one vocalist, layered.) The fuzzed-out drums, droning organs, and urgent guitar perfectly underline these melodies. In places ("Made by Youth") there's a slightly lunatic slant to that vocal line, and the wheels feel like they might come off once in a while, as on "Weeks Collide" where the drums are threatening to blow up the player.

I'm feeling this pull, a powerful drive here. The songs may occasionally lack a center, a little bit of a style-over-substance problem peaking from around the corner. But there's enough strong material in the album's short playtime that the ebb and flow works.

Both sides start with absolute killer tracks; side 2's "Natural Calm" reminding again of Matthew Sweet, its repeat chorus of "you were here, you're dead, you missed it" laying a dark backdrop for the rest of the side.

There's a little Weezer on side 2, too, albeit with a little bit of David Lynch thrown in, a circus of sound like we might hear coming out of a radiator in a fever dream.

No harm in the obvious shout-out to us oldsters who bought cassettes when the covers looked like this, the little picture of the album cover in a box on a white background. Like finding some forgotten piece of our past in a bargain bin somebody forgot to throw in the landfill in 1991.

Highly recommended stuff here.

holidayholidayholiday.bandcamp.com/releases

-- Kingo Sleemer

Thursday, January 4, 2018

KING MENTAL (Puff Boys)




King Mental is a UK band that has been around since the late 1990’s, releasing acid-tinged techno on various record labels. But just this year in 2017, they finally got around to releasing a self-titled album. The album, coming on a pretty clear-green cassette, is a four-track EP and its songs are purely instrumental. The first track, “8th Floor Madness”, starts off with a catchy electronic danceable beat and thudding bass that will make your speakers vibrate. “Blair Bitch Project” continues on with a faster energy to it.

Side B’s “When Ya Move Out Of Control & Run” features real drums as the beat (as in non-electronic) and is a slower tempo track, and is accompanied by muffled lyrics for the first time in the album, differentiating it from the previous tracks. The final track, “I’m George Ryan”, starts with a quick beat once again and features voice samples from the titular George Ryan. Out of curiosity I tried to find the source of these samples, but the only “George Ryan” of note I could find was a former governor of Illinois who was arrested on corruption charges, so unless that’s him I am in the dark as to who the subject of the song is.

In all I found the album quite enjoyable, being a fan of electronic music myself. If you’re looking for some good instrumental electronic music to dance to, this is not an album to overlook.
https://soundcloud.com/king-mental

https://kingmental.bandcamp.com/album/king-mental-baby

-- Suren Oganessian

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

STILL IMAGE "A Finite Line" C30
(Throne Heap Devotional Music)




A Finite Line C-30 is the debut album of Still Image, headed by musician Shane Church of the bands Hostage Pageant, Crooked Necks and Glass Half among other bands. The album, a brief 30 minutes in length, consists of experimental ambient music that would have been right at home in the psychedelic 1960’s alongside bands like Cromagnon.

The album begins with a series of what I can only describe as predictable noises that start to form a pattern, reminiscent of a washing machine accompanied by a chime, but this eventually transitions into something more melodic. What could be considered the next track or section (it is hard to distinguish where one ends and another begins, thanks to their transitional nature and the cassette format itself) reminds me like a heavy storm, with wind billowing. At this point in the album, I decided it was best to listen to it as a whole rather than search for different tracks to review individually; or alternately, each side of the cassette could be considered a 15-minute track onto itself. Soon enough it was time for Side B; this starts with what sounds like the engine of an airplane going through turbulence, transitioning into sections that are more melodic, albeit static-sounding and filled with background noises.

In all, this album may appeal to a very niche market, but if you are a fan of experimental ambient music this album is sure to offer something new. 

https://soundcloud.com/throne-heap/still-image-a-finite-line-c30

http://www.throneheap.com/StillImage.html

-- Suren Oganessian



Tuesday, January 2, 2018

ANTHONY VINE “Remnants” C64 (Galtta Media)




You’re an idiot. It’s nothing you can help, I understand that. You just don’t have the vision that someone like Anthony Vine does. REMNANTS is a brilliant encapsulation of Vine’s collaboration with a variety of musicians, from soprano saxophonist David Lackner on the vast, twenty-minute opener “Duo” to the six-piece fourteen-minute piece “North.” These sounds are fully contemplated, fully realized, and the result is a modern classical/modern jazz/ambient slow burn that requires your undivided attention to fully suss the whole thing out. The tension inherent in the four tracks is almost unbearable, as Vine and cohorts stretch their sessions to the breaking point, and you’re left wondering, hoping, that they’ll resolve into something you can wrap your head around. But remember, you’re stupid, you’re an idiot! No resolution for you. And this is how it should be, your breathing and your circulation tied explicitly to REMNANTS. You’ll need an EKG machine to monitor whether you’re able to handle the deep, subtle changes Vine and crew hit you with throughout this tape. In fact, are you even breathing? Or is it Anthony Vine’s guitar doing the breathing for you? I wouldn’t open your eyes, you’re in an iron lung, and REMNANTS is guiding you toward the light. Go toward it. You have no purchase here on this plane of existence any longer. You’ve suggested, in your will, that your descendants should buy this tape, though, right? If not, I’ll tell em.

Galtta Media

--Ryan Masteller