Industrial Electronic Noise
Desperate Spirits – August 1, 2017
Jeanne Vomit-Terror is the cofounder of Lexington’s Resonant Hole collective and has been making and releasing music for the last six or seven years. Among other things, she released a pair of singles in 2010, put out the very catchy “The Seat of Same” with Ed Sunspot in 2013, and has had a track on each of the two Desperate Spirits Compilations – Lady Parts! and White Power is for Dummies. This release, The Quixotrix Tapes, Vol. 1, listens much like a continuous live set of improvisatory industrial electronic music, straying in atmosphere from Jeanne’s previous releases.
The album opens with “Intestinal Waltz,” albeit a thick, dissonant waltz at the pace of a dirge – for much of the track you feel the time in the overblown first and third beat of each measure. The time in “Brank’d” is held steady by a rumblingly low synthesizer, but the distorted percussion falls right around it, disorienting the listener as Jeanne places a repeated six-note motif throughout the mix at random. The track elides into “Silken Scourge,” where a keyboard plays a shrill ascending scale atop a mix of electronics that shimmer and thud simultaneously. The darkly catchy “At the Mirror School” grooves with a quick intensity, and features the album’s only lyrics, making reference to a previous JVT track. “The Interior Eye” closes the album – it’s among the lengthiest tracks of this release, and is arguably the harshest and least anchored to a tempo among them.
This is not the nearly-danceable electronic pop you may have heard previously from Jeanne Vomit-Terror – if anything, it most resembles the recently released “Youth Infection.” That said, this isn’t random noise, either – Jeanne is thoughtful in the way she picks the melodic, rhythmic, and textural motifs, incorporating them into each track with intention. Combined with the distortion, dissonance, and heft of industrial electronic percussion and synthesizers, The Quixotrix Tapes, Vol. 1 is a disorienting album whose atmosphere engulfs and transports the listener out of reality.
Tracks I Liked: Intestinal Waltz!, Brank’d!!, Silken Scourge!!, At the Mirror School!!!, The Interior Eye!
Ben Southworth – July 30, 2017 – Post Road
Indie // Ambient Math Rock
Self Released – July 11, 2017
Lexington’s Jandergan released their new EP, Tilted Heads last week, and celebrated on Saturday with an album release show with ATTEMPT. Tilted Heads is the first new music from Jandergan in a couple years – it follows up another EP from 2014, Neighbor, as well as “Two is Glue,” a single from 2015.
“Waxwing” leads off the EP, and almost immediately, it’s noticeably more intense than much of what I’d head from them. The band’s five members nimbly maneuver through mathy sections, crashing them in to one another with ease – the latter half of the song sets up a great guitar duet that races faster and faster toward the end of the song. The EP’s title track is quick and disorienting, building through one dense section toward another, before suddenly settling into a dreamy, lengthy outro. “Good Mourning (for David)” is a touching meditation on a person’s final moments, and a great example of the band’s ability to play and compose beautifully. Despite slowing things down for this track, Jandergan maintains an intensity and tightness in their timekeeping, which only further adds to the haziness of things. Fading in from the previous song, “Anxious for a Change” mixes in synthesized bass and distantly distorted guitars to great effect as the band explores distrust and discontent of our society, singing “don’t ask what keeps everybody so … anxious for a change.” “Sleepless Decisions” brings the album to a close – after a wildly fast intro, it changes colors into something much dreamier, before carrying the EP with lots of momentum towards a great ending.
Tilted Heads is richly captured EP of complex songs – dense sections with many busy parts never get bogged down, and it’s great to be able to listen in on each individual’s part. The group is talented, pulling off complicated chord and rhythm changes with seeming ease, allowing the music to sound effortless. Those who’ve heard Jandergan before this will likely notice some changes to the sound here. They’ve expanded at either end of their dramatic range – sections of high intensity stretch even higher, and the more serene moments are more beautiful and further developed than ever before.
Tracks I Liked: Waxwing!!, Tilted Heads!, Good Mourning (for David)!!!, Sleepless Decisions!
Ben Southworth – July 16, 2017 – Post Road
Underground Lexington Sounds
Desperate Spirits – June 23, 2017
Desperate Spirits follows up their first Lexington-based compilation with another – this time one of all female-identifying artists, with label co-founder, Kim Smith, at the curating helm. Spanning eighteen tracks, the compilation collects many of Lexington’s finest, as well as artists with ties to Lexington now living elsewhere.
Like the music on White Power is for Dummies, the sounds on Lady Parts! span a wide range of musical sounds. The compilation opens with “Hold On,” contributed by Reva Dawn Salon – it mostly features an uptempo string band, save for a colorfully contrasting bridge. Coralee’s “Kick My Heart” is a beautiful, low-key track with lots of atmosphere; soon after, For the Crown mixes their clear voices over a funk-tinged industrial-synth track on “Hands Where I Can See Them.” Jeanne Vomit-Terror’s “The Author and His Egg” is a quick, dizzyingly heavy electronic punk track; the rich string arrangements of “Moon Song” by Kate Wakefield provide an aural contrast a couple songs later. Powder Room’s “I Watch You Sleep” is an infectious listen, toeing the line between calm and unsettling; following that, “Resolve” by Italian Beaches features Reva Williams’ voice on top of an always great mix of dense synthesizers and behind-the-beat drums.
Compilations are a great way of finding new music you might not have heard otherwise – I’d never heard of several artists on this compilation, and I’d been meaning to hear many others. Lexington is fortunate to have an abundance of talented female artists, and Lady Parts! gives you only taste of many musicians who have much more to listen to. Purchase a copy on Desperate Spirits’ Bandcamp, and 100% of proceeds go to the Kentucky Health Justice Network, whose mission includes supporting direct services to healthcare access, education and advocacy for reproductive health in the Commonwealth.
Tracks I Liked: (All of them, but especially) Reva Dawn Salon (“Hold On”)!!, Coralee (“Kick My Heart”)!, For the Crown (“Hands Where I Can See Them”)!!, Jeanne Vomit-Terror (“The Author and His Egg”)!, Kate Wakefield (“Moon Song”)!!, Oh My Me (“Where the Red One Goes”)!, Powder Room (“I Watch You Sleep”)!!, Italian Beaches (“Resolve”)!!!
Ben Southworth – July 2, 2017 – Post Road
Dreamy Baroque Folk
Self Released – April 21, 2017
Last summer, Austin Wilkerson made his residence in an old farmhouse and recorded this album. Altruisms is largely his invention – the record is ten songs of refreshingly creative and personal music. It opens with “Come to the Garden,” a track that very effectively sets the tone and color of the album to come. After a quick, rich intro, Austin’s voice dances lightly over an odd meter as he sings “life never is what we want it to be, I’ll never know all the secrets it keeps.” “Worthy” bounces back and forth from a hazy, finger-picked guitar and a more upbeat feel – the transition into the final verse is almost startlingly rich. The world appears from nothing on “Creation Song,” as Austin joyously sings “I can hear the oceans forming, I can see the mountains rise, I know it’s good, oh yeah!”
“Memory Harp” begins with ringing bells before layers and layers of acoustic guitar form the song’s foundation – each section flows seamlessly into the next, constantly evolving so that no moment is wasted. Austin’s string accompaniment is used most effectively on “Elegy,” where the double bass echoes the melody of his lyrics after he sings “in my dreams I follow soundlessly down to the water, there I spy your body shimmering beneath the moonlight.” “Called from Above” begins with sounds of nature set behind an acoustic guitar, before the song leads the listener through another set of delicately placed sections of dreamy music. As an album, Altruisms never settles into a single sound for more than a minute or two – even several times through, I am still hearing new things on each listen. The music is beautiful and personal: it breathes air of compassion and beauty.
Tracks I Liked: Come to the Garden!!, Worthy!!!, Creation Song!!, Towers by the Sea!, Memory Harp!!, Jeremiah!, Elegy!!!, Called from Above!!, Valley of the Bees!
Ben Southworth – June 4, 2017 – Post Road
Bubbly Electronic Pop
Desperate Spirits – June 2, 2017
Big Fresh (and its leader, John Ferguson) are icons of Lexington music. They’ve released a handful of albums since their start in the late 90s – the most recent full album, Moneychasers, came out in 2011 (and was one of the first Lexington-made records I ever bought), they put out a couple songs in 2016, and now have plans to release a pair of EPs in 2017. The first of those, Fall Preview, is a five-song trip through the band’s style and musicality – each with its own personality and a different guest singing lead.
“Tongku” is fronted by Beijing’s Bianbian, opening with a trio of guitar, piano, and shakers that give the track the feel of a ticking clock. The vocals here are in Mandarin (Google Translate tells me that Tòngkǔ means ‘pain’ or ‘suffering’), but the song’s lovely vocal melody conveys a balanced mixture of joy and melancholy. Robert Schneider, Ferguson’s bandmate in The Apples in Stereo, sings on “Paralyzed,” the EP’s first single. The song is a fast-moving pop track, buoyant with whirring synthesizers and horn lines, covering Ferguson’s upbringing in rural, Christian Kentucky as Schneider sings “I used to sing of a heaven far way, where no one ever dies.”
Former Big Fresh singer, Kate Pope, takes the lead on “Yes Yes Yes,” which feels the most like songs from Moneychasers to me: it’s a funky track with pulsing synth bass and quick stabs from trombone and saxophone. ATTEMPT’s Trevor Tremaine takes us through “Rock ‘n’ Roll Beans,” a short, ridiculously fun track that name drops Bruce lee, Lee Iacocca, and the Ayatollah (among others). The EP ends with “Like Swayze,” sung by Lexington’s Michelle Hollis. It’s a smoky, piano-driven slow jam that crescendos through a heavy second chorus before descending into a disorienting haze.
Fall Preview covers a great range of sounds, thanks in larger part to its many guest singers, but it’s tough to imagine these songs without Ferguson and the other constant pieces in Big Fresh’s sound. The group continues its reputation as one with a knack for unusual (sometimes tongue-in-cheek) pop songs, but the musicality, fidelity, and colors on this EP elevate the music to a new level. Fall Preview is full of substance while remaining fresh and hugely fun – it’s a great EP, and Big Fresh is a listening experience I can’t recommend enough.
Tracks I Liked: Tongku!, Paralyzed!!, Yes Yes Yes!, Rock ‘n’ Roll Beans!, Like Swayze!!!
Ben Southworth – May 25, 2017 – Kenwick Place