Hey, remember the RH Band? Haven't heard from 'em for so long that I forgot how damn good they were. Hearing this makes me remember a time when Opprobrium and Halana ruled the underground music criticism roost, before the spazz-rock/noise/no wave backlash against 'improvised' and 'drone' and 'folk-based' took hold. Well this album is such a fine slab of sheer atmosphere that it's got me pulling out those back issues of Opprobrium! Two side-long pieces that softly wrap a giant fist around you, raise you two feet off the ground, and then let you down very gently twenty minutes later. After I played it for the first time, I immediately played it again, and then I played it a third time. I started to wonder if it would be the only record I played for the rest of my life. It didn't seem like too bad of an idea, but eventually I started pulling out other stuff -- such as the RH Band's First Tone CD from a few years ago -- which is perhaps even better than this LP!

ROXY MUSIC: BBC Sessions 1972-1973 CDR (BOOTLEG)
Guy I work let me do the old borrow & burn for this one. All he gave me was the disc itself, no case, and no track listing, just the info you see in the header, hand-scrawled with that CDR trader standard, a Sharpie marker. Despite all that spuriousness, this just might be the most essential document of Roxy's 'Eno period' I own, even more so than Roxy Music and For Your Pleasure, the two official documents. Presented are thirteen never-released live performances, nine of them from three different BBC Radio sessions, and the other four from an August 1972 concert, right after the debut was released.
       With help from the new "internet web" I've thrown together what looks to be a pretty accurate track listing for this guy/man/dude. Ten of the thirteen performances are of songs that were on the debut, and four of these were recorded before its release, featuring original guitarist Davy O'List (ex-The Nice), whose raw and spacy Brit-blues style is markedly different than Manzanera's odd Argentinian future-sheen. But whether it's O'List or Manzanera, all of the tracks are, well . . . revelatory. (And definitely seminal.) There are no overdubs on any of the tracks; this is live Roxy, and they are a tight, frantic doo-wop art-greaser punk rock band. Eno's 'electrosizzle' spits and gnashes so far out in the foreground that you almost forget how playful it is. His 'live post-production' techniques are much higher in the mix than they are on the official debut, and more than once they dropped my jaw, like every time he processes Andy Mackay's doo-wop sax into whirling spikes, and he makes me laugh when he takes a Bryan Ferry harmonica solo into even more dubious territory. Anyway, I'll be listening to this more than the actual debut, I think (but still not as much as For Your Pleasure).

RUBBER O CEMENT: High Speed Electronic Cardboard CD (TOYO)
Got this downright large package in the mail from Toyo. What could be in this bag? A crazy blue blast of silk-screened art with the word "EMENT" at the bottom, no wait it's "CEMENT," oh, this is a record by Rubber O Cement. Peel off the tape, reach in, and the screen-printed paper is wrapped around a . . . book? They printed up a book for this release?? Oh shit, that's the back cover, it's actually just a 'found' comic book, issue 18 of Clive Barker's Hellraiser! "The Coming of the Harrowers -- Hell's Hour Is At End!" And the CD is just stuck inside the pages of the comic, in a paper envelope, along with a near-useless track listing and the usual screed-dotted obscurist one-sheet. As a release by a Caroliner side project, this strikes me almost exactly like the Big Techno Werewolves release. Both are on Toyo, both come in great packaging, and both seem to go in the same single direction from Caroliner: a straight-down big drop into what sounds like TOTAL CARELESSNESS. This one a little more so because the Big Techo Werewolves at least have one vocal song. ("StarMystic," very great.) Other than that, I know nothing about who from Caroliner is doing what. Actually, I know nothing about Caroliner, even though I have three of their LPs. Anyway, Rubber O Cement initially seems so careless and faceless I don't think I'll ever listen to it again, but then I realize that it has tons of edits so it really isn't necessarily careless and I might just have to keep listening to it. (Actually Track 17 is a full-fledged melodic psych jam, very great.)
      (Now, I think you should go look up this CD on All Music Guide and see the cover, which is a different issue of Clive Barker's Hellraiser than mine came in -- did Toyo find 500 different copies of various Hellraiser issues in order to package this edition-of-500 CD release?)

SCUTOPUS: A Feeding Ventrolineatus (Type Species) 3" CD (IRUNRAP)
Aren't 3" CDs just the cutest little things? I think I have a crush on 'em. The music on this one is pretty good too. Here's what the press release says: "Scutopus is a genus of deep-sea shell-less mollusc (Aplacophora) that contains four species. Scutopus is also the electronic music pseudonym of Wendell Edwards. This 3" CD is the first of four releases in the 'feeding' series. This first release, 'A feeding ventrolineatus (type species)' will be followed by megaradulatus, robustus, and chilensis which are the remaining species in the genus." I know that was very Forced Exposure of me to quote all that, but I just wanted to show y'all what a science geek this guy is. Thing is, the guy's label is called "I Run Rap," which is a Dr. Dooom song. So science geek and rap geek . . . and electronic geek too, because this is some pretty hardcore musique. No quasi-rave moves, this is just the sound of a broken machine spitting out an unforgiving stream of mangled 1's and 0's. One 19-minute track. Not a lot of variation, which makes it less a 'track' and more like a 'sculpture.' (Other notes: Scutopus has a connection to the Panty Boys, who were reviewed way back in like the 2nd issue.)

SHY BRICK: Shy Brick Live CDR
Actually this band usually goes by "SB" or "The SB" but I'm just having fun because Shy Brick (or I've also heard The Shy Bricks) is a pretty cool ass name. Kind of a low key band, basically just drone, sort of ominous and atmospheric. But they do get heavy. One of the guys in this band, like 99% of all rock-related musicians, sometimes plays drunk, and he told me that when the music gets heavy and dense he is likely to actually pass out and sleep, or even get nauseous. And even if he sleeps, you can't tell, because his sounds and the sound of the band just keep going. Often pretty low-key, like on this release they're 8 minutes in and it's still very low-key and background, and if you listen close, very good, just mellow black tones ringing along. They are playing melodies, which is what makes it work. The track is called "sb213 . . . 032902 . . . free 103.9," which if I'm decoding correctly means "the 213th release and/or performance by the Shy Bricks, which took place on March 29th, 2002, at the venue called Free 103.9." Okay, I.Q. test question: Track two is titled "sb216 . . . 041202 . . . northsix." Explicate please. Answer: "The 216th release and/or performance by the Shy Bricks, which took place on April 12th, 2002, at the venue called North Six."

First thing I notice is Mark Morgan's voice and how I appreciate it. 'Cause you know Sightings are still just a Neo Punk Brut band, and in fact I just read that they started as an instrumental Punk Brut band, but Morgan eventually started singing and it all just made more sense that way. Damn right it does, regardless of whether or not you ever understand a word he says. (I don't think I have yet.) Next thing I notice is that they are really breaking down the blast and trying some new shit, but not in the same way they did on Michigan Haters. (On live show evidence, they're already breaking it down further in almost totally new ways.) Here you notice it with the killer second track, "Infinity of Stops," in which the drums are either not being played or are so tuned into the blast that the frequency whites out just like the background of the album cover. Track three, "Anna Mae Wong" starts out as lumbering improv! Sun City Girls on 16 RPM. Fuckin' HEAVY. Actually the whole 7-minute thing is a lumbering improv. Then track four, "Bishops" (always with the killer simple titles), sounds to me like parts of that Caroliner show I just watched on video over at C. LoPresti's. Then track five "Canadian Money" is like an expansion on "Chili Dog" from Michigan Haters. I used to listen to "Chili Dog" over and over and over again, and it was, like, better than NNCK, but "Canadian Money" is like the story being told again with more vocabulary. Track six, "Right Side of the Hall" definitely has vocals, ranting vocals, and the music rants too. Instead of a dance-groove (which a lot of Sightings tracks actually are, like even "Canadian Money") it's a rant-groove. Rant-grooves aren't always my cup of tea, especially when they aren't performed by the Sun City Girls (them again??), but this one is so blown-out I love it. Waitaminnit, am I doing a track by track review here? C'mon, that's not how you review Sightings. If I did that, I'd have to use the word "Neubauten" when I write about the last track, "Reduction," because I'm a lazy critic, and then you might not buy the album, even though the track still rules. (I know that in my entire life I've only bought two records that were described by somehow using the word "Neubauten": Pussy Galore's Sugarshit Sharp, and Strategies Against Architecture by Einsterzende Neubauten.) So forget Neubauten, and just buy Absolutes, because it's JUST ABOUT AS GREAT as Michigan Haters. Hell, it might even be "their most fully realized album to date," but that's one phrase I would NEVER use in a review.

If I'm reading the liner notes right, they're a duo from South Carolina. "First pressing: 300 black, 150 white, 150 clear, 100 limited edition numbered red." I got one of the clear ones. Strange group here -- they really do sound like they're making soundtracks to slasher films, with eerie keyboards hitting atonal creepy notes. And I would probably be saying that even if the group wasn't named The Slasher Film Festival Strategy. I don't know, everything's reminding me of Wolf Eyes today. I listened to Mugger, and then I listened to the Idea Fire Company's Anti-Natural LP, and that reminded me of a slightly less horrific Wolf Eyes, and now this 7-inch also has that horror soundtrack feeling. Much less brutal and crazy though, this is more measured and Residents-like. It's good. Side two seems to be regular grooves and all, but there's no music, just silence. Art statement, or pressing plant error? I don't care.

The Blastitude Compound has gotten a lot of records sent to it over the last couple years, and from looking and listening to these disparate yet united recordings I've detected the emergence of a "scene," a "category," that can't be specifically described as either Noise, No Wave, Jazz, Alternative, Indie, or even Electronica. This sub-subgenre incorporates elements of all these subgenres, but it has it's own character and feel that I think can best be described as Artsy, or Arty. Not Art Rock, just Art, because these records usually don't really rock. Here are some common attributes of the "Artsy" genre:
      1. Even though Artsy records are almost always self-released, the artist creates an elaborate label name and puts it on the spine and the back cover. Minimum of two words, and always some florid adjective/adjective/noun combination.
      2. Often packaged with a multi-page booklet, because the artist has so much to say/explain/show.
      3. Album may have a "cast of characters." These may or may not be musicians on the album, but are probably at least characters in the 'album concept.'
      4. All of the above critique governments vaguely, and/or contain a 'dadaist' version of the national anthem, all of which may or may not be set to "IDM" electronica.
      5. Through packaging and/or concept, the record becomes an 'art object' or 'quasi-installment.' Slaw's Snakes & Ladders is a prime example: the front cover is an actual fold-out board version of the classic board game that the album title refers to. (I grew up calling it Chutes & Ladders). There's even a little six-sided die bouncing around under the see-through CD spine, so you can theoretically play your own game of Snakes & Ladders while listening! How precious! I kept waiting to play the game with my wife while I listened to the CD so I could, I don't know, review it properly, but jeezus, was I falling for the precious-ness or what?! Hook, line & sinker! I can just hear Slaw in an interview: "If we can get just one of our audience, just one, to play the game while they listen to the CD, then we'll feel like we've done our job . . ."
       So now I've finally just put the damn thing in without playing the game because I know I'm not gonna review it otherwise and uhh, you don't need to be playing the game at all, it's just a bunch of kooky electronic music with weird occasional processed vocals. Thirty (!!!!!) years ago it would've been on Ralph Records. Slaw even lives in San Francisco. Oh, wait, here's the concept: "The game board represents the individual's psychic growth pattern, either climbing a ladder toward perfect mental balance or sliding down a snake's gullet toward the abyss of base animal instincts. The participants roll their dice, move their mice, and program their CD players to follow and support their halting progress as they slink rat-like through the ever-shifting topography of life's maze toward the smelly cheese of enlightenment." I guess you play the track that corresponds with whatever square you land on. There's 99 squares, numbered, so there's 99 tracks, which is pretty fucking mind-numbing. Oh yeah . . .
      6. The sheer amount of creativity on display often creates a primarily numbing sensation.
      Okay here, I'll show you what I mean by describing a couple tracks from somewhere in the middle of the 99: right now he's singing new lyrics to the old "In Paris France where the ladies wear no pants" melody which is alternated with these super-cheesy hard-techno metal riffs, which is followed by 45 seconds of dark ambient. It's kind of like Faust Tapes, all these crazy instrumentals, annoying little pop-ditties, harsh noise bits, even a 36-second recreation of Eve trying to talk Adam into eating the apple, with what sounds like the same guy portraying both parts. Actually, thinking of it all like Faust Tapes makes me kind of like it. Like, this could be a lot of fun to have at a radio station.
      Oh wait, I just found out that the CD actually has 100 tracks -- one of them is virtual! Which reminds me:
       7. If on CD, albums by Artsy groups will contain some sort of virtual content! (This one and #2 and #5 are all kind of the same thing, I guess.)

This is hands down the best album of protest folk to come out since the Bush administration stole the country. Oh wait, it's the only protest folk album to come out since then -- this is the 21st Century, the Era of Complacency. Okay, it's from the U.K., so it's about the Blair administration too. Either way, I say all this just because of track two, which is a cover of "Islam Uber Alles," the devastating song by Srdenovic's countrymen The Ceramic Hobs (original version reviewed in a previous ish). Listen as the audience laughs nervously! Let's make Bush and Blair laugh nervously too! And then quit their jobs! Of course the whole entire CD would be an affront to Bush and Blair Bobbsey, even if he's just singing about a "Pig Stealing Man," or a "Sweet Tooth, " or how "The Cook Is The Man With The Pan." Two other titles do carry some political connotation -- "History is History" and "Home to Roost" -- but it's all protest folk: protesting fucking squares who get too much money. Or you could call the style "macabre folkie," like Liz Armstrong did in The Chicago Reader, and that's pretty good, though on this disc the folkiness is pretty much flooded out by tape loops and TG style animosity. And still the audience laughs nervously, leaving me hoping for more of those Royal Albert Hall style confrontations that never seem to come in this Era of Complacency. Or is complacency the new victory?

SUN CITY GIRLS: 330,003 Crossdressers From Beyond The Rig Veda 2CD (ABDUCTION)
You remember this album. It was released in 1996 as a 2 CD set. Hadn't listened to this in like three years, and then their great Chicago show of November 2002 moved me to pull it off the shelf for a road trip with J.C. Crawford (not the same J.C. Crawford who served as Spiritual Advisor to the MC5). On the road, we listened to all of disc one but couldn't really hear it because of the engine and conversation. The late-in-the-disc (track #15? 17?) gamelan throwdown "Delong Song" made us stop talking and pay attention (it's often singled out by fans, actually), and on the strength of that track and how it was surrounded by all this STUFF, J.C. wanted to borrow it when we got back from the road trip. He ended up keeping it for like three months so now I'm FINALLY listening to it for the first time since seeing their show.
       It's funny, from day I bought it I recognized this huge album's scope and command, but I never really fell in love with it -- like I said, I managed to go three years without listening to it even once. But now, after getting it back out and only listening to parts of it a couple times, I've actually called it (once, in conversation), "the best Sun City Girls album." Certainly many pieces of the puzzle fit together for awhile within 330,003's expanse. For example, "Apna Desh" (disc one, track three) is one of their very best (i.e. hookiest) ethnoforgery pop-rockers (It goes "BA-DA-BA-DA-BA-DA-BA-DA! / BA-DA-BA-DA-BA-DA-BA-DA! / BA-DA-BA-DA-BA-DA-BA-DA-BA-DA-DA-DA-Da-da-da-da-da-da . . . . . . Shum num nee.....," etc. -- I also get a special kick out of the last verse as sung solo by Brother Rick Bishop!). Another connection I've discovered is that of "Theme from 'Sangkala'," which I now realize is another version of a great song from the Libyan Dream CD (CFR#8 or someshit) as "Sangkala Suite," and that makes me cool (because it's a great tune). "Insect Dilemma" (disc one, track thirteen) is a new version of one of the umpteen fantastic Alvarius B songs that he recorded solo on his barely seen self-titled 1998 (?) double LP. The aforementioned "Delong Song" is disc one, track fourteen. The 34-minute (?!) "Ghost Ghat Trespass/
Sussmeier" (disc two, track four) is an astounding piece of music (recorded live at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco), thanks of course to Eyvind Kang. (Around the 25 minute mark the noodle actually does get a little overcooked, but by the end they have rallied so convincingly that another tally goes into the 'W' column.) Anyway, thank GOODNESS I don't have that goddamn triple LP reissue version, because I just cooked dinner, ate it, and washed the dishes while this baby played and I didn't ONCE have to stop what I was doing to go flip anything over.

Sorry everyone, but this is one of my disappointments of the issue. Maybe it's because on my copy there's a big spot right in the middle of the first track where some paper got glued directly onto the vinyl, so for the first 2 or 3 minutes I hear this big rhythmic ka-CHUNK once per revolution and it's louder than the actual opening jam. But even after the marring ends 2-3 minutes in, I still feel like AMM + Santana, big deal? I've heard this kind of psych-rock jamming a LOT in the last few years. I mean, I like it, I'm on their side, but I'd be digging on it harder if I hadn't already heard a few Siltbreeze and Majora and Sound@One releases. I'm sure I would love their show. The band name is incredible, and the cover art is beautiful, and for people who have missed Siltbreeze and Sound@One (there's still quite a few) this would of course be a recommended "way in."

This is a one-man project (only 2 of 21 tracks have other musicians) by one Andrew Alper. I always hear that this guy was in the Bunnybrains, but I don't think it's the Bunnybrains from Connecticut who've been written about before in this mag. Or was it? Anyway, he's kind of connected to the Sunship/Breathmint/Phi-Phenomena cartel that always team up about 17 labels to co-release albums, which is what they've done here too. He had some wacked-out live tracks on the excellent Phi-Phenomena compilation CD, but this release is actually mostly singer-songwriter stuff, definitely on the eccentric side, but often surprisingly 'straight.' Don't let that make you shrug, because he's good, and smart, and profane, and he mixes up the folk with wacked-out noise and other intangible stuff -- I don't know what the F is going on with this one live track called "Meow," but it sounds like a really good time. Then there's "58 Days On The Road," which is a shockingly deep confessional about life on the rock 'n' roll road, and as deserving of canonization as Seger's "Turn the Page." The very next song after that, "Tell Me Sumthin'," you can feel a Smiths/Bowie/solo Iggy hybrid, with Prince in the falsetto. (When in doubt always compare stuff to Prince.) The album really chills towards the end with like this toy piano 'process music' instrumental and "A Real Live Cow," which is actually a beautiful acoustic folk song, and even when one stanza changes the title to "a real live fuck" it's still beautiful. Y'know Beck was actually a pretty good surreal folk/blues singer before he got swamped in big-money Los Angeles production values and hipsters-at-a-costume-party irony, but U Can Unlearn Guitar is better.

I had heard of this band before and for some reason had them pegged as yet another fashionably neo no wave group that, post-W.K., tries way too hard to prove that all they want to do is party. Boy was I ever wrong; this might seriously be the best rock band to come along in the last 20 years. I can't believe I haven't figured this out yet and that it took an unsolicited record sent in the mail for it to happen. They're a duo, and occasionally the bass-or-guitar gets run through a pedal that makes it sound a lot like Brian Gibson's, but this is a lot more diffuse than Lightning Bolt. This is like pro-pot apocalyptic protest folk that turns into crazy lo-fi Sabbath progscapes, and only then, maybe, into L.B. territory (but it doesn't need to). It's crusty & psychedelic freedom rock that still knows it's way all around skronk and noise and abandon. In fact, it knows it's way around the ENTIRE history of heavy skunk music PERIOD. Too bad this is just a 45 RPM EP. It's over way too damn quick. Luckily there are more releases, and I'm going to get some!

Puts their names on the cover (Jeff Surak and James Guggino) like it's some improvised jazz release but c'mon, they're called V. (nothing wrong with that for a band name) and they aren't improv, they're a no wave/noise duo, refreshingly minimalist too. Actually, maybe they're sorta "drone" -- they are instrumental -- but there's something edgier about it. Some of it could pass for Dome or some of the mellower loop-based moments from Nautical Almanac or Panicsville. In fact, the sound of freely improvised tail-chasing honk-jazz really raises its exhausted head on here, which makes it one of my favorite Public Eyesore releases for a while, since the Old Bombs/Wolf Eyes split and that hellish Yoko Sato guitar album. How's the length? Way too f********ing long. Did we really want V. to put out a triple LP? At least the music is really good.