Illusion of Safety “Sedation & Quell” 10” (2007)

record coverLong since reduced to the core of Dan Burke, and having shed more famous members such as Jim O’Rourke and Thymme Jone, IOS is still serving up multilayered works, demonstrating how much of the group’s sound stems from Burke’s own explorations.  The two pieces that make up this release forgo the shock tactics of the earliest releases and focus on a more diffuse malaise.  Two other reviewers have made a comparison to the work of The Hafler Trio, and that is easy to see as the central component on this record is the type of rich drones so prominent on later releases from H3O.  However, IOS sidesteps the pseudoscience  and pomposity that come as baggage with any of Andrew McKenzie’s work.  Anyhow, “Sedation” is unsurprisingly, given its title, the more subtle of the two beginning as it does in the most faint manner, shifting after a swash of static-like sounds which ushers in a fuller but still diffuse, calm atmosphere.  Progression continues slowly, adding layers to the sound which occupy distinct sections of the frequency range.  After the half way point, drifting bass tones which remind me of the earlier Organum shimmer through.  “Quell” retains more of the tension that I associate with Illusion of Safety as the drone are more machine-like, although less abrasive than the work of Vivenza.  The track starts with medicine chest’s question in George Lucas’ film “THX1139”: “What’s wrong?”  From there it sets free the anxiety lurking within.  As a coda to “Sedation”, “Quell” ends with a very airy trailout as if to prepare you to flip the record back to its A side.  Of course there is more detail found on both sides, but I don’t feel that an in depth analysis of every component allows staying focused on the overall atmosphere.  Has Illusion of Safety softened? Perhaps not, and more likely this is a rare gift from Dan which allows a deeper sinking into the drone without the usual jarring wake up call.  The record totals around 20 minutes and is pressed on translucent yellow vinyl which is wrapped in a full color jacket.

C.I.P. / Complacency – CIP 21

Big City Orkestre “Drone Gnomes” 10” (2006)

10" coverBCO have been active over 30 years now during which time they have unleashed a massive amount of releases.  Unlike a lot of artists working in the same time span, and with the same pace of output, Das is continually exploring new directions.  In other words, BCO releases have a lot more variety than those of Merzbow and Muslimgauze.  Despite using the word “drone” in their title as well as being on Drone Records, it is not a drone we find on the A side.  Instead that there is a really peaceful take on gamelan with the rather silly title “Cockiness Breeds Carelessness”.  Is it possible they are taking a pot shot as the serious nature of most releases on this label?  Hard to say for sure as humor is common thread throughout the history of this band.  Anyhow, I am not clear if they are using actual gamelan instruments, or something they built to sound similar, which is quite possible and in line with the creative directions taken by the group outside the purely sonic aspects.  The rapid chiming falls together in a beautiful rhythm over a simple percussive pulse and faint notes of flute while wordless female vocals float above.  Given that seven performers are credited (Ninah Pixie, Jesse Burson, Kerri Pidnow, Peter Martin, Melissa Margolis, Mike Dringenberg, and Das), I am probably failing to tease out a few elements.  Then again, a few of those might be reserved for the second side, “Rope Coiling Log”.  This side presents a more hazy atmosphere with a dominant harmonium like drone, a slow bass pulse, a rather subtle shimmering, and some distant cavernous sounds.  These sounds mix together in a more ambient environment then the first side with less forward motion which fits the overall release title better.  It is a nice mysterious B side which works because it is a contrast with the A side.  They compliment each other as the X and Y axis, as the sides are labeled on the cover, of exploration.  One moves forward in a horizontal direction, while the other’s focus is on vertical accumulation.  “Drone Gnomes” is a further installment in Drone’s Substantia Innominata series, again pressed in an edition of 500 copies, this time on nice marbled blue vinyl.  Running about 15 minutes on each side, this is probably more of a mini-album than a single.

Drone Records – SUB-05

Daniel Menche “Radiant Blood” 10” (2005)

10" cover

Although often associated with deep bass sounds, the A side of this brown 10″ focuses more on the mid-range with a buzzing high-tension drone.  It is the sort of sound that you would associate with being inside of a electrical power line transformer.  Certainly the “Radiant” part of the title fits with the sounds in this track.  The second side lets some sparks fly, but more intermittently and above repeated notes played on the low end of the piano, as well as a subtle mid-range drone.  It is a contrast to the first side as it offers a pulse and stays away from creating a static field.  Both are supposed to fit into the concept of the Substantia Innominata series of 10″ records, of which this is the first installment.  The concept is stated as embracing “the prospect of infinite possibilities for artists to create music about the intangible such as: the unnameable, the unspeakable, the unthinkable, the unidentifiable, etc.”  Given the history of Drone Records, I would say that this statement could probably just as well apply to a lot of their earlier 7″ releases.  Likewise, clocking it at around 9 minutes per side, it about the same duration as some of those 7″ entries.  But maybe letting the grooves expand over a large surface is better for the fidelity in the end as 9 minute sides seemed to be pushing the limits for 7″ records.  As for the packaging, it is a nice match of matte brown paper and brown vinyl with streaks of green, black and possibly white.  The cover art comes courtesy of Robert Schalinski of Column One and evokes the collage work of his countryman Max Ernst.  Pressed in an edition of 500 copies, “Radiant Blood” has hung around in print longer than the smaller runs of the earlier 7″s – a format that Drone Records has now put to bed after 100 titles.  This 10″ series, now up to 17 releases, as well as a new series of four-way-split LPs look to be the way forward that Stefan Knappe wants to pursue.

Drone Records – SUB-01

Bunny Brains 88 “Squirrel Attack EP” 10” (2005)

record coverReferencing 1988 in their name, which they have apparently retroactively changed to Ultrabunny, this harks back to the noise rock of the late 1980’s, despite being recorded in 2004.  At times they remind me of Butthole Surfers, no doubt due to the wacky vocals and somewhat wayward approach to the rock form while still laying down a motorik punk groove.  The record comes elaborately packaged in Bruce Licher letterpress jacket, which is made gaudy by affixing a glitter encrusted vinyl sticker smack dab on the front cover.  Honestly, I think this elements suits the band better.  Their free and loose, not to mention rough, approach seems like it would have been better matched by a really cheap sleeve that didn’t contradict the approach found on the two tone (half clear / half red) grooves inside.  There is definitely a goofy aspect about the band which makes it seem that they are anti-high class.  But maybe the mixture makes sense to what appears to be a band ready to take in a number of influences and directions.  In any case, there are only 333 numbered copies, of which 88 were included in a deluxe boxed edition with an extra 8.8″ record.  Given that even the “regular” edition pulls together so many inserts and packaging elements, a bit of thought was given to the whole release.

Equation Records – E=mc6