900X is the moniker for James McAlister. James has released the first 900X record, titled Lubbock, 1980 as the first in an instrumental Music Library series for the Lander, WY based record label Asthmatic Kitty. Lubbock, 1980 is a collection of songs recorded both at home an on the road, in numerous environments and non-environments from 2004-2008. James continues to do remix work and original film music under the 900X umbrella with such artists as My Brightest Diamond, Slavic Soul Party, and Sufjan Stevens. 900X can also be heard on the Asthmatic Kitty-curated Habitat compilation.
Music for Moving in Slow Motion is about the slowing, halting, and reversing of the directional flow of linear time. It is about the significance of the possibly infinite space that exists between any two instants. It is about experiencing symmetrical time. At some moments the proverbial arrow for a single event is subtly (or not so subtly) manipulated, while at others, multiple events are frozen and superimposed onto each other, creating a hyper-simultaneity out of what was once sequence, thereby eliminating it. Time is treated as space, as an elastic solid that can be twisted and moved in any direction, and there is an attempt to find the smallest temporal unit, if it exists at all.
'Tomb', the third full length album from Thousand Oak, CA's Angelo de Augustine, addresses lost love, the cost of honesty, and the ramifications of regret. It's a deeply inward album, but like the best albums about heartbreak, 'Tomb' transforms pain into beauty. "This album is at its core a prayer for hope and clarity, and a prayer for love," says De Augustine.
The record is a significant shift from his previous home recordings, such as previous album 'Swim Inside The Moon'. It was recorded at NYC's Reservoir Studios with his friend and renowned musician Thomas Bartlett (a.k.a. Doveman), whose credits include work on albums for Sufjan Stevens, Glen Hansard, and Rhye. 'Tomb' is a musical breakthrough for De Augustine, with Bartlett's artful production spotlighting his increasingly impressive songwriting.
The songs of 'Tomb' achieve grandeur with sweeping minimalism: a voice, a guitar, and the occasional flourishes of Bartlett's signature piano and instrumental arrangements. But the simple strength of songs like "Time," "You Needed Love, I Needed You," and "Kaitlin" will remind listeners that De Augustine is among the best of the rising crop of young, emotionally compelling singer-songwriters.
Swim Inside the Moon is a record by 24-year-old Angelo De Augustine. This second full-length of Angelo's career captures a sound he’s been looking for since he started playing music a decade ago:
"A sound behind the voice," says Angelo, who recorded all of this record in his bathtub using a reel-to-reel machine and a single Shure SM57 microphone. "I noticed that when you sing off a reflective surface you hear two voices. I was compelled to isolate that voice and bring it more to the front of the songs because in many ways I feel more connected to and comforted by that voice following me."
Listeners might hear Nick Drake's intricate arpeggiated guitar parts, Elliott Smith's pure vocals, or, at times, a likeness to the soulfulness of artists such as Vashti Bunyan, Judee Sill, and JosÃ© GonzÃ¡lez. But for Angelo's part, he found this sound on his own terms. As to what these songs mean, well, that’s harder to say. "I couldn’t tell you," says Angelo. "I get into this place, and then I wake up with a song instead of a dream."
"Carcassonne," the A side of a new limited edition 7 inch, is a song by Angelo De Augustine about falling in love for the first time. On side B is "Effervescent Islands." The Carcassonne 7” was written and self-produced at home at the tail end of summer, soon after De Augustine released his second LP, Swim Inside the Moon, and played to his biggest audience to date supporting Sufjan Stevens at LA's Hollywood Forever Cemetery (his tour with Moses Sumney was then about to start). "Carcassonne" is one of De Augustine's most romantic tracks that starts by asking a simple question: "Would you be the only one / In my life with my love?" and ends with the tender epiphany: "There ain't much time in life before the lights go down / So I want to know you now," reminding us to love while we can.Side B's piano ballad "Effervescent Islands" is more mysterious, with references to infinity, hypnosis, "something supernatural," and "ephemeral light," but it’s still about love: “Anything to touch the silence one more time / Anything to feel the love we all shall find.”The sky-blue seven-inch, limited to 500, is available through his record label, Asthmatic Kitty Records, or at local record stores.
B Lan 3 is a solo project by musician and visual artist Michael Diekmann. A resident of New York City, he also records and performs with the minimalist cold-wave formation Ike Yard, and the pioneering experimental hip-hop group Death Comet Crew. He has also composed soundtracks for video and multimedia installations for multimedia artists including Gretchen Bender, Robert Longo and Marcello Mazzella; and also contributed music with Death Comet Crew to the audio book version of “Neuromancer” by William Gibson. The compositions on Music for Hunting and Mapping were developed with a focus on the mapping of an imaginary realm and were largely inspired by a consideration of a collision between high and low culture; specifically by exploring stylistic conceits from anime and video gaming while drawing upon “high art” examples from literature and cinema. For example, how would director Hayao Miyazaki interpret Thomas Pynchon’s novel “Mason & Dixon” as an anime film? Or, what would a single-player, RPG video game of director Andrei Tarkovsky’s film “Andrei Rublev” look like? Or a multiplayer video game based on Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick”? The strategies employed in composition and production imbue the recordings with sense of fantasyâ€¦or at least a synthetic version of reality, much in the same manner of more highly developed video games and anime.
Finally, after three years of legendary performances in their hometown of San Diego, the amazing Bunky- Emily Joyce, Rafter Roberts, who has been featured in Tape Op, and friends- unleash their debut album, “Born to be a Motorcycle." “Motorcycle” will surprise even those who think they’ve heard it all; this eclectic collection of weird pop bliss blends punk, art-pop, and ballads with chugging horns, absurdist humor and bulls-eye production by veteran musicians/engineers Roberts and Joyce. The result is an album as lively as an armful of eels; Bunky rocks and croons with equal skill, sometimes in the same song. Joined by a cast of San Diego all-stars (members of Rocket from the Crypt, Castanets, Pinback, and others), Bunky blazes from the underground full-grown and ready to burn up the road.
"Music For Drums" is the first in a series of records conceived by Casey Foubert and James McAlister using drums, percussion, and user designed software effects as the sole sound source. Foubert and McAlister drew from both improvised drumming and pattern-based sequencing with samplers to create themes molded into songs. While the concept excludes harmonic and melodic conventions, atonal "melodies" present themselves alongside the groove centered songs.
With Texas Rose, The Thaw, and The Beasts Castanets' Raymond Raposa keeps one foot in the rustic country, folk, and blues of past records while taking it—everything—to the next level. Straddling the line between “out” and accessible, the Rafter Roberts-produced Texas Rose is a full-band affair, a bent noise-country terrain of dissolving interludes and spaced-out electronic pop tracks up against songs that wouldn't be out of place on a Merle or Willie record. Texas Rose, Raposa's fifth for Asthmatic Kitty, is a statement of stoic subtlety and grandeur, an equal balance of the big and the humble, the disparate and the cohesive. It is nearly 39 minutes of stride-hitting, potential-reaching, and pure big epicness.
This video document, created by Mia Ferm, serves as a snapshot of a particular moment in time surrounding Raposa and Castanets. It is a meditative reflection on the mesmerizing motion of water, the beauty of natural light, and the spontaneity of friends. Responding to the thickness of the songs on In The Vines, here the songs are stripped bare and presented by new voices that further reveal the lyrical beauty of Raposa's songwriting. It is equal parts home movie (ala Jonas Mekas), Downtown 81, Pull My Daisy, and audio-visual collage.
Ray Raposa of Castanets had almost finished his follow-up to First Light's Freeze (2005) when three men in strange masks mugged him at gunpoint in front of his home in Bedstuy, Brooklyn. Stealing Raposa's rent money, iPod and security, the three thieves climaxed a year of depression and nomadic, nocturnal dislocation. Not long after the mugging, Raposa completed In The Vines. Appropriately, the album he was struggling to complete is based on a Hindu fable about being trapped in an inescapable fate, with death and the limitations of our physical lives closing in from all corners. In the fable story, “The Well of Life”, a giant net stretched out by a giant woman surrounds a Brahman lost in the forest. The frantic Brahman runs in circles attempting to escape until he falls halfway down a pit and is entangled in vines. He discovers some beehives halfway between the flesh-hungry six-faced elephant at the top of the pit and the waiting serpent at the bottom. As bees buzz around the Brahman and rats gnaw at the vines holding him up, all he can do is gorge on the sweet honey. Heavy stuff, yes, but it isn't all peril, and darkness. The songs are sung with such intimacy and earnestness that In The Vines "sways" somewhere between the serpent, elephant, bees and rats, the honey representing a strange sense of hope and delight in the brief moments of beauty that sustain our lives.
With First Light's Freeze, Castanets return with a dark mutant-country sound infused with strands of free-jazz and a late-seventies Nashville big-radio strut hijacked by post-post-punk unravelers. The result is a beautiful mix of somber reflection, destination-unknown travelogue, and subversive anti-war boogie. Castanets' unrelenting creative pioneering delightfully befuddles, as they simultaneously honor and dismantle “New Americana”.
While Cathedral (Castanets' debut) explored the themes of domesticity and the architecture of conflict, First Light's Freeze confronts the mythology of war and friendship. Morphed from a strictly literal and chronological song-cycle to a more broadly sketched reading, the wraith of narrative structure still lurks in the shadows, creating an eerie tale with shifting perspectives and evading resolution. The story ends up resembling an ancient documentary on relationships (others loved, feared, distrusted yet needed), the close proximity of things painful and pleasurable, and the complications of this as a paradigm for the world.
The world is loud. The wind blows hard. We need songs for shelter, and Raymond Raposa can build a shelter from almost anything: the sun-bleached bones of a drum track and a couple spare organ chords; a carpet of creeping synth arpeggios, a scaffolding of multi-tracked harmonies, a few scraps of alto sax to prop up the whole structure. Decimation Blues, Raposa's sixth release as Castanets, marks a decade of scavenger architecture.
Decimation Blues sees Raposa stepping out in front of the hermetic persona he's crafted over ten years. There have always been shards of pop songs glinting in the dark corners of Castanets records. Here we get whole gleaming edifices. Decimation Blues is the music of a man who's learned to live and build among the wreckage - twelve seemingly offhand, secretly meticulous tracks that we can hunker down in. "Still always good to be alone in someone else's home," Raposa sings. He'll lend us his place, or teach us how to fix up our own. Come in out of the rain, put your shoes by the fire. The walls might shake, the wind might howl, but you'll be safe here a while.
Largely recorded in a motel room in Overton, Nevada, City of Refuge is an uneasy, asymmetric weave of sung songs, chants, electronic noise solos and spaghetti-western guitar interludes. City suggests a film soundtrack, with overture, mood-setting and plot-development songs, intermission, character studies, and themes of resolution and reconciliation. A narrative propelled by yearning, passion, dislocation, ambiguity, regret, false redemption, possible true redemption, cryptic symbolism and other art film obligatories, this time you’re liable to sit numb and silent through the credits as the theater empties. The difference between Raposa's landscape and more familiar backlot scenes might be this; you believe what you've heard and seen because your third ear intuits that he didn’t contrive any of it. City, then, is no longer only music, but emotional catharsis, and we, too, long for a City of Refuge.
Cathedral, the first nationally released album by San Diego's Castanets, introduces a unique new voice of avant-country. From somber love ballads to haunted tales of frustrated redemption, Cathedral illuminates architecture where faith and doubt clash in an often ambiguous search for the divine.
Dub Refuge turns a minimalist folk record (Castanets' City of Refuge) into a ghostly dub, subverting dub tradition while still nodding in the direction of King Tubby, Scientist, Burning Spear, and Sly and Robbie. Dub Refuge works because Castanets and Ero Gray (aka Papa Alabaster, sometimes bass player for Castanets, and member of Brooklyn-based Rad Unicorn) are both preoccupied with ghostly, ephemeral and messy sounds. Ero and the Castanets share a haunted quality in their music, a unique dedication to risk, and a reverence for accident in folk music. (Stray string squeaks, cracking voices and odd echoes can be more rewarding than intentional harmonies or suavely competent riffs.)
At it's best, Castanets music accomplishes an eerie and very difficult balancing act between the disaster-surfing of experimental and noise music, and the sort of calm competence shown by classic country singers. The City of Refuge sessions exemplified this balance, and here on Dub Refuge, Ero has emphasized both aspects without destroying either.
A work of personal identity and deep catharsis, Twilight & Ghost Stories is a dense 40-minute modern composition featuring a disparate cross-section of musicians from the avant-garde, independent folk, jazz and electronic communities (including Dirty Projectors, Sufjan Stevens, Walter Kitindu, Castanets, Parker Paul, Bhob Rainey, and Mick Rossi). A creative and accomplished jazz guitarist, Chris Schlarb cut his teeth producing hip-hop tracks, teaching music workshops and co-founding the free music collective Create (!). Chris Schlarb is also one-half of I Heart Lung, which Tiny Mix Tapes called "some of the most energetic free-jazz to spit out of America." Spanning all of these endeavors, Twilight & Ghost Stories finds Schlarb playing acoustic piano, organ, electric and acoustic guitar as well as tapes and percussion.
Psychic Temple II is a labor of love envisioned by Chris Schlarb to bring his most far-ranging inspirations to life â€“ as he puts it, “a dream ensemble that could never actually exist.” The ensemble’s sophomore release was painstakingly constructed over more than a year with the cooperation of some of the most progressive musical minds from a staggering variety of genres.
Psychic Temple II reaches beyond the long-form experiments of its predecessor for a more tightly focused yet conceptually dense collection whose songs are no less exploratory for their briefer durations. Schlarb also includes three cover songs by composers who share his boundary-demolishing mindset: Joe Jackson’s “Steppin’ Out,” Frank Zappa’s “Sofa No. 2,” and Brian Wilson’s “’Til I Die,” a gorgeous, lesser-known Beach Boys song that features vocals by Sufjan Stevens, Castanets’ Ray Raposa, and Cryptacize’s Nedelle Torrisi.
The New York Observer called Schlarb’s debut solo album, Twilight & Ghost Stories, “40 minutes of avant-garde bliss,” while Interoceans, recorded with experimental jazz duo I Heart Lung, was chosen by NPR as one of the top five jazz albums of 2008. He composed the score for Nicklas “Nifflas” Nygren’s video game Nightsky and has received grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and Meet the Composer.
Making The Saint is my third full-length record. I love small records. When I say “small record," I think of Sandy Bull's Fantasias for Guitar and Banjo, Bill Evans trio recordings at the Village Vanguard, Fripp & Eno's No Pussyfooting, or Thelonius Monk's sublime Solo Monk. Each of these albums is simple. They're direct. Making The Saint is a small record too. I didn't belabor it. The recording and mixing came quickly. I followed my instincts. This album is also a spiritual retreat for me; a healthy and necessary separation after so many strong collaborations. If you're Sufist, you’d call this khalwa. In Japanese Zen Buddhism, it's called sesshin. The Santerian process of Asiento requires the initiate to dress in white garments and avoid physical contact for one year. Like so many have done before me, I forced myself into a state of inner solitude to find something new. I hope you enjoy it, and you experience something similar while listening. - Chris Schlarb
Comic Wow are sonic illustrators, alchemists, designers, dilettantes', poets, teachers, Socialists, and outdoorsmen whose advocacy of affordable colored cod pieces helped influence the look of thirty-third century America. Incidentally, they’ve also released music as Feathers. All pieces composed, performed, mixed and recorded by Eddie Alonso, Eric Rasco, John McEntire, Chris O’Malley, Ken Champion, Roy Silverstein, Paul Mertens, Tim Iseler, Jeremy Lemos, and Matt Crum.
Cryptacize deals in the unforgettable melody, the forsaken chord and the extravagant sentiment. Nedelle Torrisi's surefooted and richly nuanced vocal arabesques, like a modern day Freddie Mercury or Ronnie Spector, strangely complement Chris Cohen's guitar, maniacally sped-up a la Les Paul or staccato and funny like Roy Smeck or Adolph Jacobs of the Coasters. Michael Carreira's syncopated drum corps rudiments and pit-orchestra rave-ups propel the songs with a refreshingly buoyant touch that never lapses into rock music cliches. There are also widescreen cinematic moments that take on a mournful and otherworldly pathos, like Henry Mancini's "Experiment in Terror" but with vocals by Cambodian 60's pop legend Ros Serey Sothea - or like Arabic diva Fairouz singing along to a psychedelic film score by Popol Vuh.
Every song on Dig That Treasure is a miniature journey, a free fantasia, a dreamy habitat built out of the minimum of material. Sudden rhythmic gestures and frequent key changes will leave you feeling pleasantly disorientated in a song. But trust your tour-guides! You might feel as if you've come across a small tribe that speaks an unstudied language, and miraculously, find that you can speak it too! Dig That Treasure is humbly inspired by the larger-than-life emotions of West Side Story, the joyfully percussive guitar gospel of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, The Wizard of Oz's bittersweet escapism, the other-world sentimentality of Sun Ra's Spaceship Lullaby, and Henry Cowell's ethereal piano string strumming.