Friday, June 30, 2006


Posting early this week to sneak a retro entry in under the June gun...lotsa good new stuff to talk about in July, including a bunch of great Chocolate Monk CD-R's that you oughta order right now...

RST - Warm Planes
(Corpus Hermeticum, 2000)
New Zealander Andrew Moon played drums in the pretty great Goblin Mix, but his solo guitar stuff as RST was his peak acheivement and this disc of heavy, subtle drones is probably his best (haven't heard 'em all, but it at least beats the very good R136a on Ecstatic Peace). I don't recall this being quite so gripping when it came out - I guess it had a lot of HermesCorp competition - but most of the drones here are suprisingly weighty, despite an odd calmness that's cleverly deceptive. In other words, the surface here is vaguely placid, but right below is a stomach-churning din waiting to pull any patient listener in, sorta like quicksand topped with sugar. There's also a weird sheen of mild crackle bubbling beneath, as if Moon has dipped his drones in water and then waved them near a wall socket. One track is even called "Voltage (Dub)," and there's definitely an otherwordly static electricity covering Warm Planes' dense, bassy meditiations. As I was saying last week, the best drones tend to slice open your middle immediately, but the strange beauty of RST's is that they take a while - or maybe they just come with their own anaesthetic, cause by the time you notice that Andrew Moon has scalpeled through to your insides, he's already closing up your sutures.

THE GEROGERIGEGEGE - Senzuri Power Up (Un-Released Studio Track 1985/1986)
(Vis a Vis Audio Arts, 1991)
I always thought of Juntaro Yamanouchi's Gerogerigegege as a living embodiment of the more scatological Boredoms song titles, and revisiting this rec of outtakes doesn't change my mind, though I am suprised at how great it still sounds. (For the uninitiated, this highly entertaining Wikipedia entry tells you everything you need to know, though I can't resist reprinting this wonderful section):

The name of the group combines the Japanese words for "vomit" (gero) and "diarrhea" (geri) with what is supposedly the sound of these actions occurring simultaneously (gegege). (It has also been transliterated to mean "barf, diarrhea, ha ha ha," although "ge" is also variously an onomatopoetic word of disgust or exasperation, making the name open to several differing interpretations.) To describe the group, Yamanouchi has used the term "Japanese Ultra Shit Band."

Anyway...the Gerogerigegege actually released some rock and even ambient stuff at points (I guess their classic is Tokyo Anal Dynamite), but noise was their, uh, "strength," and Senzuri Power Up is 24 minutes of organ-distending proof. It opens with some sample of big-band Japanese pop, but that quickly gets obliterated by a giant guitar-rape mixed with a throat-searing howl and trashaholic drums, and from there the intestinal blast-laffs never stop. (They even make a sound that lives up to the title "I Wanna Be Your Pantie.") I had no idea how much Sightings kinda sounds like this, and I wouldn't be surprised if M.Morgan & co. dig these guys, but the similarity is far from plagiary - instead think of the Gerogerigegege as the mentally-challenged older brother that still lives in the attic of Sightings' parents. Or just think of them as a head-flattening, bowel-reducing aural virus that Senzuri Power Up somehow managed to trap inside a rancid petri dish.

RAMLEH - We Created It, Let's Take It Over, Vol. I
(Pure, 1995)
Ramleh, the Brit duo of Gary Mundy and Philip Best, were a little brother band to Skullflower, in a way I'm not sure I know/care to know. Regardless, they took the more hyper sides of that larger group and strained them through a penchant for lung-killing screech, abrasive jolts, and semi-punk/metal song titles. Where Skullflower often built up their noises and drones in a gradually, kinda crafty manner, Ramleh went straight for the veins, with mixed but mostly devastating results. We Created It... is a three volume Pure set of early (mostly cassette) detritus, and I'm betting I have the other two editions, but I'm betting even more strongly that I'll never find them.

It's probably just the proximity that makes me think this, but We Created It... actually falls between RST and the Gerogerigegege - it's more solid and less hyper than the latter, building solid columns of noise not unlike RST's sandy drones, but there's enough desperate yelling to put Ramleh in the same genus (maybe even phylum) as Japan's Ultra Shit Band. I'm trying to dredge up other reference points, but they're eluding me right now, which might mean that Ramleh's combo of string-slicing noise-scapes and harrowing-yet-sorta-musical shrieking is actually somewhat unique. Not what I expected to conclude, but check out the self-titled track linked below: it seems to sounds like somebody, but let's see you name them, cause I can't. I keep waiting for a record in one of these retro entries to fall short, and Ramleh seemed like the best candidate so far, but sorry - We Created It... is a sweet stink-bomb of olfactory noise worth at least 40 minutes of alone time.

RST - "Wasted Magic" from Warm Planes
THE GEROGERIGEGEGE - "Anal Beethoven #2" from Senzuri Power-Up
RAMLEH - "Ramleh" from We Created It, Let's Take it Over Vol. I

Sunday, June 25, 2006


Here's yet another group of whom my lack of knowledge has been an eternally festering side-thorn...I remember reading Neil Campbell's interview with British duo Jazzfinger in Bananafish #14 way back in 2000 and wanting immediate access to these guys' lo-fi take on ground-shaking drone, then I woke up six years later and hadn't done a fucking thing about it. Luckily that embarrassing craw-sticker has been quickly and painlessly yanked out by Winter's Shadow Between Two Worlds, a new CD-R composed of eight eerie, echoey, anchor-heavy Jazzfinger drones issued by the sensational Brit underground imprint Curor.

For such massive pieces, Jazzfinger's concotions are suprisingly subdued on first listen. Not that they didn't hit immediately, just that I was more transfixed by the hynpotism than the power of Ben Jones and Hasan Gaylani's sound, but not too many listens later their drones came crashing down on my cranium like tidal waves that had froze in mid-air for a few tantalizing seconds before engulfing everything below. This was most true with the longer tracks, which tend to be the best: the 13-minute "At First Wovey" is an atmospheric prayer that slowly ascends to a grind; the 10-minute, perfectly-titled "Stare at Things" turns a Spacemen 3-styled organ drone into a laser-beam of eye-dilating light; and the album's epic, the 17-minute "Shadow Moose," uses frightening voices and harrowing bursts to scare up a continent's worth of aural ghosts. Most stunning about Winter's Shadow is the track-to-track tonal deviation - jump around this CD and it's like comparing species of animals, but bury yourself in any single drone and the unmistakable, foundation-moving center is like the lifeforce that links all beings.

When I'm drooling over any drone, there's often a voice in my head nagging "yeah, good, but how good?," and to that charlatan I offer the following: for me and probably any drone-licking sucker, the concept of "good or bad" is basically laughable. Give me a long solid tone with even an iota of dedication or patience to it and I'm not gonna sit around splitting hairs about the degree to which it floors me. Yet the concept of "better" still applies, and "better" drone, be it Phill Niblock's dense skyscrapers, Double Leopards' gravelly howls , or Tony Conrad's flammable sawing (which is the kind of air-ripping drone Jazzfinger mostly closely resembles, at least on the beautifully grating track linked below), attains immediate primal contact with some kind of universal ground-zero. It's like a divining rod reaching directly into a reactive center in your gut, a hot metal stake stirring a motlen liquid core. These kind of straight-shot belly-needles are immediately identifiable and need no time or context to cut through the skin - not only do they pierce instantly, at best they even fill the resulting hole, replacing your innards with heavy gravitational sound. Jazzfinger's best moments are exactly that - a medicinal noise prescribed to fill internal voids.

JAZZFINGER - "Fateful Brass Orb" from Winter's Shadow Between Two Worlds

Sunday, June 18, 2006


Got knocked sideways by a fever, so only a short ramble this week, about another fascinating missive from Finland: a Foxglove CD-R from the odd, wailing thicket called Akisa. Lots of mystery going on with Passover, recorded five years ago and apparently the sole release from this trio led by Jarmo Saarti (though he's listed here "Saarti," alongside "Juntunen" and "Kinnunen," all of whom are credited with "instrument(s)," the "s" being a scrawled addendum to the back cover's design-less Helvetica desert). Even more mysterious than the vague band details is the fact that this has some kind of Christian theme, with titles like "In the Beginning," "Jesus in the midst of the wolves," and "Mary wept" and a clunkily Photoshopped cover depicting a church supper in which a child stares psychotically at the camera like Linda Blair daring you to come closer. Hard to tell exactly what's religious about the band's lo-fi clatter, which is mostly high-quality, sax-led free-jazz spew, but Passover contains enough fanatic cacophony to fulfill its implicit promise of spiritual epiphany/insanity.

Actually, the dichotomy of lo-fi jazz and crazed noise is so sharp it gives Passover a weirdly schizophrenic quality. I've listened to this maybe 10-15 times, and sometimes I remember it as an above average free-jazz rec in a low-rent ESP mode (even hear a few Marzette Watts-like moments here and there), other times all that sticks are the 5-to-10 abandoning moments in which choking sax, sandpapery electronics (I think), and the distorted screams of a what sounds like a half-human/half-seal create an explosion of distressed speaker-destruction. I think "Jesus in the midst of wolves" (linked below) is the best example of this oddly beguiling yin/yang, starting as an echoey piece of minimal improv, adding a few saws and creaks, and eventually building to a ear-killing din that sounds like some kind of being not having the greatest of days.

This isn't to say that the more, uh, conventional jazz passages here aren't worthy of time too - subtract the little peaks of freak-out and Passover would still be an excellent chunk of basement-locked skronk - but Passover's insane bumps jut Akisa into its own strange, toxic realm...

ASIKA - "Jesus in the midst of the wolves" from Passover

Saturday, June 10, 2006


I've heard the name of Baltimore out-sound quartet Wzt Hearts (pronounced "Wet Hearts" - there's a story behind that that I can't remember) a good bit the past coupla years, and I feel like I've seen 'em a bunch, but can only access vague memories of an Ottobar gig w/Growing, Gang Gang Dance, and Animal Collective, and a Warehouse Next Door show w/More Dogs and Stamen & Pistils. Not that my social calendar matters; I only mention this to point out that despite digging what I heard, those sets didn't really stick, and I definitely don't remember these guys being as mind-stretchingly wide and sonically fertile as they are on their CD Heat Chief just released on Hit Dat (with vinyl to come on Hoss, the label also responsible for a great split 12" featuring an Excepter track from a revelatory DC show). I'm sure this live/record discrepancy is the product of my distracted brain and not the band's now-obvious powers, but either way the combo of expansive noise and thoughtful restraint on this debut imprinted my gray matter immediately.

Based on what Wzt Hearts play on stage - electronics, mixers, drums, a laptop, etc - I'm not shocked at the sound here, just didn't expect it to be this massive and versatile. Heat Chief is kinda split into two symmetric sides, with the sequentially-named "1" and "3" being 16-minute epics filled with sound-sources including tons of live drumming, and "2" and "4" being shorter, non-percussive studies that trace narrower sonic lines. Wzt Hearts are great at both of these modes, and while the longer cuts at first seem to drag periodically due to rock-ish drums and an airy, nearly planetarium-ready prog-ness, the beauty is that without those dips, the high-flying climaxes of multi-layered noise wouldn't feel nearly as epiphanistic. Best example comes about nine minutes into "3", as mounds of filtered noise, puncturing samples, and rattling hectic-ness stun simply because the overlapping drums that buttress it all began life a few minutes earlier as rote hypnotic thuds.

Thus posting an excerpt of either "1" or "3" won't do those monumental tracks justice, so let us turn to Wzt Hearts' smaller triumphs: "4," the closer, is the album's eeriest cut, a cacophony of dislocated echoes that gradually collects sonic ghosts only to shove them down a decaying black hole - but my vote goes to "2," a slow glide up a flickering staircase of cloud-piercing noise. The track's sky-seeking effect (and nice hard-cut demise) falls somewhere between the fuzzy melodics of Fennesz and the more medititative moments in the Mirkoknytes' catalogue, but those comparisons only work when "2" is heard on its own - if you dig it, I implore you to immediately forget it and get the whole album, because it sounds even better stuffed in between Wzt Hearts' more expansive, mountain-scaling work.

WZT HEARTS - "2" from Heat Chief

Saturday, June 03, 2006


The Finnish avant-whatever underground has been exploding for a while now, and I'll admit to blindly loving all of what I've heard so far, which would include Lau Nau, Kiila, Es, Islaja, Kemialliset Ystävät, Sala-Arhimo, and more. But nothing's hit me like the first thing I heard outta this smoldering region: Ruskeatimantti, Tumult's 2-disc collection of CD-R spew by the mysterious cabal known as Avarus. Now, all of the aforementioned outfits primarily rattle the skeletons of folk, psych/Kraut, or both, and Avarus isn't really an exception on Ruskeatimantti, which sounds mostly like a far-flung, savant-ish version of No-Neck circa their early Sound@One CDs. Still, something about the sandy textures and bubbling activity of Avarus's foggy jams gave me the skin-raised feeling that this is the one Finnish ensemble most likely to trip down the stairs into the noise basement.

Maybe they'd already done so (judging by the broadcast of their Terrastock set, they're continuing to, too), but my own first confirmation of said suspicion is Vesikansi, a four-song head-blast procured by Providence label Secret Eye. There are a few bits of Kraut-meditation and maybe even (if you look so close your eyes start to blur) melodic folk here, but mostly this is high-quality improv noise, spilling over with whining bleats, semi-electronic spew, scraping string-rape, percussive clang, and the growls of the kind of walruses that are pinned to both sides of the CD's cover art. This isn't all aggressive noise - in fact little of it is, and one track, "Löylyvesi," even sounds like a stoner jam, albeit one in which riffs and beats are replaced by a queasily undulating mix of sonic quicksand. But then the Dead C. were rarely "aggressive," and their noise - which Avarus evokes pretty often here - still stands as some of history's best. Vesikansi's not even all great, but even at its mellowest and/or weakest moments, Avarus admirably seeks answers through abstraction and confusion, never settling for a groove but instead trusting that incresasing chaos will be its own mesmerizing reward.

Well of course it will, and Avarus's swirling miasma proves that so forcefully that Vesikansi creates its own disappearing logic, the kind that collapses as soon as you identify it. This is truest on the final two tracks, both of which are called "Vissyvesi," both of which were recorded live with Philly hypno-hymnist Tara Burke (aka Fursaxa), and both of which stream from sky-scraping drones to looping din to drum-guitar climax and back, hitting the kind of multiple peaks that can only be acheived by patient willingness not to always be peaking.

They're also both too long to post, so here's "Lapsivesi," Vesikansi's most fist-forward track, which turns viola-sounding abrasion into meter-filling detonations of thundering noise, and proves that, in the right hands, "limited" recording capability is nothing but a weapon.

AVARUS - "Lapsivesi" from Vesikansi
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