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
Posted in ambient, electronic, EPs, experimental, indie, noise, psychedelic, split releases
Tagged ambient, electronic, experimental, indie, noise, psychedelic
cities vs. submarines
(Gold Robot Records, 2008)
The debut EP by railcars sounds like it could have been recorded in Jamie Stewart’s kitchen. Imagine Jamie Stewart’s kitchen! He’s both a brilliantly bonkers aesthete and a multi-media extravaganzist whose principal outfit, Xiu Xiu, is practically a genre unto itself. Anyway, I envision Jamie Stewart’s kitchen containing things like a neon green, clay stove and talking cookie jars he designed himself. (– Ed. note: It’s probably normal as hell.) Full disclosure: cities vs. submarines was actually recorded in said kitchen and includes all the smash and grab you’d think that might entail.
Employing drum boxes, effects pedals, sketchy noise and distorted vocalisms, cities vs. submarines is primarily a cover for Aria C. Jalali, who likes his letters lowercase and his song structures non-linear. His EP isn’t noise per se, but it was still recorded in Jamie Stewart’s frickin’ kitchen. Even the linoleum has stories! Jalali used to perform under his own name; the live edition of railcars incorporates various helps from assorted besties, but the general thrust belongs to Jalali. Besides the debt owed to Stewart/Xiu Xiu, railcars cops from other sonic semi-radicalists like the Spencer Krug Affair, my own sobriquet to cover Wolf Parade/Swan Lake/Sunset Rubdown/whatever other band he might be in. When he brings his A-game Krug produces music that can shut down your central nervous system. There isn’t anything as totally arresting as that on cities vs. submarines, but Jalali is at least reasonably good at burying his hooks. That may sound as no-good a tactic as burying the lead or as redundant as the term “freak-folk”, but there’s something to be said for subtlety and for the joy of repeated listening.
Track 1, “there is ice; it is blue”, despite reminding me of that idiotic “Violet Hill” lyric about the white snow, is railcars’ strongest Sunset Rubdown credential. It’s got the choppy back beat, hand claps, and air-raid guitar that Krug put to such mad use on “Shut Up I Am Dreaming”. Next is “saints are waiting for me (outside my door)” which is essentially Jalali ‘luving the valley-oh!’. “concrete buildings” gallops off thinking it wants to be a Frog Eyes cut. “through the trees lay smokestacks” is an under a minute instrumenta-lude that inexplicably contains a lot of wolf-like yelping. cities vs. submarines ends with its best song “bohemia is without a sea”. If a song can safely be said to chortle, this one does. It’s so cheerful you can practically see the cookie jars dancing.
On cities vs. submarines Jalali hits and misses, but the hits are when you tear up the cheap, snaggy, loud carpeting and discover a pretty rad hardwood floor. To put it another way, it’s like with the best electronic music; how bells, whistles, bottles, and bedsteads on top of songs create diversions that only the impatient get lost on. You have to dig a little. You might be thinking I like cities vs. submarines more than I do; railcars has a ways to go. Then again, it’s only a ten-minute EP.
– Anthony Strain
Up Mine, Sunshine
(self released, 2008)
First, I should be clear about something. Since I am a musician and very involved in the music business/scene/whatever, I have a lot of friends interested in being reviewed on this website. Reviewing a friend’s music is difficult for obvious reasons, but when you’ve been involved in releasing that friend’s music those difficulties are amplified. Things get even trickier when the music has changed into something different than when you were previously involved. All these factors have come into play in my review of Up Mine, Sunshine’s debut, self-titled album; a weird amalgamation of psychedlic electronica weaved in and out of vocal samples and carried down Jodorowsky’s Holy Mountain on the back of cutting bass lines and hard hitting beats.
Let me quickly brief you. The Up Mine, Sunshine I once knew was a writer of bass driven post-funk, pop that wouldn’t be the least bit out of place in Factory Records’ catalog. The Talking Heads meets New Order music that was once solely composed by Matthew Beck is now a Panda Bear meets the soundtrack of Zelda styled collaboration of Matthew and his wife Ashley. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to love and enjoy in this new Up Mine, Sunshine, but you’ll have to pardon my reeling. I’m still getting used to my dad having shaved his mustache.
Okay… Let’s move on. This album is great! There are so many layers in every track that work together to put you in a blissful trance. Each song is propelled by bongos, shakers, and tambourines while arpeggiating synths dance around the polyrhythms of bass and drums, textured field recordings, and beautiful female vocal harmonies. On occasion the layers go a bit over board and reach the precipice of ADD-ridden repetition, but that usually signals the climax or end of a song. While some of the music on the album leans towards the movement of the dance floor, even delving into the pop-sensibilities I used to know on “I Love What I Love” and “Away From My Little Bones!!!”, this isn’t club ready music. These songs are what you play while waking up in the morning to get you pumped. This is an album you enjoy with your headphones on your head and your pipe in your hand. This music deserves attention that matches the delicate and loving care that went into making it.
Even though I’m positive Up Mine Sunshine’s self-titled album can be enjoyed by many people far and wide, I’d like to think that it’s pressing of a mere 60 copies is a sign that this is music meant for friends. Friends that are interested in what you’re doing with your spare time. Friends that care enough to listen to your album on repeat from start to finish without skipping a beat. Friends that loved what you once were, but are even more excited about what you’ve become.
(self released, 2007)
The recording of this demo sounds like it was done with a single microphone set in the middle of a garage/basement while mom and/or dad weren’t home. Everything comes out sounding loud, messy, and weird just like punk and demos should. The introduction of a wah wah pedal toward the end of the first song is an unexpected and welcome touch to this traditional brand of music. Does that make this band funk-punk, noise-rock? Not really, but it does make me happy to hear something (anything!) different in this tired genre.
While you can tell the kids of Fun Blood are passionate and whole-hearted about their musical efforts it does seem they aren’t used to playing together. Either that or they’re mostly drunk and don’t give a fuck. After listening to all 4 tracks on the CD the second option seems like the most viable one.
In summation; if you’ve got patches on nearly every article of your clothing, haven’t showered for a while, and bleeding from your ears (among other parts of your body) sounds like a good time, Fun Blood is probably your cup of tea.
The Worst of Robbie Giant and His Haphazzard Fag Trash Brigade
(A Girl Hurts, 2008)
As the insert of the CD indicates, this group of music isn’t a proper album but a compilation of music artist Robbie Giant recorded with friends between 2003 and 2008. The insert also states the music is of “various genres (and also qualities)”, which is a huge understatement.
It’s almost pointless to give this CD any kind of linear, track by track review. The music follows no specific evolving path, but instead jumps almost bipolarly from noise, industrial, post-garage punk, beat heavy instrumentals, and even guitar-centric ballads. Given the nature of the lyrics and the personal feel of the art, liner notes, and song titles, one can only gather this is a personal collection of music Robbie would most likely give exclusively to friends and family.
The Worst… is a strange portrait of someone who is a lover of nearly all subversive sounds and most definitely aims to share himself and his life experiences. More focus and a bit of help with the technical side of producing could allow Robbie to possibly write albums not unsimilar to those of Xiu Xiu, Julie Ruin, or Suicide.