Jason Kahn + Jon Mueller 'Phase' WAV File (FSS, 2010)

This is the first and could quite possibly be the only digital download I will ever buy. And yes, I did purchase this. I don't really know why exactly. It was cheap for one ($2.00) and well, the sound sample was so good and such a tease at the same time that I couldn't help but grab it. I am by no means trading in my vinyl. No way. The SF has always and will always condone the furtherance of physical media. This was just too tempting to pass on. So call me a hypocrite if you like, but today, the SF is "going digital."

Jason Kahn & Jon Mueller

This definitely isn't the first time these two have collaborated, and I doubt if it'll be the last. On Phase, Kahn and Mueller's percussive set-ups seem at their fullest. The dense fluctuations of the single 39 minute track bring to mind Kahn's indelible 2009 release, Vanishing Point. As if existing as a sister piece, the two start off in similar suit (minus the noticeable use of tape hiss on VP), but differ in their end-point trajectories. Phase rarely deviates from its unrelenting form. The swirling undulations of tumultuous drum-skin clatter and subdued frequencies shift more in their presence than anything else. The layers supposedly phase (hence the title), although a steady decay as the track winds to a close is more noticeable. The consistency is jarred only briefly by the laser precision of what sound like high-end sine waves, adding a satisfying punchiness.

The interesting thing about the way Kahn and Mueller utilize percussion–in all their work but especially in this release–is the initial ambiguity of the sounds. Someone listening to this who is ignorant to the sources of these sounds will get lost in its seemingly impenetrable wonder. However, if that person were to suddenly become aware of the percussive sources, they would immediately start to recognize their telling features in the music. Interesting when considering the unconventional use of common instruments and the masking of these instruments in composition. Great stuff from these two, like all their collaborations. Hope to see this issued on cd one day.


Matt Shoemaker 'Soundtrack for Dislocation' (Elevator Bath, 2010)

Can Matt Shoemaker do wrong? Hot on the heels of Tropical Amnesia One comes his debut full-length for Elevator Bath. Soundtracks for Dislocation serves as more than just another notch in the belt of Shoemaker's steadily growing catalogue. The album feels less of a take on the heavy-toned cosmologies of 2009's Erosion of the Analogous Eye. Instead, he embraces a more noxious blend of psychotropic modulation for this new effort, rife with dizzying climaxes and not without a crafted semblance of cynicism. An organic pulse runs through the middle of all of Shoemaker's releases, leaving me scratching my head at how its all done. And after countless hours with his music and still not quite understanding, the mystery, it seems, might just be the best part. With that said, Soundtrack for Dislocation is not to be overlooked.


RV Paintings 'Samoa Highway' (Helen Scarsdale, 2010)

When a slow progression of tragic piano chords make themselves known in the latter stages of the opener Millions, it becomes strikingly clear that this is not just another forest dwelling, cannabis fueled test of one's patience. Although weed, I'm sure, played its crucial role. But no. The psychedelia on Samoa Highway is one of burning crescendos and bowed string canopies. Voice, piano, and even aircrafts play a role in carving out these pieces. Take for example the exemplary opening track, a nearly side-long slow burn whose undercurrent of rewound guitars meshed with distant drumming, firework explosions and jet take-offs drag the listener through the course of history in reverse; to a time predating civilization.

Oddly enough, the lack of obfuscation in the field recordings that Jon and Brian Pyle utilize, works solely to their advantage. A plethora of phonographers would have likely chosen to blur these lines a bit more, ostensibly, to lesser results. The opening of Mirrors brings to mind an obvious Stars of the Lid reference, but is quickly wiped away by a plague of unearthly echoes and synth fissures. Contortions then give way to distortion. On From Manila to Forever the guitars play out like a row of tolling church bells, setting up the melancholia of As Far As We Could See, the final track. The mood stands uninterrupted atop the careening of skittered percussion that brings to an end an album that, although lacking in the level of conceptual continuity that a lot of the HS releases possess, still manages to provoke any of a number of hallucinatory states of mind. Or maybe that's just the weed talking.

This is the first vinyl offering from Helen Scarsdale and the third official release by the RV Paintings duo. Brian Pyle is perhaps better known as one of the founders of Starving Weirdos. He also records solo as Ensemble Economique.