DECAYCAST REVIEWS : PREGNANT SPORE / VERTONEN Split Cassette (Forever Escaping Boredom Records , 2013)
The Pregnant Spore side opens up with a fuzzed out, distorted thud percussion pulse and slices of choking voices aboot. The blown out crawling bass slam and garbled voice slices play off of each other quite nicely, and occasionally giving way to blown out sawtooth death note blasts that come from below and pierce through the mix. Albeit them a little hot in the mix, these jagged bass blasts create a rhythmic structure which shapes a dense and articulate bassline for a plethora of stuttering, flickering , and what sounds like sampled piano notes bounce off of each other in a loose and playful yet, rhythmically interesting way. The first half of the track held a little more tension for me personally, but the dense buildup toward the end created a relieving and necessary contrast. Overall a wide scope of timbre and dynamics of sound are utilized in a short amount of time. Will be writing more about this project in the coming reviews for sure, as we have at least one more tape by Pregnant Spore in the piles of stuff to do. Now let’s get to the second side.
The Vertonen side comes right out of the gate with a warm yet sharp sounding repeating oscillation of unknown origin which goes on seemingly unchanged and tightly hinged to itself. gently beneath the surface, as if a failed distant audial telegraph, a slow tone begins to oscillate deep beneath the surface and causes a subtle yet growing psychedelic phasing of the original pulse. Slowly but with a determined tension, more and more complimentary voices trickle in and out of the mix, and cautiously roll over each other into a Terry Riley/ Steve Reich esque nod to minimalist classical composition. A short, relevant and beautifully articulate offering from Blake Edward’s Vertonen project.
Overall, a nice short release, although both projects could use a little more room on the ol’ magnet as i felt both pieces were cut off a bit abruptly, however sometimes that’s the way she goes , leave them wanting more yes? a solid release overall, with a brightly collaged color xerox cover, and plushly purple tapes which complement the J card’s nicely. Will be reviewing more from this label in the following weeks.
FOREVER ESCAPING BOREDOM
These days, record labels seem to be popping up all over the place in the independent /underground music world, and we think that’s a good thing. Each independent music outlet that can get music to the right people without all the unnecessary industry bullshit chain of command isolationism that is perpetuated by the “record industry” the better, and Oakland’s Weird Ear Records is doing just that. Releasing top quality recordings in multiple formats to anyone who has an odd ear to the underground experimental music pulse. We sat down with Weird Ear Records dual head honcho’s Raub Roy and Dianne Lynn of oakland….
Dr.. DECAYCAST: : Hello…. I heard of this strange new record label called WEIRD EAR RECORDS Why don’t you spill the beans …. Let’s start off with Who, what, when, where…..
RAUB ROY: We started WER in 2011, after relocating from San Francisco to Oakland, Ca, and finding that the inexpensive cost of living here afforded us the opportunity to do something a little bigger than we could have managed in SF. I think the name ‘Weird Ear’ popped into my head one day and it seemed like a name one would either give a Recording label or a scroungey-but-loveable chinchilla…. Having no desire to harbour rodents, we went with putting out pieces of music that fit our aesthetic for the label.
DD : What do you all have against rodents? Why are cats so popular these days , especially in “noise”
DIANNE LYNN: We think rodents are cool too! Personally, our cats chose us and we couldn’t turn them away. In fact before the cats were around we had more rodents in the building. We don’t see much of them these days. Maybe the “noise” was too much for them?
DD: That’s cool . I happen to like rodents as well, so much so that I named my label after a popular one from the 1980s….
At what point did y’all decide to start a record label, and why? Do you think it’s important that artists start their own labels, and in the digital age what is the “point” of releasing physical objects when one can just purchase a download ?
DL : We’ll say first that if you don’t get the “point” of releasing physical objects, then we’re sorry, you just don’t get it! We love the physical package. Some of the DIY stuff will blow your mind! Not to knock a download, but some works you gotta just “have.” To another point, playing files off a computer can be annoying as hell.
The label was manifested around February 2012. We sort of went crazy setting goals for ourselves and decided to put our words in motion. I think the tipping point was when Raub came home with the name Weird Ear. Honestly, we just wanted to have a label so that we could put music that we liked into a physical format that we personally appreciated; at the time this was vinyl, but we have come to appreciate the convenience of cassettes. As far as artists starting their own labels, we say go for it. The more the merrier.
DD: That’s an interesting take! Do you think there’s a point of over saturation in the experimental music community ? Is there such thing as too many projects, too many releases , too many “side projects” ? Is there an importance to trying to define the changing trends in experimental music? Or just let it run around like a chicken with its head cut off ?
RR: Well, one trend that I think keeps over-saturation from happening is that of keeping such things limited to smaller production runs. While the audience for experimental/modern/avant-garde/out/noise/weird/gnarly music is bigger than it’s ever been, it still is a tiny splash in the pool that is the whole of recorded sound, and we believe that putting the 300 copies of “Stand Up Comedy“
Alessandro Bossetti’s “Stand Up Comedy” LP
(for example) into the right 300 peoples hands is more important than spreading it all over the place and hoping random people pick it up. The advent of streaming entire albums also backs this strategy up – we really would like people to listen and make sure it’s for them before purchasing a copy. Defining trends is a slippery slope, in part due to the relative insignificance of our scene in relation to recorded sound on a whole (again), but then there’s the the flourishing microcosm aspect that no one person could keep up with all the facets of, so the way we define those trends that we aspire to steer clear of is very subjective, though a guideline that has worked well for us is trying to find works that wouldn’t have an easy time finding a home elsewhere. We also are attempting to avoid trend within our catalog for as long as we can, which is a bit easier to quantify.
I believe that a large amount of the proliferation of side-projects/one-off projects and such that you refer to is generally relegated to the noise end of the spectrum, and as such, we probably will leave Noise to other able and willing labels.
So you wouldn’t ever define your label as sticking to any one genre, rather anything with a weird bend that catches your ears? So far y’all have a really diverse roster, showcasing vastly different aesthetic sets, everything from the proto- industrial styles of WAXY TOMB on her “infra shape” cassette to fever dream psychedelia borderline abstract pop sounds of A MAGIC WHISTLE LP that y’all recently released, yet somehow it all works, to a rather refreshing degree curation wise, care to talk about that?
RR: we hope to avoid trend and purity in our releases not only on a world scale, but within the confines of our releases as well. So, for example, in the larger scene, modular synth stuff was nominally bigger last year than years previous, so, even if we really like a buddy’s Buchla Synthi album, it would need to be queered by some other element to feel like it fit in the catalog. On the level of our releases, I’d like to try to keep from trend there too, excepting the trend of having releases that wouldn’t appeal to purists of any particular genre – so like, Glochids “Originals” album is largely field recorded, but he is in these field recorded passages playing objects/instruments, so it’s field recordings, but impure, or queered, if you will… what was I getting at? Oh, right, so, now that there’s been an album of field recordings, I probably won’t do another one too closely related to field recordings for a while, until a good number of other styles of experimental/modern music have been touched on, see?
DD: Tell me about the future vision for weird ear , upcoming releases / tours / WTF stuff ? Blow our mind
Ok so we have a couple upcoming releases that should be out before summers end; WER-006 is Angela Sawyer, of Preggy peggy and the Lazy babymakers, duck that!, and exhusema.. The album was commissioned in 2011, and she’s been working away at it for us since then, but she also runs Weirdo Records in Boston and has little free time, so it’s taken a while, but the results are completely worth it – sweet and sour songs sqeakily sung with a wealth of oddvant-garde instrumentation and arrangements, the songs themselves being largely covers from her huge collection and other local bostonians… I believe that there are a good few samples in there also gathered from her stacks, which begs the question of why more record store owners don’t make sample based musics, since they’re diggin in the dustevery day already!
We also are quite pleased to be presenting a split between, Trumpet Trumpet Synthesizer and Horaflora (thats me). TTS is a duo (Brad Henkel and Weston Minissali) on amplified trumpet and Synth/vocoder playing some really out tones in a sexy as fuck way, which i’m told is fairly uncommon in experimental music! My side is loosely based on Mauricio Kagel’s Acoustica, or maybe just indebted to it, but will mark the end of my work with acoustic phenomenon for the foreseeable future, and I felt the connection should be credited later than never, so there’s that!
Beyond specific releases, all our future cassettes will be in handcrafted cardstock jackets rather than plastic cases, as we were impressed with Geweih Ritual Documents Envo-Box: http://www.gritual.com/Info-About
As they point out, the plastic cassette case isn’t intrinsically related to the album, and once cracked, is quickly rendered useless garbage, basically analogous to the plastic bag an LP may come in, nice to keep your jacket clean, but all too replaceable, adding to the plastic problem we would ideally like to avoid being a part of.
Thanks for asking all those questions! See ya soon!
Raub and Dianne,
Weird Ear Records