INCHES reviews Ascend, Blank Realm, Active Child, Ernest Gonzales [MP3s]

In the strange wake of music's digital rebirth, vinyl has experienced a modest boom in popularity, seen by many as a replacement for the awkward middleman that is the compact disc. INCHES reviews the output of L.A.'s healthy record-making community (artists and labels, indie or other), believing that good music deserves much more than a handful of ones and zeros.

Last time around, we covered releases by Sunn O))), Flying Lotus, Russian Circles and the Langley Sisters. This week, we review a total of 55 inches. Email INCHES here.

INCHES reviews Ascend, Blank Realm, Active Child, Ernest Gonzales [MP3s]
Chris Martins

Artist: Active Child

Title: "She Was A Vision"

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Label: Transparent (UK)

Format: 7-inch, white vinyl, 300 pressed

Active Child is the recording name of L.A's Pat Grossi, a heretofore unknown entity evidently capable of great, great things. For this British import, Grossi delivers two equally enticing songs that combine his seemingly equal interests in haunting vocal folk (of the Bon Iver variety) and damaged electronic music (a la dubstep). "She Was A Vision" is the biggest-sounding of the pair, where reverbed drum hits echo forth from the '80s, vocals cascade in choral washes, and harp sounds gather in pools of dulcet notes. B-side "Voice Of An Old Friend" sheds the single's chillwave leanings for creepier territory, occasional dissonance and fluttering pan pipes, but both excel at a sort of ethereal organic sprawl that's been absent from L.A. music, even in a time as ripe as this.

Active Child - "She Was A Vision"

Purchase at your local independent record vendor (INCHES recommends Origami or Vacation), or now via the Leftist Nautical Antiques shop (mind the import price).

INCHES reviews Ascend, Blank Realm, Active Child, Ernest Gonzales [MP3s]
Chris Martins

Artist: Ascend

Title: Ample Fire Within

Label: Southern Lord (East Hollywood)

Format: 2LP, 180 gram vinyl, heavy card stock gatefold jacket, tip-on inner panel, printed sleeves, 550 pressed

In a word: Triumphant. In the last installment of INCHES, we featured Sunn O)))'s nigh-classical masterpiece, Monoliths & Dimensions. That hefty fucker was fantastically mired in its own quag, but Ample Fire Within, the 2008 album from Ascend (another drone/doom duo featuring Greg Anderson) just now getting its vinyl debut, takes a different tack. Opener "Obelisk Of Kolob" stomps forth like a proud mammoth, its hair made of knotted guitar strings. The track grinds, drones and crashes before, through the glorious murk, a kingly horn blows. The titular song follows, where a spare guitar/Wurlitzer combos chases down some Eastern melodies before a garbled voice enters the scene and something equally beautiful and terrifying grabs hold. For its third song, Ascend takes on a composition by pianist McCoy Turner, "Desert Cry," which solidifies this record's (at least) spiritual connection to vintage freewheeling jazz -- Sun Ra could've done something like this if he'd had the members of Fantômas at his disposal. Guitars cry, a voice coos, there's more trombone, more keys, incredible amounts of droning tones, more more more guitar... And that's just side A.

INCHES reviews Ascend, Blank Realm, Active Child, Ernest Gonzales [MP3s]
Chris Martins

Artist: Ernest Gonzales

Title: Been Meaning To Tell You

Label: Friends Of Friends (Downtown)

Format: LP (+ digital download, rmx collection, art book), 180 gram white vinyl, 500 pressed

Friends Of Friends is no stranger to ambitious projects. The Alpha Pup-affiliated label's first release came on a T-shirt and had the potential to turn into flowers (b.y.o. water, soil and sunlight). But this, the imprint's first vinyl release, beats all. San Antonio-based folktronica fiend Ernest Gonzales did his part by creating an album's worth of pretty, intimate-sounding songs that crisscross between electronic elements (Casiotone percussion, sampled beatboxing, various bleeps) and acoustic ones (strummed guitar, bells, drums) to arrive at something psychedelic, mellow, and gauzy. FoF, in turn, wrangled a bunch of visuals artists to create enough images to fill an accompanying book, and as many music-makers as it'd take to remix each song on the album (13 would've done the job -- they actually brought in three extras). Below, you'll find Daedelus' take on "I'm Here You're There."

INCHES reviews Ascend, Blank Realm, Active Child, Ernest Gonzales [MP3s]
Chris Martins

Artist: Blank Realm

Title: Heatless Ark

Label: Not Not Fun (Eagle Rock)

Format: LP (+ cassette, Dirty Ark), variant metallic-ink jackets, 400 pressed

Brisbane experimental quartet Blank Realm comprises three siblings (Daniel, Sarah and Luke Spencer), one outsider (Luke Walsh), and a whole lotta psychedelia. As Not Not Fun so elegantly puts it: "The porous BR line-up allows for a lot of instrumentation flux and this transience translates on record here to a strange range of agendas: open electric ecstasies, dissonant outsider-wave art-punk, loner Jandek-y demos, slow-diving femme-sung dream-gaze, and beyond." Rather than anchor its spacey tendencies to heavy guitar or proggy intricacies, Blank Realm stays in the atmosphere, swooning on opener "Fabulous Terror Index," punching jagged holes in the firmament on "Saint Tegram," and even thrashing sans-gravity on "Agnes Snow Brain." This Aussie outfit is at its best when it's guided by vocals, as on the spiky titular track.

INCHES reviews Ascend, Blank Realm, Active Child, Ernest Gonzales [MP3s]

Origami Vinyl's Top Ten Best-Sellers: January

01. Yeasayer - Odd Blood (Secretly Canadian)

02. Beach House - Teen Dream (Sub Pop)

03. Best Coast - "Something In The Way" 7-inch (PPM)

04. Vampire Weekend - "Contra" 7-inch ( XL)

05. Washed Out / Small Black split 7-inch (Lovepump United)

06. Kissing Cousins - Pillar of Salt (Velvet Blue Music)*

07. Meho Plaza - "Made of Gold" 7-inch (How To Fight)

08. The Street & Babe Shadow - The Street & Babe Shadow ()

09. Surfer Blood - Astro Coast (Kanine)

10. Spoon - Transference (Merge)

[*previously featured in INCHES]

Origami Vinyl is located at 1816 W. Sunset Blvd., 90026 (213.413.3030).

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