Monday, January 30, 2017


You might've heard it from me before, because ever since it was released in early 2003, I've been obsessed with the album Enantiodromia by AZITA. This is a solo singer/songwriter piano trio album by Azita Youssefi, previously known as a noisy shouting bass-blasting Chicago No Wave legend in the 1990s with her bands Scissor Girls and Bride of No No. Enantiodromia is a different animal, on which she's backed by a smooth bass & drums rhythm section (Matt Lux of Isotope 217 & John McEntire of Tortoise), the trio occasionally joined by Jeff Parker (of both bands) on guitar, in which her piano playing and melodies soar like classic American and British soft rock and pop music, but can also be spiky like Middle Eastern music, or contemporary classical, or jazz, of course. (Jazz runs deep in Chicago.) Her singing can be, in its own way, as strange as anything she's ever done (right from the first track "Better End In Time") but also as beautiful, and her melodies are always quite beautiful, even when the vocal phrasing seems to be one last concession to her No Wave roots. The lyrics are also really good and concise (if fragmented) social/emotional situations and observations (depending on interpretation, there might be a few breakup songs on here), which works extremely well on the album's two big ballads, side one's "You're Not Very" and side two's devastating "Reopening," wherein the melody and truth of the line "The people in town that I knew / They mostly stay in by themselves" has particularly haunted me for years. These are also the only two songs on which Rob Mazurek contributes remarkable lost & fragile cornet playing, which makes them stand out even further. Also, in a lovely bit of sequencing, each side ends with an excellent instrumental piano solo compositions, such as side one's ambitious 7-minute "Departure of the Boats." Yes, this latest #turntableglue-laden bout has officially convinced me: Enantiodromia is a masterpiece.

P.S.: Long time Blastributing Editor, Sir Christopher Sienko himself, swears that Azita's follow-up Life On The Fly is even better. I'm so committed to the magic of Enantiodromia that to this day I stubbornly still haven't heard Life On The Fly, except for this ChicaGoGo performance of its "Miss Tony," which is indeed a goddamn great song, about 30 times. And hell, even that album came out 13 damn years ago. She has worked steadily since then, releasing three more full-lengths on Drag City that I haven't heard at all, the most recent in 2012, as well as a 2006 EP of solo piano songs she performed onstage as part of a play that ran in Chicago.

P.P.S.: The theater experience wasn't a one-off; in 2010, she was in another play, the lead in something called Last of My Species II: The Perilous Songs of Bibi Merdad. So, she's keeping it interesting, trying new things, extending her parameters. It seems she always has been, one way or another. She was born to Iranian parents, while they were studying in the United States, and spent most of her first decade in Tehran (a picture of her taken at the time is on the cover of her third solo full-length How Will You?). This all changed with the 1979 Iranian Revolution, when her parents permanently relocated to the Washington DC area. She moved to Chicago in 1989 to attend the School of the Art Institute, and in 1991 pursued a different kind of art by forming the Scissor Girls, who were scary and amazing:

While in that band, she self-released a weird and also scary LP called Music For Scattered Brains under the name AZ, on her own label SG Research, basically private press synth (released in a cool duct-taped & silkscreened chipboard disco sleeve) shot through with that 1990s Chicago No Wave aesthetic, harsh electronic squiggle slash and warp, what melodies and rhythms there are in a Residents or creepy-cabaret mode, and I think actual vocals in places although she may be foolin' me. After the Scissor Girls disbanded (and drummer Heather M joined the great Lake of Dracula), Azita formed a group called BRIDE OF NO NO, again all women, this time performing while wearing strange mummy-like burkas. As in the Scissor Girls, Azita played bass and sang. The guitarists were Jenny Graf Sheppard and MV Carbon of Metalux. I believe they had two drummers in their career, first Jen Kienzler, replaced at some point by Shannon Morrow, and the tempos were a lot slower than the Scissor Girls, revealing a moody progressive musicality that may not have been apparent from the previous projects. See below for some of that dark lugubrious music, from a show in early 2003, just before they disbanded and Enantiodromia was released.

P.P.P.S.: When I file Enantiodromia by Azita, it goes right in between Albert Ayler and The B-52's.

Sunday, January 22, 2017


Your circular rhythms are infinite, and they play in my head every day.

Earlier today, before hearing the news about Mr. Liebezeit, I was also thinking of a quote that I think of at least once a week, from the documentary above at 23:53, when Can's late guiarist Michael Karoli says, "We have incorporated all the external elements, not only by force, but deliberately. So the music was good as soon as every single sound, or noise, a hooting car for example, was fully integrated into the music. Automatically. Then we knew that we were playing well. If noise was disturbing then we knew that it was the music that was wrong, and not the noise. I think this is important." You're damn right it is, MK. Such a great band.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


More sci-fi techno noise kink from Chicago's sprawling underground, witness two-piece group HOGG. They had me with the presumed deep Delany reference, but this 12-inch EP is some cool grinding weirdness on top of it. "Sci-fi techno noise kink" is in fact kinda limiting; I'm not sure what kind of music this is (punk/industrial/noise, to be simple), but it's deep, weird, aggro, and brave. This 12-inch Solar Phallic Lion has been out for a little while on Scrapes, a label run by Alex Barnett (who we talked about in the previous "Midwich Roundup" post). Hogg also has a 2015 cassette on the long-running (we were writing about 'em at least as far back as 2004) Nihilist label, called Bury the Dog Deeper, which has also been issued on LP (under a different title and with extra material) by the Rotted Tooth label. And hey, maybe they're not a two-piece on Solar Phallic Lion after all, if this gnarly welcome-to-Bellona beauty from the insert is actually a band photo:

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

MIDWICH ROUNDUP (HIDE Flesh For The Living 12"; ALEX BARNETT Chew From The Mind LP; MOON POOL & DEAD BAND Humanizer LP)

Every record Chicago's Midwich label has put out thus far in its two years of existence is excellent, and they continue to resist easy overall labeling. "Techno" is a decent start, but it doesn't fully summarize any of this stuff. For example, the Chicago group HIDE has vocals and comes off as some sort of dark industrial club music, jacking the house beat and taking it into the gothic dungeon zone, with minimalist menace coming from the cold vocal melodies by Heather Gable and the hard electronics & hypnotic beats by Seth Sher (who was in 21st Century Chicago legends The Coughs and Ga'an). Side A has the 5-minute "Flesh For The Living," which is strangely both one of Midwich's poppier cuts and most underground cuts, followed by a change-up half-time dare-I-say trip-hop remix by someone called Watts for American Primitive, while Side B stretches out with the creepy 12-minute monster-track "Limb From Limb" and its killer layered rhythms.

HIDE: A night on the town. 


ALEX BARNETT's record Chew From The Mind is a completely different electronic music subgenre that on paper might sound like nothing new (guy with synths and drum machines writes and records music that could be the score for a VHS-only 80s horror movie), but there's a quality to the composing and playing that sets it apart. Patience is key, and Barnett's tracks play a waiting game, percolating with creative polyrhythms while the stark melodic themes (and a certain unsettling recurring electro-groan) carefully pick their spots. The theoretical film this is soundtracking is more about suspense and alienness than gore and luridness.

ALEX BARNETT: A day at the beach. 


And, while these two are still digesting, along comes the full-course meal that is Humanizer, the second Midwich release by MOON POOL & DEAD BAND. Again, you could call these guys a techno group, and Humanizer has hard-driving Detroit beats throughout, but there's a lot of musicality and left-field technique on here, and the overall effect is something like high-level uncompromised underground prog rock or fusion jazz compared to the other more generally stripped-down records on the label, especially on long cuts like the dense 10-minute opener "New British Blues" and side two's 9-minute "A Grey Glow." Or on 2nd track "Cycloid," which sounds like a hit techno single but also has Soft Machine overtones, like the synth had the 'Elton Dean' patch on it... As a two-man band, it's hard not to see it as David Shettler bringing the extensive musicality, while the other Dead Band member Nate Young (of Wolf Eyes) supplies a decentering "noise not music" presence. Maybe side one closer "Sea Foam" is a true 50/50 collaboration, as there seems to be a high-level fusion jam going on there somewhere, but it's chopped and refracted into a cut-up nightmare scramble that could be classified as musique concrete, or noise, or #psychojazz. Or maybe, Nate Young is like a double drummer, programming his own beats that double Shettler's, which makes them like the dystopian techno Allman Brothers Band. Clearly, I have no idea, which is a good thing. Anyway, a lot to dig into here, on both sides... get started by watching the video for the killer/ominous title track, with rough-and-ready visuals by Alivia Zivich which effectively illustrate what Wayne State University professor Jerry Herron says of Detroit in the essential HighTechSoul documentary: "We've got space, and it's not just space that's empty, it's space that's full of the artifacts of American industrial culture. It's a place like no other. It provides food for people's imaginations in a way that no other site does..."


All that and I'm still not keeping up with Midwich; New Victorian by VIKI VIKTORIA was just released, which I'm personally excited for, as I've been a Viki fan since 2002, and it comes highly recommended by certain Midwich insiders... and, two more records are coming very soon: a solo release by Good Willsmith member MUKQS, along with a new 12" EP by MAGAS that will be available on his upcoming tour opening for Joan of Arc. (Click here for dates.)


Lots of interesting stuff in this Humanizer press interview with Moon Pool & Dead Band, like Shettler's use of "Simakian" as an adjective, and that, back in 2011, he'd released a more traditional club tune called "Hot Burrito," about which he says: "When it dropped, I would get texts in the wee hours: 'Kenny [Dixon Jr., AKA Moodymann] is playing 'Hot Burrito' in Chicago right now' or 'Marcellus [Pitmann] is playing 'Hot Burrito' in a warehouse right now.' I felt like I'd made a real record. I guess it was a hot track in Berlin that year." Hey, here's that heat now, right here on blessed Bandcamp:

Friday, January 06, 2017


San Francisco's Violent Change have the name of an 1980s HC band but they're really a 2010s power pop band, albeit a distinctly sludgy/druggy/foggy one. Nicked riffs and hooks thrust and parry from grounds both under and over, from the British Invasion and beyond... the hook buried deepest in my brain so far is the title hook for the song "Television," and while Television (the band) is probably well-liked by Violent Change, this track sounds more like The Shoes at their most feathery/ratty/home-recorded. The forlorn and distorted tone of the vocals is in itself a hook, one that I can't shake, and the same could be said about various dreamlike guitar tones that the band achieves and filters through what seems like a distinctly soulful cassette 4-track setup. I can't help but think of 10 years ago when labels like Siltbreeze were releasing records by Eat Skull and Sic Alps right and left -- this might just be a brand new Pacific Northwest shitgaze record! -- although Violent Change are more on the Bee Thousand end of things, and sometimes (like on "Potemkin" and "The Way") even sound like they're going straight back to The Bachs. Anyway, I'm just now finding out about this band (even though this would appear to be their third release), thanks to hearing the great track "Colors of the Pine" on John Allen's WFMU show, then the rest of the record on Bandcamp, where I quickly ordered a vinyl copy while drunk. ($14 looks really cheap with beer-goggles on, you totally ignore that $4 shipping cost. But, now that I've gotten the record and listened to it like 12 times already, I can soberly state that $18 is a bargain as well.)


Wednesday, January 04, 2017


DAS TORPEDOES and RAKE KASH have records out now on the Omaha-based Gertrude label. The Rake Kash was recorded over the past couple years, while the Das Torpedoes was recorded fifteen years ago, possibly even pre-9/11. Both are projects by (former?) members of that city's fin de siècle (that's the 20th siècle to you, daddy-o) sound/noise/art band Naturaliste. The Das Torpedoes record is called The Madness Inspiration, and was initially a cassette released in 2002 on the Animal Disguise label, under the alias Charles Lareau. Animal Disguise was one of the great cassette labels of the early 2000s, and hearing this Madness Inspiration murkily issuing off of magnetic tape and out of my speakers in that already futuristic palindromic early 21st-Century year was the perfect soundtrack for my own private feelings as they glanced off of the 1990s mass-media alternative rock explosion into an increasingly inward early-onset middle-age Phildickian reality. I'm sure many of you have had, and are having, similar moments. The whole Animal Disguise label was good for these weird introspective moments, and still is (check flagship artist Mammal's 2015 release Lake & Sand), but there was something about The Madness Inspiration that really stood out. It was polite noise. Dark and depressing, but well-behaved. Power electronics that never yelled. Crude electronic recording experiments that all just kinda sat there and worked, grinding away like air conditioning, electrical current, room tone, internal human consciousness. Kudos to Gertrude Tapes for pressing up 250 of 'em, as well as of the new Rake Kash LP (co-released by Unread), which leads off with a track called "Stonecutters," and has a drawing of stonecutters on the cover, but is apparently self-titled. Either way, they continue their increasingly distinct brand of late-night red-wine underground-cinematic instrumentals, first heard on the the Herr Tambourine Mann LP from 2011 (also on Gertrude Tapes) and a self-titled cassette from 2013 (on, you guessed it, Animal Disguise). This new one is more arthouse neo-noir than ever, with bandleader L. Eugene Methe laying down delicate themes on synthesizers, bass, piano, electric guitar, violin & organ, joined by two drummers, cello, clarinet, harmonica, a full-time tambourinist, and most notably some superb noir sax playing by one Ian Simons. I'm not joking when I use that hoary chestnut "cinematic"; Rake Kash pull it off, and when it occasionally starts to sound a little too nice, the perfect electronic burble or menacing synth tone is right there to upset the illusion and land you back on the ground/street/planet.

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