On the surface (to the casual ear) there might not seem to be a whole lot in common with Dead Sea Apes and the sonic alchemist known as Black Tempest. The former traffics in rolling, and often boiling, maximum sized sonic tectonics, while the latter conjures up electro-kosmische wonders that lay out flight paths as much as elevate you onto them. Though both cover huge tracts of land, here and out there, with a beguiling agility despite the size of their crafts, they don’t deal in surfaces only. They may create them, but they journey far above them, and often through them, glowing with a slow-burning cosmic light that blankets like the sun or provides the safe-harbor lure of a lone flame. Dead Sea Apes and Black Tempest don’t just create deep music. They operate along the other axes as nimbly as a spider, swirling around them, coaxing them into shapes far beyond the linear. Sounds and tangents turn in on themselves, gathering and jettisoning, until The Sun Behind The Sun becomes a gloriously constantly weaving knot, a sonic orrery with bodies that somehow orbit themselves. Many collaborations sound good on paper, the lure of a pairing too much to pass up when talking about two bodies that generate as much space and gravity as Dead Sea Apes and Black Tempest. And that’s as far as they get; the sum far less than the parts. Here’s one that effectively generates a third entity to stand toe to toe with its parents. There’s not one point on The Sun Behind The Sun where either outfit feels like they are selling the project short by not being true to their mission. This isn’t Dead Sea Tempest. Both give the other wide berth to ply their trade and paint with with big strokes that turn soft edges into the outline of that unseen third party, the third stone behind the other sun…Nothing feels grafted onto another or bolted in place; it’s a 100% natural weave. DSA and BT get down to the core of their individual work, finding the plasticity so they can coil around each other like a double-helix. Getting together to push their envelopes, they’ve turned the spotlight on the DNA that makes them both what they are. Consequently, that’s given birth to something that’s both bigger than both of them in some ways, while fitting seamlessly into their own continua. The Sun Behind The Sun’s common ground between DSA and BT isn’t a limp superficial overlap of both. This is new ground, new territory for both, not limited by redundant points of interest and intersections. The 3 cuts lay out orbits that ripple and pulse around—as well as in— each other as much as they do the sun of your choice. Both governing bodies become indistinguishable, the gears not so much meshing as melding into each other for a giant self-perpetuating solar fire. Considering the inherent pull and force of each respective gravity well, this is a match made in heaven that actually delivers on the promise, leaving DSA and BT fully redeemed. And their passengers fully satisfied. Highly recommended for new and old sun worshippers alike.
Wilder Penfield :: Dead Sea Apes + Black Tempest :: The Sun Behind The Sun (2012, Cardinal Fuzz)
After bringing the stellar Black Bear Rug out into the light, Norman, OK’s Anvil Salute return with Unsalt A Veil. Recorded a month after Rug, Unsalt A Veil shares much with the former, the least of which is their buzzing bucolic haze that permeates both releases. Unsalt A Veil, like Rug, has a vibe and saturation though all its own. From the lulling one-two pastoral punch of Cucumber Calm and Edvarda, over the climb of the spacey, active meditation of Radio Sahel and out as easy as we came in,the album unfolds in a natural arc that really should be taken in as whole. Following a curve both ethereal, smooth and with the serrations in between, the album feels like it’s gone through its natural process by the end, bringing the day both full circle and ready to start again. In many ways, the individual songs play out the same way on their own more detailed, and personal, level giving Unsalt A Veil a closure that doesn’t shut the door. Anvil Salute pull of the great feat of a performance and recording that feels intimate, but opens up as big as the sky that it roams under and by all accounts, had a hand in creating. Painting with big, improvisational and experimental strokes of folk, nebulous languid space rock, drone and more, Anvil Salute don’t just unsalt a veil, they reveal what’s behind it by effortlessly turning it into a rich tapestry.
“Welcome to the birth of Backward Music, a heavily-curated label based in Atlantic Canada. An off-shoot of the successful Forward Music Group, Backward will focus on giving a voice to the highest calibre creative and innovative music outside of the mainstream and doing so with a careful focus on presentation and aesthetic. The label will also direct a strong focus on how the ever-evolving field of technology changes possibilities for delivering music to audiences and is working with cutting edge web-developers, videographers and artists to deliver both music & visual content in engaging and innovative ways.
The first release package, coming October 30th, will be a compilation of three different artists; New York composer David Moore’s Bing & Ruth project, Toronto percussionist Joshua Van Tassel, and British expat Tim Crabtree. The music is a cohesive batch of cinematic and ambient music with subtle textures of both organic and electronic instruments, sequenced to provide a calm listening experience.”
A great label debut both as a compilation and a full-length on its own. Rather than lump these three outfits in clusters, Vol. 1 spreads them out to mingle, interact and sequence. With all bringing their own unique dish to the table, Vol. 1 benefits from a surprising range of dynamics for an album so patient, and in the right ways, methodical. The work may come over that way, but it’s not rigid or unbending. There’s plenty of soft as well as curved edges, many rippling out into each other. The press rings true when they say Vol. 1 is “sequenced to provide a calm listening experience.” It’s easy to get lulled in only to find there’s much more going on than lazing in the experience. From rhythmic electronic tinged progressions to an uplifting wordless elegy, there’s activity. With no need to shout and moving at its own pace.
You can read more about Backward Music and this roster here, and acquire goods at this outpost.
Holy War :: Joshua Van Tassel :: Vol. 1 (2012, Backward Music)
Dublin based Hugh Doolan fleshes out his earlier single Maiden Speech for his new full-length, Soundtrack To Your Imagination. Taking the lead from the first part of the title, about any of the cuts could be dropped into a variety of film genres and styles and be effective, whether as rich background or taking a bigger role in tandem. Compare the moody and starry Persephone’s Guitar to the tense and Krautrock-tinged Invisible Man for contrast andyou can hear the multiple use/rfactor. One of the biggest roles is saved for the listener though, spelled out on the marquee. Doolan’s compositions have their own character, but he uses their atmospheric and shifting nature to welcome the outsider imagination into the scene, to be an active participant in the flicker. Standing alone, and working as a soundtrack to…well, your call eventually…there is a feeling of narrative, a progression. Coaxed by Doolan, the details are up to us. That said, Doolan isn’t shirking his responsibility and leaving all the work to us. Many of the cuts push a warm emotional vibe that can easily cross between something wrapped in melancholy to feeling uplifting and hopeful. You wouldn’t be off in thinking that this exercise could lead to a formless, and uncommitted, gray card, but Soundtrack To Your Imagination has more than enough ground and framework to hold itself up as well as the weight of our own embellishments, and exaggeration if you want to go that far. If you don’t, and take Soundtrack To Your Imagination only on the surface, you still have an intriguing and ethereal whisper-narrative in your ear that has much more of a pay-off than the usual background static that screams at you no matter how much you adjust your volume knob. If you want to engage with it, then the result is what you, and your imagination, make of it.
(…a bit of bleed over into the day job: you can see more of the album illustrator Mario Sughi’s work at nerosunero.)
“A misguided combination of Spaghetti Western soundtracks, 1960s surf guitar and minimalist post-rock.”
Based out of the Spaghetti Western HQ of London, Plantagenet 3 deliver what they promise in no misguided terms. The duo of Richard Lanyon and Tasha V (aided by a ‘pair of 1980s drum machines’) build an intriguing atmosphere full of space, and spaces in-between, that betray their admitted minimalist bag of tools. And it’s not about a bag of tricks either. No one could be faulted for thinking the surf component might be the first element to get misguided, or exploited. Plantagenet 3 find the sweet and sinewy spot where surf/spy-isms cross paths with the tremulous aura of some post rock, and have the good sense to simply let it go widescreen naturally.
There is a vinyl release set to roll in, but you can sample and hold some forthcoming goods as well as see what rode in earlier at their Bandcamp outpost.
The Darkening Green :: Plantagenet 3 :: The Darkening Green (2012, Plantagenet 3)
You could have a field day deciphering their name, spaces, open spaces, how it relates to their art…blah blah blah blah…point made, but the real fertile soil to ponder and get between your toes is the music itself. And it’s ripe for digging, right through the concrete if you have to. London-based L A N D’s debut Night Within is a stunner of a package, everything coalescing into a deep, deliberate and physical statement that, as they say, works at “approaching an apocalyptic noir narrative.” There is undoubtedly a narrative, melancholy nightcrawler coursing through; mysterious, moody, giving form to that feeling of being alone and dislocated in your own city…your home. The one cut with vocals, placed at the outset, starts the story that follows, seamlessly unfolding one into another, constructing and painting their stomping grounds. After letting Nothing Is Happening Everywhere sink in, it’s almost impossible to think of any one other than David Sylvian doing the vocals. It’s a damn near perfect fit; his unmistakable delivery, the two-way support between the music and the voice, that emotionally surreptitious vibe. It’s hard to tell if Sylvian made it his own, or if L A N D made him one of them. Rather than stand out as an oddity, Sylvian’s contribution is placed for greatest impact, ushering in the rest of the evening’s crawl. L A N D create their own alleys and streets to take up residence in, full of insinuating jazz specters and trumpets, gut-rooted bass and subdued industrial framework. There’s an audio/visual side to L A N D which is shored up by how cinematic Night Within feels; both insular and inescapably large…alone in the city, among thousands…finally stalling in a hotel room with the only thing left that’s probably your own, Cold Desire. As effective and as strategically placed as the prologue Nothing Is Happening Everywhere, Cold Desire brings the wee hours to a close, ramping up the latent, coiled energy that’s been following you around all night. Night Within is amazingly self-contained; from production to execution to impeccably erecting its own enigmatic cityscape to exist in and to explore. An enriching and restless night-owl pilgrimage and trek, Night Within is out July 10, on CD and limited edition first-run vinyl, from Important Records.
…six instrumental kraut-rock songs which are inspired by Russian Futurism of the early 20th century, German musical underground of the 70′s, modern American fiction writers, as well as mysteries of the Great Ocean…
Powered by the triple-prop drive of space, prog and psych rock, Vespero take their sonic ship under the waves with their 4th outing, Subkraut: U-boats Willkommen Hier. A thoroughly modern voyage with all the amenities you could need that also tips its hat to a bygone era of musical exploration, Vespero put Subkraut to work navigating the waters, churning up a heady sonic mix in its wake. ALARM…The Art of Positive Thinking starts the dive out with a repetitive pulse coming from a formidable engine room that performs both as a beacon and does a little musical recon work. That throb remains in place throughout Subkraut, stronger at the outset and dissipating as we get further in, but it provides a cyclical thread that ties each destination together to make the overall sonic map both clearer and points to the campaign’s scope. Subkraut ricochetsaround itself non-stop, never feeling claustrophobic like its namesake, even with that thread worming its way through out. Each cut takes the pulse and wraps it with a hypnotic tension/release that seems to keep ratcheting up as they corkscrew through. On the surface it can seem samey, cruising through calm waters, but underneath Subkraut runs deep, layering up detail to give each cut its own character, whether it’s the insistent spiral of Angriff, ran, versenken! turning inner space into outer or the brooding determination of Target Selection. The Strangest Thing in the Ocean lifts the curtain on the ‘mysteries of the Great Ocean,’ heightening the sense of submersion and the pull to open the hatch before Underwater brings the journey to a dramatic close. Whether Subkraut makes it back to the surface is left both up to you, and up for grabs. Exactly what happened under the waves is up for interpretation, but it’s clear that whatever it was it was hard-earned and hard-fought. Loosely conceptual and firmly steered, Subkraut: U-boats Willkommen Hier finds Vespero taking their progressive space rock to gravity-free watery depths with as much drive and surge as ships taking off in the other direction. And finding that infinite space isn’t just over your head.
Subkraut: U-boats Willkommen Hier is available on CD, and limited edition LP (via Kraut Minded Records). There is also a very limited handmade ‘Seebar Edition’ to be had directly through R.A.I.G worthy of any Captain Nemo: ‘Each set is packaged in an oversized foil stamped, hard cover case. In addition to the disc and navigation map of a basic edition, it contains a full color oversized booklet and postcards, special set of vintage photographs, hand-crafted replicas of U-Boat pennant, crew member dog-tag and cuff-title. The “Seebar” box-sets are individually numbered…’
At the core of Mugstar, among a swirling mass of other ingredients, is their undeniable heft. Whether ramping up blistering avant-space rock to an incendiary release or a meditative sprawl with reimagined krautrock underpinnings, there’s an elemental pull that goes beyond mass and becomes gravity. From the pummeling to the pensive, there’s a draw back to their marrow that defines them. That sonic fulcrum is more prevalent than ever on the Ad Marginem soundtrack. The music is Mugstar through and through, standing on its own as an album proper, but this principle nucleus is the star. In some ways, Ad Marginem might be their most personal album, letting this base turn more outward. Soundtracks often get relegated to incidental music, taking a backseat to serve the film, or at least accent the narrative. Ad Marginem comes across as a partner to the visuals, both serving the other with a goal beyond each. Though a fair share is minimal by their own standards, there’s nothing marginal and there’s no mistaking this is Mugstar. Their tension is calmer, partly a result of the music’s function to the film in one case, but it also moves Ad Marginem forward at a languid and at times dramatically brooding pace that welcomes introspection. Without hamstringing themselves or exerting an unnatural control on their sound, Mugstar partially redistribute their weight, not lessen it. It’s not without the release that Mugstar nail when needed, or wanted. The end of Red – Island proves it, or the visceral locomotive denouement of the stellar Rite II that comes to a rousing blow-out: pure and primary Mugstar. Throughout, some of the breaks and stops/starts translate to what would be the sonic equivalent to a film edit, surely marrying the sounds to the visuals further, but also pushing Mugstar to different dynamics.
We normally play very free and open and are more likely to go off the feel rather than a rigid structure. So, songs which may be 10 minutes on an album could last anything between 7 – 12 minutes depending on the feel of time at that time. Whereas with the ﬁlm soundtrack we had to focus on timing… — Jason Stoll
It’s tempting to say Ad Marginem is somehow more ‘mature,’ but that’s a disservice to their other records and in some ways would trivialize this one. Mugstar have always been cerebral, muscular and as each of their records show, evolving. Ad Marginem is no different.
Ad Marginem, CD/DVD/LP, is due this June on Agitated Records.
Rite II :: Mugstar :: Ad Marginem (2012, Agitated Records)
Deep Water Acres is a state of mind, a way of being, and a place up in some old, old mountains where things work just a bit differently.
The recent release from Dead Sea Apes, Lupus, wasn’t just an introduction over in these woods to a different tangent from Dead Sea Apes, but also to Deep Water Acres. Located in Pennsylvania, Deep Water Acres was described as a micro-label, and in their own words are engaged in ‘midwifing a range of sounds that share our particular aesthetic and world-view.’ When I hear micro-label, I think of a result that is hand-crafted, something that values process just as much the end product, ingredients that can be as natural as they are modern and a concern for quality over quantity. That fits not only Deep Water Acres, but the sounds they are releasing. There is a ‘particular aesthetic’ running through their artists’ work, an unhurried, at times meditative, slant that takes the hoary over-used credo of ‘still waters run deep’ back to its core so it can ring true.
Dead Sea Apes’ Lupus is just one release of many that, for as different as they all are, fall in line with the smoky and amorphous manifesto of Deep Water Acres. Hazy drones to rural tinged outer-bound flights to nebulous, synth-based excursions, all share an intangible approach, a way of thinking, that take the small-batch appeal and turn it universal.
Pittsburgh’s Brother Ong (Mike Tamburo) exploits the shahi baaja, a 22-string electrified Indian zither, on Deep Water Creations. Exotic and hypnotic sounds are looped, tweaked and set free to lure you into a space where you can simply go for the ride and stretch out, or you can get lost in the subtle and subversive details that reveal themselves with repeated visits. It’s not a matter of how long you stay, but rather why you came in the first place…let Brother Ong do the driving, or grab the wheel and navigate your own way through the trance-y signposts.
Intro to Creation :: Brother Ong :: Deep Water Creations (2011, Deep Water Acres)
Philadelphia’s Enumclaw (Norm Fetter) dove-tail sounds perfectly into the deep waters with the ‘electro drone’ outing Painted Valley of the Mineral Monks. It’s a stellar release that should appeal to those looking to pulsate their way up the apogee, leaving their feet on the ground…or not. Enumclaw collapses the modern sounds, and tools, into a gentle cadence of throbs and emanations that are seemingly free of gravity, without meandering or slipping into electro-noodling. Slightly deceptive in its pull, Enumclaw rewards the patient, those who enjoy the flight as much as they enjoy the joy of orbit…or the promise of drifting.
Dire Diamonds :: Enumclaw :: Painted Valley of the Mineral Monks (2010, Deep Water Acres)
Mike Tamburo of Brother Ong and Matt McDowell, who have crossed paths in one form or another over the years, are Psychic Frost and their 2011 s/t is their first recorded venture. A 43-minute modulated trip made up of two cuts, but with infinite entry and exit points, as well as destinations, Psychic Frost requires a healthy attention span to get the most out of the trip and detours, but isn’t taxing or overbearing in its scope or execution. Mysterious and moody, Psych Frost conjure up a sense of something big, something lurking as well as hovering, that is inflated with more portent and prediction than it is with dread. Heavy in an inverted sense, Psychic Frost blur the line between the spaces being created and the sonics created from those spaces, here or out there. Cinematic in scope and cosmic in size without the bombast, Psychic Frost manage to steer their sonic exodus into something personal without cutting short the inner and outer voyages.
Taste the Frost :: Psychic Frost :: Psychic Frost (2011, Deep Water Acres)
An aptly title outfit, or collective, if ever there was one. Evening Fires, stoking their ember-rich psychedelia from ‘their secret den in a northern Appalachian forest,’ materialize their 11th release in ’12, the outstanding Flora and Fauna. Basic tracks were recorded live, then augmented in the studio to great effect, keeping a looseness that spreads out like a warm blanket of stars and buzzes and hums like the ingredients of a perfect night. Incredibly inviting and encompassing, Flora and Fauna moves effortlessly, existing and finding direction through hints and suggestions. Formless? Absolutely not. Evening Fires opt to find it through shifting sonics that feel as comfortable and customary as striking out on a walk in the woods…then realizing later just how far you wandered. And just how little you care. Gather some kindling, nurse some new embers, enjoy where you are and start again…start enjoying the promise of where you’ll go next. Evening Fires create incredibly heady, and trippy, sounds that bob, weave and undulate, but remain, for all their success in releasing the head from the body, rooted. From the instrumentation to the execution, Evening Fires just feels natural…natural in their concentric rings of sounds that emanate from both far above the tree line and under the branches.
Recorded between ’07 and ’10, their release Medicine Man takes their approach and mission on another walk to (from?) the secret den, again yielding the familiar…and the completely different. Naturally.
If We Do Not Disappear, We Don’t Know What We Are :: Evening Fires :: Flora and Fauna (2012, Deep Water Acres)
"This show is 110% … one of the most consistently awesome programs we have come across."
The Sunrise Ocean Bender sets sail every Monday morning, 1 – 3 a.m. on WRIR lp 97.3 FM, to find something for your ears, and something for your head … From psych to prog to pop and whatever tributary we can find on the way … and right back around again. There might be a map, but the destination is up for grabs. If it all goes right, we may just get lost. Meet me at the muster station … it might be a long week.