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Spirit of the Beehive take a dark ride on "Entertainment, Death"

Blatantly disregarding the double-live principle of rock school on their fourth full-length, Spirit of the Beehive instead take the listener on a dark ride. The record is called Entertainment, Death and with its cover image of faceless funhouse patrons being beckoned into the mouth of madness of an amusement ride’s entryway, a mouth belonging to a cartoonish but menacing red-eyed devil, we’re given a hint of what’s to come inside--a carnival ride full of herky-jerky twists and turns. 

Entertainment, Death moves restlessly between ambient floating-in-space “tunnel of love” passages like heard in the song above and whiplash passages as illustrated below, similar to when the midway ride's bumper car rolls over a relay switch illuminating a skeleton or some other scary creature leaping out of a casket and lunging straight at you, accompanied by a loud cackling laugh and a spray of hissing steam. 



Despite the seeming stream-of-consciousness of much of Entertainment, Death the album is organized around a conceit that makes thematic sense out of its through-composed structure. Album opener “Entertainment” begins in medias res and ushers the listener through a sonic birth canal of rumbling drones, squealing test tones, scuttling percussion and intense ethereal whooshing. But relative calm then descends with a loping rhythm and chirping birds and a pastoral folk song melody with harmonized vocals informing us that “I woke up when I heard the blow / heading east towards KSMO” a calm that’s broken only slightly by the entrance of glitching synths and a warped string section. 

Guitarist/vocalist Zack Schwartz and bassist/vocalist Rivka Ravede have explained elsewhere that while on tour for 2018’s Hypnic Jerks they suffered a tire blowout in route to a gig in Kansas City, Missouri (a tour that had them opening for the band Ride no less) which led to them imagining a scenario where they perished in the aftermath of a car accident and where their new album would be conceived as a series of fleeting thoughts and musical fragments and distant memories triggered in the split-second leading up to their imminent death occurring on the last track fittingly called “Death.”

More than just an inner space travelogue the record also serves as a reckoning of sorts for lives spent creating and consuming “content” (a.k.a. entertainment) with the Beehive crew expressing some ambivalence and admitting “I regret some choices I’ve made / entertainment only remains / while I keep descending / who will decipher the pain from the lie?” and between the bookmark tracks of “Entertainment” and “Death” the album delves into a sonic and lyrical purgatory for the rest of its running time, descending into Hell for the penultimate multi-part “I Suck The Devil’s Cock,” a song that doesn’t so much advocate demonic fellatio as it advocates demonic fellatio used as a metaphor for the Faustian bargain of selling one’s soul for rock ‘n’ roll or of serving the servants by serving new content to the modern-day deity of the Internet server.

Just in case you're not finding it easy, one good way to get on the wavelength of Entertainment, Death is to read up on what the Buddhists call “bardo”--intermediate, indeterminate state of non-being (based in becoming vs. being) like the twilight state between wakefulness and sleep (a.k.a. hypnagogia) or the cosmic void between life and death or between death and rebirth. Spirit of the Beehive cross the dharmata bardo or “luminous void” described in the Tibetan Book of the Dead with Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle as represented by the record's shifting tempos, warped pitches, flanged timbres and vacillations between chaos and stillness where “enough is never enough” and where the “remember[ed] promise of a future” is replaced by an eternal present. 

Both the quotes directly above are taken from “There’s Nothing You Can’t Do” which transforms a cheap ad slogan into an aspirational mantra and a luminous void (“Property of Void Industries”) and for almost two minutes it comes on like a song you’d hear at a sexy alien discotheque--with a slinky groove wedded to a strangely alluring detuned trumpet and wispy vocals that declare the merits of a “heavy hand, middle class / chemical in a bag / all I want; love me all the time” before lifting off into s hook at 1’13 that's sublime enough for one to overlook the quiet desperation of lyrics like “Could it all be in my head?” and “I made my bed, I’ll lie in it”--a song that just about any other band would leave untouched and promote as their radio-ready new single. But instead SotB drown their potential hit song in the bathtub toward its end, submerging it under waves of feedback and distortion and paranoid-sounding screaming that promises “I’ll be your friend” over and over again but which I usually hear as asking “Are you afraid?”

 

And so with Entertainment, Death the Philly-based three piece (reduced from five on their last LP; Zach and Rivka are joined here by multi-instrumentalist Corey Wichlin) Spirit of the Beehive have assembled fragments of their musical past--ranging from early shoegaze and noise-based music to sample-based collage and dreamy indie rock and electronic experimentation--into a cut-and-pasted musical journey that combines the aforementioned elements with other influences (e.g., vaporwave) resulting in a manifesto for the end times that beckons you to enter the void and to buy their band t-shirts and art works. (Jason Lee)





Queen Mob bring on the "Pop Sickle"

Queen Mob are a two-piece from Psychedelphia, who as individuals go by the names Beth and Colin, and if they placed a band personals ad it'd probably read something like “freak-folk-shoegaze-vaporwave band seeks absolutely no one because we don’t collaborate and we don’t cooperate.” 

Over the past year Queen Mob have released one album and one EP (Easy, Liger and Against A Pale Background) and three singles (“Comeback,” “Sidecar,” and “Pop Sickle”) the last of which I’m declaring to be the best runaway-carousel/broken-calliope music I’ve heard since MGMT’s “Lady Dada’s Nightmare”. 

In their recorded work to date the band have already demonstrated impressive range by alternately sounding like an inebriated Beck, an inebriated Swervedriver, and an inebriated Jandek (so, just, Jandek). Or maybe instead of inebriated they're just experimental. It's not really our business how they get to that place. 

Beth herself describes the single above as “haunted dystopian electronic music” and that strikes me as pretty accurate for their lastest music. So hop on to the merry-go-round and hold to your horse pole becuase Queen Mob will take you on a ride. (Jason Lee)





Anastasia Coope releases "Norma Ray" into the wild

Here at Deli Enterprises Inc. we don’t cover nearly enough of the freak folk. And so to make amends we present the debut single out today by Anastasia Coope called “Norma Ray.”

Or not. Because there’s really no obvious label to apply to this music (plus who am I to gauge the level of freakiness?) which is an encouraging thing to say about any new artist. About the best way I can come up to describe the sound of “Norma Ray” is to say it's like if Liz Phair went in a more experimental ambient post-rock direction early in her career (or later in her career). Or like if PJ Harvey made a psychedelic acoustic album produced by Brian Eno. Or like if Joanna Newsom hired Jane Birkin, Kate Bush, and Diamanda Galas as backing vocalists and gave them an echo box and told them to imitate a flock of seagulls. No, not the band, actual seagulls. Or like if…well, just listen to the song below and insert your own scenario because I don’t get paid by the musical simile sorry to say.

Anyway we have it straight from Anastasia herself that she “draws from influences such as Vashti Bunyan, Family Fodder, David Berman, Animal Collective, and early electronic composers in the vein of Daphne Oram” and that she's also way into “Stereolab, the Everly Brothers, Steve Reich, Neu!, Pylon, Silver Jews, Spacemen 3, Faust, Broadcast, and many more” which means there is probably some more interesting music coming down the pike because that's quite a list. (editors note: see the Purple Mountains/David Berman ((RIP)) cover version appended at the bottom of this entry)

Anastasia goes on to explain she “began writing music in a serious sense when quarantine began” and that she “continued this endeavor throughout my first year at Pratt Institute where I study painting.” Which points to some interesting parallels between some of Ms. Coope's paintings with their oversized pointillistic portraiture (check out some of the paintings here) and the musical architecture of “Norma Ray” with its swarm of pinging echoes moving across the stereo spectrum like dots against an open-skied horizon created by faraway avian creatures in flight. And speaking of avian creatures in flight, I feel like this must be something like what bats hear when navigating by bio sonar aka “echolocation” and hey there’s a good name for this musical style or we could go with batcore instead. (did I say seagulls before well nevermind)



So, like, “Norma Ray” is a cool headphone listen for sure and it may even serve as good bio-sonar training for aspiring vampires. But the unorthodox vocal sounds are grounded by acoustic guitar backing and a small choir of overdubbed voices singing incantatory phrases in unison meaning this song could be used to ward off vampires and vampire bats too maybe. Quoting from Anastasia's bandcamp page the combined effect is both “disruptive and whimsical” and that's pretty dead-on, much like a tragicomic mime who experiences love and loss with a ragtag traveling circus or better yet a moonstruck Pierrot. And speaking of Pierrot Lunaire the seductive sonic disorientation of "Norma Ray" is mirrored in the song's lyrics with its opening image of reflective surfaces (“maybe five screens will do what she wants them too”) a line that's repeated and refracted through a new melodic contour followed by additional shards of impressionistic imagery and interior thoughts.

In conclusion, you can take your pick whether the song is more like a Kate Bush fever dream or a gaggle of vampire bats or a transitional Fellini movie or a ritual of mystical incantation or the musings of a moonstruck clown--or maybe if we're judging by the title it's an imagined dialogue between the nearly-titular labor activist and surrealist painter/photographer May Ray because why not. (editor's note: remember, you don't get paid per simile or metaphor) But whatever. The real takeaway is that Anastasia Coope paints a vivid, memorable picture in just under two minutes even if you can’t quite make out what the picture represents which is probably why I used/abused the word "like" eleven times in the text above. (Jason Lee)

 




More Eaze Explores Ambient Emotionality With New Album “yearn”

More so than any other Austin musician, More Eaze (solo project of Mari Maurice) effortlessly navigates the contemporary experimental music landscape. More Eaze is a prolific anti-composer whose unending stream of bafflingly diverse releases over the years has explored the fluidity between seemingly contradictory elements—primarily pop, minimalism and noise. In addition to her impressive solo oeuvre, she is a familiar face in the Orange Milk Records extended universe who also works in various capacities as a producer/multi-instrumentalist with a multitude of other artists: Claire Rousay, Fibril, The Octopus Project, Slomo Drags and Thor & Friends, just to name a few.

 

Keeping track of More Eaze lore can be intimidating, but lucky for you, “yearn” is her most soothing album in recent memory and is an excellent introduction to the more pastoral side of her unquestionably unique sound. Whereas last year’s “Mari” was a confessional epic, channeling influences as disparate as 100 gecs and Robert Ashley, “yearn” provides a concise set of ethereal soundscapes that are as melancholically comfy as the album title suggests. This is music for rainy days and dog walks, vulnerability and contemplation, maybe for when you’re a little worried about everything, but not anxious about much. It’s very pretty.

 

While each track is distinct enough to stand out individually, they function more so as movements of a broader composition. The first track “galv” begins with a subtle room tone reminiscent of the audio quality of an iPhone memo. A modulated synth warbles into the mix and is soon interpolated by hushed autotune whispers, then accompanied by gentle synth pad arpeggios throughout the latter half of the track. Delicate kalimba plucks on “in dreams” lay a new age-y groundwork for understated electroacoustics and deceptively complex synth counterpoint, and the captivating “priority” features ambient artist Ben Bondy, whose synth washes and wistful vocal harmonies beautifully compliment More Eaze’s American primitivist acoustic guitar stylings. 

 

The aptly titled “leave” serves as “yearn”’s clear-headed conclusion. On this track, More Eaze’s signature autotuned vocals carry the same gravitas as some of Frank Ocean’s most sensitive moments, and her masterful violin drones are as cinematic as something you might hear in the iconic film scores of a later Paul Thomas Anderson movie. However as soon as you’ve become fully immersed in these rich textures, an aquatic field recording takes over and you suddenly realize that you’ve been submerged the whole time. Another spacial pivot, and you are now eavesdropping on a domestic scene as dishes and silverware clank from across the room. Mari can be heard asking someone, presumably her partner (who illustrated the lovely album art), “do you want a cherry?” to a muffled reply. I think they're making cocktails. It’s a deeply charming moment which almost makes you forget how fearful of playfulness most “Art Music'' can be, and it acts as an effective transition for the listener back into the world of everyday life. 

 

Chicago’s Lillerne Tapes released “yearn” on Bandcamp Friday, a monthly event which gives artists the opportunity to receive 100% of proceeds from album purchases. While this is a very welcome practice, it’s ultimately a small consolation for musicians whose industry is systematically dominated by the value-sucking poverty royalties of Spotify. It’s an industry crisis and, without glossing over it or downplaying the enormity of this broader social situation, More Eaze’s music chooses to channel a monastic aura, suggesting a less alienated world where artistic practice is allowed to explore itself more freely. “yearn” is a simple release, but it’s an important moment in a thrilling career.

 

- Blake Robbins

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USA/Mexico Summons Texas Heat With New Album “Del Rio”

With admirable consistency, USA/Mexico makes music inspired by the border. “Del Rio” is their third album to take its name from a southern border town—the first two being “Matamoros” and “Laredo”—and consists of three extremely loud extended tracks which will appeal to some of adventurous music’s less pretentious fans. Having never visited Del Rio myself, I asked my thoroughly Texan father what he thought of the place. He replied “Beautiful lake, nice drive, right across from Acuña, Mexico, friendly people,” and “Pretty remote. Lots of caliche and cactus”. This geographical context is hardly superficialthe music evokes a few of these images on its own, and firsthand descriptions seem to confirm them as more than hallucination.

USA/Mexico’s massive sludge metal simulates the feeling of burning in the hot Texas sun while surrounded by cicadas, hopefully a body of water nearby. There is a lineage in Texas music which can be characterized by a certain auditory heat, from the dehydrated lethargy of Townes Van Zandt and Blaze Foley, to the ghostly reprieves of Blind Willie Johnson, to the warped haze of DJ Screw, to the blistering 80s/90s Austin noise rock scene (Scratch Acid, Butthole Surfers, Cherubs) from which USA/Mexico directly descends—drummer King Coffey was a core member of Butthole Surfers.

 

But whereas that weirdly successful band eventually traded their noise rock deconstructions for a dated 90’s wackiness, this project translates their early spirit of cowboy derangement into a contemporary setting, finding itself at home with international trends in drone music and outsider metal. Guitarist Craig Clouse of the avant-freak project Shit and Shine has proved himself over the years to be more than capable of keeping up aesthetically, which is no easy task for a modern rock musician. Filling out the ensemble is Nate Cross, whose dense bass textures provide an essential wave of noise and ensure a consistent depth to each jam. 

 

While the overwhelmingly heavy “Del Rio” unleashes a geographically unique cosmic horror, it’s important to note that it’s also funny. Tracks with titles like “Chorizo” and “Soft Taco” ironically poke at the more banal elements of a shared culture, but are ultimately rendered absurd by the noise they signify: heavily processed walls of distortion guided by monolithic drums and eerie howls which are hardly reminiscent of Tex-Mex. If you let the soundscapes take over, the border itself might seem a little silly too, and Texas becomes a landscape that could have just as easily been called Northern Mexico in a slightly different timeline.

 

But the album isn’t purely conceptual—it could just as well be something someone puts on in the middle of an acid trip while you and your friends make your way through a second case of Lone Star. It’s USA/Mexico’s most focused album yet, and I look forward to letting them ruin my eardrums when it’s safe again for live music. 

 

- Blake Robbins

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