Thursday, June 30, 2011
Roe Enney - Damnatio Memoriae - Phaserprone
As a person who spends a large amount of my time listening closely, I sometimes think about what my philosophy of listening is; Why do I like the records I do and dislike the ones I don't? Among the many vague answers floating around my mind, there seems to be one principle that holds up. I like to be surprised. Every record, from the way it's produced to the format in which it's presented, contains within it the subtle clues that tell the listener how they should be listening. And when a record gently pushes against the conventions it defines for itself, my interest in usually piqued. This is particularly true in today's tape and limited-run LP scene where so many young artists are striving for immaculate imitation of whatever is trendy at the moment, subverting any personality or personal vision in the process. Initiation into the subculture, I guess. (Seriously, though, if you're a young person making music, make it weird, man. Make it your own. You have nothing to lose.) Which is why this Roe Enney tape is a treat. The art exudes darkness and the setup of female vocals and drum machine points towards some gothy-whatever. But from that starting point, this tape goes sideways, and scuttles into some very strange crevices. The drum machine fires in unsettling semi-rhythm or in rhythm that feel more like texture, and the vocals float in from some corner of Enney's mind that I'll be glad never to visit. Tapes like this one and Matt Carlson's recent release on Gift are a nice reminder that people are still using the tape format to pursue some very personal visions, trends be damned. Sleeves printed on nice thick paper with subtle letter-press work. Very nice! $8
For further reading, check out this nice Q & A with Enney on the Root Strata Blog here.
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Sunday, June 26, 2011
Clearing - Keepsake - No Kings
First off, my out-of-focus picture is criminally unrepresentative of the art for this tape. Two-color letterpress on nice, thick paper, very classy tape. The new Phaserprone batch is also letter-pressed, hopefully it's a trend because these are all very nice looking tapes, wouldn't mind having more like them around the "shop." Clearing is the project of one Joseph Volmer, who presents here a tape of grainy, ominous tape collage and washed-out synth work. Somber in tone and a little creepy, in a good way. A perfunctory listen might put this in the New Age/VHS/whatever-the-kids-are-calling-it camp but I'm digging the dark undercurrent that sneaks up from time to time, infinitely preferable to the moments of "bliss" etc. Reminds me of Pink Priest's darker jams. Nice stuff, little bits of the tape hint at quite a few possible future directions this project might take, so it'll be interesting to keep an eye on this guy.
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Saturday, June 25, 2011
Mike Hurley - First Songs LP
The territory of the mail-order side of Eggy Records covers limited and art editions of tapes and LPs, which normally puts me on new, weird, generally untested ground. This is very much where I want to be, but it's always nice to shake things up a little. What we have here is a limited art edition of Michael Hurley's absolute classic first LP, recorded for the Folkways label in 1964. I know there's another reissue of this LP out there, and music-wise, the records are identical, the main difference being this version was made with more love. On to the music. Those of you familiar with his other records will be happy to hear that Michael Hurley has always -- since he was 14 and writing "Blue Mountain" -- been Michael Hurley. The pieces are all there; songs about animals, songs about trains, songs about drinking, light-hearted songs, songs that just level you with their--understated--sadness, above all the ramshackle guitar and Hurley Howl. By 1964, the "folk boom" was already fodder for music industry vultures but Hurley was lucky enough to side-step the hi-fi studios and savvy producers and make a record timeless in how completely unadorned it is. Another striking detail is the lack of political or traditional material -- Hurley is a folk musician because he had a guitar and taught himself how to play it in the relative isolation of his rural New Jersey upbringing. "Tea" is wonderful for how small the scope of it is. Think of "Don't Think Twice It's Alright" -- also deeply moving, also from the same era -- but so much more "poetic" in its distance from "real" events compared to a song that muses on the Buddha statuette with ruby eyes most likely propped on a nearby kitchen shelf, or just how many cups of tea to drink. It's really not until the late 60s and early 70s that other songwriters even come close to this kind of specific subject matter -- Cohen, Mitchell, etc. -- and even then it's in a way that's considerably more artful. Like "Tea," "Werewolf" is another song that appears first here but is a through-line in Hurley's entire oeuvre. It's a haunting song -- on the one hand, a fanciful tale of a werewolf on the prowl, on the other an unsettlingly direct take on regret and failing oneself. And my favorite Hurley song is on this record, "Blue Mountain." It's long, five or six minutes, though the lyrics are only three couplets, each repeated twice, each trading off with a sprawling guitar passage, the passages seeming to roam the mountain side to which the singer so longs to return. May be the widest song I've ever heard, horizon to horizon. Strange to think this was written by Hurley before his long life of wandering had begun, strange to think that that longing homeward could be so deeply present when home was all he had known.
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Tilahoun Gessesse with the Walias Band - S/T LP - Psychic Sounds Research
Very limited edition LP with cool, silk-screened covers. The liner notes provided helpful biographical information about this titan of Ethiopian music (Ethiopiques Vol. 17 is 100% Gessesse), but very little about the particular music on this record. I would date these recordings to the early 70s, maybe late 60s, judging by the groovy-heavy, almost proto-disco vibe of the songs and analog sound of the recordings. The basic MO here is: set up a tight, funky vamp then let Gessesse cut loose over the top. Modern ears will delight at the production values which place the band in a swirl of reverb and give Gessesse's in-the-red vocals a heavy coat of gritty slap-back. The way everything sounds makes it easy to imagine hearing these songs performed at 3am in sweltering Ethiopian heat. Very nice LP, anyone with an interest in Ethiopian music will find a lot to like here, but the general funkiness (great basslines!) and upbeat rhythm of the songs make it pretty widely accessible, I would say. I honestly can't tell you much about the availability of Gessesse's music, looks like a French label did an LP recently, but these seem to be the only two out there. Eric at Mississippi, who co-released this record, tells me this is the only place to get it online.
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Here's the track-list for Ethiophiles (sorry, the Ethiopian titles are written Ge'ez!):
A Child From Menjar
If You're Not Here, You Don't Exist
You're Above Life
Is That So?
She Sent Me With A False Smile
Have Nots, Have No Friends
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
EDIBLES - OTHER MINDS MEET INNER SPACE LP - DNT
Hands down the most fun record in the mail order right now. Edibles is a project of the prolific Dewey Manhood, the man behind Plankton Wat and major shredder in Eternal Tapestry. He's teamed up here with Dusty Dybvig (on drums?) for some very mellow, very dubby psychedelic freak-outs. Summer morning music. Both players sound super comfortable; the drumming is very groovy, gently propulsive and full of Kraut-y fills and rolls and the guitars and synths present a history of sorts of psychedelic music, from echoing wah-wah to fuzzy riffing to cosmic sparkle to backwards swells, you name it. Groundbreaking? Thought-provoking? No, but neither is driving to the beach or barbecuing in your backyard. Which is to say, this record is a good time, plain and simple. Listen to it with friends. $11
Monday, June 20, 2011
Monday, June 6, 2011
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Gerard Herman - I read somewhere it is not a fable after all - No Basement Deep Enough
Very nice, and very strange--in it's own, quiet way--tape from my new favorite Belgian, Gerard Herman. After hearing the collab tape with Limpe Fuchs, it's nice to hear Herman on his own. A-side is tape-loop based and actually reminds me quite a bit of Pak until things move into audio-collage territory, incorporating some off-kilter guitar playing and snippets of singing. B-side is a total head scratcher. A man speaks in Dutch over some distant metallic noises. I'm sure what he's saying is funny or interesting but I can only speculate. The artwork features some great if gruesome pen and ink drawings by Herman himself (I would guess they have something to do with what the man is talking about) and it all comes in a cloth bag with bits of metal sewn to the outside making the profile of a speaking person (perhaps another thing I would understand if I spoke Dutch. Or perhaps pure insanity). $8