While Arrington de Dionyso's Old Time Relijun (who played a 2007 WFMU Free Music Concert show at Southpaw in Brooklyn) has always had its poetic/jazz-punk leanings in similar terrain as the likes of Blurt, it's always been interesting to see what AdD has gotten up to on his own. In 2001 his Abraxasaxophonic release basically allowed Arrington's sax squall to lock horns (violently) with actual lite-FM jazz recordings running simultaneously in the background to a most pleasing if not disorienting result, though his collaboration with Thollem McDonas, Intuition, Science, and Sex (Edgetone Records) breathes a less perverse air while still stepping sideways of traditional jazz genre-lock. With McDonas on beatup piano in an airy room, de Dionyso's bass clarinet froths in an ominous, though far from assaultive drone; if anything it conjures up a humid bog complete with some meditative off-kilter ivory tinkling planted firmly in some righteous mud to appease the groaning creatures in the surrounding muck. Closer "An Eye" (Real Audio) starts to rustle the stray gunk together a bit heavier than the rest of the disc, but recedes into a harmonium-like finale.
Another splinter-off project making some good noise is Cave, sprung from post-rock-metal-whatsiz unit Warhammer 48K. On an LP compiling two EPs Hunt Like the Devil/Jamz (Permanent Records), shifting metrics of gunky synths, repetitive basslines and overall astral-gazing permeate these grooves in abundance. If Oneida were devoid of a bit of their precision and sprawled in a way to let figures tumble over into each other more often you might get an idea of what Cave were up to rhythmically, but it's when the guitars start to go into acid rampage mode is when I really get interested. Once they start cooking there's some comparisons to Comets on Fire, Titan, or the Heads, but in some ways it still resides in some of the safer zones of a number of the Can-worship types who take it all a bit too literally. Which isn't to say it's a bad thing; there are plenty of surprises and sharp turns going on in the studio which make these two EPs diverse, I guess I'd like to hear the production a little rougher around the edges and let certain elements come unhinged a bit more, but again, pretty nice listening. "Hunt Like Devil" (Real Audio).
Un Festin Sagital exists as a contempo art-prog outfit from Chile specializing in weird, extended opuses that might you mistake their Epitafio a la Permanencia CD (Beta-Lactam Ring) for a lost Zeuhl artifact. Mixing heavy electro-acoustic elements into live big band instrumentation, UFS recall some of the symphonic-rock faves: Magma, Art Zoyd, Samla Mammas Manna, while retaining some alien atmosphere that's endeared them to people like blurb-contributor Edward Ka-Spel of the Legendary Pink Dots. Laden with keyboards, calimba, percussion, metals, viola, sax, didgeridoo, cello and more, passages stretch into creaky, low-key horror score realm that at times jump into exploding choruses, aggro guitar flurries and carnival-like crescendos. I'm straining to hear some South American influences in the soup, but UFS wrangles a real (faithful) continuum in Euro sounds that deservedly get a reinforcement for the old history books. Real Audio: "La Dignidad del Espiritu Bestia".
Somewhat less "symphonic" but nonetheless torch-carrying for its own sack of beloved influences, Portland's Eat Skull might have the tune of the year in "Dead Families", and put on a helluva show down at the SXSW Siltbreeze fest this past March. After that show and the tape/7" singles leading up to it, the full length Sick To Death LP does not disappoint. If Amon Duul's Experimente was lacking songs in your mind (that's because it was), "Alarms" revives the fuzzed percussive tribalism of that record adding some more scorched, broken-mic, broken-guitar, broken everything moments of NZ's unpredictable Axemen . That is, tuneful, wasted pop for the masses to enjoy once again, and if you're already on board with the Siltbreeze ethos you have another unsniffed corner of sound in the bag perfectly. Like the oft-mentioned Hospitals (whom Eat Skull has ties to), I expect continued surprises to come in the future, when you are sure you have 'em figured. Real Audio: "Shredders On Fry". (Pic: Smoothassailing's Flickr).
Dipping in to a more gooey sound pool, the more unicorn-inviting moments of Cluster's later years never gave me much cause to delve deeper into the grey area of Kraut/New Age, hence I couldn't quite get revved up to the extent I might have liked to over their recent USA reunion shows (and I hope to be proved wrong with the Harmonia ones). I love the early Deuter stuff, have gotten into some odd Greek LPs and private press "meditational" records, and hear a lot of yakking about new bands trying to drag the "purity sans the bullshit factor" out of New Age. But apart from Blues Control, I don't see many today coalescing some of the real power of these kinds of sounds into a challenging front without falling on their collective asses and having nothing but an LP sleeve with some guy in rainbow suspenders, or some nude Californians, to show for it. It's no wonder Ridgewood, Queens' finest get namechecked on the new cassette by Canopic Lidz (one track is called "Attempt To Contact Blues Control"), called Da Da Vinci Code, out on Weirding Module's Senseless Empire imprint. Definitely more art-damaged and lo-fi than your average Yanni LP, CL (which apparently features involvement from Awesome Color's bassist) let flow a pretty heady river of cyber/synth passages with enough robotic monkey-chatterings in the mix to confuse some academic noiseniks. Real Audio: "Warm Women".
If anyone's taken Cluster's greatness and moved it into some challenging modern forms/formlessness, it's gotta be Cologne's Wolfgang Voigt, a peerless, forward thinking electronic producer and artist (and co-founder of Kompakt Records) with a sprawling resume and discography. Gas, certainly his haziest/most abstract project that concluded in 2000, has just issued a 4CD overview called Nah Und Fern that may be the best accompaniment for a day-long summer sprawl on a riverside lawn with some mint juleps. Blurred dubscapes sprinkled with nth-generation samples melted into non-recognition, beautiful echoes, and a deep exploration in the makeup of sound itself. Some might grumble that Gas doesn't 'go anywhere', but it all works swell for me. One thing it doesn't do is subscribe to the expectation of a so-called ambient release; while fuzzy atmospherics and gentle pulses/clicks are prominent, there can be some downright tumultuous, noisy tracks and repetition that almost hammers the listener at times. But at all times there exists a grandeur to these sounds that envelop the listener fully. "Konigsforst 4" (MP3)
And while we're on the topic, a quick nod to a great reissue from J.D. Emmanuel. Wizards was a 1982 LP recorded with basic revox tape deck/synths/organ/delay all recorded direct. More stripped down and less 'ethnic' than Popol Vuh but still aiming it's laser beam into the same point, Wizards' electronic improvisations are noteworthy indeed for all consumed with Terry Riley, Harmonia and their ilk. Real Audio: "Expanding Into the Universe". Available on CD from North Star Productions, check J.D.'s site for more info.