Friday, February 24, 2017

STEMBREO “Yex Dit Jow” (Illuminated Paths)

Stembreo has somehow intentionally made a full-length version of The Beatles’ “Revolution 9,” which is the track on that album that I always skip because I’m never in the mood for it. I don’t fault the fans of “Revolution 9,” and I realize it’s fairly influential as a concept. So – I don’t know, I don’t care if you slag me for skipping it. Whatever. Stembreo doesn’t sample any music, just vocal sounds. One of the samples is the repetition of a male voice saying “Number six,” which makes me think of the “Number nine” sample, obviously.

Oh god, I don’t care. And hey, let’s pad this thing out, shall we? “The album is a track-by-track palindrome; after the 10th, and originally last track, I duplicated the ‘songs’ [that’s right, pop that term in quotes] in reverse order under different titles, just as pretentious as the idea to do so…”

That is the gist. Here is my “review”: “kdsjaofeoiosaefjafoeaisjeoihjfo’hagih’aoihb’naweofji’eijapojhjhv;adajiselfejia’jifh9jadjifoawieag4h’ajslkdj.f”

Palindrome that in less than five minutes, I dare you!

--Ringo’s hovering syllables

Thursday, February 23, 2017

“Large Hadron Collider”
C50 (Hylé Tapes)

It’s all about the Large Hadron Collider. That’s at CERN, son! The Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire! Or, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, if you’re confined to the English language. (Boring. Moving on.) You saw Particle Fever, right? They pretty much made a movie about the Large Hadron Collider so I don’t have to explain that to you. I don’t even have to link to Wikipedia or anything, you can just go watch it, it’s on Netflix. It’s a fantastic documentary. I promise immense levels of geeking out over science-y things.

It pretty much comes down to the fact that scientists smash the crap out of atoms in the LHC. There’s a twenty-seven-kilometer loop through which they accelerate particles, and then they smash them together and analyze the data. They’re pretty much recreating the Big Bang on a miniature scale and studying it to better understand our universe. I’m in awe of them – I mean, for how many of you is it your main ambition to get out of bed before noon? These guys not only do that, they destroy the building blocks of existence with the playfulness of a five-year-old Godzilla-smashing through a LEGO structure.

It’s almost irrelevant to talk about a cassette tape called Large Hadron Collider when all of that is happening underground in Switzerland, but here I am at my computer, serving you, the reader, like I always do. Jefferson Aircrash (cute) is the nom du jour of Italian artist Rodolfo Valenti, bka V/Plasm, and while listening to his tape, I get the feeling that he may have spent some time wandering the halls of CERN after hours, just kind of casing the place, getting the feel of it to inspire his music. Or maybe he just watched Particle Fever. (Seriously, Netflix.) At any rate, Valenti captures the vast, weird idea of subatomic particles crashing into each other and applies it to his clinical brand of dark techno. He’s like a scientist himself behind the boards, an expert in his chosen field, seemingly able to tease out the secrets of the past and reconstitute them into new and exciting forms. Who knows what this Jefferson Aircrash pseudonym will unveil next! Clearly the next evolutionary step, where the molecules of Orbital, Autechre, Underworld, and Aphex Twin are blasted at near-light speeds at each other. Maybe the LHC truthers were right – the result of this collision sounds like a black hole in the making, one that will swallow Earth and then make for the rest of the solar system!

Haha, who am I kidding. Truthers are hilarious.

--Ryan Masteller

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

“Transmissions from Boshqa”

Life always seems to find a way. To wit, just recently a baby dinosaur’s tail was discovered preserved in amber, suggesting that our dreams of a world where life can be reignited from mere DNA, just like in Jurassic Park, is a reality is just a centrifuge spin or two away. Dreams, life, the desires of a “Kumbaya” existence where arms are draped around shoulders in solidarity is a real goal. Live and let live. Gaze in awe and wonder at creation. Contribute to it. Reach out to your fellow humans, especially those in need. Push forward the agendas where sustaining life is objective. Just try, for goodness’ sake!

(Poor baby dinosaur, though! I love him. SO MUCH.)

Then there’s Ak’chamel, bloodthirsty god, formerly giver of illness. Death and destruction rises in its wake. Ak’chamel’s psych-folk Texas cult (sure, because it’s so much more than a band!) returns with another batch of defiled wreckage, way freakier than anything David Eugene Edwards could have conjured, and almost certainly recorded with a live baboon in the room, because what out-there desert cult doesn’t employ a baboon in some capacity? (You can’t hear any animal noises on the tape, unfortunately – it’s a very well-behaved baboon.) Each arcane hymn on Transmissions from Boshqa drips with the type of dread that only emanates from minor obscure deities, those hell-bent on complete destruction and subjugation as their chosen form of conquest. Think Angelo Badalamenti in the desert at points, kicking up dust, or Ennio Morricone strapped to a beat-up chair in a basement torture chamber and forced to make a constant stream of music to appease his captors. I really hope Ak’chamel the band hasn’t actually done this, otherwise it would look like I’m complicit or something. (Ennio, I’m coming for you!)

If life always seems to find a way, Ak’chamel always finds a way to snuff it out. There’s no hope, no “Kumbaya,” no release. It’s all tense manipulation, kind of like southern Baptist revivals, but less cloying. Still, I bet you get to handle snakes at Ak’chamel gatherings. I imagine that immunity to venom is a prerequisite for initiation. Maybe, if we’re all really good boys and girls and we get very, very lucky, we’ll even be able to handle dinosaurs someday. Who knows – Ak’chamel will probably spill most of our blood before we get a chance to find out.

--Ryan Masteller

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

LOS GREYS "Dead Ringer" (Night-People)

Shall I compare thee to a depressed R Stevie Moore? Thou art likely much more happy in actual life. Definitely a humorless R Stevie Moore, although the vocals are so heavily effected who even knows. Maybe it's subversively lyrical content, maybe it's erotic pop porn. A different breed than most Night-People releases, this cassette of scuzzy surf songs is totally palatable and exists snugly within the range of acceptable music. With trombone! Mastered by Ryan Power.

-- Alaina Stamatis

Monday, February 20, 2017

ANDERS BRØRBY “Mulholland Drive, 1984”
C50 (Hylé Tapes)

I mean of course the first thing you’re going to think of is David Lynch. His masterful mind-scrambler Mulholland Drive launched (probably) a thousand cinematically inclined nightmarish dark ambient records. Lynch himself dabbles in music, and it sounds as otherworldly as you would expect. If there’s one thing you can pin on a David Lynch film is that it’s going to be saturated in mood. Where does the story go, where does it take us? Doesn’t matter. Serve the mood.

Norwegian artist Anders Brørby is a student of the mood. He’s a slatherer of synths, a maestro of mise en scène, taking cues not only from Lynch but also from Argento, Wenders, and Pasolini. He crafts atmospheric homages to place, and you can’t help but be enveloped by them. In musical circles he’s clearly influenced by (*promo copy check*) Fennesz, Tim Hecker, and William Basinski, as his compositions crackle, hiss, and pulse with tactile sonics. He succeeds by removing you as a listener from your surroundings and creating an entire new, weird world in which to place you. It just so happens that the new world is actually one that has already existed, a repurposed moonlit night among the Hollywood Hills.

Mulholland Drive, 1984 is steeped in magic and mystery, as is likely obvious from the descriptive text you’ve already written. But it’s impossible for me to do it justice – the amount of words I would have to type to remotely connect to the album’s dense aura would fill a novel, and if I were writing novels, I wouldn’t be slaving over music. But hey, I like slaving over music, so we’re all in the same boat – it’s not a yacht or anything, but it’ll do. People like Anders Brørby make the review game worthwhile. And back to his tape, unpacking each track is an overwhelmingly enjoyable task, one that’s as satisfactory at minute one as it is at minute fifty.

Is Mulholland Drive, 1984 an homage, then, to Lynch’s film? Not directly, but certainly in spirit. It could easily serve as an alternate soundtrack to the surreal creepings that the film is famous for. And it doesn’t stay in one place, either, as horns are introduced in “A Sudden Sense of Loss” and otherworldly waveforms flit through “Deconstruction of Mirages.” Like Lynch, Brørby manages to surprise, injecting the unexpected into his work as it progresses. It’s the mark of an artist in complete control of his medium.

--Ryan Masteller

Sunday, February 19, 2017

DRUNKEN SUFIS “Pala Pala” (Bad Friend Records)

I get it. It’s a joke! Drunken Sufis, that is, the band’s name. I needed to double check the definition of “Sufi,” and the fabulous Google search engine (which you guys should all be using for all your web-related needs) returned “a Muslim ascetic and mystic,” which, if you know anything about anything, is an oxymoronic concept when paired with the idea of being drunk. Sufis don’t get drunk. Or drink, for that matter. It’s a chuckle, for sure, and when it’s at the expense of everybody who doesn’t get it, it’s even better. I get it, because, hey, I looked it up.

In Finnish, “pala pala” means “a piece of a piece of,” and that’s the exact sort of linguistic calisthenics a band such as Drunken Sufis should be practicing. (“Pala” means other things in other languages too, mainly “shovel” or “spade,” but I like the openendedness that the Finns have ascribed to the term, so I’m going with that.) It implies a nimbleness, a worldview in which the answers are much less interesting than the questions, and as musicians, Drunken Sufis are all about exploration: of their sound, of their skill, of their own minds. The five-piece begins in rock territory, make that “math rock” territory for those of you who need a little extra prodding and think “rock” is too elusive or boring a term, and expand their repertoire from there, fiddling with funky time signatures à la the old Southern Records roster, the fun ones like Dianogah, 90 Day Men, or Geoff Farina. From there they mix their lithe compositions with electronics, resulting in a Tortoise/Tangents mash-up that, for cynical old ears like mine, positively beams with joyous refreshment. Take opener “Datura Love Diet,” for example, which manages to cram in everything Drunken Sufis do best into four too-short minutes: nerd guitar/drums for a bit, fakeout record skip in the middle, tie in fakeout record skip to lurching new pattern, devolve into electronic ambient texture, close with face-blistering reintroduction of original theme, this time less nerdy. It reminds me why I was an indie rock kid for so many years in the first place.

And that’s just the first track. There are also warm delights like “Echo Lake” and “Saturnalia,” freeform passages like “Neon Kills Everything,” and bursts of,  yeah, Drive Like Jehu-esque atonal guitar crunch like “Pronoia.” In fact, let’s bring Drive Like Jehu back into the conversation – let’s pretend that those San Diego shred monkeys decided to incorporate Radiohead-like experimentation into their music, and you’ve got another comparison to hang Drunken Sufis to. How many is that now? Who knows. It’s just pretty clear that the DNA embedded in the Sufis’ music is as important as the way the band twists it and evolves because of it. And yeah, this is one of the most satisfying and enjoyable tapes I’ve heard this year. I didn’t do a year-end list for 2016, and I’ll be damned if I do one for 2017, but Pala Pala would be on it. And it’s only January (when you’ll read this…)! That’s no joke. At all. (Heh, “Drunken Sufis,” heh heh.)

--Ryan Masteller