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.

Vanessa van Basten - La Stanza di Swedenborg (J)

Post-Rock - Wikipedia defines this as "simply rock instrumentation for non-rock purposes." Of course, nowadays lots of bands comprised of people who have only heard Explosions in the Sky (snicker) only once, if even that, decide that their music is also post-rock. This sends the genre into a downward spiral of tremolo picked, delayed leads over whatever the hell they want. In fact, it seems that the only defining trait of what most people know as "post-rock" seems to be that bullshit airy lead. Vanessa van Basten knows this, and they hate it.

Hailing from Italy, Vanessa van Basten takes influence from not only the classic shoegazers, but also modern classical visionaries such as Morricone and Steve Reich, and even heavy industrial like Godflesh. All of this melded together with a love for obscure Italian movies comprises "La Stanza di Swedenborg."
This full-length, released in 2006, ranges from lush, thick soundscapes, as in the title track, to droning melodic feedback (Vanja), and even American-Western slide guitar (Giornata de Oro). Melodies found on this release are unpredictable, at times, such as the track "Dole," which follows a very jesu-like, dreamy path, but this is abruptly interrupted by an almost black metal-like minor-chord-which-is-then-moved-down-a-half-step. Hell, in "Giornata de Oro," a slide guitar with enough reverb on it to make it sound like a dying rodent comes out of nowhere; it is almost frightening. Tonality on "La Stanza" is very fickle, ranging in emotion from happy-go-lucky, paranoia, loss, anger, and so on. With such a vast array of feelings, this record never fails to surprise every listen (which there have been a lot of).

Recommended for fans of Slowdive (or any classic shoegaze band for that matter), jesu (or any post-metal band), Ennio Morricone, Godflesh, nadja, and so on.

Thought.Image.Sound - Spread Against the Sky (V)

This is certainly the beginning of a new chapter for TIS. Spread Against the Sky effectively transitions from the glitchy, feedback-soaked noise of past work and collaborations with NTRLWRM to a sort of minimalist, meditative expression of echoing guitar and bass work. The first two tracks, "A Thousand Shades of Night" and "Rabbit Fence," are mostly improvised and center on the use of effects and effects loops and twisted, smashed guitar sounds. Each is a slowly building experimental work, layering interspersed chaotic strumming and ambient drone. "Rabbit Fence" eventually crashes its way from glitchy distorted chaos to softer chaos that brings the word "ambiance" and even "melody" directly to mind.

My favorite track while the record was still in progress, "A Touch of Frost" sounds like pure decanted atmosphere. You can hear the melancholy chords drifting out across the mountains. You can feel TIS sitting and staring into the melancholy of the abyss. Slowly, the guitar and bass build and drop and flow into the delay-harmonised melody of "An Aging Statue." This statue is lonely. Introspective. Quiet. Then the modulated fingerpicking of "Drifting Away" builds tension, rather than releasing it and ending this album's chapter. I'm waiting for the next TIS release, so I can see where this is going. Get this.

The Tallest Man on Earth - Shallow Grave (C)

Well, let me preface this review with a story. I started listening to The Tallest Man on Earth in just about the last week of school or so. On a whim, a couple days after I moved back home from school I decided to look on The Tallest Man on Earth's myspace to see if he had any show dates. So I was cruisin' and lookin' and the second date or so on their tour space, which was a convenient very small US tour sponsored by friends of the artist, said "ALBANY, NEW YORK - LOSBSTERPALOOZA - WASHINGTON PARK 3:00pm". Immediately my mind shot to flashbacks of three days before at Baccalaureate, the night before moving out day, when my parents were joking around and telling everyone that we had to "Hurry home tomorrow because it's Lobsterpalooza across the street!". The next day I was all cranky and tired and didn't want to go to stupid-ass Lobsterpalooza, of course, because who in god's name that matters goes to Lobsterpalooza? Well, two days after Lobsterpalooza boy was I regretting that decision. "FUCK FUCK FUCK I COULD HAVE SEEN THE TALLEST MAN ON EARTH ACROSS THE STREET FUCK I MISSED A ONCE IN A LIFE TIME CHANCE SHIT" was how I pissed and moaned for days after that. But, since I came home around 3:00 and I did hear some music playing, I tell people that I once heard about 2 minutes of a Tallest Man on Earth show, which is more than they'll ever hear.

The moral of the story? Always go to Lobsterpalooza.

Anyway, Shallow Graves is the debut album by Finland's The Tallest Man on Earth. The Tallest Man on Earth presents solo bluegrass that you wouldn't believe comes from outside of Kentucky, let alone outside of the country. It's also hard to believe that is the one making the music, with his tattoos and gauged piercings in his ears. On the other side of things, thought he also looks young, he comes across as both very aged and world-weary in a way that fits the gravel and emotiveness of his voice. His voice becomes in ways, dare I say it, Dylan-esque, and he masterfully takes on the bluegrass twang in a way that is both subtle and genuine. The lyrics put forth on the album are touching and poetic, often dealing with life and love as you would expect a country/bluegrass album to. 's mastery of the language is superb and I probably would not have guessed that English was not his first language. The lyrics often use bird imagery which sometimes gets a bit repetitive, but is still refreshing and used more craftfully than most lyricists could. Each song reflects the perfect campfire atmosphere, and invokes a richness and a warmth unparalleled by many recordings. Though the production quality changes several times throughout the album, it doesn't affect the experience at all, and enhances each song on an individual level. Highlights on the album include Where do My Bluebird Fly (a personal favorite), I won't be Found, Pistol Dreams, and The Sparrow and the Medicine. I also highly recommend looking up the video to "It Will Follow the Rain", a track which is not on the album but is easily one of his best.

Silvum - Fading Signals (C)

"Fading Signals" is a best-of album from Virginia's Silvum, AKA Nick Henry. Fading Signals presents a sort of ambient drone almost reminiscent of Stars of the Lid - only instead of the pristine crystallized beauty, it ranges a spectrum of beauty and the stuff of horror movies. Nick lovingly crafts pulsing soundscapes throughout the album that seep into your bones and grip you. Each track seems to come from a new direction, pulling you into an otherworldly collage of sounds. I can't begin to imagine how some of the great sounds have been created, since the piano credited on track four sounds very ethereal and unnatural. The album as a whole doesn't sound like a "best of", and flows naturally as though it were created to stand alone as an album. I highly recommend this for anyone looking into Silvum.

Ornette Coleman - The Shape of Jazz to Come (V)

Coleman's 1959 Shape of Jazz to Come is indisputably a classic jazz album. The album features his group's usual almost-sloppy performance of harmonised, almost contrapuntal melodies and melodic to twisted solo sections. The songs are better-written and more organised and accessible than the classic monolith of the Free Jazz album, and really do a much better job of showcasing the talents of the performers and Coleman's writing. "Lonely Woman" is covered on Naked City's eponymous debut album, and certainly the entire album fits with Naked City's mangled and bizarre approach to jazz, from flailing screeching solos to thoughtful, slow movement and tasty grooves. And despite being pure jazz (in its own voice and style), The Shape of Jazz to Come locks into aesthetic appeal from a variety of music - the organised harmony of western classical music, the sections and solos of jazz, the wildness of fast improvised music, and even the almost artistic sloppiness of some rawer black metal.

This album works for a variety of musical situations. It would most likely to appeal to almost any crowd of pretentious artistic types, or normal people, or music fans from a variety of backgrounds . . . you name it. I certainly recommend the album for at least a listen or two for everyone. It remains an artistic challenge despite being almost entirely unoffensive, and never gets bland or boring. Good stuff.

Opeth - Watershed (J)

The past few years have been very rocky for Opeth: they lost two members, one an original member who was a necessity as far as songwriting goes. This was probably one of the most anticipated and simultaneously dreaded releases in the metal community this year. What with Martin Lopez being replaced by prolific death/thrash metal drummer Martin Axenrot and Peter Lindgren being replaced by Krux and ex-Arch Enemy shredder Frederik Akesson. According to speculation, this was going to be the disaster that would spell the end for Opeth.

Everyone was proved wrong. This is one of the strongest Opeth releases yet, rivaling such masterworks as "My Arms, Your Hearse" and even "Still Life." The musicianship is at its tightest in years and now Per Wiberg's keyboard presence isn't overbearing as it was on "Ghost Reveries." Since there is just so much going on in this release, I will be doing a *gasp* track by track review.

The disc starts off with "Coil" - a folk song. This song is driven by a jangly 12-string guitar and goes in immediately; there is no intro. The track's highlight is by far the female vocals, contributed by Swedish folk singer Nathalie Lorichs, who is, coincidentally, Martin Axenrot's fiancee. The first track then drones and slightly builds up to the monolithic dissonant chords that begin the epic "Heir Apparent," which is, by far, the most bizzarre song on the entire disc. This song is the most technical song Opeth has ever done, with fret-dancing riffs and even a tastefully done shreddy guitar solo, if that is indeed possible. Also, this song contains the fastest Opeth riff yet, a blistering death/thrash metal riff, more than likely written for or by Axenrot. Right when you think the song is over, there is a volume swell which segues into the traditional "Opeth part," slow, dirge-like guitars and drums with some sort of minimalistic guitar lead over the top, making a very epic atmosphere. Great song, this one is.

"The Lotus Eaters," when released as a single about a month before "Watershed" was released, confused a lot of people. Why? Two words: blast beats. Opeth has never ventured into this sort of progressiveness (or as an elitist would say: PHILISTINE BULLSHIT) before. And ontop of the bast beats, what do we have? None other than Mikael Akerfeldt's clean vocals, returning from their absence in "Heir Apparent." This song also brings back the traditional "Opeth beat," a 6/8 groove with the drums doing something like "do doDAdo do doDAdo." Essentially, this is a beefed up Still Life song. The high point of this song is definitely the blast beats, which are sure to catch listeners off guard.

Next comes "Burden." I like to think that the reason Opeth wrote this was because they went on a week-long Whitesnake bender and needed to write something extraordinarily cheesy. This is a ballad. A cheesy-clean-vocal-extended-keyboard-solo power ballad. Not that this is a bad thing, though, for this is Opeth's take on the traditional metal ballad. A solid, yet unexpected, song. "Porcelain Heart" follows suit. I find this to be the weakest song on the release. It sounds like it was written right after, if not during the "Ghost Reveries" sessions. Yet again, no growling from Mikael in this song. Not really much to say about this song. Track highlight: the baroque-sounding classical guitar part.

Now comes the 11-minute epic, "Hessian Peel." This song starts off with a rather old-school Opeth part, with an acoustic guitar underneath a rather melodic lead. This moves on for a while, venturing into some 70s progressive rock, when suddenly death metal rips through the song and punches you in the face. Yet again the guitarwork shines as Frederik's fingers dance around the fretboard in another finger-shredding guitar solo - normally I hate those, but there's something about Frederik's phrasing that is great. Probably the strongest and catchiest track on the release.

Now, finally, the end. "Hex Omega" immediately barges in with a "Blackwater Park" type riff which drops out leaving Mikael singing and keyboards. Suddenly everything gets rather Egyptian sounding and then returns to the "heavy" sound, if you would call it that. This is almost like if Opeth took a Damnation song and made it metal. Pretty cool, if you ask me. Yet again another guitar solo, though not as flashy. This track features some very cool mellotron work from Per Wiberg. The song has a very long outro, akin to the ending of "A Fair Judgment," though much more interesting as a result of the use of dual guitar harmonies and tribal drum work.

Overall, "Watershed" is a triumph from the Opeth camp; redemption from the slight disappointment that is "Ghost Reveries." The venturing into other genres help Opeth rebuild their trademark sound to escape the doom that is monotony.

October Falls/Varghkoghargasmal - Split (J)

This release confused me; I am a HUGE October Falls fan (note the review of Sarastus 2 months ago), but Varghkoghargasmal (quite a name they have there) has failed to impress me in the past. V's previous releases have pretty much cursed my ears with out of tune guitars and off-beat drums. But I'll get to them later.

October Falls's song "Polku" is yet another folky journey through the deepest of Finland's forests. A bit stronger than Sarastus, this piece is a harkening back to the olden days of Marras and Tuoni, with long, drawn out, dirge-like acoustic folk songs. Of course, this is more of the same, which may pose a great boredom for those who wish to hear something different, but I, as stated earlier, am a fan of whatever Mikko Lehto does, and if it means more of the same, I welcome it with open arms. Of course, there is an addition to the overall equation of October Falls's songs, for now Mikko adds in whispered vocals to add a little extra something to the mystical sound. A great effort from the October Falls front, in my opinion, and I cannot wait to hear how "The Womb of Primordial Nature" turns out.

Back to Varghkoghargasmal, this addition to his discography is interesting, if not an improvement on the older songs. As if he learned the ropes of music theory and timing, Varghkoghargasmal has risen from the grave and written a half-decent song. "Frame of Stones" features not only in-tune guitars, but also on-time drums, which is astounding considering how god-awful his previous efforts were. In addition to the guitar and drums, a xylophone has been added to the mix, which sounds a little ridiculous and almost silly at first listen, but it grows on you. What IS silly about this song is that Varghkoghargasmal still thinks he makes pagan metal, even though this is more folky than anything, and throws in a bluesy guitar solo just to confuse everyone.

Overall this is a solid release. October Falls fans will rejoice over the rebirth of the old sound and people will finally hear a halfway decent song from Varghkoghargasmal.

NTRLWRM - Intestinal Decay (C)

This is my third NTRLWRM release and this one, in my mind, stands out. It begins with the usual clipped and dirty digital noise, but slowly it works into what it eventually becomes - an assault of high frequency tones. Now, I might not be the best person to review this album since I have a significant degree of hearing loss in high frequency and low frequency ranges, but I'm sure I hear just enough of it to be fine. This isn't quite like anything I've necessarily heard before, but god damn does it give me a headache. The way that Ascaris has arranged the album, it almost feels like if you ripped some beats from Venetian Snares, and layered them over the album… They'd fit perfectly. Each track features a central barrage of unintelligible shit and noise, with faint whisperings of tones barely within the range of human hearing occasionally running overtop. Every now and then, Ascaris nudges things down back into the lower range to great effect, making tracks like Intestinal Decay Philtre the most effect of the group. In the end, the album effectively channels the anger which Ascaris has originally channeled into it, and the headache is really quite worth it.

NON - God and Beast (V)

Boyd Rice's masterwork God and Beast is, unsurprisingly, a bit controversial. I've heard the track "Total War" described as a "Nazi anthem," though I'd unhesitatingly describe the whole thing as a ritualistic, noisy tribute to the ideals set forth by Rice's good friend Anton LaVey.

That's really not important, though. NON's God and Beast stands on its own feet as a classic, musically. The nine tracks keep a flowing, changing, ritual going throughout the 66 minutes - even through the silences in "Total War." Each track has recongnisable and even, surprisingly, memorable shreds of looping industrial noise and defiant, self-assured rants. I've yet to hear another album commonly labelled as "noise" that even approaches God and Beast's accessibility and . . . hooks. God and Beast delivers slow, hypnotic rhythms, swirling ambience, and a collection of what are, undeniably, anthems - of whatever ideology.

This record is also a great introduction to noise. Do you want total war? Yes, you want total war. Pick it up. And it's worth paying every cent, and more. This is one of the few instances in which I would consider buying a fancy version with a DVD and some other "bonus" stuff to jack up the price. And I hate that stuff. Because I'm poor.

Mythology - An Infernal Grave (T)

Hailing from the northernmost corners of New York in a small and desolate city known as Plattsburgh where metal is nothing more than scene kids trotting around in As I Lay dying or Trivium shirts, blackened death metal quartet Mythology represents a rising force of darkness, despair, and brutality. Closely resembling early black metal acts such as Mayhem, Emperor, Immortal, and Darkthrone as well as modern death metal like Nile, Deicide, and Vital Remains, Mythology has quickly risen to the top of the music scene and have become one of the most popular metal acts of the area.

With the release of the “An Infernal Grave EP” through local label Morgue House Records, Mythology entered the studio with their original drummer Narroth. The EP was released to celebrate their acceptance of playing alongside legendary death metallers, Vital Remains. Despite the fact that the EP only consisted of 4 tracks, it was an epic metal masterpiece nonetheless. Mythology entered the studio in hopes to improve the already amazing tracks that all appeared on the very first mythology album, “It Begins” and in my opinion succeeded. With the drumming abilities of Narroth and the ever improving guitar work of Gallows, and Skinny, and the pulsating rhythms produced by Lord Benicide DCLXVI as well as the hellish cries from Gallows' vocal chords, it’s no wonder Mythology has become so popular amongst the fans of metal in Plattsburgh and the surrounding area, including parts of Canada.

The EP opens with the title track, An Infernal Grave, which truthfully makes you feel like you are in hell being tortured by every demon in the wretched place. The riffs are fast and dark and the vocals on the chorus remind me of a banshee. The drums on this particular track are phenomenal. Narroth shows off his phenomenal talent on this track in particular though his abilities do not falter throughout the album. The following track is a local favorite known as Serpent Slayer which has many powerful riffs and a more death metal essence than the other tracks of the album. Shortly after comes The Fallen Have Risen. This track is a relatively simple yet epic tune that shows off Mythology’s talent as songwriters. The Final track is one of my favorite Mythology tunes known as In Dismay. This song has a powerful despairing atmosphere fueled by Gallows’ extreme misanthropy and cynicism towards humanity. The album is worth viewing by anyone interested in Metal of any sorts, except that kind that believes only in clean singing considering the vocals are completely black metal vocals.

Being a personal friend of the band, I wish Mythology the best of luck in their endeavors as musicians. For anyone interested in checking them out, Mythology can be found on Myspace at where the EP can be listened to in full upon their music playlist. Until next time, Infernal hails!

Merzbow - Music for Bondage Performance (V)

Of all the Merzbow I've heard so far, Music for Bondage Performance is definitely my favorite. Rather than the harsh, crackling, grinding electronics that dominate so much of noise and even Merzbow's work, Music for Bondage Performance blends noise with softer ambiance and percussion.

"Hara-Kiri Video" features layers of pulsing interacting polyrhythmically with a slow, steady bass drum and swells and clicks and aching ambiance. "Seishi Seppuku Kei" extends the acoustic side of the performance with clashing, echoing percussive crashes vibrations, and scrapes mingling bizarrely over a distant constant tone and arrhythmic heartbeat-like pulses that build and shift and change their context. Over its ten-minute span, it abandons the emphasis on experimental percussion in favor of more shifting, swelling, almost-tones and sustained noises. "Ropes in Tears" builds on tone clusters of tuned percussion and again slowly falls apart into ambience and almost subliminal scrapes and creaks. "Aimei Nawa" builds noise around its ambiance with tone loops, more strange percussive loops, and eventually fearful scraping of a bow on strings that brings to mind one of the poems, "Serenade," from Giraud's Pierrot Lunaire: "With a giant bow grotesquely/Scrapes Pierrot on his viola . . . " in its harsh strains. "Lost Paradise" is a brief venture into chaotically jangling bells that somehow doesn't seem out of place transitioning to the 26-minute "Bondage Performances," a soundscape of not only the shifting tones that dominate this album, but almost noisy, reverberating drums. This track wanders everywhere, combining field recordings of knocking and barking dogs and distant voices and brass instruments and strange loops and crashing blasts of noise and little melodies. Even through broken-sounding keyboard glurps and bleeps and frenetic drumming and mad grinding.

Music for Bondage Performance is much more artistic and advanced than the average noise release, softer, more ambient, but yet just as tense and wild and random. If you want to look into a strange mindscape, look no further. If you want an expansion of what noise is, look here. If you want noise spirit without harsh ear abuse, this is the album to put on.

Jandek - Ready for the House (J)

There are two opinions you can have when you listen to Jandek: it's dissonant, juvenile, movementless music, OR it is the most emotionally deep sound you have ever heard.

Jandek's disturbing yet close-to-home tunes fall into the genre of "outsider music," otherwise known as music that doesn't fall into a conventional norm or music made by those with mental disabilities or issues. Notable outsider artists include Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd fame, Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, and Daniel Johnston.

No one really knows exactly who this "Jandek" character really is. Due to his consistent releases (bordering 50 since his debut in 1978), some speculate that Jandek is rich stockbroker Sterling Smith, reclusive head of Corwood Records, Jandek's hosting label. Others believe that the project is a joke, and some think that these are the recordings of a millionaire's retarded son. Jandek has been a part of 2 interviews in his quarter-century music career, and made his first live appearance in 2004, unnanounced. Since then he has played just a handful of concerts, varying greatly in performance.

Jandek's sound on "Ready for the House," his 1978 debut, is characterized by a guitar tuned to an unconventional open tuning strumming awkward one-note-at-a-time "riffs," I guess they would be called that, beneath a mournful (and very amateur) voice, normally singing in some sort of blues or folk fashion. Electric guitars appear in songs, as well as very awkwardly played drums played by a neighbor, Josh. Occasionally a female vocalist, presumably named Nancy due to her debut song, "Nancy Sings," will appear, singing some sort of haunting melody.

Lyrics on this disc are rather abstract, ranging from old hymns (Show Me the Way, O Lord) to the extraordinarily bizarre (Naked in the Afternoon). One thing is certain, however: Jandek has a strange and extraordinarily dark view of the world. Though his music sounds rather unappealing and harsh on the ears at first, Jandek's sound really grows on you, for some strange reason. I recommend trying to listen to an album in its entirety in one sitting; I attempted it once and had to pause the music 4 songs in just to regain my composure. I was shaken, to say the least.

Jandek's fan base is extremely small, but therein lies important musical figures including, but not limited to David Tibet (Current 93), Alan Sparhawk & Mimi Parker (Low), Kurt Cobain (Nirvana, Earth), and Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes).

In order to obtain Jandek's albums, write a letter to Corwood Industries, P.O. Box 15375, Houston, TX 77220. One disc is $8, but you can get 20 for $80, which is quite a deal. And who knows, Jandek might write you back in his mangled writing. At one point in everyone's life, their ears scream for Jandek's music.

Guaranteed Katch - In A Sumptuous Brown Gravy (K)

Purists would say, music has to follow a certain path, has to apply to some kind of hidden codex. Accordingly are bands, who dare to ignore this unwritten set of rules, labelled as traitors and the co-called elite will express their voice in reviews in magazines respectively in the internet.

In terms of Guaranteed Katch it is hard to find some "kind of line" at all, as their concept on "In A Sumptuous Brown Gravy" is such a weird collection of music that to classify it becomes a tricky thing. There are some metalcore influences, some from the folk scene, some thrash metal now and then etc. Sometimes slow and calm, soon fast and aggressive or something in between, yes indeed, the variety of approaches to write music is immense on this record. Yet there is one constant factor: a glimpse of insanity. In the process of writing the album, at least some amount of drugs must have played a role, otherwise is the weirdness and the slight Monty Pythonian humour not explainable; see the track Trash Knight for instance; quote: My good man, I demand that you unhand that can; unhand that can my good man! (with a voice that reminds me on those of Graham Chapman). Really hilarious when you are actually listening to it!

Why does this band not receive broader attention? The album is well produced, the performance also on a good level and each track is certainly unique or better said different from any other on the album... in every aspect. So if you are ever in a sad mood or want to listen to something out of the ordinary, then put in this CD and the highly entertaining art of Guaranteed Katch will certainly cheer you up.

Apparitia/Gog - Apparitia/Gog (V)

Apparitia dishes out some fairly typical raw, only semi-tonal black metal. Poorly recorded distorted guitars shifting chords chromatically sit over medium-paced machine-sounding blast beats with regular fills. The vocalist fills the musical "air" with swirling, distorted chaos. But between blasts of stereotypical black metal (which somehow has a bewildering feel that's much more appealing than most of the black metal I've heard), there are odd breaks of clean arpeggios. And the insane drums never get boring. Sometimes, there are even pulsing soft, ambient section. There are regular changes of tempo and dynamic. The whole thing is a complete mess. I love it.

Gog is some incarnation of soft, ambient doom. Hammered strings float over a backdrop of dark, clean chords and soft ambiance. Slowly, it builds into hanging, distorted doom. Not a thing to complain about. There aren't any vocals, aside from a spoken word piece at the end of the second track, which really improves the experience in this situation. There's always a wall of drifting sound and feedback hanging from existing chords, but the front edge of the musical movement is always heavy and clearly audible. Definitely a must for anyone who likes Nadja and wants something heavier and darker.

Both sides of this split are quite desirable, in wildly different ways, for fans of ambient, dark, noisy metal. Give it a listen.

Aghiatrias - Ethos (V)

अम्बिंस, complex, compelling, sampled from some live percussion and various sound sources, deep, mystical, ritualistic, subliminal, dark chants and mumbled warnings and imprecations. clashing, dark, piano tone clusters, piano as percussion, charles ives, twisted electronics, drum like a cracking whip. lasers, mallets, humming layered sines, prophecies of doom. pounding tribal rhythms, more hissing, cracking electronics. agressive ambient music. industrial. semirhythmic thrashing and pounding.