ROTW: Book Of Sound!

Gonna reach back to a late November release for today's Record Of The Week... The latest from the Brooklyn-based, south side of Chicago-bred Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, on Honest Jon's, really, really, really lives up to the group's name, and brightened our day upon hearing it.

The Spiritual Jazz component of the band's ancestry sure shines through on these compositions that groove with gravitas and joy, sans drums but with horns galore, also with uplifting, droning vocals, synth, acoustic guitar, and more in the mix.

"Solstice," below, is one of our faves. Please give it and the rest of the album a listen – when you do, allow each track some time to sink in and work its magic – and you'll see that the band's name is indeed the best, most basic blurb anyone could come up with to recommend this particular release, anyway. (It's available from Forced Exposure, and they have sound samples on their site.)

By the way, when we mention 'ancestry,' that's 'cause that the group is composed of brothers, seven of 'em, all sons of the late jazz great Phil Cohran, who played with Sun Ra and co-founded the AACM, a interesting bit of info that somehow the both of us only just found out about, even though this isn't the first HBE album we've been into. Guess we should check out the documentary film.


ROTW: Monster Manual!

So, just imagine you're a hard working, wandering monster, lurking in one of the levels of some dark dungeon someplace. It's damp, it's drafty, it's a life both dangerous & dull. Wouldn't it be nice if someone cared? Cared enough to write a song just for you, all about you? A catchy ditty you could hum to yourself as you wait for the next party of "heroes" to show up and try to murder you for something they call "XP," whatever that is? Well, good news, now someone has written a song about you, that is, if you're one of the 26 classic D&D monsters paid musical tribute to on our Record Of The Week this week, which was released on limited edition vinyl not long ago by Frequency Rare and Peterwalkee Records.

Friend rock? Yes, O.K., so it is, we mean, singer/guitarist "Simon" from Simon LeBron does happen to be a friend of ours. But San Francisco's Simon LeBron is also a band who have made a record based on the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual!! Therefore, the awesome D&D theme of this way outweighs any niggling notions of nepotism.

Seriously, these 26 tracks, alphabetically A-Z, each one a concise and creative blast about a specific monster from the pages of the Monster Manual (hence song titles like "Carrion Crawler," "Dragon, Black," "Pegasus, Pegasi," and "Rakshasa"), make for a really rad platter of oddball indie rock. The band cites Rudimentary Peni, Frank Black and the Plastic Ono Band as influences, along with the writings of Gary Gygax, et. al., by the way. So this goes to show ya that "D&D" music doesn't have to be metal, or dungeon synth, or RenFaire fare...

We'll admit that when we first heard about this project, we may have had some misgivings, and not because of the "friend rock" thing. No, we were worried it was going to be a little too cutesy, or, what's the word...? Dorky. But no, the Simon LeBron trio, along with recording engineer Phil Manley (whoops, another friend, there) have crafted a really strong collection of songs. It's stuff that, even if you're not immediately, nostalgically ensorcelled by the subject matter, any fan of, say, GBV-esqe, eccentric indie garage pop goodness will enjoy.

Copies of the vinyl will soon be available from Midheaven Mailorder. Digital via Bandcamp, below.


ROTW: Diggin In The Carts!

Well, this is awesome!

The subtitle "A Collection Of Pioneering Japanese Video Game Music" alone put this in contention for Record Of The Week, almost before we'd even heard it.

Three or so years ago, the Red Bull Music Academy (never gonna drink the stuff, but gotta hand it to 'em for their brand's often obscure music related activities) produced a six-episode online documentary series about the history and lasting legacy of '80s Japanese video game soundtracks & their composers. Now, a companion compilation has been released by the UK's Hyperdub label, carefully co-curated by Hyperdub's Kode9 and documentarian Nick Dwyer.

This assortment of 34 mesmeric, loopy miniatures offers quite a variety of sounds and styles, amazingly so considering the strict limitations imposed upon the composers by the 8- and 16-bit technology of the day, which if anything spurred 'em to greater creativity.

Of course this has some retro-nostalgic appeal, but these themes still sound fresh and stand on their own, compelling repeat listens from folks (us) who have never played or even heard of most of the games being scored. The catchy melodies can be chippy-chirpy or pseudo-symphonic; some tracks are energetically uptempo (or downright hectic), others more moody & atmospheric. Tadahiro Natta's piece from Xak II is even kinda heavy, like some sort of proto- "chipdoom" perhaps.

A delightful sonic trove of incidental, overlooked electronic music to dig into for sure!


ROTW: split decision

Our Boxing Day Records Of The Week are two truly weird af extreme metal splits that came out fairly late in the year, and the Nuclear War Now! label happened to have a hand in each, so why not honor these two together?

Bunkur Vs. Mordor sees Swiss ambient industrial doom cult Mordor making their first recorded appearance in, like, 23 years (!), a surprising enough occurrence all by itself for those who remember them from the Wild Rags days of the very early '90s, and then to find them in the company of Dutch ultra-dooooomsters Bunkur (who themselves haven't put anything out since 2009's Nullify, incidentally recipient of one of the more amusing 0% Metal-Archives reviews we've run across) doing a conceptual covers album is really unexpected. And absurdly awesome.

On Bunkur and Mordor's respective sides, olde gods Carnivore and Venom are paid tribute to... very, very sloooooowly. Each side is just one song, but liberties have been taken. You get an extremely stretched out, slowed down, super-sized, epic-ized, chopped, screwed, etc. reinterpretation of the original being "covered." Voila, a full-length release to baffle all 'bangers!

Much more hectic and certainly no less whatthefuck-y, the With Gangrene Edges / Voiidwarp split (vinyl version care of NWN/Iron Bonehead, cd via the impeccable I, Voidhanger label) brings together two of the most guano bonkers bands in the whole unholy black/death realm: the recently split up (darn it!) Howls Of Ebb from somewhere 'round here in the Bay and our fave eccentriic extremiist krauts Khthoniik Cerviiks. You may need your EpiPen, this is nutty, nutty stuff! A great intro to two amazing, crazing bands ibb you are unfamiiilar with either, and absolutely necessary if you're already a fan of one or both as well.


ROTW: Dungeon Crawler!

Sure, we've picked a couple metal albums as Records Of The Week on this blog already, but nothing properly, truly old school heavy metal, until now. Until Legendry!

This particular example is very much up Allan's alley as a fanboy of epic D&D-ish medieval metal but it was Andee who first discovered this and told Allan about it (and of course he digs Legendry like crazy too).

As for me (Allan), well I figure if I pretty much run and order something as soon as I first hear it, and it immediately busts right into my year-end top ten, then it's fairly ROTW-worthy! Not sure how I hadn't heard of these particular Pittburgh Steelers (as in, swords of steel) before, they even have another cd from last year, too.

But, not being previously aware of 'em, from the (admittedly cool) cover art and album title, I almost thought this was gonna be cheesy modern power metal or maybe equally cheesy dungeon synth. Instead, the charmingly rough-hewn and slightly ramshackle-sounding Legendry conjure magickal Manilla Road-worshipping epic metal with one foot planted on a stage monitor in the early '80s NWOBHM era, the other tapping its toes in the mystical, proggy '70s. They've got galloping rhythms, rockin' riffs, soulfully psychedelic guitar wailing, sincere singing, some tasty use of organ, and perhaps most astonishingly, they are pretty gosh darn poppy in parts!

They don't sound like Uncle Acid, but we get the notion that what Uncle Acid is to Black Sabbath, Legendry are to their inspirations like Manilla Road and early Iron Maiden.

They also sound a lot like they could jump in a time machine (they might already have one), transport themselves back to 1976, record a 45, and eventually wind up, back in the future, on a compilation like our big fave Warfaring Strangers: Darkscorch Canticles.

Just the thing to crank the first time I get to play my newly acquired copy of the Dungeon Degenerates boardgame. But this isn't just about retro-nostalgic fantasy fun times, everything they play and sing here is also so obviously heartfelt. Lovin' it.

RIYL: Tarot (NZ), Realmbuilder, Ravensire, Eternal Champion, early Manilla Road, Legend (US), Brocas Helm, Pagan Altar, Lords Of The Crimson Alliance...


ROTW: Exotica!

In celebration of tonight's heartening victory by Democrat Doug Jones over creepy Republican bigot Roy Moore in Alabama's special Senate election, let's have a Record Of The Week from our favorite visionary Alabamian, the late great Sun Ra!

It just so happens that a lovely collection of the out-there Afro-space-jazz icon's most 'exotic' sides – stuff that, in its own occasionally abstract way, perhaps surprisingly aligns with the likes of Les Baxter and Martin Denny – was recently released for the so-called Black Friday "Record Store Day" by Sundazed subsidiary Modern Harmonic. And of course, it's pretty great! There are several previously unreleased cuts among the twenty-five gems selected by compiler and outsider-music expert Irwin Chusid, who provides extensive liner notes along with Brother Cleve of Combustible Edison.

Super groovy, super recommended to both Sun Ra and exotica fans, or anyone into beautiful rhythmic reveries and mellow mood music derived from real and imagined primitive/jungle/ancient (and cocktail-drinking?) cultures.

Due to the whole Black Friday RSD collector thing, the swank colored triple vinyl version is, unfortunately, going to be hard to come by (and expensive) if you missed it then, but the label still has copies of the double cd version available at a normal price. Or, you could do digital download via Bandcamp, if you're like that, via the below link, also good for listening...


ROTW: Music For Nine Postcards!

After the beautiful, but noisy, onslaught of Metallic OK by Bruce Russell last week, not to mention the noisiness and nastiness of our other recent picks from the likes of Brainbombs and Tetragrammacide, perhaps it's time for a Record Of The Week that you could, you know, take a nap to.

Well, okay, if you're like us you can happily fall asleep to lots of crazy stuff, but we're talking something that a normal person might actually agree was lovely and restful.

For that, we've selected the pure bliss of the 1982 debut Music For Nine Postcards from Japanese New Age/ambient musician Hiroshi Yoshimura (1940-2003). It's a record that's recently been reissued for the first time domestically by new label Empire Of Signs, run by Spencer Doran (of Visible Cloaks) and our old pal Maxwell Croy (of En and the Root Strata label). Thanks doods! Minimal, serene, tranquil studies home-recorded on electronic keyboard and Fender Rhodes, these are nine tracks to chillax with for sure. Exquisite.

Available on LP and compact disc via Light In The Attic (though, it seems that the vinyl is being repressed already, look for it again in February perhaps).