SEWERS OF MARS #15

Music Features
SEWERS OF MARS #15
By
Feb 20, 2009, 08:27

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Summer in the south is brutal. It's why all the best death metal bands came from Tampa. Hot weather just makes you wanna scream.

 Light Yourself On Fire - Intimacy - EP

Speaking of Florida and screaming, Light Yourself On Fire is another in a long line of competent metalcore bands with screamo roots, and on Intimacy (Seventh Rule), the band mixes samples and movie quotes with relentless, aggressive punk. Vocalist Matt Coplon (ex-Reversal of Man) supplies an interesting variation on the drill sergeant formula, slipping in and out of clean and guttural vocals, often from word to word. This isn't to say that it's all blaring hysteria—melancholy instrumental “Montag,” with it's audio veritè quality, is almost reminiscent of the kind of post-Slint rock that's been Chicago's stock and trade for the past two decades. Don't let the Florida tag fool you—this isn't Gainesville shit. Light Yourself On Fire has more in common with Unbroken or Endeavor than, say, Paltka or In/Humanity, which is okay, because the band tows the line especially well. AMAZON

 Orang-E - In the Midst of Chaos

The Destijl label has never released anything that wasn't excellent, so it's little surprise that the recent re-issue of In The Midst of Chaos by Orang-E is a winner. You may not recognize the name Orang-E at first, but if you've held even a passing interest in the world of improv / underground over the years, the name Paul Flaherty shouldn't be unfamiliar. If it is, shame on you. In The Midst of Chaos is the product of the living legend's first band, a ragtag group of howlers from western Connecticut, and while fans of Flaherty's many recordings with the likes of Chris Corsano and Randall Colbourne may reasonably expect wallpaper-stripping power, In The Midst of Chaos offers up a decidedly less dissonant atmosphere, and those anticipating a Borbetomagus-style endurance test will be surprised—pleasantly, I reckon—by the sounds here. Recorded in the late 70s by this so-called ‘free form garage group' comprising a dysfunctional assembly of dueling egos and aesthetics, the album's instrumentation includes the expected post-Aylerisms, in the form of shrieking alto sax, trumpet, and “American drums,” and the unexpected—steel drums, bongos, and fife. Despite Flaherty's involvement and the intuitive nature of the collective, this is a guitar record, first and foremost. Guitarist and de facto leader Barry Greika (who also plays trumpet and fife) in particular comes off as some sort of cross between Lenny Breau and Derek Bailey, ably playing both soothsayer and destroyer. If nothing else, this stellar reissue introduces his talents to the free /noise /whatever subculture, as well reiterating the remarkable and singular talents of Flaherty. Easily one of the best re-issues of last year. AMAZON

 King Darves - The Sun Splits for the Blind Swimmer

King Darves is a young songwriter who's The Sun Splits for the Blind Swimmer—I can't decide if that title is terrible or awesome—is a refreshingly unique take on acid folk, also released on Destijl. Sure, dude bears a striking resemblance to Devendra Banhart, but the King's style is more punk than pixie dust, best exemplified on the garage-y rave up “All In My Sleep,” which recalls Joy Division attempting rockabilly. If that doesn't get you clicking the Add To Cart button, you're probably already too far gone for my help. AMAZON

 Shit and Shine - Cherry

Shit & Shine is a very interesting band of freaks from England who's previously vinyl-only Cherry was recently re-issued on CD by Riot Season. Cherry is a veritable crash course in underground swill, an eclectic stew that comprises beefy riffs, spoken word, glitchy electro and gabba noise. While such self-conscious eclecticism makes for some dopey moments, Cherry is filled with enough high points to earn it some heavy rotation.  “Charm and Counter Charm” sounds like a lost Blevin Blectum track, which segues right into “If you Never Knew Susie,” a pummeling metal assault reminiscent of Sissy Spacek or Agoraphobic Nosebleed. “Prize Winning” is an updated “Hamburger Lady,” while the ornery and disturbing “Cigarette Sequence” places Shit & Shine in the same category as No Fun Fest upstarts Rusted Shut. The album ends with two long tracks. “High Brooms” is the better of the two, a patient, agonizing drone with actual key changes (really!), a shaky organ that threatens to overwhelm the drum machine, and squalls of feedback. Remember the scene in Pee Wee's Big Adventure, where Large Marge recounts the tale of the accident that sounded like a “garbage truck driven off the Empire State Building?” This is that sound. If Cherry tickles ya like I think it will, seek out the band's contribution to the Latitudes CD series (Southern), which is comprised of a single 40+ minute track of heavy riff trance that seems, impossibly, too short. AMAZON

 Windsor for the Derby - How We Lost

Long-suffering but always consistent, Windsor For The Derby return with How We Lost (Secretly Canadian), a concise starter kit for those looking to explore the band's more song-based material. The gauzy noir pop of “Maladies” could be Echo & The Bunnymen, while the brief acoustic lament “Forgotten” (which could be about the band—“Are You worried you'll be forgotten / Without your story told / So sad to be forgotten / And grow old / Alone”) recalls Low at their most navel-gazing. This isn't to say the band who released the droning Calm Hades Float over a decade ago have abandoned their post-rockin' roots. The Krautrock-quoting “Hold On” is classic Windsor, with just enough early U2 to keep it from sounding like an outright homage. Sure, there's a fair bit of dicking around, and these boys still wouldn't recognize a bridge if they drove over it, but How We Lost is another tight batch of songs from a consistently underappreciated band. AMAZON

 Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes

Seattle's Fleet Foxes make ‘baroque harmonic pop' (read: they like Pet Sounds) on their eponymous Sub Pop debut, which ostensibly amounts to nothing. More than I hate the record itself (and I do hate it), I hate what it represents, which is an ‘indie' culture that increasingly prizes blandness and mimicry. Anyone over thirty who'd like to explain the difference to me between this band, My Morning Jacket, Band of Horses and Bon Iver, please come forward—I'm lost in the storm here. What I do hear is a band that makes Iron and Wine sound like Monte Cazazza. The press kit audaciously touts the usual classic rock influences, but all I hear are the unmistakable sounds of bland indie rock, the kind that leaves anyone who remembers the Carter administration pining for the comparatively wild and experimental sounds of Kagagoogoo and Haircut 100. If you're enjoying this but scoffing at the Coldplay legions, you're fooling yourself. Hey Sub Pop, belated happy birthday, but how about less of this shit and more Baptist Generals, OK? AMAZON

 Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles (Bonus Track Version)

I've seen some ninjas hating on the self-titled debut by Crystal Castles (Last Gang), but they're probably wetting themselves over Fleet Foxes, so consider the source. Crystal Castles is like a budget version of The Knife, and while the co-ed duo's highly sexualized electro pop doesn't really come close to matching that band's overall atmosphere, there is enough here for anyone who counts Silent Shout as one of the decade's best records. Songs like “Courtship Dating”(which is begging for a house remix) are a must for closet disco goths who think Portishead take themselves a tad too seriously, while the Nintendo-as-nostalgia creeps will love the 8-bit sounds of “Alice Practice,” a song featuring a vocal that began as a microphone check. The fabulously named Ethan Fawn and Alice Glass outrageously claim to not have any musical influences whatsoever, which would be absurd even if a ton of these tracks didn't sound like a cross between Kate Bush, Atari Teenage Riot, Siouxie, and any number of 80s synthpoppers from Klein & M.B.O to Human League. But I can forgive them their braggadocio—if they want to pretend they've never heard of Flexipop compilations, that's none of my business. The record rules all the same. AMAZON

The Laboratory Standard Recordings label in Knoxville was kind enough to send me some stuff, and it's nice to see something cool coming out of that hip but musically uninteresting town. Knoxville locals Double Muslims are a refreshing exception to the rule, their guitar-drums-cello instrumentation belying a very tenacious grasp on melody while remaining just herky-jerky enough to recall, say, Y Pants. Packaged lovingly in letter-pressed covers and sealed with wax. Very cool. Chicago's Lay All Over It is a project of the multi-talented Jason Ajemian, featuring Ajemian on bass and vocals, Nori Tanaka on drums, and guest Tim Halderman on sax. One long piece spread over two 45rpm sides of wax, “Never Too Fat To Fly” is an unhurried, jive talkin,' meditative soul groove, with none of the clenched-butthole joylessness of some of their uptight Chi-town contemporaries.

 The Howling Hex - Earth Junk

It's easier to view Neil Michael Hagerty's post-Royal Trux work with The Howling Hex not as an album-to-album endeavor, but as an ever-growing body of work that will eventually be recognized for its genius. Individual Howling Hex albums, like the recent Earth Junk (Drag City), only tell a part of the story. It's Hagerty's most sonically experimental and self-consciously ‘avant garde' release in a while, featuring only electric piano, organ, synthesizer, guitar and vocals. No bass, no drums. The bio's description of the music as “Mexican polka” is surprisingly spot on, as Hagerty channels Freddy Fender and Doug Sahm more than Keith Richards or Johnny Thunders. For those keeping score, Earth Junk most closely resembles Hagerty's first, s/t solo album, with the guitar, a musician on which Hagerty is gifted, provided more as an afterthought here. Though the instrumentation is largely, stubbornly unvaried throughout, that isn't to say there aren't some surprises. On opener “Big Chief Big Wheel” and the almost country-blues “The Arrows,” Hagerty's gift for hooks transcends the decidedly pop-hostile arrangement, and give way to a subversive sort of Western rock structure rendered in the most unlikely ways, ie lyrics like ‘ramma jamma, jamma / la la la la la.”  The obtuse narratives on “Blood and Dust” and “Faithful Sister” recall Hagerty's literary work, with characters confronting the mundane, while the cutely titled “Coffin Up Cash” is a noisy detour of double tracked acoustic guitar, haunted house sounds, mumbled vocals and disembodied conversation snippets which eventually dissolves to reveal sweet harmony vocals and a twinkling Fender Rhodes. If you were really nerdy about it, you could see this track as an abbreviated synopsis of Hagerty's career-long journey from the singular Twin Infinitives to his recent quest for the New Border Sound. Earth Junk ends on a strange note—strange because it isn't strange. “O Why, Sports Coat?” is a brief, plaintive acoustic tune that punctuates the album with a question mark—and a ‘to be continued.'  There is little precedent for this intrepid work—possibly Destroyer's befuddling adventures in MIDI and some of Fiery Furnaces' less obtuse offerings come close—but Hagerty remains in a class by himself. The CD ‘booklet' doubles as a series of postcards, painted by Hagerty, each bearing the album's title on the bottom right hand corner, so you can pick your favorite cover, a la Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star. Here's your album of the month. AMAZON

I'll be taking a month or so off, but I'll be back sometime shortly after when the weather has cooled down and Deicide makes less sense. Till then, I remain your resident lunatic of God's creation, patiently waiting for you to send me your vinyl, propaganda, and bogus business proposals. Get on it!

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