Recently, I bought a tape of the album ETERNAL NIGHT by FIEBERTRAUM. It was released by power_lunch foundation back in April. In the last month or two, I have been buying a lot of vaporwave tapes. I am excited for this one to come in the mail. Unlike with most things, I reviewed this first on Bandcamp. I wanted to get a sticker pack that the label was offering. The intent was always to do a longer review too, so here we are.

ETERNAL NIGHT has some nice cover art. An image of a broken-down android in a comic/tattoo style that combines cute and creepy (basically superflat), the cover drew me to the album right away. The cover artist, Sungmin Choi, was not a familiar name to me before writing this review, but I found some other samples of her work online. Check it out if you haven't already before we move on to the album.

"BEHIND THE SECRET DOOR" is a great start. It reminds me of musick from the game Tenchu: Stealth Assassins except formatted more for stand-alone listening instead of as a soundtrack. Creature cries pierce the air between the crystal chimes and echoing percussion. Despite the name, "LEVITATION", sounds like a place underground, perhaps a location that is "BEHIND THE SECRET DOOR". The song changes quickly though, an interrupting synth creating the precarious sound of flight, a vision of cool-colored polygons of an abstract landscape. "OCCULT HOWLS" comes out of the darkness of space. A dark ambient/witch house chill from a damp basement or a hidden waterway. Cosmic horrors surround the listener as a drone fills ears with hypnotisms. Bright sounds happen, and then a fade out. Fade in the harsher "ROTTING FLESH", a harder-edged track with a beat and screechy drones. The layers of sound are like the layers of flesh being examined in a video nasty or, perhaps, an early Sam Raimi or Peter Jackson film. There's still a pop sensibility despite the gore. "FORSAKEN LANDSCAPE" is bleak, a mess of damaged computers, tangled wires, hissing static Shinya Tsukamoto nightmare. Someone cries out in the montage of agony, and perhaps there is some kind of redemption at the end. "THE SKY TURNED BLACK" is another spooky track. I spent a few days last week in a cold RV. This reminds me of the feeling I got during the first few nights when I wondered what was outside. The different effects and instruments on this track are really expertly done, and I think that this could work very well in a horror video game (really thinking of Darkwood here).

The short "MANIFESTATION" begins the second side. I find this track somewhat out of place, slightly cheesy, at least at first. A sort of horror-synthwave, the track makes some sense as it goes, but the chunky instruments feel like they are from a Perturbator album instead. "VIRTUAL VANITAS" goes back to the hauntings, a cloudy mirror in an abandoned mansion somewhere in the Japanese countryside with a portal, or at least a vision, to a calmer realm. This one is a little uninspired-sounding; I can't really explain why. I do like it overall, but it feels slightly less polished than much of the first side. "ZEITGEIST" is the creepiest track yet with horrid voices, odd ringing, and sounds of chains or pipes. Creaky doors and all, it's a scary soundscape. "THE HORIZON FADES AWAY" is a calmer track, a penultimate resolution similar to a more ethereal battle with Lordran's Lord of Cinder. It's a transitory track into the true ending, "OBSCURE MEDITATION". Was it all a dream occurring from the tormented mind? Or is this a funeral dirge, a bagpipe-played song for those lost, a transition to an otherworld?

I do not have the answer for you, dear readers. I can recommend this release whole-heartedly, however. ETERNAL NIGHT is a greatly imaginative work that expresses fears that combine the paranormal with the mundane. On chilly nights such as this, I may have the album playing somewhere in the background to ready myself against always new terrors.

ETERNAL NIGHT receives a Good.

So I am writing a new review about a jankyswans album that I got earlier this month. The album is called Summer in Real-Time, but as I am writing this it is the start of fall. Just earlier tonight, two old men fought on live TV, their blood coating thousands of hands, hearts, and minds that will go on to touch screens or write names on paper. This world is not what I expected to find when I was thinking of the future when I was younger. I certainly didn't think Skull Valley would turn into the a very erratic review of jankyswans tapes and other internet miscellenea as my own musick output moves from garage punk to vaporwave. The world is always changing, always moving; one day, you look outside and the grass has turned blue, and there are no birds anymore. Climate change, civil war, voter fraud, pandemic - it's all coming together. It doesn't seem good.

Thankfully, Summer in Real-Time is Good. The album was composed one track per week during the past months of chaos and protest. While I consider David of jankyswans a friend, I did buy the tape. This isn't a paid promotion. I did like the album though, so no surprises there.

The album art shows a sunset over a thin forest. The pink clouds and green sky provide a feel of nostalgic loss with a sense of hope. The rippled clouds remind me of fire, a setting sun on a damaged planet. But the open sky at the top reminds me that there is hope for the future if we take care and participate in the world. Dear readers, please remember that.

"strettchh" opens the album like an opening cutscene or musick from a video game menu. It's poppy, layered, and energetic. Next, "wanderr" slows things down with strands of sound that seem to crest hills of swaying green. The song changes quite a bit as it moves along with flourishes and dark tones. "retrogreyed" has some big sweeping bads as you might find in a neon grid somewhere beyond those fields we know. The basslines have a chunky, slimey sound. Overall it kind of sounds like a factory level or something. "clearing" is another nice track, this time with big dynamics created through a heavier drum sound, floating chimes, and stabs. clearing really evolves as the song continues, much of it changing but enough of the rhythm staying similar enough to not lose the listener. "sixcrystals" is kind of spooky. I like the mystical tone to the instruments, the weird drum sound, and the climbing melodies in the middle of the track. This must be the song you might hear during a revelation about needing to find six McGuffins to save the world. I imagine one of the old-school Final Fantasy games.

Side two starts with the unique "sinkhole". This track sounds a little sad, and it makes me think of the odd situation earlier this year where a bus fell into a huge sinkhole in downtown Pittsburgh. Like that surreal event, this song had me thinking about the strange nature of the world I mentioned earlier. The real world feels like a comic book or movie nowadays. I felt sad. I don't have much to say about "saturnate". It's a very unique song with totally different instrumentation than the other tracks. There is almost a Russian element to the chord progression. Moving along, "envelope" has a wistful, nostalgic feel to it. It reminds me of Earthbound or Undertalewith an additional cinematic element near the end. "bind" continues the Earthbound sound, this time more of the weirder sounds instead of the Sound Stone-esque sounds. It's kind of a rocker, but it has something like a xylophone too. It's also maybe like a quarter of the way into dungeon synth or something (I await the jankyswans dungeon synth record because that would be great). "drifft" is more like classic vaporwave than maybe any other jankyswans track I have heard. It has that detuned bass, but it quickly turns back into the vapory chiptune trademark. I like the little cat and pfone sounds. "summerend" is the end if you didn't buy the album. It's the shortest song at under two minutes, and it very much does sound like the end to something. It's cold and dark, a chilly cave or dungeon that opens into the hero walking into the sunset. This could maybe be in a Mega Man X game. For album buyers. the final track is "numbers station", which, in contrast, is the longest song on the album. It's a spookier, more mechanical song than other songs by the artist with a frog-like synth and vocals akin to the stations mentioned by the title. Is there a message to these numbers like the ones supposedly given to spies over the radio?

I really enjoyed Summer in Real-Time. I do wish there was slightly more variety, and it was a little longer than expected. However, the tracks are very solid, emotionally investing, and layered with sounds to explore over multiple listens. It is a nice snapshot of the strange summer of this year, something that seems like a page from a novelist's hand.

Summer in Real-Time receives a Good.

As a special present, here are some download codes to get this album for free. They are first-come, first-serve and redeemable at


jankyswans is a great vaporwave/chiptune artist that I have been in communication with for a few months while working on my own musick in a similar style as ☆彡DragonCentury99. They sent me a code last month, but I've been way over-busy as always. Thankfully, as things get back to normal for a time (don't count as this lasting), I finally got a chance to listen to their August EP titled myystischmatiist today, and it is a really great experience.

The cover art shows a man in a forest. Is he juggling? Is he viewing some spirits, will 'o wisps, that may be friends or tricksters? The framing of the image by the thin trees and the distant brighter background leave the viewer drawn into the image. The musick will take us there.

The first track is titled after the EP and shows the richer sound clearly. I big, splashy drum crashes bring a lot of  emotion to the song. "arboreal mollusc" sounds like the theme to Snowdin Town from Undertale. I really like this track.with its wobbly bass, bright melodies, frosty tints, and weird countermeasures. "rêÐ §hðµlÐêr ßµg§" is a little hard to spell, and it's kind of dissonant while still being melodic. I think that the big chords are kind of loud, but it's still a pretty good song. "cconstrructt" has a great bass sound. This one is almost a ballad, but still sounds like something from the game The Messenger. There's a very autumnal sound to this one with more splashy drums, chimes, and subtle windiness as we head into fall in North America.

"the//break" begins the second half of myystischmatiist. It continues the melodic, layered, vapory chiptune sound that's gone through the album. The song begins with with militaristic drums that contribute to a sound of survival, a feel of having strength to endure. "oathbreakers" has a great combination of sirens and square melodies that combine with a beautiful harmony, intertwining. "αƒтεятнσυgнт" ends the EP with chirpy piano, layers of percussion, and a great, hidden, bassline.

myystischmatiist is a great continuation of jankyswans work. I will be sure to listen to this EP along with the last one, antennae, if I am feeling down. There's a very determined spirit deep in the core of this strange wood that will refill a person's heart with a strong will once more.

myystischmatiist receives a Good.

Remember that if you are reading on September 4th, 2020, it is Bandcamp Friday, a day where Bandcamp waves their fees to give all of the money paid to the artists. Bandcamp Friday continues every first Friday of each month in 2020. Check out releases by ☆彡DragonCentury99 and jankyswans on Bandcamp today, tomorrow, or some other time. Thanks for listening.

Five days ago, when I was in the midst of finishing my second vaporwave/mallwave album, I got an email from a new fan about a picture I had posted of a paprika plant in my garden. Writing that their own musick was inspired by plants and animals around them, this individual described their interest in my new release and decided to buy the first album I had put out as 彡DragonCentury99. I ended up listening to their musick, and really liked the EP they put out today. In case you don't know, today, July 3rd, 2020, is a special day where Bandcamp is waving all of their own fees for purchases on the website. Be sure to check out some albums by yr favorite artists to help them out today! It's pretty late, but there is still time left (until 3am EST)!

The cover artwork for antennae reminds me of an old-school computer RPG. Showing a humanoid and a huge insect on the cover, it's a bit of a portrait, which I don't love. I do like that there is some ambiguity here. Are the characters allied? Is the humanoid about to fight the insect? The background looks a bit different than the characters, but I do like the gradient of grey miasma. I assume that this eerie fog cloaks the world of this EP as it starts.

The EP begins with steady beat and a bouncy but rigid bassline before melodic bells come in accompanied by harmonics from some kind of stringed instrument for the title track. This is a great start to this release: it's concise and continuously exciting. Dramatic synths bring out tension and mystery as we delve further into a beautiful fadeout. Further in, there is water, more rigid bass, and a water-y synth leading the way. This track is called "l e v e l s e l e c c", and it does very much remind me of a Mario hubworld or the like. The track fades out with some retrogame sounds that accompany jumping, warping, or collecting coins. When the artist messaged me, they told me that the next track, "ᗩ Gᖇᗩᑎᗪ ᗩᑎOᒪE" was inspired by reptiles seen enjoying the sunshine. It's another mysterious-sounding track of dueling rhythm and lead and simple drums. It makes me think of going on some kind of journey. "mday" closes out what I think of as the first side. An "ending song", "mday" is a wistful tune lead by chirpy tones and a calm flute.

Heading back into the dark, "lofft" kind of sounds like something from The Terminator mixed with New Age/vaporwave echoes and the classic chiptune melodies. It's very cinematic and layered, much more than the dramatic ambiance it might seem at first glance. I don't find "moon ❀ regent" as inspiring as the earlier tracks, at least at first. The first half doesn't really hook me, but once the Mega Man style kicks in, it's all good. I really enjoy how this track builds up to something huge. Afterwards, this is the ending theme, "npc bacchanalia". A happy little song with a relaxed, comical feel and rising tones that inspire hope, this track lets the listener know that everything turns out okay in the end. I hope that's true for yr story too.

I am very happy that I got to hear antennae by jankyswans. A chance encounter via an image of a paprika plant turned into a discovery of new musick. The internet can annoy me a lot of the time, but this is a way that it can help us discover new ideas, new musick, and new and inspiring artists. Sometimes it all works out. If you like chiptunes or vapory stuff, this is a great chance to hear a combination of the two together.

antennae receives a Good.

Check out both releases by ☆彡DragonCentury99 and jankyswans on Bandcamp today, tomorrow, or some other time. Thanks for listening.

Recently, I've been thinking a lot about musick. Surprisingly, I haven't been writing about it at all. My girlfriend and I moved across town at the end of the summer, and we're still unpacking and making repairs. We had to put our band and other creative endeavors on hold for the moment. I'm just getting back into the swing of things after months, and I actually started recording a new noise album for a label that asked me to do a release. I've started to ponder what I want out of noise musick, what I can bring to it that I haven't already, and what people are interested in. I felt kind of lost.

Around when we were still in a seriously chaotic mess of moving, Mirkwood Recordings asked me to review Side Stepping The Abyss by Düne Kankel. The review really got lost in the chaos even though I really wanted to do it. I tried a few times and was put off by the album's leading track being over nine minutes. When I recorded some noise stuff earlier this week, using only my guitar and some effects due to my gear being scattered around our house and storage unit, I felt lost, out of touch. Maybe listening to a similar album could help me, so I decided to listen to Side Stepping The Abyss in full.

The cover art to Side Stepping The Abyss is a painting of mountains at night. Bats or birds fly over the snow-covered peaks. The art has a rough outsider feel to it, which, along with the subject matter, foreshadows the musick inside.

"And the Void Sings to Me" is the first track on the album, opening with a whirring rumble that goes into something that sounds akin to an out of tune merry-go-round in a Krautrock band. The song goes a number of times around this ride with some more dramatic variations. Every time, I can hear more of the sounds in the distance layered through mud and fog. Some solo-ish things appear like creatures struggling out of the mud, but nothing feels particularly focused. The production is very rough around the edges. A deathly voice calls out from the fog towards the end as various tones ring out. Unfortunately, I found this somewhat cheesy. It might be cool to you, though. "Ceremonial Dirge", the second song, plays out much quicker and, in my opinion, better. The song is what sounds like a tape, a slice of ambient air warblings, interrupted by bell chimes. It's eerie and effective. The production is much cleaner as well. "Creative Suffering" is a very loud song that reminds me of something I did on my album The UFO Cults of Satyr/Elfheim ("Sanat Kumara"). Both songs are not well produced and utilize loops of guitar loudness as an instrument. On "Creative Suffering", the guitar is a fuzz cannon with other flares of feedback noise appearing in other areas. The song plods along without many changes to the main riff. The guitar does drop out a bit and switch sides in the second half, and then it flanges into white noise before returning. The final moments combine shoegaze and black metal into a not-so-loud experience.

"Intrusive Thought" starts the second half of the album with more extreme loudness, ambiance, and wind torpedoes. There are some cool pulsations on this track, science-fiction machines from another planet. "Neurogeneric" is another looped-guitar experience. I like the song here, almost Tibetan and dancing about out of sync. There are some really cool layers here too. Unfortunately, the track is spoiled by the extreme volume and the thin distortion applied to the guitar after the first half. "Recovering Lost Soul Fragments" does some similar things as "Neurogeneric", though the guitar here is more rhythmic. Again, it reminds me of myself and various poor production jobs I have done over the years.The guitar sounds pretty cool, but I wish there was more than just the deep, darkness of bass reflections in a well. "Relapse, Relapse, Repeat" concludes the album with chilly spirit sounds that remind me of some of Kendra Smith's interludes. "Relapse, Relapse, Repeat" is brief, perhaps too brief, but it's a decent end to an unfortunately underwhelming release.

I did not enjoy Side Stepping The Abyss. I was initially intimidated by the song lengths on this release, and my listening experience followed suit, in a sense. The droning of "Creative Suffering" and "And the Void Sings to Me" rattle on and on for far too long. If these tracks were not excruciatingly loud, rough, and rumbling, they might work, but the production here is bare-bones and ragged. Side Stepping The Abyss is physically painful for me to listen to, at least with headphones. The tracks are way too far into the red for me to really experience in any capacity. I believe that this is the first album I've reviewed that I've ever skipped through some of the songs after a few minutes. As for the shorter songs, they're fine. Most seem more curated and carefully produced. The instruments and the way they interact are much more interesting on songs like "Neurogeneric" than on the longer pieces. Even the shorter tracks are extremely loud, though. Surprisingly, Side Stepping The Abyss has a listed producer, so this isn't just someone in their basement blasting a giant cabinet as I foolishly did when I was younger. I really wish that someone had taken a step back and thought about the usage of space and the element of composition during this creation. Without these things, there are some serious problems.

To get back to the beginning, these problems are, for me, problems with the noise genre itself. They at least make the genre uninteresting as a whole to me. In a live setting, this kind of stuff doesn't really come into play, and loudness can make for some excitement as long as you have, like, earplugs. I still think that composition or clever improvisation is important and, personally, I need some kind of space in a soundscape. For fans of black metal and harsh noise, you probably don't care about these things, and this album, and others like it, may appeal to you. It doesn't work for me at all.

Side Stepping The Abyss receives a Bad.

Continuing from last time, I proceeded with my search for truth in regards to the mysterious Atlanta-based Victory Hands. I did find the original email exchange where I agreed to review the three records I received, so it wasn't all some covert conspiracy. Last time we looked at BERNSTEIN and ANDERSON, two short releases named for journalistic enemies of Richard Nixon that feature lyrics constructed from Nixon dialogues. Today, I have the LP, BISHOP, to review.

BISHOP is the third Victory Hands release. It's named for Jim Bishop, a journalist who wrote a column for King Features. I can't find any particular noteworthy incident that brought Bishop to Nixon's list of media enemies, but his column included many articles criticizing the President's mediaphobia. Though BISHOP is a full-size LP, it's not so much that in terms of the amount of musick here. The total time isn't even 26 minutes.

BISHOP continues the trend of fantastic packaging. The vinyl is transparent, and the album artwork contains many of the lyrics, shown by blacking out excluded portions from the transcription of Nixon's speech that ended up sung on the album. Text and images are printed stark black on white except for "This Kitchen", which is printed with metallic gold. One image shows a Presidential meeting. The cover art shows a man hugging a chimpanzee. I'm not sure what it means, though there is a surreal cuteness and a calmness to it. It's kind of absurd but adorable. We must continue, though, and pop the clear vinyl onto the table.

The first side begins. "Top Brass" starts with droning guitars rebounding off of an angle. The vocals are all drama, voices about morale and struggle taken from remarks Nixon made to the Department of Defense on January 31st, 1969, the inherent doom of the Vietnam War. "Dressed to the Tease" recalls "Undressed To The Tease" from BERNSTEIN, a song that utilized words between Kissinger and Nixon about Ronald Reagan. It has a cool, acidic, and hollow guitar sound. "Face These Facts" is a short and poppy rocker that reminds me of The Wedding Present. It could be the ending song to a television show.

The second side continues. "This Kitchen" has emotional depth and anxiety. "What we want to do is make life easy." Sometimes I really wonder about this. 'Are you still angry?" Yes, basically, sort of. To respond to a later section, I don't want to fight, but I am upset with the nature of the world. "I want to be unwavering." The song is built from words taken from Nixon's so-called "Kitchen Debate" with Nikita Khrushchev in a model house built to show the power of capitalism. I can't say that that power still exists today except for the few. "Tonight He Stands" is very dissonant. Someone's standing, presumably Nixon at the Republican National Convention, but it gives me vertigo. Words about children, courage, and danger accompany tension-filled riffage. "All In The Family" is all riffage. Then it's all over.

BISHOP officially releases physically on September 27th, 2019 - two days from now! Pre-order a copy today!

BISHOP receives a Good.

I moved at the end of July through the beginning of August. Amidst the chaos of box cities shifting too and fro, trucks delivering another round of citizens to their new vistas, I found a strange package at my new address: a flat box about a foot tall with a sticker of Richard Nixon on the front and the name "Victory Hands". Seemingly there was a record (or records) inside, but I didn't have time to open it during all of the procedures at the time. Did I agree to review something? I couldn't remember.

When I finally did open the box, I found an assortment of interesting items. The band was Victory Hands, and they are from Atlanta, Georgia. The package contained three of their releases inside of increasing size: 7 inches, 10 inches, and 12 inches of vinyl disc. All of the records were transparent vinyl, all had stark black-and-white covers, all had elaborate fold-out packaging with Richard Nixon transcriptions, and all were named after self-declared media enemies of Richard Nixon.
The first was ANDERSON, a 10" single. The cover is creepy, though I don't really know why. It looks like a mob going after someone, perhaps a killing by stoning. the grin, the wall, the moon are all strange features. I can't get over the woman and child on the right, a grotesque morphing of traditional imagery. As for the title, Anderson was a journalist who investigated the Iran-Contra Affair, fleeing Nazis hiding out in South America, and various cases with Richard Nixon. The administration plotted to assassinate Anderson, but this was destroyed after the Watergate affair. This record remains a transparent relic of such a time.

"The Guy We Can Kick" is a lurching, vertigo unbalanced mid-range drone rocker cut from early 90s Sonic Youth and Gang of Four. "If They Give Him The Shaft" is a metallic, melodic rocker with an eerie undercurrent in the left channel. The vocals give the song the feel of a worn hero, a portrait from a different angle of our tarnished 37th president. It's somewhat poignant, do we attribute too many problems with the modern world to people of the past? The people of the present, of the future, can always make different choices than their ancestors.

ANDERSON receives a Good.

The second release is a 7" EP, BERNSTEIN. The cover shows Nixon's dog, Checkers, a black-and-white cocker spaniel. Less innocently, Carl Bernstein was one of the main reporters about the Watergate scandal, going on to write All the President's Men with his partner, Bob Woodward. He later wrote about Pope John Paul II, the relation between the CIA and the American media, and the increasing trend of sensationalism in American journalism. Let's ditch that trend.

"Nixon Is My Copilot" is the first track. With rumbling bass and melodic, almost naive, guitars, the song shifts between happy and nervous. It increasingly drones, all instrumental, as it goes on with a whining fade-out. "Nixon Is My Copilot" is a nice, short, snappy, poppy piece. "Lady of the Lake" is a Sir Walter Scott poem turned into musick by James Sanderson; it's "Hail to the Chief". The song has been replicated here in slow-mo, slightly sludgish, a rock replica of 1990s-isms. "September 23rd, 1952" references Nixon's "Checkers Speech" about modest living with his dog Checkers as a metaphor. The song sounds like something from a Hanna-Barbera cartoon like The Flintstones or The Jetsons. I think it mostly reminds me of the cover of the title track from the latter by The Urinals, though this is less frantic. "Undressed To The Tease" takes words from a conversation between Nixon and Henry Kissinger on November 17th, 1971 about Ronald Reagan. The pair basically underestimated the actor-politician. The song is the hardest on this EP, pushing ahead with Nixon's angry words, "doesn't he know these battles we fight and fight and fight?" I don't think I know these battles myself; their self-created, a framework of neurotics, globalism, control, and economic starvation.

BERNSTEIN receives a Good.

Victory Hands has certainly made its mark in my book. I enjoyed all of these tracks and found the paranoia, juxtapositions, and double-meanings very interesting. The high-contrast images and transparent vinyl display what I see as the meaning of all of this: the need for transparency in our current American government and the relation of that need, and lack of such a transparency, going back decades. The war on journalism is not just a recent trend. Nevertheless, we're not to the destination yet, in government or in Victory Hands discography. Do we have Bernsteins and Andersons of today? I don't know; perhaps citizens are more informed in a sense through the internet but still lacking in a heroic figurehead to push forward. Victory Hands themselves have one more record we're going to take a look at, though I expect there will be more in the future.

MARI themes

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