Pete Swanson – Life Ends At 30 (Track Review)

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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:

-Tyler Thompson

The Hai – In & Out

Review of their previous album, Pop Songs, here.

Just recapitulating, The Hai is a sort of internet music supergroup, a handful of people from all over the world who met by posting their music on the Internet and being some of the very best at it. It’s unfortunate that I can’t review their output as fast as they can release it. After this album there has already been another one called Temperatures, and that’s not talking about the individual albums that keep coming up. The always wonderful A Problem Like Maria has just released Saudade, a very touching album, some of the best music I have listened from her. Before that, Mattir, The Flying Batteries, Water Gun Water Gun Sky Attack (reviewed here) and other members of the group have all come out with interesting albums that I can’t recommend enough. It’s all in their website.

Now let’s start the proper review.

The theme of this album is sex. As usual, it doesn’t mean that every track will be straightforward about it, specially the EDM tracks. Something has to be said about the track order selection in both albums I have reviewed though, it is optimal in balancing out the different styles of the musicians, in such a way that even if the EDM tracks don’t clearly deal with the overall theme, they always sound like an intercession, they just fit nicely in the overall progression. Perhaps this is one of the most subtle qualities of the group’s output: how can all these different people from these different places come up with something that feels whole and balanced? It can’t be a simple affair. And that’s not dealing with the same happening in the tracks themselves, carved by multiple sets of hands apart from each other.

These guys are bursting with creativity and they keep it in a tight leash of perfectionist music-making practices, every synth that comes and goes is perfectly tailored, specially in the EDM tracks. It all sounds anything but home-made. StratosFear’s Approaching Summer is a shining example,  as well as Rekapper’s When and MaximiliaN’s chilling track, adorned with equally chilling vocals by A Problem Like Maria. I was also impressed by her own track, Slow. It’s about sex alright.

Meanwhile, every single one of the straightforward songs has a satisfying feeling of inspired, well-made mainstream music. Somnitone’s closing track might be the winning song this time around, I figure it’s absolutely radio ready. Musically, there’s no reason why these people couldn’t take over the world. Everything is so fucked up in music though, who knows what will happen. If these times were like up to the early 90’s, they would be selling millions by now. It’s already good enough to be released by a regular label, that’s for sure.

-Carpeaux

Water Gun Water Gun Sky Attack – Slew

Water Gun Water Gun Sky Attack is the solo electronic project of Tim R. de Reuse based in Denton, Texas who is also a contributing member of The Hai having released music and remixed the work of other members. ‘Slew’ is perhaps WGWGSA’s most realized work to date. There are a lot of sounds to be heard on this release and therefor there is a lot to cover so dim your monitor.

The style Water Gun Water Gun Sky Attack has built throws so many sounds at you that upon the first initial listen it may be hard to process, it’s nearly cacophonic and overbearing but fortunately the distinct style and progression of the album proves to never be off-putting. Interjected between the more expected completely instrumental tracks are electronic epics complete with nicely performed vocals. The songs themselves have so much substance; a good example being the opener ‘Outlanderish’ that showcases so many changes in direction, each beat appearing to build off of where the last one ended, branching out, constantly morphing and spilling over into the second track ‘Fine’. Track two makes way for the introduction of vocals which have this distinct feeling of sincerity, a round quality to them, I would even go as far as to liken them to vocalist Peter Silberman of The Antlers.

With ‘Slew’ WGWGSA has created a work that pushes boundaries; the most enjoyable aspect is not only his ear for outstanding production as a producer but also some solid songwriting as a musician and his attention to the structuring of the album itself. The beats constantly change with songs crossing over into each other the whole album feels like one long piece of great electronic music. ‘A Good Fake pt. II’ is a 12 minute long electronic epic full tons of sounds that gives the feeling of the music operating like a piece of machinery, this cataclysm of sounds resulting in a mechanical feeling. Beautiful spacey harmonies float about adding depth while the ever evolving beats add movement that holds my attention throughout the entire track, a track the grows in intensity, multiplying in the addition of new sounds with every passing minute. The last 3 minutes are the most intense with the addition of this heavy baselines, sputtering synth, and a really killer drum beat that hits hard.

One aspect of WGWGSA’s style is his ear for shiny futuristic sounds, metallic beats, and most noticeably his use of glitch effects which can be heard on many tracks. One of the best examples is the sputtering effect on “Actiiisciv” which complements the already ever shifting choppy and eclectic beats.

I do enjoy many of the instrumental tracks but I however do prefer the cohesiveness, this feeling of completeness that the vocals provide on these more traditionally performed songs. Tracks like ‘ckers’ just don’t really do much for me, it is not that they are poorly written or completely unenjoyable for me but that they just don’t add anything to the album that isn’t already there and ‘Slew’ is quite a lengthy album. I do applaud WGWGSA for implementing his experimental stylings into the mix, the songs are not so much straight forward but can be more appropriately described as familiar; it becomes something fans of experimental electronic and those who are just looking for some good tunes to listen to can both enjoy.

Until now with the release of ‘Slew’ The Hai hasn’t really blown me away and its not that I think the music they have been putting out has been bad but that it just wasn’t suiting my tastes. It is apparent that the quality of their output; the great album artwork, and the consistency of their numerous releases show that they aren’t substituting quantity over quality and in this case, with Water Gun Water Gun Sky Attack’s ‘Slew’ they’ve established that statement very well. There are just so many different things going on that you could play this over and over again in an attempt to digest it all and still never feel like you’ve completely explored the whole thing.

Overall rating: 9.0

Favorite Tracks: ‘Outlanderish’, ‘A Good Fake Pt. II’, ‘Out From Underground Alive’, Actiiisciv’.

Recommended: Tons of replay value. For more good electronic from The Hai check out Mattir.

Released: 26 March 2012

Links:

Seriously, go check this out on Bandcamp

Also follow WGWGSA on Soundcloud.

Redntoothnclaw

2gi – Cartello Fiorentino

After 26 years living in the Third World, I’m moving to LA next April. I guess this is my chance to finally actually understand electronic music, if I’m not too old for that already.

What I don’t get is this: I thought people were supposed to dance to electronic music. I had listened to Stockhausen and other strange stuff (some kind of early masters of electronic music compilation I downloaded in the eMule times), so yeah I knew that at least not always, but when listening to pop electronic music I thought people were supposed to dance to it. My previous experience with Pitchfork-recommended electronic seemed to vouch for this.

It doesn’t seem like it anymore. At the same time that I stopped reading Pitchfork, I started to get in contact with all of this crazy shit that can’t possibly be danceable. It’s a whole experiment with the infinite possible sounds you can music with, I suppose, and the whole thing has so many subgenres at any given moments that 1) it seems like anyone can come up with another crazy genre, and 2) no one really cares if people are dancing to it.

Fuck if I care. I don’t dance to shit so this crazy electronic music should be right up my alley. The problem is, is this ever performed live? Do people sit around carefully listening to it in some kind of classroom somewhere? Are they so drugged up that they could dance to anything, and thus dance to this stuff?

Fuck if I care. So I just: 1)  listen to this stuff and write down my opinion, judging it as a purely aesthetic experience; 2) ?; 3) profit.

Which brings me to 2gi’s Cartello Fiorentino, the crazy electronic shit I have most recently carefully listened to.

My opinion is that it is completely insane. I’ve listened to experimental psychedelic music and the idea behind it was always to kind of feel strange. But oh no for these electronic musicians this is not the point. The most absolutely batshit crazy stuff is just normal to them. They start with the batshit crazy and then they add Italian vocal samples to it. Not crazy enough? Add glitch sounds, that will do. Don’t ever keep a synth sounding the same for more than 30 seconds, you gotta have 100 different synths in each song. That will do it alright. Sounds come in and out for the one and only time, everything changes according to them, and then everything goes berserk with yet another beat that comes up out of the blue.

So yeah this album is pretty cool. There’s an incredible amount of effort behind it and a very cohese style. It’s like a concept album at that, really. You really feel it’s some strange mind’s best effort at making music that is so insane, insanity becomes the norm and stops being strange altogether. I like it. As for the genre, I name it “badass glitch psychedelic with italian samples”, this album being the best the genre has produced.

-Carpeaux

Snailhead – The Image

The Image

Best New Music

Snailhead’s Sophomore release takes the title and the tracklist from a S&M movie from the seventies and it’s chapter titles and generates an mind-boggling 12 minute 39 second uptempo rock album in only the style that Snailhead would produce.  Each tracks vocals build off of one another and focus in around the lyrics suggesting the title.  This album has a focus on a nice light and popish melodies but with dark progressive rock undertones that I’ve only heard on a few British bands before, who generally use synth heavy backings for the vocals, and the drums leading every other part.  Snailhead also does a great job at working with other unnamed artist, such as a local underground rapper and a handful of other great backing vocalists and friends.  The band that stands out being the most similar to what I have heard in this album and just the style would be like Franz Ferdinand but with a harder rock sound with and a much better vocalist.

False Starts – A driving rock track with Snailhead leading the vox and the instrumentals.  With the vocals shouting at the softer vocals blending perfectly together.  A 52 second track that I can keep playing back to back and still hear new parts to it, this is one track that Snailhead should really work on making a full length track, as I feel that it should loop like 10 times at least.  The guitar melody is really catchy rift, and the drums leave me wanting more of it in there but it’s just enough that it’s not drowning out any other part.

In the Bathroom – This track stood out as a great example of Snailhead with doubling and tripling the harsh vocals, with several friend also helping out. A great track on the slower portion of the album, it truly sounds like a Holywood ending scene track which is fitting for the second to last track on the album.  It’s main melody would work for any “congrats you win” video game scene.  This track is overloaded with detuned instrumentals in a good way.

To be honest this was a challenging album to review, as there was not a lot of content to it, and each track left me hanging as though I was wondering what is going to come next, in the same sense of having a track with no bridge or no breakout section, as each track was the breakout as an entirety which gave this album a great new concept, but it also feels incomplete resulting in the lowered score.

Don’t forget to check it out or download it through this link

Snailhead’s self-Rating: 6
Rekapper Overall Rating: Strong 6/light 7

Carpeaux – Black Magic

With the godly Carpeaux, I ensured him that I would review his album a while back so here it is:

If anyone were to listen to this album on their first take they would wonder if there was a story book meant for this epic tale.  At the same time the guitars have the feel and the sounds from a lot of early Hendrix recordings of Black Magic with some wild flaying around.  But at the same time it’s got this nice math rock you would hear out of Tool or Muse (which I’m sure he hates both groups).  Overall the album has got a single trance like feel running through the entire album.  Almost would be perfect album to listen to drunk in a dark room so then your imagination could build up and listen in depth to the album.  The Vocals are dark deep and meaningful but too deep for me.

Best track on the album:

Gilgamesh, fifth king of Uruk: Such a powerful creation that needs to be listened to either live or at 100db minimum.  With a power swinging bass line and a flaying guitar, vocals that come from the deep depths of the sea, only a king could deny his rights into a kingdom of soloist’s with this track.

Download the album for free through this link     http://carpeaux.bandcamp.com/album/black-magic

Rekapper Overall Rating: 9.876/10

Edical – Ly

Trance inspired by nordic tribal chanting samples, using other similar rough and deep vocal samples – for example, “Church Universal And Triumphant, Inc- Call For Protection (The Sounds Of American Doomsday Cults, 1984)”, as well as other samples invoking being “in the wild” etc. The beats themselves at times sound like traditional drums of some kind of indigenous people. The end result is very powerful and interesting, it really feels like a story, you get pulled into this world this guy created.

The two first tracks, it seems, are more suitable for actual dancing, while the last track is the deepest, apparently crafted to be listened and enjoyed. But everything is so thoughtful and has so much effort that even the other two – specially the first – are very much suitable for quiet listening as well. Do not leave this review without at least listening to the 2:20 of the first track. It’s an incredibly rewarding and well-constructed build-up from the deep vocal samples to the actual finished dancing music.

So, if you are into EDM and feel like something serious and deep, go for it right now, this is a powerful musical journey.

-Carpeaux