power monster - live (rabbit ears or ram horns, 2012)
power monster from austin offers refreshing, unrelenting and unpretentious harsh noise which attacks at 110% and stays there. this tape compiles two live shows (complete with super-enthusiastic audience applause) probably in or around texas (i didn't search the venues) consisting of scuzz and feedback mostly in the mid-high register that still manages that "gravelly-sand-blasted" exfoliant effect. it's also very psychedelic and conjures up nostalgic memories of power monster playing my local subway station last summer. just the right length to want to flip the tape five or six times before taking a nap or doing something else.
tve - bowling low in the dirt (ayurvedic tapes, 2013)
definitely the most memorable item acquired on tour last september, other than the piece of soap we traded a tape for in lowell. this is probably the most lo-fi thing i've ever heard and sounds/looks/feels exactly like the title. pure, uncompromising junk aesthetic--a thing very close to my heart. to be specific, the packaging is all hand cut, typewritten, off center--the labels have random smudges and date stamps on them, case has a blotch of spraypaint and a sticker that says "bills due." as for the noise, it sounds like a reel-to-reel being hand cranked periodically at almost imperceptably slow speeds, periods of empty tape hiss, and some periodic rattling or scratching of small glass/metal sounds. medium blown out at times. the activity does ebb and flow nicely, but for the most part, i leave it on and let it subtly ooze on; it's almost impossibly humble, low key and inevitably background. and in a strange way, it's very beautiful in its hermetic organic way--a very wabi-sabi type of noise. a great tape to forget you're even listening to stuff.
bad command or filename - split/union (headways, 2013)
another great tour acquisition, this time from may in asheville, nc. having just come from ende tymes fest in nyc, i was hankering for more harsh noise and asked for some at static age (i'm so *that* guy in record stores). the cashier kindly threw this tape on, but initially i really disliked it--too song-y. a couple days later, on a whim, i bought it at harvest records on the other side of town; the unlikely combo of indie songwriting and harsh noise wall was too great to pass up. and that's pretty much what it is: little couple minute folk-y, fairly evocative and convincingly-played indie guitar/vocal pieces separated by dense collages of noise, wall blasted distortion, stray frequencies, snippets of black metal, field or television ads, and a few gabber beats thrown in for good measure. sounds terrible, right? maybe it is for most people, but for me it was not only coherent, but also made perfect sense, something that might make one question one's own mental health (but what doesn't?). the overall effect is overwhelming but satisfying largely because of the nakedness and feeling of living inside someone else's head. after the hour-long tape, one feels like they've "been on a journey": drained, but with new perspectives for living.
penny royale - horse pplay (trepanner, 2013)
an act i didn't see coming at ende tymes fest last year. penny's aesthetic approach is pretty radically different from just about everything else that could be called noise or experimental right now. spoken word is a big part of it, and there's a bit of it on this recording. death-mindful, lo fi, utterly downer poetry with failing reel to reel manipulation of broken music box melodies, wheezing harmonium drones, insane laughter, old and decaying found recordings of people talking. yeah, the haunted house cliches--but it works for me and doesn't seem cheesy or put-on at all, just another way of channeling that societal and existential breakdown that seems to be the connecting tissue of much noise or post-noise (whatever that is) underground music these days. the b-side is an especially visceral slice of scrape-y tape manipulation run through a spring tank, no less dark and unhinged. also, i don't know what it is, but this project in particular has a very appalachian vibe to it. this feeling of being alone in nature waiting for death, if nature is now a blown out shell of a factory instead of a hut in the forest.