Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas, kids... Merry Whatever you bow down to, be it one deity, a million stars or a gigantic seething void. I dig. I am currently staring at Albert Ayler's "Holy Ghost" boxset (Revenant), sitting here on my lil desk, and speechless is the word. It's the most stunning package I've ever seen, not to mention held in my hands. I'll have to share some thoughts some day when I have more time, which probably won't be anytime soon. Finding less and less time/energy to devote to the blog these days, but that may change after the rush. Either way it's been a fun experiment. I'll at least post a Best of '04 list and a cpl more roundups in the next week or so. One love from above.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Three more psychedelic albums...

...first a sidebar. The word "psychedelic" comes with all the wrong connotations these days. You smell patchouli mixed with musty birkenstocks, right? Envision throngs of Phish Phreinds rushing one lone battered portapotty in a field of green and yellow. Fact is, true psychedelia, as a musical genre or a state of mind, reaches well beyond all the silly tie-dyed cliches. True psychedelia does not require that one go insane after ingesting obscene amounts of lsd, DMT or mescaline to experience it, but that's certainly one sad possibility. As any well surveyed course on world cultures can attest, a truly psychedelic experience can be achieved through any number of means, whether they be by meditation, ritual body modification, the religious word or good old music. I fancy the idea of "psychedelia" in music (and other arts) because it is such a truly broad and all encompassing idea. Any sensory experience involving the five senses, six including the soul, can exist in, or at least step through, the area where perception is distorted and altered states of awareness realized. Good psychedelic music is one of the least damaging and most direct routes to "that place." No blood-letting is required, no sweat chambers or hours of meditation. To some people, this all may very well be found at a gathering of the tribes, sleeping and shitting in the mud for 48 hrs while reeling in the throws of 5 hit blotter dose, but I ain't buyin', personally. The music doesn't really enthrall (aside from the bands who inspired the whole mess, Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers), and the "scene" is closer to a latter day yuppie approximation of the hippie ideal with all the clothes and chemicals but none of the vitality or insight.

The New England collective, The Tower Recordings, has been weaving eerie, broken musicbox folk spells for a decade now. In that time, various members have broken off to do their own gigs; some have toured in ensembles that I've mentioned elsewhere in this ongoing chronicle of excess. Early albums like "Furniture Music for Evening Shuttles" (Siltbreeze) and "The Fraternity of Moonwalkers" (Audible Hiss) are bound to confuse, and even occasionally amaze, on first listens with their mix of detuned clangy drones and warped folk and blues ghosts. Hold up a minute, that sounds like about half the music covered here! Yes, you're onto something, brother. The Tower Recordings are one of the first bands I ever heard that struck me as a post Throbbing Gristle answer to the Incredible String Band. And I mean that only as praise. Throbbing Gristle were one of the first "rock bands" to seriously debunk the notion of what rock music can be, or psychedelia for that matter. The Incredible String band did the same thing within the idiom of folk, and The Tower Recordings ask the same question in regards to folk, blues and traditional music with virtually all of their recorded output to date. Those early albums should be viewed like musical puzzles: each listen offers a new chance to slide something into place. What sounds like half-assed, amateurish balderdash are in fact carefully designed despondent folk lapses backed with primitive electro skronk and swill that actually make sense when heard in a larger context. The Tower Recordings are a broken folk band for a broken folk world, but they always play with their hearts and heads turned skyward.

At a time when the world seems mostly intent on self-destruction, the Tower Recordings have gone and almost healed themselves. "The Galaxies Incredibly Sensual Transmission Field of the Tower Recordings" (Communion) is among the most fluid, engrossing and accessible folk dreams to emanate from this remarkable group yet. It's relatively short (just over 30 mins), but every bit the transportational vessel from start to finish, opening slowly like an old carnival carousel slowly spinning faster with the cycling folk rhythms of acoustic guitars and back masked vocals of "Harvester" and finally regenerating as a blues folk resurrection on "Other Kinds Run." The four intervening tracks are classic examples of twilight zone Americana, strange acid folk, and heaven-sent crude electronic noise. The mix is amazing, the vocals, the stories and lyrics, and the cohesion of the piece as a whole is pretty much what I'd expect from the same people responsible for "The Well of Memory" and "Ragas and Blues." The journey may be short, but it's ripe with vivid scenery.

Blacker modes are explored on "Live 2" (Threshold House), the second in a series, third released, of 4 live Coil albums recorded in the early 2000's. This is my latest attempt at coming to terms with this tortured and unique band who died last month when it's founder Jhonn Balance was taken in a tragic fall at his home. Recorded 4 days after 9-11 in Moscow in 2001, the CD features six of Coil's distinctive electro/industrial sound exorcisms, my favorite possibly being opening "Something: Higher Beings Command," a spine-tingler with Balance's spoken word intoning, "I dedicate this performance to the madness, to madness, to madness..." before Sleazy literally engulfs the capacity club in lacerating windstorms of overdriven machine hums and electro-whooshes. This is what industrial music should sound like, and I can't even begin to attempt to capture in words the psychotropic values of such a performance. Though the trance-inducing synth/beat pulse of "Amethyst Deceivers" could do it in sound. Don't even get me started on the closing rendition of "Constant Shallowness Leads to Evil," 17 mins of sexually charged spoken word sacrilege and primal machine drone and innerspace laser beams that end up sounding sort of like the slow warning siren for an apocalypse as brought on by thee ultimate doomsday machine.

Now moving up further North along the globe to Sweden, home of guitar maestro Björn Olsson, integral to the artistic success of Union Carbide Productions in the 80s and the Soundtrack of Our Lives in the 90s. He left the Soundtrack right after completion of their second album though, and sadly took much of their originality with him. Since, he's kept busy making solo psychedelic soundtrack albums, including the stunning "Instrumentalmusik: Instrumental Submerge in...and Disappear Through" (Omplatten), and "UPA" (Gravitation), which just arrived in my box recently. His brand new self titled album should be here soon. Back to "UPA" though, it comes as two versions of nine tracks, seven of which are bookended by expansive numbers that flirt overtly with psychedelic textures. Opener "Schweinfest" is a festive number that brings Caribbean percussion into the progressive age with Olsson's meticululosuly placed fuzz bursts pushing an infectious dance melody. Repetitious and infectious like giddy Krautrock. A more caustic rawk response to this is found in "Tema 1," an extended bout of overdriven space/psych rock that clearly reveals Olsson's affinity for Krautrock, Zeppelin and more dance-floor designated material at the same time. No, he doesn't employ a rack of samples, just a bit of a house beat on live percussion and a barrage of lysergic feedback runs. In between we get a smorgusboard of stylistic detours (via instruments all played by the man himself), from Burt Bacharach infused light-psych to Spaghetti Western soundtracks and more. Whatever chosen path Olsson chooses to traverse, he does so with wit and originality...and mystery. There are no wasted moments in this man's hands. It's a shame he split from TSOOL, but given the depth of his instrumentation and his ideas, it's also understandable that someone so talented would shy away from the soul-sucking glare of the commercial eye.

Friday, December 17, 2004

As I was sitting here preparing for the anniversary of the birth of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, and drinking too much gin, and attempting to put into words my profound admiration for the new Tower Recordings mystical sound vessel while also listening to Coil's "Live Two" and thinking "I truly love Coil" and "I never thought I ever would or could," I stumbled across The Book of Condolences for Jhonn Balance, the first seven days of which were printed and burned with him at his funeral. It's actually quite beautiful, but then I'm personally sensitive to these kinds of sentimental tributes. There will truly never be another like him. Goodnight, lords and ladies.

Friday, December 10, 2004

From the Associated Press, gives some exposition on the shooter. Sound like someone you know?

Suspect in nightclub shooting liked talking music, listening to Pantera before playing football- ANITA CHANG, Associated Press WriterFriday, December 10, 2004(12-10) 09:13 PST COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) --The man who shot former Pantera guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott and three other men to death at a nightclub was obsessed with the popular heavy metal band and made bizarre accusations against it, a onetime friend said in reports published Friday.

Jeramie Brey said gunman Nathan Gale once showed up at a friend's house saying he wanted to share songs he had written. The pages of lyrics were copied from Pantera, but Gale claimed he had written them, Brey said."He was off his rocker," Brey told The Columbus Dispatch. "He said they were his songs, that Pantera stole them from him and that he was going to sue them."

He later told Brey that he planned to sue Pantera for stealing his identity. Brey and friend Dave Johnson said Gale's behavior frightened them and they distanced themselves from him several years ago. But other friends said they never considered Gale capable of violence.

On Wednesday night, the 25-year-old former Marine charged the stage at a show by Abbott's new band, Damageplan, and gunned down four people including Abbott before a policeman fatally shot him.Police said Friday they still didn't know Gale's motive, and they may never find out. Some witnesses said Gale yelled accusations that the revered guitarist broke up Pantera, but police had not verified those reports.

An imposing figure at 6-foot-3, Gale had made people uneasy even at the tattoo parlor, staring and locking them into conversations about heavy metal music. When he played offensive line for the semi-pro Lima Thunder football team, he psyched himself up before games by piping Pantera into his headphones, coach Mark Green said.

But Green had not pegged Gale as the type to go on a shooting rampage. "It wasn't like he was a loner," Green said.

Gale had had minor run-ins with police since 1997 but wasn't considered a troublemaker, according to police in his hometown of Marysville, 25 miles northwest of Columbus.

Gale had served with the 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina until November 2003, when he was discharged after less than half of the typical four-year stint, Marine spokeswoman Gunnery Sgt. Kristine Scarber said. She declined to explain the discharge, citing privacy rules.

A few hours before the shooting, Gale had showed up at Marysville's Bears Den Tattoo Studio, where often he stared at people and forced them into conversations, manager Lucas Bender said.

"He comes in here and likes to hang out when he's not wanted," Bender said. "The most pointless conversations."

On Wednesday he asked about having the studio order tattoo equipment for him, tattoo artist Bo Toler said. Toler told him no, and Gale got angry and started yelling, he said.

"Last night was actually the first time I noticed his temper," Toler said.

No one answered the door Thursday at the Marysville home of Gale's mother, Mary Clark. A message left on her cell phone was not returned.

The violence at the smoke-filled Alrosa Villa club came just after the opening notes by Damageplan, the band formed by Abbott and his brother, drummer Vinnie Paul Abbott, after they left Pantera. Gale dodged two band members, grabbed Darrell Abbott and shot him at least five times in the head, witnesses and police said.

In less than five minutes, Gale had also killed Erin Halk, 29, a club employee who loaded band equipment; fan Nathan Bray, 23, of nearby Grove City; and band bodyguard Jeff Thompson, 40.

Two other band employees, Chris Paluska and John Brooks, remained in a hospital Friday morning with undisclosed injuries. Paluska was listed in good condition and Brooks in serious condition.

On 911 tapes released by authorities, one caller said, "I heard quite a few gunshots and I think somebody in the band definitely has been shot."

A short time later a man called and said: "He's on stage right now. He's got a gun." A moment later, the man said, "He just shot again," and then, "He's got a gun to somebody's head."

Despite a drizzle and temperatures in the 40s, more than 200 people turned up for a vigil Thursday night in the club's parking lot.

Shawn Sweeney, 22, played "old-school Pantera" on an acoustic guitar as a half-dozen young men held a blue tarp over his head and sang along as a crowd gathered.

"This is beautiful, this is absolutely beautiful," Sweeney said.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

2004 seems to be the year of Fonal. I've mentioned a few fantastic avant folk/drone things these industrious Fins have released in recent months, all deserving of much devotion and appreciation, but had no idea label head Sami's work under the Es moniker was so gosh-darn beautiful in its own right. Sparse chamber music, warm tape noise, samples, guitar, effects and ethereal fem vocals come together in an inspired, glitchy production worthy of the finest in the genre on "Kaikkeuden Kauneus ja Kasittamattomyys." Think Labradford, Islaja (who I believe lends her vocal talents) and Popol Vuh, but maybe released on the Touch label.

More goodies floating up from down below, some courtesy of the PseudoArcana imprint. I'm still playing catchup here, as there's already a slew of newer releases I ain't heard, but that's alright for now, because the "Crescent" CD-R by Claypipe, co-released with Root Don Lonie For Cash, will keep me busy many late nights with it's deep meandering drone swells, archaic hums and bowed strings, all giving way to tonal eruptions of the most brilliant, elusive colors. Fine stuff for anyone reared in the ways of early John Cale/Tony Conrad. Sunken is a new duo of Antony Milton and Stefan Neville of Pumice exploring similar improvised space, but this time via organs, loops and guitar. It's a testament to the players that they can conjure dense, living soundscapes from thin air with such resonating results. Checkout the cyclical builds of 25 min "Spa" to get the gist. The 3" CD-R "Springtime in Saturnalia" is Davenport's tribal entry for the label--opens with muffled noise, vinyl scratching, a jet flying overhead as birds and insects chirp and rustle right next to your ears. From the constant environmental hum rises serene raga-folk workouts and droning ethnic noise that slowly develop into a stately slow groove (Pelt and Jackie-O Motherfucker comes to mind) and totally smokes in a non threatening manner. The Wooden Cupboard apparently has some relation to the Skaters, a mysterious ensemble I keep hearing about but have yet to hear. 3" CD-R "Boiling the Animal in the Sky" is out there garage/free noise comprised of elephantine wails and farting strings, stuttering percussion, ominous sirens and more. Harder to get into than the Davenport. The shrill sound quality and warped cut-up production makes me think Angus Maclise a lot of the way, but I like the crude meditative slant the second track takes halfway through more than the ethnic incantations. And finally comes Keijo and Friends (again?! you say!) with the 2CD-R, "Unfolding Emptiness/Decomposing Dawn and Dew," one a solo slab of post industrial earth drones and broke-dick folk meanderings, the other trio free noise screechiness indebted to early AMM.

"Live at Club Donut" (Holy Mountain) is a fine solo vinyl only document from experimental psych guitar maestro Steven Wray Lobdell. Few today are willing to merge classic acid streaked solos with these kinds of earth-shaking industrial noise squalls. The results thrill across 45 mins of live solo improvs that alternate between searing electric ragas and dissonant looped breakdowns. Lobdell pulls it off in a way that brings to mind both Manuel Gottsching and Keji Haino, among others. Last Visible Dog have dropped a cpl more musical cherries on top of the creamy pop parfait with Peter Wright's "Distant Bombs" and Pumice's "Raft." The former sees kiwi loner Wright weaving cautious spells of layered guitar/drone interactions in an approach that brings to mind a more digital answer to the kind of endless dream-states that Fripp and Eno used to explore so brilliantly in the mid 70s. Best I've heard from him yet. Pumice, on the other hand, is the work of one Stefan Neville, employing guitar, effects, tape noise and voice, in ramshackle home-made pop and noise concoctions that have become far too rare in recent years. Alastair Galbraith and Chris Knox come to mind, which I suppose serves as high praise to some and might register indifference to others. Whoa be to those others. "Live Gyakuryu Kokuu" is a totally killer 2 track live album from dark psych trio Kousokuya, who've apparently been part of the scene longer than PSF Records has. First track is a stomping side long heavy blues thing, somewhere between High Rise and Fushitsusha; the second sees the trio climbing further into the free jazz void with utterly compelling results. In other words: raw garage jams played with the kind of paint-peeling intensity PSF has embodied for the last 20 years or so.
I actually liked Pantera for about 5 minutes in the early 90s, and then spent the next ten years or so wishing somebody would shoot 'em. Never actually thought I'd get my wish, though: Apocalypse at the Alrosa Villa.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Here is a great ramble clipped from the latest Aquarius update as to why it's not cool to hate Nirvana. Couldn't agree more. I am and have always been a Nirvana fan....

"NIRVANA "With The Lights Out" (DGC) 3cd+dvd 57.00 Been trying to figure out what to write about this for a while now. Every time I sit down to write it, I feel like I'm trying to write a euology for an old friend. Which should speak volumes. We knew this was coming. And man, were we excited. And it is not a disappointment in any way. If anything, it's more than we could have hoped for. See, everyone loves Nirvana. Everyone. Those of you who say you don't are just trying to be c'ool'. Sort of like the people who talk about how the Beatles suck. The Beatles did not suck. They wrote more perfect pop songs than any band in the history of rock and roll. Nirvana also don't suck. And are also responsible for some of the best songs ever. It's not cool to pretend you don't like Nirvana. Not at all. In fact, it's unbelievably UNCOOL. Why deny yourself some of the most important, visceral music of the last 15 years? Because it gets played on MTV? Because jocks blast "Smells Like Teen Spirit" after the big game? Nope, sorry. Not good enough.

Nirvana were one of those bands we could all love. Heavy enough to appeal to headbangers, raucous enough to still be punk, but equipped with a pop sense unrivalled, and thus able to whip out the most beautiful pop song in the world without a second thought -- usually sandwiched between two swirling snarling blasts of stage destroying chaotic rrroooaaaar. But that's part of what was so charming about Nirvana. Even when they were huge, they acted like you or me. Stupid jokes, smashing guitars, unlikely covers, ripped jeans and t-shirts and greasy long hair. It was like your pal or your older brother was snatched out of your suburban hellhole of a life and made a rock star. And how could you not love that (once you got over wishing it was you)? Which also goes to why it was such a blow when Kurt Cobain died. I literally cried. At the time I remember thinking "Why the fuck am I crying." I mean, it's not like he was a friend of mine or something. But he was something special. To me. To everyone I know. And Nirvana was something special. Our generation's Beatles? Maybe. But definitely the most important band of the nineties. Responsible for reshaping popular music, killing off hair metal, and giving us music that would be the soundtrack to our lives: breakups, mixtapes, road trips, broken hearts, life and death, fucking and fighting. Sounds like hyperbole but it's really not. This band was and is really important to me, and millions of other folks. Which is pretty remarkable. After the death of Cobain, and after getting over the sheer sadness and loss, one could not help but think about all the amazing music and the songs that would now never be written. Callous maybe, but the music is what made us love him/them. Their recent greatest hits disc offered us the unreleased "You Know You're Right", which was at the time the greatest thing we could've heard, a song as good as any of their others, seemingly pulled from the ether. And now we have this. A collection of what is supposedly everything. or at least everything worth releasing. And it is absolutely fantastic. I literally got all teary listeing to this, and the DVD had me all choked up as well. Can't remember the last time a record did that to me.

So, what's on it? If you're like me, it hardly matters. Just knowing that it's stuffed to the gills with rare and unreleased Nirvana songs and I'm sold. If you need more than that, here goes. Don't sell back your greatest hits though, "You Know You're Right" only appears here as a solo acoustic recording from 1994. This version may not rock as hard, but it is a lot more intense and personal. The box is basically in chronological order, so disc one is definitely gonna hit the spot for those of us (like Allan) who loved Bleach the best. Demos and acoustic tracks and live on the radio, this is all Holy Grail sort of stuff. Live versions of Zeppelin's "Heartbreaker" and "Moby Dick" done in suitably ramshackle chaotic Nirvana style. Live versions and demos of tracks that would show up on Bleach. But by far the most exciting tracks are the unreleased songs. "White Lace And Strange", "Help Me I'm Hungry", "Mrs. Butterworth", "Grey Goose", "Token Eastern Song" and more. Disc two has less unreleased tracks but lots of alternate versions of tracks from future records, as well as loads of b-sides (their split with the Jesus Lizard, maybe one of the best Nirvana songs ever) and covers (Wipers!) and a big ol' chunk of solo acoustic versions of classic tracks that sound even more intense and harrowing performed sans band. Disc three brings us close to the end. A handful of demos and more solo acoustic versions of songs you already know and love. Highlights include the track "Sappy" which was a secret track on a benefit compliation and was originally titled "Verse Chorus Verse" and is another of their best curiously relegated to being hidden uncredited at the end of a random comp ("Train In Vain" anyone?). Also "Marigold", the only Nirvana song sung by Dave Grohl, an obscure b-side, that hints at Grohl's Foo Fighter future. A sweet and jangly Vaselines cover and more. The set ends with a solo acoustic version of "All Apologies" and if you hadn't gotten all emotional yet, this one will definitely do it to you.

The DVD is pretty amazing as well and adds to the whole feeling of Kurt being an old friend who passed away. Mostly home movies, the first chunk is a party / rehearsal in Krist's mom's house and features the band rocking out in a panelled, carpeted basement, while various rockers sit around drinking beer. Cute and sad, and funny and sort of remarkable how amazing they were as a band even so early on. The rest of the DVD is made up of various tracks filmed live in various locations, from small clubs to huge arenas. Lots of hilarious onstage banter, lots of drum kit destroying, and lots of powerfully off kilter versions of all of the best Nirvana songs. Beautifully packaged in an oversized hardcover book, on the front an embossed metal plate featuring the band in their Sunday best, as if they were at a funeral. Or a wake. Because as sad as this is, and as much as this makes us miss someone we felt we knew as well as our best friend, and a band who meant more to us than almost any in our memory, under the circumstances, we couldn't be happier."

Friday, December 03, 2004

I finally got some more goodies from the primo Finnish CD-R empire 267 Lattajjaa recently, the same people responsible for Avarus's astounding "A-V-P" a year or two back (and due for reissue I believe). Another one worth getting in on the hunt for is The Buried Civilizations' "Tunnels to Other Chambers" CD-R. Half of Thuja, with a cpl other lovely souls, weave levitated tone poems of long passed tribal elders in 14 short tracks, all bathed in the translucent glow of primitive mysticism that comes with virtually all Jewelled Antler releases. Equally evocative is Davenport's 3" CD-R "Little Howling Jubilee," which starts with a murmur of free clatter and drones and builds to quite a mind-blowing barrage of the kind of tribal jam insanity that Amon Düül used to churn out with some consistency at the end of the 60s. By the time those moaning chants come in and that damn dog starts to barkin' inspired mess it is. I raved about Grey Park way back when here, and 3" CD-R "A Preparatory Course for Agents Going Abroad" is just as good, and a bit different. Instead of trembling dissonance and deep drone, at first we get a languid, quasi pop melody (think Low) beset with moog drones. The other two tracks explore a more post industrial space with minimal synth and tapes noise, a bit closer to what I'd expect. "Soon With the Sun" is another recent disc (I think he's released about 5 so far this year) by weird noise elder, Keijo, and it's a gorgeous echo-drenched whirl of springy drones, chimes, tapes of streaming water and bubbling electronics, but it's not electronica, no sir-ee, Bob. There's a roughness to it all, but mixed as a fully formed ethnic drone collage, so that it goes down ever so smooth. And last but never the least from 267 Lattajjaa, Anla Courtis (of Reynols) gives us the "...y el resplandor de la luz no conoce limites" 3"CD-R, a searing beam of aural sunlight that builds on wave after wave of fuzz guitar, organ, mouth harp and hawk-bells to a primo wall of textural drone, and fasten your seatbelt at about 11 min. in when the the shaft gets lashed with conduits of shrieking distortion.

"Wire on the Box: 1979" (Pink Flag) is a CD/DVD package that offers the rare priveledge of seeing Wire (probably the best "punk band" to come out of England) in their prime in a live show that was originally recorded for German television, making us the lucky ones when the setlist includes classics like "The 15th," "Practice Makes Perfect," "I Feel Mysterious Today," "French Film Blurred," "Map Ref," "A Touching Display," "A Question of Degree" get the idea. Incredible. Nice sound quality, effective proscenium style production on the video, and the songs are the songs--as good as minimal art punk and pop gets--yet more stripped down than the studio classics, revealing the explosive energy as well as the depth of Mike Thorne's production on those studio originals. There's even a 20 min sit down with the band. Seems like I've been waiting decades for this, and I've even seen Wire live, but not in '79. Mute has finally reissued the early albums by the most excellent Virgin Prunes, pick of the litter surely being the Colin Newman produced "If I Die, I Die," one of the most atmospheric, caustic and totally right on post punk albums ever. Joy Division and Wire appreciaters need it asap, but don't go expecting any copy-catting. The Prunes had a unique vibe that simply puts them in the same league. Another band the Prunes are worthy of comparison to is Australia's The Birthday Party, whose former lead singer, Nick Cave, has taken to writing gothic literatur and playing sad, beautiful ballads with his band The Bad Seeds in recent years, but not so much this year. 2CD set "Abattair Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus" (Mute) is a barn-burner, but not of the raw, art damaged variety that marked the B'day's, more of the classic steamrolling gospel tinged big band blues punk variety. On tracks like "Get Ready For Love" and the amaaaaazing "There She Goes, My Beautiful World," Cave and his band (short one Bargeld, whose own band released a monster earlier this year) pick up where they left off on last year's "Nocturama" (the awesome extended noise raveup, "I'm On Fire"), and throw in a gospel choir and plenty of hooks, awe-inspiring dynamics, and some of Cave's most, er...worldly lyrics to date. Heavy as shit and utterly essential (and I should mention there are some beautiful pop moments here and there, a few sad slow bits too; it's simply more varied than the last 4 Bad Seeds albums). It actually sounds like a punk rock Spiritualized in places, and I thought that long before reading it in Arthur. Makes me feel like you really can die and be reborn. A must-see live proposition.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

I'm backed up over here like a truck driver with chorizo poisoning, so these are gonna be (semi) short and sweet: Metal Album of the Year appears to have arrived in the form of Lair of the Minotaur's "Carnage, Fucking Carnage" (Southern Lord). The Gods hath ejaculated 8 Mordorian blades straight into thine ears. My jank asshole hasn't been this battered since I was baptized into the Church of Satan. Fans of Slayer, Venom, Mayhem, The Obsessed and Thee Dark Lord best get smokin (and I mean smokin) . Goddamn.... I like it, I reckon, because they're tight as fuck and as crushingly adept at mid-tempo biker riffage as they are the flailing grind bits, blast beats, and occasional DOOM tangents--masterful sludge, literate leads, great vokills, too. Speaking of singers of note, Wino (St. Vitus, The Obsessed) has unleashed the second album from The Hidden Hand. In case ya didn't know, the dude sort of helped forge what would become known as the "doom" or "stoner" sound way back in the 80s. With "Mother Teacher Destroyer" (Southern Lord) he and his collaborators waste no time in emerging as one of the prime movers in the scene Southern Lord has come to epitomize, with politically charged metal anthems that often approach the psych abyss and occasionally dive right into the deep dark nothing. Wino sounds pristine, his solos on fire, his band, his songs, his titles ("The Deprogramming of Tom Delay" for instance)--all first rate on a record that strikes a good balance between sneering discontent and stoned accord, and it's more digestable than most doom today. My homies in the Melvins recently hooked up with Lustmord for "Pigs of the Roman Empire" (Ipecac) to see their funkafied southern/epic sludge metal augmented with extended bouts of the 'Mord's icylationist drones. Works well, but I'm not sure it's as successful as their own stab at crude ambient noise, the live "Colossus of Destiny" (Ipecac), but then it explores more minimal space and offers its own kind of metallic mind solvent. THUMS UP! Now in the realm of heavy, you can go much further, if willing, and a band like England's Aufgehoben will seriously take you to the other side. This is some demented "free noise" that is hard to put a finger on, aside from it's studiously performed, uber-distorted, post Mainliner/Skullflower jazz skronk-that must be heard by those who like their aural masochism textured and blistering. It's the tension and the builds, the way quiet rumbles and squiggles erupt into paint-peeling, super loud, metal on metal shred death that demand focused attention and fevered awe. "Anno Fauve" (Riot Season) is as good as this sort of thing gets, but hardly for the faint of heart.

Semi-recently received a package from Foxy Digitalis of newer items in their Foxglove CD-R series, chock full of many a goody, among them United Bible Studies, another assemblage of the Druids of Deserted Village. "The Lunar Observatory" is a mesmerizing slab of rustic, low-key improv and gorgeous drifting jazz balladry with piano lulls and sax daze. Loverly. Vapaa weaves low-moving organic machine hum, whoosh, scree, field recordings and more into oscillating dream worlds on "Tilat." Musti Laiton conjures his (their) own brand of hypnotic drone murk and more ambitious Krautrockery with stumbling reverb-drenched acid leads and even the occasional prog bombast, but "Survival Horror" is mostly a mellow groove with some effective production flourishes. A.M.'s "Tasman" is 4 tracks of amp buzz, violin, radio noise and reverb built up into shimmering pyramids of devotional awe (sans overdubs!). Absolutely perfect for noise bathing. Nice to see Hush Arbors and Mr. Foxgloves himself, The North Sea, teaming up for the "Singing Through Moss and Mist" split CD-R. Hush Arbor's First track is a long minimal piece with nature sounds and some slight acoustic plucks, while the second is a darker, more rumbling drone mass that sees our nature freak probing the darkest regions of (inner) space. The North Sea opens with effects drenched electric guitar that slowly builds in volume/density before delivering an amalgam of ambient tones, chirping cicadas, shakers, flutes, bowed strings and languid acoustic guitar. Oxygen for the soul. Included in the same package: free folksters Juniper Meadows ("Pistols for Madeline"), Kiwi sound sculptor Peter Wright ("Desolation, Beauty Violence") and Agitated Radio Pilot ("Like Flightless Birds"). FD has had a ridiculously prolific output this year, but the quality and depth of this stuff speaks for itself, and more importantly it offers people 'round my neck of the woods a chance to hear some things that we might not get to otherwise. Nothing wrong with spreadin' that love butta thick.