Category Album Review

Fante’s Dust-Seconds

fantesdust-secondsFante’s Dust, their name liberally taken from a combination of the Los Angeles author John Fante’s name and his most famous book “Ask the Dust”, are a noise rock band working out of Germany.

Their EP “Seconds” is a tightly packed little slab of noise
sounding like a combination of a modernized version of late era Black Flag and any band who ever recorded for the Am Rep label in the 90’s. The Ep is brutal and wry in nature and sonically complex in tone. Guitar, bass, drums and vocals synced up in a tight delivery.
The vocals are equal part cheeky and dead serious, as if Mike Muir joined up with Gorilla Biscuits or Murphy’s Law, who then decided to release the result on Am Rep. From wry wit to outright anger there’s not so much vocal range as much as range of emotion. Falling into spoken word then leaping out into an anguished howl this singer knows how to weave, dodge, and then cut across the mix. As good as the tone and feel of this record is it could almost have fallen into the mire of generic hardcore if not for the vocals. Witness the vocal acrobatics of “Get Closer.”
The bass when clean sounds very clear and punchy. When distorted it cuts thru everything with a distinct growl. Whatever distortion box he’s using it has to be unique, as I’ve never heard anything like it to this day and I’ve played with a lot of stomp box distortion pedals on bass in my 47 years. The closest I can think of in tone is a EH Big Muff, but it sounds modded to punch up the lower mids.
As a bassist myself who sometimes desperately wants to be a guitarist, I really like this guitar player. He gives a lot of space for low end to fill up and only doubles the bass when ultimately necessary to the song. Angular, squelching, and yet full. Check out “Memories of You” and “Countdown to Solitude” to understand what I mean.
The drummer is more than a metronome in this mix. Again in “Get Closer” check out the stick work this guy is doing under the vocals. So tasteful and unique. And then when the pummeling comes it’s served up with a drubbing so satisfying you’ll beg for more. Also check out the clock work like timing on “Careless”.
Over all the record is consistent. Mixed and mastered well, it’s not unnecessarily harsh on the ears nor overly loud or compressed. Well balanced, you can hear everything distinctly while still having the four-dudes-in-a-room feel. Buy this thing so they can record more. Seriously.
You can purchase it from CD Baby in multiple formats or check out their SoundCloud page.
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Temple of Void-Of Terror and the Supernatural

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On first listen, one would think this was just another generic metal album. Personally I don’t tend to gravitate towards the cookie monster vocal set and I get really bored with paint by numbers metal acts. On this record all of the metal stereotypes are on display, but I think that’s the point, and dismissing it outright for being unapologetically metal is way too easy and really doesn’t get to the heart of this band.
Where this album shines most is in it’s juxtapositions. The first cut “The Embalmer’s Art” has the expected heavy riffing and growled gruff vocals but also has a real honest to gosh melody sandwiched in between the two. This totally elevates the album from the mundane into “capturing my interest” territory. This is done again during early parts of “Invocation of Demise”, where an organ was played as a melodic element. Not only did it  feel like it belonged, it would’ve worked well on it’s own as part of an extended ambient piece. By the songs end what would normally be a lead guitar part is replaced by a riff in the higher registers rather than blatant noodling. It feels right and less obnoxious than if it had been a guitar solo.
Another stand out track is “Rot in Solitude”. It begins with what sounds like on the surface as a standard metal riff. One you would expect to get picked up and catapulted in to a high octane frenzy. It never happens. The rhythm section steps in in cut-time and slowly stomps it into your ears (full disclosure- I’ve been in a band with Jason Pierce, the drummer, and I’ve always thought he was an amazing drummer. This just proves it. The man has taste). By songs end you’ve got gravel soaked vocals over a beautifully executed melodic guitar riff and it works.
The production on this record is good without being too good. Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a fan of pop slickness and metal bands tend to want to strive for that polished hyper compressed sound. Sonically it feels like the band recorded in a decent studio with a lot of time spent making sure everything was done right with out crushing the humanity out of it. Tonally consistent through out with just enough bleed between instruments to make it feel like they played together thru most of the record. A look at the liner notes tells me the drums were recorded in a separate studio, but honestly, to my ears I couldn’t tell by simply listening to it. It feels like five dudes got sweaty and made a record and that’s the way it should be.
If you’re looking for something heavy and weird this is your record.
A-
You can purchase a digital download or CD from the bands BandCamp site. I purchased the CD.
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Buzz Rodeo – Sports

a2182925615_10Buzz Rodeo is an Art Punk/Noise Rock Trio from Germany whose latest release “Sports” could easily fit in well on the Touch and Go label. This three piece wears its influences on its sleeves. Very familiar without being obvious. Elements of Man or Astroman, Shellac, and Arcwelder abound on “Sports”, simultaneously pointing back toward the sound of “Entertainment” era Gang of Four and yet moving forward to add something new and vital.

Sonically speaking this is a really tight record. This is apparent right from the get go. On the opener “Arkansas” the drums sound like they were recorded in a nice sized room with a descent set of overheads and some well placed pzm’s to catch the hits as they reflected off the walls. Nice and open without losing any of the definition.

The bass has a nice tight midrange tone that compliments the lows. Not always easy to do with any kind of fuzz involved, but here it’s captured nicely. As if a buzzsaw is cutting through a hard wood, like maple or oak. Listen to the tracks “Sound of the Universe” and “The Gap” and tell me you don’t hear it. Seriously.

The guitars are suitably jagged and bright, falling right into place with the rhythm section when necessary and floating atop of it or stepping aside just as deftly when required. Witness this tightrope walking on songs like “Pop”, “Movie Star”, and “Station 41”.

The album as a whole clocks in at 30 minutes and the songs mostly hover around the 3 minute mark. Each song leaves you wanting more and when the album ended I felt as if there had to be one more track. Just one more taste, as it were. Each song has its own feel without drifting so far out that you would guess it was another band. There are no stand out tracks on Sports because there are no bad tracks.

Grade A

 

Can be purchased from their Bandcamp site.

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Kowloon Walled City – Grievances

R-7628626-1445469445-4042Kowloon Walled City’s “Grievances” is one I discovered through an NPR countdown of the 100 best metal records released in 2015 http://apps.npr.org/best-songs-2015/#. It was one of a handful on the list that grabbed my ear.  I admit that I’ve lost my patience with most of what passes for metal these days, but curiosity got the better of me. I”m glad it did simply for turning me onto this band.

In metal, a good riff needs to bury itself into your soul after passing through the brain, otherwise it becomes forgettable. A large swath of the songs I found in NPR’s metal picks fell into the technique trap and I haven’t really been impressed with the Yngwie Malmsteen approach to metal in a very long time. Kowloon Walled City’s riffs avoid going down that well traveled road, instead opting for a more thoughtfully designed chaos rather than military order.
Hailing from San Francisco, Kowloon Walled City’s third full length release and is an incredible record, one that could rest easily in the Touch & Go or Amphetamine Reptile catalogues just as much as it does on Neurot’s. Like the bastard son of The Unsane and Slint, this album tumbles and claws it’s way through a jagged edged world of modern hell on earth. A sudo study of the modern working stiff similar to Cop Shoot Cop’s “White Noise” with slightly less pointed solipsism.
Sonically, this record has a touch of professional polish to it that doesn’t over shadow the music, and instead enhances it. Much in the same way that Shellac’s “Live at Action Park” sounded like it was recorded at Abbey Road (because it was), this album sounds like it was recorded somewhere with either good treatment or a lot of hard work on mic placement and plenty of DI boxes. Clean without being obnoxious.
The bass has a certain lower mid range growl to it that sounds really tight when blended with the not-so-overly-compressed-and-distorted guitar used in most of metal. Once the guitars do open up, the bass still comes through and never seems to get lost in the mix. I’m a bass player primarily so this I’m always on the lookout for these things. Go with it.
I understand from some of my research that Scott Evans, the guitar player and singer in the band, engineered and produced this album. Having done that myself, I know how hard that can be, yet he pulls it off, it seems, with little effort. Guitarist Jon Howell, bassist Ian Miller, and drummer Jeff Fagundes all get ample space to breath on this record and overall the album is very well balanced.
My one complaint is that the album feels short to me. By the end of “The Grift”, which also happens to be the shortest song on the album at 3:47, I’m left with an overwhelming feeling of want. I needed more than this album was giving me and that’s a good thing. I’m looking forward to delving into their back catalogue (Bandcamp) and can’t wait to hear what they do next.
You can find them and their recordings at their website or their Bandcamp site.
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Slayer – Reign in Blood

R-367069-1328284299.jpegFor the record this is not going to be a review of the album. That’s been done to death. What I want to write about is the relationship I have with this album. First released in 1986 when I was in high school, Slayers “Reign In Blood” hit me like a dead body from a lacerated sky. Up to that point I had heard of Slayer, but my friends at the time pretty much dismissed them as juvenile devil worship music.
“Hell Awaits”, their previous record, was steeped in demonic imagery much more than any other metal record I knew of to date. By that time I liked my metal to be literate or at least have something less stupid to say. Motorhead, Maiden, and Metallica were the metal bands I started listening to as I abandoned hair metal all together. The S.O.D record that started the crossover scene even ridiculed Slayer (i.e. “Chromatic Death” and “Fist Bang Mania”), and I had read Anton Lavey’s “Satanic Bible” by then and found satanism to be simply humanism dressed in drag. So I dismissed them right along with everyone else.
Then comes “Reign in Blood”. By this point the Def Jam label was permeating certain parts of the trailer park I grew up in and I was only slightly interested in hip hop (except Luke Skywalker). So I was surprised when Scott Neff brought the cassette to me.  I put it on in the tape deck of my stereo in my bedroom and let it play.
Two things happened by the time it got to the part in “Altar Of Sacrifice” where Tom Araya bellows, “Enter to the realm of Satan”: 1) My mother the catholic came into the room crying begging me to turn it off and 2) I decided this album would be a constant in my life.
To be fair I loved my mother but at that time in my life we saw things the exact same way. She saw a loser who couldn’t do anything right and was likely going to wind up dead and  so did I. The difference was she cared and I didn’t. I honestly just wanted to be left alone to try and sort myself out.
Now this is where I’m going to blow your mind. It was this record that helped mend some of that disrepair in my relationship with my mom. You see, she was a jazz head. At some point Eric Brown and Steve Goossen started introducing me to hard-bop jazz. I fell in love with the avant-garde. The rampant use of the chromatic scale and the reckless abandon in which it was wielded were very reminiscent of “Reign In Blood” to my ears.
Think I’m wrong? Go listen to Albert Aylers “Ghosts”. Go listen to Grachan Moncur III’s “Evolution”. Go dive into Charlie Parker’s great body of work. Then go listen to this record and pay close attention to the solo’s. Tell me I’m not right. Slayer prepared me to accept jazz into my life.
This was great because my mothers taste in jazz was fairly straight although not square. Brubeck, Stanley Turrentine, George Shearing, Johnny Mathis; not entirely boring but not very “out there”. I got to turn my mom onto Mingus records she’d only heard of. I got to turn her on the Eric Dolphy.  For this I have Slayer to thank.
Getting back to the Def Jam label, this record also brought another great record into my life, Public Enemy’s “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back”. I dare you to try and say this perfect hip hop record is also not a punk rock record. It is. Using the break down for “Angel Of Death” as the main riff in “She Watch Channel Zero” was incredible and far ahead of it’s time. Since then hip hop has been a constant in my life, and is ever expanding.
“Reign in Blood” is to this day one of those rare records that I just turn on and let go and never skip a song.
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Thelema – Hearing the Light

7894C7D2-2B9E-47E9-9D13-B267FB4079C2Thelma’s “Hearing the Light” is one of several albums DJ Anomaly threw at me for Christmas. I knew nothing of the record or the artist going into it so I had no expectations short of it likely not sucking. He has impeccable taste.
Thelema have been making music since the mid 90’s in Austria and their name may have been taken from a philosophical law developed in the early 1900s by Aleister Crowley. The law of Thelema is “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the law, love under will.” They make no claim to such, but getting a proper biography of the group was next to impossible.
On a first pass of this record evokes a very slowed down take on John Zorn’s Filmworks XVIII (The Treatment) with a slightly more extended range of instruments. Where that album clung to a trio and occasional quartet, sans drums, this album uses a much broader pallet, yet still has the same level of simple consistency that Zorn’s record does.
The opening track “Close your eyes and see” begins with flourishes of bowed strings run through massive delay and reverb. Slowly a very low organ tone begins a very methodical bassline. Eventually the higher registers of the organ are brought into play with very subtle brushed drumming. Equal parts avant-garde noise dancing across a very slow jazz like piece, this sets the tone for the rest of the album.
The next track “Ljos” introduces the use of vibraphones and our first vocal. Used mostly for effect rather than trying to tell a story it sounds like a slavic language run backwards. It’s very haunting and one of two tracks that make use of male vocals on the record. The rest of the vocals being female vocals all of which are used as another instrument rather than a force of language just as they are on this track.
One of the stand out tracks for me is the title track “Hearing the Light”. I’m a huge fan of vibraphones under any circumstance and a huge fan of organ when it’s applied correctly. This track makes great use of both, adding a loan violin to handle the melody.
Sonically the recording and mix is very well done. Case in point the guitar pass off on  “Heading Forward”.  Two distinct guitars come together, tonally different yet complimentary. The first guitar sets up the melody and the second doubles it in a higher register. Shortly after the first guitar drops out letting the other carry it on to the end.
This sets up my favorite track very nicely. “Grey Evening” would feel right at home on the Psychomania soundtrack or “A Fist Full of Dollars”. The organ and drums holding down the rhythm while electric guitar takes the melodic spotlight, occasionally dueling with itself to great effect.
The album as a whole is very cohesive and doesn’t stray to far from it’s base European soundtrack like formula. This is a good thing. A great thing actually. I find that I can listen to it in it’s entirety without feeling the need to skip anything. It’s also light enough that it works equally well as background music.
A-
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The Body-I Shall Die Here

IShallDieHereI Shall Die Here is the fourth studio album by American sludge metal band The Body. Released on April 1, 2014 through RVNG Intl. record label, the album was produced by British electronic musician The Haxan Cloak.

It’s rare sometimes that a recording comes along that won’t allow you to skip tracks. This is one such record. From the opening pummel of “To Carry the Seeds of Death Within Me” to the final track “Darkness Surrounds Us” with it’s reverb drenched violin dancing thru the stereo field nothing feels  like filler. The album feels like a post apocalyptic statement on the cruelty of life itself, and is breathtakingly intense and dynamic.

I’m in awe of The Haxen Cloak on any given day, but the production here is impeccable. If this band collaborated with him again I would buy that record without a second thought nor a need to hear it first.

This album begs for a good set of headphones, a single lit candle, and a thunderstorm off in the distance.

A+

This album can be purchased direct from RVNG.

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The Haxen Cloak-Excavation

HaxanExcavationBritish musician and producer Bobby Krlic takes a step forward with his second full length album as The Haxen Cloak. Released in 2013 and using more electronic gear than the self titled album, this album is an amazing work of sound sculpture. Dark and brooding with some seriously well placed bass drops and field recordings I find myself inspired to take my time and more care in my own work.
The producer in me wants to meet Krlic just so I can pick his brain. I’m in awe of the opening of “Excavation (Part 2)”. Sonically it sounds like a collection of dot matrix printers were ran thru a harmonizer or pitch shifter then some heavy deal and reverb only to be tossed around the stereo field like so much flotsam.  Chaos from order.
The use of bass really stands out on the track “Mara” as it slowly builds up under the whirring noise element that sounds like a bull roar. Suddenly colliding together into a lumbering monstrous war zone replete with sirens in the back ground. Simply stunning.
The final 13 minute track “The Drop” is beautiful in it’s synth chimes and analog bass synth tones until, near the mid point, they devolve into a near harmonica and string mix flows over a low growl. Percussion slowly building into a militant driving menacing force. Mind blown.
A+
Album available for purchase from Amazon.
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Nisennenmondai-Live at Clouds Hill

Nisennenmondai

Nisennenmondai are a Tokyo-based instrumental trio who make music that is both raw and danceable in equal measure. They formed in 1999 and took their name from the Japanese translation of the then-current phrase “Y2K bug.
Live at Clouds Hill is the first record I’ve bought from them and what an entry point. The opening track simply titled “A” is a lengthy drum and guitar track that blends house-like dance beats using live drums along with hyper effects drenched semi-ambient guitar work. I streamed this track from Boomkat and it grabbed me enough that I bought the record
As strong as the opening track is, the rest of the record doesn’t deliver quite the same way. It’s not that the rest of the record is bad. It just doesn’t build the same way as “A”. The next best standout track is “B-1” which touches on some of the same themes as “A” without directly copying it. Slightly more up tempo with much more sparse guitar flourishes, “B-1” is a solid track.
B+
The album can be purchased here.
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KK Null-Eternal Implosion

Eternal_ImplosionKazuyuki Kishino has been making harsh music for decades, both as a solo artist and as the leader of noise rock band Zeni Geva. He also has a cute Chihuahua.
I’ve been following his work since first having Zeni Geva’s Desire for Agony thrust on me. It was their show at Alvin’s in Detroit in 1993 that caused my ears to ring for three days. I’ll never forget how Kaxuyuki asked the sound guy to bring up the vocals in the mix. The guy shrugged at him and essentially said, “Your maxed.”
Eternal Implosion is probably my favorite album from his solo work. A stellar piece from a magnificent discography. It’s one track. The piece opens as if someone is taking a sledge hammer to a piano sound board. In a catacomb. Then that sledgehammer is tossed into space. Spinning and spinning thru space and time being knocked aside casually by forces much stronger then itself only to come back around to that piano sound board.
The secret to this track is something I found quite by accident. As a commuter I do most of my listening in the car either on my way to or from my day job. My phone was set to loop playlists and I caught myself not realizing when the track ended and didn’t care. It loops back on itself perfectly. I went through it two and a half times during my ride to work that day and didn’t mind. Highly recommended for those looking for an entree point into the noise and harsh noise music scene as this is very well thought out and “musical” composition.
Purchase it here.
A+
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