#18, FALL 2005



also by Larry "Fuzz-O" Dolman

Representing the other Olneyville, Rhode Island, Black Forest/Black Sea are not a crazy costumed noise rock band -- they're one of them new psych folk bands you keep hearing about! I'm surprised to say that this is my introduction to them, other than the one comp track on The Invisible Pyramid, because a lot of people seem to like 'em -- at least, their self-titled debut CD went out of print rather quickly. And so far I like 'em too. Melancholy free improvisation that is built around classical sad melodies instead of the more in-vogue sound and noise. But of course, there's tons of sound and noise in there too, because each track stretches from melodies into sound and noise and back, it's just the formulas and progressions that mysteriously change. All tracks are from live shows on a Spring 2004 European tour, and feature the group's core duo of Miriam Goldberg (cello, omnichord, voice) and Jeffrey Alexander (guitar, banjo, omnichord). Three tracks are just the two of 'em (including one of the very best, #4, recorded in Newcastle upon Tyne, England), but the other six feature guests. For two fine tracks, recorded in Tampere, Finland, they are joined by that town's resident jam maven Jan Anderzén, and track #9 "Talbot Hotel, Stoke-on-Trent 4/11/04" is a real beaut, a rolling and unfolding series of yearning improvised major chords, filled out by the
"electric tamboura, harmonium, percussion" of guest Harry Sumnall. Reminds me of the Charalambides song "Joy Shapes" (which makes sense because Christina Carter Madonia of the Charalambides has also played with Black Forest/Black Sea).

Um, is it okay if I think this band is better than Big Black? I only ask because they're kind of from that era and are no-doubt similar to Big Black, right down to the drum machine, the tin shrapnel guitar flare-ups, and the disaffected/affected suburbane white guy vocals. But the differences are key -- where the Big Black guitars were trebly, shredding, and speedy, Gutters mute the tones and play in a somber style. In fact, it's more like Joy Division, and that includes the vocals. But anyway, who the hell are/were Gutters? Well, they were an unknown Western Mass. band of suburbane nihilists who put out one cassette back in 1992, here given the 'deluxe CDR reissue' treatment, complete with jewel case and booklet with liner notes and lyrics. Indeed, the Gutters seem to have been much-loved by those few who loved them -- maybe everyone who bought their cassette went on to form a band! Guitarist Bill Shafer is excellent, and the real hero is the singer Adam Rachie. You've gotta hear the way he opens the first song, "She's A Killer," in an inimitable pissed deadpan: "Fucking kill / Likes to kill all the neighbors / Gonna kill all the neighbors she sees...." (I'm sure you're already in agreement that "Fucking kill" is a wonderful opening line for a song, but wait 'til you hear the way Rachie sings it, it gets even better.)

Oh man, I know I always give Hair Police records rave reviews (actually, I wasn't that crazy about Blow Out Your Blood) but this is IT. This might be their very best thing. Aw, fuck that, it's a split 10-inch, it's only one track and it's under 10 minutes, how could this be their best release, I'm just raving, I know, I know, their very best thing is Obedience Cuts . . . but this is a damn fine track. "Straps and Straps." It seems to condense every approach on Obedience Cuts into one 10-minute jam. This is their "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed," their "Dark Star," their "Impressions." The musical language just happens to be not 1970s jazz-influenced hippie guitar rock but post-2000 stark raving doom-psych gut-noise.
       Dunno who Crystal Fantasy is, but I already like the record, so they'd have to really be bad to screw this one up, and . . . . . hmm, they're not bad at all, but they are markedly different from Hair Police. This is a much more benign bit of electronic weirdness, one with a slow (trip-hop??) groove, bubbly electro-nerd squiggle-tones, and such words as "forests" and, um, "crystal fantasy" intoned a lot, in a slightly British accent. The influence of both Animal Collective and Kraftwerk can be surmised, which means some of the more "gnarly" HP fans might reject it on principle, but kudos to Liquid Death/Hello Pussy Records for not matching Hair Police with just another crazy noise band. Good record, I just listened to both sides twice in a row. (I also just learned that Crystal Fantasy is apparently a Neon Hunk alter ego.)

Reviewed a garbage-packaged CDR by these guys a year or more ago, and praised it for it's low-fi garage Beefheart worship that planked out fearlessly into it's own aggressive thrash-space. Now they've thrown together the scratch to put out a nice LP and I'm pleased to say it picks up right where the CDR left off. (The grotty and lovely color-silkscreen cover even continues the garbage theme, due to the strangely . . . . moist way it feels to the touch.) I don't know what it is I dig so much about these guys, but it's something about how they take weird riffs and, instead of hammering them in perfect tight sync, elongate and elasticate them until the song melts before your eyes without ever actually losing its shape. It's like Michael Morley and Bruce Russell joined the Hampton Grease Band, and the new four-guitar lineup started working on Caroliner covers.

KITES/PRURIENT: Load Split Series #4 (LOAD)
Excellent graphics that give either band an opportunity to have "sole front cover treatment." Love that witchy Kites "night-vision" photo. And the Prurient cover has lyrics on it -- often a rad touch, as here. It also has a bunch of milk cartons on it too -- always a rad touch. Kites side is a great mix of freaky noise styles (I'm still having a hard time picking out the campfire/folk song aspect that's apparently threaded through this guy's work -- to me it's all freaky freenoise). Prurient track goes through some low-key movements before building into a slow-drilling electronic pattern over which Dominick Fernow screams -- and I realize that what makes Prurient great is that Fernow is a great rock'n'roll screamer. And he doesn't overdo it, spending most of the track letting the slow-drill dominate and tweak through sublime degrees of harshness.

"Instructions: Match up the sides and play at the same time for maximum mind melt!" says the insert -- hey, I'll take the challenge, even if it means dragging the family boom box into the, ahem, Blastitude Editorial Offices. Alright, here goes, gotta push both "play" buttons at the same time . . . alright, Devillock starts with full-on crushgrind while Gate to Gate starts with a more subtle high-pitched tone . . . . nice, nice, now Gate to Gate is amping it up with their own sick brand of crushing grindcrush -- total shit static! Wow, this IS melting my mind! This is better than Zaireeka! Seriously folks, Tone Filth is definitely a label to watch -- not only is the artwork great, this double cassette release even comes in one of those old-school double-sized boxes like the one Slayer's Decade of Aggression came in. Devillock is the solo noise project of the Tone Filth perpetrator, one Justin C. Meyers, while Gate to Gate is a power duo of Mike Connelly (Hair Police, Gods of Tundra label, etc.) and Greh (Hive Mind, Chondritic Sound label, etc.). An all-scar line-up brings you an all-scorched sound-stream.

One track just under 20 minutes, starts with prototypical Devillock buzz which REALLY smooths out to some glorious space-shit around the 9 or 10 minute mark, then by the 11 minute is real loud again, a high-pitched metal-tone particularly crying its ass off. "Recorded June 2004 using only weirdo tape players and Charlie Draheim's March of Slimes." Gotta love music made using only weirdo tape players, created for weirdos with tape players (even though this one happens to be a CDR). As for Mr. Draheim, Tone Filth is going to be putting out a full-length 12-inch by the Michigan-based gore-guitar specialist soon. We're certainly looking forward to that, as we are to digging through the rest of the large stack of sickness Tone Filth sent our way. Stay toned!

Been reading about these guys as much as you have, but until this disc I made it a point not to pay attention to their music. I just figured we've already got about 19 Melvins records and three or four Earth records and a couple Thrones records and about 39 low-end drone records from New Zealand or whatever. (Surface of the Earth, anyone??) But this one was lying out at the radio station and the graphics were excellent, so I started looking at it. And I noticed that the last of the three tracks was 25 minutes long, and I needed to play a long song to end my show so I could take off early and get to work on time. So, I threw it on, a number called "Nihil's Maw" and boy, did it sound good in the car going up Lake Shore Drive. Then a couple weeks later the stars aligned and a friend in the right place flat-out gave me a free copy, so here it sits in my player, and it's a knockout. First track is the simplest of circular Joe Preston-era Melvins riffs but it's just so HEAVY. Second track is almost too mellow but, if it even does err at all, it errs fully on the side of evil. And the third track, "Nihil's Maw" again, wow -- it's the evil-est of the three, especially when guest vocalist Attila Csihar comes in with some crazy black Tuvan shit and it all goes down several notches more.

VARIOUS ARTISTS: Million Tongues Festival CD (BASTET)
I'm a little disappointed in the packaging -- awesome cover art by Chicago psychedelic superhero Plastic Crimewave, but I just don't like the flat cardboard slip-case things. I think the digi-pack is the only way to go for artwork like this. But hey, it ain't my label, and other than that quibble, this is a great comp! A nice beneath-the-hype treatment of the contemporary acid folk scene. Because it reminds you that a lot of today's rock music is still just (plugged-in) folk music. This is the companion CD to an incredible festival that P. Crimewave put on at Chicago's Empty Bottle in August 2004, and the only reason I wasn't there is because I happened to be out of the country that month. Highlights, in order, are Nissennenmondai (metal rhythm and drone duo rock from Japan), Inner Throne (super heavy lumber metal), Plastic Crimewave Sound (a version of what I consider their most central number, "Caged Fire Theme," that is better than the one on the LP, except the LP vocals are amazing), Josephine Foster & The Supposed (very inscrutable rock track), Matt Valentine & Erika Elder Medicine Show (a lot like Sea Ensemble We Move Together, and, I think, just as good!) . . . . the Simon Finn song (new? I think?) is good, but the next song, by Frankie Delmane (who's she?), is better. The song after that, by Espers, has really grown on me. Slow brooding chamber folk played tight and doomy. As a Tower Recordings fan since 1997, I've always been surprised to not really get into PG Six solo material, but his track on here is great -- maybe because it's an instrumental -- great folky improvising on some sort of zither or autoharp -- tell Richard Fariña the news! The track by Für Saxa is terrific -- I've got to get a real album by her, all I've heard are comp tracks (and, most notably, one great live show). The album ends with two tracks from the harsh noise end of Chicago psych, by M.V. Carbon and Panicsville respectively -- a nice Crimewave touch from a city where it ALL ends in (harsh) noise.

When I first heard this CD it was from the next room, on shuffle with four other discs in the changer. I listened to it for a good 30 minutes without knowing who it was, and it sounded good, sturm-und-klang electric-guitar-based free music running full steam with no sign of ending anytime soon. Occupied some of the same scorched space as Pelt's Burning Filament Rockets album, but with an enticingly lower notch of meditative intensity. (Sorry to those for whom that's an obscure reference, but that's the album I kept thinking of.) Anyway, it was such a nice listen, because I didn't even know who the personnel were, so I wasn't concerned with how I was going to write about them in this review. Like Alan Licht, who for some reason I always end up dissing, or Lee Ranaldo, for whom I would have to write a lengthy aside about how Sonic Youth has never lost it or even so much as slipped in their entire career, or DJ Olive, which would tempt me to make fun of Illbient™ and the Knitting Factory®, or the Starlight Furniture Co. label and how, even though they always put out excellent records, and they're connected with far and away the best post-noise magazine of all time (Bananafish), I don't think their records ever look very good from a graphic design standpoint. Sort of like how Thinking Fellers LPs always looked funny with the type-faces -- come to think of it, it's probably the same designer. Anyway, that's just it, I didn't have to worry about all that atrocious fanboy detail, I could just sit back and enjoy some brooding high free drone klang music with other elements flickering, such as some saxophone, I think, and really, just other mysterious sounds that I can't even recall. For example, I can't specifically recall hearing any turntables, even though DJ Olive is on two of the three tracks and replaced by Christian Marclay on the third. Even the drums by William Hooker are much less of a powerhouse presence than Hooker usually is, probably because he's not the leader here, because no one's the leader here. It's a real non-hierarchical sound, possibly because the real leader of the band is the films of Stan Brakhage, which this band always screens live, which come to think of it is another bit of rather loaded baggage I was able to shed on my first listen, the whole 'bands in the 90's and 00's showing films while they play live' thing. Which is a whole 'nother line of critique that I won't go into with this review. Suffice to say that there is an interesting disclaimer about the Brakhage thing in the liner notes, and that this disc does look pretty good graphics-wise.

reviews by

During my hardcore hometaping/trading days of the early 1990’s, I had the pleasure – and misfortune – to be exposed to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of underground artists from all over the globe. Of all these artists, I believe the Ceramic Hobs have progressed the most, and refined their sound to the greatest level imaginable. This is the Hobs' third proper album, after 19 years of demo cassettes and 7-inch EPs,
released four years after “Straight Outta Rampton” which many fans – myself included – had considered their masterpiece. “Shergar,” however, takes their music one step further, creating an album which achieves classic status beyond their underground roots. This recording easily rivals, and probably outshines, any of the landmark post-punk albums which were so influential to so many of us. Although the songwriting and production value immediately stand out over previous Hobs efforts, the performance itself is the most striking aspect here. This is the band’s first release on which the guitars really stand out as being excellent. In addition, Simon Morris’ voice has never sounded better – no doubt thanks to years of smoking and shouting out requests
for “Ass Destroyer” at Whitehouse concerts, it has developed into a quite superb grittiness ideal for rock vocals. Despite the nostalgic attachment I have for all those early records from the Fall, Gang of Four, etc. – I’d actually rather listen to this disc in their place. Highly recommended. Pumf Records, http://www.pumf.net.

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Andy Ortmann (Panicsville, Plastic Crimewave Sound, etc.) and Weasel Walter (Flying Luttenbachers, XBXRX, etc.) collaborate on this new release of classic power-electronics. Although largely comprised of vocals and electronics, the duo nimbly summons the spirit of early to mid-80’s Whitehouse and Sutcliffe Jugend with long instrumental interludes of feedback-based noise – something which is often neglected by all but the most serious devotees of the genre, of which I count myself among. While the music itself is pure macho muscle, the lyrics in contrast contain more
humor, irony and heart than power-electronics is generally known for -- hence the “contradiction” I suppose. Ortmann and Walter are perhaps more on the same level as Mark Solotroff’s Bloodyminded project than anyone else; Solotroff explores the most stereotypically comedic and absurd elements of the genre, brilliantly setting himself up for ridicule and mockery in the process. Contradiction takes this premise one step further by mixing such self-mocking themes and lyrics with a far more potent and forceful sound than Solotroff ever achieved, albeit sans his trademark leather pants, resulting in a recording of greater depth and personality than any power-electronics release I’ve heard in recent years. Whereas Whitehouse once crooned “Get down on your knees and suck my cock!,” Contradiction declares “When I told you I liked you, I wasn’t joking!” – thus
injecting a much-needed element of realism, perfectly reflecting the modern noise man in all his emotionally sensitive and politically-correct glory. Nothing short of a genuine masterpiece. Noted Chicago experimentalist Kevin Drumm also contributes to one track.
Breathmint Records, P.O. Box 1, Southampton PA 18966-0001, USA,

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Back in the mid 90’s TLASILA was the cream of the American noise crop. As one of the few acts to exhibit any sort of rock energy in their performances, not to mention a level of production values to their recordings, they stood head and shoulders above the likes of lo-fi knob-twiddling geeks such as Macronympha and Taint.
       The past decade has, however, seen the noise genre develop in leaps and bounds, leaving the Shave sound hopelessly out of date. New standards in recording and production quality, not to mention the emergence of true noise/rock crossover performers such as Hair Police, Other
People’s Children and the Laundry Room Squelchers (which features TLASILA’s Rat Bastard), have set the bar far higher than any 1994 noise scenesters could have imagined. Listening to TLASILA today is thus a painful journey down memory lane, lacking even the self-effacing nostalgia value of a bad haircut in an old yearbook photo.
        Not surprisingly, the last two “new” Shave releases to reach my hands (the “Wigmaker” double CD, and now this “God and Country Rally!” disc) are remastered vintage lo-fi recordings which may have been interesting on a 1994 cassette-only release, but sound like total shit on a 21st Century compact disc. As a vocalist, TLASILA leader Tom Smith remains stuck in whiny 80’s scum-rock terrain, which gets pathetically annoying after several tracks. As a lyricist, Smith is the ultimate bullshit artist, masking his lack of ideas with vain attempts to appear clever or insightful.
        Likewise, recent Shave tours have been shameless attempts at coolness-by-association featuring seminal celebrities such as Andrew W.K., Weasel Walter and Don Fleming. This tactic backfired amusingly a few years back when the rest of the band quickly decided Smith himself was the weak link in the line-up, and began touring without him.
        Being a true fan of the group in a past life, I’ve always yearned to see and hear them progress with the times and produce some worthwhile new music. Sadly, this CD proves that TLASILA remains the vanity project of a creepy, oversexed middle-aged man deluded into thinking he’s some sort of intellectual poet-genius. I’d recommend buying a real rock CD instead of trying to enjoy this mess. The Smack Shire, http://smackshire.com.

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Pauline Oliveros at the University of Minnesota Rarig Center, Minneapolis - December 4, 2004.
Pauline Oliveros’ piece “--the fierce urgency of now--“ and her subsequent performance of this work, neatly illustrated to me much of what’s wrong with experimental / avant-garde music today. Both in concept and execution, this piece was an exercise in mediocrity which inexcusably fails to live up to even its own modest potential.
        Avant-garde music is, by definition, supposed to be challenging and risky – attacking the prevailing conventions of the day. This is especially true in America today, with a conservative government forcibly encouraging conformity and dampening personal expression. There are many new and dramatic ways to express one’s distaste on this subject. And within the small world of underground music, there is an even greater potential considering most of the audience is already on the same page.
        Oliveros, however, takes the safest and least interesting path available to her by making a generic dedication of the piece to a “world without war”, and taking inspiration from a speech by Martin Luther King Jr. Such a concept would be fairly commendable if it were presented by, say, the Dixie Chicks, who may actually reach people with their message. But in the context of an avant-garde music performance, it’s as unnecessary as describing the color of the walls around the stage, not to mention being grossly typical and clichéd. War sucks! Child abuse is bad! Hitler was evil! Saying such things isn’t taking a stand or offering any solutions.
In addition, the execution of the piece illustrates the worst elements of using a Powerbook in a live performance setting. Packing such a machine full of emulators and effect plug-ins can be a convenient and inexpensive way to perform without the need for hauling around a load of equipment – however, for most Powerbook acts, Oliveros included, the machine becomes such a crutch their performances can’t stand on its own legs.
Oliveros played accordian through a pre-programmed MIDI setting which created six delayed, effect-laden outputs to six different speakers. The end result was akin to uninteresting, random notes being fed through an elaborate delay unit. In fact, I swear one of the six outputs was using factory setting A2 on my cheap, plastic bass multi-effect pedal. If Oliveros had instead conducted an ensemble of six accordian players, for example, there at least would have been the potential for some interaction between the players themselves, and between the composer and players. Letting a machine do all the work resulted in a listening experience so dry and lifeless it could be compared to receiving a computer-generated form letter from one’s credit card company.
There was nothing “fierce” or “urgent” about this performance. It offered nothing remotely new, and even failed to present its clichés in an interesting way. Not recommended.