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The Rubber Room
Vladislav Delay / Luomo and Raz O’Hara / Frog Holler / Bridle Wire / Chuck Bettis
The Rubber Room column is a weekly look at recent and notable releases that don’t fall into the rubric of traditional reviewed material—namely 7”’s, 12”’s, 3” CDs, EPs, cassette-only, DVDs and MP3-only releases.
Vladislav Delay’s ambient music differs markedly from his peers’ productions through non-clichéd engagement with dub techniques. Most digi-ambient attempts to claim dub’s disorientation as part of its modus operandi, but few effectively capture its spirit. The five tracks on this MP3-only EP are all deferential to the form, even as they warp its effects: “2” spills stuttered and emptied-out percussion over the event horizon, landing on edges and flipping like coins. On “4” a light-headed lover’s vocalist might dream himself around the phrase ‘solid as a rock’, but the accompaniment is anything but: textures continually fade to an odd, luminescent grey-scale. Vladislav Delay has removed the enshrouding analogue fog from classic dub, but the near-surreal sense of displacement remains.
Luomo and Raz O’Hara
Running Away 12”
On Running Away, Luomo lifts two bass-lines from Michael Jackson—“Smooth Criminal” (for “Give it Away”) and “Beat it” (for “On a Runaway”)—and comes up with a record that’s both unexpected and strangely inexplicable. Although one suspects it’s a tribute, it’s too unfaithful to really carry weight (beyond the bass-line, nothing else signifies), and it’s also a little too funk-less to absolutely engage with Jackson (who was just past his Off the Wall peak when the originals were recorded, but still on fire.) The production is desiccated where Luomo’s recent album The Present Lover was lush, and O’Hara’s voice is a thin, breeze-blown slip of paper masquerading as a falsetto, but Running Away is charming for its ability to sideline expectations.
The High Highs & Low Lows EP
[Zo Bird, 2004]
The question with an EP clearly intended to sate the confirmed fan until a new full length comes sliding down the pipe is, does it present a meaningful starting point for someone just now investigating the bands sound? In the case of The High Highs & Low Lows Frog Holler has pieced together a few new songs and rerecorded versions of older songs to create a pleasurable listening experience, though one not entirely representative of the bands catalog. If you’ve ever listened to a Frog Holler album and wished there was more rock and less bluegrass picking, then The High Highs & Low Lows is tailor made for you. Songs like “Glitter” and “Million Things Good” have much more in common with The Band than with Del McCroury. As always Darren Schlappich’s songwriting is excellent, while his predilection for celebrating the virtues of his home state of Pennsylvania is as undiminished as ever.
Calling all noise aficionados. Bridle Wire’s (visual artist Thaniel Lee) 3-inch Damper String features a detonative nineteen-minute drone generated entirely from piano samples. Occasional traces of the instrument can be heard (though the rambunctious plinks and plunks suggest the sounds of pianos tumbling down stairs) but more often than not Lee mutates the material into hammering masses of droning shimmer, rumbling thrums, and bruised bellowings. Teeming noisily with the sounds of screeching splinters and squalling slabs, Damper String conjures the sound of tortured wails emanating from clandestine evisceration sessions.
Consisting of seven improvisations recorded live during Fall 2003 at Brooklyn’s Atheist Monastery, Chuck Bettis’s Sonic Sigils upholds Scarcelight’s experimental tradition with twenty minutes of scarred electronics. The opening pieces are brief but ferocious, with “Night On Fire (for Nick Bohn)” quite literally a firestorm of sorts, and jittery scrapings and machine belches in “P.I.E./L.I.T.L.” recalling Pita in particular and Mego in general. The longest and quietest piece “Faith Is Fear,” an ambient sketch of itchy skitter and echoing throbs, introduces some welcome nuance, with the more placid mood maintained by the sparkling microbes of “Neuromancy 2” and the spectral murmurings of “Hidden Reverse 2.” Call Sonic Sigils more challenging music from Chris Jeely’s adventurous and uncompromising label.
By: Stylus Staff
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