Dec 16, 2008

Beer and Groaning In Atlanta: Your Unwanted Year-End Child

Oh the past the past the past. I can't look at it. The past includes yesterday, which I spent rolling around on a couch, trying to deal with the hallucinations brought on by some yellowish, viscous medicine that tasted of banana syrup and chalk. It was supposed to dull the weariness of an upper-respiratory infection--instead, it surrounded me with distant atonal bells and the feeling that everything was too tight. I woke up 2 hours later, ate everything in the house, and went back to bed where I slept for about 15 hours. In the gluttonous interim, I can remember watching something about sleep deprivation and trying to call everyone I know at once. I wanted them to be worried about what would happen if they didn't sleep. In the future, I'll just drink a gallon of water and cover myself in Vicks Vapo-Rub. No more things that come in tiny plastic cups.

I've decided Mississippi Records is my Record Label of 2008 because I can't deal with the dearth of alternatives. However, Sacred Bones comes to mind as a close second. I don't have a Record of the Year.

Nov 14, 2008


Before I head out to stuff slow-food fans with vegan-friendly black bean soup* in the faraway (read: dull) countryside, I figure I'd clean out my ears first-like. The early morning trek looms like a grumpy hippo, so this night's done and called. Anyhow, there ain't a single smudge on this triptych, which is either a sign that the world really is brighter these days or I'm just spooning my wits away with each 4oz sample cup. Ticket, please. Sour cream and red sauce with that?

Human Eye- Fragments of the Universe Nurse LP, Hook or Crook 2008
I'll try to make this a quick and dirty sell: If pretty much all you want out of a "punk" record these days is a seemingly uncontrollable behemoth, blundering in and out of sister genres like, your unwieldy biker friend but ultimately holding it together through a lead guitar hissing and pissing like a stray cat, this one's for you. And me. The 'Buy' button is your savior.

Los Llamarada - Take the Sky LP, S-S Records 2008

Developing, harnessing and setting fire to a (recently acquired?) satchel fulla riffs is the task of the day in Monterrey, it seems. That and how to keep those three fingers between you and the snarling black hole at the end of your bed. Kind of a treat to see a band cuttin teeth and wax at the same time, like Jad Fair & Co used to do. I'm psyched for the Los Llamarada-related project Love Is So Fast LP what might be blowin in the 'Breeze come January, according to Midheaven. Mine eyes are peeled. In the meantime, this is stuck in all the ol familiar maws.

Home Blitz - Weird Wings 12" EP, Unknown Parts 2008
It's a testament to this little band's greatness that I was able to temporarily disengage from the free jazz tear I'm on (Leroy Jenkins, Marion Brown, Alan Silva) without gettin all crampy. I keep reading about an overwhelming Messthetics presence on this 5-song frisbee, but I'm guessing there's a copy of What Makes A Man Start Fires on somebody's floor, too. So, there you go. Bleach Boys taping over the Minutemen. They ran with it; I followed; you should, too. Pretty essential frivolty in the 08. Try Florida's Dying on for size.

*Vegan only so's I don't gotta hear the whines of wanderin trustafarians with wee ones in tow. I imagine this festival will be spewing them all over the park like cheap swill. Cheers, eh what.

Nov 13, 2008


Circle of Ouroborus - Venerations lp, self-released 2008 Remember that Mammal record on Animal Disguise? Lonesome Drifter? Okay, so imagine if that had been adapted by Peter Jefferies or Alasdair Galbraith. Now imagine that album played by amateur Finnish dudes. Now realize that their last 800 releases have been black metal in one way or another. Insert periodic, unidentifiable percussion (Castanets? Finger snaps? Faulty wiring?) and record the whole thing in a musty cathedral. Now take a nap. You've earned it.
I'd call it essential for followers of that pedigree, but there are about as many of them as there are copies of this record in existence. I kind of like it, but I also eat offal, so keep that grain of salt handy. Scour the eBays, you wispy New Zealand trolls.

Nov 2, 2008


Rafael Toral - Space Solo 1 LP reissue, Taiga Records 2008

(Just a note before I dive in: the cover really is really the most Raster-Noton throwaway I've seen in a long time. Deep in sad, limp, Touch Records-territory. It's a real shame. The vinyl is either red or white, depending on how fast you run to the label site.)

Synthesizers: maligned by six-string knuckledraggers, sublimated by scores of creepy krauts & Euros, and occasionally made innarestin' by out-there jazzbos and the skin-tight-black-leather-wouldbe-punk set. That about cover it? You know, ya got yer haters, your Snowy Reds, your Klaus Schulzes, your Tod Dockstaders, your Sun Ras (well, one really), and yer Primitive Calculators. Everybody doesn't like them but nobody hates them. Right. So where's the next chapter?
The next chapter, as you might expect, nicked some pages from an earlier draft. The Sun Ra draft, thankfully. Rafael Toral's transformation from a gauzy, Fennesz-y, drinking white wine in your backyard with friends from Brussels-y, guitar-based droner to his present incarnation as a free-improv collaborator and mad scientist pricked my ears right quick. It'd take a technical mind to explain how Toral goes about feedin all manner of homemade plunder into his Doepfer modular synth, so I'll skip the procedural section of this talkie. Just know that, at his best, the man is like Kaoru Abe goin feet-first into a gravitationally completely collapsed star, if you know what I'm sayin. Sun Ra treated the Moog like it was a piano married to a protractor. Toral's movements, like the second on "Portable Amplifier," can feel shuddaputit...peristaltic as Ra's but without the statement-ending blurts or woozy fizzles, leading to a strangely library-LP feel in the end. That is, it never threatens to lose itself, which might be my sole complaint about this record. This may also be due to the generally handheld feel and limited tonal vocab of Toral's source gadgetry.
I gotta say, it's a tricky path to snake, specially if'n you're makin it up as you go. Yet, somehow, there's some deftness, some historic sensibility detectable in these faint-yet-screechy grooves. Hell, if anything, it's a way more adventurous road than his last. Will appeal to fans of the Creel Pone aesthetic, the freakier end of 80s minimal synth mayhem, anyone down with scouring the BYG/Actuel back catalog, or folks than dug the bent-electronics parts of Chris Corsano's The Young Cricketer (I dug all of it). Minneapolis-based younguns Taiga Records'll probably cut you the best deal, if not Mimaroglu.

Oct 20, 2008


Having prepped a garbage bag full of kale at the restyrant while weaving in and out of passing electrical wires and carpenters hitting on my 61-year-old coworker (and, no, 61 is not a dyslexic typo), on a stomach empty save for a cup of Dancing Goat and a fistful of atomic fireballs, I came home starved and delirious. Through the ride and behind dead-bolts, these two thangs, for betta or wurs, was on my mind and in my ears.

Size - El Diablo en el Cuerpo, cassette reissue 2008
No idea what groupa folks decided this shouty, herky, late-70s/early-80s Mexican synthy-punk-wave anthology oughta rejoin the fold, but my hat's off my head and out the room to em. This band housed the amphetamine-fed circuitry of the Screamers and Units in a Southwest proto-punk wood-and-clay box. The keyboard lines in "Lucrative Methods" would've made Eric Burden blush. Boy, they had some prickly career changes, too; check the primpy, Neue Deutsche Welle squiggles on the title cut for evidence. Cumulatively, I don't know. If ya treat each moment as just that, its a bit more engaging. Hopefully, needles everywhere can strike a proper LP reissue of this someday, but for now, my Technics tape deck is spinnin purdy.
Sacred Bones'll getcha.

Gary War - The New Raytheonport LP, Shdwply Records 2008
Hoooo, I wanna carve Brooklyn off the map so bad sometimes. Then this kinda shit hits the deck and I remember that, most of the time, bein right's just about the most overrated feeling in human history. Granted, it borrows from R. Stevie Moore-fanboy Ariel Pink as often as it purrs and rubs against Mayo Thompson's leg. But, once again, the tried-and-true lenses of Oar, Barrett, and Twin Infinitives sees it all through. Cracked, but in-control--since we're probably talkin bout the trustfund district of New Weird America. If it came out on ESP-Disk around the time of Yodeling Astrologer, it'd probably be some kind of legend by now... In this way, The New Raytheonport says something about the tried-and-true real estate cliche, too: location, location, location. This is absolutely perfectly completely okay.
$10ppd in the US, courtesy Shdwply Records.

Oct 19, 2008


Is it wrong that I want them to be ugly?

Oct 10, 2008


Hank IV - Refuge In Genre LP, Siltbreeze 2008

I'd never write a review the same way twice. Back when it dropped, I popped a squat on the Nothing People LP--admittedly, while blushing with guilt. I dismissed it mainly cuz its wellies was stuck in old mud. And, sure, it's fun to think, "geez, this coulda come out back then" but only until you get to the "but came out now" part. There weren't enough "now" on that record for me to feel it was anything but a collector scum throwback, a wink and a nudge to knowing parties.
Now, hold back them horses. I ain't about to give NP the all's-forgiven cuz the new Hank IV is kinda the perfect embodiment of what Anonymous coulda been.
Back when I was in the neo-natal unit, Hank IV's Bob MacDonald was shredding his throat and rending his garments in unhinged Denver hardcore outfit Bum Kon. Anthony, Andy, Chris, and Scott, the other members of Hank IV, all got equally hefty resumes that include stints like Icky Boyfriends, Resineators (!) yadda yadda yadda. As much as I love the IBs, Hank IV is easily the best band any of these cats been in this decade--and this ain't about the ol days!
See, Hank IV don't wear the past like a badge or wave it like a flag. It's a spirit. Same spirit running through The Thirteenth Floor Elevators, Kick Out the Jams, Vincebus Eruptum, or even We Care So You Don't Have To. They don't gotta say what they're gonna do before they do it. The best bits from Refuge In Genre, like Third Person Shooter and the Dirty Poncho single, squeeze and rattle on a lower chakral level. They give you a normal rock pretense--girls, cars, arguments--then blaze away.
Those of you sweatin the Tim Green (Fucking Champs) and Bob Weston (Shellac) involvement need to remind yerselves of the separation between crotch and heart. If anything, Green taps the spiget of heaviness that was waiting in their sound the whole time. Check cuts like "Drive the Whip," "Symptomatic," or "Sorry Bout the Boat Race," if ya need proof.
Elsewhere, there's evil stompers ("Get It Straight"), TexMex you'd wanna eat ("My Anger"), and plenty of 'tude to spare. Shit, it won't even take a half hour to get you drastic! High destroyability is waiting in these grooves. I'm tellin you straight. I might even believe it tomorrow.
Ride the 'Breeze or load a few here.

Oct 8, 2008


Mark Tucker - In the Sack CD Reissue, De Stijl Records 2008

I ain't got time for folks what can cram themselves in pigeonholes. Rats can stretch their bodies down to the diameter of their skulls, too, ya know.
Thankfully, the people that never fit somehow find one another. Take De Stijl Records. Hard to say what is and ain't apropo for them to distribute in mass quantities. Lee Rockey, Hototogisu, Black Vial--somewhere up there's an umbrella they're all ahuddled under. But near as I can tell, if anything's holding it up, it's the Mark Tucker reissues. Consumate fringe persona? Check. Career-altering nervous breakdowns? Natch. Tugging at the folk idiom escape hatch like some beardo weirdo Tex Avery drawing? Half-cocked concept albums? Shit yes. 'S all in there somewhere, innit? No, literally. It ain't hard to pull anybody's ear to an number of moments on this one, Tucker's last ride from back in 82. There's some Davies and a touch of "Cypress Avenue," even, in "Everywhere With Sally (Ride)" (written backwards, recorded so's it goes frontwards). A hat is tipped to Ron Geesin on intermissions like "The Importance of Making Mole Hills Out of Specks." And, among other exciting shit, one can make out graphite sketches of Vivian Stanshall, Surf's Up-era Beach Boys, and the ugly mug of Tom Rapp peering over the precipice like Kilroy's emaciated ghost. Did I mention it might be about a post-apocalyptic future...and the postal service? Not that it matters by the third shift in direction.
See, records that hit so many notes often leave you with only a vivid image of the maker's turntable favs, but this one...somewhere in there is a voice; one trying to sing through every vessel in reach. So by the time you reach tracks like "Can't Make Love," a music-hall-via-Bobb-Trimble jig, and realize it was preceded by a phony radio station ad, your doubts and wonders get sucked out the back of your noggin. Who cares. Just let it happen. The edge is always where the good shit goes down. At least De Stijl's made sure Tucker's got some shade out there.
If any of this mess looked like a meal, ol' Clint from De Stijl can set the table.

Sep 5, 2008

NANCY SINGS--AGAIN! Scorces - I Turn Into You Dbl-LP, Not Not Fun Records 2008

If Texas weren't the reddest of the red states, overrun with belching oil tycoons and croakies-rockin off-roaders, would it still produce Roky Erickson and homicidal codeine-addicted MCs? Or is it that kind of environment that makes those cracked Texas greats so great? Ever since I heard Mayo Thompson, the Lone Star's had an asterisk affixed to it, with a footnote that reads, "There's something going on that's not quite right..." I's this dichotomy that's kept me innerested in all the eerie, dusted ooze what's been coming outta Austin and Houston, and there ain't no better example than Tom and Christina Carter of Charalambides. Christina and Heather Leigh Murray (whose LP on NNF last year grew on me like a fine patina) have been cookin along as Scorces since round the turn of the century, I reckon. Whether mixing vox with pedal steel, chord organ, or the ol 6-string, their wind-blown siren songs'll transfix you right outta your lawn chair.
And speaking of dichotomy! I Turn Into You reeks of dualism more than a pair of wound-up vipers. No hissing here, though; just a delicate longing, illuminated by thin strands of voice and strings, rising and falling like VLF sparklers. I dunno. I always get this epic art-house vibe from them. For instance, the side-long opener, "Coming To A Forgotten Part," evokes the slow, but inevitable erosion of identity between the central characters in Bergman's Persona. Shit, the whole record's wrapped in the well-worn flannel of the Bill Stafford tracks in My Own Private Idaho--another warped-mirror kinda flick. It looks like a fucked-up face, all right!
I'll admit, this ain't the sorta Texas fare that makes you wanna glug Shiner Bock and toss M-80s offa Nugent's porch, but c'est la vie. There's a whole lotta dirt and scrub out there and I'll be damned if Scorces don't make me wanna take fistfulls of mescal and whistle up a butte. Road trip!
Mail your currency to Not Not Fun, who are making up for the lop-sided Bored Fortress series RIGHT quick. Keep em comin, I say. I love being wrong.

Sep 2, 2008

NO, WAIT! IT WAS 2 IN A ROOM! U.S. Girls - S/T cassingle, Hardscrabble Amateurs 2008

I can't think of a more oddly maligned format than the cassingle. Maybe it's because the last time I saw one was on the floor of a friend's car, beneath an empty fast food sack and a crushed pack of Kools. I think it was Dee-lite. Even if it wern't, I'm sure y'all have an equally moldy example bobbing on your brainsurf.
If I was you, I'd replace it with this U.S. Girls cassingle. Helmswoman Megan Remy is tugging the thread that links forces as diverse as Jandek, The Dead C, and shortwave radio at 3am. In all these things we see the human face swimming up out of a dark and abject sea. If you dug the LP on Siltbreeze (apparently the very first material Remy recorded solo), this terse lil two-sider oughta whet you enough for one last Slip-n-Slide. Summer's over, so take your shirt off while you still can. And pick this up. It's $2ppd and I hot-footed it on the review here so's it wouldn't be a eulogy--meaning, I don't think they made a ton.
Pay thru a pal here, why don'tcha, then try n convince me that blue gouache eye peekin out from behind a feathered mask ain't haunting your bedtime. Just try it.

Aug 30, 2008

DON'T LET THE DEER DRAG YOU DOWN - Grouper - Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill CD/LP, Type Records, 2008

Even considerin' Liz Harris of Grouper's predilection for REM-state drones and those piano-and-vox moments on Tried, I can't say I saw this 4AD-weened babe a-comin'. I'll admit, I spun her last full-length, Wide, a few times and was optimistic that maybe there were a vision in there somewheres. Well, maybe I was jumpin' the proverbial. I was convinced there'd be a great Grouper record someday, but brother, this ain't it. When Harris' ideas bleed through, this approaches sumpthin special. Tracks like "Disengage" and the title cut wind the folk through the drone in long, soft braids. (And the recording's bloody gorgeous, as always.) Harris is takin' logical steps on those tracks, but that don't mean they been drained of surprises. The rest of Dragging A Dead Deer, however, is equal parts His Name Is Alive, Jessica Bailiff, and This Mortal Coil. Now, if that pedigree is really your cuppa, I can't think of a more suitable addition to yer shelf. Me? I had a Cranes record one time. That stuff works in David Lynch's movies and that's about it.
I might not be holdin' my breath for that great Grouper record no more, but I'm not really holdin' my nose at this neither, know whatta mean? The CD version can be got from Mimaroglu and Forced Exposure. Don't know 'bout the LP.

Jul 27, 2008

LINCOLNSHIRE POACHERS - 3 Confounding Multinational Transmissions

INQUIET - Inq Beyong, Brother Sister Recordings 2008
"World music" affectations trampled by any sorta collective of animals just don't spell "attention glue" round here. But being that we are speaking of artist-run, micro-labels out of Melbourne, Australia, I remain drunkenly optimistic, as I can think of no similar circumstances with a totally poor outcome. I'm particularly amped for the Hirasakana Oyogu disc recorded on a mountain. I mean, why not?
Check & wreck as you will.

WOLD - Stratification CD, Profound Lore 2008
If Whitehouse fall in the woods and no one hears them, will there still be a limited to 50 box set? No, hang on; that's not how that one goes. Is it, "...will they ever find their way back to irrelevance?" No, that's not it either. Look, here's what I'm drivin at: this disc by solemn Saskatchewanans Wold (or is it WOLD?) is sort of a noise record made by sort of noise dudes who'd rather think of themselves as black metal dudes because a noise record with raspy growling by any other name would automatically sell more...oh, there I go again. Wold's first album, LOTMP, sounded like Ulver (circa Nattens Madrigal) and [a particularly pissy] Michio Kadotani reenacting the "last transmission" scene from Event Horizon. This one and Screech Owl? Eh. Go ahead and dig out tags like "endurance" if you must; if all I'm actually enduring is 9-minutes of dopey power electronics, you can tag me "unkvlt" while you're at it. I can live with that.
Frosty groves await you here.

U.S. GIRLS - Introducting... LP, Siltbreeze 2008
The sixth (by my count) missive from the Siltbreeze camp in the 08 is a doozy. Yeah sure, that Sic Alps LP is the new shit. But as a critic, it's like running into somebody I already know and like on a particularly good night. I like it. I feel no need to toss one laurel further; scores of dudes will do that for me. This, on the other hand? This is a new friend. Somebody y'all should meet.
Megan Remy, the solitary lass behind Chicago's U.S. Girls, conjures nothing less than the Shangri-Las, marooned on an off-shore oil rig, transmitting forlorn songs of love and loss through a demolished loudspeaker. Her siren broadcasts carry like the din of fireworks in distant, pulsating clouds. Those looking to latch onto familiar land can head right to the Bruce Springsteen and Kinks covers ("Prove It All Night" and "Days" respectively) to see Ms Remy leak voodoo like a haunted Exxon Valdez. Grab the buckets.
Send a flare or hunt for an SOS. Either way, you'll be glad you did.

Jul 14, 2008

SOOTHING SEEPAGE! As eloquent as I get, and I'm talking about the Anals

Sometimes when you walk into a house, restaurant or bar, an atmospheric consort quickly settles on you like a comforting snowfall. Maybe it's the lighting, the smells from the kitchen, or the looks on a few new faces. Whatever it is, you feel immediately a part of whatever's happening and you want to keep it that way. Records, in my experience, are no different. The right sequence of elements, whether expected or not, can change the listening experience into something beyond sensory.
So I feel it necessary to mention that less than 15 seconds into the debut and solitary-outing of French duo the Anals, I was instantly at home. It happened with those bands creeping out of Monterrey, Mexico, too, and in much the same way. A few simple notes on the keyboard and the trust of hands and feet and I was sold. I've already played it three times this afternoon and I won't be sleepy for hours.
Granted, after giving the Anals a listen you may decide that my "home sweet home" is a damp and unpleasantly eerie parking lot regularly frequented by undesirables. Hey, everyone needs somewhere to lay their head. There's something gleefully disaffected about the Anals' rhythmic synth punk, like they're lovingly relishing the aftermath of their destructive early-twenties. I'm still there, so I've been treating this as a biting satire of 20/20 hindsight; a way of looking back that I can And if you're making punk records in the 21st century, isn't that what it oughta be about?
Send jer drool & confetti to Sweet Rot.

Jun 26, 2008

DID I REALLY SAY "A TERSE KLUSTER?" Things I Said About Things I Heard

I'm forgoing the review of Psychedelic Horseshit/Fabulous Diamonds/Suitcases et al from the other night because there was, for reasons I may never know, a strange air of hostility and apathy in the room. Don't get it, didn't dig it. All I'll add is that I went home and shaved off my mustache in one blunt, unceremonious gesture. (It felt different having it on the island. If I couldn't be the Gorton's fisherman, I might as well be a grizzled deckhand, right? Well, the high seas are far behind me now, if you get what I mean. I'm not sure I do...)
Now, moving swiftly along:
Records. I got them. I heard them. I thought about them, drank with them, and generally gave them far more attention than some worthy humans I know. Hey, when the sit-in to protest my phone number gets crankin', I'll put the headphones down. In the meantime, I'm trying to decompress. Culture shock. Y'all have things like stoplights and fast food here. I just returned from the 1940s. I had forgotten about billboards and the stale unction of chicken tenders.

FABULOUS DIAMONDS - Self-Titled LP, Siltbreeze, 2008
Sorry, but when a mint band from Australia shows up in your town, on a tour where they're unlikely to break even, buy one of their records. Hell, buy two. Gas and plane tickets is spensive. Even if they're dicks (they were actually lovely!), you gotta have sympathy for people who are probably traveling with dudes whose code of ethics includes "infrequent bathing." Give an Aussie a break! Plus, the records are good! This keys/sax-and-drums duo screw with recorded time like nothing else runnin, all the while reminding me of a terse Kluster, Teja with live drums, the underbelly of early Primitive Calculators, and the earnest disarray of the Delta 5. They can call out the tunes or call in the demons; either way the songs float by like an echo in the night. Less frustrating, more...appetizing. And when they stretch out (you know, 3 minutes), boy does it pay. Praise be to short elpees.

The seven-inch on
Nervous Jerk is still around and worth all of the 8 or so minutes it'll cost you. Help them sell out the press. Plus, it's an amuse bouche to this amuse bouche to this...

NOTHING PEOPLE - Anonymous LP, S-S Records, 2008
I tried. I really did. Backwards, forwards, sideways, perpendicular, four abreast, in the car, on the porch, with and without headphones, with and without beer, before and after cigarettes, before and after science, with the TV on mute, with the cat on vibrate, shoes or no shoes, and I can't for the life of me care about this. Rock in most of its incarnations, to me of late, is grandpa stuff. This ain't the summer I asked for.

Jun 21, 2008

KRAUT IS THE NEW BLACK - 6 Bands and Twenty-One Hot Inches In Me

Having rolled back into the South, sore (in many ways) from the trip and the pre-trip ordeal, I've set up some semblance of a stereo in a dusty alcove...somewhere. I don't know. At this point, the moment I leave the city but am still close to a state road, everywhere looks like everywhere else. If I play my cards right, this is a layover, not a chapter.
While resisting the urge to unpack and phone up locals who might still wanna know me I've listened to some things. These are they.

STRIBORG/SCURSHAHOR split 7", Southern Lord, 2008
My love of the sole Tasmanian black metal act Striborg is earnest and deep. For those who consider black metal suspect, I assure you the Striborg approach is more Peter Grudzien than Profanatica. His opener, the aptly monikered "Psychedelic Nightmare" is a thumpy and hissy lil capsule bearing familial resemblance to the dark humidity of Pierre Henry's Le Voyage at one moment and an unhinged Silver Apples at the next. Other than that, this got no kin what's recognizable to my ears. "Syncopated Pandemonium" is heavy but not at all tired or even metal, really, in the tradition of Circle of Ouroboros or Sapthuran. I believe in Sin Nanna.
Scurshahor is probably an Oren Ambarchi one-off, given the credentials, the label, and, well, the way it fucking sounds. "Malicious Resplendence" gets you Sissy Spacek drum crumbling on top of chipped Remko Scha axes. There might be vocals, or there maybe there's a bee in my suit. I get why queues of drone dudes dig the black metal and all. Unfortunately, their love is meddled with fear, so their forays into black metal-inspired hum-and-thud come off as pastiche, not participation. I'm sure as shit cats like Ambarchi dig old punk, too, but history's taught them that digital deconstructions of that stuff is a bad and unmarketable idea. At least this probably moved some units. Unfortunately for whomever Scurshahor is (...), I gotta hate the player and the game.
(Also: the plastic inner sleeve? Seriously? Didja get a grant from the Glad family? Just wrap the thing in pig-iron why don't you. I'm lucky this survived the trip between the box and the player so many times.)

SHEPHERDS/IGNATZ - Bored Fortress split 7", Not Not Fun, 2008
We're winding into the end of the BF singles club for this year. If you read my last installment, I ain't so keen on what NNF's been shipping me lately. This chapter, however, is a crispy change of pace. This ain't the Shepherds I was expecting. (I mean, technically, it is.) This bears none of the loft-jazz touchstones nor is it infested with the Borbetomaggots I read about elsewhere. In fact, this is some distillation of the dark and perverse elements of post-punk. Repetitive percussion supports a particularly Aussie/Kiwi clang, capturing that rapturous and sweaty state everyone loves to achieve in the recording space. If this is the energy they always cast about, I'll buy all that balloon juice 'bout the "physical noise" they usually blow. I need a discography...
Ignatz seem to have aligned with the same sonic longitude as Shepherds for this slab, only their branches seed from the Great Unwashed rather than Wreck Small Speakers or One Stop Shopping. Their lone track rises and falls like a string of mountains. We start at the foothills and end in the clouds. It might grow a little long in the tooth, but that's how mountains work I suppose. The surprises keep me listening, like they do. The Ignatz side is what pushed this into my vote for the best of the Bored Fortress 08 class. Doubtful? Read on.

INCA ORE/SECRET ABUSE - Bored Fortress split 7", Not Not Fun, 2008
I can't say I love or even like either of these acts after sitting with this single for a fistful of sessions--and I ain't talkin those kinda sessions. Inca Ore are like the worst portrayal of the Blues Control aesthetic dining on the worst portrayal of Scorces. They've got a pedigree way more interesting than their actual output. Like Pocahaunted and that aforementioned Scurshahor mishap, there's something real disingenuous about good-looking youngsters aping sounds made by lumpy nutjobs from ages past. Hey, I love those records, too, but that don't mean I wanna be them!
Secret Abuse are soundtracky and dull. Touchstones might include the third White Noise lp, if ya must know. It kinda feels like storming out of your parents house in a teenage rage, then going to all the suit-n-tie restaurants they haunt and pretending to be them: nobody's buyin it.
In the end, I suppose I oughta let the kids have their say and maybe somebody'll buy one of those Kluster reissues as a result of all this horse-hockey. (That live Eruption lp is the kitty's p-jays!)

NEXT ON THE BOX: Maybe a live review of Psychedelic Horseshit/Fabulous Diamonds/Suitcases @ Eyedrum? Wayne Rogers? That Nothing People LP somebody tossed at me? For now, a smoke and a steaming lake are calling.

Jun 9, 2008

AIN'T NO WRONG NOTES - A Free-Jazz Playlist

Unless I'm mistaken, my days on the island are numbered. The neighbors are steadily returning and I doubt they're down with the kinda rumblings my house typically produces in the wee small hours. Then again, my frat boy roommates'd probably love to pick that bone, too. They make rumblings of their own, but they've got nothing to do with alternate tunings, if you catch my drift. So unless my bread baker job interview goes stunningly well today and they offer me shit-ton money, I'll be packed and on the ferry by week's end. (I got my fingers crucified.) Where to? I ain't certain.
While I try to figure it all out, here's some free jazz or creative modern or "new music" or whatever tag's been hung on the Ayler & Co. lineage, that I love. I gotta go wring my wash out by the shore.

Any of these players could lead me to a cliff and I just might drink. But the most fascinating part about these sessions is that nobody sounds like themselves! Okay, Parkins can only stretch in so many directions, but even she's kept me guessing all these years. Her shimmering accordion slivers and loping percussion samples alternate between underpinning strokes and wide watercolors. Brown forgoes his usual misbegotten seagull cries for some lyrical, Steve Lacy-inspired lines. Borca might be the most unsung player in the world, so any chance you get to hear her pour spools of deep-red yarn from her bassoon, you do so. Her work with Jimmy Lyons oughta be legendary by now. You mightcould say she's the bassist to this bass-and-drums-free disc. And Joe Morris, well, I've heard a lot of words used to describe his guitar-playing. "Squirrelly" and "obtuse" are among the most apropos. Forget your notions of free-jazz guitar players being weened on Sharrock and Ulmer, cuz although he might use a "Blood" tuning, Joe's sound is always clean and skronk-free. For my money, his ink draws the defining lines here.
Ignore the crummy cover art, if you happen to snatch this up. The artist, Anne, once told me "black is the new 'black'," so, uh, you can imagine...

IDRIS ACKAMOOR - The Music of Idris Ackamoor 1971-2004, EM Records 2006?
If you ask the cats at Aquarius Records, they'll tell you 1971 is the most important year for music in the last 1/2 of the 20th century. Me? I think that date's a movable feast, but after hearing this double-disc, I might stick around for dessert. Typically, I head straight for the Pyramids tracks because they define all that is good about the horrendously-monikered "spiritual jazz" movement. We're talking big, wide organically developing passages that, to my ears, are carved out right between Sun Ra and the exhausted pace of late-afternoon field hollers. Makes me wanna curl up and spoon with them. "Birth/Speed/Merging" and "Black Man of the Nile" are top of my list. The more rigid cat in me thinks "Spiritual Rebirth," a piece by the Idris Ackamoor Quartet, is pretty tight, and lets you know Ackamoor can wrangle structured beauty from his cortices, too.
Ackamoor has gone more of the Threadgill route since the heyday of these recordings, on top of becoming some sort of "cultural consultant" or some damn thing. I don't know; Google him, and then gobble this up before EM runs out.

THE GREAT MUSAURIAN SONGBOOK - Out of a Suitcase, Musikszene Schweiz/Grammont portrait 1998
Hoo, what a puzzler. I've had this for about 5 years and it reveals less and less about itself as time goes on. Maybe that's just me growing stupider, but I think you'll agree that a loose-improv record based on documents found in a suitcase like a postcard from a little kid, a page from a diary, a bill from a public house, a doctor's note, or a random telegram, all played by the national band of a made-up country that doesn't in any way involve the Hafler Trio is deep in "I need a lie-down" territory. What's it sound like? Europe, in all the ways you can conjure: Iskra, Evan Parker-led screech-and-crumble parties, indigenous folk musics, and a bucketful of Dada. I have no clue what Claudia Ulla Binder, Dieter Ulrich, or Alfred Zimmerlin did after this, aside from continue on in the "creative music" camp and sell out tents in Switzerland. If anyone knows anything of note about their more-recent endeavors, give a holler. In the meantime, pick this up and smirk at it for a while; you might be glad you did.

V.A. - Golden Age of Soviet New Jazz, Volumes I&II, Leo Records, 2001
I never got a chance to pick up volumes III and IV, but as I've been slowly picking through these 8 discs (!) for--wow, seven years, maybe I'll finally be familiar enough with them to move on by the age of 50. Aligned under the banner of "Soviet New Jazz" is all kinds of bucket-on-the-head performance art, collective improv, free-rock, berserk prepared piano rolls, and warehouse caterwauling recorded behind the Iron Curtain. Aside from that, the main reason it's taken me so long to drink these in is that each disk is a chronicle of an entire career. So, in reality, we're talkin 8 anthologies! Sometimes, all of the aforementioned buggery is included in a single piece! Who knew so many Noah Howard, Jellyroll Morton, Ya Ho Wa 13, Alexander von Schlippenbach, Henry Flynt, and Butch Morris records got smuggled into Leningrad?
Highlights for me include Sergey Kuryokhin's maniacal, dual-piano history lessons and the larger ensemble stuff like Jazz Group Arkhangelsk--basically, any of the stuff where someone isn't just shouting into a trashcan. Hell, with enough time, I might get my head 'round that, too.

May 21, 2008

THE BALLAD OF BILBO BAGGIES - Scarlett Johansson, Anywhere I Lay My Head CD, Atco 2008

This here disc, released on the 20th I believe, will join the kind of Accidental Pantheon featuring records like Mr. Spock's Music from Outer Space and Ethel Merman's disco platter. But I will say, this is ripe with far more jokes than a loungy Nimoy frolick. (Unfortunately, several of those jokes are the sad sort.) In terms of execution, this sits closer to Dennis Wilson's Pacific Ocean Blue--which really means it sits close to the white & powdery. Many people of bloggy repute (though not this one!) contributed to the creation of this smug and murky goof, I'm sure with the idea that they were participating in one of "those" records, or totally ignorant and therefore as dumb as I suspected. Incidentally, some of these fools include the guitarist from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (okay, sure), one of the dudes from TV On the Radio (uh-huh), and...umm...David Bowie.
If you're wondering how this record ended up in the pile to be reviewed on Fuck You Counselor, you oughta look above the reviews to the header sometime. The new subtitle--take it as a revised Mission Statement--reads: "Unfit to be tied." Gunky, trashy, warped, absurd, artless, and downright un-fancy records are to be found in all strata of the music biz. The assertion that some bleached and Botox'd celeb doesn't have the same right to produce an embarrassing record as some dude in the basement of a record store is romantic nonsense.
I'll have no piece of that pie. Stupidity and self-indulgence are not class-specific. And, as a matter of fact, both of those embarrassing kinda records can suck in similar ways! Ms. Johansson's full-length debut is, if nothing else, a testament to that.
On the factual tip, this is 10 Tom Waits covers and one original. I'll allows that to swirl about in your head before you continue.
The production sinks Scarlett's voice somewhere in the 3rd-chair-oboe range, prolly cuz she couldna pluck a note from a knee-high bush.
There are bad synth wash-ups, unnecessary drumbs and an Aimee Mann outtake vibe that push this into absurdly Pro-Tools territory. I don't think her voice is as atrocious (assuming these weren't from multiple takes) as the arrangements; they're just amateur, which has a kinda charm at times. The versions of "Anywhere I Lay My Head," "I Wish I Was In New Orleans," and especially "Town With No Cheer" are heartbreakingly inept. Seriously. Like coming back to your hometown and discovering everyone you knew got into meth; too late to do something about it, so it just makes ya sad. Though, I found it quite shrewd that she picked all the songs about being drunk and/or sad. Oh wait; that's most of 'em anyhow!
So in the end, this shouldn't just be dismissed as some celebrity vanity record. That's as plain as day. This should be considered a humiliating slab for anyone to have produced. Except the irony of the whole affair will keep this afloat, just like all the schlocky claptards aforementioned. Who knows: maybe someday Ms. Johansson will stride to the mic at a sci-fi convention, arm-in-arm with Mr. Shatner, reveling in the glittery murk of that most American of dreams: the Cheap Laugh.

May 9, 2008

HEARTWORM HIGHWAYS, Television Ghost - Self-Titled LP, Die Stasi Records

The Midwest is Hell. But as most of us know, Hell spits out the good stuff. The first coupla flares from the Indiana-born TV Ghost firepit missed my ears. I feel like I heard'em, but I can't remember a goddamn thing about'em. Who knows what I was bent about that week to find this band ignorable, because this LP's got some muscles. Like the other peaks of the cracked-rock contingent, TV Ghost's got a lot of touchstones, but none so chunky as to tumble the whole mess into revisionism. Yes, there's some KBD, some stumbly 60's punk, and some murky 80's creepers in their collections. But so what? Who am I to drool at an imaginary shelf? This damn thing's right in fronta me and it kinda cooks. I'm still not sure they're totally ready for the big-boy format, though, cuz there's some lagging. The drunken see-saw quality to some of these songs gets my gut in a vice. That's not a bad thing in general, but when it's repeated more than a handful of times, it gets to be like dinner at the nursing home. A little further expansion for these guys and the grooves will glow. In the meantime, cuts like "The Nihilist," a maniacal basement smoker, "Lee Is Free," and the Tyvekesque (?) closer "Long Talk (King Matt's Badness Due)" should keep you musty and frightened for at least a few sessions. Ain't it funny that "sounds like it's from Ohio" is a compliment?
Go here for further details and maybe a sip or two.

May 6, 2008

GROPING AUNT MARY - Vinyl On Demand and the Reissue Saga

When I feel like touching computers, I usually end up wandering the alleys of re-ish haunts like Vinyl-On-Demand, Akarma, and, to a lesser extent, Lilith. There's often a patch of pining and sheep-counting before I finally retire and dream of the days when I'm so cashy I can drop 100 G-dubs on a 5-lp box set of unfamiliar things. But is that really what we're hoping for? What draws us to these things?
I think the tombstone on crate-digging ought to be carved and set by now. Most of these gems probably ain't finna swim up out of the darkened stacks of a thrift store in Moose Jaw or an estate sale in Plano. They're on somebody's shelf, accumulating value or in-queue to be played for honored guests. Maybe they'll find new life in 2am radio racket. Maybe someone will throw them on a tape or upload them for scouring fans to rub their mouse all over. Needless to say, most of the fun of digging has been replaced by the obligatory feeling of deliberate searching. When I walk into a record store, my mind is empty. I forget what music is or what it looks like. When I get on the Internet, my mind is flooded by the knowledge of treasures within reach.
Is my generation destined to lose that gratifying feeling of discovery? I mean, which is worse: having someone hand you an annotated, footnoted, rare photo-drenched slab of audionecrophilia, or be trapped in that nostalgic notion of the undiscovered gem, feeding on the failed dreams of bands and artists in the wrong place at the right time? Is there a difference? Is it because we need a way of making the past and the present more clear?
One of the reasons I hit so many record stores every time I drop a toe in a new town is the search for history. There are the local scenes that petered out, the remains scattered thru the A to Z. There are the almost-movements, where three or four customers made avid requests then never returned to put up the dough. There is the local lore, tacked to the wall or dusty and framed. There are the regulars, regaling you with tales of when this place was that. They're cultural documents.
The Internet, on the other hand? I can't decide. Neither fate seems comfortable. So there it is. An unresolved argument for and a little against an unresolved conflict. Go buy the Severed Heads 5-lp box set from Vinyl-On-Demand if you just can't let the dead lie. Or download as much as you can and try to ignore the feeling that you're picking the corpse's pockets. Maybe you'll find a 5-spot.

Apr 27, 2008

THE EMPEROR'S NEW CREW Shadow Music of Thailand LP, Sublime Frequencies

It's a fifteen minute drive home from the grocery store. At the store, I sell cigarettes, lotto, and cater to dissatisfied consumers who want to know why their moldy tomatoes cost $5/lb, but mostly just handle Western Union transactions. All the while, a sequence of perhaps 100 songs taken from the last 16 years of ass-pop blurt over the loudspeakers. When it's time for that drive home, past African fields and lonely water towers, I watch for deer, try not to smoke, and think about what will swab out my ears best.
There were some moments on those Bored Fortress singles I really liked. But to be honest, I'm not sure I can wholeheartedly recommend any one of them. The best bits are curious; they resemble that good ol 45rpm handshake you want from some shit you ain't heard 'fo. But otherwise, who really cares? All them acts will be (or have been) heard by the likes of many folks who look like me. They didn't need my help; I tossed my piss into the crowd because you don't read a lot of smack about the New Queered America contingent, even though I know many are thinkin it.
And to keep up the honesty racket, I ain't read much of anything about this LP from Sublime Frequencies. I saw the cover, I realized what it meant, peeped the label, and laid down the cash. No chance taken; they had me at "sawatdee."
Then again, I haven't tried to read what the hoi polloi think about because I don't care. I know where I stand and I'm smiling there. The moment the needle drops, you forget all the English touchstones the name inspires, because you realize you're hearing things like...fuzz and farfisa with imperial percussion. That's all I'll give you and, really, that's too much. Any more and I'll have totally robbed you of all the thrills this slab offers.
You can find it in stores where people don't pay attention. You can also probably get it from the chummy chums at Aquarius Records. Other than that, this finna slip into the night. Don't let that happen. Pay the 30 bucks before you have to pay 300. If you don't like it, send your copy to me and you'll be reimbursed. Trust.

Apr 22, 2008

BE SURE TO WEAR FLOUR IN YOUR HAIR - Bored Fortress Round-Up (So Far)

The o'fishul Not Not Fun blinky place tells me the Bored Fortress Singles Extravaganza of 2008 (it's third year, I believe) is closed. However, that don't mean these tidy little slices of currency (for better or...ahem, worse) won't be hitting ebay the moment the last package is mailed. I signed up cuz I was cashy and a few of the bands excited me. & c'mon, who doesn't love a surprise in the mail--except for the flaming sack variety.

1. Magik Markers/Vampire Belt
I'm a MM hater so I'm going to skip talking about them altogether to keep everyone happy. Now, I'm not sure I love Vampire Belt's half, but it's a grower. They come at the rumbly noise world from a NYC loft-jazz angle and they've got a drummer who doesn't sound like he was on Load Records! They might even be listening to each other! Get these guys a slice of cake; they might make me hold onto a record with the Magik Markers on it.
(The cover sucks, though.)

2. Slither/Moore+Flaherty
Slither sounds like "The Education of Lars Jerry" if it had been released on one of them lost German tape labels. Seagull saxophones pulled apart like fresh bread and cast into the ocean. I'm lacking the proper touchstones to make it read like anything less that snooze metal, but I was impressed. I might even wanna hear more! Who knew a singles club could be a window onta new ground? Ha!
Thurston and Pauly do their best to sound like they can keep up with the kids, but c'mon. You don't want Moore crankin the out-jazz. I'm okay with Flaherty and if he's the only free jazz titan my home state has produced ('ceptin ma uncle, Joe Morris), well all the more power to him. The man can blow, if nothing else. If this'd been [Wayne] Rogers + Flaherty, I'd be sittin pretty. They coulda named it after Tolland County and we'd all have a good laugh. Instead it's called "Western Mass Hardcore Rules Ok" and I'm struggling to smirk.
Once again, only half good. And, again, the cover is dumpy.

3. Skullflower/Axolotl
The best thing about Skullflower is the transformation of time. Every album feels like a few stitches in a cosmic tapestry, compressing miles of strings into infinitely dense thread. It might be, paradoxically, the busiest drone you'll ever hear. This one is only the length of a single 7" side but feels like it could be hours. You want it to be hours long. It's no small feat to make 8 or 9 minutes feel like a beautiful eternity.
Now, I'll admit I know nothing of Axolotl, except that I see the name scattered everywhere and I get them confused with Avarus, for some reason. I like Avarus; it's the same every time, but it's a great formula and they know how to edit.
What distinguishes this from the Skullflower side, seeing as they're both preoccupied with sustained chords and chiseled feedback, and much like Avarus, is editing. This doesn't stretch time, so much as magnifies it. It takes a long-form, Birchville-style structure and cuts it down to a curt 5 or 6 minutes. Hey, if Mr. Kneale can pull it off...well, so can these cats. And if you dig 'em, go check 'em out in Baltimore on the 18th of May with Blues Control, Daniel Higgs, and Cluster and/or 6 days later with Skaters and some of my favorite Fins, Kemialliset Ystavat. No, I didn't book those; yes, I wish I had.
I'm okay with the cover, but the record inside is better.

4. Charalambides/Pocahaunted
Apparently Christina & Tom Carter dig those cute lil spinsters, because they've been working together everywhere. Oh well. It's not like a half-good seven-inch is any kinda surprise at this point.
First up is the Texas twosome. The tune and lyrics are simple, a strange mix of hypnotized and desperate--a Texas mark of quality, if ever there was one. In someone else's hands, this might be forgettable.
Charalambides have heart.
Pocahaunted have t-shirts with hearts on them. You can talk all you want about the Amon Duudling that goes on throughout side B, but I ain't buying. They're hucksters.
I like the sleeve, though. It would look good on a dinner plate.

Mint. This is suitably disastrous. Hopefully Ignatz will share their record with Shepherds so I can put the rest to bed.

Next up: ????????????????????????????????

Apr 19, 2008


While the lass is away, I been cuddlin close to the spinning music makers, stacking the empty matchbooks ceiling-high, and eating whenever the crumb tray in the toaster feels cashy. The latter two don't have much place on this thing, so I'll home in on the first. Brace yourselves; I got a lotta wind to blow.

Dan Melchior Und Das Menace - Christmas For the Crows (Daggerman LP)
Danny Boy's an other-day-find for me. I try not to hate on shit outright, like the ladies tell me, but it's hard. I live in New England. If you don't have a slice of misery on your plate, people start asking, "D'ja eat?" So before I stuck Mr. Melchior in my ear, I had to do all kindsa exorcisms (like smudging the cable modem) or it woulda been oogly. Too many folks I never met telling me what's what cuz they got a label or a new pair of socks...well, it wears me out. I worry some days I might be whispering in people's ears myself with this thing, but that's doubtful. Anyone who can wade through the snake-oil I hock about island solitude and midnight brandy stumbling to get to the actual musicspeak is committed in a way I have a hard time understanding. Maybe they just need to be committed. Like, to a place.
Anyhow, post-hopping-the-hate-hurdle, I've come to like everything this Daniel bloke's laid out. This new LP on Daggerman (also home to the Hubble Bubble reishes!) is all kindsa swank. On this one, Melchior seems to be narrating a neighborhood like it's a bunch of contingent stories. They've all got their moods and movements, like folk got faces and rumps. I love the holler down an alley feel to the uptempo numbers. (Crank the loud and you'll wanna crank the ABV, too.) And, per usual, you can expect some mint lines and creepy-creaky production. In the proper musicspeak segment you'd normally read about the cheeky Brit loner-psych dudes Melchior might dig, but I ain't got it in me for another list of people you either know or don't. It doesn't matter anyway. Find them and find this--no matter which comes first, you're in for a few good MEN.

Graham Lambkin & Jason Lescalleet - The Breadwinner (Erstwhile CD)
I was thinkin today about Chris Watson's Outside the Circle of Fire and Stepping Into the Dark in relation to this record; about how Watson wields the mic like a telescope. In those burping rhinos is a galaxy. That's great & all, but what's funny is that his past in Cabaret Voltaire would make you think he still considers boredom and everyday happenings to be the crucible of great art. But what's everyday about hiding in the bushes in Madagascar with a $10,000 boom and a mini-disc recorder? Kinda changes things. Suddenly, listening to Chris Watson puts you in his head rather than the other way 'round.
So who's carrying the flag?
Well, what review are you reading?
Salmon Run sneaked in the backdoor both literally and figuratively (but not in the hey-that's-exit-only sense, y'know?) on the heels of some Idea Fire Company collabs & a few group efforts && stole my mafuckin heart. On The Breadwinner, Lambkin & master-unwinder Lescalleet coax magic out of humid rooms, muddy boots, distant fireworks & filled glasses. Those boys know how to make the mundane sing like nothin else running, but that should come as no surprise.
Speaking of surprises, if you find a chill tickling your ankle when the door creaks or the thunder cracks, then you'll know you've let this album in. I speak from experience, cuz that's all I got. Good show, y'all.

Next time: the Bored Fortress 08 Singles Club (thus far). I come bearing teeth and laurels alike.

Apr 9, 2008

A SCREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN Blues Control - Self-Titled CD, 2007

Blues Control's first LP, Puff, has been kindly reissued by Fusetron, much to the oblige of many folks who mighta missed out on the wax the 1st and 2nd times around. So, in light of this, and considering I already spilled my seed about Puff earlier in the life of FYC, I thought it might be good to talk a little about their strangely less-publicized plastic debut on Holy Mountain.
When someone tells you remarkable slop is gurgling out of the Brooklyn/Williamsburg contingent, first you doubt...then you're curious..and finally you bite. And of course, you're met with the kind of fashionably meandering schtick that too-often follows the hyperbolic swill of music critics. What can you do, really? In the zeal for platinum, some people will settle for fool's gold.
Blues Control is fool-proof.
Over the course of Puff's A & B, BC stretched out ideas and notions until gossamer, hypnotic, nauseating and ultimately kinda beautiful. Same went for the Riverboat Styx tape. But on their self-titled CD, Blues Control lay down songs. Not songs like most folk know'em; songs carved from the Faust mold. Blues Control seem to think of a song as a sequence of steps. There's a feeling of travel that comes with this disc. Not layovers and hostels travel; more like the distance between the bodega on the corner and the laundromat down the block. In between are all those cracked windows, passing cars, opening and closing doors. It's the sound of chances, of glancing encounters. Even the recording seem to place their sound everywhere at once, glowing under a million tiny spotlights.
I'm sure they have influences, some of which probably include illegal substances and assorted second-hand Svenska. Whatever. Some of my influences include chatpata relish, Mantronix, and pro-wrestling journalism; don't really say a lick about what I do, do it? So rather than gettin tangled in the roots, get yer maw around the fruits. I can think of at least two Brooklynites who'll be tickled plaid if you did. Go ahead. Ask any neighborhood man.

Mar 25, 2008

BIG BROTHERS AND LIL COUSINS - Releases of the Music Sort

A breather's been took and now I'm back, typing at you again. Another missive from the off-season crescent island.
I liked some things, I was bored by some other things. Read on, you intrepid stooges! Read on!
First up, the conclusion of the black metal saga...for now.

Peste Noire - Mors Orbis Terrarum, self-released 2xcass box
This here contraption compiles all the demos of these Fronch nutzoids in a tidy lil box. It's cute, I swear! You know, in a Satan-approved way.
The earlier songs kinda lack the punch I've come to love from records like Folkfuck Folie and that full-length rehearsal thing they pressed up a while back. They never romp and fizzle like Furze do, but then again they don't wander into Windham Hill snooze-core like Alcest or Amesoeurs neither. Mostly, they wad the black metal in all sorts of gnarly knots and expect you to untie 'em. Nowhere on this set do they ever get mathy and smart-mark like the aforementioned noodlers, and that's something to crow about. And did I mention the box is really cute? That gryphon's got such a button nose...

Sapthuran & Hills of Sefiroth split - Heralding the New Song of Ruin, Wolfrune Worxxx cass
I mark out for Sapthuran like almost nothin else in the black metal camp, what with his solitary, warped nature-enthusiast-turned-antihumanist vision. Imagine a hollow-sounding merger between the Twenty-Six sensibility and the speed of the Ulver black metal triumvirate. Now we're talkin! Plus there's the added mystery of something like this coming from Northern Kentucky. (Is that landscape really worth fighting for?)
Unfortunately, I had to sit through the HoS side first. I advise the cautious reader to use the fast-forward as a PLP, lest you will find yourself curled up on the corner of the mattress wondering who put on the Judas Iscariot outtakes. And, no, I ain't talkin bout the two-piece improv grind outfit. I'm talking mumbly, tired, Midwestern fudge. I'm all for a rollick in a drone-y field, but this is ridiculous. If you's gonna work on one or two riffs for 45 minutes, you better make 'em good. HoS is about two-notches below "musty carny" on the evil scale.
I'm sure the Sapthuran side was better, but I was so blinded by the lack of science on the HoS flip, I had to dunk my head a bathtub fulla akvavit to cleanse the palette and by then, I just wanted some Danish coffee and a hunk of silence. Sorry, Sappy, honey. Invite me over next time you're alone; then we can talk.

Lascowiec - Gesamkunstwerk, Funeral Agency cass
Lascowiec - Gunshots Ring Out Over Vinland Streets, Funeral Agency cass
I was convinced this solemn little moper was Polish, but apparently, "In Slavonic [sic] mythology, Lascowiec is a woodspirit; a wolf riding atop another wolf, who protects all the wild animals of the woods." (I suppose that's tougher sounding than David the Gnome.) Alas, Lascowiec, the good witch of the Slavic forest, is from the grim and frozen land of Frisco, CA. Go figure. Granted, he shares those mean streets with spooks like Malefic, Wrest, and Ancalagon the Black (of Crebain). Maybe they can have a bike gang or a discussion salon!
Gesamkunstwerk is the earliest of the Lascowiec demos and boy do I like it. Half-time, crumbly guitars, blown out factory vocals, and the icing of dubby drums, all submerged in the bog of tape distortion. Minimal isn't a term I use often in reference to the black metal or anything else--mostly cuz sound is so live and busy as is--but the Lascowiec approach of stretching ideas, but knowing when to reign them in, fits the title. It's kind of like if Hills of Sefiroth got their shit together--which ain't gonna happen, so we have this guy to carry the crusty black torch. Fine by me.
Gunshots begins with some classy Slavic Romanticism before bottoming out into Sapthuran-style Appalach raga-ness. At its worst it's a wrong-speed Robotic Empire release where they forgot to mix the drums in. At its best, it's a codeine-fed Kiwi freakout. I can live between those two poles, no problem, so this gets the seal of approval, too. Good luck and good selling, you tanned wood sprite!

Cheveu - Cheveu, S-S Records LP
Did these cats survive the jump from kid to parent? Can they sustain interest for longer than a 7"? It's a little less than cold turkey, since there are 4 tracks on here from previous singles. However, their power isn't what sustains this album. What does is a voracious style-hopping that I had never really noticed. "Happiness" turns Philip Seymour Hoffman's schpiel from the Solondz flick into Jonathan Richman's submission to the Penthouse forum. "Unemployment Blues" perfectly captures that squinty, alienated feeling you get when you hop off the couch, hungover, and don't...actually have all...any time soon. Or maybe ever. Talk about a 21st century blues! If they mentioned Xbox, it could be the anthem of my generation.
Wow, that's actually horribly depressing.
Good show, anyhoo.

Mar 1, 2008

KIND OF LIKE A REVIEW SORT OF MAYBE, Tomb Of... - Those Dismal Moments, Tour de Garde cassette 2007

I'm in a new place. I've found myself at a strange distance from what I'm listening to and reviewing. It's not the music; certainly I've been marveling at the stuff since my age was a single digit. So...I guess it's the writing aspect.
I'm sure this is something everyone that writes about music, whether it's on a blog that 6 people read (like this one!) or in a proper magazine goes through. Shit, it's probably something everyone goes through with everything. This isn't a new impasse.
Thankfully, the ripe and wild whiff of the black metal has called me back to my senses. The black metal is sometimes sloppy, frequently bleak, politically naive or just plain stupid, DIY, and always reaching around in the dark for ideas and identity. In short, it's perfect outsider art, to use a term I hate as much as the aforementioned "DIY." Maybe it's got something to do with hearing stuff like this Tomb Of... tape and wondering what the hell is going on inside their grease-painted Grecian domes, but I've been drawn back inside the speakers at last. I can't tell what's good--actually good--and what is a personal revelation poppin' out of a tangent anymore. I know that I like this tape, but I can't say why--at least not definitively.
I can tell you that this sounds like an unholy blend of an imaginary soundtrack for Zombie Nightmare (not the Motorhead song that opens the real movie) and the whispery, hissy atmosphere of the Constellation Records crew if they didn't have their Galois-smoking heads so far up their anarcho-rumps. The guitars are buried and ring out in the distance like the tinnitus that closes a long night of fruitless mischief. I'm not even sure if that amounts to a good listen or something that will make me want to spin these reels in future days. But whatever. I had a moment and I ain't gonna loosen my grip on it til I'm good'n'ready.

Feb 28, 2008

LONESOME WINTER WAILING (Whaling?) - More Black Metal Tapes For Dat Ass

This week was a bag of shit until my tape order came in. But rather than regale y'all with stories of The Girl That Disappeared or What Officer Bates Did, I'll jump right to the turning point(s). Okay, so black metal is meaningless as a term, right? Kind of like industrial, or any genre, really. Is anyone actually making things specifically rooted in genre anymore? I think there's enough influential back-clapping goin' 'round to have successfully killed the notion, what with everyone listening to everything, but that don't mean it's left anybody's lips. Tis a shame, I reckon, for black metal's one of them there ghettos, in much the way Vonnegut termed sci-fi. Then again, maybe "black metal" oughta stick around, as a "for fanatics only" kinda thing, in much the same way some smartypants termed Lovecraft. It does have that "dig it or leave it" vibe, doesn't it? I'll let real critics work it all out. For now, I'm going to love it, contradictions and mainstream cultural irrelevance and all. At any rate, here's the first installment of the 8-piece whateveryouwannacallit tape order.

Korium - Hradby Samoty, demo tape Ravenheart, 2005
I raved and convulsed about the 1st Korium tape, which sounded like cavemen perverting the Slovak
Price Is Right, and so was monstrously pumped for this. What's unfortunate, in an ostensible (read:irrelevant) way, is that all the instruments I loved from Mraziva Noc Prinasa Pokoj are gone. No keys, no drum machine. I kinda thought the boy was on ta sumpthin there, but I guess I was only half-right, because Hradby is equally compelling in a totally different way. I'm guessing some of the stuff from Frisco and Germany found it's way into Slovakia, because this one smacks of Xasthur, Drastus, and all those super-cold blade-at-the-ready choons made by guys that carry whiskey and rope wherever they roam. But then there's a sideways Trad Gras Och Stenar tone to a lot of the strings, which has me puzzleder than whatall. Korium is dragging an eraser behind him, and for that, I love him. The boy's got me guessing, and that's a smart way to keep me around. Maybe I'll check out the split with Trist from last

Circle of Ouroborus - Shores, Heidens Hart 2007
Circle of Ouroborus - Streams, Northern Sky Productions 2007
Speaking of guessing, hoo! I've been following these two Finns ever since the split with Ethum Burzman-sounding* outfit Urfaust, where they put some Yeats to some mostly-acoustic stumblemumps. Some of it was like if Alice In Chains channeled Henry Flynt's I Don't Wanna, and then some of it straight up sucked. (Sorry to bust out the crate-digger analogies, but sometimes the music just demands it!) Anyhow, I was hooked. I'll take wacky and only-half-successful over wack and always failing about as often as the next guy.
Admittedly, I slipped a little. Never heard the Star/Rise acoustic tape since the press was mad ltd or the Night Radiance demo, but I did check out the Knives Beneath 7" what came out a little before Shores dropped. What a beaut. But, per usual with CoS, it was a mcguffin: too straightforward compared to what they usually concoct, but still brimmin with the ideas they'd later expand on with these two LPs--which is what an EP's supposed to do!
Shores got a ton of press in 07, thanks to Siltblog and some other folks thinkin it was the outsider masterpiece of the year. I'm here to tell you it is, even if it actually came out in 06. But, whatevs. Time's a bagattella. Point is, it worked then and it worked me over this week. On Shores, CoS channels a fussy blend of 80s Italian hardcore and contemporaries like Aluk Todolo (specifically songs like "Burial Ground" and the self-titled single) and Black Vomit into something sort of dementedly new. And like all great convoluters, they aren't quite technically up to those assignments, making the whole mess way more compelling to me. The cover of "She's Lost Control" is understandably impassioned, soaked in atonal dub singspeak and drums covered in sugar glass. Did I mention it's also really heavy?
Streams is rapidly becoming my favorite. I been squatting on a review of it for months now, tryin'ta to lay it down the way it laid me out. I mean, it's the vocals from Crash Action Winners doin "Hurricane Fighter Plane" backed by a dissonant-er Acid Drops, but still wasted and bleak enough to be called--there it is, again!--black metal. Hope making this was as much of a relevatory moment as hearing it. This is getting more play than anyone I know. Finland is definitely not for lovers.

Next up: 2x Lascowiec, Tomb Of..., Hills of Sefiroth/Sapthuran, and the self-released Peste Noire demos collection. Start the foam and light the piano; I'll be there in a minute.

*Ethel Merman+Burzum=Ethum Burzman. It's algebraic!

Feb 12, 2008

DO YOU KNEAD ANYBODY? The Better Beatles - Mercy Beat LP, Hook Or Crook

A friend of mine called me weeks back and left the following message: "Hey. I just wanted to call you...because I'm listening to Nick Cave and Lydia Lunch cover 'Some Velvet Morning'...? And it's...awful! It's... [long pause] uhhhhhhhhh!" Click. I figured I oughta find it out before I call back otherwise it'd just be more of that. Only when I heard it, I was at a comparable loss for appropriately-pissed-and-insulted jive. Of all the Top 20 horseysauce to mash your fingers in and call it painting! Why does "Some Velvet Morning" deserve a piss-take? Who wakes up in the morning, wonky and fried from the previous evening, and says, "That Lee Hazlewood is gonna get a piece of my mind today." What a tubesteak. Fuck a Nick Cave and fuck a Lydia Lunch. I hated the cover of "In the Ghetto", too, but I can at least understand which way it was going. It just happened to be stupid.

On the other hand, I've been spinning this Better Beatles LP for weeks now and it never gets tired. In fact, it's lit a little different every time. Some folk finna tell you this is some wry DIY cats from deep in the heart of Nebraska knockin' the Fat Four off their throne as some arty/pissy punk gesture, but I'm here to tell you that's some boiled air. I don't think it's anywhere near that incendiary. The indifference to the legend of these songs ("I'm Down", "Hello Goodbye", "Penny Lane", "Eleanor Rigby") is definitely in there, but the key is the exhaustion. How many times do you gotta hear "Penny Lane" as you're passin Big D one-oh-three good times/grating oldies before the craft and the beauty and all that is finally lost & you're psyched that JL is molting beneath the Earth? Not many. In fact, it probably already happened. So what you end up with is a song drained of whatever significance it had back when it was still wet from birth, wandering the airwaves like a lobotomized hippie trying to remind us of the days when music meant sumpthin. "Maybe," the Better Beatles might've pondered, "what these songs need is to literally sound exhausted and indifferent for once and, in doing so, they'll become new again; like a funny little awakening." Scott Soriano of Static Part/Crud Crud/Z-Gun/S-S Records fame said their take on "Penny Lane" got him to "actually appreciate the old saw and that is tough to do." Hey, what else are great covers for?

Get this on wax or plastic from Hook Or Crook or S-S Records, as I think Soriano's still got a few. And while you're at it, throw out your Nick Cave records. Do it for me. Do it for Lee.

Feb 7, 2008

OPEN MOUTH, WIPE SOCK, or A BIG SWEATY REPRIEVE - Blank Dogs - The Doorbell Fire 7", Sweet Rot Records, Repress

You know that dream where you're naked at school? Well, writing this here blargh is like living that: learning in public, naked.
While back I'm pretty sure I dug Blank Dogs a hole & told him to hop in. Now, I'm glad he didn't and I don't really know why I ever asked him in the first place. I'm sure I had some half-cocked reasoning where I drew some conclusions and judged the conclusions rather than what inspired them (i.e. the fucking music). Even if I'd been on to something, that's a bad system.
So just in time for The Doorbell Fire to get repressed so late-comers like me can froth and gape at our record players like you always dream of doing when you bring something home, I'm here to say I was wrong. There was and is something in this Blank Dogs business. Somebody somewhere maybe in person maybe on a screen pointed out the loner element, then it started to sink in. (What can I say? I'm a slow poke in the thinkin dept.) So I listened to it all anew and ended up liking it much more. That was a lil more than a week back. Now I've had plenty of time to live with them under new circumstances. If it were a perfecter world, "Outside Alarmer," one of the B-sides on this record, would be trumpin that Times New Viking business as one of them there anthem thangs of last year.
The thing I'm starting to appreciate is how familiarly-unfamiliar all the noises are on this and the other BD releases. The first few notes of the A-side coulda been lifted from the opening of Steve Treatment's "Danger Zone", but then it drops me somewhere where the clothes and food are the same, maybe even the same stores, but my shoes are on the opposite feet and the hummus pita in my hand's turned into a wad of chicken wire. How'm I gonna get outta here? Am I sure I want to?
I don't think so!
Whatever prompted my earlier attitude or my current 1 isn't really important, right? What's important is I got over it and have something else to spend my money on. There are no proper venues on the island, so why not play the front yard? You bring your equipment, Mr. Dogs, and we can run them through the stereo on the second floor. Deal? I'll have the papers to you in a fortnight.



Whilst I wait for my order from Northern Sky Productions, so I can continue on my black metal filibuster, there ain't no use in sitting all up on my hands. So usually you have to pay for good music? So what? That don't mean there ain't places you can go to get it gratis, and I'm not talkin bout no multi-digited discount neither. Lost Frog works both sides of the street: the official, physical, ducet-requiring releases and the for-the-taking mp3 albums, both from a litany of international and domestic white people. Oh, and Tsuyama Atsushi of AMT etc and someone called Tenouti Yomezou, repping Lost Frog's Nippon origins. A chunk of it is made up of bike ensembles and Sockeye. Rather than write about songs named "Poopy Dildos, Mommy", I figured I'd actually write some things I legit enjoyed.

Avarus - Arus (LF061MP3)

Great thang bout these Finnish boys is you always know what to expect. They gots a keen collective ear for what parts of a druggy, stumbly rollick are worth sending to friends and family and which are best committed to closets and boxes. Plenty of ink has been spilled bout the Finnish underground--which I'm pretty sure nullifies the underground part--so I will say this is a fine and free way to get your foot in if you're lookin to do so.

R. Stevie Moore - Hobbies Galore (LF060MP3)
See, it's kinda awesome being ignorant to lots of things, movements, people, because at some point, logic would follow, you'll have a moment when that changes. And if you go around proporting to have already seen and done it, those moments will pass and you'll be left wondering whose life you've been trying to augment with that attitude. Good luck to you. I was completely ignorant of Mr. Moore until earlier this week and his 5-decade contribution to homemade musics.
"Yeah so it's historically significant. Is it actually good?" For rill. As a matter of fact, it's only historically significant in a temporal sense; I doubt many folks have been stealing from him over the years. That's because most of what he pedals on this 16-track career-spanning best-of is legit tunesmithery. A little bit skewed, but never the same way twice. Sometimes it's the hospital-gowned Syd Barrett kinda-skewed, and, on "Don't Let Me Go to the Dogs," it's the Dennis Wilson sort. Fans of Nick Nicely will also appreciate this in a way I can't quite unpack.

Tsuyama Atsushi - Raichou (LF073MP3)
Atsushi's kinda the unsung Acid Mother, or maybe just one of the less-exposed. Then ya hear something like Raichou and it makes even less sense than when you marvel at his playing in AMT. Somewhere there is a leather- and fur-covered time portal, and you know when you find it, Atsushi will be holding the flap open. So go on in; not like it's costing you a cent.

Stop stealing for a minute and go get these (& many others).

Jan 26, 2008

BURLY, WOODY, JAMES, AND SOMETIMES CANADIAN - Aquarius drops another Black Metal bundle at my door

I've been runnin thru some kinda Euler circuit lately, taking deserved breaks between selling folks lottery tickets/Dorals (well, Parliaments and Newports, mostly) and drawing mythologies about omnipotent beings who always make large-scale mistakes so's I can check the pee-oh box for new jams. It was a long road getting to this order, since releases were appearing and vanishing like they do. But Aquarius is good to me. They're starting to understand that I will take my order in dribbles so long as I get some-bleedin-thang.
Well, the circuit is broken. I got my order. 2 of 'em ain't black metal related in the slightest and one's another Drommer cd-r, which is only tangentially black metal-related (as redundant as that sounds). Today, we're sticking to the guys in black. Rest'vem got too many colors.

VARGHKOGHARGASMAL - Call of the Raven demo tape, German, Funeral Agency re-release, 2006
Literally every part of this release represents why I love the black metal. We'll start with the cover and work inward, cuz that strikes me as the most kvlty approach. The cover is a take on the creepy forest iconography I was getting super-tired of, but considering this is also labelled as "Wooden Metal!" on the little part of the J-card, not only does it make sense in an obvious and thematic way (which is very metal), it also looks like a blockprint of a rotting 2x4. Lo and Beherit, inside it reads, "This demo tape was recorded for nature and in total hate to the human race which is destroying it!!!" Which human race? Oh, THAT one. It also informs me this is the...2nd edition? The 2nd edition of a demo tape? Clinging like a shirtless Stallone to the format, guys. That's commitment. What makes this the 2nd edition is that it includes 2 songs from their official 7" ep. A quick look-up on the humming and glowing box on my dresser tells me the 7" is 2 songs. So, really, the 2nd edition of the demo tape is the discography.
By now I'm totally immersed and I haven't even heard a note. Basically, black metal is like the outsider art of the totally uninteresting and rollicking towards a nudge-nudge joke or a symbolic economy that is contemporary art--I mean, contemporary metal. Contemporary metal is about speed and theatrics. Black metal, you mightcould say, is about sound as soul and theater. Same way you had to dash your prior thinkin 'bout jazz structures the 1st time you heard Ayler or Schlippenbach or any of those guys and remember what you were actually listening to was new forms of "soul" music, great black metal is like some unholy, messy palette-cleaner.

So now the tape is in the deck and the reels are rolling. Varghkoghargasmal sounds like a two-piece but I guess it's a solo affair by a cat named Avenger. He don't use no distortion--no buzz! no hiss!--and there ain't no vocals. But there are some occasional field recordings. (Wind is the new bass.) So, without two of the major touchstones of the black metal thang removed, what am I left with? Basically, a strange little mystery. Varghkoghargasmal could be any of those mysterious bands on Songs from the Lowland or Big Southern Hits or any of the Kiwi DIY comps. Raith Rovers! It's an angry, long-form Raith Rovers! Or maybe Jane Dancing...without the dancing. At times, this is downright pretty, even when the drums are wandering off down an alley or squeezing and bulging like a stress ball. I would say somebody oughta tell Avenger he can stop recording by hitting "pause," but then I'd be left without all the cue marks. There should be more cue marks in music. There should be more Varghkoghargasmal in my life. Except now I have everything. Stupid second editions, ruining everything.

GEHEIMNIS - Das Negras Montanhas demo tape, Brazilian, Gungnir Productions, 2005
See, but then there's Brazil. I don't know what it is about Brazilian black metal, but once they stop working from Sarcofago and Vulcano LPs and start trying to be Norwegian, I'm lost and hurrying away. This is really short (so many of these tapes are secretly one-sided) and not terribly exciting. And it ends with the kind of mopey guitar ballad that could bookend a One AM Radio ep but somehow ends up on most of these releases. (
Varghkoghargasmal is an exception! And Korium!)
Not changing my world, not even changing my socks.

JABLADAV - Black as Pitch demo tape, North Carolina, self-released, 2007
Another could-be-two-piece, but again, James is all by his lonesome, doing duty on guitars, vocals, and drumbs. Jabladav is much in line with Weakling, as far as the riff-as-drone theory and the smart-mark approach. Weakling came from smart-mark metalheads Fucking Champs. Thankfully, this never gets smarmy-clever. This sounds less record-clerk than Weakling ever did. Songs are shorter, too. And when he does a quieter track, it still sounds like it was produced by Mike Dixon or Fenriz. James gets all busted-concrete tunnel on the vocals. This is amazingly heavy and creepy for a guy counting talk radio and The Simpsons among his influences. Dial this up.

AUFKREMA - Rehearsals 2002-2003 tape, Quebec, Tour de Garde, 2003
Another thing I love about black metal is being put in positions where judgment becomes irrelevant. Sometimes it's through an intensely personal, almost internal approach. Sometimes it's by being so obtuse, I find I'm trying to develop stage plays to act out what I'm hearing so it makes more sense. Sometimes it's by exposing parts of the creative process most of us aren't used to or necessarily have any interest in peepin in at. How am I supposed to judge improvised rehearsals from 5 years ago, especially from two dudes who haven't released anything else?
Well, I guess I'll start with details. The booklet has a long explanation about there needing to be more spontaneity in metal and I was going to do go on a similarly lengthy rant about how that's an excuse to feel creatively justified in releasing what most people would consider unfinished music, since you're still calling them "rehearsals," but then I realized that's a weak argument. Basically philosophy is a supermarket full of differently colored and scented bullshit that people peruse and decide which needs to come home with them. Something we don't know may or may not be doing something that may or may not be affecting another thing--that's what our knowledge amounts to. In black metal, there are no bands; there are only movements. If Aufkrema consider themselves a movement toward a looser, improv-friendly French Canadian black metal scene, who am I to argue how legitimate that is? If you decide you aren't going to affect the rest of the world for most of your life, which is more personally rewarding: making music in your basement with people you love and trust or sitting in a brick building thinking about fish?
Do I like this? I'm not sure it matters. For the count, the parts themselves are kind of generic with some okay riffs and jars of absurdly fast percussion. Going from one part to another isn't causing me to levitate out of my seat, so as a movement it doesn't really hit me. Who knows. A Quebecois (or Quebecoise!) kid might hear this and fill his briefs.
I say, let the movements flow.