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DIY/Lo-Fi





Drakkar Noir/Heidi Sabertooth seduce you to The Sleep of Reason

The music heard on The Sleep of Reason, a split EP by the DJ/producer/multi-instrumentslist team of Heidi Sabertooth and R Gamble a/k/a “Drakkar Noir” released on Chicago’s Jacktone Records, is both primordial and futuristic—the sound of electronic circuits climbing out of the primordial ooze and becoming self-aware—which seemingly fits perfect for these two artists one of whom is named for a family of prehistoric predators, and the other named after the most primordial cologne of the ‘80s and ‘90s.

These eight tracks of old-school-inspired electro, industrial, acid, and EBM (electronic body music) are raw and spontaneous sounding—qualities that many wouldn’t associate with electronic music—due in no small part to the use of standalone electronic hardware, machines that the user manipulates in real time and which were recorded live here for the most part so that a certain level of improvisation works its way into things. Much like more conventional instruments, these types of electronic instruments don’t always behave as expected or as intended, meaning that it takes skilled and sensitive musicians to improvise around unexpected sonic detours and that’s a big part of what makes this method of music making and this EP compelling.

What also makes Sleep of Reason compelling are the songs themselves—built on minimalistic yet ever-morphing grooves that burrow under your skin and into your grey matter with the insistance of a funky flea circus passing through town. And that’s not even to mention the glitched-out, paranoid android vocals heard in various sonic forms from track to track whispering intimate-yet-oft-indesipherable sweet creepy nothings into your earholes.

 

Elsewhere Ms. Sabertooth has described her four tracks as “a channeling of angst and disenchantment about relationships, technology, and expectations of the modern femme.” And you can can hear the pure, uncut intensity of this angst and disenchantment on, say, “It Says You Read It” that with its clattering beatbox percussion and squelchy sine waves pretty much sounds like a Peaches song on Promethazine; or on “I’m Gaining Weight Again” that with its spiraling and increasingly distorted doomy sonic vortex is something like an obsessive shame spiral rendered in sound.

Drakkar Noir’s four songs mine somewhat similar territory but with significant differences as well—mining slightly more insistent beats and a stronger acid influence, all appropeiate to his nom de parfume alter-ego—like on side-opener “Free Delight” which makes the very notion of free delight sound both enticing and slightly uneasy as if you just know all that free delight is gonna come back to bite you somehow.  Or the next track “Shadow Reel” which is kind of like “Planet Rock” if the planet in question were Jupiter with its cold, windy clouds of ammonia.

Which all fits well with the loose overarching concept and titular inspiration for the EP which is 18th-century Spanish painter/printmaker/iconoclast Francisco Goya’s famous etching entitled The Sleep of Reason Produced Monsters (well it’s famous if you’re an art historian at least) which depicts an artist passed out at his drawing desk surrounded by a sepulchral swarm of bats and owls, with a caption reading: “Imagination abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters; united with her, she is the mother of the arts and source of their wonders". Truer words, etc. etc.

And hey if you’re feeling these retro-futurist electro bats and owls vibes then be sure to keep an ear out for Gamble & Sabertooth’s live DJs sets on Brooklyn’s very own The Lot Radio. And if you’re the greater NYC metro area region, you may also wanna check out the Lost Soul Enterprises collective and record label of which they’re both core members and which currently has a regular bi-weekly residency going at h0L0, a spacious progressive music oasis tucked away in the borderland between Bushwick, BK and Ridgeway, Queens. (Jason Lee)





"Subversive To Care" comp released to benefit AAPI communities

In today’s fast-paced modern era of music streaming and profligate playlist making (not to mention Twitch DJing and all the other means of assembling original musical mixes) the notion of an old-school compilation album (or “comp”) may seem hopelessly out of date. But comps can still be wonderful things, and Subversive To Care (referred to as Sub2Care forthwith), which has been released to coincide with the launch of Paul Is Dead Records, checks off many of the boxes that make them good things.



For one thing, comps are often assembled to raise money for charitable/activist organizations and this one fits the bill with proceeds going to several AAPI organizations—The National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (www.NAPAWF.org), Asian Mental Health Collective (www.ASIANMHC.org) and The Tibet Fund (www.TIBETFUND.org)—in response to alarming levels of hate crimes and ongoing struggles against prejudice against Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.

What’s more, a good comp is a great way to discover new music and new artists without having to continually troll Spotify’s Teen Beats playlist (granted, SyKo’s “#BrooklynBloodPop!” has its pleasures). And with 60 original songs by the original artists Sub2Care should keep you occupied for a while as you make your way from the start (Wake Up’s “Hurricane” in exclusive demo form; the band is pictured above) to the finish (Squires’ “Tombstoning”) so you basically have got a conceptual theme here of moving from wakefulness to the Big Sleep—not that you can’t skip around within and between individual tracks which is another one of the nice things about comps. They’re basically sampler platters in musical form.

Sub2Care was put together by the new LA-based label Paul Is Dead Records (with satellite offices in New York and Wisconsin apparently) and is likely named either after the notorious Beatles urban legend, or the recent death of Paul Van Doren, patriarch of the Van’s sneaker empire. And while LA artists predominate on the comp (speaking of Vans some of these LA artists no doubt look a lot like Jeff Spicoli or perhaps Phoebe Cates) there’s also a decent number from other locales including New York/New Jersey like Frankie Rose, New Myths, Mevius, Dahl Haus, CITYGIRL, Skyler Skjelset (Fleet Foxes), The Natvral (Kip Berman from The Pains of Being Pure at Heart), and Shana Falana (featuring Shana Falana).

Across musical history, comps have occasionally played a key role in defining the sound of a nascent genre or a new record label—like the Lenny Kaye-compiled Nuggets (1972) that set an early template for punk rock, or the 1988 Sub Pop 200 comp that was a who’s who of future grunge all-stars—and while Sub2Care isn’t strictly speaking a “label comp” since it’s made up of tracks donated by “artists who are close friends and family members of our label” quoting label head and co-founder Evan Mui, it’s still got a certain vibe or aesthetic, if you will, while being pretty darn eclectic at the same time.

I would prospectively call this vibe or aesthetic Twilight Music. By Twilight Music I mean songs that’ve got a certain hazy/dreamy/slightly off-kilter quality whether they’re upbeat or downbeat or mid-beat. And in this way it’s good music for putting on around twilight say when you’re pregaming for a Saturday night out (tracks #13 and 14 are two good examples: Smirk’s “Do You?” and Eternal Summers' “Belong”) or waking up Sunday morning trying to recall what happened the previous night (rewind to tracks #10-12: Four Dots’ “I Left My Heart Pump In San Francisco,” D.A. Stern’s “Funky Holocaust (Drunk Demo),” and Big Nitty’s “Chemical Plant”) or songs that fit equally well for either scenario (for example, tracks 32-34: Dahl Haus’ “Silhouettes and Alibis,” Black Needle Noise’s “And Nothing Remains,” Built Like Alaska’s “Ran Into A Coroner").

So throw a few bucks in the Bandcamp bin for Paul Is Dead Records if you like what you hear. And in return you may discover a new favorite artists or two--whether one of the ones mentioned/displayed here or some other deserving object of your musical admiration. (Jason Lee)









 








VIDEO: “It’s All Right” Finds DIY-er Tatiana Hazel Working on Herself

Photo Credit: Yanin Gzv

L.A.-based Chicago native Tatiana Hazel’s latest track/video, <i>It’s All Right</i>, is a preview of her latest EP (after 2020’s <i>Duality</i> EP), and it’s difficult not to enjoy the track’s laid-back danceable groove and breezy vocals, while also being touched by it’s casual honesty about facing mental health challenges.

At points throughout the song, Hazel delivers some sobering lines about facing ones mental illness as well as general disillusion with “truths” presented by the larger world: “maybe i should take a good look at myself / and mirror check on mental health / couldn’t be clearer that I’m not doing well, darlin’ / and maybe everything you told us was a lie / maybe all we gotta do is pass the time / maybe everything is gonna be all right.”

Ultimately, though, the chorus takes solace in the idea that, as crazy as this life can be, having someone who loves you along for the ride can make things somewhat more tolerable: “It’s all right / It’s all right / as long as I know that you love me / as long as you are thinking of me.”

Listeners will find Tatiana Hazel’s pleasingly unaffected voice similar to other electropop chanteuses such as Amelia Meath of Sylvan Esso. However, if one looks past her admittedly polished, Top 40-ready public image, one will quickly realize that, with Hazel not just singing, but writing, producing, recording, mixing, and mastering all but one of her EPs tracks herself, she’s a one-person indie pop dynamo well on her way to bigger, better things. Gabe Hernandez





Tyson Swindell Releases Single "Binary Stars" Off Box Set

In the Spotify Age, musicians looking to sell hardcopy releases are well-advised to bring extra assets to play. “L’Aventura,” the latest box set from songwriter and composer Tyson Swindell comes correct for lovers of musical minutiae, with a bound book of poetry and an honest to Memorex mixtape of pre-release material alongside his sweet, new lo-fi lament “Binary Stars.”

At bad open mics or the wrong side of YouTube, the term “lo-fi” can be shorthand for “low rent, low effort, low energy.” Not here. Swindell’s work is “lo-fi” in the best sense: slow, intimate, real. Ironically, the actual production fidelity is excellent. Swindell’s work has been consistently well-produced, and in places “L’Aventura” is almost cinematic.

The same sense of growing mastery extends from the production to the sound. Working almost exclusively with electronics, Swindell starts with the vibe of an excellent bedroom DJ, but shows a classic, songwriterly sensibility that recalls some of the bygone best of indie and shoegaze masters. “Binary Stars” may rely on digital instruments, but there’s as much blood from Band of Horses as Tycho, with both sides serving a poetic but personal lyricism recalling Bright Eyes and late-career Elliott Smith. It’s sad boy music for certain, music to mope to, but executed with pretty production and elegant restraint.

As to the rest of the assets, The Deli can’t comment – haven’t received a copy. If the book and tape live up to the single, however, the box is worth a look for anyone seeking musical company for a quiet night in.

- Matt Salter

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Writhing Squares have a Chart For The Solution

Imagine if Electric Mayhem sax man Floyd Pepper and bandmate/electric bassist Zoot took a break from Jim Henson's house band and got a hold of some vintage drum machines and synths and an array of effects pedals and then fed their heads full of James Chance and the Contortions, Steve and Andy Mackay (no relation), the Sun Ra Arkestra, Kraftwerk, Lemmy-era Hawkwind, and The Comet Is Coming when it comes to their contemporaries, and then moved to South Philly to add more layers of grit and vigor to their sound and you’d probably end up with something like Writhing Squares and something like their third and latest LP Chart For The Solution.

In reality, Writhing Squares is comprised of Kevin Nickles and Daniel Provenzano who in addition to their respective sax and bass duties both play synths and contribute vocals, with Daniel pulling extra duty on percussion and programming, and Kevin filling in some flute and oboe parts. Chart For The Solution came out a couple months ago and it's been in my rotation ever since so I can vouch for the album's durability and its high quotient of electric mayhem.



The first track is called “Rogue Moon” and it picks up in a way from where the last track of their previous album left off, namely “A Whole New Jupiter” which took up the last 19 minutes of 2019’s Out of the Ether--a heavy psych rewrite of A Love Supreme transformed into triple time and with rhapsodic skronk saxophone played over overdriven bass it all comes off something like a No Wave Coltrane. 

Likewise, “Rogue Moon” rides a loping riff into the psychedelic sunset except here the foundation is a burbling analog synth arpeggiation with NEU!ish interlocking rhythms that shift the downbeat around in your head and then right in the middle the song turns itself inside out and stays that way for the rest of its eleven-minute duration--a dreamy coda that's like the soft underbelly to the first half's gleaming steel exterior.

Aside from any overlaps, Chart For The Solution stakes out new terrain for the Squares with a newly cinematic production on some of the tracks and ever more adventurous playing and arrangements. But it never veers too far from their lo-fi ethos roots either--whether in the swirling sonic vortex of “Geisterwaltz” or the post-punky surf rock party of “Ganymede” or the back masked ambient interlude of “A Chorus of Electrons” or the Stooge-worthy rave-up of “NFU.” It all culminates in the 18-minute headtrip “The Pillars” which begins by sounding like a UFO landing and then turns into a bleep-bloopy coldwave number with Alan Vega verbal outbursts before taking a turn in the final part with the duo seemingly inhabited by the ghost of Lou Reed trying to get out of another record contract.

In the end it all speaks to the band's enigmatic name, a name suggesting the cohabitation of opposite forces, such as rigid geometric “squares” that can somehow kinesthetically “writhe” because on one side you’re got regimentation and repetition and on the other side looseness and grooviness.  It's a dynamic heard in the Writhing Squares' conjoining of trance-like repetition and wild sonic freeness, punk and prog in equal measure, maxed-out minimalistic music for the select masses. (Jason Lee)

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