Monday, April 21, 2008

Carducci gets Proustian

Snake & Remus No Tape Outside (from Box)
Socrates Drank The Conium On the Wings
Woods Family Creeps s/t CD
Steve Gunn s/t CDR
Isaac Hayes Hot Buttered Soul
Iron & Wine The Creek Drank The Cradle
Grateful Dead 1979-10-28
Rolling Stones Let it Bleed LP
Enter Naomi by Joe Carducci

Man, first time I've listened to the Snake & Remus LP. Don't have the actual box it came in (with two other LPs by "CC" and "Boots"), just got mp3s from a blog, and I think it's extremely good, and my pick for best release so far from these rather prolific Chicago-based anonyms. (See also Tommy Roundtree Jungle Blood LP and the self-titled Arian Sample LP - he calls himself something different with each release, y'see...) No Tape Outside starts with an extremely vibed-out acoustic guitar/crude percussion/warm synth drone ensemble, over which THAT VOICE (Tommy/Arian/Terry/Jim, it's gotta be HIM) explores psychic moods and impressions with his trademark delicate but ominous imagery. "And it tastes so good/it makes you want to run.... and you let it go/and walk away/moving through the climate/feeling all the years.... And it's more than dreaming/And it's more than meaning/And it's more than bleeding/And it's more than leaving..." Could only really be about two things, being one with the universe and/or using drugs, either way it's a great song, and I think the second song is just as good, trading the synth for gentle piano but keeping the intense ruminations - when he sings "Tryin' to piece together a bullshit life" it sounds pretty real to me. And then after a few more songs Side 2 comes along to gently wash everything out with what seem like gentle instrumental versions of the songs on Side 1, a subtle dubwise B-side move, as if not the songs were recorded but simply their dream-impressions, those potentially messy thoughts and words all just evaporated out. Socrates Drank The Conium is quite a band name and quite a sound too - heavy Greek two-guitar power-prog from the early 70's. The On The Wing album is from 1973 and the way these nimble, scorching guitars and bass wind around each other, held taut by the drums, sounds like some wacked-out SST band from 10 years later or the Hampton Grease Band from 2 years earlier playing it straight, leaving the Zappa influence at home for some serious heartfelt hard-rock business. The he-man stadium-rock vocals might give pause (Dusted mentioned Vedder) but ultimately they provide some useful grounding.... Really liking this new Woods CD. I don't know, the band may actually be called Woods Family Creeps on this release, but either way the album comes in a real nice LP-style gatefold sleeve by Time-Lag Records, and the music is a huge jump past the previous Woods album At Rear House (which was pretty good itself). The same indie/poppy/nervous songwriting is there, but there's more aura then before, something psychedelic and confident, and also a little more ancient and spooky, plus there's a nice 7-minute instrumental track right in the middle where the drummer really hits a Swell Maps/Faust stride and the rest of the band follows... the Steve Gunn is on Abandon Ship, sounded nice when I played it earlier today but I don't really remember it now, oops... longish moody instrumentals, I guess, arpeggiated guitar and hovering drony atmosphere. Not a unique approach, but it seemed pretty well-done, I might listen to it again... The Dead show is a personal find, with one of my very favorite China Riders, and Mydland era no less. In fact it's Mydland that makes it - it's early in his tenure and he's still playing funky 1970s electric piano, no Midi in sight, and Garcia is refreshingly low enough in the mix that the band ends up sounding some hazy California version of Future Days/Babaluma-era Can. After that the set gets a little rough, especially during a turgid "Passenger"-"Althea"-"Mama Tried" run. The Dead were one of the few bands truly worthy of the elusive "American Stones" title, but that claim seemed outright laughable tonight when I cut out in the middle of this 989th version of "Mama Tried" and went right into the Let It Bleed LP and the sweetly ominous opening strains of "Gimme Shelter." It's funny about Let It Bleed, ever since I got this goddamned iPod I've been keeping an eye out for (cough) free and (ahem) illegal mp3s of it and not immediately coming across any, but today I was sitting around the house and had the brilliant idea to pull out my vinyl copy and listen to it. After all it's been sitting here the whole time, like it has been for the 20 years or so since I bought it used. Sounds GREAT on vinyl. I've now read Enter Naomi by Joe Carducci two or three times and I'm not sure if I've got what it takes to write about it yet, or ever. By now you might be familiar with the subject, Naomi Peterson, the truly gifted in-house band photographer during the glory years of SST Records. She passed away in 2003 at the age of 39 and her long-time friend and coworker Carducci wrote this book to not only eulogize her, beautifully and expansively, but to eulogize his entire experience at SST Records and how the label epitomized punk as "the nihilist phase of the hippie movement" ("what was left when Hippie found out it had been wrong"), all of which he does in a downright punk-Proustian fashion, fragmented, discursive, occasionally frustrating, and not everyone may want to hang, but there is so much insight here, especially regarding how Black Flag and SST developed, that I've been going over the pages again and again. For just one example, there's the way the book deals with the city of Hermosa Beach as the petri dish where this culture incubated, laying out its history as a surf/beatnik/jazz/boho hamlet where misfits like Greg and Raymond Ginn, Chuck Dukowski, and Spot could really develop a sense of individuality, including such important details as a city highway and transportation system that made it somewhat inconvenient for tourists and daytrippers to ever end up there. The book even reproduces a two-page aerial photo of downtown Hermosa Beach, the Pacific Ocean sprawled out majestically right at the top, with all the key spots annotated. (The Church! The W├╝rmhole! Media Arts! The vegetarian restaurant where Greg met Spot!) I've probably spent a full hour staring at this spread alone. Not to mention an extensive excerpt from Peterson's portfolio, lovingly reproduced, along with lots of other photos, postcards, letters, invoices, and other ephemera that allows these fragments of memory to really take root and grow in the mind of the reader. One of many brief anecdotes that kind of sum everything up is the one about SST Records being in between office spaces and Chuck Dukowski temporarily running the label from a bank of pay phones on a sidewalk in L.A.'s Koreatown. Sez Dukowski, "Once I got started I just grooved and kinda enjoyed what was good about the situation: outside, stuff going on, ya know." Sez Carducci, "Chuck's and the others' ability to roll with anything and enjoy it no matter how goofy, embarrassing, or dangerous was one of the fundamental building blocks of Black Flag and the SST approach." Hell yeah, that ability is one of the fundamental building blocks of any kind of life with any guts, thanks again to Naomi, Joe, Chuck and everyone else for the examples.

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