A Journal Of The Dark Arts
welcome to another edition of rEcaP, where we spread the light on noteworthy Extended Players. Longer than singles, not quite albums, they occupy an important interzone that lets artists stretch their legs, get creative, an work up towards more definitive ‘album statements’. In a world crammed full of amazing albums, it’s sometimes refreshing to have a 15-30 taste, like a sparkling zinfandel spritzer between courses, to cleanse the palate and the Eustachian tubes.
This edition is an eclectic journey down misty country lanes, through sprawling, doomy Funkadelic covers. Like last time, this edition also serves as an induction into the Backwards Listening series, as we get ready to feature new releases from Pye Corner Audio and Bardo Pond.
Exotic Pylon (EP 29)
Bucolica is the most recent addition to the mouldering output of The Head Technician of Pye Corner Audio, here operating under the pseudonym The House In The Woods. It’s a sonic roadtrip down bumpy lanes and into the inexplicable.
So why put out this sliver on Exotic Pylon under a different name, especially with PCA getting a good head of steam?
“The House In The Woods really came about through the discovery of a certain way of working,” explains Martin Jenkins, (the shadowy wizard that is The Head Technician), in a recent interview for Juno. “It’s largely field recordings manipulated in quite a specific way, so it’s relatively straightforward to keep the two projects apart.”
Bucolica bears the most resemblance to The Ever-Present Hum, a frighteningly limited edition cassette for the Tapeworm label. Using a stripped-down, performance based setup similar to his recent live performances, The Head Technician draws upon his love of Detroit techno and krautrock to give the feeling of driving, before dissolving into a beatless fog of hypnotic loops and shiftless, shivering tones. It sounds like being picked up by a flying saucer in a forest clearing, being whisked off to the depths of space, before being plunged into the dark night of the deep sea.
Heavenly flutes and glowing choral newage pads are obscrured beneath a layer of age and grit. Some listeners have taken exception to this, preferring the uncanny disco of Sleep Games, but the murk is entirely intentional. Jenkins worked for many years as a studio professional, before fleeing London for pastoral bliss in the countryside (thus The House In The Woods). Working on big box studio records nearly destroyed his love of music, and Pye Corner Audio came about from going back to his roots of lo-fi recording and hardware.
“I totally simplified the studio setup and wanted to get away from the curse of choices that modern software makes available to you.” (from the Juno interview)
The curse of choices is the part i find interesting about that last statement. I mean, aren’t we living in an Avalon where the most homely of home studios can make Top 40 radio hits? If there’s one thing we learned from chaos magick, it’s that going in every direction at once is going nowhere at all. You’ve got to pick a direction and go with it. You’ve got to take a stand.
That’s why The Head Technician’s music, under any moniker, is important. It hearkens back to weird, old private press new age and industrial records, as another example of the atavistic return. It calls back to a time when people were inventing the future. It inspires you to start digging, looking through the garbage bins of the world, wondering what you might have missed. Looking for miracles. That’s the thing with hauntology, you can pick whichever era fascinates you, and build whatever Future you like.
In this way, Martin Jenkins/The Head Technician/Pye Corner Audio/The House In The Woods is both retrofetishistic AND futuristic. You take what you like, and you discard the rest.
Very highly recommended, as with every PCA release.
Rise Above It All
I’ve been meaning to write about this short slab since it was released for Record Day in April.
Bardo Pond represent their free noise roots by offering sprawling, epic free flights on “Maggot Brain” by Funkadelic, and “The Creator Has A Master Plan” by Pharaoh Sanders. Space funk and screaming free jazz from the sludgiest shoegaze band on the planet?
Founder Michael Gibbons explains:
“These tracks represent the apex of sublimity for us. They are archetypes for our way of making music. They both offer the listener a mainline to an emotional epiphany that can only be experienced through listening to these very songs. Through seemingly minimal means, gut wrenching tones and glorious repetition, a gateway opens, endorphins are released, illumination is attained. We stand in the light emanating from these Pyramids of Sound. We humbly rolled them up in the Lemur House as a form of pilgrimage. Please partake. Thanks.”
If you don’t know, Bardo Pond are an excellent shoegaze fuzz space rock band from what was known as the psychedelphia scene, a bunchy of ethereal but heavy bands from Philadelphia that also included Aspera, Asteroid No. 4, the Azusa Plane, and tangentially tthe Lilys.
They’ve had a special place in our hearts since we saw them at Terrastock 8 in Louisville, KY. Of the modern psych bands, Bardo Pond are particularly heavy. Their guitars are like the monolith from 2001; they are a fact. They seem eternal. They are also nearly the only band we’ll forgive a flautist, Isobell Sollenberger, sorceress.
It’s great, when a slight transmission emanates from a band you love, reminds you of their existence. Was quite excited to pull this one out and have a listen, to whet the appetite for Peace On Venus, which comes out tomorrow.
“Maggot Brain” is an unbelievable 21 minutes of cosmic blues, slowed down to a codeine crawl worthy of Earth. Twin guitars burn like comets, while free jazz drumming dances around a leaden beat, that kicks like a powerful piston engine. Like i said, heavy. They remind us, as all good sludge metal does, that the heaviest metal is slow and thick. Isobel’s flute soars above, like a white dove above the blasted landscape. You go places. You see visions. You will bang yr head. Classic smoking material.
“The Creator Has A Master Plan” is surprisingly authentic free jazz, by way of Sonic Youth noisy guitar. It starts off with a Sun Ra fireball, before letting loose and soaring like an aerial ballet. This side is a slimmer 15 minutes, but still trance-inducing.
The main thing about Bardo Pond is the glorious aura which surrounds their recording. Everything is swathed in beautiful reverb that blurs the edges, impressionist in the way shoegaze does best. It’s romantic. It’s like watching a movie from the ’70s.
It could be construed as nostalgic, but i feel that Bardo Pond is an important missing link between the ’60s worship of the first wave of ‘gaze bands, and the elemental, technological metal-induced sounds that modern music has become. Until Sunn O))), no one had really listened to Earth (or no one i knew anyway), and everybody’s love of Nirvana opened the gates to fuzz freaks like The Melvins. Everything has gotten much slower, incredible heavy, and hits incredibly hard. I mean, we may hate the way that Botch fans flail their limbs, but their music has an undeniable power and gravitas.
So like i said in the last review, Bardo Pond are standing at the crossroads, and inviting us to look backwards. When’s the last time you listened to Funkadelic? Free jazz? When’s the last time you listened to Bardo Pond?
Rise Above It All is coming from the tradition of the greatest Living Room jam of all time. Bardo Pond jammed together twice a week in the Lemur House for eternity, and organically settled into ‘songs’. That’s what i like about psychedelic music. It’s full of possibilities. It’s also empowering.
So i invite you to dig out some Sun Ra, and have a jam session of yr own, and come back soon for our thoughts on Peace On Venus.
Get drifted:Rise Above It All