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30 July 2010

Burning Star Core - 'Everyday World of Bodies' (Ultra Eczema)

Who would have thought that Burning Star Core would release a record layered with references to 1994's post-hardcore/indie classic Rusty, by Rodan, a band that came from just down the river from Spencer Yeh's own Cincinnati? And you can hear the same hard/soft balance, between agressive and elegiac, even if on the surface, his Everyday World of Bodies is a world away from their chugga-chugga guitar anthems. But what do we, the listeners, get? Well, 'Shoot Me Out the Sky' begins the record with hiss, eerie voices, and unraveling tape noise. It's dense, but the clouds slowly overlap and let light through at just the right places. As the side goes along we never quite leave that fluttering insectoid feel, though there's more traditional singing than we've heard from Yeh to-date, and various layered unindentifiable field recordings. This might be the 'eclectic' BxC album, which shows his Nurse with Wound influence. This feels like a series of interrelated plateaus, a patchwork that overall blends into something cohesive. 'This Moon Will Be Your Grave' incorporates a very horizontal (yet wavering) electronic tone throughout itself and eventually blends into a glissando of crackling melodies. We get tortured, dying underwater vocals beneath what sounds like cymbals or maybe heavy machinery, and a whole lot of grabbing. But then suddenly we get a strangely rigid electric piano instrumental, by far the most clean, straight-ahead musical sketch I've ever heard from Yeh. Stuck right in the middle of this album, it feels like a bizarre interlude and gives the album a cinematic vibe. And of course the second it ends, we get violin scraping and noodling. Everyday World of Bodies ranges from lo-fi to the carefully recorded constructions Yeh is capable of -- and this mixed bag somehow works because of the way it's all blended together into a suite of six pieces. The man put out a lot of CD-R and cassette releases before the vinyl onslaught and this feels a bit like a throwback to those days (probably because of the mixed fidelity), but with the confidence and schizophrenia (not mutually exclusive terms, you know) that can only develop with time and discipline. Dennis Tyfus' usual intense artwork is here a giant fold-out two-sided moire-trance poster.

27 July 2010

Burning Star Core - 'West Coast Spring 2004' (What The --?)

Vinyl Underbite returns from summer holidays! With all apologies for the lack of notice, but, no, we haven't died or disappeared. So those of you clinging to our every transmission, seeking Underbite satisfaction, can now return to the regularly scheduled programme with this adventure. West Coast Spring 2004 begins with a quick line check before C. Spencer Yeh explodes into some skittery violin fuckery, with Robert Beatty's "acoustic appraiser" (that's big talk for a hearing test machine) counterpoints and understruts things. As a duo there's a lot of space, and it's probably the only way this cassette-fi quality is tolerable. Instead of being murky and disappointing, my attention is drawn to the movement, energy and interplay instead of the psychedelic aspets of the sound layers. That's not to say this isn't an outer exploration of timbre and tone - Beatty's ringing echoes are pointed and haunting, created a pretty bad trip that occasionally takes centre stage (Yeh knows when to drop back and let Robert "solo"). There are times when they get so busy chasing their own tails that it becomes impossible to distinguish the two instruments, and it's nice to think that these sounds, created six years ago, live on in this wax, to be replayed over and over. This was originally released as a cassette series and this LP collects the highlights, with Side A being from Seattle and Side B from San Francisco. The vocal-driven Yeh material is clunky and hoarse, again due I think to the recording fidelity, and it sounds less voice-like than other recordings of his, apart from a few breakthrough bits of gnarlanguage. Side B has a spoken introduction - the audience sounds small, but enthusiastic, which is the best kind, right? -- and then begins with some searing bright light drone, slowly opening and unfolding and pulsing. This is perhaps where the lo-fi nature leaves one wanting, as the distortion of the recording equipment prevents the blissout from taking centre stage. It's okay though, because by the end things have descended into a bit of a tussle, which is continued in the next (brief) track, another jerky free-for-all that blends dancing fingertrips with blurting electronic windbreaking and squealing glimmers. It ends before it really gets anywhere, and then after an unintelligible introduction we hear Beatty's angry toy arms and a megaphone-styled voiceline. It ends like a drunken remix of Bill O'Reilly's A Current Affair outbursts, and distance has truly been covered.