After 20-plus years navigating strange, inspiring trips across myriad underground psychedelic terrains with a host of fellow free folk, righteous musician/head MATT VALENTINE (MV & EE, Tower Recordings, etc) finally spills all possible beans in an unprecedented, career-summarizing, ridiculously footnoted epic interview by BYRON COLEY. Plus: Deep archival photo finds from the MV vaults, a sidebar wander through some important MV listening experiences with your guide Dan Ireton, and a gorgeous cover painting by ARIK ROPER of MV & EE at peace in the cosmic wild. Delicious!
Orange County, California psych rockers FEEDING PEOPLE left the church, entered the void, lost band members and returned to our reality to sing their tale in glorious reverb. Chris Ziegler investigates, with photography by Ward Robinson…
Everyone needs someone to love, and AROMATIC APHRODISIACS are here to help that lovin’ along (sans wack pharma side effects). From truffles to borrachero, author-scholars CHRISTIAN RATSCH and CLAUDIA MULLER-EBELING get in on the action. Illustrations by Kira Mardikes…
Gabe Soria chats with novelist AUSTIN GROSSMAN (Soon I Will Be Invincible) about the basic weirdness of playing (and making) VIDEO GAMES, with art by Ron Rege, Jr….
All-new full-color comics by Lale Westvind, Will Sweeney, Vanessa Davis and Jonny Negron…
Is there a way to examine the nature of existence at its very foundation? Esoteric mapmaker DAVID CHAIM SMITH says yes—but there’s a price. Interview by Jay Babcock…
Stewart Voegtlin on what (or: who) made MELVINS’ 1992 beercrusher Lysol the most unlikely religious record ever built, with art by Stewart’s Chips N Beer mag compatriot Beaver…
“Weedeater” Nance Klehm on BETTER HOME BREWING…
The Center for Tactical Magic on ANARCHO-OCCULTISM…
PLUS! Byron Coley and Thurston Moore’s essential underground review column, Bull Tongue, now expanded to two giant pages. Covered in this issue: New York Art Quartet, Don Cauble, Douglas Blazek, Rick Myers, Desmadrados, Century Plants, Richard Aldrich, Robbie Basho, Steffen Basho-Junghans, Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys, Michael Zacchilli, Pat Murano, Tom Carter, Les Conversions, Hobo Sunn, Decimus, Saifyya, Jeff Keen, Inspector 22, Yves/Son/Ace, Pink Priest, Smegma, Nouvelle Impressions D’Afrique, K. Johnson Bair, Major Stars, Endless Boogie, David Novick, Joe Carducci, Scam, Erick Lyle, Phantom Horse, Failing Lights, Tomuntonttu, The Lost Domain, George Laughead jr., Xochi, Sublime Frequencies, Barbara Rubin, Red Rippers, Linda King, Cuntz, My Cat Is An Alien, Bird Build Nests Underground, Pestrepeller, Painting Petals on Planet Ghost, Peter Stampfel, Joshua Burkett, Michael Chapman, L’Oie de Cravan Press, Genvieve Desrosiers, The Residents, Dawn McCarthy, Bonnie Prince Billy, Ensemble Pearl, Azita, Woo, Galactic Zoo Dossier, Mad Music INc., White Limo, Excusamwa, Little Black Egg, Dump, Jarrett Kobek, Felix Kubin, The Army, Bruce Russell, and Gate…
And more stuff too hot to divulge online!
Please keep in mind… Arthur is no longer distributed for free anywhere. Those days are (sadly) long gone. Now you gotta buy Arthur or you won’t see it. Our price: Five bucks—not so bad!
Inspired by the aesthetic of the intrepid recordists at film and record label Sublime Frequencies, this series explores the sounds of North Africa as captured by two of the label’s key directors Hisham Mayet and Olivia Wyatt and their influences.
Mon, Mar 4, 2013 430PM, 930PM Trances
Directed by Ahmed El Maanouni | 1981
With Larbi Batma, Nass El Ghiwane, Abderrahman Paco, Omar Sayed, Allal Yaala
A concert film unlike any other, Trances presents extraordinary footage of the Moroccan band Nass El Ghiwane, known as the Rolling Stones of Africa, whose legendary performances combined music, poetry, and theater. “Nass El Ghiwane was singing their nation, their people–their beliefs, their sufferings, their prayers” (Martin Scorsese).
The 9:30pm screening will be introduced by acclaimed critic and poet Byron Coley. One of the central writers at the iconic 1980s indie music magazine Forced Exposure, he has also written for Spin and is currently the senior writer at Arthur Magazine.
Mon, Mar 4, 2013 7PM Musical Brotherhoods From the Trans-Saharan Highway
Directed by Hisham Mayet | 2008
Musicians, fortune-tellers, snake charmers, dancing boys, medicine men and magicians all converge at the nightly spectacle of Marrakesh’s Jemaa Al Fna square, where the traditions of the Arab North and the Berber South meet.
Screening will be followed by a Q&A with director Hisham Mayet and critic and poet Byron Coley. Mayet is an acclaimed documentarian and co-founder of Sublime Frequencies.
Mon, Mar 11, 2013 4:30PM, 9:15PM Staring into the Sun
Directed by Olivia Wyatt | 2011
“Traveling from the northern highlands to the lower Omo Valley via bush taxi, Isuzu cargo trucks, and any means possible, Wyatt brings together the worlds of Zar spirit possession, Hamer tribal wedding ceremonies, Borena water well polyphonic singing, wild hyena feedings, and bizarre Ethiopian TV segments. An enchanting look at these otherworldly images, stark landscapes and captivating sounds from the horn of Africa” (Sublime Frequencies).
Mon, Mar 11, 2013 7PM Deep Hearts
Directed by Robert Gardner | 1981
A model for Sublime Frequencies’ filmmaking practice, pioneering ethnographer Robert Gardner’s Deep Hearts follows the ecstatic male beauty contests of the Bororo people in the Sahel desert.
Screens with Unsere Afrikareise (1966)
Directed by Peter Kubelka
Originally paired with Deep Hearts during that film’s initial run in 1981.
+ Q&A with Robert Gardner and Olivia Wyatt
Mon, Mar 18, 2013 4:30PM, 9:15PM Summer 70
Directed by Nagy Shaker, Paolo Isaja | 1971
Full of the youthful energy of the 1970s, this experimental work is an essential entry in the counterculture canon and features a score by Egyptian composter Soliman Gamil.
Mon, Mar 18, 2013 7PM Folk Music of the Sahara: Among the Tuareg of Libya
Directed by Hisham Mayet | 2004
A rare look at the music and dance of the matriarchal Tuareg of North Central Africa. “If you ever wondered where some of Western music’s more exotic ideas originated from (Sun Ra’s Arkestra, call-and-response choruses, trance drumming, and even some forms of modern hip-hop) this is a great place to start!” (Sublime Frequencies)
Above: Sublime Frequencies announces a new film by Hisham Mayet: The Divine River: Ceremonial Pageantry in the Sahel. Condensed from 40 hours of footage shot between 2007 and 2012, The Divine River is an exhilarating, hallucinatory, harrowing record of music, ritual, life, and landscape along the Niger River — which the Tuareg call “Egerew n-Igerewen,” or “River of Rivers” — as it winds through Mali and the Republic of Niger.
TV on the Radio “Dry Drunk Emperor” (Touch and Go) D: I’ve listened to this probably a hundred times by now, and I still find it overwhelming. It’s a devastator. C: For those out there who haven’t heard it yet, this is the song TV on the Radio released in the wake of Katrina, free to everyone via the Touch and Go website [go here]. This is what they said at the time: “we were back in the studio thinking and feeling again and made this song for all our everybody… in the absence of a true leader we must not forget that we are still together…. hearts are sick … minds must change … it is our hope that this song inspires, comforts, fosters courage,and reminds us… this darkness cannot last if we work together. let us help each other… heal each other …. look after one another … the human heart is our new capitol…. this song is for you…. us…..we….them… it is free. pass it on. TO THOSE AFFECTED BY HURRICANE KATRINA: NEW YORK CITY’S HEART IS WITH YOU… STAY STRONG! WE LOVE YOU.”
We don’t usually do this sort of thing, but this is a special case. Here are the song’s lyrics:
DRY DRUNK EMPEROR baby boy dying under hot desert sun, watch your colors run.
did you believe the lie they told you, that christ would lead the way and in a matter of days hand us victory?
did you buy the bull they sold you, that the bullets and the bombs and all the strong arms would bring home security?
all eyes upon dry drunk emperor gold cross jock skull and bones mocking smile, he’s been standing naked for a while! get him gone, get him gone, get him gone!! and bring all the thieves to trial.
end their promise end their dream watch it turn to steam rising to the nose of some cross legged god gog of magog end times sort of thing. oh unmentionable disgrace shield the children’s faces as all the monied apes display unimaginably poor taste in a scramble for mastery.
atta’ boy get em with your gun till mr. megaton tells us when we’ve won or what we’re gonna leave undone.
all eyes upon dry drunk emperor gold cross jock skull and bones mocking smile, he’s been standing naked for a while. get him gone, get him gone, get him gone!!! and bring all his thieves to trial.
what if all the fathers and the sons went marching with their guns drawn on Washington? that would seal the deal, show if it was real, this supposed freedom.
what if all the bleeding hearts took it on themselves to make a brand new start. organs pumpin’ on their sleeves, paint murals on the white house feed the leaders LSD grab your fife and drum, grab your gold baton and let’s meet on the lawn, shut down this hypocrisy.
C: The harmonies they get on this are just shattering. And the chorus… D: This is soul, with zero retroism. That’s not supposed to be possible anymore and yet here it is. Pure righteousness. C: I find this song overwhelming too. Not just for the song itself, but for the spirit in which was recorded and offered to the public, and the immediacy and selflessness involved. That’s what being an artist is about, in times like these. They get to something really tragic about the current situation: all those poor idiots who have been buying the Bush balderdash since 9/11… because they did that, now we are all paying for their mistakes, and will do for decades. And I’m broke, man. My pockets are empty. And I’ve got it easy. Think of all the unnamed, uncounted dead civilians in Iraq, all the dead and mistreated in New Orleans, all those detained in the secret torture prisons in Poland… D: This song is so good I can’t believe somebody made it. The build and release, the chorus, the singing, the lyrics, the fife and drum… C: It’s a call to imaginative action, for less talk and more walk. This is prime Fela Kuti-level stuff, seriously: talking truth directly to power, giving comfort and uplift to the powerless. I’ve never heard this song on the radio, yet it’s exactly the kind of song radio was made for.
Cast King Saw Hill Man (Locust Music) C: Debut album from 79-year-old white fella. Recorded in a shack in Alabama. D: Seniors rock. Look at this guy. I think our friend T-Model Ford might have some new competition! C: He recorded eight songs for Sun Records in the ‘50s. He he had a touring country and bluegrass band, Cast King and the Country Drifters, but it didn’t work out and he never released an album. D: Sweet baby Jesus, what is wrong with this country? C: I find myself wondering that often these days… D: The first line of this song is “I don’t care if your tears fall in my whiskey.” What more do you need? C: The guy’s voice is so rich, it’s a pleasure just to hear his singing. The sadder the lyrics, the brighter the music. The songs are clever, catchy, simple. How could nobody care for three decades? This nation is so cruel to its artists. D: There’s some Johnny Cash here for sure. C: To our modern ears, of course. But I’m starting to wonder. Who came first? Not that it matters as much as, well, just how many other guys are out there still who are this good, who we’ve never heard? Maybe it’s a lot more than we think. People who got skipped over by accident of history or circumstance. That’s the lesson of the reissue culture that’s so strong right now—the Numero Group label’s releases, the stuff they talk about in Wax Poetics, all the rediscoveries of people like Vashti Bunyan and Gary Higgins and Simon Finn—all of this teaches us that actually the cream doesn’t always rise to the top. It often sinks to the very bottom.
Nina Simone The Soul of Nina Simone dual disc (Legacy/RCA/Sony BMG) C: You’re not going to believe this, either. A new dual disc release: one side is a greatest hits run, the other side is vintage live footage. Deep vintage. D: [looking at track listing] Whoa! None deeper vintage. Pure black power, 1960s. Look at this!!! [Reading aloud scrolling text on screen] “By the end of the ‘60s, the civil rights movement was in a shambles; its key leaders were dead, and race riots had erupted in several U.S. cities. ‘It felt like the shutters were coming down on anyone who dared to suggest there was something seriously wrong with the state of our country,’ said an angry Nina Simone. A ray of community hope appeared in the sammer of ’69, when the Harlem Festival—called ‘a black Woodstock’ by its producer, Hal Tulchin—came to Central Park. Crowds of up to 100,000 flocked to six free concerts. The stars included Sly and the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson, B.B. King, Gladys Knight and the Pips and Simone. These excerpts from Simone’s performance have never before been shown in America.” C: I’ve never even heard of this festival. D: Me neither. C: How is that possible? I thought we knew our shit. My god. Are they saying this footage has just been sitting there since 1969? Listen to her go. Listen to this band. Look at that set, look at this audience. Look at the songs she’s playing—“Revolution,” “Four Women,” “Ain’t Got No—I Got Life” and “To Be Young, Gifted and Black.” Look at the setting. Look at the situation is which this was performed. D: This is right before she went into self-imposed exile. C: She looks absolutely purposeful. There is a resolve in her voice, in her comments to the band and the audience, in that gorgeous face of hers as she sings that is just absolutely… She looks like a woman about to leave, because she’s been wronged. You know she’s gonna slam that door. D: No whining. “My life has been much too rough,” she sings. [Listening to “Ain’t Got No—I Got Life”] Listen to the band swing! Unbelievable. C: She’s holding back tears for the entire performance… She finally breaks—just a bit—on “To Be Young Gifted and Black.” D: I think this is the greatest single live performance I have ever seen. C: Especially when you consider the context. This is just extraordinary. Le Tigre and other no-skill apologists who say technique is irrelevant would do well to watch this. The reason people are listening to what she has to say is because she had skills beyond even her conviction. D: It’s an absolute travesty that the American public hasn’t seen this footage until now. C: Can you imagine what the rest of this festival must have been like? Look at that lineup. Sheesh. We’ve got to ask again: WHY HAVEN’T WE HEARD OF THIS UNTIL NOW? Where are our cultural historians? Why do we know about Jimi liberating the national anthem and not taking the brown acid and all that other Woodstock jive but not about this? It’s criminal.
Niger: Magic & Ecstasy in the Sahel dvd by Hisham Mayet (Sublime Frequencies) C: And now for somebody who knows how to document and distribute important stuff immediately, rather than waiting for 36 years… D: [spills beer in joy] YES! The mighty Sublime Frequencies strike AGAIN! C: 70 minutes of footage of hot blast from the streets of Niger, one of the quote poorest unquote nations in the world. Oil can drum duos, one-stringed instrument maestros, harmonizing ululators, invocation dances. Divination ceremonies and informal nighttime initiation rituals, Taureg trance funk at the end. D: Absolutely riveting.
OOOIOO [Untitled] (Thrill Jockey) C: New album from project featuring Yoshimi who is in Boredoms. Don’t really understand the provenance of this album—recorded in 2000 but only released this year? Weird vocal calisthenics, big tribal drum thrusters, chimes and flutes and birds and trumpets, synthesizers, tablas, loopage and harmony chants, Sean Lennon and Yuka Honda amongst the guests, the best album booklet I’ve seen in 2005—it seems to illustrate a place directly midway mushroom wonderland of the Allmans’ Eat A Peach album centerfold and the post-toxic landscapes of Lightning Bolt—and check it out, here on Track 7: straight-up female Tuareg ululations! D: Sometimes I think Bjork gets all the attention for trying to do what Yoshimi is already doing.
Pearls and Brass The Indian Tower (Drag City) C: We really shouldn’t be reviewing this til next issue cuz it’s not out til January 24. But excuse me, I think I need to turn this up. D: Cream covered by Kyuss? C: Yeah, kind of, huh? It’s actually three dudes from Pennsylvania. D: These are some pretty knotty riffs. Quite a brush. A hedgerow. C: Thorny stuff, but they still give you a riff. Here, have one. D: Why thank you. C: Total air guitar and drum practice CD. “The Face of God” is the face they make when they play, I bet. And there’s the vocal harmonies, and the fingerpicked acoustic blues. D: This is bigrig truck driving music. C: Forty-wheeler stuff—for the poor dudes trying to forget about the price of gas as they drive the nation’s clogged freeways. If it’s time for a Convoy remake, then this is the soundtrack.
The Fall Fall Heads Roll (Narnack) D: The Fall is now at its best since the ‘80s, and I can say that with some authority. C: This is the kind of spare, rocking Fall we all want. I like the words—Mr. Smith’s is still a totally idioscyncratic lyrical approach—but sometime I think just hearing his caffeinated bark against a good beat is enough. It’s a very rhythmic thing—the words are almost secondary to the song’s breath. There’s something about that “ah” that he still does at the end of each line that just feels good when you imitate it. I know that sounds weird but try it-ah.
C: I feel dutybound to advise you that we shall be reviewing many records today that have shall we say significantly progressive overtones. D: It should be no problem. I came prepared. [smiles mischievously] With beer.
Jana Hunter Blank Unstaring Heirs of Doom (Gnomonsong) D: This is Cat Power covering Patsy Cline. After a plate of lasagna. C: Are you sure? D: I cannot be sure, but I feel it to be true. I am trusting my intuition. My blink-of-an-eye insight. C: Looks like you got something in your eye. This is Jana Hunter, from Houston, Texas. D: The home of Mike Jones? C: The same. D: I see. What would you call this? C: I dunno. Downbeat lo-fi folk music with a touch of glum? But it’s more lonesome than depressing, and she tries a lot of different approaches in arrangement, texture and just general aesthetic. D: There is definitely a deep longing at work here. C: The album title hints at a sense of bleak but playful humor—you know the way it mimics doom metal phrasing, half believing it, getting off on how suited to these times this exaggerated language is becoming, what with all the war, pestilence and natural disaster. But sonically this is obviously not High on Fire, so you get a little wink there. Her guitar lines can descend towards doomland like Sabbath. D: Sometimes I see where she gets the title from…
Vashti Bunyan Lookaftering (DiCristina) D: Spectacularly beautiful. C: Quiet English folk artist who made a single, slightly psychedelic album in 1970 with various Incredible String Band personnel and so on, and was then lost to the world. Championed by Devendra Banhart, Animal Collective and Four Tet, who’ve all collaborated with her during the internet era. I think some of them are on this but you just spilled your beer on the notes from the record publicist. D: Sorry! C: Anyways, her first album was re-released last year and here’s the follow-up. Next album is scheduled for 2037. D: She sounds the same as last time. There’s an almost Burt Bacharach-like feel to this. C: Yeah the orchestral hook is sweet. D: They’re very shy, mellowcholic songs. C: There’s more piano than one might expect. Very pretty, very modest. Quite a comeback, eh? D: She saved a little…
M.O.T.O. Raw Power (Criminal IQ) D: [instantly] I like this band. Make it louder! C: [turning it up] Andrew W.K. meets Guided by Voices: power-pop played with Marshalls. D: A melodic Fear. Big influence. [increasingly ecstatic] Perfect music for smart hooligans! You can quote me. C: I am. D: “Let’s Nail it to the Moon” is like Blondie’s first record. And “Spend the Night On Me” is full-on Lazy Cowgirls. C: [quizzical look] D: Aha, you don’t like them, but they have mighty hooks! “Teenage Frankenstein” is righteous rock, I’m telling you. C: Who on earth would call their record Raw Power? At first you think they don’t know what they’re doing, then you think they’re just stupidly audacious, then you find out they’ve been around since like 1988 and so it’s just a great reverse inverse record-geek joke. D: I never heard of M.O.T.O. But they have heard of themselves. They are their biggest fans. They’re like, ‘This is our Raw Power.’ And they’re right: it’s two giant balls on fire! C: [looking at sleeve photo of mixing board] Notice that everything’s recorded at level Infinity. [calculating] The singer must be like 40 years old. Perhaps he is a schoolteacher too… D: “Flipping You Off With Every Finger That I Have” is song title of the decade. C: A good ol’ American fistfight. Those don’t happen too much anymore. What if fighting was in? I don’t mean Fight Club. But you know, hipsters going to other areas of town to get drunk and fight in public. D: [repeating lyrics] “The moon in the sky/Kicks the ass/of the stars/they all fade.” This is true. Every song has a certain drunk-at-midnight, howling-at-the-moon-in-the-bar-parking-lot anthemic quality. C: Their label has the best name in recent memory: Criminal IQ. D: [confiding] It is said that there is a certain IQ where anyone who has it will eventually commit a crime. It’s like 116 or 115 or something. C: Interesting. [listening to “Girl Inhale”] Anyway, this is an homage to the Beatles tune “Girl” that is so obvious it’s great. And is so great because it’s so obvious. It’s the folk tradition: this is how songs used to change over generations. The keyboard solo is a rip of “In My Life.” I wonder if every song is like that and we only are catching the most obvious ones. D: I am saluting the mighty M.O.T.O. with every finger of my hand.
Cult Cargo: Belize City Boil Up (Numero Group) C: Another start-to-finish classic from one of America’s very finest record labels, the Numero Group out of Chicago. D: They are number one! C: This one is a collection of singles recorded between 1960 and 1980 in Belize. Amazing stuff, lots of covers of American soul hits, some reggae stuff too, all infused with this special feel. There’s a warmth—an ease—that’s absolutely seductive. You can just get glimpses of their accent. D: [repeating lyric] “You can’t go half way, you got to go all the way/to have all my love.” Song of the third date. C: Numero Group specialize in upending every notion you have that there is, or has ever been, a meritocracy in pop. They prove that human achievement on this planet is continuous and happens wherever people have time on their hands. It does not take place in the easily circumscribed times and places and sequences that VH1 or self-appointed music experts like ourselves— D: [Snorts, beer comes out of nose] C: —like to place it in. The energy is always-there-everywhere, it’s just a matter of whether you’ve found out about it yet. Remember M.O.T.O.? They’ve been going since 1988, they’re in our own country, and we only just found out about them. Think what’s been going on in other countries for decades! We don’t know anything! Admitting ignorance is the first step towards enlightenment. D: [definitively] Numero Group are international cargo crate diggers of the first order. They should be awarded United Nations medals of honors for service to mankind. C: Okay, time for a snack. [Offering a jar of tiny pickles from Gelson’s] Tiny pickle? D: That’s what she said. Wait a second! That’s not what I meant.
Choubi Choubi! Folk & Pop Sounds From Iraq (Sublime Frequencies) C: Songs from our musically oriented friends in Iraq, much of it recorded in the Sadaam Hussein era. D: I like this! You know, maybe we wouldn’t bomb them if we listened to their music. C: Sublime Frequencies, who were spotlighted last issue in Arthur, also deserve special recognition and financial reward for service to humanity. D: [looking at sleeve] It says here that this song, “They Taught Me,” is in the style of “1970’s Socialist Folk-Rock.” C: Very helpful, D. Now, please pass the shisha. D: [listening] This one sounds groovy… I am at a loss for words— C: But not at a loss for beer— D: [glares] Silence in the lower ranks! C: It turns out that my favorite is the “Choubi” style, which sounds very Indian movie soundtrack to my untrained ears: odd rhythm, acoustic string instruments, orchestral strings, a woman ululating with a choir. [listening to track 5] Is this one called “bee attack”? C: No. Although there is an instrument being used called, which is Arabic for “wasp.” By the way, it says here on the sleeve that music was regarded as very important by Sadaam Hussein: he apparently called musicians the “seventh division” of his forces. But musicians themselves are not really highly regarded in Iraq. They aren’t really stars. Professional musicians are usually outsiders and outcasts, who play weddings and parties and illicit nightclubs, a recording is made to keep the artist going between gigs… gigs as income, recordings as low priority… songs are immediately public domained and any popular, locally pressed recordings are pirated… Is the music better or worse for existing in this way? I dunno. If you were to judge American music solely on the basis of each year’s 20 best selling albums, you wouldn’t say our system is outputting much to speak of. Could it be that music is worse in a corporation-ruled market system than in a dictatorship with zero intellectual property laws? If you were a musician and you’re being pirated and you’re not getting songwriting royalties and nobody is getting rich off your labor—stall merchants were just getting by, selling tapes, and in the process getting your name out there—would you care about piracy? You might be pissed off a little, but then again, chances are you built on what was there before you too. And anyways, you’re doing fine. D: I would like to drink to this and swivel my hips. Generally just do that thing. C: I don’t think you could get in a bar fight to this. D: Or a war.
Radio Pyonggyang: Commie Funk and Agit Pop from the Hermit Kingdom (Sublime Frequencies) C: Paging Mike Patton, please come to the Lost & Found. We have your Mr. Bungle demo. But seriously: this is a whole record of North Korean stuff: “field recordings, television/radio intercepts and live performances” from 1995-1998. Album two in Sublime Frequencies’ Axis of Evil collection. I guess Iran will be next. D: There is something special here but I think it takes a certain mind to appreciate it. [smiling] Which I have. C: I dunno, this is a bit too schmaltzy for me. Where’s the funk? Sounds like that shitty Thai pop you hear sometimes. In the interest of peace between nations, I want to get to this but I can’t. D: [musing] How can we hate them when they’re so awesome?
Residual Echoes Phoenician Flu and Ancient Ocean (Holy Mountain) D: [explodes] Whoa! WHOA!!!! What have you let into this place? C: This band almost caused a riot at Arthurfest when they played the first day downstairs in the theater. Socks were blown off. Heads were on their cel phones telling people to get over here NOW. D: I can hear why. WHOA. Fuck me, this is some full-on majestic streetwalking cheetah thruster guitar rock in Satty-like collage. Man! C: Year they’re like cousins to the Comets on Fire bros, spiritually speaking. D: Another strike force from Santa Cruz!?! C: It’s a question that needs an answer: What exactly is going on up there in the banana slug republic to generate this kind of Hawkwind power gazer goner stuff? I can hear some Dead Meadow blisswork bursts in there too—and Crazy Horse search-soling as well. And Acid Mothers Temple yawning-sound journeying, heavy Bonzo drumming. Amazing.
Lightning Bolt Hyper Magic Mountain (Load) C: New riff-blat super-attack from the Providence, Rhode Island artcore guitar-drums power duo. D: The cover art matches at least the first eight seconds. C: [reading sleeve] “Humans chill out! There is no back-up planet!” D: Cathartic art attack. They must be a ball to see live. C: They have some definite hits here., like track 2, “Captain Caveman.” Reminds me of Unsane, Big Black, Helmet, Killdozer, Slayer: everything on that label Amphetamine Reptile used to sound like this. I guess that sound went pretty mainstream with more ink and noserings but there was always some infant-mind tantrum rapping on top of it. But this is more like the original stuff to me, more imaginative and nature-loving, and, as they say, “mastered for metal loudness.” You gotta dig the lyrics: “Health is all the wealth I need/birds and squirrels and bees and trees/all the things that ride the breeze/money makes the world go round/drags it down and burns it out/I am the caveman/I am the timebomb…” D: Time for another beer. I’ll be in the fistfight in the other room.
We Are Wolves Non-Stop Je Te Plie En Deux (Fat Possum) C: Another band with a wolf-related name. From Canada. They are Canadian wolves: hear them howl. D: [Returning with two newly opened beers in hand, enthusiastic] I like this! It sounds like what doing really good coke feels like. C: Um. I was gonna say these guys sound like it what I had hoped ARE Weapons or that second Faint album would sound like but that’s damning with pretty faint praise. D: It’s almost like the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage.” Or Devo, even. C: An agitated, slightly angry Devo. Or Fat Possum’s own gonzoid Bob Log III: churning stuff, guitar and vocals set to high-distort. D: Canadians freaking out with a drum machine.
Originally published in Arthur No. 18 (Sept. 2005)…
No Sleep Till Beirut ALAN BISHOP of Sun City Girls speaks with Brandon Stosuy about terrorism, travel, clueless Americans and curating the cut-up world music collages of his Sublime Frequencies label.
Caffeine and nicotine are Alan Bishop’s self-professed main vices. “Resting is an obstacle,” he says. “My cat Napoleon taught me how to take 15-minute naps, and when I drive down the highway late at night and feel drowsy, I narrow it down to a three-second nap. When I awake, and realize I survived again, I’m energized for hours.”
Given the range and breadth of his creative output over the last two decades, Bishop’s admission that he’s a self-taught low-to-no-dozer makes a lot of sense. For years, his main occupation has been as a prolific musician and composer. Sun City Girls, a trio he formed in Sun City, Arizona in 1983 with his brother (Sir) Richard Bishop and Charles Gocher, have released 40-plus albums of startling originality: a vast catalog of world music fusion and cheeky agitprop, Eastern music and blissed-out raga. (Two classics are 1990’s Torch of the Mystics, an impressive Spaghetti-Eastern wrangling of sound, like some kind of cowpoke-infused Bombay pop; and 1996’s 330,000 Crossdressers from Beyond the Rig Veda which is, among other things, a Gamelan drone marathon.) Bishop’s also had his hand in non-SCG projects like Uncle Jim and Alvarius B: in fact, a new Uncle Jim LP Superstars of Greenwich Meantime is due out any moment on the Kentucky-based Black Velvet Fuckere label, and a new Alvarius B LP Blood Operatives of the Barium Sunset, will be out on in October on the Sun Cirty Girls’ own Abduction label, which Bishop runs.
As if that weren’t enough, in October 2003, the 45-year-old started a new label with his brother (Sir) Richard and filmmaker Hisham Mayet in a collective quest to document and distribute the music of distant cultures that so fascinates them; Sublime Frequencies, they explain, is “dedicated to acquiring and exposing obscure sights and sounds from modern and traditional urban and rural frontiers via film and video, field recordings, radio and short wave transmissions, international folk and pop music, sound anomalies.” So far, Sublime Frequencies has released nearly two dozen CDs, from Radio Phnom Pehn‘s schizophrenic Cambodian metal/jingle remixed cut-ups to the juicy pop histrionics of Molam: Thai Country Groove to the on-the-road brilliance of Streets of Lhasa, which was recorded by Zhang Jian of the Beijing-based sound collective fm3. Meanwhile, Mayet, has filmed three DVDs of live performances by unknown musical geniuses based in countries like Syria, Thailand and Niger for SF, and has finished a fourth, Niger: Magic and Ecstasy in the Sahel. The fall finds three new SF CDs, two of which focus on members of the so-called Axis of Evil, Iraq and North Korea. Per usual, the names are as colorful as the sounds collected: Choubi Choubi!-Folk and Pop Sounds from Iraq; Radio Pyongyang: Commie Funk and Agit Pop from the Hermit Kingdom; and Guitars of the Golden triangle: Folk and pop music of Myanmar (Burma) Vol. 2. Sublime Frequencies’ ragtag contributing cast also includes micro-noisemaker Robert Millis of Climax Golden Twins and Bay Area Porest/Mono Pause/Neung Phak maestro, Mark Gergis; Gergis is the second most prolific SF contributor after Bishop, and is the mind behind the aforementioned Iraqi compilation as well as I Remember Syria’s double-album cut-up of field recordings, radio excerpts, and “lost” cassette pieces.
Sublime Frequencies isn’t your average world music label—in place of the in-depth documentation of records on labels like Lonely Planet, Smithsonian or Hamonia Mundi are reader-baiting sentences like “the equator runs through only ten countries on earth and I bet that you cannot name them all without consulting a map” and elliptical, beatnik-style prose-rants in which the compilers relay brief anecdotes and impressions of their travels. Bishop, the Kerouac of the crew, keeps a running journal related to the project.
“I write as much as I record,” he says. “I make custom books for each trip. Most are 50-100 pages in length with collage art and photos pasted into the pages. Each book is a different size/style and I always force myself to finish one for each venture.” So far he’s assembled 40 of them, none of them have been published. The mind reels at the unseen treasures lurking within their pages.
Recently Bishop and I conversed at length via email about his current activities. I began by asking him about Crime & Dissonance, a two-disc compilation of work by famed Italian film composer Ennio Morricone slated for release on Mike Patton’s Ipecac label this fall.
Arthur: How did the Morricone project come about? What drew you to Morricone’s work in the first place? Alan Bishop: I saw The Good, The Bad and The Ugly when I was a kid on TV. The music destroyed me, just the power of it. Since then I’ve been listening, collecting and digesting all of his music. There was a feeling that if I could wear the music as a talisman, I would be indestructible. He worked in so many mediums of sound. He composes everything from romantic orchestral music to full-on speaker-thrashing noise. And along the way, he does almost every style of music that can be named. He is known for the Italian Western themes more than any other style but for those who investigate the massive output of thousands of tracks he’s either composed, co-composed, arranged, or directed, speaking about his work in generalities to educate the unfamiliar is a pointless task. For the compilation, Filippo Salvadori, who runs Runt distributing amongst other things, kept me up to date on what Morricone titles which were available to license for the CDs. It’s a true mess as Morricone has recorded for dozens of labels and licensing tracks from some of them is near impossible, so I was unable to get all the tracks I wanted and had to compromise. Still, it’s a great set. I listen to soundtrack music as music, not as a complementary appendage to the film. So as long as the music moves me, it’s a good soundtrack. Mono-thematic scores usually fail me but Morricone is one who can occasionally make a single theme interesting for the length of an entire soundtrack. La Cosa Buffo and The Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion both come to mind.
Can you trace your interest in documenting so-called “world music”? I traveled around the States a lot when I was a kid, and when I bought a car, I moved from Saginaw, Michigan to Arizona. A cousin had just bought an apartment building in Marbella, Spain and he said we were always welcome to stay for free, so I started saving my money, hustling goods at flea markets. In 1983 I sold all my Jimi Hendrix LPs to get the rest of the cash I needed to fly to Spain. I was 23. Morocco was only a boat ride from Spain and it was cheap to travel around for a few months, so I stayed as long as my money held out. The second day I was there I heard that Joujouka sound of the Raitni chanters echoing from an elusive location in the medina of Tetuan. When some kids saw me trying to find the origin of the music they brought me up some stairway to a room filled with pretty women and four musicians performing for them. It was the remnants of a wedding party and I was the only male guest. The musicians gave me some hash and started playing and I danced with the women awhile and we all sat down and had mint tea and snacks, started discussing world events with the older drummer for an hour or so. That’s the hospitality of the Arab world. No questions asked. Want some food? Drink? Dance? Music? Hashish?
What was the political climate like? The Polisario Guerilla movement was much more active back then in the Western Sahara and also in Morocco’s cities and countryside. There were checkpoints on all the highways and almost every bus I took from town to town was stopped by military personnel. One time I was on my way back to Essouira from Fes – I was in Fes for a couple of days and was carrying a passport for a guy who left it there, doing him a favor by taking it back for him. Some guy got on the bus and sat next to me in the back. About an hour later we were stopped by the military. The soldiers were checking people on the bus and when they came to the back I kept wondering if they searched me and found that I had two passports including a British one which wasn’t mine, what I’d have to explain, but they didn’t even look at me. They just grabbed the guy who sat next to me and took him off the bus and that was it. Seemed as if they knew who he was. He was escorted to their vehicle at gunpoint, and shoved in the back seat. Our bus was then allowed to leave. Polisario perhaps? A sympathizer with the Polasario? Or just a common petty thief? I’ll never know.
“This WORLD is UNREAL like a SNAKE in a ROPE” by Robert Millis
“A collage of sights and sounds from the eternal never-ending collage that is INDIA. A trip through the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu featuring Hindu trance ceremonies, free jazz nagaswaram improvisations, impossibly loud cities, processions, devotion, blessings, color, abstractions, detail, music and more. India is impossible to know: it is too vast, too rich and too much of a dream, it is impossibly old and impossibly new. Offered here is one perspective, one dream, subjective and flawed, hanging by a thread, captured live and in the moment and in the midst. One journey revealed in the order it happened. Not quite ethnography. Not quite documentary.”
Says director Robert Millis: “I will introduce the film and have informal Q and A at the Merch table after the screenings. These are the premier screenings of this film (which is still a work in progress) which should be released on DVD by Sublime Frequencies some time next year. I purposefully prefer to do screenings like this in music/sound/DIY oriented venues rather than more formal movie houses. It fits the vibe of the film.”
Each night, Mills will also do a solo performance involving found sound collage, drone, and field recordings mixed with songs performed on acoustic guitar: old murder ballads, originals and instrumentals. Here is a link to a solo release from last year: http://www.etuderecords.com/120.htm
Robert Millis is a musician and artist, a founding member of Climax Golden Twins and AFCGT and a frequent contributor to the Sublime Frequencies and Dust-to-Digital record labels. His previous films include Phi Ta Khon: Ghosts of Isan and My Friend Rain and he was the co-author of Victrola Favorites, released on Dust-to-Digital in 2008.
Prices vary per venue, many are donation or sliding scale $5-$10; in most cases screenings will be first, followed by music. Check with venues for full details.