Reality Is Elitist And Other Smashist Sound Manifestos CD
is TOTALLY another example of the Artsy Underground Genre.
See reviews for Gold, down below, and Slaw, in last ish, but
Gold and Slaw actually aren't too bad. This release has all
of the common warning signs of the Super Artsy Nobodyground:
(1) a long-winded album title, (2) self-released, usually
by a one-off label with a long-winded name, (3) ambitious
art direction with that distinct "did it on my friend's
computer" look, usually with gratuitous digital photo
manipulation, (4) any kind of extensive booklet, usually with
(5) manifestos. I must say that this guy designs his chock-full
eight-page booklet better than most. His small-print manifesto
writing is possibly directly influenced by Nation of Ulysses.
Yes!," he writes. I say "he" because Anakrid
appears to be one guy, named Chris Bickel. He's from South
Carolina -- I've never gotten anything from there, except
for Charlie McAlister. Hmm, it might not be terrible . . .
. weird, I play it and it's like deep-MIDI movie soundtrack
music. No vocals to speak of, despite all the manifestos about
"smashism" or whatever.
THEN, A COUPLE MONTHS
LATER, in a last-ditch effort to salvage this very rough draft
of a review, I go to Mr.
Bickel's website and find all these manifestos and big
pictures of himself on every page, and I'm like, waitaminnit,
this is some crypto-fascist occult type stuff! He's not trying
to be Ian Svenvonius, he's trying to be Anton LaVey and Boyd
Rice! Nazi Alert! Nazi Alert! Just kidding. But it's not only
the imagery, it's the music too, because LaVey and Rice always
recorded albums that sounded soft and distant and that don't
get creepy 'til 'later.' Anyway, we'll see how far Chris Bickel's
cult of personality gets, he's certainly trying very hard.
giving Anarkid one last 'just to be fair' listen: fuck man,
it's not too bad. Not as deep-MIDI as it was at first glance,
instead it's weird tribal/mechanical electro jams. Actually
kind of has a live feel, but as I said above, with very distant
production that ends up saving the day. The sounds do not
pander like the imagery threatens to, and a legitimately eerie
vibe is created. I mean, I honestly think it's as good as
2 out of the 3 Nurse With Wound albums I've ever heard. (Similar
subgenre -- you know, NWW, Coil, C93, Death in June, some
other stone-faced Bay Area band you heard were satanists once,
blah blah blah blee blee . . . . .)
thing about this release: the Super Artsy Nobodyground almost
always releases albums that are over 70 minutes long, but
this one is less than 45 minutes long. I'm amazed at the restraint!
And, a weird thing: I have two copies of this CD, but I only
remember getting one, in a package directly from Mr. Bickel.
Where did the other copy come from? Could it be . . . 'magick'?!!!
album! The lowest key noise album ever. It's an album of the
cooking and eating of pork, contact-mic'd. Finally starts
to get gross about 28 minutes in. It's totally Fluxus! Neo
Fluxus! From New York even, though the performing artists,
Emil Hagstrom and Roger Rimada, live in Wisconsin and Florida,
respectively. Already reviewed in Blastitude #13, over a year
CHRONICLE: Demos CDR (THE CHRONICLE)
didn't think this would be too good. Looked like another singer-songwriter
-- too many of those. College kid from small midwestern town,
I prejudged. Sensitive athlete type, relatively hip to new
music, relatively new to hip music. Influenced by Will Oldham,
Papa M, Saddle Creek Records, Rainer Maria.
But really, forget all
that, because I don't know this guy at all and track one is
a really nice song. It could be called singer-songwriter,
yes, and it could even be called 'warm electronica', because
it has a warm possibly sampled bass-line and mellow drum machine
programming . . . . . and I still like it, probably because
it wasn't sanctioned by Magnet Magazine or something. Lyrics
aren't anything great, but I'm still a sucker for a dreamy
chorus that just goes "Fallin' . . . / Fallin' . . .
" a few times.
Nice song, but it wouldn't
be enough on its own, which is where track two comes in being
not too bad either -- a Cluster-like instrumental. (Or more
likely an Aphex Twin 'SAW 2'-like instrumental.) Track 3 is
better still, with a funky/weird hip-hop beat and bassline
overwhelmed by ethereal but loud delay damage. Weird! Track
4 is another creep-ambient instrumental, this time better
than Track 2! And the last Track, 5 (nice and short EP / demo
/ thing, the way it's supposed to be -- basically like a 45
RPM record), is kind of half-baked songwriting wise -- it's
just two chords -- but the playing is dreamy and menacing,
the overdubbed guitars mixed loud and weird. This guy is from
Greenville, Illinois -- look it up on a map. It's nowhere
near Chicago, and you can tell, in a good way.
ROOM: Music For Performance CDR (KRKRKRK)
ish New Zealand artiste Drawing Room surprised with a really
bleak & cold album of electronic goth folk, like Eyeless
in Gaza or someshit, where I had been expecting the usual
NZ long-form noise-slab. Well, this is more what I had been
expecting. Pretty scary shit, really, with what sounds like
far-off layered screams. Not scary like Texas Chainsaw
Massacre, more like a weird Tarkovsky scene. I don't
know, Solaris or Stalker? (I've only seen
about 15 minutes of each so I don't know, but the sonics evince
a slow and muted sci-fi/industrial kind of horror.) These
screams are kind of hard to listen to, and it's a relief when
it suddenly gives way to a very sparse, high bowed metal kind
of thing that is right up there with the Yermo s/t CDR from
a few years ago for a little of that electroacoustic high
lonesomeness. Well anyway, these pieces are LONG, and SLOW,
so I'll tell you more about 'em later, but would make a FINE
soundtrack to a sci-fi film, no, I'm serious.
DRUMM: Land of Lurches CD (HANSON)
I first put this on someone outside was mowing their lawn,
and this kicked in with a thick-ass drone that sounds almost
exactly like another lawnmower. Does this make it a summertime
jam? A scary summertime jam, it starts thick and gets thicker.
On headphones it would sound like a thousand lawnmowers, not
mowing grass but mowing your mind.
Second time I put it
on, as the track progresses, I actually start thinking someone
outside is possibly mowing their lawn, or using one of those
"weed wackers." I turn down the stereo quick, no
one's mowing the lawn, but the cicadas are buzzing hard --
in about the exact same frequency -- and I swear to you, it's
the first time since I moved to Chicago (2 years ago) that
I've noticed you can hear cicadas here. I turn it back up
and I fucking wonder -- for a split second -- if someone's
mowing the lawn AGAIN. See, it's a real summertime mind-eraser.
Fades out prematurely but comes back, this time speaking in
Track two is harsher,
more cut-up, and I think there's a sample of someone saying
"YEEAAHHHH!" somewhere in there that makes it scarier.
Reminds me more of another Drumm I've heard, the KD
cassette on Freedom
From. Track three is CD only, and I've seen at least two
other reviewers say that it's "the best" track on
here. It's good, but I actually think it's the third-best
track, and it's only six minutes long. I would recommend the
vinyl version, I bet 1 and 2 sound great on vinyl.
SLAUGHTER CDR (TEQUILA
funny, how many times have you seen a band live, and it sounded
a certain way, so you bought an album by 'em, or two albums,
or even three or four, trying to hear that same thing again,
and never really getting it? The albums just plain don't sound
like the live show? Well, in August of 2002 I saw Enos Slaughter
live on a Brooklyn rooftop, and I liked it, and when I heard
(in Tony Rettman's column last ish -- see, I learn from my
own mag!) that this CDR (edition of 150) was recorded live
at the Philadelphia Record Exchange just one month later,
I had a feeling it might be real similar to what I saw / heard
/ attended. And you know what? Not only is it similar, it
sounds like almost EXACTLY the same set! As in the same three
songs, in the same order. Two performances, a month apart.
I bet they didn't even 'practice' in between. Which points
out that Enos Slaughter's music, while definitely loose and
probably not especially rehearsed, is still pretty clearly
composed. Anyway, this is Dave Shuford and Carter Thornton
of S@1 infamy and Marc Orleans from Sunburned Hand of the
Man and they play stretched-out (mostly) acoustic mutant bluegrass.
The Lighthe Brethren Of Fworthmang CDR (GOLD)
can't believe this is the first band I've ever heard of named
Gold, but it is. Oh, and put one great big giant "[SIC]"
after the title, yep, this is more of that 2003 ARTSY. Of
course, it's like gnarly artsy, with hand-made covers with
that pale '99 cent kwik kolor kopy' glow, a picture of some
gnarly long-haired dude with glasses, and a website called
www.keanuxenakis.com. WHY??? Because it's goofy and artsy.
You can hear it in the singer's stage patter that begins track
2. Remember last ish, when I was picking on Slaw, about defining
the "artsy" category? Slaw was pretty artsy but
that was really unfair of me to use them as an example, because
usually Artsy genre people I wish would stop making music,
but I don't feel that way about Slaw -- they do a lot of good
things. And I don't think Gold should stop doing music either
-- in fact, these guys are a pretty impressive proggy hard
rock band, mostly instrumental and better for it, kind of
like Cheap Trick meets King Crimson with a pinch of the Gone
/ Gang Wizard Cali punk prog instro continuum for spice .
. . . although I think they're from Boston. Not sure. And
it's short too! Another EP. (More EPs! More EPs!) I'd rather
listen to this than anything by Don Caballero (except for
maybe American Don). Hey, they're giving it away
for free, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if ya want one.
HOUSE: Up In Flames CD (ERSTWHILE)
really thought I would have sold this Haunted House album
back by now. I've got plenty of Loren Connors albums, and
here's one by a side band that doesn't even bear his name,
their only release I know of, a murky recording of three long
songs from two different NYC shows. I listened to its seemingly
careless and rather impenetrable fog once, the day I got it,
like four years ago, and I was wondering "Why did I get
this again?" I listened to it a second time, about a
month later, thinking this would be its last chance before
I sold it . . . and something about that second listen, while
still not earthshaking, persuaded me to keep it. That was
four years ago, and I finally just listened to it a third
time today . . . and this time it actually WAS earthshaking,
and I'm definitely gonna keep it. The first track, 25 minutes
long, opens with Connors just wailing alone for a good 5 or
more unaccompanied minutes, and it is just . . . monumental.
Why didn't I care before? Slow as a glacier, sad like Billie
Holliday and Duane Allman and Keiji Haino are sad, but simultaneously.
All tracks feature Connors with San Agustin member Andrew
Barnes on second guitar (he meshes better with Connors than
any of the more 'famous' names that have played with him,
like Licht and O'Rourke), Suzanne Langille on really husky,
spooky vocals, and, bizarrely filling the "drum chair,"
Neel Murgai on Persian daf! The tracks are really long, spread-out,
and somnolent, but the third and last track gets kind of crazy
with wild guitar playing -- later on, with the changer on
shuffle, I thought it was a Sun City Girls freakout for a
good five minutes before getting things straight.
FARR A LAUGH! THE GREATEST PRANK PHONE CALLS EVER! CD (FAILED
This is incredible! I'm by myself listening to this for the
first time and I'm actually giggling out loud almost non stop
-- this is the most I've laughed at a record in YEARS. These
seem to be very well-scripted and well-acted calls that take
things into a Coyle and Sharpe level of ridiculous-yet-plausible
put-on that pretty much EVERYONE falls for completely. That's
what makes these calls unique -- he almost never gets anyone
especially angry, he almost never gets hung up on, he just
puts people on, and they usually hang up the phone with a
cordial goodbye, apparently none the wiser. I don't want to
give any of the jokes away, but there is a lot more than mere
gut-busting and humiliation going on. In fact, most of the
calls have a layer of social satire that often cuts about
nine different ways at once, whether it's the disturbing "woman"
named Barbara, who likes Phil Collins and Billy Ocean, answering
an ad to play in a blues band, or Isaac Hayes complaining
about verbal abuse in a grocery store parking lot, or a man
trying to sell a baffling parade of pop culture gewgaws to
a patient antique dealer, or the man known only as "Bleachy"
trying desperately to join the Army, or a gregarious but possibly
abusive and alcoholic husband putting his wife on the phone
to get directions to look at a golf cart, or, in an incredible
tour de force, Blaine Washington, "a big businessman
around town," "talking turkey" with a man selling
a pair of yogurt machines. ("I'm not sure how much you
know about the yogurt game . . .") This latter call is
the one where the album title comes from, when Mr. Washington
recommends the mark the autobiography of Jamie Farr. ("It's
called Just Farr A Laugh. Intense. Very inspirational. Are
you familiar with the character Klinger from the TV show M*A*S*H?
The cross-dressing middle easterner? There's about six chapters
dealing with that character. That really fucked him up.")
Anyway, I can honestly say that EVERYONE should hear this
album. I haven't played it for a single person yet who didn't
LOWDOWN: Y Is A Crooked Letter CD (ZUM)
an hour ago I read a Darin Gray interview at this
French webzine, which got me thinking that Dazzling Killmen
were one of the first Brutal Prog bands. You know, Brutal
Prog, that subset of Neo No Wave? (How many people are rolling
their eyes?) Well, I think that The Lowdown, from San Francisco,
or Oakland, or Santa Cruz, or somewhere over there, are another
Brutal Prog band, and a pretty darn good one. These guys rant
and blast just like all their peers do over and over again,
but there's something more special going on here. Helium vocals
+ gnarled/maxed rock instruments + song structures that blast
but stop and left-turn and fade suddenly, reminding me of
not just a subgenre or a scene, but of a slew of random artists:
Caroliner and Sightings, sure, but also Solid Eye . . . The
Fall . . . Kurt Schwitters?? There's even a couple quirky
New-posing-as-No Wave 'c'mon why aren't you guys dancing yet?!'
type numbers, but even those are better than you'd expect.
Couple tidbits: The Lowdown's drummer is the echoplex player
in Comets on Fire, and, to quote the liner notes, this album
was "Recorded on 4-track cassette throughout 2002 in
a storage garage, an abandoned naval building, a cabinet maker's
shop, and a rocker's studio." Considering that, it's
a very powerful and cohesive recording.
great one-man noise hope of Bowling Green, Ohio. Actually,
there might be plenty more going on in that town, but this
cassette by N-Tron is all I know about, and it's more than
enough good stuff for now. A short and satisfying tape of
gnarl-gobs perfect for the next time you feel like converting
your mind into pleather. 100 copies made, e-mail email@example.com.
NAGOSKI: Effortless Battle CD (RECORDED)
tracks, first one "Effortless Battle" is 31 minutes,
second one "Ripped Steam Hinterland" is 14 minutes.
Track one doesn't even really get audible until almost 3 minutes
in. And even then it's a real far off sound. Good though,
and track two is actually a very excellent wall-drone. I prefer
to listen to track 2 first because it puts 1 in a new impatience-free
light. When track 1 gets up there to full volume (around the
10-minute mark) it's pretty powerful. Not unlike Drumm's Lurches,
reviewed above, though a slightly softer and more orchestral
texture of death-drone. I have a feeling this would be good
really really loud, louder than I'll probably ever be able
to play it in this apartment.
GALORE: Unauthorized Oven Bait CD (ADULT
has been playing for eight minutes and the whole time I thought
it was some one-man noise record. The stereo wasn't that loud,
and I was barely listening, so the crescendos and blasts and
daringly long silences all sounded like the work of one person
alone in a house or apartment. Turns it out it's a very much
a band, a band we all know and love, but the reason for all
the long silences is that this is a bootleg of one of their
practices, in which they work for an hour and only make it
through two songs. When they get a song going, it's just a
sheer oblivion tunnel. Today, some 18 years later, they are
still an unapproachably heavy band. Some of this was on the
Spencer-compiled Corpse Love anthology, so perhaps
you've heard the story behind it, as explained in the press
release: "Jon Spencer, Julia Cafritz and the rest in
all their snarling, sneering, spoiled-rotten-Ivy-Leaguer glory,
recorded live in the mid-80s. Extremely lo-fi to begin with
and made even more unlistenable after the fact by disgruntled
percussionist Tom Smith, who originally released the tapes
in an act of revenge after the band gave him the boot. He
[. . .] 'meant for it to showcase the bands incompetence,
as it consists of a full hour of everybody just trying to
play one or two songs' [. . .] but it has gone on to achieve
near-mythical status as one of the rawest, most insanely (un)produced
recordings you're likely to hear. Good luck sitting through
all 55 minutes." I haven't quite been able to do it myself,
but to take your shot at it contact
Adult Contemporary Recordings, 3826 NE 171st Street, Miami
AND, if I may set the record
straight regarding the above myth regarding Tom Smith's disgruntlement,
here's what he has said about Oven Bait: "PG's
rehearsals were brutal affairs, with songs played for hours
on end. Julie was relatively new at her instrument, and all
of us were prone to miscues -- we worked at the set with demonic
fervor. I thought it would be cool to release an album that
would document the process -- one song per side, from Jon's
initial excited, shouted instructions, through the various,
inevitable breakdowns, to the first successful run-through
. . . Were Pussy Galore inept? Hardly. PG were a pioneering
band; its music, as snarling and skewed as it must have seemed
to most, struck me as being nothing less than majestic."
SRDENOVIC: Colour These Bears LP
This LP is officially sought after. Came out in the summer
of 2000 in an edition of 300 and you SLEPT ON IT. Oh jeez,
what was I just saying about Charlie McAlister being better
than Tom Waits? Well, Milovan Srdenovic is too. BIG TIME.
And not only does he out-waits Tom Waits, he also out-karunas
Karuna Khyal. Hell, most of the time he even out-residents
CITY GIRLS: Box of Chameleons 3CD (ABDUCTION)
difficult to find my 'way into' this thing. Three compact
discs, each packed with 40 to 50 very short tracks apiece,
presented in no order that makes sense or could make sense,
jumping around wildly over the last 20 years, the only information
other than the date recorded being a brief imagistic title.
So you get two minutes from 1994 right into two minutes of
1982 right into two minutes of 1984 right into two minutes
of 1987 to 1989 to '91 to '85 to '84 back down to '81 and
so on about thirty more times over the course of three chock-full
CDs. It seems to be about 90 percent instrumental and possibly
95 percent completely improvised, tons of totally scattered
mo(ve)ments, enough to put your mind right into THE blender,
but my current attempt to find a 'way in' is to jot down every
time a track actually has English-language lyrics (like maybe
one in every fifteen), but then midway through that project
I find out that Disc One is actually mis-labelled as Disc
Two and vice versa, and that makes me remember that I had
already figured that out once, several months ago, which explains
why, when I first got it out, Disc Two was in the first tray
and Disc One was in the second tray, which I "fixed,"
because I thought it was a mistake, all over again . . . .
. . . . . . . and then, once I get that all 'straightened'
out, I start to question if 'English-language lyrics' is really
the criteria I want, because what I really mean is just songs,
as opposed to instrumentals and improvs, but a lot of the
songs have lyrics that aren't, of course, in English, and
a lot of the tracks that have English are spoken word pieces
that aren't exactly songs, and some of the instrumentals have
really clear guitar fanfares that are as strong as any chorus
on here . . . . . Man, these guys just don't make it easy
for ya! Long may they confuse!
RA: Strange Strings LP; Visits Planet Earth LP (SATURN REISSUES)
the press! Whoever is doing these Saturn label reissues is
officially the greatest record label EVER. The greatest reissue/bootleg/whatever
label ever, anyway. The beauty of them is that NO NEW INFORMATION
appears whatsoever. You just get the LP exactly as it was
released the first time, every swank original detail replicated
exactly, the only address appearing at the bottom left corner:
"Saturn Records, P.O. Box 7124, CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, 60607
U.S.A.," which was first printed almost 40 years ago,
and is surely defunct now. (Or is it?)
In the bottom middle
it says "MUSIC composed and arranged by SUN RA, Published
by Enterplanetary (BMI) Copyright © 1966." And then
on the bottom right it says: "LP No. 9956 -- 11 -- A
/ Monaural / Solar-Fidelity." And there's also a price
printed right on there: "$4.98"! And man, that's
just the bottom half-inch of the back cover. Wait'll you see
the cover reproductions on these! They're gorgeous! Printed
on high-quality paper! In 30-40 years, people might think
they're originals! Hell, they are originals!
I already had Visits
Planet Earth on CD, the Evidence reissue, where it is
combined with another title, but I 'impulse bought' this LP
version because it was new & shrinkwrapped while being
priced at only $5.99, and the cover looked SO GOOD. (This
was at Dusty Groove America, which is a REALLY NICE "new
Chicago" record store (i.e. cleanly designed hipster-Disneyland
evincing no-nonsense quality to the point of being unfriendly).
Selection is a little too groove / soul / vocal / cumbio /
borqueria / ??? for me to shop there all the time, but they've
got lots of good records anyway, and just that they would
stock these Ra reissues in such nice condition and at a price
like that is enough for me.
As for Visits Planet
Earth, it's a fine document of Ra's chilled-out Chicago-period
space swing. (Oh yeah, Ra was in Chicago for a few years too,
late 50s & early 60s -- an "old Chicago" institution!)
Sometimes swing era Ra recs seem like the very best of all,
because the more you listen, the weirder they get, like a
Duke Ellington ballad except you can hear tectonic plates
shifting beneath. Plus, on the earlier stuff, the weird --
oops, I mean "free" -- solos don't seem as obligatory.
Strings was the second album I bought today at Dusty
Groove America, though it caught my eye first, even at $12.99
because, again, it looked so damn GOOD! These reissues are,
well, TITS! (Did I say that right?) I know about Strange
Strings because it was on this Wire Magazine list of
'100 records that set the world on fire' that I forced myself
to read once. (Okay, I read it three times.) I had always
pictured this as an album of JUST strings, like a special
little one-take studio experiment where the Arkestra didn't
have any horns or anything, just these weird autoharps and
mini-harps in their laps that they plucked and strummed, for
two sides of "new sounds," and then back to the
regular Arkestra repertoire. Like a novelty album.
Well, now that I've finally
heard it, it sounds like they do indeed all have little harps
in their laps, but they also have their regular instruments,
and the first side is actually just a pretty standard full-Arkestra
post-swing '20 minute mystery-sweeper' in the style of "The
Magic City," with the "electronic strings"
really only taking center stage for a couple interludes. The
interludes are great, the little harps are all maxed-out and
psychedelic, and I remember a sax solo by probably Marshall
Allen (sounded like alto) being great, and best of all is
Ra's funky keyboard breakdown, almost exactly halfway through
the side/piece, some welcome funk in what is otherwise basically
"The Magic City, Part 9." Not that there's anything
wrong with that, and the lo-fi recording is sweet, fuzzed
out and peaked. Oh yeah, and the drum solo is really a sheet
metal solo, so look out for that. (And here I thought that
was invented by Blowhole, sheez . . . anybody remember Blowhole?)
The sheet metal dominates
on Side Two, another side-long piece with the fine title "Strange
Strange." So do death-carves from violin and silly harp
playing. This is very harsh! No way they can keep this up
for a whole side! Sure nuff, the sheet metal stopped, which
made the violin stop carving and start fluttering before stabbing
instead. Freaked-out reverb too! Oh well, I guess it's time
to take another journey . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(wow, special
props go to the "space voice" that appears on both
sides, performed by . . . well, get this: the actual label
on side two says "Space Voice: Art Jenkins," right
below the song title, which is killer to just credit one guy,
out of the whole Arkestra, on the actual label like that .
. . but then the back cover says, in the fine print, "Space
Voice: Thlan Aldridge"!!!)
LIVE AND SHAVE IN L.A. 2: Kill Misty: Threnody/300 Dollar
Silk Shirt CDR (NO LABEL)
Holy shit! I haven't listened to this album in two and a half
years because when I got it I just thought it was 'pretty
good.' Well, I just put it on for some reason and it's VERY
good! In fact, this is the To Live and Shave in L.A. album
I've been wanting to hear the last couple years, and I feel
like it's fair to Shave leader Om Myth (who, this being a
'sequel' band, is not directly involved) because throughout
the album, tapes of his "session vocals and poetry"
are mixed in as if he was still the lead singer. Plus you've
got Misty Martinez contributing "personal effects,"
which sounds to me like the space giggle of whatever babe
was on the Cosmic Jokers' Galactic Supermarket disc,
which means that this album is psychedelic, which places it
in the correct tradition of the original Shave. Also features
Walter's scorching (if actually quite 'in the tradition' --
see Brotzmann, Braxton, Dietrich/Sauter) C-melody sax playing,
Nandor Nevai's powerhouse 'mystery metal' drumming, and more
of Rat Bastard's perennially unmatchable "bass guitar."
I think this might be my favorite Weasel Walter-related album
yet! (Second place is probably the new Luttenbachers, reviewed
TO LIVE AND SHAVE IN L.A. 2: A memorable live
RECORDINGS: Folk Scene CD (THE COMMUNION LABEL)
album came out in 2001, and as far as I know Tower Recordings
haven't put out anything under that name since. For a span
of around one year, circa 1997-1998, I probably cumulatively
spun something by the Tower Recordings close to 100 times,
a combination of their albums The Fraternity of Moonwalkers,
Furniture Music For Evening Shuttles, and Ego Synchronicity
Music (which was billed as the MV Holoscanner Exhibition
but featured almost the exact same 5-6 people as Tower Recordings).
I've barely listened to 'em
since, but they stand as one of my favorite bands of the 90s.
This brief but intense sojourn on "Planet TR" started
when I was -- ahem -- on tour with -- ahem -- my band, years
ago, and the drummer had bought a copy of -- ahem -- Magnet
Magazine, and was like "Who the hell are Tower Recordings?"
They were featured on one of those Magnet one-pagers, the
first time any of us had heard anything about 'em. "Apartment
rock," they were classified as. Some messy hairs and
some shaveheads and a token cute girl. Hmm, whatever. Just
a few days later, we had a night off in New York City, and
the dudes we're staying with drag us to the (now defunct)
Cooler night-club, and who should be on the bill but Tower
Recordings, Irving Klaw Trio, Tono-Bungay, and Un! (Alan Licht
was in the audience! Just a regular guy!) Quite a lineup for
your more rural Forced Exposure / Muckraker / Bananafish reader,
and this new band Tower Recordings were aligned with it. People
at the show were saying that they were going to be really
good -- there was a buzz! And indeed, I sat on the floor 5
feet in front of Tower Recordings and they blew my mind with
a sort of wasted/blasted folk music that hadn't quite yet
occurred to my hard rock damaged mind.
So yeah, then came the
"sojourn on Planet TR" or whatever, and then we
kinda stopped seeing each other, i.e. their records started
staying on the shelf. A few years go by, two or three. And
then, I'm reading that much-maligned "New Weird America"
article in The Wire, and it raves about that last TR album
Folk Scene, and then not a few days later I read
this quote on some
blog somewhere: "Favour the Avant-Folk scene or not,
offerings from outfits like Tower Recordings are as modern
and exploratory, if not as Grime, then as most Electronica."
I don't know about all
this "Grime" stuff but this blog quote combined
with the Wire mention made me borrow this album from
a friend. And the blog is accurate: Folk Scene is
practically a vocal-free ambient electronica album. There
are maybe three song-moments on the entire album that I can
specifically remember AT ALL. One is the glorious 2nd song,
"Winter of Frozen Mornings," barely 2 minutes long,
in which Helen Rush sings one meandering verse in her lovely
voice, only to have it studio-chopped for the second verse
in a way that is not only totally "electronica,"
it's like if songs by angels were somehow painted by Picasso
during his high cubist phase. The next track is a striker
too: an actual "Third Stream" chamber jazz composition,
scored for saxes, clarinets, the whole nine. And after that,
nothing. I don't remember a thing. The whole album disintegrates,
dematerializes. (Okay, okay, there's that one longer song
with vocals that has that 'heavy tribal' ending, but that's
only like the fifth track, and then THAT'S IT.)
So Folk Scene starts
out like it's going to make a huge impression, and then really
doesn't end up making much impression at all. In a way this
is cool, because it's a very distinct story-arc. In fact,
it reminds me of all those psychic espionage novels by William
S. Burroughs, in which the plot is the rubbing out of the
word, and accordingly, the fabric of the novel dissipates
as you read it. (Cronenberg translated the form perfectly
into the film medium with Videodrome.) By the 9th
or 10th chapter, you have no idea what's going on except that
maybe nothing is really going on at all, just strings of dead
words. You might not even read the 11th and 12th chapter,
and be all the wiser for it. Substitute "tracks"
for "chapters" and "sounds" for "words"
and you've got this album.
On my SEVENTH or EIGHTH
listen I start to recognize a couple more songs -- yeah, two.
Tops. But I like them, and I want to keep listening to the
rest, at its most meanderingly instrumental, to tease its
depths, because I feel like I'll always be able to find something
there. Just like I can pick up any William Burroughs book,
however post-Lunch, and turn to pg. 119 and read
something that will blow me AWAY. Here, watch . . . . . .
. . . . okay, I just went and pulled Port of Saints
from the bookcase, as second-tier as Burroughs gets, right?
Have I read the whole thing? Pffft, not even ten pages! Okay,
pg. 119.....um, how about "I could feel the young sailor's
face smiling into mine as I came in front of my hundred coolies
in pure fearless blue flame of Yage spiced with hashish and
further cooled and tempered by opium, then unleashed by cocaine."
Damn! Let's try again, how about pg. 119 from . . . . . .
. . . . . let's see, The Western Lands, another book
I haven't even read ten pages of . . . how about this, in
the last full paragraph: "The clothes of darkness, señor.
Yes, come in many sizes. Here is a cloak to be worn at dusk
and dawn, gray-black as you see, always the thick velvet feel,
with gray-white velvet in the morning light, the black velvet
lingering in corners like a fog of underexposed film, a path
of darkness. Capes . . . yes, to be whipped about one, throwing
swirls of darkness, and slim-fitting invisibles, tight pants,
turtleneck and Russian hat." See my point?
EYES & BLACK DICE LP (FUSETRON)
got this on the same day as the extremely anticipated Sugar:
The Other White Meat LP, and despite the comparative
lengths of the two reviews, this is the one that's gotten
more turntable play. Side two gets my "Set The Controls
For The Heart Of The Sun" award for the last six months,
or longer. Worth the price of admission. So's the cover art.
And hey, side one is pretty cool too, with three or four tracks
that work pretty well as a "suite." (No titles or
anything like that.) It's structured real nice, with this
long-lasting high-pitched tone right in the middle of the
side that makes the presentation of the music parabolic. You
know what I mean? It might be what you call "story arc."
Either way, VERY good record, and even if you already like
have 9 Black Dice records and 29 Wolf Eyes records, AND you
already have one or more of the series of American Tapes dubplates
from this collaboration (Chimes In Black Water Vols. 1-3,
editions of probably >30 apiece), you've still gotta hear