Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Amazing Caves, Age of Disinformation in Sound Projector

We love the U.K.-published Sound Projector, which really is the best challenging music mag out there, going a step beyond The Wire and its ilk into the true underground.

Happily, the Sound Projector loves us too, evidenced by this, published in the latest, greatest, and highly recommended issue #19 (2011):

Zanzibar Snails
Journey Into Amazing Caves!

Zanzibar Snails are the noisy improvising crusaders built around the core duo of Nevada Hill (guitar) and Michael Chamy (oscillators and tone generators), well represented on this "concept" CD + DVD double-pack. The music disk, where they're joined by percussionist David Lee Price and sax player Mike Forbes for one track, presents their distinctive brand of uglified electronic feedback and oscillating spillages recorded in 2006-07, producing slowly swelling sounds that are every bit as craggy as the stalactites they purport to depict. Not since Stockhausen descended into the caves of Jeita in 1969 to give his infamous live concerts has avant-garde noise exhibited such an intimate relationship with the world beneath the ground (excepting of course the famous 1974 LP by Rick Wakeman). It's quite a sprawling listen - the title track alone is 20 minutes long, with a three minute coda following directly afterwards – but it's good to hear the Snails stretching out and giving themselves sufficient leeway to thoroughly explore this imaginary interior space. My initial impression, especially on the opening cut, is that it's Hill's guitar that makes most impact, where his characteristic restraint allows him to punch home every discordant note with the assurance of a skilled riveter. Minimal figures, odd shapes and droney strums slightly enhanced with robust echo and reverb effects are thrown off from his freeboard; his stabs and swipes act like shards of light from the helmets of this spelunking team, occasionally illuminating the wonders of the cave world. As for Chamy, it's his task to create the virtual walls of said cave, and he provides a very convincing simulacrum with his incredibly heavy analogue tones, effectively summoning up not just the sheer weight of the rock pressing down upon us. but a clammy, claustrophobic atmosphere that almost seeps into your very lungs. This is a slow, abstract and relentless journey, and if played in the dark will probably induce very oppressive effects in your mind, causing screams and helpless gasps for air.

'Gilded Stars & Garters' offers us a breath of fresh air above ground for some 6-7 minutes, unless we've simply entered a volcanic grotto where the phosphorescent glow of microbes clustered on the rocks is creating an eerie impression of daylight. The subtly-filtered electronic tones shift up and down, gradually thickening the air, and the performance is darkened further by the snarly uncertain saxophone effects from Mike Forbes. Then it's back to the lower depths once again, with a 23-minute version of the theme, this time with added violence and paranoia - fragments of scrabbly noise, discordant guitar attacks and volcanic electronic bursts that suggest the whole expedition is taking a turn for the worse. Much more variety across this version of the 'Caves' saga (with added "pepth derception", according to the subtitle), which still sustains the grim and bleak mood of this place where danger lurks in every tunnel. You'll emerge from the experience to find you have adopted all the characteristics of a mole: little slitty eyes for seeing in the dark, body structure like a spade, and powerful claws for digging. Dig?

The release comes with a DVD called Carbage Goma, a more recent musical performance by the Snails enhanced with wild visual additions from David Lee Price; Seth Sherman brings his acoustic guitar, and there's also a welcome return from Josh McWhirter and his diabolical viola. You won't see much of the band on this mind-murking visual explosion from Price, but you will see plenty of dazzling computer effects, colour-field experiments, and surreal close-ups of ill-fitting objects that produce a memorable psychedelic broth.

Age Of Disinformation
Age Of Disinformation
Nothing to do with the English art project Disinformation, Age Of Disinformation was a onetime collaboration between six Texan players from similar-minded underground music ventures, The six calling themselves a 'lucid nightmare supergroup'. Michael Chamy, from Zanzibar Snails, is one contributor; the others are Aaron Gonzalez, Mike Maxwell, Jon Teague, Kenny Withrow and Kim Corbet, members of marginal groups around Fort Worth, Denton, and Dallas, all of them playing many electronic instruments, keyboards, percussion and guitar; wherever possible doing so quite intuitively and all at the same time. Voices, both narrated and sampled, also form part of the dense infusion. At the instigation of Gonzalez, these six gathered to play at a certain locale in 2008, and issued with vague and stark performance instructions by the leader, whose aim was to make a subconscious statement about the contemporary problem we all face in society: information-bombardment, and the damage this saturation of data may be causing to our collective spiritual condition. These seven tracks may have been edited down from a much longer continuous session of ambient free-form spiraling and spinning. What results from all the above is a slowly rotating whirlpool of over-filled musical and verbal gibberish, with no clear guidance to the listener about how to navigate around this swamp of vaguely unpleasant fetid noise.There is, I think, some benign intention to improve mankind's lot through this experiment; one hoped-for outcome is "the formation of the eternal Unimind", which may sound a little Mr. Spock, but at least it's more constructive than wallowing in a pessimistic state of anticommunication, or plotting destruction of the world through harsh electronic noise. The intended sensations of confusion, jumblement and disarray are further expressed in the colourful collage sprawl on the front cover, and the curlicued, nigh-unreadable texts on the interior.
Quite compelling.

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