Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Internal Void-Unearthed; Southern Lord, 2000

What does light mean to you? Does the way an environment's light falls effect your perception of music? Disaster Amnesiac finds these questions to be relevant while enjoying Internal Void's incredible offering from 2000, Unearthed. It goes back to listening to music during the 1980's, mostly as I tooled around the suburbs of Northern Virginia in a beat up Datsun with a functioning tape deck. There were times, especially in autumn, when hues of the sunlight and their attendant falling upon the environment would mesh with music in  a sublime perfection. Over the ensuing years, Disaster Amnesiac has often felt those same feelings when I hear bands the unique sounds of Maryland Heavy Rock, as practiced by Internal Void, Obsessed, Spirit Caravan, and others. There is just something about the way that the groups that come out of that scene shape their melodies and harmonies that evokes the light of the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S., at least for me.
Those kinds of "insights", obviously purely subjective, may not translate well into a good review, so please allow Disaster Amnesiac to try and be a bit more objective as I attempt to enthuse about how great an album Unearthed is.
First off, guitarist Kelly Carmichael utilizes such great, heavy tones within this set of tunes. Opener With Apache Blood kicks things off, showing his melodic strength before turning into some bruising riff crushes. It sounds as if he put a lot of work in to getting a really sweet tone, perfectly fuzzed but still clear and focused. This action continues on tracks like Pint Of Love and Too Far Gone, as Carmichael puts the lessons of Iommi and Weinrich to great use. Disaster Amnesiac is fascinated by his Allman-flavored sweetness on In A Bit Of Jam, and figures that Kelly is the kind of guitar player that would be well appraised of Dicky Betts' love of Charlie Parker, and be conversant with them, too. Within the Heavy Rock form, there's just no excuse for underdone guitar playing. On Unearthed, Carmichael is seriously cooking.
Obviously, a Rock band also needs a moving, breathing rhythm section, and Internal Void was certainly blessed with one at the time of Unearthed in Adam S. Heinzmann on bass and Ronnie Kalimon on drums. The latter  puts on a veritable clinic in Rock drumming. He's heavily involved in all of the arrangements, and just slays on tunes such as Blindside, Chapter 9, and Beyond Anger, to name just a few. This involvement is always grounded in superior time keeping, and it's simply amazing. The total kick ass drumming on the album alone is worth the price of admission. Listen and marvel. Heinzmann does not slouch on top of his battery mate's chops; the way that he bridges the drums to the guitar riffs has all of the physical push and pull that's necessary with the approach to Heavy Rock. His harmonies with Carmichael's riffs is so sweet: listen closely to With Apache Blood.
Internal Void singer JD Williams utilizes all of the talent emanating from the instrumentalists within the band as a launch pad for a fine performance of his own, delivering lyrics that are Doom'ed, wry, definitely on the darker side, but that never come across as despairing. Knowing is a good way to describe them; fully aware of, and seemingly effected by, the "permanent down" that Bill Ward mentioned, but never submitting to the darkness. His vocal tones, somewhat reedy alto mostly but at times gutturally slung out, fit in with these moods, musical and lyrical, perfectly. Disaster Amnesiac always marvels at his delivery on Too Far Gone and Chapter 9, but, as they say, it's all good throughout.
Time passes: Unearthed is almost twenty years old. Light fades: as Disaster Amnesiac peers out the window this evening, the sun sets, its waning light coloring the sky over the SF Bay in an orange hue, somewhat reminiscent of similar ones seen on freaked out late afternoon drives in doomed Prince William County. Heaviness endures: snag a copy of this great record from Internal Void and hear that for yourself. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Greg Ginn-Let It Burn (Because I Don't Live There Anymore); Cruz Records, 1994

If for no one else than Disaster Amnesiac, the requisite amount of time has passed with no real news from Greg Ginn and SST Records. I find myself wondering, "what's up with Ginn?" a lot these days. The past silent stretches have often been the result of fucked up contracts with distribution companies or conceptual re-ordering of the musical variety; Disaster Amnesiac can't help but wonder, though, if the internecine war of three years back within the SST/South Bay gang put such a damper on Greg as to make him cease musical activity all together.
Being the Ginn obsessive that I am, I've had to turn to older releases for the need Ginn-tar fix that has been an almost daily habit for over thirty years now. Thankfully, as we all know, there's TONS of that floating around, a prime example being his 1994 solo LP Let It Burn (Because I Don't Live There Anymore).
For the longest time, Disaster Amnesiac has pondered the title of this great release. Is it a sarcastic riff on the "Indie-Nation" heroes The Replacements Let It Be title? A very unsubtle jab at the then-crumbling micro-world of SST and his possible true feelings about it? Obviously, only Ginn knew for sure, and he's not one to bother talking about those types of aspects of his body of work. Song title such as Drifting Away, I Don't Want It, and Lame Excuses have always struck this listener as possible clues to the overriding theme, and the the lyrical vitriol of Taking the Other Side and Destroy My Mind seem to back this up. Whatever Greg was thinking about when he penned these lyrics, it was most definitely pissing him off to a huge extent.
In speaking of the lyrics, the subject of Ginn's singing voice, pretty much debuted here, must come up. It's not as though Disaster Amnesiac has ever had a conversation about it, but I've pondered what others have thought of it. I like it a lot. Way more warble-ey than Rollins', obviously, and without the hard confidence of Henry's Flag declamations, but fine for Punk Rock statements and said vitriol. The lyrical subjects aren't pretty, so why should the singing be so? For the Ginn fan, it's just kind of fun to hear him take a turn at the mic, too.
If you've ever seen the footage of Black Flag in Decline of Western Civilization, you'll recall that while the rest of the group was being interviewed at the Church, Greg had his Mosrite in hand and was doing scales during part of that clip. I've always figured that that portion was telling re: Ginn's work ethic when it comes to, especially, the guitar. Say what you want about him, but in many ways, he's all about the music, and moving it forward. Another fascinating aspect of Let It Burn is the ways in which Ginn's developments at that time are on full display. In a fine interview with Mark Prindle in Citi-zine, Greg described his early 1990's fascination with the Techno of that time, and how he'd play along with radio broadcasts featuring that style. On tunes such as Military Destroys Mind/Body, In Your Face Motherfucker, and Hey Stupidface, he fuses Techno drum and rhythm programming to his burning solo riffs. I've been listening to this LP for almost twenty years, and never tire of its blending of Hardcore Techno with Hardcore Punk Rock musical aesthetics. Ginn's guitar voice is diminished not one whit within these moves, and his bass playing is funky and loopy within its moves. The more traditionally rocking tracks such at Let It Burn, Taking the Other Side, Exiled From Lame Street, and Drifting Away all feature more burning guitar solo statements, exemplary tight riffs, and really moving bass/drum rhythm section interaction. I Don't Want It blazes at levels equal to any of the great mid-late period Black Flag pieces, as does Destroy My Mind with its cool cowbell hits and odd, psychedelic voices floating in the background. Indeed, Let It Burn is, across the board, just as finely rocking as any Flag.
Who knows what the future holds for Greg Ginn and SST Records. Disaster Amnesiac has been patiently holding on for any news from them for the past couple of years. It seems as though, like many other labels and performers of that generation, the output is slowing down. Still, it'd be great to hear some new stuff from him and whichever cohorts he may have at this time. Until that happens, and hopefully soon, Disaster Amnesiac will have to enjoy the great merits of releases such as Let It Burn (Because I Don't Live There Anymore). There's scads of fun sounds within it and just about any other project he gets going. Still, I'm kind of begging for more, here. Any time you want, Greg!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Nathan Hubbard/Skeleton Key Orchestra-Furiously Dreaming; Orenda Records, 2016

A few years ago, while dining with a pal in Long Beach and listening to two amazing local Jazz musicians play lovely versions of several Standards, said pal said something like "...the great thing about L.A. is the fact that everywhere you turn, real TALENT abounds..." Disaster Amnesiac, after listening to Furiously Dreaming, will just go on and add San Diego to that statement.
Across two CD's containing eight tracks in all, S.D.-based Nathan Hubbard/Skeleton Key Orchestra puts in an absolutely stunning performance of Post-Bop Big Band music that will surely please just about any fan of any number of strains within 20th Century and beyond music.
I figure it can be somewhat of a cliche to brand music with the broadness of scope evinced within Dreaming as visionary, but, damned if that's not exactly the way the Hubbard comes across as one listens. Elements of Jazz, Serialism, Electronic Music, Beat Poetry, Medieval European composition, Turntablism: all are blended within this group's book. As Disaster Amnesiac has listened, I've found myself comparing it with similar offerings from the likes of Mingus, Braxton, Evans et al. Seriously, Nathan Hubbard's scope is that vast, and long, seemingly through-composed pieces such as Crows On The Roof and Other Ideas offer ample proof of that.
This kind of vision can suffer for lack of musicianship or preparation. It sounds as if every player/singer/writer within Skeleton Key Orchestra is very much up to the task of delivering upon the promise of Hubbard's ideas. All the solos are creatively fiery, the group passages are all sounds just so sublimely together and fused.
The liner note of the disc shows that many years' time was spent on the preparation of Furiously Dreaming, and Disaster Amnesiac must tip the cap to Nathan: it must have been trying to have to wait to get this vision out into the world, but holy smokes how that patience has paid off in aesthetic dividends. The tones are clear, and the instrumental mix is beautifully wet and alive.
Jazz and Orchestral music are, ideally, all about personal vision and the execution thereof. With Furiously Dreaming, Nathan Hubbard has utilized Skeleton Key Orchestra to show his own. Many years ago, Disaster Amnesiac read a liner note for one of Gerry Hemingway's Hat Hut discs, in which a writer said that Hemingway has "...written his way into the Big Book..." In my opinion, a new edition of said book must be published, and it must include a chapter for Furiously Dreaming. I'm floored by this CD. Find it!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Eloine-Bizarre Flight; Gertrude Tapes #019, 2016

In conversation, Bryan Day never seems to try to dominate. The times that Disaster Amnesiac has spoken with him, I've gotten a sense that there's a lot going on within his thoughts, but he always listens; his responses are often fascinating. 
Bizarre Flight, his most recent release, under the moniker Eloine, is as good a reflection of that personal style as one can find. Across six tracks, all coaxed from Bryan's self-made instruments, he presents sounds that, underneath their somewhat placid surfaces, are exploding with any and all manner of percussive popping on a track called Hammer Cipher, metallic drones on Gravity Harbor, and a generally mysterious atmosphere for the entire duration.  
Flight, recorded as part of a music series in which sound artists play within unique, non-gallery spaces, has a full, echo-ey feel; this feel gives the listener a very intimate vibe within which to immerse. Pieces such as Wellwater Construct and Cupola do not so much attack as they do envelop the mind with their patient pacing and broad strokes. Corner Sources features a bit more heat, at times sounding like a factory at war with itself, if the battles of that war were all staged within its machine brain as philosophical dialogue.
It's tapes such as Bizarre Flight that make the underground experimental music scene such a cool part of the world in which to do research and discovery. Anyone that's inclined to dig into this type of musical output is advised to book a ticket with Eloine for continuing journeys therein.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Ernesto Diaz-Infante-My Benign Swords; eh? Records #92, 2016

The other day Disaster Amnesiac got lost while driving around the the East Bay Hills near Richmond. As this was going on, I was quite happy to have My Benign Swords, Ernesto Diaz-Infante's new release playing on my car stereo. This, on account of how his adventurous guitar playing provided a mental frame of exploration and wonder, perfect for moving through unfamiliar areas.
The songs on Swords, all coaxed from a nylon stringed guitar, go to many fascinating sound worlds: percussive clanged notes on My Forgotten Stars and Where are you? Hope you're okay?, warbled stutters in Fear of Love, harmonic overtone sliding in Yin, and the floating, wide open spaces of Moving Away From My Mind (Disaster Amnesiac's fave track on the disc) and The Inside Answers. Across all of the disc's tracks, laid down "Next Door to the Jefferson Airplane Studios", and presented with really beautiful cover art, Diaz-Infante displays great control and creativity: he's got a vision and chops with which to achieve it.
My Benign Swords is a recording that near perfectly realizes the fusion of quiet, intimate ideas with challenging experimental moves, and, as such, is highly recommended to those that would get lost within such zones. Disaster Amnesiac should probably keep my copy in the car, as I do tend to get lost fairly often.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Heartwood Institute-Calder Hall: The Story of Britain's First Atomic Power Station; Reverb Worship, 2016

While it is not at all unusual for a piece of music to be produced in homage to some sort of "real life" event, place, or dynamic, one has to admit that music in homage to a nuclear reactor could be thought of as, quite possibly, rather odd.
Anyway, that was Disaster Amnesiac's impression upon reading of Reverb Worship's recent release of The Heartwood Institute's Calder Hall: The Story of Britain's First Atomic Power Station. An intriguing disc, it attempts to tell said story across eight instrumental electronic pieces of varied style. The arc of the tale begins with cool, chill tones of Heat Exchanger and Graphite Core, these two tones setting a calmly rational mood; it's almost as if they are musical analogs of the mechanical engineering process. The pace quickens within Diagrid's incessant, dancing beat and bouncy synthesizer lines, and then slows back down for the melancholy whir and buzz of Bepo (this one, like the short opening piece The Shape of Things To Come, also has narration from an anonymous BBC voice over announcer). Things get glassily surreal during Turbine House, which also features nice, subtle acoustic guitar and 1970's-sounding synth hits.
Calder Hall's short duration ends with two more pieces: first, the upbeat, melodic Control Room, featuring more great analog sounds and hard, primitive drum programming; this one is Disaster Amnesiac's favorite tune on the disc. It just really moves. Secondly, Cooling Towers, with its quiet, contemplative mood, wraps things up. As I've listened to Calder Hall, and read the disc's liner note, I can imagine this one being played as the facility was being shut down for the final time in 2003. Fitting ending sounds for this interesting concept.
Disaster Amnesiac cannot know if Calder Hall: The Story of Britain's First Atomic Power Station is coming from a place of actual reverence or black humor, but I do know that its sounds are creative and enjoyable in their mostly chilled-out electronic frames. This one's super limited, so, if you want to hear it, I'd say find Reverb Worship's online presence pretty quickly.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Henry Kaiser/Alan Licht-Skip To the Solo; Public Eyesore Records #135, 2016

Attention electric guitar fans: Public Eyesore, Henry Kaiser, and Alan Licht have prepared a recording that Disaster Amnesiac suspects will be seriously up your sonic alley. The stated template consists of a rhythm section laying down a somewhat simplified rhythmic/chordal progression, upon which Kaiser et al can dispense with everything that leads up to the solo space and just get to it. Again: fans of electric guitar playing will find tons of enjoyment on Skip To the Solo.
The disc's 14 tracks are all formatted in a similar way that Zappa's Shut Up And Play Your Guitar discs were: brief spoken Dada leading directly into the quartet as they get down to the business of jamming.
And oh, how they do this! The rhythm guitar/bass guitar section, made up of Mikko Biffle along with Licht and Kaiser, lay down chordal sketches while drummer Rick Walker plays in an understated style that is both simple enough not to interfere and complex enough to be compelling to the the soloist and listener. Skip's tunes all swing like crazy in this way. As Disaster Amnesiac has listened, the thought has occurred to me that this music's rhythmic richness makes it ideal for either deep, focused listening, or as more of a sonic backdrop for working or partying. It has that kind of broadness to it.
Of course, the whole point of this set was to feature the electric guitar as a soloing instrument, and on that front it succeeds wildly. Standout solo action for me: the hard Sci-Fi chop and slice of File & Rank, the cutting Psychedia of Variations On The Jerry Garcia Secret Chord Progression, the spacey Fripp-ey tones of Rendezvous In Space, and the shiny melody of Ask Me About the Dorian Mode. These are just Disaster Amnesiac's picks, though. Every track on this one has compelling tones that are tremolo'ed, reverb'ed, even talk boxed into the head bliss zone for guitar solo maniacs.
The way this band gets down to the point of ripping out fun and fascinating instrumental music is beautiful. Again, if you're any kind of a fan of personal expression on electric guitar in the form of soloing, you'll truly want to seek out Skip To the Solo. Your ears will thank you for the effort.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Swim Through Darkness: My Search For Craig Smith and the Mystery of Maitreya Kali; Mike Stax, Process Media 2016

                 "...people are strange when you're a stranger..."

In some way, it feels almost corny to use a line from what's become one of the somewhat annoying "Classic Rock" staples to introduce the subject of Craig Vincent Smith here, but, honestly, this line kept floating to the fore of Disaster Amnesiac's perceptions as I plowed through Mike Stax's book about the man, Swim Through Darkness: My Search For Craig Smith and the Mystery of Maitreya Kali.
Still, one overriding impression that comes across, at least to this reader, is the overwhelming amount of strangeness, which quite clearly overflowed into a life lost in the darkened waters of Los Angeles alienation, that emanated from Craig Smith. Almost every interview subject recalls moments during which their interactions with the man were colored by an intense, frightening otherness, darkened energies that more often than not keyed their flight instincts to "take off".
Eventually, they all did.
Swim Through Darkness is Stax's attempt to tell the tale of a talented man who was initially likely affected by certain neurological challenges that were exacerbated by a tragic run-in on the Hippie Trail in Afghanistan. Smith seemed destined for a prosperous life within the Los Angeles entertainment world: his list of hep early to mid 1960's contacts was impressive to read. As mentioned, this often described "Golden Boy" seemed to evince some strange vibe that served to put people off even within that sun shiny world. As Stax spins the story further, what were initial hints at the tragic aspects of Smith's life become more and more apparent, more and more open as he became less and less moored within the shared reality of those around him. What eventually emerges from the tale is a lonely shell of a man, almost a ghost, really, inhabiting the streets of Van Nuys and Santa Monica, seemingly completely cut off from "reality" all together. A stranger.
It's to Stax's credit that he stuck with the story, and to read about the redemptive action that he finally took, revealed as the book closes, alone makes Swim Through Darkness eminently worth reading.
As with all of his articles for Ugly Things, Mike's research is highly in depth, and his treatment of the subject of Smith is incredibly moving.
Read and remember: be kind to strangers if at all possible. It seems likely that there are more than a few "Maitreya Kalis" shuffling about in our towns and cities. Their stories, while likely not as initially shiny as that of Craig Smith, should be equally honored within the consensus. Thanks Mike, for the reminder. Hopefully you found a fine place for that box.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Brandon Evans/Rent Romus/Alex Cohen/Philip Everett-Live KFJC 89.7 FM; digital download 2016

Brandon Evans's recent swing through the San Francisco Bay Area seems to have been a success. An appearance at Outsound New Music Summit with a workshop and a show, a large ensemble recording at Gold Lion Arts in Sacramento, and this set at the venerable Wave of the West, KFJC in Los Altos Hills.
Featuring what sound like four or five separate improvised micro-pieces, strung together into one long suite entitled improvisation, Live KFJC 89.7 FM has all kinds of sounds and interactions to be enjoyed by the Improvised Music fan.
Leader Evans gets great high pitched squeals and squalls from his alto and sopranino saxophones, while Rent Romus adds to the winds mix with his own signature riffs. Particularly compelling are Rent's post-Ayler lamentations and double horn harmonizing. The two sound great together; they were close musical mates within the early 1990's SF Jazz scene, and it's clear that their simpatico remains, and joyfully so.
Guitarist Alex Cohen's clean tones display a great sense of Jazz comping; his guitar often seems to take on a solidly supportive, almost bass-like rhythmic role within the quartet,  and when he solos he sprays great clusters of notes all over top of the horn harmonies. 
Multi-instrumentalist Philip Everett adds some of his surreal clarinet bleats and really great minimal kit percussive action. His popping rolls on a snare drum serve to move the music, and they are spiced with bursting interjections on small cymbals and bells; Disaster Amnesiac finds his approach instructive and very cool. Philip can do a lot with a little!
The overall feel of Live KFJC, obviously on account of these fours' great listening and playing skills, is tight and focused, with what strikes me as a great blending of Jazz, Improvised, and New Music influences. Any fan of these streams would do well to click on over to Brandon Evans's ever-expanding bandcamp page and dig in to this one.
Lastly, how 'bout that excellent cover imagery? Mysteriously cool!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Grateful Dead-Dave's Picks 19: Honolulu Civic Auditorium, Honolulu HI: 1/23/1970; Rhino Records 2016

It's been a few years since Disaster Amnesiac has published a new Dave's Picks review, mostly on account of my having run out of things to say about the Grateful Dead. Not that I've stopped listening: at this point in my musical fandom, that just won't happen. Certain of these archival releases have left me a bit cold, but after several spins of the most recent in the series, Dave's Picks 19, I just had to try to describe and enthuse a bit.
In the main, what prompted this review is the way in which this show features the Dead at one of those sublime, transitional moments, when the listener can hear the peak feel of their then-current creative incarnation while simultaneously hearing hints of newly emergent aesthetic, as well as refinements of past visions. This feeling is all over DP 19.
For starters, the January 1970 recording date of these shows places the band at the tail end of their psychedelic ranger period, and key tunes from this era, Dark Star, St. Stephen, and Turn On Your Lovelight were all given incredible treatment that day in Honolulu. Dark Star runs the gamut from abstractly spaced to sweetly melodic, definitely pointing the way from the lysergic maelstrom of the late 1960's ballroom era versions of the song to the early 1970's theater show nuance and joy. St. Stephen is tightly played, heavily grooved from the Kreutzmann/Hart drum section and sprayed quicksilver from Garcia's Stratocaster. Also lovely is the way in which Lesh steers the ending jam of into the rowdy Pigpen vibes of Lovelight. While nowhere near as raunchy as the St. Louis recording of same on a Dave's Picks from a few years, back, this version gets odd as Pig duets with what sounds to be some newly acquired pal. His usual psycho-sexual Blues shamanism is well on display, too, naturally. These three tunes, making up an entire disc of the DP 19, are all highlight examples of tunes that, for better or worse, the Dead were soon to begin moving away from. Disaster Amnesiac recalls an interview with Garcia in which he mentioned how they'd run out of musical options for Dark Star, how they'd "played" it, and these tracks bear proof of that.
Invisible time travelers from the future to that era needn't have worried, however, for even as the band was "perfecting" their 1969 standards, they were also rolling out the new "Americana" tunes that would set the tones for the early-mid 1970's. A loping, jolly Dire Wolf, heavy, emotional Black Peter (2 times) with fabulous ensemble playing at the "...see here..." bridge section, and tight, rollicking Cumberland Blues are all rolled out; Jerry even seems to like Mason's Children (admit it, those lyrics are pretty dorky!) enough to shred out some of that fine, sublimely flawed pickin' of his at the ending jam of that short lived song.  According to the liner notes, New Music dude and Phriend of Phil, Tom Constanten, is featured on DP 19 playing some of his last shows with the band, as his approach would not be useful within the new, somewhat rural vibes, but, still, he sounds as great on these tunes as he does on the 1969 oeuvre. Disaster Amnesiac wonders if there will ever be a Dave's Picks that features a full show with Ned Lagin, but that's another thread for another time.
As far as echoes of older Dead iterations, a gritty guitar performance of Cold Rain And Snow, more ensemble tightness from disc opener China Cat Sunflower/I Know You Rider, and an even grittier I'm A King Bee all hark back to the initial Psychedelic San Francisco scene from which they gained national prominence; all are great, but the real treat is the phenomenal That's It For The Other One, during which Bob Weir shows his then emerging front man skills, and the band shows all of the gestalt tightness that their fans love. It's seriously nuanced, with all kinds of interactions between all of the players. Primal Dead at its highest level of out/in jamming. Stunning.
It's occurred to Disaster Amnesiac that as I've been typing this latest screed, I could just go track by track on Dave's Picks 19. Each track has tons of sounds to love. There ain't exactly time for that, but I will say to any and all Deadheads or Grateful Dead fans: seek this one out. It's got everything that you've grown to love about the Dead. Easily one of my top five archival recordings of Jerry, Pig, and the boys.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Leonard/Day/Jerman-Isinglass; eh? Records #89, cassette ed. 2016

As promised in a recent private message, Public Eyesore/eh? head honcho Bryan Day has made some more recordings available to Disaster Amnesiac; it looks like he's ramping up production again! I'm happy and honored to be the recipient of so much great sound and music from the label.
It may be that I'm going out of sequence here, but the Leonard/Day/Jerman tape, Isinglass, had my immediate attention. Anything with Cheryl's deeply aesthetic organic/electric hybrids grabs Disaster Amnesiac pretty hastily.
Across seven pieces, put to tape over one year's time, this trio concocts soundscapes of deep, very organic nature. As I've listened, what at first sound like big slabs of sound reveal these great crenellations and nooks, small pockets to be delved into and investigated. One gets the sense that Leonard, Day, and Jeph Jerman put a lot of effort into letting the pieces unfold at within their own pace. Leonard's sound processes seem to act as guides, walking point into the exploratory auditory zones, while Day's invented instruments give some tonal and percussive action and Jerman's household objects color and comment. Disaster Amnesiac's favorite piece has to be the cassette's side one closer, during which feedback sounds jet out from the slow moving maelstrom. Among the other pieces, there are also fun sounds from bottles touching, strange whistles from who knows what, and all manner of curious tones, meshed together with a kind of delicate forcefulness. 
Disaster Amnesiac would advise the potential listener to don headphones for listening to Isinglass. Though calm on its face, the sounds that this trio makes have the deeply moving impact of massed mental glaciers or tsunami, oozing into the listener's perceptions with wide strokes that reveal hidden bits to be savored for their subtle surprises.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Ben Bennett/John Collins McCormick-Pluperfect; eh? Records #87, 2016

Second up for review from the recently received eh? Records batch, Pluperfect, and Disaster Amnesiac will warn: be careful if you listen to it early in the morning in your car. This is what I did, and the opening high pitched scrawls from Bennett and Collins McCormick gave me a pretty hardcore ear blast to start an AM commute. Being a fan of Noise and experimental forms, even as I'm waking up, not like it was a bad thing to have happened, but....most definitely a shock!
Once over all that, and after repeated listening, I have found Pluperfect to be a fascinating trip into the unique sound worlds of Ben Bennett and John Collins McCormick, one that seems to unfold at a pace totally under the control of these two musicians. The method seems to something like this: smaller, quieter themes are brought forth from various sound sources, then expanded upon in rhythmic form, then folded up and back into silence, from which a new theme emerges. What Disaster Amnesiac has enjoyed immensely as I've listened is the duration of those second aspects; Bennett and Collins McCormick do admirable jobs of controlling the pace of these various emerging themes. This pacing is admirable and deeply moving.
From a more technical point, the way in which John embeds laptop electronics within the overall sound field is really cool; often times it seems as though laptop generated sound starts to trump acoustic instrumentation, but this does not happen on Pluperfect. Disaster Amnesiac has mentioned how incredible Ben's stick control is, and it's utilized herein. Some of my favorite moments when listening to the disc have featured what Bennett drumming on what I believe to be a type of barrel drum, seen at Berkeley Arts Festival a year or two back. Pluperfect's two tracks, More than Perfect and Hadn't, clocking in at about an hour's length, provide these and obviously many more experimental sounds. I only wished that I'd been there at the recording, listening as their vibes bounced off of the walls of Marlboro College's Regal Hall!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Daniel Wyche-Our Severed Sleep; eh? Records #86; 2016

There Disaster Amnesiac was a few weeks back, lamenting the fact that I'd seemingly been dropped from the Public Eyesore/eh? mailing list, and along came a mailer with a batch of new releases from Bryan Day's prolific label. If Bryan had decided to pass on the potential Disaster Amnesiac review treatment, I would not blame him: I've reviewed probably only half of the discs that he's sent to me. That said, ANYTHING that's on Public Eyesore/eh? is worth multiple listens. Mr. Day knows what's up re: experimental and improvised musical forms.
The first of this most recent batch that I've had the pleasure of delving into is Daniel Wyche's Our Severed Sleep. Comprised of two almost twenty minute apiece tracks, Sleep covers all kinds of musical ground as Wyche on guitar and Ryan Packard on drums blast, plow, scrape and just really fucking play. Modern Electronic Music, Free Jazz, Doom Metal, Disaster Amnesiac has heard them all on this disc as I've listened, and much more to boot. Especially cool are the ways in which Wyche sets up these incredible sound ballasts, comprised of long, minimal feedback tones, upon which Packard displays his tremendous chops and musicality. Ryan can seriously play his drums and cymbals! A favorite example of this action occurs late in the first piece, I Give My Language To More than History, in which there's this slow-motion, almost Bill Ward playing. Yes, HEAVY!
The guitar playing of Wyche is inventive and creative as well, and his talent for composition is amply evident on William's Song, with its patient pacing and dramatic results of such. Disaster Amnesiac has also really been digging his opening riff on the first piece, a minutes-long electronic squall, which is delicious in its noisy blasting.
Our Severed Sleep features a solid amalgamation of sounds and influences, all expertly entwined into a very enjoyable forty minute head cleaner of a disc.  Reconnect, wake up, and listen!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Sparkle In Grey-Brahim Izdag; Old Bicycle Records, 2016

So apparently this disc is the last release from Old Bicycle Records, and Disaster Amnesiac has been mulling on just how to review it for several months now. There's been a digital copy floating around in my iTunes mix for some time, and over the weekend a hard copy, beautiful in its Sharpie Primitive artwork, landed in my snail mail box, direct from Italy. The internal debate started after repeated listens, during which the question would arise: "how can I do justice to such cool, complex music without sounding like a boring professor or a jaded music writer". Western problems, right? After a few days, and a few more spins, though, Disaster Amnesiac just has to take a shot.
Brahim Izdag revolves around three lengthy pieces, Iurop Is A Madness, Gobbastan, and the title piece. The first paces itself at a Dub stride, with really cool recitation of a Linton Kwesi Johnson piece. The language sounds to me as if it's Arabic, but I could be wrong. Really strong drumming from Simon Riva on this one; his lock with bassist Cristiano Lupo allows for some really cool violin and guitar from Franz Krostopovic and Alberto Carozzi, respectively. Second on the list, Gobbastan, runs from electronic atmospherics to further Dub feel, with sweet percussion on what sound like djembe and shakers. Both of these pieces are played in modes that give the listener a somewhat somber, reflective feel. As Disaster Amnesiac has listened, I've wondered if they're at all reflections of Europe as it appears to an outsider these days: struggling with turmoil of changing demographics and shifting mores, along with the seemingly endless financial crises. If so, this music most definitely would provide mental comfort to those that may be suffering. Last of the multiple-part pieces on Izdag, its eponymous piece fuses Eastern modes with more whip tight drumming and cutting solo guitar tones before going into further atmospheric zones, driven more by violin and nice electronic coloring from Matteo Uggeri.
Bracketing the longer songs, we find disc opener Samba Lombarda, with its snappy grooves and hopeful, happy feel (brace yourselves, people). It is followed by an astute update of the Clash's White Riot, changed by Sparkle In Grey to Grey Riot and given an Irish jig feel, and then the haunting Tripoli, with its somber horns and violin lines being accosted by machine gun fire. Post Classical/Post Free Jazz Chamber interactions are featured on Song For Clair Patterson, and finally, Minka Minka, dances proudly with its Old Mediterranean/Slavic cadence. Sly and the Family Stone's There's A Riot Goin' On is listed, but it seems to only last for four seconds of absolute silence. Make of that what you will!
Along with the physical copy of Brahim Izdag, Old Bicycle Records sent a handful of tape releases. Disaster Amnesiac hopes to carve out time to listen to and review these as well. I suspect that Brahim Izdag will be joining me on my commutes in the interim. Sparkle In Grey are producing some really compelling music. Go west, guys, and please hit California when you do.

Monday, June 13, 2016

ICUMDRUMS-The Girdle; digital download via Bandcamp, 2015

If for no other reason, the internet is great for bands. Seriously, any newly formed group is just a simple mouse click or two away from knowing whether or not any considered moniker is taken or not.
Disaster Amnesiac figures that ICUMDRUMS really didn't have any issue as a possible duplication of name. Thankfully, there's also a really original sound to be found there as well.
For this fan of drum-based music, this project is seriously compelling and awesome. The Girdle features music that fuses many disparate Underground feels into a bracing ball of energy. Kicking off with some tom tom flourishing worthy of Tommy Aldridge on No Love, drummer Kris Kerby fuses electronics and percussion in a pummeling, heavy, seven song, maximum impact set. What's really fun about The Girdle is the way in which the electronics pair up with drums, as is done in On The Way and Down South. The latter features some really fine rudimental snare work, to boot. Disaster Amnesiac has felt these tunes to be some new kind of distorted, distinctive Drum 'n' Bass at times. Despite their heaviness, these trax are dance-able! Also enjoyable, if at times disturbing, are the Kvlt vocals on For Her and While She's Smiling. Both also have tightly played Blast Beats that underpin the squalling electronics and schrei, to boot. Beautiful, messed up heaviness therein! Everything seems to march its way to the title track, which ends the set with half-time distorto bass tones, whirling electronic noise, and really fine ride cymbal work, all embellished with fast tom tom fills. Kerby gets mightily clinical here on this last, raw kick to the ears, yet it never feels like he's showing off. He's just going for it, and pulls it off in a really fine manner.
If you're starting a band, please consider a bit of on-line perusal before you choose your name.
If you crave some hardcore creative fusion music, you might want to find ICUMDRUMS's Bandcamp page and give a listen or two. Deliciously bent sounds to be found therein, as mentioned, only a mouse click away!  

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Bad Company-Live1977 & 1979; Swan Song Records, 2016

Admittedly, and in light of the recent law suit by whoever runs the Randy California estate vs. Led Zeppelin, Disaster Amnesiac felt a bit cynical upon hearing about this release. I just imagined the financial team at Swan Song (is there such an entity?) casting about for new revenue streams in order to pay back that filthy lucre gained from Plant's least favorite wedding song. It seems as though Zep may have prevailed, though, and, luckily for Hard Rock fans, we still get this great release of two stellar shows from the mighty Bad Company.
There is a photo in the CD booklet from Live 1977 & 1979, featuring recordings from Houston TX and Wembley, UK., that is instructive: it features the four members of Bad Company, live on stage in pretty close proximity. All of the elements of the composition show a really stripped down approach, and, indeed, that's really what the band is famous and/or notorious for. Oftentimes, their sound feels skeletal to the point of Minimalism, and oftentimes this is what people either love or are annoyed by.
Disaster Amnesiac is in the former camp, all the way. What I love about Bad Company's sound is the amount of room that they always left for the listener's perception to fill in. The band keeps that vibe going on both of these sets. What seems to be important documentation here is the way in which their tunes had gained in strength after they'd become a heavily touring band. Tracks such as Burnin' Sky, Shooting Star, Bad Company, and others have this additional weightiness to them herein. All of their signature tunes groove with more depth as Simon Kirke adeptly shows how much a restrained approach can move a band's sound. Mick Ralphs really shines as well. Disaster Amnesiac has gained new appreciation for his playing as I've listened to 1977 & 1979. The tones that colored his riffs were deep and quite tasty. Both Ralphs and bassist Boz Burrells' sounds feel so much bigger and meatier in the live context. Speaking of beefy, one must really hear Co.'s incredible version of Hey Joe. All that is great about Paul Rodgers shines brightly on this version, captured in Washington D.C. on a "special occasion". His emotive, masculine croon is bolstered by a way gone solo, as his pals pound the song home behind him. Rodgers is one seriously talented Rock Star, and much of the joy of hearing Live 1977 & 1979 comes from digging on that fact.
The 1979 portion features a few tunes that were relatively new at that time in Oh, Atlanta and Rhythm Machine, and these feel somewhat underdone. However, the also new-at-the-time Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy totally redeems them. What a kick ass song! Disaster Amnesiac is old enough to remember when it was a hit tune, and has always loved it. Again, showcased within the live setting, it features added weight and groove, and absolutely slays.
Times are tough all over, even for the Giants of Heavy Rock, presumably. I'm not sure that the blokes in Bad Company or Swan Song are all that desperate, though. Still, if you're a fan, your initial monetary investment in Live 1977 & 1979 may pay off big in aesthetic dividends.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Ross Hammond/Sameer Gupta-Upward; Prescott Recordings, 2016

Upon receiving Upward, Disaster Amnesiac felt just a bit of trepidation regarding reviewing it. Any music that features tabla gives me a feeling of hardcore reverence, and there was definitely worry that I'd be amiss in describing the tals and tones from Sameer Gupta's playing on the disc.
Thankfully, those fears were swiftly allayed by the sounds of Upward. The music that Hammond and Gupta make together is so warm, inviting, and easily enjoyed, there's just no way that a listener could feel many other emotions than joy when its sounds are spinning.
Along with Sameer's tablas, Ross plays 12 string acoustic guitar, and the combination is incredibly beautiful. The eight tracks that comprise Upward all share a generally calm and magisterial feel. The duo sound as if they're not so much playing to impress as they are to really communicate emotional depth, one that pulls from any number of musical streams. Disaster Amnesiac has often felt as if I were privy to an eloquent, learned conversation as I've listened; indeed, my emotional landscape has been lifted upward by their duo exchange. Not to say there isn't some fiery playing: when Hammond hammers down with great slide tones, it's as if lightning were hitting the Punjab (or Oklahoma) Plain, and Gupta's statements on Being and Becoming feature so much of the diverse sound and incredible complexity that make tabla drumming somewhat daunting for this listener. Still, an overarching feel of aesthetic wisdom, one that seems to disregard overt shows of prowess, instead focusing on deeper, much more musical interaction, takes the day. These two just know, and their sounds on Upward leave no doubts about that.
Thanks for pushing me up and out of my comfort zone, Sameer and Ross. Hopefully your sounds will lift up many other listeners as well. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

We Are Twisted F***ing Sister!-Andrew Horn, dir., 2014; Music Box Films

3274 shows are a lot, and, according to the initial footage of Andrew Horn's We Are Twisted F***king Sister!, that's how many that Twisted Sister played up until their big break, which happened live on the British airwaves and led to their signing to Atlantic Records.
The film gives a deeply detailed, first hand account of the group's circuitous march to Rock stardom. Disaster Amnesiac marveled at guitarist Jay Jay French's blunt recounting of all the steps that he had to take, over a decade of bar band slog, in order to achieve his dream. Along with his capacity as guitarist and song writer, he managed this band of unruly rockers for years, clearly not an easy task within the Darwinian milieu in the New York City area. With his pragmatic, getting things done at any cost vision, he struck this viewer as a more talkative Greg Ginn! Not to turn this post into an unwitting Black Flag tribute, but second Sister singer Dee Snider, with his witty eloquence, actually made Disaster Amnesiac think of Henry Rollins. Surely these two must know each other by now?
In Snider, the band clearly had another driven, take no prisoners type of guy, and the combination of the he and French seems to have solidified that fact that Twisted Sister was going to achieve their goals at any and all costs. We Are Twisted F***king Sister! additionally features compelling, almost color commentary style footage from the rest of the group, Kenny Neill, Eddie Ojeda, Mark Mendoza, and A.J. Pero (RIP) who add small details and insights to flesh out the somewhat longer clips of French and Snider.
Along with these insider views, the film smartly utilizes interviews with several members of the band's early, rabid fan base. These were the people that made occurrences such as a 22,000 person attendance for a free show in Long Island possible, along with filled-to-capacity theaters all over New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The fact that Twisted Sister was able to meet these kind of numbers without the support of any type of label or even real management, for years, stands not only as a testament to their hard work, but also to that of their fans' dedication. Disaster Amnesiac found this nod to them to be very classy.
As for the "from the stage" bullying that Snider et al meted out to those in the crowds that didn't share in the enthusiasm.....not so much. I guess that they did what they had to do, but, watching Snider's recounting of that dynamic, I felt a bit disgusted. Maybe they could have let their tight Street Rock have the desired effect upon potential new fans?
That criticism aside, by the later portions of We Are Twisted F***king Sister!, Disaster Amnesiac was all in, rooting for the band as they navigated their last few, still fraught with missteps, moves into the upper echelons of Rock stardom.
Bands are often about drama, belief, and overcoming. Twister Sister had all of these, in huge doses. We Are Twisted F***king Sister! is as good an inside view of the messy and tough world of band life as I can recall seeing.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Wolfpack-Seen Not Herd; Sudden Death, 2014

At a recent show in Oakland, Disaster Amnesiac was intrigued by one of the opening bands as they set up. It was clear that their drummer was going to sing, always a plus for me (I know, totally in the minority here), and I loved the way he pushed his kit up close to the front of the stage. A bold move within the Rock band context, for sure!
Watching Wolfpack play, and despite them getting a pretty crappy house mix, Disaster Amnesiac very much enjoyed their energetic, Metallic Thrash Punk Rock. A long descriptor, for sure, but the band seemed to pull from those three streams. On account of the mix, it didn't always have the fullest impact, but I figured I'd buy some of their merch and listen closely. Pretty glad that I did, it turns out. Seen Not Herd features some really catchy songs, tight playing, and a compelling energy throughout its quick running time. To my ears, Wolfpack drummer Tom really runs the show, driving fast blasting tunes like Toxic Times and Sinister Minister with his fast chops and high energy. Indeed, all of the tunes are swiftly propelled by him. Not that Seen Not Herd is a drum showcase record, but Tom's drumming on it, much as it does during the live set, takes center stage. Disaster Amnesiac seriously digs on his great cymbal technique, as evinced on tunes like Music As Sport, and his tom tom pounding on Screaming Queens and Motel Sixx. The later has the kind of swinging Aussie Boogie feel that would make AC/DC, Grong Grong, or King Snake Roost proud!
Six string and bass guitarists Brad and Kane, respectively, entwine around Tom's solid rhythmic ballast, each putting in tight and solid riffing. Wolfpack doesn't seem to be a band that gives much to the guitarist in the way of solo action, but the tunes' tight arrangements and overall brevity make it so that they're not missed that much. The guitars become almost percussive additions for the drumming, not that unusual for Thrash, obviously; I would have liked to hear some guitar soloing, but perhaps that would have taken away from the urgency of message that Wolfpack feel.
Seen Not Herd strikes Disaster Amnesiac as a solid document from a hard working Punk Rock band. I have no idea if the scene is embracing their sounds, but I will be trying to haul my aging ass to their next SF Bay Area show.

Monday, April 11, 2016

American Insiders: Rust Belt Edition

Three or four years back, Disaster Amnesiac presented the first American Insiders edition. Although I don't feel that it's cringe worthy enough for my Disaster Apologia, I have always been somewhat embarrassed by its rather sophomoric compare/contrast format. The post's taking off point, using Walt Whitman's ideals as inspiration for enthusing about Lonnie Holley and Jandek, was heartfelt, especially in light of my then-current obsession with Leaves of Grass. It just always seemed a rather ham-fisted attempt in hindsight. All that said, two recently acquired recordings, both produced withing the American Rust Belt by extremely unique artists, have necessitated a second installment. No compare/contrast this time. Let's just get right to the great music from Cybotron and Jackie McDowell.

Cybotron-Cyber Ghetto; Fantasy Records, 1995
This disc was espied by Disaster Amnesiac at the small used book shop at Berkeley Public Library. I was initially intrigued by its cover: old monitors and keyboards from the 1990's, piled high in some kind of post-apocalyptic junk heap with an ominous bar code hovering above it all. Looking at the titles, which definitely enhance that feeling, I decided to take the disc, still in its factory shrink wrap, home for a listen. Happy to have, as it turns out! These tunes, recorded and produced by Rik Davis in Detroit, seem to be unified by some kind of grand theological/philosophical conception; it's this lyrical bent of Cyber Ghetto that has Disaster Amnesiac designating it an American Insider. Indeed, the more that I've listened to this disc, the more I get the feeling that Davis is intoning a deeply personal cosmology, one influenced by the sacred texts quoted on the liner note, but personal nonetheless. These lyrics are generally delivered in a cool, calm, almost monotone way. Disaster Amnesiac has felt that Rik absolutely wanted the listener to hear and perceive the messages contained within his words, and his delivery makes sure of that. At no time does any of his message seem off-handed or tossed out randomly. Musically, Cyber Ghetto slides along at a stately pace to match its lyrics. Tunes such as Fragment 17 Phase 1 (Proximian Mythos Cycle) and Chakra 9 (Ghandharva Descending) feature ritualistic feels, while Cyber Jesus and Final Fantasy pick up the pacing somewhat, with the latter being an especially cool fusion of Funk and Psychedelic Rock. The disc's every tune showcase the writing and arranging talents of Davis; they're chock full of fascinating sounds and rhythms, all wrapped up inside of a classy, clear auditory sheen that evinces the great care with which it was produced.  Disaster Amnesiac recalls an Elliot Sharp sidebar in an old issue of Mondo 2000, in which he described a record that he liked as "brain booty". I'd most definitely use that appellation for Cyber Ghetto's music, too. Its very individualistic vision makes it deeply American Insider as well.

Jackie McDowell-New Blood Medicine; self-released via bandcamp, 2016
On it's face, Pittsburgh PA resident Jackie McDowell's most recent release, New Blood Medicine, could not be more different from Cybotron's 1995 opus. Its point of view is much more terrestrial, much less cosmic than Cyber Ghetto. As opposed to the latter, with its other worldly vision, the former's  is far more earthy and rooted, with much of its sounds emanating not from synths or even electric guitars, but mostly harmonium, mountain dulcimer, and banjo. What Disaster Amnesiac always delights in with Jackie's music is the ways in which she blends these acoustic instruments with electronics. Her hybrid sound keeps gaining in breadth and sublime delicacy. Songs such as Thirteen Mothers Rise and ∆∆∆ feature her mystical lyrics paired with simple acoustic strumming and harmonium. The spiritual vibes don't seem to gaze heavenward, but instead give off the feeling one gets when finding the divine within a blade of grass. On Hyperborea and Scrape Dirt Marrow, there are many aural delights hidden somewhat deep within the apparent simplicity of presentation; one must listen closely for them underneath McDowell's ever-effectively developing alto vocals. New Blood Medicine's relatively short duration seems to come to apotheosis with an absolutely stunning version of Micheal Hurley's Tea Song. It's a prime example of an artist using another artist's material as a launch pad for finding new heights of expression. If you're not entranced by this version hours after hearing it, you're clearly not listening. Coming wrapped in sweetly simple packaging, highlighted by nicely rural primitive artwork by Stanley Clough, New Blood Medicine is as fine an example of American Insider as you're wont to find. Jackie McDowell's vision just keeps growing. I'd advise one to let oneself grow with it.

As mentioned in the opening to this piece, Disaster Amnesiac has always felt a bit embarrassed by the initial American Insiders piece. Hopefully this new installment will assuage some of those feelings. I can only hope that the sincerity of both pieces matches that of the artists which they were inspired by, and hope that there are many more similar artists within the Rust Belt and other regions, hard at work and honing their own personal visions.  Please do let me know.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Celtic Frost-Cold Lake; Noise Records, 1988

With 2016 being an election year in the United States, tempers and political differences are beginning to flare up like blazing hemorrhoids. The vitriol is getting thick on social media sites: Fartbook and Twatter are probably ruining at least one hundred friendships right now over the tried and true bullshit of "political debate".
Seriously, Disaster Amnesiac feels like anyone that would even want to "lead" a government of such sniveling and entitled children deserves whatever ills befall them once they catch that brass ring. Now, I'll vote, but it won't be cast for any of the current crop of clowns that our dumkopf media obsess over. Fuck that.
For now, Disaster Amnesiac will stick to the serious questions that perplex me, such as, is Celtic Frost's Cold Lake a good album?  Granted, this topic pretty much outs me as being just another mannish boy in 'murica, and, I'm OK with that. I'll take listening to Cold Lake over any of the "serious" banter that is flapping around with the heated consistency of dung flies right about now.
To start, let us consider the title. Now, I don't know about you, but Disaster Amnesiac finds it to be....heavy. Put it this way: I'm not imagining a bunch of nice Swiss volk bathing in an Alpine lake when I consider this LP. Unless, of course, one of them has drowned and there is a subsequent vision of their chilled, blue-ish, dead hand rising up from the below. Indeed, Cold Lake's title is fine, especially for eerie, evocative Metal aesthetic imaginations.
One could, and should, of course, question the musical merits in deciding if a given document is good. Therefore, onward I press, considering the tones and riffs of this often maligned (and misunderstood) Celtic Frost offering. This being Metal, it seems obligatory to start with the guitars. Frost head chief Thomas Gabriel Warrior pretty much sticks to playing rhythm guitar throughout the album, and he continues the by-then tried and true Celtic Frost guitar vibe: chunky, noisy Power Metal riffs, mid to medium tempo-ed, just a touch less Thrashed than on earlier releases. Disaster Amnesiac loves this type of Metal guitar playing, as it allows for the listener to feel the riffs. They don't simply blaze, and nor do they whiff airy like so many Hollywood bands' efforts, but impact the ears with percussive power. Dig this effect on Petty Obsessions, Cherry Orchards, or (Once) They Were Eagles to hear what I'm saying. Every time that Disaster Amnesiac hears Cold Lake, this guitar playing makes me feel that it's one of, it not THE, best Heavy Metal LP's of the 1980's, on account of Warrior's guitar performance. As for the leads, Oliver Amberg provides all kinds of sick, noisy, atonal, in short crazed action with his axe. On Roses Without Thorns, Downtown Hanoi, and Cherry Orchards, his fingers sizzle and spark out some deliciously odd, angular, and downright Ginn-like solo statements. Do either of these guys sport the Bars tats?
Along with providing those thick rhythm riffs, Warrior also delivers one of his signature, out there vocal performances on Cold Lake. It's all there: the trademark "oooohhh" to punctuate the end of a lyrical line, the strange accents, the bleakly surreal content of those lyrics.  It's obvious that the subject matter is of a more sexual nature than the fantasy themes of previous Frost output up to that point, but Disaster Amnesiac finds them equally unsettling, perhaps more so, given a Roman Catholic upbringing and all.  I hear what is ostensibly "petty obsession" during the song of the same name as "panty obsession"! This record is dirty!  Also, Downtown Hanoi has struck me as one of the best artistic rendering of the ordeals of American jet fighter pilots imprisoned after shoot downs in Vietnam (granted, this may be projection, as I can't understand half of what Warrior is saying). Those dudes' problems made those endured by Vikernes and Faust seem like Justin Beiber concerts. And that, on a supposed lightweight of a Metal release. Just sayin'.
Moving on to the rhythm section, one finds the Celtic Frost beat to have been slowed down a bit, as the band moved from pile driving pound of Reed St. Mark (which ruled) to the more 1970's Bonham-stoked beats and grooves from Curt Victor Bryant and Stephen Priestly (which also rule). Grooves are a key word here: Cold Lake's overarching feel from the starting point of Intro-Human's Techno oddness, a move you'll recall they also used on the much less hated Into the Pandemonium, and on through every other song. Disaster Amnesiac always loves the stompin' beats on Seduce Me Tonight, Dance Sleazy, and Cherry Orchards. Bryant and Priestly's tandem playing moves and shakes, pushing the album's weird Sleaze Metal with fist pumping aplomb. Yes, it has more in common with Stryper than, say, Destruction, rhythmically, but hey, this kind of stomp can just be so compellingly effective in the enjoyment of the tunes. Bryant's sounds often remind this listener of Lemmy's, with his loosely stringed, flapping funk lines. Priestly is most definitely a kick ass kick/snare/hat man; my only quibble with him is the fact that he let the engineering team of Thomas Steeler and Dexter (yes, only one name), bone his snare sound on Juices Like Wine. What's up with that?
Taken as a whole, Cold Lake has held up remarkably well over time. Disaster Amnesiac never tires of its weird mashup of Thrash Metal and Arena Metal. I enjoy both styles at times, and seriously enjoy their juxtaposition on this odd, and for the times, very brave statement from Thomas G. Warrior et al. He was the one musical artist of the time that could conceive and pull off such weirdness, at least within the mid-tier Heavy Metal world. I recall Celtic Frost taking all kinds of shit for doing it, and, sadly, he's pretty much disavowed himself of having had anything to do with it. Perhaps it was all the fault of "Stylist" and guest vocals hotty voice Michelle Villanueva? Regardless, thirty years later, it's the LP from them that I find myself enjoying the most. Of course, I'm open to debate on the topic. Unlike the useless political dialectic that's heating up daily here in the U.S., that's one that I'd entertain for hours.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Thollem Electric-Operation Sunbeam; Aural Films CD/DL; 2016

Recent press action for Wolf Eyes has had the band eschewing the Noise label for the kick ass term Trip Metal. Disaster Amnesiac finds this move astute and fascinating. If any band OWNS the term Noise in the 21st Century, it's pretty clearly Jack White's new label darlings. I mention it here, simply because Thollem Electric likewise could be filed under "Noise" by just about any reviewer, but Operation Sunbeam displays tons more variation within its sounds, and as such, could probably use a bit subtler descriptors.
According to Aural Films bandcamp page, Sunbeam can "[transport] the listener to the  Cold War era", but for Disaster Amnesiac, it's very much a now release. By this, I mean that its sounds are best appreciated by present, active, now attention span. Yes, older analog equipment is used throughout. That said, whether one is listening to the throaty, wheezing meditations of the opening track Plutonium Valley, or the woozy, glassy toned The Forest, Encore, And Grable that follows it, one's perceptions will be suitably bent and distorted right along with their sounds in the moment. Dig on the cutting sonic violence of Divine Strake and Operation Icecap. Let their harshness wallop your inner ear. Go down Super Kukla's thorny, hallucinogenic path. Allow the initial alarm bells in Survival City vs. Doomtown do a number on your head. Confer with the Great God Pan as Ship Of The Desert transports you to your own harrowing date with some mental Hassan I Sabbah. Do all of this, yet, please remember that these sounds are of the current paradigm. They're happening NOW.
Using decades-old equipment, and getting really gritty, yet clear recorded tones from it, Thollem Electric has conjured up some amazingly fresh sounds. The best descriptor Disaster Amnesiac can come up with for Operation Sunbeam is "kick ass electronic attack music", but I'm sure that Thollem can do better. I'm just happy these type of sounds are available and accessible.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

D'ora Stella-self titled; Limited edition cassette/dl; Old Bicycle Records, 2016

Recently, Disaster Amnesiac put together a Bandcamp page for my late uncle. He managed to preserve his demo tapes through years of homelessness and other hardships. I mention this because his songs are all of the acoustic, singer/songwriter variety. They were much more enjoyable than I imagined they'd be, and, in some way, they prepared me for listening to Old Bicycle Records' newest release, D'ora Stella.
Mrs. Amnesiac has described the release, with its mellow-strummed acoustic sounds, as "Music for a Sunday Afternoon", and I absolutely agree with her.  D'ora has a very relaxed, melodious feel throughout. Tunes such as Fino a notte fonda, dal piccolo ED. alle 4.00 senza the, and un horror che non va in tv, with their dulcet strumming and understated vocals, are perfect for lazy lounging or quiet contemplation. Disaster Amnesiac has been especially entranced by specchiarsi, tra fonde orfane, with its slightly Medieval chord structure and the addition of rain sounds as accompaniment to them. At times, I wish that I could understand the lyrics, but, in some ways, their incomprehensibility to me makes them ever more dreamy and surreal!
Openly Romantic in its aesthetic, D'ora Stella can clearly provide a soothing mental blanket with which to wrap around a harried mind.
Disaster Amnesiac hopes that Andrew Pino's songwriting had the same effect on his mental state that D'ora Stella has had on mine.