Varg “Nordic Flora Series Pt. 3: Gore-Tex City”

This release by Northern Electronics is a fully immersive experience. Varg has been honing his electronic chops for years but really varies the approach on this release. You’ll get your driving tracks but also a fair amount of field recording, some vocals, some spoken word, and excellent synth atmosphere. Where past Varg releases may have been a bit monochromatic (not necessarily a bad thing) this feels more like a journey/travelogue with surprises and unexpected avenues. This demands the room when played.

-RH

“Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever”

Directed by Ti West

I wasn’t a big fan of Eli Roth’s original “Cabin Fever” or the recent remake, so I was surprised to be pretty entertained by this gross-out sequel from 2009. Director Ti West has done some top notch throwback horror such as “The House of the Devil” and the Jonestown-inspired “The Sacrament.” There’s a sense of fun to this loosely stitched together plot about a town infected by contaminated drinking water leading to a blood soaked Prom night. There’s nothing original about any of the machinations but that really doesn’t matter in the least. The fun here is the endless amount of blood, vomit, and pus being spewed by hapless teenagers and their clueless charges. The barely connected scenes plummet forward with enough humor and viscera to keep it highly watchable for those with a strong stomach. Also, look for fun cameos by Judah Friedlander (30 Rock) and Mark Borchardt (America Movie). Currently available on Netflix.

-RH

Random Tracking

“Juices Flow” by PS Stamps Back & Olekranon

PS Stamps Back is a project of Iason from Greece who has been running the excellent record label 1000+1 TiLt https://tiltrecordings.org since 1993! We collaborated on the PS Stamps Back & Olekranon “s/t” cd back in 2011. We were trading music via cdr’s and adding/reworking the music. Overall, I think the project took roughly 8 months or so. The resulting 9 tracks consist of songs we collaborated on and a few that we recorded independently. Of course, I think Iason’s contributions are stronger but he is a master of minimal drone and techno. This was the last track on the release, which is currently out of print.

Dedekind Cut “Tahoe”

I’ve been looking forward to this release since spinning “$uccessor” a bunch over the recent cold and dreary months. This does not disappoint in the slightest. Beautiful ambient melodies and drones that have an excellent cinematic quality. Some light synth and keyboard work with occasional plunges into dark & heavy territories (Spiral). All around great release!

-RH

Inam Records 202

Tatira “Blood Return”

Dark follow up to “The Light Will Disappear” focuses more on driving kicks, repetition, and song sequencing. Nine songs mimicking an addiction cycle. Digital download and limited cdr (50).

Will Haven “Muerte”

I am a really big fan of Will Haven’s “El Diablo” and ” WHVN” albums. Just straight forward, slow to mid tempo metal core pummeling. Think Deftones without the melodies. I sort of lost track of them as they eventually went through some line up changes. Color me surprised as hell at how much I’m digging their new album “Muerte.” These songs are concise and stick with you. I feel a strong Neurosis vibe in the intensity of the material; especially on standout track “The Son.” They also have a few guests on this one, notably Mike Scheidt of Yob and Stephen Carpenter of aforementioned Deftones. This is probably their best album overall; impressive!

-RH

Meet Your Dark Folk Ethnomusicologist

An Interview with Jon Rosenthal of Invisible Oranges / Footpaths

I first became aware of Jon when he covered Sujo for the indispensable and now defunct “The Inarguable” website. He was one of the few people who seemed to appreciate what was going on with the project and an excellent writer to boot! Jon is also a multi-faceted musician, lately of dark folk project “Footpaths.” He is currently the associate editor of “Invisible Oranges” which is pretty much the best metal website around. Jon was nice enough to answer a few of my questions for this here blog. -RH

1. What were your early musical influences; favorite bands growing up?
My parents were both musicians as children and wanted to instill an appreciation for music in both my sister and me as we grew up. We listened to a lot of different styles as a result — mostly what was on “oldies” stations (then ranging from 1940s to 1970s pop and rock) and classical music as there was (and is still) the pop psychology belief that listening to art music from eras past increases child cognition. It wasn’t until I got older that the element of taste began to manifest, resulting in my mom’s more overt favoring of American folk music, folk rock, and 80s pop, whereas my dad’s listening habits veered in a more progressive rock and psychedelic proto-metal direction. As an adult, I find myself sharing both my parents’ taste in music years after the fact. Funny how that happens.
It wasn’t until I was 13 that I really started to find music on my own. I was a frustrated, lonely kid living on the furthest reaches of Chicago suburbia, where farms and reclaimed prairie land separate densely packed subdivisions. Naturally, I turned to punk rock, and a chance recommendation from a friend (which I later learned to be a bit of a joke) exposed me to Bad Religion. I’d never really heard anything like it, and my young teenage brain couldn’t tell you why I liked it, but I did. I took the next opportunity I could to ride my bike to Record Breakers and buy a copy of their the-new “The Process of Belief”, which immediately started me on a rabbit hole into the depths of dark, extreme music. Years later, here I am, making quiet, textured music. Wonder what happened.

 

2. What instrument did you start with? First band? First show? First release?
Elementary school music classes aside (xylophone and recorder have made their way into music I’ve made, though), my first serious foray into learning an instrument was piano lessons with former Russian concert pianist Alexander Purim when I was nine or ten. He was… intense, but understandably so. He was renowned during his time in Russia, but escaped during the Pogroms and ended up delivering flowers in the United States.
My first band… I had to think about it for a second. Shortly after I first picked up the guitar at thirteen, I started an AC/DC ripoff band with a few friends, some of which I ended up making music with later on. We never really settled on a name, but the one we used for gigs (we played the talent show, the school dance, and a few neighborhood functions) was ODD (overdriven distortion).
My first release was a black metal demo I recorded with Douglas Shin, from the aforementioned band, a few years later. Bergtagen was in line with the neofolky dark metal which had taken a hold after Ulver’s 1995 debut. I loved all that stuff: Empyrium, Agalloch, Noltem, and so on. I only burned a couple CDrs and handed them out to friends. You can find the songs on YouTube — I guess we had a bit of a cult following, or so friends have told me. We eventually grew into a full lineup with about 70 minutes of material, but the band dissolved once we graduated from high school.

 

3. How did Footpaths come about?
I was really into the whole psychedelic/freak folk style in the 2000s and wanted to try and do it myself. Unfortunately, I didn’t know how to record anything, so I used the pinhole microphone on my shitty HP Laptop. I ended up having to use a million effects in Audacity workshop to make it mildly listenable. As the years passed, I learned a little more about recording, but less about songwriting, and here we are.

 

4. What got you into writing about music?  Was it an easy thing for you to do or did it take some time to get comfortable? (I’m asking for a friend)
I just kind of… started writing one day. A friend was running a review blog and it seemed interesting. Now I have a degree in ethnomusicology, so it’s almost second nature. That being said, it takes a long time to figure out how to write about music accurately while finding your own voice. My writing when I was 17 was pretty awful.

 

5. What were some of your favorite music releases of the past few years?
This is a tough question. I listen to so much new music and almost none of it possesses the necessary staying power which would result in further listening and recollection. However, I’ve been haunted by the Connie Converse compilation “How Sad, How Lovely”. Already an enigma and someone not appreciated in her own time (all these songs were recorded in the 50s), the Spinning On Air podcast did a 3 part presentation on this complex, talented, intelligent, brazen, funny, troubled person, someone who people now proclaim to be the first singer/songwriter. I hope, if she’s still around (she disappeared in 1974 and would be 93 or 94 today), she knows she is appreciated and adored now.

 

6. What publications are you currently writing for?
I mostly write for Invisible Oranges now, for which I am the Associate Editor, with the occasional news piece or small feature for Brooklyn Vegan.

 

7. Is Chicago pizza really all that?
I’m lactose intolerant, so I guess I see this as a loaded question, but I’ll try! If you’re referring to deep dish pizza, it’s just kind of okay but I think of it more like a casserole than a pizza. People should go to the south side and get Chicago style thin crust, instead. It’s crunchy and wonderful. No one knows about it, especially people who live on the north side, who are generally terrified of going further south than the Loop (the place where the Sears Tower is). Or go to Riccobene’s and get the breaded steak sandwich.

 

8. What part of the creative process do you enjoy most? Preparation? Performance? Packaging? Another “P” word?
PRACTICE. I hated practicing guitar when I was a teenager, but it became a meditative process I picked up as part of getting my degree in classical guitar performance. Proper practicing means turning off all muscle tension, assuming a natural position, and completely ignoring the outside world. Practicing makes everything else second nature.

 

9. What are your upcoming plans as it relates to music or life in general?
Right now I’m working on getting my Master’s degree in Information Systems. It’s been hard, but I am fortunate enough to be in a position where I can totally devote myself to my studies. I don’t know how people are able to maintain their sanity while working full time, going to graduate school, and having a family. My dad managed to do that and it boggles my mind.
Musically, I’ve been very, very slowly writing a new Footpaths album. Since 2013, I’ve written and recorded thirteen and a half minutes of music. As opposed to the Philip Glass-meets-Lomax-meets-Fennesz approach of everything I recorded through 2012 (there really hasn’t been anything strictly “new” released since then), I am trying very hard to write my own songs. It takes me a long time.
Otherwise, I dedicate my creative time to writing and recording bass and vocal sounds to long-form black metal project Stellar Descent. We should have a new album out late this Summer on Sol y Nieve, who released the first Footpaths album on tape five years ago.
There are other things in the works, but some things take a long time.

 

10. Closing thoughts?
Do what makes you happy. Never settle. Capture every creative idea you have before it leaves you.

 

Please check out Jon’s work here: 

 
http://www.invisibleoranges.com

https://footpathsil.bandcamp.com

Ryan Huber “Abiff’s Gaze”

This 2014 unnumbered release was a collaboration between myself and visual artist Erik Waterkotte (http://erikwaterkotte.com). I recorded ambient drones and field sounds and Erik designed the packaging and provided the theme. “Abiff” refers to Hiram Abiff, chief architect of King Solomon’s Temple in masonic lore. There were approximately 100 copies of the cdr released, with Erik using screen prints to adorn the chipboard digipack and cdr.

“St. Anger” is the last great Metallica album

I’ve been a casual Metallica fan since the 80’s. Of course they’re early material is great and “…And Justice for All” is sort of a monotonous masterpiece; like Philip Glass writing bludgeoning metal. With the release of 2003’s “St. Anger” I became sort of obsessed with the band. The accompanying documentary “Some Kind of Monster” is one of the most entertaining movies around; hands down. Capturing the tumultuous recording of the album and James Hetfield’s treatment and recovery from substance abuse; it’s really unrivaled in the genre. It ends on a high note with the band taking their newly written material on tour after firing their therapist/guru Phil Towle and Hetfield’s re-intergration into the band. What it’s missing is the backlash to one of the strangest sounding “mainstream” records ever released.

There were a few sticking points to why many felt this album lacking. Bob Rock’s purposefully “garage” sounding production, Lars Ulrich’s pots and pans sounding drums, total lack of guitar solos, songs that duplicated the length of earlier material without seemingly having a need to. After finding a permanent bass player in Robert Trujillo, the band released “Death Magnetic” in 2008. It was seen as a “comeback” album with overt guitar soloing, call backs to previous glories (The Unforgiven III), and following a song sequence that worked in the past. Bob Rock was gone; but so was any risk taking or adventurism in their songwriting.

The band made up for the bland “Death Magnetic” by releasing the Lou Reed collaboration “Lulu” 2011. It’s an album that’s really fascinating, if not enjoyable, to listen to. Reed’s ramblings border on the psychotic and the music plods along completely disconnected (and there’s the whole “table” thing). Reaction from fans was understandably confused. Metallica seemed to be following the “one for them, one for us” formula that some quasi-independent filmmakers profess to follow.

2016 saw the release of the double album “Hardwired…to Self-Destruct.” Let’s be honest, the album title is terrible and the songs dryly produced and milquetoast overall. There are few standout tracks and quantity supersedes quality. Credit should be given to musicians in their later years still playing thrash tempos; but there is simply no urgency in the material.

Which brings us back to “St. Anger.” Amidst the band turmoil, lengthy recording process, distractions, and intentional shifts away from successful approaches; there are great songs on this album. The opening 5 numbers flow well and keep up the pace even as songs push 9 minutes. The odd sound of the drums actually mixes well will Bob Rock’s downtuned, percussive bass playing. Lars sounds really “in the pocket” on these tracks even if there is some cutting/splicing going on. The guitars sound dirty and “southern” in away that would probably appeal to “Load” fan,s but there’s endless riffing that borders on ridiculous in a good way. I’ll admit, the album starts to lose steam on “My World” and doesn’t really fully recover; despite the surprisingly melodic “The Unnamed Feeling.” The whole experience was obviously cathartic for Hetfield and company and sounds like it. This album is interesting, painful, introspective, and gonzo all at the same time. I wouldn’t necessarily want any band to go through what they did to produce this kind of music but I’m glad I can revisit it vicariously.

-RH

Sun Hammer “s/t” Pre-order now available

I covered the collaboration I did with Jay Bodley (Sun Hammer) Sujo + Sun Hammer “Fistula” previously; now Jay has a new cassette coming out on Full Spectrum Records on May 1, 2018. Judging from the available tracks; it’ll be a fascinating exploration into outsider hip-hop, creative sound design, musique concrete, and more. Sure to be an amazing release!