Prurient – Bermuda Drain (Hydra Head)

Saturday May 15th, 2010- Prurient’s Dominick Fernow is traveling through a tunnel in Europe at night. He is exhausted, miserable, anxious, and bored. This is usually when he conceptualizes his best work. Having spent most of the last two years playing synth in the iconic pop group Cold Cave, Fernow has had plenty of time to reflect on his own material. Bermuda Drain states its intention to soundtrack this sensation, the moments of dead time in travel, surrounded by lights and the narcoleptic calm of speed, traveling with no connection to the outside world. In order to realize his vision Fernow abandoned every tool and instrument he’s ever used, down to the cables and chords, in a technological purging. The result is immediately apparent. Displaying overt musicality, Bermuda Drain may seem surprising to those expecting to be confronted with walls of noise and feedback.

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by STEVE LOWENTHAL on 6/20/2011 in Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

C Spencer Yeh – In The Blink Of An Eye/Condo Stress (De Stijl)

How does an artist like C. Spencer Yeh follow up a double LP of four side-long live abstract collages? With a two-song pop banger 7” on De Stijl, obviously. The A-side sounds like it could be a LCD Soundsystem outtake, replete with post-punk bass, disco beat,  and all treble guitar. Even more straightforward than Yeh’s “Songs” one sided LP on What The? label a few years back, the results here recall Jim O’Rourke’s more song oriented efforts, yet Yeh’s outcome is cooler and not nearly as stiff. The b-side is a plaintive piano and guitar driven ballad that’s as pretty as anything else so far this year. Another strange pill in the medicine cabinet that is CSY’s ever-engulfing discography, this single sits pretty on any shelf,  if you need an upper or a downer. Handsomely packaged as well. Don’t sleep.

by STEVE LOWENTHAL on 3/14/2011 in Reviews | Tags: , ,

Tor Lundvall interview

The music of Tor Lundvall is a post-modern midnight dream, a universe that exists unto itself. As an artist, Lundvall remains an enigma, having released albums for the last twenty years and never once performed live or been pictured on his records. He remains a blank figure even as his music reveals a richly profound artistic viewpoint. The effect of his music is akin to deja vu’, its seldom clear where sounds originate or end, a calling from somewhere distantly familiar transformed. As the years passed and the releases continued, the questions piled up. Dais Records has just done the world a great service by reissuing three seminal Lundvall albums Ice, The Mist, and Under the Shadow of Trees and combined them with one new album, Turning, for a complete seasonally themed box of ghostly minimal compositions, appropriately titled The Season’s Unfold. Each album, framed by Lundvall’s dramatic paintings as artwork, throws the participant completely into this shadowy abyss. With a discography and reputation approaching Jandek/Muslimgauze proportions, the release of this special CD box set has prompted the curtain to be peeled back. For those unfamiliar with Lundvall’s deeply hypnotic textual music, this collection is a necessary antidote to rote genre-ism and conformity found in most modern music. The Season’s Unfold is a haunting example of one of today’s most mysterious composers and a perfect introduction to the mist-soaked, minimalism of Tor Lundvall. There is truly nothing else like it. Swingset was able to coax this reclusive artist into answering a few questions via fiber-optic lines.

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by STEVE LOWENTHAL on 2/24/2011 in Features, Interviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Salvation interview

A few years after their debut album Of Unforgiving Wind was released, I caught Salvation play at the Cake Shop in New York City. Within moments, singer Matt Adis launched into the crowd like a bullet, only to emerge moments later covered in blood and broken glass, screaming like a vicious animal. The performance continued unabated.  After their set Adis was peeled off the hood of a car outside the venue and taken to the hospital. Rumor has it he was cut so many times, that it was difficult for the doctors to find the actual lacerations through all the blood. The band’s reputation for confrontation and sheer hubris is both impressive and frightening. Among the most violently anti-social in a new breed of nihilistic hardcore punk music, Salvation are so vehemently destructive and alienating that their music rings with true outsider authenticity. They claim part of no scene, their music strictly focused on internal issues rather than the political or social. Hardcore as a form is so rigid, that what separates the wheat from the chaff is in a band’s ability to convince the audience of the authenticity of its ferocious desires. This comes across in abundance on the band’s new album Morality Interactions, released on the iconic Youth Attack label. The fact that Adis and crew have survived the wreckage of their performances to deliver the aggressive existentialism of a follow up album is somewhat of a miracle in itself. That the record surpasses all expectations in fury and intensity, speaks volumes. We caught up with Adis, who also has a new book of drawings released on the Heartworm Press imprint, on the eve of the new albums release. Those seeking a view into this distressed existence should seek both out.

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by STEVE LOWENTHAL on 1/17/2011 in Features, Interviews | Tags: , , , , , ,

Letha Melchior Rodman Cancer Fund

Please help our dear friends Dan and Letha Melchior. If you are at all involved in independent music as either a fan or a participant please donate anything you can.


by Swingset Magazine on 1/17/2011 in Swingset Presents | Tags: ,

Sun City Girls – Funeral Mariachi

A few years back I was speaking with an acquaintance of mine from Seattle who was also a friend and neighbor of the Sun City Girls in the late 90s. I asked him what the deal was. Did they really have magic powers? He told me that while he couldn’t go into details, he had seen the Sun City Girls do things that were inexplicable. Many have had their memory irrevocably altered. The reality of these accusations depends on ones admission to the belief of these rituals. They have power only if you think they do. The powers of the Sun City Girls’ music however are undeniably evident on their final and just released album, Funeral Mariachi.

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by STEVE LOWENTHAL on 12/7/2010 in Features, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Virgin Spring – Excelsior (Gods of Tundra)

There are few mysteries in the contemporary noise world. One of the genuine surprises is the emergence of Virgin Spring. Rumored to be part of KP, who have several releases on Hospital Productions, Virgin Spring is a powerful entity in its own right. Released on the Gods of Tundra label, Excelsior is a striking debut, one that slowly unfurls. Over the course of the single sided album, the sounds move from sparse tonality to a more clanging maximalism of junk noise. Starting with slowly pitch-shifted tones, Virgin Spring starts the record off with a hushed menace, the static of the record complimenting the clarity of the sounds. A crackle of noise begins and the hushed winds become transcendent. There is a wash of what seem like field recordings overlaid with a slow metallic roll. These elements juxtapose with the physicality of the movements. Wooden planks shift, metals are struck and the sounds are arranged in ever-evolving loops. Things become more glaringly sharp as the scraping metals and percussive blows grow in resounding waves. The junk collapse ends sharply, with a succinct edit. Showing command of space, Virgin Spring then pushes things into aggressive territory, signals blaze, the noise swells and grows thunderous. A sullen alarm tone washes over the tumult and things fall apart. The opening tones are resurrected for a static infused exit, a truly dark cloud hanging over the finale like a lingering dread. Much like the atmospheric grace of the Bergman classic that inspired the name, Virgin Spring touches on a psychological fearfulness that threatens the logic of everyday living. The best noise records are the ones that can transport the listener to a place of abstraction, using violence, atmosphere and control. Excelsior is a record that delivers the thrill of great noise on all accounts. A rare feat in this age…Don’t miss it.

by STEVE LOWENTHAL on 12/7/2010 in Reviews | Tags: , , , , ,

Mount Carmel interview

Mount CarmelThe dudes who make up Columbus, Ohios’ Mount Carmel are fellas of few words; or at least that’s what I can gather from this scantily worded e-mail message I got back after requesting an interview. I stare and stare at it wondering what the fuck I’m gonna make out of these five hundred or so words they gave back as a response. I check some notes I took drunkenly one night while listening to their debut LP on the Siltbreeze label and it’s just incoherent drivel. I’m really at a loss here. I guess it’s up to me – the writer –to actually do my job and buck up to convey this bands’ power and let their greatness be known to you, the lowly reader. The things I do for little to no money….really…

The real difficulty here is that I have nothing to say. And there really isn’t much to say in all honesty. Well, I guess I can say that when I laid the Mount Carmel album on the table a few weeks ago and let ‘er rip, I just stood there staring at the disc in disbelief while it span around and around in wonderful monotony. It wasn’t until the fifth or sixth spin that I actually gave a shit who these guys were and how the hell they made this record. Prior to that, I was too wrapped in just enjoying it to even care.

Mount Carmel is comprised of brothers Pat and Matt Reed on bass and guitar with seventeen year old drummer Kevin Skubak and they’ve been playing for about a year. The record they just dropped is nothing short of a gemstone for a simple reason; it’s real and honest with no intentions to join any clubs. Sonically it’s awesome because it sounds like Terry Reid fronting a band on Holyground (That ones for all you collector types who need that sorta validation) It’s a testament to the notion of a sound that will be timeless as long as the people behind it fucking believe in it. And yeah…I think that’s about it.

On with the interview…

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by TONY RETTMAN on 6/21/2010 in Interviews | Tags: ,

Glenn Jones- Barbeque Bob in Fishtown (Strange Attractors Audio House)

It would be an understatement to say that guitar soli has had an important resurgence in the last ten years or so. Maybe in the increasingly maddening digital era the voice of six (or twelve) acoustic strings rings with a naturalist sensibility, a voice of clarity amidst the chaos.  Thankfully Glenn Jones quietly gives us a traditional album of guitar soli that delivers in a way so few modern players can. Over the course of nine tracks Jones plays immaculately executed solo guitar, without forsaking composition or style. All the elements merge to create a dynamically steady album that transitions from Banjo to six and twelve string acoustic guitar seamlessly. What comes through most is the emotive aspects of his playing, such as on the meditative “Snowdrops (for Robert Walser)” with its gentle slides or the sheer romanticism of “For Wendy, In Her Girlish Days”, which stands as a gorgeous ballad, capable of instigating nostalgia by the first chorus. Technicality and record collecting can only take one so far. Glenn Jones has stepped beyond those limits and made the best guitar soli album this year by exhibiting a rewardingly self assured comfort. It seems natural, effortless but clearly the result of decades of craft. It may not be the flavor of the month but its rewards will surely endure when all today’s bluster has been forgotten.

by STEVE LOWENTHAL on 5/17/2010 in Reviews, Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

Dry-Rot interview

Dry-Rot are a band that has intrigued me for quite some time. I first got in touch with them back in 2007 when their vocalist Drew Wardlaw sent an e-mail thanking me for playing their first self released 7” on WFMU. We traded off e-mails back and forth. Interviews were started, but were left to the wayside here and there. We finally nailed one down three years later with their guitarist Jordan Darby chiming in as well. Their first full length ‘Philistine’ has just been released on the Parts Unknown label and is a serious early contender for record of 2010…and that’s not just some easy rock writer lip flapping. It’s a challenging and disorienting listen that can reference Void, The Minutemen and This Heat as easily as I can scarf down a roasted chicken. For you industry types, check them out at SXSW. For people like me who like to stay home and pet the cat, just rock the record and feel cleansed. Interview done via electronic mail January 2010…

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by TONY RETTMAN on 3/9/2010 in Interviews | Tags: , , , , , , , ,