first published in Arthur No. 22 (May, 2006)
Exploring the Voids of All Known Undergrounds
by Byron Coley and Thurston Moore
Richard Youngs opened the new year with a sweet drop on the Jagjaguwar label, The Naïve Shaman. It’s hard to tell where Youngs is going to go with each release. The dude travails in more numerous far-out tundras than mere mortals can only hope to experientially glimpse in a single lifetime. And lucky for us, he docu-records these tripped excursions. This is one of his more excellent forays—with percolating electronic bass guitar and frazzed guitar spuzz creating beds for lyrics of gentle fire thought.
And Jagjaguwar has other new goodnesses in LP form. Pink Mountaintops’ Axis of Evol is another nice Funhouse/Barrett blend from Canada with a dollop of Bob Dylan blues overlays. Parts & Labor’s Stay Afraid only has its CD version on Jagjaguwar, the LP is actually on Cardboard Records. But we’re sure it sounds best on vinyl, so hear its beautifully spazzed prog-pummel in that format and you’ll be happiest. It has been said that these Chicagoites sound best when they’re instrumental, but the yammer here is really quite pleasing. Lastly, there’s an Oneida/Plastic Crimewave split pairing Brooklyn muzz-harmonics with the metallic kraut shimmy of Chicago to surprisingly wonderful effect. On a related note, Oneida’s Kid Millions guests on the new LP by Ex Models. Dunno if that’s the reason that Chrome Panthers (Troubleman Unlimited) is such a lovely chalice of prog-raunch aggression, but it’s a possibility. Still, Troubleman’s best recent Brooklyn-related release must remain Mouthus’ Slow Globes LP. Spaced as they sound on this platter, the duo always stuns.
From a kozmik holler betwixt Massachusetts and Vermont comes the second release by The Bummer Road, Suncatcher Mountain (Child of Microtones). It’s in all ways a patient (‘though not without underlying stovetop rage) unfolding wind of charm-soul music. Each of these CDs is handmade with paper finger love in an edition of 99. Gorgeous. Paper finger love is just what brims from the new issue of Sleep Tight, as well. The content is mostly single page illustrations this time, and the visuals have really jumped up a notch on the intensity scale. They’re much more disturbed and quite bodacious—just the kind of thing to read when you’re deep inside your personal holler.
It’s been too long since we’ve scratched our heads to an Idea Fire Company record and out of nowhere lands this hot rock—Stranded (Swill Radio). We were sick excited, thinking maestro Scott Foust was treating us to a new-mind rendition of Roxy Music’s uber-classic. And this time surrounding hisself not only with his lovely betrothed Karla Borecky, but the twin dyna-beautyism of Feathers’ Meara O’Reilly and The Believers’ Jessi Leigh Swenson. Indeed it is obvious that Roxy Music circa ’71 is a primo informant for Foust aesthetically, but what IFC toss off here is from a whole other inner glam strata. Boss minimalism and true star experimentalism (O’Reilly plays pencil on one track, yeah!) make this one of the coolest blasts from Swill Radio’s “The Anti Naturals” community ever.
Taurpis Tula is David Keenan (guitar) and Heather Leigh Murray (vocals, pedal steel)—proprietors of UK distribution wonderland Volcanic Tongue—abetted by drummer Alex Nielson (who’s played with Jandek, Directing Hand). They’ve released a couple of fine dark drift noise docs, most notably the LP Sparrows (Eclipse) from a year or two back. Since Nielsen joined them on skins they’ve really let their brain-muse glowingly expand and it’s all there in a fine smoosh of Scottish spotted dick and Texas BBQ on the newly minted I Can’t be Satisfied / Kingdoms Come to Birth CDR (American Tapes). Angel vision vox celebrate rising noise cloud guitar/amp and free fire drumming action to blast forth a wholly glorious spontaneity. Ruling, and the CDR is one of two, the other being label boss John Olson’s ongoing zap journey sound world endubbed Spykes. Can’t miss.
There’s a good, funny interview with Olson (by Since 1972 label honcho, Drew Demeter) in the debut issue of a great new ‘zine called Ong Ong. It also features a CD of Yann Novak field recordings, and words on Jennifer Gentle, Sublime Frequencies, a useful (if small) guide to European beers and a lovely silkscreened cover. Very eye worthy. It’s available from dragon’s eye.
A couple of nice spurts from two distinctive Carsons. First Carson being Carson Cistulli who has published a staple-bound book called Assorted Fictions (The Chuckwagon), which is an amusing collection of paragraphs steeped in sardonic philosophies—gentle, absurd and always with a slight bite. To wit: “On May 3rd 1993, Pierre Boulez asked the question, ‘Does the Zeitgeist even exist?’ You’d call it poetic justice, I guess, if the Zeitgeist said the same about Pierre Boulez. Unfortunately, this won’t ever happen: the Zeitgeist is an abstract concept and possesses no faculty of speech.”
The other Carson is Carson Arnold out of Vermont with his musical foray, Starbird, releasing a debut CDR on his boss-looking Frost label. Starbird is Carson and his wife Becky and they’ve recorded a beautiful personalized soundtrack to the 1922 Robert Flaherty film Nanook of the North. Great, yet modest, swooshes of thought-tone composition. A second Frost release called chorals has just landed and it’s Carson doing “all voice,” though you’d be hard-pressed sometimes guessing some of these tracks are voice as source as they are waaaaay out there in the processed sound world. But it has an organic maple-like blend keeping it close and real to the earth.
Believe it or not, New Jersey is spearheading some new excitement on the noise band scene, particularly with the dark and dogjaw blasting skuzzicity of acts like 2673 and Ladderwoe. We’re just guessing Ladderwoe is part of this scene as they seem to be connected via Larry Hernandez of Scientific Explanation Of Despair and Dave Sutton of Current Amnesia, both of whom we think are Jersey freaks. Whatever. Who cares where they’re from? They’re all seemingly pals and have a certain united aesthetic towards grey noise felch which’s pretty damn jake in its wretch. Ladderwoe, in particular, have knocked our asses to the ice with their latest killer, Rowboat Virgins on the Water (Bone Tooth Horn). What sounds like overgrown kittens mewling through rusted vocorders in a bag of Don Dietrich’s chomped-to-shit reeds develops into tight and tense improvisations that really have that freaked edge so often missing from newcomer noise mung. Exciting shit on a label that seems bent on exposing more along these lines. They already have a handful of cool jammers from Asps, Human Adult Band, Penis In Vagina, Gerritt, the aforementioned 2673 and a sizzler from L.A.’s busy busy busy The Cherry Point. Totally recommended.
Bennifer Editions is a label outta Canada run by the fine fuck-noise gang who roam the Canuck basement world as Gastric Female Reflex. Some nice CDR puh has been squirted by such legendary groovesters as id m theftable, Brian Ruryk and Witcyst, but the label’s sweaty hands-down mama-mia disk is the beautifully OUT THERE jammer by Tovah Olson. This is Tovah making moves both classic Dead Machines style and altogether beyond what we’ve come to expect—sheer heart grenade and supremely killer. Another sweet meat Bennifer Edition expulsion is the 7” by Pan Dolphinic Dawn which is pretty much just James Ferraro, he being of groove n’ ‘grease spatial harmony heavies, Skaters. Rich, textured and lo fidelity lovely. Gastric Female Reflex themselves have unleashed their first vinyl LP, Lovers in the Midst of Eating Fries (Bennifer Editions/Absurd/Gold Soundz/Humbug), and it’s a beeyootiful earful of sput n’ blonk not too unlike Prick Decay’s Very Good LP from moons back. A-side starts with a pencil point jabbed in your vestibular cochlear nerve and the B-side ends with a gorgeous femme hum with magnetic tape wave wash.
Third issue of new oversized art rag called ANP Quarterly is out and it’s pretty badass. It’s a freebie, edited by skate/zonk artist Ed Templeton, super Dogg and Pony visionary Brendon Fowler and Aaron Rose who runs the rogue Alleged Gallery. Alleged was the place, no matter where it was, that we first encountered such art babes as Mark Gonzales and Chris Johanson. Johanson and his wife, fellow artist Jo Jackson, grace this issue’s cover with their dog Raisin. Inside is full-on interviews with them by Rose, a piece on collecting by Templeton, a review of book stores that rule, and an interview with ex-Scissor Girl Azita, which alone should make you hunt this sucker down. It’s filled with nice layouts of new art and photo miasma. The previous issue with Raymond Pettibon on the cover was as choice. In the same vein are a couple more great homemade books by Matt Chambers, combining text, squibbly line drawings (often based on photos) and beautifully surrealist weevil to massive effect. These ones are called I Taught Myself to Survive and Warm Pessamisum (Hello Trudi), but there are certainly more by now. And they surely RULE!
Another journal of a slightly different stripe is the first issue of L.A.-based The Colonial. Beneath its Richard Prince photo cover are thinking man rock n roll pieces by Alan Licht, Ian Svenonius, Oliver Hall and a killer LAFMS memoir by founder Rick Potts. Plus Ira Cohen, Greg Turkington and other lunatic punkx. Distributed by Forced Exposure. Meanwhile, Everett Rand’s great ‘zine, Minshaft, continues to evolve from its lit roots into something that encompasses more and more of the underground comix tradition. The newest issue has stuff by Crumb, Frank Stack (aka Foolbert Sturgeon), Justin Green Bill Griffith, Kim Deitch, Bruce Duncan and more. And it’s still full of great writing as well (Codrescu, Winans, Lifshin, etc.), so don’t delay.
We squibbled voraciously about that LP by Michigan femme no wave threat Little Claw in our 2005 end-of-year top 80. It’s on this label outta Ypsilanti called Ypsilanti Records. The label’s run by this dude in some band called Saturday Looks Good To Me and said dude is on the fuggin’ ball. We’re spinning the latest Ypsi LP Tender Swarm by Genders and it is a real squito bite skratcher. All kindsa zonked noise moves and tiny trash rock explosions make this one a gotta get.
Ass-blast garage pus of this go-round’s the third LP by Atlanta’s Black Lips. Let It Bloom (In the Red) is a fully realized slide between glottal garage punk maximalism (sucking root juice from three entire decades of munge) and cracked post-core corrosion. Pretty amazing stuff, even incorporating the kinda proto-beat action we haven’t heard often since the demise of Hangman Recs.
Craziest record from New Hampshire award goes to the Nauscopy label for their Zaat Hilary Gets the Martian Brainfreeze/Mystical Footprints of Asia split LP. Zaat is a Canadian band whose sound goes from oofus dunder-core into ‘70s Fall-type skreeking and onward—very messed-up power slub of a type not easily pigeonholed. And the flip is a sampler of classique Asian 78 tracks, in a sorta lo-fi Sublime Frequencies style. Anyone’s guess what was in the bong when this idea was hashed out. But it must’ve been killer, even if the Neos reference in the title seems a little gratuitous. More easily comprehended as a concept is the split LP shared by Whysp and The Story, The Dawn Is Crowned (Good Village). Whysp’s Santa Cruz sitar-dipped hippie-volk traditionalism is as great as ever. These guys absolutely nail the smoke, if you know what we mean. The Story are a UK duo led by the legendary Martin Welham (ex-Forest) and their coo is almost as drool-worthy as Whysp’s. Third fetching split LP is divided between Skarerkauradio and Jerusalem & the Starbaskets (Apop). Of the two we prefer the messed-up scum-rock-as-bumblebee sound of Skak to the screechier racket of Jerusalem, but there are many moments inside the Jerusalem universe that also fetch hard. So what does that make us?
First time we saw Noise Nomads we thought it was gonna be some skull-sucking pit viper outfit. We was wrong, it was just one dude with amps tied to his body and a microphone plugged into it all with him chasing people around and yowling from the hefty sonic overload. Fucking cool. You can bet we’re jizzed (totally) to find this new Noise Nomads 7” on Bonescraper Recordings supposedly recorded next to a chicken coop last summer. No doubt, chickens rule.
Every once in a while a new journal of ripping writing, be it poetry, prose and/or all manners thereof drops into the box and sure shit has dropped with the brando newo first edition of The Nightjar Review. John Fell Ryan, current Excepter soundlord, ex-No Neck has some extra-strange ALL CAPS word-absurd play going on in here. Also a grippable reprint of Angus Maclise’s “Year” piece which, y’know, never really dates. Nightjar contributor Shannon Ketch, meanwhile, has a great new booklet of poetry, City Sonnets. They aren’t all sonnets, but they’re mostly pretty city, so that’s cool. Lovely surrealist grit images drifting past your brainstem like so much falling ash. Nightjar editor Jeremy Rendina, has his first solo poem collection out, too. It’s called Lower Waters (c/o Nightjar) and pieces are very lovely spatial recreations of time-sliced memories. A very fine production.
Another ripe rip is issue #18 of Carousel, a lit mag that comes out of the University of Guelph in Ontario. It looks slick as hell and the format—one page of writing/one page of art (more or less) is really easy to consume. The quality of effort is extremely high throughout and it includes such writers as Bill Bissett, plus such artsos as Devendra Banhart. Extremely check-worthy. The craziest music ‘zine we’ve perused in a while has to be the debut issue of Quantum Noise. Editor J. Fortunato Perez comes up with the damnedest theories about music, and he’s happy to share them with all. Combine that with berserk naïf graphics, excellent sput on the contempo cassette underground, plus a full telling of his EMP presentation on Gnostic music whatsis (heavily focused on No Neck, Sunburned, etc.) and you are having cake and eating it as well.
Lambsbread have broken out running with a stinking stew of CDRs and cassettes all of which kumpletely kick butt. Sort of a more roughed up Mouthus but with less regard for smothering sonik dynamism. Lambsbread are into action, free and furiously gnarled. The drums keep these guys from being just another skronk and spew brigade, another similar trait re: Mouthus. Though that’s not to disparage anyone else involved as all players are on the frikkin’ money letting total blowout aesthetics merge with compositional design moves. Their label is called Maim & Disfigure and they’ve release a buttload of death-puh in the space of two months that has us all slamming teeth first into whatever blurry reality that happens to be in our way. We recommend the Purple Wings CDR, Horizontal Gash (3 for Shep) CDR and Reaching for the Hammer CDR. No site but you can check in with Volcanic Tongue in the UK or try Eclipse or Fusetron in the USA. Motherfuckers are go.
Having been familiar with neither Carlos Batts’ erotic photo books, nor with his film, American Gothic, we were not fully prepared for what a synapse-burner his book, American Gothic (Scapegoat Publishing), is. It contains drawings, collages and other stuff in a style that is creepy, sexy and unambiguously violent. Visually some of it is similar to Romare Bearden, but that’s only the iceberg’s tip. There’s also a vibe very much in common with the Davids (Lynch and Cronenberg) at their most fetishistic, and that’s a fine vibe indeed. Equally tooth-chipping is Me a Mound by Trenton Doyle Hancock, published by the always-exciting Picturebox Inc. people. Hancock’s book tells the story of a Darger-like conflict between cultures, in a style that combines a vast array of post-ratty-art influences. Some of the pages are huge and bold and colorful, others look like they were etched onto dead skin with feather quills. But it all holds together like a pocketful of magnets and is really a wonderfully insane project.
Back in the early days of hardcore, it was Washington D.C. and Michigan that reigned supreme in the form; but there was an even more intense concurrent hardcore scene happening in Finland. Seeing as how the new day noise scene of Michigan is the holy shit, it is all of a sudden fascinating to see new Finnish power electronic harsh noise groups springing up. And, like their hardcore predecessors, they up the ante on horror and basic blasting concepts. S.M.S.R. are one such example and on their recent cassette release, Just Like Me (Black Arts Productions), they leave your mind in scorched to sonorific dirt. Pure mid to high-whoosh frequency skinslicers that leave quite a taste sensation with titles like “Creation Through Depression” and “Take Your Drugs” with a front cover pic of a bondage practitioner either ready to be tied or just untied. We smell trouble.
And while we’re so far up north, we might as well skip over to Russia and dig the harshness being splooed up there. Lotsa typical mortuary and death camp skum imagery in this hell-dark noise scene. Some of it’s great and disturbing such as Tchernoblyad with their cassette, or CDR—your choice—release on the Soviet skuzz label Operator Produkzion. It’s called Love. Along with fellow Russki rotten sound sickos Narrowmind and Sudanstrain (who have a split tape on Res Adversae), this is a welcome new community of insane and creeped out core.
Finland and Russia are emitting bowel crushing stench and we certainly do appreciate it, but right now, for our money, it’s the Swedish mung that’s really loosing our load. And most of it is from the newly minted Segerhuva label with nasty nuggets of pervertoid pleasure by the likes of Blod (particularly their Romantic and Deranged 7”). A more vintage industrial violence can be sniffed on the Blue Light & Blue Eyes 7” by Sharon’s Last Part, which we can totally recommend from the grave no prob. This label is ruling, no doubt; they have eveb released one of the most kill crazy Finnish records ever. By Mnem, it’s called Golyma—maniacal metal crunching, tape head incineration. They’ve also done an LP by something called Edwige, entitled The Inconsolable Widow Thanks All Those Who Consoled Her. This one is a noise-eros collaboration by Mania (from Texas), The Rita (from Canada) and Sewer Election (from Sweden) in tribute to Euro thrill/porn queen Edwige Fenech. Heavy breath redblood rumble and screech will have you shaving your vagina in salutation.
The Rita have been really ramping up their activity this last year with surprisingly hurtful CDRs and cassettes. They’re all worth your time if you enjoy blood dripping from your dick. But once you settle into The Rita’s howling horror you may find yourself falling in love all over again. Maybe it’s the uglier side of our maleness that draws us. The Rita’s new split box set with Mania is on the Dada Drumming label. It’s called Stockings From the Rear and you get a 7” and a cassette emblazoned with the words “True Ass Worship.” Inside the box are b+w photos of female buttcheeks being sniffed and licked by female tongue. It’s a pretty gritty all-anal manifesto to the ultra-crush bunghole action created by these two ass-obsessed maestros.
Ashtray Navigations is the musical nom de plume of UK’r Phil Todd, who ran an amazing tape label called Betley Welcomes Careful Drivers all through the ‘90s. Along with EF Tapes out of Minneapolis and Union Pole tapes out of Portland, BWCD was an aesthetic precedent to the contemporary cassette scene. Ashtray Navigations released consistently groovy expulsions but then the Betley Welcomes…empire ceased. It seemed Phil was taking a vacation, but in fact he’s been throwing out juicy jammers left and right with various cohorts and on various labels. What’s been killing us are these recent cassette releases on a label that has no name. So far it seems they’re only availble from UK distro Volcanic Tongue. There’ve been three so far, Deader Pedal Jugend Reflecting North, Deader Neptune Thunder Creating East and Deader Reptile Machine Crashlanding South. Each one is a better than the last and they’re all completely wonderful. Great swirling psyched drone moves and gorgeously blissed zonk-fidelity freak folk. He issues each one in a paltry edition of 30, but some still seem available. This shit is heavy and massively recommended.
The Tapeworm label out of Kalamazoo, MI zapped out a couple of tapes last year by something called Evenings and the one we heard was a mother. High wire harshoid electric snap core and damn fine, so it’s with nervous fingers that we clutch two new releases on this label—Lowlife by Septic Sores and Feasts by Bottom Dweller. Both of these are hair in the mud Midwest skrape n sludge. Ugly beautiful shit. Worth a sniff.
On the absolute flipside is the reward one gets from spending time with Paul Metzger’s Four Improvisations on Modified Banjo and Guitar 2LP set (Metzger). Like the earlier work of this Twin City instrumentalist, the music here is brilliant long-form acoustic exploration of the cosmos’ outer tears, free from cliché and dullness. Without falling into any very specific “known camp” (although some of the banjo work does recall Billy Faier’s Raga LP on Takoma), Metzger really ranges all over the aether, producing one of the most satisfying string whomp of this or any season.
Providence, RI has some heavy history with Load Records, Prurient and Hospital Productions, Paper Radio, Lightning Bolt, Fort Thunder et al. Some new blood is drizzling through the streets by the name of Twonicorn, a label with a spartan design aesthetic and a greasy ear for excellent drone perversion. Like Load, this label doesn’t deal with blatant localism as they got the hot links with the midwest and beyond. “Basement New Age Crawl” is their motto and it is manifest certainly through the work of Tombi whose Cavern Tapes Vol.s 1 + 2 cassettes are stretched and torn drone-flowers. Also represented is the Untitled cassette by the great Glass Organ which is some sinister project of Minneapolis’ most destroyed son Justin Meyers. Hot cream.
Hot cream. Hot cream for all.
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
ANP Quarterly: http://www.rvcaanp.com
Apop Records: apoprecoprds.com
Bennifer Editions: http://www.geocities.com/gastric_influence/beniffer
Black Arts Productions: email@example.com
Bone Tooth Horn: http://www.geocities.com/bonetoothhorn
Child of Microtones / Bummer Road: http://www.yod.com/mvee.html
The Chuckwagon: 146 College Hwy #18, Southampton, MA 01073 USA
Dada Drumming: http://www.dadadrumming.org
Dragon’s Eye: http://www.dragonseyerecordings.com
Forced Exposure: http://www.forcedexposure.com
Gold Soundz: http://www.tibprod.com/goldsoundz.htm
Good Village: http://www.whysp.com
Hello Trudi: http://www.hellotrudi.com
In The Red: http://www.intheredrecords.com
Shannon Ketch: firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul Metzger: http://www.paulmetzger.net
Nightjar Review: POB 538/NYC/10002-9998
Operator Produkzion: http://www.operatorprod.narod.ru
Picturebox Inc.: http://www.pictureboxinc.com
Quantum Noise: email@example.com
Res Adversae: http://www.resadversae.cjb.net
Scapegoat Publishing: http://www.scapegoatpublishing.com
Sleep Tight: easysubculture.8m.com
Swill Radio: http://www.anti-naturals.org/swill
Troubleman Unlimited: troublemanunlimited.com
Volcanic Tongue: http://www.volcanictongue.com
Ypsilanti Records: http://www.myspace.com/ypsilantirecords