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Thursday, August 31, 2017

NONZOO - WAZOO review



As I said yesterday in my review of their show at Roboto, here I am to review NONZOO's tape, WAZOO, which was released on Already Dead Tapes this year. I liked the tape even just from the cover art with its bulbous, insectoid mosaic. There are a few different variations of the cover, just like the shirt that I also got from the band. The actual cassettes are a gold color that, in this case, seems eerie.


WAZOO starts with a glitchy noise anime intro called "LARVAE" that fades into the next song, "SPAMBOT RINGER", a song resembling Melt-Banana with more funky drums. There's a lot of textural guitar, computer-y noise, and drums that are thumpy and quiet. The vocals sound like a cool post-punk band (think The Slits or Mo-Dettes), shouting something like "bee! bee! bee!". Towards the end, things are pretty ragged instrumentally and vocally with some screams. The next song fades right in, "HULA-HOOP OF FLIES". At the start, there are some Siouxsie spooky vox and xylophone guitars. Before everything zooms out into the cyberspace of crystal spheres, there's some bubbling and Shaggs military drums. The title makes so much sense with this rhythm. "Alone inside her at last" (those words might be wrong), and then the song ends with a sort of "upset neighbor lady" voice from somewhere else. The "COCOON TRANSMISSION" comes in, somewhere deep inside, a scary place so confined with a green membrane. The twilling buzz is hypnotic. Maybe there are voices? It's too dark. Chants build up. "HEADLESS FARCE" is so fast and more "punk". It takes off and then "let's be quiet" and then jumps off and out again! The skittery angular guitar works well with the Macbeth-witch-like chant. The song breaks down into a slow decay, but there's one last gasp of backing vocals and springy guitars. Then it fades out in a wordless devil chant.

"They stunned her, and stripped off her garments, and lastly
They stuffed her inside a kind of a pod;
And then it was that Millicent Frastley
Was sacrificed to The Insect God."
-Edward Gorey, The Insect God

But wait, there's more! There is a side 2 (who knew? - you probably, and me too). It doesn't start here, but the next track is a noted departure from this insect story. "GREAT AMERICAN TROUGH" does not fade-in. The strong guitar line really pushes the track. There are some strange percussions going on, and the instruments remind me of the Silver Mt. Zion side-project, Diebold, a bit. "Ooh the mystery!" The vocals are similar to David Thomas' on "Big Ed's Used Farms". "SEVERE ROUGH STYLISH" is a good descriptor to this band. Whoa, there's a heavy sound barrage, but overall this song is not as dense. The vocals are chirpy. Something drips into an intercom voice saying something about being scared of yr daughter. This one is scary, and it might be my favorite track. "THE HEAVENLY CRAFT OF PURE LOVE" sounds like it could be sincere or total irony with this band. NONZOO made it the latter; this is another creepy one! Someone is telling an eerie dream/memory about an amputation, and then a man, who sounds like he might have starred in The Blair Witch Project, comes in with another story that I can't make out. Demonic voices fill the air, and then we are back to the room with the first storyteller talking about controlling yr dreams.

"CARTOON PHYSICAL" is another big break - it comes in swinging like lounge jazz accompanied with airy vocals. Then there's a very cartoony voice, a lot of vocal manipulation, and maybe backward voices (please tell yr mom and the pastor!). It ends with a cough, so I assume the title refers to a physical in the medical sense. "SECRET LANDFORMS" is a great name for a song. There are great space sounds and some zoomed out ambient parts above the fields beyond the fields that we know. This song is a little long, as is, almost, the next one, "AUTO-HOLOGRAM BONUS EVENT". The musick comes in from a different room with a really solid track full of zipper-y bass. When I thought it was getting too long, many voices spoke out around the room before screams and a horn pileup. This one has a very good end. Speaking of the end, "ROOM 202" is the last track, fading into a different world, alone outside at a temple on the edge of the world. A hot wind comes in from the left field. A spectral voice vibrates in through the veils of worlds, chorusing together to reveal itself emanating from human-cricket hybrids that begin to gather, revealed when the fog clears over the autumn leaves. Is it another holy ritual? An alien abduction? A surgical procedure? You know, I saw something staring back at me from the space between the stars, big eyes, and long hands, fingers of grey ash bones. Slime drips down my face as the many-eyed worm encircles the top of my head like a cold, damp leech. I want to scream. Distantly, there are others here, somewhere, screaming in fear. Maybe something vomits? Then the wicked laughter mocks us all before a bell rings. Time to snap out of it. Wow.

WAZOO is an amazing album. It almost becomes formulaic, but it never reaches that point with the strange soundscapes and non-rock guitars. The songs are similar but also quite varied. It sounds like the pasta, jackfruit, and eggplant dish I ate before the review tasted - alien, squishy, and too sweet. I screwed up with the food, but NONZOO did not screw up with WAZOO. NONZOO compares favorably to Melt-Banana, but this is better; I am not a fan of all of the yelps from Melt-Banana's Yasuko and the samples they use. The production on WAZOO is great, though the drums should be a bit louder. This album gets a GOOD. This rating can be in all caps - why not? Along with Aunt Dracula's Freaker, it's been one of my favorite albums this year.

NONZOO shirt front

NONZOO shirt back

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Radon Record Release in the NONZOO

Since I positively reviewed the Radon Chong tape, I Keep On Talking To You, a few weeks ago, I was very excited to see the band's tape release show on August 26th at The Mr. Roboto Project. They were playing with some touring bands that I had never heard of with very strange names and the very cool Night Vapor. There also some plans to get a Sega Saturn at this show that got delayed a bit, but that's okay.


The first band to play was Night Vapor. Night Vapor sounds like the Birthday Party mixed with Captain Beefheart with an extra amount of nausea. This set was just gross! The green lights around the band, combined with the singer's sickening gyrations, made everything look ghastly. Everything sounded excellent with some fancy guitar weirdness and throbbing rhythm section. I swear the room was spinning.


Lake Lake, from Ohio, played second. They sort of sounded like the Melvins, perhaps a little more generic. The riffs were simple and kind of sludgey/heavy. Stuff boomed, but it never really burst out of its bubble; I really didn't enjoy this band. They did some strange Looney Tunes voices during some of the between song banter, but that was almost overdone. I just wanted them to play the songs. If the songs had been faster, more energetic, or with more significant vocals or interesting instrumentation, this would have been fine.



After Lake Lake, I went outside and then played Super Smash Bros. Melee for a second. The next band, NONZOO, was already setting up and started to play just when we were finishing the game. The sound was amazing; I was really excited to get closer to the band! NONZOO is a noise-rock/no-wave band from Chicago. They remind me of Cellular Chaos. The singer looked like they could have been hanging out with the Bromley Contingent back in the late 70s, and the guitarist had such a strange instrument. The songs were fast; space sounds ricocheted off the walls as the singer bounced around like a colorful ball from a toy vending machine. The contrast was high compared with Lake Lake. Despite all the noise and sweat, NONZOO has a very cute/friendly aura about them with a hint of danger; that's pretty much what I consider to be my own aesthetic. I got a tape and a shirt from them, both of which had numerous variations. That's so cool!



Radon Chong played last. Their set was short and to the point. The songs sounded great, their new drummer, also in Hermit Thrushes, doing an excellent job! For once, I could understand the lyrics, since I had just listened to the tape, so everything was much more meaningful to me. Sasha, the singer, did some cool moves and really made the songs "pop out", but maybe that's the tape whispering in my ear as I listened to it through headphones via an ancient portable cassette player on my stairs. Anyway, this was the perfect set length of songs played to near perfection; I was left wanting more. That's how it should be.

The show was fun, and it ended super early. Some of my friends were going to another show at Spirit afterward. I considered it, but I didn't want to pay $5 to get in after missing a band or two. There was also a reunion of the Weird Paul Variety Show at the BBT, one of the last shows there. I didn't end up going to that either. I don't know why so much stuff was this night, but I was glad to have gone to Radon Chong's tape release. It was really great to see NONZOO, and I feel like I got a better understanding of some kind of cosmic oneness from this show. I really mean that, but I can't really tell you why or what that means. I had some other plans to hang out with some other friends, but instead, it seemed best to go home. "When you gaze into the NONZOO, sometimes it gazes into you". Next time we'll take a look at such a place more closely to see the animals, eat cotton candy, and feel the heat of the noise-savannah. I'll see you then!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Chantillion - Brassque review

Chantillion is a new band featuring Jackson from Grand Buffet and some other people that I am not familiar with but have probably seen somewhere before. In mid-August, they released a single before their first show at the Spirit Summer Recess, which I had to miss, unfortunately. At least I can listen to the single.


"Brassque" is a muscular synth-rock jam. Everything sounds so powerful, even if that isn't a word usually used to describe synth stuff. It's like Perturbator backing the Dictators. The song is kinda surfy, with hard-hitting drums, fast and surreal Dylan-esque vocals, and heavy bass synth. "Brassque" matches its cover art of four goofs on motorbikes well: weird and tough. My favorite part is when Jackson yells, "guitar" before a wall of heavy synths hit the listener. I don't know what the lyrics mean, but there is something about "coming back as a tiger snake" and a company man in the catacombs that recalls Poe's "The Casque of Amontillado" (also check out the spelling - Brassque and Casque).

I'm excited to see Chantillion live. The only show they have at the moment, according to Bandcamp, is at the end of September in Youngstown, but I'm sure we will see more of them in the future. "Brassque" receives a Good. It is a powerful start to something that seems like it will get better and better.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Stands in Lightning - Metanoia review

This year is the 10th-anniversary of the first "serious" release by Mirkwood Recordings, Stands in Lightning's Metanoia. 10 years ago, I was still in high school, and I wasn't going to shows. I never heard this when it came out, but I took a listen to it the other day during a night when I was haunted by fever dreams of chunky drawings of small spacemen wielding enormous pencils.


Metanoia starts out with the single-worthy "Wherein Hast Thou Loved Us", a poppy bit of noise rock, reminding me of The Wedding Present's "Brassneck" or Pittsburgh's own Arco Flute Foundation. There are some soaring highs and deep lows on this track. It's a really great opener. "Apples" has chunky riffs, burbly bass, and the sound of classic emo (Rites of Spring or early Weezer). This sound continues for the majority of the album. The two solos on "Apples" remind me of the differences in the solos on "Marquee Moon"; here one is cool/weird/warbly and the latter solo is full of staccato attack. Continuing with the emo sound, "Noli Me Tangere" does it again with the Nirvana loud-quiet-loud dynamics. There is a haunting solo here with imperfections that make the ghost real. "What It Was" is much quieter, J Mascis singing along to the Mountain Goats' folk. The titular "Metanoia", meaning spiritual conversion or the like (I had to look it up!) has some cool guitar lines like the earlier tracks, but it's a lot quieter with a very stoic bass. The song jumps up in the middle, yelling to a fiery solo. It's a strange song, kind of hollow. There's the spiritual awakening for you.

There's a bit of a break after "Metanoia". I guess we can call this "side 2", though I doubt that Metanoia had a vinyl release; 2007 is just before The Great Vinyl Resurgence. Anyway, "A Great Burden" sounds totally, tonally different from the others. It opens with a riff like "Werewolves of London" and is more of a rocker. It still has a similar downward feeling though. "Spiders and Heaven" is a great name for a track; it reminds me of a strange idea I had of cosmic spiders that keep the planets together with their interstellar silk. This one has a way different feel again, alt-country or whatever, with a waltzing tromp to the backbeat. It's a very solemn story, set to harmonica, about the afterlife. "One Wasp Left" starts sounding like something from a different album entirely - very, very lo-fi production and much lower in volume. It boosts after 30 seconds into fierce guitars, the tale of work vs love. I really liked this one - there's a lot of energy. The imperfections are kind of cool. The album closes out with "Dietrich Bonhoeffer", a priest turned spy who met his death at the hands of the Nazis. The vocals sound like Thurston Moore, and this track is more rockin' with thrashy guitar and lots of crashing cymbals.

Metanoia has great production, with deep bass tones, perky drums, and wailing guitar and vocals. It has a sound that mixes Dinosaur Jr with the emo of Lync or Rites of Spring. Though there are some really strange contrasts at times, many of the tracks are mired in downerville, washing away the mind in a thick paste mudslide. I should also mention that I don't really like the cover art. It's an abstract image, sort of like a bloody explosion. That's fine, but the text seems a bit lazy and the image is very low-res. Despite that sinking feeling, Metanoia is still a Good album; the hope comes through when needed. The songs are good, and the feelings are real. This album feels like a monolith to a time and a place and a feeling and the people that were there; the band's name fits it sharply, as it really would stand amidst falling bolts, collecting them for its own self-worth. I felt shocked myself when the musick stopped.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Too Clean

On Sunday, August 20th, I was very bored, lonely, and depressed. I was really not feeling well, so I started looking at my Facebook events. "Oh yeah Dan booked that show," I said to myself, possibly out loud, "I should go to it instead of sitting at home and looking at these weird plush bears sitting in a chair together and feeling jealous." And so, I went to the show at Howlers.

The show was supposed to start right before I got there, which made me feel anxious; I don't like to miss anything. Instead it got delayed a while, because not a lot of peeps were there. Maybe they were at Skull Fest or tired from Skull Fest or moping at home with plush bears. Eventually some people came, and the show started with the very garage-y, in every sense of the word, Spellcaster.



The members of Spellcaster look pretty young. The guitarist looks like my friend, Ocasia's, brother, who I always think of as being in high-school even though he clearly isn't now. Like his hair, this band is pretty fuzzy and imperfect. The guitar sounded pretty nice, despite using one of those multi-effects processors (yuck! so gross!). The bass was quiet, and then got a lot louder for some of the songs; it was almost like a second guitar, reminding me of Young Marble Giants. The drums were super solid with a nice deep tone on such a little kit. The songs were typical garage fair, girls and beer and stuff, which is fine. It's nothing exceptional right now, but, if these guys pushed a little more, they could be really great.



Next up was the touring band, Best Behavior. I don't like this name; it seems kind of bratty in a bad way. This band looked cool, but they did a lot of weird dance moves. Their songs are pretty dance-y though, so it makes sense. The guitarist with the sleeveless shirt did have some cool Springsteen moves, and he looks like The Boss. Anyway, the music was really disappointing. I don't like indie-dance-rock - too much like The Killers or The Strokes at their worst. Even worse, Best Behavior had some kind of drum machine or backing track. Keyboards, handheld percussion, even bass(!) and guitar(!), and other phantom sounds spread around like a curse. You guys have a 4-piece band; there is no excuse for this! I might be off on the bass and guitar parts, but it certainly looked like sometimes the band members' playing did not match the sounds emitted from the speakers. If yr gonna use a drum machine, be upfront about it, or just play it for real! These phantom sounds were clearly otherworldly as well; they sounded so separate from the material instruments. Finally, the singing was too on point; I'll take raw vocals over stuff like this any day!




Hey it's that band I like! The Spectres are raw and good! They aren't unpolished or sloppy, but they have high energy and make mistakes sometimes. This was the best I've ever seen them play! It was a breath of fresh air to hear Dan wailing "I Want Her So" over James drums and some cool guitars. You don't need backing tracks; sometimes you don't even need a bass.

This show went from one extreme to the other. The Spectres were excellent as always. It was a fun show, even though it was such a strange lineup. I got to talk to a lot of friends, new and old. Sometimes all you need is rock 'n' roll.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A Big Debacle

Skull Fest is a huge punk festival in Pittsburgh. This year it happened from Thursday, August 17th to Sunday, August 20th. I didn't go to Skull Fest. The only time I have gone to Skull Fest was when I was volunteering at Roboto and had to watch the sound for one of the shows. That show was kind of goofy because there was a band of little kids, the kids of various older punks. It was amusing. Anyway, I did actually want to go this year, but the cost of the shows outweighed my desire to go to any of them, which was mostly based on seeing friends. Instead, on August 18th, I went to this show at Howlers.





There were only two bands at this show. The first band was Space Debacle, a two-piece post-punk/noise band. Their only instruments are a guitar, theremin, and drum machine, in addition to vocals. Their set was plagued with technical problems due to broken/lost equipment. That's not really a big deal for me - it shows the struggle. I like seeing a band that could fall apart at any moment, one step from the edge, energized by disaster. Of course that's more of the rock way, Neil Young and Dead Boys and whatever. This was more like a forgotten post-punk single found decades after being recorded somewhere outside London on a small cassette player at home and pressed to vinyl in small numbers, later to be found on a Messthetics compilation. Dani's singing and Hunter's guitar playing were very good; the theremin seemed to have some issues (I suspect it was some interference in the room). Space Debacle's songs dealt with the hypocrisy of certain safe spaces, abuse, mental health, and bad parents. "If you don't love me the terrorists win, so you better let me cum in your mouth". "Drink the Hate Water" was a list of ways we hurt ourselves, which I felt personally connected to, and "Hamburger Dad" was about toxic masculinity in a funny way. All the songs had serious topics with a sort of playful/surreal/humorous aspect to them. The last song was awesome, a future classic for sure.

There was a huge gap of time between the two sets; Big Splash was having their own technical issues. In the mean time, we got to listen to DJ Purr Ubu, who played some really great songs, many of which I knew, such as The Jam's "Going Underground". She also had some really cool Italo disco stuff that I had never heard before. Later we talked about what defines "night musick" and "day musick".



After some mic issues, a broken guitar strap, and whatever else, Big Splash exploded - wow they were loud (but actually not too loud)! Compared with the queer and weird Space Debacle (awesome name!), Big Splash is the traditional rock band of four guys on guitar, guitar, bass, and drums. They sound like Dinosaur Jr, Andrew as a hoarser J Mascis, his hair falling around him just the same. Later, Dan, the bass player told us to "stick to the road" in the last song. This song was more poppy and driving, some of the others mired in sludge, but all the songs were great.

Though I almost reconsidered going to this show, it was really cool. The musick between the sets was great, and I had not seen either of these awesome bands before! Big Splash seems to have a lot of stuff coming up, and I plan to see them at some point soon. I hope Space Debacle plays again soon too. Be on the lookout for these sick bands!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Radon Chong - I Keep On Talking To You review

Radon Chong grew from the remains of Skinless Boneless, a band I mention here quite a bit. It is a worthy successor. While Skinless Boneless could be a little sloppy sometimes, Radon Chong is very tight and more jammy. The dual guitars, hopping bass, and drums, accompanied with some lifting sax, make something more than the sum of their parts. The vocals, from Actorcop's Sasha Weisfield, are so varied and more musical than most bands. And it really is a band, not a one-person show, everything working together like the gears in a grandfather clock.

In this month of August 2017, Radon Chong is releasing an album on Single Girl Married Girl Records. I got a copy for review purposes, and it is a fine piece of work. Everything is so solidly crafted, with tight, clean production and good sound. The release has calming/creepy color scheme of yellow/purple, the cover adorned with a manikin pillow person next to a small lamp. It is an eerie and lonely picture, but it's also just a room in every house, white walls, darker carpet, and enough light to bring that known feeling.

The first track, "Faith-Based Charles" has some bouncing bass and geometric guitars. The vocals are loud and quiet, dynamic but not like Nirvana, saying, "I really miss you". I like the crispy sound of the cymbals and the slow fade out of the guitar harmonics accompanied by a sort of bass solo. "Grandma Anthropology" sounds like Pere Ubu mixed with R.E.M., David Thomas singing about explosions. It starts with some fancy guitar lines and really bouncy bass and follows with some NYC Ghosts & Flowers ambiance. The vocals are really nice here, incredibly musical and growing to growls. "Farm Pays for Me" might be my favorite with its, "c'mon, the farm pays for me" and more Pere Ubu sounds (vocals a little like the similarly titled "Big Ed's Used Farms" from Song of the Bailing Man) and springy guitars. "Seaform" is a bit slower, a small whirr before building up to some cymbals and then heavy drums. It's not a slow, epic build like Television. This song really shows Radon Chong's pop sensibilities, which, though buried, they do have. It's in the corners, behind all the scattered things, but it is there in the end "living in a steel mill". "You're a Kid" starts with Stooges drums, going into some Texas art-punk vocaloids before saxophone sounds, the color of a blue city painting, ride along the guitar and other vocals join harmonically. I like the outtake at the end. "Second to One" is kind of a continuation of the last, sonically but with some breaks. The drums are really energetic. The album ends on "Cold Hands", the title of which describes, to me, exactly what I said about the cover art, distant but warm in the end (cold hands, warm heart). This track goes from a downer to a real rocker that descends into guitar drone and more rock 'n' roll, Skinless Boneless style. Screeching, textural solos come up around like Humbaba's Cedar Forest at sunset. Then it ends, like everything else, at least in theory.

I Keep On Talking to You is an excellent album. It drags on a tiny amount, the songs sounding similar towards the end, but the actual end is well done and these are interesting songs with many things to find. The production is crisp, not muddy or blown out as is too common, and every instrument, including the vocals do their part to make something monumental. This is an epic, a tiny epic, "it's like sitting at home and risking yr life". Radon Chong's I Keep On Talking to You receives a Good.

If you're in Pittsburgh, be sure to check out Radon Chong's release show for this album on August 26th at the Mr. Roboto Project. They are playing with the always excellent, and sonically similar, Night Vapor along with two touring bands, Nonzoo and Lake Lake. Here's a link to the Facebook event. I hope to see you there!

EDIT: The album title was incorrectly written here as "I Can't Stop Talking To You" (hence the web address); it has been changed to the correct one.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Girls Rock! Pittsburgh Showcase 2017

This year, 2017, is the 5th year of Girls Rock! Pittsburgh, a summer camp for 8-to-18-year-old girls who want to learn about and play musick. Every year, they have a showcase for the bands that were formed that year; I have been to most of them. This year's showcase was on August 12th and at the Winchester Thurston Lower School.

I got to the showcase when it was just starting. There were various tables of merch, both band merch, created by the girls who attended the summer camp, and Girls Rock! merchandise. There were shirts, zines, pins, and some CDs from the previous years. When we got in, many people were seated, both people from the music scene and more "normal" families. I was impressed with the size and design of the auditorium; I liked the colors and the shape.

This year, nine bands were formed at the summer camp. These bands included (in performance order): Freak Show, Dark Butterfly, Dangerous Dragons, Copyright, Pac-selated Girls, Picking Petals, The Wicked 5, Total Blackout, and Girls of Rock. All of the bands were interesting, and they had very unique song structures, these coming from, often, young children with little musical training and done in only one week. A lot of the songs were kind of dark, but I also could not make out the lyrics that well. I really liked the sound of Freak Show; I would be surprised if the singer did not continue doing music as she gets older. Their song, "We Are the Freaks", had charm and powerful energy that made me think of Big Brother and the Holding Co. with their R Crumb album cover. Freak Show seemed to have some of the older members, and I was surprised at how young some of the participants were, Girls of Rock seeming very young especially. Two of the bands all fell down after their sets. I wonder if this trend is related to protest die-ins being re-contextualized by young children?

During the performances, the sound was good, though the guitars seemed quiet. In previous years, I have found the sound to be kinda screechy with too much feedback. I'm sure that was partially due to the sound systems used and the spaces that were rented out, such as the church-shaped Union Project. I think it's probably also a little harder to mic young people who might not always be projecting their voices. Anyway, this one was pretty good. The only other minor criticism I have is that the lighting changed oddly at times, sometimes going pretty dark.

As always, the band logos were projected behind the bands. Some of these were very whimsical, such as the Pac-selated Girls logo, with the members drawn as the monsters and heroes of Ms. Pacman. I really liked the Blackout logo, so I bought their pin. The Girls of Rock logo had a strange amorphous quality to it, kind of spooky, which was really cool to me. The Copyright logo reminded me of the performance the Dead Kennedys did where they wore shirts with the letter "S" on them and then brought a necktie from behind their back to make a dollar sign.

I hope Girls Rock! Pittsburgh continues for a long time and is able to teach many young women about empowerment through musick. Some of the participants have attended the summer camp for multiple years, and it is interesting to see how some of them have aged out of it and gone on to do musick and art in "the real world" (read the last three words in a scary voice for maximum effect). If you have a child who might be interested in attending in 2018, or you want to get involved in some way (instrument donation, funding, volunteering), check out the Girls Rock! Pittsburgh website at girlsrockpittsburgh.org. Organizations like these can only exist with support from the community; if nothing else, maybe I will see you at next year's showcase.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Aunt Dracula - Freaker review

Aunt Dracula is the noise project of Philadelphia's Scott Daly. I'm not sure how I came upon Aunt Dracula, but it is a perfect name combined with perfect trash/lo-fi/horror/melted fairy tale aesthetic. Not long ago, I saw this new album, Freaker, in my Facebook feed; the art reached out to me like a doppelganger in a mirror in a nightmare I had when I was a child, so I had to click on it.

The cover is a beautiful grotesque, a monster with a horror OVA color-palette preserved in latex, some kind of mask. It's got a Tim Burton-striped pointed head, a curved horn, and a tokusatsu gem. The creature's face is in a fiendish grin, a symptom of an indulger of the Hyborian lotus perhaps, with a tongue, also striped as though in a Tim Burton film, emerging through roughs of teeth under three eyes. It's just the profile of that beast and the title.

The album starts out with the chaotic mirror entity related "Stepping into a Giant Magic Melting Mirror", which sounds like an amorphous Bowie mutant fusing with weird plastic monsters on a plastic castle on a platter of various funk LPs spinning and spinning. The next song spins a similar way, less spastically, drums almost dub reggae, vocals childishly scary, calling out to the cosmic void; this song is called "Black Pyramids". "Passion Fruit" begins with a sickeningly sweet dried crackling intro of crystalline tones before going into some heavy plodding sort of dub/funk covered in gobs of distorted slime nets. "Power Moves" starts with a warp speed/race car sound, and then it's like hearing a chant from the Banana Splits band in a deep cavern. "Gonna climb right up to the top eating a cherry freezie pop". These childhood chants are interspersed with VCR static warbling and it ends with a journey off to distant crystal star worlds.

"My Bloody Frankenstein" takes a different turn with it's phasing arpeggios and vast space sounds; there are no cavernous boulders here, but there is the whooshing of water. The vocals get lost in the space world, echoing into some large number that could be infinity as they recite the title. "Ego Problem" reminds me of the musick from the Sea of Japan from the game Mystical Ninja: Starring Goemon or the soundtrack to the game RayStorm (aka Layer Section II). It has the dub drums and some more spacey sounds; it's not as chaotic, and there are no vocals. I got lost in this song. Towards the end it gets really cold and scares me.

The next track, "Lights Out", has vocals that remind me of Vincent Price or the singer from the Deviants. It's a dense beat with bat screech horror sounds above and around. There's kind of like a baby crying or something somewhere far away in a dream. "Pharoah's Ghost" reaches the crystal stars on a rocket with a weird nursery rhyme vocal to a creaky dub beat. "Sine Wave of the Para-static Ultra Maze" has a ghostly choir, off-kilter drums, and static bursts (para-static being paranormal static?). At the halfway point there's a turn towards techno drums and space sounds with an almost calming harp, an exit to the maze.

"Dreams Burnt Through the Core of Paktakaars Moon" is another creepy instrumental, more techno than dub. The layers of dread congeal into a hole in my head as the song goes on. "Scripscrap (Script Flipped)" goes back to dub drums with some cool synth sounds and hissing; it makes me dizzy (but that's the nature of this strange underworld). It made me think of stories of vast machines underneath the Appalachian Mountains, as told in Fate Magazine. The last track, "Freaker", breaks out with a horde of bats or insects or other small weirdos before a beat accompanies a weird story recited to nobody. It reminds me of the Velvet Underground's "The Gift". The vocals break up and slowdown and reverse, dreamlike, as it is. I was humored and worried by the segments of the story I could make it. "He vaguely recalled seeing a magazine for 160 dollars". The dread builds. The man, David, the lead character, drives off to nowhere. Naked, he stares a cow down. I won't spoil the end, but it's scary as it goes on.

The production on Freaker is dense and open at the same time; the instruments cluster together with heavy weights within the vacuum of the Platonic Sphere. The songs are well done, though they can be a bit samey at times. Despite this, there was still a decent variety of songs. I love the aesthetic - it's scary and unhinged, a lotus dream wonderland, dark with dripping plastic and ephemera from various media. This might be one of my favorite albums ever. It's the place I've been searching for. I hope the album gets released physically; vinyl in particular would look great with the giant, monster face staring off, but I like CDs and tapes too. Freaker gets a Good. Give it a listen.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Last Minute Kagedama

I was asked to play a show on August 7th only the day before. I was bringing the PA too. Another band had dropped off, and I guess there was some confusion over the PA situation. I considered asking my bandmates in Sorry I'm Dead, but, since it was so last minute, I decided to play solo as Satyr/Elfheim.

It was going to be the first Satyr/Elfheim show in over a year. I was both excited and nervous. I was excited to be playing noise again, feeling rejuvenated with new ideas and equipment, but the show was starting soon after I got off of work. August 7th was dreary; it rained that morning, so I had to take the bus to work rather than ride my bike. Taking the bus slows my commute. I was able to rush out of work at the end of the day, but now I needed to figure out what I was going to do for my set.

Originally I was set on using my sequencer and some synths, but, when I started working on it, I ran into some problems. I couldn't find the power cable for my ring modulator, I didn't like the setup I had for the sequencer, and I am not yet proficient with my Micro-Korg. There wasn't a lot of time to figure this stuff out either; I had to eat and get the PA equipment ready! I kept glancing over at the pedalboard I have set up for Satyr/Elfheim, my standard array lined up still ready to use. However, I decided I would do something else. I took my now standard Strat and made a new setup of pedals, using a new fuzz and pseudo-tape echo, my normal DOD Echo FX and Meatbox, and the really little looper that I have used rarely; I wanted to bring the Boomerang, but it is just too big. I was able to fit everything, wrapped in bubble wrap, into a piece of luggage except the mixer, which I put into a box. It was done just in time.

When I got to the venue, Nettle Nest, not a ton of people were there. We were a tiny bit late, but the touring band and I got set up quickly. I couldn't remember the name of their band, but I found them to be super nice. I played first, and it was great! At first, I was a little nervous, but everything really came together quickly. The pedals worked really well together, and I was able to get some great sounds. I played the first Satyr/Elfheim song, "Giants of Earth", but it was a lot different too. It sounded excellent! Deep darkness rumbled through wisps of aether; sonic sharpness scattered across the room. The only real issue was that the lights were all on; I didn't think of it until I was halfway through the set. Everybody only had positive things to say, and the guitarist from Kagedama praised my guitar work, saying that whatever it was that I was doing with my hands exactly during the middle part of the track, it made some really strange sounds. I have another noise set coming up at Treasure #7 on October 5th at Howlers, and I hope you will be there. That's gonna be more ambient; originally I had the same synth stuff in mind, but now I'm leaning more towards doing something new with the guitar. You'll have to come out and see!



Kagedama, taking their name from the anime Mushishi, played second. They are a queer black metal band from Milwaukee, and I enjoyed their set a lot. I rarely listen to black metal alone, but I do like seeing these kinds of bands live. The drums were a little sloppy, and the bass should have been louder. However, the guitar parts were so cool, and everything came together as a whole, the sum of the parts something very chaotic and wild. All the band members were cool, and we spoke about nerd stuff and whatever. The bass player does a festival called Filth Fest Milwaukee; it's a queer punk festival and seems pretty neat. I got the compilation tape they put out for the fest, but I haven't listened to it yet; I will soon.




Thief in Your Head played last. They were great. I've spoken of them before, but I will say again that I am pretty impressed by this band. They combine screamo and noise rock and maybe some metal for a cool sound! The guitar player uses a bass amp in addition to a weird 70s Ampeg, and it works amazingly; I feel like these setups can be kinda shitty a lot of the time, but here it sounds so dark and vicious. The singer sounds and moves like Darby Crash or Stiv Bators. The drums are fast and tight. They were too loud for my small PA unfortunately, though I'm not sure I could have made out the words anyway. This fall, Thief in Your Head is going on tour, maybe to yr town (if yr not in Pittsburgh).

After the show, I was super tired. We had to bring the equipment back to my house, but the guitar player from Thief in Your Head helped and gave me a ride back. It was great to see Thief in Your Head again, and I enjoyed hearing Kagedama and hanging out with everybody for a bit. This was kind of what a house show should be, and thankfully there wasn't any awfulness or grossness (in the environment) or severe intoxication or police. It was actually fun (wow!), and the show ended early enough that it wasn't tiring (unlike my job) like some of the Roup shows were, those going on into the late hours of the night. Most importantly, for me, this show made me feel a lot more confident to do Satyr/Elfheim again. I'll see you on October 5th for Treasure #7.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Kid Congo Powers

Back on May 14th, 2016, I went to see Kid Congo Powers at the Brillobox. I was only sort of familiar with him in that I had heard The Cramps' Psychedelic Jungle and had read about him on Wikipedia. Kid Congo Powers is a guitarist who played with The Gun Club and Nick Cave, in addition to the previously mentioned Cramps. He also was the head of the Ramones Fan Club, which is awesome. I decided to go, because my friend Dan's band, the Spectres, were playing the show.



The Spectres were the first band to play. They did their two-piece garage rock thing, which is always good. James, on drums and guitar, was more prominent for this set; usually his vocals don't come through super well, but it was fine this time.  His songs were really energetic and fun. It was a good set to set the tone of the night.


Next up was a band I have not seen for a long time - The Gothees. I saw them at a place called The Shooting Gallery a long time ago. That venue was really cool in a weird, screwed up kind of way. When I went there, directly under Arsenal Lanes, with my friend Kyle back in high school around Halloween, we were greeted by broken guitars hanging from the ceiling, spray-painted walls, a cake, and some people talking about sniffing markers. That show was one of the first shows I ever went to, and it left a lasting impression on me.

It was good to see the Gothees again. I remember looking them up after the show and being disappointed by what I heard, but the set this night was good. They have described themselves as a sort of "bubblegum pop goth", but I think they just sound like Rocket From the Tombs or Destroy All Monsters, though less energetic. The members of the band all wore suits, and the frontperson had a theremin, which is pretty cool, it was only used on a few songs. The band has the melodrama of a 60s sci-fi or horror film, the vocal style of the villain's monologue before he attempts to end the heroes lives and fails in a dramatic way resulting in his own death. This band doesn't play very often for some reason.


Kid Congo Powers was last, and he was awesome! His band, the Pink Monkey Birds, sonically journeyed from the dusty desert, speckled film grain of Rowland S. Howard and Ennio Morricone, to city street garage rock. Everything was overall fast and driving, fuzztone full blast fat guitar head-on collision sounds. The drummer was especially excellent, but the whole band was awesome - so tight! The dual guitar lineup sounded great; sometimes, this kind of thing just overlaps and makes nothing but mud. Powers' vocals were strong and sorta funky or maybe kinda like ? and the Mysterians, blunt and not particularly melodic. He was a super nice dude when I talked to him after the show too.

I'm really glad I went to the show. It was kind of a last minute decision, as I mentioned above. It was worth it though. Kid Congo Powers was so cool, and the other bands were great too. I was pleasantly surprised by the Gothees' set, and the Spectres are always great! Sometimes you can end up in a lot of debt to credit card companies for buying expensive guitars and games and stuff when you do something without thinking, but sometimes it's good to make impulsive decisions. Anyway, I'll see you next time!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Dredging Slime - Multicult at Gooski's & Variable Impulse review

A long time ago, just right here in Pittsburgh, I was asked to play a show at Gooski's with the Baltimore noise rock band, Multicult. By a long time ago, we're talking August 18th, 2014, so it's been almost 3 years. I still want to review these old shows, and this one was pretty cool, so here we are.

Nick from Multicult set up the show, and I helped with a few things. Originally we were set for Roboto, and Cyrus Gold was also going to play. Then the show moved to Gooski's, and Cyrus Gold dropped. I was luckily able to get my friend Mihalko to play. He uses a bunch of different names for his sets; this one was Flesh Heels.

I brought a small setup, because I rode my bike to Gooski's. Some friends saw me on the way there, and we might have loaded everything into their car; I don't remember. When we got to Gooski's, the sound was kinda goofy, and I had never run sound there before. Luckily, there were people there who knew what they were doing (thanks John Roman!).  For my set, I used a small sequencer and made some eerie alien sounds with its tones. I think I did well, and it was a fun set to play. With the blue lights above, a lights ensconced a dark mire, on this world or another. I will probably be doing something like this at the next Satyr/Elfheim show, the first in a long while, this September.


Next up was Flesh Heels. Unlike most of his sets, Mihalko did not bring one of his weird homemade guitars for this one. He did some cool noisy guitar stuff, going on a little longer than he maybe should have. I liked the creepy lizard mask.


Finally, Multicult played, an actual band on this short show. They were really good. I loved the bass tone; it has to be one of the best ever! The guitarist and drummer were good too, but the bass was really the standout instrument for me, a thick but not too low growl. Multicult is fast and tight and off-kilter in a way. It was hard to hear the vocals, due to the sound issues, but they are hard to understand for me even on the album from that tour.


Before I go, let's talk about Variable Impulse, Multicult's 2014 album. They also did an album last year, Position Remote, but I'm reviewing this ancient show here. Variable Impulse sounds a lot like the live show, and that is good. The album starts with "Othello", a song that has some cool bass sounds underneath the thrashy guitar; those bass growls really make this song. "Particle Shower", the following song is more interesting; there are some cool riffs here and more weird bass tones. It's also a little faster. The album steps back a bit for "Foreign Object", an atmospheric journey. More cool riffs and angular guitars happen. There's a bit of a Nirvana "loud quiet loud" thing going on here. Multicult isn't so far from grunge, but they aren't as detuned as a tarpit mummy. This album has Albini-esque production, so it needs to be turned up a bit to really make it pop; then it's great! "Melee" is a great bass-driven rocker, one of my favorites on the album, and it's followed by the post-punk by means of the Wipers, "Expressionless". I really like this song too. "Ungrounded" and "Jaws" continue the trudge forward, almost becoming too samey, but the great guitar fills on "Jaws" keep it all fresh. I really liked these guitar fills; they remind me of something I might do. Later, the heavy drum fills split the seas like an old sage calling to a sky god; that is also good. There is some very grindy bass on the next track "Nimbus", like it sounds like things being ground up, which is gross but cool. The album closes out with the harder, "PCP" and the title track "Variable Impulse". I wish the vocals were more prominent, but it's a great album. Multicult dredged up some toxic Baltimore sludge for this one. Variable Impulse gets a Good.

I really like Multicult and Variable Impulse. I missed them when they came again after this show. Thankfully they will be back this year on September 29th with a stacked lineup, including Philly's Soul Glo, at Roboto. I will be there, and it will be here soon after. I don't want to wait 3 years again.