by Byron Coley and Thurston Moore
from Arthur No. 27 (Dec 2007) [available from The Arthur Store]
Joe Carducci, the ingeniously screwball theorist behind Rock and the Pop Narcotic has come out of the hills to grace us with another idiosyncratic non-fiction book, Enter Naomi (Redoubt Press), which presents an insider’s version of the SST label story. The structure teeters between chapters dealing with the particulars of the Naomi Peterson saga (she was a staff photographer for the SST), and a general recounting of the label’s saga. It’s a good if somewhat fragmentary read, focusing on some of the label’s issues with gender politics more than other possible tangents. Which means it’s still not the definitive SST book—probably there’ll never be just one—but it’s a pretty exciting read nonetheless.
As expected, the new box of Siltbreeze stuff is a magnificent blot on our culture. The Factums’ Alien Native LP is a reissue of a 2004 CDR crafted (one supposes) as a side project to work with the Fruit Bats, the Intelligence and other combos more formal in their organization of body shape. The Factums’ material is evenly split between loose, baggy, electron-o fwuh with a very diseased kind of surface and a guitarric syntax mangling that totally defies archeological stratification. For punk, it’s insanely buxom.
Sunshine of Your Love by Xno bbqX (one of the most elegant CLE band name tributes ever) is similarly well-proportioned. Recorded a few years back (it was originally a cassette), it is the work of two Australian vegans in a shed with an electronic guitar and a drum (or something), but we’ll be rolled in a fuggin’ rug if it doesn’t sound like these guys eat meat. What the hell? Still, vegan or no, this’s a fairly magnificent third-yard of wet-black-snapper, and has all the requisite duo moves that “knowers” look for.
If it’s fun you seek, you could do far worse than to look up the work associated with Denmark’s Smittekilde collective. Their vibe is a bit in line with Ultra Eczema’s, but no one’s as thoroughly screwed up as Dennis Tyfuss, so the material is a bit more tame overall. Still, the latest batch of swag is quite glamorous. First up is Kindergarten Exposure #2, a graphics fanzine in the same vein as some of Mark Gonzalez’s stuff or the Hello Trudi material—single page illustrations and stuff by a variety of artists, primarily in a somewhat crude vein. Yum.
Perhaps even more screwed is Kattemad. This is a graphics book by Loke Sebastian, Luca Bjornsten and Zimon Rasmussen, detailing the different ways in which cat food can be disgusting. Excellent. As is Rock World comics by Soren Mosdal and Jacob Orsted. We’d initially thought this looked a little straight, but the excellent English language text, about crappy music and beer and toilet paper, ended up being quite outstanding. The same goes for Mok Nok’s Slugstorm LP, which has a dandy silk-screened cover. The music is a cool blend of post-noise instrumentals with fragmentary glimpses of drool in the distance. The vibe reminds us a little of Dirty Three, back when they were still on Poon Village, if they were crossed with some of the scum-roots that Mick Turner was trying to repress. Nimble!
The photographer Mick Rock has been responsible for a number of iconic images. His best-known work is undoubtedly his glam stuff, but for us the most important is the cover work for the Stooges’ Raw Power and that for Syd Barrett’s The Madcap Laughs. The bulk of Rock’s Stooges work came out a couple of years ago. But the Barrett shots were only available in a very expensive limited edition hardcover that came and went in 2002. Now, Gingko Press’s Rebel Arts imprint has released Psychedelic Renegade, a prole version of what I assume to be the same material, and it is a true pleasure to behold. Rock was a friend of Barrett’s from their university days, and his text is illuminative. It’s a great book, with many variations on photos that have long been burned into our synapses. On a related note, although major label stuff is really a bit outside our purview, English EMI has released a very deluxe 40th anniversary edition of Pink Floyd’s The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. It has mono and stereo versions of the album, plus Syd-era singles tracks (not, alas, “Vegetable Man” or Scream Thy Last Scream”). Packed in a hardcover booklet with lyrics, great band pics, and a special insert reprinting some of Syd’s collage work of the day, it is very much a gas and a half. At least.
South Carolina is state we more often associate with fish-flavored crackers than with music, but we were never very good with spatial memories. Anyway, South Carolina is the home state to Chris Bickel, who is the main guy behind Anakrid, and Anakrid have much more to do with music than fish. The two albums right here right now are Father and a one-sided, hand-painted jobber called Pos Load: Nihilsurrealisme (Stereonucleosis). Both of ‘em are swellish examples of classic-style experimental chitter (as opposed to noise-yawp or something). Noise gets used as an element, and there’s plenty of effects-barf, but there’s equal attention to stuff like gamelanic-percussion-nutting and slurps that’d almost make you imagine the Residents were sitting in the next toilet stall, nickering. Pos Load is a longer chunk (and maybe a little more malignant sounding) than the relatively-poppy Father, but they’re both interesting. And Carolinian.
The return of a favorite poet is always a good reason to get drunk, so many hats will fill with booze when it is noted that Valerie Webber has a new book, created in concord with Genvieve Dellinger, and called Lignin Diadem (Big Baby Books). Not a collaboration, so much as a complex dance, the words here move between prose and poetry and back again, wearing boots caked in mud. This book was supposed to come out years ago, but was plagued by missteps until we’d forgotten about it. Which was, of course, the perfect moment for it to appear.
Also beautiful is the new issue of Western Massachusetts’ number one lit ‘zine, Gladtree Journal, now on the stands and tally-fuckin’-ho for that. John Shaw has assembled a spectacular roster of Valley talent and related bums—Sara Jaffe, Matt Valentine, Dredd Foole, Jessi Swenson, Lauren Naylor, Rick Myers, Bill Nace, John Moloney, Pete Nolan, etc etc etc. Yikes.
Great to see a new printing of Kell Robertson’s Bear Crossing (Pathwise Press). Robertson is one of the great western poets who started publishing in the ’60s, embracing a kind of legendary rurality that always makes us think of the days of the Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City. This is a fine collection of material from a lot of different slices of his life, but all of them were lived near the edge of dangerous precipices (real or imagined). Well worth checking out.
As is the new lit ’zine from Montreal’s Benoit Chaput, Bathyscape. Most of it’s in French, but some of it’s in English (like our column) and it’s a strange collection of essays about inactuel culture. First issue looks cool and if we can soldier through the French, well, you can too! There are scheduled to be three issues a year. Let’s hope this doesn’t mean Benoit’s slowing down the output of books from the great l’Oie de Cravan imprint. That would suck.
Side Three of the Moon by The Company (Difficult Life in Mental Jail) is another project that has been floating around for a while. Something of a faux-solo project by the Country Teasers’ Ben Wallers, recorded a while ago then floated to various people to see if anybody’d want to release it. The instrumentation can be a little goony at times, but the vibe hovers somewhere between Alvaro and Conrad Capistran’s Sound of Pot project. For certain garage guys, this might seem random, berserk and sub-musical. And all those things are true. But this is a funny and primitivist take on experimental noise making, as riveting in its way as anything of its ilk. But really, how could we not be won over by any album that finishes with a track called “I’ll Fuck Your Wife in a Mellow Wine Bar”?
Download: Andrew Douglas Rothbard – “Rabbit Hole” (mp3)
‘Nother kinda-cool kinda-solo album is the Abandoned Meander LP (Smooch/Peaking Mandala) by Andrew Douglas Rothbard. As unlikely as it might seem, the former Pleasure Forever vocalist has cut a record that’s pretty massive in terms of studio psych. Backwards this, backwards that, Eastern strings and structures, it’s something like the most fucked-up Green Pajamas record you ever heard. Except it’s not by them.
Best music mag we’ve seen in a long time is Scott Soriano’s newspaper, Z Gun. The debut issue is genius. The best record review section around and great features on stuff, like an in-depth survey of San Francisco artpunk and equally detailed looks at the Brainbombs, Pink Reason and Not Not Fun Records. Truly a ruling read. Also surprisingly good is issue #12 of Swindle. The mag is one of those glossy art/fashion/whatsis things, heavy on design, but the contents are very swinging. There’s a great (GREAT) article on the midwest hardcore scene by Tony Rettman, and a very solid piece on L.A.’s Ferus Gallery, which will be the subject of Kristine McKenna’s next book. Hard to know exactly what the mag’s about, but issue 12 is a stomper. 20th anniversary issue is out of Tim Hinely’s Dagger and it’s a good read as always. This one has a very good interviews with Chuck Warner (of Hyped 2 Death), Stephen Burns of the Scruffs(!!), part two of a Slovenly appreciation, a Gary Gold thing on Simply Saucer and lots and lots of reviews. Classic spew.
A couple of great labels, previously unconnected to vinyl have made plunges in different directions the last month or two, and results are been satisfying as huck. And maybe even more than that if you’re a fan of Tom Carter. Three Lobed Records (the long-running Bardo-associated sound-spume) has released Smokescreen and LP with additional CDR tucked in, by Sarin Smoke. Sarin Smoke is a duo comprised of Tom Carter and Pete Swanson, a guy who is generally associated with a very noisy wing of the California underground. Sarin Smoke, however, is a two-electric guitar trance-fest of long-held notes and subtle scrumbles into the dark bush. It’s a totally new thing for Swanson (as far as we know) and a nice addition to Carter’s shelf. The same duo session resulted in the one-sided LP It Chars Our Lips Yet Still We Drink (Wholly Other) which has a gorgeous silk-screened cover and sounds so enchanting you’ll be asking yourself, “Is it really Swanson?” Wholly Other also produced a vinyl version of Christina Carter’s Electrice album, which was originally on Kranky. It sounds even more amazing in this format, if we may say so—incredible ruminations on the transformative qualities of pain. Wow.
Got a nice batch of graphics from Buenaventura Press recently. The new issue of Comic Art Annual is as impressive as always. It has deep, long features on Kaz, Jerry Moriarty and artists from other times and places, such as Guyas Williams (best known, to us, anyway, for his work with Robert Benchley) and Lyonel Fenineger. It’s good it only comes out once a year, since it takes a while to adequately read and absorb all that’s here. Really looking forward to Tom DeHaven’s piece on Dick Tracy, which will have to wait until this column’s finished. A faster read is Ted May’s Injury Comics #1, which features an excellent strip about the philosophy of surviving high school, and a coupla other stories that’re part of larger tableaux. Weird enough to dig, certainly. But the prize of the bunch is Elvis Road by X. Robel and H. Reumann. It’s kind of hard to even describe what this one is. The format is an 8 X 12 hardcover book, with nine accordioned black & white pages, which unfold to create a room-sized page depicting a modern hell for pixies at nearly life-size. Insane, detailed drawings of people and animals and machines and buildings and things that’s set in something like a future that is now. No matter how long we look at this, we keep discovering more. Absolute hypnotism in book form.
The Temperatures again prove that they are one of London’s most spasmodically captivating outfits with the release of their first LP, Ymir (Heat Retention). The previous 7” aktion has been good (particularly the debut 7” on 4th Harmonic), but this record drags the whole drum/bass/duo concept into a new sludgier realm. They don’t so any of the proto-prog calesthetics of Lightning Bolt, but prefer to just roll around in muzz. Which is a fairly admirable alternative, eh?
Separated from England by many billions of bees is Niger. We only mention this because of the latest, greatest LP from Sublime Frequencies, Group Inerane: Guitars from Agadez. This combo (two guitars, a drum kits, and a hundred vocalists) plays examples of the Tuareg Guitar Revolution sound that all the kids are talking about. And they play it well. It’s pretty insane, actually. Much weirder than the highlife stuff that is more familiar to our ears. This carries whiffs of mystery and ecstasy from far far afield.
Mondo Macabro has issued a new, much improved version of the 1981 Indonesian classic, Mystics in Bali. This is one of the weirdest Z-grade flicks ever, and now you can really see the flying head sucking babies out of pregnant women and all the other crazy shit that happens. Totally whacked nightmare cinema. Their other new one is The Blood Rose, which is a ’69 French softcore homage to Franju’s Eyes Without a Face. It’s not a revelation or anything, but it’s an important film in the history of French envelope pushing and it a pretty entertaining way to spend 90 minutes.
The first few things we heard by Talibam! didn’t raise many huge welts, but their debut LP, The Excusable Earthling (Pendu Sound) kinda raises the stakes. For whatever reason, it’s now possible to fully appreciate how totally screwball Matt Mottel’s synthesizer work is, amidst the improv blather of Ed Bear and Kevin Shea. Dunno if it’s the recording or what, but Earthling jumps out like one of the duppiest key-bloats since those early Six Finger Satellite disks. Imagine! Jazzic in a different way—and, indeed, a good demonstration of the continuing gulf between west coast and east coast approaches—is Adrian Orange & Her Band (K). We count 18 participants, all of whom seem to be playing at certain times, creating a loose, big band version of the mid-period Kinks at their most hung-over. There’s a certain Portsmouth Sinfonia vibe as well, but that’s probably due to Calvin’s kettle drum playing. Much more identifiably Calvin-esque is Play Drums and Bass (K), the third LP by Olympia’s own C.O.C.O. These guys are very hip in an ultra-K way. A duo, comprised of Dub Narcotic’s bassist Chris Surron (on drums) and Olivia Ness on bass, they do a wild, stripped-down soul/dance/dub thing that gets some new punkly highlighting on the new album. But it’s still a hip-shaker, and we suppose that’s what it’s all about.
The show has wrapped up now, but we just caught the new edition of the Summer of Love catalogue (Tate Liverpool) and it’s really a lovely piece of work. Rather than just a lot of standard ‘Frisco ballroom artifacts, this collects nice representations of work from the UK and the US, and even a few items from the usually overlooked European scene. You don’t get much an idea from this about Asian currents, but the show was great and the book is a good one. It attempts to reconcile certain aspects of low art & high art in ways that are cool and unusual. There have also been a coupla of fine catalogues from the NY gallery, John McWhinnie at Glenn Horowitz Bookseller. The first is called c/o The Velvet Underground New York, NY and was put together by Johan Kugelberg. It’s a fascinating, if somewhat random, collection of images and artifacts from some of the more obscure corners of the Velvets archives. Some of the pieces are great, some seem extraneous, but if you’re into the group, it’s worth checking out. There will definitely be some stuff you haven’t seen.
Even better is 2001 by Claude Pelieu and Mary Beach. Both these collagists/translators/maniacs are dead now, but when they were alive—wow. They created amazing gushes of transformed images and spewed them out by the bucketload. The two sequences reprinted in this catalogue are from 2001, and just begin to scratch the surface of what these two incredible artists were about. Great great shit. Another superb catalogue that recently landed is called Vinyl Records and Covers by Artists by Guy Schraenen (Neue Museum Weserburg Bremen). Like the legendary Broken Music, it reproduces tons of weird cover art by known artists for all sorts of music (from Paul McCartney to Henri Chopin). The organization is a little maddening, but there’s a helpful index and boatloads of eye candy.
Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang have slowly, steadily, stealthily made themselves into one of the most consistently interesting cultural juggernauts on the contemporary scene. As musicians, their work has been carefully progressing for two decades, and their new album, Within These Walls (20/20/20) is thus far, their masterpiece. Recorded with the help of brilliant electric guitarist Michio Kurihara, and arrangements by Bhob Rainey, Within These Walls has the feel of an early ‘70s lost-folk classic, although it is only the mood and elements of the vocals that hearken back to that time. The session has a true lightness of spirit that makes the album a blast of pure joy. It’s a bravura performance, commended to everyone out there with ears. At the same time, D&N’s label, 20/20/20, has been involved in issuing some superb stuff—Kurihara’s Sunset Notes album and the first in a series of compilations, called International Sad Hits, which allows Damon to promote the blubbering of underground Sinatras in all known languages. The first volume was massive and we look forward to more.
Also extraordinary is the press the pair run, Exact Change. They have issued some amazing books over the years—check out their backlist for a real kick in the teeth—but none have been thoroughly fascinating as Joseph Cornell’s Dreams edited by Catherine Corman. The book draws from the journals of the America’s premier surrealist, and they are an exquisite addition to his canon. Naomi’s design work on this book (and the new CD, too) is particularly striking. Beautiful evocations of dream time in all its states. Congratulations all around.
Download: Joe McPhee – “ResponseAbility – Part 1” (mp3)
Sorta surprising to think of, but the Soprano LP by Joe McPhee (Roaratorio) is documentation of the first-ever solo soprano sax recital he’s ever given. His history with the solo form stretches back so far (30+ years) that we somehow thought it was part of his history. Well, blimey! Recorded at St. George’s Church during the 1998 Guelph Jazz Festival, this album is a wonderful souvenir of Joe’s playing at his most mesmeric and spatial. The way he interacts with the natural acoustics of the chapel is spell-binding.
Another dreamweaver is Loren Connors’ The Hymn of the North Star (Family Vineyard), his first full solo LP since 1990. Alan Licht actually appears on one piece, but the bulk of this is solo electric guitar muse-distention the way that only Loren can do it. Family Vineyard also put out a great O-Type box set, called The New Edge. This reissues the five disks releases by the latterday version of this MX-80 offshoot (basically, the band without Rich Stim), and it adds an ambient kinda DVD by Dale Sophea, called Grotesque. Heard in sequence, we have to say these disks make a much bigger impact than they did before. There’s a weird linear narrative created by them that only becomes apparent by full submersion.
Another exceptional object is Fantoma’s The Films of Kenneth Anger, Vol. 2. The film volume was really incredible—great transfers, nice package, some weird soundtrack updates, but what the hey. And this new one is more of the same. The films on this one are some of Anger’s best loved work—Scorpio Rising, Kustom Kar Kommandos, Invocation of my Demon Brother, Rabbit’s Moon (1979 cut), Lucifer Rising and The Man We Want to Hang. The last one, which we’d never seen before, is a documentary of a show of art either created by Aleister Crowley or with him as the subject. It’s fairly straightforward, which is about the last phrase you’d ever apply to the rest of this collection. Crazy homo-eroticism, garbled surrealist dream imagery, and ritualism of all kinds are the basis of most of Anger’s films. They’ve always been amazing visual creations, graspable on whatever level you choose, and this DVD presents them at their stunning best. We’d forgotten how insane Mick Jagger’s soundtrack work was for Demon Brother. Damn. Who’d’ve thunk it possible?
The tradition of how-to books about bands and touring and whatnot is not impressive. Most of the volumes we’ve thumbed have one or two useful bits, but mostly blow chunks. The same cannot be said for Martin Atkins’ Tour Smart (Smart Books). Can’t say we’ve ever been too interested in any of Atkins’ musical projects, but this book is filled with extremely useful information, both general and specific. There’s not as much info as we’d like about touring at the lowest rungs of the econo ladder, but what’s here is solid, practical and backed up with anecdotal hoo-haw about the random factors that predominate when a band gets far from home. Best thing like this we’ve seen.
If you are seeking a perfect present for a surly youth this Xmas, allow us to suggest the new Jimbo action figure, produced by Dark Horse Comics. Haven’t seen the actual toy yet, but we got a book about the making of Jimbo (the figure) and it’s fucking hilarious. Lots of good detailed instructions about how the pud should hang and all that stuff. Anyway, the pics of the finished product look fantastic and the box it comes in will be as stunning as any Gary Panter thing you’re ever gonna own. And you should own plenty of Panter. Doc’s orders!
Please, if you want to be covered in this here column, send two (TWO) (2) copies of your love object to us, We are particularly fond of archaic formats—books, LPs, cassettes, magazines, whatnots, although DVDs end up being more useful than VHS tapes these days. Go figure. PO Box 627, Northampton MA 01061