Archive for the Reviews Category

October Wyrdness

Posted in EBR updates, Reviews, Uneasy Listening, Wisconsin Sounds on 29/10/2013 by Ian Earbleed

Time to do a wrap-up of what’s been happening around Madison in the last month or two and review some records & tapes.

spooky cat

There’s a bandcamp page for Conjuror now, where you can stream/download the new album. Been working on this stuff for three years, it’s very nice to finally be done with it and move on to new projects.

Played a monster festival last weekend with good friends Litüus, Endless, Spiral Joy Band, Daniel Wyche, Positive Shadow and others, one of those nice low-key shows with just the musicians and a few friends. And a few Halloween stragglers who wandered in drunk looking for the bluegrass show down the street. Also played a killer house show with the great Weyes Blood a few weeks back, and finally saw the great John Zuma Saint-Pelvyn perform. Not a household name yet, but if you like your Faheyisms more ergot-soaked than smoothly polished you’d be wise to check him out. His set was dedicated to the three-headed deity he dreamt about while sleeping in his car before the set with Sandy Denny’s head on one end, John Fahey on the other and Genesis P-Orridge in the middle! Anyway, he’s a serious ripper of a guitar player from the Twin Cities, who uses a heavy dose of feedback wrasslin’ alongside maniacal finger work. His two tapes Ampex, Stolaroff, Dogwood, Rain and Lost Masters Of The Shortwave Choir come highly recommended from yours truly.

Another sparsely attended show was Circuit Des Yeux kicking off her tour with Spires That In the Sunset Rise (and later on Bill Callahan, Jason Lescaleet and other heavyweights). Picked up a tape of her new album Overdue, which is definitely the most awe-inspiring thing I’ve heard her do. Cave‘s Cooper Crain produced it, and it’s got lush orchestration, synths and freak noise filling in the spaces between Haley’s sparse guitar. And damn can she sing! My roommate referred to it as “that French record you were listening to earlier” so I guess a Francoise Hardy reference isn’t too far outta place, though only a small piece of the puzzle. It just got formally released, so buy it and stick it in your ears- one of the best records of the year.

I set up a great show for Dustin Wong, who played a dizzying set to a totally packed house on enthralled listeners. Got to put old pal Bastardgeist on the bill along with newly transplanted Madison drone artist Aquarelle, both of whom have excellent new records out.

The show that almost got away was Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids playing at the Chazen Art Museum, which had next to no press/promotional coverage (thanks to Scott of Arts Extract Podcast for the tip). They entered like Egyptian priests blowing conch shells down a magnificent stairwell and proceeded to blast off into a long set of high energy classic 70s Afrocentric free jazz. Really fantastic to see talented musicians who love playing music together and have been doing so for decades, a super-inspiring show and they were all super kind & friendly after the gig. The high point was when Rhodessa Jones joined them for a piece based on Ackamoor’s Great-Great Grandmother’s story of her being sold into slavery. I’ve never heard or felt a piece of music so powerful ever.

The new TV Ghost album Disconnect is a really solid moody post-punk/kraut/goth gem. Hadn’t heard these guys in years, and now I’m really kicking myself for missing them play in town a while back. Really fills in the spaces between Wooden Shjips and Bauhaus.

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Pelt Part Wild GateHung On Sunday is a new record of members of Pelt, Part Wild Horses Mane on Both Sides and Gate, aka Michael Morley of Dead C playing gamelan. As always when there’s a gamelan orchestra involved, it’s pretty mesmerizing, but this record also features mastering by Mr. James Plotkin, so it’s also got a shit-ton of bass tones you wouldn’t otherwise hear. Coming out next month on MIE, and it’s a limited edition UK pressing, so I’ll probably never see a copy, but it’s a good one.

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It’s been a couple years since ol’ Rhys Chatham put out a new record, and a few decades since he did a six guitar/bass/drums combo, but that’s what we get on the title track of his gorgeous new record Harmonie Du Soir. The B side is for a 70 piece brass band and both are classic Chatham. Big shimmering tones, lots of stretched-out spaces and that signature Chatham drum-thump.

On WORT‘s long-running late-night monstrosity In One End every week now, Sunday nights/Monday mornings 2-5 AM. Lots of weirdness getting spun, some recent highlights include the all-vocalese show, 70s Swedish/90s Japanese psych set, three hours of Kaoru Abe & Masayuki Takayanagi, and last week’s show which includes an hour of upcoming album previews from some heavy-hitters (such as the above Pelt Part Wild Gate & Chatham albums). As always, you can listen to the shows archived for two weeks after airdate here. Please tolerate my tired, sometimes incoherent ramblings, it was the middle of the night and I would rather be asleep. The things we do for experimental music!

Bleeding All Over… Spires That In the Sunset Rise & More

Posted in EBR updates, Reviews, Wisconsin Sounds with tags , , , on 20/08/2013 by Ian Earbleed

Spires

It’s been a long, twisted path for Spires That In the Sunset Rise– how many bands from the psych-free-folk boom of yesteryear are still active and/or weird?- but the apocalyptic year of 2012 birthed two beautiful babies from their coven. Ancient Patience Wills It Again Parts 1 and 2 (Hairy Spider Legs) are bleak, dark, and finely whittled to show why Spires are still waving the freak flag when everyone else packed up & went home years ago. Seeing them live every chance I have has shown them to also be a relentlessly erratic and phenomenal live act, whether they’re hammering on a floor, collaborating with free jazz giant Michael Zerang or performing a completely batshit insane adaptation of Italo Calvino’s “Sword of the Sun” opening for Jozef van Wissem which sent at least half of the audience scrambling for shelter.  Their recent house show appearance (opening for a full band line-up of Kinit Her) ventured into some new freaky cosmic jazz territory with Taralie & Kathleen playing mainly looped flute and sax.

Saw Wolf Eyes recently for the first time in 9(!?!?) years and I’ll be damned if it wasn’t absolutely fucking perfect. Fog-drenched and heavy and wayyyy more like what they were doing back in the early 2000s than what I expected. Crazy Jim’s got my vote as a worthy replacement for the Mr. Connelly. Altered banjo maestro Paul Metzger opened and went in real deep. Dude can take you on a gorgeous Fahey-raga journey to the clouds, cover Debussy or flip you upside down and shake your brains out, which is what he focused on doing this night (when in Rome, right?). I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again: the dude is a fucking treasure of modern music and one should take it upon oneself to fill ones ears with as much Metzger as possible in one’s short lifetime. Most berserk show I’ve seen since Boy Dirt Car played the same venue for their first Madison show in 20 years- I thought for sure one of them was going to fall over or pass out during their set.

Brute Heart was the first band I saw upon moving to Madison, and setting up a show for them recently only reaffirmed what I liked about them years ago- dark, moody stripped-down violin post-punk in the vein of Raincoats but now ever darker & krautier. Their new album Brute Heart’s Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Moon Glyph) is a soundtrack to the silent German expressionist classic and woven full of amazing tunes, gurgling synths and mesmerizing melodies.

SFB family album
And on the home front, yours truly is truly honored to be on a third of a massive retrospective 3-sided Second Family Band record released by the jaw-dropping Sagittarius A-Star label (run by the same immaculate mind as the late great Qbico). This free-wheeling collective has been freaking deep under the radar since the death of Davenport, and the 2-LP Family Album collects some highlights of esoteric free-psych-communal-freakout cassette releases. Side three is the first session I sat in on with the Family, keeping a moog baseline goin’ under a cosmic bellydancing groove & doing some freeform throat maneuvers… Sides 1 & 2 are essential cuts from some of those super-rare SFB cassettes of days old & are chock full of deep, dirty midwest weirdness. Sagittarius A-Star’s been doing a bunch of other great reissues of ultra-obscure free jazz, psychedelia and lately some under documented early 80s new age music played by free jazz cats. A little pricey for us new world types, but there’s some deluxe limited-edition packaging that’s utterly jaw-dropping.

Other recent releases of note spinning around the old Ear Bleed manor as of late:

Marielle V Jakobsons- Glass Canyon- Perfectly constructed drone orbs of violin & synth from member of Date Palms. Fantastic record, what new age music should have sounded like all along. Polish up yr crystals…

Holy Balm- Holy Balm- Utterly charming Aussies fusing modern underground synth dancedelia with 80s NY stripped down post-whatever a la Y Pants/Liquid Liquid. Wait, I own 3 Not Not Fun records now? Who am I?

Wire- Change Becomes Us- Their best record of the 21st century.

Richard Pinhas- Desolation Row Mr. Pinhas and pals (including Oren Ambarchi) whipping up a frothy noise rock mountain… Pinhas’ best album in a decade or two fer sure. Monster prog, lumbering slow-burners that erupt into drums & electronic squelches, and gigantic feedback drones… hmm, maybe hanging out with Oren, Keiji Haino & Wolf Eyes is rubbing off on Dr. Heldon. From what’s been popping up on his sound cloud page, Pinhas seems to be in fine form these days, especially considering the first Heldon record came out almost 40 years ago. Here’s to 40 more!

Thee Open Sex- s/t Metallic KO Stoogoid psych rawk outta Indiana with some hypnotic Shjips-type smoldering riffage and two feet grounded in that holy testament of midwestern rock & roll, “Raw Power”.

All right, an overdue and highly incomplete wrap-up of the last 8 months, but enough for now. Stick around, there’s a Conjuror album on the way and some other happenings around the corner.

Uneasy Listening 1/12

Posted in Reviews, Uneasy Listening on 23/01/2012 by Ian Earbleed

Oh man, been slacking on a huge stack of records to review for months, so here’s a big old mess of ‘em. More yet to come.

Angels in America/Weyes Blood split (Northen Spy)

Two of my favorite new bands of last year, and each new thing they do is better than the last, so no wonder this one sold out fast. AiA clean up their production a tad, but it’s really just to let you hear all those odd loops and drugged vocals a little crisper. “The Corpse” is the standout, a cold-as-ice gothic opus that’s definitely too weird for people who listen to cold gothic music. As for Weyes Blood, what can I say besides that Natalie’s voice and songwriting is astounding. Stark, haunting, gorgeous music as always, If you’ve heard anything by her you know what I mean. “Seven of Wands” is mostly instrumental and not as great as the other two songs on her side, but I’m not complaining.

Druid Perfume- Don’t Eat Them They’re Poison 7” (X!)
Title jam comes on strong like early & heavy Gong riffage with sax, then the screamin’ dude shows up to remind you not to put those berries in your mouth and then everything falls apart into a big goofy mess.”Honk Your Horn” is the B-side and it’s a hard & hairy prog stomper, jest the way I like ‘em. A real fun one fer sure.

Fontana – s/t (X!)
Tough, snarling & snotty outta-control punk rock & roll from this Detroit trio. Scorching guitars and misanthropic vocals abound, and they seem to draw influence from post-hardcore, wiry post-punk and slop rock equally. Not a dud song on it.

Frustrations- Negative Reflections (X!)
Wiry and whip-smart rock band that’s hard to pin down. I’m more partial to their more moody, abstract tunes (“Shimmer”, “Meaningless”) but they’ve got plenty of melody, killer bass lines and fury to spare. Lots of great lyrics too,  mostly seemingly about boy-girl trouble but the apocalypitc anti-civ anthem “These Woods” stands out.

Johnny Ill Band- In the Wintertime 7” (X!)
Perfect song for right now, an ode to how much of a bummer Midwestern winters are (“you have to wear boots all the time/and sometimes scarves”). B side songs are about their friends who don’t like or care about you. A goofy one fer sure, but much-needed during a freezing rainstorm.

Running- Saves the World (Rotten Tooth)
Totally unrelenting psych punk freakout fury from Chicago. Heavy and raw and totally unhinged. Saw them open for Cave and totally steal the show with their energy and sassy drummer antics.

Shin Joong-Hyun- Beautiful Rivers & Mountains (Light In the Attic)
Finally someone put out a giant double album of Korea’s psychedelic guitar master, shedding light on his work both as an axeman of the highest caliber and a pop svengali creating some of the dreamiest pop of the 60s (the Korean Les Paul would maybe more fitting than his usual comparison to Mr. Hendrix). A big interview with the man himself, background on all the songs and a lot of songs even a die-hard SJH fiend like myself hadn’t heard before. If you like your 60s sunshine pop, soul and psych all mixed into one pot of kimchi, this is a must-have.

Alpha Strategy/Projekt STINKA- Muck (Owness)
Alpha Strategy is Rory Hinchey’s new solo project, with synth gorp oozing all over drum samples and crazed David Thomas-esque no wave vox on top. Projekt STINKA is Czech accordian player Hana Lundiakova’s dark cabaret project, and her two songs are as haunting and cold and Alpha Strategy’s are disjointed and frantic. Killer cover by Graham Larkin too.

Zach Kouns- The Concealed History of Coming Races
I was totally not expecting this to be a fractured country record, but it is, and a great one to boot. Drawing from the lineage of fucked-up country weirdos (Jandek, Modal Rounders). A nice pairing would be this and Warmer Milks’ classic “Soft Walks”.

Sick Shit for Heavy Heads

Posted in Reviews, Uneasy Listening with tags , , , on 13/07/2011 by Ian Earbleed

Wrnlrd- Death Drive (FSS)

Woah… this ain’t black metal, it’s blacker than black metal! Place of origin is important for extreme forms of music; if you’re from Lexington, Kentucky your band is probably going to be tortured and depraved sounding, Chicagoans are abrasive and grimy by nature, and if you’re from Arlington, Virginia you better be tapping into the same Satanic hevvy meddle vibes as thee archlords Pentagram or else. Wrnlrd definitely fucking is, this EP makes me want to put on my sleeveless t shirt and go do some Viking shit in the woods. A maximum dose of hellfire and enough spins out into experimental territory to keep things from getting too normal. Thanks Badness for Weird Metal!

Horseback/Locrian- New Dominions (Utech)

Locrian gets back to the blackness on this one, a collaboration with the  like minded Horseback, and it’s bleak and heavy but in an understated way, It’s sort of similar to “Rain of Ashes” in form, two big monster pieces but “New Dominions” is more monolithic, based around repetitive themes that move at glacial speed. Pretty much another fucking perfect Locrian album.

Bridesmaid/Sun Splitter split 7″ (Bastard Sloth)

No sooner did I write the review for the Sun Splitter tape than I got this split heavy sludge split in the mail from their recent tour with Bridesmaid. SS’s gloomy sing-song “Plum Blossom” is a pretty killer sludge fist-pumper, but I was really taken with Bridesmaid’s side “Vilkin’ It For All It’s Worth”, which sets off into some blown-out Brujiera/Corrupted territory which is a place not many folks dare to tread. Another heavy one!

Uneasy Listening

Posted in Reviews, Uneasy Listening with tags , , , , , on 10/03/2011 by Ian Earbleed

Sun Splitter- II (Land of Decay)

I don’t know that much about metal, but I know what I like… these days there probably more metal bands than ever before, and unfortunately most of them aren’t creepy, antisocial dudes that hang out in forests pretending they’re pagan warriors. Most of them are just high school kids who downloaded Burzum and bought some metal shirts at the mall. Sun Splitter, however, are pretty creepy, have some talented guitar chops, and they’re from that gloomy, grimy cesspool of depressing, misanthropic, sludgy music called Chicago.  And they don’t have a drummer, thank Gods. This tape from Land of Decay holds four heavy, gloomy doomy dirges that are actual songs. Since I’m not a dyed-in-the-wool metalhead I’m not totally comfortable describing every song on this cassette, so I’ll just say there’s a lot of great guitar interplay, doom tempos, ommm chanting, deranged screaming, and it’s fairly melodic, in a way that’s kind of reminiscent of the doomier side of NWOBHM like Pagan Altar. All in all, “II” is lovingly crafted meditational metal with thoughtful chops and songwriting and while I hate to call things epic, every song on this tape consistently turns up the awesome meter, from the chug-chug-chanting of “Cairn of Old Eyes” up until the fantastic closer “Carrion Eater”.

The Collection of the Late Howell Bend- Beasts For While (Owness)

The Collection is the musical component of Irene Moon’s Auk Theatre, which these days seems to be becoming its own musical entity with this debut full length. A coven of weird witchy women drinking wine and frying in the hot Florida sun, then going inside to a dark, damp basement to tinker on keyboards and chant strange little ditties. A strange & dark record that takes a few listens to wrap your head around. Plus some great Matt Minter art on the cover.

Rory Hinchey/The Collection of the Late Howell Bend- Shape Is Nature/Long Fields (Owness)

A collaborative split LP from Moon & Hinchey, and it’s a nicely cohesive record of modern instrumental music. Hinchey’s side revolves around his sparse organ sound, with violin accompaniment from Alison Corbett. COTLHB’s half is focused on Moon’s piano with Hinchey & Corbett filling in the sparse melodies. Reminds me a lot of mellower moment of the Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s oeuvre, as fragile little melodies unfold and repeat creating something beautiful and new.

Wreathes- The Reigns/Full Turn (Bathetic)

Monastic proto-zeuhl chamber-RIO strangeness from members of Kinit Her. If you’re acquainted with KH’s brand of creepy undefinable music, this new 7″ will fit neatly into your record collection in between Art Zoyd and Comus.

Sujo- Quatada (Inam)

A little CDr of big heavy drones. Some good swelling dark dreamscapes with occasional percussion keeping the drones from floating away. If you’re in the market for some new heavy psychedelic drone noise, try to track down one of these little fellers before they’re all gone.

Uneasy Listening

Posted in Reviews, Uneasy Listening with tags , , on 30/09/2010 by Ian Earbleed

I’ve been pretty jaded/burned out from new underground music lately, and it seems like pretty much everyone else is too. Been talking to people about the negative creativity spawned by fame, as it seems like any underground musician who gets recognized lately and is thrust into blogger superstardom immediately stops growing as an artist and just churns out more and more of the same half-assed tropical/beach-pop/hypnogogic pop/shit-wave/cold-wave/chill-wave/whatever. Never been too interested in genres myself, as I’ve always felt like genrefication takes away from the music; Once it’s been stuck in a niche you have things that are expected of you and expectations of what you should sound like. And unfortunately it seems like lots of folks these days are more than happy to please the expectations of bloggers who don’t know anything about music.

Luckily none of this has anything to do with the new Locrian album “The Crystal World” on Utech.  Having already neatly smashed out the walls of death metal, noise & power electronics on their previous albums, they wisely decide to keep smashing outward and take over whatever spectrums of music they end up in. Now a three piece, Locrian branch out into heavy psychedelic stoner rock (“At Night’s End”), kosmische synth jams (the instrumental title track), and strange as it may seem, psychedelic folk (“Elevation and Depths” towards the end sounds disturbingly like one of Bröselmachine’s better songs), with all 6 feet still formly rooted in the darkness and anguished screaming we know so well. Locrian’s music always has an unsettling presence lurking in the background, slowly spreading post-industrial pagan gloom over everything they touch, much like the Ballard novel the album is named after, and “The Crystal World” shows them seeping into new avenues of music and making them their own.

This is definitely the most musical thing I’ve heard from them yet, a nice change of pace in an era that doesn’t place much value on well-crafted music. Each track is a carefully-sculpted journey through Locrian’s signature sound that slowly unfolds to find something completly new hiding inside. It took me forever to review their last album, mostly because every review of it I saw was gushing praise out of every pore, and this one will probably get the same; but since they seem pretty immune to it so far I’ll go ahead and say that Locrian has once again raised the bar for themselves and suceeded in creating another incredible album that stays true to their aesthetic while still challenging themselves to make something different.

The obtusely named Vartan Mamigonian is the nom de plume of saxophonist Patrick Breiner, also of the sax/bassoon duo Manmouth. After I saw them do a killer free improv set this summer, Patrick slipped me one of his solo CDs. I was probably expecting some abrasive free jazz, but Vartan Mamigonian is generally more structured and contemplative than, say, Kaoru Abe. Lots of passages of lurching arpeggios that are almost Philip Glass-like, (but without all the gloss that has always caused me to throw up a little in my mouth every time I hear music by my least favorite minimalist). Some really great playing on this disc, might be too academic for someone expecting Wasteland Jazz Unit, but if you can get down with some Braxton records you ought to give this a shot and check out some new avant-garde music. Plus there’s tortured version of “Crepescule With Nellie” that’s a hell of a lot closer to Monk’s intent than the average whitey jazz musician gets.

 

Uneasy Listening With Ian Earbleed

Posted in Reviews, Uneasy Listening with tags , , on 19/05/2010 by Ian Earbleed

You know, just hanging out in the opium den, listening to some noise & psych albums…

Kluster- Admira, Vulcano

I’ve always dug Conrad Schnitzler & Friends’ various prehistoric noise jams, so when I saw these two albums put out by Important Records I grabbed ’em and held them to my chest, swaying back and forth right there in the record store. Well, maybe not, those record store clerks give me weird enough looks already. Anyways, these are both recordings from 1971 so Hans-Joachim and Dieter are nowhere to be found… Instead you’ve got grizzled Kluster/Eruption vets Klaus Freudigmann and Wolfgang Seidel making some stellar noise up there along with the bald guy. Con’s signature electronic blorps, bleeps and mountains of drizzling rhythmic scuzz aren’t as developed as his later solo works, but there’s plenty of drooling violin, wrecked guitar and clanging drums playing along to even rock, in the Ash Ra Tempel sense of the word.

Sylvester Anfang II- Commune Cassetten

Good to hear from the Belgian psychedelic cult members again, they’ve started spelling their name with a “y” and a “II” these days, which seems to indicate less funeral volk and more non-stop psych-kraut groovin’. It’s definitely more mellow and stoned than anything they’ve done, very laid back and thought out psychedelic jams. But don’t be worried that they’re going hippie on us- “Damia(a)n” breaks out the churning guitar and pagan squall that was sitting in the fridge next to the lambic. Why thanks, I do like mine chilled…

Inca Ore- Silver Sea Surfer School

Eva’s still doing her own thing, and this is maybe her most fragile and haunting record yet. Glad there’s still people out there who do what they want and don’t let the Hypnagogic Pop Mass Blog Psychosis get in the way. Instead of dressing in neon and checking her myspace she hangs out with her cats and eats vegetables, and we’re all made better people by listening to whatever she does. Makes me want to climb up into a cassette deck and go to sleep.

Grey Daturas- Claw Hammer- Owly Claw Hammer

Grey Daturas first attracted my attention on their sphincter-tightening half of a split with Wolf Eyes, I was impressed since they blew the Michigan creeps out of the muddy water with their own brand of Australian-bred misanthropy. I was bummed to hear that the Daturas were playing their Last Show Ever, though after hearing that one of them is going to be making gear for the almighty Frostwave, I’m not quite as saddened… “Owly Claw Hammer” is a bona-fide head-scratching/bong-ripping gem of a record, and I enjoy it largely for the fact that nothing really happens. The whole record sounds like the first couple minutes of atmosphere introducing a stoner sludge metal song drawn out to two sides of a record, which is cool in my book, because after those few minutes the crappy vocals and the bad drumming usually start… It has an incredible monotony to it, it’s like a Rothko painting with effects pedals. Was recorded in Austin, which might explain why it sounds like a heavy metal Charalambides album. None of these descriptions really makes much sense, but neither does “Owly Claw Hammer”, so you should probably just go get stoned, put this record on and experience some existential inertia.

Günter Maas- Klangbilder

I’m a sucker for anything that’s old, German and noisy, so of course Günter Maas hit the spot- some nutty early electronic stuff from 1967-1969 made out of Maas sending his paintings through a synthesizer and chopping up some tapes of found sounds (jackhammers, dripping water) to sprinkle around the crude synth ooze. It’s on Creel Pone, of course.

Locrian- Territories

A new monster record from Locrian. This one came out on just about every format you can think of and on four different labels AND there’s a bunch of various heavy motherfuckers from Chicago sitting in. It’s all over the Locrian map, from duo electronic work to massive full-out black metal workouts. The shorter songs and expanded line-up allow for some more tightly focused pieces; the result is that “Territories” finds Locrian at their noisiest and their most blatantly metal while still exploring some dark synthesizer landscapes at the same time. No easy feat, as anyone who’s ever tried to juggle three things at once can tell you… especially juggling something this heavy.

Wretched Worst- Horned Head/Berserker/Face of Flies 7”

Some blood-soaked noise rock served up on Gods of Tundra. Messy, loud, violent, misanthropic, incoherent. They’re from Kentucky, which is the best place to make fucked-up awful music, so if you’re into sludge like Hair Police, Cadaver In Drag and Warmer Milks’ “Radish on Light”, this might be up your dark alley. Some really great art too from Mr. Minter that makes me imagine Raymond Pettibon as a serial killer locked away in a padded cell.

Remember kids, if you want your experimental/underground/psychedelic/noise/weirdo sounds to get reviewed, send ’em to: Ian Adcock 1049 E Johnson #2 Madison WI 53703