Sometimes I just can’t get to everyone. I’m human, I have things going on, but that doesn’t mean I should neglect the good folks who send me music to review. You guys know I try to get to you all. I like to think it matters.
Anyway, check it – here is the first of two posts I’ve dubbed “Lightning Rounds,” and it’s here where I’m going to play catch-up. Yes, there are a couple of cassette releases, and you can head on over to Cassette Gods and search for other items in those batches that I’ve reviewed (some of which will not have published there yet by the time this does). Other releases are of the non-cassette format, which, if you’ve been paying attention, is sort of what Critical Masses is all about these days. (Gotta keep it all separate or I’ll go crazy…) Enjoy the first wave!
Let’s remove this ambiguity first: Hep!Collective is not a crew, it’s a dude, Lorenzo Peluffo of Vercello, Italy. Peluffo’s work as Hep!Collective here often relies on the silence between the sounds, the samples and constructs. The voice sample on “B. and the Starry” gives a hint of where Peluffo’s mind is as he’s crafting these pieces: “Since I was a kid I was interested in the illusion of sound coming from the inside of objects.” That is not Peluffo speaking, but how lucky to find in words such a remarkable mission statement for this release. “B. and the Starry” is track five on Unified Silla Period, and the voice gradually merges into a jazz horn sample before degrading to ambient tone. Up to this point there’s already been some lovely experiments in sonic manipulation, including piping in sounds or radio signals from across dimensions, somewhat akin to Leyland Kirby’s Caretaker work. “Paopoa” is downright frightening, but it transitions into the Kirby-on-Mai Tais tropical transmission of “iai-toc,” a positively delightful stylistic cul-de-sac. Side B is much more subdued, its entirety taken up by “nevico,” simple tones and noise and spoken bits. The mantra, by this point, “The illusion of sound coming from the inside of objects,” returns (along with other spoken samples) and serves to question the reality of the cassette tape itself, the sound emanating from it a perception of the listener, whose own spatial position determines the actual output. It’s the age-old question about hearing trees falling in the forest if no one’s there, reimagined for a modern convention – if the coding on the magnetic tape doesn’t interact with the components that read it, are we just perceiving this world while we hover in suspended animation, acting as human batteries for the Matrix?
Sound art is a tricky business. Anne-F Jacques loops found sound like creaking strings, scraping metal, burbling pulses, and droning currents, among other things, into a tactile environment where only one professional opinion is required: that of the electrician. Presumably confounded by the constant brownouts in her palatial Montréal townhouse (I assume), Jacques has composed an ode to the nuisance and invited the titular electricians over to diagnose the problem. Here’s the catch – they can only use their ears. It’s kind of like that Halloween game where you have to guess what’s in the bowl just by touch (hint: it’s brains). Over almost twenty minutes, these specialists will be treated to all manner of anomalies from the grid, invited to get in, get their hands dirty, and have Jacques’s world humming with the brightness of the modern power supply once again. Did I say sound art was a tricky business? I did, didn’t I. Well, that just means I preferred side B to side A. No biggie.
Derek Piotr’s Drono was an experiment in stretching out electroacoustic improvisation as far as it could go before it collapsed upon itself. Lengthy meditations provided the natural backdrop for introspection, and Piotr proved himself capable of patience and restraint throughout the album’s six passages. Bernhard Günter has taken it upon himself remix Drono’s “Shallows,” an eleven-and-a-half-minute piece that burbles and crackles with microscopic life. Over three reinterpretations and a complete reimagining (“Shallows II [for Winds & Electronics]”), Günter infuses the track with brass and woodwinds, turning it into an electroacoustic/jazz hybrid that surprises and unsettles in equal measure. The acoustic instruments offer a new look at “Shallows,” adding color and texture to the piece, emphasizing details that may have been missed upon first listen.
BBJr. knows what’s up. He’s the Cowboy Dan of Personal Archives, a major player in the Midwestern experimental/improv noise rock scene, firing his six-string rifle in the sky, right into God’s face. Here he’s paired with another Midwest franchise, 5cm Recordings, and this co-released CD sees him stretching out his geetar-playing chops over the course of – count em – twelve home-recorded improvisations. This is not unusual. Do not adjust your monitors. Bucko Jr. rounds up a whole host of moods for this release, from the sublime opener “Improv II 042714” (that’s a date) to the slide-squiggle ambience of “Improv I 042914,” to the back-porch jangle of “Improv I 042414.” His bass even does the talking at points, such as on “Improv III 042614,” and, in an eventuality perhaps no one saw coming, his voice does the talking on “Improv IV 042614.” That’s right, BBJr. is a man of many talents, and Crank Spirit showcases the solo persona to great effect. Now, if only I had another Sex Funeral jam to listen to. Oh, wait…
Sex Funeral – Your Heaven Sucks (Personal Archives)
Sex Funeral is the duo comprised of BBJr. and Matt Crowe, and they play music like a hammer plays your face. Don’t take my word for it, but take my word for it – I’ve spilled some text about these guys already, about ye olde tapes It Takes a Village to Raise an Imbecile and Eradicator. Your Heaven Sucks is a CD, those digitally encoded discs you used to find in long cardboard boxes at the Wall and Sam Goody. They are still being made, apparently. “Breathe In” and “And Out” are companion pieces if you can tell by their names, combining free improv, rock, noise, jazz, and metal into an unholy whirlwind of flailing arms and flashing fingers. “Your Heaven Sucks” is a heaving behemoth of rock hate, fifteen minutes of lurching, grinding, thrashing, and bleeding at the obviously religious institutions who don’t care about anything but themselves – I think, I honestly don’t have a grasp on what they care about anymore. “Splatter Phase” is almost seventeen minutes of similar grindage, this time Sex Funeral has hacked the listeners to pieces as they attempted to indulge in a little bit of “musical entertainment.” Those suckers had no idea what was in store for them. Total annihilation. Just how Sex Funeral likes it. If you’re still alive after reading this, what are you going to do with your life now?