Raymond Byron's Bond Wire Cur was already on my list of albums to recommend this week. ESP-Disk' had sent a copy that I finally placed on the turntable and there was his unmistakable voice, just under a different name. It'd been almost a decade since I'd thought about Ray's music — or since he released any — and was happy to hear it again.
I knew Raymond Byron as Castanets and Raymond Raposa, as a member of the free-jazz group Create (!) and an early part of the Asthmatic Kitty roster. I saw him play an intense, but powerful solo show at the Caledonia Lounge in Athens, Ga. I debated which Castanets album was better — Cathedral or First Light's Freeze — with college radio friends. He made music that lived in cloudy regions, but rooted in old traditions.
Raymond Raposa died on July 30. No details are known. It's heartbreaking news, compounded by this beautiful record that feels like a renewal of sorts. Sending my heart to friends and family grieving someone whom my pal Chris Schlarb called a "singer, songwriter, drinker, dreamer, and fighter." —Lars Gotrich
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Raymond Byron, Bond Wire Cur (ESP-Disk'): It's so tempting to read the tea leaves in someone's songs after death — as if creation is a pure reflection of the artist's life. But that does a disservice to the weirdness and unknowability of someone, and the late Raymond Raposa (aka Castanets aka Raymond Byron) always felt particularly weird and unknowable to me. There were his ever-shifting styles — drone blues, outsider country, dub, weirdo folk, improv — with a similar sense of mystic lyricism and delivery. Ray's thin and scratchy tenor was otherworldly in the same way that old-time 78s seemed to capture ghosts instead of human voices. There were stories about his nomadic life that only added to his mystery. He sang about blood, darkness and mercy with the fervor of an ancient prophet blindsided by modernist uncertainty.
So when Ray's debut for ESP-Disk' begins, "Remind me, if you could, how it ends," there's that postmortem pang. Bond Wire Cur is somehow more stripped down but also more sprawled out than any Castanets record. There's a mix of full-throated hollers and whispered meditations spread across 20 short, seemingly unfinished sketches, landing somewhere between Vic Chesnutt's existential quietude and Nikki Sudden's stranger solo outings. These songs demonstrate a rear-view understanding of isolation and community not as separate entities, but a way of holding space for both.
Crestfallen Dusk, Crestfallen Dusk (Moonlight Cypress Achetypes / Folkvangr): Gotta give it up to Zeal & Ador for circling the Black blues & black metal square first, but there's certainly room for the unholy blend to fester. Recorded on a vintage guitar and whisky-stomped with Hill Country licks, there's something unhinged about Crestfallen Dusk. Ryan Clackner works almost exclusively in the metallic American roots mix (see: Primeval Well, Vile Haint, StumpTail), but his blues-first approach to these riffs find an eerie companion in the vile screams and despondent atmosphere of black metal. The North Mississippi style doesn't always work, especially when slowed to a dirge, but there are deranged devil-at-the-crossroads moments when the dust kicks up a Nordic storm on Southern soil.
LACING, Never (Bummer Recordings): Give me a soft coo and some heavy shoegaze and I'm all yours. Well, that's not entirely true, there's some shoegaze that causes my eyes to gaze elsewhere with boredom. LACING, however, knows how to play with texture, tone and pacing in ways that reminds me of Starflyer 59's Gold (replete with bummer Britpop dreaminess), the big gloom of Have A Nice Life and the gauzy thud of True Widow.
Milkhouse, Milkhouse (post-dreifing): You know, I didn't even realize folks still made densely arranged, brass-forward, full-band sing-along indie-pop anymore… and not that "ho hey" drivel either. I'm talking Architecture in Helsinki, Anathallo and early Polyphonic Spree — absurdly large ensembles that hoisted a ramshackle camaraderie on their listeners. In the early 2000s, at my most college-radio DJ twee, that was my s***. Milkhouse features members and contributors with long, vowel-heavy Icelandic names I could never pronounce, so you know this Big Band Indie is legit. There's some guitar jangle and sweetly-sung vocal harmonies, but these boisterous songs cram all the feels through swooning horns, strings and winds.
Iceberg, Final Thaw (Astral Spirits): What gnarly Sarlacc pit did this free-rock trio crawl out of? Cloud Nothings' Jayson Gerycz (drums) and Dylan Baldi (normally sangin' and guitar playin', but on sax here) get Weirdo Cleveland with guitarist John Kolodij (fka High aura'd) on two side-long tracks. Both start dusky and slow — very much Kolodij's mode — but build to Last Exit-level skronk, as if to shred out of the goopy, toothy maw with axes and saxes drawn.
Stress Positions, Walang Hiya (Open Palm Tapes): I somehow missed that the Chicago hardcore punks C.H.E.W. broke up, but if we get Stress Positions out of the deal, I ain't mad about it. Stephanie Brooks now fronts the ex-C.H.E.W. dudes, but it's not a cut and paste job — where C.H.E.W. relied on speed and swagger, Stress Positions wide-screens the pit's psychedelic vista. There's a little more metal riffage and mid-tempo tension to maximize the intensity so that, once the band revs to hallucinatory level, the impact is devastating.
Stream the Viking's Choice playlist via BNDCMPR. Tracklist below:
Raymond Byron, "How It Ends"
Crestfallen Dusk, "The Blackness Come Creepin' In"
Iceberg, "God Moves on the Water"
Stress Positions, "Lust for Pleasure"
Ribbon Stage, "Playing Possum"
The Hated, "Someone"
The Soft Pink Truth, "Wanna Know"
L.O.T.I.O.N., "Every Last One"
A Place for Owls, "Do I Feel At Home Here?
Small Sur, "A Clean Patch of Ground"
Múm, "Now There's That Fear Again"
Tomu DJ (feat. kimdollars1), "Optimistic"
James Brandon Lewis (feat. The Messthetics), "Fear Not"
Dark Forest, "Skylark"
Runhild Gammelsæter & Lasse Marhaug, "The Stark Effect"
OFF!, "War Above Los Angeles"
F***** Up, "Strix"
Lethal Limits, "Rainy Minds"
Emasculator, "Depraved Disfigurement"
Life in Vacuum, "New Blood"
Panopticon, "Haunted America II"
June McDoom, "The City"
My Heart, an Inverted Flame (feat. Banshee), "The Blood of the Heartless"
Fusilier, "No Words"
Ultramagg, "One Thousand Directions"
Gel, "Predominant Mask"
Mindforce, "Survival is Vengeance"
Epoch of Unlight, "An Amaranthine Line"
xDELIVERANCEx, "Songs of Deliverance"