#17, NOVEMBER 2004



by Larry "Fuzz-O" Dolman

This is only the second Burmese record I've heard. The first was a rather sketchy experience. I don't know which one it was, but it was in a car, driving down US Interstate 88, Illinois. I was in the back seat. The stereo was loud and the music was too, a rather screeching take on mid-period Melvins or all-periods Earth. The driver of the car and owner of the CD was talking about how he knew the band from Iowa City, where apparently they met and formed before moving to their current home in San Francisco (i.e. Oakland). I swear that he also said the (impressive) drummer on the album was a midget, but don't quote me on that.
      Well, since moving to Oaktown their lineup has changed a bit -- for example they now have two drummers, who are both named Mark S. (The two bassists happen to both be named Mike G, but that's too crazy to go into right now.) On this recent album, White, they're still doing a variation on a specific band, but it's no longer Melvins/Earth, it's Whitehouse. In fact, they admit this, right there in the album title and especially the subtitle, "Interpretations of Whitehouse." This is cool, because a lot of bands are trying to do interpretations of Whitehouse these days, but most wouldn't admit to it. Burmese are unafraid to admit to it because they know they do it well. The vocals aren't as, er, keyed-up as Whitehouse's but it's still a harsh mind eraser of an album, and like Whitehouse it's even got that weird 'pink noise' calm & stillness in the center of the insanity. In fact, if this album hadn't mentioned Whitehouse on the cover, I would've just thought, "Hey, this is a good record. Much better than the average Whitehouse imitator."

I laughed at this Burmese article:

The Charalambides have been a working band for over a decade now, and I'd say they're still arcing outwards and upwards. There was the early Wholly Other & Siltbreeze years, which was kind of a duo-then-trio folk/rock/psych/blasted-ballad write-some-songs-and-make-noise-and-try-a-lot-of-things-and-see-what-sticks time -- and almost all of it did. (Even "Gypsy Woman"!) After a while third member Jason Bill left the band and founding members Tom and Christina Carter pulled back on the reins a bit for some focused duo classics like Houston and the CDR-only Sticks/Home de facto double. Then, sometime around the turn of the millenium, they became a trio again with the addition of Heather Leigh Murray, retaining their newfound focus while using the significant increase in sound/song potentials to make each long track like a slightly different, exquisitely detailed photograph of the same football-field-sized patch of Texas hill country, pulling out of the ground and floating slowly towards the heavens, magnetically trailing intricate branches and soft vapors all the way . . . .
     Well, here's five new magnetic fields you really should take a listen to, on the album Joy Shapes, available on the CD and 2LP format from Kranky Records (release date May 10, 2004). In fact, I straight up think that tracks one ("Here Not Here") and three ("Joy Shapes") are the two best tracks they've ever done, due to the giant spiky drift of the music of course, but mostly because Ms. Carter is doing some amazing inexplicable new things with her role as the singer in the band. She's always been really good, but she sounds more fearless than ever, really controlling the songs as they expand and hover.
     For two examples, check out the "Here Not Here" opener, over twenty minutes long, in which a hard but calm skeleton-blues riff lays the groundwork for vintage Charalambides stretch and, around the six-minute mark, Ms. Carter's most incantational vocal moment ever. Until you get to the second example, halfway through "Joy Shapes," when her vocal goes from intensely ethereal to intensely emotional, and it sounds like she might start screaming or crying or laughing or openly chiding. I'm pretty sure she sings something like How does it feel when you know you been left by the fire, and yeah, it sounds like Patty Waters and Meredith Monk and other 'avant' forebears, but it also sounds like Janis Joplin and prime Stevie Nicks, while at the same time sounding like nobody else at all, and the way she sings that line -- not so much the melody and lyrics but the sound and the emotion of it -- has been going through my head for days now.

COUNTRY TEASERS: Secret Weapon Revealed At Last CD (IN THE RED)
Their first album came out in 1995, which is almost ten years ago, but this is the first time I've ever actually listened to this semi-legendary U.K. rock group. It seems like they get a lot of comparisons to The Fall, and I can see why with their cussed garage-prole rock approach, but I'm also hearing Swell Maps and Homosexuals and about 100 other U.K. bands that might've let their good ole pub songs get lost in a little bricolage and noise. (See any volume of Hyped 2 Death's Messthetics CDR series.) And, when they really get lost here and there I'm even feelin' a little Ceramic Hobs! (See track 9, "Wizmo!," which is incidentally my favorite track title so far this year.) From all this clatter and chatter and burble emerge several rock-solid (garage-prole) hooks, seasoned with (cussed) lyrical images of misanthropic vitriol that actually don't sound affected. For example, they've got me walking around humming a song called "Please Stop Fucking Each Other," especially the chorus, which goes: "Everybody looks like you / He's your brother / Please stop fucking each other / You Injuns and Pakinstanis / Why do you squabble over / an unnecessarily expensive woolen pullover?" My second favorite tune is "Sandy," an impossibly slow mean-blues shuffle that's like 6 or 7 minutes long. Late in the number, frontman B.R. Wallers sings the entire line "I hate women" in a drawn-out reputation-baiting deadpan. The words hang there while the band lugubriously turns around the riff, and then line two is just as short, and turns out to be a punchline: "I hate men." Then there's "Deaths," which is a straight-up literate 'happy' folk ballad that runs down all the people who died better than Jim Carroll ever did. Oh, and never mind, my favorite song on the album is actually "Man V Cock," but you'll just have to hear that one -- it's kind of a ballad too!

CRANKST URGE ON: "E-Z Voiceover Box-Top Living Solutions" 7-inch (HUMBUG)
Wait, I don't think this is some new band called Crankst Urge On, I think it's the same old Crank Sturgeon we know and love from up in Portland, Maine! And it's always good to have him over. If you like fucked-up dadanoise fucked-uppedness, that is. (We do.) This time it's a 7-inch, and they were nice enough to tell us "45 RPM," but I can't figure which is side one and which is side two. The first side I put on is mostly him talking to himself, or maybe even to us (the listening audience), while obnoxious noise-gnarls crunch in and out and ominous mic feedback hovers. The other side also has voice but it's non-verbal this time, just hisses, grunts, gibberish and tantrums, while the crunchy distorted shit clips in and out. "Recorded in June 2003 at my desk using tape, electronics, clutter, & voice." As always with Mr. C, I hear more of the clutter and voice than I do the tape and electronics. Edition of 220.

I've said it before: no one puts a still chill in the air quite like Dead Raven Choir. DRC (as their fans call 'em) are really a choir of one, a singer and songwriter named Smolken, who sings and plays some stringed instrument or another and maybe does some other stuff, but not much, because this is some really sparse and quiet music. Frozen-sounding, actually -- listening to it, I can't help but think of the way Nocturno Culto once sang, "COLD . . . . . . . . . . . . SO COLD . . . ."
      On his albums Smolken is usually joined by one or at most two sparse guests; here it's Glenn Donaldson of the Jewelled Antler collective, which is a good choice, because G.D. barely adds anything at all, and what he does add (some wispy string pluckings here, a bone-dry cello line there) keeps it all very . . . chilly. The sum of all this creaking and whispering is a singular combination of psychedelic folk, old world cabaret, and the cold chill of black metal. I know some people kinda get turned off by the cabaret aspect -- a guy at work dismissed it with one word, "arty," and I can't say he's off the mark -- but I think it's a great album. When, towards the end of the album, after like 30 minutes of ominous advances and silences, Smolken builds up to hissing the phrase "Chrisssstttmmasss Meeaaat!," well, I know I've really gotten somewhere. Even if getting there was surprisingly quiet. Wine, Women & Wolves is the first Dead Raven Choir album to be on a format other than CDR, and it's deserving, as it feels like his magnum opus so far.

I'm not sure who's doing what on here and I'm not sure I ever will know because there's no credits or info. I've listened to it for like 2 minutes and it's already on track 11. Am I still on the Diagram A part or has it gone into the Noise Nomads part? Or is it a collab? Or are they switching tracks? If so, they're busy, 'cause there's 99 tracks on here. Now I'm on #25 -- yep, that quick. I've heard sounds that sound like both Diagram A (chittering electronic grookage) and Noise Nomads (bestial throat noise), or do I have their sounds switched around? Who knows? We're supposed to be confused, because we'll eventually come out on the other side knowing more about ourselves and the world around us. And if we're at all into the sounds of bestial chittering throat/electro noise, we're going to enjoy this release no matter what, because the sounds are quality all the way. (Oh shit, I just saw that Breaking World is down to their last 5 copies! I need to start reviewing things faster!)

Sick album of noise and screaming. Three long tracks that are very similar in intent and motion, each a different live performance, and never a weak moment. As far as the back story, "Junko" is Junko Hiroshige herself, longtime member of Hijo Kaidan, described in the one-sheet as "the legendary grand dame of Japanese shriek." The Dustbreeders are a trio of French guys, Yves Botz, Thierry Delles, and Michel Henritzi (hey, I think he's written for Opprobrium!), who, since 1999, have exclusively played "old mange-disques," which means "slot-in record players, portable 7-inch phonographs from the '70s, connected to guitar amps." The result is killer noise, and the stamina and intensity of Junko's shriek is hard to fathom.

When I first saw the name "Eloe Omoe" appearing on noise etc. bills a couple years ago, I actually thought it was the guy who used to play with Sun Ra, falling in with a new crowd. But no, this Eloe Omoe is filed under "E," not "O," and are in fact a bass and drums duo from Charlestown, Massachusets. In fact, I believe that there were some urban legends spun about the size of their bass rig somewhere in the last issue of Blastitude. But I could be wrong about that. The obvious comparison is going to be Lightning Bolt, as this is a duo that pairs noisy low-end bass guitar and a rather frantic drummer. So, let's talk about how they're different: Eloe Omoe sound less composed, more like they're making it up as they go along. At times it seems like they're playing a riff they've played before, but they show no intention of dedicating themselves to it as an outright honed-song attack. The recording quality of this EP is very non-studio as well, murky and amorphous and walkman-recorded, with each of the five tracks titled by the town it was recorded in. In fact, Eloe Omoe are just as fumbling and strange as they are loud and aggressive, like if Lightning Bolt were suddenly stricken with total amnesia mid-song. I'd say they're actually closer in spirit to totally weird bands like the Menstruation Sisters or Volvox.

This is the sound of my generation. My cell generation, that is. And regeneration. No, seriously, I've listened to this record like eight times in a row and I still barely have any idea what's going on with it. That's what happens when people with no short-term memory listen to records made by people with no short-term memory. Just kidding, that's just conjecture, of course, but this guy did used to be the lead singer for the No-Neck Blues Band (great drawing of him inside the Birth of Both Worlds 2CD), and I can tell you that this record takes the same dive-right-in-the-middle ethos of No-Neck, but, without refuting that band's ass-loose funkiness, it turns up the electronic low end much louder until it's a gnarly heavy-acid-death-disco kind of thing. After that, other people have already described it as well as I can. Probably better, but it's kind of a complex album. I can't imagine any one 'journalist' 'nailing' it, but I personally plan to continue listening to it eight times a week whether I ever 'figure it out' or not.

The first time I ever saw anyone playing a laptop computer on a stage, I was visiting Chicago from Nebraska in 1998, and it was a group called TV Pow. Brent Gutzeit was and is in that group, still extant here in Wind Town. I remember thinking that this laptop thing was very nouveau and kinda silly in the traditional rock club context, but by the end of the set I was won over by the build and volume of the tones, the pacing of the performance, and even the way the three laptoppers were ominously placed on the stage, hiding behind their screens. In fact, I don't think I've seen a laptop performance as good ever since, and that was (almost exactly) six years ago (May 15, 1998).
     Mr. Gutzeit is still active in the Chicago scene as a label CEO, organizer, and performer, but as far as I know this new album Drug Money is his first full-press release under his own name. And it's worthy. My first reaction was to put it in the same one-man death-drone category as two albums reviewed last ish: Land of Lurches by Kevin Drumm and Effortless Battle by Ian Nagoski. After all, all three guys go by their actual first and last names. Drug Money is the most gentle of the three releases, but it's long tracks are also imbued with a strong sense of melancholy, which the album title might refer to in some way. The first track is the deathliest, but they get quieter and softer as they go. Track 2 is mostly gorgeous (but still sad) soft-hum, track three is over 20 minutes long and also very soft and sad, and track 4, which appears to be an unlisted bonus track, you might miss completely like I did -- I was in the other room folding clothes and I thought the CD was over. Then, I go back to Track 1, and it sounds softer and calmer than it did the first time, though still ominous -- hell, it sounds like early Popol Vuh. Which kind of makes sense, because "All of the source sounds for Drug Money were created by Gutzeit by placing electric motors on the strings of a piano."

Followers of the last year or so's Hair Police shows will immediately recognize the opening cut, an all-time classic throwdown called "Let's See Who's Here And Who's Not," recorded and presented on wax in a way that actually does full justice to the way they play it live. The rest of Side 1 lives up to this gauntlet by extensively carrying the torch for everyone who has ever plugged a mic into an overdriven amp and stuffed the whole thing in their mouth. (And yes, I mean the mic AND the amp.) Long and intense tracks, played by what you could call a rock band if you wanted to, but this is concise, tight, classic NOISE instead of rock. I think this is the problem for some of the Hair Police detractors out there -- they're expecting a rock band, but these guys are really a NOISE band. Side 2 starts with "Boneless," a stunning spaced-out horror jam thanks to C. Spencer Yeh on really heavy violin. Crushing, but still one of the more restrained things I've heard HP do, not counting the next track, "The Empty Socket," which is just a few seconds of ominous bell tones. Then the side gets going with some wilder gore-themed tracks like "Open Body," the impressive "Full Of Guts," and "Skull Mold." Their best album yet, simultaneously released on CD by Freedom From.

The name Jandek keeps popping up when people describe this guy, and I can hear it, but it's really only about 1/10th of the final product. For one thing, despite a couple mumbled warped-voice songs, vocals are really rare, the bulk of the album being non-instrument-specific instrumental miniatures, such as the soft but creepy final 2 or 3 minutes of my current favorite track, "Serious Cool Cowboy With A Bubble Mustache," a section that sounds like I always thought Fennesz was going to sound like, but alas, never did. However, the name I think of the most while listening to The Honey Guide Bird is . . . David Lynch. It's partly because both Hawk and Lynch are polymath artists who work in more than one medium, but mainly because this music sounds like a David Lynch movie to me. The creepy sound design, the harsh shifts in normality, the way nice things like birds singing on sunny days brush up against mystery men with hideous voices appearing from some other sick dimension . . . it's all in here, and more, and I'm still confused, and I like it.


Who the hell is this guy? I don't know, but put in this disc and go to his website at geocities.com/kingdarves and watch the weirdo graphics accumulate while the electronics bleat and fart, and you've got a fairly weird night on your hands. I'd call this a noise album, that in some ways reminds me of the Forcefield Lord of the Rings album or the Rubber O Cement CD on Toyo, except I can't tell if it's any good or not. Actually, I do like the way it just sounds like ONE GUY MESSING AROUND, no overdubs, no walls of effect pedals to hide behind. Then halfway through the album the noise gets even sparser, like he's just plunking on twine and smashing a trash can lid, and he starts moaning along -- reminds me of Dark Inside The Sun a little bit. And then, the last track is really pretty damn good -- a twelve-minute-odd solo tabletop guitar excursion that is rooted in languid low-end-feedback New Zealand territory but gets into some really bizarro hell-sheets of digi-sound that, if you ask me, are totally American. I think he's from somewhere in New Jersey, but good luck figuring it out from the website.