Genre: Drone, Experimental
Infinity Padlock is an EP that finds Nudge exploring voices on the fringes of their album-based output. The group netted their largest audience with their 2005 release Cached, which came out on the well-respected Kranky imprint. Fans will recognize members Paul Dickow and Honey Owens under their solo monikers, Strategy and Valet, respectively. Dickow’s been a canny observer of independent musics for a long time, and the nuance and depth of the work he releases speaks to his keen ear and devoted eclecticism. Owens, for her part, has released some of the more celebrated psych work of the last few years.
Lately, the work of both Strategy and Nudge have been fascinating submersions of funk tactics in ambient atmospheres, yielding a fetching blend of homemade distortion, grotty polyrhythm, and spacious effects. Infinity Padlock, however, reflects a more meditative side of the group, one that’s deeply in touch with the post-acid agenda of Owens’ work. On “War Song” the group offers a watery, echo-laden reflection of the folk idiom, complete with layers of reverbed electric guitar, silvery vocals, and down-tempo percussion. “Angel Decoy” conjures shoegaze by generating a thick haze of blissful noise from which tiny shards of guitar, organ, and fiddle dart out like cut lightning bolts and sleet rain. The track is a shuddering analog storm system that would make Yellow Swans proud. “Sickth” enables the weight of an open nighttime sky and the fastidious activity of insects to converge in a gorgeous dream sequence. The EP closes with “Time Delay Twin,” a sort of bedroom folk clad in Sonic Youth pajamas.
Infinity Padlock is crawling with meticulous artistry that serves to shape complex, pliable moods. Far more than a throwaway collection of odd and ends, this EP deserves a respected place in the Nudge catalogue and your year-end best-of list.
In a semi-recent review posted on his Heritage Head web site, rock icon/author/critic Julian Cope envisioned the latest work by San Francisco duo Barn Owl as a kind of time traveller’s palantir, a sort of seer’s stone for gazing into America’s colonial past. He notes, “It’s as though the first layer of American settlers has been reactivated through the music and Barn Owl are transmitters.” As overzealous as his piece gets, Cope nears an important specificity in his description. The songs on From Our Mouths a Perpetual Light do evoke the foreboding ecstasy of discovery, the brooding anxiety of reaching into a new frontier. However, the rich psychic wilderness that they probe isn’t from the past, but from our very own time.
With this first non CD-R, formal LP, John Porras, Evan Caminiti and drummer Mike Bailey have created a purposeful, expansive drone music to soundtrack the forgotten dimensions of our postmodern consciousness. Using heavily effected guitars, ebbing harmonium and sparse percussion, the trio spins out eight compositions that slow time to a veritable halt, stopping our hyper-accelerated reality dead in its tracks. Almost fully instrumental and unbreaking in its mournful demeanor, the album goes a step further than much experimental music that aims to shake people from staid mindsets or inspire with challenging sonic abrasion. Instead, it locates buried outposts of meditative consciousness, delivering the listener into realms of time and space frequently ignored.
A significant part of what makes this record such a marked departure from other currents of contemporary music is its use of stark aural minimalism. The album was recorded analog on an old reel-to-reel and is devoid of ornamentation. Barn Owl uses the basic tools of rock and roll (and a slew of worthy effects pedals) to illuminate a world just beneath our plane of immediate perception, perhaps most poignantly illustrated by the short, enthralling vistas of “The Stones Speak Through the Fire.” In the echoed cries we hear a wilderness churning in isolation. This could be the soundtrack to a ritual being performed somewhere in expansive pristine America, but is more likely the distant sound of smelting ore, of free land being transformed into the cold dominion of man.
Nest of Iterations is an excellent addition to Yann Novak’s collection of works on his Dragon’s Eye Recordings label. Released as a 250 limited edition 5″ CD-R, this work will surely become a sought after collector’s item to those marveling in the works of Carsten Nicolai (Alva Noto), Taylor Dupree, Richard Chartier, and Evan Bartholomew.
Mountains Mountains Mountains, though it feels of a piece, is actually a compilation of sorts. The whole of side B ("Millions of Time" and "Hive") constitutes the entirety of a 3" CDR the band put together for a month long tour towards the end of 2005. And interestingly, "The Whale Years," the album's first track, was improvised in a hotel room in southern Georgia on that same tour (if only all improvisations sounded so beautiful and composed!). "Nest" was recorded in NYC in late 2007.
Those who are familiar with Mountains will notice a more muscular sound on Mountains Mountains Mountains. Much of "The Whale Years" is built around a phased guitar line that, through manipulation of an unknown sort, takes on an overwhelming celestial grandeur. "Nest" find Mountains returning to a fingerpicked acoustic guitar line, but with a ringing urgency that eventually falls away as the side runs out. "Millions of Time" is based on a motorik-style repeating sample, upon which the band hangs huge washes of guitar that recall something like the dissonant melodies of early 90s Shoegaze or the recent work of Axolotl. And the album ends with "Hive" which may be the most forceful piece they have recorded. The first two and a half minutes begin with a ringing cloud of layered guitar picking that dies away momentarily, at which point a howl of dissonance and guitar wail envelops the song, eventually pushing the piece to a monumental drone that is totally unexpected and amazing.Sold Out!
Finding his way to a deserted stretch of Johanna Beach along the Great Ocean Road (Victoria, Australia) in early 2003 Frost set up a remote studio at a derelict cabin overlooking the icy waters of Bass Strait. With a constant wind flowing off the sea his only companion, Frost started work on a series of improvisations that would eventually become Steelwound. A few months go by and Frost has made his way back to civilization. He begins editing the masses of treated guitar from the Johanna Beach improvisations and before long a theme takes hold - one that very much reflects the isolation of the environment where the tracks were created.
Each of the pieces on Steelwound is a epic journey, coloured with a deep sense of filmic narrative and suggested dialogues. The textural quality of the works, laced with field recordings and lost vocal fragments, sketches out the emotional soundscapes Frost had unwittingly gathered during his time at Johanna Beach. Each piece is a splintered fragment in time - a forgotten memory beautifully rediscovered in a moment of introspection.