KILLED in CARS

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KILLED in CARS is a 'thank you' to the musicians who enrich my life, and a way to reach people curious about expression through sound.

This site has thrived as a destination for discussion and listening thanks to its disregard for the canon and its dedication to making esoteric genres accessible. I appreciate your readership, and I hope that you choose to participate!

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KILLED in CARS
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Matthew Dotson - Sublimation

I suspect that most music reviewers are aficionados of other good reviewers, and a big part of my musical news comes through some of my favorite creative music advocates/writers like “Strauss” at Tiny Mix Tapes/Cerberus. A little less than a year ago, I read his review of Matthew Dotson’s “Excavation,” and was intrigued enough to order the tape, which indeed lives up to its glowing review. Since then, Dotson has released a pair of cassettes through Chicago’s Already Dead Tapes, including the recent “Sublimation.”

Over the course of three tapes, Matthew Dotson’s music has moved increasingly toward the “vaporwave” movement, using fragments of muzak-y pop culture aural effluvium as sound sources, but the way he handles musical materials feels wholly different than most folks associated with vaporwave. At least in my cultural circles, I’ve heard vaporwave dismissed as a product of hastily-prolific hipster fine arts nonsense, and I’ve heard it lauded as a critique of corporate culture constructed from its own remnants. What these seemingly opposite camps have in common is a tendency to dissect the genre through literary, visual art, or sociopolitical lenses—it’s rarely discussed in musical terms. And frankly, a lot of vaporwave strikes my ears as vague, musically lackadaisical, or downright boring on strictly musical merits.

I find Dotson’s approach far more musically interesting than most vaporwavers, and I wasn’t surprised to find that he’s studied composition at the doctoral level. While this music can certainly abide discussion in terms of conceptual transformation or post-capitalist material repurposing, it also works as proficiently-composed music, balanced and varied and dynamic in all of the right places for a pure listening experience that doesn’t require extramusical apologetics.

And Dotson is really good at selecting names for his recordings: “Sublimation” in the Freudian sense is a perfect one-word description of the potential higher-order musical implications of vaporwave, taking vintage musical idioms mostly regarded as untoward or “lame” and re-using their raw materials toward a more transcendent whole. In contrast, the earlier “Excavation” tape really does feel like an excavation, unearthing deep cuts and exotic sources and bringing them into a musical light, and the first recording for Already Dead Tapes, “Revolution/Circumvention,” starts to flirt with the musical materials one associates with vaporwave without going all the way.

"Sublimation" is presented as 2 sides of audio, but the A-side feels like a 2-movement idea to me, while the B-side contains 6 shorter ideas that aren’t necessarily closely related. On the A-side, the first "movement" keeps percussion sounds going throughout, staying in a fairly narrow range of mid-tempo samples. While this kind of production has dance music/mixtape qualities, there’s a formal structure at work here that balances the piece: For example, the first fully-orchestrated set of materials that arise from some clean-sounding 80s guitar at the beginning of the side return around the 10:00 mark to constitute a sort of thematic restatement at its end. In between, my ears were drawn to how voice and guitar samples get recontextualized with a variety of very musical contrasts. There is a very simple guitar part, for example, one simple note that’s picked and followed by a downslide, that first appears atop a "chopped and screwed" (dramatically slowed down) rhythm bed, and it reappears later over a more real-time passage alongside a melodically moving synth line, turning the guitar into more of a harmonic pedal point mechanism than the kind of rhythmic accent role it had earlier. In terms of vocal fragments, Dotson seems to be drawing attention to the kinds of melodic shapes and exaggerated vibrato one finds at climactic moments in upbeat pop tunes while avoiding their original word content.

The shorter piece at the end of the A-side starts with a kind of ominous cinematic flourish and settles into an adagio pulse of synths and vocals for a couple of minutes, and then it becomes an uptempo rhythmic workout racing to the end, with almost industrial textures in the rhythms (though classic early techno synth-handclaps are there to remind you of previous origins). Finally, it settles into some very quieter chopped/screwed 80s balladry, followed by even softer recapitulation of some segments of the earlier cinematic-ish samples at the opening of the “movement.” This piece has an especially wide dynamic range that follows a classic dramatic arc.

I find myself musically more into the variety of ideas that make up the B-side. The first segment is a relatively short passage, taking some wind sounds and sustained synth-bell tones into a wickedly dense fog of distortion for a couple of haunting minutes. That’s followed by an almost 60s-ish section peeking through some phase and distortion effects, eventually settling into a kind of portatone percussion-meets-Art Bell-commercial-break-bassline, where a clavichord eventually steals the bass ostinato line away for itself. Skipping ahead, the last two sections are my favorite, with some reversed sounds, short percussion samples with tight delays, and a gentle synth/string figure that eventually dissolves into solo piano lines that are EQ’ed into a hushed oblivion at the end of the piece.

Already Dead makes very small editions of some tapes (50 in the case of “Sublimation”), so if you want to track this down, hit them up here or here as soon as you can. And be sure to check out Dotson’s Bandcamp page, too, as he still has copies of his self-released “Excavation” cassette available, a much-loved tape at Words on Sounds.

—Scott Scholz
Zoom Info
Matthew Dotson - Sublimation

I suspect that most music reviewers are aficionados of other good reviewers, and a big part of my musical news comes through some of my favorite creative music advocates/writers like “Strauss” at Tiny Mix Tapes/Cerberus. A little less than a year ago, I read his review of Matthew Dotson’s “Excavation,” and was intrigued enough to order the tape, which indeed lives up to its glowing review. Since then, Dotson has released a pair of cassettes through Chicago’s Already Dead Tapes, including the recent “Sublimation.”

Over the course of three tapes, Matthew Dotson’s music has moved increasingly toward the “vaporwave” movement, using fragments of muzak-y pop culture aural effluvium as sound sources, but the way he handles musical materials feels wholly different than most folks associated with vaporwave. At least in my cultural circles, I’ve heard vaporwave dismissed as a product of hastily-prolific hipster fine arts nonsense, and I’ve heard it lauded as a critique of corporate culture constructed from its own remnants. What these seemingly opposite camps have in common is a tendency to dissect the genre through literary, visual art, or sociopolitical lenses—it’s rarely discussed in musical terms. And frankly, a lot of vaporwave strikes my ears as vague, musically lackadaisical, or downright boring on strictly musical merits.

I find Dotson’s approach far more musically interesting than most vaporwavers, and I wasn’t surprised to find that he’s studied composition at the doctoral level. While this music can certainly abide discussion in terms of conceptual transformation or post-capitalist material repurposing, it also works as proficiently-composed music, balanced and varied and dynamic in all of the right places for a pure listening experience that doesn’t require extramusical apologetics.

And Dotson is really good at selecting names for his recordings: “Sublimation” in the Freudian sense is a perfect one-word description of the potential higher-order musical implications of vaporwave, taking vintage musical idioms mostly regarded as untoward or “lame” and re-using their raw materials toward a more transcendent whole. In contrast, the earlier “Excavation” tape really does feel like an excavation, unearthing deep cuts and exotic sources and bringing them into a musical light, and the first recording for Already Dead Tapes, “Revolution/Circumvention,” starts to flirt with the musical materials one associates with vaporwave without going all the way.

"Sublimation" is presented as 2 sides of audio, but the A-side feels like a 2-movement idea to me, while the B-side contains 6 shorter ideas that aren’t necessarily closely related. On the A-side, the first "movement" keeps percussion sounds going throughout, staying in a fairly narrow range of mid-tempo samples. While this kind of production has dance music/mixtape qualities, there’s a formal structure at work here that balances the piece: For example, the first fully-orchestrated set of materials that arise from some clean-sounding 80s guitar at the beginning of the side return around the 10:00 mark to constitute a sort of thematic restatement at its end. In between, my ears were drawn to how voice and guitar samples get recontextualized with a variety of very musical contrasts. There is a very simple guitar part, for example, one simple note that’s picked and followed by a downslide, that first appears atop a "chopped and screwed" (dramatically slowed down) rhythm bed, and it reappears later over a more real-time passage alongside a melodically moving synth line, turning the guitar into more of a harmonic pedal point mechanism than the kind of rhythmic accent role it had earlier. In terms of vocal fragments, Dotson seems to be drawing attention to the kinds of melodic shapes and exaggerated vibrato one finds at climactic moments in upbeat pop tunes while avoiding their original word content.

The shorter piece at the end of the A-side starts with a kind of ominous cinematic flourish and settles into an adagio pulse of synths and vocals for a couple of minutes, and then it becomes an uptempo rhythmic workout racing to the end, with almost industrial textures in the rhythms (though classic early techno synth-handclaps are there to remind you of previous origins). Finally, it settles into some very quieter chopped/screwed 80s balladry, followed by even softer recapitulation of some segments of the earlier cinematic-ish samples at the opening of the “movement.” This piece has an especially wide dynamic range that follows a classic dramatic arc.

I find myself musically more into the variety of ideas that make up the B-side. The first segment is a relatively short passage, taking some wind sounds and sustained synth-bell tones into a wickedly dense fog of distortion for a couple of haunting minutes. That’s followed by an almost 60s-ish section peeking through some phase and distortion effects, eventually settling into a kind of portatone percussion-meets-Art Bell-commercial-break-bassline, where a clavichord eventually steals the bass ostinato line away for itself. Skipping ahead, the last two sections are my favorite, with some reversed sounds, short percussion samples with tight delays, and a gentle synth/string figure that eventually dissolves into solo piano lines that are EQ’ed into a hushed oblivion at the end of the piece.

Already Dead makes very small editions of some tapes (50 in the case of “Sublimation”), so if you want to track this down, hit them up here or here as soon as you can. And be sure to check out Dotson’s Bandcamp page, too, as he still has copies of his self-released “Excavation” cassette available, a much-loved tape at Words on Sounds.

—Scott Scholz
Zoom Info

Matthew Dotson - Sublimation

I suspect that most music reviewers are aficionados of other good reviewers, and a big part of my musical news comes through some of my favorite creative music advocates/writers like “Strauss” at Tiny Mix Tapes/Cerberus. A little less than a year ago, I read his review of Matthew Dotson’s “Excavation,” and was intrigued enough to order the tape, which indeed lives up to its glowing review. Since then, Dotson has released a pair of cassettes through Chicago’s Already Dead Tapes, including the recent “Sublimation.”

Over the course of three tapes, Matthew Dotson’s music has moved increasingly toward the “vaporwave” movement, using fragments of muzak-y pop culture aural effluvium as sound sources, but the way he handles musical materials feels wholly different than most folks associated with vaporwave. At least in my cultural circles, I’ve heard vaporwave dismissed as a product of hastily-prolific hipster fine arts nonsense, and I’ve heard it lauded as a critique of corporate culture constructed from its own remnants. What these seemingly opposite camps have in common is a tendency to dissect the genre through literary, visual art, or sociopolitical lenses—it’s rarely discussed in musical terms. And frankly, a lot of vaporwave strikes my ears as vague, musically lackadaisical, or downright boring on strictly musical merits.

I find Dotson’s approach far more musically interesting than most vaporwavers, and I wasn’t surprised to find that he’s studied composition at the doctoral level. While this music can certainly abide discussion in terms of conceptual transformation or post-capitalist material repurposing, it also works as proficiently-composed music, balanced and varied and dynamic in all of the right places for a pure listening experience that doesn’t require extramusical apologetics.

And Dotson is really good at selecting names for his recordings: “Sublimation” in the Freudian sense is a perfect one-word description of the potential higher-order musical implications of vaporwave, taking vintage musical idioms mostly regarded as untoward or “lame” and re-using their raw materials toward a more transcendent whole. In contrast, the earlier “Excavation” tape really does feel like an excavation, unearthing deep cuts and exotic sources and bringing them into a musical light, and the first recording for Already Dead Tapes, “Revolution/Circumvention,” starts to flirt with the musical materials one associates with vaporwave without going all the way.

"Sublimation" is presented as 2 sides of audio, but the A-side feels like a 2-movement idea to me, while the B-side contains 6 shorter ideas that aren’t necessarily closely related. On the A-side, the first "movement" keeps percussion sounds going throughout, staying in a fairly narrow range of mid-tempo samples. While this kind of production has dance music/mixtape qualities, there’s a formal structure at work here that balances the piece: For example, the first fully-orchestrated set of materials that arise from some clean-sounding 80s guitar at the beginning of the side return around the 10:00 mark to constitute a sort of thematic restatement at its end. In between, my ears were drawn to how voice and guitar samples get recontextualized with a variety of very musical contrasts. There is a very simple guitar part, for example, one simple note that’s picked and followed by a downslide, that first appears atop a "chopped and screwed" (dramatically slowed down) rhythm bed, and it reappears later over a more real-time passage alongside a melodically moving synth line, turning the guitar into more of a harmonic pedal point mechanism than the kind of rhythmic accent role it had earlier. In terms of vocal fragments, Dotson seems to be drawing attention to the kinds of melodic shapes and exaggerated vibrato one finds at climactic moments in upbeat pop tunes while avoiding their original word content.

The shorter piece at the end of the A-side starts with a kind of ominous cinematic flourish and settles into an adagio pulse of synths and vocals for a couple of minutes, and then it becomes an uptempo rhythmic workout racing to the end, with almost industrial textures in the rhythms (though classic early techno synth-handclaps are there to remind you of previous origins). Finally, it settles into some very quieter chopped/screwed 80s balladry, followed by even softer recapitulation of some segments of the earlier cinematic-ish samples at the opening of the “movement.” This piece has an especially wide dynamic range that follows a classic dramatic arc.

I find myself musically more into the variety of ideas that make up the B-side. The first segment is a relatively short passage, taking some wind sounds and sustained synth-bell tones into a wickedly dense fog of distortion for a couple of haunting minutes. That’s followed by an almost 60s-ish section peeking through some phase and distortion effects, eventually settling into a kind of portatone percussion-meets-Art Bell-commercial-break-bassline, where a clavichord eventually steals the bass ostinato line away for itself. Skipping ahead, the last two sections are my favorite, with some reversed sounds, short percussion samples with tight delays, and a gentle synth/string figure that eventually dissolves into solo piano lines that are EQ’ed into a hushed oblivion at the end of the piece.

Already Dead makes very small editions of some tapes (50 in the case of “Sublimation”), so if you want to track this down, hit them up here or here as soon as you can. And be sure to check out Dotson’s Bandcamp page, too, as he still has copies of his self-released “Excavation” cassette available, a much-loved tape at Words on Sounds.

—Scott Scholz

Chuck Bettis - ‘Community of Commotion’ (North East Indie) (2005) The ‘lone improviser-plus-array-of-friends’ album format is frequently a winner, representing a shortcut to both variety and cohesion – Rafael Toral’s Space Elements Vol II, Fred Lonberg-Holm’s ‘Site Specific’ and numerous showcases from the Emanem label come to mind. In ‘Community of Commotion’, laptop/vocal improviser/composer Chuck Bettis made full use of the concept and added a fair dollop of post-production to produce a bewilderingly varied but coherent offering.The musical community referred to in the title is that of downtown New York, Bettis having previously graduated from the Baltimore new music scene before making the big move; he has since worked with Fred Frith, Jamie Saft and John Zorn among other key downtown figures, several of whom appear on this record. It’s a sign of his knack for the sometimes tricky art of genuine collaboration - as well as his obvious facility and sensitivity as a laptop player - that all the guests on ‘Community of Commotion’ are given space to do their thing, with Bettis often assuming a supportive role on an instrument that can so easily dominate. Not to suggest that he’s a shrinking violet though – this is an album with its maker’s mark all over it.Although the NY downtown scene’s genre-mashing ethos can be heard everywhere here – it’s difficult to imagine that this record could have been made anywhere else - Bettis’ approach to genre had less to do with Zorn’s cut-and-paste juxtaposition and more to do with co-habitation: Colleen Kinsella’s beautifully naïve vocals - alternating simple, free-floating melodies with spoken word - and Melissa Ip’s incongruously matter-of-fact poetry reading – check the subject matter – are layered with sympathetic laptop textures (‘Playful Moaner’ and ‘Bleeding Orphan’); a quasi-military drum n’ bass beat reminiscent of Plug-era Luke Vibert underpins Mick Barr’s high-neck guitar shred and Bettis’ guttural vocals (‘Atheist Revolt’); a Bhangra-ish beat is fused with Jerry Lim’s squidgy analogue synths, straight out of Detroit techno (‘Deathmetal Dancehall’); Gregorian-esque singing sits alongside Audrey Chen’s frantic bowed cello (‘Angry Rainbow’). There are moments of improv purity too: on ‘Mood Orifice’ Bettis goes toe-to-toe with undisputed laptop queen Ikue Mori with surprisingly delicate results, and ‘Sleep Terets’ is a raw and roomy duet with veteran downtown drummer Tim Barnes.If all this sounds fairly dark and dystopian, it is: only the half-demented, childlike vocals on opener ‘Playful Moaner’, and the dance-y, 50 second intro to closing track ‘Motion Narcolepsy’, which wouldn’t be out of place on a Ninja Tune record, could be described as upbeat. Even the djembe-fuelled world music mashup of ‘Doumbek Chanter’ sounds urbanised and forbidding.That’s not a gripe though: Chuck Bettis made an extraordinary record in which all the genre-bending, the cast of distinctive and distinguished collaborators and the yinyang of overarching vision and communal collaboration add up to something special.

- Mark
Zoom Info
Chuck Bettis - ‘Community of Commotion’ (North East Indie) (2005) The ‘lone improviser-plus-array-of-friends’ album format is frequently a winner, representing a shortcut to both variety and cohesion – Rafael Toral’s Space Elements Vol II, Fred Lonberg-Holm’s ‘Site Specific’ and numerous showcases from the Emanem label come to mind. In ‘Community of Commotion’, laptop/vocal improviser/composer Chuck Bettis made full use of the concept and added a fair dollop of post-production to produce a bewilderingly varied but coherent offering.The musical community referred to in the title is that of downtown New York, Bettis having previously graduated from the Baltimore new music scene before making the big move; he has since worked with Fred Frith, Jamie Saft and John Zorn among other key downtown figures, several of whom appear on this record. It’s a sign of his knack for the sometimes tricky art of genuine collaboration - as well as his obvious facility and sensitivity as a laptop player - that all the guests on ‘Community of Commotion’ are given space to do their thing, with Bettis often assuming a supportive role on an instrument that can so easily dominate. Not to suggest that he’s a shrinking violet though – this is an album with its maker’s mark all over it.Although the NY downtown scene’s genre-mashing ethos can be heard everywhere here – it’s difficult to imagine that this record could have been made anywhere else - Bettis’ approach to genre had less to do with Zorn’s cut-and-paste juxtaposition and more to do with co-habitation: Colleen Kinsella’s beautifully naïve vocals - alternating simple, free-floating melodies with spoken word - and Melissa Ip’s incongruously matter-of-fact poetry reading – check the subject matter – are layered with sympathetic laptop textures (‘Playful Moaner’ and ‘Bleeding Orphan’); a quasi-military drum n’ bass beat reminiscent of Plug-era Luke Vibert underpins Mick Barr’s high-neck guitar shred and Bettis’ guttural vocals (‘Atheist Revolt’); a Bhangra-ish beat is fused with Jerry Lim’s squidgy analogue synths, straight out of Detroit techno (‘Deathmetal Dancehall’); Gregorian-esque singing sits alongside Audrey Chen’s frantic bowed cello (‘Angry Rainbow’). There are moments of improv purity too: on ‘Mood Orifice’ Bettis goes toe-to-toe with undisputed laptop queen Ikue Mori with surprisingly delicate results, and ‘Sleep Terets’ is a raw and roomy duet with veteran downtown drummer Tim Barnes.If all this sounds fairly dark and dystopian, it is: only the half-demented, childlike vocals on opener ‘Playful Moaner’, and the dance-y, 50 second intro to closing track ‘Motion Narcolepsy’, which wouldn’t be out of place on a Ninja Tune record, could be described as upbeat. Even the djembe-fuelled world music mashup of ‘Doumbek Chanter’ sounds urbanised and forbidding.That’s not a gripe though: Chuck Bettis made an extraordinary record in which all the genre-bending, the cast of distinctive and distinguished collaborators and the yinyang of overarching vision and communal collaboration add up to something special.

- Mark
Zoom Info

Chuck Bettis - ‘Community of Commotion’ (North East Indie) (2005) 

The ‘lone improviser-plus-array-of-friends’ album format is frequently a winner, representing a shortcut to both variety and cohesion – Rafael Toral’s Space Elements Vol II, Fred Lonberg-Holm’s ‘Site Specific’ and numerous showcases from the Emanem label come to mind. In ‘Community of Commotion’, laptop/vocal improviser/composer Chuck Bettis made full use of the concept and added a fair dollop of post-production to produce a bewilderingly varied but coherent offering.

The musical community referred to in the title is that of downtown New York, Bettis having previously graduated from the Baltimore new music scene before making the big move; he has since worked with Fred Frith, Jamie Saft and John Zorn among other key downtown figures, several of whom appear on this record. It’s a sign of his knack for the sometimes tricky art of genuine collaboration - as well as his obvious facility and sensitivity as a laptop player - that all the guests on ‘Community of Commotion’ are given space to do their thing, with Bettis often assuming a supportive role on an instrument that can so easily dominate. Not to suggest that he’s a shrinking violet though – this is an album with its maker’s mark all over it.

Although the NY downtown scene’s genre-mashing ethos can be heard everywhere here – it’s difficult to imagine that this record could have been made anywhere else - Bettis’ approach to genre had less to do with Zorn’s cut-and-paste juxtaposition and more to do with co-habitation: Colleen Kinsella’s beautifully naïve vocals - alternating simple, free-floating melodies with spoken word - and Melissa Ip’s incongruously matter-of-fact poetry reading – check the subject matter – are layered with sympathetic laptop textures (‘Playful Moaner’ and ‘Bleeding Orphan’); a quasi-military drum n’ bass beat reminiscent of Plug-era Luke Vibert underpins Mick Barr’s high-neck guitar shred and Bettis’ guttural vocals (‘Atheist Revolt’); a Bhangra-ish beat is fused with Jerry Lim’s squidgy analogue synths, straight out of Detroit techno (‘Deathmetal Dancehall’); Gregorian-esque singing sits alongside Audrey Chen’s frantic bowed cello (‘Angry Rainbow’). There are moments of improv purity too: on ‘Mood Orifice’ Bettis goes toe-to-toe with undisputed laptop queen Ikue Mori with surprisingly delicate results, and ‘Sleep Terets’ is a raw and roomy duet with veteran downtown drummer Tim Barnes.

If all this sounds fairly dark and dystopian, it is: only the half-demented, childlike vocals on opener ‘Playful Moaner’, and the dance-y, 50 second intro to closing track ‘Motion Narcolepsy’, which wouldn’t be out of place on a Ninja Tune record, could be described as upbeat. Even the djembe-fuelled world music mashup of ‘Doumbek Chanter’ sounds urbanised and forbidding.

That’s not a gripe though: Chuck Bettis made an extraordinary record in which all the genre-bending, the cast of distinctive and distinguished collaborators and the yinyang of overarching vision and communal collaboration add up to something special.

- Mark

Patio Slang “Surface Politics” (C-60 Factotum Tapes [http://factotumtapes.blogspot.com/])
If you’re at all a follower of the works of Bryan Day, much about “Surface Politics” will be familiar, such as the two-word titles that seem to be randomly chosen from a dictionary, and of course the improvised arhythmic electroacoustic sounds. Day, known as the proprietor of the Public Eyesore label and for his invented contact-miked sound-producing contraptions including an array of segments of metal tape measure and a large trapezoidal wooden frame with some sort of torpedo-shaped weights hanging on wires in it — it’s anyone’s guess how this stuff works — has been on a bit of a roll releasing collaborations this past year or two, and fans of past and present Day projects such as Eloine, Seeded Plain, and Office Park will find plenty to enjoy if they can find these items.Patio Slang is Day on his homemade instruments and radio transceivers and one Toyohiro Okazaki, with whom I’m not familiar but who seems to be involved with a group called Dislocation, on unspecified “electronics.” “Surface Politics” claims to have been recorded in the spring of 2012 in Day’s hometown of Decorah, Iowa and what I assume to be Okazaki’s home, Ichinomiya, Japan. Whether they got together and recorded live or exchanged recordings by mail or internet is unspecified and of little consequence.
On cassette format it’s not always obvious with this kind of music where one track ends and the next begins and Matt Reis didn’t see fit to insert any long pauses to mark the transitions clearly, but the shifts in sonic character are noticeable enough on “Surface Politics” to highlight the variety of colors and textures that set them apart if you’re listening closely, while the tape as a whole also flows together well enough to take in as two long pieces if so inclined.
"Tenement Floe" opens things up with scraping, rustling, rubbing, junk-metal, and possibly something bumping up against a microphone, evoking a mental picture of a busy mechanics’ shop or construction site, until you notice the complete absence of power tools. "Rosewood Fixtures" is similar, but more recognizably electronic noises enter the picture in the form of squirt of a sort of flanged static, and this progression towards more electronic elements seems to continue over the A side. "Regent Primer" has a vintage sci-fi meets musique concrete feel to it, and I don’t know if it’s an intentional part of the instrumentation or an artifact of the nice loud dub to tape but there is a bit of that cool crumbly analog distortion coming from some of the louder bass tones that form a nice counterpoint to the piercing high drone present throughout the track. "Fossil Digest" brings in more metallic-acoustic elements again, I think there might be an old car fender in it.
Side B starts off with some nice resonant metal sounds on “Rotary Fields,” then adds cinematic dark-ambient synths behind them in “Boomtown Slogans.” “Vector Truant” brings back the low-frequency analog distortion in the context of more vintage sci-fi analog electronics, oscillators and ring modulators zipping about in an outer-space reverb. “Color Drain” returns to mostly acoustically-oriented metal-on-concrete sounds, and the reverb is transitioned between the cavernous parking-ramp variety and a more natural live room feel.
Overall, “Surface Politics” is a joyously busy album of excited, changing, playful sounds.—Charles Hoffman
Zoom Info
Patio Slang “Surface Politics” (C-60 Factotum Tapes [http://factotumtapes.blogspot.com/])
If you’re at all a follower of the works of Bryan Day, much about “Surface Politics” will be familiar, such as the two-word titles that seem to be randomly chosen from a dictionary, and of course the improvised arhythmic electroacoustic sounds. Day, known as the proprietor of the Public Eyesore label and for his invented contact-miked sound-producing contraptions including an array of segments of metal tape measure and a large trapezoidal wooden frame with some sort of torpedo-shaped weights hanging on wires in it — it’s anyone’s guess how this stuff works — has been on a bit of a roll releasing collaborations this past year or two, and fans of past and present Day projects such as Eloine, Seeded Plain, and Office Park will find plenty to enjoy if they can find these items.Patio Slang is Day on his homemade instruments and radio transceivers and one Toyohiro Okazaki, with whom I’m not familiar but who seems to be involved with a group called Dislocation, on unspecified “electronics.” “Surface Politics” claims to have been recorded in the spring of 2012 in Day’s hometown of Decorah, Iowa and what I assume to be Okazaki’s home, Ichinomiya, Japan. Whether they got together and recorded live or exchanged recordings by mail or internet is unspecified and of little consequence.
On cassette format it’s not always obvious with this kind of music where one track ends and the next begins and Matt Reis didn’t see fit to insert any long pauses to mark the transitions clearly, but the shifts in sonic character are noticeable enough on “Surface Politics” to highlight the variety of colors and textures that set them apart if you’re listening closely, while the tape as a whole also flows together well enough to take in as two long pieces if so inclined.
"Tenement Floe" opens things up with scraping, rustling, rubbing, junk-metal, and possibly something bumping up against a microphone, evoking a mental picture of a busy mechanics’ shop or construction site, until you notice the complete absence of power tools. "Rosewood Fixtures" is similar, but more recognizably electronic noises enter the picture in the form of squirt of a sort of flanged static, and this progression towards more electronic elements seems to continue over the A side. "Regent Primer" has a vintage sci-fi meets musique concrete feel to it, and I don’t know if it’s an intentional part of the instrumentation or an artifact of the nice loud dub to tape but there is a bit of that cool crumbly analog distortion coming from some of the louder bass tones that form a nice counterpoint to the piercing high drone present throughout the track. "Fossil Digest" brings in more metallic-acoustic elements again, I think there might be an old car fender in it.
Side B starts off with some nice resonant metal sounds on “Rotary Fields,” then adds cinematic dark-ambient synths behind them in “Boomtown Slogans.” “Vector Truant” brings back the low-frequency analog distortion in the context of more vintage sci-fi analog electronics, oscillators and ring modulators zipping about in an outer-space reverb. “Color Drain” returns to mostly acoustically-oriented metal-on-concrete sounds, and the reverb is transitioned between the cavernous parking-ramp variety and a more natural live room feel.
Overall, “Surface Politics” is a joyously busy album of excited, changing, playful sounds.—Charles Hoffman
Zoom Info
Patio Slang “Surface Politics” (C-60 Factotum Tapes [http://factotumtapes.blogspot.com/])

If you’re at all a follower of the works of Bryan Day, much about “Surface Politics” will be familiar, such as the two-word titles that seem to be randomly chosen from a dictionary, and of course the improvised arhythmic electroacoustic sounds. Day, known as the proprietor of the Public Eyesore label and for his invented contact-miked sound-producing contraptions including an array of segments of metal tape measure and a large trapezoidal wooden frame with some sort of torpedo-shaped weights hanging on wires in it — it’s anyone’s guess how this stuff works — has been on a bit of a roll releasing collaborations this past year or two, and fans of past and present Day projects such as Eloine, Seeded Plain, and Office Park will find plenty to enjoy if they can find these items.

Patio Slang is Day on his homemade instruments and radio transceivers and one Toyohiro Okazaki, with whom I’m not familiar but who seems to be involved with a group called Dislocation, on unspecified “electronics.” “Surface Politics” claims to have been recorded in the spring of 2012 in Day’s hometown of Decorah, Iowa and what I assume to be Okazaki’s home, Ichinomiya, Japan. Whether they got together and recorded live or exchanged recordings by mail or internet is unspecified and of little consequence.


On cassette format it’s not always obvious with this kind of music where one track ends and the next begins and Matt Reis didn’t see fit to insert any long pauses to mark the transitions clearly, but the shifts in sonic character are noticeable enough on “Surface Politics” to highlight the variety of colors and textures that set them apart if you’re listening closely, while the tape as a whole also flows together well enough to take in as two long pieces if so inclined.

"Tenement Floe" opens things up with scraping, rustling, rubbing, junk-metal, and possibly something bumping up against a microphone, evoking a mental picture of a busy mechanics’ shop or construction site, until you notice the complete absence of power tools. "Rosewood Fixtures" is similar, but more recognizably electronic noises enter the picture in the form of squirt of a sort of flanged static, and this progression towards more electronic elements seems to continue over the A side. "Regent Primer" has a vintage sci-fi meets musique concrete feel to it, and I don’t know if it’s an intentional part of the instrumentation or an artifact of the nice loud dub to tape but there is a bit of that cool crumbly analog distortion coming from some of the louder bass tones that form a nice counterpoint to the piercing high drone present throughout the track. "Fossil Digest" brings in more metallic-acoustic elements again, I think there might be an old car fender in it.


Side B starts off with some nice resonant metal sounds on “Rotary Fields,” then adds cinematic dark-ambient synths behind them in “Boomtown Slogans.” “Vector Truant” brings back the low-frequency analog distortion in the context of more vintage sci-fi analog electronics, oscillators and ring modulators zipping about in an outer-space reverb. “Color Drain” returns to mostly acoustically-oriented metal-on-concrete sounds, and the reverb is transitioned between the cavernous parking-ramp variety and a more natural live room feel.

Overall, “Surface Politics” is a joyously busy album of excited, changing, playful sounds.


Charles Hoffman

Arnold Dreyblatt and Megafaun - Appalachian Excitation

Wow. This record feels like family. I’ve developed a really warm relationship with this music in a short amount of time, partially because it was with me at the perfect moment for a first listen. Normally, I do all of my “serious” listening at home, preferably with a full-fi physical copy on a decent stereo, bathing in the music with undivided attention. But "Appalachian Excitation" and I first met on a return car trip from southern Missouri, via an iPod loaded with a few new albums to keep me awake.

If you’ve never been to those parts, there is a stretch along southern Missouri and northern Arkansas, drifting into southern Indiana and eventually into Kentucky, that feels like extended foothills to Appalachia in my mind: the rural areas are full of rolling hills and intensely curving highways where trees with tiny individual crowns crowd right to the edges of the roads, making a weird collective canopy that makes you forget about the sky. These hills begin just south of the final reach of glaciers from the last Ice Age, and both the land and the people take on a unique vibe, with the humid and ancient energy of the deep south blending into a cooler kind of remoteness I associate with more northerly regions. As a Great Plains native, I can relate to the lonely rural energy of these spaces easily, but we can see for miles in every direction on the plains. A little further south, it feels secretive in an unfamiliar way. You might assume the terrain carries on in similar fashion through the next stand of trees and over the next series of hills, but you never know—there could be crazy stuff hidden all over the place, almost on top of you. You don’t know until you get there.

Normally I hate to interpret an album title so literally, but “Appalachian Excitation” falls perfectly into line with the feelings I get in those parts of the country. In a general sense, Dreyblatt’s music with his Orchestra of Excited Strings has always felt both familiar and a touch alien to my ears, with just intonation tuning approaches providing an overwhelming sensation of harmony as an almost physical mass, a force that’s always been there but has been hidden away to please the pianos and other equal temperament creatures of the musical world. And many of the string sounds themselves are struck rather than plucked, a kind of articulation that those of us raised on mostly Western musical traditions often hear as vaguely Asian. Specific to this new record, which feels like a close cousin of Excited Strings recordings like "Animal Magnetism," the prominent sound of banjos and country bends, along with rhythmic and harmonic nods to Appalachian and Ozark folk traditions, bring even more cultural signifiers into a complex-but-inevitable-feeling hybrid of orchestral, world, and folk musics.

And it rocks, too. Car trips aside, now that I’ve had the chance to sit with this music in LP format and move some serious amounts of air, I think this music works best when you can feel like you’re right in the middle of a performance. As Dreyblatt put it in the liner notes to “Animal Magnetism,” “This music is composed with a specific acoustic effect in mind. One should listen at maximum volume!” I think that principle very much applies to “Appalachian Excitation,” too. On the surface, this is minimalist music, but the drones and simple harmonies that make up this record truly come to life when the walls of your surroundings—and your body, and your head—start to resonate in sympathetic vibration. I’m sure it’s even better live, but the fine folks at Pinebox Recording in North Carolina did a wonderful job of capturing this music with a very present, “played right in front of you” kind of feel, and it’s been mastered and pressed with plenty of dynamic range, so the frequent unison hits found throughout the record have a charged, intense front end that decays into satisfying chords, rich with the harmonic overtones characteristic of the “excited strings” approach.

Given the overall sound of “Appalachian Excitation,” it feels natural to describe this music in terms of Dreyblatt’s musical history, but serious appreciation for Megafaun’s performance here needs its own mention as well. Megafaun fans might initially be bewildered by this record as a non-vocal set of pieces. And they really are “pieces,” not tunes. But their commitment to this music is admirable: it takes a unique sense of “the present” to really get inside this music, as each chord, unison hit, or change in direction has a kind of holographic significance to the whole of each composition. Megafaun nails it. They’re all in. It’s also interesting to hear them work with some electric instruments on this record, including the super high-tech Moog lap steel, which seems to be responsible for synth sounds and almost hornlike drone moments that surface in pieces like “Edge Observation.”

Recommended! Check it out at Northern Spy.

—Scott Scholz
Zoom Info
Arnold Dreyblatt and Megafaun - Appalachian Excitation

Wow. This record feels like family. I’ve developed a really warm relationship with this music in a short amount of time, partially because it was with me at the perfect moment for a first listen. Normally, I do all of my “serious” listening at home, preferably with a full-fi physical copy on a decent stereo, bathing in the music with undivided attention. But "Appalachian Excitation" and I first met on a return car trip from southern Missouri, via an iPod loaded with a few new albums to keep me awake.

If you’ve never been to those parts, there is a stretch along southern Missouri and northern Arkansas, drifting into southern Indiana and eventually into Kentucky, that feels like extended foothills to Appalachia in my mind: the rural areas are full of rolling hills and intensely curving highways where trees with tiny individual crowns crowd right to the edges of the roads, making a weird collective canopy that makes you forget about the sky. These hills begin just south of the final reach of glaciers from the last Ice Age, and both the land and the people take on a unique vibe, with the humid and ancient energy of the deep south blending into a cooler kind of remoteness I associate with more northerly regions. As a Great Plains native, I can relate to the lonely rural energy of these spaces easily, but we can see for miles in every direction on the plains. A little further south, it feels secretive in an unfamiliar way. You might assume the terrain carries on in similar fashion through the next stand of trees and over the next series of hills, but you never know—there could be crazy stuff hidden all over the place, almost on top of you. You don’t know until you get there.

Normally I hate to interpret an album title so literally, but “Appalachian Excitation” falls perfectly into line with the feelings I get in those parts of the country. In a general sense, Dreyblatt’s music with his Orchestra of Excited Strings has always felt both familiar and a touch alien to my ears, with just intonation tuning approaches providing an overwhelming sensation of harmony as an almost physical mass, a force that’s always been there but has been hidden away to please the pianos and other equal temperament creatures of the musical world. And many of the string sounds themselves are struck rather than plucked, a kind of articulation that those of us raised on mostly Western musical traditions often hear as vaguely Asian. Specific to this new record, which feels like a close cousin of Excited Strings recordings like "Animal Magnetism," the prominent sound of banjos and country bends, along with rhythmic and harmonic nods to Appalachian and Ozark folk traditions, bring even more cultural signifiers into a complex-but-inevitable-feeling hybrid of orchestral, world, and folk musics.

And it rocks, too. Car trips aside, now that I’ve had the chance to sit with this music in LP format and move some serious amounts of air, I think this music works best when you can feel like you’re right in the middle of a performance. As Dreyblatt put it in the liner notes to “Animal Magnetism,” “This music is composed with a specific acoustic effect in mind. One should listen at maximum volume!” I think that principle very much applies to “Appalachian Excitation,” too. On the surface, this is minimalist music, but the drones and simple harmonies that make up this record truly come to life when the walls of your surroundings—and your body, and your head—start to resonate in sympathetic vibration. I’m sure it’s even better live, but the fine folks at Pinebox Recording in North Carolina did a wonderful job of capturing this music with a very present, “played right in front of you” kind of feel, and it’s been mastered and pressed with plenty of dynamic range, so the frequent unison hits found throughout the record have a charged, intense front end that decays into satisfying chords, rich with the harmonic overtones characteristic of the “excited strings” approach.

Given the overall sound of “Appalachian Excitation,” it feels natural to describe this music in terms of Dreyblatt’s musical history, but serious appreciation for Megafaun’s performance here needs its own mention as well. Megafaun fans might initially be bewildered by this record as a non-vocal set of pieces. And they really are “pieces,” not tunes. But their commitment to this music is admirable: it takes a unique sense of “the present” to really get inside this music, as each chord, unison hit, or change in direction has a kind of holographic significance to the whole of each composition. Megafaun nails it. They’re all in. It’s also interesting to hear them work with some electric instruments on this record, including the super high-tech Moog lap steel, which seems to be responsible for synth sounds and almost hornlike drone moments that surface in pieces like “Edge Observation.”

Recommended! Check it out at Northern Spy.

—Scott Scholz
Zoom Info
Arnold Dreyblatt and Megafaun - Appalachian Excitation

Wow. This record feels like family. I’ve developed a really warm relationship with this music in a short amount of time, partially because it was with me at the perfect moment for a first listen. Normally, I do all of my “serious” listening at home, preferably with a full-fi physical copy on a decent stereo, bathing in the music with undivided attention. But "Appalachian Excitation" and I first met on a return car trip from southern Missouri, via an iPod loaded with a few new albums to keep me awake.

If you’ve never been to those parts, there is a stretch along southern Missouri and northern Arkansas, drifting into southern Indiana and eventually into Kentucky, that feels like extended foothills to Appalachia in my mind: the rural areas are full of rolling hills and intensely curving highways where trees with tiny individual crowns crowd right to the edges of the roads, making a weird collective canopy that makes you forget about the sky. These hills begin just south of the final reach of glaciers from the last Ice Age, and both the land and the people take on a unique vibe, with the humid and ancient energy of the deep south blending into a cooler kind of remoteness I associate with more northerly regions. As a Great Plains native, I can relate to the lonely rural energy of these spaces easily, but we can see for miles in every direction on the plains. A little further south, it feels secretive in an unfamiliar way. You might assume the terrain carries on in similar fashion through the next stand of trees and over the next series of hills, but you never know—there could be crazy stuff hidden all over the place, almost on top of you. You don’t know until you get there.

Normally I hate to interpret an album title so literally, but “Appalachian Excitation” falls perfectly into line with the feelings I get in those parts of the country. In a general sense, Dreyblatt’s music with his Orchestra of Excited Strings has always felt both familiar and a touch alien to my ears, with just intonation tuning approaches providing an overwhelming sensation of harmony as an almost physical mass, a force that’s always been there but has been hidden away to please the pianos and other equal temperament creatures of the musical world. And many of the string sounds themselves are struck rather than plucked, a kind of articulation that those of us raised on mostly Western musical traditions often hear as vaguely Asian. Specific to this new record, which feels like a close cousin of Excited Strings recordings like "Animal Magnetism," the prominent sound of banjos and country bends, along with rhythmic and harmonic nods to Appalachian and Ozark folk traditions, bring even more cultural signifiers into a complex-but-inevitable-feeling hybrid of orchestral, world, and folk musics.

And it rocks, too. Car trips aside, now that I’ve had the chance to sit with this music in LP format and move some serious amounts of air, I think this music works best when you can feel like you’re right in the middle of a performance. As Dreyblatt put it in the liner notes to “Animal Magnetism,” “This music is composed with a specific acoustic effect in mind. One should listen at maximum volume!” I think that principle very much applies to “Appalachian Excitation,” too. On the surface, this is minimalist music, but the drones and simple harmonies that make up this record truly come to life when the walls of your surroundings—and your body, and your head—start to resonate in sympathetic vibration. I’m sure it’s even better live, but the fine folks at Pinebox Recording in North Carolina did a wonderful job of capturing this music with a very present, “played right in front of you” kind of feel, and it’s been mastered and pressed with plenty of dynamic range, so the frequent unison hits found throughout the record have a charged, intense front end that decays into satisfying chords, rich with the harmonic overtones characteristic of the “excited strings” approach.

Given the overall sound of “Appalachian Excitation,” it feels natural to describe this music in terms of Dreyblatt’s musical history, but serious appreciation for Megafaun’s performance here needs its own mention as well. Megafaun fans might initially be bewildered by this record as a non-vocal set of pieces. And they really are “pieces,” not tunes. But their commitment to this music is admirable: it takes a unique sense of “the present” to really get inside this music, as each chord, unison hit, or change in direction has a kind of holographic significance to the whole of each composition. Megafaun nails it. They’re all in. It’s also interesting to hear them work with some electric instruments on this record, including the super high-tech Moog lap steel, which seems to be responsible for synth sounds and almost hornlike drone moments that surface in pieces like “Edge Observation.”

Recommended! Check it out at Northern Spy.

—Scott Scholz
Zoom Info
Arnold Dreyblatt and Megafaun - Appalachian Excitation

Wow. This record feels like family. I’ve developed a really warm relationship with this music in a short amount of time, partially because it was with me at the perfect moment for a first listen. Normally, I do all of my “serious” listening at home, preferably with a full-fi physical copy on a decent stereo, bathing in the music with undivided attention. But "Appalachian Excitation" and I first met on a return car trip from southern Missouri, via an iPod loaded with a few new albums to keep me awake.

If you’ve never been to those parts, there is a stretch along southern Missouri and northern Arkansas, drifting into southern Indiana and eventually into Kentucky, that feels like extended foothills to Appalachia in my mind: the rural areas are full of rolling hills and intensely curving highways where trees with tiny individual crowns crowd right to the edges of the roads, making a weird collective canopy that makes you forget about the sky. These hills begin just south of the final reach of glaciers from the last Ice Age, and both the land and the people take on a unique vibe, with the humid and ancient energy of the deep south blending into a cooler kind of remoteness I associate with more northerly regions. As a Great Plains native, I can relate to the lonely rural energy of these spaces easily, but we can see for miles in every direction on the plains. A little further south, it feels secretive in an unfamiliar way. You might assume the terrain carries on in similar fashion through the next stand of trees and over the next series of hills, but you never know—there could be crazy stuff hidden all over the place, almost on top of you. You don’t know until you get there.

Normally I hate to interpret an album title so literally, but “Appalachian Excitation” falls perfectly into line with the feelings I get in those parts of the country. In a general sense, Dreyblatt’s music with his Orchestra of Excited Strings has always felt both familiar and a touch alien to my ears, with just intonation tuning approaches providing an overwhelming sensation of harmony as an almost physical mass, a force that’s always been there but has been hidden away to please the pianos and other equal temperament creatures of the musical world. And many of the string sounds themselves are struck rather than plucked, a kind of articulation that those of us raised on mostly Western musical traditions often hear as vaguely Asian. Specific to this new record, which feels like a close cousin of Excited Strings recordings like "Animal Magnetism," the prominent sound of banjos and country bends, along with rhythmic and harmonic nods to Appalachian and Ozark folk traditions, bring even more cultural signifiers into a complex-but-inevitable-feeling hybrid of orchestral, world, and folk musics.

And it rocks, too. Car trips aside, now that I’ve had the chance to sit with this music in LP format and move some serious amounts of air, I think this music works best when you can feel like you’re right in the middle of a performance. As Dreyblatt put it in the liner notes to “Animal Magnetism,” “This music is composed with a specific acoustic effect in mind. One should listen at maximum volume!” I think that principle very much applies to “Appalachian Excitation,” too. On the surface, this is minimalist music, but the drones and simple harmonies that make up this record truly come to life when the walls of your surroundings—and your body, and your head—start to resonate in sympathetic vibration. I’m sure it’s even better live, but the fine folks at Pinebox Recording in North Carolina did a wonderful job of capturing this music with a very present, “played right in front of you” kind of feel, and it’s been mastered and pressed with plenty of dynamic range, so the frequent unison hits found throughout the record have a charged, intense front end that decays into satisfying chords, rich with the harmonic overtones characteristic of the “excited strings” approach.

Given the overall sound of “Appalachian Excitation,” it feels natural to describe this music in terms of Dreyblatt’s musical history, but serious appreciation for Megafaun’s performance here needs its own mention as well. Megafaun fans might initially be bewildered by this record as a non-vocal set of pieces. And they really are “pieces,” not tunes. But their commitment to this music is admirable: it takes a unique sense of “the present” to really get inside this music, as each chord, unison hit, or change in direction has a kind of holographic significance to the whole of each composition. Megafaun nails it. They’re all in. It’s also interesting to hear them work with some electric instruments on this record, including the super high-tech Moog lap steel, which seems to be responsible for synth sounds and almost hornlike drone moments that surface in pieces like “Edge Observation.”

Recommended! Check it out at Northern Spy.

—Scott Scholz
Zoom Info

Arnold Dreyblatt and Megafaun - Appalachian Excitation

Wow. This record feels like family. I’ve developed a really warm relationship with this music in a short amount of time, partially because it was with me at the perfect moment for a first listen. Normally, I do all of my “serious” listening at home, preferably with a full-fi physical copy on a decent stereo, bathing in the music with undivided attention. But "Appalachian Excitation" and I first met on a return car trip from southern Missouri, via an iPod loaded with a few new albums to keep me awake.

If you’ve never been to those parts, there is a stretch along southern Missouri and northern Arkansas, drifting into southern Indiana and eventually into Kentucky, that feels like extended foothills to Appalachia in my mind: the rural areas are full of rolling hills and intensely curving highways where trees with tiny individual crowns crowd right to the edges of the roads, making a weird collective canopy that makes you forget about the sky. These hills begin just south of the final reach of glaciers from the last Ice Age, and both the land and the people take on a unique vibe, with the humid and ancient energy of the deep south blending into a cooler kind of remoteness I associate with more northerly regions. As a Great Plains native, I can relate to the lonely rural energy of these spaces easily, but we can see for miles in every direction on the plains. A little further south, it feels secretive in an unfamiliar way. You might assume the terrain carries on in similar fashion through the next stand of trees and over the next series of hills, but you never know—there could be crazy stuff hidden all over the place, almost on top of you. You don’t know until you get there.

Normally I hate to interpret an album title so literally, but “Appalachian Excitation” falls perfectly into line with the feelings I get in those parts of the country. In a general sense, Dreyblatt’s music with his Orchestra of Excited Strings has always felt both familiar and a touch alien to my ears, with just intonation tuning approaches providing an overwhelming sensation of harmony as an almost physical mass, a force that’s always been there but has been hidden away to please the pianos and other equal temperament creatures of the musical world. And many of the string sounds themselves are struck rather than plucked, a kind of articulation that those of us raised on mostly Western musical traditions often hear as vaguely Asian. Specific to this new record, which feels like a close cousin of Excited Strings recordings like "Animal Magnetism," the prominent sound of banjos and country bends, along with rhythmic and harmonic nods to Appalachian and Ozark folk traditions, bring even more cultural signifiers into a complex-but-inevitable-feeling hybrid of orchestral, world, and folk musics.

And it rocks, too. Car trips aside, now that I’ve had the chance to sit with this music in LP format and move some serious amounts of air, I think this music works best when you can feel like you’re right in the middle of a performance. As Dreyblatt put it in the liner notes to “Animal Magnetism,” “This music is composed with a specific acoustic effect in mind. One should listen at maximum volume!” I think that principle very much applies to “Appalachian Excitation,” too. On the surface, this is minimalist music, but the drones and simple harmonies that make up this record truly come to life when the walls of your surroundings—and your body, and your head—start to resonate in sympathetic vibration. I’m sure it’s even better live, but the fine folks at Pinebox Recording in North Carolina did a wonderful job of capturing this music with a very present, “played right in front of you” kind of feel, and it’s been mastered and pressed with plenty of dynamic range, so the frequent unison hits found throughout the record have a charged, intense front end that decays into satisfying chords, rich with the harmonic overtones characteristic of the “excited strings” approach.

Given the overall sound of “Appalachian Excitation,” it feels natural to describe this music in terms of Dreyblatt’s musical history, but serious appreciation for Megafaun’s performance here needs its own mention as well. Megafaun fans might initially be bewildered by this record as a non-vocal set of pieces. And they really are “pieces,” not tunes. But their commitment to this music is admirable: it takes a unique sense of “the present” to really get inside this music, as each chord, unison hit, or change in direction has a kind of holographic significance to the whole of each composition. Megafaun nails it. They’re all in. It’s also interesting to hear them work with some electric instruments on this record, including the super high-tech Moog lap steel, which seems to be responsible for synth sounds and almost hornlike drone moments that surface in pieces like “Edge Observation.”

Recommended! Check it out at Northern Spy.

—Scott Scholz

The Purity of Sound
On first listen I knew I was hearing something special in Okkyung Lee’s improvisations. Finding it difficult to convey my feelings about this album has only strengthened my belief that this is a rare, beautiful document, out of time and purely inside itself.One of the initial things that reeled me in was the recording itself, a grainy, textured sound that further expresses the personal quality of this music and its ultimate fragility. Recorded by Norwegian artist Lasse Marhaug in a fittingly cinematic style, the recording is fashioned in a manner that suggests the intimacy of audio verite, while also being largely self-aware. Ghil’s paramount concern appears to be sound itself. The timbral qualities of the instrument, of the room in which the instrument is being played, of the tape to which the performances are recorded - all show a commitment to pure sound as a means of expression.The tones Lee generates - scrapings and sawings that reflect the sound of the wood itself - are as honest as the cello has sounded to my ears. Instead of manipulating the human element of the instrument’s mid-range, as most vibrato-heavy cellists tend to, Lee seems to be communicating directly with the instrument’s inherent qualities, creating a language outside of pitch. That such seemingly “difficult” listening is eminently tuneful further reinforces the logic of this language.“The Crow Flew After Yi Sang” begins with rhythmic stabs that give way to disciplined arco sawing. As the piece develops, every aspect of the instrument is explored, as Lee coaxes near-flanged tones from the strings between intense bowed passages. As intense as some sections are, this is deliberate music, and dynamics are used to startling effect, the harsh and the soft complementing each other and creating an inner dialogue.The evocatively titled “Two to Your Right, Five to Your Left” comes in with a fury, distorted - assuming this is due to tape quality rather than amplification or post-treatment - and manic. As the album unravels, the same elemental qualities are explored through fierce bowing and reflective manipulation of the strings. “Strictly Vertical” kind of is, and “The Space Beneath My Grey Heart” makes me think of Fred Lonberg-Holm, with it’s overdriven sonic texture and bright attack. “Over the Oak, Under the Elm” is what Mark Shippy would sound like were cello his instrument of choice.“Cheol-Kkot” functions as a breather of sorts between the longer pieces, even as it builds in intensity through choking diads. The low-end of Lee’s cello comes to the fore in “Hollow Water”, adding extended range to the sounds that make up Ghil, while still adhering to its secret strategies.Ghil is an album of fragments, yet it never feels fragmented. Like Derek Bailey, Okkyung Lee employs a discernable internal logic in the organization of these tones. It is a singular language that communicates universally, the apotheosis of free improvisation’s global intent. This is the sound of beauty, in its rawest form. - bbjr
Zoom Info
The Purity of Sound
On first listen I knew I was hearing something special in Okkyung Lee’s improvisations. Finding it difficult to convey my feelings about this album has only strengthened my belief that this is a rare, beautiful document, out of time and purely inside itself.One of the initial things that reeled me in was the recording itself, a grainy, textured sound that further expresses the personal quality of this music and its ultimate fragility. Recorded by Norwegian artist Lasse Marhaug in a fittingly cinematic style, the recording is fashioned in a manner that suggests the intimacy of audio verite, while also being largely self-aware. Ghil’s paramount concern appears to be sound itself. The timbral qualities of the instrument, of the room in which the instrument is being played, of the tape to which the performances are recorded - all show a commitment to pure sound as a means of expression.The tones Lee generates - scrapings and sawings that reflect the sound of the wood itself - are as honest as the cello has sounded to my ears. Instead of manipulating the human element of the instrument’s mid-range, as most vibrato-heavy cellists tend to, Lee seems to be communicating directly with the instrument’s inherent qualities, creating a language outside of pitch. That such seemingly “difficult” listening is eminently tuneful further reinforces the logic of this language.“The Crow Flew After Yi Sang” begins with rhythmic stabs that give way to disciplined arco sawing. As the piece develops, every aspect of the instrument is explored, as Lee coaxes near-flanged tones from the strings between intense bowed passages. As intense as some sections are, this is deliberate music, and dynamics are used to startling effect, the harsh and the soft complementing each other and creating an inner dialogue.The evocatively titled “Two to Your Right, Five to Your Left” comes in with a fury, distorted - assuming this is due to tape quality rather than amplification or post-treatment - and manic. As the album unravels, the same elemental qualities are explored through fierce bowing and reflective manipulation of the strings. “Strictly Vertical” kind of is, and “The Space Beneath My Grey Heart” makes me think of Fred Lonberg-Holm, with it’s overdriven sonic texture and bright attack. “Over the Oak, Under the Elm” is what Mark Shippy would sound like were cello his instrument of choice.“Cheol-Kkot” functions as a breather of sorts between the longer pieces, even as it builds in intensity through choking diads. The low-end of Lee’s cello comes to the fore in “Hollow Water”, adding extended range to the sounds that make up Ghil, while still adhering to its secret strategies.Ghil is an album of fragments, yet it never feels fragmented. Like Derek Bailey, Okkyung Lee employs a discernable internal logic in the organization of these tones. It is a singular language that communicates universally, the apotheosis of free improvisation’s global intent. This is the sound of beauty, in its rawest form. - bbjr
Zoom Info
The Purity of Sound
On first listen I knew I was hearing something special in Okkyung Lee’s improvisations. Finding it difficult to convey my feelings about this album has only strengthened my belief that this is a rare, beautiful document, out of time and purely inside itself.One of the initial things that reeled me in was the recording itself, a grainy, textured sound that further expresses the personal quality of this music and its ultimate fragility. Recorded by Norwegian artist Lasse Marhaug in a fittingly cinematic style, the recording is fashioned in a manner that suggests the intimacy of audio verite, while also being largely self-aware. Ghil’s paramount concern appears to be sound itself. The timbral qualities of the instrument, of the room in which the instrument is being played, of the tape to which the performances are recorded - all show a commitment to pure sound as a means of expression.The tones Lee generates - scrapings and sawings that reflect the sound of the wood itself - are as honest as the cello has sounded to my ears. Instead of manipulating the human element of the instrument’s mid-range, as most vibrato-heavy cellists tend to, Lee seems to be communicating directly with the instrument’s inherent qualities, creating a language outside of pitch. That such seemingly “difficult” listening is eminently tuneful further reinforces the logic of this language.“The Crow Flew After Yi Sang” begins with rhythmic stabs that give way to disciplined arco sawing. As the piece develops, every aspect of the instrument is explored, as Lee coaxes near-flanged tones from the strings between intense bowed passages. As intense as some sections are, this is deliberate music, and dynamics are used to startling effect, the harsh and the soft complementing each other and creating an inner dialogue.The evocatively titled “Two to Your Right, Five to Your Left” comes in with a fury, distorted - assuming this is due to tape quality rather than amplification or post-treatment - and manic. As the album unravels, the same elemental qualities are explored through fierce bowing and reflective manipulation of the strings. “Strictly Vertical” kind of is, and “The Space Beneath My Grey Heart” makes me think of Fred Lonberg-Holm, with it’s overdriven sonic texture and bright attack. “Over the Oak, Under the Elm” is what Mark Shippy would sound like were cello his instrument of choice.“Cheol-Kkot” functions as a breather of sorts between the longer pieces, even as it builds in intensity through choking diads. The low-end of Lee’s cello comes to the fore in “Hollow Water”, adding extended range to the sounds that make up Ghil, while still adhering to its secret strategies.Ghil is an album of fragments, yet it never feels fragmented. Like Derek Bailey, Okkyung Lee employs a discernable internal logic in the organization of these tones. It is a singular language that communicates universally, the apotheosis of free improvisation’s global intent. This is the sound of beauty, in its rawest form. - bbjr
Zoom Info
The Purity of Sound
On first listen I knew I was hearing something special in Okkyung Lee’s improvisations. Finding it difficult to convey my feelings about this album has only strengthened my belief that this is a rare, beautiful document, out of time and purely inside itself.One of the initial things that reeled me in was the recording itself, a grainy, textured sound that further expresses the personal quality of this music and its ultimate fragility. Recorded by Norwegian artist Lasse Marhaug in a fittingly cinematic style, the recording is fashioned in a manner that suggests the intimacy of audio verite, while also being largely self-aware. Ghil’s paramount concern appears to be sound itself. The timbral qualities of the instrument, of the room in which the instrument is being played, of the tape to which the performances are recorded - all show a commitment to pure sound as a means of expression.The tones Lee generates - scrapings and sawings that reflect the sound of the wood itself - are as honest as the cello has sounded to my ears. Instead of manipulating the human element of the instrument’s mid-range, as most vibrato-heavy cellists tend to, Lee seems to be communicating directly with the instrument’s inherent qualities, creating a language outside of pitch. That such seemingly “difficult” listening is eminently tuneful further reinforces the logic of this language.“The Crow Flew After Yi Sang” begins with rhythmic stabs that give way to disciplined arco sawing. As the piece develops, every aspect of the instrument is explored, as Lee coaxes near-flanged tones from the strings between intense bowed passages. As intense as some sections are, this is deliberate music, and dynamics are used to startling effect, the harsh and the soft complementing each other and creating an inner dialogue.The evocatively titled “Two to Your Right, Five to Your Left” comes in with a fury, distorted - assuming this is due to tape quality rather than amplification or post-treatment - and manic. As the album unravels, the same elemental qualities are explored through fierce bowing and reflective manipulation of the strings. “Strictly Vertical” kind of is, and “The Space Beneath My Grey Heart” makes me think of Fred Lonberg-Holm, with it’s overdriven sonic texture and bright attack. “Over the Oak, Under the Elm” is what Mark Shippy would sound like were cello his instrument of choice.“Cheol-Kkot” functions as a breather of sorts between the longer pieces, even as it builds in intensity through choking diads. The low-end of Lee’s cello comes to the fore in “Hollow Water”, adding extended range to the sounds that make up Ghil, while still adhering to its secret strategies.Ghil is an album of fragments, yet it never feels fragmented. Like Derek Bailey, Okkyung Lee employs a discernable internal logic in the organization of these tones. It is a singular language that communicates universally, the apotheosis of free improvisation’s global intent. This is the sound of beauty, in its rawest form. - bbjr
Zoom Info

The Purity of Sound


On first listen I knew I was hearing something special in Okkyung Lee’s improvisations. Finding it difficult to convey my feelings about this album has only strengthened my belief that this is a rare, beautiful document, out of time and purely inside itself.

One of the initial things that reeled me in was the recording itself, a grainy, textured sound that further expresses the personal quality of this music and its ultimate fragility. Recorded by Norwegian artist Lasse Marhaug in a fittingly cinematic style, the recording is fashioned in a manner that suggests the intimacy of audio verite, while also being largely self-aware.

Ghil’s paramount concern appears to be sound itself. The timbral qualities of the instrument, of the room in which the instrument is being played, of the tape to which the performances are recorded - all show a commitment to pure sound as a means of expression.

The tones Lee generates - scrapings and sawings that reflect the sound of the wood itself - are as honest as the cello has sounded to my ears. Instead of manipulating the human element of the instrument’s mid-range, as most vibrato-heavy cellists tend to, Lee seems to be communicating directly with the instrument’s inherent qualities, creating a language outside of pitch. That such seemingly “difficult” listening is eminently tuneful further reinforces the logic of this language.

“The Crow Flew After Yi Sang” begins with rhythmic stabs that give way to disciplined arco sawing. As the piece develops, every aspect of the instrument is explored, as Lee coaxes near-flanged tones from the strings between intense bowed passages. As intense as some sections are, this is deliberate music, and dynamics are used to startling effect, the harsh and the soft complementing each other and creating an inner dialogue.

The evocatively titled “Two to Your Right, Five to Your Left” comes in with a fury, distorted - assuming this is due to tape quality rather than amplification or post-treatment - and manic. As the album unravels, the same elemental qualities are explored through fierce bowing and reflective manipulation of the strings.

“Strictly Vertical” kind of is, and “The Space Beneath My Grey Heart” makes me think of Fred Lonberg-Holm, with it’s overdriven sonic texture and bright attack. “Over the Oak, Under the Elm” is what Mark Shippy would sound like were cello his instrument of choice.

“Cheol-Kkot” functions as a breather of sorts between the longer pieces, even as it builds in intensity through choking diads. The low-end of Lee’s cello comes to the fore in “Hollow Water”, adding extended range to the sounds that make up
Ghil, while still adhering to its secret strategies.

Ghil is an album of fragments, yet it never feels fragmented. Like Derek Bailey, Okkyung Lee employs a discernable internal logic in the organization of these tones. It is a singular language that communicates universally, the apotheosis of free improvisation’s global intent. This is the sound of beauty, in its rawest form. - bbjr

Arrington de Dionyso’s Malaikat dan SingaOpen the CrownK Records, 2013
Creating in the Broken SystemFrom the inception of Old Time Relijun in the mid ‘90s, Arrington de Dionyso has consistently revealed himself as a restless searcher, a musical chameleon on a singular higher quest. Utilizing elements from various forms of music and spiritual disciplines from every corner of the world, Arrington has relentlessly explored the shamanic spiritual and sexual energies of archaic cultures. On Open the Crown, the third LP credited to Arrington de Dionyso’s Malaikat dan Singa, Arrington combines several disparate stylistic elements from various points in his career, resulting in an album that at times resembles a compilation more than a studio album. Underneath the different representations of form, however, is a connectivity expressed through cohesive lyrical threads and apocalyptic imagery that binds the songs together into a coherent whole.

While early Old Time Relijun received - not necessarily applicable - comparisons to Captain Beefheart, due largely to Arrington’s vocal tics and an ingenue’s understanding of the bass clarinet, Arrington consistently added new tricks to the band’s bag. The La Sirena de Pecera EP, which recast several Old Time Relijun songs in Portuguese, Spanish, and Italian, pointed toward Arrington’s fascination with language and culture. The tinny, pawn shop guitars and four-on-the-floor drumming retained the twisted garage rock stomp of their initial efforts, but each subsequent album added layers to this formula.

Like any decent band, Old Time Relijun also had a constant underlying theme to tether their sonic experimentation to. Arrington’s music and visual art has always suggested a fascination with ritual and spiritual disciplines of cultures lost, and by the Catharsis in Crisis album, the exploration of the dichotomy between the past and present, the spirit and the flesh, was clearly laid out. Using apocalyptic imagery as an allegory for this dissonance in modern society, the trilogy of Lost Light, 2012, and Catharsis in Crisis portrays Arrington as a modern shaman. Though this word, particularly in reference to musicians, has long been sullied by bloated rock stars like Jim Morrison, these final Old Time Relijun albums reclaim the ancient ideals of transformation through music.

To this end, Arrington continued to research extended forms, studying circular breathing and Tuvan throat singing. This amalgam of techniques could have easily construed an undisciplined trainwreck, but Arrington seamlessly integrated everything from free jazz idioms to drones to “world” music to create a singular style.

After disbanding Old Time Relijun, Arrington reappeared a few years later with a new group, dubbed Malaikat dan Singa. Predicated on the interpretation of William Blake poems in an Indonesian tongue, the first Malaikat album manages to avoid the pretensions possible in such a project, instead churning out lurching rhythms that are somehow eminently danceable, even as they remain impenetrable. The second Malaikat dan Singa LP, Suara Naga, expounds on this formula.

On Open the Crown, the first thing one notices is a return to English lyrics. The persistent theme remains one of transformation in the face of destruction, of phoenixing. “There Will Be No Survivors” begins with the warning, “This airplane has no pilots/There will be no survivors/Apocalypse, rain down fire”, then continues on to find the value in tearing down and rebuilding.

“I Create in the Broken System” takes the Bo Diddley beat and turns it into a riotous schoolyard chant of change from within. Organ accents peek through, playing major key triads, which at first seem incongruent with the ominous feel of the insistent pulse, but become the glue between Arrington’s voice and the locked-down rhythm section. As Arrington intones, “I create in the broken system/I create in the broken down system/I create in the face of destruction/I create in the face of oppression”, it becomes clear that Open the Crown is capturing a modern undercurrent in a large segment of society, the fear of imminent collapse and the pushback against it. Just when it feels like things are getting too heavy, however, Arrington reveals the battleplan: “Fix the system with the broken down rhythm”.

At its core, that is what this album is about - rhythm, in its varied presentations, is paramount. Several songs capture the off-kilter feel of the previous Malaikat dan Singa records. Others play successfully off of simple bass and drum patterns, executed both precisely and with commanding feel. The two longer pieces, “Tak Terbatas (versi iblis)”, which is a more muscular reimagining of an earlier Malaikat tune, and “Halilintar (versi Jatilan)”, approach an ecstatic quality through disciplined repetition. The title track plays like a claustrophobic version of mid-period Old Time Relijun, all cacophony and pounding toms. Perhaps the most jarring - and polarizing - cut is the final song, ‘I Manipulate the Form’d and the Formless”, which approximates a new age rap track. This may be the least successful of the myriad forms explored on Open the Crown, but its ambition and out-and-out oddness still makes for a compelling listen.

Accompanying the diversity of styles is a heightened attention to production. Where previous Arrington releases tended to border on audio verite, each track on Open the Crown receives production touches relevant to the music. “There Will Be No Survivors” exhibits a dub vibe, and reverb is used to great effect on the vocals of “I Feel the Quickening”. The drums in particular receive individualized attention from track to track, syncing the sound with the feel. The addition of keyboards and the occasional horn or guitar overdub add to the proceedings without overwhelming the sonic spectrum.

This is an ambitious album that succeeds more often than it fails, and possesses that rare quality wherein failed experimentation still works in the larger context. Taken as a whole, Open the Crown is a grand statement that unifies Arrington de Dionyso’s various pathways to the ecstatic in music, and recasts experimental and global musical forms within the framework of western song.
- BBJr
Zoom Info
Arrington de Dionyso’s Malaikat dan SingaOpen the CrownK Records, 2013
Creating in the Broken SystemFrom the inception of Old Time Relijun in the mid ‘90s, Arrington de Dionyso has consistently revealed himself as a restless searcher, a musical chameleon on a singular higher quest. Utilizing elements from various forms of music and spiritual disciplines from every corner of the world, Arrington has relentlessly explored the shamanic spiritual and sexual energies of archaic cultures. On Open the Crown, the third LP credited to Arrington de Dionyso’s Malaikat dan Singa, Arrington combines several disparate stylistic elements from various points in his career, resulting in an album that at times resembles a compilation more than a studio album. Underneath the different representations of form, however, is a connectivity expressed through cohesive lyrical threads and apocalyptic imagery that binds the songs together into a coherent whole.

While early Old Time Relijun received - not necessarily applicable - comparisons to Captain Beefheart, due largely to Arrington’s vocal tics and an ingenue’s understanding of the bass clarinet, Arrington consistently added new tricks to the band’s bag. The La Sirena de Pecera EP, which recast several Old Time Relijun songs in Portuguese, Spanish, and Italian, pointed toward Arrington’s fascination with language and culture. The tinny, pawn shop guitars and four-on-the-floor drumming retained the twisted garage rock stomp of their initial efforts, but each subsequent album added layers to this formula.

Like any decent band, Old Time Relijun also had a constant underlying theme to tether their sonic experimentation to. Arrington’s music and visual art has always suggested a fascination with ritual and spiritual disciplines of cultures lost, and by the Catharsis in Crisis album, the exploration of the dichotomy between the past and present, the spirit and the flesh, was clearly laid out. Using apocalyptic imagery as an allegory for this dissonance in modern society, the trilogy of Lost Light, 2012, and Catharsis in Crisis portrays Arrington as a modern shaman. Though this word, particularly in reference to musicians, has long been sullied by bloated rock stars like Jim Morrison, these final Old Time Relijun albums reclaim the ancient ideals of transformation through music.

To this end, Arrington continued to research extended forms, studying circular breathing and Tuvan throat singing. This amalgam of techniques could have easily construed an undisciplined trainwreck, but Arrington seamlessly integrated everything from free jazz idioms to drones to “world” music to create a singular style.

After disbanding Old Time Relijun, Arrington reappeared a few years later with a new group, dubbed Malaikat dan Singa. Predicated on the interpretation of William Blake poems in an Indonesian tongue, the first Malaikat album manages to avoid the pretensions possible in such a project, instead churning out lurching rhythms that are somehow eminently danceable, even as they remain impenetrable. The second Malaikat dan Singa LP, Suara Naga, expounds on this formula.

On Open the Crown, the first thing one notices is a return to English lyrics. The persistent theme remains one of transformation in the face of destruction, of phoenixing. “There Will Be No Survivors” begins with the warning, “This airplane has no pilots/There will be no survivors/Apocalypse, rain down fire”, then continues on to find the value in tearing down and rebuilding.

“I Create in the Broken System” takes the Bo Diddley beat and turns it into a riotous schoolyard chant of change from within. Organ accents peek through, playing major key triads, which at first seem incongruent with the ominous feel of the insistent pulse, but become the glue between Arrington’s voice and the locked-down rhythm section. As Arrington intones, “I create in the broken system/I create in the broken down system/I create in the face of destruction/I create in the face of oppression”, it becomes clear that Open the Crown is capturing a modern undercurrent in a large segment of society, the fear of imminent collapse and the pushback against it. Just when it feels like things are getting too heavy, however, Arrington reveals the battleplan: “Fix the system with the broken down rhythm”.

At its core, that is what this album is about - rhythm, in its varied presentations, is paramount. Several songs capture the off-kilter feel of the previous Malaikat dan Singa records. Others play successfully off of simple bass and drum patterns, executed both precisely and with commanding feel. The two longer pieces, “Tak Terbatas (versi iblis)”, which is a more muscular reimagining of an earlier Malaikat tune, and “Halilintar (versi Jatilan)”, approach an ecstatic quality through disciplined repetition. The title track plays like a claustrophobic version of mid-period Old Time Relijun, all cacophony and pounding toms. Perhaps the most jarring - and polarizing - cut is the final song, ‘I Manipulate the Form’d and the Formless”, which approximates a new age rap track. This may be the least successful of the myriad forms explored on Open the Crown, but its ambition and out-and-out oddness still makes for a compelling listen.

Accompanying the diversity of styles is a heightened attention to production. Where previous Arrington releases tended to border on audio verite, each track on Open the Crown receives production touches relevant to the music. “There Will Be No Survivors” exhibits a dub vibe, and reverb is used to great effect on the vocals of “I Feel the Quickening”. The drums in particular receive individualized attention from track to track, syncing the sound with the feel. The addition of keyboards and the occasional horn or guitar overdub add to the proceedings without overwhelming the sonic spectrum.

This is an ambitious album that succeeds more often than it fails, and possesses that rare quality wherein failed experimentation still works in the larger context. Taken as a whole, Open the Crown is a grand statement that unifies Arrington de Dionyso’s various pathways to the ecstatic in music, and recasts experimental and global musical forms within the framework of western song.
- BBJr
Zoom Info

Arrington de Dionyso’s Malaikat dan Singa
Open the Crown
K Records, 2013


Creating in the Broken System

From the inception of Old Time Relijun in the mid ‘90s, Arrington de Dionyso has consistently revealed himself as a restless searcher, a musical chameleon on a singular higher quest. Utilizing elements from various forms of music and spiritual disciplines from every corner of the world, Arrington has relentlessly explored the shamanic spiritual and sexual energies of archaic cultures. On Open the Crown, the third LP credited to Arrington de Dionyso’s Malaikat dan Singa, Arrington combines several disparate stylistic elements from various points in his career, resulting in an album that at times resembles a compilation more than a studio album. Underneath the different representations of form, however, is a connectivity expressed through cohesive lyrical threads and apocalyptic imagery that binds the songs together into a coherent whole.

While early Old Time Relijun received - not necessarily applicable - comparisons to Captain Beefheart, due largely to Arrington’s vocal tics and an ingenue’s understanding of the bass clarinet, Arrington consistently added new tricks to the band’s bag. The La Sirena de Pecera EP, which recast several Old Time Relijun songs in Portuguese, Spanish, and Italian, pointed toward Arrington’s fascination with language and culture. The tinny, pawn shop guitars and four-on-the-floor drumming retained the twisted garage rock stomp of their initial efforts, but each subsequent album added layers to this formula.

Like any decent band, Old Time Relijun also had a constant underlying theme to tether their sonic experimentation to. Arrington’s music and visual art has always suggested a fascination with ritual and spiritual disciplines of cultures lost, and by the Catharsis in Crisis album, the exploration of the dichotomy between the past and present, the spirit and the flesh, was clearly laid out. Using apocalyptic imagery as an allegory for this dissonance in modern society, the trilogy of Lost Light, 2012, and Catharsis in Crisis portrays Arrington as a modern shaman. Though this word, particularly in reference to musicians, has long been sullied by bloated rock stars like Jim Morrison, these final Old Time Relijun albums reclaim the ancient ideals of transformation through music.

To this end, Arrington continued to research extended forms, studying circular breathing and Tuvan throat singing. This amalgam of techniques could have easily construed an undisciplined trainwreck, but Arrington seamlessly integrated everything from free jazz idioms to drones to “world” music to create a singular style.

After disbanding Old Time Relijun, Arrington reappeared a few years later with a new group, dubbed Malaikat dan Singa. Predicated on the interpretation of William Blake poems in an Indonesian tongue, the first Malaikat album manages to avoid the pretensions possible in such a project, instead churning out lurching rhythms that are somehow eminently danceable, even as they remain impenetrable. The second Malaikat dan Singa LP, Suara Naga, expounds on this formula.

On Open the Crown, the first thing one notices is a return to English lyrics. The persistent theme remains one of transformation in the face of destruction, of phoenixing. “There Will Be No Survivors” begins with the warning, “This airplane has no pilots/There will be no survivors/Apocalypse, rain down fire”, then continues on to find the value in tearing down and rebuilding.

“I Create in the Broken System” takes the Bo Diddley beat and turns it into a riotous schoolyard chant of change from within. Organ accents peek through, playing major key triads, which at first seem incongruent with the ominous feel of the insistent pulse, but become the glue between Arrington’s voice and the locked-down rhythm section. As Arrington intones, “I create in the broken system/I create in the broken down system/I create in the face of destruction/I create in the face of oppression”, it becomes clear that Open the Crown is capturing a modern undercurrent in a large segment of society, the fear of imminent collapse and the pushback against it. Just when it feels like things are getting too heavy, however, Arrington reveals the battleplan: “Fix the system with the broken down rhythm”.

At its core, that is what this album is about - rhythm, in its varied presentations, is paramount. Several songs capture the off-kilter feel of the previous Malaikat dan Singa records. Others play successfully off of simple bass and drum patterns, executed both precisely and with commanding feel. The two longer pieces, “Tak Terbatas (versi iblis)”, which is a more muscular reimagining of an earlier Malaikat tune, and “Halilintar (versi Jatilan)”, approach an ecstatic quality through disciplined repetition. The title track plays like a claustrophobic version of mid-period Old Time Relijun, all cacophony and pounding toms. Perhaps the most jarring - and polarizing - cut is the final song, ‘I Manipulate the Form’d and the Formless”, which approximates a new age rap track. This may be the least successful of the myriad forms explored on Open the Crown, but its ambition and out-and-out oddness still makes for a compelling listen.

Accompanying the diversity of styles is a heightened attention to production. Where previous Arrington releases tended to border on audio verite, each track on Open the Crown receives production touches relevant to the music. “There Will Be No Survivors” exhibits a dub vibe, and reverb is used to great effect on the vocals of “I Feel the Quickening”. The drums in particular receive individualized attention from track to track, syncing the sound with the feel. The addition of keyboards and the occasional horn or guitar overdub add to the proceedings without overwhelming the sonic spectrum.

This is an ambitious album that succeeds more often than it fails, and possesses that rare quality wherein failed experimentation still works in the larger context. Taken as a whole, Open the Crown is a grand statement that unifies Arrington de Dionyso’s various pathways to the ecstatic in music, and recasts experimental and global musical forms within the framework of western song.

- BBJr

bran(…)pos - Den of Ordure and Iridescence

Another delightful house show-related find for me: I’ve been unfamiliar with the work of bran(…)pos until now, but I’m beyond glad to get in on this music. With a busy discography dating back to 2000, “Den of Ordure and Iridescence” is a vinyl/digital release via Resipiscent, who previously released “Quaak Muttar” by bran(…)pos on CD in the form of a small, functional pinball game!

Bran(…)pos is the performance/recording pseudonym of theatre sound designer Jake Rodriguez, who combines compositional and performance strengths with experience in softsynth and instrument design to make this project a potent and personal experience. This record covers a wide stylistic range with dexterous ease, and I think it unites the weirdo improv/soundart camps with the whole neo-kosmische scene blossoming right now in the cassette label world.

I’m really vibing on how well this LP hangs with a lot of the music I’ve been digging lately, and it bridges some genre boundaries that have been somewhat firm in my mind before sitting in this Den. The album opener, “Tin Tract Mine,” explores the many sonic possibilities of the bran(…)pos live setup of the last few years. Briefly put, it’s an electroacoustic kind of approach, but mostly created using mouth sounds and mouth-controlled synths. At first, I was reminded of the salival sonic palette in the Phillip Gayle album I reviewed a while ago, with lots of lip pops, licking, sucking, gurgling, etc: the “extended technique” range of avant-vocalisations. But the synth sounds that are produced/controlled at the same time expand this music into really surprising territory, creating a sort of eai duet within a singular oral cavity. Amazing, unexpected stuff, slowly rising in density, with lots of wild stereo panning that sounds great on headphones. At first, synths drone and oscillate in low, rumbling supportive roles, but eventually they overtake most of the identifiable mouth/voice sounds, even incorporating an insistent beat toward the end of the piece. Regardless of how this is made, it’s a great listen, but the added bonus of seeing these mouth controls in action must surely put this work over the top. I can’t wait to see this in person (more on that below), but here’s a video to whet your appetite:

The second piece, “Sawed Off at Plasticized Forest,” is a great sonic cousin to the Carl Testa album I just reviewed. Here, the bran(…)pos synths are used in conjunction with some extended-technique cello playing. Though much less melodically focused than Testa’s “Iris,” the cello/electronics relationship here shares a similarly tight kind of interactivity, layers of granular bits of cello seemingly drifting into high-pitched buzzes and glitches, and conversely having passages of synthesized clouds supported by very busy bowing and knocking on the cello. At times I’m reminded of Zbigniew Karkowski’s extended piece for cello & electronics from a few years ago, “Nerve Cell_0,” too, though many of the synth sounds here start from 8-bit sounding places and edge their way into more ominous spaces slowly. Proceeding through three short movements, “Sawed Off” is full of surprising transitions and high energy, sounding both serious and playful at the same time.

As cool as the A-side of “Den of Ordure and Iridescence” is, I was totally blown away by the B-side opus, a stunning 19-minute piece aptly titled “Lioness.” While the first half of the album feels somewhat introverted and improvisatory in nature, with sounds being produced and manipulated from a singular point, “Lioness” highlights the intensely extroverted side of the bran(…)pos sound, carefully composed and with seemingly no orchestrational limitations. This is an expansive cinematic piece that boldly unites orchestral percussion and bits of found sound with a wall of modular synth goodness. This is the kind of work where a play-by-play doesn’t do justice, but experiencing the many scenic shifts in this piece feels profoundly moving and almost tangibly visible, evoking lush alien landscapes separated by desolate, Mad-Max feeling deserts. The proportions of synth and “real” instruments put this music into a really unique place, where the timbral approaches of folks like Vangelis and Tangerine Dream get infused with a sort of 20th. C. classical rigor. A fantastic piece, and it’s actually quite approachable, too: if you’re a slightly less adventurous listener, I’d suggest starting with the B-side first, where you’re sure to become so enamored with “Lioness” that you’ll warm up to the more abstract approaches of the A-side in no time.

Bran(…)pos is on tour right now promoting this album. Traveling with Blood Transfusion, a new project from Sharkiface, they’re making a stop at my Think Tank House one week from now. They’ll be joined by Moss, a local group seriously deep into synth playing and design as well. Event info here. And the rest of their tour dates around this amazing album will be:







—Scott Scholz
Zoom Info
bran(…)pos - Den of Ordure and Iridescence

Another delightful house show-related find for me: I’ve been unfamiliar with the work of bran(…)pos until now, but I’m beyond glad to get in on this music. With a busy discography dating back to 2000, “Den of Ordure and Iridescence” is a vinyl/digital release via Resipiscent, who previously released “Quaak Muttar” by bran(…)pos on CD in the form of a small, functional pinball game!

Bran(…)pos is the performance/recording pseudonym of theatre sound designer Jake Rodriguez, who combines compositional and performance strengths with experience in softsynth and instrument design to make this project a potent and personal experience. This record covers a wide stylistic range with dexterous ease, and I think it unites the weirdo improv/soundart camps with the whole neo-kosmische scene blossoming right now in the cassette label world.

I’m really vibing on how well this LP hangs with a lot of the music I’ve been digging lately, and it bridges some genre boundaries that have been somewhat firm in my mind before sitting in this Den. The album opener, “Tin Tract Mine,” explores the many sonic possibilities of the bran(…)pos live setup of the last few years. Briefly put, it’s an electroacoustic kind of approach, but mostly created using mouth sounds and mouth-controlled synths. At first, I was reminded of the salival sonic palette in the Phillip Gayle album I reviewed a while ago, with lots of lip pops, licking, sucking, gurgling, etc: the “extended technique” range of avant-vocalisations. But the synth sounds that are produced/controlled at the same time expand this music into really surprising territory, creating a sort of eai duet within a singular oral cavity. Amazing, unexpected stuff, slowly rising in density, with lots of wild stereo panning that sounds great on headphones. At first, synths drone and oscillate in low, rumbling supportive roles, but eventually they overtake most of the identifiable mouth/voice sounds, even incorporating an insistent beat toward the end of the piece. Regardless of how this is made, it’s a great listen, but the added bonus of seeing these mouth controls in action must surely put this work over the top. I can’t wait to see this in person (more on that below), but here’s a video to whet your appetite:

The second piece, “Sawed Off at Plasticized Forest,” is a great sonic cousin to the Carl Testa album I just reviewed. Here, the bran(…)pos synths are used in conjunction with some extended-technique cello playing. Though much less melodically focused than Testa’s “Iris,” the cello/electronics relationship here shares a similarly tight kind of interactivity, layers of granular bits of cello seemingly drifting into high-pitched buzzes and glitches, and conversely having passages of synthesized clouds supported by very busy bowing and knocking on the cello. At times I’m reminded of Zbigniew Karkowski’s extended piece for cello & electronics from a few years ago, “Nerve Cell_0,” too, though many of the synth sounds here start from 8-bit sounding places and edge their way into more ominous spaces slowly. Proceeding through three short movements, “Sawed Off” is full of surprising transitions and high energy, sounding both serious and playful at the same time.

As cool as the A-side of “Den of Ordure and Iridescence” is, I was totally blown away by the B-side opus, a stunning 19-minute piece aptly titled “Lioness.” While the first half of the album feels somewhat introverted and improvisatory in nature, with sounds being produced and manipulated from a singular point, “Lioness” highlights the intensely extroverted side of the bran(…)pos sound, carefully composed and with seemingly no orchestrational limitations. This is an expansive cinematic piece that boldly unites orchestral percussion and bits of found sound with a wall of modular synth goodness. This is the kind of work where a play-by-play doesn’t do justice, but experiencing the many scenic shifts in this piece feels profoundly moving and almost tangibly visible, evoking lush alien landscapes separated by desolate, Mad-Max feeling deserts. The proportions of synth and “real” instruments put this music into a really unique place, where the timbral approaches of folks like Vangelis and Tangerine Dream get infused with a sort of 20th. C. classical rigor. A fantastic piece, and it’s actually quite approachable, too: if you’re a slightly less adventurous listener, I’d suggest starting with the B-side first, where you’re sure to become so enamored with “Lioness” that you’ll warm up to the more abstract approaches of the A-side in no time.

Bran(…)pos is on tour right now promoting this album. Traveling with Blood Transfusion, a new project from Sharkiface, they’re making a stop at my Think Tank House one week from now. They’ll be joined by Moss, a local group seriously deep into synth playing and design as well. Event info here. And the rest of their tour dates around this amazing album will be:







—Scott Scholz
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bran(…)pos - Den of Ordure and Iridescence

Another delightful house show-related find for me: I’ve been unfamiliar with the work of bran(…)pos until now, but I’m beyond glad to get in on this music. With a busy discography dating back to 2000, “Den of Ordure and Iridescence” is a vinyl/digital release via Resipiscent, who previously released “Quaak Muttar” by bran(…)pos on CD in the form of a small, functional pinball game!

Bran(…)pos is the performance/recording pseudonym of theatre sound designer Jake Rodriguez, who combines compositional and performance strengths with experience in softsynth and instrument design to make this project a potent and personal experience. This record covers a wide stylistic range with dexterous ease, and I think it unites the weirdo improv/soundart camps with the whole neo-kosmische scene blossoming right now in the cassette label world.

I’m really vibing on how well this LP hangs with a lot of the music I’ve been digging lately, and it bridges some genre boundaries that have been somewhat firm in my mind before sitting in this Den. The album opener, “Tin Tract Mine,” explores the many sonic possibilities of the bran(…)pos live setup of the last few years. Briefly put, it’s an electroacoustic kind of approach, but mostly created using mouth sounds and mouth-controlled synths. At first, I was reminded of the salival sonic palette in the Phillip Gayle album I reviewed a while ago, with lots of lip pops, licking, sucking, gurgling, etc: the “extended technique” range of avant-vocalisations. But the synth sounds that are produced/controlled at the same time expand this music into really surprising territory, creating a sort of eai duet within a singular oral cavity. Amazing, unexpected stuff, slowly rising in density, with lots of wild stereo panning that sounds great on headphones. At first, synths drone and oscillate in low, rumbling supportive roles, but eventually they overtake most of the identifiable mouth/voice sounds, even incorporating an insistent beat toward the end of the piece. Regardless of how this is made, it’s a great listen, but the added bonus of seeing these mouth controls in action must surely put this work over the top. I can’t wait to see this in person (more on that below), but here’s a video to whet your appetite:

The second piece, “Sawed Off at Plasticized Forest,” is a great sonic cousin to the Carl Testa album I just reviewed. Here, the bran(…)pos synths are used in conjunction with some extended-technique cello playing. Though much less melodically focused than Testa’s “Iris,” the cello/electronics relationship here shares a similarly tight kind of interactivity, layers of granular bits of cello seemingly drifting into high-pitched buzzes and glitches, and conversely having passages of synthesized clouds supported by very busy bowing and knocking on the cello. At times I’m reminded of Zbigniew Karkowski’s extended piece for cello & electronics from a few years ago, “Nerve Cell_0,” too, though many of the synth sounds here start from 8-bit sounding places and edge their way into more ominous spaces slowly. Proceeding through three short movements, “Sawed Off” is full of surprising transitions and high energy, sounding both serious and playful at the same time.

As cool as the A-side of “Den of Ordure and Iridescence” is, I was totally blown away by the B-side opus, a stunning 19-minute piece aptly titled “Lioness.” While the first half of the album feels somewhat introverted and improvisatory in nature, with sounds being produced and manipulated from a singular point, “Lioness” highlights the intensely extroverted side of the bran(…)pos sound, carefully composed and with seemingly no orchestrational limitations. This is an expansive cinematic piece that boldly unites orchestral percussion and bits of found sound with a wall of modular synth goodness. This is the kind of work where a play-by-play doesn’t do justice, but experiencing the many scenic shifts in this piece feels profoundly moving and almost tangibly visible, evoking lush alien landscapes separated by desolate, Mad-Max feeling deserts. The proportions of synth and “real” instruments put this music into a really unique place, where the timbral approaches of folks like Vangelis and Tangerine Dream get infused with a sort of 20th. C. classical rigor. A fantastic piece, and it’s actually quite approachable, too: if you’re a slightly less adventurous listener, I’d suggest starting with the B-side first, where you’re sure to become so enamored with “Lioness” that you’ll warm up to the more abstract approaches of the A-side in no time.

Bran(…)pos is on tour right now promoting this album. Traveling with Blood Transfusion, a new project from Sharkiface, they’re making a stop at my Think Tank House one week from now. They’ll be joined by Moss, a local group seriously deep into synth playing and design as well. Event info here. And the rest of their tour dates around this amazing album will be:

—Scott Scholz

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