Zebra Pulse – Hey, Vay Bae-Bays

Zebra Pulse -  Heh, Vay Bae​-​Bays

Last year, Edmonton, Alberta’s Zebra Pulse released ‘Endings’, a collection of strange, off-kilter tracks which consisted primarily of warped tape manipulations and obscure percussion. It was an album that, although creative and ambitious fell just short of being something great for me. When I reviewed the album I noted that many of the noises and electronic elements just didn’t jive with the drumming as well as I think they could have. Instead, it felt like they were clashing rather than complimenting and took a lot away from what the album could have been.

On ‘Hey, Vay Bae-Bays’, the latest album from the group the band addresses many of the issues that I had with ‘Endings’ and expands on the basic groundwork that can be heard in their back catalogue of recordings. On the bandcamp page, the band advises not to listen “if you are pregnant, have a heart condition, or are operating heavy machinery” and while this cautionary remark may have been tongue-in-cheek the new record reads like a valium prescription. While Zebra Pulse has always been a trippy listen, their latest release is even more sonically fucked up and conscious deprived.

For starters, the recording quality sounds better than that of any of their previous released material. Although, it wasn’t a crippling problem on ‘Endings’ the recording quality on their latest adds a new level of  clarity and depth to the drumming and where the samples and electronic elements once sounded flat it gives the samples more of a layered multi-dimensional sound.

Although these guys have refined their sound that doesn’t mean they’re any less weird or unpredictable than they’ve been. The percussive elements are all still here with all of the off-beat oddities that made ‘Endings’ a good listen but the playing seems to have a bit more direction than I noticed before. Not only has the drumming and noise elements become more tightly executed but the way the band acts as a whole has become more precise. Instead of directionless drum jams and random samples there is a better sense of progression and I think Zebra Pulse sounds more like a band than just a decent session of recorded jams.

The record shows an added attention to the pacing of each of the tracks. The second track, ‘Every Trilogy is a Movie (Parts 1, 2 & 3)’ is a slow moving,  psychedelic haze of pitch-shifted vocals, distorted instrumental loops, and aimless drum sequences while the track ‘Technical Space Composition No. 5’ shows a bit more direction and although chaotic it may be the most structural piece the band has done.

While ‘Hey, Vay Bae-Bays’ isn’t the most structurally sound album you’ll here this year it makes up in originality and unpredictability making this an album that will leave you wanting to come back just to dissect the free form drumming oddities and catch every weird tape manipulation. Even with that said the band doesn’t lose sight of what they’ve been doing, its not like they’ve gone out and created an album that is completely accesible; if there is any indication of what this record is it could be summed up by just the title alone, an eclectic and strange record that is carful not to give up it’s creativity for a more accesible listen. If you’re looking for something completely unpredictable then let it be this.

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Overal Rating: 7.3

Favorite Tracks: ‘Technical Space Composition No. 5’

Recommended: Take a look at the Ramshackle Day Parade back catalogue.

Released: 02 May 2013

Links:

Zebra Pulse Bandcamp page

Ramshackle Day Parade

The band’s WordPress

-Tyler Thompson

Break Your Legs – Ghostcore

Break Your Legs - Ghostcore

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.

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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

Links:

Stream ‘Ghostcore’ on Soundcloud.

Grab a limited edition cassette over at the bandcamp page.

-Tyler Thompson

Giles Corey – Hinterkaifeck

Giles Corey - Hinterkaifeck

After the indefinite hiatus of the genre-defying two-man band, Have A Nice Life, member Dan Barrett began releasing music as Giles Corey, a singer-songwriter / folk project that, with the first release, diverged from Barrett’s previous endeavors, focusing less on genre hopping and more on remaining consistent in one area, that being Barrett’s craft for applying this dark, atmospheric presence to his work, in this case folk music. With Giles Corey Barrett binds together lyrical topics on suicide, history, and the supernatural into a tale that is irresistibly enveloping.

While Giles Corey could be thrown into the category of folk music without much thought, Barret’s idea of folk is a bit different than the sound the genre has become synonymous with. Barrett’s style of music, much like his endeavors in past projects has this huge sense of depth to the recordings. Throughout, there is a gloomy melancholic aura that is often accompanied  by nihilistic lyrics, vocals ranging from longing howls to the abrasive, processed drums, and resonant droning chords that seem to echo on forever; a polarizing combination that made the first installment in Giles Corey’s discography a must have for fans of folk and even the extremes of black metal alike. Although different from Have A Nice Life and Nahvalr, in many ways, the project still retained some traits found within those previous projects, namely Barrett’s soft spot for the reverb and delay drenched aspects of shoegaze music and the sprawling influence of drone music, a trait that was revisited, this time wholly as the project moved toward the long-form minimalist drone and binaural experiments of last year’s ‘Deconstructionist’ album.

It’s no secret that Giles Corey’s first album wore it’s experimental tendencies on it’s sleeves but the project’s next album, ‘Deconstructionist’, a release consisting of three songs, each passing the twenty minute mark, was a piece of music that did away with any kind musical structure, this time fully embracing experimentation which, as a result would isolate the fans of the more folky tracks from the project’s debut. Luckily for those who didn’t enjoy Barret’s plummet into the conceptual mood piece that was the ‘Deconstructionist’ this new EP, ‘Hinterkaifeck’ is a return to the haunting style that gained the project it’s attention in the first place.

One thing that made Giles Corey so appealing was Barrett’s story telling. With each release Barrett has offered a backstory to accompany the music; it was a decision that called for participation, allowing the listener to immerse one’s self within the music as oppose to simply listening along. As with these previous releases, the title of the EP, ‘Hinterkaifeck’ offers some pretext to the music, referring to an unsolved event that transpired on a small farm in which, on the evening of 1922 six people were brutally and curiously murdered with a pickaxe. It is a minor piece of information that without knowing does nothing in terms of adding to the mythos that Barrett has built around this project but when looked into gave me something to chew on, offering another perspective into what Giles Corey is about thematically.

On this new EP Barrett’s dishearteningly somber vocals and lo-fi production techniques are ever present. Where the last release was a three track sprawling epic these three shorter tracks on this EP still manage to leave plenty of room for some explosive and epic moments. Thick acoustic guitar chords and distant vocals make up the beginning of ‘Guilt Is My Boyfriend’ before exploding into a fuzz-drenched mess, essentially summing up what Giles Corey is at it’s most basic, pop with a wash of melancholia. The songs on ‘Hinterkaifeck’ show Giles Corey progressing in very much the same fashion as was heard on the self titled album. It isn’t nearly as groundbreaking but being what it is, a decent set of new tracks, it should tide you over until the next full length release.

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Overall Rating: 6.8

Favorite Track: ‘Guilt Is My Boyfriend’

Recommended: Visit Enemies List Home Recordings website for similar artists.

Released: 21 February 2013

Links: Check out this live set of tracks from a recent tour here.

-Tyler Thompson

Ramshackle Day Parade – 2012 (Compilation)

Lately, Edmonton and the surrounding area has been experiencing an emergence in noise, drone, and experimental music which shouldn’t be much of a surprise given the amount of support from websites such as Weird Canada which have undoubtably added to the growth of the scene, or has at least mildly pulled it out of obscurity. With this more recognized popularity what began as a Canadian specific label and distributor, Ramshackle Day Parade, is now home to a diverse range of experimental music. This release is a compilation of 16 tracks from musicians and bands that have released music on the label this year.

I originally became familiar with Ramshackle Day Parade when I reviewed ‘Nocturnal Reveries’ by improvisational drone / noise band, Pigeon Breeders which are featured on this release. Some other notable mentions on this release include a track from Pigeon Breeders side project Ocra and one from Will Scott as well as a track from drone / jazz trio TAIWAN who I became familiar with a few weeks back when I reviewed ‘Belladonna‘.

This 2012 compilation features a diverse selection of noise from the traditional dadaist inspired eclecticism of raw noise to tracks that take a more musical approach mildly integrating smooth jazz or and lounge (TAIWAN, Pigeon Breeders) . The compilation starts off nicely with the melancholic ambience from TAIWAN whose unique direct-to-VHS style sounds eerie enough but at the same time it also has this sensual nature about it. One thing that I found so enjoyable about ‘Belladonna’ was the mood and how well the project was able to replicate such a strange and specific sound. The crackle and sputter adds to the overt mysterious nature of the track and makes for a lot of interesting background textures that really do well in evoking that sense of nostalgia that the trio does so well in creating. There were quite a few tracks that are raw minimalist noise and I don’ have a problem with that but I found that there were a solid handful that really separated themselves from the rest.

Will Scott, the musician who contributed to much of the percussion and electroacoustic textures on Pigeon Breeder’s Nocturnal Reveries contributes to the compilation with his track ‘A Moment of Mathematical Clarity’. Although short this is one of my favorite pieces from the compilation mostly because of the sudden unexpected shift halfway through the song that switches from abstract electronic noodling to serene guitars and vocals. Sometimes I feel like even in experimental music even with the spontaneity of noise it can get dull yet this track kind of shows that there is still a lot of forward thinking- making something non-musical into something within the frame of listenability is a talent that Will Scott proves with this track.

‘Drifting Towards Darkness at Noon’ is a song that at first seems slightly out of place on this compilation, although it is still welcomed. If you have listened to Meat Force before it should be fairly apparent that this project, much like TAIWAN draws influence from old horror soundtracks but this track does deviate slightly from the warped and manipulated symphonic soundtracks heard on “A Corpse Waltz”. This time around Meat Force shoots for a more downtempo almost lounge-esque atmosphere while combining it with ambient textures that give it a breathy but dark mood.

Although there are some strong pieces like I stated at the beginning of my review, a lot of the tracks are very minimalistic which shouldn’t be a problem seeing as I do enjoy music that employs reserve, however, I feel like there isn’t much payoff in listenability when the minimalism doesn’t really capture an emotion or grab my attention, a similar problem I ran into while listening to Jahktute’s ‘A Record of Things Gone‘. As with many compilations each contribution is fairly hit or miss but if you enjoy noise and experimental music there are quite a few solid tracks from a label that is deserving of your attention.

Overall Rating: 6.5

Favorite Tracks: TAIWAN – Untitled, [willscott] – A Moment of Mathematic Clarity, Meat Force – Drifting Towards Darkness at Noon

Recommended: Check out Zugzwang Productions, another small experimental label.

Released: 24 April 2012

Links:

Listen to the comp. here

Ramshackle Day Parade

Redntoothnclaw

TAIWAN – BELLADONNA

TAIWAN is an experimental recording artist from Edmonton who creates a breed of ethereal jazz infused ambient music that harkens back to the sound of forgotten direct to VHS romance and horror movie soundtracks. While the music is already creepy enough there is an added eeriness from the tape crackle and hiss to the spot on replication of such an obscure sound; BELLADONNA is a 30 minute 18 track foray into the sounds of something lost and forgotten in time, something strangely romantic, familiar and alien, and nostalgic yet new all at the same time.

While the idea of replicating old film scores and bringing a modern twist to them is nothing new (see Zombi, Bohren & der Club of Gore), the type of music that TAIWAN replicates and how similar his interpretations are is where this album shines. TAIWAN’s lo-fi aesthetic and attention to detail in recreating such an obscure sound is surely an art form within itself.

The sounds on BELLADONNA are mostly cheesy Casio style synth arrangements. TAIWAN’s sound is very 80’s-esque inspired new wave, kitschy with what would be the sonic equivalent of some old VHS tapes, forgotten in someone’s basement, the tapes damaged by so many floods and worn out by constant fast forwarding, rewinding, and playing. All of the tracks, although different in style are tied together by their easy listening sound from gritty detective noir themed jazz to sensual piano ballads. It evokes a powerful nostalgic response bringing back memories of wooden paneling and grainy discolored photography, memories that even if one had never experienced are still able to evoke a sense of mystery and wonder that is just as visceral.

The album’s sound is contributed heavily to the phenomenon of nostalgia; instead of rejecting these old sounds it embraces the archaic, taking it back and reworking it into something partially new and listenable even if it still deliberately holds ties to the past. Part of me really enjoys this aspect of replicating, or more accurately this reworking of something old and obscure into something even more strange yet part of me wonders if it would be possible to expand on something like this. The future, a concept TAIWAN openly rejects is quickly closing in and I wonder where the project is going to go when it is confronted with the idea of just that, the future.

TAIWAN has turned drone and ambient music, two genres so focused on a futuristic sound into something old yet new at the same and while I do feel that this stylistic decision is extremely limited in a world where time is quiet literally speeding up I can’t deny the uniqueness that BELLADONNA possesses and the firm hold that these curious and eerie tunes have on that nostalgic longing for the past that everyone possesses from time to time.

Overall rating: 7.0

Favorite Tracks: ‘B04’, ‘B05’

Recommended: Meat Force

Released: 11 November 2011

Links: Listen to Belladonna on Bandcamp

Redntoothnclaw

Mont Saint Michel – Through Wake (Track Review)

‘Through Wake’ is the latest track from one man recording project, Mont Saint Michel to be released on the full length debut, Earthless next month.

Mont Saint Michel initially caught my attention earlier this year with the release of the 5 track EP, Sediment, an instrumental album that contained an even combination of lush ambient and textural shoegaze that proved to be catchy without sacrificing artistic merit and the experimental nature of the music itself.

On the track ‘Through Wake’, MSM continues to explore the aspects of his music that made the melancholic and sometimes mysterious sound of his EP stand out so well but with a different approach this time around. With ‘Sediment’ many of the sounds were masked in effects making it hard to tell exactly what was producing them; they created this unstructured wall of freeform sound were-as ‘Through Wake’ features a more straightforward guitar driven approach that sees the organic flow of Sediment taking a back seat as repetition and atmosphere become the focus.

This track has me curious to hear what MSM has in store with Earthless. Keep your eyes peeled.

Recommended: Check out MSM’s ‘Sediment’.

Released: 23 May 2012

Links: Visit MSM on Bandcamp

-Redntoothnclaw

ek (swe) – vårkänslor

http://ekritualer.bandcamp.com/album/v-rk-nslor

This is an album I randomly happened across while I was browsing through the “field recordings” tag section on bandcamp. The cover art and odd name (Google translate tells me it’s Swedish) intrigued me and I decided to check it out since it was a free download and I needed some new music.

Now just let me say, this is pretty fucking cool and actually really different than I expected. It’s a bunch of folky, largely instrumental, acoustic songs, often with more than one guitar playing, with nature recordings and occasional other ambientish sounds playing in the background. It’s pretty straightforward with what it’s trying to do but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The field recordings add a nice ambient aspect to the acoustic guitars and compliment them well. This album is fairly lo-fi but the recording and mixing isn’t really that bad, it’s just not very produced. There are occasionally some slight effects on the guitars but they are subtle enough to miss if you aren’t really paying attention. Altogether it was quite an enjoyable experience and I’ll definitely be listening to it again.

Recommended if you like Sung Tongs, Pullhair Rubeye, or maybe even Grouper. It has that kind of naturey feeling.

Rating: 7/10 (on first listen, may change later after more listens)