Monday, June 9, 2008

BROWN DWARF/ D & N reviews

PINK edition of BROWN DWARF almost sold out, as most of the remaining are Brown as pictured here.

BROWN DWARF and D & N are available in North Texas at Good Records in Dallas and Recycled Records and Strawberry Fields in Denton, and nationally at this very site and through Tomentosa Records.

(great UK underground mag and blog)

Zanzibar Snails, noted in issue 16, are back again with a new CD in a hand-made screenprinted digipack. The delirious Brown Dwarf (MAYYRH RECORDS MYH05) features this Texan improvising collective as a four-piece incarnation, including Michael Chamy who works with live electronics and tape loops and also produced the record. Effectively one long piece divided for ease of handling into five named suites, Brown Dwarf delivers a mightily twisted and incredibly dense lump of sonic dough. Given the slightly suffocating atmosphere they brew, it's impressive how some of the key instruments – the sharply-angsted viola of Josh McWhirter for example – manage to float to the surface of this rolling planet of rich electro-acoustic swampery. The Snails' electric guitarist Nevada Hill also appears on the 3-incher D&N (MYH03) with David Lee Price, to forge a collection of eight introspective guitar-scapes that gradually suck you into mesmerising fields of ambiguity. Which isn't a bad psychological sensation for this time of year, but if you want something guaranteed to make you feel decidedly ill (in a good way, I must stress), then it's the Snails CD for you.


By Jesse Hughey
Published: May 29, 2008
"Experimental" is a frequently misapplied term when it comes to music. But when it comes to Zanzibar Snails—the brainchild of former Dallas Observer freelancer Michael Chamy on shortwave, oscillators and generators and guitarist Nevada Hill—there's hardly a more fitting word. Their performances are improvised, combining elements as earthy and familiar as viola and acoustic guitar with otherworldly sounds like screeching electronics and disembodied voices picked up on a shortwave.

Brown Dwarf is a live recording of a performance at Hailey's in Denton, although you'd never know it, as there's absolutely no crowd noise as Chamy and Hill are aided by Seth Sherman on acoustic guitar and Josh McWhirter on viola and tapes. It's a single composition of tuneless viola, short-wave transmissions, buzzing electronics and a single guitar chord hypnotically strummed for what seems like forever.

It drones on for 34 minutes, divided into five tracks. Ambient soundscapes consisting solely of white noise and the occasional guitar note stretch on for minutes at a time. But just as you get comfortable, the calm is broken by a jarring outburst of distressed electronics or frantic viola abuse. Alternately distressing and soothing, Brown Dwarf is an immersive and perversely enjoyable experience.


With bonus BROWN DWARF MP3 download and video from a recent live show at Rubber Gloves in Denton.


Zanzibar Snails -- BROWN DWARF [Mayyrh Records]

Denton, TX sure is a hotbed of psych-lovin' weirdness; Zanzibar Snails are the latest to drink the tainted water and start hallucinating. Recorded live in October, 2007, the five tracks here are all merely divisions in one long performance (approximately 35 minutes) featuring Josh McWhirler on viola and tapes, Michael Chamy on shortwave, loops, and generators, Seth Sherman (ex-Early Lines) on acoustic guitar, and Nevada Hill on electric guitar. Essentially ambient music peppered with a growing plethora of disembodied voices, strange electronic frippery, and other near-random effluvia, the disc starts off with low-key humming and droning and gradually -- so slowly that by the time you realize something new is happening, it dawns on you that it's been happening for a while now -- the ambient fog fills up with repetitive, dreamlike noises like sleepy voices chanting vague nonsense over and over, along with peculiar sounds and steady but minimal guitar strumming that after a while hardly even sounds like guitar anymore, and the infusion of sounds continues, with the sonic landscape growing steadily more dense and cluttered while somehow remaining light and airy sounding. The increasinly loud guitar clang does move the piece out of ambient territory after a while, along with the avalanche of sounds, but then everything but the guitars and a background hum dies away, and toward the end the sound is dominated mainly by low-level amp hum, plunking acoustic guitar, and incredibly slow guitar strumming. Eventually viola and other noises (shortwave, perhaps?) rise up as well, and the density of sound builds up again, but the sound never grows as quite as powerfully dense or wildly agitated as before, until the disc finally fades out in a whirl of audio chatter. Mesmerizing in a strange and alien way, like listening to hippies in the park after drinking acid-spiked punch. Bonus points for the cool handmade digipack sleeve in the cool earth-tone colors.

Nevada Hill / David Price -- D & N 3" cdr [Mayyrh Records]

This 3-inch cdr contains five "N" tracks recorded from Nevada Hill's home in the D/FW area and three "D" tracks recorded from Price's home in Austin; in addition, additional instrumentation and tinkering took place after the fact by both artists, resulting in a homebrew recording that is both a split release and a remote collaboration. Nevada Hill provides guitar, oscillator, thuds, and room tapes; David Lee Price provides percussion, synths, and field recordings. The eight tracks are sequenced in mixed order on the disc, in a manner that makes it feel like one long piece divided into eight discrete sections, with a sound palette that grows wider and weirder as the disc progresses. The overall effect is a brief epic of shifting drones and cryptic noisemaking, an eerie trip through the cars of an audio ghost train -- similar, in fact, to the Zanzibar Snails (of which Hill is a member) disc reviewed elsewhere in this issue, only more sparse and possibly even creepier. The dialogue taking place between these musicians is a mysterious and jumbled one, a sound whose ambience is frequently overtaken by the random nature of field recordings. It's strange stuff, yes, but alluring in a haunted and disjointed sort of way.

Mayyrh Records

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