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

Monday, August 22, 2016

ONLY SWALLOW “S.F.” (Illuminated Paths)

I pressed play on Only Swallows new tape S.F. on Florida’s Illuminated Paths, and I immediately wished that M83 was still making good music circa Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts. (Seriously, have you heard Junk? It’s … junk.) It’s probably a bit disingenuous to slap a “shoegaze” tag on Only Swallow, as was done to turn-of-the-century M83, but they’ve certainly got the cinematic synthesizer vibe down that made me love the French rascals so much in their earliest incarnation. Only Swallow steps back from that template, though, and eschews any sort of bombast, or even beat much of the time, preferring instead to allow the synthesizers to stretch languidly over futuristic city landscapes in the rain – think Blade Runner, and of course Vangelis and Tangerine Dream and their ilk, and you’re there.

It’s probably not fair to continue to saddle Only Swallow with comparisons because S.F. is such a great tape on its own merits. The synths sure do glisten, and they’re poured on thick in places for maximum envelopment. They drift, they dance, they score the moments we fall in love. There’s so much movement in so many different ways, it’s surprising to hear it all come together so effortlessly. “Night We Met” is a good case in point: its starts quietly and somewhat chorally, even, with vocal patches the highlight, before it gradually increases its pace like the heart rates of two new lovers. It’s a great metaphor for the whole album, as Only Swallow clearly has the melodrama of human life on the mind (see, particularly, “Life” to prove my point). But the melodrama here is still mostly interior, as opposed to (here we go again) the in-your-faceness of Anthony Gonzalez’s output. I guess it’s easy to make the comparison, as much as I don’t want to do it, because Only Swallow springs from a similar place. I only hope this project sticks closer to its excellent roots as it progresses into the future. So far, so good.

--Ryan Masteller

Sunday, August 21, 2016

"Stimulus Regression" C30
(FM Dust)

Mixing e-bow’d guitar swells with expertly manipulated feedback looping and atonal, textural pedal-tweakery, PDX’s Dustin Krcatovich (both Skin Lies composer and label head of FM Dust) lays down a series of serenely serious soundscapes that command more attention than just leaving the mind to wander its own path. Whether soothing or sense-heightening, the movements pulse and shift with a sense of urgency I haven’t heard much from in these by and large more meditative genres. Way to keep us on our toes! &The cover art is pretty great to gawk at, too!

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

Saturday, August 20, 2016

480BILLION "Songiedas" C60
(Raketenbasis Haberlandstrasse)

I’ve been told that the hallmark of an intelligent mind is to try and understand the things you hate, to objectively dissect one’s dis-affinities in hopes to attain greater consciousness. Goddamn do I hate techno.

This tape, though…it’s not techno. At least I don’t think it is. Maybe there’s some serious cognitive dissonance going on because I like 90% of this tape, and there is more than 10% metronomic ntse-ntse-ntse-ing going on.

The narrative going on in my head, while listening to this, has been that of a glow-stick-swinging party kid racing to-and-from dozens upon dozens of rooms, both physical spaces where ravermusic is blaring, but also mental states, too, perhaps coming down from one substance while beginning the ascent of another, perhaps entering the early stages of schizophrenia…it’s, liek, complicated or something. It’s engaging. It’s a weird, wild, neck-jerk, then the perfect hot tub in a pine forest. It’s…pretty great, I have to admit. If you’re into sound-collage, harsh noise, and (gulp) beat-heavy electronic music’s, strap on some headphones and carve an hour out of your day to witness this. A cursory sampling won’t do you any good.

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

Friday, August 19, 2016

"Desalniettemin / 1993 / Zeesneeuw" C19

I don’t want to ruin any surprises for you, so I’ll just say that this all-too-short-but-oh-so-sweet, solo, sonic exploration by the lone Netherlander, MW, is both starkly minimal and captivatingly multi-faceted across, all three tracks, each as its own world, tellingly dependent upon the others, in its own time. A short story unfolds and is recapped with the proficiency of all Siblings Grimm…

Side A:
Track 1: a shivering static drone is set against prominent E-bow’d guitar meanderings, WITH-and-VERSUS expertly executed pedal augmentations. A plea is made…

Track 2: a fitful feedback-nightmare…then, a lone, warp/delay’d piano plods tremulously along, stating its existential, motherly quandaries, until the previous track’s cocksure heroine comes in to assure us, “hey, we all die alone. Let’s flip the record over, alright?” The key’d answer is sincere, yet not fully thought through…

Side B:
Track 3: Subtle, heavily delay’d/loop’d guitar moods are superceded by anxious, atonal synthesizer vocalizations, letting the listener know that shit, just, did, not, go, right. This “Is-the-Queen-dead-what-would-we-ever-do-without-the-Queen?!!!” theme is expertly explored and executed within an eight and a half minute timeframe, until the finale is clinically forced in, like jam on the mouse’s nose*.

Across one third-of-an-hour, this release encapsulates the day of an unexpected panic attack and its resolve in a minimalistic, reflective way* I’ve yet to hear. I hope you can find great growth in its assurances, as well.

Please listen both with-headphones and without-schedule. <3

(* yeah, I’m well aware how no two panic attacks feel the same; I can only speak from experience)

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

Thursday, August 18, 2016

(Everswallower Productions)

[I had an opener paragraph here, but I deleted it for reasons. So because I dove into this release knowing nothing about it, I fling you, the casual observer, into the review without a frame of reference. Happy reading!]

Yeah, I like the dark. It works for me sometimes, and the accompanying sounds of artists who also like the dark can be appropriately soothing at the right moment. I like Earth Mesmerism – there’s a great vibe about the project, nothing too in your face or over the top. It’s like a meeting of Xiu Xiu and Badalamenti, if that hadn’t actually already happened in full-length album form. The three tracks on the EM side run about sixteen minutes, and they’re an absolute pleasure to immerse yourself in.

Then holy crapping what the crap I wasn’t ready for Sacramence. I mean, when are you really ever ready for Sacramence? Or am I thinking of sacraments? Either way, Sacramence’s side opens the blast furnace doors wide open with the unbearable noise of hellish heat. That’s all I can say, really. It’s wonderful in its burn-to-cleanse style, and sets the tone marvelously for the rest of the split. Sacramence flits between noise and crust/black metal, all of it punishing, all of it intensely satisfying. It’s like the unholy meeting of Wreck and Reference and Bosse-De-Nage. Come to think of it, why hasn’t Sacramence released music on The Flenser? You’re due!

The two sides couldn’t be more different, and sometimes that’s the best way to do a split. You get lulled into one way of thinking by the A-side artist, then you get completely flipped off your hammock by the artist on the B-side. Take my word for it folks – this is amazingly relistenable. Play it over and over and uncover the new and even more exciting nuances you’ll capture on repeat. Turns out I’m having a really great day doing just that!

--Ryan Masteller

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

"Split EP" C23
(Palm Tapes)

At the beginning of my sophomore year of highschool, I was given my first ever mixtape. Mazzy Star, Belly, Pavement, Tori Amos, Liz Fucking Phair. Tons of amazing early ‘90s “Alternative” bands, mostly female fronted, with rich layered vocal melodies, dreamy guitar arpeggios and upbeat, simple rhythm sections. Both Stef Chura and Anna Burch would have fit perfectly on that tape, but I’m so glad to hear them here, now, in the mid 2010’s. If emo can make a come back, thank god for more alternative! If only the tape weren’t so damn short…

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

"What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Exotic" C34
(Meliphonic Records)

Sheep Bella Tine are an instrumental duet that sound like a jammier Torche crossed with a less explorative Sun City Girls. A slew of percussive accents get explored while the guitar player focuses on flat-picking out a simple, slightly Persian-themed riff or two that get played into the ground. All in all, there’s good energy and chemistry here, and I’m betting the right singer/bass player could make this truly great, but…easier said than done, right?

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

Monday, August 15, 2016

"Party Music" C53 (Hairy Spider Legs)

“Party Music” is a 2xCS, 4-way split put out by Chicago’s fine purveyors of experimental/strangeshit, Hairy Spider Legs. A look at their back catalogue shows other notables Spires That In the Sunset Rise and Wei Zhongle, so you know this release’ll also be both good & weird!

Silver Tape:

Kicking off the first tape is Bad Psychic, a present day distillation of everything that was great about the Eurythmics’s darker side. Deep, commanding, séance-like, Liv Mershon’s contralto (?) vocals provide a slow-motion noding above the contrastinged, driving bass-lines and borderline industrial beats below…and when she jumps an octave (or two!) and layers those vocals, the effect is chilling.

Side B Starts off with Diva 93 leading us through an ancient ceremony as a coven’s worth of layered vocals and acoustic drumming circles the fire. Once the witchy introduction finishes, we’re whisked back to a present day’s smokey dance floor, with busy, brooding darkwave synth layers looped and busier, echo’d vocals a-crooning, exploring the infinite space created.

Gold Tape:

Side C, for Century, as in Sara Century, a Tokyo based left-field, lo-fo singer-songwriter whose general shtick is to above a steel-string acoustic and energetically howl into nearby recording mechanisms. On this release, however, perhaps to keep with the minimal-electro theme, she’s forewent the usual and picked up an electric bass and some bongos to slap around. Directly from the case reads “Sara Century did everything herself and recorded vocals on a zoom in a car”, which raises the question: Did she record this whilst moving? Passenger or (gulp) driver? At any rate, she’ll maybe sprout an offshoot of “bedroom pop” with “motorvehicle pop”.

Closing out this four-way split is Sophie Weil as Syko Friend, leading with a pup-centric sound sculpture…perhaps an ode to the joys of walking one’s best friend, off leash? The second and only other track, clocking in at eight and a half minutes, drives home a surfacing secret being rehearsed or maybe an affirmation being brought to light and sharpened, the blurry vocals trading focal point with a heavily delayed, wandering electric guitar line, delivering an feeling of unraveling.

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

Sunday, August 14, 2016

"The Madrean" C57
(Harmacy Records)

Whale Fall, from Los Angeles, carve out their niche amongst today’s instrumentalist/post-rock legions with the addition of a slight Balkan folk bent, tastefully employing sustained cornet and melodica throughout an hour’s worth of moodily rocking pieces. The end result is a consistently driving soundtrack for all the go-getters who like their dose of pretty in high-octane form. An excellent late night road-trip soundtrack, for sure.

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

Saturday, August 13, 2016

"Art Amiss 15" C90
(Art Amiss Non-Profit)

About 20 years ago, I was bargain hunting in a capital-M shopping mall’s CD store. Sam Goody, maybe? I’d found Metal Blade’s Blackened 2xCD, which would introduce me to Black Metal, a genre I’d never dreamed of, as well as No Idea Records’ “Back to Donut”, of which I still, two decades later, pay a random visit.

“Art Amiss” is a non-profit that puts out compilations of aspiring Arkansan alternative/indie/hardcore bands and uses the proceeds to promote a few lucky ones.

This particular comp sounds a hell of a lot like that aforementioned No Idea comp, but replacing the proto-emo bands with slightly less whiney, slightly more surfy indierawk ones. Not a single song is unlistenable…which…for a community-minded service to put out over an hour and a half of public works…and not a damn one be outright cringe-worthy…that’s a damned feat. Hats off to you, Art Amiss! I tried to access your site, but failed. I hope you’re still doing okay!

Personal favorites were:
Neon Glittery’s psychy minimal baroque pop
Monsterheart’s noisy electro-pop
Auric, who sound like they’re trying to bridge the gap between Cave In’s earlier multidisciplinary metalcore clusterfuckery and Torche’s better mimimalism.

Have yourself a listen via the link below. Good for non-dance parties?

-- Jacob An Kittenplan