Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sunn O))) - Domkirke (C)

Sunn O)))’s latest masterpiece, Domkirke, is marketed as a “live album”, it really is just an original studio album that happens to have been recorded in a church in Norway in front of a crowd of what sounds to be about 10 people (all of whom I assume are either involved in the band, trained sound technicians, or close friends invited to witness the momentous occasion) if the clapping at the beginning of the album is to be believed. After the tremendous display of clapping, Sunn choose to start off the only way they know… Slowly. Why Dost Thou Hide Thyself in Clouds is, for me, possibly one of the greatest things Sunn has produced in their entire career. The first five minutes of low feedback eventually gives into pipe organ and deep, Gregorian chants. As the sparse, but powerful backing (dominated by the church’s featured pipe organ) plods onwards, the vocals go for a dramatic tromp through Norway’s mountain ranges, belting like a Wagnerian epic only to reduce themselves to the rumbling valleys once again like a cascading avalanche. This song, in the end, is what made Domkirke a worthwhile purchase. It truly demonstrates that Sunn, for all the shit they get (refrigerator metal, no talent hacks, just lean your guitar against your amp, anyone can do it, etc.), truly do maintain the ability to take their entire history and improve upon it time after time, and turn something admittedly intrinsically stagnant into a refreshing and enjoyable piece. As for the rest of the album, Sunn take a few more steps forward by allowing their influences to shine through like elegant stained glass – Steve Moore provides trombone on some tracks that adds elements of newer Earth pieces, while retaining the noisy despair of Sunn. The songwriting really displays Sunn’s functional use of the church’s space, as well as paying homage to its past. Domkirke, is, in my opinion, while not necessarily going to be hailed as “THE BEST SUNN ALBUM EVER!” easily a marked improvement on Sunn’s material, and a great step forward for them. It is a solid album from start to finish.

Suffocation - Despise the Sun (V)

Despise the Sun is something of a short masterpiece. Every song is effective, tight, brutal, heavy. The guitar tone is great, balanced and powerful without going too far in any direction. Vocals sit defiantly and confidently exactly where they belong. The kick is clear and defined. The lyrics are powerful. This album makes you want to pick up an instrument or a microphone and create something to reflect its perfection. There's no mistake that swarms of younger bands are constantly compared to Suffocation. Though their last couple of albums (as clichéd as this complaint is) don't live up to this EP, probably largely as a result of weaker, washier distortion and less pure violence, Despise the Sun is a set of perfect song after perfect song.

Yes, I'd probably put this on first thing for anyone I wanted to get into death metal, and I've done it before. This album, further, is a perfect reflection of Suffocation's live machine. It tears, uplifts, and smashes through all . . . 16 minutes. Every song on the EP is worth the effort to learn and play. And you'll never be ashamed of it. I don't want to know how many times I've listened to this CD, and every time I see them I scream for one track or another. Grab this, and see them. Really. And if you already have, see them again.

Socialistic Jonny Goblet - Translations of a Seance (K)

Visuals are important when it comes to music. To the fan as well as to a neutral person they can give a first impression of what to expect and whether they should give the music a try or not. Some fancy fantasy painting is as suggestive as a photography of a horribly mutilated body; the former will hardly offer brutal goregrind, while the latter one would certainly not cover a Britney Spears release. Hence, give these visuals to a person some sort of certainty and might even motivate someone to actually buy a release in case the visuals are of an exceptional quality; such was the case when I ordered the «Darkside» release of «Necrophobic».

«Translations of a seance» does not follow this set of rules. On the cover you see some sort of black metal writing of the short form of the band's name, further are there two inverted crosses, a pentagram, a '666' in the top and also two wings on each side. Judging from this impression, one would easily classify this as a black metal release, one from the underground, one of these 'ultra trve' demos; but all this is far from what the band actually performs.

There is no metal on this release; this is nothing even close to it. Instead something weird is offered. Noise in a various degree and with occasionally fascinating atmospheres can be found on this 3"-CDr. There are moments in which you get the feeling like listening to the music of one of these old-school 'horror' games, when you are locked in a room and have to do some certain steps in order to leave it and to proceed with the story. This monotonous themes in the background, the endless repetition of some motives and ideas and sounds that are simply not right; music that wants to mess around with the brain cells. Slightly nightmarish, dark and haunting, but also annoying is the art of «SJG» and each song is different from the preceding one. «Disforming Scratch Transforming» is a very monotonous one, but progresses through the use of new styles of noises and ideas; the same can be said of «Settling Nature of Obsurdities».

«Spirits of the Dead (E.A.Poe)» is an interpretation of a novel by this American writer; the vocals might not be everyone's taste though. Some neat ideas can be found on this release and even though the package might suggest something different, the content can still be enjoyed. Fifteen minutes is this CD-r long and the listener has to go through a lot of different stages of atmosphere until the end is finally reached. Should be listened to in the dark.

Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (V)

Neutral Milk Hotel is a perfect collaboration of the weird and that which every human heart understands and needs. Simple acoustic chords somehow manage not to become at all stale, probably benefited by clever and memorable melodies and the other elements Neutral Milk Hotel uses throughout. The band has full-time brass people, not session musicians, mixes in strangely filthy electric guitars and bass, driving drums, and random eccentric instrumentations. One song will be quick and to the point, another will be slow and thoughtful. One song will slide past with almost meaningless lyrics and an energetic feel, another (in fact, most) are filled with lyrics that tell all the facets of a story at once - not just the usual "I love you" and "my father died" but all the things that happen at every stage in life, the things large and small that make life meaningful and wondrous.

Perhaps the reason I've delayed hunting down any more of their albums is the fact that I don't feel like I'm missing anything from this album - it continues to please and fulfill. I have no doubt that I will continue to cherish this already ten-year-old record for years and decades to come. Well-suited for crying and singing and romance and hurting and loving. And just living. I don't think I would have understood it 5 years ago, but I don't think I'll ever feel even a temptation to get rid of it.

Moose - Cool Breeze EP (V)

This is the first Moose release I've picked up, so I can't compare it to previous or later work, but it's slowly growing on me. Overall, the EP strikes me as a loosely cluttered combination of Slowdive's male vocals without the ambience, early jangly My Bloody Valentine, a touch of leftover punk influences, and a quirky approach to sounds and percussion.

The general effect of all this is somewhat mind-scattering and distracting, and the melodies aren't quite of the heart-consuming quality I've found in My Bloody Valentine's hooks, but as I continue to listen to this creation, I'm beginning to develop a fondness for Moose's own strange musical personality. All in all, I'd say check it out, and delve further into Moose: but give it a chance to soak in. This isn't quite the same old shoegaze over again. I find it quite enjoyable when I have the concentration to deal with the confusion imparted most particularly by some nuance of the unusual concentration of snare drum.

I think my appreciation of Moose is more akin to . . . a free jazz take on early shoegaze, a warm but confusing performance rather than the transcendent beauty that creates my main joy in shoegaze. If you like Pale Saints, you'll probably like Moose.

Malory - Not Here, Not Now (Reissue) (V)

Not Here, Not Now is pretty much a German echo of Souvlaki-era Slowdive, with a slightly greater emphasis on the softer tones and electronics and a song about the Lord of the Rings. It's an untitled bonus track, but . . . There is, sadly, nothing really original here, despite the review on their website that reads "they definitely do not fall into the trap of countless other "ripoff" bands." It's actually nigh-uncanny the degree to which they've emulated Slowdive's sounds. Identical vocal reverb, identical tones, voices emulating the same timbre with just a hint of accent.

Malory is good enough in their emulation that I'd see them if they came around, but their songs don't touch me the same way Slowdive has managed on repeated occasions. Of course, to be fair, the same is true of more than one "classic" shoegaze band, but unless you're curious to hear some Tolkein poetry as a Slowdive song, I'd recommend passing this release up in favor of the people who not only created this sound, but could write entrancing songs within the idiom.

Khanate - Khanate (V)

Khanate is smashing and loud. Khanate is heavy and slow and torturous. Khanate is filthy and harsh and full of feedback. I'd not miss a Khanate show. Khanate is intense and focused. I really don't know why the Sunn O))) project is more popular. Khanate is so visceral and powerful. Khanate is suicide and murder. Khanate feels more like the intense ripping scenes of brutality (imagine a knife slicing through skin and muscle and hesitating for a moment at the spine before tearing through) in perfect detail. Perfect for headbanging, if only my neck weren't so sore from the Wolves in the Throne Room show the other night.

If I had this sound in person, full volume, afterwards I would collapse a completed and exorcised being. You can't get this guitar/bass sound at anything less than crushing volume; you need instant, piercing feedback to play the riffs right. It screams. The songs are repetitive, but this will never work as background music.

This is not for everyone. In fact, I think I have yet to get anyone else hooked on it. This music, is, however, intense. Or, to quote a certain internet motivational poster entitled "Doom Metal," "that shit sounds like planets colliding."

John Zorn - Spy vs. Spy - The Music of Ornette Coleman (V)

Spy vs. Spy is quite possibly the ideal introduction to jazz for either a noisehead or a metalhead, speaking as both. It's chaotic. It's wild. It's fast. Zorn and Baron, later of Naked City, and fellows Tim Berne, Mark Dresser, and Michael Vatcher keep the pace just as relentlessly brutal as the most intense death metal. I'm not kidding. Hell, let old favorites like Immolation and Incantation compete with this lineup and these tracks for a pit and headbanging, and the metal kids might have something to worry about.

Zorn's combo here takes the unusual harmonies and group improv sections found throughout Coleman's catalog and play them about as fast as is reasonably acheivable with heavy thrash, crossover and grindcore influences. Napalm Death, Blind Idiot God, Lip Cream, DRI, and The Accused are mentioned in the liner notes. Sax solos throughout bring to mind Slayer's simultaneous leads at the end of "Raining Blood." I'm really not sure why this album hasn't forged a widely-popular style of music. My favorite of my Zorn collection, and of Coleman if you'll take it as such. There are blast beats scattered throughout. This is not grandpa's jazz.

Hanatarash - Hanatarash I (V)

Hanatarash's first album is delightfully raw. And it has music washing through the noise without itself being the noise. Eye sings and chants and screeches throughout the clashes of harsh churnings, blasts of noise, and shrill feedback. Try not to focus on the consistent use of "cock" in all the song titles. This record is actually a liberating assault on the ears that doesn't so much evoke rage as it suspends other realms of focus in favor of noise immersion. There's definitely variety - from the melodies and roar of Ultra Cocker to standard distorted noise vocals and drumming in Domination In Spunked Cock to the constant percussion of Cock Combat and the distorted electronic march of Cock Victory. This album singularly fails to convey any sort of message outside of hearing loss. Good noise.

Content Nullity - Rotting Walls of Decaying Sound (C)

Finally, Content Nullity material! After god knows how long of getting teasers, clips, and hearing ideas from the man who nearly got me into noise and industrial, he has finally released Rotting Walls of Decaying Sound through his label, Scrape Tapes ( This tiny mini-CD contains 20 minutes of dark insanity that starts like a wound, falls in a super-medicated spiral through hell, and then finishes with the death convulsions – displaying them in all their violence and grotesqueries. The real highlights of the album are the middle few tracks, which have a distinct style of layered drone and noise to create a truly chilling effect – worthy of a haunted house in true seasonal style – that turn the album from a great noise album to a true experience. I really cannot recommend this highly enough, I was blown away by it even having heard Content Nullity material before, it just wasn’t what I was quite expecting. Really a grade A album, get it now!

Celestia - Apparitia - Sumptuous Spectre (Remaster) (V)

Celestia seems to be something of a collective of side-members of classic French black metal groups. And while Celestia's music is straight black metal that has nothing of the inventiveness that French black metal is sometimes known for, it's not in the least lacking in melodic creativity or spirit. I would criticise the under-developed and obvious basslines and the overuse of none-too-tight tremolo picking, but the melodies created are effective and at least there's some presence in mid and low frequency ranges.

There's some good ambience here, and that combined with the strong melodies and decent sound (this is the remastered version) make what might otherwise be an exercise in endless black metal actually reasonably enjoyable to listen to. It might not be my first choice, but is certainly not the kind of black metal that makes me want to forget that I've ever listened to the genre. All in all, a more well-developed approach with more variety, complex structures, and more interesting harmony might come off as a respectable record.

Buzzardstein - Live Demo (C)

Buzzardstein are a band that I had come across a couple times, hearing their name floating across the internet before I really understood what they “meant”. Then, one day the idea of Sludge really clicked for me, and of course I started searching out everything I could find. In a strange twist of fate, I found out that Buzzardstein’s bassist was around some of the same internet haunts that I was – and he had links to copies of Buzzardstein’s “live demo”, their only release so far. The link came with a thousand warnings of terrible audio quality, and being a general waste of time, so I braced myself for a recording that would make Varg Vikernes’s skin crawl. Unsurprisingly, the quality on the live demo is actually not that terrible. It certainly doesn’t sound like Steve Albini had anything to do with it, but it’s listenable, and adds to the sludgy effect overall. The live demo manages to jump from traditional Grief-style sludge to more Noothgrush-esque bluesy sludge that you find yourself unable not to tap your foot to, and somewhere in between in the span of three songs. The vocals are completely unintelligible, but provide amazing atmosphere for the crushing riffs that drive Buzzardstein down, down, down south. Though Buzzardstein may by no means be a big-name band that has the ability to tour often or far, or produce albums at every whim, I feel completely comfortable putting the live demo in my playlist right between Grief and Eyehategod.

Apostle of Solitude - Sincerest Misery (C)

Apostle of Solitude’s full length is a heavy-as-fuck slab of doom. Featuring the drumming power of The Gates of Slumber on guitar and vocals, Apostle manage to roll out exactly 9 great, memorable doom songs with Sincerest Misery. I, personally, would put this at the top of my 2008 list of Doom Metal albums, and even near my list of 2008 releases period. Every song has a degree of catchiness, a tinge of misery, and great solos. They remain unafraid to throw back to the likes of Candlemass, with distinct touches of Pagan Altar to create wholly unique pieces touched by emotion, but retaining their epic heaviness. Instead of just relying on doomy power chords, Apostle allow for more melodic sections, and trade off between many different styles. This combinations gives the album both a uniquely Doom flavor, as well as the aftertaste of several non-traditional styles such as touches of alternative rock. As a whole, the album fits in well with more classic traditional doom and provides both great contrast and harmony with other classic albums. A must-have for any doom fan, in my opinion.

_Algol_/Cloudy Horizon - Split (K)

The internet has given us the advantage to communicate with people from around the world and in case they are artists to enjoy their art (theoretically speaking); even though thousands of miles lie between us. Such happens to exist in terms of _Algol_ & Cloudy Horizon: both of them are projects of the same person: Daniel, a guy from Siberia. His idea is to create ambient music in a variety of styles and this split release offers two approaches on how this might sound.

According to the MySpace site as well as the homepage, the term «space ambient» has been used to describe this project and it is very fitting. The music is very minimalist with a slow progressing melody and reverb in the chords. Only few textures appear at a certain time and accordingly it is very easy to follow the music respectively concept. Spoken passages appear but on a very small scale; opening of «The Total Siberian Eclipse», towards the end of «Dark and Light near the Tannhauser Gates». Noise textures are also used, but not on every track they play a dominant role. There is some resemblance to the art of Vinterriket and hence would fans of this band also like what Algol performs on this split release. It should be noted, though, that the Russian band does not use field recordings and this does differentiate this band from the Austrian one.

Cloudy Horizon
In comparison with _Algol_ the music of «Cloudy Horizon» offers a kind of atmosphere the other project if not able to create. This has to do with the use of an acoustic guitar that plays an important role in the concept; not only in terms of the atmosphere. Further is there a drum-computer playing in the background and also samples from the nature had been used; water play and thunder sound. Beyond these conceptual differences, the most obvious one to the listener is the existence of a beat which keeps the song going. Despite the minimalism which does also appear here, it is easier to get the idea. Both songs are well performed and offer some sort of folk ambient. Both songs are very linear and take the listener through different stages of atmospheres as well as arrangements. Yet all is very calm and without anything that would work as a counter-point towards it.

Ambient interpreted in two different ways, this could be used as a description for this release. Music that is easy to follow, never irritating and also somehow catchy. An interesting release.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Pitchfork Music Festival 2008 Chicago (C)

Friday 7/18 with All Tomorrow’s Parties “Don’t Look Back”

Mission of Burma/Pitchfork Begins
Rolling in from Albany to the lovely town of Chicago on Friday evening, it was somewhat up in the air whether I’d make it, or be up to even going to the official beginning of this year’s Pitchfork Music Fest. I purchased my 3-day pass off eBay for a reduced price from someone who was unable to attend, so the deal I got was pretty much equal to what I was about to pay for two individual one-day passes since two-days were sold out… But as luck would have it I rolled in right on time, showed up about 45 minutes before the gates were to open ready to rock and roll. I was greeted with some pretty welcoming rain that left me wondering why I hadn’t packed an umbrella, or prepared for such things in any way period, but I grabbed my trusty sweatshirt feeling that would leave me covered. As the clock struck 5:00, the rain cleared up serendipitously and the doors opened, and I wandered my way in, not really sure what to expect. The crowd was fairly sparse thus far, so I didn’t feel too rushed to grab my front row spot, which I eventually did get. I hung out about fifteen feet stage right of front and center until Mission of Burma eventually took the stage. I can’t confess to having known much about them, or anyone playing Pitchfork for that matter, beforehand, but from what I heard from the scary 50-something-year-old acne-scarred, white-haired radio DJ who couldn’t help but hit on the horrible scene boy standing behind me, I was getting pretty excited. Finally, after much waiting Mission of Burma took the stage to much cheering and applause and shouts and screams and general fanfare, did a tiny bit of sound checking, and then dove right into their “legendary album” Vs. “WELCOME TO THE BURMA DOME”, or something along those lines rattled over the PA after the announcement of the beginning of “Side 1” and some fake dusty-vinyl-crackle, and I was immediately pleasantly surprised by the barrage of post-punk assaulting me from left field. I couldn’t help but think from Clint Conley’s strange, nasally singing that “This is what the Sex Pistols would sound like if they were ever good?”, and new I was in for a treat when Miller broke not one, but two strings during their second song. Each song left me wanting more and more to listen to Vs., but at the same time not wanting to since listening to it recorded on album couldn’t possibly blow me away like it did live. Every song was power-charged, really really fucking loud, and tinged with humor, and the whole experience couldn’t help but leave you with an idiotic smile on your face, especially when Peter Prescott would let out barbaric jungle-yells in the midst of just about every other song. In the end, they were one of the highlights of the whole Pitchfork experience and really left me feeling great about the things to come.

I can’t say Sebadoh got off to a great start in my book. I was flocked by about 12 girls, all of whom seemed to be girls my age accompanied by girls who were 28+ and claimed to be “long time Sebadoh fans”, and they blathered on and on about this and that and who was hottest and please shut up you all look and sound like idiots, thanks. Finally our Festival Patrons came on to announce Sebadoh’s start, with their little humorous quips and warnings not to get dehydrated, and reminders to buy this and that, and go to this tent to check out this sponsor etc. I feel bad, though, because the guy who looked a lot like a young Bill Murray had a complete ass made of himself when part of their banter included “Next up is… ‘SABADO’?” “Oh no, dewd, I always sed SEBUHDOHZ!”, which was of course later ridiculed horribly by the band on stage (“Wait, how do you say it? Pitchfuck? Alright, we’re Sebadoh and you will not be seeing us next year!” etc. Much lolz). Sebadoh then took the stage and after a little Mission of Burma worship, they played a few tracks (none of which I knew) before starting Bubble and Scrape (none of which I knew). What impressed me most about Sebadoh was the fact that during about every other song, each member of the band switched instruments so that by the end the band had been all sorts of combinations of so-and-so on such-and-such instrument. They were also really funny, nice guys. Unfortunately, the music didn’t hold me quite as much, and apparently not the guy behind me either who was stoned as fuck and obviously only there because his girlfriend was making him “Dude, they’re boring, can we go?” and then halfway through the set after about 4 switches “Dude the singer is playing bass! when did the singer start playing bass?” It’s almost embarrassing to say that I think the on-stage banter between songs was more entertaining than the music was… Though a few tracks got me into it. All in all, I might find myself inclined to check out Bubble and Scrape just to give some cools guys a second chance.

Public Enemy
Public Enemy started to cut off Sebadoh part way through their last two songs, to which Barlow started to shout “Two more songs! Two more songs! Oh my god there’s no stopping that set!” which I, personally, found to be really funny. After Sebadoh ended, I wasn’t too interested in seeing public enemy, so I took that time to wander the booths and such which I realized weren’t all set up yet for that day, so I missed out on good spots on Public Enemy. When I wandered back over, they were finally starting by showcasing the people who did the scratching, etc. behind them, which was some pretty entertaining stuff, but a little drawn out, and I wanted to see Flavor Flav of course. Finally Public Enemy started with a whole lot of talking about why It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back was groundbreaking and ttly th bst rap albem evr and a pretty cool intro bit with some marching soldiers and rapping and stuff. All and all I enjoyed that more than I thought I would… Then Flavor Flav showed up, and spent 30 minutes talking about why ITaNoMtHUB was the most important album ever, why Public Enemy were the best, and why we should watch his new TV show, which yielded some boos, to which he responded “WHEN YA BOOIN’ FLAV YA BOOIN’ YA OWN STYLE MAN!” Finally they started up again, and I decided it was time to go because I was a bit done with it all. By the time I left, they had done about two more numbers and hadn’t started the album yet.

Pitchfork day one
Music: 8.5/10
People: 1/10

Saturday 7/19

Boban i Marko Markovic Orkestar

Day two was begun. I showed up early, got in line, and headed over to my stage of choice for the day, B stage. I had a feeling that the Orkestar, my first prospects for the day, were going to either be really great or kinda shitty. Luckily they were the former. Even when I showed up to claim my spot (roughly the same as the day before, only more centered since it was a smaller stage) the sound check left me impressed by the virtuosity of every player in the Orkestar, and the camaraderie and fun happening on stage. When the set began, I was nothing short of blown away. The dual dueled trumpet solos provided by Boban and Marko, the backing by the Orkestar, and everything was beautiful. The drummer was impressive as well, creating a very jazzy background to the folky craziness of everything else. I felt like dancing right up to the last piece.

A Hawk and a Hacksaw

A Hawk and a Hacksaw were really high on my list of bands that I was looking forward to seeing at Pitchfork and I had high hopes after seeing the Blogotheque “Take away concert” videos on Youtube. What first surprised me was that Barnes was both playing Accordion and also a strange set of hand drums and cymbals set up at his feet to be played with kick pedals. Some sound problems with the intense Bouzouki player and a general lack of the emotion I felt in the music other times I had heard left me a little bit bored and disappointed. It was still great to see them live, though, and they did some pretty cool stuff, not the least of which was Heather Trost taking a single hair from her bow and pulling it across a string to make some eerie sounds. She also used the largest noisemaker I’d ever seen, which was nothing short of beastly impressive.

Icy Demons

I wandered away for part of Icy Demons, but what I saw left me feeling, basically, that although their live sound wasn’t that good (A strange mix of jazz and electronic music?), they seemed as though they’d be quite impressive on CD. Killer bassist.

Fuck Buttons

Fuck Buttons were a band that had been pretty hyped for me by people around the fest, people I know, and just the few things I’d heard from them. Given that someone had described them as “Shoegaze”, I wasn’t really expecting two guys with a collection of pedals, keyboards, and probably circuit bent toys. At first I fell in to really disliking them for trying to make trendier noise (it’s trendy enough- just stop please), but once I got over those gut feelings I realized they were doing something more than that and was quickly pulled in to the music. I don’t know what I’d call it in the end stylistically, but it was a really overwhelming experience given that it was about three times louder than any other set at the B stage that day. The sounds were somewhat melodic, and more soothing than harsh, and occasionally droning and occasionally not. I really don’t know what to say, but they really were show stealers for me. Great, great stuff.

The Ruby Suns

The Ruby Suns were another group I was really looking forward to, again, after seeing the Blogotheque performances. I was pretty surprised when only two people arrived on stage… Rather than the four or five I was expecting. A bass and drums duo performing… Psych folk…? I guess it’s expensive to fly people from New Zealand. I wasn’t sure how it was going to work, but I quickly grasped that the answer was “well”. They used a complex series of samples on two or three samplers between them which, although seeming a bit cop-out-ish, was fine in my book. The result was a very percussion-focused jammy atmosphere that moved you to move. They performed the track I was most looking forward to, Tane Mahuta, which was even better than I could have imagined, featuring lots of really cool rhythmic improvisation that enhanced the singable tune. It was a really clever set from start to finish.

Elf Power
I didn’t intend to watch them. Boring, lame, same-y indie rock. The only advantage is that I ended up sticking around for…

Extra Golden

For some reason or another I didn’t end up finding anything about Extra Golden. What I ended up gathering is that they are African rock, not unlike Ali Farka Toure, which is a style I’ve more or less grown up listening to and hold pretty close to my heart. This was a pretty big surprise for me, and I could not have seen a more fun group of people. As much as I know bands move people to dance, I’ve never actually danced to live music until Extra Golden. They absolutely were my favorites of the day, and possibly would have been for the whole Festival was it not for Sunday. The singer spent most of the time dancing, and instructing people in the crowd to dance, and everybody on stage had great chemistry with the crowd. Unfortunately, The Hold Steady’s sound was too loud and carrying over from another stage which seemed to piss off one of the guitarists… But it didn’t bother anyone else. Everyone had a great time as Extra Golden performed great songs full of solos from just about everyone, and one song dedicated to Barack Obama. When their set ended I was left feeling pretty upset, but fulfilled.

Atlas Sound

Atlas Sound was a project I knew a bit a bout, but not much. I had an idea of what to expect, but not really. When Cox came out with his table of effects and epiphone acoustic guitar, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. What he presented was a pretty surprisingly mellow ambient-esque guitar+voice working. Each song was serene and flowing and carried you right through to the end. Another highlight of the day for me, and inevitably left me feeling somewhat at a loss for words.

Animal Collective
I was nearly dying by the time Animal Collective started. My back was shot, my limbs were sore, I was tired and hungry, and needed something to energize me again. Animal Collective were just that. The effect might have been better had I gotten a better spot, but I’m not complaining. I couldn’t see much of what was happening on stage, and the LED screens weren’t really helping me since they kind of sucked. The lights show was wicked awesome though, and the music really kicked my ass. There was a really strange blend of noises, guitar, and percussion I couldn’t put my finger on happening that was magic. What I said about the lights show was true, too. Best lights show ever. Swooping purple beams, intense flashes from lights towers behind the band, and really awesome color usage all added to the whole experience. Unfortunately the music couldn’t quite keep me going so around “Peacebone” I decided to make my way out of the crowd and find someplace to sit. Luckily the next song was the last, so I didn’t miss much. Animal Collective’s live sound seemed in some way oddly detached from their studio sound, and yet eerily similar at the same time.

Pitchfork Day 2
Music – 9/10
People – 0/10*

*Funny story:
I had a horrible girl stalking me the whole time while her dad stared me down from behind her. It was awful. She was 12 or something and insisted we were in love. Plus side is I got her to hold my spot in the front while I got some delicious pulled pork from Wishbone. Delicious.

Sunday 7/20

Times New Viking

I’ll confess, I only watched because I needed front row spots for Boris. I didn’t really have any idea who they were, what they sounded like, or what to expect, but what I got was pretty cool. Times New Viking are a synth/drums/guitar rock trio that really owned the stage, even in spite of Boris’ massive, overwhelming presence behind them. They really drove the energy sky high on a day that was hot and sunny rather than cool and overcast, as the last two days had been. I enjoyed it, but was still a bit checked out in anticipation of…


Really, the only reason I had gotten tickets in the first place. The 3 day passes were just because I thought it’d be fun, and damn it was. I’ll confess I was worried – I had heard from a lot of people that Boris ranked among the best live shows they’d seen, so I already had high expectations… But on the other hand, I wasn’t a fan of Pink, or (until recently) Smile. I was worried that this moment would be the biggest disappointment of my life… Well, from the get go I knew it couldn’t possibly be. During the entire set-up, Wata’s daughter was running around stage trying to set up Takeshi’s and Wata’s pedals while a surprise guest, whose name was starting to ripple through the crowd, laughingly tried to help her. Somewhere right of me I heard someone say in a pretty comic stage whisper “Dude, is that Michio Kurihara?” Right there I got pretty excited, because it had to be, and who wouldn’t love to hear Rainbow material live? The set up and sound check took ages and I felt like I was going to die in the heat. During the sound check I realized that Atsuo is a complete bad ass, though, since he’s playing a pink drum set and wearing white gloves while he does so. As the band started, there were shouts from the crowd for “Flood!” “Absolutego!” “Rainbow!” And Boris kicked into high gear with Atsuo doing the weird baby-voice intro to Smile through some vocoder, and then the sonic punch-to-the-face riffs. Immediately the crowd came alive. The whole front section was moving in some sort of practical mosh pit… One kid got busted for body-surfing and thrown out. Boris ripped right through several songs from Smile which were amazing live, and a few tracks from Rainbow, and some I’d assume that were from Pink . There was great cheering as Atsuo got ready to play the tremendous gong behind him, and even more when he actually did… I will confess I got horribly pissed when I saw some of that disgusting finger wiggling in the crowd during a couple of the solos.** When the set finally ended, Atsuo of course knocked over his entire drum set, ran to the edge of the stage, and lept into the crowd. He body surfed his way all the way back onto stage, which seemed to vex the security, and I had the distinct pleasure of touching his butt (haha). Boris then left the stage amidst chants of “One more” which then flooded into “Boris! Boris!” for a good five minutes. I eventually left to make sure I could get myself a Boris shirt, which it turns out they weren’t even selling. That night I was left with horrible nightmares that after I left they played two more songs. It was terrible.

The Aftermath
After Boris, I felt like I didn’t need to see any more bands that day – like I had gotten my money’s worth. I had sacrificed any chance of a good spot at any stage, I was tired, hot, dehydrated, and still high from the Boris set. I considered staying for Dinosaur Jr., but that was still 5 or 6 hours away, and I wasn’t sure I’d last that long. I also figure since I’m not far from Northampton, I still have a chance of seeing them… Or Witch, whom I would rather see honestly. So I left as Le Savy Fav were getting underway. I did feel a bit bad to miss their set, which was great. The singer’s webcams being broadcast onto the screens as he jumped into the crowd and made it as far in as his wire would let him go. I didn’t feel cheated though. I felt like I had gotten my $60 worth, and had truly seen a lot of great stuff.

Pitchfork Day 3
Music: 10/10
People: 10/10

Pitchfork overall:
Music: 9/10
People: 2/10

Woe – A Spell for the Death of Man (J)

The USBM scene has been rather slow this past year – hitting its climactic peak with Wolves in the Throne Room’s “Two Hunters” and stopping while the getting was good (I consider Velnias more doom than anything). A few months ago on MySpace (I know…) a band by the name of Woe added me. Judging by the logo and the title of the then-future release “A Spell for the Death of Man,” I simply passed the band off as either a Darkthrone/Immortal worshipping band, or some sort of hazy bedroom black metal project.

Then, a few weeks ago, Woe main man Xos sent out a notification offering a free promotional digital copy of “Spell” for reviewers, so I decided, what the hell, I might as well give this a try. I needed some more black metal anyway; I’ve been stuck in sort of an indie rock/post-rock/shoegaze rut for the past 2 months or so. Not that that’s a bad thing.

I’m definitely glad I gave Woe a chance – this is by far one of the more crushing and powerful black metal releases I’ve heard.

Hailing from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Woe delivers a highly misanthropic, folk-tinged sort of atmospheric raw black metal, ranging from dreamy stand alone wall-of-noise guitars to blasting full-on oppressive black metal.

In this recording, Xos concentrates more on guitar and drum work above everything, with vocals semi-buried into the mix, sounding like a howling wind (which is very nice, by the way). Emotion is key on this album, accentuating the depression and misanthropy of the author. Yes, I said the taboo word in this review: depression, but this isn’t a “depressive” black metal release per se. It is sad, but not the whole recorded-on-a-4-track-recorder-in-my-bedroom-with-wailing-and-whimpering depressive black metal that everyone immediately thinks of. Imagine Drudkh jamming with Wolves in the Throne Room and a crust punk band, and you’re halfway there.

Xos’s drumming on “Spell” is highly technical; full of blast beats, drum rolls, complex beat changes, and the like. The percussion definitely adds that extra “oomph” when it comes to intensity. Perhaps my favorite moment on the CD is a short burst of almost Envy-like post-hardcore/screamo in “Longing is all that Will Remain.”

Definitely a wonderful start for Woe, and I can’t wait to see what Xos cooks up for future releases.

Recommended for fans of: Panopticon, Drudkh, Wolves in the Throne Room, Darkthrone, early Agalloch, Wrath of the Weak, Njiqahdda, and Velnias

To Kill a Petty Bourgeoisie - The Patron (V)

To Kill a Petty Bourgeoisie has that sort of . . . electronic, chiptune-sounding post-rock style one might find in the suddenly popular band Fuck Buttons. All sorts of samples and noises working together to create layered blankets of soft beauty. It's defiant and self-confident, not the dreamy feel of My Bloody Valentine or Gregor Samsa's delicacy, but still beautiful. That said, you might need a little tolerance for noise music around the edges to listen to it.

To Kill has a tendency to lend strength to their soft melodies through the crushing, grinding, scraping sounds of industrial noise. Given their unmastered tracks, I'd have no trouble reconstructing a pure noise album a la Masami Akita's work. But despite this, the overall effect seems like a collection of songs that wouldn't be out of place coming from the throat of a busker on the street in some French village, transforming some art movie with an almost eerily beautiful and softly eloquent atmosphere.

Acoustic guitars and atmospherics and soft vocals and noise samples and gritty sines and drum machines all in one place, arranged to perfection. To Kill a Petty Bourgeousie is compelling, entrancing, mind-numbing and consistently interesting. They don't write songs the way everyone does, nor do they play songs the way everyone does. But they're definitely doing something right.

Otila - A Világ Színpadán (K)

It is a pity that I do not speak Hungarian. Otila is a band that I know for some years now, but due to my lack in language skills, when it comes to this Eastern European one, I am still unable to understand what they sing about. It is a pity, indeed!

It is a pity, because their music is really good. The first release was already able to fascinate me and their latest "demo" - their third one - is certainly able to stand a comparison with music released in larger and more established music scenes than the Hungarian one. Would it not be for the language, not much of a difference could be examined to similar bands from the German "underground" for instance.

Otila play some sort of gothic rock/metal, but rely on a female vocalist only. Luckily, no male grunts ruin the atmosphere in the songs. The compositions have generally a solo part and another characteristic facet: nearly every time the vocals are used, the play of the guitars as well as those of the keyboard turns not only to a simple structure but also in the background; Otila want to give the voice of Mitru Tímea enough room to unfold its potential. Actually she is able to do this in the majority of the songs, with the exception of «Elérhetetlen» in which voice and guitars challenge each other for dominance in some parts. On the issue of the riffs and the solos it can be noted that they are well performed and interesting to listen to. Even though someone might suspect this instrument to have a dominant role in the music, in case of Otila it has to share it with the vocals; the keyboards are often not more than some sound in the background; the drums give the music drive and a basis.

This band from Hungary seems like to have an idea on how to write music and they 'celebrate' this on «A Világ Színpadán» in a neat fashion. All songs are very catchy and really enjoyable, but offer little variation in terms of the song-writing. The sound is not very voluminous, compared with such a lot of successful gothic metal bands use today. Otila try to keep it simple and do not attempt to plaster everything with synthesizer textures of samples or to manipulate the vocals with some kind of reverb. Perhaps this 'simplicity' is what makes their music so enjoyable.

Would this review be posted at the Metal Archives, the rating would be higher than 80/100; and I rarely give such high ones. Perhaps my reluctance to higher scores has to do with the underground black metal I torment myself on a daily basis with or the (often) pointless scores given to albums at the Metal Archives. Nevertheless, is this demo able to entertain me over a longer period of time and I never grow tired of listening to it. I really hope the band will be able to improve even more and arouse attention beyond their native country. With more of these catchy songs a slightly better mix and a better bass drum sound, the band should certainly be able to create a larger fan base.

Note: the last two demos can be downloaded from their homepage.

Steve von Till – A Grave is a Grim Horse (J)

Since 1983, Steve von Till has shaken the earth beneath our feet playing guitar and providing vocals for the legendary Sludge/Post-Hardcore monolith that is Neurosis. Eventually, in 2000, von Till released his first solo album, titled “As the Crow Flies,” bearing a striking, albeit slower, resemblance to classic singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. That being, in 2002 von Till followed up his first release with “If I Should Fall to the Field,” a much more in-depth recording, featuring slide guitars and orchestral backing to contrast his low, somber voice.

Six years pass due to his prior engagements with Neurosis, and his latest release finally arrives.

“A Grave is a Grim Horse” is, personally, von Till’s most powerful release to date. While still containing the usual droning guitars and raspy voice, this album has a much more “desert-sounding” motif. Hell, the first time I listened to the title track, I closed my eyes and vividly pictured myself driving a rusted pickup truck down a desert highway, with the wind in my hair, but then again, that’s my overtly romantic view of music talking.

“Grave” has some of Steve von Till’s most memorable and catchy vocal lines throughout his entire discography. The simple pentatonic (bluesy) crooned chorus of “The Acre” is one of those melodies that sticks in your head for days, but, luckily, isn’t one of those torturous 90s pop sensations that tell you what you “really really want.”

For me, the stand-out track on this release has to be the cover of Nick Drake’s “Clothes of Sand,” but that’s mainly due to my obscene love of Nick Drake’s recordings. Von Till most definitely does Nick Drake justice with this track, which is unfortunately the shortest song of the entire disc.

As stated earlier, a distinct desert/western/cowboy/country motif is very prevalent in “A Grave is a Grim Horse.” Songs such as “Willow Tree” are excellent examples of this, with multiple layers of fiddle (slow fiddle, not cousin-fucking fiddle) and slide guitar to give it that nice down-home southern feeling.

Overall, I find “A Grave is a Grim Horse” to be one of the most powerful and emotionally moving pieces of this year, containing some of the most somber melodies to ever enter my cranial cavity.

For fans of: Nick Drake, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, America, Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, Neurosis, and Wolves in the Throne Room (just to throw everyone off).

Skepticism – Aes EP (J)

The first time I heard Skepticism a long time ago during my melodeath days (don't we all have that phase?), I gave their 2003 release, Farmakon, a listen, and, of course, was bored to tears due to lack of catchy upbeat melodies and vocals that sound like angry kittens. This pretty much set my standard for funeral doom for years to come, until I tried immersing myself in the genre yet again, this time starting with the more logical beginner band (see my review of Shape of Despair’s “Shades Of…” for a more logical starting point) and moving from there.

Later 2007 came, four years later, and I felt it was time to listen to Skepticism again and see what I had been missing, and after seeing such positive reviews on the Aes EP, I thought I'd give the one-track-27-minute-long EP a spin.

To start off, in case you didn't notice from the length, 27 minutes is a LONG time. I suggest that if you want to listen to this, you have to dedicate your time to fully enjoy the atmospheres conveyed in this song. And, of course, since it is funeral doom, it is very SLOW and dirge-like.

The guitars are very powerful and crunchy, yet retain a relaxed feel throughout the song, not really in the forefront, but more of an atmospheric add-on. Very nice arpeggiated work is heard later-on.

The drums are very tribal-like, since the drummer has thrown away his sticks and instead use felt-mallets to give a more subtle and reverberated feel on his instrument. I think he could have splurged and gone out and get a Timpani like his contemporary, Stijn van Cauter of Until Death Overtakes Me (among other things), but that's just me. Still good in my book.

The keyboards are what make Skepticism...Skepticism. The symphonic arrangements displayed throughout the band's entire discography set a unique yet still despondent atmosphere in every song. These keys add a lot of bombast to the song and are able to make some parts more dynamic, adding on to the song and keeping it interesting.

The vocals are slow, LOW, and very mournful. His trademark breathy guttural moans and roars resemble the groans of an ancient giant, lumbering in the frozen dead of night. Very raw, thundering and emotional vocals; they add on atmosphere in spades.

Overall, this EP is nothing short of amazing, though I suggest you really sit down and listen to it all the way through to fully appreciate it for what it is.

Six Organs of Admittance - Days of Blood (C)

I picked up this album at the Century Plants/Sunburned Hand of the Man show I went to back in February but never really gave it a proper listen until now. I don't know much about Six Organs of admittance, and even less about the album. When I bought it I wasn't really sure what it was, it was a bootleg being sold by a member of Sunburned Hand of the Man who is also a member of Six Organs of Admittance… And that's about it. Well I was inclined to give the album a much-overdue listen after I finally got my turntable set up, and I must say I was quite upset that I waited so long. Now, I was a bit surprised since I was somewhat familiar with them via the split with Om, and knew that they were Psych Folk… But the album starts in a more straight forward acoustic piece which lasts for almost the entirety of the first side, with a brief foray into the world of those familiar psych-folk sonicscapes we're so familiar with. The second side is practically an inversion, with a bit of that acoustic folk giving way to nearly an entire side of psych-folk. The best part about the second side is the closing, however, which is a clear transition into a sort of bouncy unapologetic folk-rock with distinct 6OA flavor. The album really becomes a strange and varied voyage across the sea of psych folk, but not manages to remain a cool and calming voyage.

Just a few notes about the album however… I guess it's a live album, I'm not really sure. There's clapping at the end of the last track, but I didn't really notice anything else anywhere. The album came with a cool little interview booklet thing that alluded to a lot of obscure gigs and such I didn't really understand, but yeah. Definitely worth a check out any time.

Shining – V – Halmstad (J)

Hailing from Halmstad, Sweden, Shining delivers a very tasty blend of black metal, doom metal, gothic rock, jazz, progressive rock, and pretty much anything else main man Nicklas Kvarforth, the main songwriter and live vocalist, decides to fit in to his very eclectic style of writing. Looking at the cover, you see a teenage girl biting the muzzle of a gun, and you probably immediately thought “Dammit, this depressive black metal trend is a bunch of bullshit; I probably heard this album when I listened to Xasthur for the first (and last) time.” To be completely honest, I thought the same exact thing. In my mind, the name Shining was too close in similarity to Silencer and the “depressive black metal” tag was all too repulsive. Not to mention Kvarforth’s knack for getting attention; the man faked his own suicide only to reappear as the singer “Ghoul” who was set to be his replacement. These mixed together make a concoction that normally acts in the exact opposite manner of pheromones when it comes to my music taste.

Hoo boy, was I wrong.

Shining’s extraordinarily powerful, Opeth-tinged performance on “Halmstad” is near perfection. Kvarforth takes his debilitating depression and madness and effectively recreates his emotions in the atmosphere of this groundbreaking release. Essentially, Shining takes the “depressive black metal” tag, spits on it, takes it off its Prozac prescription, and turns it into PSYCHOTIC black metal.

“Psychotic black metal?” you ask. Exactly. Between Nicklas’s extraordinary vocal performance, ranging from deep growls, high pitched screams, moaning, howling, yelling, groaning, and some sort of Louis Armstrong-esque singing technique, and rather eerie movie samples from some Swedish indie movie and “Prozac Nation,” starring Christina Ricci, the severe psychosis experienced by the narrator, presumably Kvarforth, is very obvious.

Moving on, the musicianship of “V – Halmstad” is amazing. As stated earlier, the writing of this album is very Opeth-tinged. That means there are very catchy-yet-dirge-like guitar riffs that rumble along beneath an always-apparent lead guitar whilst the bass (which you can actually hear) rumbles along, allowing for a very nice bottom-end. The most impressive song of the release that demonstrates the versatility of the band, in my opinion, is “Laat Oss Ta Allt Fraan Varandra” (Let Us Take Everything From Each Other). The song starts out with a very gothic rock-like, very heavy guitar part which segues into a very choppy black metal riff. This song features an eerie jazz part, a catchy guitar solo, and even a melodic death/doom metal part, a la Daylight Dies. Kvarforth’s vocals are amazing on this release, experimenting with all of the aforementioned vocal tangents. This song also features a very creepy-sounding movie clip from some rather underground Swedish psychological thriller. I hate to hear women cry, don’t you?

“V - Halmstad” is by far Shining’s best release, slightly outdoing their previous release, “IV – the Eerie Cold,” featuring a less matured style of writing than “Halmstad.” September 16th, 2008, marks the release of “VI – Klagospalmer,” and my expectations are set high for this release, not that I foresee any disappointment in Shining’s bright future (oh look, I made a funny).

Recommended for fans of: Opeth, Daylight Dies, Lifelover, Katatonia, Ikuinen Kaamos, Dark Tribe, and anything that sounds psychotic or beautiful.

Njiqahdda – Nji.Njijn.Njiijn (J)

A few months ago I did a review of Njiqahdda’s (pronounced Nee-Gee-Kaa-Da) astounding 2007 debut, “Njimajikal Arts,” which consisted of black metal flirting with funeral doom metal, shoegaze, ambient, and psychedelic rock. One year and 9 (NINE? HOLY GOD) releases later, we are presented with the highly experimental and crushing full-length release, “Nji.Njiijn.Njiiijn.”

In “Nji.Njiijn.Njiiijn,” we see Njiqahdda distance themselves from the shoegazer elements of previous releases and instead incorporate more drone and noise influences into their songs. To accommodate the new drone-influenced direction, this release features a much thicker, crunchier distortion on the guitars and bass as well as the incorporation of more field recordings and background noise/fuzz. These elements make this CD much more monotonous, but in a good, EARTH kind of way. The riffs drone on and repeat as more and more fuzz enters the background until you have this wonderful melodic noise that ebbs and flows (hey, I used that phrase about the last album, too! Hooray consistency). This is the kind of album you listen to alone whilst spacing out in a dark room (perhaps with candles, too, if you’re into that stuff).

Unfortunately, this album didn’t wow me as much as “Njimajikal Arts,” considering that album set a new threshold of expectance for atmospheric black metal, BUT this album is still great, nonetheless.

Recommended for fans of: Darkspace, Nachtmystium, Drudkh, Agalloch, and all the other bands I mentioned in the other Njiqahdda review.

Low - Drums & Guns (J)

Low was the band that marked the beginning of the end of my metal days. Never before had I heard such emotional intensity from 3 people, let alone a Mormon family.

Low is married couple Alan Sparhawk, who plays guitar and sings, and Mimi "Mim" Parker, who sings and plays a modest drum kit, comprised of a floor tom and a single cymbal, played exclusively with brushes (not the hair care product) instead of drumsticks, along with the help of bassist Matt Livingston, who left Low in February 2008.

Low is credited with the creation of a style of music called "slowcore." Originally used as an inside joke within the band, slowcore is now considered a legitimate genre. Slowcore is, as defined by Wikipedia, "a subgenre of alternative and indie rock. The music of slowcore artists is generally characterized by downbeat melodies, slower tempos and minimalist arrangements. The term is generally used interchangeably with sadcore." Notable slowcore artists (besides Low) are Dirty Three, Codeine, Galaxie 500, Bon Iver, and Slowdive.

Low's sound is characterized by Parker's consistent-yet-barely audible drumming, Sparhawk's sparse guitar parts, and, of course, the astounding vocal harmonies between the two. Critic Denise Parker stated that Sparhawk and Parker's harmonies are "as chilling as anything Gram [Parsons] and Emmylou [Harris] ever conspired on -- though that's not to say it's country-tinged, just straight from the heart."

Musically, "Drums & Guns" is very different than previous releases, this time the band delves deep into the realm of "minimalist pop," relying more on their voices (note the a Capella "Belarus" and the a Capella intro to "Your Poison") than instruments, which are rarely played. For the most part digital drums and keyboards are used instead of their acoustic counterparts, though electric guitars and acoustic drum loops are used liberally. Though this release hearkens a new, minimalist era for Low, this change is widely accepted and encouraged.

Since they had more time to concentrate on their voices, Alan and Mimi's vocals are nothing short of perfect on "Drums & Guns." Mimi's sense of when to harmonize with Alan (note the irregular harmonic timings in "Violent Past), along with which scale and mode (check out the exotic harmonies in "Sandinista") is pure genius.

"Drums & Guns" is a political album, yet the only time that Low openly shows their political side are the songs "Sandinista," whose song title refers to many a war-protest folk song, and "Pretty People," the droning introduction, where Sparhawk gives a list of everything that is "gonna die," expressing his opinion that the war in Iraq isn't going to end even when the soldiers are all gone. Lyrically, the rest of this album deals with religious devotion ("Murdrer"), sappy love ("Hatchet"), hardship ("Dust on the Window," "In Silence," "Take Your Time"), and Sparhawk's eternal battle with drug addiction ("Dragonfly").

The standout track of the entire release is definitely "Murderer," the penultimate track. As explained by Alan on the Low Documentary (named for the song) "You May Need A Murderer," "Murderer" is an explanation that if God were to tell Sparhawk to give up his possessions, his house, his life, and he had to take his family anywhere to start anew, he'd do it. If God told him to kill someone, he'd do it. This song deals with intense religious devotion in a much more serious manner than, say, Christian rock bands who "Lift the Lord's Name on High." This is real, Moses-like devotion. "Murderer"'s haunting melodies will stick in your head for days, if not weeks. (a music networking site) proclaims that on my computer alone I've listened to "Murderer" 19 times, which may not sound like a lot, but I have a tendency to listen to entire albums in one sitting, along with the fact that I have 120 Gigabytes of music.

This album can appeal to almost anyone (even my sister enjoys this, and she listens to the Disney-owned artists. You know, Miley Cyrus, The Jonas Brothers, e.t.c.), and, mind you, I was a metal head when I first listened to Low. This was undoubtedly my favorite release of the past year, if not decade.

Recommended for fans of: music in general, but more seriously, Arab Strap, Red House Painters, Coldplay, Slowdive, Yo La Tengo, and Sun Kil Moon.

Light - A Million Dead beneath the Ice (C)

Now here's an album that came to me by surprise. I was checking my usual blogs, and one of them had a review of this two-piece outfit from Iowa which ticked all the right boxes for me. I decided to give them a check out, and purchase a couple albums since I couldn't pass up on an album for which "All the CD cases are all handmade and numbered, and the CD itself is smeared with menstrual blood..." Well my blind-buy paid off and I managed to score a class album (Not that I was expecting any less). Light manage to put themselves somewhere between Worship and Skepticism on A Million Dead Beneath the Ice, plodding hopelessly towards droning destruction. The organ-tinted funeral doom creates a creepy apocalyptic atmosphere that perfectly fits titles such as "When the Green Midwestern Sky Comes Crashing Down", "When the Flood Waters come Rushing In" and "When Biting Winds Slice Across the Prairies, They Will Carry the Seeds of Death Upon Them". Each track is interspersed with very sparse percussion and vocals that manifest as shrieks, howls, moans, wails, and infernal growling which manage to tell a story of a world speeding steadily towards the end. And it must be said that though this album is choc-full of funeral doom and drone, it also contains slight hints here and there of plenty of other influences that come and go like a stranger's hand gently caressing your neck when you least expect it. This album may not be easy for everyone to digest, but is definitely recommended for fans of funeral doom, drone, and people into the outlook of crust-punk and bands like Sterbend or Silencer (Though certainly not terribly similar music-wise to the latter if you find that to be a turn-off.). This album comes highly recommended, and luckily for everyone it is also available for free on their myspace!

La Monte Young - Poem for Tables, Chairs, Benches etc. (C)

La Monte Young… Celebrated leader of the minimalist style, and well among the first. He has created a large number of interesting things throughout his rather expansive career. Poems for Tables, Chairs, Benches etc. warms up with a very simple and calming sort of eastern chant with a buzzing drone underneath that creates a completely soothing effect for nearly 40 minutes (Raga for Ravi). As the song progresses, a second voice and some percussion is added, creating a slow change and a personal catharsis. In a sort of sharp contrast, the title pieces "Poem for Tables, Chairs, Benches etc (Parts 1 and 2)" present a sort of early noisescape filled with the shrieks and howls of moving furniture. There's not too much variation and the repetition, again, creates a different sort of trance to engage yourself in as you plummet into the abyss. "Two Sounds" is a more barren collection of strange sounds, perhaps treated, and perhaps not. The asynchronous rhythm leaves the listener feeling lopsided and ill-at-ease, but again enthralled with the strange sounds presented to them. I highly recommend this collection for anyone new to Young' work.

Heat From a DeadStar - The Lighthouse (V)

The first thing that struck me about Heat From a DeadStar's Lighthouse EP was their simultaneous use of and lack of regard for tonality. Their tastefully bass-heavy grooves in "Elusive Ways" seem to just avoid standard rock approaches and meld themselves into something slightly less straightforward and thus all the more pleasing. Dissonance catches the ear and makes one hesitate somewhere between head-bobbing and thrashing about on the ground.

The source of this dissonant influence becomes more apparent with the second track, "Joan." Acoustic guitars and ambient (synth?) smears blend around distant, reverb-heavy vocals. That's right, we've dropped straight into shoegaze, with DeadStar's dissonant touches brought to a new arena in the uncharacteristically complex and audible bass and heavily effected, warbling guitar leads that further distinguish this appealing track from run-of-the-mill Slowdive imitators. My main complaint is that I barely feel like I've had a chance to enjoy the track after five minutes! I could happily continue drifting through a bit longer if DeadStar chose to support me in the lapping of Joan's seas . . . if they worked back down to the more minimalist sound of the opening and through another verse, I'd be hooked for good. The main sections of the track demonstrate a talent with attractive tonal composition and vocal performance sadly lost in the band's other, less delicate instrumental tracks.

DeadStar drift from the acoustic shoegaze sound of "Joan" before long into something more reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine's noise-guitar in the title track. DeadStar emphasise their love/hate relationship with tonality again in this song as they shift from the awkwardly dissonant, pounding wholetone (!) of the intro through softer but still clashing interludes and more noise and heavy bass that make "The Lighthouse" feel almost like a normal track through the conviction of its denial of natural scales.

I was initially startled by the last track's strong electronic beats until I looked at the title again - Black Swans, Re: Dux Tion extended mix. This track wouldn't feel at all out of place at a dance club, and primarily explores the recurring theme of DeadStar's sonic versatility - I'm beginning to imagine an effects board that resembles the collections of hardware noise artists like Stimbox . . . in a noise-rock, dissonant, occasionally shoegazy context.

I'm considering organising this CD into the metaphorical racks somewhere between My Bloody Valentine, Cherubs, Swans, and Doomsday Postcard's strange industrial work. I don't know how to, or want to, nail this band down, but I know I'm interested and looking forward to the completion of their upcoming album, "Seven Rays of the Sun."

Gregor Samsa - 55:12 (V)

Gregor Samsa is beautiful, minimalist post-rock. And epic. Beautiful, epic, minimalist post-rock. The . . . seven-member? band brings Sigur Rós to mind with the epic orchestration and beautiful melodies, but with a distinctly softer overall tone and more softly accessible male and female vocals.

Gregor Samsa's music doesn't in the least reflect Die Verwandlung to me - one of the most depressing works I've ever read, as compared to soft, hopeful, tender beauty. But I appreciate the reference. And the music. And members of Kayo Dot? Amazing. I'll admit that the strings bring Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Thee Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra to mind, but I think in terms of delicate beauty, Gregor Samsa has truly overtaken these. And there's no flavour of Jewish music worked in, which, though it's a lovely flavour, detracted for me from the purity of the music as an original work in a modern context.

All of the tracks on 55:12 are amazing. Soft, attractive melodies. Like listening to Slowdive drawn into something slower and more gently thoughtful. Sit with 55:12 for several hours, and you'll feel at once uplifted and longing for something lost.

Freakflag - Experiments in Evolution (K)

Advertisments are a curiosity. On the one hand, they shall present to a neutral person some impressions on the item, like sound, smell, taste etc., but on the other one must all these facets be distilled into one catchy sentence or phrase. There you have the dilemma. Depending on the point of view of the person who wrote such a short description, one facet will be emphasized, while others are neglected. Some praise the band's musicianship, other the unique interpretation of the ideas and to some the mere existence of a band is great. The larger the band, the more of these phrases can be found... but Freak Flag is a small band ... from the underground. What kind of description might be found on their music?

So, there you are, the feeble person, without any knowledge on what the band performs and by mere chance you are confronted with this short advertisement: «Unbelievable experimental outfit, will likely induce acid flashbacks». Perhaps it may be best to consult a pharmacist before listening to the music or do some Google search on the topic "can music have a negative affect on my brain". You might also consider the option where to listen to the music. Who knows what might happen in the time you are 'affected by this piece of art? What would you tell your insurance company in case of a car crash ... while driving and listening to this album? Consider the effects!

Drugs play also a role on this album, yet not an important one. The dangers of the consumption of marijuana are dealt with on «Trans-con» or to be true, the band used samples in which people are warned about the consumption of it. Indeed it works; the track is really fascinating due to the different kind of samples in it and the weird way of song-writing. Freakflag takes the listener on a trip with this one song and it is a quite representative one for the whole album. The term «experiment» of the song title, gives some impression on what this albums offers to the listener: weird electronics, influences from the metal scene, some folk now and then and much more. All had been thrown together and the outcomes of it are fifteen unique tracks; and what about the quality?

Well, the band's potential is unfolded every time they start to rock and to combine a lot of elements into their songs. A little bit out of place are the electronic tracks, as they do not really fit into the whole concept behind the album, but perhaps this is rather a matter of personal preferences than a general obstacle; luckily these play only a minor role in the oeuvre. Characteristic for the music is impression that it creates in the head of the listener: everything seems to be in a flow. Accordingly is the music rather gentle and 'inoffensive' due to the lack of extreme elements, like breaks, noisy eruptions or the like; exception might be the track «End Suture» as well as the middle part of «Trans-con». It all lures the listener into a deep and (a little bit) depressing atmosphere and the music is quite appropriate to listen to in the background or to relax; perhaps its quality could be better would it be more influenced by the Drone genre and much longer, because this way the repetition in the elements could be brought to a new level and some ideas could be evolved further.

All is very calm on this album and even though there is a lot of complexity in the song, it is not perceived this way; the repetition of motives does its best to cover it up a bit. «Experiments in evolution» wants to be discovered, wants the listener to take the trip and needs some time until its full potential will be unfolded. It nothing that could be listened to when not much time is at hand or that would spin in the CD-player on a daily basis. It is a unique example on musicianship that finds its way onto one's playlist now and then; to remind this person on the beauty beyond the barren fields of commercial music.

Devourment - 1.3.8 (V)

Devourment's 1.3.8 is something of a classic in the gore and death scene - originally formed in San Antonio in '95 with Chicagoan vocalist Wayne Knupp, Devourment wandered through the next 4 years with lineup changes, releasing a couple of demos and replacing Knupp with Ruben Rosas - as much as possible. Rosas recorded vocals on Devourment's 1999 release, Molesting the Decapitated, before being jailed, during which time Knupp rejoined the band and recorded the track "Babykiller," which saw release on the Southern Uprising compilation, and then the Devourment compilation 1.3.8, featuring that one track, three from the earlier Impaled demo with Wayne Knupp, and 8 with Rosas' vocals from Molesting the Decapitated.

Not confusing at all.

"Babykiller" is a classic track. Don't read the lyrics. Whatever you do, don't read the lyrics. But the track is the perfect slam-dancing beast, and Knupp's vocals are pure raw gurgle. Right down to the 24 or 25-second extension at the end of the track.

The next three tracks, from the Impaled demo, aren't as well-produced. And that's saying something; "Babykiller" is RAW. Incredibly scooped distortion and all. And the Impaled tracks are a few good notches muddier. The songs are great. The messy bits are perfectly messy, and the chugs are clear and heavy. Knupp's gurgling is as gory and indecipherable as ever.

That said, I tend to skip past the Impaled tracks to hear the better-recorded versions of the same songs from Molesting the Decapitated. Rosas' vocals don't have quite the same raw edge, but they're definitely in the right mold to fill the gaps, and the production is comparatively without blemish. The tracks have the traditional gore soundclips about murder and the like, but the whole album is filled with appealing dance grooves. This is happy music. In a gore-dripping, dark, hateful way. Get this stuff and enjoy it . . . unless it's too far below your artsy standards or the focus roils your gut, you will.

And Devourment's writing a new album - and don't forget to check out Butcher the Weak in the meantime.

Current 93 – Black Ships Ate the Sky (J)

The kingdom of neofolk hails its king, David Tibet, whose groundbreaking solo project, Current 93, has kept a firm grip at the head of the neofolk movement (with good friends Death in June and Sol Invictus). Throughout its 24 year existence, Current 93 has covered vast expanses of music in his consistent, year-by-year releases, experimenting with industrial/post-industrial, classical, medieval, noise, a capella poetic readings, and, of course, folk/singer-songwriter.

At first glance, the CD cover of “Black Ships Ate the Sky,” one is reminded of David Johnston’s work (see my review of Jandek’s “Ready for the House” if you wish to learn about “outsider music.”), silly, childish, and irreverent, thanks to the crude Jesus in the center, most likely drawn in crayon. Released in 2006 Anno Domini, “Black Ships Ate the Sky” is an in-depth journey into the obsessive madness that is David Tibet.

“Black Ships in my eye! Black Ships ate the sky!”
“Black Ships” features many, many guest vocalists, including (in track order) Marc Almond, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy (a personal favorite), Baby Dee, the mysterious Antony, Clodagh Simonds, Cosi Fanni Tutti, and Shirley Collins. Most tracks feature David Tibet’s strange, atonal storytelling voice, but thanks to these guest vocalists, David is able to concentrate more on his songwriting, as well as experiment with different styles within his folk realm, such as Appalachain-tinged blues (note the banjo on the first “Ideumea” with Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy) and Nick Drake “cluster (jazz) chords.” Think of this album as an expansion on the “Inmost Light” trilogy (“Where the Long Shadows Fall (Beforetheinmostlight),” “All the Pretty Little Horsies (The Inmost Light),” and “The Starres are Marching Sadly Home (theinmostlightthirdandfinal)”).

Emotion and tone on this album range from, but definitely are not limited to, madness (“Black Ships in the Sky”), resign (“Ideumea” w/ Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy), and thoughts on religion (“The Autistic Imperium is Nihil Reich”). Tibet’s lyrics have been fairly consistent, regardless of delivery: The earlier recordings reflect his preoccupation with death, Christ, mysticism, Aleister Crowley, Tibetan Buddhism, Gnosticism, Weltschmerz, nihilism, Noddy, and a variety of occult notions. The later to present-day period of Current 93’s recordings increasingly reflect Tibet’s interest in Christian mysticism.
Though most had thought David Tibet had reached his pinnacle long beforehand, “Black Ships Ate the Sky” is here to prove us all that Tibet has many, many more albums left in him. Expect a new release later this year or early 2009.

For fans of: Death in June, Sol Invictus, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Nick Drake, Birch Book/In Gowan Ring, Comus, Agalloch, and much, much more. A very accessible release.

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - The Letting Go (J)

At first thought, with a stage name like "Bonnie 'Prince' Billy" and having the label "Alternative-Country," Will Oldham's music could only spell trouble for the country-despising country that we live in (save Texas). I was expecting some sort of "hootenanny" with some bluegrass banjo, fiddle, perhaps a jug or two playing in the background.

Yet again, I was wrong (it tends to happen to me a lot).

A cousin of mine (who, incidentally, got me into the band Low, whose CD "Drums & Guns" I have reviewed for this month) told me to check out Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, and due to my cousin's supreme musical awesomeness, I could no longer put off my intrigue with Mr. Oldham's strangely-named side project. And I must say, I am eternally grateful to my cousin Suzanne for helping me out.

When it comes to B'P'B, the label "alternative country" confuses me. Yes, there are some rather east-Texas-y vocal harmonies in "Cursed Sleep" and the rather Southern Blues-y-ness of "Cold & Wet" may give Mr. Oldham's release a rather country-like atmosphere, but overall this release is much more performed "an hommage" to singer-songwriter greats Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen, and Bert Jansch.

Lyrics on this release are much different than the rest of the Bonnie 'Prince' Billy discography, which deal more with metaphorical sexual images. "The Letting Go" tends to deal with more tender, cute, "lovesy" lyrics; almost like a love poem. A great example of the "sweet" characteristic of the lyrics can be seen in my personal favorite track, "A Strange Form of Life":

"and the softest lips ever
25 years of waiting to kiss them
smiling and waiting
to bend down and kiss twice
the softest lips."

Will's voice for most of the CD is a calm, almost spoken-yet-still-sung crooning voice, reminiscent of Leonard Cohen, though, at times in songs such as "Cursed Sleep" and "The Seedling," he lets his voice soar on its raw emotional power.

Musically, "The Letting Go" is very diverse. Normally, Oldham would release a disc with either the soft, Nick Drake-esque string-accompanied songs, or the more American folk-y songs (ranging from Appalachian folk to Western-tinged folk, reminiscent to that of the aforementioned Steve von Till), yet on this release, Oldham mixes up his writing styles, which is a treat.

On this release, Oldham is joined by Psychedelic Folk artist Faun Fables, also known as Dawn McCarthy, on harmonies. Ms. McCarthy's harmonic sense is amazing, and her voice complements Oldham's voice perfectly. Her range is rather large, ranging from the mid-range/low tones of "Wai" to the shockingly high notes of "Strange Form of Life." Dawn's voice creates a feeling of wholeness - a complement or second half. Considering this release deals more with emotional love as opposed to physical, having a woman alongside Oldham really helps the "love" idea succeed.

Overall, currently "The Letting Go" is one of my favorite albums. I recommend listening to this release and just letting your emotions run wild.

For fans of: Nick Drake, Steve von Till, Agalloch (The White EP), Buffalo Springfield, America, Neil Young, Woven Hand, 16 Horsepower, Iron & Wine, and Low

Barzel - A Shield of Defense and the Word of the Son of Blood (V)

Barzel is a strange creature. The front of this record is anything but vague: the largest words are the phrase "MILITANT JEWISH INDUSTRIAL." That's certainly a fair warning label - or blessing.

Barzel is essentially a noise project - a strongly rhythmic noise project, harkening to the Futurists' ideals of music made from noise - covered in soundclips of Jewish, Zionist propoganda. In the case of this particular record (I asked David of Barzel), the voice clips are from "an old LP about the birth of Israel," and David gleaned the clips on the new record (which I haven't laid my hands on yet) from a variety of documentaries. He admits that it's hard to find applicable material.

Personally, my favorite aspect of Barzel is the overall sound - David manages to make the industrial noise sound like not only a call to arms in the defense of Israel, but like historical music made for the LP he samples. The distorted, pulsing roar is softened into a vintage vinyl sound that creates something of an amazing atmosphere. Even when Barzel's noise influences come forward in a blast of sound and distorted screaming that would do a live Masonna show proud (as in the track Milchemet Brera/Jewish Steel), it doesn't detract in the least from the historical atmosphere of the overall work.

I'd recommend this record for not only anyone interested in industrial and noise music, particularly older examples, but also for those interested in examples of historical propoganda in the context of race and nationalism. If you can hunt down a copy (try contacting David at, pick it up.

Arcane Art - Keen Joys of Solitude (V)

Karsten Hamre is one of those people who enjoys having far too many projects at any given time. Not that I know any of those *cough, cough.* Arcane Art is a project that specialises in keyboard work with spoken word.

Some of the atmosphere of Keen Joys of Solitude reminds me of some of the neofolk that I listen to far too much - an observation borne well by my recent discovery of Karsten's profile. Artists in common? Death In June, In Gowan Ring . . . it's oddly meditative music for something as . . . not ambient as it is. The melodies are enjoyable in a calm way and the orchestration is creative and works quite well. I'm almost certain the last track quotes American hymn "Lift Every Voice And Sing," which strikes me as quite strange coming from a Czech artist, but I suppose it may well be a coincidence.

Arcane Art seems in some ways a forum to discuss art and a work to relax the artist rather than so much an offering to others. It comes across as personal and heartfelt. Do explore Karsten Hamre's work where you can - I don't know how available this (limited) release is anymore.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Stillbirth's Response, and my comment.

Hey, Etherised just got a message from Stillbirth:

I just read your review and noticed that you said my lyrics were dealing with genocide and other stereotypical issues. In fact, they had nothing to do with that whatsover. The song was entitled "scared of sex" and deals with impotency and doubting of self worth. They lyrics read as follows:

scared of women
scared of sex
scared of god
scared of death

and while I must note that they are not the most poetic words ever written they pretty much have the exact opposite intent of usual power electronics dealing with genocide and whatever else you said.
The cheesy moaning and rolling around on the floor was meant to seem pathetic, desperate and weak.
It seems you missed the intent of my set entirely.

I feel it's my duty, as the writer of the review, to respond, so here I go...

I don't know if I made it clear enough, but I entered this show from the position of a complete outsider. I found out about it via a myspace message, and decided to see what it entailed. At the time of writing the review I couldn't even find the bulletin in order to figure out the name of the artists I was writing about, so doing a bit of research was a bit hard for me.

At the time of seeing your set, that was literally the first time I'd ever seen, heard, experienced, or even pretty much known of your existence. I don't really recall you introducing the song, and given my hearing disabilities on top of the effects used to treat your voice, it wasn't too hard to mistake "scared of sex" for "tourniquet" - When I brought these words up in a later discussion, no one corrected me either.

With your present explanation, I wouldn't really change what I had to say about your performance, other than my own mistakes about the lyrics, and what that subsequently says about "standard power electronics fair" (And I'll readily admit I was wrong about that). As for the "silly" aspect of your performance? Even as far as what I said as it being "silly", your act still was dead on for what you were trying to portray. The result may not have struck me as it would strike you, or the others in the audience, but I'm a different person and I will react differently. It's just how it is. I agree with you, I did miss the point of your set, mostly over a pretty huge (and literal) misunderstanding but the light you've shed on it has changed that and you still stand as one of my favorite sets of the evening.


Monday, June 30, 2008

Mark Solotroff/Stillbirth/Sharpwaist/Silvum/Karlheinz - The Enemy, Chicago, IL, 21/6/2008 (C)

I found out about this gig kind of on a whim. Updating the TIS ( - CLICK HERE FOR HOT SINGLES IN YOUR AREA NOW) myspace one day I was looking at the bulletins and saw that one of the acts that I was friends with, or maybe the venue, or someone or something had posted a bulletin advertising it, and thought to myself "Well, gee, nothing else is working out while I'm in Chicago, I might as well try this out." I worked out heading down with Carter (and, as it turned out, my dad - a veteran of the old school performance art scene- for transportation's sake) and almost half expected us to be the only folks at the show. I wasn't too much off, other than the 6 people performing, during the first set, I'd say only about five other people were there, and the crowd built up to a strong fifteen to twenty people between sets.

The venue itself was pretty interesting. It was pretty much just a cleared-out space in a beat-up old studio apartment with some old furniture to make a small sitting area, and a pretty full kitchen /dining room. The sitting area/kitchen looked out onto a cold (-looking, it got pretty damn hot) concrete area which had the five set-ups in different areas and provided a great viewing space.

Against the rightmost "wall", which was a curtain covering up some sort of very large storage area, Mark started off the night with, as the flier described, "feedback using a clutch of microphones and his voice". Mark described his set as an Animal Law piece that he was still learning the melody to, but his performance was nothing short of striking. I can't honestly quite say I've ever really experienced anything quite like his set. The way Mark choreographed his every move to effect the shape of the feedback in the space was both sonically engaging and made me think more about the sound, making me take it for more than just its surface value. Every motion as small as creating a wall between two of the upright microphones with his hand created huge changes in the song that were somewhat surprising. I think the nicest part about the set was that from the description I was expecting more power-electronics-esque feedback-punching and screaming as frequently used in the other sets. It was much more enjoyable and interesting than I had thought it would be, and was definitely the most surprising of the night. Mark had the most tremendous presence of the performers that evening, performing with an ease that betrayed hours of practice, and years of performing.

Stillbirth came up next, assuming his spot at a small table near "center stage". His set began with him turning on a small table light, and the other lights in the venue being turned off. He presented what seemed to me to be relatively straightforward and very enjoyable power electronics. The lyrics were a bit clichéd in my mind: "genocide - tourniquet - genocide - killing women", but the effects he used to treat his voice were top notch. The performance aspect of the set were pretty good, the point where he fell on the floor and started moaning was a bit silly, but other than that - pretty good. The set was short and to the point, as it needed to be. In my mind the high point of the set was the image left in my mind of the lighting, and the ampeg cab pulsing with the rhythmic background noise, and so-and so standing eerily behind his effects table.

Sharpwaist seemed to be having some sort of issues that evening, but their piece was still great. It was nice to hear power electronics with a sort of lower droning in the beginning rather than the usual wall of white noise or pulsing stuff. It started off as somewhat generic power electronics, which I wasn't really too excited for and the main man spilled his beer on the floor and the guys from Silvum and Set 2 had to help clean it up while they continued to play. Eventually the second half of the duo kicked in and there was some great back and forth action. For a brief moment the main effects man dropped a distortion pedal into a metal crate along with a contact mic (or something along those lines) and shook the crate for just a few seconds, which created some great noise and spontaneity. This, for me, illustrated what the noisier acts were missing and was pretty cool to see. They also used a great series of back-and-forth screams that sounded awesome. In the end they were probably the best sounding of the noise sets.

Silvum in a way stole the show for me. Coming after two power electronics sets and presenting something wholly new compared to everyone else that had played, Silvum was nothing short of a breath of fresh air both in the context of the show and out of context. I don't recall quite specifically how it began, because I admit getting a bit lost in the experience, but what really matters is eventually Nick seamlessly took a piece of tape, measured it against his arm as if he'd done it a thousand times before, and then taped a microphone to his throat. The whole act was itself was very powerful to watch and was almost ritualistic as my dad described it later. The heartbeat worked perfectly into the music, running through some sort of delay and creating a kind of a train-sounding rhythm, and really brought the music forward on a lot of levels. The drone set proceeded with thought and created soundscapes that couldn't help but draw you in. The set wound down with the addition of… Breathing or vocals? I don't remember or couldn't tell. Either way, it sounded great. For the entirety of his set, except when using the mic, Nick stood almost completely still at his mixing console with a tremendous presence and sense of calm (though I might say his pulse might showed something else) which only enhanced the mood. Given my inclinations towards more minimal sorts of things, it's not surprising that this was, alongside the first, my favorite set of the evening. I talked to Nick afterwards and he was a very humble and nice guy, and seemed surprised when I asked to buy an album from him. Well the album was amazing as well, and is reviewed in this months Etherised, check it out.

Karlheinz finished up the night. Musically and performance-wise he was most forgettable. He had been the on-going "sound guy" for the night, and I didn't realize he would be performing so I was kind of excited. He performed three songs during his set, all of which were very much similar, and kind of generic. He screamed about some sort of angry things for two of them, and pointed at people in the crowd and ran around like you would expect him to, then performed an "instrumental" piece at the end which was referred to as the "Karlheinz Drone Set", which at first I took as a joke, then I kind of thought that was what he was doing… Then I just couldn't tell. I kind of felt bad when he raised his arms up above his head intending to swoop down and hit as many pedals as he could and unleash another huge wall of noise, but only managed to reduce the decibel level a bit and knock his pedals all over the place. I enjoyed his set anyway, and he seemed like an entertaining guy. Maybe if he hadn't looked so much like someone I knew, or worn that silly cop hat with the flashlight it would have been better. Oh well.

Over all, the show was great fun. I don't know that I would have picked a different venue to see this group of people, and the intimacy was very welcomed. Each performer brought something slightly different and they were each enjoyable in their own respects. The highlights of the night were definitely Mark, Silvum, and Act 2, all of whom made me think and were enjoyable to listen to.