Aquarius

Founded in 1970, Aquarius is the oldest independent record store in San Francisco.

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Pete Swanson: "Pro Style" music review

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Pro Style, the latest record from former Yellow Swan Pete Swanson, finds him continuing to explore, dissect, reimagine, and reinvent his own mutant strain of techno. Like on his recent Man With Potential lp, the sounds here are raw and chaotic, home brewed and noisy, a lot like what you might have imagined a techno Yellow Swans might have sounded like. The framework is classic, a thumping four on the floor, but it's the setting and surroundings that makes Swanson's sound so compelling.

Very much like the more beat oriented jams of NZ noisenik Our Love Will Destroy The World, or the dancefloor experiments of UK urdrone free rockers Astral Social Club, Swanson seems to be coming at techno from a similarly genuine, yet sonically removed, angle. There's a bit of kitchen sink, mad scientist noisiness, with lots of the sounds obviously culled from an arsenal of synths and drum machines that are not all that dissimilar from what he employed in his noise making floorcore days. But Swanson has definitely proven himself, this is no mere dalliance, these jams are fierce and driving, and in a weird way, seriously funky.

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Wet Hair: "Spill Into Atmosphere" music review

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These Iowa psychpop-kraudrone-WTFwave weirdos return with their second full length for De Stijl, the group now expanded from a duo to a trio, with a sound that while still weird, continues to move further away from the twisted noiseness of the early releases, toward something distinctly more melodic and much more accessible. Titled "Spill Into Atmosphere" (CD and LP), this release melds their psych-kraut tendencies with something that sounds much more like some lost new wave /cold wave artifact, due in no small part to the deep dramatic crooned vox of frontman Shawn Reed, he of the late great Raccoo-oo-oon. But the band get all wave-y too, weaving a lush twisted backdrop of synth buzz, and driving drums, the bass thick and fuzzy and sinewy, the sound rife with playful almost carnivalesque melodies, often blossoming into sun dappled prismatic clouds of swirling synth shimmer, but just as often locking into a tranced out hypnorock mesmer.

If these guys were an instrumental band, they'd definitely be a whole different beast, some sort of heady, druggy psych-kraut-prog combo that would fall more in line with groups like Cave, Lumerians, Gnod and the like, cuz the instrumental stretches here get downright blissy and trancey and dreamily psychedelic. The vocals though give it a distinctly goth-pop cast, adding some Suicide and Spacemen 3 and Interpol to Wet Hair's sonic equation, and transforming this into something much weirder, and in its own twisted way, much cooler.

Wet Hair: "Spill Into Atmosphere" CD and LP

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Viktor Timofeev: "GiveHealth 999" music review

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Viktor Timofeev, a NYC resident who in fact hails from Latvia, is probably better known as a visual artist, having made a bit of a name for himself in the art world over the last few years. (See painting above right from a recent show in Cologne.) But he also counts himself a member of electro synth-wave downer pop combo Nihiti and painted the very distinctive cover of the first Nihiti album. Give Health999, his first solo record, is something else entirely, totally removed from Nihiti. On his own, he instead traffics in expanses of layered drones, and looped riffage, of atmospheres and ambience, but active ambience, with sounds blurred and tangled, rhythmic without actual rhythms.

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Moon Duo: "Circles" music review

"Circles" (CD and LP) is record number three from the beloved modern minimalist psych-kraut combo Moon Duo. Initially an offshoot of psych rockers Wooden Shjips, over the last few years it seems the 'Duo have been way more active than the mothershjip. This latest record from the Shjips' Ripley Johnson and his partner, Sanae Yamada, taking up right where the last one, Mazes, left off -- the duo weaving lush, hypnotic, jams, expanding their sound with every record, Circle being the most polished, and certainly the most poppy.

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Like A Kind Of Matador: "Halfway To Dangerous" music review

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Halfway To Dangerous is the first and final release from this now defunct UK trio who meld crushing slow motion doomdronesludge to haunting prog and drifting abstract ambience. (See live video above. You can hear clips from the album here.)

A swirling, slow moving prog-doom juggernaut. Massive downtuned riffage churns around fluttery flutes, while wheezing accordions whirl beneath angelic female vox and warm whirring organs, all wound into subtly complex expanses of slow motion heaviness and epic cinematic dronemetal...almost like a magnificent, hypothetical Boris/Bardo Pond collaboration.

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Bollywood Steel Guitar

Just from the title alone -- Bollywood Steel Guitar -- we knew that this installment in the always-amazing Sublime Frequencies series of unusual and under-documented "world music" recordings was gonna be the bomb! Indeed it is. And now on vinyl! The 'exotic' and infectious verve of vintage Bollywood film soundtrack music, performed with electric steel guitar as lead instrument for extra awesomeness, is hard to beat! The steel guitar, bringing with it the groovy twang of Western Swing and Hawaiian fret-sliding flavor, as well as a measure of classical Indian music, easily effects an emotive echo of the human voice that ordinarily fronts Bollywood themes.

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Zombie Rave: chopped and screwed gloom house music

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Don't be fooled by the promotional DJ sticker, "Zombie Rave" is in fact a proper full length from weirdo witch house / ghost drag outfit First Flesh, the dead eyed seventies zombie hottie on the cover your first clue as to what lurks inside Zombie Rave, and actually, the jams here sound less Zombie Rave, and more warped new wave chopped and screwed eighties house pop, which is not a bad thing at all. Imagine some Rick Astley style cheesy eighties pop vox slowed way down, to a ghostly, almost Antony (And The Johnsons) sounding dramatic baritone, then lay those vocals over some woozy slo-mo house music, some HI-NRG grooves, sapped of most of their energy, and recast as a sort of symphonic gloom house.

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Gum: weird avant-turntablism from 1987

Philip Jeck. Janek Schaeffer. Otomo Yoshihide. Thomas Brinkman. These are the avant-turntablists whose praises we've sung in the recent past; yet the use of the turntable with experimental music is nothing as novel as the current infatuation would indicate. Turntablism could be traced back to John Cage's Imaginary Landscape (1939), but perhaps a better historical jumping off point for those artists' delirious collage work would be with the early work of Christian Marclay and Non, who both reconfigured the noise and disembodied cultural reference from skipping records in the late '70s. It was that environment of Industrial culture that spawned Gum -- the Australian avant-turntablist duo which began quite literally with a skipping Brian Eno record. Their 1987 output has now been reissued on a double-CD titled Gum: "Vinyl Anthology".

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Plinth's antique music machine tunes

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Plinth's "Collected Machine Music" is the latest from Aquarius-beloved label Time Released Sound, whose releases are as much art as music, an insane amount of time and energy put into the packaging for every release. This one comes from an artist called Plinth, whose strange and wondrous music is created using a collection of calliopes and Victorian music boxes, antique sound makers and wheezing creaking mechanisms from way back when.

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Anduin: "Stolen Years" music review

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Anduin is the solo project of Jonathan Lee, he of late great longtime Aquarius Records faves Souvenir's Young America, whose distinctive harmonica flecked metallic post rock we we dug big time. But in Anduin, Lee focused more on the minutiae of sound, crafting lush, haunting soundscapes, that buzz and drift, smolder and shimmer. the sounds more along the lines of groups like Jasper TX or Machinefabriek, and with a distinctive cinematic flair, the sounds at once epic and majestic, while at the same time subtle and introspective.

Apparently this new record, Stolen Years, is the result of a burglary at Lee's house, which resulted in the loss of years and years worth of recordings (hence the title), and perhaps also the darkly spectral sound, infused with a deep melancholia, a spare, ghostly sonic landscape that manages to fuse field recordings, deep dronemusic, lumbering slowcore, downtempo electronica, and plenty of horns, into something soundtracky and sinister, brooding and ominous.

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Bong: "Live At Roadburn 2010" music review

After enthused hails from the crowd, the first of two loooooong tracks starts up, or seeps in, eerie and airy and understated, quite lovely really, not at all heavy, but nicely hypnotic…

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Factrix: "Scheintot" music review

NewImageAbout ten years ago, we championed the San Francisco industrial prodigies Factrix via their Artifact two CD anthology released on Storm, in fact, we made it a Record Of The Week. That went out of print quickly; so we are now quite grateful to Superior Viaduct for at last reissuing this amazing and seminal 1981 recording, Scheintot, on CD and LP.

Factrix originally manufactured their proto-Wolf Eyes sound in San Francisco some 30+ years ago. The history of underground music on the West Coast in the late '70s is not an easy one to trace. Unlike the punk explosion in England or New York, the influences and disturbances of the musical circuits manifested collusions of concepts that never really fit into the marketable ideas of punk or new wave. Even before those terms were commonplace, California was home to such anomalies in artrock as the Residents and the Los Angeles Free Music Society, who both experimented freely with technology, dadaism, culture jamming, and the detritus of post-psychedelia and bad acid trips. This was the environment that also spawned such genre unfriendly projects as The Screamers, Savage Republic, Non, Survival Research Laboratories, Nervous Gender, Negativland, and - Factrix.

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Psychic Teens: "Tape" music review

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While the rest of the world has been reveling in the resurgence of the cassette tape, some folks have been taking it a step further, and going full VHS! Video Horror Show is a label that only releases VHS tapes, which feature not only music, but also appropriately enough accompanying psychedelic visuals. Past releases have included the electro goth witch house of Masacara, and the droned out abstract psychedelic black metal of Suffer The Shards Of The Lost Cult Of Silence, which was in fact members of Woe and Absu, and now here comes Psychic Teens with Tape, which weirdly enough might sonically fall right in between.

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Aphex Twin: "I Care Because You Do" music review

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The mad-scientist of electronica - Richard D James aka Aphex Twin - originally released I Care Because You Do in 1995; and now in 2012, that classic electronica album gets a double-lp reissue by way of the 1972 label, who also recently reissued Aphex's Selected Ambient Works Vol. Two on triple lp.

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Gary War: "Jared's Lot" music review

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We've long been fans of these outsider noise pop weirdos Gary War. They even played our very first aQ/WFMU showcase at South By Southwest, but wow has their sound changed since then. Our pal Anthony described this new record Jared's Lot WAY more succinctly and accurately than we ever could:

"Expertly performed, extremely difficult clash between pop inclinations and punk ideals sent through a completely synthetic, inhuman aesthetic. If you sent the Wipers early albums through the most intuitive state-of-the-art midi processor you might end up with something like this, simultaneously baroque and sterile, and very catchy at times. When the option is to zig or zag Gary War will always zap!"

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