The last year has been rough, but we’ll try to face the new dawn more regularly. See how it goes, and we’ll deal with some older stuff amidst the newer stuff. Can’t be helped. Thanks.
1. I guess it’s beyond the point of convincing anyone that some of the best music/sounds is happening on small cassette labels, but once in a while something gets slapped in the tape deck that just utterly, completely nails you to the underpinnings of heavens dripping maw. Such an experience is to be had by anyone lucky enough to grab hold of if only goodnight, the first cassette on the Wagtail label by Eastern Massachusetts improv/noise/strange-string shaman-femme Ashley Paul. Ms. Paul has been on the hot tongues of local noise lovers for a few years now and has gotten some recognition through her collaborations with the amazing Rel Records imprint. This cassette is really, really stirring and odd and affecting with high-frequency vox (which may or may not be ACTUAL vocals, but the mystic air conjured by reed-tongue) that call to mind early Connie Berg (Mars) interacting with bowed percussion and dislocated guitar sex. Cool as it gets. Get it.
2. Recent times appear to have been busy for Ed Sanders (above), one of the heroes of this century and the last. Amidst rumblings of a vast archival reissue series of material recorded by Ed’s band the Fugs, there is also a new Fugs album due sometime soon, and a slew of printed material already in hand. Poems for New Orleans (North Atlantic Books) came out in ’08, but only recently came to our attention. The book is full of Sanders’ beautiful verse, inspired by a trip to the city, which lead to intense reading about its history, and imaginings of chance encounters that might have been. Thus, the book’s a mix of investigative poetry (a school of thought Sanders founded), pure conjecture, and his own special lyricism. Great stuff, tying together near-ancient history with the catastrophes of Katrina and much else. Here’s a brief sample of the poem, “Echoes of Heraclitus”:
A helicopter flew me away
I wound up in Utah
where I am waiting for Jesus
to help me home.
Also new to us is America, A History in Verse: The 20th Century Volumes 1-5 (Blake Route Press). The first three volumes of this massive, detailed ride through the American consciousness were published by Black Sparrow Books, but following the retirement of the legendary publisher, John Martin, there was no one around to actualize the words. Thus, the full set is available as pdf files on CD. And hideous as this format feels (we spend way too much time on screen already), the work is fantastic. Here’s a short piece from Volume 5:
The Oklahoma City Bombing
looked like someone who could have been a NASCAR driver
or a retired quarterback
Close cut hair
White eyes of blue a Gulf War vet
and bursting from a sliver of the small town ethos
that allowed grumbling gun nuts
to exist without much hassle
It would be delightful if someone would turn these last two volumes into actual books as well, but for now, this will have to do. Ed was also the main subject of a recent show hosted by an amazing gallery/printing shop in Brooklyn called The Arm. They hosted a brief show of his many glyph-based artworks from the last half a century, and while the show has ceased to exist, The Arm’s Dan Morris is working on a portfolio reprinting several of Ed’s most eye-commandeering efforts. There are also a few loose sheets of this work available. And they are guaranteed to make yr brain very hot.
Anyway, we await finding a copy of Ed’s new poetry collection from Coffee House Press, and the soon-due Fugs CD as well. ‘Til then—keep grope alive.
3. One dude who has been on the UK underground noise cassette scene as long as Ashtray Navigations’ Phil Todd is Joincey. Haven’t really heard to much from Joincey in a while but he has this new thing now called My Carapace Is Leaking and the first thing we’ve heard by “them” is a split cassette with Swiss-Swedish double bass improvisor Nina De Heney on the Rayon Records label from Lyon, France. Joincey, or My Carapace Is Leaking, also employs bass action, though unlike De Heney’s more raw, organic scrape and touch (which is ruling), it is more of a skin-melting lather. And it is completely great. A wonderful split by these two, and anyone who has followed Joincey through the years with Wagstaff, Inca Eyeball, Coits, Stuckometer, and his amazing Face Like A Smacked Arse label will desperately want this.
4. Another great set of releases has appeared from Mondo Macabro, who seem to have a truly insane grasp of international exploitation films. The third volume of their Bollywood Horror series pairs two films from the Ramsay Brothers studio, Mahakaa and Tahkana, which combine tons of bad vibes, dance numbers and surreal juxtapositions of elements – I mean, who knew Nightmare on Elm Street was lacking a gay Michael Jackson character? Not us. But now we do.
We also understand, from seeing Akio Jissoji’s Marquis De Sade’s Prosperities of Vice, that it would have been a bad idea to create a criminal theater based on the works of De Sade in Japan during the 1920s. As to whether it’d be a good idea now, we can only guess. But watching how the bad idea actually was is a great visual treat. Weird to think this same director did the Ultra Man movies!
5. Great Dividing, the Australian label that kicked in the front door of our o-brain with the posthumous 3 Toed Sloth LP (which for better and/or worse is as close as we can get to contempo Feedtime action as it features almighty Feedtime drum-jesus, Tom), has issued a cassette comp, A Range of Greatdividing, which has some primo Sloth as well as other Oz dementia like the top-notch Shoptoprockers. Primal, guitar scrawl with dirty-hair free-chug moves that proves Oz still the sexiest dirtbarge ‘neath the meridian.
6. Willie Lane, long an active participant in New England underground swamp hijinks, moved to Philadelphia a few years ago and has really kinda flourished in the land of Fishtown. He released the great Known Quantity LP last year, and has followed that up with an extremely choice single, “Sleepy Hands/Arrested for Decay” on his own Cord-Art Records. The sound is wildly slubbed electric guitar, wrung through god’s own wringer and whacked in a way that recalls the dementia of early Black Sun Ensemble. The cover art rips off Don Bikoff’s Celestial Explosion album (a classic in its own right), which seems to us just more testimony to Willie’s scholarship and good taste. Jump on it.
7. For some reason or another, recent long car drives have often been made to the accompaniment of prog rock from the South African underground of the early ’70s. This would seem like a daffy-ass thing to listen to, but what the hell? The German Shadoks Music label has been reissuing a bunch of material from the period, and the stuff has a crude charm I find totally cool. The musical models for the bands I’ve heard are fairly obvious and mostly drawn from the upper echelon bands of the UK psych/prog continuum, but the South African versions sound pretty great. And that’s no lie. Biggest of the bands (in terms of popularity) was probably Freedom’s Children (pictured above), who had three albums between ’68 and ’71. Battle Hymn of the Broken-Hearted Horde is a varied, heavy psych/prog bridge, with tunes ranging from deadly serious poetic phlug to great Traffic-style rural fluff. Astra has a Floydian feel and is probably their most fully realized and successful album. But Galactic Vibes is my fave because it’s wildly schizophrenic with a wonderful spudly blend of jack-ass prog action, rock doofery, and genuine weirdness.
Third Eye (above) were another big local band with three LPs in ’69 and ’70. Awakening is a bit of a hodge-podge with horn parts and dull “sunshine” vocals placed amidst the organ gush. Searching is much more focused with a Procol Harum tooth-flash, and a few blasts of highly acidic guitar. Brother is a hybrid of the earlier two albums, sans dreaded horns, and with a manic cover of Arthur Brown’s “Fire” that challenges the original for sheer sonic madness.
But my favorite of the selections I’ve heard is Time to Suck, the sole album by Suck, originally issued in ’71. This album is a true pinnacle of dunt-rock. The album opens with a cover of Grand Funk’s “Aimless Lady,” a song so amazingly devoid of lyrical brain weight, it feels as though it emerged from an era in which people had forgotten how to use words. What an amazing choice for a cover! And the whole album is covers—two Grank Funks, Deep Purple, King Crimson (their “21 Century Schizoid Man” shreds even the version on Earthbound) and so on. Just brilliant. And they have a sonic attack as beautifully slothed as anything Stackwaddy or Soggy ever attempted. Really a deep toke of pure splooge. Makes me recall the way Nigel Cross once described the live sound of Sweet Slag. Some of these Shadoks came out on vinyl, a few seem to be CD only, but maybe I just missed the vinyl. Not sure, but it makes me real curious to check out some other SA stuff—Otis Waygood, Abstract Truth and whatnot. Don’t fret—we’ll issue reports as we get them.
8. A sorta newish cassette label called Rotifer Cassettes out of Gainesville, FL has been issuing some very interesting new-garde forays into the sound/sky/vision axis. The one we’ve been flipping over (and over) is the c16 called Versazi Yenisei by Abolicao, a project de plume of Jeff Astin who runs the amazing Housecraft label. (There is also an Abolicao tape Flowering Judas on the righteous Cabin Floor Esoterica label which we’d LOVE to grip but is sadly sold the fuck out). Rotifer only pronounces that this is “deep gusts from inlands satiating harvest” which makes more than perfect sense. What we hear is the sonic manifestation of a Floridian breeze wafting through a rusting clothesline. It is beautiful music and the world melts away.
9. The world according to Chris D is a weird goddamn place. But that’s not to say it’s an uninteresting place. A prolific writer, musician and jack-of-all-trades (Slash editor, record producer, film director, loverboy, etc.), Chris is also a poet and lyricist of amazing power. This was first demonstrated in such legendary ‘70s anthologies as Bongo Chalice, but was made explicit as hell first on the lyric sheets to Flesh Eaters‘ records, then in Double Snake Bourbon (published by Laura Cloud’s ill-starred Illiterati imprint), and now in A Minute to Pray a Second to Die (New Texture Books). The new book is almost 500 pages of lyrics, poetry, stories, dreams journals and even lists of fave films by Mr. D, and it is a brilliant gas to read. We recently hosted a reading in celebration of the book’s publication, and it was totally wild evening. Chris’s stories about insanely violent and/or obsessive people are informed by his encyclopedic knowledge of film noir, Asian cinema, beat poetry, and friendship with Darby Crash, and his words ring with a deep and ugly truth. Chris’s head must be a crazy ass place to live. But let’s thank him for the occasional access he grants us.
10. SEXKRIME ARTS has released another trio of tapes by the cream of the harsh industrial cretins slithering in the back corners of noise basements across the wasted universe of skum. The focus is on ultimate porn darkness with savage mind trashtronics serenading the depressed hole of bitter bleakness. The new ones are III by Custodian, who the label regard as “the most important artist operating in the U.S. noise scene,” Exchange by Corporate Park (“an alien voice examines the remains of humanity”) and the one we’ve been turning the lights off to most often, a masturbation noise fantasist masterpiece by J/O which is a mail collaboration betwixt Luke Moldoff and A. Kmet. Moldoff has been recording amazing harsh gunk wave for some years and running his own Razors & Medicine label and it’s all straight up excellent. But this release really has a sinister and reality-defying quality that will have you prowling your neighbors’ backyard clothesline for soiled sniff. Amazing and sublime b+w pantie bellybutton artwork suitable for framing etc. “sticky industrial harsh noise for those who lack self-control.”
That’s all for now. Back soon.
REMEMBER: 2 COPIES ARE BEST WHEN SENDING TO:
NORTHAMPTON, MA 01061
PS: Been digging Freedom’s Children for over a year now & I just played ‘The Homecoming’ from both Astra & Galactic Vibes for a comparison contrast. One’s got spacey organ gush, the other pure brutal live dunt (& a drum solo I edited out of my brain). In my mind I’ve created a third that combines the strengths of both. Thank you for inspiring me to revisit them!
Welcome back! Not to seem ungrateful but how about sound samples for everything?
Mark — yeah those Freedom’s Children albums are strangely satisfying. i’d never really had much of a chance to hear that stuff ’til the reissues showed up. i’m interested to check some of that other stuff. soon come, i hope.
Rocky — well, we’d tried to run links to as many myspace pages as we could find. and many of those have samples on them. getting permission to code & host samples here might be a little cumbersome. but we’ll try to make sure there are as many samples linked as we can find.
when is arthur coming back…i want to feel it in my hands again…..
i can assure that no one is more eager to get the mag back into print than us. and good rumors keep percolating, so hope is an eternal spring. indeed, empty hands are the devil’s playground.
hey, what was wild about the chris d. reading/celebration?