Sunday, February 28, 2010

Big Batch o' Beta-Lactam

Last Tuesday, I received an order I mentioned in the Ltd. Ed. post. The ltd. 2xCD edition of Sonic Messenger (2009) from Expo '70, the benefit compilation Mom (2009), and a suprise: extra label comp Mutant Sounds For Mutant People (2009)! All from Beta-Lactam Ring Records.

Sonic Messenger
Somehow you might have guessed that song titles like "Analog Dreamscape" and "Your Beard Is Growing Psychic" would reel me in. Throw in a bonus ltd-ed cd titled Infinite Macrocosm and I'm sold! Also, I was heartened by photos of disembodied guitar headstocks, someone with a guitar, stacks of guitar amps, and so on.

Well, it's drone. However... whereas a lot of drone is keyboard-based and/or dark and haunting, Expo '70 uses mostly guitars and grooves the space-psych terrain of late-'60s/early-'70 Pink Floyd. And some more modern sounds to boot. So, it stands out from the rest of what I've been on, and there's a lot to dig into here.

"Your Beard Is Growing Psychic" from Sonic Messenger (2009)

Opening intro "The Gathering" is all roiling distortion waves with a prickly lead part and fever-buzz ending. The next one goes on too long once it settles into a (arrhythmic) groove, but experiments nicely with multi-guitar drones and weird, percussion-interruptus loops. "Analog Dreamscape" might be based on actual analogue tape delay, because it seems like the guitar repeats everything only once. Or maybe the decay is just set real high. Not the greatest guitarist, but he manages to keep the psych flowing over a tribal drum-machine beat. "Hamadryad" is the epitome of space-synth psych-guitar ambient-drone, which doesn't make it the most interesting track on the album. Still cool, though.

"I Nzambi Awaken" sounds perilously close to some heavier track from Harvestman's In A Dark Tongue (#5 , 2009). Heavy, repetitive riffage droning out and minimalistic tribal rhythm under exploratory guitar soloing. Plus the title almost has "zombie" in it, and practically references "Ye Uttuku Spells" from Absu! Embedded above, "Your Beard" should be the selling track instead of edits of "Hamadryad." Sure, it's not very representative, but it's damn groovy. Plus the title would sure get people talkin'. Couple more songs - one more dark and chugging, one more bright and pulsing. Then the concluding epic (21 minutes), "Temple of the Shadow," uses all the tricks introduced so far: roiling, quietude, delayed guitar, space-noise, amp overload, minimalist drum loops, psychedelia!!

Expo '70
The ltd-ed companion disc Infinite Macrocosm (2009) consists of three lengthy tracks, which defy description - at least by me, at this time. If the main disc still leaves much to be explored (and it does), then this requires deep-deep-space exploration. Maybe outtakes, maybe improvised experiments, but it goes all over the place - at least within the bounds of what Messenger introduced. It's pretty trippy, though! "Velvet Prisms of the Shoshone," indeed...

If interested, Lala does have one Expo '70 album up: Animism (2007).

Mom (2009) is a benefit compilation for the mother of BLR label head, who was diagnosed with stomach cancer last year. I really recommend buying it (also offering samples and .mp3 purchases). Just some quick notes on each track, and I'll link from the artist name to whatever is out there - usually Lala, if available. No full streaming of this anywhere yet, nor these specific songs.

1 Orbit Service - "Reap"
Something like a Syd Barrett/Skip Spence/Nick Drake baroque alt-gospel-folk-blues, with spectral fiddle. Unexpected!

2 CJ Boyd - "Floodgates"
Vocal loops under vocal drones and cries, then some cello outro. Not my thing, but not atrocious.

3 One Starving Day - "Traccia"
Leyland Kirby-esque piano crawl, with more active synth squiggles hopping around.

4 Nadja - "Healing Drone"
Very relaxing, low feedback hum over round digital shapes. Not the typical effects-loaded Nadja I've experienced.

5 Expo '70 - "Electric Waves"
Another mellowed-out drone, with Heliotropic cymbal.

6 Seven That Spells - "Pastorala"
Part 3 of a drone trilogy, featuring emergent organ pulses, with squelchy synth arpeggiation as a bonus.

7 Troum - "KĀŚ"
More drone, with monastic chant ambience. Almost new-agey, but not so in-your-face.

"Samsara Tsunami" by Earthmonkey, from Mom (2009)

8 Armchair Migraine Journey - "NAD Pt. 2" (No Fuzz Mix)
Floating spacey pulse, without fuzz. For some strange reason, I expected it to be somewhat headache-inducing. It isn't at all!

9 Else Teicher - "M↑M"
Crashing waves of organ with intermittent disruption (sector 8 alarm, machine punchcard outburst). Cool sound, especially at compilation track length.

10 Volcano The Bear - "11 Years Of Yes"
Creepy sing-song vocal mutilation, like a bad dream remembered distantly. Maybe Happy Flowersesque?

11 The Legendary Pink Dots - "A Moustache On The Mona Lisa And Other Things You May Find In The Neighbour's Trash"
Brechtian folderol. I once bought a LPD album 20 years ago, because I heard "The Green Gang" on KTRU. I quickly realized it was not for me.

12 La STPO - "Sarajevo-Stepanakert"
Screeching spazz-out noise gives way to low-key free jazz ambience - including vibes (the instrument) and banjo (maybe).

13 Un Festin Sagital - "Cumbia" (Remix)
Reminds me of a Spanish-language Bogus Blimp, or industrial parts of The Forbidden Zone film (1982). Those are good things...

14 Earthmonkey - "Samsara Tsunami" [embedded above]
Much better than their nom du noise would have indicated. Almost like a dirgy Aborym techno-symphonic BM. Pretty cool!

15 Nurse With Wound - "My Saxy Baby - Raw Mix"
Not at all what I’d expected from NWW, given their credentials and rep. Maybe I’m just becoming jaded, or maybe it’s atypical from them. Gallumphing saxes and a brittle beat.

16 Andrew Liles - "Some Women Do Not Love Their Children (Vorsprungdurchtechnikmix)"
Short and noisy, with glitchy synth beats, and a strident tone. Andrew seems a very busy man.

Mutant Sounds For Mutant People
Same deal with Mutant Sounds for Mutant People (2009), which again is an actual label compilation. Available for $1, or free if they throw it in with an order (which they probably would). And I'd say worth a cd's price on its own merits! Links go more often to some kind of artist website or Myspace...

1 Nadja - "SUN1jaguarSUN2windstorm" (Vinyl Ver. Edit)
I like Nadja (#16, Metal 2009) more after these tunes than before. Might have to get Under the Jaguar Sun (2009) now. Pretty sweet, full-bodied 9-minute stoner-drone dirge, with a relatively cleaner sound (less effects-overload) than usual. Hazy feeling, moreso than hazy sounding.

2 One Starving Day - "An Evil Light" (Edit)
Keeps changing colors. First part's like a post-punk VU's "The Gift," with spazzy lead runs (or runny spazz leads). Then a zoned-out, Krauty math-rock section. Then some loud 'n' freaky chooglin' organ shouter.

3 Expo '70 - "Hamadryad" (Edit)
Ambient guitar-drone edit, as described way above.

4 Nadja - "Green & Cold" (Edit)
Nice heavy guitar, drawn out - with some delay scrapings and a treated, clipped drum (machine) sound. All put together really nicely.

5 Edward Ka-Spel - "A Missing Piece" (Edit)
The man behind The Legendary Pink Dots, and so pretty similar. Precious singing with keyboards and digital beats, interpolated with ambient scenes which would be better without the song.

6 Nurse With Wound - "Space Music" (Edit)
Too much too-high frequencies, too uneventful, with random noiseburst. The cool "events" not worth the rest. More like what I would’ve expected from NWW.

7 Philippe Petit - "In Tokyo Henry Spencer Is Fine" (Edit)
Vinyl pops-and-clicks tape-manipulation glitch intro subsides behind an abstract yet musical form. Classical, yet avant garde. Not ambient, but almost subdued. In the lead for future purchases (of the new exposure). I assume it's not actually the highwire-walker.

8 Aritomo - "The Forgotten Pressed Flower"
Is the singing backwards-masked, or just in Japanese? Or both?? Some of the sounds are backwards... I'm all confused. Kinda folky, in an eastern mood.

9 Kasumi Trio - "So Far"
Jazzy acoustic guitar mellowness, almost like a low-key Minutemen or early Sebadoh with early-Mercury Rev horn chart as backup.

10 The Silverman - "Adrift"
Spooky ambient organ drone, a description which doesn't fully capture what's done with that mood. Another one for future investigations. Looks like he's a member of The Legendary Pink Dots as well.

11 Troum - "Elation" (Original Version)
Sensitive, spacious synth - drone.

12 Colin Potter, Phil Mouldycliff - "Grey Skies on Asphalt, Part 5"
Ambient music exactly as the song title would lead you to believe.

13 Andrew Liles - "Crash"
Kinda similar, kinda different than his track on Mom - like a string quartet in a noise warzone. He's also seems to have the knack for ending pieces before they overstay their welcome. A lost talent...

Infinite Macrocosm

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