Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Arguably a little off topic, but is anyone really surprised? Didn't think so.

An update: The little birdy has long since managed to leave the nest with a firm kick in the butt from mankind. Pretty sure I've seen it flying around the front yard once or twice since but no pictures sadly. Take my word for it? Cool.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Made it out to some very nice peoples' house in Denton the other night for a li'l house shew. Wonderful hosts; they have a nice place on a corner of the "bad part of town," but they're right across the street from something like a church, so the house is sort of half-cloistered from neighbors, crack dealers and police.

The occasion? Warmer Milks! Yeah, Lexington, KY's Warmer friggin' Milks in J.R. country. Trip! There were two opening acts, the first of which escapes me just now. After ten minutes of trying to decide whether this first act was sound checking or actually playing I decided to retire to the spacious back yard and meet the Warmer Milks guys and smoke some ciggies. Mikey is the only one whose name I really remember, and he is a very nice guy--very intense and passionate about his rock 'n' roll--but also just a down to earth, accessible black metal fan. He was shocked when I started name-dropping all these peeps that'd turned me on to his music. I was all like "Yeah, we all went to Forced Exposure University together," so he kissed my hand and gave me a merc hook up (hand painted test pressing of the new LP on Troubleman, 2 CD-Rs and a t-shirt that I sure hope fits) and asked me to keep in touch, which I'm planning on doing. I'd rather have someone like this as a friend than an enemy.

Next band was You Are the Universe, which came off like Explosions in the Bardo Pond. A young skinny man who was a friend of this band was talking to me right before the show and asked, "Hey man, where's the heroin station?" I Mona Lisa smiled and looked at him perversely. He sort of grinned and said "I'm just kiddin'...unless..." "Unless what?" I said. "Nevermind." "Oh, I'm just kidding too by the way." He looked at me and grinned, "Really?" And I countered: "Well you are kidding, right?" "Sort'a," he responded, and it went on like that till I walked away.

Sick fuck.

So Warmer Milks: What to say about these lunatics? These sweet, downhome middle Americans with a blackness in their hearts and a grim sound in their fingertips. I enjoyed asking each member of the 4some how he would describe Warmer Milks' music, and sure enough Mikey was closest to the mark: "Ummm, a trainwreck."


Like a few trainwrecks crashed into one another and spawning a nexus of pain and grief that radiates outward in every direction. The world is fucked; people are dying. Some dude in Beirut even went so far as to improvise around exploding bombs to, like, embrace the fury. Tones as pain, lacerated voices and sound, mongrel bass heavy splurge originated from diseased electronic blood; all in all their set was 20 minutes of the most demented post Throbbing Gristle/Wolf Eyes murk I have ever heard in a quaint living room. An amazing show. More entertaining than the Majik Markers. I recorded it on minidisc. It's gonna make one hell of a 3" CD-R someday.

See them live if you dare.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

An homage to The Broken Face which regularly featured The Playlist: songs, albums or both that each contributor would try his best to email over to Mats G. on a quarterly or so basis. In a world of podcasts and limited run specialty 3" CD-Rs selling out in two weeks, it probably seems like we were holding something back, like the actual music. But then sometimes I'd throw in little capsule reviews or taglines to lend things a slightly more personal aura, which was sort'a nice, right? So here I am actually homaging those playlists in which I included some amount of criticism. I am homaging myself.

The Womblife Summer Playlist
(complete with capsules)

1. Tim Hardin 2 (MGM 1967/Lilith 2006) - I've heard "If I Were a Carpenter" many times, and this version feels a bit more jazzed up than what I'd heard. Otherwise, this is pretty good stuff, tasteful, direct, weepy tender guy songwriter folk stuff from a golden year, which allows one to excuse the more idealistic bits. But then I like that sort of thing, too. It's just that one might listen to this differently after being over exposed to the likes of Townes Van Zandt. Definitely lacks the bite of some of the heavier hitters of the era, but the songs are good and old sorts and young sorts alike should be able to enjoy it together on a sunny afternoon. The tweens and teens will hate it (sorry, kids). This reissue comes on some weird Russian label I've never heard of.

2. John Fahey Vol 6: Days Have Gone By (Takoma) - embarrassing confession. Until a week ago I'd never heard this record. It's true that Womblife is named at least partly in honor of the Fahey album of the same name, and though I am by no means an expert on the man, I consider Fahey to be one of the most important American musicians of the 20th Century. Just about everyone reading this probably agrees. Ah well, preaching to the converted. Going back to Womblife, I'm pretty sure Fahey himself really liked the record. It's a hard album to get into, hard to "get your head around" as they say, landing it squarely in the grower category, and that category only exists for those who dare approach music as something beyond entertainment. Not to say it isn't entertaining--it is--but it's something else too. Womblife is what Fahey considered a genuine musical expression of how he saw the world, of the very concept of primitivism that he embodied. Its extended tracks, recorded and mixed by Jim O'Rourk, convey a sense of crawling menace as ghostly fingerpicked melodies are swarmed by masses of primitive distortion. It's an album bubbling with life, but much of it isn't traditionally harmonious or pleasing. It's more like a contained atmosphere of hostility and beauty. It's an album that speaks to the reality of life now and millions of years ago.

Days Have Gone By is something else. This is the work of the young, agile, and unbeatable Fahey. His spirit is wide and his shadow long here. There is so much detailed, hypnotic beauty in the fingerpicking and compositional depth of these 11 songs. If Womblife was Fahey's attempt to expose the real, this is his even more successful attempt to live in the dream. Snippets of pre WW2 melodies--be they blues, country, jazz or pop--can be found persisting in these songs, and evolving too for a newer consciousness that still dares to display its ancestral links to the past. This is Fahey's ultimate realization of ethnic American music as transcendentalism.

A central debate arises when comparing these two albums. Monica Kendrick's essay in the liners to Days, written just a month after Fahey's death in early 2001, explores the subject sympathetically. What is art, if not truth? I don't mean "truth" as in the final summation of any place or event in time, but I do mean something that is undeniable. Something that one can't really disagree with. Of course that can kick-start a slew of spin-off discussions, but we'll save those for another day. If Womblife is the truth, Days Have Gone By is what we wish the truth really was.

3. Josephine Foster What Is it That Ever Was? (23 Productions) - Our lady wakes up one Winter morning and decides to spontaneously compose and perform an album. What that means is this is sort of a million miles away from her masterfully constructed Hazel Eyes I Will Lead You (Locust) but not without its own charms as Foster plays piano, guitar, knocks shit around percussively, tries on a variety of singing styles and, in the process, exposes an altogether more demented side to her persona that ranges from haunted piano ballads to spontaneous beat poetry / hiphop (really).

4. GHQ "La Poesia Visiva" (Heavy Blossom) - The coolest thing I purchased at the Merc table of the Majik Markers show the other night (and yes, they were pretty good and annoying)--tantric light beam space folk blues noise bliss that was probably recorded in a basement or living room somewhere, but sounds a tad more cosmically divined than such meager origins might suggest. Let it shine, brothers and sisters!

5. Gene Clark White Light (A&M/Universal) - Now this here is what I'm talking about. This is where I'm at. This is where Mr. Hardin wishes he lived. One of my all time favorite songwriter roots folk psych rock sorts of records from one of the all time greats. Songs like "The Virgin," "With Tomorrow," "White Light," "For a Spanish Guitar," "Because of You" and Clark's take on Dylan's "Tears of Rage" are definitive slices of early 70s soul music in the deepest sense of the word, all delivered with the help of primo session musicians, yet it sounds so intimate. Once again, both young and old should be satisfied. The tweens can fuck off.

6. Holger Czukay - A Mix sent to me in a very nice package of goodies from George Parsons, this seems to be select tracks from the first half of Czukay's solo career, including the 8 part "Ode to Perfume," "On the Way to the Peak of Normal," "Witches Multiplication Table" and so on. Given his solo stuff can be pretty spotty, me thinks this mix will get much play in the coming warm weeks. Thank you, George!

7. Adam Bujag Wave of Tears (Deep Water) Holy shit, is this not the best minimal electro pop dream ever? I can't stop listening. Can't stop being fascinated by every second of its bubbling, whirring textures. I reviewed it already here, and one band I forget to mention then was the Young Marble Giants. Otherwise everything stands. This is vital, deceptively beautiful stuff that has captured my heart and mind.

8. Ike and Tina Turner "River Deep Mountain High" from the album of the same name on Alvorado Music. At the time of this recording, Tina was probably knee deep in Ike's shit, yet this song along with Tina's towering vocal performance (not to mention Phil Spector's avalanche of sound) is a defiant blast of freedom and affection. Feel the swell in your chest as you stretch those arms to the sun.

9. Six Organs of Admittance The Sun Awakens (Drag City) My boy in the west plugs in and ups the distortion and in the process releases one of his finest albums to date. Some folks won't agree with me, but I think this is a bold American answer to Popol Vuh, and "River of Transfiguration" sure is a bad ass side long trance drone that's perfect for staring at the sun for minutes on end (not that I recommend that, but part of me definitely does).

10. Gal Costa, Gilberto Gil, Os Mutantes, Caetano Veloso, Tom Zé and Jorge Ben Tropicália: A Brazilian Revolution in Sound (Soul Jazz) An excellent introduction to this important and most stoned Latin American psychedelic scene. Perfect for the poolside on warm sunny afternoons, along with those fruit drinks with little umbrellas in 'em, though yuppies probably need not apply. Viva la revolucion!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Diamond has faded. The story of Roger "Syd" Barrett is legend. That legend can be found in most of Pink Floyd's 70s albums, which were recorded with and without him. He wasn't there physically, but his spirit hovered over the proceedings like a divine spectre. It could be said that as much as Floyd owes its existence to Syd, they owe their greatest creative/commercial successes to Syd's very real mental unraveling. It's a spooky thing to consider. It's rock 'n' roll.

In later years, Syd never liked to talk about his days as a rock star. I don't blame him. Unless you reach back far enough, the past tends to be a drag. Rest well, friend. Syd as a wee Roger.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Close Encounters of the Bird Kind...

A mini-drama is unfolding 'round these parts. Only mini in that the participants are all pretty small. The actual threads of this particular story are as compelling as anything that concerns us common folk as we make our way through the world: the basic need to survive. A nest of doves somehow managed to find its way to on top of the electric meter at my parents' home. Upon recognition of this interesting turn, I suggested that no one intervene with the nature-meets-modern-civilization dilemma unfolding--just leave 'em alone and maybe everything will be OK.

Being one with a predilection for birds, I took a special interest in what happened next: My aunt and uncle came to visit the parents soon after the discovery. I'd already observed that every time anyone walked near the nest or slammed the back door of the house, the Momma-bird would fly off and watch from a nearby perch to see what happened next. If human hands interfered with the nest or contents, Momma would likely say "fuck this" and simply hit the road (after maybe killing her two surviving chicks or worse), which considering the amount of care had gone into the whole enterprise would've been pretty sad and, even more, some sort of depressing statement on the world today. The best of intentions can so easily lead to the worst unintentions.

So Uncle suggests putting some birdseed in or near the nest. "Don't think you should do that," I doth protest, but I'm young and still apparently somewhat naive in such matters. It was done. More bird seed was deposited in/near the nest a few days later.

A few more days passed, and I noticed randomly that the nest was apparently empty, no sign of the previously observed chicks or Momma-bird. Looked around a bit to find one of the chicks dead in the garden below. Looked a while longer, found another chick sitting still like a little statue on the concrete, huddled up against the house. Talk about heartbreaking. :( So I picked it up--it was definitely still very alive--assembled a little box with help of my Dad's expert engineering guidance and put it, along with a little water and tomato slivers, back where it was before atop the electric meter. As of this morning Momma-bird has returned to the nest. She hasn't given up on her shrinking family. Neither have we.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Two film capsules:

Superman Returns - Super shit never ends. Stinker, big time, and yes I liked the first movie from '78 (which this is both a remake of and sequel to), but first of all, Ja-lel ain't Christ. He's a former soap actor who got lucky. Kate Bosworth is a boring Lois Lane. I'd rather have seen a Schindler's List styled humanitarian epic with Kitty Kowalski (Parker Posey) in the place of Oscar Schindler instead of this rank, boring, CGI rendered turd. Posey is great. Still waiting for Superman.

The Hills Have Eyes - A remake that works! SERIOUSLY. The original was like an SNL skit meets the Texas Chainsaw Massacre in the New Mexican desert (i.e. pretty crappy), but this new one, from that Frenchy who did High Tension, is like the artistic height of American b-movie crapola. Good points: Hot aussie chick from Lost as pissy teen, impish ultrapassivist cell phone salesman democrat guy who smokes, Big Bob (aka Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs) as the good ol' gun toting ex-cop dad, the great and underused Kathleen Quinlan as a ditzy God-fearing mom, two German Shepherds--Beauty and Beast--and an opening title sequence (a montage of nuclear explosions, pics of birth defect deformities and an old country chestnut by Webb Pierce) that's as exploitive and COOL as anything I have seen in a major studio film in '06. The film itself? Sort'a Texas Chainsaw Massacre crossed with National Lampoon's Vacation crossed with Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs, with an abundance of blood and eye-for-eye retribution. Oh yeah, it's also an allegory, but who cares? Final verdict: Much better than Hostel.


Sunday, July 02, 2006

I have fallen for the Radioactive scam mill at least once, and the quality of the CD was truly shit with needle pops and out of phase hums all over the fuckin place. Timothy Renner has been preparing the Trees boxset for like five years now, and he's the real-deal indie musician and small business owner putting his heart and soul into every aspect of this endeavor. It's hard enough for the independent musician today as it is, so beware!

From Tim Renner:

It's a total and complete fucking needdle-drop bootleg. The Trees are pissed and I am pissed and we are looking into joining a massive lawsuit against Radioactive because they have ripped off something like 200 other artists. The Jimi Hendrix estate just kicked their ass in court, apparently, so we have to get in line. The fact that they are lying and calling it "100% authentic" or whatever is just a kick in the balls too. In doing a little research, we found another record label, not 20 miles from here, that has been screwed by Radioactive too. They have joined the lawsuit already and are helping us in any way they can.

"The Christ Tree" LP was originally issued by the band themselves, on their own record label - no other label or organization has any claims to their music.

I'm taking it to the distributors and major retailers: already got it kicked off ebay and working on getting it removed from Amazon. IF everyone could write comments on amazon saying IT'S a BOOTLEG/PIRATE DO NOT BUY! Maybe this would help 1. get the word out and 2. convince Amazon it needs to be removed. If you see it pop up on ebay again, report it as a bootleg.

...and If everyone can PLEASE contact every store/distributor/etc they know and beg them to wait for the legitimate reissue box set, that would be a start. I have cease and desist letters and a letter signed by the living members of the Trees Community showing my rights to reissue the music and also stating that Radioactive is in violation of copyright; if people need to see those, I can forward them.

The box set will be here at the end of the summer probably. I just got a printer who is able to make the box the way I wanted it - it folds out into a cross shape with each arm of the cross holding a CD - that was the major obstacle - we're VERY close now. Dennis Blackham mastered it and it sounds AMAZING. The rough parts (the tape release was REALLY screwed up in audio quality) are a bit beyond making perfect, but the stuff that was cleanable sounds brilliant. Katheryn, the Trees archivist, is very particular about music in general and the Trees music in specific, and she was BLOWN AWAY by the final mastered copies. I've listened to the album (incl. a pristine, still sealed copy K. gave me) thousands of times and I heard things in Dennis' mastered version that I never heard before.

As I'm sure you two know, it's one hell of a struggle in label-land now to stay afloat, even without dealing with shit like this. Almost EVERY penny of the label's savings - and every penny I had saved from money I made selling my own records or doing live shows - has been invested in this reissue. I have felt that I was meant to do this reissue and that if it breaks the label doing it then, well, at least we went out doing something my mind/heart was into 100%. When I saw this bootleg the other day, I actually sat down and cried. It was just too much to bear. I'm beyond that now, and into a highly pissed/active mode.

David Tibet has called Freak Emporium and shut it down there. I have written a letter to Forced Exposure, but I don't know them and get the feeling it will be ignored. Clear Spot has promised to wait for the legitimate reissue. I contacted Yod, Melody Bar, Michael Piper/Ace of Discs, and Eclipse and have received no response as yet. My email to Rustic Rod was returned, so I must have old contact info for him.

I am open to further suggestions. I was considering offering a discount on the box to any store who proved to me that they returned copies of the Radioactive pirate copy, but I don't know how that could be accomplished.

I have a feeling that, for the most part, I am going to have to rely on the kindness of stores/mailorders to NOT stock it.

Some people have suggested that Radioactive's release will just spark interest in the box set, but we just don't know that for sure. The main point is, they are morally WRONG in doing what they did, and only Radioactive will profit from their selfish filth "reissue" and I stand on this point.

thanks for your sympathy and concerns,