Monday, December 13, 2010

2010 Mix Tapes 3 and 4 ("Strings and Things"/"Nightmare Tracks")

So here are the final two 2010 mix tapes I'll be making. I'll almost certainly keep doing mixes but in the future they won't be confined to a single year. These are mixes 3 and 4 of this series: "Strings and Things" and "Nightmare Tracks," respectively.

"Strings and Things" is a collection of songs where most of the dominant instruments are those often associated with classical music (violins, cellos and so forth) with a good bit of piano thrown in for good measure. That isn't to say these are the only instruments by any means nor are most of these songs classical in any sense of the word. The instruments themselves are the only real unifier. As before I shot for some kind of cohesion nonetheless and hopefully you'll find it somewhat successful. Hildur Gudnadóttir's "You" begins with what sounds like a jangling zither and slowly builds layer upon layer of processed cello on top until the zither fades away and a stunningly beautiful sea of glowing noise pulses for ten glorious minutes, the soundtrack to the sun rising up through the ocean, pure bliss. Zoë Keating uses a looped cello as well but to a very different purpose. Her's is a driving piece, a rich, rapidly bowed cello sets the foundation for lush, weaving arrangements. Clogs and Fursaxa layer strings over acoustic guitar, the former with ghostly wordless vocals and marimba. Aaron Martin's track begins with a plucked banjo and layers of humming high end strings slowly building over top until the banjor disappears altogether and the mournful hum of cello takes its place. Meanwhile Library Tapes and Goldmund both offer solo piano pieces, ambient noise blooming beneath. Daniel Bjarnanson's piece comes from my current top choice for album the year. It's a ferocious, heart pounding piece for full orchestra, piano racing wildly, strings sweeping into epic crescendos, bass drums booming, the brass section bleating out. &c. A whole lot of good stuff here, in short.

1. Library Tapes - Like Grass Straws Against a Blue Sky
2. Daniel Bjarnason - Procession III: Red-Handed
3. Amiina - Sicsak
4. Fursaxa - Poplar Moon
5. Ólafur Arnalds - Loftið verður skyndilega kalt
6. Zoë Keating - Escape Artist
7. Clogs - To Hugo
8. Aaron Martin - Burl
9. Max Richter - Infra 4
10. Brian McBride - Supposed Essay On The Piano (B Major Piano Adagietto)
11. Goldmund - Bergen
12. Hildur Gudnadóttir - You
13. Erik K Skodvin - Etching an Entrance
14. Nils Frahm - Let My Key Be C (Thriller Edit)

Total time: 1:06:43

SoundCloud preview (see note at bottom of post)

The second and final mix in this series is entitled Nightmare Tracks which should be more or less self explanatory. The idea here was to create a mix filled with dread and menace, something incredibly dark, eerie, frightening. Music for nightmares, essentially. To that end I've selected only a small number of tracks (9 in the play list although it's actually 11, three of them are combined into one) but have simultaneously made this my longest mix yet. Magic! Or I just picked some really long tracks. The bulk of this mix is the B sides of Svarte Greiner's "Penpals Forever (and Ever)" and The North Sea's "Bloodlines." Both are comprised of three separate pieces that run together on the vinyl but for various reasons the former is condensed into just one track here and the latter is three distinct files.  Svarte Greiner is Erik Skodvin from Norway. The man knows how to create an atmosphere of pure menace with the most bare bones arrangements. This is an ancient, mysterious sounding album, full of creaking timbers and spluttering candles, shuffling corpses and long walks through pitch black crypts full of lingering ghosts. Chains clanks and rattle, voices call out illegible and buried beneath mournful, ragged drones and window panes clattering in the wind. Unbelievably spooky and incredibly dense.

The North Sea takes a more abrasive tact. Bloodlines is all crumbling cities and factories gone manic, decaying and blazing out of control. Brutally dark, this trio of tracks is a seething, ferocious mess of noise and decay, static, smoke, wheezing last breaths. Drumming by the ever-brilliant Mike Weis of Zelienople helps propel this full side piece in three movements into terrifying new places, his drums wooshing like demonic gasps and clattering like mutilated church bells.
Christopher McFall's "4" is the soundtrack to being lost beyond all hope in some fog filled cave network deep in the mountains. And perhaps you're not as alone as you thought. A low rumbling like distant thunder pervades throughout as failing radio static crackles slowly into oblivion until at last a creaking piano ushers the piece into silence. Thomas Koner's "Permafrost" is a magnificent piece of frost covered ultraminimalism. It takes a true master to make something so restrained so darned effective but Koner is a genius of atmosphere and the track feels immensely rich and fantastically eerie. Xela's track is off his new tape "The Sublime," the finest of the three in his now concluded cassette trilogy. "Eve's Riposte" sounds arcane, almost ritualistic in its darkness and droning menace, a gorgeously undulating sea of swirling dark noise and organ murk. World's End Girlfriend ends with what could be a more fucked up B-side from Venetian Snares' "Doll Doll Doll," a savage, unrelenting torture chamber of electro-skree and horror film samples. I couldn't think of a more terrifying or fitting way to end the nightmare.

1. Christopher McFall - 4
2. Thomas Koner - Permafrost
3. Black Swan - Part VIII
4. Xela - Eve's Riposte
5. Svarte Greiner - Side B
6-8. The North Sea - Counting Down the Days/Save Yourself/Revelations
9. World's End Girlfriend - The Offering Inferno

Total time: 1:51:56

(Trying out SoundCloud to see how I like it. Unfortunately my as-of-yet free account won't let me share the entirety of these mixes. Needless to say that's what the download link is for! Listen away to previews featuring a handful of tracks from each mix (6-14 of Mix 3, 1-5 of Mix 4)).

NOTE: for organizational purposes, make sure you have your media player set to organize these mixes by album or they'll be totally out of order! Something of a technophobe, I'm not sure how to make it otherwise.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Jon Dale & Moth

Up today are two releases by Jon Dale, the man formerly behind Rhizome records. Earlier in his career Dale released records under the Moth moniker before releasing a tiny handful of albums under his own name. Dale has been largely quiet for the past couple years at least as far as I can tell.

In any event, first up is Moth - 1997-2003. As the title suggest, this is a collection of eight Moth tracks recorded over a six year period. Dale primarily uses organ, guitar, and amplified metal to create an incredibly haunting, rich dronescape. Tracks vary wildly. Untitled 8 is nearly 11 minutes of gorgeous glowing guitar drone, the soundtrack to the sun rising blood red over the desert. Untitled 5 is composed almost entirely of dense organ, shifting ever so subtly across its 16 minute run time into a swelling, hypnotic sea of noise. Untitled 1 is a spooky journey into an ancient, fog filled forest. Guitars chime heavily like distant funeral bells beneath a thick covering of slow, rumbling haze. Untitled 7 almost sounds like a jazz standard slowed way down. It's the most percussive track on the album with  real drums instead of the strange shards of metal which seem to be the primary percussive of choice elsewhere. The drums rumble and shuffle with a thickly reverby, high end, undulating dial tone swirling over top. All in all "1997-2003" is an intensely beautiful collection of songs and is pretty much essential for fans of Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, Jasper TX, even Stars of the Lid.

Track list
1. Untitled 1 (8:01)
2. Untitled 2 (3:59)
3. Untitled 3 (4:47)
4. Untitled 4 (1:53)
5. Untitled 5 (16:00)
6. Untitled 6 (3:30)
7. Untitled 7 (5:01)
8. Untitled 8 (10:48)

Next is "Son D'or" a release by Dale under his own name from 2005 comprised of a single 20-minute long track. This sounds a good deal like the Moth release above but in a lot of ways this is more developed, a more mature piece of drone work. As in all good drone music, the subtleties are what make this worthwhile. While this could work as background music of a sort, it really demands careful listening with headphones. A cursory listen will let you know that a humming organ drone sustains throughout the single track, shifting at times here and there but largely remaining a constant presence of trance inducing noise. Beneath the surface hypnotic guitars swirl and glow while ominous metallic scrapes and clanks claw through. It soon becomes apparent how densely layered the sonics are here and the more you listen, the more deeply mysterious a piece of music this comes to be. Both sonically assaulting and mesmerizing, this is on my list of essential drone.

Track list
1. Son D'or (19:57)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Slowing down

Anyone who comes to this blog will probably notice the frequency of new posts has fallen off quite a bit. Unfortunately this will continue for the foreseeable future. Never fear though! In the next couple months expect to see all sorts of cool stuff. I'll be posting albums and rare recordings by the like of Starving Weirdos, Birchville Cat Motel/Our Love Will Destroy the World, My Cat is an Alien, Jon Dale, Jasper TX,  Seaworthy, The Ghost of 29 Megacycles, Motion Sickness of Time Travel, and more! Plus my Top albums of 2010 will be posted for your listening pleasure sometime in January. Hooray!

Thuston Moore: Two Trios

Taking a break from the end of the year mixes to post something special. Here we have two trios featuring the man, the legend, Thurston Moore!

First is a live set recorded on 11/11/2010 at the Chapel of the Holy Innocents at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY. The trio is Moore and Bill Nace playing guitar and Chris Corsano on drums in a single, continuous, improvised set just shy of 50 minutes in length. It starts quietly, electronic creaks and beeps bubble and skitter over softly scattering snares and cymbals. Slowly but surely the set becomes more manic, more unhinged. Processed, pedal heavy high end guitar noises becomes more insistent: a distant, mangled siren call, the cheeping of robotic sparrows, an undulating metallic hum and the methodical, plodding drumming of Corsano all become almost hypnotic. The set trades off, some moments of spooky calm, others of skronking, noisy mayhem. About halfway through a wall of static shoots through the sound and ushers in the second act. It starts off full of low end menace and mutilated radio static, delves into near drone-like territory, slowly builds into something massive and vicious, a snarling tangle of roaring static, pulsating feedback, desperate air-raid siren calls, lumbering, thudding drums buried beneath. Finally things shift again and it sounds like a field recording from a inside some insane garage with never before seen power tools whirring away, chewing up metal until in the final minutes the machines start to collapse, belts fly off wheels, gear and cogs slip and grind until, at the very moment of total collapse, everything is reigned in and in a bubbling, pinging woosh, it ends. Easily one of the best live performances I've seen this year! Thanks to Goro for recording.
Live @ Chapel of the Holy Innocents Download
(note: Bill Nace is erroneously listed as Ben Nace in the tag. Didn't realize this until after it was uploaded. Change at your discretion).

Next is "Courtney Love Killed da Cobain" again featuring Moore and Bill Nace on guitar this time with Paul Flaherty on alto and tenor sax. Similarly awesome, perhaps a little more out of control than the above set. Somehow Corsano's methodical drumming had a propulsive effect and drove the piece above forward. Here there are no boundaries. It certainly doesn't suffer for it but it's a very different listening experience. Three tracks in increasing length (3:38, 24:23, and 40:45)  making it a good 15-20 minutes longer. It's brilliant but an exhausting listening experience. Flaherty's sax pierces and jabs, skreeing over searing high end guitar feedback and chugging, pummeling low end reverb. The soundtrack to society collapsing, perhaps? Completely brilliant!
Courtney Love Killed da Cobain download