Tagged: avant-rock

Stasi Criteria

solaris

This whole “Krautrock thing” sometimes seems to have grown into something monstrous and uncontrollable…it’s been twenty years since I began this stupid music magazine venture, and in my first issue I was full of enthusiasm with the “rediscovery” of what was for me mostly new territory, and wittered in insane, fatuous ways about the music of Faust, Popol Vuh, Amon Düül, Neu!, and Tangerine Dream. The 1990s were a good time to be doing that, as so much of the back catalogue of prominent Kraut idols was being reissued on compact disc, and more discoveries kept coming to light as record labels maintained the programme of intensive vault-excavations. Since then there’s been books and articles galore fixing “Krautrock” as a viable genre in our minds, and nowadays the term is applied loosely by music journalists and press agents to any contemporary combo trying anything that’s vaguely experimental. Likewise, many bands and musicians are quick to apply it to their music themselves, without any prompting. We think we understand the term as shared currency, but do we? If only we could all agree on what “Krautrock” actually means…there’s so much variety and ground-breaking material that emerged from parts of Germany through the 1970s, so much of it with very little common ground.

I mention this with no prejudice whatever towards Solaris, and their rather nifty CDR called Summer Edits (LINEAR OBESSIONAL RECORDINGS LOR 0069). The headline is that these 12 instrumentals are heavily influenced by “Krautrock”, but the band come clean about this, and the influence has come about in a rather roundabout way. Also, to their credit, they are nowhere near as smarmy and “knowing” about their references as the awful Stereloab, or Julian Cope on Skellington. Further, Solaris quickly transcend the influences, and end up creating great and original music all of their own, and the inventiveness and ingenuity on offer here is impressive, each track revealing new ideas and fresh surprises.

The team of Mark Sanderson, Mark Spybey and Richard Sanderson claim that they formed Solaris in 1974, when they were all teenagers. They shared a love of Krautrock music during these glorious years when Can LPs were selling in Woolworths and The Faust Tapes could be had for 49p from a Virgin Megastore. Solaris never made any records or cassettes, however, and the present release represents the efforts of these fifty-something English fellows as they “reformed” the band. Recordings were made in 2010 and 2012. The notes here state in a euphemistic fashion that “the musicians have matured in the intervening decades”, but I think the process that is relevant is that both Sandersons and Spybey have lived through many interesting developments and shifts in musical culture in these isles, and followed separate paths too; both Sandersons were members of a post-punk band called Drop, but Richard followed the shining star of free improvisation in the 1980s and has never looked back. I have met Richard in London a few times; I still recall him saying “I didn’t fight in the punk wars for this!” a propos of some recent musical development which he didn’t approve of. This is what I mean by “a roundabout way”; Solaris have returned to their Krautrock roots after 42 years, and filtered it through their adult selves. A process of distillation, one might say.

Music here as noted has much to savour in terms of its inventiveness, sense of discovery, even a sense of fun…music soon escapes the traps of genre pigeon-holing and becomes a living thing. Contributing factors might include (1) lo-fi recording quality in places, adding a sheen of authenticity without feeling like a spray-on atmosphere effect; (2) slightly ramshackle playing, where instruments and timing don’t quite marry up, but the rough edges make it just perfect; (3) evidence of strong rapport between the three, creating events and moments which many musicians would gaze on in envy, showing that their friendship has held good after a long time. Hugely enjoyable…gets better the more I listen. Expect scads of lively avant-rock, bizarre mystery drones, strange outer-space sounds, tasty organ licks, and more. Free experimentation influences mixing in with the project. In one instance (‘The In Section’) they even liken themselves to The Mnemonists. But there’s a lot of originality, and rarely if ever do they settle for a commonplace noise or an overused digital sound for any reason. Great! From 24 June 2016.

The Synarchy of Molten Bones: another intense chapter in legendary French black metal band’s journey

Deathspell Omega, The Synarchy of Molten Bones, France, Norma Evangelium Diaboli, CD digipak NED041 (2016)

After a 6-year break during which DSO fans had to be content with compilations, boxed sets and short EPs, the mighty French legends finally release a new album which turns out to be not that much longer than the short EP releases. Those of us hoping for something innovative from the band that was evident on the last original work “Drought” will be a bit disappointed too – the atmosphere and dark moods and spaces on that EP have gone and in their place is what we know to be DSO’s usual style of highly technical and sharp twisting-and-turning dense black / death metal. As is the custom of DSO, there are usually just two modes of musical delivery: the fast and furious careening along at breakneck speed that continually throws listeners off balance; and the short micro-breaks between one such episode and the next such episode.

“The Synarchy of Molten Bones” might be DSO in default cruise mode, and I’m a bit disappointed that the music here is no advance on their last release, but most DSO fans who’ve been starved for new music will be happy just to know their heroes can still deliver powerful and intense venomous black metal. The music is still dense and spiky in that dark sparkling jewelled dissonant-tone way, and there’s still that deranged edge to the playing and the ravaged multi-demon voices that dominate all four songs. The lyrics proclaim a new humanity arising from the remains of the old, but this time in the image of Satan, with all that is implied in that idea. Satan is still at heart a trickster and dissembler and a humanity in his image might partake of his deceptive nature and be no better than the humans that have gone before. Like other DSO releases, this one is so intense, overwhelming in its densely layered music and esoteric lyrics, that most fans will need several hearings to absorb it all. Though the distorted sound is still familiar, the production is still clean enough that a cold airy background ambience, through which choirs can be heard sighing, makes its presence felt through the flippy blast-beat percussion, the noodling guitars and the demon voices as they fade in and out and blend with one another.

There isn’t much to distinguish the four tracks from one another except perhaps that each succeeding track is more insane and frantic than the one before. DSO really play like men possessed and if all DSO albums were to be judged purely on their levels of madness and demented intensity, “The Synarchy …” would rate very high. The drumming especially has a deranged life of its own and I think it’s a pity the actual beats have such a thin brittle quality and don’t have the power they could have. Indeed the thin production here doesn’t do DSO much justice – the music needs to be deeper to bring out the band’s fanatical side.

Even so, there’s plenty of substance in the lyrics that will intrigue listeners and which might ensure that the album, for all its immediate musical faults, will grow on listeners and be considered essential listening, warts and all.

Long Overdue Part 16

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Dial are a reliably excellent underground US band, featuring the talents of Jacqui Ham from Ut. They’re not terribly prolific though, and the last item we enjoyed was their superb album 168k released in 2007. From November 2012, we have Western Front (EKTRO-084) issued by the Finnish label Ektro Records, their fourth release. Besides vocalist and guitarist Ham, there’s Rob Smith from God adding guitar and drum programming, and Dominic Weeks from Furious Pig and Het. I think one of their virtues and well-demonstrated on this release is their very basic approach in the studio – most of these songs are done by the simplest of means, a combination of drum machine, vocals, and synth or guitar. The assembly of the music seems to take precedence over any conventions of song-writing; we often have the feeling they’re building the songs building-block fashion right there in the recording room. This gives every song a tremendous directness, a clarity of intent; the songs comes charging out fully-armed, fully-loaded, ready to mow down all like an armoured tank. The press note here gives the impression the band flit about between the US and France, and make records when and where they can in guerilla fashion, a method which seems very plausible. Extremely inventive and edgy music, building on ideas of No Wave and post-punk, laced with additions of 1990s-styled table noise, lo-fi techniques, and taut, Can-styled rhythmic loops. Recommended!

Long Overdue Part 7

belly

We have noted Andrew Plummer’s works briefly in the past – the bizarre songs of World Sanguine Report are enough to make anyone sit up and take notice, and Plummer cultivates his status as a sort of English Tom Waits / Captain Beefheart sea-faring eccentric type. Another band he plays in is Snack Family, with drummer Tom Greenhalgh and sax player James Allsopp; their Belly EP (LIMITED NOISE LTDNSE5) may not be especially “avant”, but is an extremely visceral and eccentric take on the sort of evil swamp blues we might associate with Dr John, crossed with ingenious off-beat rhythms and deliciously spare playing from the side musicians. On the title track ‘Belly’ you’ll feel like you’re being compelled by a malevolent witch to eat your last meal of poisoned chili beans; you can feel indigestion setting in already, but you can’t stop shovelling food in your mouth. Drew Millward made the cartoony Grand Guignol cover art. Not safe for vegetarians. From 4th March 2014; they made one other EP that year (Pokie Eye).

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Last noted Vladislav Delay with his 2012 Kuopio album for Raster-Noton where Jen noted his “nervy beats”…his Espoo EP (RASTER-NOTON R-N 141) experiments further with beats and loops, and intends to set-up maddening cross-rhythms that are had to follow. It’s done with filters, modifiers and echo effects, but the equipment precisely controlled; you can tell on the finished product that there’s not a single digit out of place, in the inhumanly exacting patterns that have been so ruthlessly enacted and executed. Vladislav Delay explicitly intends to create conceptual music, yet he doesn’t want to depart too far from the disco dance hall. These ingenious mesmerising pound-a-thons ought to present quite a challenge to your average hoofer. I like the way he disguises his severe conceptual ideas; the sound of this record, for instance, isn’t too alienating, and indeed ‘Kolari’ has a user-friendly ambient setting that cushions the blows from these steely and devilish beats of high complexity. By front-loading his work with semi-familiar and approachable sounds, perhaps he stands a chance of smuggling his subversive ideas into the mainstream of dance culture. From 3rd July 2012.

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Beautiful and transcendent droney-violin and synth sound art thing from Marielle V. Jakobsons and her Glass Canyon (STUDENTS OF DECAY SOD097). For this project, painstakingly created over a number of years between 2009 and 2011, this Oakland artist decided to reduce the process to just violin and synthesizer, mostly to explore the sonorities of “where two timbres meet”. The simplicity of the process conceals a lot of complexity; somehow you can tell there’s a great deal of preparation, forethought and composition that has been fed into each of these gorgeous long-form stretches of sound, and she’s not simply letting her machines run on autopilot. This seems to be the first work released under her own name; the curious listener may wish to investigate her Ore record from 2009, released for Digitalis as Darwinsbitch, and she’s also led the groups Date Palms, Portraits, and Myrmyr. From listening, and from titles such as ‘Purple Sands’ or ‘Dusty Trails’, it’s clear she’s a landscape painter in sound, and her multi-media practices involving art installations would seem to conform this; her intention is to create a “visceral experience of sound and light”. I think ‘Purple Sands’ and ‘Cobalt Waters’ are among the finest pieces here, with incredibly subtle shifts in tone, mostly staying in a very pleasant and beautiful place and allowing us to contemplate it; for a few precious moments on ‘Purple Sands’, there’s one of the most mournful and affecting violin tones I’ve ever heard, like the cry of a bird. ‘Dusty Trails’ has a synth sequencer rhythm and somehow seems a tad more conventional, stylistically tipping its forehead towards Tangerine Dream, but that’s a small quibble when faced with such an original and sumptuous album. From 3rd July 2012.

Sistere: an epic debut of fusion post-rock / doom / sludge metal

Izah, Sistere, Sweden, Nordvis Produktion, digipak CD NVP028 (2015)

For a debut album, “Sistere” is a whopper at 72 minutes with the title track alone clocking in at 31 minutes. You’d expect Izah to have plenty to say to keep you all interested and for the most part they keep you busy and tuned in with their mix of dark urban blues ambient, sludge metal, hardcore and post-rock. Combined with a range of moods, mostly in the dark brooding end of the emotional spectrum which could spill into sudden anger and violence, this particular musical fusion makes for a recording of quite complicated soundscapes.

Opening track “Indefinite Instinct” is a gentle introduction into “Sistere” with post-rock melodies that steadily descend into a heavier, more monstrous sludge metal demon complete with distorted shouting voices and effects suggestive of mental and emotional fragmentation and breakdown. This leads into the aggressive death metal of “Duality” delving into passages of deep cavernous atmosphere and jangling guitars, or field recordings of multi-voiced speeches, and eventually turns into an epic post-rock sludge drama of despair and heartbreak. Yet threaded through this song is a tiny sliver of hope and light which keeps the whole track together and focused. “Finite Horizon” follows in a similar vein as the two preceding tracks: mixing melodic post-rock, hardcore and hard-driving, grinding sludge with clean vocals and spoken voice recordings into another anthem of giant proportions. While the music itself is very impressive as it builds towards its climax, the clean-toned choirboy-like singing is rather weak and its style is embarrassingly reminiscent of old 1970s hard rock US bands like Kansas and Styx. If there’s a song in the first half of the album that needs pruning, “Finite Horizon” most needs the secateurs.

At this point, most bands might consider that 41 minutes of music would be more than enough to introduce them to new audiences but Izah cruise ahead with a fourth song that’s three-quarters as long as the rest of the album.  The title piece is a melange of sorrowful post-rock, black metal, anguished rasping vocal, brooding atmospheres, spoken voice and other field recordings, epic doom rock, screechy noise and symphonic rock all united by a pessimistic vision and a relentless trudge towards what must be an apocalyptic climax. It could have been a long rambling mess but the song is very focused and concentrated and that along with the steady pace keeps it united if loose. There’s still scope to reduce some of the length of the song especially in the last five minutes without affecting its integrity.

While the album is long and has passages of heavy grinding music, it’s not exhausting and it’s less of an endurance test than would be expected for epic doom / sludge / post-rock fusion music. Izah do have some pop sensibility and know what will appeal and how much to dole out. The album easily lends itself to separate hearings – you could treat tracks 1 to 3 as a unit separate from the title track if you wish or if you feel brave, hear everything in one go. “Sistere” (the album) is actually consistent musically all the way through even though the temptation to range far and wide and eccentrically with the style and songs Izah have must have been strong. The result is an album that is well balanced between single-minded direction and experimentation that goes far enough without falling over completely into messy self-indulgence.

Funny Aminals

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Here’s the latest release from Tetrix, the oddball Canadian pop-experimenters from Calgary. Recent releases have been vehicles for radio plays, where the band would splice their warpoid pop songs into a sustained narrative complete with sound effects, characters, and unexpected payoffs, almost creating a mini-movie for the ears. With this new Cat-Headed item, which may be called Tetrix 14, the band write to say “we’ve returned to the basics…just music, no radio play”. Accordingly here are 18 songs segued together in a loose suite, and it’s a very satisfying listen. No annoying “wacky” cartoon voices getting in the way and it’s possible to concentrate more on the music.

Tetrix can’t help parodying and pastiching, and on this occasion we hear quasi-psychedelic songs, electropop, acoustic ballads just dripping with too much fake echo, cod-reggae, rap, and their white-bread idea of how to do R&B / soul songs…it can come across as contrived and synthetic, and this is no doubt why Tetrix are perceived to be insincere pranksters, but if you draw this conclusion too hastily you will miss out on some finely crafted pieces of work. They are skilled musicians, and know how to construct a song using old-fashioned craft; under the plastic surface of the over-cooked studio effects, there is real passion and emotion in the singing, and many of these pieces are genuinely affecting.

Tetrix have a facility which many would envy; perhaps it goes too far, and they find it so easy to construct a song that they have to set themselves the additional challenge of doing it in a different style every time, just to keep themselves fresh. I know that Frank Zappa would discipline (some would call it “bullying”) his touring bands to the point that they had not only learned all the material by heart, they could play the same tunes in a half-dozen different tempos and styles, all based on the finger-pointings of the musical director. Natch, this being Zappa, said musical styles were often heavily parodic and full of audible sneers, especially when he and the band attempted to play in a “reggae” style. Without knowing the musicians in Tetrix personally, I would like to think they’re not pursuing the same agenda as that Grand Cynic.

If you like melody, songcraft, songs and tunes – all given a strange twist by a very curious and unusual approach to studio production – then permit me to recommend this album. As usual with this band, they have opted for a zany shaped cover for a limited edition CD. “The cover is a three colour silkscreen (yours glows in the dark),” states the accompanying letter. “It comes in 35 colour combos!” From 26 April 2016.

Christ Clad in White Phosphorus: not just another tour-de-force album by Caïna

Caïna, Christ Clad in White Phosphorus, Apocalyptic Witchcraft Recordings, digipak CD APW011 (2016)

Since reforming in 2012, Caïna continues to do no wrong from this listener’s viewpoint as it evolves from Andrew Curtis-Bicknell’s solo project  to a three-member band and the music shifting from black metal / post-BM to a black metal mixed with industrial, dark ambient, noise electronics and 80s-styled darkwave / synth-pop influences. In my little world at least, every new album release from Caïna is an event not to be missed.  Listening to Caïna’s recordings isn’t easy and most of them can be very hard-going, and not just because they can be long or because they can be so unpredictable. There is much emotional pain revealed that can resonate with dark moments in most people’s lives and a listener would have to be either dead, comatose or sociopathic not to be affected by moments in Caïna’s albums to the point of tears.

From the hellish industrial nightmare ambience created by opener “Oildrenched and Geartorn” through intense raw garage black metal filled with rage and a desire to destroy everything within hearing range in tracks like “Fumes of God” and “Entartete Kunst”; doomier and darker melodic pop-song tracks like “Gazing on the Quantum Megalith” and “God’s Tongue as an Ashtray”; the noise / dark ambient soundscapes of “The Throat of the World” … the sonic universe that arises is incredibly vast and varied yet it all crackles with energy and a malevolent spirit. If anything, there might be too much going on here (for a 53-minute album) with Caïna jumping from one style of music to another through songs that are often just 4 – 6 minutes which may not be enough time for many listeners to fully savour the sounds, the emotions, the fury and intensity of one song before they are hurled into another.

Just when you think Caïna has gone past the halfway mark and can do no more, the band goes to another level with pieces like the fusion dark ambient / jazz of “Pillars of Salt” and the harsh blizzard 90s-Norwegian styled black metal of “The Promise of Youth”. These send us to the unreal blinding-white dazzle ambient world of static and white sizzle noise that is “Extraordinary Grace”. Have we all died and gone to Heaven to meet our maker and hear the judgement to be pronounced upon us? In an album already jam-packed with experimentation and investigations into angst and melancholy, this near-psychedelic track, lasting for 12 minutes, is an astounding discovery, the proverbial diamond in a heap of black coal. This quartet of songs ends with the title track which with clean vocals, shrill guitar melodies and pulsing synth accompaniment, sounds like a noisy black metal reworking of a 1980s Goth synth-pop song.

For a band that at one point in its past almost did away with black metal completely, Caïna commit themselves to the black art with the force and aggression that comes from being fully invigorated with the music again. Perhaps bringing on board guest vocalists on previous album “Settler of Unseen Snares” and a permanent vocalist and another musician has inspired AC-B anew. Caïna’s sound is fuller, more blood-red raw and intense than I remember from earlier recordings.

Coupled with excellent production, this album presents a reborn Caïna that is at once experimental and at the same time surprisingly accessible with songs possessed of catchy tunes and beats, all arranged in a way that shorter, more conventionally oriented BM tracks (well, relatively speaking of course – we’re talking about an act whose work has always spanned several genres) come first before the more surreal pieces. It can be a lot to take in and several songs are very uncompromising in their aggression and intense delivery. This is an album that repays repeated hearings: with each spin, you may find your darkest fears and vulnerabilities exposed anew.

At this point, if Caïna never do anything else again, the band will be leaving behind a legacy of great if not always perfect albums. I rate Caïna among Britain’s greatest rock music exports, and that is really saying something even now with so much British pop and rock music in apparent decline.

Ilmasaari: a good booming start for blackened doom duo Ashtar

Ashtar, Ilmasaari, Switzerland, Czar of Crickets Productions, limited edition CD CZAR027 (2015)

Although the two members of Swiss band Ashtar already knew each other from other bands playing psychedelic stoner rock and doom, a few years were to pass before the duo released their debut recording “Ilmasaari”. The album’s name means “Island of the Skies” in Finnish, and while one Ashtar member Marko Lehtinen is indeed Finnish in origin, the other member Witch N who writes and sings the lyrics isn’t so that might be a relief to those of us (like me) who know nothing of the language. Ashtar play doom / sludge metal mixed with strong black metal and dark ambient influences.

The Ashtar musicians have a confident and robust sound and good songwriting and playing skills in both black and doom metal, all of which are obvious right from the start. I note also the duo’s confidence in switching from doom to black metal and back again in the same song smoothly. Probably the only issue that Ashtar should consider working on is the thin ragged vocals which are easily overwhelmed by the sheer force and power of the music, but it should be said this problem is common to a lot of bands that try to blend black, doom and/or sludge metal elements into one.

The album coasts along for the first couple of tracks without much in the way of surprises but this allows listeners to savour the band’s deep and heavy sound which surges along like a dark strong undercurrent. Doom metal has that capacity to just stream along, riffs repeating over and over and doing little else, and still hold you spellbound with its thick sonic textures. It’s not until “Celestial” that the mood changes to something more blackened and foreboding and making this listener feel a bit sick in the stomach. Don’t worry, I’m reviewing this on a half-empty tummy. Cold tinny piano melodies, riffs that swing from swanky rhythm to jagged booms, a changing pace and catchy pop tunes make this song an early standout. I only wish the singing had been clearer and better than the raspy screaming that hangs on the foghorn drone guitar booms.

“Moon” is a straightforward sludge trawl with some rock groove passages while “These Nights Will Shine On” is a creditable blackened doom song with good instrumental passages of brittle tremolo guitar riffing or booming bass-heavy drone and bursts of blastbeat drumming. The song is layered with more and more instrumentation and a lot of vocals although the voices can be hard to hear. “Collide” features acoustic instrumentation (mainly violin) for a doleful atmosphere that leads into a strong doom sludge song that in parts edges towards psychedelia with a howling wall-of-sound guitar solo.

Without doubt, “Celestial” and “Collide” are the best tracks for their variety and difference from the other songs which mostly stick close to melodic blackened doom. The whole album is very solid and shows care and thought in its making. Listeners might treat the vocals as strictly secondary to the music and adding just another layer of texture. Perhaps the real achievement here is how Ashtar manages to sound like a full band all playing together rather than two musicians playing several instruments and then fusing their efforts together.

Five Treasures of Snow: a harsh and gritty black metal homage to Tibetan culture and Himalayan mountains

Dzö-Nga, Five Treasures of Snow, Argentina, Black Noise Records, digipak pro-CDR BNR006 (2016)

Dzö-Nga is a one-man atmospheric BM band based in Boston, Massachusetts state, whose themes draw inspiration from Tibetan myths and legends centred on the Himalayan mountains. The band’s name itself is a part-abbreviation of Kanchen Dzö-Nga, the name of the third highest mountain in the Himalayas, and whose meaning is “five treasures of snow” which is also the title of Dzö-Nga’s debut album.

While the band’s music is melodic raw atmospheric BM and is as harsh, gritty and emotional as would be expected, the most interesting aspect of Dzö-Nga’s style is that it features no percussion at all – no drums, no cymbals, nothing that serves a time-keeping role – yet manages to stay minimal and packing in a lot of power. The guitars are either noisy and gritty BM tremolo strings or very dark and plaintive clear-toned or acoustic with enough echo to highlight their isolation within a black shadow space. The bass is very clear and lurks like a constant grey eminence behind the music, being used mainly to provide a melodic foundation for the guitars and provide a counterpoint to them.

The lack of any percussion-like instrumentation that would pace the music with a constant beat forces Dzö-Nga man Cryvas to emphasise melody, musical flow and structure, sound texture, mood, space and atmosphere in all the songs. What he comes up with is an astonishingly focused work of strong, brooding emotion, with tough cutting and seething BM tremolo guitars and acidly venomous vocals. Because the bass sometimes follows its own path in the music, it adds a moody quality to the already dark music. Slight reverb on the clean-toned guitars heightens the feeling of darkness, alienation and solitude.

The songs are not very different from one another and while their lack of individual distinctiveness is probably no problem given the kind of conceptual album “Five Treasures …” is, future recordings are either going to need a time-keeping device or expand beyond the narrow guitars-bass-vocals minimalist BM template to avoid being elaborations of the debut album. Cryvas might consider including Tibetan musical instruments and styles into the music to give it a strong individual flavour. I’m not familiar with traditional Tibetan culture and traditions so I trust that Cryvas knows his way around Tibetan Buddhism and native Tibetan culture and mythology. There may be a very rich vein of lyrical themes and inspirations that he could mine and which would sustain Dzö-Nga for several albums.

“Five Treasures …” works best if heard in its entirety in one sitting so listeners can appreciate its flowing quality, the deep brooding atmospheres, the use of dark space as an instrument and mood-setter, and the subtle, almost organic changes that occur throughout. This is a very brave and ambitious recording worth hearing a few times if only to appreciate what is possible in raw minimal BM without percussion.

The Dry Lake

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The LP Bay Of Seething (FEEDING TUBE RECORDS FTR230) is the second full-length by Moonsicles after their self-released debut Creeper in 2014. They are a quartet of American modernist rock musicians from Austin Texas led by Aaron Russell. First off I would say it’s very welcome to see a band with such a healthy gender balance. Matter of fact three members of the quartet are women, and the team of Carolyn Cunningham and Lindsey Verrill provide a solid yet elliptical rhythm section while Sheila Scoville uses her synthesiser to pose conundrums and open-ended questions in among the solid blasts of rhythmic trundling which the Moonsicles deliver. All the same, the heavy riffing of Russell does appear to be the dominant factor and tone in all six of these instrumental cuts.

Moonsicles appear to be somewhat enthralled by Earth, and have been growing and developing their own take on the slow, ponderous twangy guitar-scaping that denotes “ancient Wild West scenery” to many a suggestible listener. I like the way their instruments interlock and leave plenty of gaps for each other, and as a result Moonsicle do sometimes happen upon some interesting dynamics. But at the same time they never seem to engage gears, lift off, or otherwise rock out – each piece is so enchanted with its own sense of self-importance that it continues to churn around in a slightly turgid swirl of its own making, repeating the same unimaginative riffs ad nauseam, and the music can’t seem to sever the shackles that bind it to this quagmire. Press note by Byron Coley praises the “cinematic feel” and envisions a “sad but highly psychedelic movie” in his mind’s eye as he spins the grooves of this sludger, but I can’t share that trip.

Aaron Russell used to be in The Cherry Blossoms, who I never heard, but their general timeline (2007-2008) and the fact that they made a record with Josephine Foster seems to confirm them as a latterday acoustic folk-drone collective. Russell and Verrill also played together in The Weird Weeds, who made a number of experimental rock LPs for Autobus Records, Digitalis, Sedimental, and Sounds Are Active. Shelia Scoville has also recorded with Ichi Ni San Shi, another Austin band, who appear to play a form of sun-drenched garage rock influenced by electropop; Scoville created the sumptuous cover painting for this release. From 2nd February 2016.

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