Label Highlight: San Francisco's isounderscore

Home to many modestly run outsider organizations bringing us only the best in far-out sounds, San Fran has ever steadily grown into it's musical guru-ness since those early counter-cultural tape days in the 60's. Since then, a vast array of distros, labels, bands, venues, organizations, record stores, and yes, even agencies, have manifested in the light of like-minded creative bodies; thus transforming San Fran into the musically cultured epicenter that it is today.

As of yet-another fairly recent discovery, I can now add the bay area's isounderscore label to the ever growing list of this city's virtuous sonic achievements. Since the label's early beginnings in 2003, isounderscore's Brandon Nickell has been quietly using the label as an outlet for his own atmospheres, releasing a handful of albums under the guise Aemae, including his 05' opus The Helical Word. The last two years have seen the label expanding it's horizons, releasing albums by artist's like Maleficia, Arastoo, the Persian avant-garde electronic composer Ata Ebtekar, Scrapyard fave Aaron Davis aka Acre, and tonal tape manipulators Dimmer, to name a few. The start of the new decade looks to be a promising one for the label with a string of releases in the pipeline, including a highly anticipated LP (for me at least) by Oakland based Rale. Promising indeed.


Remissions 2lp
2009 iso_08

The two responsible for this lovely double lp offering are Thomas Dimuzio and Joseph Hammer, two prominent figures in the robust community of Californian improv and experimentalism. Of the two, I'm more familiar with Dimuzio's work, his Sonicism 2xcd release and last year's Upcoming Events, a collab with Dan Burke released on No Fun, are both fantastic efforts. On Remissions, Dimuzio and Hammer blend their skills flawlessly, Hammer handling the analog tape manipulations while Dimuzio utilizes feedback, loops and archaic processing. The outcome is a dimensional rift, a bending of time through the trans-formative arrangement of sonic minutiae. Looped hushed drone fragments are sped up and slowed down and at times they are completely taken apart and stacked atop a dissolving bed of multi-coloured noise. The four side long tracks on Remissions are actually a collection of live concert takes between 2006 and 2007 in California, a solidified conformation of the adeptness of these two musicians. One of 2009's best records.

The Helical Word
Cd, 2005 iso_02

This was the first proper full length from isounderscore main man Brandon Nickell, an album that has so many subtle yet immensely intricate crevasses it's no wonder that it took over two years to materialize. But Materialize it did, through the use of self-written software, Nickell's digital format manipulations and synthesis techniques yield a vast dark ambient nether world, playing out like the soundtrack to one of Dante's stages of Hell. At times the compositions venture into a bubbly, yet still very ominous musique concrete, bridging on a deranged static-cloaked techno. Though The Helical Word ventures into many back alleys of avant experimentation, it's constant sense of mortality keeps it grounded, like a small black cloud that follows you wherever you go, telling you that any attempt of escape is futile. Lots to get lost in in The Helical Word.

Cd, 2009 iso_14

It seems Aaron Davis has slowed down a bit since his hyper prolific 07/08 year when I just couldn't get enough of his particular brand of oceanic floorcore. During that time I remember filling the days with his therapeutic drones oozing from the headphones at a molasses pace, fueling my constant state of bliss. With that said, I'm glad to announce that Isolationist is more of the same. If possible, this new material sounds even more stripped back, even more of a controlled minimalism that forces the listener to focus on what's going on under the surface. Not only should we focus on the underlying tonalities of the surface beneath the surface, but also those beneath the surface of that surface and so on. There are just so many layers here, and once you've tapped into them, that's when you're truly able to experience Acre's music. All that's left at that point is to lay back and let it all wash over you. A great compliment to the isounderscore roster.

ACRE- Portland's tone purest provides a lesson in hypnosis 8.11.08

1 comment:

Mark E. Rich said...

Totally agree on the SF scene. Every damn Pop Drones show I seem to play a new up-and-coming band from either SF or the Bay Area. Too many great bands and labels to even mention (heres a few...Oh Sees, Ty Segall, Splinters, Mantles, Fresh and Onlys, Jonas Reinhardt, Barn Owl, Sic Alps, Mayyors, Mt. St. Mtn, Awesome Vistas, Castleface).

Lovin' the recent blogposts. Keep up the good work, Adrian.

Hang times soon?