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Next Little Things: Porcelain Raft, Julian Lynch, Michael O., and more

Eighteen bite-sized reviews of physical releases from the musical underground.

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    Original artwork by Cap Blackard (Buy Prints + More)

    Next Little Things is a monthly round-up of limited-run, mostly experimental vinyl/tape releases reviewed by Grant Purdum.

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    Had a conversation recently with a label owner who is at his wit’s end. He can’t get anyone to review his releases, premiere his releases, or even listen to his releases despite their obvious relevance. Why?

    I’ve also talked to a lot of great bands over the last year who can’t seem to find a label to put out, or even listen to (sound familiar?), their music despite a history of success in the cassette world. Why?

    In my mind, a lot of folks have fallen in love with familiarity. Labels are releasing music by their buddies and refusing to give strangers a chance, and in turn a lot of us in the media world are doing the same, covering familiar names and rarely venturing outside of our comfort zones.

    I don’t have any solutions here, only the resolve to push back where I can. In this very column (NLT’s fourth edition if anyone’s keeping track), in fact, I went so far as to cover an entity that may or may not exist in the present (Lewis). I also look into a 12-inch collaboration that literally avoided being reviewed (Silent Servant/51717), and several bands/artists (Swearwords, Julian Lynch, Opaline, Sparkling Wide Pressure, Porcelain Raft) I’ve never previously written about. It’s a start, right?

    Low Jack – Sewing Machine LP [In Paradisum]

    0004759627 10 Next Little Things: Porcelain Raft, Julian Lynch, Michael O., and moreThe four-on-the-floor, kick drum-worship of modern times can become repetitive. I get a half-dozen releases every month that contain little more than a metronomic beat, squiggles, and empty space deader than doorknob. Low Jack, aka Philippe Haillas, combats the icy detachment of modern electronic music and/or the techno resurgence by inhabiting a space similar to that of Esplendor Geometrico, wherein the chaotic beauty of noise and the precise machinations of electronics are spliced together like film strips. A gaggle of just the sort of beats I’m complaining about above present themselves on Sewing Machine, yet they’re doused in screech-y dissonance and set aflame. Haillas also employs a smear technique to blot the solidity of his sounds, a ploy that spreads the tentacles of his compositions and equates to blurring the edges of a drawing, fuzzing up an indie rock recording, or using soft light on a movie set: What you see/hear is more faded, gentler, and infinitely more inspiring.

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    Evil Twin – AYIN CS [Shit Music for Shit People]

    a1186032228 16 Next Little Things: Porcelain Raft, Julian Lynch, Michael O., and moreEvil Twin manage to sound exotic even when they deal in suspect synths and oblong, obtuse piano drones, their ethnotronic explorations taking them to climes also explored by up-and-comers on the Hospital Productions/Sublime Frequencies/Discrepant rosters. AYIN wouldn’t work if the temperature weren’t just right for revolution; tunes like “Jawa” depend on exacting delivery and the patience to flush out the details that matter, much in the manner of The Books’ best work (though the similarities end there). When Evil Twin flail, they flail spectacularly, and that’s the price you pay when your experiments range far and wide. I choose to remember AYIN for its positive traits, which include trance-friendly chants, mystical, worldly electronic experiments, and enough intrigue to require several listens before a full understanding crystallizes.

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    Barnett / Ortmann – Seasonal Attrition CS [Centre]

    BarnettOrtmannwebChicago exp-music maven Andy Ortmann (founder of Panicsville, the Nihilist label) and Alex Barnett (best known as one-half of Barnett + Coloccia) team up for a cassette that will frizzle-fry every brain cell you have left in your melon before it’s done. Seasonal Attrition is so vast and enigmatic I’m struggling to even effectively review it; every time I think I have a handle on the proceedings — whether it be fascinating pre-programmed patterns, dank, dark rumblings, or spaced-out oscillations — the mood changes, and I’m left holding my pen. To me that’s what a good tape is supposed to be. If you’re going to hang on a drone trope like the edge of a cliff for an entire side, feel free to dump your tapes off a skyscraper rather than send them to me (j/k, mail your tapes to me regardless), or at least consider offering the sonic diversity of what Barnett and Ortmann achieve with Seasonal Attrition.

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    Leafcutter John – Resurrection LP [Desire Path]

    DesirePath-Pathway009-Cover1000pxMuch like John Butcher or Kevin Shea, Leafcutter John’s name seems to be plastered like a flier across the modern avant-jazz scene by dint of his contributions to combos like Polar Bear and his solo work. I’ll be honest: I had no idea what to expect from Resurrection, and was not only dazzled but enlightened by its contents. Or at least, I’ve found LJ carries with him a delightfully short attention span, a colorwheel of moods determining every next move. “I Know You Can” kicks Resurrection off with a cacophony of lost voices, odd, quasi-cowbell taps, and a surging drone that, with the other elements included, reminds me most of influential small-timers like Babe, Terror. “Endless Wave” sees Lea-Jo picking up the mic and revealing his squeaky voice and manic manner atop a bed of fresh avant-greens, of course. “Gulps” provides an almost life-changing serenity, overlapping tone waves absorbing each other until it all forms a huge rainbow, arcing far above the horizon. It’s probably the most recognizable tune, as far as carrying similarities to a ton of cassettes dubbed over the past half-decade, but Leafcutter John does it better than most of those amateurs, adding clarinet scales and other less-identifiable instruments to create a soft, soupy brew. The man’s done his homework.

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    51717 & Silent Servant – Jealous God 6 12-inch [Jealous God]

    72779xbig Next Little Things: Porcelain Raft, Julian Lynch, Michael O., and more51717 (recording alias of Lili Schulder) and/or Silent Servant are tougher to get on the horn than Vladamir Putin. I have never encountered such difficulties securing audio materials for review, and as such, Jealous God 6 became Moby Dick as I chased it across the frothy seas of experimental electronics. I still never made contact, but I did finally procure JG6, and I must say, even with all the trouble, or perhaps because of it, I’m sold on its relevance in a crowded market. Schulder’s half of the project is enamored by a less-than-less-is-more credo, and tracks like “The Glove” and “Porsche” give away so little it’s almost excruciating, like a withholding parent, until a token beat or scheme breaks up the static gray. It all has the feel of the last few words before death; dance to that! Silent Servant occupy a space next to the Nostilevo label on the nihilistic post-darkwave circuit, rhythms existing as blobs in the background while a vague facsimile of a latenight newscast streams overhead. You could slap a million labels on Jealous God 6, so I’ll leave that to the kidz; next level jams, for sure.

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    Lewis – Hawaiian Breeze CS [Summersteps]

    a0669993043 16 Next Little Things: Porcelain Raft, Julian Lynch, Michael O., and moreLewis is purported to be a mystery, Hawaiian Breeze another lost album dug from the trenches of lord-knows-where. I don’t know about all that; I just like what I hear in a Dennis Wilson kinda way. If this was created in modern times, as I suspect, I can understand why they chose the PR angle they did because Breeze has a timeless quality to it, not to mention fine soul vocals that could come from a number of sources (i.e., they could have been manufactured somehow). The songs plod along to synths set in the ’70s, trumpets locked in the ’80s, and guitars locked onto, alternately, Jandek and arena rock. It’s all sorta jive-ass, like a lounge in Las Vegas where the cheap people go after hours, when pretty much anyone can take the mic, and just once, a cat jumps on who can razzle-dazzle just a bit, like a prize-fighter MC but with melody on the mind. Maybe no one notices, but we got it on tape, for all-time. The field recordings of waves only up the ante on the inquiry (or not), so latch onto Lewis while the web is still tangled.

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    Charnel House – Voiceless Hymns CS [Auris Apothecary]

    a1795076318 16 Next Little Things: Porcelain Raft, Julian Lynch, Michael O., and moreCharnel House occupy a space on the nexus of dronoise, yet they bust out so HARD and HEAVY on “Infinite Instance” after six tracks of drift that I feel I must notate the influence of bands as disparate as Racebannon, Fadensonnen, Matta Gawa and Dead Reptile Shrine (the latter mainly because of the screaming). It’s tough to return to the desert after hearing “Infinite Instance”, but there’s nothing wrong with what CH set out to accomplish with Voiceless Hymns overall, their drum-driven (or at least -aided) drone provoking as many questions as answers as it puts forth a giant blur of lo-fi spume. For this reason, my instincts tell me Hymns is an experience best left to the intimate environs of headphones, but I’m listening to it on ‘phones right now, and I’m not getting a damn thing. I’d have an easier time picking bite-sized diamonds out of a sandstorm as it rushed toward me like an angry bull. I’m exaggerating a bit, of course, because take a cut like, for instance, “Introduction”, and there’s plenty of fidelity, or at least definition. Same with the “Borax Pillow” and its manic rhythms. Overall, though, Charnel House prefer largely formless masses that divebomb at the eardrum like an F-22 Tomcat. Don’t be scared to fly their unfriendly skies.

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    Marriage – Pool Blunt LP [Monofonus]

    Pool Blunt-cover-webThere’s a lot of egg on my face right now because I finally just realized Austin’s Marriage contains Mike Kanin, a former member of Black Eyes. ICYMI, they’re the sax-shredding quintet that rewrote a lot of the rules for experimental rock with two records on Dischord: a self-titled effort and my personal fave, Cough. While Marriage in no way apes what Black Eyes accomplished, Kanin’s keen ear for rhythm and the funkier tendencies of BE stick out like a couple of stubbed toes. “Oh My God” is the deadest giveaway, and when I mention “funky tendencies,” don’t get me wrong; this is the best kind of funk I can imagine, sharpened enough to be lethal and catchy enough to tap a toe or three to. Kanin, Nate Cross, Jeff and Greg Piwonka, and Alex LaRoche took their vows to bring you Pool Blunt after almost achieving a perfect “10” with 2013’s For Brotzmann, so I hope you give it a good tug. I was sent this LP without any info, and I cannot find a preorder yet; be patient and check up with Monofonus Press regularly.

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    Michael O. – Really? LP [Fruits & Flowers]

    a1372802982 16 Next Little Things: Porcelain Raft, Julian Lynch, Michael O., and moreIn the end, we’re all looking for truth, whether in literature or music; I guess that’s why I never turn down the chance to hear an intimate side project, even if its principal is from a band (The Mantles) I’m barely familiar with. Michael O., as a solo entity, isn’t out to change the world or detail its injustices to you. Really? is more an opportunity to unplug the feed and tune out. He’s taking notes off the best, from Michael Chapman to White Fence’s Tim Presley to any acoustic record you’ve heard a punk frontman put out, and he gets lost in his drowsy world, seemingly strumming his way out of a personal funk until he feels well enough to sing again. As a result, the songs attain a homier feel. There’s no rush to define any one sequence or phrase, no verse-chorus crutch to cling to, and no specific audience to genre-pitch to. Just a guy, his guitar, the odd-clarinet and his crappy home-recorder, workin’ it out, and if anything I’m underplaying it because Michael O. (Olivares) proves his mettle time and time again. Really? Really.

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    Sparkling Wide Pressure – Clouds and Stairs LP [No Kings]

    tumblr inline nm40lqh6st1qc1yzb 500 Next Little Things: Porcelain Raft, Julian Lynch, Michael O., and moreReviewing Lanterna CDs about 15 years ago, I’d never have imagined how much of this desert-ambient material I’d be evaluating in the future. Sparkling Wide Pressure’s Clouds and Stairs thankfully finds plenty to delve into beyond the obvious tropes (lonely guitar ruminations, even lonelier drones; mysticism, tendencies not unlike that of a film soundtrack). “Wrapped in a Blanket (Infinitey Light)” comes across as innocent, even quaint, spare guitar plucking and little else, until a tantric drone wave and deep, shamanic vocals swoop in like Tarzan on a vine and wreck the place. A lone six-string emerges, followed closely by digital bleeping and high, uncomfortable tones that settle into a comforting grasshopper buzzzzz. Then come the warped voice samples; you probably should have brought a sleeping bag, friend. If zoning out to Plankton Wat or any number of tape-drone acts appeals to you, Clouds and Stairs will reach above and beyond your expectations.

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    Trans FX – Into the Blu LP [Perennial / K]

    prnl025 Next Little Things: Porcelain Raft, Julian Lynch, Michael O., and moreDon’t tell Trans FX he’s communicating to a few hundred listeners at most. In his mind, he’s broadcasting to the world, and Into the Blu is the message in a bottle he’s tossing our way. As such, it’s pointless to resist his overtures, not to mention the ’80s mannerisms he’s so adept at spinning together with nary a smirk. The vaporwave gang would do well to learn from how sincere deliberately cheesy sounds can be; with tunes like “Living Thru Glass”, Trans FX is having his cake and eating it too, bringing the fun but surrounding it with darkness and confusion. Who knew Simple Minds could be so complicated, or Underworld so modern? What drives me mad is how stadium-ready Into the Blu is. Even with all its quirks, a cut like “I Want It All” could blast from ye olde main stage right next to the acts with much less underground cred. Trans FX demand to be taken seriously even if the idols they worship do not.

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    Julian Lynch – Orange You Glad CS [Baro]

    Julian Lyncha1787753794 16 Next Little Things: Porcelain Raft, Julian Lynch, Michael O., and more of Ducktails and Real Estate fame plugged Orange You Glad into wayyy few brains back in 2009, so Baro’s bringin’ it back, bro, and it’s mind-blowing how confident and free his vocal melodies are. My view of Lynch as primarily a guitarist shattered, I search for solace in the neon forest he’s constructed and find it. Problem is, the experience is more difficult to relate than most. I hear that signature Lynch wah-wah flowin’ and trippin’, but only intermittently. Clarinet and hand drums, on the other hand, are not only allowed, but encouraged; wood block makes an appearance, as it and other taboos are treated like perfectly reasonable bedfellows. It seems apparent now that in 2009 a lot of artists were trying to figure out what to do Next in the wake of Animal Collective, and if the indie-rock world would have taken more cues from Orange You Glad, it’s possible we’d be in a better place now. If dig Tonstartssbandht and Pumice and you missed this crisp, golden nugget the first time around, call the pharmacy.

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