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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tickley Feather "Tickley Feather" LP

I know exactly what will launch one-woman-band Tickley Feather from her current level of buzzy sub-notoriety to national indie super-star. Someone just needs to slip a copy of this album to Sofia Coppola, who will realize that it would make the absolutely perfect soundtrack to her next dream-like film filled with achingly beautiful melancholy. In fact, this album even opens with “Buttshot,” just like Coppola’s “Lost in Translation!” (after a little droney intro that is) It’s a perfect match! The closing scene of this film, set to the song “The Daylight” or maybe “Keyboards is Drunk” will bring movie-goers to tears and send them immediately rushing to their nearest record store for a copy of this LP.

It’s a really hard mood to nail, so how does Tickley Feather do it? The formula seems pretty basic: lo-fi Casio keyboards, simple haunting tunes and lots of reverb. But the real Tickley Feather secret weapon is her voice, which is what really takes the mood and the beauty of the music over the top. It actually reminds me of Annie Lennox. It also makes the “lo-fi” really work, because everything has this diamond in the rough feel. Even a really great singer with pristine backing music recorded in a million-dollar studio would just sound like mundane blah. This, however, sounds really special. I seriously can’t deal with most music which is supposed to be “pretty” or “sweet” or “nice” but Tickley Feather’s stuff works because it’s got plenty of rough edges. This will appeal more to fans of Tom Waits than Tori Amos.

My only complaints with the record would be that I actually wish some clean singing would peek out of the fog now and then because it’s that good, and the album seems kind of short, with several songs being less developed than they could be. But, you know, changes to those qualities might just upset the delicate and perfect balance here.

I was kindly sent this nice LP by the folks at Badmaster Records, who asked that I point out that they still have vinyl copies available. The CD is out on Paw Tracks, but when you’re in your bedroom on a rainy day and you realize you need to listen to that Tickley Feather song because it’s exactly how you’re feeling at that moment, you’ll want to put a vinyl record on the turntable, won’t you?

Tickley Feather
Badmaster Records

Monday, August 25, 2008

SCISSOR SHOCK "Synonym for the Word Decay"

Scissor Shock is an interesting mix. It's mainly a one-man project (Adam Cooley is the man responsible) which on the one hand sounds almost like a laptop band. The drums sound synthetic and programmed, the vocals are usually effected, and there's some digital fuckery throughout. However, the playing style is closest to loose-knit multi-member ensembles who specialize in semi-improvised chaotic rock. Think of a digital version of Fat Worm of Error, or a Caroliner from the future instead of the past. It's not quite as tightly choreographed as U.S.Maple (I think!) but each song definitely has a plan.

Scissor Shock is really prolific and this full-length release follows right behind an equally full-length release which seems like it came out less than 6 months ago. From what I gather, Scissor Shock started out doing something more like the usual kid-with-a-laptop style of grindcore/8-bit. I'm glad that the project has evolved into this more challenging and interesting style.

The arrhythmic beats are accompanied by some equally off-balance guitar manglings, trombone, miscellaneous, and some Wicked Witch of the West vocals. There are also a couple of tracks to break things up with only some acoustic guitar noodling, which actually sounds quite skilled and even pretty. These tracks are called "Ghost Fahey" and "Fahey Ghost" and while I'm not really familiar with John Fahey's music, I'm guessing these tracks are some kind of homage. (maybe also an homage to the band Ghost?) I really respect that actually. If you're going to try to play like a favorite artist, just call it like it is, don't try to pass it off as your own invention. In the same vein, this album also includes a track titled "Blood Infinitive" and yeah, there's definitely a link between this and Royal Trux's "Twin Infinitives" too. Strangely, while being far more honest about who he's stealing from, Scissor Shock has also created music that is far more unique than most other bands.

P.S. Adam is also very generous about giving his music away online. Poke around a little bit and you can find plenty of Scissor Shock for free download, but you'll want to buy an album too!

"Synonym for the Word Decay" is to be released September 26th on Laser Seizure Records.

Friday, August 22, 2008

HAGONY "Impersonal Lubricant" CDR

You couldn’t be blamed for expecting Hagony to be a rather goofy and lo-fi affair. This is a project featuring Emil Hagstrom of Cock ESP and Jason Wade of the notorious Minneapolis band Faggot. When I first saw this project appear on MySpace, I think they claimed to exclusively play amplified empty beer cans, a statement which seemed perfectly believable. This CDR comes in an economical plastic sleeve with paper insert and no attempt has been made to cover the standard branding on the disk itself. Then there’s the cover art. You can see it here. It’s not terribly offensive, but it’s not safe for work. Emil’s face and those of some political figures are pasted onto a group photo of… nudists? The back cover has Wade’s face inserted into a newspaper article about a man who ate his underwear in an attempt to beat a breathalyzer test.

Okay, I think I’ve painted a picture for you. You would now probably be just as surprised as I was to find that this album is actually carefully crafted, detailed, and intricately-layered noise. Seriously. This is every bit as good and worthy of repeat listens as any noise record pressed onto 180 gram vinyl this year.

The first track is mostly varying layered tones, somewhere halfway between drones and piercing feedback. The way the tones almost harmonize here and there creates an unsettling mood, a tension builder that leads into the second track, which explodes in a dense squall of noise. Things proceed from there with these two properties, harsh/dense and subtle/ominous, more carefully intertwined. No recognizable instruments or sound sources emerge, although I’m pretty sure those are some kind of horror movie screams submerged in the mix. And then best of all, it ends too soon! This is definitely an album and not one of those 3-minute Cock ESP releases, but it doesn’t overstay its welcome.

I am 100% behind artists who do not take themselves too seriously. Sometimes however, such artists’ work deserves to be taken seriously itself, and this is a fine example. Now, someone repress this thing in a deluxe vinyl format already.

Friday, July 25, 2008

BOREDOMS "Super Roots 9"

Most of the postings here take the form of "Maybe you've never heard of this, but it's amazing!" but now and then I think it's helpful to post a little something of the form: "You've heard of this, but is it worth buying?" You know, a review! Crazy, right? So I'm going to assume you've heard of the Boredoms and know something of their history. Maybe you also know that they transformed into a 3-drummers and noises band called the Vooredoms (where the "oo" is supposed to be written as a sideways infinity symbol) which eventually reverted to the name Boredoms again. So along comes this album, the first release by the Boredoms that's not a remix thing in who-knows-how-many years, and the first official release of the full-blown Vooredoms style music.

I have actually really been digging the Vooredoms sound, which I've heard by downloading recordings of live performances. It's pretty much always the same basic performance with variations, one big piece with various movements. Band leader Eye plays what sounds like a big euphoric-sounding keyboard chord sped up and slowed down on a reel-to-reel. I don't know if that's what it is, but that's what it usually sounds like. There's chanting, truckin-along 3-drummer drumming, Yoshimi (the other founding member still with the band) sings, and the whole thing repeatedly builds to climaxes on top of climaxes with chill-out sections here and there to give you a break. It's really not the kind of thing I would have listened to a decade ago, but I have discovered that it actually makes the PERFECT exercise music! Seriously, the ebb and flow works perfectly for a workout.

So Super Roots 9 is not quite a recording of what I just described! It's almost the same thing, but most of the noise and synthesizer sounds have been replaced by a choir. At first I thought that the chord sounds had just been replaced by one of those "voice" keyboard settings with lots of reverb, but from studying the pictures in the enclosed booklet, it would appear that an entire real choir performed this. (there are also some sleigh bells at the beginning, since this was a Christmas Eve performance) I'm sure it was much more impressive in person. In fact, the entire premise of this line-up is much more about being cool to see live, which is probably why there has been no official release of this material until now.

Unfortunately, the choir is a bit of a let-down to me. I have a hard time with music that's too nice, that's a little too "correct." The wilder sounds that usually make up this piece are far more interesting to hear, and when some harsher noises get mixed in and Eye let's loose with a little screaming, that's when things start getting exciting. That happens a little bit on this recording, but just barely. So the bottom line is this won't replace my bootleg Vooredoms recordings in the workout mix, most of which is recorded just as well as this and sounds more exciting. It's probably smart of them to make an official release of this, and I understand why you'd want it documented, but it's not the best representation of this material.

Nice packaging though, with the full score included so you can sing along at home. On Thrill Jockey.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

BUCK GOOTER documentary

I've had a few run-ins with this band Buck Gooter. For some reason I can't help but think of them as "outsider artists" (which should be taken as a compliment) even if they do know all about noise bands and punk rock. Maybe it's the band name which conjures a hillbilly/redneck vibe, or the weird mix of protest rock with noise & drum machines, or the fact that the band members are a generation apart, or that they live out in rural Virginia. Anyway, even though they have the same internet access we all do, and many of the same sources of inspiration, somehow their interpretation of it comes out very wrong (which is also a compliment). So maybe this will help clarify things: "What Da Hell?" a short Buck Gooter documentary, available in 2 parts on YouTube. I wish this explored the band members' personal lives a little more, which I think would add some insight into where they're coming from, but this still paints an interesting picture. Enjoy! PART 1: PART 2:

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


In my book, this is a noise record which does lots of things right. First of all, I like to hear a mix of organic and digital sounds, especially when the lines get blurred. This starts out with some guitar work that would sound like speed-metal scales if it weren't so aluminum-treble shrill. This repeats, but quickly gets cut up, chopped and blended into coarse digital noise. Or maybe the digital noise is produced separately and it just sounds like processed guitar, because like I said, the lines quickly blur. There are sounds that might be that squealing harmonics sound that metal guitarists do, but it also might just be noise, or feedback, or who knows.

Another thing I like is that there are no obvious loops running. Sounds come back but they continually vary and get layered up in shifting combinations. I never feel like I'm listening to something on repeat. There are elements of musicality throughout, but there is never a song that appears. There is just one big track on this album, perhaps with different sections or movements, but all tied together by common sounds and textures. This definitely sounds like one coherent piece, while at the same time constantly changing.

CSection is the work of Alex Nagle, also the guitarist in the Philadelphia band Satanized, who is credited in the liner notes with playing "Guitar, CSound." I found that CSound is a music programming language, but I'm not sure if it has another meaning. If this is actually some kind of combo of pseudo-metal shredding and ultra-nerdy computer programming, then I am seriously impressed. No idea if this could be performed live, but I would really like to see such a thing.

This is on cool Philly noise/etc label Malleable Records, and comes in a very nice gatefold cardboard case with silkscreened art. (by

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

PRE "Epic Fits"

I have no idea if PRE's bandname was inspired by the philosophy of "Pre-" championed by Tom Smith of To Live and Shave in L.A. His explanation went something like this: "Post-" music styles are always more cerebral, less physical, more "informed" and less "inspired." See for example post-punk, post-hardcore, and (your best example) post-rock. "Pre-" music styles are all about original, instinctive expression. Any band that usually gets the prefix "proto-" affixed to their description probably qualifies also.

So, does PRE live up to that ridiculously high standard? Well, of course not, but they're still good and I'd say they even embody some of that "Pre-" attitude. This music IS definitely more about physicalism than intellectualism. You've got 2 super-bouncy bass guitars leading things, plenty of punk speed, and yelped lyrics that sound like a looser version of Melt-Banana's Yasuko. PRE singer Akiko's lyrics are similarly English filtered through an accent that sounds like Japanese layered with British, which should make them almost totally unintelligible to American listeners. The whole thing sounds a good bit like Melt-Banana in fact, though without the laser-war guitar sounds. It may be a bit less unhinged, but just as tightly wound. Those tight rhythms are what really provides the energy here and plenty of credit for both energy and keeping things interesting should go to drummer Richard Bennett for resisting the easy path and not simply dropping a heavy disco beat on every song.

You get 14 songs, almost all 1 to 2-minute long outbursts. 2 songs are inexplicably twice as long, and next to the others they sound like your record is stuck in a locked-groove. They seem to serve no purpose on the record, but I'm guessing they're useful in live performance, perhaps giving Akiko time to climb on things or remove clothing. This IS a live band after all, and even if you haven't seen them you can tell that's where this material is going to shine. Still, the record has plenty of its own energy and it's nice to hear a noise rock band that was actually recorded in a studio and you can hear all the instruments distinctly and everything! Crazy... On Skin Graft Records as CD or vinyl.