chxfx2undercroft

CHXFX – Guided Busways/Undercroft (Polytechnic Youth)

CHXFX - Guided Busways chxfx2undercroftElectronic music seems to inherently conjure images of the speculative and the sci-fi. Whether it’s because classic sci-fi filmmakers took to the electronic instruments early, as a way to evoke alien, otherworldly soundscapes, going back as far as the eerie tremolo of the theremin, or simply because the blips, bleeps, drips and drones have no antecedent in consensual reality, synthesizer records remain a surefire portal to the unseen, the realms of the unreal.

CHXFX is the more experimental, improvised pseudonym of Nochexxx‘s Dave Henson. With ‘Guided Busways/Undercroft’, CHXFX tethers the imaginal to the real, overlaying revisionist history and possible futures over his native Cambridge.

‘Guided Busway/Undercroft’ is part academic synth record, part modern acid abstraction, part library music, and part musique concrete cut-up. The A-side, ‘Guided Busways’, is made up of short vignettes, ranging from :07 to 3:18, and sounds like production music for some documentary about micro-processors or gamma rays. A staggering array of glistening oscillators, rhythmic noise, and modified field recordings transform yr pad into some mad laboratory, and take you on a journey through machine-elf tunnels to a giant pulsating brain at the center of the universe. The real-world recordings – rushing wind and popping corks – give this electronica a more earthy feel, like he’s remixing yr dreams of childhood, caught on some infernal loop, going soft around the edges.

There is frequently a sneaky, furtive subterranean vibe to ‘Guided Busways’, that sounds like exploring vast glowing caverns, which gives way to a more open sky feeling, as oscillators fall like the Geminiads. It sounds like crawling through Fax cables, if they were dripping with stalactites. Air raid sirens and horrorshow synths give an ominous feel to the proceedings, as does the lonesome howling wind and anti-gravity particulates.

‘Undercroft’ is the more ambitious and striking of the two sides, one track clocking in 17:00. ‘Undercroft’ is made up of processed field recordings from the world’s oldest skate park, in support of the Long Live Southbank campaign. This reunites the world of academic electronics and street punk skate culture, as if Afrika Bambaataa or Grandmaster Flash were cutting up Paddy Kingsland and Throbbing Gristle records. Conceptualism and good cause aside, ‘Undercroft’ sounds stellar on it’s own, mixing Pink Floyd sequencer freakouts with ominous distant echoes, and a gradual pulse coming on, like walking in the cavernous heart of some great cybernetic beast. This is guarantee to gently puree yr thoughts, first thing in the morning, or take you to through the Earth’s crust in an inverted dust devil, last thing at night. The unpredictable, organic quality of the source material are a great relief, from the clinical and often sterile worlds of polished and predictable electronic music. Perhaps there are some new thoughts, after all, new vistas to explore.


In this CHXFX suggests an alliance between the earliest schools of electronic music – from the BBC’s Radiophonic Library, with their make-do alchemy, and France’s GRM and Stockhausen’s WDR Studios. This is the sound of machines, speaking to themselves, which is then further manipulated and fine-tuned, making the best of both worlds – the spontaneous excitement of improvisation, with the technical precision and mastery of composition.

Anybody that digs the old avant-garde biz i’ve already mentioned, as well as fans of recent esoteric electronic records, from the likes of Bass Clef, Hieroglyphic Being, Ekoplekz, or what’s been coming out on Pan Records, recently, will delight in this odd audio odyssey.

This record is gone at the source, unfortunately, but well worth listening to the clips, reminding us all to not sleep on the Nochexxx.
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@Nochexxx
.com
Polytechnic Youth

futurismo

Horrorscores: Mike Simonetti – At The Juncture Of Dark And Light Vol. 3 (Opal Tapes)

Mike Simonetti - At The Juncture Of Darkness And Light Vol. 3

Free jazz. Free fall. Aurora Borealis oscillators; sterling drones. Black matter. Black mass. Tribal epiphany. Drum machines. Vibes. Lonesome. Haunted. Floating.

Welcome to another edition of Horrorscores, where we transform yr waking thoughts into living nightmares.

Horrorscores traces the trajectory of music from horror movies themselves, music inspired by horror films, and music that gives the vibe of being inside a horror film. Mike Simonetti’s latest edition of his “At The Juncture Of Dark And Light” mixtape series is firmly in the latter camp.

Of course, for the true devotee, saying yr into Horror is like saying yr into literature. Or food. There’s a million flavors – shades, hues, and variations. There’s something for everybody, and everybody has their favorite. So to say this enigmatic transmission from the nightside makes you feel like yr in a horror movie raises the question: what kind?

If At The Juncture Of Dark And Light Vol. 3 were a horror film, it would be firmly in the late ’70s and early ’80s. The action would start on Earth, but would quickly depart for deep space, astral realms – a portal would be opened. I was filled with visions reminiscent of Lamberto Bava‘s Demons, with hellish activity threatening to break and spread, where the heroes have to race against the sunset in a sleek silver Delorean.

At The Juncture Of Dark And Light is a 10-hour mix series, spread across a bevy of obscure tape labels, documenting the diaspora of Space Music – “whether it be traditional Krautrock, psych, cosmic, loner synth, drone, new age, noise or anything that catches the moment.” The Italians Do It Better boss is definitely mining the ore of ’80s sci-fi horror, ’70s synth newage records, and far-flung free jazz freakout records, making a kind of primer for, for lack of a better name, driving music and the outrun kids. It’s rather interesting to note how close in nature and spirit this mix is to a certain percentage of Demdike Stare’s library psych seances, but minus the knocking, haunted, dank creakiness.

Instead, Simonetti’s mix is futurist and sci-fi. This illustrates nicely the hyperpop phenomenon i’m gradually developing. Basically, in 2014, it is possible to live in whatever worldview you choose – to find exactly what you like, and surround yrself in it. The downside to this is, of course, the explosive joy of new discovery, the compelling curiosity of what lies over the next hill, beyond the horizon. Hyperpop must be tempered with other philosophies, to be ultimately effective, but it can explain why someone like Belle & Sebastian are better than a lot of the ’60s pop that they idolize and emulate.

I was only able to isolate and identify one song, Ash Ra Tempel‘s “Interplay Of Forces”, at the top of side B, with its back and forth Teutonic and American voices, like a meditation tape. There’s an insane drum-and-oscillator freakout, track 2 side A, that is out-of-this-world, and immediately after, an Ennio Morricone in deep space lonely oscillator whistle, that brings to mind Mark Snow’s theme for the X-Files. There are beastly Carpenter-synths, and ominous second chords. A horror ambiance definitely penetrates, from time to time, as does a cold, disaffected minimal vibe, dusted drum machines and tinny keyboards. Song identification software was baffled and flummoxed. Anyone else know or recognize any of these tracks?

futurismoSimonetti reminds us that, in many ways, Italians do it better. If you have a slick, streamlined, polished chrome vision of the future; Italian drone records, like the kinds pumped out by MB, or the wormhole rush of Cosmic Disco will take you there, and keep you there.

All told, Simonetti reflects the library music, psych rock, sci-fi sequenced analog disco industrial field recording drone side of Forestpunk. It’s just minus the magickal realism. A strong ally – a powerful blast of imagination.

This came out on Opal Tapes, so it’s being broadcast to the masses. Good for him, good for them. The tape’s gone at the source, but you can listen to it here! Blast off!

 

As an added bonus, i discovered that At The Juncture Of Light And Dark vol. 1 is up at Simonetti’s soundcloud, also available as a high quality download. Hours of speculative enjoyment.

Highly, highly very much recommended!

Mike Simonetti FB

Opal Tapes

Italians Do It Better

Dinner - Oui album cover

From The Inbox: Dinner. Blood Sugar Summer. Bed.

StuffedMailbox2_fullOne of the thrilling, and completely overwhelming aspects of music journalism is the amount of mail from musicians and record labels to check out their chunes.

Of course, there’s too much to ever comment on even a small portion of it. Some of it is obvious spam, not taking the tastes and flavors of Forestpunk into consideration at all, but some of it strikes our fancy. We strive to spread the word on as much worthwhile art as possible, in every genre, and eventually, in every medium.

Like many/most music journalists, I got into this biz because I love discovering new music. I used to spend all of my free time sniffing out interesting sounds from all over the globe, and thought I might as well spread some my fervor with the rest of the world. Consider Forestpunk the field notes of a musical obsessive, wandering the margins, over hill and under dale.

This week, we’ve got new tracks from Captured Track’s Dinner, England’s Blood Sugar Summer, and Portland’s Bed.

Dinner – Going Out Tonight

Dinner - Oui album cover

Do you like the ’80s? Sure, we all do (although if you lived through them, your feelings might be a tad conflicted). But what aspect do you focus on? The hair metal heroics? The neon zap futurism?

L.A., by way of Berlin and Copenhagen’s, Dinner focuses on the weirder aspects of ’80s culture, thank Jah. Going Out Tonight blends the skewed, warped otherworldliness of Aerial Pink or R. Stevie Moore, mixed with proper New Romanticism, a la Ultravox or New Order.
 
 

 
Dinner’s music has been described as “An unruly dream immersed in sexual exhibitionism, un-dogmatic New Age, and perfectly measured idiocy mixed up with fumbling grandeur and awkward, arena-sized pop hooks.” In his own words, “like a sun-bleached cassette tape you’d find stuck behind your car’s dashboard – that was last played at a party in Dusseldorf in 1984 – full of echoes of sweaty depressions, spiritual longings, and early-morning trances.”

Warped. Time travelling. Romantic. Awkward. Vaguely sickly, yet still catchy and ultimately heartfelt – Dinner ticks all the right boxes. “Going Out Tonight” is the ultimate clubbing anthem for introverts and spindly goth kids, that still like to party.

Captured Tracks proves, yet again, to be one of the best sources of weird ’80s culture and remains, as ever, one to watch.

I will be expectantly anticipating Oui’s release on 9.30, with high hopes.

Dinner FB
Captured Tracks FB
Captured Tracks Official
 
Blood Sugar Summer – Haunted

If Dinner is the sound for getting ready to go out, Blood Sugar Summer is what you might hear at the goth club.

Not much is known about the shadowy doomwave duo Blood Sugar Summer, other than they’re British, made up of Benjó James (vocals/keys) and Jack Wilson (guitars).

Doomwave? Is that even a thing?

According to Last.fm, doomwave is synth wave with elements of doom metal. With a genre like that, and a track called ‘Haunted’, you know this was going to catch my attention.

Of course, in my day Blood Sugar Summer’s would be known simply as ‘goth’, slightly updated with elements of alternative epic metal, of the likes of Evanescence. In the case of Blood Sugar Summer, this is adorned with programmed beats and slight auto-tune tracers, which casts a little bit of dark light on what has happened to all the witch house kids…

Brings to mind that video where goth kids in phat pants and raver masks dance to hip-hop.

I’m glad the denizens of the dark have musick to dance to. “Haunted” has a number of redeeming features – the drums are pretty interesting, and intricately nuanced enough to hold the attention, and the vocal delivery is obviously heartfelt. The guitars are satisfyingly thick, and it features some cool, surreal, time-travelling lyrics. Ultimately, however, the track doesn’t live up to the potential of its descriptors. Next time, skip the heroic early ’00s metal. It hasn’t aged well…

Blood Sugar Summer fb

Bed. – Wayward

I’m always excited to get an e-mail from Alex and Sierra Traeger, since the very beginning. Initial correspondence revealed a mutual love of Low and Scottish bummer band The Delgados. They emigrated to Portland from Oakland, and I am genuinely excited to have some dreamy atmospheric guitar rock in this city.

On “Wayward”, Bed. have gone more Pixies than Galaxie 500, as the track sounds thicker, fuller, and more muscular then their gauzy early material. If “Bother.” was the sound of staring out a rainy window, then “Wayward” is the sound of the roaring engine. And I get goosebumps when Sierra sings “Something’s wrong/fucking wrong”, like a siren imitating PJ Harvey. I also hear some production flourishes – ring-modulated guitars and haunting, reverbed keyboards – that I don’t remember being there before, which suggests the pair are expanding outward, increasing their arsenal.

Bed. have become a band whose singles I eagerly await, like a quarterly drip-feed. I like their gradual unfurling, but WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO COME OUT WITH AN ALBUM?!?

Alex and Sierra Haager seem to be finding a home in Portland, and flourishing in our mossy clime, and we are the better for having them. There is more than paisley-sporting hipsters in this town, I assure you.

Don’t believe me? Come out to Foggy Notion (in my neck of the woods), on Sept. 27, and dispel the myth for yrself.

You can also scope the official video for Wayward here.

Thisisbed
Bed FB
@thisisbed
Breakup Records

publicinformation-004

Backward Listening: Ekoplekz – Unfidelity (Planet Mu)

Ekoplekz - Unfidelity album coverBeen meaning to post about this since it came out, back in March. Since Planet Mu has just released their second collection of Nick Edward chunes this year, Four Track Mind, which i will be covering for our good friends Freq Magazine, i thought i’d take the opportunity to re-familiarize myself with this gem, to speak with more authority about 4 Track, and Ekoplekz’s music in general.

To regular denizens of Forestpunk, Nick Edwards needs little introduction. His combination of hand-made electronica, radiophonic soundscapes, often laid down straight-to-tape, eked out of an esoteric array of cheap boxes, could practically be the national anthem, or perhaps patron saint, of what Forestpunk stands for – the blurring of the lines, high art in a folk fashion. Nick Edwards uses his bizarre array of loopers, flangers, mixers, synths and sequencers like some animistic druid, poring over his knobs and dials like an alchemist with his scrolls, or a diviner over sheep guts. Being of electronic origin, his music brings to mind clubs and dancefloors, but these are not bangers (although they do bang, at times). Similar to the last Time Attendant record, Bloodhounds, Ekoplekz’s music seems to conjure both images of the city and the rave, as well as the inevitable stumble home, in this case, down rural country lanes. When taken in conjunction with the junkshop pagan electronics of Hacker Farm, and many others, it begins to seem that a cultural movement is in bloom.
 

 
Ekoplekz’s music occupies an intersection between the noisy and abstract, and populist club anthems. It’s dance music, sort of, but of the most fucked variety – music for shambling, for rocking in the corner as well as in the big room. On Unfidelity Nick Edwards employs his traditional arsenal of dub boxes, rhythm machines, and gloopy, glistening, atonal electronics, but in this instance Planet Mu label-head Mike Paradinas, drawing upon decades of DJ experience, helped to cherrypick and sequence the highlights, leaving 11 tracks of some of Ekoplekz’s greatest music to date. All the better to convert the uninitiated, especially in conjunction with the eye-dripping album artwork.

True to it’s name, Unfidelity still features Edwards’ tape saturated pond scum sound quality, but it sounds deeper this time, somehow, fuller – like it got a right and proper mastering job. This could be a dangerous thing, as it takes us one step closer to an Ekoplekz global invasion. I, for one, would welcome the Dalek on-slaught – i’ve already made the proper incantations and supplications, sacrificing soldered cables on an altar during a gibbous moon, while burning salvia and copal resin.

Unfidelity could be looked upon as a time capsule of his native Bristol, over the span of 30 years or so, as post-punk, sci-fi dystopian electronics, meet that cities obsession with dub culture, and some avant-garde microelectronic club music, to boot. This seems to suggest to me, at least symbolically, a return to futurism, a reclaiming of the sci-fi of the ’70s, even if they are paranoid and full of dread, sometimes. These voyages seem to inherently recall shuttling away into hyperdrive, into some unknown planet’s stratosphere, like an alternate soundtrack for a Rene Laloux film.
 

 
My favorite thing about Ekoplekz’s music in general, and Unfidelity in particular, is the gradual, evolving, almost organic structures, so different from what you find in most electronic music, and most music, period. Without getting too reminiscent or maudlin, there seems to have been a severe cultural backlash against ‘droney’/’soundscape-y’ music. There was a feeling, during the heyday of the music blogs (2005 – 2007, say), when it seemed like anybody could post their music and have it heard by it’s acolytes and advocates. There was a goldrush sensibility, as everyone strove to hear it all, share it all, and to have their message heard. ‘Drone’ music was quite de-rigeur, and it was happening at a time when I was finally getting my hands on some instruments and equipment, and learning how to use them. You were as likely to find recordings of ants feasting on a corn-cob, or someone’s neighbor’s dog barking for 20 minutes, as you were to hear top-40 pop.

And then, all of a sudden, there was a sea change, and it seemed that the world simultaneously adopted the phrase, and the attitude, “another bullshit drone record,” as can be seen on Emeralds’ Bullshit Boring Drone Band, who decided to own that shit.

And while i’ve seen countless scenes come and go, this drift seemed to hurt me more deeply and more personally than almost any other. My personal aesthetics gravitated towards the often cheap grayscale xeroxed aesthetic, coming from a punk and noise background, and i have an archivalist’s tendency to want to hear everything, and never stopped listening to bizarre field recordings, sound collages, and ephemeral archives. If anything, my love for droning music and soundscapes has deepend, as i’ve learned to relax and listen more deeply. But the world’s moved on, and it seems that even the punks and noise freaks are still jamming out to Miley Cyrus and Beyonce (who i like also), even if it is ironically.

That’s why i’m grateful for Ekoplekz, and a certain batallion of electronic experimenters who don’t let things get too lean and clean, too precise. In the process, i’m hoping that they will continue to open up the electronic spectrum to obscure and interesting rhythms and textures, because, after all, there’s more than one way to dance, and countless reasons for doing so.

This pair of LPs (Four Track Mind is great also) are some of Nick Edward’s best yet, although in this scribe’s opinion it is all essential, to the point o being canonical. If you are not yet familiar with his work, this is a great place to climb on board, and dive down the gravity well of abstract, avant-garde dance and electronic musicks.

Ekoplekz – Unfidelity

Ekoplekz FB
@ekoplekz
Planet Mu
@Planetmurecords

bwguitar

Tommy West – Frequencies Of The Sun

Tommy WestArtist: Tommy West

Album: Frequencies Of The Sun

RIYL: Buckethead, Mark McGuire, Bill Frissell, Pat Metheny

 

 

 

The guitar has been called “an orchestra in itself”, by no less than Ludwig Van himself. That’s why it’s such a shame that not enough guitarists get past first position bar chord strumming – power chords and predictable picking patterns. Frequencies Of The Sun, the newest from Nashville guitarist Tommy West, breaks the cage wide open, to take you an expansive journey.

Frequencies Of The Sun is that rare and elusive beast, a solo guitar record. This is a plus, in this case. Too often, I hear good bands, who are obviously great musicians, only to have some fool open his mouth and start yarbling. I can’t tell you how many times i’ve thought, “This band would be great! Why did they have to ruin it with singing?” Tommy West has the gall to go it alone. But just because it’s an instrumental record doesn’t mean it’s all musical meandering. The album is rife with memorable hooks and leads, like on “Blue Marble Happy”, which is the perfect palm-swaying soundtrack for yr next beach outing, to beat this infernal heat.

“His style reflects 70s  rock sensibilities;  layers of acoustic guitars, odd tunings, familiar- yet-fresh and melodic guitar playing splashed against driving rhythms,” according to the press release. FOTS is steeped in ’70s guitar mysticism – along the lines of Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page, which gives the sensation that you’ve heard it somewhere before, like when the title track trails off into a “Laylah” outro. Rather than being derivative, it just means West’s music is based in traditional values like melodicism, and strong song-writing, that understands the rules, and knows how to break them. Because of this, classic blues forms break down into heaving, chunky stoner riffs, preventing this from being New Age chaff. It’s also indebted, obviously, to the realm of the shredders – Vai, Satriani, and, of course, Buckethead – but in a way is reclaiming the genre from them, at least the first two. They value technical proficiency over emotional content, which I always thought was a damn shame, as solo guitar records can be quite a visionary journey, when the head and heart are lined up. Frequencies Of The Sun reminded me of Buckethead’s Colma, where the KFC-headed one evokes the sensation of a graveyard in California, as well as some of the ’70s John Fahey records, both of which are the highest possible compliments.

The album highlights for me are “Pyre Of The Pale Horse”, a soundtrack for an imaginary western, complete with horse whinny; Torn, which breaks the guitar template, to introduce some soulful, and very well played blues piano; and “Under The Dreaming True”, with it’s low ominous rumble, dripping water, and shamanic flute.

“Under The Dreaming Tree”, with it’s journey to the center of the Earth, shows where this record’s heart lies. The album’s mission statement claims, “His musical sensibilities flow from a spirit of compassion, humility, harmony, and unity resulting in a tall drink of water for a divided and burning world. Tommy’s latest album, Frequencies of the Sun, is a scenic ride through the cosmos, traversing the universe on waves of textured guitars with soaring melodies. Candy for the imagination and food for the soul.” While maybe 10 years ago I would’ve turned up my nose at such Wyndham Hill niceties, these days it practically seems to be the only thing that matters (apart from the music, of course). With so much music out there, if you’re a dick, I’m probably not going to listen to yr music. It’s weird, this quality of character is conveyed somehow in the etched grooves and binary jams. Something is transmitted.

I dub Tommy West pure of heart, and thankfully, he’s got the chops to transmit something beautiful, to take you on a journey for an hour, through the Big Green Universe. The only downside is the record suffers, somewhat, from a digital shellac, that detracts from it’s warmth, and makes it edgy, when it should be seductive. A couple of you, buy a copy, so Mr. West can buy some mastering time!

You can do so from Big Green Universe

Big Green Universe facebook
@tommywest

ruralnoirresize

Sono Morti – the Revival ep

ruralnoirresizeI’ve recently discovered the comic book series Revival, written by Tim Seeley and drawn by Mike Norton. Not sure how many of you are aware, how much cross-pollination there is, but i’ve recently been reviewing a bunch of horror comics, over at the Amazing Stories blog. I’ve discovered a grip of fascinating new, dark art, that has reignited my bloodlust for the sequential word and image.

I was looking for something to listen to, as I sat down to de-compress, and read a few issues from the first arc, and noticed a mention to a soundtrack, at the beginning of the comic, with a bandcamp address. Well, it doesn’t get much more convenient than an officially sanctioned soundtrack for a work, and I was curious how Seeley imagined this “rural noir” might sound like.

Revival is about a small town, Wausau, Wisconsin, that has an outbreak of resurrection. People just won’t stay dead, one day. They climb off their slabs, or out of their coffins, and return to their regular lives. They’re not exactly zombie-like, although some don’t handle the transition of returning back to life very well. Most just can’t handle the lack of escape. They were promised heaven! Now it’s just more of the same.

I’m only two issues deep in this series, so far, but i dig it. First, and most importantly, it’s ACTUALLY SCARY. There’s scenes of a bloodless howl ringing out over a dark forest, as dog and owner listen in panic, all senses on edge. That’s true horror right horror, knowing something is out there in the dark, and not knowing what it is. Feeling small and frightened. Secondly, the returned-to-life, the “revivers” become a new kind of sub-group, banding together, lending community support. The in-depth characters, and the society of the dead that springs up, allows a lens to look at philosophical and cultural issues.

The Cleveland, Ohio band Sono Morti, is described as “Spaghetti Western Inspired Horror Rock”. That’s not back; they play a dusty American desert rock, that is laced with lysergic doses of spookshow organs and goth vocals. Sono Morti play a brand of post-punk, good ol’ deathrock, the likes of The Sisters Of Mercy, The Chameleons UK, Nick Cave, Magazine, but over a foundation of biting Western guitars, like The Handsome Family, mentioned above.

The songs on this EP explore the insides of the returned, what it is like to be without hope, without something to strive for. This can be seen on the track “Cumulus Crown”, where the singer wonders what kind of heaven they’re supposed to dream for? It’s also my least favorite track on the album, as it’s a little shrill and glammy for my bloody, but it’s short, and it’s not a deal-breaker.

I dig the carnivalesque organs on here, which give a colorful sheen to the dirt-brown earth tones of your standard desert fare. My favorite thing about this short EP, however, is the flanged vocals of “Intro To Revival” and “Undying Mystery”, which manages to sound truly psychedelic, full of yearning but still adventure, and the future. I love post-punk psychedelia! “Undying Mystery” is my favorite track on here, and a legitimately good song, i think. It’s a primitive, plodding post-punk ballad, sung from the experience of someone who’s lived and died and lived again. It’s the sound of walking in the night, looking for yourself, your own kind, trying to find somewhere where you belong, looking to quiet your own mind.

For some of us, we feel like remnants or shadows, even in the daytime. Sometimes it feels like you’re always peeking in windows, watching happy families eat dinner, while you have no place to lay your head.

Revival is a cool series, so far. I’m into it. It strikes me as a cross between the French TV series Les Revenants (where are you, Les Revenants? Come back!), a little bit of Twin Peaks, a little bit Night Of The Living Dead. It has the potential to explore some philosophical issues, while not being afraid to get very, very bloody.

I am so grateful to be rediscovering the wonders of good comic books, and series like Revival and Junji Ito‘s Tomie. It’s reminding not only of why comics are awesome in the first place, but some strengths of the medium, and how they may be taken advantage of, in the comics medium. Because you get these full-page panels of bloody monstrosity, rendered on glorious sickening color and detail. Or you can play with suspense, by leaving things out, between panels. Comics are a cool intersection of novels, movies, animation, and fine art, that not enough people full take advantage of.

Sono Morti’s soundtrack will take you back, if you’ve ever been a goth kid, or death rocker. If you ever felt an outsider. If you’ve ever worn a long, black coat, and felt misunderstood. Both goth and comic books were super important in my striking out on my own, and finding a world and a culture where I could fit in and belong, so it’s nice to be transported back to that place, on one sunny Saturday afternoon.

Both comic and soundtrack come recommended! Especially together.
 

 
Like i said, i’ve been getting into a lot more horror comics and manga lately, and i’ve been branching out, to write other kinds of reviews, more than just music. Looking at all the many, myriad ways the dark side intersects, and reflects, our culture.

Other horror comics you love? Soundtracks you think we should hear? Have you read Revival? Let us know in the comments!

childrenofthedrones2

Horrorscore: Various Artists – Children Of The Drones

childrenofthedrones1Welcome to another edition of Horrorscores, where we transform yr waking dreams into living nightmares.

For today’s installment, we travel back to the heyday of music blogs and hauntological meanderings, via this compilation from 2007 from the Cottage Of Electric Hell blog.

Children Of The Drones is a wonderful illustration of why i write about music, and what got me into it in the first place. It’s a wyrd collection of acid-fried psych, horror movie soundtracks (mainly ’60s/’70s British horror), pure hauntology (read: Ghost Box), and spooky folk, with a confusing array of layered samples and abstract post-processing. What is sampled? What is original? What is going on?

I came upon Children Of The Drones on a random hard drive. The track titles and artist information were all unknown, the album labelled only by an anonymous date and time (8.20.07). The music sounded vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t place it. Googling only led me to a battery of articles on the horrors of unmanned aircraft.

childrenofthedrones2Obsessive digging finally led to the Cottage Of Electric Hell, where i am a frequent visitor. Their blend of custom soundtracks, tasty mixes, and tasteful design is an example of the kind of art that have spurred me beyond random, bullshit blogging, merely posting hyperbole and the same links as everybody else. This level of care and deep knowledge of obscure subjects is what makes me want to GO FURTHER, try harder, to do something meaningful with the knowledge that swarms around us.

Because you can be a leading authority on whatever slice of culture that floats yr boat. Due to a series of random happenstance, perhaps even genetic disposition, i just so happened to end up as a lifelong fanatic of horror and the occult. That’s my PERSONAL preference, it’s my angle, the lens through which i view the world. But you can apply the same thoroughness and fervor to any subject, and along the way, you begin to know yrself, yr own particular soul and Holy Guardian Angel, through the sounds and images that we gravitate towards.

As i was unearthing the origins of this special spectral mix, it led me down a wormhole of some of yesteryear’s finest blogs, Weird Brother and The Active Listener, whom i have started writing for since they initially posted a link. Not only is the music contained a weird collection spanning decades and multiple genres, but when you take into account the people talking about and sharing this mix, it expands even further. Bizarro Radiophonic records rub shoulders with gritty blues field recordings, and the most cutting-edge avant garde electronic music. When taken as a whole, Children Of The Drones is an electron microscope to view the hauntological continuum, it’s roots and scintillating atomization.

This compilation is like listening to the past 7 years of my life, condensed into an hour. The artists and songs have gone past being friends and acquaintances, to become more like family and trusted confidants, so wholly have i been effected by this school of art/thought. It’s guided my listening, reading, viewing and ultimately my thinking. These 28 songs have become part of my DNA, as i have gone further and further into the Netherworld, in search of Wyrd Britannia. I am both delighted and ashamed to acknowledge that i can now identify Acanthus’ “Les Frissons De Vampire” and samples from Black Christmas immediately, and can spot The Spirit Of Dark And Lonely Water and Power Station PSAs from 100 yards. I recognized the themes to Tomb Of The Blind Dead and Guardians Of The Abyss without looking up. I have sampled at least 3 of these songs, and written about probably half-a-dozen of the featured artists.

Children Of The Drones just goes to show that hauntology isn’t dead, it has just gone underground and mutated. Artificial soundtracks, horror re-issues, and music that either references, samples, or replicates aged horrorscores abound. In addition, interest in old psych/library music and vintage electronics has never been higher.

Let this serve as a battlecry, to know thyself, to investigate yr obsession to their fullest. Make the past work FOR and WITH you, rather than oppress you. Let’s build a future we want to live in, beginning with a better past.

Download: Children Of The Drones

Cottage Of Electric Hell (not as active as it once was, but still a source of much amazement)
More hauntological thoughts, on the nature of half-memory, from Island Of Terror


 

 

galactus

Various Artists – Bourgeouis Kerb Stomp (Herhalen)

herhalen1Two sides of tape scuzz, detailing the activities of The Ex-Servicemen, Glasgow’s only dub power trio.

I’ve not yet heard The Ex-Servicemen, but judging from what we hear on this tasty bumblebee yellow missive, they must be one of the strangest bands on the planet. Mournful, sprawling piano dirges, courtesy of Splashy The Blame-Shifter, meet white-hot sheets of sound, via Lenina, and stark and surreal slice of stream-of-consciousness, via Ship Canal, our favorite purveyors of budget dole noise.

Things start off with Splashy’s “Gas Station Homophobe”, a beautiful and plaintiff piano ballad, with rickety embellishments of tape head percussion. Like Library Tapes recording on The Mountain Goats’ 4-track. The reverie doesn’t last long, however, as you are sucked into Lenina’s white-light-white-heat-from-beyond-infinity witches cradle of droning static and feedback, on “Below Me Lay The Wide Waters”. Could this be the power electronics version of Fahey’s “God Moves On The Water”. Like watching Galactus rise over the ocean. There is a sudden and extreme jump in volume, between tracks, which leads me to believe this power trio’s goal is not to seduce, lull, or comfort. As subtle as a sock full of pennies.

galactusThis unease continues on Ship Canal’s first outing, “The Stigma Of Drinking Alone”, a dense and rolling fog of croaking voices, detuned electronics, fifes, electric guitars, rain, rhythms, and Turkish mysticism. This drunken debaucherous room is full of voices and ancient wisdom. Do they seek to help and enlighten? Or do they masquerade, in an extended campaign of progressive entrapment, like Captain Howdy or David from Witchboard? Also sounds like a group of hashishin jamming on Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor.
 

 

These first three tracks set the pace and tone for the rest of the album, where harsh power electronics give way to darkened drones, and abstract collage soundscapes, leading you further and further down Shiva’s tunnel, approaching the event horizon of that final blink. It can also be read as an attack or a condemnation on Late Capitalism, in all its smugness and its premature victory lap. This is what it might sound like if the Morlocks were to get their hand on a couple of oscillators and distortion units, holding subterranean rituals deep in the night, while the Eloi huddle in the dark.

You can ignore us, but we will never go away. The Ex-Servicemen adopt the tools of production and communication, to strangle the status quo with telegraph lines, ramming jammed fax signals down their throats like so much rotten chum and cheap bread that we are forced to subside on. In the dark, in the underground, we grow mighty and disaffected, sharpening our razors and our minds, spurred on by hunger and isolation.

A particular highlight of Bourgeois Kerb Stomp is Ship Canal’s “Communicating Directly With The Restaurant”, which might be the sound of gray data, or if Yelp were to develop an artificial consciousness and start constructing artsy ambient soundscapes. Reminds me of Dolly Dolly’s surreal and sinister commentaries on British bleakness, but even more stripped of humor and magick. This is the sound of receipts and wrappers, fading back into pulp and mud, in the gutters of decaying cityscapes, that themselves are fading back into the earth.

Mud. Degradation. Signal. Noise. Transmission. Communication. Spirits. Madness. Ritual. Emptiness.

All contained on 2 sides of cheap yellow tape, available for a fiver, and labelled like a dollar store’s going out of business sale. Each tape comes with original screen-printed artwork by Vickie McDonald, a unique, hand-numbered Polaroid photograph by Victoria Stevenson, and a hand-stamped cardboard outer sleeve.

Strong stuff, here, reminding us to not go gentle into good night. Stand up and fight. Fight the machine, with misinformation. Jam the lines, with busted signals. Turning a feedback loop on the smug bastards, until they choke on their banal data and marketing algorithms.

Herhalen looks to be a label to watch, with 3 quality tapes coming out in the last 4 months Expect to hear more, so watch this space, and their bandcamp.
 

 
HERHALEN fb
@Herhalen
soundcloud
bandcamp

26-interior-clock-photography

Emma Tricca – Relic (Bird Records)

Emma Tricca - Relic coverMeet The Giallo Princess

On Relic, Emma Tricca combines Nick Drake pastoralism with ghostly flourishes of classic album making.

Emma Tricca is an anomaly. On one hand, she is as pure folk as they come, encouraged by the likes of Odetta and John Renbourn to pursue her craft, writing sparse, bare-boned acoustic sketches of the world that she was living in. Unlike the first (or even second wave) of American folk artists, Tricca did not grow up in the Appalachians or the Ozarks or even a village, for that matter. Instead, she split her time between London and Rome, and her gentle folks song are influenced by “Giallo Comic books, whistling Morricone film scores, vibrant religious imagery and expensive furniture design”, as well as naturalistic influences like the sound of bells, tolling on the breeze, or the play of light and shadow on a hillside or a living room wall.

Superficially, Emma Tricca’s music resembled the like of Vashti Bunyan, like some gypsy troubadour, transplanted from 1796 in a wooden-shingled caravan. While i have a great fondness for Ms. Bunyan, and every other purveyor of the folk tradition for the most part, Tricca’s music is an update and an adaptation on those rustic roots, as you might guess from the fact that Relic is out on Bird Records, the female-fronted subsidiary of British obscureniks Finders Keepers Records. FKR & Devon Folklore affiliate Sam McLoughlin, of Sam And The Plants and N. Racker, who supplies “some Northern rural radiophonics to this ROMANtic relic.”
 

 
It is in these flourishes that Relic reveals itself for what it is, what it could be, and how it deserves to be perceived, with thin slivers of mercurial organ, like on album opener “Golden Chimes (intro)”, to the lush, Disney-esque stacked vocal harmonies of “Sunday Reverie”, my personal favorite, a timeless classic that is like walking around the insides of a Swiss clock on a village green.

Relic is rife with vibes, quite literally. Mallet instruments abound on the record, as do wheezing organs, thin buzzing electric pianos, horns, and the occasional string section. These are mere textures and shading, to add shadow and depth to Tricca’s clean, precise, bell-like guitar playing and weatherbeaten voice, that are Relic‘s true centerpiece.

The production on Relic is magnificent. Emma Tricca has created a truly ageless classic. She is using technology to accentuate the natural, with modern precision meeting classic sensibilities. Relic is an exercise in restraint, a model of good taste.

For those that feel that Joe Boyd’s heavy-handed production on the first couple of Nick Drake records, Relic provides an alternative, an alternate timeline to explore. Also, for fans of Jane Weaver’s Watchbird Alluminate, which Tricca was involved with, and bears a great sonic similarity, you will find much to love.

And mostly, Relic is a folk song for people that get down with tradition AND horror comics, Italian soundtracks and mandolins. Explore the slipstream, and exercise good taste!

Very much recommended!

Emma Tricca: Relic

Emma Tricca FB
@emmatricca
homepage
Bird Records @ Finders Keepers

Vincent Price as Roderick Usher

Horrorscores: Les Baxter – The House Of Usher OST

maf7136booklet1.indd

Welcome to another edition of Horrorscores, where we transform yr waking dreams into living nightmares.

Today, we will transform this beautiful sunny summer day into a cobweb riddled crypt, via Les Baxter’s score for The House Of Usher, directed by Roger Corman in 1960.

Les Baxter is best known for creating tropical drink sipping, easy swinging hammock exotica for the discerning armchair tourist, most famously in the case of the oft-covered “Quiet Village”. Baxter made about every style of music under the heavens during his long career, which featured over 100 soundtracks.

Three of those soundtracks were for Roger Corman’s adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe stories: The Raven, The Pit And The Pendulum, and The House Of Usher. The House Of Usher was first.

Vincent Price in The House Of Usher

Vincent Price as Roderick Usher

The House Of Usher, also known as The Fall Of The House Of Usher, starring Vincent Price and Myrna Fahey, tells the story of Philip Winthrop (played by Mark Damon), who goes to the gothic House Of Usher, a desolate mansion surrounded by a murky swamp, to meet his fiancée Madeline Usher (Myrna Fahey). The union is opposed by Madeline’s brother Roderick (Vincent Price), who believes their bloodline is afflicted by a cursed bloodline which has driven all their ancestors to madness.

 

Myrna Fahey in The House Of Usher

Myrna Fahey as Madeline Usher

During a heated argument with her brother, Madeline suddenly dies and is laid to rest in the family crypt beneath the house. As Philip is preparing to leave following the entombment, the butler, Bristol (Harry Ellerbe), lets slip that Madeline suffered from catalepsy, a condition which can make its sufferers appear dead.

Winthrop tears open the coffin to find it empty, as Madeline wanders the corridors of the family crypt, now quite mad. She evades him and takes her revenge on Roderick, who knowingly buried her alive. Both die, as a fire breaks out, “”…and the deep and dank tarn closed sullenly and silently over the fragments of the ‘House of Usher'”.

The House Of Usher plays upon such classic terrors as madness, decadent aristocracy, and being buried alive, and are here chilling orchestrated by Baxter’s orchestral score. The feeling of romance is summoned with swooning violin leads, which is underscored with tension and insanity, courtesy of tense pizzicato strings (a la Bernard Hermann), and spectral choirs, which gives an eerie, otherworldly psychotropic quality to the soundtrack.

The adventure and romance are achieved with lovely, melodic, emotive strings, which are quite classic and memorable, while the feeling of unsettlement are evoked with an atonal orchestral foundation, that bring to mind the avant-garde modernism of Morton Feldman. Flourishes of percussion punctuate the goings-on, with xylophones sneaking through mildewed corridors, and tympani rumble like cursed blood. This mixture of the classic and the avant-garde is a nice summation of the realm inhabited by Edgar Allan Poe.

Most of The House Of Usher was scored, so there is a theme for every occasion. Roderick and Madeline both get one, as do the family crypt, and the premature internment. Perfect fodder for yr next Buried Alive mixtape, or Gothic haunted house.

buried aliveWhile Baxter may have composed soundtracks for over 100 films, only a handful have survived. Archival was just not a priority at the time. Baxter frequently worked with small orchestras, 30 or less, and had less than two weeks to complete a score, with the actual recording typically done in 4 – 6 hours. Feeling was valued over technical perfection, creating a perfect atmosphere of tense dread than could teach sterile modern perfectionists a thing or two. Intrada has performed a great public service, making these grooves available to the public again.

You can hear echoes of Baxter’s score, and this kind of classic orchestral horror, in Broadcast‘s soundtrack for Berberian Sound Studio, particularly the ghostly choirs, my particular favorite aspect of this record.

I personally haven’t seen any of Corman’s Poe adaptations yet, which i now plan on rectifying immediately, but Baxter’s score makes for a superb soundtrack for reading Poe, or other Gothic, imaginative fiction, or as a soundtrack for an evening drinking wine or absinthe (or blood), with yr hand on a skull.

Yet another indication of horror’s continuing emergence, rising from the underground, from the fertile mud of the id, as people continue to pay attention and pick over the archives, giving more legitimacy to classic works. More Please!

Get a copy: House of Usher (Reissue)

You can hear most of The House Of Usher OST on Spotify:

Les Baxter Official Homepage
Intrada homepage
Intrada facebook
@intradaCDs