ADT: Insecurities (vinyl and download, forthcoming); Brett Naucke: Multiple Hallucinations (cassette and download); Form A Log: At A Festival (cassette and download); Moth Cock: 0-100 At The Speed Of The Present (cassette and download)
As a corrective to the considered, exploratory minimalism of much of the contemporary experimental underground, the omnidirectional splurge of Chicago’s Hausu Mountain is hard to beat. Label bosses Doug Kaplan and Max Allison have been operating since 2012, releasing a slew of always-diverting releases that range from torrents of pulsating electronic goo (Fire Toolz’ wonderful Drip Mental) through grotty punk aggro (Kill Alters’ bracing No Self Helps) to glistening liquid techno (Black Hat’s immersive Impossible World) and much more besides. Often drawing from the windy city’s experimental fringes, Hausu Mountain is a testament to the fertility of the territory – and the fact that Kaplan and Allison’s stylistic predilections represent only a part of a scene that takes in free jazz, austere free improvisation and all manner of weirdness should only increase their gonzoid kudos.
Diving into a batch of Hausu Mountain tapes (like a lot of labels, they release stuff in bursts of three or four at a time) is akin to discovering a tie-dyed pillowcase full of esoterica at the bottom of your bed on Christmas morning. You never quite know what to expect, but you know you’re gonna be taken to some brain-mangling places. This most recent lot (dating from November, save the ADT record, which is due to drop in February) have hit the spot in typical Hausu Mountain style. And, while this product has well and truly taken root in my lobes, I’m about due for another burst. Bring it on.
Hausu Mountain vinyl and download (forthcoming)
Swaggering in like Weather Report after a day doing mushrooms in a rainy field somewhere, ADT’s ‘Insecurities’ is grumpy improv-fusion that kicks performative noodling into next week with a suite of tunes that lock individual freedom and spontaneity into an intense, communal voyage. The group’s textures may recall outfits from decades past – Adam Tramposh’s keyboard lines channel deep-space vamps direct from the Zawinul-Corea data core, and Jake Acosta’s wiry guitar jabs are fluid and aggressive in true McLaughlin style – yet they do a good job of turning those retro practices inside out, transforming venerable licks into something fresh and tight.
The barbed wire squall of ‘Communal Self Service’ demonstrates how, in abandoning politeness, the group hits the target. Carlos Chavarria’s sax yowls and moans through a mushy tangle of sound, finding an effective counterpoint in the polyrhythmic stutter of Ben Billington’s drum clatter, before things resolve themselves into the cartwheeling mandalas and wide-eyed melodies of ‘Commotional Rescue’ (nice pun, btw). There’s even time for beauty of a more conventional kind on ‘New Body’. Propelled by dirty washes of volume pedal and the pit-patter of digital raindrops, this is a cyber-ballad that could fit easily onto a Brit-out-jazz album from the likes of Polar Bear or Led Bib. Sharp as an axe to the chin.
Brett Naucke: Multiple Hallucinations
Hausu Mountain cassette and download
‘Multiple Hallucinations’ is half an hour of hectic modular jams, divvied up into 30-one minute sketches from prolific Chicago bleepmeister Nuacke. While I usually prefer my modulars muddy and abstract – John Macedo & Phil Julian’s tough lumps or John Chantler’s widescreen abrasion do it for me most days – the beautiful pointillism of these micro-compositions is darned marvellous. These pieces aren’t so much abbreviated as condensed, Nuacke focusing on a single idea each time – amniotic swirl, shuffling gastric discomfort, nocturnal percussive hiss, baroque synaptic blur, and so on – and then nailing it, double-quick.
This no-messing approach is like listening to one of those Jeff Mills mix CDs from the 90s (‘Live At The Liquid Room Tokyo’ is the supreme example), the Detroit master filleting his records for their essential material with ruthless efficiency. Naucke, too, is admirably unsentimental about his creations – many of which could easily work as longer pieces –serving up concentrated hits of cosmic synthesis that flow past like a bullet train made of silver. And, while Nuacke’s forthcoming full-length on Spectrum Spools will, no doubt, demonstrate a slightly less hectic sensibility, the blipvert aesthetic of ‘Multiple Hallucinations’ offers a satisfying cocktail of joy and distraction that, for now, suits us just fine.
Form A Log: At A Festival
Hausu Mountain cassette and download
Ren Schofield, Noah Anthony and Rick Weaver build overloaded assemblages on-the-fly, manipulating libraries of samples, found sounds and other sonic material through a pile of four-track tape machines with chaotic abandon. The results are often as disorientating and intoxicating as a drunken rave up at a noise gig although, like any good night out on the sauce, things teeter continually on the brink of nausea and oblivion. ‘Hot Rags, Real Drums’ sets the tone, its burbling organ toots interrupted by soft pops, spooling squeaks and am-dram yodels (the title, presumably, references the clomping snare and tom that drives things forward). The lack of perceptible structure is endearing and the three-minute runtime means it’s over and out before becoming tiresome.
‘The Sizzler’ is a loopy, beat-driven creation, its syncopated rhythmic grid both groovy and spacious, leaving plenty of room for cack-handed synth figures and vocal sighs and gargles. I could have done without the latter, to be honest – not all drunken jokes are funny, after all – but its loose funk is gold, so all is good. Things work better when the trio restrain themselves, as on the bleak and brilliant ‘A Wanted Man’. Waves of burping bass cast shapeless clouds of bleep into the aether, as an impatient, oscillating surge gradually gathers pace. By the halfway mark things have got ominously skittish, and a repeating organ figure clothed in doomy low-end drones reeks of Steve Reich jamming with Nurse With Wound at a CGCB’s Halloween party.
Moth Cock: 0-100 At The Speed Of The Present
Hausu Mountain cassette and download
If Form A Log’s lairy excess occasionally results in an overwhelming desire for lie down with a cup of peppermint tea and a Nils Frahm CD, the spiralling constructions of fellow over-reachers Moth Cock tend to have the opposite effect, pulling the listener into their sticky, gloop-laden vortices with every new clarinet hoot and synth waft. The two outfits aren’t dissimilar in outlook – for both, more is definitely more – and they’ve even co-habited on a previous Hausu Mountain release, in 2016. But there’s a meditative aspect to Doug Gent and Pat Modugno’s explorations that makes their journeys a tad more digestible.
‘0-100 At The Speed Of The Present’ is their third outing for the label, following ‘Bremmy’, their 2012 debut and that Form A Log split. There’s definitely some kind of refinement and focusing going on, although whether this is deliberate or instinctive isn’t immediately obvious. What is clear is the duo’s ability to churn an incredible array of different musical forms into limpid, pulsating pools that never sound less than original. Cuts like ‘Catastrophic Currency’ fold the ethno-forgeries of later Can into a hot mess of classic avant-garde electronica and musique concrete. And when they hit their stride, as on the staticky bursts and stomping kickdrum of the title track, or the decaying synths and mournful, digital horns of ‘World Weary Travelers’, the pair is capable of reaching hallucinatory, otherworldly heights.