Review: Needful Things / Overviolence Split (Nerve Altar, Apr 11)

On this short 7-inch split from New York hardcore label Nerve Altar, both bands present four minutes of pulverizing grind-violence. Czech shredders Needful Things’ tracks are longer and more varied, alternating between driving d-beat crust punk and exhilarating blast sections. The songwriting is impeccable, something that isn’t necessary in this type of music but is very welcome nonetheless; from the cascading riffs to the brief flashes of silent anticipation before the chaos on “Hands Full of Sludge,” each track is memorable and powerful on its own. By contrast, Overviolence’s side is made up of much shorter, more direct assaults. The dual vocals between members Esse and Henke are a major highlight. I’m not sure who does the throaty growls and who shrieks, but the presence of both really helps the songs carry even more weight. Look no further than final track “Plockas och Krossas” for an example of Overviolence’s kickassery; the chants of both vocalists belting the titular phrase atop furious drumming and guitar work make it some of the most fulfilling 25 seconds in recent memory.

This is a reissue of the original release; the physical edition is available here. Make sure to check out the upcoming split LP between Water Torture and Stimulant, also on Nerve Altar – it’s going to be amazing.

Review: Sissy Spacek – L/L (Helicopter, May 7)

Listening to a new Sissy Spacek album is always a toss-up. The music put out by John Wiese and crew ranges from blistering noisegrind to bizarre musique concrète miniatures to full-blown harsh noise assaults, with the only common denominator being top-notch quality. L/L, one of two new CDs from the project released on Helicopter yesterday, is constructed from recordings from their ensemble tour back in January of this year. Its spastic group improvisations recall some of my favorite material from Sissy Spacek, the performances of Wiese’s visual scores for ensemble in Los Angeles and Oakland; but here even the minute restrictions are lifted. The first and longest track, “Distance,” highlights legendary percussionist Tim Barnes’ textural, free-form drumming; Wiese’s chunky electronics and tape manipulations; and what sounds like trumpet and guitar from two musicians with whom I am unfamiliar. Unbounded by any sort of formal direction or control, it is somehow both aimless and purposeful, reveling in the interactions between the instruments but never sticking around in the same place too long. There are even moments of beauty here too. The muffled sample breaking through the fragile cacophony midway through “Distance” and the unearthly ambiance of “City Limits” are surprisingly sublime; and even the ugliest bits, like the freakish climax of “Horse People,” are exhilarating in a way only Sissy Spacek can pull off.

Pick up the CD here.

Mix: 17 From the Three-Inch Archives (by Mike Shiflet)

This short mix originates from Columbus-based musician and composer Mike Shiflet’s personal collection. Though it is hardly still used today, the three-inch CD format and its 20 minute capacity was a favorite for many artists dealing in varying areas of experimental music. Styles range from electroacoustic improvisation to noise and drone. The tracklist is provided below, though the mix is best listened to as its own piece. Thanks Mike!

  1. Space Machine – Module 102
  2. Brent Gutzeit – Linz Harbor / Jeffery Allport & Tim Olive – s/t
  3. Joe Colley – Anthem: Static for Empty Life
  4. Zbigniew Karkowski – Consciously Unconscious Unconsciously Conscious
  5. Michael Johnsen – Live at Issue Project Room / Chop Shop – Rusty Hum
  6. Kapotte Muziek – ADD / Jason Talbot – Thank You
  7. Damion Romero – There Was Plenty of Time… / Jarrett Silberman – Tape Saturation Piano
  8. English – Oh
  9. Jesse Kudler – 07/04
  10. Taiga Remains – Ribbons of Dust / Jay Sullivan – Ice Shelf
  11. Jazzkammer – Sound of Music
  12. Hive Mind – Southern Effect / MSBR – Kyofu-No Zunou-Kaikaku
  13. Francisco López – Untitled #132
  14. EKG – Shift or Latch
  15. Burning Star Core – Physical Culture / Christian Weber – Osaka Solo
  16. Lionel Marchetti – Saturne
  17. John Wiese – Live at Mon Ton Son
  18. Andy Gilmore – Live at Init.One / Damion Romero & Daniel Menche – You Misunderstood Me First

The latest volume of Tetracosa, Shiflet’s 24-hour composition that he’s releasing over the course of the year, is available here.

Review: Black Moth Super Rainbow – Panic Blooms (Rad Cult, May 4)

Black Moth Super Rainbow (hereafter BMSR) are back, and with possibly their best album yet. It’s the band’s first full-length since 2012; but the music feels as fresh as ever, and that youthful charm and wonder that makes me love BMSR’s music is still present – albeit with a more serious edge. Gone are the sickeningly sweet, noise-drenched dance songs of Cobra Juicy, in favor of a woozier, more subdued atmosphere that’s somewhat reminiscent of the band’s earlier work. But where those albums were sunny and warm, Panic Blooms is nocturnal and depressive, steeped in internal turmoil and emotion. Frontman and vocalist Tobacco’s heartbreaking lyrics hit close to home too often, and their impact is only intensified by his frail delivery and the multitude of effects that frame his voice, especially the glitchy fragmenting on “New Breeze.” It feels like more of a collaborative effort this time around; unlike Cobra Juicy, Tobacco’s predilection for energetic electronica is tempered by Maureen Boyle’s (The Seven Fields of Aphelion) airy ambiance, Ryan Graveface’s haunted folkisms, and others. Each time I listen (which has been many times since it came out) I like Panic Blooms even more, and it makes me really hope that BMSR will be back with more music soon.

Review: Blank Realm – Last Seen (Hobbies Galore, Apr 30)

Last Seen is nothing like what I expected it to be. Based on Australian project Blank Realm’s stylistic trajectory on their last few records, one would probably anticipate a slightly adventurous rock outing with some psychedelic leanings. Instead, Last Seen embraces an almost completely new sound, flirting with a variety of elements from ambient, drone, and electronic music. Fortunately, unlike comparable progressions of other artists, the move toward a less rhythmically grounded style does not result in a directionless mess. The 7 songs balance catchy, synth-inflected pop pieces with lengthy ambient passages, both of which are accomplished remarkably well. The highlight of the record might be the ten minute centerpiece “Revanche,” which evolves from a lush drone into a hazy, psychedelic coda; not only is it an amazing track on its own, but it also serves as a demonstration of the skillful transitions that allow the album to work so well. Last Seen marks an exciting new phase in Blank Realm’s career, and I’m glad that they chose to be inventive and take risks rather than recycle what they know works. It’s an album with a lot of layers that I still have to unravel.

Review: Jiang XiaMeng – Mixing Board, Contact Microphone, Pedals, and Objects with Two Recordings (self-released, May 3)

On Louis Schumacher’s second release as Jiang XiaMeng, he aims to “take onkyo and noise from their usual contexts and place them in the mundane world.” This is accomplished via the duality found on both tracks, each composed of extended field recordings and active improvisations using the components described in the album’s title. The contrast achieved is an interesting one. On “真っ白,” impossibly thin feedback loops and the quiet use of objects form unique harmonies with the sounds of people entering and exiting a library, while “真っホワイト” sees much noisier mixer and pedal manipulation placed atop a recording of a busy road at night. These juxtapositions are odd, to be sure, but also fascinating and pretty. There are subtle similarities to be found here: the opening and closing of the metal door on “真っ白” bears resemblance to the mechanical feedback, and the artificial whooshings of “真っホワイト” are not unlike the distant sound of the cars passing by. It’s an unlikely result that gives the album a charm despite its obstinance, and allows even the most unusual and difficult sounds to have their own beauty.

Event: Lustmord at the COSI Planetarium (May 26, 7/9 p.m.)

This amazing event is being put on by the Fuse Factory Electronic and Digital Arts Lab. Legendary ambient composer and musician Brian Williams, a.k.a. Lustmord, will be putting on two performances at the planetarium of the Center of Science and Industry, located in downtown Columbus. Lustmord is famous for his trance-inducing ambient music and immersive accompanying visuals, and these shows are sure to be some of his most ambitious and incredible events yet. Tickets can be purchased here for the 7 p.m. show and here for the 9 p.m. show (one ticket will not grant admission to both). This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. (Clicking the image above will redirect to the event’s Facebook page, which has more information)

Review: Dyb – Un punto donde todo se desvanece (self-released, Apr 12)

Un punto donde todo se desvanece is an album that toys with beauty, teasing you with moments of gorgeousness amidst tension and darkness before they dissolve and you’re left wanting so much more. While the first two tracks eventually reward patience with majestic climaxes, the third, “El llamado imperceptible,” works magic through tantalization. Its airy choral samples and distant electronic flairs expand and contract with amazing ease, with brief respites in anticipation only occasionally granted throughout its extended length; a structure that somehow makes it even more sublime than the wonderful songs that preceded it. Argentinian musician Dyb displays a tremendous patience and compositional skill on Un punto donde todo se desvanece; this is music that really takes its time, but at nearly an hour in length it doesn’t even feel very long. Nothing feels forced or pushed along faster than it needs to be, but nothing overstays its welcome either. It’s a fantastic release from this promising artist, from whom I would definitely love to hear more in the future.