Here’s a scan of the cover of one of the last copies we have of Arthur No. 2, published ten years ago right about now…
It’s a pretty weird issue of the mag — to my eyes, it doesn’t quite hang together editorially, a fault completely my own — but whatever, it might of interest to some folks ten years on. Here’s a list of the contents:
Arthur No. 2 (December 2002)
Color/black and white, 48 pages, newsprint, 11.5 x 14, quarterfold
The West Coast premiere of the Velvet Underground and the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, in 1966? Lenny Bruce and Anita O’Day waiting to score? James Baldwin, Marlon Brando, the Black Panther Party and other good-souled political activists doing what needed to be done? CHARLES BRITTIN was there, and these are his never-before-published photographs, as curated for Arthur’s readers by KRISTINE MCKENNA.
He plays guitar and he writes/sings songs like you’ve never heard. He’s also 21 and has got a certain elfish charm. Ladies and germs, DEVENDRA BANHART, as witnessed by scribe GABE SORIA and shutterbug SHAWN MORTENSEN.
Depressed? Hair falling out at age 23? Having sex with your cousin? “I know all about that stuff!” says Arthur’s new advice columnist, 78-year-old bluesperson T-MODEL FORD.
Language as incantation, the art of the cut-up, larval culture, neural re-wiring and what does it feel like to live in a post-authorship world: all in a Sunday afternoon’s teatime with visionary artist-provocateur-human GENESIS P-ORRIDGE and hotshit media theorist DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF. Photos by SHAWN MORTENSEN.
In an exclusive excerpt from his new autobiography, legendary Brazilian musician CAETANO VELOSO takes us to the political, cultural and hallucinogenic frontlines of authoritarian Brazil, 1968. It’s all here: tanks, ayahuasca, street protests, witchcraft cults, and of course, Veloso’s fellow Tropicalistas, the musicians Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa and Os Mutantes.
Self-described desk-bound journalist SUE CARPENTER finds out firsthand and feet-first how women are transforming the 21st-century circus. With photographs by LAUREN KLAIN.
Plus: Comics by Kevin Huizenga, Jordan Crane, Anders Nilsen and James Kochalka, and a drawing by Sammy Harkham.
Britwit-novelist STEVE AYLETT revisits the legend of pulp fictionist/”rogue maniac” Jeff Lint, author of One Less Bastard and creator of The Caterer
“Bull Tongue” columnists Byron Coley & Thurston Moore sort the pepper from the bugpoop in underground recordings, performance, poetry and text.
Peter “Piper” Relic remembers JAM MASTER JAY.
Some thoughts on the issue for those keeping score at home — hopefully completely accurate, but it’s ten years, and there’s probably been some memory loss, so be gentle with me if I screw something up here.
This was our second issue. The first issue had done alright. We’d printed 70,000 copies. The printer had folded them the wrong way, which while embarrassing, wasn’t catastrophic, since we’d put the logo at the top of the reverse side (don’t ask). Anyways, less than one week before we went to press with this issue, our old printer told us that our agreement with them would not be honored. They told us they wanted to get out of the quarterfold newsprint business. My partner, publisher Laris Kreslins, scrambled and found a new printer in time for us to not miss our deadline for No. 2. We abandoned the double-cover concept we’d used for Arthur No. 1, which was borrowed from the original format of Rolling Stone, and made it to press.
But finding a new printer at the last moment was only the last of many hurdles in getting this issue out. Ad sales were somewhat lower than the first issue, which, although predictable — second issues are often a harder sell than the big premiere issue, where you can count on a bit of goodwill — was somewhat dispiriting. It made us wonder if we were deluding ourselves that this Arthur thing really had a chance of working, given that it was going in the wrong direction so quickly.
On the editorial end, which I was in charge of, we’d had a major problem, beyond being completely budgetless: the Eddie Dean-penned cover feature on the photography of country music enthusiast Leon Kagarise for this issue, which had been prepared months in advance, had to be pulled near the last moment because… Well, just because. That cover feature didn’t end up running ’til Arthur No. 32, the issue that was to go to press in December 2008, but never made it due to the severe economic contraction that fall…which was the final blow to Arthur in its first incarnation. (You can read Arthur No. 32 by downloading it as a two-part PDF. Click here for info.) Something about that piece did not want to see print in Arthur.
With the Eddie Dean feature delayed to who knows when, we had nothing in hand that seemed—to me, at least—like a cover feature for the issue in front of us. In hindsight, I can see that the Douglas Rushkoff-Genesis P-Orridge conversation was cover-worthy…although we didn’t really have the right kind of photos on hand to make that a cover… And I really liked the interview and photos we’d got with this kid Devendra Banhart — it was apparently the first or second interview he’d ever done in his life—but we couldn’t make him the big cover feature, he was just starting out… So…
Enter the great veteran journalist Kristine McKenna, whose work I’d been reading since I was 14 or 15. For a golden period in the ’80s, Kristine was writing regularly for the Los Angeles Times, covering all the interesting musicians, fine artists, cartoonists, performers and art-thinkers who were there to be interviewed at the time. I devoured anything with her byline; she got the best conversations out of the most provocative people (seriously: see the two collections of her interviews published by Fantagraphics—the list of interviewees is just absurd), and her reviews of records and live performances both exposed me to work I wasn’t aware of and showed me why it was of import or at least worthy of interest. I didn’t see her byline much in the ’90s, and although I’d started writing for the LAWeekly and getting around just a bit in LA cultural circles, our paths never crossed. I wasn’t even sure she was still in L.A.
So. It wasn’t until 2000, when I was working on a feature for Mojo on Black Flag’s pre-Henry Rollins era, that I came in contact with Kristine. I am not sure who gave me her phone number, although I think it may have been Brendan Mullen (RIP). I was looking to talk to an L.A.-based music journalist who wasn’t overly involved in the hardcore scene who could offer some perspective on how Black Flag were regarded in their early days from outside. Kristine seemed like she would fit the bill. I called her, we met, she was extremely generous with her time and ideas, and we became fellow freelancer/comrades, with me of course very much in the extreme junior position. We stayed in touch. In late 2002, when I told her I’d lost the cover for Arthur’s second issue, she had an idea.
Why not cover Charles Brittin, she asked?
Charles (who has since died) was a semi-professional L.A. photographer who had spent much of his life photographing extraordinary scenes that he was involved in, the most exciting being L.A’s avant garde scene of the mid-to-late ’50s (principally around Wallace Berman and his circle) and the social activist period of the ’60s. He had tons of unpublished photos that were just incredible: Lenny Bruce in his prime, the Velvet Underground & Nico onstage in Hollywood, the Black Panthers in action, Marlon Brando at a street protest, CORE members picketing next to white supremacists… and then, Anita O’Day, and Rachel Rosenthal… Art director WT Nelson went nuts when he started seeing what Kristine had found, and with good reason.
For me, the clincher was a wide-angle photo that Charles had taken of an endless sea of marchers, many of them G.I.’s, protesting the Vietnam War on April 4, 1969, right here in Los Angeles, on Wilshire Boulevard near Virgil. Please keep in mind that his was late 2002: America was preparing to invade Iraq. Anti-war sentiment barely existed outside of the usual peacelover/refusenik circles. We decided to run this photograph as a double-page spread, as a centerfold — a de facto poster, available to anyone who wanted it, since Arthur was distributed free of charge. Maybe it would play a small part in helping inspire and encourage people to stand up to these war creeps.
It wasn’t much, we knew, but it was what was available to us. So, we went for it. That was our centerfold, and what the heck, Charles Brittin was our cover.
Thank you, Kristine McKenna!
For those interested in learning more about Charles Brittin and his work, check out Charles Brittin: West and South, a hardcover monograph edited by Kristine and others that was published on the occasion of a 2011 retrospective at the Michael Kohn Gallery.
Opening Reception: Center for Book Arts 28 West 27th Street, Third Floor New York, New York 1001 Wednesday, July 7th, 6-8pm, FREE
Poems and Pictures: A Renaissance in the Art of the Book (1946-1981) Poems and Pictures Organized by Kyle Schlesinger, Proprietor of Cuneiform Press.
Poems & Pictures examines relationships between visual and language art. The exhibit features over 60 books produced between 1946 and 1981, as well as paintings, collages, periodicals, and ephemera. Poets, artists and collaborators include Wallace Berman, Joe Brainard, Robert Creeley, Jim Dine, Johanna Drucker, Philip Guston, Joanne Kyger, Emily McVarish, Karen Randall, Larry Rivers, George Schneeman, and many more.
A comprehensive catalogue accompanies this exhibition.
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:
Because you’re patient
helping world being
less injured in it
pull up skirt hard inside
burnt my finger
putting you out
Killer, here’s another:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 Stars‘ Return 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:
1. Narcolepsia is a new fetish noise tape label out of Portugal. The first two releases show a promising wide view of what fetid broil squirms in the contemporary noise landscape. First is someone/something called N, with a tape titled Smash My Brain I Can’t Tolerate, which is basically this Italiano dude Davide Tozzoli obsessing on fairly traditional noise moves a la M.B., Atrax Morgue, Merzbow et al. But the dedication and intent is genuine and is decent…nothing too startling or new but that’s kind of the point, the aesthetic. So be it. All you have to do is be beat, dulled and lose yrself in unrequited fantasies of erotic death. Second release is Body Count by An Innocent Young Throat-Cutter, the duo of Houston noise honcho Richard Ramirez and compatriot Isabella K. This duo has been documenting itself quite regularly through Ramirez’ Dead Audio Tapes imprint in super tiny editions. Not that this tape is going to reach that many more harsh wall noise freaks but it is a fine addition to their insane legacy.
2. Holy Crap. Screamingest, wobbliest No Wave screech of the year comes not from the bowels of New York, but from the lost tape archives of Vancouver, Canada. Tunnel Canary was an extremely raw co-ed trio whose entire previous known ouevre was some obscure cassette comp action. Now, Rundownsun has released a massive 2LP set, Jihad, collecting studio and live smeech that is some of the most pugnacious art punk you’ll ever hear. Ebra Ziron’s vocals make Lydia Lunch sound like Dean Martin in a mellow mood. Really fucking ripe! Lotsa weird bass stylings, scuzz generation from both electronics and guitar…what a pretty goddamn picture. Amazing to think this jabbering, destroyed masterpiece has been unheard for almost 30 years. Nice work. Somebody.
For ass-burning contempo No Wave sludge, nothing has been in higher recent rotation than Secret Cog, the self-released debut CD Brooklyn’s Talk Normal. Andryo Ambro and Sarah Register create a feverish hybrid of Lydia’s “crying guitar,” the maniacal yodel-power of Die Kleenex, and the part of the Magic Band the Minutemen also embraced, which probably means the Urinals are a shadow influence. Regardless, the five songs here are totally wired, and just blow away the imaginary competition.
1. Nite Jewel This one-woman act has been haunting nightclubs around Los Angeles and beyond this summer, dropping nocturnal transmissions and electro dust into the atmosphere. Accompanied by her bubbling synthesizer and deep tunnel beats, Nite Jewel would make the perfect house band on the mothership that’s going to take us all away from this place. myspace.com/nitejewel
2. Raymond Chandler What a different city Los Angeles would be without the mythology of Phillip Marlowe and the many shadows cast by Chandler’s noir mysteries running through its city streets. Fall’s a good time to revisit these stories of an honest man lost in a sea of corruption.
3. Avocado with poppy seeds Slice an avocado, add lemon, and roll in a generous heap of poppy seeds. Exotic.
4. Semina Culture: Wallace Berman and His Circle by Michael Duncan and Kristine McKenna (2005) You will never get tired of looking at this book. This catalogue from the 2005 traveling exhibit spans the years of mid-’50s to early-’60s beatdom, when an artistic and literary utopia formed around the mysterious figure of artist Wallace Berman and his arts and literary journal Semina. You couldn’t find it on newsstands or in bookstores; most of its few hundred copies were mailed by Berman to friends and peers. The book not only reproduces all nine issues but is a Who’s who of West Coast bohemia.
5. Walking really far Walk for two hours in any direction and see where you end up. Maybe you are missing something. Maybe you will find it.
6. Velaslavasay Panorama The North Pole is tucked right into South Los Angeles. Go and see. It’s hidden in the second floor of the beautiful Union Theater. Take yourself to the endless horizon. panoramaonview.org/
7. Flying Lotus, Los Angeles (Warp) The 17 tracks on FlyLo’s second record seem to flow without beginning or end, stacking dusty samples, sandpaper beats, and washy synths into a collage as dense and sticky as an august afternoon in Van Nuys. You’re stuck in traffic, the sun is in your eyes, a jackhammer echoes an unsteady rhythm in the distance, your radio suddenly plays all its stations at the same time. For a second it all makes some kind of sense.
8. The Late Show (1977, dir. Robert Benton) Lily Tomlin, Art Carney, a lost cat, blackmail, murder and endless hijinks, set in Los Angeles. Nutty and Noir, this Robert Altman-produced mystery features an incredibly stylish Tomlin as an aimless but charming eccentric and Carney as a cranky over-the-hill detective with one last fight In him. Don’t get the idea that this is one of those awful detective spoofs, it’s actually one of the most perfect movies you’ve never heard of, covering all genres, emotions, and hairstyles. You will laugh many times.
9. Cold brewed coffee Impress your friends with a rousing pitcher of iced coffee. You will be known throughout many wide and concentric circles for being a dark brewing lord and master of the bean. No one will know how easy it is for you with your cold brew coffee bucket. You grind a whole can of coffee with 9 cups of water and it sits for 12 hours and then you have a pitcher of low-acid coffee that tastes amazing for two weeks. Everyone will love you and want to be your friend. You can buy the cold toddy brewing kit they sell in stores or make your own. It’s off the grid.
10. The Baroque Music station on 1.fm When one’s radio breaks down, you can discover amazing things that were once hidden right under your nose. Lurking within the Classical Radio tab of that iTunes thing is an endless stream of this amazing music that restores your faith in civilization. It only occasionally loses its affirmative power when interrupted by a commercial for under-eye circles.
11. Raw vegan whipped cream Soak 1 1/2 cups of raw walnuts (or raw cashews) in water for two hours…then get rid of the water and put the nuts in a blender with 1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice and two tablespoons maple syrup (a few drops of almond extract optional) This recipe is from Juliano’s UnCook Book (Regan Books,1999)—good recipes, really bizarre self-portraits.
12.Griffith Observatory Despite multi-million-dollar renovations during recent years, the main attraction at Griffith is still the view of the twinkling metropolis below. Go at dusk to watch nature and culture collide to form a gold and purple ooze that stretches from the mountains to the sea. Breathtaking.
13. Sylvia Robinson “Pillow Talk” 7-inch single Found this scratchy 45 in a box at the back of a thrift store in Joshua Tree. Before masterminding Sugar Hill records, Robinson recorded music as ‘Sylvia’ and wrote this song for Al Green. He turned it down because it was too dirty so she recorded it herself and it hit number one on the charts in 1973. With breathy talk vocals, hi-hat swoosh, and sugary string and electric piano arrangements, it’s a fine specimen of the early disco sound that was forming around Philadelphia and other East Coast cities at the time, and is a naughty stepping stone between Serge Gainsbourg/Jane Birkin’s Je T’aime and Donna Summer’s Love to Love You Baby in the history of simulated orgasm on wax. The flipside sounds like it comes from an earlier, more wholesome time period but is an equally luscious track with a piano-heavy girl-group sound.
14. Jumping on a trampoline Up and then down. Do it again. Jumping cleanses your cells and lymph nodes and increases your immunity. Up with people.
15. Making your own amazing salad dressing in one minute Combine cold pressed organic olive oil (a lot), lemon, honey and stoneground mustard. This tastes better than anything you can buy. There is room for error. Salad dressing is very forgiving. Raw sage honey sweetens the deal.
16. Too Late For Tears (1949, dir. Byron Haskin) All the pleasure of knowing a dangerous femme fatale, none of the risk. 1949 Los Angeles in glorious black and white.
17. Okra If you slice a piece of okra crosswise, it reveals a circle of five perfect hearts formed from the fibers. I never loved okra, but now that I know it loves me, I’m coming around.
18. Show Cave This art gallery/performance space in the Echo Park district of Los Angeles has been forming its own hybrid aesthetic out of the goo of contemporary life in its past year of existence. Exhibitions have exciting names like Beast Heat, Glitter and Doom and Survivors of the White Plague. Show Cave also offers a stage to emerging musical talent (see #1). www.showcave.org
19. Low Motion Disco, Keep It Slow (Eskimo) In one room a synthesizer slowly throbs; in another a band rehearses outtakes from an unrecorded Royal Trux session. In a third room someone is playing records from their parents’ collection. There’s an empty bottle of purple syrup on the floor. The windows to this house are open and there’s a cool breeze that blows down from the mountains. You’re listening to these sounds mingle from down on the street. It sounds like a perfect mix that shouldn’t work at all. It’s too slow to dance to but it’s kind of funky. This is supposedly taking place in Switzerland.
Molly Frances lives in Los Angeles and makes music in Terminal Twilight.