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V/A - Less Self is More Self

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Artist: V/A

Album: Less Self is More Self

Label: Ecstatic Peace!

Review date: Nov. 3, 2006

In March 2005, Twig Harper and Carly Ptak’s three-story compound, otherwise known as Tarantula Hill, was heavily damaged by fire. Though some of the essentials survived (like the duo’s woodstove, kitchen stove, and other items of sentimental or functional importance), the task of simply bringing the building back to livability was a daunting one, to say nothing of restoring Tarantula Hill as a performance space, music studio and haven of creative energy from Harper, Ptak, and all those they accepted into their home with open arms. Immediately after the fire, money-raising efforts were feverishly begun all over the country, with benefit shows, new releases and back catalog sales all benefiting Nautucal Almanac and the reconstruction effort. Such a heavy outpouring of help and support wasn’t unexpected, as the Baltimore duo had long been a part of the American noise community; known nationwide as positive, helpful, and decidedly singular personalities, Carly and Twig had no shortage of good karma coming their way in the form of monetary, physical and emotional support. Seven months later, much progress has been made, but Tarantula Hill is still in need of work. Only this month, windows were finally reinstalled throughout the building, and Harper, Ptak, and their new cats are still living without electricity. There’s a sense of optimism in the updates posted on the web (click here), but help is always needed, and that’s why the appearance of Less Self is More Self is such a welcome one; as the initial burst of help has likely waned, it’s wonderful to see continued efforts to help.

Less Self is More Self boasts an impressive line-up of Nautical Almanac’s friends and supporters; many have performed with Carly and Twig, released their music, or played (and stayed) at Tarantula Hill. The two-disc compilation offers largely heretofore unavailable material, including, appropriately, a few live cuts recorded in the Hill itself. The album’s aesthetic is an expectedly abstract one, featuring contributors both well-known (Lee Ranaldo, Carlos Giffoni, past/present members of Wolf Eyes in various projects) as well as more obscure artists, such as Northampton’s Trebville Exchange and Brooklyn turtablist Maria Chavez. Leslie Keffer, Lexie Mountain and Dreamcatcher – all current or former members of Harper and Ptak’s Heresee Records roster – also make appearances, as does Max Eisenberg, an intermittent member of the Almanac performing as DJ Dogdick. Some of the disc’s highlights are unexpected inclusions, such as the solo Chris Corsano track that contains only sax (and no drums), an audio-only track from NYC’s sense-altering A/V duo LoVid, and a rare solo appearance from Sightings’ Mark Morgan. There are some deviations from the album’s noisy norm, though they’re often only minor, namely Talibam!’s rock-infused clatter, Graveyards’ ominous acoustic improv, and Jack Rose’s damaged piece for amplifier and solo guitar. The disc ends with a longer track, one that suitably features Nautical Almanac in a live radio collaboration with Keffer (a recording was formerly released on CD-R by Art Damage).

As with 99 percent of the compilations in existence, Less Self is More Self isn’t without variation in the quality of the tracks provided, and the double-disc album can be a challenge to digest, but its curating was handle astutely, and it shows. Specifics of caliber aside, the altruistic side of the purchase of Less Self is More Self should be more than enough encouragement for any well-meaning noise fan to pick it up. Carly and Twig have put so much into both their own art and that of others that anyone who purchases this release can do so knowing that they’re helping some people who definitely deserve it.

By Adam Strohm

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