Friday, February 27, 2009

Hip-Hop Fridays: Raw Breed "Lune Tunz" (1993)

Raw Breed came out of the Bronx in 1993 with their Onyx-styled debut, Lune Tunz, which garnered mild underground praise and has since been left in the dust by mightier East Coast records of the same era. The MCs here all play the same character--red-throated and so "insane" that they can barely spit the words out fast enough. The choruses are all pretty much the same here, which is basically 5 guys simultaneously shouting out the song title over and over again. This may sound a little repetitive, which it can be, but the saving grace here is the production. The hardcore East Coast sound is upfront here; short, low-end piano loops and quick horn stabs keep yr head bobbing while dark bass keeps the mood heavy. The combination of the two actually make out for an awesome listen. The lyrics aren't quite as heavy the above description would make it seem, instead, these odd cats spend much time rapping cartoon-y nonsense, hence the album title. All of it makes for quite the juxtaposing listen. Oh yeah, a very young Rahzel makes a few appearances here, including the odd introduction to the record!

How Many Lumps?


Rabbit Stew video


Monday, February 23, 2009

Expressway's Guide to Vancouver's Cassette Underground

It seems as if every big and little city across North America has at least one cassette-producing label, usually documenting the farther reaches of each city's underground scene. Well, needless to say, Vancouver has more than it's fair share of labels pumping out those little fuckers. After the decidedly successful post on the Cassette Underground (got a shout out from Arthur, ya'll), I've concocted this quickie guide to Vancouver's vibrant cassette culture...

Isolated Now Waves.
The grandaddy of all Vancouver cassette labels has been pumpin' 'em out real steady-like for several years now. INW was my intro to the cassette culture here in Vancouver and they continue to release some of the finest underground hissings from right here in Vancouver and abroad. Packaging from INW can range from incredibly simplistic to eye-bulging over-the-top silliness. Best package I've managed to snatch from them was their Black Dicks (featuring members of Shearing Pinx, Stamina Mantis and Twin Crystals) cassette that was encased within a small painting on canvas, limited to a mere 33 copies. Each painting being unique from the next. The ultimate in limited cassette fetish, which is why I love these guys so much. Nearing almost 200 releases (these are not all cassettes but they do, however, comprise the bulk of the label) INW shows no signs of slowing, and peers trying to keep up with this vanity label's output are few and far between.

Thankless Records.
I've always considered Thankless to be the little brother label to INW, as the two release cassettes (and some CDRs) by many of the same local artists. 64 releases of mostly all Vancouver outsider acts have made Thankless one of the primary documentarians of our potent noise/improv scene.

Rundownsun's cassette output has been fairly quiet over the last year, which is most likely due to the Tunnel Canary LP re-issue that must have cost a small fortune to put out (by the way, have you seen the deluxe version of that thing? Get a copy before they're kaput, which is about to happen any day now). Anyways, Rundownsun have dropped some of the finest crafted cassettes I e'er laid eyes on (they even garnered a year-end shout out from those taste makers over at Bull Tongue), not to mention some of the most confounding and intriguing sound art and noise these poor ears have had the joy to soak up. Though there have been many local releases, including a fairly recent cassette by the now world-renowned visual artist Eli Bornowsky (a few tapes still available! snatch 'em before they're a small fortune on ebay), Rundownsun has also dropped releases from Kevin Shields (no, not that Kevin Shields), Richard Ramirez and Emaciator. Upcoming cassette releases by BT. HN. (collab between Sick Buildings and THE RITA), a cassette by Robe and Allied, and a triple cassette release by Ian Wyatt should see the label back on it's feet in the cassette arena.

Critiscum Internationale.
Not exactly an offshoot of Rundownsun but run by the same cat, Josh Rose and his better half in the punishing duo Blouse, Ian Gregory James. There's only one release under their belt so far, which is the first Blouse cassette, but the duo have a flurry of activity planned for '09. Looks like the first release to drop will not be a cassette but a 7" by local punk shredders Nu Sensae. A cassette releases by Black Mage is in the works, and there are a few other goodies planned for the near future. If this label looks and sounds half as good as Rundownsun, then Vancouver is in for a treat.

Smoke Filled Casket.
Local noise guru, Michael Piercey (aka Seagull, Crotch and Wwhite Cloudss?), has been quietly releasing some Canadian harsh noise via his Smoke Filled Casket imprint, which already has close to 50 releases. Along with dozens of cassette releases, SFC has also released several small runs of business card-shaped 3" CDRs, which usually contain solo blasts of white noise and are only playable in discmans or top-loading players. Everyone still has a discman, right?

Outside of his webpage, these release can be difficult to track down unless you know the man. I managed to strong arm Michael into bringing a few cassette releases down to Zulu, so you can snatch a few there. Don't be intimidated by the man's stature--he's just about the friendliest cat shredding ears in Vancouver right now. Oh yah, he's also is killing it with his vinyl-only Ketchup Cavern label. Two forthcoming LP releases by Aidan motherfuckin Baker and 7"s by Robedoor and Aaron Dilloway should see KC skyrocket in 'o9.

And finally we have the newest contender in Vancouver's vibrant cassette culture, Halved. Run by the mastermind behind scrapyard-drone outfit Empress, Halved has dropped it's first release mere weeks back with a cassette by the mysterious Black "Mother" Strukof. 26 copies, one for each letter of the alphabet and each comes with it's own letter ripped directly outta the dictionary. I'm sure we can expect this kind of ingenuity with each forthcoming release, of which there appear to be a few lined up already. Keep an eye on this one...

**Last minute addition**
Cassette Or Die!
Almost forgot about these guys, but their tapes are hard to come by and come in such short runs that you really can't blame a guy. Anyways, COD! is the tape arm of the Grotesque Modern imprint, a Vancouver vinyl label the specializes in documenting the local punk scene. While Grotesque Modern have been releasing some awesome 7"s and that jaw-dropping ER compilation, COD! is a the gnarly, snaggle-toothed little brother that has been intent on releasing some harsh local skree. Noisy as hell and mostly improvised releases by Mutators and Sex Negatives should give you an idea of this subsidiary labels' vicious intent.

Ok, is there anyone else out there releasing cassettes in Vancouver? Drop a comment and let this man know.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Hip-Hop Fridays: Kam-Neva' Again (1993)

An affilliate of Ice Cube and his Lench Mob, Kam dropped "Neva' Again" to quiet acclaim after the ashes of LA's '92 riots had settled. Indeed, times were changing in hip-hop and it wasn't towards this angry and aggressive side of the genre either. Thus, "Neva Again" was left to the wayside and quietly disappeared. It's too bad that his brother in Ice Cube was able to hit paydirt with his just-as-angry masterwork (in my opinion) "The Predator" just a year earlier. Amazing what a year can do. Anyways, fans of "The Predator" will find be able to dwell in the dark-funk mire of "Neva' Again" as both feature the same style of relentless and hard-driving funk samples used to reflect the anger of a bruised and battered LA. Hell, both albums even share the same sample by The Moments (see mp3s posted below), though they are different sections of the same song.

Not much else to get into with this album, though, of course, it comes highly recommended.

Kam "Drama"

Kam "Still Got Love 4 Um"

Ice Cube "Today Was A Good Day"

Dr. Dooom "Welfare Love" (threw this on because it uses the same sample as the above's also one of the funniest Kool Keith tracks ever).

And, of course, the original by The Moments


Download Kam "Neva' Again" here.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Thee Expressway: Closed For 1 Week

Off to the Great White North for a quicky vacation. Will be back in time for the next Hip-Hop Friday.

Expressway's Guide To The Cassette Underground

After dropping the last few Monthly Cassette Reviews I've had some inquiries as to how to keep up with the many releases in the cassette underground. This is not exactly an easy task, as labels seem to start up every month and older ones die out with no warning. There are a few key websites and distros that update new releases quite often, though descriptions can be short or vague and leave the reader/inquiring mind a little lost as to what to pick up on. In that case, there are always trusty reviewers out there who try to seperate the duds from the rest of the pack.

First off, I highly recommend that you add Animal Psi to your daily-read bookmark list. The site updates at least once a day with the newest releases from dozens and dozens of underground labels, many of them are cassette labels, though they do reserve room for vinyl and CD.

Second, make sure you check in regularly with the distro over at the DNT label, as the man has one of the better underground distros running right now. He seems to add several titles almost everyday and there are no signs of slowing.

Also, make sure you subscribe to the fusetron update list, which is on the title page of the website. Fusetron send out new release lists at least every two weeks, and they consistently carry labels that no one else does. The site can be awkward to navigate, and the lack of pics of album covers is a little lame, but they have a deep catalog and are more interested in stocking whatever they can without having to worry about constantly updating the new photos of incoming stock. They do carry more than cassettes, but they do have one of the widest selection of that format.

There are a few decent cassette reviewers online, but the king of them all is the Cassette Gods site. There appears to be several reviewers on the site, which makes for constant reviews. Plus, as of recently, they've added photos of the releases.

There is also a great cassette-only radio show that's based out of Austin, Texas that uploads their weekly radio-shows. Perfect for those who need to hear a bit of a cassette before buying something that's reviewed with only a few key-words to go on. Check out C60 Radio today. Keep it coming, Brad!

Also make sure you check out the blog run by the cats over at Digitalis, which is one of the better labels issuing cassettes on a regular basis. The blog does a pretty decent job at reviewing new cassettes that are actually still attainable. They also review plenty of other DIY and underground objects, most of which are worth paying attention to.

Every other Saturday morning (or late, late Friday night) make sure you check out Aquarius Records new release list. They don't always have a ton of cassettes listed, but what they do stock is almost always worth scooping. This may be the best record store on the planet.

And, finally, there is the always trustworthy Bull Tongue, which many of us diggers would be pretty lost without. For several years, Thurston Moore and Byron Coley have been combing the underground on a relentless search for the unsung heroes of the unheard. Unfortunately Arthur Magazine, which gave birth to Bull Tongue, is no longer being printed, though it will remain online. Not sure how often a new Bull Tongue will drop but here's hoping it's more often now that the sucker is online.

Now here's a few (mostly) cassette labels to keep an eye on.

Young Tapes. Run by the former head of JK Tapes, PF appears to do all the mystical space artwork for the label and also keeps the space aesthetic strong by releasing only darkly new-age-ish vibes.

Housecraft Recordings. Not sure who runs this little label, but they've been quietly releasing some seriously unclassifiable sonic goop over the last two years. Some of the better packaging in the cassette underground as well.

Really Coastal. Very new cassette label outta LA, featuring some up-and-comers like the Antique Brothers, who have a forthcoming LP release on Not Not Fun. One of the members also has been recently added on as a drummer in Pocahaunted.

Peasant Magik. For close to two years Philadelphia's Peasant Magik has been scraping the underground in search of the next aural trick or treat, usually coming up aces, too.

Plustapes. This label has been on a bit of a roll as of late, having released some obscure world garage cassettes. They've also been dishing out some Chicago underground rock releases as well, most of which have sold-out within days. Big things coming in '09 from Plustapes. Keep an eye out.

Digitalis. Not primarily a cassette-only label, they do, however, release some of the best cassette packages in their Digitalis Limited Series, which tend to sell out within the first week or so. Keep the other eye out.

Sloow. Probably the best cassette-only label running right now. Dreamy "earth-psych" from across the globe gets the royal treatment on this Belgian label.

monorail trespassing. After a short period of stagnation, Emaciator appears to be back in action and headed towards sonic bliss with new releases by Treetops, Marble Sky and Lithium Dreams. Very exciting stuff indeed.

EXBX Tapes. Fairly new cassette label run out of some kids bedroom, somewhere in California I think (**correction** EXBX is based out of Ferndale, Michigan). Amazing collages (best spraypainted collages this side of American Tapes) accompany a continuous onslaught of releases by groups like Mossy Throats, North Sea and Sky Limousine. Recent sold-out release by Pocahaunted garnered this label some serious attention. Upcoming LP release by Tyvek should push these kiddies to the top of the spoiled cream.

Goaty. First release by this upstart cassette-only label was by the uber-collectable Robedoor, making this label quite the commodity. Plenty of radness has dropped recently, including a very recent split with Thurston Moore and Kommissar Hjuler. Every release is packed with little hand cut inserts, giving the label a very handmade feel. Get into it.

There are, of course, many other labels worth keeping at (NNF, Arbor, DNT), the above-mentioned just need a little more love.

Anyone with any other suggestions on how to keep an eye on the cassette underground is encouraged to drop a comment below. Happy hunting.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Hip-Hop Fridays: Dream Warriors "Subliminal Simulation" (1995)

After their minor hit with "My Definition Of A Boombastic Jazz Style," The Dream Warriors, who formed in 1988 in Toronto, pretty much disappeared. They managed to release two more largely ignored records, but they were to be forever stuck in Canadian one-hit wonder-land, a dismal place to be caught in, to say the least. Though ignored after their 1991 debut, "And Now The Legacy Begins," The Dream Warriors dropped one of the last great jazz-heavy hip-hop albums, "Subliminal Simulation." The hip-hop world was moving well past this when it dropped in 1995, having pretty much exhausted any decent jazz break left, well, at least until Madlib came along, but it sure didn't discourage the four-piece from laying some seriously blissed-out jazz samples. The group also gets a helping hand from some of the grandmasters of that sound, namely DJ Premier and Ishmael Butler of Digable Planets. If the elementary and cheesy sound of their debut left a bad taste in anyone's mouth, Dream Warriors surely made up for it with this much more concentrated and grown-up effort. If it had been released earlier in the era alongside Tribe Called Quest, Digable Planets or Gangstarr albums, I doubt this would have been severely overlooked as as it was. However, being Canadian was, and still is, a hindrance on any hip-hop group looking to break out of the Great White North.

Excellent review of "Subliminal Simulation" found here.

"Day n Day Out"

"It's A Project Thing"

"California Dreamin'" video

Download "Subliminal Simulation" here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Captured Tracks Debut Releases....Pre-Order Now!

Blank Dogs/Mike Sniper enthusiasts gather round. The first two releases on Mike Sniper's (dude behind Blank Dogs) new label, Captured Tracks, has just announced the pre-order on his myspace page. First two releases are by Dum Dum Girls (regular readers will remember my gushing here), who also have a highly anticipated (at least by me) 7" due out in the first installment of the HoZac singles club, while the other is a brand new 12"er by Blank Dogs himself! $40 in Canada (cheaper elsewhere) will nab you both plus the shipping. The label is looking to absolutely dominate in 2009; upcoming releases by Repairs (gothic-kraut weirdos from Australia), Woods, Gary War (another warbled bedroom loner akin to Sniper), The Fresh and Onlys (SF crew who just dropped a stunner of a 7" on Chuffed and are currently on tour with Thee Oh yrself a favor and listen to "Disoriented Youth" on their myspace), Christmas Island (upcoming split 7"s with Meth Teeth and Wavves should get these guys noticed), and Toronto's Little Girls (who also have an upcoming 12" on the amazing Mexican Summer label), just to name a few, should have the underground nerds and collector scum across the globe salivating. There are a few other bands listed in the upcoming releases list that I've yet to come across. Sniper must have his ear glued to the ground because he is digging deeeep for this label. Get stoked, people.

Posted below you'll find a download of release #000 of Captured Tracks, which is a CDR of noisy noisy Blank Dogs tracks. Managed to track down this elaborately packaged and limited to 200 CDR from the mighty fusetron.

If you thought the tracks on "The Fields" 12" or any of his miscellaneous 7"s were distorted and static-ridden, then your ears will positively bleed after contact with this harsh EP. He still maintains a hooky chorus or two, but, for the most part, this is so coated in static, hiss and feedback that it seems he is intent on alienating some of the listeners who may have picked up on the grooves of those easy-going releases. Not sure what to expect with this upcoming 12" but I guess we'll find out soon enough.

"Death Jumpers"

Download "Captured Tracks Vol. 1" here.

Pre-Order those two 12"s here.

PS. there are, as of today, less then 40 subscriptions left for the HoZac singles club.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Hip-Hop Fridays: Maestro Fresh Wes "Naaah, Dis Kid Can't Be From Canada" (aka greatest Canadian hip-hop album ever)

After upping the Rascalz album last week, I had a few readers ask me what other Canadian hip-hop albums were worth checking out. Well, admittedly, there aren't that many when stacked up next to this masterwork. Maestro had a couple hits in the late 80s/early 90s that made him a star in Canada and an anomaly in the US, hence the title of this album. By 1993, Meastro had hooked up with the Diggin' In The Crates Crew and began to produce his own tracks. In fact, Showbiz, who helps out here, only produced three of the tracks, making this a mostly self-sufficient effort. Maestro seemed to be studying the DITC production techniques, as his tracks are almost indistinguishable from Showbiz's. His significant leap in talent and help south of the border didn't seem to help this record out-- it dropped in 1994 to little acclaim and yielded no hit singles, even in his native country. Meastro disappeared for four years and dropped the incredibly popular (in Canada) "Stick To Your Vision, which sampled the Guess Who's "These Eyes." His own country re-embraced him, but he would remain a one-hit wonder in the US.

Anyways, I hereby declare this, as the title above claims, The Greatest Canadian Hip-Hop Album Of All Time. I challenge any reader out there to name a better one. Drop a comment in the box below and we'll do some sparring.

"I'm drinking Milk Now"

"Pray To The East" (feat. Percee P)

"Certs Wit Out Da Retsyn" video

Download "Naaah, Dis Kid Can't Be From Canada" here.

Check out this great article on the struggle of Canadian hip-hop here. (via CBC)
**The article is quite good, but even the CBC can't get behind this album. *Sigh*

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Monthly Cassette Reviews

La Otracina “Gardens Of Blackness” (Digitalis Limited)
After a spate of ridiculously limited CD-r and cassette releases, La Otracina were given their proper debut in 2007 by Holy Mountain. "Tonal Ellipse of the One" was a sorely overlooked modern psych ripper that saw the Brooklyn trio venturing into the desert to conjure the ghosts of early Ash Ra Tempel via Man's Ruins bands. "Gardens of Blackness" begins this way before veering into a horrific stoner-scape that's complete with darkly yawning keys. The flip is a bit more transcendental, employing some deliciously layered warm and warbled keys with some lightly plucked acoustic bits, which are then looped and reversed and accompanied by wide washes of cymbals. Very Taj Mahal Travellers-on-the-beach-mode here. Quiet a departure from that previous releases on Holy Mountain. Interested parties should also note that the group also have a brand new full length...on Holy Mountain, of course.

Sachiko “With Lament” (Sloow)
Newest batch of Sloow Tapes arrived the other week and lord-y are they ever beautiful--inside and out. First tape up is the newest solo venture by mysterious Japanese underground siren, Sachiko, who I know very little about other than it appears to be a single female who only has a a handful of releases to her name. The first side of the tape are some entrancing siren tracks that utilize voice only. Sweet, short and high-pitch wordless vocals are looped and layered until a whole new dizzying wave is trapped. Once the first wave is looped Sachiko keeps adding more lines to the bobbing waves below. This sucker will set you adrift into an undulating and foggy sea. The siren appears through the mist, drawing you closer. Seriously some of the most beautiful work I’ve ever heard put to tape. Grouper fans rejoice.

Pink Lumionous Invocation “The Pink Sea” (Sloow)
Another great dark jammer from Denmark's Pink Luminous Invocation, who already dropped a bleak beauty on Not Not Fun last year. Those early Sonic Youthisms that pervaded their previous cassette are pretty much gone, replaced by an even doomier atmosphere. Discordant and hazy thumping make way for a slow-mo slug through doom-and-organ-laden psych, which eventually picks up some momentum until the psych-ringing is hammered over yr skull. Eventually the beast runs out of steam until it’s just an ominous hum. The "Pink Sea," despite it's cute title, this is about as dark as doom-drone overlords Robedoor ever get. Very recommended.

Check out both Not Not Fun releases here. (via No Not Fun Not No)

Sepviva Bells “Halloween In The Sea” (Sloow)
Sepviva Bells is a duo comprised of Tara Burke (most famous for her fucked-folk project Fursaxa) and Grant Acker (also of Slurp Dogs). Here we have a disjointed mix of flutes, panicked drumming and a general lo-fi electric folk where the tape sounds as if its about cut out at any moment. Some tracks flit between mega-fuzzed guitar with childish drumming, while others reflect the fractured-folk of Burk's Fursaxa.

Scoop it here. (via microphones in the trees!)

Usputuspud “Disco” (Caligulan)
This unpronounceable (don't bother) is the one-man side project of Matt Rogers, who also swings a mean axe in Wildildlife (check my post about them here). Unlike the straight-up pummel horse that is his main band, Usputuspud is Matt's diversion into experimental ambient waters. "Disco" is, apparently, made up entirely of harmonica samples, though you wouldn't guess that after listening to this. The harmonica has been stretched and warped into murky sweeps of ambient bliss and even into a 4/4 drum machine-like beat, hence the title. The flip is a little headier and has a slightly dubby infection to it, with some parts even reminding me of Blues Control, though I can't help but hear them in a lot of music these days.

Usputuspud “Liturgical Alcoholik” (White Lodge)
The second release in this saga is much more subdued affair and is about an inch away from new age. Ambient lights sway from the left channel to the right, while deep drops of bass burst at the top of a slow-bubbling swamp, creating a serene and otherworldly landscape. It then mellows into a beautiful echo-y synthscape. Incredibly simple, but effective nonetheless.

Oneohtrix Point Never “Ruined Lives” (Young Tapes)

Menacing and dark new age on this amazing space-case label that's run by the same man that also ran the now defunct JK tapes. Chirping bird electronics collide with Ash Ra Tempel "New Age of Earth" via Blade Runner synth workouts. The cascading synth lines on this one spin around enough to make you a lil dizzy. Keep an eye on this label. Great things coming...

Strange Water “Environments” (Arbor)
Speaking of the new new age, over the last year Arbor has been harvesting some amazing soundscapes of midwestern (among other locales) drone/ambient that has been dropping jaws everywhere. Editions of 100-200, usually on cassette, sell out within a week of dropping. A new release by Ducktails, in an edition of 200, was gone within days (try fusetron or DNT for copies). The demand is at an all time high and shows no signs of slowing.
First release up from late last year's final onslaught is courtesy of Strange Water, which is a collab between Dan Dlugosielski (Uneven Universe) and Mike Pollard (Treetops and Arbor head honcho). This is one long droner over 2 sides of tape and features the train-like sax bellows of Dan and the slow encroaching drone concocted by Pollard. Darkness is eventually cleared for a crystalline high end drone that dominates the flip.

10, 000 Things “Crooked On Chrome” (Arbor)
Another collab here, this time between Geoffrey Mullen (of the Rare Youth label) and Scott Reber (aka Work/Death). This is a tougher nut to crack, but works along the same dark ambient lines as the Strange Water release. However, this one's a tad murkier and receives abrupt transmissions of static. Not bad overall.

Outer Space “Perfect Vacuum” (Arbor)
Emeralds side-project alert! This time around it's the usually quieter John Elliott that drops the new age bomb. Much like his main focus in Emeralds, Outer Space consists of deep drones made up entirely on a vintage Korg MS-10. Though this isn't quite as put-on-repeat listenable as Steve Hauschildt cassettes, "Perfect Vacuum" is heavy on imagery. Low frequency drones oscillate under eerie electronic drips, sounding as if yr caught in cave on some distant moon.

Bee Mask “s/t” (Arbor)
Bee Mask has been quietly releasing some excellent tapes on the low-profile Deception Island label, but this is his first for Arbor, who's a great addition to the label. Side A opens with some fried electronics which give way to squelching synth maneuvers before flying into high-pitch synth drones. The flip is all down-the-drain drones accompanied by an eerie jack-in-the-box twinkling, making for an ominous listen.

HNY “Mute In The Dust” (Not Not Fun)
HNY is a member of sonic oddballs Social Junk and this is her first release solo. HNY traverses the same mystic forests as her witchy contemporaries (think Grouper, Inca Ore) but prefers to head out into those forests in the dead of night. "Mute In The Dust" is jammed full of darkly-looped synth and guitar lines which swirl like blackened smoke around her banshee wail. Occasionally her vocals are allowed to travel along on their own and end up in wind tunnel of mirrors. There's also a coupla' cold wave sections that make this listen even icier. This is quite the debut and I ache a little to hear some more.

Tricorn and Queue “Continual Passage” (Stunned)
Warped and bubbly drone with plenty of warmth. Far from the sterile drone-works of other contemporaries, this work is almost crystalline and has a glowing lo-fi edge to it that many drone recordings lack. It's kinda like the Stars of the Lid debut if those bastards hadn’t have been so moody. Shimmering and slightly warbled synths bring a Boards of Canada feel, minus the beatwork, natch. Environmental field recordings swing into the mix with ease, giving these recording an earthy vibe.

Brave Priest “Precious Summers” (Stunned)
On the other end of the Stunned spectrum we have the debut recording by Portland's blazing Brave Priest. This tidy little threesome combine fiery whips of wah, howl at the moon vocals and a rumbling rhythm section which comes flying out the gates in the same way that Residual Echoes used to rock. It's not quite as bombastic and assaultive as Comets On Fire, who were Residual Echoes' big bros, but instead are more on the classic rock end of the spectrum rather than Blue Cheer. The recording here is a little on the lo-fi end of things for a huge-sounding band like this, but I'm sure we can expect some hi-fi recordings to drop soon.

Predator Vision “II” (Abandon Ship)
Continuing along the psych jammer highway, this new-ish cassette by up-and-comers Predator Vision should hold you over until their Not Not Fun split with Sun Araw arrives. Ya'anyways, this C30 features two side long psych workouts that feature the watery, eastern guitar wranglings of Matt Mondalien, who some of you may know as the horribly-named, yet totally awesome, Ducktails. This isn't nearly as pleasant as Ducktails, however, but instead stalks a darker end of the kosmische tropics that co-conspirators Sun Araw tend to habit. That upcoming split on NNF should prove to be an early highlight of '09.

Check out one of those jams here. (via Raven Sings The Blues)

Darwinsbitch “Steel Hum” (Digitalis)
I am at a loss for words on this one. Apparently it's made up of synths, tapes and violins, but I'm at a loss to hear any of those. I guess any Vanouverites who read this will just have to check out her show at Little Mountain on Saturday, February 7th. 8:30pm! Solars and Gregg Kowalsky (ambience from the Kranky label) will also be playing. Presented by Vancouver's up-and-coming promoters, Twee Death.

Sonic Youth: Sensational Fix

During my morning-off crawl through the internet, I stumbled across the Blownspeakers tumblr and his post on a pre-order for the upcoming Sonic Youth art book. Weighing in at a stunning kilo and a half and a whopping 784 pages, this is proving to be the ultimate document of the visual end of the long-running art-punk troupe. The book is actually a companion piece to the art exhibit which has been floating across Europe and is currently in Dusseldorf. I remember reading about this book af ew months back, but at the time it was only available in German or French and only available at the exhibit. Well it appears as if us English speaking folks are about to get our chance at this...and I do mean chance-- this fucker is limited to 600 copies. Sure, the book is $70 through Amazon as a pre-order (it's over $100 normally, did I mention shipping included from Amazon?!), but there are thousands of fans out there who are gonna want to eat this up asap.

I have to hand it to Sonic Youth and their tireless efforts in exposing me to many, many artists, filmmakers and writers that I may not have come across until much later in life if at all. Raymond Pettibon, Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman, Philip K. Dick, Gerhard Richter, William Gibson, Stan Brakhage, Richard Avedon, Savage Pencil, Robert Smithson, Dan Graham, and Richard Kern are just a few of the examples of artists I first heard about through the interviews, lyrics or the album covers of Sonic Youth. Don't even get me started on the bands that I've gotten hep to because of that foursome.

Here's a run down on the exhibit. Let's hope it makes it's way to this side of the world sometime soon.

Pre-order here.

Quinn, thanks for making my morning and breaking my wallet.