24 May

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The Fuck Chairs —  Ascension (2016, self-released)

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As a huge fan of the Dead C, any project featuring Bruce Russell, Michael Morley, or Robbie Yeats is certain to make these marginal ears perk up. I was recently made privy to Morley’s collaborative project with fellow Kiwi Morgan Oliver, The Fuck Chairs. Safe to say, I quickly begun exploring their already robust (25 releases since 2014) and rapidly proliferating body of work. My initial foray into TFC territory led me to throw the proverbial dart toward Ascension and safe to say, here at Marginal Brevity, we’re all happy with where that piercing projectile landed. Consisting of a singular 24 minute track, Ascension sees Morley and Oliver electing to forgo the traditional rock band approach entirely. Harsh 70s Reality it is not; the ambient work Morley has done under the Gate moniker is perhaps a bit closer. That said, The Fuck Chairs deviate from the sparser side of sound art on this release, opting to explore textures and motifs that would fit well alongside a good many Warp releases from the 1990s. Ascension is a wonderfully lo-fi electronic work, with the duo sounding something akin to a somber antipodean Autechre, who have chosen to ditch the superfluous embellishments. All in all a very listenable, deeply introspective, and wholly entrancing record from the globe’s southern hemisphere.

23 May

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Veikur – A Growing Sickness (2017, self-released)

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In J.G. Ballard’s 1974 novel, Concrete Island, the author writes of an architect marooned on traffic island beneath the M4 following a tire blowout. Describing the crash which leaves the protagonist stranded, Ballard writes, “the sequence of violent events only micro-seconds in duration had opened and closed behind him like a vent of hell.” A Growing Sickness, the latest extended play from Brooklyn NYC’s Veikur, unquestionably served as the soundtrack to that fleeting moment of stupor. Though comprised of three distinct tracks of contemporary musique concréte, the work is best approached in toto. From the disinterested guitar strums, metallic scrapes, and deeply buried keyboard passages of “Suspicions,” to the urban sounds and stolid metronome-like clicks of “The Greatest Horrors Hide in the Light,” the EP forms a sonic tableau of modernity’s underbelly. The groggy 8 minute closer, “The Age of Infection,” brimming with subliminal dispatches, recalls a sulking Aaron Dilloway trying to play the Dead C’s Tusk, sans instruments. As the global political situation grows increasingly bleak, one begins to suspect that the human race’s own impending blowout is just around the bend. It would do well to keep Veikur cued up for the crash and fall that follows. Topical, unsettling, mesmerizing, and not near long enough.

22 May

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Soft Machine – Third (1970, CBS)

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When one wants to wax lyrical about progressive rock (“prog” for the lay-person), one inevitably hones in on Kent and focuses an even more discerning eye on the wee ville of Canterbury. For good reason—the southeastern hamlet projected the likes of Daevid Allen, Kevin Ayers, Steve Hillage, Robert Wyatt, et al. to the top of the art rock heap and in the process, spawned a number of prog-rock linchpins and a slew of lesser imitators. Of the lot, Soft Machine is a consummate example of both the superlatives and excesses of ye olde prog scene. SM’s third release, the unerringly titled Third, is well and truly an archetypal document of Canterbury Rock City. Two long playing —and I mean long (the shortest track clocks at 18:12)— wax discs of dense fusion jams. It isn’t Bitches Brew, nowhere close. It’s not Mahavishnu either. Just the same, the Machine throw down the fucking gauntlet and happily conflate rock and jazz, without wholly blurring their respective contours. The opener, “Facelift,” careens menacingly, threatening to derail until Mike Ratledge’s mangled farfisa gives way to a jack-knife into a bubbling vat of heady jamming. Along with “Slightly All the Time” on the reverse, the quartet show that they know dynamics, they know how to play, and aren’t put off by being a bit self-indulgent. First audition of disc 2’s opener, “Moon in June,” with Bobby Wyatt ad libbing about sex and sun tanning in New York is pretty disorienting and may prompt one to lift the stylus and call this prog foray done and dusted. Do exercise restraint, as Wyatt sensibly does the same at around the 9:30 mark and the band get on with it and see it through on the closer “Out-Bloody-Rageous.” This ain’t your postwar AM radio art rock fixture; oh no, unlike the Yes back-catalogue or the 2112’s to follow, this is some self-indulgence that pay dividends and takes somewhere you actually wanna’ go.

21 May

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Tashi Dorji & Tyler Damon – Both Will Escape (2016, Family Vineyard)

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I first heard Tashi Dorji’s music three years ago after stumbling upon a cassette copy of Guitar Improvisations at a record store in his home base, Asheville, North Carolina. The store clerk told me that if I felt particularly compelled, I could seek out Tashi, working at the local grocery co-op. I decided it best to not bother the bloke at work and settled on popping Guitar Improvs into the deck instead. That first encounter set in motion a deep appreciation for Dorji’s singular and refreshing approach to the guitar—an instrument whose ability to inspire greater or lesser degrees of artistic pastiche and self-aggrandizing redundancy never ceases to amaze. At any rate, Both Will Escape sees Dorji in ensemble with percussionist Tyler Damon and the sonic results are an aural firecracker. From Damon’s initial chime and bell paradiddles on the titular opening track, to Dorji’s blistering guitar sorties on “Two Rabbits,” Side A runs the dynamic gamut, fusing the delicacy of gamelan with the ferocity of Sonny Sharrock. Flip the slab and the second side of the affair springs to life with “Gate Left Open,” a tense and slowly cascading number which intensifies into a rollicking show of percussive bombast and a frenzied plenitude of whooping, wailing, pickin’ and sliding all before Damon pulls the handbrake and the duo groove into something resembling a lost This Heat cassette that has partially jammed in the deck, but sputters through, nonetheless. Hard to believe half an hour’s gone by the time the stylus is giving agency to the album’s gritty post-modern kosmiche closer, “Kudzu Weave.” With a hypnotic guitar loop assuming the rhythmic backbone, they pull and release before one final unrelenting push to cross the finish line, at which point our self-assured protagonists shrug it off like it ain’t no-thing.

Highly recommended and easily one of the best of 2016.