Category Archives: split releases

Cassowaries/Pssprtt “A Ghost With Teeth”

Cassowaries / Pssprtt

A Ghost With Teeth
(I Know A Lot About Magic;2008)

I’ll start off by explaining that I’ve been sitting on this mini-CD for a very long time. Since Ryan Carter, hereby referred to as Cassowaries, sent me this little EP that he shares real estate with Pssprtt on, both artists have gone on to grow and change as musicians tend to do over time. That being said, this review could be completely moot, and I’m only continuing on with sharing my opinion because of this website’s insistence that everything sent in will be reviewed. The real point I’m trying to make is this: despite the word’s I’m about to write you should check out these two artists yourself and hear what they’ve been doing since this split EP. Awesome. Enough disclaiming.

A Ghost With Teeth, on first listen, doesn’t sound like the work of two separate musicians. Both Cassowaries and Pssprtt (aka Eric James, who’s since changed his moniker to Phantom Youth) sound so heavily influenced by the reverberated compositions of Panda Bear, White Rainbow, and others of the psychedelic/ambient/”experimental” nature that discerning the two was difficult. In fact, I had to request additional liner notes in order to ascertain who actually made which songs. As I listened to the split EP more, referencing the additional notation I requested all the while, I was able to make out some slight differences. The three songs contributed by Cassowaries are driven more by distant beats and warped samples while Pssprtt’s chunk of music is more of a vocals-and-guitar-in-a-massive-hall sort of affair. The distinctiveness of each artist is strong enough to warrant personal separation, but the sounds they seem to emulate all rest on the same sets of shoulders.

The songs heard on A Ghost With Teeth are mostly 2 minute experiments, save a 4 and a half minute mini-epic each. No track stands out greatly from the others in terms of sounds or composition, but each have their moments. I’d say the EP is a nice introduction to both North Western musicians, anchored with equally positive and negative aspects. This doesn’t sound too much like a review, more like an artist’s bio, but I prefer it that way in this case. You’ve got some references now, a little bit of opinion, and you’ll find some links pretty soon. This time around I’m leaving you, the reader, to make final decisions based on your own critical thought. Thankfully, you’ve got some free download options care of the release’s label, I Know A Lot About Magic. God bless the internet.

– Patric Fallon


Brother J. Irvin Dally / 100 Swans “Split Cassette”

Brother J.Irvin Dally / 100 Swans \

Brother J. Irvin Dally / One Hundred Swans
Split Cassette
(Pretty Blue Presents, 2008)

The two artists on this tape, Brother J. Irvin Dally and One Hundred Swans (moniker for Ben Chisholm and whomever he brings into his fold), most definitely share some qualities as musicians and songwriters. Both are the sole/primary composers of their music. Both are inclined to the introspective/contemplative side of music. Both record themselves at home/somewhere they don’t have to pay for. Both are featured on this split cassette. Other than those similarities they are two very different musicians. I will tell you what I think about their music accordingly.

Brother J. Irvin Dally
The one and only song Brother J. Irvin Dally offers on this cassette begins with a flurry of out of tune and out of time music accompanied by yelping, ghost-like vocals. Unexpected electronic elements and various room recordings come and go without warning and usually tend to signal the ushering in of a new part of the song. The musical ideas at play here are reminiscent of The Microphones and Animal Collective, but with a vocal style that leans more towards Damien Rice and, almost uncannily, Jeff Buckley.

After a short, bleeping electronic interlude around the 7 and-a-half minute mark I ask myself, “Is this really one song?” Could J. Irvin really play this all the way through from beginning to end live? What I hear are about 20 different songs that were recorded individually and subsequently connected by overdubbed sounds to appear seamless. The idea of The Microphones’ epic final album Mount Eerie is prevalent in this song’s lengthy and shape shifting nature, but the simultaneous expanse and intimacy is lost in the erratic sounds and broken ideas of the 26 minute “song”. In addition, the peaks and valleys of the music this song reminds me of are nowhere to be found. A plateau of emotion and instrumentation is consistent throughout.

I can’t help but feel that if the parts of Brother J. Irvin Dally’s “The Countryside of Southern Illinois & the Day Dreams That Almost Got Me to 19 Years” were written and recorded as separate songs my opinion would be different. However, I’m driven to compare the song to a frozen pizza. All the ingredients are in their appropriate spots, and it looks like it could be amazing to eat. All you need to do is take the time and preparation to heat everything up and you’ll be satisfied. Just make sure you cut it into slices before you eat it.

– – – –

One Hundred Swans
The most common modus operandi for singer/songwriters is to impart their feelings, ideas, and experiences to the listener through songs either roughly or directly inspired by their own lives. I’d have to say that well over three quarters of the time these songs are about love and the pain, joy, or uncertainty that comes with the intense experience. If an artist is doing his/her job then those emotions and stories will speak to you and stick with you. For the most part, Ben Chisholm (aka One Hundred Swans) doesn’t cloud what he wants to share with unnecessary experimentation and distracting production. His songs are honest, beautiful, and, when they’re at their best, classic.

The brightest moments throughout the 8 tracks on One Hundred Swans’ side of the cassette come with the stripped down arrangements of “Daffodil”, “Nora”, and “Hey How Was Your Day”. A simple guitar and vocal melody help breathe truth into memorable lyrics like, “Though the silence that I will leave you with seems wrong/I know I’ll have much more to say when I’m gone” and “You are the rainy day that I’ve always needed/The sun won’t hurt me no more”. These stanzas speak on universal themes while their delivery keeps them intimate and accessible on a personal level. That sort of balance is Chisholm’s greatest asset, but it’s sadly lost when his aspirations aim higher.

The other 5 songs from One Hundred Swans are less focused and range from genre exercises like the jangly, psych-pop of “Temperate Ghost” to Black Heart Procession influenced piano numbers like “Where is My Girl”. The same lyrical and emotional intent is there, but the immediacy and charm is lost behind the inconsistency. I wouldn’t call these bad songs, the solid structure and musicianship are still prevalent, but they do sound like an all together completely different band. Thankfully, no matter his method of execution, the promise of a singer/songwriter is delivered again and again through Ben Chisholm’s 8 songs as One Hundred Swans. I’d consider them less of a body of work and more of a collection of early recordings. I’m sure when the time comes for a solo EP or even a full length recording that his sound will be refined and his ideas will be collected and concise. I look forward to it.