He’s appeared on over 50 albums with the likes of Anthony Braxton, Damon & Naomi, Pants Yell, Akron/Family, and Soul Junk. Over the past decade, he has played hundreds upon hundreds of concerts throughout the United States, Europe, Canada, Argentina and Japan and collaborated with Jandek, Keiji Haino, Donald Miller (Borbetomagus), Eddie Prevost (AMM), Kevin Drumm, Christian Wolff, Pauline Oliveros, Joe McPhee, and Lionel Marchetti, among others. Self-Hate Index, Kelley’s latest solo missive, is a bit of a departure, oddly enough, as one of the few discs in his discography that features solo, unadulterated trumpet. He’s also just recorded a solo electronics LP, Religious Electronics for No Fun, a quartet CD-R with Weasel Walter, Forbes Graham and Paul Flaherty called End of the Trail (ugExplode), and a 7” with the Life Partners, “AIDS of Spades / Teenager in Trouble” (Ride the Snake).
BJ Nilsen & Stilluppsteypa - Vikinga Brennivin (Helen Scarsdale Agency)
“Brennivin is an Icelandic liquor vulcanized from the humble potato and flavored with cumin, although you’d be hard pressed to taste much beyond the astringent burn that it leaves in your mouth. Bottled in matte black glass and stamped with ominously simple labels, brennivin appears less like something to imbibe and more like poison; and in that creeping slow death kind of way, it is.” -- Helen Scarsdale Agency press release
Like alcohol, this is a good one to keep you warm on cold winter nights. “Ancient tones” sound out across miles of ice, lulling you into womblike warmth while foreground details keep your ears slightly bristling with a gentle paranoia.
Borbetomagus - Buncha Hair That Long (Agaric)
Two saxophones, one guitar, three amplifiers*, a buncha pedals, plastic tubes, files and beer recreate Scelsi, Ligeti, Penderecki and Tudor’s version of Cage’s “Variations II” at a volume loud enough to insure that all is “as above, so below.”
* except for “Blue Jay Way,” which is all one amplifier
Harry Pussy - Ride a Dove (Siltbreeze)
Structuralist masters nullifying the difference between high and low. This might be musique concrete, but more importantly than that is what does musique concrete even mean and what was music?
John Cage - “Variations II” from New Electronic Music From Leaders Of The Avant Garde (Columbia Masterworks)
Toothpicks attached to phono cartridges scrape piano strings interpreting transparencies with dots and circles on them determining when to make a sound and how high to turn the amplitude knob (feedback OK). Sometimes what is arbitrary (or seemingly so) cuts right to the heart of the matter. David Tudor’s detached patience epitomizes Glenn Gould’s idea of ecstasy as “a state achieved when the performer goes beyond himself, beyond his technique, beyond the mechanical means of producing the performance, to attain a sublime, integrated view of the musical work of art.” * This piece is the prime example of my favorite genre: noise music from the ’60s made by men in suits. Robert Ashley’s Wolfman is another prime example. R.I.P. Max Neuhaus: His Fontana Mix - Feed (six realizations of John Cage) is another worthy addition to the genre.
* Denis Dutton from Glenn Gould Variations: Glenn Gould by Himself and His Friends.
J. S. Bach - Goldberg Variations [Glenn Gould, 1955 and 1981 versions] (Sony/CBS)
Gould’s signature piece as interpreted on his debut recording at 23 and his final recording at 49. At 23, aesthetically and technically as sharp as razor blades, brazen, and full of humor & the sublime in full measure. At 49, a year from death (did he know? why now to re-record your debut?), all the humor viewed from memory, all the tempos slowed down, taking what was considered an esoteric and somewhat “light” piece by Bach and making it as heavy as a requiem. You could spend a lifetime comparing these two very different recordings and spinning out endlessly on the countless philosophical, psychological and spiritual implications. All I can really say is “Holy shit.”
Junko & Mattin - Pinknoise (w.m.o/r)
The most intense vocalist on the planet transcends “extended technique” and even aesthetics, tapping straight into a state of primeval psychological ALARM. Mattin’s wall of computer feedback fills out the space, making sure you can’t parry your way out, all without muddying the waters.
Ø - Metri (Sähkö)
Hard, bare bones 4-on-the-floor mixed with Lucier-like sound investigations (phasing, “beats”) with all fat trimmed.
Orlande de Lassus - Lagrime di San Pietro [Ensemble Vocal Européen, dir. Philippe Herreweghe] (Harmonia Mundi)
Shimmering polyphonic bliss, with some harmonies that took almost 350 years to re-enter the lexicon, stunningly rendered with Philippe Herreweghe at the helm. Music from before all the rules became etched in stone.
The Shadow Ring - Lindus (Swill Radio)
Like Walter Marchetti below, here’s yet another search for the bottom of music. Described to me by Swill Radio’s Scott Foust as Lighthouse’s darker, sister album, this one condenses and focuses Lighthouse’s epic-ness into a bleak gem of complex piss and cracked mind blocks. The synth interludes (“Lindus Slideshow” and “Lindus Hologram”) that act as signposts on each side are also amongst the most musically poignant moments the Shadow Ring ever created. R.I.P.
Eddie Prevost, Keith Rowe, Evan Parker and Barry Guy split their differences for a music that touches upon both the classic AMM aesthetic and the more (extended) technical language that Parker and Guy often frequent for something that truly supercedes both approaches for something other. Moments of alien stillness laden with the tension that they may soon be interrupted.
Walter Marchetti - Nei mari del Sud. Musica in secca (Alga Marghen)
Morton Feldman under water. Slowed pianos lulling you to the bottom of music. One hour in the zone.
D. Rider is the latest project from Todd Rittman (of U.S. Maple and Singer), with keyboard player (and cornetist) Andrea Faught and saxophonist Noah Tabakin. Dusted’s Michael Crumsho observed that U.S. Maple, “isolate[ed] rock’s constituent parts so they could be arranged in creatively non-linear ways that managed to turn boring orthodoxy square on its ear.” D. Rider is similarly asymmetrical but bound by certain minimalist rules – no tom toms, 16 tracks maximum – which the band employs to generate spiky, minimalist grooves that are infused with post-apocalyptic imagery. The band’s debut album, Mother of Curses comes out Feb. 17 and will be reviewed in these pages next week.
Occasionally there is a live music experience that goes beyond just getting what you paid for. Beyond all expectations and precedent. An experience that marks you, that you carry with you long after it ends. Something moving and inspiring. It might even enter the realm of life-changing. An event that makes you think you might not be all that jaded, that your mind can be blown one more time. Here’s a list of musical acts I’ve seen that have made an indelible impression on me that are still performing in small venues (the only way to go). In no particular order...
A truly gifted talent. She is a great performer and is an absolutely possessed vocalist. At the dawn of what I’m sure will be a legendary career, she’s the real deal.
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum
Heavy on the theatrics, even heavier on the musicianship. Their shows are always an all-encompassing experience and they are meticulous to an absurd extent about every single thing they do. They confront their audience with a dizzying amount of spectacle, but they pull it all off. Oh, and their music is great, too – almost too much talent, too many ideas, like an OCD haunted house.
Of course they are the worlds greatest marching band, but they are so much more than that. I’ve seen them lay waste to the local nightclub scene, but they really are best experienced playing one of the many outdoor events they do. When they are tearing it up in front of unsuspecting audiences from the general public, there suddenly exists something everyone can agree on: music fucking rules!
Man, I saw these guys at a festival in England in the late 1990s and thought they were cool. Five years later I checked them out with their new drummer and my jaw hit the floor. These guys have so much heart and make weird music that is rhythmically complex, driving, and catchy. They also have something rare... their own sound.
Ken “The Power and the Soul” Allison
I’ve seen Ken Allison headline a couple R&B showcases at some legendary Southside (Chicago) nightclubs where the whole night is an incredible buildup of talent that culminates with Mr. Allison’s performance erupting like some showbiz volcano. His baritone rendering of R&B and rock classics is awe inspiring, and he takes his stage persona to an otherworldly level. I almost lost my mind on the way home from the show when I realized the white rose he handed to my girlfriend as he sang (all the ladies got one) was spritzed with his cologne! Mind: blown.
Lovely Little Girls
This band is the creep. A surreal collage of nightmares. Its own horrible hallucination, and I’m not sure if I like it, and I love that. Gregory Jocobson’s damaged visions have oozed into the third and fourth dimensions and have been set to some unholy prog groove. Great first date activity.
Well, they got me. Battles breathe fresh air into rock and dance music simultaneously, and they do it all live. They go the extra mile to bring you a rare sonic depth, and are all top-notch musicians. It’s nice to see kids into electronic music watch a band play musical instruments and really get it.
Sometimes I think I’ve grown past certain things, like going to a show and really getting caught up in the anticipation of the event and then have it completely surpass my hopes to the point where I am just fucking beside myself. This happened when I saw Melvins on their “Senile Animal” tour. I felt like I was 18 and the whole rock experience was new again. Yes, they rocked incredibly hard, but the vocal harmonies were a shocking surprise. I hope they never stop.
It seems we will all have one more chance. If you missed it, don’t blow it this time. The most devastating live act of a generation.
The Musical Box
This band takes the tribute act to the nth degree and into the realm of fine art performance piece. They do not just pay tribute to early Genesis, they reenact a specific show from a specific tour. Oh yeah, they have all the costumes, sets, lighting, etc., but they even recreate the in-between-song banter, too. The music is well beyond a mere facsimile. There were points during the set where I honestly forgot I wasn’t seeing Genesis in 1972. I heard Peter not only endorses their historical reenactment, but he even took his kids to see them. This is another show that is great not just for the music, but to enjoy the crowd enjoying the show.