MLITTER: New Dance Manipulator CS (ANIMAL
Gary Mlitter also records as Mammal so what's the difference
between Mammal and Mr. Mlitter? The liner notes might make
you think not much because they feature slogans like "New
Dance Manipulator" and "Thank You. This Is New Dance
Trax." Those almost sound like Ziegenbock Kopf jokes,
except the real joke is that the tape starts with this really
dead-sounding beat that's like someone alone in a room just
clapping their hands. Oh wait, there's some static! And eventually
the track turns into some lost murk that reminds me of Earth
and The Thrones as much as anything. (Is this Mammal played
at 16 RPM?) Side two features a small slew of excellent solo
electro-prog tracks. (Eight to be exact, with such classic
Mlitter wordage as "Tobe Globe," "Static Leppard,"
"Shrouded Man," "Steel Phase" and "Tube
Tied Body Beat" for titles. More prog than Mammal, that's
for sure. Bit of a Neon Hunk influence? Or was it the other
way around? Very good cassette.
CHIE AND YAMAMOTO SEI'ICHI WITH LAMONES YOUNG: Live at Showboat,
February 25, 2000 (LAST
that's a band name! Actually, aficionados will recognize Ms.
Mukai Chie as being from the PSF band Ché-Sizu, and
Mr. Yamamoto Sei'ichi as being from the Boredoms and Omoide
Hatoba. As for the mysterious Lamones Young, that's a new
band from Japan that only joins the Mukai/
Yamamoto duo for the last of three tracks here. The backgrounds
of all these folks are well-described in the generous liner
notes by Alan "Who Else?" Cummings and Kosakai Fumio
of Lamones Young. The first two duo tracks are super-spacy,
clattery, with mega-delayed guitar, lost vocal moans, and
Ms. Mukai sawing on an "er-hu" ("a traditional
two-stringed bowed Chinese instrument") and knocking
around on some drums. Actually, it sounds a lot like the Charalambides.
The third track starts as pretty much more of the same --
I don't think the Lamones have joined in yet. While we're
waiting I'll regale you with some funny stuff from Kosakai's
liner notes: "After many long discussions (though some
preferred to term them 'drunken parties'), the three members
arrived at their basic concept of performing a Ramones' song
in the style of La Monte Young. The song they picked was 'Blitzkrieg
Bop.' The plan was to extend this one song as long as humanly
possible. The members hoped that by the end of the first hour
they would have completed the famous 'one, two, three, four!'
count." Alright, in the time it took for that anecdote,
I'm pretty sure Lamones Young entered the fray, as some additional
background cloudy space-vibe is apparent. Still kind of tentative,
nothing too exciting yet -- at its best it sounds like the
intro to "In The Evening" by Zep. Ah, now during
the last half a heavy drone is worked up to and the band really
gets somewhere. It's worth the wait, but if you already have
records by the Taj Mahal Travellers and Charalambides . .
The Debauched Hospodar CS (SEAGULL
is good violin/amp drone jam, especially because of the ultra
lo fi wobbly 'cassetteness' of the sound and the title/artwork
(the front cover is the front cover of a book called The
Debauched Hospodar, and the back cover is a page torn
from the book, see image).
Naturaliste may weigh a little heavily on the 'the harder
you hack at the musical instrument the better represented
is the human condition' metaphor, but there are enough good
sounds/crunch pockets throughout to make this a good listen.
NICE: 7-inch (WHITE
Here's a band that kinda lives up to its name. It's weird
that I like it because this music sounds surprisingly close
to an 80s downtown NYC vibe -- I'm talking Material, the Golden
Palominos, 80s Fred Frith solo albums, My Life In The
Bush of Ghosts, that kind of shit -- which is shit that
I NEVER listen to because, well, you know, right? (Laswell=Garth
Brooks.) It's like avant-funky grooves with all kinds of electronic
slurpage going on o'er the top. Not my bag on paper, but what
makes me like it is simply that it's NOT from downtown NYC
in the 80s, it's from RIGHT NOW in Portland, OR and it's released
by a label that is wicked underground and has a good name
to boot: White Denim. (Of Allentown, PA.)
NECK BLUES BAND: Ever Borneo LP (YOU TELL ME)
even review an LP that costs $35? At that price, you'll already
know why you're getting it, and my opinion matters not. But,
if you are listening, I think it's kind of a bummer. It's
like if I want it, I can either pay $35 now or $235 in a year
-- what is this, goddamn health insurance? A warranty offer
at Best Buy? Well, I did see a copy of this at Reckless Records,
and the cover sure looked and felt nice. I read on the Aquarius
Records catalog that the printing expenses of the cover were
what drove the price up so high, and I've gotta say, it looked
and felt INCREDIBLE. But the only reason I'm listening to
it right now is because a "kind brother" made me
a CDR of it. And it is pretty damn good. It's very good. (See
Rettman's review, he's exactly right.) But if you already
have a few NNCK platters and don't feel like contributing
to the e-baying of the entire fucking world, be like me and
pick up the Letters From The Serth reissue instead,
for a mere $12.
Listen Not To Vain Works Of Empty Tongue CS (UNREAD)
I've always thought Noggin were a little boring. Maybe it's
just because I like Cock ESP and I saw a video where they
literally urinate on a Noggin 7-inch. Or maybe it's because
I bought an LP by Noggin with a messy-painted paste-on cover
(Space Needle?) 3 or 4 years ago and I haven't even
listened to it twice. When I did listen to it I kind of admired
it, or respected it, because the attack and timbre of their
guitar/violin combo is indubitably commanding. Unfortunately,
the resultant music never seems to go anywhere at all. This
cassette starts with yet another pretty powerful bang, the
violin and guitar just going nuts playing long drawn-out explosions.
The approach is basically harsh noise, I don't know how else
to describe it, because the duo never really change up their
approach from Total Pummel. That could be just fine, of course,
except that this particular T.P. is played on 'jazz' instruments
(the guitar is hollow body), which I just don't think quite
works. It's always too apparent who is doing what, which keeps
it from being a hypnotizing mass of sound. I think side one
is a concert in Seattle and side two is a concert in Sacramento.
Sounds like a good crowd in Seattle, and they seem to like
it, but that's because they're the 70 hipsters who read the
right zines. And YOU, buddy, are reading the WRONG one.
Turning It Down Since 2001 (LOAD)
was a little surprised to see these guys doing something on
Load, because bassist Kjetl Brandstal releases drony stuff
on Corpus Hermeticum and Ecstatic Peace and gets written up
in The Wire. Then I pushed play and I was like, "Oh yeah,
these guys should have totally done something on Load."
In other words, it's not drony, it's not artsy, and it IS
ass-kicking heavy rock. (It's not No Wave, though, it's Nor
Wave, because these guys are from Norway.) Super-heavy power
bass-and-drum grooves and, get this, the thing that makes
'em great is that the third member of the trio isn't a guitar,
it's a fucking viola. King Crimson's Bartok strain as played
by the Melvins or a 16-Style Jesus Lizard. Hell, you can tell
they're 'fine artists' just because their e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org,
and that's, well, funny as shit. Swank/eerie 'bubblebath'
cover photo. Funny liner notes by Stefan Jaworzyn. Produced
by Billy Anderson, which was a good choice -- he did Sleep's
Jerusalem! -- as well as High on Fire. And, the album
is under 30 minutes long!
NUTRITION FUN: Barring Any Future Indiscretions CS (UNREAD)
The Unread label of Omaha likes two things: lo-fi folk music
and lo-fi noise. Well, some people have said that noise IS
the new folk, so there. I don't know
who Nutrition Fun are but I think they're from Omaha, and they do both the noise-based folk
and the folk-based noise, and they do both pretty well. Some
of the songs on here are totally submerged in glorious home-recording
mystery and thus sound all the more like teenage symphonies
to god. On other songs I sense a possible emo-trained whine.
That's okay, we all have our dark pasts. The noise, i.e. the
tracks that aren't songs at all, is good. You can always depend
on Unread for bedroom gunk and xerox murk.
is Orinoka Crash Suite, or something like that. The liner
notes are minimal, but this is a solo project by John Dwyer.
You know Dwyer, the guy who's done get-laid garage rock in
The Coachwhips, get-laid gay techno in Ziegenbock Kopf, and
masked duo no wave in Pink + Brown, and now he's doing . .
. Fahey?? Plus noise??? What is this, his laptop folk alter
ego? What's next, an IDM project, and then a prog band with
mellotron, and then an all-midget Kiss cover band? (Oh, never
Well, shiver me timbers,
this is actually a great release. It's partly due to the Tumult
touch -- they are a FABULOUS label -- but mostly due to the
music. Dwyer's a really good guitar player, surprisingly bluesy,
which sheds a new light on Pink + Brown. But it's not like
Fahey, that's merely the knee-jerk comparison; this is more
Pop, more throwaway, more like snapshots, more short attention
span. Dwyer doesn't just play guitar, he throws in overdubs
on organ or noise effects or whatever. There's even some vocals
if you're paying attention. Reminds me of both Mississippi
John Hurt and Alistair Galbraith. Hmm, according to the "New
Weird America" article in The Wire, free folkies and
no wavers were opposites, but OCS is bridgin' the gap!
The second disc is labeled
as "white improvisational," and I take the "white"
to mean not Dwyer's race but "white noise," as disc
2 has also been described as a "noise" CD. And it
pretty much is, although also quite varied and short-attention
span, with 18 tracks that come from different directions,
some of it folk-based noise, some more rock-based noise, some
of it like Merzbow and some like Flies Inside The Sun. And,
damn, track 17, now THAT'S plunderphonics. Crazy. Good double
& LABOR: Groundswell CD (JMZ
File another in the New Prog section! Here we have
a New York City band featuring a heavy and hard-rocking drums/bass
rhythm section supporting what sounds like a phalanx of keyboards.
Okay, just looked at the credits and it's actually a trio
-- this keyboardist (Dan Friel) either overdubs in the studio
or maybe he's just a busy beaver up there on stage. Anyway,
lots of crunchy keyboards-through-distorted-guitar-amp vibes,
playing classic rock chords really loud over sprinting rock
rhythms. The music is feel-good without sacrificing the grit
and energy of the best of today's No Wave.
A Nervous Splendor LP (HAOMA)
all the rave this rec was getting, I thought it started on
a slightly dubious note, with what is officially the 1,014th
combination of post-Siltbreeze "atmosphere" and
post-Fahey "roots music" on record, but it's really
short and you quickly realize that it's just a bookend, a
fanfare, a prelude, or whatever, and the record immediately
begins to rule when an extended sample emerges, of a chipper
young fellow, who is obviously a narc, telling a story, fragments
of which include ". . . and then I met some Christian
brothers" . . . "I was really surprised at all the
love they had!" . . . "So that night I asked Christ
into my life, and it's been a joy ever since."
And then, track two,
"The Ill Fitting Tourniquet," fully turns my appreciation
from tentative to full-fucking-on, as the Pengos take a one-chord
folk pattern and soak it in the very mud of, well, Hades!
(Y'know, the muddy banks of The River Styx?) Loudness, distortion,
overbleed, "the red," it's all here. This is Doom.
Side one stays great, finishing out with some free jazz freak-flutter
and more samples of people talking, some sort of weird-ass
And side two is where
the Nervous Splendor really gets a chance to roost and lay
mutant pterodactyl eggs in your mind's eye. Of course, it
takes time for that sort of incubation period, like at least
20 minutes, and when side two of any band's record is just
one song, you know something's up. Pengo pull it off with
another brooding jam, kill zone bystander music. Lead vocals
by Idi Amin Dada.
So everybody's right:
great record. Definitely better than the not at all bad Pengo
Climbs the Holy Mountain. By copping the BYG Actuel design
for the cover, they predict with complete accuracy their own
shit-hot appearance as 'token white freaks' on a theoretical
JAZZACTUEL-type compilation to be released 30 or
40 years from now.
EXAM: Rape of the Bees CDR (SCRATCH
was planning on liking this album just 'cause of the not-fucking-around
B&W design. And I do. I never know what to say about noise
CDs because I like all noise music but I almost never like
noise albums. They're always too long and samey and I always
have to quit listening to them (stop paying attention to them)
just to get through 'em. But if someone was changing up different
artists every two to five minutes I'd listen all night long,
and they should definitely drop anything by Pig Exam in that
changer. Besides the album isn't too long, not even quite
40 minutes, and the last track is 15 minutes of deep scary
echoed space that definitely changes things up. Pig Exam,
and the SNSE label, are from Kalamazoo, Michigan.
+ BROWN: Shame Fantasy II (LOAD)
was skeptical of Pink + Brown, like I'm skeptical of any blatant
duo mask-rock. Isn't it kind of a convenient move? Who wouldn't
want to rock like Lightning Bolt? It's too obvious, right?
Nowadays anyone who's been playing guitar for two weeks puts
on a mask and suddenly they think they're "saving rock and
roll." But then again, I missed 'em live when they came to
town with, well, Lightning Bolt (and
the short-lived Subtonix -- remember that tour?) in
July of 2001, because I arrived too late, and most of the
people who told me how good Pink + Brown was were referring
to seeing them on that tour. The records seemed like an afterthought.
Well, it's a couple years later and all the dust has settled
-- I only heard 'em ONCE on college radio -- so now I can
finally just put this platter in -- their entire recorded
history assembled onto one disc -- and decide what's up. Well,
shit, I was wrong: they aren't doing this out of convenience
at all, they're working their masked asses off. As the OCS
disc shows, Dwyer isn't just fuckin' around on the guitar
so that his band is weird, his knowledge goes deeper, and
that skill heavily informs Pink + Brown. The length of the
disc is a little wearying, but that's because, again, this
is everything the band ever recorded -- a CD called Final
Foods released on Toyo Records, one side of a split with
the ad hoc band Death Drug, and 5 never-before-released tunes
-- and even with all this stuff it's not THAT wearying because
the duo's energy level is constantly inspired.
POSS: Distortion Is Truth CD; Crossing Casco Bay CD (TRACE
two discs came with a press package that wasn't a one-sheet
so much as a novella. It ended up being pretty good reading,
with all these essays heavy on composerly electric guitar
theory, with titles like "The Cult of Tone" and
"The Myth of Sonic Neutrality" and yet another inspired
grocery list of influences that went [excerpted] "...the
connections I came to feel, often with the help of Susan Stenger,
existed between Fred Rzewski and Fugazi, Tom Verlaine, Sam
Lay, Joseph Conrad, LaMonte Young, Chuck Berry and David Tudor,
David Bowie, Julius Eastman, Blind Boy Fuller, Garth Hudson,
Javanese gamelan, Patti Smith, Poly Styrene, Bollywood pop,
the Standells, the Kinks, Ma Rainey, Joan Jett and the lives
of Ava Gardner and Malcolm Lowry, not to mention the magical
syntax of Zimmerman/Osterberg or the fractured poetics and
overloaded mic pre's of Mark E. Smith or Willie Dixon."
Righteous, more lists!
From this press
kit I also learned that Poss, who I'd never heard of, was
a founding member of Band of Susans, who I had heard of, and
even listened to, once or twice, many years ago, at a record
store or something. I also learned that Poss was even in P.I.L.
for a few days once in 1983, which made an interesting story
that you can apparently read online here.
And also that the guy had developed a fairly rigorous quasi-academic
approach to the cult of electric guitar tone, and that he
had some Phill Niblock connections. After all this is I figured
I was in pretty good hands, and made me expect some fairly
heavy wall-of-guitar stuff.
In light of that, Distortion
is Truth disappointed me. It's a long compilation of
"facets of [Poss's] recent musical interests, some of
which catch the light more than others." As such, it
goes from short guitar drone pieces to fairly normal space-rock
tracks and even tracks with vocals that almost come off like
shimmery trip-hop Madchester numbers. These latter experiments
are kind of dreamily heavy, and would make a worthwhile 7-inch
single or CD EP, but overall the album just doesn't really
cohere. Poss is clearly a guy who takes guitar and overtones
and distortion really seriously, but somehow guitar never
really takes center stage of these "facets."
where Crossing Casco Bay comes in. The track sequencing
alone promises good arc: a 20 minute track, then an 18 minute
track (recorded live at Phill Niblock's Experimental Intermedia
space), and then three shorter tracks that add up to just
10 more minutes. It could almost fit on an LP, so I automatically
like that better because of my training as a record listener
during the LP era. And, longer tracks just seem more suited
to what Poss does. Sure enough, the opener/title track lays
down a thick slab of feedback that actually aspires more to
early solo/duo era Heldon than it does to, say, Branca or
Sonic Youth. If you're interested, start here.
SWEEPSTAKES: "Sploit!" CDR (SELF-RELEASED)
guy wondered if I'd want to review a CDR packaged in garbage
and I was like sure, expecting some kind of grand Witcystian
concoction, but jeez, he sent it to me packaged in a folded-over
section cut out of a used frozen pizza box. It even smells
noticeably musty. That's kind of gross, dude. I shouldn't
complain, it's not like he sent me cassettes packaged in dead
fish, right? (See Muckraker #7, review of Smell & Quim's
Chariot of the Cods cassette.)
Anyway, I think
the return address on this was Portland, OR, but it was recorded
in "El Dorado, IL," but maybe that's an imaginary
town just like the original Eldorado because I live in IL
and I haven't heard of it. Musically, it could certainly come
from Chicago, IL because this is actually some pretty involved
No Waviness and this town is still one of the nation's centers
for No Wave. Heavy bass player keeps things moving, the drums
clatter around it (rather lo-fi so you can't fully hear the
oomph of the rhythm section, more just the overall movement
of the clatter, which is cooler than some big Albini-esque
rhythm section anyway), while the rather excellent guitarist
freaks it like Keith Levene or something. Vocals are, naturally,
histrionic, but not overdone. Of course the band works with
a vocabulary that can be traced back to Trout Mask Replica,
but it's surprising how assimilated their grasp is. This music
could also fit on the Bulb Singles #1 comp reviewed
elsewhere, right next to Cornelius Gomez or Prehensile Monkeytailed
Skink. And then it ends with a hidden psychedelic noise jam
track influenced by Sun Ra.
Loft Sessions CDR (URANIUM
a while to get going beyond just heavy atmosphere and silence.
Right now my baby monitor is hissing louder than this jam.
Okay, now a sax has entered, playing searching flutters, and
the rest of the group is picking up around it. Someone saws
some wood in space and then that sound trickles off into nothing.
A music box dancer seems to be occasionally twirling somewhere
in the mist. Aw, heck, we're already on track two. Track four
mixes bad and loud drum machine programming with scattered
. . . ukulele? I
don't know what's going on, and that's the way I like it.
No dry/pristine recording
fetish, no scale-chasing tail-chasing improv games. Pushovers
keep things mysterious.