Monday, January 15, 2018

Music Review: Zeno van den Broek "Paranon" (Moving Furniture Records)

"Paranon" begins with a loud ringing.   Since I have neighbors now, I listen to most of the music I do through headphones except for sometimes during the day I will let it go through the speakers.    But it should go without saying for the rest of this review that this music does best through headphones.   It begins to get a little wavy, choppy.    It holds steady, only slightly altering its course.    It begins to form waves, as if whatever is generating the sound is being shaken.    There are subtle sounds in the background but this is pretty much droning through as if it were a powerful beam being produced by some superhero as their weapon. 

Underneath this original drone sound comes another added in.   It is not the easiest thing to explain but there are now two sounds acting as one.    Through all of this, it remains constant with only these minor changes but somehow it feels like it's got a hold on me.   I'm not sure how to describe it exactly, but it has that power to seem as if it is indeed overcoming all that you are and all that you will be.   It is forceful.    Now it has also taken this turn into something deeper, as if we've dropped a few octaves.    "Canon 1" ends as if a cowboy was riding off into the sunset.

While I understand that this is available on CD, I wish it was a cassette because then the two tracks could be divided by taking the cassette out and flipping sides.   Regardless, "Canon 2" begins with a high pitched sound.    It's not that high pitched, just a step up from where we were before.     A darker tone now joins this first one.     Two tones drop off to change the sound into only one now, somewhere in between the first two.     The sound kind of staggers back and forth slightly now.    The tone now is holding strong and it's kind of odd to think about how many different tones are actually used on this album.   It is minimal in a sense, but if you count the changes it certainly seems to do a lot with very little.   But, again, I'm not a musician so there is also probably a lot going on that I don't know about and this wouldn't be as easy to duplicate as it seems.

Music Review: Masayuki Imanishi "Worn Tape" (Moving Furniture Records)

"Worn Tape" begins with a sound which could be a field recording but also has the feel of a car starting behind it.   There are bangs like footsteps or doors closing, slight water drips and just echoes into a bucket but also in a rather digital (like Phil Collins drum machine) way.    It is quite the tone to set for this album when it begins with what could be an action we are blindly seeing in a movie (I imagine someone in the woods, while it's raining, doing something with their car) and then it transforms into a song.   There are these windy scratches unlike anything I've ever heard before.    It's somehow hollow but still has a vibe to it as if you could see these sounds you would recognize that something important was happening. 

Crackling- somewhat like static- and the sound of more water running or even poured comes out next.   There is a frequency buzz.    Through the flicker we get into this space type whirr that could be a helicopter but only if it was able to travel into outerspace.    Records play static and I still feel like I hear a dog barking but I'm pretty certain that I don't.    Something is scraping, shifting around.   It sounds like concrete.   Lead pipes and bamboo sticks.   Static scrapes.   Though this could be minimal- only a few sounds at a time, and none too brash so far- it's not actually calming.   There is something serious about it which is keeping me on my toes, like any second a bomb will go off.

It's growing quiet to the point where it is almost non-existent before it fades out at the end of Track 3.   Track 4 starts off just as slowly, just as quietly.    A slow, sort of shovel digging sound can be heard as the rapid tapping of a propellor echoes in the background.    It's quiet, like stepping on fallen branches in the woods, the slight sound of the shovel dragging.   Yet it gives off the intense vibe of a horror movie soundtrack.   Something terrible is about to happen-- I can feel it.

The wind continues to crack.   So close to silence, beeps like a droid or some form of technology based communication come through now-- like a modem, but rather muted.    It's static, like some device is in use- a blender perhaps- but it is still not as loud as you might expect.     Though the next sounds have this wind chimes/xylophone base to them which I feel they actually are, they somehow also sound like ice cubes to me for some reason.  A chain of metal continues to slink.    More water-based sounds and even some footsteps now.    Scraping and water.    Scurry, rats, scurry.    The bottle rolls.

Track 7 begins with a bit more jangle, some shaking and there are elements of water in here as well.   I can only imagine how this must look if you try and imagine every sound for what it is-- water being passed from one container to the next for example.   I feel like I hear a voice coming through in a machine type of way but then it just becomes the screeching of what sound like mechanical rats.    More static skips bring about radio station switches.   This slight buzzing feeds the static.   A television set with nothing on but dead air.   Footsteps in the woods again.

By Track 9 the sounds of digital crickets comes to the front.   There are bottle clanks in the background, but I mostly hear the crickets turn into this jungle/underwater theme which is an interesting place to go based on where we have been.   Why do I keep thinking of the movie "Cabin Fever"?   Back into the rain again.   Sweet static and water is a lot of what these songs are made of.     A thunderstorm now and I hope we are inside because it sounds bad out there.    Lightning cracking, tree branches breaking.    This could very well be the end of it all.

Bug zappers and static bursts are on the final track.   It sounds as if someone is trying to connect two wires together, the way you'd hotwire a car, to get a modem to connect to the internet.    A creeking, as the door could be slowly opening, but as we reach the end I would say rather that it was slowly closing.   The intensity level on this album is off the charts and if there were one final BANG! with the sound of the door being slammed shut it might just be the most terrifying thing I have ever heard but in the best possible way.

Music Review: Seth Chrisman & Nathan McLaughlin "Earth Tones at the Metal Show" (Full Spectrum Records)

The first thing that I can tell you about this album is that it didn't want to extract the ZIP file because the name of it was too long.   I have WinRAR somewhere on my laptop because when I search my programs it comes up, but why should I expect that to help me out?  After changing the title, it had three different songs get mad at me about how long those titles were (Track 3, 4 and 9 to be precise) so I just rolled with it and eventually got this thing to extract for me.   Some might wonder why I went through "all this trouble" when there have been times I'd say "Oh, you don't want to extract? Then I don't want to listen to you!".

I'm trying to keep up with reviews this year in the sense of reviewing more that isn't on cassette (Even though this technically does come out on cassette, but that's another story) and mainly just trying to review everything this year put out by certain labels, labels that I found interesting last year, and so Full Spectrum Records is on that list.   Granted, if Full Spectrum puts out something that I don't like I'm not going to write about it (And same goes with any label), but I have to at least listen; I have to at least try.

"Earth Tones at the Metal Show" opens with sharp hues.   There are these church organs and it becomes spatial in a Phantom of the Opera type of way.   It has the feeling of drone, but there are these starts and stops which break it up, so it can't truly be.    It's like a drone remix though so I'm digging it.   Banjos come out and then it actually takes a deeper trip into the drone.   It's somber, quiet and minimal.   The plucks of the banjo do return and then it turns into what I can only describe as the sound of barely scraping by.

Through broken strings come talking in static.    There are tracks called "High Falls" which seemingly take a dive into silence but to truly hear certain pieces of them this is best experienced through headphones.     It's ambient but it's also something like what you would expect based on the title.   I'm not saying that these two guys should go up onto a stage and perform this during a set by Slayer, but you know, you can hear some sort of metal influence in here, yet the idea of it being "Earth Tones" has its justifications just as well.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Cassette Review: Street Rat "Penance" (Crass Lips Records)

When "Penance" first starts there is a lot of percussion.   The first song sounds like thsi giant drum circle, though it's not one of those feel-good moments in the woods somewhere, but rather it has more of a "Lord of the Flies" inside an abandoned warehouse sense to it.    There are these howls which would later on be recognized as vocals as they appear on another song in a similar manner.    "Open Heart Surgery" might be the most interesting song to ever open a cassette but it only gets more interesting from there somehow. 

There is this sound of rock, but not really rock it's just based in rock and I cannot describe it.   At first, the words flow in this manner which make me think of that Carpenters song with the hook "Why do birds suddenly appear" (though that is not the title of that song-- thanks, Google!) but this is so far from that kind of mellow rock I don't even know how that name is getting dropped in the same review.    It could be simply called "art punk" if you're lazy.   Pass it off as being in a genre with Le Tigre, Bikini Kill, Sleater-Kinney, hell, I'll even give you some resemblance to Fear Before The March of Flames in here.   But there is this early Gatsbys American Dream vibe as well, don't discredit that either.

The songs have this sort of math rock, sort of carnival ride like Willy Wonka going through the tunnel.     It's hectic.  Frantic.   There is this urgency to it.   But it's not as fast paced as other punk rock in ways.   It's more of a "We know you're in a hurry, so we're going to do these starts and stops to make you wait".    Through these big guitar riffs too I'm reminded of Nirvana.   Mostly stuff from "Bleach" and songs before that (Which, you know, if you listen to their demos or outtakes, that sort of stuff), but it's funny because as soon as my mind thought Nirvana it went to "Bleach" and then it went to "Big Cheese", which, you know... Street Rat... Rats and cheese... That can't be a coincidence, right?

Side A says to fast forward and then flip it to get to Side B, but Side A ended on its own for me somehow.    Side B starts with this drone that turns into something like a car engine revving it.   Lasers come into what sounds like this drag race in space.   It gets really loud and screechy, something like a modem but not in a technological way.   (Is there such a thing as an acoustic modem sound?)   It's like cars are peeling out and racing around the track, but I suppose you could find your own vision in here though I'm not sure why mine went to cars since I haven't watched "Speed Racer" in a long while.    In contrast to the first side, there are no vocals here and I guess since this song is called "Roaches On The Ceiling" it could have some sort of insect vibe to it if you wish to go that way (Shout out to TMNT and Cockroach Terminator)

As this sounds like a jet engine it just screeches in higher and higher pitches until it finally just kind of trails off.     Some more high pitched type sounds bring us to the end and it's just... I understand now why Side A and Side B are the way that they are.   Regardless of song length, you'd think there would be four songs per side if it's eight in total, but the way this is divided makes a lot of sense.   And I'd say it almost could feel like this was a split, such as two different artists on each side, but because of the way the cassette opened I know that Street Rat is capable of creating both of these different yet similar styles of sound and both of them are exceptional.

Music Review: ジップポップ1985 "パーティー・ポップス" (Schwarz Neon Licht Records)

I'll be completely honest when I say I shouldn't be the first authority on what is or is not vaporwave, as most of my thoughts on it go back to Illuminated Paths, but I still feel like I stumble upon vaporwave here and there enough to be able to recognize it when I hear it.   I can say that part of this sounds like vaporwave and part of it just sounds like something straight out of the 1980's/1990's-- something you would find on cassette back in the day.

But, as someone from the United States, isn't that what we are taught to believe other countries are like?  This comes from Israel and if Hollywood has anything to say about it, the whole country would be driving taxis and listening to music that the United States forgot about decades ago.    Can we forget that stereotype now though since a lot of people have the internet and the music is obviously out there?  I mean, this is on Bandcamp, so...

I'm fine with this being simply thought of as something from a gypsy cab.   I listen to this when I walk a lot because it has a certain level of energy.   I suppose if you ever found a cassette of electronic type music from the 1980's or 1990's-- something like Flock of Seagulls but less known-- and you added some modern sounds to it, much like what is called vaporwave, then you can get an idea of what this is like.  But yes, it is good and I wish it was on cassette.

#SongOfTheDay 2018 List

2018 #SongOfTheDay List 

Please Note: Trying to post a song every day, but  not posting a song every day just because I feel like I have to post a song.

[[ --- January --- ]]

1/1/18 - 800 Gondomar "Faz O Flip" link
1/2/18 - Injury Reserve "Boom X3" link
1/3/18 - Lotte Kestner "in an aeroplane over the sea" (Neutral Milk Hotel Cover) link
1/4/18 - Black DaVinci "cobracommander" link
1/5/18 - Stav G "My Sheltered Room" link
1/7/18 - Unlikely Friends "Broken Again" link
1/8/18 - Typhoon "Darker" link
1/9/18 - Sur Back "Valentino" link
1/10/18 - Young Galaxy "Under My Wing" link
1/11/18 - Birthday Boy & Trish "Chance To Go Far" link
1/12/18 - Club 8 "Fire" link
1/13/18 - bedbug "lilies" link
1/14/18 - Public Access T.V. "Lost In The Game" link
1/15/18 - KRS-One "Keep Flowin'" link
1/16/18 - Fine China "Not Thrilled" link

Friday, January 12, 2018

Music Review: Typhoon "Offerings" (Roll Call Records)

"Offerings" begins with a spoken warning: "Listen, of all the things you are about to lose, this will be the most painful".    Perhaps the most redeeming quality of Typhoon is that on the surface they appear in some ways as if everything is ok, while underneath it all you can tell that it is not.   "Offerings" somehow has become a soundtrack I never knew I needed.   It truly captures that sound of going out every day and putting on a brave face while you slowly die inside.    As the first song, "Wake", sets the tone: "This is not your loss / This is your offering".

On the surface, Typhoon can sound to me like one of those college radio indie rock bands (whatever that means).    They have that feel of something like Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, though to be fair I only know him for that one song from the radio all those years back.   But what sets Typhoon apart is that their music style does take on that stance at first, but there are added layers to it.    A perfect example of this comes around the five minute marker in the song "Empiricist".   What was slowing down, fading out, suddenly turns into this loud march of drums as if some other song has started. 

And yes, I am infamous for listening to something on my laptop, then opening a link and having the music start playing on its own and I didn't even realize it.  So I thought more than once that was happening with this album-- I'd look to see who accidentally started playing-- and ultimately I'd end up pausing Typhoon and realize that they had turned into this sound which felt slightly out of place but I feel like in a lot of ways this album isn't out to make you feel comfortable.

If I did such things, this would certainly be my "Album of the Month" for January 2018.   Hell, I'd even put it into the running as an early contender for Album of the Year.  (The bar has been set at least)  You see, I don't like to do the whole AOTY thing, but if I was going to do it I would want it to be something that felt accessible in the sense that it could appeal to the masses (So it has that radio quality to it) but yet at the same time there is something more which makes it not as one dimensional as what you hear on the radio.   That is Typhoon does perfectly on this album.   Kids can sing along to a song and have no idea.

I feel like I always need to clarify myself because people don't always understand because you can read words however you choose.   The thing is, as much as I say this has that sort of radio rock sound to it, you have to understand that even in terms of having that sound it is rather remarkable-- it is something, musically, with which I feel there is no peer.   I can't say what I usually do with radio rock and just go "Oh, this sounds like Radiohead" (or Flaming Lips).   Typhoon has this sound that even if it didn't take these little detours into something deeper (something darker), it would still be a stellar rock record.

This album also tells the story of a man who loses his mind- his memory- and as such begins to lose sight of himself.    You see, I've never been one to struggle with memory (writing helps) but I have struggled with who I am.   So to have that idea of questioning "What am I becoming?" and "Do I like what I am becoming?" is something I dealt with a lot last year and so to kind of have that in musical form to be with me through this journey is nothing short of amazing.   I'm saying I'm not directly going through what the character in this album does, but I can still relate to it.   And, I mean, who hasn't thought (or had it thought about them) such a line as "The part of you I love is still  in there, even if it doesn't know my name".

As far as concept albums go, they aren't something I know a whole lot about.   I feel like I listen to more of them than I know, but my favorite concept album and perhaps my favorite album of all time is called "Trainwreck" by Boys Night Out, and so similarly I enjoy that this has that story to tell from the first to last track.   It also has a lot of the same feelings for me, starting 2018, as I did for Richard Edwards back in 2017 and it's just... It's not easy to find something that you can relate to so deeply and so personally, but I feel like "Offerings" is something which will stick with me and I'll not fully embrace it until maybe even ten years from now. 

On the second to last song, at the very end, that line comes back from the very beginning.    Listening to this album in full, every time I reach the end I feel like a part of me has been taken.   It's hard to explain, but I can only imagine what it must have been like to make this album since I feel like it's the type of thing that if you listen to it too much you could truly lose your identity in it.    It is not something to be taken lightly (Unless you don't really focus on the lyrics and just like the pretty melodies) and as much as it feels like it destroys a piece of me inside it also feels therapeutic.    It is beautifully broken.  

"Offerings" is available on LP, CD and Digital Download here: