Install Theme

Review: Homogenized Terrestrials / Andrew Quitter / Cruudeuces / Dog Hallucination - The Moon is Hungry

(2 x cassette, Intangible Cat, 2014)

The roads of Illinois may form a perfect grid, but the Illinois-born bastard psychedelia label Intangible Cat is certainly off the grid. Ever since their first akwwardly small 3” CD-R from the fried circuit outfit Amalgamated, I’ve been growing into the sound of the label collecting a bunch of otherwordly weirdos and their other projects, such as Dog Hallucination or Gushing Cloud. And it looks like that Intangible Cat team decided to step up their game and release something on cassette - but not just one cassette, but a double cassette, paired with some rad artwork carrying some signs of a cosmos-gazing Photoshop era Zdzisław Beksiński.

The first tape, the black one, is dubbed “The Moon Tape” and with a sticker showing a satellite panorama of our only natural satellite. Parting sides between Homogenized Terrestrials on side A and Andrew Quitter on side B. The Terrestrials decide to play more on silence than on sound and thus provide a slyly unfolding ambient piece based on tape loops and field recordings. Despite their “earthly” name, the Terrestrials present the more “alien” end of the experimental music spectrum, working on pre-recorded sounds in surprising and often spine-chilling ways, creating a wall of frozen ambience imbued with glitchy loops and fuzzy, intriguing textures whose source can no longer be identified. Andrew Quitter jumps onto the more cavernous, yet earthy primeval folk trip, with tribal drumming continuously beating a raw, simple path through the thick tapestry of electronic drones and darkened ambient aesthetics, with a bit of unplanned genius when the Facebook notification sound springs the listener back to awareness from the half-stupor induced by the psychedelic meanderings steeped in tape hiss.

Another cassette is entitled “Earth Tape” and is white and adorned with a satellite picture of the Earth itself. The Earth Tape is parted between Cruudeuces on side A and Dog Hallucination on side B. Cruudeuces’ Nathaniel Brennan (the owner of the Ghetto Naturalist Series label, btw) offers a murky, truly and absolutely no-fi noisy rambling not unlike the darkest, most chaotic moments of The Skaters, which is saying a lot, knowing how far from normal the work of The Skaters was. These are some post-apocalyptic hymns, with war robots walking the scorched wastelands and shooting the remaining victims, who are infected with radiation poisoning, but are still struggling and walking. Films like Terminator or Threads spring to mind, when conronted with rusted harsh drone of Brennan. The salvation comes with the last side of the Earth cassette, this time from Intangible Cat label owner Dog Hallucination jumping into the cosmic, progressive ambience with the Klaus Schulze feeling and finally some melody, as distorted and glitched out it might be. DH finally brings peace to the rattled soul and mind, after having survived the ragged death zone of Cruudeuces. Here one can gaze at galaxies and unnaturally large moons hovering in the night sky against the silhouettes of the bombed-out skyscrapers of what once could’ve been Chicago. Or Cleveland. Or whatever stood here a hundred years ago. It’s all gone. With a hypnotic, apocalyptic end Intangible Cat stands out with a solid four-way split between four differetn drone-heads.

" If Entertainment! is a series of flashcards with populist slogans written on them, Marquee Moon a grainy detective- noir potboiler with invisible plotlines and no discernable characters, The Ramones a Saturday morning cat-chases-mouse cartoon, Closer a meticulously drafted juvenile suicide note, and Suicide a documentary of despair filmed with a hand-held camera—-then The Modern Dance is a black-and-white comic featuring a grotesque, undersketched, permanently underemployed fat manic depressive walking cracked sidewalks in a torn trenchcoat under chronic Cleveland cloud cover, mumbling conspiracy theories gleaned while watching a distorted-tubed tv on the blink during long afternoons lying around in a bathroom-in-the-hall efficiency. "

- Rate Your Music user leland on Pere Ubu’s The Modern Dance

Review: Ben Warfield - Songs of Light and Dust

(Digital, Data Garden, 2014)

The Philadelphia based Data Garden is a label like no other in the terms of the format on which they release their music. It’s even weirder and more fascinating than the concept-pushing releases of Auris Apothecary, who tend to release their music on reel-to-reel tapes, floppy discs, stylus-destroying vinyl records, or even candles. Data Garden, in relation to their name, release music that you can… plant. Like a plant. Each physical release is a strip of seed paper, which contains a free download code. After downloading the album, the paper can be put into soil and flowers will grow. In the case of this album - blue Lobelias. As Data Garden’s "About" page explains this groundbreaking connection between newest findings in science and new ideas for music distribution:

"We seek to redefine traditional music distribution. Digital files are easily lost by the impermanence of computing. Physical objects like CDs, tapes and records last far beyond their usability and possibly even our existence as a species. Data Garden mitigates these challenges by releasing digital album codes on artwork that can grow into living plants. This addresses the need for easy access to music, as well as the natural human desire to own an awesome physical object."

But the science doesn’t endly on on employing seed paper for Data Garden. The newest album by the label is an ambient journey by Ben Warfield, a musically talented scientist and a lab researcher working on developing lighting systems for astronauts. The music and the themes on Songs of Light and Dust are like Brian Eno meeting Carl Sagan. It is a classic ambient record, “classic” in a sense that it’s soft and melodic, stemming straight from the kosmische Musik and early progressive electronic traditions, when there was much fascination and hope in exploration of space and the early synthesizers gave a lot of previously unheard, unearthly feel. It’s an ambient record which is a legacy of the classic stargazers, for whom ambient music expressed wonder with the unknown, not yet “polluted” by harsh textures or digital glitches that would come later. Some might call Warfield’s album unremarkable or derivative, but I view it more like a legacy for the man’s quest for breaking the borders and making step after step toward the stars. Songs of Light and Dust is a thoroughly enjoyable, wonderfully melodic old-school ambient album. And a reminder that this planet is just a mote of dust in space bathed in light from the Sun.

Review: Simon James Phillips - Chair

(Vinyl LP, Room 40, 2013)

At first glance, the cover of Chair, an album by Australian contemporary classical pianist Simon James Phillips, appears to be completely white. But that’s just an illusion: after some further inspection, there appears to be a photograph of a chair on the cover. Cropped, barely recognizable (and God forbid if you have your white balance set high on your screen/monitor, then it becomes invisible), but the chair is there. It’s cleverly corresponding with the music on the album - it’s made with a piano, just an ordinary piano, but there are times it becomes an ambient mass of sound with no recognizable source.

Simon James Phillips’ album can be considered a sort of a “concept” album revolving around the idea of chairs - whether it’s just ordinary chairs you can meet in every public place you go to, or the chairs at your home, which often you yourself have chosen. One doesn’t usually pay much, if any, attention to chair. They’re just there, and they serve one simple purpose - to be sat on, to provide support and comfort to the body. The music on Chair is a bit like the chairs themselves - it’s importance and beauty can be easily overlooked, but once some attention and thought is lended to the album, it suddenly becomes an interesting, entrhralling concept. Phillips purposefully designs his sounds to be as ambient-like as possible to blend with the background, but without posing the risk of becoming mere “backgrond music”. Just like chairs, which simply are there, but once a simple thought appears - “what would happen if all chairs suddenly disappeared?” - it becomes an important and interesting problem.

Conceptual mumbo-jumbo aside, the music on the album is lush and powerful without ever getting too much “in your face”. It relishes in slowly growing clusters of notes being played with differing power, from barely audible single notes to a gigantic wall of sound over a course of many minutes. If you enjoyed Clusters by Super Minerals (still probably my favorite Super Minerals and Stunned Records release after 5 years), The Well Tuned Piano by La Monte Young or Strumming Music by Charlemagne Palestine, then Chair will be right up your alley. It achieves some of the most powerful emotional response from the listener with the minimal means - hence the name of the movement “minimalism”. The slow, delicate tracks, like “Posture”, “9er On Off Switch” or “Moth to Taper” stand against the much more powerful and massive compositions such as opening ascender “Set Ikon Set Remit” or my absolute favorite on the album, “Poul”, which is the musical transcript of a downpour on a summer day.

Chair is a must have for all fans of “furniture music”, as Erik Satie prophesized the coming of the ambient music back in 1917. It’s a music to be listened to while sitting in your favorite chair and to be focused on with distractions reduced to a minimum. Then the album’s full potential can be fully realized. It’s not the easiest, most accessible listening, but once it clicks, you may not want to leave the chair in the next few days.

Review: [PHYSICS] - Spectramorphic Iridescence

(Vinyl LP, Digitalis Industries, 2013)

Kinda late to the party, but still, this album has turned out to be one hell of a grower. Illustrated with a rare & vintage render of one of the pavilions for the Expo ’67 in Montreal, this album is a shimmering journey through vintage sound-archeology, resulting in a life-affirming explosion of analog synth/New Age/New Wave sound, full of wild echoes and visions of the retro future, obviously put on the black vinyl record. It is a thoroughly electronic, computerized sound full of optimistic arpeggios and forward-looking drum patterns. Even the album’s name is incredibly scientific, like something taken from a PhD thesis in optics. And again, the groove of the album is almost like the musical translation of Syd Mead paintings, with smooth, long concept cars rolling through futuristic, minimalist interiors and sprawling vistas combining natural landscape (canyons etc.) with human-made architecture (skyscrapers etc.). It’s a polished, hi-def reflective surfaces and flat-screen computers hiding the uglier underground beneath the pristine visage.

Though the album starts light-heartedly with a scientific vignette “Anodyne Dream”, it soon descends into darker moods, often pushing the scientific tools of electronic music to the mutant-infested sewers and sprawling basements of soaring skyscrapers. Sometimes the synth noise will get pretty hardcore, finally morphing into drug-addled pulsating mess not unlike the more abstract moments of Monoton or Lee Gamble. The contact with the base is lost, there are only distorted, mangled distress messages left all over the place. Sudden whooshes and washes of white noise sound like a perverted take on alarm sound and there is a sinister tapestry of cut-up speech samples, ominous bloops and bleeps and a layer of digital slime covering every sound.

But then, in the next few seconds, when the next track kicks in, there is a sudden comeback to idealistic, super-clean-cut sound dreams. It’s almost like the album itself has a case of schizophrenia, or it attempts to sounds schizophrenic. It’s almost like the CIA’s ultra-secred Cold War MKULTRA program, where the poor research subjects would be subjected to various experiments and tortures with the use of brainwashing and powerful psychedelics, like LSD. While the New Age wonders is like the artificial “high” and the high-spirited mood is just a powerful hallucination, the distortion-laden mutant sounds of the darker tracks portray the horrific truths about the “anodyne dreams” portrayed in the beginning.

Spectramorphic Iridescence may be understood as a sonic document of the price some have to pay for progress. In order to make the next step, sometimes sacrifices must be made and this record unveils a piece of the mystery – the lost test subjects that have seen the glimpse of the Future before perishing.

Review: Psychocukier - Diamenty

(CD, Nowe Nagrania, 2013)

Is rock’n’roll dead? Every once and then some concerned music journalist will write a lengthy analytic piece of how the rock music idiom got gradually softened and/or replaced with a solo artist who needs little more than a laptop and an Internet connection to achieve success. But at the same time, every one and then a bunch of rock destroyers like Poland’s Psychocukier (translated as “Psychosugar”) will pop out, blow a cloud of smoke in everyone’s faces and say: “Hey, I’m still here, you motherfuckers!”

No, seriously, these guys rock. They don’t only rock, but they are rock. Their sound, their image, their everything - it’s just the epitome of the good ol’ “sex, drugs and rock’n’roll”. They’ve got booze, they’ve got smokes, they’ve got naked chicks rolling with them in beds (check out the photo session they did for Diamenty on the band’s website). They got the rock’n’rollin’ image down to a fuckin’ T, even with the fishnet wifebeaters and Holger Czukay moustaches. And while Diamenty is Psychocukier’s fourth full album, it might very well be also their best.

The first track on the album is usually the most important - this is where the listener begins their journey and where (when) they decide whether it’s worth to continue that journey - and the opening “Mgła” (“Fog”) couldn’t have been a better choice. It’s a churning, motorik blast of badassery, featuring hypnotic bassed accompanied with scorched, stoned guitar. It keeps the perfect groove for three minutes - it’s like everything you might ever expect from good psychedelic rock packed into a pill. It sets the mood perfectly and leaves yearning for more, more, more! The album is steeped in the sort of garage sleaziness that makes the greatest rockstars - there’s a lot of Velvet Underground spirit floating in the air, like opium smoke, with the ghost of Lou Reed watching everything - and approving of what he sees.

The lyrics themselves are equal parts humorous, dark, absurd and sexual - and in Polish, a refreshing (and patriotic) move when many Polish rock bands record in English. Like the lyrics to “Tonę w jeziorach” (“I’m drowning in lakes”), which features some serious “what the fuck did I just hear!?” moments - “I’m drowning in the lakes of your / I’m drowning in the lakes of your eyes / I’m drowning in the lakes of your / I’d like to fuck you your eyes” as an example. The smoky, groovy bass adds a sensual, slightly dangerous on the whole album while the guitar spews forth some of the crispiest and delightfully fuzzy sounds on all songs. Psychocukier are like a bunch of sailors who just came back from a long cruise and have stepped on land to raise hell and fuck bitches - a fact many reviewers pointed out, further supported not only by the rebellious, freewheeling sound, but also by marine-themed song titles, like “Dryfowanie” (“Drifting”), “Żeglarz” (“Sailor”), “Tajemnicza wyspa” (“Mysterious Island”), or “Laguna” (“Lagoon”). Diamenty touches on many moods and styles - there are some nuggets of melodic, indie rock songwriting (like the almost radio-friendly “Zło niesie wiatr”), and on the other side of the spectrum there is frenetic, overblown kraut-noise madness on “Ty”

Surprisingly, the band owes much of its crisp, energetic sound to Mikołaj “Noon” Bugajak, who achieved a legendary status with his hip-hop beats (and his work with such Polish hip-hop lumiaries as Pezet or Grammatik). Noon himself stated that Psychocukier were influential to his own work, so making an album together was just an extension of this influence. Despite coming from different scenes, the four gentlemen felt incredible chemistry and produced an exciting, simple yet ass-kicking album, recording with simple mics and a basic set-up, without resporting to overdubs, digital editing or any sort of polishing to make the sound pristine. Diamenty is a dirty, slightly kinky record that doesn’t give a fuck what other people think and simply has the time of its life. Looks like it’s time to say the truth: Psychocukier are the kings. And all hail the Kings.

Review: Sean Proper - Design Engine

(CD-R, Dying For Bad Music, 2013)

The common conception of Florida (at least to an European) is a constantly sunny and hot state filled with seemingly endless golden beaches, topped with luxury-dripping jewel city of Miami and the rockets and shuttles soaring upward from the JFK Space Center at Cape Canaveral. Musically, the most common connection people make is with southern hip-hop scene, especially the Miami bass genre. These are the urban sounds of fast cars and glassy condominiums.

However, one more aware of the geography of Florida will surely mention Everglades. The hardly accessible swampland is mysterious, almost magical. And this is the kind of dark magic fingerpicking guitarist Sean Proper conjures on his debut album, Design Engine, released from the German label Dying For Bad Music. Beautifully packaged in a hanmade cardboard folder, with the CD-R looking like an old-time vinyl record, the album is like a waterfall of sounds, a shamanic meditation taken in the most remote parts of the wilderness. Sean Proper shows the less known and less civilized face of Florida.

As I wrote in my review of Proper’s Canal Machinery, he sets himself apart from other American Primitivism revivalists such as Daniel Bachman in the mood of his songs: while Bachman’s style was more folk-based and optimistic, Proper’s guitar magic is moodier, more brooding and more melancholic. There’s something almost primeval and raw in those hypnotizing tunes, it’s like an addictive combination of raw playing style, the load of emotions and the pristine recording quality. Most of the tracks are fast, with cascades after cascades of notes, but without ever tiring or boring the listener. Instead, new nuances are discovered with each repeated play, this is one of the best growers I’ve had the pleasure of hearing in a long time. Occasionally, Sean slows down to a slow ballad, taking a break from the breakneck pace of most of the CD. He savours these moments, extending the lone notes over long seconds, before picking up the pace again and carving out another pagan jam.

Design Engine achieves the job of being sad and melancholic without being emotionally drained or utterly depressing, its sadness is expressed with incredible energy, almost a fury translated into masterful fingerpicking. The album ends in a series of crunchy, lo-fi drones that sound like a residue of some human presence in some abandoned wooden hut in the swamps (no wonder the track’s called “Wooden Building”). If the whole CD’s style was to be summarized by a track name, the perfect choice would the slow paced “The World Will Let Me Down”. This is the sound of the world letting you down, emotion in its rawest form. Definitely one of my favorite albums of 2013. Highly recommended!

Review: Tara King th. - Hirondelle et Beretta


(Cassette, Moon Glyph, 2013)

With a cover looking like a poster for a vintage crime film, the Paris based group Tara King th. (“th” standing for “theory”) seem to aspire to be the ultimate 60’s baroque/psychedelic pop revivalists in the category of both music and visuals - as stated on the Moon Glyph page, the album is the soundtrack to their own photographic series (check out the music videos they made for this cassette on YouTube, that’s some top-notch 60’s nostalgia right there). Add to this the wonderful vocals in French and we might be getting an overlooked gem of 2013.

Hirondelle et Beretta plays like both a homage and an anthology of most prevalent musical ideas in France and the United Kingdom - ranging from airy chansons to cinematic masterpieces and proggy interludes, all encased within the amber-colored psychedelic time capsule, which is intended to sound like the tape was unearthed after almost 50 years from some dusty record label archive. Actually, it could’ve been described like that on the Moon Glyph page and I would believe it!

Tara King th. brings out all the instruments that once were the staple of pop sounds and got forgotten over the decades: like the wonderful harpsichord, making presence on nearly every track, bringing a lighthearted, baroque feel to the already atmospheric album. Or the clarinets and flutes, perfectly arranged and never out of place. Add some early, delicate synth work in the vein of early 70’s Pink Floyd (“Drole D’Oiseau”) and the bliss gets more and more intense with every second. Most importantly, the duo have a knack for writing incredibly catchy, infectious pop tunes that stick in the listener’s head after one or two listens - like the opening masterpiece “L’Envol” that could easily be an opening theme for a classic film or TV series or the Farfisa driven 3-minute eargasm “L’Enquete”.

Out of all solid stuff released by Moon Glyph, the new cassette by Tara King th. stands out. Because of length, because of the ability to perfectly channel the spirit of the 60’s (it’s like “Mad Men” of music, seriously), because of the whole concept, which doesn’t end only at music and dares to extend further. Highly recommended!

Review: Dwutysięczny - Jedwabnik


(Cassette, Sangoplasmo Records, 2013)

The Polish label Sangoplasmo Records have already made a name for themselves and achieved a semi-legendary status in the cassette underground for releasing cassettes from both newcomers and experienced players, challenging the listeners to take up new sonic adventures. And the Dwutysięczny (that’s how we Polish folk say the date “2000”) project collects some of the finest names in the experimental underground, becoming a “supergroup” of sorts. First, there’s Jerzy Mazzoll, one of the founders of the legendary Polish avant-garde jazz group Miłość (Polish for “Love”), who spearheaded the movement later known as “yass”. Another member is Błażej Król, first playing in Polish indie rock band Kawałek Kulki, later going more experimental with his project UL/KR. There’s also Radek Dziubek, one of the members of the stellar psychedelic group Innercity EnsembleLast, but not least there’s Wojciech Kucharczyk in the group, a jack of all trades who has dabbled in probably every possible form of art known to man, including music, of course. Each and every member of the group has made a name for themselves over years with different musical visions and ideas. But how do they sound together?

The opening chord of lenghtily titled opener “W miarę jak wędrujesz podnóżem góry, tajemnica się pogłębia” (“As you walk along the foot of the mountain, the mystery deepens”) is delicate, almost fragile, yet it feels incredibly powerful, like the Genesis itself. The air trembles with mystery and anticipation before the bassy drone kicks in which seems not to solve the mystery, but further deepen it (akin to the title). In fact, the whole album plays like a jazz record hidden deep beneath under layers upon layers of embalming drone and heavy ambience, where the instrumental improvisations are obscured by heavy atmosphere enhanced with unsettling and strange titles, like “Ten, który kroi jeziora” (“The one who carves the lakes”) or “Śmierć pierworodnego” (“Death of the first-born”). There’s an occasional beat added to the all-enveloping drones, as if to give some blurry sense of direction, like the glitchy Fennesz-like beat in “Złamany, lecz niezłomny” or the nearly ambient tehchno beat in the closing “Sadachbia”, which cuts the metallic drone into small pieces.

Despite being a one-time musical project (unfortunately), Jedwabnik is a hugely rewarding and mysterious listen, difficult and adventurous. It jumps into some dark moods before showing the light to the listener. It’s also the proof that the Polish musical underground is bulging with ideas and sometimes what is needed is just a spark to ignite the action at the forefront of experimental music. Great cassette, highly recommended!

Review: DSR Lines - Venndiagram


(Cassette, Smeltkop, 2013)

Last time I listened to something from the Belgian label Smeltkop’s catalog, it was a downer industrial psych release Khomeini 99by Maan. This time Smeltkop is back on a lighter note with DSR Lines, a synth project by the Hare Akedod label boss David Edren. Since Hare Akedod’s output has been featured on Weed Temple a few times already, one might be already aware of how much delicious brainfood that label is providing with their sounds and with DSR Lines it’s no exception from the rule.

Because my first contact with the Smeltkop label was through the rust-covered sounds of the Maan tape, I associated their sound with “difficult listening”. I was somewhat reluctant to listen to this tape, because I was expecting (wrongly) a noisy, angular boneyard electronics. My fears turned out to be completely false when a stream of sunlit synthesizer droplets started raining on my head, pushing my mind into a pool of pulsing synaesthesia, where the relaxing ambient vibes translate into colors and shapes and form complicated patterns. This digital stream of consciousness follows the enlightened path of such synths revivalists as Le Révélateur, Panabrite or Lunar Miasma. Edren keeps his sounds tactly understated and instead of going for a full-blown Berlin school analog synth monument, he explores the scientific (and sci-fi) aesthetics with delicacy and restrain. To quote Robert Browning, “less is more”. He works with his music like a scientist with a valuable specimen, knowing that it would get damaged or destroyed if he went too far. So patience is key here.

The 32 minute tape is divided into 6 tracks, each one capturing a different little piece of the analog synth microcosmos, enveloping it into delicate sequenced melodies or vast synthesizer vistas, which sound like Klaus Schulze or Edgar Froese daydreaming while sitting at their rack. Listening to Venndiagram is like viewing electronic music under a microscope and discovering amazing patterns on something that does not look interesting or engaging when viewed from the distance. Just lend this cassette some focus (it’s not merely background music, mind you) and you will be rewarded.

Review: Ø+yn - Tentaculeando a la puna (420th post!!!)


(the cover picture courtesy of the great Honest Bag blog)

(Cassette, Taping Policies, 2013)

When it comes to psychedelic folk, the ultimate music completist Piero Scaruffi divided the genre into two handy groups: the bards and the trippers. While the bards keep the psych folk to the shorter, more song-oriented format which is catchier and more easily recognizable, the trippers focus instead on the freewheeling, lengthy, jamming experience that often gets lengthy and sometimes gets really loosely structured. Tentaculeando a la puna by the Argentinian folk unit Ø+yn is the tripper attitude taken almost to the extreme: the lo-fi, communal clatter following the school of No Neck Blues Band and similar outfits within the homespun brand of “New Weird [insert name of the country here]” aesthetic.

Even the band’s name forces it to stay in the fringe territory, as if intentionally left there only to be discovered by the true musical speleologists who dig into the musical substance and discover strangely named gems, inaccessible to the majority of human population. Because let’s face it, despite recording in super lo-fi environments (I like to imagine it was recorded in various natural locations like the members of the Jewelled Antler collective), the Ø+yn dudes can get pretty hardcore at times, operating with little more than a few twangy guitar-like instruments some simple drum instruments for a company. There is an air of mutation and savagery on the cassette, as in everything put on tape sounds like a murkier, more mutated or more raw, savage version of a cleaner, catchier folk tune you’ve heard somewhere else, but you just can’t nail it down. Sometimes the deceptive cloak holds up pretty well: i the slower, calmer tracks everything seems to be fine, we get a pretty tune played on a spring meadow, but a sinister drone in the background and the de-tuned instruments suggest otherwise; a plume of black smoke rises on the horizon and rolls in your direction. When it reaches you, a haunting choir of guitars and violins will surround you, chanting in unknown languages and fighting with each other, going for the noisier approach than most other folkers would dare.

With Tentaculeando a la puna we get a nug of unique brand of psychedelic folk from the depths of the South American continent, a glimpse of the mysterious underworld where the ghosts occupy the same space as the living and where they managed to get their voices recorded and use in their compositions.

Review: Bataille Solaire - Documentaires


(Cassette, Constellation Tatsu, 2013)

(Whew! It’s finally over. What a nasty case of a writer’s block I had with that one. And for a reason - this multi-faceted offering from a dimension travelling Canadian doesn’t offer any straight-away answers, instead inviting the listener to fish for deeper meanings and conclusions, wildly different and equally adventurous at the same time. Truly a hypnotizing record.)

The new cassette by Canada’s electronic experimentator Asaël Robitaille might be the new high water mark for the Californian cassette label Constellation Tatsu. It seems like with each new batch they try to level-up from the previous batch, providing a higher quality and more adventurous material than the one before that. With Documentaires, Bataille Solaire sheds the trappings of the overall prog electronic/kosmische musik genres for a fresh, new look - filled with samples, attempts at musique concrete, as well as some well thought-out track structures. It’s like travelling back and forth between the early electronic era experimental recordings studio filled with reel-to-reel machines and the set of a scientific documentary. Well, no wonder: after all, the label’s description sums it up greatly:

"An extremely loose concept-album about the dissolution of borders between spiritual and material, animal and vegetal, natural and digital, microscopic and macro, the 4 elements, religions, musical schools, as seen through the prism of the scientific documentary."

Those who remember Bataille Solaire from his previous cassette, Baal Shamash Et Son Char Céleste, filled with varying degrees of progressive electronic worship, might be really surprised to find Robitaille working on looping samples and snippets of sound on his newest release. Starting with opening abstract cut-and-paste speech patterns in “Documentaires”, the man sets himself far away from the cosmic vistas of his previous work in favor of a more experimental, dadaistic approach not unlike OPN’s “Stone of Spiritual Understanding” from his split with Rene Hell.

The two first tracks are harshly cut-up collages of human voices filtered through strange New Age and tropical electronica approximations, something like an early draft for an 80’s crime/s-f movie gone wild with the samples. They serve both as appetizers, intriguing the listener to step further into Asael’s sound-world as well as little “soundchecks”, constructing the retro-futuristic world of the cassette from randomly scattered elements. The miniature “Robot-Insecte” is even weirder, rendering the listener confuzzed by the barrage of ever-changing, harsh electronic synthesis, with the brutal bass boosts. Then comes the monster that is “Microsupernova”, a nearly 12 minute long life-affirming wall of monumental synth sounds which sound as if it came from a Syd Mead drawing, if this was the kind of future our parents were envisioning. The kind of future where the Internet meant VR helmets and gloves, not Facebook likes and Twitter followers. “Échelles humaines” is another gem, the cinematic journey through nostalgic times when the Internet was still mostly seen on television and was portrayed through cheesy (but then mind-blowing, especially to a child’s mind) computer animations portraying strings of 0’s and 1’s flowing out of computer screen or surfing across the globe on a keyboard with obsolete terms like “information superhighway” springing to mind.

Documentaires is one of the most rewarding, nostalgic and yet fast-forward albums I’ve heard in a while. It might be compared to the work of Seabat, but Robitaille takes it up a notch and makes it even better - a colorful testament to science, nature and the possibilities of human mind. Like a throwback to the utopian times where the Internet was a realm of the selected few. when the conversations took part on UseNet, way before trolls, haters, social media and narcissism. Thank you for showing us a glimpse of that lost world, Mr. Robitaille. Hats off to You.

Review: The Zero Map - Cerebum Paté


(CD-R, Tor Press, 2013)

There are no easy way outs and no quick conclusions with Cerebrum Pate, the neatly packed (and very limited) CD-R from the duo of Chloe Wallace and Karl M. V. Waugh whose Zero Map project is a take both on heavy drone music and the glitch aesthetic. The artwork, designed by Tor Press label head Jake Blanchard (I had the honor of reviewing his Archaic Practices cassette back in February ‘13) strikes with somewhat mythological, symbolic imagery that invites many different interpretations and encourages to read between the lines. Same with music here - most of the time it’s almost suffocatingly dark and dense, but offers a glimpse into the lighter, better world.

The album consists of only two tracks with each clocking in over 15 minutes. The opening “Neutrino Detector” will put your subwoofer/headphones to a test with its relentless bass rumble that just flows beneath the echoing, creaking sounds like an underground river - something that gradually becomes the background ambient sound but always marks its presence. Small snippets of lost melody is weaved in between the sinister, dark sounds - one can even occasionally catch a mangled piece of spoken word in there - or maybe it’s just a sonic hallucination? And then the chaotic, purely machine-like glitches set in, cascading in random, chaotic notes all over the hellish soundscape, further fueling the fear and the paranoia.

If one thinks the following track “A Python” might cast some light on the permeating darkness of the first half of Cerebrum Pate, they’re dead wrong. Instead of the rumbling, almost subliminal bass there are wordless, moaning vocals, like a ghost choir, a gallery of voices without a body that sing haunting, droning notes in dissonance and without much order, just to keep the original drone going on. If until now one didn’t want to admit that it’s a rather creepy album to listen in the dark, now it’s the time. The non-melodic, treated vocal samples is something otherworldly (or rather: underworldly) that gets even more so when it transforms into an all-consuming, bassy wall of sound toward the end. It’s dark ambient in the vein of the masters of the genre, even counting Lustmord.

If spooky, atmosphere-heavy (and I mean: VERY heavy) and heady electronic music is into your alley, The Zero Map is very well worth checking out. Just make sure you’re not reading any horror stories/creepypastas/playing survivor horror games while listening to this, and you’ll be fine. Combined, it would a little too much.

Review: Nicoffeine - Au Revoir Golden Air


(Vinyl LP, Blunoise Records, 2013)

The Germans from Nicoffeine continue their Blitzkrieg with another stab of amphetamine-filled white hot noise rock jams. As with the previous release, Lighthealer Stalking Flashplayer, the band’s atonal, unforgiving intensity reaches beyond just noise rock, there is something more vicious to the band’s sound, as if they were trying not just to burst your eardrums but also skin you alive in the process, borrowing stylistic hints from hardcore punk, grindcore, maybe even black metal… If I were to compare Nicoffeine’s sound here in any other album, it would be probably The Secret’s Solve et Coagula, except here the naked lady on the cover is the reminder that we’re still in the more “psychedelic”, hedonistic area ruled by bands like Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. or Seven That Spells. Instead of acid-eating hippies, we get hard drug punks, however.

Despite the deafening wall of sound that dominates everything on this album, there is still some space for whimsical, playful moments: like the synthesizer gone wild and playing random high notes on “Easy Metal” or the little cheesy wolf howl sample on “Wolf In Bathtub”. The is little to no rest between one sonic barrage and another and the only moment of toning down comes with the sprawling album closer “Au Revoir Golden Air”, which sheds the hardcore noise rock skin for the moment and goes for a more open, psychedelic approach, like a semi-improvisational post-rock jam (if all post-rock sounded like that, it wouldn’t be boring as fuck as whole, just sayin’).

So if you have balls of steel and iron ears, give this a go. Put on your “born to kill” helmet, take your rifle and snort a line. It’s gonna be an intense fight. Highly recommended!

Review: Woven Skull & Core of the Coalman - Woven Skull & Core of the Coalman


(Cassette, Feathered Coyote Records, 2013)

In this collaboration between the Ireland based psychedelic folk unit Woven Skull and the now-Czech-Republic-based-but-originally-American violinist Jorge Boehringer a.k.a. Core of the Coalman, the contrasts between abstract sound art and beautiful, well-formed melodies are explored and exploited. The longer, melodic tracks are interrupted by shorter experiments with founds sounds, where instruments clang and make a lot of racket - like the most unstructured, most “free” moments of No Neck Blues Band’s “free folk”. Sometimes it just sounds as if a bunch of instruments was randomly put in a rotating room and was subsequently recoreded while various drums and string instruments bounced off the walls and floors.

The true highlight of the album and the longest track at the same time is the illuminated jam “Prague is Grand When You’re Drunk and Irish”. The title of the track poses an interesting theory in itself - personally I’m partial to believing that Prague is grand when you’re drunk and any nationality, or that any city is grand when you’re drunk and Irish (especially after everyone fell in love with Irish fans of football during Euro 2012 championships, I haven’t met any Irish fellas but everyone who met them say they were absolutely the coolest guys of everyone that visited Poland and Ukraine at that time, but I digress). It is a bucolic happy-go-lucky hippie psych folk jam that just develops and develops over its 13-minute length and finally reaches the Vibracathedral Orchestra levels of intensity towards the end, an absolute explosion of ecstatic sound.

Woven Skull & Core of the Coalman expertly traverse through different atmospheres and moods, there are atonal, ominous pieces that reek of free improvisational droning experimentalism (“Tree Tops Covered in a Hazy Grey Blanket”) and there are anthemic pieces where all the folks get together and work as a great team (“The House of Ill Fate”). The line between melody and noise. Between happiness and fear. And between the beautiful and the ugly. Recommended.