Two new vinyl items from the excellent label Horn Of Plenty. This UK label can do no wrong for me and we have enjoyed every one of its selections of obscure and wonderful music, both past and present, and of course the superlative packaging too. A testament to the vision of the label curator.
Eyes Of The Amaryllis are a contemporary American band who might be a five-piece from Philadelphia – of their members, Jim Strong has also appeared in Weyes Blood and Melkings, and there are also connections to Siltbreeze, Blackest Ever Black, and Kashual Plastik. Sift (HORN OF PLENTY hop9) is their debut LP, although there’s a self-titled cassette from 2021 you may wish to seek out. I guess we’re dealing with “songs” here, but everything is played and performed in a remarkably post-post-everything and heavily deconstructed form, so most of our normal expectations for song form are pretty much derailed. Even the lyrics are cryptic, mumbled, and unintelligible for the most part. Musically, and verbally, I get the strong impression that Eyes are speaking in a private language, something shared among the five of them and maybe opaque to the rest of the world, but they are trying very hard to pierce the veil and share their insights with the rest of us mere mortals.
If this feels like I’m describing the behaviour of elvish entities from another magical dimension, that might not be far from the truth – certainly Sift does convey a magical autumnal atmosphere, full of wistful emotions and nameless feelings, and the movements inscribed on the wax are so strange we can barely connect them to our own mundane experience. Even so, there are guitars, voices, and electronic sounds here (very odd electronic sounds), and at a stretch we could perhaps line up Eyes Of The Amaryllis alongside certain antecedents such as The Tower Recordings, Matt Valentine, or Wooden Wand and The Vanishing Voice. I mean that very fey and fragile style of semi-acoustic dreaminess, very soft focus and fuzzy around the edges, which certain American New Englanders have made into a unique art form. If anything, Eyes are not only fuzzy around the edges, but their very core of being is also wispy and nebulous. The label owner also finds affinities with releases from Flying Nun, and it’s true that Eyes do emulate the hazy slowness of the New Zealand underground; and with Sun Ra’s Strange Strings, which makes sense when you hear some of the odd and unnatural sounds emerging from this American five-piece; even without a list of their equipment, you could visualise piles of non-musical junk and barely-working instruments at their disposal, but according to the insert they use a psaltery, a potters wheel and a barrel in among the more conventional devices.
In case it’s not clear from any of the above, I like this record very much. Long may they dream their faded cinematic visions and project them through their broken cathode ray emitters.
The LP by Nein Rodere is another contemporary release, this one by Nein Rodere from Berlin. Nein Rodere is the alias of David Roeder and though this item may be his first vinyl full-length release, there are previous cassettes and singles dating back to around 2017. Like the above, it’s a collection of songs, but unlike our American friends Nein Rodere seems to do a lot of it by himself in true makeshift DIY fashion, making various alien droney and electric-guitar noises on top of his drum machine rhythms, and he also sings in a much more direct way. In fact the main thing that strikes me about Catch Up With What Party (HORN OF PLENTY hop8) is the directness and honesty of the man himself, singing in a very natural and unforced matter about difficult and sometimes painful subjects. In this aspect, it’s fair to say he resembles Smog / Bill Callaghan, except that our German genius isn’t quite as sardonic as the American; where Smog can come across as a world-weary and cynical author in the Raymond Carver vein, Rodere appears genuinely mystified by the ways of the world, a wayward poet wondering what he said and did that was wrong.
The other main thing about this LP is of course the strange sound – the growly, lugubrious and reverb-drenched sound of it, resulting from a rough and ramshackle production style that adds just the right degree of strangeness to the overall patina, and after a while passes on a somewhat “unreal” sensation to the listener, as of a mild fever or a drug trip going slightly wrong. Two other aspects I have jotted in my notes – (a) the brevity of the songs, some of which are fragmented to the point that they fade out or stop when the singer has run out of things to say. Or perhaps they were originally scripted and composed in such a disjointed state that they naturally ended up that way; and (b) something about easy-listening music, perhaps a wrong guess there, but perhaps I meant that some of the songs have a deceptively saccharine surface, making this album a form of reimagined pop music from a more innocent time, only now remade for the tastes and mindset of the very uncertain 21st century audience. Actually it’s not quite the all-solo effort I first thought, since looking at the insert, I see there are a number of guests appearing on this sprawl of short songs, mostly vocalists, but also adding percussion, saxophone, flute, etc. It’s also noteworthy that this LP is – not exactly a compilation – more of a rehash and reassembly of previously released cuts created around 2017-2021, with the earlier works sitting alongside new works and only the surgeon knows which is which. The process described here indicates, to me, a very productive and seething cauldron of bubbling creativity. You can’t keep a good jelly down.
There’s also a booklet of full-colour drawings by David Roeder, sickly cityscapes illuminated by lurid street lights and bereft of human population, apart from one image which depicts a strange walking figure with three or four legs moving in a very agitated manner, with their torso simply vibrating apart as it tries to advance in the hostile environment. These images do connect to the music, in a very genuine manner. Another outsider visionary given added legitimacy through the Horn Of Plenty platform…do not miss this gem.
Both the above from 17th January 2022.