(Heligator Records, 2017)
A good investment, Siyavakashela vol. 1—Cincinnati not only brings the heat generated from a variety of underground Cincinnati musicians, but it also serves a greater cause, one that Heligator Records and its founder (and Peace Corps volunteer) Ryan have been focused on for a while now. Heligator actually and purposefully exists “to continuously fund the Malindza Camp Library in Mpaka Swaziland.” That’s where your money goes when you buy from Heligator. You should continuously give them your money, and know that it’s helping to educate people. Even though it’s one small part of the Global South, every little bit helps. The library “now holds over 1,500 books, a computer with a word processor and lightning to allow students to study after school hours.” You have to eat an elephant one bite at a time, or so I’ve heard. That’s like 1,500 bites (at least) already.
So then why review something like this? Why subject it to critical scrutiny? You fool! I would never do that. I exist here to nudge you in the direction of Heligator’s Bandcamp page for the compilation, and your wallet will do the rest. I will tell you, since I am writing about it, that the comp is worth your undivided attention though. I’m not from Cincinnati and I’m not remotely familiar with it (are the Reds even good?), but I trust Ryan Hall’s taste, and listening to this bad boy makes me only want to dig further into the scene. There are names you may know – Why?’s Josiah Wolf, brother of Yoni, does an excellent instrumental synth-punk track with Israeli-born Ofir Klemperer that sounds like early Black Moth Super Rainbow, and noise rockers Slow Crime rose like a phoenix from the ashes of Wasteland Jazz Unit to record the trip-out freakiness of “Falling Backwards” [clichés in italics]. But you might be hard-pressed beyond that to recognize the others. This is where discovery begins!
John Bender starts the compilation off with “16.12.21.0756e,” six minutes of synthesizer klaxon worship that bravely heralds the rest of the tracks. It blares, collapses in upon itself, and filters out, unafraid of its responsibility in the leadoff spot. I’m partial to the buzzy Amanda’s Scanner track “Thru Glass,” which sort of sounds like Kim Gordon fronting Total Control. Keiki’s “Tethered to a Stone” is a blistering five minutes of Pharmakon-esque destruction. Poole Obrecht takes on abstract guitar jazz. Nanny and Molly Sullivan billow through a hypnogogic dream pop haze with “Technicolor.” Nature Was Here does the at-home-on-Kranky solo guitar/VHS flange warble thing near the end. Vero’s “Dancing like a Little Flower” is brief, then it’s gone, but not before leaving a lasting impression.
These stood out, but only on a first listen – there’s so much more to dig into here, and some of the more meditative passages will require a deeper concentration. But the sheer diversity on display throughout this compilation’s nineteen tracks should have you hitting repeat on multiple occasions. And you should be impressed at how much talent Ryan Hall was able to enlist to help him out in this project. If we want our actions to speak for us, seems these musicians are displaying theirs loud and clear. It’s amazing to think that we take books for granted, computers, even electricity to light our homes, but such basic necessities for mere education can be so hard to come by in places around the world where “infrastructure” is a pipe dream. So here’s Siyavakashela (“we are visitors”), a single bite of that delicious, delicious elephant that will hopefully one day be simply a memory. (Wait, that sort of came out wrong…)