Here's the set up: one day I was checking my e-mails (as usual), sifting through countless bullshit indie newsletters, when I saw a message signed as "● ▲▲ ▲▲". My reaction was something along the lines of "Oh God, someone didn't get the memo regarding triangles and weird symbols" and "I really shouldn't be clicking this". A few days later, however, I was searching my inbox, looking for bands and projects I might have overlooked to make up for the neglect of my blog. Reluctantly, I clicked the link to the Bandcamp page, where I was greeted by even more impossible to write, let alone pronounce track titles. Despite all this, I clicked the play button and instead of witch house, I was greeted with disastrous, ultra-fuzzy, post-apoc guitar noise with clear signs of raw black metal worship, recalling my brief infatuation with Striborg in late 2007. OMM (also written as O /\/\ /\/\ - I wonder if it's a reference to the improv ensemble AMM?) is a solo project of Slovakian experimentalist Jozef Tušan, whose speciality is the creation of deafening and/or unettling soundscapes using mostly his guitar. Not your usual relaxation music, but one can find certain transcendence in the waves of flesh-tearing noise.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
A photograph of Macchu Picchu adorns the cover of Mohave Triangles' newest cassette, and it's not just aesthetics. The artwork of Robert Thompson's newest album (released on Georgia's killer Hooker Vision label) goes beyond being merely a "old NatGeo pictures collage" to become a true reflection of Robert's inspirations behind his music. Imagery of old, forgotten civilizations from both North and South America (before the Europeans came), shamanism and the temptation of believing those civilizations had actual contact with extraterrestial beings is a staple of Mohave Triangles. On Eternal Light of the Desert Plateaus, Thompson stays in the drone area, but doesn't limit himself to drone only. Both sides of the cassette begin with a cavernous, almost dark-ambient passages, but gradually transform into windswept, scorched guitar invocations somewhere between the desert doom of Barn Owl and folky primitivism of Six Organs of Admittance (sans the vocals). It's great to see the scene's up-and-coming artists evolving beyond the area of pure drone, which, let's face it, is slowly beginning to eat its own tail. Recommended. Cassette version available at Hooker Vision.
Oxford's dronesmith Neon Pulse describes his music as "emo" or "emotronic". But it's not used in a pejorative, degrading way we all got so much used to in the last few years (because I'm sure many, or maybe even most Weed Temple readers know about the original emo movement of late 80's and early 90's, not those whiny teen attention whoring fucks fueled by sensation-seeking pulp media) - Neon Pulse's music fits the term very well, but here we find him switching guitars to synthesizers and creating nearly 2 hours of enveloping, cosmic ambience with two, maybe even three sides: sometimes it's smooth "wallpaper music", at other times it's filled with sandpaper textures in the vein of Infinite Body or Stitched Vision and occasionally the music even kicks into the ambient techno territory ("Love Plume"). But the emotional package characteristic for the genre masters stays, only now it seems harnessed, digitalized and lenghtened into a series of meditations, sometimes sad, sometimes wide-eyed. A truly immense and immersive album, highly recommended for all ambient lovers, especially at this time of the year. Let your heart station open. The double cassette is still available at Sangoplasmo Records.
Thursday, November 24, 2011
A slowly unfolding psychedelic pop journey from Philadelphia's Gabriel Guerrero (vocals, production) and Alden Towler (guitar). Swells of ethereal ambience and upbeat sequencers set to economically, yet effectively used beats and Guerrero's crystal clear, powerful vocals and Towler's funky guitar licks. For fans of Merriweather Post Pavilion-era Animal Collective.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Here's a treat to the fans of the more "classical" psychedelia: a proggy space rock journey with hard rock and early heavy metal elements in the style of Hawkwind, Blue Cheer or early Black Sabbath from a Columbus based power trio of Matt Auxier (guitars, vocals), Matt Bailey (bass) and Brandon Smith (bass, vocals), supplemented by Adam Smith playing all sorts of classic old-school electronics: Mellotron, ARP 2600 and the Moog. The result is a trippy, yet tight and thoroughly planned album. Without resorting to creating a chaotic, disorienting mass of sound EYE manage to take the listeners into new worlds AND kick ass at the same time - while most modern bands are more into the "psychedelic" part of "psychedelic rock", these guys are the "rock" part of the equation. Recommended!
Too cosmic and far out to be straight chillwave, too beat-based to be straight drone/Berlin School. What is it? The man behind Technicolour Sattva, Carlos Gatel, calls it "retrowave". Going from Oneohtrix-style crystal New Age zones to sweaty, Madlib-worship funkadelia in just two minutes? No problem for Gatel. Technicolour Sattva EP is more a series of multi-styled collages than actual songs. And it's a good thing - an abundance of hard-to-pigeonhole music lately is astounding.
Don't get discouraged by the cover of Post-Camp / Nonplussed? - it sure looks like fuckin' shit, but it's supposed to be this way. San Francisco's Parae play the self-proclaimed "camp-core". Under this mysterious genre name hides an energetic fusion of 1960's psych and pop rock (we're talking about San Francisco, after all), truly (post) punk rock vocals and 1990's psychotic, nervous noise rock. The result is somewhat campy (duh), spastic hippie punk - a strange crossover, repeatedly punching you in the face with one hand while putting flowers in your hair with the other. The closest point of reference here would probably be Thinking Fellers Union Local 282. Recommended!
EDIT: Apparently, the guys from Parae are really disillusioned about how things turned out for them. Let's show them it ain't that tragic and let's download all the stuff they've released up to this point. Because in an alternative universe, I can see Pitchfork readers drooling all over them (in b4 hurf durf bitchfork is garbage etc. comments).
Just in case James Ferraro's Far Side Virtual didn't fill you with enough plunderphonic/sample-based blissful weirdness, here's a nice EP from California's Creepy Marbles. Hyper-polished R&B vocal harmonies and slow club beats filtered through Tumblr-based disorienting ma/ess of images, sounds and ideas.
Friday, November 18, 2011
The unassuming and simple cover of Tile’s Universal does not reflect the catchy content of the cassette lying underneath. Tile is the song-oriented incarnation of Jeff R., who was previously known under the moniker Sky Stadium, where he created blurry, drifting ambient passages.
Universal is a collection of 8 lo-fi synth pop songs with somewhat shoegazey vocals – quite a departure from his “usual” work in the musical sense, but not in chronological sense. After all, the 80’s were not only the era of ambient pioneers and post-hippie New Age masters, but also of young people cranking out hymns of the generation using synthesizers and rediscovering psychedelia through the use of walls of guitar and vocals distortion. R. channels these sentiments through triumphant hymns with a certain bedroom pop sensitivity – though most tracks are light-hearted and somewhat nostalgic (but then again, what music referring to the previous decades can’t be described as nostalgic?), the tape tends to hit more “far out” moments, like the drifting “Nightship”, closer to Jeff’s work as Sky Stadium than the pop miniatures of the rest of the album, or the cheesily creepy “The Haunters”, which takes numerous cues from old (by old I mean the 80’s/early 90’s) video game soundtracks, bringing images of pixelated monsters and simple graphics.
Universal is one of numerous examples that the tape scene is slowly getting fed up on analog drone and moving in new directions; whether it’s the simple pop format or the minimal techno structures, it’s a sign that (to paraphrase Enfer Boreal’s album name) drone is dead (or dying) and it’s simply time to move on and explore new territories.
To a person non-familiar with the work of Seattle’s Midday Veil, the first few minutes of Subterranean Ritual II, released on Translinguistic Other label is one of the many synth drone cassettes, with a slowly unveiling synthesizer drone leading to dreamy, meditative zones. But it soon turns out that the opening drone is just the canvas, upon which layers and layers of new sounds are painted.
Side A’s monster jam “Moon Temple” (nearly 24 minutes long!) slowly adds new elements to the tripped out concoction. The drums, initially shy and hidden with barely audible cymbal play, finally sets the steady, echoed rhythm over which shamanic moans rise and fall – like a more desert-friendly, slightly orientalized version of Ash Ra Tempel. For the majority of the track, the guitar is just barely there, noodling psychedelically in the background, while the reverbed invocations and the pulsing drone merge for a cosmic synergy. It gets more audible toward the end of the track, where the music finally topples and gains incredible momentum, resulting in a fuzzed-out, spastic jam, with six strings burning from frenetic soloing in the vein of Manuel Gottsching or Kawabata Makoto.
Side B’s “Naxos”, besides being considerably ten minutes shorter (a somewhat untypical move, especially for a cassette, where most artists tend to make both sides roughly identical in length) continues the slow, peyotic trance of side A. The music here is more rock-oriented, but it doesn’t mean it’s droneless – the massive drone appears after a few minutes and doesn’t live until the very end, pulsing relentlessly while the guitar spews out lonely, ominous notes and the slow drumming interrupted by washes of cymbal white noise set the mood for the desert ritual.
The dark, evocative atmosphere is amplified by the cassette’s artwork, featuring blurry, purple-hued images of a woman holding a candle, bringing images of 1960’s Satanist gatherings and LaVey/LSD based exploitation mania. Midday Veil sure managed to possess the spirits of the greats of psychedelic rock (Ash Ra Tempel, especially) and more importantly, they managed to let these spirits flow and release them onto the tape, where they etched their forms in form of music. Recommended.
Monday, November 14, 2011
Review: Laughing Eye Weeping Eye - Where Snakes & Seers Go (self-released, 2011), 6majik9 / Prehistoric Fuckin' Morons - Split (Magik Crowbar, 2011)
The great music completist Piero Scaruffi once divided the freak folkers (or New Weird Americans, if you please) into the „bards”, who focus on the song format and keep their songs short and melodic and the „trippers”, who focus on free improvisation, keeping their tracks long, flowing and usually formless. The two albums I’m going to review here represent both schools, both in imagery and the way they present the psychedelic aspect of their music. One is a vinyl LP from a Chicago based duo Laughing Eye Weeping Eye entitled Where Snakes & Seers Go. The other (the „tripper” mindset) is a Split cassette between Australian psychotic folk collectiva 6majik9 and ingeniously named Prehistoric Fuckin’ Morons (best name for a band of 2011, right after Reincarnated as a Burger).
The first of the two is the Illinois duo Laughing Eye, Weeping Eye. It appears that LEWE are trying to fill (whether intentionally or unintentionally, this remains to be unsolved) every freak folk/New Weird America cliche in the book. Whether it's the flashy, gender-confusing outfits or child-like (or maybe childish-like?) „psychedelic” album covers with colorful dragons and mysterious half-human, half-angel entities, Laughing Eye, Weeping Eye closely resemble the „bard” format classics such as Devendra Banhart or CocoRosie. The music on the purple vinyl revolves around vocal experimentation and attempting various moods with mostly the use of vocals and a wide variety of traditional instruments: harmonium, violins, accordions etc. etc. The album is neatly divided into 4-5 minute long songs, usually based around a simple line repeated in a hypnotic, whimsical manner. Despite the simple, pastoral feel of most songs, the music can get quite epic, with heavy brass sections and abrasive harmonium. Most of the time though, the music stays on the gentle side and focuses on kaleidoscopically different ways of delivery: at one moment LEWE sounds like a royal choir, moments later they sound like cute little furry animals inviting us to play in a rainbow meadowland.
In the completely different camp are two Australian units, who share the same tape in one lengthy outsider clatter jamming. On side A, 6majik9 offers three tracks (which blend into each other without much notice from the listener, really) of anarchic, communal kraut-folk noodling not unlike the more free improv-leaning moments of Sunburned Hand of the Man or early Amon Duul. Despite the general lack of direction and the band just playing around with a shapeless mass of sound, there are moments where the musicians get a general grasp of things and randomly create something that would serve as a rough draft for a polished, organized album: a math rock-y beat here, a few interesting guitar licks there… It’s just that the music never strays from the “jamming for the sake of jamming” territory. But it’s not like 6majik9 ever wanted to make an album of regular songs. That’s what bards are for. Side B is taken by another Australian weirdo collective Prehistoric Fuckin’ Morons. These dudes appear to be more into tape experiments and musique concrete rather than freewheelin’ bastard folk and fill the majority of their side with strange, mangled samples and cut-up experiments in the style of 80’s era Negativland. By blending found sounds with rudimentary electronics and mapless psych folk, Prehistoric Fuckin’ Morons come off as some strange love-child of Excepter, No Neck Blues Band and Delia Derbyshire.
Both releases show the basic rules and ideologies behind the two “schools” of psychedelic folk revival: on one side we have Laughing Eye Weeping Eye’s cheerful, simple freak folk that wouldn’t mind if someone called them “pop” or “psychedelic pop” – colorful, positive and energetic, even if a bit immature and childish. The split cassette is the polar opposite – anarchic clatter that tries to distance itself from pop as far as possible, preferring to stay in the air of mystery and release their albums only to a close-knit circle of freaks on out-of-date formats.