Rob Collier – Driftwood (and Other Found Objects)
5.4.22 by Matty McPherson
(What feels like) An endless array of Casio CZ-1 Phase Distortion Synthesizers greet you when you open the Jcard to Rob Collier’s Driftwood (and Other Found Objects) cassette. Collier has carried this particular batch of ambient synthesizer pieces in his back pocket for over five years. He’s just been patient about issuing it until February of this year for the sly Noumenal Loom label. It does not come without reason. On his last release, Moving Backwards for Geology Records, Collier alluded to being inspired by how the perception of time in nature differs from the human world. The piano tunes for that release practically existed out of that latter world, their stillness evolving drastically yet subtly over their runtimes. Driftwood (and Other Found Objects), holds that same natural harmony, acting as an unexpected time-traveling companion that enshrines his ethos.
To an extent, Collier’s work on the Casio reminds me of Arovane’s Wirkung from Puremagentik Tapes –itself a release that purposely evoked naturalism as an MO for its sonic palette. The comparison would not go much farther than that though, as Collier is deeply locked into how the Casio CZ-1 can convey otherworldly, calming drone fuzz as much as sugary minimalism. Tracks like Driftwood or the Shimmer of the Lamps Above lean into the latter, letting small notes dance and flicker off of synth ambience; there is an underlying baroque quality to these compositions that feels out of a contemporary time or place. If anything, it evokes the deceptive levels of deep listening burrowed within Windham Hill’s pleasant piano melodies.
As such, when Collier goes head-on into ambient, it is enrapturing. “Everything Repeats Itself” and closing tack “The Stairs Lead Upwards” are quite alluring in that regard. Their minimal sound palette may not impress immediately, that is until it practically floods the room (on an ambient sound system of course). It’s at these moments that Collier’s belief in how these sounds he’s wrangled together “feel beyond us” comes into focus. Everything around sounds of an astral opera, wading through assuredly and steadily, completely out of the human conception of time, even beyond the natural order itself.
Edition of 75 Available from the Noumenal Loom Bandcamp.
Wednesday – Mowing the Leaves Instead of Piling ‘em Up
5.3.22 by Matty McPherson
The cover art of Wednesday’s 2021 LP, Twin Plagues, featured the strongest “how you gonna go big on big?” energy I’ve seen out of an indie “reverb-guitar” based release in a moment. Zen Arcade was being evoked but it was with a blunt stare back towards the listener. Times have changed, contexts have unfurled and been reshaped. The album’s dozen tracks emanating a strange currency between Seam’s majestic & sniffly slowcore hardcore and country style songwriting with hella feedback. Pinning it all down was second to just the natural chemistry. Twin Plagues was a grip. Any shock release was to be of interest.
Thus it is with a light heart that I can attest Wednesday’s Mowing the Leaves Instead of Piling ‘em Up is exactly that kind of shock listening material we needed. Perhaps you saw the Aquarium Drunkard Lagniappe Session where three of these were presented. The tape’s got nine covers, ranging from Roger Miller and the Drive By-Truckers to Vic Chestnutt and Medicine cover an intense amount of influences that *insist* yes, these folks are gonna go so big on big they’ll hit you with a diamond sledgehammer.
Side A is the designated country side, and has quickly racked itself up as my new drinking buddy at the county taprooms. Exactly what musters me to expend this level of camaraderie is how the five piece take these country tunes and mangle them through quietLOUDquiet twisted noise bouts to come out with a particular refraction. These bouts of noise are not entirely lo-fi frizzles or countrified bangers on a primary level anymore per se. Everything about the ace reimaginings–from She’s Actin Single to the duet of I Am the Cosmos–are evocative catharsis. They transcend them to capital-B Bar Rock standards. As such, I found myself in the rare, yet pleasant realization of a band realizing a song as their own which perhaps is enshrined with Women Without Whiskey, a Drive By Truckers cover that really makes you go “FUCK! Another round asap!” Writ large, Mowing the Leaves Side A is that kind of moment to the point the band untethered these standards from their respective time and place into their feeling and sound of this moment. What it old is new again.
No act right now is edging for the bar rock crowd quite as hard, but also no act is looking at the indie playbook and stumping with such curiosity on Side B. It’s a more lowkey, humble side to the shock and awe of the former. Yet, the covers are equally worth savoring. The Had 2 Try cover of Hotline TNT is an act of real “game recognize game,” just unvarnished appreciation for the under-the-radar act’s own homespun shoegaze aesthetic approach. Greg Sage is summoned and reimagined with greater “in-the-red” crunch on “Sacrifice (For Love).” The aforementioned Vic Chestnutt’s Rabbit Box becomes a basement jam emanating the energy of a lowkey winter warmer. Finally, the one-two knockout of Medicine and Smashing Pumpkins revel in reminding the home listener that Wednesday know their noise + pop dynamics. Time Machine II has a playful, almost twee sense imbued in it under the quintet’s lead, while Perfect redeems classic snot nose Billy and weaves it into a communal tumble, as karly and jake lenderman duet over each other.
It’s likely that Wednesday is currently or about to play in a market near you, headlining a bar-stomper of a show or opening for a slightly larger indie guitar pop band. You might as well catch ‘em and see if this is at the merch table, as it’s sold out and no one’s given a fair shake as to if more tapes are coming. Here’s to a hope they do so.
4.27.22 by Jacob DeRaadt
Top Down from Frank Baugh’s Night Sky Body project is the second in the Synapse Series for Nailbat Tapes, a label that I didn’t think would release this kind of acerbic, atonal, electro-no-wave-post-punk-guitar-and-synth-driven project. One that was completely unknown to me at this point.
Side A of Top Down has several songs veering into the tape cut up/drone/abstract guitar zone, what could pass for modular sounding stuff in parts, then completely dives into a shoe gazing area with twittering synths awkwardly on top of echoing percussions.
Some of the noise is “in tune” with synths or guitar, sometimes not. The spoken vocals are quite effective with the editing and processing creating what could be pop version(?) of Alvin Lucier playing with This Heat or early Cabaret Voltaire. None of it feels like a hipster hack job to these ears. I’m always game for this sound when it’s done with experimentation and hooks in the same songs. I found there’s passages that extend from a live band feel into some sort of edited music concrete experiment on parts of this tape that really worked for me.
Side B’s opener, “Top Down,” has a great guitar riff that drives a dirty chord dirge into swirling disaster and irradiances of guitar drone… great shit right here. We arrive on the other side with “Tap,” a patient and paranoid, Motorik rhythm affair that sort of drifts for a bit of time, and returns like an errant shampoo commercial. The computer spits out random bits of information and that’s what we get while the results of the bipodal morphed quadruped reptilian elections are beaming back from the mother ship. The TV receptor is a bit on the fritz and has fits of static pulsations, which display across all of the screens in the store display at the Wal-Mart. These sounds are what you get at the end of side B rather than the band you hear on the first side. A winner for the weirdos.
4.22.22 by Matty McPherson
Let’s talk about the crackly pops – not Budzo or Pop Rocks or New Coke, I mean that tacit sound that appears within your friend’s collection of worn vinyl. A few bleepsters or crate diggers like to play with the crackles and make for an atmospheric, “temporally unfrozen” type of listen. An addictively bloody sound I’ve always found to be; perhaps a reminder of my own psychology, which has been much too heightened this past month with sciatica. I cannot be 100% certain that Grundik Kasyansky & Alexey Sysoev were thinking exactly in that manner with their Selene Variation cassette for Dinzu Artefacts. What I do know though, is that those crackles are practically the foreground of their four tracks and that they are quite enticing soundscapes, giving off a vague, icy pulses.
The general dealio here is that Kasyansky is taking Sysoev’s Selene piano piece (released in 2015) and manipulating it with an unspecified “feedback synthesizer.” What was classical piano now feels like the shards of a funhouse mirror, while the minimal electronics offering a microhouse means to escape into. These four pieces are resultantly precocious compositions that evoke ghostly aberrations and ominous fog, even when there’s a chilled, libidioless BPM running through things. Variation I bobs and weaves, as the pulsing crackles contend for this music to be placed in the most austere, haunted chill out room. Meanwhile, Variation II slowly fizzles the piano to the edges of the mix, leaving that pulse and the quips of Kasyanskys electronics at the forefront. It’s a patient, deep listen that seems to be less of an experiment than a laying out of parts.
A theory which is confirmed with side B’s single longform, Variation IV. Syosecv’s snippets of the piano piece are placed for great, threatening (not frightening) effect. They jump and quiver against the jitters of Kasyansky’s electronics. Themselves on this track, there’s a real sense of direction, from the bizarre dub-pulse hiding at a tertiary level near the start, to the computer-machine sentience of the piece’s midpoint. When the two begin to meet for their final third, it’s a cyber-esque banshee beat. Yet it’s all wiggled out and white-eyed, peering dead ahead with a thousand yard stare. Ah cripes, I didn’t mean to make this one sounds so scary, but dammit! The duo really did make a nail bitter of a closer. Dinzu Artefacts ya did it again!
Edition of 100 available at the Dinzu Artefacts Bandcamp page.