How Comets on Fire and Howlin’ Rain singer-guitarist Ethan Miller got his cosmic Californian yawp, by Trinie Dalton (Arthur, 2006)

Originally published in Arthur No. 24 (August, 2006)

RAGGED GLORY

How Comets on Fire and Howlin’ Rain singer-guitarist Ethan Miller got his cosmic Californian yawp

Text: Trinie Dalton

Photos: Eden Batki

Design: Yasmin Khan and Michael Worthington


My adoration for Comets on Fire, Six Organs of Admittance, Howlin’ Rain and The Colossal Yes — all bands that either include or are tangentially related to cover boy Ethan Miller — stems from my love of music that reminds me of the Pot Growing Capital of America, Humboldt County. As a native Californian, any music that conjures up the Redwood forest—its clean, pine-scented air, abundance of ferns and fungi, and a high tree canopy providing year-round shelter from the elements—causes me to pause as I grind through traffic in Los Angeles and wonder: Why do I live in such a hellhole? (This doesn’t mean I’m moving up north to chain myself to a tree or that I bust out bootlegs from cheesy Phish wannabes, however.) 

Ethan Miller’s music in his bands Comets on Fire and Howlin’ Rain does yeoman’s work by evoking his native Humboldt region. His guitar playing and vocals attest to a magical and ancient ability to conjure up place, recalling that golden hour in American rock history: San Francisco in the late ‘60s, the heyday of Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and the Grateful Dead, to name but a few. On the other hand, Miller is audibly influenced by Japanese freak-out messiahs like High Rise, Ghost, White Heaven, Acid Mothers Temple and Keiji Haino. Those inspirations supply the proverbial fireworks inside Miller’s balmy, casual Northern California sound. Consider it a Pacific Rim/Ring of Fire kind of thing. 

Comets on Fire have built their sound upon the excitement and uncertainty of impending disaster. Their fourth studio album, Avatar (Sub Pop), sounds, at first, less chaotically punky than their previous records (2001’s Comets on Fire; 2002’s Field Recordings of the Sun; 2004’s Blue Cathedral), but close listening reveals its deeper strangeness. The new album has a more professional studio sound, yet Avatar also features powerful ballads whose lyrics has the power to hypnotize much like magic spells. In “Swallow’s Eye,” Miller sings: “Eye of the moon will turn the tides/Leaves of the orchard beckon the blight/Spite of our circle, ever on/Only a river can carry a song.” 

While Comets’ awkward-but-beautiful tendency towards demolishing harmonic riffs and jams with screeching, scary guitar solos still reigns, Avatar has clearer piano, more bass, and, most notably, Miller singing sans effects. His earthy rasp is reminiscent of Janis Joplin, Joe Cocker, Rod Stewart, and Ozzy. But when Comets played ArthurFest in 2005, Ethan was singing at maximum capacity, and it was impossible to understand one word he was saying through the distortion of the Echoplex. Now, the ability to understand Ethan Miller’s lyrics is a breakthrough, adding poetic and political significance to an already heavy experience.

Miller’s lyrics come through even clearer on Howlin’ Rain’s self-titled debut on Birdman Records. Howlin’ Rain is an Ethan-fronted revolving posse including old buddies Ian Gradek, Mike Jackson, Tim Daley and Sunburned Hand of the Man’s John Moloney. They have a real California-country feel, part Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, part original Charlatans, with the feel-good vibe of the Doobie Brothers. I sampled the Howlin’ Rain LP while crossing over mountainous Route 299, through Weaverville, deep in the Shasta-Trinity wilderness famous for its thriving Bigfoot population. With the trees rolling past, a river to stop at and dip into, and some beer and trail mix for nourishment, the tunes sounded pretty idyllic. Howlin’ Rain’s lyrics are another matter: doomsday vibes, as in “Calling Lightning With A Scythe,” set far off from pastoral troubadour musings: “We are only slaves/To our ghostly arms and legs/Got us dancing in our graves/And then lay around in the wreckage/Of this pitiful little world.” Bluesy murder ballads and songs about the apocalypse are further disturbed by Miller’s guitar solos that wreck the Neil Young-ian peace and harmony that the songs present on the surface.

Ethan grew up in Eureka, the Humboldt County seat, but now lives in Oakland. I had a fantasy of driving up to some remote redwood cabin to drink gin with him for the interview, but since he’s busy enjoying Bay Area city life with his wife and working a day job, we enjoyed a long, fun phone conversation. Ethan Miller’s lucidity, in his interview as well as in his music, reassures me that there are good things happening, in an age that can sometimes feel overwhelmed by corporate dread.

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EDDIE DEAN: Recently Discovered Musical and Sundry Delights (Arthur No. 30/July 2008)

Originally published in Arthur No. 30

Recently Discovered Musical and Sundry Delights
By Eddie Dean

Chango Spasiuk, free concert at the Millennium Stage, Kennedy Center
“I refuse to look like an old woman knitting,” said tango great Astor Piazolla, who broke tradition by always playing his bandoneon while standing. And here’s Chango Spasiuk, another Argentinian bandoneon master, sitting in a chair onstage with his instrument slinking over his knees draped with—a QUILT. But the wild-eyed, long-haired son of Ukrainian immigrants by way of Misiones province looks more like Rasputin than a knitter, like he’s ready to ambush the black-tie Bushcovites gathering down the red-carpeted Hall of Nations at another gala benefit for the masters of war. This isn’t the city music of Piazzolla. This is chamame, a down-home country music like the kind you’d hear at a backwoods wedding in northern Argentina when everybody’s had too much vino tinto and a summer storm’s brewing and the bride and groom have fled the scene. Spasiuk’s chamame has his own touches, a Marc Chagall-fiddler and “cajon peruano” percussionist. His bandoneon is a magic box that breathes, stirring the stilted, conditioned air inside the Kennedy Center, as the chandeliers weep and even the ushers prick up their ears, while outside the Potomac River turns into the coffee-hued, snaking Rio Parana. After the show, Spasiuk talks about his influences: “My father was a carpenter and musician who played at local dances and parties, and my uncle was a singer. I grew up listening to the music from the region of the rivers, the folk music, the polkas and the shotis, and chamame is the strongest color of this mestizo music. I didn’t become a musician after I saw or heard music being played on TV or in a movie or on a stage. Music was everywhere, in every social situation. My music is an utterly happy music but at the same time melancholic and sad.” His favorite musician, he says, is Beethoven.

Magnificent Fiend, Howlin Rain (Birdman/American, 2008)
The Black Crowes have been trying to make a record this good for 20 years, and these young bucks nail it right out of the shoot. Horns of plenty, and heaping helpings from the bottomless well of deep groove. As Greg Allman sang, “The road goes on forever.”

Country Music Originals: The Legends and the Lost by Tony Russell (Oxford Press, 2007)
You’ve already heard about Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family, now meet their kinfolk, the thousand-and-one tongues of pre-Nash Trash hillbilly music: Seven Foot Dill and his Dill Pickles, South Georgia Highballers, Bascam Lamar Lunsford, Red Fox Chasers, Dr. Smith’s Champion Hoss Hair Pullers. They’re all here looking alive as you and me. Old-time music fiend Tony Russell came from England to travel the dusty backroads and knock on many a screen door to find the stories behind the mysterious names emblazoned on the old 78s. The meaty bios are salted with rare photos and period illustrations, such as a Depression-Era newspaper ad for a $3.85 Disston Hand Saw (“Mirror polish, striped back, beautifully etched, Applewood handle, fully carved”) of the sort played by Highballer Albert Eldridge, whose expert bowing “produced a sweet otherworldly humming that anticipates the oscillating electronic sounds of the Theremin.” Seems like it’s always Brits like Russell and Dickens and D.H. Lawrence with the keenest insights into the old, weird America.

Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather (Vintage, 1990)
Before Sam Peckinpah and Cormac McCarthy, the Spanish-American Southwest had Willa Cather to make an epic of its bleak and beautiful landscape. Instead of horse rustlers and outlaws, the male-bonding celebrated in this novel is the friendship between a pair of French Catholic priests out to save souls in mid-19th-century New Mexico. They’re not just packing Bibles and rosary beads, though, they’re packing heat: “‘You dare go into my stable, you [blank] priest.’ The Bishop drew his pistol: ‘No profanity, Senor. We want nothing from you but to get away from your uncivil tongue.’” Gimme that old-time religion, it’s good enough for me.

The U.S. Navy Band Brass Quartet show at Rockville Town Center
Good to hear the tuba out in the open. A century ago, it was the original Miami Bass, and it can still get to the bottom like nothing else. Except Bootsy.

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C and D: Two fellas reason together about some new records (Arthur No. 22/May 2006)

Originally published in Arthur No. 22 (May 2006)

C and D: Two fellas reason together about some new records

D: We have some severe time and space restrictions today because there’s 25 records to examine and I only brought four beers.
C: [disbelieving] I told you all week.
D: Yes, well. We’ll have to be efficient and precise, like the German defense.
C: Always with the soccer metaphors when he’s supposed to bring the beer.
D: [looks at stack of CDs] Hmm, I like this pitch. [smiles broadly, uncaps a Foster’s] Come on man! It’s time for kickoff.

MARVIN GAYE
The Real Thing: In Performance, 1964-1981 DVD
(Hip-O/Motown/etc)
D: Marvin Gaye, the sweetpeacelovevibetenormaster of all time.
C: Sometimes things really are essential, and this nine-dollar DVD is one of those times. Or things. Anyways, the reason I’ve been watching this all week long is pretty obvious. There’s nobody like Marvin, no one even close; it’s a blessing just to watch him lip synch.
D: [grabs DVD case] Give me that. Especially when it’s Marvin duetting with Tammi Terrell at something called “Swinging Sounds of Expo 67,” singing “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” in a futuristic phone booth under a plastic dome with a people mover going by in the background.
C: Look at those Dentyne smiles. It’s like a commerical for some future utopia where they are the fertility king and queen.
D: [thoughtfully] A world where you’re not afraid to have a baby
C: Hey, you’ll like this: the a capella option lets you hear Marvin singing in the shower.
D: No it doesn’t.
C: Okay it’s actually just isolated studio tracks. Beautiful. He really can make you swoon with just a voice and a snapped finger. That’s all he needed.
D: Very efficient.
C: “War is not the answer/for only love can conquer hate… we’ve go to find a way/to get some understanding here today”—man, if you sing that today, you’re called a master of the obvious, and yet maybe it’s only a lovesinger who can bring the super-commentary that lasts. He reminds us there’s better things to do with our time.
D: [musing] Lovers and poets make the best peace advocates.
C: This is footage from the film Save the Children—
D: —which should be released on DVD immediately—
C: —which includes live renditions of “What’s Going On/What’s Happening Brother” from a 1972 concert where they did the whole album, and you get Marvin at the piano and the legendary James Jamerson on bass guitar.
D: [sipping beer] Unbelievable. Total butterland.
C: Total ethnographic film of Black America in the early ‘70s: broken windowed skylines and gang grafitti, soul food joints and black pride bookstores, men in dashikis, women in flares and kids in corduroys with spaghetti on their faces, street basketball and barbecue, balloons and checker pants and sweaters.
D: Excellent fashion!
C: He sings like his voice is a horn—and his voice actually has the grain of one. So amazing. Plus there’s multiple appearances on the Dinah Shore show—[notices puzzled D]—that was an afternoon TV show for bored housewives back in the ‘70s.
D: That was the time before they started making all the women work all the time too, in addition to the men. What happened?
C: [ignoring] He talks about What’s Goin On: “I don’t recall much about making it. I feel it was very personal, very divine. I don’t hardly remember writing the songs, it was like I was in some sort of other dimension when we did it, so I know it was a very spiritual.” We could spend weeks talking about everything on here: the polyester jumpsuit future-Chic-soul-P-funk—
D: Somewhere The Juan Maclean is crying.
C: —about getting down on the moon with floor fog that is the promotional video for “A Funky Space Reincarnation”— “COME ON BABY, let’s go peace loving and check out this new smoke/Naw this thing I got, it ain’t classified as dope/Smoke I got from Venus/Have had it all week, it’s getting old/come on and try this new thing with me baby….”
D: This song is my new national anthem.
C: And your new wardrobe, if the world is lucky.

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2010 Arthur Magazine Gift-Giving Guide, approximately


Here’s a short list of recent gift-worthy work by folks who have either contributed to Arthur through the years, or been covered in the magazine. Promotional text for each item is in quotes, with order links at the end of each item’s entry, as close to the source as we could find. This list is not meant to be definitive—just some stuff that’s caught our attention recently that we thought Arthur folk might dig…

THE BEAUTIFUL & THE DAMNED: Punk Photographs by Ann Summa
Edited with an introduction by Kristine McKenna
Foreword by Exene Cervenka
Foggy Notion Books/Smart Art Press
Hbk, 9.25 x 12.25 in. / 112 pgs
“When photographer Ann Summa arrived in Los Angeles in 1978, the city’s punk scene was still fresh, diverse, smart, utterly original—and fertile territory for a young photographer. The Beautiful & the Damned is a collection of her portraits of the musicians, artists and fans who made Los Angeles such a crucial part of the history of punk. Taken between 1978 and 1984, the images mostly revolve around L.A.’s first punk generation, and include portraits of the Germs, the Screamers, X, the Cramps and the Gun Club, among many others. From there, the book expands its scope to accommodate the cross-pollination that took place between L.A.’s punk scene and the fine art community, (at the time, the audience for avant-garde artists such as the Kipper Kids, Johanna Went and Laurie Anderson was primarily drawn from the underground music scene), and the two other cities—London and New York—that played a central role in the birthing of punk. Photographed during their first U.S. tours are U.K. groups the Clash, Magazine, the Fall, the Slits, Bow Wow Wow and the Pretenders, among others. Visiting dignitaries from New York include Television, James Chance, Lydia Lunch and Talking Heads. Also included are portraits of artists who served as an inspiration to L.A. punks—Captain Beefheart, Iggy Pop and David Bowie, among others—plus candid shots of unidentified audience members. Includes 95 previously unpublished images.”

From the introduction…
“Everyone knows that punk rock is rude. What’s less known is that during its first incarnation in Los Angeles, during the late 70s, it was ecstatically beautiful. At that point mainstream culture hadn’t yet detected the scent of money on this newly-born music, and punk hadn’t yet been hijacked by adolescent boys bent on transforming themselves into human cannonballs. Punk was an intimate affair then. Nobody was watching or judging that original band of outsiders, because there was no money to be made, and nothing much to be won or lost at all. There was no reason for those people not to cast off the rules that had governed their world up until that point. And so they cast off the old rules, and made themselves a new world that was entirely their own. And, for a brief, glorious period they operated in a zone of complete freedom.
“The taste of freedom can be startling — you can see that in the faces of many of the people who appear in these pictures. They were surprised to find their tribe — surprised to discover they actually had a tribe. Surprised to learn they could be themselves and be embraced for it. Surprised to find they could create beauty, and live without the comforts of the middle-class homes they came from. What made all of this possible was the simple fact of community. Most L.A. punks of the late 70s were poor, many were high a lot of the time, and everyone was a little crazy. Nonetheless, they supported and shared with one another, and they saw the brilliance in each other.”
$39.95
Info: http://www.beautifulandthedamned.com/book.html
Buy: http://www.artbook.com/9781935202271.html

HOW TO WRECK A NICE BEACH: The Vocoder From World War II to Hip-Hop—The Machine Speaks
by Dave Tompkins

Stop Smiling Books
Color, 336 pages
“The history of the vocoder: how the Pentagon’s speech scrambling weapon transformed into the robot voice of pop music. How to Wreck a Nice Beach includes interviews with:
Afrika Bambaataa, Ray Bradbury, Florian Schneider of Kraftwerk, Peter Frampton, Laurie Anderson, T-Pain, Teddy Riley, DJ Quik, ELO, Rammellzee, Arthur Baker, Michael Jonzun, Midnight Star, Lester Troutman of Zapp, Holger Czukay of Can, Donnie Wahlberg, Egyptian Lover, Fab Five Freddy, Forrest J. Ackerman, Man Parrish, Cybotron and Wendy Carlos, composer of A Clockwork Orange and The Shining.
”
$25.00 ($10 off the cover price)
Info/blog: http://howtowreckanicebeach.com/
Buy: http://www.stopsmilingstore.com/howtowreckanicebeach.aspx

SPELL TO DRAW YOUR TRUE LOVE
by Dame Darcy

“This multimedia pink 3 ½ in. doll cake is really a little round box containing pink powder puff and magnetism glitter body powder to puff over your skin after bathing. Rose love potion bubble bath, Mini-Chalice, instructions for moon water and a magic wand for stirring your bath. Draw your true love to you now and forever!”
$35
Info/buy: http://www.etsy.com/listing/63883739/love-doll-cake-spell-draw-your-true-love

SMITHEREENS
by Steve Aylett

Scar Garden Press
122 pages
“Collects 19 stories including ‘The Man Whose Head Expanded’, the prophetic ‘Download Syndrome’, ‘The Burnished Adventures of Injury Mouse’, the full text of ‘Voyage of the Iguana’, the last ever Beerlight story ‘Specter’s Way’, ‘Horoscope’, and the closest thing Aylett has ever written to a traditional SF story, ‘Bossanova’ (featuring a robot and two spaceships!) There are also animal-attack-while-writing reminiscences in ‘Evernemesi’ and top-of-the-line declarative bitterness in ‘On Reading New Books’. Snails, whales and cortical drills. Aylett’s last collection.”
$9.55
Info: http://www.steveaylett.com
Buy: Amazon

SWEET TOMB
by Trinie Dalton

Madras Press
Paperback
104pp.
“The story of Candy, a candy-addicted witch who resents her inherited lifestyle. After a fire burns down her gingerbread house, she leaves the forest and ventures out in search of the excitement of a more urban environment. Along the way she encounters a self-mutilating puppet, tastes meat for the first time, and falls in love with Death, a skeletal woman with a shoe fetish. Proceeds benefit the Theodore Payne Foundation.”
$7
Trinie Dalton blog: http://sweet-tomb.blogspot.com/
Info/buy: http://www.madraspress.com/bookstore/sweet-tomb

BLOOD SPORT: THE LOUISIANA COCKFIGHTERS MANUAL
by Stacy Kranitz

Square 80 pgs Premium Paper, lustre finish
Cultural ethnography by photojournalist Stacy Kranitz.
Hardcover with dustjacket, $100
Stacy Kranitz: http://www.stacykranitz.com/
Preview/buy: http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/1752353

PURE COUNTRY: The Leon Kagarise Archives, 1961-1971
Text by Eddie Dean
Process Media
9.5” x 9.5” • 204 pages • 140 Color images
“Throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s, many of country music’s biggest stars played their favorite shows on the small backwoods stages of rural America’s outdoor music parks. These intimate, $1-a-carload picnic concerts might have been forgotten if it hadn’t been for the documenting eye of music lover Leon Kagarise, whose candid photographs of the musicians and their fans provide the only surviving window into this long-vanished world. Kagarise captured dozens of classic country and bluegrass artists in their prime, including Johnny Cash and June Carter, George Jones, Dolly Parton, Bill Monroe, Hank Snow, The Stanley Brothers, and many other greats. Pure Country presents this collection of rare color images for the first time, revealing an archive considered by historian Charles Wolfe to be one of the richest discoveries in the history of American music. Foreword by Robert Gordon.”
$35.00
Preview/buy: http://processmediainc.com/store/books/pure_country.php

DEFEND BROOKLYN by Dave Reeves
“We have all your favorite colors, as long as your favorite color is black.”
$24 tshirt, $40 hoodie
Info/buy: http://defendbrooklyn.com/

ENVISIONING SUSTAINABILITY by Peter Berg
Subculture Books
208 pages
“A collection of the important essays that helped define the bioregional movement and established Berg as an icon in the environmental community. Spans three decades of Berg’s life work, combines the candor, humor and vision that helped shape the sustainability revolution.” Don’t let the unfortunate cover throw you off. This has some classic San Francisco Diggers-era Berg pieces from now-unobtainable broadsides and posters in addition to the aforementioned pivotal bioregionalist texts.
Paperback $11.69, Kindle Edition $8.99
Buy: Amazon

MAKE A TERRARIUM IN AN OLD LIGHTBULB
Informational video: Arthur blog

NOMAD CODES: Adventures in Modern Esoterica by Erik Davis
Yeti Verse Chorus Press
352 pages
“In these wide-ranging essays, Erik Davis explores the codes—spiritual, cultural, and embodied—that people use to escape the limitation of their lives and to enrich their experience of the world. These include Asian religious traditions and West African trickster gods, Western occult and esoteric lore, postmodern theory and psychedelic science, as well as festival scenes such as Goa trance and Burning Man. Articles on media technology further explore themes Davis took up in his acclaimed book Techgnosis, while his profiles of West Coast poets, musicians, and mystics extend the California terrain he previously mapped in The Visionary State. Whether his subject is collage art or the ‘magickal realism’ of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, transvestite Burmese spirit mediums or Ufology, tripster king Terence McKenna or dub maestro Lee Perry, Davis writes with keen yet skeptical sympathy, intellectual subtlety and wit, and unbridled curiosity, which is why Peter Lamborn Wilson calls him ‘the best of all guides to modern American spirituality.’ Cover artwork by Fred Tomaselli.”
$17.95
Buy: http://www.buyolympia.com/q/Item=erik-davis-nomad-codes

HOWLIN’ RAIN “The Good Life” EP
Birdman/American
Ethan Miller from Comets On Fire’s other, earthier acid rock band. Features two originals sandwiching a daring cover of the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s “Burning of the Midnight Lamp.”
$2.97
Preview/buy: iTunes

TED LUCAS “Ted Lucas”
Yoga
Beautiful wise hippie folk music from 1974.
cd $12
Preview/buy: http://yogarecords.com/artists/tedlucas/

IASOS “Realms of Light” dvd
Inter-Dimensional Music
“Iasos has created heavenly visuals to accompany the celestial music on his Realms of Light album. There are visuals for all 8 pieces on the music cd. The visuals are synced with the music with delightful precision. Like the music, some of the visuals are stimulating, and some are relaxing. And all are heavenly, uplifting, beautiful, and celestial. It took Iasos 4 years to learn video special-effects, and then another 3.5 years to actually create the 65 minutes of visuals to go with this music. But finally, here it is! Underlying Purpose: Music is capable of inducing Divine Emotions. Visuals are capable of inducing Divine Thought-Forms. When these two work together synchronistically & synergistically,their combined influence can trigger or “ignite” expanded States of Being. THAT is the Intention behind this DVD.”
$22
Preview/buy: http://iasos.com/detalist/rol-dvd/

EARTH ”A Bureaucratic Desire for Extra Capsular Extraction”
Southern Lord
“For the first time the debut recordings of Earth are available in one concise, beautifully documented capsule. All 7 tracks have been carefully remastered by Mell Dettmer to make a more burly, mammoth and crushing audio experience. Includes liner notes from Dylan Carlson with artwork by Simon Fowler and package design via Stephen O’Malley.”
CD $10, 2xLp $18
Preview/buy: http://blog.southernlord.com/?p=297

ROTARY SIGNAL EMITTER 12-inch picture disk LP by Sculpture
Not even sure if these are even still available—they only made 300 of them—but…gee whiz. Coolest low-cost audio/art object since the Buddha Machine? Yes.
Preview/info: Arthur blog

2011 calendar and poster by RON REGE, JR.
Little Otsu
“Experience the mind-blowing combination of colors and drawings that make up this incredible 2011 fold-out calendar & poster by the talented Ron Regé, Jr. On the calendar side, the amazing devolving drawings form a comic-like linear backdrop to the twinkly bars of dimensional months. Turn it over to find a detailed panoramic scene of hot-air balloons and mountains and lands surrounding a giant inverted triangle of “abracadabra” magic. So at the end of the year, you can flip over the calendar and still have a great poster to hang on your wall, giving this calendar a second life.
Measures 8” wide x 9” tall folded and 24” wide by 18” tall when unfolded. Printed in Hayward, CA with vegetable-based inks on 100% post-consumer recycled 80# cover stock.”
$12.00 USD
flat poster (limited ed. of 50) for $16.00 USD
Preview/buy: http://shop.littleotsu.com/products/2011-calendar-poster-by-ron-rege-jr

“THROUGH THE PSYCHEDELIC LOOKING GLASS” calendar by JOHN COULTHART
“A full colour calendar comprising all-new artwork in a psychedelic interpretation of Through the Looking-Glass and what Alice found there. The 1860s collide with the 1960s in lurid efflorescence!”
£15.00
Preview/buy: http://www.johncoulthart.com/pantechnicon/lookingglass.html

2011 AUTONOMEDIA JUBILEE SAINTS calendar
32 pages, 12 x 16 inches, saddle stitched
“Hundreds of radical cultural and political heroes are celebrated here, along with the animating ideas that continue to guide this project – a reprieve from the 500-year-long sentence to life-at-hard-labor that the European colonization of the “New World” and the ensuing devastations of the rest of the world has represented. The Planetary Work Machine will not rule forever! Celebrate with this calendar on which every day is a holiday!
$9.95 / Pay for two, and we will send a third calendar for free!”
Preview/buy: bookstore.autonomedia.org

PLASTIC CRIMEWAVE’S GALACTIC ZOO MIX TAPE CLUB 2011
“Plastic Crimewave, creator of the Galactic Zoo Dossier magazine for Drag City, proprietor of the Galactic Zoo Disk reissue label, leader of spacepunkers Plastic Crimewave Sound, and general music historian/head has reached the end of the fifth consecutive year of his Galactic Zoo Mix Tape Club, and will be taking subscriptions again with another year of Mix Tape-age starting in December. You get six 90 min. tapes (one every other month) with exclusive artwork and the sounds of rare and populist psychedelia, glam, acid folk, prog, boogie, power pop, soft rock, shoegaze, protopunk, hard rawk, experimental, bubblegum, etc. for a mere $30.”
Info: Arthur blog
Paypal at plasticcw@hotmail.com, or send a check or cash to 1061 N. Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60622.

BLACKOUT Arthur mixtape
49-minute compilation curated and sequenced by Arthur editor Jay Babcock to stimulate or simulate a sweet blackout, featuring music by Moon Duo, White Hills, White Noise Sound, Lords of Falconry, Endless Boogie , Masters of Reality, Messages and Enumclaw. Mixed by Bobby Tamkin (Xu Xu Fang), with cover artwork by Arik Moonhawk Roper. All proceeds go to Arthur Magazine. Pay-what-thou-wilt digital download starting at $4.20…
Preview/buy: https://arthurmag.com/blackout/

THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON ARTHURING
A tax-deductible donation of any amount may be made to Arthur by going here: http://www.arthurmag.com/donate/

Happy season,

The Arthur Goofs
Austin * Marfa * Joshua Tree * Portland, Oregon * Greenpoint * wherever you are

Byron Coley and Thurston Moore’s “Bull Tongue” column from Arthur No. 30 (July 08)

BULL TONGUE
by Byron Coley and Thurston Moore

from Arthur No. 30 (Oct 2008) [available from Arthur Store]

This new Little Claw 7” on the Physical Sewer label which they had on their last roadtrip doesn’t even sound like them. But what do they sound like anyway? They sounded like the greatest goddamned fucking band on the planet the time we saw ‘em. Two minimalist drummers, a guitar dude with a nice underhook rhythm rip and a girl with a badass no wave slather tongue tearing hell out of her slide guitar given half the chance. And not all hellbent rage either—some nice licorice melt drizzle crud groove too. Fuckin’ awesome. This 7” sounds amazing but like some other weirdness was at play in the living room or wherever this beautiful session went down. You’re fucking nuts not to locate this—try their myspace roost.

Although the material is clearly posed, the new Richard Kern book, Looker (Abrams), is as voyeuristic as Gerard Malanga’s classic Scopophilia and Autobiography of a Sex Thief. Kern’s volume combines a feel of chasing a subject and photographing her without her knowledge, with some purely 21st Century tropes (dig the upskirt end papers), but the feel seems to also be a tribute to the ’70s Penthouse mag vibe. The nudes and font and the introductory essay by Geoff Nicholson all combine to create a volume with a much more gentle charge than Kern’s last book, Action. On the virtual opposite end of the photographic spectrum is David B. McKay’s Yuba Seasons (Mountain Images Press), which has some of the best nature photography we’ve seen in a long time. McKay has spent 40 years photographing this Northern California river and the area around it, and he has captured something really mind-blowing about the interaction of water and light and stone. The landscapes are great, but the river shots are beautiful, mysterious, fast and deep. You can feel them as much as you see them. Really fine.

There’s been a whole ark-full of gospel comps the last few decades and Lord yes they are always welcome but just when you think the well is dryin’ up along comes this motherfucker of a manic backwoods backstreet romper Life Is A Problem (Mississippi Records, 4007 N. Mississippi Ave., Portland, OR 97227 tel.: 503-282-2990). It’s been out a while and is even in a second pressing (without the first pressing’s bonus 7”) and is compiled by Eric and Warren from the Mississippi record store and label in Portland, OR and Mike McGonigal, who also annotated. It’s a 14-song set with some really raw guitar blowouts, handclap n’ chant fever stomps and sweet as ‘Bama honey singing. Some names on here we know like the lap-steel slasher Reverend Lonnie Farris but there are some straight up surprises. Particularly “Rock & Roll Sermon” by Elder Charles Beck, where he rails against the devil’s music, all the while kicking rock n roll ass. More sanctified sounds promised from this label in the future. Before this LP they issued a comp called I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore 1927-1948 which is also sheer beauty digging into tracks released by immigrants to America delivering early Zydeco, Salsa, Hawaiian slack key, etc.

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BACK IN STOCK FOR A LIMITED TIME: "Bread, Beard and Bear's Prayers" anthology cd curated by Ethan Miller (2006)

MAJOR WAREHOUSE FIND: We’ve got 80 copies left of this beautiful sucker—this is the last of the 500-copy jewel case run—and then they’re gone forever. Orders will start shipping June 1, 2010.

Thirteen gnarly tunes gathered from high and low by ETHAN MILLER of COMETS ON FIRE and HOWLIN RAIN back in 2006. “For lovers of bloody nose street folk, dangerous shit rock, drunken cosmic slop and those wandering down the outer and under paths alone.”

Track listing:
1. Albert Ayler – Truth Is Marching In
2 Monoshock – Crypto-Zoological Disaster
3 The Colossal Yes – The Honey Creeper Smiles
4 Ghost – Piper
5 Electric Six Organs Of Admittance – Close To The Sky
6 Michael Yonkers – Swamp Of Love
7 Shit Spangled Banner – Cuntshine
8 Brother JT – Country Blues/Be With Us (live)
9 Joshua – Look Floating
10 7 Year Rabbit Cycle – Meditation
11 August Born [Six Organs and L collaboration] – Providence
12 Dark Inside The Sun – Truly Cursed
13 Comets On Fire – Death Squad

Artwork by Rob Fisk.

$10 postpaid from The Arthur Store

COSMIC FARCE, FEB. 18, 2010: DICK CHENEY WADDLES ONSTAGE AT CPAC TO THE TUNE OF…HOWLIN RAIN'S "DANCERS AT THE END OF TIME"?!?

1971-76…

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“Bishop Beesley, endlessly corrupt gluttonous villain series. Thirsts for power, money, pleasure.” (wikipedia entry on the villain from the Moorcock books)

2008…

February 18, 2010…

2006…

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Michael Moorcock (with Arthur editor) at Arthur event at Church of Casper the Friendly Ghost—SXSW, 2005…

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Arik Roper's "The Hidden Dimension" opens at Fuse Gallery in NYC on October 24, 2009

The Hidden Dimension

Arik Moonhawk Roper has become one of those artists whose album cover artwork is as dependable a way to select the listening material for tonight’s speaker-worship session as the band personnel listed on the back of the slipcase. Earth. Sleep. Howlin Rain. Sunn O))). Black Crowes. But the expansively naturalistic imagery he provides for these artists is only an entry point to his work: from his many editorial illustrations as a contributor to Arthur; to his most recent book, Mushroom Magick, a “visionary field guide” of botanical illustration that serves as an excellent companion piece to revolutionary mycologist Paul StametsMycelium Running.

“The Hidden Dimension” is a survey of Roper’s recent paintings and drawings at New York’s Fuse Gallery, and an ideal next step for those looking for further vistas onto his mystical landscapes. From the press release:

“The Hidden Dimension,” drawings and paintings by Arik Roper runs October 24 through November 28, 2009, at Fuse Gallery, 93 2nd Ave (between 5th & 6th Sts, 2nd Ave stop on the F), NYC, NY. The opening reception, on Saturday October 24, from 7 to 10 pm, is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Fuse Gallery at 212.777.7988 or fusegall@fusegallerynyc.com.

A selection of images from the show can be found below, after the jump. To see more of Roper’s work, you can visit his website, http://www.arikroper.com as well as the Fuse Gallery website. For more about Roper’s Mushroom Magick, take a listen to his recent interview with Gnostic Media by clicking here. And if your local fungi emporium is sold-out, copies of the book are of course available from Amazon.

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How to Get Into the Grateful Dead (Arthur, 2005)

LISTEN TO THE DEAD

Originally published in Arthur No. 18 (Sept 2005)

Dear Arthur,
Okay, so a lot of people in Arthur have been coming out of the Deadhead closet lately [cf. “Uncle Skullfucker’s Band”, Arthur No. 11]. Someone, maybe Bastet, maybe someone else, should put out a mix CD or two of some of the Dead’s material that might be most likely to impress the contemporary drone/noise/psych/improv and/or free(k) folk scene(s). I have enjoyed a very small percentage of the G.D. that I have heard, and have been unwilling to delve through the catalog in search of the gems. I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, and would like to hear a carefully selected mix made by discerning ears. Example: Garcia solo piece on Zabriskie Point soundtrack.
Rick Swan
via email

Dear Rick,
There are over 2,800 Grateful Dead shows available for free download at archive.org, and depending on who you talk to at least a half-dozen studio albums worth checking out. That’s a lot of music to sort through, even if you can get your hands on most of it without laying down any cash. We convened a conclave of reconstructed Deadheads in order to help you and any other greenhorn seekers of the Dead find your way around. The Knights present for this meeting were:

Geologist, a member of Animal Collective, that incredible international post-hippie string band.
N. Shineywater, of Alabama’s creamiest slow-folk practitioners, Brightblack Morning Light. It is worth nothing that Brightblack’s cover of “Brokedown Palace” with Will Oldham on vocals makes us weep.
Ethan Miller, of the mighty Comets on Fire.
Daniel Chamberlin, a contributing editor at Arthur, and the author of “Uncle Skullfucker’s Band” (Arthur No. 11) about life as a closet Deadhead.
Denise DiVitto & Brant Bjork: Owner-operators of Duna Records, which releases records by Mr. Bjork (co-founder of Kyuss) and other worthy artists. Two mellow souls who hang in the desert.
Erik Davis, Arthur contributor, native Californian and the author of Techgnosis: Myth, Magic and Mysticism in the Age of Information.
Barry Smolin, the host of the essential “The Music Never Stops” Dead showcase on Los Angeles’s KPFK, 90.7 FM.
Michael Simmons, a contributing editor to Arthur.
The Seth Man, a/k/a The Seth Man, editor of FUZ and author of “The Book of Seth” on Julian Cope’s website.

PART ONE

GEOLOGIST (Animal Collective)
The birth of my father was a mistake; an unplanned pregnancy in the 1950s. As a result, his brothers, and my cousins, are much older. During the ’80s, my cousin Adam was my idol. I was in grade school, he was in high school and later went to college in Athens, GA. The guy was all about “rock & roll.” He had Live…Like A Suicide by Guns N’ Roses on vinyl in 1986. He predicted the worldwide stardom of REM and the B-52’s as far back as I can remember. But his first musical love was, and as far as I know, still is The Grateful Dead. By the end of the ’80s he had been to over 100 shows.

As I got older and began to hunger for more music than what was being fed to me on MTV, I of course turned to him. Like any true Deadhead, my cousin immediately pushed me towards their live material. His Dead collection was just a box of tapes with dates written on them; I don’t really remember seeing any albums. It is to this aspect of the Dead’s output that I would direct any new fan. I listen to the ’66-’74 era, pretty much exclusively. An easy place to start is the live albums released during this period, specifically Live/Dead (from ’69) and Europe ’72. The former has my all-time favorite Dead jam, “Dark Star” into “St. Stephen,” and the latter contains my second favorite, “China Cat Sunflower” into “I Know You Rider” (affectionately known to Dead fans as “China Rider”). In addition, there is a killer CD release of a Fillmore East show from 2/11/69, which has some of the same tunes. And for 1974, the Winterland shows from February of that year totally rule, even though you have to endure the awful background singing of Donna Godchaux.

I certainly don’t mean to discount the worth of their studio albums, because there is no denying the greatness of Anthem Of The Sun, Aoxomoxoa and American Beauty. I love them all and listen to them frequently, but I still lean towards the live stuff. The reason for this is simply “good times.” I recently got into an argument at a bar about whether or not you can give credit to someone for nothing more than “good times.” I say you totally can. Why not? Isn’t that pretty much what most of us want on a day-to-day basis? I was fortunate enough to see the Dead on one of their last tours in 1994. I was 15 years old, and had moved from Philly to Baltimore, where I was in the early stages of becoming best friends with the dudes I still consider my closest friends in the world. At the time, however, I dearly missed my old friends from middle school. They managed to get tickets to the Dead show at the Philly Spectrum, and my parents, being the wonderful folks they are, let me skip school for three days and hop on the train to catch the show. Jerry may have been old and forgotten some lyrics here and there, but man, good times were had by all. I’ve never since been in an environment as positive as that concert. As people who are passionate about music, especially music that is outside of the mainstream, we sometimes get caught up in our own brand of snobbery. But when I catch myself acting like a dick, I try and think back to that night wandering around the burrito stands and hacky-sack circles in that parking lot. If people continue to care about the music we make and continue to come see us play, I really hope our parking lots will look and feel like that one day. Good times.

N. SHINEYWATER (Brightblack Morning Light)
Early-era Dead songs resonate with me, so I would maybe dig a collection of songs featuring Pig Pen. The first recording I heard by Grateful Dead also served as a successful backdrop to a good time. It involved my native Alabama woods, an old Jeep chasing another old Jeep through the mud, and the constant doobie. The friend of mine who was driving the jeep let The Dead’s American Beauty repeat over and over … Somehow a very long early-version of the song “Dark Star” appeared on the homemade cassette, and when this came on we had just taken a doobie break. One friendly sister starting throwing mud at me so I threw mud back at her and the next thing I saw was this dancing grey mud flying and hitting smiling bodies of friends.

One time this same Jeep-friend has to drive across the country in a new Ford van. He happened to know he was going to be using reefer along the way. The van had only one sticker, plain in style, that read, “GOOD OL” really large, followed very small by “GRATEFUL DEAD.” It wasn’t the kind with little orange bears; it was red, white and blue. He chose this plain sticker to avoid attracting the Man. Yet he knew that he wanted to share his love of Grateful Dead music. It was a risk he didn’t mind taking.

Later in life he led a Greenpeace effort to successfully lower himself and a few others over the side of the Mitsubishi building in Oregon with banners that read, “BOYCOTT MITSUBISHI, MITSUBISHI DESTROYS RAINFORESTS.” The last I heard of him he became a river guide.

ETHAN MILLER (Comets On Fire)
First off, I also loved that article by Daniel Chamberlin in the July 2004 Arthur also and found it very inspiring to try and track down the more extreme avant-garde Dead stuff that the author of that piece talks about being fooled that it was Dead C. or Sonic Youth or whatever.

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