Small Wonders #7

Herbert Stanley Littlejohn – 17th and 18th Century Works of Funerary Violin CD-R

The Guild of Funerary Violinists (www.guildoffuneraryviolinists.org.uk)

Sometimes you get lucky. I stumbled upon this release on the Aquarius Records website and I feel it is my absolute duty to inform you that it is one of the most gorgeous things I’ve ever heard. The back story to it is just as striking as the music itself. The Guild of Funerary Violinists was founded in 1586 according to their website and is dedicated to the promotion and execution of of the art of the Funerary Violin. This art is exactly what one might infer from its name, music composed specifically for funerals to be played on the violin. These recordings were made in 1956 by Herbert Stanley Littlejohn after he found a dusty old book full of the sheet music in a church in 1954 dating back the 1600’s. While in the process of recording these compositions he uncannily died when he tripped over an old cat and fell down a flight of stairs, subsequently shattering his skull. Mere words cannot begin to describe the stark beauty of these recordings. The crackle of the old vinyl masters on the transfer only adds to the effect. Highest possible recommendation.

 

Torche – In Return 10″

Robotic Empire (www.roboticempire.com)

We’re going two for two in this latest installment of Small Wonders. I’d heard of Torche before but never really listened to them, but after seeing this record I couldn’t say no. First of all the artwork was done by Baroness’ John Baizley so that means it looks incredible. He is also responsible for the artwork to Pig Destroyer’s Phantom Limb, Darkest Hour’s Deliver Us, and his own band’s latest record, The Red Album. Second of all it comes on high quality, heavy gauge colored vinyl in several different hues, each a limited pressing. Finally, it comes with an actual CD copy of the record incorporated into the actual artwork in the inside of the gatefold. It isn’t just a CD-R either, but a real 3″ CD with a clear plastic outer ring to make it appear to be a normal 5″ CD. As for the music, this thing does not disappoint. Torche play a heavy rock/metal hybrid not unlike a High On Fire/Queens of the Stone Age cross-pollination. The guitars are fucking thick sounding and the vocals are burly but still melodic. Better grab one before they go out of print. I’ll be making it a point to check out their previous work and so should you.

 

Animal Collective – Peacebone 10″

Domino (www.dominorecordco.com)

I must be one of the few that isn’t completely enamored with Animal Collective’s Strawberry Jam. It has its moments to be sure, like the awesome songs “Fireworks” and “Derek,” but if I were to point to the source of my agitation with the new record it would be typified in “Peacebone.” Take one part stream of consciousness lyrics from Avey Tare, one part Panda Bear singing off key and put them on top of a track built around squelching circus noises and you get “Peacebone,” the first single from Animal Collective’s otherwise decent new album. Why someone like Panda Bear, who has proven he has the vocal chops to deliver carefully constructed vocal architecture, would sing off key as the foil to Avey Tare’s awkward verses is beyond my comprehension. This is the kind of song that should have been relegated to single status in a similar fashion to “People” and left off the actual album. The b-side, “Safer,” is a throwaway track that is very similar to “Cuckoo” but with a slightly different piano part. I love Animal Collective but this 10″ isn’t worth your time.

 

Liars – Plaster Casts of Everything 7″

Mute (www.mute.com)

In stark contrast to Animal Collective’s misstep, Liars have rightly chosen “Plaster Casts of Everything” as the first single from their self-titled album. The song takes a page from Wire’s early work with a minimal riff and “rides this wave” on a raft of Nirvana style, anthemic distortion. I believe “awesome” is the correct adjective here. The b-side, “Volcano Police” is a strange pseudo-metal track harboring a purposefully generic sounding riff smothered with liberal amounts of synthesizer. Angus Andrews warns us that Liars “come from hell.” On a hilarious sidenote, I was playing the new Liars album at the record store where I work recently and a customer that was in the store at the time sent us a nasty letter proclaiming we should put that music that sounds like it “came from the pits of hell” where it belongs, in the trash. Uncanny.

Music is too dynamic to be reduced to a single format forever. Tiny independent labels produce a wealth of 7”, CD-R, and tape releases each year. Because of the massive quantity of these things floating around out there, it is impossible for a site such as ours to devote album review space to these releases. The focus of this column is to dig through the crates and dish the dirt on some of these small wonders. If your band or label would like to submit a 7”, tape, or CD-R for consideration in this column please contact me: joed@adequacy.net