BULL TONGUE review column by Byron Coley and Thurston Moore (Arthur 33/Jan 2013)

Originally published in Arthur No. 33 (Jan 2013)


BULL TONGUE
by Byron Coley & Thurston Moore

– Exploring the voids of all known undergrounds since 2002 –

1 CLAUDE PELIEU It has been ten years since the French-born artist, writer, and translator Claude Pelieu died at his home in upstate New York. His memory has been well served this past year, by the publication of at least three books that should be of extreme interest to anyone with a true hankering for the avant garde. The first is Kali Yug Express (Bottle of Smoke Press, bospress.net), a fantastic cut-up novel originally published in France in 1974. Translated by Pelieu’s late widow and long-time partner-in-crime, Mary Beach, it’s great to finally have a chance to read this book in a language we completely understand. As with some of his other work, Pelieu’s cut-ups do not always flow with the same dream-logic that guides Burroughs’ hand when he’s navigating similar waters, but it reads quite well. And Bill Roberts’ production standards are as high as ever. Second up is Un Amour de Beatnik (Non Lieu, editionsnonlieu.fr), a collection of letters and poems sent to Pelieu’s first wife (Lula Nash) in 1963-64, along with examples of his visual work from the early ‘60s. Although it’s all in French, the book is written in a relatively straightforward way, so you can parse it out even if yr French is as rusty as ours. Fully annotated, with period photos, a good chronology and whatnot, it’s a very solid read (and Claude’s early Leger-influenced paintings are quite a revelation). Third is Pelieu Mix/Etat des Lieux (la Notonecte, 15 bis rue Noel du Fail, Rennes, 35000, France), assembled by Benoit Delaune. Pelieu Mix is mostly a facsimile edition of some of Pelieu’s notebooks from the late ‘90s, filled with various texts, collages. It’s a great, beautiful jumble of stuff, presented spiral-bound, and now that we’re examining it more closely we realize it may have come out a while ago. But we just got it, so fuck you. More info on Pelieu and his art (as well as Mary Beach’s) can be had at beachpelieuart.com. Worth whatever eye strain it takes.

2 SPECTRE FOLK Spectre Folk is Pete Nolan’s long-running non-Magik Markers combo. And their new album, The Ancient Storm (Vampire Blues, vampireblues.net), is a quartet scene, with Pete joined by Aaron Mullan, Steve Shelley and Peter Meehan. Dreamier, poppier and ghostlier than previous efforts, it is tempting to call this the best record with a world class foodie (Meehan) since Robert Sietsema’s last recording with Blinding Headache. The longer tracks have a splendid psych droopiness and the whole thing just flows like butter. Meanwhile, Nolan’s label, Arbitrary Signs (arbitrarysigns.blogspot.com, has continued to flower slowly. Most recent drop was Your First Ever River by United Waters. UW is the new solo (or solo-esque) project by Brian Sullivan from Mouthus. The guy’s a brutal arm-wrestler (take our word!), but he also shows an incredible deftness with deeply murky pop constructions on River. Even more than with Brian’s other project, Eskimo King, the sounds here are bizarre but assembled with a precision recalling some of the best efforts of the long-gone Bobby J label. It’s a record that rewards heavy, smoked listening. Don’t think we ever mentioned the last record on Arbitrary Signs either, which was Four Corners Bounce by Devin, Gary & Ross. The surnames invovled are Flynn, Panter & Goldstein, so you can be assured this project is also a riot of screwed-up ‘60s pop readymades, interspersed with doper madness and actual songs that will twist yr mind like taffy. Don’t not check it out.

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C & D reason together about some new records [Arthur No. 26/Sept 2007]

Originally published in Arthur No. 26/September 2007

C & D: Two guys “reason” together about some new records.

D: Christ on a crutch, it’s hot in here.
C: [winces] Uh yeah, I guess I forgot to mention the “air conditioner, lack of” situation we’ve got going over here.
D: It is going to be difficult for me to do my work in these conditions.
C: [guffaws] You call listening to records “working”? Ha! That ain’t workin’! You get your money for nothin’ and your chicks for free.
D: Where have I heard this before. What money? And I don’t see any chicks around here.
C: I regret that my hosting skills are not what they once were.
D: Yes your place is not only a sweat lodge—it’s sexist. I cannot work in these circumstances.
C: You can do it if you put a beer into it.
D: Okay. Beer me.
C: Of course! [Heads to the kitchen, ceremonially] Come! Let us drink beer and reason together.

ALAN VEGA
Station
(Blast First/Mute)
C [returns from kitchen with a sixer of St. Pauli’s, starts CD at medium blast]: So for some reason I thought it was a good idea to kick things off with the darkest, most negative thing possible. Alan Vega from New York City electro-rock-minimalist legends Suicide, talking about the condition of this nation. Analysis: dark. Prognosis: bleak to terminal.
D: [listening to “Freedom’s Smashed”] Turn it up! This is the ’80s back with a vengeance! [listening to lyrics: “Smashing down freedom / Smashing our freedoms / Wah! / Smashing our freedom / Freedom’s running scared/ Freedom’s running out of time/Freedom’s gone!”] Shit! I’m flipping out here. I could live inside this sound.
C: The rhythm is really amazing, it’s like John Henry hitting a punching bag—and Alan Vega is the ringside coach talking to himself about how they’re gonna lose, the fix is in.
D: Yeah baby! Freedom’s going down. It’s terminal idiocy, nobody’s paying attention. But Suicide always knew what was going down in the negative times.
C: The vocals really are astonishing in their range, very actorly. Repeated phrases in different intonations, suggesting different moods, different meanings—shock, resignation, despair, hope; and then there are all those Goblin-esque shrieks and gurgles in the background.
D: This is America at its most violent, self-flagellating. [Repeating lines from “Station Station”] “There was a TIME/ When you could dream /Now—NOW / It has become a crime/ to dream! / It has become a CRIME/ to dream.” Talking about the dream losers. Doing a deeper analysis of American society. Sometimes there’s something at work in the culture that normal journalism can’t decipher. And right now is not normalcy, my friend. One thing’s for sure: this won’t be giving comfort to the neighbors.
C: Hey, Springsteen has been doing [Suicide song] “Dream Baby Dream” live lately.
D: [pause] Little Steven was pretty good, but I always thought Alan Vega and Martin Rev should have had characters on The Sopranos.
C: Especially with those world’s biggest sunglasses that Alan Vega always wears.
D: It’s his signature. They belong in Cleveland in that Rock N Roll museum.
C: Yes, right next to all the other sunglasses of rock ‘n’ roll: Stevie Wonder, Bootsy Collins, Ray Charles, Velvet Underground, Elton John, Sly Stone, Yoko Ono, Roy Orbison. Only, Alan Vega’s would be behind cracked glass with bars in front and you’d hear someone yelling at the television in back.
D: [in Alan Vega voice] “Freedom’s smashed!”

MAGIK MARKERS
Boss
(Ecstatic Peace/Universal)
D: More ominosity.
C [handing D another beer]: This is the new Magik Markers album, and it’s much more straightahead than you’d expect from their reputation as improv poet noise-stars. These are recognizable drums-guitar-vocal duo songs with relatively melodic chant-singing by Elisa Ambrogio and surprisingly in-the-pocket drumming by brother Pete Nolan. There’s even a pretty good stab [“Empty Bottles”] at a piano ballad.
D: “Body Rot” and “Taste” remind me of the lest-we-forget great dark mystical ’80s Californian band Opal—
C: Respect to Kendra Smith.
D: —and that band the Kills who made one really good album and then….
C: Yeah there’s a similarity—in a driving, on-the-edge-of-something-intense, and she has a similar voice to the Kills singer V.V., but this seems more committed to um, murder, or something. “Last of the Lemach Line” has that good ol’ grimy looming-catastrophe-in-a-dying-factory-city sound… like Godspeed!, or Kim’s Sonic Youth jams. Patti Smith in her freer, less barroom moments. This is not beer music. [looks at band photograph on CD] But you could drink bottles of whiskey to it on a hot Saturday afternoon, which is apparently what they did when they were made it!
D: [in own world] Hmm… What did happen to the Kills?
C: Being confused with The Killers would probably be enough to cause any band to do themselves in. But my best guess is they were killed by a drum machine WITH NO SOUL.
D: That never would’ve happened if they’d used Suicide’s drum machine. Early ’70s SoHo soul, baby! [looks at empty beer bottle, bellows in Jim Morrison voice:] Beer me madly/Beer me one more time today!
C: Life: enjoy it while it lasts!

BLUES CONTROL
Blues Control
(Holy Mountain/Revolver)
D: [looking at CD spine] “Blues Control”?
C: I know, sounds like a pimple commercial. “Son, we know you’ve been having a hard time lately. Maybe you should think about using…BLUES CONTROL (TM)? It wipes away those hard-to-kill blues in a matter of minutes. “Control your blues today with Blues Control.”
D: I think my current blues control is a beer with a German girl on it. [pauses, thinks] They are hard at work on something, but I’m not sure who’s at the controls.
C: It’s a di-sexual instro duo on guitars and keys, with a drum machine. Lea Cho and Russ Waterhouse. Seems like they have two major modes: brute force monstrosity trudge in the cloudsmashing style of the mighty Blue Cheer…
D: And impressionist, introspective space and electronic plant music on that subtle plane visited by Eric Satie and Popul Vuh, with the subaquatic melodica of Sir Augustus Pablo…
C: [chuckles] That’s a team-up to be reckoned with.
D: These other songs are some pretty heavy duty stuff! It’s music you hear when you dig a hole deep enough to listen to what’s going on inside the earth. Troglobite rock, baby. And I am a troglophile!
C: [carrying on] If they put this out on vinyl, and I think that they did, it should be on coated 540 gram for the needle’s sake.
D: It should be on shellac. [finishing another beer] Analog all over your face! Ya heard?
C: Maybe I should put something else on before things get any more out of control…

CELEBRATION
The Modern Tribe
(4AD/Beggars Group)
C: …
D: Well, here’s our first obvious album-of-the-year contender.
C [listening to “Pressure” and “Pony”] The singer’s totally going for it. It’s like Johnette Napolitano … fronting a shit-hot psychedelic-funk-dance band on an electro-church run to the dub castles of Jamaica. And yes, I just made that up.
D: The singer is not holding back. Fuck me…two times!
C: [ignoring C’s outburst] Like a more passionate, more organic and more, dare I say ‘soulful’ LCD Soundsystem, fronted by a belter of a singer, who is a woman. [rhetorically:] How badly do we need this?
D: Women are DEFINITELY where it’s at right now.
C: [quizzical] And maybe always…? But yeah, so awesome. Produced by Dave Sitek from TV on the Radio, and those guys sing on it too but you can tell that. Reminds me of Moonshake, or Laika, only more muscular, funkier.
D: There is a certain Eurythmics-soul quality apparent here. [pauses] But she may actually be undermixed. Underrepresented. I want to hear the words.
C [listening to “Hands Off My Gold”]: You were right at the top, this is the album to beat, there’s hit after hit here.
D: [self-righteously] But of course, music is not a competition!
C: [smug] Oh yeah, of course not.
D: …
C: …
D: So, interested in a friendly wager?

FAUST
Faust IV
(Caroline/Virgin/Capitol)
D [listening to the opening track “Krautrock”]: Well, this is pretty clearly the source of Spacemen 3’s “Revolution,” even down to where the drums come in And there’s that Can-Hawkwind motorik rhythm. It must be… FAUST! What is this, 1973?
C: Yes and yes and yes again—sir, you are the sweepstakes winner!
D: Thank you veddy much, ladies and gentlemen. [pauses] Whoops, I mean no ladies and one gentleman.
C: Yeah well, if there were ladies here, I’m sure you’d be to busy checking your blackberry instead of actually talking to a live female human being.
D: [snorts] Silence in the lower ranks!
C: …
D: Ahem.
C: …
D: So, I never listened to Faust, they were always a big question mark for me.
C: Me too.
D: They might have been one of the most radical, political bands in Germany. Then again it was a very political time in Germany. And it’s not anymore. There’s no nail bombs anymore, just police teargas…
C: The bass sound on “Jennifer” is amazing is insane, timeless. It’s Syd Barrett inside deeply abstract bass sound, that’s essentially, basically electronic. The mix is so daring. What else sounded like this, ever?
D: This [“Just a Second (Starts Like That”)] is what we’re talking about. That certain pulse that only the Germans and Hawkwind could do.
C: Yeah, and, um, remember this band called Creedence Clearwater Revival? “Suzie Q”…
D: —is pretty much the template for everything. Highest praise to John Fogerty, one of the last surviving Great Americans of the Golden Age. You better recognize! [four minutes into “Giggy Smile”]: But—did Creedence ever dare to get this far out…into giddiness? And electronics?
C: The La Dusseldorf guys were pretty goofy. But, yeah this kind of multi-genre hopping —folk, motorik, drone, psychedelic pop—in such good spirits, so fearlessly, so without a care. Zappa? Mutantes? Amazing that there was some kind of audience for this, enough for them all to make careers. What a time that was… [drifts off]
D: By the way, I have an addendum to make. No one had cooler sunglasses than Om Khalthoum. Egyptian Moderne will always be the number one fashion look.
C: ???
D [mysteriously]: Those who know, know…

WHITE RAINBOW
Prism of Eternal Now
(Marriage vinyl/Kranky cd)
D [jaw agape]: I feel like I’m listening to the soundtrack to the truly great cosmic film Ralph Bakshi was never allowed to make.
C: [also gone] Wow…with super guitars and tablas and some seriously Steve Reich maneuvers on the vocals…
D: [at end of seven-minute first track] This is what Strawberry Jam wishes it could sound like.
C: And it’s all one guy. Remember? He did that “vibrational healing chamber” at ArthurBall a year and a half ago.
D: [one minute into third track] Serious pedal-oriented vibrations on this one. This will take a long time to investigate properly.
C: It’s like half Fripp/Eno “Swastika Girls,” half Terry Riley “Poppy Nogood.” Multi-tracked guitars riff away over a bed of raw synthesizer grooves. Incredible!
D: Massive!
C: I think we may have just left the beer portion of the evening.
D: Which can mean only one thing: Bring on the papalolo!

DEVENDRA BANHART
Old Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon
(XL/Beggars Banquet)
D: Ah, not this guy again. Every single record of his, we have to review. Why?
C: Well, those at the controls of this operation like to keep tabs. See how things grow. See how the organism evolves.
D: [takes a tug on the pipe] This is Devendra’s White Album. Or the truest Tropicalia tribute album.
C: He took a longer time to make this record, really took the opportunity to stretch out and go for it with his band. The whole thing is a sprawling beauty, but there’s two kinds of songs, basically: some party goofs – reggae, doo-wop, Doorsish epics, Crazy Horse workouts—and gorgeous quiet slow-goers. A band, a talent, in full-bloom.
D: Plus Vashti Bunyan and Linda Perhacs on here? It can’t be true!
C: And yet it is. Another album-of-the-year-contender.
[E barges in through door out of nowhere]: Agh! This slow breakup shit is killing me! [grabs beer, sits down on couch]. You know you’re in trouble when you’ve been staring at a pulsing Apple logo for three days straight! Agh! It’s slow torture, everything I’m doing right now. [chills out] Hey, what is this?
C: The new Devendra.
E: The do-what now?
D: The new Devendra!
E: [listening to “Seahorse”] This is actually pretty good. I thought I didn’t like this dude, Mr. Defreaky McWeirdbeard, but…
C: It’s those canyon vibes. Chill out…

DANIEL A.I.U. HIGGS
Atomic Yggdrasil Tarot hardcover book with cd
(Thrill Jockey)
C: New album of extended instrumentals by Daniel Higgs, housed in a hardcover book of paintings and large type text.
D: [Reads from book] ”Our actions are God’s food.” Whoa. “Devils Establish Absolute Truth Here.” “Grief Obscures Delight.” I don’t understand any of this but it is clearly a major artistic statement.
C: The first letters from each word in those phrases forms another word. So—
E: Give me that. [Reads from book] These paintings are beautiful, like Miro on a serious hermetic trip. “TERROR: Tirelessly Extending Rays Reaching Our Reality.”
C: Maybe I’ve been unadventurous, but Daniel Higgs the spookiest performer I’ve ever seen who’s not named Diamanda Galas. With black candles and a fog machine, this could send you into that void for sure.
D: He is clearly on his own path into the big infinity void, telling it like it is.

The Source: The Untold Story of Father Yod, Ya Ho Wa 13 and the Source Family book with cd
by Isis Aquarius with Electricity Aquarius, foreword by Erik Davis
(Process Media)
C: This is the long-awaited group autobiography/history of the Source Family, an early-’70s cult in Los Angeles led by super-charismatic older dude who called himself Father Yod, or as he was known later, Ya Ho Wa. He had 100-plus followers, including 14 wives.
D [piping in]: And Sky Saxon from The Seeds!
C: [puts book’s accompanying CD on] They had a rock band that recorded studio albums and played daytime shows at schools. They had a big mansion, VW buses and Rolls-Royces, lived in Los Feliz. The whole thing was funded by the super-organic restaurant they ran on Sunset Boulevard that all the celebrities ate at.
E: Yeah, right. Give me that. [grabs book, reads caption of photo of Father in a pool surrounded by naked women] “Teaching water aerobics?” This guy… This is some weird fucking white pimp shit is what this is. What the heck is this, man? I guess in California, if you look like God, you are God.
C: He was a practicing Sikh and they don’t cut their hair. And he says on the CD that it’s hair that gives your body vitamin D, so the more of it you have…
E: Hey there’s some great breastfeeding shots in here.
C: It’s one of the cults that ended well.
E: What, they were the one cult that didn’t kill people or themselves?
C: He died after a serious hang gliding crash in Hawaii, he refused hospital treatment.
E: [reading] “His pain was so intense that YaHoWha wanted anything to relieve it, and he took what we had on hand to help him through it: Darvon, aspirin, champagne, Sacred Herb, Sacred Snow, and nitrous oxide.”
D: Well, that would do it.
C: And not long after that, they split up.
E: “Sacred Snow”?!? With capital S’s?!? [cackles] “The word of God cannot be copyrighted.” This is the most classic shit ever. I’ll take it. [Runs out the door, cackling] Hahahaha!

ANGELS OF LIGHT
We Are Him
(Young God/Revolver)
D: I know that voice. Swans!
C: Yeah, it’s Michael Gira’s new album. It’s got quite a sound—the Akron/Family dudes are all on here, but so are the old Gira hands like Bill Rieflin and Christoph Hahn. Layers of stuff, perfectly arranged: guitars, banjo, piano, flute, strings, accordion, melodica, hammer dulcimer.
D: [listening to “Promise of Water”] Still menacing and grand after all these years.
C: It’s…ceremonial, melodic, yearning. [“The Man We Left Behind”] is like a slow Johnny Cash waltz, just beautiful.
D: [Listening to “My Brother’s Man”] And he can still punish at will.
C: “Not Here/Not Now” throbs with life; and this (“Joseph’s Song”) has the most unexpected Gira move ever: it goes uptempo into a trombone-led jamboree.
D: A Giramboree!
C: [laughs] Like the Devendra album, this his opens up so much new territory. Unbelievable, wonderful to hear, especially coming from a veteran artist. Another album of the year contender that demands further examination…

WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM
Two Hunters
(Southern Lord)
D: [looks admiringly at black album cover with a single wolf’s skull on it in gold.] This is the best cover tonight! This is what awaits. [maniacally] As Brother Theodore, said: “Friends flee. Lovers leave. Worms wait.”
C: I might be headed back into the metal direction again. It makes the most sense when you loathe what’s around you and want to block it all out. And this is huge, majestic. Like Mogwai with a power drummer—
D [interrupting]: I think the drummer may have had some interaction with Sacred Snow.
C: —and a black metal wraith on vocals. This song is now in its ninth minute.
D: This is the one! This is heavy work in the dark metal machine. When he sings, no human entity can be identified.
C: This could be the end of the wolf bands.
D: They’ve killed them all and are roasting them on the barbecue. Where are they from? Sweden?
C: What does it say on the sleeve?
D: I can’t make out a single word. [Third track, with angelic female vocalist, starts] This has the stamp of truly obsessed.
C [reading “Artist Statement” from band’s website] “Our project is based in the forests of Olympia, Washington—
D: The land of the mighty Thrones!
C: “Our music is a reflection of the land in which we dwell; it draws its power from the long, dark winters, the perpetual mist… Our philosophies are anti-modern, romantic and anti-human, a musical expression of an emerging eco-black metal consciousness that has taken root here in the Pacific Northwest.”
D [dazzled]: “Eco black-metal”?
C: “We are unique in that we express a deeply underground ideology on a larger stage. Our Black Metal is highly local and personal—not beholden to the expectations and demands of any scene. Our music is rooted in the traditions of Black Metal, but we subvert the aesthetic and ideology to remain true to our personal manifestation. To us, Black Metal might be understood as the Death card in the Tarot or the number 13, which represents not an end to life, but the shedding of an old and outmoded way of being: death and rebirth, transformation and enlightenment. Our music is perhaps what happens after the initial, necessary, hateful burst; after the psychic explosion that is Black Metal wipes away that which came before: the sick and twisted “truths” of our modern condition. For in Black Metal, we see great truth, transcendence and power. Black Metal is the cleansing fire that frees us from the bondage of rationality, science, morality, religion, leaving us free to choose our own path.”
E: Well, there you go.
C: [musing] Does Daniel Higgs know these guys?
D: This band should curate the next Wagner Ring Cycle. They need it, the young edge, some new blood. And they have extreme people doing extreme Rings all the time, like Schlingzief is going to do the new one. He’s the biggest cultural star of Germany. He made Freakstar 3000.
C: Is he the Matthew Barney of Germany?
D: In a way, maybe. He’s a total anarchist.
C: “Thank you Cremaster, may I have another?”
D: You know that’s where all the old Nazis come out of hiding, at the annual Ring Cycle. It’s the biggest cultural event in Germany on this old-scale, old-school level. That’s where you see all of them together. [shivers] Everybody knows about it but it’s not talked about.
C: What can I say but: Send in the Wolves!

MARIEE SIOUX
Faces in the Rocks
(Grassroots)
D: What can I say? A beautiful voice of nature, singing about nature, in nature. Contentment and beauty. Forest-folk.
C: [listening to “Friendboats”] Gorgeous. She’s another one of these amazing folks from the Nevada City area in California. Terry Riley, Gary Snyder, Joanna Newsom, Noah Georgeson, Alela Diane, Dream Magazine… Something is going on up there.
D: Maybe it’s the same thing as what’s going on in the woods outside Olympia, only…
C: No two forests are alike. I am picturing her singing next to the Yuba River on a summer afternoon, everyone’s high on old-growth oxygen and riverside blueberries…
D: [Listening to “Flowers and Blood,” closes eyes] Ah. Please do not interrupt my serenity.

TONGUE TOP TEN by Byron Coley and Thurston Moore

Mum_Halo

1. Whatever generation it is now of the St. Marks Poetry Project New York School is beyond us, we stopped counting as soon as we saw Anselm Berrigan running the joint, remembering him as a kid banging around the folding chairs at the Project really not that long ago. Time flies in real time and in poet time and the last decade of young poets around that scene has been consistently engaging, though maybe exuding a transitional character that left us waiting for some kind of sick throw down. A recent publication that kind of comes very close to this is Mum Halo by New York City poet John Coletti, published by Rust Buckle Books. Coletti’s a pal of the true hearts writing, ruminating and starving around the historical churchyard on 2nd Ave and 9th street but keeps a slow and low profile. So when Anselm handed us this book we were curious, and when ripping through its pages we were left both stoned-brained and speed-slapped. Here is writing that takes the economy of word-mythos line play and evokes it with charm, humor and street sophistication. Check this out:

Opens Slowly

Because you’re patient
helping world being
less injured in it
pull up skirt hard inside
simple folding
burnt my finger
putting you out

Killer, here’s another:

Truce

Like to complicate my life no I don’t
sleep all day full pail &
feather your hair grinding sea
for Texas decades, sure
I might be a fuck-up
awesome fuck-up

2. The recent Jack Rose release party in Philly felt pretty cathartic for a bunch of the people who attended and it also kinda highlighted the wide breadth of style-glumph that is currently heralded as volk.

There is, of course, Jack’s own new album, Luck in the Valley (Thrill Jockey), which is a magnificent precis of his career, ranging from long raga fantasias to clackety neo-rags and stomps with Harmonica Dan, D. Charles Speer and other fellow travelers. The beauty and ease of his playing is something we will hold as a treasured memory as long as we live.

glennjonescover

Jack’s long-time riding partner Glenn Jones also has a brilliant new album called Barbecue Bob in Fishtown (Strange Attractors Audio House), which is his best blast yet. Soloing on both guitar and banjo, Glenn’s playing has a precision and formal mastery that is jaw-dropping and so wide-ranging it’s incredible. And it’s definitely worth getting the LP version, since there’s a visual tribute contained to Muddy Waters’ Electric Mud album that is sure to crack up any knowledgeable collectors out there. I just hope he gets around to recording the Stockhausen music box pieces he’s been ruminating on for last decade or two. That would be a total gas.

idaconsnock

One of the obsessive fanboy strands we’ve shared with Glenn over the years is the immortal Michael Hurley, and he has a smoking new LP as well. Ida Con Snock (Gnomonsong) was recorded over the course of a few years and features a mic of new & old material (as has been Hurley’s wont for a good long while.) What’s different and extremely special here is that he’s backed by the young Brooklyn folk-rock band, Ida, and also the great Tara Jane O’Neil. The gang really provides Hurley with the best backing band he’s had since Have Moicy! They usually hang back, only moving forward when it’s really appropriate, and the results are solid and as satisfying as a spliff, a jug and a warm fireplace. Hurley has the capacity to sound timeless, and he’s in rare form here, doing songs as transcendent as “Wildegeeses” and as boy howdy as “Ragg Mopp.” A massive favorite for all seasons.

espers

Which reminds me of a show we put on in 2002 or so, where Hurley was backed on some numbers by the Philly band, Espers. That was a corker, as is Espers’ new LP, III (Drag City). Someone from the band told me they felt like this album was a holding-pattern in comparison to earlier work, but we sure don’t hear it. The CD has been stuck in the car stereo a lot lately, and the blend of Anglo-style female vocals (this time more like Celia Humpries—from the Trees—and Sandy Denny) and the male ones (which remind us of nothing so much the actually great—we swear—soft-rock of Mark-Almond and Sweet Thursday) is so fine. And the whole thing is laced with shots of guitar so goddamn psych you’ll swear they’re Japanese. But they aren’t. They’re just great.

dook-cover-72

Lastly in this category (for now) comes Peter Stampfel‘s long-overdue Dook of the Beatniks (Pietystreet Files and Archaic Media). Stampfel, of course, as half of the original Holy Modal Rounders has a pretty legitimate claim to being the founding father of the whole psych-volk shebang, so what does he do? Why he perversely records a rock & roll album with Mark Bingham producing. And it’s great, naturally—c’mon, nobody sings a song quite as crazily as Stampfel does—and contains everything from covers of obscure Johnny Cash b-sides to Sam Shepard’s “Take a Message to Omie” (Shepard was in the Rounders for a while too) and various other great damn tunes. It’s really nice that Stampfel allowed himself to take the lead on all the vocals here (something he never did in the Bottlecaps or the Rounders) and the results are extremely uplifting. You have to go online to read the fucking liner notes (similar to one of those Adelphi Rounders albums where you had to write the label to get ’em), but they’re typically fine and worth the effort. This still ain’t the exact Stampfel album we’re waiting for—back in the ’80s Ira Kaplan tried to strong-arm Peter into doing a solo LP with just voice and fiddle, and that’s the one we’re still holding our breath about. But this one’s a riot. And the cover pic of young beat Pete is wild. But hey—what happened to that album where he was gonna record a song from each year of the 20th Century? That’s due, too. Shake a leg, mofo.

3. Some superior communal and loose-tongue drone by Your Drugs My Money, a collective of peeps from all over the usa and one copenhagenite. They wrapped their heads together a couple years back in Portland and ran tape and it is deep wind-charmed fluidity, both sweet and raw. The session exists on a split tape released by oms/b tapes with Les Aus, two freaks from Barcelona who’ve been making records etc. for a while. Death trip momma Lydia Lunch shows up to intone on a track and the earth cracks open and cream gushes.

4. As it so often does, the Christmas season brought an avalanche of books about the Velvet Underground. Well, maybe not an avalanche, but THREE. And that seems like a lot for band that lost its leader (Lou Reed) 40 years ago, But we don’t wanna complain. ‘Cause the best thing is that whenever a buncha new books come out, it means there’ll be some pics we’ve never seen before. And it’s hard to think of a band that looked as consistently cool as the Velvets. The three are all by scribes we know, and each has a take somewhat reflective of author’s personality.


A Walk on the Wild Side author Jim DeRogatis


The first and most general one is A Walk on the Wild Side by Jim DeRogatis (Voyageur Press). Jim’s best known for daily newspaper work and his serviceable bio of Lester Bangs. His chief function as a rock scribe seems to be restating consensual realities, and so it is here. I mean, the book’s text is a solid introduction, but this is an intro that’s been made many times before. The volume’s raison d’etre, one assumes, is the new visuals. And it’s true—the pics look great (even though the most surprising ones now show up elsewhere as well), but the text is somewhat bland and the stuff about later solo work doesn’t carry the same charge. Still, a worthwhile filer. The Velvet Underground: New York Art by Johan Kugelberg (Rizzoli) is an outgrowth of the art catalog he did that we wrote about a couple of years ago. New York Art is a gorgeously printed, obsessive’s guide to the explosive confluence of Warhol’s scene and the Velvets. If you want a coffee-table Velvets book, this is the one to own. The text pieces are solid (an interview with both Lou and Maureen; random pieces by Bangs and Meltzer; memoirs from Rob Norris, Sterling and others) and the illustrations are pretty mind-bending. Very over-the-top, but wildly cool. White Light/White Heat (Jaw Bone Press) by Richie Unterberger: this one goes beyond obsession. It’s a day-by-day tracking of everything known about the band and their fellow travelers. And it is exhaustive. Richie has even dug up some images that eluded DeRogo and Johan, but the meat of this book is information overload. It’s the kind of book that can keep your ass glued to the toilet for days at a time. So don’t keep your copy in the bathroom. Might be hazardous to your very own ass health! Amazing work.

5. Caldera Lakes is Eva Aguila and Brittany Gould, two Los Angeles women who are displacing the Ladies of The Canyon mantle of Joni Mitchell by taking that songbird’s searching heart and massaging it against an amplified key grinder. And it is seriously killer. With a clutch of releases on Blackest Rainbow, Deathbomb Arc and 905they have proven to be one of the most arresting and savage femme noise units creepy-crawling the planet. Their latest self-titled tape on Accidie is as great as anything they’ve done, if not the greatest. Essential mayhem.

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6. There are pretty many great jazz reissues and retrievals every year. People stumble over some crazy ass shit and we are goddamn happy when they deign to bring it to our attention. But it’s also fun to revisit old friends who’ve lingered in the shadows of our record collections for too long. So it was a sweet feeling to get a grey-area reissue of The Psychedelic Saxophone of Charlie Nothing, an LP that originally appeared on John Fahey’s Takoma label in 1967. Asked about it, Fahey would only say, “That was ED Denson’s idea!” But Nothing at this time was a Berkeley fixture and was known for wild alto sax improvisations as well as the huge book of writing and art he was always working on. Well, Charlie passed away a couple of years ago, and he recorded a bunch of interesting stuff that will hopefully see wide distribution one of these days, but this album is his first and it is a masterpiece of free improv—sax and percussion, unbridled from formal constrictions, allowed to weasel around like electrified rats. People have occasionally decried this LP in the same terms they use for Beefheart’s soprano playing (“that’s not playing—that’s just breathing!”), but we say “Fuck You,” to those who would quibble over such outmoded concepts. As Duke Ellington so famously said, “If it sounds good, it is good.” You are so right, Duke. And this Charlie Nothing album sounds GREAT.

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7. Kryssi Battalene is a New Haven experimental angel who channels the sound of cosmic snowbirds through the physical friction of ferrous oxide tape against smoldering tapeheads. She also plays an astoundingly wicked guitar both traditionally and out of this world. We first saw her perform as a duo with Danny Moore in the amazing Heaven People, since disbanded, and she has been currently soloing every once in a while under the name Colorguard. She’s recorded a few weird cassettes handed off at gigs but thank the long red hair mystic Heath Moerland of Fag Tapes for releasing Shared Planet, a fine premier for this most awesome of wild improv enchantress.

8. Excellent to be able to screen Shout Factory‘s new, super clean DVD of the great American International teenage rock & roll spectacular, The T.A.M.I. Show. The older of us actually saw this screamfest at a movie theater when it came out in ’64, and it was amazing. The weirdest part of it may be the soundtrack, which has a persistent teen-scream huzz which (from the look of the crowd) is something that was tacked on to provide extra energy or somesuch. But the film doesn’t need it. Between the gyrations of the go-go girls (including Teri Garr and Tosi Basil back when they were part of Wallace Berman’s circle), the wild performances of the musicians (James Brown, the Stones, the Barbarians, Chuck Berry, etc.) and goofy MCing by the superb surf duo, Jan & Dean (the first group whose records I collected seriously). It is an insane blend and a testament to the heterogeneity of the early ’60s R&R experience, when the underground and commercial scenes were virtually interchangeable (apart from the creepy singers pushed by publishers and producers). This was shot at the Santa Monica Civic, and the tickets were given away free to local high schools. What a bonus fucking day that must’ve been.

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9. One of the great small press poetry publishers, O Books, out of Oakland CA, issued in 1989 the first English translation of It Then, a book of poems by the late French poet Danielle Collobert. Collobert is little known outside the rabid circle of enthusiasts for her minimalist, self erasing style, but she has an intriguing history. Born in 1940, she published her first book of poems, Chant de Guerres (Song of Wars), in 1960, then hunted down every extant copy and destroyed them.

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She became a political activist involved with publishing the Revolution Africaine newsletter. She published the Raymond Queneau-championed book Muerte (Murder) in 1964, traveled extensively, wrote and performed radio plays, published Il Donc (It Then) in 1976, and committed suicide in her hotel room in Paris the night before her birthday July 24, 1978. Collobert possessed a dark and romantic visage, especially evident when one notices her jacket photo with its downward gaze and the sensual sadness of her beauty. Her work astounds, moving across the page with a sonance both velvet and machine-gun like. The translation allows us to access her meaning, but the poetry here is compromised by not hearing the sound of the writer’s language. Even so, the thought process, the artistry of the trajectory, comes clear—and it is not always pretty. In fact it can be pretty frightening, detailing emotional negotiations with the poison of inhumanity as well as the living psychology of being female, indeed being REAL.

An excerpt:

I

It – flows – it bangs itself – slammed into walls – it picks itself up – stamps feet – it doesn’t go far – four steps to the left – new wall – it extends its arms – leans – leans hard – rubs its head – again – harder – forehead – there – the forehead – hurts – rubs harder – becomes inflamed – not the forehead – from within – cries

good start for the pain – head between arms – forehead against wall – and rubbing – skin breaks open a little – not enough – ooh the pain – there it is – feet kicking the wall down low – go on – with the toes – striking hard – thrashing – nothing to be done – doesn’t subside – never will subside – the rage – the pain – cries – hits with flat hands – dull noise – a cry – here a cry – no gasp – a little above a gasp – in shrillness – here it comes – collects at the back of the throat – what’s going to come out – still below the pain – not enough

sobs shaken – saliva at lips’ edge – bitter taste – slides a little towards the corner – nose smashing – lips – the lips twisted sideways – pulled back to the gums – moistening the wall – eyes closed – stomach and chest flattened – unsticks – comes back harder – sharp impact of shoulders – unsticks – comes back again with elbows with knees – bangs fists – fists’ backs – to the bone – starts over – skin reddens – rips at last – it falls – doubled up – dragging arms stretched along the wall – kept vertical by ends of fingernails – it collapses – impact of back – head rings on wooden floor – it pushes up onto its elbow – drags along the wall – reaches hung-up coat – hangs onto – hoists itself – buries its head in the wool – grabs the arms – holds the end of the sleeves tight – overlaps them around neck – expecting softness – but no – squeezes hard – chokes – coughs into tears – chokes – lets go – hangs onto cloth – pulls hard to rip – rips with all its strength – tears pieces with its teeth – spits – chokes – arms fall back down – sinks down – slips onto the ground

a body there – practicing pain – as if it hadn’t had enough of this suffering – at each moment – in floods – in vast wave – trying pathetically to practice it

body striking – disfiguring its limbs with the too full pain – which body sudden empty – which violence against – about empty – pain congealed at last – wanting to reach it to set it once and for all – to keep it there motionless – or set it down in front of it – itself – to make it really visible – in its infinitely numerous images – unceasingly

a body there – no – that body there – the one banging its face against the wall – maybe – no

walls fictive also – unnecessary walls – no – only to see from the place of the present invisible – here – facing the stripped body – arms motionless yet sweeping around in space without meeting anything to lean on – temporary connection – just for an instant – to slow the breathing down – slow down the beating – to quiet down – this body seeking the place – the hollow in which to melt back down again – heat ruptured – and cold of the world around – its place or position unsure to inscribe against the lack – the shocks of the day

(copyright © 2002 O Books)

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It Then is available again through Small Press Distribution, a fantastic source for small press lit.

10. So many boss records floating through here, really have to just randomize & roll. Talk Normal‘s debut full-length, Sugarland (Rare Book Room) is a blazing extension of their earlier EPs. Their basic heft (UK ’78 DIY/No Wave squall) remains in places, but it is swamped by a new, venomous psychedelic thrust mixed with a post-scum instrumental chiming that is ridiculously effective. And their Roxy Music cover is as perfectly imagined as anything you’ve ever heard.

Then there’s the new album by Pete Nolan’s main non-Magik Markers project, Spectre Folk. Their second LP is called Compass, Blanket, Lantern, Mojo (Arbitrary Signs), which I suppose are the four main points on Pete’s aesthetic compass. Less massed and grueling than the Markers, this band’s sound is far more ramblesome and loosely psychedelic. Largely instrumental and as low-key as it is wasted, the LP wiggles beautifully from the instant it hits yr veins.

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One of last year’s most profoundly underrated LPs was definitely Bats in the Dead Trees Parts I-IV (Lost Treasure of the Underworld) by Columbus, Ohio’s Cheater Slicks. This superb band—once based in Boston—has been churning brilliantly for a couple of decades now, and has created some of the world’s most tasty garage raunch in the process. Here they take the challenge and drop structure for an album’s worth of howling free-rock improv, and it sounds so fucking perfect, I just hope a whole lot of garage dudes/dudettes decide now’s the time to put up their own dukes and just LET ONE FLY. Would make for a lotta totally ginchy listening! Thank you, Cheater Slicks.

One band that was born in the land that form forgot was Detroit’s Destroy All Monsters. And luckily for us, Cary Loren has whipped out some expanded jams first presented in edited form in the 1974-1976 3CD box, and smeared them across a glorious slab of vinyl called Double Sextet (The End Is Here/Compound Annex). Yow. Only 500 pressed of this 33-minute chunk of free-form savagery, recorded in 1975, and it’s an instant classic.

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Also instantaneous is the garage-vom-darkness of the long-lost LP by Michael & the Mumbles (De Stijl), a ’66 midwest session led by the teenaged Michael Yonkers. The band’s sound contains elements of frat-romp, folk-rock and pure-garage-fuzz, but the blend is definitely tentative and the sound quality is on a par with Justice albums of the era. Very cool, but only essential if you’re already a head. Which we are. But was this actually released at the time? We’d never even heard rumors of its existence. What the fuh?

Last brain-fugger this time out will have to be Major StarsReturn to Form (Drag City). We think it’s their second for the label, but our Drag City service is too spotty to be certain (hint hint). Regardless, we have loved this band’s core (Wayne, Kate and Tom) through decades and every combo mutation they’ve fronted. The Major Stars express more explosive improv gush here than they’ve done on some other LPs (they sometimes feel more like a live band than a studio one, which’s the opposite of some of their precursors), but the balance—as always—in the Major Stars rests on the balance of the instrumental frontline’s grotesque sonic overload and the massed rock-drive of the other players & singers. Sounds fucking incredible this time out (yin/yang energy up the ass), and the cover art by Bill Nace is as beautiful as a foot.

Alright. Gotta get this posted.

If you want some aktion, please send two (2) identical copies of yr object (archaic formats always appreciated) to:

Bull Tongue
PO Box 627
Northampton MA
01061
USA

Magik Markers' "Lighter Side of… Hippies"

Video artist and musician Heidi Deihl (formerly of Wooden Wand and Vanishing Voice) brings us the first music video from Magik Markers’ new album Balf Quarry released last month on Drag City. The video combines footage of the 90s Syracuse hardcore scene, Rainbow Gatherings, and other religious rituals.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69_5dI5EySQ&feature=channel_page