September, Volume One
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.
I wouldn't name by band "Ceramic" if I were going to sound so afraid of breaking. The group's self-titled EP is acceptably lovely, with its dreamy folk sound and easy harmonies (backup vocals by Kendall Meade). The band expands on traditional song and form ever so slightly, but I keep wanting them to push just a little. Main player John Scheaffer can do more, and that's why it's irritating that he doesn't do enough. For 16 minutes of relaxed bliss, yeah, this EP gets the job done, but no one should be satisfied with getting the job done. Ceramic, you've eased me into a soft porch chair, but now do something: tell me a disturbing secret, tickle me somewhere special or kick over my mojito. I don't care what it is, but make me respond to you, because I'm not interested in napping today.
Liz Janes & Create(!)
Liz Janes & Create(!)
[Asthmatic Kitty, 2005]
After two solo albums of originals, Janes hooks up with the unfortunately-punctuated Create(!) to take on some traditional material. She stays mostly lo-fi and dark as she works her way through severely re-worked versions of "Lonesome Valley" and "Careless Love" among others. You think you know these songs, but Janes and Create(!) have at them like the most obscurantist remixers, spinning her obvious folk and spiritual roots into the dark side of the sound that's growing out of Asthmatic Kitty. "All the Pretty Horses" turns into a nervy drone piece, and "Jesus Is a Dying Bed-Maker" (with only a lyric-based relation to the Dylan "In My Time of Dyin'") becomes oddly uplifting. Janes brings out other sides to these songs that you only thought you knew from Patton, Seeger, Elvis, Janis, and whoever else gave these traditional songs more traditional presentation.
[The Perpetual Motion Machine, 2005]
If it weren't for the liner notes, I'd think everyone in New Electric was playing guitar. Even the drums sound like guitars. But they aren't. What they are doing is writing instrumental music as clean-headed Sonic Youth fans and showered Godspeed enthusiasts (Godspeed enthusiasts shower?). The band controls its fuzzy tones and even its squeals with aplomb, but they're a little too meandering in their structure right now. "Surf" makes a good statement, building its energy and focusing its sound, but "Don't Send Me Home" lives up to its title by avoiding a centering place. It's split into several movements, but it feels less like an orchestrated suite than a repetitve explosion (which isn't entirely a bad thing). Based on their skill and energy, New Electric will probably sell lots of CDs after live shows, but right now it's hard to know if they can make a consistently engaging album.
Red Room: The Jasper Vs. Sanchez Remixes 12"
The Fever's Red Bedroom was due for remixing. The album's take on new wave received a lukewarm critical reception and little fanfare as public interested in dance-punk waned, but the songs were strong enough to warrant further exploration. Surprisingly, band members Geremy Jasper and Chris Sanchez have mostly stripped the music of its dance-y content to pull out unexpected moods. "Ladyfingers" now has a downright country twang that oddly supports Jasper's abrasive vocals and "Hexxed" adds the drone of Eastern strings to make the song's sound match its title. While the experiments are welcome and enjoyable, they're not flawless. "Gray Ghost," for examples, sets a cruise-ship tone to start the set, leaning to far too toward Margaritaville (meaning "at all") to be interesting. This one's a record for fans, but for the rest of us it suggests that the Fever might have something a little more creative to throw on the next full-length.
Birchville Cat Motel
[Pseudo Arcana, 2005]
With this unassuming 3” CDR, Campbell Kneale officially casts his lot as rock God. Sure, this release still finds him operating within the aesthetics of drone/ power electronics, but the rock influences are no longer mere influences—they are front and center. As if the thrashing metal guitarist on the cover wasn’t clue enough, Kneale recreates the sound of a band warming for opener “World Slavery.” Largely silent except for incidental scrapes and shudders—presumably drums being moved into place, lanky long-hairs poking mics, and test strums to check amp levels—this minute sets the stage for “55,000 Flowers for the Hero,” a raucous ten minute ride into a world where punk meets minimalism. A vicious drum groove bombards the listener for a solid eight minutes while the feedback rises. Finally, another stuttering drum upsets the trance, knocking the rhythm out of place just enough for the drone to sibilant drone to disarm it. The track winds down, relatively, with a skittering electric guitar salvo and a pensive acoustic strum. The closing track ventures into unexpectedly calm territory. A buzzing-bee drone hides behind a serene horn-and-acoustic guitar loop, soothing the tension after the assault. After the set he just put on, I suppose Kneale needed a break…
Boiling the Animal in the Sky
[Pseudo Arcana, 2005]
Wooden Cupboard is the solo project of James Ferraro of the Skaters. Considering that the Skaters sound as hermetic as any band operating right now, one can well imagine the singularity and isolation of this recording. Boiling the Animal in the Sky is a bedroom record of a different sort—not a meticulously produced work of obsession, but a one man improv act lucky enough to have a four-track on hand when inspiration strikes. But Wooden Cupboard does share one key feature with the stereotypical bedroom record—both are labors of love. Ferraro’s love is shrieked in his looped feral exhalations and encased in his ramshackle instrumentation. And since Wooden Cupboard features one voice rather than two, such instrumentation is much more prominent on Boiling than on any Skaters release I’ve heard. Ferraro’s guitar work is dignified in its sloppiness, and his pipes channel a bit of Pan—not the Disney-fied dancing goatboy, but the deity of rabid divinity cults marauding the hills of ancient Greece, eating livestock raw. A wonderful 22 minutes.
[a weekly look into the world of electronic musics]
Flora & Fauna Remixe Teil 1 & 2
Domink Eulberg, besides being a talented producer, is also a geography and biology student in Germany these days, if you couldn’t tell from the title and cover of his most recent Traum full-length offering Flora & Fauna, that is. Or, as Discogs succinctly puts it: “his music and his live is linked very close with nature” (sic). All I know is that the first track on the CD version of the album translates as “the invasion of the bag cancers” (sic, I hope?). In any case, Traum further celebrates the release of his record late last year with this batch of two remix 12”’s. On the first slab, André Kraml turns in a measured reworking of “Der Purpurrote Sonnenuntergang Am Schilfumsäumten Bergsee,” in which he borrows some sounds from Ada on the way to satisfying clomp through the woods. Justin Maxwell is on the B-side remixing aforementioned bag cancers, in that imitable cut-up-by-numbers-manner. Not exactly memorable, but pleasant nonetheless.
The real action occurs on the second part of the remix 12”’s, where Remute reconfigures “Die Trottellummen Von Helgoland” into a barreling mix of Arealian distortion and pounding riffage. As it turns itself into overdrive mode halfway through, you’ll undoubtedly find yourself banging your head accordingly. Hrdvsion takes a swirling synth and jerks it around for the length of his mix of “Das Röhren Der Rotwildbrunft,” slicing it to within an inch of its life, while Adam Kroll finishes the whole thing off with an epic and stately build on his version of “Keine Nieten Bei Den Herbstzeitlosen.”
Quenge Liese / Rear Besen
Maybe it’s the haze of my youth, but didn’t things used to be all roses for this label each time out? Listening back to their back catalogue the past few days, I can unequivocally say: “Yes.” For every 15 minutes of Ada perfection that was being dropped two years ago, it was sandwiched by aimless Undo/Redo jawns and brilliant/crap Metope 12”’s. The latter is what we have here on Konfekt’s latest outing “Quenge Liese / Rear Besen.” “Quenge” is the near-brilliant portion of the proceedings, reveling in Oizo analog bass farts that couch hardly lighter-tinged synth melodies that threaten to steamroll everything in their path. In typical Konfekt fashion, by the end of the track, you feel vaguely violated and satisfied. Never fear, however, for the comedown you can turn the vinyl over and have a short moment of cuddling before it happens all over again. This time, though, since you’re a bit more prepared, you’ll find the returns a slight diminished.
For the first album of the big (read: other) three in the Areal stable, Metope’s Kobol delivers exactly what you need. There are straight bangers (“Superimbat,” “33”), Ada-styled mixtures of the sweetly melodic and industrial-tinged (“Nashville,” “M1D1”), and surprises (not surprises) (“I’m So Ready,” “Panicflute”). And if you’ve got the vinyl version, that only leaves two tracks unaccounted for. Rest assured, they’re just as good as the others. I just haven’t been able to neatly slot them into some sort of naming convention quite yet (a good thing). A step up from their widely lauded, lackluster recent compilation, Metope’s Kobol is sure to be overlooked, but doesn’t deserve to be.
[Trapez Ltd., 2005]
Detroit’s Ryan Crosson seems to be relatively new to the scene, surfacing with the Beretta Grey people, and issuing this, his first 12” on the vaunted Trapez Ltd. Imprint. And predictably, there’s much to recommend here. Crosson doesn’t seem to favor any style over another, turning in a quality selection of our tech-house tunes that would fit seamlessly into the middle of any DJ’s set. The only complaint might be that there’s no real highlight (is that a complaint?): each track seems to be the type of thing that’ll keep the party moving easily and cause one to wonder the next day what the hell those tracks were in between the flashier moments. Look no further.
I’ve only had the pleasure of hearing one other Glanzbild release, but I’ll be seeking the rest out on the strength of Steph Highland’s first entry into the label’s small catalogue. Like Pete Steroid, the tracks are extremely muscular electro-tinged techno that rarely does much except put filters in, around, over, and under the main synth melodies. When the drums hit this hard, though, it doesn’t need much more. Extra points for strikingly apt song titles (“Savage” and “Comics”).
By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2005-09-08