Deadly Avenger : The Girl With The White Orchid

Damon Baxter, aka Deadly Avenger, seems to have found a well of inspiration in the last few months. Not only has he continued his musical contributions to film and television, but he has also set out to deliver a prolific run of Deadly Avenger albums since last year. You might recall his Death Waltz Originals release Everyday Is Kill from last year. That led us to last month’s excellent I Am Godzilla, You Are Japan with Burning Witches Records. Now with the latest album, the sublime and dreamy The Girl With The White Orchid, he’s released a collaborative effort with producer extraordinaire Pete Diggens. Baxter’s not done folks, there is more coming very soon. But for now, let’s concentrate on the present, shall we?

Not only is Damon Baxter releasing music like a man with limited time left on this earth, each release has its own personality and purpose. Everyday Is Kill was a neo-futuristic, dytopian soundtrack that owed its existence to cheesy sci-fi flicks of the 80s that imagined a post-apocalyptic 1995 where radiation burnt the wasteland(but leather one-pieces were all the rage.) I Am Godzilla, You Are Japan is a bombastic record filled with massive beats and earth-shaking synths that were as monumental as the album title’s namesake.

Now, with The Girl With The White Orchid, Deadly Avenger and music producer, as well as frequent musical collaborator Pete Diggens bring the tone down to more art house fare. Quieter electronic motifs that paint an aural vision with wistful strokes and calm reflection.

Listening to The Girl With The White Orchid, I’m reminded of a composer like Disasterpeace. Disasterpeace, aka Rich Vreeland, works mostly in video game scores(though has started to delve into films.) He’s paid to turn a world made of pixels and code into something extraordinary. He pulls you in with his music and makes you believe in this world built with zeros and ones. I feel that Damon Baxter and Pete Diggens are doing something very similar here. They’ve built a musical world here that pulls you in with subtlety and nuance. Hard, buzzing synths and explosive beats are replaced with more Vangelis-like touches.

“Love Inside” sounds almost brittle. The slightest movement could break its gentle sway. A simple synth line slowly swells with strings which elevates the piece into some higher realm. “Sadness Apart” conveys a sweetness and subtle beauty that is reminiscent of Paul Haslinger’s work. There’s still very much an 80s sci-fi feel, but the more tasteful stuff and less chrome codpieces and muscle cars with sheet metal attached to the outside.

“Lie In Wait” is darker than what came before it. You can almost imagine this hanging comfortably with Brad Fiedel’s Terminator work. What’s better that subtle doom? Nothing. “Girl With The White Orchid” brings back some of that videogame magic. Sort of a cross between Panos Cosmatos’ dark vision of a neo-futuristic 80s and early NES scores. Pure and visceral at the same time. “Then There Were None” is all warbly synth and wavering tension. I love the blurring of mood here. It goes from longing to slow-creeping anxiety in a matter of seconds. “A Better Tomorrow” sounds like the intro or outro of some early 70s program. Bendable yet articulate, it lays the groundwork for something bigger. It could be the beginning or ending. You pick.

The outlier is ending track “Nightrunner”. It is definitely more a hard synth 80s track in comparison to what came before it. At first you might think this doesn’t belong, but after repeated listens it really does feel like an end credits scene to what came before it. It’s quite a brilliant way to end The Girl With The White Orchid. 

Damon Baxter knows how to build mood, regardless of whether you need bombast or subtle darkness. And with Pete Diggens’ musical resume from over the last 20 years(it is extensive and impressive to say the least. Check it out here), there’s really no way that this album isn’t going to be an amazing listen. As much as I loved what’s come before, I think this might be some of Deadly Avenger’s best work to date. Each solo release reveals a little more about Deadly Avenger and the many facets of his musical imagination. The Girl With The White Orchid is a huge leap forward for our favorite Avenger.

8.2 out of 10

 

Futuropaco : Futuropaco

There’s a serious groove that permeates each track on Justin Pinkerton’s debut record as Furturopaco. Not the typical groove, though. This album has an aged vibe to it that makes it feel both like some lost, sweaty acid-fueled Ennio Morricone score; as well as some Goblin recording session fueled by a night of over consumption of The Doors and some ultra fine vino. With a gig as the drummer of psych rock outfit Golden Void, Pinkerton lays down 9 tracks like he’s got something to prove(he doesn’t.) The results are a stunning debut of heft, melody, and enough groove to get our bell bottoms and funky jean jackets moving all night long.

Futuropaco is tight. There’s no space not filled and no forward motion wasted here. Pinkerton is not a stranger to 60s psych, and that essence is still alive and well here, but there’s a more regal feel. “Fantasma Arancione” sounds like a cross between Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad’s Luke Cage S/T, if Luke Cage had taken place in some neo-futuristic Tuscany instead of Harlem. The rhythm section just grabs you and doesn’t let go. “La Tore Cade” sounds like Lalo Schifrin scoring Umberto Lenzi with The Doors. “Bambino Tiranno” simmers in melancholy like Walter Rizzati attempting a counter-culture version of “Adagio in G Minor”. “Seppelire Fascisti” sounds like Queens of the Stone Age on a Goblin kick.

There’s a real sense that you’ve entered into some alternate reality with this record. A place where cobblestone streets lead you down narrow corridors and faint streetlights barely save you from being consumed by late night shadows. A faint buzz works its way into your brain, making solid decision making difficult. It’s like being under the influence of some unknown substance and letting the urge to succumb to it win. Moonlight and unfiltered cigarettes lead the way into the unknown. “Fuoco Palude” is the music that plays as you step into the unknown. Rock and roll meets the mystical as that street leads to your destiny.

Eccellente.

Pinkerton really blurs the line when it comes to genres here. 60s Italian film music, psych rock, and baroque pop meld together to form some hybrid genre that grabs you by the brain stem and pulls until you see brightly lit colors. “Peste Rossa” is all groove with tasteful synths laid over top like some kaleidoscope of colors and freakouts. “Ballare Sulla Tua Tomb” is a dainty, tasteful ending to this trip. A sonically dense mix of wah-wah guitar, synthesizer, and an underlying melody that feels like end credit music. Our tour of Italy is ending, but the sonic scars will remain.

Futuropaco will feel like revisiting some elegant dream from long ago. A dream where you drove a silver Fiat through the Italian countryside in search of nothing in-particular. Danger around every corner, an elevated sense of groove and purpose, and a need to strut in fine Italian loafers. Justin Pinkerton as Futuropaco has laid the groundwork for future grooves to come. Gritty, psychedelic, and full of purpose.

Giusto!

7.9 out of 10

 

 

Steve Greene’s “The Evil Behind The Eyes”

Happy Saturday the 14th. Today’s the day where I celebrate the giant that is actor Richard Benjamin. I’ll go grab my betamax copy of his classic Saturday the 14th and enjoy some alone time in the analog den downstairs and contemplate another 64 oz Tang and my 3rd burnt offering of Jiffy Pop.

Besides that, since it is Saturday the 14th, that means yesterday was Friday the 13th. I hope you at least gave Sean Cunningham some viewing time. Or something exploitative with lots of T&A and gore. Me? I watched last year’s season finale of Suits and then a couple episodes of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee with the wife. I know, I’m pathetic. Such a disappointment as a horror fan. That’s okay, man. You know why? Because synth technician and horror scholar Steve Greene celebrated Friday the 13th in style. He released a new single that, for the time being, is a pay-what-you-want deal over at his Bandcamp page.

“The Evil Behind The Eyes” is a dense, dark, and beautifully crafted piece of music that seems to lie right into a musical world lined with Carpenter and Romero movie posters. Imagine walking into some dilapidated house that creaks and crumbles with each step forward. There’s moments of Middle Eastern flair that pop up, but for the most part it’s pure analog dread that weaves and curls up around your ankles as you make your way further into the house(and the song.) If Lalo Schifrin scored a 70s horror film, it may very well sound like this track.

Absolute stunner.

Head over to Steve Greene’s Bandcamp page and download this excellent Friday the 13th gift. Or make it a Saturday the 14th surprise. Either way, just put this in your ears. Pay-what-you-want. Maybe pay more than what you want. Let’s keep cats like Steve Greene continuing to be creative and busy working on music.

Smokey Emery : Soundtracks for Invisibility Vol. IV: Photo of a Painting

I know that taking afternoon walks in 95 degree heat really isn’t the best idea, but I find myself doing just that. Sun beating down, cooking the asphalt like some molten pan of industrial brownies, I’ll take to the afternoon oven and walk 2 or 3 miles through housing additions nearby. Headphones on, I’ll fill my head with whatever can distract from the absurdity of my actions.

I can remember three years ago I took one of these heated strolls while listening to Colonial Patterns by Huerco S. The looping rhythms and dulled synths seemed to align with the heat perfectly. During this particular walk in this particular neighborhood there’s a stretch of road where no houses exist. It’s a simple strip of road where either side of this street is a short, dense bit of trees. Here the breeze stops and for a moment it’s as if I’m in an airtight bit of earth; no air movement and all sun beating down like some solar bully. The music in my ears seemed distant and muffled, like the sun and heat were dissolving it before it could come to fruition. In that moment there was both immense comfort and momentary terror, as if in that stretch of secluded street I no longer existed. I was walking on the surface of the sun in full view on no one and nothing, dissipating to my essence as “Plucked From the Ground, Towards the Sun” worked its way into my skull, disappearing into the pulse that ticked in my throat.

Just as I thought I’d surely vanish into the ether I made my out of that dense, hot stretch trees and turned a corner into an open view of the neighborhood and a hot wind hit my face. I had returned from beyond.

As I sit and listen to Smokey Emery’s(aka Daniel Hipólito) newest release, Soundtracks for Invisibility Vol. lV : Photo of a Painting, I’m taken back to that feeling of the hot, afternoon walk. Industrial noise permeates the release like machines running in some echo chamber of the mind. I imagine Henry Spencer’s walks home to his apartment through industrial landscapes in Eraserhead as this album runs through my head. It’s the kind of noise you might hear late at night making its way out of your head as you try to fall asleep. Excess white noise leaving your brain that wakes the imagination and tricks it into hearing more than what’s there. This isn’t an album for the passive listener, but there is a calm detachment if you look for it.

Here’s a quick description of the album:

The Soundtracks for Invisibility series is a compilation of pieces that are conceptually centered around specific subjects and/or spaces. By combining field recordings from various locations at vastly different speeds, Hipólito is able to link displaced moments into cogent soundscapes. In this way, Smokey Emery utilizes time and substance as compositional elements that play an equal, if not dominant role in the sonic architecture.

This record feels like time and space slowed down. There’s a detachment of reality with Soundtracks for Invisibility Vol. lV : Photo of a Painting that can feel hallucinogenic at times. There are moments of what sound like melody intertwined with the sheets of the droning field recordings, but they make themselves known only but for a moment.

There are many moments on this album where you feel as if you’ve stumbled across a distant carnival in a dream and can vaguely make out what sounds like music. “Where There’s No Ocean” sounds like distant life existing on some forgotten plane. “Dear Birds” warbles and echoes like a world being devoured by itself. Otherworldly noise created through a very real world committed to tape and then cut, pasted, looped and affected with echoes and wavering analog interpretation. “She is Outside” feels like pensive waiting on a street corner or a walk on a long stretch of lonely road. There’s tension, whether real or imagined. “Bright Keys” morphs like a song melting in the tape deck, something distant and strangely familiar turning into just strange.

Soundtracks for Invisibility Vol. lV : Photo of a Painting will not be everyone’s cup of tea. Field recordings slowed down, covered in effects and manipulated may not be something you’re willing to explore. But for those that are willing to step into Smokey Emery’s sound world and take a chance will be rewarded with repeated listens. Given that this is Vol. lV, there’s three other volumes to take in as well.

Food for thought.

Limited edition cassette and digital version available here

7.5 out of 10

 

 

Whales & Drones : Ten Questions With Thousand Foot Whale Claw

The first time I heard the name Thousand Foot Whale Claw I thought it was the title of a new High on Fire record. When I found out that wasn’t the case I may have been mildly disappointed. When I found out that Thousand Foot Whale Claw were in fact a drone loving, synth-heavy Krautrock four-piece that sound like a cross between everything that made Berlin School, THE Berlin School, I was overjoyed.

Thousand Foot Whale Claw is Justin Goers, Adam Jones, Zac Roesch and Neil Lord, and they are an Austin-based quartet who call Holodeck Records home. The band is made up of members of other bands such as S U R V I V E, Troller, Windows1995, Future Museums and Single Lash. TFWC are part of the Austin collective of electronic musicians pretty much putting heady electronic music back on the map. I don’t think Austin says they have a collective, but I’m officially saying it’s a collective here(that is unless someone else already has.)

I’ve jumped into the deep end of the Thousand Foot Whale Claw pool and it’s an amazing depth of sound and vibes. Their newest, the excellent Black Hole Party, is a very honed-in listening experience. They’ve left the drone excursions at the studio door in lieu of more concentrated sonic affairs. The results are six tracks that vary from air tight grooves that could easily make a club of sweaty zoners move a limb or two; to epic, spatial tracks that dissipate into the ether. Thousand Foot Whale Claw never lose the hypnotic and hallucinogenic vibes of their previous albums, they’ve just given us a concentrated version.

I threw ten questions out into the ether hoping to hear from Thousand Foot Whale Claw. Here are the responses. Enjoy.


J. Hubner: How long has TFWC been together? How did you guys get together? What other bands are you all in?

Thousand Foot Whale Claw: We have been releasing music since 2012 but our roots go way back to when 3/4 of us meet in college around 2003 or 2004 in a small town called San Marcos. For a long time it was just loud and thrashing bass and drums plus whoever wanted to play. Everything was mostly for fun, and it was only years later after everyone moved to Austin that we decided it was time to start up again.

Adam plays in S U R V I V E and Troller, Justin plays in Troller and Windows1995, and Neil plays in Future Museums and Single Lash.

J. Hubner: Where does the name Thousand Foot Whale Claw come from? I did actually Google to see if whales have claws. 

TFWC: Justin made illustrations and studied printmaking in college, and he loves art in the style of Frank Frazetta. He made a print one day of this gnarly looking prehistoric whale with a giant claw and just ran with it for a band name. A lot of us had ridiculous band names back then, and for whatever reason this one stuck.

J. Hubner: What or who are the inspirations and influences behind the band’s sound? There’s definitely some Berlin School vibes, but especially with the new album there’s more modern touches as well as some great guitar work. 

TFWC: Yeah we are big fans of all the classic Krautrock bands, especially Neu!, Manuel Gottsching and Tangerine Dream. We also love Om, Dawn of Midi, Pye Corner Audio, Kilchhofer, Sunn O))) and tons of others. We have always seen this band as platform for us to explore whatever we feel like. We all agree what Whale Claw is without a lot of talk about it, and that is essentially why we are a band.

J. Hubner:  How do you guys feel your approach to the music has changed or evolved from the beginning? From something like Time Brothers where two songs cover nearly 45 minutes in Phaedra-like fashion, to Cosmic Winds with tracks winding down closer to the 5 to 7 minute range, to new record Black Hole Party with even more concise time frames, it feels like TFWC are honing in with each release.

TFWC: The theme of the first two cassettes Lost in Those Dunes and Time Brothers was huge and continuous walls of sound with a lot of layers and improv. That was fun for a while, but we eventually moved on. There are many directions we hope to take the band in the studio, and our sound has indeed evolved to be much more concise and composed. We love beats, riffs, sequences, chord changes, drops and all of the other things that make song writing interesting beyond tone exploration. We will probably continue to get more and more complex as we keep going, but will continue to put out a drone album from time to time.

J. Hubner:  Let’s talk about the new record, Black Hole Party. How long was the writing/recording process for the album? 

TFWC: It took a really long time to write and record these songs! It was hard, and at times we struggled a lot. Dylan Cameron produced this album and made it sound great, but he also creatively talked us back from the ledge in a lot of ways. Dylan played a huge role in getting this album made, and it would have been something completely different if it weren’t for him. We learned a lot in the process of recording Black Hole Party, and it’s going to make the next one even better.

J. Hubner: The album seems to cover many facets of electronic music, from the concise groove-inflected “Deridium Rail” and “Black Hole Party” to the more loose and free-floating “Naiad” and “Genesis Effect”, to even some acid freakout moments in album closer “Double Abyss”. Going into creating the record were there some definite ideas and vibes you wanted to hit? Or did you all just get in a room and see where it would go?

TFWC: We’ve always thought of us as a band for people like ourselves. If you like sci-fi movies and experimental music, then you can probably dig our band. Black Hole Party is unintentionally all over the place just because we had a lot of different song ideas. We did worry that this album may only make sense to us, but ultimately we make music to our own standards, and we feel good about the record.

J. Hubner: When Thousand Foot Whale Claw plays live, how does the band approach album material in a live setting? Do you typically stay true to the recorded versions, or does improvisation play a big role in the live experience? 

TFWC: We usually use live sets to develop material for the next album. Mostly what we play now is post Black Hole Party, but when we do play an album track, it’s definitely a loose interpretation of the studio version. Whether or not we decide to perform a set with live drums or a drum machine dictates a lot. We like to play experimental drone sets, electronic sets with beats & sequences and loud full band sets with lots of shredding. We would like to incorporate all of them into one ambitious live set, but have not yet mastered an undertaking like that.

J. Hubner: There’s a video I often go back to and watch where Tangerine Dream performs in this old church. For me it’s just this overwhelming scene where these spaced-out German hippies are creating space and alternate universes within some ancient house of God.

What is one of coolest places Thousand Foot Whale Claw have performed? 

TFWC: The coolest place that we played is on the campgrounds at LEVITATION fest a couple of years ago. Our set was at 2 in the morning after an evacuation notice with a thunderstorm approaching. The audience was insanely drunk and tripping on psychedelics, and they gave zero fucks about the storm. We had a great performance, and Kyle Dixon sat in with us processing the guitars and synths through his modular rig. It was fun!

We haven’t played at any churches, temples, graveyards, ruins or dunes yet, but we want to.

J. Hubner: I feel like in my lifetime, Austin has become a musical ground zero. A place where creativity and artistic individualism has grown by leaps and bounds. I think Holodeck has had so much to do with that, creating a space for these artists to flourish. What do you think it is about that area? I’ve always assumed it was Texas’ wide open spaces that overwhelm and open artists of every sort to think big when creating. I could be wrong, though. 

TFWC: Austin is a great place for music, and musicians from all over Texas and the surrounding states gravitate here because of it. Everyone is in Austin to be somebody, and that energy makes a huge difference creatively. You can get noticed and “make it” here, which is pretty special and only exists in a few cities. We love Austin.

J. Hubner:  What does the rest of 2018 have in store for Thousand Foot Whale Claw?  

TFWC: We are writing and recording the next album right now. We will hopefully play some live shows and possibly even tour if scheduling works out. We have been happy with the response to Black Hole Party (the LP’s sold out on release day), and we are feeling pretty optimistic about the future right now.


Grab a copy of Black Hole Party here.

IE : Pome

Listening to IE’s new record Pome is a lot like stepping into a dream. The five-piece from Minneapolis dabble in space-y, hallucinogenic songs that are as much soundtracks to existential drifts as they are fever dream walks on the moon. There’s lots of familiar vibes, but nothing you can quite put your finger on as you slip in and out of consciousness with this album. Bits of ambient drone, noise rock, buzzing electronic, and waves of experimental music come from all angles. Everything from Terry Riley, Massive Attack, and even Popol Vuh permeate IE’s musical world, which makes Pome an immense listening experience.

20 years ago if you had said you were in a drone band you may have just gotten a weird look and shown the door. The 80s and 90s pretty much made it a violation of man’s law to stop and make time to look into yourself. The decade of shiny things led to the decade of indifference. Nobody had time to crack open their skull and try and tidy up what was inside. Thankfully there has been a resurgence and revitalization of ambient and drone bands in the last several years. Bands that take that musical realm seriously. Heady trips into the subconscious to find some meaning in it all. For me, that’s an absolute must in the situation we live in. Bands like Landing, Billow Observatory, and of course IE, are making ambient and drone cool again(or for the first time? Or just cooler.)

Apparently the beginnings of Pome can be linked to a hot tub. Drummer Meredith Gill was gifted a hot tub by her eccentric handyman. An 8-person hot tub was then installed in Gill’s garage and she would soak in the hot, healing waters after band practice. You can almost feel the hot and consuming waters envelope you as you listen to album opener “Amulet”. A droning, hypnotic track that cascades like clouds with looping synth and simple percussion. Elements of Terry Riley permeate the track as Crystal Myslajek’s vocals appear from the ether. “An Empty Vessel Makes Much Noise” has a Krautrock vibe to it. More Popol Vuh than Neu!. The rhythm, quiet and subtle, leaves space for you to get lost in.

Elsewhere, the middle point of “Moon Shot” and “Idol Horizon” seem to have more pop elements than what came before. Not so much radio fodder, but there’s more emphasis on groove and melody with noise and drone floating just below the surface. “Nebula” closes the album on a free-floating space jam. Elements of Tangerine Dream step in and out of the mix on this excellent track. The Berlin School vibe is strong here.

Pome is one hell of a debut. Minneapolis can get pretty arctic in the winter months, and IE convey a certain isolation in their sparse, galactic jams. January in Minneapolis might as well be January on the moon. We need a soundtrack for those quiet, cold, and desolate moments. Pome is that soundtrack.

Grab a copy of Pome here.

7.8 out of 10

 

Jake Schrock’s “Cosmic Ocean”

There’s a very specific vibe that permeates Jake Schrock’s newest track “Cosmic Ocean”. Inside its swelling synths and “come hither” pulse there’s also a sense of impending dread. Like standing on the shoreline and looking into the endless horizon, seeing or sensing just beyond the orange and purple hues some impending doom. Despite knowing the end is nigh, you can’t help but just stand and be enveloped into the fractured, paranormal storm that awaits.

Schrock is part of the electronic music collective of Holodeck Records, and a Texas-based electronic musician. His work is steeped in bubbly analog 80s synthesizers and has the feel of some lost 80s classic film score. Part Band of the Hand and part Risky Business, Schrock’s “Cosmic Ocean” pulls you in with a catchy melody on the surface that covers headier vibes just underneath.

My first experience with Jake Schrock was with his contribution to Holodeck Records’ compilation Holodeck Vision One and the track “Levitation Station”. There was a real uplifting, light vibe to that track that instantly pulled me in. It definitely made me take note. With “Cosmic Ocean”, Schrock reveals a darker, headier side to his analog world. One where things seem calm at the surface, but something darker awaits.

Jake Schrock’s debut releases, Tropical Depression, arrives via Holodeck Records July 27, 2018. Check out “Cosmic Ocean” below, and preorder the limited edition cassette here.