Monday, June 27, 2022

Maestus - Voir dire (2015)

Atmospheric funeral doom from sunny Portland, OR. At the start, a mix of ethereal female vocals, drifting keys, and death growls immediately brought to mind Shape of Despair circa Angels of Distress. Then the more sinister, death-doom-influenced riffs hit, followed by some quasi-operatic male vocals and blackened tremolo picking, and it became apparent that Maestus has forged their own depressive path through the misty Cascadian mountains. Free/name your price via bandcamp.

Track listing:
1. Shrouded by Peaks, Valleys Speak
2. Weeping Granite
3. Tears of Sky
4. Algid Lungs
5. I: Overcast Fields Ridden with Dew
6. II: Specie Æternitas
7. III: Water Sifting Though Iceladen Veins
8. IV: Per Æternitas 

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Saturday, June 25, 2022

Kill the Man Who Questions - Sugar Industry (1999)

Philly political hardcore. I first heard Kill the Man Who Questions through the great Punk Uprisings Vol. 2 comp, on which their song "Your Backlash Against a P.C. Hysteria Is a Fucking Joke" was a personal favorite. I tracked down Sugar Industry via mail order, and it became something of a formative record for me. One track in particular felt like a revelation to me: "You Say It's Your Birthday", a haunting, seething spoken-word piece about the brutal hypocrisy of the pro-life movement delivered over an uneasy, stuttering instrumental. Also, I put "Good Cop, Bad Cop" on a bunch of mixtapes. It's the kind of vaguely arty, anarcho-90s-hardcore that at this point is hopelessly unfashionable, but fuck off, I'm old.

Track listing:
1. Sugar Industry
2. A Study in Elitism
3. White Face
4. You Say It's Your Birthday
5. Where's the Alternative
6. I Apologize for My Hunger
7. Coatrack
8. And You Say You Own It
9. Senior Portrait
10. Census
11. Work Ethic
12. There Will Be No Amnesty
13. Because I'd Probably Fucking Wet Myself
14. Good Cop, Bad Cop
15. Preaching to the Converted

Squeezed out of a crotch, slapped twice on the ass, and cut from the womb. Nine months after conception, you'll start to learn that the political vigilance paid to your so-called rights is now lost as an abstract idea in a sea of hectic human shit. Those that rallied for your birth now offer their sincerest "who-gives-a-shit"s in all your post-natal endeavors. You may not learn the names of those that bravely fought for your rights as a fetus. Perhaps one day, forget the selfless men and women who through prayer, blockade, and clinic harassment you owe your life. So will they conveniently forget you when you're starving in government housing? No, better yet, jail? No, better still, abused by foster parents, totally unemployable with a $200 a day addiction? No, best yet, bleeding to death in a bathroom, clutching a coat-hanger while their war wages on.

Records that had a similar impact on me around the same time:

Friday, June 24, 2022

Atavist - Atavist (2006)

Crushing English drone-doom/sludge/post-metal. Strikes a great balance between the raw, abject misery of sludge and the melodic aspects of post-metal, including a few surprisingly effective major-key sections, like the one towards the end of "31:38" that's very reminiscent of the big payoff riff in Boris' Flood. Yes, those track titles are also the track lengths, so get comfy.

Track listing:
1. 31:38
2. 20:11
3. 14:12

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Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Gomorrha - Gomorrha (1969)

Here in PDX, it seems that summer might finally be hitting. So to mark the occasion, 'bout some hard-driving German psych-pop? After this record, Gomorrha decided that hard prog was where it was at, and re-recorded their debut with a more pronounced psych/blues sound and English lyrics, but I prefer this rawer, less self-conscious version.

Track listing
1. Lola
2. Totes Land
3. Flammenhände
4. Reise
5. Regenbogenschein
6. Gestern
7. Kreiseltanz
8. Sommer
9. Trauma

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Sunday, June 19, 2022

Jennifer Warnes - Jennifer (1972)

Third and easily best solo album by American singer/songwriter Jennifer Warnes, whose career trajectory is weird enough to briefly summarize here. She started out in the late 60s as a folk-rocker singing slightly overwrought covers. Sometimes in the early 70s, she caught the attention of some pretty cool people: her third album (this one) was produced by John Cale, and she joined up with Leonard Cohen, playing in his band and contributing to a bunch of his records over the course of the next five decades. Her ensuing solo records, on the other hand, while moderately commercially successful, were as middle-of-the-road as it gets. In the 80s, she briefly carved out a niche for herself singing the female part on massive hit duets written for movies. First, it was the dreadful "Up Where We Belong", then it was "(I've Had) The Time of My Life", both of which went to #1. Like I said, weird career. [EDIT: Thanks to a commenter, I now know that she also sings on Arthur Russell's "That's Us/Wild Combination", literally one of the best, most beautiful songs ever recorded.]

Anyway, the album. Her best solo record by a wide margin, it consists of the kind of folky pop-rock that dominated the charts in the early 70s, but there's stylistic range beneath the surface -- over the course of three tracks, she jumps from sunny country rock to an ethereal take on Donovan's "Sand and Foam" to a  smoldering, soulful rendition of Free's "Be My Friend" without missing a beat. This can probably partially be attributed to Cale's pitch-perfect production; Warnes' pristine vocals, which are far more subtle and expressive than on her previous efforts; and great songs, which include a Cale original ("Empty Bottles") and Warnes' own take on the now-iconic "These Days". It's not gonna change your life, but it's a really nice listen.

Track listing:
1. In the Morning
2. P.F. Sloan
3. Empty Bottles
4. Sand and Foam
5. Be My Friend
6. Needle and Thread
7. Last Song
8. All My Love's Laughter
9. These Days
10. Magdalene (My Regal Zonophone)

Also listen to:

Friday, June 17, 2022

Wedard - Ein Leben in der Ewigkeit (2006)

German depressive black metal. The sound is raw but big, the guitars are beautiful but slightly out of tune, the vocals sound like lost ghosts, the keyboards are eery and pretty -- everything in its right place. One of those bands who doesn't do anything particularly innovative with a style, but they just do it so well, it feels weirdly fresh.

Track listing:
1. Lifeless (Intro)
2. Der letze Tag
3. Am Ufer des See's
4. Ein Leben in der Ewigkeit
5. Mein letzter Traum
6. Einsam end Verlassen (Outro)

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Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Tipsy - Uh-Oh! (2000)

Second album by the great, inscrutable Tipsy. For those unfamiliar, Tipsy pairs electronic/IDM with mountains of samples from old easy listening, exotica, and lounge records. While Esquivel-fueled 'electronica' was fairly popular around the turn of the millennium, Tipsy's dense, manic, unrelentingly imaginative take on the microgenre was unparalleled. Their first record's the classic, if they have one, but Uh-Oh! is equally worthy imo.

Track listing:
1. Hard Petting
2. Papaya Freeway
3. Hey!
4. Sweet Cinnamon Punch
5. Neon Tetra
6. Wig Out
7. Reverse Cowgirl
8. Swallowtail
9. Moisture Seekers
10. Kitty Takes a Ride
11. Fur Teacup
12. Pink Mood
13. Bunny Kick
14. Suez Motel
15. XXXmas
16. Seaweed
17. Zombie's Mood
18. Eclipse of the Sun Virgin

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Sunday, June 12, 2022

Eclipse - Eclipse (1976)

Quebecois prog excellence. A heady journey through majestic, Floyd-ian space rock, synth-fueled prog-funk, angelic choirs, and driving, earthy psych. And that's just the A-side.

Track listing:
1. Vision intérieure
2. Le rêve de John W.
3. T'aime (voix)
4. Le dernière fois
5. Pleine lune
6. T'aime (moog)
7. Qu'attends to de moi
8. Jusqu'au premier ciel
9. Pensée pour Barbara

If you like this, listen to:

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Photophob - Your Majesty Machine (2004)

Debut full-length from Austrian producer Herwig Holzmann. Gauzy, emotive synths hovering over glitchy, jagged breakbeats. 

Track listing:
1. The Starlight Eater
2. Her Sexy Circuits
3. Floating Near Zero-Zero-Zero
4. While Venting
5. In the Hands of the Space Pirates
6. Two Beeps Means Yes
7. A Little Lesson in Robotic Love Part 1
8. Anger Reduction Control Center Unit
9. Nav Patrol
10. Brain at -273.14C
11. Nomad's Theme
12. Hired Hunter (Killbot)
13. A Little Lesson in Robotic Love Part 2

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Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Flesh Grinder - S.P.L.A.T.T.E.R. (1999)

Brazilian goregrind with overt death metal leanings, particularly in the lead guitars. Choice early Peter Jackson movie samples, killer riffage, and cool little touches like the slimy, echoing midsection in "Cutaneous Anaphilaxis" and the completely unexpected, surprisingly pretty acoustic interlude. Shit, now I gotta watch Bad Taste for the 50th time.

Track listing:
1. Intro (Stomachal Emanation)
2. Chronic Mucocutaneous Candidiasis
3. S.P.L.A.T.T.E.R.
4. Thecnics to Extract the Female Reproductive System thru Anal Canal
5. Cutaneous Anaphilaxis
6. Cavernous Sinus Thrombosis
7. Granulomatous Inflammation with Elliptical Macrophages
8. Acute Syndrome Resembling Infectious Monucleosis
9. The Amorphous (Nonfibrous)
10. Chronic and Recurrent Regurgitant Lung Disease
11. Adverse Effects Seen in Immunologically Compromised Hosts
12. The Adagio of Pathologist
13. Developing Malignant Cancerous Tissue in the 8th Inch of the Large Intestine

More blood, intestinal fluid, and horror movie samples:

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Rafael Toral - Sound Mind Sound Body (1994)

Great news: post-vacation depression is sinking in, so I'm back on my sadboi shit. Here's ambient composer Rafael Toral's first album. Spacious, drifting drones and abstract, glistening minimalism, almost entirely sourced from electric guitar.

Track listing:
1. A E R 4
2. Loopability I
3. A E R 7 E
4. Soft Energy I

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Friday, June 3, 2022

White Sea - This Frontier (2010)

Just got back from one of the best vacations of my life, and I'm not ready for regular life. This includes writing for this dumb blog, which tends to revolve around darker, sadder sounds that stand in stark contrast to the fun, crowd-pleasing types of tunes I've been playing for the past week-plus. So here's the debut EP from an artist who I first heard through her contributions to M83's Saturdays = Youth. Anyone who enjoyed that album's gated drums, big synths, and 80s-throwback vibe will find plenty to love here.

Track listing:
1. Mountaineer
2. Ladykiller
3. Overdrawn
4. Cannibal Love
5. Oljato

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Friday, May 27, 2022

The Gathering - How to Measure a Planet? (1998)

[I'm out of the US for the next week, won't be posting or responding to anything 'til I get back. In the meantime, here's another all-time favorite of mine.]

I've started and erased five different versions of this writeup. The first one was about first hearing The Gathering on a Century Media sampler that also introduced me to Emperor, Eyehategod, Trouble, Samael, and Moonspell; the second was about being temporarily immobilized while listening to How to Measure a Planet? as a severely stoned 17-year-old. Next I tried a different listening story, from a few years ago, when I listened to it while sitting on a log looking out onto Loch Raven reservoir, trying to feel my way through one of the bleakest points of my adult life. Then I tried to incorporate that story into a wider one about how I always feel drawn to How to Measure a Planet? during hard times. Finally, I talked about how The Gathering are clearly a big deal, but I don't know anyone IRL who gives a shit about them, and how I'm not sure if that means that they're big in Europe/elsewhere and not America or if I'm just hanging out with the wrong Americans. And while none of these attempts panned out, the fact that I actually took the time to write/rewrite/delete them -- as opposed to just shitting out a quick description or a tossed-off joke like I normally do -- speaks to how much I fucking love this album.

Track listing:
Disc One
1. Frail (You Might as Well Be Me)
2. Great Ocean Road
3. Rescue Me
4. My Electricity
5. Liberty Bell
6. Red Is a Slow Colour
7. The Big Sleep
8. Marooned
9. Travel
Disc Two
1. South American Ghost Ride
2. Illuminating
3. Locked Away
4. Probably Built in the Fifties
5. How to Measure a Planet?

All I want is to be where you are

Nothing else really sounds like this, but you could also listen to:

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Prinzhorn Dance School - Prinzhorn Dance School (2007)

[Pulled the last post for possible NS content. Thanks to commenter Ektah for the info. Probably should have listened to my gut.]

Here's some extremely minimal art punk with politics that I can get behind. It's hard to imagine more simplistic music than this. For instance, musically, most of "Do You Know Your Butcher" consists of a one-note bass riff and a kick drum, broken up here and there by a choked cymbal hit or a three-note guitar melody. From the accents to their spoken/shouted deliver to their political bent to the male-female dynamic, the vocals have always reminded me of early peace punk. It's a personal all-timer, but some might call it "annoying." I had just moved in with new roommates shortly after this came out, and I was listening to this record really loud, and just as "Crash, Crash, Crash" started, I heard my friend/roommate across the hall angrily yelling, "What the FUCK are you listening to?" 

Track listing:
1. Black Bunker
2. Do You Know Your Butcher
3. Worker
4. Don't Talk to Strangers
5. Hamworthy Sports and Leisure Center
6. You Are the Space Invader
7. Eat, Sleep
8. I Do Not Like Change
9. Lawyers Water Jug
10. Realer, Pretender
11. No Books
12. Up! Up! Up!
13. Crackerjack Docker
14. See M Dahlia
15. Crash, Crash, Crash
16. Space in Your Garden

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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Frazier Chorus - Wide Awake (1995)

Previously on OPIUM HUM:
Frazier Chorus - Sue (1989)

Third and final album from the quietly brilliant Frazier Chorus. On Wide Awake, they embraced a smooth, R&B-ish, 90s production style, with palm muted guitars, downtempo beats, muted horn lines, and other stuff that might make for good make-out music if you don't listen to the lyrics.

Track listing:
1. Wide Awake
2. If the Weather Was Up to Me
3. Bye-Bye Little Bird
4. Here We Are
5. Take Us Away
6. Driving
7. Lie, Mimic and Mime
8. Sound Asleep

If you like this, listen to: