Better do a swift round-up of some items which arrived from Feeding Tube Records in March 2014. As you know this Massachusetts label do most of their editions in small-run vinyl pressings and have an editorial policy that supports local home-grown talent and tends towards the outré and the eccentric in music and performance.
Quintorian Blues (FTR139) is a sprawling double-LP by Hurricanes Of Love. This appears to be mostly the work of the highly bearded Frank Hurricane, who is a competent-enough acoustic guitar player on the available evidence here. One doesn’t swoon at his nuanced ripple-picking skills or his unusual chord shapings, but rather the quite primitive energy which sometimes exhibits itself on each performance; I find myself enjoying these moments when his hands become blunt instruments and the music transforms into abstract painting delivered with a three-foot wide paintbrush, instead of his more conventional pastoral/acoustical meandery material which largely wanders around already-familiar chord roots. On the other hand, Frank describes what he does as “Spiritual Mountain Psych Gangsta Folk”, and some of his more recent album titles lapse into the “urban” street-talk argot with remarkable ease. Even his blog is entirely written in full caps, the better to convey his innate enthusiasm for life. I expect it’s this zesty attitude which really propels his music, rather than any serious attempt at acoustic guitar craft along the lines of Fahey, Basho, Kotke et al. 1 A pleasant enough listen, although I found my attention wandering when he launches into one of his shaggy-dog stories, where it’s hard to tell when the introduction leaves off and the song begins. It’s a combination of speech-singing and guitar picking which is like hearing a debased nightmare version of David Crosby regaling an LA audience of stoned freaks while he’s tuning up. Even this generous double-LP format proves almost inadequate to contain the breadth and length of Hurricane’s ramblings.
I’m on safer ground with Yeppers (FTR126), which is a tasty LP of energetic improvised noise performed by Los Condenados. In this trio of “the condemned”, there’s the distinctive voice and laptop work of Andrea Pensado, the Buenos Aires musician who we interviewed in issue 21 mostly on the strength of her sizzling Ktotam album for Zeromoon. On evidence of these grooves, she’s still an incandescent performer, spitting out darts of free-form emotion into her headset. Jules Vasylenko blows his stack hooting wildly on two strange instruments called the “Bamboozle Sax” and “Trombax”, while Walter Wright contributes live electronic bursts that scurry around the room like benign green cockroaches. Three live recordings were caught on tape at the 119 Gallery in Lowell and the Whitehaus in Boston. There’s plenty of fire and crackle, but also more subdued moments after the high-pitched screaming has settled down, where we can enjoy the combinations of unusual sounds in all their alienating suppurations. Raw and honest outpourings, both direct and powerful; no edits or truncations in sight, and none of the musicians are striking poses or playing subtle counter-strategies with their partners, like you find with some more constipated improvisational music. A good one; I also like the colours on the front cover, even if the painting is a bit shapeless.
Even noisier than the previous is Ernest Thrasher (FTR132), a blaster of an album credited to Noise Nomads which is Jeff Hartford, a fellow who has performed as one half of Moose Jaw and has a credible string of solo releases trailing behind him like so many tin cans since 2003. Press notes reckon Hartford to provide a live experience that delivers as much heft and weight as a bag of cement to the torso (not their exact words). This item of lively roarage was created using the Tascam 424, a cassette multi-tracking machine, with its outputs modified using Greenwood electronics. While reading this it may strike you as just another table-noise set-up fit for terrorising masochistic audiences, what I like here is the intensity and focus of Noise Nomads’ intricate groove, and the intelligence in evidence behind its composition and realisation; he’s not in the game simply to frighten the horses, nor scatter the crows over the wheatfield with his electrified shrieks and howls. There’s depth and complexity here that requires further listening and investigation.
Tooth Ache is Alexandria Hall from Vermont. Her Flash & Yearn (FTR130) feels like an uncharacteristic album for this label to release: rather melodic contemporary electro-pop songs with a slightly avant twist, making heavy use of tropes and riffs from club culture, including computerised beats. However, the mesmerising repetitions are beguiling, plus there’s a certain strange charm to Alexandria’s impressionistic singing voice; perhaps the label are hoping she’ll develop into another Patty Waters, with her wordless and slightly R&B-inflected vocal tones.
The acronym AWOTT stands for Asian Women On The Telephone, a bizarre combo from Moscow who play an indescribable form of punk rock music on Ivan (FTR129) full of heavy, bassy, industrial rhythms and incomprehensible lyrics sung in a vaguely “tribalist” manner, strained through heavily-treated voices. I have the feeling I should be enjoying this LP more than I am, but today it seems mannered and ungainly, as if they’re trying a shade too hard to project a freakoid vibe and convince us of their far-out credentials. There’s a lack of purpose to much of the music which I find frustrating. It might make more sense if you watch one of their live shows on YouTube, so you can enjoy their crazy costumes and masks, but even here I sense a certain awkwardness, as if the performers have not fully mastered the stage-craft needed to pull this off. When ye elect to don weird masks on stage and intend to play live music too, perils await ye. Still, at least they look and sound as though they’re enjoying themselves, which is more than many contemporary bands can say.
- Matter of fact I’m quite relieved that he doesn’t attempt to follow those maestros as we’ve had plenty of others making botched attempts at the task in recent years. ↩