by Byron Coley and Thurston Moore
from Arthur No. 30 (Oct 2008) [available from Arthur Store]
This new Little Claw 7” on the Physical Sewer label which they had on their last roadtrip doesn’t even sound like them. But what do they sound like anyway? They sounded like the greatest goddamned fucking band on the planet the time we saw ‘em. Two minimalist drummers, a guitar dude with a nice underhook rhythm rip and a girl with a badass no wave slather tongue tearing hell out of her slide guitar given half the chance. And not all hellbent rage either—some nice licorice melt drizzle crud groove too. Fuckin’ awesome. This 7” sounds amazing but like some other weirdness was at play in the living room or wherever this beautiful session went down. You’re fucking nuts not to locate this—try their myspace roost.
Although the material is clearly posed, the new Richard Kern book, Looker (Abrams), is as voyeuristic as Gerard Malanga’s classic Scopophilia and Autobiography of a Sex Thief. Kern’s volume combines a feel of chasing a subject and photographing her without her knowledge, with some purely 21st Century tropes (dig the upskirt end papers), but the feel seems to also be a tribute to the ’70s Penthouse mag vibe. The nudes and font and the introductory essay by Geoff Nicholson all combine to create a volume with a much more gentle charge than Kern’s last book, Action. On the virtual opposite end of the photographic spectrum is David B. McKay’s Yuba Seasons (Mountain Images Press), which has some of the best nature photography we’ve seen in a long time. McKay has spent 40 years photographing this Northern California river and the area around it, and he has captured something really mind-blowing about the interaction of water and light and stone. The landscapes are great, but the river shots are beautiful, mysterious, fast and deep. You can feel them as much as you see them. Really fine.
There’s been a whole ark-full of gospel comps the last few decades and Lord yes they are always welcome but just when you think the well is dryin’ up along comes this motherfucker of a manic backwoods backstreet romper Life Is A Problem (Mississippi Records, 4007 N. Mississippi Ave., Portland, OR 97227 tel.: 503-282-2990). It’s been out a while and is even in a second pressing (without the first pressing’s bonus 7”) and is compiled by Eric and Warren from the Mississippi record store and label in Portland, OR and Mike McGonigal, who also annotated. It’s a 14-song set with some really raw guitar blowouts, handclap n’ chant fever stomps and sweet as ‘Bama honey singing. Some names on here we know like the lap-steel slasher Reverend Lonnie Farris but there are some straight up surprises. Particularly “Rock & Roll Sermon” by Elder Charles Beck, where he rails against the devil’s music, all the while kicking rock n roll ass. More sanctified sounds promised from this label in the future. Before this LP they issued a comp called I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore 1927-1948 which is also sheer beauty digging into tracks released by immigrants to America delivering early Zydeco, Salsa, Hawaiian slack key, etc.
One usually thinks of the Roaratorio label as one devoted to somewhat experimental or avant sput, but their newest LP is the eponymous vinyl debut by Knife World. And this is rock in a mode that reminds us of classic-era oddball indie stuff of the SST/Homestead era (Phantom Tollbooth crossed with Trotsky Icepick, maybe?). The vocals are a little annoying, but the playing is defiantly expert and filled with non-generic psych moves and references. Not sure what their story is, but building the 3D glasses in the record’s label is a neat trick. For a turtle. Less turtle more tortoise is the newish eponymous LP by Jack Rose (Tequila Sunrise). This is a shimmering gladhand through steel guitar luxuriation in the bluesiest post-Fahey mode imaginable. Just when you think Jack has hit the top, he creases you again. There’s also a new 2CD set, pairing this and the excellent Doctor Ragtime and His Pals, which is a functional combo effort with Glenn Jones, Mike Gangloff and others, trading trad like the actual rubes they are not. Very swift.
Steve Reid has long been one of the more interesting of modern American jazz drummers. Usually considered in an avant garde perspective that can hardly contain his history, as the dude started out in the ’50s playing with Martha & the Vandellas and then in the Apollo Theater house band with Quincy Jones. Sometime in the ’60s he went to Africa and played with Fela Kuti and others. Bringing it back home he played with all kinds of cats from Archie Shepp to Miles Davis to Sun Ra and Charles Tyler and ran his own label, Mustevic. The last few years he’s been releasing CDs with electronics improviser Kieran Hebden who is a founder of Four Tet. Inspired by both men’s love for the Duo Exchange LP by Rashid Ali and Frank Lowe from the early ‘70s, the two discs so far issued are The Exchange Session Vols. 1 + 2 (Domino) They are amazing and eloquent in how they deal with open ended forward moving sophisticated improv playing. Hebden’s spiritual take on the nature of his electronic sounds is captivating. His palette is righteous, moving from computer generated sounds to winding toy music boxes over electric guitar pick-ups. It’s all live, no overdubs, no edits. A new CD of what looks like the duo’s take on compositions (some standards—“Greensleeves”!) is out but we have yet to make the grip.
Substantials #03 (CCA Kitkyushu) is the latest in the great series of books and CDs documenting a Japanese lecture/sound workshop series. This one features bilingual text from Keiji Haino, Dickson Dee, William Bennett, Russell Haswell and Toshiji Mikawa, with a CD track by each. Cool. Also CD-enriched is the new issue of George Parsons’ always boss Dream Magazine. Number 8 has the usual collection of interviews with contempos (Dredd Foole, Charalambides, Reefus Moons, Anla Courtis, etc.) and historical figures (Powell St. John, Absalom…), along with a jillion well-written/well-argued reviews. One of the highlights of each year. Also worth straining eyes over is A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music by George Lewis (University of Chicago Press). We can’t lie and say we’ve done anything except skim it this far (c’mon, it’s almost 700 pages!!!), but it appears to be a very thorough examination of the Chicago-based arts collective by Lewis, who joined in ’71. Does not seem to have a really thorough sessionography, but there’s still plenty to read.
Need to give some props to the UK label Sunbeam, who have been doing vinyl on their releases lately. We dunno if they do ’em all or what, but the 2LP version of J.J. Light‘s Heya—the all-time classic of Native America raunch-pop, as viewed through the lenses of Bob Markley & Kim Fowley. Really a sweet package. As is the latest Sublime Frequencies LP, The Shadow Music of Thailand, which documents a pocket universe of probably related ’60s Thai bands who contemporized traditional Siamese themes under the influence of Brit instrumental groups like the Shadows. It’s a wild blend. Not sure what the hell to make of the three new LPs on (graphic genius) Dennis Tyfus’s Ultra Eczema label. Jos Steen‘s Electricity!!! Music for Tape and Turntable finds this crazy Belgian blues bozo doing extremely crotchety experimental stuff with almost no Beefy vocal yowlage (which has long seemed his stock-in-trade). Pretty amazing in a very crude way. As is Eric Thielemans’s A Snare Is a Bell, which is a one-sided document of a very compact and continuous rasp-drone of a solo percussion concert. 0032 (0)3 2934834 by Tyfus himself, is a collection of crank phonecalls, in some fucking language, recorded during 2007 for an art exhibition. Funny in a very strange way. Dennis has a great old man voice.
Another unexpected dollop of god-song is the Losing New Friends Every Day LP by Gay Tastee and Ziamaluch on Myth of Creation. Recorded in ’98, this is a very boss acoustic Albany session mixing Ziama-Jack’s cello and Gay’s guitar and vocals (which wiggle into our ears in a way that keeps making us think of some period of Peter Stampfel’s we haven’t heard yet). Simple as a shoelace, but better. Even stranger is the eponymous solo album by Tom Thayer (Cardboard Mirror). Recorded over several years, when he was still teaching in Tennessee, this album is a sonic journey that rewards repeated listenings. At first, it sounds like a fairly random pile of semi-songs, found-sounds and gloops, but as you play it more, it starts to create its own dastardly dream narrative, and makes a woggily passage into and out of yr head, like a Van Dyke Parks thimble-robot with evil intentions.
Most amazing art book this time has to be the universal vastness and bounty of the two volume Gary Panter set from Picturebox. Panter is one of our generation’s great artists, and this set—one sketchbook, one fantastic monograph with essays and chunks of his entire ouevre, will be the best gift book of the still-far-off-enough-to-plan-for-it Christmas season. Unbelievably great. Same is true for the (can it really be the first?) overview of the career of one of Panter’s heroes—Jack Kirby. Kirby: King of Comics (Abrams) is a lush and luscious peek at the guy who invented Marvel’s aesthetic, then went on to pen the berserk New Gods series, which psychedelicized every feeble brain it touched. Yikes. On a semi-related note, we also recently stumbled across a remainder called High Art by Ted Owen (Sanctuary Publishing), which is a very good collection of (mostly) poster art from the psychedelic era onwards. Nice paper, good repros. Handy!
For those of us who spend all day trolling for the next insanely killer black metal obscurity it’s hard to focus on reviewing records by the non-satanic. So it was with nefarious glee to come across the I Hate People CD by Windy Weber. You may know Windy from her years as part of the engaging beautiful bliss music duo Windy & Carl out of Michigan. Who woulda thought this woman with the calming tones of serenity was once an angry goth-punk teen? Sorta makes sense—there was always a haunted sense in that serenity. But nothing prepared us for this solo recording. It’s totally dark and personal and not so much forlorn as just wanting to be alone, away from…people. Dark clouds of layered guitars and disenchanted vocal blackness stare blankly out of a sleeping bag of emotional frustration. An uncomfortable listen, though hardly as grating as all the sick black metal scumming out our powerbooks, but in a welcome sense, more real. The CD is released on Blueflea and the LP on Kenedik with 500 copies on splattered blood red vinyl.
And on the subject of beautiful darkness, a fantastic and startling depressoid art-musique LP has been issued by Idea Fire Company. The Island of Taste (Swill Radio) is probably the most galvanized manifesto yet from the philosophical freneticism of New England’s most dapper noise artist, Scott Foust, and the remarkable painter/sound goddess, Karla Borecky (whose paintings grace the cover within and without). Probably not a good idea to get involved here with Scott’s history of pronounced ideology, all of which has measures of pure and wicked fascination. But suffice it to say it really does add some delirium to the listening experience. He’s got some great lines on one of the enclosed art cards with this LP such as “I think of my work as a time bomb set for a mythical future. I would like to see it explode during my lifetime, but if that does not obtain, I will die knowing it is still there. Ticking.” For all you noise bugs and avant-garde creepsters let it be known this extremely fine grip of New England deep winter mesmer has within its execution the participation of Frans de Ward, Graham Lambkin, Richard Rupenus, Meara O’Reilly and Jessi Leigh Swenson. Yum.
It’s kind of odd to think that John Lurie hasn’t had a good overview of his visual work until A Fine Example of Art (powerHouse Books). The paintings in here are all pretty recent, but John was known as an artist before we ever heard of him as a saxophonist or film maker or actor or composer or TV star or anything else. Whether this was just an impression or actual knowledge is hard to recall, but the paintings in this book are fucking hilarious and rough and very very right. The Glenn O’Brien essay is good, as are the small testimonials at the end. Lurie—as much as we may have envied his fashion sense back in the day—is a real polymath. Better than Ben Vereen? We say, yes. In the Is It Book? Or CD? Category, winner this time is Nurse With Wound’s Images / Zero Mix box from Beta Lactam Ring. This combines a CD of the pre-remix version of the Angry Electric Finger material (some of it, Xhol Caravan messed-with to great effect by Stapleton) with a solid new, dark-prog album called Requital for Lady Day and a book collecting the 100 painted LPs that Steve created for an art project revolving around Angry E. It couldn’t sound or look better.
We reviewed a cassette by The Grand Hotel long time ago. It was weird and really out of nowhere and we figured whoever these magicians were, they probably would evaporate sooner rather than later as such monumentalists are wont to do. Seems like they’ve been kinda alive and well and gigging close by our environs once or twice. Who are they? We kinda pride ourselves on knowing when shit is going down at any given time in any given basement but The Grand Hotel has us kinda sniffing sideways in “huh?” Adding to our delightful bafflement is a goddamned LP in an edition of a goddamned 100 copies with goddamned silkscreen covers and purportedly recorded in Lake Tahoe, Palo Alto, Hopewell Junction and New Orleans. Either someone’s pulling our dick or we’re just too bizzy doin’ jus’ dat ourselves cuz this The Sailboat Mix LP (felt records) is as enchanting and unpretentious and sweet a slab of huzz-grind improv slather as you’re likely to grip any which way. What the fuck?
Got a very interesting batch of small comic books by Englishman Malcolm Duff, who is a pal of the great Chris Corsano. Malcolm has apparently done over 30 solo books, so he only sent a smattering, but they’re choice. A 52 Second Silence for Topsy shows how to deconstruct an elephant in less than a minute. The Banana/Skin Joke is like a Peter Bagge movie for heads. The Blackest Gnome explains the real death of vaudeville. I Can’t Swim Part 1 is a dense allegory about disabled athletes and the brothers who loved them. I Can’t Draw Part 2 is a concept piece about the idiocy of certain members of the teaching profession. A Lone Stiff is one of the least explicit sex comics I’ve ever seen. Judging from this stash, Mr. Duff has an aesthetic and a concept-driven style that relies at least as much on theory as content. We dig it. And so may you.
Also worth checking out is Metronome by Veronique Tanaka (NBM). A text-free graphic novel, Metronome tells the story of an affair in a fairly brilliant way. Each page is composed of 16 squares, and they depict different parts of the story in non-sequential fragments, all of which eventually cohere into a single story. It’s very well done and a really cool construction art project.
Two completely fucking amazing LPs have come our way via Philadelphia label Fedora Corpse. First up is Göte, the brother/sister or man/wife or something/something duo of Adam and Jennifer Melinn who not only go way beyond their previous outputs of free-metal zone-mulch with a red vinyl vision-dump of brain-gnarl heaviness but are the masterminds behind the Fedora Corpse machine. As excellent is the self-titled blue vinyl Comoros LP where some mysterious maniacs exhibit a swoozy command of daydreamed drool-tone with blackmetal mantra vibes. Very fucking great. This is the sound of Philly post-Bardo Pond and it sounds supreme. Looking forward to more. Please.
The reason we haven’t written about the new Can’t LP Private Time (Part2) (Weird Forest) sooner is because we’re still unwinding from Part 1 which Jessica Rylan (she who is Can’t) released on her own irfp cassette label a while back. That tape crushed us with its closed bedroom door noise-mind breath-on-ear intimacy. This LP is Can’t fully realized and if you have yet to sup upon her odd pleasure(s) then this is a jake joint to join hands. Jessica is renowned for her little blue boy noise machine inventions and here she busts smooth ass in full crackle/crunk glory. Elsewhere she gets raw with a minimal sing-song piece and then the over-amped hush-microphone borderline destruction minimalism she just fucking owns is put to great effect. It’s all very…private…yet she knows yr listening and wants you to maybe fall into the wayfaring world she seems to move through. An immensely happening LP.
Ms. Rylan comes out of the historically insane Providence, Rhode Island scene which continues to burble with extremely hard-to-figure freakos. One of the more intriguing labels there is Rare Youth and they’ve just issued a split LP by locals Russian Tsarlag and Blue Shift. We cranked the Russian Tsarlag side first and were transported into some odd cabaret of post-Half Jap sub-weirdness that was disturbingly charmed. Originally from Tampa, Florida and connected to the acclaimed Byron House and Dynasty as well as labels like Cephia’s Treat, Kites’ Unskilled Labor and Noise Nomads’ Bonescraper, Russian Tsarlag are exquisite purveyors of dark, dank and literate beat bohunkism with a Subaru-load of dry panache n’ brain-junk. Killer repetition and hypno-jam vibes—would like to dig these punks live. Blue Shift is artist Cybele Collins playing scratch-death violin which just happens to be crossing yr speaker-field. She stops to stare down the back of your powerbook and as you look up she drops to the carpet thrumbling and engaged. She’s that awesome. Record comes with a sweet suck of a booklet of art jam from Cybele Collins and Carlos Gonzales (the voice of Tsarlag).
While on the topic of Providence, worth mentioning (better late than never) is Judith Tannenbaum’s Wunderground: Providence 1995 to the Present (Gingko Press).This is a catalogue of a show documenting the arc of the Fort Thunder scene via posters, graphics, photos and text. The book looks fantastic, has plenty of fold-out pages to melt yr eyeballs, and boils over with a nerve-energy that’s intoxicating. Same goes for the great little volume, Maggots, by one of Prov’s more famous sons, Brian Chippendale. The book reprints one of his earliest extended visual narratives—skittery lines drawn heavily onto the pages of a Japanese book catalogue. Great dark thug baby-genius, now revealed to all. Brian has also self-published the second issue of Galactikrap which is a kinda Gary Panter-meets-Moondog space odyssey with silkscreened covers and content as cute as a rat. As is the Black Pus 4: All Aboard the Magic Pus CDR (Diarrhea). Black Pus is Chippendale’s solo music project, and this time he’s got a much less free-form approach, making what must be called almost-pus-pop moves at times. Quakin’!
A swell new batch of ear-rub has arrived from Arizona’s Gilgongo Records. Little Women’s Teeth is a one-sided fire music champ. The band’s from Brooklyn (something of a side project to ZS) and they give the guitar a much higher profile than many of their jazzic peers, which is admirable and hot. At least until they start chanting! Tent/City’s Drought is one-sided as well, but silkscreened for extra pleasure. These guys are from Tempe, and their sound is a bit like Wooden Wand’s most free-folk gesturage—flowing, open & stoned with toots galore. This one ends in chantery as well, making us wonder if a trend is afoot. This question is resoundingly answered in the negatory by the eponymous French Quarter LP, which is chant-free. What fills it is lovely straight folk-yearn (Sam Bream style) with a production sound and voice that gives the music emotional depth and width, and sounds damn purty doin’ it. Lastly, but not leastly is Arms by ZS, which is a bit more inside than the Little Women record, but has a nice line-up (sax, guitar, two drums) and does some nice, tight, microshift jamming. They do return to the chant motif, however (albeit in a near-Arkestral mode), so that has to make us wonder. Y’know?
Sewer Goddess is a one-woman noise project out of Massachusetts that’s had a few recent recorded examples of entrancing gurgle and drone-skree that’ve got us drunk on wanting more. What we’ve encountered exist on the Total Gape and Blood Libel Cult comps from the Negation Is Freedom and Razors & Medicine labels respectively—both tracks sinister and dread-drenched with fright-tone textures of harsh-sound and freaked vocals. Along with those killers and a few CDRs comes a new solo tape Cold Pleasure (Negation is Freedom). It is magnificent in its brevity and leaves you panting for more of it’s sex-dream/nightmare pull. Total yum-death. Another estimable one-human band from the area is Joshua Burkett, whose Where’s My Hat LP (Time Lag) is a wonderful involution of volk-stylings. Josh has been amazingly virtuoustic in live performance recently, but this album is a spare and rather sunny mystery dance. Very old timey sounding in spots (as though dubbed from a 78), it has a hidden spine of purest gold. Time Lag also did a sweet vinyl edition of the Woods’ Family Creeps session, which is sometimes (by far) the poppest thing these Brooklyn folk-fucks have ever done, but that just means it has insidious hooks. It’s not their “fault.” It’s ours.
The Middle James Co. label out of Hamilton, Ontario is relentless in excreting local noise effluvia. Head honcho David Payne has recently been collaborating with sub-fi Michigan basement creep Andrew Coltrane, another prolific sense-jamming scientist of harsh noise vision, with not only musical head-ons but art spew as well. Their Zombie Train Zombie Pain and TNT tapes are decent enough places to start but try and grip the stapled xerox mags they’ve been making as they are real boss eye burn beauties. Looking forward to the Higher Voltage LP they’ve been threatening to unbridle. Other new swoop on MJC is the Jesuve tape by CM, which is Todd Brooks from Brooklyn’s intriguing Pendu Sound Recordings collective along with Ghost Moth who have been doing those cool releases with free jazz maestro wildman Daniel Carter and something called Mialessot. This tape is awesome gas-tank bomb blast subcurrent explosion-core; real depth-charge action with an assured musical head-feel. MJC has been doing what they call their SHORTY series of shorter tapes (we think that’s what’s going on) of more outside-the-outside stuff. An amazing one is surely the Mike Khoury & Hans Buetow live duo cassette from a 2004 Michigan meet. Khoury is violin and Buetow is cello. We know Buetow from his ripping shred work with Graveyards, Melee and Traum and most brain-searingly with Aaron Dilloway at 2008’s No Fun festival where the two men DESTROYED the main stage with a complete atmosphere-annihilation of a set. Dilloway’s wheelbarrow/shovel duo with Buetow’s cello which bookended the gig is already legend.
Buetow and Ben Hall, the drummer from Graveyards and Melee, are also the proprietors of the Broken Research label, and they just sent a couple of superb LPs that are very much in keeping with their personal avant garde tradition. Jeff Armal & Dietrich Eichmann‘s Live in Hamburg is a great duo performance for Brooklyn percussionist Arnal (maybe best known for work with Charles Gayle) and pianist Eichmann (a von Schlippenbach student who reportedly focused more on composition until recently). The session is super-active and outward reaching without ever slowing down very much. Very righteous playing, and these guys communicate at a pretty high level. an eponymous Paul Lytton/Nate Wooley LP finds Melee’s young trumpeter and the veteran percussionist locked in a kind of bone-scraping mortal combat that gets into some ingenious free music situations, where instrumentation is anyone’s guess and the mode is pure attack. There is also a pair of conceptually twinned LPs, Bare Those Excellent Teeth Pt. 1 & 2, by Graveyards and Melee, respectively. The Graveyards’ disk is savagely restrained for them, almost hermetic. It shows a bit more overtly than usual how the music of Hall and Buetow (who, along with John Olson, comprise Graveyards), is rooted in the Bennington composition mode. There’s a real feel of that here—subtle woodwinds, stretched tonal bass, light drum clatter and all. The Melee session is similar. And nice as hell. Graveyards also have a solid, untitled set of tunes on a new 8” lathe-cut from the chaps at Alt.Vinyl (Northern England’s best store/label). It’s a fuggin’ reflective masterwork as well, and scheduled to be part of a series that should rip serious sac. Gonna file these all in the jazz annex, which is a testament to something.
Seattle’s Du Hexen Hase have a sweltering zoned-guitar tape called Dark Slobby Cave (self-released) which states that they are some kind of “final jams.” If this means like really finally FINAL then fuck too bad cuz this trio has a fantastic hold of slow spirit improv physio-bleat. They Showed Me the Secret Beaches (CSAF) LP is the fourth album by connect_icut, a solo project by expat-Brit, Sam Macklin. It takes a lot of standard “pretty” electronic practices and flops them over on their sides, not unlike some work by Australian Oren Ambarchi. There’s pop crafting here, but it’s subtle and allowed to evolve in its own darkly idiosyncratic way, with space bells a-wigglin’. Not bad, Sam. The eponymous debut LP by Youngstown, Ohio’s Panzer Talk (On/On Switch) keeps reminding me of that track-by-track solo cover of After the Goldrush that VCO’s Mick Flower recently did. Not that these guys sound particularly Young-specific, but they manifest the same acoustic/ele