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Modern Containment - Three Lobed Records

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Dusted's Bill Meyer takes a look at the first five releases from Modern Containment the new series from Three Lobed Records.

Modern Containment - Three Lobed Records

Modern Containment is a curious name for a series of records sponsored by the psychedelically oriented Three Lobed label. Given the North Carolina-based imprint's close association with Bardo Pond, one would expect references to release rather than restraint. Perhaps they selected the appellation of this nine-strong, subscription-only run of CD EPs to give the artists something to oppose rather than prescribe a theme?

Hush Arbors - Landscape of Bone
The first release is also, musically speaking, the straightest; nonetheless it tells tales of some mighty twisted goings-on. Hush Arbors is Keith Wood, who has hit the road over the past year playing bass for Six Organs of Admittance and Wooden Wand. In Hush Arbors, he plays it all save for some backing vocals by James Toth and Jessica Bowen and a couple drum tracks by Steve Gigante. In classic bedroom bard fashion, Wood hunkered down with a 4-track in Knoxville to craft this set, scrunching layers of mellow acoustic picking, oozing fuzz-tones, and rustling percussion behind his wobbly falsetto vocals. The word bone figures in the titles of all five songs, and mortality weighs heavily upon them; even at its mellowest, the music exudes a blood-on-the-homestead walls vibe. The sleeve image updates the old-time mountain music tradition of men murdering their girlfriends with a picture of a parka-ed dude getting ready to axe some poor unsuspecting honey from behind while she strums a guitar. But because this is now, not then, Wood feels free to cleave his mellow picking with some Stooges-like wah-wah action that does the same thing to his music as that axe threatens to do to the cover star.

Sun City Girls - Live Room
The SCGs also deal in evil, but on a far more universal scale. Nothing is as it seems; the so-called EP lasts almost 50 minutes, it was originally broadcast by KCMU in '994 but was deemed ripe for redistribution over a decade later, and there's really not much music here, just some free-form piano and drum interludes that punctuate a series of paranoid rants. An unsuspecting listener might have thought they'd happened upon a talk radio station devoted to conspiracy theories about AIDS and UFOs, both of which are part of a plan to eliminate 75 percent of the world population. Yup, Live Room is a transmission from the Uncle Jim zone, a place that inspires horror in all but the most devoted Girls lovers. This is where quality control goes out the window and a determination to freak out anyone who isn't in on the joke takes over.

MV + EE with the Bummer Road - Play Ellas McDaniel's Who Do You Love?
And play it they do, but in their own sweet time. Matt Valentine and Erika Elder have spent the last few years mapping the channels between the safe harbors of folksy picking and the far shores of free-form freakery; even though this disc is named after a Bo Diddley tune, its course is set for the latter. The 40-minute continuous performance opens with a tour of yawning wah-wah canyons viewed from deep within, moved at a slow canoe's pace by near-random hand drumming. Then someone kicks a fuzz box and someone else strokes a theremin to life, and the spacing out begins in earnest. Echo blankets the proceedings like fog off the bay, engulfing first the drums and then Ms. Elder's languorous voice. She does get around to singing Bo Diddley's song at one point, but in a way that feels more connected to Sun Ra's '60s sojourn in NYC with Bugs Hunter at the tape machine, or maybe the Familiar Ugly. The longer it goes, the denser and woozier it gets, and by the time that Bo's riff rears its head, it's no match for the cosmic chaos that surrounds it. Valentine and crew put out a lot of records, and they aren't all created equal, but this one feels like a keeper.

Wooden Wand - Horus of the Horizon
James Toth, a.k.a. Wooden Wand, dedicated his entry to convicted murderer and inexplicable cause célèbre Bobby Beausoleil, and that's not the EP's only occasion of button pushing. Consider the song title "Wand Arise," which I speculate will one day become a slogan to sell Viagra to middle-aged dudes with grown-over piercings, or these words from "Son of Wand (Hard Luck Prince):" "Then I started up a company, hired seven men with grit, My line was oiling guillotines and appraising monkey shit, And we widened the volcanoes when the virgins wouldn't fit."

It seems that Toth is more concerned with getting a reaction, any reaction, than he is with achieving any lasting impact. He delivers four of the songs as Dylan-esque acoustic talking blues, and it's hard to fault his performance despite his over-reaching lyrics. Toth's crooning on "Black Hanna" owes such a huge debt to Jim Morrison; one wonders why he didn't go all out and call the song "Son of Lizard King," but I'd wait through something worse to enjoy Keith Wood's distorto-guitar interlude. The instrumental "Ancestral Mem'ry #4" gives wah-wah-soaked nip from that flask, and offers visions of a more enjoyable record that I hope Wood and Wand make someday.

Sunburned Hand of the Man - The Mylar Tantrum
This is a labor of love gone wrong - the labor, that is, not necessarily the love. The Sunburned website testifies that they considered it an honor to be invited to make a soundtrack for Ira Cohen's The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda, and these are not guys who lightly show respect for anything. Even armed with the best intentions, they're not up to the task. From the advance guard of heartbeat drumming and asthmatic accordion to the deeply regrettable chanting near the end, this set feels more like the work of an "Iron John"-besotted drum circle than a psychedelic experience. I hope they kept their pants on.

By Bill Meyer

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