Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Human Trapped Rhythms mLP

Here’s a release from 1985 that’s so far out in left-field that it has pretty much left the ballpark. Combining industrial noise with minimal electronics, mantra-like chants and primal screams, utterly unrefined singing and creepy tape loops - all of which come together in the most barebones of musical structures - this record is less a collection of “songs” than an amateurly sinister (or sinisterly amateur?) foray into avant garde atmospherics.

Many of the tracks here are little more than synth lines over which male or female vocals sing, talk, shriek, or all of the above. Some sound a bit ridiculous and cross the terrain into simple pretension, but there are some tracks that are both stark and beautiful. “No Words” is about two or three notes played on the low end of a synthesizer, with the female vocalist slowly reciting poetic lyrics. “The Message” is the closest this record comes to an actual song, with thudding sparse industrial percussion, hints of an ominous rhythm in the background, and male vocals repeating the words “roll back… and die”. “Blood Run” is nothing more than white noise and chimes, as a cacophonic chorus of ghosts tunes their vocals.

The title track is particularly odd and interesting, awash in sampled noise and echoing laughter, child’s-toy instruments, and vocals that vaguely recall traditional British folk music. It’s a pretty strange and slightly creepy track. It kind of sounds like those brief 5-10 seconds of hushed music played at the end of horror movie trailers. You know those trailers that begin with a narrator whose vocal tone implies profundity, but whose words are cliché, bordering on inane? They start with “In a world… where there is no line… between life and death”, and then there’s a minute of action and suspense scenes. Then the trailer cuts the sound to a minimum, and a quiet, spooky song (a song quite similar to the title track on this record) is the only sound in the theater, played at a low volume to build suspense, as the camera zooms in on a lone figure in an austere room illuminated by a moonlit window, and maybe the eerie music is accompanied by vocals of a little girl with a British accent, whose otherwise innocent and sweet singing sounds vaguely evil as the shadows of dying trees dance in the moonlight, playing across the mystery figure’s visibly trembling silhouette, and the camera moves slowly but steadily closer to them, and you wonder if the figure is perhaps the singing girl, or a monster, or a figment of someone’s imagination and then the figure slowly turns, and they're revealed to be a girl in her late teens, her vacant sheet-white face glowing a ghostly blue in the moonlight and the vocals fade and all music fades aside from a lone suspenseful shimmering note and then out of nowhere BAM!!!!! a sparkling vampire grabs the figure you realize it’s a trailer for a new Twilight movie. Goddamn it.

Listen to the mLP here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Black Box: Fetish#1 7”

Out of Australia comes this obscure and rare 7” by a band called The Black Box. Their influences are quite obvious – very Birthday Party and somewhat deathrock sounding stuff here. It’s grinding, screeching, noisy guitar rock, with vocals that seem primed for attack, drums occasionally pounded so hard you feel sorry for them, and short sax interludes. It’s actually the band’s perfect use of the sax that sets this release above so many similar “me-too” bands. The instrument goes from short aggressive bleats to tuneful melodies in the space of a few seconds. It makes both songs much more dynamic and interesting.

The record was self released in 1989 on Claude Records. There is not too much information to be found about this band – it seems they released only this 7” (although I’d certainly like to hear more if it exists) and then toiled in obscurity. It’s time to rediscover them now. This record is a bit scratchy, so excuse the static and clicks that are mainly at the beginning of each song.

Black Box: Fetish#1 7”

1989, Claude Records


Poison Shadows

Click here to listen!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Nullset: Debut 7"

For some reason, my initial post of this record disappeared... Here it is again. This is the exceedingly rare and practically unknown debut 7” from obscure New Jersey synth band Nullset. In the past, I posted their Unisphere 12” and Forget You First 7”. Those records found the band in pop-ish new wave territory (although Unisphere is still has some pretty nice DIY sounding synthpop tracks). But this 7” is much more electronic, and features one of my absolute favorite synthpunk song.
The A side is a good lo-fi synthpop song that sounds very much like their material on their 12” released later in the year. It’s somewhat tinny and not recorded particularly well. The low production value adds to the song's charm, though.
The B-side is the truly kickass song though. Unfortunately, it is a live recording (begging the question, why could they not have recorded this song in a proper studio? Did they only have time for one song when they recorded the A-side?). Aside from being mixed VERY low (allowing for even light surface noise to be noticeable at the beginning), the sound is not that bad for a live track recorded in 1981 or so in a tiny club. And the song packs a punch – it is fast-paced synthpunk, with some great synth lines and loads of KR-55 drum machine fills. If there is somehow an unreleased studio recording of this, perhaps someone out there has it?
This record was released in 1983, shortly before the Unisphere 12”, and has been largely forgotten. I can imagine that only a few hundred of these were ever pressed, and I have only ever seen one copy in my life – which I grabbed without hesitation and have ripped here.

Nullset: Debut 7"
1983, JRM Records

Monday, March 5, 2012

Eleven Pond: Reunion show in Brooklyn

With this post, my blog comes full-circle, in a way. One of my very first posts ever was the Eleven Pond LP Bas Relief. That monster rarity contained some perfectly written synthpop and darkwave gems, and as the mp3s were distributed more and more, and as the record began to flirt with $500+ prices on eBay, the demand for a reissue was unrelenting. The album eventually became the inaugural release on the highly respectable Dark Entries label, and is well on its way to selling out multiple pressings.

Jeff Gallea, bassist and principle songwriter of the group, had continued to dabble in music throughout the couple decades since that record was released, and the idea of an Eleven Pond reunion show appealed to him as much as it did to everyone who ever heard the record. What was initially supposed to be a low-key solo show in Brooklyn with Jeff performing Eleven Pond songs soon morphed into a long-awaited reunion between him and singer/guitarist James Tabbi that culminated in a one-off performance on February 16. The duo had not seen each other (let alone performed together!) for almost 24 years. But when they took the stage after just one rehearsal with Abby Echiverri from Dream Affair and Barrett Hiatt from Revel Hotel on synths/violin and electronic drums respectively, it sounded as if they had never ceased being a band.

They barreled through 8 songs, including a couple covers and new/unreleased tracks. The sold-out crowd danced to every beat without stopping. The band was tight, energetic, and the mutual excitement shared by the crowd and band was palpable. Everyone in the audience left the show elated.

Jeff recorded the entire show on a small tape recorder – while the sound occasionally clips a little bit on a few songs, it’s a surprisingly good recording (Jeff's bass especially stands out). He posted most of the show to listen or download on the Eleven Pond soundcloud page. I’ve also consolidated the entire show for your listening pleasure below.

Check out a video of Tear & Cinnamon here:

I took photos of the show, including openers Plastic Flowers and Frank (Just Frank); you can find them all here.

Eleven Pond

Reunion Show @ Glasslands

Tear and Cinnamon

Moving Forward

Dancing Barefoot



Sitting on Chairs

Watching Trees


Click here to download the show!