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Dense not thick

Deafcult: Auras

Article originally appeared on The Music Jun 27th 2017

Auras is full of melodic drone, flecked with classic rock, sort of like listening to another band through a few sheets of gauze. While it might set a shoegaze pace, it’s often far more proactive, peppering each track with catchy little hooks and alluring deviations, subtle traces of ’80s electronica or an off-kilter country refrain, slipping in and out of the swelling grit that permeates their sound. It’s vaguely hypnotic – after a while, everything starts to fade away and you’re left floating inside someone else’s dream, like being trapped on an ice floe watching the Aurora Borealis shimmering faintly overhead.

Melvins: A Walk With Love And Death

Article originally appeared on The Music Jun 28th 2017

A two part, two hour, concept album-soundtrack hybrid, A Walk With Love and Death is a strange schismatic mess, purposefully abrasive, lashingly discordant and, in its way, a straightforward vanity project delivered with avant-garde disdain… typical Melvins really. The soundtrack portion, Love, consists of layers of aural antagonism, like listening to the inner thoughts of a Lovecraft protagonist in the last chapters of madness. The LP portion, Death, while being expectedly dark is unexpectedly lacking any of the hellish erraticism that saturates not just the first half but their entire career, yet it’s still some of their finest music to date.

Likeness

Julien lowers his lens and looks for long enough to make me feel truly uncomfortable. ‘Something isn’t right,’ he says, the sound of scree tumbling. I tell him it’s the subject not the artist, hoping levity will save me. He doesn’t say anything, for long enough to make me feel truly worthless, then the lens is back, a thousand shuddering frames. As I lean into it, loosen up and smile again, Julien tells me, ‘No. You’re only beautiful unhappy,’ and looks for long enough that I can truly believe it. I stand there and let his aperture devour me.

Consequences

I ask why she didn’t call the cops and she says, ‘Are you kidding?’ Just sucking down a cigarette and huffing smoke out of her nose. ‘I’ve seen Law & Order, I know how this works. Manslaughter, easy. Involuntary maybe, I don’t know. Anyway, I thought you’d be more helpful.’ I wonder if I could kill her and leave. I doubt it would be that hard. Get a knife and murder-suicide the whole place up. Wipe a few things down and be done in time for dinner. I wonder if I’d miss her. ‘What are you going to do?’

Hoard

I like to tell people that Petey is the tequila of people, every ounce should be taken with a grain of salt and makes you feel like you’ve sucked a lemon, but I often think of him as the keeper of uninteresting facts. He’s the kind of person who describes mainstream memes without ever going dank or touching on the topical and approaches interaction with a wilfully ignorant disregard for conversational flow or other people’s patience. If it weren’t for the digital world I’d picture him surrounded by reams of nostalgia and newspaper clippings, forever entombed in irrelevant minutia.

Decode

I watched a butterfly land on my dog’s asshole today. Hard to gauge a butterfly’s intention without degrees in chaos, but it seemed ambiguously direct and profoundly meaningful in an unsavoury flavour of mockery. It was a beautiful thing though, crimson red with flecks of yellow, broad-winged and poised. For all of their filigree the most beautiful part of a butterfly lies in potential stillness. I watched for as long as I could, still myself, on the cusp of some gross mystery, until my dog’s own tickling fascination grew and made its nature destroy nature, like an asshole.

Hachiku: Hachiku

Article originally appeared on The Music Jun 2nd 2017

Hachiku’s debut is a strange little obscurity dressed in mainstream clothes, or possibly it’s the other way around. Self-described as “modern opera rock meets princess fairy pop” it’s more like pushing that fairy through a speaker grill then taping it back together with a lullaby. Beginning with moments of intentional blowout and ending with the cold abruptness of a winter morning wake-up, the EP folds itself purposefully into the shape of a dream, peppered with adorable dissonance, oblique fidelity and deliberately distorted landmarks. Underneath all the ethereal grit, it’s exactly as good as listening to someone else describe said dreams.

Hysterical

Selena never really gets jokes, so I don’t giggle or flinch when she says, ‘You haven’t made me laugh in the longest time.’ I tell her, I guess it’s hard to find me funny if you can’t take me seriously. She looks at me sideways with a silly little scrunch I’ve never seen, then cracks up. ‘I guess I’ve been looking at you all wrong,’ she says, ‘you’re a fucking clown.’ Somehow I don’t think she means it in the Pagliacci sense, it could be gallows black but I doubt she’ll catch the irony before it breaks my neck.

Culinary

On my stomach with my arms above my head, more than half adrift in the afterglow and groggy on the emptiness. Cleo tracks her nails around my back while she ruminates and waits for me to purr, a thing of idle not intention. ‘How often do you think about sex?’ Her voice harbours the dry workmanship of putting up wallpaper. Most of all the time, I tell her, at some point everything boils down to sex and my brain does the rest. ‘Sounds like your brain’s the thing boiling,’ she says. I close my eyes and let it simmer.

Factious

Honestly, sometimes I don’t know what’s real, not in a wanky hypothetical way, just straight up. The problem with life is that it’s anecdotal. I see things that aren’t there, I’m told I’m sane because I know they’re not real. I’m told the sky is blue because light particles react with molecules in our atmosphere, because blue waves bounce and violet sinks. I have proof of none of this. When a minor disparity can totally revise reality, I often find the truth more malleable than my imagination. You can drown in a puddle but you can’t unthink an idea.

Saint Surly: Lo/Sketches

Article originally appeared on 4ZZZ May 25th 2017

It’s been a few years since we’ve heard from Saint Surly, so long that some might have thought he was out of the game, then -out of nowhere- instead of the unexpected but predictable follow up to The Gleaner Part 1, up pops Lo/Sketches, something altogether better.

Saint Surly has always leaned heartily into instrumental hip hop, with a wild array of samples and eclectic beatscapes that often reminisce over the more obscure elements of the genre, though without languishing in the homage trap or rolling around in references like some kind of sample swine.

It’s a certain kind of restraint you don’t often see, but, for Lo/Sketches, it seems those reins haven’t exactly been loosened so much as changed out for a better bridle setIn some ways it can feel as overt as it does subtle, some of the sampling comes close to basically checking the chambers, and while it digs pretty hard on a few of these notable tropes it does so sparingly and with an organic grace that is immediate in a nostalgic way. While it can feel a little too conspicuously humble at times, that’s far preferable to any kind of overt gloating and actually leaves some room for interpretive enjoyment.

Most notable are the portions of full blown lyricism, a rarity for Surly that drags the hip hop out of the instrumental and throws it on stage. Tracks like DustyOnetime, and Guilty shine rather than glare, adding a robust new dimension that never felt missing until it appeared.

For something billed as sketches, or self-referentially as “a mix of hazy instrumentals and spot-welded rap acapellas [Sic],” the overall flow, track to track transitions, and general smoothness is really to be commended. There’s a seamless quality that’s lent in part by the obvious lo-fi intent and occasional scratch masking, but it comes out as curation, these are contiguous chapters bound together and not simply a box full of singles for sale. Lo/Sketches is a wonderful and welcome surprise that shows Saint Surly at his best.

Fallacy

Dana runs her finger down the shaft and boops it on the tip. I finally managed to drag her to the gallery and she acts in exactly the way I should always expect. You shouldn’t do that, I tell her. ‘Why,’ she says, ‘because of the rope or because of the cock?’ Both? I tell her, it just feels wrong to be molesting marble, some kinda sacrilege, more so if it’s a martyr. ‘Oh, you know me,’ she says, ‘phallus see, phallus do.’ I watch her pirouetting off towards the surrealists and wonder if maybe I’m the crazy one.

Interruption

Jenny makes a play of detaching her head and putting it on the table to face the rest of the group. ‘Sorry,’ it says, giggling, ‘I just get a sore neck from watching everyone talk. It’s like spectating tennis, sometimes.’ We weren’t forcing an exclusionary point, so the move feels brattish and the LOL in Lolita manner is disturbingly forced, those mealy blue orbs bouncing back and forth between us, watching smugly while her body crosses its legs and folds the hands on top. ‘Don’t let me stop you,’ the head says, but, as usual, Jenny’s killed the conversation.

Flutter

When I was young I might have called them butterflies, now I don’t know. It’s an anxious swell, the jittery presage of a panic attack all twisted up with ideas about love, lust, and loath, like being tickled to the point of pain. I want to dive in deep and run away far, I want all or nothing. I can’t seem to resolve myself and the wings keep beating a goddamn maelstrom in my stomach, a tattoo on my heart, and emotional tinnitus wringing in the mind. When I was young I might have called it potential for happiness.

Being

There’s part of a dead cat rotting in the corner. Nobody wants to talk about it. An off-brand noir loops its whodunnits weakly on a modest LCD TV. Everybody stares and stays the same. The natural cycle of entropic tropes thins the plot. The air is derelict and the grounds are green but wasted by weedy creepers. There’s no wildlife bar the tomcat, an alley male bastard that flickers at the edges, Schrödinger’s yin to the rancid yang growing rigid in obscurity. Nothing always changes predictably. Something is born, something is dead, between them is everything’s eventual horizon.

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