Bull Tongue 27
Exploring the Voids of All Known Undergrounds Since 2002
by Byron Coley and Thurston Moore
Trans Industrial Toy Orchestra's Alzheimer Underground LP (Ti Prod) [www.transindustriell.de] is a pip. They are a German troupe where the decidedly fluxus membership play and record by reading words without "e" with nuts cracked in a nut cracker and reading backwards while tearing a sheet. They also utilize record players in aurally illegitimate ways. Sounds dada, bizarre, unlistenable? Actually yes and no: it is indeed a fucked up thing but quite alluring in its tribute to brain blankness.
Very nice slab here from Liverpool's Solar Fire Trio (Invada) [www.invada.co.uk]. Formed in '05 by Spiritualized saxophonist, Ray Dickaty, alto player Dave Jackson and drummer, Steve Belger, their eponymous debut LP is classic squee-pileage in the post-ESP tradition. Unlike some Euro players, these three base their sound on loose sonic collisions and and interwoven blather in ripely extended fire-form, all revolving around theories of meat and its ability to burn. Solid, savage blurt.
Debut release by Weak Sisters is a cassette called Subterfuge (Basement Tapes) [myspace.com/boilerroomemissions]. Awesome cut up screams and dead-time pronouncements make this release unbearably savage. The fact that it's not just wank but pretty taut and focused nihilist sense-slicing makes for killer listening. Weak Sisters is basically a solo spurt of Will van Goern of Other People's Children and word on the streets of Fort Collins, Colorado is that this tape don't come close to his live actions. Hopefully, we shall see.
The great Marcia Bassett is rightfully hailed around the globe for her work with Double Leopards, Hotogitsu, GHQ and plenty more. She's been responsible for some beautiful visual projects as well, but we are here this time to praise her new solo LP, recorded under the monniker Zaimph. Mirage of the Other (Gipsy Sphinx) [myspace.com/gipsysphinx]. This album seems much more flowing and less harsh than the last Zaimph CD (not that flowing necessarily trumps harsh, it's just different). The combination of voice and guitar here has lots of raspy edge, but there's a deep gorgeousity to it making the record seem like it's glowing when it spins. Long lunar notes have rarely sounded so fresh. Gipsy Sphinx also has a fine album by Bear Bones Lay Low [hets.tk] called Djid Hums. This is another solo album, cut by an 18-year-old Venezualan ex-pat living in Belgium. Guitar drones and tape loops pile up higher than kites and there are blasts of fuzz that will tweak every psychedelic bones in yr body. Beware!
Right before Xmas '06 two of Ohio's newest and finest released a mugfull of cassettes that really brought that year to a heightened and stoned/zoned close. Tusco Terror [diamondshiners.com] have been riding the blinds for a couple of years now with the accolade of being fellow Ohioan noise artist lone she-wolf Leslie Keffer's [myspace.com/lesliekeffer] self-proclaimed favorite band. They've been bombing around the Midwest with a young duo of boymen named Emeralds who have the distinction of being Zac Davis' (of Ohio noiseaton legends Lambsbread) most recent fave act. So what the fuck. All we can tell you is both Leslie and Zac — the lad who weirdly keeps escaping her obvious charmz — are totally onto something. Ohio is burning, well always has been with Cleveland, but this is Delaware, Ohio and Athens, Ohio. You ever been to those towns? When some interviewer asked Leslie about the local noise scene she said, "You're looking at it." So with the Ohio exodus of 16 Bitch Pile-Up [16bitchpileup.com] to Oakland and Mike Shiflet [www.gmby.net] to some weird outpost in Japan, it is more than exciting to see this new noise-puh action rising forth outta the more weird-villes of Ohio. The aforementioned cassettes by Tusco Terror and Emeralds are in such scant quantities I find it rather annoying to talk about cuz you ain't gonna hear em too readily. TT are the more traditionally skronked and blasted with all kinds of anarchy moves and environment-zapping noise blonk. All pretty good, particularly the Feral Cousins release. Emeralds are rather deep with a slow and low drone mind at work where they spend a great deal of time in silent space, which is fantastically radical amongst the social clatter of their scene. One of the cassettes they released as a split with Tusco Terror was stuffed in personally monogrammed Christmas stockings. The Emeralds track on this baby is as sweet as anything we've experienced for some time. Beautiful, thoughtful musical propulsion at a space/human pace. Along with these boss blasts and the also too limited releases by Epicene Records [www.epicenesound.com] where they document the Nohio scene (of note is the gut-ripping duo of Sword Heaven [www.swordheaven.org], one of the bands in the Nohio series - Omigod - completely monstrous/incredible) Ohio is not gonna ever seemingly lose its lineage of having some of the most outside and great bands/artists (Pere Ubu, Devo, Rocket From the Tombs, Electric Eels, Offbeats, Beat Offs, Starvation Army, Great Plains, Death of Samantha, Vertical Slit, Times New Viking etc etc) of the 20th/21st nexus.
Lately, we have come to hear Sacramento bands largely through the ear trumpet of Scott Soriano [www.s-srecords.com], but there's more going on there even Scott lets on. Case in point is the ace LP by Who's Your Favorite Son God? [myspace.com/whosyourfavoritesongod], entitled Out of Body Diva (KDVS) [www.kdvsrecordings.org]. The album works best when the band is wrenching things along in wobbly Beefheart direction, but they have a genuinely wild-ass way of splicing overt jazzbo-moves and post-core raunch. In a not entirely dissimilar vein is the eponymous one-sided 12" by Maine's Family Pet (Foreign Frequency) [www.foreignfrequency.com]. A free-rock duo, these guys remind me a bit of a jazzic version of Happy Flowers, with less emphasis on vocals, and more focus on the pure evil pleasure of destructive construction. Spazzed out and personal.
Providence, Rhode Island is not exactly unknown for its perpetual history of completely insane-oid bands. Of course most peeps point to the Fort Thunder years from whence Lightning Bolt and pals ejaculated forth, and the amazing Load [www.loadrecords.com] record label continues to rule righteously. There's always some new bonkers action happening but nothing quite prepared us for the debut tape release from Teenage Waistband [teenage_waistband at yahoo dottie com], What's One For Me? It's pointless to research their history, suffice it to say some members have long been stumbling through various local scenes of sick effrontery. But this group is really kinda fucked to listen to, and ultimately excellent. Not sure if it's the primal clatter of what appears to be drums, guitars and flesh but what really is brain crumbling is the vocalist Jo Dery who "sings" like a mewing kitten, even to the point of dropping into real meows once in a while. You gotsta hear this.
Also worth piping up about AT THIS EXACT JUNCTURE is the incredible art book from Lightning Bolt's Brian Chippendale. This gentleman has been producing insane artwork and silkscreens for many years now, and a massive new volume, Ninja (Picture Box) [pictureboxinc.com] is here to blow yr eyeballs right out the back of yr skull. A mixture of comix and sketches and brain-felching oddness of truly monstrous proportions, the book is so luscious you'll drool. Assy! Picture Box is also responsible for the new one by Julie Doucet, Elle-Humour. Julie's new language-oriented work is brilliant, but this work is a lot more visual than I'd expected. There are drawings and collages throughout, illustrating Doucet's tricky wordplay or just standing on their own. It is a lovely book to hold and ponder, page after page of pure weird genius. Hooray!
Randall Colbourne you may remember from all the great LPs he did throughout the '80s and '90s in duo with fellow Connecticut free jazz hellraiser saxophonist Paul Flaherty. It's been some time since these men have worked together (Flaherty has joined forces these last few years with more noise-centric players, most significantly skin wizard Chris Corsano [myspace.com/chriscorsano]). So it was with genuine excitement and intrigue that we popped in a curious CD offering from Randall. A solo project entitled Clarinet Works (Withdrawn Records) [withdrawnrecords.com] it has the man not only demonstrating his renown as a free-think drummer but also displays his prowess on various clarinets as well as electric bass and live electronics. These are fairly compact compositions with enough room to rip and roam without wearing out anyone's welcome. What sounds like a cohesive band is Colbourne playing and overdubbing everything, all recorded in his basement. And it sounds choice, it's the genuine article when figuring the living tradition of modern American open-music.
Nothing has been more pleasing the past year or so than the re-emergence of Siltbreeze [siltbreeze.com]. Label honcho Tom Lax has been doing a great blog for a while, and he has been pooping out super-duper records this year at a ferocious rate. Der TPK [myspace.com/teenagepankerkorpsrules] are an international ensemble whose Harmful Emotions LP is a very grotty assemblage of spaced-out art punk with distinctly Fall-ish rumbles. Pink Reason [myspace.com/secondculture] are from Green Bay, Wisconsin and their album, Cleaning the Mirror is a strangely shaped folk-based gang-hunch into various mood swamps, with creepy keyboards parting water like it was so much thick jelly red. I keep getting a Legendary Pink Dots vibe off these guys, but maybe I'm "hearing things." From Columbus, Ohio, Times New Viking [myspace.com/timesnewviking] have had a pair of cool albums, Dig Yourself and Present the Paisley Reich. The latter, in particular, is a one-sided grunt that trashes the idea of linear development with a few brief howls. I mean, it's so incredibly out-of-time (could be a very special kind of lo-fi spume from any of the last 30 years) you'll piss doughnuts. My fave of the crop may well be Lousiville's Sapat. Their new album, Mortise and Tenon, is wildly deep and smoked - a bluesy, jammy riot of kraut-damaged brilliance, created in a haze of heat and sweat. Anyway, Siltbreeze is back. Go to it.
We wrote a while back on the New Jersey underground gunk n' roll noise and rawk scene as represented by the Bone Tooth Horn [geocities.com/bonetoothhorn] label and the bevy of bands like Human Adult Band, Ladderwoe, Asps et al. Like most outside-the-media-eye towns and cities, the members of these outfits tend to play in each others' sandboxes. We just found out about Trevor Pennsylvania's new one. He's the guy from Human Adult Band and it's called Trevor Pennsylvania & Th' Enforcers [myspace.com/humanadultband] — total grey sky, smoke and beer, skum-club guitar/amp lost boy psychosis core. We were psyched to get their new 2-song tape “Teenage Parking Lot” b/w “Skeletons in th' Closet.” Good muddy squall sound the way we like it. A perfect listen while working on our cycles in stinked-up Mutha Records t-shirts.
Monte Beauchamp has long been one of the most interesting editors working in the field of underground comx and graphics. The annual he does, Blab!, is the most solid anthology of its type since the glory days of Raw, [en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAW_(magazine)] and Monte has just edited a couple of books for Fantagraphics [fantagraphics.com] that are ripe with everything he holds dear. The Magic Bottle by Camille Rose Garcia [camillerosegarcia.org] is a berserk fairytale about pirates and waifs and turtles, blending a dreamlike story with Garcia's hallucinatory visuals to maxist effect. Old Jewish Comedians by Drew Friedman [drewfriedmanart.com] is just what it says. Friedman's draws darkly loving portraits of the elder statesmen of American comedy, shown in the years after the limelight had passed. Friedman's great love of his subject matter is plain, and the full page portraits (while sometimes grotesque) are brilliant liver-spotted tributes to a generation now departed. Nice.
Los Angeles label Anarchy Moon [anarchymoon.com] scored big a while back with the Redglaer [myspace.com/redglaer] American Masonry 10″, which was a wicked ride through high force audio death wind. The label has a local connection to Il Corral [ilcorral.net], a venue catering to the most extreme forms of L.A. sput and has released a somewhat mouth-watering double LP documenting the night of Friday the 13th January 2006 there. The acts are powerbook sound jammer John Weise [home.earthlink.net/~johnwiese/], electronic junk and spirit head duo Dead Machines (John Olson of Wolf Eyes and Tovah O'Rourke Olson) [myspace.com/tovaholson], low end cement-mix slabber Damion Romero [poweracoustics.org/discography/] and a collaboration of all three - each to a side. Each joint gives you a real time glimpse into each of these people's noise emission world and anyone familiar with their catalogues may think it's certainly not their most killer takes. The interesting thing though, and this holds true for the genre in which they're active, is that the process of reaching for personal epiphany is as rewarding as hearing an artist's chosen best effort. Weise spends time with comparatively quiet stations, Dead Machines deal with a more fractured pace than is expected, and Romero really just sits on a deadzone of drone, although three-quarters of the way through his piece starts to glow in a subtly remarkable fashion. The get together on side 4 comes across as any jam out in any one of these budz basements and therein lies its charm. All these cats have stronger sides out there, but these performances are the sound of them in true experimental style, seeking, prodding, checking in and checking out and back again - everything that makes this scene so goddamned great in the first place.
Also on Anarchy Moon is the split LP betwixt Roman Torment and Feed The Dragon. Roman Torment's side is as good a place as any to hear the current state of American power electronic harshness. Not a full rectal blare nor a squiggle fest these boys, Jeff Witscher (Impregnable, Deep Jew) and Evan Pacewicz (Moth Drakula [swamplandnoise.com/mothd.htm]) ride the flaring noise gush in an almost compositional style taking the listener through a harsh yet meditative drive. Feed The Dragon is another nom de plume, like aforementioned Redglaer, of Bob Bellerue [halfnormal.com], a Naropa Institute graduate and a man who has spent jugs of time exploring, thinking and creating all sorts of transmissions of noise humanism. His side is typically jake and another cog in this cat's excellent life.
Another label risen phoenix-like from the forgotten kingdom of noise is Amphetamine Reptile [amphetaminereptile.com]. Tom Hazelmyer has stopped focusing exclusively on barkeeping and art production and has unleashed a batch of new 45s, that are up to the label's exquisite standards in every way imaginable. The first two are part of some project called A Purge of Dissidents and are some kinda soundtrack to a book or something. What the exact story is, I'm not sure, but the sonics are nice art-grunge molestations with guest vocals by David Yow, Shannon Selberg and Craig Finn. Sweet and scuzzy is what they are. But the real revelation is the new one by a more-or-less reformulated Halo of Flies. H.O.F.'s "FTW/Maggot Is" includes two of the original three members, and is a fully face-smashing reinvigoration of the Halo's massive grunge ethos. They sound like they never left, actually - this is crippling, full-throttle guitar rip with a new art-stutter present and a genius you'd have to be a half-pint to deny. Yikes.
The Pendu Gallery [psr.pendugallery.com] in Brooklyn has released a fantastic comp of New York area bands called Getting Rid of the Glue. The title is taken from a statement made by Henry Cowell when introducing performances by John Cage, Christian Wolf, Earl Brown and Morton Feldman at a New School concert in the 1950s. As Cage remembers it, Cowell was describing how these mavericks were dispensing of the "stuck" habits of music formality. That's awesome, and someone had to make the fucking move and they did it and here we are all just free and open and killing any and all strictures of "rules." This can be an anarchistic slop fest but thanks to the curatorial aesthetics of people like Pendu Gallery we can approach the madness knowing we are going to be hearing some worthwhile innovation. This comp is a good un natch, reminiscent of the Space is No Place comps from Psych-o-path Records [psych-o-path.com/catalog/home.php] in 2002 where we first heard Mouthus and the where-are-they-now Breast Fed Yak [birdmanrecords.com/breastfedyak.html]. Some known names here especially Excepter [excepter.com] who are constantly in some kind of flexible flyer of rubbery bomp and slap groove and Talibam! [trashfactory.net/talibam] and Maria Chavez [myspace.com/mariachavez] and Big A Little A [sleeep.com/aa]. The new kids, at least new to our old fogey country ears, are as sprightly and damaged as you ask for. Killer kutz from Dirty Churches [myspace.com/11687144] and Fessenden and Eager Meek and a great track from free jazz pioneer Daniel Carter [aumfidelity.com/carter.html] where he's blowing classic outside toneskree with noise knobbers Old Ghost [myspace.com/ghstmth] and something called Mialessot [myspace.com/mialessot]. Carter is amazing. He has been on the boards with his horn since the early loft days of late '60s into '70s NYC, a poet - recently published Work In Process (Pitchfork Press) - a high-minded thinker, theorist and he has a history of playing in and out of all kinds of contemporary marginalia from no wave dementia alongside The Contortions to jamming with first gen hardcore bands. His solo, duo, etc. work is consistently astounding particularly his membership in the long running 4tet Test [aumfidelity.com/test.htm] with Sabir Mateen [http://home.earthlink.net/~ribas/sabirmateen/], Matt Heyner and Tom Bruno, considered by many the premier free jazz group of the last ten years. Daniel has been laying it down with Old Ghost and Mialessot for a little while now, they have a previous CDR What If? (Pendu Sound). And there's what is seemingly a related cassette release by K.P./Daniel Carter/Demian Richardson on the St Cono Strada label outta Brooklyn. With the current interest in reeds in free noise, particularly the embouchure munch of Heath Moerland (Sick Llama) and John Olson (Wolf Eyes, Dead Machines) and certainly Paul Flaherty, Carter is in a welcome stream of NOW. As he has been always.
Can't really go another minute without mentioning Richard Kern's [taschen.com]. Although Richard originally made his name for his NY-SKUM films and photos (with Lydia Lunch [www.lydia-lunch.org], Lung Leg [en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lung_Leg] and so many other immortals), in recent years he has earned his crust doing photographs for men's magazines. Some of his earlier volumes have hinted at this, but Action (with its accompanying DVD) really brings home the departmental bacon, if you know what I mean. The material is technically softcore, meaning there's no male/female genital-based interaction, but everything else is present and accounted for. Once you get past the buzz of the visuals, however, you start to see that Kern's eye and artistry have not been corroded by the marketplace. Some of these shots are as insane as anything he's ever done. They're just a bit more titillating is all. And why is that a bad thing?
San Franciscoites Tarantel [tarentel.com] have the distinct misfortune of being compared to the dated vibe of what nerd crits dubbed post-rock. This would've killed off most bands at this point and these guys have been playing since '95 or so. But they were and are so much more than that and have supremely developed into a pretty damn fine experience of instrumental psyche/drone/percussion fuckeroo. Judging by the first two installments of their limited four-LP series Ghetto Beats On The Surface of The Sun (Music Fellowship) [musicfellowship.com] they are in full majesty. An involving musical goodness here.
Dave Shuford (of No Neck fame) has a great album out now with his combo D. Charles Speer [dcharlesspeer.com] (which also features Jason Meagher and Marc Orleans). Some Forgotten Country (Sound @ One) [soundatone.com] is very much song-oriented, like a somewhat less-crazed version of Jason's Coachfingers [coachfingers.com] or something. The vibe is a bit countrified (a la Mallard [http://members.aol.com/tedalvy/mallard.htm]), but because Shuford's who he is, there are odd operational frequencies hovering in most of the record's corners. But that's not to say the music isn't full of uh..:"good pickin'" and whatnot. It just doesn't end there.
Hanging out at the Ultra Eczema [ultraeczema.com] / Freaks End Future [freaksendfuture.com] merch table at ATP this last December a very interesting young woman came by asking to trade for an oversized art mag. Tyfus traded some vinyl which she was excited by but we had nothing but a pocketful of lousy Euros which we bartered to her. Our luck, as her mag is some boss sketchings of young ladies in various states of ennui and trance rhythm alongside mind-freak illos. Her name is Pauluna Makela [Pauline.email@example.com], she's part of a Finnish art collective of sorts called Kutikuti [kutikuti.com] and her mag is called Mystic Sessions Volume 1. The drawings were done under the influence of Sunroof!, Wolf Eyes, Sunn O))), Vodka Soap, The Melvins, The Skaters, Prurient, Earth, Gate, Khanate and Burzum(!)–whoa, if this is the future of northern European femme-life then maybe there's hope yet for this dreary sphere.
Chicago band Dark Fog [darkfog.net] has been hailed by Jim Derogo, but I'm not gonna hold that against them. I mean, what the hex? The band's second release is a double LP called The Ultimate Cult of Psychedelic Psychosis (Original Sound Recordings) [originalsoundrecordings.com] and it really kinda hits a soft spot here. Like other hard-psych-revisionists, these guys seem to have learned some of their guitar and vocal moves in a post-Dinosaur universe, but we were never too big on yappy emotive vocals anyway (unless it was Stackwaddy). That said, the band still manages to conjure up a good wad of psychedelic guitar overload, and the packaging is so excessive (silver foil, color gatefold, etc.) it's really pretty cool. I mean, nobody ever said, "subtlety rules." Right?
Though it's been out a while it's still not too late to tell you about a few things lest they get moldy. One such thing is the pretty goddamned gravy Book #1 book put together by Penny-Ante [penny-ante.net] a perfect-bound compendium of all kindsa art/text good times. An interview with Mike of Warmer Milks [warmermilks.com], weird essay by Harry Merry [harrymerry.com], q+a with Leslie Q [myspace.com/theleslieq], lyric psychedelia from Residual Echoes [myspace.com/residualechoes1], way bizarre drawings from Don Bolles, Josephine Foster [100songsising.com], Marissa Nadler [marissanadler.com] and Devendra Banhart [cripplecrow.com], photos and words from Little Claw's awesome Kilynn Lunsford [myspace.com/littleclaw] and a fairy tale by Dark Day's Robin Crutchfield [rlcrutchfieldsdarkday.homestead.com]. Sweet, plus you can hold it in yr hands and smell it unlike yr computer which just smells like sperm.
Not spermy at all, although still enjoyable, is the new anthology of material first published in Real Life Magazine. Edited by Miriam Katzeff, Thomas Lawson and Susan Morgan, Selected Writings and Projects 1979-1994 (Primary Information) [primaryinformation.org] is an excellent, if sometimes impenetrable look into the world of serious art writing in the '80s and onward. There's a lot of post-feminist word-gush and deep think conceptual pieces, but it's all fascinating, and a good document of a philosophically-based set of cultural critiques that still read as validly today as they did then. Lotsa coverage by/of Dan Graham, Barbara Kruger, Jeff Wall, Kim Gordon and plenty more.
L.A. artist Marnie Weber [marnieweber.com], once a member of The Party Boys [myspace.com/50933363], one of L.A.'s more difficult and at times brilliant bands in the '80s has formed an all girl ghost band called The Spirit Girls [myspace.com/thespiritgirls]. Their premier CD Forever Free (Trakwerx) [trakwerx.com] is indeed haunting but not in a way that devalues the music. In fact the play on dead girldom and the romantic sensuality that it strangely exudes makes the music that much more involving. Tanya Haden of the Haden Three and Debbie Spinelli of Radwaste are in the band and they've made one of the coolest, most unique records to come out of twisted L.A. we've heard in a while.
Regardless of whatever some coke machine head hollywood dipsy doodle (read: Sienna Miller) sez about Pittsburgh, do not be fooled by fools: this town rules. Case in point has to be the second issue of Unicorn Mountain [unicornmountain.com]. A hep chunk of book with lotsa local art, music and writing with a healthy handshake to outlying neighbors from New York and Easthampton, MA (paper rad! [paperrad.org]). The CD inside is reason enuff with sweet trax from usaisamonster [myspace.com/usaisamonster], Zombi [zombi.us], Coachwhips, Oneida [enemyhogs.com], ex models [exmodels.org], Karl Hendricks [myspace.com/karlhendricksrockband], Elf Power [elfpower.com] and a buncha others. Wicked!
Any dude who starts his chapbook of poetry out with a Curriculum vitae which states: I wept / because I had / no shoes // then I met a man / who had never heard / 'Psychotic Reacton' you know is firing on some right on cylinders. Michael Layne Heath [myspace.com/mlayne1] started the early D.C. scene fanzine Vintage Violence in the goddamned '70s and continues to write with, of and about rock n roll for lotsa different pubs both off and online and has done some tasty liner notes to boot (Television, Afrika Bambaataa, Nelson Riddle fr fuksakez). This new staple book Put It This Way (Feudal Gesture Press) is choice meat n' potatoes punk n' roll with nods to Nikki Sudden, Roger McGough and other heroes of counter-whatsis finery.
Word has it that The Graveyards, the brain dropping free jazz beyond trio of John Olson (sax), Ben Hall (skins) and Hans Buetow (standup bass) is now just Olson and Hall but that means nothing really as The Graveyards seem to be able to take all new and old shapes and render them instantly kosmiche and what we're trying to get at here anyway is that Hall and Buetow also have this other living organism of improvisation called Melee. A few releases are peppered about but the one we just press-played is the cassette on Arbor [arborcdr.com] called Violent Forms of Laughter Pt. 2. Late night high string oscillated skreep and careful chair scrape moves make this a mesmerizing cold eve head brew. A drinking man's soundtrack to the pleasures of lonesomeness. Also on Arbor is The GHOSTING Live/Oakland+, an exquisite silver sprayed tape that documents this duo from Portland, OR who really get into the silver o-mind of long thin wire buzz tone, some of it soaring and lovely and some of it just barely burbling into aurality. Hep to the nth.