By G.W. Schulz
Meant to blog a while back on a stack of records I’ve picked up recently. I’m only going to write about a few. I don’t articulate myself very well when it comes to music. I’m a reporter. But these records, I thought, deserved a mention. Below the jump is a list of the others.
Tortuga is a blood relative of L.A.’s Hydrahead Records (formerly of Boston) created several years ago by the singer of Isis, Aaron Turner. Both labels have always specialized in droning, deep volume, but there have been big rock, up-tempo releases in the past. 5ive falls within two of Turner’s ongoing obsessions: brutal stoner rock and dark ambience. The band is made up of just two guys – drums and guitars – but the way they calmly build into colossal crescendos has always struck me as remarkable. There isn’t necessarily a deep chug in the guitars, but the grime that replaces it is, as Nate Denver might say, “satisfying.” This is their fourth and newest record. I’ve owned both “The Telestic Disfracture” and “Continuum Research Project” for some time now, and I still enjoy each of them. Now’s the part where I admit that I’ll buy pretty much anything with Aaron Turner’s name even remotely connected to it. I’ve followed his career for years, and 5ive is another addition to what I’ve always believed was a great group of bands.
“Walking Cloud and Deep Red Sky, Flag Fluttered and the Sun Shined”
I bought this band’s newest record, “You Are There,” last month after they appeared in town with Hydrahead’s Pelican from Chicago. The latest album has completely captivated me ever since. Japan’s Mono possess a profound reverence for the warm, glowing reverb of vintage Fender amps. But they turn them up very loud. I just picked up “Walking Cloud …” recently and it’s more of what I’ve really loved so far from this band. George Chen described Mono in the Guardian a while back as one of the loudest bands he’d ever seen. He’s not exaggerating. They completely overshadowed Pelican when I saw them together (I’ve liked Pelican for a while, but only once out of several shows have I liked them live) at the Great American Music Hall. If you really admire bands that push the limits with volume, don’t miss Mono next time they’re in the states. Much more of an emphasis on strings (violin and viola) and a piano on “Walking Cloud …” but it makes for very poignant music that doesn’t feel overwrought. I made it through this whole paragraph without mentioning that Steve Albini recorded “Walking Cloud …” which a lot of reviewers insist on noting early on. As a result of Albini’s participation, the entire record feels very full. Also, I’ve always liked bands with interesting album art, and while the art for “Walking Cloud …” isn’t all that spectacular, “You Are There” has beautiful packaging.
“The Lie That Matches the Furniture”
It’s completely irresponsible of me to be reviewing this record now. It came out last year. I was so afraid I wouldn’t like it, I put off buying it. Vaz features two members of a 90s AmRep band from Minneapolis called Hammerhead that completely rearranged my entire understanding of music. Hammerhead did the same for a lot of other people. A guy named Ben Valis who a lot of folks in the Mission know said pretty much the same thing about Hammerhead in the zine Panache after Vaz’s last record came out. Ben was my roommate for a while and we bonded over Hammerhead. Aaron Turner told me in an interview once that Hammerhead heavily influenced him, too. I don’t know what it was about them that made their fans so fervent. Back in the 90s, hardcore drugs probably played a significant role, at least for a lot of the people I knew in Austin where I was living at the time. But I’ve always really loved dark, moody rock music, and both Hammerhead and Vaz excel at strange chord progressions and combinations that evoke a wonderfully creepy sensation. I suspect a lot of people who liked Hammerhead don’t like Vaz (Turner told me he didn’t). At times, the tempos feel forced, and Vaz is much more experimental than Hammerhead ever was. But there are times when Vaz’s dirty, tuned-down guitars remind me so much of Hammerhead, my little black heart flutters. It turns out I like “The Lie That Matches the Furniture,” and the artwork is certainly much better than 2003’s “Dying to Meet You” (there’s even a reference to S.F.’s Haight and “Phyllmore”). Maybe I shouldn’t have waited so long to buy it. I’ll admit that neither of the first two records aged all that well. I don’t really listen to them much anymore, but I still look forward to seeing Vaz when they visit the city (I believe they live in New York these days.)
Here are some other recently purchased items that have been blasting out of my house:
Earthless “Sonic Prayer”
Boris “Amplifier Worship”
Zombi “Surface to Air”
The Ocean “Aeolian”
The Haunted “The Haunted Made Me Do It”
The Haunted “One Kill Wonder”
The Gersch “Self-titled”
Buried Inside “Chronoclast”
Agoraphobic Nosebleed “Frozen Corpse Stuffed With Dope”