Big BearSong 28

One of Boston’s greatest and most under-appreciated bands ever has officially broken up. They deserved the grandeur of indie fame but instead got a well-received album on Monitor and a hardcore local fanbase. Which I guess, in the grand scheme of things, could be a lot worse. But it still seems way unfair.

Big Bear has been one of my favorite bands since I first saw them play at Scenic in NYC in September of ’05 as part of the Monitor / Secretly Canadian Showcase at CMJ. They played right after Tyondai Braxton (who legitimately blew my mind). They were and continue to be one of THE loudest bands I’ve ever seen. I remember being right up front, hearing them for the first time, watching Jordyn tape a pad against her thigh so she could smash a tambourine into pieces without fucking up her leg (too bad), everyone on & off stage rocking the fuck out, and then burping as loud as possible. I couldn’t hear my own fucking burp. In my head, it was just massive Big Bear noise. No burp.

I haven’t seen any band live more times than Big Bear. Not even close. Too many to even begin counting. I’ve seen them go through lineup changes, I’ve seen them play a Weezer cover set, I’ve seen them play acoustic (a serious wtf), I’ve seen them play every permutation with Neptune and Parts & Labor, and I was literally thrown out of their sold out “last show” at Great Scott in ’06 when I tried to sneak in with a wrist band fashioned out of a Vitamin Water label (it ALMOST worked). Seeing them live was an incomparable experience. Every show was just as good as the last. They always fucking brought it, owned it, and killed it, keeping it fresh & ridiculous with hands down the best stage banter out of any band ever.

Big Bear holds the honor of being one of only 3 bands which I own more than one shirt of. They’re the reason I still have pins on my bag. They’ve opened me up to dozens of new bands (the good and the bad) just by sharing a bill with them. I owe more to them for getting me in to metal than anyone else.

They were playing a lot of new songs live for the past year, ones that hadn’t been recorded yet, so as a final farewell, they put together a digital EP, See Out, which was just released by Joyful Noise. It’s much different than their Monitor debut, a more fractured indie pop side, like a weirder and much less charming Deerhoof. It’s only $4, which is the best (and cheapest) Xmas gift you could possibly give yourself this year.

Thankfully, no one in Big Bear is done making music. Joel is still in Beautiful Weekend with Noell Dorsey and is going to be focusing on composing orchestral stuff. Farhad is drumming in Neptune. Jordyn is doing low-key pop with Matt from Ho-Ag as Brutal Love Masters. David is still going to be playing with Farhad & Jordyn in… something. No specific plans yet. And I have no idea about Joanne. Sorry.

So Big Bear is done. For real this time, unlike some of their previous hiatuses. As sad as I am that they’re gone and that they never got the recognition they deserved, I count myself lucky that I got to experience the most impossible to describe band while they were still around. They were the biggest and the beariest. And they will be missed.

I know bitches like fuckin Stereogum and Fader and them posted this and it’s like a year old but whatever. I’m postin it now ’cause that’s just how I do shit. Earl Sweatshirt is part of the OFWGKTA crew and they make some seriously hardcore syrupy beats rappin about rape & murder. And not just the regular kind of rape & murder, the totally fucked & twisted kind, the sort of shit only found in vomit inducing horror movies.

I’ve been blastin this shit constantly. How could I not? He uses my 3 favorites words all at once when he’s talking about “sluts to fuckin uppercut.” That’s just the fucking best.

Jenks Miller & Nicholas SzczepanikWhite Light

Another glorious collaboration, although I’m not gonna lie, I hadn’t heard anything by Jenks Miller prior to American Gothic. Not that it matters. Anything Szczepanik does is guaranteed gold and I was super pumped to hear him work with somebody else, so I was destined to love this record no matter what.

The opening track is one of the best. Pretty much embodies the whole record. It starts out with a shrill static insect drone, kinda piercing. It goes on for a minute, you think it’s going to last forever and maybe you won’t be able to handle it, but then some youthful xylophone like synths come in and all of a sudden it’s a pop song, like American Analog Set noise for infants. It’s so charming & easy going, but so abrasive & stabbing, the combination of textures & tones is unreal.

And that’s what American Gothic is all about. Smoothing your dreams with the beautiful, subtle, & low-key while scouring your face off with the offensive, brittle, & hardcore. Slow static buzz drifts with digital clouds, mournful organs sound the arrival of new life while a blissful chaos unfolds in the heavens, and an insanely epic album closer where the sun fills you with majestic perfection and the universe crumbles at your feet. So fucking incredible.

Not that I needed it, but this has solidified my faith in Szczepanik as a truly great modern creator, and it has only made me hungry for more from Miller. Collaborations ran amok this year and I feel like they generally tend to get overlooked. Don’t let American Gothic slip by unnoticed because it’s honestly some of the best noise drone. Period.

Twells & ChristensenBurning Bridges Together

The names Twells & Christensen might not really perk your ears up unless you know your shit. But this is John Twells, aka Xela, and Matt Christensen of Zelienople. YEAH. I know, right? Plus, it was spit out in one weekend & made entirely with vintage equipment. +5 novelty points. Bet you’re excited now.

These two dudes are like a match made in heaven. Coasts is a mystical drone affair that travels the globe dazzling virgin ears with its beauty. There’s just two tracks and together they break 45 minutes, nice long pieces that suck you in and wrap you in semi-blown out textural sun drones. Twells’ signature angelic vocals make the rounds, comforting you while some haunting undertones seep through. Mostly serene with a vague urgency, a sense of calm before the flight.

The B side is a way more cheap cialis ireland evil, starting out with buzzing pulses of growling space demons that amp up into a wall of threatening feedback. Christensen takes the vocal reigns, although if Digitalis didn’t mention it, I probably wouldn’t have known it wasn’t Twells. But this is a bad motherfucker of a track. Hardened dark space, dying stars collapsing into wormholes, anti-matter coalescing and igniting rampant wildfires, beauty in chaos, harmony in static, black creates & destroys. This is a journey into the celestial wastelands where the only thing left is magnificence.

Coasts is fucking spectacular. Truly some of the best drone work this year. I could listen to these guys make music forever. Twells & Christensen should drop the “collaboration” title and just make it a regular thing. Put out records like a normal band, make everyone happy, maybe become Drone Gods in the process?

Brian GraingerOpen Jaws Lined With Jagged Glass Teeth

Goddamn, this guy never stops. Right after his release The Loneliness Of Empty Roads as Milieu, he puts out this 75 minute monolith on Dead Pilot, and he’s ALREADY got two more out, his “heaviest record yet” called One Bleak Try and Icepak, a Christmas EP on Bandcamp.

I guess we should be so lucky. Brian Grainger is one of the few dudes today that makes truly high quality tunes. Not the imitation shit. This is the real deal right here. And we get basically as much of it as we can handle.

Diamond Tears On Slate is some of his best work to date. Only 5 tracks but clocking in at 1 hour and 15 minutes, this is a massive slab of gorgeous static, starting out as almost the complete opposite of Empty Roads. This isn’t depressing or desolate, it’s beauty in its purest form, warm & inviting. It’s super lush, an infinite warehouse lined with golden grass & dust, drones that fill the space with closed eyes and half smiles, even the track “Open Jaws Lined With Jagged Glass Teeth” is a slow soaring euphoric trip over the mossy plains.

But it takes a turn towards the dark side on the title track, a minimal midnight creep with ghostly rumbles in the background. Then it gets murky as hell, like a swampy Italo-disco horror soundtrack slowed wayyy down and drugged out on morphine all while keeping a certain strange beauty hovering around. The final 13 minute track evens things out a bit, brings it out of the cave with waves of bubbling distortion that fade into the ocean.

Brian Grainger worked some drone voodoo into Diamond Tears, equal parts bliss & beast that mysteriously starts up again as soon as it’s over. Obviously a necessity to your neverending Grainger shelf, or the perfect one to let you in on the secret of his wondrous drones.

So here’s the deal. Just like last year, I wasn’t going to do a Top 10 list. But last year Angela at Weirdo specifically asked me to make one, so I kinda had to. I made a Top 10 Drone list and it turned out awesome. This year, I took an informal poll to see if anyone cared if I made a list. Surprisingly (?), most people wanted to know what my favorite records are.

The only problem was, I wasn’t terribly impressed with a whole lot this year. So I tried to think of some topic or angle for the list, like last year, but kept coming up short. Nothing seemed pertinent or relevant. Then I thought since most of you probably read this blog (right?), why bother re-hashing a bunch of shit I’ve already told you I loved this year, like NHK, Tomo, Tristan Perich, etc. I should make a Top 10 list of records that didn’t get any mention on AGB.

So that’s what this is. A list of records that were especially awesome for me this year that for whatever reason didn’t get reviewed. No matter how good it was, I did my best to stay away from really high profile shit like the new Gorillaz, Tobacco, The Knife, and Sleigh Bells, but there was one exception (if you follow me on Twitter, you can probably guess).


10. Brendan Murray / Perispirit split & collaboration
Boston drone noise heroes put out some hot shit earlier this year. A split LP and a collaborative tape both jointly released on Semata and Razors & Medicine. Murray’s sidelong piece on the vinyl featured Noell Dorsey doing her unsettling/beautifying ghostly squeak singing. Truly awesome.

9. Max RichterInfra
I’ve heard some rag on Richter’s new one this year but honestly, it’s one of my favorites of his. It’s a little different, a little more electronics than usual, but I seriously couldn’t get enough of this.

8. Fennesz Daniell BuckKnoxville
Collab of the year for sure. These three dudes brought everything they had to the table and made pure magic. You can really hear everyone’s individual styling while they craft a perfect cohesion of intense & relaxing drone jams.

7. Yellow SwansGoing Places
Last official Yellow Swans. Good thing they went out with a fucking BANG. Going Places is one of their best records ever, crazy gorgeous guitar noise hidden beneath the harsh crackle. Too bad my copy of the vinyl arrived in the mail with a giant fucking puncture wound in the jacket. Irreplaceable because it’s totally OOP. :(

6. Demdike Stare’s Trilogy (Forest Of Evil, Liberation Through Hearing, Voices Of Dust)
Yes, 3 records are coming in at #6. That’s just the way I roll. Demdike Stare put out a sweet triptych of LPs this year, and while they all have their own sound, they definitely team up like the fucking Voltron of dark textured minimal ambient techno drone.
Update: Hardformat got the scoop on the CD release of all 3 LPs coming out soon on Modern Love.

5. The Fun YearsGod Was Like, No
Everyone and their mom was been talking about this one, and with good reason. It’s fucking awesome. Seriously. Gritty blissful guitar electronics like some dreamteam supergroup of Hecker, Fennesz, Basinski, and Jeck.

4. The Besnard Lakes…Are The Roaring Night
Every once in a while a rock band comes along and pushes all the right buttons for me. That’s The Besnard Lakes. They do a strange hybrid of psych Americana folk shoegaze with a guy who’s falsetto is unbelievable. Super lush and epic songs that are beautifully crushing. I loved their last one …Are The Dark Horse like it was my job and had a hard time believing this new album would be even half as good. Well, it’s even better. So there.

3. Have A Nice LifeTime Of Land
This gets placing for three reasons. 1: It’s HANL so anything new by them automatically makes it win. 2: I picked this tape up when I saw them play their first show ever at The Stone in New York. So, good memories. 3: It’s the fucking shit. Single sided with only four tracks, two of them a bit more on the ambient drone side of things, the other two hard hitting industrial shoegaze metal that makes HANL so great. And it finishes with “The Icon And The Axe” which is honestly one of their best songs ever.

2. EluviumStatic Nocturne
Last year Eluvium made #1 on my list with his Life Through Bombardment 7xLP book set and since he had four new releases this year (plus two as part of Concert Silence), it was pretty fucking obvious that at least one of them would make the list. Why Static Nocturne instead of Similes? Well, it’s his homage to white noise and static, which means it might be my favorite Eluvium release ever. Also, it showed up at a time in my life when it seemed like everyone I cared about was dead or dying, so Static Nocturne really helped take my mind off things with its euphoric washes of orgasmic noise.

1. RobynBody Talk Pt. 1
“Dancing On My Own” (link removed by request)

This is the one guys. The first Body Talk EP from the super famous Robyn who even my sister & coworkers know. But it was just downright impossible for me to not put Body Talk Pt. 1 at the top of this list. At 30+ spins, it has literally been the single most played album all year. I can, and have, listened to this pretty much constantly. Every song is the goddamn best. “Dancing On My Own” is easily my favorite pop song of all time. Pt. 2 wasn’t quite as good, there were a few tracks I wasn’t 100% into, and I haven’t heard the full length yet because I’m still trying to find it on vinyl, so that might have been #1, but I highly doubt it. Nothing can top this. Pure pop perfection.

My Brother DanielFat Bird

This dude? LOVE this dude. My Brother Daniel is Radio Scotvoid (also half of Small Radio), a Scot who moved to the forever under appreciated Salem, MA and it seems like his sole purpose for doing so was to make this town as awesome as possible. He’s been putting together amazing chiptune shows and spinnin regularly at the Gulu, did a stint at the local university radio station WMWM, and somehow has time to make ridiculously killer electronic records. FOR FREE.

My Brother Daniel originally had it’s roots in “surreal jazz/funk, ambient/acid house and DIY/Bent recording stylings” and was only ever a live project. That is, until Ponky. This album sounds to me more like a blown out chiptune noise fuck than anything else. It’s unbelievably amazing. It reminds me of NHK’s Special earlier this year (which I literally want to make babies with), with similar scratchy anti-beats and a hard on for melting genres. My Brother Daniel is especially apt at turning your traditional 8-bits into something infinitely more interesting while tossing in harsh noise, party pumping techno beats, and wonky skweee funk.

Ponky is kinda hard to peg just for this reason. You can only put this on your “Get Ready To Ignite” playlist if your pals are of similar ilk and are into the whole stuttery noise dance thing. Your electronic noise heads might be turned off by the fact that this actually has some hard hitting grooves and presses your hipster lo-fi electro buttons. So if you’re finding a lack of people to enjoy Ponky with, you can either blast this fucker all by your lonesome or come by my place and we’ll use it as our soundtrack to killin Contra aliens.

This comes out next month on Just Not Normal, a Dutch netlabel, so it’ll be available for free then. I’m not gonna be a dick and steal their thunder by lettin y’all download it now, just make sure your keep a sharp eye on their or Scotvoid’s site so you can revel in the gritty brilliance of Ponky asap.

image via

This was the last show for a little while. Not doing it over winter break because I’m too fucking busy. But that just means you’ll get more reviews and more regular posts. Hopefully. Either way, this was a pretty fine show if I do say so myself.

Anti-Gravity Bunny Radio 12/7
George & Jonathan – No Ya Not & No Ya Didn’t
Coralcola – Dragbunny
Holy Modal Rounders – Sky Divers
Pleq – Calm Coolness
Andrew Felix – Ghost
Pale Sketcher – The Playgrounds Are Empty (Slumber Mix)
Sam Prekop – Lazy House
Aix Em Klemm – The Luxury Of Dirt
Frédéric buy cialis online canadian Nogray – Musique For Crystal Singing Bowls 4
Instruments Of Science & Technology – Nuux
Nice Nice – A Little Love
Fursaxa – Celosia
Byetone – Land
Dieter Moebius & Gerd Beerbohm – Narkose
Emuul – Three Dots (Night Visions Part 1)
Actress – Hubble
The Craters – Weekends Or Not
Mary Möör – Pretty Day
Jim Fassett – Buffo
Charanjit Singh – Raga Kalavati
Wreck Small Speakers On Expensive Stereos – Three Shots
Sam Spence – Sylvia
Chris Abrahams – There He Reclined
Vapaa – Kielo
Ambarchi / O’Rourke / Haino – Tima Formosa 2

High Aura’dThird Life (Excerpt)

High Aura’d is a Boston based dude making flat out ambient psych drone. I guess they used to be a duo (including on this record), but one of the guys dropped out and now it’s just John Kolodij. That’s entirely anecdotal, though, just what John told me when I saw him play with Barn Owl at PA’s Lounge. Speaking of, this record was made physically just for that tour, limited to 30 copies in totally fucking boss double color letterpressed high quality shit from Somerville’s Repeat Press and artwork by Jake Blanchard. Although it looks like you can still grab some on the Reverb Worship site (in £s).

Third Life is a single 25 minute track of aquatic heaven. So fucking beautiful. Mostly guitar oriented, High Aura’d makes washes of tones that shimmer pure gold. It’s the sound of floating underwater, totally immersed, face up and watching the sun dance. It’s enormous and slow moving, perfectly suited for the life of a bottom feeder. The whole world is open to you yet you’re happy to chill in your little bubble, giving yourself the opportunity to watch the universe quietly pass by.

Chill bliss, psych euphoria, full bodied gorgeousness, these are mere words compared to the ineffable transience that is Third Life. I have no idea what’s next on High Aura’d’s plate, nor if they even have any previous releases, but if this near-EP length disc is any indication of their future, obviously Boston just won the experimental music scene award. AGAIN.

image via

New Eluvium! New Telefon Tel Aviv! A track from one of the best drone records this year! A track from one of the best drone records of last year! A song from one of the craziest movies I’ve ever seen! A song that is unpronounceable due to my utter lack of knowledge of the French language!

And that, my friends, is how I do a radio show.

Anti-Gravity Bunny Radio 11/30
Eluvium – Crash Deconstructed
Jason Urick – Strides
Alejandro Jodorowsky – Rainbow Room
Iibiis Rooge – Skirling Birl
Axolotl – Three
Monkey King – La lune se cache derriere la montagne
Fennesz Daniell Buck – Heat From Light
Demdike Stare – Hashsashin Chant
Telefon Tel Aviv – Lengthening Shadows
Starving Weirdos – Nighttime On The Eureka Waterfront
Graham Lambkin & Jason Lescalleet – Soap Opera Suite
Ensemble Economique – Bonfires
Oneohtrix Point Never – Terminator Lake
Gareth Davis & Machinefabriek – Part 1
Kid606 – Odd Ripe Legume
Rambutan – Wool Coat
Gregg Kowalsky – X-XI
Shit And Shine – Cigarette Sequence
Tim Hecker – Apondalifa (Parts 1 & 2)

Caldera LakesUndefined

I shouldn’t have to introduce Caldera Lakes, but since I haven’t written about them before I guess it’s somewhat necessary. Two chicks who make amazingly awesome music individually as Married In Berdichev and Kevin Shields come together and make extra amazingly awesome music as Caldera Lakes. They’ve put out stuff on top notch labels like SRA & Deathbomb Arc, with their newest self-titled bit of hushed creepybliss on newcomer død univers.

Three tracks is all it takes for these girls to drown your sorrows in ghostly folk drone. The tape opens with “Contained Etherealness,” which, as lame a name as it is, provides a pretty apt description of what goes down. Highly restrained backwards guitar pulses with skittering shaman relics & nymphs whispering the secrets of the mist. A wispy trip into the twilight, forest adventures that result in nothing but mystery. The next track is wayyy darker and scarier. Harsh sounds that pierce through dark caves, dripping & twinkling from the fire pit, all while those goddamn sirens sing the beauty of the sun. Fucking intense.

The B side is one 15 minute piece that starts out with a miniature army of chimes, shimmering with a heart of gold. Some grinding static noise works its way in, like rustling leaves before a twister hits. An assortment of minimal electronic textures fade in and out while a faint voice recites incantations & candles flicker in the wind. Blood flows up into the sacred cup, smoke gets devoured by the fire, rain absorbed into the clouds, the ritual plays out in the middle of the night while the fabric of space expands & contracts.

Caldera Lakes are just interested in acquiring your soul through the process of mystic drone. No biggy. If you think you can handle that shit, I strongly recommend you nab this hot piece. Only 100 made, with some seriously killer packaging. An oversized clear book, with random scientific illustrations printed on vellum, and a transparent tape. SEXY.

image via

Some awesome new stuff this week. Like Mogwai’s new single, new stuff from Chris Schlarb and My Brother Daniel, a track from the Jenks Miller & Nicholas Szczepanik collaboration, and some insane-o pop from Disasteradio’s new album.

Anti-Gravity Bunny Radio 11/23
Rafael Anton Irisarri – A Great Northern Sigh
Chris Schlarb – Daughters Of Ursa Major
Murmuüre – Disincarnate
Stag Hare – Holy Wind
The Fun Years – Breech On The Bowstring
Ultra Bonbon – North American Family Bond
Robby Moncrieff – Old Warning
Jenks Miller & Nicholas Szczepanik – Cranberry Sauce
Rene Hell – Perfume Pt. II
Disasteradio – No Pulse
Mogwai – Rano Pano
White Light – Tight Rope
My Brother Daniel – Three Bird
Problems That Fix Themselves – Noelle
Oren Ambarchi – Girl With The Silver Eyes
The Skull Defekts – Skull Addikt
Vibracathedral Orchestra – Magnetic Burn
Outer Space – The Planck Era
Twig Harper & Daniel Higgs – Number 2
Wereju – Remembering
Seht & Stelzer – Untitled 3
Evan Caminiti – Thunder Breaks The Dawn
Pita – 5
Trills – Fetal Discoveries

TOMOCeremonial Music In Sheol

Before you know anything about this record, know that I love it SO HARD. It’s damn near perfect. Now, other pertinent things. TOMO stands for Transcendental Organic Magical Objective. He is one Japanese dude who learned old school blues/bluegrass/banjo Americana stuff in Missouri for 8 years, plays a part in the Japanese psych scene (Tetragrammaton), and takes on minimalists like Loren Connors and La Monte Young as influences. So clearly this record is destined for brilliance and can’t help but be very dear to my heart.

Butterfly Dream And Other Guitar Works (named for the Zhuangzi story) is essentially a guitar drone record, but not like Stars Of The Lid or Brian Grainger or anything. This is guitars + drone, with a hurdy gurdy doing most of the droning, and it’s absolutely beautiful. TOMO plays all sorts of styles and he does them all so well. He can do the traditional Appalachian folk, dusty Western raga, he can even make his guitar sound like a Baroque harpsichord. His proficiency limits him to no instrument or technique, so he can combine everything into a melting pot of cultural elegance. It’s goddamn incredible.

One of the most amazing pieces is the 22 minute title track. It starts out with a harmonious mix of 6 string picking & hurdy gurdy drone and it just weaves a tremendous tapestry of surreal textures, a mid-tempo guitar pulse dancing over heaving tonal bliss. By the end of the 20 minutes, though, the guitar has mysteriously buried itself under the drone, which has gotten louder & louder until you’re left with a warm wall of static thrum glory.

I know it’s one of those clichés, but Butterfly Dream would totally worth it if it was just “Butterfly Dream” and not “Butterfly Dream” plus 50 more fucking minutes of this. Yeah, this album is an hour and 10 minutes long. And every track is 100% amazing. I could write an entire post about each song, gushing & glowing about the perfections in the delicate details and how it melts my body & brain into a pool of stress-free euphoria. But you get the idea. This is fucking essential.