Dan Crall – The Incredible Blue

Wow. I don’t even know where to start with this one. The fact that it’s fucking AWESOME? Or maybe that it’s ridiculously non-musical? Or that Dan Crall is just a regular dude, without a “band website” or anything like that. He runs a pedicab business. That’s his website. No Myspace, no Bandcamp. He’s got a little Last.FM bio and an outdated photo album on the Install site. That’s it. He’s just a totally normal fucking dude. He just happens to make crazy ass field recording records like Non Formula Equinox.

This is primarily made up of field recordings, with little droney aspects & straight up music peppered throughout. I love this because it’s how I imagine I would make field recordings. 90% of what Crall records are sounds you hear every day (or would if you lived in Oregon). Squeaky tools, leaky hoses, kids screaming at carnivals, hammering & hollering, roaring fires, galloping horses, radio splatter, carousels, factory machines, barn house husbandry, and lots of people. Dusty voices talking about everything from the spiritual & physical cleansing of sweat lodges to depressing monologues about the economy & loneliness. Some of the sounds are warped, twisted, & beaten into an unrecognizable pulp, but a lot of them remain unaltered. No digital processing, just straight up sounds the way they’d be heard in the wild, taken totally out of context and jumbled up in Crall’s brilliant sequencing. They may be entirely non-musical elsewhere, but compiled & put on a platter for you on Equinox, you’re able to hear the world the way Dan Crall does.

There is music on this record though, just not a hell of a lot of it, and most of it is hidden among the field recordings. Some didgeridoo weirdness, rewound mandolin, deep resonant cellos, murky underwater drones. These are the starting off points for those having a difficult time getting into this record. You can focus on the more familiar musical facets, while experiencing the surrounding bizarreness and easing yourself into the stripped down sounds like on “The Ballad Of Eugene Boyd.”

I don’t think I’ve ever heard a record that took advantage of all available 80 minutes. Non Formula Equinox is 1 hour and 18 minutes, which is one long fucking record when it doesn’t have much music on it. It’s definitely not the easiest thing to listen to, but it’s SO goddamn rewarding when you actually get through it and have the epiphany. The realization that all of the source material is primarily background noise in the real world. If you put this record on and don’t give it 100% of your attention, your brain will automatically block it out just like it does with the rest of the shit you hear all day long. Just because it’s made of the everyday ambient audio, doesn’t mean you should treat it as such. You need to try extra hard with this one.

The real enjoyment of this record comes from following Crall on his journey & exploration of the isolated Western United States. You’ll hear strange stories and even stranger sounds, mostly bleak & dreary, but totally fucking fascinating. And if you get bored (and shame on you if you do), you can play the guessing game, what the sources of the sounds are, which of them are pure, which have been altered, are there any instruments playing right now? How much layering did he do or is this all actually happening simultaneously? However you listen to it, though, just make sure you actually listen. Fucking CHECK THIS OUT. You’ll be a better person for it.

OphibreSt. Asphalt (Patron Saint Of Army Ants) (excerpt)

Ophibre is never one to fuck around. He means business, always taking his drone to the next level. Never content to sit in one place for too long, he spits out records like St. Asphalt here, a brutal assault rife with hidden bliss, right alongside minimal space hiss & bubbles like on his last full length, Phase Plane Cake Decorator. This little limited Kendra Steiner Edition 3″ CD-R is a stout 19 minutes of everything I love about this guy.

The whole thing is an impenetrable wall of harsh grit. It goes from start to finish without so much as an “Oh you can chill out for a sec while you catch you breath (pussy).” Everything is swirling in an infinitely layered dense cluster, static brushing up against sharp electronic shards, underworld grumbling & thunderous howling, wind whipping through black holes, glacial stars throbbing and threatening to implode, twisters of sand & glass tearing through your ear canals.

It’s an insane amount of sounds. Each one on their own would be totally unbearable but throw them in an Ophibre blender and you end up with an unbelievably beautiful dronescape. But it’s not like there are beautiful melodies or soothing synths melting underneath. I have no idea how he did it. Either he just made a ridiculously fucking accessible noise record or I’m becoming immune to & dulled by constant noise.

St. Asphalt is endlessly listenable, noise for the noise haters, bliss for the bliss lovers. The most pleasing & enjoyable stream of coarse chaos I’ve heard in a long while. Wholly worthwhile for pretty much everyone.

Szymon KaliskiOr Delicate

Goddamn, I wish I heard Out Of Forgetting last year. Not just for my Top 10 list or anything, I just mean it’s been out since July and it’s a fucking tragedy that a half year has gone by while this drone magnifique sat on the sidelines waiting to be devoured by me. That is 6 months of my life wasted.

Szymon Kaliski is an incredible soundcrafter from Poland. I normally shy away from the name dropping comparison thing, but Kaliski totally deserves this one. He takes pieces from all the greats, lots of vintage Jeckian crackle, subtle glitches like Hecker, some Basinski melancholy, and Deupree style processed minimalism, all while not sounding too much like any one of them.

The textures & tones on this record are unbelievably deep, frozen blue drones stacked with fluttering glitched piano like best place buy cialis online uk flurries in the drift, the most delicate static slowly sifting through ice cracks, smooth white sheets of bliss warped with warmth, dusty resonance topped in timeless grit. The sounds are pure, they’re beautiful, and everything about them is a subtle affirmation of what contemporary drone is all about. This is what the rest should be striving for.

Out Of Forgetting is only a half hour long, but that means it’s not bloated with excess or 20 minute meditation exercises. Kaliski didn’t overdo it, but he also didn’t wimp out and drop an EP, he trimmed out the fat and made every second count, resulting in a record of precisely the proper length. If he never released another album, he would still make it into my all time list of top droners. Forgetting is unwaveringly unforgettable (sorry) and absolutely stunning.

My wife & I decided to switch our bedroom with our studio/office. The new office has wayyy better natural light and it’s a bit bigger, and since we spend more time in the office than the bedroom, it only made sense. So this is what the new AGB headquarters looks like.

I got an Expedit bookshelf from Ikea for my records. It was a cinch to put together, is nice & rugged, and extremely useful. It can be mixed up easily with the other sized Expedits, good for when my collection exceeds its limits. Also, my turntable sits right on top. Couldn’t love this thing any more. It’s absolutely perfect for records.

I’ve talked about my DIY CD shelves before, but I might as well mention them again. They’re as simple as it gets. Five 7 foot boards cut in half with a bunch of L-brackets screwed on, both for hanging on the wall and some mini ones of the sides acting as bookends. I’m starting to run out of room, but that last shelf is overcrowded with double & quadruple cassette cases, so I might just need a better place for those.

Speaking of cassettes, that’s the last thing I don’t have stored properly. They’re stacked in the crate on top of the records, with no rhyme or reason, no alphabetizing or anything. I haven’t quite figured out how to keep them organized. Feel free to leave a comment about what you do with yours.

The only thing that’s missing from all of this is the art & posters. Most notably, two Christmas gifts from Elise: a custom made letterpressed “AGB” poster by Repeat Press and a clock made out of an old record cut out in the shape of a bunny by Pavel Sidorenko.

I know you don’t all blog & have hardcore blogging stations but I’m curious to see how everyone else stores their music. What kind of shelves do you use? Is it all alphabetized? Are you obsessive and have it stored autobiographically? Do you just say “Fuck it” and throw everything in a crate? Or have you gone 100% digital and you don’t you even physically own any music. Actually, if that’s the case, it might be better if you didn’t tell me.

RadereA Season In Decline (excerpt)

Radere, aka Carl Ritger, is a pretty awesome droner (and active Soundclouder). He’s put only put out a handful of records, 2 of which are on Full Spectrum. His debut, A Process In The Weather Of The Heart released in early 2010, was outstandingly beautiful & minimal. Now, in the same year, he drops another intensely killer record on FS, this time taking things to the more extreme side of drone, getting downright rowdy.

A Season In Decline is a single 40+ minute track that’s unbelievably tender. It starts out with some snow crunching underfoot and lots of hiss, setting the mood for the wintery soundscape. The footsteps fade and are replaced by a subtle resonant guitar, floating around with the remnant flurries. Chilly & delicate, there’s hints of more organic recordings, all over a foundation of the hushed wind of nighttime snowfall.

Not one to blow his load all at once, Radere takes his time getting to the massive static beast on the latter half of the record. He waltzes through some moonlit forests, admiring the naked cheap prices for cialis tree branches weighing down with snow, content in introspective meditation. But FUCK, the chaos that unfolds afterwards, it’s like the whole time he was preparing to battle a demon snow dragon. 20 minutes of unnerving whirlwinds, clanging icicles, psych drenched howls from the underworld, walls of solid shoegazing bliss, heavenly textures glimmering in sheets of ice, the sun breaking through the brutal cold, all wrapped in a blanket of dense static warmth. Clearly, the battle is won. The snow dragon is defeated by the power of pure beauty.

The wonder of this piece is how smoothly it transforms from a sweet & lonely silent night into a wall of euphoric destruction. Of course it’s easy to tell the difference between the first 20 seconds and the last when you listen to them side by side, but over the course of the album, the change is so discrete. Definitely a winter wizard at work here. Radere may be somewhat of a newcomer, but damn if he doesn’t have the chops to take this shit to the next level.

HotKid sound like a combo of two of my favorite defunct bands, DFA79 & Sleater-Kinney, so clearly they fucking ROCK. The video for “Yours & Mine” is a crazy spazz dance off with a bazillion cuts & epileptic neon lightning, people of young & old showing off their best moves. It’s damn near impossible to not instantly jump up on your seat and party hard as soon as it kicks in. Plus, they’re Canadian.

via yvynyl

Nils QuakQuand Meme (excerpt)

Not sure I’ve written about too many German based sound artists on AGB, so I guess it’s kinda good that Nils Quak came my way (even if I’m a juvenile and his name makes me laugh). Think I might need some more cultured drone here and now seems like a fine time to start.

This Once Silver Sky is some glacial ambience, frozen to the core with an acute awareness of all the cracks & whips of creaking ice and slowly swirling water. A deep muffled rumble expands, like a distant submarine motor kicking out sonar that’s long since faded in the abyss. Shifting icebergs roam the empty seas, occasionally bumping into each other resulting in glitching spikes & splashes. The dead wind perks up every now and then, a hidden digital whisper that coats everything with a beautiful texture. Then the sadness washes in, some emotional tones that drip somber, mixed with heavily obscured field recordings and a mini grandeur of subtle electronic static.

It’s a single half hour track where the layers continually build & reshape and the end is an entirely different beast from the beginning, with a dozen steps of doomed ambient drone glitch bliss along the way. It’s a sentimental rollercoaster, using all sorts of processed found sounds, grainy electronics, and smoothed out tones to get the job done. Nils Quak has made a ridiculously beautiful & highly compelling piece of music. Truly awesome stuff.

Nick “Pogo” Bertke has some lofty goals that would produce some seriously amazing results if he’s able to follow through. Deeply inspired by films like the Qatsi trilogy and Baraka, he wants to travel the world to record sounds & video from every major culture, creating a song song & video for each like “Joburg Jam” below, culminating in a CD & DVD release. Clearly, that’s going to take a shitton of money, so he’s got a Kickstarter going.

His style is something along the lines of Secret Mommy and a poppier, more song-oriented version of Sam Hamilton’s The Sound Of The Free Trade Zones. Super awesome stuff. I really hope he gets the whole project funded! The first stop is Tibet, where he wants to record monks chanting and singing bowl meditation and all sorts of amazing shit.

via TDW

PleqGood Night (Pjusk Remix)

Drone-glitch hero Pleq released a 4 track single/EP with “Good Night” and 3 remixes, all of which are pretty fucking fantastic. Pjusk’s remix is beautiful, a walk in a wide open snowy field with the sun warming cheap legal cialis your cheeks and synthy seagulls swirling above. Slow moving, delicate, and wonderfully textured. The original track will show up on the next full length, Ballet Mechanic on Basses Frequences, which clearly you now have your eye on.

I was a big fan of Under Byen’s Samme Stof Som Stof, then I kinda stopped paying attention to them for some reason. This new song/video for “Unoder” has definitely got me itchin to pick up their newest album Alt Er Tabt for some more… whatever it is they do. Which is way weirder than I remember. The video is some crazy ass haunted mythical spiritual ritual shit, like Fever Ray + Caligula + Alejandro Jodorowsky. If that’s not a recipe for awesome, I need a new cookbook.

Preslav Literary SchoolSide A

There’s so much background on this release I’m not sure I’ll ever get around to actually talking about the music. First, there’s the real deal historic Preslav Literary School, which I’m too busy to actually research, so here’s the Wikipedia article. Have fun. Then there’s the contemporary found sound/tape manipulator/drone artist Adam Thomas, aka Preslav Literary School, who lives day to day in waist high awesomeness. And then there’s the 2 day workshop Thomas led in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England (yeah, that’s the name of a town) about making tape loops. A bunch of highly-respectable people showed up, like Machinefabriek & Poldr, and they all made a ton of loops. Afterwards they did a live performance, endlessly fucking with the tapes. Echolalia is a recording of the live show.

Trying to talk about the performance as a whole is hard because they jump genres every half second and use anything & everything as source material. So, obviously, this is rad as hell. There’s squawky electronics, bird chatter, synth patterns, squeaky balloons, hidden arias, ancient TV/radio broadcasts, high pressure crackle & hum, typewriter windchimes, indecipherable voicemail recordings, vacuum cleaners, and tape hiss galore. And that’s just a fraction of the sound sources, which get warped, twisted, rewound, slowed, shifted, and glitched in every way possible. They take tape manipulation to places I never thought of, ambient doom, grooved psych, gauzy pink bliss, debased spaced journeys, all with the help of impeccably juxtaposed random shit.

Echolalia is about as crazy & erratic as a record can get while still being fucking fantastic, exceedingly listenable, and coherent. I think part of my enjoyment of this comes from picturing the 11 people hunched over their own collection of tape loops while I listen to this. I love imaginging who’s doing what, trying to figure out how/if a certain sound has been altered or if it’s just been decayed by time.

This hot piece has ben transformed into vinyl by No-Fi, but only 500 copies were pressed. It comes with a digital download of the album (no biggy) but also an exclusive recording of Machinefabriek’s live solo tape set from the same night. FUCK YES. +10 cool points

O Tannenbaum (Mira)

I know it’s a little late to be posting this, but it’s never too late to share, right? I totally forgot I picked this up earlier this year until I was wrapping presents yesterday, craving some different Christmas tunes than I usually listen to. This got the job done.

The title is pretty obvious, but I think these “musical boxes” aren’t the wind up jewelry box type ones you might be imagining. Looking at the image on the cover, I think these are a bit bigger and have bells, which is something I didn’t even knew existed.

There are almost 30 tracks, they’re all wicked short, and range from the classics like “O Holy Night,” to ones you might have heard of before like “Good King Wenceslas,” to ones I think they made up just for music boxes like “Whispers Of Christmas.” The best part of this tape is that because these songs are recorded straight from antique music boxes, the songs aren’t pitch perfect recreations. Sometimes they’re a little warped and wobbly, making them sound a bit off and even a little creepy.

Just a little technical info, the words in the parenthesis in the song title are the brand of the box, which is why there are 3 renditions of “Silent Night.” Also, my apologies for having a couple typos in the song titles. I did that at like 3am last night and only realized it after I uploaded everything.

I’m going to take a little break while doing the Xmas family thing. Things will resume in about a week or so. Until then, enjoy some strange holiday music box tunes with your loved ones, drink lots of coffee nog, and buy yourself tons & tons of records. Speaking of which, the Musical Wonder House site lists this as being for sale in LP form for $10. Not sure if that’s still true or not, but worth a try if you’re really into this.