Sunday, July 29, 2007


Got a nice three-CD-R-pack from the Mouthus-run Our Mouth label a while back and have been stupidly ignoring it, but finally cracked them all open (digitally speaking) this week and none disappoint. There's Big Whiskey's Semi-Brown Music, a nice pair of muffled, rattling psych/noise excursions; Lexie Mountain's Blood Shed in the Course of Things, two really excellent 18-minute collages of fractured speech, vocal garbling, and cramped noise falling in the same geo-musical region as some of Carly Ptak's solo stuff; and, the most mouth-watering of the three, a self-titled EP by Spirit of the Positive Wind, the quartet of Mouthus-men Brian Sullivan and Nate Nelson, Karl Bauer (aka Axolotl), and Magik Marker/GHQ'er Pete Nolan.

Now I'm not gonna pretend that the two tracks here are some magic amalgam of these four's best moments - it would be both ridiculous to claim and unfair to expect - but I can say that I'm not totally willing to rule out the possibility quite yet. Cause both pieces have really snuck up on me this weekend - when I checked em out early in the week, they sounded rather unremarkably good, like something you'd really dig if you saw these four jamming on it in a practice space, but that you'd not really think much about afterwards - an elusive, moment-in-time sort of thing. But today I'm surprised to hear stuff I didn't hear before; both pieces actually sound quite different from what I remembered just a few days ago, especially the 16-minute second track "West Wind," which earlier felt like a collective, passive loop sort of along the lines of Mick Jagger's Moog soundtrack to Anger's Invocation of My Demon Brother, but now suddenly feels a lot more active. It even feels like a more subdued, beat-driven version of something from Double Leopards' great, under-appreciated Circa 1999-2001. I'm not saying it's ever gonna be some kinda epic that I return to annually, but there's a lot more happening in it than I first gave it credit for, which for me always means something...

That track's a little too long to post, but luckily the first cut, "East Wind," is almost as good. This is more like what you'd expect from the participants - lots of winding, whistling guitar noise accompanied by little semi-patters of blipping noise and chiming loops. The trebly, gravelly edge of the guitar stuff for some reason paints an image in the back of my brain of a drum-less Blue Humans, or a more stoned version of the great static noise on the Bill Orcutt solo album. Those are both strained comparisons tho - more feelings than actually literal resemblences - and anyway what's more important/cool is that the track doesn't immediately sound like Mouthus, Axolotl, or Magik Markers. It simply sounds like four fertile-minded noise-improvisers making sure not to waste the time they got to spend together, which more than justifies Our Mouth's documentation of said experience (and, hopefully, promotion of repeat occurrences...)

SPIRIT OF THE POSITIVE WIND - "East Wind" from Spirit of the Positive Wind

Monday, July 23, 2007


Huge apologies for last week's unexplained absence; won't happen again. Been wrapping my head lately around this new album–the first I've heard–by Italian multi-instrumental improviser Valerio Cosi, on the always intriguing Ruby Red label. It's called, kinda blandly, Freedom Meditation Music Vol. III, and it seems to be rooted in pretty open, spacious free jazz. In fact, on a couple tracks that's all it is, but a bunch of others are these weird amalgams of jazz and noise, and sometimes it's not even amalgams, just straight hard cuts from a snappy bit of horn/drum swing to a blinding storm of intense howl. The best stuff is a little smoother than that, melting bits of semi-modality into flattened stretches of drone. But even those spots have this weird kind of incongruity, an odd sense that these things just shouldn't be put together, that I really dig. Maybe it's not so much shouldn't as usually aren't, which is kinda refreshing - even my fave recs of late don't offer anything so intriguingly off...

I think this partially comes from the fact that Cosi made this rec by cutting and pasting together different recordings, so naturally there's gonna be some noticeable juxtapositions and strange turns of sonic phrase. But lots of people do that, so who knows...Maybe it's just not that weird–it is, after all, just jazz mixed with noise–and instead I could just be losing my mind. But after having witnessed about 1000 free jazz shows and probably as many noise ones, I can't say I remember seeing/hearing/caring about anything that sounded quite like this. I've certainly never heard anyone called jazz get noisy in quite this way–even my favorite all-out free jazz terrors keep their noise in the context of acoustic improv, rather than electric bombast (please give me some counterexamples, cause–besides Hat City Intuitive, who do things in a way similar to Cosi but don't sound a bit like him–I can't think of any, and I think that's gotta be more due to my mushy mind than any reality going on here...)

Anyway, while I retreat to my rubber room, I'm gonna leave ya with two examples of Cosi's brilliance, since I owe ya from last week. These are two of the most extreme cases of his jazz/noise yin/yang (the opening track, "Little Hymns to the African Story: i) Chumbani Mule," is more of a true seamless hybrid), with "I Wanna Be Black" (not a Lou Reed cover) offering bouncy jazz interrupted by a car crash, and the even more absurd "You Can't Pretend to Be Someone" chopping Lounge Lizard Heaven into electronic Hades and then some kind of sample-skipping Limbo. Enjoy, and I'll be back with my full brain next week...

VALERIO COSI - "I Wanna Be Black" & "You Can't Pretend to Be Someone" from Freedom Meditation Music Vol. III

Monday, July 09, 2007


From our how-the-fuck-did-we-miss-this files: the fine folks at Intransitive have bequeathed us a couple of CDs this week that we're embarrassed not to have already found on our own, as they've been out almost six months now, and certainly weren't hiding. One is a stellar collab from label head Howard Stelzer and NZ destructo-unit Seht, and the other is a really mind-boggling collection of noise/drone/waves/ear-massages/ear-rapes from sound-god Brendan Murray. I call him that strictly on the basis of Wonders Never Cease, cause it's really a pretty much perfect slab of audio manipulation - at least if, like me, you like hard-edged noise but are also a sucker for droning ambience, electronic drift, waves of organ-like waft, and anything else that touches the same kind of lobe-buttons as the power harmonics of Rhys Chatham or Tony Conrad, the hypnotic soothe of the Kranky roster, the melodic noise of Fennesz or Tim Hecker, all wrapped in a noise edge that keeps it from floating into the clouds or fading off into the horizon.

Now that all my overused adjectives and references are out of the way, how about some facts: Murray is a Boston-based drone generator who's been spewing out well-considered noise since about 1998, and releasing it since 2001. Wonders Never Cease is about his 9th or so record, and it was made out of live stuff he recorded at shows in New York and New England. Generally I think the re-working of live material is a much better idea than the putting it out flatly as-is, and this record will from now one be my exhibit #1. Murray keeps enough of the live ambience and impulsiveness in to give his pieces a kinda 3-D reality without the dryness of over-thought, yet does enough reworking and manipulating to make real compositions out of what might have otherwise been uneven peak/valley exercises. Not that I don't love valleys, but Wonders Never Cease manages to make everything peak and still let it all breathe and develop and actually exist, which is why it's blown me away each of the 15 or so times I've listened to it in the past 2 days.

Clearly my brain has lost its ability to do anything but drool in front of this great record, so I implore you to rid yourself of my ramblings and check out "Hymn Two" (linked below), a nice little stretch of chunky, teeth-breaking noise that slowly melts into a windy blast of cold sonic air...then audit some other excerpts on his myspace page...and then order all of Brendan's stuff immediately...

BRENDAN MURRAY - "Hymn Two" from Wonders Never Cease

Monday, July 02, 2007


I'm not super familiar with the work and history of L.A. trio (VxPxC) - there's certainly a lot of info out there, particularly a great Dusted overview and the band's own detail-rich site - so instead of digesting all that and regurgitating it here, I can just tell you that I really dug their one-track, 52-minute live contribution to Digitalis's Bottled Smoke series (there's a new one on Digitalis too that looks like a must-have), and I even more dig (nice grammar) their new six-song CD-r Lizard in the Spring, on my pal Eric's promising new Upstate NY label Tape Drift.

On my first coupla listens this rec sounded kind of sun-baked and beatific, despite the hazy production that immediately gives everything a kind of eerie, dark-cave feel...but lately I've started to realize that (VxPxC) are a lot more sinister than I initially gave em credit for. Maybe insidious is a better descriptor - these songs tend to creep up on you. They're patient and even relaxed on the surface, but burning and grinding down below, with an impressively pointed aggression that really digs into your cranium like a bug laying eggs in your ear while you sleep. Even a track like "Sidewalk Melter," with its seemingly laconic vibraphone clinking, has a cutting undertow that eventually turns into a truly haunting dissonance, much the same way that the hymnal organ drone on "In Day's Light" morphs into a buzzing saw, and the nearly song-like strumming on "Praying for the Regurgitation" slowly collapses into a woozy, nightmarish warp.

Of course, there's other stuff on Lizard in the Spring that's just flat-out menacing, my favorite being the horror-show lurch "Summergirls" (linked below), whose murky hypnosis I can't quite put my finger on. There's parts that are pretty and parts that feel random and almost inhuman, but from about half way through all the way to the end (VxPxC) constructs a vertigo-inducing stretch of aural imbalance and disorientation that must be what nausea would sound like if it felt good. The title slays me too - something about this dense, dark, dripping bit of heavy atmosphere seems paradoxically summer-ish, like waves of humidity rising from the blacktop and camping out between your ears.

(VxPxC) - "Summergirls" from Lizard in the Spring
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