Friday, December 16, 2005

\m/ Early Man \m/

So as of late Early Man has been in heavy fucking rotation. And I do mean heavy. This record is a late comer into my top 10 list for 2005. The story goes like this: these 2 guys were raised in the Pentecostal faith and had no knowledge of secular pop culture until the age of 19, when they discovered rock and roll. After being ostracized by their families they move to New York and start a band. Could be a bullshit story to fuel the hype machine, but at least it's a killer story. More compelling than a drum and guitar duo claiming to be brother and sister but are ex-lovers. Anyway, this particular drum and guitar duo make a hell of a racket. Pulling from classic metal influences like early Sabbath, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest, the fact that these guys had been allegedly shielded from pop culture may be their saving grace. I'll just be blunt and say that most popular (or mainstream or whatever you want to call it) heavy acts these days just fucking suck (although there are exceptions to the rule). (excuse the double parentheses in that last sentence by the way) Maybe whatever it is that these two weren't exposed to as kids kept them from having short black hair, multiple lip piercings, a black t-shirt with another shitty bands logo sloppily screen printed on it, and writing "metal" songs about heartbreak. Let's face it, Zappa was right, broken hearts ARE for assholes. There's no crying in metal. Early Man knows this. That's why they wrote "Death Is The Answer". It starts off with this slow, lumbering Sabbath riff and heavily reverbed Ozzy influenced vocals. It makes you want to forgive the "Prince of Darkness" for his "reality" show follies and that hag he married and the 2 brats he spawned. Then it moves into a faster paced middle section, with scorching twin leads before reprising with the aforementioned Sabbath intro. Overall it's just a solid, heavy record that can be played from start to finish without having to skip any weak tracks. Although you'll probably want to replay Death is the Answer a few times. Enough of me flapping my god damn gums about it, I like to carry on after a few drinks. Just listen to it Oh yeah, their full length was put out by Matador, who is also putting out the next Belle & Sebastian LP in February. AKA the polar opposite of what Early Man sounds like.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

another recruit for the medicated girls brigade

Hey Voltaire has a new band. Shut up, don't wrinkle your nose up like that. Called The Oddz, it sounds absolutely nothing like his main band. Instead of melancholy cello drenched dirges, this is happy indie pop-meets-new wave, yielding highly infectious results. The song that I've been listening to non-stop over the past couple days is "Medicated Girls Brigade". It almost reminds me of the Dead Milkmen, both for the clean, jangly guitar tone and the liberal dose of dark humor thrown into the the lyrics . (and listen to the chord changes, is that a brighter, slowed down "Skulls" by The Misfits??) Lyrics wise, it's a lighthearted, whimsical protest paean against pharmaceutical corporations and their doctors/pushers. He beseeches his beloved to not take her mind altering medications " i love your eyes and their far off gleam / i love your smile crooked as it seems / i love the way that you see the world / and i just cant see why they would want / to make you just like every other girl", employing the Warren Zevon "I'd rather feel fucked up than feel nothing at all" school of thought. And be sure to listen to "1 Semester Lesbian", about a girl going off to school and experimenting with alternative lifestyles after seeing the Rocky Horror Picture Show. You don't have to take my word for it, because ultimately I'm just a dude sitting in front of my computer in my underwear on a Sunday afternoon feeling groggy from the NyQuil I drank last night to knock out my cold. go to and listen to it firsthand.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

more weird fucking belgians - Silvester Anfang

as (not) published in the Dec. issue of the Ann Arbor paper (i wrote it for them but they did not publish it. no one got reviews published this month, just the top 10 list of the year from all of us "journalist" scum)

Right now there’s a little-known, mostly improvisational noise/folk/drone collective called Funeral Folk in Belgium that is the best export besides their drunkenness-is-next-to-godliness beer. (That’s not meant to be sacrilegious, their beers are brewed by monks in abbeys for Christ’s sake. Literally.) These artists are heavily influenced by the aforementioned ales, and also have a great sense of humor about them. Many of the band names are references to Scandinavian black metal (Chainsaw Gutsfuck and Silvester Anfang are both names of Mayhem songs) but instead of blast-beat drumming and abrasive, shredding guitar riffs they are cranking out experimental lo-fi recordings made with acoustic guitars, didgeridoos, melodicas, bells, keyboards, toy pianos, alarm clocks, televisions, and basically anything else that can make a noise. Silvester Anfang’s “Raping The Goat” CD-R is their American debut on Digitalis Recordings. The cover art takes the piss out of satanic imagery found on black metal records, inverted hot pink crosses and “100% Evil” scrawled across the back in hot pink letters. Doesn’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of non-believers. It is two tracks of airy, meandering improvisation that stretch nearly 40 minutes in length. If you’re a patient listener you will love this CD. The opening track “Raping The Goat” begins with an extended ambient intro which finally falls into a marching drum beat and more structured guitar chord progression, punctuated by random blasts of horns. “Ripping The Rectum” sounds a bit like a less psychotic Sunburned Hand Of The Man song, with its click-click-click percussion sounds and guitar and horn interplay. All in all it basically sounds like those impromptu jam sessions you have in the basement of a friend’s house who has a lot of random instruments laying around and you’ve been drinking into the wee hours of the night. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Visit to hear some soundclips. This particular release is available at in a limited edition run of 100

Thursday, November 03, 2005

SunnO))) "Black One" review

as published in the November issue of the Ann Arbor Paper

Remember that old Cheech & Chong bit about the guy who played Black Sabbath at 78 speed and saw god? Have you ever wondered what would happen if that idea was reversed, and you played Sabbath at 16 speed? Instead of a stairway to heaven, are you subjected to a glimpse into the underworld? Guitarists Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson of SunnO))) have been seeking an answer to that question since 1998 when armed with their guitars, stacks of vintage Sunn amps, head to toe black hooded cloaks, and a bong they recorded The Grimmrobe Demos. Since then they have been modern day prophets of doom, unleashing album after album of droning, skull-crushing, low-end riffs, usually augmented with guest vocalists and musicians. As their website states, “The powers that be contracted the heaviest low end destructors SunnO))) to create the most subharmonic drone recording ever put to tape. A test impossible for most mortals. Prepare your sound system!” Aptly titled “Black One”, their sixth album on Southern Lord records is also the darkest so far. This release is denser and more focused than their previous two albums (White 1 and White 2) which explored more ambient territory with keyboards and percussion. “Black One” is a return to bleak,atmospheric droning and gargantuan guitar chords that plumb the bottom of the spectrum of audible sound.

“It Took The Night To Believe” features a decelerated Norwegian black metal riff atop a steadily droning rhythm joined with an impossibly deep vocal track that sounds like it’s issuing from a crack leading to the earth’s molten core.
As on their past albums, guest “vokillists” (this time Wrest and Malefic of Lurker of Chalice and Xasthur, respectively) articulate the lyrics. The vocals range from deep, demonic, unintelligible invocations on “It Took The Night To Believe” to shrill banshee wails on “CandleGoat”. At times the vocals can be a bit over the top, blurring the line between comically absurd and geniunely frightening. Malefic goes so far as to be sealed in a coffin and placed in a hearse while recording the vocals to closing track “Bathory Erzsebet”, his claustrophobia adding a palpable sense of terror to his screaming.
SunnO))) is quite a departure from your average heavy metal band. In a field flooded with unoriginal and just plain untalented acts, they have won over a few anti-metal friends of mine with their willingness to experiment and not be imprisoned by the boundaries of any genre. “Black One” is an excellent accompanitment to the days getting shorter, the falling leaves, and the jack-o-lanterns rotting on your porch. Play this album as a fond farewell to the last vestiges of warm weather and prepare for a long dark winter.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Oren Ambarchi "Triste" review

as published in the October issue of the Ann Arbor Paper

In the 17th century, people weren’t ready to buy into Galileo’s claim that the earth revolved around the sun. Likewise, the masses won’t be clamoring to purchase Oren Armbachi’s CD reissue of “Triste” . You won’t hear it blaring from a sorority girl’s SUV at a red light or on the latest episode of the OC, but just wait a couple centuries or so and it will probably sound contemporary. The sounds encoded on this little plastic disc are very futuristic. Originally available on a long out of print vinyl LP, Southern Lord records has reissued it in CD form and sweetened the pot with some new remixes. An Australian native who has collaborated with a diverse cross section of musicians including avant garde jazz artists John Zorn and Otomo Yoshihide, as well as the drone metal band sunnO))), Armbachi seems to reinvent himself on every solo release. “Triste” is a two-part minimalist composition made with a heavily electronically processed guitar. Part one is the slower of the two, where we are familiarized with the handful of guitar notes that will comprise the bulk of the music. Each one is sustained at length, almost like savoring a mouthful of vintage wine. These notes are then played in quicker succession in a seemingly random order. This is perfect for those nights when you can’t sleep. When every sound outside your window makes you jump, when you’re just staring at the weird patterns of diffused light and shadow on the walls and instead of closing your eyes to make it go away, you want to revel in the strangeness of the moment. As the first segment draws to an end the individual guitar notes give way to a spooky, almost subsonic droning, punctuated by erratic popping sounds which sound like a guitar being plugged in and out of an amplifier, which is then topped by a wavering shrill tone. If you could physically see music, this is what it would look like in the reflection of a fun house mirror. The guitar tones are folded, spindled, mutilated, mutated, and layered until it sounds like a digital swamp populated with frogs, birds, and crickets. The second segment comes to an end in a cacophony which I can only describe as what it might sound like if a robot were to disgorge its electronic innards. Following the original two sections of “Triste” are remixes of each track by tape loop artiste and founding member of the Los Angeles Free Music society Tom Recchion. Though greatly abbreviated in length, Recchion fleshes out the stark compositions with hints of percussion, keyboard flourishes, and more droning. As I said before, this piece is definitely not for everyone, but anyone who enjoys music from the deepest sectors of left field is sure to enjoy this.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Daniel Lanois Belladonna review

as published in the September issue of the Ann Arbor Paper

Daniel Lanois is jack-of-all-trades in the music business. He made a name for himself by composing and playing music on Brian Eno’s groundbreaking ambient albums On Land and Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks. Rolling Stone magazine hailed Lanois as “the most important record producer to emerge in the ‘80s,” most notably for his work on U2’s legendary The Joshua Tree and Peter Gabriel’s So. Upon my first listen to Belladonna, the latest in a series of releases on the Anti label, the album struck me as unremarkable. I liked it enough for the echoes of his collaborations with Eno, and I found it pleasant enough as background listening.

But an underhanded brilliance slowly burns throughout Belladonna. It wasn’t until a late night drive through the streets of downtown Detroit that I finally crossed the invisible line from listening to hearing. Focused on nothing but the road, I let the dulcet tones of Lanois’ pedal steel guitar envelope me. This is the soundtrack to one of those dreams in which you’re in a place that you recognize but somehow everything is different. The lurid light from street lamps shining through the steam billowing from sewer grates combined with the music to transform my short drive home to an ethereal interplanetary voyage.

Once home I went straight to my room and started Belladonna from the beginning, fully immersing myself in this parallel sonic dimension via my headphones. It’s almost a shame that Lanois even bothered separating this album into 13 individual tracks; it’d be better enjoyed from start to finish with no interruptions. Each track builds on the one preceding it like chapters in a book. Let “Sketches” take you to the bright side of the moon, where the keyboard notes fall like silvery raindrops, the whisper-like drums just barely audible. Listen closely to the eerie approximation of vocals on “Oaxaca” and try to figure out if they were generated by man or machine. Drop in on the mariachi fiesta of “Agave,” a bit of a nod to Morricone with its horn arrangements and militaristic marching drums, evoking images of spaghetti westerns with cowboys in space suits, finding out who has the fastest gun on Mars. Linger on the impressive finale of “Todos Santos” where the washes of sound are not unlike the colors of a Rothko painting. The landscape of this album flows so seamlessly from lush, densely layered compositions to spacious, airy sections that it never becomes tedious. It’s the perfect antidote to the short-attention-span sickness that infects our society.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

weird fucking Belgians

I came across a lo-fi DIY drone/free folk/noise/improv collective called Funeral Folk. Hailing from Belgium, it seems these guys do nothing but drink those potent ales and make fucked up recordings. What initially grabbed my attention were the names of the bands, which were mostly all inspired by Norwegian black metal. There's Silvester Anfang,Chainsaw Gutsfuck, Per & Oystein, all inspired by Mayhem. Also Hellvete (meaning "hell" in Nordic tongues). And the name sure to strike fear into the hearts of the public The Death Penalty Roommates. I figured these guys had to have a killer sense of humor to put names like that on the music they were making, which is a good indication that they're not taking themselves too seriously. After listening to the sound clips available on the website ( I selected works by Edgar Wappenhalter and Chainsaw Gutsfuck. I got the tapes from Eclipse Records ( out of Arizona, I think the only distributor in the States for them right now. Apparently FoxyDigitalis has some CD-R releases planned for the future. I love the punk inspired artwork, completely hand cut-and-pasted and photocopied and folded up and jammed into the cases. The Wappenhalter artwork had images of what looked like holocaust survivors while Chainsaw Gutsfuck has piles of skulls and weird images pulled from old books. As far as the music goes, Wappenhalter lays down some dusty, creaky acoustic ramblings, augmented with bells and what sounds like bongos. I like to imagine it was recorded in a shack in some heavily forested European region, while frightened children dare to peek in through windows at the scary old hermit inside, or make their way past like protagonists from a cautionary fable. Reminds me somewhat of the darker Six Organs material. The Chainsaw Gutsfuck is a thundering, noisy mess of lo-fi guitars and throbbing primal percussion. This would be a great soundtrack for a Conan the Barbarian type movie as the heroes ride to their impending doom in battle against supernatural evil forces.