Thursday, December 20, 2007

After the goldrush #38 – Public Eyesore

Personally, year 2007 has been a year with a lot of bad conscience. As usual I’ve been privileged to have a lot of great labels send their stuff my way and although I’ve tried to keep up the best I could I have also found myself not being able to review as much as I would have liked to. So, here’s a collective excuse to those who feel they’ve been neglected. One reason for that bad conscience is a gigantic package including something like 60 CDs and CD-Rs from the always-fascinating Omaha, Nebraska label Public Eyesore. I am not going to pretend that I love everything that ‘Eyesore head honcho Brian Day chooses to release but enough is to make every listening experience an anticipating one. There’s no way on earth that I’ll be able to review those 60 discs but I’ll try to scribble down a few things about some that are particularly interesting. Look at it as an introduction or rather something that hopefully will have you point your clickers at http://www.publiceyesore.com/

Here we go…

First out is Japanese singer and guitarist Satoru Kadowaki who works under Ayami Yo-ko moniker. His folk-tinged rawness and psychedelic noise draws comparisons to countrymen such as Shuji Inaba as well as Keijo Haino. Effect-laden guitar beauty morphs into shards of feedback and in many cases we find Kadowaki’s lunatic (almost uncomfortable) and atonal vocals providing an intensely hovering spirit on top of it all. I think someone described these evocative sounds as a Japanese version of Jandek and to some degree I think that’s a very accurate choice of words. More Japanese guitar music comes from Masami Kawaguchi on Live in December and I guess this could be seen as the mellow side of the same folk-induced coin. Shimmering acoustic chords wrestle gently with Kawaguchi’s unsettling voice, forming a surprisingly mellow and contemplative mix. The organic flow and rural touch of these recordings are difficult to describe but there’s a timeless quality to it all, which makes it sound like a modern form of ancient Japanese music. Either way, it has enough to offer to keep my ears swimming in contentment for the rest of the year.

Let’s continue the Japanese thread with the pretty extreme The Machine Gun TV. What we have here is a noise combo that includes just about everything in their sonic suitcase. Utterly schizophrenic pop and song segments and a myriad of weird samples wrestle (not gently, this time out) with primitive layers of electronics, programmed rhythms and guitar attacks. It’s a noise feast to say the least, but it is also catchy and even danceable. Add to all this a welcome sense of humor and you get yourself a disc that will scare away just about everone you know, but the few that will stay around will be forever thankful.

On Live in Japan we find Monotract (Carlos Giffoni, Nancy Garcia, and Roger Rimada on drums, electronics and guitars) present another dose of spastic out there music. Equal parts distortion and frazzled electronics make up this noise concoction which depending on mood can strike you as either the ultimate improv rock album or an anti-rock manifest. Need I say that this is only for the seriously demented and adventurous listeners? The CD comes in brilliantly colored and strangely constructed cardboard packaging, which only adds to the overall feel.

I guess you could say that Shelf Life is the house band of Public Eyesore as it’s probably Brian Day's most prolific musical project. In Shelf Life we see Day teaming up with four fellow musicians to construct detailed minimalism, discordant drone, subdued noise or what about harsh ambience. It’s difficult to pin down their sound in mere words but I do know that the wavering minimal tones of their brand new Rheuma album seem to be made to create drawn out low-end drones so haunting that they are likely to affect on both a sonic and physical level.

Three slowly unfolding pieces make up guitarist Jorge Castro’s relatively short Cinética. It’s initially not obvious that we’re actually hearing a guitar as everything on the first track is heavily processed. On “Impulse” we get sweeping clouds of ambient guitar works that fills the space of a big hall in a second and then never really let’s go. It’s a bit like being stuck in time or traveling through the desert at dawn. Lovely.

Let’s end this with the ocean-deep funeral drone of Amy Denio’s Tasogare. If I am not mistaken this is all constructed from accordion and voice (besides the occasional guest appearance from Eyvind Kang on viola). This 45 minutes long one-track album sounds like music for the beginning or end of a world, and no matter how dramatic such a statment may sound it's difficult to find any more suitable words. Finely polished and achingly frosty drones stuck in a never-ending loop of atmospheric beauty. Essential.

There’s obviously so much more to choose from but this is a start and besides that you don’t really have the time to read this anyway. Time to do some shopping folks…


Monday, December 10, 2007

Cones Ice Skating Elephants (Ikuisuus)
Gianluca Becuzzi and Fabio Orsi Wildflowers under the Sofa (

Ice Skating Elephants is the debut for Ikuisuus from the duo of Cones. I don’t know an awful a lot about these guys except that Ulf Schütte is involved in the interesting German Aousuke project. Lots of different field recordings, tape loops and electronics construct thick webs of projections that somehow reflect into corrosive drones. The opener is a monstrous piece with a myriad of buzzing sounds and oscillating fragments glued together to an entity that moves from corner to corner of the room or just hangs in the air as if held there by invisible wires. Other tracks have more of the crackling and creaking direction you might suspect from someone using contact mics, turntables and whatnot. What I like about it is how nicely it’s all set against a minimal yet irregular drone, which will entirely absorb you, bore you to death or scare the shit out of you.

Gianluca Becuzzi and Fabio Orsi are becoming regulars at the Broken Face headquarters and I can’t say that I mind as long as what they do is as genuinely transporting as Wildflowers under the Sofa (Last Visible Dog). These Italians uses old keyboards, laptop and guitars to weave their dense carpet of stones and shells on the ocean floor. This three-track album sounds like some lost interpretation of what underwater sound might be like. I hear the distant sound of the current, vibrating waves generated from fish moving out of my way. It’s repetitious and floating yet emotionally intense without ever getting to that full-on eruption. But that doesn’t mean that these drone-obsessed composers aren’t capable of creating some seriously out there ear massage. Highly recommended.

Sun City Girls Dulce (Abduction)

Unconditional love is probably the choice of words that best describes my relationship to Seattle veterans Sun City Girls. It’s not like everything they do is brilliant but there is something about their uncompromising attitude that makes them so irresistible. Earlier this year the band called it quits when Charles Gocher finally had to give in from a long battle with cancer at the age of 54. The Bishop brothers said it would be impossible to continue without him and given his input to the band I can certainly see why. So it seems like the story is approaching its end but luckily there is still a gigantic back catalogue to dive deep into, such as the long gone Dulce LP from 1998 which now sees the light of the day as a CD on their own Abduction imprint. This is one of three (I have/will review the other discs elsewhere) reissues that are soundtracks to real or fictional films. With the ‘Girls you just never really know what’s true and what’s a joke. Anyway, the story goes as follows:

A nervous, stuttering Japanese gentleman phones me in the fall of 1995 requesting soundtrack services from Sun City Girls for his new film project about a secret underground alien base in New Mexico most commonly referred to as "Dulce." ...[T]he real kick for us came when our new Japanese friend finally announced his allegiance to the esoteric Aum Shinrikyo group most famous for the Sarin gas poisoning in a Tokyo subway not long ago. He also professed to be a former associate of Aum technical minister Hideo Murai who was killed by a Korean hitman in April, 1995. Murai...joined the Aum priesthood in 1986, becoming the head of its science unit focusing on the current state of electromagnetic weapons development including EM beams using lasers and plasma....

We flew to Japan to perform a few shows in April, 1996 and a clandestine meeting was arranged with our mysterious director friend on one of our days off in the electronics district of Osaka which happened to be less than a mile from where we were staying. So Doctor Gocher and I pretended to take a souvenir-gathering stroll down the hill and met "Hachiro Maki" (a pseudonym, I'm sure) nearby in a temple courtyard. After thirty minutes of reviewing rough cuts on his swivel-screen Hi-8 camera and discussing the necessity of anonymity in today's international fast lane, we were one million yen richer with an 8mm tape in my back pocket. Haven't heard from him since....

What we get music-wise is another slab of charred splendor ranging from Eastern toned floating beauty, distorted improvisations, harsh noise workouts, improvised patterns of percussion, ethnic weirdness, meandering Spanish guitar, distant ghost whispers, shimmering urban psychedelia, alienating drones and slow-crawling guitar jamming. It might not be essential all the way through but the highlights are absolute top class so this is not only a keeper but also one of those SCG albums I’ll return to on a regular basis.

Dramady Better Forever (North Pole Recordings)

Dramady is a new duo from the fertile musical lands of Portland, OR consisting of Amanda Mason Wiles (Rollerball, Six Foot Sloth) and Zac Stanley (Narwhal vs. Narwhal, Miss Massive Snowflake). Given the involved this is surprisingly melodic, structured and not the least rhythmic pop rooted as much in the folk tradition as in outsider rock. The concept of combining accessible pop with hypnotic beats and well-placed bits of experimental arrangements is the link that binds this multi-faceted disc together. Dramady is capable of dressing up their groovy melodies in mind-massaging strangeness and whimsical unpredictability that is both consistent and quite convincing.

After the goldrush #37

The clear blue winter sky outside our kitchen window is the perfect companion for starting the day with some celestial minimalism and oceanic drone music. Zac Keiller is a Melbourne-based guitarist and sound alchemist who on Line displays slowly eroding sound particles saturated with a weeping kind of melancholy. Its impressive organic sustain makes it sound like a hymn for someone lost at sea. Blissful hums rise and fall in an evocative topography of sound. Not much point in singling out actual songs, as it’s a gorgeous ride from beginning to end. The darkly serene tones of Broken Signals falls into the same category but it’s more sonically detailed and relies less on entering a specific mood for full enjoyment. Clusters of feedback shadows tear holes through droning keyboard landscapes on an empty road stretch that doesn’t seem to lead anywhere, or maybe it’s just one of those endless roads to the Australian outback.

Austinite Derek Roger’s work under the DR moniker is as minimal as Keiller’s but a whole lot more abrasive. On the all too limited Apparatus, Field CD-R (Last Exit Recordings) we get to ride across a minimal, dusted sonic plane suggestive of the quieter moments of the Dead C. I guess what I am trying to say is that there is plenty of corroded noise hidden under this thick sound blanket. What makes this one of a kind though is the blending of these styles with surprisingly emotional, meandering acoustic guitar explorations and even noise pop. All in all it’s a challenging manifestation of hypnotic electronics meeting all kinds of guitar abstraction, ranging from the tranquilizing to the frazzled. Fans of the New Zealand underground will love this.

More peripheral sounds from Texas (this time Denton, TX) come from the Zanzibar Snails on KRAKKTOWIAK, a one-track 3” CD-R on Mayyrh Records. I don’t like this quite as much as their full-length recording from 2006 (which got a glowing review in these pages) but the combination of wiggling sax explosions, primal percussion, electronic buzz, shards of feedback and AMM-sounding freeform aesthetics does after all the overall trick quite well.

John White s/t (Last Visible Dog)

I am a huge Last Visible Dog obsessive but as much as I admire the vision and the taste of label head Chris Moon things can come to a point when you know what you’ll hear when a new pack of recordings arrive at your doorstep. It’s such a relief that John White’s self-titled debut for LVD has just about nothing to do with the label’s back catalogue. Well, there is one thing. Sonic quality. White constructs dreamy, melancholia-soaked folk pop ditties flavored with raspy, whispered vocals. This disc is apparently a compilation of two earlier recordings dating back to 2000 and 2003 and don’t ask me where my mind was at when missing these gems first time out.

The album screens a downcast but kaleidoscopic sound, spanning desolate folky ballads, bittersweet slow pop and slightly up-beat numbers. Imagine a combination of Syd Barrett, the criminally neglected Illyah Kuryahkin and Jamie Barnes of Silber fame and you’re in the right ballpark. Highly recommended.

Mike Tamburo Language of the Birds and Other Fantasies
New American Folk Hero/The Music Fellowship

Quantity is not always synonymous with quality. When Merzbow released 50 records wrapped in a suitcase a lot of people were fascinated by the concept, but I honestly don’t think many people were that impressed by the actual sounds. One of my friends who is a true Merzbow fan came as far as to the 34th disc but after that didn’t have the energy to continue any further so decided to sell the whole thing, with a substantial profit one can assume. When multi-instrumentalist and film maker Mike Tamburo out of Kensington, Pennsylvania releases seven CD-Rs, one DVD with eleven films and two live shows and one 72-sides long booklet with his texts it is initially the stunning packaging, the passion and the sheer amount of art that impress.

A deeper exploration of the sound world presented displays Tamburo’s indisputable talent of mastering both the primitive American folk tradition, melodious minimalism, classic winding guitar playing and Indian ragas. This is alternated with organic, slow dragging sound landscapes that exude equal parts drone and noise. In many cases we find Tamburo using an expression that has a lot to do with contemporary guitarists such as Jack Rose, Glenn Jones, Sir Richard Bishop, Steffen Basho-Junghans and James Blackshaw. But Tamburo rarely only investigates the frameworks and boundaries of the guitar, but also employs lots of effects, clarinet, bells, organ, cymbals, metal items, electronics, harmonica, dulcimer, exotic wind instruments, harp, accordion and probably more than I can imagine. It is an ambitious musical adventure that despite its wide range holds together amazingly well and along with Tamburos sour realistic poetry and abstract film art constitutes an unknown, modern masterpiece that in some ways maybe is suitable for an edition of 250 copies, but that should be heard and experienced by many more.