Album Review

Donato Epiro – Fiume Nero (Black Moss, 2014)

donato epiro - fiume nero album cover
Donato EpiroNaja Nigricollis (Black Moss)

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Donato’s been around for a while, letting loose on numerous labels limited tapes and CD-Rs of bizarre worldly sounds, generally (unfortunately) not making too big of a splash. Then along comes Black Moss, the label responsible for that Umberto picture disc to accompany your suicide and the insaaaaane Slowmantra tape, and they’re like “Dude! The world’s gotta wake up! Lets press this shit to wax and spread the love.” So they did. This is Epiro’s vinyl debut and it compiles tracks from two of his previous releases, Sounding The Sun & Supercontinent, both on the late great Stunned. Now I don’t normally post about reissue/compilation stuff here but this gets a pass because 1: I already mentioned this dude is way under-appreciated, 2: it was really easy to lose track of the onslaught of Stunned releases at the time, let alone going through the back-catalog now that they’re kaput, and most obviously 3: Fiume Nero fuckin kills. This is some dark jungle shit, vibin hard on sweaty rhythms, heat wave fuzz lines droning in the distance, ethno-industrial jams that feel like fever dream hallucinations, washed out black noise and beastly flutter, this is what you hear after solo trekking through the rainforest for weeks on end and you’re at the edge of your life, stumbling upon a tribe performing manic dance rituals, this record appropriates everything and comes out sounding fresh as fuck, Donato nails it. Only 300 copies and don’t let the reissue thing dissuade you. Fiume Nero is essential.

Album Review

Jackie McDowell – Baptisia (Hairy Spider Legs, 2014)

jackie-mcdowell-baptisia-album-cover
Jackie McDowellApogee And Perigee (Hairy Spider Legs)

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Inez Lightfoot is no more. But the powerful alchemist behind Inez Lightfoot, Jackie McDowell, continues on with her regular name, definitely something a lot of artists seem to be doing lately. Not judging or anything, just observing. For posterity’s sake. You know. Anyway, Baptisia is McDowell’s first record under this name, and it’s a fuckin winner. It’s some sort of folk drone pop that’s heavy on the strange & mystic and steeped with buzzing organ hum, which instantly makes me weak in the knees. This has a deep Zomes vibe, especially after that last record with Hanna Olivegren spicing things up with vocals, and I fucking love Zomes so McDowell is already batting a thousand. This record is just a total fuckin burner, with her beautifully distinct voice, singing somber songs rooted in the pagan world, an occasional acoustic guitar, violin, or drum machine, and a dash of field recordings, together creating a haunting atmosphere out of otherworldly tantras, McDowell’s role is enchanting shaman, conjuring hypnotizing sounds that you’d hear while lost in the woods, the drone set to infinity and McDowell floating along with it in perfect harmony, this is a beautiful fuckin record, weird & magical in all the right ways, and it fits in perfectly with Hairy Spider Legs’ oeuvre. Comes out next month, preorders are up so put yours in now and don’t worry about missing out.

Album Review

Gordon Ashworth – S.T.L.A. (Orindal, 2014)

gordon ashworth - stla album cover
Gordon AshworthDesperate And Indebted (Orindal)

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You might not recognize the name Gordon Ashworth because this is his first record under his own name but I can almost guarantee you already know him. He’s recorded as Concern, Oscillating Innards, CAEN, etc, he’s also in the band Knelt Rote, and a bunch of others. So yeah, busy dude, he ain’t new to the scene, and S.T.L.A. makes that readily apparent because HOLY SHIT this record is fucking amazing. He takes a wholly unique approach to folk drone, bringing together his arsenal of talent to blend lush digitalism with tender acoustic keys & strings, in just under 40 minutes he’s able to conjure an entire world of sound teeming with life, mini portraits via field recordings, transcendence out of emotional piano, soft Tesla static and minimal tonal drift, a beautiful banjo singing with heartache, the boundaries are non-existent and Ashworth reins everything together with precision, old Americana & musique concrète alongside blurred drone & modern classical, everything all at once and pared down to the barest intimate impression of reality. Not gonna lie, I was pretty fuckin bummed when Ashworth drew the shades on Concern a couple years ago, but S.T.L.A. heals that wound and goes way beyond what I had hoped for, this record is utterly fantastic, gorgeous in every way. It doesn’t hurt that I’m a sucker for banjos, especially banjo drone, I mean forget about it I’m a fuckin goner, but trying to get past that, this is easily one of the best goddamn records I’ve heard in a long time. For real. Only 300 copies pressed up, so stream some samples then get your pre-order on now and lock it in.

Album Review

Cody Yantis – Resonant Memory (Planted Tapes, 2014)

cody yantis - resonant memory album cover

Cody YantisBrightness III (Planted Tapes)

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Yantis has been slowly digging his own niche in the weird ambient folk scene for a few years (see Box Elder, Cold Scholar), but this new one on Planted Tapes takes things to another level with the addition of warbly tape manipulation on top of his dusty reverbed guitars. Maybe the tape manipulation has always been there, but now it’s undeniable, and undeniably awesome. There’s a bit of a kitchen sink approach to instruments here, but the plucked strings (guitar and banjo), piano, tape work, & field recordings are the foundation, and he’s built a magnificent world of barely there ghosts and distant dreams, a room that you stumble through in the dark, grasping at shadows instead of the real thing, trying to confirm the existence of something concrete, and instead coming up empty, with the silence in between echoes warped until it’s only partially recognizable and the music you expect to hear is decayed, sharp & clear in one moment, falling apart at the next, delicate to begin with and turned to thread bare lace by the end, this is truly incredible heartfelt and emotional music that fills every fold of your headspace with a mysterious familiarity, an album that you won’t be able to shake and will obsess over until the tape itself degrades on its spools. I can’t recommend this enough. Only 100 made, $7 including postage, you can’t go wrong.

Mixes

Dark Cloud Rising

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I couldn’t just do a Halloween special on AGB Radio (tonight from 7-9 EST on BFF.fm!), I had to make a creep filled mix especially for you guys. However you party, this will be the perfect score for your Halloween.
 
Dark Cloud Rising
1. Mississippi Fred McDowell – Dark Cloud Rising
2. Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath
3. Wilt – She Walks The Night
4. The Sensational Whirlwinds – (Make Old) Satan Leave Me Alone
5. Have A Nice Life – The Parhelic Circle
6. Wreck & Reference – Abhorrence
7. Angelo Badalamenti & David Lynch – Owl Cave
8. Florida-Alabama Progressive Seven-Shape-Note Singing Convention – God’s Gonna Set The World On Fire
9. Bohren & Der Club Of Gore – Maximum Black
10. The Angelic Process – Welcome To Oblivion
11. John Carpenter – The Fog
12. Lonnie Johnson – Lonesome Ghost Blues
13. Jasper TX – Black Sleep Part IV
14. Robert Johnson – Hellhound On My Trail
15. Avgrunden – The Gate Of A Hundred Sorrows
16. Rev. I. B. Ware – I Wouldn’t Mind Dying
17. Empire Auriga – Waiting For The Fall
18. The Pod – Collecting Dust

Album Review

In The Meantime Part 1: Good Dreams

Just because I stopped writing for a bit doesn’t mean I stopped listening. Actually felt like I did way more listening than usual, or maybe it was just more quality listening without the review cloud storming up in my brain. Either way, here’s a quick rundown of some chill records I’ve been jamming these past few months. Part 2 will be the louder noisier scarier stuff.
 
 
danny paul grody - between two worlds album cover
Danny Paul GrodyBetween Two Worlds (Three Lobed)
Omfg this is one of my favorites from this year, Grody (of the forever missed Tarentel) goes way beyond the experimental guitar soli stuff and turns solo guitarscapes into a lush & serene ocean spanning this life and every other, delicate drone, subtle piano, & obscured vocals breathing bliss into every moment of this record. For a guitar record, it goes places you never dreamed of.
 
 
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Alessandro CortiniForse Volume 1 (Important)
This has been getting tonnnns of spins over here. Cortini is from Nine Inch Nails and How To Destroy Angels, which automatically (shamefully) made me not care about this. But for some reason I listened to a sound sample and was instantly sold. This is some incredible minimal/maximal single-Buchla-synth drone stuff that’s got the occasional rhythm and is fucking out of this world awesome. Sadly you missed your chance with the 2xLP, it’s sold out. Luckily, Volumes 2 & 3 are forthcoming before the year’s end. This is gonna be a trilogy to write home about let me tell you.
 
 
Hell On Earth Bathetic copy
EarnHell On Earth (Bathetic)
Why this guy isn’t at the top of the drone chain yet I don’t know. But lets hope Hell On Earth puts him there. I can hardly imagine a more beautifully dark record than this, channeling soft woozy bliss into a black mourning shroud, this is the ghostly stuff you see out of the corner of your eye on a sun-drenched foggy morning, supremely perfect, definitely one of the best drone records you’ll come across this year.
 
 
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Henry PlotnickFields (Holy Mountain)
It’s hard to not call every embarrassingly talented kid that hasn’t even hit high school a genius, but here we have 11 year old Plotnick’s debut 2xLP of melodic loops in the vain of the early minimal masters and goddamn this guy is fuckin going places. Regardless of his age, Fields is a fucking triumph of transcendental zoning. Fingers crossed he keeps recording.
 
 
the archivist - the wooden laser album cover
The ArchivistThe Wooden Laser (self released)
I was maybe a bit biased from the get-go due to this guy’s name but objectively speaking this record is the fucking best. The Wooden Laser is a barely there minimalism, crank this fucker up and you can still hear you pet’s heartbeat 3 rooms over. An ambiance formed around dusty tapes and whispered electronics, you can give 100% of your ears to this and it’ll show you all the crevices in the fabric of reality.
 
 
sarah davachi - the untuning of the sky album cover
Sarah DavachiThe Untuning Of The Sky (Full Spectrum)
A debut of this caliber shouldn’t be going as unnoticed as it is, Davachi has cuddled up next to a variety of electronics (ARP, Buchla, Serge, Mellotron) and coaxed tender long-form minimal drone dreams out of them, deeply saturated in warmth & finessed to a level of tonal perfection I don’t think many people ever achieve.
 
 
d burke mahoney - loran-c album cover
D. Burke MahoneyLORAN-C (self released)
An homage to the 1350 foot transmitter LORAN-C in Greeland that collapsed in 1964, this is a beautiful drone record that’s overwhelmingly minimal, the kind of sounds you hear emerge from a silent room that has various quiet machines powered up, the sound of a room breathing, exceptional, precise, & absolutely perfect. Also, it’s free.
 
 
lustmord - the word as power album cover
LustmordThe Word As Power (Blackest Ever Black)
I was never too into Lustmord but when I heard this was a drone record based on various guest artists’ vocals (Jarboe! Soriah!), I had to check it out. Blew my expectations right out of the water. I love some quality black magic ritual drone like Phurpa and Zurvan and this fits right in, expansive & evocative detailed drones resonating through empty caverns, so fucking excellent.
 
 
marisa anderson - mercury album cover
Marisa AndersonMercury (Mississippi)
How I’ve yet to hear of Anderson before this record is a baffling travesty. She picks & strums her way on electric, acoustic, and lap-steel guitars playing 100% awesome experimental Americana, twanging & echoing under wide open skies and doing an assortment of styles, bluesy drags, lazy folk, dusty Appalachian ragas, and tying it all together with an old fashioned tenderness. Love this so much.
 
 
Big Blood - Radio Valkyrie 1905-1917 album cover
Big BloodRadio Valkyrie 1905-1917 (Feeding Tube)
Insanely fantastic record from this Maine psych folk duo, only their second full length and somehow they’ve already honed a hazy dark sound that puts everything else to shame. Songs fit for midnight forest rituals and ghost stories by the fire, a seriously warped ethereal vibe that’s unshakeable after the first track’s vapors seep into your pores.
 
 
molly drake album cover
Molly DrakeMolly Drake (Squirrel Thing)
Unearthed recordings from the 50s by Nick Drake’s mom!! This woman has an undeniably charming & enchanting voice, singing sweet somber tunes & floating effortlessly on her piano, this is a record that’ll transport you to the drawing room you never got to hang in.
 
 
agarttha - a water which does not wet hands album cover
AgartthaA Water Which Does Not Wet Hands (King Of The Monsters)
Agarttha is one Francesca Marongiu (of Architeuthis Rex) conjuring a doomy folk, or folksy doom, or some manner of subdued occult magik that pours out of your speakers like a fog, offering elements of psych & pop that are as inexplicable as they are welcome. One weird fuckin record, covers you in a thick layer of moss that you’ll never wash off.
 
 
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Julianna BarwickNepenthe (Dead Oceans)
Been enthralled with Barwick ever since I saw her open for Eluvium years ago and her new record takes her layered vocal bliss to uncharted heights, sometimes venturing into pop territory, but pure fucking heaven through & through. Hands down one of the most beautiful records and completely deserving of all the praise that’s been heaped upon it lately.
 
 

Album Review

Broken Deer – Polaraura (self released, 2013)

Broken Deer - Polaraura Album Cover
Broken DeerWhite Woman (self released)

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Fantastic stuff from Canadian Lindsay Dobbin, this is the quietest weirdest lo-fi folk you’ll ever hear. Dobbin has cobbled together a record that sounds like it was recorded on a wax cylinder, buried for a century or two at the bottom of a well, and excavated when the current land owners found out the well was haunted. Straightforward sounds, a piano, a guitar, her ethereal childlike voice, and all the life of the Yukon wilderness, howling wolves, the cold wind, bird calls, occasionally warped & twisted into a drugged dream but always caked in a murky tape hiss, soft & simple, a record deeply in touch with the self, connected to every fiber of the world, but still seeking an obscured transcendent understanding. Truly incredible work. The sadly sold out tape was wrapped in birch bark and moose sinew, so maybe if all of you ask nicely she’ll re-release it. If not, trust me that the digital version will certainly suffice.

Album Review

Andrew Weathers Ensemble – What Happens When We Stop (Full Spectrum, 2013)

Andrew Weathers Ensemble - What Happens When We Stop Cover album cover
Andrew Weathers EnsembleO/OU (Ensemble) (Full Spectrum)

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Another incredible album from my favoritest fucking guy. What Happens When We Stop is a cross country album, started in North Carolina with Weathers’ buds, elaborated on the road headed out west, and finished up with his pals in California. This one’s just as wonderful as the last, Guilford County Songs, but still not quite as masterful as the debut, We’re Not Cautious. There’s a notable lack of prominent banjo, and I fucking love the banjo, but a big focus on the guitar, more so than before, which is awesome because the guitar work just gets better with each release. Everything is just as warm and incomparably serene as ever, old American folk perfectly melded with contemporary drone & neo-classical, subtle electronics peaking through the twinkling piano, harmoniums humming beneath hypnotic acoustic strumming, but Weathers’ voice has changed a bit, a lower tone and letting his drawl shine through, a little disorienting at first, but it still works beautifully, and honestly, the guitar, just so fucking sweet with those drones, I could listen to Weathers pick away all day with the strings & brass & reeds & everything else droning in the backseat, it’s the most heavenly sound you can get. This dude is unstoppably awesome and I will devour everything he throws at us. You should probably join me in my devouring and pick this up, it comes with a sexy photo book with the work of Aaron Canipe, so you’re definitely getting your money’s worth.

Album Review

Haunter – Perishing Road (self released, 2013)


HaunterYarn Trails (self released)

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Solo project of K. Arthur Miller, making some somber tunes out of drone, folk, and doom. Exceptional stuff, using all weapons at his disposal, quietly screaming Godspeed guitars, layered, processed, & rewound, delicate picking inside on a rainy day, lush washes of bliss, hushed echoes in haunted halls, a few moments of doomed & distorted crunch, all wrapped up in a dark, melancholic shroud, bright enough not to push you over the edge but gloomy in all the right ways, a melodramatic dance through fog with Death waiting for you on the other side, beautiful & depressing, the best kind of drone. Free if you want it to be so there’s no reason to pass over this, and seeing as this is his first proper full length, you might want to keep an eye on him.

Album Review

Night Worship – Night Worship Volume II: Asterism (Vestige, 2012)


Night Worship – Mantaka (Vestige)

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Night Worship is an awesomely monstrous doom drone project with a revolving cast anchored by Ryan P. Jobes. Three tracks on Asterism (the last clocking in at 30 minutes and taking up the whole B side), Jobes is joined by Andrew Weathers (more guitar droning), Scott Siler (subtle percussion), and Carolyn Waiter (ethereal woodwinds), together they make the unholiest fucking drone that dives deep into reverb worship and sonic meditations, blackened distortion crumbling out of amps, chaotic incantations on the brink of conjuring the purest of evils, honoring both sides of the volume spectrum, breaking souls with blistering intertwined feedback and whispering the secrets of shamans through silent prayers, obvious Sunn O))) comparisons but never quite as monolithic, instead going for a more crusted pagan sound, but just as black, just as demonic, and fucking brilliant. Amazing work, breathing fresh doom into the world via an hour long tape on the new label Vestige Recordings, who you should clearly keep an eye on.

Out of Print

The Hammons Family: A Study Of A West Virginia Family’s Traditions (Archive Of Folk Song, 1973)


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Download The Hammons Family: A Study Of A West Virginia Family’s Traditions

This is the best fucking thing right here. Banjos & fiddles, ballads & stories, all from one West Virginian family. Alan Jabbour & Carl Fleischhauer just went to the Hammons family’s home, asked all the right questions, and pointed the mic in all the right directions. Truly excellent display of old American traditions. The highlight is Maggie’s songs, and luckily she’s featured pretty prominently, because her voice is otherworldy. She’s also nearly incomprehensible with the thickest West Virginian accent you could imagine. I’m definitely a sucker for this kind of thing but this collection is on another level.

The 2xLP box came with a huge booklet that has tons of photos & liner notes, and the Library Of Congress has published it as an updated PDF, which saved me the trouble of scanning the whole booklet. Also, while this is out of print via Rounder (who reissued it on CD in 1998 along with another Hammons collection of their own), I think it’s possible you can obtain a physical copy on demand from LoC on either CD-R or tape (like the Folkways stuff). The site seems dated, they say some of their titles might not be available on demand, and you have to mail a letter or call them to find out. So, jumping through all those hoops is definitely worthwhile for this album but I thought I’d give you a headstart. Enjoy.

Mixes

Every Choice Is A Death


 
The fine folks at Workin’ Nights flattered me by asking me to make a mix for their site. I obliged with some old & new folk & blues about death & dying. It includes Giles Corey, Nimrod Workman, Michael Hurley, Mount Eerie, and Robert Johnson. I think you’ll like it.

Download Every Choice Is A Death.

Album Review

Villages – Theories Of Ageing (Bathetic, 2012)


VillagesNesting Grounds (Bathetic)

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Unbelievably awesome new record from Ross Gentry, taking what I love from Andrew Weathers’ folk drone and spinning his own tale with it. Super organic, lush, and insanely fucking gorgeous, weaving banjos & organs with digital minimalism, spots of rhythmic bells and resonant pianos come and go while everything is bathed in a soft glow, too clean & clear to feel nostalgic but still brings to mind my summer family camping trips as a kid, slow & meandering with a purpose, not lazy, just not rushed, all the time in the world to conjure intimate stories and doing it with ease. A stellar fucking drone record from one of this year’s more exceptional labels. Limited to 312, hand numbered, and totally worth every penny.

Haiku Review

Lisa/Liza – Ancient Edge (self released, 2012)


Lisa/LizaBlack Out (self released)

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Download Ancient Edge
/purely intimate/
/shining voice obscured by clouds/
/melted harmony/

Out of Print

The Columbia World Library Of Folk & Primitive Music


 
Download The Columbia World Library Of Folk & Primitive Music series

This is what I’ve been working on the past few weeks. Digitizing these ancient dusty records, scanning the jackets, and photographing the liner notes, for this hulking mass of worldly beauty collected Alan Lomax.

The Columbia World Library Of Folk & Primitive Music series goes well into the double digits (some details here), but these are the 7 best. My favorite place ever The Record Exchange gave me first dibs on this sweet bunch, so naturally I grabbed the ones from French Africa, Indonesia (New Guinea, Bali, Borneo, etc), Venezuela, British East Africa, India, Bulgaria, and Japan (also includes The Ryukyus, Formosa, And Korea).

There’s so much to dive in to, each record has insane diversity just in itself, and these are literally all over the map. 100% awesome, no filler. Lots of surprises & treasures. The music will speak for itself, but I have a lot of technical stuff I’d like to share as well.

The vinyl isn’t always in the best shape. Considering their age, they’re immaculate, but there’s still over half a century’s worth of grit caked in the grooves. I did my damnedest to clean ‘em and ended up only having one spot that wouldn’t play through. The second piece on the third band on side B of the Bulgaria record couldn’t play without skipping in the same spot every time, so I axed it. Everything else is intact. I didn’t do any digital cleanup for pops n clicks so these V0 mp3s sound as close to my vinyl as you’re gonna get.

The ID3 tags are a little weird but that’s because the records are a little weird. Each side has a few tracks/bands, and each track has between 1-10 pieces. I opted to keep the original format, so each mp3 represents one band (except that Bulgaria piece mentioned above, had to split that in two), and is tagged as “1: Song 1 / 2: Song 2″ and “1: Artist 1 / 2: Artist 2.” Also, the artists are spottily mentioned in the liner notes, so frequently just the name of the recording location is used in the “Artist” field.

But lucky you, I included legible photographs of allll the liner notes. Each record is a gatefold with attached booklets containing lots of photos and details on every song recorded, so my ID3 tags are just a pitiful attempt at capturing that data. The photographs aren’t prefect because I wasn’t sure how many people actually cared about them. So I slacked a bit on the quality, but like I said, they’re all legible.

I hope you enjoy these records as much as I do. They’re a bit of a shining gem in my collection and I’m really excited to share them with you. Globetrotting via records is the best way to go.