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Hoor-paar-Kraat, "Graduating from Clocks to Watches (Eureka Tapes Vol. II)"

cover imageWith well over 20 releases to its name, Anthony Mangicapra's Hoor-paar-Kraat project has taken on many guises over the years, containing no less than 14 different collaborators over the course of its varied discography. No matter the personnel though, the unit has consistently pushed at the boundaries between drone, noise and musique concrète to masterful effect. Here, Mangicapra teams up with four cohorts and comes up with a beautifully consistent and thematically realized piece. That it has been printed in a relatively large run (for this sort of release anyway...) of 200 is good news, but unfortunately not so good that anyone who wants one can afford to bide their time should they desire a copy. Such is the tape world I suppose; c'est la vie.

 

Peasant Magik

Consistent with the standard working mode of the band, this release tip-toes around the darker precipices of its various genre dabblings without ever submerging into total blackness. Spread across the six lengthy tracks are thick and tactile dronescapes, disturbed vocal babblings, and creepy guitar dirges atop squawking synthesizer cries. This dark and mysterious atmosphere, consistent with the group's enigmatic existence, is hardly a dip in the relatively safe waters of the overdone doom and gloom rock pursued by so many though; Hoor-paar-Kraat merely use this as a starting point from which to uncover deeper pockets of mystery. That they never tell their listener exactly how to feel is one of the great--and ultimately frightening--strengths they display.

Each track here more or less represents a single approach, and the patience exhibited in working within those specific and relatively limited fields makes each piece its own whole without becoming so cluttered as to take away from the album's sense of focus. The first side, for example, opens with "Lacking a Cast Shadow," a slow and smooth drone buildup that shimmers with gray stillness as swathes of air bellow beneath scratching claws and tiny bells. Nearly unmoving, the piece serves as a palette cleanser, easing the listener into the decidedly more elusive and eerie version of bleak pursued on "Habit and the Smooth Sailing of the Psyche." That this too finds its groove, opting for odd tape clatterings and distant, crawling gamelan moves that keep the descending trajectory of the album as restrained and patient as possible.

If the first side of the tape is the journey downward—especially with the closing "departure of the Icicle Man" and its dark and knotty drone loops—then the second side is the arrival and subsequent blind exploration of that realm. "Relics of the Inheritance" features odd guitar string tuggings and hollowed out verbal ramblings that leave little to grasp on to. That the group is willing to do so is wholly unsettling, and remarkably effective as a logical progression from the hints of this amorphous approach presented on the first side.

Perhaps the most oblique and overtly gloomy material on the tape is found on "The Broken windows of a Fertile World," whose bird calls and playground chatter hover menacingly under austere guitar explorations. This is a sparse and dismal landscape indeed, but Hoor-paar-Kraat handles it as delicately as it does everything here; the piece never erupts with anything near a climax, instead floating with delicate hostility whose unending patience grinds any safety net to a pulp, leaving you fully unsuspecting of the harsh blasts of static din that erupt on the closing "The Self is an Onion-Self."

The keen sense of timing and clear division between approaches on each side marks the basement academicism of the release. While many artists working in this vein achieve liftoff with nearly every track, it is refreshing to hear a unit at work that understands the power of sonic confinement and the dire connotations of time. While the title may suggest a technological move forward, it also means that the clock is always present, counting down the hours one by one to be monitored at your convenience. And this is just the sort of dark momentum forged from track to track as this fully realized outing unfolds.

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Review of the Day

Sugarman Three, "Pure Cane Sugar"
Daptone
Raw honesty and incredible musicianship happens to make this white boy wanna shake his ass. Guitars, horns, organ, and the most groovtastic drums I've heard in a long time work together to drop one giant bomb of grimy funk. Sure, I've heard this sort of thing before and lets face it: this is the same kind of funk made during funk's heyday and it's a hard formula to change without totally spoiling that thing that makes funk so great. But Sugarman Three pull it off perfectly. Wah-wah pedals plaster the walls, organs jive and moan and dear me do they wail, and then there's drumming. I can't say enough about the team of Rudy Albin and Ernesto Abreu. Throughout the album they effortlessly create rhythms that pulse, flow, and force me to sway, tap my foot, or even get up out of my chair and dance the best I possibly can. Even the rather down-tempo "Modern Jive" has a groove to it that simply cannot be refused. "Funky So-and-So" is the veritable big-bang that starts this bad-boy off on the good foot and paves the way for the bad thing. Contained herein is a percussion breakdown made of pure sweet sugar, just as the title implies. "Shot Down" puts some serious tension in my stomach and gets my blood flowing, most of the time I want to scream right along with Lee Fields and it's hard to contain the excitement. (I feel bad for people that have to ride in my car with me when I listen to this.) The tension is real and the funk is hot. This is a lightning-fast record at just over fourty-one minutes long and I think I've had it on repeat for about ten plays now. Excuse me, but after listening to this I have the urge to go out and find myself a lady-friend to get down with, I'm feelin' a bit frisky.

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