Wednesday, August 31, 2005

8/28/05, Austin, TX:

Like the night, he crept onto the stage slowly and deliberately. There were three other performers in his band (two drummers and a bassist), but he still loomed solitary and apart. His frame was tall and slender, like an emaciated prisoner or a wilted dustbowler.

He approached the guitar case carefully, opened it, placed a book on the music stand, took strap in hand and attached it before sliding the ax over his shoulder. He said nothing the entire night. But oh, how he sang.

(Thanks to Nick H. for this awesome pic. Yes, that's Nick's pretty head popping up in the lower back.)

I could say more, but somehow it'd betray the sacredness of the evening. 90 mins: some genuine rock-out moments, a constant stumbling aura that was as nerveracking as it was mystifying, as based in the blues as jazz. Jandek is the most angular of them all. His shadow projected against the side curtain will haunt me for many moons. Nick Hennies and Chris Cogburn (two of Austin's finest avant percussionists) were on skins, and a boy named Juan Garcia was on bass.

The show was here:
The Austin Scottish Rite Temple and Theater is a beautiful historical Masons lodge situated in the heart of downtown Austin. The night was filmed and recorded (but not by me! *wink, wink*). Barry Esson from Scotland even made the trip.

For obvious reasons, the New Orleans show (9/02/05) is canceled, though such an apocalyptic setting somehow seems proper for a Jandek concert. In Austin all the desolation just tends more to be internalized. My heart goes out to all those suffering through the floods and rising tides in NO. It's a beautiful city, and I pray she can recover, but I'm really afraid it will never be the same there.

Make a donation for the victims of Hurricane Katrina here.

More info on the Jandek shows can be found here.

Friday, August 26, 2005

I love how when you look at someone, and you're on say, LSD or mushrooms or whatever, and all you see is that person...not the layers of bullshit they present to the world...just who they are. You can look at a beautiful woman and you don't see this vision of pornographic lust; you just see a woman, a beautiful woman, a cute girl, a nervous smile, plenty of lovely shapes and curves. The great equalizer....

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The two best movies I saw this Summer were the unlikely pairing of "The Devil's Rejects" and "Grizzly Man."

"The Devil's Rejects" is a solid slice of b movie shtick galvanized by a well chosen southern rock soundtrack and moments of tortured sadistic brilliance. The movie this is a sequel to, "House of 1000 Corpses," was a passable homage cum rip-off of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (without a doubt the greatest over the top psycho horror freakout ever conceived. The opening scene alone is worth the price of admission) but hardly memorable.

Rob Zombie has slightly altered his genre this time out to a road movie / crime spree romp across the West Texas flatlands, and it works a lot better thanks to some lovably disturbed leading characters (mainly Bill Mosely's "Otis" and Sid Haig's "Captain Spaulding"), gallows humor and a bizarre supporting cast of familiar faces from the American b movie/sitcom wastelands. This drops him squarely in Tarantinoville, though Zombie is not near the filmmaker Tarantino is; for proof of QT's genre mastery, just check out the final sword fight blow-out that concludes "Kill Bill Vol. 1"--phenomenal! Rob makes up for it with his own ridiculous sense of excess and style (which is about what you'd expect after seeing a White Zombie video). That being said, he uses too much slow motion for my taste, but then it's a genre convention, and I'm all about genre. Favorite moments: Hearing the Allman's "Midnight Rider" over a montage of Otis and Baby running through yellow fields as they evade the law, broken up with 70s styled action stills; Otis torturing and slaying two good ol' boys in an industrial area as he philosophizes about what it really means to be free.

""Grizzly Man"" is inspired by a similar desire to exist outside of society, to know "true freedom," but it's an entirely more haunting and impenetrable work. Werner Herzog's latest documentary is among his very greatest films, and that's largely because of Tim Treadwell, a self-made naturalist superhero who is at once noble, tragic, comedic, pathetic. He's damaged, as we all are, to the point that he'd rather hang out for months at a time with gigantic grizzlies and foxes in the Alaskan wilderness than deal with the world of man. His life is a metaphor for so many ideas and desires--and Herzog too, someone who is at once enthrall and deeply resentful of nature.

Treadwell is the ultimate Herzogian protagonist. He's sensitive, self made, ostracized, alienated, living on the line between domestication/the wild, reality/fantasy, sanity/insanity, love/loss. He's a character that I think will stay with me always. Just like Aguirre or Fitzcarraldo or Kaspar Hauser, Herzog has found someone who not only represents the many boundaries we all negotiate through the "grizzly maze" of life, but himself too--a larger than life persona and fiercely independent filmmaker. It's easy to see why Herzog was so drawn to Treadwell. He [Treadwell] still had hope long after society had broken him; he just had to travel deep into the heart of darkness to find it. But as Herzog says in his haunted, often strangely humorous narration, "violence rules the universe," or some such, and ultimately there is no line between the wild and civilization: The same rules apply everywhere. For more info, here's a fascinating article from the Christian Science Monitor that shows that Treadwell and Herzog's kinship runs deeper than even the film might suggest. Thanks to Ben Judson at Eat Worms for forwarding this.
Happy birthday to my Dad, the most honest guy I know.
No spoilers...

There's a telling moment in the recently broadcast series finale of HBO's "Six Feet Under" (which will soon be on DVD), where Claire, the youngest, most artistic of the Fisher clan, tells her decidedly opposite Bush-voting boyfriend that he "possibly has the most unhip musical taste ever." I don't know if you've ever seen "Six Feet Under," the series set in and around a mortuary home and the family that works and lives in it. It's a kind of surreal soap opera lent weight and depth by great acting, deep characterizations, constant unpredictability and both a human understanding of death and a willingness to laugh in its face. Within the three Fisher children (and the rest of the clan) just about the entirety of emotional existence for the so-called everyman is explored. By "everyman" I just mean those of us who stumble along our paths regularly but for whatever reason maintain hopes and desires that reach for the sky. We don't give up.

Elder son Nate is most like "us," or at least me. He's a likeable, impulsive guy with a big heart and not the best judgment. He's also a bit of a fuck-up who gets away with it most of the time because of his charm and good looks (I may be charming, but cute is a stretch). When he comes back to work at the funeral home because of the inevitable family tragedy, he literally faces death, and his own inadequacies, the only way he knows how: honestly and emotionally. It's Nate's desire to be so true and "emotionally available" with everyone--but himself--that often pushes people away. He's the most troubled character on the show, which in a way makes him the most accessible.

David, the middle Fisher child, is something else, both uptight and upright, and an in the closet homosexual till the show's beginning (the first season is largely devoted to his coming out). David and his on/off/on boyfriend, a former cop (!) named Keith, are good people in the truest sense, but they make mistakes just like the rest of us. Every impulsive act, meltdown and mending is lent a universal depth that makes them utterly human and transcends any sexual boundaries or stereotypes. The songs of the great Magnetic Fields come to mind in David and Keith's scenes of domestication. Stephin Merritt may be gay, but he's a person first, and the gender of the characters in his songs is almost a moot point in light the poetry of their words and actions. "Six Feet Under" works just like that. It's a show that strips away all the layers and facade of who we are--that as the things we most see in our day to day interactions--to reveal the soul and humanity beneath.

Even though Claire knows her boyfriend is a total dork, the kind who simply "hears a song on the radio, likes it, and goes and buys the CD at the store," she can't help but respect that simple logic. The purity of an action that isn't tainted by more elitist considerations that might drive the choices of the uber-hip undergroundist, possibly like some reading this here diary of indulgence. And ya know what? I know this guy. He's a friend of mine. He's a lawyer. He's money obsessed and kind of a dork in the art sense, but he's true to himself in a way that I often doubt in the indie/art scene. There's a lot more posing here than there ever was in so called mainstream society. I sometimes think I'm still a poseur too, and that I always will be. And I'm not sure it's a bad thing if I at least recognize that it's a natural impulse to want to be something else, be it better, beautiful, intelligent, "profound"... The goal is to step beyond the boundary of pretending to being, or to be more accurate, doing. Claire sees a guy that's comfortable with being, and who can blame her for wanting to have some of that in her life? Especially after a year or two of art school.

One of my favorite story devices in SFU is the inclusion of ghosts, not the kind that moan or go bump in the night, but they certainly haunt. These ghosts are merely an accumulation of memories as refracted through the minds of whoever sees them. What a concept, eh? It gives me shivers just thinking about it. One day we will all just be an accumulation of memories in someone's mind. Each person in the show sees his or her ghost a different way because their relationship to that person is unique. In other words, the ghosts are just surrogates for his/her own conscience. We all strive to be better, yes? At least I do, and I often wonder if my own judgment is enough. I tend to look to others for approval and dismissal, but always wish that my own was enough as I do so. Needless to say "Six Feet Under" gets to the heart of being and loving in a way that no other show ever really has, though the ones that come close are also HBO original productions.

Which reminds me, I love HBO. Last night I watched a show about porn stars with John Waters. Life is good, if not cheap.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

I don't know if any of you guys got the cajones (with apologies to my three regular female readers) necessary to appreciate the bleak doomain that Khanate lords over, but my friends, my brothers and sisters, the mini CD, "Capture and Release" (Hydrahead)--a 50 minute two song mini CD mind you--is worth the trudge. It's among the most sonically visceral heavy rock albums I've heard with its thick aural soup of looped feedback, amp squelch and buzz, bass groans conjured beneath the most demented shrieking vokills ever ripped from a set of damaged pipes. The mix is what I really can't get over. The performances are all controlled torment and blistering subharmonic assaults every step of the way, but the layers of industrial screech, drone, multitracked vocals and more are at once horrifying and totally enveloping. Deeply textured, intricately assembled with a production value that fully honors the blistering rawness of Khanate's live sound (one of the most incredible live bands around, click here and scroll down for a live review at SXSW last year), but goes further out than most so called doom bands will ever dare to. This owes as much to Throbbing Gristle as it does AbsoluteGo Boris. Then there's the lyrics, which are either exaggerated to the point of absurdity or disturbingly accurate in their portrayals of sadism, hatred and disease. This mangled mass is closer to "The Silence of the Lambs" than "Lord of the Rings," with psychotic screams and repetitious whispers offering a deep look into one very sick mind. But it's all about perspective. You see/hear what you bring with you. Wolf Eyes meets Fushitsusha? Not a stretch...

Speaking of industrial wasteland skronkists, I listened to this Comets on Fire & Burning Star Core 12" on Yik Yak a few times the other day wacked out on formaldehyde and wam bam thank you Rapeman, it works really well! Utterly devastated, blown outside sludgeoid stupidity passed directly through the vermilion haze of the Burning Star Core. I like it raw and bludgeoning as much as the next guy, but too much of this sort of thing can dislodge molars and loosen rafters. Listening to this 12" has me staring up at the ceiling and waiting for the cracks. That being said, something demands my devotion. It could be Comets' singular desire to pulverize as much as they actually rawk out. It could be the rabid guitar squalls, the punishing crunked up Funkadelic rhythms, the caveman drums, deep fried vocal hoots and hollers. It could be the fucking shitstorm. Burning Star Core's injection of grime and crackling decay further tips the scale towards infinite waste and likely plays into the equation as well. The last track in particular is over 13 minutes of primal psych punk skree and splatter that sounds like Simple Saucer in a gangland scrap with Skullflower. All these could be reasons I find this so fascinating. But I'm gonna go with the formaldehyde.

Friday, August 12, 2005

I have procured my ticket for the sold out Jandek show in Austin on August 28th, 2005. Thank you, Nick, for pulling some strings! There are still plenty of seats for the New Orleans gig, with the magical mystery tourists MV & EE plus Chris Corsano lending the man in black a hand. Really wish I could make that one too, but time and finances are tight. Should be posting another roundup of newish releases in the next few days, this time of a more poppier variety. YAY!

In other news:

David Late Tibet is into Timothy the Revelator / Stone Breath! Good job, Mr. Chasny. Hopefully this brings the proprietor of Hand Eye/Dark Holler and his stable of artists a little more attention. Hand Eye and its sister Dark Holler are completely family owned and operated labels that don't have the benefit of a multimillion dollar hype machine or any current buzz phrases to prop them up in the public eye. When words like "wyrd" and "free folk" were bandied about, Mr. Renner and his various ensembles (Stone Breath, Mourning Cloak, The Spectral Light & Moonshine Firefly Snakeoil Jamboree, Timothy the Revelator, Moth Mask, etc) always seemed to hover somewhere just above, but were rarely paid their due. They've been at it over a decade now, coming at the folk thing from a unique place. Stone Breath and Mourning Cloak were important stepping stones for me to folks like Comus, The Trees, Incredible String Band, COB--some of the most incredible acoustic music ever recorded. So yeah, listening to Stone Breath a lot lately, still getting that woodland chill down the spine when I hear the deep intonation of Timothy's baritone over the most minimal banjo and field recorded drones. An important and influential link in this whole modern underground folk scene thing. I realize a little more each and every day this is the most vital music around.

Case in point: Paul labrecque and Valerie Webb's "Trees, Chants and Hollers," about to be reissued by Eclipse Records (of course it'd be Eclipse) later this year. I must thank Brad over at Foxy Digitalis for turning me on to this, because I'd not have heard it by now otherwise. The sound is somewhere between Stone Breath, Charalambides and maybe Labrecque's earlier band, the underrated/known Bright, which played a more spacy drone rock during the late 90s. The same sense of cyclical progression and freedom is found in these acoustic guitar/voice/banjo folk-scapes, but this is deeper and more plaintive at the same time, and informed by some unknown mystery that could be attributed to the emotional extremes that accompanied its conception and release. It's not a pretty story, but then that's love for you. It's another classic in a year overflowing with 'em. Labrecque is also one half of the fnatastical Other Method. I know, it's a lot to process... But try.

Monday, August 08, 2005

NZ Super Noise Trio LIVE:

With Throats as Fine as Needles is the fantastic new deep drone duo (now trio?) of Campbell Kneale (Birchville Cat Motel) and Antony Milton (Nether Dawn) that I've praised recently at FoxyD.

Click here for a phoned in live recording with the help of one James Kirk (Sandoz Lab Techs!), recorded for Brown Student Radio. Sweet!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

This is much more entertaining than this.

The previous post was supposed to be about new EAR-BLEEDING LYSERGIC RAWK instead of addiction, but I went off on a tangent. It happens. Sorry. The original point was supposed to be something to the effect that the music should be and really is the drug. After you've binged on some visceral rhythmic discord you can refile the CD and/or LP and repeat forever; the only thing you'll really have to fear is a ruptured eardrum or two.

When it comes to hearing loss, sensory distortion, maximal sound of all kinds, Matt Bower and Marcia Bassett's Hototogisu takes the shit cake by storm. "Green" (Heavy Blossom), their first widely available CD, is the kind of molten lava wwwaaarrgh and splaaaanng that a lot of people have been making lately, but Bower and Bassett wrote the book on this shit years ago, and HOTOTOGISU is merely the latest and arguably greatest realization of an endless aural orgasm. There was a brief period in the mid 90s when Skullflower played a primal free jazz/metal skree overload that was perfectly realized on their "Carved Into Roses" CD (VHF). "Green" works like that; only the duo streamlines and compresses the tantric throng down to a propulsive fireball of skull crushing fury. Not to suggest that this is harsh noise...It is, but its aim is more elevated in the biomechanicalspiritual sense. It's like the musical equivalent to some sort of cathartic drug trip where you realize/understand everything across all dimensions simultaneously. And it's heavy. Guitars, mountains of effects, drums collide as a volcano expelling a constant stream of early industrial, primitive electronica, distorted GOO whose lineage can be traced from the early Velvets and Pink Floyd right up to My Bloody Valentine, Fushitsusha and of course Skullflower. Drop the laser down at any point and I'm immediately flung into a tsunami of ecstasy and rage. As if this all wasn't enough to keep my active noize junkie ass busy, SKULLFLOWER IS BACK! Bower has closed the Sunroof for a while, given Total a break and reanimated his original Frankennzilla of rock. Skullflower today sounds sort of like a cross between ye of old and Sunroof, and yes, the Hototogisu. There's lots of lasers and flange shooting back and forth across this radioactive shitstorm, Bower's guitar stuck in a lockgroove of howling dissonance and Spacemen 3 hypno-groove. As with "Green," "Orange Canyon Mind" (Crucial Blast) is a record to be surrendered to as the ghosts of Ash Ra, Harmonia, Faust and Merzbow pass ever closer before finally fusing into one magnificent beast.

Speaking of the more mongrel among us, always fine to see the Dead C back in the game, this time sharing a split 12" (Fat Cat) with wacked out Congolese street jazz/noise ensemble Konono No. 1. They're new to me too, but the buzz is rightly reverberating around these ethno-drones, chants and polyrhythmic percussive flows. They're going to be featured on NPR's The World this Monday (08/08/05), so check those listings for the scoop on some real deal industrial freakbeat. The Dead C delivers three more brilliant slabs of clangy stomp and skree that alternates between nutty tape manipulations and more rhythmic quagmires. Seething noise blues is the end result, and Robbie Yeats is still the best drummer since Neil Peart.

That brings me to Sunburned Hand of the Man's "No Magic Man." Seems like a lotta man's, man. Sometimes I feel these guys; sometimes I don't. Their rambling free form hippie acid/turntable/noise/etc is so scattered/far out there that I find myself wishing their albums came with a skeleton key that unlocked the hidden meaning of it all. Still haven't figured it out, and I don't really care to when the results are this pleasantly burnt. In fact, this is pretty much as good as this sorta stuff gets with its warped opener of old spoken word, surface and tape noise "sounds of hell" and more eventually cooked to a crisp and chilled across 11 compact, loosely rendered sonic expeditions. "The Air Itself" is quite Sun City Girls with Brooklynite spoken word over analog whirrrs and Hawkwind whoosh. Other spots make me think of Funkadelic, Comus, Nurse with Wound, along with the usual suspects. The tribal chants and primitive kraut pulse of "Your Own Eyes and Number None" build to Faustlike proportions, and closer "Gather Round" is funky echo drenched acid party sorta like "Maggot Brain" banged out of the bottom of a well. While we're down here may as well see what the always cosmically informed Third Troll is blabbing on about. "III" (Capillary River) is I believe my first exposure to this Bardo Pond offshoot, though I've been aware of it for many moons. These are dense epics of extended drone and building space rock that run from the most primitive industrial murk (guitars, electronics, shortwave, farfisa, etc) to full on rhythmic jazz evocation (the above plus heavy percussion and sax). The 21 min "Tropic of Entropy" seems to sum it all up well enough. Tony Conrad and Faust, Ash Ra Tempel, Xhol at their most long gone, among others...

And now allow me to introduce this year's newest model, Brisbane, Australia's G55. "Who is that" you say? Almost two years ago now strange rumblings were first felt with the arrival of the mysterious Lost Domain via the excellent Rhizome microlabel. It signaled a major exhalation from the lungs of "free electronic jazz noise," that's since blown further on the even more ghostly "Sailor, Home From the Sea," courtesy of Digitalis/Broken Face. Little did I know that it was just the tip of the iceberg for the loose conglomeration of musicians and noisemakers that comprise the Kindling empire. G55, a trio featuring two members of the LD, is just the latest manifestation from this hallucination factory. If the Lost Domain is levitated and ghostly, G55 is an entirely more mechanical post punk beast. In fact these 7 charging improvisations are some of the most perfectly realized blasts of pure rhythm and sound I've come across all year. G55 might suggest many previous ground-breakers--This Heat, Bablicon, Faust and Dead C among them--but strikes out for deeper waters and a purer evocation by leaving cumbersome details like lyrics, song titles and any recognizable form behind. Elements of Lou Reed's "Metal Machine Music," the Magic Band, Vibracathedral Orchestra are dropped into a cauldron, stirred and melted down to white hot sound. The way this trio goes from a squawking minimal noise blurt, expands it into a primitive krautrock pulse and finally blasts off for the deepest regions of space over the first three tracks alone is mindblowing--makes me think of early Kraftwerk's rawness combined with the scope of their later more realized works. This lo-fi art whatzit is some of the most satisfying pulse and churn I've ever heard, no lie at all. Given it was all improvised and recorded live in one day (!) makes it all too obvious: G55 is one to watch closely and consume impulsively like so many little pink pills. Bravo, lads.

Friday, August 05, 2005

So it's August, the time when people melt before they walk a city block in this town. Being one who's prone to drinking much coffee, there's a high sweat factor to be dealt with when under the sun for longer than 10 minutes. At least I'm conditioned to function in this shit. I feel for the more northerly acclimated sorts who might be coming through around now, but I welcome the burn. Every year I get to endure my own baptism by fire, and I'm always ever so proud of myself for making it through alive.

I've actually been fascinated with fire since I was a youngun (I once burned down my parents' backyard playing "chicken": true) and even now, sometimes feel a sick compulsion to shove my head in the oven and turn it up. I like it hot, like that lame song by The Power Station...Remember them? They're the kind of prefab glossy pop shite that made suburbanite losers like me resort to trying marijuana in the first place. So don't go thinking I'm getting all Sylvia Plath on your ass. I'm not. I'm just acknowledging my respect for heat, flames, laserbeams and other things that can make me go blind.

Since getting older, and arguably wiser (ROFLMFAOHAWHAWHAWHAWHAW!!!), I've realized that drugs are not necessarily the most beneficial means of expanding the mind. They're more like amplifiers that emphasize whatever thoughts are running through the mental wire wheel already. And seeing as most of us are consumed by negativity on a day to day basis, do we really need to give this stuff a platform from which to shout: "I SUCK! MY LIFE SUCKS! I FUCKING HATE YOU, EVEN THOUGH I TALK TO YOU EVERY DAY BECAUSE YOU BUY ME BEER AND TALK BACK, SO I WILL CONTINUE SITTING HERE AND LISTENING TO STORIES SUCH AS HOW YOU BOINKED A GIRL NAMED BRANDI LAST WEEK AND THEN BOINKED HER 60 YR OLD MOTHER THIS WEEK, ETC"? Of course we do. Shit sucks pretty bad when you're living the American non-dream nonstop, sucks less bad if you can share said suckage with another suckee over a glass of bad draft beer.

Anyway, back to the present point: If a record or CD is speeding by like a freight-train that might go off the rails, you can always turn it down. You can hit stop. You can even hit eject and throw the CD clear across the room. No such button lies in the cockpit of a Boeing airbus blazing on MDMA or 37 jello shots, coming in too steep and too hot in a thunderstorm. All the passengers can do is fasten the seatbelts, grab knees and pray that Jesus doesn't snatch their ass from the "jaws of life" (interesting phrase that).

Still, drugs are fun. They prolong life. They fight infection. They allow certain bores a means of staving off the traumas of early/mid life crises that the rest of us call "being awake" so that they might be invigorated by faux confidence and self esteem as their sex drive plummets. In the end it's all worth it, though, because they become more viable cogs in the human machine, or they're five times more likely to commit suicide and/or murder a coworker. All beneficial to society in the wacky decade affectionately referred to as the oh's.

There's always that danger of losing one's self among any kind of obsession--real, imagined, experienced or witnessed from a lachrymose daze. It's not always so obvious, either. One day you're running late, finally find your lost keys, stub a shin on the dash out, and you look down and find a warped prothstetic made of hemp and coca leaves. It happens! Perhaps moderation is the key to the beneficial ingestion of all stimuli. Maybe I'm just a ninny who thinks all you need is love. Jonathan Richman was onto something when he sang, "if these guys, if they're really so great, tell me, why can't they take this place straight?" Because, hippie Jonny, addiction gives one purpose.