Monday, 18 April 2011

Weedeater – Jason the Dragon (Review)

You know that guy who shows up sometimes, the one people call the gnome? He is the short man, whose walk is stiff and is over-clothed. His hat is too low and it falls onto his sunglasses. His beard though is what gives him the name but given the shade of black, perhaps he should be called the anti-gnome. Whatever the case, I am pretty sure that people do not call him that to his face. To be sure, the gnome is exactly what he looks like: a drug addict and a drug dealer. It is hard to forget the day when he pulled a knife on the middle-aged waitress at a local cafe. The nicotine stained hands, the hiss from between the lips and that small, sharp, nasty little blade. Whenever he showed, I could feel the bile surging through my gut.

Jason the Dragon is like being friends with the gnome. It is a window onto a monstrous low frequency, pot poisoned Black Sabbath love in. And yet, unlike so many of their peers just at the precipice of descent into total despair a la Eyehategod or Grief, Weedeater pull back with a gap toothed, chewin tobacca coloured smile in time to let you know, its just rock and roll baby.

Jason the Dragon, with raw as chafe, performance-as-take Albini Production and sleepy Arik Roper cover art is available on vinyl from Southern Lord and various retailers for $15.

Electric Wizard – Black Masses (Review)

Do it. Kick over the plasma, the LCD and unplug the blu-ray. Pull out the internet and let the cell phone battery run dry. Go there. Become electricity, phase and crackle with the static buzzing on the cathode. Feed from warmth behind. Electrify and magnify. Commit to tape, then leave ghosts, bleed through the layers until even the tape is gone. And when the colour fades, washes out into greys, almost whites and almost blacks, you will have arrived. The reverberations of Elvis for the first time, the walls of reverb of the sixties, the blur between discrete events, the flow and the performance. Go to that place.

Black Masses is a continuation and arguably a perfection of the Electric Wizard project to date. Finally, the riffs are equally tempered by what was always present yet never fully realized: a full serve of up front psychedelia and horror movie ambience. More than pastiche or tribute, Black Masses is an effortless evocation a lost occult ritual record from the 1960s.

Black Masses is available now on vinyl on both sides of the Atlantic (Rise Above and Relapse) on various distribution deals. It will probably set you back more than you think it is worth and yet buy it now before you have to pay $100 plus in a years time.

Obscura - Omnivium (Review)

Obscura Omnivium

One northern winter I picked up a collection of Lovecraft stories. Each bitter cold morning as I stood on the station platform awaiting my train, through the overheated carriage ride to my destination I lost myself in that world of liquid darkness, strange shapes, biological anomalies, ancient unknowable knowledge and dimensions beyond human perception. The grey green, fog drenched New England countryside, the rituals and recurring Cthulu mythos gave that winter a special colour. Stepping into Lovecrafts mind, day after day re-acquainted me with a long lost pleasure: the unknown. More than the slime and tentacles, more than hairy bodied devils and inbred villages, the single most terrifying, pervasive theme is that of the unknown of time stretching beyond comprehension. As a novice Buddhist this is holds a tangible appeal for me.

The unknown is just that. It is a paradox that no matter how much time we might meditate on it, it always manages to elude us. Just when we think we have shed light on the whole, we notice the darkness beyond the reach of illumination. We stop, accept it and then later on find ourselves pondering on it again. To the same conclusion.

Obscuras Omnivium works on such a level as to suggest unknowability. The virtuosity of its participants extends the melodies, harmony and rhythms so far beyond expectation that just as they appear within reach they splinter into a billion firefly-like motes. The colours suggested by the compositions tear me into the wet embrace of Cthulu, stirring up the lingering resonance of Lovecrafts meditations on the unknown. If there truly is a worthy successor to the evocative-exotic harmony of Death, the pure science of Cynic, the intelligent swagger of Pestilence and the innovative excitement of Atheist, then it is Obscura.

Out now on Relapse, and widely available on vinyl at a fair price.

Indian - Guiltless (Review)

Indian Guiltless

I grew up in a small regional town. I knew this guy, most people called him Turds. He probably should have been taller, but he had a stoop. He probably should have been bigger, but he was hungry. Turds lived in a caravan in the backyard of his mothers government housing four bedroom. No one liked Turds, or at least copped to liking him. He couldnt read or write, he left school when he was thirteen or fourteen. He started smoking before he was twelve. He was terminally unemployed but somehow managed to make use of his welfare to create a nest in that backyard. But more than anything else, the striking thing about Turds caravan was the smoke of rolling tobacco. That rich chocolate warmth, the veins of brown and yellow lightning that rip up the side of a hand roll, the thicker than ready-blueness of the dank smoke that clings

On the walls were Star Trek posters, maybe some Star Wars too, and in this age before always on broadband, maybe a few treasured soft porn pictures with hastily torn edges. All of this was just so ugly, so desperate, so hopeless. And yet in it there was a certain light, a kind of alternate world, a place where the familiar and the fantastic converged to create a force-field of protection. From his mother, the never-ending bullies and the early morning sun. Indians new album Guiltless takes the listener to similar seedy sites of darkness inflected with fantasy. On first listen, Guiltless feels like a black metal flattening of the throb and plod of previous releases. Everything seems more uniform, streamlined and simple. It is not until one carefully listens that the Star-Trek-posters-on-the-wall fantasy starts to reveal itself. For behind the tautly stretched, hypnotic riff barrage is a Lovecraftian, other dimensional swirl that will have you guessing if it is all just in your mind.

Currently available on vinyl for a paltry price ($12 here in Japan, including postage).

Mastodon - Leviathan (Review)

Most metal heads have at some point in their lives fallen out of love with metal. A new non-metal love interest comes along, a career change, ear fatigue or the theft/sale of a treasured collection are all known contributing factors to the flame flickering out. For me it was the result of giving up the unhealthy anger that had weighed so heavily on my life. Like many a metal head, I entered this sacred space as a hormonal teenager full of aggression at the poverty I was born into. Metal nurtured my broken spirit, galvanized my heart and gave me a new vocabulary and rhythm with which to articulate my inner most thoughts. And then, a friend asked: Dude, why are you so angry?. It was a good question, after all, I was no longer living in poverty, I had beautiful family and friends, I was happy.

So my anger began to unravel and along with it, my relationship with metal. So much time spent together and yet such a fragile foundation. Many people move on. They put metal in a box, through it out in the garbage, assign it to a t-shirt shamefully hidden in the closet. I have always liked music, so breaking with metal meant that I could dig deeper into dance, hip hop, jazz, funk and blues. While all of this was refreshing, it did not seem to satisfy in the same way as metal had. I still wasnt angry, and didnt need to be, yet there was an inescapable metallic resonance I couldnt shake. But to go back to metal, after falling out of love would have been foolish. After all, there was no foundation and if it was for nostalgias sake only, then what a waste. I cannot say how, nor why, nor when exactly, but there was a zeitgeist moment where like its namesake, Mastodons Leviathan slowly rose out a sea of metal ignorance.

I felt the ripple of that powerful and ancient cetacean as it began to rise. I swayed with the roil even after I watched the sea roll off its murky white forehead. And when the swell rose into waves and I had been thrown into liquid darkness, I turned away. Yet on my back, I felt the steel gaze pushing until it hurt, forcing me to see. And there it was, the leviathans single eye perched above the freezing liquid obsidian. It took only a single moment, and it was immediately apparent. There was more to this than anger, more to this than hunger, more to this than confusion. This was real, this was unknown and this was what I had fallen in love with.

The leviathan roared, surged then lept from the sea, hurling me the distance of continents, thrashing everything I thought I had known off the walls of neglected mental rooms and leaving me stranded on a familiar yet foreign island.

A month ago, I listened to Leviathan in full for the first time in several years. It did the same again. In addition to being an innovative, refreshing and memorable metal album, it is also available as an affordable single platter vinyl with some of the best cover art in this game.

Beginning again.

Thanks to (the soon to depart) Cosmo over at the blog, Invisible Oranges, Jaron Lanier (You are not a gadget), Jonathan Larroquette and Seth Romatelli of Uhh Yeah Dude and Daniel OBrien at Cracked (Fixing the Internet), I have finally figured out what to do with a music blog. More on that later. First, however, some context.

The informational world that is our beloved internet is over-populated by personal data harvesting (heres lookin at you Facebook and Google etc), like, re-tweet and thumbs up/down buttons, information aggregates (best of lists, link lists, friends lists, unbalanced averaging of review scores) and rampant zeitgeist me first/me too-ism. What is underrepresented or otherwise buried underneath all this trash is considered opinion, critique, reflection and examination. We seem to have forgotten that quantity has never been equivalent to quality and that even if only one per cent of the information out there was actually worth our time, most of us hardly have the time to read any of it.

We have been blinded by and enamoured by the ease of use of reductionism. Where once we might have read in detail, debated and masticated now all we seek is consensus, shriek and masturbate. I was there too. And it is only sheer willpower that keeps me from another doomed and depraved entry. Despite the fingers-crossed-promises of social networking, the internet is still a solitary experience for me. Liking something with a horde of acquaintances and the anonymous has yet to noticeably contribute to my enjoyment or understanding of music. Similarly, expressing negative sentiment as part of the impersonal horde has also failed to ameliorate or diminish that which I do not like, support or otherwise endorse. Amid this textual noise, I have felt disempowered, reduced. Such is the gift of anonymity.

It is with thanks to Lanier that I am able to redefine the rules of participation, align myself with actual humans and proceed in an attempt to create text of worth in a context where text itself, like music has become almost worthless. Why Lanier? Perhaps there are others of similar persuasion to the tech pioneer, perhaps he is not the first, nor the best representative of the issue, I cannot say. But I am able to unequivocally locate him as the voice responsible for my reinvigoration. What makes Lanier shine so bright as to burn away the entanglements of the contemporary internet is this: he rejects anonymity. Naturally there is a time and place for facelessness, especially when one is oppressed, persecuted or otherwise harassed. However, the current paradigm of anonymity has created a cloud of authoritative knowledge created by no one (toot-toot Wikipedia).

A short while ago, Cosmo stirred the embers by writing about how to write reviews on the internet. Opposing description and categorization and smacking down like/hate. Instead he advocated engagement, thoughtful critique and style. I have many times sought to come up with a similar guide. But I was always stymied by the fact I had no audience. Not even a faceless one! What made this piece so relevant to me was that it was a plea from a writer, simply saying know about what you write about and know how to write. Cosmo will be sorely missed.

Throwing an old school net lovin log on the fire is, Daniel OBrien at Cracked who wrote on how to fix the internet. While once again, I risk a too broad summary: he argued against the like/hate paradigm. What is more is that OBrien dares to call for a redefinition of internet users. In popular culture, the socially inept nerd remains the dominant image and yet the reality is that the typical user of the web is virtually everyone in the developed world

Jonathan and Seth of UYD toss irreverent and humorous fireworks into this bonfire of informational creeper vine as they frequently speak of technological addiction and the way in which we have all been reduced to sensation/experience junkies: the world screams out: feel this when you eat that, be that when you drive this and so on. Roughly translated, click like to be this.

Frankly, I remain unrepresented and dissatisfied by the predetermined, default categories, however infinitely finer they become. I just do not want to be this when I like that. And unless I say otherwise, no one can ever know otherwise. So it is then that we arrive at the possibility of me creating online again. Unless I am me, Robpocalypse, outside the categorization and reduction of friend lists and number of useable character allocations, I simply cannot be. Without a grounded voice, I become part of the faceless. It is not that I aspire to fame or notoriety, but if I am to be for the foreseeable future online, then I want it to be my voice which speaks. I am comfortable with being a nobody, but I am not willing to be a mob member.

Welcome back!