first published in Arthur No. 16 (May, 2005)
Exploring the Voids of All Known Undergrounds
by Byron Coley and Thurston Moore
One record we’d been waiting for a long time is the Black Noise Practitioner double LP (Apocrypha Totalus/Skul) by Electrophilia, which is Steve Parrino on heavy bass noise and Jutta Koether on strange keys. This duo has been playing around NYC for the last few years, mostly in art gallery-related scenes. Which makes sense as both members are recognized and well-regarded visual artists. The gigs we’ve been lucky enough to check out were always complete room crushers. Parrino’s monster bass blow-outs were some of the heaviest noise grenades happening in a city awash with such everyday sonix. Jutta, who relocated to the USA from Koln, Germany, sits at her large Casio straight and tall with long ironed hair and black aviator shades playing minimalist structures and rhythmic pokes. Here is what Jutta wrote about Electrophilia:
A music of resistant resonance – moving forward and from – a post punk existential – toward a megalith that collapses into a black hole joyously toward the void toward you not an end point but process – a supersession & pure expression of impossible range only the impossible is worth the effort – materialist music rendered with unconditional love – black psychedelic noise crashing minimalisms temporarily suspending all rules of sound – a virtual practice way of life – electrophilia a Fresh Aufhebung keeps occurring only in the present in the unconditional urgency of a Now.
Though they never really mingled into whatever inner noise circles there were in the area, all who saw them left with appreciative mind-zap. Parrino went on to release a few documents: seven-inches, CDs, artist books and mags (one recent book was No Texts, published through the Marianne Nowottny-related Abaton Book Co.) A notorious performance in 1979 called “Guitar Grind” was Parrino rubbing two electric guitars together, creating screaming insane feedback. Since the mid-’80s he was showing work that was at once abstract and slashing as well as graceful and sublime. Though part of the celebrated East Village Neo Geo scene, he was total punk rock. The tragedy here is that Parrino died in a motorcycle accident New Year’s Eve. He was 46, a good, good dude. We’ll miss him for sure.
Although certain heads took it upon themselves to warn me against the “stupid machismo” of Burmese, I think their herrings were red. Men (Load Recordings) is the third album by these San Franciscans, and they really kinda make that two-bass-and-two-drum thing sound like it’s a natural step in sonic evolution. Some mooks have commented on the static nature of this LP’s music, but it seems to me that the magmic core is fairly glistening with all kindsa post-core noise squantum. And it’s really kinda moving and emotional. For men, I mean. Sighting’s third effort, Arrived in Gold (Load Recordings) is pretty manly, too. But the spectral presence of non-rockers Samara Lubelski and Chris Freeman means that there’s a special kinda non-rock action going on admist the noise, too. Call it whatever you want, but I hear a new kinda freedom,baby. And it’s mighty upful.
As usual, there are been several blatches of greatness dropped from the poop hatch of Ed Hardy’s Eclipse Records label. First (perhaps) is the new Michael Yonkers LP, It’s Only Yonkers (co-released with Galactic Zoo Dossier). Yonkers is a legendary Midwest psych guitarist, interest in whom was revived by a crucial archeological de Stijl release a coupla years ago (which was reissued by Sub Pop). This new session is a blast—extremely raw loud guitar sprayed through classic one-man-band weirdness. Reminiscent of George Brigman or Horton or any of the other old school DIY heavies, with a cool Amerindian approach to rhyhms. Beautiful. Just caught up with Eclipse’s second Jack Rose LP, also. Apocalyps X/Raag Manifestos is another brilliant set of acoustic guitar inventions from this member of Pelt. Jack has really grasped a special place in the post-Fahey finger-master universe, and I just wish I woulda been able to catch his shows with Glenn Jones. Damn! There’s also the third volume of the proposed ten-volume set of double LPs reissuing the Sun City Girls’ cassettes. Fresh Kill of a Cape Hunting Dog/Def in Italy is crucial ’83-85-era stuff, and would be a very nice introduction to anyone who doesn’t understand how deep and wide and fast the Girls’ creative river runs. From pure mess to brilliant sharpness, it’s all here. Lastly is Puhalluspelto by Paivansade, one of those super-rural Finnish the-woods-are-full-of-acid-and-feathers bands. This is very pre-electric and stoned sounding instrumental madness. Perfect for late night glistening.
Something heavy happened in Finland again, this time in Tampere. Some float-head members of Tomutonttu and Uton connected in a basement and shared “bowed rainbow, contact-mic’d worm brains, boiling water, electric organs and shameless vocals” and created Hevoset. The cassette from this union is beautiful and amazing. Gorgeous love/sex trip organic zone flow. Co-release from the Haamumaa and Huutomerkki labels.
Holy shits. I recently mentioned to Chris McBeth that I hadn’t been getting any of the stuff from his label, Beta Lactam Ring, and he sent me what can only be described as a massive and lovely package of goop. It included: Edward Ka-Spel’s Pieces of 8 2LP. Ka-Spel is the longtime leader of the Legendary Pink Dots as well as a prolific solo artist. This set is wildly psychedelic in a very organic sense of the word, from Floydian river grunts to rubbery electronic dives into fields of peaches. Ka-Spel’s bandmate, Martijn de Kleer also has his solo debut here, So Close Yet So Far Out, a double album that combines totally great psychedelic songs with extended drug-noodle soundscapes. ‘Snice. As is their deluxe vinyl issue of LPDs’ A Perfect Mystery, a simmering dream of dystopian weasel elegance that is another beautiful addition to their amazing shelf of records. Despite the Cloak by Songs of Norway is an LP of trio improvisations by a unit whose members went on to form Volcano the Bear. Violin, trumpet, bass and drums combine themselves in woozy ways, reminding me a bit of some recent No Neck offshoot action and maybe some of that classic Futura-style free rock. Christus & the Cosmonaughts’ The Four Whores’ Men LP is a funny blend of homemade garage prog, neo-new wave scooting and kinda Residential filigree. And it’s all set inside an apocalyptic moral framework. Sheesh. Deluge by Daniel Menche is a fine example of his rumbling drones and rising tones, but this time around the sounds are generated by actual musical instruments. At times they even approach the darkness of chocolate-based prog, those sounds.
Dreamcatcher is part of the Fluorescent Friends scene in Montreal. It’s a duo of Katherine Kline on drum machines, guitar and vox and Blake Hargreaves on turntables, guitars and vox. Blake was the dude who made the awesome Waxathon LP from a couple of years ago. This cassette is two unbroken weirdo groove-damaged workouts that are for the most part killer. But you can be sure of that as it’s released through Nautical Almanac’s Heresee label, which means satanic goodtimes are guaranteed.
Another Heresee super-rad release is Intuitive American Esoteric Vol 1 by JMSTWGHRPR (perhaps best known to all ten-year-old girls merely as Twig). Twig is the manchild of Nautical Almanac and, along with partner Carly Ptak, lives in a haunted Baltimore bombfactory called Tarantula Hill. These kids live, eat, throw gigs, and create massively hectic lathe cut joints. Twig will lathe cut anything: meat, dead animal skin, face, aluminum, glass. You name it, he’ll record a sick-ass groove in it for your Stanton stylus to skrape through. This first LP is 180grm virgin vinyl, pressed in Czech Republic, with one side mastered through a tin can presto lathe. It sounds boss as shit, completely loud and extra-gnarled and frazzed. Heresee split release this with Audiobot, Ignivomous, No Sides and White Tapes. The next installment will be with a buncha other labels. That Twig, what a smoker!
Dang, it has already been a decade since Lee Ranaldo’s Road Movies appeared. Soft Skull Press has done a new tenth anniversary edition, with a buncha new poems and pics, a new afterword and all that stuff. And the book reads better than ever. Lee really grabbed a solid piece of the blurred eternal road hunch here. Read it and weep. Also worth reading & weeping over is the great new collection of poems by Ira Cohen, Chaos & Glory (Elik Press). Many of these were written during Ira’s wanderings of the past few years, and they move wonderfully from the mystical to the prosaic and back again. In our opinion, Cohen’s work has continued to grow in parallel with his poet’s belly. So it’s REALLY GREAT these days. Take a look. Another swank volume is Erik Morse’s Spacemen 3 & the Birth of Spiritualized (Omnibus). Erik has really gotten down deep into the guts and context of what I consider to be one of the ‘80s defining bands. And their history is a very great and well-warted read, with tangential links to all kindsa stuff that’s great to read about either in bed or on a boat. It’s way past the bogosity of standard rock-write, and there should be an American printing soon.
Onestar Press has published an artist book by Jonas Mekas simply called Artists Book. Jonas is the long-standing proprietor of NYC’s Anthology Film Archives, the home of underground cinema since the early ‘60s. He’s the man most responsible for anyone’s knowledge of avant garde/experiemntal film, as well as a real gentleman and an excellent filmmaker in his own right. His film from 2000, As I was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty, was a six-hour-long study of daily life with all negative aspects shorn from it, so it ran like a color treatise on bliss. Very o-zonking with a lot of the sound being raw camera input way overloaded. This book is a slight collection of friendly ephemera like early postcards from Patti Smith and Allen Ginsberg and notes, drawings and letters from all kinds of people on the scene. Jonas is a cultural icon in Europe. Here in America he’s a fringe avant garde artist who struggles to keep the Anthology existing as a treasure trove/library of art cinema. He’s been there on the front lines with the development of pop art, Fluxus, happenings etc. And he ain’t done making trouble yet. Mekas rules.
You know who else rules? Dame Darcy. She’s been writing and stitch-binding comic books and short stories for some years now and they are all weirdly fascinating autobiographical sojourns. When we first ran into Darcy she was walking on tabletops at CBGB, preparing to hit the stage where she’d sing banjo-billy goth death tunes in pig latin. It was hard not to like. She’s since relocated to L.A. and has been working out of that “pisshole of a city” (that’s what Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones calls it on his lunch hour radio show Jonesy’s Jukebox). We ran into her a couple of nights ago and she handed over a new mag she did with her pal Miss Satanica. Darcy illustrates and she and MS have a dialogue inside talking about growing up in Idaho Falls, Idaho, though at different periods of time. But the shared memory of madness and lonesome mind insania in the tiny burg is some hot reading. Darcy dreamed so hard about hanging with punk freaks in clubs she could only read about that she’d blast her stereo and party down alone in her room fantasizing she was in some ripping club in some big city. Miss Satanica’s story is way more intense as she’s left to the wilds of detention centers and the evil heat of middle America. Get it. It’s called Hideous Tales of Decadence and Debauchery.
Our nation’s most superb rock-qua-rock label, In the Red, has a pair of new foot-long stand-outs. The eponymous debut by SoCal trio, The Lamps, is in the classic ITR stylee. This means it investigates the connections between the Electric Eels, the Cramps, Harry Pussy and the Huntches. And sure, the lines-of-descent are clear to anyone who knows how to look for them, but so few do! Anyway, the Lamps disgorge raw chunks of elemental blat, deeply distorted on a whole lotta levels, and are aggressively trebly as hell. It’s a keeper. As is the eponymous Volt MLP, although it’s in a very different musical mode. It sounds like the music for some sorta carnival midway game, composed on chord organ by Suicide, although there’s really a kinda fey Crime edge to the vocals and pomp as well. Sissy aktion gets no heavier!
Weirdo Begeirdo have come out of nowhere—well, L.A., same thing—and infected our jaded wise ass nor’easter battling noise ‘nads with a sticky sex pop freak of an LP called “so I’m dude in this equation.” WB are a couple of menthings and some very foxyfied womenoids and it seems like they’ve been having fun recording with this cool-as-shit little label there called Not Not Fun, who’ve pretty much just released cassettes and limited vinyl extracts by Foot Village and other new fractured good time lover punk. Also worth blooping about is the label’s Shark LP by My Sexual Dad, which has a kinda molten bi-teen vibe. Shit, fuck hate—go to The Smell and hang with these abba zabbas—they now ruleth.
The new issue (#15) of Monte Beauchamp’s Blab (Fantagraphics) has hit the racks, and it’s everything you’d more or less hope for. Monte has a great eye and stirs well-known and brand new artists together, using single panel illustrations or longer stories, to create a superb mix of today’s graphics for today’s eyeballers! It has been their best anthology title for a long time now, and shows no sign of wilting. Fantagraphics has also compiled a single volume of Peter Bagge’s grunge-era Buddy stories from Hate. The book is called Buddy Does Seattle and it just nails the whole rock scene of the early ‘90s so goddamn brilliantly that they should build a goddamn time capsule around it. Another bonus read is the first issue of the reborn Prague Literary Review. One of the nicest English-language lit zines from Europe, this issue of PLR has great stuff by Matt Wascovich, Todd Colby, Dennis Cooper and Pavel Brycz. It mixes prose, poetry and critical writing really well, and looks and feels like a champ. First and last issue of This Magazine Should be Read Loud has a berserk organizational motif that more or less matches its crazy music coverage. But don’t read it in the tub, cause water melts its pages! Which is not really true of the new issue of Fish Piss, although its silkscreened cover is probably not too good underwater. More politics this time around, and the massive history of recorded sound continues in a variety of ways. Fish Piss is one of the best reads around.
Like wine, not all good noise music has to be exclusive and priced out of reach. In fact, beyond exorbitant collector prices for rarified Macronympha and New Blockaders LPs, there’s really no cheaper way to spend your $$ for good times. This is surely the case with the Recycled Tape series Ron Lessard at RRRecords has been sleeplessly running off. His dealio is that he gets boxes of thrift store cassettes for pennies per pound (all kindsa stuff: Aerosmith, John Waite, Go-Gos, Rush (suck)), and solicits almost anyone and everyone making some kind of serious mark on the hyperactive noise scene to deliver a session for him to dupe on to these babies and he gaffer tapes the box and magic markers the artist’s name on it—done—no titles—just the same generic every time: Recycled. He’s been doing this for years and there are over a hundred titles. And they’re only like four or five bux a pop. At first we may have looked upon these as the ultra barrel scrape of world noise spoo, but in all actuality it seems the artists—especially now with Connelly, Asmus Tietchens, Mike Shiflet et al.—are all delivering business-class-upgrade-works to Ron that fukking KILL. Grab a grab bag and go get some.
Mike Stax got out issue 22 of the great Ugly Things and, as always, it makes us realize how slack we are in some areas of collecting and general knowledge. For the past many years, Ugly Things has done an amazing job of thoroughly covering the range of rock (and selected other genre) reissues, and printing massive archeological articles about all manner of ‘60s wildmen. As the mag’s name suggests, their true love is UK spazz R&B, but they don’t insist on specializtion. This new mega issue has the third part of their incredible coverage of the Misunderstood (a California-to-UK band of unlimited potential wrecked by the spectre of ‘Nam), and so much more I don’t even know where to begin. Suffice to say it’ll keep you stuck to the toilet for many happy hours. As if this weren’t enough, Ugly Things is a label now, too. First two releases are the Lost Acetates LP by the Misunderstood (featuring fantastic raw ‘65-66 demo explosions) and the superb Paraphenalia CD by the Loons (Stax’s own band, following in the freak/raunch tradition the mag ballyhoos). Get ‘em while you can.
New split LP by Sword Heaven and 16 Bitch Pile-up Come Here, Sandy (Cephia’s Treat/Gameboy) is an uncorked gush of menstrual spooage and testicular skree. 16 Bitch roll out gnarly drone noise with sublime yet spectacular results while Sword Heaven fall into ultra-violent cock tug nightmare. Sweet. ‘Nother kinda split we got is sorta confusing. It makes no sense to me that two songwriters as prolific as Simon Joyner and Dennis Callaci couldn’t come up with a full LP’s worth of songs between them, but here’s the proof THEY COULD NOT: one side and five songs, that’s it. Still, Stranger Blues (Catsup Plate) has more good tunage on it than the vast majority of two LP sets, so I guess there’s no reason to belch too goddamn hard. Recorded in Dennis’ living room, this is a very casual record, acoustic, naked and as beautiful as a foot. The songs are not radically crafted, but they’re fucking great, with touches of Lou Reed, Peter Laughner, Skip Spence and many other top singing scribes. Really nice stuff. But is there an actual reason it wasn’t a full LP or backed with Paste demos or something? What the fuck?
De Stijl records out of Minneapolis, MN has decided to blow our minds with a three-LP set of music by Hototogisu, which is the partnership of Vibracathedral Orchestra’s Matthew Bower and Double Leopards’ Marcia Bassett; this record is Matthew solo, circa 2001. True to the evocation of the duo’s name, that of a Japanese songbird heralding the coming summer, the music plays with contemplative bliss and edged rock psychosis. Edition of 300 copies and as fine a grip you’ll find all year. De Stijl has no site but this LP and maybe other shite from the label can be located through Eclipse, Fusetron, and in the UK, Volcanic Tongue (who have all kinds of weird, handmade-by-Marcia Hototogisu shirts and hoodies). If you can stand to have a CD enter your realm you may wanna seek the Hototogisu Swoon Scream/Heavy Blossom CDR which is available through Foxy Digitalis. Also awesome.
Awesomeness seems to be in the air around Sacramento lately as well. Beside the A-Frames and Doug Blazek, there’s been all that stuff from SS Records and related fall-out. It’s almost enough to make you wanna visit the place. Craziest Sacto object today is the new LP by Sexy Prison, Italians Who Just Saw Rocky (Nascar). These guys have a rep for being a disturbed disco kinda duo, but the sounds here are much less beatoid than they are nutsoid. Lotsa punk moves, tape noise spluttering in from dark corners, mooky sounds busting up through the floorboards and all that. And there are beats, and you can imagine hot pants pretty easily while you listen to this, but it’s really more like some kinda pure electro-hawk-aggro move dressed up for Saturday night in the Bronx. More oriented towards pure ass-grindery is the new 12” by space-fops, Glass Candy. Life After Sundown (Troubleman Unlimited) combines three version of the track (straight, instrumental & acapella) for your very own sugar hop fiesta. What the hell?
If noise music is really the new music (and really for real this time) you’re gonna have to prepare yourself for Hive Mind. Pretty much one Mountain Dew-swigging Michigan dude named Greh, Hive Mind has issued what may be the virtual gauntlet of USA noise releases so far in the ’05. It’s the Hanson Records CD Death Tone (yeah, CDs are not what we generally WANT to review here, but this one shreds the template, plus Greh has equally kill city cassettes popping off day and night on his own label, Chondritic Sound, so…) and it is the one you can play to make any square pup’s head combust. Hive Mind is focused on a timeless tone of skin crawl ear/brain shatter and he’s come to masterful point with it. In a league with such heavy purveyors as Prurient and John Olson. This shit is excellent.
Well, if we’re gonna mention CDs, it would be irresponsible to not mention The Greatest Story Ever Told by Chinaboise (Gulcher). Chonaboise were a project begun by Rich Stim in 1975, as a way to meet some young ladies in the Bloomington, Indiana area. It was great kinda underground beatnik music thing, which included drummer Dave Mahoney. Rich asked guitarist Bruce Anderson to help with some guitar. And when Bruce and Dale Sophea were getting ready to put together a new art rock band, they thought of Stim & Mahoney, thus birthing the legendary MX-80 Sound. Anyway, these are part of that band’s roots—the funnier, more casual and vocally-oriented parts (although the tunes with Bruce are pure proto-MX). There has only been one track out before (on the Bloomington One sampler), but the stuff sounds great! And Stim really has a goddamn strange way of writing songs. It’s really kinda NOW, if you know what I mean. ‘Course, the nower sound of Bloomington is probably more aptly represented by the Old Smiler LP by Mt. Gigantic (Friends and Relatives). Appearing to be bit of an ad hoc ensemble, these guys play music that is as varied (but internally congruent) as A Silver Mt. Zion or something. Certain parts have a run-around punk-hoot feel, others weave through semi-acoustic dirt like San Francisco drunks. Very freaky and cool, what’s not to like?
If you have treats you would like to be licked by the Bull Tongue (archaic formats: print, vinyl, vid preferred), send two (2) copies to: PO Box 627, Northampton MA 01061.
Abaton Book Co.: http://www.abatonbookcompany.us
Anthology Film Archives: http://www.anthologyfilmarchives.org
Beta-Lactam Ring: http://www.blrrecords.com
Catsup Plate: http://www.catsupplate.com
Cephia’s Treat: http://www.cephiastreat.com
Dame Darcy: http://www.damedarcy.com
Elik Press: 962 E. Lowell Ave., Salt Lake City UT 84102
Fish Piss: Box 1232, Place D’Armes, Montreal, Quebec H2Y 3K2 Canada
Fluorescent Friends: http://www.fluorescentfriends.8k.com
Foxy Digitalis: http://www.foxydigitalis.com
Friends and Relatives: http://www.friendsandrelativesrecords.com
Hive Mind/Chondritic Sound: http://www.chondriticsound.com
In the Red: http://www.intheredrecords.com
Load Recordings: http://www.loadrecords.com
Nascar c/o Omnibus: http://www.omnibusrecords.com/omnibus.html
No Sides: http://www.nosides.net
Not Not Fun: http://www.notnotfun.com
One Star Press: http://www.onestarpress.com
Prague Literary Review: http://www.shakes.cz/plr/
Soft Skull Press: http://www.softskull.com
This Magazine Should Be Read Loud: c/o surefire dist. http://www.surefiredistribution.com
Troubleman Unlimited: http://www.troublemanunlimited.com
Ugly Things: http://www.ugly-things.com
Volcanic Tongue: http://www.volcanictongue.com
White Tapes: http://whitetapes.8m.com/