Still Single: Vol. 5, No. 7
Glad to be back to a regular schedule here, and I have my contributors to thank. Hard to believe it, but this year is half over already. Start planning your best of the decade lists now.
Abstraction! The sleeve of this one-sided 12” thanks the Dutch airline KLM for flying the band to Indonesia, where (one must assume) the source sounds were collected for this record. This is a nice deep-listening hodgepodge of objects processed with a computer (as this is the way of contemporary musique concrète). You’ll hear taps, thumps, scrapes, distorted twinkling bells, echoed atmospheres and slow ringing tones, and while it’s carefully assembled there’s nothing particularly direct about the presentation. If you want excitement, look for the dadaist collages of the Bohman Brothers or maybe Matmos; this is a different perspective entirely. A recording like this rewards patience and though it occasionally oversteps the electronic effects it’s generally on the right side of a long balancing act. I do question the need for going to Indonesia to gather source material, when you could probably just look in your own kitchen cupboard and find household objects to make similar sounds. There’s nothing ‘ethnic’ about the sounds on this record, so maybe this was created as a document of their experience. Fair enough – Blindhaed’s sonic archaeology is a much more beautiful travel memento than, say, uploading a bunch of photos to Flickr. www.iniitu.net)
Been sitting on a bunch of the Captured Tracks releases so far (and eagerly awaiting the next batch that I pre-ordered months ago), just to see how these would hold up outside of the moment of release. Brilliant Colors fits the M.O. thus far, as well as existing as part of the big East Bay pop explosion of 2009 (see also Fresh & Onlys, Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall, Grass Widow, Nodzzz, etc.), the likes of which haven’t been seen since the ‘90s heyday of bands like Henry’s Dress and Rocketship. Jess Scott performs as Brilliant Colors with a handful of different musicians across these two releases, churning out chiming, pleasant, albeit non-striking pop music, made out of the most basic palette one could muster. She’s got Rose Melberg’s sing-songy voice, the guitar skills of a beginner, and only a haphazard idea of how to write memorable songs at this stage; “Highly Evolved,” the most basic of these, is the only one that sticks after several listens to both. However, the Make a Mess EP sounds a bit rougher, and hints at more than is offered in the successive effort, which is odd. I’m for sure interested in checking out all of these acts, just to get an idea of how pop scenes both geographic and virtual are progressing, but these seem like the simplest of opening moves, a step or two back from where you’d expect indie pop would be at this point. (www.makeamessrecords.com) (www.myspace.com/capturedtracks)
Part of a goth/coldwave scene out of the Pacific Northwest, artist Cairo Pythian makes a shocking debut with what the press materials allude to as “lucid assfucking.” C.P. hails from Olympia, WA, and there’s a bit of a Sex/Vid connection via Dave Harvey playing guitar and Capt. Trips producing these sessions, but the two bands are in no other way alike. Perhaps in mood, but certainly not in method – any of the four S&M/quickdeath-for-kicks anthems on this release wouldn’t have sounded out of place on either of the Wierd Records compilations (well, maybe the wah-wah lead guitar on “Magus” might have placed it out of the running), sequenced for maximum slink and in the Gary Numan fanclub 4 LYFE. 500 copies, disturbing cover art that you won’t want to look at, kinda looks like velvet-n-leather guy in your town caught in the act at the wing buffet. Allegedly released by an anonymous arts guild out of Oslo, Norway. The plot thickens. (nsjnl.com)
Arthur Doyle w/Rudolph Grey
An archival 7” originally planned as a release on DRA Records, “Ghosts II” was recorded in Brooklyn January 12, 1980, about a year or two following the release of Arthur Doyle’s Alabama Feeling. It’s hard to know if this was recorded before Grey joined with Doyle and Beaver Harris as The Blue Humans, but either way this duo was attempting to set the stage for their impending future. Doyle began his career playing with Horace Silver, Pharaoh Sanders and Sun Ra, but his participation in underground New York alongside Rudolph Grey, Glenn Branca and DNA opened his style up to rock audiences. This recording, aptly titled “Ghosts,” draws a distinction between two vastly different approaches to a free sound. Grey’s piano exists solely as a complement to Doyle’s outrageous overblowing, a style which would eventually take him to Europe. This is an essential listen for anyone grounded in the history of free jazz/no wave in NYC. “Ghosts II” is an ominous predecessor to a tumultuous time when genres overlapped, leading to the demise of Max’s Kansas City, the chill of the Cooler, the birth of Tonic and its afterbirth as the Stone. It’s heavy. (www.foreignfrequency.com)
Pronounce it ‘ee-uh-fon’ if you must talk about it at all. This is low-ball indie rock solo mellow from one Clay Parton, whom the chain-walleted among you may remember from emocore scene-makers Mohinder, Duster (about which I know nothing), and the excellent noise rock pushers El Buzzard who are now performing under the name Breasts. (El Buzzard was tons o’ fun; as for their new moniker, I flashed on an old Todd Barry joke: “Whenever I see someone with a neck tattoo, I think, ‘you forgot not to do that.’”) Anyway, after playing the John Fogerty role in Mohinder, this slab is Parton’s “Chesterfield” – played everything, took a few years, etc. Simple drumming, acoustic guitar melodies, thin, faintly-overdriven-by-being-recorded-on-a-four-track electric guitar buzz and a safely ignorable pleasantness that would probably jell over a period of time I’m just not willing to give it. I lived through Elliot Smith once, not sure I need to do it with his fans, especially when they never quite move past “pleasant.” Lovely high quality packaging, though, band name and title in a very Bedhead/New Year font, nice cover painting. About 500 pressed, on 180-gram wax. (www.pillowscars.com)
A solo saxophone album is always an intense listen and Paul Flaherty already has a few under his belt so you know he’s gonna unleash something raw here. We get four pieces from two performances, split by side and presented in a way that puts you right there in the room. Though he’s capable of quick shifts from aggro-distorted gut-punches to serene spiraling melodies, the album is a cohesive work. His alto squeaks and bends, but when he gets into circular logic there are pockets of trance-like escapes that are actually made more effective by their juxtaposition against more linear tonal moments. The back cover has a long poem by Ken DelPonte, focusing on American presidential politics but also with a personal, spatial dimension (reflected in the album’s title, I think). The poem inevitably colors my listening, as the elegiac slow tones and the blues reflections heard at various points throughout the album make me feel like a death hymn to America. I think it’s actually more complex than that, though; as the album goes on I feel like the dynamic shifts emphasize Flaherty’s own often contradictory feelings as an American artist working in a tradition (albeit a countercultural one). For all the slow, concentrated blasts of air there’s an incredible amount of exuberance to be heard here as well. 500 copies. (www.family-vineyard.com)
Miss Pickles has danced for him. The Furious Truckstop Waitresses defended their roller derby title using “Dropping Quarters for Jane” from this EP as their victory anthem. Whether playing with the Shakes, the French Side Men or the Bongo Billy Band, Al Foul is his own one man band, carries the melody and most likely his equipment. Originally from Hyde Park outside Boston, Al used to front the Foul-Mouthed Elves (his last name origin). Ditching Drunk Rock for life on the road, Al hitchhiked to Tuscon in 1989 with his friend and future washtub bass player Pigpen. Originally setting sights for San Francisco, they wound up down in Tucson avoiding the chill of Nor Cal. After ditching the Shakes, Al set himself up as a solo act. Pompadour greased, he uses a kick drum for a back beat, beats on a hollow body adding key players to the mix when the tune calls for background effects, pedal steel or electronics. “I want to come off looking sincere,” Al says and through and through he does. Even the French like him. Recently Al performed on Nantes 7 TV with a theremin backing him up on “Have You Ever Been Hit By a Flyin’ Saucer”, a quirky tune about too much caffeine and UFO abduction, both seemingly hot topics of conversation in Tucson. “Homeless” is the reason to hold on to this EP. A heratbroken tale of lost love and misbegotten ways, Al croons “lock your door /I’m homeless”. Righteous advice from a guy that’s spanked people on stage and gotten a lap dance from a drag queen. A cover of “Stewball”, a song about an 18th century most winningest race horse some claim to be British or Irish or even American, closes out the B-side. Credited to Lonnie Donegan, the tune is a clink of the glass glass to skiffle holdouts far and wide. (www.myspace.com/disquessteak)
Bore from the core of Detroit, Michigan, The Frustrations are a three piece punk act that borders on thrash. But for the sake of being taken seriously, whatever retro hangups are involved in liking/loving a noisy basement band these days aren’t worth discussing. With every song, the Frustrations freak out and expend a specified amount of energy slamming guitars and pushing the tempo faster and faster. Citing the town of Hebron, North Dakota as a core influence, the Frustrations jump all over the midwestern map of punk sounds from dreary cynical songs like “Overrated” (“snort it up your nose and strike a pose”) to degenerate anthems like “Voice Was Lost” (“there was a gun to my head /I did it for her”) to maximum threshing on “Halfway on Fire” (“hopelessness brings in every day”). There are no templates at work here, which probably makes The Frustrations a great live act. Fuzz breaks and instrumental sections that border on surf make Glowing Red Pill awesome and legit. Their style of music brings back a lot of collective unconscious memories of the days of Amphetamine Reptile, but try and suppress as many as possible. Go down in the basement and check them out, if you get lucky Tyvek will be playing too. (www.x-recs.com)
Simplify your life! Wreck the city! Steve Schecter (Billy Swamp, The Standards, End Of The West) has been described as ‘anarcho cow-punk’ or a ‘one-man existential blues machine’ which are both crap. Nick Cave likes Ghostwriter and the reason is because this is Texas music with a backbone. Schecter hacks and hollers through most of ‘em and a few old ones bookend the album (“Mobile Line,” “There Ought to Be a Law Against Sunny Southern California”). “Blue Eyed Girl” is a poison chantey to faded, lost love. “Breaking Point” could be a work song, working class angst meets the back alleys of Austin: “don’t worry, baby /I’m gonna wreck this city /I’m gonna blow ‘em all away /I’m gonna find us a life worth living /I swear I’ll pull us out of this waste”. Schecter’s growl never loosens its grip. The hillbilly renaissance typically doesn’t stray too far from the template, but Ghostwriter expands into a song and lets it bleed. “Captain” is a good example of this tortured one man garage band that can self-flagellatingly ask who is the boss, who’s in charge, and does he know Jesus. Thankfully, Ghostwriter is also a consummate entertainer. “Pills” is a great Bo Diddley cover telling the timeless tale of a gent, down for the count, in a hospital being looked after by a “rock ‘n’ roll nurse”. She gives shots, pills and knows where it hurts. Ghostwriter has relocated to central Oregon, performing in the Northwest primarily, but with any luck there will be a lot more to hear and news to report soon. (www.endofthewest.com)
This is more like it – all-female pop exuberance machine, playing double-time games with a sound template expanded well beyond the daily standard of reverb-drenched, rudimentary pop. This San Francisco band has a lot more going for them, reaching back to female post-punk pioneers like the Raincoats (or maybe Salem 66) to inform their busy, vibrant work. When a band can take a concept like a one-note guitar solo not so much as a defiant declaration of rule-breaking, and use it as a tool of both creation and negative space, you may have found a band that’s worth listening to, one that’s intent on surprising you within the form. Grass Widow does things like that on this debut album with such candid aplomb and candied sweetness that the form feels revitalized, and wholly their own, from art/progressive rock flourishes to dabbling in Roma/klezmer axis dance of death. I’m told that plants placed in sunlight don’t necessarily reach towards the energy source so much as move away from the absence of it. The ways in which Grass Widow’s adventurous pop plays out reminds me of such a scenario, brightening rooms with handspun inventiveness and energy. (www.makeamessrecords.com)
Born from the fusion of punk and fee jazz in Europe during the ‘70s, saxophonist T.S. Høeg is a Danish composer and arranger. Previously a member of Danish punk bands the Sods and Sort Sol, he formed Cockpit Music and Tapehead which workshopped and toured throughout Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland and the former Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, his saxophone orchestra Somesax and the Great Mongo Dilmuns continued to rule Europe on the rock, jazz and even techno club scene. Once a student of Bob Brookmeyer and member of John Tchicai’s festival band, Coming Up finds Høeg (now Hawk) is a minimalized blast of uncut modern Danish jazz for brass and wind instruments that defies any parallel. Described as a “bird of prey among pigeons”, Høeg has now assembled former band mates Jacob Dinesen, Kasper Tranberg and their friend Mads Hyne to assist him in all manner of trumpet bleating and honking as they barnstorming their way through each tune. Most arrangements are structured behind an even syncopation of thirds or sixteenth notes that subtly alternate flat, sharp or natural. This not-exactly-classical texture gives the music a pulse, doubling as a rhythm section. A sense of the power emerges in this kind of playing pushes back on the ear allowing for the hope that “this music will be like vital juice for your ears”, as noted in the liners. Some tracks are elaborations on practice exercises, both for the players and the listeners. From the notes: “what do we do from here /don’t know, don’t know /let’s go berserk /yeah” emerges as a central tenet, though the core jazzed instrumentation remains densely tight and focused. “Tom for Titel” premieres on this disc and stands out as a noir-like lullabye, saxes responding to each other in the heat of the night. Other tracks of note include “Kalimba,” orignally taken from a computer composition for six kalimbas, and the opening track “Bold But Blue,” often played during the Great Mongo Dilmus days but has now been cut down in a shorter fanfare. A limited vinyl edition of 300, the packaging is elaborate and exquisite, includes libretto, drawings, sheet music and a bonus CD. This limited edition package catches your attention but asks more questions than it answers. (www.escho.net)
Placid, natural, poetic flows of highly subdued balladry are the stock and trade of Easthampton, NY’s Tor Lundvall, a musician and painter who has quietly made a name for himself in the death/folk/ambient arenas, following early works in collaboration with Sol Invictus’s Tony Wakeford. This is an immersive effort, designed to grab one’s attention with as little rancor as can be mustered. Lundvall’s voice falls in between Antony’s melting drama queen and the light, mellifluous tone of the Left Banke’s Steve Martin, guiding the rich, rounded electronic tones of bass-borne melody. Don’t mistake this music for drone; though the notes do hang suspended, this is pop music with structure, fitting well within both its established home, and several key examples from the ‘90s, such as Labradford or even Radiohead. Relaxing in ways you can’t imagine, and not something you’ll ever be embarrassed of listening to or talking about. This is Lundvall’s sixth or seventh release overall, recorded in 2005 but just being released now by Dais, who are quickly assimilating themselves into the thing that the artist is part of, and spreading it to a slightly wider audience just outside of this music’s typical reach. 500 numbered copies in foil-stamped sleeves; ordering from www.torlundvall.com nets you a signed edition. (www.daisrecords.com)
If you’re a fan of listening to AmRep-style, throat-hammering noise rock while operating a lawnmower, Sacramento’s Mayyors have been your favorite band for quite a while now. The stories that I’ve heard about the general directive of this band (self-release ten singles and call it a day, suggest a coastal alliance and rarely leave the state of California) points towards a treatise on how to make people remember them. I hope the streak of conceptual purity holds out, and it looks as if it might, because this four-song 12” is better than their first two singles. Luxurious 45 RPM mastering at as little as four minutes per side makes this one of the loudest punk records since In Love with Jetts, guaranteeing that whatever rental properties it’s played in are going to lose significant fractions of their security deposits. I’m not normally a fan of effects pedal abuse, but what Chris Woodhouse does with them on “Clicks,” the way he builds a simple, two-note progression into percussive blastloops that line up with the drums, and dial through them like the channel knob on a now-useless TV set, has turned me around. These guys busted DJ Rick’s forehead open at house show – not on purpose, of course – but when was the last time any of you felt so much for a band that you were willing to risk bodily harm to let them play? I think he took the hit for us all. Serious Hazelmyer/Gear Jammer worship put to a hefty rhythm section that fires the kick on the up and the down beats, possessing that rolled-up-in-a-rug-and-tossed-downhill sorta ambiance that really makes these sorta things come together. Prolonged exposure to these times has been difficult. Mayyors don’t take the burn away, but they do blot out the rest of the world for refreshing, two-three-minute bursts – in the parlance of the Cinco Toilet Shower, “just enough time to get clean.” Not sure if the front sleeve ever came in contact with water from a urinal, but I wouldn’t doubt it. It is covered in dried mud and looks like a linoleum floor at a party after it rains. You germophobes can rest easily, as all 500 copies were spoken for within hours of release.
A banjo with 23 strings is not a banjo. It might be said that it is closer to a sarod or a similar Eastern stringed instrument. Yet this hybrid, the creation of Minneapolis’s own Paul Metzger (ex-TVBC) and debuted at a church in Minneapolis in 2002, is used to rev up the notion of the banjo to new heights – heights which without visual stimuli are indefatigably beyond the realm of the five-string that made Earl Scruggs famous. The raga beat kicks in and soars, Metzger knocking about drumming/thumping the beat at the interlude of the A-side, breaking the overarching trajectory of the piece, but recovers quickly into a similar stride from earlier in the piece. His innovation is borne out of a search for a sound, not pure experimentation itself, which helps to set his works apart. On the flip, his playing style is chaotic, crashing up and down the scale bowing out in deep assertive tones and then flying through punk-like, multi-stringed attacks. Metzger pushes the banjo to new heights, but I guess he might disqualify on a technicality as America’s banjo avant-gardist, ultimately deferring to Eugene Chadbourne. But this is a welcome penalty. “Things that would become available to me by having some extra strings to use as an accent would then further inspire me to add something else to the instrument,” Metzger says of his cross-cultural stringed machine. A lot has been written and said about Metzger’s relationship to the guitar gods, but his will to continue to innovate, modify and expand what he already does is what will allow him to construct compositions that continue to simultaneously challenge and ease the mind. He is playing frequently this summer in and around Minneapolis, once with Sir Richard Bishop which, I’m sure, will be a shooting gallery. Limited edition of 425; each copy includes a pasted on vintage photograph, all of which are on display online. (www.roaratorio.com)
Mi Mye from the UK have produced a remarkably mediocre EP. The group uses seven members to do the job that two or three could have easily and more capably taken care of. “The Last” is a cheery song with sad bastard vocals leading something melodic and stunningly basic. Indeed, even the sleeve design, record labels, the whole package seems so by-the-books and merely satisfactory. But there’s nothing of note, nothing interesting that sticks out at all. There’s some guitars, some standard vocal harmonies, it’s all there. “Dee or do it” is more of the same, merely competent rock music. It’s like when a venue tries to get a crowd in by advertising “LIVE MUSIC TONIGHT!” For anyone with half a brain, something more discerning is desired. What does this even sound like? I don’t know one thing to compare it to because it is so achingly bland. Maybe that is this EP’s accomplishment, after all. (www.trashaesthetics.com)
A drum machine set to “MC 900 Foot Jesus,” barking dog guitar, and a person named Dixie Music pleading emphatically over the mic is the whole story behind France’s Plasto Beton, suburban funboys who may or may not listen to Rammelzee, ready for a night out at the leather bar. AH Kraken/Feeling of Love affiliation; I’m into one of those bands. Snarling and harsh, the group does what it can with pre-recorded rhythms and primitive drum machines, gargling driveway sealant and spewing it all over your sidewalk, in a recent tradition of spoiled decadents like A.R.E. Weapons, Flux Information Sciences, and Ghost Exits. The fashion’s not part of Plasto Beton – yet – so their woodshed antagonism still has a great deal of bite to it. Fun, goofy times. 500 copies, from France. It’s French. (sdzrecords.free.fr)
This is really the worst thing I’ve heard in quite some time. I don’t even know how to go about this. Let’s run down the list. First, Push-Pull: slap bass, talking interludes, jokey prog rock shredding, every band member with the same first name, pitch-shifted and delayed vocals. On the flip, Prizzy Prizzy Please: dancey “metal”, ska horns, even more jokey prog rock shredding, and Chi-Peps vocals to boot. It’s the worst Warped Tour joke-band tent material. It’s the soundtrack to high-school hessian band-geeks moshing. Please, please, please: shut it down. (www.joyfulnoiserecordings.com)
In Homer’s Odyssey, the myth of Proteus provides the origin for the shapeshifting man who can take many forms like lion, snake, pig, water or tree. In “Tam Lin,” the story of Janet is similar to “Rosemary’s Baby” and nothing at all like the “Robin Hood” its setting (mid-19th Century English forest primeval) would suggest. A fair maiden is told not to go to Carter Hall, a popular hangout for knights, men of the cloth and, most notably, the inscrutable Tam Lin. With little delay, Janet defies her father and goes there “as fast as go can she.” The next morning, upon realizing she may be pregnant with an Elven child, she tells her father that a fairy plucked her maidenhood when she fell off her horse on the way to Carter Hall. She then returns to Tam Lin, who protects Janet, his betrothed, and saves them both from being tithed into Hell. On this split 10”, UK’s Mugstar and Redpanda pull double duty updating Fairport Convention’s version of this folk tale, originally featured on their 1969 album Liege and Lief. The track is split into two parts with Redpanda bending notes at the outset, savoring the folk tones of this time weary ballad. Unfortunately, the vocals by Elizabeth Still are swallowed in the mix, and the scope of the fable is buried. The band claims to be “currently looking for someone to teach the singer how to jive on stage,” and the beginning of this track could certainly use some more of that. Mugstar pick up the track at the midpoint, Pete Smyth’s vocals piloting their rock-based approach, and transforming the finale with force. This is an interesting experiment, but possibly too ambitious. Lancashire & Somerset are an interesting label releasing highly limited edition vinyl runs. The B-side of this release features a masterful etching of two-headed birds in flight. 300 numbered copies. (www.lancashireandsomerset.co.uk)
The Moriori were an indigenous Polynesian people that lived on the Chatham Islands east of New Zealand, adhering to a strict code of non-violence and passive resistance. In 1791, when Lieutenant William Broughton claimed Chatham in the name of King George III, the first Moriori was gunned down while defending his fishing nets. By 1862, only 101 Moriori remained. According to the press release, Sabertooth frontman Nicholas Marshall wrote Old Days & the Island as his parting shot from a shot at the big time, emancipating himself from the Portland indie rock music scene grind. He dedicates the album to “how it should have been” and sends thanks to “friends, lovers, families and enemies” adding irresolutely, “you know who you are.” In the LP, two stanzas from the title track are included: “I’d run away to sea and find the Moriori.” Teetering on the brink of extinction, seemingly the Moriori didn’t want to be found, and their Pacifist ways weren’t long for this world. Marshall seems too comfortable in this stance as a singer-songwriter. These songs could be lullabies, but there is a piece of the gothic puzzle missing for them to be spooky or rarified. That said, Sabertooth the band is keyed in, strings and synths weave a cradle that won’t break or fall. To thrive off this kind of through line of folksy tragicomedy, the listener demands absolution or forgiveness for their sacrifice. On “Wake Up Call” Marshall moans, “think for yourself /you don’t have to go out like that” and offers a warning to all on “Darkest Days” that “you can’t taste poison until it’s too late /It’s nice to see you /I’ll see you in Hell”. It’s a major leap for an audience to feel nostalgic or fatalistic for a feeling that never happened, but Sabretooth seems to have the time and empathy to spare. In their press photo, the band is seen playing poker. One member, maybe Marshall, is holding a pistola? On their MySpace page, the band is described as sounding like “the soft underbelly of a tiger.” This album needs a tambourine. Includes a bonus 10” EP with four cover songs, a great gimmick with song choices that are excellent (“California Dreamin’”) as well as dubious (“In the Air Tonight”). (www.arenarockrecordingco.com)
Brooklyn’s So So Glos (Market Hotel’s house band?) get loosey-goosey on this 7”, offering two tracks from their second full length. The quartet works their way around furious yet melodic indie rock with lots of full-band singalongs and swagger. It’s posi enough to attract the DIY posi-pizza sect but catchy and accessible enough to attract sloppy indie rock lovers as well. “Throw Your Hands Up” barrels along, led by a driving bassline and bittersweet Springsteen-esque dashboard poetry (“falling out of love with the radio sound”). It turns out that they’re declaring “war on the radio” (“throw your hands up, DJ!”). “Execution” is DIY dance indie-folk-punk dance party fodder. The jangling-folk feel takes it south, turning the track into something that I could imagine fitting well on a No Idea Records EP circa 2001. Unfortunately, the whole enterprise is ruined by what could be the worst self-sealing plastic outer sleeve in the history of 7”s. (www.greenowl.com)
Esau Mwamwaya met Étienne Tron and Johan Karlberg in a second-hand shop in Clapton, East London. Esau’s shop was on the same street as Étienne and Johan’s studio where they began broadcasting on the internet in the early 2000s. Born in Mzuzu in Malawi, Esau Mwamwaya grew up in the capital Lilongwe and played drums in various bands. Music in Malawi is rich and Esau was close friends with Evison Matafale of the Black Missionaries until he was killed in police custody in 2003. Étienne and Johan became friendly with Esau and purchased a bike from him. Since their initial meeting, the duo (aka Radioclit) have been at the crossroads of the global implosion of world music and electro. This 7” is the result of their collaboration with Esau and the full album is available as an exclusive download. These two songs work together as an introduction to the collaboration between DJ and singer doing for the African sound what the UK did for the West Indies yet within a global marketplace. The enormity of Esau’s voice triggers an emotional response even though everything is sung in Chichewa. “We don’t really have a political standpoint in our music, though we might have them in life,” Karlberg told the Montreal Mirror. “Especially with music from poor parts of the world, ‘ghetto music,’ or whatever you wanna call it…hardship and desperation often comes out in the form of beautiful, honest, real music.” There is some evidence of that here and though the chapter on “ghettopop” (also the name of their label) is still being written, like most musical subcultures its sustainability is not guaranteed. This music has that potential, though it may need a new face. The only thing lacking in this package is the cover art featuring a “Lion King”-type illustration of two cubs on the plains at sunset, their angelic father cat peering down on them. In this new digital arena, the sounds can be alright, but audiences still demand to know what a movement will look like. (www.greenowl.com)
As a thank-you gift to the 250 subscribers of their singles club (really the best one of its kind in years), this record was pressed up. It’s not for sale (“PRIVATE PRESSING … NEVER FOR SALE” sez both the sparse packaging AND the etching in the run-out groove) because you cannot sell what cannot be bought, even when paid for. Huh? Anyway it’s likely because this is a heretofore unreleased/under-released recording featuring Nudge Squidfish and the late Jim Shepard (V-3, Vertical Slit, Ego Summit). Really, that’s what the warnings are about, so to repeat, there is no way to buy this record and no way anyone could’ve known about it unless told. Fortunately, secrets can be kept, and as of now, the bulk of Shepard’s told-you-so-prophet spiels remain unavailable, the words and music of a mind too honest for this world trade for huge sums or, more often, for nothing at all. Point is, though, that you still need to hear a guy like him. As far as unreleased material goes, this is a good one. Nudge prods on with a drum machine and some flange guitar, while Jim gives us another lesson. He’s supplanted by track’s end with another Jim, the Rev. Jim Jones, screaming to followers. Don’t confuse the two, though they are likely having a great laugh at our expense from the astral plane together. I’d only hope so. 500 copies, white sleeve, no labels, and again, not for sale, so think of a good way to endear yourself to the CDR organization if you find yourself without a copy. (www.columbusdiscountrecords.com)
Bloomington’s Vollmar has been around the home-recorded indie-folk scene for a number of years now, putting out a good amount of releases. This EP is the band’s ninth release and it shows a singer-songwriter with a comfortable grip on his material. “New Best Friend” is a pleasant country-dub recording, something that fits in well with the K Records of 2003 (especially Little Wings, with whom the band has split a release in the past). Like The Microphones and Little Wings, the track benefits from a sparse but elegant bit of production. The dubby guitar upstrokes resonate with reverb far behind the close, confessional vocals and faint yet effective drumming. On the flip, “Flood Punch” is immersed in, well, watery synths and noisy effects. “Holy Blessing” is a fine closer, a pastoral send-off complete with chirping crickets and echoing piano. Singer-songwriter indie-folk is a relatively fallow field at this point, so it’s very nice to see someone create something both immediately likeable and memorable. 300 copies, helping to round out a 12-release singles series. (www.lanimauxtryst.com)
This album was recorded, according to Ralph White, “in a frenzy during a heatwave whilst on a lull at my dayjob.” A banjo player of high esteem in and around Austin, Ralph disembarked from the trash-grass punk of the Bad Livers in 1996, trading road life for pastures aplenty. It would be a major disservice to say that the music White makes now is old-timey or folky, but that was a problem with the Bad Livers too, one which the artist seems miles removed from now, as Appalachian twang-tinged tunes are crossed up with polyrhythmic kalimbas, distancing his solo style from the purity of the traditions behind his instrumentation. White on White: “I compose music, improvise music, and steal music…the more the lines between these categories are blurred, the more interesting it becomes. So I guess I’m a blurrer.” This squirrel gets his nut. Flush violins creak through the title track alternating with plunking and plinking on guitars and banjos fretted and fretless. It is incredibly rewarding to hear a musician blend styles for the sake of creating something new after mastering the musicianship and sounds linked to tradition that are completely obliterated in the face of doing something new. And his caterwaul is plenty pleasing, plucking at the heartstrings as well as the kalimba. On “River Daughter”, White intones, “I never thought I could lose my mind /See from places I’d never find.” Maybe they’ll just never get it in the North? Who cares, this is music that should give a director a reason to make a film for it; there are worlds inside worlds here. “History 1 (Conspiracy Theory)” reveals a deeper contradiction in the fast picking banjo singing, sort of a rush to judgement with lyrics calling for an understanding of what’s true and “what an idiot could see” throughout history. A sort of lyrical update to Linklater’s Slacker and Waking Life, this is a song you’d hope to hear in Austin after the SXSW smoke has cleared. Edition of 600 copies with hand-glued, hand-colored cover art and insert. (www.spiritoforr.com)
100 people paid about $45 for the right to own this collection to somewhere off in the land of deviants. What they got were four 7” singles, each one in its own hand-decorated sleeve, inside a silkscreened and stamped cardboard mailer, wrapped in newspaper and cast to the winds. Brainbombs in 2009 is a very tricky proposition; did they ever really go away? Have they been at it long enough that they are pulling back on the overt misogyny and violence they tarded away at lo these many years? I hear a rhythmically active band now, one that reminds me of the diagonal, chromium bum-out of Bailter Space and, at the turn of a corner, some lost, manic Messthetics-quality post-punk racketeers. Their abilities in both lights up a band that now has gotten slightly bored with its own conceits – or most likely now has to face the pressure of an outside world that’s now a bit too aware of their past, and tone things down. Either way, it’s interesting if non-essential. Poppets cover two Brainbombs classics, “Burning Hell” and “Jack the Ripper Lover” adding little if anything other than reverence for the source material, and definitely guilty of watering it down. Black Bug strains out the more vivid parts of 45 Grave and the bulk of the synth-minded offerings on GSL and Three One G from about a decade ago. But the Homostupids pull off one of their best records to date – “The Hawk” is a minute-long punk throwaway, all of the band’s Midwestern stridency in top gear. They sound like the Offspring coming out of a boombox. Right on! Their untitled B-side is nothing more than a loop of Roger Daltrey’s scream from “Won’t Get Fooled Again” /“CSI: Miami” that rolls on for two uninterrupted minutes. It’s a brilliant claim, the material sounding just dirty enough for the band to claim it as their own. The more close to the skull their records get, the more memorable they become over time. I don’t think they’re so much the live band, but in these controlled bursts, they’re huge. YEEEEEEAH!
Daltrey’s famous scream is also the subject material for Favorite Recorded Scream, an art project by one LeRoy Stevens, who profiled the clerks of Manhattan record store for six months about their favorite shouts by singers on records. He then cut those screams out and strung them together in the order in which they were collected. The result is a novelty, to be sure: three minutes and 32 seconds of screams cut together, then spaced out and separately banded on side B. It’s a fun listen, and certainly exuberant; “Won’t Get Fooled Again” is featured five times over 72 tracks. Other repeat customers include Iggy Pop (the Stooges’ “T.V. Eye” appears four times, once as a cover by the Wylde Ratttz, in addition to a single occurrence of “Loose”), Robert Plant (“Immigrant Song” shows up three times, “Whole Lotta Love” once), Yoko Ono (of course), James Brown, and of course, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, whose “Constipation Blues” yelp sounds borne of experience. These are mixed in with screams from genres of music typically sold in the stores profiled (got a chuckle out of use of a Prurient track from Hospital Productions, seeing as said artist is also the store’s proprietor). Like Burning Hell Vol. 1, it’s interesting to listen to but not for long; unless you want to use it as a DJ tool. However, the record does come with a foldout map of almost all the record stores in the city, complete with addresses and contacts (a map that, in light of Virgin Megastore’s closing, is already out of date). In this day of there being “an app for that,” I’m surprised no one’s done this up via Google already, but it’s definitely nice to have if you feel like digging around some of NYC’s dustiest crevices. No label information for either, sorry.
Agonizing, sidelong blasts of noise and darkness from our most economically beleaguered state, where things have gotten so bad, even the stalwart Hanson label has decamped to Ohio. A dozen artists in all are represented, all from the screen-ink-stained corners of Michigan’s substrata of starving artists. Not designed for fun. Here’s the breakdown:
Tovah D-Day: Solo synth; a couple of test runs, then up close work in an MRI with no lead shield. Nice divebombing tones.
You don’t have to listen to these in order to understand the shape Michigan is in right now. But you can at least respect the endeavor. Dangerous wails from the North, replete with a statewide “wall of fame” on the front cover (everyone from Madonna to Curtis “Booger” Armstrong), presenting the option that there is no brightside anymore. Packaged in a silkscreened cardboard mailer, making the records extremely difficult to remove. 600 copies. (www.hansonrecords.net)
Yours must be a single (or vinyl-only album) pressed on any size of vinyl. I will not review CD-R copies of a vinyl release – you need to send the vinyl itself, even if it includes a CD. We need the artifact here with original artwork, not some duplicate/digital copy. Only records released within the past six months will qualify for a review.
Still Single now runs bi-monthly, so there is no deadline for submission. I will do my best to make sure that records are reviewed in the order in which they are received.
ANY genre of music is accepted for review. Do not be afraid.
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By Dusted Magazine