Friday, December 28, 2012

The Top 50 albums of 2012: 50-41

Top 2012 albums

Deciding which albums belonged in my top 50, let alone where to place them was a difficult task.  To better do this, I judged the albums by a few factors: their concept, innovation, technicality, and my overall enjoyment.  I did not focus too much on replayability, as I often find some of the best albums are those which can be rarely stomached due to their power (Ben Frost has always been this way for me).
50) King Tears Bat Trip- s/t

King Tears Bat Trip (KTBT) are not very technical in their playing abilities.  The band has four drummers doing the work that two could easily do, a guitarist which seems almost never present, and a saxophonist whose tonality seems not fully crafted.  On the surface, most would say this is a recipe for disaster, yet somehow this album is captivating, warming, and plays out in a way which keeps the listener interested from start to finish.

Over the course of two 18 minute tracks, KTBT play out one longer piece, a piece which occasionally takes moments from earlier in the album and throws them back at the listener, as if almost citing them like symbolism in a book.  One saxophone verse in particular is recurring throughout, and by the end leaves quite an impression.

Overall, this album is one which deserves to be on this list more than Tame Impala (which I originally had at #50 and wrote a review for before deciding to bump off) because this album is more enjoyable.  It is more uniform throughout; it is not merely ‘trippy’ because of an overuse of reverb or a reliance on gimmicky 60’s recreated sounds.  KTBT play in a way which flows from catchy to spaced out free jazz, and just before it seems like it is too much, they make sure to bring their sound back around, resulting in a wonderful, strange listening experience.

49) So Stressed- Attracted to Open Mouths 

Mixing harsher noise rock with moments of midwestern emo, Sacremento’s So Stressed released this great, unnoticed album this year.  While I usually am a huge fan of noise rock, I feel this band’s strong point is its more angsty, hard pop sound.  The first two tracks, Adults and A Fisherman’s Feast, do not do it for me.  Adults seems a filler opener, while Fisherman’s Feast seems like too much of an attempt to start off with a hard rock sound.  After these tracks, though, the album gets great. 

Songs like Little TV just feel great, perfectly capturing a sound that so many more mainstream pop punk bands attempt unsuccessfully to capture for years.  It is in songs like Little TV, where the band captures a great Stephan Pederson/ White Octave sound. 

By the time Animals Seeking Political Asylum comes in, the band seems much more open to playing with their sound (and at times sound like Pederson’s other band, Criteria).  Once this song ends, Hairstyles comes in like a swift kick in the ass, reminding the listener that this band is still noise rock.  And, once again, the track feels out of place.  While the track itself isn’t bad, sounding somewhere between Lightning Bolt and Hella, it doesn’t feel like it fits.  But, this is the style of the rest of the record, and while slightly out of place at first, it is still good. 

While I would have reordered the tracklist myself, the only real problem the album suffers with is a mild case of schizophrenia.  The album cannot decide how it wants to sound and ends up sounding like two different records jammed together.  Still, this is a promising debut for a band, and shows that So Stressed may be making a killer record in the future.
48) Trampled by Turtles- Stars and Satellites 

No great bluegrass came out this year (if some did, let me know).  Being a fan of music where the picking is fast and the drinking is plenty, I have been waiting for another release as solid as The .357 String Band’s Fire and Hail.  Sadly, releases like that do not come too often. 

Stars and Satellites is good, but has a slower sound than I was expecting.  Up until Stars and Satellites, I had only heard Trampled by Turtles live a few times.  Live they strum fast throughout, with very few slow songs.  This album seems almost the opposite.  The opening song, Midninght on the Interstate, sets up the album perfectly for what it is: an album of melodic bluegrass/ alternative country. 

While the album does not have the energy I had hoped for, it does, instead, focus heavily on emotion, capturing the sounds of desperation and nostalgia and longing.  With songs titled Walt Whitman and The Calm and Crying Wind one should presume the album will have a more contemplative/darker sound. 

The main drawback to this album is the band’s sound when they play too slow.  Songs like High Water tend to drag on, slow paced and depressively toned, overall breaking the continuity of the record.  This album does not feel complete and feels much more like a collection of songs. 

In the end, this album is one which has its shares of ups and downs.  Still, it has great moments and it is definitely worth a listen. 


Starfucker’s Reptilians was a great album of 2011, acting as the synthpop album MGMT wished they would have debuted with.  Astro’s self-titled album attempts to recreate such synth medley’s, and in many ways succeeds.  Just look at songs like Panda and Manglares and Astro’s strengths shine through.  Still, Astro’s album seems slower paced.  Also Druida de las Nubes seems unnecessarily thrown in, really breaking up the sound part way through the album. 

As far as innovation, there is not too much here.  Mixing softer guitars with warm synths and arpeggiations is by no means new.  Even the outfits on the cover appear as a South American version of the ones worn on Oracular Spectacular.  The album even has one song mainly acoustic just like Oracular.  While this is the first Chilean Synthpop band I have heard, that is about where the innovation ends. 

Still, the synths are crafted nicely, and the album feels relatively uniform throughout.  Finally, and most importantly with synthpop, this album is fun.  While this album brings little new to the table, it does refine the sound of synthpop and is a lot of fun. 

46) Parov Stelar- The Princess 

I hate approaching a double LP.  Every time I do, I always end up saying that the album could have been cut in half because of all of the filler.  This album is no exception.  And it is understandable; if an album 114 minutes long didn’t have any ‘filler’ I would be more than surprised. 

While I would overall classify The Princess as electro-swing, it regularly jumps between genres often touching house and other sample-based electronica. 

The title track, The Princess, is one of the worse tracks to the album, trading in much of Parov’s style for a more piano driven style reminiscent of Creedence’s I put a spell on you.  Parov’s sound is best when taking on a more traditional electro-swing.  Songs such as Jimmy’s Gang, Silent Shuffle, and All Night should be more pervasive on the album. 

Given the sheer length of this album, there is constantly new moments in the music that were missed with previous listens.  While this is another album which tends to be more for the song based listener than the album based one, its amount of standout tracks make it a definite for a list of albums of 2012.  If Caravan Palace was one of your favorite albums this year, do yourself a favor and pick this up. 

45) Oh No- Ohnomite 

Madlib’s little brother has constantly been trying to keep up with his older brother.  After all, his older brother is one of the more proficient artists out there right now, and Oh No shows with this album that he, like his brother, can do more than make instrumental albums. 

Ohnomite is great.  The production is fantastic, the features are out of control (Evidence, Alchemist, Guilty Simpson, Roc C, MF Doom, MED, and another 15 or so lesser known rappers), the concept of the beats is unique, and the rhymes are hard hitting.  Any album where I say MF Doom’s feature is one of the worst parts of an album is going to be pretty solid. 

Oh No samples Dolemite throughout the album, making Ohnomite a pseudo-concept album.  But even without this knowledge, the album still just sounds good.  Ohnomite may not have deep lyricism, but rapping about guns and drugs and money has never been so fun sounding.  Every rapper sounds natural on these topics, capturing a life where these just happen to be present and not the focal point. 

44) Flying Lotus- Until the Quite Comes

You know an artist is amazing when you find their album to be one of the bigger disappointments of the year, yet it still makes the best of on your year-end list.  I felt that Until the Quite Comes (UtQC) traded in much of what made Cosmogramma so unique, and instead left the listener with a wonky album that was less wonky. 

To me, UtQC seems Flying Lotus’s response for no Grammy for Cosmogramma.  UtQC seems almost dummed down; the focus of the album seems to be to refine FlyLo’s sound into something more stomachable to the masses. 

I personally am not one to care if someone sells out.  I am all for people getting rich.  Getting rich sounds awesome and I hope it happens to myself, everyone I know, and everyone I meet.  Whether FlyLo sold out with this new sound is irrelevant (though he really didn’t).  Overall, this album is just much, much tamer.  While this tame sound does not appeal as much to myself, many will find it a much more approachable album.  The album still is a great listen, and one which has been carefully crafted with a great attention to detail.  If you haven’t heard Flying Lotus, UtQC is a great starting point and overall, a pretty great album. 

43) Metz- S/T 

Metz definitely understand the sound they are going for and do it perfectly.  Immediately when hearing this album that shows.  This is a band that knows exactly how they want to sound on their debut, and whoever recorded the album did a great job capturing that sound. 

Unfortunately I am not as impressed with their actual sound as I am with their effort in creating it.  Metz sound is one of high energy, yet it doesn’t get me excited.  Instead, I find it one of the weaker noise rock albums of the year and, ironically enough, it seems to be one of the ones getting the most praise.  While the album seems overhyped in my opinion, it still is a good listen. 

The song Rats is where this album best captures its sound.  Heavy riffs, screaming vocals, synchronized feedback.  This is the sound that is prevalent throughout the album, yet here it is best displayed.  If this music was the theme song to anything, it would be throwing beer bottles at walls and punching through drywall.  While I do not always find myself in a mood for this style music, the few times I have wanted that young, immortal feeling, this music was great. 

42) Normal Love- Survival Tricks 

Finding themselves dancing the fringes of noise rock and avant-garde, Normal Love’s album Survival Tricks is one which I believe will garner more and more critical acclaim over the next few years.  Just read the reviews the band had various strangers do.  One psychic tells them their music has evil qualities and is ‘drug music’.  A Prostitute says the music reminds her of New York, Cirque du Soleil, modern dance music, and Lady Gaga.  While I would not agree with either of these ‘reviewers’, I will say that this is an unclassifiable album which constantly rewrites the band’s sound. 

As far as innovation goes, this album absolutely blows my mind.  As far as enjoyment, that is another matter.  I cannot listen to this album often, and even have a hard time doing a full sitting.  It is enjoyable, to the extent you listen alone with headphones, but if I were to show anyone this in person they may have me committed. 

Overall, if you want an album which will take you on a unique auditory adventure through evil ‘drug music’, this is one of the best 2012 albums for you. 

41) Lone- Galaxy Garden 

Here is another album which did not meet my expectations this year.  After hearing Lone’s Echolocations and Emerald Fantasy Tracks, I had amazingly high expectations for this album.  Though it did not meet those expectations, this album is still great.  If I happened to own a human-sized monkey ball, this would be my album of the year hands down. 

Galaxy Garden is a fitting name for this album.  Where much of the electronic music out there tries to create a natural sound, often sampling real instruments, Galaxy Garden goes the opposite direction.  The sounds are extremely artificial, the drums do not feel done by a real drummer, and clap samples can be heard in the background.  But this album uses these to its advantage, creating a sound some place between playing gamecube and attending a rave. 

Overall, this was a great album which does not have one bad track on it. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Top 10 2012 Noise Rock Albums

Top 10 albums 2012
2012 was a great year for noise rock.  So great, in fact that choosing only 10 albums was fairly difficult; but, after mulling it over for a bit, here was my top picks.

1) White Suns- Sinews:  This album just had so much grit.  Straight from the first song, Fire Sermon, you know you are in for a harsh and intense trip.  Strangely enough though, despite this being such a harsh album, it has a way of getting caught in my head and making me want to go back to it again and again.

2) Choochooshoeshoot- Playland:  This album caught me off guard.  I found it through a random blog and simply was not ready for the awesome rock and roll they had prepared.  The vocalist of Choochooshoeshoot really does it for me, having a harsher sound that is never piercing.

3) WaMu- Viafuckt:  I adored this album when I first heard it, and it sat as my Album of the Year for much of 2012.  Heck it's the first cassette I have purchased in quite a while, and was well worth it.

4) Obnox- Rojo:  A Permanent Records release.  I was pretty much sold when I found that out, and this certainly was awesome.  Some Tribal mixed into noise rock, and overall a fun, catchy album.  Also, the speaking parts remind me of the band Kill Me Tomorrow.

5) Divorce- Divorce:  Another one of the harsher albums on the list.  I wrote up a much better review of this album earlier this year, but if you liked Aids Wolf, then I highly suggest you check out this band.

6) Infants- Giant Leg:  Frantic dance-punk meets noise rock.  This band took Brainiac's sound and revamped it for the next generation.  Its a shame they broke up, but 'Gum Takes Tooth' formed out of them and is worth checking out.

7) White Lung- Sorry:  I played this for a friend of mine who likes the Yeahyeahyeahs and he really dug it.  A very short album where every song is as good as the last.  If you liked Metz this year, this is better and up your alley.

8) BNNT-_ _:  This Duo made the list simply because I love their sound, their style, and the fact that they have been soundbombing Europe; not to mention the album is fantastic.

9)Keiji Haino, Jim O'Rourke, and Oren Ambarchi- Imikuzushi:  The four tracks on this album are long, noisy, and wild.  While none of the four tracks really stood out to me as amazing, the whole thing felt good, and really felt complete when it ended, making for an overall great listening experience from start to finish.

10) Dope Body- Natural History:  I didn't really care for Dope Body's 2011 release.  That's why I was pleasantly surprised by Natural History.  Dope Body decided to not sound as hard rock, and I think it worked great.  I hope they continue going this direction.

Honorable Mentions: If you already heard all of these albums and want more, try Aufgehoben, Black Dice, Black Pus, Feedtime, Lightning Bolt, Netz, Normal Love, or Pop1280.

SKIMASK- Cute Mutant (2012)

cute mutant
I was asked to write up a review for SKIMASK's most recent 12", Cute Mutant.  SKIMASK's album, Cute Mutant, plays a lot like Whirlwind Heat's Do Rabbit's Wonder.  It has a sound which appears spontaneous in nature while holding a hard-driven, dancerock nature.  With muddled vocals similar to those of the Bumblebeez, the singer blares over drums and backup vocals.

What makes this album unique is also this album's main strength, the backup vocals.  forgoing synths and guitars, the backup vocals create a frenzied array of crunchy pedal effects which fill this album with a full sound.  The vocals sometimes create bass lines sounding familiar to any fan of DFA 1979 and other times create guitar sounds nearly imitating the sound of Whirlwind Heat.

I cannot stop comparing them to Whirlwind heat because I feel the album holds many of the same strengths and weaknesses.  Cute Mutant is an album which sounds like it took too little time to record, but SKIMASK sounds like a band who could improvise a set on the spot.

Overall, this album was pretty decent, and it is an album which contains unholstered fun.

the album can be purchased Here.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Glocca Mora- Just Married (2012)

glocca mora
Here is a midwest emo band who I wasn't too fond of on first listen.  Now, after a few dozen listens it has really grown on me.  The band takes ques from Desaparecidos (Bright Eye's band), while holding that truthful sound one would find on Weezer's Blue album. 

I originally didn't like this album because I found it brought nothing new to the table, but where it lacks innovation this album makes up for it nostalgia.  Just Married takes me back to an earlier time; it reminds the listener of sneaking drinks in friends basements and all of the angst that comes with highschool. 

If you are looking for an easy listen that is filled with nostalgia, this album may be right up your alley. 
Listen Here.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Yowie Interview

Yowie recently released Damning with Faint Praise, and after being asked to write up a review of the album, I asked them if they would be willing to do a short interview.  They were nice enough to agree.

yowie interviewHello and thanks for doing this interview, why don’t you introduce yourself.

I'm Chris.  I'm the new guy.  I joined a little over a year ago.

Hey I am Shawn. I'm the old guy. I joined like 13 years ago.

What about the Yowie made you decide to name your band after it?
Well, the fact that it exists, of course, is important. Also, it is hirsute and mysterious, like me.

One of you turned down a position at Yale to stay with Yowie.  Did you make the right decision?
That was me- it was a Postdoctoral Residency. I definitely made the right decision. A Yale Postdoc is a pretty damned good career move in my profession, but I couldn't do Yowie and it at the same time. I have always had two lives, and neither one of them has ever fully ruled me or stamped the other out. This is partly through design and hard work, and partly just blind luck. Thus far, I have somehow found a way to find some way to make the two co-exist, even if uneasily. At the moment that I received that offer, I very much believed that this band had something cool up its sleeve that had yet to come to fruition. We had just reunited, and some of the songs from 'Damning with Faint Praise' were really starting to take form, and I just couldn't go off to the East Coast and let that wither on the vine. The songs had to be finished. 

For some context that you didn't ask for, it seemed like we had accomplished something with Cryptooology back in 2005, and were at that time offered a European Tour, which turned out to be my life's dream that I never knew i had until it was offered to me. But then the band lineup collapsed, and said dream evaporated. So when that offer for Yale came in a few years later, I could have chosen to let those new songs and the European tour slip through my fingers and go just pursue my career, or I could have tried to find another path for my professional life in the hopes that Yowie would complete what it had started, which was a real gamble, given that we had already broken up once. So a few weeks back, while we drank vending machine beer on a balcony in Italy, I announced to the world, much more loudly than appropriate for the hour, that I was so very glad i risked it. 100% the right decision; no regrets. The album turned out great, and I hope lots of people get to hear it. And to make the ending even happier, I later ended up lucking into a great job that, for me, was better than the Yale Postdoc anyway. Maybe not the prestigious "brand name" of Yale, but very meaningful work. I have never been too excited about brand names and reputation anyway. 

The year is coming to an end and I am still in the process of putting together my top 50 of 2012.  What are the top 2012 albums in your opinion?

I really liked the Zs box set, and Normal Love' s 'Survival Tracks'.  Loincloth's 'Iron Balls of Steel' is amazing.  Also, Mary Halvorson's 'Bending Bridges' - she's awesome.

I would definitely say Normal Love's "Survival Tracks" is fantastic, and i was blown away by them live. And Behold...the Arctopus' "Horrorscencion" just came out, which has some amazingly technical and craftily composed pieces on it. But when it comes to time frames for music, I may be the wrong person to ask. I am rarely aware of the decade something I ran across came out. I regularly pick up music from long ago and don't pay that much attention to its age. I just like what I like.

What bands inspired/currently inspire Yowie?

Yowie's music is very much a product of many hours of hard work in relative isolation, so we're not directly influenced by other current bands all that much.  There are bands i find inspiring because of their fearlessness & devotion to doing their own thing, though - Cheer-Accident. for instance.

Slayer. Pretty much just Slayer. 

You finally got to play a European tour.  How did Europe treat you?

Europe was fantastic.  I've toured a fair amount in the US with previous bands, and bands get treated SO much better overseas.  I loved it over there.

Europe spoiled playing in the US for me. I didn't know that was possible, but holy crap, it was like an alternate universe. Club owners who treat you like family, and thank you for coming, try to make you comfortable. Promoters pay you what you are guaranteed, no matter what the turnout is, and even extra when they had a good night. Home cooked meals! Really. Places to stay already arranged before you get there. Free drinks. Friendly, positive people. Autographs. People who have listened to  your music for years who want to talk to you about it, and hug you, and thank you for making it. Women dancing to our music. Seriously. So, yeah, not at all like most of our shows in the US, and all along I didn't even know what i was missing. The Czech Republic and Italy were especially fantastic; so much fun. Such wonderful people. Some of my favorite people I have ever met in my life. I'd say overall, touring Europe feels like your best friends have invited you to come play at their place. Playing in the US all too often feels like you are adversaries with the club owner, promoter, in a sort of business deal where the bottom line is everything and you each want to get whatever you can out of the other. I have had a hard time not becoming an ex-pat.

A lot of bands seem to be going the kickstarter route lately, how was your experience using kickstarter to get to Europe?  

I was a little hesitant to do the kickstarter thing...i come from the DIY, pay-your-own-way world, and i felt some twinges of creepiness asking people for money.  I was shocked & humbled by those people's generosity, though.  It turned out to be great experience. 

Oh yeah, it was fantastic. It was very touching how many people contributed.

You got to be on the same bill as a lot of great bands when in Europe.  What were your favorite bands you heard while you were there?

Staer was awesome.  Korekyojinn was great.  i really liked a band from the Czech republic that we played with a few times called EA.

Yeah, agree 100% with the above, but would add Poino, Birdbath, and Etai Keshiki. Korekyojinn was a special treat, since they have never toured before and have never come to the US. I've enjoyed their music a long time and may never get to see them live again. So that was amazing.  

How could i have forgotten Poino?!?!? They are a great band.  I also really enjoyed School Bus Driver.

What was the weirdest show that Yowie has played? 

Well let's see...we played the local Riverfront Times Music Festival last  year. We played in a weird sort of meat market bar, set up in a booth where it looks like Scarface should have been sitting with his entourage. They had a UFC fight on the big screen right above us (why turn that off?) and had booty shaking music pumped in from the other room, which was separated by a curtain (also, why turn that off?). The whole venue made no sense for us. But then people somehow liked it. And I was told repeatedly that our music really makes sense while watching two men beat the hell out of each other.

What was the sound you were hoping for when you went into writing this album?  Now that it is completed, did you capture that sound?

I think we mostly did. I was basically traumatized by the sound quality of Cryptooology, which we recorded before we were signed for just a couple hundred bucks. It was recorded by a brain damaged functionally deaf person with terrible equipment, who does not understand what sounds are, much less how to capture them. The drums sound thin and tinny, and the guitars have no low end, and the entire album's sound is shrill and abrasive (as though that is what we need for our style of music) and basically sounds nothing like us live. So for this album, we did lots of things to correct for that. I purchased some extra large, very boomy drums, Jeremiah got an amp with a 12 and a 15 in it, and tuned his guitar lower, and we recorded to 2 inch tape with engineers who are not only able to feed and dress themselves independently, but also are actually quite good at being engineers. So I would say we captured most of what we wanted. I am still not 100% happy with the drum sound (I think I may have overcorrected with the boomy drums; you can't hear a fair amount of my fast tom work, for instance, because it turns into a hum), and the guitars still overpower each other from time to time more than I would like, but it is exponentially closer to what we actually sound like than Cryptooology was. So "mostly" is my less loquacious answer.

I read somewhere that you had the album mastered 8 different times.  Why was this and how different are the various versions?  Do you have any copies of the other masters and do you plan on ever releasing them online?

I think there were seven mastering passes. The differences aren't great enough to warrant a separate release.  We basically were just trying to get it to sound the best we could.

Yeah, it was just seven mastering passes. Don't be ridiculous. why would anyone do 8? That would be overkill. The band overkill. with the skull with wings on it. Scary. But yes, I totally agree, the various mastering versions are no more noteworthy than the dozens of mix rough drafts. I think if I had another $10000, I would have kept mixing that album for another few months. If i wasn't murdered first. But I would love to hear a remixed/remastered Cryptooology one day, if that is salvageable.

When writing Damning, what song took the most time and which part of the album is the hardest part to play?

"Magnetospheric Eternally Collapsing Object" wins the "Longest Time to Write" award. Back in 2008, that song was 12 minutes long, and that was without the beginning and end parts, both of which have a little bit of repetition in them. It was ridiculous. Or maybe even ridonculous. No, definitely, it was ridonculous. It had dozens and dozens more parts and movements in it, which made it have the effect of losing some of "the rock," as I believe it is commonly called. I know that our music is generally too much for the average attention span to absorb, but this was just absurd, and clunky. So, interestingly, it took years of nipping and tucking, and especially arranging, without very much new composition, to get it to the streamlined, aerodynamic beauty it is today. To the second part of your question, I bet each member has his own hardest song. For me, it is "Magnetospheric Eternally Collapsing Object."
I think "Whippersnapper" is the hardest song for me to play...there are a lot of subtle timing/phrasing things in that one that are tough to nail.

Now that your tour is over, what is next for Yowie?

Writing new music is priority one.  We already have one new song that's mostly finished (we played it on our European tour).

Definitely. Doing very little other than writing new music. Lots of time back in the basement. Still reminiscing about our European Tour and trying to get back there as soon as possible.

Thanks again for taking the time to do this interview.  Anything else you would like to add?


I appreciate your taking this time. So far this album hasn't gotten too much press at all, good or bad, and I'd really like more people to be aware of its existence.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Yowie- Damning with Faint Praise(2012)

damning with faint praise

Yowie has requested I write up a review on their recent album: Damning with faint praise.

I was taken aback when I first listened to this album.  I read online that Yowie was math rock, and I was honestly expecting music similar to Medium Slut- You Bastard.  I was quite wrong.

While Yowie is math rock, it focuses on a louder, more technical sound.  The opening track, Slowly but Surely, starts with guitar slides reminiscent of Daughters- Hell Songs.  Whats more, the drummer occasionally adds a quick double bass pump furthering the likeness to grindcore.  this similarity to grindcore, however, faded out of mind mind within a couple minutes as time signatures switched and a focus on strange guitar arpegiations became apparent.

One of the weak points of this album, was the bands unwillingness to ride out some of their rhythms.  Often just as a quickly as a sound materializes it is gone.  The sounds tend to progress faster than I want, as though the band considers jamming a race.

This brevity is furthered by the short length of the album. At just under 30 minutes, the album leaves the listener asking for more.

One of my favorite parts of Damning with faint praise was some of the riffs buried inside the songs.  While the lower notes could have been mixed up a bit more, they are great nonetheless.

After finishing this album I listened to some of Yowie's older tracks on Cryptooology.  Overall, I would say Damning with faint praise is stronger; it is more aggressive, and plays more into dissonant realms.  it is hard to say which album I prefer the drumming on though.  The drums in Cryptooology remind me of the drumming in Silencio, especially the use of the cowbell.

Overall, if you are looking for math rock with a bite, a Hella meets XBXRX, than Yowie's 2012 album 'Damning with faint praise' is a good choice.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Interview with Digital Natives

Jeff Astin of Digital Natives was nice enough to do a short interview with me.  While you read the interview, listen to an unreleased track "Now There" 
Hello and thanks for doing this interview.  Please introduce yourself.

I'm Jeff Astin. I've been intimately fascinated and involved with music/sound manipulation since I was very young. I got into Tampa's punk/hardcore scenario around 1995 and played extensively with various bands up until 2001, and started getting into field recordings around the same time. 

digital nativesEventually, I started working with the recordings I had collected over the years, and after establishing a particular method, made my first "experimental" release in 2002 as Om Rivur Yarrow. At the time, I had no idea there were similar projects going on, much less an entire movement developing.

I made several CDrs over the next few years, which were mainly given to friends. In 2055, I mean, 2005, I started using Xiphiidae as a moniker. My first two albums were self-released and then labels like Scumbag and Cloud Valley started to take an interest. In 2066, I mean, 2006, Housecraft was officially born.

Evan Galbicka (Church of Holy Colors), Josh Tippery (Royallen, Permanent Nostalgia), and psychedelic experimentation were huge inspirations in getting things going, in various ways. Evan's visual endeavors and boldness in the arts and social interactions, in general, were critical. Josh has always had a knack for being able to make magic from anything. The idea of turning shit to gold became a dominant theme.

After getting a feel for it, I was satisfied with the quaint, intimate dynamic. It allowed me to move quickly, not only as a label but with ideas in general. Housecraft became more of an explorative workshop for me than a label, and continues to be so.

As far as the development of Digital Natives; Alex Shulgin, Sean McDonald, Kaisha King, and Justin Kryzanauskas played key roles in all of it; from square one. 

How is California Treating you?

It depends on the day. I miss my cat...

You have released quite a bit of material since you began going under the moniker ‘Digital Natives’.  What piece do you feel has been your best so far?

The digital releases involve a more focused approach. 'YHWH CWBY' and 'Side Wise Open' set the bar for the project in my opinion, both in fidelity and content.

How do you decide whether a recording should be released under the ‘Digital Natives’ moniker or under your name like ‘Weird Wide World of Water Windows’ was? 

DN is very particular. It's strictly based on sampled, thrifted media that usually leans towards a more danceable aesthetic.

'Weird Wide World' is more ambient/drone-esque, though much of it was also taken from found media under "heavier" manipulation. 

The method is similar for just about every project but the outcome is different because of what's fed into it.

Do you have any planned shows in the future?  

Nothing right now.

How did the Action Research 84 event go?  What exactly is “live media manipulation”?

Ahh yeah, March 29, 2012. Funny you should ask! This particular show stirred the pot for me unlike any other in ways I can't even go into. Action Research is always interesting, but this one set a series of events in action that has, more or less, resulted in my moving from coast to coast.

As for the definition of "live media manipulation", I think Andrew Chadwick would be able to answer that better than me.

What gave you the idea for the Daily Roulette?  Do you have any plans to release them all in a group in the future, or are they to remain a limited time offer?

I've just about always been fascinated with chance operations/divination; William Burroughs' 'cut-ups' collaboration with Brion Gysin, the I Ching, and Jason Nicolaus; all are very inspirational. 

In the 90's, I would put together mix-tapes for friends and eventually came up with an idea: I'd lay all my records/tapes out in piles all over my bedroom and roll dice to determine which pile to choose from, and then again for which record, then which song, etc…

Digital Natives, in general, is a mutant evolved from this process. The rules are complex and build the foundation for every track as well as addition of every other layer and the effects involved. No computer applications are ever used, aside from equalization adjustments and basic final editing like fades, etc…

Daily Roulettes are also determined using a similar process, drawing from a collected unreleased track list in the hundreds.

I have no plans on releasing them in one volume but they do sometimes make their way onto tape releases.

How many 3 cassette box albums are you planning on releasing?

At least one more, another two if I can find the cases again.

On average, how long do you spend recording a day?

My studio is in a barn and lately it's been uncomfortably cold so time spent recording has gone down. As a result, I've been spending my time inside catching up on editing/mastering the 25+ hours collected over the past 9 months or so.

Generally though, I spend around 4-6 hours a day working on some aspect of the recording/mastering process, unless I'm out and about; sometimes more if the set and setting is accommodating. 

You also run HOUSECRAFT RECORDINGS.  Do you think that you will ever release anything on record, or will you stick to CDR’s and cassettes? 

I've done a couple records and they went fairly well but the money required up front is usually more than I can afford. There's one coming though, hopefully in the next month or so. It may be the last vinyl Housecraft puts together, at least for a while.

CDr's aren't out of question. I've had some requests for them and they seem to go over well. I may do more but probably won't do a CDr only edition.

There's a Digital Natives DVD coming as well, which is a first.

So much of the stuff on housecraft recordings has long been out of print.  Do you retain copies of it, or is it only in the wild at this point?  Also, would you ever be willing to upload albums to a bandcamp or mediafire once the sell out?  I would love to hear some of the older cdrs by various groups.

Yeah most of it is "in the wild" by now, especially as of late since I've had to purge a big chunk of my collection to get by out here.

Unfortunately, I've lost hard drives and computers over the years due to the elements, or damaged packages so a lot of the really early stuff is gone.

What's left though, I do plan on archiving one of these days. I've been slowly getting caught up with that idea.

What are some of your favorite albums from this year?

What Venn Rain has been up to is consistently blowing me away. That enormous Tuluum Shimmering data disc is also a constant go-to. Woset is great.. Euglossine, Crippling, Heat Sureens, G Sweems, Nag Dolly, etc..

I've gotta admit, I'm not much of a listener these days unless someone directly brings it to my attention. When I am it's usually because I haven't heard something in years --- been going through a lot of old records/tapes.

What is your favorite tattoo that you have?  

A drawing from 'Building The Earth' by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

Do you plan on finishing the right sleeve, or are you going to leave it stopping at the elbow?

Maybe if I win the lottery Wednesday. Any Wednesday.

What is one artist that I should look into that I do not know about?

Gerda Taro. I'm biased because he's my roommate but the project is on point.

Any last words for our readers?

Adieu à la nuit, nous ne sommes pas seuls!

Thanks again Jeff for doing that interview.  If anyone hasn't yet,  go check out his bandcamp Here.