Knowing the Unknown
by Kevin J. Elliott

Seeing as I’ve been sent a number of loose records in the past few months, I thought I’d take the time to bring to light those singles which have slipped through the cracks with nary the attention they deserve. So in Knowing the Unknown I intend to solve the mysteries as to why these singles remain unplayed. This week: a conceptual mind-fuck from London, a one-man rhythm hydra from Pittsburgh, and Spain’s subversive answer to Slumberland dream-pop.

Hype Williams, Han Dynasty (De Stijl)
At first the mystery surrounding the music of London’s Hype Williams is more intriguing than what lies in the grooves. Two sides of muddled collage, randomly generated tones and moans, a player piano waterlogged and stuck on the same measure, basslines repeated and looking for a cliff from which to jump. Whether or not you believe the “hype” and “legend” of how this record was made (it’s a farce, by the way), there’s truly some murky energies underneath it all. The blinding blur and infinite lull is part of the scheme. It’s ritualistic even in fragments. Starting with the A-side, which sports a tropical exorcism, ghostly steel drums and the spirits rising in the background, Hype Williams quickly develop a cult of their own amorphous personality. Though there’s really no personality here, just a gris gris full of esotery and things that go bump. I have a feeling this is just an introduction, because over the course of eight minutes they manage to fit a motley rainbow of rhythms and racket, but stay true to the overall pall of “Hans Dynasty,” and obscure their true identities in purplish puffs of smoke.

Gangwish, Space Case Vol. 1 (Dear Skull)
No similar case-cracking needed to get to the bottom of Gangwish’s Space Case explorations. Pittsburgh’s Sam Pace (drummer for the frequently overlooked Centipede E’est) even allows us in on his methods, utilizing analog trigger pads, drum brains, and acoustic percussion to grind incessantly for the first volume of an ongoing project. “Run Mr. Vapor” is the collision of Lightning Bolt’s manic, thrash ’n’ burn chug and Tortoise’s mapping intergalactic highways on terrestrial bells and marimbas. No matter the detritus scattered about in the periphery, Pace is locked in on the pummeling drum much the same way Oneida can horse hypnotically into the horizon well beyond the patience of the listener. Thankfully he keeps it tidy, leaving the want for more, asking just how this would have evolved. “Sea of Love,” appears more structured, less off the rails, with Pace inviting in femme foils to sing the hook. This B-side actually has a “donk” on it—a very deliberate pitch of ringing pipes and industrial precision—matched in tune with low-end befitting Miami bass enthusiasts. It also contains a bit of a shanty, were it coupled or distressed with the ominous beep of sonar. Either way, it’s a perfect counter to the A-side’s space junk caterwauling.

Aias, “Aias” b/w “Canvis” (Captured Tracks)
Finally, Barcelona’s Aias is this week’s pallette cleanser. So far the all-female trio have flown under the radar in lieu of Captured Tracks higher profile releases, and one could certainly attribute that to Aias jumping head first into a pool already full of all-female trios of this persuasion. In fact, when researching the band it appears clear they are trying very hard to acquire that jangly, dream-pop persona, citing the Vivian Girls at the top of their influence list. That’s a shame of association, as hopefully it doesn’t force the casual listener to swerve past this excellent single. There are enough quirks in Aias’ production and songwriting to instantly stray them from that camp. The A-side, “Aias,” could be viewed as a theme song of sorts. The girl’s vocals certainly soak in reverb and register in higher, creamier ranges, but by singing in their native Catalan (a nearly extinct language), there’s a built-in wanderlust, engaging multiple spins just to get accustomed to these new, almost surreal surroundings. Then there are the big soft horns, itching for Spector and Motown bursts of soul and emotion. “Canvis” hems a bit closer to the summer fun specter plaguing any girl group with a slight buzz in their guitars and a trebly kick in their beat. That said, it’s inherently dark, hopeless and hollow, which doesn’t make it any less effective. When the label said they sounded like Lush, I scoffed. It’s seems implausible that post-internet a band could conjure those same manic-panic, beauty-angst implosions in song, but Aias manage to collect both sunbeams and stardust.