The Rummage

Tag: Brittany Tracy

. issue XXIV : viii .

. artist : anaesthesia .
. album : s/t .
. year : 1998
. label : no type .
. grade : b minus .

Anaesthesia

Anaesthesia’s self-titled effort on No Type sounds like the morning after a marathon showing of every version of Blade Runner. It’s a dank, disorienting dislocation in grime, neon and vapor, with all the darkly romantic connotations of futuristic awe. Some of humanity’s strongest actionable emotions are tied to the space age fantasia and naturally upwell. Cue hope, disenchantment, the spectacular and the routine — and the spectacle of the routine for us, the spectators. “Part 2” is even more charged than its sibling, helped by the dense and fervid bowings of strings

Their m.o. seems to be the creation of a pungent atmosphere, whether with the sirenous synth of the bookends “Part 1” and “Part 2” or the screamy discombobulation of “Futility,” which makes me extremely uncomfortable and of which I’ll say no more here — except that this means Anaesthesia has succeeded. Though Turgeon writes of Anaesthesia’s ambience, “at once the word either recalls useless forays into one-chord (one-dimensional?) universe accompanied with new-agey pretenses & patchouli scents,” the band does employ and even enjoy the power of sustained notes, using the drone of machines or choruses to great effect in three of these songs. Indeed, “Orthodoxia” involved a throat-singing backdrop for a qawwali-like soloist and his partner, a ney that soars like a quetzal. Understood most properly as a duet of identical attitudes in “singing” — prodigious, curious, light-hearted, delighted, and whimsical with big “vocal” swoops and invested, total unabashedness — the juxtaposition of these voices is the highlight of the album. Interestingly, the chorus and ‘space sounds’ are the same as in “Orthodoxia” as in “Part 1” and “2,” but the mood is different. Where the “Part” pieces present outer scenery, “Orthodoxia” conjures an inner scene, a place of warm beauty and transfiguration, its climate thick with citrus, dirt and incense.

Least productive, “Scratch 4” is free-jazzier and much less heavy than anything else, though still weird and 80’s. Instead of “Blade Runner,” this implies too much “E.T.” –though it could be a soundtrack for almost anything on VHS, whether the outro of a cop drama, a best-buddies training montage, a big haired sex scene in beige sheets, or the faces of neighbors after a soap tragedy.

Viewed in its entirety, Anaesthesia is a point of confusion somewhere between Blade Runner, Karou Abe, 90’s trance and a histrionic inpatient slam poet diva. It might not be worth keeping — where’s the coherency? — but it is worth a listen.

by Brittany Tracy

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. issue XXIV : v .

. artist : galerie stratique .
. album : point d’orgue .
. year : 2006 .
. label : no type .
. grade : a plus .

Stratique

Galerie Stratique’s PR calls them “awkward” — and truth is stranger than fiction. This wonky, egregious album draws on all those teeter-tot-toddler memories of music boxes, serial themes and ice cream trucks. In chipper bright bleeps it screams lite brite and silly putty. But don’t hold back; it’s not below you; their PR also claims, slyly, that “repeated listening reveals not only some nuances and subtleties, but the possibility of a serious dependency.” I couldn’t agree more, and you can too — the record is free to download on No Type. Point d’Orgue, which means “climax” or “pause” in French — two concepts interestingly conflated — is one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever heard. It makes its emotions bigger, as one speaking to a child, and so it is that we have utterly out-of-proportion five-minute-mysteries-organ and the mincing music of spooky television funk. Though it’s a teeny blip of an EP, at 19-and-a-half minutes, Point d’Orgue cuts right to the kitsch, and more incisively than anything I’ve ever heard.

by Brittany Tracy

. issue XXIV : iv .

. artist : camp .
. album : doubts .
. year : 2008 .
. label : no type .
. grade : b plus.

Doubts

The expansive, colorful whimsy of eclectic mastermind David Turgeon is evident on his second effort under the moniker Camp. It’s a pop-and-crackle breakbeat course of moguls of haptic sound that project and retract. There’s no slope here, just the straight lines of midi channels.

“Bom Bom” gets off to a strong start, bouncy braille stamping the listener’s auditory cortex with uniquely spatial beats perfect for headphones — crisp and crystal clear. Then the busier “Benchmarks,” with its electro current and door squeak and shellac speedbump samples, shows what Camp can do. “City Life” drags a curl of atmospherics in the wake of a clave and high-hat beat, with bisyllabic androgenous vocals repeat, cocktail stirrers and Salvation Army bells.

“Living in Sleep” is not as evocative as it is fun; well-played ethereal vocals fluctuate in time to each amended channel’s various rhythms, as though they’re melded to the sounds. It’s a great idea and it plays well in the whole process of dance music — like addendums, like knitting for beats — and here we have it between one sample and most every subsequent beat, just as identity is subject to and responsive within a dream. If the vocalist is doing any “Living in Sleep,” it’s too-pleasant, the sonic equivalent of shopping for potpourri and loofas. But the vocals aren’t the only dynamic sound — the spine of the piece is a motile swish paired with a snap-shut home-run-delivering-clack. It’s Doubt’s most texturally-nebulous track, and refreshing in its utter guilelessness.

“Flip Flop” quite explains Camp’s entire m.o., but now that we’ve seen the extent of Turgeon’s vision and skill, the song doesn’t begin to live up to its name until a tantalizing evolution one-third of the way through, convolving into something horrid from the 80’s, a synthy shallow glissando against an autistic piano solo of chopstick monotony, transmitter short-outs, bombastic electro-bongo stimulation, in short, a challenge to the listener’s comfort. But the sheer eclecticism of “Flip Flop,” and the fact that it’s so obviously posed as a ridiculous encounter on the listener’s obstacle course, makes welcome these absurd few minutes in this wonderfully inclusive, warm album you had begun to feel entitled to. Also, a mirrorball melodic line arrives to make the pieces mesh and save the day.

“Long Story Short,” besides having a great title that captures the colloquial charm of Camp, is a piece most typical for the genre but atypical for Camp, and so, after this journey, manages to feel completely novel. It’s more spacious and clappy, with a barely-there diminutive beep of a heart monitor or a 90’s wristwatch timer and a stutter — like insect’s wings in your face — that almost oblige you to a heart monitor. It’s a terrifically efficacious effect, causing the listener to reflexively pull back from the ‘insect’ of familiar association. If we needed proof that Camp’s stimuli were spot-on…. Drumkit blocks and a teeny splash cymbal tolls the listener out over beeps and fanning, panning stop-motion textures.

Oxymoronically, Doubt is an utterly redoubtable offering, both a challenge gentle in its listenability and obstreperous in its restless, refreshing squarewave trot. And there’s cowbell.

by Brittany Tracy

. issue XXIV : ii .

. artist : cul de sac .
. album : immortality lessons .
. year : 2002 .
. label : strange attractors audio house .
. grade : b plus .

CulDeSac

Artisanal neo-psychedelic group Cul de Sac has been around since 1990, and they know what they’re about. A composer’s art-rock band, Cul de Sac make music various in genre, steadfast in ambition and boundless in scope. Immortality Lessons is an hour-long tape from a live show at a radio station in 1998, and you’ve never heard anything more “live.” More than any song, musician’s good-day or other unit of performative success, it’s the powerful aura exuded palpably, the made-manifest supersaturated creative presence, the pregnant evocation of outward facing energy that fastens the listener on Immortality Lessons and submerses them.

Audible are the concrete paraphernalia of the stage, preparatory rustles and the pre-emptive clack of drumstick, but also audible are the nerves and the sweat and the physical momentum — the theatricality of “the moment” of embarkation. It’s stunning how the listener can feel Cul de Sac start to turn on the same cog.

As the centerpiece, the Middle Eastern-influenced guitar of Glenn Jones leads the way through tantalizing, meandering, seductive soundscapes with a directed charisma like an animal stalking its prey, but it’s the nuance of Jon Proudman on drums is what makes the emergent nature of the album so evident. There’s a fragility to his playing by which you can tell that Cul de Sac are on the move, expanding, and fighting the urge for any sort of completeness.

It’s hard to tell what’s the band pulling back to regroup and what’s an especially minimal composition; however, one does have the sense that everything Cul de Sac does emerges from this space of tomfoolery, collective resolution and chemistry, and that means that there’s no difference between the two. Large swathes of songs will pass without a coherent pattern … until suddenly they lock into it. As a result, we have the impression that the album breathes, and that it’s something emergent — struggle, group, fall apart, regroup.

But this meandering is nothing less than totally engaging, and so it is that Cul de Sac presents one of the clearest visions of creative cohesion which also happens to instantiate much confusion and dislocation. As a sonic parallel, there’s plenty of sympathetic accord — Immortality Lessons is an exemplar — but also weird discordant incidents that are folded back in or vindicated by a later completion (for example, Robin Amos’ keyboard seizure in the title track).

Immortality Lessons sure doesn’t feel like an hour. I wouldn’t say we’re having fun, precisely; it’s the experience of hanging on someone’s words, of disembodiment, of immersion, of tethered to. It’s refreshing to find music so compelling.

I’m new to Cul de Sac, and apparently they’ve done a lot better than this, so I can’t wait to go back and see what I’m missing. But I also love how understated a non sequitur this is, how you’re not sure where it came from or what it’s supposed to do or if it’s successful. It just exists.

by Brittany Tracy

. issue XXIII : vii .

. artist : terminals .
. album : s/t .
. year : 2013
. label : vaald .
. grade : b .

Terminals

Terminals self-titled release on Vaald embodies the grim, various, crisp beauty of their label. A stunning synthesizer composition running longer than an hour, Terminals draws out its reflective movements with pellucid prowess. This release eloquently balances compositional opposites, sometimes sliding into total silence, at others, occupying the full orchestral zest of a tune-up; sometimes whimsical, with flute or bird chirrups, at others, deep and reedy, with the tenacity of a contrabassoon; sometimes tense and tough in texture, at others, translucent and gelantinous, pealing out mid-range beauty of bells. Terminals is an exceptional, chameleonic work that manages to sustain a coherent but fundamentally evolving thread, and whose high points emerge effortlessly from the hushed, evocative center of each extended track.

by Brittany Tracy

. issue XXIII : v .

. artist : clade .
. album : holonic sadism .
. year : 2013 .
. label : self-released .
. grade : a .

Clade

The passage of a single note and its overtones is the trajectory of the unique drone and chanter of Clade’s Holonic Sadism. Here experience of mind and music become an admixture, held steadfast and forward on this focused path. Sadism is characterized by a robust, sustained vitality and a potent linear maturity to nowhere and everywhere — what Clade calls “infinite regress.”

by Brittany Tracy

. issue XXII : viii .

. artist : strange mountain .
. album : cr-14: ghost rails .
. year : 2013 .
. label : carpi .
. grade : b plus .

GhostRails

The cover of CR-14: Ghost Rails is the perfect still for this sightless cinema: a railroad switch, hypertrophic skull bones (perhaps a keepsake of Victorian grotesquerie: the ‘skull’ has an expression — and eyeballs), and weird, honeycombed crepuscular rays in the cobwebs of drypointed crosshatch. These six tracks are loosely thematic (some seem to evoke the seaside, others the lawn, others, train-travel) but all use the same enchanting modus operandi (tape loops) to quaver out melting, laving ether that wafts through the landscapes of the mind. It’s a phonograph’s cry, the Edwardian last gasp: balmy, like springtime, and gracious, responsive, sincere, but warm in the slumber of mal du siècle. This self-conscious transience does not have to mean malaise — aren’t all ephemera characterized by the wave as they pass? — but this phantasmal world is sallow, too, dimming as the spring sun refracts in the sepia rain. The loops are nothing so much as an exercise in sustained misshapenness, slowly writhing with a preternatural tenderness (more internal than extended: those febrile vessels, crucibles, are in fact made of porcelain). And here there’s a sense of physical impact, of embrasure, and of temporal impact, of stalling for periscope précis, near and far and wide. The far-flung, featherweight richness of Ghost Rails is nearly overwhelming, especially when it cinches a concrete instance out of the fog: the ‘transmission’ sonics at the beginning of “Weird Clouds” keen desolately, the mother’s calls in “Drifting Landscape” (e.g. “Daisy!”) reprise as a reminder of the tension between the seeming persistence of our most static life times and the reality that one day it will have had been soon to be gone, and the magnanimous clock chime in “Aeterna.” Ghost Rails gives its listener pause, both stopping and blanketing ‘time’ across the sentimental landscapes of remembrance, history, and daydreams.

by Brittany Tracy

. issue XXII : vi .

. artist : 156 .
. album : taking a look at a moment lost .
. year : 2013 .
. label : chondritic sound .
. grade : a minus .

156
Help! Chondritic Sound keeps releasing things I’m scared to listen to in the dark!

This offering recreates a Bedlam, an apothecary shoppe, the cult of the dead in Japanese Buddhism, ossuaries, cenotes of cesious waters, long barrows and vaulted catacombs like unshorn ribs. Worse, it recreates something of the heart-clenching experience, in the fine spirit of autopsy — which literally means “to see for oneself.”

It conjures a place we indeed see for ourselves, except without specification. It could be one of many, and it’s terrifyingly up to the listener’s imagination. But it’s a place of the endless ideas we have about medicine, cult, and the closed spaces in which rituals of life and death are conducted. The pall over Lost is the stench of the dead from a dead time. Though it’s unclear to me if Lost can be understood as a properly cohesive album, that is, a sequence, the listener’s brain can’t help but turn it into foley for a imaginative narrative teetering on the tectonic shifts from burlesque to the particulate heavy scent of incense-laden stale air, from overtone chanting to the total, terrible solitude cata tumbas.

by Brittany Tracy