Review: Barnacles – Air Skin Digger (Alma de Nieto, May 30)

On Air Skin Digger, Barnacles (a.k.a. musician and sound cannibalizer Matteo Uggeri) embarks on a ridiculously eclectic musical journey. The record is constructed from a colorful menagerie of sounds, ranging from rolling tribal drums to mysterious field recordings to tension-filled string arrangements. Though the description does not explicitly corroborate this, the track titles would imply that Air Skin Digger is a concept album about a person who is captured and eaten by cannibals – which isn’t too much of a leap, due to titles like “II. Of the manner in which the savages ate a prisoner and carried me to the feast.” It’s certainly a bizarre and unique experience all around, but the record doesn’t draw its power from novelty. The real strength is in the ways Uggeri fuses unrelated sounds together, the unlikely pairing of the rhythmic with the arrhythmic, the uncanny progressions within the songs. One need not look further than than the album’s conclusion, “IV. My prayer to the Lord God when I was in the hands of the savages who threatened to eat me,” for examples; the composition transitions between an unsettling conversation sample to ominous strings that are supported by driving percussion and never feels forced or unnatural. Thankfully, I’ve never actually experienced what it’s like to be at the mercy of a tribe of cannibals…but I guess thanks to Air Skin Digger I don’t have to.

Review: Nuova Superficie – Mélange (Granny, Jun 18)

Giovanni Lami and Enrico Malatesta, two of the most talented figures in Italy’s thriving experimental music and sound art scene, came together exactly one year ago for a performance and workshop at Villa Sorra. Now, Granny Records has released a cassette containing combined and remixed material from that performance, along with other prior live recordings. The result is just as fascinating and immersive as you’d expect. Lami’s crackling tape textures and frail concrète constructions are a perfect match for Malatesta’s intimate skin drum and metal object percussion. Thanks to Giuseppe Ielasi’s mastering, which is amazing as always, both sides of Mélange make use of a terrific dynamic range. Side A is a lush yet delicate collage of sounds, and despite the very corporeal nature of most of the elements, the ensuing mixture is surprisingly airy and intangible. The sparser B side demands more patience, sometimes retreating into complete silence, and when sounds do appear they’re placed within a brilliant auditory chiaroscuro. While I obviously had a more immediate reaction to the first side, the entire tape is tremendously fulfilling, and the artists’ reverence for both the individual sounds and the resulting pastiches is palpable. If you are unfamiliar with either Lami’s or Malatesta’s solo work, I would highly recommend both; especially Bias and Benandare.

Review: Big Blood – Operate Spaceship Earth Properly (Feeding Tube, Jun 15)

Since rising from the ashes of Cerberus Shoal over a decade ago, Maine-based folk duo Big Blood still show no signs of slowing down. The legendary husband-and-wife powerhouse formed by Caleb Mulkerin and Colleen Kinsella have released at least one record every year since 2006, and while not all of their releases are perfect, there’s a consistent quality that seems to contradict such prolificacy. But upon the release of Big Blood & Thunder Crutch, the band’s other album this year, I was nervous for the future; while I appreciated the record’s experiments, it was the only album I’ve ever heard from Big Blood that I have genuinely disliked. Thankfully, my doubts have been eased with the arrival of Operate Spaceship Earth Properly, which I now place among their best work. From the opening notes of “When I Was Young” it’s clear that Mulkerin and Kinsella are going in a totally different direction than Thunder Crutch or even any of their other albums. While psychedelia has always been an important facet of Big Blood’s music, there is a different, heavier psych rock influence on this music, which pairs well with their signature repetitiveness and hypnotic, droning compositions. Mulkerin’s distinctive vocals are noticeably absent, with Kinsella’s ominous high warbles taking charge and providing a fantastic contrast with the fuzzy guitars and growling bass. The short electronic freakout interludes, such as “Jagged Orbit” and “Pink Eye,” are a welcome repose and make sure the listener doesn’t fall into a trance, and “Olamina” is one of the most amazing songs I’ve ever heard. With *Operate Spaceship Earth Properly*, Big Blood has once again proved why they’re one of my favorite bands, and that they can take their music to new places without sacrificing quality.

Review: Uboa & Muddy Lawrence – The Apple of Every Eye (self-released, Jun 15)

It’s pretty surprising that my last few nights have been entirely nightmare-free. I’ve been watching a lot of scary, heavy, and emotionally taxing movies lately, including Ari Aster’s brilliant Hereditary, and now I’ve become wrapped up in a terrifying new collaborative EP from Uboa and Muddy Lawrence: The Apple of Every Eye. Pretty much everything about this release is frightening, from its deeply unsettling cover art to the simple but ominous description on the Bandcamp page: “If you can’t hide, show too much.” The music itself is dark, twisting, and dense, a fulfilling pairing of Uboa’s weighty sludge drones and Lawrence’s cathartic harsh noise collages. Also present is a great deal of environmental sound processing and industrial recordings, giving The Apple of Every Eye an uncomfortable tangibility and even an invasiveness; it really gets under your skin. For a 20-minute release it feels well-paced and complete, and the unexpected crescendo that concludes the title track and leads in to the overwhelming feedback blasts at the beginning of “Scotomized” gave me chills. It’s a short but exhausting emotional journey, intense and negative but thoroughly enjoyable, and I’m sure I’ll be listening many more times (and hopefully will remain nightmareless).

Closet Witch – Closet Witch (Halo of Flies, Jun 15)

Closet Witch’s self-titled LP is their first full length release since their inception nearly four years ago. It’s an intensely focused offering, with many of the crust punk elements of 2015’s Black Salt EP abandoned in favor of a dark and dense hybrid of various hardcore subgenres. Singer Mollie Piatetsky leads the charge on many of the tracks, her shrill yet full-bodied screams ripping through the maelstrom of blasts. Closet Witch handles both short and long songs with equal effectiveness, consistently dealing out both patient atmospherics and relentless breakdowns. It’s a versatility that’s present on the whole record, but is best seen in the double punch of “Rule by Bacon,” a nearly four-minute track whose slow-building crescendos climax in an exhausted vortex of feedback and desperate shrieks, and “Spell of Giddiness,” which follows it up with a 36 second block of pummeling hardcore. It also helps keep the album interesting and unpredictable, with even the most jarring stylistic change-ups working like a charm; Closet Witch somehow pulls chaotic d-beat, pounding mathcore rhythms, and crushing sludge metal under one infernal roof. Okay, now I have to stop writing so I can go listen to it again.

Mix: Short, Sweet, Shredding, Screamo

Here’s a very short mix of some of my favorite screamo songs. I tried to stick with some lesser known stuff, so you won’t see any Jeromes Dream or Orchid or the like in here (though I still love those bands). Enjoy!

00:00. Reversal of Man – “Get the Kid With the Sideburns” from Revolution Summer (Independence Day, 1998)

00:42. Phoenix Bodies – “Goddamn Pyramid Building Aliens” from split 7″ with Tyranny of Shaw (Init, 2004)

02:37. Frail Hands – “Dissolution” from Frail Hands (Middle-Man, 2017)

03:52. Ostraca – “Waiting for the Crash” from Last (Skeletal Lightning, 2017)

07:29. Улыбайся Ветру – “Навстречу времени” from Иллюзии (Upwind Productions, 2018)

08:58. Enkephalin – “One Punch Machine Gun” from split LP with Phoenix Bodies (Init, 2003)

11:11. Diploid – “It’s Not Safe” from Everything Went Red (Art As Catharsis, 2017)

12:49. Bucket Full of Teeth – “Capital Distracts and Imprisons” from IV (Level Plane, 2005)

14:10. Setsuko – “Child Without Brain” from The Shackles of Birth (Dog Knights Productions, 2018)

16:32. Masato Tanaka – “Mr. Bo Jangles’ Quest for Financial Solvency” from Demo (self-released, 2007)

17:23. Honeywell – “Screaming Numb Ears” from Industry (Mollycoddle, 1993)

18:50. Republic of Dreams – “Your Fahrenheit Is My Celsius” from split LP with Cloud Rat (IFB, 2012)

19:52. Maths – “Child Wandering Along the Thames” from The Fires Courting the Sea (Tangled Talk, 2015)

20:52. Arboles En Llamas – “San Expedito” from San Expedito (LaFlor, 2016)

22:06. Tristan Tzara – “Schizophrenia” from Da Ne Zaboravis (Shove, 2005)


Review: Architectonicum – Constructionis (Geräuschmanufaktur, Jun 2)

Three titans of the contemporary noise scene embark on a fascinating journey into “architectural noise wall” on Constructionis. James Sherman, Clive Henry, and Nemanja Nikolić, collectively known as Architectonicum, each contribute a wall for each of the three “Murus” movements, which are combined to form the “Construct” pieces. Accompanied by an arcane concept and manifesto postulated by Jan Warnke, Constructionis is a release steeped in interesting ideas – but setting that aside, it’s also an amazing collection of walls all on its own. Warnke’s definition calls for the development and ownership of a personal style, a “strong signature” that carries new sounds and opinions. Each musician took this to heart, presenting their unique approaches to wall building; Henry’s fine and minimal, Sherman’s guttural and throaty, Nikolić’s thick and lush. And the true power of the concept is realized with the Constructs, melding the three into impossibly heavy, rumbling, monolithic masterpieces. It’s wonderful to see a movement away from the nihilistic, detached philosophies that dominated the genre early on, and Warnke opens up new doors for wall noise becoming a collaborative, synergistic, and fun art form.