Even More Bent Notes from the Underground
Three Recent Eruptions from Seattle's Weird Sonic Underbelly
ARRINGTON DE DIONYSO, Songs of Psychic Fire, Vol. 3 (www.arrington.bandcamp.com/releases): Olympia eccentric Arrington de Dionyso has never been mistaken for a conventional musician, but his latest, Songs of Psychic Fire, Vol. 3, finds him really swan diving into the deep end of experimentation. "This music is inspired in part by an extraordinary experience I had on a recent tour in Sweden," de Dionyso recounts. "I performed far away from any city, in the ruins of an ancient fortress, feeling the call of the spirits through the rocks and burning branches." Even compared to the skewed Indonesian garage-psych of his Malaikat dan Singa output, this new eight-song collection is a whole other level of bananas.
Starting with "Oh Thunder, Perfect Mind," a bizarre concatenation of exhalations that evolves into an ordeal of froggy, belch-tastic throat-singing and distorted bass ripples and explosions generated from a modified Marantz tape recorder and an echoplex, and continuing throughout Vol. 3, ADD basically turns his thorax into a synthesizer that attains scarily cavernous timbres that sound absolutely demonic. The title "Fever Dreams in the Empty Void" (are there any other kinds of voids?) pretty much sums up the Psychic Fire listening experience. These are febrile exercises in exorcism.
ADD creates disorienting vortices of sound through the dispersion of his voice and bass clarinet, until you feel as if you've entered a fucked-up dimension where the laws of physics have gone AWOL. Feelings of madness and transcendence can be yours, if you choose to endure de Dionyso's feral ruptures of reality's delicate fabric.
MIRRORING, Foreign Body (Kranky, www.kranky.net): Think of Mirroring as queens of the Northwest's morose folk (anti)scene—although both members would likely scoff at such a designation. Mirroring—Jesy Fortino (aka Tiny Vipers) and Liz Harris (aka Grouper)—met in Oregon last year for a songwriting session that blossomed into Foreign Body, their debut full-length.
The record captures the guitarist/vocalists' inclinations toward serious somberness, minimalist beauty, and hazy introspection. Those looking for conventional songs with sing-along choruses should amble on down the road. Mirroring are mostly over that kind of old-timey craftswomanship—although "Silent from Above" finds Fortino brandishing an acoustic guitar and singing a tender, bruised-burgundy ballad. But aside from this nod to tradition, Mirroring get down to the stoic business of form-crumbling soundscapes.
The ever-so-ethereal and tranquil "Fell Sound" starts things, floating in on a cloud of blissful drone, with Grouper whispering mysteriously and introvertedly. Eventually, the gentlest of guitar spangles enters earshot. The only word I can decipher is "shadows." Listening to "Fell Sound" is like being caressed by feather dusters for six minutes. Another highlight, "Drowning the Call," is all spectral emanation, a sparse, slow-motion, soft-focus lullaby that practically evaporates as soon as it passes through the speakers. "Cliffs" and "Mine" are folk-drone, quiet-storm balladry and airy hymn, respectively; both sort of just dissolve into drifting, FX-laden spray. The album closes with "Mirror of Our Sleeping," a poignant ode that sounds like the Caretaker's decaying symphonies going pastoral. The music seems to be coming from an abandoned ballroom a half-mile away that's slowly losing oxygen and overrun with weeds. Shhhhhh... peaceful.
VARIABLE, Sleeper Files (www.variable-mass.bandcamp.com): VAriable (aka Seattle producer Dale Parsons) probably harbors an intense love of science-fiction films and a deep admiration for the back catalog of Warp Records, longtime standard-bearers of IDM (intelligent dance music; let's not debate the merits of the term—it's already too entrenched in critics' jargonville). Combine these two predilections and you get Sleeper Files, a five-track exploration of spacey, abstract electronica that's as keen on making you move as it is on evoking wonder-filled vistas of alien flora and fauna.
Things begin spaciously with "Far Gone," whose awe-shucks ambient intro gives way to an intricate, funky rhythm and bleepy percussion accents that hint at the Black Dog and Plaid's '90s material. It creates the feeling of traversing great distances of inky blackness, which is rather comforting once you get used to it. "Supreme Dream" contrasts languid, almost brassy synth pads with kinetic, broken beats while "Hurt" (not the Nine Inch Nails song) harnesses wind chimes, mournful synths, irregular, punchy beats, and blasts of industrial white noise into a skewed funk track. More funk comes with "Osmosis," the EP's most eventful cut. Adorned with all sorts of microscopic textures and percussive tics, it makes you feel as if you're ricocheting around a pinball machine decked out with otherworldly materials. "Lock City," by contrast, opts for boudoir mood-setting, using melismatic female "ahs," 'mid-tempo R&B shimmy, chittering cymbals, and spluttering synth bloops to create a genuine yearning ache. In space, apparently, someone can hear you cream.