Saturday, August 29, 2015

Drowning In Wood-s/t, cassette/dl; Scissor Tail Editions, 2015

While Disaster Amnesiac is by no means an expert on Black Metal, I have been a fan of the genre for several years now. Perhaps its most appealing aspect for this listener is willfully corroded aesthetic that many of the bands utilize. By this, I mean the way in which they sublimate so many of the often useless trappings of music, such as playing notes for notes' sake, "catchy" hooks, and overuse of orchestration, to a more over arching feel. Black Metal is, to me, all about mood. One must be in the correct mental space in order to vibe with these moods, granted, but when one's damn compelling.
What this all has to do with Drowning In Wood is the simple fact that as Disaster Amnesiac listens to this Italian duo's eponymous release, those same types of moods arise within my mind. Sergio Albano and Vincenzo De Luce conjure up these darkened soundscapes utilizing what sound like very extended techniques with their guitars. I thought that there were laptops involved upon my initial listening! On tunes like Above the Field and My Roots Are Covered In Blood, and the snarling Industrial of Crossroad, Drowning in Wood have that same plaintive, slowly unfolding inner drama that features in the best Black Metal. These tunes are not necessarily easy to listen to, but, damn, what darkened moods! I have often felt, while listening, as if I had been summoned to some hidden cave and given a private concert from the duo, one lit by slowly burning fires and candles. Glimmers of hope do arrive in Limbo and Never the Same, but for the most part the release stays within the blackened parameters of Kvlt aesthetics. By the time the closing tune Somewhere Not Here finishes up its twisted hocket, the listener will surely feel the sublime, cold hand of ravishing grimness massaging the caves of their minds.
Disaster Amnesiac has no idea as to whether or not Drowning In Wood are fans or practitioners of Black Metal, but I damn sure hear some similar traits.  Both revel within the chilly airs of isolation and despair, set to music. This stuff ain't for the timid or easily offended, but if you're in the mood for that type of musical disaffection, their skeletal hands, wrapped around icy strings, lift a beckoning finger.

Monday, August 24, 2015

No. 4 Imperial Lane; Jonathan Weisman, Twelve Books, 2015

It's been some time since Disaster Amnesiac has enthused about a novel, but after finishing Jonathan Weisman's wonderful No. 4 Imperial Lane, I just have to do so.
The book follows two time streams, one set in in Brighton, England in 1988, the other in (mostly) Angola in the early 1970's. Linking the two is the story of Elizabeth Bromwell, who in the former setting is the primary care taker for her quadriplegic brother Hans and in the latter a young, inexperienced wife of a conscripted Portuguese army medic. Dramatic action is achieved through her recounting of those early years to David, an American college student that has taken on the job of assistant care taker for Hans. While David's voice is the primary narrative voice, the story ultimately belongs to Elizabeth as she describes those times while knocking back vodka in the kitchen of her Brighton flat and its steadily decreasing possessions.
Weisman's crisp, subtly witty writing moves this story along compellingly; seriously, I could not wait to get back to its pages when not reading it.
Also compelling is the history lesson imparted through the novel. Disaster Amnesiac knew absolutely nothing about Portugal's imperial machinations and the ruin that they brought to Angola, especially at their empire's terminal stage, but after reading Imperial Lane, I will likely seek out more reading on the subject. It was striking for me to realize that at that same time as my country's ignominious exit out of Southeast Asia was happening, a much older misadventure, equally traumatic to all parties, was also crumbling into the World Historical dust in Southwest Africa.
Weisman shows much creativity with use of many Shakespeare quotes, delivered by Elizabeth and her husband Joao, both of them being scholars of the Bard. These quotes accentuate certain parts of the story really nicely, coloring moments both tragic and triumphant with extra flair.
Tragedy certainly does color the story, as airs of impossibility and human recalcitrance towards emotional obligations arise from the characters, but Weisman ultimately gives the reader a tender shoot of hope amid the thickets of hopelessness that are evinced at macro and micro human levels.
No. 4 Imperial Lane is the kind of novel that one could end up harassing friends to read. Disaster Amnesiac will try not to do so, but, if you do read it, please feel free to share your impressions of it with me. I'd love to discuss its voluminous merits!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Ross Hammond/Jon Bafus-Shiner; self-released cassette, 2014

This cassette, procured from Ross Hammond earlier this year at the excellent Gold Lion Arts space in Sacramento, had been forgotten by Disaster Amnesiac in the ensuing months, as I'd stored it in a drawer.
Anyway, thank heavens for re-organizing jags, as it presented itself to me, underneath my Sony AM/FM Walkman during a recent reshuffle.
Made up of two tracks, Tones for Roscoe Mitchell and For the Defenders of Middle Earth, Shiner features Hammond in duo with drummer Jon Bafus.
The pair lay down some swift, sinewy lines on the first track, with Hammond getting great North African style picking from his clearly clean guitar, while Bafus skitters and pounds out Free energetic drum kit-speak along side of him. This piece fades out at the end, while the duo are in full-on expressive mode, which leads to the other side's plaintive beginning passage; here they let the tones ring out a bit more as their exchange begins to climb a sonic ladder up into a syncopated lock step groove that leads out.
With that, the tape ends, and this listener is left wondering when I can see Hammond/Bafus live again.  Short, sweet, and solid, this one.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Disaster Amnesiac swims in two streams of the Ambient River!

Disaster Amnesiac finds it very interesting that these two releases have come my way in recent days, both presented after some type of work done for their principles. Additionally, they are both collaborative pieces, produced largely by way of technically aided interface between their creators. Synchronicity abounds!
Both of them strike me as being rooted within the Ambient Music movement. As most readers well know, this stream has been somewhat quietly growing for the past four decades or so. It is one that is alive with diversity, as thousands of musicians and artists are working within its wide flows. Releases such as In the Other House and Inuksuk, while probably never getting massively hyped, are all the more fascinating for this listener; they are the products of people that want to express themselves, most likely for the simple pleasures achieved from the act of doing so. Let us slip into and swim within these two individual tributaries to the larger Ambient river of sound.

Deison & Uggeri-In the Other House; Old Bicycle Records/Oak Editions, 2015
Utilizing an Electro-Acoustic mixture of instrumentation, the duo of Deison & Uggeri offer six tracks of somewhat darkened Ambient on In the Other House, each one naming a given room of an imagined dwelling. Violins are bowed, piano keys stroked, horns blown, and all kinds of electronically modified field recordings are transformed into somewhat eery drones in this rumination on "uncomfortable rooms which were populated by dark invisible presences". Disaster Amnesiac can hear this discomforted vibe: listening to In the Other House has at times had me in a somewhat perturbed state of mind. This disc's ambiance is pretty murky and unsettling, as hinted at by the cover art. This is not fluffy New Age Ambient music. I've often thought that Blackened New Age would be a good descriptor for these kinds of sounds, but am not exactly comfortable with the contradiction in terms implied there. Comfort and discomfort aside, Deison & Uggeri have cooked up an intensely intimate statement here. Despite its outward darkness, this is a perfect soundtrack for padding around your own domicile as you quietly marvel at the small mysteries of life and its physical manifestations.

Hertz & Mystified-Inuksuk; Aural Films, 2015
Recently in conversation, Jack Hertz explained the motivations behind his Aural Films label: he releases a lot of stuff, most in the purely digital format, but the best get the coveted physical treatment.
With Inuksuk, Hertz teams up with Mystified to produce an enhanced CD of eight chill(y) blasts of Ambient sound, all intended to take the listener on a ([J]ourney into the mysticism of Arctic cultures". As such, it's a very effective release, and Disaster Amnesiac can hear why Aural Films wanted to release this one in a bit more of an archival form.
High-end peals of sound evoke the brightness of the Arctic sunlight, pairing with low, long, and deep drones that give the timeless feelings that one can imagine rising within a person as they traverse the ice and tundra of the region. Great shamanic percussion is pulled from drum heads and resonant metals, which gives pieces such a Tcakabesh a stately, ritualistic feel. The music of Inuksuk is filled with deeply esoteric spaces and moods, and it's perfectly suited for many types of activities: deeper listening, ritual soundtrack, or those times when some (seemingly) unobtrusive tones are needed. Any of these types of experiences would be enhanced by the sounds produced by Hertz & Mystified herein.
Along with all of these mysterious sound worlds, the CD provides detailed liner notes/guides in pdf form, reproductions of several great, abstract paintings by Thomas Park-Jackson, and brief video snippets. This one is jam packed with sensory goodies!

To reiterate, Disaster Amnesiac realized that there are thousands of Ambient releases for listeners to choose from, just as there are thousands in any other given genre of the post-Internet world. I don't know who will choose these two from that stream, but I can say with certainty that I'm glad that these two swam my way. Perhaps you'll find their sounds refreshing as well.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Disaster Amnesiac Mixed Bag of Submitted Materials Review!

When this blog started eight years ago, Disaster Amnesiac figured that I'd always focus my rantings and ravings upon items that I'd found/purchased myself. The reasoning was that, if source materials were not submitted by another party for review, I could maintain an objective stance within the reviewing process. It was a method of avoiding what I saw as some pretty rampant nepotism within the music industry. Since that time, the principle method has remained mostly consistent, but within the last couple of years, certain labels have sent along promo items for my describing and enthusing. Disaster Amnesiac is grateful for the free sounds, as I know this all costs these people money and time. Here I present a first installment of items that have come my way through these channels.

Beauty School-Residual Ugly; Humbler Records, 2015
First up, Beauty School's Residual Ugly cassette/download release. This SF Bay Area group features top flight musicians Matt Chandler on bass, Tom Djill on electronics and trumpet, and Jacob Felix Heule on percussion and electronics. Essentially an Experimental Music power trio, they lay down some fantastically textured Noise. Chandler's bass playing has great impact with its heavy strumming and low end plucking, Djill's spaced out sounds color the treble sound spectrum with whine, bleep, crackle, and pop on top of the hard-hitting bass beams, and Heule pounds great big percussive moves alongside of them. Disaster Amnesiac has really been enjoying the junkyard Industrial feel of this cassette, and has also been reflecting that it's releases such as Residual Ugly that have solidified the now 100 year old promise of artists such as Futurist Luigi Russolo, that of fresh new musical forms arising out of what had been considered mere noise. The promo sheet gleefully maintains that "[M]usic can be avoided", but in this listener's opinion, Beauty School are simply working within a musical matrix, one that includes "noise", that remains wide open, and, yes...beautiful.

Alan Sondheim/Azure Carter/Luke Damrosch-Threnody: Shorter Discourses of the Buddha-Public Eyesore Records #133, 2015
If you've read this blog at all within the last year or so, you'll be well-appraised at how generous Public Eyesore/eh? Records have been to me (thanks, Bryan!) They sent over the newest offering from Alan Sondheim and Azure Carter a few weeks back, and Disaster Amnesiac has been digging this one greatly. Threnody features the extensive talents of Sondheim on 19 instruments, and he shows tremendous skills on all of them. His skittering, fast string playing throws out all manner of micro-tonal delights within its speedy delivery, and his playing on wind instruments has emotional depth, warmth, and balance. Sondheim's aesthetic evinces the awesome power of Folk-based sounds within the greater musical spectrum. Dear America: please pay attention to this homegrown talent! It's a shame that Sondheim's six decades of singular musical development are not as widely acknowledged. He's a Master. Also quite enjoyable are the understated vocals from Carter. Listening to Azure sing evokes the same kind of pleasure for me that comes from reading well written Minimalism. Great clarity and enjoyment comes from the apparent simplicity of her delivery, which is completely free of extraneous embellishment. Would that so many other current singers learn from her! The addition of Luke Damrosch on guzheng and madal adds percussive string and drum depth, respectively, and his layered summation of Threnody's totality of songs on Alltracks achieved by use of Supercollider software, is deliciously bizarre and thick!

Amy Reed & Collette McCaslin-"Rocks*Sticks*Stones"; self-released, 2015
Disaster Amnesiac was handed a copy of this disc by trumpeter/percussionist Collette McCaslin a few days back, and I've been listening to "Rocks*Sticks*Stones" in the car quite a bit. Revisiting its sounds is more the case, as I was in attendance for this show earlier this year at the Musicians' Union Hall in the SOMA District of San Francisco.  Along with her cohort Amy Reed on guitar and vocals, Collette immerses the listener into an intensely private, almost ritualistic sound world. I've seen them both play at least a few times, and it's clear that they have intense focus while in the midst of performing. No "Jazz Hands" coming from these two! Needless to say, these "rituals" feature the two musicians probing with their sounds, searching for shared spaces in which to intertwine their voices. When these spaces are discovered, Reed and McCaslin blast forth with energy, yet always conversationally, their unison lines then walking back to quieter moods as the process continues. Collete's trumpet playing, sometimes filtered through an echo unit, features a kind of frank, non-flashy timbre, while Reed's guitar, going straight to the amp, is dryly plucked and probed by fingers, rocks, reeds, and other implements. "Rocks*" has the kind of late night feel that I often mention, and still more often love. A privileged glimpse into the musical minds of two of the more retiring, yet intensely creative, Northern California-based improvisers.

Chances are, Disaster Amnesiac will have to depend on private funds in order to keep up this little 'ole blog. Still it's flattering to be sent promo materials for review. Many thanks to Public Eyesore/eh?, Humbler, and Reed/McCaslin for sending stuff my way! Either way, I'll keep listening, describing, and enthusing.