Holding back the year…

Recently my laptop pretty much died — well, the display went out, it mostly “runs” otherwise; I can connect to it on the network — it was getting mighty old anyway and I found a suitable replacement. As I got my files and settings moved in to the new machine, I decided to take the opportunity to organize some of my files a bit better and delete some things I didn’t really need so as to make some space. In the process, I somehow confused the “iTunes” folder on my Seagate GoFlex network drive, where I kept all my music files (not including lossless files or Audacity projects for my own stuff or Centipede Farm releases, that is), for the usually useless “iTunes” folder that I usually have in my home directory on the hard drive of my computer, and, in my trigger-happiness, deleted. the. entire. thing.

I have since been working to rebuild as much of my iTunes library as I could from what I could pull off my iPod Classic using an app called Music Rescue, and of course there’s all the stuff I have on CD that I can rip again anytime, but I’m sure there’s still a lot of stuff I’ve lost — but I realized that a lot of it I couldn’t remember anyway. And what does eventually spring to mind, I can probably manage to download at some point, and might have on vinyl or cassette anyway. Still, that realization, and coming to the grips of the mental overhead of managing my maddeningly large library of downloaded music turned out to be an opportunity to gain some perspective. Apparently, I have a problem. My relationship with music is obsessive bordering on addictive.

It’s not something that’s ruining my life or anything, but I could stand to stop worrying so much about whether I’m missing out on something cool. There’s probably more music being recorded in a single day in the world than I can listen to in my life. But these days, I too rarely listen to something twice, let alone enough to build a real relationship with it.

One effect of this is that my backlog of “stuff I’d like to write reviews of for the website” is about to be mostly purged. My attempt to check out and evaluate all the big important albums I heard about in 2011 is already nine months into 2012 after all, and there’s a bunch of stuff I’ve barely gotten to. I could probably delete it and not even miss it. It’s just downloads, and unpaid-for ones at that. If I cared about these albums, I’d buy them. Because that’s what I already do with music I really like anyway, unless of course I haven’t heard of it yet, and then what’s the big deal?

I like reviewing music but I need to be less hard on myself. I’m probably not going to write as much on this site about music I wasn’t involved in making, from now on. If you send me something and specifically ask me to write about it, I will try my best. I seem to have no trouble keeping up with that. But no point in volunteering myself to write about stuff nobody asked me to.

Anyway The Centipede Farm is obviously becoming more of a “label” than a “music blog” these days anyway and I’m really into that. I have opportunities to put together little cassette releases by a whole lot of really excellent artists. I should probably be placing the focus of this website more on them. I am still open to contributing reviews for other sites, though, so if you have one and you’d like me to write some stuff for it, by all means get in touch and I’ll try to fit something in. And if you’re interested in just keeping up with what I’m discovering online lately, I post mad links to the Facebook page, so you should follow that. And comment a lot, because one-sided conversations are boring.

Anyway here’s a couple things I still wanted to get a few words in about:

The Big Drum in the Sky Religion: Ithyfallacy: A Tribute to Rudimentary Peni – I must admit to not being familiar with Rudimentary Peni, but have seen their name come up here and there in experimental/outsider/oddball music circles. It’s ostensibly a British punk rock band, but supposedly headed up by a rather eccentric fellow with some pretty far-out ideas and lyrics. You don’t need to be familiar with R.P. to get into this “tribute”, however. The booklet deceptively contains a long list of hilarious song titles, but the disc actually contains a single 79-and-a-half minute track, not entirely different in intent and form from Vive la Revelación that I wrote of the other day. The foundation of it is a loop of furious rolling toms and a buzzy bassline that falls in and out of sync with it. Over this, a few things come and go, including some quite nice noise-guitar jamming, some of that upright piano from Vive, and I’m pretty sure I heard a jaw harp in there somewhere. The strong rhythmic drive of the piece, courtesy the toms, makes it nicely conducive to shamanic states of mind, or at least I suspect so, it definitely got me spaced out and grooving along despite being once again a piece of insane length and hypnotic repetition. The artwork, black-and-white drawings, is also pretty stellar, reminiscent of the great Food Fortunata.

The Mighty Accelerator: Back From the Dead EP – Four more tunes from Ottumwa’s sleazemeisters. Mixed by Andy the guitarist, this has a notably rawer sound than Soccer Mom — I could have used a bit more vocals, finding it difficult to understand some of the lyrics without the benefit of headphones, the focus is more on the catchy rhythm guitar riffs which is fine too. The lyrical concepts of songs like “Lesbian Date Rape” and “Werewoofs and Fast Cars” are deliciously goofy. “This Hand Needs A Job” hits all the double entendres you expect but it’s unclear how intentionally, so you’re actually left with a quite sincere lament on small-town blue-collar employment troubles, that builds nicely through and an uptempo multi-part bridge section and some fist-raising whoa-oh backup vocals. “Truck Stop Lovin’” has a similar epic structure and build section. Money lyric: “she’s not much to look at, but she’s out of sight.” The download is free and the CD-R edition available from the band contains all of Soccer Mom as bonus tracks.

Wreck and Reference – Youth – With Black Cassette, Wreck and Reference set about showing to a new generation of metal kids what some crusty old Skinny Puppy fans already knew, that electronics can be heavy. The sampler-and-drums duo have taken an intentionally cleaner production approach with Youth and continue to evolve a sound that evades easy categorization yet carries wide appeal for all lovers of the unpleasant, drawing on a palette of influences miles wide and maybe just as deep but that appropriately draws out references to doom, black metal, industrial, noise, and Swans-y apocalyptic folk. The song structures tend toward the linear, and even in those moments where the sampler is employed making guitar-like sounds the effect is something otherworldly and quite other than you’d hear if it were a live guitarist. Vocal approaches and rhythms are as wide-ranging as the literally infinite palette of sounds from which the hugest and are so tastefully chosen. You can name-your-price for a download but the vinyl edition from The Flenser is gorgeous to behold and totally worth getting, especially the green-and-black vinyl which you should act fast if you want. This album and this band are really fresh and special and you should definitely give them a chance.

Samuel Locke-Ward: Double Nightmare – There is more that I could say about Samuel Locke-Ward and his latest opus (a two-hour, 40-song digital album!) than I have the energy to type here. You should get everything he makes, and give him all your money besides, because he is amazing and beyond explanation.

Mekigah – The Necessary Evil – Australian gothy black/doom project’s second album loses the flimsy storyline and high-school drama-kid vibe that might have marred The Serpent’s Kiss for some, but without sacrificing any of the grandeur of their deliberately-paced metal songs swimming in cavernous concert-hall reverb and symphony-in-a-box keyboards. I hesitate to reference Type O Negative just because I never much cared for that band, but it’s a fitting comparison (especially with respect to the vocals), and I’d even say there’s a little bit of a Candlemass vibe going on at times. On “Bloodlust” the vocals get so low that I’m pretty sure he’s doing that Tuvan throat-singing or whatever it’s called. But Mekigah also do harsh well here, both vocally and musically, resulting in actually quite a fresh synthesis of doomy and “blackened” elements. If the album gets at all maudlin at any point it would be on “Touching a Ghost,” which I would liken to a sort of pop-DSBM version of The Shangri-La’s “Leader Of The Pack” what with the sound-effects bridge to advance the story line. There are some pretty cool noisy ambient interstitial tracks, which help to tie it together as more of a rock album, as opposed to the ambitious opera/concept thing they went for on the previous album, and I think it’s a welcome change.

Orchid Capricorn Like a lot of retro metal or trad doom or “stoner” metal (I wish we get a better name for it one of these days — my own personal appreciation for it didn’t really take off until I could no longer be credibly referenced by that word), Orchid are borrowing pretty heavily from Black Sabbath here, enough that the references are occasionally in danger of getting too blatant, but then again, Sabbath weren’t the only band in the old days doing this kind of stuff, they were just the most well-known. There’s still an excitement for and vitality to this sort of music even after so many decades. I myself am more than glad to listen to heavy riffy rock tunes like this any time. I don’t know what it is about it, but these familiar elements, in the right hands, just never seem to get old, and Orchid seems to have that touch. I also like how their singer can pull off both Ozzy-ish and Dio-ish moments, his own sound hitting a nice territory somewhere between the two. And the title song on this album, “Capricorn”, is just too good to miss out on.

Marax Funeral Liturgy Marax (Eric Crowe) put out an astounding amount of material in 2011, even for a noise or drone artist (of which he is both, and you might as well throw in dark ambient and death industrial and all that into the mix too). This is one of several download-only ambient drone releases put out by Marax right around the same time and feels very much of a piece with them in style. This one is among my favorites, however, perhaps due to its not being or having any 20+ minute tracks, though I do realize that’s not a great bias to have on my part. The title track starts it out as a low, almost inaudible drone that fades in pretty quickly with a thick sepulchral atmosphere. Each of the five tracks, themed around funerals, and one of them even featuring a slowed-down sample of a funeral sermon (possibly backwards? It’s hard to make out the actual words), is a different setting of waves of dark and heavy but also very pure sound flowing in and out of each other. Very meditative and ominous.

Marax/Coma Centauri Coerced to Pull the Trigger The liner notes spell out the concept of this release, and it’s a concept that extends to a lot of Marax’s work that of suicide. According to these notes, Eric and Brandon wanted to explore it as a theme not so much in terms of the “desolate and depressive” modes as it is usually approached, or even the tranquility of a romanticized escape from pain; rather they wanted to explore the mindset of a person leading up to the act, the frustrations and anxiety and trapped feelings that drive one there. That idea is translated by these two artists each through their styles of frantic, nervous harsh noise on their respective sides of this tape.

Marax’s side narrates a suicide by gunshot, the first 13 minutes depicting the emotional states preceding it, then the planning of the event, then the last moments holding the gun just before firing, culminating in the sound of the gunshot and a brief silence; the state of death itself makes up the remaining 17 minutes in the form of a ghostly drone with some amazingly haunting vocal sounds. Marax’s ability to compellingly navigate both harsh and ambient sounds and unite them thematically is unique, and it’s represented especially well here.

Coma Centauri’s side sticks more specifically to the harsh discomfort, and joins this emotional state with third-person perspectives in the form of sparse sampling of news reports about suicides. Overall it’s less of a narrative approach, instead a set of pieces examining different facets of the subject of suicide, its causes and the social issues relating to it.

I greatly respect how these two noisicians approached this release with a concept and an idea of how they wanted to approach it. Noise music as pure abstract and/or physical sound is plenty fun and can even be awe-inspiring, but Marax and Coma Centauri set out here to make a noise album presenting a very honest perspective on a subject, a deeply emotional one at that, and the result succeeds on both viscreal and intellectual levels. Order from Worthless Recordings if they have any left.

Midnight Satanic Royalty — One of the coolest things about classic heavy metal is that in the days before metal got all complicated, it was really just rock and roll amped up on horror, sex, and aggression. Midnight keep this spirit and sound alive and fiery as they delight in evil and depravity. Songs like “Necromania” and “Lust, Filth, and Sleaze” are snarled out fast and furious with simple headbanging riffs, and sound a bit like a cross between Venom and Mötorhead with a dash Social Distortion guitar melodicism. Yes, it kicks ass.

Various Artists: "P.S. Your Band Sucks!"

A compilation of lo-fi noisish stuff from circa 1997 on E.F. Tapes, featuringHornswaggle, Bludy Noz (involving yours truly), Wrong (the M...… Continue reading