Some musicians carry the concept of "independence" to the extreme, creating their music in the privacy of home studios, and releasing that music on their own small labels.
As one might expect, a percentage of these home-brewed releases are self-indulgent and scarcely rewarding sonic experiences. The following, however, are examples of significantly worthwhile home-brewed music.
BOMIS PRENDIN: Put Me Down and Spin Me Around (CD on Bomis Prendin Music)
This 58 minute CD (subtitled "Soundtrack from "Caucasian Breakdance Chronicles") is the first release in sixteen years from this Washington DC based-indie band. Loud, raucous, intense, and playfully abrasive, this music represents a sampling of material recorded between 1985 and 1999.
Expect dual guitars, their viciously mangled strings releasing a gritty dose of shrill melodies. Often, these dual guitars duel, savagely expressing themselves in the manner of monstrous creatures bawling in an extraterrestrial twilight.
Snappy percussion (real and artificial) and rumbling basslines lurk in the dense mix, frequently bestowing rhythm to the harmonic noise. Electronics and sneaky keyboards slither through the guitar-attacks to imprint a liquid edge to the volcanic stylings.
Imagine taking the East Coast indie pop scene of the Eighties and screwing with its head until the output got all manic and ornery...then forcefeed it through a focusing lens until the music became glisteny but still ominous-in-a-friendly-way.
The music itself refuses to remain in any solid genre, leaping from art noise to electric funk to haunting progrock. With 19 tracks CD, the music's unpredictable nature is allowed considerable range to explore bizarre sonic configurations.
The result is an exhilarating and often exhausting journey through different sonic dimensions, each new exposure relentlessly delivering (mostly instrumental) tuneage that entertainingly stands the listener's hair on end.
DAVID GOERK: Manifestations of Baba Bazooba (CDR on Bazooba Music)
This 37 minute release, a side project by one of the members of Bunnydrums, features an eclectic dose of experimental electronics.
With fifteen tracks on this 37 minute release, the pieces are expectantly brief, but quite engaging. Melodic and often aggressive, the music is instrumental and exhibits a gritty quality. While the instrumentation is mostly synthesizers, some guitars, bass, and trumpet are featured, augmenting the robotic sound. Rhythms abound too, mostly electronically generated.
The sterility implied by these descriptions is misleading. Goerk applies clever riffs to this static flow, producing engaging melodies whose only downside involves their too-brief duration. The mechanical nature of these sounds is infused with a perilous overtone, resulting in a very human tension.
Some copies are still available of a 12-inch white vinyl release of this project, for those who still harbor turntables.
NORTHERN MACHINE: Surge Zone (CD on Hoffman Cleaner Cathode Company)
Northern Machine is Pat Gillis and Bill Warford, and they play industrial electronic music: hard and soft.
This 53 CD features some highly energetic synthetics, crunched and compressed into the listener's ears by savage melodics. Agro dance music? Almost.
The instrumentation is mostly electronic, with E-perc (represented by both the uptempo and laid-back varieties), guitar effects, and even some contemplative bass lurking in the mix. Sampled vocal pieces often whisper harshly in the background.
The beat may waver, even decrease into a brooding ambience, but the music's teeth are never sheathed. There is a predominant "growl" factor going on during the sedate compositions; while the growl is literally drowned out by the agro pieces.
Meanwhile, the actual melodies are quite catchy and interesting, running the gamut from overt danceability to scuttling calm. They hold the audience's attention, working their stuff on the deep-down trauma points in everyone.
NORTHERN MACHINE: The Lost Signal (CD on Hoffman Cleaner Cathode Company)
This time, the tracks are much longer, allowing the music to delve deeper into atmospheric territories that reek of tension and potential menace. A versatile palette of electronics are employed to generate these densely seething sonic regions. Guitar and percussives come into play too. Harmonies exist on this 69 minute CD, but they lurk in the shadow of minimalism and attempt to conceal their own evolution with ambience. While their growth might be slow, the music is hardly tedious.
Patterns emerge in the drifting soundscapes, lazily swimming past with pulsating effect. These undulating textural streams create further patterns in their fusion.
There is some vocal presence, but it is incidental and hardly a focal point in the mix. Mainly, the sounds are gritty electronics put to ambient use, producing a state of industrial meditation that can be as jarring as it is simultaneously mesmerizing.
KEVIN SLICK: Towing Jehovah (CD on Nu Vu Du/Paz Creations)
This 37 minute release from 1998 is a musical interpretation of SF author James Morrow's award winning book of the same name. (For those unfamiliar with the book, it involves the discovery of God's mammoth corpse in the Arctic and the grueling oceanic task of transporting the body into more temperate regions.)
Seesawing tones and winding astral riffs drift through the listener's focus, cavorting just within peripheral proximity. Quasi-horns lend a tense drama to the atmospheric mood, with percussives (some softly unintrusive, some metallic and evoking a robotic marching band) injecting rhythm and emotional hope. Delicate keyboards counterpart a growling undercurrent in the melodies, creating a comfortable sense of passive tension.
While this music is ambiently geared, several tracks achieve a greater presence with roiling harmonies and dire implications. There exists here a strange and unique fusion of aural ambience and the heritage of John Philip Sousa, producing melodies that calm with subtle agitation.
The CD wraps up with an introspective piece of sighing tonalities and sparse grand piano, superbly reminding the audience of the promise of the next day.
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