Some of the items still available at the store…
A lovely, artful 13-minute film on the incomparable Josephine Foster, shot in Spain last year by Harry Wheeler. Highly recommended viewing — this is exceptionally well done from opening to closing. Spend some time with it.
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.
The Real Thing: In Performance, 1964-1981 DVD
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.
Originally published in Arthur No. 16 (July 2005)
REVIEWS BY C and D
D: Before we begin, I would like to say that today I am in the mood to rock.
C: Well, my friend, you have come to the right place.
D: [first song starts, D leaps out of chair immediately] Is this one of those Japanese bands? With a girl?!? Who is this singing?
C: That woman is not a girl—she could show you a thing or two. [dramatic pause] It’s Sleater-Kinney, produced by Dave Fridmann.
D: [Jaw hits floor] Really?!? SLEATER-KINNEY?????!!!!???? Fuck, man! [shakes head] This is a MAJOR statement of psychedelic riot woman super-rock power! Rock ‘n roll album of the year! God DAMN!!!!
D: I know. Maybe the decade. Superfuzz-heavy in the Northwest tradition of Blue Cheer-Nirvana-Mudhoney, expansive like Neil Young with Crazy Hors…Hendrix… Built to Spill? There’s stuff on here that is out as Comets on Fire, possible even further. Who’s going to top this? Absolutely gigantic sounds…amps out of the red and into the black… a 14-minute song at the end that goes as far out as Comets On Fire, even into Les Rallizes Denudes and Ash Ra Tempel territory…
D: I have to admit I would never have thought these three women would make a record that’s this relentlessly face-melting.
C: I don’t know if they’d thought it possible either. There’s some precedent in Babes of Toyland, or early Hole, maybe, but this is just so much further… Well, I’m not sure that they’d call it psychedelic but it’s definitely psychoactive in an urgent kind of way.
D: [musing] There’s a bit of Jefferson Airplane in here, that’s for sure.
C: There’s a structure to everything but there are these void spaces, too. And then there are straight songs too, which rock in this tight, urgent way and then blow into something else via a drum charge or a panned guitar solo or I don’t know what. I know I’m going Beavis here but I don’t know how to [clears throat] …ahem… properly articulate the sensations I am feeling as I listen to this album. For a long time I didn’t like Corin Tucker’s voice, but here? It’s like this is the setting it’s always been looking for.
D: And that’s some hotshit drumming for sure.
C: [dancing] I can’t believe it, but seriously, one must acknowledge what is happening here. This is higher than High on Fire. They are Queens of a more stoned Age!
D: An unheard of power monster, that singlehandedly, forever eradicates the notion that women have no balls.
C: [Gives puzzled look at D, then continues] I cannot account for what I am hearing. Cannot assimilate. How did this happen? Seriously. It’s a lidflipper, a real wig-frier. Can you name another band that seven albums into their career, supernovaed into this kind of territory? This is so rare. It reminds me of something that Michael Moorcock was saying the other day: “In the ‘60s, Dylan, Beatles, Beefheart et al. were all thinking on their feet, if they were thinking at all. While Dylan remained a Guthrie sound-a-like he had no real credibility (although he did bring Guthrie a wider audience, I’d guess). As Dylan dumped the Guthrie cloak, especially when he went electric, he gained authenticity. The less like Buddy Holly the Beatles sounded, the better they got. Eventually, you went into a studio not knowing what you’d come out with.” I think that may be what’s happened here with Sleater-Kinney. Maybe this record just happened. Maybe we are witnessing the joy of unplanned, no-thinking, no-rules spontaneous creativity, of these three amazing women following and trusting their muse, confident in their abilities and each other to give it a trust that most other artists cower from giving these days? In any event, it’s an extraordinary creative breakthrough record made at precisely the right time by artists working at the peak of their collective rock power. That they are women in a stupid, male-centric culture doing this makes the whole thing even more important and inspirational. I want to go door-to-door like an evangelist for this record: “Hey sisters and brothers, have you heard the Good News?” But the old doors don’t exist after this album. They’ve all been blown open.
D: Word to your moms, Sleater-Kinney drop bombs.
C: New one from New York underground trance/art-rockers Oneida: a favorite around the Arthur offices for years now.
D: [Listening to “The Eiger”] They’re using strings?!?
C: Yes! This sounds amazing. The songs are catchier, there’s more dynamics in the structure, the arrangements are more varied. And the production is just nuts. This is another huge artistic breakthrough. Damn…
D: Something is in the air… Something good. A new scent.
C: Shit! Listen to how the keys get sucked out of the soundfield [on “Lavender”]… Listen to the almost-Espers psych-folk that is “Run Through My Hair.” “High Life” is an optimistic vocal over a total Kraftwerk/Cluster/La Dusseldorf electronic bed that changes into something more organic… “Did I Die” is like Wolf Eyes without the noise, [chuckles] whatever that means. Wow. I can’t believe this album…
D: It’s true, it’s beautiful.
C: Listen to how massive the drums are on “Spirits” and “Heavenly Choir,” and how majestic the guitar is. These are their “Kashmir”’s, their “When the Levee Breaks,” and this album is their Physical Graffiti…
D: We are in the presence of genius, manifesting itself.
Originally published in Arthur No. 11 (July 2004)
Born Heller: Josephine Foster and Jason Ajemian
Josephine Foster and the Supposed would like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony—or whatever. Just so long as it’s expressive. Margaret Wappler passes on the lessons.
Josephine Foster is a 30-year-old woman but she seems like a child. That isn’t meant as an insult, or some sort of misty New Age proclamation. It’s just that her speaking voice is soft—hardly the force of nature it is while singing—and prone to drifting away mid-sentence, as if distracted by something shiny across the room. And as explanation for her drift, she offers, “I have Thai buffet in my belly” and admits to dozing off just moments before our phone conversation. Granted, these are only the telltale signs of an adult riding out a low blood-sugar crash in the mid-afternoon; they can be dismissed. But in her music, Foster easily sheds twenty-five years and expresses herself the way children do—unequivocally and without regard for solid foundations. Quite simply, she just goes for it.
“There is something to being the song, and not commenting upon it,” Foster says from Bloomington, Indiana, where she is staying with Brian Goodman, her bandmate in her newest venture, Josephine Foster and the Supposed, which also includes Rusty Peterson on drums. Being in the moment is important to Foster, as is expression—full and unhindered, sometimes clumsy. Whether with the Supposed on their debut album, All the Leaves Are Gone (Locust Music), or with her other collaborations, the charmed lullabies of The Children’s Hour and the homespun Born Heller, she explores dark, sticky cavities with no inhibitions. Foster’s voice is a rich quavering alto, that, with its rapid, Joan Baez-like vibrato, makes great leaps over the Supposed’s Age of Aquarius-inspired rock—if the Age had followed its every whim, no matter how labyrinthine, no matter how far it burrowed into the ground. Though the production is pretty clean, All the Leaves Are Gone has a dirty quality, but not sexy-dirty or some flimsy appliqué. It’s more elemental, primordial, as if these songs were recently unearthed. The instruments sound loose, almost broken; the rhythm catch as catch can. Expression trumps. The desire to sing repeatedly a lyric like, “I had a mother, my mother had a mother—no one knows her name!” is followed, giving the music the quality of a child’s inspired ravings.
Foster became interested in opera after watching singers perform in a church. “I was intrigued by the natural amplification of their voices. It just seemed like a sort of bizarre expression… a larger-than-life expression and sound.” Foster, who had studied a “mixed bag” of music, theater and performance in Colorado, her home state, went to Chicago’s Northwestern University to study opera but left after a year. “I sang at this master class for this fairly famous opera singer and I felt like all she did was talk about how I was too skinny and why did I eat only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? It was really pretty absurd… I enjoyed what I learned but I realized pretty quickly it wasn’t going to be enough for what I wanted to express.”
She quickly met people through Chicago’s tightknit music community and started playing around, often hosting her own “house hootenannies, where everyone would come over and play music.” Attracted to archaic folk and Renaissance songs, she says she knew almost nothing about current pop music. “I wasn’t too interested because it just seemed really subdued and breathy. And pretty tame.” She did, however, have vivid memories of what she heard on the radio growing up and what her “ex-hippie-type guy” father listened to, music like Graham Nash and Jefferson Airplane. In particular, Foster feels a kinship with the latter: “I think there’s some sort of connection between what they’re doing and what we’re doing—they play slightly declamatory, expressive music that’s pretty similar to something like opera in some ways. The human voice is really being sung through.”
After several visits to Bloomington where Goodman was attending college, Foster crashed with him and his girlfriend, burnt out on Chicago and intrigued by the notion of a rock opera. But that idea soon dissolved; Foster thinks she’ll get to it eventually, maybe by collaborating with a filmmaker. Instead, Foster and Goodman, a “human jukebox who knows every rock song,” developed a different batch of Foster’s songs through improvisation and discussion. The title track, for instance, started out “very subdued,” but soon developed into something primordial and shifting, with koan-like lyrics holding down its center.
“I was so bored with [‘All the Leaves are Gone’], because it was really slow, kind of sad, and I was like, ‘Why don’t we just turn it into a dance song?’” The lyrics—which Foster describes as “slightly heavy”—don’t diverge too far from the statements: “There is no end to your sorrow… and tomorrow sorrow it will come again.” But the music, which sounds disarmingly loose and flapping at first listen, soon reveals itself to be joyously warped and unhinged, a lazy, blissed-out resignation to what feels like some sun-hazed dance at the temple right before the sacrifice. Just between falling apart completely and arriving at some destination point beyond the horizon, the rickety train that is Josephine Foster and the Supposed suddenly picks up speed and blows right by you.
Part of what makes their songs seem like a primer, like some recently recovered manual—to what, it’s hard to say—is their quality of following every impulse to its expressive endpoint. Indeed, every song hemming to nothing but its own organic, half-grown-over path serves a dual purpose: “I don’t have a very good memory so in order to remember something I write I usually have to make it something that I want to hear again. I have to make it pretty addictive to myself. So there’s a memorability in the words, a boldness in the imagery.” At their heart, these songs, despite their ornamentations, are constructed to be broken down, carried on, passed around. “It used to be a song was made to be shared and hopefully sung by many others. I hope my compositions go beyond me in terms of utilitarian value. I want them to be remembered, sung, by a tuneful amateur.”
ANOTHER WAREHOUSE FIND: We’ve got 55 copies left of this sweetie and then it’s gone forever.
This beautifully sequenced, far-ranging album commemorates the second annual Plastic Crimewave-curated, Galactic Zoo Dossier/Arthur-presented “Million Tongues” festival that went down at the Empty Bottle in Chicago, November 3-6, 2005.
1. MOUNTAINS – “Speaking”
2. NO NECK BLUES BAND – “Pulse”
3. MIMINOKOTO – “Tokedasu”
4. TIM KINSELLA & AMY CARGILL – “Song for Josh”
5. MICHAEL CHAPMAN – “The Northern Lights”
6. JOSEPHINE FOSTER – “Wondrous Love”
7. CHRIS CONNELLY – “Pray’r”
8. PEARLS AND BRASS – “Waterfall”
9. TRAVELING BELL – “Apparitions”
10. THE SINGLEMAN AFFAIR – “Good to Be With You Again”
11. JACK ROSE – “Hey Fuck You Rag”
12. TAR PET – “Takeit Heri”
13. BIRDSHOW – “Pilz”
14. TONY CONRAD – “Bowstring 1”
15. HOTOTOGISU – “Blues for Steve K”
16. HAPTIC – “Indifference -> Building On Fire”
17. LUX – “Need Fade In + Out”
18. HARDSCRABBLE – “Sail It Away”
Track selection, art and lettering by Plastic Crimewave. Limited edition of 1,000 copies in jewelcase, released through Arthur’s “Bastet” imprint in 2005. 55 copies left and then they’re all gone!
$10 postpaid from The Arthur Store
Poster by Maya Hayuk.
(Late booking, not on poster: KYP MALONE (TV on the Radio) solo set)
INS & OUTS ALL NIGHT * ALSO CHECK OUT CLIFTON’S CAFETERIA FOR AFFORDABLE AMERICAN FOOD FARE AND A DECOR THAT WILL GIVE YOU A CONTACT HIGH — OPEN ONLY TIL 9PM *
GOOD AFFORDABLE FOOD TOO, RECORDS AND BEAUTIFUL HANDMADE CLOTHES PLUS MORE ON THE FOURTH FLOOR
THURSDAY, OCT. 19, 2006 [stage/schedule is lost, sorry!]
a special performance to close the current cycle
first US visit in 8 years from the ex-Pentangle musician–a guitar hero to Neil Young, Jimmy Page, Johnny Marr and countless others–his new album just got 5 stars from Mojo magazine
gorgeous psychedelic folk-rock from Philly co-ed ensemble
singing spirit guide to Silver Lake scene queens
ambient post-My Bloody Valentine fog-throb duo from New Orleans, spotlit in Arthur 23
lumbering, melodic rock ‘n’ roll from Cincinnati bros featuring former members of Thee Shams
psychedelic Bay Area agitnoise peacegrunt duo
Bay Area neo-ambient noiselady — ‘some of the most ethereal and powerfully heavy-lidden sounds this side of Brian Eno and Arvo Part’ says Mojo
San Francisco drone/noisefella
DJ sets by Dublab rats, Brian Turner (WFMU) and The Numero Group
FRIDAY, OCT. 20
7:20 MAIN HALL
awesome garage-mantra rock in a Stooges/Spacemen 3 ancestor worship mode
7:30 FIFTH FLOOR
Berkeley-based fingerpicking acoustic guitarist in the great John Fahey-Robbie Basho tradition, part of the Imaginational Anthem tour
8:05 MAIN HALL
He was a prime mover in Pussy Galore and Royal Trux… a brilliant solo career and now his latest project, The Howling Hex… guitarist/genius Neil Hagerty in harmolodic prog-jazz-rock-whatsit flight
8:15 FIFTH FLOOR
Texan matriarch of the current avant-folk-psych scene, and member of Charlambides, in solo guitar and voice set, part of the Imaginational Anthem tour
8:55 MAIN HALL
walloping Ohio rock trio led by wailer/guitarist Erika Wennerstrom–second album just out on Fat Possum
9:05 FIFTH FLOOR
features ex-Starvations members; “Cockroach’s larvae stage of death doo-wop”
9:45 FIFTH FLOOR
mellowside trio on Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace record label
9:55 MAIN HALL
BE YOUR OWN PET
Nashville teenage action-punk quartet led by firecracker vocalist Jemina Pearl
10:30 FIFTH FLOOR
“Soporific, glazed” (sez ‘The Wire’) Texas psych, part of the Imaginational Anthem tour
10:50 MAIN HALL
TAV FALCO & THE UNAPPROACHABLE PANTHER BURNS
Charlie Feathers, Alex Chilton, Rural Burnside and more…The truly legendary ‘Dorian Gray of Rock ‘n’ Roll’ from Memphis–admired by rock n roll luminaries like Spiritualized’s Jason Pierce, The Cramps and The Black Keys–in his first L.A. appearance in a decade!
11:15 FIFTH FLOOR
beyond-rare L.A. perf by co-ed twin-guitar psych/dream duo on the brilliant Kranky label
12midnight MAIN HALL
Japanese doom/rock/blissout superpower trio in performance ahead of the Halloween release of their devastating new album-length collaboration with dronekings Sunn0)))
Saturday October 21
4:00-on FOURTH FLOOR
SCHOOLHOUSE DROP-INS: “Visit the geodesic tent as the 9 Sundown Schoolhouse residents present projects to partake in, forums for engagement, acts of interaction, thoughts for collective inquiry and general happenings.”
4:20 MAIN HALL
Stomping West Coast high-energy rock attack unit who blew us away at loast year’s ArthurFest.
5:10 MAIN HALL
galactic dance-dub heroism from local ensemble
5:30 FIFTH FLOOR
mercurial, provocative, prolific folk-rock dude in a solo turn
6:10 MAIN HALL
righteous word jazz elders
6:25 FIFTH FLOOR
noize proj from Comets on Fire’s echoplexist/drummer Noel Von Harmonson and guitarist Ben Chasny
7:10 MAIN HALL
always imaginative keyboardist/music man–best known for co-writing work with Beastie Boys
7:10 FIFTH FLOOR
MIA DOI TODD
L.A. singer/instrumentalist on guitar, vocals and harmonium
8:05 FIFTH FLOOR
Folk singer-songwriter, a real child of the ‘60s canyon scene, introduced at Big Sur Folk Festival in 1967 by Joni Mitchell –She wrote “Windy” and so much more–now returning to live performance at age 62!–she lived the ’60s and she remembers it
8:10 MAIN HALL
SIX ORGANS OF ADMITTANCE
apocalyptic free-mind guitar & voice from Ben Chasny
8:55 FIFTH FLOOR
MICHAEL HURLEY & JOSEPHINE FOSTER
Hurley is a legendary mellow bard with a hint of wry
Josephine – you gotta hear this woman sing! “She’s a genius” – Joanna Newsom
9:10 MAIN HALL
long-awaited return of Mira Bilotte’s NYC-based unclassifiable folk band, new album out next month; this perf will feature Dirty Three drummer Jim White!
10:10 MAIN HALL
return of Bay Area metal trance/mind expander duo who laid peacewaste at this spring’s ArthurBall
11:00 FIFTH FLOOR
11:20 MAIN HALL
SUN RA ARKESTRA
11-piece Arkestra still going deep, now led by the great Marshall Allen
~12:30am MAIN HALL
NUMERO GROUP DANCE PARTY
“Misplaced soul/funk hits” dance party DJed by the 20th-century pop archaelogists of THE NUMERO GROUP label from Chicago… They’ll be spinning throughout the day, with special sets before and following the Sun Ra Arkestra….
Sunday, Oct 22
4:40pm in the Main Hall
John Szymanski, David Shettler and Marty Morris –rawk n roll from Deeetroit on the Alive label
5:30pm on the Fifth Floor
local cosmic California country rock
5:30pm in the Main Hall
THE NICE BOYS
grade-AAA glam rock from Birdman recording artists
6:15pm on the Fifth Floor
THE COLOSSAL YES
Comets on Fire’s Utrillo’s brilliant piano pop proj
6:20pm in the Main Hall
THE SHARP EASE
Paloma Parfrey-led liberation rockers featured in current issue of Arthur
7:05pm on the Fifth Floor
CHUCK DUKOWSKI SEXTET
L.A.’s own… featuring Ms. Lora Norton – Vocals, Mr. Chuck Dukowski – Bass (Black Flag), Mr. Lynn Johnston on Horns, Mr. Milo Gonzalez – Guitar, Mr. Tony Tornay – Drums (Fatso Jetson)
7:10pm in the Main Hall
ARCHIE BRONSON OUTFIT
sharply shaped rock music from new English four-piece
7:55pm on the Fifth Floor
all-female experimental/noise combo
8:05pm in the Main Hall
extremely rare solo set from the TV on the Radio singer-guitarist–he’s flying in from the Darfur benefit show in Philadelphia
8:55pm on the Fifth Floor
solo electric guitar hotwork set from prog-metal-avant maestro Mick Barr
9:15pm in the Main Hall
THE FIERY FURNACES
justly acclaimed thrill-a-minute brother-and-sister-led clever combo, gifted with pop sense, improvisational chops and conceptual ambition
10:45pm in the Main Hall
COMETS ON FIRE
Quite possibly Earth’s greatest living rock ‘n’ roll band–see present issue of Arthur for more details
DJ sets by Dublab rats and Brian Turner (WFMU)