Listed: Charalambides + Brokeback
Charalambides is a trio of Texas creative musicians performing extended guitar and voice compositions and improvisations. Their music moves between poles of tonality and atonality, utilizing volume, space, silence, folk and psychedelia, and the scrape and hiss of steel on steel. Initially conceived as a recording project, the group has steadily evolved toward music of a more public nature.
Formed in Houston in 1991 (and relocated to Austin in 1997), Charalambides has evolved through various configurations based on the core duo of Tom & Christina Carter. From 1993 to 1996 they performed and recorded with guitarist Jason Bill (currently with Arizona duo Migrantes), and since 2000 the lineup has included steel guitarist Heather Murray (formerly of Ash Castles on the Ghost Coast).
Selected by Christina, Tom, and Heather. Written by Tom with Christina
1. Susan Alcorn – A unique light in the musical firmament of Texas & elsewhere, Susan's specialess is finally being appreciated by those few who have sought out & basked in the psycholytic hum of her rare performances and recordings. Besides being a formidable technician who transcribes Webern and Messaien for steel guitar in her spare time, Susan possesses an almost mystical feel for the glassy interval and the weight of sound in space, an affinity enhanced by her long association with Pauline Oliveros. And she can recite the lineups for more incarnations of Haggard's Strangers than most of us have fingers!
2. Marcia Bassett / Double Leopards – Sound, confronted with city chaos, disappearing into itself. vanishing drone music for an increasingly ugly century, electric serenity distilled late at night in Brooklyn apartments by murmuring electronics and whispering airborne acoustics. Marcia has proven herself a co-master of quiet strength many times with the late (&& usually kinda loud) Philly ensemble Un, and current ensembles Double Leopards, super-group Shackamaxon and guitar duo GHQ.
3. Kate Biggar / Major Stars – During the Crystallized Movements era, those of us far away from even the deepest of their deep south gigs (what, Baltimore?) searched carefully for clues as to Kate's guitar prowess beneath the strands of Wayne's solos-like, which one is she? First sighting for me was a video of Wayne & Kate playing with Alastair Galbraith where Kate materialized as a swirling mass of spinning hair & form destroying gtr. (the snakeskin pants were revealed later). Everyone knows about Major Stars' collective rock Jesus (right?) so I'd like to give some recognition to Heathen Shame, W&K's trio with Greg Kelley (for whom this must be the anti-nmperign). Hard rock theater shrapnel flung with mad abandon is not necessarily apparent from documents, those listening to the record will be forgiven for not knowing that the towering power chord harmonics & blissed out gtr/trmpt wail is being made by three writhing & foaming human animals (of which Kate is the frothingest animal of all).
4. Tara Burke / Fursaxa – First materialized into the attention zone as one of the many puzzling and seemingly (to me 1500 miles away anyway) mercurial later lineups of what was colloquially referred to as the 'Un Big Band.' Tara quickly came to occupy her own mystery plane via a couple of quietly stunning cd-r's on her own & Makoto Kawabata's label, and later with a slitheringly massive LP on Ecstatic Peace. Her songs reveal a mastery of the palate-molded vowels, the vertically piled air organ, and the murmured reference to shadowy alchemical secrets.
5. Lee Ann Cameron / Jherri Sighnfilled Sat Rufeed Sach – One of the nebulously composed and drug induced theatrical improv combos that fall from the trees in Texas like persimmons. JSAS's (the name changes every gig) most magnetic aspect is the twin vox attack of (the guy whose name I can't remember) & Lee Ann, whose mouths open at the beginning of the set & never close till the end, spewing brambly lyrical gardens ripped from the topical mulch of the usually unsuspecting audience (meaning, they're singing TO and ABOUT you). In my mind Lee Ann is the real star, coming across like a cross between Jandek's "Nancy & Donna Summers" & "Cassell Webb". About as popular with club owners as noise ordinances and underage drinking busts, the best place to catch psygnedphelled is at party gigs where the possiblility of being hogtied with a patchcord and mounted to the drumkit is quite high.
6. Erika Elder / mv & ee Medicine Show – Quiet, soft, yet direct and forceful – Erika's playing embodies the strength of sweet honesty. No one smiles as much as Erika while playing and it is her intense pursuit of the spirit of enjoyment that draws in the listener. Her acoustic/electric sounds can be all variety of waterous: misty, melting, ebbing, flowing, then suddenly her plucking icy, crystalline, sharp. Then her voice comes out of a far-away natural dream radio transmission. Erika's playing and Matt Valentine's guitar and voice blues raga explorations partner perfectly. And it must be mentioned that her use of the super fuzz is sublime.
7. Anne Heller/ Aurora Plastics – Theremin, guitar, toys, confrontational theatrics. white noise & white magic. Often scorned, banned, and misunderstood, cat & tea lover Anne's intense engagement with life and musical trance dissapearances are perfectly balanced by Aurora partner Lars' Longhair b-movie theatrical mystique. I showed up at a Halloween gig once to see Lars & Anne in tense disarray, having just had to wrestle an audience member off of the stage & grind the show to a grim halt. But Anne & Lars rallied to play a short piece for their late arriving friends, Anne on flute, 6 ft.+ Lars standing on a chair screaming 'Rock & roll animal' into the heavens. Under five minutes, but one of the most moving shows I've ever seen.
8. Leslie Q / Temple of Bon Matin – Met Leslie in '94 in Durham, NC completely unexpectedly (is there another way to meet someone in Durham?). Then as now she breathed music & purity. Met the similarly lunged Ed Wilcox a week or so later in Philly when we played with one of the earlier incarnations of the many lobed Temple of Bon Matin. And that was it for our encounters w/ Ed & Leslie for a long time until we ran into them (now coupled) in Columbus, Ohio last year – lot of road in between, but the reunion was one of old siblings. The new Temple music was a shock – stripped of all spacerock leanings, Ed wearing his heavily duct-taped drumkit, screaming into his delay while Leslie poured big squealing power chords all over the place. Far from rock & folk & a lesson in the vastness of roads & changes of time. Why recognition as the futurepunk champions of all remaining holy in unholy racket eludes them still is an unfortunate testimony to prevailing notions of experimentalism...
9. Taralie Dawn / Spires That in the Sunset Rise – Witchiest sounds ever to be filtered through combo amps. Touching on comus & fairy ring bacchanal, but a homemade vision uniquely their own, all burlap, spiders, and brambles. Taralie's solo cd-r is a massive document of pentatonic solitude swathed in painted board & tape and is one of the most intriguing loner visions since Jandek. Forthcoming Spires recordings promise to be equally thorny.
10. Caroline Vickers / Migrantes – When Charalambides' Jason Bill returned to Houston after a friend's wedding one year & announced he had found his true love, we were delighted but puzzled by the event's suddenness, more so even when J&C made plans to pack up together after their brief courtship and move to – get this – El Paso (Texan readers may collectively groan now). But upon meeting Caroline all was made clear, clearer still when the first Migrantes recordings materialized during a transitional stay in Virginia (the duo now live in Tucson, AZ). W/ heavily fragile vox & lyrical fragments seized upon & spun into wheeling tapestries over Jason's steadily pulsing guitar, Migrantes laid out their own inviting landscape w/in the grey confines of naval Virginia drydock, and later in their own patch of blooming desert. Tucson also blessed the duo w/ a 50 dollar Hammond that Caroline has used to beautiful shimmering effect on their newest LP, Monsoon Moods (original working title: Caroline Vickers Plays Jimmy Smith).
Brokeback (Doug McCombs)
Bassist Doug McCombs is about as versatile as they come. He was first heard from during the 1980s, providing thudding rock lines for the still rockin' Eleventh Dream Day. He changed directions considerably in 1994 when he helped found revolutionary instrumental rock band Tortoise, and he broke out even further when his melodically etherial semi-solo act Brokeback began releasing singles, and eventually a full-length album. Brokeback, now a proper two-piece with bassist Noel Kuppersmith, have recently released their new album, Looks At The Bird on Thrill Jockey Records. It features many of McCombs' characteristically intricate bass lines as well as vocal parts by the late and wonderful Mary Hansen.
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