Friday, July 10, 2015

Singles: Liberez, Wand, Peacers, The Helio Sequence

Liberez: "419 Chop Your $" (via Rarely Unable/Night School Records/YouTube)

Wand: "Stolen Footsteps" (via mutante inc./Drag City/YouTube)

Peacers: "Laze It" (via mutante inc./Drag City/YouTube)

The Helio Sequence: "Battle Lines" (via Sub Pop/Paste/YouTube)

Letters From A Tapehead

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Daughter of a Tapehead: High On Fire

High On Fire
eOne Music
Released: 6.23.15

*You can find that here.

**The PARENTAL ADVISORY label that mars an otherwise very cool album cover I believe refers more to the album's content than its use of bad language.  There's very little profanity.

***Her words, not mine.

High On Fire's Luminiferous is an excellent follow-up to the also brilliant De Vermis Mysteriis and should qualify for many of this year's Best Of lists beyond the metal categorization.  I don't know how High On Fire keeps doing it, but the band's high-intensity output is consistently good.

Letters From A Tapehead

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Singles: Failure, Strange Wilds, Chastity, Father John Misty, Angels Dust

Failure: "Hot Traveler" (via Speakeasy PR/YouTube)

Strange Wilds: "Starved For" (via Sub Pop/Noisey/YouTube)

Chastity: "Manning Hill" (via Chastity/YouTube)

Father John Misty: "I Love You, Honeybear" (via Sub Pop/YouTube)

Angels Dust: "Shivers" (via FoF/Earmilk/Vimeo)
ANGELS DUST "Shivers" from Brandy Flower on Vimeo.

Letters From A Tapehead

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

No Ripcord: Goatsnake

Black Age Blues
Southern Lord Recordings
Released: 6.2.15

Letters From A Tapehead

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Inbox Giveth: Bong & Rachel Grimes

We are, we were and we will have been
Ritual Productions
Released: 5.25.15

It's probably unnecessary to point out how enveloping Bong's music can be, much in the same way that Acid Mother's Temple or Sunn O))) can fill any available space to the point of suffocation with endless sound.  For the band's fifth studio release, We are, we were and we will have been, Bong continues to package their music as drone prevalent and lengthy.  The album is two tracks, each clocking in at about 18 minutes apiece, so it's built for full listener immersion and, like any Bong album really, to grow sonically as if to inspire meditation.  And, there will be volume.

The reverberating glaze that floats over each element in "Time Regained" dominates so heavily that when vocals appear, (which happens maybe 7 minutes into the track), it's surprising.  Its understated snare loop and airy plucked strings remain obscured beneath the mire as vocalist/guitarist Mike Vest chants from his throat, "We are giants in time."

While enormity will likely stand as the most significant and noteworthy aspect of this album, and any Bong album for that matter, the time spent on building atmosphere, either through ethereally bathed guitar effects and synthesized tones or sporadic thumps of a tom drum and the distant splash of a cymbal, is what I find most engaging.  Hence my enjoyment of the album's second (and closing) track, "Find Your Own Gods," its slo-mo bass rep and tonal liquidity sort of sinister in spite of an overall glow that the track exhibits.  As instrumental and sonic elements continue to gather while the track progresses, heightening its volume and thickening its composition, its closing moments soften quickly, eventually leaving only a light synthesized melody in its wake.  It's the type of tonal journey that bounces throughout the grey matter, long after the music's stopped.

Rachel Grimes
The Clearing
Temporary Residence Ltd.
Released: 5.25.15

"The Air," the first track in Rachel Grimes' solo album, The Clearing, is about a minute and a half long.  In the way that hardcore punk heeded the call of those dissatisfied with the disconnectedness and academia of hand-allover-shaft rock posturing, Grimes doesn't seem to be playing to any stuffed shirt or stiffened attendee with program in hand, her classically-influenced compositional sensibilities affected by the aesthetics and sound of Lousiville, Kentucky's rock culture.  Grimes had played in a chamber-rock band called Rachel's with Louisville music fixture Jason Noble, (who passed away from cancer in 2012), crafting lush and classically informed rock music.  While the argument could be made that this type of elitist intervention into the underground is perhaps similar to the bloated excesses of late 70s rock n' roll, listening to The Clearing, you'd be hard pressed to find anything needless.  That first track assures the listener that, for the album's entirety, no sound will be overburdened by much too much.

Mastered by Bob Weston (Shellac, Mission of Burma), The Clearing features Christian Frederickson of Rachel's, Kyle Crabtree of Shipping News, Scott Morgan (Loscil) and Helen Money to new a few, all of whom build upon Grimes' minimalist piano-centric vision.  "The Clearing" best demonstrates an instance when Grimes' instrument is focal to the composition, various strings branching from a gentle and steady pulse made by her hands.  Discernible and pensive, its eight minutes plus flow into a swirling breeze of melody, at times alighting upon or floating above the keyed structure.  At points, this minimalism crescendos into concentrations of bowed melody.  For "In the Vapor with the Air Underneath," Grimes pushes her hands into grand arpeggiated fits, which eventually transition into a soft drone that drifts to a close.     

Grimes also investigates jazz modes with the engrossing stroll of "The Herald," isolated howls of sax and clarinet dancing free form above Grimes as her volume increases with every strike.  And then the playfully percussive number, "Transverse Planet Vertical," has an overt rhythmic presence unlike most of what The Clearing has to offer, though somehow the track fits into the overall presentation. 

Her musings lovely and almost structurally narrative, Grimes produces a classically vibrant piece of work that has commanded my attention with every listen.  This is as personal as music gets without even coming close to self-indulgence.

Letters From A Tapehead

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Friday, May 08, 2015

Insect Ark: "The Collector"

Dana Schechter, the sole presence behind the dark mechanics of Insect Ark, is releasing her first full-length LP, Portal/Well.  From the new album we get "The Collector," blasts of percussive battery and thudding low end that address a metronomic beep, answering its persistence.  The swelling song of a lap steel surfaces as the construct takes a more tangible shape, an undulating drone that attempts to soften the jagged mash of snare, cymbal and bass beneath it.

In early 2014, I reviewed Insect Ark's Long Arms EP, naming it one of the best releases of 2013.  You can find that review here

"The Collector" and all info concerning Portal/Well were provided by Howlin' Wuelf Media.  

Insect Ark's debut full-length album, Portal/Well is the result of one years' work in composer/multi-instrumentalist Dana Schechter's Brooklyn studio. Exploring themes of corruption of the natural world and facing oblivion, Portal/Well continues the wordless existential narratives already established on 2013's Long Arms EP and 2012's "Collapsar" 7" single. Autumnsongs Records will (release) Portal/Well on CD in June 9, 2015.

Portal/Well finds its voice in the sound of elements burning and crushing into each other: in the haunting groans and swells of the lap steel guitar, the stalking bass, the insistent drum programming, and the deep oscillations of synthesizers. From this morass songs are born, deeply melodic, dense, austere, and wildly unhinged. Creating a personal soundtrack to the underbelly of the human psyche, Insect Ark weaves a brooding, textural landscape--a starless night spiked with light and flash. The music braids together delay-drenched lap steel, programmed and real drums, distorted bass, and synths to create a sonic mural both uncomfortably intimate and icy cold. To say that Portal/Well is a dark album would be a grave understatement - Insect Ark is often called "Experimental/Doom" - but there are moments infused with bright shards of light and respite to breathe clear air, before submerging the listener once again into a deep cavern of lustrous shadow.

Over the course of a year, Schechter wrote and recorded all these tracks alone, at all hours of the day and night. The album was built with careful attention to immaculate detail, but also takes chances, pushing beyond personal barriers. Without the external influence of collaborators, it is the product of a journey into composition and sonic exploration using a small but dynamic palette of instruments and a singular compositional voice.

Insect Ark began in late 2011, as the one-woman solo project of bassist and multi-instrumentalist Schechter. As an analog-electronic hybrid with a heavy focus on live performance, Insect Ark has been building a following in the experimental doom scene via consistent touring in the U.S. and abroad. 

Dana Schechter, a California native, spent her teens in the San Francisco metal scene, where her love of heavy music gained its foothold. She moved to NYC in 1997; in 1999 she began working as a recording and touring bassist with Swans leader Michael Gira's Angels of Light and she founded her own band, Bee and Flower, as well. In 2004 Bee and Flower relocated to Berlin, its new base for touring and recording.

By 2008 Schechter had finally found her way back to NYC. There, she formed Insect Ark as an effort to write and tour continuously without the complexities of a band and to reconnect with the darker, heavier, and more abstract sounds of her youth.

In 2015 Insect Ark gained a second member, drummer and electronics operator Ashley Spungin, who is known for her work with the Portland-based band Taurus. While Schechter appreciated the freedom of working alone, she ultimately decided that live drums would be a powerful addition to the project's releases and shows. The new duo incarnation of Insect Ark will begin recording and touring in spring 2015.

Letters From A Tapehaed 


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