Review: Ghost Dance – 1000 Instances of Grief (FTAM, Aug 20)

Important note: if at all possible please listen to the album at least once before you read the review. I don’t want to rob anyone of the experience of hearing it for the first time.

It doesn’t take much time into “Carlisle Indian Industrial School” to realize that 1000 Instances of Grief, the first full-length from Indigenous noisemaker Travis Dodge’s Ghost Dance project, is something very different from the gnashing direct-action power electronics of Indian Babies: How to Keep Them Well. Most of the opening track relies on audio from Rebecca Nagle’s This Land docu-podcast, in which Nagle explores both systemic and direct injustice toward Native people in the U.S. (in this case, she gives an account of a memorialist visit to the titular historical site). The simple delay effect placed on her otherwise unprocessed speech seems strangely banal at first, but soon the overlapping echoes take on a certain kind of unity, loosely knitting into a chorus in the past’s looming shadow, and it becomes clear what 1000 Instances really is: an elegy. All the abject grief and weary rage of generations upon generations living and dead saturate the closing burst of contact mic scrabble, erupting without warning once Nagle most directly states the true nature of Carlisle and countless institutions like it; it’s a truly indescribable and unforgettable moment.

Unsurprisingly, the rest of the disc is full of many more of those: the breaks into haunted ambience before the noise escalates into full-fledged vocal assault on “Kamloops”; the brief “Unmarked Grave” and its aching, almost lifeless dirge; the many cuts and collapses of “ALM,” titled after a Navajo–Cherokee child whose adoption by a white family opened new avenues for state-sanctioned genocide. The hypnotic traditional chant featured in Indian Babies‘ “Against the Liquor Curse” reappears in the concluding “No Pride in Genocide,” once again buried beneath layers of distortion and choppy digital artifacting; in part, the crude but affecting soundscape paints an aural simulacrum of the profound cultural erasure leveled against Native people throughout history, which the remainder of the track subjects to a varied, expertly executed gauntlet of good old-fashioned PE destruction. By no means an easy listen… but this is important and essential music.

Review: Jordan Deal – GOGO Underworld (Cor Ardens, Aug 5)

GOGO Underworld exists on the physical plane as a limited run of cassettes housed in hand-set wax boxes with a glass window. Five, ten at most, you’d probably guess. But no, there are a hundred of these objects in the world now, an impressive and admirable feat to say the least—and an illustrative one as well, for the care and dedication that went into crafting the sound’s few vessels in conjunction with the goal of reaching many happen to be quite representative of Jordan Deal’s creative approach itself. These are the first recordings from the Philadelphia-based interdisciplinary artist, but they join an already formidable body of work spanning performance, video, collage, and sculpture. Somehow, these diverse modes of expression are all present on GOGO Underworld in one way or another; this music is gestural, vivid, eclectic, tangible, resonant. The “Intro” is a reserved yet complex welcome to the vast expanse of sonic material from which Deal draws throughout the following tracks, its delicate kaleidoscope of textures blooming into “Lawd!”, a standout piece that rolls together voice, field recordings, radio, and choice electronics into a transcendent, crystalline psychedelia. Earthen fragments that together comprise something otherworldly are a consistent presence, from the fluid communal bricolage of the “SHOUTS” diptych to the phantasmagoric chorus of “dreamARCHIVE.” This latter section features some of the most poignant of Deal’s spoken poetics, quotes from which have remained steadfast in my brain since the first time I heard them (e.g., “We have colonized potentiality”). It’s just one of many examples of how the “multi-dimensional energy worker” excels with both abstract and explicit evocation, existing together in sublime symbiosis. “Your rebirth will be revolutionary.”

GOGO Underworld is a bold, unforgettable first step in Deal’s multimedia project to explore “how the memories and mythologies of the Black diaspora can be used as conduits of historical and cultural preservation, tracing its global footprint—disrupting Western colonial thought modes and deploying dreaming as channels for potentiality, non-linear modes of intercepting time and space, and celebration as resistance.”

Mix: Heartwood Stomp

The specific essence these tracks share is difficult to define, but I hope that gathered together they’ll do that for me. Let’s pound our heels into the floorboards until we leave our mark, clap the day’s work’s dirt off our hands and scrub the rust from our joints; dance until the eave-dust rains down on whatever’s below us. Folk music from and for hard-beating hearts.

00:00. Amps for Christ – “Branches” from The People at Large (5 Rue Christine, 2004)

02:11. Exuma – “Damn Fool” from Exuma II (Mercury, 1970)

05:53. Scatter – “Alternations of Pasture and Urban Conurban” from Surprising Sing Stupendous Love (Cenotaph Audio, 2004)

10:24. Holy Modal Rounders – “Bound to Lose” from The Holy Modal Rounders (Prestige, 1964)

14:39. Megafaun – “Gather, Form & Fly” from Gather, Form & Fly (Hometapes, 2009)

18:56. The Woes – “The Secret” from Heaven Knows (self-released, 2009)

22:57. Drakkar Sauna – “How to Approach an Accident Victim” from Rover (Marriage, 2004)

26:20. Big Blood – “…Is All We Have” from Dark Country Magic (Don’t Trust the Ruin, 2010)

31:19. Peter Stampfel – “Oomalooma Messy Dessy” from Dook of the Beatniks (PFAM, 2009)

34:53. The Ebony Hillbillies – “Cream” [Prince cover] from 5 Miles from Town (EH Music, 2017)

Review: Arek Gulbenkoglu – fissure, fissure, fissure (self-released, Jul 26)

As is often the case, I’d be remiss if I didn’t introduce this new disc from idiosyncratic Australian sound artist Arek Gulbenkoglu by quoting his own description of the work: “fissure, fissure, fissure is a 37 minute piece documenting various failures in language and extrapolations of voice; machines that whir, slap and clap; and in-jokes that don’t go anywhere.” Like last year’s Lexicon Nil—this one I still haven’t heard… if anyone’s selling a copy please hit me up—it’s self-released and comprises a single track (and is mastered by the prolific Giuseppe Ielasi), but the composition shares plenty with other entries in Gulbenkoglu’s discography as well, featuring the unpredictable segmentation and artful monotony previously explored on ReoccurrencecDDe, etc. Here, however, these points of interest are magnified to new levels of extremity. Indeed, part of what makes all of the artist’s material so beguiling is that it’s full of paradoxes, that words like “extremity” are often just as applicable as ones like “banality”; and fissure, fissure, fissure, perhaps more so than anything preceding it, is both apathetic and devout, bizarre and familiar, abstract and concrete. There are unaccompanied machinations, clandestine field recordings, text-to-speech jargon, tape-driven deconstructions, and more, but each and every episode is driven (ironically) by a somehow sanguine inertness. To be more concise: it certainly goes nowhere, but it takes its sweet, captivating time getting there.

The links here lead to the Shame File (AUS) website, but copies have already also made it to Penultimate Press (UK) and Derek Baron (US).

Review: Hydra – Your Name (Everyday Samething, Aug 1)

Your Name on a business card… I mean, the jokes write themselves. Which, I’m sure, is part of the point. And no, not a business-card 3″, but the actual regular old paper kind, printed in a small run of 25 with the album artwork on the front and a QR code on the back (Paul Owen’s doesn’t have that now does it), then scattered throughout “selected shops and bargain bins around the UK.” At a point in time when physical music is much more ritual than utility to most, Everyday Samething’s sly-eyed pseudo-soliciting is a new and distinct way to network with new listeners (I say “network” because while this method could be thought of as an enticing offer from the mysterious stranger in a low fantasy novel, it can also be something entirely banal, an ongoing hey, check this out) even when the music itself is hosted online. Similar things have certainly been done before, of course—I own IT IT’s Formal Odors in the form of a small rectangle of handmade paper embedded with broccoli seeds—but it’s far from just the distribution concept that makes Your Name so fascinating.

I know next to nothing about Hydra, but I do know that whoever’s behind it has an ear for both the conventionally sublime and the brashly abstract. “Air Force Ones” [sic] immediately has the sound of something one found by scanning a random QR code, its initial roar of digitally distorted field recordings gradually calming to accommodate new elements, namely a meandering melodic synth and high-pitched feedback blasts. “Real Power” is somehow even weirder, and reminds me of some of the self-described “deep internet” material that I most enjoy: the Infant Jesus Church’s Finally the Instant Is Here, the Memory Preservation Institute’s Had to Get This Off My Mind. I really can’t believe how much is happening in Your Name despite how short and minimal it is; among other things, there’s some truly spectacular scald-psychedelia in the last two tracks, adding C.C.C.C. fans to the long list of people who will find plenty to love in this bite-sized tour-de-force. Thankfully, you won’t have to wait until you stumble across the album’s tangible tether in the wild to listen, because Everyday Samething is generously allowing me to include the MediaFire link.