Review: Tasting Menu – Mueller Tunnel (Full Spectrum, Sep 3)

What a lovely piece of art this is. Mueller Tunnel offers a different sort of escapism for me amidst this collective isolation than, say, Jessie Ware’s What’s Your Pleasure?, instead following a trio who aim to become one with surroundings far from civilization. Tim Feeney, Cody Putnam, and Cassia Streb, along with photographer Eric Basta, “hiked in with a wagon full of recording equipment and instruments strapped to their backs,”all of which appear to have been harnessed to create this final product. “windward” begins with the familiar sound of a creaking door—familiar, that is, in a domestic space, but contextually it seems strange in a half-buried mountain tunnel. That’s only true if you’re aware of the recording location before listening, however. Unlike many performances I’ve heard in singular, meaningful spaces, the geometry of the tunnel is largely kept a secret, the oppressive stone walls smothering any reverberating remnants. Shuffling plant matter, chirping birds and other animal noises, receding and approaching footsteps, intimate object clatter, inhales and exhales, the rumble of distant traffic, a train rushing by almost too close for comfort, tentative but sublime violin scratching; all of these elements, whether incidental or intentional or perhaps both, form the three delicate soundscapes that comprise Mueller Tunnel, each its own natural, ebbing coalescence of various sounds, large and small (mostly small, I’d say). The expanse between those large and small sounds is often jarring, especially in “warren,” when the up-to-that-point-constant metal/concrete swirl abruptly ceases, leaving only a distant, ominous, slowly encroaching rumble. From there it evolves into more kinetic, involved improvisation (a term I use cautiously and conditionally, considering the pieces have corresponding graphic scores), miniature rock-slides and cave-ins, space both stretched and punctured by a consistently moving body and the incessant xylophone ring, respectively. Once the fragile ray-of-sunshine string chord drone kicks in, I’m a goner. This album is exactly what I needed this month. Heart eyes (or heart ears? I suppose both, because of the photos) 100%.

Mueller Tunnel can be purchased as both a digital download or a limited edition art book with CD featuring Basta’s photographs here.

Review: Seyarse – Congealed Releases (Zegema Beach, Sep 3)

Since finding the long-defunct Seyarse (pronounced say-ar-say, which I only just learned) via the tremendous Open Mind / Saturated Brain blog, both their 2003 self-titled 7″ and 2004 split with La Mantra De Fhiqria have been dear favorites. Both of those are collected on Congealed Releases, new cassette/digital release by Zegema Beach, along with a live recording from a performance on 88.7 WLUW, a station in the band’s home town of Chicago. It’s great to finally have “definitive” versions of these tracks, of which I’ve only ever had secondhand rips (the 7″ tracks on Congealed Releases are also just a rip, to be fair, but it is the best rip I’ve heard by far). The following three, which originally alternated in the track list with songs by La Mantra De Fhiqria on an unusually structured single-sided LP, are noticeably punchier and clearer than the digital copies I have, and a chaotic, cacophonous hardcore band can only benefit from a more dynamic sound that still retains a gritty roughness—which this definitely does. The WLUW set is surprisingly well-recorded, and while there wasn’t any unreleased material performed other than a pretty bad ass intro jam. It’s my first time hearing who is presumably the vocalist talk, and his soft, pleasant speaking voice, which emerges to introduce the band and thank various people between most of the songs along with hilariously out-of-place acoustic guitar strumming, is such a great contrast to his shrill shrieks, some of the best I’ve ever heard in emotional hardcore music. For those of you who have never encountered Seyarse, this is the best possible way to be introduced to their powerful, complex, incendiary music.

Review: Suburban Cracked Collective – Swimming Amongst the Dregs (A Colourful Storm, Sep 2)

There is something so deeply mysterious about Suburban Cracked Collective (the solo project of musician Shaun Leacy), and I’m really can’t put my finger on specifically what it is. It could be the curious mixture of convention and abstraction that forms the very heart of his dense, enigmatic music; maybe it’s the inexplicably wistful, saddening artwork on the covers of many of his releases; I’m not sure. What I do know is that Swimming Amongst the Dregs features Leacy’s most beautiful cover art and music yet, and has kept me coming back nearly every day since it’s release under the false guise of revealing some of its secrets. I have a thing for lush mixtures of room cacophony and gorgeous atmospheric electronica (for my favorite example, check out this field recording I captured several years ago) and thankfully such a pairing is also of immense interest to Leacy, who seamlessly interweaves clattering performances with unknown objects, machines, and god knows what else with undulating currents of sublime synthesizer patchworks whose satisfying harmonic resolutions more than make up for the tension introduced by such unusual counter-elements. I honestly have no idea how these homey yet always slightly industrial cornucopias of subdued metallic cacophony were generated; sometimes they sound like someone just making dinner, others they resemble something more like some sort of homemade Rube Goldberg contraption, and on “It’s All Gone Sideways” an earthy, rhythmic quality is adopted, structuring the LP’s final moments as a hypnotic, languid lumber into silence as the track slowly fades out. When attempting to describe what’s happening on Swimming Amongst the Dregs, I feel as though my foundation is much shakier than usual, even more so than when I’m writing about something completely abstract and detached; I hope I did so well enough to motivate you to check it out. In this case, “something special” is an egregious understatement.

Review: Cold Electric Fire – The Mule (No Rent, Sep 1)

After an agonizingly long hiatus from new releases—by their standards that is; for a prolific label with near-inhuman efficiency, that put out over 30 tapes in 2018, nearly 40 in 2019, and 17 just in the first four month of this year, five months is an agonizingly long time—the beloved No Rent Records is starting over from catalog number one with a reimagined logo. And what better pair of artists to start things off than Darksmith, who’s never released anything on No Rent and makes for a captivating aesthetic collision, and Cold Electric Fire, whose long-forgotten work was revived in 2018 by the reverently crafted The Alchemist discography double cassette. The Mule is Gary Tedder’s first recorded work since 2002’s In Nights Dream We Are Ghosts, and falls somewhere further along the more abstract, processed trajectory hinted at by the last three tracks on The Alchemist, yet retains everything on that album’s slightly alien but no less comforting warmth. Cold Electric Fire has always been about detail and layers—his work is often, if not all produced by meticulously tracking hundreds and even thousands of separate elements to conjure shifting, lush, kaleidoscopic phantasmagorias of fluid sound—but there seems to be more versatility here, from the dense spacial concrète of “Ferrier” to the seismic, subterranean siren songs of the title track. The Mule, especially at those aforementioned times, can be cold, removed and abstract even, but beauty is never far away from drifting in and hovering naturally like it’s always been there. Tedder conceivably could have made this album at any time, but I like to think of it as a product of the conditions in which we find ourselves now; there’s a peculiar loneliness to this music, not at all unwelcome or discomfiting, but instead the solitary, knowing solace of knowing you’re both alone and not alone.

Mix: Motivational Motorik

A collection of my favorite propulsive, driving motorik(ish) grooves. There’s more of a unifying vibe than that, but you’ll see what I mean. For the most part, the intensity ramps up as it progresses. Use it for a cleaning day or maybe a nice drive.

Klaus Dinger (photo by Wolfgang V. Groote)

00:00. Broken Social Scene – “Pacific Theme” from We Forgot It in People (Arts & Crafts, 2002)

04:52. Caudal – “Well, I Suppose” from Fight Cry Fight (Katuktu Collective, 2018)

09:01. Salaryman – “The Companion” from Karoshi (City Slang, 1999)

12:54. Blue Man Group – “3 to 1” from Three (Rhino, 2016)

16:51. Public Service Broadcasting – “Spitfire” from Inform-Educate-Entertain (Test Card, 2013)

20:40. Maserati – “Synchronicity IV” [excerpt] from Inventions for the New Season (Temporary Residence, 2007)

24:35. Pell Mell – “Vegetable Kingdom” from Interstate (DGC, 1995)

30:34. Holy Fuck – “Silva & Grimes” from Latin (Young Turks, 2010)

35:42. Oneida – “The Adversary” from Happy New Year (Jagjaguwar, 2006)

Review: Feghoots – Loiter Adjourned (Beartown, Aug 22)

Until today, I had no knowledge of Feghoots, the solo project of Leeds artist Pete Cann, but I’m happy that’s changed. His most recent release, Loiter Adjourned, is a masterwork of sleazy, slurred synthesis, dense phantasmagorias of the patches, frequencies, and samples that no one else wanted. The atmosphere is captured well by Paul Tone’s artwork; the seven tracks are extracts from a surreal Videodrome television purgatory, filled with the ghosts of mass media long forgotten, the electrical humming and crackling of digital entities beyond our perception, garbled voices of unwitting human prisoners who accidentally got sucked in through the screen of their home set. There is… some semblance of space here but it doesn’t work the same way; Cann’s arrangements and layerings sit naturally, but think too hard about the actual geometry of what is happening and the brain immediately goes kaput. Erroneous signal chatter, the buzzing whine of a cable half plugged in, dead air possessed by dismal spirits, some sublimely inaccurate manual channel surfing—it’s all amplified via the mysterious magnifier/manufacturer/manipulator that is the modular synthesizer and glued together with peculiar panache.

Loiter Adjourned is also available for streaming and name-your-price download here.

Review: brb>voicecoil – Alms of Guilt (Opal Tapes, Aug 28)

Newcastle Upon Tyne artist Kevin Wilkinson has been making music for a long time—nearly three decades, in fact. He established himself in the 90’s with rock band Drill as well as his more abstract solo work as BigRoadBreaker (BRB), the latter presumably evolving, after a decade-or-so hiatus, into his current project brb>voicecoil (many of Wilkinson’s past releases are available on the muza muza Bandcamp for download). Freed from the free-form studio industrial of its namesake, the discography of brb>voicecoil charts Wilkinson’s descent into engrossing, heavily processed modern musique concrète, evoking just as dark of an atmosphere as he always has with a more contemporary approach. The recent Alms of Guilt, is an exemplary exploration of this; despite the provocative, emotionally charged track titles, only the most unfamiliar and evasive sounds are present, whether through intensive manipulation, unusual/obscure capture, or a mixture of both. The six-track album, dual-released as a 12″ lathe by Wilkinson himself and a CD by fellow Newcastle residents Opal Tapes, finds its backbone in the consistently dark, seething waves of dissected sonics, flitting and eddying like hive-mind insect swarms or sewer water currents amidst interjections of reverberating spacial echo and queasy digital glitches. There’s always a lot going on, but at the same time there really isn’t. Wilkinson’s creations are dense but not overwhelming or disorienting; instead, he forcefully condenses countless elements into single entities, conjurations somewhere in the unsettling valley between organic and artificial that flop and writhe like semi-sentient masses of living tissue and industrial machinery. If, like me, you’ve found yourself falling in love with this sort of compositionally “total” acousmatic approach—for other examples, see Corat CoretStallgewitter, Staubitz and WaterhouseTo Be Brave—you will definitely enjoy Alms of Guilt.

Review: Enterfant – Publick Restroom Performances (self-released, Aug 26)

The “music” that comprises Publick Restroom Performances is, essentially, exactly what one would expect. Departing from artist Arek Orosz’s predilections for harsh noise and power electronics on much of his Enterfant material, the short digital-only release collects two recordings captured in February of 2017 that feature Orosz performing solo as an environmental instigator. The sparse clatters of paper towel and toilet tissue dispensers being used or struck, the hissing rushes of commercial sink faucets, the distinctive canned echo that one immediately recognizes—with his reticent contributions and interactions, Orosz pays humble homage to the innocuous yet mysterious energy that lurks in empty public bathrooms, something I’m sure most, if not all of us have observed during various moments of temporary, inexplicably poignant isolation in these ubiquitous facilities. The first piece, recorded on February 18th, builds itself on the fullness of the spacial spread of reverberating musical segments that sound like something between empty elevator music and alien-abduction electronica, sparse guitar noodling and piano notes filling every inch of the linoleum corners as other familiar sounds—such as brief conversations, flushing toilets, what is probably something clanging against those assistive metal bars in wheelchair-accessible stalls—flesh things out. There are even more curiosities in the February 20th piece, which concludes with the playback of several jarringly out-of-place musical loops (culminating with the Mortal Kombat theme) before the biggest surprise of them all: there’s actually an audience in this bathroom! And they were quiet and appreciative the whole time!

Review: Misha Pattiradjawane & ɟɐɥɯᴉ ɯnɹsʎᴉp – Corat Coret (self-released, Aug 27)

The first part of Corat Coret, which occupies nearly half of the diminutive nine-minute suite, unfurls its bewildering layers like a carnivorous flower revealing its gaping, hungry maw, chlorophyll-saliva splashing and gnashing as horrible botanical mandibles masticate a mixture of unlucky bugs and leftover pollen. From what I can tell, this short album was produced via a series of field recordings made by Misha Pattiradjawane which were then extensively processed by ɟɐɥɯᴉ ɯnɹsʎᴉp (Fahmi Mursyid) into their profoundly contorted final forms. The description of the work reveals an emphasis on “background noise,” which could conceivably be the source of much of the original sound material, uneventful recordings of inactive rooms or inert appliances mined for curiosities and imperfections to amplify, loop, layer, and otherwise extrapolate. The audio-physical shape this takes really reminds me of the first piece on Stallgewitter by German sound artists Daniel Löwenbrück and Marcellvs L.: a stuttering cyclone of displaced frequencies, muffled discordant clashes, flaps and strips of raw sound whipping in a vicious yet tightly controlled whirlwind. This unique little release offers more in less than ten minutes than many do in quadruple that time.

Review: Les Horribles Travailleurs – Shadow Inquiries (self-released, Aug 24)

I knew the name Max Kuiper sounded familiar, even though I’ve never encountered Les Horribles Travailleurs before; Animi Sub Volpe Latentes, a 2016 Chondritic tape made by the duo of Kuiper and Thorsten Soltau, is an obscure forgotten favorite of mine. Unsurprisingly, a similar magnetism overtook me during a cursory exploration of Shadow Inquiries, which, thankfully, entirely fulfills the expectations of bleak, apocalyptic desolation that its cover engenders. Forming the basis of the first and longest piece is various cloying hisses of white noise, spouting like geysers from some invisible imperfection—who knows if accidental or intentional, or perhaps both—in the recordings, slowly unfurling to reveal sluggish sound events of decaying machinery, hypnotic whirring, and other sounds of slow industrial collapse. If you find yourself naturally gravitating toward these sort of sounds, but aren’t as partial to the “dark ambient” side of things, instead preferring the more direct, unadulterated evocations of Morphogenesis, Ultra, or Sterile Garden (with whom LHT have released a split), you will definitely feel at home here. The oppressive darkness gradually lifts from the unhurried soundscapes of clatter and current as the album progresses, and the third track is even rather beautiful.