On the Richmond, VA band’s debut self titled, Swan of Tuonela showcases a liking for contrasting dynamics and tension within their songs. Although the group isn’t shy about their post-rock leanings, a sound that has become something of a staple within the likes of the various strains of hardcore music of today Swans of Tuonela are no strangers to aggressive music. Members of the band include previous and current members of other notable acts within the area such as Caust, Halcyon, and Dial Up; bands that press for more confrontational extremes such as powerviolence and grindcore, all of which serve as obvious influences on this debut which translate quite clearly within their sound.
The band plays with building song structures that progress into explosive, bombastic bursts of noisy, sloppy screamo. What separates Swans of Tuonela from the masses of other post-rock influence screamo bands from around the area and otherwise is their extremely intense and chaotic songwriting abilities. While this post-rock inspired formula works for Swans of Tuonela the influx of band’s using a similar formula should be a sign to change direction which seems to have been taken into consideration seeing as there are moments where the band does change pace. For example, the four minute opening track, ‘Inanimate / Tolerance’ provides a dwelling sense of tension that grows into a heavier piece where it ends and is quickly picked up by the explosive ‘Quiver’, an impersonal and nightmarish track that manages to cram a good amount of progression and diversity into the brevity of its minute and a half duration.
While there are moments of these cascading walls of reverberated guitar the band juxtaposes it with crushing low-end chords and intensely moving sections of powerviolence inspired chaos that makes for some really nice contrast and moments of spine tingling bliss. Over the course of the fifteen minutes that is this self titled, Swans of Tuonela present a great combination of moody atmospheric passages that act as brief sections of breathing room while at once maintaining the listeners attention thrusting one quickly back into the throes of tortured screams, dissonant noise ridden guitar, thick sludgy bass, and jarringly fast drumming.
For me, while I do, at times find myself completely enthralled in what the Swan’s of Tuonela offers I also find myself wishing there was something more. I can’t help but think that what I’m listening to is the sound of a band with an exceptional amount of energy, passion, and potential, a band that could do something entirely different but has, like so many other bands fighting to break through from the now static narrative that much of hardcore music has formulaically imprisoned itself within, settled for a sound that was, at one point in time different but has ultimately grown into the stale norm.
Overall Rating: 5.8
Favorite Tracks: Quiver, Chrysalis
Recommended: Caust, Halcyon, Kilgore Trout, Dial Up, and The Pessimist Hangs the Optimist
Released: 30 January 2013
On the third album from Leeds post-punk / new-wave band, Cowtown embrace jangely pop tunes that feature a tinge of 80′s style synths; a sound that is, influentially, more along the lines of the brighter offerings from the genre, comparable to the likes of past genre-giants such as Devo or The Talking Heads.
While on the band’s first album, ‘Pine-Cone Express’ the band worked mainly with aspects of post-punk and pop they also showed interest in the experimental side of the respective genres. On this latest EP, however, the band does away with much of the experimentation found on these earlier releases and sticks to a constant palette of straightforwardness.
Cowtown has an ear for writing upbeat pop-influenced post-punk tunes; the band’s sound emphasizing the title of their album, an album built on the ingredients of an old school record, that being the inclusion of thick bass, low end analogue synths, rich guitar, a crisp drum sound, and vocal flair; all elements of a production aesthetic that focused on clarity in all aspects of a band’s sound. It is a sound that seems intentionally derivative yet manages to maintain relevancy through sheer energy and character. Essentially ‘Dudes vs. Bad Dudes’ sounds just like the album cover; a set of colorful, fun, and “raaaaddd” party tunes to jam out to. While it is a fun listen, at the same time, just like the album cover, if you look at it for too long all of the colors that once stood out from one another blend seamlessly into a pool of saturated vibrancy. It becomes an eyesore, or in this case, a bit of a headache.
My main complaint with Cowtown is their affinity for slathering the guitar and vocals in a nauseating amount of reverb which, much of the time, overpowers a lot of what is going on. Typically, I don’t tend to mind reverb too much, I actually prefer it but when almost everything is either soaked or lost in a saturated mess of reverb it can become mind-numbingly grating and not in a good way. When the guitars aren’t water-logged with reverb there are some moments of brief but tasty solos and the tone the band pulls out along with them is a nice singing overdrive.
Some of the bands most energetic moments can be heard on tracks like ‘Nightbeats’ and most notably on ‘S.Y.P.S.’, a track that opens with some skillful drum work and driving guitar that features a tinge of middle-eastern vibe. The singing fuzzed out overdrive is loaded with color and crunchy chord progressions do a good job of breaking up the monotonous use of reverb.
‘Dudes vs. Bads Dudes’ is a record that will some may find n instant attraction for the vibrant songwriting and moments of cringe worthy but fun cheesiness, although, for myself it is a listen that sits right between listenability and being a bother after repeated listens.
Overall Rating: 4.9
Favorite Tracks: ‘Animals’, ‘Nightbeats’
Recommended: Check out Hired Muscle
Released: 01 April 2013
Links: Visit The Audacious Art Experiment to stream or purchase ‘Dudes vs. Bad Dudes’
When people think about the post-hardcore and emo music of today I think, almost universally, a few names come to mind. Specifically names affiliated with the previous decade, that of the saturated bubblegum-variety that is Silverstein, Attack! Attack!, and Asking Alexandria whose style of music botchedly embraced pop, EDM, and dance influences into a most distasteful amalgamation of cliches and then the post-hardcore of more recent times, the likes of which meld a sense of accessibility with a taste for both melody and aggression, bands of the more recent variety, those of which include, most popularly, Touche Amore, La-Dispute, and Title Fight.
Heccra, the enigmatic-one man experimental post-hardcore / emo project fits into neither of those categories, or really any past incarnation of punk music as a whole. Instead, since early 2o12, Heccra has been keeping busy, releasing a full length album and an EP last year as well as two EPs within the first half of 2013 which take from a number of genres, the likes of which are contextually dissected and reconstructed into a unique blend that is all his own.
(Tyler Thompson): Your debut album, ‘White Eagle’ kind of came out of nowhere and just blew up overnight on /mu/ (a music message board on 4chan). What led you to start writing and recording the album?
There was a May night when I was 18 years old, as I was leaving a bonfire with friends I got pulled out of my car at gunpoint by the police; some adolescent neighborhood kids had called the cops saying I was unloading stock piles of automatic weapons, but it was actually firewood for the bonfire. I laid on my stomach with my hands cuffed behind my back, my friend Justin was next to me in the same predicament. The cops searched my car, found no firearms and continued to harass me saying my firewood looked “suspicious.” I ended up getting a ticket anyway for disorderly conduct and had to make a court appearance.
This is what really ignited my rage. In high school I had been skating in the hallways and getting in a lot of trouble, wearing tight black jeans and shoplifting excessively. My friends and I started vandalizing our town late at night as a means to make the best of being high school graduates stuck home. All of my friends went off to college at the end of summer, I stayed behind and worked at a shitty seafood restaurant and went to a community college full of fuck-ups and losers. Loneliness tortured me. I was already in bad shape from 6 years of 4chan in my head. I would go on to have 10 more run ins with the cops that academic year, each one pissed me off more and more. I paid for the tickets with money I made from work.
At Work, there was a coverband that played at the bar every Friday and Saturday night. I heard the same set too many times, and I was frustrated and I said to myself “I’m never going to fucking repeat myself, ever.” I was recording some music under the name Spooky Kid’s Midnight Symphony, I made 5 songs, the later 3 were ‘Brain Damage is my Friend’, ‘Best Dreams Ever’, and ’1997: There’s no Future!’ When I first said “Heccra” I was awe struck, and it looked good to me too when I wrote it out. I told one of my friends that God named me Heccra. I decided to create an identity that was truly I and my honest feelings, and I would keep my real name off the project entirely. It was great, I could say everything I wanted to and no one judged me. The winter trudged by and my friends came home for Break. They were adjusted to a life of college drinking and I wasn’t. There was still vandalism, pointed out in ‘VHS Porn’, and when they left I was sad again. I burned bridges with most of the people left in town. By April I had 10 songs or so, with nothing to do with them. One evening I posted it on 4chan.
On ‘White Eagle’ the chipmunk-esque pitch-shifted vocals (i.e. chipmunk-core) that appear throughout the album are a characteristic that seems to have become synonymous with your project. I think it’s a production choice that can effectively attract listeners just as quickly as it can detract them. Was this an entirely conscious decision to include these pitch-shifted sections or was this something you did on a whim?
At the time, I was trying to make something very experimental that wasn’t just noises or in dissonant chords/scales. I had a few different kinds of high-end Waves pitch plugins which I had experimented with in the past. The real inspiration came from Ween’s Pure Guava album, where most of the vocals on the album were recorded tape shifted. Push th’ Little Daisies was the song that really pushed me over the edge to do this. I’ll admit I went overboard with ‘Best Dreams Ever’.
After ‘White Eagle’ you released two EPs, the first of which was ‘The Last Weekend of Summer’ (TLWOS), an approach that focused more on the style of midwestern emo while the second EP, ‘Heccra-Kazooie’ retained traits heard on ‘The Last Weekend of Summer’ but also featured a bit more of an aggressive edge all around. I remember you mentioned that you had been listening to Algernon Cadwallader a lot and were influenced by them. What else influenced this change in direction?
I tend to think of ‘White Eagle’ as my best album, but that was written and recorded when I was very outwardly angry with society, and still fresh with rage. Even though it’s been a short while, I’ve matured greatly, and during this, the other two EPs were recorded. ‘TLWOS’ is all about the girl I was dating at the time. The name itself is a reference to the last two days of summer before I left for college this year. The theme of the music shifted from anger to hopefulness, that I would have the patience and strength to stay with this girl, even though I was far way.
While I was at college, my recording equipment was inaccessible so I had to learn to adapt to not being able to record everything I came up with. I started by getting a notepad and wrote down every little bit of lyrical inspiration that came to me. When I got back for Christmas break, I tried to balance family, friends, a girlfriend, and an album all at the same time. My girlfriend and I decided to break up 2 weeks into my 4 week break, and shockingly, I didn’t find it very inspirational musically. I had always figured I would have an entire emo album just from that alone, but it didn’t cut me the way I had expected. All of this went into ‘Heccra-Kazooie’, which was by far the most awkward for me to record. I had intended to go back to my aggressive ‘White Eagle’ roots.
When you released ‘Heccra-Kazooie’ it was also accompanied with a statement in which you mentioned your disappointment with the album. What exactly was it that you were disappointed with?
It has basically nothing to do with Banjo Kazooie whatsoever, that’s a big one. But even bigger is how shitty I mixed it. It’s exhausting to listen to, it’s over focused. My good friend Bye./Aches was telling me how the lack of clarity of my first two albums (compared to ‘Heccra-Kazooie’) made it better, the obscuration adds depth and dimension. ‘Heccra-Kazooie’ is two dimensional all the way.
That being said, I really like ‘Banjo Kazooie’, ‘Homemade Halloween Costume’, ‘Pissed Off Kid’s in the 90’s’, and ‘I Wanna Go On a Ski Trip with The Beach Boys’, they’re just really bright and it hurts my ears to listen to them. Also, ‘Heccra-Kazooie’ flopped and got almost no attention from the internet.
Are there any plans for a follow up to ‘Heccra-Kazooie’?
I’ve thought about a ‘Heccra-Tooie’, to redeem myself. But if I do, it has to be a “Quick! Get on the toad there’s no time to explain” kind of album, and I want it to grab you by the hand and rip you though a life or death adventure with Heccra though a Nintendo64 Banjo Kazooie world.
In terms of production, the albums you’ve recorded sound pretty professional. When I first heard ‘White Eagle’ I thought it was the work of an entire band so, needless to say, I was a bit surprised to learn that the project is solely that of one person. Getting down to the bare skeleton of Heccra, what kind of gear do you use when recording?
I’m a bedroom artist. I only own one microphone, and it’s a Shure sm57. That runs into a MOTU 8pre firewire interface, and then into an unreliable joke of a workstation, 5 year old HP Pavilion laptop that shits out on me and blue screens at least twice per session. I honestly spend close to 6 hours per cumulative sum of album recording time troubleshooting my computer.
My guitar amp is a Marshall MG HDFX100, I also have a boss C1S1 compressor sustainer pedal that I use to get more punch out of the amp, because by itself the distortion sounds really cheesy. I use a big mountain of pillows as isolation.
I have two main guitars, one is a blue quilted maple BC Rich Bich, which alludes to my adolescent obsession with 80’s hair metal, and the other guitar is a stock black Greg Bennett Interceptor. They were both stock pickups, until Heccra-Kazooie, I bought EMG active pickups. I also own a BC Rich Bass guitar, an Oscar Schmidt ukulele, and a 5 dollar vuvuzela that appears in ‘A.M’. and ‘I Only Wanted To Heelflip’.
Could you briefly run me through the writing and recording process?
Briefly is not easy, since this process is dear to me. I generally go on long bike rides or walks by the river, through local forests, urban decay and whatnot. I pick up a sense of adventure and a sense of loneliness, as well as some imagined sense of fraternity with my foliaged surroundings for being the only kid ballsy enough to folly around in it. Together it’s like a deep yearning, a desperation for a life of more adventure; ‘White Eagle’. I get very bittersweet things, taking in the “what once was,” and imagine the history of the place or thing. I’d like to believe this bittersweetness carries over into my music.
I write down every little bit of lyrical inspiration I get in a journal. It comes to me sentence by sentence, and eventually I string them all together. If any has noticed the stich marks in my music, it’s because it’s sewn together, take shitty water for example. I play guitar in the hours east of midnight, and experiment with different tunings and time signatures. I often find riffs and chords during this time that my lyrics fit over. Most of the time, they’re I-IV riffs.
My music is guitar driven, that is the instrument I have the most prowess in (eventually I’ll upload a shred video to YouTube) I set my microphone position up and do a few tests, and then bury it in pillows and blankets so I can record it loud. I usually lay down some drums, really basic kick snare stuff with a metronome, and then record guitars for the entire song. I remind myself while recording to really play it, not just play it, but to have my emotions in it and my entire soul behind it. Even so, there are lots of songs I wish I recorded faster than I did. When I play live, it’s going to be a blisteringly fast. I go back after the guitars are all finalized and match the drum tracks to the rhythm and swing of the guitar. After that I usually do all the screaming vocal takes, and next the singing. I often lose my voice after the backing vocals are done. I record bass strangely last, and then mix.
Although accessible, Heccra is a project that is at once overtly experimental, uniting a wide variety of outside styles from a multitude of genres, seamlessly weaving hazy of shoegaze, EDM, pop, ambient guitar interludes, triggered drums, colorful glitched out electronics, and even dabs of 80′s new-wave-esque synthesizers within the contexts of post-hardcore music. Are there any particular influences beyond the umbrella of hardcore music that you take inspiration from?
Well just barely outside that umbrella, crust punk and grindcore are two things I really enjoy and value. I love the snarl and scoop of the guitar, firecracker snare, and the vocal texture. The overall sonic texture is delicious. Together it’s an energy that’s amazing. I have particularly taken influences from Wormrot, Dropdead, and Insect Warfare. I enjoy sludge metal, but I’m a real pleb there, I never ventured much further than Electric Wizard, Sleep, and SunnO))). I’m a big fan of Ween’s music, particularly the ‘Mollusks’, ‘Quebec’ and ‘Pure Guava’. Wavves is obviously an influence of mine, Life Sux! Best Coast is also worth mentioning. The Beach Boys are too legendary of a group to put in the same sentence as Best Coast, but they are an eternal influence on me. I spent the first 4 years of my recording career chasing the 80’s. I love the Shooga Dooga toms, the snare, the gated reverb, shiny spandex and unaccompanied dragged on guitar solos. I can’t forget emo, god do I love me some twinkle daddy. Of emo, Algernon Cadwallader, Cap’n Jazz, American Football, and Bye./Aches are my biggest influences.
Is the inclusion of all of these different styles intentional or is it more the work of your subconscious acting?
I do try to consciously incorporate them into my music, but whether I like it or not some of it gets incorporated into the song writing, that’s when I notice the Beach Boys the most. I never try to make a certain kind of music. I try to convert visual images and feelings in my head into sounds. I think I can only make one kind of music, and these influences just twist and pull it all in different ways.
There seems to be a lot of focus, from fans and admittedly myself, on the artwork used as the album cover for ‘White Eagle’, the iconic and surreal image of a nude woman holding a rabbit, centered in front of a grassy background. Care to comment on the nature of this photo?
I was mesmerized by it. I posted my soundcloud on /mu/ exactly a year ago asking for criticism and used that as the picture just to get attention. It got a pretty good reception and posters were asking for a mediafire link, so on a whim I put that picture as the album artwork, because I couldn’t send White Eagle out without something as its artwork.
I get a decent amount of crap for having stolen the photograph and using it without permission, but maybe one day I’ll apologize to the photographer and get to meet the model. I know that without the cover, White Eagle wouldn’t have gotten noticed anywhere as near as much as it did.
Some of the track titles, lyrics, artwork and the overall image that you present with Heccra have these occasional moments of subtle humor. Would you say that, when writing, this humor is intentional or am I just an asshole?
Not taking yourself seriously is one of the best things you can do as an emo band. I can understand it being seen as subtle humor, but I never tried to be funny. It’s more of nostalgia for me, back to my childhood, and back to the melodrama of highschool, and familiarity and comfort of sadness and teenage heartbreak/hopelessness. I felt trapped in my town growing up, and if you couldn’t laugh at yourself then you’d best be fucked because there was nowhere else to go.
What do you do in your free time, when you aren’t writing music as Heccra?
I’m a Mechanical Engineering undergraduate in college, which takes up most of my free time. I shred on the guitar daily. Heccra skates, skates skateboards that is. I am a bodybuilder, living for squats and oats and spending all my college tuition money on food and eating everything in sight. I have a kind of Flylo knock off side project that I don’t take very seriously, gives me something to do when I’m feeling musical. About once a month I get a weekend open enough that I go out to house parties and dance my ass off in the basement to Top 40 crap. It’s important to smile the whole time.
The one-year birthday of Heccra is coming up and you’ve got a new EP coming out entitled ‘Pizza Is Emo’, what can listeners expect to hear?
There are only two tracks on it, but that’s amazing for spring break. Listeners can expect to hear Heccra-in-a-box. It’s got flanged synths, overdriven chords, group vocals, screams, a breakdown, experimental guitar tones, REAL DRUMS, bubbles, Sweeps, a vuvuzela cameo, 7/4th timing, spooky tritones, ominous breathing, distorted sludge bass, ukulele, surfer blood ripoff song, pitch shifted vocals, lush harmonies, tempo changes, Emo sing alongs, Rick Astley’s Shooga-Dooga Toms, and a bunch of wrists getting cut around a pizza.
What do plans look like for the future, specifically for 2013?
This summer I’m going to New Jersey to record with Aches, we will be making an Emo EP or something like it, and I think that’s going to be one of the most fun times of my life. Once School is out, I’ll be able to focus more on promoting myself and interacting on /mu/ and soundcloud, to connect with other musicians and establish my identity as a helpful musician and not just a samefagger. Ideally, a bunch of fantastic musicians could come my way and we would all get dressed up in Halloween costumes and play a few shows.
I had plans to record another album this summer, whether it be Heccra-tooie or just something else, I’m not sure. I’m going to keep experimenting with music, I don’t really see any other option. I either keep experimenting, or grow stagnant and die.
Listen to the new EP, Pizza Is Emo
You can download Heccra’s current discography on bandcamp
All inquiries can be email here: Heccra@gmail.com
Stream content from Heccra via Soundcloud
Follow Heccra on Twitter
On Kilgore Trout’s first release they debuted with the ferocious combination of screamo and raw metallic noise that was their split / collaborative EP with False Flag. At the time it seemed like a strange but intriguing coming together of sounds but in retrospect I can’t help but think that this relationship between noise and punk has been one in the works since the early days of punk music. If anything, noise music of today is, in my mind not only the precursor to punk but also the genre’s successor in that it has lived up to and moved past everything the genre has attempted to do. After all, pioneers of the genre, bands like Orchid, Pg. 99, and Jeromes Dream weren’t strangers to implementing progressive ideas into their music, specifically that of noise music and the avant-garde. With that said, it was no surprise to me when Loma Prieta released their pummeling Deathwish release, ‘I.V.’, last year which was also an album that pushed the genre to its loudest extremes while remaining true to traditional screamo and post-hardcore. While these newer hardcore acts are collectively seeking a louder and more intense degree of sound Kilgore Trout is a band that does it in their own way.
On the band’s second release, ‘The Golden Altar / The Black Hourglass’, Kilgore Trout returns with a maddeningly noisy off-shot of screamo. While the band continues to explore their noisier tendencies they have also expanded their style to include short passages of dark and brooding, droning guitar ambience, namely on the track ‘(II) Dead of Night’, the second part of an epic three part song that closes the album, which sounds much like something you would hear on a City of Caterpillar release.
The band proves that things can escalate quickly, going from subdued, moody ambience to a torrent of aggressiveness, a blaze of drums, grinding guitars, and vocals so raw that it could fit perfectly in the catalogue of some black metal cassette distro. These last three tracks are a nice tryptic to end the album to, a series of songs that essentially sums up Kilgore Trout’s sound. The first part, ‘(I) Regression’ is a building track that breaks out into a storm of hellishness, while the second part, as previously mention acts as a haunting interlude, accentuating the group’s attention to atmosphere that finally concludes with the third act in the series, ‘(III) In/Finite’, a track of pure hate-filled powerviolence and a stellar way to end an album.
Although I enjoyed the band’s split with False Flag, I found the production to be lacking. At times, the instrumentation sounded muddy, swallowed in all of the noise. With this new album, this isn’t so much of a problem, not necessarily because the recording sounds better per se but more so because the band has refined their sound. Although refined, that isn’t to say that the band has done away with these sections of noise ridden abrasion in their entirety but that they have accommodated their playing style to incorporate these noisier sections more appropriately into their music.
In conclusion, ‘The Golden Altar / The Black Hourglass’ is an album that shows the diversity that Kilgore Trout possesses as a band, a band that is moving toward a more refined destination, one that doesn’t surrender their ear for creating absolutely punishing music but also doesn’t take many risks or move into uncomfortable territory either.
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Overall Rating: 6.2
Favorite Tracks: ‘Roads’ and ’(III) In/Finite’
Recommended: The Pessimist Hangs the Optimist, Swan of Tuonela, and Caust
Released: 01 January 2013
Links: Like the band on Facebook
On their Bananastand Records debut, ‘Ghostcore’, New Brunswick trio, Break Your Legs employ an assault of noisy, fuzz-drenched shredding infused with tasty rock n’ roll flavored punk.
‘Ghostcore’ is 9 tracks of straightforward noisy punk rock, an album with an affinity for sloppy playing, lo-fi production, hazy party punk anthems, and a pop sensibility that brings it all together in a package that is fun but still has a little bit of bite. While much of the time the vocalist can be heard shouting his head off over a mesh of distortion thick guitars it is all at a certain pace, not too fast yet not too slow but just loud enough to bang your head to while taking momentary breaks to sip a beer.
The fried vocals and fuzz-buried riffs sound perfect together, a wholeheartedly lo-fi experience, one that is best heard on cassette tape or played through a set of some old worn out speakers in a damp basement. Throughout every song, Break Your Legs hardly lays off of their love for intensity but with that said, it’s no secret that this is pop music at its most basic and there isn’t anything wrong with that. Where ‘Ghostcore’ feels scuzzy and grimy it is at once fun, refreshing, and simple.
It’s apparent that ‘Ghostcore’ is a sort of lightly themed album as indicated by the opener, a brief intro, the aptly titled, ‘HAIL SATAN’, which features an excerpt from the horror film ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ as the band plays along in the background. The track is followed by ‘Brace Yourself, Chick’, a surprisingly anthemic, upbeat transition from the former, a style that many of the tracks on ‘Ghostcore’ follow. The vocalist sounds like if Dave Grohl (of the Foo Fighters) just finished smoking an entire pack of cigarettes at once while listening to some early Misfits records and the production is at best basement-studio quality — in other words ‘Ghostcore’ couldn’t be more perfect for what it is, an album full of head-banging gems.
The horror-inspired themes return in tracks like ‘Laundry Ghost’ and ‘The Ballad of Manwolf Sharkpuncher’, a track that begs the listener to come howl at the moon, although the band never strays far from the straightforward rock n’ roll licks and grimy punk shredding. If Break Your Legs was looking to create a punk record with lightly inspired horor-themed lyrics then they succeeded at that but as indicated by ‘Every Rose Has It’s November Rain (On A Prayer)’, a humorous track that ends with lyrics ripped straight from Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’, a butchered gang vocal “WHA,OOAH WE’RE HALFWAY THEERRE!”, makes me feel as though this band is better at simply writing great party punk songs without the inclusion of the horror movie samples, which mostly feel out of place among the good songwriting.
Although the band’s debut sounds as though the were struggling with a definitive direction the tracks alone are a fun listen that will undoubtedly feel at home on the tape deck.
Overall Rating: 6.3
Favorite Tracks: ‘Brace Yourself, Chick’, ‘Laundry Ghost’, and ‘Every Rose Has It’s November Rain (On A Prayer)’
Recommended: Check out Portland, OR’s White Fang
Released: 30 April 2013
In 2008 the two-man noise / drone duo that was Yellow Swans announced that they would no longer be performing together which lead the duo to release their posthumous magnum-opus finale, ‘Going Places’ in 2010. As of recent, Pete Swanson, the man behind the electronic aspects of the project, proved that the title of their final effort together was not simply a title but a promise of things to come.
In 2011 that promise was met with Swanson’s return, this time with a full length solo album under his own name. Where previously, in Yellow Swans, Swanson was in part responsible for creating these lurching bodies of evolving and decaying feedback dominated compositions, these compositions he, along with guitarist Gabriel Mindel Saloman took part in creating as Yellow Swans were not completely free of melody or structure. Some releases in Yellow Swans expansive and varied catalogue even included aspects of electronic dance music within their music, most notably the duo’s 2004 album ‘Bring The Neon War Home‘ in which they exhibited their own art-damaged take on electronic music, merging the psychedelic noise they were known for with techno and dub. On the latest track from Pete Swanson, the man continues to produce the broken and eclectic off-shot of dub and minimalist techno that was ‘Man With Potential’.
When I first heard ‘Man With Potential’ I was surprised to find that Swanson had taken a turn to making techno / dub inspired music but it seems as though this has proven to be a natural transition for many noise artists, the likes of which include the famed, Black Dice, Justin Broadrick (as JK Flesh), and perhaps the most notable being Dominick Fernow who, under his Vatican Shadow moniker moved away from the abrasiveness of his work as Prurient and took a wholly musical approach to techno. On Bermuda Drain, his last major label release as Prurient, Fernow even embraced elements of post-punk, new-wave, and EDM. For fans of Fernow’s earlier, more grating material as Prurient the transition was an unexpected one at the time and was a change of pace that divided some and I must admit, much like the first time I heard ‘Bermuda Drain’ I was a bit put off by Pete Swanson’s more structural efforts in comparison to his work with Yellow Swans but given time, it all sank in and it seemed that this coming together of electronic music and noise couldn’t be more of a perfect marriage.
With this latest track, Swanson returns in a similar manner to his debut, brandishing the nearly thirteen minute long odyssey of a track, ‘Life Ends At 30′, the B-side off of his upcoming EP, ‘Punk Authority’. Brimming with the amount of contrast and texture you would come to expect from Swanson’s involvement in Yellow Swans, ‘Life Ends At 30′ is a blistering, speaker tearing approach to electronic music. Swanson’s approach to techno and dub music is simplistic yet destructive; tearing apart the structure laid out by pioneers of the genres, his latest single strips the maximalist approach of techno down to a bare skeleton and saturates it in a mess of thick overdrive, sculpted into a creation that fits the sounds he helped develop early in his career.
The track hits as hard as it ends with a pulverizing fuzz drenched beat, the deep bass fighting it’s way through masses of static and colorful synth textures only to be swallowed again and again. Swanson finds a balance between his love for noise and structure and molds them into one in a tightrope walking act of a track. Its a trance-inducing formula that at one time can feel raw yet polished, futuristic yet primitive, chaotic yet reserved. Over the span of thirteen minutes, as repetitious as the track is the amount of diversity and layering here practically begs for repeated listens, if only to hear every tortured beat alone.
On this new track Swanson took everything that was great about his debut and amplifies it, merging his love for distortion fueled noise and techno. If the rest of his forthcoming EP is anything like this new track then I can’t wait for whatever this guy decides to put out, noise, dance, or otherwise.
You can preorder a physical copy through Mexican Summer’s website.
Also, check out the visuals that accompany a shorter cut from this track:
‘Vain Shapes and Intricate Parapets’ is a 2 track ambient drone collaboration between Japanese musicians Celer (Will Long) and Hakobune (Takahiro Yorifuji), released on the Chemical Tapes label with the catalog number HOT-2 (2,5-dimethoxy-4-ethylthio-n-hydroxyphenethylamine) on limited cassette (of which I have a copy of the first press).
When I saw Chemical Tapes post this on Facebook I was surprised to see Celer showing up on that page, but with spending money in my Paypal I decided to buy the cassette (I think I was one of the first people to buy it) and immediately afterwards listened to the album. To say the least: I was impressed. I wasn’t expecting it to be much more than a decent drone album but Celer and Hakobune both proved me wrong on that one because it put me in some meditative state and it was pretty amazing.
The first track is a kind of low-mids drone without low bass and is very smooth with nicely timed changes in sound throughout the entire track. Very mellow, very gentle on the ears. The second is more quavering and slightly more metallic, though still very relaxing, staying focused on low to high mids it reveals some highs when it gets towards the end and actually almost gets a rough wall of noise sound before fading out. Another thing is this release has definite staying power. I have logged around 90 full plays of the album (that’s almost 200 plays total), and I’m still not quite bored of it yet because it seems like such a ‘classic’, for lack of a better word, something that is just good and doesn’t really get old because of it’s uncomplicated method of being good.
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Overall Rating: 9.5
Favorite Track: ‘Merges of Hysterical Exhilaration’
Recommended: Other Chemical Tapes artists.
Released: February 8th, 2013