Hey. I tried writing some cerebral fucking analysis of this sweet stoner metal band from Denver, Co, and it was giving me a fucking headache. This is not cerebral music, although it is intelligent and thought-provoking. They sing about reality and lions and snakes. The guitars churn and chug in all the right ways. The drumming is top-notch, and takes this band a cut above the legions of tepid imitators. With layers of harmony vocals, searing lead guitar, build-ups, breakdowns, and growling, Our Slow Decay never drags its heels, pushing you onward, compelling you further into the inky black night.
Metal has come a long ways from its tall boys, denim patches, and inverted pentagrams. These guys sound like 4 dudes trying to wake the fuck up, not content to swallow the bullshit pill of mediocrity of white-washed society. We're being sold a lie, and i am surprised that wakefulness and spiritual warfare is not embraced more of the metal cognoscenti. It takes some fucking guts to go against what all yr bosses, yr parents, yr teachers, yr roommates, the newspapers, the advertising are telling you. Some of us are fucking pissed (although in our better moments, we are peaceful about that fact.)
The real reason for this post, is to tell y'all that this band is pretty sweet, and if you happen to live in the greater Boulder/Denver metropolitan area, they're playing a pretty sweet show with some band called Orm and somebody else, at Astroland tomorrow. And if you are unfortunate enough to not be able to attend this event, slam on some headphones, and bang yr head against the walls of infinity.
Not all of us were hip enough to turn onto minimalism via Steve Reich, La Monte Young, or even Dylan Carlson. Some of us came in through the back door; long, inspired nights, moving back the needle, falling into a repetitive cave, collapsing into the three chords that we knew. To some of us, ZZ Top were sages, bringing down riffs like clay tablets, from the top of Mt. Sinai, via West Texas.
This outstanding LP from famed Japanese improviser, which i understand is out of print, isn't afraid to show that he spent as much time with John Lee Hooker as William Hooker, not afraid to come out of the avant-improv ghetto, and make something other than squeaks and squawks with his six string. What we have here, is what Julian Cope would call the 'ur-boogie', the godhead of Texas blues, as channeled through a shamanic trance. Lengthy explorations of mood and tone and texture and energy, rhythmic and riffing, pummeling and sweet and most importantly, BADASS!
Discovering this album has been majorly refreshing for me, having spent the better part of the week with chilly, existential neo-classical albums, staying up all night, staring into the void. This week its been sunny here in Co, time to open the windows, get out the damn house, take the dog for a walk. Do some dusting. Hibernation be damned, its time to frickin move, and the rolling, rollicking transistor tones of Don't Forget to Boogie are just what the doctor ordered.
Unashamed, unabashed rock. Totally essential. This has quickly become a personal favorite.
On Let England Shake, gives us a guided tour of her homeland; its landscape, its people, its history, conjuring images of rolling fog and sea-captain's graveyards and dusty books and corpse-littered battlefields. As a blushing anglophile, without case or a passport to visit the United Kingdom, being given a guided tour by Polly Jean is a pretty decent substitute.
She doesn't seem much in the mood to speak of herself, however, and those longing for a return to her primal catharsis roots won't find it here. What we find, instead, is an eagle-eye's vision of the British psychogeography, and while it sounds like it could be some bloated, Incredible String Band concept record, Let England Shake has enough rock 'n soul to sustain; at times funky, funny, quirky, rocking, moving, and strange.
PJ has never been one to repeat herself, to rest and grow complacent. In typical fashion, Let England Shake is a progression, but not a radical departure. She returns to lessons learned on previous work, assimilating their strengths, and delivering a confident, cohesive work. You can hear the heartfelt, piano-driven quirkiness of White Chalk on tunes like Hanging in the Wire or the first standout single, The Words That Maketh Murder, with its strummed autoharps and Shirelles beat. You can hear raw, dirty blues weirdness on In The Dark Places and Bitter Branches, that are the closest to vintage PJ that we all know and love, which is to say they fucking rock. We also find tunes like album opener, the eponymous Let England Shake with its afro-miramba bounce and The Glorious Land with throbbing kraut bass, detuned reveille brass and spookshow organ, that seem new and vital, and without precedent.
PJ Harvey is essentially a singer/songwriter, and is faced with the challenge: how does a guitar-centered, lyrically driven musician to remain pertinent in 2011, to create new and interesting songs and sounds? One answer is stunning arrangements. Working with long-time collaborators Mick Harvey and John Parrish (whom she described as her 'musical soulmate'), and mixed by Flood, she leaves enough space in her music to be filled with tasty brass accentuation, autoharps, mirambas, backing vocals, reggae samples, and the best bass and guitar tone this side of the river Thames. The music that results is textured and engaging, revealing new levels and interpretation on each subsequent visitation.
The other answer is amazing lyrics. With vivid descriptions of war torn battlefields and foggy fields, craggy mountains and the scent of thyme on the air, her language is poetic and detailed, practically manifesting imaginary landscapes before yr very eyes. I find her attempt to describe more universal, human affairs, and not to focus simply on small-person i, to be commendalbe, and it yields up some spectacular and unique results.
Much has been made of the reoccurring militaristic imagery found on this record, and have pigeonholed it as a 'protest record'. She has claimed that she is focusing on 'Humans and how they treat each other,' war included. The overall impression i was left with was of a landscape, to get out and wander around in. Yr not gonna see it all, the first time. I didn't totally get it at first, and did not totally love this record the first time i heard it, missing the earthy rage of Dry, but the nuances drew in me, meriting further investigation. I spent some time with the prior albums, leading up to this one, to understand the trajectory, to understand her commitment to growth and honesty. As a musician and creative type, working in this day and age when it seems like everything's been said and done, i am inspired and compelled by her ability to continually create new and challenging work, to find strengths in the old forms.
I'm looking forward to 20 more years with Polly Jean.
A brief diversion from my usual musical ramblings, as a ralling cry behind Metamorphosis Girl, a superhero created by Aaron McKissen & Danielle Levin. She was created for a contest sponsored by Prismacolor, Todd McFarlane & Stan Lee, and the top contestants become optional for action figures, movies, comics, etc.
This is a chance to support some real, true bonafide independent art and artists, made by two lovely individuals who are trying to live their ideals, and bring something positive in the world. Not to mention the fact that they are two of the earliest and most devout supporters of my band, P38. Quid pro quo.
Metamorphosis Girl has the power of healing and regeneration, flying and radar, not to mention the strength and speed of a paleolithic butterfly. Clearly a formidable superhero. Clearly the top choice. Y'all know what to do.
"You try and bring it together, you try not to cause division, you try and make it as a cosmos. Its a cosmos, but it unfolds as a flower."
So says Denny Brewer, credited with shamanic vocals, that are interspersed throughout, The People's Key, the eighth and, supposedly final Bright Eyes record. With lyrics spanning time travel, holograms, inter-connectedness and isolation, seems that this time around, Conor Oberst is more concerned with matters spiritual, than screaming about break-ups and disappointment. For a certain generation, at a certain time, its like we have watched Conor Oberst grow up, the quirky, precocious kid from Omaha. Many of us have wrapped ourselves in his trebly catharsis on cold, lonely nights, and tracing his trajectory from bedroom confessionals, through roots rock, to The People's Key big screen production, is like tracing the arc of indie rock from the mid 90s to today. With recent records from indie stalwarts like Iron and Wine and Belle and Sebastien, the albums are growing grander, slicker, more produced, and while one hand it seems like we've lost something special, an obscure intimacy, it is also exciting to watch talented artists grow and evolve, better able to realize ambitious projects. In the case of Conor Oberst, along with long-standing members Mike Mogis on guitars as well as production, and Nate Walcott, along with a slew of guest musicians, he's a damn talented song-writer, and uses the broader pallette to his advantage. The People's Key is sprawling and adventurous, genre-skipping like a smooth stone over still waters. From the grinding blast-beats of 'Jejune Stars' to the power pop of 'Triple Spiral' or 'Shell Games' to the raw folk of 'Beginner's Mind', probably the closest to vintage Bright Eyes that some of us knew and loved, one thing that they have in common is they are damn catchy, tied together with clever lyricisms that is at sometimes inspired, and sometimes awe-inspiring. 'Ladder Song' is the heart-chakra and center-piece of the record, recorded after a friend's suicide, when the album was almost completed, and its piano driven lament is heartbreaking and thought-provoking, and just goes to show that he can bare his soul and speak plainly, when the mood strikes, and that is the mark of an extraordinary talent, in my eyes. Conor Oberst has the ability to harness the moods of a particular time, of a certain sub-strata of society, and to personalize it. An individual dealing with the world at large, very large, and his eloquence makes him a benefit to all of us who care, and puts him line with other poetic lyricists of a tradition, Dylan Cohen etc. A gifted person, in a place at a time. The personal as politcal. The politcal as personal. Listening to Bright Eyes turning their eyes to the sky, to try and crawl out of the sewers of self-pity and apathy, is a journey many of us have taken over the last 15 years or so. To transcend the bitterness and nihilism of the 90s, and try and find enough hope to survive, and a way to do that. Many are probably gonna fucking hate this record, and his/their attempts at speaking plainly about trying to find something greater than themselves. But hell, we all gotta get through the night somehow, just trying to hold on as best we can. I was not immediately crazy about this record, some of it too glossy and slick for my tastes (i had similar issues with the last Belle and Sebastien record), as i played it over and over, collecting my thoughts for this review, i felt myself comforted and inspired by an old familiar voice. In a world with a non-stop barrage of new things and ideas and tricks and gimmicks, it is refreshing to hear someone who has been along for a good majority of my personal trajectory. That we are still alive, and trying the best that we can. Still growing and changing, and trying new things.
When i was a young man, my friends & i used to like to drive out to the frozen beaches of Lake Michigan, during the winter. We would play on the treacherous shelf-ice, staying well after dark, watching nuclear sunsets over frozen waves, suspended in time. It felt dangerous, sure, but also exhilirating; wild, but also quiet and contemplative. Most of all, it seemed as if we had stepped into another reality, pulling back the purple velvet curtain of twilight; that we were the only people, anywhere. I've heard Deaf Center's music described as 'desolate'. To me, it definitely has the feeling of examining something vast, something immense, but it does not strike me as empty nor malevolent. Erik Skodvin, one half of the Norwegian duo, is adept at evoking cinematic moods, whether in Deaf Center, or his myriad of solo ventures, such as Svarte Greiner. But where Svarte Greiner is dipped in pitch-black menace, Owl Splinters seems more Solaris than Fri. the 13th. The pieces, as a whole, tend to flow into another, making a cohesive album, without a stand-out single, per se, although a listener new to their world might start with Time Spent, with its light, minor-key piano lament, or I Would Never Have with its swells of cello feedback, to get a sense of what these two are on about. Overall, the mood is one of a 70s kodachrome saturated thriller, like Satie furniture music observed through thin walls, something ominous, something sad. Most of the album consists of cello and piano, and perhaps it is the organic source of their sounds, and their classical backgrounds, that make Deaf Center stand head and shoulders above their stony, drony brethren. Great care is obviously taken with the placement of each note, the gaps filled with ambience, like reverbs and surface crackle; and musically, they are more adept than yr average bedroom-composer, with slight, masterful dissonances, creating even more mood and texture. Everything i've ever heard by either of these guys has seemed wholly realized, a world unto itself. I was ecstatic when i realized that they had a new full-length out, as its been over 5 years since their debut, Pale Ravine. I fell in love, instantly, with the new record, and looked forward to listening to it over and over again, to write this review. I designate the status of Instant Classic, and i don't say these things lightly. Its like something just seems right, like you just found the record yr going to be sleeping to for the next 3 months. Most tellingly, for me, is that Deaf Center seems to manifest things from my subconscious, things i don't know that i know, or never quite knew how to say. Its like we're neighbors, in the same haunted hotel. No matter how many times i encounter this with music or art in general, it never ceases to amaze me, or fill me with gratitude.
This is a perfect 10. Check it, now! Then buy 5 copies. Give 'em away as Valentines.
Brick Layer Cake is the solo joint of Mr. Todd Trainer, the zombie drummer that props up the kit behind Shellac performances. Apparently he plays every single instrument on the BLC albums, meaning you get more primal stomp, plus crunchy lead guitar and harrowing, monotonous vocals, to boot.
Tragedy, Tragedy reminds us that Shellac also covers Thin Lizzy, as well as industrial art rock like Swans and Birthday Party, and Brick Layer Cake is blue-collar glam. It stomps. It kicks. It spits. But it also sings. Most of this stuff is a pretty bummer groove, as most of Mr. Trainer's bands would suggest that he's not the most gleeful of characters. But what Brick Layer Cake also shows us that here's a remarkably talented musician, and this record has actual SONGS. Good songs, although the cumulative effect of listening in one sitting can be rather heavy, somewhat oppressive, similar to Shellac. But clearly he has a mission! He has a vision, and he realizes it remarkably well on Tragedy Tragedy. Steve Albini said it best, "think of Nick Drake on downers, fronting Black Sabbath, if Black Sabbath only played the good parts of their songs." What a way with words.
BLC was one of those Touch and Go bands whose name i would see in catalogs, but they escaped me, even as i was pillaging the back-catalogs of Killdozer and The Jesus Lizard, and i've been rather unhealthily obsessed with Shellac for 1/3 of my life now. But i'm just now, finally, getting a chance to get into this band, and richer for the experience. I noticed that there was not a quality rip of Tragedy Tragedy around, so i thought i'd fulfill a public service, and turn y'all on this rather neglected jewel.
"It is night. In a clearing by the roadside among the turpentine pines, lit by the headlights from parked cars, a Negro has just been lynched."
A woman in a white Victorian wedding dress, pulling yards and yards of red satin ribbon from her breast, as if disemboweling herself. A butoh dancer in a cage, painted like a zebra, jumping rope. Two young children, listening to a story, uncomprehending. A black man in tattered clothes, trembling and afraid.
This is the world of And They Lynched Him To A Tree, a collaborative multi-media theater piece, between the University of Colorado's College of Music and Department of Theater and Dance. Based upon a piece by William Grant Still, written in 1939, who was the first African American to conduct a major Symphony Orchestra, and had over 150 compositions to his name, and was masterminded by Fred Peterband (choir direction) and Onye Ozuzu (choreography). Four installations, spread about the ATLAS theater building, create an immersive experience, where observers may wander about, to lose themselves in this world, like Billie Holiday's Strange Fruit brought to life. The audience is shoulder to shoulder with the performers, breaking down the traditional spectator mentality of stage and seats. Standing next to a black man, huddled and shaking on a freight elevator, with the narration of his brutal beating and narrow escape with the lynching rope, the luxury of the stoic observer was abandoned. I wanted to put my arms around the man. The audience filed, silently, from the elevator, after the piece. This was beyond traditional White Guilt, the piece asks only that we look, that we bear witness, that these things HAPPENED.
A strong stylistic consistency in design (a preponderance of red and white), the slow, languid movements of the dancers, as if watching something underwater, and the hushed atmosphere of the Theater provoked a strong, dreamlike ambience. Like watching a bad dream, that is heartbreaking but beautiful. The ATLAS Theater transforms, this weekend, into something otherworldly. Utterly professional performances, from all involved, remind us how lucky we are to live in a cultural vortex, where interest art and dialogue can occur. That these wounds of the past can be pulled out of the heirloom drawer, and witness paid, that maybe these wounds may eventually salve.
This is going on tonight and tomorrow, (fri and sat, feb 11 and 12) and may be attended for free, although it is recommended that you rsvp for tickets to the big finale, a half-hour multimedia performance in the theater proper. I strongly advise checking this out. It is truly special, and i am very grateful that i got to attend.
ps... the rsvp for the main performance has ended, but the website claims that it is worth trying to see the show, if you are interested, as many ticket holders don't show up.
In 2005, the wire magazine described Matthew Bower's intimidatingly huge discography as "map co-ordinates for much of what passed for a post-punk UK underground during most of the '80s and '90s". I mean, seriously, this guy has done it all, he has done LOTS of it, he has done it 20 years ahead of his time, and has done and is still doing it better than those that are doing it today. There's something about those that had their tentacles in the UK '80s Industrial/Noise scene that is just so vital and immediate. Perhaps it was the sense of exploration, and of overcoming adversity, in spite of public opinion, that just made them rabidly hardcore.
I feel like Skullflower, Bower's incarnation after he hung up the Total moniker, is the missing link between the '80s Broken Flag, power-electronics scene, with the likes of Ramleh and Whitehouse, and the noisy-drone rock brought on by the Dead C and Sonic Youth and a million offshoots operating today. Perhaps it is straddling numerous traditions that makes Skullflower's work some much more engaging than the host of imitators. A wider pallette to draw from, more chartreuse and ochre than the monochromatic seriousness of much of the noise underground.
This was probably the first drone rock record i heard, and it maintains a special place in my heart and record collection. I was dumb struck by the magnitude of the sound, the monolithic guitars and pummeling machine rhythms. It became a favorite past-time of mine to walk around, ensconced in headphones, letting Skullflower, the dead c, or black boned angel eradicate all thought. I also discovered that i liked to paint and draw, listening to this music, and it is this atmospheric quality which continually compels me towards such impressionistic, abstract works of art and music. Like a force of nature, constantly shifting and evolving, impossible to pin-down, and different every time. It will erode yr mental barricades, and irradiate you with the divine source. It will change you, inexplicably, if you let it.
About a year ago, i had my 30th birthday. I inaugurated the occasion by attending an album release party from local stalwarts Laser Palace, a Denver based cassette label and visual arts organ, centered around husband and wife dynamic duo Ryan McRyhew and Kristi Schaefer, then settled down to a year of getting focused, hunkering down and working on my craft. The fact that i am finally getting around to putting the spotlight on the Laser Palace just goes to show how far i have yet to go along this path. But it is this care, the craftmanship and attention to detail, that really shines forth from the Palace. Stunning packaging, bordering on neurotic (such as the Hideous Men/Via split that came with hand-knitted cassette doily for only $8. Sorry 'bout yr luck if you missed out on that one!) LP is a collective of Denver-based freaks and spazzes. This is a collection of their best and brightest, their newest and shiniest. Predominately electronic, apart from the bong-rip garage punk of Night of Joy, these 14 tracks show the diversity in the electronic underground, a million different ways to manipulate a 4/4 beat. From the atmospheric vocal washes of VIA, to the glitch krunk of Mystic Bummer, to the corroded filter fuck of Jedediah Lodgson or Candescent, there's probably something here for any fans of synths or beats or cassette weirdness. There's even a Suicide cover (phonebooks cover Cheree). Strong on melodicism, these people know how to write a SONG, making the weirdest shit listenable and catchy. You may have never heard of many of these artists before, but they stack up against the likes of Emeralds, Oneohtrix Point Never, Ghostly International, a slew of chillwave holograms. Just goes to show that Denver has shit going on, and there's a collective of talented individuals who are hanging out together, trading ideas, doing splits, making art work, and essentially, cultivating a scene, which is what this whole thing has always been about. I was at a show a while back, and a scary noise lady told me the internet was dying, people were getting bored, and they'd rather go to a show. The line noise is getting extreme, so to find such lovingly packaged artifacts, funky and handmade, is refreshing and probably essential. Most can be had for a song, and can be had via Itunes once they're all gone. Download this, find out what its all about, then buy all their tapes!
Somewhat sorry to say, but this was only my second time visiting Astroland, Boulder's premier DIY funky arthouse venue. Nestled snugly in a pitch black auto repair plaza on the North Side of town, it has the vibe of a well kept secret, that maybe perhaps you are fortunate enough to be in on, which is probably for the best, as it is rather small, probably holding 75 people, max. Tonight's line-up, Laura Goldhamer and the Silver Nails, Larians, & Princess Music proved to be a warm oasis for a chilly week in Colorado, with inspired performances and friendly concert-goers giving that late night, living room ambience.
First to play was Laura Goldhamer and the Silver Nails, whom i had seen before at a stellar show, opening for Faun Fables and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. Quirky is the first adjective which springs to mind, regarding Ms. Goldhamer's music, but fun, inspired, detailed, and sincere are soon behind. Playing a kind of avant folk, principally on banjo, with a standard rock back-up of drums, bass, and electric guitar, with a cello as a nice lagniappe. First thing to set her apart from the ilk is she frequently performs against a back-drop of stop-motion animation, that she makes herself, picturing a woman righting the lyrics to a song on a blackboard, or paper-mache birds and eggs. It is whimsical, and she has described her music as 'Edgy Children's Music', but it comes off as heartfelt and personal, rather than an ecstacy hangover. The next defining characteristic of her music is the tight arrangements, odd time signatures on the banjo smoothly segueing, a central pulse, never faltering, never dropping the beat, and perfectly accompanied by her voice and sensitive playing of her backing band. Tight, sharp, focused, yet odd and singular. The world needs more songwriting like this. And last but not least, a new addition to her set this evening, was a drum installation, where a laptop triggered speakers around the room, set-up to various snare-drums, doorbells, and floortoms, and triggered by loops from the machine. At one point, she handed out drum sticks to audience members, and made live loops that then triggered different devices in different parts of the room. It was a little ramshackle, but utterly fucking brilliant, and also got the audience involved, a common cure for the notorious indie wallflower syndrome, which thankfully didn't seem to come out and brave the cold, tonight. Her set was like a birthday party, a gallery opening, a rock n roll show, and a mad scientist's experiment, all wrapped up in one brilliant package, with a shiny bow of charisma, good humour, and great ideas, to top it all off. You should check out her music, her albums and dvds are cool, but really, her live shows are not to be missed. For anything. Larians, the following act, was a bit of a yawn. Time to sit down on the fuzzy shag carpet in the middle of the floor and hope it was not to sullied. Doing a bit of a shoegazey, trancey electronic thing, somewhat reminiscent of Ulrich Schnauss, perhaps M83, without the arena rock, with droney, reverbed vocals. Performing on a variety of synthesizers and rhythm machines, with a battery of guitar stomp boxes, the sounds were cool, and the ideas were there, but somewhat washed out, unclear and unfocused. At times i was lost in the heart of the music, which struck me as melancholy and romantic, but it went on for too long, with no break in between songs. All in all, an electronic splatter fest, although i got to watch a knob twiddler at work (i think i own some of the same pedals), and had some rather cool thoughts, for the duration. The ideas and the potential are there, but need to be refined. Princess Music brought the evening to a close, which turned out to be most of the members of the silver nails, rearranged and reconfigured. They also turned out to be a delight, a pleasant surprise, a real treat. Laura Goldhamer on Banjo, Tyler Ludwick on Telecaster and lead vocals, Jeremy Averitt on prog bass (i think he was playing left handed), Robin Chestnut on drums (i think... i guess) and the lovely finesse of Psyche Dunkhase and Rachel Sliker on cello and violin, they made a glorious, sprawling technicolor sound; a mishmosh of math rock, folk and bluegrass, with a splash of afro caribbean sunshine brought on by furious funky polyrhythm, a la Paul Simon's Graceland. But mishmosh suggests something sloppy and shambolic, and haphazard these folks most assuredly were NOT. Almost frighteningly sharp, verging on hive mindmeld, but at the same time, dripping with exuberance and passion and pathos and play. Tyler Ludwick's voice reminds me the most of local troubadour Gregory Alan Isakov, but for the rest of you, think maybe perhaps M Ward, maybe a cousin of Jim James. Warm and Faded, like loved denim, he tied the songs together (which i gather he wrote himself, for the most part) with emotion and wit, defying the clinical pitfalls of their proggy, mathy brethren, but the spiky arrangements and odd cadences and dissonances prevented it from becoming a total hippy orgy, either. And, like a warehouse version of the standing ovation, the room, it did begin to move. The audience, they did start to sway. Like a breeze blowing over still water, the people got down, and the whole night gelled, into a moment of friendship, ideas and inspiration, joking and confessional, quiet and extremely LOUD. In essence, it all came together beautifully. Places like Astroland can give you the feeling of being in the right place, at the right time. They can remind us that not all history was created in dusty New York lofts in the 1960s, that these are our lives and we are giving it all we got. That we are doing the best we can. And Boulder's contribution to the DIY infrastructure is almost eerily devoid of pretension, with people smiling, talking to one another, dancing. I saw a lot of hugging. It is my knee-jerk reaction to shy away from such affection, from such sincerity, to retreat into a spiky punk-rock pretense, to remain guarded. But, i was won over, as i usually am, and reminded that i am happiest when i am lost in the crowd, dancing my skinny white ass off.
Winter has a lot of festivities. Some live for Christmas. Some swear by New Years. Some freaks even seem to love Valentine's Day, that candy coated abomination. But weird people need weird holidays, and for this night-dweller, it doesn't get any better than Weird Tales for Winter, produced by perennial favorite Johnny Mugwump, on ResonanceFM. The premise is simple, and sublime. Modern noiseniks, many of the hauntological persuasion, which means, of course, that they really like weird old samples, doing sort of 'radio plays' of Weird Fiction; flights of cosmic horror, classic ghost stories, steampunk dinner parties, and what have you. For me, this series, now in its second year, as well as Johnny Mugwump's weekly radio show, exotic pylon, come as a real blessing, being utterly compelled by the likes of Ghost Box, Mordant Music, Broadcast, etc. but not really sure how to dig beneath and beyond the canon, to find the mouldering bones and angry spirits of the underground geist of the freaks that make this shit. Like a true Lovecraftian hero, i needed to know MORE! I have also had difficulty finding excellent Weird Fiction, many years ago having exhausted the piles of Lovecraft, Derleth, even Algernon Blackwood and Lord Dunsany, for chrissakes. I thought i would spend the rest of the days of my meager, pitiful existence spending my pennies on ratty pulp magazines from the 30s, trying to unearth some gems from the drek. But this wonderful crew of English eccentrics have come and saved the day, turning me on to M. R. James, William Hope Hodgson, Nigel Kneale, and others i look forward to diving into. Along the way, i have found out about new audio alchemists like Dolly Dolly, West Norwood Cassette Library, and Vindicatrix, besides new works from acknowledged masters like Baron Mordant, The Advisory Circle, and Belbury Poly. Really, it is phenomenal that Mr. Mugwump has gathered this remarkable cesspool of talent, and doubly so that they give this shit away for free. We all must really be insane. Icing on the cupcake, there's an excellent facebook group to whip the butter into a froth, posting odds and bobs of weirdness, to make yr day more surreal. You can even find some of the artists, shoulder to shoulder with the audience, in rank exaltation of sweet delight. For me, it has made all the difference in the world. Hauntology struck a resonant chord in my soul, strange and spooky, but ultimately inaccessible. I'd heard all the burial records, the caretaker, even the whole ghost box catalog, felt like i'd fallen down a rabbit hole, and was not looking forward to the sudden, abrupt halt. To get to know some of the people making vital art, exchanging pleasantries and geekery and arcane wisdom, all wrapped up in a candy-colored bow, has been inspiring and delightful. In short, i recommend you listen to every episode, and tune into exotic pylon as well. All the episodes are available for download, including last years season, and there's guest mixes available, to sweeten the pot.
Like a skronk version of Tortoise's Seneca or Eight Cognition from Six Organs of Admittance's School of the Flower, the :58 seconds of Early Morning Rabbit Hole heralds the arrival of Escape from the Planet of the Llamas, the most recent endeavour from Kalamazoo, Mi's Forget The Times. Of course, any band that lists Captain Beefheart, U. S. Maple, Derek Bailey, and The Dead C is probably not gonna give it up so easily, and they quickly dismantle the groove after the funky breakbeat opening of Ponchos and Python Boots. These young men are clearly the type who enjoy the unknown, experimentation, exploration, unexpected surprises and happy accidents. Let me brief and to the point: you better fucking like improvised music, to give this one a spin. Luckily for me, (and for you), i do, and have invested a few hours this week, getting into the intricacies of these 8 tracks, and have found the experience to be reward, rather invigorating, i must say, a blast of fresh air, so to speak. The patient listener, the adventurous ears, are rewarded with moments of real fucking beauty here, like personal favorites Beausoleil Moon Frye (which gets my vote for song title of the year, so far) or Deinonychus Dreamland, either of which could be a Mogwai guitar work-out, with a ragged backbeat. But over the course of an hour, you will be subjected to funky breakbeats, guitar sturm and drang freak-outs, even the odd moment of humor, like the strange oompah cacophany of Flying V Gtr Made of Real Live Honking Geese which is another excellent name for a track. What really is the saving grace for this album is that these are clearly 4 experienced and sensitive musicians and improvisers, listening closely, and allowing the music to dodge and weave and warble and waft, soar and plummet, ready to dive into whatever challenge or nook or cranny or whatever that may present itself at each turn of the dime. What is the utterly best thing, for me, about this release, is an exciting de-fibrillation of vital organs of adventurous musicks that have gotten soft and saggy and stale over time. They are able to employ the beauty that we all loved about Post-rock with its symphonic guitars, without resorting to a generic loudQUIETloud cliche, or the anything goes spirit of jazz that seems to have fled, or at least fled underground, for a long long time now. Let me be blunt, one last time: i fucking love these musicks, and it is a crying goddam shame to see them get so stale and bland and marginalized. I cheer! yes cheer! to see d00ds from Michigan, breathing some fucking life into these Exquisite Corpses.
"The Goal of Our Music is for each player to reach that point [where they lose themselves in the music] every time we play and to maintain that feeling as long as possible." -Sean Hartmann
Escape from the Planet of the Llamas can be had for a measly buck, off their bandcamp, or like a fiver from their very own Already Dead cassette imprint, which appears to have pretty sweet packaging too.
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