I think most of us have been away from the office long enough that we can romanticize its soul-sucking essence. There’s plenty of misery, anger, abuse, and above all boredom to be found in any cubicle farm or gaudy corporate park, but this mix is a sustained extension of those fleeting moments of contentment amidst the malaise: an unusually tasty cup of coffee to pair with the breakfast you treated yourself to; an unexpected half-day; an invisible, intangible embrace from the spirits of displaced dreams that lurk within the walls.
Haphazardly coalescing from the goopy remnants of beloved (not by me, if I’m being honest, but definitely by plenty of others) San Jose band HeavyHeavyLowLow, the newly formed Bone Cutter ushers in a new era of twisted, darkly humorous, mind-bendingly technical, and even danceable metallic hardcore with their debut self-titled EP. One can immediately see the profound irreverence hasn’t gone anywhere just based on the ridiculous track titles, and “My Wife Is a Dead Cat (Meow)” wastes absolutely no time getting into the thick of things with a tightly executed maelstrom of crushing blast beats, infectious four-on-the-floor groove interludes, and agile vocal trades in less than two minutes. The band has the unique position of being both (former) important progenitors and ardent revivalists of the harsher outskirts of the distinctive sass sound; even though Robert “Robbie” Smith contributes 100% of the vocals according to the credits, his disturbing lyrics are conveyed via a series of disorienting style changes (which should come as no surprise to anyone who’s heard a HHLL track), from guttural growls torn out of a much less sophisticated deathcore playbook to the iconic panicked, whining croons over bouncing dance beats. Even at an almost infuriatingly brisk six-or-so-minutes, Bone Cutter firmly lodges itself in one’s head. Whether it’s memorable lines like “But we’d be feeling lighter / If we didn’t have to carry these bodies” or the catchy gallop of “Peckinpah Leather Crackle” (thanks in large part to the indefatigable rhythm section that is the Fritter brothers) that form the irremovable hooks catching on the seams of our skull, those “in the know” must beware… once you start playing this thing it’s utterly impossible to stop.
There is little to no meaningful distinction between “hunting” and murder. This is something of which any sensible, compassionate person is aware. But without the monstrous institution of camouflage-clad morons strapping masturbatory arsenals to the backs of gigantic five-mpg trucks and taking out their deep-seated insecurities and aggressions on innocent animals, we wouldn’t have game calls. Is it worth it? Absolutely not. But at least now there are amazing releases like Silly Symphonies, Vol. 1and Hansel’s Piesto soundtrack our consistently disillusioned and demoralizing lives. On the latter, just released digitally by the newly formed Cosmo Sonic Collective, Birmingham-based improviser Taylor Rouss embarks on a series of playful solo explorations on both tenor saxophone and human-made game calls. Each named after a different type of pie (with the exception of “Lament Pie,” one of only two segments that feature recognizable conventional sax playing), the sixteen fleeting tracks are brief but boisterous breath-sketches full of unpredictable squawks, quacks, cackles, hisses, and—occasionally—actual notes. Beyond the appealing novelty of Rouss’s approach and the addictive whimsy with which he executes it, the textural presence of the calls themselves is what actually makes Hansel’s Pies so enjoyable for me; there’s a simultaneous volatility and complete inconsequence in their minuscule tweets and titters, a tearing, exhilarating harshness tempered by almost cutesy exiguity. Based on Rouss’s own description of his modus operandi, he’d be equally pleased by listeners either laughing hysterically at his music’s ostensible triviality or hushed in awed silence. But if you ask me, a little bit of both is the way to go.
It’s impossible not to fall in love with the music of Italian reeds maestro Virginia Genta once one listens to The Live in Lisbon, a perfectly lo-fi recording of a 2008 performance with drummer Chris Corsano that’s nothing short of magical. It’s one of very few releases under Genta’s own name (her eponymous discography comprises a small handful of ensemble live LPs and a smattering of solo 7″s), but she certainly stays busy with other projects, which include the many iterations of the Jooklo collective, YADER, and Melting Mind. The latter, an ongoing, loosely structured collaboration with an array of electronics tinkerers, namely Michele Mazzani, is among the most abstract material from Genta in which she still utilizes her trusty supply of winds. The group’s latest offering, the partly self-titled Melted Mind, is an enthralling, difficult chunk of dusty atmospherics that keeps the listener at an arm-and-a-half’s length. All of the tracks besides “Frenzy Partner” were conjured by the core duo of Genta and Mazzani, the former switching between tenor and soprano sax and the latter contributing real-time synthesis as well as post-production processing. Anyone who listens to even a few seconds of the tape would hardly be surprised to learn that the Genta/Mazzani pieces were recorded in a barn; it’s not just the swathing analog hiss or appealing scruffiness of the recording itself that evokes a sense of confined removal or isolation, but also the music itself, which more often tends toward patient, brooding drones and atonal squawks and squeals rather than conventional jazz improvisation (with the exception of “SITB Pt. II,” a well-placed smattering of gestural scalar runs). With the lengthy “Bellatrix” Mazzani gradually begins to assert his presence, and the murky, garbled ephemera that begins “Through the Rusty Gates” and the B side—presumably created via on-site synth sludging, after-the-fact assemblage, or some combination of both—sounds like something right out of a Michael Barthel tape. Even with the added complexity of three additional musicians and a new recording location on “Frenzy Partner,” Melted Mind never abandons its refreshing, sublime removal; it’s a deep, buried hibernation both comforting and cloying.
As many are likely already aware, Nothing Will Get Us to Heavenis far from the only nostalgic love letter to late-00s Myspace scenecore that’s come out in the past half-decade or so, but I would venture to say that it’s one of the best I’ve heard. From the vibrant album cover and melted-lattice lettering to the pitch-shifted therapy sample intro with its lengthy, underscore-laden title and the vicious, bullheaded breakdowns complete with electrocuted-cat howls, The Queen Guillotined’s follow-up to last year’s demo is a throwback through and through, but the newly formed Buffalo quintet take themselves just seriously enough (and use adequately crisp production) for their debut to land with a more newfangled impact, appealing to fresh-faced fools and those still trying to rinse that last bit of neon green dye out alike. There’s also, surprisingly, not a single pig squeal to be found throughout the entire 13-or-so-minute run time, which makes the band’s self-proclamation of their style as “Real Deathcore” extra provocative. While they don’t have the brutal, manic stupidity of more familiar mainstays like IVEBEENSHOT, A Black Rose Burial, or See You Next Tuesday, the dual high/low screams and gang vocals of “Centipedes in the Senate” and stomping chugs of “No Redeeming Qualities” make The Queen Guillotined an act to watch.
Ever since Keith Rowe’s renowned deployment of the portable radio as a tool for abstract music, the family of devices has become somewhat of a staple in the arsenal of junk-drawer-diving improvised acts, but it’s rare to see it totally isolated. Aki Onda experiments with a prolonged capture that’s almost voyeuristic (A Method to Its Messiness), Daniel J. Gregory promotes it to both a producer of emphasized sound events and simply a piece of its environment (Heard Under Orphan Eyelid),and Alyssa Festa (a project now sadly defunct) plays with primordial beeps and background noise, yet none of the three rely as heavily on the compositional possibilities of real-time channel surfing, or at least certainly not as much as Promise Garden Frequency. Freshly released by what appears to be some new evolution of the prolific 7Form netlabel project, this digital-only album from Grounded is a murky, unpredictable, even hallucinatory descent into the fragile space of dead air, fragmented broadcasts, and jarring stylistic contrast. The 15-track suite plays like a single piece, evolving from live dial-scrubbing at first to accommodate increasingly complex layers; these post-recording interventions aren’t concealed or hidden in any way, but their presence doesn’t affect the half-exhilarating, half-sedating effect of the almost omnipresent frequency jumping. The artist’s well-tuned ear and hand coax a variety of significant emotional resonance: dazed catharsis in “Rationalise Stems”; dread and darkness in the densely packed static of “Sinking Deeper and Deeper”; electric anxiety in “Ringing Deep Now”; queasy, uneasy grandiosity in “Derelict Garden.” Promise Garden Frequency is a truly “plundered” release, much more so than most who claim the label for themselves, and is enthralling in both its stretches of atmospheric broodiness (“A Way Out”) and sublime pop-chop ecstasy (“Because I Am”).
So the other week I tried to burn two Waylon Jennings LPs to a CD so I could listen to them in the car, but something apparently went horribly wrong because every track on Dreaming My Dreams has been hiked up about 60 bpm and the entirety of Good Hearted Woman was reduced to an incoherent, eardrum-dissolving squall. I bring this snafu up because much of Level Repulsion, Universal Cell Unlock’s first release since 2017’s Fugitive Numbers, doesn’t sound too different from the latter malfunction. Mysteriously produced with what are only listed as “handmade devices” without any overdubbing or processing, the dense powerhouse of scathing digital harsh noise is always strangely apathetic toward its own abrasiveness—the incessant, looping onslaughts of auditory error codes and circuit torture seem just as likely to be spontaneously auto-generated as conjured manually by one or more artists. This could also be a case of extreme technophobia; in conjunction with the cover image, perhaps what we’re hearing is the sound of furious, vitriolic abuse of any and all electronic invaders. “Pollusiondeaths,” the closer, is especially spastic and violent. But if that’s true then whoever’s doing the abusing must also be intimately familiar with the ins and outs of these Frankenstein machines… knowing thy enemy or fraternizing with thy foe? I’m not sure, but who cares, because the results are spectacular. And I don’t regret hammering my phone into metallic paste one bit. I think.
I think my steadily increasing fascination for auditory garbage has formed a terminal trajectory that will end with me abandoning any devotion to coherence—via both input and output—altogether, and I’m just about already there with this new obsession over Strange Mammals of Doom Are Strange 2. Divided into seven untitled tracks, the most recent, partly self-titled offering from anonymous Kraków artist Strange Mammals of Doom is a dark, grimy foray into the murky intersection that connects countless genres of corner-dwelling abstract music. Drone, ersatz electronica, moody dark ambient, humbly cinematic synth, and lurching, lazy, lo-fi wall noise are all crudely yet carefully sculpted into chunks of detritus, mottled driftwood floating on the still surface of a rotting reservoir. These sonic mud-effigies are reliably bizarre and enigmatic, but their specific contours aren’t nearly as consistent: in the first segment moss-choked cavern dross melts into something more melodic, the next embraces the swollen, stubborn stagnancy of amplified electrical currents, and the dense, almost aquatic din of the one after that seems to always be building toward something that it never reaches. And after that there are still four more to go. Are Strange 2 plays like a tinker session somewhere in the depths of a dusty, forgotten electronics depot, and, much like the weird, sleepy supernatural that always seems to lurk in such places, it has lodged its hooks quite deep within me. If only I could, you know, see or feel them. Strange.
We’ve all messed around with Audacity or whatever other starter DAW we could get our hands on and loaded raw image data as a sound stem for some chaotic computer-noise action, but it’s a lot more difficult than one would think to make those unpredictable slabs into music that’s actually worth listening to, even for those with as shockingly inclusive of a definition for music as most of you most likely have. Enter VEIDRIK, a Chicago-based project whose materials are sourced entirely from photography taken previously by the artist, mercilessly converted, assimilated, reshaped, malformed—whatever you want to call it—into sharp, spiky, complex arrays of dissonant frequencies and impossible textures. Despite the passive, indeterminate nature of this most significant aspect of VEIDRIK’s artistic process, the final results are quite the opposite; the eight concise tracks that comprise HAZARDAJare as confrontational and exhilarating as the most energetic tabletop-harsh, soaring and piercing and painful and gestural—plenty of pointers taken from Hasegawa and friends. Complementary layers are meticulously arranged to create an immersive stereo listening experience; the artist recommends headphones, but I imagine this tape would sound just as great through a nice set of appropriately placed speakers, provided no pesky neighbors or skittish pets are around to discourage maximum volume settings.
Been wanting to make this one for a while. If you were to get kicked to death in the pit (if those are even still a thing after all this) and sent to hell, this is what your eternity of suffering would sound like. Could be worse.