BULL TONGUE by Byron Coley & Thurston Moore
from Arthur Magazine No. 29/May 2008, available from The Arthur Store
Great new LP by Portland’s Jackie O Motherfucker may be our fave of theirs since Flat Fixed. Spaced out jabber and float with casual/urgent female vocals that almost sounds like certain moments of Fuzzhead at their most blues-wailin’est, interspersed with Velvetsy volk moves, and overlaid with swabs of smoke & jibber. The slab is called Valley of Fire (Textile) and it’s a monster. Also out from Jackie O is a sprawling 2 LP set, America Mystica (Dirter Productions), which was recorded in various caverns by the touring version of the band between ’03 and ’05. Not quite as precise as Fire, but its muse is savagely crunchy in spots and never so formal as to appear in a bowtie. It’s an open-ended weasel-breeze you’ll happily sniff in the dark. Is that a hint of Genevieve’s crack?
This young noise dude from Minneapolis named Oskar Brummel who records and performs under the name COOKIE has released his first entry into the new new American underground noise forest and it is frothingly balls-deep: good n’ harsh. It’s a cassette titled Ambien Baby and it flows with both a FTW sexual undertow and a strange-feeling/shit-coming rejoice. There should also be rejoicing over the fact that Times New Viking seem to have made their transition to Matador with their instincts intact. Their new LP, Rip It Off, is as grumbly and fucked sounding as any blast of gas they emanated previously. Nice thick vinyl, too. I guess you need it heavy when the needle’s buried this far into the red. Smooth!
It has taken a little while to actually read the bastards, but now that it’s done, there can be little doubt that Process Books has blasted out three of the best music-related tomes to have been peeped by our tired eyes. First up is the new edition of John Sinclair’s Guitar Army. This is one of the great American underground revolutionary texts—ecstatic, naïve, visionary and powerful. It’s a little funny to glom a few of the embedded old (old) school opinions about what is happening, but it’s still a wonderful read, and a doorway into eternal truths, if you can stay open to its music. The new layout is pretty good. We miss a few visual aspects of the old one (like, where’s the Frantic John flyer?), but the new pics more than make up for it, and the bonus CD—music, interviews, rants, poetry—is fantastic. As is Paul Drummond’s Eye Mind: The Saga of Roky Erickson. We’ve read endlessly about Roky over the last 30 years, but this book is jammed (JAMMED) with new facts, reproductions of fliers, posters, photos and ephemera we never even imagined, and Drummond really covers the subject the way he deserves to be covered. It’s really an overwhelming effort. The same is true of Robert Scotto’s Moondog: The Viking of 6th Avenue. The writing can be a little sere, but the story is juicy enough to mitigate this dryness. We finally get to read the story of how the collaboration album with Julie Andrews came to be. There are meetings with Arturo Toscanini and Edgar Varese. It’s quite a tale, and Scotto has done his homework. The only frustrating note is that there really isn’t a comprehensive straight discography. If there’s a second edition, it would be a welcome addition. Also, while the CD tracks are bitchen—especially the early recordings by (one presumes) Steve Reich—some notation there would be cool, too. Other’n those quibbles, we couldn’t be more celebratory ‘bout popping our corks. Buh!
We reported a while back how the horn has become a significant sound source in basement noise life with the weirdo bleat/junk processing of John Olson’s reed kill with Wolf Eyes, Dead Machines etc., and certainly Slithers, and to a mighty free jazz extent the always amazing Paul Flaherty. Furthering all this way hep ghost-trance-sense improv is Dan Dlugosielski’s new(ish) project Uneven Universe. Dan oversees the EXBX Tapes label and has recorded great gunks of noise-jam as Haunted Castle, plus he’s spooged out a few Uneven Universe documents. The one we keep going back to is The Rattling Caverns, on sweet Ohio label Catholic Tapes. It will make you wanna huff smoke-think and drink brews and maybe get some arm-around. If you’re lucky.
‘Nother fine Ohio product is the first LP by Mors Ontologica, The Used Kids Session (VSS). Because this was recorded by Mike “Amrep” Hummel, it’s hard not to smell gusts of Cayuhogan breeze in every note. Never sure if this is a concept we generate in our own fevered brainpans, but the album feels sporadically redolent of everyone from the Quotas to Death of Samantha. The basic pummel is tres garagey, but it’s blasted throughout with croak and glam-pop highlights that just won’t quit. Very cool. Thank you, Ohio. Not from Ohio, but very cool nonetheless is the new edition of Hall of Fame’s 1999 album, First Came Love, then Came the Tree (Amish). Originally released on CD, it’s now on limited vinyl, with a swell bonus CDR of the band live. These guys were a superb trio, and went on to a lot of interesting ensembles—JOMF, MVEE’s Bummer Road, etc. But their original blend was lovely, light-assed improv-volk with an experimental undercurrent that always sounded great. And how goddamn splendid it is to have this as an LP! Another gang with a long overdue LP is Egypt Is the Magick #, whose The Valentine Process was recently issued by Wooden Wand’s Mad Monk imprint. Seems like the unit has expanded to trio size (they were but one, last time we checked), but the music remains a primitive (almost Godzian) blend of street-volk-ritualism, with some Excepter roughage tacked on for good measure. Really fine Sara Press cover art as well.
Interesting batch of small ‘zines and booklets arrived from Brass Tacks Press, out L.A. way. They’ve got an extensive list of publications, and the few we saw are pretty whacked. The Snake Pit by Baretta, is a memoir of life in a weird derelict surfer/hippie commune/village in Lower Topanga Canyon. It’s a casual read, but presents a side of the greater L.A. experience that had previously eluded us. The Last Nowhere is a collection of “Crap Poetry” by Log and Toilet, who also authored the bi-lingual 5 Poemes Crap. The poetry isn’t particularly good, but we’re not sure it’s supposed to be. What it actually reminds us of is record reviews by the great Rev. Norb in the pages of his legendary Sick Teen fanzine. Last up is Voyage of the Timeship Medusa, a comic book by Toylit. Voyage is a very stoned feeling post-hippie image/word blur about rabbits and cops and puke and we-know-not-all-what. Suffice to say, it’s good readin’. Also extremely notable from a visual standpoint in the newest collection of drawings by Bill Nace (of XO4, Vampire Belt, etc.). Called simply Drawings (Open Mouth) it’s a strange-ass collection of pen and ink illustrations, which have been so important in defining the look of the Western Massachusetts underground. Open Mouth has also just done a CD version of their classic Daniel Higgs cassette, Plays the Mirror of the Apocalypse and Other Songs. It’s one of Higgs’ strongest pieces of extendo string ramble (with a short jaw harp break) and should make happy ears wiggle.
The new double-12-inch by Brooklyn’s Mouthus has no title (No Fun). It also has no suggested playing speed, so we tried it at 33, 45 & 78, and also played it backwards. All versions sound pretty good, although we’re currently preferring 45. It’s a little less underwater-sounding than it is at 33, but it maintains a certain energetic edge at that speed we find very captivating.
Definitely a 33 player is Hive Mind’s Cast Through Shallow Earth LP (No Fun). Monolithic in a manner almost suggesting tunefulness at times, this set slowly uncoils itself into a thick length of very krautly design. It’s actually quite akin to some old school slow motion electronics of the Ohr label era. Nicely done. Also nice is Aaron Dilloway’s Chain Shot LP (Throne Heap). Less ambo than some of his more recent work, this one’s a cluttered collage of loops and thumps on metal and/or horns. Gets very crunky towards the end. Which, you’ll have to agree, is a plus.
Aaron Dilloway – “Chain Shot (excerpt)”
We NEVER get promos from QBICO anymore (hint, hint), but we did manage to lay hands on a great new LP they released called Early Free-Form Waveforms by Psychatrone Rhonedakk. We’re not sure exactly what the hell this is, but it appears to be an old electronic project that involved Brian Turner, the current program director of WFMU, which is probably the best radio station we’ve ever known. Brian plays very Chrome-ian guitar on one side, the flip is a pure Zolar gloop of electro-whizz. It’s a formidable space jam, champ.
And before we change topics, you have gotten the WFMU program guide anthology, right? It’s called The Best of LCD: The Art and Writing of WFMU-FM 91.1 FM, it’s edited by Dave the Spazz, and it’s published by Princeton Architectural Press. The book is crammed to the nips with great writing, amazing art and cultural detritus of a remarkably diverse nature. Because Mark Newgarden’s bro, David, was the program director when the ‘zine started, they always had an incredible assortment of artists. The stuff here (by Panter, Burns, Clowes, Beyer, etc) is not reprinted anywhere else. The writing’s fine, too—Tosches, Linna, Marshall…a winning selection of the greats, and definitely the bathroom book of the season.
It’s possible this one’s been out for a while, but it’s such a massive effort that speediness has very little to do with it. We speak, of course, about Ashtray Navigations’ A Monument to British Rock 3 LP set (Smokers Gifts). Originally released on CDR, this vinylization of the sessions is an awesome and gorgeous thing. The band here is Phill Todd, Melanie Crowley, Alex Neilsen and Ben Reynolds (at various points) and the sonics are a sluffy combo of synthesizer camel-toe, guitar of a very Jandekian nature, and the clatter of pencils in a metal cup. Portions of it are utterly brilliant extensions of a very specific kind of post-genre bedroom improvisation, others mine a very classicist post-Hawkwind space-shaft-continuum, others just sound like a mess. Which means this’s a wild, beautiful ride and one well worth taking.
Willie Lane, one of our fave guitarists from the haze-light of New England, and a critical element in the MV/EE Golden Road investigations, relocated to some weird other road in Pennsylvania and we were sad. But now we are brightened! A message beam has been fireflied into our homes via an amazing recording collab betwixt Willie and Grant Acker (gtrist from ex-Siltbreeze lost-art spacialists UN). They are called the Slurp Dogs, the tape is called Postal Licks and it’s on the consistently worthwhile earth-psyche label from Belgium, Sloow Tapes. Real singing amplifier bent note drone wah magic mind music here and all in high order. Super recommended.
Our fave saxophoner list is one on which Wally Shoup’s name is prominently displayed. This Washington state dadaist is an alto player, visual artist and musical composer of the highest order. And he has recently been present on a pantload of precious poop. One of the best is Suite: Bittersweet (Strange Attractors), an LP which features a trio of Wally, guitarist Nels Cline and rummer Greg Campbell. The session was a radio broadcast from ’05, and it is a motherfucker. Wally bloots and slurs notes like a Tristano-ite gone berserk, Nels fills the air with intense mid-range squeedle, and Greg slugs them both with fists wrapped in metal. Especially on the b-side, it’s a goddamn beautiful thing, both fully blasted and under control every inch of the way.
Not as recent, but equally brilliant are the two LPs cut by the trio of Wally, drummer Chris Corsano and saxophonist Paul Flaherty. One is Bounced Check (Records/PO Box 381869, Cambridge MA 02238), the other is Blank Check (Tyyfus), and both are full-on spankers. Recorded one fateful night in Seattle, Bounce blares a bit more, but Blank wiggles like an eel. The playing format (two horns and a drum) is pretty maxist, especially with Corsano on tubs. Speaking of Corsano, this young honorary Limey has just had his first solo CDR, The Young Cricketeer, reissued on LP by Family Vineyard. It doesn’t sound like much is different, except the playing format. Recorded at home in Manchester, it’s a brilliant mix of Chris’s fantastic percussion work, plus the crazy tootling and tinkling that’re probably what got him hired by Bjork. Shoup then raises his shiny pate again for The Sound of Speed CD by Ghidra (Sol Disk). Another trio, this one features Bill Horist’s guitar and Mike Peterson’s drums. Sound is their second release, and it’s a great combination of Beefheart-damaged psych-noise string energy, intensely focused percussion scrums, and Wally’s anticly keening sax-work. Nicer work, Shoup don’t do.
Always a treat to get a new issue of Mike Stax’s Ugly Things. This guy has cracked the code on garage greatness, and he’s consistently producing the best music ‘zine this side of Kicks. Issue 26 has a great Rob Tyner interview, a fantastic piece on the Pop Rivets (Billy Childish’s pre-Milkshakes group) and more sweet content than you can shake yr bangs at. If you are at all interested in rock & roll, you cannot afford to miss an issue. UT has also published a new book, which we’ve started, but not quite finished. It’s called Like, Misunderstood by Rick Brown and Mike Stax, and tells the story of one of history’s great tragic bands—the Misunderstood—John Peel’s all-time faves. We’ve always loved the reissues and archival recordings by these guys (who came from the Riverside CA garage scene, and ended up in England), but their saga is fucked-up in a most splendid way. Yow. Worth reading.
Finnish neo-prog immortals Circle recently entwined mittened stumps with Boston’s Sunburned Hand of the Man (plus stray Vibracathedral Mick Flower) to create an organization called Sunburned Circle. An LP entitled The Blaze Game (Conspiracy) is the fruit of their loins, and it’s about as floridly stoned as you’d expect. Lotsa pulsing rhythms, squeedly Gong-like synth babble, Chrome-ian string-flange and vocal etherea, all with near-prog overtones. Recorded in Finland while Europe burned.
Meanwhile, nearby Norway’s favorite experimental/noise soundsmith Lasse Marhaug, along with Finland harsh fiend Tommi Keranen (aka Rulla), have a wicked wall-noise duo called Testicle Hazard. Which is an appropriate moniker whilst listening to their premier LP Hangover Interruption (Trash Ritual) as the rainforest of shattering aural debris is likely to shred any skum-boy’s scrotum within earshot. One side studio, one side live (where the plug gets pulled at the end —always a sign of success). Hot stuff from a label with nefarious psycho-graphic aesthetics. The LP is obi-banded with soft yet supple plastic netting and a pin featuring a hirsute asian bondage woman. Crazy. Make sure you grab the Rulla Arserection cassette from Trash Ritual as well for utter sound gutting.
Seems like we’ve mentioned Chrome a coupla times in passing. It should be noted that Jim Gibson’s newly-reactivated Noiseville label has followed their superb Helios Creed two-LP set with reissues of three crucial Chrome albums on CD: Alien Sountracks, Half Machine Lip Moves and Third From the Sun. These albums track the early development of this legendary Bay Area psych combo, from their garagist roots into their deepest Neu/Suicide trance states, on to the syncretically fused punk-space hybrid they perfected. Three great albums. And if you write Noiseville, don’t forget to ask about the Wicked King Wicker. It is a brutal guitar piece taken to a near-Skullflower level. We shit you not.
The new issue of David Greenberger’s Duplex Planet is out. It’s #180, and brings to mind how long ago it was that we first ran into David. It was back when he was working at the Duplex Nursing Home in Jamaica Plain in 1980. He was involved in a band then, Men & Volts, which had originally been formed to play Beefheart covers. He was also doing a strange little magazine of interviews with the nursing home’s residents, documenting the depth of their histories as well as the wildly funny answers they’d give to questions they couldn’t quite figure out how to answer. The issues were built around themes and there were some classics. David has done lots of Duplex-related work, releasing a book by the almost indescribable poet, Ernest Noye Brookings, then curating a series of albums on which various bands sets Ernie’s words to music. He has also developed a series of great spoken pieces, which he does live and on CD with various musicians. He has also been on NPR fairly regularly as a music and social commentator. He’s a total genius, and has really been involved in some amazing projects over the last three decades. Anyway, you can check out the Duplex Planet site for more info, but this new issue is really the berries. It’s another “music issue,” and is illustrated mostly by pictures of the ’60s bands David himself had: Happy Scab, Scotland Yard Fantasy, etc. Issue 180 is a good one, and reminds us what an important cultural figure Greenberger is. If you don’t know his work, check it out.
No one mentioned to us that the genius Santa Cruz band, Residual Echoes, had imploded. So imagine our surprise when we got the eponymous LP by San Francisco Water Cooler, a band birthed from Residual Echoes’ ashes (KDVS Recordings). The album’s formatting is a bit irksome (one side’s 45, the other’s 33, making for much confusion amongst stoners), but the sounds are great. There’s a very psychedelic whiff to the guitar, but it’s all done inside a sorta neu noise context that blends keys with gloop with whatsis in a truly modern way. Pretty amazing stuff.
New tape label Custodian, Color Zoo Containers hits a high sonic marker with a sweet foray into heavy, heavy excitable music/bliss blizzard drone love with the one man Oakland dude (since relocated to Prague) Jorge Boehringer aka Core of the Coalman. His tape Canarsie is blindingly beautiful, a scorched sky of hyper sound and it will leave you stunned and spinning. Boehringer’s been around the Bay Area scene, hanging out with the experimental head-cases at Mills College and local freaks like Rubber O Cement, Gowns et al for a few years. Dude is sick and his violin noise makes us think that the violin is turning out to be the premier instrument of the mid 1st decade 2000 avant/experimental scene (check C. Spencer Yeh, Samara Lubelski). Did Violinski presage this? No. Custodian, Color Zoo Containers has also issued a cassette by Take Up Serpents called Swollen And Full Of Parasites. These guys are an S.F. crew of rowdies, since located to Colorado, and they have the classic knees on the floor, butts high, hands on the knobs gutter improv. Like black metal, it’s the only way to really have some fun these days. Both these releases are worth seeking and sooner than later as there are less than 50 copies of each. We found ours at Aquarius Records in S.F.
While we’re hanging, happily, around S.F., a city which can still bring on the hootch charm so lost from the island of Manhattan, let us hep you to the swarming density of Usputuspud, which is the one-man slow burn of this cat Matt from local panic trance rockers Wildildlife. The cassette release Liturgical Alcoholik (White Lodge Tapes) is a real sweet and weird mind-scoping trip and definitely worth your seek.
Any old school Bay Area improvisor/spirit music freak can tell you that Henry Kuntz has, since the late ‘70s, been one of the most audacious and interesting free improvisers on the scene non-stop. His documentation has been typically subterranean starting from his initial recorded sounds on Henry Kaiser’s 1977 Ice Death LP, a flashpoint record for many a guitar experimentalist (Jim O’Rourke e.g.). For most of the ‘70s Kuntz edited and published a great newsletter called Bells (available to read online at henrykuntz.free-jazz.net/bells/). Throughout the ’80s Kuntz released LPs, cassettes and CDs on his own Hummingbird imprint of solo and group free-playing, all of which have amazing moments of deep spontaneous thought-love-composition. A fantastic compilation of this material, plus recordings from Kuntz’ Opeye project self-described as “avant-shamanic trance jazz,” can be had on the beautiful four cassette boxset, Speed Of Culture Light, from Belgium label Bread & Animals. The label plans on systematically re-releasing the Hummingbird cassettes throughout this year. Essential music for the ancient/modern axis alive in any sentient brain. And each package comes with complimentary plastic dinosaur. So no excuses.
Been keeping an eyeball on this Tompkins Square label since they issued that Imaginational Anthem comp back in whatever year it was. The label has developed a very cool catalogue of stuff, ranging from reissues of American Primitive guitarists (Robbie Basho’s Venus in Cancer, Harry Taussig’s Fate Is Only Once), parallel contemporary work (Berkeley Guitar and James Blackshaw’s The Cloud of Unknowing), newly recorded coots (Spencer Moore, Charlie Louvin, Ran Blake), and a mind-blowing new comp. People Take Warning! is a collection of murder ballads and disaster songs, so strongly collated and beautifully presented that it rivals any of Revenant’s or Dust-to-Digital’s recent triumphs. Three wild CDs of lost sounds recorded between 1913 and 1938. Some real nice stuff about the Titanic and Hindenberg. They really knew how to balladize the situation in those days. Fucking cute!
Another damn cute reissue is Robert Martin’s Long Goodbye LP (Yik Yak), which has rather mysterious origins. It may have been recorded originally in ’85 or so, by some California surf dude. But it appeared in ’01 as a CDR and got passed around at stoner parties in Northern California. Anyway, it eventually ended up in on LP, but its story is no more certain than before. It’s acoustic and homemade feeling, rather lo-fi. There are some similarities to other outsider stuff of that period, but they seem incidental, and the overall vibe (if not the sound) is actually closer to the Bobby Brown/Carolyn Kleyn wing of California surftown weirdos. But it’s not as showy as anything those guys ever cut. Just low-key, damaged and nice. We keep thinking it’s veering into some sorta Christian swamp, but can never catch it actually doing so. Huh. One thing we’ve seen it compared to is Bobb Trimble, so it’s worth noting that Bobb’s first two legendary LPs, Iron Curtain Innocence and Harvest of Dreams have been reissued by Secretly Canadian. We’ve always loved Harvest, with its bizarro-world take on Marc Bolan pixie carnivals, but the real revelation has been Iron Curtain. For whatever reason, this new issue, which presents it in hermetic form (rather than as part of a twofer) and its apocalypto-folk-psych-pop damage is a mysterious and wonderful thing to behear.
Alright, those wanting to run the risk of our attentions are directed to send two (2) copies of DVDs, LPs, books, mags, cassettes, nude snaps, etc. to
P.O. BOX 627
NORTHAMPTON MA 01061 USA.