Stuck in my head this morning: a vague montage of material from Michael O’Shea’s self-titled solo album on WMO, chopped and reconfigured by my dreaming mind to sound vaguely Chinese. I was dreaming about the NPR affiliate in Portland changing to broadcast all in Chinese, and my mom tuning all the radios in the house to it, you see. Which is weird inasmuch as O’Shea played mostly traditional Celtic folk drones, albeit on an instrument of his own devising (one that sounds like a hammer dulcimer with a built-in flange pedal).
O’Shea’s music sounds like a cross between John Fahey and Roy Montgomery, which is my way of saying it’s great and weird, and I’d like to find more material by him. Too bad for me! The only other record he released is a desperately out of print LP from 1982, all of which is included on the WMO release. Also, the WMO release itself is completely out of print (as are most things on WMO, the private label of Wire’s fan club). I heard this in the first place via Mutant Sounds. You can too, if you like.
I recently picked up Daft Punk’s Alive 2007. It’s pretty good, but has nowhere near the raw fury of the first time I saw Daft Punk live. That was at Even Furthur 1996, one of the legendary series of outdoor raves thrown in BFE Wisconsin by the infamous Drop Bass Network. That year, the main tent had sound by the Badger Sound crew, which meant that there was who knows how many watts going into 32 15” speakers along the front of the tent. The sound was very clean and LOUD. I’ve since decided it was the best sound system I’ve ever heard: it gave everything played through it a brutal, hard-edged clarity that was in keeping with the spirit of the weekend (15-year-olds on K face-down in the mud, 60-watt xenon lasers burning the sky over the tops of the trees, Deadly Buda playing a gabber rendition of the Close Encounters of the Third Kind theme at 220BPM at 7:30 in the morning, Dan Doormouse and friends keeping their Rottweiler with them in their smaller side tent as they rinsed out old Reload records and beat on their speakers with a wiffle ball bat, everyone bundled up against the rain in hoodies and huge pants).
This was before Homework, and Daft Punk were still a cult phenomenon known mostly to DJs and hardcore ravers, so there was a certain amount of anticipation among the crowd, but I remember the crowd were more excited for Phantom 45’s and Woody McBride’s sets later in the night. I think we were all a little caught off-guard when Daft Punk proceeded to throw up a set of headbanging, ass-shaking hard house and acid techno to rival just about anyone who’s ever played dance music live. They didn’t have the pyramid or robot costumes, their setup was minimal, and they barely acknowledged the crowd. That didn’t matter. It was a hallucinatory, blistering half-hour of loops, acid, and slamming electronic beats. I remember the high point of the set being a psychedelically intense version of “Rollin & Scratchin” that practically slammed its way into my head. I don’t know how much of it was the music and how much was the insane sound system, but now you can judge for yourself, because as I discovered today, some kind soul put the entire set online. You’ll just have to imagine the bass and the volume for yourself. And ignore the bald dude.
In my opinion, it’s mostly been downhill for Daft Punk ever since. Homework and the subsequent albums have played up their frothy pop take on French loop-house / electro-disco, and while that makes for awesome videos and it is, after all, what made them famous enough to afford the pyramids and robot suits, I was disappointed to find that the only remnants of the tough, abrasive sound I’d heard in Wisconsin were a comparatively anemic rendition of “Rollin & Scratchin” and a couple other b-sides to their early singles. I’m glad they released Alive 2007, because it shows that they still retain some of that 1996 energy. Still, finding that old set has made me a very happy boy.
I’m so metal that instead of being out tonight getting shithammered (y’know, like I usually do), I’m sitting at home listening to Korpiklaani sing Finnish drinking songs while I rip the Black Sabbath box set (found a cheap copy of it used, as well as picking up the new Meshuggah and
Sir Richard Bishop’s While My Guitar Violently Bleeds at Amoeba) and randomly sticking Bjork’s name into Bonnie Tyler lyrics. It’s a party, y’all!
Stuck in my head this morning: “Metal Dance” by SPK. Or, as the incredibly pretentious woman who sang it says, “Metahhl Dahhhhhnsz!” SPK is a perfect example of a group whose quality and credibility went straight off a cliff very early in their career (in fact, SPK neatly recapitulates the entire evolution of industrial from transgressive noise into po-faced clanky dance-industrial into Middle-Eastern tinged coldwave into Delerium-style synth cheez in one tidy package), and songs like “Metal Dance” are why. So cheesy! Yet so pretentious!
It’s hard to believe this is the same band that recorded “Slogun”, one of the noisiest, meanest songs recorded in the entire industrial era. Of course, the later songs are catchy, too, hence waking up with this stuck in my head.
…but one thing is for sure: when I start wading through the thickets of accusations and counteraccusations, rumor-mongering, sectarian and factional grudge-slinging and post-Situationist po-faced “pranksterism” around the neo-folk / neo-pagan scene, I get the exact same headache I used to get when I was a teenager trying to figure out the American Communist left by reading RCP and SWP newspapers (if you don’t know those acronyms, good for you – all you need to know is that they were / are both claiming the True Marxist mantle for themselves, and they loathe each other).
Out on the fringes of politics and ideology there lies a sticky morass of extremism and paranoia that manifests itself in seemingly incomprehensible shifts in belief, where people will go from hard, statist left to hard, individualist right, without stopping at any point in between. It’s the same phenomenon that produces former-Trotskyite neocons like Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz, only with much less disastrous consequences (Douglas P may be a jerk, but he hasn’t (successfully) started any land wars in Asia lately). In the case of neo-folk, though, art is involved, and art necessarily involves ambiguity. The problem of figuring out who actually believes what and who is a lying sack of shit becomes completely intractable, so there’s this peculiar Schrödinger’s box, within which a group like Sol Invictus is either a bunch of neo-Nazi meat puppets or kindly, misunderstood friends to Jew and puppy alike, or Death In June are either in hock to Croatian war criminals or bemused visitors to the region who donated money to innocent victims of the Balkan war. If you care about not giving your time and money to people whose principles you abhor, sorting through these messes can be troubling and maddening in equal measure.
To get a flavor for the complete vacuum of truth this sort of churning strife engenders, first read this hatchet job on Sol Invictus by Stewart Home (his Wikipedia talk page is more germane than the Wikipedia entry itself), and then read this confused atttempt to grapple with it on the blog of some innocent bystander caught in the crossfire. To me, it seems inescapable that the neo-pagan crowd has an awful lot invested in keeping their politics as amorphous as possible (mostly to keep their audiences from devouring themselves in an orgy of mutual loathing – fans of neo-folk run across the political spectrum. Black shirts and jackboots for some, tiny pagan flags for others!); it’s more telling to me if (IF!) Albin Julius of Der Blutharsch is an admirer of Jörg Haider than if he’s gone out of his way to make friends with SOME Israelis (as my good buddy Joel forcefully pointed out to me recently, it’s possible to find Israelis who are fans of just about anything, which means that you can’t exactly treat Der Blutharsch having Israeli fans as being equivalent to them getting [K] stamped on their asses by the Rabbinate of Jerusalem).
More materially, Home wrote a foreword for a booklet of Sol Invictus lyrics in the 90s. If he thinks Tony Wakeford is a tubby sack of Nazi shit (he seems to be very fond of calling Tony Wakeford a fat man), what’s that all about? And then there’s the Green Anarchism controversy (search for “stewart home” down the page)… it’s all a big fucking mess, and I’m thankful I don’t have to care.
The thing to take away from this is the disorienting sensation that you have fallen completely through the rabbit hole into a world where nobody ever tells the truth if they can wrap it up in a few layers of obfuscatory ideological nonsense first. I’m no closer to determining whether or not Death In June, Sixth Comm, Sol Invictus and a bunch of the other World Serpent neo-folk bands are closet servants of Space Hitler. For now, the fact that nothing conclusive presents itself is probably good enough; I can’t plausibly be a fan of black metal and own records featuring participation by convicted hate criminals and object too strenuously to artists who at least attempt to keep their politics private. (To completely muddy the waters, the most entertaining English-language source on the violent origins of Scandinavian black metal is Lords of Chaos, written by Michael Moynihan, member of Blood Axis and himself despised as a fascist neo-pagan by much of the far left.)
Of course, it’s worth pointing out that my whole train of thought initially started from investigating Death In June’s use of the totenkopf as part of their visual identity – a symbol, paradoxically, that is much more loaded when it is adopted by an English musician than by a German of any stripe, even though its use is illegal in modern Germany. For good and for ill, the totenkopf is part of German cultural heritage, and is much more plausibly adopted as an ambiguous / problematic / “reclaimed” symbol by someone who inherits from that culture than a self-styled “history student” from outside the context – particularly when that same person, like Douglas P, carries around a four-foot-tall metallized version of the logo on a banner he carries with him when he plays live to this day.
Which illustrates, finally, a point that is obvious to me now but wasn’t when I got into the spooky stuff as a curious and alienated teenager, which is that one of the risks of being a fan of dark, marginal and extreme art is that it is easy to fall prey to mental contamination. For every romantic who finds passion in extremity, there is someone much colder seeking to speak to the darkness in others and manipulate it for their own ends. Some dark art is beautiful and much of it is compelling, but it requires confrontation and self-analysis if you’re to avoid succumbing to the bullshit that comes along with it. Just appreciating it for what it is and not paying attention to the context isn’t enough, if you want to keep your hands clean.
Stuck in my head this morning: “Carpe Diem” by The Fugs, from their Second Album. By the standards of The Fugs, this song is eminently gentle, being a delicate meditation upon the certainty of death and the need to do something with yourself now rather than later.
I stress its gentleness because The Fugs are one of the filthiest, most scabrous, and straight-up entertaining bands of the 1960s. Their unhinged hooliganism, coming from a bunch of Jewish East Village Beatnik libertines, is as fresh – and startling – today as it was when their records were first released, over 40 years ago. Songs about mutants with 9-headed penises porking watermelons and farmers having hard times raising them hemp plants and poppy flowers are the rule of the day on Second Album, and there’s a sharp, wild-eyed sensibility to The Fugs that got badly diluted by the time the hippie explosion made it to San Francisco. Everybody name-checks the Fugs, and it’s pretty obvious why. Highly recommended, especially to fans of the Velvet Underground or Tom Lehrer (I bet you don’t see those two put together very often, do you?).
Stuck in my head this morning: …I really don’t want to say. It’s embarrassing.
No, seriously. I’ve been bitching about these guys for years!
Oh, all right. I had uh Step On by Happy Mondays playing in a relentless, remorseless, jackhammer loop when I woke up this morning. MAN did those guys suck, but I guess that song had sorta a catchy guitar line.
Anyway, I did not wake up in a great mood.
But seriously, man, fuck Shaun Ryder. Just fuck that guy. His voice makes baby Jesus want to die.
When trying to whistle up some information on the long-departed Factrix, I came across the phrase “archaic fart feasts of yesteryear” on Julian Cope’s Head Heritage. It delighted me. Julian Cope has such a way with words! I hope it delights some of you!
(Factrix’s Scheintot really is an accomplished piece of downer art-damaged weirdness, although I’d say it’s a post punk album much more than any kind of “industrial.” You can download a copy of it – it is, of course, beyond out of print – off The Thing on the Doorstep. Also, the cover features boobies!)
Stuck in my head this morning: nothing. I’m not sure whether it’s because my sleeping patterns have been sort of strange lately, or because I’ve been listening to such a large volume of new and unfamiliar music, or if that same music’s relative lack of tonality or tunefulness makes it less earwormy, but I’ve been waking up without music in my head for the last month or so. It’s weird, and it means the day feels unstarted until I put some music on. But I’ve been spending a lot of time concentrating on work lately, and have also found myself in an unusual (for me) mental space where I need quiet to figure out the things I’m working on. It feels oddly grown up, and not in a good way.
The fact that it’s news to almost everybody does not bode well for the album’s success, but: hey everybody, Bauhaus have a new album out. It’s called Go Away White, and it has an absolutely terrible cover. Insipid typography, uninventive design and an illustration that looks like a printer error. It is not inviting, but I listened to the album anyway.
To their credit, this is an album full of new songs, it was made by the original lineup, and it relies on the sounds of Daniel Ash’s guitar, David Jay’s bass, Kevin Haskins’s drums and Peter Murphy’s louche impression of mid-70s David Bowie. It’s the original team, playing as a group, not just some dudes banging out a quickie in the studio with cheesy, overly thick production obscuring cheesily pastiched songs.
Unfortunately, this relative lack of pretension makes it very obvious that they’ve lost touch with their original animating spirit. Over the last few years I’ve finally decided, after 20 years of listening to Bauhaus, that they were first and foremost an especially arty glam band, and the glammier aspects of their sound were what kept them interesting. There was a spikiness to their sleaze, and it kept them from being too easily pegged as a bunch of gloomy one-note batcavers.
Go Away White isn’t an embarrassment, and it doesn’t suck. However, Bauhaus have replaced the semi-punkish angular glam sound of their original years with what sounds like fairly typical post-grunge rock (and a hint of Morcheeba and / or Portishead), and the songs default to a midtempo plod that does them no favors. When they do break out of that mold, the results don’t sound particularly different from later Peter Murphy solo material, which also had a somewhat flat affect. These dudes sound tired, and not in any kind of melancholically world-weary way.
The best bits almost always feature Ash scraping away at his guitar – at times, it still has that familiar old dissonant scree – while Murphy mutters something inscrutable over the top, just like old times. Only this time with Jay and Haskins sounding incredibly bored in the background. The brothers Haskins were one of the great rhythm sections of post punk, and so hearing them so obviously uninspired is dispiriting.
I checked this out via the miracle of Rhapsody – I can’t really ignore a new Bauhaus record, as much as I sometimes seem to want to pretend they aren’t one of my favorite bands – but I’m not sure I’ll ever buy a copy of my own. I give them full credit for trying to push things forward, but they don’t push far enough ahead to escape the long, long shadow cast by their own finest moments.
One of the things that sucks about being an atheist is recognizing that there are people who are going to escape the cosmic judgment they so obviously deserve. While his crimes are minor next to the usual suspects (Hitler, Stalin, Reagan, etc), William Bennett’s bush-league ass-hattery should have earned him some kind of divine smackdown. If not for his rampant, flamboyant misogyny as the leader of Whitehouse, perhaps for his habit of gratuitously overdubbing Nazi speeches over the music he released on his various record labels (Come Organisation, Susan Lawly). I get the appeal of transgression and abjection – without which industrial music would not exist – but Bennett has made a life’s work out of crossing the line between artful, ironized misanthropy into being a boring, hateful dick.
It bugs me that Surgeon decided to adopt Whitehouse as his iconic industrial totem / spirit animal. Why not SPK? They were blatantly confrontational, even if they went downhill very quickly, and “Slogun” is arguably the original version of Surgeon’s personal form of harsh, stark techno.
One of the many fruits of my recent orgy of downloading and purchasing is that it’s put me back in touch with a lot of my favorite industrial and drone music, and among the groups who combine both those tendencies most effectively, Organum has to stand as one of the most impressive and uncompromising. They’ve built up a small pile of releases over the years, many of which are only available as part of compilations, and are not a well-known group even among fans of strange music. It’s not hard to understand why they’re marginal, as their work is fairly inaccessible even by industrial music’s esoteric standards, but every time I listen to an Organum record I find it riveting, a collection of mysterious yet concrete sounds that never overstay their welcome.
To refer to Organum by a plural pronoun is a little misleading; in every meaningful sense the name is just a handle David Jackman has attached to many of his musical activities. Organum’s music has appeared on many collaborative releases (Jackman especially appears to favor split albums), but these days, the best way to find his music is on a couple of CDs, prosaically entitled Volume One and Volume Two, on Robot Records. By “best” I mean “easiest to find”; the downside of listening to Organum on omnibus collections is that many of the original pieces originally stood alone, and stringing them together robs them of some of their power. The perfect amount of time to spend listening to Organum is about 20 minutes. Unlike some of his followers (most notably Jonathan Coleclough, whose music I absolutely adore no matter how long the works are), Jackman has recognized the power inherent in keeping compositions concise.
Jackman’s method is easy to describe, but the net effect is close to indescribable. Typically he combines some kind of mechanical drone (compression fans, electrical motors) with bowed metal (cymbals, saws). It can range from the quietly ominous (“Crux”) to the overpowering (“In Extremis”), but always with the unpredictable shrieks and whines caused by friction against sheet metal. Often there are abstract elements (wordless vocals, feedback) layered over the top. It’s a strict program, and would seem to make for predictable / boring / irritating results, but each recording has its own distinct personality. Despite the mundane origins of the sounds and the plain recording, Organum’s work feels like ritual music, and it is weird in the truest, oldest sense of the word (“suggesting something supernatural; uncanny… connected with fate”).
Much of Organum’s early output was released on Nurse With Wound’s United Dairies imprint, and careful listeners can derive insight into Organum’s methodical approach by comparing and contrasting Organum’s work with Nurse With Wound’s. Steven Stapleton is a curator, a consummate technician and a near-involuntary surrealist; each Nurse With Wound record is a product of laborious tape engineering, even if the original source material is the product of random studio improvisation. By contrast, Organum’s work is relatively static, and it seems as if Jackman sets up the initial conditions for a recording, records a take, and calls it done. You can hear the room in which the music was recorded, as opposed to NWW’s dematerialized (and often chaotic) soundstage.
Most of the Robot Records material is still in print, or at least available, so if you’re curious about Organum, I recommend picking up a copy of Volume One and listening to it as two separate halves (it compiles Tower of Silence and the Organum half of the NWW / Organum A Missing Sense / Rasa split single). From there, Ikon and Sphyx are both fine releases, if you can find them. All of Organum’s material is best when treated as abstract sound sculpture, and rewards a meditative frame of mind; it’s neither ambient wallpaper nor music in any traditional sense of the word.
The problem with drinking from a firehose is that sometimes you asplode. This just happened to me, and I’m trying to deal with it by sharing my total insanity with you, the semi-random passersby on the internet.
As I’ve mentioned several times, I recently discovered the awe-inspiring zombie amusement park that is Blogspot’s coterie of MP3 blogs. I’d never really paid them much attention before, because most of my exposure to MP3 blogs had been through dodgy Eastern European metal blogs that were dedicated to scene rips of upcoming releases, and I’m really not all that into pissing all over the people who make my favorite music, which is basically what these blogs are all about (somebody has to pay for music, somehow, if it’s going to continue to be made).
However, Mutant Sounds and its brethren opened my eyes to the vast amount of music that exists in a twilit state with respect to copyright; thanks to the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act™, most of the recordings shared via these blogs won’t be public domain until the end of this century – if ever – yet the vast majority of this material can be had neither via love, money, nor diligent browsing of GEMM. Most of the artists involved really don’t seem to care, as the bloggers are all pretty careful to avoid posting material that is readily available, and in some cases the creators send the blog owners better-quality recordings of their own material to replace inferior rips.
It didn’t help that one of the first of these blogs I discovered, dualtrack, has posted nearly every record I deeply coveted between 1989 and 1992. I sometimes forget that I got my start as a major music nerd through RE/Search’s Industrial Culture Handbook, but when I was learning about this stuff, I was also your average broke college kid and therefore could only read about these records in The Ooze’s monthly new-releases newsletter, saving up for stuff I really, really wanted, like :zoviet*france: reissues on CD or the occasional bizarre overindulgence. Now that I’m all grown up, most of those records, CDs and cassettes are beyond gone, appearing only in Amoeba’s used bins or on eBay (sometimes for plainly hurtful prices). It was with delight bordering on awe that I discovered that almost all of these records I’d been searching for for many, many years were freely available, generally with high-quality scans of the included artwork.
So, armed with a not entirely flimsy rationalization, a sense of burning need, and a month’s Premium subscription to Rapidshare, I went completely bonkers. Most of the stuff on this list came from either dualtrack, The Thing on the Doorstep, No Longer Forgotten Music, Rusted Noise, Mutant Sounds, Phoenix Hairpins, Boomkat, Amoeba and Other Music Digital. (NOTE TO RECORD LABEL FOLK: My copy of Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black is on a shiny aluminized plastic platter purchased new from Amoeba Records, with the latest lame cover art you have chosen for it. The original cover art was much nicer. Thank you for your attention.) A lot of it I even bought, as I took this opportunity to fill in long-standing gaps in my collection. As you can see, it would take me a very long time to even summarize what’s here, so I’m going to leave that to other postings. Suffice it to say that just about every weird kind of music you can imagine, and some you probably can’t (the Masstishaddhu record, in particular, defies description to anyone who hasn’t already heard it).
It’s going to take me weeks to listen to all this stuff, much less comprehend it. There’s a lot of amazing, weird and profound music in here.
- ABGS: Werkbeschallung: Live
- Abwärts: Amok Koma
- Gunter Adler: Minute Music
- Gunter Adler: Polysyntetica
- Gunter Adler: The Silver Book
- Ain Soph: Kshatriya
- Alpha Omega: Electronic Mind Project
- Au Revoir Simone: The Bird of Music
- Autonomic Computing: Mutantextures
- Henry Badowski: Life is a Grand
- Erykah Badu: New Amerykah, Part 1: 4th World War
- Biochemical Dread: Bush Doctrine
- Biota: Rackabones / Vagabones
- Bipol: Ritual
- Black Sun Ensemble: Black Sun Ensemble
- Blacworld: Subduing Demons (In South Yorkshire)
- Burning Witch: Crippled Lucifer
- Monte Cazazza: To Mom on Mother’s Day / Candy Man
- C-Schulz: 7. Party Disco
- C-Schulz: 10. Hose Horn
- Chrome: Alien Soundtracks
- Chrome: Half Machine Lip Moves
- Chrome: 3rd from the Sun
- Chrystal Belle Scrodd: The Inevitable Chrystal Belle Scrodd Record
- Coil / Zos Kia: Transparent
- Cold Sun: Dark Shadows
- Cosey Fanni Tutti: Time to Tell
- Cranioclast: A Con Cristal
- Cranioclast: Koitlaransk / Ration Skalk
- Crash Worship: This
- Crawling Chaos: Sex Machine / Berlin
- Helios Creed: X-Rated Fairy Tales / Superior Catholic Finger
- Crispy Ambulance: From the Cradle to the Grave
- Crispy Ambulance: Live on a Hot August Night
- Crispy Ambulance: Sexus
- Crispy Ambulance: The Plateau Phase
- Crispy Ambulance: Unsightly and Serene
- Crispy Ambulance: Live at the ICA
- Current 93 & HÖH: Crowleymass
- Current 93 / Nurse With Wound: Mi-Mort
- Daft Punk: Alive 2007
- Danava: UnonoU
- Danielle Dax: Pop-Eyes
- Danielle Dax: Jesus Egg That Wept
- Danielle Dax: Inky Bloaters
- Danielle Dax: The Janice Long Session
- Danielle Dax: Comatose Non Reaction: The Thwarted Pop Career
- Amy Denio: No Bones
- Dead Meadow: Old Growth
- Dethklok: The Dethalbum
- Die Form / Asmus Tietchens: Face to Face, Volume 1
- Die Form: Duality
- DF Sadist School: Les Cent Vingt Journées de Sodome
- Doxa Sinistra: Via del Latte
- Drowning Craze: Trance / I Love the Fjords
- Frankie Dymon, Jr.: Let It Out
- Earth: The Bee Made Honey In The Lions Skull
- Einstürzende Neubauten: Kollaps
- Einstürzende Neubauten: Zeichnungen des Patienten OT
- Elohim: A L’Aube Du Verseau
- Erste Weibliche Fleischergesellin Nach 1945: Ferien Auf Dem Lande
- Étant Donnés: Aurore
- Étant Donnés: L’eclipse
- Étant Donnés: Re-Up
- Etat Brut: Mutations et Protheses
- Exterminator: Anna Blume
- Factrix: Empire of Passion
- Factrix: Scheintot
- Fanzine: 1980
- Fanzine: 1981
- Fanzine: 1982
- File Under Pop: Heathrow
- Brigitte Fontaine & Areski: L’incendie
- Brigitte Fontaine & Art Ensemble of Chicago: Comme à la Radio
- Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle: Telinehmende Beobachtung
- The Fugs: First Album
- The Fugs: Second Album
- BC Gilbert & G Lewis: Ends With the Sea
- The Gothic Archies: The Tragic Treasury: Songs from “A Series of Unfortunate Events”
- Bruce Haack: Electric Lucifer: Book 2
- Bruce Haack: The Electric Lucifer
- Hanadensha: Acoustic Mothership
- Hanadensha: Astral Pigmy Wave
- Hanadensha: Doobie Shining Love
- Hip Hop Pantsula: YBA 2 NW
- Lars Hollmer: Fran Natt Idag
- Lars Hollmer: Vill Du Höra Mer
- Lars Hollmer: XII Sibirska Cyklar
- Hoola Bandoola Band: Fri Information
- Hoola Bandoola Band: Garanterate Individuell
- Hoola Bandoola Band: På Väg
- Hoola Bandoola Band: Vem Kan Man Lita På?
- The Horrorist: Attack Decay
- The Human League: Being Boiled
- The Human League: The Dignity of Labour
- Hunting Lodge: Tribal Warning Shot
- In the Woods…: Three by Seven on a Pilgrimage
- Islaja: Meritie
- Kallabris: Considération sur / sous lé café
- Richard H Kirk: Darkness at Noon
- Richard H Kirk: Disposable Half-Truths
- Kotazo: Papy Mbavu / Papa Komanda
- Korpiklaani: Korven Kuningas
- Korpiklaani: Spirit of the Forest
- Korpiklaani: Voice of Wilderness
- Lava: Tears Are Goin’ Home
- Thomas Leer & Robert Rental: The Bridge
- Lemon Kittens: Spoonfed and Writhing
- Lemon Kittens: The Big Dentist
- Lemon Kittens: We Buy a Hammer for Daddy
- Lesbian: Power Hor
- Liquid Sound Company: Exploring the Psychedelic
- Machinic Indices: Untitled Kompositions
- Malombra: Malombra
- Masstishaddhu: Shekinah
- Men/Eject: Men/Eject
- Metabolist: Drömm
- Metabolist: Hansten Klork
- Metabolist: Identify
- The Metronomes: Regular Guys
- Mimir: Mimir
- Mimir: Mimyriad
- Mnemonists: Biota
- Mnemonists: Horde
- Moctan: Suspect
- Morphogenesis: Prochronisms
- Mysticum: In the Streams of Inferno
- nEGAPADRÉS.3.3: nEGAPADRÉS.3.3
- Joanna Newsom: Walnut Whales
- Joanna Newsom: Yarn and Glue
- Nocturnal Emissions: Spiritflesh
- Non: Mode of Infection / Knife Ladder
- Nurse With Wound / Spasm: Creakiness / Firemoon
- Nurse With Wound / Termite Queen: Nurse With Wound / Termite Queen
- Nurse With Wound / Organum: A Missing Sense / Rasa
- Nurse With Wound: A Sucked Orange
- Nurse With Wound: Brained by Falling Masonry
- Nurse With Wound: Crocodile Krazy Glue
- Nurse With Wound: The Musty Odour of Pierced Rectums
- Opal: Early Recordings 2
- Orchestra Terrestrial: Here and Elsewhere
- Organum: Horii
- Organum: Ikon
- Organum: Sphyx
- Organum: Tower of Silence
- Michael O’Shea: Michael O’Shea
- La Otracina: Fauna & Animated Floral Arrangements
- P16.D4: Distruct
- P16.D4: Kühe in 1/2 Trauer
- Penumbra: Skandinavien
- Permutative Distorsion: Brückenkopf im Niemandsland
- Pitch Black Afro: Split Endz
- Eddie Prévost / Organum: Flayed / Crux
- Problemist: 9 Times Sanity
- Project 197: IP001
- Pseudo Code: Europa
- Psychic TV: Allegory & Self
- Psychic TV: Dreams Less Sweet
- Psychic TV: Force Thee Hand ov Chance / Blinded Eye in Thee Pyramid
- Psychic TV: Mouth of the Night
- Psychic TV: NY Scum
- Punch Inc.: Fightclub
- The Raveonettes: Lust Lust Lust
- Steve Reich: Music for 18 Musicians
- Steve Reich: Tehellim & The Desert Music
- Steve Reich: Triple Quartet
- Steve Reich: You Are (Variations) / Cello Counterpoint
- Robert Rental: On Location / Double Heart
- The Residents: (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
- The Residents: Commercial Single
- Graeme Revell: The Insect Musicians
- The Revolving Paint Dream: Flowers in the Sky: The Enigma of the Revolving Paint Dream
- Boyd Rice and Friends: Music, Martinis & Misanthropy
- Salon Music: La Paloma Show
- Sandoz: In Dub: Chapter Two / Extra Time (Under the Stones)
- Shock Headed Peters: I, Bloodbrother Be
- Shock Headed Peters: The Kissing of Gods
- Sielwolf: IV
- Sielwolf: Nachtstrom
- Sielwolf: V - Remixes
- Sigillum S: 23|20
- Sigillum S: Bardo Thos-Grol
- Sigillum S: Studs and Divinity
- Sixth Comm: Grey Years
- Smegma: 33 1/3
- SPK: Slogun / Meccano
- SPK: Live At Garibaldi’s, 1979
- SPK: Information Overload Unit
- SPK: Auto Da Fe
- SPK: Leichenschrei
- SPK: Angst Pop: Live
- SPK: From Science to Ritual
- SPK: Human Post Mortem (Despair OST)
- SPK: Live at Pandora’s Music Box
- SPK: Live at the Crypt
- SPK: No More
- SPK: Off the Deep End
- SPK: See-Saw / Chamber Musik
- SPK: The Last Attempt at Paradise: Live in Lawrence, Kansas
- SPK: Wars of Islam: Live in Rome
- SPK: Machine Age Voodoo
- SPK: Metal Dance / Will to Power
- SPK: In Flagrante Delicto
- SPK: Zamia Lehmanni
- SPK: Gold & Poison
- SPK: Compilation Tracks (2nd version)
- Snakefinger: Manual of Errors
- Snakefinger: Chewing Hides the Sound
- Snakefinger: Greener Posters
- Sol Invictus: Lex Talionis
- Somatic Responses: Digital Darkness
- Spektr: Mescalyne
- Sun Ra: HelioCentric Worlds, Volumes 1 & 2
- Sweet Exorcist: Spirit Guide to Low Tech
- Symphonique Elegance: Act One
- Syrup Girls vs Sick Girls: Shotgun Wedding, Volume 8
- Teenage Jesus & The Jerks: Orphans / Less of Me
- Thick Pigeon: Thick Pigeon
- Throbbing Gristle: AR-TT-010
- Throbbing Gristle: United
- Throbbing Gristle: DOA: The Third and Final Report
- Throbbing Gristle: Adrenaline
- Throbbing Gristle: 20 Jazz Funk Greats
- Throbbing Gristle: Nothing Short of a Total War
- Throbbing Gristle: Rafters
- Throbbing Gristle: CD1
- Tools You Can Trust: Again Again Again
- Tools You Can Trust: Say It Low
- Tools You Can Trust: Sharpen the Tools
- Trop Tard: Ils etaient 9 dans L’obscurite
- Tuxedomoon: Dark Companion / 59 To 1 Remix
- Tuxedomoon: Desire / No Tears
- Tuxedomoon: What Use? / Crash
- Tuxedomoon: Joe Boy The Electric Ghost / Pinheads on the Move
- Tuxedomoon: Une Nuit au Fond de la Frayére / Egypt
- Tuxedomoon: Scream with a View
- Tuxedomoon: Half-Mute / Scream With a View
- Tuxedomoon: Ship of Fools
- Tuxedomoon: The Ghost Sonata
- Týr: Ragnarok
- Ultravox: Slow Motion
- Vas Deferens Organization: Zyzzybaloubah
- Verhören: Death is Safe
- Vidna Obmana: Noise / Drone Anthology 1984-1989
- Virgin Prunes: Heresie
- Von Zamla: No Make Up!
- Vox Populi! / HNAS: Face to Face, Volume 2
- Amy Winehouse: Back to Black
- Xasthur: A Gate Through Bloodstained Mirrors
- Damien Youth: Festival of Death
- Damien Youth: Fluttering Briar
- Damien Youth: The Man Who Invented God
- Z’ev: Elemental Music
- Z’ev: Salts of Heavy Metals
- Stefan Weisser: Poextensions
- Zahgurim: Moral Rearmament
- Zero Kama: The Secret Eye of L.A.Y.L.A.H.
- Zos Kia Meets Sugardog: That’s Heavy Baby
- v/a: 2005 Hands
- v/a: 4 in 1
- v/a: Ach Hanover
- v/a: Angst in My Pants
- Alban Berg / Anton Webern / Arnold Schoenberg / James Levine / Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra: Orchestral Pieces
- v/a: Can You Hear Me? Music from The Deaf Club
- v/a: Colorado
- v/a: Dada > Antidada > Merz
- v/a: Devastate to Liberate
- v/a: Dokument: Ten Highlights in the History Of Popular Music, 1982-1983
- v/a: Earthly Delights
- v/a: The Elephant Table Album
- v/a: Er Ist Tief Und Dein Wasser Ist Dunkel
- v/a: Feature Mist
- v/a: Fluxus Anthology
- v/a: Für Ilse Koch
- v/a: A Gnomean Haigonaimean: A Compilation of Fantasies Intoxication Concepts
- v/a: Gut Level One
- v/a: Hare / Hunter / Field
- v/a: Harmony of the Spheres
- v/a: Hate’s Our Belief
- v/a: Iberico
- v/a: Internationalism
- v/a: The Last Supper
- v/a: Machines
- v/a: Masse Mensch
- v/a: Palatine: The Factory Story
- v/a: Passage du Trou Marin
- v/a: Perpetual State of Oracular Dream
- v/a: Riposte
- v/a: A Selection
- v/a: Short Circuit: Live at the Electric Circus
- v/a: The Virus Has Been Spread: A D-Trash Records Tribute To Atari Teenage Riot
Cold Sun’s Dark Shadows does not do what it says on the box. The band and album names suggest some kind of kohl-eyed coldwave from the late 80s, not an amalgam of the Grateful Dead, Pavement and Built to Spill, full of sinuous, meandering guitar lines and aggressively Aquarian lyrics drawn from the Egyptian Book of the Dead. It was apparently recorded in 1969 but not released until 1989, and even then on a tiny little label. It’s not precisely an overlooked gem, because it’s definitely a creature of its moment, with the stilted vocal delivery (which really does seem like an awkward hybrid of Jerry Garcia and Stephen Malkmus’s styles) and the somewhat overfamiliar psychedelic doodles draped all over the songs, but there’s something about its aggressive oddity and potentially laughable earnestness that got it deeply enough wedged in my head that I woke up this morning humming it.
And you can check it out for free, so if that sounds like your sort of thing, you should check it out.
Whenever I see Jack Johnson’s name, Pussy Galore’s “Dick Johnson” starts to play in the back of my mind. “Dick Johnson” is sort of, well, the name is as ambitious as the song gets, but I still enjoy it about 50,000 times more than I’ve ever enjoyed anything by Jack Johnson. I honestly lack the capacity to understand how or why people would actively seek out his music.
In other news, Radiohead is coming to town.
Stuck in my head this morning: “The Sideways Man” by the Digital Dinosaurs, a throwback to 60s-era Kinks disguised as a late-70s DiY tune. The bit that gets stuck in my head is the “ba ba ba ba bababa baa” backing vocals, which is also the bit that reminds me of The Kinks. You can find this song on the Angst in my Pants compilation or on Messthetics’ Greatest Hits (which I highly recommend). It’s less catchy than the usual stuff that invades my head while I sleep, but is insidiously accessible all the same.
Hyped 2 Death has more on the Digital Dinosaurs.
I’m no stranger to loose-limbed freak folk, where songs are more nuclei around which sounds coalesce than any sort of tightly knotted skeins of rhythm, melody and lyric, and perhaps it’s a consequence of spending much of the last week plundering the grand riches of the internet’s many fine MP3 blogs, but Islaja’s Meritie totally disorients me in a way I find very hard to understand or describe. Merja Kokkonen sings her Finnish lyrics in a sweetly meandering voice, engaging with the rest of the music (guitars, piano, various other noisemaking bits) in the way that a bird rides the gusts on a windy day. There’s nothing overtly challenging going on save for the songs’ very free structure, but that lack of structure means these are not songs so much as neatly arranged piles of musical ideas, and Kokkonen’s near-total refusal to engage with typical notions of songcraft lend her songs a hallucinatory, subversive power that makes me giddy and confused in equal measure. I’m not sure it’s beautiful, but it’s certainly sublime.
Stuck in my head this morning: Danielle Dax’s “Pariah”, from Pop-Eyes. “Cat-House” may have been the song that got me into Dax, but “Pariah” has long been my favorite, because it’s so ridiculously over the top. Everything about it – the vaguely voodoo-inflected lyrics, the menacing, flat way Dax delivers the lyrics, the brittle electronic production – screams 80s gothdom. It is not a subtle song. (Which is what makes it so easy to get stuck in one’s head.)
I think most serious music fans and collectors have private creation myths: little stories they can tell about how they came to be the way they are. Either it’s a friend or a sibling who passed them some ear-opening tapes, or a family that was filled with musicians, or a glancing exposure to something that sunk its hooks deeply into their brains and took them over for life. Or, in many cases, a combination of all of the above, which is how it was for me. Here’s a little piece of my own story.
When I was a junior in high school, I spent one night babysitting some friends who were tripping (this was before we all figured out that mixing the high and the non-high is generally frustrating for everyone involved). They spent that trip mostly playing an already ancient version of Space War on one dude’s PC. I was mostly relieved to be left alone for a while, having spent most of the day feeling like a tool for not wanting to get high myself, and spent the time flipping through channels on cable, something I didn’t have at home.
This was shortly after the introduction of VH-1 but before the introduction of 120 Minutes, and Viacom had unceremoniously dumped a bunch of semi-alternative music videos on an unnamed show late on VH-1, which I happened to catch. The three videos I saw were by Helios Creed, Front 242 and Danielle Dax, and it’s safe to say they changed my life. The Helios Creed video was sleazy and struck me at the time as a not-so-veiled paean to heroin, the Front 242 video was for “Headhunter” and made me desperately nostalgic for Brussels (which I’d visited for all of three hours 8 months previously), and the Danielle Dax video was for “Cat-House”, and was by far the most surreal of the bunch – which was saying something.
“Cat-House” is a weird song, mostly because of the way it plays Dax’s girl-group-gone-feral singing against what seems like more or less straightforward industrialized rock and roll. It sort of sounds like the Sisters of Mercy got a less wildly demonstrative Diamanda Galás to sing for them, and it’s a song that starts out seeming pedestrian, only to get weirder and weirder the more you hear both it and the rest of Dax’s painfully eclectic catalog. The video is basically Dax miming the song run through a battery of cheap video effects (which are done absolutely no favors by YouTube), but it has a hyperdelic intensity that hit me just right, maybe due to spending the day around people who were capable of watching a stalk of grass for 15 minutes without moving.
Dax has been around long enough that most people have forgotten her altogether, but I’ve been listening to her US best-of anthology, Dark Adapted Eye, a couple times a year ever since I picked it up (on cassette!) in 1989. She got her start in the incredibly weird Lemon Kittens, and her music has stayed hard to pigeonhole ever since, borrowing elements of Orientalism, perverse morbidity, cryptic metaphysical references, and a generally goth patina without ever having a fixed sound. She gave up on the music business back in 1995 in a fairly flamboyant fashion, issuing another best-of and obscurities collection with the pithily summarizing title of Comatose Non Reaction: The Thwarted Pop Career. At least she kept her sense of humor.
After recently discovering the bonanza of music to be found on the MP3 Blogs of Blogspotistan, I found Devastate to Liberate. It’s not an album you’re likely to have heard of unless you’re a fan of some of the bands on it (or an old-school member of PETA), but in its way it’s a Rosetta Stone of mid-80s weirdo music, with songs by Nurse With Wound, Legendary Pink Dots, Crass, Coil and a variety of other (talented yet obscure) industrial and anarcho-punk acts. It’s also, I think, the first militant animal-rights benefit album, being released to raise funds for the Animal Liberation Front.
Perhaps my favorite track on the album is one by a band I’d never heard before: the Shock Headed Peters. “Blue Rosebuds” is an unhinged five minutes of feedbacked scree and post-Sabbath guitar histrionics that neatly bridges the gap between heavy metal and the noise attack of Skullflower. It’s not metal, it’s not industrial, and it’s not rock and roll, but it’s definitely crazed and loud and I love it.
Shock Headed Peters were a project of Karl Blake, who was the other member of Lemon Kittens with Danielle Dax, and hearing this track prompted me to finally find the Lemon Kittens’ albums. The least obscure album Lemon Kittens put out was released on Steven Stapleton’s United Dairies, and whether or not you have the faintest inkling what United Dairies is, that should give you some idea how obscure the Lemon Kittens were. Their entire catalog is seemingly irretrievably out of print, and it’s hard to identify why, because their music is not unapproachable; it’s strange and amateurish (Dax didn’t know anything about music when she joined the band), but in the best spirit of post punk experimentalism, ideas are king, and a lot of the songs click after two or three listens. For now, you’ll just have to find one of the internet rips and download those, unless Blake or Dax decides to chance their luck with a label or distributor again (they both have fairly dyspeptic Myspace blogs).
Dax’s kiss-off to the music industry contained a couple songs she did in collaboration with Blake, one of which is an absolutely fabulous reinterpretation of a Shock Headed Peters song, “Hate on Sight”, which is turned from an acidic post-punk tune into something not unlike Curve playing doom metal. It’s enough to make tracking down a copy of Comatose Non Reaction all on its own, because it’s a great song.
All of this has filled me with a burning urge to hear more Shock Headed Peters, but their stuff is also incredibly hard to find (I found this, but I’d like legit copies of this stuff without having to pay extortionate eBay prices). It’s too bad, because Karl Blake plays guitar like a gifted demon (much like Helios Creed, to bring this story back to its beginning). No matter how much music I find, I always seem to find myself wanting more. It’s a pleasant problem to have, especially because I still like the old stuff – I’ve been listening to Danielle Dax’s music a bunch over the last few days and, if anything, I find her outsider take on goth music more charming now than I did when I first heard it 20 years ago.
Some things happened, and then they stopped happening, and here I am, back again, with a huge pile of new music to hear and perhaps the cleverest recording I’ve heard in a long time currently on the stereo. I’ll get to talking about the huge pile in a little bit, but I wanted to urge anyone who likes their out-rockin’ both clever and loud to go check out this awesome Nurse With Wound / Spasm split 12” at The Thing on the Doorstep (yet another way-too-awesome MP3 blog I’ve discovered).
Its ability to be musical and strange in equal measure frankly confuses me. One side features Steven Stapleton’s / Nurse With Wound’s usual high surrealism (although more linear and rhythmically coherent than usual), and the other is a slab of slowly building, hard-rockin’ tribal psychedelia that reminds me of the Krautrocked heaviness Julian Cope tries so hard to harness, or maybe Electric Wizard in a particularly blown state of mind. It gets genuinely heavy, and Stapleton’s predictably unpredictable interventions just ratchet up the intensity by throwing things in new directions every few phrases. It remains curiously unadorned and unsentimental for all that, and so it stands pleasantly outside of time, sounding like it could have come out at any time in the last 40 years. Nurse With Wound makes this kind of mercurial mutability seem so easy, but I know it’s anything but.
I’m going to have a terrible time trying to find a copy of this for myself (United Dairies vinyl is deeply collectible and hence tough to find), but I’d really like one.