Mix: Anything Goes

You can make music too! Confine yourself to a room with some trusted lunatic loves. Bash some metal garbage cans, scream your takeout order from last night over and over again, stomp on a thrift store guitar until it begs you to stop, use your human body as the highly mobile vehicle of destruction that it is. You’d be surprised at the amount of completely unmarketable trash you can generate. But hey, if it’s quality trash, someone—probably just me, but someone—will listen to it and put it on a mix.

Note: Be prepared for some jarring transitions. Maybe this will teach you to always stay on your toes.

Micro_Penis live in 2009, photo by Pascal Bichain

00:00. Akke Phallus Duo – “Kendal Black Drop” from An Insatiable Demand for Tea (Devastation Wreaked by) (Tanzprocesz, 2015)

06:37. Global Distance – “I’m Dancing (My Troubles Away)” from Lover’s Cove (Human Conduct, 2012)

10:22. Roman Nose – “Ty Tryst” from Roman Nose (Singing Knives, 2018)

14:46. A Band – “All Good Things” from April Twelfth Nineteen-Ninety-Two (self-released, 1992/2009)

17:39. Micro_Penis – “Chimio” from Tolvek (Doubtful Sounds, 2015)

20:25. Katz Mulk – excerpt from side B of Katzenungen (Sacred Tapes, 2017)

24:42. Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble – “Hummus” from Out Patience (Butte County Free Music Society, 2011)

28:31. Can – “Peking O” [excerpt] from Tago Mago (United Artists, 1971)

32:22. Prick Decay – “Sneaker Pimp” from Guidelines for Basement Non Fidel (Very Good, 1995/2016)

36:41. Psychic Sounds Ensemble – “Batch 2” [excerpt] from Sonic Fermentations (Psychic Sounds, 2019)

Review: Z(erpents) – Black Mold and Hot Springs, Taipei (Future Proof, Sep 21)

I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting from Black Mold and Hot Springs, Taipei, but it wasn’t this. This album is pretty damn weird, let me tell ya. Composed of musicians from Rhode Island, my own state of Ohio, the United Kingdom, Taiwan, along with Taichung-born, LA-raised guitarist Paul Lai, the new-ish Z(erpents) quintet is multinational on multiple levels. Despite the great distances between the members, all five congregated in Taipei to record the LP’s seven tracks live in studio. While all the material was spontaneously improvised, drummer Joseph Mauro contributes… some semblance of conventional rhythm to the cacophony at times, occasionally reminding me of the incendiary free-rock of jazz-originating bands like Last Exit or Arcana—but not quite, because when beats do surface here they are broken, battered, frequently knock themselves out of and back into time, stumble and scramble sloppily to a nonexistent finish line. Tempering the hyperspeed percussive tremors is the angry, confrontational saxophone playing by Xiao Liu, an eclectic and virtuosic stream of fiery solo licks, atonal screech and stab, and ear-splitting holds. It’s anyone’s guess as to what the hell is going on in “Flotation Divides,” the 24-minute opus that closes Black Mold; it’s an ambitious track that demonstrates the glorious, noise-drenching onslaught that has been threatening to break through the entire time, not a quiet moment with relentless fills and temporary odd meters, out-of-place synth melodies that end up transforming the entire structure of the piece, what I think is the vicious bowing of an upright bass along with guitar that swaps between shred and swirl at the drop of a hat. Just after the halfway point, the track suddenly falls apart at the seams, splitting into large disparate pieces and climaxing with an awe-inspiring abstract vocal performance by Swivel. Harrowing but truly life-affirming stuff.

Review: Marco Paltrinieri – The Weaver (Canti Magnetici, Sep 21)

I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it here before, but among other mental health issues I intermittently struggle with something generally referred to as DP/DR: depersonalization/derealization disorder. In my case my symptoms largely take the form of the latter; I am bombarded with intrusive thoughts that convince me of a deep, desolate solipsism, a reality that is simply the product of my void-confined immortal consciousness keeping itself occupied. It’s hard to accurately describe to others how terrifying and utterly isolating it is, but one way I try to convey what I feel is through the channeling or sharing of creative works that capture such existential bleakness (Perec’s A Void, Hertzfeldt’s It’s Such a Beautiful Day, Beckett’s later novels, and Kaufman’s new adaptation of I’m Thinking of Ending Things are all semi-recent examples). With its introductory statement that it actualizes “the memories and thoughts of a creature living in a world in which the distinction between reality and simulation, as well as between psychic space and external environment seems to have definitely collapsed,” sound artist Marco Paltrinieri’s new release The Weaver seems to fit the bill. I also feel an unsettling connection to some of the phrases featured on the sparse cover art, notably “the result of a logic too complex to understand.” But I made it through most of this six-part odyssey with hardly any chilling splashes of anxiety or thought spirals, because much of The Weaver reminds us, both explicitly and implicitly, that a consciousness subjected to such circumstances need not lament upon self-awareness. “There is no inside or outside here,” the soothing voice reveals as reverberating tones spill into a warm emptiness; “everything seems within reach, in the eternal attempt to define a perfect present.” Unfortunately, the conclusion of the album is not exactly an uplifting one. The two-part “The Other Body” spins a harrowing threadwork of flitting glitches, gutted speech, paranoid whispers, and dread-filled rumble as the speaker descends deeper into doubt and despair. Part II especially really got to me; download the lyrics here and you’ll see what I mean. With superb, immersive sound design and a concept that hits way too close to home, The Weaver will most likely haunt me forever.

Review: Pumpkin Friend – Checking Out of the Boredom Hotel (self-released, Sep 13)

My initial impression of Checking Out of the Boredom Hotel was that, at least at first, it kind of sounds like someone Salmon Run’ed the fuck out of that Disney haunted house album with the racist lady narrating each track. Central to the concise release is the mysterious Pumpkin Friend’s own poetry, drawn from a book produced in 2004 in a run of “just one copy.” More than a decade and a half later, perhaps finally roused by the stirring of this apocalyptic autumn, the Friend has returned to these words with plenty of bizarre sonic accompaniments in mind, many of which are sourced from free Creative Commons sound archives, giving the album a pleasing and slightly unsettling amateurish feel. Our Friend describes their poems as “experimental,” an evaluation with which I’m not sure I’d concur, but they are certainly hilarious, especially “The Soda Factory: Room 08,” its outlandish narrative relayed with a level of engagement just a hair above complete apathy. Further fleshing out the strange world of the Boredom Hotel are sighs, snores, gasps, bubbles, clacking keyboards, spooky synths, ticking clocks, and countless other ornaments incorporated with varying levels of abstractness. This little 12-track suite is short, but is also a satisfyingly wild ride. Still not really sure whether it actually happened or not.

Review: LACITTÀDOLENTE – Salespeople (Trepanation, Sep 18)

Making good mathcore (here, “good” actually—and inaccurately—meaning “liked by Jack”) is a complex task, but it generally involves blending dizzying technicality and infectious groove in a compelling way. Thus, one of the key evaluative approaches I’ve discovered is the balance between how long it takes me to learn to air-drum along to a song/record (technicality) and how much I actually want to air-drum along to it (groove). Milan-based four-piece LACITTÀDOLENTE pretty much read my mind in this regard, whether intentionally or unintentionally, when composing their debut album Salespeople; upon my cursory listens of the seven-track assault I found myself bobbing and thrashing along with whatever brief rhythmic handles I could grasp amidst the maelstrom of angular yet still ruthlessly chunky riffs and jarring transitions. Needless to say, Salespeople handily meets the criteria of my quality test, as it will most likely take me many more times through to be able to drum along with the same accuracy as I can with Gaza, IDYLLS, Inside the Beehive, etc.; but to reduce it to a simple, solitary “mathcore” label would be an injustice, for the Italian quartet seems to be informed and influenced by a much wider variety of hardcore and other heavy music, evidenced by the meaty crust punk stampedes of “Exploiting,” atmospheric buildups in “Profiteering,” and the eclectic array of vocal styles utilized throughout the record, which vary from art-y ranting to throat-tearing bellows and screams. Kill your bosses, preferably while this is blaring over the speaker system in their extravagant home.

Review: Anla Courtis – Hydrockphonia (Nazlo, Sep 16)

Knowing Alan Courtis’s penchant for rearranging, misspelling, combining, and otherwise abusing various languages, as is apparent from the spelling of his usual solo alias, the title of this most recent release is most likely a neologism created by Courtis himself for the specific purpose of giving name to the music contained within. And “contained” it is, for Hydrockphonia unfolds deep underground, far beneath the bustling, life-filled outer shell of the Earth or whatever planet it is, where an oppressive, cold silence reigns. Tainting the soundless subterranean solitude of the title track, sparingly at first and then more consistently, are the reverberating shifts and groans of a massive cosmic form. One thinks of hulking, austere monoliths untouched by living hands, primordial rituals of forgotten stone—and then immediately following this immersive sanctum is simply, as its title states, a recording of um hidrofone em gin-tonic (“a hydrophone in a gin-and-tonic”). The effervescent carbonation and surrounding textures like wind through full-leaved trees could have kept with the mystery and brought us closer to the surface of that planet within which we found ourselves trapped, but Courtis, being Courtis, tells you exactly what very humble, earthly source generated that sound. What’s even more jarring is that both of these tracks, as well as “KNCK,” were recorded in the same location (Yaguareté Studios, Buenos Aires)! Once again the madman silently cackles as he pulls the thousandth carefully-stitched rug out from under our feet, sending us tumbling into whatever the hell he has planned next. Which, as it turns out, is some slow whips of tape shift and ghostly drones, with the haunted faucet orchestra and cricket chatter of “OOT” bringing things to a close. Pick up a physical copy on a recycled 3″ reel-to-reel tape (because why not?).

Review: Legion of Swine – Pig for Victory! (self-released, Sep 12)

Peerless prodigy that I am, I can make some pretty convincing pig noises, snorts and whines and such, an obviously indispensable skill that has taught me exactly one thing: a lot of people hate pig noises. The wet, sloppy grunts of those plump creatures seem to be inexorably attached to thoughts and feelings of uncleanness, pestilence, and rot, unsettling many for reasons they may not fully understand, or even want to understand. No swine song makes it onto Swedish artist Legion of Swine’s Pig for Victory!, for which the album cover completes a hog-tastic trifecta, but I have a sneaking suspicion that those not partial to the chatter of pigs may have the same attitude toward the sounds that actually comprise the release: loud, unrelenting, piercing, painful feedback tones created using “[a] contact mic, a metal pedal, a reverb/delay pedal and the ‘noise hedgehog’.” It’s quite the arsenal for an album as minimally dynamic as Pig for Victory!, whose four tracks largely remain stagnant with constant, seamless screech or contorting squall while way down below in the murk hardly intelligible reverberations and detritus occasionally drift close to the surface. As the title of “You Voted for This Set of Bastards, Now Take Your Medicine,” the first track on the release that offers any sort of respite from the assaults of punishing frequencies, makes clear, many of Legion of Swine’s creative motivations are political. With that knowledge, Pig for Victory! becomes something masochistic in a way, perhaps penance for all of us, because we have all failed our fellow humans at some point. Time to take your medicine.

Review: American Cig – At Reptile Care (Commuter Disk, Sep 12)

At Reptile Care sees the duo of Nathan Ivanco and Steve Smith taking their industrial-tinged improvisations to more—dare I say—whimsical territory than February’s Nausea. Right off the bat, part one of the nearly half-hour CD bounds into existence with a great deal more bounce and pep than that last release, shakily structuring itself upon bright, ecstatic, sparring melody cells with a hint of gloom (“Eight Cut Scars” anyone?) at first and an ensuing series of woozy, surreal tape loops, warbles, slow-downs, and other manipulations. Unlike with Nausea, neither the online entry nor the physical packaging of At Reptile Care lists the materials used by the musicians, so I can’t be sure if this was tape-only, but it certainly sounds like it could be; echoing the best of reel-to-reel ravagers and cassette-clump crackerjacks like Joseph Hammer or Dilloway with their bizarre extract curation and expert sense of dynamics. There’s a great deal more use of speech as well, something that makes this release simultaneously more and less harrowing. The end of part one is sort of terrifying, even, the heavy pants and moans of what sounds like an angsty adolescent monster-being dueling with string music relayed at mercilessly variable speeds. The second half leaps into the deep end of bad vibes territory, everything moving at a sickeningly slow stumble, pseudo-aquatic burbles and subhuman seethes and apocalyptic emissions whirling lethargically in a vat of smelly, rotten honey. By this point I’m convinced there is at least a radio being used in addition to the tape-related sources; the dial is worked by an abstract ear, usually providing empty drones and mostly unintelligible grabs. I’ve loved what I’ve heard from American Cig in the past, but this feels like they’ve hit on something really special. Memorable, for sure; these will be the score to tonight’s nightmares.

Review: Wetkoff – He Is Lying (self-released, Sep 12)

Recently, I’ve become fascinated with “musical” releases that don’t seem intended for human ears, or at least ears that are expecting to hear something conventionally finished, coherent, or even palatable. Like teasing the serendipitous poetics from verbose instruction manuals or evaluating sketches and abandoned drafts as completed pieces of art (I probably possess more “unfinished” works that finished ones), it’s usually not too far of a reach to unearth the beauty in unadulterated sonic extras, leftovers, rinds. None of the individual sounds featured on He Is Lying, a recent release by Asheville, NC artist Wetkoff, are necessarily abrasive or unappealing to the average listener, but overall it certainly fits the bill with its scattershot assemblage of warbling electronic malfunction, small slivers of feedback, and insubstantial loops. There are often perceptible notes but they sound more like the dying breaths of a brutally dissected Casio than anything. I find it difficult to pick up on anything that appears to be concretely intentional, which is actually what makes He Is Lying so compelling; it feels like something uncovered, forgotten until now, left to rot in an ancient archive for so long that all traces of humanity have long since dissipated, leaving only a passive, dispassionate document behind. Layers clash and chafe without much, if any concern for one another; fragments repeat incessantly and imperfectly like a badly damaged record left running on an old turntable; haunting undercurrents lurk underneath the colorful garbage. A superb release, constructed so as to be artfully, and even rivetingly lifeless.

Mix: Temporary Places

This is a collection of mostly abstract pieces that seek to converse with both natural and industrial surroundings in ways well beyond simply documenting them. The title comes from Nicolas Snyder’s recent release of the same name, which also provides the first track of the mix. Each of these tracks has its own unique world or environment of direct field recordings, skeletons of melodies, wistful drones, spidery percussion, assorted audio detritus, crackling auxiliary textures, low frequency rumble, and other elements, beautifully coalescing into semi-stagnant meditations, immersive excursions, temporary places.

Additional artwork for ‘Temporary Places’

00:00. Nicolas Snyder – “CLAYhands” from Temporary Places (Shhpuma, 2020)

07:29. Daphne X – “First the Mouth” from Água Viva (tsss tapes, 2020)

09:43. Ximes – “like some gamelan of the dead” [excerpt] from Zener_04 (Sensory Leakage, 2019)

12:58. @c – “76.4” from Music for Empty Spaces (Baskaru, 2010)

17:20. R. Schwarz – “Wind 4” from Wind 4-7 (Audio. Visuals. Atmosphere., 2018)

21:27. Small Cruel Party – “La Poussière des Murs Détruit le Passé” from An Accident in Substance (Harbinger Sound, 2012)

25:08. Manja Ristić – “Autumn” [excerpt] from The Nightfall (Naviar, 2018)

30:56. Radio Cegeste – “1897, Detail (Song for Richard Henry)” from three inclements (Consumer Waste, 2014)