Archive for March, 2013

What Time Is It?

Posted: March 30, 2013 in New Indie Music

Ohsaurus

PUng

Reviewed by Kent Manthie

Having just recently received PUng as an MP3 download, from Connecticut’s Ohsaurus, aka Chris Hoffman, I don’t have a hell of a lot of information about him.  Just a few fun facts culled from various online sources (FB, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Discogs.com, Tumblr and others).
What I know most is what I’ve heard and it’s an instrumental album, electronic in design and sound.  All synths and computer generated music.  There is a laid-back charm about it all, with a chill-out vibe to it.  Sometimes, I feel as if I’m back in the late 90s, with some of the techno-styles thrown in.  I don’t know if it’s intended or not, but one artist I’m reminded of while listening to PUng is Q-Burns Abstract Message – a one-man outfit, consisting of Michael Donaldson, of whom I first heard when I saw him open for Meat Beat Manifesto; within the next couple days I bought his album, Feng Shui on Astralwerks Records.

This current album, PUng, is a likewise low-intensity, high-voltage recording:  completely electronic.  Its atmospheric sounds and dance-beat drum programming make for a swirling sonic cup of tea.

Good for coming down after a night of intense partying, dancing, drinking, etc. to intense freak-out remixes and DJ-ing.  This would be what you’d play either on your way home, with the woman you picked up or both!  It’s not only “chill-out”, but it has a nice ethereal eroticism to it that has a good ambient psychic node for making love, late at night when the lights are still flickering and the juices are flowing.  Also good for waking up to the same, on a sunny “after”-morning.

As far as Ohsaurus’s “netlabel” cohort, he sticks out some, in one way for not being as narcissistic as some of the stuff that is next to DIY (to be brutally honest, here)…no circuit-bending, mind-numbing, machine-gargling, just pure white funk powder riding the rails to smoothville.

As for the reference to older techno trance/house music, Ohsaurus isn’t stuck in the 90s really.  There isn’t anything that sounds particularly dated on PUng.  Hell, I remember a lot of whacked out stuff from that era – Aphex Twin, DJ Keoki, the aforementioned Meat Beat Manifesto as well as Consolidated – all of whom had a hard edge to them, although Aphex Twin, aka Richard D. James, did have sort of a split musical personality – one that was tweeked-out and savage via super fast staccato beats (The Richard D. James Album) and synth hooks that felt like needles as well as one with a softer, more trance-like aura about it (Selected Ambient Works ’85-’92).  

Ohsaurus is like a lone wolf out there in the quickly morphing sphere of musical styles.  He’s sticking to what he does and for him it works.  Although, I see some untapped potential in there that could be put to more clenching stuff.  For the record, however, I’d just like to mention a couple good tracks:  “Crossing Dreamgrove” is a fascinating synthesized musical opiate with a nice backbeat and some tricky solo work eked out in the midst of it.  Another one worth mentioning is the closer, “Energy We Belong To”, slow-moving at first, but about 2 minutes in it opens up and rains beats and more.  Truly deserving of the song title, “Energy We Belong To” is exhilarating and it has a nice groove with the programmed organ vibe.  A nice way to close out something that beats anything on any “top 40” list anyday.

He’s been at this now for a while, PUng being one of about 5 or more albums he’s made with myriad netlabels.  I hope the best is yet to come!   -KM

 

 

Putin as NapoleonOn Saturday, March 23 (2013), A call came into police from the local ambulance service at 3:23 p.m. GMT (11:23 a.m. EDT) with news that a man had been found dead in Berkshire.  That man turned out to be Boris Berezovsky.  Once a member of Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s inner circle, Berezovsky fell out with Putin, and traded  Russia for residence in England in the early 2000s to escape fraud charges that he said were politically motivated and, given Putin’s hunger for power, I don’t find that hard to accept (that it was politically motivated).  He became a frequent critic of Putin, accusing Vlad of ushering in a dictatorship and accused the Russian security services of organizing 1999 apartment house bombings in Moscow and two other Russian cities which were pretexts for sending Russian troops into Chechnya for the second war there in half a decade.

Berezovsky also survived numerous assassination attempts when still in Russia, was firmly in the opposition camp to Putin and the latter considered him “an enemy”.

The Russians even went as far as to accuse Berezovsky of being behind the recent deaths of several journalists, including the oft-cited case of the slain investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya as well as the mysterious poisoning death (by the extremely lethal, radioactive isotope, polonium-1) of ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, who had also been living in London at the time he was killed.  Other former government figures have also turned up dead, due to similar circumstances.  Most people, however, are not fooled.  They may not be saying so, especially those in the know inside Russia, for fear of their own lives, but it’s not hard to figure out that it all points back to Putin.  Consolidating power in what is a newly developing democracy, so things are rolling along quietly, but quickly.  Quietly, to keep the support of the otherwise charismatic, buoyant Putin from slipping from hero to villain in the eyes of the average Russian- the “Ivan-in-the-street”, so to speak.

Berezovsky did have some financial woes of late, having lost some lawsuits and as a result, was in debt for upwards of $60 million.  There were “signs” of a depressed man, some of the usual things going on in his life that may have led Boris to just kill himself, which is the official story going around, that he committed suicide after a deep depression he was suffered that was made worse by his various monetary and supposed legal woes.

There’s no doubt in my mind, though, that Putin is behind Berezovsky’s death. Putin, for years, now, has been busy consolidating his power. He has no use at all for democracy and it should be obvious now to anyone who’s been following what’s been going on in Russia for the past 10+ years now. Once Putin gained the presidency, he had no intention of giving up power. Even when Medvedev won election as Presidency, instead of gracefully stepping down from political life like any democratic leader would when their time in office is done, Putin decided he’d just create a new (for Russia) political post: prime minister, a role which he stepped right into, with no one saying a thing. Sure, he’s been popular over the years with the average “Russian-on-the-street”, with his charisma, his svelte, good looks and faux-populism, but this is total BS – Russians must be easily taken in by charm and muscle-flexing. But not everyone is buying.  Since Russia won its freedom after the fall of the corrupt, paper tiger that was the Soviet Union, an Empire that had risen to such power not only on its immense syize and strategic location, but also on the fact that their military might was often overrated, especially by anti-communist Americans, especially during the peak of the cold war, from the 1950s through Ronald Reagan’s infamous bulking up of the defense establishment – arms, intimidation, proxy wars around the globe, in particular, the ones in Central America – Nicaragua, El Salvador and off and on skirmishes with Iran’s proxies in the Middle East.  Besides his, Reagan used the skyrocketing defense budget to wage a spending war with the USSR, constantly adding more and more missiles, stepping up military presences, even coming up with (but never implementing) the whole “Star Wars” idea, also known as the Strategic Defense Initiative, which is not unlike the missile defense shield that started, in earnest, with Dubya and is, despite cries of foul from both our allies and enemies (now why would the US care if its enemies don’t like the fact that the US is building a “shield”, or more accurately, an anti-missile weapons system that is intended to stop an incoming ICBM en route in space, before it comes back down to earth?) alike.  But that hasn’t stopped the government from continuing this venture.  This caused the USSR, in the 80s, to play catch-up and constantly spend, spend, spend their money in order to try to match the US’s weapons capabilities.  In the end, it turned out that both this overspending spree as well as the USSR’s quagmire in Afghanistan had been failing and a well-armed, well-trained band of determined mujahadeen fighters were using Stinger missiles, for one, to down Red Army helicopters as well as plenty of other weapons that the CIA gladly gave to them in order to stop the Russians.  What a stupid move that was – if only we knew how badly that would come back to bite us, the whole world, in the ass.  But that’s history.

Someone needs to stop this powermad megalomaniac from becoming a new Stalin-like figure: someone who whimsically has enemies, perceived or real, hunted down and killed in either fantastic poisonings -so many have happened now, that the “accident” story is getting more and more unbelievable. And suicide? How convenient an answer that is -especially since dead men don’t talk. Then there are the brave investigative journalists who courageously try to uncover the truth about this amassing of power, centralizing of government and flushing any semblance of democracy down the toilet. STOP THIS MAN!!! Putin is the real threat to world peace, Saddam Hussein was nothing but a sideshow, a stupid game that Dubya and his cronies were playing. It was like a real-life version of RISK (the classic strategic world domination board game). I only hope that people stop sucking up to this despot and start seeing Putin for what he truly is. He’s no friend of the US, that is for damn sure and Europe should be wary as well, since Russia no longer looks to Europe for any kind of influence or as a model to be followed. These new political purges taking place, usually in England, after the person has left Russia, are a sign that Putin is liquidating any and all opposition. This bodes badly for the future.

Various Artists (I.F.A.R. Compilation)

The Beat Sounds From Way Outifar_beatsounds3

Institute For Alien Research, 2012

Reviewed by Kent Manthie

I’m awfully glad that I randomly selected this particular I.F.A.R. compilation to review next. The Beat Sounds From Way Out is, so far, my favorite one.

Institute For Alien Research is a collective that specializes in putting together an assortment of indie bands, most of whom are either DIY or are affiliated with netlabels or really underground indie labels. One of the people with whom I correspond on occasion regarding I.F.A.R. and related matters is Shaun Robert, who is also one of the contributors to some of their releases. He’s the one who’s sent me most of these compilations and there is more to come too.

But I was really blown away by Beat Sounds From Way Out, a 16-track CD of great, unique, eclectic sounds and styles from a variety of artists and bands that form one of my favorite I.F.A.R. compilations, so far. I could say that Beat Sounds… is more..uh, “accessible” than others, but that is usually an adjective that has been used as a sort of code for “radio-friendly” or “not as weird/noise-art-drone-experimental” as previous stuff, etc. and that is not at all what I would mean by that – for one thing, I would cringe if I were to somehow be in a situation/at some place, where a radio was playing (I haven’t listened to any radio stations in about 9-10 years). I have my own music library that is constantly growing and I’ve not needed any radio station to tell me what to listen to, I find out what’s worth hearing from word-of-mouth, from CDs I receive for reviewing – my, how many great finds I’ve come across from receiving CDs by bands I’ve not heard of before but that end up being love at first listen for me.

The CD at hand, The Beat Sounds From Way Out, is a mind-blowing collection of outstanding candy delights for the ear. And the diversity of sounds is also a great way of keeping things constantly fresh and never stultifying.

A few exceptions worth mentioning include the opening cut, “Spheric”, by Mutant Beatniks, an almost 7 minute track that reminds me of Psychic TV, with that pulsing, synthesized metallic accordion breath. Over this is a minimalistic keyboard melody with an undercurrent of a simple drum machine beat. The next cut, (#2) is “Retina” by Australasia. This one is worth mentioning because, unlike most of everything in this genre, in I.F.A.R’s catalogue, is a good, old-fashioned electric guitar jam, with a hard-rock distortion jam and a double-barreled drum barrage that is reminiscent of heavy metal, even though it’s not metal. A really different, but nonetheless brilliant cut is song #6, “Psychedelic Wings of a Broken Destiny” by Membrana Psicodelica. This number starts off with an electronica intro, that soon morphs into an electric guitar (but no distortion). The best thing about this track is the Spanish-flavored guitar which is wickedly good and to make things even spicier, it’s backed by a twangy rhythm guitar that you’d otherwise hear in surf-music. It’s like an Ennio Morricone soundtrack to a Spaghetti Western on Mars. Beautiful. Also – just to give a shout-out – the last track on here is by our friend Stirner, so it is full of good stuff.

But my favorite cut on this disc is “Omia”, by Akhmed al-Qurid Hassan. This one is hard to pin down – it’s electronica, it’s avant-garde and it’s jazz. If Miles Davis were alive today and pretended he didn’t do those disappointing records he made during his “comeback” period in the 80s (Tutu, Amandla, etc.) and had just fast-forwarded from his last great album (1974’s Get Up With It) the one he did before his “retirement” and collaborated with some of these great indie geniuses, this is what you might expect to hear, although it would probably be at least ½ hour longer. And that is one thing I wish about “Omia” – that it was a lot longer – at least 25 or more minutes. As it is, it’s about 6 ½ minutes, but with its jazzy underpinnings, the Hammond-Organ – either synthesized sound or an actual Hammond, was its piece de resistance. Other great things about this include, toward the beginning, especially, is the percussive synth harmonies underneath zooming, flying melodies. As for the peerless production, it was coated with dreamy atmospherics, ethereal, outer-space pathos as well as a blue note that hung over it, in which it was so easy to get lost in.

There are so many other great examples to mention about The Beat Sounds From Way Out that it would take forever to go through them all. Suffice it to say, though, I would highly recommend you get this CD by hook or by crook. Easiest way I know of would be to go to bandcamp.com and search The Beat Sounds From Way Out and/or Institute for Alien Research or just IFAR. One of these will produce some results. Another venue to search is Facebook, where I know there are postings and links as well as write-ups about Shaun Robert, I.F.A.R, etc.

I still have at least a couple more of these compilations to write up and they will appear soon. But I just had to get the word out about The Beat Sounds From Way Out. A great compilation that had just the right mix of songs on it. Happy Listening! – KM.

Various Artists

Musique Concrete 4’33” Compilation

Institute For Alien Research, 2011

Reviewed by Kent Manthie

Better late than never, right? This compilation of 15 songs by 15 different artists is called the “4’33” Compilation” because each track is exactly four minutes and 33 seconds. Now, what do you think of when you see the name “4’33””? That’s right – the legendary, avant-garde, ingenious piece by the late, influential John Cage. But the difference between Cage’s classic study in silence is not represented on Musique Concrete… In other words, even though all the songs are 4:33, none of them are “covers” of the four and a half minutes of complete silence that Cage came up with. Instead, what you get are a variety of experimental works that all use the 4:33 timeline – for what reason, except as a shoutout to Cage?

Of all the different artists that contributed to Musique Concrete, a few of honorable mentions include Shaun Robert’s “Paradigm”. Robert is one of the forces behind IFAR and they’re mission toward forward-looking, experimentation that results in new forms of sound – not regular “song” structures that we’re all aware of, but myriad sources of sounds – dissonant, irregular, eerie, droning, noisy, deconstructed samples of a new type of music, constantly morphing, fluid material that contains “found” sounds, including disembodied voices, environmental/public sounds, white noise, etc as well as more directed, purposely constructed sheets of noise, bent-circuitry melodies, programmed synthesizer or computer flotsam, as well as sampled bits of music and/or dialogue from old films or TV shows, etc.

One thing that connects the 4:33 timeline to the original, silent space of Cage’s piece is that, although these artists use the exact same amount of time for each contribution, they are anything but silent. It’s like, instead of filling up the time with nothingness, they fill it up with what might be called “anti-music”, avant-garde, of course, but more like apres-avant-garde. As in the title of Shaun Robert’s piece, “Paradigm”, Musique Concrete is a showcase of a new paradigm of sound that one who is a more limited traditionalist wouldn’t deign to call “music” and have, no doubt, arguments as to why it isn’t “music”. But the same thing could be brought out into the wider arena of “art” – for example: back in the Middle Ages, through the Renaissance period, there was a certain standard of what was considered “art” and almost no one interfered with that paradigm – portraiture, landscapes; even allegorical fantasies were painted with identifiable figures and pictures. Even the 19th century Impressionists stayed within a certain boundary: while they may not have painted things in deep, dark, oil-based paintings of action frozen in time, the paintings they created did represent certain things – a meadow, a field of lilies, watercolor-daubed clouds over dream-like affairs. But in the beginning of the 20th Century, you suddenly had this group of intelligent yet eclectic paradigm makers who made a splash by imposing new styles on the world: there were the Cubists, led by Picasso and Georges Braque, Dadaists featuring Jean Arp, Tristan Tzara, Marcel Duchamp and Andre Breton as well as Man Ray, who’s brand new genus combined the medium of photography which he used to capture staged images of fractured imprints of his vivid imagination, not to mention the innovative way he used the medium of sculpture. Then the surrealists, such as Marc Chagall, Wassily Kandinsky and others kept this spirit of an exciting new breed of art going- one that ignored tradition and declared that there were many, many things one could create and call art and it didn’t matter what the stodgy old critics wrote about it. If they couldn’t or wouldn’t accept this brave, new paradigm in both style and attitude that soon exploded into Abstract Expressionism – Jackson Pollock, being one of its innovators. A Pollock work, a century earlier would’ve caused a scandal and for sure, not just critics, but the still provincialized world would’ve revolted.

In comparing that to this CD and the style of music it represents: the sound of the future, not to say that it is the ONLY sound of the future, just as Abstract Expressionism wasn’t the end of art (there were and continue to be many schools of art that flourish as is evidenced by the wide variety one can see today by going to such a wonderful museum as the Museum of Modern Art in New York City or it’s West Coast sister museum, the San Francisco MOMA, the sounds that IFAR is producing/promoting isn’t the only music style to be imminent; there are many, many genres, subgenres, etc. that will keep up with the times, morphing into relevancy as needed and also, the great, timeless classics that have been played and heard by countless individuals over the past 400+ years (just as an example- hell, one could go back even further for examples of musical styles) will obviously never die off because they were created by visionaries whose talents have always transcended their own times and will keep on finding new listeners, generation after generation.

Besides Shaun Robert’s contribution, “Paradigm”, a few others worth mentioning include “Debbie Does Dallas”, an entropic visually audible piece done by what is called “Public Domain” (I am not sure if that means that all the sampled voices, film clips and various media pieces are in the public domain and don’t need to get any copyright license or if that is an actual band-sorry, for my ignorance there). Another mention is “4’33”, The Mark of the Beast” by Bryce Ellman, a hauntingly percussive piece, in which the drumming has a sound like footsteps amid some sharp sounds in the background, giving it a Poe-like ominousity to it. Also, The Mutant Beatniks show up here with their tune, “She Will Last Forever”and the final cut seems to come closest to the silence of Cage’s “4:33” silence: it has very little to it. It starts off with a bang of industrial clanging and then goes on to give the ear a strain by making it difficult to figure on what’s going on there – it’s made up of unknown sounds, such as might be the case if you were next to a building where there was some late night work being done but you could only (and very difficultly at that) what it was that they were doing.

Zreen Toys, Factor X and Anla Courtis are others who make contributions as well, but instead of going on, one by one, describing each distinct cut, I suggest you get yourself a copy. Go to www.bandcamp.com to find out how to get your copy of Musique Concrete as well as other releases by the IFAR gang. And – make way for the future, get ready for a whole new paradigm. –KM.

Wampire

The Hearse  (Single)Wampire cover

Polyvinyl Records, 2013

Reviewed by Kent Manthie

Well, Wampire are about to release a new full-length CD, coming soon – hopefully I’ll have it ASAP to review in full. But for now, I’ve got a little tease: the CD single for the song, “The Hearse”, b/w “Das Modell”, a modern-day, delightful cover of the classic Kraftwerk tune, which rounds out the 2-song teaser.

Reading about the upcoming Wampire full-length release, Curiosity, my interest was piqued, which is why I’m hoping that Polyvinyl will send it to me to review!

Wampire is Rocky Taylor and Eric Phipps, a duo out of Portland, OR, among the same “scene” as labelmates Starfucker, as well as Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Then, being around that NW clique ended up being up beneficial since before being signed, Wampire came to the attention of Polyvinyl Records by opening up for Starfucker. Also, when recording their CD, Curiosity, UMO’s bassist Jacob Portrait produced.

Says Phipps, about the style that Curiosity gelled into: “We realized the record began to stray away from having a ‘sound’ and gradually became a platter with an assortment of sounds. The record showcases a flavor we haven’t quite dug into before.”

So, you can see how this two-track single I’m reviewing right now is great but I really wish I could get the whole thing. In fact, keep your fingers crossed and hopefully Curiosity will come along soon and I’ll be able to deconstruct the entire effort.

But, with what I’ve heard from just these two songs: “The Hearse” and the excellent cover of “Das Modell”, I’m convinced that I would really dig the whole CD. Stay tuned to find out what transpires!

The Next single I received from Polyvinyl is reviewed below…

Painted Palms

Carousel (Single)painted palms cover

Secretly Canadian, 2013

Reviewed by Kent Manthie

Cousins Reese Donohue and Christopher Prudhomme are the creative force behind Painted Palms — a duo in the studio that expands to a five-piece band for live shows. The two grew up together on the same block in Lafayette, Louisiana. After Donohue moved to the Bay Area in California for school, they spent several years exchanging music they had made by themselves which includes hypnotic sound experiments and song fragments. However, it wasn’t until they both returned home for the winter break in 2009, that they began playing music together.Canopy is the debut EP from duo Painted Palms.

With its echoes of “Brill Building” pop, its buoyant electronics, encompassing textural experimentation and ethereal atmospherics Canopy exudes something ebullient and effervescent. Canopy is a modern, danceable psych-pop collage with fluidity and a neopsychedelic party-people effect.

Unfortunately, again, I’ve only got Carousel – a 2-track CD single, which contains “Carousel” and “Click”. Just like with the above review by Wampire, I’d love to get Painted Palms’ debut EP, Canopy, which is just coming out. It is on a label called Secretly Canadian, but I received this single with the Wampire and the following review from Polyvinyl Records (Painted Palms’ page read that they’re being managed by Seth Hubbard, who also works for Polyvinyl, which is probably the connection there…)

Well, I will, again, wait and hope to get the complete package from PVR so I can listen to more of their stuff as well as have more stuff to review. But, for now, at least I know that there are, thankfully still some new bands coming around that are not derivative hacks. See ya on the flipside…-KM.

And Finally – here’s the third in the series of CD singles from Polyvinyl:

Psychic Twinpsychic twin cover

Strangers (single)

Polyvinyl Records, 2013

Reviewed by Kent Manthie

Psychic Twin are actually a trio from D.C. & featuring the lush and dreamy vocals of Erin Fein. The band has been around for several years now. In 2011 they released their debut and only full-length CD (so far, let’s hope), an eponymously titled CD. Last month (February) they put out a 7” single, entitled Deepest Part and now, in March, they’ve just released another 7” single, the one on review here, Strangers. This new single contains two selections: one is the title track and the other is the appropriately titled “Dream State”.

Psychic Twin are a very liquid, dreamy, spacey psych-pop sensation. The lovely vocals provided by Ms. Fein top off their soporific, atmospheric ambience.

Here’s hoping that the two 7”s released back to back in February and March are heralds of a new full-length to come. I, for one, as with the teases of the singles of the other two reviewed bands here, would be glad to hear a lot more from this band with some potential for the sublime.

For more information, or to check out what they sound like, you can always check them out at Facebook and they even have a page on MySpace! You can also Google their name and find a couple other pages which contain information on them as well as a sample of what their first album sounded like.

Here’s hoping that 2013 will bring more music by Psychic Twin and that it blows our minds! -KM