Review: Nathan Corder & Tom Weeks – Anaconda (Noise Pelican, Apr 5)

On Anaconda, the newest offering from Florida label Noise Pelican Records, abstract virtuosos Nathan Corder and Tom Weeks’ improvisations coil and slither just like the album’s titular serpent. The unlikely pairing of Weeks’ very harmonic, scalar saxophone playing with Corder’s bizarre electronic spasms is an interesting one. But after “Knot,” the short and schizophrenic opening track, it starts to become clear that the contributions of the two musicians do not create as much of a juxtaposition as it would originally seem. “Lean” begins with a jazzy serenade by Weeks, which is slowly joined by brief, segmented electronic bursts that begin to build in intensity. I’d describe the piece as more of a conversation than anything; it almost seems like the artists are learning from each other as it progresses, with the saxophone becoming more frenetic and atonal to match Corder’s increasing presence. And the rest of the record is no different. From the explosive, body wracking intro to “Swallowed” to the mechanical oscillations of “Cycle” (where the moments of unity between the cracking electronics and saxophone flurries are some of the album’s most mind-blowing), it all cements the alluring chemistry of these two improvisers.

Review: Cryptonym – Automated Predation (Castle Bravo, Jun 1)

Automated Predation is short but sharp as a rusty nail. The new project, which I know pretty much nothing about, combines the aggressive, distorted synths and pounding rhythms of industrial techno with the dark atmosphere and anger of black metal. None of the EP’s nearly twenty-minute run time is wasted, as Cryptonym explores and experiments with the wide territory this combination of styles makes available. “Cavern of Mirror” starts strong with a bitcrushed blast beat and twisting synthscapes, only becoming more awesome when the vocals kick in with a snare that sounds like two giant pieces of sheet metal being smashed together. One of Automated Predation’s main strengths is its use of catchy synth arpeggios, a unifying element across all four tracks despite each one being pretty different. Even on “Speak to Flames,” where a more formless approach is taken, the distinct dark effervescings still push through at the end. And on the EP’s centerpiece, the driving title track, anyone who thinks an electro-infused black metal track can’t get stuck in their head will be proven very wrong. Automated Predation was the tape I was most skeptical about among Castle Bravo’s eclectic mid-year lineup, but ended up being a pretty awesome surprise.

Review: Gnawed – Ruin (No Rent, May 21)

Along a bike path near my home town there is an abandoned, burned down powder factory. Its dilapidated exterior and ominous empty windows have loomed over me every time I’ve passed it, and the only thing stopping me from exploring inside is that it is quite heavily patrolled (baffling, I know; God forbid kids be allowed to explore an extremely dangerous and unsupervised environment). But if I ever were to step inside, I imagine I would hear a lot of the same sounds as are present on Ruin. Gnawed (Grant Richardson) paints an uncanny dark, industrial landscape, steeped in unsettling anticipation and a visceral feeling of dread. Though the shouted vocals and relatively faster sections on the A side were enjoyable, I found myself much more immersed in the more patient passages. The track that makes up the majority of Side B is definitely one of the most impactful death industrial pieces I’ve heard, creeping along at a lethargic but deliberate pace, with the metallic creaking of machinery conjuring images of terrifying, rust filled urban caverns. Richardson could not have picked a better titled for Ruin; every minute of the tape exudes age, decay, and death.

Review: Chris Pitsiokos Unit – Silver Bullet in the Autumn of Your Years (Clean Feed, May 11)

Silver Bullet in the Autumn of Your Years is American saxophonist Chris Pitsiokos’ second record with his Unit, and improves upon the first in virtually every way. It’s an atonal adventure through arrhythmic free improvisation, invigorating broken funk grooves, and astonishing displays of musical rapport. An early highlight is the eclectic “Orelius,” which begins with an inferno of instrumental chaos before retracting into a mesmerizing stew of sax noodling, electronic gurgles, and crunchy guitar spasms that quickly builds into another cacophony. The extended lengths of many of the songs is a welcome change from Before the Heat Death, and give the band more time to flesh out these fluid improvisations. It’s so entertaining to hear the way these tracks progress; it almost sounds like the musicians are trying to outrun each other, forcing their peers to follow along at disorienting, breakneck speed. In other hands this could be disastrous, but it ends up giving the record a whimsical, energetic, and ultimately exhilarating atmosphere. Then there are the moments of structure during the bass and drum jams of “Once Upon a Time Called Now” and the title track, placed just right so that the whole thing doesn’t fall apart. As someone who hasn’t had much luck with new jazz this year, Silver Bullet is the breath of fresh air I desperately needed.

Mix: More Walls (Volume Warning)

Been listening to a lot of wall stuff lately so I thought I’d put my recent standbys together into a mix. For many of these I’d recommend checking out the full tapes/albums, hard to get the full effect otherwise. Hope you enjoy!

00:00. Lucy Jane Garcia – “Call Me Lucy Pt. I” from Call Me Lucy (self-released, 2016)

05:00. See Through Buildings – “Stage for One” from I’ll Waive the Cover Charge (Lost Light, 2016)

10:00. Shurayuki-hime – “A” from In the Beginning, Woman Was the Sun (GERÄUSCHMANUFAKTUR, 2016)

15:00. Yume Hayashi – “B” from What the Summer Rain Knows (Avocado Tapes, 2016)

20:00. Eco Terror – “CASKET” 1, 12, 21, 31, 35 from Matryoshka Caskets (self-released, 2016)

24:44. Dosis Letalis – “Hurt and Anger I” from Hurt and Anger (Minimalist, 2017)

29:32. Taskmaster – Side A of Kriemhild Anal Saxon (Harsh Head Rituals, 2006)

35:00. Panic – “I’m Going Hunting” from Hunter (Cantankerous, 2011)

40:00. White Gold – “At the Least” from White Gold 2 (Troniks, 2017)

45:00. Heaven of Animals – “EIS//II_II_A” from Experiments in Shortwave Vol. II (Deadleg, 2018)

50:00. Train Cemetery – “Slough II” from Slough (Murder on Ponce, 2016)

Review: Stimulant / Water Torture Split LP (Nerve Altar, May 18)

Like a lot of other hardcore fans, I was under the impression that I wouldn’t ever hear any more new material from Water Torture. The New York trio disbanded almost three years ago, just months after releasing their only full-length, 2014’s brutal and brilliant PillboxBut fortunately there wasn’t much to complain about; members Thomas Leyh and Ian Woodrick moved on to form Stimulant, a powerhouse of sludge-filled grindviolence whose self titled LP last year blew any of Water Torture’s releases out of the, erm, water. But fortunately, both bands appear on this surprising split release from Nerve Altar, and there is no mercy to be had throughout these 35 pummeling minutes. Stimulant’s side continues everything I loved about their previous record, fusing metallic noise bursts and harrowing sample interjections with furious blasts and blown out vocals. In my opinion, the duo is at their best on their short songs, and there are plenty of those here; but the three minute “Strangled Thought” that closes their half is equally vicious. Water Torture, by contrast, seems to take things slower. Their brand of body wracking, noisy sludge feels as fresh as ever, but by the end I felt myself wanting them to let loose more. The vocals are the most unhinged part but even they seem held back by the middling tempos and riffs that aren’t nearly as heavy as they should be. A bittersweet release, because as far as I know this is Water Torture’s swan song; but personally I am much more excited for where Stimulant goes next anyway.

Review: Hellvete – Droomharmonium (Morc Tapes, May 23)

I wouldn’t exactly call myself a morning person. But one of the greatest things in life is waking up at a decent time, feeling well-rested and energized, while golden sunlight streams in your bedroom window and makes all the dust look like sparkles in the air. And if that unfortunately less-than-common occurrence was audible, it would probably sound a lot like Droomharmonium. It’s the newest album from Silvester Anfang member Glen Steenkiste under the Hellvete alias, a double CD full of warm, flowing drones largely produced by the titular instrument. To call these four long form pieces “beautiful” would be an understatement; they are something far beyond that. Droomharmonium rewards both active and passive listening, lush enough to sustain attention despite its simplicity and unintrusive enough to not be distracting. But I would recommend paying attention. Steenkiste has created music here that is truly heavenly, seraphic, celestial, other synonyms. I hope I’m not being too hyperbolic; Droomharmonium defies any less grandiose descriptions, and easily deserves all of the praise I have heaped upon it.