Tuesday, June 29, 2004

The Fifth

OK, this is hard. Really, any number of albums deserve to be here--Amps for Christ's The People at Large, Fennesz's Venice (thanks in large part to a guest vocal from the one and only David Sylvian), Six Organs of Admittance's For Octavio Paz, Sunn O)))'s White 2 (also thanks to a guest vocal from Mayhem's Attila Csihar), Joanna Newsom's The Milk-Eyed Mender, Zucanican's Jarr CD-R, The Sky Green Leopards' One Thousand Bird Ceremony, which was originally set to be the fifth in this list, and what about that awesome new FALL record? And I haven't even heard Glenn Jones's new one. Holy Smokes!--so yeah, there's just no shortage of great, mind-bending musical outage to soak up with the brain sponge right now.


I'm gonna have to reach back to the beginning of the year and give it to Ghost. The Japanese prog/folk lords have never sounded better than they do on Hypnotic Underworld (Drag City), never infused their ornate, dynamic folk rock with such accessibility and humanism. Sure the opening four part jazz/psych title track seems like an alienating way to start, but listen closer, listen deeper. No other sequence would've really made sense. So, that is all for now. In six months, I reserve the right to completely change my mind. If you want to know what this record actually sounds like, see my review at Free City. One love from below.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

The Fourth

Loretta Lynn Van Lear Rose(Interscope) I really could give a corn husk if you think Jack White's an asshole. Roman Polanski's an admitted pedophile. I still love Chinatown. I happen to think Mr. White's an asshole too, but I enjoy my White Stripes seedeez all the same, and I have to give the man props for helping Loretta Lynn, the first female singer I ever loved, make the album of her career. This may not be her best, but it's as good as anything she's done, and one of the most moving records I've EVER heard. This is probably the record of 04, and I don't give a flying squirrel if Details agrees or not. Quite simply a masterpiece.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Addendum to Charalambides thoughts: They're a duo again, Heather has relocated to Scotland (lucky!). Read an informative, up-to-date interview at Foxy Digitalis.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

The Third

Charalambides Joy Shapes (Kranky) Almost ten years ago the trio known as Charalambides showed me how to see. And what I saw was a Market Square littered with false hopes and strangled emotions, haunted by regret, but alive and breathing all the same. It's hard to put into words just what Charalambides do, but back then it was something akin to a reimagining of classic acid folk (English and American) filtered through the Dead C's murky style-grinder and written in glowing red dust across the Texas night sky. If you hear Market Square, you could think it sounds like Texas must look, yet the members would claim that that was hardly their intention, especially given the closed in claustrophobia of their home, Houston. It's not hard to hear it as a reaction to such clutter though.

Fast forward almost a decade, through a move to Austin, plenty of limited LP and CD-R releases, signing to Chicago's Kranky, another migration (Christina and Heather to Philly, Tom to San Francisco), and we find ourselves at an equally revealing vantage point. Joy Shapes functions as something of a summary of this remarkable band's existence. Almost everything here relates to what has come before and draws a concave arc between their earliest duo recordings and their more ambitious, minimalist inspired works of today. There are actual lyrics on almost all of the songs, but this ain't yo mamma's pop. Tracks like the title track do seem more accessible and revealing than other recent works though, thanks largely to Christina and Heather's incredibly gripping vocal performances. Think Buffy Sainte Marie crossed with Patty Waters' out vocal acrobatics for reference points. But it's that lysergic meandering/layered acoustic/electric guitar sound with Tom's incredible slide drones and squiggles augmented by Heather's pedal steel that proves most familiar and alluring, at least at first.

This is a devastating record, but one that slowly, and brilliantly, reveals the light of hope across the expanse of its five extended songs. There's a darkness early on, followed by the crackle of morning light. A crawling beam of light slowly heats cold dew across the day before the sun sets and reveals a purple/gray blur of patient resolve in the shimmering sky. No words can describe what I'm feeling, but it can be heard in the last track. And the body will tremble.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

The Second

Animal Collective Sung Tongs (Big Cat) These lads love their kitties, making them fertile enjoyment for all cat people/acid poppers the world over. They are sweet, cute and have silly stage personas through which they make a kind of new pop or post pop racket that seems indebted to practically every major stylistic pop shift over the last 40 years, but I'll just stick with rubbin' my belly and talkin' in my sleep as I explore this whirlin' dervish of aural revelry. Who cares where it came from? IT IS HERE.

"Leaf House" sounds like some sort of mutant art deco pop collage with incredible layered vocal chants, warbles and friendly how-do-you-do's? peppered throughout its tingling/thumping expanse. "Who Could Win a Rabbit" is fake hillbilly folk-pop, very mountainous and giggly. Much of the rest of the way, as on the crawling dream pop of "The Softest Voice" and the extended gastrointestinal droneland of "Visiting Friends," the lads embody some of the dreamiest headphones ready mind massage heard since George Harrison murmured about his friends losing their way on "Bluejay Way." Rarely does a record combine this kind of energy with a constant narcotic haze to such consistently thrilling effect. This is an album to blur the boundaries of genres, dimensions...emotions. Fans of Smile era Beach Boys, Krautrock, drum circles, hiphop and dream machines need to pry this pandora's box open sooner than later.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Halfway to a Threeway:

Here we are at the midpoint of 2004, and I have assembled a short list of my favorite soundz to date, which will be posted in five parts:

The First

Devendra Banhart Rejoicing in the Hands (Young God) I really dig DB's debut, but this is his great soul-bearing statement, one of those rare instances when a performer says "I'm almost done recording my new album, and it's a LOT better than the last one," and actually means it. These 16 tracks traverse the lonesome heart of America with the same familial longing of a Mississippi John Hurt (check out "This is the Way") and explore abstract song stories and ambitious structures in a way that's probably more indebted to Fred Neil, yet passed through the idiosyncratic jazz/soul filter of a Nina Simone. There's a hint of Leonard Cohen in the Spanish tinged acoustic guitar of "A Sight To Behold," a tad of Fahey in the short sweet solo instrumental, "Tit Smoking in the Temple of Artesan Mimicry" and even a bit of Vashti Bunyan on the title track--she lends her considerable vocal talents.

But all in all it's Devendra in all his unique sun-kissed glory singing in everything from frilly falsetto to heart-aching Espanol. There is depth here, but it's combined with the familiarity of a very old friend (albeit one you've never met before) and delivered in a voice I've never heard before. Could he truly be "The One"?

Thursday, June 17, 2004

The nervous splendor of anticipation...

The above is more than just a Pengo reference. It's dangerous to want something. Life is often just a vague chess board with no real rules and far too many pawns, but closer examination reveals plenty of rules, some made by da man, some self imposed, with and without the aid of deities.

So what's my effin' point? No idea. No, my effin' point is I went with some friends to a rock showww, a rilly big shewww, but not that big: Montreal's Unicorns, Arcade Fire and another band which escapes me. Everyone there was dealing with his/her own expectations, drinking up, chit-chatting, standing, sitting, smoking, rolling...

Openers Arcade Fire were the big surprise of the night for me. They were a young groop of nerds and cuties, 7 or so, sounding a whole lot like a new wave version of an Elephant 6 band, or a wackier version of the Pixies, which means they reminded of early Elf Power. Live, it was an impressive, droney harmonic pop sound with enough "edge" to satisfy my punkometer.

But, HEY! I was there for Elf Power, I mean the Unicorns, as were most of the capacity crowd, and having seen them before, I KNEW what to expect! They were allright, nothing too incredible in the larger scheme of things, yet good enough to prove amazing at three different points in their 55 min set. Few bands get such funky chunks of freak-pop from the post Beefheart/Velvets canon. Having seen them before, and simply having been around the block, I also knew what to expect banter wise and was not surprised when one of the Uni's shouted "Hello, DALLUUUHSS" over and over even though we were all in Denton. This made me chuckle to no end--Dallas is just down the road--but apparently other people were gettin' angry, and a bit pissy, and I found myself scoping the nearest emergency exits as the fire-trap scenarios played over in my mind. Yes, it was damn hot in that place, but the quality of little/big shewww justified my sweat, bebe. Moral of the story? Never expect more than a sarcastic dismissal.

In different news: The Swans are one of the greatest bands in history, more to come on that front. New Bardo Pond w/Tom Carter CD on 3-Lobed is amazing, surpassing their collab work with Roy Montgomery. Joy Shapes is also a remarkable work, me thinks. Let's hope it's not a parting shot.

Monday, June 14, 2004

a drunken post...

After having the new Devendra Banhart CD for a couple weeks now, I can say it is a bit of a masterpiece. Watch him play A Sight to Behold on the Jools Holland BBC show to get a sweet taste. Hijacked from Stephen O'Malley's site.

Saw the Acid Mothers in Austin last night with the Primordial Undermind and another, lesser interesting band, and I must say I still love the Acid Mothers but wish their studio albums were mixed a bit better. La Novia is still the best one.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

The following is a contribution I made to Foxy Digitalis, probably the best weird music e-zine situated out of the midwest, or is that the only one? They cover my favorite artists regularly, including the one and only Steven R. Smith (Thuja, Mirza, Hala Strana) most recently...

No DoctorsHunting Season (Go Johnny Go) CD.

Despite all suggestions to the contrary, there has been something of a lull in worthy blasted garage punk records lately. Too many groups out there are taking the easy way out and copping the White Stripes already borrowed moves (thank you, AC/DC!) to churn out a predictable brand of “garage stomp” that’s about one step down the latter from Lenny Kravitz in terms of worthlessness. Don’t get me wrong, I dig the White Stripes, but what’s up with this IPOD sound prop shit? Bands like Brooklyn’s Oneida, Santa Cruz’s Comets on Fire, and Dunedin’s Futurians are doing their best to keep it real while laying down an intense noise law that lesser tike’s best heed, but it’s the mighty No Doctors from Minneapolis who are burning the constitution and pretty much starting from scratch. The infectiously bleak hypno-blues skronk of Hunting Season is one of the most singularly pulverizing and simultaneously necessary punk (or is it jazz?) records I’ve heard in almost a decade.

Those who dare venture through this dark alley should be prepared to be accosted by a murky, raw fidelity, stumbling presentation and multipart mongrel shouts and caterwauls. No Doctors are just like the name implies: a messy, untrained band of rabblerousing glue-sniffers who seemingly have little in terms of technical ability, but an endless supply of anarchistic spirit which, combined with the former, somehow manifests as compelling barn-burning riff explosions punctuated with the kind of maniacal acid guitar leads and stabbing sax blurts that tickle the libido like electrodes attached directly to the nipples.

This sort of stumbling noise/art punk thing is a tricky business though. Hundreds of bands attempt to mine aural gold from clattering chaos, and largely waste our time and theirs in the process. I felt a similar distress with No Doctors’ self titled debut album on Freedom From, which I actually quite liked, but also thought seemed a bit too intent on a kind of scaled back, lopsided Beefheart blues that simply lacked balls. Every one of these firebombs is a munition waiting to be fired though. The lurching blues of bookends, “Ketheric Boner Template” and “Yonic Scintilla Redux” work more as a conceit than a signifier, where “Campaign Special” up-shifts to a Flying Luttenbachers worthy spazz-crunch on its intro, before breaking into primal blues punk that sounds sort of like Dial M For Motherfucker era Pussy Galore bashing out mid 90s ‘Luttenbachers, and pretty much sets the blueprint for what’s to follow: Basic skeletal blues riffs are pounded, carved, coaxed and mangled with a malice not witnessed since the Velvet Underground burned down Chicago in 1968 with extended sonic meltdowns emanating from the core of a three hour version of “Sister Ray” (which is something I only dreamt, but theoretically possible), only that intensity is squeezed into ten songs here, just over 34 minutes of primordial blues punk.

Listeners may be repelled on first listens, but those with a thirst for raw power should have no trouble realizing just how visionary these young lads can be, and how the abhorrent production is actually one of the record’s strongest assets. Hunting Season is a brutal slab of raw punk jazz that deftly answers the call of a war torn world with its own feral call to arms, succinctly summed up in the blistering, “O Say Can You See”—“Step up to the mic. / Would you rather ride on a bike? / HELL NO!” Move over, MOAB; there’s a new turf-blaster in town.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Reynols & Birchville Cat Motel Split LP! (Reverse Records) Edition of 208 on 180 g vinyl.

And here's another fruitful split LP--been hearing quite a few lately, getting further and further from any kind of 12 tone musicality, sinking deeper into the most primitive regions of the minimal droneisphere. These two abstract noise makers have achieved a modicum of cult world success while playing the game by their own rules. In case you couldn't tell, I respond to these types well, and none more so in recent months than Campbell Kneale's Birchville Cat Motel, a one man band that works relentlessly in a cluttered laboratory somewhere in Lower Hutt, NZ to conjure the kind of man-made divinity bridges that remind us that god can be known, even if only conceptually, through a bit of ye old sustained drone.

Argentina's Reynols enjoy a similar perspective of the spiral universe as well. The unconventional trio has made a clatterous, drone racket for damn near a decade at this point I'd guess. Maybe longer. They just seemed to burrow up from the Argentinean pampas one day howling and stumbling through the thick green mist about impending apocalypse and new cosmic order. Just what that order is, I can't exactly say, but I think head Reynols Miguel Tomas­n has it all mapped out in his bulbous head. I do know that, like BCM, these lads approach enlightenment and minimal restraint from a decidedly primitive and dilapidated angle. In their world trash compactors and streetcleaners can yield the aural ooze of a million years knowledge in just over say, 19 minutes. Music is everywhere you see, an instrument can be anything, and one merely need set his internal tuner to recieve to hear it all.

Both of these ensembles do it well across the span of this limited, pricey and ultimately quite gone (literally and metaphorically) audiophile LP on the Danish Reverse imprint. The label is blank, which seems only fitting since the listener can't so easily discern who's making what racket, and given both pieces of music build from a piercing, minimal, layered drone to something more imposing, the label ambiguity is probably intentional. Fans will be able to tell which is which though. Both bands are strong proponents of the so called life drone--that is the sustained harmonics that permeate all existence. John Cage might've called it indeterminism. These lads might just call it noise, but I'd rather think of as some sort of tonal portal to higher consciousness with no real beginning or end, just a constant room drowning aauumm to swim through and explore.

Friday, June 04, 2004


Tacky is the brainchild of one Jebediah Farklicky aka Jess Ellingsworth. The St. Louise native has been making his own peculiar brand of skronky electro pop since he first picked up (and accidentally dropped) a guitar at age 6. The resulting clatter was dubbed "Love Song in F Flat" and became a small regional hit on his street and surrounding neighborhood. After mastering drums and dropping out of highschool by the age of 13, he lived communally with a skater punk band Typhoid Mary and was soon named one of the original St. Louise Seven, a band of transvestite skate punks known for burning down old churches.

By 18, Farklicky had started his own noise band in the Throbbing Gristle mold, Organized Static, and achieved massive success on a very minute scale. One live show apparently boasted 7 different spectators, 3 of which were not even employees of the club, Filthy Jack's Boogy Shack. The next couple years of Farklicky's life are largely disputed. Some say he worked as a roadie and personal massuer for the Flaming Lips, during which time he learned how to injest every illegal substance known to man. Others claim he spent time in the Far East as a Buddhist monk/fucktoy. Still others say he attempted to start the first man-on-man brothel in Missouri with a few elderly investors--it was apparently only in business for three days before being firebombed, that is if it existed at all. Historical records are spotty. During this time, Jeb developed a sick fascination with crude noise: ambient noise, environmental noise, planes passing over, cars passing by, can's being poptopped, high heels clomping, amp buzz, fridge hum, fart trickle--anything and everything became fodder for the ever-evolving trashcan symphony in his mind.

By age 24, Jeb hooked up with St. Louise shit rockers, Dead Meat, who were annoyingly ruthless in their aural dissection of the most primitive impulses of truckdrivers and priests. In reality they were sort of like a cross between GG Allin and Spinal Tap (I realize this seems redundant), and released more limited albums than the number of people that had actually ever heard them. This mega-ellitist release schedule earned them reams of respect by those tastemakers in the highest eschelons of the sub underground strata, but people still accused them of being unredeemable jokers and shockmeisters. This, along with worsening drug abuse of the members, surreal images of costumed crackheads stepping through a gigantic vagina on stage, and the quasi ritual ODing of the lead singer on stage as he was brained with a guitar proved too damaging for Jeb's fragile psyche. His time in the 'Meat was over.

By then, Farklicky had amassed an impressive collection of stolen albums and shitty fidelity mp3s by bands or "musical outlaws" with imposing names like Whitehouse, Orthrelm, Nurse With Wound, Kraftwerk (pre disco), the Pop Group, This Heat and the Slits which inspired him to keep making "music" with or without his camrades. As were many in the free world, Farklicky also found himself wholly immersed in the neo funk/r&b pop mastery of recent albums by Justin Timberlake and Missy Elliot, both produced with hiphop golden boy, Timberland.

Jeb had no, and to this day, has no formal musical training, but his vision knows no bounds. Around this time he also began writing screenplays and making movies inspired by his love of Samuel Fuller, Ed Wood, Ron Jeremy and Russ Meyer.

Enter the present day and Tacky; the two piece art disco punk funk party is the culmination of Jeb's Kung Fu like exploration of the world which even took him to the bay area in California ("The West is the best."--Jim Morrison) where he befriended, kidnapped and eventually wooed a young woman named Regan Springhausen to join in his eventual musical conquest of all mankind. Tacky is not like the name. Tacky is sexy, rambunctious, funktacious and most of all darker than the inside of a donkey's rectum.

Jeb sums it up best: "I'm trying to create a kind of Whitehouse meets Justin Timberlake vibe for the live sound. Like
"death pop" 3D slide shows, dancing, lights, soulful vocal showmanship, revolutionary 'Fuck Da Man!' vocals, using a turntable, samplers, guitars, drum machines, musical toys from the dollar store, guitar pedals, sampling kids albums and christian records and even perry como. Its all sort of in the vein of mocking by rocking."

Tacky is fo' rizzle.

Dr. Yertly Manteetnees,
Comfort, TX.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Really excited by the "creative resurgence" of Zhang Yimou, whose early films (Red Sorghum, Raise the Red Lantern, etc) are some of the most sadly poetic and hypnotic ruminations on Chinese culture and tradition ever set to celluloid. In a way comparable to Ang Lee, who scored with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and blundered about as effectively with Hulk, Yimou has broadened his scope, stepping away from the somewhat stilted realism of his late 90s work into pure legend with classic Honk Kong fantasy/action influences, but there's still that amazing sense of the mysterious and transcendental (think of Akira Kurosawa's mythical, revolving perspective eplorations of historic Japan) that's marked all his best work. Last year's Hero with Jet Li was a strong and successful experiment in the "genre," but House of Flying Daggers has genuine masterpiece potential. Exciting may be an understatement.
ARTHUR is a really fine, if not overly plugged in/elitist art rag, and it's free (or at least it was in stores at one time). Thurston Moore and Byron Coley write the reviews column (which has covered everything from Wolf Eyes/Black Dice to the incredible Don't Forget to Boogie! solo album by Tetuzi Akiyama on Idea Records and the amazing Sun City Girls 2LP reissues in Eclipse). In terms of presentation and coverage, you won't find a more well assembled subcultural chronicle than this one. I've read articles on old guards like Sun Ra and the MC5, and features on up and comers like Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsom, "sexual artists", etc. Now, they're even releasing CD's on the inhouse Bastet imprint, first of which is a modern underground folk sampler compiled by the one and only funky chipmunky, Devendra Banhart, and the second a live album by the phenomenally righteous downtuned ambient sludge monster, SUNNNO))), which just might be the coolest wolfer-rattling noise demon to make a guttural howl since Masami Akita sodomized Dylan Carlson in a Turkish prison.
The Day After Yesterday

Last night I found myself in the path of a tornado, and I wish I could type more, but my fingers have since webbed together into these nasty malformed stump mittens.

It was hairy, people.

At one point a friend came running in from outside yelling "HOLY SHIT!" as he grabbed the nearest mattress and then herded us all into the bathroom, only to dash back out to get the weed and bong, in case we were stranded for any kind of long term. He swore he saw a funnel cloud just left of the house, we were sure the end was like, upon us, dude.

The electricity went out repeatedly, and it was so creepy when it popped back on just as an announcer said over a loud buzz on the TV: "People in the Arlington and Mansfield areas need to take cover immediately!" and there we were, nestled right on the Arlington/Mansfield border, wondering if a tornado really does sound like Godzilla's roar when it's upon you.

What's worse, every time the power went out, I had this odd habit of jumping up to my feet, shouting "I got the FEAR!" and disappearing into the guest bedroom. But...The storm passed some 40 mins later, and I breath still, albeit with an ever cautious tremor.

On the bright side, the drive home was a truly mystical experience with massive lightning webs flickering across every corner of the night sky as I rocked it old-school to Joy Division's "Substance". I love that shit.