Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Source Tags and Mixtapes Mix

"Night In Little Tokyo"
from Japonisme

Subcity Radio has a very cool program called Source Tags and Mixtapes that came to my attention via the cool guys at Enemies List Recordings (home of the transcendent album "Deathconciousness" by Have a Nice Life"). Ross, the host, recently had a birthday and simultaneously asked for recommendations for new music similar to the esoteric/artistic black metal vein of Negura Bunget's classic album "OM."

To digress just slightly, I'm actually a metal novice... I was feeling deep in the doldrums of nearly a decade focusing on noise rock, hardcore and experimental electronic when I happened to catch Wolves in the Throne Room as an opening band one night about three years ago. I remember making a crack that they looked exactly like a Dungeons and Dragons group while they sat around and drank beer before they played. But they got on stage and DAMN, they sucked the light out of the place. I had no-the-hell-clue what to make of what they were doing. I mean, I liked hard music like Dillinger Escape Plan and Botch and had a passing familiarity with Pelican and even owned that one Mastadon album every music hipster owned. But Wolves, damn, that was different. And it bugged my friends to no end. And I bought their album and went home and promptly learned that they were part of a genre called "black metal."

Then I listened to tons of crappy black metal, because if I've learned one thing since then, black metal is worse then any other genre in terms of being filled with crappy knockoffs of crappy knockoffs of people in capes posing on tombstones shot by cell phones and photoshopped to add snow or skulls or snowing skulls. But I also found brilliantly unique and esoteric artists creating some of the most uncompromising music that I had ever heard.

So to honor his birthday, here's a random collection of tracks by black metal artists similar to that album "OM" both well known and unknown. Put these in a playlist, hit random, turn the volume up and marvel at the sheer strangeness, the audacity of anti-aesthetic, and direct power of these tracks.


Download the Sourcetags & Mix Tapes Birthday Mix here!


If you want a bit of commentary, I'm happy to ramble about a few of the bands and tracks:

I've always been a fan of Mick Barr's projects (like Orthrelm) and one of my early loves was the first Krallice album. More than any of the many bands he's played in (or ear-destroying even solo shows) he found his home in the directly recorded hypnotic dissonance and tremolo picking of black metal. His deftness on the guitar, volume and quirky melodic sense combined with a great band and great recording (they made the players play in the same room as the amps for more of a live sound) produced a really stunningly dark and well-realized album that even musicians from other genres tend to appreciate.

Blut Aus Nord has come to be known for very slick epic folk-inflected albums (Memory II was a classic) but their true achievement in my mind is the bleakly idiosyncratic "Ultima Thule" which has a million small and large counter-intuative musical elements ranging from full silence fade-outs mid track, crystiline keyboard melodies floating above the most grungy distorted guitars imaginable. Really strange music that manages to almost never-fufilled promise of evoking an icy winter at 3AM with all it's danger and beauty.

I hardly know anything about the band, but Darkspace makes music that almost seems to want to avoid human listeners. Huge sheets of sound, flickering drumming and endless plate reverb and distorted stereo screams with synths that might be the Monolith from 2001's jogging music.

Leviathan and Xasthur are two of the best black metal artists from America in my mind. Both focus on their ultra-dark one-man projects with Xasthur recently calling it quits. Xasthur ranges into the realm of audio-art with complete abandonment creating alternatively fractured moments of the cinematic and ear-melting noise elements all rooted in a very subtly sophisticated idea about metal history. Leviathan on the other hand is balls-to-the-wall dark and gross. Most black metal bands reference Cthulhu, but if Cthulhu's neighbors were blasting Leviathan at 4AM, Culthuhlu would be scared to ask them to turn it down.

Fauna's album "The Hunt" represents the best of black metal's concept album fringe - taking an excerpt from the album is almost a travesty, but it is primal, low-fi and a highly-varied album that doesn't pretend to be much other than a mediation on the physiologically voracious.

Menace Ruine is a great Canadian band that at turns varies into the realms of noise blasters Wolf Eyes, Merzbow and to neo-Medival electronics. Often repetitive, stunning brutal, you could almost see these two playing at the Smell if they weren't so sophisticated.

If you're curious what black metal artists listen to in their free time, it's certainly black metal, but even more esoteric than usual. If you can get over the totally SHITTY recording and Gollum+vocoder vocals, Stribog is the epitome of outsider-art. He doesn't care if you or anyone listens. And that's black metal, I guess?

Thralldom is an experimental black metal band that borrows a few elements of the noise-walls from My Bloody Valentine and American doom and sludge, and spins it back in to great black metal.

Trist is a fantastic German project that combines intimate black metal, soaring choral elements and field recordings into epic albums.

Weakling's "Dead as Dreams" is probably the best black metal album recorded on the North American continent. Amazingly, most people would agree with that. Elements of convoluted prog song structures and raw thrash meet black metal beats and a band that broke up before they released an album. This is my #1 most sought-after vinyl album.

Moonsorrow is an anarchistic collection of folk musicians and brilliant black metal players that have impeccably massive songs that weave in and out of numerous emotional modes and instrumental textures. Absolutely no one else out there in the same league as these guys for this kind of music. Lots of buried details that only appear after many listenings.

As for the other bands, I know way less about, but they are all amazing and just ask and I'll wax poetic about them too!

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