The Earwigs/Gorgonized Dorks Alien Noize Attack split CD-R Two legends of noise each put in a track of 19 minutes and change; The Earwigs, whom I’m glad to be finally mentioning on this blog for the first time, give us a live recording from ’05. It sounds like it was recorded on a boombox, in the best way that that can sound. BCA and his cohort for this gig unleashed a storm of distorted feedback, electronic drums, and incoherent proclamations that sound like they’re being shouted into microphones run through guitar amps. A blast of fun of that very distinctly Earwigs flavor. Gorgonized Dorks serve up “Nibiru Pirate Radio”, a piece of electronic tabletop gadget noise sounding like apocalyptic alien invasion destruction with sirens wailing and alarms going off and shit blowing up, and then, gradually becoming clearer, a sample of “I said ‘fuck you’ loud and clear!” Available from Smell The Stench [warning: nsfw site design] or just find BCA online somewhere like Facebook or his email bizzarrealien at yahoo.com.
Orthodox Baal I really like Orthodox (remind me to order more of their records soon). And hearing that, detractors might respond, “yeah, Orthodox is that kind of band you would really like, you chin-strokey weirdo.” Though ostensibly presented as a doom metal band, the Spanish trio’s incorporation of roiling volcanic avant-jazz, improvisation, and themes from the religious folklore of southern Spain, along with their propensity for such out-of-nowhere moves as the 2009 Sentencia album wherein they eschewed not only amplification, but for most of it guitars as well (its centerpiece track, the 26-minute “Ascension,” is arranged for vocal, drums, upright bass, piano, and clarinet, and is no less “doomy” for it!), could be seen as pretentious and outré enough to hinder their endearment to less nerdishly-inclined metalheads. Plus there’s the way Marco Serrato Gallardo runs all, and I mean all, of his vocals through that weird gurgly chorus effect, and that whole thing about performing in black monks’ robes. Revisiting the Orthodox catalog, however, Baal turns out to be their most straightforward album of doomed, slow, fuzzed-out psychedelic metal so far, while still remaining true to many of Orthodox’s, shall we say, unorthodox, approaches, making the album especially accessible and recommendable to the curious, not to mention quite possibly their best to date. Baal opens with one of their spaced-out jazzy flights, “Alto Padre”, which turns out to be a reworking of “YHVH”, the B-side from their excellent 2010 Matse Avatar 7″. But from there it’s mostly doomed riffage easily appreciated by fans of classic Black Sabbath or Sleep — at least that’s what forms the foundations of these songs, all of which are packed with engaging twists and changes; some of the more far-out elements such as Borja Diaz Vera’s jazzy, around-the-beat drumming, are still present, but are very well incorporated into the fabric of what amount to just really cool songs, not just weird pieces. There is also an especially high energy level, with Gallardo’s vocal performance working up to a frothing scream well beyond his usual deadpan on “Taurus”, and some especially furious guitar solos by Ricardo Jimenez Gómez all over the place. Plus, wah bass! Orthodox is really tearing the roof off through the mid section of Baal. The final track “Ábrase la Tierra” works a Yob-ish trudge, includes an organ, and gradually disintegrates, free-jazz style (Art Ensemble Of Chicago often comes to mind for me when they pull this trick) into a noise jam that feels somehow not so much self-indulgent as such noise jams normally do, but instead, totally of a piece with the song’s intentions. Baal gets better every time I listen to it.
Mummifier Advanced Mummification Procedure This long-awaited release from this Ottumwa-based death metal outfit featuring Andy of Captain 3 Leg and The Mighty Accelerator and several other dudes with whom I’m passingly acquainted, recorded in the spring of 2010, finally saw release in 2011 well after the band itself was done for, with Grindcore Karaoke helping out online and Hurts To Hear doing the limited 100-copy run on purple cassette tapes. It’s a furious blast of heavy themed around mummies and Egypt, sporting a wacked sense of black humor and several theremin solos. I’m really a bit bummed that I didn’t get out to see these guys live when they were still at it — they played Des Moines at least a couple times shortly after I moved here and I’d have probably gone if I’d had any idea that Andy was involved. If you’re in Des Moines, I believe ZZZ Records has some tape copies as well. Check it out.
J Mascis Several Shades Of Why Mascis is well known as a “maximum volume yields maximum results” kind of guy when it comes to Dinosaur Jr., where he makes the most of prodigious guitar firepower, in part through its contrast to his quiet demeanor and hermetic lyrical and vocal creak. Several Shades Of Why isn’t the first time he’s turned down and brought the focus on his songwriting, but it is the first time he’s done it in the studio with all new material. I get the feeling that if we were to be able to hear homemade bedroom demos of tunes J wrote for Dinosaur before bringing them to the full plugged-in band, they might not sound too far off from this, though the tracks on this album have obviously been more meticulously pored over, even bringing in some guest instrumentalists for extra color. A signature Mascis electric solo doesn’t show up until track 5 “Is It Done” but there’s plenty of very pretty fancy fingerwork on acoustic guitars all over the album, and more importantly, a wealth of great tunes delivered with striking intimacy and vulnerability. This probably got more spins at home on chill Sunday afternoons than anything else released in 2011.
The Disciplines Virgins Of Menace I gather that Ken Stringfellow gets his rock and roll kicks out with his Norwegian buddies in The Disciplines and this in some way accounts for the more pop-oriented leanings of his other activities of recent years including his contributions to The Posies’ Blood/Candy. Virgins Of Menace shows us that Smoking Kills was no one-off or fluke, if anything it rocks out even harder; and as there are precious few songwriters to match Ken’s wit and melodic cleverness apart from his Posies counterpart Jon Auer, hearing such raging guitar rock arrangements applied to his tunes makes for a great pleasure. Overall the album has enough attitude to make “Kill The Killjoy” stick out as an unusually pop moment, like a lost Posies tune that wandered into a Hives album, but it doesn’t hurt things any. “Everything Forever (Pig Wars)” momentarily serves up some down and dirty blues; the stylistic and titular reference point of “AD/HD” is almost too obvious but I have to say I’ve heard few impressions of classic AC/DC, instrumentally at least, to match its chorus. Raucous fun with brains and heart, Virgins Of Menace is a damn fine rock album and yet another fine chapter in Stringellow’s distinguished career.
Mumfords Eyes Another product of the incestuous and prolific Ames scene that fills out the full-band lineups of Christopher The Conquered and now also Pennyhawk, Mumfords (a name with unfortunate potential to be confused with a much more famous act, but with special meaning to the musicians involved that precludes changing it) is headed up by one of Ames’ biggest musical instigators, the trumpet-wielding Nate Logsdon. “Coffee and Whisky” makes for an odd opener, being a seven-minute country ballad built around the back story of a desperate and probably doomed road trip to Houston, and is similar to Mumfords’ awesome side of their split 7″ with Samuel Locke-Ward & The Boo-Hoos but with much less humor intended, in that it seems musically a bit repetitious, but really shines when you pay attention to the story-telling lyrics with all their meaningful details. Several of the songs that follow seem to be themed around a story of a couple guys who decide to go into the methamphetamine business, possibly filling in even more back-story to “Coffee and Whisky”. It’s an abrupt change of mood into the weirderiffic, celebratory, revivalesque “Two-Eye”, driven by saxophones and call-and-response shouts. From there Mumfords visit a variety of musical modes and moods. “The Mirror Me” references my hometown of Waterloo, Iowa, an apropos corner of America to figure prominently in this character’s life. The story of drunkenness and tweakedness spiraling out of control gets progressively more unhinged until a climactic disaster in “Cookin’ Day” and we next find our protagonist in a piano ballad “The Prisoners Need You Here”. A nice variety of instruments is employed throughout the album, sidestepping guitar-driven rock to make room for horns and the occasional piano, and Nate delivers his lines with just the right dose of over-the-top drama. Whether the final two tracks relate to the same storyline or not is unclear, but we get a rollicking story of a professor’s paranoia about being caught growing weed and an upbeat philosophical number. Nate has a gift for storytelling and his crew have a gift for realizing big band arrangements with big energy, and with its fascinating and sympathetic examination of low life, this is an impressive first full-length.
Heirs Hunter Last weekend I went to Startup Weekend Des Moines, which is this thing where you spend a weekend building some kind of new business or at least postential business, usually based around a web site or mobile app or some other bit of software. People often pull all-nighters at these things but I lack the ability to write working code without sleep. I did stay out there pretty late both Friday and Saturday nights, however, and it just so happened that this little 3-song EP was in my car CD player the whole weekend and formed a perfect soundtrack for driving home along I-235 at three in the morning. These tracks come off for me as mood-oriented post-rock instrumentals in the vein of Mogwai or Giants or certain moments of early Murder By Death, with a dose of gloom. “Hunter” works a slow, dark groove with the requisite big reverby night-sky guitar; a spooky, wordless operatic female vocal comes in for the louder parts, at some point a skittering TR-707 joins the rhythm section. “Symptom” builds around a low-tuned bassline that may have wandered in from some Godflesh track and a gothy synth line with lead guitars harmonizing off it. “Never Land”, which, go figure, is a Sisters Of Mercy cover, never wanders far from the feel it establishes at the outset of its twelve minutes and change; it’s not particularly melodic and lacks any big moments, going instead for a gradual buildup then ebb of the wash of sustained guitar and keyboards that’s anchored by steady drums and a characteristically Cure/Sisters Of Mercy sounding bass riff, the sum of which parts is pretty engaging in its own right.