900X: Library Catalog Music Series: Music for Lubbock, 1980
900X is the moniker for James McAlister. James has released the first 900X record, titled Lubbock, 1980 as the first in an instrumental Music Library series for the Lander, WY based record label Asthmatic Kitty. Lubbock, 1980 is a collection of songs recorded both at home an on the road, in numerous environments and non-environments from 2004-2008. James continues to do remix work and original film music under the 900X umbrella with such artists as My Brightest Diamond, Slavic Soul Party, and Sufjan Stevens. 900X can also be heard on the Asthmatic Kitty-curated Habitat compilation.
Alfred Brown: Library Catalog Music Series: Music for Moving in Slow Motion
Music for Moving in Slow Motion is about the slowing, halting, and reversing of the directional flow of linear time. It is about the significance of the possibly infinite space that exists between any two instants. It is about experiencing symmetrical time. At some moments the proverbial arrow for a single event is subtly (or not so subtly) manipulated, while at others, multiple events are frozen and superimposed onto each other, creating a hyper-simultaneity out of what was once sequence, thereby eliminating it. Time is treated as space, as an elastic solid that can be twisted and moved in any direction, and there is an attempt to find the smallest temporal unit, if it exists at all.
B Lan 3: Library Catalog Music Series: Music for Hunting and Mapping
B Lan 3 is a solo project by musician and visual artist Michael Diekmann. A resident of New York City, he also records and performs with the minimalist cold-wave formation Ike Yard, and the pioneering experimental hip-hop group Death Comet Crew. He has also composed soundtracks for video and multimedia installations for multimedia artists including Gretchen Bender, Robert Longo and Marcello Mazzella; and also contributed music with Death Comet Crew to the audio book version of "Neuromancer" by William Gibson. The compositions on Music for Hunting and Mapping were developed with a focus on the mapping of an imaginary realm and were largely inspired by a consideration of a collision between high and low culture; specifically by exploring stylistic conceits from anime and video gaming while drawing upon "high art" examples from literature and cinema. For example, how would director Hayao Miyazaki interpret Thomas Pynchon's novel "Mason & Dixon" as an anime film? Or, what would a single-player, RPG video game of director Andrei Tarkovsky's film "Andrei Rublev" look like? Or a multiplayer video game based on Herman Melville's "Moby Dick"? The strategies employed in composition and production imbue the recordings with sense of fantasy...or at least a synthetic version of reality, much in the same manner of more highly developed video games and anime.
Bunky: Born to be a Motorcycle
Finally, after three years of legendary performances in their hometown of San Diego, the amazing Bunky- Emily Joyce, Rafter Roberts, who has been featured in Tape Op, and friends- unleash their debut album, “Born to be a Motorcycle." “Motorcycle” will surprise even those who think they’ve heard it all; this eclectic collection of weird pop bliss blends punk, art-pop, and ballads with chugging horns, absurdist humor and bulls-eye production by veteran musicians/engineers Roberts and Joyce. The result is an album as lively as an armful of eels; Bunky rocks and croons with equal skill, sometimes in the same song. Joined by a cast of San Diego all-stars (members of Rocket from the Crypt, Castanets, Pinback, and others), Bunky blazes from the underground full-grown and ready to burn up the road.
Casey Foubert / James McAlister: Library Catalog Music Series: Music for Drums
"Music For Drums" is the first in a series of records conceived by Casey Foubert and James McAlister using drums, percussion, and user designed software effects as the sole sound source. Foubert and McAlister drew from both improvised drumming and pattern-based sequencing with samplers to create themes molded into songs. While the concept excludes harmonic and melodic conventions, atonal "melodies" present themselves alongside the groove centered songs.
Castanets: Texas Rose, The Thaw and The Beasts
With Texas Rose, The Thaw, and The Beasts Castanets' Raymond Raposa keeps one foot in the rustic country, folk, and blues of past records while taking it—everything—to the next level. Straddling the line between “out” and accessible, the Rafter Roberts-produced Texas Rose is a full-band affair, a bent noise-country terrain of dissolving interludes and spaced-out electronic pop tracks up against songs that wouldn't be out of place on a Merle or Willie record. Texas Rose, Raposa's fifth for Asthmatic Kitty, is a statement of stoic subtlety and grandeur, an equal balance of the big and the humble, the disparate and the cohesive. It is nearly 39 minutes of stride-hitting, potential-reaching, and pure big epicness.
This video document, created by Mia Ferm, serves as a snapshot of a particular moment in time surrounding Raposa and Castanets. It is a meditative reflection on the mesmerizing motion of water, the beauty of natural light, and the spontaneity of friends. Responding to the thickness of the songs on In The Vines, here the songs are stripped bare and presented by new voices that further reveal the lyrical beauty of Raposa's songwriting. It is equal parts home movie (ala Jonas Mekas), Downtown 81, Pull My Daisy, and audio-visual collage.
Castanets: In The Vines
Ray Raposa of Castanets had almost finished his follow-up to First Light's Freeze (2005) when three men in strange masks mugged him at gunpoint in front of his home in Bedstuy, Brooklyn. Stealing Raposa's rent money, iPod and security, the three thieves climaxed a year of depression and nomadic, nocturnal dislocation. Not long after the mugging, Raposa completed In The Vines. Appropriately, the album he was struggling to complete is based on a Hindu fable about being trapped in an inescapable fate, with death and the limitations of our physical lives closing in from all corners. In the fable story, “The Well of Life”, a giant net stretched out by a giant woman surrounds a Brahman lost in the forest. The frantic Brahman runs in circles attempting to escape until he falls halfway down a pit and is entangled in vines. He discovers some beehives halfway between the flesh-hungry six-faced elephant at the top of the pit and the waiting serpent at the bottom. As bees buzz around the Brahman and rats gnaw at the vines holding him up, all he can do is gorge on the sweet honey. Heavy stuff, yes, but it isn't all peril, and darkness. The songs are sung with such intimacy and earnestness that In The Vines "sways" somewhere between the serpent, elephant, bees and rats, the honey representing a strange sense of hope and delight in the brief moments of beauty that sustain our lives.
Castanets: First Light's Freeze
With First Light's Freeze, Castanets return with a dark mutant-country sound infused with strands of free-jazz and a late-seventies Nashville big-radio strut hijacked by post-post-punk unravelers. The result is a beautiful mix of somber reflection, destination-unknown travelogue, and subversive anti-war boogie. Castanets' unrelenting creative pioneering delightfully befuddles, as they simultaneously honor and dismantle “New Americana”.
While Cathedral (Castanets' debut) explored the themes of domesticity and the architecture of conflict, First Light's Freeze confronts the mythology of war and friendship. Morphed from a strictly literal and chronological song-cycle to a more broadly sketched reading, the wraith of narrative structure still lurks in the shadows, creating an eerie tale with shifting perspectives and evading resolution. The story ends up resembling an ancient documentary on relationships (others loved, feared, distrusted yet needed), the close proximity of things painful and pleasurable, and the complications of this as a paradigm for the world.
Castanets: City of Refuge
Largely recorded in a motel room in Overton, Nevada, City of Refuge is an uneasy, asymmetric weave of sung songs, chants, electronic noise solos and spaghetti-western guitar interludes. City suggests a film soundtrack, with overture, mood-setting and plot-development songs, intermission, character studies, and themes of resolution and reconciliation. A narrative propelled by yearning, passion, dislocation, ambiguity, regret, false redemption, possible true redemption, cryptic symbolism and other art film obligatories, this time you’re liable to sit numb and silent through the credits as the theater empties. The difference between Raposa's landscape and more familiar backlot scenes might be this; you believe what you've heard and seen because your third ear intuits that he didn’t contrive any of it. City, then, is no longer only music, but emotional catharsis, and we, too, long for a City of Refuge.
Cathedral, the first nationally released album by San Diego's Castanets, introduces a unique new voice of avant-country. From somber love ballads to haunted tales of frustrated redemption, Cathedral illuminates architecture where faith and doubt clash in an often ambiguous search for the divine.
Castanets vs. Ero: Dub Refuge
Dub Refuge turns a minimalist folk record (Castanets' City of Refuge) into a ghostly dub, subverting dub tradition while still nodding in the direction of King Tubby, Scientist, Burning Spear, and Sly and Robbie. Dub Refuge works because Castanets and Ero Gray (aka Papa Alabaster, sometimes bass player for Castanets, and member of Brooklyn-based Rad Unicorn) are both preoccupied with ghostly, ephemeral and messy sounds. Ero and the Castanets share a haunted quality in their music, a unique dedication to risk, and a reverence for accident in folk music. (Stray string squeaks, cracking voices and odd echoes can be more rewarding than intentional harmonies or suavely competent riffs.)
At it's best, Castanets music accomplishes an eerie and very difficult balancing act between the disaster-surfing of experimental and noise music, and the sort of calm competence shown by classic country singers. The City of Refuge sessions exemplified this balance, and here on Dub Refuge, Ero has emphasized both aspects without destroying either.