Charnel House – Voiceless Hymns CS [Auris Apothecary]
Charnel House occupy a space on the nexus of dronoise, yet they bust out so HARD and HEAVY on “Infinite Instance” after six tracks of drift that I feel I must notate the influence of bands as disparate as Racebannon, Fadensonnen, Matta Gawa and Dead Reptile Shrine (the latter mainly because of the screaming). It’s tough to return to the desert after hearing “Infinite Instance”, but there’s nothing wrong with what CH set out to accomplish with Voiceless Hymns overall, their drum-driven (or at least -aided) drone provoking as many questions as answers as it puts forth a giant blur of lo-fi spume. For this reason, my instincts tell me Hymns is an experience best left to the intimate environs of headphones, but I’m listening to it on ‘phones right now, and I’m not getting a damn thing. I’d have an easier time picking bite-sized diamonds out of a sandstorm as it rushed toward me like an angry bull. I’m exaggerating a bit, of course, because take a cut like, for instance, “Introduction”, and there’s plenty of fidelity, or at least definition. Same with the “Borax Pillow” and its manic rhythms. Overall, though, Charnel House prefer largely formless masses that divebomb at the eardrum like an F-22 Tomcat. Don’t be scared to fly their unfriendly skies.
Marriage – Pool Blunt LP [Monofonus]
There’s a lot of egg on my face right now because I finally just realized Austin’s Marriage contains Mike Kanin, a former member of Black Eyes. ICYMI, they’re the sax-shredding quintet that rewrote a lot of the rules for experimental rock with two records on Dischord: a self-titled effort and my personal fave, Cough. While Marriage in no way apes what Black Eyes accomplished, Kanin’s keen ear for rhythm and the funkier tendencies of BE stick out like a couple of stubbed toes. “Oh My God” is the deadest giveaway, and when I mention “funky tendencies,” don’t get me wrong; this is the best kind of funk I can imagine, sharpened enough to be lethal and catchy enough to tap a toe or three to. Kanin, Nate Cross, Jeff and Greg Piwonka, and Alex LaRoche took their vows to bring you Pool Blunt after almost achieving a perfect “10” with 2013’s For Brotzmann, so I hope you give it a good tug. I was sent this LP without any info, and I cannot find a preorder yet; be patient and check up with Monofonus Press regularly.
Michael O. – Really? LP [Fruits & Flowers]
In the end, we’re all looking for truth, whether in literature or music; I guess that’s why I never turn down the chance to hear an intimate side project, even if its principal is from a band (The Mantles) I’m barely familiar with. Michael O., as a solo entity, isn’t out to change the world or detail its injustices to you. Really? is more an opportunity to unplug the feed and tune out. He’s taking notes off the best, from Michael Chapman to White Fence’s Tim Presley to any acoustic record you’ve heard a punk frontman put out, and he gets lost in his drowsy world, seemingly strumming his way out of a personal funk until he feels well enough to sing again. As a result, the songs attain a homier feel. There’s no rush to define any one sequence or phrase, no verse-chorus crutch to cling to, and no specific audience to genre-pitch to. Just a guy, his guitar, the odd-clarinet and his crappy home-recorder, workin’ it out, and if anything I’m underplaying it because Michael O. (Olivares) proves his mettle time and time again. Really? Really.
Sparkling Wide Pressure – Clouds and Stairs LP [No Kings]
Reviewing Lanterna CDs about 15 years ago, I’d never have imagined how much of this desert-ambient material I’d be evaluating in the future. Sparkling Wide Pressure’s Clouds and Stairs thankfully finds plenty to delve into beyond the obvious tropes (lonely guitar ruminations, even lonelier drones; mysticism, tendencies not unlike that of a film soundtrack). “Wrapped in a Blanket (Infinitey Light)” comes across as innocent, even quaint, spare guitar plucking and little else, until a tantric drone wave and deep, shamanic vocals swoop in like Tarzan on a vine and wreck the place. A lone six-string emerges, followed closely by digital bleeping and high, uncomfortable tones that settle into a comforting grasshopper buzzzzz. Then come the warped voice samples; you probably should have brought a sleeping bag, friend. If zoning out to Plankton Wat or any number of tape-drone acts appeals to you, Clouds and Stairs will reach above and beyond your expectations.
Trans FX – Into the Blu LP [Perennial / K]
Don’t tell Trans FX he’s communicating to a few hundred listeners at most. In his mind, he’s broadcasting to the world, and Into the Blu is the message in a bottle he’s tossing our way. As such, it’s pointless to resist his overtures, not to mention the ’80s mannerisms he’s so adept at spinning together with nary a smirk. The vaporwave gang would do well to learn from how sincere deliberately cheesy sounds can be; with tunes like “Living Thru Glass”, Trans FX is having his cake and eating it too, bringing the fun but surrounding it with darkness and confusion. Who knew Simple Minds could be so complicated, or Underworld so modern? What drives me mad is how stadium-ready Into the Blu is. Even with all its quirks, a cut like “I Want It All” could blast from ye olde main stage right next to the acts with much less underground cred. Trans FX demand to be taken seriously even if the idols they worship do not.
Julian Lynch – Orange You Glad CS [Baro]
Julian Lynch of Ducktails and Real Estate fame plugged Orange You Glad into wayyy few brains back in 2009, so Baro’s bringin’ it back, bro, and it’s mind-blowing how confident and free his vocal melodies are. My view of Lynch as primarily a guitarist shattered, I search for solace in the neon forest he’s constructed and find it. Problem is, the experience is more difficult to relate than most. I hear that signature Lynch wah-wah flowin’ and trippin’, but only intermittently. Clarinet and hand drums, on the other hand, are not only allowed, but encouraged; wood block makes an appearance, as it and other taboos are treated like perfectly reasonable bedfellows. It seems apparent now that in 2009 a lot of artists were trying to figure out what to do Next in the wake of Animal Collective, and if the indie-rock world would have taken more cues from Orange You Glad, it’s possible we’d be in a better place now. If dig Tonstartssbandht and Pumice and you missed this crisp, golden nugget the first time around, call the pharmacy.