JANUARY 2009 - APRIL 2010 "IT'S
ABOUT THE MUSIC"
ON D'S IPOD?
Dolman & Dolman
let's do this. Oh shit. Look, I am literally the biggest
Deadhead that I know, except maybe Collins, but I do NOT
want to listen to this. Nothing ruins a D&D session
like a big fat 7 or 29 minute [Grateful] Dead
song right in the middle.
D: C'mon, you have 3.8 days worth of the Dead on this thing!
They're gonna come up a lot!
D: Change it.
D: Okay, okay, we can change it...... if you can guess the
year this show is from.
D: Oh, man.
D: And if you can't guess the year, correctly, then we have
to listen to this whole show.
D: There goes D&D tonight. You gonna come over tomorrow
for a makeup session?
D: No, no makeup. We have to transcribe everything we say
during this entire show and PUBLISH IT.
D: How many chances do I have, is it like three strikes
and I'm out?
D: Two strikes and you're out.
D: I think I might need three.
D: We'll see how the first two go.
D: Alright. Could possibly be the 80s... that's a long shot,
but I don't wanna rule out the 80s... don't think that's
Mydland though... if it's the 70s, it's gotta be post-'75,
probably '77. So yeah, first guess: 1977.
D: Ha ha...
D: Oh man, I think I hear Donna, which would make this almost
absolutely 1977. I mean it could be '78... I think she quit
D: That's okay, you got it. It's 1977.
D: Like I said, I'm the biggest Deadhead I know. Which isn't
saying much. And see, this sounds really good. A very laid-back
"Bertha"... just a little slower than usual...
we can listen for a minute, see what they play next...
D: They're pulling you back in.
D: Man, I'm always in. That's why sometimes I have to just
refuse to listen to it. It's the only way I can pretend
that I'm not in. Oh, next song is "Me and my Uncle."
I do love the song, for such a first-set cliche, but let's
get on with the shuffle. Damn, this "Uncle" is
pretty laid-back too, also a little slower than usual.
D: It was a slow night for the band. In a good way!
a good way" is the new "That's what she said."
Alright, I'm moving on with the shuffle. And the next record
D: You weren't supposed to see it. You're supposed to guess.
D: Oh yeah... I was just scrolling ahead to get through
the Dead show.
D: You should've just restarted shuffle.
D: Right, that would've been less clicks.
D: Actually I wanna listen to this whole [Hatewave] album.
It's only like 11 minutes long. This is, uh, Sexual
Healing 2, which is early recordings, from 1992.
D: You were saying this was good.
D: Well yeah, I was listening to it that day. I enjoyed
D: It's alright.
D: Oh, sorry Frank, are you worried that it might be false
metal or something?
D: Well it's obviously false metal.
D: Yeah, well at least it's not boring like all new "true"
metal is. What do you think this is, hipster metal? Wicker
Park metal? Well this is clearly Humboldt Park metal, which
is much better.
D: Yeah, there would be a difference.
D: Especially in '92, when this was recorded. I mean Humboldt
Park is a crappy neighborhood right now, imagine what it
was like in '92. And it was coming from Humboldt and the
dark side of Wicker Park in the freezing northern winter.
One thing about the Chicago No Wave scene, it really was
like a frozen hatewave. The music was like, absurdly angry
and pissy. If I was living in Humboldt Park in 1992 and
it was wintertime, I'd be pissed too.
D: This is definitely really raw.
D: And it's definitely false metal, because Nondor Nevai,
who is playing drums on this, even ends the liner notes
by saying "Fuck metal." Anyway, Nondor left the
band not long after, and they became less false metal.
D: They became a little bit truer.
D: Yeah, truer metal. Not quite true metal, but truer. I
think they were really good. It was this same guy singing
here, Sasha Tai, on guitar and vocals, Marc Rueker on second
guitar, and Weasel Walter on drums, and he would play dressed
as a corpse.
D: Which is true metal. To dress as a corpse.
D: It's false metal if the corpse has short hair.
D: Because as you know Weasel Walter had short hair.
D: But with the spike things...
D: Oh shit, I can't remember if he still did the spike things
in his hair when he was dressed as a corpse... anyway, he
had short hair and he wore a suit, like a 1920s, like business
suit that someone would be buried in. It was more like comedy
or vaudeville or something, so even though he truly shreds
on the drums, it gives you this feeling of, you know, that
1990s Chicago school of dry satire. Like some dude from
The Baffler was playing satirical death metal.
D: Okay. Let me ask you this: if Weasel had just been himself,
Weasel Walter, as the drummer of Hatewave, would it have
been true metal?
D: What, like dressed in street clothes? Why am I the one
suddenly defending how true a certain metal band is? I started
this by saying that Hatewave -- early Hatewave -- were indeed
false metal and that I liked it just fine. You were the
one defending true metal. For being most true. So I ask
you, if Weasel had been on the album cover as himself, with
no corpse paint, would you think the band would be more
true? Or less true?
D: Less than the corpse?
D: Yeah, corpses are truer metal by default, even a slightly
wack corpse. And the singer dude looked good in his corpsepaint.
Also with short hair.
D: But he's not wearing a goddamn business suit! That's
the part that's very not metal, wearing a suit and tie.
There's no way to be metal in a suit and tie, just no way.
D: It's been enlightening. You know, a real State of the
Metal panel discussion.
D: It's been real. And it's been fun. But it hasn't been
You decide, you deicidal maniac! Click on
the image to see HATEWAVE mach 2 live in '98
let's start this shuffle for real. And I'm not looking.
[New song starts.] Okay, this is Dylan,
I wasn't sure with just the piano. But of course I know
this song, from New Morning... this is the song
that goes "catch some rainbow trout/that must be what
it's all about." I don't think I remember the name
D: "Sign on the Window."
D: Yeah. Okay, okay, this part right here is some of the
greatest soul singing of the 20th Century. I've always been
amazed by the way his voice breaks on this section... which
is the bridge, I guess. The middle eight. And then it goes
D: Is that a... violin?
D: Or some sort of old organ... squeezebox... I don't know.
D: I think it's an optigon...
D: A balalaika....
D: A Mercedes Benz....
D: "My other car is a Buick."
D: Oh man, the band coming back in... I am serious when
I say that this is one of the very best rock & soul
performances of the last 40 years. This album is fairly
well-regarded but . . . not enough! Here he goes: "Build
me a cabin in Utah.... Marry me a wife, catch rainbow
trout.... Have a bunch o'kids who call me 'Pa'....
That must be what it's all about.... that must
be what it's all about....."
no idea who this is, yet. It's some weird punk, but I don't
know if it's weird-punk.
D: I know what you mean.
D: Is this that J.T. record? J.T. IV, to
D: No, you're thinking of Hank IV.
D: No, you're thinking of the Four Tops.
D: No, you're thinking of the Four Freshman.
D: Are you sure it isn't the 39 Clocks?
D: Ha, that record took off about as good as the 13th Chime
D: Yeah, two-and-a-half days of effusive blog praise and
then on to the next middle-of-the-road new and/or archival
release of fair to mild interest. Anyway, this J.T. IV is
fantastic. It is definitely weird, and it's punk, so I don't
see what's wrong with using that phrase. I mean punk is
35 years old so of course someone is gonna throw an adjective
in there now and then, to give it some zing. Like "trash
punk," or "sci-fi punk."
D: Or Rick James and his philosophy of "punk funk."
D: I mean, punk was inherently weird to begin with, in 1975
or 1976, I mean The Ramones were the least weird punk band
and they were pretty goddamn weird. But then that weirdness
eventually arrives at its own status quo, like retro garage
punk, where everybody wears leather jackets and so what,
and classic punk, where people actually wear safety pins,
and so the truly weird stuff has to be called weird.
D: But is it truly weird?
D: I don't know, I think Pink Reason is pretty weird. Or
the FNU Ronnies. You know, on back to Mars and Chrome. That's
the weird stuff.
D: This song is great.
D: Yes,"The Monitors." This is one of my favorite
songs on here. There are 3 or 4 tracks on here that are
just, like, the most perfect driving raw machine punk. Absolutely
right up there with Chrome.
shit, this is crushing! This is the Beastie Boys.
You have to admit that reggae introduction was the bomb.
And this jam is much better than Big Chief.
D: "Better than Big Chief." That's the legacy
left by the Beastie Boys funk instrumental period, except
that album where they all wore the suits, that was actually
worse than Big Chief.
D: I have yet to hear one note from that album.
D: Me either! Well, maybe a YouTube once or twice. Half
of a YouTube at work.
D: Yeah, I might've too.
D: Something completely uninteresting.
D: It was no "Ricky's Theme," that's for sure.
Well this jam was pretty classic. Not bad at all. I believe
it's from the Ill Communication album. What's it
D: "Futterman's Rule."
D: Yes, which was "When two are served, all may eat."
I read that in Grand Royal #2. Which I think is
a great rule, but I can't ever get my dining partners to
go along with it. They always have to wait for everyone
to be served....
Anyway, here's some real reggae. I won't even try to name
this, just kick back and listen, cleanly, while you play
a brand new musical biscuit.... oh god, listen to how good
this is. Those voices singing together... like family voices....
[both listen for a good minute-and-a-half] I can't
believe the voices just dropped out... is this a dub?? Or
just a live instrumental where the voices only appear for
D: The mix is definitely a dub mix. Overpowering the tape,
putting some instruments in the red but keeping others low.
D: Holy shit... I'm just realizing that the problem with
most psychedelic music nowadays is that... they keep pushing
everything into the red, instead of what you just
said, just putting some of it in the red, so the rest hangs
back, or stands out, or contrasts...
D: Yeah, that's it in a nutshell. Today's psychedelic music
doesn't learn the lesson of dub, which is background/foreground.
This shit you're talking about puts everything in the foreground.
You're thinking of stuff like Waaves, or Wavves, or whatever
his name is.
D: Waaaaves. As in "boo hoo."
D: I can't believe how easy that guy is to make fun of.
It's almost boring.
D: It's almost as boring as his music. But yeah, exactly,
his recordings and more importantly, his songwriting itself,
are 100% foreground. There's no thought of a background.
It's what the guy from Psychedelic Horseshit was talking
about in that interview. "Hiding behind static."
The mix is always all the way in the red on all channels,
which is then used as a screen, a wall, and get this, it's
not a smokescreen, because a smokescreen actually billows,
and has movement, and it can dissipate. It moves and evolves,
but this Waaves stuff is a completely static piece of drywall
that's just set up and left there, and its purpose is strictly
to muffle the voice. Because the voice is not singing a
real song, and if it's not muffled that will become painfully
obvious. But I mean, even if you have foreground/background,
you've still got to have a real song. This is a real song,
even though it's a dub, I mean there's no verses... it's
called "Enemy Version," by Super Sleepy &
Sound... something. I guess we'll have to google it to get
the full name, because it's cut off by the iPod. Okay....
[googling] It's Super Sleepy & Soundemension... "sound
dimension" is all one word, spelled funny....
D: Oh, is this one of those Coxsone 7-inches, from that
Juju is Magic
blog... We've gotta hear the A-side then...
D: That would be "Enemy."
D: Find that one. Break shuffle.
D: This might be one of the first dubs, one of the first
versions... I'll get a year here... actually, I'm not finding
a year yet...
D: Well yeah, it's a version, because Coxsone was totally
pre-dub. What he did was the first versions, and versions
came before dub. Every dub is a version, but not every version
is a dub. I mean all versions were to begin with was the
B side instrumental. Same tune, maybe a different take,
maybe not, with the vocal tracks mixed out. That's it, and
they were used by DJs to MC over at a sound system dance.
And as they started cutting all these versions in the studio,
they started playing around with the EQs a little bit, and
started leaving in some of the vocals, maybe dropping in
the song's hook every now and then, just for a line or two...
and that's how versioning evolved into dub, when they started
really playing around with the EQs, and dropping in all
kinds of bombs.
D: Yeah, yeah...
D: But still, I mean, right up to this day, versioning is
going on that has nothing to do with dub. The version will
never die, because most of the time, it's just some hardcore
dancehall rap song.
D: It's intense. The Jamaican music scene.
D: Yes it is.
D: Okay, so this is Super & Sleepy,
not Super Sleepy. And that's for the A side, "Enemy."
The B side, the version, is listed as Super, Sleepy
& Soundemension... so that's Super comma, Sleepy
and Soundemension. Soundemension was the Coxsone studio
band, led by Jackie Mittoo.
D: I don't even know what instrument Jackie Mittoo played,
I am not a true head.
D: You can't even speak a convincing Jamaican patois.
D: Sure I can rude boy!
D: Oh god. Still haven't gotten a year on this.
D: How about what instrument Jackie Mittoo played?
D: "Jamaican keyboardist."
D: Hmm. Sorry to all the reggae heads out there for our
lack of knowledge, we're still learning.
D: Still haven't gotten a year... I could deduct one from
Mittoo's wikipedia page... hmm, it could be 1960s but it's
unclear. It's surprising how sketchy reggae info still is
on the web...
D: Well, "Enemy" is over.
sounds even better, what's this?
D: The shuffle gave us more reggae, this is Aquarius.
D: Oh yeah, the Aquarius Dub album. This is sounding
real nice. Again, not really any echo. Or even much reverb.
This is like... live dub. Played really dry. It still qualifies
as dub because of the minimalism. No vocals at all, for
example, not even any single choruses or hook stabs.
Amuckness" by Sun City Girls.
You're not supposed to look at it.
D: I know, again, I just found myself looking right at it.
I might not've gotten this, actually, even though I know
the Sun City Girls very well.
D: It's a 2-minute free jazz improv with no vocals.
D: Yeah, kinda hard to pin down. I mean I might've guessed
Sun City Girls, but without any vocals there's a chance
I might not've.
"Lies" by the Knickerbockers...
from Nuggets. That was weird, it sounded like a
commercial when it came on, like a DJ was going to start
talking over it. [1960s DJ voice] Be sure to catch Mod Mockerson
& the Smoking Arrows..." This kind of post-British
Invasion rock and roll always sounds like that with all
the classic rock commercials out there. One band from Lincoln
[Nebraska] that ripped the hell out of this song was Shit
Hook. You saw them, right?
D: Oh hell yeah, that was the live karaoke band you took
D: Oh yeah, like at least 10 years ago, you did go to a
couple. And they always opened with their own set, where
they did some originals and covers, and they always played
"Lies," and if you remember they also did a great
version of "Ghosts" by Roky Erikson...
D: Good band. I mean, that was Phil Shoemaker from The Boys.
He also played with Charlie Burton & the Hiccups, but
the Boys, man. He's a great soundman and music dude in general
in Lincoln. Helps out a lot of bands. An elder, ha ha. [At
refrigerator.] Let's see, what can I get you? Um, water,
and.... water. No beer, sorry. How about some tea?
D: Some tea would be killer. You got peppermint, by chance?
D: Indeed I do. How about I throw a bag of kava in there
D: Okay... now does that have caffeine?
D: I don't think kava is considered caffeine. It's like
that one... fuck, I can't remember the name... that one
kind of tea that you drink out of gourds, bombillas I think
they call 'em...
D: Uh yeah, what is that shit called? I tried it for awhile,
to see if I could replace caffeine.
D: Ha, you keep dreaming. I tried it too, didn't even come
D: I think you have to brew like 5 tea bags per cup.
D: Why can't either of us think what it's called? Fuck it,
I'll google "bombilla"... it's Mate!
D: Yes, Yerba Mate. It's got that kind of unpleasant smoky
D: Yeah, that too... needs a lot of sweetener.
been thinking about this band a lot. Man, Perfect Prescription.
D: Oh yeah. This is Taking Drugs To Make Music
D: Yeah, Perfect Prescription is like an MOR record
compared to this. The greatest MOR record of all time, of
D: Oh man, bar none.
D: Okay, what the fuck does that mean?
D: What, MOR?
D: No, that means "middle of the road." What does
bar none mean?
D: Barring none. It's the best album, even if you bar none
of the competition.
D: Of course. It just sounded funny when you said it.
D: Maybe I just say it funny.
SB: "In 1986, all I wanna do is fly/All I want
for you to do is reach out to the sky/Well, well, well,
come down easy."
B: "Lord I'm gonna shake it/Lord I'm gonna make
it/Sure I'm gonna take it/Cuz I feel alright."
D: Fuck yes.
D: With some bass vibrations there.
[both listen for a good minute]
SB: "In 1986, all I wanna do is get stoned/All
I want for you to do is take my body home/Well well weeeeeeeeeeeeelllllllllllll,
come down easy."
D & D: [speechless]
SB: "Meet me children, meet me/Meet me at the top
of the sky/All I want for you to do/Is take yourself a little
higher/Well well weeeeeeeeeeeellllll, come down easy."
D & D: [still speechless]
SB: "JESUS CHRIST! I WAS ONLY SHAKIN' LLLLOOOOOOOOORRRRRRD!!!!"
D and D: [absolutely speechless] [the name of the band is
the Spacemen 3]
Dylan radio show. "Theme Time Radiourrrrr". Oh
sweet, visiting the Rivers of Babylon. With the
D: I've only heard the version on Harder They Come.
D: Of course, we're white guys from the 1990s. Oh wait,
this is the one on Harder They Come.
D: Gotta be.
D: [getting up] Is the CD of Harder They Come over
here? Oh yeah, here it is. [Pulls it out and two other CDRs
and loose paper CDR sleeves spill out.] Oh lord, right in
the cat dish. Sorry, Paul Harrison. That's who the CDRs
are by. Okay... yep, it's the Melodions. Same version.
no way am I listening to all of this right now. It's too
D: Oh yeah. Just Farr A Laugh.
This is so good. Haven't listened to it in a long time.
D: Go ahead and hit shuffle, we'll try to stick to music
my god! "Fine wiiiine." That was funky
D: Talk about live hip-hop. It wasn't invented by The Roots.
D: Oh yeah, the drums are totally live, of course.
D: They were live up until Rick Rubin.
D: I have no idea what I'm talking about.
D: We'd have to research that.
D: Yeah, but that's just it, you're not sure! You need to
research it! Ha ha, maybe it was Rick Rubin!
D: I have no idea. Well, it was Grandmaster Flash, of course.
D: Okay, okay. He invented what I mean by the Rick Rubin
style. What Rick Rubin copped a few years later. Songs completely
created by cutting actual records together, and using a
drumbox to augment it.
D: I'd say Rick Rubin really turned up the drumbox, and
put the records in the background. Used 'em just for scratches
I guess that was like 1980 or 1981. [Wikipedia-ing.] Oh
man, Flash was born in Barbados. In 1958. He was 22 in 1980.
Started cutting records in.... it doesn't say. It just says
he started cutting records, influenced by Kool Herc. Let
look's at Herc real quick.... hmm, he was born in Jamaica.
D: Hip hop is a Caribbean phenomenon.
D: Afro-Caribbean. He started cutting records in 1972! It
says Grandmaster Flash started cutting records in 1975,
and was selling out clubs with the Furious Five in 1976.
D: Huh, but the so-called "first rap record" was
by Kurtis Blow in 1979.
D: This song is 1980. I'm guessing hip hop went unrecorded
for quite awhile.
D: Who the hell is this, by the way?
D: "Santa's Rap Party" by Super J.
D: Super J, huh?
D: I don't know him. Except listening to this right now.
This is part of the Ego Trip Greatest Hip-Hop Singles of
D: Oh yeah, I think I downloaded all of 'em. It took weeks
for me to do it. They include like 40 tracks from each year,
like from 1978 to like 1998. Literally ever year, so it's
like... 800 songs, I guess, and I have all of them on the
D: I don't know if that's awesome or disgusting.
D: It's definitely ill.
D: Man, this track is getting pretty ill. They're just....
D: Past the five minute mark. This girl is amazing, where
did she come from? Right at the end. Live piano solos, flowin'.
Anyway, what I'm saying is, most of these early Ego Trip
compilations, the first two or three years, seem like live
hip-hop, session musician stuff like this. Live drums and
percussion, with the DJ not doing anything. These were rap
records more than they were hip hop. I guess it took awhile
for hip hop to be recorded, and then it took even longer
for the DJ himself to be recorded...
D: Even though he was literally the band! The entire instrumentation
of the band being recorded!
D: Yeah, it would literally be like Robert Plant going to
the studio, and the producer would be like, "Okay,
Jimmy, John Paul, Bonzo... you three can go home now and
we'll have Robert sing with these three studio musicians
Dudley, Dave, and Chad."
D: I guess they figured that if it's live it's with the
DJ, but in the studio, you use the studio band.
D: I wish I had a copy of that Jeff Chang book laying around
would be the Mary Halvorson Trio. I've
been really impressed by this album. It's straight up jazz
guitar... although it does I guess follow out of the aggro
avant indie rock days... but in this kind of confident and
relaxed way that I think not enough bands can get to.
D: A lot of those bands are too nervous and hectic. Trying
too hard to prove themselves.
D: Yeah... Mary Halvorson is like a little wiser... maybe
older, maybe not, but definitely wiser... wise enough to
keep the aggro, not to throw it out, to keep it at all times
in fact, but at a lower temper.
D: Even loud and aggressive music can be played in a relaxed
way. I'm thinking of some of the huge wall noise people,
some of that music is very relaxed in a way. It's super
loud but it doesn't vary, in that sense there's no aggression,
just stillness. It can just sit there and relax, really,
because it knows its huge. Doesn't have to prove it. Damion
Romero comes to mind. Anyway... not that this is loud and
D: No. It has tons of space, and even pretty chords...
D: It's a nice mix of approaches.
D: Well speak of the devil, she just stepped on the distortion...
D: Wow! Yeah, it does make me think of the Nels Cline Trio,
another trio... similar guitar style, agitated in a post-punk
way but still with this overall... jazz breeziness. also
breezy and quieter
D: You know, like an ECM album.
D: Nels Cline actually used to be on ECM.
D: Yeah... no, I think it was Enja.
D: Yeah, that might be right.
D: That fact may no longer be in my brain. Which is understandable,
D: Wow, listen to this!
D: Yeah! It actually reminds me of the Daily Dance
album I listened to this morning... working those thick
blocks of atonal distorto chords back and forth.... ooh,
nice change back to the clean tone. Y'know, I think she
plays with Weasel Walter... he'd be great in this band,
in the trio itself... he'd be a great Gerry Hemingway to
her Anthony Braxton.
god. This is The Dead. I just downloaded
this, a live show from... three weeks ago, maybe. Brand
new recent show. I wanna say it's a Philadelphia show...
D: Washington D.C. April 14, 2009.
D: Okay, about a month ago. Yeah, I think I saw a set list
for Philadelphia and it was just insane. Like 10 or 15 classics.
The set I saw here last week [Chicago 2009-05-04] was TERRIBLE
on paper, there was maybe 2 songs that I would've actually
wanted them to play beforehand. Literally two at the most.
Maybe even zero. I mean, they played "Box of Rain,"
which I love the studio version of, but I never really like
it live. They did play some good covers, like "A Hard
Rain's Gonna Fall." There was this one song, like "California
Desolation" or something, "Ventura Getaway,"
something like that...
D: Not "Alabama Getaway". Or "Estimated Prophet"?
D: No, that's what I'm saying, I think it was from Built
to Last or something. [The song in question is "West
L.A. Fadeaway," a 6:39 semi-burner from In The
Dark (1987) -- ed. Blair Jackson.] But it was actually
one of the best songs of the night, it was this really slow
deep kinda pressure cooker ballad. Almost like a War thing,
for Christ's sake. I loved the show, but I think Dead shows
are probably always lovable because the audience is in such
a good mood, and no matter what songs they play, they always
play deep music. But they were playing stuff like "Built
to Last," the title track! And some
song called "Liberty," I think, also from the
80s. That stuff was actually not deep at all. They didn't
play any real burners, at all... I mean "Iko Iko"
was literally the deepest burner they played. That was their
D: "Iko" fucking "Iko"?!
D: I didn't think it was possible but it was actually really
good. It fit really nicely into the "Not Fade Away"
D: Okay, okay...
D: They actually opened with "China Cat Sunflower"...
D: Oh yeah?
D: That was their opening song! But, it was not a burner.
They really made a mess out of it, somewhat redeemed by
going into "Born Cross-Eyed" of all things.
D: They played that?
D: Yeah, pretty good quarterback move by Weir. The "China
Cat" was really not going too well... it sounded great
for the first like 30 seconds, before the drums came in,
but after that it just did not sink into a groove. And then
going into "Born Cross-Eyed" instead of "I
Know You Rider," it was almost like a Hail Mary, like
desperately trying to rocket out of this classic rock failure.
I actually saw Bob Weir call it, as they were getting into
transition time, he was yelling something out to the band,
and they really abruptly went right into "Born Cross
Eyed." That was pretty cool, actually, and after that
it was really pretty great all the way through. A few Warren
Haynes duds, but you gotta pee some time. I mean this that
we're listening to is just terrible. I should take a pee
right now...... ON THIS MP3!
D: This is like the worst first-set country rock
throwaway song the Dead ever did, except it's even worse
because it's Warren Haynes. I'd one thousand times rather
listen to Bob Weir trifle than Warren Haynes trifle.
D: This is bar rock. Straight up spring break bar rock.
D: This is like a Tribute to Seger played on the state fair
circuit in 1991. You can just smell the canned light beer
in the air.
D: The keyboard player is not helping.
D: Yeah. He was fine at the show. He was as good as Brent,
I thought. His tones are actually better, and he can really
hit a solo that brings the crowd and band up. He knew how
to surge with his solos. He doesn't sound good here, but
really, this is a super-corny song, including when Jerry
D: They might be getting somewhere with this solo.
D: Yeah, it's long enough. Haynes can actually hold his
own in the Garcia spot. He'll never be that lyrical, but
he knows how to solo and hang back into the mesh, like Jerry
D: Back into the latticework.
D: I actually had this vision of the Dead while I was driving
last night... the way they mesh as a band. I had a vision
of them as a big tall sails ship, and everyone in the band,
especially Lesh and the drummers, but also Weir and whoever
is on keyboard, are the hull of the boat. They're the crew
that works the boat, sure, but they're also the hull of
the boat itself, the wood, the sturdiness. And Garcia, are
you ready, is the tall sails. Or, you could say, he's the
captain, and the breeze, all at once. His uses his guitar
notes and phrases to sort of tune the hull, this mass of
bass/guitar/drums rhythm music, so that it can sail in the
D: Sure, man. I think it's been said before, but maybe not
quite as, um, passionately.
D: No, I know, I think I did read that somewhere, where
someone wrote that Garcia was the sail. But whoever wrote
that did not point out what I figured out last night: that
Garcia is the sail, but the rest of the band is the hull,
D: And what's the water?
what is this? This is almost as corny as "Alabama Getaway."
But it's not bad, there's something likable about the redneck
rock, the Nascar vibes. I'm not sure what this is, even
though I know I just put it on here... I can almost remember...
it sounds like that Weird Owl album that I had on here,
and also this, like, Georgia Satellites tune that I also
have on here, which is from another Bob Dylan Theme Time
Radio Hour. I think it's actually a solo tune by the guy
from Georgia Satellites, what was his name? The lead singer
rhythm guitarist from the Georgia Satellites?
D: That's the guy from Tortoise.
D: And the Tar Babies! Anyway, Dan Something. Dan Baird?!
D: I think so, actually.
D: Anyway, it's this kind of Brendan O'Brien production,
do I have his name right?
D: Yeah, I think that's right too...
D: That super-dry redneck rock sound?
D: What is Brendan O'Brien's deal? He's an actual super-producer,
D: Yes, that's right, he's officially a super-producer.
D: Now that I realize it, he's a total 2nd Rick Rubin. Super-dry
D: Oh wait, this is actually Giant Sand.
That's who this is. This is pretty cool. His vocals and
lyrics are good, he knows how to sit in the pocket. Once
again, that vital ability to hang back and blend in instead
of having it all be about him. Although it could be about
him, the crowd wouldn't mind, because he's a confident singer
and his lyrics are interesting.
D: Do you know which album this is? Y'know, this reminds
me that I had a Giant Sand album for a long time and I don't
anymore. It was called Slam or Slug or
something one-word like that.
D: That sounds familiar. Um, this is Center of the Universe,
D: I don't know that one.
D: I really don't know much about this band, although I
did see them back Vic Chesnutt once, when Vic played in
D: You were in Tuscon?
D: On tour, I was in [the opening band]. Howe Gelb played
guitar, but he did not sing. Actually, I think Giant Sand
backed up Vic Chesnutt on a studio album or two, I guess
they were doing those tunes. Not Calexico, but Giant Sand.
god, another Warren Haynes song by The Dead.
We've gotta get this off of the Recently Added playlist.
See, now this is terrible too. I don't mean to pick on the
guy, because I think he's getting the job done on guitar,
and the band seems like they're having fun, but this is
just the worst cheesy bar rock of the last 20 years and
it's being played by fucking Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann,
Bobby Weir and Mickey Hart -- I mean, these guys have been
monsters for 40 years! And they're doing this Bud Light
commercial shit? Honestly, I'm disappointed in them for
going along with it. What the hell song is this?
D: "Glory Road."
D: Are you kidding me!? That even sounds like a fake beer
commercial Bruce Springsteen Bob Seger knockoff!
D: Um, doesn't Springsteen have a song called "Glory
D: "Thunder Road." You're thinking of "Glory
Days." In the blink of a young man's eye.
D: Yeah yeah.
D: Anyway, thank god they didn't play this in Chicago. See
now, here that he's stopped singing it sounds just fine.
Lovely, even. Put some aching Phil Lesh vocals on here and
I am set. Just don't let ol' "Like A Rock" Haynes
over there sing it. He makes Brent Mydland sound like...
D: Ha! I was wondering if you were gonna think of someone.
D: Fred Neil. He makes Mydland sound like Fred Neil. I'd
rather hear Vince Welnick sing five songs per set.
by Larry Dolman
MIDDLE SEX / TEMPERATURES Unclean Yawn / Bifurcation split
LP (CARNIVALS) Nice to have underknown UK band
Temperatures back after being blown away by their edition-of-100
Ymir LP a couple years back... their side here
might be even better, just a lurching, grinding mutant 16-minute
thing with plenty of rock swagger. This band should be huge...
at least with this split LP they're up to an edition of
300. Maybe next one will be 500 and they'll reach that Billy
Bao level of popularity! A Middle Sex is another UK band,
and their shit is cool too... some sort of galloping drum-driven
avant-pop whatsis... they pick up the This Heat torch and
run with it, but they've had so much caffeine and/or LSD
that they keep dropping it and staring directly into the
sun and/or the pretty swaying trees. Then they remember
what they were doing and pick up that torch and run again...
only to get sidetracked completely by a pleasant stream...
and so on... and it all flows much better than that, you
know, like a good rock band would.
MINDS The Song of Returning Light CS (NOT NOT FUN)
Yet another underwritten psych jam album on Not Not Fun,
but for some reason I don't find it annoying. Maybe it's
because this band is from Wisconsin and not California,
but I don't want to get into some regional oneupsmanship,
knowing that the L.A. scene has a genuinely active and positive
thing going among themselves and apparently many appreciative
listeners worldwide. Absinthe Minds is kind of an Wisconsin
all-scar lineup, featuring that Dead Luke guy (he's released
a few records), Max Elliott (who recently released a pretty
good 7-inch under his name on the Sacred Bones label), and
Zola Jesus herself shows up to jam too -- according to some
article I read she and Elliott are brother and sister, so
this band is a real Madison family affair. Together they
lay down some good psych burn, with playing that actually
moves a little bit... of course the moaning vocals never
seem to say anything at all, wordless or otherwise. Normally
this increasingly prevalent fail-safe earns a thumbs-down,
but again, it doesn't quite bother me here... Ms. Jesus
in particular has an excellent track record at using notable
vocal talent to elevate form over content.
s/t LP (SUB POP)
As is so often the case with rock supergroups, this band
name is an acronym... you know, like how Hagar/Schon/Aaronson/Schrieve
are much better known as HSAS. In this case, AFCGT stands
for the A Frames and the Climax Golden Twins, two Seattle
bands collaborating as a single unit. I've tried to get
into the A Frames a couple times, and for some reason it
just didn't take, though I do remember some cool aggressive
mechanic motorik madness, and they are pretty damn heavy
for a 2000s Sub Pop signing (2nd only to Wolf Eyes?), but
maybe there was just something a little cold and removed
and overly tightened about it, which may explain why this
collaboration band works better for me -- I think the Climax
Golden Twins bring some warmth and looseness into the proceedings.
You've still got those great pummeling motorik grooves,
but the structures of the songs and the timbre of the chords
have loosened up, allowing in more screwy surprises and
extended hardcore improvisation. But hell, maybe the A Frames
always did stuff like that too... this album makes me want
AHMED Goner CD (ROOT
STRATA) This guy seems intriguing and has made
a few records that I never caught up with, so I hoped this
new one Goner would make a good introduction. I
mean, it looks nice (par for the Root Strata course), but
on first listen all I heard were a few samey, murky, muddily
grooving midtempo rock ballads, with zero song recall at
disc's end. Second-through-fifth listens via shuffle have
got me appreciating it more, how the songs sometimes crawl
up past the 7 or 9 minute mark with little more than a grimy
two-chord groove to hold 'em together... it's actually comparable
to the Hunchback EP by Kurt Vile & the Violators
and its (three-chord?) "Hunchback/Hunchy's Back"
jam, only in a slower, groggier, less cleanly recorded style,
and without hooks anywhere near KV's laser-precise level;
even just 2 or 3 hooks of that quality, spread across eight
vaguely jammy tracks, could help this album's staying power
quite a bit. Last track "Exit Twilight" does nail
a glowing Grouper-worthy wash-of-sound ballad feel... and
track 8, an instrumental, is one of the best tracks on here.
Overall, it is a haunter -- that murky groove is too damn
somnolently distinctive for me to throw it in the sell pile
SKY s/t LP (THE
PERPETUAL MOTION MACHINE) This Richmond-based
label sent along two records for review, with the other
being a more standard 90s screamo type band, so I was surprised
when this record kicked off with some kind of lumbering
heavy soul rock that almost sounded like it was coming straight
from those years where mid-60s good-time pub-rock dance
musc mutated into slower and depressive early-70s boogie
metal, when your Young Rascals slowed down into your Vanilla
Fudges. Led by electric piano and confident vocals, backed
by a heavy rhythm section, stoked by a fiery guitarist,
this band is not bad at all, and maybe just two or three
good hooks short of excellent.
ANGELL First Recordings CS (REALLY COASTAL) Been
digging Theo Angell's solo albums, especially the excellent
Auraplinth and the more recent Tenebrae,
but I just couldn't get into this tape. It's a lot of instrumental/experimental
type stuff, no singing that I remember, and there are certainly
some interesting sounds but it's a very long and not too
strikingly sequenced tape... I'm not even sure I made it
through Side A.
ANGELL Tenebrae CD (AMISH) Angell's terrific
Auraplinth album, which came out in 2008, had one immediate
grabber of a song after another, hook-filled but still old-worldly,
a Holy Modal bluegrass/psychedelic/pop/upper/downer hybrid.
On Tenebrae, there are less overt hooks and the
songs are slower-developing, longer, more progressive. If
I was chomping a cigar and running his record label, I'd
say "Where's the single?" In fact, I can't think
of one tune on here right now, but I still recommend it.
There's something insinuating about listening to the album
all the way through, the way the music slowly unwinds, and
how that effective singing voice is used to progressively
deeper emotional ends.
b/w SOOTTYB split 7" (GREAT
DIVIDING) Got that straight, Discogs.com? One
side is a collaboration between Arob and Soottyb, and the
other side is Soottyb solo. Simple, right? It may help that
the two sides are quite a bit different musically. The collaborative
side is experimental/improv/field recording drone, what
I thought this Great Dividing label was gonna sound like
to begin with (see Exiles in Clowntown review for more),
while the Soottyb solo side is a mutant new wave synth pop
kinda thing, refreshingly off-kilter and weird for that
increasingly safe underground strain. Two good 7-inches
so far from Great Dividing.
Dissolve C20 (AFTER DEATH) "Dude from Arlington,
TX. Loud and live bass tones grind away." Those were
the notes I took a few months ago when I listened to this
last. I remember liking it alright, and not disliking it,
but that was a few months ago and I don't remember exactly
what it sounded like. You might say, "Well then, do
your damn job and dig it out so you can listen to it some
more before you write about it," but the After Death
label also sent a Werewolf Jerusalem tape, which I listened
to the same day as I did the Ashes tape, and I still distinctly
remember what it sounded like, so...
1867 45RPM 12" (DNT) The title
1867 refers to the year that a great famine devastated
Sweden, and the music on this album, by this current Swedish
band, is supposed to depict the suffering with noisy, buzzing,
thick and saturated downer rock. It's oppressive enough,
sure, maybe a little too much, the guitars and/or keyboards
and/or whatever they have overdriving through the boxes.
Too full and dominant, the band given no choice but to plod
along, no room for moves. It's corny but it's true of literally
all good music -- there is room to move. Also mumbled/buried
vocals alert, though they seem to at least have some melodic
aspiration. Side B starts with queasy noise/drone improv
(no rhythm section in sight) that sounds suitable enough
for starving to death in the middle of the night stranded
on frozen plains where ghosts dart and howl among the nearest
trees. Then, the band kicks in for a good solid dirge jam...
it's a fairly cool record, I just wish it was recorded better,
and you could hear the vocals better. I don't mean understand
the words, which might be in Swedish if there are any, I
just mean hear the character of the vocals better.
Power Drowning CD (RECESS/BURGER) "Sloppy-raw
teenage punk" band from Orange County, California.
I like the one-sheet, it has this timeline of the band:
"2001 - Met in Fullerton, CA. Formed in 6th grade.
2002-2003 - Heard Todd Rundgren's A Wizard/A True Star."
Okay, you mentioned A Wizard/A True Star, I'll
listen. The next one is funny: "2004-2005. Discovered
the Modern Lovers & The Stooges." It blows
my mind a little that someone is still discovering The Stooges
in 2004, but I guess that's the way it works, huh? New people
coming along all the time... that's why I do what I do...
that's why critics should remember that no reference is
too obvious.... ANYWAY, how about The Audacity? Well, it's
got a real in-the-red ballistic playing and recording style,
funny post-Brit pop hooks flying all over the room amongst
the guitar shrapnel... "Dicks Hate Police" cover...
I think their sound is a little more exciting than the songs
themselves, but they are a charming enough band, and as
long as this 15-song disc clocks in at well under 40 minutes
I'll give it a thumbs up (just checked and it's 34:43 so
they pass!)... I'd certainly play it on any underground
DRUMLIN GRASS Live At The Timber Cove LP (MILVIA SON) These
guys made a good weird-jammy psych-noise debut record in
2008 and their follow-up from late 2009 is better still.
Two jams, one on each side, that take the guitar-led skronky
ramblings of the first album and focus them into extended
dream-drone dark/sun improvisations. The first one, mastered
at 45 RPM and "about ten minutes" is really impressive.
Side B is more rudimentary and unsettling, eventually doing
pretty great things with patient playful menace brought
to you by a near-horrific intermittent sample of demonic
laughter. The sleeve implies that it was recorded live in
some forested area near the ocean on the edges of San Francisco,
which is cool. Funny though, when I reviewed their first
record I criticized their lame font choices, and on this
new record the fonts are even worse!
Pet 7" (NO LABEL) Fashionable multi-cultural
and presumably metrosexual New Yorkers playing "the
brand of lo-fi rock and roll they always wanted to play."
In fact, they recorded these two songs in one take in their
practice space. They've been compared to the "Bangels"
[sic] and the "X-Ray Specs" [sic], and while the
voice of "their Brazilian front woman Isabel Ibsen"
does cut with some real sass, the songs are pretty run-of-the-rockin'-mill.
It's appropriate that their one-sheet talks about how the
band has drawn "the attention of press and marketing
teams alike," and even lists some of the ad campaigns
they've already been featured in (K-Swiss!), because this
really does sound like the punk rock you'd hear in a mainstream
NAMES Sings The Browns CS (REALLY COASTAL) Been
hearing about this Chicago band for awhile but this is my
first time hearing 'em. And they're good. I've gotta mention
the Thinking Fellers right off the bat, as Bird Names play
a similar mix of complex and folky, avant and whimsy, noisy
and delicate, nervous and serene. Even some of the same
goofy singing voices are used. But dare I say Bird Names
are a more delicate, subtle, and extendo-capable band, very
rarely playing the (SCG-inspired?) aggro card that made
TFUL282 an unpredictably dicier proposition?
BIRD NAMES live in... Manchester? From this
AND THE DETERGENTS Blast Blast Blast EP (NO CLEAR RECORDS)
I kept this self-released 6-song EP in the player for awhile,
as this unknown-to-me moody and slightly proggy Florida
punk band seems to have no hip scene and/or microlabel attachments,
and more importantly, plays with a dark veering sound that
can easily and adeptly break into chaotic noise sections
and somehow still make the tactic surprising. Problem is,
no tunes ever attached themselves to me, even after these
repeated plays. Still, promise shown, let it be known, you
can go to www.myspace.com/blast123
to check 'em out.
CONTROL Local Flavor CD/LP (SILTBREEZE) Even in
these days of the boutique CDR and cassette release, in
which all artists can easily release page after page after
sketchbook page, Blues Control seem to be operating on the
tried-and-true 'one full length per year at most' plan.
And this, their brand new album and fairly long-awaited
Siltbreeze Records debut Local Flavor, only clocks
in at under 35 minutes, but believe me, it's quality over
quantity all the way. In what is something of a Blues Control
tradition, the album starts with upbeat cheese rock that
quickly reveals an escape hatch into other dimensions, here
tripped open by a sharp mid-song horn chart, played by none
other than Kurt Vile (on trumpet, apparently he didn't dump
it) and Jesse Trbovich (Vile's bandmate in the Violators,
on sax). These two stick around for the next track "Rest
on Water," which indeed sets us all the way down onto
deep tranquil seas for 6 minutes that seem like 12 and are
still over way too soon... Vile switches to acoustic guitar
and Trbovich plays sweet sax that gently ponders a page
out of a hymnal from the Church of Anthrax. Track three
"Tangier" turns the motor back on and continues
the deep travel trance, this time for a full 8 minutes,
which brings us closer to the true submersion demanded by
side two, a side-long 16-minute prog suite called "On
Through The Night." The more I listen to it, I still
can't believe how it moves from giant chromium butterfly
wings gently flapping back and forth in deep space into
laid-back deserter-orc hip-hop instrumentalism into what
sounds like the Cale & Riley tune again, except grand
finale style, with an entire imaginary orchestra gently
joining in. The whole record is really something, light
and pleasant on the surface, deep and rich underneath, and
I can't stop listening to it.
COLORS Highly Evolved 7" (CAPTURED TRACKS)
This sounds so much like a Rough Trade/Raincoats/UK kind
of thing, winsome artsy rainy-day girl-sung punk with pleasant
melodies and chiming/clanging guitars, and it's so honestly
enjoyable that I can't even get mad at them for being derivative.
"Highly Evolved" is one of my most-hummed A-sides
of the last 5 years, easily.
WATER Boyfriend Hole 7" (SELF-RELEASED), s/t CDR (SELF-RELEASED)
2/3rds of this band were in the Olympia, WA group Sisters,
who put out a record on Parts Unknown a couple years ago
that I haven't heard but it sure looks like a straight Sonic
Youth tribute album, from the band-name itself right down
to the way it's written on the cover, to where I wouldn't
be surprised if the word "EVOL" appears right
on the back or something. That influence seems to be downplayed
here, as the one-sheet promises sludge and dreampop, a combo
I will always take a listen to, especially with Captain
Trips production as on the 7" here (he's recorded most
or maybe all of the Sex Vid stuff)... and hey, the tunes
are good. The songs are indeed sludgy and dreamy but they
still move, have melodies, and aren't overly drowned in
hip distortion. Ah, but SY alert on the CDR demo... around
track 4 or 5 (the track names and numbers are more or less
written on the back cover but I can't make out the one in
question) there's an uptempo male-sung song that is a dead
ringer for something Thurston-sung from Evol-Daydream-Goo.
Kinda distracting, but I'll check out more of the slowed-down
lady-sung sludge-pop songs.
REVENGE You Lost Me At Hello CD (RUNE GRAMMOFON)
When you (or your press) say your guitar/bass/drums power
trio is influenced by a mix of Ayler, Coleman, Sabbath,
and Hendrix you had better be ready to throw down, and no
worries, this guitar/bass/drums power trio from Norway really
throws down. I mean, it's a hybrid that everyone from mid-late
SST to Bill Laswell have certainly tried to nail, but I'm
going to go on record saying that none of them have achieved
the combination of hammer-down heaviness and wild extrapolation
that Bushman's Revenge do. They're just taking their instruments
and playing the shit out of 'em, and really, if you want
to know what it sounds like: Ayler, Coleman, Sabbath and
Village of the Damned CD (BLUESANCT) There really
is a new 2000s wave of post-punk post-noise female solo
artists, and I think it's even actually been called the
Crimson Wave... see Zola Jesus, Circuit Des Yeux, or how
about just the whole xxcellent Xxperiments comp
12" on Die Stasi. Then there's stuff like Grouper,
just as epic but a little warmer, a little folkier... or
Beru, more artsy and diffuse, and to the side of that still,
someone like Caethua. She was involved with the weird Bloomington,
IN Friends & Relatives sub-scene, and is now based in
rural Maine and making her own place in that increasingly
spacious territory where folk music blends with post-industrial.
Two earlier cassettes had their moments, and do have their
supporters, but my recommendation is this more recent Village
of the Damned album, given a mere CDR release by the
Bluesanct label. In fact, it's one of my Top 10 or 20 albums
of the year and definitely one of my Top 5 most overlooked
albums of the year. Her most precise and least noticeably
theatrical songwriting yet, and there are a couple really
sweet instrumental soundscapes on here too.
Those Who Don't Do Don't LP (CAREERERS)
Blastitude #14 cover stars No Doctors called it quits sometime
in 2008, but CansaFis and drummer Mr. Brian have already
got some vinyl out with this new outfit, and it's kind of
a monster. I mean if people like punk that is weird and
rock that is heavy, this quartet is fitting the bill on
both. The back cover/credits/songlisting/etc art (it's the
background image of their
MySpace page) is so convoluted and fractured I have
no idea what these tunes are called, but I like the way
it starts with this odd minute-or-two amp-noise jam, then
segues perfectly into a stomping hard-rock shouter that
practically sounds like Gene Simmons fronting Bachman Turner
Overdrive.... in a good way, and is followed by
a winsome minor-key rocker on which CansaFis's sax chugs
along like he was backing up the Human Beinz on crew-cut
sock-hop night in '66. Kind of following along a trail blazed
by their Bay Area neighbors Hank IV. They also seem to make
a video for just about every single song they record, which
could be annoying, but not when you're doing funny, ambitious
and creative goofball stuff like the vids for "After
Dinner Divorce" [youtube]
and "Beach Coma" [youtube].
CATALYST Swallow Your Teeth LP (PERPETUAL MOTION MACHINE)
Richmond, VA hardcore band. I really don't know enough about
this stuff but I guess this would be a continuation of the
90's explodo-emo style that I couldn't bear to keep paying
attention to around 1998 at the latest. Having not investigated
the style in a while, this record does reacquaint me with
the sheer power it could bring; this band plays very hard,
and are very adept at tortuous riffs and screaming song
construction. They are tight and powerful, I just think
they're working in a played-out style, and aren't loose
or risky enough to play their own way out of it. A slightly
jazzy instrumental jam on side A seems like it may be on
the verge of revealing a potential escape route... but instead
of using it as such they call it "Incidental Music
(sonic interlude)" and then go back to the standard...
and then I read in the liners that they've been a band for
seven years, so I guess if they were gonna try out some
escape routes they would've done it by now.
Fear Draws Misfortune CD (CUNEIFORM) This Chicago
band has been operating for 27 years, in which time they've
predated, been associated with, and outlived such regional
movements as Chicago No Wave and Chicago Math Rock, all
while being nothing less than real-deal modern-day epic
pop-prog masters. They were recently the deserving cover
stars of Signal to Noise magazine and have signed
with a real-deal modern-day prog-rock label, Cuneiform,
that has been a working entity for as long as they have.
Their first record for the label is this one, out now, and
it's a good one. No one song stands out, but a suite feel
comes through instead, in which interchangeably playful
and classically prog-melodic male/female vocal melodies
circle and glide over cycling and pounding riffs that have
a heavy Magma/Udu Wudu bounce. Fans pick it up
now, and for newcomers it's an excellent place to start.
CANYON Silver-Tongued Sisyphus 12" (HOLY MOUNTAIN)
Wow, one of the better
contempo krautrock-inspired releases I've heard, in a Cluster/Schulze
synth/dream style that uses layered synths to create rhythmic
and melodic interest on the A side, and changes it up on
the B side with a nervous/insistent/long vocal number, sung
in German, almost a nervous-punk paranoia chant.
FINGERS One Jack Shy Of A Cycle LP (BLACK DIRT)
The cover art is just horribly funky looking but the music
by this Black Dirt Studios house band is pretty ear-turning.
Traditional rock instrumentation and a lot of traditional
chord changes and song forms and harmony vocals too, but
it's all put together in a genuinely weird way. After hearing
an earlier 7-inch and this full-length, I'm a little closer
to getting their brand of country-prog quirk-pop barn-rock,
somewhere between one of the only worthy heirs to the Strapping
Fieldhands and a less slick, less swinging Little Feat.
But how to explain the haunting extended musique concrete
interlude ("One Jack Shy") right after the first
song? Or the quasi-Eastern mandolin number "Bamborging
the Borg"? Or my gnawing fear that at least one band
member is a big fan of XTC and/or Elvis Costello? Like I
said, weird band. Edition of 500.
/ LANGUAGE OF LIGHT split LP (ANTI-CLOCK) The
Cortez side is some choice gossamer/ethereal solo guitar
dreamscaping, taking a lovely sound and then actually doing
something with it, subtle and slowly evolving compositional
shifts in tone and intensity. The performer is Scott Cortez
from the band Loveliescrushing, who I may have to check
out after hearing this. Language of Light are the Stillwater,
Oklahoma based proprieters of the Anti-Clock label, and
I had been looking forward to more material from them after
the band and label debuted nicely last year on a split 7"
with Crow Tongue. What they offer here is a bit of a place-holder,
however... more gossamer-styled lovely and delicate instrumental
music, soft and inquisitive... not drone/ambient, more like
sparse chamber-folk. Definitely nice stuff, but they sang
on the 7-inch, and I was hoping to hear more of that.
CYSTS Destroy Masters CS (SELF-RELEASED) Cool looking
C9 from the Portland, Oregon-based Below PDX axis... I believe
that's James Squeaky (Argumentix, Sex With Girls, etc) on
vocals. I'm used to getting vocal-based noise from this
guy but this is four songs of neo-hardcore in the trending
late-00s 'mutant/VOID/raging' style, with lyrics included,
like "Reprimand direct this sergeant! Spit to his
face. Carve out his skull, a waste of flesh. TEAR IT OFF."
It's pretty raging and good enough to keep the style afloat
for a few more months, but listening to Void a shitload
of times doesn't necessarily mean you're ready to be in
a mutant hardcore band yourself. You never know what might
be missing from the approach... could it be sufficient low
end? Guitar fluency, however malignant? How about good old-fashioned
hooks? Like for example spitting "Who are you,
why am I here?" several times in a row like tight
flurries of punches? All the great raging hardcore bands
had hooks, you know...
IN The Islamic Problem LP (MUSIC FELLOWSHIP) One
Seattle woman doing some field recordings/loops/pedals/vocals
overlays with a wild dark atmosphere, powerful and interesting
but also kind of all over the place and confusing. For example,
I'd like to tell you the name of one good track that has
this grinding looping low-end, and I think it's on side
B, but the sides don't have any text on the labels, or even
"A" and "B" in the run-out etchings,
and both sides appear to have 3 tracks (judging from banding)
but there are 7 titles listed on the sleeve... so I really
don't know what the track is... that's what I mean by confusing.
And I don't know what she means by the album title, even
though I've read that she lived in Pakistan for awhile and
a lot of field recordings from there are used on this album.
But it may all be 'good confusing' enough that I'll want
to listen again. (Though it's now six months later and I
can't say that I have.)
Fickle Woman CS (UNREAD) This is the 2nd tape release
I know of by this Austin-based newish project involving
Lonnie Methe, formerly of the Omaha-based Naturaliste band.
Obviously they stole the name of one of the Top 5 Greatest
Heavy Metal Bands Of All Time, but seeing how they made
it one word instead of two, I'll let it slide. As for the
music, I've always dug a lot of Lonnie's stuff (like the
Plays LVD31 album on LVD and the Battered &
Bruised 7"), but find Diamondhead to be somewhat
frustrating. The band plays a gross, jammy, and bluesy kind
of free improv, a refracted and messed-up take on the kind
of 1970s macho AOR rock that a title like "Fickle Woman"
channels nicely. At least two or three times per side, they
lock into an awesome detuned & wrecked riff that really
grooves, for at least a minute.... and then melts away.
The non-groove stuff can be pretty interesting too, but
there's too much of it... to paraphrase Blue Oyster Cult,
all of you post-noise jam/improv bands of the day: don't
fear the groove! (Or the reaper.)
MEN s/t LP (ABDUCTION) I was underwhelmed on my
first two listens but on my third it's really getting somewhere.
Sure, this Seattle band plays a sort of avant-MOR soundtrack-collector
surf instrumentalism that would seem polite enough to work
as a commercial bumper to just about any arts & entertainment
reporting on your actual local NPR station, but, because
their overall presentation is contained and controlled and
stays well within the bounds of Randall Dunn's high-quality
production aura, it's only now that I'm realizing that they
play these themes rather ferociously, and that the stuff
in between the themes is actually pretty out there. "Sutures
In" is basically a solo synth noise jam and would probably
never be an NPR bumper.
JR. Farm (JAGJAGUWAR) This album caused a little
flurry of excitement when it came out in mid-2009, I think
mainly because the cover of a giant gentle green foliage
beast is awesome, especially if you are high. But sure,
it was also because the original Mascis/Barlow/Murph lineup
of Dinosaur was back together making heavy music again.
Unfortunately, the result may sound like a Dinosaur Jr.
album, and may even sound like a GOOD Dinosaur Jr. album,
but it just isn't that good, a collection of songs that
amble by making little impression. It's all gesture, the
thunderous classic rock chord progressions, the triumphant
guitar solos on cue, the drawling whatever-isms, the single
Lou Barlow track (a pretty cool tune called "Your Weather"),
the happy upbeat songs, the yearning mid-tempo songs....
I don't know, if you're an upbeat positive person you'll
probably enjoy this album just fine (the one or two times
you play it before it starts gathering dust) but if you're
kinda picky and bored like me it'll just go in one ear and
out the other and even the cover won't make you wanna keep
Post-Mortem Depression LP (WINTAGE) I believe some
guy from Canada operating more or less as a solo act sent
along this edition-of-300 LP. The press sheet mentioned
the Hair Police, and by golly, he actually lives up to that
kind of gusto, with that hoary and loose psych-noise rock-and-roll
approach that Wolf Eyes and Hair Police infected the cultural
underbelly with back in 2001-2003. It's one of the more
in-that-tradition results I've heard, truly wrecked music
that seems unaffected by a lot of the more staid 'friend-noise'
approaches that came in the Wolf Eyes wake.
AN OX THROUGH WATER The Tropics of Phenomenon CD (FREEDOM
TO SPEND) Reissue of 2008 vinyl LP on the elusive
Awesome Vistas label. "Junk acoustic," "country
rock," and "home-built electronics" say various
accurate descriptions of this essentially unclassifiable
solo twee-whatsis. The names of Mayo Thompson and Arthur
Russell are also put out there, and that's fair too, especially
Russell's distinct blend of acoustic, electronic, and true
emo, but Mr. Dragging's songs are a little more whimsical
and diffuse, probably mostly due to the wild and surprising
electronics that flutter all around and through them. Actually,
the Mayo Thompson comparison doesn't really work for me
at all, as this is nowhere near as direct and story-oriented
as Corky's Debt.
Sewer Mist CS (GEL) I
was not into former Iowa City band Raccoo-oo-oon but things
are looking up with two current post-band projects I've
heard, Iowa City-based keyboards/drums duo Wet Hair and
this NYC-based solo act Driphouse that creates excellent
kosmische electronic ambience (with occasional 2000s gnarl).
Tracks are never too long, never unfocused, and the cassette
packaging is top-notch.
Enceladus CDR (PEASANT MAJIK) This is a dude/project
that comes out of the Wisconsin-based Davenport family,
who were always a cut above the pack with their noise/drone/experimental
music because a) they seemed to appreciate the sounds and
smells of the earth and b) they seemed to be able to play
actual traditional music if they wanted/needed. And how's
this for earthy: this limited-to-100 CDR with a nice stoner
cover and leaf-rubbing adorned inlay paper starts with a
good two or three minutes of pond life chirping (you know,
a field recording). That may sound like not much to you,
but these days I'd much rather listen to pond life chirping
than bros droning. At about the three minute mark there
is a drone entering the picture, but it's chilled and minimal,
not 'social' at all. (Seriously, social bro drone is the
most annoying genre to me right now, can you tell?) Side
B opens the drone up quite a bit, with mournful chord organ
tones moving over the top while a chilled worm-drone burrows
underneath. It's well done.
SKULL Wild And Inside CD (SILTBREEZE) Their first
LP was a nice blast when it came out, but already the follow-up
effort Wild and Inside sounds two or three times
as good, really a big leap. Yes, they are taking steps away
from lo-fi, with playing and recording aesthetics that are
cleaner and more dynamic, but that alone doesn't guarantee
better music -- like a certain Mr. Horseshit has already
reminded us, you can't just turn down the distorto without
tuning up the songwriting first. I think that's why someone
like Wavves will probably never really be able to turn down,
because he doesn't seem to have the actual quieter songwriting
moves that are required to pull it off. And "quieter"
doesn't simply mean quiet, because there's a whole lot of
new room to move and dynamics to negotiate if you get even
20% quieter than the oppressive wall-of-static these lofi/shitgaze/whatever
artists get stuck behind. Eat Skull isn't afraid of this
new territory at all and in fact have plenty to say within
it. Sure, they still spend some of this album in the 80-100%
volume range, with a few upbeat, skiffly, somewhat Beatlesque
numbers like "Cooking A Way To Be Happy," and
a couple obvious ragers like the overt hardcore nod that
is "Nuke Mecca," but it's when they get into the
40-80% range that the album really shines and glows with
a winsome but heavy melancholic dream-pop folk-punk genius
that takes great words and melodies and swirls them into
earned colors like Misfits black'n'blue, Flying Nun/Xpressway
grey, and the Hospitals' technicolor wind-tunnel brown (coupla
Eat Skullers play on Hairdryer Peace but you probably
already know that). And then there's a stunner like the
particularly quiet "Talkin' Bro In The Wall Blues,"
which may get compared to the Blank Dogs with its synthetic
drumbeat and lost bedroom feel, but as cool as the Blank
Dogs can sound, I always get the uneasy feeling that if
his drum-machine got shut off, or his vocal FX got unplugged,
he wouldn't be able to continue the song. "Talkin'
Bro" is so much more than a drum program with cool/empty
sounds layered on top -- it's got true melody, real words,
depth, space, and varied colors. And it's not even the best
downtempo song on the album -- that would be "Dawn
In The Face," with a great melody and perfect female
backing vocals. Seriously, this is the best cave pop album
I've heard yet in the 2000s, and I think you should check
CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING Rush To Relax (GONER)
most famous new punk (pub?) band is growing and changing
on their third album, not drastically, but in small and
interesting ways, like when first song "Anxiety"
breaks down at the 2-minute mark and a goofy synthy tone
on the bass guitar is revealed for the first time. Or when
the third song "Turning Out" clocks in at over
6 minutes long... it even includes a drifting noise feedback
solo! Of course when you have a rhythm section this exacting,
almost nothing is excessive... there's a 7-minute track
on side two ("Second Guessing"), and it's even
better. The band is still clean and mean, sharp and punchy,
but not only are the running times getting more extended,
the tempos are also getting just a little slower, the riffs
a little more gutbucket, soul music gone real twangy, with
vocals that are even more like a drawling maybe-drunken
talking blues... check out "I Can Be A Jerk" and
"Burn" and really, just check out the whole thing.
BUNNIES / PINK REASON split 7" (DIE STASI)
Never heard the Electric Bunnies before this, and their
two songs on Side A here sound like two different bands,
which worries me a little, even though they're both pretty
good. First is some soulful electro dream whimsey, with
really nice and expressive vocals. Second track is nervy
upbeat brittle-guitar aggro, also done well, but what's
the next track gonna sound like? I know I could go to MySpace
and probably hear another one or more, but I hardly ever
do because I feel like I should stick to releases.
Pink Reason turn in two new ones as well -- the first is
one of their goofiest and most upbeat rockin' tracks, with
what sounds to me like an actual ska-punk undercurrent.
I still like it, but second song is more my style, dirging
out with a more familiar Pink Reason approach, complete
with the quality hooks that he always seems to come up with.
It ends just as I'm getting into it, which is a hook in
Opening of the Dawn LP (HONEYMOON MUSIC) A member
of the Philly synth/kosmische band Niagara Falls playing
solo. His LP, like the parent band, is extremely faithful
to its inspiration, which is 1970s synth-based German cosmic
music, no more, no less. So still no points for originality,
but the album does get some for beauty, with long tracks
that sit in a nice simple compositional space that's a little
more tranquil, direct, and memorable than the most recent
Niagara Falls LP, Sequence of Prophets.
KING / AFTERNOON PENIS split LP (ABANDON SHIP)
After releasing a big slew of cassettes and CDRs over the
last couple years, the Abandon Ship label's first full-length
vinyl venture is a concept record; a Mouthus record that
is not a Mouthus record, but a split LP between the main
solo music alter egos of the two members of said band, Brian
Sullivan (recording as Eskimo King) and Nate Nelson (recording
as Afternoon Penis). I just listened to the whole Eskimo
King side without being sure which of the two it was, and
I've gotta say I started out thinking it was Afternoon Penis,
as it moved across a blasted landscape that incorporated
some sort of buried-deep folk song, but as one improbable
machine lurch-groove burrowed into another one, the whole
(including the song) recorded in some sort of horrible nether-buzz,
I started to peg it as the work of Mr. Sullivan, which it
is. This leaves me with no idea what to expect from Afternoon
Penis, and it starts from within the same sort of buzzing
murk that most Mouthus albums also seem to live in, but
uses a sweet and unique trance drum rhythm to make it's
way into a vaguely No Age-sounding bit of dream-punk that
might just be a fractured cover of or homage to Dylan's
"Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts." (Oh, I guess
it is called "...Jack of Hearts" and the credits
say "Words And Chords © 1974 Ram's Head Music
/ Everything Else by Afternoon Penis, 2009.")
Actually, the more I listen to it (and I've been listening
to it a lot), it's sounding like a dead-on dream-cover that
just happens to leave out 92% of the words. It's good shit;
Mouthus is a good band. I can't imagine anyone collecting
every record they've ever done together and apart, but almost
any of the records you do pick up are going to be sonically
powerful and interesting. (See also Divisionals,
reviewed this issue.... and I still maintain that if you're
only gonna get one, make it Saw A Halo, 2007, Load
FROM CLOWNTOWN 7" (GREAT
DIVIDING) From a new (?) Australian label come
a couple singles in similar generic packaging... I figured
they were by the same artist, someone or something called
Great Dividing, and was expecting something noisy and experimental
so it was refreshing to hear some rangy and roaming mildly
avant instrumental guitar/bass/drums rock coming out of
the speakers. I guess it would be fairly noisy and experimental
to some, but to me it has a rather delicate 80s underground
rock vintage, what they used to call "college rock,"
somewhere in that Flying Nun to fIREHOSE range. On Side
B they do a pretty spot-on Dead C impersonation, right down
to the in-the-pocket backbeat and what could almost be guest
vocals by Michael Morley himself. Anyway, turns out that
Great Dividing is the label, and the artist is an on-and-off
Australia band called Exiles From Clowntown. (The other
7" is a split between the artists Arob and SoottyB,
so check for their review alphabetically, if you feel up
to it. Hint: it's under A.)
Please Allow Me To Induce Myself 3" CD (100% BREAKFAST)
A high-energy punk-noise riff-blasting can be a great thing,
and it can even be reason enough for a band to exist, but
when the blasting is continuous and the band has no other
approaches, the results are as dull and samey as any engineered
washed-out mass-market radio pop. You can't just blast,
you've got to hold the blasts until you set them up perfectly,
with silence, and strategy, and the ability to be fluent
in more than one setting. The reason I say all this is that
Exusamwa, from Boston, knows how to set up the blasts. Hell,
their album is only 13 minutes long, and it's a full-length.
Need I say more? Well, I'll go ahead and tell you that a
guy from Fat Day themselves is in the band, and so is Angela
from Weirdo Records, so you know some veterans are at work
here.... also cool is that it's a 3" CD but it's got
an extra 2 inches of see-through plastic on it so it handles
like a real 5" CD.
Shitman LP (RICHIE) What is this, a Homostupids
side project? I've heard both bands/projects, and neither
one gives me any real special sense that songs are being
written, but both do cool shit, and the cool shit Factorymen
do on this album seems like the coolest to come from this
camp yet. There are some weird quasi-songs, melancholy drum
machine, great use of samples (from a baby crying to Blue
Oyster Cult to some suave crooner owning "Both Sides
Now"), some instrumental jam-outs, and scattered vocal
rant apotheoses backed with somber piano interludes (or
are they codas?)... it's a fun and consistently surprising
record, especially as side 2 seems to gently give way into
FORSYTH & NATE WOOLEY The Duchess of Oysterville CD
(CD CREATIVE SOURCES) I've had this album for like
four years. During the first year, I played it at normal
volume a couple times and really didn't even hear it. During
the second and third years, I didn't play it at all. This
year I pulled it out and played it loud and it was crazy
human harsh noise made by acoustic trumpet and electric
guitar. At least 15 or 20 percent of it, anyway, while the
rest remains relentlessly unhearable, at almost any volume.
Forsyth was/is in the formidable Peeesseye ensemble that
cut two or three good records back in the mid-00s (and may
have cut more since then... Forsyth has cut a fine solo
record just this year called Dreams, which has
yet to get its own review this time), and Wooley has played
with the Graveyards 'rhythm section' among some others...
GARCIA Be The Climb CD (ECSTATIC PEACE)
Ms. Garcia is/was a member of long-running Miami/Brooklyn
group Monotract and, as that group seems to play together
less and less over the years, she has continued to make
solo & collaborative music, often in conjuction with
her own dance pieces, other art installations, etcetera.
For example, close readers of the Blastwitude
livefeed may have already clicked on a recently posted
link to download some excellent tracks she recorded in collaboration
with Jessie Gold, called Grotto Dances, that were
part of a video installation. With all this interesting
work, Nancy has definitely been due for some sort of solo
album, and now Ecstatic Peace has released one called Be
The Climb. And just to throw us all off, it starts
with a goofy/mean new wave rock'n'roll number in which she
sounds a little like her sometime label-mate Elisa Ambrogio
of Magik Markers, with lines like "Take off your
shoes / Take off your fucking shoes / It's the only way
you'll feel my ass / While you kick it." But from
there things shift around, with more weird punk tunes that
are quite a bit more aggro, as well as the big and bad-ass
electronic soundscapes that have marked a lot of her dance/installation
music. A real good and loud 'debut' record.
WAR Horribles Parade LP/CD (SACRED BONES)
I've listened to this a bunch but
I guess I don't really have a review, just a couple tweets...
how 2010 of me... they are as follows: "upbeat/nervous/dense
underwater new-wave/pop stylings w/absurdly submerged bubble-vocals...coral
reef rock? more like coral REEFER rock) 8:26 AM Jul 22nd,
2009 via web," which is kinda funny, and then almost
a month later, "new Gary War on Sacred Bones is very
obscure on songwriting but the sonics & style are so
out of control that I'm really enjoying it anyway 12:20
AM Aug 17th, 2009 via web." That second one held true
for awhile, but it came up on the iPod shuffle just last
week, first time I'd spun it in a long time, and I had to
take it off halfway through. The songs really do all sound
the same to me, at least the same hurried tempo and quick
pop/rock chord changes, and that bubble-vocal effect is
more non-stop than Tommy Hall's electric jug! Too many bubbles!
STEELTOE ENSEMBLE Comtrails Over Carolina 3" CDR (PRIMECUTS)
Another salvo from this Lexington, Kentucky (?)
bred and NYC (?) based large-ensemble jazz group (here an
octet, recording in Winston-Salem, NC). As with the excellent
Church of Yuh LP from 2006 or 2007, they continue
to blend harsh noise electronics with free jazz instrumentation
and approach, here for one 20-minute jam.
BIRD EATER/SASQROTCH split 10" (NOT NOT FUN)
I have to admit I'm worried about this record with its cheerfully
weird and colorful hand-drawn cover images that are pointlessly
psychedelic with no real thematic heft to speak of at all..
same goes for the band names.... AND, most unforgivably,
it's a 10-inch single. This is probably on Not Not Fun aaaaaaannnnnddddd....
lemme check.... yep, it is. So let's play it. Actually,
I do remember liking the only other Goliath Bird Eater track
I've heard, the one on the same label's Siked Psych
CD comp, I believe... and having played a few minutes of
their side of the 10", I like it too, a heavy track
that holds mean low-end instrumental riffs, jumping off
from the Melvins into something a little new and not bad
at all. Sasqrotch start out with a murky mess that I think
is supposed to be black metal, and might even be black metal
if I didn't suspect at least two loyal Weezer fans in the
band. Sorry to the youth of today... you are all remarkably
cool dudes and dudines, but you are not Abruptum, and Abruptum
weren't even that good! Eventually they get into a serviceable
stoner groove, better than some (again, an actual rhythm
section is present and noted), but I don't really think
it's worth the wait to get there... oh yeah, and their name
is Sasqrotch, thumbs down!
Ronk Ng Rool CD (GULCHER) I like noise, and I like
songs, but when you combine the two in the most basic way
possible, when one isn't coming organically out of the other...
it just sounds like something's wrong with your recording
setup. That said, first track here "The Weekend"
has a rather menacing dance-beat and starts like a leadoff
single. Second track "The Show" is a sunny upbeat
wall-of-noise pop strummer that is actually pretty good,
better than Wavves at least.... but from there it all just
kind of becomes a muddy mix of buried songs and too-loud
distortion. Maybe shoulda started with a 7" or two.
SQUARETETS Nice Tets CD (ROULADE) 52 minutes of
"Free-Punk-Comedy-Jazz" from L.A., in a style
that has indeed been very Hollywood for some time, rooted
in the open mic and post-punk improvisation scene (although
probable founders and long-running masters of the Open-Mic-Tuesdays
Free-Punk Comedy-Jazz genre Sun City Girls happened to develop
their art in Phoenix, Arizona). Kenny Kawamura on sax (he's
good, light, subtle), Joe Baiza on gtr (you know him, right?),
Todd Homer on bass (Angry Samoans and Mooseheart Faith!)
.... and Larry Copcar on drums and ranting vocals. The aggro
comedy at least immediately abducts it out of the staid
and stifling realms of standard free jazz improv, but on
the mic he's no Charles Gocher... good drummer though, and
the band has a refreshingly skeletal and low-key group-sound
that I'm sure would get it out of the staid and stifling
realms anyway, without the repeated shouts of "Welcome
to the Fuck You Lounge!"
OF TWO Guitar & Bass Actions CD (SMARTEN UP! & GET
TO THE POINT) Much like you can tell from the band
name and album title, this is an instrumental guitar and
bass duo. The guitarist is David Lester, whom you might
know from Mecca Normal, and I feel like I should encourage
the Jean Smith-sensitive Mecca Normal non-fans out there
to listen to this album, because on it David Lester plays
in a Mecca Normal style, but without a vocalist. I'm okay
with Jean Smith myself, but this is a nice listen too, with
Wendy Atkinson playing a different role entirely, this one
non-vocal on the calm and foundational bass guitar. Recommended
if you like the Mike Watt/Kira Roessler duo Dos (and if
you've heard 'em you probably do). Lester is unfailingly
solid on the guitar, total stoic folky-electric pop sense,
kinda makes me think of a warmer Young Marble Giants. Atkinson
is the one that leads the tunes if they go anywhere (they
don't have to when they're already somewhere to begin with),
via mellow melodic lines and calm shifts into moves like
whalespeak feedback. Nothing earth-shaking, nothing envelope-pushing,
but a good song-based listen.
JAGUAR Primal Dimension CS (SKY-FI)
In an enclosed letter, the label said this unknown
from Wisconsin had a sound somewhere between Gate and Wild
Man Fischer, and that's pretty accurate, fortunately leaning
a little heavier on the Gate side, particularly with the
2nd and 3rd tracks on here, "Infinite Power Groove"
and "Useless Cube Factory." One fast and one slow,
both fine dunted electric guitar solo-jam-over-imitation-tape-loop
repetition. The Jaguar's self-proclaimed style of music
is "trash blues," which makes sense... on two
self-released CDRs I listened to before this tape he gets
into loud electric guitar flail with more Fischer-esque
vocals and it really comes from an unhinged and screaming
place, but this cassette is my favorite. All the spacy weirdness
is there, but the vocals are backgrounded (without being
excised) and the tones and grooves are more hinged, resulting
in a somewhat tranced-out sweet spot.
KARLSSON Pojknacke LP (LYSTRING) Not sure where
this LP is from, but it came fairly anonymously, in a stark
white gatefold sleeve adorned with meticulously repellent
hand-drawn artwork, at least on the inside sleeve and the
labels, and I kind of wanted to listen to it once and get
it out of the house... but the music is excellent. Having
lost the one-sheet, I was thinking it was an album by sort
of mysterious harsh industrial/power electronics band or
project called Pojknacke, but the internet tells me that
Pojknacke is the title, and the artist (musical and presumably
visual) is actually Tom Karlsson. Hey, at least he was helpful
enough to draw "A" and "B" as part of
his label art, no one does that anymore! (And his name is
on the spine, along with title and label, I just hadn't
checked yet.) Anyway, this really is some sort of early-style
harsh industrial album, but with a welcome profusion of
quiet space, room for some jarring off-kilter samples, obscure
but agitated European speaking voices that may even be samples
themselves but mostly probably not... eventually some serious
subtle (on side B not so subtle) heavy avant-rock improvisational
jamming... a couple out-and-out tunes with goofy ranting
punk vocals... it doesn't all work equally well, and it's
maybe 10 minutes too long, but it's still really good.
HER Glyms or Beame of Radicall Truthes CD (HINTERZIMMER)
Three nerds from Wisconsin make a rather absurd album of
over-the-top black metal theatre folk music. They seem to
have recruited an actual evil faerie witch to record the
vocals, or at least done some crazy things with ProTools
that I don't understand. I guess this is what it takes to
do something original with black metal these days... on
first listen I was going to throw it out the window, but
after it was over it almost literally haunted me. Now, on
second listen, I kind of like it. The quality of recording
and playing really is impeccable and otherworldly, and there
isn't much else quite like it. Wisconsin, man....
BLACK EYES s/t CS (PLUS TAPES) Early 1970s all-girl
Korean band... or is it? The
original 45 RPM 7" record that makes up selected
tracks on this tape seems to have been made entirely in
Portugal. Whoever the band is, they are rocking, and ladies
are singing, doing rock'n'roll and R&B covers like "Who's
Making Love" and "Burning Love," and honestly
the group sound sometimes makes me think of MC5's High
Time, except more punk. Side B changes it up with epic
near-schmaltz moves like "Nights In White Satin"
and "Jesus Christ Superstar," also pretty great.
Edition of 100, pink tapes, cover drawing by Plastic Crimewave.
Golden Treasury CDR (NO LABEL) This guy is from
New Zealand and he seems to be a real scene of one, sketching
out home-recorded DIY miniatures that take a non-kitsch
soundtrack/lounge/retro feel and blast it with the destroyed
rock moves that his countrymen are known for. It's some
pretty singular stuff and if you go to http://kraus.co.nz
and contact Kraus it seems that you can get a free copy
of this album. He also put a fine tape out on the Dreamtime
Taped Sounds label, but it's probably hard to get at this
'LECTRIC SANTA Operation Spacetime Cynderblock: "Four
Riddles of the Spheres" LP (STARCLEANER RECORDS) When
you take this LP out of the sleeve, a buncha surprise stuff
falls out too, like punk stickers and a bonus CDR. And that's
what their music is like too. On the surface they sound
like a basic snotty college punk band, Dead Milkmen with
more broken equipment, but the songs leave all kinds of
sonic detritus in their wake, like noise & tapes collages
that happen for near-minutes at a time, or the spot-on progressive
death metal intro of the second song "Everything....?"
(if I'm getting it right, it's usually hard to tell with
a Kreamy 'Lectric Santa track listing), or the Eastern/progressive/Canterbury
flourishes on the track after it, "Like Friggin Gone."
(Is that CansaFis Foote himself on sax?) I gotta say, this
is my favorite record by the band so far, living up to the
promise shown by the two excellent 7-inches they put out
previously. It's a lot to take in, but worth the effort...
just as damaged as the Hospitals' Hairdryer Peace,
and a lot more listenable.
Liver + Lungs CD (CORLEONE) Within minutes
it is clear that a higher power is at work. It's the same
gutter-trance that has always been their M.O., but the production
is next-level; a brilliant skittering drum-beat with a kick
that booms and rings out in a way that almost has to be
room-tone... eerie post-punk noise guitar that sits low
in the mix... vocals that have the same old 'CB radio' effect
but still breathe and pause... somehow
Landed remain an unpinnable band. It seems like every album
of theirs I come across is made up of both previously released
and previously unreleased tracks, recorded anywhere from
2 to 12 years ago, and not sequenced in any order, chronological
or otherwise, or given any credits that would reflect it
as such. In fact, according to something I read somewhere
and now can't find again, Liver + Lungs is the
second release in some sort of retrospective trilogy, which
started with the excellent How Little Will It Take
CD on Load, and is going to be followed by some third confusingly
all-over-the-place retrospective release at some point in
the near or not-so-near future. Liver + Lungs does
concentrate primarily on releases from the last few years,
in which time the band seems to have developed new varied
techniques, as described above, that employ more space and
calmer tones, and somehow they've done it without diluting
any of their music's ugliness. They're just now even more
adept at playing ugly gutter-rock as a sleek techno machine...
most of the six songs on here are well over 10 minutes long,
and never once does the band even flinch...
ON EARTH! A Space Water Loop CD (SUBLIMINAL SOUNDS) This
is some new album by some psychedelic collective apparently
headed by some guy from Dungen... every time I've listened
to Dungen, I thought it sounded great and then found myself
bored two minutes later. It's absolutely perfect psychedelic
classic rock with absolutely no depth or heft. Wallpaper
music, and this cosmic indie/poppy feel-good prog-rock has
a similar effect. It's bubbly and has a lot of movement,
and sometimes while listening I think, "Wow, this might
be amazing if it sounded like actual humans were actually
playing this music in a room with real instruments."
Unfortunately, it's just a bunch of frothy Pro-Tools fantasia.
w/STEVE MACKAY Evolutionary Squalor LP (ROCKETSHIP) As
a big fan of their 90s album Liquorball
Fucks The Sky, I'll admit that I had initial concerns
with this ten-years-later release. The B&W solarized
'avant jazz' live shot on the cover made me ask, "Do I really
wanna hear them (ten years later) jamming with a guy on
sax? Even if it is the guy who played sax on Funhouse?"
Well, it turns out that the answer is "Yes, of course I
do." This is a recording of an April, 2008 live gig (written
about and even titled here)
Grady Runyon's record store and Liquorball showed up
ready, laying down sinuous and mean uptempo hard-driving
thug-psych grooves that slide and insinuate in ways that
sound like they've spent the last 10 years doing a lot of
playing and/or growing, and duh, of course Mackay is great.
Just like on Funhouse,
he knows that job #1 is to riff with the band, and as such
his solos never wear out their welcome, and most importantly
he knows how to hang back and blend in. Hell, there's a
guest harmonica duel somewhere on side one and even that's
okay, and in fact excellent, because the groove kills throughout.
No monstrous/hilarious vocals this time, just the sound
of tough, confident, older/wiser psych jam burn.
Drenched Lands CD (AT WAR WITH FALSE NOISE / SMALL DOSES)
For Locrian's "first full-length studio recording of
all new material," the ingredients may remain the same
(metal, noise, drone, power electronics), but they are presented
in their most confident and seamless blend yet. This duo
can actually play music on their instruments, and use this
ability to create extended compositions. Therefore, there's
no need to hide behind drone and distortion, allowing these
tactics to be used as weapons, and only when necessary.
The result is a mostly quiet album that is still more brutal
than a lot of today's amps-on-11 extreme music yawnfests.
Territories (AT WAR WITH FALSE NOISE / BASSES FREQUENCIES
/ BLOODLUST! / SMALL DOSES)
Showing a continued intent to develop
and reinvent themselves, Locrian augment their duo lineup
with various key guests from Chicago's metal, experimental,
and experimental/metal scenes. The result is as solid and
satisfying as all of Locrian's releases have been, but given
several fresh twists, which we hear right off the bat on
"Inverted Ruins," featuring Mark Solotroff of
Bloodyminded doing a killer job singing bleak lyrics and
Andrew Scherer of Velnias playing kit drums, I believe a
first for Locrian. Other temporary members include Bruce
Lamont of Yakuza on vocals and saxophone, and perhaps most
notably Blake Judd of Nachtmystium on guitars and vocals.
All four of these ringers appear throughout the album, in
different combinations, but not on every track... though
only one track ("Antediluvian Territory") is by
the original Locrian duo lineup, there is also only one
track ("Procession of Ancestral Brutalism") that
features all six musicians. Not surprisingly, it explodes
out of the middle of the album as the most raging and traditionally
black metal sounding track on here, though I might prefer
the nearly 10-minute Solotroff/Locrian trio cut "Ring
WOMAN Drugs Don't Last Forever CS (PSYCHIC SNERTS)
Well, they started as a good noise/psych/folk band and then
jumped on the weird-punk bandwagon with their first 7".
Now they've put out this cassette EP which continues the
weird-punk styles, and, like the 7", does it well enough
not to be dismissed. In fact, I really like the second song
on here, in which folky distorto verses are alternated with
double-time thrash choruses. It reminds me of that year
or two pre-Nirvana when post-punk was becoming grunge all
on its own, without any mass media assistance or major label
money. A good ratty low budget sound. All five of the tunes
on side one are like that, really. Side two is a single
noise piece that hearkens back to their original style,
more solid than it is mindblowing, but still a nice bookend
to a good tape.
WOMAN Nobody Knows This Is Nowhere LP (POLLEN SEASON)
Okay, these guys have been threatening to do something pretty
huge for awhile now, and this album is pretty huge. Really
huge, even. Here they were genre-hopping from psych noise
to psych folk to weird punk, and doing it all surprisingly
well, but who knew that what they really had in 'em was
burnt/raging 1990s psych grunge? This album just roars out
of the gate with a yearning heartland/blues/noise feel that
immediately surges up to (one hundred and) 11 and just never
lets up. Raging guitars and drumming, vocals yowling from
the guts and heart in a style not heard since prime Dinosaur
Jr, Husker Du, et al. They self-released it, it got praised
(by others, not just me), and then they broke up.
LANTERNS High Beams LP (NOT NOT FUN) Stonery trudge
from overly jammy L.A. scene. Riffs that will make you think
of Sabbath and Hawkwind until a couple minutes in when you
realize that, unlike those bands, this band doesn't really
have much to say. It's initially exciting because they have
an actual rhythm section and are actually playing a riff,
but simply repeating one riff in itself isn't reason enough
to simply repeat one riff. It doesn't even make you "minimalist,"
not when there's always at least one or two other guitars
soloing away indifferently over the top of each other and
everything else, a recipe for unseasoned psychedelic mush.
MARKERS Balf Quarry LP/CD (DRAG CITY) I can't tell
you how much their 2007 album Boss knocked me sideways.
The songs on that album still haunt me; I can think of several
right now and get the chills. A few people seemed to agree,
but it hasn't been talked about as much as I expected. Right
when it came out, people who wanted to be snarky kept saying
it was "a Sonic Youth tribute album" (pretty sure
I saw that line in at least two different places). Because
they wanted to be snarky, they gave the album a superficial
listen and then just wrote that because the album was on
Ecstatic Peace and produced by Lee Ranaldo. Anyway, it took
a couple years but here's the followup, Balf Quarry,
which continues to work the rugged grunged-out
dream-pop vein unveiled on Boss. Elisa's words
and ideas take front center, remaining more composed and
less improvised, and her guitar riffs are more strict, while
Pete's drumming and general multi-instrumentalism continues
to ground it all. The extended improvisational jam freakouts
of the band's early days were downplayed on Boss,
and even more so here. It's definitely a good and solid
album, and newcomers should like it, but after three or
four listens no one song is haunting me like all of those
Boss songs did except one: the 11-minute album
closer "Shells," in which Elisa sings a haunting
melody over an even more haunting church organ type backing.
VARIANT Put It In CDR (CHOCOLATE MONK) The curiously
named Manpack Variant is a duo of one Chris Peck and Jaime
Fennelly (of PeeEssEye, solo stuff, maybe more). They are
accomplished musicians who are conversant in a lot of different
experimental/noise sub-styles, and on this album they move
around among them, remaining unpinnable and unpredictable.
There's blown-out organ playing (including actual musical
phrases!) on the 11-minute "The King is Gone,"
rather intense industrial/gamelan style workouts, other
rhythmic things, noisy things, atmospheric things, a 10-minute
track late in the game that is like a very serious take
on blown-out No Pussyfooting type harsh noise blissout...
the disc is 60 minutes long but manages to stay interesting
throughout, always a rare compliment among the post-90s
experimental/noise flotsam and jetsam.
ARMS Ocean of Snakes 3" CDR (MAJMUA MUSIC)
I fell for the Mahavishnu meets Black Flag hype on the one-sheet,
but Mahavishnu already met Black Flag, and it was called
Black Flag, and this is more Mahavishnu than it is Flag,
which is to say the guitarist plays more notes and he plays
them cleaner. In fact, the guitarist is maybe a little too
good at his instrument. The drummer and bassist may be too
but I can tolerate it more with those instruments. That
said, I'm enjoying track 4 "Zilla (Jungle Cats)"...
even though the guitar is quite wanky, the band is really
going for it, all on the same page.
BALANCE VOLUME Lower Forms LP (SELF-RELEASED) After
a few CDR releases, finally some wax from these deep underground
Mankato MN miscreant tape/electronics/microphones/weirdness
jammers, self-released, down and dirty, B&W paste-on
style. Even better, they've used the 12" format to
hone their long-form space-out jamming into weird shorter
song-forms. There's seven tracks on here, anyway, and most
of them have what just might be an actual lead vocalist,
and a female one at that. If that's her on the cover along
with the two creepy dudes in the window (who I'm assuming
are the two dudes in Maths Balance Volume), then I'm a little
LLAMA The Witch Channel LP (BLACK DIRT) Except
for one fine track a few years ago on the great Space
Is No Place comp, where they were billed as Mountains
of Mata Llama, this is my first time hearing them and I
am digging it. Recorded in 2006, this was the first session
to happen in the then new Black Dirt Studio, and it consists
of a few extended improvisational rock/psych jammers that
put the "mental" in instrumental, in the vein
of early and raw Ash Ra Tempel but with drums that are a
little less mega-driving (if not altogether absent) than
those of Klaus Schulze. Matta Llama ponders the dusty/dark/sandy
side of krautrock and it gives them a distinct sound among
legions of peers.
MAZUREK QUINTET Sound Is CD (DELMARK) It's become
rare for me to get an actual jazz album in the mail for
review, but look at this thing, it's by an actual "quintet,"
it's got a picture of an actual bandleader holding an actual
instrument on the cover, and it's got actual liner notes
that get heady and deep on the subject of the actual music
within... what is this, the early 1960s?? It is on Delmark
Records, the Chicago label that put out several important
jazz albums in the 1960s, and has continued putting out
worthwhile records ever since, such as a lot of quality
Rob Mazurek stuff, perhaps most notably his work with the
Chicago Underground Trio. Now they've put out this new album
Sound Is, and while it's very long (over 70 minutes)
and doesn't necessarily work as a through-listen, it is
filled to the brim with adventurous and often terrific music
that can be traditional, futuristic, lovely, aggressive,
and a lot of other things, and always definitely jazz. Mazurek
plays cornet, synth, and piano, and has put together a very
good band here, names that should be familiar to anyone
who follows the Chicago scene: John Herndon on drums, Matthew
Lux on bass guitar, Josh Abrams on acoustic bass and piano,
and Jason Adasiewicz on vibraphone.
120 CD (ETUDE) Field recordings, scratchy
78s... footsteps in a hallway, intangible stretched-out
dream tone... alien insects, time put on hold and extended,
desert guitar codas. R. Millis is a member of the Climax
Golden Twins, and this first solo full-length under his
own name may not be exactly what you expect... but then
again it might make perfect sense. One of the records of
the year for me... very engaging, haunting, and deep music
that I wouldn't hesitate to call beautiful.
MCGUIRE Tidings II CS (SELF-RELEASED) Man, this
is straight up emo new-age post-rock cheese. And that is
not a compliment (I know it's hard to tell these days).
I mean, at least McGuire does know how to actually play
music on his instrument, I respect him for that, and when
his band Emeralds really hit the mark, it is often because
of the way his delicate and subtly melodic guitar playing
will gently surge into the mix before you even know it's
there. He really knows how to blend with that band, but
on his own his playing skill just kind of turns into washed-out
pleasantry, and I've tried like five of his non-stop solo
releases now... how can I help it, they're always downloadable
for free on every blog and message board I look at, usually
with all these 'best ever' and 'soooooo goooood' kudos plastered
up and down.
MCGUIRE Let Us Be The Way We Were CDR (WAGON)
Man, this is a straight up excellent album. Everyone's always
making baseball jokes with this guy, but McGuire has definitely
knocked one out of the park here, and I have a feeling that
performance enhancement drugs were involved. The reason
I like it so much is the way it goes from the pleasant drift
I've heard on his last 5-10 releases into something more
like pleasant beat-oriented work, spreading out over a single
25-minute opus. I wouldn't call it danceable at all, but
it is definitely more beat-oriented, and the real capper
is the way he uses occasional real-life salt-of-the-midwest
interview/documentary snippets as a framing device, putting
the whole thing on an unexpectedly poignant level.
MELCHIOR UND DAS MENACE 'Thankyou very much' 2LP (S-S)
Double albums are certainly common enough in today's
rock underground, but it seems like they usually get there
through at least one or two (if not four) side-long jams
and/or experimental suites... sometimes even just Side 4
etchings. Not 'Thankyou very much', on which the
already-prolific Melchior offers up 16 songs, 4 per side.
It's a double but it's fast-moving, with each 4-song side
playing like a football drive, Melchior plowing ahead from
song to song like a tough option-running quarterback. With
song four he squeezes out another first down, and you flip
to the next side. The first song "O! Anxiety"
is especially goony/catchy, with some sweet drumbreaks,
fat guitar riffs, and chanting vocals that even contain
the phrase "ants in my pants." And there's a lot
of good moody midtempo stuff on here too, like "Blue
Tentacles" with its weird watery-vocal "how do
you feel?" chorus hook and gutsy guitar soloing. "Williamsburg,
Brooklyn" is almost embarrasingly straightforward with
it's 'angry at gentrification' theme (the chorus goes "All
these painters who don't paint any pictures/All these musicians
who don't write any songs/Let's relocate them to ghettos
in the city/The Starbucks will pop up before long"),
but I like the backbeat and reverbed guitar hooks, and I
can't say he doesn't have a point. Anyway, a lot of people
have said "too many releases" recently about Melchior,
and I agree with them, but this is still a good one to get
if you wanna hear his songs.
MEN We Are The Men 12" EP (NO LABEL) Brooklyn
band with a self-released 4-song 45RPM 12". Side A
starts with some heavy hammer-down Am Rep style riffing,
really locked-in and chugging... it's not the most original
idea in this day and age but it's executed well. Unfortunately,
from there the tune and really the whole record kind of
gets lost in guitar solos, overly distorted recording and
screaming, and general lack of hooks. The last song is called
"Sketchy Pussy," which doesn't sound like something
I really want to hear about, but by the time I get to it
my brain & ears have checked out anyway.
Microkosmos Volume 1 LP (BLOSSOMING NOISE) First
of all, after literally 100 CDs by the guy, it's strange
and exciting to come across a Merzbow LP. Second of all....
drums! Live drums, in fact, played by the man himself. Heavy
free-form trap kit playing supporting the thick layer of
guaranteed noise assault. Apparently he's been doing this
for a couple albums now, and I'd say it's a pretty exciting
approach, almost like a Heldon album, with Mr. Akita playing
the role of both Pinhas and Auger.
DUO Killing Time 12" EP (SACRED BONES) I wasn't
expecting too much out of Wooden Shjips subset band Moon
Duo, the same way I don't expect much more out of Wooden
Shjips than a one-chord rock groove repeated over and over,
maybe with some vague rock shouting in the background, and
that's pretty much what's here, with more or less the same
overall dynamics, the debt to Spacemen 3 and Suicide maybe
even more explicit. The thing with Wooden Shjips is that
even though you don't expect much, they can still be pretty
good, and that's true of Moon Duo as well. Now I did say
"pretty good," not "great," but as far
as a cool-sounding and underwritten record from Sacred Bones
goes, I'll always take a spaced-out 9-minute drony jam that
barely pretends to be songwriting over some 3-minute 80s-worshipping
non-song that actually acts like a song (to the point where
people on internet forums commend the artist for his or
her "excellent songwriting"). My advice has long
been that if you can't write anything too special, try to
get good at jamming instead... and Wooden Shjips & Moon
Duo have gotten pretty good at it.
Divisionals LP (ECSTATIC PEACE) I just glanced
over the Mouthus discography posted at ourmouthrecords.com,
and at rough count they've released somewhere between twelve
and fourteen full-lengths and counting. That's really too
many records, and it would be by almost anyone, and in Mouthus's
case they all kind of superficially sound the same... you
know, no songs necessary, just some extended song structures,
blasted-out guitar playing, distant moaning, and strange
electronics, and you've got yourself another album. It is
no doubt a powerful sound, but after you get their 2007
masterpiece Saw A Halo you only need a couple more.
Thing is, it could be any two that they've released, and
not in a bad way... they don't all sound alike, exactly,
but they all sort of serve the same purpose, with an assured
level of consistency. Every time I listen to a new one (and
I have listened to a good 7 of 'em) I go through the same
process: on the first listen I think, "Okay, just another
burrowing murky Mouthus album with a few long drony tracks."
Then, on second listen, I realize "But no one else
really does noise-ambient improvised stoner metal better
than these guys." This new Divisionals album
is a perfect example. On one hand it sounds like yet another
Mouthus album, but on the other hand, compared to the last
three or four turgid stoner metal drone improv records I've
listened to (including the GOOD ones), their creative energy
Mort Aux Vaches CD (STAALPLAAT) To these ears this
is the most solid Mudboy long-player yet. It doesn't come
across as a solo keyboard album quite as much as This
Is Folk Music did, but yet still hits hard with plenty
of heavy solo organ. A couple quirk-threatening 'carnival'
moments, or at least one early on, but he stays the course
with focused material, does some interestingly evil-sounding
things with heavy vocal breathing, and then builds that
bridge from the 1960s to the 2000s with pulsing celestial
monochord zone-out for most of the last half of the album.
Comes in an tri-hinge plywood deal. (Oh, I guess Mort Aux
Vaches is a series Staalplaat releases in collaboration
with the Dutch radio station VPRO. The name is French for
"Death to Cows," which is the French equivalent
to "Fuck the Pigs" and it comes from May
ON THE VAGUE “Chitty Chat” b/w “Goodbye
Dear Cliche” 7" (SACRED BONES) An atmospheric
avant-punk male/female synth/drumbox/guitar/vocals duo from
Australia, and one of the few Sacred Bones bands I've heard
before, thanks to their 2008 full-length on Siltbreeze.
I wanted to like that one, and I tried several times, but
it just never stuck with me, the obtuse atmospheric groaning
electronics and reverb-swaddled vocals combining to trigger
the old "one ear/other" syndrome. This new 7"
on the other hand sticks pretty hard. Side A "Chitty
Chat" is a short pounding and arresting rave-up, while
Side B "Goodbye Dear Cliche" slows it down and
zones it out like something that might've been on Siltbreeze
in the 1990s instead of the 2000s, and may have even been
called "haunting space rock" in an actual zine
published on paper. I'd say it's the best Sacred Bones 7"
out of both batches, not because it's musically spectacular...
it's too short and abstract for that... but because it forgoes
all the barking Ian Curtis vocals and electro dance templates
and just sounds like a band simply being real with themselves
FACE Mnemonic Device 7" (SACRED BONES) The
A side here struck me, on first listen, as yet more inexplicable
cheese-intentional synth-wave worship from in particular
Sacred Bones and in general the whole Brooklyn synth underground.
Dance-punky 80s stuff that could almost pass for Ethyl Meatplow
or something. Side B, however, is a guitar-heavier hard-driving
punk tune that picks things up a good amount, thanks mostly
to some truly ripping guitar solos. But it's still too little,
too late when it comes to making this record a keeper.
OGO Across Time And Space (RECORD LABEL RECORDS)
A band from Alaska and the one-sheet led me to expect some
sort of rugged electronic tribal psych band, here presenting
a studio-reworked mix of live recordings from recent worldwide
touring, and I really wanted this to be like Gong with Steve
Hillage, and would've even settled for some Ozric Tentacles
action, but it doesn't really gel for me. I mean, it never
even sounds like a full band (i.e. doesn't seem to be a
rhythm section anywhere in sight), just electronic glitch
that could be by any one guy with a laptop... .
"I Can't Lose" b/w "Military Madness"
7" (SUB POP) I've never been a Froberg-is-G*d
guy myself, but Yank Crime is definitely a great
record.... and I'll take whatever he's doing over Rocket
From The Crypt any day. This shit is cool, almost like a
laconic/incisive/twangy Tom Petty songwriting take but backed
with exacting post-90s Shellac-style riffing.
Try And Love LP (ACADEMY) Reissue of a 1973 rock
album by some Nigerian high-schoolers. It isn't quite the
raw/chill stunner that my all-time gold standard Amanaz
Africa is, but it is a really good album, very
solid sun-dappled mid-tempo rock balladry, with some piercing
psychedelic lead guitar that, together with an elastic percussive
style, keeps the tunes at a deceptively high simmer. Also,
it's really a beautiful sleeve by Academy, complete with
a nice insert that has a recent interview with the album's
producer. BTW, am I reading this interview right -- did
Berkley Jones, the guitarist of BLO, "play all the
guitar tracks in the absence of the band members"??
s/t CD (HOLY MOUNTAIN) Attention, fans of the Onna
7" that came out on Holy Mountain this year, you may
very well want this CD edition too. Not only does it look
great in an LP-style gatefold sleeve, it comes with extensive
autobiographical liner notes by Onna main-man Keizo Miyanish,
repros of some of his unsettling manga artwork, as well
as old flyers and live photos and, most importantly of course,
over an hour's worth of quality bonus tracks. The two tracks
from the 7" are first, sounding just as addictive,
ethereal, and punk/new wave/psychedelic as they do on vinyl.
I really can't believe how entrancing these songs are...
I love the way the second one, though clearly a different
song, still seems to be an extension/variation of the first
one, and when Miyanish or whoever/whatever does that bird-call
at the end of it, I always get incredibly stoked. Track
3 is an outtake from the same sessions, and it has the same
guitar/drumbox instrumentation and the same haunted eerie
near-childlike vocals, but with a notably faster tempo.
For the next two tracks we jump ahead 24 years to 2007.
These tracks don't necessarily sound more contemporary than
the older Onna material, but the approach has certainly
changed; the first sounds like a more traditional and PSF-friendly
take on jammy outsider rock, the second has an odd blues
strut to it, and both have vocals in a less hypnotized/haunted/waved
style than the 7". The next four tracks are from a
live performance in 1983, the same year as the 7" material,
and will be of particular interest to many, as Miyanish
is joined in a duo by Michio Kurihara, the brilliant guitarist
who went on to the better known bands Ghost and White Heaven.
When the 7" came out a couple months ago, it had no
personnel credits, and it was easy to imagine that the swooping,
surging, and sometimes gently melodic guitar playing on
the record was indeed Kurihara -- in the liner notes, Miyanish
himself writes "Even now I can still feel his guitar
soar within me" -- but the CD has credits, which reveal
that guitarist as one Hiroki Mafuyu. On these live cuts
with Kurihara, the band sounds surprisingly starker and
sparser, like gagaku on Mars (the band, not the planet),
just two guitars and voice playing skeletal spooked ritualistic
songs, the last one a good 15 minutes long. The disc is
rounded out by one more, described as "a solo piece
from an obscure cassette release," with no year given.
It's another long piece in which Miyanish hammers away on
his guitar and sings, again with an ancient ritualistic
feel that contrasts the sleek machine trance of the 7".
Either way, I can't stop listening to the whole thing...
I suggest that instead of going out for dinner tonight,
you give that $20 to Holy Mountain instead, it'll get both
the 7" and the CD shipped to you postpaid...
LIKE LAMBS s/t CD (NO LABEL) From some of the same
people that brought us last year's Harmonize Most High CD
(mystical free jazz from the Jersey shore, on the Ruby Red
label) comes this related project, which is more of a folk/pop/improvised
hybrid. Four songs here, all with vocals, clocking in at
around 25 minutes. It leans heavier on the folk/pop side,
wistful cracked-voice balladry with a melancholy 1970s feel
that (probably unintentionally) almost has a contemporary
emo/pop lean to it. I like it better than that though, and
yes, it does help that the songs are accompanied by some
capable improvisers/disrupters who really work at the cracks,
pulling the tunes apart a little bit and weaving them back
together on instruments like cello and violin.
EYELIDS Glitter Vomit CS (ABANDON SHIP) Kind of
a Tom Waits thing going on at first... not the heartfelt
show-tune fake-lounge bullshit, but the Harry Partch junkyard
gremlin percussion side, which is also bullshit, but rather
intriguing here because it's done by someone who isn't Tom
Waits... then the jam pushes into some slightly twisted
space-rockin' full-band w/electronics material that works
quite well. Apparently some weirdos from Montreal, that's
all I know.
HATS Deseret Canyon CD (SEBASTIAN SPEAKS) I'm afraid
this is another review where all I've got is a tweet, but
the album really is a good solid listen, so here goes: "Lambchop
& Silver Jews sideman lays down alb of Fahey-ist dream-schmaltz
& it works well 3:46 PM Jul 13th, 2009 via web".
The guy's name is William Tyler, and I just found this webpage
where you can hear some of the album right away, it's a
nice little page, see if it still works: http://www.apparent-extent.com/index.php?id=129
PILIA Last Days Vol. II 7" (PRESTO?!) This
guy from Italy has put out records on various psych/rock/experimental
labels like Last Visible Dog, Time-Lag, Sedimental, Die
Schachtel, 8mm... this 7" is on Italian label Presto?!,
who put out the excellent John Wiese LP called Zombie
last year. It was recorded while Pilia was living in New
York City, and side one has a Loren Connors feel, the sad
solo minor chord arpeggios style, while side two has even
more of a Loren Connors feel, the sad lead guitar wailing
over minor chords style. The playing and recording do have
a good dark desperate sound, and this would be a fine record
for the listener who has never heard a single note by Loren
PINHAS AND MERZBOW Keio Line 2CD (CUNEIFORM) This
collaboration sounds exactly like you would think it would
sound, just like every Merzbow album sounds exactly like
a Merzbow album, and, whether it's the 1st one or the 50th,
they all sound good. Really, his pulsing white noise is
the perfect foil for Pinhas to sink his endless cycling
synth-scapes into, giving him just the bite I think a lot
of his recent work has been missing, at least in comparison
to his work from 1974 to 1979 with the utterly biting (not
to mention crushing, demolishing, detonating, etc) Heldon.
And, at two chock-full discs, there is tons to dig in here...
it just lasts forever, and sometimes that's a good thing.
BETON s/t 7" EP (SDZ) I've heard of the label,
it's from France, right? I bet the band is too, probably
something fairly snotty and glammy, maybe even wearing leather
pants, and it is indeed a pretty nasty 4 song EP, with heated
vocals and a hard drum-machine/synth attack that really
grooves... last song is called "Hard To Kill"
which sounds like a trendy Brainbombs-esque title but Plasto
Beton are their own beast.
VISION / SUN ARAW split LP (NOT NOT FUN) Oh man.
First Magic Lanterns, now this. I just can't stop being
down on Not Not Fun, and I'm sorry about that. But once
again it seems like these bands are hiding... on a large
scale they're hiding behind 'noise' and 'drone' and 'psych,'
and on a smaller scale they're hiding behind 'reverb' and
'wah-wah' and 'distortion.' All of these things are employed
to hide the fact that they don't have a message to say nor
music to play, just a genre to bro down with. And genres
alone do not make music or tell stories. I listened to the
Sun Araw side first and it just bugged me. That said, there
is at least more going on with it than usual... a good driving
bassline over an interesting spare drum track, with some
actual words (I think) being sung behind all the distortion.
But it's all bathed and buried in an indifferent taped-down
keyboad drone, tons of pointless wah-wah guitar soloing,
distortion applied to every nook and cranny, no breathing
room. I definitely prefer the Predator Vision side, simply
because they are musical, with melodic jammy guitar soloing,
a rhythm section that doesn't overbear, some actual room
to breathe and move. Still bathed in a little too much indistinct
reverb and still never amounts to anything memorable at
all, but pleasant while it's on.
RICO FLOWERS 4 12" (FAN DEATH) Ex-Clockcleaner
(and Ex-USA, as Still
Single put it) band delivers very slow and very serious
gothic new wave pop songs. My very first response was that,
at least genre-wise, this record is as inherently and intentionally
corny as Blank Dogs or whatever 1980s act from the 2010s
is currently recording somber new wave electro pop. My next
response is that the record is a clear cut above all that,
and it's because of the clean simplicity with which the
songs are performed and recorded -- the band has an actual
bassist and drummer, and no one's hiding behind any fuzz,
hiss, screech, or vocal-obscuring FX. The lyrics are straightforward,
heartfelt, and easy to understand. Sure, they could be taken
as a sarcastic joke (every Clockcleaner-aware review will
say this), but the completely unguardedly slow tempos (if
I had a speed faster than 45 I would have tried it) and
the clean and clear delivery lends them an air of honesty
and gravity. (This just in: all instruments played by Clockcleaner
vocalist/guitarist John Sharkey.)
Persevere 7" (SOFT ABUSE)
My favorite full-length Pumice record
is Yeahnahvienna, from 2006 and also on Soft Abuse,
but this 7" is just kinda perfect, even if two
of the three songs are covers.
Side A is a rumbling then reflective anthemic epic surf
instrumental called "The Dawn Chorus of Kina"
and it's a real head turner, especially at 45RPM, which
I keep playing it at, but I don't think it's correct, because
Side B seems to be 33, featuring a drowsy version of Michael
Hurley's awesome "Open Up" ("eternal lips
and swallow me"), followed by an Axemen cover, "Pacific
Ocean," and after the surf rumblings of Side A and
ocean-themed closer on Side B I'm starting to feel like
the three songs are the wistful daydream of an aging ex-surfer,
broke and sunburned, laying on the couch in his small apartment
4 blocks from the beach nursing a 12-pack on his day off.
HISS s/t LP (PERMANENT) A new solo recording by
Philly-based Birds of Maya guitarist Mike Polizze. He plays
everything on this one (guitars, bass, and drums), and the
results are just as wildly psych-bluesy, if not more so,
as the Birds, though maybe a little cleaner and slightly
less raw practice-space than that band's Volume 1.
Add in some serious extended lead guitar fluency (see the
10-minute-plus instrumentals "Montage Mountain"
and "Purple Hiss"), as well as some intermittent
chunky-riff and vocal-chorus garage-punk hooks, which are
excellent as well (see opening track "Almost Washed
My Hair"), and you've got a real good listen. About
the only thing missing is that band feel, the way a band
like the Birds of Maya can breathe in and out together,
relax the tempo or make it surge. Now I'm really looking
forward to the Birds of Maya double-LP follow-up to Volume
1, rumored/scheduled for release sometime in 2010 by
RHINESTONE EAGLE Amorum Tali 45RPM 12" (EOLIAN)
I'm definitely interested in the idea of an all-female retro-doom
bell-bottomed power trio, and on this record the reality
does a nice job channeling the dream. In other words: they've
got good riffs, with some surprising but ultimately sly
prog leanings. The band is from Philadelphia but has relocated
to Portland (OR). You can hear the 90s/00s indie-rock roots
in the lead vocals, but generally it all blends into the
(pleasantly) foggy recording vibe and the galloping/somber/crude
classical-metal riffing. This is a CDR promo but I hear
the 12" packaging is nice.
CORPSE Mrs Rice CD (DUAL PLOVER) Interesting one
here in which Lucas Abela, the Australian dude who plays
amplified broken glass with his mouth, travelled to China
for a ten-city tour, starting with a stay in Beijing in
which he formed a one-off improvisational trio with members
crazy-sounding Chinese band called Mafeisan. The instrumentation
supplied by the Mafeisan members is piano and drums, and
they really make the music work here. Apparently pianist
Li Zenghui is normally a saxophonist, and he supplies a
great unschooled robotic trance-pulse here that frees up
the "maniacal clown" drummer Yang Yang to really
go off and deconstruct the jams as much as he drives them.
In the meantime Abela grinds along like some sort of mutant
homemade guitar, adding powerful vocalizations and roars
to the flowing noise... he really is the Ian Anderson of
RONE Guitar Slinger CD (GULCHER) I thought the
Gulcher Records label was cheap with their slimline CDs,
but yo, they just sent me this new Lou Rone album in a sandwich
bag! Regardless, I still like a very high percentage of
Gulcher releases. I mean, the slimline series packaging
may be disappointing, but the releases have mostly been
excellent... Joshua Jugband 5, Magik Markers, Crawlspace,
12 Cent Donkey, Home Blitz, Kurt Vile, Meercaz, Gays in
the Military... seriously, I'm hanging on to each one of
those records, and the Kurt Vile was my record of the year
for 2008. I even liked Lou Rone's Alone when it
came out a few years ago (in an actual jewel case!)... it
worked well in that mild-industrial sci-fi electronic-insect
kind of instrumental rock scenario, especially after learning
that he played with people like Rudolph Grey and Von Lmo
in the 70s/80s. But ultimately, despite a good amount of
effective drum-machine post-punk atmospheres, Rone's licks
were just a little too 'shredding,' a little too 1980s Shrapnel
Records (the fellow childhood Yngwie fans will know what
I mean). This new one Guitar Slinger is similar
but the fire has cooled even more.
BANDWAGON Dums Will Survive LP (DULL KNIFE) My
intro to this band, and I didn't know what to expect (lo-fi,
Columbus, dare I say shitgaze?)..... but this?? A band that
sounds like one or two totally accomplished smart and cutting
singer/songwriters with plenty of hooks and a crack backing
band from say Nashville circa 1974 that has time-jumped
just four or five years forward, just enough to know about
The Fall and general post-punk guitar damage? And they only
caught a brief glimpse of it, too, a very brief glimpse....
I really don't know what else to say but this LP has invaded
my life with its completely well-done songwriting, casually
adept musicianship, and sweet male/female vocals... I mean
what's up with "Between the Ears" being such a
C&W ballad masterpiece (the pedal steel guitar by Larry
Marotta himself certainly helps a lot)? What's up with the
stately soul of "Like A Bridge Over Dan Shearer,"
and the inzayne production on its piano overdubs? What's
up with the album ending with like a 7-minute damaged-guitar
instrumental reprise of the title track? What's up with
the cover, the insert, the "dums" album concept?
I don't know, you figure it out, I'll be happy listening...
Dead CD (LOAD) I used google
to figure out how to write the html code for that album-title
cross-out, but if you go to the record store, just ask for
"Dead." Pounding overblown snarling wasteoid
punk-lifer dirge for middle-aged and soon-to-be middle-aged
humans. A real summertime album; it sounds perfect while
creeping and crawling down congested city streets in a hot
car (after all these guys are from Houston, TX). This is
more-or-less their first full-length album since the masterful
Rehab came out 5 years ago, and it's a little more
diffuse in its verbal aggression and full-band punch (perhaps
because it's drawn from 12 years worth of recordings), but
it still slays. There's a reason Rusted Shut take 5 years
to put together a new album, and it's not really any of
the tangential reasons you're thinking of: it's so that
they can be sure to deliver a Rusted Shut album. They've
done it again and fans won't be disappointed.
Who Ate Santa Claus? CDR (NO LABEL); SANTAFRIENDS Give 'Em
Elves CDR (NO LABEL) Hmmm, two Christmas-themed
albums by the same artist, one released in late 2008 and
one in late 2009, both reviewed in the same 'up-to-the-minute'
column that I've clearly been working on for over a year
now. Not very timely with my journalistic coverage, but
whatever. At least I get to review both at once in a handy
'compare and contrast' style! The artist is CansaFis Foote,
late of No Doctors, now of Careerers, and lately during
the holiday season he's been calling himself SantaFis and
recording some really weird versions of Christmas chestnuts.
And the most immediate compare-and-contrast chestnut I can
give you, the reader, is that the 2008 edition sounds more
solo, electronic, and Ralph-y, while the 2009 edition sounds
more full-band/collective and proggy, almost like Andy Mackay
jamming with the session guys during some Roxy studio downtime,
in a looser and wackier post-2000 confusion style. CansaFis
seems to be getting more and more fluent on the saxophone,
which lends well to that barrelhouse prog air. Pick to click
is a tranced-out "12 Days of Christmas." (Oh duh,
I just saw that the first one is by SantaFis, and the second
one is by SantaFriends. So yeah, 2008 solo, 2009 band.)
My Old Lady 7" (STUMPARUMPER) The only band
I know of from New Brunswick, Canada. First song "My
Old Lady" is a fine haunted bit of Neil Young worship,
and frankly these upstarts from the hinterlands out-Woods
Woods with it. From there 5 more tracks crawl out from the
vinyl, and things get louder, messier, and more punk, but
also not as good. Not very well played and recorded in general....
you know, like a sketchbook, filled with... scribbles. I
don't know though, I always root for underdogs, and mainly
due to the lumbering Side B opener "Ocean Floor"
I could see 'em pulling a Long Legged Woman and making a
pretty killer album out of raw beginnings. Actually a "My
Old Lady" b/w "Ocean Floor" 7-inch might've
gotten a solid thumbs up...
SECT Stratospheric Passenger LP (ECSTATIC PEACE!)
I still want it to work, this whole black metal-meets-shoegaze
pitch, but it just never really does. Maybe because the
best black metal is already shoegaze, seriously... just
listen to how inward and zoned-out early Burzum and mid-period
Darkthrone are. The problem with "shoegaze" as
a descriptor is that it makes younger supposedly dark metal
bands of today feel like it's OK to use egregious dream-pop
melodies and, even worse, chord progressions from 90's emo
(see: Alcest, who use both to embarrassing extent, at least
on their Souvenirs D’un Autre Monde album,
which sounds like the Sundays, the Cranberries, and the
Smashing Pumpkins, except the Pumpkins are much heavier).
Servile Sect does not make these mistakes. It may not be
a great album, but it's a notably good one for a very dodgy
genre. Maybe it's because they're from Humboldt County.
s/t LP (EHSE) Very weird zoned/noise/cabaret songs
sung over improbable electronic backings and fields by a
small collective of Baltimoreans including synth/instrument/circuit
builder Peter B, who had an epicly strange release on the
Resipiscent label a couple years ago. You could call Seyjano
"pop" but only in a lineage that starts with the
Residents and detours a little to break off a chunk of the
post-1993 output of Scott Walker before landing right in
the middle of all the punk circuit-bending that young people
of today were starting to do right as the 90s gave way to
the 21st Century. To wit, Twig Harper is also involved,
and indeed Seyjano sounds not unlike Harper's long-time
weird band Nautical Almanac if they had gotten a new male
lead singer and started twisting their raw noise materials
into large shambling crooned pop songs.
DRIFTER Old White CS (PLUS TAPES) Even if you're
familiar with the Shadow Drifter (aka Little Howling Wolf
aka Deacon Blue aka James Pobeiga of Justice, Illinois)
from the 20 or 30 7" singles he self-released throughout
the 1970s and 1980s, or his weirdo Twig Harper-produced
2005 future-caveman blues LP Brave Nu World on
Ehse Records (hey, weren't we just talking about all of
these people?), you still won't be ready for this tape,
which is just the Wolf and an acoustic guitar singing six
epic minimalist cowboy folk songs, one take solo. What's
more, the leadoff title track is 14 minutes long, filled
with non-stop verses and choruses, and there are two more
versions of it, just as long, on Side B... not to mention
that Side A is rounded out by two consecutive versions of
a different 10-minute song. I don't know how often I'm going
to devote an hour of my time to this thing, but these are
damn good songs by the Wolf, and the tape is a moving, hypnotic,
and heartfelt listen.
SHIFLET/RYAN JEWELL split CS (TEEN ACTION) Man,
I listened to this once about two months ago and I guarantee
you, it was REALLY GOOD. I think Shiflet does some kind
of piercing high computer tones, very well composed, not
annoying at all in fact, and Jewell... I can't remember.
I wanna say it was a 15 minute drum solo, because I saw
a picture of him playing drums once in the Married Life
zine, but I think it was noise, and GOOD NOISE at that.
Sorry about the caps, but I'm being a little defensive because
it's hard to recommend an album that you can't even remember,
and can't find anywhere in your apartment for a re-listen.
(No cassette organization system whatsoever around here,
sheez, I tell ya...)
Anduni CD (URCK) A "tribal percussion outfit"
on an "extreme ethnic label" and the output is
a lot like what that would suggest, though surprisingly
low-key and distant. Heavy pounding rhythms with eerie quasi-industrial
loops and tones floating over/around/through. Can't help
but think of Crash Worship when I listen to it, at least
that band's less Dionysian moments, when their beats were
still pounding but their engine was idling... Sikhara has
a similar sound, presumably without all the bonfires, drunkedness,
nude sword swallowing, mandatory communal genital piercing,
etc. In fact, their music as presented here may be a little
too idle and distant to really connect, even when crazy
post-industrial yelling is going on in its background.
s/t LP (CELESTIAL GANG) When this band's first
record, a CD EP called Nightingales, came out a
few years ago it looked and almost sounded a lot like a
black metal record, and hence I've always thought of them
as some weird US black metal band, even as they've gone
on to play a sound that is more like some sort of electronic
gothic hyper-prog with piano as the main instrument. Their
records usually look good, and this is no exception with
its cold B&W art, and there are some powerful tracks
on it. But it just never kicks in as an overall album...
maybe it's down to a few mis-steps in sequencing, or a few
songs that were indistinctly written? Good EP band? Live
photos look cool, listen to single tracks at http://www.myspace.com/silentist...
WARRIOR/PRO BRO GOLD split 7" (ROOFLESS/CEPHIA'S TREAT)
I seem to remember Skeleton Warrior being an actual excessive
prog band a year or two ago (I should search my blog), but
their song here reveals that they've since taken the blankdog
bait with 1980s drum machine dance pop and blank dude vocals.
Couldn't remember the song the second it was over (it's
partly my memory, so easily blankdogged). Despite the band
name I like the Pro Bro Gold side better... his Joy Division
debt is even more egregious than most, and his synth parts
are practically New Romantic, but the beats and bass are
slammin' enough for it to be OK, especially with the extra-long
breakdown in the middle.
FIRE TRIO Hand To Mouth CDR (SKY-FI) New free jazz
group from the UK. Tenor sax, alto sax, and drums. At first
I feel like they aren't going to break out of the old 3
F's (flail, fumble, and/or fire), but on the longer track
three "Stoney Ground" the drums trance out and
the group uses the extended groove to dig into some music.
Y'know, it's OKAY to swing, it's okay to groove, it's okay
to play a melody, it doesn't mean you're soft. These guys
know that, the last track "Savage Grace" is pretty
musical too (although a bit overlong at nearly 18 minutes,
including the now-forbidden 'dying a slow death WAIT they're
still alive' denouement). Edition of 75, cool hand-made
& THE SUNSETS The Hypnotist 7" (FUTURE STRESS)
Four songs from a Bay Area playwright/author/singer/songwriter/other
named Sonny Smith, with a chill backing band called the
Sunsets (including Shayde Sartin of Flying Canyon, Skygreen
Leopards, Giant Skyflower Band, Kelley Stolz, the Fresh
& Onlys, and even more). The press materials call this
"busted beach-pop," and even though the "beach"
descriptor is starting to mean lame music, this time it
feels right, like I would want beach-pop to sound, more
like a new American Kevin Ayers or something than this whole
Wavves debacle. Which is to say this guy sings soft, gentle,
just slightly somber tunes with lines like "Life is
like a Mondrian/spare and square and simple." Full-length
coming this year on Soft Abuse. I might add that my copy
of this 7" came with a great little comic book by Sonny
himself about the travails of a fictional musician named
Shh! Heinäsirkat LP (DE STIJL)
Awesome reissue of a wild LP by a controversial sound/art/composition
group from the Helsinki underground of Finland in 1970.
This was on the Nurse With Wound list, and it's easy to
see why, with slow-developing deep passages of almost-rock
instrument/tape/reverb confusion and obtusion, as if they
were doing a version of Xhol Caravan's Motherfuckers
GMBH (recorded the same year) where all the parts requiring
jazz chops were left out completely, and that includes the
track they call "Jazz Jazz."
CHAMPION Stale Champagne LP (SOPHOMORE LOUNGE)
Take it out of the mailer and it immediately hits you with
rather extravagant packaging. I mean, with today's grimy
silkscreened editions of 300 to 500, a gatefold sleeve alone
is extravagant, and how about a gatefold that is full color
on both sides, on nice thick paper, and just to have a basically
pointless big blurry digital camera photo of some trees
taking up the entire inside spread. Now that's money to
burn! Take the record out and it's on pointlessly clear
vinyl, with pointlessly cryptic photos on the middle labels,
sleeved inside yet another two-sided four-color print job,
with lyrics on one side and a maybe wannabe Jandek photo
of maybe the artist on the other side (a kid maybe graduating
from high school, wearing a nice shirt and tie, posing under
a nice suburban tree on a grey day while wearing a Santa
Claus hat and a cryptic smile). Really, too much imagery,
and that includes the way the band name, the album name,
and the label name all kind of sound alike in a small tangle
of pointless adjective/noun images. Anyway, if we're talking
about orchestral singer-songwriter folk-rock albums recorded
in Kentucky in the last two years with Paul Oldham somewhere
in the credits, Warmer Milks did it a lot better with their
2008 album Soft Walks, and with much more economical
and aesthetically pointed packaging.
OM SOURCE Rise in Planes LP (BLACK DIRT) This is
a lady named Christelle Gualdi, I think from the Netherlands,
who is an "electronic musician and visionary artist."
I've seen some live stuff by her on YouTube, if I remember
right a collaboration with Warmer Milks, and it seems like
I've heard another track or two on some unknown compilation(s),
none of which prepared me for Side A of this, a superb piece
of solo mind-dive synth improv jamming. For Side B she lays
down a much thicker and monochordal drone, with vocals that
eventually may or may not float distantly over the top,
all with a steady dazed drum-kit backbeat by David Nuss.
Really good cosmic music, nice funky private-press packaging.
Olympic Stain (1994-1996) LP (SUMMERSTEPS) Flashback
to the Lollapalooza generation and some rural Pennsylvania
highschoolers under the influence of Dirty and
the dark side of 120 Minutes are bashing out some
demos. 15 years later one of the band members puts it on
vinyl (100 copies), and I can see why. This is awkward,
rough, and derivative music but it has a wild-eyed youthful
born-in-isolation exuberance that most do not achieve. It
also has that early-90s Homestead Records indie-rock drug-damage
down surprisingly cold, although it's possible that these
kids were getting it all second-hand, without actual Homestead
Records and maybe even without actual drugs. Side B is a
mock live show in a house that the parents had moved out
of.... it's not as musically worthwhile as Side A but still
has time capsule value.
CITY GIRLS Fruit of the Womb/Polite Deception 2LP (ECLIPSE)
Hey, the Cloaven Cassettes reissue project is back, still
on Eclipse Records, here with #5, the first volume in four
or five years. The idea is a projected ten double-vinyl
releases, each one reissuing/reimagining two of the 20-plus
cassettes that Sun City Girls cluster-bombed the scene with
between the years of 1987 and 1990. Fruit of the Womb
was "recorded 1984–85 between the first and second
Sun City Girls LPs," and it features a lot of raw,
scorching, glowing, go-for-broke versions of songs that
are known ("Damcar," "Blue Mamba," "Trippin'
on Krupa," "Rappin' Head," "Jokers on
a Waltz") and songs that will always be unknown (such
as Side B, the 25-minute diehards-only "When the Jewels
Roll out of Your Eyes"). As for Polite Deception,
it originally came out on the heels of Womb and,
according to suncitygirls.com,
"side one is a continuation of the previous tape listed."
And, the flip features "Gulf Con '79," an impressive
early long-form "industrial Mesopotamian Environmental
piece," which proves that these guys could go 'industrial/dark
ambient' with the best of the '80s crop. Edition of 950,
gatefold sleeve, rad live photos, etc.
WATCHER Two And A Half Men CDR (WAGON) Now this
is more like it. New young psych improv music that actually
breathes. Sun Watcher is a duo of Mark McGuire (of Emeralds
and about 16 solo cassette releases in the last 17 months)
and Shane Mackenzie (of Lambsbread). If you ever saw Lambsbread
live, you know that Mackenzie played his ass off every time...
here he shows a lighter and more meditative side that complements
McGuire's explorations very well. It may not be Sandy Bull
& Billy Higgins "Electric Blend" but it's
possibly closer than anyone else has dared in the last 15
or 20 years.
/ WASTELAND JAZZ UNIT Ecstatic Jazz Duos split LP (THOR'S
RUBBER HAMMER) Didn't play this one right away
because of Talibam! These guys always scare me away, let
me count the ways... one, the joke name and its de rigeur
exclamation point... two, conspicuous facial hair and neon
stage-wear... three, and most effectively, their always-clattery
all-the-time 'tantrum' approach to improvisation. There's
no doubt that they can play their instruments powerfully,
I just wish they'd play some MUSIC together instead of merely
rapidly accumulating tantrum-notes together. Wasteland Jazz
Unit is the reason I finally put this one on, after being
scorched by one of their CDR releases. They're a sax and
clarinet duo from Cincinnati, and seriously, I've said it
before, but these two guys overload their instruments with
breath and amplification and lay down long sustained fields
of desolation that only Borbetomagus has gotten to. Having
them on vinyl alone makes this worth the pick-up... I'm
thinking of it as a 'one-sided' LP.
TELEPHONE CALLERS s/t CS (NO LABEL) Crumbling decrepit
thrashy punk-pop ineptitude from Ann Arbor, Michigan. This
is a long tape with a good 30 or 40 songs on it, but even
though it's a total mess to get through I think this band
could probably make a good 6-song 7" or something like
that. They can actually play some melodic hooks and singing
phrases on their guitars (and bass, and... piano?) and even
if their tones and recording quality are horrible, they
have enough skills and verve to create songs that actually
move and vary musically, at best verging on a '1st Meat
Puppets' kind of crashing yowl. They also remind me of that
current teenage Cali band Audacity (see review elsewhere),
in that they are also a noisy band that actually knows how
to play minor chords, major 7th chords, maybe even a sus4
here and there...
ORGANISM 2x7" (SACRED BONES) A double 7"
in a sweet gatefold sleeve by Timmy's Organism, which is
solo recordings by Timmy Vulgar, the lead singer of Detroit
cult avant-garage punk band Human Eye. Because of the eccentric
wildness of Vulgar's main band, I figured this stuff would
surely stand out from the late 2000's Blankwash, but to
be honest, at first it didn't. It still sounded like one
guy in a bedroom with electronic equipment singing in a
deep voice kinda like Ian Curtis. However, I think I had
just gotten my ears Blanked out from listening to a bunch
of Sacred Bones records in a row, because on a couple more
listens it starts nosing above the pack. Vulgar's got a
real singing voice and he writes real lyrics... the distortion
on his guitars and bass or whatever is way over the top,
nothing timid about it... and all of these records use 'sci-fi'
sounds, but Vulgar uses ABSURD sci-fi sounds, the aforementioned
over-the-top distortion, constant electro/synth whooshes
and whistles that sound genuinely extraterrestrial... his
guitar solos sound like space opera laser battles. Anyway,
there's five tracks on these two records, and they're all
real songs... still not reinventing the wheel but it's a
fun listen and the final track "No Hassle" is
an excellent driving zone-out rave-up.
MAN Wasteland 45RPM 12" (GLOBAL A) This is
a mysterious guy who makes your basic excellent dreamy 'minimal'
techno, but he also sings, in the most deadpan voice of
the 21st century so far, which makes this work as a really
strange pop record too. You've gotta hear him sing "Just
relax, man.... if you still can," it's perfect.
Produced by Rashad Becker, which really adds to the mystique
(and high quality sound).
SHITS Pretty Wild 7" (RAMO) I want to like
this label for its colorful 1970s rock glamor, although
with their last batch the tunes just never quite cut it.
Actually this A side by the Tough Shits is better than I
expected, good enough sparse rockabilly choogle, not without
a certain bearded heaviness. Hmm, B side isn't bad either,
what works for them is a certain downtempo melancholy you
might not expect from their band name, and it includes good
harmony singing and decent hooks.
s/t LP/CD (SILTBREEZE) Wow, I haven't heard this
band since their acclaimed debut 7" in 2006... did
they always have a flute? They certainly do on the first
track here, and it works, which is a nice symbol for the
way this whole album works, which is that Tyvek, who are
most commonly and simply described as a "punk"
and even "pop-punk" band, are in reality conversant
in a few more musical languages than that, some only tangentially
related: post-Beefheartian avant/angular, 70s/80s post-punk
DIY sketch, 80s/90s indie/twee/pop, 60s/90s psych-rock,
70s/80s/90s/00s krautrock motor city drive, and yes, even
hippie stuff like flute & bongos. It is an intentionally
convoluted album, in which near-great new-punk mini-anthems
come and go in a thicket of interludes, mini-jams, &
rough riff-sketches that mostly barely clock in at a minute.
But just listen to tracks 2, 3, and 4 for a perfect example
of why I recommend this album... if you're playing at the
aesthetic poker table that is the post-punk garage/home/DIY
movement, now in its 33rd year of gambling, you know that
tracks 2-4 is a great place to lay down your good cards
(because track 1 can always be either an ante or a bluff),
and boy do they do it here with "Summer Things"
(a just-plain-great new-punk mini-anthem, never heard the
Euro tour 7" B-side version, don't know if this is
the same or a re-recording, don't care), a sweet little
desert-guitar interlude called "Sonora," and then
another great nervous/sweet/wistful/fast/twee song about
a girl called "Hey Uma."
OF SPACES CORNERS Flowers in the Night CD (CORLEONE)
You might remember this group from their 2007 debut vinyl
LP (reissued on CD in 2008 by Corleone). Since then, I'd
say they've gotten more sure-handed and elaborate in the
songwriting department, with eight longish songs (opener
is 6:15, and there's a 5:22, 4:43, a 4:09, shortest is 3:37)
that spread out for a fairly immersive effect, filled with
surprise vocal hooks and melodic nooks and crannies over
a sort of baroque country indie folk approach. There's a
few excellent songs on here. Thing is, I think I liked the
rawness of the first album better, the fact that it had
time for diversions like an 8-minute Sun Ra cover/jam/homage...
and finally, though they do remind me of Souled American
at times, I ultimately feel too much 'campfire show singalong'
in their quirky/exuberant leanings to fully sink in. I find
myself yearning instead for the sheer chasmic balefulness
of a Souled American or a U.S. Saucer.
GIRLS Me & Yoko 7" (NOT NOT FUN) U.S.
Girls is a one-woman band and I think I listened to her
debut LP on Siltbreeze, but it didn't make too much of an
impression other than a vague, dare I say, moan-waviness?
I need to spin it again, especially after hearing this 7".
The A side is an outright song, and a good somewhat anthemic
one, complete with an actual guitar riff. The B side, "Rise
& Go," is moan-wavier, but still with plenty of
raw post-Spacemen 3 soul, especially in the last-half chorus
extensions. Good music, good artwork, good record, which
is something I've been saying less about Not Not Fun as
they seem to have over-discovered marijuana and are releasing
a lot of 'rad sounds/no songs' full-length jam
sessions these days... or maybe I'm just thinking of the
career of Sun Araw.
Unexplained Objects LP (DEKORDER) Maybe I've listened
to one too many neo noisy ritual drone albums tonight, or
maybe it's just that the neo noisy ritual drone album I
happened to listen to right before this one was Bad Drumlin
Grass's Live At Timber Cove, which is a pretty
tough neo noisy ritual drone act to follow -- either way,
I'm having a hard time focusing on or being drawn into the
neo noisy ritual drone moves on this record. I know this
guy is from Finland, and there was good stuff on a 3-CD
set that Last Visible Dog put out by him a few years ago.
Good stuff here too, and it has a musical feel to it (instead
of mere genre/style), but, as with the LVD set, I find myself
losing focus on through-listens.
ARTISTS Ars Magna Vol. 3 No. 6 (BEZOAR FORMATIONS)
Compilation of 5 or 6 long underground psych/noise tracks
in 22 minutes is a good listen. Credits are a little vague
but tape features Canopy, John Shaw from Son of Earth (nice
solo gtr piece), Ducktails, and I think one more that I
don't remember. Label is from the Bay Area.
ARTISTS Just A Little Bit Of Milvia Son Records 7"
(MILVIA SON) Jeez, what a veritable flood of set-aside
7's I finally have toppling onto my brain right now... so
many bands, so much time... to wit, next up is a four-artist
compilation 45 on Milvia Son Records called Just A Little
Bit Of Milvia Son Records. First track is by Bob
Frankford which does a nice enough job at warbly
loner dream folk, though it may be a little too warbly.
I can't believe he sings "O Carl, you laid out
the stars" at the beginning. Jaki Jakizawa
follows it with a good and bold if slightly obnoxious
solo synth noise jam, called "Now You Hate The Swedes"
after a sampled line at the end by a famous television actor
I can't quite place. Side B holds interest, starting in
a creditably blasted and fluent Dead C style with "Day
Nudes" by Bad Drumlin Grass (more
TV samples, these work really well), and ending with the
best song of the lot, "Little Bit" by Petomane,
who seems to be a one-name one-guy deal, you know, like
Jandek, complete with lonesome cracked singing style, but
Petomane has got a different kind of toughness. I can't
believe he sings "just a little bit of your warm
biscuit/just a little bit of your twinkies & cream"
in the second verse. (I also can't believe that I just now
realized that said line must've inspired this record's rather
horrendous cover art!)
ARTISTS A Range Of GreatDividing CS (GREATDIVIDING)
might know of Australian label GreatDividing
from a couple of 7-inches that were released earlier in
2009, reviewed by Siltblog,
Still Single (of
course), me (in this very column), and maybe no one
else. Well they are back with a nice label sampler cassette
release, about 30 minutes long, with the chronological range
being 1989 to 2009. First track is by someone called the
"recorded above two shops by two blokes"... the year is
1991, and the melancholy slide-guitar folk/skiffle/punk
bounce sure sounds like these Australians were catching
that easterly breeze coming off the Tasman Sea from Flying
Nun and Xpressway. Next track, by Exiles
in Clowntown (who released one of the aforementioned
7-inchers), starts out with what the label describes as
"white boy blues (yuk)" but it sounds like good ol' post-punk
skeletal guitar dirge to me, which may very well be the
white boy blues, no yuk necessary. From there it gets into
more instrumental dirge by the legendary-to-some 3
Toed Sloth, another good one by the Shoptoprockers,
a wonderful bit of Kilgour/Barrett grunge-whimsy by Rock
Boycott called "Life Like," and quite a bit more.
It all flows very nicely with ongoing natural post-punk
true-grunge fluency and confidence, to where the difference
between a track from this decade and the previous decade
is not especially noticeable, or especially important.
ARTISTS Shiftless Decay: New Sounds of Detroit LP/CD (X!)
"...a slice of the sounds that defined Detroit
between roughly 2005-2009." Sometimes comps come along
that just feel right, and this is one of them. I was paying
attention to some of this stuff as it initially came out
here and there on 7-inches and kinda pegged it as more merely
decent retro garage, but having it all together in one place,
with excellent context-supplying liner notes by label head
Scott Dunkerley, and, no joke, the loud presence of digital
mastering for CD (much like the Monoshock CD from 2004)
really elevates the material. X! basically has one foot
in today's standard-bearer In The Red style garage and the
other in the avant garage of Load. The latter puts the former
on a knife edge that not all labels/movements can or may
even want to muster. Tentacle Lizardo start
things off with a high-speed chromium burner called "Haunted
Closet" and then Human Eye tear right
into "Fix Me First Universe Nurse" which sounds
like an aesthetic anthem on title alone, and then bands
like the Frustrations, Terrible
Twos, Fontana (all three sounding
great and better to me than they did on vinyl), Tyvek,
and others I know less about like Heroes & Villains
and The Mahonies. Surprise highlights are
a vaguely rockabilly number by the Johnny III Band
(that's ILL, as in sick, not "the Johnny the Third
Band" as this Helvetica type would have you believe)
and what is definitely the best Little Claw
track I've heard so far, the stomping "Feeding You
Your New Home". Odd Clouds close it
out with a pretty sweet 5-minute psych/jazz jam. And hey,
the whole thing clocks in at like 34 minutes, so you know
it's gonna be pretty punchy.
ARTISTS Solo Guitar 3xC20 BOX (WINEBOX
is pretty massive, "Six solo guitar players from America
and blighty: Tom Carter, M. Valentine, Tom Settle (Serfs),
Jon Collin, Ross Parfitt, and Infinite Light. Edition of
64 made from an old bed." I guess various parts of
the bed were used to make a winebox for the cassettes, because
mine come in a rough little cassette-sized wooden box with
a hinged lid, stuffed with hand-designed cassettes that
come out like a gentle puzzle. Not surprisingly, this is
one of those comps where the energy of the presentation
infuses the act of listening to the music, to the point
where none of the musicians seem to hit a wrong note. (The
6CD Elegy Box on Last Visible Dog also comes to
mind.) "Solo guitar" is the theme, but not a single
imitation-Fahey rut is fallen into as the music goes from
sparsely humming urgency (Parfitt) to chiming delay-pedal
bliss-out (Carter) to spaced electro-acoustic rhapsody (Matt
"MV" Valentine) to steel guitar magma (Settle)
to dreamy minimalism (Collin) to mangled heavy ballad deconstruction
(Infinite Light). I find it very easy and fulfilling to
listen to the whole thing in one sitting, one side right
Psychic 7" (NOT NOT FUN) Some sort of Not
Not Fun supergroup (i.e. overly stoned jam session) with
members of those inveterate record-releasers Pocahaunted
and maybe even Sun Araw himself. After listening to the
last couple Pocahaunted albums and anything by Mr. Araw,
I would expect these vibes to harsh me, but after reading
a rave review in Z Gun I'll give it a shot... 4
songs at 33 revolutions per minute... and you know what,
it is pretty excellent. They've definitely made up these
songs very recently, as the girl singing hasn't really written
anything in advance except titular chants, but as long as
she can come up with melodic/phrasing hooks like the funky
ones in 2nd song "Dead Horses," for one example,
I'm cool with it. Meanwhile, the band comes off like a somewhat
cruder West Coast answer to Baltimore's always-cooking Crazy
Dreams Band, sick and sizzling nerd funk. Side B does fine
too, with what may be a "Mushroom" rethink followed
by a sassy closer with a New No Wave hook that goes "I'm
not happy/I'm not happy/I'm not happy anymore more moar
moar." This and the U.S. Girls 7" are definitely
my favorite NNF records in some time.
VILE & THE VIOLATORS The Hunchback EP 12" (RICHIE/TESTOSTERTUNES)
Mr. Vile's 'official' debut album Constant Hitmaker
was Blastitude's favorite album of 2008, but on this brand
new follow-up he kinda sidesteps away from the one-man constant
hitmaking... now he's got a backing band and they casually
throw down a few loud machine-trance workouts, getting into
a cool urban grind, a little more grim this time. On the
first album there was a fair amount of sun breaking out
of the haze, but now it's definitely night-time. Also, this
EP doesn't use any of the spaced-out solo fingerpicking
styles that are on the first album, and while on first spin
that was slightly disconcerting, on second, third, and now
fourth, I don't mind at all. I don't even mind that four
out of the six cuts are instrumentals, or that the record
is over way too fast... makes it that much easier to play
VILE Childish Prodigy LP/CD (MATADOR) So far I've
loved every one of his records immediately, but I was quiet
about this one when it came out... as his Matador debut,
I initially felt that it was a decent but not hype-commensurate
record... and now I have no idea why I felt that because
I saw him play a great live show, and have listened to this
album a good 20 times now, and I think it's extremely good,
each song a delight, from the slow, bellowing new version
of "Hunchback" that opens it (including the lines
"slither up just like a snake upon a spiral staircase,"
borrowed from another Kurt song "Beach on the Moon,"
which is itself a melancholy solo reworking of Kurt klassik
"Freeway"... what kind of fractured mosaic is
this guy putting together?), to the weird fingerpicking
shouter "Dead Alive" that follows it ("You
tell me a good man is hard to find, what was that??! YOU
BETTER REWIND!!!!") to the lovely "Overnite
Religion" and it's Jimmy Page undercurrent (an overcurrent
performance), to the epic trance anthem live favorite
video!) "Freak Train," to another Zeppelin
III style solo ballad called "Blackberry Song,"
to the rather gloriously shoegazey Dim Stars cover "Monkey"
(never heard the Dim Stars, always thought they'd be more
aggro than this), to "Heart Attack" which opened
said live show so well, to "Amplifier" (more Zep
III, this time with some of that trumpet he didn't
dump), and then the key late-album head-turner, the 6-minute
plus "Inside Lookin' Out," which floats the album
home on a Bo Diddley-beat magic carpet, powered by Trbovich's
spacey harmonica and Vile's serious blues shouting. The
way he sings "GOT THE BLUES SO BAD!!!!!" and how
well it works makes me wonder how Vice Magazine could call
this album "blues rock" as an insult.
Sea Shell Listening CD (PEBBLE) This is a group
from the Brighton, England area... they sent a 3" CDR
two or three years ago (under the name of Vole) and it was
good and fresh-sounding improvised music, essentially free
jazz but with a strong folk and prog undercurrent, a distinctive
group tone that has come even further to the fore on this
superb new full-length. Standard instruments like saxophones
and drumkit mix uniquely with marimba, tapes & electronics,
folk-style acoustic guitar, and other intangibles for big
long tunes that are in fact mostly swells of dynamics and
tone, certainly as close as anyone else has gotten to late-period
Talk Talk playing the sound of strong flower petals breathing
quietly after a thunderstorm.....
WALLACE Glass Armonica CD (ROOT STRATA) Guy in
Michigan builds a hand-cranked machine to rub wine-glass
rims and play music, here's a CD of it. Really nice release,
typically sharp Root Strata packaging and a sweet listen.
When it comes to drone/dream music, sometimes machines do
JAZZ UNIT Absence Pact CDR (OUTFALL CHANNEL) Wow,
I haven't heard people start from an improvised/jazz basis
and just scorch like this for a long time. I mean, there's
the Heat Retention label, which has definitely been working
a noise/jazz hybrid in the last few years, heavier than
most... there's stuff on the Pendu Sound label that comes
to mind, like Ghost Moth with Daniel Carter or the Getting
Rid of the Glue comp LP... but after listening to the
blistering first couple minutes of this disc, I was a little
shocked when I looked at the credits and saw that it was
just two dudes, one on sax and one on clarinet. I thought
for sure there was a guitar in there, some electronics,
more than two people, that sort of thing. Not only does
this duo sound like the trio lineup of Borbetomagus, it
sounds like the trio lineup of Borbetomagus WITH VOICE CRACK.
Do you know what I am saying? 3 tracks, 25 minutes or so,
'stained' canvas digipak, good record.
JERUSALEM The Reincarnation of Isabel CS (AFTER DEATH)
Hey, a tape by Richard Ramirez -- I remember him being interviewed
in Muckraker magazine, when was that again, 35 years ago?
I certainly remember his memorable name, but I don't really
remember his music, so this tape might as well be my intro
to the guy. Side A "She Was Buried Alive" has
some nice warm and crunchy direct static that just sits
there and calmly burls. Sounds like "she" is no
longer trying to claw her way out. Side B is called "Rita
Calderoni"... maybe that's who Isabel got reincarnated
as. If so, she must be a real piece of work because this
side is a bit of a rager in a wall style. Did I use "wall
style" correctly? I really don't know, but I do know
that this is just how I like a noise tape to sound, 10 minutes
or less per side, with no woopsy-daisy loud-soft stop-start
antics, just direct and full-on, absorbing and mesmerizing.
WIESE Zombie LP (PRESTO!?) Sturdy new LP by modern
experimental composer John Wiese on Italian label Presto!?
Actually he's a "noise musician" but this LP is
done up complete with composer photo, extensive performance
notes, the actual score for one track included as an insert,
and some effective conceptual heft about loop usage and
the nature of the revolving vinyl record. First track is
a lock groover, to be played for 21 minutes... you have
to do the timing and take it off yourself, or you'll never
get to track two, which is a noise piece that stretches
out a section of a live performance by Wiese's grind/screamo
band Sissy Spacek for a good 12 minutes. And then, side
two, the star attraction, Wiese's version/edit/remix/loop
of the song "Zombie" by Drunks With Guns. He uses
the version from 1992, when their lead singer was "Melissa,"
and her 14-year-old vocals pierce through the air somewhere
between a horrific child-soldier war-cry and an incredible
slapstick comedy joke. (Also, Drunks With Guns, Sissy Spacek,
and Wiese himself are all from in and around the city of
St. Louis, Missouri, midwestern regionalism becoming another
layer of conceptual glue for this record.)
VEIL s/t CD (DEKORDER) Strange Berlin-based collective
that seems to dress up and even build theatrical sets to
perform their music, which is some pretty intense industrial
weird folk. A few tracks in and I'm thinking about throwing
a "Comus-meets-Neubauten" at ya... and if this
was 20 years ago I might even throw in an "on acid"
at the end of it...
Songs of Shame CD (SHRIMPER/WOODSIST) The singer's
high folky voice seems to be Termbro kryptonite (I guess
I'm just thinking of the review in Z Gun #3), and
their bearded woodsy urban folkie milieu would indeed seem
to be potentially played out in these late 00's, but against
these odds Woods have made another fine album, maybe not
quite as good as last year's Family Creeps, but
close enough for my enjoyment. In fact, what makes Songs
of Shame is the same thing that makes Family Creeps;
both albums have a rad 7-minute-or-so instrumental psych
jam (this one with Pete Nolan on guest guitar) somewhere
in the middle that separates and paces out a nice shambly
set of midtempo ballads and mild rockers that somehow just
avoid the Pitchfork-approvable ProTools production washout
that most otherwise-heartfelt neo-beards seem to get stuck
in (I'm thinking of bands like Band of Horses, My Morning
Jacket, and Grizzly Bear, but I've never even heard those
bands so what do I know).
Megafauna CD (HOLY MOUNTAIN) I'm trying to get
into this album... I've listened to it several times, it's
on one of my favorite labels, it's got some sort of rad
Mothman on the cover, it's supposed to be some sort of avant-garde
black metal, and, lord knows, for some reason, I still have
not given up on black metal, or even avant-garde black metal,
BUT.... it just goes in one ear and out the other. I'm afraid
it's another case of rad soundz no songz, because
the sounds are certainly rad, with all kinds of avant/noise/folk/drone
moves cropping up throughout, catching my ears and sparking
excitement each time they hit the wall, but none of it sticks,
just slumps down to the floor, out of view until next time.
It's like all the ingredients are there but the riffs are
missing, which means there's no architecture to the tracks;
the sounds are cool but it's all just constant design without
foundations. The label compares Yoga to black metal Throbbing
Gristle, but TG was/is seriously architectural -- their
tracks have very strict foundations. Someone else on the
internet described Yoga as a black metal James Ferraro,
which is more accurate, because Ferraro's music also tends
to be constant design without foundations. Rad jams, no
songs. You can do worse if you want to listen to something,
because "rad" is still in the description, but
the lack of songs do not make it one for the ages.
Metal Machine Music CD (HEAVY BLOSSOM) Solo music
by Marcia Bassett of Double Leopards. I raved about her
2007 LP Mirage of the Other when it came out, as
it seemed like such an effectively hushed and glowing amplification
of some small and suddenly mysterious part of the room,
but this new CD isn't really doing it for me. Is it because
it's CD and not vinyl? Is it because my ears have changed
in the interim and they are no longer as perked by increasingly
proliferate ambient metal shoegaze noise drone stylings?
JESUS The Spoils LP/CD (SACRED BONES) It
took me a little bit to come around to this Wisconsin chanteuse,
simply because I assumed that she was like most of her synth-wave
peers, rushing out some cool sounds without having it together
in the songwriting department. But now, listening to the
CD version of her new album The Spoils, which tacks
her first two seven-inches on at the end, I realize that
she actually started out writing tighter more classically
keyboard-driven songs and is only now evolving into something
where the individual songs are not as important, at least
not driven by their component parts (phrases, chords, hooks,
instrumentation) so much as an overall bellowing and swirling
movement, more like sustained rhythmic weather patterns,
sometimes gusting, sometimes calmer. The rather harsh power
electronics edge that she has always brought is both more
pronounced and more submerged into the overall character
of the music. And yet, now that I've listened several times,
I'm starting to hear hooks bigger than anything in else
this whole 80s-pop resurgence I would consider Ms. Jesus
part of... "Clay Bodies" for example. That said,
my favorite songs are the intense, seemingly wordless arias
like "Sinfonia and the Stew," "Lullaby in
Tongues," and the particularly stormy "Tell It
To The Willow."
JESUS Stridulum EP 45RPM 12" (SACRED BONES) Sorry
to all you avowed family haters, I know you're out there
by the hundreds, but I had to let my 4-year-old daughter
help me review this new Zola Jesus EP. Y'see, earlier tonight
we were playing this thrift store record called Theme
Music For The Film 2001 A Space Odyssey And Other Great
Movie Themes on the living room hi-fi, and when Aram
Khatchaturian's "Sabre Dance" brought it to a
stirring finish she got a little excited and asked, "What
kind of music is this even, CASTLE MUSIC??" Her brother
Phil and I thought that was pretty funny... and astute!
Next, I put on said new Zola Jesus EP Stridulum
for the third time in two days because I was trying to like
it better. Right from the first time I played it, I thought
it sounded great; definitely her cleanest recording
and tightest songwriting, but I just wasn't getting any
memorable tunes from it, nor any of the powerful forces
I got from her previous album The Spoils. The six
new songs all sounded very accomplished in that dark-but-triumphant
formula that she has basically mastered, but where The
Spoils swept me around from highs to lows, this just
kinda plodded along in the mainstream-ready middle of the
road. Anyway, this time, with the kids listening, it did
sound better, that upbeat poppiness that really could make
her a star standing out more undeniably, and Phil asks Claire
with a sly grin in his voice, "So is this castle music
too?," and without missing a beat she says, "Yes.
Now the queen is singing." You can't front on that.
WEIRD ALBUMS OF 2009
got reviewed above, some didn't, here's a rough Year End
Top 20, more or less in order of favoritude)
Control Local Flavor (Siltbreeze)
Kurt Vile Childish Prodigy (Matador), The Hunchback
EP (Richie), God Is Saying This To You (Mexican
Moritz Von Oswald Trio Vertical Ascent (Honest Jon's)
Peaking Lights Imaginary Falcons (Night People)
Polvo In Prism (Merge)
Bill Orcutt A New Way To Pay Old Debts (Palalalia)
Jack Rose & The Black Twig Pickers s/t (VHF)
R. Millis 120 (Etude)
Long Legged Woman Nobody Knows This Is Nowhere (Pollen
Eat Skull Wild And Inside (Siltbreeze)
Mi Ami Watersports (Quarterstick)
Sir Richard Bishop The Freak Of Araby (Drag City)
Magas Violent Arp (Punch)
RTFO Bandwagon Dums Will Survive (Dull Knife)
Group Bombino Guitars From Agadez Vol. 2 (Sublime
Cheer-Accident Fear Draws Misfortune (Cuneiform)
Caethua Village Of The Damned (Bluesanct)
Zola Jesus The Spoils (Sacred Bones)
Tyvek s/t (Siltbreeze)
Implodes s/t (Plustapes)
Lightning Bolt Earthly Delights (Load)
a predictably huge fan of both Blues Control and
Kurt Vile, but trust me, it's only because they keep
releasing fantastic albums. The Moritz Von Oswald Trio
took the dubbed-out electro-chillness of Von Oswald's Basic
Channel era into masterful live-band improvisational territory.
Peaking Lights emerged from the 'rad soundz/no songz/did
I mention something about weed yet' Not Not Fun/Night People
scene with a genuinely stunning album of entrancing songs
and rhythms, highly recommended. In a decade marked by constant
festival-circuit indie-rock reunions that usually result
in no new music, Polvo got together after 11 or 12
years apart and recorded one of the heaviest, boldest, and
most expansive heavy/weird rock albums of their whole career,
all new material. Harry Pussy founder/guitarist Bill
Orcutt also emerged from a sabbatical that covered almost
the exact same years, roughly 1997 to 2009, with a blistering
raw weird blues album somehow recorded on a 4-string acoustic
guitar. Why didn't Fat Possum pick up this album instead
of Wavves? A similar question could be asked about the next
album on the list -- when Jack Rose unexpectedly
passed away late in the year, he was making some of the
best solo acoustic music of his career, but I thought his
real '09 masterpiece was the album he cut with the Virginia-based
post-Pelt Black Twig Pickers. Not too many people
these days know how to play roots music at all, let alone
root music that swings like hell, and even if they do, the
odds of them wearing old-timey brimmed hats and some sort
of cute suspenders are just too great to face. Rose &
the Twigs don't dress for it, they just do it, and the result
is a blast to listen to. Justin Farrar can tell you all
about it in this
definitive band profile/travelogue, also published in
Yeti #7. The solo
CD by R. Millis called 120 may not show up
on too many year-end lists, I don't know, but it's a heavy
album, and if you're interested in any of the above, you
should maybe just check it out first. He's perhaps better
known as a member of the Climax Golden Twins, who could
almost pass for a guitar band, but this CD is a haunting
suite of jarring samples from old records stretched into
long-form extended atmosphere, dream presence and subliminal
placement. Shit, I'm gonna put it on right now. Long
Legged Woman was another one of the year's out-of-nowhere
surprises... after a few decent-to-quite good releases,
on which they tried a few different styles with varying
degrees of success, with this LP they somehow locked in
on a furious and howling proto-grunge sound that sounded
like it was coming straight out of 1987, sort of like how
when you look at a star burning right in front of you in
the sky you're actually looking at something that actually
happened a couple hundred light years ago. (Bear with me,
I'm working towards a definition of the rockwriting cliches
"primordial" and "timeless.") Eat Skull emerged from
the occasionally too-hastily dismissed shitgaze movement
to remind us that even in allegedly played-out genres actual
songwriting will still result in an excellent album, as
opposed to mere stylewriting, which is much easier, far
more common, and employed by artists who can make sounds
but have nothing in particular to say. The "Dawn In The
Face" and "Oregon Dreaming" close still haunts me, right
now, but then so does the relatively joyful "Stick To The
Formula" and "Cooking A Way To Be Happy" open, not to mention
most of the songs in between. I almost forgot about the
Mi Ami album because it came out waaaaay back in
January on some defunct label called Touch & Go/Quarterstick,
but its mixture of driving frenetic post-punk shock-attack
with dubbed-out tranced-out deep stillness definitely keeps
it on this list. The Sir Richard Bishop album is
such a stately affair, loving versions of and homages to
traditional Middle Eastern tunes, that it didn't even really
register with me as the extremely effective Arabic/cowboy/surf/punk/shred
hybrid that it is until I saw him play the songs live in
Iowa City back in June. When I got home the next day I played
the album five times in a row, and it has since become a
household staple. Magas continues to hone a sound
that could be described as 'post-techno' back into something
that is more primally and timelessly rock & roll, and
Violent Arp may be his definitive statement thus
far. Underneath the driving synth and drumbox madness, a
tune like "Whiskey Nights" sounds as much like 1959 psychobilly
as it does 2009 electro. RTFO Bandwagon surprised
me with a very ambitious album that adorns a basic lo-fi
Ohio singer/songwriter sound with totally legit and heartfelt
country, soul, and orchestral moves, without letting the
avant-noise undercurrent dry out either. For the last 5
or 6 years, every time I do a year-end list I always have
one spot that just says "everything Sublime Frequencies
released" and that's pretty much true this year too, with
special mention for their Siamese Soul and Singapore
A Go Go comps, but if I had to pick just one of their
releases from this year it would be the entrancing acoustic
and electric desert-blues Tuareg-rock LP by Group Bombino.
This year, one of Chicago's greatest and longest-running
bands Cheer-Accident found a perfect label home with
venerable prog institution Cuneiform,
and appropriately released one of the most straight-ahead
albums of epic heavy-prog mastery of their 27-year career.
Caethua is a one-woman project currently based somewhere
in distant Maine... she's released a few cassettes and CDRs
of promising eerie folk songs but it all came together for
me on her Village of the Damned release, her most
memorable songs yet, interspersed with very effective drone/ambient
atmospheres, all informed by "the
village where I grew up called Dryden, where a long string
of murders (dating back to when the village was founded)
cursed the land." A lot of people seem to be messing
around with some sort of mix of 80s pop, goth, synth, and
drum machine would-be darkness these days, and usually it
strikes me as kind of unimportant, but Zola Jesus
also broke the mold this year with her album The Spoils.
The songs still aren't necessarily what stands out ("Clay
Bodies" notwithstanding) so much as the way the overall
album rises and falls like heavy weather and other natural
forces. The self-titled Tyvek album on Siltbreeze
got some criticism for its sketchbooky odds-and-sods nature,
but I'm putting it on here for tracks 2 through 5 alone,
driving-anthem-of-the-year "Summer Things," a distinctive
50-second interlude called "Sonora," a jumpy poppy punk
love song called "Hey Una," and a definitive manifesto "Frustration
Rock." Hey, they've always been a singles band, but I still
found this, their first release longer than 10 minutes,
to work very well as a through-listen, as the band is fluent
in quite a few more styles than it might initially seem
(DIY, pop, twee, kraut, psych, and more). Another record
that I found myself playing over and over this year was
the self-titled cassette by Chicago group Implodes,
sometimes to try and dig in and see what was going on underneath
the treacherous wind-blown exterior, other times just to
let go and drift in that heavy, bleak, and morose outer
layer. Either way they are a band that plays songs, and
that remains crucial. Lightning Bolt has long been
a favorite band at Blastitude HQ, and they did not disappoint
with their first album in 4 years, the epic Earthly Delights.
Just as they are pushing the envelope further than ever
when it comes to insane riffs and psychotronic production,
they somehow seem more rooted than ever in 1970s holy-grail
hard-rock. One of the definitive bands of the decade, for
sure. (Speaking of which, stay tuned for a Best Records
of the Decade list that we've started to put together...
hopefully we'll have that nailed down by, oh, 2015 or so...)
YOU, THIS HAS BEEN BLASTITUDE #28. NEXT ISSUE ANYWHERE FROM
2 MONTHS TO 2 YEARS FROM NOW. IN THE MEANTIME, PLEASE FOLLOW
FOR MORE FREQUENT ACTIVITY.
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