Saturday, August 27, 2016

"Split" C42 (Orb Tapes)

On Side A, Primal Law offer up two dark-ambient narratives so ripe for interpretation, it’s hard not to feel uneasy, simply thinking about them. Bass heavy, the 20+ minutes fly by in a haze of wounded feedback sculpture, soundbite distortions, gusts of visiting looped mid-high treble textures, and sparse industrial percussion that functions solely as movement instead of beats. I can’t help feeling like the lone survivor that didn’t drink quite enough purple kool-aid, waking up two days later in a locked down bunker as the fire department breaks down the reinforced steel entrance…but that’s just one of many possible takes.

Kyklops’ Side B isn’t any cheerier, the song title, like the soundscaping, rife with macabre subtext, “We Found the Remains Behind His Shed”. Note: Not “his” remains. Not “the” shed. Note: “We Found…” and not “They”.

This lone 20+ track is reminiscent of Tecumseh’s low-end-rich drone-distortion worship, but with more accents of feedback and tremolo’d treble phasing’s to fill out the high end, leaving a hollow middle ground for your mind to color in, were you so inclined.

This tape isn’t for everyone, but if you’re in the mood for a psychological thriller, and you’re tired of looking at video footage, this is your soundtrack. Oh, & Crank Up the volume or you’ll miss out on a ton of subtleties buried below the reasonable decibel level.


-- Jacob An Kittenplan

Friday, August 26, 2016

“selamat dating dunia di dalam pikiran” C45
(Pretty All Right Records)

Well, DUH, this came out of Chicago. Or at least via Chicago, because OKTAF O is from Indonesia (if the Indonesian titles didn’t give it away). But to be surprised that Chicago has anything to do with this is to understand your limitations as a music listener. You can either educate yourself on the rich, deep history of Chicago math rock, or you can go throw your brain in a Great Lake for all the good it’s doing you. I wonder if it will float, and if so, how long do you think it’ll take before it gets waterlogged? My money’s on immediate sinkage – if you tie rock to it.

All this brain-sinking talk is sidetracking us from the main issue, and that’s somebody over ol’ Indonesia way has got their hands on some pretty good experimental records, mainly from the Thrill Jockey back catalog. And that’s really, really great news, because nobody – nobody – does anything quite like Thrill Jockey, and if you mention them in a sentence (or a review), you pretty much can’t be screwing around. I’m not screwing around. I absolutely think that OKTAF O digs themselves some of that Thrill Jockey music. But they aren’t content to wallow in a stylistic slough – if they’ve learned anything from the Chicago label it’s that you’ve got to branch out and do your own thing, blaze your own path, carve your own niche, etc., and on into other clichés. I honestly don’t have the first clue what the cutting edge of experimental music coming out of Indonesia sounds like, but I’d like to venture a guess that it sounds a lot like OKTAF O and that OKTAF O is wickedly popular throughout the archipelago.

And OKTAF O gets butts wigglin’, that’s for sure. Selamat… is a full-on rhythmic onslaught, with bass and drums parrying the tracks back and forth at each other like Rod Laver or Boris Becker or Pete Sampras, no one losing control or failing to expertly place a single note or beat. Synthesizers melt down upon themselves above this fray, adding texture and sometimes melody, the icing on the math rock brain-lake tennis cake from Indonesia for which I can’t help but mix metaphors incessantly, mainly because the tape is all over the place in the best possible way. Want me to get real with you? OK. Imagine I Am Spoonbender and Tortoise forming a supergroup. There, I said it. “Tortoise” and “supergroup” in the same review. I hope you’re happy. (I’m not sure how many of you are actually going to get the I Am Spoonbender reference, though.)

Seriously though, edition of 40. That’s not a lot, and until someone picks this up for wider distribution (ahem, Thrill Jockey, ahem), you’re going to have to fight over the scraps of whatever number of cassettes are left. Don’t worry, I have one. But it’s not for sale.

--Ryan Masteller

Thursday, August 25, 2016

"World Witness" C36
(Immigrant Breast Nest)

DJ’s “WW” asks the NYPD, “WWJD?”

Onomatopoetics aside, this tape is a progressive New Yorker’s plea to raise awareness for police accountability in light of the department’s increasing stranglehold on the social construct of “Justice”. Decrepit Jaw (ab)uses and corrupts field recordings, soundbites, and modular synthesizers in an attempt to convey what it feels like to survive state-sanctioned trauma…and still muster the gumption to communicate. It is both stomach-churningly depressing and evocative of hope…that, as human beings, maybe we can come together and constructively address the problems inherent in allotting a population with unchecked powers over others.

“All proceeds from this album will be donated to the National Police Accountability Project.”


-- Jacob An Kittenplan

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

"The Book of Strange Positions"
(Northern Spy Records)

String Noise is a pair of married humans deftly shredding away on their violins, but this ain’t no study music, hoo-dawgy! At times atonally Avante-Garde, while others sounding perfectly in place as a backing band taking a solo-jam for the Violent Femmes (see the handful of homage’s throughout the album), this duo is a great reminder that you don’t need a ton of band members or effects pedals to explore every nook & cranny of a soundwave.

My personal favorite is the phasing of VF’s “Blister In the Sun” opening melody (Here titled “Violent Phase” – track 5) until it warps into a sparkling sea and sum of all its parts. Check it out via the bandcamp link below.


-- Jacob An Kittenplan

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

“Selections from the Psychic’s Museum"
C52 (Fall Break Records)

Holy crap, this is a lot of material from a band that I’ve only just heard about in the past year. You can’t fault me for that – I don’t go looking for many jangle pop/indie rock tapes, but now that Fall Break Records is on the scene, I may have to adjust my search parameters. (Who am I kidding, I’m a music writer – I don’t have to lift a finger [well, except to type], and I get my records for free!) Chattanooga’s Mythical Motors has been around for a long time in band years, since 2006, and they’ve released a butt ton of material in the interim. That’s actually not surprising when you’re as indebted to Guided By Voices and The Apples in Stereo and bands like that – you’re practically born with pop songwriting in your DNA. You wake up, brush your teeth, and knock out about fifty tunes before breakfast. It’s just what you do.

It’s what Matt Addison does, and he and his band of merry guitar slingers have perfected their power pop formula in basements and bedrooms and home studios and whatever else like machines on an assembly line. Write hook, record, move on. Remember I.R.S. Records? Flying Nun? Yeah, they’re represented here too, and Mythical Motors would have slid right in to the each label’s roster if they were twenty years older. But right now, it seems that Tennessee – the whole state mind you, not just Chattanooga – is the new hotbed for this type of tunage. It’s the new Athens, Georgia, which is weird because Fall Break Records is based out of Athens, and they probably have something to say about that. Maybe we can get their label staff to Wrestlemania-style grudge match against Mythical Motors and bands like Commander Keen and others. I honestly don’t know who’d win (mainly because I don’t know how big the FBR staff is).

Doesn’t matter, though, because you still have to get your hands on this sweet tape. Did I mention there are twenty-two songs on it? I didn’t? Well there are, and that’s a lot, and they restlessly refuse to stay at one point on the rock-and-roll map. Addison and co. keep it fresh, which might be surprising after so much time, but here they are. Selections plays like an album instead of a compilation, and you can’t ask for anything more from your music curators. Have you ordered the tape yet? Why not? I’ve given you over four hundred words worth of time. You don’t have to read this to the end. It’s not like I’m monitoring your internet usage.

--Ryan Masteller