ON SPITE by
wrong with my head? Why on earth would I commit to writing
TWENTY THREE reviews in one month, for one label?!?! Why
now, of all times, when Iím up to my elbows in packing boxes
and hidden U-Haul fees (windshield insurance, gotta have
it, what ifÖ), would I do such a thing?
Well, for one thing, weíre
talking about a label thatís been around for a bit over
a half a decade (I remember seeing posts about Spite on
alt.noise around 1996 or soÖmaybe earlier, maybe later),
and yet most people are only vaguely aware of it. Joel St.
Germain has put out somewhere around 75 releases in this
span of time, many of them among the best work available
by the artists represented. Why on earth isnít this guy
at the top of the noise food chain?
Maybe the limited availability
thing counts as an excuse. Most tapes are in an edition
of 50. Many even less. But I donít know, when you think
about it, do you even know 50 noise fans personally? 50
copies donít sell nearly as fast as youíd think in this
Perhaps people used
to the high gloss, elaborate design and packaging fandangos
of companies like Alien8 are put out by the xeroxed paper
covers and hand-dubbed cassettes with minimal info. I guess,
but isnít the idea of noise (as with music) the SOUNDS themselves?
Regardless, most people
stumble onto Spite by accident, while theyíre compulsively
filling holes in their Sukora or MSBR collections, and donít
come back to visit afterwards. Personally, I think youíre
missing out. The tapes are cheap, Joelís easy to transact
with, and doesnít suffer from the "Iíll send those
out next week" chromosome deficiency that plagues some
tape only labels, and of course, many of the sounds are
superb. Joel makes friends easily, and friends are more
likely to give you the cream of their crop than collaborators
or business partners.
Despite the limited
numbers of each item, many releases spanning far back in
the early catalog are still available. Iíll start with 15
releases from the back catalog, and then talk some more
about the recent onslaught of ten new releases that have
come about in the last two months. Iím going to focus on
releases by artists you may not be familiar with, rather
than hit on the big names. Iím sure you can decide for yourself
whether you need another K2 or Government Alpha or Reynols.
still available older releases (all on cassette unless otherwise
Dead Body Love: "Volcano God."
I have to admit it, I come to a Dead Body Love cassette
with very high expectations. After hearing his "Maximum
Dose" CD for PURE, and his 7" record for Self
Abuse, Iím totally in awe of Gabriele Giuliani. Heís got
a dense, snarling loop-based low end that doesnít compare
to much on either noise or power electronic turf. The chromium
hide glistening on the best DBL releases has a similar wild-hell
aggressiveness as a No U Turn or Chrome label assassin.
Without beats, of course.
I guess thatís why
this tape doesnít floor me like it would if it were by anybody
else (also known as the "Post-1987 Pere Ubu output
phenomenon"). When heís on, heís SO on, and if heíd
mixed this a little different (thereís so little low end
on this!), it might have really strolled through the pantheon
with a blackjack and a bottle in one hand. But as it stands,
itís not in the top 50 percent of the Dead Body Love bell
curve. Sorry Charlie.
"Europe After Storm."
is a passionate noise unit created by a very committed fellow
named Mikko Aspa in Finland. If youíve read either Freak
Animal magazine (also the name of his label) or any of his
liner notes, you know heís committed to both the noise scene
and politics, and in the case of this release, to the atrocities
being committed in Kosovo. Along with the sound, which resembles
very structured (almost "musically" composed,
with a cinematic feelÖthereís even a stuttering sound that
resembles the whir of a documentary film camera) Power Electronics,
Mikko shrieks his earnest lungs out aboutÖsomething. Probably
something really bad. The problem with this is the same
problem I have with Rage Against the Machine. Perhaps it
truly is recorded with a sense of urgency and a desire to
change the status quo, to make people think more about the
world around them. The trouble is, just like with Rage,
I listen to this, and it doesnít really make me want to
do anything. When drunken frat-boys and apathetic slacker
slugs shout "Fuck you, I wonít do what you tell me"
along with Rage Against the Machine, we have to ask, has
the social order changed even one micron? Yeah, if anything,
itís moved us further away from true action. The average
revolutionary teen or pre-teen may have a lot of desire
to change the world, but if you donít provide them a solid
game plan or course of action, the desire and energy just
gets dissipated before one petition can go around the cafeteria.
Itís the same
mentality that allows people to think that if they forward
an email petition along, theyíre actually saving public
television, making their outrage known about the oppressed
women in Tibet, or saving rare species of animals that would
otherwise disappear forever. The internet may not have destroyed
social protest, but it sure took the vast majority of interested
parties out of the picture, even while pretending to include
Interruption: "Live At RRR."
is a 30 minute performance from the weekly "2:00 matinee"
show that took place every Saturday at Lowell, Massachusettsí
RRRecords store. Many of these performances were excerpted
on an RRR CD titled "2:00 Matinee," but Humectant
Interruption (the band guise of Joel St. Germain)ís performance
happened after the CD came out. And besides, nobody got
a 30 minute track on the CD, and it would have been a shame
to have to excerpt this.
Playing for an audience of
none (guess it was an especially slow day in Lowell), Joel
performs on "springs, toys, table, tapes," while
RRRon watches (and later joins in by dropping coins on the
amplified tableÖ "that was so much fun!" he exclaims
at the end of the show), and Joelís mom reminds him that
they canít stay all day, since there are still errands to
be run ("My mom used to say that to me all the time,"
quips Ron). Itís a very austere recording, lots of scuffing
and rumbling, coins spinning until they lay flat on the
table, unidentifiable noises, the addicting (for that blessed
few) sounds of junk. Throughout, thereís a whiff of Prick
Decay in the air (the band, not the medical condition).
As with all non-music recordings that us maladjusted few
like to occupy our times with, the varied textures are pleasing
to the ears in ways that music isnít. It would be kind of
like stuffing velvet, sandpaper, rocks, springs, toys, tapes
and a table into your mouth and calling it surrealist lunch.
The package also comes with the list of rules for the RRR
Saturday shows, which is probably the funniest piece of
writing to infiltrate the noise scene since the liner notes
to the first Cock E.S.P. single.
Blastitude #5, I mentioned Rheum and the "Lavatory
Improv" sound. This is lavatory improv of a distinctly
darker stripe. Very abstract, and for the most part, Iím
hard pressed to deduce what is making most of these sounds,
due to both the non-pedal, non-metal nature of the sound
devices, and due the fidelity of recording. This sounds
like very very early Crawl Unit, dubbed onto cassette (59
cent variety), then converted to a RealAudio 1.0 file and
played through 10 year old computer speakers, before being
recorded to mini-cassette. In other words, even better than
vintage Crawl Unit.
MO*TE: "Taste Die Mad."
first track has some taped voices stitched into the background
fabric, making it sound like someone trying to communicate
with a broken CB radio by sitting on it. The rest roars
through your head pleasingly but not in any real engaging
way, more metallic and less billowy than Incapacitants,
not as multi-dimensional as Merzbow or his kin. Iíve heard
other MO*TE releases that I liked better (such as his now-gone
tape for Labyrinth).
Music 7: "Exchange In An Earthworm."
from Karen Lollipop, the woman in Decaer Pinga that isnít
Lisa (Iím so behind on all this stuff, I donít know whoís
in the group anymore, apart from Dylan). Side one (and the
start of side two) has superb use of tape loops (something
youíll almost NEVER hear me say!). Thereís something about
the repeated female voices, dis-TINCT-ly speaking certain
phrases over and over, that leads me to believe these are
probably from "learn to speak another language"
records, but what it mostly reminds me of is Jean-Luc Godard.
It sounds to me like a collage of voices youíd hear in the
various rooms of the computer center in "Alphaville,"
even though itís all in English. Side two is live, and accomplishes
a similar feel through spoken word bits and spooky keyboard
atmospheres. Itís only a 20 minute tape, a tactic Iím coming
to respect more and more in noise albums.
DL Savings TX: "Full Time Marina (1932)."
Olsonís solo project, before it was titled Spykes (see issue
#5). It rushes out of the starting gate sounding very tac-like,
with the vocalizing in the background giving this a precisely
thought-out, agenda-less, and more abstract Power Electronics
feel. The layers (and there are quite a few) shift tectonically,
almost imperceptibly, but with each layer filling in a specific
frequency range (high whine, earthy rumble, tv static).
Side two comes on like a lackadaisical Vibracathedral Orchestra
(though this tape predates that group), done while watching
a documentary on UK Power Electronics. Itís in a big oversized
paper sleeve with thick twine lacing up the sides. My fave
DL Savings is still his track for the American Tapes 2cs
"paint can" set, but this is better in the now
because this is still available.
Live and Shave In L.A., "Vixens of the Mortal Ring."
recordings arenít exactly Tom Smithís strongest suit. Many
of To Live and Shaveís amazing studio albums, such as "30
Minuten Mannercreme," "An Interview With The Mitchell
Brothers" and the dub editing terror of "Where
A Horse Has Been Standing And Where You Belong" are
so detailed they resemble microscopic computer chips. But
most of the live recordings seem to have been recorded on
a hand-held recorder, generally in the middle of an unenthusiastic
audience, the microphone possibly hidden in the pocket of
an overcoat for maximum Rerun-bootlegs-the-Doobie-Brothers
sound quality. And of course, without a visual point of
reference (TLASILA are actually pretty commanding as a live
entity), things just sound even more homogenous.
While I understand
Tomís disdain of being called a "noise musician"
in reference to his studio albums, I canít help but listen
to "Vixens of the Mortal Ring" and think "live
Whitehouse" (a group Tom has described as "a good
heavy metal band"), as all the keyboard freakouts,
oscillator whinnies and bass seizures boil down to an inseparable
blare on this low-fidelity tape, overlaid with a lot of
yelling. Tom is also uncharacteristically low-key on a lot
of tracks, kind of laying back and moaning his lyrics rather
than glam-tastically crooning and swaggering them through
four sets of vocal chords. There are some great moments,
but at 90 minutes, this is a really long bastard to sit
through in one sitting. The liners are quite detailed, though,
so you know where everything is coming from, and the enclosed
declaration of anti-noise band purpose is funny: "Iím
Tom Smith, and I am the better man," is at least as
good as "My week beats your year" for sheer rock
ní roll braggadocio. There are also some funny moments on
the tape, such as one recording where the audience sounds
especially unenthused. ("Do you want us to do another
one? Donít lie," quips Tom.) The tape recorder is left
on, so we get to hear the next act warm up while the band
sits around the bar and bitches about what a lame group
of people assembled that evening. Most Shave fanatics know
the live tapes are for Shave fanatics only, and thatís why
they buy them. Everybody else should hunt around used CD
stores for the bandís CD back-catalog, especially "Where
A Horse Has Been StandingÖ"
Your Eyes: "Oh Dear, What Can The Matter Be?"
really not going to be prepared for this one. Itís a techno
album. Not noise techno, not freaked out electronics like
Jean Street or Wolf Eyes or Lode Runner. Techno techno.
Four on the floor, almost gabber speed on side one, poom
poom poom poom. Of course, because itís done by a noise
musician, the melodies are more like squiggles, the rhythms
of the keyboards donít really match up to the beats, and
thereís some mad left/right panning tricks. Very much like
the Basic Channel/Chain Reaction style (mutated 4 on the
floor) if they had NO taste, NO restraint and NO discretion.
No interlocking parts, tab "a" does not fit into
groove "b." Phase patterns do not gently unalign,
they skitter off tracks like a runaway train. Side two grinds
and humps like Techstep (a la Panacea, Ed Rush, Problem
Child) if Techstep only decided to keep it simple AND allow
itself to be out of control. The "not in control of
my own body functions" element to this tape is what
really makes it the most scary.
Spite. The label. By Chris Sienko. Part two.