ISSUE 14  WINTER 2002/2003
page 25 of 27



Before getting this disc I was aware of Ms. Sato as a musician/visual artist, through her Public Eyesore/Bryan Day connections. Her visual art is nice (a lot it visible on the Public Eyesore website) but the only musical experience I've had is a track she had on the Analogous Indirect compilation LP (Public Eyesore again). I think I liked it, but I don't remember what it sounded like, except I'm positive it wasn't solo piano, which this entire disc is. It's pretty nice solo piano, mostly soft and unhurried, while still being very strange -- unsettling, even -- about its note choice. The tracks are short, as well, which helps the music breathe. Ms. Sato lets tones just sit there. As usual, I think its too long at 60 minutes -- but any 20-30 minutes of it makes a nice thing to revisit, a palate cleanser, a drink of water, a nice nap. She does sing wordless vocals on one track somewhere in the second half -- that one's a keeper.

YOKO SATO: Searching For My Recording Engineer CDR (PUBLIC EYESORE)
This sure ain't solo piano. This is solo electric guitar. Sometimes people play guitar like it was a piano, but no piano can make these sounds. Indeed QUITE a different side of the coin than the LVD release, this features four tracks, "guitar improvisation one," "guitar improvisation two," "guitar and voice improvisation," and "guitar improvisation three." They are very loud and scary and even a bit hellish. Sort of like a rougher Keiji Haino, almost like the Hair Police in the sense that in both cases someone is pounding the hell out of a guitar -- and when she sings she sounds like Adris Hoyos. Pretty deep.

SCHOOLY D: Say It Loud, I Love Rap And I'm Proud CD (VINYL RESURRECTION)
Check this time-line: 1983: Run D.M.C. puts out the single "It's Like That." The B side, "Sucker MCs," sweeps the underground with the sparsest hardcore hip-hop beat ever. In 1985, LL Cool J put out his debut LP Radio, filled with beats in the same vein, as noted by the telling producer credit, "Reduced by Rick Rubin." In 1986, a rapper from Philadelphia named Schooly D emerges taking the "Sucker MCs"/Radio reduction and running with it, but in a much cruder fashion, both sonically and lyrically. In "Sucker MCs," Darryl McDaniels rapped "I go to St. John's University," but according to Schooly it was "all about makin' that cash money," which was an early rap code line that meant, basically, I ain't never goin' to college.
         His song "P.S.K. What Does It Mean?," in fact, is about an infamous Philly gang called the Park Side Killers (although in the lyrics Schooly tells you P.S.K. means "people," "scream and shout," and "kuttin," which is what the DJ is doing). As far as I know, Schooly D's debut records were the first raps to be explicitly from the point of view of the gangsta himself. This certainly opened the door for N.W.A., who emerged just one year after Schooly's debut LP with the most explicit gangsta raps yet. Perhaps just a case of parallel development....except that N.W.A. didn't just use the same subject matter, they actually used a lot of the same riffs. In other words....they were bitin'. (I know I don't sound very convincing when I say it, but it's true.)
        For example, Schooly D has a particular favorite cadence he likes to use when he raps, so much that he uses it on several different tracks, such as "P.S.K.," "Saturday Night," and "Gucci Time." For an example, just think of the line, "Lookin' at my Gucci/It's about that time," which the Beastie Boys sampled for "Hold It Now, Hit It," and that's it, the cadence. Or, if you've heard the songs, just think of "P.S.K., we're making that green/People always ask 'What the hell does that mean?'" For another example, think of Eazy-E going "Cuz the boyz in tha hood are always hard" or Ice Cube going "It was once said by a man who couldn't quit..." and that's it, too, the exact same cadence. Even then I might say it could possibly be parallel development, except that another NWA song "8 Ball" has a chorus that goes "I WAS" just like Schooly D went "I DON'T" on "I Don't Like Rock 'n' Roll" from a year earlier. Has anyone else ever pointed out N.W.A.'s plagiarism? A decade later "P.S.K." was still in the air; Prince Paul did a cover version called "J.O.B." on his 1996 Psychoanalysis (What Is It?) album, and even Kim Gordon used the cadence for her Free Kitten parody/jam "Scratch tha DJ." (Move over, Debbie Harry!)
      Anyway, this is some sort of compilation of old Schooly D. "THIS IS THE FIRST TIME THESE CUTS HAVE BEEN ON CD!" booms hot type on the back cover, and it should boom, because this disc will make all hip-hoppers say "holy s**t." This is raw. No, dude, what, Company Flow? Naw, THIS is raw. Schooly D, 1986 & 1987. It sounds like it was recorded not in a studio but on a deep underground subway platform at 3AM. DJ Code Money must not be underestimated for his scratching and those BEATS, reducing "Sucker MCs" even further, possibly the most minimal hip-hop ever, but then with this constant other layer that is, yes, almost as musique concrete as the scratching, whether from synth bleeps or bass, a second vocal, or live instruments like congas & electric guitar. A lot of people are copping aspects of Schooly D's sound right now. Most of 'em probably have no idea they're doing it, but it's because they saw some of King of New York once on cable.


THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD: This Is What You Get – Noise Single Series #4 (MEKANECK)

Lincoln, Nebraska represents. This is a Wasteoid side project, and those guys are all-crushing all-the-time, so it’s kind of weird to hear, in the first song, somebody playing actual major-seventh chords on a keyboard. He might not know that he's playing major-seventh chords on a keyboard, but he probably does know that the chords are kinda pretty, and “pretty” doesn’t enter into the usual Wasteoid style. Even better, rising out of the mix is a fucked-up drum machine loop that actually makes the major-seventh chords sound even more jazzy and trances the song out for a good 5 minutes or more. Also, much louder noise effects fleet by every 20 or 30 seconds or so. That's just the first track on here, there's lots of free-form noise and experimentation on here and it all sounds pretty good. The last track is a 20-minute live piece, and it runs a pretty nice gamut of loud spaced-out sounds. This is just as overlong as the last 15 noise albums I've listened to, but it's also just as good. Anyway, I hear they've got one of those whole booklet-style-CD-holder-for-your-car things full of these things.

You know what song I really, really like by a rock artist that I really, really don't like? Eric Clapton's "Bell Bottom Blues," as recorded by Derek and the Dominoes for the Layla album. It was a shocking thing for me to hear this on the radio one day and be inexpressibly moved by it. How could I not be, with Clapton practically screaming: "Do you wanna see me crawl across the floor?/Do you wanna see me beg you to take me back?/I'd gladly do it/'cause I DON'T WANNA FADE AWAY.....," as the band builds a cathedral out of descending soul ballad chords, one of the more intense admissions of loneliness and romantic longing that millionaire rock ever produced. The other day music lover Ben Armstrong was over, and I spun "Bell Bottom Blues," introducing it with something to the effect of "Here's one that separates the men from the hipsters." Ben knew exactly what I meant. "You can't like it ironically," he insightfully conjoined.
       I would put Bob Seger in the same category. Guys wearing those new foam & mesh hipster baseball caps can yell "SEEGGERRRRR!" at parties all they want, but would they actually take a Seger CD with them on the train? Or put it on at home alone after dinner? I didn't think I would either, and I still haven't, but I was at mom & dad's house for Christmas a couple weeks ago and there it was: Bob Seger's Greatest Hits, sitting by the boom box my parents keep in the living room.
       Now, I know that early Bob Seger has been rediscovered by some among the beneath-style anti/un-hip hipster underground. Back when his band was called The Lost Heard, and he was doing songs like "Heavy Music," "Persecution Smith," and of course "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man." This is good 60s soul-rock to be sure, but it's also not a whole lot different than Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels. No, it's when Seger's subsequent 1970s solo career started to find success and he brought out some of his folk tendencies without completely shedding his roadhouse roots....THAT'S when only the dedicated can hang.
       Even I didn't realize I was part of this elite group until that day a couple weeks ago at mom & dad's. I had only brought a couple CDs home with me, and I'd already listened to those. I had been reading the liner notes to the Seger disc -- Bob wrote a few anecdotal lines about each song -- and I couldn't help it . . . I wanted to listen!
      Only seconds into the first song, "Roll Me Away," it finally hit me, without prejudice, for the first time since I was a kid: Bob Seger music is some deep and soulful shit. "Took a look down a westbound road, right away I made my choice. Headed out to my big two-wheeler, I was tired of my own voice. Took a bead on the northern plains and just rolled that power on.
Twelve hours out of Mackinaw City, stopped in a bar to have a brew. Met a girl, and we had a few drinks, and I told her what I'd decided to do. She looked out the window a long, long moment, then she looked into my eyes. She didn't have to say a thing, I knew what she was thinkin'...."
       Now keep in mind, the way he sings that last phrase, building into that Seger near-scream...oh yeah, when I was a kid, that moved me, and it moves me now. And the lyrics are good. He talks about Mackinaw City and it doesn't sound condescending or like an easy blue-collar reference at all. He's just talking about driving a truck through rural Michigan. I also like the piano on the song, providing calm, melancholy embellishment throughout, like the very representation of being older and wiser but still needing love.
       Maybe I only tell this story to try and explain to people why I just don't get into Wilco: it's because we've already had Seger, and how can you put those two bands -- both playing a kind of rootsy folk-rock -- side by side and tell me that Wilco stands up? I know which one has the songs that go through my head the most.

       "Night Moves" is next; certainly a well-heard radio staple by this point, but still pretty damn beautiful. I personally think it's the lady background singers that make it, as they so often did in Seger's productions. All Music Guide calls his music "heartland rock," and it's true, but "heartland rock" is usually terrible. With those background vocals, Seger brought in a healthy dose of gospel and soul, and they showed up on almost all of his 70s hits.
        Next is "Turn the Page," which I frankly can't even listen to anymore. Classic rock radio and Metallica have killed that one, so I skip to the next track, "You'll Accompany Me," and once again I'm a sucker for a good Bob Seger midtempo ballad. And after that, "Hollywood Nights," with an honest-to-goodness motorik beat -- which shouldn't be too surprising, because he is from the Motor City. The liner notes reveal that the drummer on this track overdubbed two full drum-kit parts to make it even more driving. "Still the Same" is another great example of piano and gospel vocals making a normal-enough folk ballad something transcendent. "Old Time Rock 'n' Roll" is another one in the same category as "Turn the Page": as soon as it comes on, I have to skip it immediately. But after that, "We've Got Tonight"....holy shit. You might think of this song as schmaltz because Kenny Rogers did it, but his version his great and Seger's is absolutely glorious. Now THAT is a ballad. "Against the Wind" is a nice enough ballad too, but it's not quite up to the Seger standard -- maybe because he had Glenn Frey sing the backups instead of the ladies.
       One more must-have on this collection: "Main Street." Another beautiful song. The little guitar lead that plays at the beginning of each verse reminds me of snow falling in a city, and the liner notes reveal that the street Seger was singing about was actually Ann Street in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a town that I'm sure does get pretty snowy in the wintertime.

       Anyway, the newest song on here I'm really into is "Roll Me Away," from 1982. In the 80s, his career inevitably lost that early magic as he more or less retired on all that platinum. He only put out a couple albums the entire decade, and the only other song I recognize on Greatest Hits is "Like A Rock," and I don't think I'd be too into that one right now, especially after the Chevy commercials. At least he had the good sense to leave "Shakedown" from Beverly Hills Cop off of this package, even though it was his only number one single, and it is proto neo no wave.

The one-sheet pissed me off with its oh-so de rigueur opening line, “Rock is about danger, people.” Fuck that. I rock for a million reasons, and only about 400,000 of them involve danger. Ah, whatever, I'm just bummed to realize that there are rule-makers everywhere. Now any new music has to be as extreme as possible for fear of not getting deemed 'dangerous' enough by the club. Um, I can't hang.
         But I can surely hang for Michigan Haters. This is my kind of danger. It is definitively the best Sightings release yet. The images on the front and back cover form a wraparound band photo, and their stares are the only thing you get besides the songs and titles. This art sets the no bullshit tone for the music. No bullshit and better than ever...even as I revise, the second track, “I Feel Like A Porsche,” is playing and ... holy shit! It was also on the s/t Load Records release, but in a three-minute version. This version stretches out for 8 rolling and tumbling and absolutely BLARING minutes until it becomes the new “Sister Ray,” seriously. The distortion of the instruments impacts the tape and creates more distortion, a buzz like I haven't quite heard before, a new style of harmolodics, tape distortion playing a counter-melody throughout the song, throughout the album.
       They still do a few of their shorter raveups, but let's face it, no band can just destroy for three minutes and repeat for an entire career. Sightings know this, and along with "I Feel Like A Porsche" they take another perfect step towards The Big Stretch with track four, “Chili Dog" (eight minutes long), which I've been playing a LOT. It's the glorious dubbed-out storm cloud with which they opened their Chicago show on July 4th. It's so scary that I opened my Halloween radio show with it. I mean, that's scary, right? Michigan Haters is on my 2002 ten best.

SIGHTINGS: Free103Point9 Audio Dispatch 06 (FREE103POINT9)

My favorite pirate radio station that I’ve never actually listened to keeps their hi-qual. Audio Dispatch series going, this time with the first Dispatch that isn’t an in-house various-artists mega-mix kinda thing. It’s a single live set by the Unsane of the double-oughts, NYC’s Sightings. Starts out with like 10 minutes of eerie, well-controlled axe/amp noise, which may be because their drummer was in the bathroom the whole time, as crowd banter suggests. (If he was in the bathroom, it sure was for a long time. The guy should start eating less cheeseburgers and more bananas!) After the intro, they pummel out a set, and the audience approves. (This is from January 2002 -- its interesting to compare this to the Chicago show I saw in July 2002 and of course Michigan Haters -- even in that short time they've honed the blast further, and gotten more articulate with it.)

The highly prolific Public Eyesore label usually deals in some variety of cracked international improv, but CEO Bryan Day does throw curveballs. Silt Fish qualifies, being a weird British art-folk duo. If that description brings to mind some kind of Betley-style bedroom thing, well no, this is like more produced and art-rockish, while still being pretty it aspires to some sort of Henry Cow realm but has a setup almost like Suicide's: two guys, one playing an organ and one a guitar, and one of the two singing.
        I must say that I was immediately a bit taken aback by the twee-ness of Silt Fish. I finally realized what Byron Coley meant when he said of Red Krayola's Black Snakes album that "listening to the whole thing in one sitting makes my asshole clench." However, Silt Fish really hit their stride on track four, the title track, which is a long artsy spooky dirge. Think Roxy's "In Every Dream Home" only with a more wandering melody and crazier Carnival of Souls organ. And, now that I'm used to the Silt Fish sound, I kind of dig all the other songs too. Once again the question must be asked: where does Bryan Day get these people?

SONIC YOUTH: Murray Street CD (DGC)
For the last few years its been convenient to declare that Sonic Youth have lost it and are now content to play MOR 'noise rock' for the most adventurous 20% of the Utne Reader's subscription base. I'd like to declare it myself, but I've liked every album they've put out. Oh, they've definitely mellowed, and some of the new records aren't as good as some of the others, but I'm not gonna lie and say I don't like 'em anymore just so I can seem more tough.
       I have this hunch that most of the people who are down on Sonic Youth are either, one, too young to have been 17 or whatever when anything from Bad Moon Rising through Goo came out, or two, single. Sonic Youth really is romantic music, and over the years, with Moore and Gordon having a daughter and all, it has turned into honest-to-goodness family values music. If you're single and sowing your wild oats, it might not make the best soundtrack right now. I actually first started eyeing my future wife at a party while Daydream Nation was on the stereo and she was talking about some wild road trip she had taken to see Sonic Youth and Mudhoney play at Red Rocks in Colorado. As we dated and then moved in together and then eventually got married and now are starting to have kids, every new Sonic Youth album has been a soundtrack to our lives. Of course the lyrics resonate because it's always this 'art-rockers having visions in the city' type stuff. Songs about life, y'know: the great natural beauty seen on travels, songs about the same riot girls that were hanging around in my town, Thurston singing about his daughter and what it's like to be a father.
       And of course the music has always resonated; dreamy odes to love and vice versa, played on loud guitars. I'm interested, y'know? Washing Machine and A Thousand Leaves have hot shit all over them. But yes, they have mellowed; on Dirty, the album which was dismissed for being some sort of failed attempt to rush the MTV grunge crown, the guitar playing is absolutely hellzapoppin compared to that of Murray Street. Both axes constantly judder and whelp the songs into all kinds of crazy breaks and morphing arrangements. On Dirty they made two guitars sound like three, but on Murray they make three sound like two. I thought O’Rourke was going to make it blow up a little more – apparently he was good live on their recent tour – but listening to this, I'm not feelin' him (or even really finding him, for that matter).
       So yeah, it's not a mind-blower or anything. But still, even as it's playing right now, it's growing on me, becoming yet another installment in the soundtrack of my life. I'm still not feelin' track one, which I kind of forget as its playing, but on track two ("Disconnection Notice") there's a raw soulful verse hook sung by Thurston that gets to me. His singing continues in the same downbeat soul tenor for the next track, the more triumphant "Rain on Tin," as the guitar orchestration starts to blossom a bit during some extended rundowns, and then track four is “Karen Revisited,” a fairly epic centerpiece that starts as a wistful Lee Ranaldo number but ends as a long harsh moonscape instrumental that sets a really nice mid-album tone. The next song, "Radical Adults Lick Godhead Style," rides the tone out, the song itself not memorable except for a novel break by the sax players from Borbetomagus. ("On their new album, Sonic Youth turn Borbetomagus into an effect," someone wrote somewhere.) Then Kim Gordon takes the album home with two keepers, "Plastic Sun," one of her bouncy rants with good sci-fi lyrics, and the nine-minute album closer "Sympathy For The Strawberry," one of her best songs period, a long slow epic ballad that somehow stays sassy, moody, and happy throughout. I still think Experimental, Jet Set, Trash & No Star is their most unreasonably overlooked post-Daydream Nation album, and I've already had it and Dirty out more than Murray Street, but I'll keep M.S. around. I can't help it, they're the band I've grown up with.

I have to say, I really thought this album would be slightly weak. Or, shall we say, expendable. Especially after like 10 Carnival Folklore Resurrection albums. I mean, come on, you know this whole album is just gonna be them plunking along on a gamelan, right, as if some guys from Arizona know how to play a Balinese gamelan. I may have paid $12.50 for this at the show, but I knew that the second I heard gamelan I was just gonna take it off the stereo, boom, like that.
       Well shit, I never did take it off, because this is a damn good album! First track is an epic 18-minute number with NO gamelan but instead a tightly coiled and very long snake charmer incantation a la "The Venerable Song." Some of their very best vocal summonizing yet. I never thought I'd say this about the Bishops' duelling babylon babble style, but they are actually finding new things to talk about. I wish I could hear a recording of the duo rant they ripped out at their 2002 Chicago show (their previous Chicago show was in 1990, you can hear it on side two of Kaliflower). They were speaking a lot more English at that one, Alan for example talking about some obscure pro baseball players, mentioning that "The Cubs got Dusty Baker, I can't believe it," which had been announced on the evening news that night. It made sense because he was wearing a baseball cap (sideways) and a baseball jersey (that said "Psychopath"). Other rants from Alan included something about a website called "1-800-dot-fuck you-dot-fuck", a brief call for "PUERTO RICAN POWER!!!", and a long general apotheotic rant that went something like "Fuckin' blow 'em all up! Destroy 'em all! Fuckin' take it all down you fuckin'.... Blow 'em all fuckin' down you motherfuckin' cocksuck! [etc.] There's no happiness in surfin' the fuckin' internet! There's no happiness in a thirty year mortgage!" Brother Rick's ranting was pretty outrageous too, but it tended to be a little quieter and less linguistically specific. Which is what the ranting on this song is like.
      Alright, track two, "I saw a cigarette breathing so I smoked it," has gamelan, but they earned the right with that first track. And, it is well played, and only five or six minutes. Still not really my thing, I've heard enough SCG gamelan. I wanna hear them play guitars, basically. Track three is like a new and ACTUALLY VERY IMPROVED version of "Burial In The Sky," now called "Lord Brown of Due South." More gamelan on track four, "Balcony Sampoerna." Next track, "Lord White of the North," is titled like a companion piece/sequel to "Lord Brown of Due South," and it does continue skyward. (There's violin on both these cuts but no Eyvind Kang credit....) Finally, we close with "Dukun Olympic Theater," another long 'un, and a continuation of the first track, with lots of improv scatter and esperantish chatter. More violin too. I'll admit, by the time this track finishes it's starting to sound a little inessential in light of all the CFR stuff and whatnot. Still, another good album. If you're like me, you want 'em all.

Nice clear double-CD jewel case package on this one! Their other CD had an awesome cover too (pictured below), but when I heard it, it felt a little tossed-off, like just another jammy psych-noise trio or whatever "improvising" another 48 to 64 minute record. I love these guys but that's what it sounded like. This release sounds much more focused. Here, they're definitely onto something somewhere beyond mere improvisation. TAF is from Nashville, and made up of 2/3 of the New Faggot Cunts. UVA was described, by TAF's only non-NFC member Josh, as scary, and I can see what he means. Scary in that deep psychedelic Charalambides way. UVB is 14-odd minutes of complete and utter silence, which means it's either an art concept or broken. Either way, according to the credits it was at least "recorded," by Spencer Yeh, no less. THIS JUST IN: "Don't know if this is going to Dolman, but the reason that Disc 2 of Tan as Fuck CD "UVB" is "14 minutes of silence" is that it's a DVD. Maybe they didn't make that explicit in the packaging. Spencer Yeh did record it, on a
digital video camera. It's got a pretty cool video. No arty conceit, just no labeling to tell you that's what it was. Hope that helps." WOOPS!



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