Monday, April 15, 2019

Hoggle & Ludo- "A Great Beast Becomes a Great Friend"

In my last post, I mentioned how much I love split releases. This is also something I've mentioned more times than I probably should've over the past six and a half years, but it remains true. Today we're looking at a split between two harsh noise artists approaching a similar topic and working with each other's source material to create new art. I'm not going to pretend this is coming with high recommendations for the average reader, as this is intentionally challenging art. Not in the sense of "oh, your weak ears aren't ready," so much as that there is an inherently smaller audience for wall noise and I understand exactly why many may not enjoy it. Still, I feel it's worth celebrating those who are outsiders even in an outsider community, which is why the ongoing works of Hoggle (and this one-time appearance from Ludo) warrant attention on my blog. I hope you'll at least take a short bit to acquaint yourself with this before writing it off entirely.

Hoggle, as you may have guessed, is a noise artist whose art is entirely based around the cult classic film Labyrinth. I'm going to assume that most readers have at least a passing familiarity with the film, from its kitschy Muppet-driven cast to the prominence of David Bowie's bulge throughout the whole damn thing, so we're not diving too deep into that. Essentially, Hoggle's methodology on the few albums in my personal collection seems to be straightforward enough: song kicks off with a sample from the film before crumbling low-end static roars for eight to twenty minutes. This may seem formulaic or repetitive (and, to be fair, it may actually be at times), but I truly enjoy pairing my childhood nostalgia with my adulthood appreciation for experimental music in its many forms. I am a firm believer that noise works better live, when one can witness the form in which it's created, but recordings can still inspire and excite the imagination with a dedicated listen. In Hoggle's harsh noise labyrinth, I'm often reminded of why I'm drawn to such fringe works. This isn't necessarily meant to be groundbreaking; harsh noise wall is a genre rooted in consistency rather than reinvention, and Hoggle is a project dedicated to a film that was released thirty years ago. We aren't looking to the future here, we're looking at and reinterpreting our own experiences.

On this two-tape set, Hoggle is joined by Ludo, a new moniker from Floridian noise luminary Hal Harmon, whose works as Vasectomy Party were some of my personal points of entry into the harsher spheres of modern experimental music. Some of the delight I get from this release is seeing Harmon's homage to a peer. Rather than simply performing tribute by crafting something similarly inspired, it's great to experience tracks like "You Seem Like Such a Nice Beast," wherein Ludo takes Hoggle's work and remixes it into a new kind of aggression (and on the two tracks on the B-side of the first tape where the roles are reversed). I'm not intimately aware of the noise scene's interpersonal politics (and from what I've gathered I'm better off for this), but I love seeing artists collaborating and celebrating their mutual styles rather than sniping at each other or working in direct competition. In such a niche community, we must find the common ground and work together. The very nature of the characters in question (and the title of the split) imply exactly this: an individual who may seem like a threat can be an ally if treated with respect.

As for the music itself, the two tracks of pure Hoggle material are less straightforward than they may appear. "Things Aren't Always What They Seem in This Place" sets things off both as the opening track and thematically, as the initial wildness of the wall condenses to a more focused, tightly wound rumble after a few minutes, only to blossom into another form of motion and vastness entirely a few minutes later. The slow shifting from chaos to a more distinct form into new chaos defies expectations and rewards a close listen, although the definition of "reward" in this context may vary for different listeners. While its accompanying track "The Goblins Torment the Snared Beast" is a more vicious, jagged take on the genre, it's no less deserving of a focused listen. If anything, the raw energy on display here makes it easier to sink into the sound and follow its ferocity. The tracks of Hoggle working with Ludo's source material that make up the B-side of the first tape follow a rather similar path, but not identical.

Ludo's contributions begin with two rearranged versions of Hoggle material, showing a clear deviation in form. "Is That Any Way to Treat Someone That's Trying to Help You?" is an especially strong deviation, following its trademark film sample with sparse, crackling noise that feels more like fizzling embers than an outright din. The slow build of this track, with density creeping in behind the main layer of sound until the two become one, highlights a difference in approach leaves me haunted.  In an even more subtle shift, on "You Seem Like Such a Nice Beast" we hear one of the film's most tender moments slowly overtaken by crunchy mid-range frequencies and the hint of a low pulse. It's refreshing to be able to distinguish the two artists while still finding them complementary. On Ludo's own tracks independent of Hoggle, the format remains consistent, although the walls feel slightly more solid and unwavering, with "A Proper Introduction For New Friends" building from hisses to monolithic sections of impenetrable horror and its counterpart in "A Journey Renewed, But Still Lacking Knowledge" displaying uncompromising harsh mastery.

All told, this release satisfies a certain itch for me. I can only hope it'll hit the spot for you. With just under three hours of music on these two tapes, it's certainly worth the $15 price tag. The Ludo tracks may be a bit better suited for those who are newer to the genre, but the whole release highlights the appeal of harsh noise wall while also showcasing the potential for diversity in an inherently rigid genre. Order through the Hair on My Food Tapes bandcamp page for a tape and a download, as Storenvy orders don't come with digital files (your author may or may not have found out the hard way) and you may as well get the whole package deal if you're going to commit. Enjoy.

Friday, April 12, 2019

The Best Things of 2018

Without even bothering to examine the state of the world (both because it's overdone and because blogging is an inherently self-absorbed thing), 2018 was one hell of a challenging year for me. To be fair, the first few months of 2019 were possibly even harder, but that's a story for the post prior to this one. I spent the year dealing with all manner of personal crises that were almost entirely manufactured by myself, from a resurgence of depression to me managing to break my laptop and spending nearly half the year without a means of maintaining this blog.

Somehow, as anybody able to read this can say, I survived. My perspective is so much clearer now, and while I missed a lot of music during the period where I was without a laptop, I also heard so many albums that I imagine I'll still love years from now. Also, despite the chaos and struggles, I had some truly wonderful times last year, both personally and musically. These small moments dot the darkness like dazzling little stars, and the promise of more moments like them in my future keeps me optimistic as I fight off physical and mental health challenges alike. In this post, I'll strive to share some of the musical aspects of my life (gotta keep some of the personal stuff personal; this isn't a diary) and perhaps I'll help you find something new that you will enjoy as much as I do. If I've missed a favorite of yours, it doesn't mean I hated it or that I forgot it, although both are certainly possibilities. Rather, it's likely that what clicks with me is as uniquely personal as what clicks with you. So feel free to gently send me suggestions, but please don't fret too much if it's just a matter of me not having heard something yet.

For starters, we're looking at concerts. I'm not going to give full reviews, because those alone could easily fill a post:

OMD @ Terminal 5
Vilkacis, Sanguine Eagle, One Thousand Birds, Sandworm, Scant @ Lucky 13.
Roadburn 2018 (highlights include Kikagaku Moyo, Mizmor, The Heads, Godflesh, Old Tower, Waste of Space Orchestra, Hieros Gamos, and Zuriaake, among many others)
Depeche Mode twice in one week for my birthday, in NYC and Boston
Godspeed You! Black Emperor @ Prospect Park (free gig).
Killing Joke @ Irving Plaza.
The Damned twice in one week because they're the Damned, in NYC and Washington D.C.

Yeah, I realize those shows are a bit light on the extreme metal content, but after spending so much of my life attending almost exclusively heavy metal shows, it makes those that aren't metal stand out just a bit more. No love lost, but it's easier to distinguish the things that are a bit different.

Something I noticed in 2018 was that it was truly the year of the split release, for me at least. So many great artists released things that were easily as good as any proper LP. Whether it's the two separate Turia splits, the Asimov-themed La Torture des Tenebres & microcosmys jam, or any of the others listed among this small batch of splits, reissues, EPs, and demos, these were some of the most interesting things that came my way during the calendar year. If anything, the inherent brevity of these shorter releases should make them easier for you to check out. Also, that Book of Sand EP is a strong contender for album of the year, so at the very least you should listen to that.

Book of Sand- Postmodern Witchcraft
Devil Master- Manifestations (compilation)
Fluisteraars/Turia- De Oord
Korpsånd- An Introduction to the New Wave of DKBM
microcosmys/La Torture des Tenebres- The Gods Themselves
Spiritual Cramp- Television (compilation)
Sun Ra & His Arkestra- Strange Celestial Road (digital reissue)
Vastum/Spectral Voice split
Vilkacis/Turia split
Warthog- Warthog

Now here's the part most of you came for. Albums that ruled. I've chosen a handful that I really enjoyed. Twenty album limit here means that there were some truly enjoyable albums that got left off. Doesn't mean they're bad, it just means I had to be firm with myself or else this could've easily tripled in size and made itself a bit bloated and harder to parse. This is a representation of the diversity of great music released in 2018. Everything from truly raw black metal to art rock with healthy doses of a few other things. Am I still heavily rooted in guitar music? Of course. Still, I'm trying to branch out more with time. Hope that one or two of these really click with you. In alphabetical order so as not to give the illusion that I'm capable of prioritizing (although if pressed, I'd likely list that Daughters album as AOTY). I'm listing these as embedded bandcamp links where possible so you can just click and enjoy.

Voices- Frightened (can't find it on bandcamp or as a stream on YouTube so this is a spotify link, sorry)

Friday, April 5, 2019

Songs for Hospitals

Some of you may know I was recently hospitalized following severe complications with my ulcerative colitis. Now that you've read that sentence, all of you know. This may seem vaguely familiar to long-time readers who remember my Crohns diagnosis (now changed to ulcerative pancolitis) three years ago. I was a lot more afraid back then, but my condition was also far more benign. Funny how that works, isn't it?

To make a very long story short, I've spent most of the past four months in varying states of discomfort and outright pain. Since late February, things have been bad enough that I've been incapable of working and have been kept at home. The doctor I was seeing for my condition kept reassuring me that steroids and other drugs would help, but my state continued to deteriorate in spite of his help. Finally, on March 21st, I received a colonoscopy to confirm my state. At this point, the doctor changed my category from "mild" to "severe" and sent me to the hospital for immediate treatment.

I spent a week hospitalized for my ulcerative colitis. Seven days passed in shifting states of optimism and unease. While I was grateful to be on the path towards a long-term treatment and possible solution, there's a sort of fear that creeps in all the same when you realize you're so sick that you cannot be at home and must be monitored by doctors at all hours. The one saving grace for my stay (aside from competent and helpful doctors, naturally) was that the only available bed for me was in a private room. Many rooms in hospitals are shared, often partitioned solely by a curtain between two beds. I had my own door that shut and a private bathroom, which is rather essential with a digestive condition such as mine. With my privacy intact and more time on my hands than I'd like, I made a playlist to busy myself and to track my thoughts as I went. Since I had no laptop or diary, writing my feelings out would prove too complex, but adding songs to a playlist here and there made perfect sense. Aided by a friend's Spotify family account (thanks Chris), I was able to really sit with music and channel the experience as it hit me.

There's something to be said about the power of music to help us convey what we cannot directly access, and there was a general blanket of numbness between me and many of my experiences while I was hospitalized. Whether it was simply how surreal the whole thing is or whether it was so traumatizing in a way that I couldn't process it, I found that listening to music placed me closer to my reality than my day-to-day experiences would've otherwise allowed. With that in mind, I present a playlist that flows from dreadful and dreary to warm and welcoming. Some of these songs are a bit on the nose as they deal with anxiety and stomach issues outright, while others are more indirect and for the listener to interpret. I'd initially planned on giving more of a "guide" here, but unless I tell you every high and low of my time in the hospital and all the weird buried grief and self-doubt that came with it, it's best to just let you go on a journey of your own. It may not mimic mine entirely, and many of these songs may not bring you anything at all, but I hope this is as good a place as any to begin reconnecting with you, dear reader, as it's been quite some time since I've found it within me to really commit to writing on this blog and I have missed it terribly. As always, send me your thoughts at if you'd like to discuss this. Thank you.