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.