Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Mmmmmore essential Summer jams:

The Clear Spots are the three Bugaj brothers (or two brothers and a cousin or a dad and his two sons or WHATEVER) and a fellow named Kevin Moist kicking up a rowdy free or no wave two guitar/ bass/ drums racket on the "Mountain Rock" CD-R. Look past any obvious homage of the name, drink it down like the slightly tainted mountain spring water it is, and you just may see blurred visions of small glassy eyed woodland creatures scurrying in broken spirals about a Pennsylvanian hillside, drunk on bad ale and strange berries. These are ten tracks of barn-burning fuzz clang (actually recorded in a farmhouse!) and noise ragas that bite hard whether exploding like volcanoes or pluming as incandescent smoke signals. It all owes something to pals Bardo Pond, the long lost Juneau and the most damaged Mirza—spontaneous and raw but always moving forward towards some ultimate catharsis. Tracks like “F.O.” and the 12 minute skronk prog opus “Hawk Wallace Pine” should send Dead C and Skullflower fans somersaulting through the crop circles of his/her gray matter with their propulsive webs of distortion and cracked rhythmic flow.

"Ruskeatimantti" (Tumult) by Finnish Avarus is something more clattery and cosmically (de)tuned. This 2 CD is an excellent all encompassing jumping off point for these manic Tampereians, drawing together a few of their long gone early CD-R and vinyl releases, all deserving of a larger, more permanent pressing. This spastizoid Beefheart cum Yahaweh insanity is not so easily digested on first listens, but sometimes such a sound is just what the witchdoctor ordered, and it tends to go down better after a few piña coladas. Also, the excellent extended kraut-freakout "A-V-P" is included in all its Ash Ra Tempel worshipping glory.

The Gray Field Recordings latest is a limited CD-R entitled "Hypnagogia," and if the title isn't a hint, the first track--"Bloodstream (Runey Moon Version)"--should tell you where this (mostly) one woman band from Oklahoma is coming from. It's a bewitched brew consisting of spliced lysergic noise pieces, tribal percussive eruptions and gorgeous archaic folk spells that should appeal to anyone who ever chased Nico's "Desert Shore" with "Musick to Play in the Dark" or Current 93's "Thunder Perfect Mind," but like her forebearers, she's not derivative at all. It can be ordered directly from Anticlock Records.

Falling further down the rabbit, er cat, hole is the brotherly drone duo, My Cat is an Alien, whose "Through the Reflex of the Rain" comes via the excellent Free Porcupine Society. The Opalio brothers incorporate electric alien guitars, "cosmic effects," toy keyboard/ piano/ xylophone, field recordings and more into dense clusters of static drone and fractured almost folk across 39 mins of building aural hypnosis. The intensity is glaring for such a repetitive piece, with things picking up at about the 10 min mark with percussive clatter and meandering guitar plucks before the oscillating organ shifts to another key entirely and things get maximal in the best way. A lot of folks are making these sorts of damaged extended trance pieces lately, but MCIAA resides in another sphere. On a similar, albeit more minimal tip, comes the excellent "Czechoslovakia" CD-R from With Throats as Fine as Needles (Celebrate Psi Phenomenon). The duo of Campbell Kneale and Pseudoarcana head honcho Antony Milton is more claustrophobic and piercing than the above, which makes sense given it was captured in abandoned bunkers and tunnels in the hills of Wellington. The end results are the sort of relentless void scapes one would expect from all involved, lent a damp resonance via their musty surroundings. Two tracks of windswept tunnel vision, the the sort of headphones bliss I can't get enough of, and the echo chamber aura only further distorts/enhances an already intense sound that falls somewhere between Mirror and noisier early Popol Vuh.

Pefkin is one half the very cool, very underheard late 90s Scottish duo Electroscope. The "Asa Nisi Masa" CD-R (Foxglove) is the first thing I've heard from from Gayle Brogan since then. Skeletal, fractured bedroom folk and feeback with occasional hushed vocals falling somewhere between the Charalambides and early Sarah Records. More like sketches than songs, lending the entire, and very brief--23 min--affair an intimacy that could draw comparisons to Nico and Alastair Galbraith and little else. I'm also happy to finally have a chance to wrap my ears around something by Ben Reynolds. "Oh Joy and Beyond," also on Foxglove, has a wondrous ethnic folk quality that I suppose could most easily be compared to Pelt, but that's only on the first track. Elsewhere we get tribal space jams and dense minimal journeys growing more massive with each swing of the pendulum. What makes it more than just another drop in the "avant folk" bucket is the the way Reynolds explores deep drone, homemade electronica and pure raga with equal mastery, blending them all into one gorgeous little ride. One of the best CD-R's I've heard in 05, though I'm not sure if it was released in '05.

Nagisa Ni Te's "Dream Sounds" (Jagjaguwar) CD is yet another essential offering from everyone's favorite dream folk duo. Three old songs, one new one, all recently re-recorded with maximum headphones ingestion in mind. It's not really a greatest hits, just more aural gold ripe for mining. I will review this thoroughly soon, so there's no need to get all specific on yr ass. Let's just say that David Grubbs' description of Nagisa as a dreamier Crazy Horse is pretty on the mark. Both Yo La Tengo and Galaxie 500 come to mind too, but Shinji Shibayama and Masako Takeda have one of the most unique minimal folk pop vibes, and Shinji is a master guitar player who makes every note shine with the brilliance of a thousand stars. Case in point: the 20 min epic, "True Sun," which is sort of like Nagisa Ni Te's own personal "Cortez the Killer."

Peter Wright's "Yellow Horizon" (Pseudoarcana), the latest from the New Zealander by way of England is easily one of his greatest. Carefully constructed ambient mood pieces drawn almost entirely from guitar and effects, careful and deliberate plucks and drones. Roy Montgomery, Loren Mazzacane Connors, early Labradford, Fripp/Eno could all be reference points, but Wright has his own signature somnambulant aura as he hits the golden chord repeatedly. Highly meditative stuff that teeters on the line between deep meditation and more song based melodic bliss. "Tone of the Universe (=Tone of the Earth)" (Pseudoarcana) by Various Artists is a strong contender for comp of the year so far. Included among its ranks are some of the most important out noise artists today (Keijo, Peter Wright, The Nether Dawn, My Cat is an Alien, Vibracathedral Orchestra, AM/Uton, Blithe Sons, CJA, Anla Courtis, Birchville Cat Motel, Seht, Of, 1/3 Octave Band, The Skaters and plenty more) spread out across 2 CD's with galactic tonal eminations as a loosly binding theme. Brilliantly edited and arranged from start to finish.

And now let us get proggy wid it. Circle's "Forest" (Ektro) is the northern most masters' ultimate harmonic convergence of trippy acoustics and throbbing exploratory repetition. Amon Düül II, Can and more come to mind, only these gems originates from Pori, Finland. This is one of the first Circle albums that I've come across to continually fascinate from start to finish while maintaining a mellower incantatory aura. Arguably more transcendental is the lovely sophomore effort from urDog, "Eyelid of Moon" (Secret Eye). The Rhode Island trio tones it down slightly this time in favor of a more minimal head space, although the rambunctious pieces are still there, too, and quite funny in an early Soft Machine/Pink Floyd sort'a way. "Paths of the Meridians" sounds like an homage to early 70s Nico, and the title track would've fit just fine on Amon Düül II's "Tanz Der Lemmings." Yes, that is praise.

That's it for now, but I've recieved plenty of other packages recently from Drag City (new GHOST DVD!), Eclipse, Social Registry, Music Fellowship, Volcanic Tongue, Jagjaguwar (new ONEIDA!) and more, so don't be surprised if I post another one of these mid Summer roundups in a week or two. Also, thank you to the nice fellow from the Foxy Digitalis forums who sent me the copy of Peter Walker's "Rainy Day Raga"--definitive stuff. Cheers!

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Come on baby, eat the rich...

It's been a long time coming, but in my estimation "Land of the Dead" is primo George Romero. Viewing the previous three films might enrich one's appreciation for this big idea b movie, but it's hardly necessary for "getting it." There are things here that are simply right on. Universal picked up the low budget production, which gave Romero a chance to use the classic Universal logo, a worthy nod to an era that obviously touched the prepubescent auteur and the world at large. It's a thrill to see that clunky piece of revolving iconography before a film that's new, NOT a remake of anything. The director is giving us a wink and saying he's coming from a different place, that he gets the classic monster genre in a way that hacks today will never comprehend. It's a film that speaks more specifically to the conundrum of humanity and progress than anyone today would ever dare.

Horror shlock maestro Wes Craven and his 30-something stooge Kevin Williamson think they do something like this too. The repugnant "Cursed," with weird faced Christina Ricci as a sensual werewolf in training, was intended as sly homage to the Universal monster pictures, too, but in truth it was closer to a tepid rip-off of Wes/Kevin's "Scream" cashcow crossed with John Hughes teen dramadies. No one really means it; it's just a clever post modern satire--read as unnecessary bore--designed to appeal to you on a self referential level that at this point is just tedious and leaves you wishing Lon Cheney in original "Wolfman" garb or David Naughton circa "An American Werewolf in London" would pop out of a dark corner and start reciting a dissertation on the inanity of ironic send ups of already ironic horror films.

No to say that Romero doesn't appreciate some subtly irony of his own.

The Dead series is definitely about something more than gore and plot mechanics. It's about so much there's really no point in getting specific. Romero never falls back on the easy tricks of modern horror. He doesn't hate the ladies. He doesn't needlessly linger on gruesome images of cannibalism, though he has before, and in a sure to be released "director's cut" of "Land..." I hope he does again. There are some choice muscular chompings to be enjoyed in this shorter version, even an evisceration or two, but it's slightly toned down for a post 9/11 market. Folks don't need to be shocked out of complacency these days (unless they're Christians!), they just need to wake up and read the paper as they sip their morning coffee.

Against this backdrop Romero has formulated one of his richest zombie tales. Crammed into the 93 minutes are comments on evolution/Darwinism, class struggle, herd mentality, communist revolt, tolerance and more. Perhaps more so than with any previous Dead film, aside from "Night," viewers will leave discussing the philosophical implications of having and having not in the age of apocalypse, and testing their own preconceptions about so called solutions to larger problems. They'll also do their part in trying to identify the "true zombies" in the world today, and just possibly end up coming off like braindead cannibals in the process. That's the beauty of Romero.

Things drag a bit. The initial shock of the classic "Dawn..." can't and shouldn't be repeated, but it can be updated and streamlined. The makeup and special effects are incredible. CGI isn't on the menu. The cast, including yumyum Asia Argento (Dario's daughter), John Leguizamo (not that I'm a big fan, but this is his best scenery chewing support role ever), Dennis Hopper (remember him in the second "Texas Chainsaw Massacre"?) and plenty of familiar faces (including the one and only Tom Savini as "machete blade"--a slight reprise of his character in "Dawn") in supporting and cameo roles all snort, moan and chomp with glee. The zombies are beautiful to look at too. Again the real soul of the picture lies in their tortured moans, childlike fascination and developing compassion for one another, where the richies that inhabit Fiddler's Green are little more than caricatures--a symbol of excess and greed, with Hopper making a boring Prospero. All these folks could use a little more fleshing out, no pun intended.

Still in the end, this is a Dead movie with ideas and images that no one else could ever conceive--genuine filmmaking in an age when indie and major studio productions are practically the same thing and no one has a voice anymore. The master is up to his old tricks for a new age. True, it's not as good as "28 Days Later," but I like it more for my own biased reasons. There are moments that will leave you giddy and clapping with approval, not to mention sort of wishing Romero had been tapped to remake his own "Dawn of the Dead" last year, instead of some guy who used to direct Korn videos. But, contrary to popular belief, Romero does not repeat himself.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Two things:

1.) New stuff up over at Foxy Digitalis, including a recollection of one of my all time faves - CHROME - by founding member Gary Spain, gushing reviews of the new Angels of Light (by me), the awesome "Tone of The Universe..." comp on P-arcana and the new Wooden Wand and Vasnishing Voice album, etc; plus interviews with Ariel Pink, Drekka, Funeral Folk, a chat with my old pal and guiding light, Phil McMullen, and plenty more. Check it.

2.) Arthurfest this Sep 4 & 5th looks to about as good as I figured it'd be, only better. I hope to make it, but it's gonna be tough with another Cali trip in the works the following month. Check out the lineup though:

with more acts to be announced shortly.

Jack Rose and Marissa Nadler together? You've got to be shittin'! Currently listening to the incredible "Catonapotato" by Volcano the Bear and totally loving every second...get it NOW!
So I was at the gas station today buying a lotto ticket, and couldn't help but notice this rather bodacious woman, curvy, cute, with her little daughter in line in front of me. As she turned to leave we made quick eye contact and I was immediately hypnotized. Ever seen someone on acid or cocaine? Their eyers are like THIS BIG and blinks are infrequent if noticeable at all. This chick looked like that. Every time I looked into her BIG BLACK EYES a wave of horror and perverse fascination rushed through me as all I could do was just stare hard right back at her! I had to struggle to rip my gaze away to find the more welcoming countenance of Mohammad, my attendant homeboy who worked the counter.

I considered it a moment and decided the chick had just received a botox treatment since her lips were pursed and fishlike, there wasn't a wrinkle in sight and the expression remained petrified for the minute or so we shared proximity. On the way to my car we locked eyes again, and I swear for a few seconds I felt my vital essence being sucked from my body. What the fuck?

Monday, June 06, 2005

Six Organs of Admittance Live 5-20-05...

...recorded at Fernwood Resort, a glorified restaurant/bar that is actually pretty cool. I highly recommend making the trip if you should ever find yourself rounding the sharp bends of Hwy 1. Thanks to Nari for hosting this.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

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Stairway to Heaven

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Welcome to Haight

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Robbie the Redneck Hippie Hobo and Gurngy

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Friday, June 03, 2005

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love "Deadwood." Its Henry James meets Mark Twain on crack historical fiction is surely among the most exciting, tense and utterly humane programming on television today. If there is a God (and I'm leaning that way), "Deadwood" should be around long enough to take its place as the next Sopranos, but as far as I'm concerned it already surpassed that storied Goodfellas tribute in its first season. If you don't have HBO, rent those DVD's! In the meantime, here's a great blogpost, nabbed from the WMFU blog, which features 7 minutes of pure unadulterated Deadwood cussin'. The irony here is that Deadwood is often criticized as being the most profane show on TV, but an average episode yields maybe 10 mins tops of true blue potty mouth. 7 mins of Deadwood, taken from episode 10, season 1.