Side-by-Side: Life Like’s Winter 2015-16 LP Batch

Posted by on April 5, 2016


Fred Thomas’ Life Like label has accumulated a massive discography since beginning in 2010, filled with little-heard gems and treasures that barely anyone knows about, as some of them were only limited to a dozen copies or so. Easily one of my favorite releases in the label’s catalog was the 1-sided LP Cruel Summer by Billowing, Fred’s duo with Scott De Roche. Dark, haunting, and mystifying, the album’s disembodied vocals and sprawling loops sound like nothing else I’ve ever heard. Apart from a few tapes and live gigs, Billowing hasn’t been heard from much since then, but as of late last year the duo has 2 new LPs out on Life Like — part of a still in-print trio of albums released by Life Like at the beginning of this winter. Collecting recordings from 2012-2015, Modifications D’Éclairage continues exploring strange textures and spectre-like voices, decayed and disassembled via grubby old tape decks, but it has way more of a splittered pulse to it, as well as Krautrock rhythms and dubby melodica. Opening track “Uphill” is just a neverending laser blast of fractal sunshine. This whole album is amazing and absolutely worth the wait.

The other new Billowing LP, Dead in a Ditch, showcases a much different side of the group, documenting an improvisation session with saxophonist Daniel Bennett (of NOMO), upright bassist Tim Flood, and drummer Shigeto. The first side generally inhabits more of a dark, haunted, drifting space, but the second wraps relaxed rhythms in frayed blankets of sound. Tracks like “Corner Dregs” mesh late-night jazz with harsh, sweltering dub. The 11-minute closing title track has clean jazz guitar, but it surrounds it in seething distortion which just gets thicker, heavier, and more pulverizing. Head-scrambling and devastating.

Rounding out the trio is La Religion de la Souffrance Humaine by Evenings, an isolationist drone/noise project by Michigan-based artist Miles Haney. Far less noisy than many of the dozens of tapes, CD-rs and LPs he’s issued since the mid ’00s, the record constantly feels cold and unsheltered, lost in an unwelcome environment. The first side is stunning enough, though the second manages to be more expressive while injecting some horror film score tension. The album maintains a similar sound palette and mood throughout, but it sounds considered and never lazy. Maybe Haney’s best work yet?

All three records available directly from Life Like.