first published in Arthur No. 20 (January, 2006)
Exploring the Voids of All Known Undergrounds
by Byron Coley and Thurston Moore
August Born is Hiroyuki Usui and Ben Chasny. Hiroyuki you may know as the Japanese chap who has recorded under the name L. There was an L record on VHF a few years back that was astounding. Beautiful, home baked organic spirit folk-sonik drone breeze. The self titled August Born (Drag City) is the first in a purported series of “music by mail” sessions Hiroyuki has been involved in. Not email but snail mail, a slow process, which shows in the careful and gorgeous strains which this recording delivers. Simple and haunting vocal lines with classic Chasny guitar moves, expressive of his work with both Six Organs of Admittance and Comets on Fire. There’s an August Born track on the Bread, Beard and Bear’s Prayers CD that Comets’ Ethan Miller compiled for this mag’s Bastet imprint. A perfect winter sound.
More Ben Chasny finger-scorch news is the junk burn collaboration he’s done with squelch lord and fellow Comets creep Noel von Harmonson called NVH/CHASNY PLAYS THE BOOK OF REVELATIONS on the Folding label. It truly howls and is just one of the amazing new releases on this long-standing cassette label. Folding comes out of the Northwest and has always delivered some of the more confused and beyond-the-unknown explorations of the lost universe. Along with the NVH/Chas tape is an awesome foray into sound deviltry by someone/something called Telepathe. Their tape “I” which features Mick Barr is one of the swingenest kosmo-jungle reverb from God’s ass recordings we’ve been priveleged to hear this year no doubt. One more killer Folding jammer is the Child Abuse cassette which may be a goddamned lame name but is saved by the nutso retardo sleeve which has some little dude hand tethered to a stick looking very pissed off. It’s horrible yes but so ridiculous that you can see MAYBE where these mofos are coming from (answer: we don’t know). Child Abuse is a drum/organ twisted nut of a sesion and pretty damn fucked and really doesn’t audibly portray the sad violence of their moniker. Which is OK and adds new depth to their motive. What the fuhk.
A couple other great tape labels are Jyrk and Sloow Tapes. Jyrk is from the Bay Area and is infamous for unleashing the force that is D Yellow Swans who have been on a tear lately. The “D” standing for something “D”ifferent on each release (Dead, Destroyed, Disabled, Deaf etc.). They are consistently happening in their electroacoustic amps and wires noise/hum concertos and anything they release is gonna be worth your while. A young woman named Inca Ore, an associate of D Yellow Swans has a Jyrk tape called Milky Petals of the Solar Meadows and by that title you can bet she’s got something to say. And she does but in some strange other-planet tongue. What seems like a sensual loop of vocal matter gets entwined with live barbed wire ululations and comes at you like a repetitive salivation machine. Heavy move and we want more. Sloow Tapes out of Belgium has been releasing small numbers of fine rips by the likes of My Cat Is An Alien and others. One of the latest is certainly one of their greatest, the Slingshot Feud Vol. 2 cassette by Family Underground. Real sex-surround sound and dusk to dawn huzz. All yours.
Four hot new(ish) poetry journals of the sort that burn with modern energy and multi-levered thought/rock, roll/sexx prayerz-on-fire sensation have hit our desks recently and we feel the need to share the word. Mirage #4/Period(ical) is on its staggering-to-believe 120th issue which we guess is not so staggering-to-believe as it’s a single stapled one-sided xerox read which is really its minimalist charm. It’s edited by Kevin Killian and Dodie Bellamy out of San Francisco. Killian is an interesting playwright, poet, critic, novelist who supposedly has a book being published all about Kylie Minogue, whether in verse perspective or in perverse invective remains to be read. Dodie has written some of the most astounding beyond feminist lit of the last decade. She created a helluva stir when she wrote and published an amazing fem take-off on the Burroughsian cut-up technique called Cunt Ups, which is must for any progressive library shelf. Their po journal has new and ongoing work by young writers who catch the editor’s eye as well as a few surprises such as this issue’s print of a great 1959 poem by the deceased homo-beat legend John Wieners. Next up is the irrepressible Industrial Sabotage out of Toronto, Canada. Edited by the non-stop archivist, poet and all around good guy J W Curry, this is the foremost publication of the ongoing history of Canada’s amazing concrete/language/etc lit scene, primarily jumping off and around the wonderment that is bpNichol, an artist/poet who died in 1988 and left behind a living trove of experimental and loving word-work. Curry has been involved with archiving thousands of items of A list to ephemera of bpNichol’s output for well on 30 years now and has yet to exhaust his endeavor. If you think record collecting is deep dirt digging, then try to get into avant garde post war poetry. His mag is awesome, multi-hued and a great glimpse into what is one of North America’s strongest literary scenes since forever. Speaking of which it’s exciting to see the folks at St Marks Poetry Center in NYC making a fresh move with the first issue of The Recluse. Whether this mag is taking the place of the long running Poetry Center journal The World or will co-exist alongside it is anyone’s guess. Regardless, it has the cool passion aesthetic of young, serious, touch-the-sky poetry that the downtown New Yok scene has always exuded: a dynamic of voices multi-psyched, daring and thoughtful. Last, for now, is another mag outta the SF scene, a new one called jouissance. First ish has not only rad poemz by the abovementioned Kevin Killian, but also some from the ass-slapping mind of Dennis Cooper (one called THE JPEGS is about a Ray Romano/Bernie Mac sex-mail exchange). The mag has good interviews with Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu and novelist Scott Heim (whose book Mysterious Skin is being made into a film by Greg Araki), as well as writing by Dodie Bellamy. Cool shit.
While he has laid hand and/or hip on more record-projects than almost anyone, Calvin Johnson has not previously released a solo album. Dunno why this is exactly, but Before the Dream Faded (K) is really a good one. Calvin’s dark voice is probably known to some of you from Beat Happening or Dub Narcotic Sound System or somewhere, but it’s really a rumbling rose here, because it’s the album’s one constant. The instrumentation and arrangement techniques wiggle around like a hot can opener on god’s ass, but there is a foghorn in the night. Hooray! Songs go into all the hoped-for hoops and come out smelling great. As a note, when heard on CD, from the next room, one local thought this record sounded BOGUS. However, heard close up and on vinyl, she agreed it rocked like a berry. On a Calvin-related note, have been digging the curves of the new Old Time Relijun LP, 2012 (K). Must be the sixth or seventh by these Olympia mutants, but the Spotlight Kid vibe is so strong this time, I feel like we better pull out all their old records and give them a thorough sequential listen. Another record ripe with not-entirely-expected Beefheart sprong is the eponymous, posthumous MLP by Selten-Ubel (ABC Group). This Knoxville, TN group existed for only a couple of shows and broke up in ’01. But the five songs here have a very swank post-core blump into the shadows of a Magic Band.
Was going through a pile of books and realized we somehow forgot to plug the two latest books from Montreal’s l’Oie de Cravan. First of is Schmo, the second volume of drawings by Jeff Ladouceur that they’ve issued. Like his last book, Ebola, Ladouceur’s black & white drawings look like they’ve been drawn from models who were inflated with mashed potatos or something—they’re lumpy but smooth, hollow but full, all that stuff. It’s lovely. As is Nadia Moss’s Mr. Non Pigeon. Ms. Moss has done some illustration work for Godspeed and related groups, but this is her first book, and it’s a very nice combination of scratchy, obsessive sketches and more full-blown assemblage/illos. A very nice piece of work and highly commended (as is ALL Cravan material, natch.) In other friendship club news, there’s a brand spanking HOT volume of Pretend I Am Someone Else. Editor Lauren Naylor has more of her own stuff in this ish than usual, and it all reads/scans as sweet as hot buttered rum—the theme seems to be dreams this time, and it’s clear SHE’S HAD PLENTY OF THEM.
Awesome spook noise party jamz from, wouldn’t you know it, Nate Young, central monster of Wolf Eyes. His first solo LP is called Hatred and, appropriately, is the premier release on Carlos Giffoni’s No Fun label. Nice burbling scuzz and hardcore stain. Get it. Super weird left field garage shapes made by Japan stylerz King Brothers on their Blues CD (In The Red). Nipponese garage core can definitely have a bit more of an experimental edge and the King Brothers deliver it nonstop. In The Red continues to plumb the ultimate bowels of rock n roll earth for the best, most far out ho dang. Soothing hell soundz erupt in felching drizzle sput from Michigan madman Roach and his boys. They’re called Dirty Dynamite Gang and you can hear them squirm n’ growl on the “Roach = Animal” one-sided LP (American Tapes). Edition of 100 with twisted nightmare collage cover art by John Olson. Boss. Speaking of Olson, is he the monstermind behind Guam River? Y’know, probably, and if it ain’t then whoever it is has laid out a long super-spooked groan noise psycho-journey of a one-sided LP on the always intoxicatingly beautiful Ultra Eczema label. It’s called The New Maps Of Hell and label boss Dennis Tyfuss delivers a hairy beast silkscreen on one side which, when played, sounds like a sick cousin to the groove side. This label is hands down amazing with its art/noise hybrid and you better get yr ass movin’. Also ass-movin’ is the return of Tom Lax’s legendary Siltbreeze label. The Dig Yourself LP by Columbus OH’s Times New Viking is a beauteous slop bucket of DIY raunch of the sort one finds on In the Red—flappy gal/guy vocals traded like Swell Maps trading cards, unctuous guitar riffs, instrumental melt-downs of all sorts, etc. This is art punk, motherfucker. Grab yr ankles!
A new Double Leopards LP is always reason enough to buy a new hat, and Out of One, through One and to One (Eclipse) is no exception. The different layers of drones these Brooklyn goblins are now able to assemble, improvise into, and then blow away like smoke, is ever more impressive. The tracks here (two or three of them depending on how spaced you are) include some new tinkling intrusions, not like anything they’ve quite done before. But it’s the quality we’re talking about, and this has that. Spanked! Hats all around! And this is as good a time to admit as any that we somehow missed the boat on a record released at the beginning of this year, that features Mike and Maya from the Leopards, plus the twin geniuses of Mouthus. The group is called White Rock, the LP is called Tarpit (Troubleman Unlimited) and it is an eerie aesthetic configuration that captures both the tone-length of the Leopards and the cluster-fuck-freedom of Mouthus without sounding like either. It’s a strong and mysterious record, with distant tongues licking equally at finger and nip. Another grass-snake on Troubleman is the eponymous split LP by Jana Hunter and Devendra Banhart. This is old school DB, stripped of the Hairy Fairy and comported in his best bedroom Bolan manner, with other proto-glam tricks hatching out every sleeve. The Jana side is very similar vibrationally, and one assumes they had their paws all over each other’s tracks. So there! And they liked it! And so do we.
On the New England freak scene front, there’s the full length self-titled debut LP by Shackamaxon (HP Cycle). A collective involving various (although more or less un-named) members of Son of Earth, Double Leopards and Magik Markers, the drone here is intersputted with all kindsa small pieces of gristle. There is nothing very pure about the rainbows they create, but they still sound pretty bitchen—quivery, wet and radiant. Another eponymous Valley release is the Feathers LP (Feathers Family), which documents this octet’s expansive acoustic horizons. Easy to hear bits of ’68 ISB and their ilk in the mix, but the overall brunt is not actually very English. Dunno exactly how they pull that off, but they do. And it’s what you’d have to call a sweet trick. LP also comes with a poster that almost makes me not not-think of the one that came with Galactic Zoo Dossier (the record, not the ‘zine). And that’s a damned nice near-thought.
Also one more poetry note, we can not recommend enough the latest Kent Johnson book from Effing Press titled Lyric Poetry After Auschwitz. One of the strongest, and by far the strangest, anti-USA imperialistic swashbucklery tomes we’ve come across. Mind jabbing and king idiot stabbing, Kent brings in the lit world to create scenarios of hilarious debate re: war pig Bush and fat fuck friends.
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.
American Tapes: http://www.geocities.com/americantapes
Child Abuse: http://www.soundsofchildabuse.com
Drag City: http://www.dragcity.com
Effing Press: http://www.effingpress.com
Folding cassettes: email@example.com
In The Red: http://www.intheredrecords.com
Industrial Sabotage: c/o jw curry/#302 – 880 Somerset Street West/Ottawa, Canada KlR 6R7
L / Hiroyuki Usui: http://www.lsounds.net/main_e.html
L’Oie de Cravan: http://www.cam.org~cravan
Mirage #4/Period(ical): 1020 Minna Street/San Francisco, CA 94103
No Fun: http://www.nofunfest.com/nofunprod.html
Pretend I Am Someone Else: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Recluse: http://www.poetryproject.com
Sloow Tapes: sloowtapes.blogspot.com
Ultra Eczema: http://www.ultraeczema.com/