The fact that Furniture Music For Evening Shuttles by the Tower Recordings was perhaps my favorite album released all last year inspired me to check out a new cassette on the Polyamory label by the MV Holoscanner Exhibition. “MV” is apparently Matthew Valentine of the Tower Recordings, even though it says “Matthew Dell” on the cassette spine in ornate (if slightly D-and-D-ish) calligraphy. For Tower Recs fans, this cassette is a real steal: $4 postpaid for 30 minutes of spacey folky zoner-psych. Side One has the participants jamming lightly while floating near the roof of their personal temple-space in a helium reverie, while on Side Two the helium wears off and they settle back down to the floor for some, yes, Fahey-ish acoustic sittings, and Valentine, or Dell - hell, can I just call him Matty? - is quite good at this sort of fingerpicking. Buy it from Polyamory, 735 Anderson Hill Rd Box 1921, Purchase, New York 10577, or visit the Polyamory website.
Also from Polyamory comes a cassette release by Graham Lambkin of the Shadow Ring and co-conspirators, recording under the name Elklink. It’s called The Rise of Elklink, and it’s one odd puppy. I think the only source of sound is the human voice, but these voices are multilayered, slowed down, sped up, chopped into tiny pieces, turned into unrecognizable goo, etc. Shadow Ring fans will recognize the cadence of the opening track “Tension Tec,” which actually features words recognizable as words, but from there it just goes off the deep end. I was reminded of several things, such as the last half of Alvin Lucier’s “I Am Sitting in A Room,” those whisper-interludes on We’re Only In It For The Money by the Mothers of Invention, and various instances of ‘satanic’ back-masking on psych-rock and heavy metal records. (Though Elklink don’t need back-masking - they sound rather ‘satanic’ when the tape is running forwards). In any event, living in Miami Beach hasn’t made Lambkin ‘soft’; Elklink is actually weirder than the Shadow Ring.
Elklink also features on a rather incredible compilation CD put out on the Hell’s Half Halo label called Color in Absence Sound. If I remember right, the Elklink track on this one sounds like a much mellower version of a Runzelstirn & Gurgelstock “silence/noise attack.” That’s if you even notice it as it slips by among the extremely impressive “who’s who of the worldwide post-noise weirdground” roster that this Seattle imprint has assembled. There’s scary stuff by Diadal (featuring visual artists Rita Ackermann and Jutta Koether impersonating matricidal children); a truly ‘excoriating’ blast by Monostat 3 called “Have A Nice Computer Fuck” (now you can really hear synthist Robert Price, and I’ll never forget the way Adris Hoyos sings the word “sugah!” as a phrase-end rock-n-roll tag); a cool rehearsal-space gtr/drums rocker by Watt (not Mike, but a 1990 project featuring Bill Orcutt on some emo-killing vocals); another faux-lounge Charles Gocher-fuckoff by the Sun City Girls with the creepy title “Nephews in my Closet” (about 2 minutes long) onto which is tagged an extended assemblage of about ten SCG improv-action ‘practice tape snippets’ (about 7 minutes long); a ‘spoken word’ piece by Ron Lessard w/Theoretical Munt; a blast by Whiteout which, rather than patter and murmur softly like their Ecstatic Peace full-length, puts the synth way up in the mix in an attempt to out-scare Monostat 3; a wank-prov number in which Thurston Moore plink-plonks along with a phonograph needle stuck in a record’s run-out groove (it’s improv pop-art, and Moore remains good at it); a short but very sweet track by Ashtray Navigations; a track by Hochenkeit that weaves hair-metal guitar licks into a decidedly ???-haired fabric; gosh, can I go on? There’s still tracks by Vote Robot, Decaer Pinga, Alvarius B, Idea Fire Co., Smack Music 7, Alasdair Willis, 2/5 Bukatu (from Turkey!), Julien Bradley, and Gar Funk (featuring the KZA). Trust me, not even the comp that comes with the next Bananafish mag will be this good. Hell’s Half Halo, PO Box 633, Ferndale, WA 98248 USA.
And speaking of cassette labels, another one of the best also has headquarters in the NYC area: White Tapes, at Prince St. Station Box 646, New York, NY 10012 USA. I’ve gotten three of ‘em direct, and though I might think the packaging is even ‘better’ than the music, I like the music quite a bit too. (I don’t want to spoil any surprises, but two of them had to come in plastic bags.) There’s Humectant Interruption from Kalamazoo, which is a long pure noise cassette that has the expected but even mellower-than-usual ‘mellow center’ that most pure noise cassettes have. (Y’know, like ‘the eye of the hurricane’? The thing where a lot of noise music sounds even better at half the volume?) Mellower still is rhue.m/Kain with a cassette called The Animals 04/06/99. (The cassette J-card is a rarity for White Tapes, but this one has one and it doesn’t say rhue.m or Kain anywhere prominently, which made me think the group name was actually The Animals, which I thought was a great idea. I really, really don’t think Eric Burdon or Chas Chandler would give a shit.) In fact, this cassette is so mellow that it was recorded in a bathroom and I don’t think the neighbors even noticed. The first half of Side One floats in a wobbly fashion over heavy delay-pedal loops, and then somehow the water gets split wide open by what sounds like an electric organ and guitar ensemble trying to drown out Sun Ra’s “Atlantis.” (Come to think of it, the neighbors might’ve noticed that part of the session.) On Side Two, rhue.m/Kain really pick up some steam - and I mean that literally, as the whole side sounds like steam coming out a vent, with little variation. (This is a good thing.)
The best of this White lot is the very redly-packaged Monotract cassette. I’d heard so many great things about this Gainesville, Florida unit that it took me the second listen to adjust to what they actually sound like. Which is: a surprisingly spacious and weirdly mellow form of gtr/gtr/drumkit rock-trio improv, ‘more free’ than the Dead C in that the drummer never plays those heavy-ass Bonham-beats that Robbie Yeats busts out every ten minutes or so. There’s a lot of delay-pedal loops, again, but Monotract’s are more watery, elastic, and mysteriously spiralling than the static statements of rhue.m/Kain. I don’t know what this sounds like really, but I do know that Monotract, like Minneapolis’s Wrong, are refreshingly free of the post-SY chime-rock tendencies that often slow down freenoise artists who stand up and play like rock bands rather than do it solo onto tape in their bedroom.
Perhaps the out-of-nowhere ‘psychedelic folk’ private-press release of the last couple years is the self-titled debut by Six Organs of Admittance. It’s so out-of-nowhere that I don’t even know when it came out, or how many copies there are of it, but with its mysterious sounds and hand-painted covers it just screams ‘edition of 200.’ Six Organs of Admittance appears to be one man named Ben Chasny, living in the shadow of many redwoods in remote McKinleyville, California. His music is 96% instrumental acoustic-guitar whisper-filigree wrapped softly within very fluffy blankets of home-fried drone and electro-burble. I don’t know how he does it, but I like to listen to it. There’s even a new CD, also self-released (on Pavilion Records), called Dust and Chimes. This one seems a little more ‘song-oriented’ than the first, featuring eleven separate tracks rather than the two or three extended pieces on the LP. Some of the CD cuts, such as “Hollow Light, Severed Sun,” have prominent vocals and a slightly busy ‘Eastern’ flavor that may sort of startle those who’ve been going to sleep to the LP every night, but there’s still plenty of extended mystery to get lost in here (try the acoustic guitar solo “Journey Through Sankuan Pass”). Anyone who likes Robbie Basho’s Guitar Soli CD absolutely has to get both of these - I’ll make you - and with tracks like “Stone Finder’s Verse I,” “Tukulti Will Burn,” and “Blue Sun Chiming” that live up to their titles, any regular Terrascope reader would be a bit loony to miss out. Write Pavilion Records at 1834 Timothy Rd, McKinleyville, CA 95519 USA.
Keeping track of Asahito Nanjo and his many groups - High Rise, Mainliner, Musica Transonic, Toho Sara, etc. - is confusing enough because they’ve each put out about three albums, but it’s even more head-scratching when he changes approaches not just from group to group but from album to album by the same group. Take the Mainliner LP Psychedelic Polyhedron - those of you expecting the ridiculo-amped in-the-red speed-metal riffing of Mainliner’s two American CDs on Charnel House (Mellow Out and Sonic) may be nonplussed by the approach on PP: exquisite lost-in-space death-blues psych-meandering in the form of two eighteen-to-twenty-minute tracks that wander wherever they damn well please, and it’s a ride worth taking. Closer to slow-jam High Rise or Fushitsusha than anything Mainliner has previously done, it reminds me even more of Side One of Ash Ra Tempel’s Join Inn, but occupying it’s own Hendrix-Hazel-Holding Company downer-zone, and when Nanjo (?) starts singing an ominous, fuzzed-out vocal late in the first track (which has a title that should make Slayer envious: “Show The Cloven Hoof”) things really start melting down exquisitely.
And while I’m talking about Mainliner, I should definitely mention a release by Acid Mothers Temple and the Melting Paraiso UFO called Pataphysical Freakout MU!! This group is spearheaded by Mainliner/M. Transonic “motorpsycho” guitarist Makoto Kawabata. They’ve had a release on PSF as well as a few on Kawabata’s own CD-R imprint. I don’t know where this one comes from (I’ve been listening to a cassette dub), but it is already a true classic of spaced-out rock-folk-psych stylings with fun titles that just beg for a “[sic]”; there’s super-wah biker-fuzz (“Acid Takion”), mellow Vietnam blues (“Golden Bat Blues Dedd”), pastoral-but-distant fuzz-folk (“White Summer of Love”), even echoplexed voices of French women! (“Cosmic Audrey”) Those of you reduced to shelling out $16-$20 for Spalax reissues of third-tier Krautrock, please redirect your funds here. The Temple can evidently be reached at 5-4 Kameshiro-cho, Mizuho-ku, Nagoya, Japan, 467-0876, or try the fine mailorder service at www.eclipse-records.com.
I try not to get caught up in ‘what’s new’ too much, setting aside a few of the many hours a week I spend locked in my bedroom listening to records for the hobby of dusting off a few oldies. This endeavor can take me several surprising places; just this week I’ve been to the sunny but slightly melancholy surf-utopia described by the Beach Boys on their Summer Days (and Summer Nights!!) CD, as well as a land of teen joy and heartbreak that slightly resembles suburban California and/or New Jersey via The Best of the Girl Groups Vol. 2 (Rhino). (Key tracks: “Icicles and Popsicles” by the Murmaids [sic], “Johnny Get Angry” by Joanie Summers, “Don’t Say Nothin’ (Bad About My Baby)” by the Cookies, and of course the original “Loco-Motion” by Little Eva. (Background vocals by the Cookies!)
However, perhaps the most exciting “oldies” that have recently made it to my turntable are mid-Seventies works that fall somewhere between Pop Music and artistic-freedom-as-druggy-excess: Aah…the Name is Bootsy, Baby by Bootsy’s Rubber Band, and A Wizard, A True Star by Todd Rundgren. The former features all sorts of body-rocking jams, such as the irresistible title chant-track, a funky half-time hand-clapper so laid back that Eazy-E ripped it off wholesale for “We Want Eazy” in the late Eighties; however, the real finds are some spaced-out psychedelic space-funk ballads on Side Two, most notably a 10-minute Wagnerian blow-out called “The Munchies For Your Love.” Todd’s LP was, by his own admission, made during an “LSD phase,” and it certainly shows in the ridiculously multi-colored Todd-as-glam-goth-super(?)hero comic-book illustration on the funny-shaped cover, and even more so in the dizzying suite of interconnected and heavily-phased rock/pop swirl-songs that are crammed onto the vinyl within. Those who are paying attention to the current Elephant 6 hype should definitely lend an ear to the opener here, a keyboard-driven technicolor paisley-radiator called “International Feel.”
What was this about the Dead C’s Eusa Kills (Flying Nun) being a pop album? I was all set to maybe not like it as much as I seem to like every other album they’ve put out, but not only is it far from pop, it’s practically as heavy as Harsh 70s Reality, Trapdoor Fucking Exit, and Tusk. This record is ten years old, but at the time the band was already close to perfecting their thick and always-bubbling stew of sub-grunge amp torture, spooky vocals, tape torture, and, yes, quasi-pop in the form of actual bubbling rock songs. Sure, the opening number here, “Scarey Nest,” probably is their aPOPeosis, and there’s also a T. Rex cover (“Children”) which is actually funky and gives Dead C. freaks the chance to hear Michael Morley sing “I got a Rolls Royce…” Looks like The C will be working with Flying Nun again for an upcoming “trip through the vaults”-themed release that will revive old out-of-the-print material as well as bring some never (or barely)-released stuff to light. Even better is a rumored double-CD of all new material that is very much “in the pipe.” I’m happy, aren’t you?
Yermo’s unsolicited remix of Klaus Schulze’s Irrlicht, available on the Moth to the Sun CD-R (Last Visible Dog), got me interested in the original, so I picked up a rather dodgy-looking CD reissue of it, produced by the “Magnum Music Group.” At first it sounded kind of dull, but I’m starting to get accustomed to its long and extremely mournful Popul Vuh-ish feel, heavy and gloomy organ chords played slow and stretched-out and tweaked by subtle mixing effects. As an unrepentant fanatic for Schulze’s other gig, luxurio-psych ‘jam band’ Ash Ra Tempel, I ultimately find Irrlicht a little dull, and long, but it possesses more than enough peak moments to still be a good example of what a strange, varied and epic movement Krautrock was - with all the folks out there still buying late-period Pink Floyd albums, hoping for a sound that will ‘blow’ their minds, I can’t believe this mind-melting ‘space-rock’ of the German variety hasn’t caught on even more.
Get Back! Italy, as part of a notable reissue program which includes the Red Krayola, the Deviants, and the Pink Fairies, is now reissuing classic ESP-Disk titles on 180-gram vinyl. This is nice, but I for one fell in love with ZYX Germany’s incredibly extensive and now-defunct ESP CD-reissue program, despite their often shoddy presentation and unbelievably redundant liner notes. At $13, the Get Back vinyl reissues aren’t any cheaper than the CDs were, which is okay, though despite its girth, the copy of New York Eye and Ear Control I picked up actually has some skips and pops on it that make me wish for a CD version more than a new stylus. As for the music, a record featuring a meeting between Don Cherry, Albert Ayler, John Tchicai and Roswell Rudd going at it over the Peacock/Murray undercurrent is going to be a free jazz monolith; whether you buy it or borrow it, hear it or just hear about it, you’re going to worship it. (If you’re a free jazzer. An “out-ster,” as Nels Cline once put it.) I, for one, intend to worship it like an ape in 2001, but even after three or four listens the two twenty-minute-plus tracks on here are slipping right past me, so I’ll have to keep trying. (I do remember “Don’s Dawn,” the one-minute “warmup” that opens the record.) It’s not that I don’t think the music is good free jazz, it’s that I think maybe it’s too good. It’s so good that it literally congeals into the wallpaper. This music is so good at congealing that I wish I had a copy of Michael Snow’s film that this record serves as a soundtrack for, so I could let it congeal with that. Hey, internetters, e-mail me at email@example.com if you can point me to a copy for sale, trade, steal, or show!
As for the aforementioned ZYX reissues of ESP titles, if you’re lucky, you can find these CDs at cut-out prices; on a trip to Chicago, I nabbed a Marion Brown, a Burton Moore, a Sonny Simmons, the “Zitro” disk, a Noah Howard, the first Frank Wright, and Patty Waters’s College Tour for eight dollars each. Unbelievably, I still have yet to hear an ESP title that I can completely de-recommend, and even these admittedly second-tier jazz releases are no exception. Why Not? by the Marion Brown Quartet features Rashied Ali on drums and Sirone (of the Revolutionary Ensemble) on bass and creates a refreshing and mostly honk-free “pretty” sound, with Brown blowing sun-dappled lines that weave and sing their fragile way through Stanley Cowell’s piano filigree and the rhythm-action; Noah Howard’s At Judson Hall is a more mournful affair, with alto sax and cello interplaying darkly and a full band (including Dave Burrell on piano) tensing and releasing through two long tracks; drummer James Zitro’s self-titled release presents him leading a Bay Area six-piece featuring no one you’ve heard of - the music is brassy, rather swinging, and capable of chaotic heights, but if you want to save your money this might not be a bad place to do it; don’t get me wrong, it really is good, but it doesn’t quite have that grimy atmosphere that seems to mark most ESP titles.
Um, like, I know the people at the Last Visible Dog CDR label, okay, but they just put out some shit from New Zealand that I can ‘personally’ recommend, all nepotism aside. Check the first disc of the eponymous double-set by Small Blue Torch, which features minimal live-drone by certain unnamed Kiwis. Through five extended tracks, this disc calmly wigs out along a slow-burn microsonic trail that I wish a few more ‘contemporary composers’ were willing to go trodding down. In my (biased) opinion, these hoary note-sluices trump the noble Sonic Death/Dead C guitar-driven chime-dirge of the second disc. The Last Visible Dog has also put out CDRs by Ohm (who, like Small Blue Torch, features NZ noise supernaut Campbell Kneale), as well as several other surprising ‘regional’ titles (the region being somewhere between Nebraska, New York City, Wellington NZ, and Salisbury, Maryland) by Yermo, MCMS, Maggot Paw, Eschaton, and more. If you’re interested in these disparate sonic table scraps, get in touch with the Dog at www.radiks.net/~camoon/LVD or PO Box 81673, Lincoln NE, 68501.
Houston, the new CD release by the (aforementioned) Charalambides, is big news in zoner-psych temples worldwide. I’ll admit, the band ‘got me’ with their mystique-stirring ‘announcements of retirement.’ Of course, the Charlambides were retired before they were retired and now that they’ve come out of retirement they’re retired still. Folks, this is not a band trying to ‘make it.’ The Charalambides simply don’t give a hoot. That’s certainly part of why they’re making some of the best zoner-psych ‘new folk’ albums you’re ever gonna hear. If the Cowboy Junkies’s Trinity Session is in your Top Ten of ‘Alternative CDs’ like it is in mine, well uh wait until you hear Houston. The big news here is that the Charlambides are back to the husband-and-wife duo of Tom and Christina Carter, with Christina taking a really central role, playing guitar on many songs and doing lots of singing. Fans of the all-vocal Tim Buckley track “Starsailor” take note as well: she is overdubbing and phasing and dubbing her voice with glee, and it creates dense stacks of floating vocalese that create some kind of new-for-this-band mad-overdub-opera trip. (Check her solo piece “The Blown Door,” which looks like “The Blown Deer” with the Siltbreeze type-setting aesthetic.) Hell, the duo is overdubbing all over the place - there’s even two sax lines played by Tom on “Songs for Always.” So the big news isn’t that they’re back to being a ‘duo,’ because on this record Tom and Christina are a goddamn quintet (at least).
Wow, Ptolemaic Terrascope magazine is putting out CDs chock full of 15 or so ‘psychedelic’ artists with their recent issues. Well, ‘psychedelic’ is a word I believe in too so I can appreciate most of the stuff on these ‘units.’ They play like a Nuggets of the Nineties, inverting Lenny Kaye’s curation-move by curating already-lost contemporary garage-rock and bedroom-psych tracks before they even have a chance to become unknown. (Though oldies appear too, brilliantly.) The ‘CD sampler’ that comes with issue #26 is a hodgepodge that fearlessly goes from gorgeous to wack to twee to mellow to edgy to vintage to harrowed and then right back to the misty mountain several times. There’s several Nick Drake imitations; in fact, the lead singer of Sixties unknowns Steamhammer, Kieran White, turns in perhaps the best Nick Drake imitation I’ve ever heard on the smoothly desultory “Hummingbird.” The first track of the whole shebang, a sunny finger-picking lullaby with strings and other odd orchestrations by London’s Pat Orchard, is a Nick Drake imitation, even though it’s an instrumental. The second track, by Fit & Limo, may similarly scare off underground badasses with its stately Brit-gal vox bolstered by Indian string stylings and Eastern finger percussion - they might think it was Dead Can Dance or something on the Cuneiform label. It’s actually better than that, thanks especially to backwards tape masking burrowing underneath the whole thing (which I’m sure utters “my sweet satan” at least three or four times). At any rate, if the ‘undie’ badasses stick around for the third track, “Cole Porter” by Houston’s Linus Pauling Quartet, they will have their mind ‘blown’ by it, a dirging marijuana-psychosis rock-song that launches an extended Bad Moon Rising-damaged Peter Buck jangle-pulse into a Black Sabbath maelstrom on the chorus, which goes “Steeeeeve, put that bong away/I said Steeeve, put that bong away/I know that it’s the best/It’s better than the rest/But I’ve got a drug test!”
Gosh, who else is the PtT #26 comp? Well, there’s The Flyte Reaction (epic reverb-soaked harried-Limey psycho-pop), The Sanctions (sounds-like-the-real-thing Sixties garage rock), The Loud Family (fans take note), Mirza (really good moody noise-folk), and The Green Pajamas (a name familiar to any regular Terrascope reader - so I’m told). This comp also finally gives me a chance to hear the Supreme Dicks, and they do a frickin’ ‘march of the quirky synths’ Ralph Records homage that ends up being great anyway, mostly thanks to some extremely well-placed minimal vocals and an extended and synthless ‘pretty’ multi-guitar coda. There’s an 11-minute amp-sit by Azusa Plane that finally redefines New Age music in a way that I can actually lay down and listen to. (There’s very few that have previously done it . . . mid-period Brian Eno, any-period John Fahey, and . . . I don’t know, Rafael Toral on Wave Field? The entire “ambient electronica” movement?) As for the mag itself it’s still dense with delightful faux-medieval art, very readable interviews, and many breathless reviews (not quite as readable, more like this clap-trap) enraptured with ‘magical’ record releases.
Back to ESP for a minute: I never would have guessed that I’d be getting into Erica Pomerance’s absolutely cracked 1968 LP You Used to Think as much as I have been. She wails, she croaks, and she warbles more like a witchy woman than Yoko Ono and anticipates Diamanda Galas while spilling out dense folk-rock lyrics. The first time I heard Ms. Pomerance ‘slip’ into French in the middle of “The Slippery Morning” and sing in that language for the next twenty lines or so I really thought that maybe someone had maybe just changed the record or something. After a few brief seconds, I realized no one had and Erica Pomerance was still singing. I came back down to Earth and found it a different place. P.S. The music on this LP actually deserves the hoary old epithet ‘acid folk’ - according to the liner notes, Ms. Pomerance dosed right before recording this!
For the noise-lover in you, the long-running EF Tapes of Minneapolis is putting out a cassette-single series, marking them as one of the few in the ‘noise scene’ that is aware that the shit often runs too long. Ironically, the releases I’ve heard from this series so far are all over too quick; there’s harsh noise pranksters Cock ESP (excellent Viking-metal house techno and use of Wisconsin-area field recordings), New Port (guitar duets) and Wrong. (The latter is improvised guitar-and-beyond noise wash that also comes off a little brief, but that’s not a problem when you’ve got said group’s In The Wrong double-CD, which gives you over 140 minutes of their free-skree featuring a constantly revolving lineup manipulating guitars, drums, tapes, turntables, horns, sheet metal, and more, all in the service of a pleasantly-sequenced ‘harsh ambient’ effect.) The cassette single series also features releases by Late, Smell & Quim, Del, Mike Landucci, Flybussen, Crank Sturgeon, the artist currently known as ½½½, and many more. They are now completely out of print, with some never even getting manufactured, but you can get a great CDR that compiles all of the tracks from SunShip Records, PO Box 580218, Minneapolis MN 55458-0218, USA. (When online go to http://freenoise.org for more on E.F.Tapes, Wrong, Freedom From Media, the Spite label, the Blackbean and Placenta Tape Club, and much more, including Cock E.S.P., currently the leading light of the Wisconsin noise-comedy scene.)
A lot of underground bad-asses wrote Sonic Youth off after Dirty (though they probably claim it was after Sister), but I never did, and their latest, A Thousand Leaves (1999) is a truly fine album, mixing up Thurston and Lee’s moody, swirling, and oft-sweet street-hippie ruminations with Kim’s oft-venomous garage rock. I just bought a used CD of it today and it sounded real good on the first spin. Like a dutiful hipster, I bought the vinyl when it came out, and though the vinyl took me from initial underwhelming listens to later luxurious listens during which the album’s smooth undercurrents started to manifest themselves (check the amp static underneath Kim’s ???-rant on “Contre Le Sexisme”, the endless riff-piling of “Karen Koltrane,” the sweet epic-pop and unabashed hippie love of “Wildflower Soul,” the laid-back blues-bubbling of “Hits of Sunshine,” the sweet punk-pop of “French Tickler,” the sweet dark-pop of “Hoarfrost” . . . etc), the ‘ritual’ of getting up to flip the album became just too disruptive with there being a flip-chore every two or at most three songs. Much as I love vinyl, the CD is the better choice here.
And damn, Thurston Moore and Tom Surgal have played free music gtr/drums duets and made two fine records. One is on Corpus Hermeticum called Klangfarbenmelodie: And the Colorist Strikes Primitive, and it’s been out for a long time, but it’s loud and chiming and levitational and it just goes and goes, and if it ain’t space-rock you can have my Nik Turner CDs. I think it’s almost out of print, so consider this a last call. There’s also a release assayed on 10-inch vinyl and CD by the UK imprint Fourth Dimension. This one is called “Not Me” b/w “Lydia’s Moth,” and it’s a more quiet and spooky affair than Klangfarbenetc. In fact, it’s one of the most hushed and massaging records of non-idiomatic free improv I’ve ever heard; Surgal plays the drums with brushes like he’s about to disappear and there’s one long section consisting of Thurston creating soft buzz and sputter over the pitter-patter by ‘playing’ his live guitar cable.
Finally, Sonic Youth have released a destined-to-be-underrated CD on their own label called Silver Session (for Jason Knuth). When I bought it, the sales-clerk said, “It’s all noise.” He sounded a little disappointed, and I suppose a lot of people will be; the ones who only listen to the first thirty seconds and take it out because “it’s all noise.” Give the whole thing a listen (it’s only around 30 minutes long) and it really starts to sink in nicely. The disc documents a practice session in which the band was driven to distraction by the “funky metal overdrive” of the Pantera imitators practicing above them. In response, they laid all their guitars against their amps and turned them up loud. In lesser hands, the results surely would have been an unbearable wash of Metal Machine Music, but the Youth know how to mix and sequence, and this noise is presented at just the right level to accompany daydreaming. Pretend it’s a new Azusa Plane LP and zone out; or, if you want to get microscopic and try to trace the strange filigrees within the amp-noise, you’ll be rewarded there too. (Please note: for this record Sonic Youth’s label, SYR, has been renamed SKR, as the record’s dedicatee, Jason Knuth, was nicknamed “Sonic Knuth.” So like, Sonic Knuth Records.)
This week in the Wonders of Technology Dept: The other night I was listening to WFMU (91.1 FM, East Orange) on the Internet’s Real Audio, and D.J. Tom Smith played a mad mantra-rock-fuckit workout by some entity he back-announced as Lightning Bolt from Providence, Rhode Island, courtesy of Load Records. Mystified, I did a search on “Load Records” and within what had to be less than three minutes I was writing out a check for $7.50 to the very label, because they’ve got a website (www.loadrecords.com) and that’s how much the eponymous Lightning Bolt LP costs direct. Well, the record arrived today and on my turntable it gives off the same baffling aura it did on WFMU. It’s a bass guitar-drum duo, a couple dudes (?) from our nation’s smallest state, and it seems to be mostly instrumental (at least Side A is; that’s what Smith played and I haven’t flipped the record over yet). These guys can make the free noise - they do it for awhile at the end of Side A, and for a particularly intense while at the beginning of Side B (I just flipped the record over), but the road there is a wholly new metrical musical path, hinted at by several past rockband moments: the interlocking guitar-spun melody-hives of Discipline-era King Crimson, the riff-on-repeat garage throb of “Mainliner Sonic,” and yes, the prog-metal ‘grunge’ of Godhead Silo. If you feel that the Godhead Silos and the Today is the Days of today’s righteous-but-plodding indie grunge scene aren’t quite giving you that certain kick, you may want to send a check or money order for $7.50 to Load Records (P.O. Box 35, Providence RI 02901) and have them send you the Lightning Bolt LP. Trust me, it doesn’t plod at all.
Ever feel like you’ve been looking and looking for that perfect record that possesses that certain buzzing sound that immediately and repeatedly takes you away onto faux-narcotic tides of aural-psychedelia mystery? Have you been combing the Forced Exposure catalog, reading all the enticing descriptions, and ordering what might finally be just that record, only to receive it and respond with another “close, but no cigar”? Well, I think I might know your problem: you’ve heard Electric Ladyland by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and for psychedelic and mysterious and atmospheric noise you just can’t top it, brothers and sisters. The whole “In 1983 A Merman I Should Turn To Be…” suite was one of my favorite turn-the-lights-out-and-lie-in-bed-with-my-head-between-the-speakers tracks from my high-school era (even if it was already past 1983 and I was listening to a used copy), and by Jove, it still is.
You might have read about the late and incredible Japanese free-music saxophone legend Kaoru Abe in a recent issue of Opprobrium magazine. On that recommendation, I snapped up a used copy of his PSF disc, and it’s definitely ‘something else.’ Abe combines the bebop-surprise nimbleness of Eric Dolphy with the freakish sandpaper roughness of Arthur Doyle; he’s an extremely facile, extremely agitated, and often sort of terrifying player. This is the kind of record that the word ‘excoriating’ is actually used to describe sometimes. It makes the Dead C sound positively ‘ambient’ - sure, the Dead C is noisy, but they’re also really drifty, and Kaoru Abe’s solo music does not drift. It does sort of leap, stab, spit, and shriek, shriek, shriek, to such relentless peaks of obsessive ecstasy (?) that I’m reminded of Diamanda Galas or some such. I’m actually having a hard time listening to it. My neighbors downstairs keep playing Rage Against the Machine’s first album really loud so I started blasting this CD back at ‘em, but I immediately started to feel like even they didn’t deserve Abe’s breed of post-jazz extreme noise terror. And I didn’t either. However, a bass clarinet track on here is much softer, spacious, and no less technically incredible than the alto sax blasts, which tend to be very, er, excoriating. Ah well, it’s vicious, but it’s a keeper.
If you ever see a compilation CD on Rhino Records with a title like The Best of Doo Wop Uptempo or The Best of Girl Groups, Vol. 2 (aforementioned) by all means snap it up. This shit is essential, and it’s simply and perfectly presented by one of America’s great ‘all-music’ labels. (Read the liner notes! Look at the band photos!) This music is bubbling, percolating rock’n’roll, with the vocals doing almost all of the bubbling and percolating. You know the hits, like “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?” by The Teenagers featuring Frankie Lymon, “Get A Job” by The Silhouettes, and “Come Go With Me” by the Dell-Vikings (though you probably know that one better - as do I - through its early-Eighties retro-incarnation by the Stars on 45 or some such). And if you know the hits, you’ll like everything else too - this is the true American garage soul, baby, and we should all go get it.
Since I wrote all that, I've bought about 25 more records. I'm a collector, you see. And because any record review column is a celebration of unchecked materialism, I'm gonna go ahead and list a bunch of what I just got: The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda by Angus Maclise (Siltbreeze); We Are Reasonable People by various artists (Warp); When The Snowman Starts To Talk by Solid Eye; Ego Synchronicity Music by the MV Holoscanner Exhibition; Tri Repetae by Autechre; Lobster Tracks by Cylob; Safe As Milk by Captain Beefheart (new CD reissue); Goodbye 20th Century by Sonic Youth; Plays More Alabama Feeling by Arthur Doyle; Head Spinning Freely (Slowly) by Salvatore; [Las Vegas] by Burger/Ink. I list these not just because I want to show them off, but because I truly think each of them are incredible. I've been listening to each of them, one after the other, over and over, the entire last week. Now I better go write about 'em, so that this column might actually see a second edition. Until then, thanks for having me. -- Brad Sonder