Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top 10 Albums of 2011

[posted 1/1/12, noon - backdating for clarity...]
Did you miss the previous post, with #'s 11-20 of 2011? Well, here are the top albums for the year we just concluded. Since I'll be doing individual write-ups (coming soon), commentary is kept to a minimum... I'll also link to full posts in the relevant sections below. Enjoy!!

#1 Deep Politics - Grails

Deep Politics
"I Led Three Lives" from Deep Politics (2011)
"Daughters of Bilitis" from Deep Politics (2011)

Genre - Tibetan Crime Jazz
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Portland, OR

Review - Pitchfork
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Temporary Residence Ltd.

This album totally confirmed my initial impressions, because it's excellent. Grails manage to update their style(s), without losing the quality of material or depth of thought which have made them perennial favorites (#6, 2008 and #19, 2010).

And it looks like and sounds like Lilacs & Champagne (½ Grails) will be doing something similar in about a month.

#2 Rare Forms - Woodsman
Mystic Places EP - Woodsman

Rare Forms
"Insects" from Rare Forms (2011)
"Parallel Minds" from Mystic Places EP (2011)

Genre - Psychedelia
Official/Tumblr -
Myspace -
Location - Denver, CO

Review - The Line of Best Fit
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Lefse Records, Fire Talk Recs

Picked up Rare Forms at Austin Psych Fest, where they were one of the best I saw. Mystic Places came late this year, and I think I've decided Woodsman are more appropriate for the EP format. Both great releases, though, and I've also really gotten into the older ones too.

A little late, but there's also this Woodsman-curated Christmas comp, with them doing "Little Drummer Boy." Download available!

Chaudelande Volume 1 - Gnod
a split LP - Gnod/A Middle Sex

"Tron" from Chaudelande Volume 1 (2011)
"Vatican" from INGNODWETRUST (2011)

Genre - Rumbling Drone-Groove Psych
Official/Tumblr -
Myspace -
Location - Salford, England

Review - Head Heritage
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - GNOD

Despite being last year's co-#5, I really only became familiar with Gnod themselves during 2011. Specifically during a massive free-download CDr-discography dump in January (still there). Then 2011 brought 5 sides o' vinyl, which were all pretty much smoking hot!

Here's another holiday mix that I'd missed, from The Committee to Keep Music Evil - includes a sweet Gnod track from Chaudelande!

#4 777: Sect(s) - Blut Aus Nord
777: The Desanctification - Blut Aus Nord

"Epitome II" from 777: Sect(s) (2011)
"Epitome VIII" from 777: The Desanctification (2011)

Genre - Industrialized Black Metal
Official/Myspace -
Location - France

Review - Treble Zine
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Eitrin Editions

I've covered these releases up through a very recent post, but I'll say it again: Blut Aus Nord is quite simply tearing it up. They've done great work recently (#1 of 2009 Metal Next 10, and #16 of 2010), and this series continues that trend - while calling back to previous styles & efforts.

According to the BAN Wikipedia page, part 3 will be called 777: Cosmosophy (2012?).

#5 Escape Velocity - Zombi
Slow Oscillations EP - Zombi
Ben Nevis 7" - Majeure
Synthesizer of the Gods - Majeure
Fluid Window - Miracle

Escape Velocity
"Shrunken Heads" from Escape Velocity (2011)
"Time of Troubles" from Escape Velocity (2011)

Genre - Neo-Italo disco / Electro-Prog
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Chicago, IL? NYC, NY? Pittsburgh, PA?

Review - The Metal Minnute
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Relapse Records

Zombi has been whole or in part: #1 of 2004, tops in 2006, co-#2, 2009, and contributors to last year's #23 Records.

The full album's Italo disco synth-prog builds on its immediate success, despite the nagging desire for some more blow-out drumming and rock instrumentation. The remix EP is free at Amazon. The Majeure releases were a nice complement, and I'm definitely looking forward to 2012's split LP.

#6 Abzu - Absu

"Abraxas Connexus" from Abzu (2011)
"Circles of the Oath" from Abzu (2011)

Genre - Mythological Occult Metal
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Plano, TX

Review - Pitchfork
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Candlelight [CD / LP]

Finally caught a live show by Absu, famed for the #2 of 2009 Metal Next 10 and the Black Metal Classic Tara (2001). The new album (2nd in a 3-part series) started out strong and just kept growing and growing on me, all the way through the final epic (6-part) tune. Lotsa fun on this one!

#7 Sun and Shade - Woods

Sun and Shade
"Pushing Onlys" from Sun and Shade (2011)
"Who Do I Think I Am?" from Sun and Shade (2011)

Genre - Folky Psych-Pop
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Brooklyn, NYC

Review - Paste Magazine
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Woods

Continuing in the tradition of At Echo Lake (#6, 2010), with a few stylistic tweaks and detours, Woods don't shake up the world. They just. win. games!! ... I mean, write good songs.

#8 Lost in the Glare - Barn Owl
Shadowland EP - Barn Owl

Lost in the Glare
"Shadowland" from Shadowland EP (2011)
"Turiya" from Lost in the Glare (2011)

Genre - Open-Desert Mescalinesque Dream-Drone
Official -
Myspace -
Location - San Francisco, CA

Review - Dusted Magazine
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Thrill Jockey Records

I definitely wanted Barn Owl in the Top 10 last year. #11 Record of 2010... so close! This year's double-whammy of shamanistic drone-doom is too much to deny. Deep, mang.

The title track from Shadowland was also featured on Vol. 6 of the blog compilation download series.

#9 Music for the Tactile Dome - Jonas Reinhardt
The Prime Revealer EP - Jonas Reinhardt

Music for the Tactile Dome
"Smokey Jotus" from Music for the Tactile Dome (2011)
"Only Pharaoh" from The Prime Revealer EP (2011)

Genre - Krautronics
Official -
Myspace -
Location - San Francisco, CA

Review - Foxy Digitalis
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - The Great Pop Supplement [EP] / Forced Exposure [all others]

Two years ago, I titled a post about Jonas Reinhardt "Euphonious Kraut Metronomy." This was contrasted with the next post, called "Amorphous Synth Burble" - about Emeralds' What Happened (2009). With these new records, the Jonas has managed to bridge the divide between those two descriptions. Works pretty well, too...

#10 An empty bliss beyond this world - The Caretaker
Eager to tear apart the stars - Leyland Kirby
Intrigue & Stuff, Vol. 1 - Leyland Kirby
Intrigue & Stuff, Vol. 2 - Leyland Kirby
Intrigue & Stuff, Vol. 3 - Leyland Kirby

an empty bliss beyond this world
"All You Are Going to Want to Do is Get Back There" from An empty bliss beyond this world (2011)
"My Dream Contained a Star" from Eager to tear apart the stars
"Live for the Future, Long for the Past" from Intrigue & Stuff, Vol. 1
"Eventually It Eats Your Lungs" from Intrigue & Stuff, Vol. 2
"The watcher and the watched" from Intrigue & Stuff, Vol. 3

Genre - Modern Classical / Ambient Hauntology / Electro
Official -
Location - Berlin (still, I think) via UK

Review - Tiny Mix Tapes
Download - LK Bandcamp, CT Bandcamp
Purchase - Forced Exposure

Earlier on, I covered the return of The Caretaker (#3, Drone/Ambient 2009 and #1, Drone/Ambient 2005). At some point in 2011, I took Mr. Kirby up on his offer of an annual digital subscription - so I got all of these without even having to leave the sofa.

Lots and lots and lots of music, ranging from the early-20th ballroom loops (of Caretaker fame) to something approaching dance music (in some alternative dimension). Should be an interesting read...

Top 11-20 Albums of 2011

... and Happy New Year!!

Here beginneth the 2nd half of the year-end Albums list(s). This was a weird year for me & music (& blogging), and I had a hard time deciding the last few ranks for this post. I might put together a thematic Honorable Mentions post, time permitting. And the actual Top 10 will come soon, hopefully in a day or two...

But for now, let's get to it!

#11 Too Down to Die - Robedoor

Too Down to Die
"(In the) Cybershade/Universal Migration" from Too Down to Die
"Dungeon Crossroads" from Too Down to Die (2011)

Genre - Psychedelic Noise-Drone
Official/Myspace -
Location - Los Angeles, CA

Review - Foxy Digitalis
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Forced Exposure

Robedoor's Rancor Keeper (2007) is probably my favorite noise/drone album of all time. Love it! I started picking up their more recent 7"s, including last year's Pacific Drift (#18, 2010), but had missed out on a coupla records. I got this new one super-recently, but have been listening to it A LOT. Side-long opener "Parallel Wanderer" is massive, dense, shifting and well worth a 22-minute investment. This recent post includes a link to an in-studio live version, plus some more... Not sure how "Afterburners" might be related to the album Burners (2010). Lots going on with this one.

#12 Celestial Lineage - Wolves in the Throne Room

Celestial Lineage
"Astral Blood" from Celestial Lineage (2011)
"Subterranean Initiation" from Celestial Lineage (2011)

Genre - Cascadian Eco-Black Metal
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Olympia, WA

Review - Encyclopaedia Metallum user reviews
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Southern Lord Records

Like many American dabblers in Black Metal, I've somewhat latched onto WITTR. Because the sounds incorporate haunting atmospherics and some mellower sounds, it can be a more inviting style of listen. Lots of attention was paid to the opening tune, "Thuja Magus Imperium," probably for this exact reason. Their last two releases a couple years ago (#14, 2009) weren't quite up to Two Hunters (#7, 2007). Now I'm not saying Celestial Lineage is either, but it's a step in the right direction. Outside of some minor interlude tracks, everything here sounds seriously serious. One more for ya: "Woodland Cathedral."

#13 En Form for Blå - Æthenor

En Form for Bla (live)
"Jocasta" from En Form for Blå (2011)
"One Number of Destiny in Ninety Nine" from En Form for Blå (2011)

Genre - Experimental Dark Jazz
Official/Myspace -
Location - Out there!

Review - The Quietus
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - VHF Records

All the way back to first hearing their debut album (#7, 2006), Æthenor has seemed kinda special to me. A collection of talented artists, a super-group even, who get together to do what weirdo musicians should always do: make fantastic freak-outs that sound awesome! As detailed on the release date, these recordings come from a 3-night live stand in Oslo, Norway. Certainly do wish I'd been there! More songs from this one are hidden here behind MySpace. Other tunes I especially dig are: "Laudanum Tusk", "Vivarium", and "Dream Tassels."

#14 World of Funk - Shawn Lee

World of Funk
"Cairo Cairo" (with Natacha Atlas) from World of Funk (2011)
"Iceberg" (with Elliot Bergman) from World of Funk (2011)

Genre - Funk and/or World
Official -
Myspace -
Location - London, England

Review - Fly Global Music
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Ubiquity Records

A fomer year-end #1 (of 2009), Shawn Lee keeps 'em comin'. He's done soul, he's done covers, he's done videogame soundtracks! This one does a funky take on various World Music styles. I actually posted on this album very recently, so I won't go on and on (again). I will point out that the Nanny G who appears on "Nanny Jee" is supposedly Shawn Lee's mother-in-law, and that's pretty badass!

#15 EP3 - Cult of Dom Keller
"We Are Temples of Light and Dark" - Cult of Dom Keller

"This is How It Feels to Live Your Life Dead" from EP3 (2011)
"We Are Temples of Light and Dark," internet demo d/l (2011)

Genre - Dronish Psych-Rock
Official/Myspace -
Location - Nottingham, U.K.

Download - Bandcamp
Purchase - The Committee to Keep Music Evil

We caught these guys at this year's Austin Psych Fest, and got to meet them and everything. They were good blokes, from Britain and all... Their music is retro for everything droney and druggy all at once - from the Velvet Underground through '80s stuff like Echo and Julian Cope, to My Bloody shoegaze, up to around the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Picked up EP1 and EP2 at the fest, and the new EP will have to do until they release Swamp Heron Blues (????). You can also stream it at Bandcamp. And they're always posting up their videos on YouTube. Be forewarned: it is druggy & droney.

#16 Easy Action - The Alps

Easy Action
"For Isabel" from Easy Action (2011)
"Reflections for Peter Green" from Easy Action (2011)

Genre - Easy Noise
Official/Myspace -
Location - San Francisco, CA

Review - The Agit Reader
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Sold Out at source...

These guys had been climbing the Astral Headspace Top 10 mountain (such as it is), with III at #9 on the inaugural 2008 list, then up to #4 on last year's. Unfortunately, this new one doesn't click with me as regularly. I still enjoy the half with more song-like stuff (as above links), but there's a few too many noisescapes which are each a bit too long for me. So I think that "Spray" (not a Can cover) and the title track (where'd the video go at?!) are both really great. And even then, some of the experiments do pay off - the three movements of "Loves of a Blonde" all yield their own rewards. I mean, we're still talking #16 here...

Easy Action pop-up
Also, the pop-up album cover design is really excellent!

#17 Inaudible Bicoastal Trajectory - Expo '70
Blackout: Live Ithaca & Manhattan 2009 - Expo '70

Inaudible Bicoastal Trajectory
"Hypnotic Brain Cloud Float" [edit] from Inaudible Bicoastal Trajectory (2011)
"Ithaca, NY 10/19/09" [edit] from Blackout: Live... (2011)

Genre - Guitar Space Drone
Official -
Location - Kansas City, MO

Review - Dumpster Diving blog
Download - Boomkat, Amazon
Purchase - Aguirre Records

This is weird. You know when I like to listen to Expo '70 (#7 Drone/Ambient 2009, and #29, 2010)? When I'm buying groceries. Not the only time, mind. But I find myself selecting them often as I push a cart up and down the aisles, zoned out a million miles away. I have no idea why, but there it is... These two LP's each consist of 2 side-long live explorations from the recent past. I prefer Inaudible Bicoastal Trajectory for both the space-outs and the titles ("Hypnotic Brain Cloud Float?" Check. "Mystical Bamboo Garden Cultivation?" O yes.) The NY jams on Blackout seem a bit more muscular, but still meandering into the firmament.

#18 A Young Person's Guide to Mark McGuire - Mark McGuire

A Young Person's Guide to Mark McGuire
"Stranger than Paradise" from A Young Person's Guide... (2011)
"The Invisible World" from A Young Person's Guide... (2011)

Genre - Delay-Action Guitar
Official/Blogspot -
Location - Cleveland, OH

Review - Dusted Magazine
Download - iTunes, Bleep
Purchase - Forced Exposure, Amazon

One of those prolific Emeralds guys (co-#2, 2010), Mark McGuire is the guitarist. His solo stuff sounds good, and it's interesting to listen to. Picking out pretty much any of these tunes at random would give you something to chew on. (There's a few others in this recent post...) But here's the deal: a 2xCD retrospective chock full o' guitar repetition & delay just ends up a bit too much of a good thing. I often struggled to keep up with what's going on, or to keep going through enough of it. And I dig the music! I'm still going to pick up this year's album of all new material, Get Lost (2011), and I fully expect to get into it deep.

#19 - Ghost Box Study Series 05-07
The Open Songbook - Hintermass
Animation and Interpretation - Jonny Trunk
Autumnal Activities - Pye Corner Audio with The Advisory Circle

Study Series 07: Autumnal Activities
"Are You Watching" by Hintermass, from Study Series 05: The Open Songbook (2011)
"Cloud Control" by Pye Corner Audio and The Advisory Circle, plus
"November Sequence" by Pye Corner Audio, both from Study Series 07: Autumnal Activities (2011)

Genre - British Heritage Electronics
Official -
Myspace -
Location - England, U.K.

Review - O(h)rtlos blog
Download - Ghost Box, Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Ghost Box

Overall, not quite as engaging as previous installations (#9, 2010), but maybe heading into more varied territories. The Ghost Box Study Series of 7" releases continued with 3 more out this year. Hintermass (#05) is new, but made up of Tim Felton (from Broadcast) and Jon Brooks of The Advisory Circle (and label majordomo). Jonny Trunk (#06) runs his own label too, Trunk Records, which specializes in obscure film & library music and always seems to me really interesting and exotic - in a British manner. Here's 1-minute of A-side. The Advisory Circle work with Pye Corner Audio (#07) with best results. I've not been familiar with P.C.A., but will endeavor to investigate further. Et cetera and whatnot...

#20 Benefit for the Recovery in Japan - V/A comp

Benefit for the Recovery in Japan
"Cassiopeia" by Grouper, from Benefit for the Recovery in Japan (2011)
"Anzac #3" by Keith Fullerton Whitman, from Benefit for... (2011)
"Fearless" by Fennesz, from ... the Recovery... (2011)
"Hatred of Music" by Tim Hecker, different version from ... in Japan (2011)
"Uncut Diamond" by Warm Ghost, from BFTRIJ (2011)
"In the Hollows" by Nat Baldwin, from Benefit for... Japan (2011)

Genre - mostly Drones of some sort
Official - Antiopic Records
Location - from All Over The World, to Japan

Review - Pitchfork
Download/Purchase/Stream - Fina

Here's my original post on this internet-download benefit-compilation from some of the leading lights of various dronologies. Really a who's who of a certain segment of out-music. I have gone back to it again and again, much more than I initially expected when I first bought it. Pitchfork says you can play the tracks at the Stream link above, but I couldn't make it work. Still, worth a try - or just buy it. Good stuff, good cause (even still)!!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Wha'd I Miss?

I must admit to feeling a little ambivalent about this year's listification. As much good music as I did hear, it seems I missed twice as much "known unknowns." Stuff that I feel like would have been on the list somewhere, but I just never got around to it...

"Replica" by Oneohtrix Point Never, from Replica (2011)

Like the new material out from the Emeralds camp. I got the Mark McGuire retrospective, but not Get Lost, nor Steve Hauschildt's Tragedy & Geometry. Nor even this year's Oneohtrix Point Never...

"Firefly Constellations" by Mark McGuire, from Get Lost (2011)

I also fully intended to pick up the new one from Charalambides, Exile, but other stuff got in the way. Soon.

"Saturn Missile Battery" by Tia Carrera, from Cosmic Priestess (2011)

The Tia Carrera released Cosmic Priestess this year, and I only found out about it yesterday! Also, Tombs' Path of Totality sounds very intriguing, but mainly from it's omnipresence on this last months' worth of lists.

"Violetta" by Demdike Stare, from Elemental 2: Violetta (2011)

Although I've received the first two installments of Demdike Stare's Elemental series, they arrived too late for me to digest in time for the year-end festivities.

"Baby Missiles" by The War on Drugs, from Slave Ambient (2011)

I don't know what to think about a new Kate Bush album getting respect. And how's Slave Ambient supposed to be?

"Wild Man" by Kate Bush, from 50 Words for Snow (2011)

Cosmic Priestess

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Time Is Here
Like I say...

"Christmas Time is Here" by Woods, from internet release (2011)

Super-recently, downloadable from Pitchfork. Of course it's a cover of the Vince Guaraldi tune from A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965).

"This Christmas" by Donny Hathaway, from 7" vinyl 45rpm single (1970)

The oft-covered R&B holiday standard. I think my favorite one is a late-'80s Japanese new-age/jazz version by Yutaka. O, that Vollenweider harp!

"Black Xmas" by Venom, from Calm Before the Storm (1987)

Never forget ye olde Dark Lyrics site - METAL.

... and Happy New Year!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Downloading Metal 2011

Currently downloading: SPIN's Best of 2011 Metal Mixtape.
1. Liturgy - "Generation"
2. All Pigs Must Die - "God is War"
3. Tombs - "To Cross The Land"
4. Yob - "Prepare the Ground"
5. Battillus - "Deadweight"
6. Blood Ceremony - "My Demon Brother"
7. Ghost - "Ritual"
8. Bruce Lamont - "Disgruntled Employer"
9. Earth - "Old Black"
10. Hull - "Beyond The Lightless Sky"
11. Anthrax - "Fight 'Em Til You Can't"
12. Megadeth - "Public Enemy No. 1"
13. Korn ft. Skrillex - "Narcissistic Cannibal"
14. Rwake - "An Invisible Thread"
15. Autopsy - "Always About To Die"
16. Absu - "Abraxas Connexus"
17. Craft - "I Want To Commit Murder"
18. Wolves In The Throne Room - "Thuja Magus Imperium"
19. Krallice - "The Clearing"

Click that link to reach their year-end list and the download - you have to give your e-mail and... Holy crap! Absu is SPIN's #5?!
The midpoint of a career-resuscitating trilogy for long-standing Texas sophisticates Absu, Abzu continues what 2009's great Absu renewed: spiraling, sprawling sprints from metals death and black, thrash and tech — all united by the dense mythological exhortations of bandleader Proscriptor. Indeed, it might take two volumes to unwind all the threads of thought in these lyrics and to decode the interlocking structures in the music; but living on the surface, this 36-minute race just feels breathless, unapologetic. and fun. GRAYSON CURRIN

Now I'm in a list-making mood.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Your Mercury - Teeth of the Sea (#10, 2010)

This is why you don't publish a Year-End list at the beginning of December! (Among other late releases...)
[which also applies to 2011.]

"A.C.R.O.N.Y.M." by Teeth of the Sea, from Your Mercury (2010)

On its own, Hypnoticon would have probably been in the 20's or 30's. But then I caught word of an all-new full-length album, and it had already been released! In the newest issue of Mojo (Freddie Mercury cover), they have an article on Teeth of the Sea (not the 4-star review of Your Mercury). Influences referred to are: Hawkwind's Space Ritual (#4, 1973), Sleep's Holy Mountain (1992), and Monster Magnet's Spine of God (also 1992)... "Krautrock, Kosmische music, spaghetti western soundtracks, pompous Euro-prog" (per Julian Cope), The Cramps, Steve Reich, Queen's soundtrack to Flash Gordon (!!!), "Iain Sinclair / Alan Moore psychogeography," Sunn O))), Heldon, Bongwater (#4, 1988). But then makes the important point that "their singular wisdom is never to copy their heroes." Right.

"Hypnoticon Viva" [live, 11/22/2010] by TOTS, from Hypnoticon EP (2010)

The Hypnoticon EP is good. You have one tune arising from their Flash Gordon (1980) OST concert, a somewhat non-descript TOTS jam-out, and "The Island Is" – a much longer psychedelic guitar ambient exploration. It kind of made me think TOTS was settling down a bit.

"The Ambassador" by Teeth of the Sea, from Your Mercury (2010)

Your Mercury totally reverses course. After an intro track, "The Ambassador" explodes in a guitar feedback noisefest – and from there, it's electronic drones, guitar freak-outs, the occasional trumpet, some interludes, some epics... basically, everything you (or maybe I) want in an album.

"You're Mercury" [live, 11/22/2010] by TOTS, from Your Mercury (2010)

I just recently made the Mercury/Freddie connection too...

O yeah! Check out the Rough Trade bonus disc (which I didn't know about) - and get it here for free!!
HOWARD SHORE - "Welcome To Videodrome"
SLAUGHTER - "Tales Of The Macabre"
MICK FARREN - "Carnivorous Circus Part 1"
MOONDOG - "Bug On A Floating Leaf"
JOHN GIORNO - "Vajra Kisses"
NEON JUDGEMENT - "Fashion Party"
FANFARE CIOCARLIA - "Hora Cu Strigaturii"
PROSTHETIC CUNT - "Dog Got Knocked The Fuck Out"
THE MUMMIES - "You Must Fight To Live On The Planet Of The Apes"
THE SCREAMERS - "122 Hours Of Fear"
UMBERTO - "Red Dawn"
XELA - "Halloween"
SUN RA - "Astro Black"
RZA - "Love Jones"
MICHAEL BUNDT - "Tropic Of Night Frost"
NICO - "Evening Of Light"
Good stuff.

On a related note, Can't let go without mentioning that Teeth of the Sea were responsible for the #4 Free Internet Mixes of 2010.

Your Mercury

Genre - Soundtrack Jazz and Noise Ambience
Official/Myspace -
Location - North London, England

Review - The BBC
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - All That Is Heavy

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Master Deck: Saff

Awhile back, I was looking at something (possibly Hookworms' S/T), and I noticed the name Carl Saff. I knew it from somewhere, but couldn't remember why it was familiar... So I checked around and found 15 PAGES at Discogs!! And that's where it all fell together.

There on the first page, a name from my long-ago past: Pencil.

Pencil EP 1993
According to
A post-punk band with an ever-shifting lineup of late 80s-early 90s Indiana University students, Pencil originally consisted of high school friends Carl Saff (guitar) and Matt Wagner (drums) and fellow students Chris Morgan (vocals) and Karl Desch (bass). Pencil rapidly evolved over the course of numerous gigs in the Bloomington, IN basement show scene...

When singer Morgan and bass player Desch left the band post-graduation, singer Rob Davidson and bass player Tyler Tribby joined and the band recorded a self-released seven-inch EP in 1992 which garnered the attention of NYC-based Grass Records.

I have that 7"! (Apparently 2 copies...) And also their debut full length Skantron (1994) on CD.

According to this interwebs page, it was a ltd edition of 300 - and handnumbered. Okay, I had to pull this one out (took awhile to find)... As the internet and plastic sleeve both say, "Comic & Sticker Inside!" Also correct: "clear green vinyl." Comix by Dan Vebber (Two Felipes, The Onion, Futurama, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Daria), and I have numbered #'s 14 and 290 (of 300).

Pencil live, 1993 Bloomington Street Dance

Still with me? So yeah, Pencil was a local Bloomington post-punk/math-rock quartet while I was there. So massive in their impact that they have 1 total video on the entire web. But I liked them enough to buy multiple copies of their 7" EP, and even a CD of their album. (Here's a most idiosyncratic History of Bloomington Music video.)

Anyway, around this time I disappeared from Bloomington, IN. Pencil would soon break up, and Carl Saff would go on to play in the more successful but shorter-lived Neutrino...

"Back to the Map" by Neutrino, from Motion Picture Soundtrack (1999)

They continued in the same soon-to-be-post-rock vein, just a little bit tighter now. And in Chicago. Being back in Texas again, I was unaware of all this history being made. Right now, their second and final album is available at the recently-restored Indiana Musical Family Tree. Also check out the band page at the newly-resumed Epitonic:
Well, like the subatomic particle, the band is definitely hard to pin down. The Chicago trio makes predominately instrumental rock dominated by dark strange chord progressions and minor keys. It's kind of dark, like Slint, and kind of bizarre and mathy, like Sweep The Leg Johnny, but it possesses a language all of its own which you need to hear in order to remotely understand.

Next comes the surprise reveal, where I know this Carl Saff name from...

"E.D.G.A.R." by Emperor Penguin, from Mysterious Pony (2000)

That's right. Emperor Penguin (#4 of some year)! Emperor Penguin, with Bill Cameron!! If you read that Bloomingtonian history, you might see the parallels: the long-forgotten self-released non-cd EP, the later better-remembered releases, the move away from Bloomington to Chicago, ending up as bandmates in Emperor Penguin? And then the later switch to something completely different.

Extreme Gaming
I really like this act a bunch. Since the Family Tree is back... just go to their Emperor Penguin page, for almost the entire discography. Now including Extreme Gaming (1999), which hadn't been there before. You can still get Emperor Penguin CD's on the internet, which wouldn't be a bad idea. (iTunes and Amazon downloads too.)

"Theme from Moon Base" by Emperor Penguin, from Shatter the Illusion of Integrity, Yeah (1999)

Just one more from E.P., before we move on. The most recent musical project from Mr. Saff appears to be The Warmth, which I have just now discovered.

Making albums through at least 2009. Streaming music and purchases at their website. You can also preview or download multiple albums for free at the Musical Family Tree, if you want to check them out.

But none of this is why Carl Saff has 15 pages of Discogs...

No, it's the Technical category, all because of Saff Mastering.

Just an endless stream of albums, really picking up in the mid '00s - around the time Saff mastered Grails' Black Tar Prophecies, Vol's 1, 2, & 3 (2006, and on reissue #19 of 2010). Lots of Grails and Starless & Bible Black, some stuff for Important Records and Temporary Residence Ltd., even some Houston releases. But the one that really freaked me out to see was Forest Swords' Dagger Paths EP (#21, 2010)... Unexpected!

Mastering, with Carl Saff!!

If you'd like to learn more about Audio Mastering, here's the relevant Wikipedia page. And be sure to buy every single album listed under "Clients" on the Saff Mastering website!


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Jam for Jerry

Looking at Pitchfork's Top 100 Tracks of 2011, I do believe I might be out of touch... with something. I haven't even heard of a bunch of these artists, much less their music.

"Jam for Jerry" by Holy Ghost!, from (2011)

But there at #70 is something about Jerry Fuchs, Maserati's late great drummer. From DFA band Holy Ghost! Fuchs was kind of a house drummer for the label, and was probably bros with these guys. I don't know nuthin'.

I was going to post some other stuff that I don't know - but I didn't find anything worth it fast enough. Sheesh... cranky old man!

Holy Ghost!

Here's an XLR8R interview I found. Now get off my lawn!!
So, when you record live drums, are you good enough drummers to record it in or do you have to quantize the tracks?

Alex Frankel: [Nick's] a really good drummer. He has a great touch. But we also had the pleasure of working with Jerry Fuchs—who played with Juan Maclean and !!!—and is basically the best drummer on earth.

Nick Millhiser: Flawless timing.

AF: Yeah, like when you look at him on a grid, there's barely any quantization needed. It's scary.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Countdown for 2012 Already

Already big news on the next-year horizon!

Belbury Tales
According to The Belbury Parish Magazine blog, a new full-length album The Belbury Tales in February from Belbury Poly (#4 of 2004, #17 of 2009, and a big part of last year's #9).

Along with this:

The 7th programme of Radio Belbury, with upcoming preview tracks starting at ~6m00s. And also a tune from Zombi's (co-#2, 2009) latest album Escape Velocity (2011), at ~22m00s.

More big news! Each member of Zombi, Steve Moore and Majeure (co-#23, 2010) will split an upcoming LP.

Brainstorm split
Word says January on Temporary Residence Ltd, per the Tumblr of Steve Moore 2600... (see Thom Yorke spinning SM2600!) Good news all the way around, says I.

Free download preview of Moore's "Enhanced Humanoid" from 20 Jazz Funk Greats, which is worth keeping up with.

You can check out the preview track here too:

Enhanced Humanoid by steve moore

Also really digging both album covers! Right??

Monday, December 12, 2011

Claw Tunnel Giant Mind

Tunnel Mind
The recent Blut Aus Nord post reminded me of the whole "great Cover Art" tag, and then the cover art for Tunnel Mind just recently caught my eye, over at Altered Zones. Serendipity!

Several Giant Claw albums available (name-yer-price) over at Bandcamp. I'd never even heard of them...

"Little Science" by Giant Claw, from Tunnel Mind (2011)

This song available as download at the Altered Zones link above, if you like it.

"Paper Moon no. 2" with music by Giant Claw

One of a few "Paper Moon" Giant Claw/Stan Brakhage combinations on YouTube. (Some are definitely ***NSFW***.)

Read more about Brakhage, "Unquestionably the most important living [in 2002] avant-garde filmmaker."

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ghost Box Study Series 01-04 (#9, 2010)

This series of extra-hefty vinyl 7"s with really classy artwork reaches a new peak for Ghost Box. For most of its existence, the label was strictly CD's and downloads but just recently took the step into vinyl. In addition to some re-issues, these four singles mash-up two separate acts (British, electronic, hauntological) to either split sides or collaborate.

Belbury Youth and Recreation Wiring Club
Ghost Box has delivered 3 more Study Series in 2011 - and they will end up as something for our astral year-end!

"The Young People" by Moon Wiring Club and Belbury Poly, from Study Series 01: Youth and Recreation (2010)

For #01 (my video of: both songs), Moon Wiring Club brings more of a big beat sound to Belbury Poly's synth miniatures.

Side A, "The Young People" by Moon Wiring Club and Belbury Poly: is the jam. The polyrhythms! The masterful command of shifting moods! The depth of the sound design! Hell, it's got riffs.

Side B, "Portals and Parallels": is too funky in its own right. These two fit together real nicely, and I could stand for more from the collaboration.

"Seasons Change" by The Advisory Circle with Hong Kong in the '60s, from Study Series 02: Cycles and Seasons (2010)

On #02 (both songs), The Advisory Circle plays a little background acoustic guitar on Side A, then collaborates with hazy popsters Hong Kong in the '60s.

Side A, "New Dimensions In" by The Advisory Circle: for some reason reminds me a lot of The Wicker Man film - the original one, from 1973. Something about the acoustic guitar (wood), the floutish sounds (pagan), the Britishness, and the pastoral menace... not sure what.

Side B, "Seasons Change" (with Hong Kong in the '60s): makes me think of one of those post-Dave Rick Bongwater '60s-girl pastische tunes, where Ann would do her own background vocals and everything.

"Swingalong" by Belbury Poly and Mordant Music, from Study Series 03: Welcome to Godalming (2010)

Belbury's back in #03 (both songs), this time working with Mordant Music – the wine is chilled, and so is the mood. Mordant takes Side B solo, and smudges up found-sound voices and dreamy sequencers.

Side A, "Swingalong" by Belbury Poly and Mordant Music: is a super-Space Age bachelor-about-Carnaby themesong, with maximum chimes and SFX ejaculations. (... or underwater diving soundtrack?)

Side B, "Inn Ohm the Lake" by Mordant Music: recalls a different side of Bongwater (by way of Shockabilly), with multiple extended-tape samples of people talking over a bed of musical interlude. Only more strictly synthesized...

"The Song Before" by Broadcast and The Focus Group, from Study Series 04: Familiar Shapes and Noises (2010)

By #04 (all three songs), Broadcast and The Focus Group are bringing back more of their mixed-up rituals, a great supplement to Investigate Witch Cults of The Radio Age (#6, Drone/Ambient 2009)!

The final installment is the one of these first 4 that seems most like a whole record (rather than just 2 songs on a single). This entire set reminds me of the Witch Cults album. And also definitely the fact that Trish Keenan of Broadcast succumbed to pneumonia at the beginning of this year. Although I really loved the collaboration LP, I wasn't a lifelong fan - so I didn't post anything at the time. But it's still really terrible.

Study Series 04

[This is now old news and possibly out-of-date...] Belbury Poly recently put out the downloadable Radio Belbury: Programme No. 1. Moon Wiring Circle released a free EP and 3+ mixes summarized here. The Advisory Circle made the #6 Free Podcasts of 2010.

Ghost Box SS03

Genre - Electronic Hauntology
Official -
Myspace -
Location - England, UK

Review - Other Music
Download - Ghost Box, Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Ghost Box