Sunday, October 31, 2004

Charlie Tweddle self-recorded (in ‘71) and privately released (in ’74) “Fantastic Greatest Hits” (Companion Records) in an edition of 500. It’s a stoned mix of ramshackle country psych pop and more dusted sound collage strangeness. Take the first track: a simple bit of plaintive folk-pop, like Dylan jamming with the Fugs. It’s a brilliant little number because on the surface it’s just a quaint relic of the 60s, but buried a bit deeper in the mix are gorgeous acid coaxed electric squiggles and trills, and rambling bass, that all morph into the sounds of animal farm life in the morning. Yes, I am suggesting that this sounds like something that might be found on the Jewelled Antler label today. Other tracks are closer to run-down mescaline-soaked versions of Folkways gems with just enough tape and studio trickery to make them quite absorbing. A loan howl mutates into a jarring blast of distortion. Warped fiddle or tape noise inform almost every song, which are mostly nothing more than acoustic and/or electric guitars and a foot stomp, clap or lone cymbal crash. The last half of the album is a collage of drones, insect and night sounds meshed together, all just in time for a hippie Halloween.

Saturday, October 30, 2004


…“These Villages” (Soft Abuse) is Steven R. Smith’s third album under the Hala Strana name. I’ve come to the conclusion that what Smith does here is comparable to what Alan Lomax used to do with home and field recording. It has a similar warped, out of time quality. Traditional and untraditional instruments coexist in a frail harmony with occasional ambient sounds. But instead of capturing traditionalists in their homes and on the street, Smith conjures all the strange musical spirits of old Eastern Europe himself, combining a wide array of plucked and bowed string instruments, percussion and more with digital and analog recording techniques into something unique, and quite beautiful. His production is the perfect sound-bed for these grinding scrapes, haunting drones and more to become entangled and occasionally flower into incandescent sound dreams ranging from the most minimal piano strike to damaged chamber folk swells. So much is covered in a record that suggests the world psych devotions of Popol Vuh, Tony Conrad, early Velvet Underground, Jewelled Antler Collective and more.

Friday, October 29, 2004

At one point during the eclipse Wednesday night the moon actually resembled a glowing pumpkin, slowly reaching a darker shade of blood red. I watched it from the parking lot of a rundown apartment building on the edge of downtown. Despite the seemingly mundane surroundings, it was dark enough, and there was just enough space between leaves of the surrounding wall of trees to see it fine. At one point I actually thought I could see a sliver of a beam of the sun skirting the top edge of the moon, but it was probably just the blur of slight cloud cover. I was enjoying the near silence, but it would've been nice to have Simon Finn's "Silent City Creep" (Durtro) running through my brain right about then. I know a thing or two about the silent city creeps among us. This CD EP may have only been sold at the recent concerts, but it was easy enough to hunt down otherwise, and totally worth it too since it easily rivals his work on "Pass the Distance." Think it was recorded in '04 and has a slightly more controlled atmosphere across five songs of surprisingly potent song-writing. The more damaged inclinations of Distance are less visible in favor of early Cohenesque somberness and poignant, vivid word strings. The Ivytree's "Winged Leaves" takes a more ethereal glance at the earth and moon spirits. Glenn Donaldson's follows up to his album under the Birdtree moniker comes as 12 more environmentally induced folk pop blissouts. It's artfully packaged by Catsup Plate, eloquently littered with minimal ethnic drones and fractured folk lullabys, featuring Glenn's fragile, pop vocal to stunning effect. Tanakh's "Dieu Deuil" (Alien8) on the other hand is a decidedly more full band affair. Jesse Poe's first album after his relocation to Italy (there's a newer one that just came out) is stronger than the debut. Brings together a broad diversity of musical cultures into haunting, direct folk-pop/chamber music that always exhibits a darker, hazier undercurrent. Makes me think of Dirty Three, Mr. Cohen and Fred Neil. Sterling psych production all around. Kemialliset Ystävät's "Alkuhärkä" (Fonal) is the best LP I've heard from the Finnish free folksters yet. It's kind of hard to describe what they do accurately--there are precursors in the clattery drone blues jazz of No-Neck Blues Band, the stoned trance grooves of prime Krautrock--yet this is a genuinely unique, hypnotic, original merging of the living and the long dead into vivid aural spirits. The songs are short, making it all the more impressive the impact KY can have in just under 90 seconds.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

First Greg Shaw, founder of Bomp zine and Records, dies of heart failure. He was one of the first and loudest proponents of the underground in the US, and still was to his dying day. And now John Peel, the greatest DJ in radio history, dies of a heart attack in Peru. Peel was a force of positivity and beauty in a soulless industry. He championed the coolest punk bands, recorded astonishing Peel Sessions albums for some of my favorites (Can, The Fall, Wire, This Heat, Napalm Death to name a few), and he refused to bow to corporate suggestion. The diversity of his programming was unparalleled. He loved EVERYTHING in the music world, that is if it was worth loving. No bad genres, just bad music. He didn't play the game like the dickless wonders in control of American commercial radio. He was real. He will be missed. More info here.
My Smile dream has come true. I just watched Brian Wilson and an ensemble of 18 play a wide variety of BB hits and Smile in its entirety. Seeing that old pillsbury dough boy on stage was sort of like watching Davy Crockett wrestle a bear *wink*. A mystical experience? You bet ya.

I swear this is my last Beach Boys remark for at least a day.

np: Maher Shalal Hash Baz "What's Your Business Here, Elijah?"

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Wouldn't it be nice if we were retarded?

I've largely put away my psychedelic experiments for the sake of cognition these days, but this is pretty cool. Insanity seems quite appealing sometimes. Or at least retardation. Maybe because we eventually realize that so much of what we're taught in school is kind of a joke. Justice is criminal. Criminals are folk heroes. Your average fool actually has a direct link to God, and the King is quite simply a dick. It's not like I wanna live in some lax, hippie dippy dream. That'd just be another lie, but I don't want life to be a Jerry Bruckheimer movie, either. Who needs sanity in this world, today? NOT I! So many mentally ill dot our sidewalks and collect at our library steps, and they're so much more real than what's seen on TV and read about in textbooks: These people who slowly seep from public buildings and subway terminals, like the opening shot in "Spider" where the title character deliberates for a small eternity just to take one step off a train.

Brian Wilson has deliberated much longer when it comes to the myth of "Smile." The failed Beach Boys album was shelved near completion do to Wilson's mental collapse, or paranoid psych-out. Both theories have validity. Stress, drug complications, doubt among his closest supporters -- all convinced Bri that he was barking up the wrong tree with his wacky concept album about the splendor of America (now that's kind'a poetic). What should've been a worthy follow-up to one of the greatest albums in history became the greatest album never made, a self-imposed curse up there with Mike Love's promotion to head Beach Boy. Aside from myriad bootlegs of half finished instrumental "feels" and a few songs emerging on other albums over the next five years, most noticeably the title track to "Surf's Up" and of course "Good Vibrations" and "Heroes and Villains," Wilson deemed it all "inappropriate" and usually scowled when the subject was broached in interviews. Just what did he mean by "inappropriate" anyway? The Syd Barrett of today, who goes by a different name, has no interest in his past or the Pink Floyd legacy. He stopped shining long ago. The specter of hindsight looms large in these cases, and its shadow can reach for years. Wilson's had to deal with his own well publicized demons in the 37 years since "Smile" wasn't finished. The measure of his failure, like the myth of the record, ballooned up larger than it ever should have, but then let's admit it: If revolutions ever happened in pop music, they happened in 1967, and "Smiley Smile" was all too obviously a patchwork attempt as salvaging something greater. As a metaphor for the promise and failure of the so-called American Dream, you couldn't find a finer example.

So in the end, here we are in late 2004. Brian has premiered "Smile" live on stage in London and followed it up with a brand new, painstakingly assembled, version of his lost opus, drawn entirely from archival tapes of the original mixes. This was obviously the only way to go, because the arrangements and harmonies are intense, acid sent or heaven sent, and it shows that even back in 66, Brian was still going deeper than most ever will, and even rubbing elbows with his heroes in the process. It's a massive accomplishment by any stretch of the imagination, and even a bit of a crowd-pleaser. Wilson doesn't have the golden boy croon of a 24 year old any more, but he sounds more than up to this task, and his voice is strong. His emotions, palpable. His arrangements artful, and occasionally unique to this release, but always honoring the ambition and heart of the original.

In the end, "Smile" is all that. It's a reason to smile, even tear up a little. It's an inspired swirl of psychedelic symphonic bliss that works better than any other version that you will ever find. The "Surf's Up" here may not measure up to the original, but it honors it. And the production, mounted at the Beach Boys' old recording haunt, on the same kind of recording console they used in the 60s, screams for headphones and extreme volumes, and it is better than the original. It's quite simply a trip. If anyone can keep his composure during the opening choral arrangement of "Our Prayer/ Gee," he is a stronger man than I.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Snatched from the livejournal folk club, Nick Drake and his sister:

All My Trials
David Tibet confirms it was Jandek at Instal, 5 PM Sunday. I could go into detail about the beauty of this event, the life-affirming power of this reality, but I will refrain. He could not have chosen a better stage for his live debut, some 26 years after "Ready for The House" first hit the shelves. The man steps into the light.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Jandek does Instal?

This just in from the Deserted Village guru, reprinted without permission:

"I turned up early to catch Kan Mikami when Richard Youngs came on and played bass and the drummer from scatter played uh, drums. Then this thin guy dressed in black with a hat ambles onstage. He played a surprisingly expensive looking fender semi acoustic with no soundhole. once he started playing I thought "who is this prick ripping off Jandek?" There was no mistaking the vocals and guitar playing, but I couldn't take it in that it was really him. I was sitting beside some reviewer guy from the Wire who confirmed it. He also said that he only agreed to do it if it wasn't announced. The band really rocked, they had a loose groove going most of the time. Jandek sang "lets get wild" on one song and they crowd at the front were digging it. I'm quite sure 90% of people hadn't a clue. The Janster smiled after two songs so i cheered louder hoping he'd get a taste of adulation. Then i was afraid he'd freak out. I can honestly say he was enjoying himself and was totally at home on stage. He also sang about doing his washing in a deadpan way. And about a five year old girl who broke his heart. There was no in between song banter--surprise, surprise. It was simply a great gig even if it took a couple of songs to get into it. I'm sorry I can't describe it more, but I'm honestly still in shock and my brain is addled by beer and all the other amazing music I heard today. I know some of you won't beleive this until the Wire or something comes out, but i just had to tell people. Good night,

Thursday, October 14, 2004

I forgot to mention my dear friend Gregory (say it phonetically in an Texan drawl) accompanied me to the Blonde Redhead, much to the protestation of his lovely wife, and he drank too much and drove rather dangerously and very nearly (read as he actually did) clipped the the side mirror of a car in Deep Ellum. I shouted "HEY" just before it (almost) happened. I'm positive he will deny if when confronted, but those gray scratches on white paint speak for themselves. Fear not, responsible reader. I drove him home after that.

Taking the Anthill...

TONIGHT on TCM, Stanley Kubrick's greatest film ("Paths of Glory" for the non filmically inclined) is being shown with none other than John McCain (Former war hero, Kerry chum, Bush supporter, etc) introducing. This movie is one of the most powerful, moving, sad and ultimately infuriating war flicks of all time. And it is timeless, people. 1958 my ass! It's happening right now. 10:00 Eastern.

Blonde Redhead properly frosted my flakes a cpl nights ago with their heavenly blend of floating arty French pop yeh yeh and dissonant Sonic Youth blarg blarg. Really dig their latest album on 4AD. It's interesting (or way too predictable) that my idea of a good band is more one who chooses to emulate snobby Frenchmen instead of snobby New Yorkers. But holy expletive deity (!), they had a great sound from start to finish all the same. Can't believe it's the first time I've ever seen these lovelies on stage. The drummer appears to be graying! Instant kinship. And just when I thought they were riding the trembly glass house of sound thing into the ether and fixin' to float away, they'd push the gear shifter up and show us what rhythmic noise bludgeon is all about. The last track in particular was absolutely killer, coming off like a cross between Ted Nugent's "Stranglehold" and Daydream Nation. I fuckin' love NUGENT, BOYO! 4 MORE YEARS! jk. How 'bout that debate last night, eh?

Monday, October 11, 2004

Mammoth update over at Foxy Digitalis, including probably the best Devendra Banhart interview I've come across yet, Marissa Nadler, Nick Castro, Antony Milton and more, plus 50 or so new reviews. Good job, Mr. Foxy!

Nick Castro's "A Spy in the House of God" creeps me out in the most strangely seductive way. It's probably the strongest debut of 04. Have you ever looked for the missing link between Nick Drake and Current 93? I think I've found it. Or it found me.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Good people of the Womb, you wont find a better lineup of moving and experimental music than the INSTAL 4 Festival being held in Glasgow October 16-17. If you live in or near Scotland, I highly recommend making the trip. Seeing the likes of Kan Mikami, Current 93, Six Organs of Admittance, Charlemagne Palestine, William Basinski, Vajara [Keiji Haino, Mikami Kan, Toshi Ishizuka] and more in the same venue, in the same 36 hours, is quite simply a once in a lifetime experience.

Full lineup:

Current 93
Six Organs of Admittance
Charlemagne Palestine
William Basinski
Richard Youngs
Chie MukaiVajra [Keiji Hanio, Kan Mikami, Toshi Ishizuka]
Derek Bailey & Ingar Zach
Steffen Basho-Junghans
Masayoshi Urabe
Kan Mikami solo

More info, including thoughtful descriptions and sound samples, avaliable at the site.
I watched a movie as I fell off last night called Rules of Attraction. James Vanderchin (yes, Dawson) plays Sean Batemen, younger brother to Patrick Bateman (the American Psycho himself!). It's yet another one of them movies about kids in college being assholes, rich assholes, unloved, sad, fucked, pimps, drug dealers and mack daddys. This one is quite good though. All the beautiful young folks just can't stop touching themselves, and that of course turns me on. I didn't like American Psycho, but this surpasses the expected guilty pleasure status.

Espers were incredibly haunting in Ft. Worth two nights ago, playing for an audience of three or so, and a handful of confused/fascinated "emo kids". It was sort of like a night off for the band, as they didn't have to concentrate so much on hitting marks or "blowing us away," plus a bit of a grand experiment. Always fun to watch people's reactions for the first time to this kind of music. Espers just relaxed and let the dark light shine through. ISB did not play--being a folk rock legend lends one some room to quibble. Espers are very nice, well behaved people for making such creepy/beautiful acid folk music. Get their album as soon as possible if you want to hear some of the most resonant dream folk released in '04. Over and out.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

"Hurricane Dubya hits United States, entire country destroyed!"
--an older text message from a friend.

Woke up this morning to a cracked back and a mailbox spilling over with packages, including "A Spy in the House of God" by Nick Castro (very cool old timey acid folk and tripped out industrial noise stuff. You were right, B!), the new Ivytree CD (now this is a beautiful package--with a cover pic that looks like the movie Troy as envisioned on datura), and Wolf Eyes Sup-pop debut, "Burned Mind." Somebody up there loves my jank ass.

Incredible String Band and Espers tonight...

I want to see the movie, Dig, the story of how two mediocre bands come to hate one another and explore the value of myth-mongering in the process.

np: Nick Castro "Zoey"

Friday, October 01, 2004

I'm a lucky duck ever since I bumped into my friend Mats so many years ago via this golden wasteland of online communications. We traded mix tapes, wrote long convoluted liner notes for our mix tapes, even worked on a fanzine together for a good six years. Of the many gifts Mats has given me, including a split album by Echo is Your Love and a then unknown Kemialliset Ystävät in 1999, is a glimpse of the joy that comes with taking a part of yourself, and giving it to the world, no matter how meager that contribution may be. That's all art is really--at least the best stuff--people saying "this is me" or "it's what I see" and somehow making that perspective transfer.

What really makes an album, or any portable media for that matter, is a nice package. It's cool to occasionally be reminded that what we accidentally scratch up pressing into CD trays and sliding into album jackets is more than just a CD or record.

One of the first instances in the rock world where the aesthetics of a package matched, arguably surpassed, the aural qualities inside came with Andy Warhol's cover for the first Velvet Underground album. Everyone's seen it by now, a bright yellow banana against all white, the title in block letter across the top. Peeling the yellow strip off of course reveals a brighter pink banana. And somehow the music reflects the image perfectly.

And now it seems packaging is cool again, from the homemade each-one-is-different editions of early self-released Charalambides tapes and CD's on to newer comers in the scene like the handmade releases of Free Porcupine Society, Christoph Heemann's Three Poplars label and Phonometrography's lavish editions of Hafler Trio related works. And there's the constant presence of limited CD-R and lathecut labels now, all dispersed via the net, some more hidden than others. Even the majors are getting in on the fun, issuing typically mundane jewel cases in purty cardboard sleeves, and pre-labeled band-specific CD-R's (for the paying downloader of course).

San Antonio's Idea Records is a small label that likes it dense. Key releases in their catalog, like Tetuzi Akiyama's Don't Forget to Boogie! and Oren Ambarchi's Triste, not only resonate as outwardly thinking avant sound sculpture, they honor a tradition of heavy vinyl, glossy sleeves and unique, eye-popping visual motifs. And don't even get me started on the sound quality of Idea releases. The Akiyami disk a pristine slab of electric blues riffing and experimental noise that sounds just as clean and crisp at 2 as it does at 9. Triste hums and bubbles with rippling guitar strokes, murmurs and gently shifting subharmonics via Ambarchi's hauntingly restrained guitar technique. There's also formidable releases by Mirror, Coh, Tom Recchion (and more), and just arriving on my doorstep, Matt Valentine and Erika Elder.

The duo has released some of the most haunted folk/blues cosmic concoctions of the last five years or so, and Idea recently took it upon themselves to issue a beautiful heavy LP version of Ragas & Blues, previously released on CD-R on Valentine's Children of Microtones label. It's the kind of record that's custom made for long play with nine pieces each serving as alternate windows to some ethnically rich, wholly submersive, alien sound world. Definitely one of MV And EE's finest, most meditative journeys, and now "it's heavy as shit" can refer to more than just the hypnotic power of their mystical string music. It should be noted the excellent Time-Lag Records released MV's Tonight, One Night Only, MV & EE In Heaven as an equally breathtaking package a couple years ago.