Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Two More Live Aktionz

White Drugs / Puffy Areolas / Kaboom Live at RGRS 8/19/10

This I was looking forward to mainly for the set by Ohio noise psych punks, Puffy Areolas. Their In the Army 81 (Siltbreeze) is a real humdinger in the hxc skree scene and one of my favorite platters of '10.

Friends and I convened at Snuffers on Lower Greenville for a burger and fries before we headed up the road to Denton and RGRS. Interestingly, this was the first venue I'd ever attended with my good pal, Travis, in town for a couple days along with his girlfriend, Tara. Travis remarked on how things seemed to have come full circle and he was right. Only real difference was we were all hairier now and the previous gig we'd attended at this place some 7 + years ago was no good (Octopus Project/snore/wince). Enjoyed retelling a recollection of my one and only encounter with said club's proprietor, which I won't go into here. Ask me sometime in the great out and about and I just might.

First up was Kaboom, one of them noise punker sort'a groups that mixes a healthy dose of aggro angularity with gallons of ball sweat and mean riffs. Like headliner White Drugs, Kaboom is all herky-jerky with the stop-start rhythms and tough guy vocals designed to kick out the jams as much as intimidate the wimpier segments of the audience. Not bad, far from life-changing.

The Puffy Areolas did not disappoint. Their vibe is one of blaring, screeching punk rock cacophony. Bands that come to mind during their set: Wire, MC5, The Stooges and Comets on Fire to name a few. Hawkwind and Krautrock also popped in the cranial space, but that's probably more a reflection of my own fixations. What matters here is the quality of the songs, and there truly isn't a stinker in the bunch. 40 mins/5 songs of furious screaming real rock for the anti-masses that leave an indelible impression and far transcend any possible Nowave/Krautrock trappings. Sometimes originality is just a matter of turning the amps up to 11 and completely meaning every second. The Puffy Areolas are the shit. Believe every word.

From here there's really only one way to go. White Drugs plays a tight set that draws from their debut album on Amphetamine Reptile (remember that label?). Their short, choppy bass-heavy sludge punk reminds me of classics in the genre, including The Jesus Lizard and Tar, but it somehow feels almost limited after the infinity squalls offered up minutes before. Or maybe my head was still too high up in the stratosphere to properly appreciate their down 'n' dirty noise punk sound. 10 years ago I'd have been all over it. Still, all in all it was a wonderful night spent among friends -- new and old -- and even though we narrowly avoided legal troubles on the way home (got pulled over and promptly sent on our merry way), it was one of those nights where everything seemed to go just right. Glad T & T were there to see it too.

Fat Worm of Error / Zanzibar Snails / Depths Live at The Leisure Womb 8/21/10

This gig marks the arrival of yet another new venue for house shows in the North Texas area, this time on the edge of Ft. Worth. It's a big place...comfy. When I arrived to The Womb there was boxed wine and five large pizzas sprawled out across the kitchen. Saw some of me m8s (none of which had made it out for the Puffies two days before -- bad m8s) and stumbled into the performance space/bedroom just in time for the Zanzibar Snails' trio set (arrived too late for duo Depths), which offered up an undulating soundbath that spiraled through the industrial/drone/noise multiverse with intergalactic grace. Rising tonal tides brush up against distant clarinet, radio crackle and low end guitar groan. Was really struck by Nevada Hill's work on guitar here, alternating between almost doom to more lowercase hum and crackle straight out of the Kevin Drumm handbook (got the 2LP reissue of his self titled on Thin Wrist? Got mine), but every member (including Michael Chamy and Nick Cabrera) brings something compelling to the table. Hope they recorded it. Hope they release it.

Then it was time for the one, the only...Fat Worm of Error. The Massachusetts art skuzz unit has been thrashing around making a racket for years now, and they seem to have evolved from a more formless experimental approach to full on rawk bombast. Either way, this show was my first proper introduction to their sonic delirium. As they insisted, we got off our duffs and got ready to lobster walk to their post Troutmask Replica squawking. Stand we did and rocked we were for a good hour of intense spindly string bending and lurching rhythms through the broken Dadaist void. I was reminded at different points of Henry Cow, King Crimson, Sonic Youth, Beefheart, The Residents (who I've barely heard at all, but why not, since Fat Worm's singer is prone to donning ridiculous costumes from song to song). All in all, the quintet managed the seemingly impossible task of being fierce, heavy, weird, experimental, ridiculous and non boring to great effect. Even better was hanging out afterwards and watching members of the band and audience break into impromptu musical revelries on the player organ in the middle of the dining room. I actually sort of live for nights like this one. Thanks, Fat Worm and The Gang for making it possible.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hallogallo 2010 Live at Primevera Sound
HOLY SHIT! Wish I could see this live. You can listen to Brian Turner's Michael Rother special here.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

More Music for Those Who Hate:

The Bastard Noise & The Endless Blockade The Red List / The Bastard Noise A Culture of Monsters (Deep Six) both CD - Bastard Noise is a group I came too late, but I've gotten a crash course in the last couple months. Now is the time since the revered Chicago power noise institution has returned to its roots by kicking out bowel-thrashing hardcore doom in studio and on stage that touches on everything from The Melvins to the heyday of Earache and earlier Man is the Bastard power violence epics.

So what we get on these two blasts of prog thrash -- one a split with the equally mind blowing post hardcore spazz freaks, The Endless Blockade -- are brutal rhythms with screeching vocals and pummeling double bass percussion and bass (no lead guitars) punctuated by eerie electronics crackling like hot geiger counters at ground zero of a nuclear detonation. It ain't pretty, but you can't turn away from the ferocious doom noise onslaught of tracks like "Fallen Species" if you're into that sort'a thing. Gotta say The Endless Blockade is even more insane, like maybe a little too insane for my ears these days, but if you love blistering prog infused hardcore and electronics you could do much worse than their "Advanced Directive."

A Culture of Monsters, BN's latest long player continues the feel of the The Red List with monster rhythms smashed to pieces with thrashing beats and eerie minimal electronics. There's a perverse sense of humor about it all that makes it go down easier than one might expect with this sort of thing. Not something I'll pull out regularly but excellent enough for fans of evocative power noise with crushing blastbeats and all the ugly in between.

Locrian Rain of Ashes (Basses Frequencies) / Territories (At War With False Noise/Basses Frequencies/Bloodlust!/Small Doses) CD / LP - Two more doses of dismal metallic drone from Chicago's mighty Locrian, a band that possibly takes its cues from the bad boys mentioned above, Wolf Eyes, early Swans, black metal and even Fripp/Eno. Rain of Ashes offers an hour of live delirium captured for a radio broadcast. It opens on a sedated repetitive note with distant minor keys crawling up the spine like tiny black spiders before immersing the listener in an enveloping cacophony of tortured howls and feedback blizzards designed to disorient and overpower at extreme volumes. It's not a bad soundtrack for trailing off into a nightmare slumber if you can pass out before the screams come in.

Even more satisfying is the newer Territories, a Locrian big band affair that features members of Bloodyminded, Nachtmystium, Velnias and Yakuza along with the core of Andre Foisy and Terrance Hannum. As a result things definitely get opened up in terms of dynamics and diversity. "Inverted Ruins" offers a lurching funeral march of murky electronics and feedback beneath vocal howls that grow more intense and pissed off with each cycle across its 8 plus minutes. "Procession of Ancestral Brutalism," with Blake Judd on guitar and vocals, is a straight up black metal howler the likes of which his own band (Nachtmystium) has never conjured before -- atonal, screeching, howling at the bottomless black void metal -- designed to make your head explode before your soul crumbles into a ball of ash. How fun! Combine this with the more spectral hypnotic vibe of earlier Locrian disks, and you have something that's hard to ignore in the experimental drone metal realm. Territories comes in an edition of 500 on black vinyl, so don't dilly dally, you doom fixated dregs.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti Live @ Hailey's in Denton (W/Puro Instinct and Magic Kids, both missed!)

I knew back when I first heard Worn Copy (Paw Tracks) that Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti just might catch on big some day. This was like five years before Pitchfork admonished him new pop savior and marketing terms like "chill-wave" and "glo-fi" were invented to help blow up the memetic bubble.

Flash forward a couple years -- I see an Ariel Pink concert at Hailey's where maybe 40 people turn out. It's not bad. Flash forward to three nights ago -- I see an Ariel Pink concert at the same place, and it's packed to the rafters with indie kids, arty acid rockers, and bored booty-shakers alike. It also is not bad.

I always wondered what would happen if Pink ever got a budget and some classy session people to work on an album, and the well received Before Today (4AD) offers a glimpse into the results. It's a decent enough record -- ever-approachable as one pal put it -- but perhaps more importantly it's an Ariel Pink record. Sure, it's got the 4AD logo on the back, and Pink isn't playing every instrument (including beatbox) himself, but that same oddball tinny guitar sound and tinker-toy disco beat pervades, all fleshed out with truly glorious post Beach Boys harmonic eruptions. Much of the nihilism of the earlier records is gone, fodder for the cutting room floor in the wake of bigger market demands, no doubt. But that's not really a problem given who's on board this time for collaboration/production duties -- including Dallas's own Yells at Eels led by the great Dennis Gonzalez (who also plays with Added Pizzazz, a kind of Ariel Pink/Y@E jazz thing spin-off), and Matt Castille of Ft. Worth's space rock titans Vas Deferens Organization (he's also a contributor to the revered Mutant Sounds download blog) handling production duties. That's right, kids! One of Mutant Sounds' very own is subliminally programming the minds of suburbanite pot smokers via the mysterious properties of pop music. Not much has really changed, has it?

It could be argued that as flash in the pan as Ariel Pink and his band of merry freaks seem to be, this is all actually long in the making, and the pedigree that went into the recording of the songs on Before Today is as varied and outside the mainstream as any you will find, which makes its (seemingly) surprise success all the more satisfying. Whether Ariel really is a pop savant or just an astute observer of weird-rock-with-hooks through the ages (rendering him all too willing to throw Prince, Giorgio Moroder, Krautrock, Beach Boys and Cheap Trick into a blender and click puree), the infectious yet alien charm of his songs speaks for itself. It still works and with less filler this time, but in true Pink form, the end results remain as polarizing as ever.

What I liked about the gig:
  • Seeing the great Dennis Gonzalez share the stage with the band for an extended cool drone during set opener, "Hot Body Rub."
  • Noting how the band repeatedly recreated the cheap studio sound of songs like "Hardcore Pops Are Fun" with ease in the live setting.
  • Seeing so many cool friends come out on a hot as Hades Summer night -- the hugs (and the drugs - thank you, Benadryl!)
  • Ariel signing my friend Greg's CD "To Miette" to make up for his daughter's nonattendance. Miette actually saw Ariel Pink live when she was 7 or so. Miette is clearly a very cool rocker, but it was still a school night.
What I did not like about the gig:
  • How goddamn hot it was.
  • Amazingly long bar lines.
  • The creepy, mumbling girl who sat across from me with her legs apart.
  • All the dorky party boys who kept jumping on stage, crowding the band and diving into the crowd. Don't get me wrong, I like kicking strangers in the face while being magically transported on the arms of dozens of people I don't know as much as the next guy, but this wasn't really that kind of show, was it? It's a freakin' dance party. Freakin' dance!
  • Getting lost on the way home as my friend was hunched over and passed out, unable to give directions.
  • Shouting my friend's name repeatedly while driving aimlessly through the Texas night. Actually enjoyed this too.
  • How goddamn hot it was.

Monday, August 02, 2010

RIP Tony Dale -- friend, music/culture explorer, mentor, husband, brother, son, indie record label honcho, fan. You will not be forgotten.

You can read Ned Ragget's obituary for Tony here.