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Experimental Noise: Calika, Mental Anguish, Methadrone, Opsvik & Jennings

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CALIKA: Small Talk Kills Me (CD on Audiobulb Records)

This CD from 2005 offers 65 minutes of minimal illbience.

Calika is Simon Kealsha.

Highly electronic and sparse in nature, this music pursues a grating euphoria accomplished through the extreme manipulation of computers and machinery. Electronic whistles and bloops and scrapings conspire to produce an edgy soundscape that pays little attention to epic structure, instead achieving a wistful expression of despair flavored with a synthetic touch of hope. Sing-song chords drip forth with congenial delivery, embellished by a sense of playful artificiality. The effect is one of music that refuses to be conventional, devoutly immersing itself in strangeness.

Unpredictable e-perc rhythms blend with growling diodes and abstract noise.

Hesitant guitars and forlorn voices are mixed in to give the tuneage a modicum of humanity, but the overall result remains quite resolutely unconventional.

Experimentation is the keynote here.

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MENTAL ANGUISH: Open Loops Vol. 1 (CD on Harsh Reality Music and Tapegerm)

This CD from 2005 features 53 minutes of splice and dice tuneage.

Mental Anguish is Chris Phinney. Tapegerms is a sonic collective community, represented here by: Cystem, Mystified, Q-Cut, DJ Get Yo Fat On, Heuristic Inc., Omnitechnomatrix, Dave Fuglewicz, and Buzzsaw & the Shavings.

The idea is: each performer contributes samples and riffs that are then mutated by other members of this electronic community. Fragments are transformed into music, often raucous in nature, but hardly unmelodic. Abrasive, though, is an amply applicable description. But strangely, for all these qualifiers, the tunes are engaging and often breathtaking.

Drum riffs conspire with grinding guitar attacks to produce hypnotic pieces. A bevy of slick electronics serve to cement the elements into a glistening display of tasty tuneage. Bass tones provide a rumbling undercurrent that uplifts the rest of the instruments.

An amazing thing is how different each track is. While one blazes with guitar pyrotechnics, another applies sultry smoothness with a touch of synthetic church bells. One track blends agro electronics with heavy metal guitar to rail against telemarketers and their predilection to always call during dinnertime. Another track generates a dreamy soundscape that would be ambient if not for its overtly gritty manner.

With the exception of the source material, the only property shared by all the compositions is a dedication to alternative sensibilities. Spurning traditional pop format, this music strives to push the envelope by forcing experimental attitudes into a pop venue, ultimately imbuing the music with a subliminal dissatisfaction with conventionality. This urge is not only laudable, it produces a tasty selection of music that resides outside the box.

For all its anarchistic roots, this music is highly listenable, often delivering tunes that would have been suitably appropriate during the Eighties heyday of electro-pop.

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METHADRONE: Retrogression (CD on Methadrone Records)

This CD from 2005 offers 35 minutes of in-your-face guitar tuneage.

Heavy-handed guitars grind away, peeling the flesh from your anatomy and stripping all extraneous particles from your ear canals. Chords are played as if gigantic tree trunks are battered against the neck of the guitar, astoundingly conjuring coherent melodies that reverberate with enough force to shatter the sky. Make no mistake: this is not cacophony; these are deliberate compositions that possess reliable order and structure.

Auxiliary guitars embellish the lead din, generating a lush landscape that bristles with aggressive vigor as it tantalizes with its epic resonance. After a few moments of gritting your teeth, you will be swept away by the riotous melodies, even captivated by the intense mesmerism. Pain will wash away to be replaced by wide-eyed fascination.

Buried in this bedlam are drums, although it'll take a while to notice the crashing impacts over the entrancing guitar racket. These subliminal poundings excellently serve to provide the music with a secondary layer of savagery.

For all its brute force and seemingly simplicity, this music is compelling and thoroughly engaging.

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OPSVIK & JENNINGS: Floyel Files (CD on NCM East Records)

This CD from 2005 offers 51 minutes of quirky tuneage.

Aaron Jennings (on electric and acoustic guitars, software, electronics and samples) and Eivind Opsvik (on upright and electric bass, drums, keyboards, theremin, drum machines, glockenspiel, voice and tape loops) are joined by Brian Griffin on snare drum and Peter Opsvik on pump organ.

A distinctly classical overtone infiltrates this assembly of sound, giving the resulting strangeness a melodic flair that does little to defy the music's overall illbient nature. Melodies clash and wobble with determined uncertainty, generating a subliminal unease to the otherwise pleasant harmonics.

Strings (both rock and orchestral) wander through the pieces, pulsating and grinding and swaying with innovative abandon. Keyboards filter in, accompanied by cafe style percussion, producing a serene temperament that is suitably violated by unexpected turns and surprise outbursts of easygoing passages. A certain toylike quality is present in conjunction with a resolve for weirdness. Chittering electronics seek to fuse unlikely riffs into a Zappaesque pastiche of musique concrete and jovial tuneage.

This intriguing mixture of conventional and experimental is more enjoyable than most chaotic structures, this success definitely attributable to the musicians' desire to enliven the simplicity with complex elements.

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