Blastitude Number Seven
issue 12  february/march/april 2002
page 8

      

 

On this page of record reviews, I'll be reviewing more than just records...I'll be reviewing an entire ORDER. I got all this stuff in one package from a fine online mailorder service called Slippytown, at slippytown.com. The proprieter is one Ed Flowers, and on the site you can also find out all about his band Crawlspace, his old band The Gizmos, and other things of musical/ cultural interest.

Here's what I got in the mail:

THE SCREAMIN' MEE-MEES & HOT SCOTT FISCHER: Warp Sessions 1973 CD-R (SLIPPYTOWN)
As I write I've got this disc turned up as loud as I can stand it and it still isn't covering up the Bill Withers CD my college-jerk neighbors upstairs are playing at maximum volume (for ironic reasons, I'm sure). Now the shy Puerto Rican family that lives underneath me has to hear the Screaming Mee-Mee's and Hot Scott Fischer just because of my upstairs neighbors and their "Friday evening means stereo on ELEVEN even though no friends are over cuz I have to let LOOSE!!!" mentality. Never mind, after "Lean On Me" and "Use Me" they turned it down, so I can turn this back down to an agreeable volume. Not that it doesn't sound good loud. This is some great fucked-up noise-rock, recorded in 1973, which is 28 YEARS AGO. It's a TOTAL mess for 1973. Fast bar-chord strumming, household percussion, something that sounds like chiming electronics, moaning vocals....I wish someone else was home so they could play percussion and I could plug a guitar in and do this RIGHT NOW. Of course, that would really freak out my downstairs neighbors, as well as give the upstairs neighbors full license to play ironic retro hits as loud as they want all the time, and besides, anyone I'd get to come over would probably want to "practice" or "write songs" or some waste of time like that instead of do THIS. Jon Ashline and Bruce Cole and Hot Scott Fischer sure were lucky down there in St. Louis, they didn't have to worry about any of that. (BTW, I find it pretty surprising how much Cole or whoever sings like Mark E. Smith, considering this was recorded in Missouri a couple years before the Fall even existed....)

CIGRISM/BUNALIMLAR CD-R (NO LABEL)
With a xeroxed color 'collage' of two Turkish album covers from the early seventies, one of them by a band with the amazing name of Cigrism, and knowing all the while that it's going to be "Turkish garage rock," I think I just sort of got too prepared for this one. By the time I actually played it, its context had been overestablished. The music sounds kitschy, psychedelic, reverby, garagey, all that, but so what? That's exactly what was expected. The only way to really hear this the first time is by bumping into it on the radio, or walking into a store where it is playing, without knowing who it is or having any reason to expect it. (Like, you might be listening to the radio in Turkey or shopping in a Turkish store, which would potentially supply too much context.) In that setting they might sound more like Turkish garage psych bands than Turkish Deep Purple fans. SECOND OPINION: Just played it for the first time in months and it really didn't sound like Deep Purple at all...in fact it sounded pretty cool, probably because I had forgotten about all that meddling context...I think I like Bunalimlar a little better than Cigrism...

NO NECK BLUES BAND The Birth of Both Worlds 2CD (S@1)
The odd thing is how they really are becoming a kind of blues band. Disc two/track three "The New Quarter" is a 15-min.+ jam with a minor-seventh pentatonic riff that I was fairly convinced was Cigrism for a pretty long time (20-30 seconds). Cigrism were also in the changer, but as the song went on, the apparently unending vocal-less repetition of the single riff gave up the ghost. Libyan Dream by the Sun City Girls is also in the changer, and it sometimes takes me another 20-30 second to decide whether a track is by SCG or NNCK. Walk in during the latter half of NNCK's "The New Quarter," with its slow stretched-out middle-eastern guitar swells, and wordless moan/chant over the top, and you won't know or care which band it is. It's the blues.

PENGO Climbs the Holy Mountain.... CD (CARBON)
This was recorded at a live performance where Pengo played music to a screening of the first 30 minutes of Alexandro Jodorowsky's The Holy Mountain. I have yet to screen the movie and play the disc at the same time, because my TV and stereo are in different rooms (I know, I know, some media den). I do know some dudes who go to the University of Chicago who have, though, which tells you the difference between that school and the University of Nebraska, where they're still stuck on the "Dark Side of the Oz" party trick. I just never believed in that razzmatazz, although the images and music looked/
sounded fine on their own. Of course The Wizard of Oz is an all-time dreamstate classic; we've all seen it too many times, but with the sound down, you don't have to listen to the overly familiar storyline. As for the music, I'll say it right here and now: I like Dark Side of the Moon! As anyone who has seen Pink Floyd Live at Pompei can tell you, Roger Waters is a serious putz, but "On The Run" is slammin'! And hey, I can chill to the ballads....the alarm clocks are corny, but there ain't nothin' wrong with "Breathe" right after it...and "Us and Them"? "Great Gig In The Sky"? Sheee-it. Clare Torry, the U.K.'s answer to Merry Clayton? Ah, but what do Pengo sound like? On here, they come off as one of the more accomplished contemporary bands playing in that style I'll call New Ominous. A lot of noise/psych/improv artists play in this style. I think it mostly comes from AMM and MEV, which came from Webern and Stockhausen. On the rock side, it comes from the thousands of bands that have been influenced by the Doors, Velvets, Sonics, and Stooges (and now Slint). (The one-chord riff of The Doors' "The End" is sort of the ground zero for New Ominous.)

CRAWLSPACE Static From The Slowdown CD-R
Didn't Saddle Creek Records put out an album with that title? Of course this is Crawlspace, who wouldn't really fit on Saddle Creek, being of a more Beefheart/Can Delay stripe, but this is more like Kevin Drumm experimental than Beefheart/Delay experimental: the record is literally made up mostly of static, like vague radio transmissions. It's crudely mixed into quasi-rhythmic patterns, but this is one of the more hardcore pure static records I've heard yet. And that's saying something, because I think every noise-maker's temptation is to just put out a record of static at some point. There's that joke about playing glitchy experimental music on the radio and having people call in and to check and see if something's wrong with their tuner. Well, much of this album (track 11 "Hands Around My Neck," for example) actually does sound like a radio in between frequencies. Instruments like "percussion, acoustic guitar, trumpet, jaw harp" and "vocal" are credited, but so far (track seven) I'm more just hearing the "blank tape + EQ" and "turntable" (apparently stuck in the run-out groove) that both Eddie Flowers and Greg Hajic are credited with. Track eight "Wimmen 'n' Chillen" has the first real hook I've heard, a short loop from a song, buried way in the muck. Perhaps not coincidentally, this is my favorite track so far. Track nine "The Winds of Pedro," the only one that features the "computer" of Joe Dean (otherwise he plays "guitar amplifier, acoustic guitar, percussion") is just all static, a big dense thing that barely moves. Any Minutemen connotations come from the title only. Well, this strikes me as an intentionally underwhelming one-note concept record that is none the less a fairly enjoyable and massaging listen. I do have one objection, and you loyal readers will never guess what it is: IT'S TOO LONG!!! 65 minutes is long for any release, but especially a hardcore static record. I think 20-30 minutes is about right for this kind of thing. All the pieces sound fine of themselves, but there's too many.

MC5: "Looking at You" b/w "Borderline" 7-inch (TOTAL ENERGY)
I'm still trying to figure out the MC5. Sometimes they absolutely explode, and you hear something on wax that actually sounds like what That One Picture (see a small version below) looked like. The turnaround of "Kick Out The Jams" is one of those rare musical moments that create an actual physical temperature change rather than just the musical impression of one. They always look cool as hell in pictures too. But they also seem to be very much a product of their time, and sometimes on vinyl, with all that context taken away, the MC5 often strike me as a loud but ham-fisted bar band, like an only slightly less inferior (and slightly more out-of-tune) Kiss. But I haven't given up on trying to figure 'em out, and I figured four dollars for a single would be a cheap way to hear some more clues.This single features two songs from 1968. The music sounds early and crude: "Looking At You" is like a two-chord imitation of the Rolling Stones, and Tyner's singing is still pretty big and ham-fisted. At the same time, the song is torn apart by downright crazed noisy lead guitar playing (whether it's Smith or Kramer, I don't know), and by just how big Tyner's soul singing gets...he's really going for it. The guitar playing will surprise you...I wonder if these guys sounded then like No Doctors does now? Side two features another bombastic rock song played by loud, vaguely out-of-tune guitars. Tyner belting out "When I make looooovve to you....when I make luh-ee-uh-ee-ove...to you....." sounds slightly Jesus Christ Superstar-ish, but when he shouts "Need you girl! Can't say why! C'mon over here! And love me now!" the delivery gets into Gene Simmons territory...in a good way. The arrangement of the song is weird, with odd stops and starts. It's kind of prog-rock and kind of theatrical. I'm still trying to figure out the MC5.

SUKORA: Oeo LP (IGNIVIMOUS)
Chris Sienko made me want this when he described how for a while he played this record every morning at 7AM when he got up for work and read e-mail. If you know what Sukora does -- ultra-quiet sound stuff -- that might make sense to you. Kinda puts you in that meditative early morning zone, y'know? The cool thing about Sukora is that he doesn't sound like he's doing it digitally at all, just like literally rustling paper a few feet away from microphone. You know how he listed his instrumentation in Muckraker #9: "I use old cassette recorders, paper, destroyed Macintosh, old records players, and something." You can pretty easily miss this LP while it's on. In fact, the first time I put it on in the morning before work, the coffee maker alone was drowning it out. Then the heater kicked on and it was all over. So you might wanna find just the right setting in which to spin it. Try it right after the Screaming Mee-Mee's!

VARIOUS ARTISTS: Love, Peace & Poetry: American Psychedelic Music CD (QDK MEDIA)
Tim Ellison was right, this music isn't really, as I guessed in a previous issue, 'real persons' 'loner folk' at all. It's loud psychedelic rock, driven by fuzz guitars and the requisite organ. More or less Deep Purple era jams. Ian Gillan once played the title role in Jesus Christ Superstar, which is appropriate, because so much of this genre and era sounds like Jesus Christ Superstar to me. That loud, overdriven, long-haired, vibrato-laden, almost terrifyingly earnest impassioned vocal style. You can also heavily hear the influence of West Coast love rock -- the spirit of the Airplane hangs as heavy over this as the spirit of acid-rock Broadway musicals.
       That said, this is still a really good comp. The singers don't sing all the time, and a lot of musical passages are great: classical beauty portrayed with punk energy. With "Slave Ship," a band called Jungle lays down a minor-seventh driven boogie-rock ballad with a long exquisite instrumental intro. When vocals enter, they are in full histrionic JCS mode, and the singer is singing in the first person about how his people are dying on slave ships! The guitar solo kick-in is literally one of the best in the history of rock music, and the drummer complements it heroically. The singing is ridiculous but also heroic, and tastefully only present about 15% of the time, the rest of the song given over to more exquisite minor-chord jamming. Which is better than the subject matter, which I still don't quite get....A band called Jungle, singing about "Slave Ship"s? Were these guys black, or just long-haired white hippies really empathizing with black people? It actually seems to be the latter, even as the band outplays the Airplane and the Dead and the Holding Company and all them. Who was this band Jungle?? The liner notes only say that they are from the "U.S." and that "virtually nothing is known [about them]."
      Hell, I've never heard of Hickory Wind either, and the liner notes don't say anything about them except that they were recorded in 1969 in Evansville, Indiana. I live in a neighboring state and I don't even know where that is. Their song "Mister Man" is a really weird one, clearly influenced by "Like A Rollin' Stone" and Dylan's talkin' blues style. On one hand it's another late 60s cowboy rap song, that whole late 60's "Tiny Montgomery"/
"Moulty"/"Ringo"/ "Big Bad John" zeitgeist, but it's really weird, with the singer talking about a hero called "Mister Man" and how he just wants to "be [his] friend."
      Another great song on here is "I Need It Higher" by Zerfas.

ARMPIT: Birth I Squat CD-R (CELEBRATE PSI PHENOMENON)
click for a better look!On comps this NZ band sounds amazing, but now that I have a whole album I'm wondering what makes them essential in a world that already has the Dead C and Gate, and the initial shock of their mad fuzzed-out underwater sound doesn't work as well over 55 minutes as it does in one single blast tucked in between a bunch of other bands. Track seven has a pretty good beat, though...a couple of them, actually. And track eleven sounds like Wolf Eyes for a minute or two there. I'd definitely go to an Armpit show -- when are they comin' to the Fireside? On another note, the cover art by Campbell Kneale is almost stunningly beautiful. When I got it in the mail, I walked into the kitchen and showed it to my wife. The first words out of her mouth were "That's beautiful."

FEMINIST BASEBALL #14
One of those things you throw into the order 'cause when you've got three bucks credit left, what else are you gonna get but a 7-inch or a zine? I picked a 1995 issue of this zine from Seattle, published, edited and mostly written by one Jeff Smith, because I'd heard of it and it had a history of Blue Cheer and a story on Krautrock, along with some of the 'biggest names in rock-writing' answering the question "Is there a cure for rock criticism?" The features are all pretty good -- although I don't know what that rock criticism question means exactly, and as much as Greil Marcus sounds like an asshole in the transcription of his brief phone conversation with Smith (he refuses to answer the question), I can't say I blame the guy. It's a quirky question, and if you had book contracts to fulfill, you probably wouldn't wanna take too much time thinking about it either. I myself just now thought of an answer, a full few months after first reading this article: "One Ibuprofen 600 and lots of water." That quirky question notwithstanding, Smith's style is really worth a read. The style may not surprise you -- it's squarely in the freewheeling conversational Bangs tradition -- but his tastes are pretty expansive while still being rock'n'roll, and the writing just plain works.

 

 

 

RECORD REVIEWS
by John Ruhter

The Scientific Method
"Noise Single Series #1"
(Mekaneck Records 001)


The Scientific Method are a five piece that I believe operates as a sort of side project to some of the members of screamo, sicko, blast beat drunks Wasteoid. TSM is experimental in comparison but just as if not more interesting. "Noise Single Series #1" consists of two tracks. The first track, "Öand the Wind Sang Boooerns" is just over 5 minutes long. It has a lot of knob twisting going on and perhaps a keyboard or two thrown in. For some reason, it reminds me a lot of the recent batch of releases that Black Dice has been putting out. I donít think there is any traditional rock instrumentation on either of the tracks. The second track is called "It Hurts when You Donít Call" and is just over 25 minutes long. It uses a lot of the same tricks that were employed on the previous track though samples are also utilized on this track. Both tracks use bits of static, noise and samples to create a rhythm that can be followed though it does not remain consistent through out either of the tracks. Both evolve, not focusing on any one theme longer then necessary though changes are subtle. Though this is definitely experimental music, it is strangely accessible and is not terribly difficult to listen to. The Scientific Method is a fresh take on an often times tired and re-hashed genre. Odd given the fact that the band resides in Lincoln, NE which is not necessarily the hotspot of things avant-garde. The title "Noise Single Series #1" suggests that this is the first in a series of releases. I hope there is more to come.

 

The Flying Luttenbachers
"Infection and Decline"
(Troubleman Unlimited)

Infection and Decline is Weasel Walterís 10th Flying Luttenbachers album and has the "new trio" on it that features two bass players and of course Walter on drums. Iíve only heard two other Luttenbacher records, Revenge of the Flying Luttenbachers and Destroy all Music. Infection outdoes these two but it is also a different concept as the others are free jazz records. "Infection" is comparable to Lightning Bolt though way more composed and rehearsed. The technical merit of the trio canít go without mentioning, though its easy to get lost in technique. Typically, "Infection" utilizes good song structure though I could do with out the last track which is a cover of Magmaís "De Futura" that is like 16 minutes long. My other complaint is that of the production quality. It is done in the typical Weasel Walter fashion. Anyone who has heard the last couple of Arab on Radar records will know what I mean -- screeching highs, boomy bass and virtually no midrange. This is appropriate for a band like Arab on Radar. There is something to be said, I suppose, of Walterís thumbprint, though for a recording of this nature, something that provided more fidelity was in order. There is a lot going on and as was said before a lot of it is technical. This is the type of music where you want to hear all the detail and nuance that is there. Iím sure the band is completely satisfied with it but I would prefer more. I wonder how many opinions would be shoved down my throat if Weasel read what I wrote about his engineering skills. You should buy this record otherwise Mr. Walter might form a negative opinion of you and say mean things about you on the internet.


Jorge Castro and Carlos Giffoni
"Guitarras del Olvido y Pensamientos Dimensionales"
Public Eyesore #24

Iím not typically a fan of albums that are composed of one long track. Rarely do they have enough variety and timing to hold my interest for the duration. I do, however, enjoy Guitarras even though it consists of one long track clocking in at just over 30 minutes. Iím assuming that this is a piece of improvised music. Regardless, it moves and holds together nicely making subtle shifts that are appropriate and not gimicky or abrupt. It could easily be heard in the foreground or background. I believe that Carlos Giffoni is in Monotract which spills over into this recording. Not that this really sounds like Monotract but he brought some of the same tricks, mainly the pitch shifter, with him. Again, for the most part, this production trick is kept in context. There really arenít any liner notes and no list of instruments that were used on the recording are sited. Iím assuming they use primarily guitars based on the title. There is a good chunk of the piece that has strong Sonic Youth influenced guitar strumming but that is usually a good thing, I guess. As a whole, it reminds me of a less schizo, longer track version of Monotractís Blaggout album. Comes in typical Public Eyesore packaging. Recommended.

 

Kangaroo Note
"Soundness"
Public Eyesore #26


Kangaroo Note consists of Aso Takashi, Ando Kunihiro and Kimura Masaya playing breath controlled synthesizer, tenor saxophone, bass, contrabass and electronics. Soundness is pretty cohesive overall despite the fact that itís a free jazz record. When people hear "free jazz" they typically think of noisyÖnoise using traditional jazz instrumentation. Soundness, on the other hand, is pretty restrained in comparison to what I usually think of as free jazz. It does freak out at times but not from start to finish. The three players know when to shut up. It is made up of 12 tracks that, for the most part, stay around the length of a pop song. Refreshing for this genre of music where longwinded "odes" are the norm. The saxophone and bass provide just enough elements of a "jazz record" but the lack of percussion mixed with the electronics give it a arty, avant feel. Soundness is kind of like taking a late 60ís ESP record and playing it over a very, VERY restrained, possibly hungover Merzbow.

 

Toru Yoneyama & Osamu Kato
"LUV ROKAMBO"
Public Eyesore #32


Yet another Public Eyesore release. This a duo between Toru Yoneyama (green-oroco-g, toys, mobile, percussion, vocals) and Osamu Kato (stratocaster, rapmen, vocals). "LUV ROKAMBO" contains six tracks and is just under 44 minutes. As with all Public Eyesore releases, this follows suit with an experimental/improvisational recording. What differs slightly here is a sort of schizophrenic playfulness that weaves in and out of the music making itself apparent occasionally. The subtleness of this aspect is what makes its quality appropriate. I wouldnít go so far as to say that "LUV ROKAMBO" is a sarcastic record but it does have a sense of humor. Itís somewhat plodding but it's there. "How Are U?" is the first track. At slightly over a minute and a half it sets the tone with a tongue in cheek squeal. Followed by "Cameroon" which is the longest track on the album. This track opens up the schizo can of worms, though it's never abrupt in approach. These drifting changes remain fairly constant throughout the remainder of the record. The record contains a lot of electronic meandering mixed with various guitar approaches. Namely, the influences that I hear are primarily John Fahey (later "WOMBLIFE" years) and, to a lesser degree, Grubbs/
OíRourke from the Gastr Del Sol years. At times there are chunky rock riffs thrown in for good, or maybe not so good measure. At other times Kato Is able to make his Straocaster literally whine. As far as vocals, they are minimal and work more as an instrument that adds a layer versus a vehicle to express something in words. A varied record over all. The packaging is a folded piece of paper with black and white graphics. This differs from the usual Public Eyesore cardboard slipcase. I like it.


 

BLASTITUDE #12
   

Next: Our man in Napa.