Sunday, June 07, 2009
Attention, fans of the Onna 7" that came out on Holy Mountain this year, you may very well want this CD edition too. Not only does it look great in an LP-style gatefold sleeve, it comes with extensive autobiographical liner notes by Onna main-man Keizo Miyanish, repros of some of his unsettling manga artwork, as well as old flyers and live photos and, most importantly of course, over an hour's worth of quality bonus tracks. The two tracks from the 7" are first, sounding just as addictive, ethereal, and punk/new wave/psychedelic as they do on vinyl. I really can't believe how entrancing these songs are... I love the way the second one, though clearly a different song, still seems to be an extension/variation of the first one, and when Miyanish or whoever/whatever does that bird-call at the end of it I always get incredibly stoked. Track 3 is an outtake from the same sessions, and it has the same guitar/drumbox instrumentation and the same haunted eerie near-childlike vocals, but with a notably faster tempo. For the next two tracks we jump ahead 24 years to 2007, and they don't necessarily sound more contemporary than any other Onna material, but still make left turns; the first sounds like a more traditional and PSF-friendly take on jammy outsider rock, the second has an odd blues strut to it, and both have vocals in a less hypnotized/haunted/waved style than the 7". The next four tracks are from a live performance in 1983, the same year as the 7" material, and will be of particular interest to many, as Miyanish is joined in a duo by Michio Kurihara, the brilliant guitarist who went on to the better known bands Ghost and White Heaven. When the 7" came out a couple months ago, it had no personnel credits, and it was easy to imagine that the swooping, surging, and sometimes gently melodic guitar playing on the record was indeed Kurihara -- in the liner notes, Miyanish himself writes "Even now I can still feel his guitar soar within me" -- but the CD has credits, which reveal that guitarist as one Hiroki Mafuyu. With Kurihara, the band sounds surprisingly starker and sparser, like gagaku on Mars (the band, not the planet), just two guitars and voice playing skeletal spooked ritualistic songs, the last one a good 15 minutes long. The disc is rounded out by one more, described as "a solo piece from an obscure cassette release," with no year given. It's another long piece in which Miyanish hammers away on his guitar and sings, again with an ancient ritualistic feel that contrasts the sleek machine trance of the 7". Either way, I can't stop listening to the whole thing... I suggest that instead of going out for dinner tonight, you give that $20 to Holy Mountain instead, it'll get both the 7" and the CD shipped to you postpaid..
Even in these days of the boutique CDR and cassette release, in which all artists can easily release page after page after sketchbook page, Blues Control seem to be operating on the tried-and-true 'one full length per year at most' plan. And this, their brand new album and fairly long-awaited Siltbreeze Records debut Local Flavor (release date July 9), only clocks in at under 35 minutes, but believe me, it's quality over quantity all the way. In what is something of a Blues Control tradition, the album starts with upbeat cheese rock that quickly reveals an escape hatch into other dimensions, here tripped open by a sharp mid-song horn chart, played by none other than Kurt Vile (on trumpet, apparently he didn't dump it) and Jesse Trbovich (Vile's bandmate in the Violators, on sax). These two stick around for the next track "Rest on Water," which indeed sets us all the way down onto deep tranquil seas for 6 minutes that seem like 12 and are still over way too soon... Vile switches to acoustic guitar and Trbovich plays sweet sax that gently ponders a page out of a hymnal from the Church of Anthrax. Track three "Tangier" turns the motor back on and continues the deep travel trance, this time for a full 8 minutes, which brings us closer to the true submersion demanded by side two, a side-long 16-minute prog suite called "On Through The Night." The more I listen to it, I still can't believe how it moves from giant chromium butterfly wings gently flapping back and forth in deep space into laid-back deserter-orc hip-hop instrumentalism into what sounds like the Cale & Riley tune again, except grand finale style, with an entire imaginary orchestra gently joining in. The whole record is really something, light and pleasant on the surface, deep and rich underneath, and I can't stop listening to this one either.
TWITTERVIEW WITH @BLUESCONTROL
by @fingered, re-edited from 6/13/09 live feed
reprinted with permission
F: Where are you now?
BC: Just crossed the Occoquan River, south of DC. Where are you?
F: I'm in Bushwick, Brooklyn. I have to go feed @excepter cats then off to a BBQ before your gig. JFR+lala fled puerto rican parade madness. Hopefully @SSPS will be there tonight though.
BC: Didn't realize today is the parade. We got some good recordings of it 2 years ago. We're playing with @SSPS at Cinders August 1
F: Parade is actually tomorrow, so traffic shouldn't be too F'd up for you. Did you guys meet in NYC? How long have you been doing BC?
BC: Bedford is closed though, right? And the L train is down? Yeah, we met in NYC through a mutual friend. We were roommates 1st.. played our 1st BC show January '06 at the old Lucky Cat.
F: Your live set is a truly mesmerizing and beautiful experience. Who/what are your influences?
BC: Thanks! We are influenced by David Copperfield... and ZZ Top.
F: ZZ Topperfield? What's your fav ZZ tune?
BC: Haha..! The only show we've been to in Richmond since moving was ZZ Top. 1st time I realized I was living down south though.
F: Sweet. Did they play Kings Dominion?!
BC: They played at Snagajob Pavilion...
F: You guys must be getting close to the NJ trnpke yeah? Or still in MD? Gonna run and feed cats. What do y'all eat on the road? Waffle House: yay or nay?
BC: Have fun at the BBQ! We made a pit-stop, so we're just north of Baltimore. I 8 a PB&J, and Lea 8 a bag of grapefruit. OU812. Waffle House is the 2nd-to-last resort, just above McDonald's. But I like 'em scattered, smothered, and covered.
F: Nice. So a few more Brooklyn/East Coast gigs this summer then a few dates in Europe, London/Berlin- you play there before?
BC: We played in Belgium & the Netherlands last year, but nowhere else in Europe. Doing a month-long tour there with Tropa Macaca. That's in September. Then we're touring around the US in October & November.
F: And tonight you play with Kurt Vile who you've played with a number of times and who else?
BC: Kurt & the Violators, Woods, Grooms, and Pygmy Shrews. You checking anything else out tonight? Did u go to the fest last night?
F: Just rocking the Shank tonite. Caught These Are Powers yesterday - those kids are touring China in July!!
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
GARY WAR Zontag 7". Here's a band/artist/guy from NYC that I had pegged as a more ethereal and prettified take on the Blank Dogs aesthetic, perhaps the Haircut One Hundred to Blank Dogs' Depeche Mode. That might not make any sense at all because I've never listened to Haircut One Hundred, except for that video where the guy played a xylophone with a couple bananas. And I like Gary War better than Haircut One Hundred (and the Blank Dogs for that matter) -- their full-length LP New Raytheonport, out earlier in 2008 on the Shdwply and Disaro labels, was an elusive and dreamy thing of no small beauty. This 7" on the other hand is kind of a goof. I mean Side A almost makes no sense at all. Side B a little more, but both are somewhat hyper and upbeat almost-songs that immediately run away from the listener, stay there for a couple minutes, and then disappear. It is more 'punk' than the full-length, for what it's worth.
SPIRIT PHOTOGRAPHY Time Is Racing 7". A band I know nothing about, but sounds like more Blankdogstitude to me, though with more direct vocals, a heavy and pounding drum machine, full-on guitars... the stadium rock version of the Blank Dogs' hiding-in-the-cupboard emanations. The vocals might be too much, taking it straight past Depeche Mode and into the realms of Wang Chung and The Fixx themselves. (Oh wait, the Sacred Bones website says "Douglas P and early DIJ" because they would never say "Wang Chung and The Fixx.") In other words, the music is heavy enough but this is slightly corny overall and I'm starting to wonder just what is the power of this 1980s aesthetic... it seems to have such a huge influence, with Spirit Photography hewing close to the party line while Gary War seems to be kinda frantically running away from it, stealing glances over his shoulder the whole way...
THE PINK NOISE: Gold Light 7". I'll be damned -- more straight-up blankdoggery! Three for three, so I think I can officially announce that Sacred Bones has an aesthetic and they're not afraid to mine it. And I realize it's not accurate to just say "sounds like Blank Dogs" about these records; it's more like a few people decided it would be fun to start a band (or project) that sounds like Joy Division and/or 80s synth pop, and they were in such a hurry to try out their gear and get recording that they just didn't have much time to work on any songs. That said, "Gold Light" does have some hooks, a catchy beat, a "bop bop" that the singer hits in between the verses, and some out-of-nowhere hand drumming. Side B has a driving heavy beat, a station-ID toy-keyboard chime-hook (better when Blues Control did it a couple years ago), and... that's really it. Both songs seem to be right at about 2 minutes long. Right now the critspeak popping into my head for this 7" is "rather slight"... but I guess that is how 45s were back in the day, before these days of 33 RPM EPs and whatnot, and "Gold Light" would sound fine for a couple minutes on the jukebox at some dive bar in the sci-fi movie in your head, sure.
MAX ELLIOTT The Nature o' Nature 7". I saved Max Elliott for last because I had a feeling he would be different... he's recording under his own name, for one... he's also got 3 songs on his 7" instead of 2... and sure enough, he's just a guy with an acoustic guitar singing and playing some folk songs. No drum machines or 1980s keyboards in sight -- not even imitation Ian Curtis vocals! Just a couple minutes in and I like this record the best of all four of 'em. Yes, because it comes as a relief after three records in a row that choose style over substance, but also because his songs are distinctive, taking a kind of old-time ballad feel and stoking it with a little punk fire. Some of the voice breaking on Side B is about halfway to Simon Finn doing "Jerusalem," which is quite a bit farther than most. Anyway, turns out he's from Wisconsin and part of the Dead Luke/Jerkwave crew... he's a member of the Absinthe Minds band and, if I'm reading this article right, he is Zola Jesus's brother.
Update: the Gary War is getting a little better each time I play it, while the Spirit Photography and Pink Noise are actually slipping a little. The Max Elliott is staying the same because it was straight-up to begin with.
AND THIS JUST IN....
Three more 7-inches have come from Sacred Bones, right on the heels of four 7's a couple months ago. Even though last time I wasn't as impressed by the tunes as the overall presentation, bring 'em on I say....
...and in fact, the first one is a winner. Naked on the Vague is an atmospheric avant-punk male/female synth/drumbox/guitar/vocals duo from Australia, and one of the few Sacred Bones bands I've heard before, thanks to their 2008 full-length on Siltbreeze. I wanted to like that one, and I tried several times, but it just never stuck with me, the old "one ear/other" syndrome. This new 7" on the other hand sticks pretty hard. Side A "Chitty Chat" is a short pounding and arresting rave-up, while Side B "Goodbye Dear Cliche" slows it down and zones it out like something that might've been on Siltbreeze in the 1990s instead of the 2000s, and may have even been called "haunting space rock" in an actual paper zine.
And last but quite the opposite of least, a double 7" in a sweet gatefold sleeve. It's by Timmy's Organism, which is solo recordings by Timmy Vulgar, the lead singer of Detroit cult avant-garage punk band Human Eye. Because of the eccentric wildness of Vulgar's main band, I figured this stuff would surely stand out from the 2000's Blankwash, but to be honest, at first it didn't. It still sounded like one guy in a bedroom with electronic equipment singing in a deep voice kinda like Ian Curtis. However, I think I had just gotten my ears blanked out from listening to all these Sacred Bones records in a row, because on a couple more listens it starts nosing above the pack. Vulgar's got a real singing voice and he writes real lyrics... the distortion on his guitars and bass or whatever is way over the top, nothing timid about it... and all of these records use 'sci-fi' sounds, but Vulgar uses ABSURD sci-fi sounds, the aforementioned over-the-top distortion, constant electro/synth whooshes and whistles that sound genuinely extraterrestrial... his guitar solos sound like space opera laser battles. Anyway, there's five tracks on these two records, and they're all real songs... still not reinventing the wheel but it's a fun listen and the final track "No Hassle" is an excellent driving zone-out rave-up.
And thus, I can recommend 4 of these 7 records. So, despite having the best uniforms in the league, the season has been a little disappointing for Sacred Bones so far. But they shouldn't get too down on themselves; they're still above .500, and with a full schedule still ahead, they might still make the playoffs...
Monday, June 01, 2009
GROUP DOUEH: Treeg Salaam LP (SUBLIME FREQUENCIES) All of these tracks are archival, recorded between 1989 and 1996, but Hisham Mayet's selection and sequencing and most of all Doueh's constantly swirling blasted guitar playing still threaten to make Treeg Salaam the White Light/White Heat to the first album's Velvet Underground & Nico -- it's a little rougher and jammier, and the B side is even a single 18-minute track. Unfortunately, it's no "Sister Ray," but a rather distantly recorded performance in which Doueh's leads are more buried in the mix than usual. It does grow into a pretty intense and hypnotic track though... as far as the John Cale references go, maybe his production of "We Will Fall" by The Stooges is a better comparison... and Side A seriously rips, with several genuine "and then my mind split open" guitar moments.
LIQUORBALL w/STEVE MACKAY: Evolutionary Squalor LP (ROCKETSHIP) As a big fan of their 90s album Liquorball Fucks The Sky, I'll admit that I had initial concerns with this ten-years-later release. The B&W solarized 'avant jazz' live shot on the cover made me ask, "Do I really wanna hear them ten years later jamming with a guy on sax? Even if it is the guy who played sax on Funhouse?" Well, it turns out that the answer is "Yes, of course I do." This is a recording of an April, 2008 live gig (written about and even titled here) at guitarist Grady Runyon's record store and Liquorball showed up ready, laying down sinuous and mean uptempo hard-driving thug-psych grooves that slide and insinuate in ways that sound like they've spent the last 10 years doing a lot of playing and/or growing, and duh, of course Mackay is great. Just like on Funhouse, he knows that job #1 is to riff with the band, and as such his solos never wear out their welcome, and most importantly he knows how to hang back and blend in. Hell, there's a guest harmonica duel somewhere on side one and even that's okay, and in fact excellent, because the groove kills throughout. No monstrous/hilarious vocals this time, just the sound of tough and confident psych jam burn that is older and wiser, and in the right way.
SOME MORE REVIEWS:
A MIDDLE SEX/TEMPERATURES: Unclean Yawn/Bifurcation split LP (CARNIVALS) Nice to have underknown UK band Temperatures back after being blown away by their edition-of-100 Ymir LP a couple years back... their side here might be even better, just a lurching, grinding mutant 16-minute thing with plenty of rock swagger. This band should be huge... at least with this split LP they're up to an edition of 300. Maybe next one will be 500 and they can reach the Billy Bao fans. A Middle Sex is another UK band, and their shit is cool too... some sort of galloping drum-driven avant-pop whatsis... they pick up the This Heat torch and run with it, but they had so much caffeine and/or LSD that they keep dropping it and staring directly into the sun and/or the pretty swaying trees. Then they remember what they were doing and pick up that torch and run again... but then get sidetracked again by a pleasant stream... and so on... and it all flows much better than that would suggest.
BELUGA: Pet 7" (SELF-RELEASED) Fashionable multi-cultural and presumably metrosexual New Yorkers playing "the brand of lo-fi rock and roll they always wanted to play." In fact, they recorded these two songs in one take in their practice space. They've been compared to the Bangels [sic] and the X-Ray Specs [sic], and while the voice of "their Brazilian front woman Isabel Ibsen" does cut with some real sass, the songs are pretty run-of-the-rockin'-mill. It's appropriate that their one-sheet talks about how the band has drawn "the attention of press and marketing teams alike," listing some of the ad campaigns they've already been featured in (K-Swiss!), because this really does sound like the punk rock you'd hear in a mainstream media commercial.
CHEER-ACCIDENT: Fear Draws Misfortune CD (CUNEIFORM) This Chicago band has been operating for 27 years, in which time they've predated, been associated with, and outlived such regional movements as Chicago No Wave and Chicago Math Rock, all while being nothing less than real-deal modern-day epic pop-prog masters. They were recently the deserving cover stars of Signal to Noise magazine and have signed with a real-deal modern-day prog-rock label, Cuneiform, that has been going as long as they have. Their first record for the label is this one, out now, and it's a good one. No one song stands out, but a suite feel comes through instead, in which interchangeably playful and classically prog-melodic male/female vocal melodies circle and glide over cycling and pounding riffs that have a heavy Magma/Udu Wudu bounce. Fans pick it up now, and for newcomers it's an excellent place to start.
MATHS BALANCE VOLUME: Lower Forms LP (SELF-RELEASED) Finally some wax from these deep underground Mankato MN miscreant tape/electronics/mics/weirdness jammers, self-released, down and dirty, B&W paste-on style. Even better, they've used the 12" format to hone their long-form space-out jamming into weird shorter song-forms. There's seven tracks on here, anyway, and most of them have what just might be an actual lead vocalist, a female one at that. If that's her on the cover along with the two creepy dudes in the window (who I'm assuming are the two dudes in Maths Balance Volume), then I'm really freaked out.
RTFO BANDWAGON: Dums Will Survive LP (DULL KNIFE) My intro to this band, and I didn't know what to expect (lo-fi, Columbus, dare I say shitgaze?)..... but this?? A band that sounds like one or two totally accomplished smart and cutting singer/songwriters with plenty of hooks and a crack backing band from say Nashville circa 1974 that has time-jumped just four or five years forward, just enough to know about The Fall and general post-punk guitar damage? And they only caught a brief glimpse of it, too, a very brief glimpse.... I really don't know what else to say but this LP has invaded my life with it's completely well-done songwriting, casually adept musicianship, and sweet male/female vocals... I mean what's up with "Between the Ears" being such a C&W ballad masterpiece (the pedal steel guitar by Larry Marotta himself certainly helps a lot)? What's up with the stately soul of "Like A Bridge Over Dan Shearer," and the inzayne production on its piano overdubs? What's up with the album ending with like a 7-minute damaged-guitar instrumental reprise of the title track? What's up with the cover, the insert, the "dums" album concept? I don't know, you figure it out, I'll be happy listening...
SUETTA: Olympic Stain (1994-1996) LP (SUMMERSTEPS) Flashback to the Lollapalooza generation and some rural Pennsylvania highschoolers under the influence of Dirty and the dark side of 120 Minutes are bashing out some demos. 15 years later one of the band members puts it on vinyl (1oo copies), and I can see why. This is awkward, rough, and derivative music but it has a wild-eyed youthful born-in-isolation exuberance that most do not achieve. It also has that early-90s Homestead Records indie-rock drug-damage down surprisingly cold, although it's possible that these kids were getting it all second-hand, without actual Homestead Records and maybe even without actual drugs. Side B is a mock live show in a house that the parents had moved out of.... it's not as musically worthwhile as Side A but still has time capsule value.
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