Friday, May 29, 2020

Chaka - Neanderthal Tales

I'm leery when I get anything from any band willing to attach a gimmicky sub-sub-sub-genre label to their music. Chaka are no different in this respect, running with the label Cro-Magnon metal. Elsewhere, the term "Cave Metal" appears. Thematically, I'm all for the content. Years back I waded through a detailed anthropological account of stone-age tools, weapons, and flint napping techniques for fun which, naturally, was heavy in detailing differences between early hominids and human ancestors. Neanderthals generally are regarded as being stockier and bulkier; the brutish cartoon cave-man type. I believe my first thoughts regarding the project was my initial reaction to the EP artwork; thought provoking and so simple I couldn't help but love the concept presented and the comparison made. It also speaks to the fact that Chaka is focused on human history, progress, and evolution and not just early humans scraping rocks together and combing their long scraggly beards with pineapple fronds. So is the label they are hunting with sharp and accurate? 

Coincidentally, a few years back, myself and Maximum Oversatan's Atomic Destructor from Hell had been seriously considering doing a cave-man based speed metal band in a Carnivore vein and had a fully realized concept as well as had gotten together to attempt writing some material. Naturally, the only way to create such bulky, barbaric, and necessarily chunky Stone-age themed metal meant only bass guitars would be used, the stage set would be dressed up to appear to be a cave opening with jungle foliage, we we would wear animal pelts and be covered in dirt, and have half-naked cave-women on a stage with an actual real campfire with real meat on a spit roasting as we blasted out oversimplified songs about the haggard yet simple existence of early humans. We would then pull apart and devour the meat roasting on the fire at the end of the set as our basses draped us in beautiful low-end feedback. I believe we were going to call the band Caveslut and still lay claim to that band name. You heard it here first!

Chaka do some of these things well. Basically all the musical components Chaka hits on the head and while there were some minor disappointments such as not all the songs being about stone-age warfare, driving wildebeests off cliffs into pits of spikes, searching for the perfect raw core to produce flint from, or throwing spears at each other for primitive enjoyment, everything else contextually is solid. I read the lyrics to the songs before I actually listened to the music, and was astonished at just how well written the content was on that end - probably better written than what would have come out of Caveslut. Mark Sokoll's lyrics are witty, thoughtful, and clever such as in "The Battle Hath Begun" as the song culminates with "Since we're not the sons of Adam, only atoms of the sun." The first three songs all follow suit, but final track "Defekt" doesn't quite live up to the strong pattern set by it's predecessors; I also have a personal disdain for replacing "c's" with "k's" for no apparent reason.

Along with the strong lyrics, main-man Mark Sokoll's bass playing fits the mold for what I had also envisioned being a necessary component for this style of metal. Chunky, massive bass tones wash over the EP, with distorted clanks and clatters cruising through the mix. Guitars are thin and crisp, allowing huge amounts of room for the bass, while also easily finding their own space. Chaka lays claim to sounding "in the vein of old Celtic Frost, Venom, Cro-Mags, and Black Sabbath" however personally, I described them to a friend as even parts Carnivore's Retaliation and Megadeth's "Dawn Patrol." It's a strange combination when you add in the hardcore background of Sokoll and Cro-Mags which is also audible. "Anthroapology" will make sense of this all to you, and it's my pick for best track as well. Not only do the lyrics here seem to resonate most strongly with the paleolithic themes I am looking for most, but the plodding pace resembles the hulking frames of our ancient ancestors ambling about the terrain in search of berries and foraging for their next meal. The "Dawn Patrol" vibes given off here are strongest as well, which is such a unique feature that I can't help but appreciate that weirdness of it all; Chaka truly find their own space for the two-and-a-half minute length.

Chaka has several strong components going for them beyond the theme. Mark Sokoll's vocal performance is passionate and vibrant, full of more personality than is lugged around in the average pelt bindle. The bass-heavy tones are refreshing for the genre though I can't help but seem to be noticing way more bass-heavy mixing of late - I am not complaining. If some of the extraneous nuances can be refined, Chaka has a good chance of really finding their own sound; they're hovering around the entrance to that hallowed cave now really. I would drop some of the vocal effect processing, maybe rough up the production just enough to add some more grit to the sound, stick with the nastier melodic sentiments of "The Battle Hath Begun" and "Anthroapology" versus the bluesier vibes of "Flak." Though originally hesitant towards the potential gimmick barrelling my way, Chaka rinsed away my skepticism and misgivings. Neanderthal Tales is more than anything else proof that originality can still be found in the foundational metal genres.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Shemale Penetration / Pigtails - Split 7"

It took me longer to come to a decision relating to the manner in which I present my coverage of this 7" that was sent to me, than to have an opinion on the music. I am vehemently against censorship of any form, as should be obvious and I also do not want to have an age-verification window pop up when someone comes to try and look at the website simply because it may deter visitors - whoever that may be. I link to the site in my email and I am involved in other groups which communicate through email where members may potentially report content should they stumble on it. It was never a question of actually doing the review. And it was never a question of whether I would show the artwork or not - the Pigtails cover of the split is not egregious in any way. It was more about the inner sleeve specifically, whether to show it, and how to discuss the content, specifically the Pigtails background imagery, which appears to show underage girls being photographed in a sexually provocative manner. The more I thought about it the more fierce my intent to show the entire release became. As offensive and taboo as the subject matter covered is, showing the content openly is necessary to confront topics which, as sad as it is, are part of our societies, species, and - for some - human nature.

So I am showing the full release artwork. This includes both sides, uncensored, as well as the inside. Unless done so by our digital dictators, I will eschew personally putting any age verification gate on the site for any reason. If an adult comes across the content and takes offense and is affected and wants to report the site, so be it. As if that person has never had thoughts worse than the artistic depiction of a female religious figure with a schlong; as if someone offended by sexual taboos doesn't deeply harbor their own unfulfilled kinks and desires they dare not speak about. I am, honestly, more concerned about an under aged child stumbling upon the content. It is this concern that left me with reservations but ultimately, I feel imagery such as that shown below is more likely to result in questions and an opportunity for parents to educate and have a mature conversation than anything else. Additionally, it is not my place to answer for under aged children surfing the web unsupervised without parental controls any more than it is the government's place to answer for parent's allowing / unable-to-supervise their children from seeing gory movies or playing violent video games. I know how I would explain the topics to my kids if I had children - openly and honestly - and that is all that matters to me.

And to be honest, there are way more horrific album covers, jacket artwork, offensive topics, subjects of a taboo nature circulating in the extreme underground scenes. If simply a momentary glimpse of a painted female with a penis or the sad reality of the sex trafficking of barely legal teenagers from third world countries is enough to upend all inner stability and cause endless trauma, I dread the result of such a person tripping over Peter Sotos' Buyers Market, which exists uncensored on Youtube or reading even basic news reporting on the treatment of women by Isis fighters.* Is the artistic representation and presentation of topics any worse than their coverage in the news, or on Dateline with Chris Hansen? The attempt to purify information to only be that which gatekeepers believe is acceptable is an affront to open discourse, the free flowing of information, and ultimately, solutions to the world's most difficult problems.

Pigtail's side of the split concerns the legal case against Gloria Trevi, a Mexican pop-star who had married Lifehouse bassist Sergio Andrade and was accused of recruiting underage teenagers to have sex with him.+ The Mexican legal system found them innocent and released them. Pigtails offer a tight regimented style of pornogrind which is clear and precise in many ways. Vocals are quick burps of sound over thick downtuned guitars. Each of the songs begins with samples in Spanish, which I can't understand, but are never-the-less mood setting. Sharp minimalist drums define the three songs rhythmically and simple repetitive riffs fill in between. For example, "Orgias, Violacion, Sumision, Dominacion, Musica, Esclavitud Abuso, Explotacion, Y Diversion, Eso Era Clan, Que Perfecto Plan", the second of their three tracks, has a singular repetitive riff in lockstep with the tinny crisp snare drum that is so pronounced in their songs. The combination is nothing unique, but the tightness of it all is very well done. The heavy contrast between the gurgling vocals, the downtuned simplistic riffs, and the tight upfront sharp snare is a strong combination.

Where as Pigtails is near militant in feel, Shemale Penetration gives a distinctively more upbeat and looser atmosphere. Shemale Penetration's three tracks are noticeably more elaborated in their arrangement and construction. This relative increase in complexity is mainly due to the inclusion of numerous vocal techniques used throughout their songs. While the opening track is an introduction track with a sample - a wasted opportunity to include a more substantial offering in my opinion - it's their two full length tracks which serve to highlight the subtle difference between the two bands. At first listen, "Sentimiento Binario" appears to follow in suit to the Pigtails tracks, but as the song comes to it's halfway mark, it devolves into a breakdown riff with another vocal sample acting as a transitional guide, before being plastered with pig-squeal vocals. The ease at which Shemale Penetration maneuvers this is an example of sampling used with structural purpose to strong effect. Their second song "Tres Cuios" follows with a similar structure. The song gives us the higher pitched hardcore / punk vocals, pig squeals, ultra low guttural vocals, as well as myriad oral noises in between. The end of the track has a weird keyboard solo which was unexpected and bizarre; I enjoyed it as such.

Both bands offer short bursts of music; the entire split is only eleven minutes long. This short playtime makes the release very palatable for someone such as myself, someone who does not spend a huge amount of time listening to grindcore or even brutal death metal. The presentation of the split is well done on multiple levels. There is a definite level of extremity reached on the visual and thematic side of things; sexuality, especially taboo subjects, is often an uncomfortable subject to broach and both bands throw caution to the wind with a full-frontal assault. It is more difficult for me to go deep into the Shemale Penetration tracks on this thematic level, since the lyrics are all in Spanish and I honestly am not sure if there is an overarching theme or concept to the band. A listener who lives day and night for pornogrind might find the release banal or hardly provoking, but I feel the tracks have some merit and character worth a listen.


Saturday, May 23, 2020

Eutanos / Anal Vomit / Aka Funeral / Luciferian - Alianza Madita Sudamericana Split

Another split, this one from Black Dragon Productions, features four bands from four different countries. Eutanos seems to be the key here, with James Peterson being the man behind the Black Dragon Label as well as behind Eutanos. How the other bands got involved is a mystery. James is currently based in Maryland, though originally Eutanos graced the terra firma of Rep├║blica del Ecuador. The tracks on this split all fall into a black metal framework, giving a consistency to the overall release. Subtle stylistic characteristics between the four bands give each personality a chance to stand out to the right listener, especially since the quality of the different productions is all at a similar standpoint. Significant attention was paid to the booklet, giving each band a section of the six-panel insert. Unfortunately, my copy did not come with the jewel case back insert because there are no song titles with my cover, if in fact there ever were song titles provided.

An intro, two full minutes of what sounds like a wooden train whistle duet, is definitely unique and original to my ears. It seems intended to invoke the original Mezoamerican cultures that inhabited the continent. It is no musical harbinger of things to come, though. "The Satan God" offers the first glimpse into Eutanos' unmasked sound. A solid production greets us at the door mat; chunky bass, strong guitars, clear and punchy drums. James Peterson's vocals are the odd component here. His vocal style is in line with Eyehategod's Mike Williams which, when paired with Eutatnos' modern thrashy black metal, adds frustration and desperation to Eutanos' attacks. Bassist German Mora is an absolute monster on these four tracks. Mixed perfectly with the thinner guitars, he adds not only low end, but a lot of character to the songs which are otherwise forgettable structurally and melodically. As a full entity, Eutanos doesn't do anything new or overwhelmingly innovative, but what they offer sounds professional and thought-through. More modern black metal fans might enjoy Eutanos but they don't offer me much. "Guillotina De Sangre" is their most impressive construction.

Peruvians Anal Vomit follow Eutanos with their own serving of black metal, this time coated with some speed metal and thrash elements which gives them a distinctively South American black metal sound which I liken to Mystifier. Slayer is a definitive influence as well. Vocalist Possessor carries a good harsh rasp in his bellows and retains appropriate levels of disgust balanced with emotion. Their five songs blitz by quickly which emphasizes the fact that each has different production levels and design, but somehow assists in keeping a heightened level of interest. There is no stagnation. "Sandero Siniestro" is easily my favorite of the five tracks they offer. The track is fast, intense, and aggressive relying on memorable riffs, particularly the chuggy half-time riff midway through the track. Their five tracks include a Sarcofago cover of INRI which is done especially well, likely out of a sense of personal obligation to the South American legends. Honestly, though I think their band name is puerile, their quick violent assault impressed me.

Aka Funeral, Brazilians, provide a second-wave black metal style in line with Emperor's later work and Immortal. I believe the three songs they offer here are from their debut album, Stormy Tides, and include the album title track as well as "Faceless" and "The Eternal Hourglass of Existence," which follow in succession on the album. It's like a three song preview of their debut, really. Aka Funeral excellently blend interesting and unexpected transitional phrases and melodic shifts into their songs, as evidenced in "Faceless." All three songs are interesting and dynamic. Vocalist Algol has a dry painful rasp and does his best to add theatricality as well. The songs are purposefully constructed and intentional. "The Eternal Hourglass of Existence" is an impressive track, built on an ever-escalating tension formed from continuously falling back into the E-minor scale from riffs rooted lower down in the scale. The song has a phenomenal musical break two thirds of the way through with an evocative guitar solo over slow powerful bass notes. A highlight for sure.

Final band present is Luciferian, a Columbian outfit, playing a fairly typical style of Black Metal. Elements of Dissection, Immortal, etc... Their overall sound is more modern and polished than the other bands and comes across as oily. I'm not sold on the generic elements nor the predictable flow their music takes through their songs. "The Chalice of Sovereignty" is their best song here, namely for the second half of the song after a spacious patient transitional section with interesting bass fills courtesy of four-stringer Demiurge. Objectively, their performances are all great, the production is stellar (as previously mentioned), and they present well put together songs. Vocalist and guitarist Hector Carmona is rigid in his delivery of standard black metal screams over the tracks, if passionate. Unlike previous band Aka Funeral, Luciferian lack the dynamics which keep tracks and songs interesting. For me, I'll be vigilant for the first Aka Funeral and Anal Vomit records after this split; these two bands appeared to offer me the closest to what I'm on the hunt for.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Alnus Serrulata #1 - Smooth Alder

This little Alder tree has quickly become one of my favorite since starting it last year. I collected the seeds in February 2019 from a tree on the edge of a field. I had read that in nature, alder seeds fall into creek and river waters and actually float down the river, germinating while floating in the water. I attempted to mimic this germination process by taking the seeds and leaving them in a cup of water.

A bunch sprouted roots in the cup of water. I only had one spare seedling cell and not a lot of room on my windowsill to give them light at that time, so I planted eight or nine of the seeds in the available seed cell. Unfortunately, of the eight or nine that I took out of the water and planted, only one seed survived. The other seeds dampened off (a common fungal disease affecting newly germinated seedlings).

Left: the seedling as it was after germination and allowed to grow for several weeks. It was tiny, yet showed promise as it quickly grew and gained strength.Within about five or six weeks in this cell, roots had begun to grow out the bottom of the cell and the tree needed an upgrade into a bigger pot. The leaves of the tree very small, indicating a good possibility for them to slowly reduce over time. Alder is not used much for bonsai, but it shows a lot of promise to my eyes.

The seedling was planted in a small terracotta pot sometime in early June. I used a process called 'slip-potting' for this transfer, simply removing the alder from the smaller pot, and backfilling around the roots in the larger pot with additional soil. This means the roots of the tree aren't impacted much. As expected, the tree wasn't affected at all by the summer repot. I would not normally repot the tree at this time if I was doing more significant root work. I even saw the beginning of branching starting to occur.

By the end of the summer, the tree had grown incredibly strong. An emergency repot in August was necessary when the terracotta pot was knocked off the  benches where I keep my trees. This had happened while I was at work however a rain shower that day kept the tree's roots wet enough for me to be able to put the tree in yet another pot when I got home with no issues. (Left) The tree in October started to go dormant and lose it's leaves. It didn't put off much color, which was disappointing, but the loss of leaves revealed a mature branch structure for a tree just under one year old.

I repotted the tree again this spring at the proper time, just as the buds were swelling. I did some minor pruning as well, removing a few branches that were unnecessary for the long-term design of the tree. I'd like to try and keep this tree rather small. The roots looked great, with a really nice root spread. At the close of March, the tree leafed out. The little red buds all over the tree putting out new growth in unison. Long term goals for this tree this year are to further thicken the base of the tree and eventually choose the branches which will become the main part of the structure. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Eris / Chikara / Dishate - 3 Way Split

Split releases are something of a conundrum for me. I've released several, I own a crap ton, and I just can't pinpoint exactly what their purpose is. The social aspect of having two or three bands with small followings collaborating on a release is tempting. This is even more-so the case when on a split with a high-profile act. A good split has bands which complement each other, don't sound the same, are equal in overall quality, and can expect each of their fan-bases to find something worthwhile in the other band or bands' offerings. An example of a split release done extremely well would be something like the Altar of the Old Skulls 3-way split with Deathevokation, Mandatory, and Kingdom. While Deathevokation proves to have the strongest tracks ("Embers of a Dying World" being a total beast of a track), Mandatory and Kingdom fit right at home, and are well served feasting at the same table.

For all the positive potential opportunities, there is also a sense of competition. It is impossible not to compare the quality of the bands on the split to determine what material stands out. Why would a band with a crappy recording put their songs on a split tape with bands with much better recordings? Doesn't that show one band in a negative light against the other bands on the split? I think personally I would much rather listen to a three or four song EP from a single band than listen to a ten or twelve song split tape with three bands on it; focusing on one band's specific qualities becomes much easier in this format. Going back to the previously mentioned split, this is entirely the case with Mandatory, whose Curse of the Undead demo alone is more impactful than following Deathevokation. The impact which bands can have on each other is especially true on this split featuring Eris and Dishate from Serbia and Chikara, a mixture of Swedish and Bosnian musicians.

This split ambles out of the gate with a handful of tracks from Serbians Eris. I personally am not truly impressed with their raw black metal punches, especially the first two tracks, though I can see some hope for the band after better efforts, "Unholy" and "The Coming of Darkness". There are no lyrics available in the cassette insert, but it doesn't take a doctorate in English to take a stab at the thematic content. I admire the rawness but a lot is to be desired. Another issue for Eris is that it sounds like these tracks are taken from numerous recordings. The opening two tracks are thin and low volume wise, "Unholy" is darker and deeper with more bass. "The Coming of Darkness" is likely the best production-wise with clear vocals, and lo-fi but clear guitars and drums. The track is the most complete as well, with definitive opening movement, numerous interesting transitional phrases, and well-composed melodic flow. It is difficult to hear the kick drum, which would have likely made this track very noteworthy. Eris includes two covers as well. One of these is a cover of Havohej's cult classic "Dethrone The Son Of God" and a Mortician cover. I found the inclusion of the Mortician cover a strange choice for the raw black metal band.

The four Chikara tracks thankfully fly by. For a total of eight minutes, bashing and hammering of drums, muffled screams, and what sounds like improvised guitars get their chance to swim. My hope is that Chikara sinks into the abyss and fail to resurface in the pond that is extreme music at least until I have gone deaf. The opening three tracks of their release include almost a full minute of silence as an intro to "Insane Fucker", the endless rattling of awkward incapable drumming, riffs with no defined beginning or end, and raspy yelping drivel splashed across the surface of the tracks like some unknown liquid on the wall of a gas-station toilet stall. I searched high and low for something worthy of fragmentary positive mention and found not a single meritorious quality present in any moment of Chikara's tracks. Absolute trash. Their portion of this split is wasted tape. I tried really hard to like aspects of "Wounded and Bleeding" but just couldn't stomach the disorganization of rhythms, horrific vocals, and purposeless composition.

The last band on this split, Dishate, even themselves a substandard mix of grind and death metal, proves too much for Eris and Chikara to compete with. The five grinding tracks are the best produced of all the bands present and were originally recorded for Dishate's debut EP. Compared to Eris and Chikara, Dishate sound like the veteran band on the split, even though they had been in existence for only a year at the time this material was recorded. What I particularly picked out was the awesome bass tone on "Realize the Matter", which almost sounds mechanical. Each note is discernible and highlighted with a percussive hollow clanking which reverberates across the tracks. "Nothing Less" is probably my pick of the litter. The last of their tracks, "Grindignation" sounds totally different than the previous tracks. Gone is the unique and awesome bass tone which I adored so much. The vocals sound more aggressive and spiteful on the track, but the guitar tone is washed out. Though better than Eris and miles ahead of Chikara, Dishate still don't impress me all that much.

So this tape is a pretty mixed bag, an inevitable situation when the structure of a format pressures the listener to compare, even subconsciously, what is worthwhile and what isn't. For the losers, Eris and Chikara (the worst of all), the comparable quality displayed by Dishate highlights even more that there is no reason for further investigation into their music. Why would someone purposefully look into the worst bands on a release like this? The same thing applies to compilation CDs as well. Why would I want to listen to the worst band when given other options? I don't believe that Chikara would honestly believe their music on this split is better than Dishate's or even Eris'. Even Dishate's music barely interests me when separated out and listened to as if it was the original EP. Somehow, the other bands make Dishate sound worse simply by association. Even worst of all, I doubt I will want to go and see if Grim Reaper Records has any other worthy releases based on this tape. The label can't even spell their name right on the j-card. Focus your attention elsewhere... if you like C or D-grade grindcore, maybe give Dishate a spin.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Quercus Rubra #1 - Northern Red Oak

Quercus Rubra - Northern Red Oak

This oak was growing in the ground next to my fence. I liked the kink in the trunk and the taper that the tree already had. I left it in the ground last year, as I knew that digging it mid summer would have killed it. I decided I would dig it and pot it this spring as the buds were beginning to swell, right before leafing out. Early April of this year I potted the tree. By the end of the month, it's first buds had opened and began leafing out. I knew I had some decisions to make with this tree. There was a thick branch crossing mid-trunk. It had been cut back in the past causing the two side branches. I also needed to hope roots regrew from the cut tap-root. There were no branches low as well. The kink in the trunk was now looking truly weird, with a sharp angle that jutted out to the left. The more I looked at it, the more I decided it was a flaw in the overall style.

The tree grew through the spring and fully leafed out quite nicely by mid-summer. By mid June, the tree was growing nicely, with several pushes of foliage growth, but no evidence of growth down on the trunk. I decided to attempt to wire the branches up top at this point to try my hand and getting some different angles off the trunk to potentially grow the trunk into. Having not decided on the final style for the tree at this stage, wiring the trunk away from each other and into the sun also afforded the leaves a chance to all get as much sunlight and growth as possible. I covered the soil, a formula of 100% Napa 8822 Diatomaceous Earth, with sphagnum to keep some moisture in the pot. I fertilized throughout the summer occasionally with 14-14-14 Osmocote slow release fertilizer.

Towards the end of the summer, around August, I began using a small amount of water soluble solid fertilizer with each watering when I felt that the slow release was not giving me the healthy growth on the oak. I used the leaves on my Alder as a reference point for this. Because Alder is a nitrogen fixing tree, which can produce it's own nitrogen, I can compare how green it's leaves are to other trees to determine if trees that should have dark green leaves are getting enough fertilizer. This tree wasn't. After beginning the new regimen, it's leaves began to green up. This tendency can help gauge other trees as well so an Alder is a good tree to keep in a collection for this reason.

Today, I captured some of the tree's early autumn color setting in. Just like fully grown trees, bonsai will turn colors with the season. Here, you can see some of the red coming into view. Note the small front branch low on the tree. After I removed the branch from the middle of the tree that I didn't like from the beginning, the tree began activating buds lower on the trunk. This branch grew from a bud in the perfect location. Next year, I will allow this branch to build up some strength by pruning the upper branch that is most vigorous. Eventually, I will chop the whole tree back to this low branch to grow out from that point. Currently I do not know the age of this tree. I expect it to be around three or four years. I will know for sure when I do my first cut back to the low branch - I will be able to count the rings on the trunk at that point.

Here, you can see the smaller leaves turning the distinctive red which Red Oak is named after. Note the size of my finger; oaks are notorious for having leaves which do not reduce well however I have had several buds on this tree push leaves that were smaller in size once in the pot. Red Oaks have different growth habits compared to White Oaks. You can tell the difference between the species by the type of lobes on the leaves - Red Oaks have pointy lobes while White Oaks have rounded lobes. White Oak species do not require a stratification period for their seeds to germinate while Red Oak species do. I have not seen many people with Red Oak bonsai so this tree is an experiment but I am pleased with this leaf size. If through ramification the leaves naturally reduce to this size, this will become a very nice tree to train.

On the trunk, there seem to be some more latent buds which have appeared. Hopefully next spring, I will have more low branches to work with on this tree and I can work on getting a good start on developing some long-term branching to grow out. I also am interested to see how the bark comes along next year. At the moment, this is one of my best prospects for a nice potential bonsai. There is another one growing in the back by the shed so I may have a second by this time next year.

 At the end of 2019, this was the state of the tree, with it's nicely colored, though large, leaves. The lowest left branch will likely become either the next leader for the tree (a branch selected to continue to the trunk after chopping the top of the tree off) or the first low branch. The major flaw in this tree is still the awkward kink in the trunk just below the split into two branches. The upper branches right now are simply to power the tree until some better branching develops lower on the trunk.

There were dormant new buds on the trunk of the tree all over, so I hoped that these buds would become further low branches, and allow me to begin to make decisions on the future long-term styling of the tree. The top of the tree is always strong, so being able to remove the top of the tree at the right time allows the lower parts of the tree to become strong. This is the process by which a tree is kept small, and compact, and how leaves reduce to smaller sizes.

Close up of the lower part of the trunk with the left low branch. If you look closely just above that branch's origin point on the trunk towards the right, you can see another latent bud which hopefully would leaf out in the spring.

With the buds swelling in early April of 2020, I went ahead and took the opportunity to work on this tree's roots and repotted the tree at a slightly different angle.

Pictures show the process. Any questions on this process I can answer in comments.

Left: the root ball after taking out of the pot. A lot of fine roots present. This is my first time see the growth on this tree's roots. Every species has slightly different roots.

Right: A worm had made the pot's root ball home through the winter. I put it back in the garden.
Left: I removed the soil and raked the roots out the best I could. There were a lot of good roots towards the first curve at the base of the trunk.

Right: I went ahead and cut off the majority of the remaining tap-root, since I had enough strong root mass above this point. A flat root ball is important.
Left: After removing the roots I did not want to keep, I still had a good amount of fine roots to allow the tree to grow strongly. The tree is forming a decent radial root system.

Right: The new planting angle. It looks much more interesting than the perfectly vertical trunk in the original planting.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Glaukom Synod - Ectoplasmic Revelations

Ectoplasmic Revelations appeared on my doorstep like an outlaw revisiting their favorite western shanty-town bank. Glaukom Synod has been a frequent traveler these parts for a while now, and each release has impressed me in different ways. The three hours worth of Glaukom Synod in my music library occupies a niche space between Glass Candy and Glen Tipton; nestled between polar opposites. In some ways, Glaukom Synod is a coagulation of polar opposites as well. The electronic artifacts on display are assembled with requisite heavy amounts of electronics and mechanical sounds, but with a goal of representing more natural death metal tones and structures. Ectoplasmic Revelations is no different in this respect, but most importantly, this release is perhaps even more focused in presenting Glaukom within this framework.

Ectoplasmic is it's own entity with individual tendencies and orientations. Glaukom Synod doesn't really approach the genre as a wall of noise and static and, at least to me, it's easier to imagine these tracks with different instrumentation being some idiosyncratic form of death metal than ever before, even more than the actual Napalm Death and Bolt Thrower covers on Covered in Semen and Slime.  Whereas a large portion of the genre would sound more akin to either funeral doom or drone, Glaukom is firmly opposite and refreshing in this regard. The death metal influences are clear on a track such as "Baphometic Ruminance and Clerical Decerebration". It's not impossible to imagine Cannibal Corpse piecing together parts and components for a track on Tomb of the Mutilated. Ectoplasmic Revelations is a difficult-to-find mixture of rhythmic primitivsm, challenging complexity, and auditory abrasiveness which can make the body convulse in angular motions but in an organized and purposeful flailing.

I found there was more vocal sampling present than I've previously remembered. For example "Demembrablia (Voyage, Blood and Remembrance)" utilizes vocal repetition as the main rhythmic element throughout the track. "The Taurus (Cosmic Tribulations)" even foregoes the electronic manipulation and incorporates singular death metal vocals. "Demembrablia (Voyage, Blood and Remembrance)"is likely the best overall representation of what Glaukom does so well, finding abnormal rhythmic tendencies and latching onto them with bizarre nuanced melodicism hidden beneath industrialized soundscapes. My choice for personal favorite track, "Visions of a Necrophile (The Tangerine Rest)", is the epitome of electronic suspense, with repetitive low futuristic patterns interspersed with clipping sound waves and bleeping. It wouldn't sound out of place if it were injected into the Terminator 2 soundtrack.

There's enjoyment to be found in these experimental tracks. I lose myself often searching for new and different repetitions and rhythms. It is possible to hear the same track two completely different ways or at two completely different speeds. "Sodomized By The Past" does this really well. You can latch onto the programmed drums at sonic speed or to the rubbery slower motif in the background and get a different feel for the song's pacing. This personalized experience is a unique element. Songs often are preoccupied with beating their audience over the head with obvious thumping bass to cue in on, especially in more mainstream electronic music. The experience is ultimately aggressive in tone but at times sadistically whimsical due to unconventional syncopations keyed into abnormal melodic configurations. This gonzo approach to power electronics and experimental music makes Glaukom Synod a rewarding experience even for those who wouldn't typically give the genre a chance.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

CTP - 038 - I: Vivisect - Fuming Death (Rehearsal Demo)

It's taken longer than I've intended to get the official version of this Vivisect tape available. I apologize to everyone for that. The original 10 copies of this were released and sold at the Blood Incantation / Immolation show which Vivisect supported on. I believe it was one of their first shows.

Old school chunky and memorable Doomy Death Metal.

Tape is available via the online store. Wholesale orders contact via email.