first published in Arthur No. 19 (November, 2005)
Exploring the Voids of All Known Undergrounds
by Byron Coley and Thurston Moore
Boston’s Sunburned Hand of the Man have been devilishly busy this time out, blessing our ears and asses with a shelf-filling pile of audio goodness. The Complexion LP (Records) highlights their percussion-and-swoop angle more than some of their others. It’s a nice thing to listen to on a rooftop, while ambulances skedaddle around the corners. Bursts of internal static and much less jam-cuss-aktion than some might dig, but we are not they. The Wedlock 2LP (Eclipse) is a document of a trek the band made to Alaska three or so years back to play a wedding. Some of it is Wedding Album audio collaging of the haps, but there are also huge patches of the band in a weirdly Hendrixy mode with heavy jam flashes and rhythm underpine. Great looking package, too. And there are at least a couple of new CDRs. Live in Shit (Manhand) is an utterly spaced-out live show from some damn time and place, one of our favorites of theirs overall. And Knifelife (Manhand) is like eating an electric waffle and grunting about its pleasures or something. There’re plenty of analog crosshatches and rich hints of both butter and maple, but that’s only part of it, naturally. Bite it hard to discover more.
Seems like Jessica Rylan can’t do wrong (get it?). Yeah, anyway, she has out a boss new booklet of drawings called something you entered into or headed towards (WFOT). We guess the format is color Xerox, and they look totally great. Some are like Adolph Wolffi doing his versions of Patchen’s poem-paintings, others are just disturbed (or calm) and beautiful. Rylan mixes word and image with a really bodaciously intellectual primitivism. Worth many peeks, both fast and slow. And, as Can’t, Jessica has released a super stark-o clipclopped-note-beat-disaster 7” through the supremely jake Ultra Eczema label outta Belgium. The label is run by an illustrator named Dennis Tyfus and his sluice-and-gangrene color creations are HOT and WEIRD. His illo of Can’t on the oversized sleeve is insanely lovely. All the releases, mostly CDRs by the such outfits as Guam River (a John Olson zap-zone), are wild on the iris and his site is a fuuking trip to knock around.
The MVEE Medicine Show rolls yet again with a stunning new LP, Moon Jook (Records), which is the most devilishly musical-qua-musical move they’ve made in a bit. Matt Valentine’s guitar playing is really exceptional here, and Erika Elder’s grasp of all “little instrument” dynamics is a breath of pure meditative smoke. It’s true the pair (and their extended family) have recorded a daunting pantload of stuff over the past few years, but this one’s particularly CHOICE. Matt’s old bandmate (from Tower Recordings), PG Six, has a great new LP too, The Well of Memory (Perhaps Transparent; CD on Amish). Pat has been playing especially superb shows this past year and this album collects a few live favorites, all of which bristle with his mastery of many strings—guitar, harp, banjo, piano and on and on. There is a sweet melancholia that seeps through every note here. It will ebb and flow through synapses like burning honey. And the word is that his next album may be harp improvs, which would be hipper than shit.
Anyone who has wanted to sample the work of the great American poet, Charles Potts, but has been mind-dicked by either the abundance or lack-of-abundance of available titles, has just had a lucky day. The Portable Potts (West End Press) is a goddamn glorious paperback compendium of his work throughout a vast array of decades, styles, foci and haircuts. And this book may lack the visual oomph of seeing Charles get blown across the stage at the Arthurfest by Sunn 0))), but it’s a book that will satisfy in many other ways. It represents a real slice of Potts’ work from the wild ‘60s poems to the insane prose to the cowboy stuff to the Chinese stuff, to the sociology and all points in between. Be a sport and stuff it in someone’s stocking this Christmas, it would be a vital gesture in support of true culture.
Our knowledge of the Portugese underground is not what it should be, we admit it. But it just got a little better, with the arrival of two records by the Loosers. Not that there’s much findable info at hand, but the sounds themselves are sweet. A trio, the Loosers do a surprising number of things at once. Their basic focus is art-damaged power-pus, but they do it in a variety of ways, recalling everyone from Sonic Youth to Jackie O Motherfucker at various times. Their first LP is For All the Round Suns (Ruby Red) and it is a pretty wonderful blend of several generations of underground nonsense —from the Birthday Party to NNCK to My Cat Is An Alien—and could easily be the best new CDR from Brooklyn this week, if you know what we mean. But it’s a dandy looking LP and that ain’t hay. Nor is their second LP, Slugs (Ruby Red), although it is not quite as overloaded with sheer idea-wattage, taking more the form of debased prog-grope excursions onto the ramp of the ringed percussive o-mind. It’s a nice trip, with flutes and toots up the old wazoot. Why they only pressed 100 is anyone’s guess.
Best tape label so far this year has been Fag Tapes out of Ypsilanti, Michigan. The proprietor dude is Heath Moerland who either works or owns the record store that Mike “Hair Police/Wolf Eyes/The Haunting” Connelly works at. Which means, just by that association alone, this label is el sickosonik. He’s released awesome noise death jammers by the nefarious doom-improv unit Death Kcomm as well as straight-up bloodfeasts from both Hair Police and Dead Machines. Sad to say Fag Tapes only issues these animals in editions of 50 or so. But you can, at least by today’s date, still grab the best dealio from the label. That be the Street Freaks 2 and Super Street 3 “diamonds in th’ ruff” compilations with skrewed out trax by Pengo, Sick Llama, The Haunting, Tape Deck, Wolf Eyes, Sightings, Aaron Dilloway, Connelly and Death Komm. Again, these babies are in hand numbered editions of 50 and 75 respectively so you may wanna act FAST. (Update alert: since this writing Fag Tapes has released vols. 3 and 4 of the Super Street series so stop sleepin’). The two distributors who have this shit-fry are Volcanic Tongue in the UK and Fusetron in USA.
Some people have always loved a kinda strange kinda sappy ’71 folk album from Texas called Illusions of the Maintenance Man by Virgin Insanity (no label). And some people have loved it enough to reissue it in all its whacky glory. There are a few tracks that are way too “real people” hippie lounge ass whatsis to make me shiver, but there are also a few very stoned tracks—the golden hippie loss of “Once,” the odd tremor of “Livin’ Lives” and others. These make the record’s rep somewhat understandable. But the reissue is a far better value than the original. In the same package was Music from South India LP (no label), which is a great compilation of contemporary recordings of Indian classical music. This must be the first new LP of this sorta material in many a moon. As such, salute it.
Another nice set of “grey market” (or at least one assumes so) LPs is a new pair by Magik Markers and Sun City Girls. The Markers’ NxCxHxCx VOL. 1 (no label), which we imagine means North Connecticut HardCore as opposed to anything else, seems like tracks from their CDRs and is a ferocious blap into the mouth of the whale they so ably represent. They are a band that never fails to stun either on stage or on the box, and this album’s no exception. It is one heck of a bonus pants-down listening experience. The SCGs’ Montreal Pop (no label) is a recording from last year in Quebec and is a totally awe-inspiring glimpse at the power these guys have developed. It’s a thoroughly majestic prowl through every side of the band—from shockingly sweet ballad remodels, through to the blasted mid-east improv insanity that is their hallmark. What pleasant souvenirs.
Saw a lotta good hoedowns this summer; a lot of the old dudes kicking some of thee most radical ass were Dinosaur Jr, Gang of Four and Yoko Ono. Some great super newies also came in blazing. Particularly the welcome charm and mindblow magic bus of Finnish musicians: Kemialliset Ystävät, Lau Nau, Puukuu, Ijslar and other tripped terrestials. And flat out wonderful were Eyes and Arms of Smoke choogling straight outta Lexington, Kentucky where two of the dudes, Trevor Tremaine and Robert Beatty, kick out the jugular with Wolf Eyes. Eyes and Arms of Smoke jam from all angles. Most surprisingly with a deft touch on some weird hybrid of French/UK prog and open-ended improviclatter. The 4tet is enjoined by the vocals and small intrument playing of Sara O’Keefe and Ellen Molle. They have a few happening sides out right now. We say go for em all. Start with the In 3 Houses CDR and Moon Burn cassette on Trevor’s Rampart label, then the LP A Religion Of Broken Bones on Cenotaph Audio.
Speaking of Hair Police, though Connelly is graverobbing across America and Tremaine and Beatty are throwing down the above mentioned kosmiche goodness, you can get a weird and welcome inject of HP from their Beyond Leech Pit cassette on Fuck It Tapes who we wrote about a couple columns back. Your are archiving these, right?
Never heard of Oakland’s The Time Flys, but their debut LP, Fly (Birdman), is pretty much as its press kit says—classic, just pre-punk style punk. They’re right to namecheck people like Unnatural Axe and the Suicide Commandos, but there are hints of even more protean stuff from Luger to Thundertrain to UA-era Flamin’ Groovies. We mean, obviously they’re coming from a “place” where pop doesn’t suck, but the rawness of their approach to “the sissy science” is pretty damn bracing.
New York’s Sean Meehan is best known for his insane percussion work. Stuff in that area with Tim Barnes and others has always been a mind-warp. He also does cool visual art, and was last noted for the production of a very wily wooden box that could function as an instrument or a “mere” object equally formidably. His newest piece is Sectors (for Constant) (SOS Editions) which is a kinda white-on-white assemblage work that masquerades as paper CDs of solo cymbal work, mounted (more or less inside) some artist paper. I’ve been looking at it quite a bit today and it has a really nice feel to it. ‘What the hell else has Sean been up to?” is what we wanna know.
The Tone Filth label out of Minneapolis has released a great huzzing, over-drenched electromeditation tape by Glass Organ. It’s the aural equivalent of two dudes heads-down buried in the daylight skuzz of bent time. Nice. While you’re at it you may wanna pick up two other nasty noise burners from Tone Filth, the always killer and brooding jam stasis of Sewer Election (tape is called TRERIKSROSET whatever the fuckoo that means) and Romantic Fever by Impregnable, which is a great band name no matter what kind of emission you choose to exhort.
Just when you thought it was safe to eat croissants, France’s legendary free-rock band Mahogany Brain returns in not just name, but also in fucked-up function. Their first LP in 30 years (or so) is called Some Cocktail Suggestions (Fractal) and it has much superior weirdness to recommend it. Indeed, it is actually better than their last LP, Smooth Sick Lights, which is kinda hard to believe. There’s a buncha cracked-open amp-splonge guitar, electronic lip-puckers, backwards masking, treated vocals, Burroughs samples and all kindsa other, very fetching stuff going on here. Whether it’s a studio creation or the work of an actual band is immaterial. It’s a nice form-stretcher regardless.
Chris Trouchon is not just a distinguished musician in such bands as XBXRX and Hawny Troof. Nor is he just a fabulous dancer and dresser. Not by a long shot. He is also a vegan chef of great repute and his first little cookbooklet has just landed in our midst. The Hungry Truth: Recipes from the Cooler (NFJM Press) has a nice silkscreened cover too. Dunno if it’s kitchen safe, however, so be sure to buy two. And if you have a striped toque, put it on now.
Indiana’s John Wilkes Booze have piled up another strangely impressive slab of avant garage noise. Telescopic Eyes Glance the Future Sick (Kill Rock Stars) is like their earlier work, in that is combines motor city power sludge with highlights ripped off the twinkling costumes in the halls of punk rock, freak soul and space jazz. The combination at times reminds us a little of some of Fuzzhead’s—lotsa long almost groove-oid pustules popping in the night air, fires burning in the distance and somewhere, the sound of a demolition derby. Nice work, for fucking drunks.
We’ve blathered on about Finland’s Maniacs Dream previously but now we’re completely beside ourselves in dripping ecstasy whilst spinning the latest tape from MD member Fricara Pacchu. Titled Waydom it’s credited as being recorded in Turkey, which rings true as there’s amazing Turku rhythms and horns and drone/chant vibes running through all these trax. It’s all instrumental and one of the coolest recordings to come through since…shit, the last Maniac’s Dream deal. On Lal Lal Lal of course. Go.
Highly recommended for persons with eyes is Re-Visiting “Father” and the Source Family (Swordfish). It’s a DVD documentary by a young film-maker about the history and mystery of the Source commune and their formidable leader, Tom “Father Yod” Baker. The story is told by a buncha the original members of the Source, most of whom seem a lot more together than we would’ve imagined. The story itself is so nuts (or so ordinary—your choice) that it doesn’t really need much embelishment. The talking heads get across the whole tale with a minimum of fluff, even though it takes more than two hours to do it. We wish there woulda been more archival footage available (maybe some’ll turn up), but it’s still a great watch. The filmmaker’s tendency to insert himself into the action is a little annoying at times, but he’s just a kid, so cut him slack.
Almost indescribably beautiful is the new LP from Jack Rose. Kensington Blues (Tequila Sunrise; CD on VHF) is an amazing solo guitar record by any standard you can imagine. Rose’s technique has been formidable for a long time (check any prior solo record for beaucoups evidence), but this one really moves into a new realm. The originals have the same blend of blue tones, volk melodicism and two hand strength that have marked all the classic albums by the prior masters. And the cover of Fahey’s “Sunflower River Blues” is so deep that it’s a goddamn ocean unto itself. But our favorite piece is probably Jack’s own “Now That I’m a Man Full Grown II” which is one of the most mean and elegant guitar pieces I’ve ever heard. Jack Rose, man. Jack Rose…
Wow, the new deluxe and handsome volume by the Paper Rad Collective and Brad Jones, Paper Rad, BJ and da Dogs (Picture Box Inc.) is a fairly substantial chunk of hardball eye candy. It’s very crazy mix of post-ratty-art impulses and extreme sophistication in terms of color and composition, incorporating graphic novels, cartoonland installations, and an extremely crude surrealism. Comparable in ways to both the graphic work of Eye Yamatsuka, and also that of the crew from France’s le Dernier Cri, it is really something to see. These guys have sometimes driven us crazy with the overload of their videos, but their print work allows you to approach it at your own pace, and seen like that is pretty mesmeric.
Leslie Keffer is the person responsible for serenading the night skies of Akron, Ohio with beautiful bloodstream noise waves. She can be seen hunkered over her set up of mangled wire-feed and plastic-tronik, hair and eye-gaze falling into the circuitry creating sincerely scary and skin-piercing squall-tone. It would be difficult to recommend any one of her cdrs or cassettes but for our money we’d opt to crank on her recent split tape with Providence, Rhode Island’s HEART2Heart called Lover’s Quarrel. And then move backwards into her juice jams on Ramparts and Gameboy.
A nice guy from a band called The Assemble Head gave me a copy of their debut LP, Sunburst Sound (Sunburst Sound) and it’s a real nice slab of contempo psych. As guitar soaked as you’d imagine, but with sorta Floydian star-clusters in some sections, and others that are more like the vibe Crystalized Movements used to hit in their shorter, rockier songs. Not much info on the guys, but the record is cool. As is the new LP by L.A.’s 400 Blows, Angel Trumpets & Devil Trombones (Narnack). There’s no discernable trumpet or trombone we can make out, but what the hex? The sound is very stubby punk-based avant-thug stuff with some heavy-ass bass riffs that almost sound like feedtime trying to play the Wire songbook or something equally ass-staticy. D(yad) Yellow Swans have been noising it up for a while, but these expatriated San Franciscans have not cut much in the way of 12” vinyl. Lotsa other stuff, sure, but the format was often a little, uh, nasty. Here, it’s the sounds that unsoothe. Because Against Sleep and Nightmare (Weird Forest) is an actual LP, and one that you will enjoy, if you like the sound of monster dogs eating dinner inside a big iron shed. Typically, their recordings are not as drool-invoking as their living power-blat, but the dinginess of their electro-vision here seems more lovely than usual. Could it be the format? We say, yes.
Just in is the fully chipper 2LP version of Buck Dharma by Wooden Wand & the Vanishing Voice (Time Lag; CD on 5RC). Been hearing the CD a lot on drives, and the bonus tracks here add to the conviction that this is the Wand’s most solid smokestack yet.
Our summer reading commitments became quite challenged by general chaos and his infantry of freak scenes but we did get to sneak in Easter Everywhere (Prism Books) an excellent photo history of Austin, TX’s psychobeauty sons the 13th Floor Elevators. Along with the groovy pix it’s got some sweet insight writing and interviews with Roky and the boys.
St. Marks Poetry Project in NYC, so long the bastion of street world poetry, has out of nowhere issued a new po zine called The Recluse available from them. An austere and thoughtful selection of new and been-around names: Renee Gladman, Ted Greenwald, Marcella Durand et al. Hope to see more.
UK scribe Clinton Heylin, who wrote the must read From The Velvets To The Voidoids has edited a compendium of critical writings on The Velvet Underground, All Yesterdays’ Parties The Velvet Underground in Print 1966-1971 (Da Capo) This is no academic hooey, mostly brain popping published reviews, interviews and rock n roll essays from such hippie hipster rock mags like Crawdaddy, Fusion, Planet, Oz, etc. Awesome Lester Bangs and Patti Smith pieces, along with flyers and ad copy repros, make this a sweet kiss for all Velvet freaks.
If you have kept putting off reading Ed Sanders’ memoir of Lower East Side 60s radical hippy art, poetry, music, dope, sex, slurp, snort, felch universe then now’s the time to dig in, dig? A new and revised edition of Tales of Beatnik Glory (Thunder’s Mouth Press) has hit the streets and it’s a juicy giant of a joint. The current tome is doubly expanded with more memory lights being turned on by Sanders into the inside world of USA Hippie. Sanders was there, he was more than there, he was…there. Like his mentor Allen Ginsberg he was a supreme do-er with a grasp of the goof mind necessary not to have to prove how with it you are. Whoa.
Here’s a top 10 from To Live and Shave In L.A.’s Tom Smith:
TOP TEN FILMS BY BULGARIAN DIRECTORS
(source: Russian bootleg DVDs, purchased on site or given to TS by E. Solodkaja)
01. The Peach Thief (1964, dir. Vado Radev)
02. Running Dogs (1988, dir. Ljudmil Todorov)
03. Partisans (Life Flows Quietly By) (1958, dir. Binka Zeljazkova and Hristo Ganev)
04. Birds and Greyhounds (1969, dir. Georgi Stojanov)
05. Under the Yoke (1952, dir. Dako Dakovski)
06. The Prosecutor (1968, dir. Ljubomir Sarlandjiev)
07. There’s Nothing Finer Than Bad Weather (1971, dir. Metodi Andonov)
08. Time of Violence (1988, dir. Ljudmil Staikov)
09. The Unknown Soldier’s Patent Leather Shoes (1979, dir. Rangel Valcanov)
10. Iconostasis (1969, dir. Hristo Hristov and Todor Dinov)
Superb, the lot, although my Russki yzek’s not quite good enough for me to parse pertinent narrative details from Bulgarian. Depending on which side of the fence you slouch on, probably all better than K-PAX.
Over and out, motherfucker.
Cenotaph Audio / Eyes And Arms Of Smoke: http://www.cenotaph.org/eyesandarms
Da Capo: http://www.perseusbooksgroup.com/dacapo
Leslie Keffer: http://www.lesliekeffer.com/
Kill Rock Stars: http://www.killrockstars.com
Lal Lal Lal: http://www.haamu.com/lallallal
NFJM Press: http://www.nfjm.org
Perhaps Transparent: http://www.perhapstransparent.com
Picture Box Inc.: http://www.pictureboxinc.com
Records: POB 381869, Cambridge MA 02238
Ruby Red: http://www.freewebs.com/rubyredlabel
Jessica Rylan / Can’t: http://www.irfp.net/index.html
SOS Editions: 242 Broome ST. #2, New York NY 10013
St. Mark’s Poetry Project: http://www.poetryproject.com
Sunburst Sound: http://www.sounburstsound.com
Tequila Sunrise: http://www.deletedesign.com
Thunder’s Mouth Press: http://www.thundersmouth.com
Tone Filth: tonefilth.org
Ultra Eczema: http://www.ultraeczema.com
Volcanic Tongue: http://www.volcanictongue.com
WFOT: 412 Classon. Apt. 2, Brooklyn NY 11238
Weird Forest: http://www.weirdforest.com
West End Press: PO Box 27334, Albuquerque NM 87125
Lal Lal Lal: http://www.haamu.com/lallallal
Tone Filth: tonefilth.org
Volcanic Tongue: http://www.volcanictongue.com