Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Rowland S. Howard 1959-2009

Legendary Boys Next Door & Birthday Party guitarist Rowland S. Howard, also widely-known for his work with These Immortal Souls, Crime & The City Solution, Lydia Lunch, and solo, has passed away today at the age of 50 from liver cancer.

Howard's unusual swampy-blues-noise guitar work defined the Birthday Party as much as Nick Cave's histrionic wails did, and his loose, cutthroat style and trademark junkie-chic swagger was influential on a burgeoning generation of post-punk bands, yesterday and today.

He had recently released a well-received solo album, "Pop Crimes", on Australia's Liberation label, which featured the participation of former Birthday Party bandmate Mick Harvey.

Rowland was a one-of-a-kind guitarist who made a tremendous contribution to the world of original rock music, and his presence will be missed but never forgotten.

Rowland's space

Nitzer Ebb - "Industrial Complex" CD

In the roughly 15 years since the last new Ebb material, Nitzer Ebb's instrumentalist Bon Harris has spent time programming for bands like Smashing Pumpkins and Marilyn Manson, while vocalist Douglas McCarthy has worked with Ebb-inspired dance producer Terrence Fixmer, as well as Alan Wilder's electro-blues project, Recoil. But these influential English electro-dance-punks reunite with the impressively strong "Industrial Complex", and they do a right good job reclaiming the harsh sequencer-driven sound of their earliest work (a la "That Total Age"), especially on the energetic opener, "Promises" (which made it's debut on the "NCIS" soundtrack). The sloganeering and authoritarian ranting of their old days is gone, though, replaced by more developed songwriting and production. There are also softer electro ballads like "Going Away", which reminds of (old friends, tourmates, and collaborators) Depeche Mode. No coincidence that Depeche's Martin Gore himself guests on "Once You Say", which bears a similarity to Mode's "I Feel You" a wee bit. But that's not to say this is a mope-fest by any means. Cuts like "Hit You Back" are more rock-oriented, echoing their later work on albums like "Ebbhead". And the thunderous "Payroll", originally heard on the "Saw IV" soundtrack, is a welcomed injection of aggressive electronics and McCarthy's half-rap-shouted vocals. "I Don't Know You" is a retro-edged bit of synth-driven hypnoticism that shows Ebb's DAF-meets-Die Krupps roots more than amicably. "My Door Is Open" continues this trend, and is easily among the duo's more intense offerings since 1991's "Godhead". "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" is another stomper that could be wicked on a dancefloor, but probably rocks too hard for most club-goers. It all ends on a lighter note with "Traveling", which is a more song-based piece that's as close to a pop song as this lot goes. Surprisingly good, sturdy, and potent work from a group that has successfully resurrected itself from the ashes. (Alfa Matrix)

Nitzer Ebb web

Monday, December 28, 2009

Mark Nugent 1961-2009

The world lost a groundbreaking and inspiring filmmaker and visual artist the month. Mark Nugent, who was known for his short films that accompanied his friends in musical groups like Download, Dead Voices On Air, Coil, and Beehatch, as well as for his still images (some done in recent times in collaboration with our mutual friend Aaron Campbell), passed away unexpectedly this month. Here is a series of links to bring Mark's strange and often otherworldly visuals to you. Image facing: "Granular Rust", by Mark Nugent and Aaron Campbell, from their "Liquid Atmospheres" page (link below).

Mark Nugent tribute page (with many links to videos, music, etc.)

Liquid Atmospheres site (Nugent/Campbell collaborative images)

Mark Nugent's main site


Walken - "Walken" CD

Yes, as in Christopher Walken, these not-necessarily-serious Bay Area madmen readily admit. But that doesn't mean they aren't serious about making a supremely heavy and sometimes schizophrenic metal racket on this, their self-released debut album. This monster comes out of the box screaming and punching, with a hybrid metal/thrash/hardcore attack that, by the third track ("Running Out Of Time") manages to rattles the house's foundation nicely. The bass is immensely thick, metallic, and grinding, while the drums are all over the place, pummeling at every chance. The dual guitarists exhibit elements of classic metal as well as other metallic subgenres that often differ from track to track. They clearly know their stuff, and it shows. "Thunder Paws" is earth-plowing Sabbath-meets-thrash with a little bit of bluesy vibe seeping in. Effective and monolithic. "Bitter Red" is a weird amalgamation of punk with weird almost jazz affectations. "The Bridge" approaches a solemn doom metal motif, and does so most convincingly. Pretty rad stuff, with a nicely odd and schizophrenic genre-mashing that's refreshing and always surprising. These guys kick massively, and have something to offer for fans of any heavy and metallic style. (Walken)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Beer-mas 2009!

Ah, we are at the end of the year, and that can only mean one thing - it's Beer-mas! Here are some selections of some brews I've sampled, and hereby report to you my findings. Remember that the "score", being from 1 to 5, gives higher marks to beers I find to be complex and deliciously unique. A "1"-rated beer would be sewage swill, a "3" would be a drinkable, if unremarkable beer, and a "5" would be a godly nectar worthy of praise and worship. And a-here we go!

This brown ale gives the appearance of being almost a stout, with it's
rich and deep, almost black appearance. The initial taste heralds a
malty chocolate note, with a pleasant sweetness that's not overbearing nor artifical-tasting. Tasty and enjoyable stuff.

This dark, opaque amber ale hits the palate with a zingy citrus punch
at first, followed by a hoppy bitterness and burnt nuttiness. Quite a
unique and flavorful taste experience, this winter warmer is 7% but
the alcohol presence is fairly obscured by what I call a profound
"flavor roll", whereas different taste elements evolve on the tongue.
An invigorating and impressive beer.

MENDOCINO - IMPERIAL IPA (Saratoga Springs, NY) 3.5
An intensely floral hoppiness emanates from the bottle at once,
certainly a good opening scent. This one's a nicely amber-red in
appearance. It's "only" 7.5% ABV, but this hop-monster packs a bitter
wallop -- certainly not for beginners. Actually this is a pretty
traditional IPA, and not too fanciful or unique. Solid, but not

AMSTEL LIGHT (Amsterdam, Holland) 2.5
Pouring a clear pale gold (with little lacing), this unassuming and
simple lager is crisp, light, and malty. It's well-balanced and not in
the least bit challenging. A perfect example of a light lager, this
one's more on the watery side. Likeable for what it is, though not one
I'd seek out or stock at the house.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Pocket - "5 Single EPs"

As part of a continuing series of EPs available digitally, this is only a smattering of what's in store this and next year from Pocket (aka producer/remixer Richard Jankovich, who's remixed Radiohead, Beck, Antony & The Johnsons, and Cat Power, among many others). This original work by Pocket sees a stellar set of vocalists providing words/voices for Jankovich's electro-synthpop stylings.

"Surround Him With Love" features the inimitable Robyn Hitchcock, and proves to be a catchy and slightly off-kilter pop song with an undeniable dance beat pulsing underneath the layers of guitars and vocals. "Sampo", featuring Yuki Chikudate of Asobi Seksu, is another sweet, lightweight pop gem with Yuki's ethereal vocals. Steve Kilbey of the Church fronts the glorious "Hear In Noiseville", which brings a mystical, introspectiveness as only he can. Former Dag Nasty pop-punker Dave Smalley brings a slightly heavier vibe to "Beautiful Grey", while Craig Wedren (of Shudder To Think) shows his world-class pipes on the bright and sunny "Someone To Run Away From".

Most of the added remixes don't fare as well, though the Justus Kohncke Remix of "Hear In Noiseville" adds a gauzy, drifty synthpop vibe, appropriately. And Spoolwork's remix of "Someone.." maintains the original song structure and succeeds, as well. The others? Perhaps these would go down better in a retro club atmosphere, but here they just add filler to what would be a really solid EP. Get the main songs, not the remixes, and you'll be quite pleased with these sparkly electro-pop confections. (24 Hour Service Station)

24 Hour Servicespace

Pocket website


Friday, December 18, 2009

Temple Of Baal - "Lightslaying Rituals" CD

This French act considers themselves "black metal", but their third album shows echoes of speed, death, and thrash metal (and some other fringe elements) in their considerable arsenal. Indeed, "Triumph Of Heretic Fire" is a solid collision of these sounds, and, for once, the vocals are (sometimes) intelligible! It's lightning-fast, with superior drumming, crisp dual guitars with both high and low end, and a deep production by Andrew Guillotin. I like the band's diversity and adeptness at different tempos and styles. "Black Sun Of The Damned" slows things down to a crunchy classic grind sound in spots, while "Angstgeist" is a cruise missile of death metal. And this is just the first 4 tracks! Further on, the disc kicks out all kinds of blasting metal bruisers, culminating in the progressive "Blessings Of Blackfire", that brings a classic and doomy melodic angle to nuzzle itself near the blastbeats. A fine release, with something to please nearly any metal-oriented listener. (Agonia Records)

Temple Of Baalspace

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Treponem Pal

Taking their name from the scientific term for the syphilis virus, French industrial metal act Treponem Pal have been active for some years, and have seen a career littered with highs and lows. Often seen as a kid brother of sorts to their mentors/friends in Swiss avante-rock act the Young Gods, they have created some of the finest music of their genre, and they are back after an 11-year absence with a new CD. This is my quick-step assessment of their major recorded works up to now.

"Treponem Pal" CD (1989) - This raw debut was produced by Young Gods vocalist Franz Treichler, and indeed, it does echo that group's gutteral, explosive rock vibe. Vocalist Marco Neves' vocals are even a similar tone to Franz's. Nonetheless, the band's penchant for SWANS-style slow-burn grooves are obvious, as well as their prog-rock ala Voivod elements. Listen to "Slow Man" and hear for yourself their SWANS fixation in full effect. If you can get past some rather silly lyrics (who can forget the album's closer, "Soft Mouth Vagina"?), you may be surprised that this album holds up fairly well today.

"Aggravation" CD (1991) - My initial introduction to this smoldering aggro-metal act, "Aggravation" boasts production by former SWANS drummer Roli Mossimann. It's denser, heavier, and more guitar-heavy than it's predecessor. "Rest Is A War" is all-out war indeed, while the thrashy "Fugitive Soul" throws in some killer guitar samplings among the live instruments. Here is where the group really picks up some steam. There are still some slower grinding moments, but the band goes more metal here, with slicing guitars and thumping grooves. "TV Matic" is Voivod meets Young Gods, and works nicely that way, thank you very much. Their cover of Kraftwerk's immortal "Radioactivity" works surprisingly well, too. The start of something great.

"Excess And Overdrive" CD (1993) - With Treichler returning to the producer's chair, this remains the band's tour-de-force. I spent a lot of time in the 90's listening to post-Wax Trax! industrial rock and metal, and this album rates very highly, indeed. A shame it's been mostly ignored and unheard by many of those who would've made T.Pal major stars back in the day. "Out Of Reach" is a scalding, hot anthem of electronic-tinged metal. Every bit as powerful as Ministry ever were, the single, "Pushing You Too Far" is catchy, omnipotent, and combines the group's influences the most cohesively. It's simultaneously slow and brooding, then bombastic and grinding. It's no wonder Al Jourgensen drafted guitarist Michel Bassin for a Ministry tour during this era. The title track is a massive SWANS slave-grind, and "Sometimes" lashes this dissonant sludginess to a stomping metal groove. From start to finish, this is a stomping monolith of crushing mecha-metal madness, with a furious sense of urgency and swollen aggression. One of my personal favorite industrial-metal albums of all-time, seriously.

"Higher" CD" (1997) - The band was on a roll with "Excess", but for some reason, it took 4 years for this one to finally see release, and on a major label, no less. Well, this is where the band's momentum stopped abruptly. I blame part of that on the weak production of KMFDM's Sasha Konietzko, which managed to completely subdue and neuter Treponem Pal's hard-driving sound. "Higher" as an album sounds plastic, puerile, and like KMFDM with a different vocalist. The dubby-reggae sounds of "Panorama" or "Freetribe" are likely the doing of vocalist Neves, who went on, after this album, to work as dub project Elephant System, but the KMFDM production makes it all sound flat and bland. And we won't discuss their cover of "Funky Town". Sad to see the band fall so far.

"Weird Machine" CD (2008) - After 11 years away, Neves returns, with a new lineup, bolstered by the addition of some genre heavyweights -- bassist Paul Raven (Killing Joke, Prong, etc., who, sadly, passed away while recording for this album) and drummer Ted Parsons (SWANS, Godflesh). This is the group's strongest showing since "Excess And Overdrive", with songs like "Planet Crash" returning to the band's original heavy rock sound. "Hardcore Massive Soldier" recycles lyrics from past T.Pal songs, as well as referencing Sonic Youth, among others. "Mad Box" is a cover of the track "The Box" from the band's debut album, and there's more big rock songs like "Human Attack", which balance the group's "Excess"-era sounds with electronic underpinnings. Marco's vocals are appropriately gutteral and harsh, and this proves that Treponem Pal is back with a vengeance. "Weird Machine", though it's not seen release in the states at all, is certainly worth looking for if you've ever appreciated this band's past works.

Treponem Palspace

Monday, December 14, 2009

Al Jourgensen & Mark Thwaite - It's Always Christmas Time

Let Uncle Al (with guitarist Mark Thwaite of The Mission) serenade you this holydaze season.

This fun and catchy little pop song is now available on iTunes.

I don't know about you, but I hope their proposed album together sounds as good as this.

Friday, December 11, 2009

"Wesley Willis's Joy Rides" DVD (directors: Chris Bagley and Kim Shively)

Chicago-born artist and musician Wesley Willis passed away a few years back, but not before he found a receptive and enthusiastic international audience through his music and drawings. The unlikely (and self-proclaimed) rock star, who was tormented by chronic schizophrenia (and some tumultuous inner "demons"), brought a larger-than-life spirit and over-the-top personality to whoever would lend an ear.
This touching documentary succeeds in capturing the essence of what made his life so unusual and so inspiring. It's a non-stop joyride, to use one of Wesley's favorite expressions. Seeing him hawking his CDs on the streets, or reveling in the audience's applause, or even chatting with the haircutters during a simple haircut, proves to be a funny, entertaining, and charming experience. His simplistic, sometimes-childlike songs were based around his day-to-day experiences, and he wrote songs for nearly everyone he befriended. Directors Bagley and Shively have compiled footage of Wesley in his later years, and it's a fitting tribute to the man and his legend, and includes interviews with Wesley's family, as well as his closest friends. It's evident the filmmakers were close to Wesley, as this loving portrait of an artist who, in his own way, changed the world for the better. He had a larger-than-life joviality and sense of wonder about the world that made him an icon and a character like no other. This DVD is a harmony joy bus ride. (Eyeosaur Productions / MVD Visual)

Wesley Willis's Joyrides site

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Megasus - "Megasus" CD

Dense, large, and rumbling aggro-doom-metal from some Rhode Islanders who collect their paychecks from ("Rock Band" and "Guitar Hero" video game developers) Harmonix, and a drummer who plays bass in Lightning Bolt. This is their debut, and it whacks handily with mighty riffage and pummeling drumming, akin to some of the better stoner-metal acts around. "Swords" is a massive, primal mountain of droning riffs and thunderous drums, laying waste to the modern world. It's not for the faint-hearted, for sure. "Hexes/Szaadek" is another behemoth of loud, bonecrushing aggression, like if Slayer teamed up with the Melvins, got high together, and then got into a raging fist-fight. "Red Lottery" is another speedy assault of dangerous noise and fury. This is some evil and engrossing metal of remarkable acumen. Fully worthy. (20 Buck Spin)



Sunday, December 6, 2009

Art Tatum / Ben Webster - "The Album" CD

Originally recorded in 1956, and with some added Tatum solo cuts from 1953, this selection of smooth piano-led jazz was the culmination of years of experience from the masterful Tatum/Webster Quartet (though it isn't billed as such, oddly). Tatum's smooth (and seemingly omni-dexterous) piano pyrotechnics still wow critics and fans today, while Webster's husky tenor sax adds a late-night vibe to the sound, which ranges from the laid-back, melodic "Gone With The Wind" to the wild rollercoaster of "Have You Met Miss Jones?", where Tatum takes the lead and shows why he's considered one of the finest pianists, period. "My One And Only Love" is sweet and gently seductive, as the title suggests. Without accompaniment, Tatum's fantastic solo version of "Have You Met Miss Jones?" (featured later in the disc), is so kinetic and sprightly, I easily forgot this was just one man with two hands playing. Tatum's superhuman energy and evolved melodic sense is the focus here, and this release is a superlative document of his immortal style and grace. (Essential Jazz Classics)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Ministry - "Twitch Toronto"

Ministry's later forays into anti-Bush thrash metal were spotty but good, with some catchy tunes and an over-the-top cartoony attitude. But rewind back 23 years to Al Jourgensen's 1986 LP, "Twitch", and you'll see that Adrian Sherwood's heavy dub/industrial mixing was instrumental in the development of Ministry's transformation from dance pop to techno thrash. A seminal work that inspired legions of followers into the 90's, "Twitch" is still unjustly overlooked as one of the classic "industrial" albums. It's a collision of Cabaret Voltaire and Test Dept, with a social conscience.
Adding new touring members Paul Barker and Bill Rieflin (both of whom would contribute much to the band in the years to come), Ministry toured briefly in 1986, doing 13 dates across the USA and Canada. This is a terrific recording of their 04.10.86 date in Toronto, at the RPM Club, courtesy of bisquitodoom@prongs.

Twitch Toronto

Monday, November 30, 2009

Grant Hart - "Hot Wax" CD

Best-known as drummer for Minneapolis punk icons Husker Du, some would be surprised to hear this new solo record from Hart, his first in 9 years. All but abandoning his more raucous punk roots, "Hot Wax" sees collaborations with members of Canadian post-rock acts Godspeed You Black Emperor/ A Silver Mt. Zion, but even this is overshadowed -- probably for the better, due to Hart's fine, mature, and well-developed songwriting skills. "You're The Reflection Of The Moon On The Water" is a superb, raved-up rock song that admittedly owes much to Patti Smith. "Barbara" is a sweet bit of 60's-style English baroque pop, and "School Buses Are For Children" is a well-written and heartfelt classic rock-style song that showcases Hart's considerable skills as a vocalist -- a fact seemingly forgotten and overshadowed by his years in the background. "California Zephyr" is a simple pop song that's effectively catchy and narrative, as is the 60's pop of "Sailor Jack". Taken as a whole, "Hot Wax" is an amazingly well-composed collection of diverse, tuneful, clever, and timeless songs that will withstand. Full accolades! (MVD Audio)

Grant Hart site

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Beast Of The Apocalypse - "A Voice From The Four Horns Of The Golden Altar" CD

Well-muddy, densely-mixed black/gothic metal from the Netherlands that comes out of the starting box like a clusterfuck of screaming, evil noise, and seldom does it let up. The drum programming and buzzing guitars are just part of The Beast's wall of sound experience. I hear layers of keyboards, and a solid bass guitar foundation adding a sense of darkened mysticism among the screaming chaos. It's all a bit deafening, taken as a whole, though, with little variation among tracks. "And They Withdrew Up To Their Heavens" has some symphonic loops barely audible through the song's nearly 8-minute duration. Tracks like "Twins Of Jesus" even resemble early Godflesh, to some degree, with plodding drum programs, distorted vocals, and mountains of guitar grind. These guys could destroy, given some clearer production and added song texture. As it is, "A Voice" shows great promise, but remains slightly under-done. (Transcendental Creations)


Kites With Lights - "The Weight Of Your Heart" CDEP

Blasting from the past, KWL, this new project of Floridian Jonah Cordy re-examines classic 80's-era synthpop with these 5 light and upbeat songs. Starting out with the title track, these dance-worthy melodic pop tracks with understated vocals echo Bernard Sumner and New Order -- understated and tentative with a touch of melancholy. The more lush "We're Ready" conjures the spirit of a more laid-back OMD. Kites' clunky old drum machines, percolating electro-synth melodies, and swaying, almost-whispered vocals are textbook 80's, before synthpop split itself off into mainstream pop and club techno. Cordy has done his homework, and this brief set of tunes takes me back to more innocent days. (24 Hour Service Station)

Kites With Lights site


Friday, November 27, 2009

Voivod - "Tatsumaki - Voivod Japan 2008" DVD

In the world of Canadian metal, Voivod are something of an enigma, and had carved a niche for themselves as one of the most forward-thinking heavy rock acts around through the 80's and early 90's. But when guitarist and founding guitarist Denis 'Piggy' D'Amour passed away of cancer in 2005, the band went into a tailspin, and members splintered. Fast forward a few years to 2008, and several original members reconvened with new guitarist Dan Mongrain (Martyr, Gorguts) for a tour, including this show in Japan as filmed by a TV crew. It's a surprisingly intense show, filmed with multiple cameras, and includes only songs from Voivod's legendary first 10 years. Classic progressive/metal/thrash songs like "Voivod", "Panorama", and "Nothingface" prove that these guys still have the chops, and the vision to transcend normal "thrash" or "metal". Complex arrangements, futuristic lyrics, and moments of 4-on-the-floor power integrate seamlessly with spacier elements, as in their closing cover of Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd (the amazing psyche jam "Astronomy Domine"), which the band dedicates to their fallen brother, Piggy. A superb, engrossing, and enjoyable show from a band that's inspired many from both the metal and punk camps. A lengthy interview (actually gushing fan-letter in video form) with Dave Grohl is included as a bonus, as is a documentary, some additional recent live footage, a more. As inventive, progressive, metal goes, Voivod are still kings of the court, and this DVD aptly proves it. (MVD Visual)

Voivod site

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Kirchenkampf - "Well Of Souls" CDR

John Gore's work as Kirchenkampf probes the dark, unexplored regions of our world (and beyond), and does so with skill and cinematic flair. "Well Of Souls" is a travelogue into deep, subterranean dark spaces, with dense static, flickering drones, and expansive textures. The opener here, the 28-minute ambient track "Deep Dark", is a masterwork of isolationist ambient. The oppressive sounds are vast, overwhelming, and subtle, with hints of an unexplained leviathan looming in the distance. The 24-minutes of "Souls Transfixed" feels almost urban, like a drifty, distant rumble of late-night auto traffic, machines, and the rumble of activity on the horizon. Beautiful, and slightly sinister stuff. The final cut here, "Psyche Void", clocks in at over 24 minutes, too, and this one is more distant, deep, and lonely ambience with an edginess that is palpable. Brilliant work. Also of note here is the fantastic and artistic presentation - the disc is housed in an ornate foldout sleeve with professional printing. Impressive, evocative, and splendid independent work that deserves a wider release. (Cohort Records)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"Penance" (director: Jake Kennedy)

This indie torture/horror flick "inspired by true events" manages to out-fox some similar higher-profile films, with a rather tried-and-true premise, but with solid acting and some fun genre cameos & casting. Starring the likable Marieh Delfino, this is a tale of a modest single mom (Amelia) who, down on her luck, resorts to stripping to make some quick cash to stay afloat. Well, in one of her first jobs, she ends up abducted by a religious-oriented madman and a skeleton crew of sadistic, proto-fascist lackeys. The enigmatic and stately Gavin McTavish stars as the fallen doctor who subjects the amoral strippers (including the innocent Amelia) to all sorts of "moral tests" to rehabilitate them and cleanse their souls in penance. Things get ugly, naturally. This one's bloody and sometimes shocking, but the gore is more implied and never truly on-camera. My favorite scenes are the cat and mouse games in the hallways of the "hospital", where the hand-held cameras succeed in creating an air of tension and distress. Fine work. Look for Michael Rooker ("Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer") and Tony Todd ("Candyman") among the worthy guest appearances. Delfino is cool, appealing, and convincing as Amelia, and McTavish is a perfect villain. Good stuff, and worthy of attention from horror fans. (IMD - Independent Media Distribution)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ichabod - "2012" CD

The 4th release from these Boston stoner/metal-heads is a solid, sludgy, and fairly melodic concept album heralding the impending Mayan prophesy. "2012" (the album) is a dense, aggressive, and groovy set of out-there space metal gems/jams that manage to maintain their aggression while leaving their improvisational spirit intact. "Giving Up The Ghost" is thick and psychedelic, layering a mountain of guitar effects on top of the heavy mix. "Gentlemen Of The Choir" begins as a languid, Hawkwind-inspired space trip, before erupting into a post-Sabbath slo-mo thud and riff extravaganza. The 10-minute epic "Nile Song" is a Pink Floyd cover, but it's rendered almost unrecognizable, with vocalist Ken McKay's seething vox giving way to an amazing extended space-metal/drone freakout that could be considered the album's high point (pun intended, hah). "2012 Outro" is a collection of samples and spoken bits, illustrating the schizophrenic nature of our world at large, apocalyptic visions, madness, and paranoia taking over. A superb album, perhaps a bit disjointed, but with some really potent and heavy rock that deserves your attention. (Rootsucker Records)


Monday, November 23, 2009

X-Ray Spex - "Live At The Roundhouse London 2008" CD/DVD

It's been almost 30 years since they last played together, but charismatic front-woman Poly Styrene and her X-Ray Spex return on this well-recorded live document. Beginning with the feminist anthem "Oh Bondage Up Yours!", these well-regarded (and it's safe to say legendary) first-wave English punkers ratchet it up to '10' here. Styrene's instantly likable and unique vocals are cynical, snide, and nicely critical of plasticized consumerist culture, while the band's hopeful pop-punk stylings are accented by saxophone, which brings another unusual (but effective) element to the band's attack. "Warrior In Woolworth's" is a beauty, as is the self-explanatory "I Am A Cliche". This is punk rock firing on all cylinders, with message just as vital now as it was in 1979. One new song, "Bloody War", has much to say in it's brief 2+ minute existence, too. The live DVD is a pro-shot, multi-angle treasure showing the reverence and fun this band still inspires. Bravo, Poly and crew. It's a welcomed and well-worthy return. (Year Zero/Future Noise)

X-Ray Spex site

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pelican - "What We All Come To Need" CD

Chicago's progressive/metal act migrates to Southern Lord for their 4th album, and this one follows much in the path of their past work -- lengthy, intricately-developed instrumental rock that takes aspects of heavy indie, doom metal, drone, and even math rock and adds a monumental heaviness that will endear them to fans of kindred spirits like Tool, Isis, Jesu, Mono, or Sunn O))). "The Creeper" features some guest guitars from Greg Anderson, himself of Sunn O))), but the music is purely Pelican. The twin guitar attack of Laurent Schroeder-Lebec and Trevor de Brauw interweaves delicate melodies below seas of monolithic riff. Pelican's heavy (and heady) music leaves behind any semblance of ego or pretense, as these players create songs that sometimes sweep and float, at at other times twist into a tumultuous firestorm of angst and thunderous momentum. Tracks like "Strung Up From The Sky" epitomize everything that Pelican stands for -- strong, muscular, and tight riffing, softer passages, a monstrous rhythm section, and melodies wafting around the gargantuan (song) structure. Nothing here is tired, rote, overplayed, or showy. Superb work, and perhaps Pelican's finest thus far. (Southern Lord)


Pelican page

Friday, November 20, 2009

Jeff Greinke - "Virga" CD

Over the course of some 25 years and 18 albums, composer Jeff Greinke has proven his mastery of fourth-world ambient sound. This new release combines his trademark spacious, exotic, and earthly atmospheres with more traditional instruments to form classically-structured chamber music, accented with cello, piano, and trumpet. During "Slow Rise", Christiana Morgan's cello plays a major role, grounding the sounds in an earthy, harmonic fashion. "Night Flyers" weds what sounds like field recordings of nocturnal frogs with treated piano and choral voices. "Abandoned Place" is a shadowy, almost sad classical/ambient piece, with mournful strings and piano. "Before The Storm" is beautifully self-explanatory, with an air of impending darkness. It's the calm before a potentially serious weather pattern, where the initial winds pick up to herald the oncoming storm. "Partial Light" also manages to convey a peaceful solitude, but not without some darker force underneath the fragile hull. It's this dichotomy that makes "Virga" so successful. Greinke balances the tender, fragile beauty of strings and shifting melodic strokes with undercurrents of regret, tension, sorrow, and uncertainty, without being cold or calculated in his approach or execution. To put in succinctly, this is ambient music with soul and feeling, and that makes "Virga" a real winner. (Lotuspike)


Greinke's site

Harley's War - "Hardcore All-Stars" CD/DVD

Harley Flanagan is a founding member of veteran New York hardcore band the Cro-Mags, and Harley's War is his outlet for, well, more hardcore fraternizing with friends and associates (some from other bands like Bad Brains, Agnostic Front, Suicidal Tendencies, etc). That said, the music CD's first 12 cuts (the studio stuff) is pretty consistent -- streetwise, often violent, confrontational, and punk-oriented. Don't expect finesse, dynamic, or emotive songs that convey anything besides aggression or attitude here. The thuggy braggadocio of the nu-metal-style "Hardcore NYHC-OG" is pretty unnecessary, but the ramshackle bulldog-punk of "Last Days" is pretty intense, for example. This guy means it, even if nearly every song/assault is a carbon copy of the last. Harley's 1982 demos are cool, classic hardcore in the vein of Minor Threat, albeit with a slightly more metallic approach, perhaps. There's also a live CBGB show, exhibiting the raw, in-your-face aggression of Harley's War. The DVD has a load of live footage (from NY, Germany, and Japan, and with a variety of band lineups), a telling interview with Harley, in which he divulges a bunch of punk/hardcore history, a brief tour of legendary underground music mecca, CBGB's (with Harley and owner Hilly Kristal), a bunch of photos, and a promo video. It's really a huge amount of info, sights, and sounds, and successfully captures the steely, streetwise, and single-minded spirit of New York hardcore from one of the genre's founders. (MVD Audio)

Harley's Cro-Mags site

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Collide - "These Eyes Before" CD

This California group's fifth full-length shines a new light on the duo's darkly sensual grooves. Formed in the mid-90's amidst the industrial rock frenzy, programmer Statik and vocalist kaRIN have steadily built a solid reputation and audience, fully independently, and their work has been instrumental in diversifying an increasingly testosterone-laden electronic dance/rock scene. They have befriended and worked alongside artists like Tool, Skinny Puppy, and Prince, but fittingly, it's their own work that garners them the most attention. "These Eyes Before" is a collection of 10 covers, beginning with Pink Floyd's "Breathe", which is transformed into a lovely and fantastic soundscape with an appropriately spaced-out vibe, and of course kaRIN's smooth and ethereal vocals. The Moody Blues' "Nights In White Satin" is also respectfully updated, with a superb mix of organic instrumentation and sleek programming. Other standouts? Depeche Mode's "I Feel You" is trippier and better-produced than the original. Bowie's amazing "Space Oddity" is given a wonderful modern electronic cyber-grafting, with kaRIN's breezy vocals pointed to the celestial heavens. Chris Isaak's "Baby Did A Bad Thing" effectively brings some smoldering, gritty rock to the table, and Fleetwood Mac's percussive "Tusk" is recreated, with actual marching band, and it all closes out with another Pink Floyd classic, "Comfortably Numb". Normally, I'd shout "heresy", as some things are just sacred, but Collide admirably pull it off, adding a cool and deep layer of mood to the song's already-potent melancholy. A superb release, and perhaps their best yet. (Noiseplus Music)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Yim Yames - "Tribute To" CD

Yames is a pseudonym of My Morning Jacket mainman (and Monsters Of Folk sideman) Jim James (itself a stage-name). So you know to expect some righteous, heartfelt Americana from the wilds of Kentucky (well, if Louisville can be called wild, anyhow). So no real surprises here. This is James solo, and it's an acoustic, laid-back, acoustic offering of 6 songs. As the title references, this is a re-interpreting of tunes, here all by the late Beatle George Harrison, shining a light on Harrison's oft-overlooked genius. "Long, Long, Long" is a lonely lament, and "Behind That Locked Door" is given a gentle, rural country vibe. "Love You To" is ghostly, with James' vocals drifting away in a dusty cloud, while "My Sweet Lord" resonates most with me, having heard it so often growing up in a Beatles' fan household. These tracks are very spare recordings, rattled off by James in response to Harrison's passing way back in 2001. They've only now been released. Admittedly, serious Harrison fans may scoff at these low-key re-interpretations, but to a new generation unfamiliar with this under-appreciated Beatle's contributions, this could be a perfect jumping-off point. (ATO Records)

Yim's site


My Morning Jacket

White Mice - "Ganjahovadose" CD

This is some seriously far-out, swollen, damaged stuff, from a group of Rhode Islanders who've been recording offensively for several years for a number of sub-underground labels. White Mice produce a potent cocktail of gross, tuneless and twisted mindfuck grindcore with enough rough edges to disorient even the staunchest death metal-head. "Ganjahovadose" features 10 tracks, though they blend together pretty well into one cluster of bent noise/beats and grizzled, agonized vocals. It's not blastbeats, though. White Mice's midtempo sound behemoth is hellbent on destroying through sheer overload. The mix and production here, by famous Skinny Puppy soundman Ken 'Hiwatt' Marshall, gives them plenty of space to throw their bloody furballs. The eighth track, "The Shroud Of Urine" brings on some proto-industrial sound loops to break up the din, but soon thereafter it's back to the hateful, psychedelic noise. Some of this even approaches a kind of free/out jazz, though jazz purists will scoff at that comparison. The point is, this is some seriously messed-up shit, for those with open minds (and maybe some ear protection). And the guys wear some sick white mouse costumes on stage, so I bet that's a sight to behold. You won't be hearing them on radio anytime soon, but this massive bloodclot of sound will clean out your ears, for sure. (20 Buck Spin)



Die Hard - "Nihilistic Vision" CD

Sweden's Die Hard 's debut openly recognizes it's inspirations -- classic thrash metal like Venom (who wrote the song "Die Hard", for which the band's name is appropriated), Celtic Frost, Slayer, and Sodom. Which is good, because that leaves comparisons and accusations far behind. As it is, "Nihilistic Vision" is full of solid, fast, and fist-pumping old-school thrash, with little time for any death or black metal accents, no sir. This is bold and strident thrash that harkens back to the days when this was the most dangerous music around. "Bloody War" is a gutteral assault of war-metal with multiple tempo changes that reminds me of viking days somehow. "Fed To The Lions" boasts some scalding guitar chug that could rival Slayer, even, and indeed sounds a lot like them. "Attack From The Back" is almost punk, though heavier than that implies. And on a trivial level, it seems these guys share a drummer with one of my favorite black metal acts, Watain, so consider that a recommendation. Good, strong, and faster-than-you classic thrash, Die Hard's "Nihilistic Vision" is a good, fearsome kick to the nads. Hail! (Agonia Records)

Die Hardspace

Die Hard site

D.O.A. - "Kings Of Punk, Hockey And Beer" CD

Vancouver's venerable legends of hardcore punk rock just keep on truckin', and they have not tempered their attack at all over the course of their long and influential history. This new selection of 13 tracks pay homage to some of the band's biggest inspirations -- punk, hockey and beer. There's anthemic sing-along choruses galore here, strong classic punk-style songwriting, and a requisite sneering sense of roughneck humor. "Donnybrook" starts off the face-off with a fast and fun-loving punk/hockey mashup anthem. I enjoyed "Beer Liberation Army", too, which needs no explanation. "Pencil Neck Geek" covers wrestler Classy Freddie Blassie to good effect, and the breakneck "Logjam" is full-on ragin'. "Coctail Time In Hell" is a good, old-fashioned drinkin' song, and the closing cover of BTO's "Taking Care Of Business" somehow fits. Rowdy, raucous, catchy, raw, and a good time all the way through, D.O.A. are at the top of their game here. (Sudden Death Records)

Merry Beer-mas!

It's time once again for a look at some of the season's ales, with some surprises in store. Yes, my favorite this month was from a macro! Alas, all biases aside, there is good beer to be savored everywhere. The ratings system goes from 1 being sickly swill to 5 being divine nectar. Fight the good fight, drink good beer, and support your local brewmaster(s)!

MICHELOB - RYE P.A. (St. Louis, MO) - 4.0
Deep red-amber with a rich, foamy head and nice lacing, this pale ale boasts of a fragrant hoppy aroma. Yum. Taste is a solid, bitter IPA with a strong rye spiciness - challenging and completely in line with what a sturdy IPA should be like. With the rye addition, this one's a real craft beer with higher aspirations. Superb.

Another clean amber ale, this one begins with a warm and comfortable aroma of clove and spice. The taste reflects this, with a strong spicy palate and smooth malty inclination. Unfortunately, there's little residual complexity. The sweetness is overpowering, rendering this beer decent, but not outstanding.

A dark red ale with a massive foamy head and super-sweet character, this one's got a punchy, spicy taste-character that gives way to a firm, alcoholic burn (it's 8.7% ABV). This one's definitely a sipper - strong, potent, and hearty. Approach with caution.

A winter tradition at News 4U HQ, this seasonal ale pours a clean amber, and tastes smooth and sweet, with a rich, molasses-like maltiness that would be more palatable if not for the overbearing vanilla accents. Nonetheless, this is a decent and drinkable brew, not outstanding but not altogether awful, either.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mogwai - "Burning" DVD

Here's something exciting and enticing...and head-smashing. It's a new teaser trailer for the forthcoming Mogwai concert film DVD, "Burning", as directed by Vincent Moon and Nathanaël Le Scouarnec. It's not due for release until 2010, and will accompany a Mogwai live CD called "Special Moves". I anxiously await both, and will purchase pronto as soon as I can. Check this out and see what you think.

And if that weren't enough to whet your appetite..Mogwai also make an appearance in the new "All Tomorrow's Parties" DVD, alongside such names as Sonic Youth, Battles, Nick Cave's Grinderman, Daniel Johnston, Slint, The Dirty Three, Akron/Family, Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Shellac, The Mars Volta, and more.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Harvestman - "In A Dark Tongue" CD

Having heard a number of avante-metal band Neurosis' releases and side projects, I thought I'd had these guys pegged. Then I get this new release from (Neurosis frontman) Steve Von Till, and my preconceptions are blown. And in a wickedly good way. It turns out that this is Von Till's second release as Harvestman, and "In A Dark Tongue" is a trippy, oozing miasma of dark, psychedelic space rock with a healthy dose of krautrock dipped onto the blotter. But before you think I'm describing some kind of retro prog-rock silliness, let it be known that Harvestman's wide-open psilocybin-scapes are positively mind-altering on their own. The lengthy drones and overloaded effects on the 13-minute "By Wind And Sun" become a mantra of epic proportions, enveloping listeners in gauzy noise and guitars like a lava lamp set to "destroy". "Music Of The Dark Torrent" is a stark, layered guitar piece that encircles itself peacefully until a series of disorienting digital tones take over the mix. Weird and otherworldly. "The Hawk Of Achill" brings in Al Cisneros of Sleep/Om fame for a trance-inducing percussive assault that reminds of Amon Duul II-meets-Neu!-gone-evil. Amazing. The journey ends with the ambient electronics of "Centre Of The World", tempering the fires that burned so intensely on this wondrous and truly hallucinogenic rock album. (Neurot Recordings)


Steve Von Till's site

Monday, November 9, 2009

Aetherius Obscuritas - "Fekete Orvossag - Black Medicine" CD

Hungarian pagan black metal from a duo (though one it seems is considered a "session drummer") who've been active in the scene for around 7 years now, Aetherius Obscuritas fall pretty squarely within their genre's established parameters. They seem to be an outlet for "classic" black metal ala Burzum, and this stripped-down, unapologetic, no-frills approach equates to a windfall of hissed vocals, blurry gale storm guitars and sputtering drums. "Fagyos Oleles (Freezing Embrace)" shows a predilection for mid-tempo and melodic metal structures, but other cuts, like "Circinus Nebulae" are so traditionally black metal, they become cartoon stereotypes. The "bonus" track, a cover of Marduk's "Black Demon" is a fun closing cuts, but overall "Fekete Orvossag" is just not memorable or unique enough to warrant repeat listens. (Paragon Records)



Systems Officer - "Underslept" CD

From the prolific mind and hands of Pinback/Three Mile Pilot mastermind Armistead Burwell Smith IV, this entirely-solo project is full of well-written indie pop/rock songs, catchy, sometimes quirky, and sometimes a little sad. Right off the bat, the album's opener, "Pacer", is a hook-filled slice of upbeat drone pop, and probably my favorite piece here. "East" is a little more introspective, with an effectively sad piano accent. Other favorites include "Shape Shifter", which rollicks along ala Modest Mouse, or the breezy yet fatalistic "Sand II". Solid, well-played tunes here are the order of the day, and Smith's adeptness at all instruments is more than evident here. Exceptional and tuneful, "Underslept" is a fine album well worth multiple listens. (Temporary Residence)



Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Nick Oliveri - "Death Acoustic" CD

As a former member of desert-stoners Kyuss and Queens Of The Stone Age, you might think you know what to expect from Oliveri. But you'd be wrong. His debut solo recording here combines several Oliveri originals (and versions of songs he recorded with Queens, Kyuss, Moistboyz, and the Dwarves) with covers (Misfits, G.G. Allin). Sure, it's all acoustic, so the songs are drastically different from the revved-up originals, but I get a sense of self-indulgence here. Maybe Oliveri is pulling a fast one? His vocals are tuneless and nearly overloaded (these are home recordings), and the songs are rudimentary and flat. "U Blow" does just that, and is painful to listen to. The Misfits' "Hybrid Moments" is better, but the G.G. Allin closer, "Outlaw Scumfuc" is just plain crap, and serves no purpose being covered at all. Disappointing stuff from an artist with a solid pedigree and surely more to offer than this weak collection of nonsense tunes. (Impedance Records)


Felix - "You Are The One I Pick" CD

This English chamber folk/pop duo consists of Lucinda Chua (a pianist/cellist who tours with Stars Of The Lid) and Chris Summerlin (guitarist from rock band Lords), and "You Are The One I Pick" is their debut album. It's a sweet, pure sound, with Chua's engaging voice recanting poignant, childlike tales like the lovely "I Wish I Was A Pony". "Waltzing For Weasels" is a sad little reflection, and the ambient, string-laden "What I Learned From TV" is perhaps most like Stars Of The Lid, though more intimate as Lucinda's words impart personal musings softly into the drifty soundscape. As one of Kranky's more straightforward indie outfits, Felix may surprise some listeners, but this classy, stylish, and slightly-askew sound is as sparse and austere as anything else on the fine label. Enjoyable, honest, and evocative music for the sensitive romantic in all of us. (Kranky)


Mr. Death - "Detached From Life" CD

Hailing from Sweden, this new outfit features a former member of Tiamat, and the focus here is on classic, gut-churning gore/death metal. Production by Tomas Skogsberg (Entombed, Amorphis) is thick, clean, and alive, giving the band's crunchy and gutteral attack a powerful wall of sound, with a perfect high/low balance. "Misery's Womb" is among my favorites, with a ripping dual-guitar power-symphony. It's all strong work, certainly some of the finest death metal I've heard in some time. These lads know what they're doing, and they are at the top of their game here. (Agonia Records)

Mr. Death's site


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"Forrest J. Ackerman Presents: The Anthology Of The Living Dead" BOOK

I don't often review books here, but this one is certainly noteworthy, and likely of interest to many faithful Goatsden readers. Compiled by J. Travis Grundon and L.B. Goddard (and personally authorized by the late horror-godfather Ackerman, who provides a wonderously fun intro), this collection of zombie/living dead-themed fictional short stories isn't short on new ideas or twists, and proves to be a surprisingly well-done set of sometimes shocking, sometimes mature-themed, and always entertaining shorts. Personal favorites include Jeremy Boland's clever, humorous, and even charming "Icy Dead People", Sean Douglas's cathartic "fuck-you" tale "Braindead", Andrea Dean Von Scoyoc's twisty "Vindication", Scott Lefebve's apocalyptic "Whimper", and the grisly, graphic, and bleakly-humorous "Suck", by Eric Enck. A honorable mention for Justin Brock-Jones and his "Dead Silence", which takes the classic Romero theme into an angst-ridden post-adolescent direction. Hah! But everything else here is worth a look, too, and this book seriously won me over from the start. Perfect late-night reading for those who dare to imagine a world where the dead walk amongst the living. (Black Bed Sheet Books)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Hellbastard - "Eco-War" CDEP + "The Need To Kill" CD

A brief 21-minute selection of tracks not included on their recent full-lengther, "Eco-War" features some fairly heavy and dense punk/metal "crust" from these Earache Records refugees. "Woe, The People" is classic metal with some doomy, sludgy overtones. It's low, dirty, and almost sloppy sounding, though the riffage is righteous and spot-on. "Massacre" is a more punk-oriented cut, with a rollicking chorus and speedier tempo. The final track here, a faithful cover of Slayer's "Die By The Sword" is evidence of some of these boys' inspirations, before a nonsense track ("Kick The Geordie") closes it all out.

The full album, "The Need To Kill" is similarly full of traditional thrash assaults with some punk accents. Also notable are the interludes, which, in the case of "My Best Friend Misanthropy", break up the crash & burn tempos with whispery atmospheres and sound-poetry. "Justly Executed" is classic, old-school thrash-punk crossover, complete with lengthy solo. Think early Slayer and you'll be right there. Good, solid, mosh-ready tunes that won't offend or shock anyone in this day and age, but nonetheless remain steady and headstrong. Nice work, guys. (Selfmadegod Records)

Hellbastard site


Beer Books Reviewed: "World's Best Beers" and "Tasting Beer"

Talk about change. In just the past 25 years or so, the entire world
of American beer has been radically altered. What was once simply a
working-class staple, in one singular style, has boomed into a
thriving industry ripe with creativity, inventiveness, and innovation.
Brewing styles from all over the world have been integrated into an
international beer culture, with countless independent craft brewers
popping up everywhere and anywhere, each attempting to create a tasty beverage that excites the palate and ignites the imagination, or at least complements a variety of foods. Unusual and complex flavors are now commonplace in beers, as are variations in consistency, alcohol-by-volume, color, and texture. With the influx of artisan brewers, there are plenty of books out there, and it's a lot to take in. Here are a couple I found to be superior, for both the novice and experienced alike.

"World's Best Beers -- One Thousand Craft Brews From Cask To Glass"
(2009, Sterling Publishing, $29.95)

This book, written by English beer statesman Ben McFarland, is a wonderful oversize coffee table-style tome that gives a nice, and relatively deep look into the beverages that the author feels are the "1000 best" in the world. A tall task? Sure. But certainly, even the most experienced beer aficionado will find something he/she has never heard of. Kudos to the author for including some fascinating close-up articles highlighting some of the more innovative craft brewers like Duvel (of Belgium), or the San Francisco-based Anchor Steam Brewery. And McFarland includes an abundance of photos, for those of us who require some visual stimulation. The book does touch upon the basics of beer, and some food pairings, but these are merely footnotes. The photos of the ornate bottles, and concise reviews (with web links) are definitely the focus here. "World's Best Beer" is a hefty, attractive, and colorful travelogue of the world's beer, and thus would make an ideal gift for the beer lover on your list.

"Tasting Beer" (2009, Storey Publishing, $16.95)

Lovingly crafted by noted beer enthusiast and writer Randy Mosher, this handy softcover reference is a perfect introduction to just about everything about beer, from its' storied history through the ages and continents, to different styles, to how to properly taste and judge a beer. If this sounds a bit academic, don't fret. Mosher's style is very conversational and easy to read. I consider this to be a layman's starting point in brewing and brew appreciation. Really, any of the basics about beer can be found in "Tasting Beer", so this one would make a solid counterpart and accompaniment to the aforementioned "World's Best Beers".

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Soulsavers - "Unbalanced Pieces" video

The latest Soulsavers album, "Broken", which features Mark Lanegan on vocals, is perhaps one of my favorite releases of the year. But it has yet to get an official, physical CD release in the United States, shamefully. Here's a vote for a real CD release here, as it would be considered a "must" for me. Anyone? Please?
Meanwhile, here's the brand new promo video, for "Unbalanced Pieces". Note that the album itself includes the participation of Dustin O'Halloran of Devics, Jason Pierce of Spiritualized, Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers, Mike Patton (of too many bands and projects to list), Martyn LeNoble (Jane's Addiction, Porno For Pyros), and, of course, the inimitable Mark Lanegan. Oh, and there's a stark and haunting take on Will Oldham's classic Palace gem, "You Will Miss Me When I Burn". If that doesn't sell you, well, you're just missing out or something...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Gnaw Their Tongues - "All The Dread Magnificence Of Perversity" CD

Now this is an imaginative and evocative mix of extreme sounds. Imagine, if you will, the typical monochromatic black metal sound, then mix in a swollen, gangrenous slab of proto-ambient classical-drone bombast, and what you get? Gnaw Their Tongues know, as they create precisely that. The opener, the provocatively-titled "My Orifices Await Ravaging", is a torturous and dramatic nightmare soundtrack that's infinitely more horrific than any scary-movie score I've heard in many a year. Indeed, GTT creates brutal symphonies of slow, doomy grind infused with industrial-noise, sadistic samples, symphonic elements, and layered drones. But where groups like Sunn O))) create epic, slow-burn doom/drone manifestos, Gnaw Their Tongues are more hyperactive and paranoid, whisking the listener away on a voyage into the minds of perverts, murderers, and the criminally insane. It's not a nice and comfy place, needless to say. "Verbrannt Und Verflucht" is a stunning assault of malevolence, joining a funereal dirge with an oppressively blackened sense of palpable tension. Other cuts, like "Broken Fingers Point Upwards In Vain" wash over the listener with a threatening sense of foreboding. Gnaw Their Tongue's richly cinematic tones are awash with dread and fear. Enter at your own risk. (Crucial Blast)



KK Null - "Oxygen Flash" CD

The Japanese icon Null (aka Kazayuki Kishino), for those not yet familiar, is a veteran guitarist who's resume reads like a "who's who" of avante/experimental/noise musics. He's led trash/noise groups like YBO2, Absolut Null Punkt (A.N.P.), and sludge-grind metallists Zeni Geva. He's also collaborated with just about everyone of note in the world of left field music for the past 25 years. This new solo release of 2006-2007 work eschews the guitar in favor of loud, unsettling electro-acoustic cacophonies. The 9 untitled tracks here clock in at over 49 combined minutes, and they range from near-power electronics to overloaded, fractured, and amplified digitally-processed glitch - sometimes grating (and unashamedly so), yet rife with an ear for subtlety upon deeper absorption. Track 4 is a particularly monolithic slab of barreling, broken rhythms, and chaotic electro-percolations. Track 5 is a stinging barrage of trebly distortions and proto-rhythms, sounding quite alien and disorienting, while track 6 is a hypnotic space-out collision of geiger pops and squeltchiness. Other tracks are similarly foreign and, due to their rather extreme nature, difficult to ignore or relegate to the background.
Null's skills are evident here, as in the hands of a lesser ear, this set could be indulgent and messy. As it is, "Oxygen Flash" is a highly immersive set of playful sonic compositions with much to offer upon repeat spins. Enjoyable and unforgettable work.
(Neurot Recordings)

KK Null home site

Monday, October 26, 2009

White Rainbow - "New Clouds" CD

Portlander Adam Forkner's second release on Kranky shows an even more spacious, cosmic predilection than his excellent Krautrock-inspired debut of 2007. Beginning with the expansive 18-minute magickal-stoner ambience of "Tuesday Rollers And Strollers", White Rainbow produce a myriad of lush, even melodic sound-journeys that are hopeful, gauzy, and somehow primal and shamanic. I am reminded a bit of Popol Vuh's wonderful soundtracks to Werner Herzog's films, which isn't a bad thing at all. Forkner's vaporous, rapturous soundscapes are at once psychedelic, ambient, and trance-inducing, with each of the four extended pieces here gelling well together into 67 minutes of blissed-out, tripped-out space synaesthesia. Superb. (Kranky)

White Rainbowspace

White Rainbow tumblr

Sunday, October 25, 2009


The season of the witch is upon us, so that means falling leaves, the holy daze season, and some nice and strong Oktoberfest/Fall beers! Keep in mind that the ratings here are my own, and can be echoed on my BeerAdvocate site. Beers are rated from 1 (being awful) to 5 (godlike). But dare to try them yourself...and support the indie brewing culture.

A nice and deep (almost black) opaque ale with a thick head, this one
has a spice hint at first, with an almost burnt chocolate/caramel
follow-through. It's strong and malty, but the citrus-spice zing gives
it an added dimension, and a clean finish. Attractive and tasty, this
Breckenridge's Autumn Ale is more than enjoyable, and an easygoing,
yet still uniquely creative brew.

A traditional bock is, by nature, highly malted. And well, this
no-nonsense beer certainly fits that description. At the same time,
the malt presence here seems to overload my taste buds at the expense of any other flavors. Pouring a deep brown/amber, Berghoff's bock initially has a simple, rich caramel taste which permeates every subsequent sip. I sense no complexity, and this one-dimensional brew just doesn't cut it with me.

Ah, this one is a deep, charry black stout that pours from the bottle
like a viscous oil. The scent recalls sweet cherry, aged oak, and of
course the sting of bourbon (this is aged in bourbon barrels, thus the
residual flavoring). First tasting reveals a heavy, potent alcohol
presence (it is a goliath 13% ABV, after all). This initial palate is
followed by a smoky, rich maltiness that is simply overpowering. No
session beer here, as this one's best for sipping or sharing, unless
you're seeking a quick ticket to buzz-land. An stunningly strong beer,
and a uniquely memorable "extreme beer" experience.

If it looks like a fruit punch, but smells like a wine, which is it? I
can't tell exactly what this one is, but I can report that this light
and fizzy drink is not altogether awful. I detect flavors like berries
and grapes alongside the more astringent sulfites. I've had several
kinds of these fruity "malt beverages", and most are horribly sugary
and artificial-tasting. Sugary, yes. Artificial, sort of. But I could
down it and not make sour faces, and that alone says something.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

N.Strahl.N / Metek - "Drowning Devices" CDR

This collaboration between a pair of obscure avante sound-artists from Germany (N.Strahl.N, aka W.Loehr) and Sweden (Metek, aka F.Nilsson) is a series of subtle, cinematic, and often dark experimental/industrial-type soundscapes, often minimalistic and sparse yet wholly effective. It seems that most of "Drowning Devices" consists of field recordings with processing and electronic effects, and Loehr and Nilsson utilize these with a strong sense of tension and restraint. "Ambient 8", for example, creeps along like a shadow along a wall, perhaps hinting at a presence unseen. "Komfort" is very much in the realm of ambient-industrial, with the humming of what sounds like big machines in a spooky, long-abandoned warehouse. Perfect for creating your own '"Saw" scenario! Hah! "Eiserne Reserve" is a quiet mix of grinding metal, drones, and cavernous reverberations. Superb work, and a top-notch soundtrack to your paranoid thoughts. (Cohort Records)



Wednesday, October 14, 2009

JANVS - "Vega" CD

Another standout black metal hybrid from ATMF, this Italian act's second album reflects a distinct progressive (as in prog-rock) tendency. The superb opener, "Torri Di Vetro" is booming and blasting, but it's got a unique technical side that aims it away from your usual xerox black metal. "Saphire" ushers in an extremely melodic, almost commercial sound, but that's not to say it sucks, by any means. It's still a powerful and highly listenable collision of heavy, layered riffing and vocals that don't sound like a fourth-rate Mayhem knockoff. It's probably too complex and almost psychedelic, perhaps, for those with an ear for more traditional heavy sounds, but I rather like it. "Tarab" is even more grand, complete with dark, mysterious electronic textures and orchestral flourishes. It's big, epic and really something to behold. "Mediterraneo" brings it back to earth with a bruising, blackened thrash stomp, complete with proggy twists. JANVS fuse elements from usually disparate angles of metal, and create their own tasteful spin on the ever-broadening genre. A superlative and forward-thinking release. I am impressed! (ATMF)


band site

Faust - "From Glory To Infinity" CD

Apparently oblivious to the fact that there's already been a prominent and influential group called Faust which has been performing and recording for decades, this Italian death/speed/thrash metal act bludgeons away with unmistakable technical prowess, electing to leave any semblance of originality far behind them. This particular Faust, the brainchild of vocalist/guitarist/producer Aleister, chooses silly cartoonish gurgled vocals that epitomize and pigeonhole this style. And let's not get started with the sophomoric lyrics, which are mercilessly included here. Yikes. On the positive side, the band's strongest point is easily the double-pronged guitar attack, which displays a tight-knit and melodic, almost-classical temperament. No doubt the experience of the band, which includes former members of Sadus, Testament, Death, Iced Earth, and Dimmu Borgir, is evident here. The production is also quite good, allowing space for all the instruments to shine clearly. It's just a shame it all gets lost amidst this formula and cheesy death metal posturing. There's better and heavier music out there. Sorry lads. (Paragon Records)

band website


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ethernet - "144 Pulsations Of Light" CD

Using sound as a meditative or healing instrument isn't a new idea. In fact, this is likely among the earliest applications for music itself. Tim Gray (who is Ethernet) seeks to re-establish the self-healing and trance-provoking elements of ambient sound on his debut here. Beginning with the drones of "Majestic", Gray's shimmering pulses are grounded by an underlying 808 backbeat -- a singular, simplistic rhythm. "5 + 7 = 12" is almost melodic, as a lilting loop is placed among the electronic textures and field recordings. That dubby back-rhythm, combined with the trancey natural landscapes, reminds me a bit of the landmark work of Wolfgang Voigt as Gas, although Ethernet is more drone-based and hazy/distant. "Summer Insects" drops the beats entirely, and becomes even more effective and organic, like a paean to a lost rainforest. "Seaside" is a calming affirmation, while "Kansai" is more upbeat. The closer, "Temple", is a celestial gem that sparkles and gently lulls. This is some righteously beautiful and timeless work, and here's to hoping that Ethernet can continue on this splendid, nature-oriented path. (Kranky)


Tanuki Dreams site

DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid - "The Secret Song" CD

Suffice to say this is possibly DJ Spooky (aka Paul D. Miller)'s most fully realized and wide-reaching release in his already deep and extensive catalog. He's got collaborators from nearly every continent (and genre) at hand. The list alone is impressive: Thurston Moore, Jungle Brothers, Rob Swift, The Coup, Mike Ladd, Sussan Deyhim, Abdul Smooth, Vijay Iyer, Zimbabwe Legit, and more. But the star of the show is unquestionably DJ Spooky himself, who takes the material from these disparate sources and creates a worldly, wise, and hopeful travelogue that traverses the fringes of culture(s). "Dazed And Confused Dub" is a massive rock symphony. "Where I'm At" is forward-thinking hip-hop. "Heliocentric" is funky electro-jazz, and "Azadi" is full of smooth, sensual, Middle Eastern chants. And that's just a few of the 20 cuts here. DJ Spooky masterfully fuses the sounds of urban hip-hop, academic electronica, gritty rock, futuristic classical, musique concrete, and out-jazz, and in effect creates as close to a comprehensive modern-day pop music/sound collage as you're likely to hear this year. Or this century. Stunning and essential. (Thirsty Ear)

DJ Spooky's home

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Shadowfost - "Essence // Mindscape" CD

From Italy comes this quartet who have a sound noticeably founded on black metal, but with an added technologically-curious thrash element. Like early Fear Factory, Shadowfost harness breakneck tempos, but add their own contemporary spin on the tired and overplayed death/thrash genre. Stellar production and dense layering of sounds (are those samples?) make this one a definite bass-bin boomer with a good amount of sound depth. "Fear Shaped World" is a winner, with a super-huge guitar and scathing vocals that remind me of Carcass (which several other tracks do, too). The drum sound is also notably huge and pummeling, and "Essence // Mindscape" is a fast and furious album of inhuman speed, intense drums, and hellish vocal torment. My complaint here is that the band so rarely change up tempos during the album's 30+ minutes. It's a strong showing for a debut, but without at least some book-ended ambient or atmospheric flourishes, this one's positively numbing, and ultimately forgettable. (ATMF)

Shadowfost website