first published in Arthur No. 17 (July, 2005)
Exploring the Voids of All Known Undergrounds
by Byron Coley and Thurston Moore
It takes a lot for us to actually look at a CD but when we recently got a letter which began, “Dear Bull Tongue, Do you want to hear about my vagina?” we had to blow the dust off the laser and hear just what the hell this could be about. We were immediately stuck to our seats stunned and smiling as Jessica Delfino engaged us in tune after tune referencing her, and others’, vagina(s). Jessica grew up in Maine, took acid once in a while, but states she never became a hippie. In fact, she states this quite a few times, not in defense or in repulsion to hippies but…just so you know: she is not a hippie. But she is funny. And smart. And she lives in NYC doing stand-up comedy here and there, is an activist thrown out of 9-11 meetings (we know all this reading her blog). She also has songs, some of ‘em are great, particularly “Rock n Roll Pussy” which we’d throw on an Arthur comp any day, especially if that day ever comes (we’re working on it).
Way back in the early ‘80s when we first went to Germany looking for records we were led by a young German lad named Jochen Schwartz to a small store on a tiny street in Hamburg called Walter Ullbricht Schallplatten. The proprietor was a dark and serious man with a slight and somewhat sinister sense of humor named Uli. His store was a goldmine of weird European industrial noise and, with our limited funds, we were able to only grab a few sides of sick noise slabs like the infamous Desperately Seeking Suicide comp and the initial offerings of Japan’s Merzbow. Uli was one of those guys who saw that we had an appreciation for the deeper troughs of sound skum and generously heaped freebies on us. Some of these were sides from his own label such as Throbbing Gristle, Laibach and Werkbund. Through the subsequent years we’ve kept track of Walter Ulbricht Schallplatten (now Schallfolien, which translates to Sound Foils as opposed to just Records), particularly through the record label and distribution service of our young guide Jochen called Die Stadt.
Die Stadt has been releasing a steady stream of sound block aether by the luminaries Organum, Hafler Trio, Asmus Tietchen, Mirror and others. It was to our knee-jerk surprise that we saw he was offering copies of a new Walter Ulbricht label release and we snatched it and it’s excellent. It’s by a mysterious entity named Dietrich von Euler-Donnersperg. The LP is called Der Kleine Fritz in Klopstockland and the cover shows an anteater and a tiger both on hind feet grappling, with the tiger maybe getting the best of the anteater by chomping on his rather extended proboscis. This LP fits into a longstanding series of music and art releases that Uli refers to as Neu Konservatiw, a socio-political statement of regard towards order with a sly wink to inevitable carnage and human chaos. Anyway fuck all that, the music on this baby kills. Nice hard shards of shredding spike noise and found sound concrete blat. If that’s your schnitzel then this, truly, is your spatzle.
Marci Denesiuk read at the infamous Ecstatic Yod Montreal gathering a couple of years ago and really scorched the room with a story both savage and sensitive. We’ve been waiting for a real live book of hers to dig into and New West Press has answered the call. It’s a collection of stories called The Far Away Home and they all deal with the lives of women experiencing and processing daily violation and profound worlds of thought/feeling. Marci writes tough with a conscientious center and knows how to move a storyline. Recommended.
Coupla nice split LPs from Indiana’s Friends and Relatives label. The one by Impractical Cockpit and Nuclear Family rubs together two distinct, sap-soaked sticks ripped from the trunk of the American Noise Log (so called). IC are from New Orleans and produce a very namby kinda post-core glitch-rock that stutters like a room filled with gargling dentists. And they do it with virtually non-non-standard punk instrumentation and even songwriting. Which is a trick, and a good one. Nuclear Family are more like some sorta kids’ organization tinkling around in a high school music studio. The ganged vocals can make you feel like you’re praying. The little electro blips sound less like cellos than the actual cellos do, but there isn’t that much electronic stuff, so it’s not too confusing. The instruments and songs will make you imagine some lost early Teenbeat session. How cool is that? The split by Justin Clifford Rhody (of the great Mt. Gigantic) and Little Wings is hip, too, in a more overtly camp-volk bag. Justin’s side sounds like it was lathe cut onto rough leather by mice who work after hours in a cartoon shoe store. Which makes the Little Wings side sound relatively hi-fi (even the fake commercials, which remind me of when my friend Jeff got a tape recorder when we were in fourth grade). But you’ll still feel like you’re hearing the whole thing from inside a big pile of leaves. Which will either comfort you or not.
Sindre Berga has been running his label Gold Soundz way the fuck up there in Norway for a few years now and has dropped some very hep sides on us since. Last year we reviewed a series of 7”s which included delicate explorations of improv guitar/vocal sweetness by Christina Carter and the stoned camel slather of Volcano The Bear. Now there’s a new series of lathe cut 7”s which continue this fine curatorial goodness. Wooden Wand & Satya Sai Baba, which is basically Wooden Wand and one of its members, namely…Satya playing “Moray Elk Themes” live to tape in an arresting murk-o-phonic style. All the Wooden Wand releases will someday have to be collected in a fig-scented box as they tend to be scattered on every disparate label out there these days and each one is fairly incredible. If you see the name WWVV (Wooden Wand and the Vanishing Voice) anywhere just grab it, it will grab you back, and you will totally dig it, guaranteed. The other 7” is My Cat Is An Alien playing “Everything Is Here” in their now identifiable Italiano improvo manner. Patience and spirit-sense are the earmark of this brother duo and this offering, along with their “From the Earth to the Spheres” series of art LPs, is choice. The third lathe is a mystery—can’t decipher the text on the sleeve and there’s no other info. The Gold Soundz site has nothing there about it, hmmm… let me email Sindre and see what the fuuuhhhk is up. Until I hear from the Nordic brother let me tell you about his non-lathe actual vinyl 7” he released, a split from Crank Sturgeon and Gastric Female Reflex. This is a lot of goddamned record with Crank Sturgeon pot-busting sonik spazzola in all directions. Crank is from the netherland of Maine and has been slowly developing into one of USA noise’s great collage champions. His work has only continued to majesterially kick ass since we first heard him banging around the RRRecords bins years back. Gastric Female Reflex are a psyche/concrete sound unit from Toronto that has a few CDRs (mostly on Gold Soundz) and have been bending the ears and brains of anyone lucky enough to get near them. We look forward to hearing more and hopefully seeing these North Americans as their side of this 7” is enough to make you pee. Hot and free. Oh cool, Sindre has emailed this about that third lathe: “[It’s] Uton, a one man psych-army out of Finland. He has released plenty of CDRs of different labels (Jewelled Antler, Pseudoarcana, Gold Soundz etc). I think there’s a double retrospective CD coming out on last visible dog.” Izzat clear? Clear as mud, baby.
Just as he prepares to forsake his mother country for England, drummer Chris Corsano finally has an LP out with his sax partner of long-standing, Paul Flaherty. Last Eyes (Records) is a gorgeous hunk of New England witch-burn-improv. We’re probably biased, and think it sounds better because it’s vinyl, but so what? The pair are absolutely splattered across the 12 dark inches of this disk. Flaherty has a few of his smooth moments (the guy is a fucking LOVER, after all), but Corsano throws his sticks and body and whatever-else against the walls of the boxed-known as if he’s trying to blow the reality pop stand once and for all. It is a goddamn massive display of his frantic genius. Those two, plus baritone sax player Steve Baczkowski also have out a new CD called The Dim Bulb (Wet Paint). Recorded in Buffalo NY (from whence hails Steve), the three of them play like monster kittens or something—really friendly and really frantic and huge. Baczkowski swings monster blats and lines out of his baritone, while Chris and Paul mop the floor with notes and beats. Also hot is Paul and Chris’ team-up with trumpeter Greg Kelley (of nmperign) and bassist Matt Heyner (of No Neck). This collective is called Cold Bleak Heat, and their CD, It’s Magnificent, but It Isn’t War (Family Vineyard), is a melodic explosion. Kelley and Heyner show great free chops (different from, but as swank as, their other work) and the other dynamic duo, well, they fucking rule, so what can we say?
Corsano also participates (as a supporting member, admittedly) on the massive By the Fruits You Shall Know the Roots 3LP set (Eclipse/Time-Lag) that seems to be designed as the Harmony of the Spheres of 2005. By that, we mean it’s set-up to be something like thee defining doc of one living segment of the underground rattlesnake. Each of the sides is by a different artist, all of whom can be loosely categorized as participating in the contemporary free-volk scene. There are two guitarists—Jack Rose and Six Organs of Admittance—who move beyond their more standard tropes into collective sound ulps and spine-burbled vocals. There are two vocalists—Fursaxa and Dredd Foole—who offer very different takes on extended wig/vocal improvisations, either ethereally looped or gutturally whooped. There are two rural ensembles—Kemiallisetystavat (with Joshua) and MVEE (with Corsano)—who pucker their lips in other-than-expected directions, letting percussion flow where strings once did and vice versa. Packed in a huge, hip poster sleeve, obviously assembled with all the care and love that any acid mother could provide, this will be a touchstone for many seekers. And it sounds good, too!
Bill Nace has been using the guitar as a face shredder lately and also as a belly blaster. It pushes his gut in and drives his ass into whatever onlooker crowd there is. As his amp is emitting hot rock gunk improv chaos, he comes crashing though the room with a smile and a broken tooth. That’s when Nace is pretty much groovin’ with Chris Corsano as Vampire Belt. But Nace likes to chill and plow through more settled territories as well (sort of) and does so with the duo he has with John Truscinski called X.0.4. There’s been little heard on the recorded front from these two but that’s changing with the self-titled CDR in a 7” sleeve released by Audiobot. The sleeve art is by Jelle Crama and it folds out into an awesome poster suitable for fucking on. Jelle Crama has been doing amazing psyche-freakout books and CDR covers (for artists such as Julian Bradley, Davenport, Finkelbeiner, et al) for a few years now and you may want to start collecting this lysergic spoo as it seems to be disappearing quick.
Everyone is creaming and screaming about the Oakland vocal spirit drone noise god duo of Skaters. It’s these two cats—James Ferraro and Spencer Clark—and they have hit upon a direct call to the heavy-ass cosmos with sound and groove informed by the contemporary gestalt of bands like Double Leopards, Vibracathedral Orchestra and like-minded ilk. We’ve been digging their massive jam scene on the Palm Shifter CDR (267 Lattajjaa LTJ-30) and the Gambling In Ohpa’s Shadow CDR (Pseudo Arcana), but it’s the LP released on Humbug that’s just been completely drenching our psyches. Basically it’s a vinyl issue of some previously released killer called Dark Rye Bread. Go get it and get ready for goodness. Probably can find these babes at either Yod.com, Fusetron.com or Volcanictongue.com
Denver has a new newspaper and it’s run by Noel Black, the guy who published all those little Angry Dog Midget Edition poetry books over the last few years, most notably of Richard Hell, and, ahem, both of us. The paper is called Toilet Paper and it’s free and has great reams of local whatzis plus interviews with, again ahem, one of us, as well as other freakanauts like Daniel Johnston. Lotsa good reviews of LPs and books and a running ad hoc group called the Church Kickers where members go around kicking and headbutting religious fascist right wing temples of hate. There’s also an online site, which takes it further.
A fantastic tribute to the late, Buddah-bellied poet Philip Whalen has been published by Fish Drum, Inc. Called Continuous Flame it has work by a multitude of high minded poets all indebted to the signals evinced from Whalen’s long life of American West spirit poetry. Good stuff from Bill Berkson, Alice Notley, Anne Waldman, David Meltzer, Anselm Hollo, Clark Coolidge and a sheath of others. Whalen was a quintessential Beat poet as he expressed the grand eloquation of Eastern concepts in a distinctive, contempo-merican way. Any of his many books of poetry are worthwhile, as is surely, this loving trib. Good pics of Whalen all through his life are interspersed here giving it a great pictorical slant.
If Whalen was distinguished by Northern California dreaming then a wilder, rattier East Coast counterpart could be in the guise of Marty Matz. Marty was one of the coolest wine-sucking, pot-puffing NYC street beat Buddahs of the 20th century. A close pal to Gregory Corso he could sling back barbed bardo speak with the finest of beat culture brains. I suggest any poet who quips, “I never met a drug I didn’t like” to be essential reading. Like Herbert Hunke, Marty was a superstar raconteur, hidden from the spotlight by dint of travel and jail. He is the real magilla. Published by Panther Books, who did a wonderful Ira Cohen compendium last year, this is called In The Season Of My Eye.
While we would not be bogus enough to claim that we have stayed absolutely abreast of Joe McPhee’s seemingly bottomless discography, it would be equally “stub” to say that he has not been an overwhelming presence inside our own collecting/listening universe. From his first session (with Clifford Thornton), McPhee has been a brawlingly intelligent reed and horn player, destroying synapses and boundaries the way that most musicians destroy a box of doughnuts. It’s funny that he has really only started to get the respect he deserves in the past few years, because there has always been a cabal of fans who felt that he was near the top of any form/instrument he grappled with. Hell, the Hat Hut label was basically founded to record him. How many musicians could make such a claim? Regardless, he is a great player and thinker, and some of his best recordings have been those he made in solo recital. Thus it is with extreme pleasure that we receive the Everything Happens for a Reason LP (Roaratorio), which is a suite of six solo pieces, recorded in 2003 on pocket trumpet, alto and soprano sax. Each track is dedicated to one of McPhee’s personal heroes, and each has its own distinct mood. From the burbling soprano of “Vieux Carre” (for Steve Lacy and Sidney Bechet) to the darker alto ruminations of the title track (for Daunik Lazro) this is a magnificent recording and bountiful evidence of McPhee’s spirit-flame. Take a swig and see.
Maggie Nelson is a writer who has taught at Pratt Institute and Wesleyan University and has had two books of poetry published by Hanging Loose Press. Soft Skull Press has just released her third outing and it is heavy. Called Jane (a murder), it’s an extended poem/prose investigation into the murder of her aunt in the ‘60s near the University of Michigan. It was assumed her aunt was the third in a series of rape-murders at the time. It was through dreams and discoveries that led Maggie into exploring and writing out her connections and epiphanies re: this event. What we have here is what Eileen Myles calls “a deep, dark female masterpiece.”
Things change as well they must. Blackball Records in Nanaimo closed shop
last year and its last sole proprietor Andrew Macgregor wrote a great missive to life-vision (check it at: http://www.island.net/~blkball/top.htm) and proceeded to hang out with his dog and play and record music under the name Gown. You may have noticed the name Gown in conjunction with Christina Carter (Charalambides, Scorces, Babes on The Loose) on the Polyamory New Skin For The Old Ceremony ninth anniversary CDR comp last year. It certainly struck our attention as we had a Gown CDR sitting on top of our not-yet-played pile for ages only to lose it. Then another one showed up and that one kinda got sideswiped and then a third one was handed over by Andrew hisself. Why? Cuz he is Gown goddammit! After complaining to him about being inundated with this Gown CDR and realizing it was he (oops) we decided to play the fucker. Now the reason Andrew was able to hand this off so readily is because he has relocated, with Christina, to our neck of the woods to take up slack in various Yod enterprises while Chris Corsano is snuffling in the golden lap of Eros and amour in Manchester, England for about a year. So from beautiful British Columbia we get Macgregor. And we play this Gown CDR and shitpissfuck if it ain’t, like, great. A roiling Dead C meets noisier-aspect Mazzacane meets early Kjetil Brandsdal. Cool! It’s kinda wild we got three of these CDRs especially since they’re a numbered edition of 30. We also realize it represents an earlier foray for young Macgregor and he has more newer spoo and we jam those in and both are good, if a bit more gentle: The Rich Lives Of Trees and Two Moons/Sun Romp respectively. There’s also a cassette out there called Non-Linear Time which we’re gonna have to go to the Yod store and snatch. Which is what we do. Do you?
We were turned on to the poetry of Jaqueline Waters after the legendary Adventures in Poetry issued her A Minute Without Danger book a couple of years ago. Her work has a mysterious way of moving as it almost constantly teases you into one evocation only to shift gears. She’s from New Jersey and I suppose that could be to blame and if it is god bless Jersey cuz Waters has an intriguing intelligence resulting in hip scribble. Her newest book is The Garden of Eden A College published by A Rest Press.
First vinyl album by Giant Haystacks is called Blunt Instrument (Mistake) and it’s as beautiful as any tongue surface. Mixing the unstoppable flop motion of early Burma with the vocal angularity of mid-period minutemen, this SF trio turns guns into butter with the best of ‘em. Another sweet slab is one more new one by the well-known Italian brothers, My Cat Is An Alien. When the Windmill’s Whirl Dies (Eclipse) shows the Opalio boys’ creepy side. There’s muttering in the night and the static huzz of small massed engines just over the nearest sand dune. Some sections have suggestions of a definitive Saturnian ring-job, others are more Terrestrian. More boggling still is the reissue of Tar Pet’s The Artist Revealed is Taralie Dawn (Eclipse). Taralie is the singer for Spires That in the Sunset Rise. And this solo work is a world-busting scramble of strings and voices locked in combat for control of the fabric of being-itself. Even closer to the ur-root of pre-consciousness than Leslie Q, this is tres magnifique!
It’s a bummer that Slim Moon’s 5RC label did not come of age in the vinyl era, but it didn’t. Still, Thank You for the Alternative Rock CD (5RC), featuring Slim and some interns (or so it is said) does not stint on weird sonics. Not all the tracks are titled, but they range from electric balloon noise to underwater-ape-circus-long-string-music. All is good, except the format. Wolf Eyes have chuffed out an LP version of their great Sub Pop CD. Burned Mind (American Tapes/Hanson) is a classic of form-shivved-readymade-ism and it’s very sweet to handle in this format. Thanks for the effort.
Heat Retention Records is a label out of Brooklyn which has released a number of local rocknik CDRs but has recently sprung for vinyl and issued a four-band 7” with the bizarro-gnarl outfits Ground Monkeys, Mouthus, Dosdedos and Tan As Fuck. All these cats pump out the bad vibrations in most excellent fashion. A must have.
City Records, in tribute to John and Yoko’s Two Virgins LP cover, has issued a split 7” by California Lightening and Sic Alps called Four Virgins. This is good news as we can look at both these S.F. no-no wave duos in the raw. California Lightening is Jenny and Bianca of Erase Errata and they are rather lovely creatures while Sic Alps is Mike Donovan (Ropers a.o.) and Adam Stonehouse (Hospitals), who may appeal to some of you with their hirsute gangling appendia. But looks ain’t everything, it’s the tunes that count and both these duos rip shit on cranked guitar slather and beat bottom drumming. As bonus you got Weasel Walter chomping a fat sonic saxophone reed on the Sic Alps side. Awesome.
Okay. We’re outta breath. So we asked Michael Bernstein of Double Leopards, Workbench, White Rock to hit us with a top 10 for this ish. Here ’tis:
01) Difara’s Pizza (food)
02) Since 1972 in Newsweek (event)
03) Wolf Eyes @ NYU Comedy Jam (event)
04) Touring as much as possible with Hive Mind and the Skaters (event)
05) Mexican Stalls in Red Hook – Reopened! (food/event)
06) Brast Burn – Debon CD (music)
07) Douglas Bregger – The Crystal Arcade LP (music)
08) Iain Banks – The Wasp Factory (book)
09) Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog Cheese (food)
10) Sick Llama – any tapes (music)
11) The world is fucking ending! (event)
267 Lattajja: http://www.saunalahti.fi/~hhaahti/267lattajjaa/
Adventures in Poetry: http://www.adventuresinpoetry.com
American Tapes: http://www.americantapes.com
Angry Dog Midget Editions: http://www.angrydogpress.com
Jelle Crama: http://www.jellecrama.tk
City Records: (try usa.scratchrecords.com)
Jessica Delfino: http://www.jessydelfino.blogspot.com
Die Stadt: http://www.diestadtmusik.de
Family Vineyard: http://www.family-vineyard.com
Fish Drum, Inc.: http://www.fishdrum.com
Friends and Relatives: http://www.friendsandrelativesrecords.com
Gold Soundz: http://www.tibprod.com/goldsoundz.htm
Hanging Loose Press: http://www.hangingloosepress.com
Heat Retention: http://www.heatretentionrecords.com
NewWest Press: http://www.newestpress.com
Panther Books: http://www.goodie.org/pantherbooks/frontlist.html
Pseudo Arcana: http://www.sphosting.com/pseudoarcana/pseudo.htm
Soft Skull Books: http://www.softskull.com
toilet paper: http://www.toiletpaperonline.com
Wet Paint: PO Box 1024; Manchester, CT 06045