Side-by-Side: Hausu Mountain’s Mugen Series, Vol. 5-8

Posted by on May 22, 2014

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Chicago oddity outhouse Hausu Mountain has had a hell of a year, highlighted/underlined/bolded by a string of the label’s strongest outings yet, with entries from Black Hat, Lockbox, Sugarm, William Selman, Moth Cock, and a Jerry Paper/Andy Boay split. HausMo now returns rather swiftly with another new batch of four tapes as the second rearing of its Mugen series, a heady heap of sounds that the label intends to “capture live performances, presented without overdubs, on split cassettes that each feature two solo artists.” It’s a simple formula that’s yielded an uncannily vast array of sounds.

Mugen Volumes 1-4 — each of which you can stream in their entirety via Bandcamp — were all dropped simultaneously and unassumingly mid-July of last year, but continue to wreak pleasant havoc on the sonic landscape with turgidly thoughtful and downright beautiful soirees in the tape world’s primordial sonic practices. This quartet of cassettes informed my notions of the bizarre little label, with MrDougDoug and Mukqs opening the batch in Jekyll-Hyde hysteria, though distinctions between the two ended up completely blurred. This duality unfurled like an unwelcome house guest, one who made its presence known well after it settled its belongings in your headspace, soiling the sheets and upending your careful feng shui. At face value, each of the two sounds on that first tape create a witching hour effect, wickedly unsettling but curiously comforting. Those themes and vibes expand tenfold with this second Mugen batch, flourishing each unique sound, from sparse guitar meditations and noise-addled fits to near “academic” electronic excursions that peer as deeply inward as they do outward, all cues to the label’s elusive sonic signature.

Kicking off the latest batch is a guitar-enthused split featuring Spectrum Control (Dewey Mahood, a.k.a. Plankton Wat of Eternal Tapestry) and CarRl (Charlie Olvera). Mahood’s side consists of two grimly elevated and elevating suites of vaporous fretboard mysticism. “Hidden Galaxy Cluster,” the longer of the two, finds the fried and blissed meanderings of a looping-pedal prankster veering into white-hot climaxes of arched-back riffs and calmly, reflective Americana-raga. Interstellar magi of the six-string cosmonauts, CarRl opts for kraut territory, resembling Tangerine Dream or Ash Ra Temple but with the same modernist’s gaze as Emeralds. For more than 17 minutes, Olvera runs through softly skull-serrating lines of delay-laden melody leveling past, present and future into a bed of e-bow-laced nirvana. Both pieces compliment each other unconditionally, alley-ooping each act into the droning guitar-psych heavens that host residence to Bardo Pond’s Gibbons brothers, Chris Forsyth, and Evan Caminiti.

Next, we find two Ohioans at the top of their game, with Derek Gedalecia’s Headboggle and Ben Billington’s Quicksails juxtaposing the highs and lows of synth exploration. Headboggle’s 18-minute “Serge Solo” is an eerie and entirely paranoid excursion of isolated atmospherics, simultaneously resembling a haunted analog-synth patch or a long lost and important sci-fi film score. Gedalecia traverses the aural space with an aimless curiosity that flies directly in the face of (what I understood to be) the project’s largely brain-melting persona, and the result is sublime. Billington’s side begins in the anonymous haze but shoots directly at the sun with a wash of fluorescent afterburner. The aptly titled “Mountain Suite” creates a true sense of voyage toward an apex or vista-crowding structure in the distance. You’re drawn in like a moth to light, unaware or unafraid of the dangers at the finish line and caught up in the awful draw.

Mugen Volume 7 pits two droners of disparate backgrounds against each other for ephemeral reward. Fluxbikes (Rob Frye of Chicago powerhouses Bitchin Bajas and CAVE) brings the most meditative piece here, issuing a dense dose of transcendental tones in the form of a feedback raga. This “Driftless” suite is by far the most soothing and elusively seductive of the entire batch, and one I’ll surely be slipping into the sheets with again and again. The calming trance of percussion subtly keeps itself on the fringe, bringing you back into consciousness rather than urging you around. On the flip-side, Philly mainstay Raleigh Booze and his one-man assault force Quidditas brings a pummeling display of Heavy Winged-like eminence through noise. It’s feedback worship like no other. Be reminded, nothing in the Mugen series was done with overdubs, and it’s a fascinating example of how one person can create such a diverse and perfect set of sounds in a single moment.

Telecult Powers rounds out the set, albeit not quite as Telecult Powers. Witchbeam and Mr. Matthews split off into their own respective caves of strobing, striating synths and lysergic litanies. Mr. Mathews’ side brings three relatively briefer tracks than anything in this round of volumes, but the clipped nature of each track lends a sense of arc or narrative. “End Papers” could be the palette cleanser, ridding the scene of trace sounds or preconceived notions of why you might be here. Edited together like a ransom note, stray tones manipulated into oblivion are glued into place with comprehension but give zero clue to origin or intent. The message is clear, however, and you’ll be safe if you cooperate. “Requiem for the Survivors of 9-11” collapses into the scene set to stun. Its gurgling synths fray at the edges, strategically pacing each blast of neon noise. “Seven Minutes in Heaven” reveals Mr. Matthews’ apparently demented adolescence, suggesting he more likely made out to soundtracks from .snd or Florian Hecker rather than AM radio. Opting for a more long-form route to a similar plane, Witchbeam deploys his particular brand of amplifier abuse into the analog synth equivalent of speaking in tongues. The fifteen-minute progression draws out each microscopic ebb and flow to the soundwaves contained, operating like an anthropological assessment of the tones. Single tones are spread out and put under a magnifying glass, allowing complete intimacy with each jarring moment.

As the cosmic hysteria fades away, you can’t help but start over from the beginning of the entire series. Pre-order the entire batch now at a discounted rate or settle in with the tapes à la carte (out 5/27) via Hausu Mountain directly.