San Francisco-based producer Al Lover has made the melding of beat music with vintage and contemporary psychedelic rock his calling card. "Super Strength (Power Plants)," the first single from his upcoming debut LP, Sacred Drugs, continutes on this path. The track is a hazy, droning march-- combining faintly heard samples of bluesy guitar with g-funk synth tones. Morgan Delt, a prominent psychsman himself, provides burnt out, almost unintelligible vocals which help accentuate the song's lurching wooziness.
Sacred Drugs is due out October 1 on vinyl and cassette via Psych Army and Crash Cymbals.
Maybe you’ve heard of CT metalcore band Icepick before. Well this article isn’t about that Icepick so forget about them for a sec. The Icepick we’re talking about here is a new project from prolific jazz musicians Nate Wooley (trumpet), Chris Corsano (drums), and Ingebrigt Håker-Flaten (bass). Their upcoming cassette Hexane is not only their first release as a trio but also the first ever release by Astral Spirits, an offshoot label of the Austin-based Monofonus Press. Major jazz critic Clifford Allen, in his liner notes for the album, says the three ever-exciting performers are able to merge “Milesian pathos” and “explosive, post-Albert Ayler energy”. The Ayler reference is kind of obvious but the one about the school of pre-Socratic philosophy exemplified by Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes of Miletus hits pretty close to home. Comparisons of these two trios aside, isn’t Anaximander’s coming-from-nothingness theory of apeiron (“infinite”/“indefinite”) kind of what free and experimental jazz are all about? The sample of “Pentane” they’ve released gives credence to this interpretation, as the track simmers right on top of the primordial chaos of jazz history.
Hexane will be out on cassette September 9th via Astral Spirits, and will also be available as a digital download.
Lawrence English-- the beyond prolific Australian multimedia artist, responsible not only for a confounding amount of artistic work but quite admirable curatorial projects as well-- released his most recent full-length album, Wilderness of Mirrors, earlier this summer. Now, album openers “The Liquid Casket” and the title track receive the 16mm treatment from Paul Clipson who buffets and disorients fragments of the real world via superimposition, a fitting illustration for the two songs. "Liquid Casket" moves like a slow-motion hurricane. Gusts of noise amass and envelop the spine of the piece-- a nervous trill buried deep in the mix. “Wilderness of Mirrors” is the uneasy exhale following the storm. The pieces are best understood through feeling, which jibes with English’s own claim that he wants to induce the listener’s “inner ear,” that sensation of whole body listening that accompanies total sonic overload.
Wilderness of Mirrors is out now on Room40.
Like all self-respecting (and ancestor-respecting) synthesizer visionaries, Forma’s Mark Dwinell browses the vast catalogue of electronic pioneers and minimalistic experimentors, employing hypnotic, repeating patterns and had a very liberal take on harmonies. “Ascend”, from Mark’s upcoming release Golden Ratio is one of the documents of his just-intonation organ era (2007-2008), which carries some heavy Terry Riley overtones. Wonderfully detuned with an extremely wavy background, ecstatic Teutonic solos are played over the track's skeleton, sprawling across the analog landscape like a rainbow through curved air, ascending into the shimmering, progressive electronic bliss.
Golden Ratio is out October 21 on Amish Records as a part of its Required Wreckers series.
The tarot deck and its iconic imagery have long been used as a divination tool for spiritual seekers. The tarot was also the inspiration for Zeljko McMullen and Severiano Martinez's new film, We Are Fools, which uses the archetypes from the 22 cards of the Major Arcana as the basis for meditations on ordinary life. The film-- released by the Greenpoint imprint Perfect Wave-- was created over the course of seven years in collaboration with over 40 artists. We Are Fools also includes the work of several musicians, including MV Carbon, Thomas Arsenault (Mas Ysa), and Laurel Halo, who soundtracked the High Priestess scene, which can be previewed below.
We Are Fools was released last April via a limited-edition DVD. Perfect Wave and the Body Actualized Center's movie club are co-hosting the DVD and digital-renting release screening of the film on September 2, and tarot card readings will be offered. More info about the screening can be found here.
This is the second in a series of essays chronicling the intersection of humor and music.
Napster was great for an elementary school kid. I could download all of the Eminem and Limp Bizkit songs that my parents wouldn't buy for me on CD, and finally get to hear this song they mentioned in Wayne's World called “Stairway to Heaven.” But also, Napster was bad. As the first notable, pervasive peer-to-peer file sharing network, Napster acted as ground zero for an epidemic which presaged one of the truest plagues of the internet age. Somehow our society, one fully entrenched in and dependent on the internet, has yet to learn how to negotiate a hard lesson that we should have learned from Napster a decade and a half ago.
Misinformation then, just as today, dies hard. When you downloaded “Kiss From A Rose” it could be attribted to R. Kelly. Harvey Danger's “Flagpole Sitta” would often show up as “Green Day – I'm Not Sick But I'm Not Well.” A version of that song I heard about in Wayne's World may be attributed to Led Zeppelin, but the audio itself may be an awful cover version. These tracks would get downloaded over and over, making sure that there were always peers to seed these dubiously labeled files. Misinformation has the tendency to multiply like a splitting amoeba. Remember when we thought Beijing was televising a sunset because the real thing was blocked by smog, or that Ciara was born with a dick?
One artist was on the truest business end of Napster's most brutal collective cataloging errors, a man who has reemerged in the public consciousness this summer, years after decades of success with America's preteens. As one such preteen, I was thirsty for any and all things “Weird” Al Yankovic, and Napster offered a litany of gems which didn't appear on any of the albums my parents would buy me. On Napster you could find, “Livin' La Vida Yoda,” “My Fart Will Go On,” “The Devil Went Down To Jamaica.” As a kid who craved parodies of all stripes-- lamenting the fact that Dr. Demento's show wasn't syndicated on any radio stations in the New York metro area-- Napster allowed me much-needed access to serious deep cuts. Even better, these were songs that I could sing along to with friends during lunch. All of my friends might own different Weird Al CDs, but we could all download “Elmo's Got A Gun.”
It seems many of the bands currently active that identify their music as punk use the term to justify creative stagnation or the lazy, over-petting of their idols. Luckily for us, Whatever Brains describe their music with the same term, but for opposite reasons. The band, hailing from Raleigh, NC, embrace genuine irreverence in order to create music too audacious to be confined to a particular genre or aimed at a particular audience. They are currently prepping to release a double 12”next month. “Conficker”, their new track, is further evidence of their unwillingness to fall under the tutelage of a singular, immediately perceivable influence. The song features industrial clattering, pop melodies, and a deranged outburst towards the end. The result is a bizarre whirlwind. Prepare yourself for this caustic carnival.
The double 12” will be out next month via Sorry State Records
Maybe you stood in the blazing heat alongside a half-a-million other attendees to catch Arcade Fire and OutKast alongside relative up-and-comers at Coachella; or Slowdive and Grimes at FYF; or any other blitz of high-profile lineups from this summer’s festival offerings. Each major city plays host to major music festivals with overburdened rosters and over-priced concessions, all hosting a sense of identity to separate themselves from the pack. Yet even with aesthetic accoutrements and creative escapes from the crowd, more and more music fans opt for smaller DIY festivals attempting to create a genuinely different festival experience. Through bold lineup choices and even bolder, often intimate or secluded “destination” venues DIY festivals –both long-running and newly minted-- like International Noise Conference, Cropped Out, Debacle, Neon Marshmallow, and Ende Tymes seem to be excelling in overall experience where larger, sponsored festivals can fail.
Today, DIY festivals both celebrate and rely on grassroots communions of underground artists coming together to make as much as possible out of relatively very little, an approach that depends on volunteer support from bands, audiences, and auxiliary supporters. Stewart Mostofsky and Amanda Schmidt, co-organizers of Baltimore’s Fields Festival, tap fellow members of their local scene to handle several activities integral to making the event happen. This approach, as Mostofsky explains, involves “Lexie Mountain overseeing security, Rose Chase doing gate and parking, Tiffany Seal doing volunteer work, and Cricket Arrison organizing the cabins for us.” There are a dozen or so other artists and volunteers necessary to executing the event, which includes camping and five stages of music, comedy, performance, and more. These people are all, notes Mostofsky, “dedicating their time well beyond the compensation they typically get.”
Mostofsky elaborates on the willingness of performers to celebrate their local scene, offering “Dan Deacon is opening for Arcade Fire Saturday and Sunday nights in New York, driving down to play late Saturday night, and doing a DJ set and an acoustic set Sunday before hightailing it back to New York for Sunday night.”
One of the most significant experimental record labels of the past decade and a half is the Jon Abbey-run Erstwhile Records. Mr. Abbey gives the label a consistent vision and has a keen ability to bring together some of the most revered names in experimental music. Two names that surprisingly had yet to appear together on a record until now are that of Kevin Drumm and Jason Lescalleet. The idea of a Drumm/Lescalleet collaboration has been something of a dream for many of their followers, but not until their Brooklyn show in June of last year did it seem to be a possibility. The subsequent September they released the “digital 7-inch” The Invisible Curse on Lescalleet’s own label Glistening Examples. Nearly a year later, Erstwhile now gives us their first major record together, the 2xCD The Abyss.
Each of Drumm and Lescalleet’s respective discographies are so varied that this record could’ve gone many of a couple dozen different ways, but rather than forming an opinion beforehand on which direction you'd like it to take, let them guide you through The Abyss as Virgil led Dante through the Inferno. Sounds of birds in the wild. Harsh noise walls. Organs and warped tape loops. Dark, blood-stained field recordings and spine-stabbing sine tones. Glitch fests. Haunting vocals and sustained Nurse With Wound-evoking pedal effects. Barely audible bass drones. A bleakness that however subtle is gorgeous in its synthy simplicity. The harsh tearing sounds of gaff tape about to be wrapped around your head. A curious anomaly: a warped rock song appears at the threshold of hearing, then disappears, reappears, and ultimately ceases to exist forever. I wonder if everyone hears a different song. Maybe this is an echo of your own personal past. Will we ever really know?
The Abyss is out now via Erstwhile Records on 2xCD, also available as a lossless file on Erstwhile’s new download-only site.
Topdown Dialectic is a faceless techno producer who makes scrapyard dub beats that reveal themselves in a non-linear fashion. The full impact of the song is realized by the clues TD allows to escape from their heavily pressurized mix, going against the typical dance music progression. On his or her second tape release, the producer has scaled back his sampling variety and fractured melodicism in an effort to conform to the sterile, enigmatic aesthetic of tape label Aught. The label has an interest in anonymity, a rather ironic trend that has taken over the largely on-line electronic tape music universe, and their blog displays pictures of geometric occurences and sharp edges in nature and art. Like the label's other release, /\\02 is packaged in a clear plastic bag, conveying the label's stark aesthetic. Track "03" is the paragon of Aught and Topdown Dialectics reductionist collaboration towards a foggy, murmuring derivation of "Empty" House music.