Review: Hit with the Joke Hammer – Hit with the Joke Hammer (Crooked Branch Collections, Jun 4)

a3276799884_10Several promising new labels have either started or found their stride in 2021. That latter milestone, unsurprisingly, looks different for everyone; for smaller, understated labels with narrow focuses, such as Crooked Branch Collections from Nashville, it might mean simply putting out their first single-artist tape. And the eponymous debut by Hit with the Joke Hammer, an unknown, previously undocumented project, is a more than fitting entry to mark such progress. Confined to muffled, claustrophobic mono and delivering a sickly, understated intensity that just barely tickles the fringes of what I would call “noise,” the concise C24 complements CBC’s minimal artisan aesthetic with its slipshod humility. Unidentifiable concrète recordings, which originally could have been anything from trickling water and domestic doldrums to repurposed feedback loops and shortwave fiddles, rake across rusty tape heads with a lethargic, tedious sputter a la UVC (though without the same sense of exteriority). In passing, each of the four short tracks seems to twitch and amble with almost indistinguishable gaits, and it’s only through close attention that the exact character of the specific agitations can be identified—nuance that one might not expect based on the unapologetic castoff-ness of the music. Recent readers are almost certainly aware of my fondness for stuff like this; if you possess similar tastes, definitely do not skip this one.