I.G.M – Virgin Skins (CD-R, Pidgin Records)

Drone, free jazz, Music, Noise, Review

virgin skins

Ian McColm’s project I.G.M is his solo work, but on Virgin Skins it sounds like there is at least a duo working to produce the noise/music on these ten tracks. Virgin Skins is a mixture of percussion and free jazz elements, noisy but also significantly rhythmic in its use of drum elements. It makes for a pounding, relentless release, the frenetic percussion melding with quieter repetitive moments for a wonderfully unique concept.

Virgin Skins is bookended by “Punctuation Alpha” and “Punctuation Omega,” two drum sequences that highligh I.G.M’s style of jazzy, sophisticated, and complex rhythms. The fills are fast and furious, and the chops are fantastic; this is playing at a high skill level, and the album never descends into boring drum solo territory because of the alternations in each song. “Plus/Minus” is a good example, a track of drumming that speeds up and subsequently slows down a tough beat.

Likewise, “The Wind That Blows the Birds” and “Blood Memory” take a different approach, using bells and chimes to create an ambient aura. “Blood Memory” is probably one of the most hypnotic tracks on offer on Virgin Skins: it’s the soundtrack to a horror film, combining a couple different instruments into a chilling song.

Virgin Skins is quite lengthy too, but it never feels that way. The album swiftly moves through tracks, often blending them together to the point where it’s easy to get lost in the repetition as though it’s a just a long song. That’s not to say that Virgin Skins doesn’t have distinguishable tracks; they just work well back-to-back together, alternating between poly-rhythms and droning elements.

It’s an intriguing listen, and one that works on all sorts of levels. I.G.M brings in noises along with his percussion, but there are also moments of great jazzy drumming too; this isn’t the kind of album that would be reserved for noise fanatics only, and those dabbling in free jazz or the avant garde would certainly find elements that strike. There’s one thought the listener is left with after Virgin Skins, though: McColm isn’t just a good drummer, but a great performer in general.

recommended

吉原 – January 4th, 2013 (CD-R, Ikebukuro Dada)

Drone, free jazz, harsh noise, Music, Noise, Review

january 4

吉原 stands for Yoshiwara, a Japanese red-light district that was well-known for its prostitution in the 17th century. Romain Hebert, the owner of Ikebukuro Dada, plays guitar and joins with Cedric and Mathieu (noted on Discogs) for some freestyle noise-rock, much of it sounding as though it was improvised during the time of recording. The title January 4th, 2013 simply notes the day the single 30-minute track was recorded.

The CD-R comes in a beautiful abstract-art case, a bloody collage of colors. The disc itself has droplets of blood on a white CD-R. And the noise on the actual disc is a chaotic blend of rhythmic drum, guitar, and bass, with much of it hitting the listener’s ear in a blur. The drums are competent, the bass is noticeable, and the guitar is often both noisy and melodic. There’s a fine line with 吉原’s sound between indistinct noises and music that works very well; often, a huge drone of sound threatens to overtake the track, but within that mass one can hear the plucking of strings and just a hint of rhythm.

It makes for a very interesting listen throughout, mostly because January 4th, 2013 tends to be all over the place, always focused on the free jazz-like sounds of improv and yet deliciously destructive. It doesn’t stop until the track ends, although there are moments where the rhythm drops out or pauses. The outcome is that you never know what you’re going to hear from 吉原, and it’s certainly worth the time it takes to invest in the disc.

Wiretappers – Avalancheland (MP3, NNNCO)

free jazz, harsh noise, Noise, Review, spoken word

avalancheland

Wiretappers is a collage project by noise artist RJ Myato with the vocals and ramblings of Brian DiSanto. This online release is only ten minutes in length and one song, a blend of spoken word and corresponding noises that stretches into psychedelic, if a bit elusive, territory thematically. In a way, it reminds of something Joan of Arc might do now that they’ve stepped into the ethereal territory of noise pop.

Throughout the first minutes, “Avalancheland” focuses heavily on DiSanto’s wordplay. He’s got good texturing to his speech; there’s a lot of alliteration to the prose, and it simply sounds good, even if I have no idea what it means. Myato’s noise only factors in minimally here, with a stirring thrump of snare drum as the beat marches forward.

It takes a little while to get into DiSanto’s spoken word. His voice is a little grating; it can be difficult to listen to or even pick up on some of what he says thanks to the echo. Slowly, the track morphs into noisier territory: a rousing blend of crowd clappings, some rhythmic organ and guitar, other random noises. It’s difficult what to make of it all; it’s both esoteric and accessible.

It might take multiple listens to really figure out Wiretappers; I’m still not sure I have, nor do I know what I think about “Avalancheland”. It’s unfortunate more aspects of the noise don’t factor in, because that’s one of the enjoyable pieces about this track. DiSanto’s chirrups are fine, but since I can’t decipher the meaning behind the spacey surrealism, the spoken word aspect is slightly limited.

Egg Sac – Lose It (C30, Moon Mist Music)

Drone, free jazz, Music, Noise, Review

Egg Sac – an appealingly non-descriptive name, and this C30 has the title to match with Lose It. I didn’t know anything about this foursome before hearing the tape, and with Moon Mist’s deceptive packaging – the tape comes on a Dinah Shore album – it’s difficult to tell what you’re getting into.

What Egg Sac play is a brand of lo-fi free jazz/drone, a very noisy raucous affair with sax, drums, and other instruments that can’t be heard too well over the distorted myriad noises that resonate on the tape. Side A starts off with some low-down music and speech that’s difficult to hear; one thinks at first it must be some sort of dubbing mistake, until the band takes off into a side-long slurry of different improvisations. Side B is much of the same, often rumbly bass distortions and sax wailings while the drums do their thing and electronics shit all over any type of rhythm Egg Sac might have had.

It’s hard to review this kind of thing, because you either like it or you don’t. These are psych freakouts, building into crumbles of lo-fi noise using all sorts of “classical” instruments. It helps that the recording sounds crunchy already, giving it that extra bit of windy sound that causes everything to sound like it’s being played through thick slabs of mud. It also covers up a lot of the actual instrumentation on this release, making it hard to hear if the dudes in this band can actually play or if they’re just doing a lot of rambling.

But Lose It is a thick mix of electronics and jazzy noise, and the moments where Egg Sac completely lose it within their own improv pieces are great for zoning out and listening to how degraded these instruments can become. It’s loud and wild, and fairly unpredictable at times, so it’s definitely worth a listen.

Ur / D.B.P.I.T – Defenestration (CD-R, Triadic Records)

dark ambient, Drone, free jazz, Noise, Review

Ur is a group of guys who perform drone music, generally by themselves – one such man is Mauro from the power electronics project Shiver. But on this release they team up with D.B.P.I.T. (Der Bekannte Post Industrielle Trompeter in long-form, which you can imagine why I don’t want to write that out), a trumpeter who provides a lot of great ambiance in the form of brass whines and caterwauling.

The eerieness of Defenestration is apparent from the first track, which identifies the sounds of Ur with the droning of the depths of Hell. “Table Solaire” begins with the sustained droning of guitars, or synths, or whatever it is Ur uses to create their sounds, and the track shifts from there by adding additional instrumentation, shifting chords subtly, or implementing relatively slow rhythms.

The thing I like most about Defenestration is the feeling of progression – that this drone is somehow moving. It does so on a number of occasions, probably most notably on “Table Solaire” simply because it’s the longest but on others as well. “Fifth Shore’ Stones” features a great vibe tone with some industrial clang, along with D.B.I.T.’s trumpet sounds that always add an ethereal quality to the pieces.

And D.B.P.I.T. is certainly featured, not one of those guests that simply shows up once or twice for a collaboration and then takes off. He’s the focal point of “To Run Red Lights”; he helps build the final “Deep Sleep Dub.” The trumpet adds a lot of musicality to Defenestration; what sometimes seems like meandering drone tones is brought into perspective by trumpet runs and groans from the brass.

You can’t go wrong with the swirling masses of sound from Ur, and D. B.P.I.T. provides a new tone that seeps into the darkness of these tracks. If you’re looking for some good drone, some provoking music that blends well the October mood, Defenestration is definitely a great listen.

The Crystal Cocks – Reh. Demo 2011 (C10, Jersey Flesh)

free jazz, Noise, Review

The Crystal Cocks is a free jazz band consisting of Jake Vreeland, the owner of the Jersey Flesh label. The Reh. Demo 2011 is short, with two sides clocking in at just five minutes apiece, but there’s a ton of saxophone mumbling and drum madness on here to constitute an entire album. The package comes with a nice black and white J-card with a picture of a greyscale woman with her tits hanging out of her shirt. The tape has a grey sticker with “The C.C.” printed on it.

The first side of the track features a fairly steady smattering of saxophone sounds punctuated by an incredible amount of drums behind it. Whoever is hitting those skins (and cymbals and metal and whatever else is back there) is really going all out, with a frenetic energy that drives the first side. The saxophone sound, however, never comes into its own, very much wavering at the outside edges of the track with trills and elongated notes that fail to mimic the energy of the drums. Towards the end of the track, the sax and drums drop out for a wall of white noise that, while effective from a harsh noise wall standpoint, seems strange and tacky following the all out percussion of the previous rhythm-less improv-fest.

Now here’s where things get stranger. Side B of the cassette starts out with silence that runs about halfway through the side. Whether this is an issue with the cassette transfer or a purposeful thing done by the Crystal Cocks, I’m not sure. But it does certainly make for an annoying time when the listener must sit through the silence John Cage-style or fast-forward through it. When the noise finally does kick in, we’re treated to another fast-paced movement of drums with a more nuanced saxophone. The junk metal and electronics tend to give the drums a messier sound that I really like, and despite the  break between the track I’d say this is the better side of the tape in regards to noisiness, musicianship, and free jazz.

Reh. Demo 2011 is an interesting first release from this band. The musicianship is promising; however, if the scrap metal/HNW thing really is an important part of the band’s persona, I’d like to see that incorporated more than just throwing it on the end of a track.