Music Reviews



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Artist: Glaive (@)
Title: Untitled
Format: 3" MiniCD
Label: Inner Demons Records
Rated: *****
GLAIVE is a live collaboration between Vasectomy Party and FAIL. I was well acquainted with Fail, but had not heard Vasectomy Party, so I was interested to hear how this would play out. This is one track that weighs in at around 21 minutes. Completely overdriven static starts us off on a journey down 20 miles of unpaved road full of heavy bass rumble and a lot of digital whines (sounds like a theremin). This is like listening to a 1950’s sci-fi sound effects disc in the middle of a factory churning out widgets over and over and over. Eventually we hear some heavily distorted voices over a wall of feedback – it’s impossible to understand, and the voice and feedback alternate back and forth making for an interesting point/counterpoint. Still, it didn’t really seem to fit well with the rest of the track, but this segment comes to an end and we return to the factory. What makes this piece interesting is that it actually feels like a composition of noise – this is what the futurist Luigi Russolo advocated for in his manifesto, “The Art of Noises”; a celebration of industrial sounds. It feels finely crafted and well put together, which makes it all the more impressive that it was done live. Worth checking out and limited to 42 copies, so pick it up while it’s still available.
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Artist: Sloth
Title: Untitled
Format: 3" MiniCD
Label: Inner Demons Records
I was unfamiliar with this project, which evidently used to hail from northeast Ohio and now calls the Florida gulf coast home. At least the logo is amusing, with its homage to the classic metal band Death, and a band that states that they are on Bandcamp and Yelp is one that is not taking itself too seriously, which I respect. I have really enjoyed the stuff that Inner Demons has been putting out, but not even Babe Ruth was able to bat 1000. If you like your noise subtle, this may be up your alley. This is a lot of rumbling, low end noise, with just enough static to keep it interesting, but it doesn’t really seem to go anywhere. It’s like Sloth took the same loop and ran it 20 times. This is kind of like the aural equivalent of watching the static on TV when there is no signal - easy listening for the noise set, but not really my cup of tea. Your mileage may vary, however. This album weighs in at around 20 minutes and is limited to 42 copies.
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Artist: Dylan Houser (@)
Title: Thunk
Format: 3" MiniCD
Label: Inner Demons Records
Distributor: dhouser.bandcamp.com
Rated: *****
I was unfamiliar with Dylan Houser’s work, but he seems to hail from Lakeland Florida. This is another 3” CD from Inner Demons, which has been putting out some great stuff, so let’s see what this album has in store. We open with a ton of feedback that sounds like a circuit bent 8-bit video game gone amok. But this is not a complete wall of noise - there is a good use of space here, as the noise takes a moment to catch its breath which also allows the listener to come up for air. Clangs, rumbles, and staticy feedback permeate the composition. This is a chaotic mess, which is everything that noise should be. Would probably be great to see live. This disc weighs in at around 17 minutes and is limited to 42 copies.
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Artist: Tristan Welch (@)
Title: Washington D.C.
Format: Tape
Label: self-released
This is a shrinkwrapped cardboard sleeve cassingle with a transparent-red cassette inside that has professionally printed labeling on the shell. The package sent to Chain D.L.K. includes a copy of the Bandcamp description explaining what is recorded on the tape and the artist's statement, a vinyl sticker, a 5"x7" glossy photo print of what appears to be a tree covered in Christmas lights, and a download code. The Bandcamp copy explains that it is a "self-released cassette of minimalist heavy ambient movements. Drones for peace." I'm assuming "drones for peace" is a play on words, since the title of the cassette itself, "Washington D.C.", refers partly to the fact the side A's drone is in the key of D, and side B's is in C. Key of D and C, Washington D.C. Drones for war, drones for peace. The recordings themselves would be comfortable as a soundtrack for something in the neighborhood of a David Lynch film, but Tristan seems intent on leading listeners in a more political direction, attempting to apply features to this otherwise basically featureless music. There is almost nothing here. The recordings are of a decent quality, it's not a difficult or intense listen. Even other reviews he has posted on his Bandcamp refer to it as a nice chill-out-forget-your-troubles tape, so when he gives the listener specific examples of images to conjure while listening, it comes off as extremely forced: "The atmosphere of a failing rail system. The disappointment of gentrified neighborhoods. The insecurity behind a lost statehood. The headquarters behind mindless drone strikes." This heavy-handed approach at giving meaning and depth to these sounds comes off as kind of desperate and hollow. Propping up kind of vanilla ambient pieces with vanilla social commentary is bad enough, but he sealed the deal with the lackluster packaging. The artwork on the o-card is three stars with two lines of a musical staff beneath them, with two notes (I'm guessing our friends D and C) hanging from the staff. Because of Tristan's leading text, I'm assuming the stars are ballpark references to the United States stars and stripes, or military decorations. I understand minimalism, and could maybe just let this slightly clunky imagery slide, but the absolutely atrocious font choice for the text on the spine explains plainly that moving graphic design was never a consideration here, or at least could never be achieved by this artist. Despite the shallowness of the sounds, artwork and artist's statement, there's an alarming amount of attention (and money) given to the total package here...the professionally printed sleeve and cassette, the shrink wrap, the vinyl sticker, even the additional effort of bothering with the Bandcamp download code, but none of this warrants the overpromotion. The ambient drones are pleasant, but "pleasant" clearly wasn't Tristan's intent as much as "deep". But there is no depth here, and I really hope that Tristan's next effort delivers more substance.
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Artist: Mei Zhiyong & Dave Phillips (@)
Title: s/t
Format: LP
Label: Urbsounds Collective (@)
Rated: *****
Dave Phillips is a sonic activist, composer, performer and researcher based in Zurich, Switzerland. Mei Zhiyong (or MeiZhiyong) is a Chinese artist now living in Changchun City, Jilin Province, China working in harsh noise, experimental music, independent film, photography, and field recording. Both of these artists have illustrious credentials in the field. dp has been a purveyor of radical sound since the mid 80's,
working solo since 1987, and has developed a unique sonic language typified by sharp compositional techniques and strong environmentalist connotations. A few of the projects he has been associated with include Fear of God, Ohne, Perverts in White Shirts, Rabid Dogs, Dead Peni, and Schimpfluch-Gruppe. According to the text on his website, "dp re/searches and ponders existences and behaviourisms humanimalistically.
Sound as communication in direct and primal form, a language, a tool of metaphysics, a conscience and a consciousness, opposing the omnipresent restriction and reduction of life and living. Sound communications that activate primordial shared emotions otherwise hidden under the debris of civilization, inviting rumination, encouraging intervention, endorsing catharsis, therapeutical stimulation is acknowledged. sonic activism, ritual protest music." Mei Zhiyong has releases going back to 2011, tours quite a bit and has this to say regarding noise (music): "exploring the nature of the way, the body is a tool, thought is a program. All the manic, quiet, extreme, abnormal have been preset by procedures and tools,noise is the carrier of breaking all the rules, only impaling nothingness will really make you get rid of the contradiction between voice and body, between body and mind." Pretty heady concepts that blow away the misconception that "all these guys want to do is take out their frustrations by making noise." There could be a degree of that involved but it certainly isn't their raison d'être.

This isn't the first collaboration between Phillips and Zhiyong; more like the third, as far as released recordings go. On this limited edition (300 copies) LP on the Slovakian Urbsounds Collective label the recording and composition is by Dave Phillips while all sounds are by Mei Zhiyong. Think on that a bit. Before I begin discussing what transpires on this recording, I must reiterate my sentiments on noise music. It is a genre that that has steadily declined in what I favor, and my tolerance for, and appreciation of it has significantly diminished. Where I once found a cacophony of sound stimulating and invigorating, perhaps even cathartic now and then, now I tend to find most of it annoying and irritating, leaving an acrid taste like handling a mildewed record. That said, I can still give you an idea what's going on here. There are no track names, just two sides - the A side clocking in at 15:45 and B side at 18:54. The A side begins with some manipulated vocal utterances by Mei Zhiyong morphing into a variety of electronic noise squalls. Throughout the recording(s) a variety of sonic environments are explored- hyper-electronic mutant animal farm, annoying air raid drone, field recording of ambient small crowd chatter, strange machineshop, bursts of static, alien factory, chaos at the broken videogame arcade, destruction of all relevant (and some irrelevant) equipment, raping circuitry, and more. Not all is hellacious; there are some passages of calm monotony. They don't last terribly long though. Considering that these recordings were culled from the duo's 2015 European tour, I have reason to believe they were collaged by Phillips as sort of a "greatest hits" of maximum intensity and velocity, sort of an audio documentary with multiple layers for maximum effect. You must realize that the source was improvised, even if the mix was a tad calculated. Noise enthusiasts might drive themselves a bit crazy trying
to figure this all out, but that only enhances the record's replay value as one wonders what the hell was going on at certain given points. This one is certainly not for noise novices as a deep regard for the discordant, jarring and explosive is required.
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