Sunday, July 15, 2012

Mount Vernon Arts Lab - The Séance At Hobs Lane

Ghost Box, 2005 (orig. Via Satellite, 2001)

Obscure occult analog science that closely aligns itself with the overall Ghost Box æsthetic, but deepens & darkens towards the serious thread between electricity and magick little studied outside of COIL in their communications with ELpH. Extraterrestrial Tesla musick. Rightly so, Drew Mulholland's project impressed Balance & Christopherson enough for them to remix a track here ("Hobgoblins," can't help but think of the hilarious MST3K episode) and give them an Eskaton release for the sister Mount Vernon Astral Temple. This track has a very Belbury Poly/Focus Group feel, it kind of sounds like a slow, horror-themed version of the IT Crowd theme or something Bruce Haack might have done with a moog. There the typical Ghost Box formalities end, yes there's an overall retro feel, but the rest of the album is vignettes of numinous drone, rickety, unsettling instrumental chamber music, lurking 70s film score jazz, and minimal electroacoustic phenomena, given their own space to stand alone for investigation. In places like a chthonic Igor Wakhévitch with a lot less pretention and a little more life. The overall vibe is of a massive laboratory filled with bulky tube electronics analyzing a séance with EEGs and such, in the home of a mad scientist obsessed with Tesla as much as John Dee. Brilliant occult hauntology.


Eric Zann - Ouroborindra

Ghost Box, 2005

Sidereal release of eclectic occult sampledelia and possessed instrumental vignettes taking its moniker from one of my favorite H.P. Lovecraft stories. In it the protagonist rents an apartment and is soon bewildered all nights by the maddening wails of his neighbor's violin, he eventually discovers that his neighbor is nothing more than a conduit for undefined extradimensional forces which possesses Zann nightly with their intonations and ululations across the void of space. Likewise this album is of a distinctly different sort than most of the other Ghost Box releases; a certain antiquarian pre-70s focus remains, but it is turned towards arcane mysteries of a malignant and misshapen sort. Like Anworth Kirk, or a beatless Demdike Stare in full-Haxan mode, Eric Zann has its closest sister in Mount Vernon Arts Lab. But rather than the latter's mostly analog electronic focus, Ouroborindra merges its sampledelic soup of radio signals from non-euclidean channels with wailing strings, brass, percussion instruments, likening their free skronk to the occult possession of the Lovecraft antagonist, with a knack for turning improvisation into unconscious malignancy rarely seen out of the more jazz-oriented elements of the Miasmah label (Kreng, Kaboom Karavan, Marcus Fjellström). Grisly and enveloping vibes.


"Don't you get it yet? It must work like ... a recording. Fixed in the floor and the walls, right in the substance of them. A trace... of what happened in there. And we pick it up. We act as detectors - decoders - amplifiers."
 The Stone Tape Nigel Kneale

"Inside the infernal box are impossible spaces, dark screens and mirrors, terrible traces of light, calcified thought forms and endless idiot mutterings. The switch is thrown and the magnetic coils begin to generate their obscene flickering images. This contraption might have been conceived by the Old Ones long before it was assembled by human hands."

The Infinity Box Alan Causley & MB Devot

Dabke - Sounds Of The Syrian Houran

Sham Palace, 2012

This is a much-needed vinyl exploration of contemporary dabke dance music from the fertile volcanic wine country of Syria, of the kind made quite popular in the semi-underground West by Omar Souleyman and his unexpectedly fertile live & digital promotion by Hisham Mayet & Alan Bishop's Sublime Frequencies label  (Sham Palace is a sister, so far vinyl-only, label of SF collaborator Mark Gergis, it's only other release so far is a 2011 reissue of Souleyman's Leh Jani). Its popularity in the West is not at all surprising as modern dabke has a slew of remarkable similarities with house & techno. Drum machines & synths have come to much prevalence in the Middle East, this is particlarly seen in dabke but even this is still usually accompanied by various live instruments and particularly striking virtuoso tabla work. The underlying beat is always of a similar sort, dabke literally means "stamping of the feet" (and this describes its accompanying folk dance) and it is this stomping 4/4 which is of course one of the elements most resonant with western dance music, but it has a familiar yet foreign feel in its Syrian manifestation. One of the most striking similarities to have hit me is that of the omniprescent Arabic wedding ululation to the pea whistle of hardcore rave (yes, really, you'll hear it). Like Souleyman's band, labryrinthine trance-like synths are found throughout but not with the same prevalence as with Souleyman's cavalryman Rizan Sa'id. The sort of ghetto-tech vibe of early unpolished Souleyman productions carries over and to me this offers great warmth and realness, the kind you get from old Jamaican soundsystem recordings, and this was one of the qualities I liked best about the earlier Sublime Frequencies compilations of Touareg rock (vs. the more intimate & dynamic ranged sound of i.e. Bombino). Stuff is as lively and great as the best Souleyman's had to offer and I find myself returning to it over its sheer warmth & energy, and not to mention travel envy.



Apologies for the long delay again, but a lot of focus was elsewhere, and honestly not much new music that fits this blog & that you haven't heard has peaked my fancy over the last couple months, and what does fit would have been material for swift deletion in the still-bleak filesharing climate.

Sucks but I'll just say something quick-ish about these jams:

Been way into Demdike Stare, as many of you I'm sure are and all of you should very much be, everything from Symbiosis to Elemental is just awesome, don't miss some of their gloriously eclectic yet aurally guided mixes, not to mention Miles Whittaker's Suum Cuique sideproject (2012's Ascetic Ideals is to not be missed) and relate projects like Miles & G.H. on Modern Love. Ascetic Ideals in particular is one of the most interesting revisions of minimal techno I've heard since Chain Reaction (obviously) or more similarly Pan Sonic or Mika Vainio's Ø project. Their whole approach to sound collation has been inspiring me like major, and I find myself able to listen to them when I find all other music bust. They're kind of geniuses, really.

Also on Modern Love but truly standing distinct from Demdike, I've been in heavy rotation with Andy Stott's Passed Me By & We Stay Together. A lot about this work brings me in again and again. To put it one way Stott hybridizes the minimal yet clausterphobic feel I like about juke & footwork with the beyond-dancefloor pitch black ambience of Burial, this is in particularly prevalent form on Passed Me By. I've been unimpressed with single-artist outings of hardcore footwork outside of the Bangs & Works compilations on Planet Mu; I've had more luck with post-dubstep/wonky reinterpretations of it like Kuedo (also some luck closer to the original style with the Massacooramaan Dead Long Time EP), but overall it puts forward a lot of good idea sketches that are begging to be done better and the controlled-chaotic skittering of the beats just makes me want to listen to some good Venetian Snares. Yet really the footwork comparison is an oversimplification of Stott's sound; its in places blacker than anything Burial has done, and even most Demdike. Another feel I get is almost that he's doing with vinyl what Oval was originally doing with (literally) scratched CDs, but in a more beat-focused way; much of the chop, screw, glacially slow polyrhythm & glitch seems to arise from natural accidents with minimal sampledelic elements. We Stay Together references other, sometimes lighter territory that does particularly remind of Suum Cuique's way out stretching of minimal tech into pro-bono industrial drone but with a more luminous, cosmic feel with some seriously psychedelic flanged in & out beat fragments. A major part of his appeal to me is his ability to veer into territory as deep into darkness and dub as Vex'd or even Scorn, but without the now done-to-death brocore wobble or even the original percussive elements of dubstep that have lost their flavor. Really smart stuff that keeps the beat in places others wouldn't be capable of.

4AD remains still largely hit & miss with its new 21st century roster but a couple 2012 albums are perhaps good signs for the future, though I'm really unsure of this, but who cares about the label itself really. Just REALLY stay away from that Joker album. Grimes - Visions is like seriously the best electropop since The Knife/Fever Ray and I wholly mean this. I've been way into her nacent stuff on Arbutus etc. because of its sweet bedroom Cocteau Twins with just a keyboard vibe, her natural cherubic voice has the full quality of Elizabeth Frazer but with more willingness to be eclectic. That was enough to sell me initially but now she's upped to production 1000 or so notches, still almost entirely herself but really impressively so. Perfectly balancing out along a shamanic dance-ambient treebranch and appealing to (many, many) new fans as well as those who were already into her. And she is just really one of the loveliest cutest good-heartedest human beings alive with wonderful non-self-conformist fashion sense. Parallel to that is Purity Ring's Shrines, technically not released yet but leaked all over, not going to tell you how to find it until Jul 24 as that'd be a red flag for the safety of this blog. Anyways what's here is also luminous electropop in the ultraviolet-bioluminescent post-Knife sphere but of a distinctly witch house vein. Now get me right, I have mixed feelings about this "genre," alot of it is to do with labels-being-labels and being taken too far, but I do see a great amount of good in its higher echelons (particularly Salem). Purity Ring take the juke/crunk snare drum machine roll and isolated clap + high & golden post-trance synths into much, much brighter territory but not of an explicitly feel-good sort (though it will definitely make you feel warm & fuzzy inside). It's way less explicitly hiphop but reminds a bit of the uplift of many Clams Casino tracks. Megan James' vocals are truly something special to these ears, yes they are chopped & screwed and futurized with tastefully used (meaning appropriately more electronic sounding) auto-tune, enough unadulterated chops come through so you know she has a good voice, but what is really strong is her writing, track names  ("Belispeak,"  "Crawlersout," "Obedear.") are more than just titles, they are pieces of a witty & introspective language fluent with James Joyce & Lewis Carroll dreamland portmanteaux. What more that is particlarly lovely about the album is how much of the material is just naturally catchy, but not in a grating way that gets stuck in your head despite yourself.

Youtube sample-o-rama under the cut: