Transmissions from the Ovulation Station – Best Releases of 2009
Ltd. Ed. (22 copies!) from Taalem
1.) V/A – Naoshimabox (Taalem, 2009)
The stories of people who have undergone near-death experiences are so similar that we have all come to know about that “big, bright light” to which people have been drawn after slipping away from the physical realm. A universal theme is recounted to those around the survivors of death should it somehow be determined that it is not their particular time to go and they regain the consciousness to share their wild tale of life beyond the grave. Rarely are these experiences described as negative. Historically, recollections of the passage between life and death have almost always been of a soothing nature, as if these individuals were welcomed with open arms and made to feel safe amongst the best of friends and family. These testimonies have long reinforced believers in their faith and offered proof of an after-life. Buddhists, for example, refer to the “light at the end of the tunnel” as the birth canal through which the cycle of reincarnation has come to a full circle. We at Ovulation Station on Corpuscle Hill have learned about what these subjects have seen and felt, but what we really want to know is THIS: What did it sound like, man? From the second this release is played, the imagery of some benign heaven opening up before the listener and flooding the vast enclosures of her mind’s eye with an all-embracing light will be undeniable. It’s impressive how consistent this mood is sustained when considering that these are four different artists. Indeed, the Naoshimabox itself was nothing more than a whim dreamt up by Jean-Marc Boucher, creator of the illustrious Taalem label. “(T)his release is not a ‘normal’ Taalem release,” he wrote to us in November. “I just wanted to create something special for these Japanese artists as I have a passion for Japan.” Taalem specializes in releasing 3” CDrs by dark ambient and experimental musicians throughout the world. His catalog is nothing short of breath-taking. Avoid becoming overwhelmed by sampling some of his free net releases and listening to his most recent output. Like we said about Infraction Records, Taalem only seems to be getting better with age. It’s impossible to argue that Naoshimabox is a bonafide testament to this. It consists of five 3” CDrs. One is by Chihei Hatakeyama. Another by Pollypraha. Then there’s Nature of Dislocation and Saito Koji. Limited to a mere twenty-two copies, Naoshimabox includes a bonus disc where one track by each artist has been contributed. From start to finish, you will find yourself in a state of stupefied suspension so make sure you are near a bed or reclined-back chair before playing these works. We’re not sure what will be on the stereo up there in the clouds as we approach the pearly gates, but we’re pretty sure it will sound something like this.
Buy from Squidco OR @ Doubt Music
2.) Umezu Kazutoki – Plays the Enka (Doubt Music)
This was recorded in October of last year, then released in late December. I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m guessing this sumbitch didn’t actually hit the streets until January. I’m using this (all too weak) excuse/explanation because this CD is too remarkable NOT to find an exclusive spot ever-so-close to the PEAK of this countdown. Mr. Kazutoki will have you riding a rollercoaster of heart-wrenching moods, so have your shrink on speed-dial and your medications within reach. Each track possesses its very own personality, its very own life. Imagine this: An exhaustive auditioning process at Ovulation Station bears us fourteen actors and actresses to be featured separately in a short film dedicated to each untitled track on the CD. The first short film depicts an angry teenager sitting on the steps of a storefront. Seconds later he’s leaning on a parking meter looking at the street. Now he’s smoking a cigarette. There is something both charming and vindictive in his stare. A punk rocker of fifteen years old, his features are smooth with small, red lips. His blond hair is tousled, hanging down to his jaw line. One strand of hair has outgrown the rest at a length of close to two feet. He has shoved all his pain back inside himself like a traffic jam on a Monday morning. A sarcastic half-smile meekly covers this up. The first track from ‘Plays the Enka’ holds rein over this otherwise silent short. The soundtrack to the next short film depicts a woman in her forties. Her hair is frazzled. A tangled shaft of white climbs over the center of her scalp, separating the fading brown outgrowths above her temples. She is never quite sure of herself and can be heard whispering to an invisible friend if you listen closely. She smokes non-filtered cigarettes and wears a beige, leather jacket – easily twenty years old according to the calloused collar. We do not have room to list all of these memorable characters, so we’ll leave it up to you to buy the CD and create your own identities. The proto-typical imagery of the sax player in an A-shirt silhouetted in the window of a slummy apartment on a humid day is irresistable, but these sketches in sound reach far beyond what has become cliché. Recalling paintings by Edward Hopper and the loneliness of one’s own experience may be the only and best resource for you to give these astounding works the emotional depth they embody.
Treue Um Treue (10″ LP, black vinyl – in special fold-out sleeve + inserts – Ltd. ed. of 277, hand-numbered)
3.) Johanna Liebhart – Damals (Treue Um Treue, 2009)
Here we have sexually-charged and decadent synthesizer pieces performed by an obscure artist named Johanna Liebhart, also known as simply Anna. The sounds surround us with a vast garden of exotic plants and gigantic flowers unveiling deep hues of black, purple, and crimson. Giant, black orchids the size of an elephant’s head, adorned with bright, jade leaves cushioning their drooping necks, stare at their visitor with predatory but irresistibly sensuous eyes. So saturated with the sweetest of poisons, one can almost taste the black nectar dripping from their fecund petals. The package offers four inserts that feature compelling photography of crumbling Roman statues of women looking especially forlorn under a gray light juxtaposed by shades of purple and dried blood. In contrast to the confidence exuded in Liebhart’s musicianship, our damsels have their backs bent, their heads down, and their eyes obscured by a visage of thick shadow as they look downward with the resignation of martyrdom, the weight of the world still chaining them to Man’s Earth after centuries of persecution already past. Indeed, the entire packaging oozes of a despairing beauty laid to rest. Whoever is responsible for the artwork accompanying these amazing pieces dating from 1978 to 1980 deserves some kind of award. Without the emptiness of words, the music, composed entirely on a single synthesizer, transmits stories of tragic legends when the gods of ancient Greece still existed. A deep despondency resonates throughout, excluding the second track, a song obviously favored by the producer as it matches the title of the 10”. Clocking in at a mere one-and-a-half minutes we hear a sample of a female in the throes of sexual ecstasy. It sounds like she is at the peak of an orgasm. The artist has chosen to loop this voice throughout the song. In the background we hear the sun shining on emerald fields of grass while sparrows with tangerine wings hover above her sighing lips. Sir Ovulator, the First and Last Descendant of Ovulation Station on Corpuscle Hill, is dying to hear more by this mythical goddess.
Band site OR Super-Fi
4.) Snowblood – Snowblood (Superfirecords, 2009)
Our favorite band from Scotland unleashed this final release before disbanding. Compared to their other albums, this is easily their heaviest. Not necessarily in terms of the fast, growling punk/metal represented by their earlier demos and first release, but more in terms of sustained emotional gravity. Consisting of only four songs, each track spans an average of twenty minutes. They are all sure to take their time in creating a mood of conscious demoralization and lower class dissatisfaction with down-tuned guitars and sludgy breakdowns. Their farewell rips out our hearts and smears them across the pavement under dirty combat boots, expressed most poignantly by the last lyrics of the final track: I don’t want your money/ But you try to bring me down with your money/ In time it all comes to nothing…
amazon MP3 eMusic Cantaloupe Bang on a Can Store
5.) Sentieri Selvaggi – Plays Gavin Bryars and Phillip Glass (Canteloupe Music, 2009)
Known as the Italian version of Kronos Quartet, this talented ensemble present two pieces which might fall short quantity-wise, but pack a serious wallop as far as quality. We cannot remember being so moved by a neo-classical album since we heard the late Luciano Cilio’s Dell’Universo Assento (‘The Absent Universe’) on Die Schactel. We consider Luciano Cilio nothing short of a genius, so you can imagine how impressed we are by these renditions of Phillip Glass and Gavin Bryars.
Monorail Trespassing (Out of print?) OR Artist site
6.) Sean McCann – Wind in their Way (Monorail Trespassing, 2009)
Aquarius Records compared this performer to the all-time masters of drone music Troum (translated as ‘Dream’ in English) from Germany. We worship and have collected everything that Troum has ever put out, but – dare we say – this cassette release is even tighter, more refined than anything we’ve ever heard by Troum. Drone music is all too often lacking in structure. But all three of these pieces have been carefully calculated to the second. Just listen to “Branch of Chambers Pt. II”. Ever so subtly, behind us, we hear the chords of an untreated guitar playing along in perfect harmony to wisps of wavering intonations hovering in the foreground. We listen to hundreds of artists who excuse themselves as being experimental, when all too often, the results of their so-called art betray an amateur understanding of music altogether. The sloppiness is sometimes forgivable, but all too often too cringe-worthy to keep on the stereo. Sean McCann offers a welcome relief to these disappointments with gorgeous pieces that have been meticulously composed.
Buy at Light Lodge
7.) Silver Pines – Forces (Light Lodge, 2009)
Hailing from Texas, we have come across a band that would prefer to reveal very little about themselves for now. They released a CDr called ‘Forces’ that couldn’t help but attract considerable attention in underground circles. Within less than a year it was pressed on vinyl. In true indie spirit, they put out a cassette called ‘Night Smoker’, indicating a less than discreet promotion of their drug of choice. The vocals have been compared to Hope Sandoval. But this does not do justice to the singer. We can’t stand country, but there is something about our front-woman that gives us a taste of Southern living. I, Sir Ovulator, the First and Last Descendant of Ovulation Station on Corpuscle Hill, was particularly impressed by the instrumentals featured here. At one point, we hear the heavy bar-chord of a fuzzy guitar reminiscent of Mudhoney, bursting forth after a quiet, acoustic introduction. The rest of the song plods gracefully through the brambles in the backyard of a trailer park. Somehow they stack the debris of dried leaves and broken branches in such a symmetrical order that it’s impossible not to adore them.
ALSO “Snowy Red” + “Right to Die” results on youTube
8.) Snowy Red – Snowy Red & The Right to Die (bootlegs)
That’s right. These albums are bootlegs. And many fans view the timing of these releases to be at the height of bad taste. Marcel Thiel, better known by his stage persona Mikey Mike, finally passed away this year after a long battle with a number of health-related issues. As rumor would have it, he lived a life of excess, but none of this has been confirmed. Indeed, there is little known about this elusive and legendary master in the genre of minimal-synth. After an absence lasting almost fifteen years, he made a surprise appearance at a festival five years ago and then nothing else was heard of him. A slew of out-of-print (and now costly) vinyl being the only evidence that he once existed, he seemed to have simply vanished into nothingness after 2004. I listed both LPs together because, in my opinion, they mutually sum up the greatest of his work. This also corresponds to my dream of one day seeing both of these gems paired together on a single release – a release on a legitimate label – that would include his “I’m Hurt” 7” as bonus material. The multi-talented, vinyl purist Veronica of the label Minimal Wave – who has got to be one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen in my entire life – has been wanting put out his works for years. I am hoping that day is soon to come. You can hear “Come On Dance” and “Baby Tonight” from his first album and all of the songs from ‘The Right to Die’ on youtube. Someone with exceptional artistic abilities cued up “Baby Tonight” with a dance scene from a 1910 film. Give it a taste.
Buy New or Used through amazon
9.) Zenlo – Skelethal Antics (Porter Records, 2009)
The great Zenlo – a cross between Vince Gallo and a burnt-out Liberace – connected with the guy from Porter Records through Myspace and put ‘Skelethal Antics’ out. An amalgam of minimal-synth, jazz and experimental-drone is in store for you here. He is somehow all over the place and yet, completely sitting beside whoever cares to listen to him, showing his disciple each and every crazy trick up his sleeve. He is solely devoted to the concept of improvisation, but when you listen to songs like “Crab Dance” and “Call of the East” there is an almost pop-formula present. Porter Records puts out some fabulous experimental music but this is probably the best of the bunch.
ALSO Interviewed and in session on WFMU (Real Audio) here and here and here and here
10.) Mira Cook – Mira Cook (self-released cassette, 2009)
Squish together Daniel Johnston, Grouper, and a pinch of Vashti Bunyan and you’ll have a taste of Mira Cook’s aesthetic. Simple, lo-fi songs comprised almost entirely of the singer’s haunting voice run through various effects. Not a modicum of pretension here. Just an eerie beauty that lingers in the air like a ghost long after the tape has come to a stop. Her next release will be on Digitalis.
Give us a holler at otlodge AT yahoo DOT com. We won’t bite you…