A TESTIMONIAL RIFF: Tony Rettman on SUNBURNED HAND OF THE MAN, SIX ORGANS OF ADMITTANCE, COMETS ON FIRE (Nov 2003)

Above: the cover to Arthur No. 7 (Nov 2003)—artwork by John Coulthart, design by W.T. Nelson


Dark Funk, Gardenfolk and the Almighty Zaps
This summer, underground psych bands SUNBURNED HAND OF THE MAN, COMETS ON FIRE and SIX ORGANS OF ADMITTANCE ventured across the continent in a traveling caravan of mindblowers. Tony Rettman reports live from the scene.

Originally published in Arthur No. 7 (November 2003)—available from The Arthur Store

“Jazz doesn’t have to swing and rock doesn’t have to rock and religion has next to nothing to do with God.” —Richard Meltzer

Yes. Meltzer’s testimonial riff is the kind that can really get you going going gone. Strip music of any elements that seem banal, pretentious or overly cerebral. Twist the sound into something of your own. Create a primal celebration of boundary-less independence. Join the others who’ve walked through the door marked “Free”—and emerge with a blown mind full of free jazz, psychedelia, proto-metal, oddball folk, prog rock, blues, English country rock, funk, mind-numbing drones, electronic music, non-genre improvisation.

In the past few years, a seemingly ever-growing number of underground American artists have been making that trek Beyond, collecting elements from these sounds and shooting them through a post-punk perspective, laying the results down on self-pressed vinyl and home-burned CD-Rs, sold through homegrown distribution networks like Brooklyn’s Fusetron, Arizona’s Eclipse Records, and Massachusetts’ Forced Exposure and Ecstatic Yod.

But a funny thing is happening. Through next to no effort of their own, these freaks are now attracting the attention of curious folk from outside the esoteric, near-hermetic circles that their music was necessarily born from and sustained by. Indeed, the very definition of this genre-obscuring cult movin’ on up happened this July when three of the finest units out of this quote scene unquote descended on Pianos in NYC to strut their stuff: San Francisco’s’ loud-as-hell psychedelic four-piece Comets On Fire, Boston’s 15-member sound collective The Sunburned Hand of the Man and the author of the new chapter of gypsy folk meanings from Santa Cruz, Six Organs of Admittance. This show—the conclusion of a three-week tour—brought together three groups who are aesthetically linked in approach, intensity and a loosely limbed philosophy: Here’s how the whole enchilada—the show, the tour, the bands themselves—came together and got down to getting Free.

* * *

Ben Chasny is Six Organs of Admittance–he is the sole soul responsible for the unearthly and solemn sounds created under this moniker, with others occasionally sitting in on recordings and live sets. Tonight at Pianos in he first and he plays alone, acoustic guitar in his lap, head down and hair in face, with only his black jackbooted heel to keep the beat. “Transcendent” is the bang-on word to describe what Chasny lays out. His music conjures up foggy, half-remembered memories of drunken nights in overlit fluorescent rooms that pulse. Strange feelings that mix danger with joy. And then he busts out with a cover of Neil Young’s “A Man Needs a Maid.”

Visiting with Chasny later in the evening over a beer at the bar, I get some background. Continue reading

Arthur Radio Transmission #19 w/ live set by The Beets

Above: This week’s collage with artwork by Matthew Volz

Swimming out from the Subterranean Melodic Fancifalities Exploratorium onto dry land, amorphous and amphibious flaneurs Hairy Painter and Ivy Meadows find the Newtown Radio garden has sprung us The Beets! We catch Brooklyn’s noble busybodies – not to be confused with The Beets, nor The Beats, The Beat, Beat, or The Beatles – in a brief hometown interlude betwixt their South North American (with German Measles) and North North American (with The Mountain Goats) tours, with just enough time for them to stomp us up some radio gold. The live set – abundant with garage harmonica, amp humping, flute solos, toy theremins, sing alongs, set-up banter, and a newly balanced gender distribution – is then followed by a bonus set of the band spinning recent favorites from the road into the wee small hours. Viva!

Stream: [audio:http://www.arthurmag.com/magpie/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/The-Beets-5-23-2010.mp3%5D

Download: Arthur Radio #19 w/ live set by The Beets 5-23-2010

A portion o’ playlist awaits beneath…
Continue reading

Sunburned Hand of the Man's "uniquely squelchy bottom end" music

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Stream: [audio:href=’http://www.arthurmag.com/magpie/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/09-Serpents-Wish.mp3%5D
Download: Sunburned Hand of the Man — “Serpent’s Wish” (128kbps)

The above “punishingly rhythmic heart-punch” is taken from from Sunburned Hand of the Man’s No Magic Man, the band’s 2005 release on Arthur’s own Bastet imprint. The colorful quotes are from The Wire‘s review, which you can read in full down below.

Chambo the Arthur Vaultkeeper would like to chime in and say that it looks like there’s only about 150 of these suckers left, so click here to stop by the Arthur Store and get your copy before this second edition is sold out …

Sayeth The Wire:

“We’ve got the closest thing to a high fidelity release here from the confirmed kings of the under-the-counter-culture, Sunburned Hand Of The Man. No Magic Man comes courtesy of Arthur magazine’s new audio imprint and it bundles a selection of some of Sunburned’s most punishingly rhythmic heart-punches to date. There are pieces here that sound like Pete Cosey-era Miles cut up with Lhasa street song and stand-up stonerskits, while others make out like the logical Heavy Metal extension of Tony Williams’ experiments with electricity as part of Lifetime alongside guitarist John McLaughlin and organist Larry Young. Guitarist Marc Orleans can generate kandy korn cartwheels as well as The Magic Band’s Jeff Cotton and combined with Rob Thomas’s bass, the two provide a steam-rolling backline that various drummers — John Moloney, Phil Franklin — work to bolster and undermine. Much of No Magic Man is possessed of a uniquely squelchy analog bottom end and between tracks there are some wowing cut-ups from various found sources that add a beautiful veneer of mystic shit to the already precariously dosed proceedings.”
David Keenan, The Wire (May 2005)

It’s 2009. Do you know what Sunburned Hand of the Man is doing? Go here — http://www.myspace.com/sunburnedhandoftheman — to find out.