DON’T THINK ABOUT IT

The 7th annual Austin Psych Fest is coming up in May and the lineup for this three-day celebration is praiseworthy as always. A festival featuring BOMBINO, TEMPLES, GRAVEYARD, WHITE HILLS, WOODS, MOON DUO, PANDA BEAR, ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE, LIARS, DEAD MEADOW, GAP DREAM, STEVE GUNN, GREG ASHLEY, MARK MCGUIRE, THE ZOMBIES (!!!), EARTHLESS, BARDO POND, DESTRUCTION UNIT…? Get out! You and those dearest to you have no choice but to attend. Buy as many tickets as possible NOW NOW NOW via austinpsychfest.com

Here’s the latest poster with the full line-up…

APF2014-WEB

C & D: Two guys who will remain pseudonymous reason together about new records, plus Stephen Malkmus talks golf courses, McCain (Arthur No. 28/Mar. 2008)

Originally published in Arthur No. 28 (March 2008)

C & D: Two guys who will remain pseudonymous reason together about new records

C: [While rummaging through the teeming mail bin.] Hey, look at this. It must be from that new guy who’s always lurking around. What’s his dealio anyway? He’s what my gran would call a nosey nelly.

D: I think he’s here to like, streamline shit. [Reading aloud] To Whom It May Concern: “In my private meetings with Arthur staff and contributors, we have received many disturbing reports regarding the personal, professional and spiritual-energetic conduct of C & D, or as they fancy themselves, ‘The Arthur Music Potentate.’

“There is widespread unease amonst Arthur staff about C & D’s taste in mucic, which has been described to us as ‘bewildering,’ ‘psychedelic parochial,’ ‘arguably harmful,’ ‘contrary to the public’s interest,’ ‘more narrow than their trousers’ and ‘frankly vampiric.’ I don’t quite know what all that means but it’s interesting.

“Moving forward, I have been unable to confirm that C & D are receiving payola from 86 record companies and nineteen out of our fair nation’s top twenty coolmaking marketing firms, but verification of such nefarious activity is only a matter of time.

“I am also unable to confirm their membership in the ‘Brownie-Meinhaus gang.’

“However, in my own cross-examination sessions with C & D, in which, I am preparted to testify, we did not waterboard at all 😉 , I was able to determine that they have indeed ‘lost the keys’—their words—for two of Arthur humor/motorcycle advisor Peter Alberts’ Royal Enfield motorcycles; they have indeed borrowed Arthur contributor Paul Cullum’s all-region DVD player for an ‘increasingly indefinite period’; they confess to doing two cut-and-runs at Sugar Hair Salon in Silver Lake; plainly abused Mandy Kahn’s standing offer to drive them to and from various watering holes of ill repute; and, as you may have surmised, it was indeed they — or them? I can never remember ;-( — who affixed ‘Ex Libris C &/or D’ label-plates to all the reference books in the staff library.

“Furthermore, C & D have charged 38 parking tickets to the Arthur expense account since last June. Woe betide their decision to start chillaxing out in Malibu.
“C & D have presumptuously intercepted others’ mail, especially advance vinyls from the Holy Mountain label. They play the Carbonas self-titled LP at bicuspid-crushing volume everyday before lunch. They crack each other up at staff meetings by prefacing every statement with ‘You must learn, we are the Gods of this magazine!’ They are always ordering curry. Plus they’ve used up all the paperclips, and not, I am saddened to report, in a fashion that paperclips were designed to be used.

“The Editor-in-chief, art directors and even the printer have complained that C & D are always late with their copy, which in turns holds up production of the magazine and inhibits crucial cashflow, all for something that, quoting the Editor, ‘nobody really reads or cares about anyway.’

“In my many years of optimal-sizing firms, I have been forced to make many difficult and even gut-wrenching decisions. This however is not one of them! ;-)- C & D should be shown the door, and the sooner the better. We will call it a suspension of enduring duration. Now would really be the time to pull the trigger on this. I know people who can do it.

“JUST SAY THE WORD.”

D: [gulps] Doh!
C: I always told you we would are the men who knew too much. [puzzles] But how did they find out about the brownies? I told you to watch out for those new surveillance cams.
D: I thought they were fake. And chicken tikka is not a curry.
C: Ha! And neither is lamb biryani. Wait a second… Fake surveillance cams? That’s a GREAT idea.
D: I know a guy! Just say the word!
C: [cackling] Okay but first let’s get one more column in, shall we? “They” never read this so we can say whatever we like and they won’t know til it’s at the printer, hahaha! The funny thing is we REALLY ARE the potentate around here. But if our services are no longer required here, we’d like to say one thing:
D: SAYONARA BITCHES!!!
C: Because we are in control of the horizontal. We’re the last people that see this bad boy before it’s sent to the printer…
D: Oh yeah! Heh heh.
C: …which means whatever we type here gets printed.
D: Which means…


The Carbonas
The Carbonas
(Goner)
C: They come from Memphis, they sound like Wire and the Buzzcocks, nine songs in 22 minutes. You know what you have to do.
D: Wire and the Buzzcocks? More like attach a wire to your bollocks! [helpfully] And they have a song called “Assvogel.”
C: That’s not a song, it’s a movement. And I think you know what kinda movement I mean…
D: Ahem. It is on the Goner record label. Which is what we are now. Goners.
C: Memphis is the one place I’d be interested in moving to. Start the car, I’ll get my duffel. Here’s to life in exile after abdication!
D: [brightens] I’ve been a goner since the beginning.
C: Being a goner is a serious thing. Who do you think is the original goner?
D: Robert Mitchum, no question. Yeah, that’s it, the Carbonas are the Robert Mitchum of rock!

Dead Meadow
Old Growth
(Matador)
C: I’ve been into these guys since before everyone else!
D: Except for me. I invented these guys. I put a bunch of purple pills in a blender along with a soiled Led Zep patch from my older sister’s jean jacket. Shazam!
C: ‘Old Growth’ is on the shortlist for greatest album title ever, and it’s a pretty good description of the music.
D: Here’s a better one: take a grandfather clock made of diamond-cut crystal, fill it with molasses and drop in on your head!
C: I can’t believe they’re firing you, D. You just keep getting better. Woah, this song is some serious blues shufflage. It’s like a beer commercial for really stinky homebrew.
D: There’s something about this guy’s voice that hits me like a arctic wind. Pass me my mittens. And the b-o-n-g. It’s been a bong time since I rock ‘n’ rolled!

Graveyard
Graveyard
(Tee Pee)
D: Graveyard, eh. Must be a Goth band.
C: Actually they’re not Goth. They’re not even American!
D: [listening to first track, ‘Evil ways’] Right away you know that no matter what happens, you’re gonna at least hear good tone guitar. This is far too good to be American.
C: You are correct sir. They are in fact Swedish.
D: The world’s greatest mimcs. The arch-inhabitors.
C: He pitches his vocal a bit Danzig, a little bit Bobby from Pentgaram. A little bit Jim Morrison. A little bit of the mighty John Garcia.
D: And it must be admitted, a little Cornell.
C: A little bit’ll do ya. This is Ween-quality mimicry here! Reminds me of that band Witchcraft in that they’re going further out. [listening to “Lost In Confusion”] That’s basically the Doors, right there.
D: It is like Witchcraft, but this singer has more hair on his chest.
C: … So, what do you think of that drumming?
D: Kinda…jazzy.
C: Well you know, all those old rock drummers used to play jazz drums too: Ginger, Graham…
D: Keith, Charlie…
C: I listened to this album several times without realizing it. Just kept coming back. I keep coming back to the Graveyard, D.
D: That’s where you’re gonna end up. Might as well get there early and check it out.

Harmonia
Live 1974
(Water)
C: Vintage live recording from krautrock greats Harmonia, never-before-released!
D: How is this possible? Harmonia are some of the original electronic goners.
C: If you turn it up loud enough you can hear people talking—
D: I can’t hear anything except analog electronic perfection.
C: Frankly I am perplexed by the liners which talk that like this Harmonia are barely known, even to konfirmed krautrock fans. Says here, these guys exist somewhere out beyond the “how to buy Krautrock section in your local record shop.” Is this guy insane???
D: There is no local record shop!
C: No, I mean I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Krautrock section at a record store that DIDN’T include Harmonia. And there is a local record shop, actually. It’s not final for vinyl just yet, my friend. Continue reading

"Metal for Wintertime" by James Parker (Arthur No. 15/Jan. 2005)

Originally published in Arthur No. 15 (Jan 2005)

“Metal for Wintertime”
by James Parker

Reviewed:

JESU
Jesu
(HydraHead)

HIGH ON FIRE
Blessed Black Wings
(Relapse)

OM
Variations On A Theme
(Holy Mountain)

DEAD MEADOW
Feathers
(Matador)

What a band was Godflesh. In the person of Justin Broadrick, with his combat boots, and his black clothes, and his electrode-ready shaved head, and his searing, clattering guitar tone, and his militant drum machine, and the traumatic circular lurching and nodding thing he would do onstage (which recalled to me unavoidably the movements of a cage-maddened polar bear I once saw in London’s Regents Park Zoo), a particular strand of post-punk disgust seemed to have fused—at very high pressure—with a severe religious impulse: here, one sensed, was a real ascetic, a world-class world-rejector. Of course, there was a lot of it about at the time —Eighties, early Nineties. Plenty of bands were disgusted, there were plenty of bleak and black-clad zealots with guitars for whom flesh was pain, existence gaol and society nothing but a species of sausage-grinder, but with Broadrick all that grimness and refusal was sublimed into something beautiful. Like a proper heretic, like a martyr in an El Greco painting, he had his eyes on the beyond; he was going down to rise above; even in Godflesh’s sickest, most imploded moments you could still hear that rage for transcendence. Slavestate… mindfuck… circle of shit etc (this was the tenor of Godflesh lyrics). Vivisection… the void… blah. But there was always beauty, somewhere about. On a chemical trace of melody Broadrick could compose an anthem.

Almost in passing, wrestling with machines, he invented industrial metal, Fear Factory and I don’t know who else, but Godflesh was never so much about ‘musical development’ as it was about the steady excavation and elaboration of a mindset, the dogged unburying of psychic material. The final album, Hymns, was the masterpiece—higher and heavier than ever. Ted Parsons (Swans, Prong) played drums, and that was beautiful—instead of the pedantic tang! tang! of the artificial ride we had the knelling cymbal-strokes of Ted, making his powerful human difference. He’s playing again in Jesu, Broadrick’s new thing, now here with a self-titled album. In Jesu all the high-low dualisms of Godflesh are magnified—decelerated, chilled down and magnified. The music moves with a dolorous processional slowness, at times hitting Swans-speed – that castigating trudge—but layered over the top is all manner of loveliness. Guitars prickle and expire over glacial, grinding bass-phrases. Keyboards float, entranced, above gulfs of noise. You need your ears for this one; there are exquisite and almost-painful things going on in the upper frequencies. (Swans-meets-My Bloody Valentine? I’m no good with the rockcrit formulae.) Broadrick sings for the most part in a prayer-like murmur, with reverb bouncing his prayers back at him—“I know the stones I’ve thrown/ They come back twice as strong”—and refrigerated puffs of ambience sailing by. (Swans-meets-My Bloody Valentine-meets-Boards Of Canada? On Ketamine? Still no good.) Passages of Jesu are crushingly beautiful—really. I almost cried.

The press release from Holy Mountain pluckily hails the new Om CD (their first) as “the triumphant return of two-thirds of Sleep!” Might have been a good name for the record, that—Two Thirds of Sleep. Better, perhaps, than Variations On a Theme which is its actual title. Anyway, two-thirds of Sleep is what we have here: drummer Chris Hakius and bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros, who earned their place in history as Matt Pike’s partners on the monumental Jerusalem, 52 minutes of bloody-fingered bong-metal mastery. In the great fission of Sleep Pike went flaming off with the high end and the songs, leaving Hakius and Cisneros to rumble along the drone-continuum in 20-minute guitar-free groove orgies. A vast monotony presides over the Om project, from the affectless ‘zen’ singing to the unsmiling, weed-inflated lyrics—“latitudinal ground elliptic motion sets Unveil” (alright!)—but Cisneros and Hakius do make a lovely racket together, a fluid, inventive Sabbath-esque churn, and besides, monotony is clearly the point: chamber upon chamber of nullity: I mean, how high are you, anyway? Because Om are ready for you, they’ll go there, they LIVE there, they’ll play through these rocking sludge-cycles until Time peels back and the imp Infinity tips his tiny red hat.

Blessed Black Wings, High On Fire’s third album, is produced by Steve Albini. What a pleasure that was to type. I’ll do it again. Blessed Black Wings, High On Fire’s third album, is produced by Steve Albini. It’s a metalhead’s wet dream: HOF’s mad-dog pummelling preserved for us with the crushing exactness, the awesome pedantry of the recorder Albini, every ‘i’ dotted and ‘t’ crossed. HOF is of course the baby of Matt Pike, the other third of Sleep, and Blessed Black Wings is everything we’d hoped it might be. “Devilution,” the opener, is fantasyland—Des Kensel’s warrior-charge toms fading thunderously in, a riff that sounds like Hell clearing its throat and then Pike hits us with the screaming heavy metal prophecy: “MAN’S DONE! BABYLON! EAT THE FRUIT DIVINE!” You won’t hear anything more thrilling this year. The chorus could be Discharge. Conspicuous lack of interest in tunes has never been an obstacle to heaviness; Pike’s warthog shriek regularly falls to pieces and his solos have a kind of sealed autistic fury to them, but this is the glory of HOF—their bestial limitedness. Did I say bestial? I meant beastious, as in “Stepping on the curse/Inflicting its beastious wounds” (“Cometh Down Hessian”). The point is, HOF keep it narrow. They keep it bloody. They keep it orc-like. Which is smart; there are a couple of “interludes” on Blessed Black Wings, moments of quasi-lyricism when Pike dips the volume, climbs off the effects pedal and twanks a few melodically-organised notes, and it sounds like he’s playing with mittens on.

A couple of things have changed. Theres’s a new bassist here: Joe Preston. And while one regrets the passing of George Rice, with his excellently un-metal name, from the ranks of HOF, Preston (ex-Melvins, Thrones, Earth) clearly has the pedigree for the job. Also, on Blessed Black Wings HOF have rediscovered forward motion, with that “Ace Of Spades”-style oompah! oompah! that no one really does anymore. It suits them, to a degree—they can flail along. Me, I liked it when their music just STUCK, roiling and roaring in circles and vortices, impaled on a single point of intensity (see “Hung Drawn and Quartered” from the last album.) But what the fuck, this is an amazing record. It kills. It’s totally beastious.

I’m sure DC’s Dead Meadow have had quite enough of being called a comedown band, but really, the new record Feathers is such a nice place to regather your shredded faculties. Gently lumbering drums, body-temperature bass, Jason Simon’s trailing, gaseous tenor and incense-laden guitar, now and then the leviathanic stirring of a riff—the brain’s root gets a solid, loving massage. Anton “Send the waitress up here RIGHT NOW!” Newcombe, from the Brian Jonestown Massacre, has produced them (not this album) which makes sense; Dead Meadow have BJM’s shimmering near-vapidity, the airy jingle-jangle, but there’s muscle in here too, some proper dead-eyed Om-Style groove commitment, boring backwards through hard rock into a gaping psychedelic sprawl. Fairies wear boots, as Ozzy observed. I don’t have the lyrics in front of me, but I’m told that they are fantasy-encrusted, steeped in Tolkienry etc. Sounds fine—you can never have too many elves—although in the general drifting-off of Simon’s vocals one hears not legends or narratives but fugues, suspensions—self-doubting orcs, doped-out dwarves looking muzzily at their dropped tools. It’s gorgeous, utterly. The ground shifts, the music raves and sways. Watch the princes shed their armor. Come on down!