Derek Piotr – Raj

Derek Piotr - Raj

On ‘Raj’, the third release from Poland’s Derek Piotr, the music featured throughout is a very vocal set of experimental and beat oriented compositions that draws much of it’s content from the voice which is processed and arrange, sometimes acting as a part of the beat itself.

This is my first introduction to Piotr’s music but before I began this review I went back to his previous two releases, ‘Agora’ and ‘Airing’, both of which show Piotr’s subtle but nevertheless, progressive movement through his vocal practices and the digitalized aura that at all times surrounds his work, that being his heavily processed but otherwise organic approach to the broad genre that is electronic music. Throughout Piotr’s previous releases it is apparent that his music has always been hard to pin down and on ‘Raj’ it is even more difficult. In a moment of harsh glitching and hot digital distortion (Spine, Grave)  I want to call it noise, during the bits of eclectic beat-oriented madness (‘Amendola’) I am reminded of dub and minimalist techno, throughout the menacing atmosphere that fills the album I want to call it dark ambient, and even then there are so many other genre’s one could tack on to ‘Raj’ yet there is no single point in time on this album in which any of the aforementioned genre tags could fully describe it. With all of that said, Piotr’s third entry is an undoubtably complex effort, brimming with abstract beats, unexpected shifts in direction, and unusual song structures that can be as uninviting as they can be accessible.

Musicians, particularly electronic musicians of Piotr’s kind have always expressed some interest in the manipulation of the voice and the use of it as an instrument but it hasn’t been until recently, within the past few years that is, that this vocal processing, this sound shaping of the voice has become a seen and used by musicians as a tool for creating beats, melodies, and song structures. Musicians like James Blake, Vladislav Delay, and AGF (whom Derek Piotr has collaborated with) can all be heard using vocals as the primary instrument, alongside synths and the whir and glow of the computer in the post-digital age.

Unlike many electronic musicians, Piotr does not so much work within the perimeters of electronic music as much as he exploits them. The otherwise polished sheen of digital music becomes distorted; ripped free from its most “proper” uses. You can hear the static glitched out synths, pitch shifted tones, and chopped up beats all moving at varying speeds, and Piotr’s own disheartening vocal embellishments that are arranged in a rather eerie way over the industrial, menacing soundscape that fills this album. The minimalist compositions and echo of the cold beats remind me of Andy Stott’s two 2011 EPs prior to his move toward a more polished sound on his 2012 full length.  It’s a very visual type of music and I think this aspect has been made even more apparent by the two music videos that accompany the tracks, ‘Sand Defacing All Surfaces” and ‘Grave’.

Piotr’s constant vocal manipulations paired with the desolate digital atmosphere shows a lot of ambition and potential but I do feel like there are many times where these elements come off as more of a burden for the listener than a unique aspect of his work. The vocal manipulations become especially grating along with the repetitiousness of the albums tracks. I found myself thinking it would be nice to hear Piotr’s own raw voice, removed of the guise of his editing skills. While individually, most of the tracks aren’t something you would listen to as independent pieces the album does pick up on that aspect in that, holistically it works very well, perhaps because the music is so conscious of what it is, even without an established concept.

The tracks are minimal, bare, stripped down, skeletal, and sometimes repetitive; there is a strain of despair and desolation that runs throughout each track. There are moments on this album where this moodiness works much to Piotr’s advantage in that it leaves me feeling unease, never feeling content or comfortable in knowing where the next track or sudden shift in direction might take me; never a moment where I felt like I knew what was going to happen next, which proves to be one of the best aspects of this piece of music by the end of the album. In the end, as experimental and impenetrable as ‘Raj’ may initially sound, there are many moments interjected throughout where the album can feel very accessible, even for audiences unfamiliar with Piotr’s unorthodox approach to electronic music.

Have a look at the videos that accompany two tracks from the album:

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Overall Rating: 6.8

Favorite Tracks: ‘Flow Through Light’

Recommended: AGF, Vladislav Delay, Andy Stott

Released: 26 February 2013

Links: http://derekpiotr.com/raj/

-Tyler Thompson

Q&A Interview with Heccra: Beginnings, Pizza Is Emo, and Beyond

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.

Pizza Is Emo album artwork.

Pizza Is Emo album artwork.

(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.

The infamous album artwork for 'White Eagle"

The infamous album artwork for ‘White Eagle”

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

-Tyler Thompson

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

Heccra – Heccra​-​Kazooie

Heccra - Heccra-Kazooie

With every new year comes a catalogue of great music, yet I always find that I am surprised by a few releases, either from musicians I am already familiar with or at least aware of and sometimes from a few entirely new acts but rarely does a project seemingly materialize out of nowhere and really grab me quite like the one man experimental post-hardcore project, Heccra did when it released the out-of-the-blue debut, ‘White Eagle’. After the stunning short-but-sweet debut Heccra went beyond expectations with a solid follow-up EP, ‘The Last Weekend of Summer’. Both albums were well received and gained the project a growing following in a matter of a few months. The project made a name for itself for its short to-the-point songs packed with an energetic presence and a combination of daringly unorthodox production choices along the likes of triggered drums, bubbly synths, glitchy bits of electronics, and the projects signature chipmunk-esque vocals, all of which are a combination of things that shouldn’t work but in Heccra’s case couldn’t have work more perfectly. Earlier on in the winter it was announced that the project had began recording for an upcoming full length; ‘Heccra-Kazooie’ being the result of those sessions.

If you are unfamiliar with video game culture, or more likely, you had a miserable childhood the title, ‘Heccra-Kazooie’ takes its name from the classic Nintendo 64 game, Banjo Kazooie, in which themes from the game are lightly applied to the music, mostly in the form of a few samples.

Where ‘White Eagle’ was an album that focused on the harsher aspects of post-hardcore and ‘The Last Weekend of Summer’ showed Heccra transitioning  to a midwestern influenced sound, inspired by bands such as Algernon Cadwallader, it appears that this latest effort attempts to fuse the two contrasting styles together in a way that only Heccra can, with catchy songs and glistening glitched-out electronics that will have you re-listening to the album like a playlist of top 40 tracks (that’s a good thing). The album’s opener, a track that is brimming with flavorful synths and an anthemic chorus practically begs for repeated listens while the melodic roller-coaster that is ‘Homemade Halloween Costume’ make it difficult to not want to listen over and over just to let the weaving guitars wrap themselves around your ears.

With ‘Heccra-Kazooie’ there are plenty of notable stylistic changes to be heard, particularly toward the end of the album with the last two tracks, ‘Smelling the Vents with the AC On’ and ‘Life Sux Pt.2’, those of which are completely clean tracks that discard the thick scooped distortion and replace the aforementioned with gently strummed acoustics and sung vocals. For me, it isn’t really a favored changed but it is certainly one that I welcome, as with all forms of experimentation. Although this new set of tracks is yet another in a series of Heccra’s constant search for a style of his own the project still retains the familiarity of previous works. If you’re here for the more abrasive side of Heccra’s music you’ll be happy to know that there are a few tracks, namely ‘Corium Leak’ and the end half of ‘Pissed Off Kids in the 90’s’ that go back to the teeth-gnashing screams set alongside the helium induced Alvin in the Chipmunk style vocals that gained the project it’s attention from the beginning.

While this new release still sounds just as fun and fueled as the project’s past work, ‘Heccra-Kazooie’ is an album that sounds just short of finished. The few samples that make an appearance don’t add to the music as much as they detract and while it is nice to hear all of this variation, this new set of songs doesn’t feel like as much of an adventure as the name of the album alludes to.  For new listeners I recommend either starting with ‘White Eagle’ or ‘The Last Weekend of Summer’ but for those who have been listening this album is still a decent collection of tracks that continue to take a stab at breaking up the convoluted state of post-hardcore music as it is today.

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Overall Rating: 7.0

Favorite Tracks: ‘Banjo-Kazooie’, ‘Corium Leak’, ‘Homemade Halloween Costume;

Recommended: Check out Algernon Cadwallader

Released: 02 January 2013

Links: Hear it here.

-Tyler Thompson

Heccra – The Last Weekend of Summer

Not so long ago an album called ‘White Eagle’ materialized  seemingly out of nowhere where it soon developed a small cult following primarily thanks to /mu/, a music image board on 4chan. The musician responsible is Heccra, whose strange digitalized style of post-hardcore became a fun surprise for listeners who discovered it. Heccra’s style of music could be characterized by the over-saturation of every aspect of the project’s sound, that being the employment of pitch-shifted vocals, the deliberate use of processed drums, and digitalized glitchy post-production.

What we get with ‘The Last Weekend of Summer’ is a much larger pop presence on this release than that of the fast-paced and more aggressive ‘White Eagle’ which isn’t to say that this change is a bad thing at all, I actually prefer this new direction to that of ‘White Eagle’. The most noticeable change with this new EP are the vocals which focus exclusively on cleaner vocals where as ‘White Eagle’ featured an excessive amount of screamed vocals making Heccra’s brand of post-hardcore just as catchy as ever and you can tell that the musician behind this project has been listening to a lot of Algernon Cadwallader (RIP). The love-it-or-hate-it chipmunk vocals are still present but to much less of a degree which in the context of what this EP may have been a good move. The focus is no longer on intensity but on songwriting and although this album is more focused on that it still manages to pack a hell of a punch.

One of my favorite things about the new EP is Heccra’s implementation of more electronics than previously before. The electronics range from shimmering bubbly tones to glitch to the signature chipmunk-like vocals and bring some fun and brightness to the music. At times it may all seem all a bit cringe-worthy but thats kind of what Heccra’s music succeeds at doing. What would normally be just another third-wave post-hardcore album the music Heccra makes shows that he isn’t afraid to throw himself into obscurity in order to breath some originality into something that has been lackluster at best for a while because as much as I like the sound lets face it, bands like Algernon Cadwallader and Snowing don’t stick around for a reason, after the first few releases there isn’t really anywhere else to go.

On ‘The Last Weekend of Summer’ all of the energy that made the debut album so great is still here but with a few stylistic changes that will surely keep listeners on their toes. Get into it.

Overall Rating: 8.4

Favorite Tracks: ‘Camp Algonquin’, ‘Teenage Corpse’, ‘<life sux/>’

Released: 02 September 2012

Links:

http://heccra.bandcamp.com/

http://soundcloud.com/heccra

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