Sunday, October 31, 2010

Free Jazz mayhem

Two slabs of experimental jazz insanity.

First is a live one-off collaboration between Weasel Walter (drums, clarinet mouthpiece), Forbes Graham (trumpet), Greg Kelley (trumpet), and Paul Flaherty (saxophone) recorded in Boston in 2008 and called End of the Trail. This was released in an edition of 100 cdrs following the set on the ugExplode imprint. It's absolutely insane as one might expect looking at the lineup of amazing musicians and unusual instrument pairings. Two longer pieces, nearly overwhelmingly intense and noisy excursions into the outer realms of free jazz, serve as set bookends. Three shorter pieces make up the middle of this album and each is far more self contained. The second track for example is solo saxophone until the final note. The fourth begins with screeching, scrapped percussion and distant, whistling trumpet manipulations and ends in a whooshing tornado of malleted ride cymbals. Throughout the set, Walter's fantastic scattershot drumming is a constant driving force behind the relentless brass trio's chaotic, manic improvisations. An almost violent sounding album, this is intense, abstract, brilliant stuff.

End of the Trail
1. Le Temps Detruit Tout (20:26)
2. Old Prospector (2:17)
3. The Shrieking Winds (5:32)
4. Deserts (4:03)
5. I Told You it was a Sand Storm (13:13)


Second is another one-off performance by a group calling itself Drive the Pieces Together, a single 27 minute long set titled Ethnography and featuring a mighty lineup: Dave Gross (alto sax and clarinet), Vic Rawlings (amplified cello and analog electronics), Erik Carlsen (tuba), Howard Stelzer (tapes), Steve Norton (turntable), and Peter Warren (recorded sounds). The piece was recorded live in Cambridge, MA in 1999 and was finally released last year by Carbon Records as part of their great 15YR.Series. Peter Warren prepared an improvised minimalist piece for electronic guitar with a good deal of silence. A pre-recorded version was played and the five musicians improvised over it. The result is a menacing slab of minimalist siren drone with undulating brass skronk and dark ambiance and static-filled radio samples thanks to cassette and turntable manipulations. Sound emerge from all directions, their source often unidentifiable. Mechanical clicks weave in and out of haunted house creaks and crumbling reverb. All the while the brass moans and buzzs, a chaotic whine that spikes and jabs from the underlying aural mess. A very spooky, Halloween-y piece of free jazz experimentalism here. So cool!

Carbon Records

Friday, October 22, 2010

Jefre Cantu-Ledesma - Love is a Stream

The second "official" album from San Francisco's Jefre Cantu-Ledesma is here and it's really not to be missed! For the first time, Cantu-Ledesma makes a foray into the world of blissed-out shoegaze, leaving the haunting, glacial drone of his earlier work aside almost entirely. "Love is a Stream" is another home run release on Type Records and another one wholly unexpected considering the artist involved. It could almost in some ways be seen as pop music in an even more washed out version than the latest Altar Eagle album "Mechanical Gardens" (check out a few posts below for thoughts on that). This is gorgeous, elating music, a torrent of immense, blissful noise, textures blown out with dreamy haze, shimmering walls of sound with buried harmonies humming beneath. It's often summery and hopeful but also incredibly loud, in some ways akin to both My Bloody Valentine and Tim Hecker's "Harmony in Ultraviolet" (fans of both will be very happy with what they hear in any case) but more abstracted, a stunning sort of synthesis of the two which manages to make these references while maintaining a distinctly original sound. There's still a hell of a lot of grit and mountains of harsh white noise static, and droning guitars and synthesizers and washed out, buried vocals all of which come together to make this something all its own. Somehow Cantu-Ledesma managed to do all this and still fill the album with what can almost be described as pop hooks albeit ones nearly lost altogether in the noise. There's melodies here for sure even if it does take a whole lot of digging beneath the gauze of glowing sound to find them. Hugely listenable yet layered and complex, this is a unique, amazing piece and one of my favorite albums of this year packed with great stuff. Note that the vinyl copy comes with a 46 minute bonus disc. Called "Love is a Dream," it is billed as a collaboration between Xela and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma. I believe it is songs by the latter reworked by the former and not a literal collaboration between the two but it's terrific in any case.


Wild Moon And Sea by Jefre Cantu-Ledesma

Where You End & I Begin by Jefre Cantu-Ledesma

Where I End & You Begin by Jefre Cantu-Ledesma

Stained Glass Body by Jefre Cantu-Ledesma

Download (includes bonus disc)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Yellow Swans live in Australia

Two releases here from the tragically defunct duo Yellow Swans. These guys put out their final album, "Going Places," earlier this year. Listening to it recently made me sadder than ever they're no longer around since it was their most accomplished release to date. Luckily former member Pete Swanson still puts out stuff on a regular enough basis and while it's not quite the same, it's still darn good. In addition to that, Yellow Swans has an incredibly deep back catalog which brings us to what we have here

First up is a collaboration with New Zealand's Birchville Cat Motel (now known as Our Love Will Destroy the World) aka Campbell Kneale recorded live during a tour around Australia in 2005. Anyone familiar with the work of these two will know immediately what to expect here. On the first track, the nearly half-hour long Terminal Saints, we have minimalist guitar tones buried beneath a massive sea of feedback and a roaring electronic sustain that nearly engulfs all else before settling down just a bit and making way for some electronic skronk and a slightly more dynamic sound around the halfway mark. It's a massive aural assault throughout though, almost attaining a drone or even distorted raga like quality with the sustain coming to resemble a mangled harmonium. The second, shorter track is even more oppressive. A pulsating, squalling storm of white noise static and eardrum rupturing feedback blares out over a low end siren call, the definition of analog annihilation. The whole thing sounds like the soundtrack to some nightmare space walk, a completely overwhelming cacophony that is not for the fainthearted.
Track list:
1. Terminal Saints (27:28)
2. Marble Carcass (21:18)
Yellow Swans with Birchville Cat Motel Download

After that we have Yellow Swans live @ Sound&Fury 29/10/2005, recorded in a record store and only released in an edition of 150 copies in hand made, wax sealed envelopes. The show was during the same tour as the above two live collaborations but this time it's just the Yellow Swans duo and instead of lasting for much less than half an hour, this set went on for nearly forty minutes. This performance is much dronier, more hypnotically beautiful in its noise than the above release's brutal assault. The opener is 18 minutes of shimmering, low end guitar hum which glides and glows beneath a whistling, creaking, whirring electro-skree. It's a really gorgeous, haunting sounding piece. Track two is about a quarter as long and is a lot rougher. It's louder and skuzzier, the guitar tone still low but no longer warm. Instead it has a more mechanical buzz to it, almost like some distant, muted power tool. The electo skree on top if more unhinged, hissing and screeching into wild high end flurries and ragged rumbles. The third and final track begins with a searing line of high end feedback and slowly builds and develops from there over 15 minutes. The hypnotic drone of low end guitar still sets the foundation for careening sinewave mayhem. This is a shimmering, desolate sound with murky guitar oscillations and humming pulses of sound. There's very little melodic here if anything but this isn't pure noise. It's dense, dynamic, and the more you listen the more you hear. It's actually really impressive that two guys are doing this live.
Track list:
1. Untitled 1 (18:12)
2. Untitled 2 (5:21)
3. Untitled 3 (15:02)
Yellow Swans live @ Sound&Fury Download

If you're new to Yellow Swans, start with the latter before moving onto the former. Actually, start with "Going Places" which you can buy here along with other cool stuff. It's a great intro to a great group.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Video: Liz Harris (aka Grouper) and Ilyas Ahmed live @ Aquarius Records, SF 09/05/2010

A match made in heaven! These two first collaborated on the final track of Ahmed's "Goner" released last year on Root Strata (performed here in the third video). The CD was my pick for album of the year. Harris and Ahmed seem to be the male/female counterpart of one another in a lot of ways. Both like their reverb, both like a slow burning, immensely distant yet somehow simultaneously intimate sound formed from deep layers of processed instruments, and both use vocals less as vocals and more as another layer of sound, often manipulated to the point where words and syllables are lost in a sort of ghostly haze. They both do other stuff as well: Ahmed's earlier work often consisted of long form solo guitar improvisations while the newest Grouper album, "Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill," had some genuine songs with lyrics and everything. Still, "Exit Twilight," the closing track of "Goner," was a revelation of sorts. After around 45 minutes of Ahmed's ramshackle rock and roll and muffled vocals, Harris' voice feels all the more poignant and beautiful emerging out of nowhere in the album's closing minutes. After hearing that, I've been longing for a real collaboration between the two ever since. This series of videos will have to hold me over until the (I hope) inevitable album. Recorded on September 5th, 2010 in the legendary Aquarius Records in San Francisco, this 4 song set is not to be missed.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Glenn Branca - "Symphony No. 13 (for 100 guitars): Hallucination City" rare live recording

OK, so this is fucking cool. What we have here is a rare live recording of Glenn Branca's "Symphony No. 13 Hallucination City" from its debut performance in New York City on June 13, 2001. "Hallucination City" is a piece for 100 guitars and percussion. Branca, known for his avant-garde tendencies, heavy use of repetition and droning alternative tunings, is in top form here. The piece is absolutely massive, a pummeling, chaotic, overwhelming avalanche of sound. It's like climbing into a jet engine at full rev, an almost unhealthy dose of noise. But it's also meticulously organized and structured. No random, improvisational noodlings here. The entire piece is "double-strummed" by all 100 guitarists (technically 80 guitarists and 20 bassists), a technique similar to playing tremolo but the notes themselves proceed fairly slowly. So many instruments are creating so much noise that phantom notes seem to emerge and hover when played at very high volumes (and really there's no other way to listen to this. Crank up your stereo as loud as it can go for the full experience, even if you can only stand it for a couple of minutes). The sound is built into towering walls but there are distinguishable movements as well. Pianissimo, piano, mezzo, and forte dynamics shift seamlessly into one another, propelled by brilliant, relentless drumming, a galloping clatter that swings from beneath the chaos and keeps the guitar noise from spilling out into some unbound entity. Imagine Godspeed You! Black Emperor at their most cathartically unhinged and extend it over a full 60 minutes and you'll start to get an idea of what this monster is like.

The link here is for the entire, one hour long performance. Recorded by Malcolm Tent of Ultrabunny, it sounds incredibly rich and alive. Surely it's nothing like experiencing this behemoth of a composition first hand but it's the next best thing.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Mix Tape: Fall Drive (Two Scenarios)

The first of potentially many (and potentially no more) mix tapes designed for this blog. Enjoy!

This is my mix for long drives on freezing autumn nights. The A side is for a long drive through a deep pine forest in the mountains. The B side is for driving through the same forest but after the zombie apocalypse, desperately hoping to avoid patrols of savage man eating hell fiends (with only minimal success).

1. Eluvium - Defibrillator (3:06)
2. Grouper - Sick (5:08)
3. Kyle Bobby Dunn - Sets of Four (Its meaning is Deeper than its Title Implies) (4:55)
4. Clogs - Last Song (4:00)
5. Olafur Arnalds - Kjurrt (4:45)
6. Hammock - Breathturn (6:00)

1. Jasper TX - A Voice to Lead Us There (Peter Broderick Remix) (3:30)
2. The North Sea - Bloodlines (5:54)
3. Ajilvsga - Roaming Chief (12:03)
4. Xela - Gilted Rose (19:31)
5. Drunkdriver - January 2nd (2:50)


Friday, October 8, 2010

MUSIC: Indian Weapons and Altar Eagle

Brad Rose may be best known, to me anyway, for his solo project The North Sea and for running the exemplary Digitalis label. but Brad's a man of many hats and has been involved with projects such as Aerial Jungle, Corsican Paintbrush, Eagle Altar, Ajilvsga, Charlatan, Ossining, Crystal Alligator Mouth, Hanging Thief, and Sea Zombies to name just a few. Below are two very different releases from two very different duos of which Rose is one half.

The first is from Indian Weapons, a spinoff of sorts of Brad's Ajilvsga project with Nathan Young. Parousia, the duo's debut under the Indian Weapons moniker, was put out earlier this year by Digitalis Limited on pro-dubbed cassettes in an edition of 80 copies. Similarities to Ajilvsga are undeniable but Indian Weapons is definitely a distinct project. Whereas the former is more often than not black-as-pitch, the soundtrack to some decaying, scorched earth, Indian Weapons is a bit less bleak and a bit less relentlessly chaotic. Unlike more recent Ajilvsga releases, specific instruments  (violin, guitar, melodica) are often extractable from the murk, making it more closely linked to early Ajilvsga or even early The North Sea output. As such, Indian Weapons sounds a little more organic, with acoustic instruments woven through growling oscillator hums into a glorious sea of noise. Don't worry though; It's still dark, still chaotic, and still beautiful.

A-side sample
B-side sample
Digitalis Limited (The Parousia cassette is long sold out but you can buy plenty of other great stuff here)

And then there's the official debut of Altar Eagle, the duo of Brad Rose and his wife Eden Hemming Rose. These two have put out a couple very hard to come by cassettes as Altar Eagle and Eagle Altar but this time they get the full length CD/vinyl treatment courtesy of the always excellent Type record label. Anyone who listened to The North Sea's Bloodlines LP, also put out this year by Type, will be shocked by the almost complete 180 Rose has taken (call it a 165 for accuracy's sake). What we have here is an honest-to-god electro pop album albeit with a healthy dose of noisy experimentation thrown in for good measure. Both Brad and Eden sing throughout and their voices burble up through shimmering electronic bliss, weaving in and out of one another. Shambling, mangled percussion, buzzing synthesizer madness, and dreamy electronic shimmers are built into a dense, lovely mesh. Don't let that mislead you though: though complex and lovingly crafted layer upon layer, this is far and away the most accessible album Rose has been involved with. It also happens to be the pop album of the year!


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Upcoming show: Barn Owl w/ Tom Carter, High Aura'd, and Loren Connors @ Issue Project Room

This is a big one, folks. Guitar genius Loren Connors and some other talented dudes open for San Francisco's Barn Owl, a band I never really expected to see live. Barn Owl is Jon Porras and Evan Caminiti building massive, haunting guitar drones. Huge bottom end sounds coupled with immense, almost overwhelming distortion. The small handful of records and recordings of live shows of these guys make me more than confident that this show will be something very special indeed. Doesn't hurt that it's being held at the lovely Issue Project Room in Brooklyn, an ideal space for this kind of set if Grouper's show there this past summer was any indication.

Buy tickets here (they will sell fast so act sharpish)

Barn Owl live at the 2010 On Land Fest

Loren Connor Myspace page

Going to be incredible!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

MUSIC: Hooker Vision Update

Check out the newest batch of releases from Georgia's Hooker Vision label:

Three cool looking tapes and a new 3" cd-r from current fave Motion Sickness of Time Travel. Copies run from 25-50 so act fast!

Friday, October 1, 2010

MUSIC: Higuma - Haze Valley

Released September 2008 by the mighty San Francisco based Root Strata lable ( in an edition of 100 CD-Rs

Haze Valley is the debut release of San Francisco's Higuma. The duo is Evan Caminiti (who in addition to putting out consistently excellent albums with Jon Porras under the Barn Owl moniker has also released some really great solo stuff in the past couple years, notably the Psychic Mud Shrine CD on Digitalis last year and the West Winds LP on Three Lobed this year) and Lisa McGee, a name I'm still totally unfamiliar with outside of this band. Fans of Barn Owl and Caminiti's solo work will find themselves in somewhat familiar territory here: huge, deep dronescapes conjure up the vastness of the American west, sweeping vistas, vast canyons, the skulls of oxen bleached white by the merciless sun. There is something ancient and arcane sounding here. But unlike the dark, merciless terror of William Fowler Collins or Ajlivsga, artists similarly invested in Americana imagery, Higuma's music is intensely beautiful, lovely and complex, rewarding multiple excursions into its lofty, droning expanse. There is clattering percussion and guitars put on infinite delay and loop along with dense, gorgeously layered acoustics, building massive, sound drenched spaces filled with ghostly vocals, so distant themselves as to become purely instrumental. Higuma also put out Den of the Spirits this year, a vinyl only release on Digitalis and are following it up with Pacific Fog Dreams, another vinyl only deal on Root Strata.
1. The Pyramid Has Bleached The Horizon (20:11)
2. Crimson Cloud Ascension (8:22)
3. Crystal Rain Claw (8:08)
4. Winter Bloom (6:19)

Root Strata Release page (with samples)
Related Projects

Check back with Root Strata in a month or so for the new LP