Monday, March 28, 2011


Out of print before it got on the shelves, which is really truly sad, because this is easily Alvarius B's finest work and deserving of being heard by a larger audience. Everything confrontational about Alan Bishop's previous work under the Alvarius B moniker is thrown away, leaving a record of intense, straining, introspective beauty and suffocating melancholy. Across all of the SCG material i own (tons) as well as all of Bishop's solo work i've never heard something this tender and confessional pouring out. While many people want to say that SCG's last album proper, "Funeral Mariachi," was the one most haunted by Charles Gocher's passing i'd say it's this one instead, laying out a feeling of working through tragedy that not even Rick and Alan's "Brothers Unconnected" tour could rival. The emotion seeps out of this album like blood pumping through a grated heart, raw and wounded and horribly, inescapably real.
The difference is apparent immediately. Opener "The Dinner Party" is a lovely slice of French style pop by way of the world psychedelia the Bishops are so famous for, resulting in a soft, dreamy soothe of a song, with Alan's vocals stroking you like a kitten until you're all purrs and contentment. "Humor Police" comes closest to the Alvarius B of old, with Alan's sneering vocal coming from a weird place of fervent, fevered anxiety. "Well Known Stranger" and "3 Dead Girls" are two of the most gorgeous songs i've heard coming from Bishop, straight shots of moon-stained disaffect and contemplation, with "3 Dead Girls" coming very close to approximating the sort of "radio-friendly in Dubai" pop sound that SCG achieved at their very best. The rest of the record is given over to bridging instrumental/wordless vocal pieces, almost all of which are airy and floating, little drifts of warm, inviting sounds meant for comfort and grounding. Again, the welcoming feeling here is almost entirely foreign to an Alvarius B release, and while it's certainly different, it's not at all disconcerting nor alien-instead it sounds like this is what Alan's been building up to for a long, long time. "Face to Face with a Couple of Axes" and "Like that Madri Gal" are both complex, well-crafted compositions of considerable melodic heft, simple-seeming but possessed of a presence that pulls you deeply in to the sounds spilling out towards your ears.
There are two covers here-the James Bond theme "You Only Live Twice," transformed into something totally lacking in menace or swagger but charged with regret and longing, and the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" done near exact, just less dense and more direct. The lyrics take on an especial poignancy when viewed as a response to Gocher's passing, as though Bishop were too shaken to confront it head-on, choosing to use Brian Wilson's words and melodic straining to express the sorrow he felt. The end is a swarm of tape delay and lyric hacking, closing the album on a note of sour humor so intrinsic to Alvarius B, but the overall feeling is one of remembrance and nostalgia, a requiem for a friend and a self-reminder not to dwell on life's inexplicable (and unavoidable) sadnesses.
This is as naked a statement as we're likely to get from Alan Bishop. He's given so much here that it almost seems a complete reinvention of his alter ego-from jaded, hyper-intellectual prankster to sensitive and thoughtful troubadour reacting to tragedy. Eyvind Kang's myriad contributions to "Baroque Primativa" add to its sentimental power and compositional complexity, allowing Alan the tools needed to craft such an astonishing sonic palette. To call this record "major" is tremendous understatement-it's easily one of the best of 2011, obviously Alan's finest solo work, and a true piece of haunted melancholy and personal exorcism. Really, really great. You need to hear this. Highest possible recommendation.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Jazkamer turns in another raucous blast of total devastation, complete free noise/spastic jazz mutation rock primalism as seen through a shattered rock prism. All the colors of the noise rainbow are on full display-grey, white, black, black and fucking black. This is a fallout, everything completely breaking down into one big gross pile of kit-shattering drum aggression and guitar/tape demolition. Similar in range and intent to the record i reviewed last month, "We Want Epic Drama", "The Monroe Doctrine" starts off in the red and wired for explosion and just goes from there. It's a wash of hell, a blood-spattered cloud of sonic violence splashed across the street. Hegre's guitar whines and spits and screams while Marhaug's tape and synth antics reduce everything even resembling a sound molecule into flatulent, wasted tones of disease and extremism. This shit is flying completely off the rails at a million miles per hour, like hailstones of razor and shrapnel. Again the major touchstone here is Merzbow's "Bird" series, especially since this record too has some serious free-jazz by way of metal drumming going on the whole way through. Your skull may as well be getting smashed repeatedly against a wall. But whereas Merzbow is prone to extended blasts of near never-ending audio horror, Jazkamer reign it in and give us a relatively digestible thirty minutes on "The Monroe Doctrine," allowing for the sensitive listener's ear to bear only so much incredible rage at once. To me this sort of music isn't too far removed from the more outer fringes of free improv, with John Zorn's various projects most quickly coming to mind but also comparable to Sonny Sharrock or the Brotzmanns (both Peter and Caspar.) There's an attitude of "fuck everything" here that i particularly like-it isn't as wholly nihilistic as black metal but there's a definite sense of rebellion present in all the squall, another notion of challenge buried somewhere deep in all the noise. This is one of the best of Jazkamer's 2010 series and well worth your seeking it out. Total free noise rock-referencing annihilation, dangerous ideas for dnagerous musical minds. It's a fucking shredfest-get this one now.


"Music not welcome." Love it. Especially when it's as massive and immersive as this slab of pure electric drone fielding from the mighty Jazkamer. Near one hour of three vicious chunks of feedback terror, shot through with so much tension it feels like the record's going to snap in half of its own accord. Shit is fucking hot, simmering, bubbling, fierce to the ear and scorching to the touch. Listen to this through a pair of headphones and make your brain boil. Let it melt and let yourself recede into that gulf where you can sometimes get to if the guide is steeped in enough arcane sound lore. This is a buzzing, densely packed jungle and you're dropped right in the darkest heart.
For me the beauty of a record like this is that showcases the true, raw power of the electric guitar. I love drone of all sorts but there's something that draws me and allures me to the guitar, maybe just because i play it myself and have a little empathy for anyone else working in the same paradigms, but more so i think because there's something way more organic about it than anything synth or computer generated. I guess i'm just old world that way, but i can't let go of the idea that the feedback puked up from hot, screaming guitar pickups is somehow more natural and beautiful than anything run through a computer or processed a million times backwards and forwards. There's an immediacy on this record that belies its creation; this is totally of the moment, improv fury of the most avant sort, the idea that Neil Young had in his head when he set out to create "Arc" so long ago. Albums like this are Neil's promise fulfilled, the arrogance of volume tempered by the dream of structure and shape. Listening to this is like standing in a wind tunnel in the middle of the Sahara-it's hot and evil and forcing its way down on you and there is no resistance. Marhaug and Hegre are in primal ooze rock territory here, the absolute beginning of everything, where it was all a shapeless quivering mass of potential, before the notion of "song" became something other than sound. Regressing into the past like this is nothing new-there are tons of bands that let things degenerate for the sake of brainfucking (the Melvins being the best example)-but there's something deathly serious about the three pieces making up "Musica Non Grata." It reads more like a challenge to convention and a confronting of ideas than a simple tromp through the drone-o-sphere. This record demands your consideration as well as your attention, and it will transport you to a different headspace than the one where you started. I don't know where everyone individually will come out, but for me the other side looks a hell of a lot cooler.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

CIRCLE "RAKENNUS" (Ektro Records)

Totally rock infested live document from the always challenging Circle, this time channeling their true NWOBHM roots into something reeking of tradition yet stinking of prog. This is easily one of my favorite Circle outings, seeing the group in hyper lightspeed maniacal rock format, taking the best elements of "Hollywood" and leaving behind the narrative threadlines weaving said album together. This is Circle going straight for the jugular, every riff paired down for maximum rocking efficiency.
Always a band of hypnotic economy, "Rakennus" is a definitive effort in terms of fusing everything cool and awesome about Circle while still remaining true to their earliest repetition-favoring establishing recordings. The songs are as metal as Circle has ever been, with the vocals absolutely straining for the stars in their focused sweaty intensity while the guitars shred away with no respect for anything other than pure rock n'roll fury. This is wasted, drunken metal like you used to listen to in your darkened basement room. The spectre of Judas Priest haunts the proceedings, making way only for freaked out blasts of John Carpenter style synthesizer sequence magic and the bruising surges of drums (seriously-the drumming here is insane; there's even a solo!)
As of late Circle seem to have been in a very mellow space, turning in some seriously trippy, incredibly chill recordings seemingly indebted to foresty mysticism and icy frigid free jazz tempered with new age meandering. Even at their best in this vein (the superlative double live album "Telescope") you couldn't help but wish that the band would just kick it the fuck in and start slaying motherfuckers onstage. Here they do, and it's absolutely glorious. The crowd on this one must have been totally leveled and thoroughly exhausted by the end of this show, because it's just a monster. This is the sort of shit you could slam dance to until the world dissipates into a threadless ensconce of blinding, hot light, a total assimilation with astral physicality and pure presence. This is why Circle are one of few bands that i have any interest in seeing perform live-the relentless creativity and that confounding element of the always unknowable-never having any idea what to expect or anticipate, only knowing that's it's gonna be blindingly cool in some way or another. Circle seems like endlessly flashing lights to me, a state of being unable to see or know, dropped into a space where you're just forced to react to what's there and take it all in to whatever you're doing. It's joyous, insane music born completely of the know and the real. "Rakennus" is one of the most forceful and visceral demonstrations of Circle's head-nodding mastery that i've heard. If you have any interest in venturing elsewhere with only music as the guide, this album is fucking essential. Highest possible recommendation.

Monday, March 14, 2011

MAMALEEK "KURDAITCHA" (Enemies List Home Recordings)

Visceral and isolated bedroom black metal courtesy the excellent label Enemies List, purveyor of bizarre and alienated artistry related to outward disgust and loner mentality. Mamaleek honors that ideology with purpose, releasing an album of intensely personal black metal vision while still retaining enough of the crucial elements to evoke the harshest vestiges of the genre. Guitars are destructive and completely blown out, ripping shards of painful serration through the blanket of complacent existence while tortured vocals scream and shred from the depths. Reminiscent of the finest of suicidal black metal, these screams come from forgotten places of swarming emotion, the cry for help from anywhere beyond hearing. Oceans of torment and inward-focused loneliness and isolation erupt, but this isn't suicidal or depressive in the slightest. This is just fucking raw.
The biggest weirdo element here is the drum programming, bringing to mind the stumbling dub-patter of trip hop rather than the endless onslaught of double bass heavy black metal assault, creating an atmosphere of minimalism and space as opposed to the brutal claustrophobia the majority of black metal demands. Keyboards waft in and out, tinkering pianos drop themselves into the mix like icicles and everything screams of dry despondency, as if to accuse everyone of forgetting. There are those who exist in the hollows, those who ride the fringe, those who believe only in their own hollow sense of self and the sadness inherent in every new breath drawn. Modernity is a source of destruction and torment, a force that drives the meek underground and away, ever further removed from the obviousness of expectation. Mamaleek is the cry from beyond, the knife in darkness, the stinking rush of adrenalin in the blackened alley of the everyday. This is stumbling, eviscerated black metal, shewn from the bone of genre and cut into something entirely personal. The grayed out aesthetics and purgatorical reflection both speak to the malaise permeating the heart of modern life, the sorrowful banality dominating the core of modern being. There isn't much room in the corners, and the disgust piles up like so much sawdust and flaking skin. Dreams of desert prophecy linger and fall to the earth while stale winds caress the dirt. Swirling airs of regret and regression sting the eyes and force hands up against something unknown but familiar, and evocation of territories once inhabited but always lurking in the shredded memory of before.
Pain and dust walk hand in hand throughout "Kurdaitcha." Mamaleek take the template of black metal and draft something vaguely new from elements both foreign and remembered. It's a highly personal statement crafted from the dark harbours of withdrawal, a mirror dripping with oil and tears. The future doesn;t exist, the past is dead and the now is simply an endless ticking of the clock. There is nothing left here, only dread, and anxiety, and the stench of regret. Hands grasp for both contact and hope and come up empty, the slimy tendrils of reality slipping through grips both desperate and hungry. What's left? What matters? How much hatred can you pour into 40 minutes?

BORIS "NEW ALBUM" (Avex Group/Daymare)

Holy shit. The moment the first song jumps in you know something's different. This is Boris as they have never, ever sounded before, and considering this group's constant reinvention that's making a fairly incredible statement. "New Album" is supposedly a Japan-only release, and as such the band has crafted a record that pays obvious homage to its home country's interpretation of Western-style pop music, a hypersunshiney over-jittered deliriously cheerful transmogrification of the form. If you've heard any true J-Pop or anime soundtracks then you'll have a better idea of what you're for, but otherwise this is totally off the wall, crazy and completely unexpected.
The album is amazing. The songs are beautiful little nuggets of peppy dreamy shimmery pop n'roll, danceable bits of trippy fluff that sound similar to the nonsense churned out by 9DW, whom Boris recently shared a split with. Their contribution to that album, however, left little hint that this was where the band was headed, nor did anything they've put out in the last year or so. There's really nothing heavy here, nothing like "heavy" has meant to Boris in the past, but there is a focus on tremendously uptempo "rock" format, an exploration of the form that Boris have toyed with in the past but never completely embraced. Here it's full on candied brain assault. Pure pop sugar, dripping with sentiment and syrupy sweet string arrangements and heavenly cooing courtesy both Wata and Takeshi, showing a remarkable improvement yet again as far as vocal prowess is concerned. It's easy to imagine this record being a huge hit in Japan, and it's not so much of a stretch to see it taking root over here either, were the airwaves a little more open to outside influence or embracing of other cultures. Like so many other pop acts, Boris are masters at regurgitating what they're hearing and coming up with something that takes root with people, but whereas someone like our own Katy Perry merely serves up shit you've heard again and again, Boris are working much more cleverly, transforming pop form into something friendly from a mass-appeal perspective but retaining enough of their vision to appeal to the core base of people that loved "Absolutego."
This album will more than likely put some of those people off, though. It's different, and you really have to listen to it to understand just how bizarre this is. It's still Boris-the minor key inflections and sporadic bursts of massive guitars are there-but it's also something very far removed from what someone's interpretation and idea of Boris may have been. The reinvention here is near total and it's difficult for me to really express how impressive and stately this album is. I'm absolutely blown away by this shit-across the 50 or so Boris documents i own there is NOTHING remotely like this record at all, no precedent for what's laid out here. I cannot wait to hear them tour this material because i can;t imagine how it's possibly going to sound live-will they just tear through it raw and frenzied or will they actually refine their live sound too to in order to put forth the idea of pop authenticity? Either way, i can't wait. An astonishing, flooring piece of work from Boris, an absolute must hear. I can't recommend this more highly-it'll astound you how out there this is, but it's so fucking good and cool and creative and referential that it could only have come from Boris. FUCKING AMAZING.


Lovely, rumbling slab of drone invoking the chill of the artic, the nighttime swirling of black frigid waves and the jutting towers of ice and rock stretching to sky. Foreboding and ominous to the core, this tape is center of the earth type reflection, the sounds pointing towards, and culminating in, a massive expanse of blackened drift that deafens all with its majestic quiet. Total brain temple massage with this one, a testament to the immersive aspects of drone music and the meditative nature of taking things out to their limit. It's pretty much guitar tone stretched into the forever, a ride out in the nothing until everything disappears at the terminus. In Sounding the Deep's universe, the world has a spacial limitation, and "Glacier" will guide you to it.
Four epic tracks bear us out, a sea of terse calm, a feeling of floating into ether. Sort of like what i imagine the isolation chamber in "Altered States" to be like-everything dark and a total primal reversion to a mindset where senses are heightened and everything modern and "outside" is gone. It's pure focus, an inward journey, a tunnel of the psyche spiraling ever, ever down. Guitars ring crystalline and fragile, signalling a chill to come and the desperate, delicate nature of where we're headed. Sounds come and go, ringing and echoing and glowing black with inner light, dulled by the motion and the depth. Nothing shines this far down; no light can reach the surface, if a surface even exists anymore. This world may as well be ether, or astral-either way travel through it becomes a matter of consciousness rather than physicality, as though something far beyond the corporeal is pulling you along. There's a distinctly Lovecraftian element at work here, a sort of soundtrack to "At the Mountains of Madness" or the sounds of the universe endlessly turning in on itself at the very farthest reaches of its expanse, where matter and concept entwine with one another to create something infinite and utterly incomprehensible. This is some dark, scary shit, but not scary in the Nordvargr of Lustmord sort of way. All the menace Sounding the Deep conjure up comes from within, the weight of the natural world brought to bear upon the incredible smallness of one person. This is music that totally engulfs and dwarfs you, and there is no escape. The expanse is everywhere, the idea is inescapable. There is so much more, so much beyond. "Glacier" offers a glimpse for those composed enough to view it.

Friday, March 11, 2011


The great "lost" Buzzoven album slated for Hydrahead finally sees its day, to a musical landscape vastly changed and more than likely unwilling to make room for such an overlooked obscurity from sludge's halcyon days. Buzzoven is another band whose catalogue is in the throes of a rerelease campaign and it seems sadly opportunistic (but financially sensical) for Hydrahead to finally be releasing this NOW, but here it is, offered up for appraisal and assessment. It's not better than anything else in the Buzzoven discography, nor is it particularly mind-blowing of its own accord, but it is an excellent slab of wholly angry and incredibly disgusted southern sludge in the vein of Eyehategod or Rwake. But whereas Eyehategod had obvious periods of highs and lows and Rwake have cloaked themselves in artistic ambiguities disguised as metalisms, Buzzoven attack full frontal every fucking time. This isn't subtle music in any regard; it's a constant state of decimation and personal hatred directed outwards, where every song works to bludgeon repeatedly and every lyric can be reduced to a simple "fuck you." It's accusatory and demanding on its audience, allowing no wiggle room or philosophical hedging. There is only opinion, there is only one voice, and you'd better fucking listen. Drug abuse and its fallout figure prominently in the album's concept, with virtually every track paying homage or singing songs of some sort of narcotic elysium, painting a world where everything is violently colored and ready to rip through the seems of normalcy at any time. Buzzoven exist more or less only to hate you and get fucked up, and every track here demonstrates that intent to its fullest.
The band totally thrashes through 30 minutes in what seems 10, a sort of conceptualization of grindcore that actually plods and meanders for the good majority of its runtime but does so so convincingly that by the end of it all you're wondering what the fuck you actually heard in the way of songs. It really doesn't matter because everything Buzzoven ever did may as well be thought of as one long, drugged out, dropped out piece of sonic trash, a shitfire of rage and bilious retribution directed at everyone within striking distance. "Revelation: Sick Again" knows no true limit and acts accordingly, throwing its weight around oblivious to whomever is in proximity, easily identifying itself as the only item worthy of rapt attention in a world clogged with shit. The aim is drag you through it, the weapons are feedback, screams and drugs and the overall feeling is all dirt and grime and sweaty revulsion. Ten years ago this album might have made a far more lasting impact but now it comes across as nothing more than an apt demonstration of southern rage, a call to arms for fans of latter day Pantera and all things sludge. This album encourages a recognition of self and inner knowing that escapes a lot of modern metal, but it retains an epic distance from anything close to human, choosing to wallow in a primordial bloodbath of unbridled aggression and pointless limit-testing for the purposes of reaching some sort of endurance. Anger for the sake of anger, noise for the sake of noise. Yes, it's fucking heavy, and yes, it's fucking angry, but it really isn't anything else. I don't think that Buzzoven ever wanted to be; as musical nihilism it succeeds tremendously. As anything important, it falls flat.


Eerily appropriate time to revisit this 1997 mainstay, as Kyuss have reformed without Josh Homme (what's the fucking point?) and Queens are busy rereleasing pretty much everything in their back catalogue since they're so "influential." This was a very cool split on the mighty Man's Ruin Records, whose releases i collected religiously (many of which i no longer have because of financial constraints at various times in my life after 1997) and whose releases i held in equally religious esteem. The coolest thing about this, as i remember, was that it was the last Kyuss material recorded before they broke up and the newest material available from Josh Homme's new-at-the-time project QOTSA. Back in 1997 the Kyuss material was flooring to me but reevaluating it now leads to me to describe it as lacking at best. I like that they covered "Into the Void" but their midsection is so fucking lame and Jack Johnson level mellow that it pretty much ruins the power of the original. If there's anyone who should have covered Sabbath it's Kyuss but to bastardize "Into the Void" to the point where it becomes "groovy" is just error on every conceivable level. The remaning two tracks fare a little better, a two part suite titled "Fatso Forgotso" boasting some traditional Kyuss style desert ambiance and distance alongside the roaring overload of Homme and Reeder's massively bass-heavy attack. On these tracks the wasteoid jamming works, conveying the feeling of drift and astral float that Kyuss got to at their best, turned into ultra-primal sandblasted aggression by piece's end. As usual John Garcia was in top form here, cementing his reputation as metal's most underrated and under-featured vocalist, seeming all the more shameful that his present day career has been reduced to singing for Kyuss wannabe acts and organizing glory day revivals minus the sound's true originator.
And this is where that sound first sprung to life. QOTSA here are little more than Kyuss light, three songs of experiment that were probably destined for inclusion on a Kyuss album at some point, but everyone has to start somewhere. Homme started remarkably close to home (ha ha!) with these three career sunrisers, previewing his band as asome sort of heavy but slightly off-kilter behemoth capable of all the rage Kyuss ever was but possessed of something slightly more reflective and coy, an answer to his former band's complete and total belligerence in the face of metal convention. There was absolutely nothing dangerous about QOTSA here, nothing even remotely menacing, and i believe Homme recognized this bland existence and began to temper accordingly, turning in future paeans to drugs and empty headed "deep desert thought" that would culminate in the monster recording "Songs for the Deaf" a few years later. Here, QOTSA flounder alongside their birthing unit, sounding totally outmatched and dwarfed by the raw (but cheesy) power Kyuss was shoveling out. Don't get me wrong- i still love Kyuss, and "Songs for the Deaf" is a still a near sacrosanct piece of headbanging drug-revering audial waste-it's simply the years have revealed how young i really was when i was buying into this shit and how much i've come to demand from artists. As documentary and nostalgia this is near priceless, almost as close to my heart as "In Utero", but as a record of its own merit it falls a little flat. Both bands have done much, much better.


A huge, spiraling, queasy load of drone from O'Malley and Atsuo (the drummer from Boris, if the name isn't familiar) employing no instruments. I have little idea what that really means-whether it was unplugged guitars, contact mics, amp feedback sans instrumentation or something else entirely is beyond me. However it was created, though, it's fucking awesome, and listening to this beast will more than likely stir up some nausea and relative inner ear imbalance. This is string upon string of whining, straining feedback, each rope played against another in dizzying overlaps to create a mesh of hypnotic, stomach-turning webbery that obfuscates and disorients as much as it lulls. Sounding something like the creaking of stairs or merry-go-rounds amplified about 100 times and looped over each other. As far as drone goes, this is pretty epic shit, and more or less what i'm looking for in the way of listening challenges. It's everything i've heard before but totally new at the same time, and i truly appreciate the weirdness that the duo have put forth. It's pure isolation music, sure to leave the listener feeling more alienated than when they started, drawing circles around your perceived individuality and rendering your inner self void. This is the sound of emptiness dying and wheezing away, stumbling towards death washed away in a haze of shrouded forgetting.
Sometimes O'Malley leaves me a little perturbed and bothered. I have long since tired of Sunn 0))) ("The Grimmrobe Demos" is pretty much all i'll ever listen to by them anymore) and i find his solo material to be curiously hollow, perhaps drowned under the windblown weight of critical bolstering and self-perceived importance, but his duo engagements more often than not have much to offer. Maybe having someone else to toss ideas around with and work brainstorms into shapes is something O'Malley thrives on; however it works, this is the best thing i've heard from him since KTL' s "II" album. Atsuo too displays the relentless creativity that identifies him as being from the Boris camp-this album lacks any sort of percussion or even the idea of percussion, so it's nice to see that he can completely cut away from his role in Boris and here delve into something much more carved out and stinging. Like the wind cutting into your eyes icily or the endless exponential growth of painful volume, "Uroborus Circuit" is a masterful exploration of leering tone and audial distress, illustrating "music as physical presence" better than anything by either contributor's main projects. Absolutely recommended.