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Chattanooga’s music scene continues to diversify.
M.I.T. physicist Alan Lightman wrote in his essay “Time Travel and Papa Joe’s Pipe” about the reasons that time travel is impossible but also described an alternate method for mentally conjuring such an experience: smoking the pipe of his late great-grandfather.
Similarly, the country folk duo The Old Time Travelers (oldtimetravelers.com) aims to transport listeners 100-plus years into the past with its take on traditional music centered on the Appalachian South. Matt Downer, on fiddle and banjo, is the organizer behind the annual Great Southern Old-Time Fiddlers’ Convention and has channeled the spirit of Alan Lomax as the compiler of SlowTime Field Recordings from 2011, and guitarist Clark Williams is also known as the fellow behind the off-kilter folk outfit Big Kitty.
The Old Time Travelers’ latest release is Volume 3, which was recorded live at the Honest Pint using a single microphone, and the two romp through numbers with a delivery that is simultaneously lighthearted yet sincere with a genuine reverence.
Remarkably, the duo manages to transform the ubiquitous “Dixie” and “Camptown Races” from tired public-domain standards into context-free curiosities, and the duo infuses ample charm into its surefooted performances, from the somber “Miss the Mississippi” with faux yodeling to the swift “Red Hot Breakdown” with falsetto harmonizing.
Tony Levi a.k.a. Secret Guilt (secretguilt.bandcamp.com) has been exploring the extremities of punishing noise for over a half-decade, and his latest offering, Historic Denial, features a generous helping of miscellaneous tracks from the past few years.
In the tracks are horror sound-walls, disturbing samples, metallic-dungeon-beats and disquieting, echoing shouts. With Secret Guilt’s all-or-nothing approach, a listener would likely either feel completely drained or charged with power after listening to a typical track.
The album’s centerpiece is the 20-minute “Give Holiness Unto Fear” which uses vocals that are distorted beyond recognition and sounds that abruptly cut in and out. The buzzing, electronic moans of “You’ll Never Get Out Alive” could rip speakers apart, and “Revenant” is the figurative sound of an electrified mattress-spring torture device during a lightning storm, with helicopter blades slicing through the sonic fabric.
Sound sculptor and instrument inventor Jamie Dawson is the man behind the electronic project Subconscious Colours (subconsciouscolours.bandcamp.com), which offers on its mini-album Somber Eventide an aural take on Thomas Edison’s semi-conscious “twilight state” for an uncrowded space where thoughts levitate and drift among artificial ambiance.
Favoring texture more than melodic complexity, numbers like “Barely Hovering” counterbalance clear electric guitar notes with piercing, agitated alarm-like ringing.
Non-traditional monologues and dialogs seem to be present, like the malfunctioning robot chatter of “Conveyor Belt” or the gentle call-and-response between two creatures speaking abstract sound-languages on “Hold On.” Imagine the musical equivalent of the flotsam of a destroyed high-tech battleship coming in with the tide to a dissolving sunset.
Torschlusspanik (torschlusspanik.bandcamp.com) is the one-woman project of Luna Mitchell, recent Chattanooga transplant from Columbia, S.C., whose most recent release is the Lung Hole EP, a single 21-minute track that is a complicated vortex of wounded sounds and abrasive synthetic cries.
With the use of a formidable arsenal of effects and electronics, the track goes through patterned cycles, each slightly more oppressive than the last through each iteration; after a six-minute warm-up, the android pulse of beats enters, plus an interrupting insect swarm like a storm of capacitors.
The piece gradually moves toward harsh noise territory, with spontaneous frequency-range EQ stalagmites, and the cool-down period finally comes at the 19-minute mark, with the tenacious beat leading to a dubious resolution with a micro-tonal melody and rattlings of a piece of metal, bridging the physical with the wired.
This writer stumbled upon Groucho (grouchomarxism.bandcamp.com) deep in the bottomless digital well that is Bandcamp and was pleased to find an aesthetic at work that was far outside the typical Chattanooga fare.
The three-track Cosmic Trigger release seems to barely exist, with loop snippets that are like pages from a sketchbook and not fully formed songs; however, the mood and sound contours are what’s key here.
“Lord Hole” combines modern-sounding beats with thick reverb with wah-wah flourishes, suggesting some kind of ’70s noir-avant-funk-mind-movie; “Slugger” offers an ambient bed with scampering synth disorder, and “Temptress” paints a picture of a space drama scene.
According to Facebook, the man behind Groucho is G. W. Pickens (gwpickens.bandcamp.com) whose odd, dirty Fast Tactics EP serves up lo-fi home recording experimentation, darting from post-punk to what could pass as Indonesian reggae to a weird take on lounge crooning.
Googling reveals Pickens to be a member of the better-known outfit Gorgeous, but even if that mystery is solved, there are plenty of others in his unusual sound-world.