Limes – Dress the Same Every Day

If I were to choose various unknown Bandcamp albums by the covers alone, then the chances of “Dress the Same Every Day” would be very, very small. Which is a shame, really – because what’s packing inside is some finely crafted, jangly & catchy sunshine psychedelic pop hailing straight outta New York and founded in 2012. The band is new, yet its music is compelling and competent, all three members are skilled, open-minded musicians. What we get here is a softened, almost more angelic like take on psychedelic rock with a knack for pastoral soundscapes and easy, accessible song structures. Really good stuff, despite the disappointing cover.

Fievel – Brocean

Slowly dissolving acidic beats submerged in underwater-like haze? Hell yes, bro! The aptly named “Brocean” from the Melbourne, Australia stoner IDM duo Fievel explores the otherworly, ambiental sounds of more rhythmic electronic music, often gazing into the past (the wonderful opening “Acid Casual” sounds almost like the beat-enhanced Roy Montgomery circa ‘95) and cleverly juggling samples in ways almost unnoticeable to the listener. Far more psychedelic than the tags on the Bandcamp page imply. Jumping between acid house, hip-hop and ambient music, Fievel sculpt the vision of future music for deep-diving THC enthusiasts.

Soul Glimpse – Recollections Become Phantoms

Baltimore’s own Austyn Sullivan glimpses into the Soul and translates what he sees into the eternal swathes of Ambient music with the heavy emotional load and textural load added. Pretty abrasive and shoegazy (hazy) at times, yet somewhat poppy and accessible. Plus check out the angelic vocals of Sullivan himself, something rather rare in the almost purely instrumental genre that is ambient music. Good stuff for afternoon zoning out.

Soul Glimpse is not a glimpse into oneself but a glimpse into the overall human soul. Soul Glimpse is an attempt to try andunderstand what lies within us all. Soul Glimpse creates textures that manifest overwhelming feelings that hurtful past experiences can create within us all.

Review: Sylvia Monnier – Never More Camellias

(Cassette, Cosmic Winnetou, 2012)

The minimalistic, greyscale cover of Sylvia Monnier’s newest cassette might remind some of the ultra-simple, bare minimum album artworks from the American label Arbor Infinity (responsible for releases by, among others: Mike Pollard, Brett Naucke or Outer Space a.k.a. John Elliott of Emeralds fame). In fact Sylvia Monnier is not the artist’s real name, just a pseudonym. That’s all I can say at the moment, I don’t want to spoil the atmosphere of mystery; well, if you dig into the Internet for a bit you’ll find all kinds of information you want about the mind behind Sylvia Monnier. If you want, of course.

For now, let’s leave Sylvia Monnier as some sort of female spectral entity taking influences from Rachel Evans (a.k.a. Motion Sickness of Time Travel) – except without vocals, also Eliane Radigue and the more spooky, ambiental moments of Delia Derbyshire. It’s pulsing, it’s distant and reverbed, repetitive, cold, inhuman, yet strangely attractive and soothing. The very opening track, “Cayenne Pepper Elixir” emits extraterrestial tones, faraway bleeps and bloops of the synthesizers corresponding with each other like the location signals of cosmic stations and satellites, sending messages into the void, travelling through the cold blackness at the speed of light. The following, somewhat ironically named “Moving Bodies” adds a chaotic, un-melodic and randomized sequence snaking its way through the dead, frosty drone. But the peak of droning soothingness and emptiness is mastered on the 8 minute and 30 second “Two Currency Street”, which stays in the floating statis for seemingly endless minutes and offering some sweetly psychedelic, somewhat dissonant overtones which layer with the main, quietly industrial drone to form a hypnotizing, sleep-inducing haze.

The rest of the cassette does not stray from the tightly defined, cold and sustained droneadelia set in the beginning. With an occasional overtone or distant processed guitar, ocasionally giving a ghostly apparition of deconstructed vocals or angelic echo, like a celestial choir heard from a great distance (or from the other end of an enormous hall). The drones are almost glacial in their “immobility”, yet incredibly light, almost floating throughout the length of the tape. I hope Sylvia Monnier has more ideas up her sleeve, because “Never More Camellias” brings a nice surprise and suddenly hits the spot in the drone niche. Recommended.

Blast from the Past: Yoshi Wada – Lament for the Rise and Fall of the Elephantine Crocodile

This time I’m gonna try to start a new “column” entitled Blast from the Past, in which I’ll post reviews of older albums, that are either a) really goddamn amazing or b) made a huge and long-lasting influence on my music taste or c) both (most of the time it will be c), mind you). I have quite a few albums stacked up, so I thought it would be nice to guide my dear Readers through the annuals of more obscure outer limits & psychedelia.

(CD, EM Records, 2007, originally released in 1982)

We all know drone music and we know how it’s supposed to sound and what it’s supposed to be doing to the listener. We also know that there’s been a surge of acid-soaken drone cats proliferating in the psychedelic underground. We may also know that the drone music has existed in Eastern music for hundreds, maybe thousands of years and that it has been “discovered’ by the Western musicians under the lead of La Monte Young (among others!), who also happened to be one of the key members of the New York based Fluxus movement. Fluxus focused on the re-invention of art and music and deeply exploring avant-garde forms of creative expression. Fluxus “collected” many, many artists, visionaries, experimentators, and reasearchers in human psyche.

One of the members of the Fluxus members was also Yoshi Wada, born in Japan, who move to New York in the 1960’s, to join the crowd of hip cats who were blowing people’s brains back then. The monumental “Lament for the Rise and Fall of the Elephantine Crocodile”, originally released as a vinyl LP on the mystically named India Navigation label, is the result of work Wada began in 1979, and consists of two equally lengthy tracks: “Singing” and “Bagpipe” (both clocking in over 30 minutes on the CD version). The opening “Singing” is a study on the relation between reverbation and human, wordless vocals. Yoshi Wada admits to studying with legendary (yet virtually uknown) Indian vocalist Pandit Pran Nath and learning to emit lengthy, abrasive vocal tones. Through the half hour of the track, Wada’s voice, recorded in a dry swimming pool, creates a deep resonance within the chamber of the pool, leaving long residue after the long, hypnotic notes of the composer’s voice. The vocals, low in pitch, somewhat coarse and almost throat-like in execution, are like a religious ritual in itself, a slow, bare-bones introduction to the more varied part of the track, where Wada finally hits some higher notes and gets more “freestyle”, sounding at times almost like Marian Zazeela at the height of her collabs with La Monte Young and his Theatre of Eternal Music.

The following “Bagpipe” is probably the droniest, most monumental drone you’ll ever hear. And I’m not exaggerating. Yoshi Wada doesn’t mess around here, there is no gradual raise of drone or any sort of gentle introduction: the listener is thrown head first into the impenetrable concrete wall of DRONE, written in huge, capital letters. One can only guess how loud the instrument (a specially prepared bagpipe, see the link in the beginning of this review for pictures and a more detailed description) was when this composition was recorded. mentions, that most of his music is “usually performed at very high volume, allowing for the music’s overtones to be heard very clearly”. This is very, very true for “Bagpipe”: the louder you play it, the more details you can hear in it. Oooh, I need to start another paragraph for “Bagpipe”. Cause this shit’s off the hook, son.

If you think you’ve heard some heavy, pure drone because you managed to sit through a few Sunn O))) albums or because you have listened to pretty much entire Emeralds discography, all tracks, without skipping at stopping, you might be in for a true endurance test with Yoshi Wada’s “Bagpipe”. A 30-minute long, absolutely monolithic and utterly impenetrable wall of instrumental, eternally suspended droning note played on a heavily modified bagpipe, further enhanced with plumbing fittings and additional sources of air to ensure a steady flow. The sheer heaviness, the sheer power of this track is enough to promise a life-changing experience. When I first heard “Bagpipe”, I was under the impression that it can be easily used for falling asleep, when I just play it from my phone. Instead I went through an intensely focused trip through the hidden dimensions and delicate changes being amplified to almost earthquake-like chaos state. The singing emerging from the wall of drone sounds like the most primal, or maybe the final, sound of the human race, the last, final trace of human voice in this world. The timbre of the sounds changes slightly through the course of the track and although the changes in sound seem to go on a truly geological scale, after a few listens one can really feel the slow, gradual shift to a slightly higher or lower tone.

Both tracks by Yoshi Wada are experiences in attentive, focused listening. Tracks like these allow the listener to discover another level of understanding of sounds, at an almost microscopic scale, reduced to minute details in the fabric of massive sound. “Lament…” is a monumental, heavy and monolithic album, and it seems like a sort of ultimate statement in listening, but once it’s given a chance or two it unveils and exposes its infinite, suspended beauty.

Review: 56k – Generations Lost

(Cassette, Notice Recordings, 2011)

Josh Burke, the forever future-gazing synth whiz kid from the modernist soil of Chicago, has crafted another monument. Burke has gone a long way, from the woozy, hazy endless droooans of his earliest releases, to the wonderfully hi-fi, crystal-clear New Age waves on his later work. Returning with another vision, Josh transports himself into the Information Era with his retrodelic project 56k.

56k. I hope I don’t have to explain this name to anyone. Unless you’re 15 or something, you spoiled fucking brat. Back in the day, a 56k dial-up modem was everyone’s dream, a gate to the world of exciting possibilities and super-simple web pages… All that, doused in a mist of nostalgia, is what is offered on ”Generations Lost”, the tribute to older computer & early world wide web days, released on the rather unknown & yet worthy of “hype” Notice Recordings label. While the opening “Voices” might not give much of a hint to the 56k’s delightfully new style, rather deciding to soak the listener in a steady, yet delicate drone and mixed walls of distorted, vague recordings of, well, voices. The track works, however, it seems to be working towards the aim of putting the listener in a state of pleasant limbo, a sort of short-lasting coma, through which one goes to another plateau, only to be prepared for “No Reflection”.

“No Reflection” is the definite highligt of the tape. It glides forward with effortless ease, sounding like the Windows 95 opening theme stretches over the course of a few minutes, albeit more dynamic and rhythmic – it is a crystal ride through the excitement of your first modem, logging in to AOL, using the chatrooms, waiting forever for an .JPG of your favorite car to load, creating your e-mail account, never to be used again except to brag in front of your nerd friends. The dynamic music of this track would make for an excellent background music for a business PowerPoint presentation or a 90’s show about using office software in your small company.

The rest of the tracks follow the more or less established path of New Age relaxation with an Information Age polish, plodding ahead in slow, beatific melodies and simple repetitions, like on following “A Dream Within a Dream”. Despite the general uplifting and positive tone of the almost corporate electronic soundtracks contained on the cassette, there are darker, more chaotic moments, also. Like the dissonant, mis-organized “Generations Lost”. If all the other tracks sound like the smooth sailing over the early WWW, this track sounds like accidentally discovering your first shock website when clicking the wrong link or opening a pornographic website through a spam e-mail and immediately closing the browser, terrified and guilty. Thankfully, the closing (and aptly named) “Angel” descends to save you from the dangers of the web and bring you back on the right track, lighting the way to the future and showing the right path.

The only thing that is left to wonder is what direction will Josh Burke take in the nearest future, if this tape’s any indication, it might see him moving to the more rhythmical, dynamic directions, while still retaining the New Age quality and soft glare to his music. It would be really nice to see him get into some blurred, delicate variety of ambient techno, but that’s just me. Lots of hope from this guy!

Pustostany – 2012

A collaboration between two brilliantly named Polish bands operating on the verges of noisy guitar music: Gówno (“Shit” in Polish), a hardcore punk band from Gdańsk, and The Kurws (literally “The Whors”), a math-punk-jazz-whatever hybrid from Wrocław. The resulting “2012” tape from the project Pustostany is a blend of both bands’ aesthetics: the spastic bass slaps and heavy rhythmic section of The Kurws meets the damaged, jangly guitar, screaming, un-melodic vocals and the general “don’t give a fuck” attitude of Gówno. 8 short, energetic, angry and noisy songs with a dusted, abrasive feel. Get on it & get it on.