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!


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