issue 11  dec 2001/jan 2002
page 10



And now...

ROESING APE: Fucks Me 1998-2001 CD-R
Roesing Ape is the project of Chris Roesing, a Cincinnatti musician who plays drums for the estimable Death Beam. Fucks Me 1998-2001 is a series of six different CD-Rs that can only be told apart by the color of the sparse sticker that graces each sleeve. Of course, the music within also tells 'em apart. This is the second one I've heard. The first (I forget which color -- green, maybe?) I heard in a van driving on shoulders at 50 MPH through a Chicago traffic jam while having conversations, so it didn't COMPLETELY register, though I do remember a kind of avant-polyrhythm thing goin' on, like Tony Allen jamming with Pita and Jonathan Cain from Journey, only Cain's at some packed NFL stadium filming a video and some subtle no waver has hijacked his Roland. The memory is a bit fuzzy, but I recall the drumming really standing out, unifying the tracks and making the disc NOT just another formless dive. Makes sense, that's what Roesing does for Death Beam too. THIS one, the second I've heard (color: orange), isn't a formless dive either. Again, there is a rhythmic drive to everything, although this time it's a different rhythmic drive from track to track. The first track is basically a pop song, with drum-machine rhythms, and actual sung lyrics, done in that quirky child-of-Ralph way. Wild electro-sounds high in the mix and skronk guitar low. Track two is a bit like what I remembered of the other (green?) disc, nine minutes of groove-drummin', with a strange band and odd vocals playin' along, all given a brilliant airy mix. Ralph Records? Biota? Yep, that kind of thing. Track three has an industrial-loop rhythm track, and vocals that are actually 'dark new wave'. Track four is a weird track for solo vocoder-voice, reciting what could be a sexually explicit tale. The fifth and last track is a jam for airy synth and more of that great tweaked light percussion groove style. That's the album -- refreshingly concise! I should hope it would be if it comes in a series of six. What can I say, collect 'em all!

BURNING STAR CORE: A Definitive Party Atmosphere/Teen Hearts? Theme Parks! CD-R
Like the Roesing Ape disc just reviewed, this is a Cincinatti 'noise' band that starts their disc off with a 'pop song'. I saw Burning Star Core play at the historical Southgate House in Newport, Kentucky (right across the river from Cincinnatti) and they did this real elegant long-form electro-acoustic free composition stuff. Needless to say, this pop-song opening sounds NOTHING like that. Track two is a little more like the show, with arrhythmic drum-machine patterns blanketed by a squalling broken-speaker noise-stream, though a keyboard arpeggiating out minor-key chords does bring out a pop side. And with track three it's back to near-total pop, with more actual sung lyrics in English. This is good pop, with a great electric piano chord-groove, and electro-crackle to keep it real. Mellow but not soft, na' mean? Uh oh, track five is also a pop song! Echo-y quasi-Lydon punk vocals over a tarded bass line and more crunchy electro-sounds. I'm not so sure what I think of the chorus lyric: "Would you like? My serpentine?" -- What is this, Axl Rose? But the operatic background vocals behind the lyric are cool. This isn't the Burning Star Core I know at all...but it's an equally interesting band. This could probably pass for some lost 80s underground electro-punk album, like some avant-limey answer to Krautrock or a more chilled-out D.A.F.
     Woah! I interrupt this review to mention that there's a great Prince sample in track six, "Progress III."
     Okay, I've read up a little on this release at and I've learned that this disc is a re-release of TWO albums, the first and fifth ever released by the label. Roesing Ape is the 40th, so these are understandably kind of old...then again, the recording dates are printed right on here: 1996 and 1997, five/six years ago, so "duh." The older of the two is recorded not in Cincy but in Evanston, IL, so I get it...Burning Star Core started as a college avant pop project, and, after a post-graduate (or dropout) move to Cincinnati, has evolved into a long-form instrumental space-prov type band. This is good stuff, but it makes sense that it's a few years old. Now I wanna hear some current Burning Star Core material, and I especially wanna hear some f***in' Death Beam recordings, all of which are apparently o/p at the moment....that's a pretty hot band there...

JESSE EBAUGH: Moroccan Field Diary of... CD-R
This is a fucking great compilation of "field recordings" of "different styles of Moroccan folk music, from the indigenous Berbers of the northern Rif mountains to the Gnawa Sufis of the south." Ebaugh gets crystal-clear recordings of musicians playing next to busy traffic, at weddings, in restaurants, markets, and more...the ambience is as often as exciting and picturesque as the music. But the music is honestly as good as that of any Explorer Nonesuch record I've heard. The performances are raw and physical street-folk, but just as often, especially when the public ambience is foregrounded, they take on a dreamy and ethereal quality. Fans of raw folk music and the whole Sun City Girls/Climax Golden Twins axis should really appreciate this disc.

Other stuff:

From the label that brought us the Mausim CD. With track titles like "blossom 1," "holly bush lane," "short as rabbits," "june shrubbery," "finch," "soil," and "blossom 2," it's pretty clear where this one is coming from. Bucolic, rustic, etc. The way today's underground scene is, I really admire how unafraid these guys are of being considered pussies. Yeah, go on! Write songs about hanging out in a garden! I'd rather hang out in a garden than at a rock club where four or five bands are playing. We know after hearing Sapphie and Ilk that Youngs can play instruments for real, and Campbell has always seemed to know his stuff as well. Thus, the pairing yields a more "musical" effort than the more concrete-
type stuff that Youngs comes up with when playing with Simon Wickham-Smith. Still, there aren't really any chord changes or anything like that, just repeated figures on mandolins and other stringed things, with bells & percussion, and sawing hurdy-gurdy style drones. On first listen, I was a little let-down...I don't know what I expected from this all-star duo, but this seemed somehow too simple, too genteel. On second listen, I could relax and enjoy it for what it is: pastoral psych folk buzz. Highlight: the mesh of flutes, hurdy-gurdy style superbuzz, and faraway voices on "june shrubbery."

ROCK GARDEN: Horrible Dreamer CS (self-released)

From the mail and someone almost totally anonymous in Harrisonburg, Virginia comes this cassette. For its visual aspect I love it, which is why I've reproduced the whole J-card spread instead of just the cover (not that justice is given by the jpg here for the 131K version). Remember those zines in the 80s that talked about "mail art"? It's a blast getting stuff like this in the mail, that's why they made zines about it. As for the music, the tape starts with TV/radio channel-switching collage and someone playing guitar over it. The guitar is spacey, rock-derived, psychedelic wandering. It starts clean and pensive and gets more and more heavy and rocked-out as it goes. Someone else seems to be strumming on acoustic. Just as the full-color artwork brings to mind the phrase "mail art," the music brings to mind phrases like "home-taping" and "cassette underground." (Although the sound quality is pretty crisp and fantastic, much better than you'd expect, which puts a different and not unwelcome spin on things.)
      The sound of someone not trying very hard and coming up with something better than many who try very hard can be a beautiful sound. It's a sound that's launched a thousand zines. (Okay, maybe 200.) Which isn't to say this music will blow you away. You might simply think it sounds like someone not trying very hard. But with this kind of music, the hard part isn't the actual performing of the music, the hard part is the living that goes on when the performing isn't happening. Again, I have no idea who the Rock Garden folks are, so I don't mean to suggest they live hard lives. One might assume booze/drug habits, loneliness, menial labor, rent 'n' utilities treadmills, and all those kinds of things that go hand in hand with underground lifestyles and attitudes, but these folks could just as easily have families, good jobs, and mortgages. All I mean is that when music like this is your bag, the 'rehearsal' becomes everything you do when you're not playing your instrument, and you're doing the real work: maintaining your dubious-to-most aesthetic in a sea of what is at best indifference and at worst outright xenophobic hostility. Sure you've got Garth Brooks, the Vegas-era Aerosmith, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, and that sort of thing to contend with, but the world of your peers is just as confusing and overstuffed, full of hundreds of equally obscure musicians, with a whole self-contained set of gratuitous put-downs and cooler-than-thou perceived differences.
       I feel like I can hear all that in the loose junk-culture jamming going on here. Naturally, the tape is too long (and I mean "naturally" as much for the fact that I have such a low tolerance for long-form music as for the fact that free-form music is so often overlong). After 30 or 45 minutes the music abruptly ends only because the tape runs out. Side two opens with the exact some thing (both sides are simply titled "Horrible Dreamer"), only now the chord-strumming intent has become more explicit, and the guitarist tries out different pedal settings as he tries out different chords. The channel-changing collage-stuff is still running underneath. I'm guessing that on this side, the jam will again continue for 30 or 45 minutes and then again abruptly end only because the tape runs out. Right here it would've been nice to have some new approaches, like some actual songs (which, what with the chording, we're closer to at least), or no channel-changing montage, or different instrumentation, or etc. As it is, it falls into the "intriuging but unreadable epic" category, the "one thing made so long it becomes either every thing or no thing" category. (If you stick around long enough, side two does build into a pretty huge wall-of-echoing-sound 10-15 minutes in.) Contact: "RCK GRDN, P.O. Box 1802, Harrisonburg, VA 22803."

Peter Wright of New Zealand