Friday, May 31, 2013

Matthew Barlow - Product (self-released 2013)

a wonderful headphone experience. peace and love to my friends at Humboldt Relief :)

 One of the nice things about writing for this blog is to occasionally receive a submission from an artist with whom I was previously unaware.  Matthew Barlow is a sonic explorer from Asheville, NC.  His long-form compositions represent a wonderful coalescence of minimalism, warm ambient sound, solemn tones, and profound moments of cascading aural energy.  Product, a self-released tape from Matthew, encompasses the listener from the start.  A listening experience characterized by immersion, subtlety and composition elements such as texture, tone and spatial awareness, these two sidelong tracks were created from processed field recordings at a local grocery store.  A wonderful headphone experience, this music should be played loudly for optimum enjoyment.  An outdoor setting is apt for this kind of music.  The propulsive, reverberating energy that is juxtaposed to warm ambient sound mirror the encompassing azure sky.  Perfect for mindful awareness, the fluctuations in tone and intensity trace the sinuous contour of the breath.

Side A commences with a soothing drone.  Within a minute, a propulsive, blinding burst of noise envelops the drone.  A discernible facet of this tape is the manner in which the tone vacillates in specific sections of the track.  Overshadowed by the lovely noise, the soothing tones fluctuate between being more subdued at one end of the continuum, and more assertive at the other.  Contrasted to the beginning, the noise transitions from being propulsive to oscillating.  Soon, it combines with a burgeoning stream of tranquil energy.  Even when the intensity of the track appears to climax, a gentle passage of sound pervades.  Almost halfway through the first side, a heavenly moment occurs through the juxtaposition of ethereal sound and compelling noise.  As the track progresses and the intensity of sound increases, it is occasionally permeated by placid tones.  The ubiquitous nature of the noise at the end makes the warm tones barely perceptible.  Side B is just as engaging and maybe slightly more dark in tone. There is a wonderful contrast in intensity of sound on this side, as toward the middle intense energy and ghastly tones churn before oscillating.  Immediately following is a section of relative silence, which is just as beautiful as its counterpart.  Approaching the end, tranquil ambient sound sits in the front of the mix and combines with swirling noise.

A lovely handcrafted release with a double-sided, color j-card, each cassette is accompanied by a handmade insert with handwritten notes on one side and a vintage ad cutout on the other side.  Home-dubbed in an edition of 40, the album art of Product features original photographs by Richard Auxilio.  Product may be purchased either directly from the artist or through Tomentosa.

peace and love, friends :)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

White Meadows - A Time For Drunken Horses (Torcas003)

lovely sonic explorations.  peace and love to my friends at Humboldt Relief :)

One of the year's most interesting and eclectic releases comes from White Meadows.  Over the past five months, a lot of lovely music has graced this head.  Yet, I have not encountered anything comparable to this rich, intricate tapestry of ambient/experimental sound that is informed by science, travel, cinema, and Islamic culture.  White Meadows is the project of Harpist/Photographer, Maria Thompson and Peter Taylor, of Mortuus Auris & The Black Hand (MABH).  Being an ardent acolyte of MABH's Stunned days, A Time For Drunken Horses, on Tor Press, finds this budding duo exploring mystical zones.  Throughout these various explorations, the versatility and skill of the artists is saliently present.   Peter and Maria  improvised live with Heather harp, re-worked violin, homemade percussion and turntables.  The listener is invited on an aural adventure that includes light and airy atmospheres; introspective, solemn soundscapes; eastern influences, field recordings and heavy elements.

'Alma' commences the adventure.  Elongated tones coalesce to produce a warm, sinuous drone in the beginning.  Soon, ethereal passages of sound intercede, endowing the track with tranquility.  As the warm, sinuous movement drifts beyond perception, dark and light elements move to the front of the recording.  Field Recordings and samples combine with a deluge of tones in the second track, 'Birds'.  Copious shimmering tones ensconced in nature wash over the listener - quite lovely and unexpected!  The next track, 'Hullamok', is one of my favorites on the tape.  It exhibits the gorgeous harp playing of Maria.  Aquatic sounds are joined by harp and various samples.  The quiet reverberations of Maria's harp embrace the listener.  Precious august light permeates Maria's harp on 'Apple' - an absolutely gorgeous, albeit short,  track.  Those that enjoy Colleen will be in heaven.  Ominous tones and meandering currents await in the last track of side A, 'Adhra'.  The listener drifts through the dark, unsure of that which approaches -  until Maria's reverb-soaked tones massage one's trembling soul. A great track to finish the side!  The flip starts with eastern vibrations, gently plucked harp that drifts pleasantly and samples.  Unlike anything on the tape, it  glows with otherworldly beauty.  The latter part of this track includes lovely tones from the violin and serene rhythms.  'Ghasgai' presents an opaque climate.   Sounds are barely perceptible in the rolling haze, until a loop of reverb-soaked piano is juxtaposed to a film sample.  'Frogs' mixes samples and Peter's re-worked violin.   His frenetic playing, which exists behind a cloak, combines nicely with samples/field recordings.  It is quickly followed with tender plucks from Maria's harp.  'Andes' puts forth a tropical, relaxing vibe in the beginning.  However, after several vacillations, it departs to an atmosphere where Maria's harp glistens.  'Cloud' gives one the impression that they are listening to a different tape, as it begins with acute electronic currents.  Slowly, obscured samples are added.  The track begins to pulsate with heavy energy.  Soon, the aforementioned elements disappear and samples of synth pervade the mix.

A Time For Drunken Horses is the debut release from this excellent duo.  With material also on Reverb Worship, I eagerly await the next release.  Produced in an edition of 50, the tape features the lovely artwork of label proprietor, Jake Blanchard.   One may purchase this tape directly from Tor Press
peace and love, friends :)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Polluted Water / The Original Flowering Earth - Acid Mine Tide/Morphogenetic Intent (GLD 027)

the kief on top of the bowl - magical stuff.  peace and love to my friends at Humboldt Relief :)

Split releases that exhibit a contrast between artists provide an intriguing listening experience.  When it comes to splits, Goldtimers is one of the best in the tape game.  Combing their discography, one encounters excellent tapes from Kevin Greenspon/Former Selves; Christopher Merritt/Sound Out Light; Venn Rain/Past Utopia and many more.  They have outdone themselves with the Polluted Water/ The Original Flowering Earth (OFE) split.  This analog gem is a blend of experimental/kosmische/new age vibrations.  Polluted Water is an effervescent elixir of disparate elements.  Even cell membrane technology cannot normalize this water.  As it flows downstream, it accumulates matter, becoming more potent and variegated.  Yet, there is nothing sordid about consuming this jacked up kosmische brew that bubbles with sci-fi energy.  Drink deeply my friends!  The blinding light and serenity of the Original Flowering Earth reside in the unadulterated azure sky.  OFE harvests the crystals from your synapses.  This new age beauty blooms at the zenith, where the eternal sun dwells.

Polluted Water's side, 'Acid Mine Tide', travels a tortuous path replete with various vicissitudes.  The A side starts with synth music for inner gazing.  The initial section is a lofi amalgamation composed of a warm drone, grainy transmissions, morphing vocals and echoing soft tones.  Soon, the synth is blurred, moving into and out of focus - bright in focus, obscured when it is more removed.  The sonic results are gorgeous, sounding like Black Dice circa Beaches and Canyons/Boards of Canada tracing the contour of a rainbow.  These sounds secrete the crystals that make your bowl blaze!!  Decayed percussive sounds give way to synth that exudes sun damaged hues.  The various textures, ranging from smooth to splitting at the ends, are lovely.  A section of aural dissonance leads to a sanctuary in the ether.  Solemn organ and chanting lead to the lectern.  Once the traveler swallows the wafer and pulls the veil back from the arc, pulsing preternatural vibrations and rhythms become consuming - sci-fi renderings that lead one down a foreboding corridor.  Soon aural ellipses - alternating between enervated and excited states - dominate the head.

The Original Flowering Earth's side has become one of my favorite ambient/new age jams.  'Morphogenetic Intent'  embraces your head with all the love and serenity of mindful breathing.  Side B rewards the attentive listener.  Yet, the interminable waves of tranquility will undoubtedly transport you to a relaxed state.  Never inert, this track is always becoming.  Each subsequent wave presents a new cycle of the breath, with slight variations that shimmer in the forefront of your head.  Nascent, warm waves of energy, coupled with benevolent oscillations, ascend placidly.  The pulsating serenity at the apex has the effect of the sun warming the torso.  As the track matures, especially near the end, the changes are more perceptible.  The tempo decreases, moving into languorous territory.  Sublime stuff on this side!

The recent Goldtimers batch is replete with quality, and this tape oozes with lovely sounds.  Acid Mine Tide/Morphogenetic Intent was produced in a limited edition of 50 pro-duplicated tapes with a double-sided j-card.  Don't wait on this one - Goldtimers tapes move quickly.  Purchase a copy of this great tape directly from Goldtimers
peace and love, friends :)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Former Selves - Calico Sunset (sicsic 053)

Former Selves + Pure Kush = the dream team.  peace and love to my friends at Humboldt Relief :)

 Dr. Gonzo once presciently averred that the tape recorder is for special music - a head full of LSD sure leads to some profound perceptions!  He is correct, and we are fortunate to span time with some wonderful artists and labels that generally release their music on cassette.  Over the last two years of writing for this site, I have encountered a few releases that make me recall the reason I listen to music.  Usually, those tapes are highly experiential.  Along with being well-composed, they augment life.  They represent sounds that fuse with the soul.  Often the radiating energy moves so proximate; a force that exhibits an enveloping aura.         When i listen to Calico Sunset by Former Selves on Sicsic, the ubiquity possessed by the placid sounds can permeate the roughest exteriors.  Currently, there are some wonderful artists creating lovely ambient and new age sounds.  Among those are the Iasos tape on Rotifer; Original Flowering Earth jams on Goldtimers and Planted; the JD Emmanuel 2xlp on Aguirre and the Motion Sickness of Time Travel tape from the recent batch of Sicsic.  Calico Sunset shimmers just as brightly as the aforementioned, as Former Selves disseminate dank crystals profusely via patient drones and slowly unfolding soundscapes.

Calico Sunset is a continuous ode to life.  The masterful 'Stillness' commences the tape.  Analogous to the sweet floral scent of the nascent summer, layers of tranquility drift through the flowering trees.  The soft, enveloping warmth illuminated by the splintered sunlight.  Pulsing serenity and gentle swells of ambient sound caress the head.  Contemplative notes echo the lightness of the moment.  The end is lovely with meandering tones that move soporifically within the drone.  Soothing tones chime and twinkle, acting as a bridge between the first and second track, 'Inside and Around'.  The second track, at the beginning, is centered on ringing sounds, breaking waves and external transmissions.  As the track matures, the listener is delivered into an oasis of august light composed of contemplative, elongated tones that sit pleasantly in the fore of consciousness.  Soothing tones modulate and flower from the drone, glistening in the atmosphere.  Toward the end, layers of enlightened sound manifest.  The last track on side A, 'Through Time', succeeds in combining beautiful piano and synth.  The piano exudes delicate sounds and intricate patterns.  Peaceful currents of ambient sound gradually move to the fore, while the piano, barely perceptible, moves to the background.  The flip kicks off with a real treat - the exquisite voice of Lynn Fister!  Side B begins with 'Kindred Spirit'.  As gentle and warm as the breath of a loved one, the lovely sounds embroider on to the skin as the constituent sections of the track come into being.  Warm, reverberating tones move in and out.  The are complimented by an uplifting drone and harmonious keys that coalesce nicely with Lynn's angelic voice.  On 'Parallels', burgeoning synth slowly moves into the zone.  Upon reaching the core, it radiates serenity as a meandering drone combines with light and airy tones.  Tones are inflected and float on the contours of the track.  The title track is the last stop, as Lynn's voice hovers and swells over voluminous, gentle passages of synth and piano.

 These are the sounds to cultivate loving kindness and awareness.  Once the listener presses play, they are immediately ensconced in serenity.  Released in a limited edition of 85 tapes, and accompanied by the beautiful designs of Lynn Fister, Calico Sunset will find a cozy spot on my end of year list.  Though it is sold out at the source, secure your copy at Tomentosa.
peace and love, friends :)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Various Artists - Pop Yeh Yeh - Psychedelic Rock from Singapore and Malaysia 1964-1970: Vol. 1 (SF 079CD)

in honor of the Hemperor, Jack Herer.  peace and love to my friends at Humboldt Relief :)

 Sublime Frequencies has created your rock soundtrack for the summer.   Pop Yeh Yeh - Psychedelic Rock from Singapore and Malaysia 1964-1970: Vol. 1  (Pop Yeh Yeh), is a compilation that adeptly documents this singular moment in Singapore and Malaysia.  Given the various geopolitical and cultural transitions of the time, Pop Yeh Yeh was fomented by many factors, including western influences.  The name  of this period was created by a journalist who referenced the Beatles track, "She Loves You".  In the late 1950's, the initial wave of western rock and roll arrived in Singapore and Malaysia.  This period would act as a harbinger for the heavy sounds that would follow.  Pop Yeh Yeh was more than a hybrid or a cross-section of various cultures.  Artists from this period would reference western sounds, but Pop Yeh Yeh retained a singular character through melodies and lyrics, sung mainly in Malay.  By the time of the mid 1960's, electric rock became popular among teenagers.  Bands such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones,  The Hollies, The Ventures and Cliff Richard & the Shadows were prominent influences.  Soon, western bands started to perform in Singapore, which gave rise to the five piece band titled, kugiran.  M. Osman and the Mods song, 'Suzana', created in 1964, is referenced as the first Pop Yeh Yeh song.  More importantly, it was sung completely in Malay, which heralded the birth of true Malay rock.

Carl Hamm worked diligently to research and compile this collection of tracks, which was eight years in the making.  Overall, the entire package is beautiful.  The cd comes in a tri-fold digipak with beautiful artwork.  Accompanying the cd are two highly informative 40 page pamphlets that provide a detailed overview, liner notes, lyrics, album covers, photos, band bios and more.

Pop Yeh Yeh glistens on the top shelf next to all of the dank nugs. This is highly recommended.  It's one of my favorite releases from Sublime Frequencies, along with the Pakistan pop and folk record.  Also, it's worth noting that I often play this album to unsuspecting crowds in a bookstore, and the response is incredible.  People are curious about the beautiful flowering sounds emanating from the speakers, transforming a drab dust-filled storefront into a vibrant multicultural paradise.  The best part, though, is seeing people smile and dance to the music.  Soundclips for Pop Yeh Yeh are available online.  A search for Pop Yeh Yeh will locate a few previews. This is the real deal: purchase it from one of the best, Eclipse Records

peace and love, friends :)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Ecstatic Cosmic Union - XCU - (EID 007)

crystal-covered healing vibrations leave one in a trichome trance.   peace and love to my friends at Humboldt Relief :)

Say your farewells in advance of pressing play.  Once you arrive in the realm where Ecstatic Cosmic Union resides, the heady vibrations may obviate the need to return.  XCU, the latest from this Seattle husband and wife duo on venerable Eiderdown Records, guides you through sparsely populated climates that pulsate with celestial energy.  XCU swirls with interminable buoyancy through the plumes of dank indica haze that envelop the atmosphere.  From these lovely travelers emanate six cosmic lofi zoners comprised of guitar, synths, congas and incantations.  These tracks were endowed with life at the duo's XCU Experiential Research Center - i would like to be a subject!  My hypothesis - you are going to grip this tape and lift-off will soon commence - is such a sure bet that it exists in the right tail region of the normal distribution. With music like this, the only constraints are self-imposed.  Let's ride this heavenly tide until the flame of life becomes enervated.  Some tracks boast an outright cosmic funk style, while others mine the internal structures where outliers exist and the air is thin.  Admirers of cosmic synth, new age, krautrock, J D Emmanuel, Peaking Lights and Sun Araw will be in heaven with these sounds. One of the greatest joys of listening to music is being introduced to something by a friend.  Thus, XCU  has become one of my favorite nugs of the year; something to which i continually return, which highlights and enhances the good vibrations.

XCU billows in your head like a blazing dollop of hash oil - it's not long before it envelops your being.  'Center of Light' illuminates your chakras with new age vibrations.  Heady rhythms consume the head as light passages of synth and a guitar loop bring the breath and the moment into alignment.  It feels so good to close the eyes and revel in these ebullient waves.  The cosmic funk is ubiquitous in the symmetrical  oscillations of 'X=C=U'.  Outer realm synth transmissions dance among uplifting rhythms and fuzz.  If you still feel tethered to the earth, then the next track, 'Gratitude', will escort you farther away from the core.  An inward looking jam, it's comprised of reverberating drone and effervescent synth that accelerates across the myriad of synapses.  Fuzzed guitar is sprinkled over the track like fine cosmic dust.  The last track on side A promulgates the type of vibe that makes life worth living.  Wah and fuzz crystals glisten, while breathy incantations and lovely congas float effortlessly through plumes of Bubba.  An incredible side!!  The flip maintains elevation as 'Skarab's Bones' ascends the final tier with reverberating energy and a righteous groove that is joined by various electronics and interspersed guitar.  The frenetic molecules of 'Skarab's Bones' release their copious energy, descending to a stratum - 'Cave Paintings' - where serene reverberations and tranquil passages of synth meet up with the soothsayer.

I'm not reticent to assert that these jams are the real deal - some of the best of the year.  While i'm not reticent, neither am i surprised.  Adam, from Eiderdown, is operating a great label.  He is highly adept at bringing aural and visual elements into balance.  The artwork and design - credited to Ecstatic Cosmic Union and printed by A. Crawshaw for Broken Press - for his tapes are among the most appealing in the tape scene.  A true 'gripper and ripper', obtain a copy of this wonderful tape directly from Eiderdown!

peace and love, friends :)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Golden Gunn - S/T (TLR 095)

 top shelf RSD grooves from Three Lobed.  peace and love to my friends at Humboldt Relief :)

 When it comes to Record Store Day (RSD) releases, Three-Lobed Recordings has few peers.  Last year they released Eight Trails, One Path, which was a favorite of 2012.  Golden Gunn follows that stellar release in true Three-Lobed fashion.  The proprietor of Three Lobed is brimming with excellent ideas.  Coupling the guitar excursions of Alvarius B., Ben Chasny, Lee Ranaldo, Danny Paul Grody among others made for an engaging listening experience.  This time around, Steve Gunn and Hiss Golden Messenger (M.C. Taylor and Scott Hirsch) and others - under the direction of guru Dickie Silk - create another notable Three Lobed release.  There is an intriguing story - wonderfully composed by Brendan Greaves - behind this release.  It's a story that, much like life, is imbued by randomness - the chance meeting between Steve Gunn/Hiss Golden Messenger and Dickie Silk.  Originally envisioned as a collaboration between Hiss Golden Messenger and Steve Gunn, Dickie Silk's input transformed these songs into something unique. The songs were structured around rhythm tracks that Mr. Silk programmed on his antique drum machine.   Largely an instrumental album with lyrics interspersed, it vacillates between sweetly flowing twang, country-funk foot stompers, and finger-picked folk.  First, I highly recommend reading the story which accompanies the release.  It is something to which I continually return.  After you have absorbed the story, head over to Time-Lag's discog's page to purchase one of the remaining copies. Something beautiful is happening within and between these grooves - one of 2013's best.

peace and love, friends :)


Monday, May 13, 2013

Fallen Axe - As The Sun Reached Eternity (Permanent Nostalgia ‎– no. 19)

dank, organic action for your trip to Frank's star.  peace and love to my friends at Humboldt Relief :)   

From the recent batch of Permanent Nostalgia, Fallen Axe - Frank from Hobo Cubes - provides a well-constructed cassette comprised of lofi, guitar-based ambient/psychedelic zoners that radiate faithfully from start to finish.  First, regardless of the moniker and instrument, one observes through listening that Frank is extremely adroit at structuring a track.  He has a proclivity for adding or removing certain elements at the perfect time, which is conspicuous throughout As The Sun Reached Eternity.  Thus, the music breaths with vitality.  Sometimes shimmering pleasantly in the front of your head, and at other times reverberating ominously in the dark recesses, As The Sun Reached Eternity sees this wonderful artist negotiate dark and light ambient zones.

Flowing at ease from the periphery through the third eye, ominous tones resonate and move quickly to the core as the tape commences.  Periodic, acute tones are interspersed, becoming more prevalent near the end.   The first track segues into a section of swiftly moving opaque, hiss covered transmissions.  The third track is one of my favorites.  It's much different than either of the aforementioned tracks - a serene and psychedelic experience.  A placid loop comprised of warm, ascending tones meanders in the sunlight, as other parts are layered.  Next, it floats through the trichome smoke where a metallic drone is accompanied by tangential chords that radiate in random directions.  The fourth track, the last one on side A, is one of the better experimental guitar tracks I have heard this year.  Admirers of the vibe that Steven R. Smith conjures will find much to love here.  A solemn drone and fluctuating rhythms grow in strength as mutant, submerged transmissions swirl uneasily.  Soon, a burgeoning, enlightening drone faithfully moves to the center of the listener's attention.  Accumulating energy, the drone reverberates in your bones, then becomes obscured by the billowing tape hiss only to return with enhanced vigor - a fantastic finish to side A!  The flip is equally as engaging and psyched out, especially the second track.  The combination of warm, sparse tones and portentous noise at the beginning is one of the best parts of the tape.  As the tremors begin to exhibit more energy, the formerly sparse tones begin to resonate and billow, producing lovely multifaceted sonics that orbit and enrich your head.

As The Sun Reached Eternity is a true treat for the ambient/psych heads out there.  Produced in an edition of 36 and held in a lovely paper case with an insert, As The Sun Reached Eternity may be purchased directly from Permanent Nostalgia.  It's hard to beat 3 great tapes for $17.

peace and love, friends :)