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.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Experiencing Vinyl

My reviewing packages from Foxy Digitalis exposed me to a lot of great music this year, including spectacular vinyl releases by Spires that in the Sunset Rise and Pink Priest, the challenging, dynamic experimental work by Anthea Caddy and Thembi Soddell, and tapes that include Million Brazilians, Hulk, Flesh Coffin, and more.
This year I've also traded a lot of vinyl and benefited from plenty of enjoyable listening experiences, from small-scale private press releases to new LPs from some of my favorite acts (Lumerians, Nada Surf, A Place to Bury Strangers, etc.).

Chicago drone artist Cinchel helped me start 'Spective Audio by agreeing to release his drone.dump on tape and including his individual watercolors with those layered drones; he also contributed some of his work for the Vital Sound compilation. Cinchel is not only my friend, but a thoughtful drone guitarist and sound manipulator, and he shows the development of his work on his 2012 release, Stereo Stasis. When Aristotle argued against Plato's philosophy, he said that we love the truth more than we love our friends; in this case, I love Cinchel's work because it's great to see him develop as an artist, and you should take the merits of his work beyond my word. Cinchel executes three pieces that alternate between boundless, airy imagination and intense, truncated cycles, accompanied by singular packaging to accompany the privately pressed release.

"Revelations Upon Waking (mysteries)" opens Stereo Stasis (self) with a spirit of wonder that conveys the joy of perceiving the world's elements and vitality. Ringing tones alongside unfolding drones produce robust layers; the release is decadent and royal without sacrificing the fast-paced metamorphoses of perceiving reality. Cinchel foreshadows his next two pieces with fast decay and slightly glitching timbres, which he completes with fully truncated, suspended drones. A fragile keyed melody line lays a ringing foundation for the fluctuating, modulated lead sequences on "Wandering/Collapse/Breakdown/Ultimate Heat Death," Cinchel's third piece that occupies the entirety of the B-side. Overall, Cinchel carries a warm, nearly organic tone throughout the vinyl, developed crystal clear sounds that almost ring like the most effective clean tones of paisley pop. One is truly aware of the coextension between imagination and perception through clear production.
"Static (Homeward Bound)" shifts from the delightful perception of "Revelations..." to the cyclical objects themselves. There is a roaming, underlying decay that completes these slowly rising cycles, suggesting a process of toil or repetition. True suspension. As these cycles truncate and return, Cinchel produces seams or rolling waves, presenting tangibles objects to experience through this drone. "Wandering..." completes these themes, riding symphonic crescendos and consistent swelling to a beautiful culmination in tremolo'd, fluctuating tones that are clustered with high frequencies to replicate a shimmering arpeggio of elements. A dramatic shift completes the piece with high frequencies decaying into dramatic bowing, building and releasing tension into a static, washing sound that overwhelms the frequencies. Those rolling waves crash into breakers, completing the release through intense, otherworldly sequences.

Opposite Cinchel's private press drones, which remind me of Pink Priest's LP Swallow Your Dreams (La Station Radar) and the extensive ambiance of Michael Vallera's work, Moniker Records' founder Robert Cole Manis turned me on to Corum's Beguiling Isles (Psychic Sounds) LP, which he recommended during a mid-summer stop into Permanent Records Chicago. Along with the Psychic Sounds Library's work on the Million Brazilians tape I reviewed this year, Corum's work bends and twists sounds into mystical, challenging tones. At his best, Corum's work is nearly atonal, bending instrumental elements into swirls of engaging trance. I hesitate to call the work ambient, as it conveys attitudes as much as spaces or places; it's deeply spiritual, anonymous, culture-bending music.
Into the world of structured music, upon following the threads of Permanent Records and aQuarius Records mailing lists, I began following S-S Records this year. I jumped into some older releases from the label, landing a copy of Cheveu's American pressing on S-S at newly minted Hausfrau Records in the Detroit-Shoreway Neighborhood of Cleveland. I also picked up a copy of Michigan Haters by Sightings, and a Dan Melchior release, in order to canvass the spectrum of alternately playful and brutal acid jazz and blues. It might be music older than 2012, but this label stands out with its creativity and quality.

After reading about the album online, I encountered Bruce Haack's Electronic Record for Children (Mississippi/Change) at Hausfrau Records. Upon testing the first cut of unfettered synthetic madness, I was sold, and the straight-up positivity and consciousness-building attitude of this album was quite a treat. Haack's project bleeds honesty, showcasing great faith in the ability of music to transform our minds and our experience of reality. Of course, it helps that this type of pedagogical and "electronic" attitude might only have ever been found in the 1960s, but Haack's work stands out as a beacon of hope against the cynicism and commercialism of the hippies (or most exploitation psych). It might not be as experimental or strange as The United States of America, but Haack's work still portrays this feeling of endless optimism and potential in these new synthesizers and electronic effects.

On a journey to space from Haack's release, one might also encounter Lumerians, that singular Bay Area group that boasts two masterful albums in as many years. While last year's Transmalinnia (Knitting Factory) found the group placing their droned out instrumental experiments against rather concise, energetic psych rock songs, this year's Transmissions from the Telos Vol. IV (Hands in the Dark / Permanent) explodes those instrumentals into this other-worldly, free form fusion. One of the great successes of Transmalinnia was this hypnotic, dream-like feeling that crept throughout the instrumentals on side B, building this progression of dreams that exceeded the structures of the songs. On Transmissions, the group invert the formula, moving between three energetic, jazzed up compositions that trade in structured songs for this type of free, universal rhythmic end of krautrock. As the popularity of krautrock explodes in songwriting, there are dense appropriations as well as synthy, electronic appropriations of that movement, but Lumerians surpass all of that with their logical completion of the movement's most unfiltered, robust moments.

The release concludes with a foreboding drone on the B-side, exuding tones that sound downright menacing comparing with the bright A-side. This side-long work decays into a bare rumble, as though the group can no longer sustain these transmissions. By contrasting their A-side, Lumerians complete their compositions by exceeding the bounds of their previous releases; they enter another world, promising and new, a world with objects and experiences that overwhelm communication, compromising transmissions. The group turned the expectations from their previous work into something creative and surprising. In the future lore of krautrock, one wonders when it will be reported that the group sold something at a crossroads in exchange for an ability to leap into the future with experimental sounds.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Why Knowledge Matters

Ancient Greek philosophers posed one of the greatest questions in history: "How can someone know what is good and act otherwise?" Perhaps in its most famous incarnation, this problem passed from Socrates to Plato and Aristotle, providing the foundation for a theory of virtue and necessarily linking knowledge, ethics, science, and politics. This question is great not because of the philosophical ground it covers, and not because of its greatest proponents and navigators. This question is great because it places the demands of knowing and acting at the core of society.

Through simple observation, one finds that humans frequently act in ways that are contrary to their better judgment. Perhaps our desire for pleasure overpowers our sense of what is good for us, or our appetites get the best of our minds. From that extra slice of pizza to that verbal slight, perhaps our most prevalent ethical experience is one of feeling that we acted against our knowledge of what is good.

The problem of akrasia -- that someone knows what is good and acts otherwise -- places the demands of knowing and acting at the core of society by linking our actions to our educations, upbringings, classes, etc. While the decisions we make may be our own, we can only act as well as our societies allow. If our goal is to act well to achieve excellence -- or virtue, we need to live in circumstances that allow us to learn what is good, form habits that help us enact what is good, and situate our character to goodness. If we are deprived of education, our ability to know what is good will be impaired; if we are deprived of nutritious choices, our ability to form good appetites will be impaired; if we are overburdened with our labor, we will have fewer opportunities to strengthen our character with good habits. Within these circumstances, we can still act, but our conditions of action will keep us from achieving and maintaining excellence.

The debate about the impact of a community on an individual is extremely obscured in American politics. Faced with the idea of pure individual responsibility on one hand, or a constellation of determined circumstances on the other, Americans are immediately deprived of a clear understanding of how they are linked to one another and how they depend on one another. Interdependence does not predetermine our actions or disposition, just as individual will is not completely culpable in our actions or dispositions. We cannot simply will it to be so and place the burden of ethical responsibility on our shoulders; we cannot simply allow our neighbors, communities, and government to guide us and provide for us. As Americans, we are only offered two choices of determination, which are both false.

The greatest impediment to achieving virtue in American life is the assumption of individuality and the relation of the individual to society. We are assumed to be individuals that entered into society to protect our holdings and our interests, gaining the strength in concert to establish, protect, and sort through our rights (which are simply our claims to our own interests and holdings). Here, we find no organic link to our communities outside of the understanding that we're all mutually afforded the ability to make claims in favor of our interests. Our strongest social bond afforded by American politics is the ability to know that our interests are protected and that together we can ensure that we can make claims on behalf of our interests.

In this type of contract between individuals, knowledge is cheapened to a basic function that allows us to know our rights and be aware of our ability to defend our rights. Goodness is entirely absent from this equation, for knowing what is good is hardly required to protect our interests. We "know" what is good by knowing that we can protect our interests through society; working to achieve excellence, form good habits through good actions, and secure good character through these good actions and knowledge is entirely unnecessary in American life. This is what it means when someone pats you on the back and says you're a good guy in America -- you know that you can protect your interests, but you don't step on my claims, and you act in a way that ensures security of our interests. You can be a "good guy" in America even if you have rampant desires, unchecked appetites, and mediocre actions, so long as you do not overstep the bounds of others' claims while securing your own.

Knowledge, in this case, simply coheres with institutional and contractual arrangements. All that we need to know is what we can control or acquire through our own claims, holdings, and interests, and there is no basic requirement for knowledge beyond the basic contract. (This is why it is beneficial to American politicians to lie; it is their goal to protect interests and the ability to make claims about those interests, which has absolutely no requirement to cohere to any good).

This is the fatal mistake of American politics; there is no need for society to recognize that our interactions and relations and actions with one another develop our character, our ability to know, and our ability to do good things because such collaboration is beyond the scope of society. "Sure, it'd be great if we could accomplish that," one might say, "but it's a fantasy because individuals simply don't work together that way." Placing individual interests at the center of American society, and securing those interests through our social arrangements, renders excellence entirely superfluous to society. It's a bonus, not a necessity.

Yet, our appetites are linked to what we know and what we can learn, and our desires to act in specific ways will be linked to our appetites and our knowledge. It doesn't matter if WE say "we're simply individuals linked in concert to secure our interests and protect our rights," we're interconnected at every level of society. This does not mean that we are determined; it's simply a reality to human politics. We misunderstand this because we no longer understand ourselves as political animals, necessarily linked through our very being. We understand ourselves as individuals, first and foremost abstracted from society.

By placing individuals at the core of politics, we remove the need to know what is good in order to act well; acting well in our society merely needs to relate to securing holdings and staying out of the way of others' claims to their holdings. We remove the need to form good appetites or desires, because our appetites and desires simply need to correspond to our ability to secure our interests. As a result, when we act, when we work in society, we completely remove the conditions for goodness from our actions, and we completely remove what is good from our actions and desires. This, of course, makes us akratic -- no matter how well we protect our interests, no matter how well we ensure our rights, we have removed ourselves from excellence. It is no wonder that our political debates so sorely misunderstand our very own relationships to one another and our society.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

"The Last Point of Radiation" Updates

Last Point of Radiation will be available from 'Spective Audio on Tuesday (July 10, 2012!). Clear wax and limited screenprinted inserts are available. Black wax currently unavailable at the source. 

 -Look for the LP at Permanent Records Chicago and Permanent Records L.A. -- support your local record shop!

 -Also look for the LP at Sound Effects Records out of Athens (including European mailorder!)

 -Check out Jason's review of "Six" b/w "Popsicle" at 7 Inches, home to excellent daily 7" vinyl reviews (highly recommended for private issue releases and music from all fields). Here's an excerpt about "Six:"

 "A hypnotic swirling rhythm with massive cave reverb, a big delay on the subtle background vocal just hinting at something slightly sinister. But the psych fog isn't content, always ramping up the dense sound with tom fills, letting loose for a moment as this nonstop guitar line explodes in pure distortion, speed bass and cymbal crashes. They keep upping the ante. The 33 speed giving this whole rolling rhythm the space to spread out and keep reaching higher and higher. A wah pedal screeching the distortion into something impassable. Really capturing the energy of this sound these guys are putting together as a nonstop pummeling force... that ends suddenly with the humming feedback of effects."

 Thank you, Jason!

 -The N.E.C. play their release show on August 4, 2012 at The Earl in Atlanta. The band will have copies of the LP available, and openers include Vital Sound I contributor Soft Opening, Abby Go Go, and Women's Work. $7 / 9:00 PM, don't miss it!

-Check out the latest download from Last Point of Radiation here! "N.O.W." showcases the trio's songwriting abilities, contrasting the hazy drive of "Six" with a persistent boogie. This one should agree with your ears whether you favor C.C.R.'s swamp choogle or Lumerians' dense psych pop.

-This is the latest stop on The N.E.C.'s voyage, and they bring their intense, energetic, and dynamic live sound to wax. Featuring extended meditations and concise, driving rock statements, The N.E.C. showcase their ability to carry forward structured songs while exploring layered psychedelic regions on Last Point of Radiation.


PAYPAL: $18 USD PPD / international shipping calculated on an individual basis. Contact for other shipping options. spectiveaudio [at] gmail [dot] com -- for PayPal and for email inquiries. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Blankest Year: A Retrospective

Cleveland doesn't have a grid system. Since the Cuyahoga River splits the city, chances are that if you live on the west side, you will be unable to find a clear path to the east. Nevertheless, my wife and I trekked to the Ohio City RTA last night en route to the Beachland Ballroom. Nada Surf, a vital part of our music core and one of our greatest cultural points of agreement, were the main attraction at the Beachland, and we had our path all set.

Unfortunately, we took the #37 bus in the wrong direction from the east-side RTA terminal. Nevertheless, we quickly righted our path, captured another #37 headed in the proper direction, and found ourselves at the Beachland just in time to watch the stage set up for Nada Surf. Nearly two hours passed, and the destination-rock club standing in the middle of a desolate stretch underscored our journey, while the promise of Nada Surf ensured that we never felt truly lost.

Foundations, backbones, reference points are crucial to sustain life and identity. Over the years, I have come to realize that Nada Surf are perhaps my greatest cultural backbone -- this is the 17th year I have spent following them. They introduced me to the whimsical promise of pop song structures, ensuring me that weird, wonderful, and downright righteous sounds can commandeer the pop world. As they blissfully maintained their own world through studio album after studio album, they also served as my reference point back to the world of pop. No matter how strange my tastes became, I always had a backbone that advanced the world of power pop for each step I took.

When I was in middle school, "Popular" took the alternative buzzbin by storm. I even remember one of our scholastic "fun" readers discussing the song to teach irony alongside Shakespeare lessons at Milwaukee Public Schools. It was that back half of High/Low that truly turned me on to the extensive promise of power pop. The churning, dissonant moments of "Icebox," laid against understated, driving intensity of "Psychic Caramel" and "Hollywood," and serene build-up of "Zen Brain" stayed on my mind as much as my CD player. I even used "Icebox" to explain to my dad why I needed my first distortion pedal, a year-long guitar playing veteran at that point.

Restlessness and clarity are two themes that reach throughout Nada Surf's recorded output. At each point, there's a feeling that the whole operation might jump off the rails due to their sheer energy. Yet, the group maintain the type of clarity that only a soul in perpetual motion can produce. Without studio tricks, without psychedelic baggage, without grandiose concepts, Nada Surf take pieces of the world, bit by bit, and wrap it with their shimmering perspective.

I was born into the generation indoctrinated by pop radio dominated by the alternative buzzbin, a strange world of one-hit wonders and extremely odd hits that was hardly seen since the 50s and 60s. If most bands in the 1980s earnestly tried to replicate the sonic gems and structures of 1960s songs, the 1990s bands replicated the spirit of the "what's next" pop turns from the early-to-mid 1960s.

If this sheer power vacuum of rock and culture produced a lot of material to weed through, it also showed a generation the value of digging deep for pop gems. My first digging experience followed Lou Barlow's and John Davis's soundtrack for KIDS, and Folk Implosion's hit "Natural One" lead me to dig for records by Slint and seBADoh -- Spiderland and Harmacy were my first scores, thanks to car rides to Atomic Records. I had no idea then, but with Nada Surf and the alternative 1990s, the record collecting seed was planted in my brain. I certainly learned that if you dig, you will find unbelievable truths in culture.

1998 sure seemed like a rough year for Elektra. They had in their possession two of the greatest albums of the 1990s -- the robust, Acid Archives-worthy Head Trip in Every Key by Superdrag, and the sonic twists and turns of The Proximity Effect, Nada Surf's follow up to their major label debut. They somehow managed to see no hits in either LP, and the ensuing battles are part of 1990s major label history. Last night, as the band played lush versions of "80 Windows" -- filled out my additional guitarist Doug Gillard -- I smiled with joy, remembering those years I spent trying to track down a copy of The Proximity Effect once it was freed from major label control. That journey was certainly worthwhile, as the trio followed some of the dissonant, mellow, and expressive hints on High/Low to their logical conclusion.

Joy was there in heaps last night. My wife and I danced away to our favorites off LET GO, which was the soundtrack to our first year of dating. Nada Surf used their pop chops to capture those slight dissonant elements once again, producing a landmark album by one of the strongest 1990s bands to make it through the turn of the century. The trio's lush pop, both danceable and powerful, ran circles around the minimalist "rock-is-back" swagger of the early 2000s MTV-U bands. Nada Surf soundly proved that they emerged from that 1990s power vacuum unscathed and the strength of their musical interaction was that much better for all their battles.

Even as a switch flipped in my mind, and I rummaged deeper and deeper into psychedelic sounds over the years, the strength of Nada Surf's pop ability remained my backbone. At each step of the way, they were there to remind me of where I came from -- as I moved from 1990s LPs by The Dandy Warhols to The Velvet Underground, and deeper still, Nada Surf answered with The Weight is a Gift and Lucky, two studio albums that masterfully split the difference between their previous two LPs while advancing their sonic sensibilities and whimsical sense of humor.

This power came to a head in their rendition of "Paper Boats" last night, which the group sustained into a repetitive closing sequence that built textured-layer upon textured-layer over that song's haunting chord progression. Playing from that song's subdued pattern to its emotional kick-in, the repetition of that outro provided the opportunity to reflect on each of Nada Surf's strengths. I felt those ever-so-slight dissonant twists running alongside that singular unadorned emotional clarity that follows those restless patterns.

The whole sequence of "Paper Boats" reminded me of my favorite part of their latest studio LP, The Stars are Indifferent to Astronomy. As "When I Was Young" turns from its spare acoustic opening to a slow-burning full band kick in, there's this magnificent synthesizer passage. This expansive synthesizer maintains the crescendo between the acoustic and full-band elements, until the kick-in cannot hold off any longer. It's probably my favorite pop moment of the year, a perfect example of how Nada Surf can procure these tiny little segments that are fantastical, slightly "off," or slightly out of structure, and seamlessly insert them into their songs.

And, "Here I am," Bo Diddley would say. I felt a certain joy last night that I have not felt in some time -- from being completely lost and aimlessly wandering in our temporary city to finding familiar faces and feelings through pop records. So much of what I love in each and every type of music I listen to is inherent in Nada Surf -- the strength of the story, the strength of emotional clarity, the strength of personal vision.

Matthew, Daniel, and Ira (and Doug) executed those musical elements perfectly last night, and the whole time, it seemed like they were playing for their lives. Following that emotional apex in "Paper Boats," they flat-out laid it on the line for each of the songs that closed their set, and their powerful, deep-cut favorites encore. And here laid the other side of their appeal -- the beautiful part about a strong foundation, a great backbone is that you have a fine opportunity to dance it all away.

Friday, April 27, 2012

SPCTV LTD9 The N.E.C. "Six" b/w "Popsicle" READY TO SHIP!

I am READY TO SHIP copies of The N.E.C.'s latest single, "Six" b/w "Popsicle." "Six" is the lead cut off the trio's killer upcoming LP, Last Point of Radiation.The limited pressing of 100 features screenprinted jackets, ensuring that each single is a special artifact for its listener. Spun at 33 rpm, the extended single is loud, focused, and noisy, as The N.E.C. pummel your ears with "Six"'s relentless riff. Truly a monolithic sound, the band unify to drive their parts into oblivion. DOWNLOAD AVAILABLE HERE!

On the flip, exclusive B-side "Popsicle" yields burned-out sunshine pop, equal parts soul and debauchery. One of the strong points of The N.E.C.'s catalog is their ability to maintain soulful rhythms and catchy anthems alongside their noisy counterparts. "Popsicle" is the final stop for that thread in the band's catalog, and the trio counter "Six" with a rowdy, swaggering pop statement.

PAYPAL: spectiveaudio [at] gmail [dot] com

Recommended: $8 PPD USD. International and other mail options please contact: spectiveaudio [at] gmail [dot] com. Email regarding special LP + 7" packages.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Tapes! Tapes! Tapes!

The N.E.C. wax is officially in the works, I'm running low on tapes!

Just a handful of tapes away from selling out the Vital-Sound comp, as well as The N.E.C. and Sunny Muffdivers tapes.

Thank you for making 'Spective tapes so successful!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

February 2012 Update!

I hope everyone is enjoying their winter -- or lack thereof -- thus far. Just working on my collection, I have some new CDRs from Singapore to promote, and I found one new copy of The Leavitt Ours Vital CDR. That one is a trip -- a special show release from March 2010, sending Truman Peyote and the Lord Jeff off to SXSW.

Make sure to check out new developments. Cinchel has a set of excellent digital releases, and some new stuff on the way. The N.E.C. released Pineapple (Pretty Ambitious) at the close of 2011, and are busy as always. The Great Society Mind Destroyers released Spirit Smoke on wax (Slow Knife). All The Saints just released Intro to Fractions (Souterrain Transmissions), and Brainworlds has a new split with Plosive. Killer Moon and Rabble Rabble are also sure to have some new things on the way, so look out! There's a ton of great stuff available and on the way from Vital Sound bands.

AVAILABLE (prices US / international always negotiable, please email [spectiveaudio] at [gmail] dot [com]):

Sawi Lieu and I\D split CDR (CDR51, self-released from Indonesia / Singapore, $7 ppd US): Wild filtered synthetic loops and layers, and joyful experimentation populate this split CDR between Indonesian artist Sawi Lieu and I\D, a group from Singapore. Sawi Lieu’s contribution features unpredictable filter sweeps and building synthetic layers. I\D’s improvisation and experimentation feature wild interplay between guitar, drums, and noisemakers, contrasted against hypnotic guitar sequences.

I\D, Midnight Hot CD (CD32, self-released from Singapore, $10 ppd US): I\D play a type of acid-fusion, building their abstract elements into tense crescendos and structured jams driven by drums and guitar. The development of their noise is blissful, experimental, and completely free -- there is a willful feeling of exploration and creation. Yet, it's not simply outsider jazz or unfocused wanking; the driving, start-and-stop explorations display willful explosion of genre expectations while establishing their own parameters through their instrumental interaction. 2009 release.

I\D, Elite, Kvlt, and Irrevocably Tr00 (CS+60, self-released from Singapore, $10 ppd US): Heavy on the unrestrained noise throughout, I\D dabble in extremely percussive free improvisation and experimentation. Off-kilter blues contrast unclassifiable synthetic noise, wailing, and heavy percussion. 2007 release.

Emporium, Vision CS (home-dubbed, donation): A personal set from 'Spective proprietor Nicholas Zettel, featuring a culmination of summertime drone exercises and tape manipulation. Opening with ethereal atmosphere, this set of four songs meanders through two-channel follow-and-response folk, followed by reverb circuitry manipulation and backwards tape exercises.

The Leavitt Ours, Return CS (C26, clear, handmade cases, $7 ppd US): Beneath the shadows of Chicago's fuzzier and heavier psychedelic sounds, The Leavitt Ours perform experimental pop in the private press tradition. In order to develop and produce their own reflective spaces and musical statements, the trio embrace aggressive ambient soundscapes, synthetic guitar tones, eclectic percussion rhythms, and driving keyed bass and synthesizer backbones.

Various, Vital-Sound I CS (C62, opaque red, handmade art, $7 ppd US): Atlanta and Chicago psych bands split this compilation, presenting everything from paisley, drone, and repetitious instrumentals to acid blues, pure noise, and doom is covered here. Atlanta contributors are Sovus Radio, Soft Opening, The N.E.C., All The Saints, Brainworlds, and The Sunny Muffdivers. Chicago contributors are Implodes, The Great Society Mind Destroyers, The Leavitt Ours, and Killer Moon.

The Leavitt Ours, Vital CDR (extremely limited, xeroxed art, special show release from 2010. Donation): Early 2010 demos that precede Return cassette and accompany Movement tape (Notice), The Leavitt Ours resemble an outsider ambient troupe honing their sound. There are a bunch of tracks on this one that were eased out by the time Return was recorded; therefore, an eclectic mix of synthesizer, keys, noises, and bratty experimental songs.

Sunny Muffdivers, All Half Evil CS (C26, translucent neon, $5 ppd US): Pure sonic assault from Atlanta. Crusty psych sludge doom featuring bludgeoning rhythms, repetition, and drones create a disjointed landscape in which your mind and emotions can hide.

The N.E.C., B-Sides CS (C46, translucent red, $5 ppd US): Rarities, oddities, and background tracks from Atlanta psych/rock outfit versed in driving song craft and sonic exploration. Songs collected from 2007’s “Million Minks” through 2010’s “Is,” splitting ambient and heavy sides of Atlanta psych.

PayPal: [spectiveaudio] at [gmail] dot [com]

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

More 2011!

After a year of back catalogs and meandering through the history of rock, I focused my interests on new music in 2011. I dove into experimental music, writing and reviewing music for Foxy Digitalis, and listened to a lot of acid rock and outsider music.

I am enamored with psychedelic music because of the relationship between repetition and perception induced by patterns in music. Each sound imprints itself on the soul, into the mind, allowing the listener to frame their desires, emotions, and thoughts according to the precepts of that sound. Even repetitious sounds continually imprint the mind, and although the pattern may be the same, each reception of each repetition by the body marks a new signpost in perception, memory, etc. From psychedelic sounds unfold infinite fields that allow each person to thoroughly explore their affectivity and rationality. Needless to say, I take psychedelic music to truly mean, "mind-manifesting."

In 2011, I learned that beyond the perceptual powers of psychedelic music, individual, personal encounters are yet another valuable aspect of the small scale community that celebrates acid music. Last year, the ability to share in someone's individual vision through music greatly affected my listening. In a land where major distribution is eroding and regional labels and local bands are amplified, music reconnects to its roots as cultural communication. In that regard, the proliferation of small vinyl and tape labels, and individual, self-pressed records suggests that music is not suffering, but rather supremely vital, slowly returning to the raging local and regional scenes of the 1930s and 1940s.

Furthermore, experimental music presents a clear opportunity to move beyond music's ability to communicate culturally, instead focusing on templates that are completely free of cultural norms and sometimes actively opposed to our own society's commerce. By using synthesizers, electronics, and commercial tools, etc., to create pure noise or drones, experimental/noise music allows musicians to transcend and oppose everyday constraints of labor and commerce, and communicate a classless, universal society (however brief).

One of the constraints of statist thought is the requirement that any alternatives to the state be conceived in terms of structural organization -- for instance, the requirement of Marxists to answer, "how would classless society look?" However brief, my experience with noise and experimental music is entirely classless, entirely outside of the state, and thoroughly universal in an immediate, individual manner. I can describe how a classless society sounds, and that we can experience this sensation through music gives me hope that Americans might eventually rediscover a true political orientation to one another.

This is what I learned about music in 2011, beyond the records I purchased, traded, or heard, beyond the shows I saw, beyond the words I wrote. Here are some particular moments that I enjoyed, working beyond my list at FoxyDigitalis:

Best of the rest!
Carrion Crawler/The Dream by Thee Oh Sees (In The Red) and Black Sun Transmissions by Jasper TX (Fang Bomb) were the pop and experimental albums that I felt excelled in their intention and execution, and Phaedra's The Sea (Rune Grammofon) was the LP that hit me hardest overall.

However, I felt a lot of records were really strong this year, and there are many candidates for the best LP of the year; ultimately, I think it's the emotional and situational impact that leads someone to choose one over the other. So, here are some other LPs I seriously considered for the best:

Cleared S/T (Immune)
Tim Hecker, Ravedeath, 1972 (Kranky)
Lumerians, Transmalinnia (Knitting Factory)
Implodes, Black Earth (Kranky)
Efrim Manuel Menuck, Plays "High Gospel" (Constellation)
The Men, Leave Home (Sacred Bones)

Challenging Listens
JeaLousy, viles (Moniker): Poetry and slithering, decaying, processed bass outline sparse terrain that somehow feels completely enclosed. Opening, expanding, closing in on itself, perpetually. Beautiful layers emerge from a poverty of elements. Raw and worthwhile.

Helado Negro, Canta Lechuza (Asthmatic Kitty): A rural, remote album by an electronic noisemaker. No tension, suspended peace. Clearly a product of its own world, one particular place and time. A footnote.

Probably my favorite beat-oriented album of the year.

Bad Drugs, Raw Powder (Rotted Tooth): Claustrophobic predatory rhythmic doom metallic gloss ungodly pummeling breeding seismic shifts completely entrapped. Ritual: paranoia, addiction, intelligence, assault. Pure transcendence.

"Mainstream" Albums
Fleet Foxes, Helplessness Blues (Sub Pop): I feel like this record provided a lot of people a meeting point; out and about, shop owners would play it, everyone had an opinion on it. This is the closest LP I experienced last year where I feel everyone I encountered heard it, enjoyed it, digested it. Beyond the developments, the maturity gained since the EP and debut LP, I can easily summarize this one: side D featured one of the most badass litesike excursions I've ever heard.

The Fresh & Onlys, Secret Walls (Sacred Bones): If 2010 was the year that Fresh & Onlys planted blistering garage pop seeds in our minds, 2011 was the year that Fresh & Onlys landscaped the fields. As nearly everyone in San Francisco seems hellbent on producing explosive acid rock, The Fresh & Onlys retreated only slightly to indulge in magnificent key-embellishments and distant reverb pan licks. THE closest logical conclusion to Echo and the Bunnymen I've ever heard, The Fresh & Onlys submerged 60s acid consciousness into remote 80s gloss. If it wasn't an EP, it might be my favorite album ever.

Lou Reed and Metallica, Lulu (Vertigo / Warner Brothers): I don't have anything smart or witty to say about this one. All I want to say is that I find it rather convenient that an entire generation of people that discovered Lou Reed as an experimental pioneer after the fact can completely destroy the man for a collaboration that might not even be the worst in his career. Anyway, I don't think anyone that wasn't there for the initial reception of Metal Machine Music can have any meaningful perspective on Reed's work with Metallica. Anyway, my money is on Lou Reed once again proving everyone wrong (set your clocks to 2031, when Lulu is reassessed as a conceptual, theatrical masterpiece), and my money remains on Lou Reed doing whatever the hell he wants anyway because that's why we love him and that's why his career is truly one-of-a-kind.

Favorite Old Records:
The Ronettes (everything)
Bo Diddley (everything)
The Byrds, Mr. Tambourine Man
John Coltrane, Meditations
Echo and the Bunnymen, Ocean Rain
David Bowie, Let's Dance
Tegan and Sara, The Con
The United States of America
Nice Strong Arm, Mind Furnace
The Dandy Warhols, Odditorium or Warlords of Mars

Thank You
Thank you to everyone who read posts here (or on 'Spective Audio) and purchased or listened to a tape this year!

I truly enjoyed working with all of the bands and artists on 'Spective Audio this year: thank you Cyrus Shahmir, cinchel, The N.E.C., Implodes, The Sunny Muffdivers, The Great Society Mind Destroyers, Rabble Rabble, Killer Moon, Sovus Radio, Soft Opening, Brainworlds, and All The Saints. I owe special thanks to my bandmates and partners in crime, Travis Bird, Kelley Crawford, and Evan Lindorff-Ellery.

I owe thanks to Permanent Records and Reckless Records for selling and featuring 'Spective Audio tapes. I especially owe thanks to Permanent and Aquarius Records for their weekly newsletters, which helped me learn a lot about music.

I also truly appreciate the time and energy of Robert Cole Manis, Mark Perro, Oliver Ackermann, Dion Lunadon, and Curt Sydnor, who helped me to write features thanks to their interviews and extended conversations.

I have not thanked my wife, partner, and best friend, for her encouragement, spiritual guidance, and gracious turntable time.