Tag Archives: jamie moore

[Review: Kristachuwan, ‘Pterodactyl Fish’]

Chris Svoboda is a multi-media artist who provides both a sonic underpinning and visual flash for his band Cinnamon Aluminum, an indie-psych trio out of Buffalo. Sonically, Svoboda handles beats, electronics, and saxophone; visually, he contributes artwork for the group’s album covers and designs the projections used in live performances. With Pterodactyl Fish–under his solo moniker Kristachuwan–Svoboda has built a bridge between his two roles as audio and visual artist by creating what he rightly calls a video album. The result is potent blend of swirling digital imagery and animation with pulsating electronic beats and psychedelic synths. Visual motifs closely follow musical cues (or perhaps its the other way around) while the movement of animated figurines are synced in hypnotic fashion to rhythmic sounds of all kinds.

While Animal Collective’s ODDSAC is perhaps the easiest reference to compare Pterodactyl Fish to since the two visual albums are psychedelic experimentations with the synthesis of audio and visual, there are other specific visual references within Pterodactyl Fish that film or visual culture aficionados will certainly appreciate. For instance, there a number of motifs that seems to spring from an appreciation of Japanese culture, including samurai mythology and anime characters. The neon outlined samurai that stoically stalks the viewer on “Samurai Haircut” (which was modeled by Cinnamon Aluminum band mate Mike Schroeder) could easily be a re-animated character from Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 masterpiece Seven Samurai.

Other visual influences that seem to be referenced include 1960s acid test projections, Adult Swim, early music videos, and all types of low-budget greenscreen work that you might stumble upon on public access television at 3am. All of these references, however, only explain the expansive visual grammar used within this project. One could perhaps  argue (unconvincingly) that the visual element of Pterodactyl Fish, on its own, is just a string of images linked together by a hipster film student; the beauty here though lies in Svoboda’s ability to beautifully interweave all of these disparate images and then interlock them with music that perfectly complements them to create a single, unified audio-visual experience.

[vimeo:https://vimeo.com/34741456%5D

At times, the work does have the feel of an MFA project; some transitions are a bit too abrupt, some motifs feel as if they have been discarded before they have culminated into their full expression. Regardless of these minor flaws—and their descriptions as ‘flaws’ is debatable—this is the work of a talented visual mind, one that is clearly going for it.

Watching Pterodactyl Fish might be akin to reading an early short story by a great author who would later go on to develop a distinctive and recognizable voice. Initially, however, that distinctive voice may not have quite translated itself out of the mind of the artist and onto the page, or in this case the screen in front of the viewer. The creative training wheels haven’t quite come off as the artist is forced to lean on homage a little longer before the truly unique creative voice emerges. But anyone who appreciates the creative process and artistic development must intrinsically sense this and be thrilled by the audacity of Svoboda’s efforts here and where he might be going next.

Regardless of what may or may not be in store for Svoboda, as musician or visual artist, this particular work right here really deserves to be seen in a communal theater setting on a large screen with its electronically pulsating sounds pumping out of a solid speaker system. It is laced with stunning visual ideas some that last ever so briefly, as if they were only tiny ideas meant to evolve into a more expansive and important idea. What exactly is that important idea? Hard to say, but it is certainly worthwhile trying to figure it out.

[vimeo:https://vimeo.com/35927925%5D

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Review by Jamie Moore


[2011 in Review: throuRoof, ‘Feathers & Blood’]

throuRoof’s Feathers & Blood cassette seems designed to evoke deep-seeded emotions from listeners that attune themselves to the graceful arrangements and hypnotic structures. Like a psychic depth charge, this cassette aims to blast open the murkier contents of the mind so that they can be analyzed closer in a conscious state.

Released by the Rochester label Cae-Sur-A, this cassette features two tracks, one per side, each twenty minutes in length. Both tracks are drone-based constructions that feature harmonic overlays punctuated with tones that are sustained to the limits of perception, reminiscent of the La Monte Young school of drone. And like those classic droners, throuRoof’s brand of drone leans more toward the transcendental, as opposed to the academic.

The A-side is “Birdism,” a loosely woven and organic  20-minute piece that is built on extremely simple tones with elegant phrasing that ebbs and flows like the separate breathing patterns of two people in bed and fast asleep. Punctuated with the flapping of wings and other assorted bird noises, “Birdism” creates an eerie dream-like feel that leads the listener to believe that bird sounds are not meant to be understood literally, but rather in the syntax of dream symbolism.

On the flip side is the title track where strings give way to synths and the birds are replaced with a submerged undercurrent-like beat that takes the entire track to fully emerge. This is a sprawling, more electronically based composition that Foxy Digitalis correctly described as “some sort of minimalist drone-pop.”

Put together, both sides of Feathers & Blood make up an exquisitely crafted cassette that demands repeated listens.

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Review by Jamie Moore


[2011 in Review: SIGHUP, ‘City Passage’]

SIGHUP, 'City Passage' (Feedback Loop)

For more than a decade, Toronto-based artist Steve Hamann has been crafting sound under the guise of SIGHUP, a project where Hamann combines his ambient/drone compositions with a wide array of personal field recordings.  His latest release, under the Feedback Loop Label, is City Passage a meditative 3-track, 20-minute journey through Toronto’s urban soundscape.

Hamann explains that the concept of City Passage was inspired by “the daily routine of slowly passing through a city, a meditation on both listening to and ignoring the metropolitan experience.” Close listening seems to reveal Hamann traversing through industrial areas of the city due to the slow-moving, low-pitched mechanical sounds that are looped over churning metallic synth drones.

With the explosion of the Greater Toronto Area, along with the overhaul of its densely populated urban core, one wonders if this industrial-feeling rumination by Hamann is almost an attempt to capture a soundscape that is quickly fading (or perhaps faded) in the post-industrial world. After all, Toronto’s identity as an industrial center has long given way to that of a financial capital. But with that transition has come an explosion of construction as the financial sector has fueled a building boom, mainly in towering condos. It is impossible not to be overwhelmed by these high-rent waterfront citadels as one drives north on the Gardiner Expressway into the heart of this thriving metropolis.

So perhaps City Passage is a subtle commentary on this ramping up of construction, and perhaps the voice of what sounds like a young child in the title track “City Passage” symbolizes a sort of new urbanism in its infancy. Whatever it symbolizes, this looped recording is clearly the centerpiece of the album, as it is the most singular sound, as if the artists was building up to it all along.

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Review by Jamie Moore 


[2011 in Review: SlowPitch, ‘REPLCMNT’]

Since experimental turntabilsm’s inception with John Cage’s “Imaginary Landscape No. 1” in 1939 most turntablism of this nature has been dominated by avant-garde artists who adopted the turntable and/or records as instruments because of their ability to provide unconventional and aesthetically intriguing sounds. Toronto’s SlowPitch, on the other hand, sounds instead like an actual DJ that has been schooled in traditional turntablism and who has now progressed naturally into experimental territory after mastering the tools of the disc jockey’s trade.

SlowPitch’s comfort with less esoteric (i.e. traditional) turntable techniques like scratching, juggling, transforming etc. is reflected by the overall smoothness and seamlessness in which REPLCMNT unfolds. And despite coming in at just over 18 minutes in length REPLCMNT is packed with sonic references that will test the most ardent crate diggers. And for the more meditative listener, REPLCMNT is rich in layered drones that vibrate against one another like snoring atoms, punctuated by crackling samples, with imaginative delay-drenched scratches.

It would be interesting to see more hip-hop DJs pick up the challenge that is REPLCMNT. After all it is perhaps a blueprint of sorts that could provide a way forward to an entire generation of hip-hop DJs that latched themselves to a once-dominant genre that has since exhausted itself both creatively and commercially.

Forgive me while I dream, but imagine if today’s many hip-hop DJs, who often possess unquestionably amazing technical skills, were liberated from the formulaic machismo of hip-hop to begin work on something more open ended, more imaginative. If that were to happen, REPLCMNT would undoubtedly serve as one of the crucial recordings to bridge the two worlds.

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Review by Jamie Moore


[2011 in Review: Hunting Rituals, ‘Brooding Forest’]

Hunting Rituals, 'Brooding Forest' (Ecstatic Peace)

Back in 2008 something sinister occurred up in Hamilton, Ontario, when Scott Johnson of Thoughts on Air and Jeremiah Buchan of Fossils met up for a jam session in the basement of Sonic Unyon Records. Both artists are of a similar wavelength in that neither is averse to utilizing grating sounds and uncomfortable textures to achieve their sonic aims. Thus the collaboration was a natural fit, even if the gut-wrenching, noise-drenched final product–titled Brooding Forest–was anything but natural sounding.

At first this disturbing noise–which came out under Johnson’s project Hunting Rituals–was limited to a very small tape run on Hamilton-based label Myasis Tapes in 2008. One of the 30 tapes though managed to finds its way into the hands of Sonic Youth member and underground excavator Thurston Moore. Moore then wrote about the release in his “Bull Tongue” column for Arthur magazine saying that it unfold[ed] like a sex-sweat sheet, each rumple a dank and sensuous dream.”

In 2011, Moore then decided to re-release Brooding Forest to a wider audience under his Ecstatic Peace imprint. Apparently, Moore found Hunting Rituals’ “moist grip on psyche-scuzz blanket motion” to be worthy of greater exposure.

Tiny Mix Tapes seconded the recordings value by describing its sound as “a field recordings from deep inside some dark labyrinth of poisonous trees on the edge of the gateway to the world of the Old Gods, swarming with foot-long mosquitoes and deadly rabid beasts howling out for flesh.”

Descriptions as such might seem a bit ridiculous, but only until you listen to Brooding Forest. There really is no place for the traditional critical lexicon with recordings like these.

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Review by Jamie Moore


[2011 in Review: The Love Story, ‘U$ Drone]

 

U$ Drone is one of three releases that Ithaca’s Keir Neuringer–operating here under his moniker The Love Story–put out in 2011. This particular release is a refined, almost minimal organ drone routed through effects pedals that patiently unfolds and gently morphs over the course of 35 minutes. This is drone in its classic uncompromising form. It simply exists without the aid of distracting field recordings or gimmicky sound effects. This drone instead demands singular, focused, and prolonged attention.

In a year where drone got cute, Neuringer brings us back to the purist roots of the genre.

U$ Drone is also perhaps a suitable entry point into the broader philosophy of this interdisciplinary artist and multi-instrumentalist. For instance, immediately prior to a performance this past summer at the Back Room in Buffalo Neuringer sat perched at his drum kit, hands at his sides, staring intently at the small chatting audience before him. Patiently, he waited for the conversation within the intimate setting to cease before commencing with his performance. Despite not being the “headliner” Neuringer refused to begin his first song for the audience–the blistering socio-political track “Conquistadors”–until they were focused and, thus, ready.

Something important was about to happen and it demanded their undivided attention.

This 35-minute wave of sound is similar in that its creator makes no attempt to ease the listening experience for you. He does not try to coax you along, hoping to be there when you decide to start paying attention. The drone is here and now and it demands your full attention. No compromises.

As is the case with the rest of Neuringer’s work, regardless of the medium or the musical style, the payoff for the listener is immense if able to oblige.

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Review by Jamie Moore