The Rubber Room
September, Volume Four

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 Witnesses
Hard Up EP
[Howler, 2005]

One guy has giant awesome hair. One woman is wearing a dress made to look like a can of Budweiser. These are the important things. The woman has a bad voice. It should be much higher in the mix. The Witnesses seem to have missed the thing that could really set them apart from the pack. They're playing solid AC/DC by way of Southern rock, but that kind of music is readily available, and, often, more about cheese than effect. Bonnie Bloomgarden as this nasally, off-putting voice that sounds great juxtaposed against this naked-but-too-drunk-to-bother music. "Hard Up," with its predictable innuendo, could use Bloomgarden's voice as a focal point, weirding out the crowd and making everyone look closer. I know all five of you are singing, but give the girl the mic more often and you might have something.
[Justin Cober-Lake]

Various Artists
Fok Rotkop Magazine
[Audiobot, 2005]

Blast-zone Noise, breath noises and hiccups, a lost, frightened recorder, a cover of Love. A bizarre bombardment in a mere thirteen tracks and twenty minutes. This is free improv gone rancid. This is a fringe life psychosis. How did these folks get instruments? A better question: do they have instruments at all? The obscurity of this 3” CD is only heightened by the fact that the music it documents was produced by a collective now dead. This is the most intense slice of outsider music I’ve heard in some time. The only name on here approaching the status of “name” is Crank Sturgeon, as if one could tell who created what track. Beyond the shock and draw of the novel, the music intrigues. Don’t expect much development or subtlety. We hear a mood created and destroyed in the span of a minute. You can only do that with a sledgehammer. This is definitely worth your time if you can track it down. The packaging alone justifies the price: the 3” comes in a mini-comic book with DIY surrealist art from Antwerpian Jelle Crama.
[Bryan Berge]

[Roborecords, 2005]

Minimalism wears thin easily. When you’re working with so little, so much can go wrong. The slightest misstep can be fatal. Formatt (aka Peter Smeekens) largely avoids such missteps, but he’s so worried about mistakes that he can’t help boring me a bit. He works with (somewhat predictable in this genre) precision, polishing his tracks until nearly bloodless. He’s not a bad producer; just another decent producer in the glut. Most of his stabs at clinical tech-dub don’t venture far enough from Pole, and stabbing, icy ambience can’t alone carry a track. The busier tracks save the day. “L’Herme” has just enough creeping static and off-kilter beats to propel it beyond sterility. And “Voir” carries a certain dirtiness in the bassline that suggests more than a few nights at basement clubs. Once you scrape the frost off this release, you find that Smeekens does have a heart, and his work can rise above the laptop-lit masses. But Formatt is so enamored with academic minimalism that much of Extended is frozen solid.
[Bryan Berge]

Oneida / Plastic Crimewave Sound
[Brah!, 2005]

Who better to inaugurate your label than the band you trust the most—your own? Oneida’s Brah! Records officially opened for business a few weeks back with this split 12” starring Brooklyn’s own Oneida and Chicago sludge-punks Plastic Crimewave Sound. The Oneida side, “Prehistoric Maze,” boasts primitivist (but not primitive) drumming, shambling Appalachia melodies, more high-pitched howls than you’d expect to emanate from a group of grown men, and splendid lute outro. The track was birthed from an all-night recording session, and from the sound of the record, one senses it was put to tape in the wee hours after fractured introspection and possible intoxication. Straying from the class acid rock of The Wedding, “Prehistoric Maze” finds Oneida spicing their minimalist psychedelic formula (circa Each One, Teach One) with a dash of the freak-folk prancing down the streets of their fine borough (in fabulous thrift store dresses cheap enough to discard when the look gets old). The vocals don’t mean much, but they’re terrifyingly high, and sometimes that’s enough.

The Oneida side is nice, but Plastic Crimewave Sound’s is not. “End of Cloud” snarls. It won’t let up when you cry uncle. If Acid Mothers Temple ditched LSD for meth, they’d release this song. “End of Cloud” starts and ends with the vicious motorik-gone-punk-rock drumming of Skog Device. Echo-drenched vocals ala Excepter and the patented AMT synthesizer whoosh beautify the ugly, angry guitar crunch and understated-but-propulsive bassline. If Klaus Dinger and co. knew that motorik would be used to carry this cacophony, they might’ve stuck with Kraftwerk. “End of Cloud” is truly bad-ass, in the sense that it would mop the floor with me if looked at it funny. If you have room to thrash around, this is a great way to spend eighteen minutes.
[Bryan Berge]

Gudrun Gut
Move Me 7”
[Earsugar, 2005]

You know that tango sample you had all intention of wrapping round a Mike Skinner beat, then getting slack jawed over in a helium stylee? Too slow old chap, just too damn slow… Following on from their Schneider TM release, the folk over at Earsugar are continuing to indulge their Ye Olde 45 fetish with a release from Berlin busy-body (Monika Enterprises boss, Einsturzende Neubauten member, one half of Oceanclub radio show…) Gudrun Gut. Over what she describes as “German tango”, Gut delivers her clipped vocals in a sing-song fashion that is oddly childlike and super menacing; lending ‘Move Me’ an addictiveness which reeks deep-fried unhealthiness. As if that weren’t enough, on the other is a bouncing royal pageant festooned remix from The Orb’s Thomas Fehlmann, ensuring this run of Earsugar 7”s will soon be the stuff of XXX e-bay legend…
[Adam Park]

By: Stylus Staff
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