Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Short Apnea

A Short Apnea with Gorge Trio

...Just Arrived (2004)

Wallace Records

At some point, after listening to way too many hip records, you may began to over-think your relationship with music. Throughout your life (and you probably know what I mean, considering you're reading a noise-rock blog) you have acquired this reputation, intentionally or not, as a person who spends a ridiculous amount of time and money on records. And because of this, certain people, naturally, looking to break the ice a bit, will ask you if you've heard the new Radiohead (e.g.), and then tell you how mind-blowing it is. Especially these days, in indie-rock's golden age of sorts, assertions like these can become so profuse, for some of us it's hard to stomach. But it's not arrogance that causes the nausea. It's confusion, really. How is it that so many people still enjoy the same brand of chorus-and-verse lunchmeat every day, breakfast, lunch and dinner? And none of us here are saying that any new trend of indie-rock is indigestible, (it is after all just rhythm and melody, what's not to like about it?) but why dedicate forty minutes of your life to some formula you've heard a thousand times before, this time with mustard?

Naturally, in time, I convinced myself I simply hated music, and that what in fact I wanted to hear was blatant noise; anything with a complete disregard for conventional structures and formulas. But a regrettable series of 'ambient' record recommendations quickly changed my mind about this. The bulk of the genre is good enough for providing atmosphere, which has it's place in any record collection, granted, but it seems incredibly unwise to spend an album's length of your time on anything that fails to engage you, or fails to require your full attention. Good records are not a condiment to your environment, or something to set a mood. They are participatory events. They are not background. Nor are they, for that matter, anything similar to the shockingly ample supply of records that attempt to sound like random, chaotic noise. Because deliberately trying to appear random or chaotic invariably ends up sounding very forced and phony. What I was looking for was a synthesis. An alloy of nothing formulated, nothing dull, and nothing forced.

To find this rare harmony of noise and patterns you have to come to the fringes, the frontier. You have to find a place of natural, unforced lawlessness. In our case, this place is somewhere in Milan, Italy, where Just Arrived was recorded in just three days. The blend is made of guitars, both electric and table, drums, rhodes piano, organ, and tapes, and takes six of the avantiest musicians of the avant-garde to achieve the proper balance. It should really speak for itself, so I won't insult it with any further explanation. Here are tracks 1-3 . Or if you feel you're not quite ready to live outside the indie-rock police-state, then maybe you'll like this album instead. (I heard it's free.)

Buy the CD.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Lustre King

Lustre King
The Money Shot (1996)
Divot/Action Boy
Chicago, IL

Tonight begins a series of six Shellac shows in four days at the Hideout here in Chicago. I'm going to try and catch as many as I can, but right now it's looking like only half of the six. Tonight's show, I've just found out, also happens to feature Mike Lust's Tight Phantomz as an opening act , which naturally has me harkening back to this elegantly scratchy EP from 1996.

Firstly, I have to admit that the Phantomz aren't really my thing. I have the one CD, and it kind of bitez. That being said, frontman Lust still puts on one hell of a live show. It's always plenty full of high leg kicks, jumps, flips, and sometimes that really cool swinging-the-guitar-around-the-waist thing. This standard was set way back in the day when he lead the Chicago three-piece Lustre King, in fact, any time you mention Lustre King to anyone here in the city, it is those antics that they recall first. They'll remember some crazy stunt one of them pulled or how smashed the bassist was one night. And it's all really a shame because beneath the ultra-scratchy guitar tone, and some street-tough shit-talking tin-can vocals, the band played some secretly intelligent music that normally tends to fall by the wayside when the band is discussed.

Listen to the details of this record. Don't let it fool you. It runs past you in just thirteen and a half minutes, so you'll probably have to flip it over and play it again. It's five tracks have a tendency to shift gears mid-way through and become something else. While the guitar is alternating between math-drenched riffage and some really raunchy spats of noise-making, the bass and drums are pulling off some pretty fancy rhythms, some that sputter and some that glide.

Epitonic has two tracks for download, 'Just Hit Town' and 'Gigolo Swing'.
Here is a fansite that has on it some of 1999's Shoot the Messenger, which might interest you, too. Look for the record or CD at Amazon or Music Stack, because I'm pretty sure it's OOP. Or just ask me and I'll upload it.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Home of the Wildcats

Atlanta, Ga
You know, the real purpose of this site is in the links to the music, and the rest is just sort of unnecessary nonsense. But if I just posted the links by themselves it would just seem rather lazy, so I usually just piece together a morsel or two of relevant information and move on. But every now and then I get these ridiculous ideas. And when drafting a post about the aforementioned Home of the Wildcats, the paragraph quickly morphed into an ineloquent rant comparing the band to a frankensteined Beast with an identity crisis and an unsatisfiable hunger that ultimately eats itself. I'm not sure how that happened, but I've decided to just stick to giving relevant facts from now on.

HOTW was 2/3 of Purkinje Shift and 1/2 of Copa Vance. They're from Atlanta. They're a quartet that seemed to intend to incorporate elements of their prior avant/math projects into a more conventional delivery, with simpler structures and added vocals. The result was phenomenal. It seemed like the band had the capacity to reach into that sort of 1990's Touch & Go terrain, give it new life and bridge it to the present. Last winter I first heard of the band's plans to release a full-length, and I must admit, waited very excitedly for many months. The few live tracks that were uploaded to the band's site were all excellent but really only served to exacerbate the waiting period. This past week it has come to my attention that the band has decided to call it quits and shelve the album. Fortunately, bassist Benjamin Davis has made the mastered recordings available free of charge at his blog, Master of None. Tonight I've downloaded it, one full winter later, and have plans to listen to it over a few ales. So here's to the self-eating Beast that almost was.

The record is here.

Knot Feeder

Pittsburgh, PA
Banfield Takes the Lead?
When we first heard Don Caballero we all thought it was pretty amazing, even if you weren't necessarily hip to it you were able at least to be amazed by it. By '95-'97 they had a major hand in popularizing 'math-rock' and introducing the genre's unconventional elements to a broader audience. So much so that today I'd estimate having heard maybe 4 billion or so Don Cab rip-off bands. And although I believe the American Don to be the band's masterpiece, it was the prior records Don Cab 2 and What Burns that were the real ambassadors to the music world. At this time, the lineup was Ian Williams and Mike Banfield on guitar, Eric Emm on bass, and Damon Che on drums. It's interesting to see where each of these four, as a sort of revolutionary coalition, headed after the band's ugly collapse in 2000.
Che went on to Bellini, where he continued to compete against the music with his unnecessary, flashy, self-involved drumming. Despite Che, Bellini was still mildly tolerable, Speaking Canaries not so much, but it was the gross concoction of Non Caballero's World Class Listening Problem in 2006, that solidifies Che's place at the bottom of our tournament bracket. Emm, now mostly does production work but gets accolades for his involvement with the venerable Storm & Stress (listen here), which released two records on Touch & Go and pushed beyond the new frontiers Don Cab had helped colonize. The real force behind S&S, however, was Ian Williams, whose post Caballero resume is by far the strongest of the three. After the follow-up Under the Fluorescent Lights (listen here), seemed to indicate the band had achieved all it could, Williams wisely called an end to Storm and Stress, and upped the ante again as co-author to a series of superb EP's with supergroup Battles. In 2007 Battles switched gears and released its first full-length, Mirrored, which is a whole separate can of worms we won't discuss here. But regardless of your feelings on Mirrored, it is clear Williams chooses to consistently move forward in his career rather than remain stagnant and you can't argue with the logic in that. But if you believe Mirrored is in fact a stumble, as I do, then you should know that the time is ripe for a rally.
2008 has plans to be the year the long-silent Mike Banfield returns to music with his new project, Knot Feeder. Based out of Pittsburgh, Banfields crew includes an Andy Curl on bass, Andrew Grossmann and Rob Spagiare of Tabula Rasa, with the possible opening for a vocalist (though I'm praying they opt to remain instrumental). They've begun recording tracks for a debut using material with some two years of reworking. Not to jump the gun or anything, but listen to these three tracks available for streaming here, and then try convincing me this isn't going to be in the runnings for our best record of 2008.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Year End Notes

The Top
Well the top tier of 2007 records has pretty much been covered here in earlier posts. I'm certain there is a very large number of equally worthy candidates out there, sadly it just seems to take a while for records of the type to rear their heads above the sea of mediocrity we've come to call indie-rock. Of the few gems I was able to scavenge, here are my top five:

Naturally, a band's debut record it's less likely to be discovered and this year only 37500 Yens' Astero was the only debut piece of music that found it's way into my stereo, and only by chance, and left an indelible impression. If forced, I'd have to say I enjoyed this collection of songs more than any other in 2007. It probably wasn't the most groundbreaking, but it seems to have selected all the finest elements from a diverse pool of admirable influences. The Conformist's 300 has to be a close second for sort of inventing their own bizarro hybrid genre that will launch a thousand records in the future. It brings me much happiness knowing that there is such a band called the Conformists out there, on tour, probably inspiring a bunch of warped-minded kids to think differently about their hackneyed punkrock. I was surprised at the strength of Z's Arms, and it's ability to maintain agression within such strict discipline. Their new album explores a range of textures, or dynamics, you might say, which their previous efforts hadn't. And it almost seems too easy to throw in Black Engine's Klu Klux Klowns but it's irresistible. It is basically a Zu record, and it sounds like a Zu record, which is to say it sounds like a beautiful, bludgeoning racket, so it makes for #4. And I gotta round it off with Ahleuchatista's Even in the Midst simply because no one else can do what they do for the fourth time over and still make it interesting, let alone their finest work. Plus they seem like a bunch of stand up guys and probably deserve it. I've never met them or anything but just look at them.

The Psychic Paramount released this wonderful LP, The Gamelan into the Mink Supernatural, which was originally released in 2005 but only as a compact disc. Available in 2007 on vinyl it sounds almost like a completely new album and at the very least worth mentioning again. The record was mixed in the red, as it were, to carry a sort of hypnotic feel, which turns some people off, but I didn't mind. The Psychic Paramount includes members of Laddio Bolocko, the legendary ever-inspiring noise-rock torch bearers of yesterday. No Quarter Records.
I'm somewhat taken aback by how much I'm enjoying Sleeping People's Growing. Their first release was interesting and worthwhile in that it felt like a logical extension of Rumah Sakit's work, but I can't quite determine weather in fact the band has taken a huge leap forward with it's darker, dronier, slintier tangents and sci-fi soundtrack synth tracks or if I'm just in a good mood. Temporary Residence.


Upsilon Acrux released it's fifth full-length this year, Galapagos Momentum, and while UA never disappoints it never quite blows you away the way it probably should. Considering the level of technical skill of which the band is capable, their records, while impressive, always seem to underwhelm just slightly. On tape anyhow. I caught the band's live set in a dingy unmentionable bar here in Chicago this October and decided that's how the band was meant to be heard.
Contrariwise, I saw Wilco in Chicago's new and ornate Millennium Park, and what I fail to understand about Jeff Tweedy is after assembling a lethal team of avant-garde professionals including On Filmore's Glenn Kotche, noise-specialist Jim O'Rourke of our favorite Brise-Glace, and the untouchable guitarist Nels Cline, the Wilco frontman puts out his blandest, most conventional record to date. The Nels Cline Singers on the other hand proved they are still capable of some interesting things on Draw Breath, while it may not have the fire of Nels' earlier works, it is still a fine record that includes a profoundly introspective opening track that feels like a summary of your life's experiences to date.
And in order to sustain your necessary Tortoise fill for the year you picked up the Exploding Star Orchestra's We Are All From Somewhere Else, which allowed you to hear Herndon and Mcentire's drums and Jeff Parkers guitar under the direction of Rob Mazurek. But if you were really lucky then you showed up to the Chicago Symphony Center on the 13th of October...

Here are selected tracks from some of the aforementioned records.

I saw a number of good shows this year but without a doubt the most radically interesting was Tortoise at the CSC. They played the musical accompaniment to F. W. Murnau's 1922 silent horror classic Nosferatu, which, I had no idea, is surprisingly terrifying. Add to that some spooky noises and ambiance from Tortoise's deep bag of electronic tricks and a dizzying view atop the fifth floor balcony-- very cool. I tried to keep track of the handful of musical 'themes' that recurred throughout the film, but Nosferatu himself was quite distracting and engaging, (props to that guy, honestly, he creeped me out), but I do recall the opening credits were accompanied by a reworked version of 'Salt the Skies', one of my favorite tracks of off 2004's It's All Around You. Beyond that all the music was unrecorded I'm pretty sure, and I particularly remember the music in the travelling sequences having a noteworthy quality to them. Somewhere I've read that Tortoise plans to use pieces written for that night's performance in a new record in'08 or '09. So we've got that going for us. But what I would really like to see is a DVD of the music score and the film, only because I very much want to show people what I saw that night- it was that good, but I'm pretty sure that is not likely to happen. But I'll settle for a youtube clip, or any sort of video from that evening. If anyone finds anything, let us know.

We might as well take this moment to plug another local act, Voltage, which played in front of Battles at the Empty Bottle, in March of this year. They're a two piece that very much caught me off-guard live, and as a bonus played in full-on knight's armour and chain mail. The two-piece also sell these home made synth-sets, and give you a soldering tutorial on their website. I believe their record does not do their live set justice, but it's still worth your dime.
And finally I wouldn't feel right if I didn't mention that 2007 saw the first new Slint material since the posthumous EP release of 1994. Slint played Spiderland front to back on a beautiful summer day in Union Park, and afterwards we met 'King's Approach' for the first time. Video here. Song here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


One Million Safe Hours (1999)
Portland, OR
Before we get to talking about the best records of 2007 I'd like to honor a piece of music I hadn't heard until this year, but was released in way back in '99. In the old days, before the internets, the only way to hear of new music was by word of mouth. I suppose there were mailing lists and that one guy who works at the record store, but those dudes try to sell you everything. You tell them, "I'm really mostly into, like, angular, abrasive stuff but, you know, in a smart way." He says, "O sure try this- " and hands you some tech-metal virtuoso bullshit. You always needed a reliable filter, a trustworthy kindred spirit. And those were a rare type, I think I knew one or two. And how many like-minded ears did they know? Prolly only two too, and I was one of them. So news traveled slow. Like really slow. And in this case of Mechakucha, about Eight years slow. But it is still here, now, and that's what's important.
If I ever describe a record as "disciplined" and you need a reference, this is it. The meat of One Million is a vast supply of off-beat and atonal riffs bolted to even more unlikely riffage on either side. And then submerge it in thick growl. Technical achievements normally fail to impress me unless they are accompanied by superior achievements of Tone, as Mechakucha does here.
Next to nothing is available on Mechakucha. I've done searches on it's members and and only a handful of results showed them to be involved individually in ensemble live projects, possibly jazz-based. So if you know of any information, please let me know. It's difficult to accept One Million Safe Hours as a sort of singular event, with no evolution, a fluke project Mechakucha as a trio created and then walked away from without consequence. Maybe another eight years and we'll know.
Listen to the opener, "Episodic De Ja Vu"
Only five bucks at Frenetic Records.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Zs and Zu

So I spent this October primarily listening to just these two bands, Zs and Zu. Both are tirelessly described as Avant-Rock or Avant-jazz or Avant-jazz-rock or some such combination around the internets. But I've found they fit in nicely with the bands covered here. They are entirely unrelated, but are very much similar to one another. Both are very much drenched in the saxophone, both are terribly innovative and make for a very refreshing listen. One's from New York, one's from Rome.


Buck (2007)

Brooklyn, NY

Gilgongo Records

In addition to releasing a new album Arms on Planaria records this year, Zs have also released Buck, a compilation of two live sets. I'm still waiting on Arms, so I can not vouch for it, but I have listened extensively to the Karate Bump EP and Zs, the 2003 self-titled. Both of these releases are excellent examples of what the band is capable of, and parts of both are featured in Buck, which is why it deserves a special highlighting here.

Part of what most allured me to Zs initially was the rhythms they create by lightly blowing into the reeds. That a band would accent this nearly inaudible effect and put it into the forefront of their sound was very exciting to me. But that it works so well in the live recording is what really blew me away. The tracks are all very complicated, have no obvious patterns, are by no means brief, and somehow are all performed flawlessly. Website. Myspace


Igneo (2002)

Rome, Italy

Frenetic Records

You could probably compare Zu to the Gorge Trio in the sense that they're a trio that's 'gone collaborative' over the years in pursuit of forever pushing the barriers their sound. I've heard a handful of these collaborations that are readily available here in the US, but it is the earlier Igneo, that is most easily found this side of the Atlantic, and seems to be the most popular of their releases. Igneo finds the group as it began, a three-piece of sax, bass, and drums, and special guests Ken Vandermark, Jeb Bishop and Fred Lomberg-Holm. They all play part to an intelligent, heavy, clamorous mess. Website.Myspace.

For 2007 Zu is operating under another moniker, Black Engine. This is a collaboration with Eraldo Bercocchi. The album Klu Klux Klowns is likely to be one of my favorites of the year. You can order the CD at this great site- Wallace Records. Listen to 4 tracks here or at the official website.

Black Engine - Ku Klux Klowns Zs - Arms

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Conformists

The Conformists
Three Hundred (2007)
St. Louis, MO
54-40 or Fight Records

I was fortunate enough to catch The Conformists at a midnight show here in Chicago a few months back, part of their 'world tour' supporting the new record, Three Hundred, on 54-40. The band had been on my bands-to-check-out list for some time, cheaply defined in the margins as a 'spooky U.S. Maple'. I suppose an unfairly small snapshot of Three Hundred might fit that description, but the whole experience of a Conformist's live set is what really transformed my understanding of the band.

Aside from the opening to the sixth track, the album might give the impression of a band that is gravely bound to a morose set of artsy-creepy themes. It is 9 tracks packed with quiet, dark, 'minimalist' moments like the skeletal guitar dawdling and gentle tapping of the drumkit's frame on 'Tax Deduction', heavy-breathing, panting and slurping throughout, plenty of tinkering and noise-making, and a half minute of an amp's hum to open the album. But in the flesh The Conformists blend their unique musical ideas with sarcasm, dry humor, and a brand of bizarre showmanship that could be compared to The Jesus Lizard. They do make use of the vocalist as an instrument ala U.S. Maple, that is to say that the vocals aren't just melodies to sing over the instruments, but an assortment of nutso personalities assumed by the frontman. This is done nicely on record and in the live set is performed by a shirtless schizophrenic crawling through the crowd, grabbing limbs, mumbling nonsense, generally trying to freak people out.

As much as the band may or may not like to hear it, 300 is going to be called 'deconstructionist', which to me is a perfectly apt description. (For their own reasons U.S. Maple has taken issue with the term.) But however you want to say it, The Conformists have found a way to forge Trout Mask Replica's structural demolitions with the vigor of TJL's Goat and Liar records. If I worked at 54-40 I'd put a little sticker on the CD, "Deconstrutionist music you can mosh to!"

In addition to being excellent musicians all, guitar, drums and bass, the band seems pretty young too, as near as I can tell. This is only their second full-length, aside from that they have a 12" of noises, and a 7". So we're hoping there is a long future ahead of them.

The website.

The Myspace.

A Video:

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Even in the Midst... (2007)
Asheville, NC

Ahleuchatistas are scheduled to officially release their fourth record next week some time. But it is now available by mail order. I've only had this album for a couple of days, so I have yet to really wrap my head around it, but the first impression is that it holds up to all that one would expect from an Ahleuchatistas record, and may even surpass What You Will and all it's Ahleu-glory. If you've never heard them, Ahleuchatistas is a guitar-bass-drums trio that plays a type of mathrock that is as loose as it is disciplined. (Some call it jazzy, or free-jazz, or jazz-core, but I try to avoid that lazy adjective.) By 'loose' we might say it sounds as though the three instruments are all telling the same story at once, but each account offers a version of events that disagrees slightly from the others. It all makes for a positively refreshing dichotomy. The band primarily blends it's own 'randomized notes' techniques and it's own kind of bizarro riffage assaults into wayward tangents that hardly look back toward their roots. At times these tangents move in such organic and natural ways while just as often they seem to be lawless and savage or even beautifully misplaced.
Woah. That came out pretty fast.
It really does make sense, though.
Listen to the record Here.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Blame Game

Blame Game
Ask Someone (2006)
Atlanta, GA
Stickfigure Records

It was only a little over a year ago when I first heard Blame Game's "Clear Change", the opening track from their final LP. Within a matter of hours I made sure that I had their entire catalogue in the mail and on it's way. Sadly, not but a few weeks later the band decided to call it quits. It's not very often you feel so compelled to reunite a band that you might not stop short of bribery or even entrapment. Well, maybe you might have that feeling often, but I certainly would never push beyond extortion. Like waterboarding or something. Thats taking things a little bit too far.

What I received in the mail a week later was a 2004 self-titled CD (a twenty-seven track collection of early hardcore-based material), Honey and Salt (an excellent and fluid 2005 full length, and milemarker of the band's evolution ), and the Ask Someone 12". The three releases, all profoundly different, each still proudly bare the unmistakable tattoo that is the Blame Game's uniquely amalgamated sound. I've never spoken to a member of this band, or come across a an interview dealing with the subject, but if I did I'd love to ask them what led to the dumping of two guitar players, and this deliberate evolution in only a few short years. I can only imagine that their youth played a factor in all of it, they'd gotten to write clever and innovative music, refreshingly devoid of conventional composition, before the world's stink of cliche was allowed to settle.

On this LP, two guitars "churn and weave" with one another, cutting and tearing into unexpected directions at impractical moments, synchronized so wonderfully that the two seem to be of one mind. One bass reigns them in like two comets on kite strings, and one drumkit will achieve just about anything any drumkit could ever hope to achieve for about 30 minutes and change.

I am sure there were influences, hidden somewhere deep beneath the surface, and they may reveal themselves one day. But as it was, in 2006, no band produced a finer blend of just such mysterious influences. Ask Someone is four tracks. Available on vinyl only.

"Clear Change" can be heard here.
More here.
Buy this record.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


Summing the Approach (1998)
Secretly Canadian
Bloomington, IN

Originally I intended to write about German Water, the near perfect full-length and big brother to this remarkable EP. But I found Summing the Approach late last night wooing me like an old decadent habit.
Riding and Roaming
Summing the Approach
My Eyes of Yours
With only four tracks it still manages to capture the tension and spookiness of German Water. You could say it achieves this by kidnapping all of the bratty whiny children of Spiderland and in their place substituting a team of masked assassins with roboticly precise trigger fingers. You'll notice how well the EP has built upon it's influences in "Cy", the opener, almost immediately with it's stuttering rhythms, subtle howls, and stretches of quiet, quiet guitar. I've always looked upon "Riding and Roaming", the following track, as a masterpiece of composition and mood, and you can certainly hear elements of "For Dinner..." in it's final moments of non-crescendo. But I am definitely not one to tax a band for building on the ideas of Slint. If you are, it's probably because you're upset Ativin got there first. Sucker.

Recorded by S. Albini', two guitars, drums.

Listen to "Cy" from this EP and other tracks here. Or at Epitonic.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


When in Vanitas (1994)
Only a few weeks ago Skingraft records found an old box of LP's that had been returned by a European distributor for having experienced some minor damage. The copies went quick but I was lucky enough to grab one. Since then I've been listening to it rather steadily, possibly appreciating it now a bit more as a record.
I'd say 3/5 of this record is noise, layered thickly but discriminately, to simulate perhaps some crudely industrial pre-apocolyptic offworld megalopolis. At least that's what I hear. Woven into Jim O'Rourke's craters and tunnels of sound is the unmatchable instrumentation of Darin Grey and Thymme Jones on bass and drums which propels this record beyond being just a supergroup project, but a definite trendsetter, the pioneering icon which all other noise-drenched records to come will imitate. Recorded by Steve Albini, it consists of five tracks at about fifty minutes.
Here is the opening track.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Economy of Motion (1998)
Dazzling Killmen are quite possibly responsible for creating music's greatest family tree of their decade. A sizable chunk of my favorite records are post-DK projects by bassist Darin Grey (Brise-Glace, Grand Ulena, You Fantastic!), while drummer Blake Flemming's Laddio Bolocko was also mind-blowing, and Nick Sakes' vocal and guitar performance on Colossamite's All Lingo's Clamor EP was certainly impressive. But perhaps the most surreal of all the Killmen's grandchildren is Colossamite's only full-length LP and wayward trip around the bend, Economy of Motion.
Not quite a total wreck, there are recognizable 'songs' with definite melodies, carved by an assault of three guitar's noisy ranting and a lawless drumkit. Yet the bulk of the record rests delicately on a sort of unstable precipice of sanity, and with each trip to this crackling threshold you are accompanied by an untamed vocal tour guide, who, even if completely mad, you must admit has an undeniable knack for The Word. And then suddenly, by the fourth track, you have veered off-course, and have found yourself on a slow and strange journey into the center of a massive pressure-cooker. (No doubt you are wondering what the fuck I am talking about, but hear the record and you shall be set free.) And then, just as suddenly, you're back in the heart some Spanish-Language Dadaist Word-Museum Civil War where the narrator implores you to "Make it simple. Like an Orange. Not like a toilet."
This toying with the boundaries takes place for under forty minutes, and perhaps reaches a climax of sorts on 'Tooth of Davinci", which can be downloaded here at Epitonic. Otherwise you can find the record's opener, "Hothouse", here, along with "Arkansas Halo". "Pee Dio" and "Busy Little Hands" off the record are also currently available, in addition to other downloads, at this fansite.
Skin Graft Records still has the CD and LP available.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Gorge Trio

Gorge Trio
Dead Chicken Fear No Knife (1998)
Free Land Records
Out Of Print

Dead Chicken was put to tape by 3/4 of the band Colossamite in order to tread where that band would not, if you can imagine that. Gorge Trio would ultimately find even more bizarre things to do in the studio, with a series of improvised collaborations over the next decade, but Dead Chicken archives the trio creating their only record in which the songs were premeditated, rehearsed, and perhaps even replicated live.
Recorded in the same year as Colossamite's pivotal masterpiece of insanity, the record naturally shares some likeness to Economy of Motion, but is somehow allowed to wander unlike it's counterpart. Whereas Colossamite seemed to have fully intended to create a particular album, Gorge Trio was not so protective of the outcome on Dead Chicken. It still champions that furiously clean Rodriguez/Dieterich guitar tone, along with that notoriously spastic clamour that is Chad Popple on the drumkit, but the song structures are wide-open, allowed to breathe, perhaps so much that they unravel, fall apart, or even lose their identities wholly. They may become rants of noise or evolve into unforeseen things. All in all, one of the finest examples of what can be done with a couple of guitars and a drumkit.
Dead Chicken Fear No Knife is currently out of print. The CD occasionally pops up on Ebay for under 20 bones, or just email me and I'll upload it.
Here are 5 tracks from the album.

Monday, July 23, 2007

37500 Yens

37500 Yens
Astero (2007)
Reims, France
Still not entirely sure what I'm doing with this site, I began to think about what records I've been impressed with this year. A lot of what I've been drudging up recently is pretty dated. As far as 2007 goes, I'd be tempted to say there hasn't been a whole lot happening to my knowledge if it were not for this one outfit from across the Atlantic, 37500 Yens. France seems to be the burgeoning hotbed for interesting guitar and drums music as of late: Chevreuil, Cheval de Frise, Passe Montagne, Room 204, and Grumpf Quartet (for which I cannot find a label or a record if you can help), to name a few.
Astero, amongst all this greatness still, leads the pack. It is hyper-aggressive guitar and drums two piece, that puts most duos to shame. There are loop pedals I'm sure, but the dynamics here are an outstanding achievement for just two musicians. The range and depth of mood which this band is capable of is astounding. Sullen, then chaotic. Fierce, then droning. The tone, the recording, just the right amount of effects, Saxaphone, everything about this record is flawless.
Canard Boiteaux
Interieur 1
Interieur 2
The Sullivan's Quartet
I'm just gonna link you to their MP3's for now.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Del Rey

Del Rey
A Pyramid For The Living (2006)
My Pal God Records
Chicago, IL

Each of Del Rey's four releases is worth it's own college thesis, but their latest, A Pyramid for the Living, is their finest example of sonically translating the epical. Damien Burke, Brendan Daly, Eben English and Michael Johnson (the North American Snare Drum Champion, by the way), released their first EP in 1997 and have managed two excellent LP's, Speak It Not Aloud, and Darkness & Distance, between then and this last year's release that clocks in at fifty minutes with only five tracks.
The record opens with the theatrical "Olympus Mons", a ten and a half minute classic tragedy that has all the elements of a Homer masterpiece. Sitars, choirs of Siren-like voices, it's like a civilization builds and then dies and then rebuilds and re-dies again. The rest of the album holds to the saga-like standard as well, with each mini-epic And all this while wisely and vigilantly eyeful of that hazy grey matter that separates fine instrumental story-telling from the histrionic and melodramatic black holes so rampant in today's "post-rock".
Olympus Mons
A Brief Strangle
If their mastery of crescendo and timing don't kill you, what will kill you is the DOUBLE DRUMKITS. Holy fucking hell. It is unfortunate that this technique never quite translates as fiery in the studio as it does in the live performance. After seeing a number of bands that have recruited a second drummer for their shows, it is clear this is always the case. But of all those bands, Del Rey is undeniably at the forefront. The two kits work off one another, masterfully. Pay close attention to the overlapping rhythms from each channel. One snare will hit, and a split second later the other will hit. Always a wonder seeing it live.
Listen to a good chunk of this record's first track via Quicktime.
Or at their Myspace.

My Music on RYM

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The Purkinje Shift

The Purkinje Shift
Atlanta, Ga
Samizdat Records

Nickel Waves And Carbon Stars
Five for the Road and One for the Ditch

In many ways I've always regarded these two albums as Volumes I and II of the same idea. They compliment each other nicely, and I suppose if you'd listened to them consecutively at length, you too might find them inseparable.
The Purkinje Shift may not seem immediately ground-breaking or bold in any technical sense. But what I've found refreshing about their two albums is the mood. Their sound is reminiscent of a kind of sleepless, sinister dementia. (Somehow several hours ago you got this funny idea in your head and then you couldn't stop. And now look. What is that, blood? Where did that come from?)
Wherever Purkinje Shift is going they are not in a hurry to get there. They take the long scenic routes. Their songs unfold like the traversal across myriad types of alien terrain, or like a Kaliedescope. It seems so natural as it's happening and then suddenly you look around and realize you are not anywhere near where you thought you were. You were suduced by curiosity, and now you have to find your way home. And yes, you're pretty sure that stuff is blood. But no, you're not so sure that it's yours. The Shift are a three piece, two guitars and drums, and for whatever reason they always remind me of some kind of demented backwoods occult blues band. Like a secret society in cloaks in the woods surrounded by fire. They look nothing like that, of course, but that's the impression I always get. ( I guess they wore suits.)
The two guitarists went on without the drummer to form Moreland Audio. Their record Turbogold is also excellent and expands even further on the ideas established in Purkinje Shift. All three albums available on CD at 54'40' or Fight records.
Here are some Mp3's on from a Myspace page.

Edit: Visit the Purkinje Shift's Ben Davis' blog, Master of None where you can find downloadable live sets from the Shift in '00 and Moreland Audio in '03. In addition to his other projects, definitely take the time to listen to the mastered tracks of the debut record that almost was from Home of the Wildcats.

Friday, June 15, 2007


Cryptooology (2004)
Skin Graft Records
St. Louis, MO

Cryptooology is not only one of the strangest and greatest albums in my collection, but it is also exists as some kind of bizarre historical achievement fulfilled on behalf of mankind. Seconds into this half-hour long CD may seem like an incomprehensible mess of clangy guitars and close-mic drums. But by record's end the listener may in fact conclude that Cryptooology was created under the rules of another sort of civilization, one vastly different than the one we're used to, the one that includes, let's say, the Nuge or Rivers Cuomo.

It may at first feel like some nonsensical, improv free-jazz, but you will discover upon dissection that it is actually very precise and very deliberate. There are definite structures to the songs, though none of them at all are immediately recognizable. The two guitars are coordinating in some way, but that way is possibly not musical. It seems beyond musical. Perhaps meta-musical. You might think at points that there is no logic to any of it, but keep at it and the drummer will assure you, he knows exactly what is happening. He is so dead-on and so precise that you feel embarrassed to have ever attempted to tap your foot to anything audible in your life.

After a few listens you really begin to think about how the three-piece went about writing this album. Crafting it part by part, and then piecing it all together seems like an enormous task, and for that alone Cryptooology is admirable. But the record also boasts some more important qualities. It really conveys such a sense of other-worldliness and appears so devoid of human fingerprints that it must be some sort of milestone of creativity for the sub-genre at least, if not music as a whole. Perhaps that is egregious flattery, but until some new record convinces me otherwise, Cryptooology is as creative as it gets.

Here is the first track:

And a Myspace page.

Monday, June 11, 2007


Songs on Love, nos. 48602-48608 (1997)
Baltimore, MD
Where ever it is that Haberdasher exists in space-time, it is at the onset, or Day 1, of my exposure to eclectic and innovative guitar/bass/drums music. I was 17 in 1997, still a very impressionable age, when I saw them live. And although it took years to fully ferment, it is clear now, that an incurable poisonous seed was sewn that night, a decade ago.
While still not entirely certain that I had understood what I had just seen, I remember finding the drummer after their set, caked in sweat and bleeding. His hands were shaking wildly, as I tossed some bills on the table and grabbed their CD. Songs on Love nos. 48602-48608. All the tracks were numbers:
The record begins with drums that sound like the stumbling of a dying man from a pool of his own blood. It's a slow spooky burner that builds itself over the course of five minutes to resemble some sort of out-of-control machine that either must engulf or destroy everything in it's path before it erupts in it's final cacophonous seconds. The next few tracks have all the themes of a classic odyssey, enriched by cold, eerie, guitar structures (that perhaps owe a small debt to Spiderland), and hemmed with a bit of poetry. There are brief moments of light on this record that can often be found snaking between the darker things. But these rewards will only reveal themselves when the listener decides to listen vigilantly, as it seems the album relies on it's subtlety as much as it relies on it's drama. From beginning to end, the instrumentation on the record achieves a level of restraint where most albums fail. All the instruments are all equally focused on their common agenda and loyally march towards it as one.
Sadly, this was Haberdasher's only full length LP. There are still available a 7" (the 'Quarry' 7") and a few tracks off of some old compilations, but Songs on Love is clearly the desired intention of the brief project that was Haberdasher. The band split up not long after this release. 3/4 of this outfit went on to become the whole of More Dogs, while 1/4 went on to become 1/3 of OXES.

Monday, June 4, 2007


S/T (2000)
Box Factory Records

Out of print.

Not too much information is available on Lynx. I've been able to establish that the band had it's origins in Boston and subsequently moved to Chicago possibly aspiring to latch on to the tail end of the area's Math-rock "scene". They released one self-titled album, recorded by Bob Weston, and an EP (though I've never seen it) on the now defunct label Box Factory Records, which put out material by the likes of Emperor Penguin, Oxes, and The 90 Day Men.

Dave Konopka, Paul Joyce, Dale Connolly, Mike Hutchins.

Lynx has experienced a mild resurgence of attention lately with the recent successes of Dave Konopka's newest project, Battles, alongside ex-Don Cab member Ian Williams. I've not been able to dig up any post-Lynx material by the other three.

The album is entirely instrumental, but retains a narrative throughout. Similar to a Don Cab record like American Don in the sense that it offers a pleasant mix of mathy elements and melody. Yet unlike Don Cab, Lynx never loses focus of its themes, and never becomes so cluttered. It is a clean math album. It is deliberate. There are angular and dissonant moments, but they are rare and brief. It is a math record mostly on it's creative and versatile use of rhythms, driven by excellent drumming. From beginning to end it is an ideal illustration of the limitless capacity of the guitar/bass/drum genre, composed with a vengeful sense of discipline to achieve epic ends. One of my favorite records.

This track "Mrs. Lynx" is featured both on the EP and the full-length. This recording is taken from the EP, and is a fair representative of the band's tone and mood. In the opening minutes, the instruments will flex their muscle, showing you what they are capable of. From there, the track begins its slow evolution into an anthemic climax.

Mrs. Lynx

Other Mp3's are available here. The CD is normally available at Amazon or Ebay. Sometimes as much as $50.00 sometimes as little as $2.50. Or if you email me I'll send you a link

Edit: A Myspace page.