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.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

(click on song title for tune, for the most part... & have a Happy New Year)

1st Set
TAPPA ZUKIE "Cool This Dub" (^total coincidence)
LONE RANGER & WELTON IRIE "Chase Them Crazy" (STUDIO 1) (horn riff is my theme music 2010-present)
JOE GIBBS "Rainy Night In Georgia Version" (GREENSLEEVES)
LEE PERRY "Chicken Scratch"
U ROY & PETER TOSH "(Earth's) Rightful Ruler" (TROJAN)
BLACK SHEEP "Black With N.V. (No Vision)" (MERCURY)
NAS "Memory Lane" (COLUMBIA)
GRATEFUL DEAD "Rhythm Devils" (ARISTA) & ROGER DAVY "Corail Dans La Mer De Tranquillité" (DISQUES MAGELLAN) played at the same time... try it, it's awesome
LE FORTE FOUR "Meanwhile Back at the Tulip Boat, Stinky and Gus Make Warplanes" (HARBINGER SOUND)

2nd Set
HUSKER DU "Dreams Reoccurring" (SST)
FRANK SCHRODER "Ohne Titel (1983-18) (CACHE CACHE)
FIRE, WATER, AIR "Movin' On"
C.O.B. "When He Came Home"

(^and now we bid you goodnight)



I was talking about Alex Chilton and the Box Tops a few posts almost a year ago, and how I've gotten re-obsessed with Memphis music, so this is a great time for Light in the Attic to put out the Christopher Idylls record by Gimmer Nicholson. I hadn't heard of him before either, but he was a guitarist who quietly played around the Memphis scene throughout the 1960s (he's not mentioned in the text of Robert Gordon's essential It Came From Memphis, but he is in a photo), and recorded this album of solo instrumentals in 1968 at Ardent Studios, where Big Star would record their masterpieces a couple years later. You might hear "late 1960s solo guitar instrumental" and think "John Fahey," as that is our blessing and curse in this day and age, but Christopher Idylls is a subtly different animal. For one, the guitars are layered, with what sounds like two or three takes going on at all times, one of them using a delay pedal, which album producer/engineer Terry Manning calls "one of the first uses of the electronic repeat as part of the music." Also, these Idylls are more influenced by British music (ancient British folk and classical music as filtered through then-recent British Invasion ballads) than by Fahey's Americana (despite Nicholson being from Memphis). The liner notes do describe Nicholson being in attendance when Fahey played a gig in Memphis, "doing his Blind Joe Death routine," complete with sunglasses and other affectations, which seemed to inspire Nicholson to go in a different direction.   The result was this unique and beautiful album, but it was not to be released at the time. The Ardent label had only released 45s up to this point, and studio/label head John Fry had cold feet about their first long-playing release being an album of calm, spiritual, and potentially unmarketable folk guitar instrumentals. Nicholson himself also balked, saying he didn't like the mix, and didn't like the album cover. It seems that he was the private type, inherently uncomfortable with the idea of putting his music out into the public sphere. Nonetheless, even without being released, it still made a significant subliminal ripple throughout the world of rock music. The youthful Ardent hangers-on in Big Star were clearly influenced by it, learning ways to make their already spiritual power pop chord changes even more church-of-guitar cathedralic; Idylls showed them spaces within their songs where the chords could truly ring out. It also seems to have had quite an impact on none other than Jimmy Page. Terry Manning tells a story recently shared by the Dangerous Minds website: "In April 1970, Jimmy Page was in Memphis for a Led Zeppelin gig, and after the show, Page and his girlfriend spent the evening hanging out at Manning's apartment. Joined by Chris Bell, the four drank wine and listened to the Gimmer Nicholson album over and over again." Sounds like a good hang. Although the writing sessions for the already increasingly acoustic Led Zeppelin III were finished at the time, its recording sessions started just one month later, and when they were finished Page brought the tapes back to Memphis and Ardent in August so that Manning could mix and master. So, even without being released, the album was still a smooth jewelled pebble that sent out long slow ripples that continue to lap onto the shore of musical consciousness every decade or so. (P.S. Talk about ripples, Terry Manning was also the engineer, and Ardent the studio, for ZZ Top's entire run of great albums, starting with mixing and overdubs on Tres Hombres all the way through Eliminator. In fact, Billy Gibbons and Terry Manning are really the only two musicians you hear on Eliminator; if I'm not mistaken, Frank Beard doesn't play on the album at all. Manning, who doesn't have a beard either, did all the drum programming and overdubs, and even played a lot of the bass. This info and more can be gleaned from this great proto-Reddit Terry Manning AMA thread that went down on the Pro Sound Web Forum in 2005:,5689.0.html.)

Friday, December 30, 2016


MARIELLE V JAKOBSONS was (is?) in the band Date Palms who I'm wondering if I ever actually heard. I remember people talking about them, and I see they released a record on Thrill Jockey in 2013. Ms. Jakobsons has just released this 2016 solo record Star Core on the same label. At first glance I might call it a synth record, as that seems to be the basis of the sound, and the sci-fi atmosphere is thick, but it's thankfully not that simple. Much more is going on; no drums or anything, but gentle heavy bass guitar on each track, Far East strings and/or melodies sprinkled throughout, occasional ethereal vocals that threaten to pull the whole thing into a dream pop category, all hovering at a near-precise midpoint between light and dark, earth and space, etc. Another winner from Thrill Jockey, who've been at it for almost 25 years now, still releasing more and more diverse and interesting stuff at such a high rate that I simply can't keep up. Take just this Jakobson record and add one more like the Circuit des Yeux record from last year; I can barely process that much heaviness in so short of time; I need years for these two records, let alone all the other stuff Thrill Jockey has put out like Rhyton, Jackie Lynn, Oozing Wound, Thalia Zedek Band, Mary Lattimore & Jeff Ziegler, Kid Millions, Lightning Bolt, and that's just in the last 2 years... (P.S. I just used the popular streaming service Spotify to listen to the Date Palms release on Thrill Jockey. It's called The Dusted Sessions, and to me it sounds a lot like the Marielle Jakobsons solo record... all the elements described above are already in place. I'm not sure how many others are involved, and what they might be doing, but it would seem to be Jakobsons's vision.)

POSTSCRIPT: I'm always picking up the Chicago Reader when it comes out on Thursdays and finding out about something amazing showing or playing in town that very weekend, in just 24 to 48 hours... how am I gonna get the momentum, not to mention childcare, to go to something like that in some far corner of the city? That happened last weekend when I read about this year's iteration of the EYEWORKS FESTIVAL OF EXPERIMENTAL ANIMATION. Their feature presentation was a 74-minute 1979 animated film called Habfurdo by Kovasznay Gyory. You can watch it without subtitles on YouTube (see below), and it's a dazzling, crowded, always evolving vision of a rather simple Hungarian big-city love triangle, so simple that it's confusing and Fellini-esque as your eye keeps following the dazzling animated psychedelic design tangents instead of what the characters are saying or doing. The Eyeworks Festival also showed a couple of really nice-looking shorts programs, but alas it only ran for two days and I missed it all. They do have a really cool tumblr though, and maybe I can plan better next year.

And while we're still in the 'eyeball kicks' section, I don't think we've officially recommended the new ROBERT BEATTY book Floodgate Companion, as beautifully published by Floating World Comics. "Otherworldly" doesn't even come close as you turn the pages and go through portal after portal, many of them playful and beautiful, harshness brief and intermittent, but weirdness constant. Although, I could swear Belial from Basket Case (d. Frank Henenlotter, 1982) is lurking on every tenth or fifteenth page, which is kinda creepy.

Thursday, December 29, 2016


A while back someone posted a then-brand-new DAN MELCHIOR record on that overpopulated Now Playing facebook group, and someone else responded "Is this French prog Dan or rock'n'roll Dan?," to which I responded, "Haven't heard it, but I think it's either Country Blues Dan or Sound Poetry Dan." Point being, the guy (Dan Melchior) can cover a lot of ground and although you may not be sure what approach(es) he might take, you can be quite sure he's gonna do it/them well. Here's a couple real brand new LPs that are markedly different from each other. The Melpomene LP is straight up experimental music. No vocals at all, not really even songs, more like field recordings, slowed down, screwed & chopped, carefully sequenced, joined by sci-fi electronics, ambient chord changes, and occasional elegiac acoustic guitar or keyboards. Takes a while to get going, or may never get going, which may be the absolute intention, a record of true stasis, which is a rare form of minimalism, near as I can tell. Would definitely watch the theoretical film this would make an excellent score for.

Born Under A Grey Sign, on the other hand, is clearly a 'song' album, but that doesn't mean it can be pinned down as any one genre. Rock'n'roll is a fine start, because the music here does both of those things, but it's also industrial, experimental, blues, dub, continental progressive, British pub rock, white aggro-funk, you get the drift. It takes a couple listens to begin to decipher the components, like how "Black Beauty" is made up of heavily echoed chant vocals, a driving kick-and-clap drum machine rhythm, a funk bassline, too-loud overdriven acoustic skiffle guitar, and too-quiet ambient noise guitar, combining for a playful demolition of Ram Jam's ham-handed "Black Betty" (itself an irreverent version of a 20th Century African-American work song derived from an 18th Century marching cadence about a flintlock musket). And on the very next track, Dan sounds like he overshot Spotlight Kid and ended up on the first Latin Playboys album instead! The whole record keeps shifting like this, over twelve equally dense and weird tracks (although the anomalous track 5 "Old Bone's Mansion Greys" is just Dan singing over what sounds like his own knee-slaps). The last track may be the best of all, a slow echoed-out grinder with the title "(They Call Him) The Soiled Prince," and it's so crazy weird good that I just listened to it three times min a row, and the verbal and sonic imagery made me think of this political cartoon I just saw a few hours ago, which sums up this American catastrophe we're in the middle of as well as any commentary I've seen (it helps that it's not verbal, now that Trump's superpower has been revealed, the ability to destroy all meaning every time he speaks or is even spoken about):


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