Moonwood - Hexperience

Are you hexperienced? That’s the question eveyone should ask themselves before commencing this 60 minute cassette by the Toronto based krautrock/psychedelic group Moonwood. Think of two jams, each half an hour long, which explores this mapless territory of drone-laden communal trippiness that just fluctuates slowly, rising slightly above the constant drones, like a hallucination of an improvised hippie jamming - a bit like Datashock’s Keine Oase in Sicht, with some great female worldess vocals added. This is the kind of psychedelia that doesn’t worship the amplifier or illustrate bucolic visions of nature. Instead we get the freeform, open-ended sonic tapestry that doesn’t really go anywhere, but in case of this tape we’re more content with the process of travelling itself than the destination.

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Lightning Glove - Radical Zoo (Nothing)

Good God, just leave me floating in those Evian Christ-inspired nervous post-punk synth fluctutations of the opening “Brave New World” and I’ll be set forever. I think, at least. This beast comes from Prague, which is suprising, because it recalls some distinctively dystopian Londonian neighborhoods more than the classicism of Prague, untouched by war. Prague was touched by totalitarianism, however, and it can be heard here - the sound is autoritarian, cold and sometimes punishing. Very rhythmical, basically everything is slave to the rhythm here, in a cold, sorta mathematical way, but not without some worn out club appeal. Something for those blurry, half-drunk, half-energetic night trips when you don’t know whether you want to listen or you want to sleep. Let the digital glove touch you. Recommended!

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Various Artists - Guruguru Brain Wash

There’s a new Japanese record label on the block, and it’s desperate to catch every aspect of new psychedelic rock that’s emerging right now in Japan. Knowing that Japan has a really long and fertile tradition of psychedelia, from the extended hippie jams of Flower Travellin’ Band to the white noise romantism of Les Rallizes Denudes and extreme jam homages of Acid Mothers Temple and the black hole apocalypse visions of Fushitsusha and the endless supersonic ascent of Boredoms, it’s a country that’s full of different ideas of psychedelic music. And the guys from Guruguru Brain take the torch of Japanese psych vanguard with grace and class. The Guruguru Brain Wash compilation manages to contain different shades of modern-day Japanese guitar psychedelia, from pop-oriented sunshine jams with some killer radio potential to labyrintine hallucinations stretching over several minutes, filled with soloes and distorted, illusory basslines. And the best thing is, the whole thing is available for free! Download it now, it’s a lengthy exploration of Japanese minds, but it’s totally worth it! Highly recommended!!!

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KURWS: THE WELL-READ HOOLIGANS Translation of an article I did in Polish for the Polish culture magazine Dwutygodnik about the Wrocław based punk/jazz group Kurws.

Under the simple and vulgar name of Kurws (literally: Whors) hides one of the more intelligent and well-thought out band of the last few years.

Despite the Wrocław based band is often compared to jazz groups, they say that punk rock is more important to their work. The subversive, rebellious nature of the band can be found in the band name itself. Jakub Majchrzak, the bassist of the band, admits: “My assumption after the first rehearsals with Kurws was enhancing for my own use the definition of the word punk”. There’s a clear reason why a voice says in the beginning of “Tanz Mit Kommune I”: “Poor youngsters play punk rock and they’re happy with that”. Kurws have also collaborated with Maciej Salamon from the Gdańsk based punk unit Gówno (Polish for “shit”), with whom they have made a cassette entitled “2012” with as Pustostany.

After the 2011 debut release “A Hole in the Ghetto” (Polish title: “Dziura w getcie”), Kurws are back with a new release “All That Is Solid Melts Into Air” (Polish: “Wszystko co stałe, rozpływa się w powietrzu”) via Gusstaff Records. It can be said that at the beginning of their career their image was tongue-in-cheek and quite humorous. Now it seems that they have gotten more serious and their music got a more concise sound. These suspicions are confirmed by Majchrzak: “There’s definitely less stupid fun, less pastiche and less funfair-like style juggling. There is, however, a whole caleidoscope - conscious or not - inspiration, the enjoyment of the stuff we play and I think it can be seen live. This new material unveiled its depressive potential, which makes me very happy, because I don’t see the band’s image as too “hooray” optimistic”.

An important information about the output of Kurws is the fact that the leave lots of hints to the educated and well-read listeners, as exemplified by the track titles. Many of them may sound funny or absurd at the first glance, but upon closer inspection one can find references to philosophers, famous figures, works of literature or historical facts. The title of the newest album is a quote from the “Communist Manifesto” by Karl Marx. Hubert Kostkiewicz, the bassist of the band, points out in the direction of the work of Marshall Berman under the same title. He also admits that he does not want to fully expain the title, because “he likes understatements”. However, as we will find out, the text of Berman’s book - describing different forms of modernist pursuit of destroying and rebuilding (from Goethe’s “Faust” to the oeuvre of New York architect Robert Moses) - is surprisingly coincident with the music of this Wrocław group.

There are many more references such as Berman’s on the album. Under the musical layer of energetic pieces, combining punk fury and the freedom of improvisation, there are references to the Italian marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci (“Gramsci’s Nightmare” from the debut album) or the concepts of George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (new album’s opener “Weltgeist”). “Colossus on the Feet of Clay” refers to the term coined by the French writer Denis Diderot to describe Russia, taken from the Biblical Book of Daniel. “There Was no Wheel in the Inca Empire” refers to the curious fact of one of the biggest pre-Colombian civilization not knowing the invention of wheel. “Escape from Freedom” is an obvious nod to Erich Fromm. The band does not stay indifferent to current issues - dedicating one of the tracks on the previous album to Lech Wałęsa and making a composition about the Euro Zone on the new release. It can be said that each of titles has some sort of a second layer and the Kurws invite the listeners to explore the labyrinth not only of sounds, but also of ideas.

A certain toning down in the playful image of Kurws can be seen in the cover of “All That is Solid Melts Into Air” by Karolina Pietrzyk. The artwork is radically different from the parodistic cover of “A Hole in the Ghetto” by Janek Koza. On the cover the debut album we can see the fake, plastic-like pop star and… a pig. It works both as a funny contrast as well as an analogy (both are seen as products ready for consumption). Pietrzyk’s illustrations for the new album, depicting earthworks (and not digging of the grave, however the band members were aware of the comparison when choosing the picture) are sketchy, simple and seemingly made without much care and effort. Hubert Kostkiewicz explains the genesis of the cover: “The starting point when working on the new album’s cover was the renewal of the Nadodrze district a in Wrocław. Karolina Pietrzyk was exploring the area with a camera and a sketchbook and prepared an impressive documentation of endless renovations, excavations and metamorphoses. The material on the new album was recorded during many changes that we were experiencing. It was a very wide spectrum: from some prosaic changes to the awareness of an end of a certain period”. The metaphor, seen on the cover, refers not only to the process of recording of the second album and the changes in members’ personal lives, but also to the music itself. Anyone who has ever observed a construction process over a period of time, knows the feeling of chaos transforming into order - one gets the similar feeling when listenings to Kurws. With successive listens the seemingly mixed-up and messy music unveil the rigorous structure, showing the discipline in the band as well as the skill and the musical horizons of the band’s members.

The changes can be clearly heard on the new release: the sound of the band is still rowdy and rough, but there is more fluidity. Sometimes the rhythm and the melody can change several times over the course of one track, there is also more space for pure improvisation - however, Kurws consistently cut themselves off from jazz, often associated with improvised music. “If you treat jazz more as a philosophy, a pursuit of open forms, then I’m OK with this”, says Kostkiewicz, “But at the same time I really like the feeling of not knowing at all what is going to happen. Apart from that, to be honest, I don’t know much about jazz. This is how I imagine jazz”. Majchrzak too points out that the album is devoid of any “jazz-punk pretensions”. It is easiest to say that Kurws do not like to pigeonholed and labeled, like the case of often describing them as a noise rock band. “When it comes to noise rock and math rock, I don’t find myself in those traditions at all”, Jakub Majchrzak continues. “I don’t see any praise for mathematical beauty in our music - a few breaks in the 4/4 signature are not enough”. Kostkiewicz is also against the noise rock tag: “I was really tired and bored by the distortion, the amplification, the wall of sound. I was looking for a different dynamic. I was listening to a lot of garage, beat music and surf rock stuff from the mid 60’s, but also to Minutemen and Wire. Hell! I even listened passionately to Queens of the Stone Age and The Hives”.

I already wrote before about how Kurws tip their hat to the well-read, intelligent listeners. But that is not all. The members also treat their foreign listeners with special respect, translating the Polish titles of the tracks into English, Russian and even Spanish (with the American release of “A Hole in the Ghetto”). On the band’s Bandcamp page the English titles exist right next to the Polish originals in harmony. Apart from widening their fanbase with foreign language titles, the Kurws also have a rich history of touring across Europe. Jakub Majchrzak recalls: “the best reception is either in places where the people listen to a lot of music and have wide horizons or where the people are very open for new experiences and hungry for new music. There are two such extremes: Slovenia on one end and Bosnia and Herzegovina on the other”. He remembers the great reception of the Swedish fans, especially in Stockholm, where they are welcomed with bigger enthusiasm every time they visit the Swedish capital. Maybe it is now time to translate the titles into Swedish?

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Duy Gebord - Kelp

(Almost) hot on the heels of Duy Gebord's Mangrove comes a new cassette, Kelp, released by the Toruń/Warsaw avant-garde revivalists Pawlacz Perski (English for “Persian cupboard”). Considering the content of Gebord’s previous tape, the music found here is surprisingly quiet and coherent, not lacking a healthy portion of mystery and scraped, bare soundscapes with a touch of field recordings and sound collage disinformation techniques. A bit in the field of cold musique concrete and a bit in the cozy early IDM area, the new cassette by Guy Debord is like a mirror labirynth; fascinating and dazzling at the same time.

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New label: Jasień

It seems like there are so many cool labels, projects and bands popping up in my country every month (every week, even!), I could easily change the name of the blog to Awesome Tapes from Poland and still keep the same rate of posting, if not higher. This time, following the footsteps of Sangoplasmo, DUNNO Recordings, BDTA and Wounded Knife (to name a very few) is the fresh Warsaw based label Jasień. The label debuts with two cassettes.

The first release is Hang by the Warsaw shoegaze band Evvolves. With a strangely psychedelic, messy cover comes a surprisingly strong and gentle distorted dream pop, with some beautifully reverbed vocals, leaving ghostly vapors all over the place (maybe that’s why the artwork seems informed by vaporwave in some twisted, prophetic way?). The songs come off as well-rounded and greatly executed, as if culled from the golden era of shoegaze.

The next release will be probably already known to the readers of Weed Temple, because the second cassette by the Jasień label is 30 Minut tape by Jakub Lemiszewski, one of my favorite Polish experimental artists. This album was already featured on WT, and it’s doubly great to see this collection released in a material format. Barbaric, crazy plunderphonics combining spoken word passages with faux-luxury sleazewave stuck somewhere between 1991, Negativland and some ultra lo-fi slowcore stuck deep in the woods (or in the bedroom, at least).

You can visit Jasień on Facebook.

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Duy Gebord - Mangrove

On Mangrove, released by the Wounded Knife label, Warsaw based sound artist Duy Gebord (real name: Radosław Sirko), combines some explosive free jazz drumming with seriously amplified and fried mega-electronics a’la Supersilent at their most caustic or a less version of the frayed EAI of Hong Chulki. Remember First Date, an earlier cassette of furious no jazz by Paper Cuts, also released on Wounded Knife, I reviewed a bit ago on Weed Temple? Duy Gebord generally follows the same areas, although on Mangrove he seems to struggle with his drumming against the ocean of KevinDrummian synthesizer hiss, in an free improv session of epic proportions. Side B will put you back in a relaxed state with a distorted, noise-infused cathartic ambience with a firm lysergic backbone.

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Futuroscope - HUM

Modern-day French answer to the 70’s wave of German music also known as kosmische Musik, so for the French it’s probably something like musique cosmique. The cassette from the Tours based krautrock squad Futuroscope (great band name!), released via US label Monofonus Press is a spectacle of creeping, slowly building Neu!-like jams with a focus on a spacey atmosphere and psychedelic minimalism somewhere between BEAK> and the 90’s post-rock sound, still concise and mathematical at its core. The label says they worship Can. I think it’s true - they might be having some indescribable and horrific rituals and orgies involving the portraits of Holger Czukay and Irmin Schimidt. Shudder. Anyway, this is goddamn great. Warped, kaleidoscopically paced kraut-psych jams. Highly recommended!

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Arbitrary Signs on Bandcamp

Now here’s some news that are about to give a faster heartrate (or even some orgasmic experiences tothe more devoted ones) to the fans of a certain rock band from Hartford, CT and their side projects. The Magik Markers home label Arbitrary Signs have started putting some of their catalogue for stream and download via Bandcamp. What we’ve got so far is some of the rare and long out of print live material by Magik Markers and some selected releases by Pete Nolan’s solo psych folk project Spectre Folk. Where to start? I’d recommend kicking off with Road Pussy, a great document of the Markers’ raw, anarchic beginnings. Not much structury, just a lot of spit and blood. And pussy.

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Virtual- 420 - 240p

It seems that while the musical stylings of vaporwave are now largely exhausted (because, let’s face it, how long can you make patchworks of spliced and slowed down 80’s pop?), the visual weirdness connected to that micro-genre are still very much alive and kicking. In fact, it seems that other genres are catching up with the vaporwave game, and the fractured hip hop of Virtual- 420 are a fine example of the initially satirical and plunderphonic stylical signifiers to create a laid back, almost psychedelic atmosphere. “these hands” combine Madlib-like beat with screams and something that in general sounds like domestic abuse. The title of the album, 240p refers to one of the lowest available resolutions on YouTube and it resonates the slight nostalgia of the time when it was the default resolution, as well as a twisting of the cannabis enthustiast cult number 420, used in the project’s name. Of course, there would be no cool rap without some slowed down samples and smeared r’n’b ooze, so there are some mutual tropes between the worlds of luxury rap and faux-luxury vaporwave. Interesting curio, check it out.

Virtual- 420 - 240p

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USA Out of Vietnam - Crashing Diseases and Incurable Airplanes

American writer Kurt Vonnegut once wrote that when the American forces were withdrawing from Vietnam in the mid 70’s, they just pushed the helicopters off the landing pads straight into the sea, drowning dozens of them, never to be recovered. The last American soldiers at the time must have felt defeated and deceived by the American government, creating a wave of distrust, PTSD casualties and darkness in the 70’s. The Montreal based band USA Out of Vietnam propose their own vision of history in a series of epic, monumental post-rock/psychedelic rock jams kept within the fuzzy, analog end of the spectrum, but still, with some heavenly sung choruses and sufficiently melancholic atmospheres, like a less stretched out, more concise version of GY!BE with less conceptualism and straight psychedelic goodness. Highly recommended!

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Sunburned Hand of the Man - A Grand Tour Of Tunisia

I have a dream: that one day, all releases from the freak-psych collective Sunburned Hand of the Man will be available for a stream on their Bandcamp (or their Manhand label’s BC page), including the absolutely unkown (what a crime!) psych killer Earth Do Eagles Do. However, there are always some labels which are more tech-savvy than others, and Three Lobed Recordings is a case here. Thanks do the great move they did, putting their entire catalogue on Bandcamp, they also made avaiable some of the finest recordings by Sunburned Hand of the Man, including A Grand Tour Of Tunisia double LP in a digital form. And what a tour it is!

The entire output of Sunburned was always balancing between structure and free improvisation, between psychedelic rock and psychedelic folk, even gaining some electronic influences on the way (if you remember Fire Escape and A, both created in collaboration with Kieran “Four Tet” Hebden). On A Grand Tour Of Tunisia members of the collective have reached the perfect equilibrium between the sheer weirdness and anarchic, open-ended nature of the collective and the disciplined, rigid jams requiring at least a modicum of self-control and obedience from musicians. Entering the realm of Sunburned Hand of the Man is like entering the Zone in Tarkowsky’s stalker, although filled with more hallucinations, mutated creatures and some of the strangest customs and traditions you can come up with - all the physics and chemistry is warped and there is something in the water that makes you see things that aren’t there. It might cost 10 dollars for the digital version, but damn, this album is one hell of a maze. A highlight in the SHoTM catalogue for sure - highly recommended!

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Jetman Jet Team - Music For the Metabolists

Referring to and inspiring their tape work on the 1960’s group of experimental Japanese architects named Metabolists, the Seattle group Jetman Jet Team delves deep into the realms of tape music and hauntology, composing a new album from the patchwork of found sounds and melodies collected from countless cassettes. Re-imagining the vintage future of 1960’s Japan connected by superblocks and living machines, Jetman Jet Team take a radical approach and change the surface of the musical landscape, just like the metabolists wanted to change Japan, creating new versions of Tokyo or building cities like living bodies. This music is pulsing, as if living its own life, with lots of alien-like activity going on below the surface.

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Beat Detectives - ASSCOP

At first I thought that the name “Beat Detectives" couldn’t be any further from the kind of zonked out, bastardized plunderphonics that this Minneapolis based trio were putting forthe on their previous cassettes. But with ASSCOP, a hiliarously sleazy cassette on 1080p they finally get to the source of their name, shovelling through weird half-beats, burned out club vibes and samples from commercials splattered all over the place. Somewhere betweeen the sneer of vaporwave and the legitimate weirdness of Madlib’s psilocybin rap masterpiece The Unseen, the new release by Beat Detectives walks the line of psychedelic misunderstandings and comic-like aesthetics, crowned with a title straight outta Gunshow.

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Various Artists - Midlife Crisis

A compilation by the extended Digitalis roster released to celebrate label founder Brad Rose’s 35th birthday (hence the name), it’s an extensive soundscape, a lexicon of different experiences, contacts, enlightenments and visions collected down the road. Collecting works from exactly 35 acts, it’s a retrospective and a future perspective of the Digitalis work, extending from luscious psychedelic folk with a melancholic, autumnal fog descending over it to to computerized krautrock worships condensed into the micrcochip form. Between field recordings and vaporwave, the Digitalis label continues to mine the psychedelic underground for the most visionary and the best. And it’s no the Midlife Crisis, Brad, it’s Midlife Success. Highly recommended!!!

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