Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Matt Robidoux - Brief Candles (\\NULL|ZØNE//, 2020)

When this little blog first took flight, the first ink spilled was for a self-titled cassette by a project named Isness.  Half of the Isness duo is Oakland-based musician Matt Robidoux, a coastal transplant who ran with Sunburned Hand of the Man when he was located nearer to the Atlantic Ocean.  He is a purveyor of fine songcraft, and Brief Candles – his latest tape – totally spills the beans with respect to his deftness in musical ideation.

There are 17 performers other than Robidoux who are credited as being involved in these compositions, which were realized over a 2-year period beginning in 2017.  Each individual lends their distinct musical signature, playing loosely within the framework that Robidoux has assembled.  “Rose Room” leads the proceedings, as the composer croons atop a scrappily strummed guitar and wobbly wind instrument melodies.  The piece swoons, staggers a little bit and tumbles around before collapsing entirely.  Taking a completely contrarian position to the preceding piece, the instrumental “Little Wall” is a tightly wound composition, complete with a staccato section in which each instrument pierces the silence with its voice.  I sense the influence of Gastr Del Sol here, but I could be wrong.

Robidoux sways between weirdness and complete control across the length of this tape, and it’s actually quite refreshing.  Veering between precision and looseness allows for subtle shifts in tone as each piece reveals itself, piquing our interest over and over again.  One particular piece that exemplifies the complete array of sensibilities is the epic “Reflection Space”, which begins with an understated synth warble before morphing into something almost completely motorik in nature a la Neu!  Then the horns enter, stumbling over each other in an attempt to freak everyone out.  Robidoux attempts to calm things down with his soothing voice, which only heightens the intensity even more.  This track alone is worth the price of admission.

Robidoux still has copies of this imaginative and attention-grabbing cassette, so steer your ship over to yonder Bandcamp and slap a few bucks down for this one.  You’ll thank me later.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

With Great Care - With Great Care (Aural Canyon, 2020)

The Aural Canyon label is no stranger to this little blog of ours, mainly because we have much love for their delicious brand of audio bliss.  Our orbits are very aligned with theirs, and we eagerly anticipate each new release from the imprint.  This particular cassette has been rattling our ear drums for awhile, and it is a shame that we haven’t had the bandwidth to spill any ink about it in months past, because it’s so damn good!

Modular synth wizard Grainger Weston is behind the moniker With Great Care, and this is his debut.  It’s a pretty epic release, though – so well-tuned as a matter of fact that it’s hard to believe this guy hasn’t been cranking out synth-scapes for eternity.  Or maybe he has, and this is the first time that he’s dared to attach his incorporeal emanations to a physical form.  One can never be sure…

This is the kind of modular jamming we love around here: the music carefully balances a mix of ambient hues behind a melodic foreground and fractured loops that coalesce into tide pools of undifferentiated sound.  Such weirdness can create a kaleidoscopic effect, as can be heard on “Swim”, in which oblique patterns emerge and recede almost constantly as the lengthy piece unfolds.  At other times there is an unnerving, extraterrestrial vibe that takes hold.  The alien atmospheres of “Horizon” with its glitchy lexicon is exemplary of such an unearthly mode.

Unique in its execution is “Blue”, in which a sprightly – almost pachinko-esque – melody is sparsely peppered over a barely present hum.  It’s like Weston is jamming freely on his modular, really exploring the outer reaches of melody, tone and timbre.  The whole thing is thrilling.  As a matter of fact, the entire tape is a stunner from beginning to end – definitely one that we will be jamming while under quarantine, and beyond.

Aural Canyon have copies of this expansive and entrancing cassette over at their Bandcamp, so grab yourself a copy, hunker down, and drift away on clouds of synth.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Lithics - Wendy Kraemer EP

It’s mid-April and we’ve finally made it through the stacks to a 2020 release.  Finally!  FINALLY!!

So we’ve been heavily digesting social media in the absence of in person social interaction, and one thing that has been popping up frequently is the “name one record per day that has made you who you are” phenomenon, or whatever it’s called.  Over here at Nine Chains HQ, we’re pretty sure that there’d be at least one no wave record in our list, should we ever choose to participate.  And that leads us to today’s object of critical investigation, this EP reissue from Portland’s Lithics.

This four-piece minimal primitive punk ensemble ride their bikes on the edges of the no wave neighborhood.  There are the requisite angular guitars and rubbery bass involved.  And the half-spoken vocals of Aubrey Hornor smack of late 70s or early 80s avant-punk, in a good way.  This gang wear their influences on their sleeves, but there is a sense of originality that keeps them from becoming an imitation or a parody of what came before.

The Wendy Kraemer EP has an interesting genesis.  Originally self-released by the band on cassette, this is an odds and sods collection of demos, improvisational jams and practice recordings of material that at the time was yet to be released.  Ironically, the proceedings work as a package unto itself.  Sure, the fidelity of the recordings is all over the map, but that actually adds to the visceral feeling of the music.  The folks over at Moone Records must have felt the same way, because they decided to reissue it, and on wax no less.

There are no tracks listed, but discerning listeners will likely make out songs from the group’s more “professional” recordings.  That being said, we enjoy listening to the entirety as one big block of tunes that scuttle past in all their scrappy glory.

Moone still have copies of this bad boy over at their online shop, so go ahead and sidle over there and prepare to enjoy yourselves.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Endurance / PJS - Endurance / PJS (Crash Symbols, 2019)

Hey!  What better way to tide us over during the mini-pocalypse than a lovely slice of drift that is itself a triumvirate composed of our favorite music-producing organisms?  Crash Symbols, Endurance, and PJS all rank up at the top of our charts, so the idea of them combining forces is almost indescribable in its goodness.  We’re as happy as can be, all things considered.

Here we have a reel of ferrous material imbued on either side with the cosmic sounds of Canada.  Well, technically Endurance is currently located in Japan, but Josh Stefane is Canuck diaspora, so we’re widening the lasso over here in our geographic categorization.  On the A side is a pair of his compositions, while the flip side is owned by PJS, which is Jordan Christoff and Patrick Dique.

The Endurance tracks capture two unique modes of Stefane’s soundcraft.  “Outside” launches with a string of reverberating chimes that ring out with a sense of delicate beauty.  The sounds blend into a gentle, shimmering mist that just begs to be waded through.  Dreamworld, here we come!  The opposite effect is at play on “Waystation”.  In this piece, a darkness overtakes us.  We’re riding in a lonely subway car at midnight.  Our skin crawls and the hair on our arms stands on end.  An uneasiness grows within us.  We can’t think of anything but the darkness.  Eventually, a faint glow materializes through the window, the sense of dread diminishes, and we allow our internal monologue to continue.  This is a very bold piece.

PJS lay out a live synthesizer array that sways gently in an invisible breeze.  “Parellels” captures the duo channeling spirits from the cosmos and bending those phantasms to their will.  Their translucent bodies waft however Christoff and Dique command them.  A binaural fluttering evokes graceful movement, such as that of a fish darting through water or a soaring bird, and a subtle crackling emerges with a fairly regular cadence, giving rise to a slight shiver.  These are the sounds of a cloudless twilight.

Alas, physical copies of this captivating release are sold out, but it’s available in digital form via the Crash Symbols Bandcamp, so click on over there and prepare to zone out.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Julia Bloop - Out of the Bloop (Patient Sounds, 2019)

Hey all!  I hope that everyone is keeping healthy and not going stir crazy in these very interesting times.  We can do this self-isolation thing.  Just please be kind and loving to your fellow citizens, maintain your distance, and above all, stay positive!  Me, I turn to music in times like these, and this lovingly crafted cassette courtesy of Julia Bloop is getting me through the social distancing blues.

Out of the Bloop was released by the now-defunct Patient Sounds label, an imprint that had been at the forefront of sonic curiosity for 10 years before calling it quits in 2019.  As a matter of fact, this was one of the final cassettes to leave their hands before the proverbial towel was thrown.  I was misty-eyed when I heard that M. Sage was drawing his lovingly-curated label to a close, but the legacy that he’s left behind certainly stands tall, and we have over 100 releases to return to when the need arises, so there’s that.

Rather than going out with a bang, Patient Sounds chose to drift off toward infinity, patiently.  This is definitely reflected in the telltale loops and samples that have become a signature of Julia Bloop’s, and are featured readily on this stunning cassette.  The most rabble rousing of the pieces on offer here is “Sailor”, which leads off the proceedings with a loping drum loop and an almost Hawai’ian guitar that dives in when it’s appropriate to do so.  There are chirping birds as well, and this seems to be a thematic touch point throughout the cassette, as they appear again in “Pacific Sunset”.  On this track, Bloop dials the drums back to a clickety-clack ratcheting that seems to grow more pervasive as the track progresses.  Piano, sax, and other tones are sprinkled about gingerly, not merely decorative, but adding to the overall sense of good vibrations being transmitted.

“Deserted Shore” is even more mellow, a piano/guitar heartstring-tugger that tumbles through a bank of samples like that prince who rolls the Katamari ball around in that highly addictive video game.  Along the same lines is “The Thrill of Shelter,” which seems to bounce around with a misty reverb that implies a cavernous locale of some sort.  Eventually, it settles into a dreamy swirl of sound, before vanishing completely.  And then there’s “Set Us Free of This World,” which is the culmination of all that came before it.  A plethora of birdsong, piano, guitar and other samples are combined into a lengthy meditation on existence itself.  This is a doozy and the perfect way to sign off such a lovely cassette.

Should you wish to investigate the wonderful world of Julia Bloop, you can find both physical and digital options at their Bandcamp.  Enjoy, and once again, stay healthy and safe!

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

heArt Ensemble - Oréade (Small Scale Music, 2019)

The Small Scale Music imprint is a tiny Montréal-based label dedicated to pursuing the exploratory flavors of music: noise, free jazz, experimental stuff.  All of it is worthy of digesting for those listeners with feisty viscera.  The Montréal creative music community is prolific, adventurous, and has an incredible story to tell the rest of the world.

Recently, Small Scale unleashed a pair of CDs featuring the work of Guy Thouin and the second incarnation of his heArt Ensemble.  Thouin is a legendary figure in the French-Canadian free jazz scene.  He is the only surviving original member of the Quatuor de Jazz Libre du Québec, which was the first free jazz combo formed in the city of Montréal, active from 1967 to 1974.  A prolific drummer and percussionist, Thouin was also a member of L’infonie, a loose collective of musicians who favored beat poetry and prog-oriented avant-jazz.

This new branch of the heArt Ensemble tree finds Thouin paired up with saxophonist Félix-Antoine Hamel.  The two musicians have been improvising in the drummer’s basement every week since 2015, often inviting guests to explore along with them.  The material that comprises Oréade is the result of a heavy period of experimentation as a trio, with harpist Marilou Lyonnais-Archambault joining the fray.  There is almost 70 minutes of music presented here; who knows for how long these mavericks jammed in order to harvest this distilled product of their creativity.

One intriguing aspect of this particular recording is the melodic sensibility that wafts into the proceedings from time to time.  The CD actually begins in this mode, with the almost funky “Ostinato” searching out and finding a groove to lope along to.  That being said, the trio brings on the fire most of the time, roaring along with abandon.  The harp adds a certain uncanniness that is amplified by the clever deployment of electronics.  There be ghosts here, but their howls are shimmery and bright.  This is some straight up outstanding music!

Small Scale Music still have copies of this stunner over at their Bandcamp, so head on over and drop some dollars.  You will thank me later.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Amelia Courthouse - Ruby Glass (SPINSTER, 2019)

The SPINSTER Sounds label is doing magical things.  We were first introduced to them via the wonderful Quilt of the Universe compilation, and they’ve returned with another mighty undertaking, this time courtesy of Leah Toth who some might know from her work with Wooden Wand.  For this release, Toth is going by the name Amelia Courthouse, and Ruby Glass – as it’s called – is a quiet masterpiece.  The album is awash in delicate melodies that glisten with phosphorescent tracers as they weave about.  Each piece is the product of deft hands.  These hands are composed of fingers and nerve endings that are steeped in their craft.

We take flight alongside Amelia Courthouse beginning with “No Chimbo”.  A softly panned flute-like pad provides a base for a spindly melody to be plucked out overtop.  These elements are joined by a wafting guitar line that just might be the ghostly twin of the opening guitar solo from King Crimson’s “Starless”.  The title track juxtaposes a melancholy piano melody against bells and chimes, of which one seems to become enmeshed with an analog version of itself.  This analog ringing calls out with an uncanny sadness that is melted away by the higher pitched chimes.

“Hugh Kenner” takes its name from a Canadian literary critic (Courthouse is an assistant professor in modern literature) and is decidedly haunting.  Its morose piano line is swept up in a haze of wafting pads and chords that only heighten the sense of foreboding.  “Becker” just might also be named after a literary critic.  Could it be that Courthouse is channeling May Lamberton Becker?  This piece begins rather simply but quickly sprouts multiple adornments that are quite gorgeous.  There’s an unusually compelling distortion effect at play that adds drama to the mellifluous piano melodies.

Listening to the 17-minute-long “Murphie 1” is like trying to take in the entire night sky with one glance.  The delicate pinpoints of starlight, the shooting streaks of meteors, and the slow tracking of satellites coalesce into a fine needlepoint pattern imprinted on our eyelids.  Courthouse’s wordless vocals add an angelic touch to the proceedings.  This is a mighty fine way to close out such an already wonderful release.

It is highly, highly recommended that you obtain a copy of this entrancing release.  There are some left over at the SPINSTER Bandcamp so run over there pronto and seize yourself a copy.