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doncbruital on 12/06/2010 at 10:50AM

FMA 2010: The Weird, and the Weird Weird.

While Year Two of the New FMA Calendar (which for some reason the whole world has yet to adopt) or "2010," as it's also sometimes called, was so huge for brilliance on the Free Music Archive that it seems patently ridiculous to boil it down to a quick playlist and call it a day, there were, nevertheless, alongside all the semiprecious gems spread throughout this whole glittering data mine, a few really precious ones, ones which gave me that special bit of brain-soul-revitalization in thrilling and unexpected ways. Or, to put it another way, I jammed some tracks harder than others, and these are them.

First of all, WFMU continued to astound in the new decade with a series of synapse-rupturing, reality-bending in-studio performances. Brian Turner's show gave us the Legendary Pink Dots' journey beyond the infinite, Bill Orcutt's obliteration of staid guitar, and Wolf Eyes with Richard Pinhas on a deep id creep; "Talk's Cheap" with Jason Sigal had the sludge throb of Thrones on, and thanks to Wm. Berger's "My Castle of Quiet" we grooved on Hex Breaker Quintet's magick monolithick shuffle and SSPS' party synth mindgrip. And folks, understand this is just a smattering.

The FMA also saw a bevy of fine new work from old favorites--U Can Unlearn Guitar's second album of instant classical readytunes, selections from Fat Worm of Error's panic paen Ambivalence and the Beaker--and lots, lots of stuff from artists new to the archive who joined up with a bang (or a bleep or a clang or a crrsshh or what have you). Female upped the new record Jackoff, your go-to soundtrack for a blurred-out night on the garish and grimy town; Weyes Bluhd and Supernaturelle brought some creeping malevolence via shadowy guitar and murky electronic invocations, respectively; Sam Gas Can gave us a 21-drone salute from his Dog Dance tape as well as lots more home-recording brilliance (give a click folks, for real); and Sun Araw upped tantalizing selections from his justifiably-lauded On Patrol and Off Duty  releases, tracks that wash in and out of the conscious mind like a sunrise and a couple or three drinks. Things also got kinda, uh, heavy on the FMA in 2010, with new sludge gods White Suns' extraordinary Cavity tape and seriously damaged beat, well, beatings from the impossibly cathartic Sewn Leather and DJ Dog Dick (who provides our year-end anthem with "Lap Dog"),

And then there's AMANDA, whose genius I won't bother trying to sum up. All in all, it's been some kind of journey, this 2010 thing, and the only thing that tops the heights attained by the FMA this year is the safe knowledge that it's all just the beginning.

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doncbruital on 09/07/2010 at 03:45PM

White Suns, Bleak Sounds

I've written before about the annihilatory unifying power of slow-building doomy rock, the way that it suggests something utterly outside time and space, delivering unto the listening masses the kind of communion best thought of as shared obliteration of the senses. Of course when I say "obliteration" I mean it in the best possible way, which is why it sure is heartening to see that Brooklyn's WHITE SUNS have allowed their patented brand of damaged rock make its heavy celestial drift over to the Free Music Archive's skies. And I do mean heavy: these guys deal in the kind of metal netherworld in which squealing feedback meets up with slow, wholly sludged-out drumming to form a fractured, messy and yet completely enrapturing atmosphere, as exhilarating as any band that's ever stunned you with sheer audacity, as liturgical as any black mass you were ever warned about.

White Suns comes to us via Ampeater Music, whose contributions to the FMA are a huge boon to those of us looking for that new trailblazing sound, something a little extra-dimensional, shiny as a comet--check out their stacked-with-talent and exclusive compilation, you wanna see for yourself. But pay special attention to White Suns' Cavity, a release whose 20 minutes constitutes a ritual observance of nature's brutality, undertaken in the service of catharsis, a moment out of your day for serious worship. Consider it a religious injunction.

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doncbruital on 08/31/2010 at 02:00PM

The Menstruation Sisters: Intuitive Chants (and Minnie Riperton)

FMA users are brave, venturing right to the edge of the modern sonic map and scanning all the unlit territories where the best stuff hangs out. And since you're way in the know, reader, no doubt you've been privy to one or two free squall instrument assaults in your time. They are--as I've argued before--more or less indispensible opportunities for defocalization, for catharsis, for freedom, and we should not let a single one pass us by. Seriously, if we forgo the kind of cacophonous tunes best classified as "assaults" from our listening, we intensely limit our musical purview,  inviting the chains of conventional songcraft and melody and--never far behind--genuine personal insanity to shackle us right then and there. And if you're reading this paragraph in any mood other than complete agreement, it could already have happened to you. What are you going to do about it?

If I might offer a suggestion: start with some MENSTRUATION SISTERS, a loosed-maniac sort of outfit characterized by its drummer, Oren Ambarchi (Australian noise/jazz/improv linchpin) as "one-string, Minnie Ripperton, a footprint, intuitive chants, and two tree trunks." Their noisy drumcrash/guitar approach, which is sort of a painfully-deliberate conceptual dismantling via instrument destruction with high-pitched squeal vocals overtop (of, yeah, Rippertonian range), ought to do the trick. It's dark, deep soul stuff, with few concessions to safe rational thinking. Of course then there's this compilation track below that's just a recording of I guess a French robot?

Both are necessities, as is the Sisters' entire lauded debut MA, available here on the FMA. Go ahead, get cracking, and stay ahead of the forces of creeping uniformity, way off the map.

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doncbruital on 06/29/2010 at 01:00PM

Pulse Emitter ist Kosmisch

While the reader is, of course, already well aware of the undeniably extraterrestrial qualities of the modular synthesizer, c'mon, let me go on about it a little anyways. To be honest, I sort of can't help but get really stoked just thinking of the way in which the instrument allows Sound, that most elusive creature, to be created from scratch and manipulated at the purest, most basic of levels, getting tweaked and shaped, proceeding constant through time on a slow evolutionary scale, yeah, a cosmic scale even, waveforms like planets, their orbits being drawn by an unseen hand at the module controls. I can't underline this quality enough: folks, if you ever really need reminding of the interstellar nature of things (like, if start taking the seasons for granted, or otherwise forget how cool the sun and moon are), just turn on a synth jam, let it draw you into its orbit, surrender to its gravity--and you'll be right as rain.

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pulse emitter, portland
doncbruital on 05/11/2010 at 12:48PM

Cold Reigns On

It may be getting warmer, folks, but there's no use taking such developments for granted. Just as in the Roman victory parades--during which a slave'd be sure to whisper "Memento mori" to the triumphant general, reminding him that everything fades--I'm here to task you with some remembrances, keep things in perspective, like. What I mean is this: just because the coming summer allows us to undertake a new lap in the Fun & Happiness parade doesn't mean that dread wintry Cold, meanest of all and prone to sneaking up, won't do just that before we know it.

To offset any unpleasant surprises, I hereby offer the following pre-summer weather-warding coldness mix, in handy playlist form to keep by your bedside any night you think you might be getting too close to taking what ought to be a killer summer for granted. Most of the songs dip into realms of cool distance via instrumentation and stylistic reference points, while others retain that dour wintry subject matter. Still others are simply spooky, in a way that actively shirks pleasant warmth. Each song points, thanks to the invaluable network that is the FMA, to a universe of further hits and cold-recall-joggers, so seek them out. It's a playlist, but I tried to make it nice and talismanic; use it judiciously and respectfully as you would an evil eye or any other instrument which meddles in unseen orders, staying true to the notion that a good way to keep safe and sane in the next few hot months is to never be far from a recognition of the cold that lies just round the corner.

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doncbruital on 04/27/2010 at 02:30PM

Party Music for Gnarly Times

I don't think I really need to do much of an introductory speech, folks, when writing about an artist who goes by DJ DOG DICK; I mean, most of that attention-grabbing expostulation takes care of itself; if I tried, all I'd end up with'd be so much empty patter. Nah, DJ Dog Dick--Baltimore's reigning champ of the slimily-saw-waved backing tracks and beats that'll outbass most anything (like, upgrade your woofers, drown out your neighbors)--needs no introduction.

If you insist, though, here's all what I know about the man (whose real name's been variously rendered as "Eisenberg Max Eisenslime Eisenbergler Max Eisenberg Max Max Max Eisenberg," oh, and "Dogsynth"; your guess, reader, is as good as mine). He's been on the constant-touring warpath for years and has played everywhere and with everyone. He was a member of the venerable (and universally beloved) Nautical Almanac, and has logged time with countless other acts the world over, even stopping by the WFMU studios in 2006 as part of Little Howlin' Wolf's ensemble when it played a set on Brian Turner's show. He produces fine and exceedingly grimey comic zines for his homegrown press/label Oceans of Missouri. And he's been to see the Insane Clown Posse play live.

Not to mention he's got this new banger-replete 7" Grease That I Got which he's been kind enough to sanction for your FMA consumption. If these songs aren't the most jammed at your next party or board meeting or other social function, you've blown it. Likewise for if you miss DJ Dog Dick on tour through the USA and Canada this June and July (with a European tour on deck for the fall?! no excuses for the full population of two continents). Seriously, the live experience is one to be treasured--dig the frowny-faced lightbox, you don't believe me.

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doncbruital on 04/15/2010 at 02:30PM

Über „To Live and Shave in L.A.“

The task of the blogger is hardly monumental, his works rarely of earth-shattering importance or clarion-call-heeding necessity. There's no reason for you, reading this, to trust that I've got much in the way of a messianic charge underlying my ideas, animating my words, urging me on to write what I do. No sense in the snake-oil-grimed claim that the result of this here pronouncement will, if taken to heart, alter your very perceptions, change your life, that whole bit. No reason, maybe, save my musical subject this week--and so I guess I'm asking a little leap of faith on your part, reader, when I say that you should drop everything, now, and get to checking out all the TO LIVE AND SHAVE IN L.A. that's up here on the FMA. I mean it; eschew your responsibilities, drive out all distraction. Do nothing else until you've listened to it all. As in, folks, if you're still reading once this paragraph ends, you'll have failed.

So I'll assume by now you've done your homework, and see why I had to be a bit pushy about it; I mean, ain't it just the best? I don't bluff: as the work of TLASILA constitutes the firm bedrock of any and all avant-noisey musics what've shook fleetingly across the tectonics of the underground in the last twenty years, nothing but complete surrender to the soil will do the trick. No band has done more to explore, map out, and claim the farthest corners of this thing we do--we diligent and focused listeners of what others might style 'trashy old noise'--and yet no band brings those marginal treasures back to feed the hungry masses with more wit (dig that Ron Jeremy-inspired band name) more elegance, more of that healthy optimistic iconoclasm that constitutes the task of any practitioner of 'degenerate art.' "Genre is obsolete," sez TLASILA; and then they prove it.

And they do it again and again; indeed, Tom Smith (whose always fantastic TLASILA blog is required reading) and his rotating spheres of disparate musical collaborators have set up in the hallowed halls of WFMU more than a little, and their available sets from Brian Turner's show are no less than full album performances, documents of hit after hit after hit--enough to rival any warped Sun Sessions record to share with posterity (and only if it's been in the sun long enough). That these degenerate artists have offered their wares on the FMA is a real cause for celebration; TLASILA, besides being wildly influential, is an immensely positive force for any creator--rigorously grounded in theoretical and experiential knowledge and anticopywritten as it is (dig a handy article here, kids, and rip it off for yer term paper).

True culture heroes one and all, TLASILA's members offer a veritable how-to for navigating the wild and wooly underground. Get to listening, reader, and follow.

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doncbruital on 03/30/2010 at 02:00PM

Sword Heaven Slays


But then you knew that, didn't you? I mean, few bands make good on the promise of harsh texture intensity and nonpitched brute crunch force like the guys in SWORD HEAVEN do, delivering via drumpound worship ceremony and metal (as in sheets of it) screech, their blasts coming tectonic-heavy, thunderbolt-heavy, asteroid-annihilation-heavy, again and again and again, guaranteeing for the listener an experience of defocalization to rival any yogamat meditative zone or nature-rumination psychic space to which you've ever grooved.

At the risk of this post's form too closely mirroring content--and all this purple prose overloading comprehension as much as a Sword Heaven set does--I want to double down on this idea for a sec, cause I think what this band does is really incredible. For some help, Robert Smithson, writing about a theoretical sculpture "The Eliminator"--basically a big repeating neon light--hits us with a handy thought about overload: "The Eliminator overloads the eye whenever the red neon flashes on, and in so doing diminishes the viewer's memory dependencies or traces. Memory vanishes... unreality becomes actual and solid." The incapacitating blasts of a harsh industrial act do the same, staggering out irregular and spaced out, offering the listener nothing to focus on but the overwhelmed mind's own lack of focus. Unlocked from the everyday sensory comfort zone, it all floats free.

Lest you think this is all some modern art conceptual game--not all  Eliminators are found in the museum, after all--listen to how great Sword Heaven sounds doing their thing: check out the killer live set so neatly offered up for you FMA folk. And--lucky us--these masters of the sensory overload have hit the road again; their tour, northeasterners, is not to be missed.

Trust me, you're likely to retain some lessons from their scrapmetal-strewn zone of total annihilation.

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sword heaven
doncbruital on 03/16/2010 at 01:00PM

Little Howlin' Wolf's Stalking the Riverbanks

An all-timer of avant-garde creation myths is the one, apocryphal though it may be (all the good ones are), that tells of a conversation between Brahms and Mahler held along the Danube’s Vienna banks, wherein the former, decrying the state of contemporary composition, lamented for the lost spirits of Mozart and Beethoven and the long-gone golden age, in response to which der Mahler merely pointed to the river, noted it was impressive, sure, but that its flow ensured new waters for every consequent glance, so that one could never greet the same river twice. The Danube, yea though it may be immortalized time and again in story and song, doesn't even really exist, not as a changeless constant at least. So was it for music, constantly flowing, never at rest. Heraclitus, probably talking about a different river, nonetheless sez it best: "the river is never the same river, nor the man the same man."

Then there are those who get in on the river-flow act in different ways, not content to fight the current or transform with it or get dumped out into the Black Sea of time or, uh, wherever. Nah, some folks might be better thought of as prowling the edges, like a 'Big Ole Bear' of song on the lookout for prey, poaching discrete ideas and forms from the ever-shifting waters of musical tradition like a grizzly poaching those salmon from the river. And like poached salmon, the result is often weird and tasty. One such practitioner of a timeless mixture of musical forms is LITTLE HOWLIN' WOLF, whose presence on the FMA enables you, lucky listener, to get in touch with some of your own time-animal tendencies.

Little Howlin' Wolf's work is somehow simultaneously junkyard cutup from the American Folkways archives, noisy outstrumentation, and wild animal sound that'd be equally at home nowadays as in the days of neolithic river worship. There's lots of essential stuff on that FMA page, including the 2006 set from Brian Turner's show to which you had better just listen--I'll stop blathering, as I can't compete with the essential indescribability of these riverrun fragments--just start prowling 'em yourself.

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little howlin wolf
doncbruital on 03/03/2010 at 03:30PM

Richness Comes for Free

admirably close-to-correct conception of the musical universe

The real wonder of WFMU, the nurturing freeform motherwolf to the Free Music Archive's enthusiastic internet pup (which loving parent happens to be, ahem, having its annual fundraising marathon at the moment), is that it offers listeners the opportunity to map his or her own constellations of musical reference points. It starts out acousmatically enough--you hear a completely off-the-wall track, and well, you just may love it but still, the connection to your musical world seems more or less nonexistent, and, well, you're not sure, the whole thing's sort of new, maybe a little nerveracking but wait--suddenly you hear another track, one which connects the referent-less one you just heard to one of your preexisting favorites, and behold: you've got a new beloved song, set in place like an armillary sphere's realm of the fixed stars, and drawn into your very own burgeoning network of celestial giants--a constellation of jams.

The Free Music Archive, in this conception, offers the listener a 21st century map of the skies as useful as any that's guided previous generations of humanity. If the genius of radio is that it can pinpoint a specific coordinate in the musical universe and cast it in brilliant light--a forgotten song streaking across the sky like a comet--well, then, the genius of the FMA is that it can refer you at a glance to the solar systems and galaxies of which each mysterious body is an indispensible component.

I've been thinking a lot about this while navigating the FMA of late--with all the content it's been building up over the last year, it's really taken on an astonishing complexity--and noticing that artists I've seen here before have reappeared in various guises, uploaded labels' worth of audio or otherwise tripled or quadrupled their presence here on the site. It's really inspiring to see the Archive--whose ravenous wolfcub dream is to be a reliably great depository for the varying currents at work in music today--beginning to really map out previously uncharted galaxies; looking at previous blog topics alone, we've Providence's Free Matter for the Blind, which, in addition to the extraordinary audio zines already mentioned, has presided over a label curatorship packed with full albums by the likes of Leif Goldberg and Area C and, well, just see for yourself. So too have the works of previously-spotlit Montrealers brought plenty of new work to the table--check out tapelabel Campaign for Infinity's steadily-growing list of great bands. Lots of incredible WFMU Fest sets from last fall are now up--including that of Talk Normal, about whom I wrote in November.

You get the point--as the site grows, so too do the complexities of the constellations on our trusty and ever-richening charts. As we listen, so we discover. Keep it up.

Area C - "Track 11" (06:32)
Area C - "Track 11" (06:32)
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