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Archive for May, 2009


Posted: May 31st, 2009, by JGRAM

Here is a release that serves as a signal of optimism for music while also providing fond memories and nostalgia of the lo-fi DIY scene of the late nineties.

Squeezed onto one piece of seven inch are four raucous, loud and poorly recorded bands driven by enthusiasm first and talent second, making the most of their resources.  Releases such as this are now almost a thing of the past and that is a definite tragedy when it comes to contemplating the future of music.

Recently coined as no-fi I think this music will only ever work on vinyl, the format that has always been most forgiving to the most primitive expressions of music.  I could not possibly imagine listening to this noise as an MP3 or on an iPod with a clear head.  Live however I cannot imagine a more fantastic din as I hope to see these ramshackle bands live very soon.

I was first introduced to Graffiti Island a couple of years when they hopped aboard the stage at the Scala before Les Savy Fav looking effortlessly uncaring and cool playing songs that sounded like Beat Happening covers which they made all their own.  This it seemed was the musical equivalent of a homemade Hawaiian shirt bearing a grudge.  Needless to say I loved their one song set for the audacity and the tunes.  As stylised and forced as it may feel, I just love this band.  Their contribution to this release is a spacious and busy party number benefiting from a HUGE hook that pierces and seals its place in the consciousness of my mind.  It feels retro in two ways.

Rapid Youth turn up with an altogether cloudier and muddy marching and galloping affair.  In the midst of so much fuzz this song/band also possesses a wicked hook that serves to deliver skewed pop to disorientate.

On the flipside everything about Old Blood is wrong and this only serves to make you love them worse.  If you have recorded a demo and fucked it up you will recognise this track.  Despite the horror there is a definite beat to the performance and a degree of coherence to what is a fiery exhibition.  Noise is a beautiful thing.

The more mannered Male Bonding close proceedings with a playful lo-fi song that reminds of a Yummy Fur chant with prickly bursts of energy and a pride all of its own.  It’s a rough as the rest of the release and just as charming.

This record is good times.

Thesaurus moment: commotion.

Graffiti Island

Rapid Youth

Old Blood

Male Bonding

Paradise Vendors

THE BROWN BOOK – Thirty Nothing (CD, self-released)

Posted: May 20th, 2009, by Dave Stockwell

The Brown Book are a noise rock band from near Boston, USA. They’ve been going for nigh-on 5 years and this is their latest release, currently being sold in handmade self-released versions. If anyone wants to put out an “official” release for them, that would be just fine.

An experimental rock-based band, The Brown Book take the standard template of 2 guitars+bass+drums, get a shitload of heaviness on board and then set their sights for the stars. It’s so refreshing to hear a band revelling in huge lumpen chunks of volume who actually have more than one change of gear in their setup -opener “Deer Heads” starts with nothing more than the beauteous feeding back of guitars merging melodies…  until the drums and bass come piling onto the mix with a wickedly fast lurch that finally turns into some kind of a twisted groove. It’s a complex rhythm and structure that also is interesting and pleasurable to listen to – a rare combination when it comes to experimental music.

More combinations and experiments with tempo and rhythm continue with “Family Outing”, which starts out with spare drums and a slow looming chord progression, both of which slowly fill out further and further until around the halfway mark, they shift matters into top gear and  everything starts going absolutely batshit. There’s a pause for  a few seconds, more madness, then another side-shift to a different, bobbing rhythm that would completely do your neck in if you tried to tried to headbang along. I’d love to see audiences get totally blown away but confused by this shit.

It’s not just the ideas that are impressive, it’s the sheer intensity of their application that mark out The Brown Book for me – they know exactly when to play it cool, when to totally go for it, and when to grind to sudden halts to keep you on your toes. They play a really nice mix of so-called “math rock” grooves,  drones, heavyheavy riffs and total shredding insanity. There’s even some lighter textures on the deceptively melodious mid-album track “Jumping The Shark” (winner of the prestigious Best Song Title I’ve Heard In A While award) that offer welcome respite from the exhausting flurry of ideas, rhythms, textures and walloping noise that fill out the rest of the album. That said, it still manages to turn into a surprisingly anthemic stadium-filler halfway through.

If I were to have one criticism of The Brown Book, I’d say that though the recording and mastering here have been done by some established names (Keith Souza (Battles, Lightning Bolt), Alan Douches (Animal Collective, Don Caballero)) their sound could really benefit from a little clarity – easing off a little on the distortion to give a really nastily hard-hitting cleanliness to their guitars, and backing off the reverb/delay that muddies some of the more frantic playing could give The Brown Book one hell of a smack-in-the-mouth sucker punch of a sound.

Overall though, if any of this sounds remotely interesting you should definitely check this band out – a bunch of guys totally into making music that interests and excites them as much as pleasing an audience, and really doing a fine thing making their music available to people without waiting around for someone with some cash to pull their thumb our of their ass and release this rather fine record. Do it.

The Brown Book website

The Brown Book myspace

Stillbirth / Persimmons Pomegranate Split (CS, Jugular Forest)

Posted: May 19th, 2009, by Justin Snow

I went to an amazing noise show the other night where Keith Fullerton Whitman and Geoff Mullen did another one of their stunning live collaborations and opening for them was the newly formed Boston based duo Perispirit. If you haven’t checked out their debut double cassette release, Forced-Choice Test, I highly recommend you do so because it’s absolutely amazing. But anyway, Perispirit is comprised of Ricardo Donoso and Luke Moldof, and Moldof also records under the name Stillbirth. So I found this little tape sitting innocuously in the corner of the merch table and snagged it up. After getting home and listening to it, I’m really glad I did because this is easily one of the best tapes I’ve heard all year.

The tape is made of two 7+ minute pieces, with Stillbirth’s being the more understated of the two. Soft stretched out guitar drones that breathe life into your speakers. Full of subtle beauty that compels me to stroll through an open sunny field with the breeze blowing through my coat tails.

Persimmons Pomegranate isn’t so much a new name to me but this is the first I’ve ever heard his music. His piece, “Stagnant Before A Fall,” is thick, brittle buzzing drone that rattles every hair on your body. I can’t imagine a better companion for Stillbirth on this tape. Persimmons’ side is just as subtle and beautiful as Stillbirth’s, except the delicacy is forsaken and the volume is cranked up to 11.

I can’t believe it took me this long to ever get around to hearing Persimmons Pomegranate (great name, btw). Two outstanding pieces of music that really complement each other. A perfect example of why splits are made. There are only 75 copies of this tape available so I suggest you hurry up and head to the Jugular Forest website so you can score one for yourself.

Jugular Forest

Black Hell – How The Rest Was Lost (CD, Sounds Of Battle And Souvenir Collecting)

Posted: May 12th, 2009, by Justin Snow

Sometimes I feel like certain genres are a little stagnant. With good reason, though. I mean, it’s not like it’s easy to come up with something completely new and original. That doesn’t happen very often. And when it does, it’s only a matter of time before it gets copied and redone by everyone else, essentially rendering your unique vision to become part of the norm.

Black Hell’s newest CD, How The Rest Was Lost isn’t breaking much new ground. Sure they are doing their best to mix up the regular stoner metal cliche with moments of doom, ambience and psychedelia but it only ever amounts to another awesome metal record. Which isn’t a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination.

But the thing is, no matter how much I feel like I’ve heard this a dozen times before, I’ve never heard How The Rest Was Lost. This is a brand new record. And Black Hell made it. Not The Sword (I think). And it is ridiculously fucking metal. The riffs on this are chugging and wicked catchy and the solos are white hot. It’s nothing mind blowing but I still love it and it rocks nonetheless. My final test of greatness for metal of this variety is whether or not I would like to play it on Guitar Hero. Black Hell passes with flying colors. I would love to slay this beast on Expert and look totally stupid doing it.

Black Hell
Sounds Of Battle And Souvenir Collecting

LEMANIS – The truth about a Push Me Pull You (CD, self-released)

Posted: May 10th, 2009, by Simon Minter

Plymouth’s Lemanis are a cottage industry Polyphonic Spree, a Flaming Lips tethered to the Earth, a schizophrenic Brian Wilson who hasn’t yet installed his sandpit. According to their blurb, they have a core of four members but install up to ten extra players when recording or playing live. “If stage size allows”. So, one might expect a certain richness and layering of sound here – as is almost unavoidable with that number of people, unless you’re talking Glenn Branca guitar orchestras or whatever – and that’s what this album is made up of, for the most part.

If an album’s first track is an introduction to the band, then here’s a band of many sides, and some considerable talent. ‘Museum’ opens with a repetitive guitar drone (oddly reminiscent of the old snooker theme tune), and a bit of early-Blur guitar twang. It then kicks into a slide guitar-led groove that’s all very much a laid-back West Coast thang, before introducing horns and dreamy shoegaze harmonies. Then comes some meta-Pretty Things SF Sorrow storytelling. Then comes the string section. It’s almost exhaustingly rich and complex.

And so continues the album, really. There’s very little let up from this constant switching of musical styles, vocal styles, tempo, mood and texture, save for a somewhat refreshingly dull few tracks from ‘Moon Song’ to ‘Loving Her Forest When’. Even during that section, ‘Rub It When It Hurts’ can’t help itself from flying off into a whacked-out country & western yeeha psuedo-majestic Riverdance session. Surrounding this part of the album, we’ve got Spiritualizedesque hymnal brass, slick MOR indie pop, fiddly-diddly Levellers nonsense and the Jesus And Mary Chain going Beach Boys. Finally, the album ends with three tracks blending in to one another, resulting in a pleasantly operatic, widescreen flourish. It’s like the modern psychedelia of Flaming Lips or Mercury Rev, but it avoids (as they do also) the trappings of a soundalike 1960s tribute band.

It seems that Lemanis’ skill can’t be underestimated, at least in terms of their constructing and playing of complex and measured music in any number of styles. If I have to suggest a concern, it would be that they’re trying to do too much: I’m not left feeling that I know them, after hearing this album. I’d find it difficult to explain their music to somebody without resorting to a stream-of-consciousness like you’ve just read. It’s up to you to decide whether that’s a good thing or not.


Driphouse – Sewer Mist (CS, Gel)

Posted: May 5th, 2009, by Justin Snow

I was one of the seemingly infinite number of people to join the Raccoo-oo-oon train just as it was coming to a halt. We missed out on a truly amazing band that we’ll only be able to enjoy through it’s back catalog. Thankfully, some of the members have gone on to individual projects, such as Daren Ho, who is the sole mastermind behind Driphouse. And maybe that’s the silver lining because his new project is so drastically different from Raccoo-oo-oon that it might have been necessary for them to break up in order to hear such a fine recording.

Sewer Mist is a weird ass tape oozing with warbly synths. I’m fairly certain there isn’t a single non-synthesized sound on this. But that’s OK. I’m not prejudiced against dudes who want to “fake sounds.”

I get this strange feeling whenever I listen to Sewer Mist that makes me feel like I’m driving a beat up Pinto through a wormhole. It has a filthy, spacey, down to earth feeling which I’m pretty sure I’ve never experienced listening to anything else before. The undulating drones are sprinkled with grit. Sometimes he actually adds in little flecks and scratches and then sometimes it’s just the lo-fidelity of the tape but either way it’s awesome. Too often you have these synth drone guys that go all clean and crisp. Not Driphouse. Most of the time he has his synths competing for volume with the tape hiss and he does it to such wonderful effect.

Sewer Mist will please a lot of people. Raccoo-oo-oon fans will like it just because it’s Daren Ho and then there’s those of you who will listen to as much synth drone as you can get your hands on. I’m pretty sure whatever angle you approach Sewer at, you’ll be extremely pleased with the results.

Gel (e-mail) (distro)

PROJEKT A-KO – Yoyodyne (CD, Milk Pie)

Posted: May 4th, 2009, by Simon Minter

Here’s the debut album from the new band of them what used to be in the fondly-missed Urusei Yatsura. It’s released on their own label and was apparently ‘three years in the making’; it’s pretty much Urusei Yatsura Mark II, as once you get beyond the strange opening minute of quiet feedback and static, you’re straight into that familiar UY territory of noisy, discordant dynamics, with all of its swooping guitar lines, dual vocals and up-for-it positive energy. They sound perhaps a little more grown up these days, there’s a slight lessening of the relentless sugared-pill rush of prime UY, but hey, everybody gets a bit older. They’ve still retained that infectious combination of lazy-sounding vocals, tight song structures and an underlying chaos that often bubbles over into periods of mess. They’ve got one foot in indie pop music, the other in discordant guitar noise, a la Sonic Youth circa Goo. To throw some more comparisons into the mix: the optimistic rush of Pavement; the cheeky melodic basslines of Pixies; the scratchy emotions of Graham Coxon; the almost random note patterns of Built To Spill. We even get a couple of heart-on-sleeve acoustic-based numbers to round off the album, which are pretty much the only time the style moves outside frantic tempo and the tone beyond ADD optimism; but hey, why mess with a template when it’s this charming and enjoyable?

This is ‘Nothing Works Twice’ from the album:

Projekt A-Ko website

The Blind Owl by Sadeq Hadeyat

Posted: May 3rd, 2009, by Stan Tontas

The flipside of my unsuccessful “random culture” experiment with En la ciudad de Sylvie was picking up this strange, nightmarish book from the library. My whim was rewarded by a dense, multilayered and disjointed journey that sticks in the mind long enough to repay repeat readings. There are passages that recall Edgar Allan Poe and if you have any expectations ofa 70-year-old Persian novella, it would overturn them.

(Surreal and nightmarish must be the most over- and ill-used adjectives in the critical vocabulary but I have to use them here.)

I can’t say I knew exactly what was going on, I’m reluctant to summarise the little I know of the plot in case it dilutes the jaw-dropping weirdness of the shifts. I can say that it’s a great book in a minor way. Save it for 3AM and it has the heady bite of a vintage wine laced with cobra venom. Loved it.

En la ciudad de Sylvie

Posted: May 1st, 2009, by Stan Tontas

Let’s start with the positive: this is a film that’s absolutely committed to telling its story in its way. It also makes excellent use of sound. The subjective viewpoint is sustained across all aspects of the production and for the whole running time.

That said, my god this was boring. This subjective view that the director maintains so well is that of an extremely unappealing borderline stalker utterly consumed by his internal world and failing (or not even trying) to connect to the many people (mostly attractive young women) who he casts his gaze over. Perhaps if the floppy-haired wannabe-Byron I’m-so-deep look doesn’t make you want to scream straight off you may have a better time empathising with him, but anyone of an age to hold their attention through this kind of film will have met (and tired of) such people by now.

There’s almost no dialogue in the film, except as passing fragments, more atmosphere than anything else. A bigger problem is that our Hero is essentially stalking women and I’m not sure if we’re being invited to sympathise with him, or squirm. In the longest of many long sequences he follows one particular woman for around 40 minutes. A generous interpretation could be that the filmaker intends to build up tension (and there was a short sequence that reminded me of Vertigo, though I can’t pin down why), but that’s being very generous.

Essentially this is a well-made film about an unsympathetic character in which almost nothing happens and I can’t think of a compelling reason to go out of your way to see this rather than spend time people-watching in your local cafe.

SOUND LIBERATION – Open Up Your Ears and Get Some (Col Legno)

Posted: May 1st, 2009, by Pascal Ansell

Terrific title, dubious album. New York’s self-proclaimed chamber ensemble/band declare their existence with the objective to “end the segregation of sound vibration”. Idealistic? Quixotic? Proof and pudding situation: essentially this means freeing all genres, tossing about with the sound and seeing what happens.

Sound Liberation try their hand at a wildly ambitious number of genres: crap happy-clappy rock, urban rap, soul and straight-down-the-line pop, as well as chucking in token world and jazz for good measure. This has to be the most incoherent album I’ve ever heard. It’s in the latter styles that Sound Liberation are finally listenable, feeling far more at home with jittery klezmer nonsense and moody modern jazz.

Things really fall apart with Xzibit-esque rapping that doesn’t just border on but wilfully tramples around embarrassing. However, this album is worth your attention for its instrumental sections. Where a lot of the album sounds horridly confused there is a shimmer of class not evident throughout. ‘Let Go of my Soul’ is fantastic – a subtle, reserved but charged tour though a fast-paced techno landscape. Other winners expose trumpets, whirling John McGloughlin-esque guitar and smooth bass lines competing for space.

Things are best when the rappers shut their gobs and let the 16-strong band take you for a ride. This may be the Sound Liberation but a few shackles would do this motley bunch a world of good.

Sound Liberation

Col Legno

Pascal Ansell