Intense, surreal, remote, dynamic. Come along with us as we chronicle the adventures of the soul through psychedelic, drone, noise, experimental, pop music based around Chicago bands in particular and local bands everywhere.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

'Spective Audio

Along with writing about music in general, as well as some of our favorite bands and events, we are also working on putting together a cassette label. The goal is to present psychedelic, experimental, and pop releases that are local, independent, and present the listener with a vision, a cohesive sound, or, simply good tunes.

Our up-coming releases for early 2010 feature Atlanta-based psychedelic group, The N.E.C., a blistering band that uses soul, pop, and folk foundations to craft their particular version of layered, intense, emotional noise music, and Chicago guitar artist, Cinchel.

The N.E.C. are certainly guitar driven, and eclectic in their delivery, as evident on the range between earlier recordings such as Million Minks (2007) and the Jovontaes / N.E.C. split (Double Phantom) -- full of short, catchy, driving songs littered with effected vocals and guitars and crisp, overdriven production. The band brings the fuzz with their upcoming release, Is (Double Phantom / [OVE:EVO], January 10, 2010).

Our first 'Spective Release will feature a goldmine of oddities and b-sides by The N.E.C., behind their eras of recording for their catalog of current releases. The songs will showcase the range of the band, in the form of spirited jams that are layered and meandering, as well as loose and folky, featuring percussive acoustic guitar, and of course, the release is not short on the group's pop and soul sensibilities.

Our second 'Spective Release will feature Cinchel, a guitar artist who first grabbed my attention while playing with Travis Bird and Dense Reduction at Hotti Biscotti in Logan Square. Cinchel mesmerizes with dense, emotional drones, as well as sharp noise, mixing some found sounds with guitar lines. This particular release will focus on the drones of Cinchel, in the form of a disc he handed me after his set at Hotti, a full hour drone featuring screaming intensity hidden within the intricate sustain of endless notes that bleed together. "Emotional" in the best sense of the word -- as the drones inspire self-reflection and introspection -- and "psychedelic" in the truest sense of the word -- manipulating sound technology in order to stimulate the senses to reflect upon or interact with the world.

More will be on the way!

SPECTIVE CS1: The N.E.C. (middle February)
SPECTIVE CS2: CINCHEL (middle March)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Intelligence

In The Red Records had an excellent 2009. Between the crazed debut LP of Austin R&Bers The Strange Boys, the fuzzy pop of the Vivian Girls, and the crisp soul of Reigning Sound, among what seems to be a boatload of other releases, the label proved to be both eclectic and deep with its 2009 releases. Resulting from this gamut of releases is a fine definition of the sonic range and possibility of lo-fi music, an approach to rock that falls into and out of favor with my ears as frequently as the sun rises and sets. Mostly, I find that lo-fi pop music continually challenges my artistic sensibilities, in the sense that it straddles high-art structure with low-art spirit.

Until last week, when my close friend lent me his copy of The Intelligence, those three In The Red releases I listed were my favorites. Little did I know that I would find a perfect summary of the entire set of 2009 In The red releases with the Fake Surfers release by The Intellgience. ITR 169 clamors along with pristine pop songs baked in uneven sound production, resulting in a delightful interplay between instruments that frequently drop in and out, surrounded by lyrics that are funny, absurd, or just plain eye-opening through their vocal delivery.

Throughout this release, the band combines the high art sensibility of the most crisp, short pop structures that anyone could ask for, with the darkest, zaniest, off-kilter production that one could desire. I find this clash, in my mind, in my ears, and in my emotional response, to be challenging and artistically fruitful.

Friday, December 18, 2009


Haunting guitar drones, volume swells, and distortion washes bleed between dense songs. Listen at 6:45 am when the sun refuses to rise until 7:15; shreds of existing light sneak through your curtain, preparing you for dawn aside intense, endless drones. Distinct layers of fuzz provide texture for the release, although the effects aren't so overwhelming that you drown. Rather, it is the sound itself, and the sequencing of the songs, the perception of never-ending soundscapes that will hold you hostage. The imprint of this release remains well after the cassette stops.

Highly recommended. Currently available at all Reckless Records stores; if your favorite Reckless store doesn't have it, Permanent Records should. Plustapes, second pressing (100).

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

a scene.

In what does a scene consist? From the outside, a scene appears to squash musical and creative freedom in the name of a group aesthetic, whereas within a scene the benefit of sharing a musical vision others is the resulting exchange in ideas. I often go back and forth about whether or not there is a scene in Chicago, or if there are many scenes, or if there are simply numerous aggregates of creative individuals floating about, surfacing with their resulting musical product. Aggregates lend themselves to some of the appearances of scenes without the cohesive connection of a scene.

Perhaps the debate is between the development of freedom in music, or the development of expression in music. How do we, as musicians, balance the necessity of internal, interconnected developments of aesthetic ideals in order to achieve the desired freedom of creation against the desire to manifest creative freedom in the form of a complete break? I don't think one development can occur without the other; as in political development, freedom is neither freedom from external constraint nor freedom as the development of a capacity or a capability; the positive, structured development of capacities or capabilities is necessary to attain a meaningful freedom from external constraint.

The development of a scene is focused around the constraints of resources -- who is playing, where they are playing, what stores stock their music, etc. -- as well as with calculated breaks from shared ideals and shared developments that previously advanced musical production in that particular group.

One of the tensions at the core of the psychedelic and noise music that we will be writing about here is the psychological, physical, and emotional tension between the need to express creativity or creation in the form of breaks from reality as we find it, in the desire to seek, outline, and attain novelty (or at the very least the novelty found in the attainment of a particular emotional performance); and, on the other hand, the need to fully develop ideals and performances in the midst of critically evaluative, supportive peers, venues, stores, etc.

Within this tension rests the demand of authentic emotional representation in music, or intense emotional evaluation in music. As in surrealist painting with the method of automatism, it is often psychological exploration on the part of the artist that stands the test of critical communities, drives the desire towards pure creation and novelty, and withstands the breakdown of scenes when they reach their inevitable conclusion.

A scene, in this sense, fosters a particular sort of psychological authenticity, where performances can be gauged not merely on their adherence to the norms or standards of a group of bands, fans, critics, etc., but also on the emotional and intellectual terrain of the performance itself. This tension is at the base of musical criticism, because at its core, the critic must sort between the environment, the groups, the historical context, the individual desires to create, and -- perhaps most importantly -- the psychological context and substance of the performance itself.

Perhaps this is what we seek in the justification for good art, without hard and fast boundaries for true judgment of art; where questions of group motivation, commercial viability, community, etc., will forever simultaneously challenge and foster artistic development, it is the very development of the artist, and specifically the journey of the artist in search of the realization or expression of their vision, that will stand beneath the scene as the critic peels away layers and layers of plot and subtext.