Sunday, February 11, 2018

Noise Eating Monsters-self titled; Muteant Sounds, 2017, digital release

Installment number two from Muteant Sounds has Disaster Amnesiac moving and grooving to the sounds of Noise Eating Monsters, a UK-based group of quite significant pedigree. The three members of this improvising trio have played with all manner of big name players, and one can most definitely hear the confidence on their self-titled release from last year.
Noise Eating Monsters starts off with the trio of guitarist Alex Ward, baritone sax player Tim Hill, and drummer Alex Thomas marking out their respective spaces on Crunch Time. What's fascinating to this listener is the controlled manner with which the trio builds up the tune's riff, each side of this triangle slowly stretching out for a few minutes' duration until such time as they collectively blast off into the sonic thickets of collective sound production. Ward seems to favor an minimal set up: if he's using pedals, I can't tell. Thomas has some seriously pinpoint accuracy in his grooves, and Hill's richly melodic bari sound supplies all kind of invention. Noise Eating Monster show themselves to be a powerful trio, right off the bat.
Rumble starts off with the group engaged in quick, chattering interaction before Thomas sets up a stomping tom tom pattern which is quickly grabbed by Ward on great rhythmic accompaniment. This groove sends Hill into a prolonged sax musing. Disaster Amnesiac keeps thinking about the original No Wave groups as I've jammed Rumble. The shredding guitar rhythms, paired with the big groove and reedy yelp keep pushing the perceptions to that thought. It's three times longer than Link Wray's version of Rumble, but equally greasy.
Ward opens up Aether with chilly guitar harmonics and glassy slides as the drums and sax comment somewhat sparingly. The Monsters dip down into some fairly dramatic, almost quiet interactions here before building up another monster free groove, driven by Ward's tight strumming and Thomas's exacting sticking. There's more of that great, clean six-string atop press rolls, both of which the push the sax into spiraling declamations.
Tim Hill takes the lead on Djin Din, coaxing ripped and warbled tones from his sax as high end piercings stab out from the guitar and the cymbals shimmer. One of the tags on Noise Eating Monsters page at Muteant Sounds is "garage Jazz", and Disaster Amnesiac can see why it is while listening to Djin Din.  The track has that kind of Punk Rock edge that brands it as something bubbling up from the non-mannered feels that are so much more easily accessed within those out of the way places. This may be the most traditionally heavy piece on this release. Noise Eating Monsters really blaze here as they slice and dice with intricate interactivity.
Album closer Monster Munch gets chewed up with more of that great, quickening riffing from Ward. He gets great low tones, too, as Thomas sticks out circular 16th note flurries and Hill preaches apocalyptic in the fury. Disaster Amnesiac hears the Thrash roots from the drummer's Bolt Thrower tenure on Munch as he pushes much air around his kit towards its conclusion.
Noise Eating Monsters, with their tight interactive improvising, stripped down aesthetics, and energetic sounds, have a great release under their belts with Noise Eating Monsters. It's meaty power trio music that swings like mad as it packs great big improvisational punches.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Arnold Young & Flavor Mixing Systems-Live at Westport Coffee House Theater; Muteant Sounds, 2017; digital release

Recently a missive came out at Muteant Sounds Facebook page: "...reviewers, we'll send you stuff to review...." Needless to say, it took about a day of consideration before Disaster Amnesiac was hitting them back via private message, offering my services. I've bought their product before, mind you, and most definitely will again. That said, it was an offer that I couldn't pass up. Muteant started me off with Arnold Young & Flavor Mixing Systems Live at Westport Coffee House Theater. Disaster Amnesiac has been listening. Here's some of what's been heard.
Made up of a sprawling three pieces which clock in at a little bit south of 45 minutes, Live at Westport starts off all jungle style with Bamboo Interlude Texas Driveway Holding Pattern. Wooden flutes chatter, flutter, and scrawl as all members of this quintet dive in together. Bass guitarist Henry Fording Eddins picks up the harmonics and summons in the sax of Russell "Fairweather" Thorpe and really cool bowed upright bass from John Nichols. Drummer leader  UN RA Arnold Young swiftly joins in the fray, and suddenly the listener it transported to the American mid-West as the group improvises in a manner that sounds quite AACM or BAG in its approach: lots of space within the interplay, marching rhythms, scattershot percussion leads and lots of clearly attentive listening. A bit deeper in, trumpeter Nick Howell coaxes great big gut bucket bleats from his horn as he mixes things up with Young's drumming commentary. Bamboo Interlude drifts into a Bluesy ending section, with all members going collective yahoo as they lose the holding pattern and set their ship out onto a deep, muddy river of composed-sounding jam.
The second piece, Outerlude Joshua, continues with said mid-Western feel as Eddins, Thorpe and Young languidly wrap their tones around each other. This relaxed feel allows for an opening through which everyone begins to collectively strut, with Young pushing all hands on deck and into some really satisfying playing, Howell and Thorpe doing a call-and-response dance as the basses clip and click in their lower registers. Joshua has the kind of spaciousness that has Disaster Amnesiac's head spinning in a gooey bliss, and as the individual solos commence, I'm all ears. Young's accompaniment is tight and tasty as he weaves with Eddins and Nichols. This trio warps and wraps their sounds in all manner of stop-start zones, and the horns respond accordingly, moving up, down, and around their registers as they make their statements. Eventually, things boil down to duo statements before the collective comes roaring back to walk things home by way of whispered goodbyes. Twenty four minutes of highly enjoyable intimacy. It's what you want from your Jazz, yes? Well, it's surely what Disaster Amnesiac wants from mine.
Live at Westport Coffee House Theater concludes with a short piece, FlavorMix Drums, in which Young gets his Funk ya ya's out as the basses push him and the horns shout their encouragement. He takes a short solo, stops abruptly, almost as if he realizes that he's suddenly alone, and that's it for the set. Don't buy the modesty, though, he's kicking ass as he stomps out his changes.
Fat, hip, and juicy, Arnold Young & Flavor Mixing Systems Live at Westport Coffee House Theater is a fine set of grooving, spacing, and all out enjoyable slice of Heartland Jazz, coming at the listener real and hot. Fans of the polyglot truth of the music will want to drink from this mixture.

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.