ISSUE 14  WINTER 2002/2003
page 23 of 27




JASS HALOS: Who is in the bedroom? Who is at the front door? Is the baby crying? CDR (SELF-RELEASED)
Mega-arty title is so arty that it comes back around again to where I give it props. Of course, I know these guys and they have a history of arty band names; member John Ruhter was in an emo band that was actually called This Is Both A Moving Story, and a (great) noise-rock band called Tyranny of the Should, so you know, there's a history of arty names right there. Anyway, Jass Halos is current, and made up of the same four co-hosts who took over the old Blastitude radio slot on KZUM when Blastitude left Lincoln, so yeah, I know 'em, what to do you think this is, a consumer guide? Maybe it is, in which case if you like unselfconscious quiet free-flowing underground improv music, you should buy one of these, are trade for it, or whatever it is people do these days to get unknown CDR releases. I'm not saying it because they're friends, either, because I honestly didn't think they were gonna be this good. (A website about the radio show that may also have some Halos info is at

Man, I always get stuff like this in the mail. A weird CD that in appearance and press release content comes off as some sort of post-Barbara Kruger/Negativland collage of topical slogans and soundbites. To wit, "This is a CD of sound extortion, of narrative warnings, several years in the making. We use the tools of sound collage, tempered with orchestral & beat-laden arrangements, to create this, our response to the morally bankrupt state of today's popular culture." They're called John Rifle (what kind of band name is that?) and the label is called Rabbit Surgeon Musics. (I'm always getting stuff from labels with names like that, these kind of floridly trivial Camper Van Exquisite Corpse names.)
       Normally I don't like all these sorts of things but I do like this CD. For one thing, because at least 80% of the music is actually unabashed prog rock, keyboard-driven with no singing ever. There are lots of samples, though, and it's quite a powerful stew with one of the same quotes from the Columbine news coverages that Michael Moore used in Bowling For..., also some women going, "Are you high?" a couple times, and I don't know, lots more. Occasionally the John Rifle guys, whomever they may be, add their own text in the form of kind-of rap or weird 'narrative warning' poetry. Ends up reminding me of a variety of things, like some of Thymme Jones's keyboard work over the last 17 years in his band Cheer-Accident, or for one short burst, bad New Wave rock, or in other places even a little Mr. Show and Jad Fair in there somewhere. But really, the majority is just keyboard-driven prog-rock, which for some reason is just fine with me. Unfortunately it's REAALLLY long at almost 70 minutes. Official Rock Opera length, by which I mean the length of the double vinyl LP, which is to say any all-original album that runs between 60 and 90 minutes. This rule still applies in the CD era, though most bands clearly have no idea that it does. John Rifle just might; they definitely give official Rock Opera length a run for the money.

Looks like everybody is arty in the Jass Halos, if this side project name is any indication. Join Us As We Talk In Circles is the almost entirely solo (I think) work of the Jass Halo named Justin Groteluschen. Its basically a one-man improv thing, but Groteluschen plays it as oddly as his surname, like some minimalist process-music thing. The result is music that sounds surprisingly less like noodling and more like getting the chores done around the house. For example, track two, “Utterance,” sounds like he’s just running a guitar pick up and down heavily muted guitar strings over and over, the exact same way each time. Four minutes later, the potatoes are peeled. On other tracks he uses overdubs, playing retarded scrapes against retardedly random drum machine patterns. Towards the end he lulls you with all these barely-there near-pastoral sub-Shaggs fumbling chord outlines, and then makes you jump by breaking into this sudden startling mis-firing information-overload thing. Then one more track, which is just a few fumbling chord outlines and then the album's over. Check it!

GARTH STEEL KLIPPERT: Suisol CD (BROKE RECORDS) Mr. Steel Klippert sent me this CD and said he dug the mag. Thanks, Garth, but I don't know quite where I stand on the whole 'noir rock' idea as you accurately dub it. I can see where it's coming from....Johnny Cash as the grandaddy and branching out to include a lot of things like Tom Waits and Calexico and some Elvis Costello and even Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game." Maybe that's just it, that it's so easy to see where it's coming from. A lot of talented musicians play in the genre, but it never really seems to have a lot of that raunch epistemology (aka "blastitude") that we like so much around here. (Waits has got it, true.) Klippert does twist it with a kind of Elvis Costello/Steely Dan wordiness, a more post-college odd-pop bent than most of today's indie rockers who perform in cowboy hats.

LOTUS: Wang Lo 3.5 floppy diskette (BREATHMINT)
My second 3.5 floppy reviewed this ish. Along with the '3-way split EP' the '3.5 floppy diskette' is the format of the future. Maybe the 3.5 floppy could replace the cassingle. Of course, if this one replaced the cassingle it probably wouldn't be stocked at Wal-Mart, because it opens up to an actual porn webpage by and about Lotus. I say actual porn because the page features four shots of naked girls posing with guitars, and these are definitely the kind of photos you're supposed to be 18 to download. Three of the four shots are links to mp3s. First track sounds like it could be The Faint! You could actually fool someone for a while by telling them it's a new Faint single. But they'd start to wonder when it's over in 30 seconds and the only lyrics are "JAK-RAK-JAK-uh-JAK-uh--JAKKY-RAKKYJAY" a couple times. The other two songs are also 30 seconds, which I guess is a limitation to this form of the future I hadn't thought about -- it has to hold at least 3 minutes of music to be a salable single format.

LOVE: Forever Changes CD (ELEKTRA TRADITIONS) (Note: Because this is a reissue of what everybody already knows is the greatest pop rock album of all time, this review will cover only the bonus tracks.)
        First bonus track is “Hummingbirds,” which is an “early version of ‘The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This’.” They could have also called it ‘an instrumental demo version,’ because that’s just what it is, the exact same 'forever' chord changes as heard on the final album, but without vocals or drums and bass. It's a great insight into how Love built the sparkling acoustic guitar-based band tracks on Forever Changes, but its almost heartbreaking to hear the song play out with Arthur Lee’s absolutely lovely melody relegated only a memory, a figment of my inadequate imagination.
        “Wonder People (I Do Wonder)” is an outtake, another Tijuana Brass-flavored ‘la la la’ song. It's good, and probably could've been a minor hit single, but they were good to leave it off, because they didn't need it. They already had just the right amount of mariachi stuff on the LP. Adding this song would've been like adding too much sugar to a really good tomato sauce.
       "Alone Again (Or)” is here in an “alternate mix.” The generous liner notes by Ben Edmonds talk about how the melody we hear on the LP version isn’t the lead vocal by Bryan Maclean, it’s the harmony vocal sung by Arthur Lee, because it was deemed better in the mix. The notes also point out that even in this outtake "alternate mix," Maclean's vocal is still mixed lower than Lee's. But listening, I could swear Maclean’s vocals are louder. But half the time, I can't tell who's vocals are who's anyway, because its a fucking classic performance, one of the most beautiful songs in the English language, no matter what the mix. (But the mix on the LP is definitely better.)
        The alternate mix of “You Set The Scene” isn’t especially revelatory either, until the end when this wild shout-and-response kinda thing goes down that was mixed out completely for the LP. Definitely worth it for Lee completists. The trumpet fanfare seems a little more present at the end too, but it could be my imagination.
        Next are “tracking sessions highlights” from a song “Your Mind And We Belong Together,” which was a single-only release a few months after the LP came out. This is pretty interesting to listen to just from a technical standpoint, with the producer or engineer or somebody saying “you’re playing too hard on the strings” and “you’re rushin’ it a bit” and “you’ve just gotta relax a bit” and “what happened to the sound of your guitar?” somewhere between takes “27” and “36.” Actually, I think the person whipping the guitarist into shape is Arthur Lee himself! Who's the guitarist, Johnny Echols?
        The next two tracks are the A and B side of the aforementioned single release. “Your Mind And We Belong Together” is more upbeat and chirpy than anything on Forever Changes, but it would've still worked on the album, especially due to a rather stunning baroque bridge on which Lee tries out some whole new shit in a weird operatic style. It does have a long outro guitar solo jam section, a rare bit of Sixites guitar indulgence by Love. It’s still pretty good, as Echols (or Maclean) hits some screaming heights on the guitar. Finally comes “Laughing Stock,” with a very weird avant-cowboy intro that helps to justify the song’s weirdly two-stepping rhythm. Another pretty amazing song, but definitely too quirky to fit in with the Forever Changes vibe. Okay, I guess that's all the bonus tracks.

I bought this just because I gleaned from the internet that Harmony Korine is a Magical Power Mako fan and I'm like, "Well if Harmony likes it...." Actually, the major reason I bought it was that it was in a used bin for $2.99, but I really did just read, on the message board at, a post from the man who IS Magical Power Mako that said something like, “Help to please find me contact for Mr. Korine! He is being big fan of my music! Thanks to you!” (Note: This small piece of ethnic humor included to meet the culture's new mandatory 'anti-P.C.' quota.)
        Now I’m listening and I can see why Harm’s all up in it. You can tell from his movies: he likes grotesquerie, and there is something grotesque, in the vaguely kitschy and/or campy sense, about Lo-Pop Diamonds's home-electro casio-driven karaoke-pop feel. Thing is, in using these basic and somewhat trendy tools, Mr. Mako does indeed exhibit the kind of Magical Power that your average electroclash fashion model performer just can't touch. The karaoke mix is more dubbed out than usual, the vocals sound naturally distant instead of affectedly distant, and Mako's bedroom casio harpsichord style is recorded just in the red enough to sparkle.
        From what I can tell, this is a collection of songs recorded throughout the 1980s, compiled for this 1995 release with a new note: “HELLO WORLD, HOW ARE YOU? Now we present 80’s Mako’s very private collections. There are good POP tunes featuring two girl singers Reira & Asuka. Two Japanese traditional tunes, Goeika & Neptuna. Woh – it’s coming very deep. Enjoy precious time.” – Magical Power Mako, March ’95.
       (BTW, all they say to try to sell this album on the Atavistic web site is “totally charming…beautifully naïve packaging.” Strikes me as odd.)

Blastitude has had a complimentary subscription to the Free103Point9 Audio Dispatch series ever since the beginning. Installment 05 here is the first to be released as a 12-inch LP as well as a CDR, and I got a copy of each format! Thanks dudes! Side one is 45 RPM and features a heavy collage of field recordings made of and around New York City's Williamsburg Bridge. In 1961 Sonny Rollins legendarily practiced his saxophone at the apex of the Williamsburg Bridge in preparation for his LP The Bridge, so samples from that LP are mixed in here too. Side two is 33RPM and contains "Dub The Bridge" and "Contact Bridge," which is the results of a sticking a super-amped contact mic on the bridge itself and mixing the result to tape. The result is psychostrumental hip-hop built from big-ass block-rockin' Brooklyn beats...or would that be bridge-rockin'? Ha ha! Ha ha ha....ha. The album ends with a series of lock grooves, the first of which is cool enough that I let it spin for a good 20 minutes.

MAUSIM: Monsoon Gallery CD (HP CYCLE)
Loyal readers might remember when, all the way back in ish 2 (!), we reviewed the debut CD by a Canadian group called Mausim. It came in between two pieces of plywood secured by twine and I'm such a post-modern critic I actually reviewed it as I took it apart! Well, it's a couple years later and the second Mausim is out and it's even more wrapped up than the first -- I mean, just look at that picture! If one actually wants to listen to this CD, one has no choice but to turn this immaculate creation into a big mess of yarn. You know how Star Wars collectors always buy two action figures, one to play with, and one to keep sealed in the packaging? Maybe that's what Mausim collectors should start doing too, except only 26 people would be able to, because they only made 54 and I already got his one. It was supposed to be released by Betley Welcomes Careful Drivers, but as you know that label doesn't really exist anymore. I wonder if they would've done the twine packaging. Anyway, let's open it up.
      Wow! Takes some work, unwinding all this twine! Luckily the wife is getting into it! I've got a helper! Here's what we've got so far (see image two). Looking good, guys......kind of looking like the last one, only blue instead of green. Alright..........still unwinding........Mrs. Dolman's excited because she was thinking about buying a ball of twine from the hardware store and now she doesn't have to................okay..........I'm unwinding the CD and the old lady's winding it into a ball at the other end....alright, done! Here's the CD with all yarn removed (see image three)....same paper and design as the last one except a different color, different silk-screened images, and now those nice chopsticks are stuck to it. They don't count, though, because you have to take them off to open the CD. (I didn't scan a picture of that.)
       If I'm reading the back cover image correctly the album is called Monsoon Gallery. Which brings us to THE MUSIC. Track one is the long one, 16 minutes, and initially it was, I'll admit, a little underwhelming. Only because I was expecting that blaring head-in-a-dryer sound that their last album had. This one is more just standing and looking at a dryer that isn't even running. In other words, not much going on, that is UNTIL around halfway through, when the dryer turns on all by itself and starts going into a pretty intense spin cycle. Not bad, and then the disc rounds out with 3 tracks, all like 6-8 minutes long, and they are each pretty much glorious slabs of near-song space guitar chug. All that and a free ball of twine! (Pictured.)

M.C. TRACHIOTOMY: w/Love From Tahiti CD (BULB) Expecting possibly an ironically non-ironic party rap CD from this New Orleans based rap artist, I instead got something closer to Temple of Bon Matin. Which is to say this isn't rap music so much as grimy spacy music with spoken honky jive-talk drifting in and out of focus over the top. In the liner notes Trachiotemy tells us, "Caution: This is 'THE' baby makin' music. NNUUUUUTTHIN' BUT SSLLOOOOWW JJJAAAAAAAAMMMMZZZZZ!" but in reality it's not that simple. I bet Trachiotomy is in the Hawd Gankstuhs too, except that Tahiti is so weird it makes the H.G.'s sound like the Ruff Ryders. There are some funky grooves here and could slide the bulk of track two, which I think is called "Form of Gardenias," in between G. Love and something off Beck's Odelay and even the frat-boys within earshot might not say anything until later. Track 8 "Long To Hold You" actually does feature some slow quiet storm casiotones, but Trachiotomy moans and groans over it like he's covering Screamin' Jay Hawkins's "Constipation Blues." Bulb Records are almost always about fucking RAUNCH EPISTEMOLOGY and this is no exception. Track 11 "Fix You Martini" features yet more muttering, but the backing track is one of the very best on here, sounding like it could be coming from the Riot Goin' On groove box itself, on loan from Mr. Stone. (Trachiotomy sounds like he borrowed a lot of Sly's drugs, too.) I like it, and my only real complaint isn't the stone freakiness, it's that the album is TOO LONG. 30 minutes would've been great, 40 would've been tolerable, but 72????? (I bet the live show's a good time, unfortunately just missed it here in Chi-town.)

Considering that Menstruation Sisters drummer Oren Ambarchi probably gets 'grants' in order to give 'improvisation workshops', his involvement in this insane evil noise duo is a great message to underground rock rule-makers everywhere: stop being such a bitch. This album provides a smashing exception to several rules, such as one, experimental academicians cannot shred & destroy; two, Harry Pussy cannot be equalled; and three, a couple guys playing really loud rock instruments as if they were four years old will quickly become dull and could never be engrossing for an entire LP. People have certainly tried to sound like Harry Pussy in the last few years, but no one has succeeded quite like the Sisters (probably because they're not trying, just doing). I'll let Brian Collins (rock format chief, WHPK 88.5 FM Chicago) have the last word on the Sisters: "This band tears off your face and wears it for a mask."

MOCHIPET: Randbient Works 2002 (BTRENDY)
Jeez, I write about Aphex Twin once and I get all these obscure electronic/techno/
post-rave releases in the mail. I mean, this one has the word "randbient" in the title. Can you believe it?? Fucking randbient. After that, I was prepared to seriously, um, not like this record, but somehow it had me from "Hello." Probably because "Hello" was a chaotic sample from "The Choice of Yours" by Black Sheep that went into a white-bread weatherman or game show host raving about lava lamps which went into moody flamenco guitar being played over absolutely nutty beats. Bubbly and frothy and I'm in the mood for it.

I’ve been listening to this album for quite some time, but for some reason I’m just picking up on how "I'm Straight" wasn't just the name of one song, it was practically Richman's overriding thesis for all of his songs. For example, “She’s Cracked,” his single hookiest/nerviest lifestyle putdown of all: “Now she cracked/I [huge hook here, italicized for emphasis:] whoa-on’t/She did things that I don't/She'd self destroy/Necessary to self enjoy/I self develop/Necessary to self help.” The ageless chorus defiantly distills this difference between him and her: “She cracked/I won’t.” But then, the rest of the chorus is one of those amazing conversational moments of Richman's: “She cracked/I’m sad/But I won’t/She cracked/I’m hurt/You’re right.” Sad, but in the next verse he still wants to make it clear: “Well she....cracked /I.....whoa-on’t/She.....did things/I....don’t/She’ garbage/Eat shit [and] get stoned/I...stay alone/[And] eat health food!!....At home!!” It's a stunning song. How did I sleep on this? Too busy chuckling at "Pablo Picasso"?
        And the very next song is more amazing still. It's called “Hospital,” and it's an absolute sequel to “She Cracked,” in which the object of Jonathan's crush ate so much shit and got so stoned that she cracked, and had to go to the hospital for a while, and it was so sad that young Jonathan wrote a very sad song about it, and to sing it he had his band play descending chords, as stark and mournful as the Doors might’ve done it, or like “Dirt” by The Stooges. Basically just alone in a room with Jerry Harrison's dark organ accompaniment, Richman sings one of the truly great underground rock opening lines: “When you get out of the hospital....let me back in your life." The part that really gets me is deep into the song, possibly the last verse, which goes "Now your beautiful./I’ll take the subway to your suburb sometime.../I’ll seek out the places that must’ve been/magic to your little girl mind.” My throat catches just as the vocals pause while the band brings the chord progression back around to the top, and Jonathan keeps on bringin' on the heartbreak with the next line: ”Now as a little girl, you must’ve been magic/I still get jealous of your old/boyfriends in the suburbs sometimes…” This is a lyrical technique J. uses a lot, like he's cutting and pasting with that childlike wonder as he goes, re-stating the "little girl" from the previous lyric because it reminds him of something more and he's correcting himself as he goes. (See also "I'm Straight" when he goes "I put it back in its place/I put the phone back in its place.") And, the signature line of "Hospital" is of course the line that ends each chorus and is one of the great (and chilling) love song lines: “But I’m in love/with this power/that shows through/in your eyes.”

THE MOGLASS: Kogda Vse Zveri Shili Kak Dobzye Sosedi CD (NEXSOUND)
I don't always get to hear space-ug music from Ukraine, so it was nice to get this CD in the overseas mail. Frankly, it took me quite awhile to put it on, because I thought it was going to be more music that was 'experimental' or 'improv'...or both! (It's usually both.) Well, I guess it is, but trust me, I was just listening to WNUR's 'expansion experiment' (puh-leeeeese) radio show, where they trot out all the Gunters and Radiques from the 'things that go bump in the night' school of 'experimental electro-acoustic composers,' and this just sounds a whole lost better. Oops, I meant a whole lot better, but it sounds pretty lost too: spacey and foggy, with that same combination of very heavy and yet almost perfectly still that bands like Taj Mahal Travellers and Bardo Pond have figured out. I'll say it again, it's an achievement of heaviness through stillness, with none of the frantic 'rising' and 'falling' techniques to which improv music usually must adhere when it needs to get heavy. Please play this at home as the soundtrack to science fiction movies with the TV volume off. NOW. (Comes in an indie-psychedelic cardboard sleeve. Cool to open but I gave up on trying to fold it back closed because it felt too much like doing a puzzle.) (Nexsound, P.O. Box 1739, Kharkov, 61204, Ukraine.)

It's hard to know exactly what to expect from a Monotract album. They seem to have pretty much left behind their 'guitar band' roots and are going for a wild mix of crude electronics. (Sounding more and more like their friends in Fukktron and Hair & Nails.) First song on here is a great bit of new-urban swagger, sort of a minimal latino rap song with D.A.F. vibes. Second song is just incomprehensible electronic free-stream, like a bunch of different broken modems making their handshake sounds all at once at worryingly high speeds. Third song is just as glaring/blaring. Are they gonna go eclectic and pull out a 'guitar band' track next? Or are they gonna keep it strictly on the ill-ectronics tip?......................ho-kay, just checking back with ya, a little later during the side....(I was just up an inch or two editing the Modern Lovers review)....and, hey now, the side has just ended, the needle has picked up and returned itself to its cradle, and indeed they did keep it strictly on the illectronics tip for the whole rest of the side. No vocals or guitars to be consciously heard, just strange celestial (electronic) harmonies. Side two has female operatic rant, clumping beats, more strange celestrial harmonies, appropriated answering machine messages, tape edits/glitches making like high-speed boxing, and a great tribal beat-thing late in the side. None of these things ever last very long, with pure hardcore free-stream electronics a constant defining presence, sounding not much different than the Incapacitants vs. [In Spite Of Flaming Creatures] LP that I listened to just before this. The permanence of vinyl has in no way made the group get 'serious' or 'refined' or whatever; this LP is still a fast-changing free-music free-for-all. Out there!


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