Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Much love to all, and that includes the few folks who check in here once in a while and the rest of the world that doesn't even know Womblife exists. It's during these darkest and most cynical times that words like peace and hope carry the most weight. So peace and hope to you all.

I should be able to assemble some best-of thoughts re 08 and another few music posts in the next week or so. In the time being, I'm pretty hyped to see Gran Torino. This article by an LA Times auto critic hints at the depth and timliness of Eastwood's vision. No spoilers.

Friday, November 28, 2008

I've had some technical difficulties here at the Womb lately. Information has been lost, and along with it some of my fighting spirit, but I persist and that internal/eternal love light remains aglow. As a result, I'm going to offer abbreviated reviews of MANY THINGS in a series of posts over the next days, though I may expand a bit here and there.

This Is My Music: Vol 1 (Garage Days Revisited).

Bad Statistics Bad Town Gone (PseudoArcana) CD - An album to inflame passions and bruise brains. Ya either love or hate the Bad Statistics, maybe even at the same time. Hawkwind, Scorched Earth Policy, Reynols, Circle -- BS come from a long line of such rambunctious tail-chasing weirdos. The fuzz blowouts that comprise their second album, Bad Town Gone (the first was released by Belgium's Kraak label, and critically thrashed in the e-pages of Foxy Digitalis), are tribal and invigorating like a blood-soaked Pagan rite just after midnight, while still rocking in a semi-conventional but completely destroyed way. Also: There's a mush mouth singer named Thebis Mutante that sounds like he was left out in the sun a little too long. Lather on an overall grimy distorted murk that can best be described as avant-stupid, and you've got one of the neatest/weirdest things I've popped in the changer all year. Most norms will hate this. Guess that makes me "special." A sample from the Kraak album.

A.M. Rag Red Reverie (PseudoArcana) CD - Antony Milton's typically more sedated A.M. project gets injected with dancehall beats and boogie fuzz guitars on the extended noise trips of Red Rag Reverie, a freakout that you can drone out to on the horizontal plane just as easily as you can spaz out in the vertical. Fans of Vibracathedral Orchestra/Astral Social Club, minimal techno, Blue Cheer/Sonic Youth and the more serene past A.M. releases should gulp down this smokestack lightnin' with nary a grimace.

Sunken Eye Electric Organ, Brain Electric Nerve (PseudoArcana) CD - Long in the making, this first full length from the duo of Milton and Stefan Neville offers up grinding minimal trance-scapes via organs and more primitive means across epic excursions that suggest John Cale's early noise experiments and the great Tony Conrad gone garage, while the quieter bits are more akin to a kinder, gentler Main. Deeply rewarding stuff whichever path these lads choose. Consider me sunk.

Glory Fckn Sun
Vision Scorched (PseudoArcana) CD - Repackaging of the excellent debut by this levitated free noise trio should register with fans of Flies Inside the Sun, AMM, Sun Ra, luminescence, the pineal gland, infinity and all those flickering flames on the horizon. Vision Scorched is actually a continuation of Milton's duo recordings with Ben Spiers under the Seen Through moniker with the free percussion of Simon O'Rourke lending everything a decidedly off kilter arrhythmic flow. Glory Fckn Sun, don't go down on me!

The Free Players Snakes From Space (PseudoArcana) CD-R - Not sure how much Keijo has made it into these hallowed pages. There was a while there when so much of his product was flooding the shelves that I just started to let things go. Since then he's introduced the world to his free trio, the suitably christened Free Players, and amassed a musical catalog that's vast and uncompromising. If Jandek is the post-modern answer to woebegone blues, then Keijo is closer to the Finnish Sun Ra. His compositions seem to literally materialize from the aether; and the half hour "Snakes From Space" does just that as bouncing jaw's harp, percussive clatter and various string vibrations melt into one hypnotic rhythmic dream that truly earns those late period Sun Ra comparisons. To add: I once literally had a dream of snakes from space invading earth and basically taking over, but, despite a few fairly Lovecraftian aspects, it wasn't a nightmare. It was in fact one of the most profound dreams of my life, and this CD-R could very well be the soundtrack. Fuckin' a.

Michael Yonkers and the Blind Shake Carbohydrates Hydrocarbons (Farm-Girl) CD - Michael Yonkers is one of the more unlikely cult rock stories to emerge from the garage underground recently. His band signed to Sire Records in the late 60s, recorded a mind-blowing proto-punk psych assault entitled Microminiature Love which was deemed unreleasable and actually shelved(!), I guess, because it presaged everything from no wave to shoegaze, and young hippie ears just weren't ready for all that chaos. Thankfully Sub Pop and De Stijl Records rectified things a few years back by giving Microminiature Love a proper release on CD and LP respectively, and the rest is history still unfolding before our ears. Now comes the issue of the equally blistering noise assault, Carbohydrates Hydrocarbons, and once gain, Yonkers has assembled a first rate power trio to back him in The Blind Shake, and more importantly that same wiry Godz/Stooges fuzztone that made the first album so stunning remains intact. Yonkers' own madman vocals sound pristine, dulled none by age, and the songs are heavy as shit. I mean this rocks hard! It's not necessarily on par with the greatness of his early work, but I got to think no other old school rocker (aside from maybe Moe Tucker) still rocks with as much heaviosity. Truly a mind-ripper. And for an abrupt shift to the equally compelling psych folk side of Yonkers' singular abilities, look no further than his excellent Grimwood, recently reissued on CD by De Stijl. It's a real beauty in the post early Cohen vein.

Times New Viking Rip It Off (Matador) CD - Noisy Ohio darlings make the leap to the big time, get played on eMpTyV and still manage to drop another hum-dinger of a sing-songy brain-smasher with 15 blistering guitar/organ/drums fuzz nuggets cranked out in just under 30 mins of distorted hook-laden bliss. Boy and girl vocals, sometimes together, never boring. I have no doubt that this is the ugliest production to bear the Matador stamp in over decade, but the melodies are there screaming through the grime and demanding your attention. I pity anyone who thinks this is just a bunch of bumbling amateurish nonsense. Listen to the songs! To the point: If you love to get sloppier than hammered shit on your favorite cheap whiskey and dance like an epileptic at a Motorhead concert, Rip It Off is pretty far from a rip off.

Sic Alps
A Long Way Around to a Shortcut (Animal Disguise) / U.S. Ez (Siltbreeze) both CD - Two very fine platters dropped by this San Francisco duo this year. The first, Long Way Around To a Shortcut (clever title, that), is a compendium of singles and other comp cuts that's stuffed to the gills with some of the most purely satisfying psych pop anthems I've grooved to this year. Sic Alps has a gift for emphasizing the ramshackleness of its arrangements but never to the detriment of the songs. Whether blasting things apart and getting freeform, or patching together a series of haunted instrumental segues into drifting interludes, or recasting the glory of nuggets old into modern art slop masterworks, these dudes seem incapable of releasing shit. And based on this CD they're one hell of a singles band. On the long players the duo aims to make things a little less digestible and stranger. Their Siltbreeze debut may not be as consistently fun as A Long Way Around... It's less than half the length, but under the right circumstances and proper conditions U.S. Ez strikes a lazy balance between stoned psychedelic destruction and hummable in-the-red pop that comes off like a late night meeting between Madcap era Syd Barrett and Pussy Galore. The deconstructed bits, which on first listen, sound more like aimless freakouts reveal their charms and manage to squeeze a lot of transcendence into just a few minutes. Fans of vintage psych artisans such as Outrageous Cherry and Maher Shalal Hash Baz really should hunt both these beauties down. A rockin' live sample.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Hey! I'm still alive! Courtesy of our friends at Foxy Digitalis (Absolutely LOVE that new La Otracina tape btw!), great article here with Campbell Kneale of the esteemed Birchville Cat Motel, which was recently put down like an old family pet in favor of newer realms of exploration via the designation Our Love Will Destroy The World. Especially interesting for his observations re the current state of the digital download underground and the problem of too much, too fast! More to come... I swear.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Is it safe?
Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night.
Look down there. Tell me. Would you really feel any pity if any one of those dots stopped moving forever?
We are through the looking glass here, people.

...just a few lines from my bible that express paranoid feelings of living in this country and on this planet right now. Here's to hope. *clink* I know what hangs in the balance, and I hope you and yours are holding things down, preparing for who knows what and always living life and moving forward. All that really matters is today (and ever today to come). It's hard to know what lies ahead, but no matter who becomes the next president (it's gonna be Obama), it's going to be a rough ride the next couple years me thinks. Thanks to an abundance of the various soul elixirs required to weather such storms, I giess I'm ready.

Farewell, Paul Newman and Cool Hand Luke, Fast Eddie Felson, Butch Cassidy, Frank Galvin...the list goes on doesn't it?

Apologies for falling behind so far here. It is officially chilly in TX once more--so long, short pants! Hello bronchitis! Had a fantastic time seeing the great Roky Erickson with the Black Angels at the Granada Theater last Saturday (vintage psych catharses, my friends), and Zanzibar Snails and the wickedly amazing Vorvadoss at Good Records earlier in the evening. Dallas's Vorvadoss count Brainticket and Beherit among their influences, both justified in this band's rabid pagan noise metal assault, but I also heard some Darkthrone in there and even a bit of Eye Hate God. Check out their myspace site (linked above) for a cpl tracks that hint at the absurd fury of the live show, which had me and about 15 people all head-lashing and all sorts of spaced out amid the disorienting smoke-machine abyss. Here's some great pix of the pagan fury that almost convey the grim wonder and absurd beauty of this mighty live experience. I dunno, I think these guys could really flay some minds and strain some necks if they can hold it together long enough to actually release something.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Coming to Terms with Tenacious D: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and love Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny...

I never was a big Tenacious D fan. Never was a big Ween fan either...or Frank Zappa. I recognize the genius of all involved, but for me, musical appreciation has always been more about a feeling. Sure I judge things through my own prism of experience/influence, but for some reason many of my favorite musicians and artists have appealed more to some receptor in my body where my mind seems to sort of shut down and my soul just goes into overdrive.

Which brings me to the completely unrelated Weeezer. I once enjoyed the 'pleasure' of seeing Weezer live with some friends. At this particular show, in Ft. Worth, TX circa 2003, Tenacious D. was the opening act. And they were greeted with lots of collegiate hoots and hollers, though I personally couldn't make out 10% of the lyrical content, let alone recognize any of the songs. I'd dug a few of the shorts on HBO, but maybe it was the looming specter of seeing the legendary Weezer in their natural thriving habitat -- the live setting -- that had me a bit apprehensive. Ya see, Weezer is a decent singles band. What superior bands like Cheap Trick and Kiss did for the the late 70s power pop/glam crowd, Weezer managed to do, along with the ever-important geek chic appeal, originally pioneered by any number of early 90s indie pop acts. It was a neat trick, and not entirely worthless. But live, this night, Weezer was entirely worthless. There was no Spike Jonez or Ric Ocasek on hand to dress up these mopey pseudo-emo/indie pop hits and ballads or conceal what was clearly little more than a calculated, and even quite cynical, indie pop cash-in, 10 years after the fact no less. The Pixies were rolling over in their graves, and they're all still kicking in the here/now. None of this stopped myriad late-teen-somethings, though, from trading off high 5s and declaring Weezer the greatest thing since Tivo multiple times in my vicinity.

Fast forward a good 5 years to right fuckin' now. I am watching Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny, and I've seen it before. I know a lot of you whipper-snappers reading this blog are pretty high-fallutin' with your counter-cultural democratic-socialist leanings, and I dig that. You probably hate the mainstream, though it's nothing personal. You hate Hollywood too. The last piece of original music you purchased came in an edition of 12 micro-cassettes on a label run by an alienated genius who lives in the Gobi desert with a plastic fuck-doll named Dawnika, but goddamnit(!), metal kicks ass! Metal is cooler than hardcore, and I love hardcore, well deeply appreciate and covet thy copy of Negative Approach's Total Recall anyway, but if we as rockers and profound lovers of the metallic sword, must truly recognize the totality and cosmic importance of our most rewarding ride on this cosmic carousel, then we must recognize the totality and undeniable dominion of true metal -- the need for sonic revolt, the desire to rock hard with allegiance to none other than the ultimate ear-stabbing riff. I wouldn't turn my back on this pagan god's fury for anything on earth -- the love of well-endowed bar wench, the inevitable maturation that comes with age.

Which brings me to a stupid movie...

...about two stupid guys who worship the riff with unyielding devotion, while barely getting by in the fucked beyond belief "real world" of man we call life today. I'm a big fan of the buddy picture, the rock hero's journey picture, heavy metal, Ronnie James Dio/Satan, Dave Grohl and guitar picks -- all of which are present and accounted for in Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny. If any of these things matter to you at all, and you ever once dared to sing along to Iron Maiden's "Number of the Beat" as broadcast on MTV circa 1983, please, dear God... PLEASE, Dark Lord, oh Pentecostal dispensationalist Deity of Grim Retribution and All That Is Sarah Palin...see this movie. See it stoned. See it with someone you love...and turn your mind off. I dare you.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Still kicking, ya'll. I owe you some updates and they're coming. Much love to all my friends, far and near...

...and that brings us to the sad side of the moon. I am listening to Piper at the Gates of Dawn as I type this. Lest we forget Richard Wright actually sung the lead vocal on "Astronomy Domine," and his keyboard playing was never anything short of pure ghost fire dancing through the aether on those early albums. Saucerful of Secrets, More, Ummagumma and bootlegs from the era, including the legendary Smoking Blues from 1970, all lend credence to this assertion. Sure some of the later stuff is a bit snore-inducing in that smooth jazz sort of way, but I have a feeling all reading this can agree that Darkside and Welcome to the Machine are some genuine beauties in the conceptual prog-syke multiverse. Sleep well among the stars, Mr. Wright.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Sorry I missed Social Junk and Big Nurse last night, but sometimes you just gotta lay down and close your eyes for a few hours. The night before I did enjoy the magnificent splendor of seeing Richard Lloyd and Billy Ficca (of the amazing/godly Television) along with some considerably younger blond fellow on bass--his name escapes me. I feel really bad about that because he did an excellent job backing these legends through an old fashioned power trio set that spanned Lloyd's latest solo album, two well chosen numbers from Marquee Moon ("Friction" and "Elevation"), and here's the kicker, five Hendrix covers. The whole set did the job and basically reaffirmed my fundamental world views in the most cathartic of ways. A fine night at Club Dada.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Yah, so Werner Herzog has apparently signed on to direct a new Bad Lieutenant film, which is neither a remake of or sequel to Abel Ferrara's cult classic. The cast, including Val Kilmer and Nic Cage in the leads, looks very Hollywood, and it's set in New Orleans. All rather dubious, but intriguing none the less, as Herzog continues his great pilgrimage towards the center of American pop culture. This interview, snagged from Defamer, is a fuckin' hoot:

Defiant Werner Herzog to Defamer: 'Who is Abel Ferrara?"
Wowzerrzzzz The Flaming Lips movie, Christmas on Mars, is finally finished! And if this trailer's any indicator it's gonna rock pretty hard...

Thanks Pitchfork.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Dear Readers,
Thanks for the positive vibes regarding recent personal celebrations. Keep 'em comin'!

I never did mention the wicked joy felt in the presence of the mighty Sun City Girls a few weeks back on the Dallas stop of their Brothers Unconnected tour, as much a tribute to fallen comrade Charles Gocher as the amazing trio itself. They played an astounding selection of songs--all acoustic duets--from the last 27 years with strong emphasis on Torch of the Mystics and Dante's Disneyland Inferno, and the film of Gocher's experimental videos was great. This set made for a stark contrast to the blistering electric gig I caught in Austin in late '04 and waxed fanatical about here. Also had a pleasure meeting and greeting the Bishops and their merch guy, all very warm and humble gentlemen. For more on this once in a lifetime gig, check out what Captain Groovy had to say over at his Myspace blog. And just for the record, I dig Tom Waits.

Also had a fun time last week at the Harvey Milk/Yells at Eels/Zanzibar Snails gig at Rubber Gloves. This was the first time I'd seen the mighty Yells at Eels in a rock club, amplified and electrified and it was smoking. The Gonzales's--father Dennis on trumpet, brothers Steffan on drums and Aaron on double bass--play an aggressive free jazz that I've concluded is fusion, and good fusion at that. This might be partly because the brothers also play in math metal combo Life Death Continuum and know how to kick out the mother fuckin' jams with the best of 'em. Dad's something of a local legend who was on the cover of The Wire way back in the day. He's also really, really sweet. Side note: I saw this rhythm section play in a big band ensemble with Tatsuya Nakatani few months back that was jaw-dropping.

Zanzibar Snails brought their big-band screaming electro assault from the deepest regions of space, and to be quite honest, I was scared there for a while. Thought I'd taken the bad acid. But their planet killer of a set concluded and equilibrium was eventually reestablished. Harvey Milk--featuring new member Joe Preston on guitar--delivered the goods with sludgeoid doom/power-jams that came off like a cross between The High Tide and early '90s Melvins, which is basically a dream come true for a bong wizard such as myself. So yeah...thumbs up all the way around, kids.

That brings me to what I hope will be a recurring thing (at least once a year or so) here at Womblife. Ladies and Gents, I give you...

More Jazz:

Richard Youngs and Alexander Neilson Electric Lotus + Lotus Suite (VHF) LP and CD - This double set was recorded around the time of the sessions for Partick Rain Dance I believe. The LP contains studio quality duo performances of lumbering guitar/drums rocking and rolling their way through some pretty rough and heavy terrain. I suppose this fuzzed out white guy fusion (a term Lester Bangs probably coined) represents one extreme in the jazz spectrum, which most academic sorts might say is not jazz at all, rather the angst-ridden rumblings of two disaffected yoots. Of course these "scholars" would be missing the point entirely. Electric Lotus is about transcending the shite, flying on broken wings of harmonic solace, looking down with sad wonder at the devastation below. Lotus Suite is the CD that comes with said wax, and it's more duo recordings this time of free percussion and shakahachi! The CD is the more difficult of the two discs with Neilson's skittering percussive sprawl backing Youngs on shakahachi, a Japanese flute that looks like this and creates tones ranging from coarse, guttural groans to fried, blissful harmonics. The results are vertiginous but also quite soothing. The CD is the grower of the two. The LP pretty much kicks ass from the get-go.

Betimes Black Cloudmasses (VHF) - This is the kind of jazz that doesn't seem like jazz at all. These lads are coming to the realm of improvised sound via the most oblique experimental corridors. Deep In the Ocean Sunk the Lamp of Light, the first Æthenor album, was one of my favorites of the last few years, so needless to say I had high hopes for the ever difficult sophomore dispatch, and I needn't worry. Betimes is a creeping, pulsing journey through the darker spaces of existence. The first track rides on little more than a glide of throbbing bass before the frame cants and we're lost, climbing stairs that grow darker and more distorted with each step. Hearing this track at loud volumes is like being trapped in some ancient German Expressionist nightmare circa 1922. By the time we're headlong into the dark waters of track 2, a shower of percussive rain crashes down from a shadowy abyss, and we turn around and rush back down the stairwell, tripping along the way, stumbling into shadow. We get back to our feet and look back. There is something up there, its claws clicking and scraping with each dread-inducing step. The tempo picks up faster and we're on the move, afraid to look behind us as cyclical keys and stuttering snare invoke a sense of impending doom, or maybe the avant-jazz excursions of Jac Berrocal crossed with the creeping post industrial malaise of Nurse With Wound. Like many jazz units there is an air of transcendence in these claustrophobic rumblings, in that we can always wake from the dream and return to conscious awareness. Æthenor specializes in taking that surreal, unconscious dread and injecting it directly into the frontal lobe. Though I'm not sure this is as good as the debut, it's world class and unique all the same.

Sandoz Lab Technicians The Western Lands (Last Visible Dog) - Now this is a kind of jazz that I'd not necessarily call new jazz, or old jazz for that matter. How bout No jazz? Early SLT recordings were some pretty messed up lo-fi skronk affairs in the classic stoned/isolated New Zealand mold, but more recently the Lab Techs have grown as free improvisers and honed what used to come off more as trance inducing skree into stunningly rendered cosmic jazz. The Western Lands is simply a masterpiece of understated improv psychedelia and some deeply transporting hallucinogenic sound space. Masters Tim Cornelius, James Kirk and Nathan Thompson utilize an arsenal of instruments and found sounds to weave levitated spectral spells that never hide amid the fog of distortion or clang. This is all beauty, and highly recommended for innerspace dwellers the universe over. Stunningly recorded. Masterpiece.

In the Midst of Chaos (De Stijl)- And here's a special little artifact, courtesy of those vigilant musical archaeologists at the De Stijl label. Orange is interesting for a few reasons, perhaps most notably the inclusion of then nascent free jazz sax god Paul Flaherty, who's responsible for some of the most pummeling, blood boiling tonal bleat and groove of the last 25 years thanks to his many recordings with percussive shaman Chris Corsano, the incredible Cold Bleak Heat, solo and with myriad other performers. Orange was a short lived Connecticut quartet of guitar, bass, drums and sax that lasted just long enough to capture three sessions of material in 1978, which make up the entirety of this lost gem, or Rosetta Stone, as this fine article in Junkmedia describes it. As for the songs themselves, they're fairly accessible jazz fusion workouts that are easily among the most trad works being explored in this here column, yet Flaherty's signature intensity is pretty much on full display from the start. When one considers the relative ferocity of these performances, the decidedly rock tenor of the guitar and bass, the brevity of each track, this could almost be dubbed punk jazz, of course it ain't that at all. Way too stoned for the punks. And at the same time, way too out for the acid rockers. Though much of this is fast and furious, there are some shockingly beautiful passages that probably represent as accurate a starting point for so called "free folk" as anything I've come across to date. This is way beyond odd curiosity and in the realm of essential underground Americana. Thank you gods of sound and De Stijl for making this widely available.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

I just made an order from Abandon Ship Records, which has got a kick ass sale going on right now where you can get nearly 50% off anything in their catalog, depending on the purchase. The breakdown reads something like:

-Buy one 7", and get any 2 releases of your choice for free

-Buy any 3 tapes/cdrs/3" cdrs and get 1 release of your choice for free

-Buy any 5 tapes/cdrs/3" cdrs and get 2 releases of your choice for free

-Buy any 7 tapes/cdrs/3" cdrs and get 3 releases of your choice for free

This will be going on throughout July/August. Fans of beautiful tape editions and other limited ephemeral things best git on it!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Every night my cat wakes me up at 4 AM howling to the fucking void. It's an ungodly sound combining the siren wale of a cat in heat with the shriek of death. Could she be possessed? Or maybe just missing her sister... Like clockwork.
Happy Birthday, Nelson Mandela!
Okay, I definitely like The Dark Knight, even love it. Heavy shit for Summer popcorn escapism, and it honors the "reality" of this discombobulated, morally ambiguous, conspiracy paranoid world we live in today more truthfully than any movie of its ilk that I've come across. Go baked. Take someone ya love (who also really likes allegorical/philosophical superhero mumbo-jumbo).

Also notable, the mountain of upcoming trailers that precede it, including a new Terminator flick, again starring Christian Bale (big whoop), Frank Miller's The Spirit (curious) and most compelling of all, Watchmen. I suppose Zack Snyder has subtly improved with each film he's made. I love how 300 looks, but all that bullet-time sort of ruins it for me. Guys a technical master; let's just hope he can capture the right tone for Watchmen, which should approximate a cynicism as caustic as anything in The Dark Knight. We'll see in 2009.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I'd wanted to write some sort of article or story to capture the ridiculous joy that was my little Terrastock 7 voyage, but I've since decided to try something different. Click the previous URL to get some specifics from Ned Raggett, among others. Saw some amazing bands (Sapat anyone? Bardo? The Golden Road, Wooden Shjips, Kawabata, Pelt? Hello??!), caught up with some good friends and even made a few new ones. Rather than try to sum it all up in words I'm relying on the groovy fact that more than ever before, things were entirely recorded and captured by the concert-goers themselves, and ya know what they say about a picture, let alone one moving. (I'm sorry to report that over half of my own vids were lost in a recent harddrive wipe. I was sure I backed them suckers up too! Among the lost clips were a sweet li'l raga thingy by The Golden Road and some swell clips of Sapat--could it be that no one else at Terrastock recorded any of Sapat's set? :-()

Terrastock 7 Vid/Pic Diary

The Poster.

The Mellwood.

The Bubbles.

Captain Groovy (another Dallasite).

Terra-Heads before the Terra-Stage.

Wooden Shjips under the shining mid-day sun.

Charlie from The Linus Pauling Quartet, still waiting for the bigtime.

Bardo Pond anyone?

The Linus Pauling Quartet melts all skulls with "La Tapatia."

Plastic Crimewave smashes his guitar; not the best part of their set, but close.

Is that a Spacemen 3 or Funkadelic shirt?

Black Forest/Black Sea live without a net (i.e. PA).

Tara Jane O'Neil -- Gotta love this hottie.


Major Stars makin' 'em squeal.


Pelt, lost in the now.

Epic Mono jam, complete with what looks like some dark spectre, or possibly Mike Tamburo, hovering mid-frame.

Amazing little impromptu moment resulting in a near Abunai! reunion. Sadly, Kris's beautiful skull is obscuring the lead guitarist from the Lounge's house band, sitting in here with some sweet fusion guitar licks. Yes, that's "Mother Sky" they're playing.

Mr. DroneOn.

The Black Twig Pickers get down.

Grails bash and crash.

Tanakh gettin' high with a little help from some friends.

...and The Golden Road.

...sitting down and canted.

Sitting down and toasted.

And now...your moment of Zen.

Among a few regrets, really sorry I missed Keenan Lawler's solo set on the third stage Sunday, and Thee American Revolution outside too. Getting to know and meet Keenan sort of made up for missing him play (but not really). It was a great pleasure to meet the guy, great to see Mike Tamburo again, Ned Raggett, Phil McMuff, Kevin Moist, my old dear friend Mats G. from across the ocean, awesome to meet the J & J golden twins from St. Louis, cool to say hiya to MV and EE, Jeffrey and Miriam of BF/BS and a total gas being just ten feet from Randy Hammond as he tore the roof off the place during an epic jam of Savage Resurrection's garage psych classic "Thing in E" with Kohoutek. And to Travis., thanks as always, my brother.

Gratitude to all who took the time to record, especially Nari for filming like a champ. She remains ever the valiant soldier in the Celestial Womb Shadow Army. Click any vid for proper credits and other similar clips to peruse. I didn't cover a lot of great stuff here (Hush Arbors, Windy & Carl, Paik, Entrance, Elephant Micah, etc) mainly because of space constraints. Most of the pics came from Nari's fantastic Flickr photostream, and a couple came from my Photobucket, and almost all vids from various Youtube channels. See ya at the next one!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

A few more words about George Carlin...

It's worth noting that, especially in the last 5 years, Carlin's face, voice and ideas were ubiquitous among many cynical/hopeful arguments of a world in peril. I didn't always agree with him, but more than half the time I'd say he got it just about right. When it came to defining the hypocrisy of men, the absurdity of mass delusion, the sad irony of how all of this shit collides to forge the destiny of worlds, very few seemed more capable of reducing it all to simple, goofy little truths. His mind and spirit were blazing till the very end, and like the best friends who leave their stamps on our souls, the thought of a world without him seems like nothing less than a sham. To me his loss is comparable to John Lennon, Jack Kerouac, Bill Hicks--anyone whoever got the joke and knew we were doomed from the start, but kept hoping and living anyway. So throughout the upcoming Apocalypse scenarios of resource/energy depletion, civil wars outbreak, NEWER, BIGGER, and EVEN MORE EXCITING FOREIGN WARS, Western Society's collapse, and the looming ascendancy of the Age of Aquarius and The Great Singularity to top it all the fuck off, please remember to keep smiling.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

So I guess I can die now. Last night i had the pleasure of seeing Boris at Rubber Gloves in Denton, TX. By the time I arrived (9 PM) I was already buzzing a bit from a few vodka shots and found an epic line that suggested the 'Gloves would be over-crammed like sardines with heavy metal scum this night. This was no surprise of course. Boris is a pretty popular band in the underground these days (possibly aiming for MTV? I don't know; haven't watched in years). The Glove's 200 plus capacity ain't exactly kind to bigger draws, and this was the fabled Japanese trio's first visit to North Texas. Why was Boris even playing a place it could easily fill twice over? Well read this interesting little Pitchfork article and you might get a clue. It's a humdinger... very Texas. Very redneck. And there's more to that story too: I had the privilege of meeting and conversing with the subject of said article, Josh Baish, at a High on Fire concert just one day before the calamity took place, and it was strange. I can't go into detail here, but ask me sometime in person and I'll fill you in.

As for Boris, I suppose they have become a bit of a commodity these days. I've fallen for it; a lot of us heavypsychmetalniks have fallen for it. Their earliest recordings reveal a band non concerned with any kind of mainstream appeal. The AbsoluteGo, Amplifier Worship and Flood CDs are highly revered 'round these parts, and any heavy psych fan should at least be aware of their existence. But more recent endeavors have revealed that within the corpus of this lumbering behemoth lies the heart of a genuine songwriter. I don't know who is responsible for what as far as songwriting duties go, but the turn towards actual songcraft--often blissful and transcendent--is welcome to these ears. This stuff is without question more accessible, but its presentation still proves that these guys and gal are one of the heaviest bands on the planet, and their brand of pop rocks pretty dang hard.

The Show:

After making my way inside, I marvel at opener Clouds' t-shirt and album designs. Wicked shit--if their music is even half as compelling, I'm down. And it isn't bad at all. Clouds come off like the Husker Du of sludge doom. Their tempos are upbeat, their riffs crunchy and thick. I almost buy an album.

Around this time it finally becomes crystal clear that one of my favorite guitarists in the world is playing as a fourth member of Boris, guitar god Michio Kurihara of White Heaven, The Stars, Marble Sheep, Ghost, etc. I'm a big fan of the collaboration album that came out on Drag City last year and swore to myself at the time that I'd see this quartet version without ever really making it happen. I figured Kuri would be kicking it back in Tokyo right about now, sipping sake and enjoying the good life, but nope. Here he was, my man and my band. Yeah, I'm a fan boy. Deal with it.

By the time the second band--a new Hydrahead signing called Torche--finish their set (which i better than the Myspace clips I'd heard: epic proggy sludge rock) I'm feeling good. Any alcoholic malaise has long since subsided, and the prospect of seeing the Master drop some serious fuzz bombs has me giddy. I tell a few folks in the crowd they're in for a treat, not sure if any of them actually care what my jerk ass has to say. As for the gig, it's heavy. It's loud. Boris is one of those bands that knows how to operate in a few different volume modes. Quiet/sweet, faster/building right on up to throbbing tectonic shift. My hopes are high, but I'm also prepared to compromise my expectations since Boris has been around a good 15 years now and enjoyed its share of evolutions.

By the way...

The brand new Smile (Southern Lord) is recommended by any measure. I have no doubt some die-hards will scream blasphemy, but I see it a little differently. First off: Smile is produced by You Ishihara, another one of those living legends in the Japanese psych scene via his solo work, White Heaven and The Stars. Secondly, Smile is fairly cohesive piece with slow heavy ballads, memorable hooks, shoegazing drifts, burly punk explosions and 15 min noise freakouts all present and accounted for, along with some fun embellishments--the sound of a needle dropping on vinyl at the opening, a baby's giggle--to remind us that it's all in good fun. Boris may have been all down in the dumps back in the AbsoluteGo days, escaping amid thick clouds of bongsmoke and subharmonic dissonance, but today the sun's out and they can see for miles.

And what about their set? The play all of the new album plus at least one newer track. Kuri's fuzz bursts meld perfectly with Wata's screaming acid leads, and the rhythm section is tighter than a nun's clenched sphincter. Between the songs the quartet uses sublime Eno-esque minimal interludes to help make it all go down a little easier, and through it all Boris manages that delicate trick of being able to make everything louder and heavier just when you think they've finally topped out.

Footnote on the subject of marketability: Southern Lord has a curious habit of dressing up its American releases of foreign albums a bit strangely. The original Japanese cover of an orange heart flanked in yellow becomes a bizarre image of an aircraft flying over what looks like urban rubble in the American version. The Japanese release features a few more electronic effects, and a couple of the song titles are different. For instance: The shoegaze stomper "Next Saturn" (from the Japanese release) becomes "My Neighbor Satan" for us Americans, and "Shoot" becomes "Laser Beam." The differences don't stop there. The original Japanese mix of "Shoot" emphasizes is a freaky stripped down minimal pulse which comes off as an ode to (American) electro noise pioneers, Suicide, yet the American version is a much more straight forward fuzz punk stomper that's simply less interesting. If anything, the Japanese version should be called "Laser Beam." I suppose this more typically rock sound could be to appeal to the typical lug-head Southern Lord buyer, or maybe Boris and the Sunno))) boys just like to tinker with shit in their sonic laboratory simply to fuck with minds. Maybe it's a bit of all the above. Makes no diff to this freak. In the end I dig both mixes just fine, and the schizophrenic tendencies fall firmly in line with past Boris sonic adventures. Here's to keeping them (and me) guessing.

Friday, June 27, 2008

I've been tagged! Apparently Ned Raggett (the nicest, most musically informed person on Myspace or at any Terrastock) tagged my friend Nari, and she tagged me, and I guess I'm gonna tag some other folks too!

So the basic idear here is 7 Songs, 7 Blogs. I dig cuz it offers me a chance to get wordy on some tunesmithery and other strange numbers while revisiting a few things of old that have somehow slipped through the cracks till now, and I can comment on my Terrastock voyage with a few tracks by T-stock performers thrown in for good measure. Cool? Cool:

1. Flying Saucer Attack and Roy Montgomery "The Whole Day" from a split 12" on VHF Records - I recently got to rediscover this throbbing psychedelic morsel and since then it's found its way onto the player a few times, and just now too! I'm not sure if Roy Montgomery actually plays on this, though it's certainly possible. "The Whole Day" opens with some fairly indistinguisable feedback drones, the sonic answer to just-waking disorientation, before it transitions into a massive tower of pulsing feedback throb that lands squarely in Popol Vuh's holy-enlightened sonic territory. It's a huge number that can make you feel small; more importantly it offers a fine way to wipe the mind clean for 6 or 7 minutes and leaves the listener a kind excuse for simply being for a little while.

2. Gowns "Cherylee" from Red State CD (Cardboard Records) - A friend and I were recently discussing the concept of God in the modern world, and the underlying beliefe that something is definitely out of wack, with large sections of the Earth's religious population today seemingly set for self-destruct. This human race is in need of a new Enlightenment maybe, some kind of evolution on a spiritual plane. I'm sure 2012 will tie into it all somehow. The weird thing is soon after this discussion I found myself outside in the sweltering heat doing a little gardening, Ipod Nano set to shuffle--my random aural fate in the hands of Steve Jobs and all who follow--"Cherylee" miraculously sprung into my mind with a voice passionately pleeding what could be an intervention for a drug addict (0r any kind of broken organism desperately in need of some repair) over a plaintive backdrop of weepy piano and squelching feedback in near biblical images of cleansing and final judgement, followed by a simple refrain that burns into the gray matter while offering no real answers: "You've got to look it in the eyes and say that I don't believe." She's right. We all have to doubt sometimes, even if only for a few seconds. Beyond that, the fact that the title of this song combines my bro's wife's name with my own and brings me almost to tears if I've had enough beers before hearing it seems to suggest some sort of cosmic communication, but then i'm a goofball.

3. Hush Arbors "The Same Tree Forever" from Hush Arbors CD (Digitalis) - And just then Nano-shuffle deposited this song onto my lap--one of the finest deep drone earth trips I've heard. Keith Wood uses guitars and bows to stretch things out far and wide, invoke's the faces of God and Gaia wrapt in an endlessly growing, distorted embrace. It makes for some kind of respite for my troubled/confused mind in the process. Apparently Wood doesn't really play stuff like this any more. Pity.

4. Sharron Kraus "Brigid" from The Fox's Wedding CD (Jnana) - Yeah, I guess you could say the Womb's gettin' all Lilith Fair on your ass right about now, but then its no real revelation that we love English folk chanteuses, and Kraus has hit her stride with her Jnana debut. I'd think NPR could easily do one of their little spotlights on "the English folk revival" and not a find a finer practitioner of particularly dark and tender acoustic song poems. This bittersweet ditty (the album opener) starts on some splendid minor key acoustic guitar before Kraus sings in a croon worthy of comparisons to Sandy Denny and Maddy Prior of the ill-fate of the title character, along with flutes and strings in a truly classy chamber folk backing that eventually erupts into a kind of pagan celebration with Kraus throat-singing to the gods over soaring strings in her sensual worble. Hot.

5. Grails "Silk Road" from Burning Off Impurities CD (Temporary Residence) - I've managed to build quite an affection for this Po(r)tland crew, and this track as much as any other covers all bases when it comes to a mastery of trippy epics that combine Western aggression with Eastern mysticism. Some fine tambura drones give way to Arabic guitar lines, thunderous prog percussion and levitated bass grooves all eventually melding into a dense drone stew before bubbling up to a fierce climax that you can almost headbang to. Godspeed You Black Empoeror on an Agitation Free kick. Not bad at all.

6. David Peel and the Lower East Side "Hemp Hop Smoker" from the Comin' Down Fast 10" compilation of songs inspired by the Manson Family (Helter Skelter) - This absolute behemeth of hilarity finds the legendary Peel remolding Helter Skelter as the ultimate ode to smoking pot, concluding with the immortal closing words, "I've got joints in my fingers!"

7. Religious Knives "In the Back" off the Resin CD (No Fun Productions) - A compilation of recent singles and rare tracks - Religious Knives (ex Double Lepards, current Mouthus) is emerging as one of the coolest of the new breed of Brooklyn groan rockers, and, as evinced by this tasty freight train of dense organ buzz and garage bludgeon, they have truly arrived amid piercing vocal howls and tribal percussive sprawl thudding/crashing beneath a dense fog of distortion in a way thats both completely harrowing and undeniably alive. Shit is fucking for real, ya'll.

7 Songs Playlist

And now for further taggings - 7 more blogs, 7 more songs:

-- The Broken Face
-- SUBkommander
-- Travis
-- Zoedune
-- Blastitude
-- Siltblog

Instructions: “List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they’re listening to.”
I'm back from what was one of the most enjoyable weekends of my life, and I'm happy to say that it wasn't just the music that made it such. It was the people, the stories, the laughs--goodness so many shits 'n' giggles--that made Terrastock 7 a complete success in my mind. I'll try and post some round-up thoughts about the trip within a few days.

Belated RIPs for Harvey Corman and, of course, George Carlin. You guys will be missed.

Boris tomorrow...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

More Random Emanations...

Earth The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull (Southern Lord) CD - The sparse Hex sound gets a full band treatment with help from Bill Frisell and others across seven epics of minimal fuzz twang. There are some of the fine stop-start dynamics of Hex and Hybernaculum mixed in with the jazzy post rock of Slint and the Spaghetti Western soundtracks of Ennio Morricone. Haunted melodies grow from a steady harmonic drift to billowing plumes of drone-smoke across every one of these majestic horizons. Think of it as a cowboy's lament for some alien wasteland or a nod of resignation branded with an undying will to survive. One things for sure: Earth has never sounded more serene, more symphonic, more cosmically revenant than on this album. A genuine apocalyptic masterpiece for downtrodden space heads the world over (and well beyond), not to mention easily one of the year's best. The resurrection is complete. Outstanding packaging too.

Tatsuya Nakatani Primal Communication (H & H Productions) CD - Without a doubt one of my great pleasures in the last couple months was being able to see master free jazz percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani do his thing right on Main Street in downtown Dallas, performing solo and in a bigger band configuration with some local musicians, including the rhythm section of the very cool Yells at Eels. Solo Nakatani conjures some of the most awe inspiring acoustic percussion soundscapes I've ever wrapped my head around, and I've come across a few of thse guys in my day. Primal Communication (great title, that) starts with almost ten minutes of glorious bowed cymbal action before bass kicks and other more familiar thwacks start percolating through the live mix. What's astonishing is the way Nakatani's unorthodox but highly kinetic playing touches on so many different genres and styles: minimal drone/modern classical, early industrial, world music, free jazz and other genres not yet conceived. Live is the best way to experience this. Indeed, Primal Communication is all live with no overdubs, but as diverse as this hour long track is, what Nakatani does really should be seen as much as heard. Get a nice taste by clicking this button.

The Child Readers Music Heard Far Off (Soft Abuse) CD - Before now I only ever really heard The Child Readers on a 3" CD-R and a few compilations, but I've always been a big fan of the Knit Seperates and Loren Chasse's various Jewelled Antler projects (Blithe Suns, Of/Ov, Softwar, etc...) riding that line between atmospheric drone and off kilter acid-pop. Music Heard Far Off is a joyously cracked slice of deranged art-pop that earns comparisons to early Brian Eno, Alastair Galbraith, Bee Thousand era Guided By Voices and more, yet The Readers bring in their own bizarre infusion of tape noise, electronics and beats backed by some of the most direct broken melodies heard since Hood's Silent 88 or at least the last Maher Shalal Hash Baz record.

Ulaan Khol I (Soft Abuse) CD - Fantastic blurred guitar abstractions from Steven R. Smith offer the avid listener of psych guitar noise the oppurtunity to hear Smith create some of his most abbrasive/voluminous work since the Mirza days. Think of some long lost Fushitusha studio session lent the sad pallor of Smith's past solo recordings, turn everything up to 11 and simply bask in the shimmering glow.

Mouthus Saw a Halo (Load) CD - Saw a Halo could suggest some sort of spiritual concern on this recent Mouthus platter, but then if you know what these bastards sound like an image of a golden halo being sawwed in half by a massive corrugated blade might be closer to the mark. These six tracks are abrassive, hypnotic, live industrial soundtracks for a life of pain and transcendence in equal measure. I love how the acoustic plod of opener "Your Far Church" morphs into the clattery percussive backdrop of "Armies Between," with Nate Nelson clanking and smashing shit to bits in his percussive workshop -- equal parts robo-precision and vicious assault. Then comes the customary Mouthus morass of distorted jackhammers and feedback, all corroded like industrial waste and hallucinagenic smog, writhing and twisting heavy machinary captured in an industrial grating, thick gunk dripping through the cracks. Saw a Halo cuts through it all and grinds it down like an aural filter for that blackened lung of urban living.

Gowns Red State (Cardboard Records) CD - There's something scary and beautiful in the shivery builds the Gowns unleash on their Red State album. I likened them to an Appelachian Magik Markers before, which perhaps isn't all that fair cuz this is California trash, and it's pretty darn messed up in the way that you'd expect California trash to be. Not sure what's more enticing here, Erika Anderson's sultry vocals relaying images wrought with surrealism and druggy nostalgia, or how the trio builds from a smokey, confused clatter to monumental noisy jams via guitar/ violin/ drums, or the trance-inducing folk pop mindnumbers in between. Very human and earthy music, albeit run through a kind of narcotized suburban filter where the mundane somehow becomes profound and even mystical, simply because it's not experienced alone. Much beauty to be found in these nooks and crannies of the shattered Americam drean, Humpty Dumpty "leader of the free world."

A Pink Reason Cleaning the Mirror (Siltbreeze) LP - Raved about these fellas in my mega-SXSW round up. If the Gowns offer at least a glint of hope, A Pink Reason decided some time ago to throw in the towel. This six song opus is more subdued than the intense live set I witnessed. You get a plodding wall of fuzz and weary/wasted vocals in opener "Goodbye" (think early JAMC at half speed), a lost acid folk dirge in "Motherfucker" (beating Wooden Wand at his own game), and just when you're ready to give up entirely, they throw in an odd breakup lament that does everything but pull the trigger to the pistol that just miraculously appeared upside your head. "Only Up the Sleeve" is a banjo strewn stretch of heroin-laced campire song that touches on the broken-folk vibe of those early Tower Recordings albums. This isn't neccesarily bad. It's just sad. Ain't we all these days?

Renderizors Submarine (Last Visible Dog) CD - A dream melding of two of New Zealand's finest subterreneal noise purveyors (that is The Renderers and Sandoz Lab Technicians) yields what is expectedly one fucked up sonic murkfest. We're talking harrowing, distorted drone psych here. Describing this album properly seems like an exercise in futility. It's a dense mix, bubbling with all kinds of weird life swimming through the primordial ooze. It's a huge leap for the Renderers, a bold and uncompromising piece of work that pays off for the woefully devoted. It's hard to explain why this is so magnetic. It's the way the ensemble effortlessly kicks up to a gallop after a 10 min bottomless drone chasm like some black steed rising up from a valley of dust, meeting the red sun in full stride. This is a magnificent balancing act between bottomless despair and unwavering determination. Submarine is a record to be wrestled with. It's a record you listen to in your darkest hours when youre so far gone you dont know whether to laugh or cry (my suggestion is to do both at the same time). One seeking any kind of solace need not look here. That's what Chris Knox albums are for.

Vibracathedral Orchestra Wisdom Thunderbolt (VHF) CD - One of the many looming challenges for the discerning practitioner of modern experimental rock: Just how do we recreate those Krautrock classics of yore as something nonredundant and in the now today? Back in the day (that's roughly 15-20 years ago for the younguns) Loop and Stereolab knew how to do it -- the former with concise, lacerating post punk precision, the latter merging ethereal French pop maneuvers with the metronomic pulse of Neu! and Can. And then there's the Vibracathedral Orchestra, which in the meantime has burrowed itself into one of the most cosmically attuned niches in the post Kraut psychedelic substrate simply by sticking to what works best and piling it on thick.

When Mats G. interviewed VCO mastermind Neil Campbell (also of the equally vintage-inspired Astral Social Club) in our old zine The Broken Face, what struck me most was Campbell's strong desire to conjure modern dancefloor-ready psychedelia via the most primitive "live" means. If I remember correctly he was a Britney Spears fan at the time, and as far as I know probably still is. He's also a serious Krautrock head, conneissuer of early 80s minimal techno, '70s jazz fusion and a veteran of the UK's ever-evolving post psychedelic underground. My point with all this? Campbell wants to have a good time with his music, and he wants us to also share in that joy if possible, and of coure dance. Wisdom Thunderbolt suitably gets the mind and the ass grooving with its deep space electro-body-raga-drone. It's definitely one of the finer studio offerings I've heard from these masters of groove. Favorite bits: the cacophonous Kraut pulse of "A Natural Fact" (featuring Chris Corsano), the eruptive "Sway/Sage" which takes the opening seconds of a 'Stones classic and seems to freeze them in a lockgroove of microscopic repititioon.

Sunroof! Panzer Division Lou Reed (VHF) CD - As of late I think I prefer to get my brain kissed (and then raped) by Mathew Bower's Sunroof! incarnation over his more strident dispatches via Skullflower and The Hototogisu, and this here CD is as fine a justification as any. First track is a glitchy feedback whirlwind that makes me think of contact mics swirling around some massive wind tunnel before John Moloney's drums start to lend things some rhythm. Other places we get electronic firehoses dancing against the crimson sky like phospherescent snakes. All in all, one of the noisier and more fierce outings from this long-standing uk noise psych unit.

Nordvargr In Oceans Abandoned By Life I Drown... To Live Again As A Servant Of Darkness (Essence Music) CD - I have no idea who this is (actually it's a solo performer named Henrik Nordvargr Björkk) or from whence it came (Sweden), but I do know that Sunno))), Merzbow and Lustmord fans should have no problem exploring these two epic tracks of sonic woe. The incredibly bleak mix, use of samples and tapes, guitars and low-end distortion come together to reveal as masterful an example of ambient/noise/doom as any I've come across yet in all my grim travels. Battlecruiser and Black Boned Angels fans, take note. This is better.

Brainbombs Singles Part 2 (Polly Magoo Records) CD - Here's a band to obsess over as you creep your girlfriend out cuz she just doesn't get it at all. "Is this jazz?" she says. Is this jazz? This is psychedelic rape, scavenged remnents of blood soaked crime scenes set to a mind numbing wash of mongrel blues distortion and the sickening rhythmic throb that accompanies every young man's first self induced orgasm. Garage rock for hate meditation, sex punk for drinking, drugging, cruising the bad parts of town at 2 AM "just looking for something to do." Is this a sick joke? Do these people actually mean what they say in songs like "Stigma of the Ripper" (an ode to a serial rapist) and "Stinking Memory" (a wasted chronicle of incest and the resultant psychic damage). I tend to take it more as reportage, possible cathartic indulgence, vicarious sadism and some of the most hypnotic brain-fried racket ever laid to tape.

LSD March Nikutai No Tubomi (Beta-Lactam Ring) 2CD - Something else I'd really like a hard copy of is the awesome new LSD Pond 2CD recently dropped on Cd Archive (best label ever? Maybe), but it might a while before I can afford it the way this economy is going. In the meantime there's this smoking 2 CD which dropped on Beta-Lactam in late '07 and is probably already sold out at the source. Fans of the 'March might want to dig for it because CD 1 containes what just might be the ultimate LSD-March magnum brain melter in the title track, 40 mins of deep space fuzz exploration that never wears out its welcome and reduces me to a giggling/drooling puddle of semen and saliva every time I hear it. The second disc has yet to really grab me. It's more a series of duo recordings that sound like sketches and half-baked experiments and doesn't seem to add up to much. I hope this assessment will change at some point in the near future, but I have my doubts. That being said CD 1 makes this an essential package all the same.

Speaking of being disturbed, any fans of 300 and period cannibal porn might want to check out this uncensored video for the title track of Lair of the Minotaur's War Metal Battle Master. I'm not the biggest fan of these Chicago thrash fiends, but like its namesake this video is over the top and ridiculous and features hot naked vampire zombie babes doused in blood, feasting on the corpses of fallen. And as a friend recently noted, the zombie on the left looks like Miley Cyrus. It's very gory and rated NC-17.

A belated so long to Bo Diddley.

Terrastock 7 starts in just 8 days in Louisville, KY.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Random Emanations from the Bottomless Well

Some time back I received a sweet package from one Mikey Turner, lead milker in the Warmer Milks, a Lexington, Kentucky ensemble that it's been a great pleasure to watch mature, or should I say devolve, over the last few years. 'Course their debut LP Radish on Light (Troubleman) is a goddamned classic of detuned angst-grunge that bears the weight of a dying world on its shoulders, the resultant stress cracks making it that much more of a harrowing thing of beauty. Then came some lineup shakeups and--shock!--Shawn David McMillen is invited into the fold along with Paul Oldham (as in Will's brother) for the culmination of the mini-album, Let You Friends In on Sweden's revered Release the Bats. Two tracks here, each a side-long plunge into some mighty destroyed psychedelic head-space. Opener "The Ripple, Children/The Jaunting" is the knockout with warped tape-speed madness giving way to a massive cycling sludge mantra that kicks the mud off my boots and makes it dance around like some sort of irate earth spirit. Turner's screeching balls-out death vocals on this song are the shit, easily some of the most harrowing/ visceral/ hilarious exorcizing Ive heard in a good long while. Beautiful. "The Wanderer" on the other hand is a bit more aimless with its Beefheart-on-thorazine lurching rhythm that keeps threatening to pick up steam and kick ass like the first track but never really does. I'm not saying I'm disappointed in this one, more that the first track is a hard act to follow.

A Special Time is a 22 min CD-R that comes courtesy of Turner's own Paranormal Overtime label (which can be ordered from him via the Warmer Milks website). It's a home-recorded piece conjured by a duo version of Warmer Milks featuring Turner and McMillen. Composed as an imaginary soundtrack to the cult TV show "The Tomorrow People," some 30 years after the fact, A Special Time is a surrealist garage drone freakout with levels maxed and eyes glazed over, detailing the ongoing struggles between the Homo Superiors and the rest of the Saps. The piece itself wavers from Faust-ian industrial pulse to a primitive Spacemen 3/Velvets guitar rush that cuts out far too soon but still makes me giddy with goose-pimply satisfaction all the same, before devolving into stumbling percussive sprawl and some eerie-as-shit deep space emanations more expected from such a garage soundtrack expedition. My favorite part just might be when the whole morass fades to just Mikey singing naked over guitar, banjo and what sounds like a distant helicopter. Pink Floyd couldn't have done this shit any better. It's like a new Faust Tapes for all us metaphysical neo-apes.

Also of note in the same package, the stripped down synth dreams of Collap (Paranormal Overtime), which covers everything from minimal techno pulse to OMD worthy synth pop blissouts via the M/T solo W/M guise. Who knew? Very cool. And that brings us to the Lortab Sunsplash 90 min tape, also on POT, which is an epic of slow burning bass hum and lost in the dark psychedelia that's probably best heard in the wee morning hours when the things that go bump in the night start to sound as if they were composed by some preternatural force that permeates the living space with infinite curiosity. I think I'm in love.

And now we say hello to San Francisco's Rahdunes. Rahhhhdunnness...I dig the name. Live in a Cave in 07 is a smoking little CD-R for the UK's Darkest Rainbow that features a series of live actions captured throughout 07 (duh), and color me head-fucked, this is the bomb. After having experienced somewhat mellower/more minimal live excursions by this duo/trio in recent months, I was pleasantly surprised to hear the molten supernova explorations of the first two tracks, coming off like a more probing, genuinely psychedelic Dead C. Yum. Elsewhere there's percussion, distorted shrieks and an overall tendency towards power-lectronic rocking that I've never really heard in the Rahdunes' music before, but then I haven't heard much. There's a full length on Emperor Jones I've been meaning to pick up and a brand new picture disk on Italy's great Qbico label, which Aaron Coyes claims really is a genuine rock set. But then in the end I guess it's all rock, aint it? Deep space bass hum meets wall of distortion overload never sounded so tasty. I'll definitely be on the hunt for Rahdunes in more permanent formats.

Mr Coyes also slipped me a CD-R by his self described "fucked modern pop duo," Peaking Lights. Clearvoiant offers up 6 songs of damaged hiss and surprisingly accessible acid pop meets freeform clatter that should appeal to devout fans of early Flying Nun/Xpressway Records, early Eno and other damaged post Velvets head-trippers. More, please.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

I'm in the process of overcoming one of those pesky Springtime colds, but I think I'm on the mend. Hope so because Ettrick is playing a house-gig tonight that I'd really like to attend. At the same time though, everything sounds sort of muffled currently, and mucus is dripping down my face, over my lips and onto my belly.

Farewell Klaus Dinger, one of the greatest rock drummers of all time.

And then...

It's time once more for a little visit to the darkside. As many of you know I cannot escape a seemingly juvenile fixation with all things heavy, sludge and/or metal here in the Womb. Psych metal, punk metal, prog metal, doom metal, grim metal, black metal, funeral doooom metal, garage thrash kosmische metal, and of course the burgeoning subscene of shoegaze or ambient metal--whatever it may be. I only ask that my metal be a little angry, a tad dissonant, not too operatic, post-Sabbathian if possible and always lurching on all fours towards its ultimate demise.

Burning Witch Crippled Lucifer (Southern Lord 2CD reissue) - Hot damn. Here's an album for contemplating suicide while you smoke copious amounts of reefer. Hopefully you have better things to do with your time, but if you're feeling sort'a down and looking for something to provide that last push over the edge, give Crippled Lucifer a try. With bonus cuts from other singles and split releases around the time, this 2CD is the ultimate summation of Stephen O'Malley's early noise metal years and pretty much definitive in terms of bottomless chasms of sludge doom death. Most people will hate this. Khanate fans and the like will definitely dig it. Over half these songs are recorded by Steve Albini, so it's pretty much the heaviest album ever. And also a special mention to the incomparable vocal talents of Edgy 59, alternating between black metalesque seahag screech and a harrowing post-Ozzy howl. Somehow this feels like where much of what passed for grunge in the mid 90s should've gone but never dared. None but one.

Ahab The Call of the Wretched Sea (Napalm) - While we're swimming in these dark waters, let's remember that Burning Witch formed from the ashes (and I mean that literally) of Thorr's Hammer, a fantastic but short lived doom quartet that featured an even younger O'Malley and post Engine Kid/pre Sunno)))/Goatsnake Greg Anderson serving up some of the most techtonic doom sludge heard anywhere in the 90s. In retrospect Thorr's influence is pretty darn immeasurable seeing as Corrupted is about the only band around at the time that also traded in such glacial doom. When I listen to Germany's Ahab I can hear those Thorr's Hammer reverberations with trollish doom sludge bludgeon and almost death metal vocal growls. What's neat though, like more recent dare-to-be pretty metal acts such as Pelican and again Corrupted, Ahab is willing to temper its sludge-adelia with some fine moodier subtleties to make things seem less repetitive than they actually are and even more epic at the same time. Parts of this album almost feel like Bernard Herrmann scoring a doom metal soundtrack to an unrealized film version of Moby Dick. Yes, another metal band dares to reference Melville. For once the liteary allusions ring true.

Nadja Skin Turns to Glass (The End) - I returned from SXSW with a few Nadja albums, including a promo of this brand new release on The End. Toronto's Nadja is proof that two people with a drum machine, a guitar, bass, piano, voices, a shipload of effects and some genuine inspiration can forge some of the most enveloping sludge walls ever known to man. If there's one band that really spearheaded the development of super heavy drone metal it would have to be Godflesh, and like those innovators Nadja uses a drum machine and their rhythms have a vacuum-cleaner-on-high sort of aura. Unlike Godflesh, the percussion is much more simplistic much of the way, and every song tops the 14 min mark and often goes well beyond. Also this is often quite beautiful--like beholding dreamlike apocalypse scene with hearts beating loudly, eyes welling up with tears. This is doom for those of us who never got over our Slowdive fixation.

Monday, March 24, 2008

SXSW 2008
Riding in the whirlwind. That's what I call the SXSW showcase grind. It's a hero's journey to be survived more than enjoyed. If we're lucky we emerge better people after the week long odyssey of endless standing and badge-envy, apostles of musical enlightenment. If we're not we maybe end up drunk in a puddle of piss, or as roadkill on San Jacinto, or maybe we smarten up and just hang back from the official fest showcases altogether, drink free beer and dig on all the righteous day parties. I guess I did a little of all of the above, some highlights below:


I pull into Austin Wednesday about 6:30 P.M., and get on down to the Thirsty Nickle on 6th for my yearly indoctrination into the clan of Sunburned Hand of the Man. John Moloney and his sonic kin (mostly new faces to me) tear through a barrage of old school analog drones meets funk stomp damage. It all seems a bit chaotic and even aimless compared to the previous Sunburned show I caught a year before, but then that's how so many of the greatest bands come off in the end: inconsistent. Those highs and lows are worth the endurance for those of us willing to take the plunge. Fine fest opener all in all.

Then a quick dash over to St David's Church on 7th to catch a series of performances curated by Steve Reich (it's pronounced Reish btw). Shhhhwing. Anyone who has ever gotten drunk on cheap wine and spaced out to the pulsing tonal mantras of Music For 18 Musicians knows what kind of master composer Reich is, each note tightly arranged with classical and jazz precision to reveal room saturating symphonies for the soul. The SOLI Chamber Ensemble is perhaps a bit too "straight" for my leanings, but guitarist Eddie Whalen's gorgeous set and the percussive rush of So Percussion more than make up for it, supplying the kind of high brow musicality that low brow fiends such as myself can occasionally truly dig on.

After this delicate display a few of us make it down to Habana Calle 6 on 6th (where else?) to catch The Gowns, a trio I'd not heard before now but was interested in since there's an Amps for Christ connection. With a lineup of guitar/violin/percussion, these folks come off as a kind of Appalachian response to the Magik Markers with lots of quiet squiggly moments building to rousing post punk eruptions. There's a hot blond singer/guitarist, a busy jazzy drummer, and the violinist works well whether unleashing monochrome rainbows or squealing barnyard squalls. Next, oscillating punk screamers Parts and Labor--very good at what they do. I'm just not a big fan of what they do.


...kicks off with an attempt at catching The Castanets at Mrs. Beas on the East Side, no luck. Catch The Woods instead, a cpl songs anyway; I guess these lads could be described as post Devendra hippie fuzz folk. Agreeable. Decide to trot up a couple blocks to a place called French Legation, nestled alongside a historical cemetery (makes for a serene backdrop), and catch a very fine J Mascis solo set in which he plays amplified acoustic guitar with occasional fuzz bursts. I guess this draws more from later Dino Jr. and solo stuff (must admit my woeful ignorance of more recent Mascis related things). Dig it regardless. Then back down to Mrs. Beas to find that The Castanets have played the shortest day set in the history of SXSW. I miss it. This marks a recurring motif of almost (but not quite) seeing The Castanets live (though I do manage catch a glimpse of Raymond Raposa with Denton locals Shiny Around the Edges two days later). I don't remember who the next band was at Beas. The trio has a sort of hillbilly scrappy dog appeal that makes me think of Flying Burrito Brothers and muttonchops and has me smilin' in my boots. Next comes Mexican food, coffee and further preparations for what would surely be a festival highlight: The Siltbreeze Showcase at the Soho Lounge on 6th Street.

Again, here I am in the middle of Asstown, TX, 6th Street cordoned off for showgoers, fratboys and gangbangers alike, and I'm about to watch eight different bands courtesy of one of my favorite indie labels of all time. All in the same venue no less. The impact that Siltbreeze had on my development as a fucked up antisocial sloprock junkie is immeasurable, and since then they've come back on the scene in a heavy way with a new generation of art skuzz purveyors ready to blow minds and scrape skulls. Enter Ex-Cocaine, a duo of guitar and hand percussion working a kind of post kraut tribal frenzy which is just what my sensitive receptors need to ease into this evening trip. Swim in it a while... (I recommending turning down the volume on these vids for better clarity)

Next comes Naked on the Vague from Australia. This guy 'n' gal marry distortion, minimal percussion and harrowing vocals into trance inducing/flailing/stumbling noisescapes that make such an impression that I'm forced to buy everything they have at the merch table. Definitely a real find.

Blues Control works a serene magic with its lulling underwater psychedelic muzak, skating the line between head burnt bong noise and easy as pie mellow-dee. Portland, OR's Eat Skulls bring the high energy garage punk onslaught. Psychedelic Horseshit throws a few more sarcastic punk logs on the acid fire, but it's A Pink Reason that proves to be the great white hope of the bunch with its earnest dope fucked fuzz punk anthems conjuring the ghost of a young Peter Laughner and his Rocket From the Tombs. Do us a favor, fellers, hang around a while. Mike Repp (with help from Times New Viking) stands in for the original Siltbreeze gen with his elder Ohio garage punk cred as a producer of some note (he recorded some classic early GBV sides among other things) and his gleaming silver locks. He also apparently appears on one of the first Siltbreeze releases, though I don't remember further details. Live he's a garage punker with a heart of gold who never really got over his Stooges obsession. Ace. Times New Viking close it down with their acidic art punk/pop. This set is more screeching and ramshackle than the one I caught some months before. Not bad at all, but kinda ear-splitting. All in all a life affirming evening of primal garage noise rock.


...is greeted with a quick dash over to La Zona Rosa on 4th to catch an afternoon show by me old pals Soundtrack of Our Lives, who I have fond memories of catching in a small space at SXSW back around 2002. Thankfully their 45 min gig completely rekindles my flame for these Swedish rock gods of yore as they run through a set comprised almost entirely of songs from their new unreleased album, including a fantastic cover of Nick Drake's "Fly" in the "Jehovah Sunrise" mold.

I don't know if some of the younguns truly know anything about these guys: Lead singer Ebbot Lundberg formed the group from the ashes of Swede Stooges stomp legends Union Carbide Productions with UBC guitarist Bjorn Olsson and tempers unabashed late 60s/early 70a hard/folk rock fixations with MC5 punk energy and does what a band like Oasis does without any of the smug annoyance, though rest assured SOOL are big stars in their homeland and likely have some fairly inflated egos. Everywhere else they're simply a must for fans of vintage psych pop. A taste, which sadly cuts out right before it really starts to rock...

Now a dash back over to French Legation to catch The Atlas Sound, comprised of members of Deerhunter, Jackie-O-Motherfucker, Yume Bitsu and more, trading in oldschool shoegaze/drone pop, providing the perfect bouncing shimmer for my post hamgover readjustment.

And then a quick drive over to a house party somewhere on the East Side where I'm lucky enough to catch three damn fine noise(esque) ensembles in a row:

--Indian Jewelry--Never grabbed me much on record, but here outside in the fading magic hour their fuzz industrial onslaught makes for an amazing pulsatng groove.

--Blues Control--More controlled and serene than there set the night before, the sweet stench of fruitbud in the air, nighttime, Mickeys, sprawled out on the grass, momentary nirvana. Perfect ballast for the big showcase grind.

--Rahdunes--New masters if the downtuned fuzz drone. Post industrial striations of deep-space-hum, spreading out against the night sky like so many fireflies before descending once more like invisible spirits shot directly into the third eye. Brainjam for the soul.

Back on the road again. I make it over to Emo's in time for The Akron/Family, but I grow impatient, so I start walking again with a couple nice folks I met from Canada (one of them plays standup bass in The Sadies) and we arrive somewhere (forgot!) and catch a few songs by Blue Rodeo--remember them? They've been around forever, and I can see why. Their amiable country folk goes down smooth for people unashamed to admit they enjoy bluegrass, The Byrds and The Eagles.

I dash back to Emos for the promised two hour set by The Akron/Family and behold The Line. Two of them actually, one for badges, one for wristbands. One moves much, much faster tha the other. I wait at least an hour. As I wait I hear Blue Cheer playing across the street--the real Blue Cheer!--and wonder why the fuck I'm standing in this line. It's sort of cool hearing them run through a muffled version of Jimi's "Third Stone From the Sun" a mere 50 feet away but mostly lame. I finally get into Emos about 30 mins into A/F's set, witness most of the damn thing and conclude that what Funkadelic does for all night funk jam parties the Akrons do for art rock hoedowns. And they're funky too. They invite the Lexie Mountain Boys (who are actually girls) on stage for much of the set (and some other folks too...hazy). Almost every song is 15-20 mins long, and the boys in the band start to look damn tired by the end. Their almost two hour set closes with what's become a fairly common practice for both the Akrons and bands at SXSW in general: They come down into the crowd and lead the audience outside into the street (no doubt to the Emos staffers' delight) and just keep playing and chanting forever and ever, or at least as long as there are people around to clap and sing along. I get it; it's all about tearing down the wall between audience and performer. It seems The Akrons are almost frat rock superstars now. Odd, but acceptable. Vi-vi-video...


Can't believe I've made it this far. Report first thing to End of an Ear to catch Nadja, Paul Metzger and Gary Higgins. Toronto's Nadja trades in dense doom fuzz crescendos drawing equally from the Sunno))) industrial void and the heyday of blissed shoegaze. Makes for an interesting mix and a fairly mind-glazing live experience.

Now I'd been hearing and reading about this Paul Metzger guy for a while. Picked up a copy of his Music for Modified Guitar at Terrastock and a split 12" with Ben Chasny/Chris Corsano. I'd also heard the angular jazz punk of his Minneapolis ensemble TCBC and always suspected he was best sampled in the live setting. Though that's perhaps debatable since his Music For Modified Banjo CD is undoubtedly one of the truly great solo acoustic raga albums of the last ten years or so.

So there I am, camera in one hand, cup of coffee in the other, seven feet from Metzger and all ears. He plays two extended blues/bluegrass ragas, one for guitar and one for banjo. The results feel decidedly more oriental in tone, with a strong emphasis on space and restraint and some well placed bow work. By the time he gets going, head deep into primitive string space, he's fully emersed and we're along for the ride. He almost looks like a marienette with his banjo, bouncing and convulsing as if controlled by some unseen force. Truly a mystical experience.

Gary Higgins and his band play smooth psychedelic folk with mellotron, bass and guitars. Nothing revelatory, and I only catch really two songs of their End of an Ear set before I dash off again (and of course the recently reissued Red Hash is a genuine lost classic btw), but it's a fine mellow ride, and as evinced from the tune below his new album is going to be something pretty special. Thanks again to Ben Chasny, not just for turning me onto Gary but also for helping to bring him out of musical retirement for a new generation of avid listeners. That's Gary in the back center...

Almost there...promise. Next I head over to the Chaindrive off 4th to catch Strategies in Beauty, yet another day party curated by members of Denton bands, Shiny Around the Edges and Zanzibar Snails. I miss Aiden Baker's (Nadja) solo set but catch the closing bits of Dust Congress, and the entirety of Shiny Around the Edges. SATE is a band I'd not heard or seen till now. Apparently they played as the Castanets backing band during all of its SXSW performances, so I guess I finally get to see the Castanets after all. Well almost. Shiny's grungy noise clang meets broken ambient dreams provides a sufficient kick in the pants and hooks me nicely. Behold the clang...

Next personal Dallas faves The Zanzibar Snails tear through a 30 min set of blistering deep space sonic murk that just keeps growing more intense and insane with each passing minute. The molten lava flow makes me feel as if I've been directly teleported into the heart of a red giant, time slowing to a crawl as my flesh starts to melt, and POOF, no more. Nothing. This is the end...only not really. Like an electromagnetic pulse, the Snails' shreiking electro clatter saps my camera of its remaining juice. I'm unable to document this highly visceral sonic experience. Apparently they blew a fuse so the whole groaning mass just cut out instantly. No resolution, no fade out. Nothing. The events are almost preternatural from my close vantage point.

And now we really are approaching the end. I get my buttocks over to Central Presbyrterian Church just in time to catch Christina Carter and Shawn David McMillan performing as a duo. They're playing cleanup in the time-slot following Jandek, which I actually elect to miss this year since I've seen him twice in the last two years. With support from Susan Alcorn and Ralph White I know I've missed something special, but that's okay. The room is cleared out quite a bit for Christina and Shawn's set. Fine with me since it allows room to stretch out and relax. It's the perfect evnironment to get lost in the languid blues and folk interplay. Shawn starts out on pump organ as Christina plays electric guitar and sings. They play three or four spacious numbers including a little dueling guitar action. It's all a bit of a blur at this point but without question entirely indicative of the level of probing intensity I've come to expect from both of these amazing musicians. Hope some recordings of this new incarnation surface sometime soon.

From there I simply wander a while. Dazed and confused is an understatement. I want to lie down in the middle of 6th street and just stare at the stars, but the fear of being trampled to death by a few hundred scantily clad females in what have to be incredibly uncomfortable high heels prevents me from doing so.

Somehow I eventually end up over at Scoot Inn on 4th for the end of the Load showcase and White Mice's night closing set. How to describe White Mice? Well they're very Providence, and all the members seem to be reared on early thrash, hardcore and brain-scrambling nowave. One's wearing a Bathory shirt. When they perform they wear these incredible mouse costumes, each with its own unique defining characteristic. My favorite is the drummer with his skinned mouse head, all grizzled and pink with a shock of white hair shooting out the top like a mohawk--fucking cool. Oh yeah and those bulging eyeballs. This sight combined with the massive bass drum he sits behind (thing had to be over 4 ft tall) makes for one of the more memorable images I've seen the whole week. My cam battery is dead at this point, so just trust me on this. Their set is a brutal/violent barrage of bass/drums thrash bludgeon with screaming oscillations slicing through the downtuned sludge like chinese throwing stars. A group of young and highly mobile mosh devils procedes to flail about, smack into each other, break beer bottles on the ground and beam proudly the whole time. Interesting. I keep my distance. All in all it's too fucking much for my old-hippie-fart ass to stand for too long, but I guess I can see the appeal for them younguns. I feel old.

After that I drop by Shawn McMillan's house for his latenight party and see many of the folks I'd seen live in various constollations in the previous four days hanging out and chit-chattering. And whaddayaknow there's Thurston Moore (who I didn't see perform once during the whole fest--shame on me) hanging out and digging the vibe too. He plants himself on the floor about three feet from the Rahdunes, running through another one of its serene deep space voyages. It's a nice sort of mid-volume come down with some rhythmic turbulence towards the finale. Love it. Thurston looks impressed. And let me just say here and now Aaron Coyes is a really cool guy and a consummate gentleman. He builds all of Rahdunes instruments from scratch and is certainly one of the great practicioners of the analog-aural-mind-cleanse working today. Long may you roam, brother.

Well that's about it. I apologize for the immense length of this post, probably should've split it up into parts. It's a madhouse down at SXSW and I'd not be surprised if I just lay low the next few years. I missed tons, i mean TONS of great stuff but still felt I managed my time well enough and got the most bang for my buck. I also bought a shitload of records, but that's a different story.

Also, sometime during this chaotic period I managed to see a stripped down Radar Brothers instore performance at End of an Ear and two songs (including "You're Going to Miss Me") by Roky Erickson and the Explosives along with guest guitarist Billy Gibbons. Thanks to M. Chamey, N. Hill, N. Mann and everyone else who made this rambling indulgence possible and my SXSW experience a lot more fun. Thus concludes my ranting and raving summation of four days in the whirlwind. Until next time. To quote the great one, "That'll be the day..."