Posted today to the Mortville Noise blog — please spread the word:

I’ve learned recently that my friend Heather Makar has suffered an extremely serious and life threatening injury. This injury has resulted in an extended stay in the Intensive Care Unit at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg. Since experiencing two massive brain aneurysms in February, Heather has shown us all once again her strength and her courage to fight and to overcome. She has beaten every odd placed in front of her and shows a remarkable determination to see this through. Her partner Mike continues to provide love and support by remaining always close to Heather’s side through this difficult time, as do her children and family.

A benefit show has been organized in Winnipeg to help raise money for Mike and her children. If you’re in the area, you should go. A silent auction is being held at the show, so I decided to donate some Mortville test pressings (among other things) that are of no use to me other than to make me feel important about something that in the grand scheme of things means very little. I’ve decided instead of sitting back and saying “I wish there was something I could do to help” to actually do something to help.

It’s been decided that I would be able to get more money from these records if I sold them myself because attendance to the benefit show in Canada is required to bid on the silent auction. Instead, I will be auctioning these myself outside of eBay. The auction will run until the date of the benefit show, April 21st 2011.

Head on over to Mortville for details and a list of the records up for auction — an impressive list including stuff by Rupture, Meatshits, Scroungers, and more — including, incredibly, the Sockeye/Ross Daily split 7″.

Around this time last year when I saw Druids selling their excellent Pray For Water EP on cassette at the Gross Domestic Product festival, I still thought the touted “comeback” of the cassette format was just kind of a gimmick. And it is, I suppose. But there being no dominant physical format these days, it does seem like there is certain music that cassette just seems right for. And not only have I found myself digging up some obscure gems from my vast cassette collection lately, I’ve also found that I’m acquiring a startling amount of new music on cassette as well. Here are a few:

The aforementioned DruidsPray For Water (Ea, Lord Of The Tapes). I think this can also be found on download and CD-R and I think I heard some whisperings about a vinyl version being in the works once. This Iowa doom metal duo sounds epic even on the short fast songs (three of the seven tracks are under two minutes, although one of them is the first of a two-part suite). The longest, “Noise Forest: Ablaze” turns out to be an instrumental built around a Rhodes keyboard or maybe a Wurlitzer, that alternates between post-rock sounding sections and louder heavy parts. I probably can’t do justice in words to how heavy and awesome these guys are and this tape leaves me wanting more every time. They’re playing at Vaudeville Mews the early show this Saturday with In The Face Of War and some other hardcore stuff; Omens, another band with Druids guitarist/vocalist Luke Rauch in it, plays there in the early show March 25 with The Great Sabatini as the headliner and Fetal Pig (which I play bass in, for any of you that are new here) opening. Both are all-ages and get rolling about 5pm.

Pony TimePony Time Can Drink 100 Wine Coolers (Dont Stop Believin’ Records). Here’s another two-piece band, but this one from Seattle and doing a kind of sunny-yet-skewed indie pop. My old friend and former Exit Drills / Page 5 Girl bandmate Stacy Peck plays the drums and another guy named Luke (Beetham) plays a chunky-twangy overdriven bass guitar and sings. The vocals have a high-pitched chorusing on them that adds to the weird factor and makes the lyrics hard to make out at times, but the tunes are infectious. Two Billy Childish covers close out the album, and I wouldn’t even have known they weren’t originals if I hadn’t checked the liner notes, because they fit right in to their style. Download code included with tape.

You Are HomeGlacier Grains and Cage (Workerbee Records). Released both at the same time, and I ordered them both at the same time, entries 01 and 03 in Matthew Dake’s noisy, experimental, instrumental solo project’s so-named “Electronic EP Series” (I guess 02 isn’t out yet?). It seems odd to release music this synthesizer-driven on cassette. With both you get intriguing assemblages of loopy mechanized bleepy-bloopy sounds. Reminds me a bit of the early Cabaret Voltaire stuff like what’s on 1974-76.

One of my favorite things in the format is lo-fi cassette compilations. Several have found their way to me lately and I’ve heard some wonderful stuff on them. I’m beginning to think the lo-fi cassette compilation is really an indie/experimental analogue to the hip-hop mixtape.

One was included by Workerbee in the package when my order of the You Are Home tapes arrived, and seems to be an intriguing concept, the “split compilation” — one side from Workerbee and the other from Series Two Records. Series Two’s side is packed with lo-fi pop, folky and shoegazing sounds, while Workerbee’s covers those areas plus some experimental noises and some really great 60s-inspired trashy garage rock. Especially memorable tracks for me come from And Oh So Slowly He Turned, Electric Needle Room (the biographical “James Madison,” almost a lost Schoolhouse Rock song), Flannel, Mike Downey, Shannon and the Clams (awesome spooky-chick 60s rock!), Setting Sun, BAMBRA, Murzik, and The Skeptics.

Rot Box (Unread Records) was of interest for me because it has Samuel Locke-Ward, Ed Gray, and Simon Joyner on it — three midwest songwriters I like a lot and think people ought to know about. Each of them have especially excellent songs on here, and have released cassette albums on this same label as well (including Sam’s legendary Boombox By Bedside) — in fact, pretty much everybody on this comp has. I’d say Sam, Simon, and Ed have probably the best stuff on here, but I could be biased. Woods is on here too, I just don’t remember much about their song right now. Just from those names you probably know to expect lo-fi folk with some experimental twists. I also particularly remember and enjoy Caleb Fraid and Franklin Bruno’s songs. Unread has a pretty extensive catalog worth reading through, you’ll probably find some stuff you want.

I Think I Might Be Autistic (Chthonic Records) also features Sam and Ed (working with Coyote Blood both here and on Rot Box). Sam’s track here has really distorted vocals and while still pretty cool, melodically a slower cousin of “For One Cigarette,” it doesn’t shine quite as brightly for me as his Rot Box track “He’s An Evil Preacher” (possibly one of his best songs ever!). The mix of styles is broader on this than on Rot Box and maybe prevents the compilation from hanging together as a mix, but it has some killer moments. Erik Sahd’s “You Gotta Keep Tryin’” is a big favorite for me on this, a delightful electro-pop tune that gets me laughing and reminds me of Devo, Gary Numan, a little bit of Wire, and The Bassturd. Joe Brook’s “Righteous Man” is a gorgeous folk/country song that I think Why Make Clocks (which I also play bass in) should cover sometime. Gladhands’s “Refrigerator Mother” has “I think I might be autistic” as a line in the lyrics, it’s a feedback-drenched casio-rock number that sounds like it has the guy from Bush on lead vocals, I like it pretty well. Ben Trickey’s “Tangle” is another really [nice]( folk/country tune, and there are some interesting noise pieces too. This label also just put out Sam’s split 7″ EP with Toby Goodshank (The Moldy Peaches) so you know they’re cool.

Different Paths (Greentape 57). No contact info in this one, but a Google search unearthed this. I just got this the other night when I was in Decorah to play at the Elks Lodge with Igloo Martian, Talking Computron, The Ring Toss Twins (aka Moldavite aka circuit-benders Pelzwik and Dinger — check out and Seeded Plain. The only artist on this I’ve ever heard of before is Office Park, and their track is a droney one rather than a songy one so you don’t get to hear any of Ember’s beautiful voice, but it’s still pretty nifty. The rest is mostly boombox folk, some with banjo, and a couple loopy noise pieces thrown in.

Oh, by the way, that Decorah show was pretty cool. I felt weird being the act that was just playing a guitar and singing songs, and I think I played my stuff much cleaner in practice, but everyone else’s sets were really enjoyable. I did have the distinction of being the set that had people dancing. The same people started doing yoga positions or something during The Ring Toss Twins. I think their set was my favorite, kind of spooky rhythmic ambient electronic circuit-bending and casio sounds that would go over big on My Castle Of Quiet. It really got me thinking about getting my ghetto noise-rig from the early Passage Of Deformed Man Supermarket days back into play (call it a Flight Attendants comeback?). Plus they sell contact mics at their merch, which is brilliant. Talking Computron made chilly electronic sounds, Igloo Martian did a joyful performance art piece, and Seeded Plain opened with their amazing invented-instrument ambient improv (check Public Eyesore Records in the links section of the sidebar). I got one of Nick/Pelzwik’s contact mics and already used it once earlier today to sample a wooden chair and a cymbal stand with a cracked china crash on it into my SK-5. Good times. Here are some pictures:

Talking Computron

Ring Toss Twins' gear

Seeded Plain

And just because it was on my phone, here’s a bonus photo of Pink Villa at the art opening at Ritual Cafe that Why Make Clocks played at last weekend:

Brought to my attention recently by Andy K is a download of Sludgeplow’s Turned Earth and the Coleslaw EP, found over here on a blog called Ritual Room. I had admittedly never heard of Coleslaw before, but I recognized several of the same songs from the EveryTHING cassette. I personally think it doesn’t warrant being called an EP, as it’s 7 songs and plenty long enough running time to be considered an album. The production on it is especially [nice](, a good studio job that really brings across the band’s classic sludge/stoner-metal sound. I loved my EveryTHING cassette and still really wish I would have gotten to see these guys live back in the day.

Speaking of ’90s noise-tape comps, here is one of my favorites, and only partly so for the fact that I’m on it. Shroud, like the Zyon label itself, focused on ambient noise rather than noisecore, and was also one of the best-produced examples of its genre — the copies were home-dubbed but still cleaner than usual due to some semi-professional production work, and the inserts were color photocopies! Zyon was run by a guy known as Moth, based in Spokane, WA, and put this thing out in 1996.

There’s a disproportionate amount of material by some outfit called Hun-Tun (two tracks, one of them 12 minutes), I presume this is because the guy behind Hun-Tun was also responsible for the aforementioned production help, but it’s good stuff, sort of tribal electronic drums interwoven with ambient industrial sounds. Besides Moth himself there three other Zyon acts which for all I know might just be alter-egos of Moth. Not Breathing also gets an unusually large chunk of tape time on two tracks totaling near 16 minutes.

There are plenty of other notables, as well. The opening track is by Stone Breath, and is allegedly also the very first Stone Breath recording, and there are are also tracks by E.H.I. (the lo-tech industrial/noise project of Des Moines’ Brian Noring), The Gynger Effect (an alter-project of Charlie Alien, better known for The Earwigs), Sonic Disorder and Aeons Of Agony (which was possibly also Sonic Disorder’s Erik Adams, at least the contact info is the same), Nosklplakia (a collaboration of Texas noise artist Richard Ramirez, better known for Black Leather Jesus, and Donna Mikli), and, representing Wheelchair Full Of Old Men is Dog Jovula.

And then, inexplicably, there’s me, a relative nobody from nowhere, otherwise known as Flight Attendants, represented by a five-minute excerpt of a very lo-fi twelve-minute track I submitted that was built around a jam I recorded on a karaoke machine with drum pads and a guitar at Tim Bennett’s apartment at 4 AM while Tim was sleeping then later added some droney Casio keyboards to on a 4-track. I received a very complimentary letter from Moth about it, in which he said it reminded him of multi-colored interlocking legos.

Another innovative aspect of Shroud for the time and scene it came out of is the way the tracks are cross-faded with each other so that the sound is continuous with no breaks or pause-button noises. This made for a cool listening experience, but was a bit of a challenge for me in digitizing it since I wanted to break it into separate tracks, and also because there is a lot of volume fluctuation from one track to another that I felt the need to address with some normalizing. I think overall, however, the results hold up well if you stick them in a playlist and play it gapless.

Digitized from my own cassette copy, around 200 Mb, cover & insert scans included: Download

The fall of 1993 was a major time of discovery for me. Oddly enough, some credit one of my discoveries from that time, the Internet, for killing off (or maybe just making obsolete) one of the others, the tape scene.

By “tape scene” I mean all these musical artists, in particular those working with experimental or noise sounds, but also a number in the areas of hardcore and lo-fi indie folk/pop, who would home-record on cassette tape, make a bunch of copies on their dual tape decks, design up a cover insert using a mixture of collage, hand-drawing, and typewriter and make photocopies at the local office-supply or copy shop, and then sell or trade their creations through the mail. Some artists who managed to get a good following going that way eventually graduated to vinyl or pressed CDs, but home-dubbed tape was always the default format.

I already had a pastime of looking for cassette demos by obscure “local” bands from all over the place. Then I came upon an issue of Friends Of The Draft Resistance, a zine by Des Moines resident Brian Noring, in which he ran an interview with a member of a band called Rectal Pus who also ran one of these DIY cassette “labels,” Chaotic Noise Productions (which survives today as CNP Records), and this was responsible for my introduction to the tape scene. This tape scene was responsible for my introduction to a variety of new noise-music sounds ranging from chaotic grind/hardcore bands to the kind of wall-of-distortion noise that folks like Merzbow are known for.

Many memorable experiences and items in my music collection originate in my interest and involvement in this tape culture. I ended up involved in a couple tape-labels myself, first TapeSNotRecords and then later Ragman Records, which grew up around the circle of friends I fell into upon meeting and collaborating with Joe Riehle. These tended less towards brutal/harsh/chaotic noisecore sounds and more towards clattery, outsidery, and quirky lo-fi and indie-rock stuff, and didn’t manage to amass much of a following outside the Cedar Valley, mostly due to my own cluelessness. A bunch of TapeSNotRecords and Ragman stuff can be downloaded at, and there are still new additions on the way as I find spare time to digitize tapes and scan cover art.

One of the most memorable experiences related to it was at one of the shows No Consensus played in Ottumwa circa 1998 where I chanced to meet Andy Koettel. What it was that got us talking neither of us can remember now, but after discovering we were both fans of “tardcore” godfathers, tape-scene stalwarts, and Wheelchair Full Of Old Men label flagship Sockeye (of whom, by the way, much can be downloaded from, and of the bygone Cedar Falls band Fantasy Kitchen, he revealed to me that he played in a noise-grind band called Captain 3 Leg and operated a label called Mortville. Or maybe it was later that we got into that. In any case we exchanged mailing addresses and he ended up sending me Captain 3 Leg stuff and a krautrock mixtape. (Later on Andy and his label took on an honorable project of reissuing Sockeye’s classic Retards Hiss Past My Window LP on CD as well as a CD collection of their 7″ output, both of which I purchased with great excitement.)

Recently, somehow or other, and one of a rapid succession of recent events that have brought the noise tape scene back into the front of my consciousness lately, Andy and I got back in touch, and I ended up hearing about Small Doses — a 100-band, 44-minute compilation CD wherein each band gets, on average, around half a minute to do their thing.

Many of my favorite noisecore/grind/shit-noise releases have been compilations because of the variation you can get in them, at least the good ones, and Small Doses is one of the most varied I’ve ever heard. Among the noise tracks what’s striking overall is how many different treatments of the basic noisegrind/harsh-noise formulas there are to be found. A goodly number of artists on Small Doses put their own spin on things, all the more surprising given that they get only a few seconds to do it, so we end up with a dizzying variety of harsh dissonant timbres and textures. As for the more metal/hardcore song-oriented contributions, the best ones illustrate something people don’t realize: it takes real effort to write an interesting song that fits into just a few seconds. The contribution from one of Andy’s own bands Mummifier is one of the ones that pulls it off best, but there are numerous good examples.

Believe it or not, several artists on Small Doses actually fit, or at least claim, more than one song within their under-one-minute tracks. Godstomper list 4 titles, as do Naturals although the back cover just says “4 Songs With Mike Complaining.” Amnogomusikimalo claim “24 Traxxx About Voices In Your Head” but this is clearly in the sense where each of a series of sub-1-second blasts supposedly counts as a song — a silly noisecore device, probably originated by Deche-Charge, that I think was pretty much played out from the beginning.

Mortville being based in Ottumwa, Iowa, you get a healthy dose of Ottumwa’s own extreme music scene, and from elsewhere around Iowa: there’s of course Mummifier’s excellent track and a couple classic short songs from Captain 3 Leg. Grand Old Lady actually manage to put forth a bit of a progressive vibe in the 15 delightfully insane seconds of “Slow Dance.” Des Moines’ own Black Market Fetus chime in with a fine 12 second hardcore tune “Rocktober Blood.” Despite the relatively heavy Iowa representation however, Small Doses is an intensely international affair, with artists from all over the world.

There are a couple “big” names as well. The venerable Rupture show up with a good noise-grind track, and NYC doom phenoms Batillus contribute a 30-second song called “Unlifed” that sounds all muddy and indistinct like the worst boombox recordings — which is unfortunate since it sounds like it actually has riffs, but hell if you can make them out. Given how many of the other bands went to the trouble of getting reasonably clear recordings of their stuff, even when “their stuff” consists mostly of distortion static noise and blastbeat drums, it makes me wonder how seriously Batillus took this or whether they just saw it as yet another place to get their name out and so just grabbed a random snippet from their practice-room jam tapes.

There are some names in the lineup that I recognized from the old ’90s tape scene right away. It’s good to see that The Earwigs are still around, and while 33 seconds of heavily distorted screaming capped off by “thank you, good night” is amusing, it doesn’t give much insight into Charlie’s colorful multi-decade recorded oeuvre. Seven Minutes Of Nausea kick up an ominous cloud of frenetic sound on “Black Death X” which somehow manages to be grind and doom and a little bit jazz all at the same time, both atmospheric and chaotic, and one of my favorite tracks on the disc. 7MON’s legacy is important enough that another band on the comp, Stab, have a track called “7 Minutes Of Nausea Cover.” Cauliflower Ass & Bob, the goofing-on-country project from the Sockeye/Wheelchair camp, contribute a hilarious/pathetic little song called “Drink Myself To Death,” Food Fortunata’s warble unmistakable over twangy guitar and a rambling tuneless trumpet. Pile Of Eggs’s Steveggs’s sometimes-better-liked “other” project Nut Screamer shows up with “Goatfucker,” 16 seconds that sounds like Steveggs doing an impression of the goat that’s being fucked, into a handheld tape recorder, while riding the subway. Gorgonized Dorks give us some nice noisecore made out of distorted grunts over danceable drums and noisy electronics (apparently there’s a distinctly greater presence of electronics in noisecore these days than there was a decade or so ago). Agathocles and Drogheda grind out, as do Wadge, whose ode “Last Train to Mortville” closes out the CD, combined onto track 99 with Vomir’s harsh distorto-noise due to the two-digit limitation of CD tracks.

And that song title brings us to the deeper meaning and intent of Small Doses, an insanely ambitious project conceived by Andy as the label’s swan song. Yes, Mortville is supposedly done as a label (although oddly, it’s still putting out the new Mummifier album?), though it seems to be continuing as a blog and Andy has every intention to continue making music as well as selling the remaining Mortville inventory. As it turns out, Mortville got to be a pretty well-respected brand in the noise-grind world, Andy’s unwavering devotion to musical extremism carrying the label through many gloriously unprofitable years of DIY cassettes and CD-Rs on into pressed CDs and vinyl. In a way, Small Doses is a eulogy and conceptual tribute to the excitement of those tape-mailing salad days of the 1990s, but also a snapshot of what’s going on in noisecore today, and a contemplation of what music, especially music as willfully difficult as this, means in an age where mp3 downloads and the ability to Google up just about anything robs underground scenes of their feeling of exclusivity. A tape of shock-value noise with an insert of photocopied gore photos once seemed dangerous, innovative, hard to come by. Do sounds and concepts like these still have the power to surprise us the way they once did?

The usual complaint about how the Internet is supposedly screwing up music comes from rock stars and big record labels complaining that downloading is ruining their business model. Internet access is basically a utility now, like electricity and water, most people can afford it, and once you have it, any piece of music you might want to listen to, you can be listening to for effectively nothing within a few minutes. Realistically, music is basically free now. But noisecore has never made money, and has never really been about money. Pre-Web, tape-trading was a common way of getting new stuff, and the labels, which often resemble normal record labels only superficially and out of some combination of necessity and appearances, frequently price things at the minimum needed to keep making them. Many people who I have talked to got involved in the old tape scene at a time in their life when they were chronically broke; they’d found a scene they could participate in even if all the production they could afford was a thrift-store boom-box and a few black-and-white photocopies down at the Kinko’s. That openness is reflected in the back cover of the booklet that comes with Small Doses in bold all-caps Impact font: “Make your own noise. Stop being an audience member and start being a participant.” This is DIY, the acronym for “Do It Yourself,” as not just a how, but a what; not just an advice to musicians, but a call to action for all people to create. The thing is, today’s technology, and the ubiquity of computers, makes that idea less special and more just how things work. The ability to get your creations to the people digitally for very little effort has brought on an explosion of creativity, some of it even pretty good. You can now get much better sound quality in your own recordings for practically nothing, and “distributing” your work no longer necessarily implies endless tedious hours sitting by your dual-cassette deck only to produce a degraded, muffled-sounding product, or scraping up hundreds of bucks to send to the pressing plant. Increasingly, musicians are questioning what they even need to bother with a label for. The openness we found in the tape scene is now just something in the air surrounding us, we hardly think about it; and if DIY is everywhere, maybe there’s no longer a need for a scene to push it.

All these issues are explored in essays within Small Doses‘s insert booklet; even as the elaborate packaging (check the nice die-cut anti-music symbol designed for the front of the booklet to show through!) reaffirms the value of the physical component of music product (particularly for noisecore, which as mere music/sound sometimes treads dangerously on the edge of anonymity and interchangeability), there are essays by Andy himself, Andrew McIntosh of Australian DIY punk lifers Scroungers, Hagamoto Yamocho of the Discos Al Pacino label, and Paul Pfeiffer of Wadge, present varying perspectives on the making of Small Doses, the end of Mortville, and the realities of the music-scene landscape we now find ourselves operating in — most, surprisingly, more optimistic than lamenting. The remainder of the booklet, in grand old tape-comp tradition, gives a third of a page to each band for art, credits, and contact info. This is clearly meant to be a record you spend as much time absorbing and contemplating as listening to, meant to mark an end of an era, but also the start of one.

Small Doses (and lots of other good shit) is available for $6 from Mortville Noise. (And as long as you’re in the neighborhood, check out the advance stream of the forthcoming new Mummifier album.)

Small Doses review on Crustcake

Small Doses review on Sore Throat, Nausea, and Headache

Very unfavorable Small Doses review on Deaf Sparrow

Check it out in the sidebar over there, I added a calendar of shows I’m playing. My next one is a solo gig in Decorah.

Latest classic Iowa/midwest band to come to my attention as having a bandcamp account is The Slats. Led by Brian Cox, The Slats started out in Cedar Rapids, hit their stride in Iowa City, and then ended up scattered between various parts of Iowa and Minneapolis, and over those years developed into a powerhouse trio with a unique sound that blends skronky, trashy, sludgy noise guitars with mad Cars-y hooks. To what extent The Slats are still an active band is unknown here at the Farm but is the place to get a bunch of their albums (noticeably (to longtime fans) absent is their scrappy debut Car, a fine chunk of rock worth seeking out if you’ve collectory inclinations). Go check that shit out.

Bruce Lamont is best known for Yakuza, a band that’s been around a number of years, and whom I think I might have been MySpace friends with as long ago as ’07, but which I only really began paying attention to last year upon seeing some blog love for Of Seismic Consequence, and also for his collaborative involvement in bands that lie pretty firmly in the metal genre while being creatively expansive: Nachtmystium, Locrian, Brutal Truth, Minsk, Bloodiest, and so on. With his solo release Feral Songs For The Epic Decline, Lamont presents rather different settings for his rich voice and ominous saxophone playing, and gives us something that’s heavy in another way.

Solo albums by people in known bands are frequently a catch-all for experiments, genre exercises, and oddball ideas that don’t fit within the established style of the musician’s main gig, and as such have a high tendency to be unfocused, patchwork sounding affairs. Feral Songs, however, evades this lack of focus, presenting a variety of sonic colors within an overall framework of mystical drone-folk and noise collage, likely to appeal to fans of Michael Gira’s various late-Swans and post-Swans works. Woodsy, culty chants, meditative drones, dissonant acoustic guitars, and a distinct lack of drums are prominently recurring sonic elements, but there are a wealth of other ambient sounds less immediately identifiable fading in and out of the mix, with the dial being regularly tweaked along a continuum between the album’s folkier side (“Year Without Summer”) and its ambient side (“Book Of The Low”).

Two interesting departures stand out in the second half. “Disgruntled Employer” begins by laying a foundation as a saxophone and looper piece — listen closely before the synths and percussion come in, and you can even hear the click of the looper’s footswitch buttons; “Deconstructing Self-Destruction” begins with a gentle electric guitar fantasy that sounds a bit like Dylan Carlson idle between rehearsal takes, then fades in a lulling industrial drone that quickly erupts in a brutal noisecore section featuring distorted screams over a mechanized blastbeat, made even better by how it abruptly breaks off into the acoustic guitar strums opening “2 Then The 3” which takes us back into folk territory to close out the album. Feral Songs shows Bruce Lamont to be a skilled architect of sound and mood, and it’s a beautiful sonic artwork.

Yakuza seem to be going for the “iconoclastic brainy heavy band” Voivod kind of thing, and last year they released the very well-received Of Seismic Consequence. They’ve got a pretty distinctive style of their own. I had rather been under the impression that they kept to an aggressive sound, so I was a bit surprised by how mellow a lot of Of Seismic Consequence is, but now, having heard Feral Songs it sort of fits. Opening track “The Ant People,” built from drones and tribal drumming on toms and rim-clicks, wouldn’t sound at all out of place on Bruce’s album.

“Thinning The Herd” gets the heavy shit going. Within a few seconds I was concerned about the harsh hyper-compressed guitar tone, the same kind of sound that seems to have popped up on a bunch of metal stuff in 2010, particularly of the “black” or “post-black” variety. It’s a sound that can quickly become fatiguing in a loudness-war kind of way. Fortunately, it turned out that the album makes use of it tastefully in the louder sections; a surprising amount of the guitar playing on the album is in fact done with little or no distortion at all. “Thinning The Herd” is probably the album’s most aggressive moment, built on a furious odd-meter riff reminiscent of the old Faith No More tune “Surprise! You’re Dead!” mixed with a bit of Today Is The Day circa their self-titled.

So-called “clean” vocals (i.e., “singing”) are an element that has started to feel refreshing in a metal album these days with the trend being for each singer to try to out-demonic-snarl the last. Bruce Lamont has real vocal chops, making the vocals in Yakuza not merely an evil sound effect, but something that contributes melody and emotion to the music. The next few tracks move into much mellower territory, alternating heavy passages with spacey, swampy psychedelic post-rock sections that employ Bruce’s saxophone. It’s [nice]( to hear heavy music with some dynamics and contrast.

It makes me feel a little weird to name too many other artists or genre labels in a review, but music is difficult to write about without referencing other music, even though it feels a little wrong to do so. I’m just going to throw a few things out here that elements of the rest of Of Seismic Consequence brought to mind: that new Lantlôs album; atmospheric black metal; slinky Morphine-esque baritone sax; Killing Joke; a dash of Nick Cave; Today Is The Day; soaring slow emocore. It’s another highly varied, yet also highly coherent, album from some exceptional musicians. Hard to say how much of the respect this album is due it will actually get, as it goes against as many of the big trends in metal these days as it nods to. But that has a lot to do with making it a standout that seems likely to still sound fresh and interesting years from now.