#15    SUMMER 2003



First off, I'm just happy that someone sent me a zine instead of another IDM and/or free improv and/or indie rock CDR. It seems like whenever I go to a record store anymore all I buy is magazines and zines anyway. It's not that I like reading about music better than listening to it, it's just that I've already got about 2000 records and the record stores in Chicago are so picked-over and/or overpriced that it's no fun to shop for music anyway. I've always loved zines -- even bad zines are a lot more rewarding than bad records. Not that Haizman's Brain #2 is bad, but it is a real personal slice by this older punker lady who loves music and lives in Franklin, PA and rambles on even more than I do. Her attitude and energy are right on, though, and it looks great -- typewriter paste-up layout interspersed with xeroxed comics and art and stolen images (isn't that Regan MacNeal on the cover?) -- and the subjects are almost all excellent (Rocket From The Tombs, Destroy All Monsters, Buttholes, Melvins, Coil, Rudolph Grey, I Spit On Your Grave, other psychotronic films, The Germs) and, like I said, I just love picking up a zine and getting someone's intense personal take on anything. "If you want one'a these, send 2 bucks to: HAIZMAN'S BRAIN, 372 Grant Street, Franklin, PA 16323."

Here's the only other zine I've ever been sent besides Haizman's Brain. Please people, send more zines! This came with a package I got sent by the Atlanta-based Old Gold label, so I have it in my mind that it's a sort of 'house organ' for the label. That might not be true, but it doesn't really say otherwise. Basically, this is a playful, thrown together 'collage style' zine. Not much in the way of traditional 'essayistic' writing, but each issue seems to have a special theme that unifies the fragmentary approach. I got two issues, one celebrating the Dirty South (with place names, maps, a Dirty South hip hop quiz, a hooched-out centerfold model, recipes, more), and the other one a 'lists' issue. For example, there's a two-page list of what seems to be every live performance the author has ever been to, in which you can trace his trajectory from musicals with his parents, to hair metal with his friends, to the Pixies, to more indie rock, to free jazz/noise shows and Table of the Elements festivals, which probably sounds familiar to a good 90% of the guys I see shopping at Reckless these days. And that's just a mere two pages of the issue! Alright, zinesters, keep the personality comin'!

This one I bought. Okay, so we all know that 98% of the magazines about rock music that you can find on any newstand (even the 'underground' newstands) these days are just recycled press kits. The zines are pretty much just as guilty. Chunklet is of course an exception, but the more you read it the more you realize that despite all the humor, it is ultimately pretty press-kit, and its 'shit lists' stand more as a negative image than a different picture. If you want to read music-writing with a sense of humor that pats NO ONE on the back, including itself, you have to go to Cimarron Weekend, but they don't publish anymore, so fuck it, just read metal zines. I mean, after trying to struggle through The Wire review section, it's just so great to pick up a zine where every review is just three or four lines like, "Fuck, dude, this is totally just hard melodic metal. Buy this." It's like listening to nothing but 80s hardcore comps for the rest of your life. Each unit is exactly the same and it creates a drone more beautiful than 100 Richard Youngs albums playing simultaneously. The interviews in here are a blast to read too, because of founder/writer/editor/publisher Jeff Rappaport's totally cazh/dude interview style. I saw on the cover that the ish had an interview with Jason Mewes of Jay and Silent Bob fame, and even though Kevin Smith films drive me bonkers, I knew it would be worth buying just to read these two Jersey hessians talk to each other for 5 pages. I was right: they ponder shit like "Does that make you gay if a girl's fucking you in the ass with a dildo?", and when Rappaport tells Mewes that he has interviewed King Diamond, Mewes asks, "Does he really fucking worship evil??" And then, after four pages like that, Rappaport turns around and gets Mewes to very soberly and candidly talk about his problems with, get ready . . . heroin! (It was a surprise to me too.) There's also an interview with Jason Newsted, another total dude, who talks very honestly and fairly about how Metallica got lame, and also drops gems like this: "Q: What kinds of things do you like doing with kids?" "A: Introduce them to animals. That's the best thing you can do for a kid. The best thing. If a child can learn life and death through animals rather than the TV and the newspapers and the street and all that kind of shit they're going to do something. They're going to be alright. But if they only learn it from the TV and the video games and all that shit then there's less of a chance of knowing what's real and right from wrong." Damn, that's why I love zines. You're not going to get all this in the P.R. sheets.

Now that I'm over improvised music I thought maybe I'd be over Terrascope too, because I haven't bought one of 'em in about three years, but today I bought this one because it had an interview with Cary Loren, the unexpurgated version of which mentions this here magazine right here (BLASTITUDE, dude), and I try to own EVERYTHING that mentions ME in any way, because I LOVE MYSELF. Well, they edited out any mention of the 'tude (competition, y'know), but I am still not disappointed in any way by this purchase. Why not? Because this magazine is beautiful, and even if you find things like twee trolls frolicking in merrye woodlands repugnant, you'd probably still agree. I mean the cover is always beautiful -- sure it's a nude maiden sitting in a glen playing a goddamn HARP, but just look at that orange and silver color scheme -- and there's just something about the content itself, even when they're writing about something or interviewing someone you just plain WOULDN'T LISTEN TO, you devour it anyway because of that Terrascope touch. The Cary Loren interview is a great read, and so is Byron Coley interviewing Mark Boston, aka Rockette Morton, aka the bass player on practically all the great Beefheart albums. He seems like a humble and laid-back dude, and relates a few choice anecdotes. One of my favorites is how Zappa multi-instrumentalist Ian Underwood had to quit the Magic Band after a short stint as guitarist because learning the songs was giving him MIGRAINES. There's other articles/interviews on bands like The Sand Pebbles, The Land of Nod, and Dora Flood -- no, I hadn't heard of 'em either but I had no problem reading the pieces. There's also a piece on The Golden Dawn, a late Sixties Texas band who were on International Artists, so that's newsworthy. The accompanying CD has some great shit on it too: all the aforementioned bands, plus a track by Comets on Fire that sounds even more shocking than usual in the rather mellow Terrascopic context. Also worth noting: in the review section editor-in-chief Phil McMullen does mention Blastitude, indirectly, by calling our own contributing reviewer Chris Moon (see just below) an "uninformed twit"! Be careful, Phil sure does get defensive when people criticize Terrastock. I mean, sheez, not everybody's gonna like everything, you should see the letters I get at Blastitude!

OTHER PRINT NOTES: Well, I certainly still have trouble even finishing a single record review in The Wire, even though they're only a couple paragraphs long, but man, that design....the fucking thing looks GREAT, every time a new issue comes out I want to buy it just for the typesetting and layouts. And it's not like they never write about anyone good, they DO, of course, so I always have to thumb through it at the newsstand . . . another always impeccably designed magazine is Sound Collector, and they also feature tons of great stuff, but there is a dubious 'new indie singer/songwriter-with-a-laptop' thing lurking in their content, which becomes especially apparent on the accompanying CDs, which have gone from mostly pretty good to kind of annoying over the last few issues (for me, anyway, you know -- I think the new "handsome indie singer/songwriter-probably-with-a-laptop" genre is a little hard to take -- hardly any of the songs stand out -- McMonigal seemed to have found almost all the stand-outs and put 'em on the first issue of Yeti comp) . . . and speaking of Yeti, they just put out another mindblowing print issue (especially that article about motorcycle racing down the Baja peninsula, and the comics by Brian Chippendale) coupled with a various artists CD that, the one time I listened to it, sounded like it might as well have been by Dan Fogelberg (his comeback album, produced by Fennesz) . . . Roctober always rules . . . check out the latest issue, with a cover story and free CD on the music and films of Sid Laverents???? Where does Jake Austen find these people? . . . They're not my typical reads, but lately I've been getting into Chicago mags Venus and Stop Smiling for throwing together this glossy full-color view of that Wicker Park (/Ukrainian Village/Logan Square/Humboldt Park) lifestyle. Even if you hate it, you gotta admit you live IN it, and it's fun just to see all the same Illinoisians that you see when you go out, glorifying themselves here on full color glossy pages, and doing it surprisingly well . . . In other news, have you noticed the new trend where porn stars show up on the covers of underground/indie rock magazines? Today, on a single trip to the underground newsstand, I saw porn stars on four different magazine covers . . . Jenna Jameson, Tera Patrick, oh wait, I guess Liz Phair DOESN'T count . . .




reviews by

FUSHITSUSHA: Eien no houga saki ni te o dashitanosa 1978 CD (PSF)
It might have seemed that Fushitsusha had taken its affairs as far as they could possibly go. Although Origin's Hesitation marked a new direction (one I found very interesting live, but quite dull on the actual album), I was left wondering if we'd ever again see releases as jaw dropping as double live volumes 1 & 2 or the amazing live release, Gold Blood. Well, if the future isn't shocking enough, there's always the past -- and that's just what we have here with Eien no houga saki ni te o dashitanosa.
       Recorded in 1978, the album could have been recorded only yesterday. It is no less relevant than the equally surprising Snyder and Thompson Daily Dance release (1973) -- far too early a date for free noise. In this sense, Eien is an artifact that doesn't entirely make sense. Part free noise, part jazz, part rock and roll but all Fushitsusha, Eien leaves no room for the dreadful 80's drought when Psych, Industrial, Jazz, Prog, and even Punk had all been more or less declared dead. There's simply no excuse when listening to Eien that Trapdoor Fucking Exit (or the equivalent) didn't appear in 1982. Even This Heat couldn't keep the great musical cesspool of the 80's at bay -- I can only guess that's why Haino went on sabbatical. All in all, it's rather depressing hearing how far ahead this album was.
       Damn, if only I could have had this rolling out of my car windows when I was in high school. Not that it would have made me any more popular, but Pink Floyd and Led Zepplin wouldn't have stood a chance. Parents would have had something a lot more terrifying than the fucking pentagram on the front of 2112 to be afraid of. Jesus! That big all black Fushitsusha cover (and it would have been on vinyl too!) with three kanji symbols and the biggest, soul-destroying sound any Westerner had ever heard coming from the stereo! I think parents of the 70's and early 80's got off lucky! Bible beaters would have given up on rock as the tool of the devil and focused with new zeal upon Japanese noise. Haha! None of my music is popular enough to get declared satanic.
       Well, getting down to the album, it's as indescribable as you'd imagine. Speaking thus in relative terms, 1978 saw Fushitsusha a little more fuzzed out, a little more jazz and a little more rock. There's definitely some active freak-out going on here and I like it. There's actually only two tracks on this beast, one of which is 35 minutes long, and the whole damn thing is a steaming mass of improv noise that I can't help compare to the best moments of Dead C, Borbetomagus, Blue Humans, etc. If Opprobrium was still about they'd have already declared this the album of year (and in that Opprobrium vein, it probably is). In short, this is really, really good shit.
       And Haino sings the same way he sings now. I can't even imagine the guy getting old since he's apparently been doing this since the '60s and if you look across these decades, you'll hear the same ferocity. Maybe he's found a new ways to accomplish his ends, but the ends remain the same. Maybe with the 1978 release you can more clearly hear the connections to other genres, but it is still Fushitsusha -- and that is a bit startling. Realistically, this album is probably closer to the pure Fushitsusha sound than my beloved double live volume 1.
       I have no clue how history treated this album. It should have launched a free noise scene 10 years earlier than it actually happened. It should have blown people's minds and completely changed how music developed through the course of the 80s no less dramatically than VU changed the course of music 10 years earlier. So while Eien may be one of the best things you'll purchase this year, expect to feel a bit of frustration -- or maybe, the excitement of hearing one of the earliest recordings of whatever kind of music Fushitsusha is!

SCORCES: Vivre Avec La Bete LP (ECLIPSE)
I saw this duo live in Providence at a small book store (Atlas Bower). I don't know whether people just haven't caught on to Scorces or the population of Providence is just too dense, but by the time Christina and Heather were playing, I was the only one left along with Jeffrey and Miriam from The Iditarod. I've come to love Providence, but sometimes it shows a glaring ignorance toward anything that doesn't sound like Lightning Bolt. Case in point, Scorces performance that night (pretty well represented by the record put out by Eclipse) was probably one of the best things I've seen while out here on the east coast. That's really saying something since I've seen some fantastic shit -- Fursaxa, The Iditarod, Six Organs of Admittance, Bardo Pond, Acid Mothers Temple, Fushitsusha, etc., etc. What Scorces has been doing though is hard to put down in words which is why I'm not jumping right into a proper review of this album.
Instead, I need to tell you about a recent trip to Nantucket. I'd never been to the island before and thought it would make for an interesting diversion. Altogether the trip was relatively disappointing -- I had come too early in the year and much of the things I might have done there were closed for the season. With several hours to kill before the boat ride back, I ended up on a desolate sandy beach shore. OK, I live -- relatively -- close to the sea, but the whole thing doesn't hit you until you have your very own empty beach and the sea lapping up around your feet. The sea is utterly mind-altering; you can't really resist it. I'm sure Melville wrote about this. I won't go on and on, but listening to the Scorces record now I am reminded both of their visit to Providence and my visit to the sea, because in both cases, I found that I had little control over the mood and feelings that were created by the two events. Let explain just a little more--I have another Scorces album and for a long time I listened to it only rarely because it was a pretty massive undertaking. There is casual, entertaining listening. There is even not-so-casual yet still entertaining listening. When you listen to this music, you do not commit a part of yourself. Nothing is actually asked of you other than listening. In all my experience when listening to Scorces however, this listening experience has demanded everything of me. There are other bands that have accomplished similar things, verging on sacred, ritual type musics. I'm not sure Scorces reminds me of those, but it does remind me of the Nantucket shore where I was caught up in a blissful ocean-mind-state.
Unless you are a poor soulless creature, I think you'll find yourself completely wrapped up in whatever it is that Scorces is doing. I highly recommend Eclipse's LP which I would rate above the CD out on Wholly Other. This is a more mature and disturbingly beautiful sound that you should only play when you can commit yourself entirely to it.

This is a rather belated review, and also a short one. I've reviewed this album in other publications when it was first released on CD by PSF records and made extensive commentary on it during the course of other AMT reviews. So why bother mentioning this reissue at all? Hmmm, two records, 180 gram vinyl, beautiful gatefold sleeve and an extra side of material...that indeed deserves mentioning!
       So to start with, this is an incredible, collector's worthy reissue on 'heavy-as-shit' vinyl. For those who wanted a chance to get one of AMT's best in said format, this is it! Eclipse has done a fantastic job at reissuing some of Kawabata's better projects and apparently now has exclusive rights to future Kawabata vinyl releases in the US. Looking at MU! one can see immediately why. Beyond the vinyl itself, the gatefold sleeve is quite substantial (up to par with the Actuel reissues) and artfully put together with some new AMT photos and an interior design in the tradition of Cosmic Jokers.
       But what really needs mentioning is the fourth 'mystery' side. I was very excited to learn that side D was 'Blue Velvet Blues Coda', an extension of Bllue Velvet Blues which comprises all of side C. Blue Velvet Blues is perhaps one of AMT's best recorded moments (along with Pink Lady Lemonade and La Novia), so an extra 20 minutes or so was perhaps the best thing I could have imagined stuffing on to a reissue of Pataphysical Freakout MU! Unfortunately that's where this reissue suffers. Coda is indeed the last half of the track, but it is also where things fall apart into haze and fuzz. All the beauty of Blue Velvet Blues dissapates, turning into a rather generic dronish hum. It isn't bad, but it really isn't enough to justify the extra side or a second purchase if you already own the PSF release.
       The final take on this reissue is it makes for a nice collector's item or a first purchase if you didn't import the album from PSF. It's a beautiful reissue and definitely superior to the CD but I'd save your money for some of the other Eclipse releases (La Novia, In C, etc.) if you've already got this one.

ST 37: Frantic Search for Zero CDR (SELF-RELEASED)
There is a bootleggish quality to Frantic Search not unlike the legendary if not infamous Cosmic Jokers sessions. Not every note comes off just right (read 'improvised'), and the sound quality is occasionally less than fair. Thank god for that! I've heard the more publicized side of ST 37, like their new one out on Emperor Jones, 'Down on us', and while often outstanding, nothing hints toward the nonsense on Frantic Search. Yes, save the best stuff for CD-R. You know albums with inkjet covers will be monsters. The only way to rock these days is to do it yourself, and here is ST 37's second mammoth offering of trash-psych-freak out limited to 100 copies. Hell, the copy I received came with the jewel case half smashed. No doubt, Frantic Search is a LEGEND...
Clocking in around 74 minutes, Frantic Search isn't quite what the new one by Spacious Minds is -- a 74 minute single track of bliss out. Actually I had problems finding the bliss out. I did find a lot of ROCK though. Not your pansy 90's alternative rock, or your 80's punk (not rock) or new wave (also not rock), but big glistening piles of chunky late 60's/early 70's rawwk, ala Humble Pie and Mountain dosed with enough LSD to turn your average frat house into the next generation of cosmonauts. Of course, when they aren't rocking, they are pushing every other button. Early on, one track sinks into caveman theatre of eternal music, strings replaced by Neanderthal bass riff. By track seven R.U. Kaiser has clearly taken over, guest appearances by Amon Duul 2 and Timothy Leary. The very next track is hijacked by rednecks, so there is plenty of diversity here -- fun for all!
What more do you want me to say? What the hell is wrong with Texas? I think per capita it makes more fucked up music than any other state in the union. At Terrastock, Fleece and ST37 had tables right next to each other (perhaps too much of a good thing?)--where I learned that the Mike Gunn had never really gone away but rather, had transformed into Dunlavy. It is a state of dinosaurs and madmen, a state still caught in the drunken, loaded haze of the mesozoic. Amen.

This will have to be a short review and a strange one at that. Planktone is another one of those extremely obscure Japanese labels that none but a handful of Westerners have ever heard of. As far as I know, the only thing anyone might have ever heard of is their release of the first Shuji Inaba album. Huh? Whhhaaaa? Exactly.
       Ayami Yoko (whoever or whatever that is) has crafted a fantastic album in the vein of Che-Shizu, Shizuka, Minokoto or even Fushitsusha's double live volume 1, which is to say the record is a series of lush dreamy psychedelic ballads, drenched with acid fuzzed out guitar, while the lead guitar is constantly wobbly and strange. This is the romantic psych sound done to perfection, though it is perhaps too dreamy for its own good. Too often the guitars and percussion (is there any?) could come in more aggressively, totally blowing the mind of the listener, but Ayami seems content to just float on and on and on.
      The exception comes on the brief but amazing cd-r where Ayami does seem to rock a bit more (if you can call this rock). It's another great entry in an all-too-small scene, but given that I can't even determine the name of the album and I'm sure there are no plans for US distribution, we'll probably miss this one altogether.
Oh, and doing a quick web search, it does seem that the 'always 20 years ahead of everyone else' Bryan Day has already released an Ayami Yoko album -- surprise! Perhaps curious Americans should start there! (http://sinkhole.net/pehome/)










reviews by

"Plague Soundscapes" CD

I have been a fan of The Locust since their inception as I followed its bandmembers' previous projects. I remember hearing their first 7" on GSL and thinking how it was exactly what I wanted to hear at that given time. Ah, nostalgia. Well, I have followed them since, bought all their records and seen them live a number of times. They have stretched their life expectancy as a band to that of a dozen "hardcore" bands- which may or may not be a good thing. They have totally influenced the "hardcore" movement both musically and aesthetically. And now they have released a record on Anti which is really just Epitaph. Conspiracy? Ploy to dominate the record industry with the ultimate plan of annihilation? Doubtful, though it is interesting to see a band that was spawned out of a culture that shits on such affiliation sign on the dotted line.

For those who don't know, The Locust is a "hardcore" ("" used out of confusion) band that plays fast, fast, loud, loud music that utilizes guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and all four members screaming at the top of their lungs. They are credited in a lot of people's minds as being the band that started the two current camps of hardcore: screamo and this pseudo new-wave re-hash thing that falls under the category of hardcore. They are really a combination of the two. Dozen's have used the "Devo on speed"
description so I guess I will as well. "Plague Soundscapes" is 21
minutes long and consists of 23 songs with the longest track falling under a minute and a half. Blink and you'll miss it. The average song length is 54.8 seconds long. Math.

I felt a dichotomy of optimistic anticipation and skepticism before this record came out. On one hand, I was genuinely excited to see and hear what The Locust was going to do with a bigger budget and more studio time then they had ever had previously. On the other hand, this same scenario has ruined band upon band in the past. The Locust existed, and to a certain extent still does, I suppose, in a culture that not only utilizes but preaches the virtues of DIY. Epitaph ain't to DIY. The same said culture also goes out of its way to avoid any correlation with anything corporate or anything that is in bed with corporate America. Again, Epitaph… I also was beginning to wonder what The Locust had left to offer that warranted another record. They have a previous full length, a handful of 7"s,a split 10" and a re-mix record all under their belt. Their output has evolved but not swayed to much from their initial releases.

Musically, "Soundscapes" is more technical then anything they have previously done. It's also more cohesive. Perhaps this is the budget and studio trickery at work…but it works. The band uses more start/stop on a dime chop chop choppy songwriting skills to pay the bills here as well as more odd time signatures and sudden tempo changes. I suppose in a 45 second song, any change is sudden. They all still scream though you can actually decipher one from the other on "Soundscapes" just by voice tone and frequency. Again, perhaps this is a result of using a better studio
with better mics or maybe it was a conscious decision. Previous releases had all voices throwing 5 year old tantrums -- one was not too different from another. Lyrically, you can draw your own conclusions. Think connect the dots with no numbers. I prefer it that way. If you want definition, you'll get more from the song titles themselves like "Pssst! Is That A Halfie In Your Pants?" and "Who Wants A Dose Of The Clap?" Maybe not. Sonically, Alex Newport has produced a slick sounding record. Every instrument and voice can easily be picked out of the mix. However, if you are the type who wants your recordings to be as close to the live presentation as possible, look elsewhere. Live, The Locust sounds like a fucking semi with no tires going down the hghway. It is impossible to pick out anything the way you can on the album. I guess you could say the record is more "listenable." Aesthetically, the record is horrible. The cover art is rediculous and I wouldn't be at all surprised if it was meant that way.

In the end, the record is a success in terms of not being ruined by too much money. The Locust has taken the next logical step in stretching their limited parameter. I just have no clue where they can go from here without making the exact same record. I suppose that planning for future releases really has nothing to do with what they are doing as its all pretty here and now. Its difficult though to listen to this in the context in which it exists, which is different then any previous release. The Locust after all are a "hardcore" band and that has certain connotations. An appealing aspect of being involved in "hardcore" is that it isn't for everyone. By design, it should never have mass appeal. That said, having a
"hardcore" band on Epitaph seems like contradiction in terms. Perhaps The Locust don't consider themselves "hardcore" or perhaps my definition of the term is skewed. Or maybe hardcore has evolved into something where small DIY labels are a thing of the past, but I doubt it. Maybe none of this matters one fucking bit. If that’s the case, I really like the record for what it is in terms of a collection of twenty-three short, fast, tongue in cheek songs. I am convinced that the majority of people who needed no advertising, or this review for that matter to know that this record was released will see it in a completely different context. Connect the dots.


"Nearly a D" CD
Emanem 4087

Improvised music is like making that farting noise by cupping your hand under your armpit. Few people want to do it, fewer do, and even fewer do it well. Huh? Frode Gjerstad and Derek Bailey have one recording together that was a live concert played ten years ago and released a couple of years ago on Emanem as "Hello, Goodbye" with John Stevens also present. "Nearly a D" reduces the "Hello" scenario to a duo with Bailey playing his usual acoustic and electric guitars and Gjerstad on alto saxophone and clarinets. Improvised music is also all about chemistry, probably more so than any other form of music. I think the chemistry exemplified in improvised music is best displayed and appreciated when done by a duo of musicians. Lucky for me "Nearly a D" is a duo recording.

There is little need for me to go into the endless list of complimentary facts regarding Mr. Bailey. He is the Godfather, the master, the slowly swaying, true to his craft genius who wrote the book on modern guitar improvisation. I guess there was a need. Anyone who knew him before will know him now, and will love every second of it. Though Bailey's evolution is SLOW, it is still there. With his playing, there is always, always an overwhelming familiarity that comes off new and refreshing all at the same time. Sounds like I'm advertising soda. He stays true to what he has been doing for so, so long. Listening to his stuff as it comes out begs to be heard not in terms of change or progression but more in terms of…. It's like he is building a house and each new release is a new brick in that house. Cheesy I realize. However, I get the sense that he is building up to some final statement that already has ten times more credibility then 99% of other musicians, improvisers or otherwise.

Gjerstad, perhaps a lesser-known name, has been playing improvisation for over two decades and has a credible list of recordings with other musicians like William Parker and Peter Brotzmann. He also heads up the Circulasione Totale Orchestra and the Frode Gjerstad Trio as well as running his own label, Circulasione Totale.

"Nearly a D" starts off, like so many other Bailey related projects, with a muted harmonic acoustic guitar ringing. Gjerstad is slowly creeping in behind him, which sets the pace for "Bell," the first and longest track on the album. What becomes apparent throughout the "Bell" is the fundamental stylistic differences in how the two approach what they are doing. Bailey does what he does best: muted, a-tonal, softly jagged strums and progressions. Gjerstad, on the other hand is coming from a more traditional jazz camp. He does his fair share of skronking and skreeching but nothing in comparison to the minimal beeps and scratching honks on "Hello." On "Nearly" he never seems to be at a loss of ideas or direction and the same can be said for Bailey. Throughout the album, Gjerstad and Bailey are able to seamlessly weave in and out of ideas and tempos as if it had been rehearsed. The two are clearly listening to each other every step of the way, know when to get out of the way, and have enough confidence to know when to get in the way. It’s all about the chemistry that I was talking about before, that Gjerstad and Bailey have mastered. It is further quite interesting to hear the two change instruments, but especially when Gjerstad opts for his clarinet over saxophone. It adds a new dimension and texture to the album as a whole as does Bailey's switching between electric and acoustic guitar but to a somewhat smaller degree.

"Nearly" is a little over 52 minutes long which is just right. It is a digital recording that I usually have qualms with as I do here. The recording is clear in that digital sort of way but it lacks air and a sense of space. I assume by what I hear on the recording that both instruments were mic'd really closely so as to achieve the absolute clarity and definition a la modern rock recordings. I also assume that the majority of people whom hear and/or acquire this recording will find the situation completely acceptable. I, on the other hand, think that improvised music is all about the moment and the chemistry of the players with each other and with the space they are in. I want to hear that in the recording -- the ambience and the realistic space between the instruments. I don't want to hear an artificial mixed version of space, though the mixing job here is better then usual. This is a hard concept to explain and harder to sell to those who haven't heard a good recording that captures the nuance of the space in which it was recorded. In the end, it’s about the music present but if time could rewind, I wish the same recording could have been made in a more acoustical setting or at least not have the instruments mic'd so closely.

My only other major complaint is that of the aesthetics of the packaging. It’s a matter of personal taste and I'm by no means a visual art critic so I'll leave it alone. I just think the packaging is ugly.

I always want my art to leave me wanting more instead of thanking God that its over. "Nearly" leaves me wanting more. Lately, I have been listening to a lot of dub and reggae so given the context of where my mind is musically at the moment, it seems sort of odd that this particular recording would shine the way it does. Or maybe it means that I should stop listening to so much reggae and dub.





DVDs I Own and Why

By Justin Firestone

It must’ve been February 12th 1999, my 24th birthday, when I got my DVD player. It was a Toshiba model that cost just over $300. It doesn’t do anything special. It just plays the DVDs. It’s not like that $57.99 Mintek model you can get at Best Buy that plays .mp3s and displays .mpgs and .jpgs straight from a CD-R.
My decision marked the growing end of the Laserdisc players, which everyone says have better video and audio. But I like the size of DVDs, and I’m not an audiophile, so I went along with the DVD trend.
      What was the first movie I bought? I don’t think I even remember. I know I wanted to buy “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen”. I never bought it, though. I’ve been at Best Buy at least ten times and had the DVD in my hand, ready to purchase. I still don’t own it. No, instead, I think I bought “Amadeus” first.
It’s hard to justify buying a DVD sometimes, you know. I don’t watch any of them anymore because I’m too busy. They’re nice to have when people come over and you want to show them a specific scene, not having to fast-forward or rewind a tape. But I don’t remember the last time I sat down to watch a DVD in its entirety. Maybe I’ll quit buying them.
      And who buys all these recent releases like “The Bourne Identity”? Does the average American household actually contain such dreck? Do people actually watch bad movies all the time? My theory is that the DVDs you buy (and this is true of music and books) must be the best of all time. And to state the obvious, they must also be worth owning.
      So, my arrogance is as follows: the DVDs I own are DVDs everyone should own. Yes, a few of them are guilty pleasures, so to speak, but I can safely say my DVD collection has only great movies that will stand the test of time. What are they?

Amadeus (1984)
I remember as a 9-year-old thinking to myself, who in the hell would watch a movie about Mozart? I was into top-40 radio and was so afraid of compounding my computer nerdiness by also listening to Classical music that the mere thought of seeing the movie would banish me into a social nonentity until college. But then I took up playing an instrument, and I learned I loved Classical music. And I loved Mozart. And so I happened to catch “Amadeus” one night on TV, edited horribly down for commercials, not letterboxed, and in two parts (consecutive nights). Even with all these technical drawbacks, it was still the best movie, hands-down, of 1984.
      The costumes and sets need no more praise than others have showered. F. Murray Abraham, perfectly, shows us the ultimate paradox of most artists: they have desire, but not talent. Most of us are mediocre, and we don’t realize it until we are faced with true talent. Salieri dies knowing no one will ever remember any of his music. He still believes in God, there is no doubt. But he believes God is a cruel entity, putting him on Earth with the solitary desire of writing music honoring God, only to be beaten by a young punk.
This message seems to be repeated in “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” in the final scene, where Chuck Barris realizes that he’s spent his life pursuing his desires, but ultimately is left with a feeling of nothingness. It is worthy to note that both Barris and Salieri are portrayed as being successful in their fields. Barris was a top producer and Salieri was court composer. Yet they were both unhappy, and we don’t know what would make them happy. This is their ultimate tragic quality. They don’t even know what would make them happy. They only know what doesn’t make them happy.

Patton (1970)
This movie must be watched beginning to end, with much attention. It has great moments that you might want to skip to or watch again and again, but the overall mood can only be felt from a continuous viewing. This can be said of almost all movies, of course, but it’s especially true of “Patton”.
      Patton’s greatest fear, much like Salieri, is that he will fail to achieve his birthright, and in Patton’s case, it’s to miss out on the invasion of Europe because he believes he is the best commander and deserves to lead the U.S. Army into the heart of Berlin (and he also wanted to march to Stalingrad, too, and I believe he would’ve made it with full Allied support). But unlike Salieri, Patton does achieve his goals. What separates Patton from Salieri is that Patton has desire fused with talent. One can’t help but wonder if he, as he believed would happen, is reincarnated on our planet now valiantly fighting again.

Blue Velvet (1986)
My personal favorite movie of all time. I’ve sang “Candy Colored Clown They Call the Sandman” (“In Dreams”) at live Shithook karaoke like Dean Stockwell does. I quote the movie all the time. I drink Pabst Blue Ribbon, and I say “Heineken” when I piss in a urinal. Warm beer has made me fuckin’ puke.
      What few people realize is that “Blue Velvet” is a love story, not a mystery or Lynchian mind-fuck festival. It’s a straightforward movie. It’s easy to follow, and in that respect, I declare it to be an anomaly to the Lynch pantheon.
      Dennis Hopper won nearly every other acting award that year yet wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar. (Paul Newman won for the “The Color of Money”.) Sometimes, Oscar is wrong.

Scarface (1983)
A crappy 80’s synthesized soundtrack can’t ruin Al Pacino. When was the last time you saw a movie with Al Pacino and thought he was a bad actor? He makes bad movies, but he’s always on his game, meng. “Scarface” long held the record for most uses of “fuck” at 206, but research indicates that “Goodfellas” surpassed it with 246, and “Pulp Fiction” went a little better with 257.
While known for its violence, I think it pales in comparison to any of the shit Jerry Bruckheimer produces. And while Bruckheimer gives us no life lessons in any of his movies, several exist in “Scarface”. Some of them: don’t do cocaine; don’t piss off a Colombian drug lord; it’s no fun to watch your friends get gutted by chainsaws.
      And Robert Loggia is a fine actor. I would drink my orange juice if he told me to.

Goodfellas (1990)
Scorsese’s best movie. Best mob movie. Best use of popular music in a movie. Like Tony Montana of “Scarface”, Henry Hill is a rags-to-riches story. They grew up poor, in poor conditions, yet each attained power and money by undying allegiance to those above them. Each fell because of cocaine.
      What makes us like Henry Hill and his friends is that we believe them when they say they are good fellas. Does this glorify and glamorize organized crime? You betcha. They are above the law, and lead a free life. Sometimes things get hairy, but that’s nothing a big knife and a shovel can’t fix.
      My favorite scene is when they visit Tommy’s mother (Scorsese’s mom) late at night to find a shovel to bury Billy Batts. She insists on serving them food. They act like they’re on their way home from hunting, and she acts like she believes them. But the whole time, you must be of the theory that she knows exactly what’s going on. She raised a gangster, and she’s not stupid. His friends are gangsters, too. She’s just glad to see her son, since he doesn’t visit very often. She loves him, even if he’s a gangster.
By the way, “Casino” is a different movie, and I’m always shocked when people say it’s just “Goodfellas” redressed.

Heat (1995)
Keeping up with the gangster theme, “Heat” is a movie a lot of people thought just didn’t cut the mustard. People have criticized that Pacino and DeNiro’s scene together drinking coffee and talking about apple pies and barbecues is a “let down.”
      I disagree strongly. Two of the finest actors of all time sitting down for coffee is a fantastic moment in cinema. They respect each other, but they are on opposite sides of the law. Pacino can’t arrest DeNiro until he catches him red-handed, even though he knows DeNiro and his crew are responsible for several heists, and the heist at the beginning resulted in several murders. DeNiro knows Pacino knows. And need I say that Pacino knows that DeNiro knows Pacino knows?
      Also of note is Jon Voight as a fantastic “father figure” to DeNiro, who helps him discover good jobs to take and helps him with other necessities like getting fake documents and travel arrangements. And the machine-gun battle in downtown L.A. deserves praise for its realism.
      Pacino and DeNiro play characters who love what they do for a living, but deep down inside, they are empty because they are defined by their jobs. They let their personal lives fall apart for the chance to succeed career-wise. I think I’m starting to see a nebulous theme to the DVD’s I own.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
I’m no apologist for the crap that are the other Star Trek movies. The only other one even worth watching is VI, because Christopher Plummer makes a great villain.
      What makes “Khan” the best Star Trek movie, and one of the greatest movies of all time, is the purely over-the-top acting that is at the same time believable because we don’t know any better since the storyline is so great. Its bombastic intertwining of the themes of Moby Dick make you feel like you’re sitting at the Globe Theatre way back when, and Shakespeare himself is patting your head and buying you popcorn while you watch the drama cascade into your brain.
      The movie is quotable, and Ricardo Montalban has a prosthetic chest to make him look stronger. This movie is what movies are supposed to be like: explosions, grandstanding, struggle of good vs. evil, and a Mutara Nebula.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)
The third and best installment of the “Man with No Name” Eastwood collaboration with Sergio Leone. Whoever has seen this on DVD, with the lights turned out, and the music up real loud (Ennio Morricone), will never forget the great moment when Eli Wallach stumbles onto a tombstone and realizes they’ve finally found the graveyard where the gold is. He runs around for almost five minutes looking for the right grave as the music swells and swells, and you think it can’t get it better.
      But it does. Lee Van Cleef shows up just in time so they can have a THREE-WAY showdown. I don’t know about you, but I get goose bumps when I watch them jockey for position while the music swells, the close-ups get closer, and then all you see is their eyes.
      Oh, and the first two hours of the movie are damn fine, too. Makes me want to go back in time, buy a revolver, and play poker while I get shitfaced on whiskey. I suppose I could still do that, huh?

Enter the Dragon (1973)
I know there are a lot of Kung-fu buffs out there. This is the only Kung-fu movie I’ve seen that really does it for me. The aficionados will tell you the Hong Kong shit is the best, but I don’t care. Watch this movie closely if you haven’t lately, and try to figure out all the ways it’s referenced in subsequent pop culture. The most recent would be the beginning of “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” episodes when Dr. Weird introduces his latest invention to his lab assistant by belting out “GENTLEMEN...”
      The evil Han eats up the scenery with his fantastic little monologues. It’s unlikely that anyone could ever own a private island and rule it with a claw fist as he does, but if anyone does, you know it’s exactly like Han’s island.
      I’m realizing that I own a lot of violent guy movies. Oh, what a breakthrough.

Taxi Driver (1976)
Travis Bickle takes Betsy to a porno on their first date. By the end of the movie, he’s almost killed a senator, has killed a pimp and a couple of other shady characters, and grown a mohawk. But she still likes him.
      And I do, too. DeNiro makes this Vietnam veteran absolutely terrifying but lovable at the same time. I’d like him on my side when Helter Skelter goes down, that’s for sure. The sax solos were written by the great Bernard Herrmann, just before his death in 1975.
      I can’t forgive Scorsese, however, for painfully injecting himself into the movie as a jilted lover riding in the back of the cab. He is almost worse than Quentin Tarantino.

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
George C. Scott gives us a comical Patton six years early, and Peter Sellers gives us a reason to encourage cloning. I don’t think we’ve had a better comedic actor since his death. Bill Murray comes to mind, but he doesn’t have the pure talent that Sellers had.
      Considering the year 1964, it’s hard to believe that everyone involved with the movie wasn’t labeled a Communist and expelled from the country. I suppose the saving grace is that the Russians look bad by the end of the film, too.
      I could sit and watch Sterling Hayden puff his cigar and warn us about the fluoridation of water all night and still giggle. But this movie is not perfect. The “special effects” are lame. I am not amused by watching Slim Pickens fall. And what is up with that slapstick comedy with the Coke machine squirting pop? I wish Kubrick were still alive to do a director’s cut to eliminate that pop machine scene completely.

Ben-Hur (1959)
Ben-Hur is largely a response of the old studio system to the emerging threat of television. Studios were afraid people would quit seeing movies because television was just so damn good. (Keep in mind that was back when there was only one channel and it was black and white, and the TV’s were 3” tall and the only show was two dudes fishing to the musical stylings of Guy Lombardo.) So it’s supposed to be a grandiose epic that you have to see at a theater to appreciate.
      It’s pretty good on DVD when you’re sitting at home with some nice speakers and a nice TV, however. The chariot race is still the best action sequence ever filmed, and nothing like it will ever be filmed again. Sure, they might try, but the horses won’t be real. And the attempted homage to Ben-Hur that George Lucas tried to effect with the Pod Race in The Phantom Menace was about one-tenth as exciting.
      If you haven’t seen it, it’s long. It’s religious. It’s about Jesus dying and cleansing us. If you’re Gore Vidal, who wrote the screenplay but didn’t get credit, you’ll believe it’s about unrequited hot gay sex. But most of all, it’s a big, damn, epic movie that knocks you on your ass. Just remember to have some refreshments handy.

Spartacus (1960)
This, like Ben-Hur, is a Roman epic. I’m a little biased for these Roman epics; I majored in Latin, and I love Roman history. This version of Spartacus’ revolt is slightly Hollywood, of course. There’s no evidence he had a lover, and no evidence he was crucified. But there sure is evidence he scared the shit out of the fat-cats on Palatine Hill!
      This is Kubrick #2 on the list. I think I can see a pattern of greatness. Kubrick, Scorcese, Coppola, DeNiro, Pacino. These are the names I love the most in cinema. I think 2001: A Space Odyssey is worth owning, but I don’t think I’d ever watch it again. It’s a great movie, of course. It’s just not the kind of thing you “pop-in” and watch for the hell of it.
      But back to Spartacus. It has a great love theme, a simple 3-note strain that Alex North patterned after the leitmotifs of Wagner, etc., and which John Williams achieves so well in his Star Wars scores. The battle scenes are cool. They set huge toasted wheats on fire and send them down the hill into the Roman armies. They win. The slaves win. They’re better trained, and they are fighting for more than a paycheck. They’re fighting for their lives, civil rights, socialism, the right to party, whatever.
      Who of us hasn’t felt a little Spartacus in us?

Apocalypse Now (1979)
I don’t own the redux version. I haven’t even seen it. I heard it’s neat-o. But I don’t care. The movie as released in 1979 needed nothing extra.
      I’ve been to the Niebaum-Coppola vineyard in Napa valley, and I’ve seen the bamboo cage that Martin Sheen was in. I’ve seen Captain Kilgore’s surfboard. I’ve seen the Godfather’s desk.
But what about the movie? It’s the best Vietnam movie, even though I hate to call it a Vietnam movie (Platoon is a boring piece of trash). This movie is a movie, not a war movie, not a Vietnam War movie, not really an action movie, or anything easily fitting into a category. It’s about a man who’s gone insane and about a man who’s going to kill him.
      It was the last time Brando felt like acting. I once remember a movie reviewer calling his Dr. Moreau performance as a Thanksgiving Day float in a parade. It’s a shame. He was a national treasure at one point. Watch this movie to remember him how he was. He was a brilliant actor. (Recent stories about The Score (2001) indicate he wouldn’t listen to Frank Oz, the director, and wouldn’t wear pants.) Sadly, the thing I’ll remember him the most for is his Larry King Live interview where he told Larry King, Jewiest of Jews, that the Jews controlled Hollywood. That may well be true, but don’t say that on live national TV. You’re bound to burn some bridges.
      And Martin Sheen is no slouch, either. This is the movie that made me think he was my favorite actor. Then he did Spawn. Oh, well.

American Beauty (1999)
Sometimes, Oscar gets it right.
      Kevin Spacey does some amazing stuff, then he does trash, like K-Pax, Pay It Forward, and The Life of David Gale. I guess Al Pacino did Godfather: Part III, so we’ll forgive them both.
      I know that America, as a whole, is not like the America depicted in American Beauty. But it does address some very common problems of white suburban cities. Not every military man is a repressed homosexual who beats his sons. Not every married man wants to bone 16-year-old hotties. Er.
      I guess this movie contrasts my other favorites in that it’s not a huge epic. It’s a plain drama, well done, and we need no explosions. Good story, good dialogue, good acting. That’s what makes a good movie. If you lack any of those elements, blow something up.
      The saddest part of the movie for me is when Kevin Spacey tries to seduce his wife, after an unknown period of lack of intimacy. He’s been bought out at his job, and she comes home frustrated at her job. He remembers what he loved so much about her, and she remembers what she loved so much about him. But their near sex ends when she realizes he might spill wine on their expensive couch.
      Can another scene say better what is wrong with America?

Stop Making Sense (1984)
This is not a concert movie. If it is, it’s the best concert movie yet made. It was directed by a upcoming Jonathan Demme, and it’s a movie. A movie-movie.
      This movie of the Talking Heads tells a story, although I can’t tell you exactly what that story is. The story starts with David Byrne wanting to play us a song about a killer on his jambox. By the end, 15 musicians are begging us to take them to the river. I can sure do without Tina Weymouth’s side project, the Tom-Tom Club and their Genius of Love song.
      A great bonus section features Byrne interviewing Byrne. Once again, I’m a little biased, since David Byrne is one of my personal idols. But who else in modern pop culture gave us such a wonderful selection of smart, pithy, and intelligent music?
      I don’t own True Stories on DVD yet, but I think I’m going to buy it soon.

DVDs I own that aren’t movies

Mr. Show Seasons 1 and 2 (1995-1996)
If you like comedy, then you must love Mr. Show. It’s Saturday Night Live with thought. Bob and David are my current personal comedic idols. I think George Carlin has lost a bit in his old age and his desires to spew his political agenda. Mr. Show definitely has some politicking to it, but it’s so well disguised that you don’t really feel it until later.
      I can’t wait for seasons three and four to appear on DVD, because those are the best. But seasons one and two have their juicy nuggets. My favorite skit is Bob as Van Hammersly, who can teach you to get your G.E.D. by playing billiards.
      I saw them live last September at the Congress Theater, and it was fantastic. I was laughing nonstop, and I only had a few beers. These guys are our Laurel and Hardy. They are not getting the respect they deserve.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Seasons 1 and 3 (1997, 1999)
I don’t own Season two yet. The people who dis on Buffy are the people who haven’t even seen the show, or sat down to watch a few episodes. This is one of the funniest, most engaging shows on network TV. And the people are all sexy, too.
      I honestly must admit that this show is the most intelligent on TV right now, and is unfortunately coming to an end. I generally can’t stand hour-long dramas, but this show counters so many tropes of TV that it is refreshing every week.
      These DVDs have made me laugh out loud. That’s something that doesn’t happen that often. The writers are witty, sharp, and hip. They’re the establishment and anti-establishment at the same time. That’s exactly where I hope to be someday.

And that’s it. I don’t know if I’ve convinced anyone to buy these DVDs I own, but I do know that they are worth owning. If you are poor, drop me a line, and maybe we can watch them together some night. I’ll make some drinks, and talk your ear off for the whole movie.