OF BON MATIN: Cabin in the Sky LP (BULB)
Temple of the Good Morning return with another release on one
of America's top five or even top three labels for underground
music. Blastitude regulars may or may not have noticed that I
think Bullet Into Mesmer's Brain by the Laser Temple of
Bon Matin is one of the best albums this whole 1990s freak underground
came up with. That was sort of a big-band album, that sounded
like it might have been largely recorded at one single live show,
with one of the most unique drifty/jammy 'space rock' vibes around.
Well, I would've been happy with a Mesmer's Part Two, but
on the Bulb
website I caught wind of how Mr. Bon Matin Ed Wilcox was kind
of laying low, living in a condemned cabin with lots of squirrels
for roommates, and at live shows playing live with his drums just
strapped to him. That led me, somewhat disappointed, but still
interested, to expect an album performed not by a band, but more
just by Wilcox, up in his cabin, some sort of broken-down Jandekian
thing. Well, now I've got it, and despite the brief intro (a traditional
country blues!) it's not really a solo cabin-folk thing at all.
In fact, "Muleskinner Blues" ends with a beautiful rock-band
coda, like the dreamy expanse of Mesmer's condensed and
hardened into just a couple highly effective minutes. The big
rock drum set is still all over this album, played to flooring
effect on "Shenandoah," a heavy-ass rock jam like a
slow Black Butthole Sabbath Surfers dirge only huger and more
blown-out. Rocks harder than anything on Mesmer's, and
the next cut ("Caledonia," recorded live in Miami) rocks
even harder than that....now I'm hearing the infamous "Merzbow
meets L.A. Guns" comparison which frankly never really happened
on the quite mellow Mesmer's album. Then again, the next
track, "Coloring Book," is a jazzy drum/keyboard duo
improv. There's plenty more out and loud stuff to come, though
the set-closing title track is a peach-eating sweet-side-of-the-Allmans
instrumental. (The catch is that it's mixed so it sounds like
you're playing it with an ounce of dust attached to the needle.)
Cabin in the Sky is a pretty serious album....I think it's
actually a step up from Mesmer's...
Sin Titulo #2 CD-R (PUBLIC EYESORE)
is some nice pretty stuff, not dissimilar from other Castro music
I've heard, but my favorite so far. It might be a little light
'n' fluffy for some of you harder-noise types, what with the little
"whoodly" synth-type wheedles and squiggles, but it
slowly gets thicker and thicker as Castro keeps piling up the
loops, and the melancholic melodies that emerge late in the piece
really put it all in a frame. As with this same label's Jorge
Castro/Carlos Giffoni duet released a year or so ago and reviewed
in a back issue of B'st'ude [and again in this one], I get a not
at all unpleasant feeling of 'aural humidity' from the music.
At the same time, it sounds great accompanying the big fat snowflakes
that are softly pouring down outside. One track, 38 minutes.
A Clamor Half Heard CD-R (PUBLIC EYESORE)
disclosure: I hung with these guys back in Nebraska some. Helped
put out their debut CD-R, and played some shows with 'em. During
track one I was feeling like I wasn't going to be in the mood
for a blaring AMM/ominous drone that ran 10 minutes. Track two
features a more stripped-down trio, sounding almost like just
one person, playing weird little electronics sounds, whines and
whimpers, squawks and glitches. The sounds and sparseness are
excellent but at seven or so minutes some focus is lost. Track
three is also pretty long but has a nice feel, like worker-drones
moving big pieces of heavy machinery around during a slow-paced
job. Then comes track four, which might be the best single thing
I've heard from 'em (although the 4th/last track on their Last
Visible Dog release is gonna remain REALLY hard to top). Track
five, the last track, starts out with a nicely disorienting 'live
show at a house party with the tape recorder in a different room'
effect with people talking and who really knows what's going on.
A cavernous hum starts emerging. It silences the talkers and then
grows into a blaring rumbling -- the same thing that started the
CD. Track five is the first half of track one. I happened to be
listening on my car stereo player, which just loops the discs
if you don't take 'em out, so as soon as the track ended the CD
started again, and I realized what was going on. Underground folk
fans might wanna know that Simon Joyner is in the ensemble for
this sly wraparound piece -- that might be him contributing some
sweet occasional vocals about "St. Anne's flowers" during
the first half. (Side note: The tragicomic long-form track titles
poetically reveal just how indebted Nebraskan artists are to booze.
I can speak from experience.)
ULTRA FUCKERS: Beyond the Fuckless CD-R (PUBLIC EYESORE)
the Fuckless is probably the greatest album title ever. That
said, the music on here is kinda sweet too. This is a band I've
never heard of, though. "Recorded 2001 Jan-Oct On Studio
Puzzle, Osaka" suggests a possible Boredoms connection via
the Puzzle Punks. Well, regardless of who the Ultra Fuckers are,
what they sound like is a pretty raging lurch-punk power-band
boasting some of the worst recording fidelity ever. The thrashing
music is mired in the same beyond-the-red muck that Asahito Nanjo
productions are, except Nanjo's shit always sounds like the muck
was added later. With the U.F.'s, you can tell that the muck is
coming straight out of the fuckin' amps. It's damaged shit, and
a refreshing change of pace from Public Eyesore's usual strict-improv
Window Music CD-R (PUBLIC EYESORE)
it went something like this: he started playing guitar around
14 or 15, inspired by Vai and Satriani and Eddie Van Halen, even
George Lynch. He more or less mastered that stuff and wasn't ultra-excited
by it, and before he graduated from high school he started taking
jazz lessons. In college he finally got into Trout Mask Replica
after buying it due to the Zappa connection and the Kaiser recommendations.
Around the same time, also through a handful of Guitar Player
features on Sir Henry Kaiser, he discovered Derek Bailey and
Mr. John Fahey, all of which informed his playing, and now he
records CD-Rs of instrumental guitar music. Mr. Vera Mere tagged
this sort of thing as "free-form Windham Hill" -- hell,
there's even a B&W closeup photo of a steel guitar on the cover.
From artwork to music, this is an anomalous release in the Public
Private Idioms CD-R (PUBLIC EYESORE)
"Onnyk" Yoshiaki is another solo guitar player who sounds
like he might be a rocker who was enlightened and converted by
the Kaiser Frith Bailey 'all-avant solo jam' song-form (a/k/a
'the 20-minute-plus solo improv piece'). This set is more rippin'
than the amblin' Denunzio set, with Yoshiaki using noise scrapes
and loud volume and super-fast jazzblues-type avant licks. I mean
this is STRAIGHT-UP Bailey Kaiser style. As always (it's getting
to sound like an apology) there are plenty of good moments --
hey, I kinda like this bit right now, just before the -- what
is it? -- 7:55 mark of track one, kinda of a 'cascading shower
of microtones' thing. Oh yeah, the shower's still going, now at
the....8:55 mark (I swear, I looked up exactly a minute later).
(Yeah, this is the first time I've listened to this record. I
usually have my reviews 90% finished about 10 minutes into the
record. Don't worry, if a review ends up being unfair due to repeat
listens or the 'test of time,' I always change it. You might be
reading a changed review right now!) It's good when he pulls off
an actual microtone shower thing, but with the overall strictly-Incusian
approach, I just don't know how important this would be to someone
who's already heard, say, 20-30 hardcore improv records. It was
recorded back in 1995, maybe it sounded a little more timely then
-- I think I still owned a couple Superchunk records at the time.
The second track is from 1997, and is still pretty much all Incus
all the time, but such a high-speed approach is taken that the
music takes on a 'constant small wiggle' feel that improves on
the 'avant stop-and-start' tactics of the first track. Still,
at 29:56 this track is WAY too long, just as the first one is
too long at 24:25. I just listened to the whole thing while washing
the dishes, which is often the only way to listen to your 40th
or 50th (200th or 300th?) strictly-Incusian improv record.
ARTISTS: Soothing Sounds For Raymond CD (BADABOOM GRAMOPHONE #5)
disc came with the 5th (and possibly last) issue of Badaboom Gramophone,
so well-packaged inside that you can actually read the issue while
it's still in there. It's placed tightly inside a hermetically
sealed plastic sheath, which is fully attached to the inside back
cover through a flawless cement-like glue-job. In fact, the disc
is so well-packaged that I just now got it out after having the
magazine for about five months. In fact, I had to use a letter
opener to get the plastic sheath-thing open, and if the image
of a 31 year old man working away at the inside back cover of
a digest-sized paperback zine, with a letter opener, and trying
to get a compilation CD out from a plastic sheath doesn't give
you the giggles, well...lucky you!
I've talked about compilation
albums before. They have that way of not getting played too often,
even when they're good. The ones that come with zines are often
the most interesting, because you read about the people on the
CD and get to know 'em a little bit. That's not the case here
-- I don't even think most of these artists are even mentioned
in the magazine -- though there is an article on Raymond Scott.
I haven't read it yet, but it supplies the theme for the compilation
CD: each contributing artist does a 'cover' or 'interpretation'
of Scott's anomalous masterpiece "Soothing Sounds For Baby"
(the world's first Muzak release?). This creates a surprisingly
unified listening experience, one of the more palatable post-ironic
takes on Indie Muzak imaginable. In other words, even if "The
Chemist's Lullaby" by Geometric Farms sounds like a Muzak
version of R.E.M.'s "Man in the Moon," never has the
context for such a potentially queasy moment been so appropriate.
Also Cex, Hausmeister, and the Telstar Ponies all contribute great
tracks which break out of the indie muzak mold a little bit.
I still haven't heard
tracks 13 and 14 (by Dominions and Ensemble respectively -- no
idea who these groups are) as they were meant to be, because the
CD skips on those tracks. I'd rather it didn't do that, but that's
the risk you run when the CD is packaged in a tight plastic sheath
glued to the back cover of a digest-size paperback zine and you
have to get it out with a letter opener. But the thing is, the
way it starts skipping ends up being no less than a REMIX of the
real track, because long sections of the track play in between
skips, rather than short bits. It starts with this weird muted
vocal bit that goes on for awhile, then it skips to a one-note
bass line repeated for a really long time, then it skips to this
weird hum that sounds like Eno's Microsoft Startup Theme, then....back
to the weird muted vocal bit! And so on and so on, the already
slow-developing tune reshuffled in a way that is truly soothing
because the sounds are really good and you know they'll keep looping
for you as long as you want. The article says that "By the
1950s, [Scott] was apparently convinced that machine-made music
was the wave of the future"...I wonder what he'd think of
this machine-instigated remix of a track recorded in his honor?
The Blooming of One Hundred Shotguns CD-R (PUBLIC EYESORE)
are the folks behind the Dead Angel web zine, which is always
worth a look. I only read about 10% of each issue, but I always
like the other 90% just as much, dig? I guess it's the same with
most free/noise discs...I only actually hear (pay attention) to
about 10% of 'em, but I like the other 90% just as much. Actually,
I'm gonna hear a lot more than 10% of this disc, because about
eight minutes in I've been listening to it all so far and I like
it. The nineteen-minute title track starts with a nice heavy metal
fanfare (hey droners, remember fanfares?) played by guitar or
keyboard fuzz with a drony background. The fanfare is for the
following jam, a languid 'n' stately acoustic guitar strum that
takes up the bulk of the track. Great echoey percussion and a
beautiful distorted guitar seconding the acoustic's chords. Sounds
like a Pink Floyd ballad played by First Issue PiL. Around
the ten minute mark, the rhythm section starts throwing down another
actual on-the-one groove, somehow making tribal and heavy music
that really works without invoking images of patchouli, dreadlocks,
and uncomfortable body piercings. Track two is a loud drone that
really works. (Cale/Conrad/
MacLise/Young/Zazeela still have the one true model, and Autodidact
is in the spirit.) Good track...but there are still like 48 minutes
left on the CD. Can I make it? Music like this works better on
vinyl because there's an inherent time limiter: 20-25 minutes
per side. You have to edit in just the right stuff.
Sweet Sixteen CD (VIRGIN)
in 1997. The '1970s' installment in the Trux's 'history of rock
by decade' trilogy. Really and truly the most disgusting cover
in the history of rock. Worse than that Mom's Apple Pie record.
Maybe that's why it was pretty much either loathed or ignored
upon release, but the music ain't exactly easy either. Even long-time
Trux fans might balk at the high-dollar studio sheen and slickest
studio playing ever (check the work of bassist Dan Brown, "the
Jaco Pastorious of Drag City"), if not the actual songwriting,
which is not only as discursive as ever, but even more bombastic,
ornate, and prog-inflected. People new to the Trux would be confused
by the bizarre riff-rock songwriting technique alone. Though the
album continues in the ham-fisted arena rock tradition, most of
the album's riffs are totally new-fisted, and the way they're
all loosely strung together, overdubbed guitars commisserating
all the while, might make a rock critic say something like "the
Allman Brothers on [you guessed it] acid." While there's
certainly some truth to that assessment, I feel that Sweet
Sixteen is not so much a sequel to Eat A Peach (an
album that already has many sequels) but Music To Eat
By (the 1970 double-LP debut by the prog/southern rock group
called Hampton Grease Band, who broke up for good mere seconds
after the album's release, leaving it truly an album without a
Days 12 Nights" comes from the school of hard rocks, which
says that whenever a line ends with the phrase "...a teenage
rock and roll band!!", arena-rock crowd noise has to be faded
up into the mix for a second or two. It's a good school, I went
there for years. The song also has some of the loopiest/proggiest
Allmans-meets-Parliaments synth/gtr/booty-bass riffs ever, on
an album full of 'em.
is no less than a rewrite of Rod Stewart's all-time classic "Every
Picture Tells A Story," with all new lyrics and an amazing
new guitar bridge, and drenched throughout in floaty synthesizer
textures that may be the very sound of carelessness. "You'll
Be Staying In Room 323" has an amazing prog lead guitar outro
solo by Hagerty over a conga-driven rhythm section jam. The through-composed
coda fanfare (hey droners, remember fanfares?) might actually
be an unintentional Wings quote.
Those are just a few
of the things that slipped inside my house during this particular
listen to Sweet Sixteen's smooth aquarium-like surface.
It's over now, but I'm still writing about it. Apparently the
CD is out of print! Jennifer Herrema: "It was entirely immediate,
recorded in two days, but it took four months to mix, mind you.
But the vibe was there. It was real. It had that vitality to it.
Sweet Sixteen was like, um, a magnum opus. We recorded
track by track, 32 fucking tracks, layer upon layer. When we finished
it, I felt the same way I felt after we finished Twin Infinitives.
In my own mind, it made so much rock n roll sense. But you never
know what other people are thinking or whether they even have
the time to put it on more than once. It's a piece of art work."
SAVVY: Ladies and Gentlemen CD (KITTY-YO)
and obtused by Taylor Savvy." A lot of people think that
Peaches is gimmicky and not that talented. Wait'll they hear her
buddy Taylor Savvy. This album is subtitled "More Slogan
Songs," which refers to the fact that most of the songs are
an electrolite booty muzak groove over which Savvy repeats one
phrase over and over, sometimes throwing another phrase in to
change things up. So in the song "Share the Dream,"
you've got "Me and my Dad/share the same dream/still bein'
in school" for about ten times and then he starts dubbing
in a response after each one: "But it's a nightmare!"
"I Wanna Be Your
Man " goes "I wanna be your man....I wanna be your man....I
wanna be your man....I wanna be your man..." about fifty
times and "Indonesia" goes "When do we get to go
to Indonesia? When do we get to go to Indonesia?" about sixty.
It gets quite a bit more fucked up than that, too. (Wait'll you
hear "She's Got It.") "Everybody Party" goes
"Everybody party...everybody party...everybody party with
me" over and over and over, over a Moroder-like groove, and
Savvy gets different people ("the city of Berlin's finest")
to sing it each time. I swear Jordy the French Baby is in there
somewhere...who you might remember from such hits as "It's
Tough To Be A Baby" and "It's Tough To Be A Baby (Remix)."
Anyway, the Savvy slogan style could be described as kinda dumb,
sure, but it's also really funny, and the music is actually slammin'.
But the real reason
I enjoy this record quite a bit is that I saw Savvy live a few
months ago and the boy has got soul! Up there onstage doing "Ladies,"
singing "The ladies are all that I think about! The ladies
are all that I think about!" over and over again in a huge
ballad style along with the instrumental track on the P.A., or
on "Indonesia" inviting cute girls to come onstage and
do the roger rabbit, or on "I Wanna Be Your Man" picking
a punk-type couple from the audience, and coaching the boyfriend
to sing the slogan to his girlfriend, which he did. It's cute
shit. Catch him next time he comes over from Berlin.
BOYS: Check Your Head CD (CAPITOL)
it came out in 1992, Check Your Head was considered a comeback
album by one of the most famous of rap acts. Looked at a decade
later, ignoring the celebrity trappings, it seems like one of
the few actually good organic funk records of its time. It came
out in 1992....what competition did it have? What other good legitimate
funk records were coming out? Was Fela still making records (only
five years before AIDS took him)? Computer Games by George
Clinton was already 10 years old at the time and was much more
of an electro funk record than an organic funk record....about
the only thing I can think of is Freaky Styley by the Red
Hot Chili Peppers...I hate to even bring those guys up but my
mind is slipping and that is their best album, and it was very
organic-sounding, and it was produced by George Clinton...but
even that was back in 1985...by 1992 the Pale White Junkie Peppers
had already put out Blood Sugar Sex Magik, which, while
classifiable as "organic funk," ain't NO Check Your
Head. Man, what black groups were playing funk in 1992? Don't
even say Living Colour...the Chili Peppers were funkier than that...
What does this bullshit about
'organic funk' mean, anyway? Well, it basically just means funk
grooves played by a live band that sound like they're played
by a live band, a musical phenomenon that had been almost literally
snuffed out by the hip-hop and house explosion. No need to pay
a whole band, and deal with multiple egos; from the Eighties on,
it's been all samples and loops and turntables. The Beastie Boys
were no exception; already in 1988, they had taken the sample/loop
approach as far as it could humanly go with Paul's Boutique.
(Although humans are certainly still trying, and still mostly
not quite getting it, fourteen years later.) Dazed by this superhuman
effort, the band spent the next two or three years doing nothing
except lounging and counting Licensed to Ill royalties.
The Paul's Boutique royalties weren't coming in nearly
as fast...but so what? There was no hurry to make another album,
and when they finally got around to it, they felt like doing something
different. Even though they were still using loops and sampling
and turntables, the three M.C.'s had mostly switched into a live
funk band, a guitar/bass/drums trio augmented by vintage keyboards
and percussionists. They were still sampling and making loops,
but more than 90% of the time they were sampling and looping their
own organic funk jams. For example, even on disparate tunes like
the rap song "Finger Lickin' Good" and the novelty skank
of "Funky Boss" and the hard rock anthem "Gratitude,"
the drum tracks all sound like they're being played on the same
trap kit...because they are. (Although I still think the main
riff of "Funky Boss" might be a sample from "Showdown"
by Thin Lizzy...)
At the same time, the album
is as disparate and kitchen-sink-inclusive as Paul's Boutique
was. The lead off single "Pass the Mic" is still the
only "ambient dub rap with occasional metal riff" to
ever make the Top 10 and Heavy MTV Rotation. As for the laid-back
dubbed-out-and-dusted funk of "Somethin's Got To Give,"
I declare it the very best single track that the Lollapalooza
generation gave us. The guys in Big Chief may expertly make fun
of rock stars like the Beastie Boys in their classic mag Motorbooty,
but when it comes to playin' even decent songs like "If I
Had A Nickel" (from their 1993 album Mack Avenue Skull
Game) they cannot hold a candle to the Boys Entering Anarchistic
States Towards Internal Excellence. It even came out just a few
months before the Rodney King riots, and the forlorn and dusted
lines "I wish for peace between the races" because "somethin's
got to give" were definitely reverberating in my head while
I watched the news footage.
Every cut on Check
Your Head is a classic. It's practically an album of singles...even
the song about "Peter Seschell's comfortable study in his
New York townhouse" could work, as could "Mark on the
Bus." And how 'bout "Finger Lickin' Good"? "Time
For Livin"? The amazing "Professor Booty"? "Stand
Together" is an example of one department in which the Beasties
weakened, as a lot of their lyrics started to turn into motivational
speaker anthems, but it doesn't matter cuz the track is so bold
with its fierce jammy electro-funk basis, and you can't understand
the lyrics anyway because they're run through that all-natural
on the other hand, has some of their very best twists on the "I
don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast, but we like hot butter
on a breakfast toast" stizzy...with Mike D saying "This
ain't America's Most Wanted/This is America's Most Mackin'..."
And, if you're gonna go out like That 70s Show and goof
on retro culture, at least do it well, and I can't think of a
funnier way than MCA leading a (sampled? live?) cheering crowd
in a "who's your favorite detective" game..."Is
it Mannix? Barnaby Jones? Somebody say Columbo..."
You might think the retro instrumental
"Groove Holmes" is a little trite, but it always ends
up sounding good, cuz it's concise at less than 3 minutes, and
Ad Rock's wah guitar is brilliant, as are the second-half organ
basslines by Money Mark...and don't forget the conga soloing by...who?
Eric Bobo? (There's no credits...a very cool way to do an album.
Tangentially, there's also a big 'photos-of-band-and-friends'
collage, also a very cool way to do an album.) (See Wasteoid review
You might think "Live
at P.J.'s" is a little trite too, with it's Brand New Heavies
style rhythm guitar, but it's kind of a punky rocker at the same
time...Ad Rock's vocals do the job...both on the bratty verses
("I'm gonna tell you motherfuckers why you ain't shit,"
or "Suckers like you just make me strong/when you be poppin'
out bullshit all day long...") and his show business patter
in between...("I'm gonna get my shit together, boy!")
Move over Infectious Grooves listeners, you missed the true punk
rap right here.
I guess that's
all I've got for Check Your Head, this issue's 'retro classic.'
That's all you need, right? Okay, I'll throw in an Appendix: some
cut and pasted lyrics from "Professor Booty," specifically
MCA's all-time classic third-verse dis of M.C. Serch: "So
many wack M.C.'s You get the T.V. bozack Ain't even gonna call
out your names 'Cause you're so wack But one big oaf who's faker
than plastic A dictionary definition of the word spastic You should
have never started something That you couldn't finish 'Cause writin'
rhymes to me Is like Popeye to spinach I'm bad ass move your fat
ass 'Cause you're wack son Dancin' around like you think you're
Janet Jackson Thought you could walk on me To get some ground
to walk on I'll put the rug out under your ass As I talk on I'll
take you out like a sniper on a roof Like an M.C. at the Fever
in the D.J. booth With your headphones strapped You're rockin'
rewind pause Tryin' to figure out what you can do to go for yours
But like the pencil to the paper I got more to come One after
another you can all get some So you better take your time And
meditate on your rhyme 'Cause your shit'll be stinking When I
go for mine And that's right y'all don't get uptight y'all You
can't say shit Because you're biting what I write y'all And that's
wrong y'all over the long haul You can't cut the mustard When
you're frontin it all nit all nit all nit all nit all...."
ARTISTS CD (YETI #1)
Trad Gras Och Stenar track on here is gonna stay hard to top...their
full-length I have (Gärdet 12.6.1970) is very good,
but after hearing this absolutely smoking track first, on the
comp that came with the first and so far only issue of Yeti Magazine,
the album is honestly a bit of a letdown...next is a few minutes
of rain drops falling on a tin roof recorded by Harry Smith....a
very nice followup to the roiling punk hoedown before it....having
tracks by Harry Smith on a compilation is the biggest licensing
coup I've seen on a comp in all of the 90s...then again, knowing
H. Smith he probably lost the rights to all of his work in a whiskey-driven
poker game with a Siberian shaman or something ..."Dead Man's
Will" by Iron & Wine is a very nice present-day folk
song...I always think it's another Califone track, as it has the
same startling recorded presence, but it's even more spare, no
gewgaws, no country noise, just one totally in-tune guitar and
two harmonizing vocals...it has the same hollowed-out sound as
"Wade in the Water" by C.O.B. except that it's more
mellow and languid...Iron & Wine is a current group about
whom "little is known" (sorta like Jungle, see this
page)....L'Altra have a very nice watery melancholy pop song
on here....in fact, I love it....you could say that these guys
are 'post-rock' because they do pretty guitar arpeggios and jazzy
drumbeats and they live in the same town as Tortoise, but I literally
like this single track better than anything I've heard by Tortoise
and Stereolab, who happen to be next...I haven't intentionally
heard a Stereolab track in years, and I don't remember hearing
the one on here...that's because it's a short little instrumental
for solo bubbling synth...more Allan Bryant than Laetitia Sadler...actually
the first thing I've really liked by them Stereolab since, I don't
know, 1996? Next track: Carissa's Wierd (sic). McGonigal says
that "...[T]heir self-released CD is easily the best indie-pop
debut of 2000. Really." Actually, I think it's more "okay"
or "pretty good." I like L'Altra's track better, as
I do Califone's and Iron and Wine's...and the next performer,
the rather annoyingly-named Magic Magician. It's another spacy-folksy
number, with a great "Hey Now" hook on the chorus that
always makes me think of Hank on The Larry Sanders Show,
and an even better soul "na-na-na-na-na" hook underneath
every line of the verses...'spacy-folksy pop-rock' seems to be
the style of "indie music" that Yeti Magazine likes
best, and I'll admit that their taste is pretty good...that was
the thing about Carissa's Wierd (they might as well just add "sic"
to their name), it was folksy but not quite spacy enough..."Magic
Magician is John Atkins, lead singer and guitarist for 764-Hero."
Heard of 764-Hero but never heard 'em...always assumed they were
merely 'another' earnest/competent indie rock band...Mice Parade
are next with more perfect Chicago instrumental post-rock, all
instropective vibraphone melodies and feel-good dub basslines...again,
it is good, instantly better than anything on the last three Tortoise
albums (I'm assuming).....the trumpet hooks are minimal and spaced-out
without sounding immediately like Miles Davis...(this Mice Parade
guy wisely did not use a mute)....there's also a nice kalimba-like
'constant arpeggiation' thing going on which might just be in
my imagination, but I still hear it every time...and the drummer
actually sounds like he's going for it, rather than just supplying
that laid-back Slint swing over and over again for clean-tone
chord after clean-tone chord...Next track: yet more Califone-like
spacy folksy indie-pop is supplied by one Tedd Pruddhome...McGonigal
finds unknown spacy folksy indie-pop artists like Bryan
Day finds unknown improv artists....Prudhomme might've been
in the band Fuck....(some band had to call themselves Fuck, but
I'm not sure the right one did)...I like Prudhomme's song, though
not quite as much as the others...it ranks just above Carissa's
Wierd's song......next, another track by Harry Smith in which
he talks into the recorder...and he sounds pretty crazy and/or
really drunk...he's hard to understand and I have yet to sit down
and pay enough attention to even have any idea what he's talking
about...he then stops talking and a nice layered ambience takes
center-stage...cats meowing, dogs barking at a plane flying overhead...next,
a long instrumental by Chessie is great because, even though it
may actually be post-rock, it isn't Albini drums and pretty
arpeggios, it's more like Cluster, with washes of tones that are
pretty but also hardcore electronic music...AND the closing track
by Voice Bot is really quick, funny, and bewildering....it almost
has to be taken from some weird videogame or something, but I
really have no idea...is it a computer vocoder programmed to give
battle instructions in really fast English speech?
Okay, that might not be all the
tracks, but that's enough of this. Go to nobrow.org/yeti
and buy the mag! The book has all kinds of scattered stuff, like
good comics by the band Virginia Dare, interviews with Cary Loren
and Mike Kelley and Jim Shaw of Destroy All Monsters, tons of
poetics and visuals..."General topics covered include art
brut, comic art, contemporary art, cowboy poetry, electronic music,
fluxus, fringe science, gospel soul, indie rock, new york school
poetry, out-sound, oulipo, pop music, minimalism, oral histories,
punk rock, recorded sermons, the small press movement, symbolist
writing, & a lot of unclassifiable stuff."
ARTISTS: Shutupalreadydamn! A Prince Tribute Album 2CDR (CELEBRATE
god for the leadoff track...curator Campbell Kneale revealing
his ability to rock out a good pop tune, with his usually avant/instrumental
Birchville Cat Motel doing a note-for-note version of "I
Could Never Take The Place of Your Man" that would make even
the highest-grossing cover band in your college town blush.
And dig the perfectly reproduced guitar solo! It's a version that
might make noise bands blush a little too, revealing "making
a bunch of noise and then sticking a Prince song title on it"
to be a common strategy, which is what Afghan Cyborg Predator
do with track two, a version of "Lets Pretend We're Married."
Mr. Kneale himself sorta goes that route with his other band Sunship,
doing a cover of "Orgasm" that is just a "1-2-3-4-AAAGJGJGGJGGGJJHH!"
sexplosion like something off of Pop Tatari by The Boredoms.
Another tactic is the
"use the lyrics but disregard the melody and chord changes"
approach. In this vein, there's a creepy lo-fi version of "When
Doves Cry" by Antony Milton, versions of "Little Red
Corvette", by B.C. and Mr. Sterile, and "Head"
by Panicsville. All the versions are pretty humorous and each
track has a distinctive vocal. Panicsville is the only one of
the four I'd even heard of before, and his track really stands
out, because the complete lyrical text is sung by a Speak 'n'
Spell or some shit. Lyrics like "You know you're good, girl/I
think you'd like to go down" end up being kind of terrifying
in a Demon Seed kind of way. A beautiful and haunting version
of "Sign O' The Times" by A.Ra tackles the original
text and original melody in a whole different way; I think it's
a young kid in his or her bedroom singing a capella into a cheap
recorder. It reminds me of something my 11 year old niece was
doing this weekend while I was visiting her family in Omaha, but
that was with some current teen ballad.
Another song that uses
the entire lyrical text of the original is Poptart doing "Manic
Monday" (which was actually a Bangles song written by Christopher
Nevermind, of course, but evidently some people think Mr. Nevermind
was actually Prince). They start with improv noise that isn't
half bad but then -- psych! -- they go into a great kicking glam-rock
version that's right up there with Birchville Cat Motel's jam.
The CM Ensemble might have the nicest track on here with a solo
church organ version of "Nothing Compares 2 U." This
same track would've also been one of the best on the Soothing
Sounds For Raymond comp reviewed above. Let's see, who else
is on here: The Burt Lancasters ("Let's Go Crazy"),
The SB ("When We're Dancing Close & Slow"), Matt
Silcock ("Housequake"), Armpit featuring Dirk Diamond
("Sexy Muthafucker"), Pumice ("Get Off"),
Witcyst ("Pop Life"), Seht ("Diamonds and Pearls"),
Flower ("Hot Thing"), Cancerboy ("Kiss"),
1/3 Octave Band ("It's Gonna Be A Beautiful Night"),
GFrenzy ("When You Were Mine"), ISO12 ("Head"),
Clarinette ("U Got The Look"), and Extreme Nose Terror
("Purple Rain"). A lot of stuff on here, a lot of different
approaches: noise vs. song, text vs. no text, the artist vs. The
ARTISTS: Audio Dispatch 01, Audio Dispatch 02: Constructive Engagement,
Audio Dispatch 03: Sprung CD-Rs (FREE103POINT9)
is an underground radio station/music venue/website based in Crooklyn,
NY that really seems to have a fine thing going. I'm not sure
what's up with these discs...Audio Dispatch 01 seems to have been
recorded in one day by tons of different people...all set up in
the same room?...and then mixed a few days later. It works like
both a various artists comp and a freewheeling live album, with
tracks by various bands and combinations of people all segueing
into one another. For example, after the "free103point9 station
ID" introduces things, we go from spacy ad hoc sax+sound
jamming through the aggressive motorik attack of Japanther ("better
than Oneida" is my immediate reaction) through the spacy
folk of Malaboo-A through more sax+sound (members of the excellent
Gold Sparkle Band supply a lot of these more jazzy sounds) through
dubby mellow jams through streaming noise through broken electro
through NYC poetry through more and more...it honestly reminds
me of some classic records like Beyond the Black Crack
by Anal Magic & the Reverend Dwight Frizzell, and the East
Village Other collage disc that ESP-Disk put out. It really
is that cool...other names like Nautical Almanac and Russ Waterhouse
and Kyle Lapidus appear....I picked the Almanac out of the stew
right away (they supply the 'broken electro') but it's a pretty
dense and dreamy mix. Go to www.screwmusicforever.com/free103/freemenu.html
and buy this!
Audio Dispatch 02 is titled Constructive Engagement, and
was "recorded Jan. 31-Feb. 4, 2002, during the World Economic
Forum meetings and protests in New York." That's not even
three months ago as of this writing, which is how it should be
if you're gonna call it a 'dispatch.'. Starts with some kinda
seasick abstract record scratching and subtle clatter -- a nice
atmosphere, but nothing about the World Economic Forum. Track
two starts out with more nice abstract sound but then gets really
good with a killer creamy sample that takes the best ten seconds
of "She's Gone" by Hall & Oates and sort of loops
it. I really like this low-key kind of noise-making. Maybe it's
a No Neck Blues Band influence, I'm not sure. I'm tellin' you,
Hall & Oates never sounded so good....literally. Another
sample starts easing politics into the stew: some old guy saying
"Though he seemed loyal in public, he worked behind the scenes
to foment revolution."
The next track is the first
to feature the "audio reporting," here recorded live
"from Aug. 2000 Republican National Convention protests in
Philadelphia and Jan. 2002 peace protests at MacDill Air Force
base in Tampa." Wow, they get around -- and I don't think
I ever heard about any Republican National Convention protests
in 2000. I hope they went well. It's hard to tell how they went
from the mixing on here -- snippets of crowds talking is about
all that can be heard, and the collaging and mixing works so well
as musique concrete that it's easy to ignore the actual
phrases being spoken. I sort of get a vague us vs. them kinda
feeling, but I can't really pick out any ideas from the talk.
This is probably also because I am a fairly apolitical person
who in all honesty would rather trip out to a well-mixed piece
of sound than try and understand some of these issues. An accompanying
essay or two would've helped; as it is, listening to 02 is a lot
like listening to 01. "Sound Off" by Radical Cheerleaders
does stand out, featuring a bunch of ladies saying "Kiss
the back of my big white ass/Kiss the back of my butt!" or
something like that. Kind of reminds me of Fellini's City of
Women that I was watching an hour ago.
Only track seven, "New
York Rebuilds," actually features audio reporting from the
World Economic Forum in New York. It sounds almost more like some
weird tribal music festival somewhere in the middle of nowhere.
Like I said, it's a lot more like music than it is like reporting,
and as music it's pretty darn good.
Dispatch 03 is called Sprung. Again, it's somewhere between
a compilation and a jam session, with the same names popping up
more than once and in different combinations. For example, we've
got a track by Seth Price, then a track by Matt Bua, then a track
by Tom Roe, and then a track by Ryan Holsopple, Matt Bua, Seth
Price, Transmaniacon M.C., Matt Mikas, and Tom Roe, and so on.
The music is more of the quality I've come to expect from Free103,
a variety of slowly shifting approaches featuring Cluster-like
electronic pieces, sheet-metal drones, broken hip hop industrial
type shit, saxophones, turntables. etc., all presented with that
Free103 vibe. (Seth Price's second Cluster-like electronic piece,
the curiously titled "A $ituation Room$," is kinda jarringly
So it turns out you
can subscribe to this Audio Dispatch series. The idea is that
they will come out monthly, although if you scroll down their
catalog page the fine print admits that it's really "almost
monthly." But apparently they'll keep sending you stuff...if
not CD-R's, then "the packages in your mailbox each month
might also be a video or cassette tape, a 7" single, or a painting
from the free103point9 collective." Here's their WEBSITE.
PANDA BEAR, AND THE GEOLOGIST LP
one really knows what the deal is with these guys. You thought
they might be cuddle-core with the name, but then you heard they
toured with Black Dice so maybe they're freaked-out and noisy.
Then you see 'em live and they are freaked out and noisy but something
about 'em is still kinda cuddlecore. And then there's the Can
"Aumgn" comparison (made by Midheaven Mail Order) that
definitely makes sense. The live show in Chicago on April 4th
at the Hideout was a continuous collage of what were about 7 or
so songs. Some of the songs were just noise jams....they did one
great á capella quartet piece that was just them hollering
into mics through mountains of effects..."Augmn" sure,
but even "Starsailor"...but then they also did these
joyous muted but blasting songs where the drummer (Panda Bear?)
played fast hardcore style and the singer/
guitarist (Avey Tare himself?) played joyous happy metal through
a silly guitar effect that made every note he played sound like
a huge distorting church organ, and muttered/falsettoed/soul-sang
over the top. That's what was cuddle-core about it, the fact that
these were love songs and one of the members is named Panda Bear.
Thing is, they actually had a rather evil presence onstage, with
black face-paint, and weird subtle masks. (A fourth member who
goes by and probably is Conrad Deaken just tied a T-shirt around
his head so that it shrouded his face and stuck out at a weird
angle that kind of made him look like a bird-man.)
They also did a lot scat-singing
and dancing to the primal tribal pulse. The LP is pretty much
the same thing, quiet and mostly acoustic jams with the loose
moaning vocals. Side One follows the usual post-Siltbreeze/S@1
'spend the first few minutes rustling up into an ethnic tribal-pulse
and then spending the rest of the minutes chanting and singing
mysteriously over that' style better than most. As I flip the
record over, I still haven't heard the blasting joyous love metal
First song on side two is kind of
the blasting love metal style, except there's not really any guitar,
mostly just thrashing drums, and it quickly breaks down into a
quiet soul chant...it actually sounds like he's singing "Oh
my Bhagvad-Gita..." and "Oh my best friend Gita"...
Okay, this is good. The performances are a year old, and I bet
their 2002 shit, if they have any for sale yet, is better still,
but if this had been released five years ago with the word "Siltbreeze"
printed on the back cover you would have probably died for it
Marquee Moon LP (ELEKTRA)
out the complete credits: guitar, guitar, bass, drums. For "Guiding
Light" one guitar arpeggiates chords, one guitar chimes, and there's
a sweet melodic bassline. The drums aren't even playing at the
beginning, but the band still creates a cathedral-like arrangement
that today's singer-songwriter bands with all their oboes and
violins and moogs playing at once can't even come close to. And
"Guiding Light" is a ballad, the slowest and sparsest song on
the album. You can guess what it might sound like when they turn
up the, ahem, friction, as on the song, "Friction," a bit of an
angsty rave-up, and of course the joyous album-opener, "See No
Evil," which sounds like the Ramones wrote a song with the Byrds,
except the guitar playing and the vocals are better. "Venus"
is another joyful pop number, with the great line "I fell right
into the arms…of Venus de Milo." Of course the 12-minute title
track is the pinnacle of the album -- of all the cathedrals the
band builds, song by song, this is their most glorious structure.
For those who don't know why some otherwise apparently sane people
occasionally listen to the Grateful Dead, it's because when the
Dead are at their soul-searching best (which is about 15% of the
time, I'll give 'em that), they almost sound half as good as Television
during the climactic moments of this song. And it's not a hippy
jam, either…it's actually quite tough. (Side note: I can't believe
Tom Verlaine gets away with that pose in the cover photo...what
is this, Close Encounters of the Third Kind?)
Postscript: A couple months
ago I went to a wedding reception. The entertainment was The Grease
Band, a few older fellas who play rock'n'roll sock hop hits from
the 50s and 60s. While I was slow-dancing with Angelina during
a version of Ben E. King's "Stand By Me," I heard something
in the little rhythm guitar upstroke. "Television ripped
this song off!" I said. Angelina said "You're right!"
You know what I mean, right? I think the song is "Prove It."