The Rogers Sisters / Amina / The Goons of Doom / Skygreen Leopards / Oren Ambarchi and Robbie Avenaim / Haswell and Hecker
The Rubber Room column is a weekly look at recent and notable releases that don’t fall into the rubric of traditional reviews or reviewed material—namely 7”’s, 12”’s, 3” CDs, EPs, cassette-only, DVDs and MP3-only releases.
The Rogers Sisters
Emotion Control / The Conversation 7"
[Too Pure, 2005]
I first heard the Rogers Sisters at a live show, where they went from a monotone "Galang" soundcheck to screaming and bass-pummeling in a matter of minutes. I was hoping for some of that attitude on this 7-inch, but it's not here. The two tracks are tight little art numbers, carefully written and well-executed. The b-side "The Conversation," which actually trumps the a-side, comes off as an aggressive new wave heir. Bassist Miyuki Furtado sings lead on both tracks, and his refrain "We're all unhappy and we're all unkind" wavers between straight and ironic, which suits this group perfectly.
[Worker’s Institute, 2005]
They're the all-female string quartet that works with Sigur Ros. We got that out of the way, so let's move on:
This isn't your Icelandic grandma's string quartet. Sounding like a more-chipper Sigur Ros, these women rely less on their violin-family backgrounds and more on their mallet playing. As you'd expect, the music falls in the cinematic rubric, closing in on gorgeous. I could imagine that guy from Oingo Boingo crafting something like this if only he wasn't so disturbed and had fewer toys. "Blaskjar" closes the EP with a move away from post-rock (if they were ever there) and toward classical. As it builds a subtle melody around an unusual stringed-instrument sound, it puts a new twist on high art as well as piano box revelry.
The Goons of Doom
Bikey Zomby EP
I admit I like the name "Goons of Doom." But I like less the EP title Bikey Zomby. Probably even less that the band members have all adopted names like "Wizard of Death" and "Bang Bang Bunny Fang." Somewhere in the middle of that list comes this Australian-based band's punk music. It's occasionally relies on melody, but not enough so to be melodic; it also lacks the artfulness to be arty and the noisesomeness to be noise. So it's like garage that doesn't sound like garage bands. It's for rocking out, basically, and it does that with a modicum of fuss. What I really like is the cover art.
And so the Skygreen Leopards go electric. It’s no betrayal. Jewelled Antler never declared itself an exclusively acoustic collective, and their interpretation of folk music (if it can be so called) is so out there that Glenn Donaldson and Donovan Quinn needn’t worry about a backlash from a reactionary fanbase. The instrumentation isn’t the shock, but the approach. So structured and rock-oriented is Jehovah Surrender that one can hardly believe it originates from the same stew of ideas as Thuja and the Blithe Sons. The fuzzy electric guitar and bulging bass on this eighteen-minute EP propel the Leopards to their most fan-friendly work to date. Indeed the harmonies and head-nodding bassline of “I was a Thief” could be a stadium hit in an alternate U.S. of A. in which the Green Party controlled the White House and ex-urbs never existed. But fans of abstraction take heed—the lyrics won’t have you singing along so much as deciphering symbolism. In keeping with the update in musical technology, the lyrical focus has broadened from natural bucolia and mythological archetype manipulation to evocations of the early modern era: coal-streaked boatmen and smoke-huffing traffic cars vie with the usual assortment of crows and deities. Donovan Quinn delivers the raspy surreal imagery, but Donaldson carries the melodic weight with his pristine falsetto. While the diehard Anterlites out there might cringe at its accessibility, Jehovah Surrender is a natural progression and a total success, and it’ll win over many new fans.
Oren Ambarchi and Robbie Avenaim
Clockwork documents a live collaboration between Australian experimental guitarist Oren Ambarchi and percussionist Robbie Avenaim in April of 1999. Don’t know why the recording languished for six years, but the wait was worth it. Clockwork still sounds in step with the electro-acoustic improv bouncing around the continents these days. The piece begins with a cymbal flash (Avenaim’s gaudiest gesture on the entire release) introducing Ambarchi’s stomach-churning guitar drones. Those soothed by Ambarchi’s solo work on Grapes from the Estate and Suspension will find a darker tone here, though the crystalline clarity of those records is in evidence. The title asserts itself at the eight-minute mark: Ambarchi coaxes bell-tower chimes from his guitar, only to deconstruct them into a gamelan-inflected matrix over the remaining ten minutes. The percussive quality of Ambarchi’s guitar work acts as a perfect foil to Avenaim’s hyperactivity. The drummer prefers tense rustle-n-scuttle kit work to rhythmic bombast, and though this penchant for subtlety prevents him from stealing the show, Avenaim still astounds with the dexterity of his stick-clacks. Though the last few minutes of the record become a little too cluttered with clangs and clicks, the set has aged remarkably well.
Haswell and Hecker
John Mayer could remix Voice Crack, and the results would still go down like broken glass, but when noise-mongers Russell Haswell and Florian Hecker man the boards, things’re bound to be jagged. Originally released as a track from a Voice Crack remix album, this single-sided 12” restores the decibels mysteriously removed from the original release. The change must’ve made quite a difference, because Revision is fucking intense. High-end digital squalls, insect stampedes, and lightning strikes fill in the loud of the abrupt silent/loud dynamics at work here. And while noise is (in a sense) always noise, Revision maintains a sterile, high-minded quality that separates it from the bloody gums attack of Merzbow and Hair Police, and it even approaches delicacy at times. I was scared anyway. Those accustomed to this sort of shredding might find Revision tame, but it packs enough horror movie turns to turn away the faint of heart. I can’t tell you if this release is good per se, or if it stays true to the source material, or really any such relevant information, but at least I wasn’t bored.
By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2005-09-22