Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Cassette Review //
i.o
"Collection II"

$3.50 CAD //
https://ioiomusic.bandcamp.com/album/collection-ii //

Listening to a cassette quite as long as "Collection II" can make it difficult to describe.   The length of this has it where I don't feel you can pinhole it down to one statement like "Oh, this is rock that sounds like..." or whatever.   There is enough going on throughout these songs that even I am willing to admit that there might be parts I leave out.  In that sense, I feel the only way you could truly cover all of your bases is to listen to this cassette for yourself.

In a broad sense, the music of i.o is guitar based.   There generally tend to be other instruments with the guitars, which can include bass and drums.   One of the first sounds I really hear when this cassette kicks off is this hardcore thrash sound, like Ed Gein or something from Black Market Activities, that sort of early '00's music.    There is singing after that which can feel more melodic and just less destructive but for the most part this is instrumental.

The rock music is dictated, primarily, by what the guitars do.   Sometimes this is post rock.   Sometimes it can be skramz or math rock.   Something along the lines of Pinback at times and yet also channeling I Kill Giants at other times.    It is difficult to place this with the comparison of another specific band when it is instrumental and yet somehow when there are vocals it seems to be even more difficult.    One of the main things you should know about this is that it is guitar heavy in the sense that whatever else is going that seems to be where the focus is most-- the guitar.

I like to cook.   I understand why recipes say what they say, but sometimes it still bothers me when the directions tell me to boil water, put the food in, simmer, then bring it back to a boil for five to seven minutes.   Why not just put the food in from the start and skip that whole simmering downtime?  I know, I know, it has to do with the cooking and if you skipped the simmering if might still cook but just not as well.   These songs feel like that to me in some ways-- the explosions (the boiling), the calm (the simmering) and then building back up to it again.

The first time I listened to this cassette I was doing laundry.   I went into this corner near the dryers because that way people wouldn't constantly be trying to walk by me and bothering me.   But when I went to the corner I had this distinct smell of cigarette smoke in my nose.   I thought I didn't want to have my now clean clothes smelling like this, so I moved away to other dryers.    About twenty minutes later, this old, white trash woman comes in with a seemingly older and even dirtier man to load their clothes into dryers.

It was the damnedest thing because I smelled smoke again, looked over and she had a lit cigarette hanging out of her mouth.  I feel like it's illegal to smoke inside places like that, but even so, why would you want your clean clothes to smell like cigarette smoke?  I watched as she literally dropped ashses into her cart, on her wet and supposedly clean clothes, then picked them up and put them into the dryer.   What's the point of even cleaning them if that's how you're going to do it?

The worst part of my story is that the old man who works at the laundromat came over at least twice to help with the dryers and he said/did nothing about her smoking inside of his place of work.   I wanted to say something to the woman, or to the guy who worked there, but if he knew and didn't care what would it accomplish?  It'd only keep me there longer and the longer I was there the longer my clothes were going to start to wreak of cigarette smoke.   So I threw my clothes in my bag and high-tailed it out of there. 

I wonder now, looking back at that first listen and that whole scenario, was it this music playing, was it this soundtrack that helped to fuel my rage?   If I was listening to something else, could I have said more calmly and politely that the laundromat should be a non-smoking environment?  I'm not sure.   But this music does have that way about it where it just builds until you feel like it's going to boil over and I feel like that helped my mood, to feel as if I'm going to explode.

Though I feel the focus on here should be the guitars because that's what stands out the most, the fact is that there are simply other instruments played just as well, so I wanted to give that nod to the drumming as well.    In some ways, I feel like this can break down into an almost free jazz type of feel but if you're a fan of any sort of guitar-based music, really, then this should be the perfect soundtrack for you to hopefully not have a near public meltdown like me but something close I hope.







Cassette Review //
Three-Armed Men
"Friends Til Death"
(Crass Lips Records)



https://cotrecords.bandcamp.com/album/friends-til-death //

Three-Armed Men have a sound which can be easily summed up by saying that it sounds like a cross between Primus and Mudhoney.   However, as we all know when it comes to music, it is rarely that simple.    This is wild like The Doors, but it also seems to be punk at the core of it all.   Sometimes the vocals come through with singing and other times they're more spoken word but there is this clanky mix of rock n roll guitars, drums, bass and even sometimes keys behind them.

Weirdo rock and sloppy punk (but in a good way) can bring out some of the trippy elements of these songs which can make me feel like I'm in space or at least amongst the aliens somehow.    At the start, it also feels like the vocals are a lot louder than everything else, but after the first couple of songs that changes and all of the elements seem to level out.    On Side B there are also more of the spoken word type of songs than the singing ones, which have this feel between that Nada Surf song where he reads about how to be popular, Suicidal Tendencies and the content itself can feel like a Mitch Hedberg joke.

From "Tomorrow I'll steal another car from someone" to "These eyes have seen the horror of the truth", the lyrics really aren't afraid to discuss any subject.   "Zoo Fashion" discusses what type of clothes are appropriate to wear to a zoo and I'm not sure there is a good answer for that but I'm always afraid I'm going to wear something bright like red and have some animal get angry and come charging at me.    It's odd, too, because "Zoo Fashion" opens up Side B and yet it's the last song on this Bandcamp link, so, I'm not going to bother trying to make sense of song order and just rock it out.

There is this slight hint of twee but not in an acoustic way, more in a rock n roll jangle way and as usual this reminds me of something that I should be able to put my finger on easily but I cannot which is how I find the best music sounds.   On some level, I want these spoken word vocals to accompanied by notes and then when we hit the chorus it kicks into faster chords and screaming- which is a pattern I've heard bands use before-  But Three-Armed Men don't really play by the rules of any other band or anyone in general, they really just set their own bar.









Cassette Review //
The Electric Nature
"The Place of Dead Roads"
(\\NULL|ZØNE//)


$7 //
Edition of 50 //
https://nullzone.bandcamp.com/album/the-place-of-dead-roads //
🎧 //

We begin with a quiet droning, an ambient sort of feel with minimal electronics mixed in.    There is this ringing where inside the vacuum of space it feels as if it could turn into a western somehow.    It feels hollow, yet it builds, grows.     The whirrs ring through the distortion now in waves.   It has a visceral feel to it.    Guitar notes now begin to make their way through and this is dark, like something from "The Crow".    In the background it sounds as if there are shaking chains but it could be percussion-- either way, I like to think of it as having something to do with the dead and their want to be unleashed upon the living.   The rhythm grows and if you listened to this one at the airport I bet it would feel like a plane taking off.

The ringing comes through now in an angelic way.   It sorts of trills but also just feels like the airplane would've taken off but not stopped and kept going all the way up to heaven (Though I suppose there is something to be said for the clouds)    This takes on a strong FNL feel now, as notes come through one at a time and reverberate.    At various points it feels as if singing could begin at any moment, but it just continues this up and down feel, like the slow breathing of an accordion.    As we ultimately come to an end of Side A, it feels as if we have simply drifted off into space, a star which has burned too brightly and now has burned out.

A loud, ringing distortion ushers us into the flip side.   We could still just as easily be in space as we could have on Side A.    Guitar notes come through now and this takes on an ambient sense.    Sharpness cuts like a knife.    The whirrs grow within the distortion and this has a sound to it which is minimal but could be on the brink of something much larger.  It just feels like we're listening to that squealing of the tires, the steering wheel spinning out of control and all we're waiting on is that crash.   Cymbals come in as it sounds as if engines are revving up.   This descends into madness, the strings sounding as if things are breaking now and it just has this general sense of chaos.

It feels as if we are playing with a saw now but the mechanics of it all feel like we're inside a giant clock- like Big Ben- and all of those gears and parts are just turning and clanking to form these sounds.    Of course, in that scenario the clock itself is likely not running on time but rather speeding up at random times to make everything around it feel less real.   We drop down further into this steady feeling of something like a vacuum- something which generates that sort of buzzing/humming- and there are screeches of sharpness mixed with this as well.

There is a back and forth now, it feels almost like a sawing and that makes me think like we're drifting out of control, as if we had control once, in our spaceship but now we are just unable to determine where we are going.   Someone wooed.    Was this performed live?  Sometimes I'm not sure it matters because great music is great regardless.   The best way to experience this cassette is to find something you can do aimlessly.  I imagine a balloon being let go, floating up into the clouds and such but for the most part even though it can go side to side, balloons just continue upwards.   You need to find a way to be able to float up and back down, then back up again.   Like a car on an icy road without brakes but totally don't try that.











CD Review //
Whisper Suite
"Love Notes"
(Custom Made Music)



When I first begin listening to "Love Notes" I hear Bush.  It's not just in the music itself, but it's in the vocals a little bit too.   There are enough albums by Bush though that I feel like it's strange to think of them as a genre where different albums can create different sounds, so with Whisper Suite specifically I'm hearing more of that "Razorblade Suitcase" era of Bush on here.    Though that isn't without saying that the blend of post rock and alternative rock that Whipser Suite crafts isn't a bit like Sherwood either, which is a different type of band than Bush as well.

By "Give It All To You" I can hear some of Time Spent Driving and it comes out in the lines "Enough is all I got / I'd give it all to you".   I think it's important to notice that this sounds like bands I listened to in the early '00's but a) don't believe are around anymore (Though I think Sherwood might have made a comeback recently?) and b) other bands just don't really sound like them either, so it puts Whisper Suite in this genre not only all their own in a way, right now, but also it's just something that I feel like is greatly needed in this day and age of music.

As it grows dreamier it can also get darker.   "Tough Love" ends with these synth keys that make me want to call it darkwave and they also highlight the overall feelings of The Cure that I get from this CD as well.    "Broken Runaway" has the great lines of: "Better days are a thing of the past now / Serenade me with music that's so loud" and as we get into that and up until the end- even with the song "Home"- I begin to hear a lot of Blue October in these songs.   And yet, Blue October is another band that doesn't have a definitive genre or sound (much like Bush) but I can't specify where these songs land either because it's mostly like the albums which came after "Foiled" but there's a little bit of that older, pre-"Foiled" Blue October sound to this as well.

"Loves Notes" concludes with a shorter, instrumental song called "Miracles", just to kind of prove that Whisper Suite can do it all.   My theory about rock music has never held so true as it does with Whisper Suite-- a band capable of pulling from various influences to combine and form their own sound.    When you first listen to "Love Notes" you can pick out pieces and go, "Yeah, that part sounds like this other band", but the more you listen to it, the more difficult it becomes to hear those comparisons because all you start hearing are the sounds of Whisper Suite.








Record Review:
Thunderegg
"Cosmos"
(Bleeding Gold Records)


$18 //
Edition of 125 Black //
https://bleedinggoldrecords.bigcartel.com/product/thunderegg-cosmos //

Right from the start this sounds like R.E.M. but it also has these elements of trippy rock music which makes me think of Pink Floyd and maybe not even because the first song is about a planetarium.   I recently learned that you can listen to "Dark Side of the Moon" while watching "Paul Blart 2", so I got that going for me now.     This song is just really dreamy, to kick things off, kind of hazy.    As this kicks into the second part the pace picks up and it has this 1970's rock feel to it like it could be something from Woodstock but maybe not as crazy as all of that and something more like Cream.

"As If It Found Someone" takes on this walking rock sound, which somehow reminds me of Buddy Holly mixed with Better Than Ezra.    One of my favorite lyrics on this album comes out in this song as well with: "Come start a band with me, ride in a van with me, jump from town to town. Fan insanity, rock ’n’ roll fantasy" though the first time I listened to this record I misheard the one line as "fading sanity" and was like "Yeaaaaaah, that's me".   And then oddly enough we go into "I Turn Automatic" which is a song about kind of shutting off feelings and not letting people in, yet somehow appropriate for me as well.

This music has a chill rock vibe to it and for some reason I imagine it at a party, spinning on the turntable next to an ashtray full of cigarette butts.   It'd be the morning after the party- people passed out on the couch and floor- and someone would sneak over and slowly start playing this record.   Is that a music video for it?  Could it be?  Probably not, but it is a general vibe of what this album sounds like even though it also has this somewhat upbeat feel to it musically with mostly downbeat lyrics, which I've always loved.

"Pleasant Hill" continues to play on the overall vibe of these lyrics with insecurities and feelings of not fitting in with lines such as "Can I talk to you honestly? Can I tell you I’m afraid? Can I ask what this world wants of me, and what if I don’t want to obey? And will you run away with me, or am I someone you’ll forget?"   Is that not one of the biggest fears everyone has-- being forgotten?  I feel like it is.  Everyone wants to feel like they make an impact in a way which will be remembered, because it's like, if you don't remember me and we knew each other five years ago, how will I ever be remembered hundreds of years after I'm dead?

Keeping with that 1970's Woodstock/trippy type of vibe "Cosmos" has this vibe of something that would play with footage of the Vietnam War, like "M*A*S*H" or that one episode of "The Wonder Years" where Wayne's friend comes back from the war and starts running around the beach and takes off all of his clothes saying he feels like nothing fits him anymore.   And yet, those feelings of the war and that time could also be connected with these lyrics, no?  It's funny I'm tying this album with a war though when it has such obvious references to space I should perhaps be more focused on.

On the flip side the drums really take hold on the song "Stupid Town", which has an almost Neon Trees meets Franz Ferdinand feel to it (And somehow it also doesn't really remind me of the Live song "Shit Town")   "Goddamn Love" has a definite twee feel to it, like Bunnygrunt perhaps.    "I Almost Cry" has this Simon and Garfunkel feel to it and I think there is an overall Beach Boys vibe on this record as well.   It also reminds me of that song with Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach, which was in an Austin Powers movie but I don't remember which one.

Even though this ends with a nice love ballad about math, I wouldn't call this math rock.   I actually reviewed a cassette by Thunderegg once before but I still keep looking and find that they've been making music since the 1990's and even spent some time doing so in Connecticut.    Thunderegg might be one of the least known bands that has the most music under their belt and I'm not saying that in a bad way but because of all these albums you think they'd be up there with The Grateful Dead or Flaming Lips in terms of household names goes.   Still, if you haven't heard Thunderegg the best part about them is that there is always time to hop on the wagon.










Friday, June 8, 2018

Cassette Review //
Grant Evans
"Vessel"
(\\NULL|ZØNE//)



$7 //
Edition of 100 //
https://nullzone.bandcamp.com/album/vessel //

"Vessel" begins with sharpness coming through in blips and waves.   It has this feeling of something between a modem glitching and someone trying to send a distress signal.    If you listen to this in a calm and open environment it makes for the optimal experience, at least for me, because you want to have these sort of squeaky wheels sounds taking over your entire area rather than confined through headphones.   It's the grinding feedback which grows louder and sounds like clanking as well.   There is very much a machine based sound to this all, as if we are in that type of factory, but it isn't in the standard sense more of an "accident at the factory" type of way.   I recall the movie "The Machinist".

A slight buzzing comes through now and this feels like a minimal score to "JAWS".   Electronics are all over the place here as this feels like what happens when a droid goes insane.   In a similar way that dogs are opposed to high pitches, I feel like this might offend robots should we meet them as our overlords in several hundred years.   Chugging like a train now with some louder, looking for radioactive materials sounds and then it all kind of calms down into almost nothing.   It still feels like we're on a train though, which is odd.   It's this slow compression of sound. 

It's grown quieter now, with only a small amount of sounds being made behind everything else.   I feel like this is a good time to put on the earbuds, but that is how this can be confusing-- usually I feel something is best one way or another and here on "Vessel" Grant Evans creates a sound that I want to have warnings for while I listen to it such as "Headphones on!" and "Headphones off!"   I suppose you could just keep the headphones on the entire time but what is the fun in that?  The beginning of this just needs to be played loudly and then when it gets to this deeper static with hidden electronics it needs to be heard more clearly, closer even.

Louder ringings and heavy breathing like Darth Vader bring about moments of static as if being shocked.   This whole part right now just came through so much louder than how it was before- the levels changed- and it would be the sign to take the headphones off if you put them on.    Electronic pulses chirp through with failed radio transmissions.   There is this certain feeling, as if we are stuck in space with no way to communicate that we need to come home.   Even though we haven't all been to space, we have all felt like that at some point in our lives, no? 

On the flip side the electronics start off more bliss-filled, more dreamy.    As it somewhat trills through in this morse code kind of way this is the definition of celestial electronics.    Robotic beeps and such come through now and it has this feeling for some reason that reminds me of being in a butterfly garden.  Whooshes of air come through with some screeching and this has shifted to minimal electronics now, just this stream of tones.   A soft helicopter type of sound comes through now, the overall idea of robotics still secure. 

Silence takes over now.   There is something about silence on a cassette that can't be replicated digitally.   Is the cassette over or just the song?  You could easily check Bandcamp or your choice of digital music player and see the track being 4:24 into it with the total time being 10:17 (This is just an example of random numbers) but not being able to see those numbers while listening to a cassette just adds to the experience.   This ambient hue comes through briefly and then there is this pulse racing, but it's all so quiet you would need headphones for this part for sure. 

A banging brings this back to some sort of loudness, some sort of sense of knowing that it isn't over yet.     Some ambient type of beats come through now and it feels like we're floating through the air as this remains minimal but still has that synthwave vibe to it overall.   It has this feeling like Yves Malone but in a more minimal way, which is weird for me to say because I feel in some ways the music of Yves Malone is already minimal.   This sort of trails out and it feels as if we've been left in space to die, which again is one of those qualities I think we can all appreciate regardless of whether or not we've been in space.











Cassette Review //
Not
"Dawn Avoids Me"


$5 //
https://notttt.bandcamp.com/album/dawn-avoids-me //

There is static at the start but I'm not sure if it is intentional.   Quiet ambient ringing comes in and out, softly behind it all.   It feels like the sunrise.   What feel like pianos come in now and we have a minimal FNL sound as this is starting to slowly build.     The sound becomes delicate and I feel like it's a music box in some way.   The static remains and so I'm also beginning to think that is supposed to be there.    I imagine that little ballerina on top of the music box, spinning around as this song plays.     It also somehow has this feeling of swimming.

Some sharpness comes through now as these tones shift from something more relaxing to something more piercing.    We still maintain this FNL quality somehow.   If the pace just picked up slightly at any second we'd be right into that theme song.    What I feel are guitar notes come through now as well and it has all the makings of the soundtrack to an indie movie, where the character has to face a tough reality, but there is also this warbly quality to it, as if it is being played through a record player which doesn't quite work right.  (Though, yes, I get that it could just as easily be the cassette or tape player)

These guitar notes (I think they're guitars) come out now by themselves and they start doing this shaking thing where they having that repeating measure to them like skipping stones across a pond.   It's not dark, per se, but it has this level of intensity that you can feel like it demands to be taken seriously while yet it has shifted back to that overall relaxing feeling from back when it first started.   Everything kind of shoots up into this one combined tone and then as if a rustling of papers only with sound it all comes to an end.

On the flip side we start with these trippy whirrs that bring out a kind of glow mixed with what sound like electric crickets chirping behind it all.    It feels as if the wind is whooshing around in the background as notes come through one at a time, so solemn and sincere.     In swirls around some, but maintains this slow paced feel of meditation where yet it can turn at any second into terror.    I feel like when I hear these types of sounds normally I am drifting through space, but with this cassette it seems as if it we might be up in the sky just not that high.

A skip as if the cassette was being paused and we go into the next track.   A quieter sound now, but it feels like rain emerging.   Maybe it's just because every time I listen to this cassette the weather outside is going back and forth from being bright and sunny to dark and cloudy.   I feel like music has a strong connection to the weather- don't you?  At least this cassette does, for me.   I imagine it would be a different experience listening to this outside when it's bright and sunny, even hot out, and you're walking around your neighborhood versus being inside while it's gloomy and raining.   So if you live in California versus Seattle even you might have a different experience listening to this cassette.

Soft pianos have slight static coming through in bursts behind them and this is just exactly what I feel like it would be to float through the clouds if man could fly as birds do and kind of put yourself on a cruise control speed.    As this begins to come through in a way which makes the speakers sort of shake I begin to feel the connection with Lost Trail.   Still, this has a certain sense of seriousness to it. 

      It is calm, but it is perhaps for a calm reflection, one which will help you come to realizations which you perhaps didn't know you needed to realize.   Whether you're walking around outside and want to make your surroundings feel as if they are in slow motion or simply shut off the outside world of sound and put this one on with earbuds, "Dawn Avoids Me" is a means of escape which you should take.