Peg Simone: Secrets from the Storm
Guitar lines gather and mass like a blue sky filling with storm clouds. A flicker of lightning here and there, a steady thump of thunder in the distance, coming closer and closer. It takes awhile, so long, in fact, that you can almost be lulled by the patterns that form, the bits of sun that fight through the thickening shadows, the way the air crisps, the breeze playing the leaves like a zither. And the voice, like a ghost, or the radio late, late at night, echoing from an old rusty car in an abandoned junkyard, the dials twisted to an obscure AM frequency.
Secrets from the Storm is a unique collaboration between singer-songwriter (and guitarist for Jonathan Kane's February) Peg Simone and writer Holly Anderson. Poetic shards of raw-knuckled memoir are inspired by everything from the Harry Crews novel The Gospel Singer to Memphis Minnie. The epic opener "Levee/1927" goes far beyond its sources ? Memphis Minnie and Led Zeppelin ? by turning its premise into a gripping tour-de-force of penumbral willies, sepulchural gasps, sensual jellyroll swagger, and bristling slide guitar that flashes up like a steel wolf trap in the moonlight, by turns furtive and brutal, as if the Velvet Underground had taken Albert King as a mentor instead of Andy Warhol.
Zeena Parkins: Between the Whiles
Having collaborated with artists ranging from Sonic Youth to Yoko Ono to Bjork, Zeena Parkins proves it: The classical harp is really a rock 'n' roll instrument. Forget angelic choirs; Zeena is the Jimi Hendrix of the amplified harp. With more soar, shimmer, screech, whine and wail than ever before, her new album, Between the Whiles, hurls wildly into oscillating soundscapes, showcasing her artistic vision and technical versatility. The sonic scope is immense, and there's a lot to explore; dive deep, and you'll come up with some rare and eerie treasures. Liner notes by Terry de Castro of The Wedding Present.
Helen Money: In Tune
Strap yourself in, and prepare for a mysterious ride: Helen Money is going to take us into uncharted territory. With its clattering rhythms, symphonic swells, distorted, plucked chords, and razor-toned riffs, In Tune reaches for the limits of where an artist can take any single medium; in this case, the vehicle is, believe it or not, the cello. Alison Chesley (the sole member of Helen Money) uses atypical techniques and the accoutrements of rock 'n' roll to forge an exhilaratingly ominous batch of recordings. Chesley leaves no room for doubt about her rock agenda: the production at Steve Albini's Electrical Audio vivifies a muscular angularity -- and check out the gleefully raucous "cover" of The Minutemen's "Political Song for Michael Jackson to Sing." In Tune is irresistibly entertaining, and its darkness elicits that pure kind of joy you get when confronted with something you know is going to move you to a place where you really want to go.
Collections of Colonies of Bees: Birds
NOW AVAILABLE ON VINYL!!! Collections of Colonies of Bees sweep in grandly, in billowing swarms of sound, bourn aloft on a thousand wings of minuscule, elegant detail. Guitars chime and soar; deft yet intensely focused percussion propels towards an inevitable dawn; covering it all is a gossamer veil of subtly nuanced electronica. Their CD Birds is joyous, epic minimalism in exquisite registration, a sound that is dazzling ? and as sweet as honey taken straight from the comb.
Jonathan Kane: Jet Ear Party
_Jet Ear Party_, Jonathan Kane's second full-length release, is a masterpiece of raw, ass-thumping Americana that shakes the meat right off the bone. With guest appearances from members of his live band, February, Kane barrels into these eight tracks like a freight train. He lunges at breakneck boogies and tom-driven swamp stomps with equal abandon. In a radical departure, he tones down his mojo long enough to accommodate female vocals for a breathlessly sexy, overtone-drenched soul ballad. Kane even pilots hardcore R&B a la Wilson Pickett into the Creedence bayou for a sweat-soaked cover of Sly Stone's "Thank You Fallettinme Be Mice Elf Agin" ? and it's got a freak-out bagpipe solo that would make The Stooges proud. Seriously, he's not holding anything back.
Forget about The Black Keys; forget about The White Stripes. Merging pelvic-pounding rhythm and lustrous harmonic bliss, Jonathan Kane is single-handedly reinvigorating the blues for the 21st century ? in vivid, raging Technicolor.
Stephen O'Malley: Keep an Eye Out!
Sunn O))) founder Stephen O'Malley summons a mesmerizing drone, absorbing the listener into an aural tar pit of deep, inexorable oblivion. He wears a cloak of post-metal allegiances with behemoths like Earth, but beneath that, there is a vibrant body of work that owes as much to the heady minimalism of Tony Conrad and Steve Reich. Constantly pushing at the extremes of volume and duration, O'Malley's sound is a physical phenomenon, infused with an intimidating power ? and possessing, at its core, an oddly meditative tranquility.
Christian Fennesz: June
Simply put, Christian Fennesz is a pioneer. As much as any artist, he is responsible for establishing the laptop computer as both a compositional tool and concert instrument. Subsuming electro-acoustic strategies into a bedrock of pop, he terraforms vast new worlds of sound, within which both AMM and the Beach Boys can cozily coexist. His Guitar Series contribution, June, is a suitably lush transformation, as electric guitars flow into deep streams of sound.
Andrew Burnes: Telescope
Table of the Elements happily presents the long-overdue solo debut of Andrew Burnes. Burnes, along with David Daniell, is a founding member of the ethereal, post-blues ensemble San Agustin; he's also a member of Haunted House, alongside Loren Mazzacane Connors; and he's performed in improv settings with the likes of Ken Vandermark and Thurston Moore. Finally committed to vinyl, he doesn't disappoint: Telescope is a glittering chunk of sound, as Burnes transforms that particular emblem of Americana, the steel guitar, into one vast, slowly undulating drone.
Andrew Burnes' name may not be familiar, but fans of the genre needn't worry. Back in 1993, Table of the Elements' original Guitar Series featured what was only the second US solo release from a similarly unknown artist: Jim O'Rourke. You can trust us again with this one.
David Daniell: I-IV-V-I
David Daniell is one of the hardest-working guitarists in avant-garde show business. He leads the troops in Rhys Chatham's guitar armies; he was a member of Jonathan Kane's rollicking band February; and he performs regularly in a duo with Tortoise's Doug McCombs. He's collaborated with Tim Barnes, Thurston Moore, and Loren Connors; and his guitar work with his own band, San Agustin, is the stuff of which fleeting blues-drone dreams are made. With influences rooted in blues, American minimalism, and post-punk ideologies, Daniell's guitar playing is always inspired; when fused with his intricate electro-acoustic compositions, the results are breathtaking.
Agathe Max: This Silver String
This Silver String is the transformative debut by French violinist Agathe Max. At times her work approaches the supersonic escape velocity of Tony Conrad; elsewhere, she introduces delicate repeating threads, then slowly weaves them into a fabric of vast, billowing sound more reminiscent of Steve Reich. With an elegant command of melody and a strident use of rhythm, Max manages to create a remarkably accessible collection of tracks, one that bridges the gaps between minimalism, post-classicism, the avant garde, krautrock, and plain old-fashioned pop ? there's even a nod to the High Lonesome Raga as filtered through Henry Flynt. This Silver String is a genre-bender for certain, and a fine debut by any definition.
"Agathe Max delivers a drone to keep the earth turning on its axis, with a keen and romantic sense of swing. Everything you need to have a good time"
-- Jonathan Kane
Oren Ambarchi: A Final Kiss on Poisoned Cheeks
There is a vivid breadth to the guitar deconstructions of Australian Oren Ambarchi. Sometimes his work takes a delicate lilt; it can also dive into dark and deep pools of sound when he joins cowl-core ensembles Sunn O))) (with Stephen O'Malley) and Burial Chamber Trio (with Greg Anderson). Whether with those bands, solo, or in collaboration with luminaries ranging from Mike Patton and John Zorn to Christian Fennesz, he consistently reroutes his instrument into zones of arch, alien abstraction. A Final Kiss on Poisoned Cheeks offers a dizzying gaze straight into a chasm of extreme frequencies ? paint-peelingly high and bowel-churningly low ? all set atop a sub-strata of menace, angst, and contemplative beauty.
Jon Mueller / Jason Kahn: Topography
Percussionist Jon Mueller continues his amazing run of releases (he appears on eight Table of the Elements titles in the first half of 2008!) with Topography, a collaboration with Zürich-based sound and visual artist Jason Kahn. As a drummer, Mueller propels Collections of Colonies of Bees and the occasional guitar army of Rhys Chatham; he also finds time to collaborate with artists ranging from Wilco's Glenn Kotche to Swans' Jarboe. Kahn draws on electronic and acoustic sound sources to create slowly developing compositions imbued with a sense of timelessness.
Topography addresses the entity of sound as both a physical and psychological factor shaping our consciousness, and is a remarkable display of electroacoustic finesse. It's a joint, limited-edition release with Mueller's own Crouton label, exquisitely packaged in a debossed, white-on-white jacket.
Melissa St. Pierre: Specimens
Melissa St. Pierre tosses classicism and post-classicism overboard, utilizing the prepared piano -- John Cage's notorious instrument of choice -- and electronic enhancement to sail resolutely in the direction of rock & roll. Peppering the strings, hammers, and dampers with a variety of objects, she transforms the piano's typical timbre: sparkling gamelans chatter; harrowing voodoo drums call out in the night. Specimens, St Pierre's debut, features production and performances by Collections of Colonies of Bees; together they rival famed electric harpist Zeena Parkins as conservatory arsonists with a decidedly Hendrixian flair.
V/A: Impala Eardrums: A Radium Sampler
For fifteen years, Table of the Elements has been the preeminent source of avant audio, championing minimal, improvised, and outsider musics of various spots and stripes. Now, as its influence radiates outward, the label presents Radium, its "rock" imprint, showcased here with Impala Eardrums, A Radium Sampler. While minimalist legend Rhys Chatham leads the way with a delightful unreleased piece from his mid-80s archives, most of the other contributors are younger folks, from a new generation of performers. It's a diverse bunch, ranging from the raw Americana of Megafaun and Jonathan Kane, to the humid, pulsating krautrock of Ateleia and the spectral songcraft of Paul Duncan. Neptune serves up its version of home-forged proto-clangor, while Collections of Colonies of Bees and School of Seven Bells pour forth in glistening, shimmering waves. Together, these eight tracks ? all previously unreleased on CD ? have one thing in common: a resolute will to march headlong into the untamed brambles and briar patches of 21st-century sound.
Rhys Chatham & His Guitar Trio All-Stars: "GUITAR TRIO IS MY LIFE"
Utilizing multiple electric guitars and a single chord, 1977's "Guitar Trio" is composer Rhys Chatham's signature work, and a euphoric, minimal-punk classic. Now, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of "Guitar Trio" on an epic scale, Chatham musters an all-star guitar army for the 3xCD set, "GUITAR TRIO IS MY LIFE!" The sprawling collection features members of Sonic Youth, Swans, Tortoise, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Hüsker Dü, Modern Lovers, Silver Mt. Zion, Town and Country, Die Kreutzen, 90-Day Men, Collections of Colonies of Bees, and many more; even Tony Conrad gets in on the act. Together these artists celebrate Chatham's wordless anthem, with its minimalist origins, rock & roll rhythm, ecstatic whorl of harmonics, and ever-evolving, ever-expanding nature. So, take a listen, and hear what one man can do with hundreds of guitars, 30 years, one chord, and a skyscraper of amps set to Liquefy. "Guitar Trio" endures.
Megafaun: Bury the Square
From the vibrant Southern quasi-capital of Durham emerge Megafaun, wearing earnestness across the chest and abstraction along the sleeves. They pour forth dulcet harmonies, as seeking vocals tug banjo lines up the Appalachian mountains; redemptive noise soaks everything, like thick air wafting from the Atlantic. Clawhammer banjo and strummed acoustics lock and roll with electric guitars and electronic textures. They realize that folk implies deep, personal, intense expression, whether the instrument is a parlor piano with the lid thrown back or a distortion pedal with the case cracked loose. In this band, orthodoxy and unorthodoxy flow together as one.
Neptune: Gong Lake
Behold: Neptune, the most harrowingly original band on this planet ? or the next. Its three members are, in turn, musicians, sculptors, scientists, blacksmiths, electricians, and industrial machinists; relentlessly inventive, possibly sane. Together, they construct all of their instruments, forging guitars and drums out of circular saw blades, gas tanks, oil drums, bike parts, VCR casings, and miscellany from the trash. Electronics, and even cords, are homemade as well. The combined effect is a bizarre, post-apocalyptic mélange of steel, iron, wire, rust, rivet, knob, and cable; it's lunacy, arc-welded for maximum destruction. Concerts are seizures of motion. Wearing 40-pound guitars assembled entirely from scrap metal, the members don't play their instruments ? they battle them, like mechanized golems. But make no mistake, this is not simply art with sharp edges and serious customs issues. Neptune rocks. Hard. Recalling the slapdash angularity of The Fall, the rhythmic ack-ack blasts of This Heat, and the sheer proto-clangor of Einstuerzende Neubauten, they count as one of the best experimental rock bands of any era. Their dynamic, expertly wrought songs and skilled improvisations don't start; they explode. _Gong Lake_ is the band's first unlimited CD release, and with it the world will discover what fans of their live shows have known for years: Neptune is otherworldly.
Collections of Colonies of Bees: Birds
Collections of Colonies of Bees sweep in grandly, in billowing swarms of sound, bourn aloft on a thousand wings of minuscule, elegant detail. Guitars chime and soar; deft yet intensely focused percussion propels towards an inevitable dawn; covering it all is a gossamer veil of subtly nuanced electronica. Their CD Birds is joyous, epic minimalism in exquisite registration, a sound that is dazzling ? and as sweet as honey taken straight from the comb.
Jon Mueller: Metals
Percussionist Jon Mueller works with rhythms that come from gong frequencies, from vibrations of the bodies of bass drums, and the surprising sonorities that occur with the combination of these elements. Now he applies these techniques to his latest solo effort, to stunning effect: Metals is, as its name suggests, a bold, all-percussion foray into heavy metal.
No theatrical silliness here; just sheer exhilaration; the fundamental power of loud, organized, precise rhythms; ringing, heavy anti-melodies. It's this sound, in the many forms it has taken over the years, that continually inspires new philosophies, drives independent thinking, and causes hundreds of thousands of people to bang their heads. Jon Mueller takes it, shapes it and makes it his own.