reviews

our weeks on soulseek – 2

Two weeks ago, OSR tapes put out the first album of Better Psychics, twenty tracks of collaborative live mixing between Chris Weisman and Zach Phillips of Blanche Blanche Blanche, both international ambassadors of Brattleboro, Vermont.
It kind of sounds like a blend of early Psychic TV albums and Sebadoh cassettes, with sprinkles of woodsy experimental folk and acousmatic bossa nova on top. (it’s outstanding).
I never buy cassettes, as the closest tape player i could use is in the old family car, but I pre-ordered theirs as an inticement to finally get my driver’s licence and drive around while blissfully listening to it.
You can download the album (then consider doing a donation) and/or order it here.

This one is short but it kills me:
Better Psychics – I bet I can write one more (right click/save as)

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Better Psychics - What stays

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Better Psychics - With my attitude

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I guess I have a thing for every band John Dwyer plays in, as they cover the entire spectrum of genres that naturally stroke my ears, from garage punk to weird doo wop and drone psych pop. However it seems that, lately, The Oh Sees have been favoring their binary rock’n'roll side (close to Dwyer’s older band, The Coachwhips), to the detriment of the numerous other facets that made the superiority of their first records. But now their new album is out on In The Red and it’s quite a gem — great name, great artwork, wicked songs. The tracklist of Putrifiers II is somehow based on a chiasmus, with rowdy garage tunes both opening and ending the record. “Cloud#1″ provides a graceful contemplative transition towards the middle of the album, which is very 60s sounding, but in a way that freshens your bronchial tubes, spruces up your hair and takes you on a fuzzy journey where Nico and John Cale (“So Nice”) are striving to deprave the Everly Brothers (“We will be scared”) while impish voices fuse with Can-like instrumentals (“Lumpine Dominus”). Makes my day.

The Oh Sees – So Nice (right click/save as)

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The Oh Sees – We will be scared

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The Oh Sees – Lupine Dominus

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Natural Snow Buildings is an impressive French experimental duo who have released about 20 albums since 2001. They were/are mostly released on outrageously limited series, so the only way to listen to them is through culture sharing. Night Coercion Into The Company Of Witches, one of their best albums, was first issued in 2008 with 22 (yes, twenty two) copies, but people who love to manipulate cumbersome objects before listening to music can rejoice, as Ba Da Bing just made a three CD/four Lp reissue (yes, it is almost three hours long). Judd of Ba Da Bing speaks the truth: “Natural Snow Buildings make melodic, orchestrated, folk, droning compositions with layers of guitars, chants, woodwinds, percussive bells, distortion and delay. On Night Coercion, they push to extremes, producing layers of stereophonic sound both nuanced and grandiose. This record is the ideal introduction to the band’s sound, building harmonies upon noise upon harmonies, and providing a clear explanation as to why their albums (even the ones that aren’t so limited) sell out so immediately upon release”.

Natural Snow Buildings - Kadja Bosou (right click/save as)

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everything’s okay

Right before retiring from music and going to work with chickens and goats in a farm, Sir Jason Molina recorded eight songs with just guitar, rawness and his elegant voice from Desperate Land. I have to admit I’m not a huge supporter of his whole Magnolia Electric Co. era, but Autumn Bird Songs arouses the same kind of shivers in the stomach as his majestuous Lionness album with Songs:Ohia. We will always love you Jason.

Jason Molina – A Sad Hard Change (right click/save as)

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Songs:Ohia – Lionness (right click/save as)

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Death Grips stick their cock in the eye of sony music, release their new album for free, let anyone make money with it, then change their mind about it

Many people wound up on this post through various sources (Death Grips Twitter account, Brooklyn Vegan, Tiny Mixtapes, CorruptFork…). If you’re into weird hip hop, you should also listen to the amazing band Clipping. They are not this week’s epicentre of the Hype, but they do mindblowing music.

Don’t let machiavelian PR schemes fool you, the bear is the actual album cover.

Last february, I was disappointed to learn that Death Grips, a wonderful trio making angry fractured hip hop (with The Magnificent Zach Hill on drums, Andy Morin on keyboards and Stefan Burnett on vocals), had signed a major label deal with Epic/Sony.

Ex-Military Mixtape, their first album, was released under a Creative Commons non commercial licence, allowing people to copy, distribute, display, and build derivative works based on their music, as long as it was for non-commercial purposes. Consequence ? Ex-Military was shared hundreds of thousands of times. It turned Death Grips into one of the most famous indie band taking a real alternative stance on the actual copyright system, acknowledging people’s right to share. AND it is an awesome record.

Download full version of Ex-Military Mixtape (or instrumentals + acapellas version).

Then they signed with a Major. Obviously, it wasn’t just a greedy move (anyone who knows the bands members will agree on this), but rather a “we’ll have big distribution and total control over creativity” blah blah thing. Death Grips stated they would release two albums this year via Epic: The Money Store (last april), and No Love Deep Web (planned this October).

When the Money Store came out, Epic/Sony predictably barred them from using a Creative Commons licence. The band then decided to act naughty: they leaked the album on Youtube anyway, allowed people to download a bunch of tracks, leaked the instrumentals after an incredible hide-and-seek game in the deep internet. Death Grips also are the most legally-downloaded band on BitTorrent in the first half of 2012 (oh my god, 34,151,432 downloads of weirdo hip hop noise music). The Money Store truly is an amazing piece of music, but the whole album wasn’t released under a Creative Commons licence, so legally people weren’t allowed to share all the tracks, remix it, etc.

However, it seems the honeymoon between Death Grips and Epic is officially over.
Death Grips tweeted today “The label wouldn’t confirm a release date for NO LOVE DEEP WEB ’till next year sometime. The label will be hearing the album for the first time with you”.

Ten hours later, they released their new album for free. Tons of websites have already reported it, but it seems only a few (i say “a few” because i’m polite, i actually read nothing about it – edit: Death Grips and others have spread the A&D post you’re reading, thanks to them, and Consequence of Sound wrote a piece about it) noticed they didn’t just “release it for free”: they allow anyone to make money with it.

According to the Archive.org download link they’ve posted themselves, this album is indeed released under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 licence, a veeery open one. Of course, it lets people share and remix the music, but contrary to the previous licence they chose for Ex-Military, it also authorizes commercial uses without asking permission, as long as the music is still credited to the band. Yes, you can use Death Grips’ music in a TV ad (for an energy drink maybe?), or in a big commercial movie. You don’t have to wait for a physical release date, you can start a record label instead, press and sell 10,000 copies of this album without even asking the band NOR Epic/Sony if they are okay with that. Well, if you’re not an asshole, I hope you’ll send Death Grips some money.

Some people (Hi Sean!) are wondering if the whole operation is a PR stunt. But the licence chosen debunks such hypotheses because it implies that Epic/Sony don’t have exclusive commercial rights on Death Grips’ music anymore (while a Creative Commons Non Commercial licence would have allowed Epic/Sony to retain exclusive rights on commercial uses). There’s no way a major compagny would accept such a licence as part of a PR scheme. Actually I think it is the first time a band signed on a major label releases an album on a CC Attribution 3.0 licence.

Anyway, i wanted to say a big THANK YOU to Epic/Sony for pissing off Death Grips and pushing them back to the arms of Creative Commons. Sharing is Caring, blah blah blah, Amen.

EDIT 10.4.12: Death Grips have now changed the Creative Commons Attribution licence into an Attribution-Non Commercial one. It means you can share or remix the work, but NOT use it commercially without permission. Several explanations are possible:
- They didn’t know what kind of licence they took in the first place (I doubt it, as it wasn’t their first Creative Commons release and Death Grips themselves shared this A&D post via Twitter).
- They changed their mind.
- Epic/Sony made them change the licence, so the Major Company can still have exclusive commercial rights on Death Grips music. As the Major Company has paid for the recording of No Love Deep Web, this scenario is quite likely.

Death Grips website was down for a while. I thought it was collapsing because of too many visits, but serious prominent yet corrupt press talked to Zach Hill, and he confirmed Epic/Sony took the website down! And then Epic/Sony denied it! And then the website came back! Then it disappeared one more time! Then it is here again! Woo! (my guess is their web hosting company had a problem with the penis cover)

Thank God/Santa Claus/Richard Stallman, you can also download the full album via Archive.org or via Bayfiles or stream it via Soundcloud (who didn’t like the album cover either apparently).

Clipping – Our world is a ruin

 

I suppose you have noticed it, more and more blogs/webzines/old medias have developped the quite peculiar habit of getting carried away by bands that have recorded only one or two mp3s, and/or to write about records which won’t be released until several months.
These cultural phenomena have deep and multiple causes, although today we will briefly touch upon a few of them:

On the media side
If you want to get some attention among the thousands of billions of posts cracking everyday on the interweb, you have three options:
1) To be the first
2) To be interesting
3) To be funny

To be interesting is difficult and takes a lot of time without any certainty of any achievement. To be funny is a gift from the gods and, as an unfair but logical consequence, is not accessible to everyone. To be the first thus is the easiest. And writing about something months prior its release, or about someone still in his foetal state, is a good way to be the first.

On the band/producer side
The goal is to create artificial buzz with tiny bits of a piece of work. You can’t verify and judge by yourself, you have to believe the teaser. Without even acknowledging it, a lot of small indie labels use the same marketing methods as the movie and video game industries. Sometimes their teasers reach unexpected heights of vacuity : “Hey, a-band-you-don’t-care-about has just released the TRACKLIST of its new EP! Let’s all talk about it!”

On the “everyone” side
We’re all addicts to the Novelty Orgasm. We want to be connected to the Flux of Now, to listen to new music as soon as it has been recorded. As if music obeyed to a darwinian process, as if The New was, in itself, superior to The Old.

These are troublesome facts because they are largely scattered, almost systematic. When we’ll write the Tablets of Stone of A&D, we shall include these two commandments : Don’t write about a band until he has released at least one full album.
And Don’t write about it until you have actually listened to it.

But of course, a few bands would lead anyone to bend these rules. For instance, Clipping:

 

Clipping make hip-hop. They are a weird, noisy, radical hip hop trio. Two guys twiddle bleep bloop machines producing krrrrrrrr and ssshhhh and sometimes jkl<dy!!_*hfsd sounds, while a third one declaims demented lyrics in fast forward mode. We had some very good deviant hip hop recently (Death Grips, Shabazz Palaces), and one can expect the same kind of febrile excitation here.

At first (thanks to Brian Miller of Foot Village/Deathbomb Arc), I listened to this song, Loud:

 

It just drilled my ears. Actually I needed it to accompany me in the bus, at the supermarket,  or at the golf club. Clipping didn’t care about me and didn’t include a download button so I bravely ripped it from Soundcloud and listened to it 321 times. But it was only one song, so I had to curb my enthusiasm.

Then I saw this video:

 

 

Ok Gwendolyne, they seem to not suck live (I have a slight tendancy to speak to myself when i’m moved emotionnally). Their show at Enter The Interweb confirmed this assumption:

 

My expert detective skills a basic internet search coupled with a few questions to Brian Miller taught me more about the identities of Clipping’s members. One of them already is an undergound star : Jonathan Snipes of electro dance punk metal joyous pop hardcore band Captain Ahab. Jonathan makes all his music available digitally on a free donation basis (go listen to the last Captain Ahab album, The End of Irony).
Another Clipping dude has been involved for a long time in the let’s-release-crazy-experimental-modular-synth-music-limited-to-30-copies scene: William Hutson of Rale. He releases limited cassettes on numerous labels and runs Accidie Records.
And then there is Daveed Dibbs, rapper, actor, educator with a lot of messy hair and an insane flow. Dave released his first solo album for free last January (grab it here).

And now the time of the first Clipping release has come: A tape just came out on Deathbomb. It only is a three songs/ten minutes tape, but it will make a rain dance happen in your panties. At least, it finished to wow me and to get through all my ethical principles. Listen below to Face (an hysterical swoop), a studio freestyle, and Broke (dark, slow track). Hail Clipping.

 

Dinosaurs, Norwegians and Epic Ensemble in the discotheque

When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth – Jeans Shopping With Jesse (Made In Kansas)

More blown out fucked up fuzz from When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth. Had been waiting to hear this one for a considerably long time once I knew it was coming out. Didn’t realize it was going to be as limited as it is though, apparently only 100 made of this mean piece of wax. And mean is most certainly the right way to put it. To anyone that felt the need to unleash the aural bleeding that came as a result of their previous release Peaced, then Jeans Shopping With Jesse (Made In Kansas) will undoubtedly be exactly the type of heaping trash that fills that need once again. Not as punishingly treble heavy as Peaced, but rather more so of a complete culmination of noise being thrown at the listener this time around. It’s hard to resist the comparisons to Rusted Shut, but this certainly fits the bill. No less filthy, that’s for sure, but maybe a bit less frightening. You get that these guys might actually have a sense of humor behind all that distorted crust…or maybe a big drinking problem. Who knows? Surprisingly though, Jeans Shopping for Jesse isn’t the type of monotonous trudge through noise that you might expect it to be. Some of the best moments here are the groups abilities to subtly let the tracks set in with a level of claustrophobic nature, eventually becoming an overwhelming amount of noise before either fading out or cutting off completely. That of which is often followed by brief tracks of full-frontal noise that approach the ferocity and pacing of noise-punk. Absolutely relentless and pretty jarring at that. Fans of the genre certainly should give this one a try.

When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth – Jeans Shopping With Jesse (right click/save as)

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When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth - Jah Fingies

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+ their amazing previous record, Peaced, available for free download. In the bands own words: “This album was recorded in our practice space in the month of April 2010. We were very drunk, and very stoned. We’ve recorded quite a bit of stuff before, but this recording actually captures realistically what we do and how we do it. Cheap, loud, and drunk”.

You can buy last copies of these two Lps here.

Neon Blud – Discotheque Deathbed (Vinyl Rites)

The collective that just keeps on giving, that being the folks down south that have helped spawn projects like Cult Ritual, Merchandise, and so on. This LP comes from yet another outlet under the name Neon Blud. Those out there probably know them from their split with Diet Cokeheads or releases on Fan Death and Drugged Conscience that came out awhile back. Previously I had known them as more of a noisier pop group that had a very prominent early Sonic Youth thing going on, however things have changed up fairly dramatically with their new full-length Discotheque Deathbed. The label Vinyl Rites mentioned Live Skull in the description, which if you’re looking for my attention, that’s a fairly good way to get it. A track like “Tick” certainly channels this more than anything, but I’d be lying if I said this album greatly resembles the band. I certainly hear the connection though and I’m loving it. Neon Blud have more so driven their sound down the path of late 70’s/early 80’s goth heavy post-punk but spreading out amongst a far more abrasive landscape of feedback and atonal droning noise that seemingly cycles its way in out of this album in an unobtrusive and effective manner. This is a much darker and noisier band than I imagine people were prepared to hear, and more importantly its one that has stepped out from a more confined songwriting approach and really allowed themselves to take this in an interesting direction. Most of the tracks are rather lengthy, filling the spaces nicely with repetitive bass lines that develop the sort of “disco” beat that they are looking for. And generally on more than one occasion per song, things lead in and out of explosive waves of noise before dropping back into a locked groove. Vocals are present, but likely merely only for the added effect of the depressive and bleak mood the album seems to function on. Really cool stuff. Not sure if this is the last output that we’ll hear from the band or not, but if it does indeed happen to be, then this is a fine way to go out.

Neon Bud – Tick (right click/save as)

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Neon Bud - Temple

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This album is sold out, so you’ll have to look for it on Soulseek.

Staer – Staer (Gaffer Records)

Some pretty warped instrumental noise out of Norway from these three gentlemen known as Staer. Due to locale they are most commonly linked back to Noxagt, which actually fits quite well musically. Despite being a three piece, these tunes pack a thunderous amount of sludgy rumble. It’s hard to simply call these guys a “sludge” band though, despite these songs stomping along in a slow motion hulk like style. Things however tend to take on jazzy feel, but as if it were stuck in mud…slowly shifting from one atonal riff to another. Described as precise in execution, it’s much dirtier sounding than one would gather from reading that. It may be precise, but it certainly sounds the part of something that would be a destructive mess visually. Staer aren’t completely opposed to hitting a run of simple rhythm, as evidenced by a track like “Sex Varnish”, which basically focuses on one big bouncy riff throughout the song while surrounding it by free drumming and a multitude of guitar effects. That latter seems to be a recurring theme throughout this self-titled debut. The trio certainly have a good grasp of the fun things that they can do with their instruments and they make it very well known on this album by pushing sounds and effects that one would assume would require someone in the background twisting knobs and such. Maybe that’s the case and I just missed that somewhere, but no matter it certainly works for them. The songs are heavy and just about as wildly out of control/demented as a band that is said to be in control can be. Really nice debut from these guys.

Staer – Det Ar Nyar, Javlar (right click/save as)

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Staer – I Roll With Creflo

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This one is available through Gaffer label. Head on over there to grab yourself a copy.

V.Vecker Ensemble – In the Tower (Majorly Records)

 

V.Vecker Ensemble was spawned out member Keith Wecker’s idea to start the collective after spending time playing in Glenn Branca’s Symphony #13: Hallucination City and Anthony Braxton’s 2010 Sonic Genome Project. Having a fairly nice size of talent surrounding him already in the Vancouver underground, he enlisted the services of Brody McKnight and Andrea Lukic (Nu Sensae), Daniel Presnell (Von Bingen), Liam Butler (No Gold), David Rogers (Basketball), and Corey Woolger (Cowards). This LP is the first recorded output from the collective and features one long instrumental piece split on to both sides of the record. The first movement is a nice slow burn mix of psych and creeping noise. The use of sparse santur at the beginning of the track, as it slowly melds into a swirl of complementing sounds, gives the entire piece a bit of an exotic feel. This far less of the controlled chaos type of approach that I was kind of expecting with this, but rather it ends up being a wonderful tension building exercise of melody and subtle noise. The pieces eventually cools down, which provides the opportunity to flip the record to move on to the second piece of the composition. The second side continues a bit in the same way, but things get a bit more claustrophobic on it. The santur again provides a skeletal shaping of exterior sounds as a way to introduce the slow inclusion of guitars and bass, while both drummers keep things slightly nailed down with a steady beat. However, with this portion of the composition by the end of it the instruments all eventually reach the same atonal apex of noise to finish the piece off with a loud steady trance-like pound. Really dig this, look forward to more.

For those interested in picking up a copy of In the Tower can do so by hitting up Majorly Records.

Japanther reviews Creepy Teepee Festival

Incomplete festival review and contest. Kuma Hora, Czech Republic – july 13th, 2012. 
All the concert goers looked like the future people in Bill and Ted’s. One of them   floated up and shyly asked if I’d judge a contest of a few new bands playing the fest.  I took this request from the future very seriously and these reviews are the result.

Planety: Pět minut za městem
A dreamy crash-boom-bang traditional pop sound played with force. Heavily effected up beat lead guitars smells like Czech grunge. The lo-fi approach and flavor has me dancing around the room. It doesn’t even matter that I don’t understand a word, I instantly liked Planety’s simple approach.
LISTEN:

 

KRISTEN: An Accident!
Loopy intricate guitar & bass paired with sparse open drumming and repetitive vocals. Solemn interesting indie noise music. I believe the late Jean-Michel Basquiat would have loved this Polish trio. Aggressive jazzy dance jams with free form bits scattered all over the place. BRAVO!
LISTEN:

 

Piotr Kurek: Coda (Digitalis – sold out)
Insanely surreal video game sounds pushed together by analog keyboards. Like being trapped in a 8 bit haunted house while wearing a lead suit. I like that this Warsaw artist is working with dance companies and artist residencies. I’d love to see the results of those efforts someday.
LISTEN:

 

Aches: Fine Tongue EP on EXITAB label.
Colorful droning loops with nice organic feeling. Super creepy “stalker vibe” vocals and ultra slow drum machine beats. Painterly guitars that seem dream like over what sounds like screwed up jungle beats. This Brit relocated to eastern Europe and interesting results abound.
LISTEN:

 

Mile Me Deaf: Call Us Rats – Fettkakao Sampler – Fettkakao 2011 // fett022 
Sarcastic psychedelic pop music. Driven by a collective beauty and tight guitars. From Fettkakao, the same Vienna label that brought you PLAIDED and VORTEX REX, two additional pop groups with a very unique takes on the form. I recommend all three whole heartedly.  
LISTEN:

 

Rouilleux: Zugzwang
Hand made black and silver digipack. Slow sad wash of tortured guitar. Like a long folk song sung underwater. High smokey vocals sung under a curtain of effects. Rouilleux is very depression influenced but still the balance of noise and songwriting is pleasant and keeps the listener engaged.
LISTEN:

 

S ND Y P RL RS: DARK MATTER book + cdr, 22 pgs, Colpa Press
Nice warm German drone that lasts and lasts. The book would certainly enhance the experience of the piece, alas I didn’t get one. Still I enjoy the warm, slow building rumble this Berliner produces. Sounds like living in a jet engine or a steam ship. Just like any long trip, after about 40 minutes, S ND Y P RL RS slowly fades out and ends…
LISTEN:

Field Hymns Tape Trade

The history and function of tape trading is something we’re very interested in at Decoder Magazine. To that end, using the stock from our tape label Crash Symbols, we’ve been conducting a series of “guided trades” with other cassette imprints. Part of the advantage we perceive in this treatment is the ability to identify and talk clearly about a more structured notion of “eclecticism” – the idea that many beautiful things can work with and enhance one another so long as they are all beautiful. In the case of art objects or furnishings, they needn’t be made in the same style or by the same craftsman. The same can apply to albums. A record label’s catalog might draw more or less from one or more particular genres, but it need not of necessity. As curators, many label owners would sooner maker their catalogs a reflection of themselves. Considering that a fair number of these people are avid collectors of experience, information, and tapes or records, their imprints begin to share in the same academic and operational rigor that motivates their other passions, so it seems meaningful for us to talk about their catalogs comprehensively.

More importantly, trading tapes underscores a positive way to cultivate coherent and self-sufficient communities, independent of the kind of praise that we admittedly make every effort to lavish on labels in our recurring Tape Trade feature at Decoder. To some consumers, labels are a thing worth reaching out to, and for some label owners, an imprint is something to communicate with; this sometimes plays itself out in the common perception of imprints as too aloof, but also too friendly, depending on what angle you use to scrutinize “the scene”. The difficulty with really evaluating tapes and tape culture is the extent to which it has become a fundamentally voluntary and participatory culture. Paradoxically, many cassette labels have distinguished themselves through an honest and effective leveraging of support through social media.

So, that’s the big idea. This is our fifth tape trade – you can check out some earlier ones here and here) – but more than being your requisite 1,000+ words worth of random music reading today, we hope that this will inspire you to reach out to friends, bands you love, or labels you admire and offer to trade. If you hit us up at Crash Symbols, God knows we’d be psyched to arrange something.

Without further ado, Field Hymns of Portland, an imprint focused on experimental electronic music, with significant helpings of kosmische, prog-rock, and even a little bit of skwee (which I for one can always use is greater quantity than I’m getting).

Continue reading

Extra Life – Dream Seeds

A third album for Extra Life, New York aesthete Charlie Looker’s band, and the first with a three-piece line-up. Their bass player left over a year ago, which resulted among other things in the significance of keyboards and 80s synth wave in the 2011 EP Ripped Heart. Extra Life had retained their medieval facet, but they also seemed to have softened.

Dream Seeds foreshadows something similar (but it will later prove to be a fallacy), with Charlie Looker’s focusing on vocals and keyboards, playing just a little acoustic guitar. Meanwhile violinist Caley Monahon-Ward gathers momentum as he deals all by himself with the electric guitar, the violin, electronic manipulation, and sometimes synths and backing vocals. His role in Extra Life has become essential and the band now appears as a perfect entity, a triangle with three equal sides – the extraordinary drummer Nick Podgurski is just as noteworthy –, an entity of which Charlie Looker is the base and the mastermind, the enlightened composer.

Dream Seeds starts out quietly with No Dreams Tonight. A wonderful ballad, medieval as can be and in keeping with the spirit of Ripped Heart. Actually Dream Seeds may sound more dreamy, and less rhythmic than the genius Made Flesh (2010) or Secular Works (2009).
Little One is also filled with delicacy, wonderful violin layers, and a soft piano which manages to spare us sentimentality and pompous conceit – a pure moment of grace and levitation. Even a track like First Song proves to maintain this enveloping and chilling softness despite the complex rhythmics. Extra Life is a special band, they are elsewhere.

Yet, Extra Life have sustained their ardour, except it is now channelled differently. Discipline For Edwin and Righteous Seed both reconnect with Extra Life’s two major features : the wonderful and lyrical tension on the one side, and the captivating, quasi-religious fervor on the other side. The splendid guitar backgrounds and the indecipherable but direct rhythmic patterns are still there, dominated by Charlie Looker’s out of season singing, and additional synths as support or counterpoint. The album ends with two bravura pieces : Blinded Beast followed by Ten Year Teardrop, both reaching a near quarter of an hour in length and representing Extra Life’s darkest, but also most lyric and stunning side. The whole musical range of the trio is brilliantly represented, reaching noise and madness – you have to hear Charlie Looker shouting « I Love You/I Love You/How I Miss You/I Buried You/We Buried You/We Buried You/I Love You », on Ten Year Teardrop. The band’s alchemical splendour is there, chiseled into its purest shape, at a level approaching magic.

Dream Seeds’ double themes (dream and childhood) are pregnant in Charlie Looker’s introspective and personal lyrics. In the booklet, a quote from Paracelsus, a rebel mind and Swiss Renaissance visionary, alchemist, astrologer and physician, sums up Dream Seeds’  demented and contagious content: « Blessed is he that is born during sleep ». Dream Seeds is already one of the most prodigious and bewitching album of this year.

Extra Life – First Song (right click/save as)

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Extra Life – Righteous Seed

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Dream Seeds was released on Africantape (Europe) and Northern Spy Records (US).

TONERRE MECANIQUE

Five measures of no wave and eight doses of coarse noise. Shake it well, and it will twirl your brain around for an infinite extent of time. Not to mention that Tonnerre Mécanique hail from Marseille, that it’s a trio, and that it’s not necessary after all to have that much information in order to let this phenomenal mess take over. An exclusively instrumental band, because a singer without Mapa gloves could have broken the momentum.

Old fogeys who cling on to ancient values will find some of the sounds to be quite Swob-ish, or feel the possible influence of the first Slug records. Other self-proclaimed Art and Noise specialists, slightly less impacted by the decline of aging, will probably classify Tonnerre Mécanique somewhere between Arab On Radar and Neptune. But even if this subtly disorganized mumbo-jumbo recalls the golden age when Skin Graft was king, the first thing that emerges from this 8-song EP is bewildering immediacy. Spontaneity and intricacy intertwine, yet it doesn’t mean Tonnerre Mécanique is all about free jazz, or that they act more Japanese than they actually are. There’s an underlying logic of deconstruction and reconstruction, followed by great optimism as well as an undeniable form of rubbery humor. You end up with an album that twists your joints, makes you swallow your tongue, tear your hair out, knock your eyeballs together, and fuel up with high voltage.

Le Dernier Cri took care of the screen-printed cover — in other words it’s beautiful — and the release is limited to 200 copies. It’s available at Katatak’s or Boom Boom Rikordz, and it’s way better than all the crap you last listened to on Spotify.

this review was translated from French by Tamara

editor’s note: all Boom Boom Rikordz releases use creative commons licences, and you can download the whole Tonerre Mécanique album for free on their website.

Chris Weisman – Songwriting as Pitch Noise

Texture, timbre, mood, vibe: today, music journalists and musicians alike tend to keep the bulk of their eggs in this well-padded basket of aesthetic signifiers. These amorphous musical elements don’t lend themselves very well to language, and so their privileged status in music writing is a little ironic. When the fascination with aesthetic categories swells to the point of eclipsing the more tangible tonal, structural and lyrical aspects of songwriting, writing ostensibly “about” a specific piece of music finds itself in the absurd position of holding the indescribable above the inscribable. Similarly, musicians captivated with aesthetics face some pretty limited prospects for developing novel material if the possibilities of musical novelty are relegated to an abstruse realm of effect and intention.

All this to say: what happens if, instead of resorting to “fifth-dimensional namecalling” by attempting to stabilize unstable aesthetic signifiers so that writing makes more sense, you hone in on the representable, repeatable, linguistically communicable content of a piece of music? What happens when there are no rules but structure still matters? What happens when there are no rules but a C# is still a C# except it’s arguably happening more like a Db right now, or you’re playing in a nonstandard tuning so it’s a C# on the fretboard but an A on the stroboscope?

What happens is this: you write some music infused with your engagement with the event of this language. I don’t care if C# is any more “real” than the “suburban vibe” of the new Real Estate record; I don’t care if you name and remember your chords or write down your melodies (I usually don’t). Sure, the premise that C# is any more ontologically stable than timbre is indefensible; both are theoretical as far as I’m concerned. The difference lies in the availability of pitch to the interactivity of language. As Socrates said to Theaetetus, “the notes, as every one would allow, are the elements or letters of music.” And as soon as you hit that C#-on-the-fret-but-A-in-pitch on the fretboard, you are dealing with a multivalent empirical phenomenon: that C# and that A are characters you get to respond to, favor, position, make speak, or deny, etc., all the infinite dramaturgical possibilities fostered by the God Position and the corollary Position Of Worship. Privileging tonality in music doesn’t mean presuming to answer the question of knowledge, of objective forms, etc.; instead, it opens up 1000s of ways to frame those questions.

Chris Weisman – Os Tonokos Token (from Bentonia on Blueberry Honey) (right click/save as)

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Chris Weisman: “Pitch Noise is the aesthetics of Noise — shock collages, maximum sensuality, letting the materials speak in their own tongues — but focusing on pitch relationships rather than timbre, texture, costume. What seems reactionary — but is radical by virtue of 1) being unpopular 2) requiring an education in theory and analysis — is the privileging of exactly the elements that were traditionally hierarchically higher in Western Classical music. For example Debussy believed timbral and decorative elements were awesome but must serve the higher powers of cadence, form, tonal drama; that the real music is what can be captured on the notated page. You know like you can read a poem aloud in all these different ways — and those ways make a difference — but the poem is really somewhere else; it can be real all these different ways but ultimately the poem is unreal, abstract, like geometry or math or a game. These are the star systems I try to encounter. When I bring them to earth I might try a pedal but the real work is already done.

American civil rights attorneys suing the state often worry about inducing “bad law,” i.e. when legally uncontroversial cases based on clear precedent are heard in districts spellbound by the unshakeable ideology of pro-government, anti-plaintiff cronyism. The danger is that a ruling will prove influential, either with respect to the merits of the particular case or by introducing concepts that constrain future litigants seeking redress for violations of their constitutional rights.

During the Tang dynasty, kung-an (公案) referred to something like the precedent resulting from a legal ruling. You know it now as koan. Lin Chi said, “If you want to get it, you’ve already got it — it’s not something that requires time.” Because the practice of writing songs is time-consuming and characterized by intense focus and deliberation, there is always the danger of creating a bad public precedent! Let me try to explain what I mean.

If you do not see what I do not see, then it is quite natural that it is not a thing. Why is it not your self?” When it is taken up in thought rather than lived, the concept “pitch noise” is a pedal, too, only available to be turned on after the work is done. The institutional many-face of music may ask, “do you want to play the changes or do you want to change playing?” But you don’t have to list your sources in citationless anthropology. Participant observation is the name of the game, and if you’re doing it right, the one you’re watching looks back, failing to see not having to try.

Chris Weisman – The Mask Is The Face (from Hi) (right click/save as)

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CLOSE YER HEAD, YER LETTIN THE AIR OUT

 

Girls Girls GirlsBorsh LP, ed. of 250(Little Big Chief Records – 2012)

Temperature’s surely rising in Atlanta this week as we say goodbye to our 48hr springtime, so this sticky slinger & I been drinkin from the same bottle. Turns out this is an archival callback from the Breakdance the Dawn label that kickstarted a shit-ton interest in latter-day Aussie noise-making, but I’d been thinkin this was an unearthed reel from The Silver anticipating Sun City Girls’ Torch of the Mystics. How they might’ve found themselves in the Charles Gocher Desert I have no earthly notion (I never had field trip chaperones quite that good when I was a buck). But from whatever dimensional transport these cats was belched, Majora or Breakdance the Dawn, both would seem to a first timer familiar yet unimaginable. Hell, the landscape’s ’bout the same! Through all 4 tracks, Girls Girls Girls bat sleepily at the toes of punk and private psych just enough to make you think they some woozy kittens, then wail away like you spooked em. Prepare yourself for cymbals that sound like plastic bags and guitars down in the basement with mother. Which is to say, this is the kind of band we all could have if we had half a brain (no, like, literally one lobe each) & just as much fun. Lay on, ratcatchers!

Girls Girls Girls – Borsh 2 (right click/save as)

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XwaveCities On Flame LP, ed. of 250 (Little Big Chief Records – 2012)

2nd Breakdance the Dawn reissue to come down the Little Big Chief pike (originally in some single-hand CDr edition) is just as much an edge-piece to the Aussie crud puzzle as the aforementioned. This feast, however, gets a little more loose in the waist. Served up is a whole heapa predigested basement sludge and amp defiance choking on cave cinders. Think Stone Harbour’s Emerge gummed up in an oil-stained underpass and yer gettin warmer. Track two, “Sweet Love,” has the instantly recognizable wheeze of a battered VHS to remind you “fidelity” will forever be a relative tag. That and the other 3 A-side cuts hiccup in and out like an Alex Chilton take, but the nearly-eponymous B side, “Citie On Flame,” is my favorite long burner so far this year. Time, love, and meds seem to do Xwave just right. After a good five minutes of pea soup-thick grumblings, what sounded like a Circle of Ouroborus boot dropped in to yank out my hampsteads slow-like, all the time askin’, “Is it safe?” This was immediately followed by a mounting hum in my forsaken jaw and a dreary march toward a thankless sun. Twas time to hop back on the Shetland & ride, bunkie. Check the crossed out price tag on the sleeve for additional bindle punk desperation.

Xwave – Unbearable (right click/save as)

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Xwave – Wasted (right click/save as)

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You can get both records here.