CD REVIEW  Mandaï Distribution special March 2012, Part 2 : Myself – House Of Low Culture – Zoft

This second special of stuff distributed by Mandaï holds two releases which were already released in 2011, and it's only thanks to the distributor that these great albums now found their way in the Benelux, by the way. Well, without further ado, let's get right into things...

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Band : House Of Low Culture
Album title : Poisned Soil
Label : Taiga Records – Sub Rosa
Distributor : Mandaï Distribution - Codaex
Release date : Jan. 2012
Release : CD

As mentioned in the info sheet I got along with my promo copy of this album, House Of Low Culture was begun as an experiment by Aaron Turner, singer/ guitarist of Isis (but also know from the projects Old Man Gloom and Lotus Eaters), whom was fiddling about with some guitar recordings in his bedroom between 1997 and 1999...as always looking to expend his musical horizons.

A first release came on the Crowd Control Activities label with 2000's Submarine Immersion Techniques Vol. 1, and was followed on a regular basis by more releases through several labels (Robotic Empire released his 2003 EP Getting' Sentimental, Neurot Recordings took care of the 2003 full-length Edward's Lament, and Turner released the 2004 EP Live From The House Of Low Temperature on his own Hydra Head Records) but the project had a short period of inactivity between 2005 and 2007 (in which year En/Of issued the EP Chinatown Squalls) and between 2008 and 2010 [when Utech Records released the split EP Uncrossing/ Ice Mole with Mamiffer (a band he started with his wife). Followed the 2011 EP's Lou Lou...In Tokyo a split with Mamiffer and Merzbow (on Sige, a label Turner started to accommodate Mamiffer releases) and another split EP with Mamiffer entitled Perverted Scripture/ Silent Night (also on Sige)], but in essence Poisoned Soil is only the third full-length in over a decade!

Over the year Turner not only occasionally collaborated with other musicians (Merzbow, James Plotkin, Stephen O'Malley to name but a few, and in later years Turner's wife Faith Coloccia has become a regular contributor – having her close at hand, that merely seems like a logical thing to happen) for HoLC, but also expanded the drone guitar textures of his beginning days to incorporate voices, keyboards, and other non-guitar instrumentation. Another contributor to the new recordings comes from percussionist B.R.A.D. (Asva, MMOB, Burning Witch, etc...) As a result, the three expansive tracks (2 of 'em nearing 16 minutes, the 3rd just over 22 minutes long) on Poisoned Soil have an Ambient-like quality, the kind of stuff which is best heard through headphones! The kind of stuff which will either calm down the listener to complete inner rest and serenity, or drive him/her up the walls, depending on hos (s)he allows the music to work in on her/his state of mind! You can check out 2-minute samples of “The Ladder The Leads To Nowhere” and “Inappropriate Body” at Sub Rosa's label...but really, if you're already familiar with this musician's aural experiments, you need not tally and go 'n' get yourself a copy of this album.

As it turns out, by the way, Sub Rosa also issued a limited edition DeLuxe LP + 12-inch package for the vinyl addicts among us! Aaàààchhhh...yet another good reason to start looking for a good replacement for my usual record store, which closed somewhere last year! Obviously, this gets cataloged into my year-lists!

98/100

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Band : Myself
Album title : Hora!
Label : Woshbrain Records
Distributor : Mandaï Distribution
Release date : Jan. 2012 (France= April 2011)
Release : Digipak CD

This Strasbourg (North-East of France) based trio consisting of guitarist/ occasional bassist & backing vocalist Nicolas Gully (whom also provides the band's sound with additional loops and electronics), saxophone/ lead vocalist & occasional bassist Claude Spenlehauer, and drummer/ backing singer Pascal Gully (providing additional synths, he's also active in Zakarya, who released two albums - one of which at least produced by Noise specialist Jorn Zorn - on JazzCore specialist label Tzadik Records) have been in existence since 2005, played in several countries (France and Germany are obvious, but also Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Austria and the Czech Republic have seen the band play in their venues and on assorted festivals), and have already released their 7-track debut mini-album (songs were packed in less than 3 minutes) Me! on the same label, in 2007!

As indicated above, Myself is not just a sax – guitar – drums + vocals band, but enhances its occasionally Noisy Rock-based Jazzed extravaganzas (which has seen the band's style dubbed as “JazzCore” more than once) with embellishments stemming forth from electronic instruments. On the new (11-track) album, the guys not only occasionally venture into somewhat longer tracks (“My Favourite Foe” and “My Enslavement” are in the 4-minute region, “My Pen” is 5 ½, and album closer “Jazzy Lazzi” is even 6 ½!), but also accepted (or asked) the help of some friends. Thus, one Clem' provides the band with lead vocals on “My Second Coffee” and “Hip 'n' Nose”, Yves Weyh plays the accordion on “G Point Of A Bitch” (which he also wrote for the band), and Jean-Sébastien Mazzero (whom recorded & mixed the album with the band itself producing it) plays analog synth and spring reverb on the aforementioned “My Pen”.

Expect this band to move its music from acceptably melodic and relatively calm to freakishly noisy and angular, with several time changes and breaks in between. Don't expect any “regular” vocals either. Well, actually the spoken word stuff on “Hip 'n' Nose” can be considered “normal” anyway, and there's a passage in “My Enslavement” which can be put there as well...but most of the time the vocals are just as freaky as the music, and its musicians, I guess...and I say that with the greatest of respect! Who needs “normal” anyway? Who wants to be dull? Myself definitely don't, and that's something which one is easily able to assess by simply listening to the entire album at (http://) myselftheband.bandcamp.com. If you've continued to read this review so far, I'm sure you'll love what you'll get to hear, and possibly even either buy the album or pay for a download there and then!

93/100

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Band : Zoft
Album title : Electrically Haunted
Label : Humpty Dumpty Records
Distributor : Mandaï Distribution – PIAS
Release date : Jan. 2012 (24/10/2011, vinyl Nov. 2011)
Release : CD/ LP

Founded in 2008 by guitarist/ singer Nicolas Gitto ( also the founder of Kazimir Gluton, he played in many bands before, such as P-Pole Pan – currently he's also active with project Panopticon) and drummer Damien Magnette (founder of the Wild Classical music ensemble, a Free Punk band with mentally disabled musicians) as a trio, the band experimented with several line-ups (first the third party was a singer, than an electronics musician, and eventually a tuba player, with whom they even did some demo recordings) before the guys decided to continue as a duo, backed up with pre-recorded sound constructions, which are triggered in small engines (connected to the lighting system) by both musicians during their live performances.

Following their first gig on Dec. 18 of their formation year, the guys found opportunities enough in their home base town of Brussels to give 'em enough gigs for the first half year. However, Namur and Charleroi followed, and in August the guys even played two shows (with fellow Bruxellois Vitas Gerulaïtis) in the South of France (a place between Limoges and Toulouse, and Somewhere in the Ariège region, some 50 km South of Toulouse). More French shows followed in November (somewhat closer at home, in Rouen and Lille, and Vitas Gerulaïtis was again present for many of the dates, as was Metz based French band Le Singe Blanc). In mid February 2010 the guys started out on a full French tour, also putting in one of the 14 dates in Switzerlan, and in October a tour in Germany and the Balkan (Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Hungary, Rumania, Czech Republic – and a gig in Austria to fill the booking) was undertaken.

Cited influences including Steve Reich, Pierre Schaeffer and Japan's Ruins, the band blends repetitive but melodic Rock with a Jazzy angular feel and chanted lyrics. Comparison points in the more established music world would be Zu, Mike Patton's Fantomâs, or the band's label mates K-Branding. On stage, the duo helps itself out with sound sculptures and home-made instruments, and a light show connected to the music, which only enhances the audiences' participation in living along with the music played. Besides the extra sounds the guys created themselves for their music, they also made some field recordings of chattering children (songs “Coil” and “Q.I. Cuit”, for instance – and what Is that title about, I wonder). Where it concerns the band's approach to their songs, that can be very diverse... say, why would I try to go over the differences? You can actually do all of that yourselves, as all songs are posted at the band's page on their label's website (http://) humptydumptyrecords.blogspot.com (click on the band's name on the list left in the page, and you get onto their profile).

Great fun, but definitely something for listeners who either like a challenge, or already have some experiences in a broad range of music styles. Yeah, and just like the album by Myself reviewed above, a next one may well reach year-list status!

94/100

Tony.