A Pretense of Patience
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 Television Personalities
All The Young Children On Smack, All The Young Children On Crack
There’s a band performance (guitar, drums) in here somewhere, but it’s the impassive playground beat that rules—a bleached and rough ribcage pounding drum. That and handclaps recorded in a pitch black room provide the song’s main structure. The brief lyrics of the title followed by “they deserve something better / Let’s give them something back” doesn’t help in giving a clearer picture as to what’s going on, either. In fact, when you get right down to it there’s a horrible “behind the mirror at the back of the classroom” vibe to it all that demands checking out the LP to see the whole picture. A perfectly odd teaser.
Keith Fullerton Whitman
So much music that aspires to minimalist or ambient art ends up as lettuce rock (music that sounds like lettuce tastes, which is neither good nor bad inherently). Whitman's more subdued work has attracted critical acclaim, in part for his extreme attention to detail and nuance. For this release, recorded in, of course, Lisbon, Whitman says he did less tinkering with the initial capture of sound (guitar drone, synths, atmospheric noises from the room), yet the piece in no way sounds slapdash. It builds effectively across its 40 minutes, rising continually, but following a wave-like pattern. It reaches a natural climax that, if you've lost focus, reminds you of the sounds in your headphones. No lettuce, all relish.
[First Person, 2006]
It remains a mystery why so much material goes unreleased. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by an era in which every rehearsal sees the light of day, but it still seems a large quantity of worthy music languishes in shoe boxes worldwide.
A number of reasons can delay publication, but the nearly-decade-old material on Thread seems to have waited simply because it’s characterized by patience. Thread consists of ten tracks, mostly acoustic guitar numbers, with few overdubs, no fancy effects, and no hip hat-tips to John Fahey or Throbbing Gristle. Instead, Jarvis circles somber themes, settling into brief, somber ellipses in blissful orbit. Accented by the occasional lingering chime and stabbing violin, Thread doesn’t waver from its meditative complacency.
A 3” CD sets appropriate limits for Thread. With another ten, the listener would be ripping off the headphones to see if the sun was shining, somewhere, anywhere. But this twenty minutes of dolor goes down easy with a cup of tea and late night snack.
Perhaps the best expression of Thread’s sound arrives in “Spiders, Ticks and Scorpions.” In it, Jarvis’ ominous notes circle a recording of an English schoolgirl cataloguing non-vertebrate life. I don’t mean to turn her into Hermione, but there’s something eerily fantastic about her dry delivery, as if she’s reading listings from a medieval bestiary in which fact and myth commingle. Unfortunately the track cuts off before she can taxonomize the chimera. Jarvis operates similarly. He has a talent for revealing the sinister magic within the everyday.
So, SO many records slip through the cracks. Originally released in the summer of 2005 in a microscopic run, Natural History escaped mine and most ears. Luckily it hit the right ones, as Nemo Birdstrup from Time-lag heard enough in this brief twenty minutes to finance a reissue, albeit a maddeningly limited one.
Natural History has some serious front porch vibes. The four tracks slip by as easy as a summer day, with viola lines spread out luxuriously like a screened-in cat-napper, and sweet guitar plucks dripping down resolutely like sweat off a glass of lemonade. Not to get all old-time, but this ramshackle glory does seem old-South appropriate. Skip the racism and simply conjure the slow dignity and easy pace of a kudzu-ridden plantation.
That might be a case of letting cover art sink in too deeply, because “River Road” the EP’s second track, trades in much of the bygone charm for drugged Gregorian atmospheres and the ritualistic tambourine. But much ain’t all, because the murk recedes and the track ends up treading the same charming territory as the previous.
“States” angries up the blood with its stubborn rock n’ roll sound, though the group doesn’t quite tackle garage revival. Instead, a flute shatters the menace and the entire tone of the track is turned on its head to wonderful. The dude humming along energetically is a big plus too. It’s a nice to hear the band audibly into their own sound.
So turns out Death Chants don’t live up to their name. Unless Old World grief was a pretty good-time affair after all. Seems a mite unlikely, but you never know…
A real nightcrawler, this one. Need a slimy parasite to latch on to your torso and leak digestive acid through your skin? Pick up this split. In sound, akin to Double Leopards with far less dynamics and noise and far more toxic stagnation. This is swampland murk to be sure. No, the fog won’t clear, the mud will suck off your shoes, and all that foliage you think might be poison ivy, is poison ivy.
I’ve gotta play the imagery card for all its worth, because instrumentation proper over these forty minutes is damn near unidentifiable. Maybe if I lurked nearby while the group scuttled over their various knobs, patches, and cords, I could get some technical semblance of what’s going on here. But given our separation (blasted miles! One day Loopool…), I’ll have to go with impressions. The usual drone signifiers rear up: windy, lonesome blasts, creeping digital hiss, submerged gongs, all towards the usual goal: the sleep unto death. Loopool and Oneirothopter don’t separate themselves from the pack, but they create hefty gloomscapes to rival the bigger names.
Don’t fall asleep to Loopool, chums, or all your childhood bedside baddies will revive, the shadows will reanimate, and a ghastly plot will unfold whilst you’re captive in the bosom of slumber. Dreams should not be radiation-drift sci-fi gore flicks. Those are nightmares. No one wants nightmares. Play with the lights on.
Sexy, Freaky, Electric
Things Tony Hussle's EP reminds me of: Jay-Z's mom, giving oral sex, foreplay, ill-advised seduction, dried sweat, erotic poetry open-mic night, thighs, a pretense of patience, a couple losing their virginity, licks, a bathtub.
Things Tony Hussle's EP surprisingly does not remind me of: Jay-Z, receiving oral sex, intercourse, getting the digits, perspiration, alternate positions, chocolate syrup, me losing my virginity, the word "banging,"
Words of wisdom Tony Hussle's EP makes me feel the need to say: People, a vagina works just as well, if not better, after its first time. The woman present is not incidental.
Corollary: This is also true for a penis.
“Café Theme” (300106), “Spite” (050206) and “Untold Stories” (060126)
For those that don’t know, during 2006 the V/VM label is giving away (via free mp3 downloads) at least a track a day. As of the 6th of this month this stockpile already stands at over sixty audio pieces and a video. Some of these you need to have, some you need to hear and some you should probably get off your lazy behind and remix yourself. Of course keeping track of this and writing about it would be a full time job in itself, so here’s the second sampling. Try the label link above for access to the whole shebang.
I’m in love with “Café Theme” because it has that unmistakable V/VM quality of absolute familiarity that you can’t quite place. This piece is a sweet incidental film theme that potters along for a thoroughly pleasant wonky minute and a half. For a label so enthralled with making ugly things, it’s definitely the prettier parts of 365 that are capturing and keeping my attention. This could easily have soundtracked parts of Todd Solondz’s Palindromes, and as bad as that film surely was, I mean that as a compliment. In fact, I’m positive that this callipered song is taken from a film I’ve recently seen.
“Spite” is not at all spiteful. In fact it’s full of Björky bells and sugary chimes that climb, fall, and run after each other as they dazzle around the scales. It’s not as cutesy as that might sound, although it might have been had it been cut shorter than its nearly nine minute length. There’s a thoughtful heaviness to “Spite” despite the sounds used to make it.
In his ‘liner notes’ for these daily uploads, James, the V/VM gaffer, mentions that “Untold Stories” is an example of making nice music as opposed to ‘making horrible stuff because everywhere you are exposed to the nicer things in life.’ Not sure I 100% agree, but this is a nice slice of fainting melody electronica with a sharp rapping beat anyway. It sounds like how things could’ve been had James taken the blue pill instead of a guzzling a handful of reds.
By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2006-02-16