Nautical Almanac

Baltimore-based Nautical Almanac builds its own instruments -- instruments that, if the liner notes to Rooting for the Microbes are to be believed, do not require the use of electricity. Dubious, indeed. Closer listening to this record suggests that NA principals Twig Harper, Carly Ptak, and assorted guests reside in a mental institution, have discovered how to tear and puree the very fabric of reality, and, if the final few moments are any indication, really, really dig Shallow Hal.

Their brand of noise comes in little spurts or messy, splattering gushes; ear-piercing screeches; slobbering, distorted babble; the random plucking of what sounds like tuneless guitar strings; curious creaks and rubbery squeaks; what could be someone straining to blow up a balloon; Autechre-like snatches of glitchy audio grit; and Ptak nervously repeating the phrase "And now it is calm" so many times that she seems anything but. By the ninth track -- "1 Million Synapses Frying" -- this unfathomably unorthodox work has become so comfortable that the decision to throw in some harmonica seems, well, sort of freakish. -- Ray Cummings


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