quality baked goods part five: starlite coffins and galena on sanity muffin

December 19, 2013 at 2:11 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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starlite coffins – medicine eagle (C15 tape, Sanity Muffin/Pfantone Labs, sm38/pl01, edition of 66)

Galena – Buried Finch (C54 tape, Sanity Muffin, #48)

starlite coffins - medicine eagleGalena - Buried Finch

…and so we come to the final pair of Sanity Muffin tapes to be reviewed in 2013 and, as is customary, I have saved my favourites (thus: the best) until last.

First we have medicine eagle by starlite coffins and before describing the music, a word about the medium and its part to play in the message.  The packaging is truly beautiful: lovingly designed (screen-printed?) inlay card, pink (!) reverse to the box and as for the tape itself, well… open the case and a slip of card falls out with the following printed on it in tiny letters (excuse me quoting at length):

This reel to reel cassette you hold in your hands is nearly thirty years old.  Any nuances or inconsistencies in the magnetic particle arrangements on this tape are entirely condoned as adding cohesion to this release.  An assortment of audio ailments such as dropouts, warble, pitch-bends, and hiss are to be expected.  Each cassette in this series has a unique magnetic print, and should be treated with the utmost care…

…flip the card over and, cue chuckle, there is a Bandcamp download code printed on the reverse.  Lolz.  Confusing times for high bias worshippers at the Church of Ferric Oxide, eh?  It might be tempting to dismiss this as fetishism or pretentiousness or both – like me boasting that I only write with quills on vellum and that any grammatical errors are welcome evidence of my painful sincerity, before I then copy it all out on WordPress – but there is enough evidence of love and humour in all this to conclude these chaps are totally heartfelt.

The two tracks, each of seven and a half minutes in duration, are multifaceted, restless drone.  Imagine a once-in-a-lifetime, three-week-long, candlelit ritual held in an enormous cavern, deep under a mountain.  Now imagine this ritual filmed using a time-lapse camera with a fish-eye lens and thus reduced to fifteen minutes.  The numerous followers and functionaries lighting candles, holding vigils, chanting mantras become a ceaseless baseline blur on the cavern floor.  The candles themselves are lit, glow, gutter and go out in a rhythmic wash – light as liquid.  The rock formations illuminated are eerily majestic: gigantic sheets of flowstone, buboes and sinews of delicate rock laid down over millenia though seemingly as alive as the flesh they resemble.  Yeah, like that.

It’s a highly disciplined label boss that can resist the temptation to self-release his or her own stuff on his or her own label.  I certainly couldn’t manage to keep that level of teeth-gritted distance and, I am glad to say, neither can Billy Sprague in his solo guise as Galena.  Fuck it, eh?  The work we do down here in what I playfully call ‘the no-audience underground’ is an odd mixture of the utterly selfless and the utterly narcissistic.  This stuff is produced for the love of it, often due to an irresistable drive to create, with no reward expected and no approbation sought and thus can be presented entirely, and definitively, on our own terms.  There is no such thing as ‘conflict of interest’ in our scene – if we don’t blow these trumpets then no trumpets will sound.

Buried Finch contains nineteen tracks over fifty two and a half minutes and is unlike anything else I have heard this year.  This is a very good thing, obviously.  Billy gamely admits to three ‘strong’ influences on the inlay card and these do provide clues: soft cell (the minimal feel of the early stuff, yeah, but had me looking up the career-destroying magnificence of This Last Night in Sodom.), Daily Fauli (impeccably hip rare synth from 1980s Denmark) and Country Teasers (1990s Scottish art-punk, a scabrous mix of elder-statesmen The Fall and current darlings Sleaford Mods.).

Tracks are short, self-contained affairs that create a world within a few seconds, drag you into it for their duration then, as you settle in and start grokking your surroundings, push you out to be grabbed by the next one.  Electronic squirming evokes a writhing pit of living patch leads, lo-fi scene setting tracks hold up a crayon drawing of a sunset.  Then we hit side two and things start getting seriously weird.  For instance, check out ‘cleanzing’ [sic] where Billy, in the first person, tells the story of an obsessively clean psychopath who kills his family: ‘now they don’t make a mess’.  Or the final track, ‘your silloette’ [sic, also], in which his character stalks an ex.  It has the menace of the final scene of Ghosts… of the Civil Dead (watch the whole film here – then go for a walk to clear your head) and leaves a similar taste in the mouth as various notorious tracks by Throbbing Gristle.  You know what I’m talking about.  I guess this brooding darkness can be found in Billy’s art should you wish to go looking for it but coming from, as I know him to be, a kind and gentle guy it is all the more unsettling.  Highly recommended.

The Galena tape can be bought from the Sanity Muffin Big Cartel site.  Medicine Eagle is sold out but can be downloaded (including bonus 10 minute third track) from the starlite coffins Bandcamp site.  Watch the skies for a planned reissue in physical form too…

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