Nap Eyes latest release is a medley of sounds and ideas – it is a little jangly, a little dark, a little humorous, and a little bit psychedelic. The album has a general formula, incorporating the retro mysticism of old psych bands with the simplicity of modern folk and pop. The lightly worn vocals of Nigel Chapman make the music welcoming, creating an interesting contrast with the chaotic guitar parts. The rhythm and lead guitar trace over each other, leading some songs with choppy and upbeat riffs, on others creating a slow and woozy background. There are even experimental touches of warbling distortion and folk-like slide to add more texture. The band seems to thrive on incongruity, and unexpected sinister song titles like “Delirium and Persecution Paranoia” and “Dark Creedence” are given to the bright rock. That is not to say that the album is distinctly cheery, and many of the songs contain forlorn lyrics. Chapman’s voice uses subtle tricks, shifting between warm or melancholy tones in every song. The eclectic mix of sounds and concepts fit together seamlessly, and the entire album is intricate and charming.
The album was recorded on Nap Eyes’ home turf in Nova Scotia and is available now from Plastic Factory Records.
Local duo GRUE have managed to put together something that is quite rare in underground black metal: self-released recordings with decent, relatively clean production value! Instead of a wash of reverb and distortion recorded as poorly as possible to create something like a hazy blur in the place of riffage, GRUE gives us a thick, full but relatively pristine guitar sound in which every note and chord stands right out. In fact, you wouldn’t be totally crazy in thinking the first minute or two of the RAKE EP, with its fast tempo and melodic chord changes, sounds like a really really good pop-punk record (at least until the vocals enter the picture). The vocals are up-front in the mix as well, and raspy but ultimately easily decipherable compared to many of their USBM brethren.
There is a complimentary through-line between the lyrics of this EP’s two tracks (the original track “All Mortal Greatness is But Disease” and a cover of Townes Van Zandt’s bummer country classic “Rake”). It seems to me that the first song discusses similar themes on a universal, societal level that the second one does on a personal level: the idea that everything we love and strive for and take pride in is ultimately meaningless and will slowly kill us. Such bluntness is served well by the unambiguous, up-front production style and Van Zandt’s lyrics in particular are so full of despair that it’s amazing nobody has thought to go metal with them until now.
The RAKE EP is a great follow-up to the band’s debut album and its 12 short minutes will definitely leave all you metalheads (and maybe even a few of you country fans and punk kids) wanting more. Hopefully another full-length will be forthcoming. In the meantime, you can check the band out this Monday at O’Brien’s with CHURCHBURN, BADR VOGU and ROZAMOV.
Pregnancy Scares’ Mind Control EP is another hit in a year of great punk albums coming out on Canada’s Deranged Records, who have recently also put out records by Institute, Pleasure Leftists, Criminal Code and Arctic Flowers. But instead of the post-punk tendencies of these other Deranged bands, Pregnancy Scares’ sound lands much closer to their other labelmates in Stoic Violence, though they play different styles of hardcore. Pregnancy Scares has a harsh, noisy, and raging sound that fans of S.H.I.T. and Warthog will be into, with high-pitched, raw vocals and the filthy, nastily-distorted guitar work. These four songs are all fantastic, but the opener “Master Race” though is the best song on here (but the other three are not far behind), with a stomping rhythm and harsh, memorable riffs. And they even find time for an great and short melodic guitar solo in there amongst the heavy riffing. Pregnancy Scares slow down a bit for the next two tracks, which are absolutely crushing. The EP ends with the, explosive, twice-as-long closer “Lobotomy” that eventually devolves into harsh, feedback chaos. These are 4 great songs from a band that’s really killing it, so pick it up from Deranged Records.
Hypnotically moving and shaking its limbs as it emerges from the punk rock & experimental music rabbit hole that is Boston’s underground music scene of today, PARTICULARS are in a way the ultimate kind of band when viewed in the context of the world of the Boston Hassle. In this land of Hassle, genre is never the destination, rather simply a marker along the road of life where music is digested and made sense of (perhaps). PARTICULARS are a band that no genre tag is going to be appropriate for, a band that is going to be tough to describe. That’s where I’m @ right now!! Post-punk is there, krautrocks both electronic and not, MERIDIAN BROTHERS yes, and free jazz vibes and myriad syncopated beats of the world. A picture becomes clearer after that sloppy run down, but just listen and hear the cream rise.
A tenured, respected member of Boston’s underground music community recently told me that this band is BY FAR his favorite band in Greater Boston, and maybe all of New England. Big words, but keep listening (are you listening? if not, start listening, definitely DO NOT wait to finish this madcap pile of text gush before commencing!).
Meet the (large) band:
AJ Durham – Guitar, Keyboards
Matt Delligatti – Guitar
Billy Mcshane - Vocals, Saxophone, Keyboards
Borey Shin - Analog Synthesizer
Robin Lohrey – Analog Synthersizer
Pat Kuehn – Bass
Nick Neuburg – Drums/Compositions
7 pieces. Members of CANDY TRUCK, AYKROYD, BILLY’s BOYS LIVE!, LOLCAT, CULT & LEPER, MATT DELLIGATTI TRIO, and no doubt other groups. The arrangements found on this debut release by PARTICULARS, simply called PARTICULARS EP, are strange and often unexpected, and to say that the players are good would be an understatement. Drummer/ composer NICK NEUBERG has brought this collection of purely heady, music experimentalists together, and it is him then that we can thank for this new band that immediately, straight out of the gate, demands attention well beyond Boston, and even the USofA. Challenging music does not often get this groove oriented, or for that matter, fun (Boston contemporaries GUERILLA TOSS have a similar sentiment woven into the fabric of their approach I would say).
PARTICULARS EP drips of electronics, mean saxophone outbursts, worldly beats, and most of all the unexpected. Troubling sounds of mystery mince with cartoon-ish synths. It’s the weirdest dance party that will never happen (unless you’re @ a PARTICULARS show…). Vocals pepper the 7 song album (long for an EP!), but never even engage the forefront of these pieces, this music. The meatiest melodies come courtesy of various synthesizers, but they are also not the focus. It’s hard to say what the focus is on this EP other than to bring together potentially disparate approaches, and styles in a seamless manner that nearly comes across as classic, despite the fact that I have never heard anything like this before. “Knock Knock” @ 4:34 in length is my favorite track here at least for the time being. Wisps of ASMUS TIETCHENS float through the air. Saxophones get involved. A guy walks by and shouts something as an unsettling feeling sinks in. Sax and synth trade barbs. An island vibe takes us out McShane’s sax there to remind us that we have not switched channels (bandcamp sites.) This song uses a pile of different synth sounds (some of which you know those skweee folks are also using) and it all works. An Adventure. Each track here an adventure. Each with a different feel, and vibe, a vast spectrum represented. You might fall in love with this band and this EP if you are an adventurous listener and you’ve found your way here. EP is only on bandcamp now, but if there is any righteousness left in this multiverse then that won’t be the end of the tale. In case you can’t tell, I think that this is a really wonderful album.
Cathartic new transmission from the Portland, Maine’s own ID M Theft Able, here re-configured to I’d M Thfft Able. I Suck Am The Eye Suck In The Sky Suck just got unleashed on Montreal’s Brise-Cul Records on a sweet little C23 in a batch including tapes by Vertonen and Echo Beds.
“86.85″ occupies the A-Side, with the theftable in full-on digital/collage mode. His sound finds the bridge between classic concretists like Pierre Schaeffer and newer data-processors like D/P/I and Ahnnu. Snatches of pop music deteriorate over broken radio transmissions and tonal drone. Most of the “news” segments that interject relate to age and birthdays.
On the B-side-length title track, age is addressed in an absurdist session of live performance group therapy. As far as I can tell, this was recorded in concert, with Mr. Able leading the crowd through a march of “I suck” and “Fuck It” chants. Some of these self-annihilations become specifically oriented towards the mirror of the internet – seeing your body, aging, digitally, noticing things (weight, skin) that you might not have before. It all has the air of D/P/I’s equally absurd (and beautiful) Elliot Hulse-rework “Depression Session”, but moves the magic off of YouTube and into a communal, physical space.
Pick up the physical/digital copies here – stream above.
Finally! Out this week on Night People is The Deep Freeze Mice compilation, The Best Of The Deep Freeze Mice 1979-1988. The LP features tracks from the 10 albums the band recorded by the four-piece between 1979 and 1988, highlighting their unique brand of post-punk/art rock which incorporated elements of psychedelia, punk, and British pop music. Musically think somewhere between The Animalsand some of the poppier music on the It’s War Boys roster. Teaser tracks like “Something Else Instead,” originally from the 1984 album I Love You Little Bo Bo With You Delicate Golden Lions, sound like the organ-laden garage punk of Hank Wood & The Hammerheads doing their best to approximate Sarah Records. “A Ten Legged Beast,” on the other had, could be a lost British Invasion song from the 60s, except for the band’s comically absurd lyrics. The 16 songs that make up the album, compiled by guitarist/vocalist Alan Jenkins himself, does a good job representing the entirety of their ten albums, and features some essential British music of the 1980s.
Today’s musical explorations turn to the sounds of Oakland-based electronic artist MADALYN MERKEY, who first appeared in 2012 with her debut LP SCENT. While her newest LP, VALLEY GIRL, is currently on pre-order from NEW IMAGES LIMITED, a sprawling and sparkly 9-minute long teaser track “Archipelago” is streaming both on her Soundcloud and on one of the Wire’s recent playlists.
The attention is deserved for the artist, who seems to be quite at home creating a track that feels alien and free-roaming, yet stylish and warm. “Valley Girl was inspired by the agriculture and landscapes of Oakland, California and its horizon of rolling hills,” says Merkey on her “artist’s statement” for the record (a hifalutin concept, but it works here). “The peaks and valleys of the album’s landscape are made of fifteen computer generated tones that cycle through melodies driven by ambisonic surround-sound locations to define space.”
Ambisonic surround-sound locations? One can only imagine what that means without at least a napkin drawing, but it definitely works whatever she’s doing. They key with an album title like VALLEY GIRL might just be the notion of space. There is space in valleys. “Archipelago’s” gently buzzing (yet barely-tonal) waves flit from ear to ear as dazzling melodic fluttering fireflies dance in the thick blackness. Taking her time while managing to keep a natural pace within the composition, Merkey then inverts the mood by dipping the track in what sounds like a magical yet ominous time-slowing goo begetting faint patches of ultra-processed vocals barely distinguishable from her pads of electronic sounds.
“Archipelago’s” keen inner-weaving of sounds/tones maintains a distinctly relaxing vibe that possesses a magic that borders on paranoia. Fireflies turn to locusts and then lunar moths. Sometimes the space lets you see in the dark.
Providence institution Brian Chippendale’s BLACK PUS offer up two new blood-boiling drum noise freakouts for this here split LP. “Blood Will Run” and “Total Eclipse” are the shortest and longest songs by either band on this record, respectively. The former features a much cleaner vocal take then we’re used to hearing from Chippendale, accompanied for the first half of the song by nothing more than a steady drum beat. The lyrics reference the horrendous slaying of Jordan Davis and Chippendale’s drumming paints both the brutality of the incident and the intended loudness of the music nicely.
Hey you with the face!
- Are you making amazing animated shorts?
- Maybe you create live action short films, or documentaries??
- Maybe you want to scour Boston and New England with our A.V Team
looking for the weird and wonderful to video document???
- Or do you make cool music videos for bands (or want to) and need a medium through which to transmit your goods?????
- Actually, don’t you make experimental films of some variety that you would like to share with an audience primed for mind expansion??????
- Or do you want to help us shoot video @ Hassle shows???????
Yeah, we bet you do!!!!!!!!!!!
You don’t have to live in Boston or New England to submit, so send us something, and/or get in touch about joining up with our A.V Team!
We would also love to meet those of you with editing and audio skills!
The ferocious and felicitously matched power electronic gurus En Nihil and Filth have a new split cassette out on Out-of-Body Records. It’s called Black Earth and it is some seriously grim shit. En Nihil has been blasting harsh noise for over two decades now, experimenting with a variegated range of styles from sinister drones to the most abrasive walls of sound. Filth is a younger but no less compelling project that blends synth, EQ feedback and tape manipulations into icy cold sound constructions. As for this split, each act, possessed by throbbing beats, takes a slightly more rhythm driven approach than usual.
En Nihil’s contribution, grounded in a thick drone of low seething static, is on average the more spacious of the two. The lush sound spaces he creates are filled by a high-end of carefully controlled industrial noise. For the most part, Filth’s side takes a more raw and violent approach as it blasts its way through synthesizer freak outs and tape reel abuse, spontaneously accelerating beats and a palette of pulsating psychedelic noises, not to mention vocals distorted into something inhuman. His is the more chaotic of the two sides, more prone to abrupt changes than prolonged drones.
All together, the two sides flow together and create a records that’s primal and cathartic, machine-like but organic. The ideal soundtrack for a journey through wasted industrial landscapes or the psychic nether reaches of your bedroom at night.
To mark the Criterion Collection’s release this week of SCANNERS on Blu-ray — notable, among other reasons, for the inclusion of Cronenberg’s first feature film, STEREO (1969), which establishes a more direct link between telepathy and sexuality than the one hinted at in SCANNERS — I’ve drafted a selection of scattered observations about the film. They could be more coherent, but they aren’t. In any event, here, you can have them:
The apple rarely falls far from the tree, they say (cliche-mongers that they are), and if it contains any bad seeds, well, it won’t be the first time that the sins of the fathers have been visited upon the sons. When we cut through the muck of idle, fevered, undergrad-level pontification that SCANNERS (like every Cronenberg film) invites and all but secretes — which I enjoy as much as the next paranoid nerd, I promise — what we find is a family drama: an agon involving a pair of brothers and their father. For all of the ways in which SCANNERS anticipates VIDEODROME (1982), it can also be seen as a kind of paternally oriented companion piece to THE BROOD‘s nightmare of metastatic motherhood. That 1979 film was “body horror” at its most abject, grue-rich and gynomaniacal. SCANNERS is, putatively at least, a film about the mind — about, in fact, mentalists. But its ultimate concerns relate once again to the legacies of systems of control, and their tendency to engender their own antitheses. Fathers, sons and brothers, among other dead ringers.
The story of how the scanners came to be combines aspects of two of the 20th century’s key pharmacological accidents: first, the synthesis of LSD by Albert Hofmann at the Sandoz corporation and the military’s subsequent experiments in the drug’s possible weaponization, and second, the notoriously disastrous prescription of the hypnotic sedative Thalidomide to combat morning sickness in pregnant women in the 1950s, which resulted in the birth of thousands of deformed children. Cronenberg has his mad idealist patriarch/therapist Dr. Ruth (Patrick McGooohan) — this a few years before the pint-sized sexologist sprite of the same name attained celebrity — invent Ephemerol for the same reason and around the same time, and it, too, has severe side effects on the children whose mothers were prescribed it, but rather than deform their limbs, it alters their minds: it turns them into flaming telepaths. Or at least into telepaths with a predilection for bursting into flame.
Being a scanner is not entirely unlike being a wizard — you probably won’t know you are one until a recruitment officer tracks you down and escorts you to Hogwarts, for instance, or else, if you’re less lucky, to a deserted factory in which you’ll be trained by Dr. Ruth to use your telepathic powers to do battle with renegade scanners determined to use theirs to explode people’s heads and pad other people’s bottom lines. Not entirely unlike doing battle with renegade wizards who do the same things while putting on extravagant airs. Every magic has its dark side, after all, and scanning is finally more magic than science.
Dr. Ruth feels certain that he “has a way with these creatures.” He represents a patronizing, patriarchal vision of scientist-guided, scanner-aided human progress: a glorious new order — depending on your definition of glory, or order. Darryl Revok’s disgust with a society that has produced and discarded demented rejects such as himself has inspired a counter-vision of scanner terror cells, supported by corporate cynicism. Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack), recruited in a somewhat more bullying version of the manner described above, isn’t sure what’s going on or where his sympathies should lie. The audience scans the scanners through his eyes.
But what does a scanner do when it scans? Well, it’s hard to say exactly, but we know that scanners are capable, as we learn late in the film, not only of inducing severe facial tics that culminate in cranial kablooie, but also of such hypnotherapeutic tricks as triggering flashbacks of childhood trauma. It’s a versatile skill-set, but one that comes at a high price. There’s some forgivably loose talk about nervous systems “connecting” to other nervous systems (including those in computers, which allegedly have them), but it seems safe to say that a scanner reads information in the brains of others, and that it records this information in such a way that it can be processed and repurposed in real-time, lag-free, with more or less immediate effects on the subjects of their scans — but also on themselves. Scanners are biohackers, you might say, and it’s a risky trade. There is always some danger of self-harm, because every scan requires a partial sacrifice of the self at its moment of nexus with other minds — and yes, this is one of the places where Cronenberg’s fixation on sexuality, seemingly absent for so much of the film, rears its head, or at least implies it — so the trick is to allow yourself to be transformed, even as you remain yourself.
Sex is present, too, in the look on Revok’s face as he appears to submit to — and then radically subverts, in the film’s signature image of cartoonish ultraviolence — a demonstration of scanning put on by ConSec’s only official scanner. (ConSec is the corporation to which our Cain and Abel’s father, Dr. Ruth, sold his Ephemerol start-up years before. It now deals chiefly in “weaponry and private armies.”) Michael Ironside, whose acting is at least as stiff and hammy as the rest of the cast’s, nevertheless manages to convincingly combine a sadistic sneer with squirming contortions that caricature orgasmic ecstasy, thus producing a look that says “touch me, I’m sick” while forming a quivering bridge to a very messy eruption. Pleasure principle, meet death drive. Crash.
But perhaps, all the same, some room can be carved out for a kind of scanner counterculture, a community of benevolent freaks interested in developing their abilities in a mystical, ego-dissolving, psychedelic direction? Kim Obrist (Jennifer O’Neill) certainly thinks so. The leader of an inchoate hippie-Jedi-scanner underground, Obrist and her consciousness-raising friends are New Age adepts high on the light side of the scan. Unfortunately, they are also sitting ducks for Darryl Revok’s nihilo-capitalist commandos. “We were the dream, and he’s the nightmare,” says Obrist, and her commune’s bloody fate confirms her fears.
As he did in his earlier films through a different prism — namely the most downbeat extrapolation imaginable of the consequences of the sexual revolution — Cronenberg once again recapitulates the death of the 1960s in its Woodstock Nation iteration, itself famously a clash of generations in which the would-be new boss came to look curiously identical to the old boss.
“We’ll bring the world of normals to their knees.”
There’s a hint of Star Wars here — speaking of dark sides — as Revok reveals to Vale their blood relation and attempts to seduce him into an invincible sinister partnership, succeeding only in triggering a final battle to determine who can twist his face into the most ridiculously grotesque rictus. The contest is a close one; the effects get very special indeed. But Revok is not Vale’s Vader, he’s his brother; and one suspects that, more than anything else, it is his kid sibling’s accusation that his world domination fantasies sound just like dad’s that undermines Revok’s will to win, thereby enabling Vale to survive by appropriating his skin.
It’s a strange victory, and a singed one. But these two were only ever the opening experiment, a pair of prototypes, really, and at least they know who their father is. Subsequent scanners are strictly misfits, mutants, freaks of nature and fiends of nurture, orphans before the fact and homeless by default. Children formed in the petri dish ofBiocarbon Amalgamate, they are each a weaponized army of one, adrift in a wilderness of nervous systems screaming for someone’s attention.
Sparkling Wide Pressure‘s latest release MANIFESTATION OF MAGI out on Kimberly Dawn Recordings continues Adam Baugh’s prolific marathon of the net’s ambient zones. As with his previous releases, MANIFESTATION OF MAGI invites the listener to open themselves to a guided meditation that soothes through a collage of abrasive textures and droning tones. One of its standout tracks Magical Feminine begins as a voice disjointedly describing different color palettes and contorting in pitch while a breeze of pan flutes hovers with an acoustic guitar thrum in the background. Midway into the song, all of these parts halt for the soft throb of a synth to enter the mix. The synth throb grows in turbulence, first saturating the recording medium and then eviscerating it in violent bursts. The effect is as tactile as it is musical; a synesthetic chakra-massage that radiates out from your inner ear. The steel wool purr of the synth then gives birth to a third movement, a cooing lullaby chant and more idle guitar strumming, gently rinsing our ears clean after working them into a lather. Magical Feminine is representative of the rest the album both in its singular meditative focus and its insistence on constantly shifting sound palettes. Time flows differently in the stream of a Sparkling Wide Pressure release. His records mark an opportunity for respite from the calcification of mundane life; a time to realign yourself with the present moment outside of the tick of the clock or the calendar of events. If you think I sound like some woolly-headed, new age cultist, I can’t say I blame you, but just you try devoting your full attention and life force to ebb and flow of his many tapes and experience my testament firsthand. According to Tiny Mix Tapes, his newest cassette Dream of Windows will be released early July on Tranquility Tapes.
Buy MANIFESTATION OF MAGI here.
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