Friday, January 31, 2014

Liars: "Mess On A Mission" (and a limited-edition album covered in string)

So, there are 500 of these available for pre-order.  If you have money and meet the appropriate criteria recommended before purchasing, (like, if you're a Liars fan and you really want to own their upcoming new album, Mess, in some physical manner), you should probably think about picking this up.  

Me?  I'm broke.  I know that the asking price of $35 is generous, but it's a couple days till payday and the family has to eat. And, to be honest, this is the type of specialized, high-value album I would NEVER play.  It's a vacuum-sealed gate-fold with REAL string housing clear vinyl: it checks off all the little boxes that qualify the release as both inventive and instantly collectable.  And, then there's that whole "limited edition" thing.  While the designer and visual fetishist in me believes that this album is somehow necessary for the preservation of my ability to work creatively and remain inspired (which, to some extent, might be true), the audiophile (or, at least the person who gets a certain degree of pleasure actually listening to his records) realizes that I would be making more of an investment in an object I could never really touch than an object I could truly enjoy.  I like collectables, too, but I have a difficulty adopting such a philistine philosophy when an album's contents mean so much. 

Having said that, this is still really fucking cool.

Letters From A Tapehead

Thursday, January 30, 2014

No Ripcord: Pontiak

Thrill Jockey Records
Released: 1.28.14

Letters From A Tapehead

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Singles: Ought, Wolf People, PINS, Christina Vantzou, TOY

Ought: "Waiting" (via Rarely Unable/Soundcloud)

Wolf People: "When the Fire is Dead in the Grate" (via Sure Shot PR/YouTube)

PINS: "Waiting For the End" (via [PIAS] America/Brooklyn Vegan/Vimeo)
PINS - Waiting For The End from PINS on Vimeo.

Christina Vantzou: "Going Backwards to Recover That Which Was Left Behind" (via Rarely Unable/Kranky/Soundcloud)

TOY: "It's Been So Long" (via [PIAS] America/YouTube

Letters From A Tapehead

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Body: "Shrouded" & "To Attempt Openness"

I was a fan of The Body's very disturbing 2010 release, All the Waters of the Earth Turn to Blood. That being said, the band's 2013 release, Christs, Redeemers, escaped me, the misfortune of which has only been compounded by my awareness of the ridiculously uncomfortable tracks, "Shrouded" and "To Attempt Openness." The news of The Body's upcoming European tour brought me to the videos, which I feel compelled to attach because they're both very creepy, suitable visual components for the music.  I consider The Body's art expert in its ability to remove any notion of joy from one's life, their amplified misery both compelling and awful.

The Body - Shrouded from Thrill Jockey Records on Vimeo.

The Body - To Attempt Openness from Thrill Jockey Records on Vimeo.

All info comes courtesy of Thrill Jockey Records.


We are very pleased to announce The Body will be making a rare appearance in Europe this April and May for a number of live dates and festival appearances! The heavy hitting duo will plunge us into apocalyptic darkness and bring about the very end of days with devastating assaults of volume and brutal sonic battery across our continent.

Their newest album
Christs, Redeemers was voted in numerous 2013 end of year lists including #5 in Vice and #1 in The Quietus' Metal list. In reviews Metal Hammer called it an "awesomely unpleasant" record while The Wire considers it "an ambitious and sometimes breathtaking". Why not kickback and watch the video for the uncompromisingly eerie video for Shrouded or the stylishly shot To Attempt Openness.

Full tour dates can be viewed below which includes festival slots at the famed Roadburn in Tilburg and Desert Fest in London.

The Body European Tour:
Fri April 11th Tilburg, Netherlands - Het Patronaat (Roadburn Festival) - tickets
Sat April 12th Leipzig, Germany - Doom over Leipzig Festival
Sun April 13th Prague, Czech Republic - Chapeau Rouge
Mon April 14th Vienna, Austria - Fluc
Tue April 15th Milan, Italy - Lo-fi Club
Wed April 16th Bologna, Italy - Freakout Club
Thu April 17th Lausanne, Switzerland - Le Romandie
Fri April 18th Kortrijk, Belgium - De Kreun
Sat April 19th Paris, France - Stoned Gatherings
Sun April 20th Amsterdam, Netherlands - SOTU Festival
Tue April 22nd Glasgow, UK - Audio
Wed April 23rd Manchester, UK - Roadhouse
Thu April 24th Bournemouth, UK - The Winchester
Fri April 25th Bristol, UK - St Thomas Church
Sat April 26th London, UK - Desert Fest - tickets
Sun April 27th Antwerp, Belgium - Kavka
Mon April 28th Koln, Germany - Sonic Ballroom
Tue April 29th Esslingen, Germany - Komma
Wed April 30th Weikersheim, Germany - Club W71
Thu May 1st Nurnberg, Germany - K4
Fri May 2nd Berlin, Germany - Jagerklause
Sat May 3rd Copenhagen, Denmark - Heavy Days in Doomtown Festival

Tour dates HERE

It has been said by more than a few intrepid listeners that The Body is the most brutal band on the planet. With ravishing grimness and impenetrable walls of noise, the duo of Chip King and Lee Buford create music that goes beyond what is normally considered harsh and violent, advocating a doctrine of misanthropy to those brave enough to take the plunge. Since their recording career began in earnest in 2004, The Body has expanded the definition of what it means to be a metal band, incorporating elements of noise, avant-garde composition, and experimental electronic music into their crushing doom and searing black metal foundation. Christs, Redeemers, the duo’s latest transmission of loathing and revulsion, finds King and Buford pushing even further into the horrifying unknown.

Christs, Redeemers conjures this atmosphere of foreboding and isolation sonically, lyrically, and visually. The album opens with washes of sound and one forlorn voice penetrating the ether before launching into the brutal, ghostly dirge of “To Attempt Openness,” featuring frequent collaborators the Assembly of Light Choir. Unexpected bursts of noise, generated by guitars and electronics, puncture any sense of comfort or complacency and eerie samples float from the ether. King and Buford masterfully use the spectral space between the sounds to create almost unimaginable tension, employing silence as effectively as they do cacophony. This restraint, the knowledge of when to punish with volume and when to punish with the absence thereof, bestows the moments of fury with gravity.

King’s screams are the centerpiece of the band’s aesthetic: panic-stricken and distraught, constantly on the verge of breaking. His lyrics are no less unhinged. On the album’s colossal closer “Bearer of Bad Tidings,” he shrieks “Life worthless and devoid of any meaning…all the world a grave.” Buford’s drums act as both a stabilizer and instigator of the madness, at times pushing the proceedings further into oblivion and others providing a lifeline for the listener as the guitars and electronics deliberately push you toward the brink.

The album was recorded at Machines With Magnets in Pawtucket, RI, where The Body has recorded all previous album releases. During the recording process King and Buford play the double role of players and auteurs, bringing in a diverse group of collaborators, from the aforementioned Assembly of Light Choir to noise musician Work/Death and Ryan Seaton of Callers, to realize their hell scapes. They will be touring the US extensively in the fall.

Letters From A Tapehead

Qui: "Whateryadoin?"

Do you miss Ween?

It's likely you'll be missing them for years to come, then. However, Qui is pretty cool and seems to have embraced the same goofy duo dynamic that Ween possessed, sans the overt genre parody. The track "Whateryoudoin'?" takes the group's creative relationship and twists into this this comedic love song addressing the growing romantic tension between them. 

The track is featured in their upcoming new album, Life, Water, Living..., will be out in late February.  All info and links are courtesy of Us/Them Group.

Qui premiere second video via SPIN from forthcoming album, tour with Moistboyz 

L.A. duo Qui premiere the second video from their forthcoming third album today via SPIN. The clip, for "Whateryadoin?" is available to watch/share HERE.

Hot on the heels of the album release, Qui take to the road with fabled hard rock band Moistboyz (ex-Ween, Mondo Generator) on the west coast. Please see all dates below.

SPIN also debuted the album's first video back in November. The clip for "Mucho Sex in America" is directed by Laban Pheidias (Justin Timberlake, Billie Joe & Norah Jones, et al.) and available to watch/share HERE (direct Vimeo link).

If the third full length by L.A. duo Qui sounds like a radical departure, you probably were never really listening properly in the first place. Sure, perfectly taut vocal harmonies and precise, sparse instrumentation supplants much of the band's early fume-huffing punk-noise here, but their penchant for challenging, button-pushing ideas is stronger than ever. Qui also employed harmonies and experimental structures on their previous album Love's Miracle (2007) with former vocalist David Yow (The Jesus Lizard). But, Life, Water, Living... is clearly the band's most meticulously refined effort at using melody and harmony as subversive weapons.

After a 5-year absence, Qui is once again back to the original duo formed in 2000 by drummer/vocalist Paul Christensen and guitarist/vocalist Matt Cronk. Life, Water, Living... features inventive song structures and warped pop sensibilities reminiscent of early Sparks and Frank Zappa with Queen-style harmonies... or something like if Badfinger were the Melvins. Throughout, it's an album that subtly commands attention as it shifts from a soft whisper to a chuckle to a scream.

Album opener "Kicked Out of Mime College" dares to keep it (deceptively) simple, based primarily around a churning bass riff and soft, but elastic vocal harmonies of Christensen and Cronk, slowly building to rumba percussion breakdowns and a soaring Theremin-like keyboard line. The title track follows with stop and go rhythms as Cronk switches back-and-forth between crunchy power chords and lightly strummed, clean minor chords. Meanwhile, the singers harmonize beautifully, with particularly impressive vocal acrobatics from Christensen (all the more impressive seen live as he pounds on the drums simultaneously). "Mucho Sex in America" takes a revved up ZZ Top boogie riff and stomping drums driven by frantic, paranoid vocals. Elsewhere, tracks like "The Kind of Jazz This Is" and "Awkward Human Interest" employ bossa nova rhythms, cheeky jazz riffs, a cappella passages, light keyboard flourishes and an overall enthusiasm for the unexpected. Life, Water, Living... was produced by renowned engineer Toshi Kasai and Melvins drummer Dale Crover at Entourage Studios in Los Angeles.

Since their first performance in L.A. in early 2001 and the release of their first full-length, Baby Kisses in 2003, Qui (pronounced, "Qui,") maintained a prodigious pace of both local performances and national tours. In late 2006, Qui had the serendipitous good fortune to collaborate with vocalist David Yow of The Jesus Lizard/Scratch Acid fame, first as a guest and eventually as a full-time member. The band soon partnered up with Mike Patton's Ipecac Recordings, for their second full-length entitled, Love's Miracle, which was released on September 11, 2007. With it came a full tour of the US and Canada, followed by a trip to the UK and Europe.

In 2009 Qui was invited to play at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival in Minehead, England, along with Devo, Sleep, HEALTH, Harvey Milk, and for the first time in ten years, The Jesus Lizard. The rest of the year had Yow's calendar full with The Jesus Lizard's highly anticipated reunion tour, during which time Christensen focused on two new musical projects; the rock band, Help, and his staggering country/jazz/bossa nova duo, Paulene.

With no real agenda, Cronk and Christensen spent the better part of a year writing new music. Yow was by then fully engrossed in his new careers as an actor and artist, unable to commit to playing full-time. So, Qui elected to proceed as their original line-up, with future Yow collaborations an imminent possibility, schedules permitting. In July, 2013, Qui released, "Awkward Human Interest," a limited edition spit 7" single with Mike Watt + The Secondmen on ORG Music.

Life, Water, Living... will be available February 25th, 2014 on LP, CD and download in partnership with Cobraside Distribution.

02/28 Los Angeles, CA @ The Satellite *
03/01 San Francisco, CA @ Slim's *
03/03 Mill Valley, CA @ Sweetwater Music Hall *
03/04 Arcata, CA @ Humboldt Brews *
03/06 Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge *
03/07 Seattle, WA @ Tractor Tavern *
03/08 Portland, OR @ Porch Couch
03/09 Spokane, WA @ Mootsy's
* w/ Moistboyz

On The Web:

Letters From A Tapehead

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Vivian Girls (2007-2014)

Punk'ish interpretation of the Shangri-Las' dynamic?  Yeah, I enjoyed Vivian Girls

While the lo-fi Spector thing has lost some of its novelty, and the Girls themselves have split off into a bunch of separate entities (La Sera, The Babies, Upset and every Frankie Rose project), it's not too surprising (though disappointing) that the band has decided to call it a day.  A note from the band was offered as their obit and two farewell shows have been announced.

I reviewed Share The Joy, the band's 2011 release, for Kicking Against The Pricks.

All info comes courtesy of Force Field PR.  

Vivian Girls announce split, playing farewell shows in NY & LA

Vivian Girls have announced their official split with the announcement of farewell shows in NY & LA. The girls will continue to focus on other projects - Katy with La Sera (new album due later this year), Cassie with The Babies and solo work, and Ali with Upset.

A note from the band:

Brooklyn, New York, March 2007: we started making music together and became what we know as Vivian Girls. It's been a long and crazy journey in the seven years since, and we feel as though the time has finally come to let our band rest in peace. It's been an experience that we'll look back on and cherish and we'd like to thank you for sharing it with us. We have had such an amazing time being a band, touring the world, releasing records and meeting all of you.

We've booked some ALL AGES shows as a goodbye. The first will be on February 14th at The Church on York in LA. The second will be on March 1st at Death by Audio in Brooklyn.

Thank you to everyone who has helped us along the way, everyone who has come to our shows, bought our records and supported us, and everyone we will meet in the future.

Vivian Girls

2/14 - Los Angeles, CA - The Church on York - Tickets 
3/1 - Brooklyn, NY - Death By Audio - Tickets

Official Site - 
Facebook - 
Twitter -

Letters From A Tapehead 

Singles: Pontiak, New Bums, Mt. Royal, Doomsquad, C O L L E C T R E S S

Pontiak: "Wildfires" (via Thrill Jockey Records/Soundcloud)

New Bums: "The Killers and Me" (via Rarely Unable/Drag City/YouTube)

Mt. Royal: "Missing Reward" (via PIAS/Brooklyn Vegan/YouTube)

Doomsquad: "Disremember/Dismemberment" (via Force Field PR/Noisey/Soundcloud)

C O L L E C T R E S S: "Spell" (via Rarely Unable/Soundcloud)

Letters From A Tapehead

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Daughter of a Tapehead: Zombi's Spirit Animal

Spirit Animal
Relapse Records
Originally released: 2009
Reissued: 1.7.14


*The views of the five year-old featured don't necessarily reflect the views of her father: Zombi ARE awesome and I'm NOT cheap.  At least, not really.

Letters From A Tapehead

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Shopping For Records: Skeletonwitch's Serpents Unleashed Limited Edition

So, if you're looking for a specialized album and you're really into helping pets, look no further:  Skeletonwitch, are issuing a limited-run, hand-screened 180-gram version of their 2013 release, Serpents Unleashed.  All proceeds are going toward pet shelters that reside in and around the general vicinity of the band's hometown in Ohio and will be available to purchase on January 20th. 

Listen to the band discuss it in the video below:

Skeletonwitch will also be on tour with Amon Amarth beginning Friday, January 17th.  Tour dates along with more info on the limited Serpents Unleashed is brought to you courtesy of the always wonderful people at Earsplit PR.

SKELETONWITCH To Release Limited Edition Serpents Unleashed LP - Proceeds To Aid Animal Shelters In Band's Home State; Tour With Amon Amarth Begins Friday

SKELETONWITCH will release a hand-screened, 180-gram limited vinyl edition of their acclaimed, Billboard-charting 2013 release, Serpents Unleashed, of which 100% of the proceeds will be donated to two animal shelters in the band's home state of Ohio -- The Athens County Humane Society and Columbus' Pets Without Parents. The members of Ohio's most-loved heavy metal group have always been proud pet owners and are excited to raise awareness and support for two no-kill organizations in their region.

Limited to a one-time-only pressing of 100 copies, the black LP includes a hand-screened, hand-numbered jacket with exclusive artwork and a hand-screened dust sleeve. It comes with a color poster and a sticker showcasing the album's original masterful artwork by John Baizley (Baroness, Kylesa, Kvelertak), as well as a download card. Mark your calendars, as the limited-edition LPs will go on sale on a first-come, first-serve basis exclusively via on Monday, January 20th at 1:00pm EST.

Find out more information direct from the band HERE.

Praised for being their most potent album to date,
Serpents Unleashed appeared on countless year-end "best-of" lists (Decibel, Metal Injection, etc.) due to its "relentlessly intense, in-your-face brutality" (Metal Assault). After touring North America extensively in the fall with The Black Dahlia Murder in addition to performing a select number of shows alongside Ghost B.C., SKELETONWITCH will continue to support the release, joining Amon Amarth and Enslaved on a US run that starts this Friday in Las Vegas. Soon after, the group will make their way to Australia for the first time to tour alongside Toxic Holocaust. The band's complete tour schedule can be found below.

SKELETONWITCH w/ Amon Amarth, Enslaved
1/17/2014 House of Blues - Las Vegas, NV
1/18/2014 Club Red - Phoenix, AZ
1/20/2014 Backstage Live - San Antonio, TX
1/21/2014 House of Blues - Dallas, TX
1/22/2014 House of Blues - Houston, TX

1/23/2014 Siberia - New Orleans, LA *
1/24/2014 Center Stage - Atlanta, GA
1/25/2014 The Ritz - Tampa, FL
1/26/2014 Revolution - Ft. Lauderdale, FL

1/27/2014 Atticus Bar - Jacksonville, FL *
1/28/2014 The Jinx - Savannah, GA *
1/29/2014 The Fillmore - Charlotte, NC
1/30/2014 NorVA - Norfolk, VA
1/31/2014 The Fillmore - Silver Springs, MD
2/01/2014 House of Blues - Boston, MA
2/03/2014 TLA - Philadelphia, PA
2/04/2014 Irving Plaza - New York, NY

2/05/2014 The Paramount - Huntington, NY
2/07/2014 House of Blues - Chicago, IL
2/08/2014 Mill City Nights - Minneapolis, MN
2/09/2014 Grenada Theatre - Lawrence, KS
2/11/2014 Summit Theatre - Denver, CO
2/12/2014 Murray Theater - Salt Lake City, UT
2/14/2014 The Regency - San Francisco, CA
2/15/2014 Wiltern - Los Angeles, CA
w/ Amon Amarth

2/16/2014 House of Blues - San Diego, CA
w/ Toxic Holocaust
4/16/2014The Kings Arms - Auckland, NZ
4/17/2014 Bodega Bar - Wellington, NZ
4/18/2014 The Rosemont Hotel - Perth, AU
4/19/2014 Fowlers Live - Adelaide, AU
4/20/2014 Espy Gershwin Room - Melbourne, AU
4/21/2014 TBD - Byron Bay, AU
4/22/2014 The Basement - Canberra, AU
4/24/2014 The Hi Fi - Brisbane, AU
4/25/2014 Cambridge Hotel - Newcastle, AU
4/26/2014 The Hi Fi - Sydney, AU
4/27/2014 The Hi Fi - Melbourne, AU


Letters From A Tapehead

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Singles: Young Fathers, Helms Alee, We Are Hex

Young Fathers: "Get Up (Radio Edit)" (via Friend of Friends Music/NME/Soundcloud)

Helms Alee: "Pleasure Center" (via Us-Them Group/Noisey/Soundcloud)

We Are Hex: "Tongues" (via Latest Flame Records/CVLT Nation/Vimeo)
We Are Hex - TONGUES from †HEXPORIUM† on Vimeo.

Letters From A Tapehead

Monday, January 13, 2014

Gary Grimshaw (1946-2014)

I found an obituary at Billboard.

As a graphic designer by trade, I've gravitated toward poster art for as long as I can remember.  After college, I had aspirations of becoming one of those well-known poster and flyer artists that advertises gigs locally while inadvertently informing the look and feel of a generation and its music, sort of along the lines of Art Chantry, Raymond Pettibon or Emek.  Grimshaw was such an artist, someone who managed to visually capture a place and time memorably while helping to establish its aesthetic.

Music and art define points in time and identify cultural shifts in consciousness.  From album covers and gig posters and flyers, to video and t-shirt design, would music have the same weight without its visual component?  Would any era in music's still developing history, whether it be jazz or country, disco or punk, new wave or hip-hop, have as much impact without texture or color, appearance or tone?  I personally can't think of punk rock without flashes of Xerox collages bouncing around in my head, or metal without occult-related imagery and inverted crosses, or hip-hop without vividly rendered graffiti or Adidas.  The imagery that compliments music carries the same weight as the music itself.  Grimshaw was evidence of that and it's a shame he's passed on.

R.I.P., Gary Grimshaw.

Letters From A Tapehead

What I Heard This Morning: Boss Keloid

I hear a lot of heavy bands. I hear enough heavy bands that, at points, I have to ask myself if what I'm listening to qualifies as "heavy." This scrutiny extends to metal, particularly since the genre is now susceptible to instances of "acceptance" amongst those who, at any other point in time during metal's three or four decades in existence, would otherwise pay it no mind or run away. I won't name names, but I'll say that certain metal albums circulating last year were granted some significant acclaim, much to the chagrin of the genre's loyalists, a legion of music fan eternally devoted to being both aurally slaughtered by the masters of their obsession and to being ousted by proper, decent society. Plus, the genre has been infiltrated by charlatans in the same way punk had been in the mid-90s, bands that figured out that if you could simply play fast, wear the uniform and embrace a certain level of attitude, no matter how insultingly tame or childish, you could acquire some fans and earn the stature. Good Charlotte is probably the best example of this. While some of us are in tune to understanding legitimacy from falsehood musically, some music fans, budding ones especially, need to keep listening and listening and listening in order to figure out what stays and what goes, what is essential vs. what is disposable.

While I don't want to stray too far from the topic, I listened to a song this morning from a band called Boss Keloid, a sludge metal band out of the UK that had me upon first bass note. The song is called "Locking Stumps."  Take a listen:

Now, can we safely say that this would qualify as "heavy?"

The good people at Conspiracy PR were nice enough to send this to me, along with all the information below about the band's album, The Calming Influence of Teeth.  Just a note: the info contained here is from last year. 

BOSS KELOID: Britain's Sludge Giants Release 'The Calming Influence of Teeth' 

Drawing comparisons to early-Mastodon and Coalesce, BOSS KELOID were recently labeled "the slumbering sludge colossus of Wigan (UK)" in a Metal Mouth review of 'The Calming Influence of Teeth' (9/10). The new album has certainly attracted some of the the UK's tastemakers and is currently bubbling in the underground of the US as well.

'The Calming Influence of Teeth' is the second effort from BOSS KELOID and is currently available via Bandcamp ($4 digital / $5 physical) and delivers heavy doses of Groove, Sludge, Math and Progressive metal -- but blending it together so effortlessly that nothing feels forced.
"The album contains 50 of the most fucked up and insane minutes you will hear in 2013" says the Sludgelord.

BOSS KELOID is also known for one of the most crushing live shows in the UK and they plan to deliver on that with shows scheduled throughout the end of the year -- including the just announced "Halloween Rock & Metal Extravaganza" on October 25 at Wigan's The Boulevard and this Saturday (October 12) at Manchester's Age of Diversity III Festival alongside Black Acid Souls and more.

Always creating new material, BOSS KELOID has also issued their first full music video for the track "Locking Stumps", available at the following location:

Check out 'The Calming Influence of Teeth' at the following location:

Letters From A Tapehead

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Singles: Carla Bozulich, Woods, Cripple Bastards, Damaged Bug

Carla Bozulich: "Deeper Than the Well" (via Rarely Unable/Consellation Records/Soundcloud)

Woods: "Leaves Like Glass" (via Force Field PR/Woodsist/Soundcloud)

Cripple Bastards: "Malato Terminale" (via Earsplit PR/Relapse Records/YouTube)

Damaged Bug: "Eggs At Night" (via Tell All Your Friends PR/Castle Face Records/Soundcloud)

Letters From A Tapehead

Shopping For Records: New Year's Eve (Part 2)

A couple more acquisitions from my last record store treks of 2013...

Siren Records
Doylestown, PA

Dischord Records
Released: 2013

Still trying to wrap my head around this one.  Upon first listen of the self-titled debut of Deathfix, (featuring members of Fugazi, French Toast and Medications), I felt like I was listening to an amalgamation of Big Star and some Double Nickles Minutemen, which I initially found interesting (especially when I heard the song "Hospital" and there's something very rhythmically Mike Watt about "Playboy").  Now, I sort of feel like I'm listening to post-hardcore go through its Don Henley phase.  Deathfix has some good moments to it, though.  I really like "Low Lying Dreams," which sounds like it could've been pulled directly from any Mark Lanegan album post-Bubblegum. "Dali's House," though silly and a little overlong, has a groove that hangs out in your head long after the song finishes.  And, it has a couple good lines: "I wish I was Che Guevara's house; I'd all Communist and printed on t-shirts everywhere."

The Men
Campfire Songs EP

Sacred Bones Records
Released: 2013

Campfire Songs was in fact recorded around a campfire, (though I wouldn't argue that some post-production was involved in getting it to sound this good.)   

While The Men were in Big Indian, New York recording songs for what would be their other 2013 album, New Moon, some of the songs were recorded acoustically.  The results are found in this 5-track EP, which is an interesting companion to New Moon and a strong listen on its own. 

Sincerely,Letters From A Tapehead

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

thisquietarmy: "From Darkness"

Morning, everyone.

I received an email last night from Erich Quach, the sole force behind the doom/drone metal monster known as, thisquietarmy.  Quach released the album, Hex Mountains, back in October of 2013 and it was, unfortunately, one of many releases I did not get to review.  Quach's purpose in writing me was to promote a new video for the album's lead track, "From Darkness,"  which hit the web on New Year's Day.  With the aid of Alaskan drummer, Scotty Rooney, "From Darkness" is a radiating and chunky bit of instrumentalist travelogue that's offered visual backing from its video, which is a compilation of icy and darkly enhanced recordings of mountainous regions as viewed from some anonymous highway(s).

I enjoyed it.  Maybe you will, too.

Hex Mountains is available to purchase digitally at Bandcamp

Letters From A Tapehead

Sunday, January 05, 2014

The Inbox Giveth: Oikos & Insect Ark

Knockturne Records
Released: 11.1.13

Over the last couple years, I've listened to Earth incorporate more folk and country into their repertoire and Sunn O))) thicken its ultra-bottom distortions with some symphonic additives. With that in mind, the tender guitar phrase introducing Vigilia, the newest offering from the now solo drone project, Oikos, wasn't too surprising. While drone and ambient pursuits seem to follow a more compositional approach lately, an album like Vigilia still remains devoted to the manipulation of sound, at its most ominous, meditative and gorgeous.

A cassette only release from Knockturne Records, Vigilia is the soul creation of Rafael Femiano, now the lone presence behind Oikos. The project had been a duo initially, Femiano having worked with former member, David San Martin.

While the gentle guitar strum of the title track is eventually lost beneath a mire of deep, undulated tones and sheets of metallic groan, the following track, "Perdition (Austral Road)," (performed with the aid of collaborator Ann Deveria), features picked guitar strings speaking over top of each other as the aural space becomes larger and the strings grow erratic and subtly discordant. It's not obnoxious; certainly not dull. It allows the listener to float, a characteristic also shared by its final track, "Trails End," which also sees its accents flurry in tickling bursts while its tones build out an abundance of space. Waves and loops, swells and disorganized plucks, Femiano composes graceful chaos and an eventual transition into total calm.

Insect Ark
Long Arms
Geweih Ritual Documents
Released: 3.15.13

In lieu of any loud and challenging Swans releases in 2013, it was good to hear Long Arms, an album from Insect Ark.

Insect Ark is Dana Schechter, (Bee and Flower, Angels of Light), who performed the album herself using a sampler and a few instruments. For the title track, the results sound like industrialized surreality, its sonic teeth sharpened against programmed drum sounds and gritty bass work, a lapsteel scorching the rhythm as if in passing. This feeling only continues with "Lift Off," whose hallucinatory machinery seems the marriage of Einst├╝rzende Neubauten and Kyuss, a factorial persistence met with a red rock desolation. It's one of the more fascinating four minutes I've let my ears absorb in 2013, modern blues of an experimental variety, its vision quest a movement of steam and sweaty steel. The album's final track, "Symbols," has less body, a slowmoving buzz, thumping low end and tempo driving a series of mingling tones and atonal loops into an emotional rut until Schechter's array of sounds fade to silence. Heavy, minimal and dark, Long Arms is damn near theater, three songs that pulse and wade in a mire of electricity and stone.

Letters From A Tapehead

Shopping For Records: New Year's Eve (Part 1)

My last record store treks of 2013...

The Vinyl Closet
North Wales, PA

Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso UFO
The Day Before the Sky Fell in American — 9/10/01
Galactic Zoo/Eclipse Records
Released: 2004

This one is out of print.  I'd been eying up the CD version of Acid Mothers' The Day Before the Sky Fell in America — 9/10/01 for some time, but just never pulled the trigger for one reason or another, usually because there was something else I was more desperate to grab or because the sticker price was just a bit too high.  The LP was sitting in the JUST ADDED bins at The Vinyl Closet and, seconds after walking through the door, I picked it up.  Being that it was the only album I purchased that day, I was done my record shopping after being in the store for less than a minute. 

The album itself is a live recording of an in-store performance the members of Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso UFO had done the day before 9/11.  It's highly meditative and lengthy, spacy in the vein of Hawkwind, psychedelically swaying like LSD-soaked hippes at a Doors show, but also prone to choppy riff-sections, heavy bass lines and expected burst of chaos that must've been entrancing to view live.  It's a great listen, interestingly tainted, though, by the dread the nation had experienced soon after. 

Two tracks; two sides.  White label.


Siren Records
Doylestown, PA

Sun Ra
The Nubians of Plutonia
El Saturn Records
Released: 1959
Reissued: 2013

I'm still trying to find some information on these new Sun Ra reissues from the El Saturn Records label (their site is still under construction and info is scant at best).  Following the Evidence CD reissues that were produced in 1993, The Nubians of Plutonia (along with other El Saturn released Sun Ra albums) were, according to Discogs, reissued in 2002.  This version that I found is very new and really well-priced at 12.99.  Siren had at least six or seven more of these that I'm going to try and pick up as soon as I can.

I did find this video from a Sun Ra enthusiast and music blogger named Rodger Coleman.  He talks about Sun Ra's reissue history and seems to have EVERYTHING the man has ever released in many of its various iterations. 

Thee Oh Sees
Singles Collection Vol. 3
Castle Face Records
Released: 2013

I'll admit I was unaware of the two prior volumes of Thee Oh Sees' singles collection series, so I will be on the lookout for those.  Vol. 3, though, is a great listen from one of my new favorite bands, and it covers rarities and oddities from 2011-2013.  Realizing that I've come into Thee Oh Sees a tad late, I will say that my first exposure to John Dwyer was via the OCS releases 3 & 4, also known as Songs About Death and Dying and Get, Stoved.  I found it in a bargain bin at Main Street Music a number of years ago, the store I used to frequent when I worked in the Manayunk section of Philadelphia.  Not sure if that gives me any real credibility, but I'll give it a shot.

Letters From A Tapehead

Friday, January 03, 2014

Singles: Pixies, Deaf Scene, The Bushwick Hotel, DVA, Tim Larson

Pixies: "Blue Eyed Hexe" (via YouTube)

Deaf Scene: "Nephilims" (via Soundcloud)

The Bushwick Hotel: "Graffiti of the Young Man's Mind" (via YouTube)

DVA: "Mulatu" (via Northern Spy Records/YouTube)

Tim Larson: "6" (via Us-Them Group/Soundcloud)

Letters From A Tapehead

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Buried in a Good Mix Tape: Best of 2013 Mix...

Another year, another mix...

I began assembling my Best Of compilation for 2013 mentally around January when I'd listened to the Mystical Weapons album.  Real assembly began midway through November, sequencing and transitions being my normal areas of focus.  I had a version of this mix locked down until I made the mistake of listening to the Savages album and then suddenly I HAD to include one of their songs.  So, one track was eliminated and then a lot of space had to be cleverly handled to gain one minute so I could fit all of this neatly into one 80-minute CD.  Overall, I'm pretty happy with it.

For the cover, I hijacked press materials from The Monkees' the 1968 psych train wreck, Head.

Original image

Cover image

What do you think of my selections?

Melt-Banana – My Missing Link ("fetch")
Dead in the Dirt – No Chain (The Blind Hole)
A Fucking Elphant – I'm Addicted to Drugs & Sex and I Want You to Choke Me (Seven Inches of A Fucking Elephant 7")
Tera Melos – Bite (X'ed Out)
Mystical Weapons – Mechanical Mammoth (s/t)
Big Black Cloud – Bomb My Brain ("Black Friday")
Ensemble Pearl – Wray (s/t)
This Town Needs Guns – Havoc in the Forum (
Insect Ark – Lift Off (Long Arms)
Queens of the Stone Age – I Appear Missing (...Like Clockwork)
Baptists – Still Melt (Bushcraft)
Run the Jewels (Killer Mike & El-P) – Get It (Run the Jewels)
Marnie Stern – East Side Glory (The Chronicles of Marnia)
Windhand – Evergreen (Soma)
Thee Oh Sees – Night Crawler (Floating Coffin)
Melvins – Female Trouble (Everybody Loves Sausages)
Savages – Strife (Silence Yourself)
Big Deal – Pillow (June Gloom)
Locrian – Exiting the Hall of Vapor and Light (Return to Annihilation)
Chelsea Wolfe – Destruction Makes the World Burn Brighter (Pain is Beauty)
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Jubilee Street (Push the Sky Away)

Inside cover

Letters From A Tapehead

Oh, 2013... Where Have You Gone?

It's been a rather inactive couple months from me.  We'll say that life needed some attention and that I spread myself thin enough that I considered putting Letters From A Tapehead to rest, citing mental exhaustion and an overall lack of enthusiasm for listening, analysis and writing.  I also felt that I was no longer saying anything particularly new, instead spewing mediocre sentences, making tired comparisons and drawing half-assed conclusions.  I can't tell you how many reviews I started and failed to finish.  It's bad enough when your professional life seems lackluster and unremarkable, let alone when your only true creative pursuit follows the same direction.  So, I drafted a blog post basically saying "adios," and of course, "thank you all for reading this for so many years."

But, once I typed out my frustrations and read it over in my head, I felt a little better.  I then went out alone and did some record shopping, brushing my fingers along the spines of many of my most cherished or very coveted albums and immediately thought about how I would detail the trip and whether or not I'd have time to discuss what I wound up buying.  I still love music.  And, I still love talking about it.  So, I'm not calling it quits yet.  2014 began today, so I'll try and maintain a decent stream of content.

Anyway, 2013...

I'll admit that I didn't review as much as I'd wanted.  As I'd mentioned earlier, I had difficulty with reviews this year and really didn't get to cover some of 2013's more notable releases.  For instance, The Knife's Shaking the Habitual was one of the best albums I'd heard and I'm disappointed that I didn't offer it a word or twelve.  The same could be said for Marnie Stern's The Chronicles of Marnia, Wire's Change Becomes Us and that fucking Savages album that I should've jumped on at its date of release, but instead ignored because the acclaim it received roused my natural skepticism towards hype.  Run The Jewels was great and I did get to write a blurb for it that was included in No Ripcord's selections for 2013's best albums, but 150-something words really didn't do the album justice.  And then Nick Cave, Dead in the Dirt, Windhand...  this list goes on and on.  

But, in spite of my doubts about my relevance and abilities as a music writer (plus, I turned 37 on the 21st of December, which means I'm becoming this continually unimpressed curmudgeon still unable to understand why Kanye is such a fucking genius or why Vampire Weekend still garner acclaim), I managed to review an album or two this year.  Here are my favorites.

As always, thanks very much for your support this year.  I apologize for my silence toward its end.

Letters From A Tapehead

15). Nick Cave and the Bad SeedsPush The Sky Away

Mick Harvey's departure from The Bad Seeds is evident from the minimalist and mostly subtle Push The Sky Away, Nick Cave's follow-up to the midlife rock-exploratory Dig!!! Lazarus!!! Dig!!!.  A light and somewhat skeletal release, Push The Sky Away finds Cave in his usual role as storyteller, The Bad Seeds generating delicate loops ("We No Who U R") or gracing Cave's words with the barest of complimentary sound ("Jubilee Street").  Even when the album strays dangerously close to dull territory, The Bad Seeds offer moments of brilliance with "We Real Cool" and the beautifully rendered title track.

14).  Ensemble Pearl s/t 
"Ensemble Pearl’s self-titled debut, the combined effort of (Stephen) O’Malley, Atsuo (Boris), William Herzog (The Sweet Hereafter) and Michio Kurihara (Ghost), is an album of perpetual drift, expanding upon the defining characteristics of droning or ambient music.  Though it’s likely a well-intended homage, the album does reproduce the pace and tone of Earth’s more recent work: the tracks 'Ghost Parade,' with sporadic guitar strokes that dwell within the track’s cavernous environs, and 'Island Epiphany,' its dub-echo percussion and whale song of a guitar solo, both feel and sound like slightly reconsidered extractions, lifted directly from Hex or 2008’s The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull and adjusted for the sake of creative ownership." — 3.26.13

13).  JesuEvery Day I Get Closer to the Light From Which I Came

"jesu provides Broadrick the perfect platform as it is his pop project, the thing that allows him to engage in studio trickery and melody, emotionality and hooks.  In some ways it would be simple enough to state that Everyday 'is what it is:' the manifestation of a sensitively realized representation of Broadrick that finds some opposition to the otherwise grim and aggressively industrialized vision prevalent in the discography of Godflesh." — 10.14.13

12). Marnie Stern The Chronicles of Marnia

Yes, the title rules and so does the album.  Reducing her typically chaotic and mathematically guitar-driven art rock, Marnie Stern's The Chronicles of Marnia offered a more focused and melodic use of her finger-tapped style while also broadening her pop sensibilities a tad.  While drummer Zach Hill's absence is immediately noticeable (Oneida's Kid Millions sat behind the kit in his stead), Stern's restraint results in some of the best songs she's written, mostly notably the riff-driven "You Don't Turn Down," hyper-stylized "Noonan," the excellent title track and easily one of my favorite songs of the year, "East Side Glory."

11). Master Musicians of BukkakeFar West

"...Master Musicians of Bukkake fortify their score with electrified nuance and a fleet’s worth of percussion, the ceremony crucial to the trip.  In the way that other 'out there' groups like Sleepytime Gorilla Musesum and mood-concerned folk acts like Tenhi craft expansive and tonal aural drifts meant to deepen with the aid of headphones, Far West reveals much to its composition, textures and melody, pulse and primitivism." — 7.9.13

10). Ten KensNamesake

"One could, if one were so inclined, imagine that a collective of despondent monks finding common ground in its unified love of Joy Division might make an album like Namesake, the third full-length from Canadian art rock trio Ten Kens.  With a string of arpeggiated bass notes and an ethereally obscured chant, 'Death in the Family' slowly introduces the album; an eventual fit of heightened percussion and six-string volume act as somewhat of a prelude to the rest of Ten Kens’ expanded opus, itself devoted to the rise and fall of sound and the ultimate final act this approach to songwriting cultivates." — 5.24.13

9).  Mystical Weapsonss/t

"I found myself revisiting Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Inner Mounting Flame, The Leprechaun by Chick Corea, On The Corner by Miles Davis, Sun Ra’s Lanquidity, The MothersWeasels Ripped My Flesh, reconsidering the tones and ideas based in that era’s progressive and ornate expression, an inventive effort that attempted to evolve an art form that had threatened a dead end, its absence of form at the hands of Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler and John Coltrane difficult to surpass creatively.  Mystical Weapons brought all this to mind: (Sean) Lennon’s already well-established legacy combined with the playfully odd (Greg Saunier) Deerhoof an interesting enough combination, the results a fascinatingly modern update to much of what I’ve already mentioned.  You don’t hear a piece of music like 'Whispers The Blue Tongue' without considering Miles’ Electric period, its funk-laden low end and the ensuing guitar squeals specific to that era and that musician." — 1.16.13

8). LocrianReturn to Annihilation

"The Chicago drone metal act known as Locrian has been sculpting sound for some time now. Having followed the band's progression since their 2009 debut, Drenched Lands, I did wonder at times how the band would prevent themselves from 'running out of horn,' (or, in their case, 'dystopia'), their adeptness at constructing drones and black metal-bastardizations of Eno-ish fields of ambience either too unique to the band to abandon or too broad stylistically to allow any true variation creatively. It was evident with the band's 2011 album, The Clearing, that an instrumental focus was slowly becoming more and more essential to their soundscapes. But, when I heard 'Eternal Return,' the introductory track to Locrian's new album, Return to Annihilation, I was taken aback by how musical the band had become and how melodic." — 8.15.13

7).  Run The Jewels (El-P & Killer Mike)s/t
"As someone that’s been mostly disenchanted with hip-hop over the last ten years or so, Run The Jewels, the collaborative effort from rappers Killer Mike and El-P, had my immediate appreciation. A refreshing 33 minutes worth of verbal gymnastics, Killer Mike and El-P revel in the art form, trading verses with a fluidity I miss in modern hip-hop. As electricity courses through the mix, providing zippy tonal waves ('36 Chain') or grand synthesized blasts ('Get It'), the album’s modern tone ably competes with both the recent sonic excursions found in Kanye West’s Yeezus and the experimental hijinks cultivated by Death Grips. Run The Jewels, though, is smooth and cohesive, enjoying plenty of head knock while providing an excellent platform for the rhymes woven throughout. In particular, the single 'Banana Clipper,' which features a verse from Outkast’s Big Boi, boasts enough of the duo’s wordplay to convince one that this is partnership worth continuing." —  (transcribed from No Ripcord's Top 50 Albums of 2013 — Part 2)

6). This Town Needs Guns (a.k.a, TTNG)

"The world continued after December 21st, 2012 and the non-event that inspired, the new album from mathematic pop band, This Town Needs Guns, reads like a visual configuration of the band’s off-kilter melodies.  In the vein of Minus The Bear or Pinback, This Town Needs Guns (who recently decided to shorten their name to TTNG in response to America’s current issues with gun violence), crafts a very delicate and circularly rhythmic distinctiveness, which is also infused with pop-influenced complexity." — 1.24.13

5). BaptistsBushcraft

"Though the band’s searing onslaught of percussive mayhem and howling guitar strings is enough to knock you on your ass, beneath whatever brutality Baptists attempts to inflict upon your precious ears lay complexity and a very refined musical approach that might seem secondary next to the violence they generate." — 2.17.13

4). Tera Melos – X'ed Out

"Though not necessarily ready for FM radio, X’ed Out at the very least introduces a far-reaching musical concept to a better known and understood conversation most people are having, adorning their approach with identifying tweaks and percussive intensity.  Though finite in some ways, pop rock is a malleable genre capable of accommodating bands of most any ilk; its validity either creatively reached through musical ambition or simply tested as a marketing tool, then charged with churning out aural Splenda at an assembly line’s pace.  And, while I wouldn’t normally condone the move to simplify ones vision for the sake of possibly gaining attention from listeners normally alien to the sounds Tera Melos cultivates, it is a feat that they were able to produce outsider rock music with enough subtlety to qualify as accessible.  X’ed Out is unmarred by any narcissistic disposition, or pretentious or elitist demeanor, but it makes no creative sacrifice." – 4.23.13

3). Thee Oh SeesFloating Coffin

"Inasmuch as the revivalism that’s cultivated a generous portion of indie-categorized rock music over the last ten or more years has become a tired device, Thee Oh Sees is a band willing to modify what it knows to better suit itself for the now.  In some ways, Floating Coffin provides such bland reliance on nostalgia somewhat of a requiem:  proof positive that it’s time to forage ahead and that, while the past will always provide an abundance of inspiration, staying put leads you nowhere. " – 4.17.13

2).  Queens of the Stone Age...Like Clockwork

"There may have been a missed opportunity here. (Queens of the Stone Age)’s newest album could been viewed as a wasted chance at reinvigorating what once was, removing (Josh) Homme from the equation just enough to revisit that perfect union that had brought Rated R and Songs for the Deaf to fruition and rekindling the creative partnership that seemed to flourish with ideas. Sure, it might’ve been cool to explore the possibilities.  But, that’s evidently not where his head was. Whether Homme, (for one song mind you), put (Mark) Lanegan with (Nick) Oliveri and (Dave) Grohl together or not, there was no looking back. With Homme, there’s always a desire to look ahead, to try something else. Rated R and Songs for the Deaf have been done, tremendous footnotes in the evolution of a great band. …Like Clockwork is strong on its own, running on its own steam in an effort to say something else. An artist grew a little the day he died; it would be a missed opportunity to do anything else." – 6.19.13

1). Melt-Banana"fetch"

"'Candy Gun' is the pitch.  A gentle tone and some breaking waves wash over a heavy bass riff and six-string electricity.  A belled snare kicks in and wisps of circuitry fly everywhere.  Frets are wildly manipulated, percussion wonderfully assaultive.  Yako’s chirping vocal seems glorious against this unnatural complexity produced by Melt-Banana, a band twenty years invested in bending convention into something unrecognizable.  By song’s end, 'fetch,' the band’s tenth full-length release, becomes this unrelenting hyper-melodic wonder that brims with Melt-Banana’s signature weirdness and heavily composed progressive detail."  – 10.25.13

And, because I want to give as much credit as I possibly can, here are my follow ups:

16). SavagesSilence Yourself
17). The KnifeShaking the Habitual
18). AgartthaA Water Which Does Not Wet Hands
19). Dead in the Dirt – The Blind Hole
20). Big Black Cloud Black Friday
21). TomahawkOddfellows
22). Chelsea WolfePain is Beauty
23). Ty SegallSleeper
24). WireChange Becomes Us
25). WindhandSoma
26). Kinit HerThe Cavern Stanzas
27). Big DealJune Gloom
28). No AgeAn Object
29). Monogamy PartyFalse Dancers
30). StaveReform
1). Insect ArkLong Arms 
2). A Fucking ElephantSeven Inches of A Fucking Elephant 7"
3). OikosViglia
4). Machines LearningSuccess Has Many Fathers While Failure is an Orphan
5). Sic Alps She's On Top

New Selections — Emma Ruth Rundle, Tropical Fuck Storm, Primitive Man, Private Life, Uniform, Erika Wennerstrom, Djrum, Windhand

Starting August off with some new singles. Emma Ruth Rundle:  " Darkhorse " (via Rarely Unable /  Sargent House  / YouTub...