Monday, May 24, 2010

KEVIN DRUMM "LIGHTS OUT" (part of 5CD "Necro Acoustic" box on Picadisk)

Since i've already reviewed "Malaise" as a separate entity i've decided to hit pieces of the Pica box as the mood suits me. It's easier for all of this way and just a bit more digestible.
"Lights Out" is one of the most sublimely disturbing works i've heard from KD across his entire discography. There's always been a menace hidden in his work and there's always been an assaulting sort of evil to the heavier, more "blasting arctic wind" material but rarely have the two met on such even ground as on the four pieces that make up this masterpiece. "Unsettling" barely begins to cover it. It's hard to describe and you're really better off just listening but if you're here for some sort of feedback regarding the sound, then here: "Spraying the Weeds" is the lead off track and the title would be a little funny if it weren't so horribly accurate. This is what a shower of pesticides must sound like to unwanted growth. It's the tone of mass murder, all rumbling low end horror and death static. As soon as this fucker started to build in the headphones i found myself getting a little creeped out, and i liked it. This is some mean, mean shit. It reminded me a lot of the opening scene in "Blue Velvet" where the camera focuses in on the grass closer and closer and you get all the horrid industrial insect noises growing in volume as the images become more and more diluted and troubling. It's the evil lurking in the most beautiful things brought to life. There is shit everywhere-you're just overlooking it most of the time. "Lights Out" wants you to focus on it.
The rest of the album tears through similar terrain, going deeper and darker, culminating in the 20 minute epic of "Idle Worship." It's a dense, focused and extremely bleak drone piece, a forced drowning in a pit of belching tar. There is no escape, only a constant suffocation and the unrelenting thickness of hot, stenching death. There's nothing even remotely pleasant here. Again i'm in awe at Drumm's ability to summon up such blackened visions with seeming ease. I wonder if he has to even try anymore or if this is just where his head is at. I'm floored by this piece, seriously. It is so fucking evil, the only thing close is Skullflower's recent occultisms. Another high point for Drumm. Totally recommended.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Another post-Reverend Bizarre project from Albert Witchfinder, this time seemingly aiming for the very notion of tedium. The glut of ideas leftover from RB is impressive but the need to indulge them is perhaps not so impressive as this record inhabits the realm of the lackadaisical better than any i've heard in a long, long time.
Very little happens here across an epic expanse of 76 minutes. It's heavy, yes-you expected that-and at times there's a sort of majestic quality that other bands strive for, but for the most part this is bloated and incredibly self-indulgent doom metal expanse, the end result of the idea that hammering away slowly on power chords will inevitably yield credibility. Here's a hint-it doesn't. This is a massive slab of post rock bullshit, with arpeggiated chords and glistening clean guitar lines looking to fill up a vast infinity of space that only serves to nod the listener off into a bitter realm of unengagedness, a sort of tired resignation to an endless barrage of distortion and brutality. The sheer sonic onslaught is admirable, it's just a lack of ideas that brings the Opium Warlords down.
Albert Witchfinder is a superlative writer and a musical visionary. Those facts are beyond argument. In the wake of Reverend Bizarre it's only natural he would spread out a bit and look to find a new genre to nestle into and utterly domintae. This sort of plodding Sunn 0))) like excess does not suit the man and only serves to hinder the advancing of a true doom metal juggernaut. I can only hope that "Live at Colonia Dignidad" (which obviously isn't live, by the way) is a momentary stop on the path to true transcendence, and that no other monolithic time wasters such as this will surface. Even if he chooses to keep the Opium Warlords moniker the music has to improve, else an ocean of banality taint the legacy of one of doom metal's truest, most fervent practitioners.


The first time i listened to this i had someone over and we weren't really focused on it. I've decided to revisit it, being as it's been one of the recordings i'd been most anxious to hear since i learned about it. Team Ghost is the nom de plume of Nicholas Fromageau, the other guy from M83 who left the group after the sophomore album. He's been very quiet since that departure, dwelling in French obscurity while Anthony Martinez went on to build M83 into the gorgeous tower of washed out downer bliss by way of the 1980's they are now. Martinez is such a skilled composer and meticulous sculptor of sound that it becomes easy to forget Fromageau was ever in the band, and it becomes even easier to wonder what the hell he even did when he was there. The answer is simple: pretty much the same stuff. These two guys are two sides of the same coin, the only difference being Fromageau has a slightly more rock oriented approach to the sound than Martinez's focus on lush, ambient tearjerking haze.
"You Never Did Anything Wrong To Me" (and yeah-even the title reads like M83) opens up with a lake of tone called "Lonely, Lonely, Lonely" and pretty much sets the stage for what's going to be paraded out. An obvious but gorgeous bassline builds up beneath a buzzing discordance of melodic keyboard skree, creating a serious sense of beautiful unease, an excellent approximation of the sound of anxiety. It's not entirely comfortable but there are scattered moments of heaven throughout, a feverish tour through ennui and uncertainty. The next track blows it all out the door in a simple crush of guitar rock bliss, a love letter to MBV and Slowdive and one of the purest expressions of the classic shoegaze sound i've heard in years. The only drawback here (and throughout the record) is Fromageau's vocals-he's got an extreme nasal whine and his English is heavily accented. It makes me wonder why the fuck he didn't cloak his voice in echoes and effects or at the very least sing in French, which i personally think would have gone a long way in further beautifying (or romanticizing, you decide) the overall Team Ghost aesthetic. The song itself is great, and Fromageau obviously knows how to layer straining, yearning guitars-the decision to leave the vocals so dry just perplexes me. The third track for me is the most successful, a crushing blast of ambient throb based around another obvious and depressing bassline, but here Fromageau layers crackle upon crackle and weaves in a sad sounding girl's voice, speaking some sort of lament in French and the overall feel is one of intense loneliness and regret, like you're talking to some defeated person on the street in the dead of an autumn night and you're both becoming more and more aware of everything you've fucked up in your lives.
The remaining tracks veer between these two styles. Fromageau seems equally comfortable working as an ambient artist and guitarist. Some of the tracks rock harder than M83 ever did and veer towards an almost hardcore mentality as far as intensity goes, while others are content to plod on into infinity with a more minimalist approach than Martinez would ever greenlight. The similarities are obvious when you listen to this, and you sort of wonder why these two parted ways. I can only imagine the aching sort of beauties they could have created had they continued making music together. As is, Fromageau is probably doomed to be Belinda Butcher to Martinez's Kevin Shields. Maybe, though, that ability to live out of the spotlight, to take time and not have any sorts of expectations, will allow Fromageau to make the immersive and devastating record he appears capable of making. I eagerly await whatever comes next from Team Ghost-i just hope it gets louder and louder.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


One of the most understated and lovely Nadja releases i've heard in a long time, and an excellent rebound from the woefully conceived "Under the Jaguar Sun" set. This one reminds me of why i love Nadja so much and reaffirms my belief in the awesome emotional power their dirging hypnosludge contains.
Released by the might Drone Records (owned by one half of German dream-droners Troum, whom i hold in the highest regard) as part of their new series celebrating the concept of the unknown, "Ruins of Morning" is comprised of two 20 minute sides of the same song run through in two entirely different ways with each side showcasing an extreme facet of Nadja's approach to the holy drone. Side A is the "quieter" version of the song and from the moment the needle drops a sort of serenity and warmth falls over everything, like you're being held in a pair of watery hands looking to keep all of the shit away from you. It's hushed and welcoming and though there is a small tinge of darkness to the track it never becomes overwhelming; it's more like nighttime fading into a deeper shade of that night, a mumbly sleepytime of blushing yellow stars and sky-smearing comets. As the track plays through its graceful movement it becomes more minimalist and drawn out until the only thing remaining is a soft mine of comforting rumble pulling you further and further into somnus.
Side B takes off immediately with Nadja as the dreamsludge bringers of ubercrush that they are. Here the lovely song from the first side is given new life as a dirging lullaby crusted over with mountains of thick, crumbling distortion and the plodding drums that grow ever more stylized and inimitable with each new album. Even though the song is the same, the more metallized approach creates a serious feeling of the vaguely unrecognizable, a hazy murk of barely glimpsed recollection and a slightly nostalgic hint of deja vu. It seems like such a simple thing-anyone could play the same song twice and vary it a little-but Nadja create a connect and a disconnect between these two versions, an ethereal bridge that might or might not bear weight were you to actually test it. Both sides are obscured by swirling fogs, but both are welcoming. Again the track becomes more and more minimalist as it progresses, receding into memory as it too pulls you deeper into a lulled state of relaxation.
One of Nadja's best; Drone do an outstanding job on the package as well, making this an essential piece for any serious follower of Aidan and Leah's work. Beautiful, dreamy and highly recommended.

Monday, May 17, 2010

AUN/HABSYLL "SPLIT" (Public Guilt/Conspiracy)

Amazingly successful split LP of crushing, hurtful drift. Whoever thought this pairing up is a genius because it makes perfect sense and both bands deliver amazing contributions, showcasing two sides of the same coin. This is what a split should do, in essence-you want there to be some sort of sound disparity but at the same time you want a thematic whole. So few records actually achieve such a perfect conglomeration of sonics and ideas; it's to the credit of both labels involved that they were able to craft such a gorgeous, aesthetically aligned product in the end.
Aun is an entity i've been infatuated with for quite some time; the material is hard to come by but never disappointing, leaning towards a metallic dirging tinged with power drone sensibilities. Here they turn in two tracks of extremely focused and paced sludge destruction, replete with looped quasi-disco drums and an MBV style reliance on oblique melody. The two songs here plod on and on with no real evolution but it's a gigantic chunk of carved out beauty; every thwack of the snare puts you one step closer to bludgeoned acquiescence and painful understanding. There's an empty ache contained within and a recognition of the finitude of all endeavours. While not entirely hopeless, Aun do little to advance any sort of pleasant outlook on existence, and their hazy take on banality provides a thoughtful and enigmatic vision of day to day drudgery.
Habysll go even further with their end of the split. Their debut album was one of the most painful, blackened slabs of true doom metal i've laid ears on and even though the labels describe their actions here as "no doom" it's easy to see where this band's allegiances lie. This is true fractured pain ala Khanate and Monarch!, a slow and crumbling form of doom metal cherished by few and mastered by even less. It's stop/start theatrics and glacial chord hangings strung up with totally harsh, agonized banshee-wails, a white wall of lonely static thrown against the tedium of being. Habsyll trump themselves here by turning in the most dynamic side i've heard from them; alongside the droning horrors are crusted out blastbeats and haunting keyboard atonalities disguised as interludes and never once does the motion of the track falter. It's a 20 minute wreck hurtling towards oblivion but it's 100% controlled and planned. Habsyll want to THROW you over the edge.
These two bands make perfect sense together. Taken as a whole this is a mesmerizing cut of wax, an ode to the endless march and the constant reduction of personality. Totally numbing and ultra-loud, it may as well be a trumpet signifying the coming end. Doom indeed...this split is the sound of absolute disregard. No future!

Saturday, May 15, 2010


Totally flooring, supercool three way split release celebrating the psychonauting psychedelic explorations of Hawkwind. I've never been a huge follower of the 'Wind-of course i know who they are and i know what they do but i've never delved deep into the catalogue the way i should. Maybe it's the era, maybe it's the fact that AMT are more or less my own personal Hawkwind-i've just never felt the need to go upriver with these guys the way some people have. I think Ben may have more experience with them and might even channel them a little in his shit with Yog Sothoth but i really can't say; all i know for sure is that they were brainfucking warlords out for devastation and transcendence and as such were ridiculously overdue for such a focused tribute.
The three bands here do not disappoint. This split plays like a composed and cohesive album, with each band bringing its best to the show with nary a misstep. For me the gold medal goes to US Christmas; already an under appreciated entity in the modern psychedelic underground (why i don't know because their debut album was a fucking destroyer) they turn their attentions to just having fun and rocking the fuck out and the result is a massive floating headtrip through devastating wormholing timewarps. Each of their tracks grows steadily more expansive, culminating in the twelve minute tearthrough of "You Shouldn't Do That," wherein every piece gets warped and mutated into some free-floating bend of stupifying head-nodding drivel, as pure a piece of krautrock as has ever been laid to tape. For me they do the best job in channeling the true spirit of Hawkwind-pointless jammed out excess with no regard for time or audience.
Harvestman do only slightly less well. Their last album was an amazing regression into 70's style acid folk/psychedelia and here Steve von Till allows that devolution to continue, turning in four tracks that showcase both the versatility of his anti-Neurosis conglomerate and the distinct attention to psychedelic grotesqueness. Here the mind-bending parts of Neurosis are obviously shown to be the work of von Till; i can only hope that future Harvestman releases continue down this path of darkened brainwarping. Only one song clings to the simple progressions and muted vocals-everything else is full-force parallel electricity shifts with a strained, cracking, non-yelling vocal that makes me wish Neurosis leaned a little more in this direction as opposed to the all out deathcrush of everything they do.
Minsk fill out everything else in appropriately thick and crushing fashion. Of all the bands involved i see the most restraint and temperance here. Make no mistake- Sanford Parker and crew turn in a levelling set of dirgedeath-but also on display is a newfound appreciation of dynamic and timing, a much more organic and natural approach than their usual "quiet/loud" assault, resulting in another three expansive songs that sufficiently warp time and transfer dimensional properties. It's not overbearing in any way-it just works fucking perfectly, as intended.
All three bands here understand the mission. It's not reinvention, it's pure fucking TRIBUTE. You don't need to mess around with shit that already works, especially when it works this well. Too many bands fall prey to the idea that you have to inject some sort of personal touch into a cover to make it worthwhile. You don't. It just has to be a band you love that writes songs you love to play. I know this firsthand. The Kafka Dreams do little else to our cover of "Youth of America" than speed it up; we just have so much fun playing it that it makes its way into almost every set list. It's a tribute to aggression as much as it is songwriting. "Hawkwind Triad," and every band involved, get that mentality. It's an outstanding effort. Buy it and zone the fuck out and thank your lucky stars that Neurot Recordings is such a great label.


This is the great lost Trist album, the only one that hasn't seen some sort of official release. Slated to be on the mighty Insikt, the label owned by Kim of Hypothermia, itself in a state of limbo, "Slunce..." has attained, for me at least, the feeling of an unattainable treasure, a peak obscured by stars and hidden under the clouds, a destination that might never be reached.
I cannot understate the importance of Trist's music to me as an individual. There are certain bands that speak to you on every possible level, whose music captures so perfectly what you feel and want to feel, whose aesthetics and ideologies seem so perfectly in tune with your own that you can't help but think that you were meant to discover this stuff. It's there to be a part of your life and help you illustrate the things that you can't always say, to give some sort of presence to the times when feelings and emotions become overwhelming, to be a sort of safe space no matter how scary the work itself. Trist does all of that for me. In my mind this is a perfect example of the incredible resonance that black metal, and really music in general, can have on someone. I can't really describe how this band's music makes me feel. All i can really say is that it's there with me and i get it and i turn to it when i feel like shit. This person's music HELPS me.
So i have sought this elusive record out for over a year. Technically it doesn't exist and there are no true physical copies. Why Insikt slept on this is beyond me; if i'm to equate the label with the person running it then i can only begin to imagine how overwhelming an actual release schedule became. Insikt's web site is no longer up and running but i have a pretty deep familiarity with Hypothermia; keeping that in mind the label's hermitage seems understandable, if not expected. But fuck, this record is gorgeous. It deserves release.
The haunting and heavenly cover art (featuring graphics and design by RH of Deep-pression, yet another band that swims through the sewer-like muck of everday existence) does a good job of painting the sounds. This is wispy, ethereal ambient music, as far removed as could possibly be from Trist's usual ultra-dirging raw suicide hymnals. This is a depiction of purgatory and regret, a fog of nostalgia and a ghostly feeling of incompleteness, a recollection of all the sadnesses that brought you to this. It's the beyond without beauty, an accounting of infinity tempered with tears. It's the end result of true failure.
For 35 minutes we are washed under the slough of droning, melancholic chord swellings. They go on and on, repeating and unending, like an eternal ocean. Drums make an appearance only to fuck with your conceptions of time and to create a deep-rooted sort of nausea; they too go on and on with no direction until they just stop, leaving only the masses of ambience to cloak you and drown you. I don't know if it's sad or triumphant or some sort of reckoning or some sort of eulogy-i only know that it is imbued with an intense and personal understanding of how hard this can be and how much it can take to just keep fucking going. The scariest aspect is that this composition doesn't offer any sort of promise after the pain. There is no guarantee of abatement; just a grey portrait of hopelessness and loneliness, surrounded by a great and empty vastness.
I don't know if i can summarize it. There is so much at work here with seemingly so little. This obviously goes beyond black metal and from a strictly musical standpoint i could see this appealing to those who enjoy Eno, Troum or M83's more exploratory pieces. I have seen some go so far as to categorize this record as "neoclassical;" perhaps the argument could be made for this to be placed under the "hypnogogia" classification. Regardless of the categorization it's an intensely affecting and powerfully presented musical statement. It stands apart from the rest of Trist's catalogue but still ties in to the idea of the work as a whole. I think it's amazing. It might be different for you.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


All too brief (only 20 minutes) slab of misanthropic obliteration from one of my very favorite bands. I've loved these guys since i bought their first EP years and years ago; new material since then has been sparse but amazing across the board, firmly establishing the Austerity Program as the only band worthy to carry on Big Black's legacy of enraged disgust and acerbic, nullifying rage. Albini's spectre hangs heavy over this band but in the best possible way-it's the sound fully realized and taken to its furthest end, the pot of hate at the end of the black rainbow.
Coming off of the destructive and epic "Black Madonna" full-length, "Backsliders..." seems immediately odd in a few ways. Firstly is a renewed interest in minimalism. "Black Madonna" was a whirlwind of sick, progressive drum programming full of stop/start headspinners and riff after riff after dizzying fucking riff. On "Backsliders..." we're treated to a more reserved and maybe contemplative Austerity Program. The drums here drive rather than pummel and destroy and riffs are actually allowed to hang around for awhile and evolve as opposed to showing up, punching you in the face and getting the fuck out. Of course on "Black Madonna" there was harsh repetition as well but here the point doesn't seem to be drilling it into the listener as much as setting a mood of ever-growing tension and seething banality. Which brings us to the other big difference, that being the growing lyrical focus on depression, disgust, dissatisfaction with every aspect of life and the boiling over of those elements into intense acts of anti-societal violence. Seriously, this record may as well be the soundtrack to every mass murder and workplace massacre every committed. This is the sound of falling down. This is what it is to exist at the end of your rope. This is not being able to take it anymore, of being fed up with everything. Earlier lyrics hinted at this sort of personal downward spiral but there was always a hint of malicious, sardonic humour thrown in. Here it's all serious. There's nothing even remotely ironic or amusing here. You've been doing everything wrong, you're fucking everything up, it just keeps getting worse and someone is going to have to pay. It's some of the angriest, most bitter and poisoned music that i've ever heard. I fucking love it. There's a song about disposing of bodies. There's a song about murdering tons of children. Every mind is on the brink of collapse. It all falls apart. And always, always, the Austerity Program ratchet up the tension, grinding ever closer to the sweet, sweet demolishing release of drum machine hyperblasts behind scathing guitar waste. Mean, mean shit here.
The Austerity Program have never been a project that wastes time or fucks around. This is all maximum impact full velocity detritus flowing all around you. Reality is cracking every hour, every day. Stress just fucking builds. Not every form of catharsis is good, nor is every escape truly such. There's a plan, there's coordinates, there's a specific way to get there.
You just might not like the outcome.

Friday, May 7, 2010


Bodychoke's sophomore album, the perfect bridge between the psychedelic wasted squalor of "Mindshaft" and the serene, chilling post-rock void of "Cold River Songs." We don't often get to see bands evolving before our eyes, and certainly not in such a dramatic album-by-album form as this. The changes are easy to see and the progressions make perfect sense. Bodychoke was a band that knew where it wanted to go and how to chart the necessary course.
Credit the cartography to Kevin Tomkins, part time member of Whitehouse and mastermind of noise violence overlords Sutcliffe Jugend. Bodychoke was Tomkins' attempt at more classically rock oriented material conceived from the same mindset and subject matter as his other projects. Across all of Bodychoke's three records you're treated to a litany of misogynistic destruction, gross sexual frustration, the repression of fantasies becoming dangerous outward exercises against others and a general association of sex with violence if not an outright equation. It's pretty fucked up shit, obviously, and when viewed (or heard) through the prism of noise (ala SJ and Whitehouse) it occupies a very specific sort of tonal presence, but when heard in this more traditional context (i.e., guitar/bass/drums/violin) it becomes something much creepier and far more insinuating. This isn't assault as much as it is a plan for assault and that short leap makes all the difference in the unsettling nature of the music.
"Five Prostitutes" is a fairly sprawling album, 14 songs spread across 62 minutes, showcasing a variety of sounds and ideas. There's an obvious reference to the sound of "Mindshaft" with its masses of squealing, wah'ed out guitars and maelstroms of feedback oblivion but there's also the hint of the sound that Bodychoke was developing, a more refined and stately sort of malevolence as defined by extremely minor key clean chord progressions and muted, bassy vocals. There's almost a feeling of sexual dominance or the threat of torture hanging over some of these songs in as little as the vocals and it's to the credit of both Tomkins and second vocalist/songwriter Paul Taylor (responsible for the more truly unsettling material) that they're able to convey such a dark, troubling mood with as a little as a few whispered words. Bodychoke are kind of scary in that way-this is a tunnel that goes way, way down and you'd better be damn sure that this is where you're supposed to go.
Also interesting is the decision to have Steve Albini record this monster. Albini's sound is easily identifiable and seemed a bit at odds with the band's atmospheric and dazed approach. Here, however, the two coalesce into one gorgeous ideal of pristine, naked intent. Stripped down to its barest elements the music of Bodychoke becomes even more visceral and violent and with Albini's blunt sound to reinforce those elements "Five Prostitutes" becomes a terrifying sonic experience, with no correction or apology. Everything here absolutely grates against itself, adding to the feeling of distressed uneases that the band so ably produces from the first second. By the time you reach the album's climax, the 15 minute guitar feedback apocalypse of "The Red Sea," you feel like you've been totally drained of all will, put through the proverbial wringers with little strength or resolve left. It's a wasting, ghosting experience and the fact that Bodychoke would only go on to trump this recording on "Cold River Songs" makes "Five Prostitutes" all the more frightening and remarkable.
Bodychoke are one of the best bands you've probably never heard of. Their records are mind-bogglingly awesome and there's no one out there, then or now, who even come close to sounding like they do. A singular listening experience that no open-minded person should deny themselves. Totally recommended.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Teen Cthulhu occupy a very special place in my heart for two reasons: firstly, they're named after Lovecraft's grand cosmic horror, and you can't get much cooler than that. Secondly, they had a frightening fixation with suicide and the overall shittiness of life and ten years ago (and sometimes still today) that mindset meant a lot to me. Going back and listening to "Ride The Blade" now i can see, easily, that it was nothing special. You could describe it as symphonic hardcore, i guess, crust metal fused with the most superficial elements of black metal. Other bands like Suicide Nation did this style a lot better, while still other bands like His Hero is Gone crushed Teen Cthulhu in terms of all-out heaviness and atmospheric darkness.
Yet i refuse to part with this record. That owes something to the fact that it's out of print on an incredibly boutique label and worth quite a bit on the collector's market, but more to the idea that it represents a part of my life that i remember with aching vividness and draws me into feelings that seem as real to me tonight as they did a decade ago, under some bitter waxy moon with echoes of romantic despondency in my heart. The cover says it all-i'll spill all this blood, i'll eviscerate myself and injure myself and give up my life for all these stupid problems that seem so fucking important-but none of that sacrifice is going to mean shit to the people you want it to affect. Suicide truly does go hand in hand with hopelessness and Teen Cthulhu are to be commended for tapping in to that blackened horror show and returning with some sort of picture of what it's like there.
Stephen Malkmus recently said that all music is nostalgia. Once you hear a song for the second time, it's more or less ruined and you're just trading on the memory of how the music made you feel the first time it hit you. We're always struggling to regain that feeling, the moment when it meant something and it felt like that was all that mattered in the world. I don't think that feeling diminishes the strength of the songs we love but i certainly think Malkmus's statement is profound and true; emotion is more visceral than anything else and the first time always sets the stage no matter what. Things can change after that but there is always, always that first experience. It embeds itself. I don't want to say that "Ride The Blade" carries any magnificent weight for me but listening to this record brings back something sort of intangible that i can't quite define. A sickly-sweet bitterness, maybe, or a cloudy wash of colour and feeling. It's supposed to work this way, right?

WHITEHOUSE "ERECTOR" (Very Friendly/Susan Lawly)

One of the most "baseline" Whitehouse releases i've yet heard. I find it difficult to accept that so many people found this music so assaulting back in the day- content-wise, yes, i can certainly see how all the descriptions of degrading sexual practices and explorations of the paedophiliac mindset in the Sotos era could unnerve people (it even causes me some discomfort sometimes, and i've read a lot of Sotos' books!)- but from a musical standpoint, this isn't what i'd term "harsh" at all. Maybe at this point in my listening preferences i'm pretty jaded and only the most extreme releases will suffice, but either way "Erector" is a very relaxing, near ambient listen.
Other Whitehouse albums have dealt in more abrasive sounds, certainly, and this was an earlier effort and reflective of the band's experimentation in the process of finding their true voice. So the derivation from the idea of classic power electronics isn't that jarring, just curious. Even the runtime is tame by noise standards- only 24 minutes. This is easily digestible in every respect and probably one of Whitehouse's most interesting efforts sonically. I would suggest this to people who are a little too nervous to dove into the genre of noise, or maybe for those whose only touchstones thus far are Merzbow and Prurient (nothing against either artist, obviously- i like much work from both.) "Erector" hums along steadily with low bass throbs and a few whines of white static flung across the top-kind of like splashing thin lines of hot neon paint over a pitch black canvas. Bennett's usually hysterical vocals (one of Whitehouse's best features, truly) are roped in a bit here as well, as he treats them with some sort of weird flanging/phasining/chorus effect that renders them all warbly and watery. You can barely tell what he's saying, aside from screaming the titles of the songs (and it does get a little creepy listening to him scream "Shitfun!" over and over while toilet noises hover in the background) although i doubt it makes much difference; we're just supposed to accept that we're in a darker place now and whatever happens is going to fuck with us somehow, some way. And again, maybe that was part of the intent here. Perhaps "Erector" was supposed to be a little more restrained, a little less oppressive, a little more dynamic. Whitehouse has always been an extremely intelligent project, despite what detractors may have you believe. There's a refinement to the punishment, a style to the torture. It's not music so much as it is art that exists as sound. In that regard there's still no one who comes close.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


A perfect death metal album, lost in obscurity and shrouded in the mists of time. Svart Records has given this occult gem a breathtaking reissue on a gorgeous gatefold LP preserving the astonishing, heroic artwork along with a clearish gray slab of vinyl.
Rippikoulu were a Finnish entity recording in the early 90's and left behind only two works, this and an earlier demo which regrettably has not yet seen reissue. The quality on display here is such, however, that even were this the only thing the band ever did it would still earn them a place in death metal Valhalla. This is death metal the way it was meant to sound-all huge, tar-soaked ultra-compressed guitars, goopy farting bass, drums that sound like they were recorded in an isolation chamber and super-low, guttural batrachian vocals that sound like they're coming from under six feet of moist earth. "Musta Seremonia" is reminiscent of the best of the genre and deserves a place alongside such undisputed classics as Entombed's "Left Hand Path," Konkhra's "Sexual Affective Disorder" and Illdisposed's "Four Depressive Seasons." This was Nordic death metal taken to the highest peak, the perfect distillation of Bathory's later period heathen-fetishizing and Black Sabbath's perfection of the head-nodding groove. Rippikoulu are simply bludgeoning and all of today's death metal revivalism seems like weak, worthless shit when stacked up against this masterpiece.
Over the last few days i've wondered what else i could add to this review. Upon deeper reflection i have decided to leave it where it is. The statement has been made, other reviews have lamented the waning of death metal as a genre. This is is an outstanding, necessary piece of extreme metal art. Highest recommendation.

NO BALLS "COME CLEAN" (Permanent Records)

That rabbit looks pretty innocent but he will fucking rip your goddamn throat out, shit in the hole and pound you one in the eyes with his hind feet for good measure before he scampers off to fool someone else. Such is the trick of No Balls, a somewhat pointless but ultra-devastating Brainbombs side project. It's pointless in the fact that it sounds pretty much exactly like the Brainbombs except it's a little heavier with less saxophone and fewer vocals. Pretty much what you've got, then, is an instrumental slab of crushing blown out in the red pulverizing repetitive monotony.
Debating the merits of this band's existence aside, "Come Clean" is a monster of an album, an epic thunderclap of guitar primitivism and brutal, raged-filled misanthropy turned outward and made into music. This is total hate. Brainbombs are at least a little bit funny; they'd have to be to get away with the ridiculous lyrical shit they do. No Balls aren't funny at all. They're just out to destroy. Maybe writing lyrics was too much of an investment, a time-sucker that was getting in the way of the room clearing that No Balls must certainly be capable of. Seriously, listening to this through the headphones is like a sledgehammer bashing against your temple over and over until your head becomes a bloody mess of pulp and viscera. It doesn't let up, ever. I can't imagine what this would be like live-i just know i need to be there if they come anywhere near me. Every song is one riff driven into the ground, with more and more scuzz and noise piled on top until each track reaches its saturation point and collapses in on itself. There's no derivation nor variety, just one skull-cracking riff after another and a shitload of anger turned into sheets of gorgeous, shrieking noise.
If you dig the Brainbombs then you need this. If you're into Circle's heavier moments or Whitehouse's instrumental tracks then this is going to be your new heavenspace. I like all those things so No Balls is a winner for me. I could extrapolate on things further but there's just no need. It is what it is and nothing more-pure fucking audio hate. Grid your mind into mush and embrace the filth.


I'm surprised i haven't burned out on AMT yet; none of their records have been super mind blowing (although a couple have been much HEAVIER, which i like) as of late but none have been terrible either and for whatever reason i keep thinking of them as a solid and reliable unit; the Slayer of psychedelia, maybe. This marks perhaps the 110th or so album by these guys i own (no shit) and it's one of their better recent efforts. "In O to Infinity" sees the return of original vocalist and musey chanteuse Cotton Casino on one track and is something of a return to cosmic form, the album itself being a continuation, or sequel, if you like, of their previous cover of Terry Riley's minimalist masterwork "In C."
Made up of four spacey sojourns, "In O to Infinity" is a mellower AMT affair, dominated by the usual run of galactic bloop sounds splattered across an ocean of simple revved up one-chord guitar ragers. Kawabata seems toned down a bit more than usual; there are very few damage solos (if any?) here and almost none of the super blown out guitar destruction that made AMT famous so many years ago. Instead we get a lunar landscape of icy voiding space echoes, a wintry wall of fuzzy white shimmer noise and static, a sort of missive from the outer reaches of the galaxy, a message from way way beyond to massage your poor exhausted 21st century brain.
This is easily AMT on autopilot and to go even further i don't see any of these pieces as any sort coda to "In C." They're just four songs by a gifted band of sonic cosmonauts deciding to go in a hyper-minimalist direction; calling them Riley derivations and marketing the record as such was probably an after the fact decision. Much too has been made of Miss Casino's return to the ensemble here but her role is not an up-front one at all-instead her vocals are just another background noise amidst a thick foggy swirl of them. I don't know if she's back in the commune again (it wouldn't be a bad thing since Kawabata seems to be having a hell of a time finding a decent replacement for her) but if she's going to be on future endeavours i'd like to see her taking up a little more sonic space. The old Cotton was as close to a frontwoman as AMT was ever going to have and she was super fun to watch live. When she left, the unit definitely suffered a little.
"In O to Infinity" isn't a necessary purchase-your AMT collection isn't going to suffer with its absence and since it's on Important it'll be around for awhile if you're on the fence-but it is a good one, a nice 73 minute mind melter to throw on in the dark, or maybe in a room lit by lava lamps or blacklights. Probably the blacklights since it's, you know...spacey.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


Greg Ginn's first post-Black Flag release was a furious slab of rock and roll revisionism combined with hardcore aesthetics, further devolving the ideas he had strived so hard to incorporate into Black Flag's latter-period albums while at the same time showcasing his growing confidence as a one-of-a-kind guitarist capable of considerable avant-garde six-string abuse heavily indebted to simple blues progressions and regressions. "Getting Even" tears through 14 songs in 30 minutes, all backed by a Ginn himself on bass and a drum machine without any loss of power, instead providing something of an "industrial" feel to the record, a mechanical rhythm section capable of producing the sounds Ginn had sought to spotlight in Black Flag. The guitar was always meant to be the focal point and on "Getting Even" (how eerily appropriate a name is that?) there's nothing else that captures your attention-this is Greg's show, 100%, and if you don't like it or can't understand it then fuck you, you were never supposed to be here anyway.
What's most interesting to me concerning Greg Ginn is how the interest in purer rock and roll guitar forms began to manifest itself as the recordings advanced. Rather than improve as a guitarist across his recorded tenure Ginn sought to devolve, to explore the outer fringes via an appearance of decaying ability, a regression into anti-learning where the only thing that improved was speed. On certain Black Flag tracks ("Bastard in Love," "Slip it In," "The Bars") there was an acknowledgement of rock and roll diction as well as an interpretation of it but on others ("Can't Decide," "The Process of Weeding Out") there was an outright rejection of it, a hatred for form or structure or phrasing that manifested itself in the guise of totally whacked out meandering solos more reminiscent of free jazz or psychedelia. Whether Ginn was aware of this at the time or was simply going all out is a matter of debate; not in question is the awesome display of passionate talent in his guitar playing. He's been considerably underrated as a soloist.
"Getting Even" did not seek to establish Ginn as a new sort of guitar hero. While there was certainly a shitload of amazing axe-slinging across its short runtime it was more of an encapsulation of his contributions to the hardcore idealism. It serves more as a "fuck you" to the idea of Black Flag as an institution as well as the idea that Black Flag was the work of a group as opposed to an individual. All the philosophies of Black Flag exist within the walls of "Getting Even." It's not difficult to imagine any of these tracks as BF songs that could have been. Ginn's vocals, however, while not ineffective, lack the charisma or force of someone like Keith Morris or Henry Rollins. Morris in particular could have screamed the shit out of these songs, most being anti-authority rants or superficial explorations of the idea of self-worth. There's an incredible pessimism to "Getting Even" that comes across beautifully, an unbridled rage and seething anger that brims to surface as the album grinds on.
Ginn would never be more focused than this. Later solo efforts began to hone in on instrumental prowess (or the idea of it) or overwhelming volume as opposed to concise song-driven statements. The guitar playing here is exemplary and the bastardization of simple rock and roll was never more ripping and awesome than on ferocious tracks like "Kill Burn Fluff," "You Drive Me Crazy," and "Torn." Similarly Ginn ripped through the notion of hardcore on anti-authority devastators "Pig MF" and "Yes Officer." And his sense of humour was shown to be firmly intact on album opener "I've Changed," which may as well have read as a instigation effort towards the Black Flag faithful who would see Ginn crucified before buy one of his solo records.
Greg Ginn is one my favorite guitarists and someone i've taken an immense amount of inspiration from throughout my own career as a guitarist. To call "Getting Even" anything less than a masterpiece would be selling it short. This is punk rock ferocity and DIY idealism fused together in a caduceus of integrity. This is the template; this is a vision. Whatever Ginn chose to explore afterwards this record is still there. Don't ignore it.


What the fuck is this? I like Dodsferd a lot but this is an astonishing throw away from such an excellent project. Dodsferd tracks normally run between 7-15 minutes but here they turn in two "unreleased" studio tracks about three minutes each and one live track hitting about five minutes. The live track i'll find no fault with as Dodsferd's relentless approach would pretty much wreak hell on any human drummer expected to keep it up for 10 minutes, but the studio tracks are just an embarrassment. Should have just kept those in the vault, seriously, as they do nothing to further the Dodsferd recorded legacy and in honest regard come across as nothing more than mere black metal sketches extremely derivative of early Darkthrone. There's no identity to Dodsferd's approach here, no mark of individuality, just a general feeling that as long as there's some Dodsferd in the can it might as well see release. I'm saddened to see such a misstep from an artist whose work has only grown on me with each successive release-normally Dodsferd are an awesome band, probably one of Greece's absolute best black metal entities, but here the material is just beyond sub-par.
Mortovatis's track, on the other hand, is fucking mind-blowing, and seems to be the reason for this split's existence. Maybe Moribund just wanted to release something by these guys; i certainly can't blame them but why not just make it an EP? Mortovatis are an entirely new band with nothing released prior that i am aware of; their track here is a 25 minute piece of crushing psychedelic black metal that completely fucking DETROYS. Ridiculously repetitive and riddled with an endless whine of scorching feedback, this song just drags on and on and on until you're beyond reduced and ready to submit to any sort of new riff no matter how good or bad it might be. Flattening in the best possible way, an astounding approach redolent of masters like Burzum and Trist but also possessed by the spirit of drugged out ancient head-nodders like Neu! and Skullflower. An impressive amalgamation of black metal urgency and noisy psyched-out devastating bliss, definitely a band to stay abreast of.
If Moribund meant to fuck with people's heads, then they've certainly succeeded. If they thought for one iota that these Dodsferd tracks were a worthy side of a split then they were sorely mistaken. I love the idea of splits where the bands are at odds with one another, and had these been exemplary Dodsferd tracks i would rate this record a lot higher. As is, it's still awesome based on Mortovatis's contribution alone-i'd say get this fucker if you want to get zoned into the fucking ground-but it falls a little short of the quality i would expect from such an excellent known band and established label.

MONARCH! "MER MORTE" (Crucial Blast)

It feels like i've been waiting for this one forever. About a year and a half ago this came out as a ridiculously expensive vinyl release on Spain's Throne Records, and i passed on it as it was way out of my budget at the time ( i had just thrown down for their super swank vinyl edition of Grief's masterful "Come To Grief" and was tapped out financially.) Luckily, Crucial Blast announced about the same time that they'd be handling the CD version so no worries- i'd have it soon enough. Fast forward to 2010 and it's finally here (what took so long?) and is pretty much exactly what i expected, with a slight laconic twist.
Monarch! are a french doom metal band fronted by an extremely petite female vocalist named Emilie, who also owns her own clothing line that creates uber-cute small, tight shirts for little rocker girls. They're kind of like the "Hello Kitty" of doom metal, if you can conceive it, but they're also one of the most agonized, pulverizing doom units working in the genre. Monarch! are fucking SLOW, so slow that their songs are little more than accentuated power chords bludgeoned out between listless, hanging boughs of feedback. Emilie's vocals alternate (sometimes seemingly without focus) between girlish petting whispers and throat-shredding banshee wails, both methods being equally effective at scaring the shit out of you.
"Mer Morte" is one 35 minute track, a total wreck of a song that goes nowhere at a glacial pace and only begins to move at about 20 minutes in. It's business as usual for Monarch! but this track stands a bit apart from their catalogue in that it's way more subdued and features more of the aforementioned "whisper" vocals, creating a weird disassociated feel, like you're listening to some sort of beyond-death transmission, like someone from the other side is trying to get in and your consciousness is the door. The wall of electricity is the conduit, the small, frantic hushed vocals the message. What Emilie is trying to say is beyond me as the lyrics are in french but its totally absorbing from the first second. Few doom bands can do this glacial style well and still remain interesting and gripping (Khanate are really the only other i can think of who go this slow) and it's to Monarch's credit that they're able to so utterly transfix me with what's normally an incredibly abrasive, oppressive subgenre. "Mer Morte" ends with about two minutes of Emilie's isolated crooning, a near empty, almost sad kind of personal choir. You want to think it's "pretty" but you know it isn't. There's something wrong through all of it; if only you knew what. Totally unnerving uneasy listening. Recommended.