Dania – V/A “High Bias: Music from the Book” (self released) Wicked Piss – Colon Sorcery (Gay Hippie Vampire) Jim Rats – Perfuser (No Rent) Living Room – Intellectual Shit (Bizzaro Warrior) Larry Wish – Capricorn Sun (Orange Milk) Wolf Dad – Wolf Dad Must Die! (Ephem Aural) The Gate – Scum (Tubapede) Organized Cream – s/t (Swaylor) Justice League of America – My Uncle Geno’s Band (Strange Mono) John Swana – ABOHM (GALTTA)
Drążek Fuscaldo / Thymme Jones – Wings Dipped in Fire
11.09.23 by Matty McPherson
They say that first love can be sweet, the kind with “craft” tacos and cassettes on the go. It’s where I met with Feeding Tube records, the crate digging record shop with ties to one of those Forced Exposure zine writers who never stopped writing about tapes (Bryon Coley of course, is always a joy to skim and take note of within the Wire). Anyways, Feeding Tube had been out over summer porting a 2022, polish release of a 66 edition vinyl of jazz happenings from Chicago. One featuring their old pals from Mako Sica. Meanwhile I was into dipping fish tacos (with strawberries) into borrego broth. We wouldn’t be equals anywhere else but under the low hanging ceiling and halloween decorations. What was this desert serenade? One lost in its own dream?
Mako Sica–a trio, now recording as a duo–Przemysław Krys Drążek & Brent Fuscaldo have been long standing practicioners in the free noise wold. Astral Spirits-co release LPs, Galactic Tape Archive pressings, amongst a smattering of long standing psychedelic jazz type works. Including the delectable Ronda with Hamid Drake! There’s less of a running theme to these endeavors as much as a long standing mindset. A true passion to letting one note chord progressions and drones document vast hinterlands; the kinds of High Aura’d or Serpent Season in years past, sprawling along the time limitation of a vinyl, adeptly adapting to cassette.
Wings Dipped in Fire is a deft, patient introduction to their world of jazzy outsider ambience of what Drążek & Fuscaldo (fka Mako Sica) are capable of. Recorded at Chicago Electrical Audio, the duo team up with Thymme Jones. Credited with walkie talkie, melodica, trumpet, drum set, & organ, Jones brings about beguiling, layered details to these tracks. Their minimal, often based around a “one-note better than two notes at all” approach that capturing the sly shifts that can come when one element steps out and another steps in. With Jones as a third, the perchance for groove and depth perk up. On Side A’s Inner and Outer Demons, Fuscaldo’s bass dominates the groove, but it is Jones’ melodica that provides a buoyant force to deepen it. It helps that the instrument functions as a disarming dissonance from Fuscaldo’s lyricism and tales. It reappears after Drążek’s nocturnal trumpet solo against his own organ drones and Fuscaldo hypnotic bass, itself drone to the tenth degree, as if to summon a bridge to the astral, gothic energy that dominates the terminal third.
A peaceful desolation marks Side B’s Veil is Thinning. The kind of territory that Ben Chasny’s Six Organs seems to fall into during flashes of the hexadic era in particular. A lulling classic guitar motif that practically collapses in on itself; foggy kind of melody. One that Fuscaldo happens to chop through. Drążek’s horn elongates and practically loosens to the stars as if to call for Cosey Fanny Tutti, while Jones tinkers with walkie talkies calcifying the distance to this desert dimension. It’s a dimension that contains drums as much as the minimalist dread of Seventeen Seconds in its downright dancable terminal third. When they let as loose as this, the tape itself feels as revelrous as a wedding. Considering Drążek Fuscaldo’s (& Jones’) approach to sound, it’s hard not to see it as such.
You might assume that the artist behind a solo guitar endeavor would be the kind of person to regularly hop atop their Marshall amp and flash the devil horns before ripping off solo after righteously technical solo as pyrotechnics erupt around the circular stage they’re clearly performing on in front of thousands of admiring fans. But no number of metal faces flashed or tongues wagged in defiance of the rules will matter if the music is all flash, no substance. It’s easy to judge a guitar hero based on the surface characteristics, but what happens when you get beneath the façade? What happens when you expose the gaping void at the center of their being, when you hold a mirror up to their true self to show them how empty their gestures are? That double middle finger to the establishment is reflected right back at them, and it can be rude awakening.
I know. I’ve lived it.
But there’s a flip side to this, where the guitar hero looks not to accumulate outward accolades but to search inward to find their true self at the center of their being. This is more along the lines of what Zona Zanjeros has done here with Koy Pond, an experimental guitar mediation gone nuclear, its blast radius extending far beyond Zanjeros physical presence and out into the wider Brooklyn neighborhood in which this was recorded in a single session, likely leveling a few blocks in the process. (Sorry, everyone!) Yes, this is just Zanjeros and a guitar (and Ableton). Yes, this is released under the moniker “Computer,” suggesting deep technical programming and orderly execution. And yes, I imagine myself peacefully looking at fish at first. But then it gets weird, and wild, and finally, I think Zanjeros ends up on top of a Marshall amplifier, flipping two birds at whoever’s closest.
Because who’s to say this is really a guitar at all? It’s amazingly varied, with Zanjeros virtually following every whim available clouding the instrument in effects, recording it at all kinds of levels, sending the notes/sounds/patterns careening in all sorts of directions, sometimes off cliffs. Where “Computer” becomes a proper moniker is in the processing, as it’s clearly fussed with, much to the delight of all zoner freaks who want nothing more than their minds melted or crispily fried like shorting-out effects pedals. Wait a minute – Zona, zoners? Not coincidental. As these passages stretch past reasonable runtimes and into contemplative headspace, we’re left to ponder the internal, the meeting of technology and human interaction with it, blanketing ourselves in silver sheens of static and ducking from phased pings of freaky fretwork. Getting to the heart of ourselves. Peering into the heart of Computer.
You are a mere six dollars away from this trip yourself – and only three copies of the original run of sixty-five are available from Drongo Tapes! You know what to do.
Rules are meant to be broken. The idea of setting creative rules for yourself – in SPLLIT’s case, recording two distinct sides of a record from two songwriters in a day’s time – can be tantilizing as an artist. It creates a process, a goal, a narrative, and an eventual ideal to be trampled on for your followup. This is the situation SPLLIT find themselves in for Infinite Hatch, their second full length release and first true cohesive album length statement. The Baton Rouge post-punk duo’s (known professionally as MARANCE and URQ) first record, Spllit Sides, featured seven new songs and several more from an older cassette-only release. Infinite Hatch finds the team starting from the ground up for a batch of twelve stretchy, bouncy jams.
The core of SPLLIT’s sound has always been a merging of Palm-style mathy post-punk with DIY egg-punk sensibilities. Egg-punk (a term I hate, but one that sadly has meaning) is a tough genre to break into these days because, like with most punk subgenres, the lack of innovation in the genre means bands just iterate on each other endlessly. There’s two approaches you can take to skirt around this: you can either spend the money to record your quirky bursts in a real studio (à la Snooper, which turned out great for them) or you can inject real ideas into your music. SPLLIT chooses the latter.
SPLLIT’s biggest strength lies in mashing together seemingly disparate pieces, like on “Cloaking” where the band smash cuts loping verses into a hardcore-flavored outro. Infinite Hatch as a whole feels like that over its runtime, but when you dig into the individual pieces (like the skittering drum machine bits in “Dorks Tried” or “Bevy Slew”’s tempo fluctuations around one central theme) you notice something: there is one singular sonic world that this whole album takes place in. SPLLIT has created their own unique sonic palette right outside the edge of easy comparison. Everything comes in twos – vocals, drums, guitars. Layers upon layers of sound add up to some truly caterwauling, freeform punk. Rarely does this kind of trek into odd time signatures and herky-jerky rhythms sound this fun, which is the other big component of the SPLLIT sound world. Tracks like “Gemini Moods (Return)” sound joyful without being cloying. It’s easy to imagine the studio mania that accompanied the splatty keyboards and meter changes and even easier to feel invited to dance along with the band.
Infinite Hatch is a tough album to crack, but the invitation into its world is a tempting one. Every time I return to it, I turn over a new stone and find a new bleep, bloop, or percussion whack to appreciate. I’m drawn to albums like this – homespun patchworks of found sounds and dreamed up soundscapes from creative minds too weird to be pinned down. SPLLIT leveled up big time on Infinite Hatch. It’s a dispatch from two songwriters bursting at the seam with ideas. There’s a large part of me that hopes that other punk bands take a page out of their book – stretch out, loosen up, and don’t be afraid to sound demented while you’re doing it.
Sometimes you need an outlet. A way to blow off steam. An activity where you can let your guard down, be a little more vulnerable, do something a little different. When you’re Daniel Provenzano, bass slinger extraordinaire for Philly wild things Writhing Squares, whose main gig lets him blow off plenty of steam through an unending stream of psychedelic skronk alongside partner-in-craziness Kevin Nickles, and whose records are unending blasts of fist-pumping agitation aimed directly at the heart of convention, that outlet is less a feral pouring out of adrenaline and more an inward grasp toward solitude, a scrabbling at the door to the outer world to slam it shut in the face of constant stimulation. And when you call Philly home (and trust me, I know Philly), sometimes that self-imposed peace and quiet can be a life preserver.
Whether or not Dan truly needed to escape, he certainly receded in his work as Induced Geometry. On his self-titled tape for Trouble in Mind, Dan “began this project trying to make static, featureless music that was the same in all directions – isotropic, geometric, devoid of feeling.” Channeling “the minimalist composers” (while also apologizing to them, which he didn’t need to do at all but was a nice gesture nonetheless, just in case), Dan creates synthesizer patterns that repeat and fold, skimming and shivering soundwaves that conjure up primitive 3D computer graphics, or at least early attempts at MS Paint design. Hanging on tones and motifs until they merge with imagination and become decorative scaffolding on which more tones can be hung if they need to, Dan twiddles knobs and presses buttons and adjusts plugins and applies filters, all in the service of making sense of the inner workings of his private, non–Writing Squares existence.
But Dan is a total and complete failure. See, his initial attempts at “featureless” and “devoid of feeling” electronic experiments quickly became something else, and while there’s a bit of antisociality to the results, Dan himself has done a complete 180 on these tracks, calling them “some of the most personal [pieces of] music I’ve ever recorded.” They’re certainly labored over and well considered, and it’s easy to imagine the interiority of the process of crafting these works. Dan clearly turned inward and excavated a part of himself that he fashioned into the music, giving it a poignancy that perhaps he didn’t intend at first. But, fortunately for all of us, we’re left with a lot more than just “minimalist electronic synth music” for which its creator felt the need to (again, needlessly) apologize. Instead we have one person’s account of rejecting spazz and embracing personal calm, to our total selfish benefit as an audience. We should be so lucky to find such tranquility within ourselves.
This tape is Trouble in Mind’s Explorers Series vol. 31, and it comes housed in a lovely thick cardstock O-card that looks foil stamped – but isn’t! Great presentation.