24 April 2011

Glaze of Cathexis - 2003 - Visits Planet Earth

Once upon a time, Glaze of Cathexis was an actually gigging band in Athens and Atlanta, Georgia. These recordings pretty much sum up the recording legacy of that version of the band. Although I've always been psychedelically inclined musically, I tried to keep the democratic vibe working and there's a definite indie rock vibe to this music that I don't tend to go for these days. Bassist (and occasionally guitarist) Devin Carlen picked up on the fact that I didn't want to be the band dictator and was a major musical contributor to the arrangements and production; he's now part of the ghostly Americana band Gunstreet Glory - based in Seattle ('Dark Alley' is a clear indicator of where he was going).

We headed for the studio with our live set and a few more mellow tracks ready to record and bashed out the recording in a day-and-a-half, with another two-and-a-half days devoted to mixing and mastering. I'd say we did a pretty decent job in the time crunch. I didn't have any real production experience, but we chose Radium Recording because they recorded to half inch tape. I handed the engineer, Chris Bishop, a copy of the Jam's 'Sound Affects' and told him to make the recordings sound like that, and I think he more or less hit the mark. I hadn't really mixed anything at that point either - if I did it today I'd definitely crank up the vocals and the 12-string Rickenbacker (which I've now unfortunately sold), but when you're in the studio for the first time, you definitely feel like a bastard telling the engineer to crank up your own parts. With money and time a concern, I didn't have too many passes at the vocals, so the main thing that makes me cringe nowadays is that some of the vocals aren't quite, uh, in tune.

While I was pretty happy with the finished results, I couldn't resist but do a bit of 'Lucas-ing' to the recordings. I've added tambourine to several tracks, and added just a touch of Moog to three of them. My most drastic recording, though, was to the track 'Folk Hero.' I added some vocals to the instrumental bridge (I didn't have the balls to do Beach Boys harmonies with the guys around in the studio, y'know), along with a double tracked vocal to the chorus as I could barely make out the original vocal. In full disclosure, we also played under the name 'Rocket Number Nine,' but when myspace came around a few years later I realized that there were, like, 27 bands with that name. Thus, we're going to file this as a 'Glaze of Cathexis' recording.

I've added a few bonus lives tracks to the album as well. Devin and I tended to get rip roaring martini drunk live and do our best Replacements impression. Plus, this is about the only way you're going to hear Dr. Schluss in a live setting - in fact, I haven't played a live show since this 2006 recording. I don't have too many gigging opportunities out here in the mountains of Japan.

Listen to me:
Glaze of Cathexis - 2003 - Visits Planet Earth

18 April 2011

Oneida - 2009 - Rated O

Quality: 4.25 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.5 out of 5

The second album in Oneida's as-yet-unfinished album triptych makes me think that there's nothing other than the artwork to tie them together. Not that that's a bad thing. Oneida gets prolific here and churns out a triple album. It's probably a good rule of thumb that no one should go for the triple album (ask the Clash), but here it seems more of a matter of organization. Each disc is extremely distinct. The first is an electronic fused ball of experimental sounds, while the third is devoted to the band drone jamming to more live grooves. These two discs are probably better than 'Preteen Weaponry' and for me positions the band as the most deserving heirs to krautrock making music today (we'll ignore the fact that Oneida is from the NYC area). The second disc doesn't hold my interest nearly as much, as the band ads vocals and goes for a more standard indie rock sound - granted it's droning, intense indie rock, and it probably works well in a concert setting, but it's by far the disc I play the least.

Just to screw with your mind, the first disc makes me think of a modern update of Can's "Tago Mago," although I'd certainly say that that particular album does remain far ahead of its time. "Brownout in Lagos" definitely fits its title, with a low rent booming bass sound vying with claustrophobic, mildly dangerous sounding electronic squiggles. "Story of O" gives us the unprocessed band's first trip out with Kid Millions providing another amazing drumming setpiece. Of the late space jams, "O" is about as peaceful as this band gets, with some sitar sounds trying to scale a mountain of tribal drumming and electronic drones. "Folk Wisdom" is a long trip through the psychedelic battleground, and could probably be substituted for a side of an Ash Ra Tempel album without anyone knowing the wiser.

Oneida tries out a whole like of different masks on this monster of an album, and typically manages to pull it off. I'll be the first to admit that I far prefer the wild excursions through interstellar space as opposed to the more grounded tunes found on the second disc, but the bands chops shine through the whole thing (well, except those damn indie rock vocals). If you've warn out the grooves on all those vintage Can albums, this isn't a bad place to go.

*Note: Part 3 was released on Jun 6, 2011 under the title "Absolute II"

Oneida - 2008 - Preteen Weaponry

Quality: 4.25 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.5 out of 5

Oneida has been rocking insane noise drones for years, but I had never come across their music until a few years ago. This release is supposed to be the first of a three album concept (we've seen the second as of this writing as well), but I don't think that really matters when you give your ear over to the music. The band jams with wild, krautrock style abandon while also channeling the punkish sonics of fellow NYC bands like the Velvet Underground, Suicide, and Sonic Youth. It'll pummel you into a musical trance instead of gently nudging you into one as Indian or ambient music tends to do. I'd be remiss not to note strangely named Kid Millions, who serves as the bands drummer. Although always in control, he tends to take the point, pounding the holy hell out his drum kit as the rest of the band grooves on a drone.

There are only three tracks here, all bearing the album's name. Part One lunges into an insane tribal beat, with the guitar and a keyboard occasionally suggesting a bit of melody while the bass serves as an anchor. The second part is a slower drone that suggests a bit of the stranger side of space rock, although it's a space stuffed with fuzz. A electronically processed (but clearly performed) motorik beat grounds the third part as odd electronic sounds float above the surface.

Perhaps not as wildly groundbreaking as the best of the 70's krautrock bands, Oneida certainly knows how to pack a sonic punch. For me it's mostly one hell of a drum performance while the rest of the band does a fine job adding the icing on their, uh, cake of sound.