Sunday, July 31, 2005

Third Troll 3 (Capillary River)

One category of you guys will only need to know one thing about this limited CD-R, it’s a Bardo Pond side-project. The rest might want to know that just like with Bardo Pond we get Isobel Sollenberger’s flute, viola and voice and the Gibbons brothers’ guitars, but we also get an impressive river of electronics, short-wave fuzz, farfisa, saxophone and drums from Aaron Igler and Kevin Moist. The latter is known as editor of the amazing Deep Water ’zine and as part of Clear Spot, a band covered in these pages before. This disc isn’t always on par with Bardo Pond but there are moments that simply are fantastic, such as the swelling fuzz crescendo of the opening ”Tropic of Entropy” which seems to aim for the sky and when its 22 minutes has passed you’re just about there. Third Troll is not always this manically intense but it doesn’t matter if they decide to play free-form drone jams, seductive and soothing space expeditions, fragmentized psych/folk, free jazz or ambient noise as all of it is so nice. 3 is yet another reminder why I dig these folks so much.


Thursday, July 28, 2005

Mike Tamburo
Beating of the Rewound Son (Music Fellowship)

Edinboro, Pennsylvania-based Arco Flute Foundation was one of those rare groups of musicians that have a sound that is constantly evolving, which goes from slow motion drone marathons and abstract folk structures to guitar explosions, from the acoustic to the electronic. Given the wide range of influences and sonic styles covered it’s not exactly difficult to see why these guys aren’t exactly everybody’s cup of tea, but it is still a minor crime that they’re so unknown. Arco Flute Foundation is no longer, but some of the involved personnel continue in other constellations and solo. Mike Tamburo has chosen the latter working method but his solo debut still shares some ground with AFF in the sense that it walks across a wide plane of musical styles and moods. What Tamburo does solo is considerably more stripped down and folky with the acoustic guitar in the central position all the way through, but things are beautifully ornated with everything from organ, keyboard, electronics, Tibetan bowl, found sounds, accordion, effects, piano, mandolin to electric piano. Beating of the Rewound Son is a subdued album with impressive attention for details that walks the tightrope between Six Organs of Admittance’s graceful psych/folk, Jack Rose/John Fahey-styled acoustic primitivism and guitar minimalism. Nice.


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Thuja Pine Cone Temples (Strange Attractors)

A few days ago I had a friend over who I introduced to pretty much everything Jewelled Antler-related. I’ve enjoyed their music for so long now that I almost had forgot the impact these guys can have when hearing them for the first time. Of all the combos that in one way or the other relate to the JA collective I have to say that Thuja is the one that always has been closest to my heart. There’s something about their organic sound sculptures, cortex-tickling drones, crackles and hums, nature-clad field recordings and minimalist folk songs that just go beyond words. I'm sure some people will find their propulsively churning amalgam of noise, folk, experimentalism and drone to be somewhat hard to take, or even aimless, but for me it can be the perfect place to get lost in, healing for the soul even. Thuja’s new double disc Pine Cone Temples is no exception, although it strikes me as quite different from most of their previous outings. First of all we get significantly longer pieces that tend to explore an even wider field than what usually has been the case, which I guess makes sense given that the music was assembled from recordings that span from 1999 to 2004. Somber piano playing, bowed strings, meditative guitars, looped found sounds and all sorts of impressive percussion seems to be the main musical components present but not only is it hard to tell what is what here, it’s also quite irrelevant. What matters is that Pine Cone Temples is another challenging listen, as we've come to expect from all involved, where the fruits are plentiful. This better make some year-end top ten lists.


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Pelt (Untitled) (VHF)

Every now and then you come across a band that you instantly know will change the way you look upon music. The first time I heard Virginia trio (on this release they’re actually a quartet) Pelt back in the late ’90s was such a moment. Pelt’s output from the last ten years or so has left some of the most distinctively out there aural vapor trails it’s been my pleasure to hear and every new disc that wears their name seems to shine a light on yet another side of their always changing, challenging and expanding musical repertoire. When Pelt fans sooner or later will look back on an amazing career I am pretty sure that (Untitled) will be considered one of the classic albums.

(Untitled) is an album that in terms of feel takes us back to the slowly unfolded, meandering overtones of Empty Bells Ringing in the Sky. Dense clusters of heavily droning and slowly bowed strings and majestic gong kicks off the album, and after letting this one into your skull there’s simply no way back. The 32 minutes long second track starts quietly with meandering guitar lines from Jack Rose, but as things progress and instruments are added to the mix everything transforms into something a lot more haunting, intoxicated and amorphous. Track three is possibly the most challenging piece on the record with its sky-high ringing tones bending up and out and around your head, but it’s also the thing I like the most here. The resonating guitar work and the gritty mantras of aurally demanding drones are simply superb and I can’t think of any drone piece that has had such an emotional effect on me this year. That actually goes for the entire album which finds these cats at their absolute best and that is indeed saying a lot. (Untitled) is an incredibly dark and threatening two-headed aural monster that’ll keep you awake long after the lights have gone out.


Monday, July 25, 2005

Playlist #20

Pelt Untitled (VHF)
Simon Finn Pass the Distance (Mushroom)
Thuja Pine Cone Temples (Strange Attractors)
Third Troll 3 (Three Lobed)
Unstable Ensemble Embers (Family Vineyard)
Ilk Canticle (VHF)
Nick Castro Further from Grace (Strange Attractors)
Det Gamla Landet s/t (Aa)
Volcano the Bear Catonapotato (Broken Face/Digitalis)
Lichens The Psychic Nature of Being (Kranky)


Sunday, July 03, 2005

After the goldrush #6

Being on vacation means that I have found myself a bit behind in terms of writing those reviews that I try to present here on a regular basis. In order to catch up it’s time for another one of those After the goldrush columns. First out is James Toth under the moniker of Wooden Vand, the mainman of the much-heralded Wooden Wand and the Vanishing Voice combo. What Toth displays on Harem of the Sundrum & the Witness Figg (Soft Abuse/Time-Lag) is quite unlike the music of the mothership though as it’s a surprisingly structured, if not even simplistic folk album. The beauty within Toth’s timeless guitar melodies, honest lyrics and slightly off-kilter vocals probably lies in how natural and uncomplicated everything sounds. With the same kind of obviousness as a particularly talented storyteller, Toth delivers bare musical stories that stirs the soul and opens the mind, and in some cases just flat-out blows me away. Hall of Fame (Samara Lubelski, Dan Brown and Theo Angell) presents a totally different kind of folk on the Cannibal/Superstring Theory 7” (Lal Lal Lal). What we get here is dense clusters of visceral and resonating tones that get stuck in intoxicating folk grooves of the most repetitive kind and of the highest possible caliber.

New Zealander Francesca Mountfort is a new name to me but her self-released Nervous Doll Dancing includes none of the usual newcomer mistakes so I am guessing she’s been around for a while after all. Mountfort is a cellist with equal interest in classical composition, avant-garde and folk music and this is very much visible all through this disc’s nine tracks. The electrified cello is always the main feature but there is also ample use of bells, music boxes and the occasional vocal addition. Mountfort uses the full range of the cello which results in a sound that sometimes is comforting and lulling, at others emotional and heartfelt and if we turn around the corner words like nervous and claustrophobic are more likely to come to mind. That’s quite an achievement, and along the way she manages to create some of the most beautiful cello playing I’ve heard in some time. The Winter belongs to the same scene as Mountfort but this trio’s sound world is despite the use of cello something very different. On Swansong (for the Huia) (fiffdimension) they totally abandon the traditional song formula for improvisations created from electric guitar, harmonica, cello and percussion. That being said, this is a strongly dialogic album with a kind of “call and response” approach to the proceedings that either will be right up your alley or something you despise more than anything you can think of. It doesn’t work all the way through but when the players are capable of being good listeners as well as potent players everything is taken to a totally new level. That new level can be a particularly effective jazz groove, bewildering folk clatter or simply something quite subtle. Swansong (for the Huia) is not up there with last year’s Parataxes but at the same time it shows an experimental potential they never have been close to before.

When reviewing Number None’s Ways of Sleepers, Ways of Wakers I think I described it as an engaging but fragmented aural affair that manages to be both schizophrenic and soothing at the same time. The same could be said about Urmerica (Rebis), but I am tempted to state that this one reaches even further out in cosmos. The opening “Suggestion for a New National Anthem” is one of the finest drone pieces I’ve heard all year and about halfway through its eight minutes some field recordings are added to the mix, and suddenly it’s no longer a lulling drone cloud but sonic dust particles packed with dread. This shift is probably more in my head than on the actual CD but it makes sense given the duo’s predilection for going from sorrowful, but beautiful, soundscapes to noise both between and within tracks. At its most claustrophobic and harsh Urmerica is just as alien and frightening as Omit or even Sunroof! and given that you probably know that you’re in for some serious inter-dimensional exploration. No words can really prepare you for the sort of time-space suspension that’s created here but I know for a fact that any fan of damaged drones and murky noise would be a fool to walk this one by without giving it a spin. Highly recommended.

The Australian Outer04 compilation is another disc that resides in the outer region of experimentalism. Anthony Guerra, Due-é Dara, Chris Smith and Tarab offers five epic pieces of improvised soundscapes that include everything from cycles of ominous and alienating sound layers, microscopic electronics, processed guitar work and drones that come packed in clusters of crackling details to minimalist trance-states. Nice.


Saturday, July 02, 2005

Various Artists The Tone of the Universe... (PseudoArcana)
Peter Wright Yellow Horizon (PseudoArcana)

The latest release from Antony Milton’s PseudoArcana label is definitely an early contender for the prestigious compilation of the year award. According to Milton this nicely packaged double CD compilation arose out of an online discussion about the news that astronomers have discovered a galaxy - far far away - that is resonating in a steady B flat drone. Due to this drone’s inaudibility (not only is it remote but it is also something like 50 octaves below an audible pitch...) it was decided that a compilation of 'cover versions' was in order. With contributing artists such as the Blithe Sons, Peter Wright, Keijo, Eugene Carhesio & Leighton Craig, Vibracathedral Orchestra, The Moglass, Neil Campbell, The Skaters, Of, My Cat Is An Alien as well as the cream of the New Zealand drone/noise underground it doesn’t come as a surprise that we’re served some seriously damaged, tasty and downright majestic drone affairs. Pretty much everything is magnificent here but worthy of a particular note is Of’s corrosive sound sculpture, the Blithe Sons dank organic noise, Peter Wright’s minimalistic guitar explorations and not the least Vibracathedral Orchestra’s quietly resonating sound mantras.

All in all this is a beautifully hazy, highly atmospheric compilation that hovers in the air just like some old mysterious tale which isn't willing to let go until everyone around the campfire has told their part of the story. It's hard to explain why, but there is something about the beauty and dense clusters of aural mystery, which fills every swirling note here that makes The Tone of the Universe (= The Tone of the Earth) quite irresistible.

Whilst shopping from PseudoArcana you owe it to yourself to pick up the latest release from the aforementioned Peter Wright, a New Zealander residing in the UK. In terms of sound, Yellow Horizon certainly has more to do with the wide-open space of the South Island than the polluted air of London though. As a matter of fact I’d go as far as to place these slowly evolving drones and distant traces of folk patterns alongside Roy Montgomery’s staggering Scenes from the South Island in terms of accurately describing the landscape of one of the most beautiful corners of the world. If that’s not praise I am not sure what is.