Melting Hand – High Collider

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I’ve been a little obsessed with Mike Vest’s guitar tone this year. Ever since I got hooked on Haikai No Ku’s Temporary Infinity I’ve been rinsing his work in Blown Out and as Lush Worker and Basillica. It just sounds so strange and alien – I’ve invented an origin story for it involving Mike stealing it from a distant civilisation from across the stars. And god help us all when they come to take it back.

Terminal Cheesecake, on the other hand, I must confess to not being familiar with until recently. Sometime a band resurfaces after years in the wilderness with everyone hailing them as returning legends and I’m left scratching my head wondering if they’d somehow been retconned into musical history by time travelling trolls determined to make me feel silly. But having dug into their back catalogue it seems they’re worthy of the title.

So a collaboration between Vest and the Cheesecake’s Russel Smith obviously piqued my interest. Echoes & Dust had an exclusive stream lined up and needed some words. Both the stream and those words can be found here.

 

Wanton Playlistery – 2016: Q2

It’s been a bit quiet here on Wanton Dilettantery over the past 2 months. It turns out buying and moving into a new house is really quite time consuming/insanely stressful. Who knew? But while I haven’t had much time to vainly fling words at music I have still found the time to fulfill my sworn duty to produce a 25 track playlist every 3 months. Some things are too important to let trifling things such as decorating or buying furniture get in the the way.

This year seems to already be a vintage one in terms of quieter sounds – sad pieces that take their cues from post- rock, modern classical and ambient/ drone. Kristoffer Lo’s The Black Meat might just be my pick of the bunch so far, not least for it’s great backstory – it was recorded in a disused lighthouse at the southernmost point of Norway. It has the desolate sounds to match – at 10 quiet minutes it might not seem like an obvious choice to start a playlist but good lord does it earn it. Elsewhere Dag Rosenquist’s exquisite static, Western Skies Motel’s sparse, fragmented take on American Primitivism, Christina Ott’s spacefaring neo-classical and Ben Lukas Boysen’s piano led ambience flying the flag for the quiet and the delicate. And with records from the likes of Ian William Craig and Eluvium still to come it’s really a special time for Team Quiet.

Which is not to say there isn’t anything interesting going on in Team Loud. It might not quite be as spectacular a time for the riff hungry but Bossk’s leftfield shift from post-metal to post-everything on Audio Noir has probably been the years highest point for me. It’s a record that demands to be heard as a whole but I’ve slipped Kobe in here as it’s just too good to leave out. Big Business have made a welcome return with Command Your Weather (which I just reviewed for Echoes & Dust) and sound as fantastic as ever, whilst Welsh 2 piece VAILS dropped a second ep of meaty, gravel voiced riffy brilliance. Cobalt have made an unlikely return after losing their vocalist and whilst for my money Slow Forever could do with some serious editing it’s still an undeniably powerful listen. Kvelertak’s third album has proved divisive, as has Gojira’s latest, but both are bright and celebratory in their way and have both seen a lot of action on my stereo, even if neither are likely to rank as their very best work.

In weirder heavy sounds Japan’s Otoboke Beaver have been getting a lot of love round Chez Dilettantery (note to self: never call it that again) with their effervescant blend of punk, harcore, noise and bubblegum pop. WRONG are basically and Unsane/Helmet tribute act but that’s a sound that will never get old to me, whereas Head Wound City feature guys from Blood Brothers and sound a lot like Blood Brothers. This is A Good Thing. Then there’s Menimals. I’ve no idea what the deal is with Menimals, but I think I like it.

To file under consistently great people doing consistently great things; Marrisa Nadler, Spencer Krug’s Moonface  and Aesop Rock, all of whom are releasing effortlessly wonderful music that could easily be taken for granted. Moonface’s latest isn’t their best but I’m a sucker for Krug’s weird theater school preciousness and pretentiousness (who couldn’t fall in love with a line like,”I know that my behaviour is partly why you turned into a blade of grass“?). Whereas Aesop Rock followed up a career best record with an arguably even better one. The man can do no wrong in my eyes. Less expected was Dälek returning sans producer Oktopus yet sounding as potent as ever with Asphalt for Eden, a record every bit as vital as their best work in their first incarnation. Ok, maybe not quite as vital as Absence. But then almost nothing is.

It’s a good time for music fans, if not for human beings in general, what with the world at large seems to basically be on fire and careening towards a cliff face. if it’s any consolation (as it surely must be) now that I’m settling into my new home semi-regular service, such as it is, will resume shortly. Starting with some closure on Kenzo Kelly’s War Diaries sometime next week. Stay tuned.

On Shuffle: Songs Ohia – Ring the Bell

 

“All of this is an attempt to put a serious price on lyrics that are honest not witty, shy but not weak, weary if they are and sad without apology, depression without a fight and depression with a fight.” – Jason Molina

It’s deeply reductive to classify Jason Molina’s rich back catalogue as nothing but sad songs or songs about sadness, but there’s no denying that among his many gifts lied an uncanny knack for capturing the mundane horrors of depression. Recently when down in it I’ve found myself recoiling from any music featuring easily understood lyrics, preferring to wrap myself in cacophonous guitar noise or elegiac ambient drift like old blankets. But Molina’s words still shine like beacons in the black.

“Everyone tells you not to quit/I can’t even see it to fight it/if it looks like I’m not trying…I don’t care what it looks like.”

Didn’t it Rain is a record seeped in unnamed, unshakable sadness. From the solipsistic opening title track through no less than 4 tracks with blue, that saddest of all colours, in the title it’s an album that sounds desperately lonesome from first note to last. Night is constantly evoked – the whole record seems to take place under the cover of darkness, “in the Midwest’s witching hour.” To me it plays out like a nocturnal roadtrip, under the swaying wires, past riverbanks, across the bridge out of Hammond, with the blue moon hanging above seen through the windscreen being pounded by wiper blades on Steve Albini’s Blues. It’s a lonely trip with no apparent destination in mind.

“Help does not just walk up to you I could have told you that. I’m not an idiot.” 

At turns belligerent and desperate, Ring the Bell sounds like a weary trudge with it’s three note bowed double bass driving things on like the shambling gait of one who’s bones are starting to feel heavier than they’re worth. It switches between cryptic threatening imagery of ever present serpents and hounds (he might not be trite enough to colour the dogs black but it’s not a huge jump to make) and responses to some other who’s questioning his will to fight. One of the most frustrating things of suffering from mental health woes is that it’s the moments when it looks like you’ve given up that you’re internally fighting tooth and nail. And neither advice nor admonishments however well intentioned are much use. And when people tell you to try harder, well, you already are. It’s like telling someone trying to push a car up a hill they need to push harder. “Why wouldn’t I be trying to figure it out? Why wouldn’t I be trying? Why wouldn’t I try?”

“If there’s a way out it will be step by step through the black.”

He kept coming back to this theme of just keeping on, one foot in front of the other. Life as a battle to just keep on travelling. Later, on his most famous composition Farewell Transmission he sings, “The real truth about it is there ain’t no end to the desert I’ll cross. I’ve really known it all along.” There’s no end in sight, no destination to speak of, the only friend you have is a horizon that deigns not to get any closer to you. At the close of Didn’t it Rain, during closing number Blue Factory Flame, he sings directly to someone suffering under a cloud of, “endless, endless, endless, endless depression,” assuring them, “you are not helpless.” Ring the Bell gives more practical advice, “if there’s a way out it will be step by step through the black.” But what if there’s no end to the black? And what if you’ve really known it all along? There isn’t really any way out. But you have to keep going. Step by step by step. Movement for it’s own sake: a journey without any plans for arrival. A hunt with nothing to kill. Keeping on keeping on, as it were. What else is there?

Khünnt – Failures

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It’s been a bit quiet on here of late. Apparently buying and moving into a house is quite time consuming and stressful. Who knew? I feel bad for leaving Kenzo Kelly’s Heroes in limbo for so long, but what can I do? Not spend my scraps of free time putting 30-odd hours into Dark Souls 3? I don’t think that was ever an option.

I’ve had little time to invest in flinging words at music either. But I made some time to attempt to describe the 40 minute nightmare dirge that is Khünnt’s Failures. It’s quite the experience – I don’t think I did it justice. I’m just not good enough at this writing business to make reading my prose feel like being abducted and tortured by some surrealist distortion-wielding terror cell.

Review over at Echoes & Dust.