Cagey House – Sometimes Always Never

Cagey House - Sometimes Always Never

Before the music review starts, I wanted to draw your attention to the album cover at the top of this page. One of the delights of Cagey House aka Dave Keifer’s releases are the album covers. This is due to artist Brandi Strickland (http://brandistrickland.com/) as she has been making Cagey House album covers for a few years now. What I find wonderful about these album covers is how they go along so well with Cagey House’s music.

I am a proponent that music can be listened to anywhere and anyhow. This is not as an odd as a statement given the number of musicians who say, “Only listen to my music on high-end audio equipment,” “Must use headphones to listen to,” “Don’t convert to MP3,” “Great music to fall asleep to,” etc. That all said and remembering I love music everywhere and anytime, a great time and place to listen to Cagey House’s Sometimes Always Never would be during Sunday brunch, especially with friends who may not have as an adventurous taste in music as you do.

“Airshaft Grains” opens up Cagey House’s Sometimes Always Never placing you directly into the early hours of a piano bar, customers are straggling in, there’s a guy at the bar who has been drinking since lunch (he may or may not be passed out, it’s hard to tell), and the piano player and drummer are just loosening up. As with most Cagey House records, there is a mood of an album that is ingrained with each track, this time it is a saturation of tenderness. “Airshaft Grains” accomplishes this.

“Number 3 Removal” is, of course, the second track. Its guitar loop with a recorder or flute coming in from behind is a beautiful track. But it’s still a Cagey House track, so things are always a little off center, a little askew, and this starts around the 90 second mark.

In “Bebe Dreams (with Batteries)”, things start to get Cagey House weird but it’s tempered with the jazzy drum we heard in the first track. “Walrus and Eric” continues with the strangeness, but the ambiance has already been set in Sometimes Always Never and Cagey House keeps the track soothing with its sad piano even with the loops of noise and vocals about a sea lion are definitely out there.

I don’t know if Dave Keifer lives “JF on the Stoop” lives in the Baltimore City, but I will imagine he does as sitting on the stoop is a Baltimore tradition, just read some Anne Tyler novels. “JF on the Stoop” is a late-evening cigarette while sitting on your front steps watching the silence of your city street. The bells on “Tin Can Lotus” along with the wah-wah-ish sound and the drums at the end give this track a lovely meditative feel.

If you had zoned out during the previous, “Mother Light” does two things. First, it’s opening drum beat will startle you a touch and the second is that this track is probably the most Cagey House track of the album. “She Found Him in 22”, the final entry to the album is a bit sugary, but it fits wonderfully with the rest of the album.

Cagey House’s Sometimes Always Never is very chill release, but it is still cagey.

Artist: Cagey House
Title: Sometimes Always Never
Netlabel: Pan y Rosas Discos
Release Date: June 2015
License: June 2015
Download mp3: zip

Rocheleau-Bussière-Couture – RBC

Rocheleau-Bussière-Couture – RBC

Unsurprisingly, a new release comes out from the netlabel Pan y Rosas Discos and the album is great. Though Rochleau-Bussière-Couture’s RBC was officially released earlier this week, though the album has been on their website for a few days before hand, a sort of soft drop. The list of instruments or noise-makers that Rochleau-Bussière-Couture play is rather long so I will just mention a few: theremin, turntable, cassette player and weather station. As you can imagine the sound is really out there. The three Québec musicians have worked together in different formats before, but this is the first time that Rochleau-Bussière-Couture have released an album together. Rochleau-Bussière-Couture is Stéphane Rocheleau, François Bussière, and CE François Couture.

RBC opens with “Roof Burning Catastrophe”, a short track which successfully introduces us to what is in store later in the album. The title does sample the classic track “The Roof is on Fire” by Rock Master Scott & the Dybamic Three. “Really? Bing Crosby?”, the second track, is an absolutely exceptional track that begins with field recordings of wind and some vocal gibberish. After a minute or so these wind-like sounds, the beating of metal seeps in as the track turns loud and harsh. The nature of Rochleau-Bussière-Couture’s “Really? Bing Crosby?” is abrasive without being unlistenable makes this track so wonderful.

“Run! Bleed! Create!” gives the listener some breathing space with its quiet beginning. The track has a fragility to it, it borders on a sonic crumbling, a house of sounds falling apart. But Rochleau-Bussière-Couture’s tenacious playing keeps “Run ! Bleed! Create!” together even when the musicians, at the same time, are trying to tear it apart.

If you have not notice yet, every title of Rochleau-Bussière-Couture’s album contains three words that begin with an R, a B, and a C respectively.

“River, Beaches & Concrete” is a ambient noise recording that evolves into a strange improvisational vocal track filled with muted words, gutturances, and a high-pitched whine. “Really Bizarre Calimari” seems to be Rochleau-Bussière-Couture’s most pure electronic track of RBC, it borders on ambient with a spacey electronica feel. About half-way through “Really Bizarre Calimari”, the track picks up in complexity and rhythm before retreating into it’s soothing complex electronica feel. At one point in “Really Bizarre Calimari”, did I hear The Jetson’s car aka flying saucer buzz by? The last track of RBC, “Reverse Bike Crash” settles back more into previous sounds, quiet and low-key, but this track’s simpleness isn’t a slight, it helps the listener focus on each sound rather than an being inundated with a waterfall of sound.

Artists: RochleauBussièreCouture
Title: RBC
Netlabel: Pan Y Rosas Discos
Release Date: June 2015
License: CC BY-NC-ND
Download mp3: zip

Stella Veloce – For a Flat

Stella Veloce - For a Flat

Stella Veloce’s For a Flat begins with some light percussion, voices and some intermittent noise from a saxophone. As the percussion becomes a bit more animated in “Friday”, the voices continue like a distant conversation you may overhear in a restaurant, the saxophone becomes more pronounced, and then the whispering of a guitar. Sounds sway in and out, some taking the spotlight and others not willing to share it like the blues guitar riffs or the unyielding saxophone. The guitar and saxophone finally give up, the percussion subtley remains and a light humming enters, an old slave spiritual perhaps?

All the instrumentation on For a Flat were done by cellist Stella Veloce, though calling her a cellist would be limiting. This biography on the Sardinian musician’s website states, “As a composer she works in the fields of instrumental acoustic music, performance art, sound art and stage music. Beside composition her activity as a musician ranges from pop music to free improvisation.”

I love that fact that Veloce called her album, For a Flat, as our homes, past or present are such an intricate part of who we are. A work that tries to grasp that feeling, that attempts to reanimate home, and one that does it so well, is a refreshing work of art.

“Saturday” is the second track which features birds and wonderfully grating cello. Noise from the most unlikely places. I am aware that For a Flat was edited after the fact, but I hope the section on “Saturday” with the flock of birds was Veloce playing along with them. As the track goes on, Stella Veloce adds other strange sounds to the mix. Is one sound bong water? Probably not.

Stella Veloce ends For a Flat as most weekends do with “Sunday”. The cover of the album shows Veloce sitting in a bathroom playing the cello. “Sunday” opens with the sound of running water, a shower, and the voice of Chiara Giuliante or Katie Lee Dunbar singing. (Dunbar had the vocals in “Friday” as well.) The third and final track is also the longest. As the running water ends, an odd noise appears and keeps on surrounding the listener. “Sunday” is a track of many parts, a section may end and you think the song is over, but it picks up with other sounds like a chime playing along with a cello and some string plucking. Vocals arrive again.

I could go on in trying to identify the various sounds that come forward, but I don’t want to make this album a parlor game. Stella Veloce’s For a Flat is a remarkable album that is full of feeling and audio nuances. I know you will enjoy it.

Artist: Stella Veloce
Title: For a Flat
Netlabel: zip

Catholic Witches – Jaiturnia

Catholic Witches - Jaiturnia

One of the reasons why people start netlabels is to release their own music. Keith Helt of Pan y Rosas Discos is no exception. The first several releases of Pan y Rosas focused on bands that Helt and drummer Alex Morales were in: The Rories and Los Pilotos. But somewhere around the netlabel’s 25th release or so, Pan y Rosas changed, became something different, something else. Over the last few years, Helt has been releasing some exceptional musicians, making Pan y Rosas Discos the best experimental Creative Commons netlabel today.

But that’s not to say that Helt doesn’t release his own work on the netlabel anymore. He just is more laid back about it to the point that listeners have to accidentally discover that Helt has posted one of his musical projects online. For example, I received an email about the new release of Cagey House’s Sometimes Always Never. For me, not only is this is cue to go and download the new album, but it reminds me to take a brief look through Pan y Rosas catalog to see if there are any recently releases that Helt didn’t put on his mailiing list or blog. There is a bit of irony in all of this as Helt’s day job is an archiver; I guess an mild-mannered archivist by day and a bad-ass netlabel curator by night.

On Acts of Silence, I review most of the work on Pan y Rosas, but for some reason, I haven’t touched on many of the works by Helt. It’s not that Helt’s work hasn’t been good, it’s probably that I’m focusing on what Helt wants me to focus on, the work of other musicians. This review will change that. Helt and fellow bandmate Morales get together and call themselves Catholic Witches. The releases are improvised pieces with Morales on drums and electronics and Helt on guitar and electronics/keyboards. Sometimes things change up an bit and other times guests stop by as well.

Jaiturnia is an improvised session and was recorded back in January 2014. It’s rock seeped in noise, feedback and a dash of sloppiness. Jaiturnia opens with “Tongue – Dagger Lips” which thrusts itself upon you dripping with the earnestness and vigor that rock ‘n’ roll demands. It slows down only so you can catch your breath as it eases into “Mighty With Three Years”, a minimal track of electronics and guitar though it has more in common with Drive-By Truckers than Aphex Twin. The title track of Jaiturnia drifts into a free jazz improvisation with Helt off on his own guitar tangent and Morales laying down some strong rock beats and other electronics. Even though Helt and Morales float into their own dimensions on “Jaiturnia”, they keep on finding musical intersections where the join up briefly before going their own way again.

The second half of Catholic Witches’ Jaiturnia begins with some old school Chicago rock ‘n’ roll in “Green Stone Skirt”. If Steve Albini were dead, I’d swear his ghost was haunting this track. Morales on the drums immediately keeps the blood flowing in “Samovila” which takes a brief break in the middle and then soars off again. “Hold the Light” wraps up the wonderful Catholic Witches album filling the last track with a bedlam that keeps on moving forward.

There are several other albums by Catholic Witches on Pan y Rosas Discos, I suggest that you download them all as they are all quite good and all very free.

Artist: Catholic Witches
Title: Jaiturnia
Netlabel: Pan y Rosas Discos
Release Date: February 2015
License: CC BY-NC-ND
Download mp3: zip

Beautiful Dissonance

Beautiful Dissonance

I could lamely describe Canned Fit’s Cucharas de Arena as contemporary music – at best it’s a lazy way out to write the review using a rather amorphous and undefined musical genre when the work is clearly neither, at worst it gives the reader no clue as to what type of music it is or how good it is.

Christine Schörkhuber aka Canned Fit is an experimental sound artist who works with noise, dyi instruments and vocals. She has created an almost popish album with strong experimental roots. Cushatras do Arena begins with a short-wave ambient music and then delves into these no-wave ballads which have a lovely juxtaposition between experimental noise and melodic lyrics. (Yes, I noticed the hypocrisy of using no-wave genre here.)

Schörkhuber has created a sound that is uncommonly beautiful, yet slightly obtrusive. Though Cucharas de Arena sounds carefully produced, I would not be surprised if I learned that these tracks were performed live. Overall Cucharas de Arena can seem somewhat fragile, dissonant and jarring, but it is always in control and captivating.

Artist: Canned Fit
Title: Cucharas de Arena
Netlabel: Pan Y Rosas Discos
License: CC BY-NC-ND
Release Date: January 2015
Download mp3: zip

Between the Takes

Between the Takes

2014 was a wonderful year for the Chicago-based netlabel Pan y Rosas Discos. And the label continues strongly in 2015 with its first release of the year, Iris Garrelfs’ Breathing Through Wires, a collection of live performances recorded between 2012 and 2014.

Vocal experimental music has a bad rap due to the proliferation of blokes screaming into microphones while being covered in chocolate syrup. Garrelfs’ work is striking contrast to the aforementioned bellowing and posturing. The first time I listened to Breathing Through Wires, I throughout the stage was filled with people working in concert to produce this fluent sound. I was wrong. Using her own vocals and maybe some other sounds, Garrelfs creates a phonic tapestry of loops upon layers to make a re-stylization of choral works.

You should also check out Garrelf’s Bedroom Symphonies on the netlabel Linear Obsessional. Somehow I missed this 2014 release, but I have been listening to it relentlessly for the past few weeks.

Artist: Iris Garrelfs
Title: Breathing Through Wires
Netlabel: Pan y Rosas
Licensed: CC BY-NC-ND
Released: January 2015
Download mp3: zip

Title: Bedroom Symphonies
Netlabel: Linear Obsessional
Licensed: CC BY-NC-SA
Released: June 2014
Download mp3: Bandcamp

Photograph by Peter Smith.

Unfamiliar 01

Unfamiliar 01

A Creative Commons podcast of selected new experimental releases for January 2015. It’s available at Mixcloud and SoundCloud.

  1. Iris Garrelfs – White Water Duck Down Duvet
  2. Iris Garrelfs – Sonic Imperfections
  3. Carya Amara – Sparvar
  4. Dead Frank – Bad Job
  5. Free Variety Theatre with Riley Theodore – Broken Chakra Part 2
  6. Gregg Skloff – Hard as Wall the Against It
  7. Stanley Palmeria – Lé 2
  8. Lee Rosevere – Music to Brush Your Teeth By
  9. Thiaz Itch – Dorien b9
  10. Ergo Phizmiz – Three Way Party Split
  11. K.L. Sealegs – Time Tells You
  12. Iku – Paradise
  13. The Kiriks – Cerebal Cortex
  14. Canned Fit – Animal Psychology

Photograph Caring is Creepy by Jeffrey.

This podcast is licensed CC BY-NC-ND