Tag Archives: Cameron Alexander

[Review: Venn Rain, ‘Bioharmonics’]

This is it. The one you wait for.

Regardless of how many of these cassettes you get sent to your house directly from the label (who is usually also the artist), they’re always good, quality sounds because they’re wholly unique, like slices of an individual psyche preserved on magnetic tape for closer examination. Thus, you’ve grown to fancy yourself a discriminate culturateur who can appreciate what is impossible to categorize.  Admittedly, though, most of the time it’s not necessarily the aesthetics found within these ever-so-personal audio experiments that make them worthwhile. No–for me anyway–it’s usually more academic. Maybe it’s the socio-economic implications of the noise that comes careening into my overpriced headphones that makes them interesting. Something about those sounds and the way their arranged, seems to imply something about the subconscious, or society, or the cosmos . . . or something.

And this is fine. Because eventually, every once in a while–without even realizing it until you hear it–you come across it. The one you’ve been waiting for. The one whose twists and turns you can somehow anticipate almost as if you have traversed down a similar path at some point and you are now recalling the journey in vivid aural fashion. The one that seems singular somehow, as if set apart because not only is it a slice of an individual psyche, but it is a rather fascinating slice that speaks to you, or even gives voice to your own compatible ideas, when many other simply blurt at you in an interesting, but incomprehensibly foreign tongue. This is the one that gives you pause because it reminds you of what you were originally in search of when you began this strange postmodern hunting expedition. It’s not only sonically interesting in an academic manner, but it is aesthetically affirming.

Still unclear on what exactly it is? Well, if it were something expressible in written language than you have indeed been tracking the wrong prey. But you haven’t been. In fact, it takes a cassette like Venn Rain’s Bioharmonics. A simple little cassette that reminds you only through sonic exploration can a particularly deep emotion, idea, or memory, or something be stirred awake to consult even if it’s only for a brief moment. And of course not all sound-fueled journeys can penetrate into that submerged reservoir where those emotions, ideas, or memories settle like caked levels of earth. Some come close, while others merely skim the surface. But it’s not until it arrives. The one you wait for.  The one that–for whatever inexplicable reason–does the job on you.

In this case, maybe its the hypnotic drums coursing underneath heavy layers of analog synths on “Marble Mist,” or the strangely sampled spatial arrangements explored on both “Flow Motion” and “The History of Things,” or the blissfully looped submission of “Phosphene Scene.” Regardless, this is one of those rare cassettes that just has something that pulls you in deeper than you normally go. It may not do it for anyone else, the way their favorite cassette falls flat on you, but it doesn’t matter. Because it has been found and this strange foraging urge that our Neolithic ancestors expressed through the hunt has been briefly satiated and ultimately renewed so that the search for the next it can begin.  In the meantime, Biohramonics–the latest in a long line of its from Buffalo-based label House of Alchemy–gets a reserved parking spot on your cassette rack so that you can reach for it quickly in times of need when you require a reminder of what the hell it is all about.

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Review by Cameron Alexander


[Review: Afghanistan, ‘And Bide Your Time’]

When it comes to artistic expression, Ithaca’s Keir Neuringer is not limited to a single mode or medium. A quick online survey of the multi-instrumentalist’s offerings reveals him to be equally comfortable in the worlds of free jazz–as an Ayler-inspired alto sax player–or in the world of twisted experimental folk– as a searing, fiery protest singer–and many worlds in between.

Throw on top of this his excursions into agitprop video production and you get an artist that is bursting at the seams to express all sorts of interesting (and politically charged) ideas and always in an unpredictable manner. In other words, the guy can do it all and on his latest offering as Afghanistan with And Bide Your Time he in fact does do it all. All five tracks were recorded in single live takes, no overdubs, with Neuringer, like an electrified troubadour, singing, playing farfisa organ, and drumming. All at the same time (see the below video).

[vimeo:http://vimeo.com/31447661%5D

It’s interesting to ponder Neuringer’s stylistic choice on And Bide Your Time. As an artist he is clearly comfortable communicating in various forms, and as a musician he has a number of options he can choose from when deciding how to convey an idea. It is thus thought provoking that the Afghanistan project is draped in a carnevelisque gypsy-folk sound almost akin to Man Man (but with less emphasis on baroquish funk and more on straight-ahead topical protest). Despite the topicality of his rage-filled lyrics, however, the musical atmosphere created by Neuringer–despite the few instruments at his disposal–reaches a surreal pitch. So much so that the combination of wavy farfisa and foot-stomping percussion calls to mind the memorable scene from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas where Depp and Del Toro struggle to escape from the absurdly horrifying Bazokoo Circus casino while loaded on all sorts of hallucinogens. At no time, however, does Neuringer’s music induce any sort of escapist mindset for the listener. This is not music designed to entertain or entrance you, but rather to confront you. His politically charged lyrics establish a commentary on the gruesome and grotesque nature of the world, bringing us closer to what is nothing more than a spectacle on television screens to most of us. The musical accompaniment he has crafted around those lyrics creates a cynical and satirical soundtrack for our ringleaders as they compel lions to jump through hoops and elephants to balance on balls.

Neuringer, however, does not only point his antipathy at the powers that be. His lyrics also serve as a mirror for his listeners and for those who share his political consciousness. In “Rocket Ships,” Neuringer laments, “You write letters but it’s not enough/So your march and protest and that other stuff/Yeah you get going when the going gets tough/And all that other stuff.” This feeling of futility that most who have strived to change the world inevitably feel at some time or another is dark stuff and, as with all the subject matter of his work, Neuringer confronts it head on, refusing to shy away.

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Review by Cameron Alexander


 


[2011 in Review: Kyle Bobby Dunn, ‘Ways of Meaning’]

Kyle Bobby Dunn - Ways of Meaning (Desire Path Recordings)

At this point, there is not much more that can be said about Kyle Bobby Dunn’s album Ways of Meaning. Google the album and you’ll see the considerable amount of digital ink that was spilled across the internet about the Ontario native’s drone album since it was released earlier this year by Buffalo label Desire Path Recordings.

Here’s a sample:

Anti-Gravity Bunny–which cited Ways of Meaning as the third best drone album of 2011–said it was the “most delicate bliss I’ve ever experienced. 100% shining purity.”

Consequence of Sound described the album’s “sweet fragility,” while notoriously hard-to-please Pitchfork celebrated it as drone music “with the gravity turned off.”

Dusted Magazine explained that the album served as a pleasant “reminder to slow your roll’ and even NPR’s All Songs Considered (not exactly the go-to source for drone music) exulted the album for its “shimmering brilliance.”

We could continue this list indefinitely, but let’s instead see what the local/regional press in Buffalo and the Upstate region had to say about KBD’s album. After all, this universally acclaimed release was brought forth into the world by Desire Path Recordings, a young micro-label out of Buffalo. Surely, the same label that Lend Me Your Ears declared as “masterful” and the ‘Best New Label of 2011′ earned a write up or two from the local music literati, right?

Well, actually, no.

Save for the blog you are currently reading, not a peep was muttered ’round these parts regarding one of the most celebrated albums of the year that happened to be made in our own backyard. The Upstate Soundscape, on the other hand, did a whole feature on Desire Path which you can read here along with a radio interview that you can listen to here.

Anyway, regardless of who did cover it and who didn’t cover it. . .Ways of Meaning is a beautiful album and you should hear it. End of story.

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Review by Cameron Alexander 


[2011 in Review: Parashi/Granitkorridor, ‘Celadon/VI c80’]

Parashi/Granitkorridor, Celadon/VI c80 (Stunned Records no. 131)

Stunned Records announced earlier this year that it was discontinuing its practice of releasing otherworldly tapes and CD-Rs that greatly appealed to the musically maligned. There would be one last batch, however. And within that last batch was a tape, and on that tape there was the A-side that featured Upstate artist Parashi.

Hailing from Clifton Park, NY (in the Albany region) Parashi–who also runs the Skell label–has released under Stunned before with Troika (Stunned no. 115). The folks at Stunned warned upon Celadon‘s release, however, that Parashi was “not treading the same ground” with this new cassette.

Celadon crackles like a severed wire, still live but sometimes merely gurgling along as if the electric juice could run out at anytime. Incessant feedback-like sounds are channeled, chopped, and then clobbered into a form of its makers choosing.  Parashi’s electronic tools, tuned to frequencies in the lo-fi dimension, spurt to life at unpredictable moments then wail about until they are mercifully silenced by their creator’s invisible hand. The reprieve which allows your ears to breathe never lasts long though.

These recordings are disquieting in the way that the paths of least sonic resistance are rarely, if ever, taken. Instead, Parashi patiently hovers, sometimes squirms, awaiting the moment to come to him, like a hunter awaiting prey to stumble into a trap. Then, just at the right moment, Parashi pulls the trigger and unleashes a sonic shit storm that will make you wonder if your headphones are broken.

With Celadonwhich is a ceramics reference–Parashi helps to send one of the most revered micro-labels of the past few years out on an appropriate note.

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Review by Cameron Alexander


[2011 in Review: Bad Drone Media, ‘Glossy Eyes, Vol.1’]

Ranging from drone, to noise, to improv, this compilation from Buffalo’s Bad Drone Media is perhaps the clearest testament to the breadth of experimentation occurring within the Queen City. The compilation is not strictly a Buffalo affair, however, and does include tracks from friends within BDM’s noise network, including Pregnant Spore from Baltimore, Death Beef from Athens, Ohio, and Hostage Pageant from Virginia.

Without the existence of a single weak spot, Glossy Eyes Vol. 1 presents 13 articulate tracks that draw from distinct sonic wells. Mutus Liber‘s “Hesitation Resources” and Alfred Brown‘s “I’m Not a Fox for Nothing” both employ the workings of drone and ambient, while Pacing’s “Battle Damage,” GOD DAMN DEVIL EYES‘s “The Lady Next Door,”  and The Voidologists‘s “I Remember the Summer” all present different takes on harsh noise. Then VWLS meets the two sides in the middle with “Marauding Summer,” a screeching sci-fi trip down an eerie analog avenue.

Other standouts include Chapels’s “Stumbling,” a chattering lofi excursion, and Abramson Trump’s “Live at the Vault 1-30-11,” a masterful duet between two of Buffalo’s best musicians, drummer Jim Abramson and guitarist T. Andrew Trump. Both these tracks lend the compilation a stylistic depth by exploring territories outside of noise.

With several of these artists performing together on a regular basis at venues like Sugar City and the Jungle Gym it is hopeful that there will be a Glossy Eyes, Vol. 2 forthcoming from the Bad Drone Media label in the near future.

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Review by Cameron Alexander


[2011 in Review: [n.], ‘Ein Klagelied für 3f’]

Not only did Cae-sur-a’s co-owner/curator Jen Marquart find time to release a dozen or so cassettes over the past year by a variety of artists under her Rochester-based imprint, but she also managed to put together an interesting solo/side project titled simply [n.].

On Ein Klagelied für 3f (which translates to ‘A Lament for 3f’), Marquart delves into a variety of sounds but does so in just over the course of seven streamlined tracks. And in fact, after several listens, one wonders to what extent her curation of cae-sur-a had an impact on this recording. You almost get the sense that the artist behind this cassette is sorting through a variety of sonic ideas that perhaps she absorbed while filtering demos.

While experimental musicians and sound artists often have a habit of agonizing over a single sonic contour–and forcing their listeners to suffer right along with them—Marquart conversely shows here that she has few reservations about discarding an idea once it’s been adequately explored and then quickly moving on to another.

In fact, the one defining characteristic of this tape–if one is identifiable–is the quick procession in which the artist takes the listener from point A to point B. The tape therefore has a refreshing effect upon the listener due to its refinement and commitment to brevity over indulgence or gluttony. This leaves the listener wanting to hear more: more of the ground-shaking drones, more rising analog pads that underpin everything, and definitely more of that eerie German chanting.

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Review by Cameron Alexander