Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Scarab-In Difference; Genetic Dead End Recordings, no date given (recorded in 2006)

One thing holds true in the music industry: Document Your Work.
Case in point: on New Year's Eve, while at KPFA studios in Berkeley, Disaster Amnesiac had an opportunity to sort through a pile of giveaway CDs in the lobby area. The cover of In Difference, by the group Scarab, immediately caught my eye, and I quickly filed it away into a jacket pocket, hopeful that its sounds would be as cool as its cover. Having been completely unfamiliar with the group, and having spun this disc a ton of times over the past couple of weeks, Disaster Amnesiac is certainly glad that Scarab made this document.
In Difference starts off with the powerful Your Wholeness, which is propelled by a great, staggering rhythm section beat and cutting high end notes from the guitar before dropping into thicker riffs and singer Melanie Skelchy's cool vocal style. Her sound on this tune, and throughout the CD, is a dramatic spoke/sung alto that's really emotive: one gets the sense that she means what she's singin'. Additionally, there's well placed bell percussion and what sounds like a Ramayana Monkey Chant within the mix here. It's chaotic and ordered simultaneously, the way all great Rock tunes ought to be, and as such, sets  the pace for this work.
Mixed right into its predecessor, Slipped keeps up the dramatic vibes more dirty riffs from the guitars, played by either M. Skelchy, Felipe Neira, or Russell Skelchy (they're all credited), more of the effective vocals, and real fine high-hat driven drumming before dipping into a keyboarded mid-section. This part provides great tension with its tom tom marching beat and sprayed lead guitar work as M. continues with her tales. Things lead back to more driving hat/cymbal pound to round this one out.
Scarab get Tex-Mex on track number three, FTA, a fusion of waltz and more driving Punk Rock, sung en Espanol by Felipe Neira or Russell Skelchy. This tune rips along with accordion sounds that I'm guessing come from the keyboard of Mark Jolly, and more great guitar/bass/drums blending; it's the style of this blend, familiar yet obviously worked up within their group dynamic, that Disaster Amnesiac is absolutely digging about this band.
Next up come the atmospherics of Yaadon, with more of Melanie on the mic. Said atmosphere comes from heavily strummed acoustic guitar and great percussive sounds of the metallic variety. Thick bassoon by Lisa Boggeri makes the mix even thicker. Yaadon has a kind of demented circus feel in its first half, before getting more reserved, with cool tremelo electric guitar to match the acoustic picking that lead back to the initial atmospheric oomph. It speaks volumes for the musical vision that Scarab had or, possibly, still has.
This Is My Crime revs on as track five, with more of that heavy waltz time, Spanish vocal demonstrativeness, and a nicely placed mid-song breakdown. It packs a lot of punch within its short duration, ripping away at what by now will surely be a nicely tattered perception of an attentive listener to In Difference.
That listener will get a bit of a break during West Wash, which commences with Jazz vibes, lonely trumpet calls, and fuzzed bass before dropping into an almost Garage Punk stomp. As Disaster Amnesiac has grooved to this one, I've imagined a group working tunes out amid engine grease and ashtrays. It has the kind of looseness within the drum arrangements that makes me want to stomp and shout and twist. Again, Scarab must be commended for their imaginative musical mash.
As opposed to the Tex-Mex of FTA, El Canoero strikes me as a bit more Angeleno, with hints of Cumbia and hard hitting single note guitar slices  within the tight rhythms of the percussion section. What a great, manic ending note from Skelchy, to boot. Her singing certainly does have impact!
More of that rhythmic acumen is on display on The Big Stick, a Punk Rock rager that is moved by fuzzy bass tones, sweet ride cymbal beats, even more ripping, circular guitar riffing and some tight arrangements. It winds down with keys that evoke Black Metal in my ears. Again, Disaster Amnesiac is really impressed with Scarab's blend of disparate musical elements into a coherent, singular whole band sound.
After a goofy little sketch about a cell phone, In Difference continues with Tango de la Barba. If one wants to find a fusion of Tango and Doom Metal, one may want to look here. The guitars distort deliciously, the drums beat heavily onto the aural concrete, the damn thing just kicks righteous ass in a way that has Disaster Amnesiac thinking of the beSST South Bay stuff from, say, 1985-1991 or so. It's dipped in the sweat of Dukowski, or seems that way to me.
The Black Metal returns with Done Talking, as icy keyboards and dour chanting some high lonesome twang. The male singer sounds exhausted and emotional; it's the kind of Emo that I can handle, though, especially on drives home from work, which have featured In Difference as their soundtrack quite a bit lately.
A swift, shaker-assisted D-Beat drum groove brings things to a close on Speed to Stop. As with other tunes on the disc, Scarab do an exemplary job of using the basic tools of Punk Rock as a launching off point for music styling of their own. There is nothing stock about the ways in which they shape their tones and rhythms, and for that Disaster Amnesiac salutes them. I can imagine Speed to Stop as a high energy live set closer, and I'm saddened that I have not seen this group live.
Cursory web searches have shown me little about Scarab, except for an Amazon listing that shows In Difference as having been released in 2016, not 2006. Are they still making music together? Have they been long-gone as a working band? Either way, Disaster Amnesiac is very glad that they documented these songs.
Can anyone let me know of their fate?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Amy Reed-(solo guitar); cassette, no label or date given, recorded 2014

A recent drive up to Gold Lion Arts in Sacramento for Rent Romus's 50th birthday party had Disaster Amnesiac perusing their richly supplied merch table; tons of releases from artists affiliated with that really neat, intimate space fill it up. I grabbed (solo guitar), a short cassette release from electric guitar extender Amy Reed. Being familiar with her work, I knew that it would be worth the few bucks of admission, happily provided right to her open hand.
Here's what this listener heard.
Given that there are no sides listed, and Disaster Amnesiac has flipped this cassette a bunch of times now, I'll just say that one of them starts of with combined scraping and sliding actions from Reed's guitar. These moves throw off all kinds of overtones from the amp. These tones then proceed to ear worm their way into the mind in delightfully abstract ways, albeit pretty aggressive, ways. As stated, being familiar with Amy's playing and gear, Disaster Amnesiac has enjoyed imagining the tubes of her small-ish amp being warmed to a nice, red glow from this primal six string shattering. After this initial attack, she proceeds into playing what sound somewhat like chords, which, being made up of her own extended techniques, duly  expose her unique, highly individualized instrumental language for the attentive listener. Imagine melodies coaxed from rusted barbed wire, amplified and buzzing out on the chaparral around Davis, and you'll be close.
The other side of (solo guitar) gets going with slightly less density, as Reed ruminates on a chord of two simple notes before dropping in additions that ripple outward from the initial statement. She keeps ramping things up from there, thickening the sonic palette with woozy bending tones and percussive string hits. It's all very disconcerting the most delightful of ways, and then, out of nowhere, the tape simply stops, mid-jam. Dang it, Reed, why'd you leave us hanging?
The good news on that note, at least for California residents, is that Amy Reed plays pretty regularly, especially in the Sacramento and Solano County areas. I believe that she makes the occasional foray out into places east as well.
Take note, guitar lovers: (solo guitar) most surely give your ears the kind of bristling that the instrument is so fine at providing.

Friday, January 5, 2018

LSJ-Misty Nights; eh? Records #98, cassette

Hot on the heels of the lush, lovely eh? #97, and the perceptions are forcibly turned over into a completely different space with Misty Nights, the collaborative tape release from Noise troika of Lisa Cameron, Shawn David McMillen and Josh Ronsen.
What one will find here is a much more noisy, murky affair, full of blasting sonic battling and mysterious, unsettling quieter passages.
Things kick off right away with Rayon Gingham, which, after some clarinet/guitar tuning, blasts off into the outer limits of Noise. It's as if this trio start off searching for a door to opened; once it's found, they kick the damn thing off its hinges and destroy the room. Seriously wailing catharsis all over the place from what sounds like amplified feedback and vocalized expressionism.
Side one continues on with Video Pirate, featuring more of those looming feedback strains and percussive taps. This one has a kind of searching feeling as LSJ search around each others' sonic noggin spaces for openings through which to find new spots. The levels drop to practically silent at times, and the drama gets palpable. Listen close for the mysteries.
Third up, and last for side A, SVU in SUV at SVT rolls out chiming percussive hits and more Noise winds, seemingly blowing over from Pirate, before lifting off into full-blown feedback knocks  pulsing body blows. It's paced slow and low, but don't let it lull you: your mind may get TKO'd, especially from its closing blasts. They're worth waiting for, but just have some smelling salts in your corner for side B's rounds....
Which commence with Pants with Shit-ton of Pockets, wherein some shifty plans are laid out on the table re: clarinet talents, a cell phone rings, and the group continues with their primordial jamming; more scraping, de-tuned strumming, and just overall primitive questing for new Noise fires leads to more of those big, sweeping sound waves of percussive hits and attacking stabs that jump out of the speakers and into the listener's sweet spots.
Misty Nights ends with the thematically linked Dead Fog and Dead Fog II: The Chirping. With dramatic, almost nausea-inducing feedback to start, and clipping, clattering hits surrounding it, Dead Fog travels to scenes of aligned, disturbing buzzing and compellingly creepy drama. If this soundtrack is not for a real movie, Disaster Amnesiac strongly suggests that someone out there get down to making it. LSJ have provided a scarily effective score for it. It's there for the taking, so get on with it!
Much as its predecessor at eh? Records, but coming from an entirely different aesthetic root, Misty Nights is packaged quite nicely, with  a cool, insert that gives this trio's creation myth and a lush, well-lettered J-card.
Although it's stated that this recording was done in a living room, as Disaster Amnesiac has listened, I've imagined Cameron, McMillen, and Ronsen ensconced in some dank basement, blasting away the mildew on the wall and shaking up the subterranean environment. Misty Nights has that kind of Underground shock to it.

Friday, December 29, 2017

L. Eugene Methe/Megan Siebe-Revisited, Revisited, Revisited; eh? Records #97, cassette

Christmas arrived a few days late at chez Amnesiac, thanks to another great package of goodies from eh? Records. Bryan Day generously sent along three new cassettes for review and enjoyment. All signs point to maximum doses of both, if Revisited, Revisited, Revisited by L. Eugene Methe and Megan Siebe is any indicator.
Conceived and executed as "a deconstruction of Geoffrey Burgon's main theme for the 1981 TV mini-series Brideshead Revisited", Revisited takes shape in the form of a lovely ascending melodic line played on cello by Siebe, which is then supported and stretched by her violin and various electronic sounds and treatments from Methe.
What Disaster Amnesiac finds so lovely and compelling about this tape's sounds are the ways in which they float with such delicacy. As I've listened, it's felt to me at times as if I've been ensconced in some sort of timeless, beautiful chamber, surrounded and tickled by sublime, glassy sonic baubles.
The main melodic line repeats many times, bringing the perceptions back to its initial Chamber Music feel, and is then tweaked and torqued with subtle electronic treatments, with the violins singing along harmoniously. There's never a feel of exhaustion from these iterations throughout the four cycles that make up this piece though, only clearly stated Romanticism that resonates extremely well with the shorter days and longer evenings currently in effect within this hemisphere. A few days back, Disaster Amnesiac watched footage of surfers chasing freezing waves in the Icelandic winter; the sounds on Revisited, Revisited, Revisited have me thinking back to its shots for some reason.  Perhaps it's the way in which this piece moves with such stately, oceanic pacing. Anyway, I figure that this tape's vibes are exceedingly worthy of those types of soundtracks. Surely, though, Revisited's sounds would enhance the moods of any given mood or movie.
Packaged with a mysteriously delicious cover photo, clearly legible font on the J-card, and cool additional artwork on the cassette itself, to match and enhance its incredible sound world, Revisited, Revisited, Revisited is one not to miss. Yet another bullseye at the target of creative, individualistic musical production within the current scene from eh? Records!
Keep your tape heads clean and stay tuned for words on two more releases soon.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Steppenwolf-Hour Of the Wolf; Epic Records, 1975

It's been an age since Disaster Amnesiac reviewed anything from Steppenwolf, but that most definitely does not mean that I've stopped listening to them. Last week, while pontificating wildly to alto saxophone shredder Tom Weeks about Slow Flux reminded me that I still had not really gotten around to listening to my copy of Hour Of the Wolf, acquired as a two-fer CD with the Flux. Naturally, it's been dug up and heard.
Hour Of the Wolf starts off on a peppy, horn-punctuated note with Caroline (Are You Ready for the Outlaw World), right away distinguishing it from its predecessor. As far as Rock songs with horns go, it's not bad, either, especially when John Kay sings; there's really no amount of affect that can dispel the man's great tenor croon. Also great about the tune are the portions during which the band gets down to their signature Jerry Edmonton-led jamming stomp. Simple rhythm guitar strumming sets up cool keyboard colors from Andy Chapin, which begs the question, "where is Goldy McJohn?" Caroline is a fine slice of mid 1970's Pop inflected Rock. Were the 'wolf under a bit of pressure to deliver another hit? Disaster Amnesiac likes to think that I'd have bought the single.
Up next, Annie, Annie Over, such a great title for song, continues with the somewhat smoother keyboard driven sounds, telling the tale of second time around love. As with Caroline, this listener finds the most satisfaction when Steppenwolf get down to their more jam driven zones, this time as the song tags and fades. Female vocals are utilized, but, thankfully, they're kept harmonically close to Kay's, which strikes me as an aesthetically smart move. They enhance, but don't detract. You've got to hand it to Steppenwolf, they knew well what would not work in the mix.
Heavier Rock relief arrives with Two for the Love of One, a hooky tale of fightin' and boozin', bringing a great slowed down, slicked up biker Rock with a supremely catchy chorus and some of Steppenwolf's best mid-tune workouts. As Disaster Amnesiac has grooved to this song, I've imagined it being a fine vehicle for live call and response interactivity. Here's to hoping that audiences heard it as such! Two for the Love of One hits hard and effectively.
Road woe and its attendant debauchery are touched upon on Just For Tonight. The acoustic strumming brings me back to Smoky Factory Blues from Slow Flux, although instead of lyrics dedicated to a domestic lover, Kay seems to be singing the any and all ladies of the tour cycle. Being a generous dude, he gives them their own voice, in duet with either an actual female or one of the band singing soprano. As with previous tunes, Disaster Amnesiac can't help but wonder if this one had been written and included herein as a potential hit. These types of sentiments can grate a bit, but, the music industry is a tough master and demands these types of considerations from all of its charges. Hopefully it got 'em laid at least.
Things get a bit too razamatazz with Hard Rock Road, a slick bit of coming of age Rock 'n Roll propaganda, featuring the story of newly minted candidate for future treatment on songs such as Just For Tonight.  This song, sadly, kind of sucks, but at least Bobby Cochran plays really fine rhythm guitar throughout. His sounds are clear and clean, punctuating the changes and moving things along with gusto. More horns pick things up at the end, but Disaster Amnesiac ain't feeling them, especially the peppy alto sax to take it home. Serious Jazz Hands there....ah, no thanks guys. How 'bout letting Bobby wail a bit more?
Thankfully, Steppenwolf gets back on track for Someone Told a Lie, a major key riff that indeed allows Bobby to play more.  That signature sound of the mid-1970's, the vocoder, makes an appearance in the mix, and actually sounds pretty cool. Edmonton and bassist George Biondo lay it down, moving things swiftly along as the keys color and the gits strum and riff. Kay's world weary ruminations ring experienced and possibly a bit sad. It must have been rough to face the harder realities of that post-Aquarian era. That said, John's voice is always welcome to these ears, even as they deliver the harsher news.
Wolf's penultimate track, Another Lifetime, continues on with the sadness. Here, Kay sounds even more disappointed. Perhaps the previous decade's hard work with Steppenwolf was starting to catch up with him. I find the lyrics to be uplifting despite that, but their insights are clearly hard won and stinging. Icy keys lift the music as Edmonton give yet another understated, brilliant percussive performance. Another Lifetime has the feel of being a template for the power ballads that so many Hard Rock groups started delivering a decade hence.
Hints of the then-burgeoning New Wave abound in closing track Mr. Penny Pincher. Swirling synths frame the tale of some tight wad tight ass patriarchal type. John Kay damns him to lifetime of downers as the the bass pumps out eight notes and the guitars slash an almost Ska rhythm. This tune sounds as if it's pointing the way toward the second half of the 1970's, meshing hints of New York Punk with touches of Disco, both propped up by Steppenwolf's interactive jamming mastery. Not so much an anthem as a harbinger.
Although Disaster Amnesiac has really enjoyed my interaction with Hour Of the Wolf, I keep getting the feeling that it's the work of men that are exhausted on multiple fronts. It's nowhere near as solid a document of songs as its predecessor is, somewhat flawed in a few of its attempts. Still, the catchier moments are worth hearing, and, as mentioned, any time John Kay is the featured singer, Disaster Amnesiac will gladly lend an ear.





Sunday, December 17, 2017

Goodybe z'ev

Late last night Disaster Amnesiac was awakened by some sort of rumbling. Knowing that sleep would elude me for a while, I logged on to social media and saw the news of the passing of Stefan Weisser, aka z'ev.
Along with being tremendously saddened by this news, and happy to have seen him play live, Disaster Amnesiac has been marveling at the man's influence. z'ev's use of metals as percussive instruments within his performances has been incredibly influential. What had been a method utilized seemingly only by Avant Garde composers made the jump over into popular culture in a huge away, in large part on account of his steadfast use of it. A few years back, I saw an ad for an "Industrial percussion line" of some major drum manufacturer, and all that I could wonder was if z'ev was being cut in on the royalties. Surely, others that were familiar with him felt the same way? Additionally, his work with textual cut ups and permutations, approached through the lens of pure poetics, was wide ranging and incredibly deep. In many ways, he took the mantle from Burroughs and Gysin and pushed their innovations further. There's also the hermetic, alchemical research done by the man. The way that I see it, this area of his life has only just begun. It would seem to me that any of his writings within that area will be courses of study for serious students of Hermetic arts. Additionally, he had style. Disaster Amnesiac has seen more than a few Industrial percussionists that had been pretty clearly aping his looks and threads. The thousands of people that have read and obsessed over his RE/search Industrial Culture interview will know exactly what Disaster Amnesiac means.  Hell,  I still haven't forgiven a reviewer for the mid 2000's zine Swingset who mocked z'ev in what to me was an incredibly petty and disrespectful way.
z'ev performed and thrived at the margins of the greater society, utilizing a lot of its cast off materials to make, in his words, "...schonste muziek...". His sounds and actions will continue to influence and effect those that have been exposed to them.
Goodbye, z'ev. You truly were an Artist and Poet.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Sage Pbbbt-invocations of unknown entities; Tone List Records CD, 2017

Late night insomnia-related web surfing lead Disaster Amnesiac to Sage Pbbbt's invocations of unknown entities. A promo blurb showed up on a page that I follow, and its descriptor of the release's nature, "True Shamanic Black Metal", had me hitting "purchase" within minutes. After a bit of a wait (things take time to ship from Australia to the U.S.!), it's been acquired and listened to repeatedly.
Consisting of three tracks, Charms (1), Charms (2), and Trange, which are spread over two discs' length, invocations gets down to some very out there musical production. As Disaster Amnesiac has listened, I've marveled at their incantatory otherness.
Sage Pbbbt pairs down her musical tools to voice and percussion throughout. The drumming, which sounds as if it's done with a kit of two bass drums and a couple of tom toms, rolls and thunders with a deliciously non-linear tack. It feels as though she allowed herself the freedom to play patterns and rolls until the time was right to take space, to let the drums breathe. Additionally great for this fan of drums is the way that they sound here: loosely tuned, big and booming. Along with the lovely timbres, it's great to hear what sound like a few different striking implements utilized on the drums. Invocations' percussion sounds wonderfully live, vigorous, and untamed. Not always a common occurrence, that's for sure. Credit must be given here to engineer Dan O'Conner. What a great job of capturing what can be a very elusive vibe.
As for the entities, Pbbbt channels them through vocal accompaniment to the drums. Disaster Amnesiac has been able to identify a clutch separate ones. Among the vocal emanations (I deeply hesitate to call them "styles"), there are screeching banshee, Tuvan shaman, total alien voice, operatic tenor,  Medieval farmer, and urban wild person. During today's listen, a new voice seemed to arise from the mix, so, presumably, the list could be close to infinite, depending on how closely one can listen. It feels like an absolutely tough exercise in extended technique, but, then again, invocations of unknown entities is expressly described as being a work that aims beyond that type of qualifier. Still, the sheer physical range is impressive.
As invocations of unknown entities has played around Disaster Amnesiac for the last several days, I've wondered too it many Black Metal fans will find their way around to it. It most definitely has the Outsider feel that makes so much of that approach to self expression so vital and great.  It most definitely has entranced this listener. Lastly, major kudos to Sage Pbbbt for using the phrase "exploratory music" on the liner note, as well. A real perception changer for me!