Advertisement

Next Little Things: The Octopus Project, Alessandro Cortini, Raica, and more

Advertisement
Advertisement

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.

~

Over the last half-decade or so, it’s been interesting watching artists respond to an era of relative confusion regarding how their music is going to be released and marketed. How do you explain to an indie-rock heavy-hitter from the “(g)olden days” that the best way to get their audio wares out there, outside of shelling out $500 a month to a promo company shill, is through either the most futuristic methods possible (Soundcloud, Bandcamp, etc.) or the most archaic (vinyl or, lacking the funds, tapes)? It’s probably surreal for some, but I see a silver lining: As time passes, a lot of reliable entities from the recent past are resurfacing, better than ever. They’re making the best of the current climate and using its advantageous aspects to further their aspirations.

The Octopus Project are a prime example. For more than a decade, they’ve put out records the traditional way: on established indie labels and with a grip of pre-release hype. But they also entered the tape game this year (Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter CS reviewed below) via upstart cassette label Illuminated Paths, scaling down their widescreen, kitchen-sink indie rock sound so successfully it’s probably the release I’m most excited to share with you this month.

Alessandro Cortini (whose Forse 3  double LP is reviewed below) is another fascinating case, albeit on a whole other level. He twiddles knobs for Trent Reznor and has played in several questionably relevant bands, sure, but now he’s making a sizable dent in the underground with his experimental synthesizer recordings on well-kept labels like Important and Hospital.

You see? Redemption can be had, and fires can erupt from the smallest spark, so start dubbin’ those tapes and send a copy to the address affixed to the end of this column. Until then, vibe on another 18 reasons to believe in the machine.


__________________________________________________________

Black Zone Myth Chant – Mane Thecel Phares LP [Editions Gravats]

blackzonemythchant Next Little Things: The Octopus Project, Alessandro Cortini, Raica, and moreIn a random back-and-forth on social media recently, High Wolf (the mysterious artistic entity from which Black Zone Myth Chant is spun) and I talked about labels like Stunned and Peasant Magick and how it seems like it’s been forever since their heyday (even though we both know it’s really only been a few years). What I didn’t say to him at the time was, in that context, how much more these unfortunate matters make me appreciate the diligence of those who stick around and follow their art to its logical conclusion. Whether navigating the underbelly of post-hypnagogia under his chosen handle, running the Winged Sun label, or mashing our electronic buttons as Black Zone Myth Chant, France’s High Wolf is such an artist. Mane Thecel Phares is merely his latest triumph; his projects work over the musical side of our minds with a depth of skill you expect from compatriots like Hype Williams or Tomutonttu. It doesn’t get better than this if you want it all: programs/sequences set to burn the place up, down-pitched samples, poly-rhythms, keyboardz, bends, twists, turns, burns and molten mystery. Mane Thecel Phares might be the only challenge to Lotic’s debut EP when it comes to presenting electronics in a fresh light, so set your heart to Black Zone Myth Chant as soon as possible.

Preview:

__________________________________________________________

DarkTwaine – EarthEmergency Vol. 1 CS [Zona]

darktwaine Next Little Things: The Octopus Project, Alessandro Cortini, Raica, and moreEarthEmergency Vol. 1 is the real deal. It’s a nature film spliced with mellow solo guitar exploits; it’s a bass line tossed in a shoebox with cymbals and shaken around till it’s tipsy; it’s a beat-boxin’, slow-steppin’, hard-samplin’, time-warpin’ … piano giant? Yep, there are changes within this all-too-short recording that cause the heart to flutter. It’s confusing, freaky, and WRONG, yet so right, so decent … DarkTwaine rides the rails hard, never sitting back for a second to rest on its laurels, often pushing two audio concepts into the same space and making them work off each other as the walls close in. Those transitions I mentioned, by the way, aren’t confined to that blindingly brilliant sequence on Side A. The flip finds our heroes mangling harps and unidentifiable sampled detritus before diving headfirst into an exp-jazz alley, eventually blurring out into oblivion with shades on to block the morning sun. EarthEmergency Vol. 1 is a short journey, less than 20 minutes altogether, and you might just come out of it a changed listener. Don’t thank DarkTwaine — thank the tape spool’s gravitational pull.

Preview:

__________________________________________________________

Polígono Hindú Astral – 00110010 LP [Verlag System]

Polígono Hindú AstralPolígono Hindú Astral, whose 00110010 LP comes to us courtesy of Burka for Everybody sub-label Verlag System, are at the peak of their considerable powers after a run of cassette releases, fusing a disciplined brand of understated prog with sparkling strains of synth worship and faint flutters of darkwave. I can’t seem to say or write enough to impart how energetically I’m behind what this slab of wax represents. It’s part of a line of small-run releases (on the above-mentioned labels) so of-the-moment they melt upon impact. 00110010, then, is in the pocket of heat pressure propelling the movement forward, bursting with laser-sharp urgency only found in the most exclusive corners of the experimental music world. Polígono Hindú Astral are so un-precious about what they do, applying their Kraftwerk-inspired templates with a spareness that shouldn’t be nearly as gratifying as it is. To achieve such a scientifically superb, distinct result in a crowded field should rightly lead to a lot of dudes in lab coats scurrying over to PHA’s side of the office. Even when “N.Av” starts to get a little Night Rider-y, there’s not a hint of smirk to 00110010, an un-ironic take on what this band sees as the future. Consider “Aguas Subterráneas”; it’s a shade over two minutes, relatively spare, with no plot or punchline, yet I’m fairly sure its intersecting drips could be used to travel time, if only we could find a way to harness them. If you enjoy post-OPN electricity applied with panache and album covers adorned with geometric shapes, I don’t think I need to tell you what to do next.

Preview:

__________________________________________________________

Raica – Dose CS/LP [Further]

raica dose Next Little Things: The Octopus Project, Alessandro Cortini, Raica, and more“Slep_Non” is such a revelation that Raica’s Chloe Harris could have built an album around its randomly triggered pin-prick rhythms (that’s where recent Autechre comparisons must be coming from) and odd space-whistling alone, but you could say that about any of the eight unique servings packed into Dose like drone sardines. Each is a synth-driven snowflake, sequenced to dazzle in a manner that leaves the listener scrambling to figure out what just happened. Harris’ background as a DJ makes sense in a way, as she’s adept at keeping her compositions fluid and brisk, but she belies her past by refusing to play waiting games, spreading the magic evenly throughout each track. In other words, no looong buildups, new-age minimalism, or hesitation. Raica cuts to the quick, and right down to the bone, the blood-red heft of voyages like “Couchfire Dron” leaving a mark on the psyche. Peers like Cedric Stevens and Mind Over Mirrors would be proud. Dose is sold out on vinyl and cassette, so it looks like Bandcamp is the only option, for now. Repress?

Preview:

__________________________________________________________

Night Musik – Transit LP [Mind]

night musik transit Next Little Things: The Octopus Project, Alessandro Cortini, Raica, and moreThe Mind Records label (straight outta Japan and France) put out a 7-inch each by Bataille Solaire and Umberto over the last few years; both were so epic from head to toe I went ahead and looked into this fine LP as well. If you’re the type that treasures a well-placed import as much as I do, the soon-to-be-sold-out Transit LP by Night Musik (alias of studio gun Shub Roy, whose credits run from garage-rockers Grand Trine to Pink Noise to … Dirty Beaches?) is a must-get. Roy rubs warped quasi-dance music the right way, his multi-set suites milking every last bit of drama and accentuating what would already be luminous features. Clarinet samples blend effortlessly into concentric circles of electric energy, Metasplice-style jabs pound the ear and a nice, hard beat backs it all up like a trustworthy ally. I’m not sure if Roy’s the type to play for dozens/hundreds/thousands of people and sweat and advertise his wares like a typical DJ, but I have no doubt he could work that angle if need be — his relentless style arches way out to the nosebleeds. That dude in your life who sends you links to Warp album-release pages needs to fix his head on Transit for a second, don’t you think? Tell him.

Preview:

__________________________________________________________

Shit and Shine – Chakin’ CS [Astral Spirits]

shit shine chakin Next Little Things: The Octopus Project, Alessandro Cortini, Raica, and moreLook beyond the reaction-demanding moniker and you’ll find Shit and Shine to be a surprisingly dexterous outfit, from jazz to noise to workouts that’ll remind you just a bit of Zs. Chakin’ is a sharp departure from their enigmatic recordings on Load Records years ago, venturing into a choppy jazz stew that thickens as the brushes shuffle across the drum heads and a strangely unapologetic Fender Rhodes states its case. The murkier it gets, the more my ears perk up; soon we’re in the abyss, searching for signs of life. Stand-up bass and sax bubble up then disappear, existing only to elude your senses. When the tempo picks up again, you’ll snap along, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll be waiting for the next chance to plunge your head underwater, an opportunity that arises sooner than you might expect. There’s even some dubby rhythm-shifting afoot, turning what was a disorienting listen into a funhouse blob of wooziness. You’ll find shades of Comets on Fire’s opus Blue Cathedral, out-jazzers Polar Bear (vaguely, at that), and very little else, thankfully; Shit and Shine are nothing if not innovators, despite the fact that Chakin’ is as broad as anything they’ve done.

Preview:

__________________________________________________________

Macula Dog – s/t CS [Haord]

macula dog Next Little Things: The Octopus Project, Alessandro Cortini, Raica, and moreIt’s impossible to lack inspiration when Macula Dog are on the prowl. This hairy, synth-stacked, self-titled effort segues into all manner of mindless (yet mindful) fun. If you survived the wave of weirdness out of the northeast over the last decade (Zach Phillips/Blanche Blanche Blanche, Big French, the Feeding Tube label to name a few), or get down with Chicago’s Bird Names, you should be ready to take the Dog on, provided you don’t have a history of allergic reactions to kitsch and/or cheap keyboards wound tight as a parade snare. Think funhouse mirrors, cartoon drum sticks hitting rubber heads, voices obscured by pitch bends, and songs, in particular “Wrong Phone,” written in Pee Wee’s Playhouse; if that doesn’t do anything for you, picture the Panoply Academy Legionnaires in their prime, decked out in net hats with duck bills, spinning future-synth yarns for the world to hear. Historically I’d link them to Devo and The Residents; modern-day we’re talking about a mish-mash of contemporaries, from McFerrdog to the bands mentioned above. Join them.

__________________________________________________________

Martyr Group – s/t CS [OSR Tapes]

Martyr Group, 1983Speaking of Zach Phillips, one of his new projects, Martyr Group’s self-titled debut, showed up at my doorstep the other day, and I’d like to tell you about it. And believe me, you’ll want me to give you the lowdown, as there’s no other way to find out unless you want to request a paper catalog from OSR Tapes (which you should totally do), an offline recording operation that wants nothing to do with inters or nets. But that’s another story; let’s get down to business. Martyr Group is named after a Philip Taafe collage and employs a similar approach, throwing a lot of ideas at a canvas and letting stick what may. So many delicately interspersed sensibilities are at work here, the common element being laid-back keys and clean guitars, deadpan, intricately applied vocals, caffeinated AM trucker-rock vibes, and the tendency to piss-take all over the place. Phillips wrote all 24 tunes himself, and while his paw prints glare like the burning sun, he’s also growing a lot as a composer, at times approaching songcraft you wouldn’t expect from an artist entrenched so deeply in the underground. I loved that first Curtains record, and that’s the closest influence I can come up with, so if you dig that or anything ZP or his friends have conjured in the past don’t hesitate to look into Martyr Group for yourself.

Preview:

__________________________________________________________

The Octopus Project – Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter CS [Illuminated Paths]

octopus project Next Little Things: The Octopus Project, Alessandro Cortini, Raica, and moreSometimes being as consistently creative as Octopus Project can be a burden, as it’s easier to take a band for granted when it seems like the albums are stacking. I know I missed a couple of ’em, and not at all on purpose, so it’s a special treat to be so mega-blown away by this adorable little tape. Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter will hypnotize you quicker than Michael Caine’s stare, from the mesmerizing analog synth charts of “Library” to the exotic death-march rhythms of “Bunzo” to “Thrift Store”, an ambitious cut that derives the maximum emotion from a programmed stretch of sounds a la Radical Fashion. Octopus Project’s past proclivity for more boisterous fare is nowhere to be found, replaced by a deft touch that schools the tape game, ground-up. You could almost say Kumiko is the ultimate blueprint for an effective experimental cassette release, ripe as it is with all manner of moods, from hopeful, sun-peeking-out-from-behind-the-clouds intimacy to darker, cloudier stretches of intrigue. Plenty to keep the ear busy, as they (I) say, and with tapes like this, who needs horror soundtrack reissues (J/K, I love them too)?

Preview:

__________________________________________________________

The Myrrors – Arena Negra CS/LP [Beyond Beyond is Beyond]

myrrors arena negra Next Little Things: The Octopus Project, Alessandro Cortini, Raica, and moreThe Myrrors exist because the work of psych is never done. The question is, how can they compete in a genre overflowing with life? The answer, care of Arena Negra: Extreme reverence. It’s what the members of this band have for their material as they pound out measure after measure of lean, insistent psych-/post-rock in the vein of Religious Knives and pre-Sub Pop Jennifer Gentle. This is robe-wearing music, trance-inducing and at times quite heavy. The vocals, at least those found at the outset of Side B, are unfortunate and short-lived, so get past them because this trio won’t let you ignore them for long once they bring strings, reed pipe, tablas, quena, ocarinas, jaw harp, and many other instruments you’ll barely hear to the table. And that’s part of the fun, anyway; there’s a lot more going on under the surface, a whole other world of sounds that require a bit of searching out. If this column gets a little synth-y, let Arena Negra be the break in the clouds.

Preview:

__________________________________________________________

John Wiese – Deviate From Balance 2XLP [Gilgongo]

john wiese deviate from balance Next Little Things: The Octopus Project, Alessandro Cortini, Raica, and moreJohn Wiese is a notorious name in noise and (along with oft-partners Wolf Eyes and Andy Ortmann) practically invented the multi-format, flood-the-market approach to underground marketing circa 2000-10. To randomly get a gigantic double-vinyl set in the mail after nearly four years of quiet … let’s just say it’s time for celebration in the Purdum abode, and I’ve not even revealed the best part: he’s got a lot of his most talented genre buddies along for the ride. Deviate from Balance enlists the help of such ripe figures as C Spencer Yeh, Oren Ambarchi, Evan Parker, Joseph Hammer, Ikue Mori, Joe Preston, and Ju Suk Reet Meate (of Smegma), to name a few. Despite his guests’ excellent contributions, if you’d have told me, say, “Segmenting Process for Language” (which features 15 musicians) was just another Wiese solo venture, I’d not have been surprised. That’s the sort of ability we’re dealing with. Just imagine, then, the potential for momentum now that this noise maven has dozens of peers at his disposal.

It’s a crushing experience to play Deviate from Balance through because Wiese makes every second count. He’s always composed as if working against the threat of a ticking time bomb, but now he’s even more frenzied. You might call DFB the Ships (Danielson) of noise, as the outside contributions push this already-potent alchemist to new heights. He’s just as adept at coaxing an out-sound clarinet solo as he is turning the jangling of a set of keys into your mind’s next mixtape, and that’s what lends clarity to such a sprawling collection of experimental noise. “Dramatic Accessories” gets caught up in a bit of the same old Wiese story, with incidental explosions and squiggles thrown upon a blank canvas, and for the first time it would be fair to question whether, at this juncture, he’s showing us something new. This aberration, however, is a blip on a huge sound radar that should be zoned out. Deviate from Balance delivers a throbbing dose of what we’ve been missing, and its collectively refined nature renders it all the richer.

Preview:

__________________________________________________________

Jim Haynes – Scarlet CS [Helen Scarsdale]

scarlet Next Little Things: The Octopus Project, Alessandro Cortini, Raica, and moreI’ve been spinning Jim Haynes’ The Wires Cracked LP [Editions Mego, 2013] in anticipation of writing up the Scarlet cassette, and what strikes me upon comparing the two is how at odds they are despite traits that, to the lay person, would bind them together. What I’m taking away from Scarlet is an effort on Haynes’ part to make sense of the wreckage Wires Cracked left in its wake. Scarlet hovers like a drone gathering data, clicking along at a brisk factory rhythm that seems as if it could disappear into nothingness. And it does, as macabre moods attack and recede before a hard spray of mist clears the air. We’re back to square one, clawing for breath, a monstrous drone gaining momentum in the distance. It’s quite a while before we hit more turbulence; when we do, have your helmet ready. But Scarlet doesn’t overwhelm as much as it wears down resistance; the loud moments interrupt harshly, yet they’re almost always sent back to where they came from.

Preview:

__________________________________________________________

Tikhie Kamni – Zemli CS [Full of Nothing]

tikhie kamni Next Little Things: The Octopus Project, Alessandro Cortini, Raica, and moreA collection of vocal incantations first and foremost, Zemli projects its urgent desperation onto the listener in the most effective way possible: through the larynx of a tape-scene goddess. I don’t know where Tikhie Kamni found the inspiration to concoct these icy, minimal escapades — I just hope she doesn’t run out of it. And when I say “minimal,” don’t get it twisted. The sound of Zemli is immense; Kamni starts with a few basic elements (mostly just a bass, occasional piano, smatterings of rhythm, and effects washes) and through sheer will rises up and matches the throb factor of any five-piece rock band. There’s a sacred nature to these tunes, but never to the point where you start to wonder if you’re hearing an out-sound artifact or a religious procession. Each song takes a different path, and all meet up in the middle of Kamni’s emphatic soul. If you listen long enough, you’ll want to end up there, too.

__________________________________________________________

Trepaneringsritualen & Sutekh Hexen – One Hundred Year Storm 2XLP [Pesanta Urfolk]

OHS_LPOne Hundred Year Storm, a star-crossed double LP if there ever was one, was recorded at the Stella Natura festival in September of 2013 and slated for vinyl release in summer of 2014. A couple of test presses-gone-awry later, and Trepaneringsritualen and Sutekh Hexen’s concert opus finally is available. The wax is heavier than an anvil and the artwork is devastating, as always with Pesanta Urfolk, but exactly how does it sound, considering the test press problems? For starters, it’s not one of those aural artifacts that will remind you of any recorded works out there. The mix has a low end-heavy, distant feel to it, and you can really soak in every aspect of the production (dark clouds of drone, electric pings, buzzing, slow-motion bass blurbs, anguished, snarling vocals, blowtorch noise, and just a little guitar, clean and distorted) without compromise. One Hundred Year Storm is, first and foremost, a ritualistic drone, so have a sacrifice ready if you’re going to delve into this black noise tornado. Screaming fans break the mood a little bit, and that’s part of the deal; we’re talking about a festival in the woods. It culminates in a finale you’ll want to hear regardless of whether you decide to invest in the physical LPs or not. A stunning black metal riff sweeps through the mix for the first time all show, and drives the performance into the stratosphere, like a snapshot of Sutekh Hexen’s Larvae. It happens too fast, and the wait was too long, and that’s what Kevin Gan Yuen and company DO.

__________________________________________________________

James Place – Living on Superstition LP [Umor Rex]

james place living on superstition Next Little Things: The Octopus Project, Alessandro Cortini, Raica, and moreIf you’ve been listening intently to the progression of solo synth, electronic, drone, and certain strains of future-prog in the last decade, Living on Superstition will serve as a nice homogenization of the best of all four. What amazes me is the intimate space James Place clears out amid his hive of sequence(r)s, ambient washes, and beats. Particularly on tracks like “Sense of an Ending” and “Behind Windows”, it’s almost as if he’s walling himself off from the outside world and sharing the discoveries he’s made with you and only you. Living on Superstition approaches its wares from a variety of angles, from fade-ins to breakdowns to segments that wouldn’t be out of place on techno releases from the past few years. It all circles back to Place, aka Phi Tortoroli of Styles Upon Styles fame, and his sixth sense for synths and buildup politics. He is the chosen one, so follow him wherever he may go.

Preview:

__________________________________________________________

Komodo Haunts – Suijin LP [Aguirre]

komodo haunts suijin Next Little Things: The Octopus Project, Alessandro Cortini, Raica, and moreSuijin starts with a bang. “Lemurs Like Rain” sprinkles a hypnotic, sensual dust atop the ear for a few minutes of Cvlts-ish bliss before the true mission statement of Komodo Haunts, né Ollie Tutty, is revealed: a longform brand of experimentation akin to tape drone with a more melodic, folk-laden approach. That’s what leads to the ultimate conflict of the material; as much as it might test your patience in the short-term, over the long haul you’ll see the light as it drowns out the dull darkness. The guitar playing is particularly pleasing, on its own providing enough intrigue to warrant a test-spin. I’d even venture to say I’ve heard solo-guitar records that sound a lot like the base layer of what Tutty is pulling off here. The NZ/Siltbreeze sound, while a definite influence and as vital as ever in its own right, has got nothing on Suijin.

Preview:

__________________________________________________________

Alessandro Cortini – Forse 3 2XLP [Important]

forse3 Next Little Things: The Octopus Project, Alessandro Cortini, Raica, and moreAlessandro Cortini (NIN) is like Yeah Yeah Yeahs drummer Brian Chase: not about to give up his experimental roots just because he can pay his rent. And he’ll continue to be a draw on the limited-run scene, as the demand for mind-expanding electronic projections shows no signs of waning. Forse 3, the final release in a sacred triptych, finds Cortini in a quiet, contemplative place. None of the overt, attention-getting overtures of the first two editions; less bleeps and bloops, more misty-mountain drones and pondering voyages to the edge of synth-space time. It’s blurry and syrupy, like crawling through a tunnel of warm maple straight from the sap, and though I enjoyed the first two editions of Forse, I think the third time’s the charm for this out-sound franchise. It’s a more thoughtful entry that brings the series to a close with class and the kind of zeal that renders four full sides of exploration palatable even for novice navigators. The only question is, where will Cortini direct his submarine of sound next?

Preview:

~

Grant Purdum is a writer living in Corpus Christi, Texas. His work has been seen at Tiny Mix Tapes, The Wire, and The AV Club. He tweets.

To submit for Next Little Things consideration, mail Grant Purdum at:

2714 Bretshire Drive
Corpus Christi, TX 78414

Advertisement