Kawabata Makoto & à qui avec Gabriel
Kawabata Makoto is best known for his work with the group Acid Mothers Temple, a post-psych noise rock collective that can melt paint off of walls with the amplitude of their recordings. When the guitarist joins forces with accordionist and vocalist à qui avec Gabriel for the album Golden Tree (Important Records), he creates an entirely different sound world.
The album consists of three extended duets; one, “Solid Torus,” lasting in excess of half an hour. Balancing with long held tones on the accordion, the guitar lines provide an uneasy counterpoint that, while less subdued than the torrents of fuzzed soloing one hears on AMT releases, is no less focused. Indeed, there is a sense that the energy Makoto is keeping in reserve could at any moment be unleashed; released like a tightly coiled spring. Instead, most often balance is sought by both parties, with guitar harmonics and the occasional feedback flirtation blending with the accordion’s treble register drones and ephemeral clusters. à qui avec Gabriel also has a beautiful soprano singing voice, which she sometimes lends to the proceedings in sustained lines and repeated tones. Golden Tree is at its most beguiling when vocalized tones, sustained guitar lines, and accordion drones dovetail together in an intense dovetailing of dolphin-like song.
Alexander Tucker’s career began rustically and experimentally, with reference points ranging everywhere from folk inspired alternate tunings for acoustic guitar to doom metal drones. For a while during the aughts, it seemed as if his output was inexorably drifting further and further away from the immediacy of conventional song format in favor of more extended and out there meditations. Over the past couple years, as evidenced in his 2011 release Dorwytch (Thrill Jockey), Tucker has been seeking a rapprochement between aspects of popular song and the psych-drone cum prog-folk aesthetic he’s cultivated. He takes this approach on Third Mouth, his latest recording for Thrill Jockey, as well.
A particular way in has been an expansion of his use of vocal harmonies, including overdubbed vocals and the participation of vocalists Frances Morgan and Daniel O’Sullivan (the latter also plays a variety of instruments on the recording). And there are even two cuts that clock in at three minutes with memorable choruses. No one will mistake them for straightforward pop; the layered arrangements still hold true to Tucker’s penchant for sumptuous timbral complications. That said, there’s a beauty in the simplicity of their melodic construction, which proves to be a unifying thread and straightforward thrust in the midst of various textural peregrinations, however lovely sounding these may be.
Those devotees of Tucker’s earlier work who may be fearful that this modification of his approach inherently means an adieu to freeform experimentation needn’t worry. Third Mouth also contains several longish compositions, and “Amon Hen,” an aphoristic piece of Waits/Partch inspired experimentation, too. “Glass Axe” has a pastoral cast while “Rh” indulges a more psych-drone ambience. And while both of these can also be said to be led by the vocals, in the former taking on the presence of a bona fide hook while in the latter being framed as an almost chant like refrain, the instrumental touches – glorious chords in alternate tunings, spacey reverberation, long held drones, and flashes of dissonance nicking each piece with slight distressing around the edges – remind one of the totality of Tucker’s sonic journey.
Long Distance Poison
VCO Records cassette 005
Brooklyn based analog synth performers Long Distance Poison craft two side length drone-based compositions on this cassette out on VCO (buy via Discogs).
Both “The Meadow” and “Aethelred” contain drones with an edge – no mushy ambience here. What’s more, the static connotation one can associate with the term ‘drone’ gives little idea of the pliability and motility of the held tones here. Overtones abound, gradually accumulating; but the group holds off on punctuating the sound environment with melodic or noise-based interjections until a sense of the spaciousness of the grounding material is firmly established. The belated arrival of contrasting elements, many in the treble register, creates pointed interjections and a rousing response to the already rich sheen that has accrued. This is music that one is glad to have linger in the air and sad, at its conclusion, to have evaporate all too soon.
Those who think that, in our digital rich age, cassette must be a compromised medium with which to share audio need to hear this: it will likely disabuse them of that notion. Analog synths thrive in this analog medium. Long Distance Poison proves that their gear and its method of distribution needn’t, despite this tape’s title, seem ancient. What is old makes decidedly new sounds on Ancient Analogues.
Koppklys #010 (cassette run of 60)
Dynamic instrumental music replete with warm synths as a pervasive grounding, long spun drones, field recorded additions, notably cawing gulls, and finally, surging crescendos and Mellotron-like strings pushing the levels higher towards red. If the old saw about ambient music is that it is dull or, at the very least, useful only as background listening on a yoga mat, Daw Nusk proves it wrong. Luxuriating in sound need never be a static experience and, on Hunter Gatherer it is quite the contrary; a pleasing aural journey that is nevertheless filled with a number of surprises and shifts of demeanor along the way. A generous collection of six compositions: recommended.
Ecstatic Peace e#110c cassette (edition of 100)
Rolling waves of white noise, feedback, and even mic noise wash over the clarion singing and drone-based ambience of Caldera Lakes (Eva Aguila and Brittany Gould) on their “arranged” cassette (out now on Ecstatic Peace). In the midst of this deliberately lo-fi and noise distressed ambience lies a primeval aesthetic that contrasts clangorous stabs, bleary utterances, and muscular cries with delicate arpeggios and strummed guitars.
While getting ahold of these limited run artifacts is great fun – a scavenger hunt for adventurous music listeners (I found mine on a recent visit to one of my favorite haunts Downtown in NYC: Other Music) – it’s a pity that this release hasn’t gained wider currency – as yet! The band, like so many others, is going to SXSW this year. One hopes that they bring a bunch of their tapes, CDRs, and other releases along (may they need runs >100!), and that the resultant buzz yields anything but lo-fi results for their careers.
Nova Scotian Arms have released a new double cassette, Winds Over Silmäterä, via Hooker Vision.
Thrill Jockey artists White Hills have just released a video for “Paradise,” a song off of their new LP H-p1.
White Hills tours in support of release this Fall. Maybe they’ll bring their mix of drones, post-psych guitar work, and kraut rock signatures to a venue near you!
UPCOMING FALL TOUR
Sep 3 Brooklyn, NY Aviator Sports Complex w/Psychic Paramount, Pictureplane
Sep 8 Vancouver, BC The Biltmore Cabaret w/Sleepy Sun
Sep 9 Seattle, WA Nectar Lounge w/Sleepy Sun, Kinski
Sep 10 Portland, OR Ash Street Saloon w/Eternal Tapestry, Pierced Arrows
Sep 14 San Francisco, CA Rickshaw Stop w/Carleton Melton
Sep 15 Long Beach, CA Alex’s Bar w/RTX, Heavy Cream
Sep 16 Los Angeles, CA Nomad Art Gallery w/Sleepy Sun
Sep 17 San Diego, CA Soda Bar
Sep 30 Den Bosch, Netherlands W 2
Oct 1 Leuven, Belgium Het Depot
Oct 2 Cologne, Germany Underground
Oct 4 Vienna, Austria Arena
Oct 5 Feldkirch, Austria Graf Hugo
Oct 6 Stuttgart, Germany 1210
Oct 7 Weimar, Germany Werk
Oct 8 Cottbus, Germany Burning Earth Festival
Oct 9 Berlin, Germany White Trash
Oct 10 Hamburg, Germany Molotow
Oct 11 Bielefeld, Germany AJZ
Oct 13 Olten, Switzerland Quote D’Or
Oct 14 Wurzburg, Germany Cafe Cairo
Oct 15 Darmstadt, Germany 603
Oct 17 Savignano Sul Rubicone, Italy Sidro Club
Oct 18 Rome, Italy Sinister Noise
Oct 19 Quero, Italy Piettro Alternative Sound
Oct 20 Martigny, Switzerland Les Caves Du Manoir
Oct 22 Maastricht, Netherlands Musikgiterij
Oct 23 Birmingham, UK Supersonic Festival
Oct 24 London, UK Corsica
Prima CD 002
Aidan Baker is probably best known for his soundscapes that involve droning guitars and ample distortion. But this time out, on his Prima full length Still Life, the Toronto native left the guitars at home altogether. Instead, he performs all of the instruments himself, focusing on piano, electronic manipulations, upright bass, and drums.
Still Life contains four compositions, each exceeding ten minutes in duration, that combine the gradual, inexorable drive of slowcore with inflections of a modern jazz rhythm section and flourishes of avant-classical. Baker doesn’t shy away from crunching dissonance where required. A signature example is the opening of “Refuge from Oblivion,” where cascades of punctilious piano disrupt the calm surface that pervaded the previous track.
Often, multiple layers of rhythm compete for supremacy, creating a multifaceted, but never cluttered, interplay. All the while, there is a slow-brewing underlying pulse that undergirds the whole with a supply architectural sensibility.
Artists seeking to combine experimental music and jazz should take note of Aidan’s fluent amalgamations.