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 

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

METZ: "The Swimmer"

Following up its self-titled win of a debut, the relentless riff trio that is METZ have released II. I haven't heard it yet myself but "The Swimmer," the third single from the album, provides additional security that II will be every bit, if not a step or two above, as intense, energetic and, at times, queasy an album as its predecessor. Check out the video below, which premiered a couple days ago at The Guardian.

All info, links, music and tour dates provided by Sub Pop. 

METZ II available now worldwide on Sub Pop

Extended 2015 North American + European tour schedule

Watch “The Swimmer” (official video)

Video premiere via ‘The Guardian’

You can now watch METZ’s official video for “The Swimmer,” from their new album II, out today worldwide on Sub Pop. The new visual was helmed by returning directors Scott Cudmore & Michael Leblanc (“Wet Blanket”) and premiered earlier today via The Guardian (see video premiere May 4th).

METZ have also extended their 2015 North American and European tour schedule in support of
II. The tour resumes May 8th in Austin, TX for Levitation Festival and currently ends October 28th in Lille, FR at L’ Aeronef. Please find a current list of tour dates below.

METZ II, and it’s singles “Acetate,” “Spit You Out,” and “The Swimmer,” are earning the band raves from the likes of NPR Music, CBC Music, Stereogum, Consequence of Sound, DIY, Noisey, The Quietus, Treble, NME, Loud and Quiet, The FADER, Ghettoblaster, PASTE, Magnet, Pop Matters, and more. On a related note, check out the band’s cover story for the current issue of Exclaim [view here] and it’s recent feature in The Guardian [view here].

At radio,
II debuted at #42 on the CMJ Top 200 chart last week. The album also had a great week with FMQB Alternative Specialty reporters, peaking at #1 on the albums chart, and it’s lead-off track “Acetate” at #2 on the singles chart.

METZ II is now available for purchase through Sub Pop Mega Mart, iTunes, Amazon, and Bandcamp. The limited Loser Edition of the LP on colored vinyl will be available at select independent record stores, megamart.subpop.com, and from the band at their shows, all while supplies last. Additionally, two new T-shirt designs are available, both individually and as part of a bundle with purchase of the new record.

Tour Dates
May 08 - Austin, TX - Levitation 2015
May 09 - Atlanta, GA - Shaky Knees Festival
May 11 - St. Petersburg, FL - State Theatre**
May 12 - Orlando, FL - The Social**
May 13 - Birmingham, AL - Work Play**
May 14 - Nashville, TN - Mercy Lounge**
May 19 - St. Louis, MO - The Firebird**
May 20 - Chicago, IL - Lincoln Hall
May 21 - Minneapolis, MN - 7th Street Entry**
May 22 - Minneapolis, MN - 7th Street Entry**
May 23 - Madison, WI - High Noon Saloon**
May 26 - New York, NY - Bowery Ballroom**
May 27 - Brooklyn, NY - Music Hall of Williamsburg**
May 28 - Washington, DC - 9:30 Club**
May 29 - Philadelphia, PA - Union Transfer**
May 30 - Boston, MA - Paradise**
Jun. 05 - Athens, GR - Plissken Fest
Jun. 06 - Thessaloniki, GR - Plissken Fest
Jun. 07 - Skopje, MK - Zdravo Mladi Festival
Jun. 16 - London, UK - Underworld^^
Jun. 17 - Brussels, BE - Botanique - Rotonde^^
Jun. 19 - Hilvarenbeek, NL - Best Kept Secret Festival
Jun. 20 - Scheesel, DE - Hurricane Festival
Jun. 21 - Neuhausen ob Eck, DE - Southside Festival
Jun. 22 - Leipzig, DE - Taubchenthal
Jun. 24 - Berlin, DE - Cassiopeia
Jun. 25 - Cologne, DE - MTC
Jun. 27 - Evreux, FR - Le Rock Dans Tous ses Etats
Jul. 10 - Montreal, QC - Piccolo Rialto
Jul. 12 - Quebec City, QC - Imperial De Quebec
Jul. 14 - Ottawa, ON - Ottawa Blues Fest
Jul. 21 - Cincinnati, OH - The Woodward Theatre ^
Jul. 22 - Columbus, OH - The Basement ^
Jul. 23 - Buffalo, NY - Mohawk Place ^
Jul. 24 - 26 - Oro-Medonte, ON - WayHome Music & Arts Festival
Jul. 27 - Milwaukee, WI - Cactus Club ! #
Jul. 29 - Winnipeg, MB - Pyramid Cabaret ! #
Jul. 30 - Saskatoon, SK - Amigos Cantina ! #
Jul 31 - Calgary, AB - The Republik ! #
Aug. 01 - Edmonton, AB - The Starlite Room ! #
Aug. 03 - Vancouver, BC - The Rickshaw Theatre ! #
Aug. 04 - Seattle, WA - Neumos ! #
Aug. 05 - Portland, OR - Doug Fir Lounge ! #
Aug. 06 - Salt Lake City, UT - Twilight Concert Series @ Pioneer Park*
Aug. 09 - San Francisco, CA - Outside Lands
Aug. 11 - Denver, CO - Larimer Lounge ! #
Sep. 04 - Larmer Tree Gardens, UK - End of the Road festival
Sep. 06 - Dublin, IE - Electric Picnic
Sep. 08 - Vienna, AT - Arena
Sep. 09 - Zagreb, HR - Culture Factory (Small Room)
Sep. 10 - Bologna, IT - Freakout Club
Sep. 11 - Rome, IT - INIT
Sep. 12 - Milan, IT - Lo Fi Club
Sep. 14 - Zurich, CH - Kinski Club
Sep. 15 - Lausanne, CH - Le Romandie
Sep.17 - Toulouse, FR - Le Metronum
Sep. 19 - Madrid, ES - Sala Lemon
Sep. 21 - Bilbao, ES - Kafe Antzokia
Sep. 23 - Lyon, FR - Le Transbordeur
Sep. 25 - Dusseldorf, DE - Zakk
Oct. 16 - Stockholm, SE - Debaser
Oct. 17 - Lund, SE - Mejeriet
Oct. 18 - Oslo, NO - John Dee
Oct. 19 - Aarhus, DK - Atlas
Oct. 20 - Copenhagen, DK - Loppen @ Christiana
Oct. 27 - Paris, FR - La Maroquinerie
Oct. 28 - Lille, FR - L’ Aeronef

* w/ The Kills
** w/ FIDLAR
^ w/ Viet Cong
^^ w/ Bad Breeding
! w/ Big Ups
# w/ Dilly Dally

Letters From A Tapehead

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

No Ripcord: Beauty Pill

Beauty Pill
Beauty Pill Describes Things How They Are
Butterscotch Records
Released: 4.21.15

Letters From A Tapehead

The Mon: "Doppelleben"

Acting somewhat contrary to his normal work with the doom metal colossus Ufomammut , vocalist/bassist Urlo performs as The Mon , whose new...