Tag Archives: Roth’s Child

[Review: Reedbeds, ‘Heirloom Rust Garden’]


Hamilton, Ontario label Old Frontiers is a unique entity in the music game. While you can locate some CDs and art on their website, they almost exclusively deal in (incredibly fascinating) cassettes. Every entry is a story – a mystical puzzle box – waiting to be unfolded by the right person, the next more enticing than the last. Take for instance, Reedbed’s Heirloom Rust Garden. This soothing album is a worthy addition to any eclectic music collection, offering two sides of pure instrumental joy.

Both sides are very similar, which isn’t to say you’ll confuse the two. Rather, listening to the cassette compares to visiting a gallery; each side is its own floor with a carefully curated exhibit. The cassette fades in and out between songs, continuing this analogy; the mental symphony conducts as you consider a piece of artwork, and then dissipates as you travel to the next texture that begins the cycle again.

It is a few minutes before the first impressions of crackling static fully builds into a “song,” but this is well-executed. It begins with a melody that arises from the plucking of a very pleasant ukulele-like instrument. The production utilizes a great deal of looping, strategically composed to fluctuate just as you get comfortable. In fact, that statement is a great way to describe the cassette as a whole; it’s repetitious and familiar enough to create a song, without being predictable and uninteresting. And just as soon as it seems to have faded in, we’re onto the next exhibit.

This is a good example of how each song plays out. It’s unimportant to do a track-by-track analysis of each side, because they’re all variations on the same theme. Again, I really don’t want to give the impression it all sounds similar or follows any formula. It is just hard to describe each bit without the descriptions running into each other. This is by design, as the cassette excels in creating expectations only to defy them moments later. It makes for an incredibly satisfying experience of comfortably walking the line between conventional and experimental.

As far as what you can expect to hear, there is a substantial amount of looping and backmasked instrumentation, limited to mostly a few stringed and electronic instruments. The sounds are very calming and tranquil. The different instruments playing together are absolutely entrancing and I found it very hard to keep my concentration during every listen, whether it was my focus or it was only playing in the background. It just makes your mind flow and jumpstarts whatever part of your imagination causes you to spontaneously daydream. I really enjoyed that aspect of the work.

This is present through most of the work, but it was on the first listen (about halfway into Side B) that I first noticed the two guitars playing entirely different compositions over complementary electronics and the single harmony it created, without harmonizing. The dual guitars (or any instruments they’re using at the time) blend without dueling, combining to be one. Whenever that’s done properly, and this cassette is a prime example, it is simply beautiful. That alone is worth the price of admission. Highly recommend as with anything released by Old Frontiers. Great for anyone who likes calming music that will take their imaginations for a chariot ride across the stars.


Review by Roth’s Child

[Review: Oureboros, ‘Dreaming in Earth, Dissolving in Light’]

Oureboros’s is the collaborative project of Hamilton’s Rich Oddie and Toronto’s Aron West aka Tnon, two of the founding members of noise/industrial outfit Orphx. Their first release as Oureboros, Dreaming in Earth, Dissolving in Light, contains a similar penchant for industrial soundscapes that fans of Orphx will appreciate, especially the early more ambient period before Tnon departed in 1995 to co-found Tropism.

The album begins by forcing the listener to descend from our overworld into the heart of a mountain. It slowly drones deeply as you experience your spirit dropping lower and lower. The piece as a whole seems to be an experiment in abstract dissonance, again reminiscent of early (and later) Orphx. Even when the sonic environment brightens up through dissolving, it inevitably evolves into a mutated doppelgänger of itself. While the instrumentation does include live instruments, it is–as far as I can tell–mostly limited to pure frequencies, noise, and synthesized sounds or effects. Overall, the songs are not minimalistic, yet they retain the droning and ambient structure in most (arguably all) places. The description provided on their website is a perhaps an apt way of explaining it: “… A unique fusion of deep ambient electronics, apocalyptic industrial, and ritualistic six-string walls of sound that evoke elements of black metal and shoegaze.”

An interesting aspect of this album is how layered the melodies are, though the word melody might not be the best way to describe these shimmering shards of sound. Meandering through the different songs displays a diverse array of atmospheres and situations and your experience of this album will depend on which tracks your attention chooses to focus on. Chances are that “Dissolving in Light” will be the song to catch most peoples’ ears.

While the album can be simultaneously harsh, sad, beautiful, and caustic, it tends toward heavy darkness while avoiding the ditch of depression; it is spacy and psychedelic without the science fiction.

The production work on Dreaming in Earth, Dissolving in Light is top-notch. At no place did I ever feel as if I was anywhere but in the world that this album creates. The sonic cues are all just perfect and the range of dynamics is pretty spectacular, whether on the headphones or the speakers. It’s a very polished offering without sounding processed or over produced. Overall the album is very relaxing, which is not to say it’s peaceful. Perfect background music for lying alone in a dark room or doing light work. But don’t let it recede too far into the background or you’ll miss out on a lot of what gives the album its charm.


Review by Roth’s Child

[Review: Mama Baer, ‘Perverted People Girl Fuckers’]

Mama Baer’s newest offering, Perverted People Girl Fuckers, starts off knee-deep in a pool of its own brand of insanity, a pool that this CD-r–released by Buffalo label House of Alchemy--never quite escapes from. Mama Baer, the alter ego of Andrea Katharina Ingeborg Hjuler, an interdisciplinary German artist, does a fine job of submerging you into her universe. Listening to her recordings is like peering into a porcelain tub of blackened water that reaches out to pull you in. Through five cinematic tracks, all untitled, you will experience a sideshow spectacle unlike any other, perhaps described best as an auditory soup. No, more accurately, pour the soup into a blender that tears through each stack of sound to create a disorienting mood where you cannot identify the events between this minute and the last.

Mama Baer

The first untitled track also works as a soundtrack to multiple personality disorder. The recording superimposes devilish sniveling over a tragic solo singing piece that morphs into something sinister that I won’t ruin for you here.

The second tracks begins with carnivalesque sounds that go awry and revert back into the fractured psyche of the observer we’ve possessed; like Being John Malkovich only with abuse replacing comedy. This turns into a drowned out guitar jamming with a singer, with the guitar consistent but free, droning away as it plays around. It rapidly shifts from a chaotic frenzy to a quiet accompaniment of the singer, both sounding like they’re having an abrupt musical breakdown in a trafficked hallway. A pretty traditional rockabilly section then emerges before it stops on a dime and throws you into a dark room, strapping you to a chair and reminding you that the preceding orgiastic arrangement was merely a distraction from the torture at the hands of a lunatic. Beside you is a television on a pitch-black channel with a single bright light shining above you. You try to move your limbs and escape from the ritual sacrifice you’re about to become the star of. It’s here on the album where the subtle production cues really made me smile, with the foreboding female’s voice starting to harmonize with the black channel’s white noise.

The album is full of similar compositions, simultaneously mundane and sinister. Track three makes great use of layered ominous vocal arrangements and reminds me of the music they play at the moment the female protagonist of a horror film snaps and starts collecting human limbs for the doll she wants to build. The fourth track, with cosmic horrors haunting her and her audience, could be a vantage point into Mama Baer’s mental breakdown in the middle of a psych ward.

The last track, however, is my favorite. It is definitely the most cinematic of the album’s tracks, at times strongly reminding me of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, where I envisioned crossing over a river of Styx, filled with damned souls, on through to Dante’s Inferno.

The disorienting theme throughout the album is reinforced when no attempt at making the words understandable is made. In fact, it seems Mama Baer goes out of her way to obscure her lyrics. It’s multi-lingual and at parts screamed to the point of severe over-modulation, or whispered barely audible enough to register, or even reversed. But it is clear there is a narrative underlying this theater of sounds.

Perverted People Girl Fuckers is album that might have just enough jaw-dropping elements to break through to someone who has no foundation in experimental music, while also having a certain accessibility that can easily be tapped into by people who haven’t yet grown the faculties to appreciate this abstract neo-dada music. Perhaps if it were instead the soundtrack to an animated series of challenging short films it could earn the opportunity to be lauded, perhaps even as groundbreaking. But I personally like the lack of visuals, because I’m not forced to associate my own mental images with that of a director and it allows me to creatively interpret it as I see fit. I could see the album working as either the soundtrack for a compilation of short films or a venture into the life of someone who’s been severely traumatized. I’m sure you can find your own ways to interpret the music. Overall, I highly recommend this one to anyone with an open mind. It begs repeat listens, and when it ended the first time I had to put it on again. I know I won’t be the only one.


Review by Roth’s Child

[Review: Butcher-Bryerton-Khoury Trio/Baczkowski-Sack Duo Split]

The Butcher-Bryerton-Khoury Trio/Baczkowski-Sack Duo Split is a cassette consisting of two live recording of free improv jazz jams that are dark and foreboding in a timeless manner. Like a lot of the sounds emanating from the House of Alchemy label out of Buffalo, the music itself leans in the direction of abstract, relying less on melody and more on evolving soundscapes that progress over time.

Beginning with the second side, we find the Buffalo-based group the Baczkowski-Sack Duo performing “Keet Seel.” The track begins with Bill Sack’s dissonant guitar clanking away over tape static-like sound, which is then soon joined by the distinctive saxophone work of Steve Baczkowski. Much of Baczkowski’s sax work here is reminiscent of early-90s John Zorn, except slightly less chaotic.

Perhaps the easiest way to describe the listening experience one is in for here is to compare it to watching a low-budget, black-and-white horror film on a public access channel at 3am. “Keet Seel” is isolating and claustrophobic, rapidly building chaotic tension that slowly falls and eventually dissipates into calmness.

At times the frenetic interplay between these Hallwall’s cohorts comes across as a random assortment of sounds, but other times it feels entirely deliberate and focused. The saxophone shape-shifts over the prepared guitar, taking form as a frenzied robot that we hear mentally self-destructing. This is the kind of abstract piece that inevitably gives rise to a lot of unique—and perhaps unsettling–mental imagery within the mind of the listener. It can be challenging to understand or appreciate, but the beauty makes itself apparent if enough attention is focused upon it.

The first side of the cassette comes from a trio led by the legendary British saxophonist John Butcher. Accompanied by percussionist Jerome Breyton and violinist Mike Khoury, the collective piece, “Untitled,” is in the same vein as–but definitely distinct from–the first side.

The biggest difference between the first and second side is the presence of percussion on the first side, which reinforces the haunting qualities and tone of the track. While not straightforward drumming in any sense, the percussion here instead adds flourishes and sonic brushstrokes that leave you feeling cold (in the best way, I assure you) as Breyton dances around his kit.

Overall, the album has a very interesting spirit that, if you are willing to open up to it, will leave a haunting impression on you. Recommended for anyone looking to hear a dissonant soundtrack of metanoia, and not to anyone alone in a dark room at night.


Review by Roth’s Child