As I followed many of these labels I would often take a chance on some of these new offerings that were perhaps outside my musical vocabulary. One of those releases I recall quite well was Soft Punk by John Wiese on Troubleman Unlimited (a label I knew for releasing albums from emo mainstays Rye Coalition to mathy hardcore by Hal Al Shedad). It was very foreign to me and most likely irritating upon first listen, but I returned to it years later and now have a great affection for the album (easily in my top 5 noise records). Since rediscovering that album I’ve been a follower of John Wiese’s. That said, his noisecore project Sissy Spacek is one that I have less familiarity with. Not that is dislike the work, but sometimes you get so overloaded with music to listen to that bands on your “list” (yes, don’t we all have lists) fall by the wayside.
Recently, Wiese contacted me wanting to hook up a trade for a Cheek Biting/Haters split tape I released. Of course I was game. I requested a more recent release by Sissy Spacek, because the only release I owned of theirs was Scissors which was released early 2000’s. He obliged and days later I had a package containing Sissy Spacek’s Blear C30 on Tape Room Recordings (I’m assuming Wiese’s own imprint since they predominantly release Sissy Spacek recordings) and a bunch of postcards. The postcards were of the promotional variety, but still a neat bonus to receive.
The tape opens with “Things Take Time” and right out the gate we are greeted to a mass of blown out instrumentation. It’s a cacophonous mess of noisecore goodness. There’s really no need to dissect what’s being played or what instruments are used. All you need to know is that it’s a big garbled mess and I mean that in the best possible way.
Next up we have “Gang Reduction”. A departure from the opening blur-core chaos, this track features lots of junk metal clang, bang and destruction. I also hear the sounds of shattering glass and other debris crashing in a seemingly unending downpour. Truth be told, I love shit like this. I once recorded 20 minutes of crushing glass inside of a metal ammo container and It was probably one of my favorite things I’ve ever recorded. This is right up my alley.
“Up a Tree” offers a more subtle take on the previous track. There’s lots of minimal rumbles, digital artifacts and some weird random sounds. I notice some manipulated junk metal rumbles, along with elongated animal sounding growls. My mind conjures images of an enormous steampunk robot moving and barreling forward. I hear the sounds of shifting metal, a reverberating hull, grinding gears….all moving at a glacial pace. Of course, I just watched Ninja Batman last night which takes place in feudal Japan and features a bunch of castles transforming into gigantic hulking robots, so that could be influencing my take on these sounds.
On to side B…
The opening track “Garbage Matte” sounds like a continuation of the final track on side A, which is great because I’m loving this stuff. Footsteps, scraping metal, with some ambient dread in the background. It could very well be field recordings of an active construction site. I guess this could be categorized as musique concrète, but I’m terrible with labeling sounds. Supposedly there is a second track on this side called “Tear Go By”, but I hardly noticed it. That’s not a criticism. I guess the first track segued so well into the next (being a similar sounding) that I didn’t recognize it as another track. That said, I really enjoyed the sounds so I’m not disappointed in the slightest that there isn’t a clear line of demarcation between the pieces.
I completely loved this tape through and through. I haven’t heard enough of Sissy Spacek’s back catalog to comment if this is what they typically sound like. I was half expecting this to be wall to wall blur-core, which I would’ve been fine with, but I also appreciate having my expectations dashed. That said I expect to be investigating more of their back catalog post haste.
Various Artists – “Le-Ultra Live Series Vol. One”
(Liquid Electric Recordings 2018, Cassette)
Review by Jerry Kranitz
The Le-Ultra Live Series Vol. One compilation was recorded live on various dates in Columbus, Ohio from 2014-2018. We’ve got contributions from eight bands, there’s zero contact information, it has some of the shittiest bootleg sound quality I’ve ever heard, and I like it so much I’ve listened to it about a half dozen times so far.
Blood Noize is the only band on the comp I was already familiar with. They get the most space with five tracks, featuring their gutbucket brand of raunchy punk-metal punctuated by oddball pulses and tones. This is pretty thrashy but elusively complex stuff, with interesting rhythmic gymnastics and the guitar
engaging in noisy yet sound exploratory fun. Seriously intense stuff. They’ve got several releases available on their Bandcamp page.
The Unholy Two are a standout, with both their contributions cranking out brain crushing, punk-noise- psychedelic rock. On their first song (“OKC1995”) they lay down a minimalist assault on the senses noise rocking groove and color it with screechy wailing acid mind-fucked freakout guitars. And the second
(“Untitled”) track is similar and a good example of seriously art damaged your-brain- on-drugs psychedelia.
American Jobs are one of my favorites of the set, with both their songs characterized by a punk- industrial-goth- jazz flavor. They’ve got a damn good expressive singer and a cool eerie lounge jazz vibe. Check out their Bandcamp page.
Pink Reason is another highlight, playing good old nasty garage punk with bits of the Stooges and dashes of NY Dolls. Lots of fun noisy thrashy psychy rock ‘n’ roll with damn cool guitars across their three songs.
Gamma World has a powerful Joy Division edge on their songs “Something Hidden” and “Detergent Suicide”. “Chemtrails” is similar but adds a fun rocking punk-a-billy feel with an off-kilter dancefloor rhythmic pulse.
Will Foster is two guys exchanging a spoken word rant titled “Judgement Day”. I hear a sax in the background which may or may not be backing these loons.
Giant Claw is another one of my favorites and the most stylistically different artist in the set. It’s the solo project of Columbus based Keith Rankin. His sole track is a very interesting and varied electronic percussion driven workout with lo-fi proggy keys. LOTS of music on his Bandcamp page which I’ll be exploring further.
Torgo’s contribution is a clever finale to this cool compilation. Titled “Excerpt/Decay”, it begins with barely ten seconds of noise-thrash, which may be the end of a song (presumably the “Excerpt”), followed by a fading screech-fest that must be the “Decay”.
I bought this cassette at my favorite local Columbus record store, Lost Weekend Records. Googling the title and Liquid Electric Recordings labeled revealed nothing other than a discogs.com entry. I went back to the store and asked the owner about it and was told the guy (Chuck Fuck) just drops off cassettes from time to time. I bought the last two copies he had so email me if anyone is intrigued and wants to trade.
Review by Hal Harmon
Another week and another new zine finds its way to my mailbox. In my last review, for Raw Analog, I professed my deep affection for music photo zines. This week that love affair is reaffirmed by another photo zine to satisfy my sweet tooth. Low Level Input by Shea Hardacre presents 20 pages of black & white photography from shows around Chicago. Unsurprisingly, the zine is published by No Coast No Hope, one of the premiere labels documenting harsh noise and scum electronics in and around the Midwest. NCNH started out as a tape label, releasing Hardacre’s own power electronics project Clotting, but has increasingly gotten more into zine publication. On display in Low Level Input are some of the heavy-hitters of the genre, including: Richard Ramirez, Gnawed, The Rita, Developer, Deterge, Plague Mother and many other sonic filth peddlers.
The publisher notes the minimal effort put toward design and composition, but I think it is a fine effort all around. Many of the photos lack staging or are cloaked in shadows, but I never felt that it detracted from the energy of the performers or the copious amounts of gear porn on display. Adding to the lo-fi flavor is the fact that the photography was all taken using a disposable camera. The final page has each artist listed in order of appearance. Copies are still available along with other artistic endeavors from Hardacre at No Coast No Hope.
Review by Jim Barker
Rather than write about something I already knew about, I chose this randomly from the Internet Archive, after searching for 'DIY' 'cassette'. I'd not heard of Bat Lenny or Limpid Green before, but now I'm glad I have.
According to the cover, these tracks were recorded between 1977 and 1990, and the cassette was originally released in 1991. Although that's a good while ago, the sound quality on this release is excellent. There are 10 non-chronological tracks, all very entertaining, eclectic and competently delivered.
The approach and sound are quite typical of the more musical end of the mid-to-late 80s, 4-track, electronic home-taping scene. All tracks have a spoken word element, which isn't always wildly successful, but luckily doesn't take itself too seriously. To me, the tone of voice indicated that this was intended as a fun experiment, rather than an exercise in “important art”.
This makes the whole thing quite relaxing; the mix of old school drum machines, synths, reverby guitar and easily-understood voice, offering up a nicely dream-like but non-threatening mix of what you might call 'DIY electronic easy listening', if that isn't too much of a contradiction. It's a bit queasy, but to people who listen to this kind of thing a lot, it's pretty cozy.
'A Dark Room' is a good example. The martial throbbing of the synth, along with the dream-story spoken word, and what sounds like live percussion, combine to give a warm sound with an edge, a very light edge, of menace.
Some tracks, like 'Follow the Road of Steel' or 'Alien Voices' throw in a bit of voice distortion which ups the spooky level a little, but it's certainly not Whitehouse.
'Alien Voices' sounds a bit like a phone conference between various Doctor Who villains. There's also a short track called 'Buzzards', which is very quirky and candidly amusing.
I'm aware that some of this might come across as a criticism: "oh these guys don't scare me! I'm made of sterner stuff", but the fact is that I really like the 'lighter side' of DIY music, and usually prefer it to the angry 'made-to-offend' stuff. It makes a change to not have to keep turning the stereo down, and hope for a bit more structure. So often listening to DIY electronic music can seem like an endurance test. Maybe I'm just getting old, as I don't welcome that as much as I used to. Either way. this is a nice album, and should easily bear repeated listens.
There are a number of other Bat Lenny releases on the Internet Archive, so those who dig this are set for more fun. The download comes complete with a PDF of the J-card that you can print it out if you choose to dub the music to cassette, for the full experience. A nice touch.
I have always had a deep affection for music photo zines. To get a glimpse of shows and performers I never got to see in the flesh is always a treat. Or if I had been fortunate to experience the live show, it's great to go back and revel in the nostalgia. To see the looks of excitement, contemplation, and sometimes horror on the faces in the crowd are priceless. Photos don't even have to be very good for me to appreciate that someone took the time to step back and document a moment in time and, in best cases, create a lasting piece of history of the scene.
Keeping with that long tradition of music photo zines is Andrea Knight’s Raw Analog. Published by one of my favorite record labels, Popnihil, Raw Analog is perhaps one of the best photo zines I have seen in recent memory documenting the outsider music scene. It’s all full-color and captures many bands and solo artists who have performed around the state of Florida. There's plenty of blood, sweat, grime, and tables full of electronics on display. Truth be told, I don't know who the majority of the performers featured are and no photos are labeled to give me any insight. While I thought I might find that bothersome at first, the anonymity of the photos actually make them as much about capturing the zeitgeist as they do highlighting the individual performers. It's a real high quality effort through and through. You can tell this was a labor of love and not cheap to assemble.
Popnihil still has some listed on their site, so don't miss out.
Grip some tapes while you are at it.
REVIEW by Hal Harmon
More than just an example of blatant nepotism, I have to express my pleasure in this beautiful new recording by Christina Vantzou and my son, John Also Bennett. It consists of a sounding or interpretation of a visual work, a drawing by Zin Taylor on the walls of a gallery. Unlike Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, which is a suite of pieces, Vantzou and Bennett's work is a single long piece, (though several tracks are listed), evolving through numerous changes. It owes something to ambient music, but is much more developed and meaty than most such work, perhaps due to its grounding in a large visual artwork. The music involves the use of electronics, flute, and piano, and is, amazingly, a recording of a single live collaborative performance, a performance which fully engages one's attention, and rewards repeated listenings.
This work is a prime example of the interconnectivity and collaborative nature of the arts; for example, the fact that much sound poetry derives from asemic or visual poetry texts, which are sounded or performed as if they were scores, a practice much engaged in today in avant-garde literary, Fluxus, and performance venues today.
“Thoughts of a Dot as it Travels a Surface” is a beautifully produced high-quality LP with a large fold-out print of the art on which the performance is based, and ample textual discussions on the inner sleeve. Don't pass this one up!
John M. Bennett
Luna Bisonte Prods