Noise at Its Best in Kongmanivong
Power Pill Fist (Kongmanivong)
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
by Tom Gayton
On the surface, the name Power Pill Fist evokes visions of mohawks, spitting and out-and-out punk rock. The reality could not be further than that. Instead, Power Pill Fist delivers a group of intellectual-looking musos playing noise in such a way that Mike Patton would shed an envious tear wishing he’d thought of what they are doing.
Power Pill Fist is the second band of Pittsburgh musician Ken Fec, previously of Black Moth Super Rainbow. Unlike their fellow contemporary noise bands, Power Pill Fist don’t just produce compositions devoid of melody. Their tracks have surprising amounts of melody considering the type of noise with which they are constructing music. Adding to that, their ability to make previously inaudible sounds catchy is no simple task.
From the perfectly molded melodic white noise of “YFF, Lou Pappans” rolls the ear-smacking synthesized bass of “Sagadraga,” possibly the best piece of experimental music written in the last decade, and this is only the beginning. The album drifts from one track to the next, questioning everything believed that experimental noise music could do and excelling every expectation for the genre.
The album isn’t perfect, though. “Contours Gaining Shape” seems to solely exist as a drill in the sustenance of drone with occasional drips sounding more like being stuck inside on a dull, rainy day than a musical masterpiece. There are plenty of moments that sound as if somebody forgot to plug in the right lead, but the good far outweighs the bad.
Kongmanivong is a breath of fresh air within a genre that has been getting horribly stagnant in recent months. Power Pill Fist have the ability to make avant-garde seem almost natural, giving newcomers to the noise genre a step up along with a warm welcome.
Power Pill Fist :: Vile
Reviewed by Vanessa Villalobos
We all know it's hard to handle that pummeling experimental electronica, but lets take a minute and enjoy the destruction of the brain because there might just be a great consequence. Power Pill Fist, aka Black Moth Super Rainbow, uses an Atari 2600 to spin fuzzy distortion synths and sample the video game bloops and bleeps from your childhood memories. Nothing like what childhood was, "Vile" drops as heavy as the bass beats can get with all the fuzz on it and mixes harmonious guitar bits. Check out the new album Kongmanivong that gets those video gamer years all worked up inside and prepares you for the destruction of your previous mentality of weird ass experimentation.
“Okay...this record is fucked up...it’s all produced by mysterious means and a circuit bent Atari 2600. The Atari has been modified and the musician/operator plays a video game to make the music. It’s weird and unexplainable. Also don’t expect cutesy 8 bit/gentle lysergic Black Moth Grooves here...this is dark, intense stuff...like Pan sonic and Autechre for real. Enjoy! A man, a kit-bashed Atari 2600, a mess of tweaked-out electronics, and a dream. Is it possible to bring danceable rhythms from damaged electronics and a reel-to-reel? Yes. Power Pill Fist brings forth ethereal sounds from unlikely sources, pulling together genuinely catchy rhythms and highly experimental sounds. Power Pill Fist has earned his chops alongside bandmates in Black Moth Super Rainbow. His unique sound is wholly unlike anything in the Black Moth catalog. It's so dark it's almost apocalyptic - but when the world is falling apart around your ears, what better use could there be of your final moments than to dance yourself crazy?”
by Michaelangelo Matos
Ever since horrible noise started messing around in Romper Room territory, experimental acts using the stuff have gone out of their way to outcute one another. Power Pill Fist, the second group of Pittsburgh-based Ken Fec (lo-fi indie-psych darling Black Moth Super Rainbow was the first) may be the cutest of all--or the cutesiest, depending on your blood-sugar level.
Take "YFF, Lou Pappans," the lead track from Power Pill Fist's second album, Kongmanivong: Strip away the distortion, and it would fit right in with the more charming moments from Black Moth's 2007 disc, Dandelion Gum, with its spangly-sparkly keyboard patterns undulating beneath grinding-gearshift overlays of fuzz. Even the poky acoustic guitar that pops up midway through would simply settle the ear in any other context; here it's another signifier that anything can be made funnier, or more alluring, when you can barely hear it under static.
That sort of playfulness is in surprising abundance here, as when "Vile" sneaks in a brief quote from Boogie Down Productions' "The Bridge Is Over" and the iconic piano part is transposed to fuzzed-out keyboard bass. Kongmanivong is uneven, much as Dandelion Gum was, but its aims are more modest, and that makes a difference. Odd as it might be to say, this is an album best appreciated when heard quietly. The noise may be as much the point as what goes on below it, but the more you can hear what's scurrying around down there, the more the entity snaps into place.
POWER PILL FIST Kongmanivong (Graveface) cd
Who would have thought that an Atari 2600 would be the instrument of choice in the new millennium, but as technology moves forward in leaps and bounds, seems like the most forward thinking sound makers are reaching back, WAY back. Souped up Gameboys, home soldered circuit boards, old school analog synths, even the recent Tristan Perich release which did the 8bit-ers one better (or more precisely seven better) by creating a suite of music assembled from ONE bit sounds, as low as we can go. For now.
But for our generation, there's just something about the sound of 8bit buzz and crunch, the video games of our childhood, the strange alien computer soundtracks, it may push lots of nostalgia buttons, but you didn't have to grow up in the early eighties to dig that sound.
So here we have the first release from Ken Fec, one of the folks responsible for the tripped out bubblegum electro pop dreaminess of Black Moth Super Rainbow, who for his alter ego as Power Pill Fist, seems to have gone back to his childhood home, pulled all the boxes out of the basement, and plugged every video game and antiquated game console from his youth into a 4-track, run it through his fractured pop sensibilities, a bank of damaged effects, and voila. The cool thing is this is not a 'noise' record. There are some seriously noisy moments for sure, but at its core Power Pill Fist definitely has a glowing pulsing energy crystal pop heart. Albeit a pop that is way more freaky crunchy fuzzy trippy and whatthefuck than most. And it's flecked with bits of skittery electronica, downtempo hip hop, and whatever else Fec had up his sleeve or in his head at the time.
Originally this was touted as a record that was almost a straight recording of Fec PLAYING an Atari 2600, which would probably have been amazing, but this is way more musical and composed. There do seem to be some guitars, and some extra percussion, lurking within and beneath all the crunchy fuzzy buzz, but it's that buzz and crunch that defines the record. Give this thing BIGGER beats and you can almost imagine Daft Punk or Justice rocking some of these tracks in a DJ set. The disc opens with a murky bleep filled jam, the warbly melody and scratchy rhythm buried beneath thick layers of hiss and whir, wrapped around a simple way-down-in-the-mix guitar strum. It somehow manages to be lo-fi and lush all at once, some weird krautrocky Nintendo jam. The follow up is all big lurching drums and warbling blown out synths, that sounds like something Beck would jump all over. Some of the other tracks are much noisier, but even then, soft melodies, and haunting song fragments lurk below the surface. Then there's songs like "Chuckanut Drive" that sound like they could have been, should have been, heck, maybe actually were the soundtrack to some super obscure video game, bits of other games-, Pac Man, Donkey Kong, etc. cannibalized and recontextualized into some new old game, but liberally sprinkled with dizzying synth squiggles and an extra layer of stuttering buzz.
In between all of these blown out, almost-electro fuzz drenched 8bit jams, lurk subtly simple, bedroom recorded interludes, the strangely metallic minor key minimal strum of "Contours Gaining Shape" or the washed out low end droning whir of "R4eactor", and sometimes Fec will offer up a bit of abstract synth / 8bit experimentation or a more arcade-centric soundscapes like the straight video game field recording sound collage of "The Meat Tree" (sounding quite a bit like one of those Arcade Ambience discs), but it's always right back into another awesome grinding buzzy video game electro pop adventure.
Imagine Pan Sonic produced by J Dilla run through a Colecovision. Or think Donkey Kong meets Rastan, chopped up and reassembled by the Flaming Lips. Or Autchre recording a new record using only a busted up old acoustic guitars and the guts of a Sega Genesis, or some crazy psychpop jam session, but with Intellivision consoles instead of guitars. Weird and warped, fuzzy and fun, heavy and crunchy, poppy and druggy and just fucked up and freaky enough to keep our ears buzzing and ringing non stop.
Spotlight: Power Pill Fist | Experimental outfit set to release new album, Kongmanivong
- February 3, 2008 by Matthew Montgomery
It’s not often something comes along that is actually experimental: Power Pill Fist creates a unique combination of hearty synthesizers and, well, more synthesizers for a sound recalls noise rock, chiptune, industrial, ambient, and so much more. Power Pill Fist, though, isn’t for everyone — not all people equally enjoy being sonically assaulted when they listen to music. I, on the other hand, find it interesting and a nice break from the more gentle, relaxed music we typically spotlight here. A selection of tracks (five of them, to be precise) is posted below for your listening enjoyment or exploration. You pick.
Upon hearing the name Power Pill Fist you should be thinking one of two things: either a poor translation of some NES game item, or some drugged-out experimental tunes. The interesting thing is that with Kongmanivong, the second album from Ken Fec’s (Black Moth Super Rainbow) alter-ego, you get both. This is experimental electronic music that takes vintage video game sounds, douses them in layers of fuzzy distortion (think the motors in Excitebike), and then lays down some sleazy funk meets Kraftwerk beats underneath.
What’s interesting about Power Pill Fist is that unlike many noise-oriented electronic acts that lack any sense of melody, these scratchy buzz fests reside almost entirely within major key structures. Sure, the feedback itself is dissonant, but the blips, bleeps, and other samples here, like the soundtracks from `80s video games, are something that can actually get stuck in your head.
“YFF, Lou Pappans” starts the album off with a song that, if it weren’t for the lo-fi aesthetic and layers of sandpaper-rubbed atmosphere, could come banging in a DJ set between Justice and Daft Punk. “Vile” on the other hand takes the infamous digital alarm clock buzz and turns it into a beat. It might just remind you of that annoying college roommate whose daily alarms would wake up you three times before he even stirred, but with some added rippling bass and power-tool growl, you have yourself a glitchy jam. [more]
Reviewed by Rob Browning
Power Pill Fist is a project from one Ken Fec, who evidently also plays in band from Pittsburgh, PA called Black Moth Super Rainbow...people who can’t get enough of Wayne Coyne go ga-ga for it. Power Pill Fist seems to be a bedroom synth project from a dude with a serious video game fixation. If you remember Hilt from back in the heydey of industrial, there’s the same kind of schizophrenic industrial grind underpinning the songs. It’s not that there aren’t melodies, but you shouldn’t get used to them, cause they’ll be tampered with as soon as you get used to them, if not before.
Evidently Fec is the house DJ for Graveface Records and he certainly seems to know his way around a beat. It’s a long way from Slave DJ-ing at The Buidling in the early 90s, but it’s almost kinda nice to hear the pulsating Nitzer Ebb grind again in dance tracks. It gets a little bit harder, but never really goes full on Skinny Puppy, not that it seems to be Fec’s intention.
Kongmanivong is definitely dance driven, but it gets a little Krautrock here and there in the quieter parts. It’s not my world, but judging by some internet digging, it wouldn’t surprise me if Power Pill Fist and Kongmanivong were video game references. Video game sounds are definitely sampled, if not approximated vibe-wise. It starts endearing but gets a little old pretty quickly, but my electronic dancing days are long gone. Kongmanivong is well put together and far from unpleasant to listen to, but nothing I’d want to hear more than a couple times.
POWER PILL FIST Extra Life (Graveface) cd 11.98 Last year we made Kongmanivong by Power Pill Fist a Record Of The Week, a dizzying blast of crunchy 8-bit tripped out fuzz drenched madness that became an immediate aQ fave, created of course by Ken Fec, one of the guys in Black Moth Super Rainbow, another group we love who plunder the past, taking all sorts of retro sounds and whipping them up into something wild and new. We knew there was another Power Pill Fist record, but couldn't seem to track down enough copies to list, until now. And actually, we barely have enough to list, 10 to be exact, but not everyone who loved that one will dig this one, since unlike Kongmanivong, Extra Life is a bit less playful, a little harder, more muscular, and WAY more noisy.
The core sounds are still the crunch of 8-bit video game music and super lo-fi crumbling distortion, chopped up and arranged into strange rhythms and abstract textures, but where Kongmanivong was a pop record flecked with noisy bits, Extra Life plays out more like a noise record flecked with bits of pop. Dense and thick and a little bit caustic, sounds layered into repeating loops, fractured rhythms, often left to just drone or buzz, it definitely sounds a lot like a room full of arcade games gone haywire, little bits of playful bloop and bleep surface here and there, but they tend to be surrounded by thick sheets of wild corrosive blown out psych noise freakouts and pulsing lo-fi buzz. So fair warning to all the folks into the playful almost hip hopitty vibe and bubbly retro pop feel of Kongmanivong, this one might be on the difficult listening side, and will probably appeal more to drone folks and noiseniks, it's definitely a lot heavier, and darker, and way crunchier, although even adventurous pop nerds might give this a try, strap on some headphones, and Extra Life sucks you right in, burying you in a glorious soft cacophony of crunch and crumble and stutter and glitch and buzz.
( graveface | 70s gymnastics ) 2005
When was the last time you heard a Missle Command solo? Better yet - a combination of glitched samples from Montezuma's Revenge? You haven't - no, you haven't. Really - why the fuck do you want to lie about this? Enter: PowerPillFist - he who rocks the party, rocks the bo-dy.. . . in bits of eight.
Yes - recorded and manipulated entirely on an Atari 2600 console - PowerPillFist (aka "mr. ken" of Black Moth Super Rainbow bass-in-yr-face fame) has cast a beast of desire through thirteen tracks of bleep, blip & doom! The fact that he is giving away "Mashed Potato Legs" on his site is a fucking godsend, for this is the radio single if there ever was one.
Should you have room in the collection between your quasi-limited Wolf Eyes 12"'s and boyarm's Il Programma Di Religione comp - Extra Life will make friends in time zero. Well - you could be a real fan and have a spot right beside last years (way out of print) 15-minute opus Chinese Guy With a Witch Axe 3" - the mashed up state of PPF and BMSR in unison that joined the 2600 and additional synth. Dry your eyes you belated believer - this wagon is ready for you to hop on.
One may have summed it up best on the PPF site: "smile bending reel to reel doom for beautiful fucked up little kids...". Indeed we bleed.
Oh*bonus* - cover art of the year!
9/11/2006 Power Pill Fist [MP3s online] — admin @ 8:53 am
Now, here’s some NOISE shit I can get into!
Feel the retro Atari 2600 goodness that is Power Pill Fist! Essentially, the sounds of Power Pill Fist are almost exclusively made with an Atari 2600. I think this guy adds some guitar or synth. Maybe.
I’d call the PPF sound: “listenable noise.” Unlike a lot of power electronics/noise I don’t have to be really angry to listen to this disc. Listening to PPF brings back all sorts of bizarre memories of how my Atari 2600 started acting bizarre after I accidentally spilled an entire can of Aldi’s Cream Soda into it. None of the games would play, but, man, would that thing pump out some crazy sounds.
So, if you’re like me, and you remember the aldi cream soda pop + Atari 2600 disaster of your youth with fondness, you owe it to yourself to check out this sound.