Friday, February 22, 2008

The Pope Do You Wanna Boogie? 3" CDR
Nessmuk Flies Free 3" CDR
Gang Wizard Live In Paris 3" CDR
Panda Bear "Bros"
Tony Allen "Ole (Mortiz Von Oswald remix)"
Surface of the Earth Interference LP
Enos Slaughter On Sunday LP
Dave E & the Cool Marriage Counselors Searching For Sears 7"
Panzer Talk s/t 12"

The Pope is another band I've never heard of before released by the Abandon Ship label. Heavy metalloid noise rock that does in fact have a boogie/shuffle feel in places but mostly heavy prog/thrash with absurd squeaky distorto vocals. Very "Providence, RI". Anyway, it's kinda odd to be at a place in time when I listen to something and say "It's good!" and "I probably won't ever listen to it again" in the same breath. Basically there is a huge class of bands across the world that are good enough to, let's say, be part of a good show where every band puts on a good set and the energy never drags, but yet they haven't figured out how to make a record that can really be cared about or considered important. Should these hundreds of bands still put out records? Sure, might as well, especially if it's on CDR or cassette... their not-so-essential record can always be someone's introduction into the idea of non-traditional music and the independent short-run releasing thereof, all important concepts, and the act of putting something out there usually still moves things another step on the evolutionary trail, whether it's upward to something that is actually great or important, or downward into an early retirement. I don't mean to get all thoughtful like this in a review of The Pope, for the record they're a not-bad noise-rock band. Alright, let's throw another Abandon Ship 3" by someone I've never heard of into the player and see how it fares... this is Nessmuk with Flies Free. This goes back to the shadowy psych-noise that I associate more with the label. Still not exceptional, though a longer and rather ecstatically-played electric drone/raga called "The Diamond Hard Grindstone of Heaven" stands out. I would play it on the radio, probably even more than once! And hey, we've got time, let's get the remaining new 3" from Abandon Ship in here... it's good ol' Gang Wizard (someone I have heard of!) with Live in Paris. Ah, Gang Wizard... always prolific, always jamming, always piercingly noisy and aggro as hell... they never really put out a bad record because they always just do what they do, but how many Gang Wizard records does any one person need? I would say one or two, with three acceptable in some rare cases. I probably have about seven. The best is Byzantine Headache, a CD they put out on Load a couple years ago. It's great, and I think it's because it's a collection of various recordings from different places and/or times and therefore more edited and considered than their usual release, which is "Here's a crazy 20-minute jam or three we played live not too long ago". Like this one, recorded Live in Paris, which sounds fine and Gang Wizardy, but again, I don't really plan on listening to it a second time, but then I just read the blurb Gang Wizard member Brian Miller wrote about it over on the Abandon Ship website, which makes it sound really interesting because it supplies lots of context that describes the show itself, which kind of goes back to what I was saying earlier, that so many of these bands are important in that they can be a crucial part of an exciting show/event, even when the records don't match up. Anyway. "Bros" by Panda Bear came up on the shuffle and deserves a mention by itself - yes I think he sounds like Brian Wilson, and yes I think his music can be awesome. This song is anyway - what a joyous epic. I don't know what the rest of the album is like yet and I'm not even sure I need to. Went to Reckless and someone who probably shopped at Fusetron a lot in the late 90s-early 2000s had recently dumped a lot of their collection there. I picked up two used LPs, and I'm very happy to get something by Surface of the Earth on vinyl. This band from Wellington, New Zealand was kind of revered for a minute or two in certain freenoise/drone/NZ nerd-circles back in the mid-late 1990s heyday. I was in Wellington in the year 1999 and my host actually made it a point to show me Thistle Hall, the building where SotE recorded all their music, as a cultural landmark. Well, listening to this LP it's easy to see why. I'm not sure if the amassed sound of humming flatlined guitar/amp combos has ever been more beautiful. (RST is the only other artist I can think of that rivals it.) They are masters of controlling a soft/loud balance, and I don't mean that some parts are soft and some parts are loud, I mean that ALL OF THEIR PARTS are both VERY SOFT and VERY LOUD at the EXACT SAME TIME. I was always kinda interested in hearing the Enos Slaughter LP, and now that D. Charles Speer & the Helix (featuring two of the same members) is on a roll the curiosity has been re-piqued. It's an interesting album and an interesting band, but now seems like kind of a semi-awkward transitional album, like psychedelic bluegrass music is trying to emerge out of the cavernous black hole that is the NNCK oeuvre, and it's still awkward and nascent, covered in protoplasm, not quite finding its legs. For every wicked thicket of strange-strings future-bluegrass burn there's an equal or greater amount of time given to freenoise fumbling. I prefer the CDR they put out on the Tequila Sunrise label - I think that was a live set and it has a more focused feel... love the Dave E 7-inch even more than before, "Searching Through Sears" is such a great song!... Y'know, I'm sorry I called the Panzer Talk record 'lite' a few posts ago. That's not really fair, that's a word for like smooth jazz or dentist office music. I think I was referring mostly to the vocals, they're kind of awkward and indie sounding, but what's wrong with that? If anything, this record harkens back to 1990s indie-rock nicely, when as a genre it sounded more post-punk than post-Pitchfork, a pre-Pro Tools sound, when that clean-tone two-guitar interplay could still sound bleak and dusty even when the songs were poppy. I don't know what I'm talking about really but the record has grown on me.


Slowchimes said...

This Surface Of The Earth album is probably the best album to ever come out of NZ IMHO. I'm practically a traveling sales person for this album. The first time I went to Wellington I looked up Thistle Hall myself (you're right, a kind of cultural landmark). There are million bands who have attempted this kind of thing, but for some reason no one else even comes close to these guys. If you haven't already, check out the CD Paul Toohey did under the name 'K-Group' on Corpus Hermeticum a few years back, or any of the lathes if you can find them... Genius that remains obscure through conscious lack of self-promotion....

Larry said...

Yessir, such a good album... conscious non-promotion is the best... and I've still never heard K-Group, thanks for the reminder. Cool about Thistle Hall... isn't it right on Cuba Street, a few blocks from the main shopping area?

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