Friday, August 28, 2009

Voice Of Eye - "Seven Directions Divergent" CD

True to it's title, this long-awaited new CD from New Mexican duo Voice Of Eye wanders across the deserts alluringly, and in different directions. It's been many years since I last heard from Bonnie McNairn and Jim Wilson. Their 90's releases were incredible conjurations of primitive spirits and fleeting ritual ambiances that were simultaneously dark, seductive, and intense. With this release, they immediately go into a completely different realm with the opening track, "Gates Of Mysterious Fire". It's a rhythmic track with McNairn's wispy, ghostly vocals. There are other tracks of earthy, narcotic, and psychedelic song-based composing here, reminding me a little of Charalambides' primitivist work, though VOE layer their tracks much more densely. As with their earlier work, all of the sounds here are organic/acoustic in origin -- no synthesizers were used, which seems incredible when you hear the sonic textures at work here. Indeed, Voice Of Eye are masters of sound manipulation. "Golden Space Funk Transmission" isn't all that funky per se, but it is a solid bit of rolling ambient pop, both drifty and hallucinogenic. "Om Shanti" is a traditional Sanskrit mantra, and is a very enjoyable and meditational sound built on traditional instruments for an exotic, droning journey. The final track, the 18-minute "Transformational Birth", harkens back to the group's earlier works, and is a decidedly darker, ambient improvisation that sounds like a leviathan awakening from slumber -- edgy, majestic, and not least of all, frighteningly sinister. Beautiful work, and a hearty journey, indeed. (Conundrum Unlimited)

Voice Of Eye's site, with mp3 samples

My 1996 Godsend interview with Voice Of Eye

"Johnny Yesno" (director: Peter Care)

This early short film (it's around 20 minutes or so) by director Care (later of videos by Depeche Mode, R.E.M., and director of episodes of "Six Feet Under" and "Red Shoe Diaries", among others, and director of the Jodie Foster film, "The Dangerous Lives Of Altar Boys") is a long-forgotten cult favorite, which hasn't got it's due (though it seems a remake/re-imagining is imminent?). Anyhow, gaining most of it's notoriety through the soundtrack by Cabaret Voltaire, "Johnny Yesno" is a hard-boiled, eerie, and gritty noir film depicting the streetwise Johnny, who gets himself mixed up with some seedy characters -- all in the interest of a lady whom he finds himself mesmerized by upon first sight. The dreamy hallucination sequence is spectacular, with groundbreaking camerawork most certainly appropriated by Darren Aranofsky for his critically-acclaimed films "Pi" and "Requiem For A Dream". And there are hints of David Lynch's surrealism in here as well, perhaps inspiring or inspired by his left-of-center visuals. Care's tough, urban environments are enhanced exponentially here through the prominent use of Cabaret Voltaire's sound environments. This is prime period CabVolt (with Chris Watson still in tow), in their delightfully dirty, urban, post-industrial, proto-funk phase. The soundtrack is still available, and can be found for reasonable prices, but this film has been all but forgotten and hasn't been reissued onto DVD as yet. A few Cabaret Voltaire videos by Care (he was basically their third member and created the group's entire visual persona) are appended to this film (at least in the copy I gleaned from nontraditional sources). A fine work, tough, unsettling, and cerebral. Do some searching and treat yourself to this one!

"Pelts" (director: Dario Argento)

Argento's second "Masters Of Horror" installment follows his simultaneously repellent/erotic "Jenifer", and this horror short fails where that one succeeded (though I seem to be alone in that belief). Here, Meat Loaf stars as a struggling furrier who is led to a top-quality stash of raccoon pelts. Well, these pelts are not simply raccoons, but apparently something more. Suffice to say that PETA will approve of this 'nature's revenge' scenario. It's not a pretty sight. Some top-notch, if over the top gore effects are the highlight here, with some memorable death scenes to rival "Final Destination" or, just maybe, some of Argento's finer moments in the past. But the story, acting, and pacing here seems convoluted, and the atmospheres are pure B-grade...the wild woods at night is illuminated? Is that supposed to be the light of the moon? Eh? Not one of the better "Masters Of Horror" installments, though that's admittedly not saying much.

¡M.G.R. y Destructo Swarmbots! - "Amigos de lo Guitarra" CD

When Swarmbots' Mike Mare and Isis/MGR's Mike Gallagher get together, the long, drawn-out guitarscapes that result echo with a sparse, dusty Morricone-meets-post-rock vibe. The single 42-minute instrumental piece here, "Amor en el Aire", approaches a kind of dark, reflective soundtrack, and it chimes and glides with a subtle, slow-burn intensity. The droning, wandering psychedelia begins gently, then rises up as Mare and Gallagher's layered guitars capture a way-out atmosphere of wide-open expanses. It's like the quiet parts of a Mono song that never quite takes off on it's trajectory to the stratosphere. The music fades out gradually, like a ghostly tumbleweed rolling out of town. "Amigos.." is a fine mood piece, perfect for fans of the Neurosis/Isis axis, but perhaps a bit lacking for repeat listens. (Neurot Recordings)

Destructo Swarmbotspace

Isis site

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Pestilential Shadows - "In Memoriam, Ill Omen" CD

Hailing from, of all places, Australia, this black metal mob creates a (perhaps too) crispy set of ballbreaking speed riffs with tortured, gargled-from-satan-himself vocals. Unlike some of the more tuneless among their black metal brethren, Pestilential Shadows inject some old-fashioned melody into "Beautiful Demise", which should please any fans of classic metal, and the doomy piano at the conclusion is a nice touch. "With Serpents I Lay" is a wall of noise, though the vocals are kinda cliche and tend to mess with the melodic, galloping rhythms of drummer Sorrow. I have to mention the lack of low-end bass on this recording, too, for it all seems trebly and buzzsaw-like. For example, "For Man And Heavens Ruin" rains down the same trebly guitar sound until it threatens to drown out the song itself. Those complaints aside, if the brutal, non-song-based aesthetics of this scene have been a turn-off to many, bands like this one make it all a little more palatable, with more traditional songwriting and structure. "In Memoriam" is a solid piece of work, not altogether unique, but well listenable and a good mix of styles. (Pulverised Records)

Pestilential Shadowspace

D.O.A. - "30th Anniversary DVD" ("The Men Of Action" DVD + "Northern Avenger" CD)

This is a cool package combining a retrospective DVD as well as the band's new album. Vancouver's D.O.A., led by Joe "Shithead" Keithley, are an institution -- easily one of Canada's greatest musical contributions (respect to Skinny Puppy). This 26-song DVD collects live clips, TV appearances, and some promo videos from 1978 to now, and it's an entertaining look at the band, from bootleg-quality material to pro-shot, multi-camera goodness. It's all great, from hits like "Fucked Up Ronnie" and "America The Beautiful" to a sweet new video for the band's classic "D.O.A." from 1978. D.O.A.'s ideals are on display here -- pro-environment, atheist, pro-human (and women's) rights, anti-war, and anti-racism. As well, there's plenty of references to their other loves --- hockey, beer, etc. So it's not all heavy-handed polemics. Beyond this fine DVD, in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the band, Keithley himself narrates an extra audio track, whereupon he discusses not only the videos, but countless tales (good and bad) from the band's illustrious and storied history. It's great fun, and quite the Canuck-punk history lesson.

The added CD is the group's new studio work, and was co-produced by famed Canadian rock producer Bob Rock, who's pedigree includes such nonsense as Aerosmith and Motley Crue. Nonetheless, he allows Shithead and company to shine, with a clean (but not sterile) sound. Musically, it's prime D.O.A. (they never seem to age) -- smart punk with bits of ska ("That Poor Poor Boy"). There's anger, activism, and plenty of catchy, singalong raucousness. A great set, and further proof that D.O.A. are as vital and relevant today as they ever were. (Sudden Death Records / MVD Visual)

PBK & Telepherique - "Noise-Ambient Connections" CD

This joining of forces of the American sound painter PBK and veteran German experimental group Telepherique here encompasses a fertile creative ground, and is titled more than appropriately, being a playful mesh of softly textural, bizarre and sometimes playful sound compositions. It all begins with the oddly surreal "Twilight Cue", which sounds like an electro-acoustic collage with samples and recordings of raw metal and primitive percussions (though perhaps more ambient than that description implies). "In Ecosystem Interrupt" is a mysterious set of sounds that evoke a dramatic cinematic scene in a plastic baggie factory (with strings)...on vinyl! "My Rare Dreams (Of The Future)" is a more structured, rhythmic mix of atmospheric guitars/bass and skittering, looping sounds, like an old 4AD band being mixed by Stefan Betke/Pole. "You Only Fade" soundtracks a late-night haunting in a factory, through a pixel haze, whereas "Seen Through Cloud Cover" closes it out with a spacious ambience. Overall, a heady and quirkily pleasing collision of sounds and abstracted textures. (Monochrome Vision Russia)

PBK site

"William S. Burroughs: A Man Within"

Here's an upcoming documentary worth a look...from Chicago director Yony Leyser. And check out the folks interviewed. A must-see!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Overmars - "Born Again" CD

Taking the half-speed churn and seething, pummeling noise-grind of classic SWANS, and throwing it down the steps alongside modern post-rock metal ala Neurosis or Isis, these Frenchmen (and woman) find themselves in a gloriously brutal din of pained discontent with "Born Again", their second true full-length. This album is one single-indexed 40-minute track, and it begins with a huge, plodding, thunderous landscape of slow-burn guitar/drum grind, with dual male/female vocals that channel the spirits of souls having their skin burnt off. It's a truly nightmarish sound, horrific and chilling. After several minutes, it falls away to reveal a more atmospheric freefall, with almost psychedelic reverberations and Marion's shrieked vox. "Born Again" is a hellishly potent collision of sounds, and will easily appeal to a varied audience, from death/grind/black metal fans to more avante-leaning industrial-noise heads, theirs is a sound born of pestilence, pain, and (perhaps) redemption. It's a travelogue of an existence without light, where torture is a tide that ebbs and pulses. Momentous and earth-moving music here. I am stunned. (Crucial Blast)

Overmars webpage

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Otep - "Smash The Control Machine" CD

Taking the title from a quote by the immortal William S. Burroughs, Otep have piqued my interest once again. Initially enjoying their 2002 debut, "Sevas Tra" (aka "Art saves"), in which vocalist Otep Shamaya's vulnerable little girl-meets-demonically-possessed she-devil assault placed the band far ahead of many of their more traditional metal peers, I lost interest as the more recent songs I'd heard seemed lighter and more commercial. Well, it seems with "Smash...", Otep has reunited with her old bandmates (the dudes from "Sevas Tra"), and despite the title track/first single being a blatant radio-friendly concession, most of "Smash" is nicely potent, with plenty of hyper-speed down-tuned riffs and thumping rhythms that pummel and fire on all cylinders. Otep herself is in top form, too, as her banshee storm rivals any male singer out there. There are some tracks that fail to impress, like the rapping on "Run For Cover". Points off there. And that title track just bothers me, though it's heart is in the right place, being a pretty scathing indictment of consumerist culture. Overall, this is an uneven recording -- combining some fine and ultra-heavy metallic rock with some cleaner, more commercial leanings. Mixed, I say. I'd like to hear this band let loose, with no inhibitions. I'd bet it would smoke. (Victory Records)

Smash The Control Machine (official site)