Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Scarab-In Difference; Genetic Dead End Recordings, no date given (recorded in 2006)

One thing holds true in the music industry: Document Your Work.
Case in point: on New Year's Eve, while at KPFA studios in Berkeley, Disaster Amnesiac had an opportunity to sort through a pile of giveaway CDs in the lobby area. The cover of In Difference, by the group Scarab, immediately caught my eye, and I quickly filed it away into a jacket pocket, hopeful that its sounds would be as cool as its cover. Having been completely unfamiliar with the group, and having spun this disc a ton of times over the past couple of weeks, Disaster Amnesiac is certainly glad that Scarab made this document.
In Difference starts off with the powerful Your Wholeness, which is propelled by a great, staggering rhythm section beat and cutting high end notes from the guitar before dropping into thicker riffs and singer Melanie Skelchy's cool vocal style. Her sound on this tune, and throughout the CD, is a dramatic spoke/sung alto that's really emotive: one gets the sense that she means what she's singin'. Additionally, there's well placed bell percussion and what sounds like a Ramayana Monkey Chant within the mix here. It's chaotic and ordered simultaneously, the way all great Rock tunes ought to be, and as such, sets  the pace for this work.
Mixed right into its predecessor, Slipped keeps up the dramatic vibes more dirty riffs from the guitars, played by either M. Skelchy, Felipe Neira, or Russell Skelchy (they're all credited), more of the effective vocals, and real fine high-hat driven drumming before dipping into a keyboarded mid-section. This part provides great tension with its tom tom marching beat and sprayed lead guitar work as M. continues with her tales. Things lead back to more driving hat/cymbal pound to round this one out.
Scarab get Tex-Mex on track number three, FTA, a fusion of waltz and more driving Punk Rock, sung en Espanol by Felipe Neira or Russell Skelchy. This tune rips along with accordion sounds that I'm guessing come from the keyboard of Mark Jolly, and more great guitar/bass/drums blending; it's the style of this blend, familiar yet obviously worked up within their group dynamic, that Disaster Amnesiac is absolutely digging about this band.
Next up come the atmospherics of Yaadon, with more of Melanie on the mic. Said atmosphere comes from heavily strummed acoustic guitar and great percussive sounds of the metallic variety. Thick bassoon by Lisa Boggeri makes the mix even thicker. Yaadon has a kind of demented circus feel in its first half, before getting more reserved, with cool tremelo electric guitar to match the acoustic picking that lead back to the initial atmospheric oomph. It speaks volumes for the musical vision that Scarab had or, possibly, still has.
This Is My Crime revs on as track five, with more of that heavy waltz time, Spanish vocal demonstrativeness, and a nicely placed mid-song breakdown. It packs a lot of punch within its short duration, ripping away at what by now will surely be a nicely tattered perception of an attentive listener to In Difference.
That listener will get a bit of a break during West Wash, which commences with Jazz vibes, lonely trumpet calls, and fuzzed bass before dropping into an almost Garage Punk stomp. As Disaster Amnesiac has grooved to this one, I've imagined a group working tunes out amid engine grease and ashtrays. It has the kind of looseness within the drum arrangements that makes me want to stomp and shout and twist. Again, Scarab must be commended for their imaginative musical mash.
As opposed to the Tex-Mex of FTA, El Canoero strikes me as a bit more Angeleno, with hints of Cumbia and hard hitting single note guitar slices  within the tight rhythms of the percussion section. What a great, manic ending note from Skelchy, to boot. Her singing certainly does have impact!
More of that rhythmic acumen is on display on The Big Stick, a Punk Rock rager that is moved by fuzzy bass tones, sweet ride cymbal beats, even more ripping, circular guitar riffing and some tight arrangements. It winds down with keys that evoke Black Metal in my ears. Again, Disaster Amnesiac is really impressed with Scarab's blend of disparate musical elements into a coherent, singular whole band sound.
After a goofy little sketch about a cell phone, In Difference continues with Tango de la Barba. If one wants to find a fusion of Tango and Doom Metal, one may want to look here. The guitars distort deliciously, the drums beat heavily onto the aural concrete, the damn thing just kicks righteous ass in a way that has Disaster Amnesiac thinking of the beSST South Bay stuff from, say, 1985-1991 or so. It's dipped in the sweat of Dukowski, or seems that way to me.
The Black Metal returns with Done Talking, as icy keyboards and dour chanting some high lonesome twang. The male singer sounds exhausted and emotional; it's the kind of Emo that I can handle, though, especially on drives home from work, which have featured In Difference as their soundtrack quite a bit lately.
A swift, shaker-assisted D-Beat drum groove brings things to a close on Speed to Stop. As with other tunes on the disc, Scarab do an exemplary job of using the basic tools of Punk Rock as a launching off point for music styling of their own. There is nothing stock about the ways in which they shape their tones and rhythms, and for that Disaster Amnesiac salutes them. I can imagine Speed to Stop as a high energy live set closer, and I'm saddened that I have not seen this group live.
Cursory web searches have shown me little about Scarab, except for an Amazon listing that shows In Difference as having been released in 2016, not 2006. Are they still making music together? Have they been long-gone as a working band? Either way, Disaster Amnesiac is very glad that they documented these songs.
Can anyone let me know of their fate?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Amy Reed-(solo guitar); cassette, no label or date given, recorded 2014

A recent drive up to Gold Lion Arts in Sacramento for Rent Romus's 50th birthday party had Disaster Amnesiac perusing their richly supplied merch table; tons of releases from artists affiliated with that really neat, intimate space fill it up. I grabbed (solo guitar), a short cassette release from electric guitar extender Amy Reed. Being familiar with her work, I knew that it would be worth the few bucks of admission, happily provided right to her open hand.
Here's what this listener heard.
Given that there are no sides listed, and Disaster Amnesiac has flipped this cassette a bunch of times now, I'll just say that one of them starts of with combined scraping and sliding actions from Reed's guitar. These moves throw off all kinds of overtones from the amp. These tones then proceed to ear worm their way into the mind in delightfully abstract ways, albeit pretty aggressive, ways. As stated, being familiar with Amy's playing and gear, Disaster Amnesiac has enjoyed imagining the tubes of her small-ish amp being warmed to a nice, red glow from this primal six string shattering. After this initial attack, she proceeds into playing what sound somewhat like chords, which, being made up of her own extended techniques, duly  expose her unique, highly individualized instrumental language for the attentive listener. Imagine melodies coaxed from rusted barbed wire, amplified and buzzing out on the chaparral around Davis, and you'll be close.
The other side of (solo guitar) gets going with slightly less density, as Reed ruminates on a chord of two simple notes before dropping in additions that ripple outward from the initial statement. She keeps ramping things up from there, thickening the sonic palette with woozy bending tones and percussive string hits. It's all very disconcerting the most delightful of ways, and then, out of nowhere, the tape simply stops, mid-jam. Dang it, Reed, why'd you leave us hanging?
The good news on that note, at least for California residents, is that Amy Reed plays pretty regularly, especially in the Sacramento and Solano County areas. I believe that she makes the occasional foray out into places east as well.
Take note, guitar lovers: (solo guitar) most surely give your ears the kind of bristling that the instrument is so fine at providing.

Friday, January 5, 2018

LSJ-Misty Nights; eh? Records #98, cassette

Hot on the heels of the lush, lovely eh? #97, and the perceptions are forcibly turned over into a completely different space with Misty Nights, the collaborative tape release from Noise troika of Lisa Cameron, Shawn David McMillen and Josh Ronsen.
What one will find here is a much more noisy, murky affair, full of blasting sonic battling and mysterious, unsettling quieter passages.
Things kick off right away with Rayon Gingham, which, after some clarinet/guitar tuning, blasts off into the outer limits of Noise. It's as if this trio start off searching for a door to opened; once it's found, they kick the damn thing off its hinges and destroy the room. Seriously wailing catharsis all over the place from what sounds like amplified feedback and vocalized expressionism.
Side one continues on with Video Pirate, featuring more of those looming feedback strains and percussive taps. This one has a kind of searching feeling as LSJ search around each others' sonic noggin spaces for openings through which to find new spots. The levels drop to practically silent at times, and the drama gets palpable. Listen close for the mysteries.
Third up, and last for side A, SVU in SUV at SVT rolls out chiming percussive hits and more Noise winds, seemingly blowing over from Pirate, before lifting off into full-blown feedback knocks  pulsing body blows. It's paced slow and low, but don't let it lull you: your mind may get TKO'd, especially from its closing blasts. They're worth waiting for, but just have some smelling salts in your corner for side B's rounds....
Which commence with Pants with Shit-ton of Pockets, wherein some shifty plans are laid out on the table re: clarinet talents, a cell phone rings, and the group continues with their primordial jamming; more scraping, de-tuned strumming, and just overall primitive questing for new Noise fires leads to more of those big, sweeping sound waves of percussive hits and attacking stabs that jump out of the speakers and into the listener's sweet spots.
Misty Nights ends with the thematically linked Dead Fog and Dead Fog II: The Chirping. With dramatic, almost nausea-inducing feedback to start, and clipping, clattering hits surrounding it, Dead Fog travels to scenes of aligned, disturbing buzzing and compellingly creepy drama. If this soundtrack is not for a real movie, Disaster Amnesiac strongly suggests that someone out there get down to making it. LSJ have provided a scarily effective score for it. It's there for the taking, so get on with it!
Much as its predecessor at eh? Records, but coming from an entirely different aesthetic root, Misty Nights is packaged quite nicely, with  a cool, insert that gives this trio's creation myth and a lush, well-lettered J-card.
Although it's stated that this recording was done in a living room, as Disaster Amnesiac has listened, I've imagined Cameron, McMillen, and Ronsen ensconced in some dank basement, blasting away the mildew on the wall and shaking up the subterranean environment. Misty Nights has that kind of Underground shock to it.