Monday, May 28, 2012

Wolf Eyes Interview

A recent episode of The Out Door, via Pitchfork, featured a lengthy dissertation on the manifold offshoots of the Wolf Eyes crew; Nate Young, John Olson, Mike Connelly. I know a lot of folks out there became introduced to the gnarly noise underground via the prolific output of these rust belt natives, and in a lot of way they are the prototypical Noise band. Hyper-prolific, questionable quality control, super hands-on and hand-made. I became introduced to terms like lathe troll and circuit bending via these monsters. It is appropriate to consider the remarks of these mainstays, and some of these comments shed some light on recent thoughts i have been delving into.

There was a quote from the John Olson sector that resonated with me. He said:

"We were blindly going forward and not really considering and reflecting, but I think that if people don't stop and consider what they just improvised, they'll never get better."

He was talking about the libetation of learning some music theory, to better understand what he's been creating and embellish upon it. Not to replace the chaos factor but to expound upon it. As he put it, "I could do something that was totally abstract within musical confines."  This shows a clear line from free jazz, where Wolf Eyes have always affiliated, working with legends like Anthony Braxton on the Black Vomit record, through 20th century avant-garde musics, the kind of thing you'd see at a white washed gallery space, probably with some contact mics and lots of quiet groaning. Plates of cheese served afterwards. This raises a question i have long considered, and started to write about, regarding the purpose and possibilities of Noise music, and also the pertinence of music journalism.

Let's face it, there's a WHOLE SHITLOAD of music out there. Why are we all compelled to put it out there? In the case of noise, or any kind of improvised music, the process IS the purpose, and following bands over the span of years is to immerse yrself in their aesthetic, to live in their worlds. Funky tapes, hand-made patches, a non-stop onslaught of releases, probably just to pay for gas to get to the next basement. What we are left with is a career in time-elapse, and the question is: "Is it actually worth listening to? Does this need to exist? Is it merely ego fulfilling, or bullshit knob twiddling? Are these guys fucking with me and taking my money?" I mean, c'mon, Merzbow has released like 500 records. Does it need to exist? But it DOES exist, and i have a curious, librarian brain, so i have the need to KNOW to EXPERIENCE. So its a matter of slowing down the torrent, and looking at the individual droplets.

One thing is that less-than-commercial music isn't given the benefit of attention, or analysis. Bach wrote a shitload of cantatas, and you can be rest assured that every harmony, slur, fortissimo and glissandi has been written about at length. Just because something is made from broken machines and hacked laptops does not mean it is unworthy, or because it wasn't made in some famous studio for a million dollars. Some kid's YouTube or SoundCloud is just as culturally relevant as a Shostakovich quartet. Its a matter of, "What are you trying to say?" and are you pulling it off.

I feel like the rush to constantly innovate is decelerating, as we are all realizing how futile that is. We can't pretend that we haven't listened to 3 TerraBytes worth of music in our lifetimes, no matter how old you are. I can speak to a 20 year old, and be like, "You know, its like gamelan," and they will catch my drift. We're slowing down and taking stock of who we are and where we've been, assessing our strengths and weaknesses. Which is why i am drilling down into individual albums + singular artists. The simple fact of the matter is that my brain is ADD as fuck, and follow-up is a bitch. I'd love to hear every Chopin nocturne; every drip of Masonna's beastly oscillators; every dubstep remix and obscure 12". As we are taking stock of the entire output of recorded history (that's including books and movies) we have the potential to fast-forward evolution, fitting two thousand years into two. But the thing of it is, it requires total self-mastery, utter discipline. We are lost and formless without it. We could become radically evolved, and even solve some of humanity's perpetual woes along the way, but we must not kid ourselves. I often times say i am 'working' on the internet, when i am spacing out and clicking mindlessly. In this time, when there are no Lords and no Saviours, we must be our own gurus and our own taskmasters. But we can't become neurotic and anal, either.

This is the purpose of this esoterically titled 66.6 series. As i'm sure yr aware, there's a popular series of books called the 33 1/3 series, where an author meticulously dissects an album that they love, and expound upon it at length. I somewhat sarcastically modified this to the 66.6 series, which is of course, 66 2/3s, 'cuz i'm a low down dirty necromancer. Rather than focusing upon one single artifact, i will be looking at whole careers, eras and epochs. Trying to look at the bigger picture, and to see what is says about us as humans, and why we listen to such things. I will be talking about records from famous and influential noise musicians, through up and comers, posting relevant cultural artifacts along the way. There's a whole dark continent of heady philosophy that has tied itself onto this beast, and it is the work for which i am most pumped. 

you can read the whole interview here.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Weeknd - Echoes of Silence

here's one for the weekend.

The Weeknd sound like a club night's hang-over. Teeth grinding, spine shaking, fucked raw, possibly bleeding. Blinds closed against the sunlight. Perpetual night.

The Weeknd have proved once and for all, that its okay to like Michael Jackson. The resemblance to "Billy Jean" on "XO/The Host" is uncanny, like verbal spiritualism.

If you were to tell me 5 years ago that i'd be jamming out to slow motion 80s funk fetishism, while i was in the throes of my spazzy metal-head noise freakdom, i would've looked at you like you were retarded, and probably on drugs. Lately, however, this is about all i really feel like listening to, in the dead of night. It approaches my heart of hearts; bitter as fuck and nearly defeated, but with a dope beat.

The thing that no one wants to admit, is that the junkie after-life of vacant bedrooms and soiled mattresses,  is that its romantic as hell. Its like a samurai romance, dying all the time, but loving life for it, sucking the bitter pomegranate juice from every night. Its clinging, sure, but it is a form of aesthetic appreciation. If you can handle Echoes of Silence's wrist-slashing despair, you might notice that its production is nearly flawless; tight, thick beats meant to BUMP, or the way the guitar soloes creep in and the lovely piano melody on "Next". He's got a nice voice, too. One thing you can say in this post-dubstep world, is that the producer's are really truly mastering their machines. Electronic music has never sounded better.

Echoes Of Silence is a Junkie's love song, or a dumpster diver's prayer. Its a street light romance. Its about blooming where yr planted. Its about raw, uncompromising, art. The fact that he's giving this away for free means there's no excuse to not check this out. Roll around in the dark side.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Kinski - Down Below Its Chaos


Saw these guys open for White Hills at Mississippi Studios the other night. I used to see them regularly, back in Chicago, opening for Acid Mothers Temple and other psych freaks. I remember always being impressed with the thick rich sonorities of their climactic live sets, frequently bowing guitar and bass. They seemed like the missing link between megalithic shoegaze, like Jesu or Nadja, with classic flying saucer psych rock, the kind of stuff they cream over at the Ptolemaic Terrascope.

I went in expecting to be mesmerized, yet Kinski succeeded in blowing my mind, anyway. They were totally fucking flaying on a Tues. night, pummeling and thrashing away, building radioactive dust-devils of guitars and feedback. The drums sounded like leaden cathedrals, while the bass creaked like a tall ship lost at sea. Most importantly, their set seemed like a paean to the mighty RIFF! Satisfying, solid rock 'n roll, catchy despite the fact that there was hardly any vocals at all.

Down Below Its Chaos is the band's most recent outing on Sub Pop. I am dusting it off and exposing to the cold cruel sunlight to raise awareness of this mighty band, and to whet yr whistle for their upcoming album, which is due out sometime this year. In this day and age of over-exposure and ennui, someone has to champion the cause of solid bands that have persevered over years, solidifying their craft. There is no replacement for experience, and Kinski have clearly refined their pallette over the 14 years of their existence. Their songwriting is strong and swift, pointed and clear. Like a stick in the eye. They have mastered the tools available to a predominantly instrumental rock band, but never succumb to post-rock cliches or metalcore melodrama. Their jams will shift on a dime, and where you expect a 4 to the floor drop, they will launch into bowed bass drones and sci-fi electronics and THEN drop you on yr head. It works three times as well, and the precision with which they execute their changes borders on telepathic.

I got into this reviewing racket to try and learn how to write songs. That was it, all these words, all these years, these millions of records and billions of songs, for the simple bloody goal of trying to write a fucking good song. I have been seeking clarity and focus, looking to strip down inspired music to the base essentials, and distill its essence. Its like audio alchemy. Seeing Kinski and White Hills the other night was like beginning a new chapter. I was caught up, again, in the youthful excitement of tight, sharp riffs and multiple instruments blasting away in unison! I have always been a headbanger at heart, and watching Kinski rock Mississippi Studio's barn-like stage rekindled a spark in my heart for endless two-chord jams.

These guys are truly something special, levitating above the legions of bearded Kyuss clones. Their tone is superb (Down Below Its Chaos was recorded by Randall Dunn in Seattle, who has also worked with Sunn O))) and Earth) and their song-writing instincts are spot on. The 9 tracks blaze by like a dream of golden pyramids, from which you hope never to wake. Either re-discover a cherished relic, or discover a new favorite!

If you live in Seattle, and you see this in time, Kinski will be playing at the Comet Tavern w/ Low Hums and Terminal Fuzz Terror. Go support yr hometown heroes.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Haters - In The Shade Of Fire

the_haters_in_the_shade_of_fire resize    part of what i am very interested in, these days, is perusing the past. Taking stock of the present. Freezing time, for a moment, and going through old records by classic Noise musicians, trying to ascertain the aesthetic, to view it objectively through the lens of time. Does it work, or is it merely the nostalgic cast that make people sing its praises? On top of this, the great work of trying to describe sound waves and air pressures. Filtering out psychological catharsis and spiritual transmissions, and wondering about the desire to create such bizarre worlds.

The Haters is the main organ by which persistent noise veteran GX-Jupiter Larsen transmits industrial symphonies of entropy and decay. Surprisingly destructive, Larsen speaks of a kind of peace of hearing things break - a satisfaction. Sometimes known to grind a live microphone to dust, or sand-blasting cds and then playing them, his music is crunchy and home-made. Gritty and real. Coming out of the bleak industrial/post-punk axis of xeroxed flyers and philosophical quotation, Larsen seems bright but possibly unfriendly. Unpredictable; a manic genius. He invented his own number system. He's written three novels. He became obsessed with professional wrestling.

This is coming from a time when making funky hostile records and abrasive performance art was not going to get you 'noticed'. Always firmly rooted in the muck of the underground, you can practically taste the paint fumes on In The Shade Of Fire. This was The Haters' first full-length LP, originally issued by Silent Records in 1986, later put back in print by Hanson Records. It has been described as '10 noise compositions made from the sound of things falling apart.' The performances captured on In The Shade.... seem pre-dominantly live, one-take affairs sent straight to tape. Most likely capturing Larsen in the throes of sonic demolition. You can hear glass smashing andbricks dragging, rough-hewn jagged textures. You can hear wet squirming feeback that sound like wound steel worms in a feeding frenzy. Mostly one gets the sense of Larsen riding the machines, an evil genius, bent on destruction, but that's only because what has sprung up is impure, and must be cleansed before rebirth. The Haters are a maggot in the id, cleaning out tumors.

Even though the sounds depicted on In The Shade Of Fire are of a cacophonous nature, there is a certain soothing nature to the sounds. They are lovingly captured, and have the warm analog crackle. Its not particularly harsh or abrasive, but still seemingly faraway and lo-fi, like they were recorded on someone's tape deck. It gives a falling out of time quality while listening - a teleportation back to 1986 when everyone was wearing leather and steel, and things were promising.

Here's what the Hanson Records' website has to say about it:

THE HATERS’ celebrated early work “In the Shade of Fire” acts a document collection for the listener that also reflects THE HATERS strong textural aesthetic through object manipulation and recording that defines GX’s place in the world of ‘harsh noise’. Listening your way through the material is a studied and defined testament to different representational fragments of heavy sound and source manipulation. The tracks Glsam and Diti are explosive introductory and side concluding / framing pieces that highlight and pronounce the breaking and crashing down of material, all gelled with bass driven strikes whose trails deteriorate into hints of cascading dirty and dark ‘Americanoise’ distortion. Bebas powers through a heavier dynamic with conscious falling apart of source material, but in abstracted waves that suggest the material being rebuilt just to simply fall and crash apart again with a sense of powerful futility. Thuch enhances the textural elements of the explosions and crashing as the sharpness of the strikes are slightly ‘rounded’ at the edges to expose an almost ‘gurgling’ texture that moves and slaps with vicious perplexity. Taisic represents a very early ‘Americanoise’ study of hiss manipulation that is accented with minimalist scraping that bring to mind the force of process on top of the white noise line. Cassas is the album’s meditated example of sharp shot-driven violence; articulated and seemingly layered for optimum cutting and breaking which bring forth sound dynamism from very physical deterioration. Fire 5 is an amazing example of a highly textural ‘wall’ of sound that, to the contemporary fan of gritty and dirty crunch waves, is a primary early example of powerful crackle lines that focus on the inner dynamism of the sound itself. All of the material discussed above is made up of elements of physicality and process, but the tracks Iny 1 and Iny 2 act, for the listener, as the ‘notes’ for the ideology of process and falling apart as they act as a more minimal, subtle, and exacting study of the scraping, scuffing, and hands on work of the artist as he manipulates the deteriorating materials. In essence, Iny 2 is an amazing concluding track that reminds the listener of the core focus and ideology behind THE HATERS’ exemplification of grating sound via concept driven manipulation of tangible sources, the process, the aftermath, and the eventual recording that reflects all of the above sound qualities.'

Getting into The Hater's back-catalog, i'm finding a deep well-spring of early, underground weirdoes, that perhaps have not gotten the attention of say a Neubauten or Nick Cave or a Throbbing Gristle. Those more famous bands were arising out of collectives, trading tapes and 'zines, an earlier form of what we do on the internet now. Promotion. Exchanging Ideas. Its always been the same. I'm looking forward to diving in further! Every time, i sink a little deeper...

Saturday, May 12, 2012

End Of A Year Self Defense Family - "I'm Going Through Some Shit / All Fruit Is Ripe"

Looking into my computer screen one morning not too long ago, I attempted to show my roommate the tumblr for EOAYSDF. The blog reads something like a twitter feed serving random musings mixed up with paragraphs of hard earned insight, served up in a constantly updating Q&A session with the band. He sat down and read a single paragraph, where an anonymous user was telling the band they couldn’t use derogatory language (in what context was unclear). To prove a point,  a member shot back a response peppered with slurs, defiance and sarcasm informing every line.

Immediately revolted by what he had just read, my roommate closed the laptop. Without playing a single note, the band had alienated a potential listener before they knew it.

It’s interesting how technology works like that. Where 50 years ago a small army of marketers closely worked together to brand an image onto the artist, and worked to control public perceptions of the artists that they manage, that same artist today has every power to interact with other people through the internet, for better or for worse.
Perhaps this model presents an interesting sidestep around traditional notions of marketing and brand management. A half dozen creative types sitting around a table brainstorming how to directly appeal to subculture x might still lose out to the more traditional form of publicizing: the old fashioned cult of personality. Instead of offering up press releases on the status of their new tours, they instead post well thought out relationship advice or fashion tips that reads occasionally like a ‘Dear Abby’ newspaper advice column.

It creates a unique phenomenon where the band will go on tour and meet people who don’t enjoy the music, but are avid followers of the blog. In a sense, the story or persona of the band comes to rival and perhaps even overshadow the actual music being made.  It might be worthwhile to look at the consumer psychology behind it,  where one becomes so well read into the personal life and daily musings of a group of people, that even though you have never met them or initiated contact in any form, a certain bond is created between the viewer at home with the spectacle that presents itself on screen.

In the same strange way that a group of characters in a sitcom slowly becomes relatable as you discover the nuances and intricacies of their personalities. Eventually they take on a sort of simulacra of actual friends you might have, or perhaps wish you did. By the end, a gateway is created into the music, as though putting on a record is supporting your buddies new band, or as though you have a privileged insight into  the lyrics that might slip by less ‘connected’ peers. These new methods of reaching out to people serve to create links between the consumer and the artist in ways that traditional marketing has always failed at: they possess authenticity, even if filtered through social networking websites and laptop screens. In the case of my roommate, who was alienated by the strange outburst, he may never again give them a chance. However, inherent in that post was something that traditional marketing teams may never achieve, the illusion that you are actually connected to the band as friend to friend, with all of the ugly, the insightful, and the mundane.

What News?!?

Hey y'all, i've got good news for you. J's Heaven is throwing open its gates, and opening the floor to outside opinions, interests, and viewpoints, with a couple of new writers signing on board. This means more music, more frequent updates, more cultural analysis, from a wider variety of viewpoints.

I've been kicking around this post for a couple of months in my head, trying to figure out what the fuck i was trying to say and how to say it, which is of course ridiculous, as this stuff is essentially all that i think about (just ask someone that hangs out with me in the flesh). The first, and most important, thing is that i got into writing this blog, and music journalism in general, as an excuse to listen to and talk about music, striving for precision in language and thought. I've been a bloodthirsty music fiend since i was 18, and i've been forced to teach myself on no budget, as i've been dirt fucking poor since i entered adulthood. I never really sought to be an authority, and i was (and am) endlessly inspired by creative music journalists that pump so much of their heart and soul into their writing, leaving you slavering to hear the sounds.

The next thing is, that i feel there are a lot of interesting cultural trends that are illustrated in music and art and general. I'm ecstatic about the works of Foucault and Simon Reynolds and other cultural analysts. The problem i encounter is never not having anything to say, or music to write about, its having too much to say, and worrying about its pertinence. So fuck it. I'm opening the floodgates, and speak my truth.

In regards to this, it makes sense that at this juncture i open the floor. When i created J's Heaven, i was filching internet from cafe's in Boulder, Co. and it was a predominantly solitary pursuit, in that there was very little experimental music scene out there, and i lost myself in endless terabytes of culture from other parts of the world. I always wanted to participate in a scene, to collaborate and make music with people, spread the word about shows, etc. The first three years of this blog have been representative of this solitude, but since i've arrived in Portland, i've been inducted a number of vibrant music scenes and art communities, and this blog has been focusing on a lot of scene reports, live reviews, friend's recordings. I want more of this, a wider vantage point to give a clearer representation of this 2012 we're living in.

I feel the role of the expert, the master, the rarefied listener, is dead. Its all subjective and open to interpretation. Rather than rattling on and on about my preferences, why not listen and take other people's opinions and interests into account? Its like the guy at a party that corners you and insists on preaching about the new Mars Volta record. Who wants to be a bore?

My main interest remains:
a. finding new and good music
b. writing about music with clarity, with engaging language that does not rely on tired genre-fication and regurgitated pitchfork quotes
c. spreading the word about music that has improved my life so drastically, trying to give something to the bands and musicians that give so much, all the time.

Expect the unexpected, and feedback is welcome and appreciated.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


Played a show with these dudes last night at the exquisite Ella Street Social Club. They kicked out a mind-melting cacophany of tribal percussion and screeching no-wave noise guitar, with an old drum machine holding the beast together. Impressively ritualistic, these guys were taut and focused, unusually powerful. Alto! sounds like Neurosis jamming with Sumner Crane after a Benzedrine all-nighter.

This free download, available from their Bandcamp, is a faithful reproduction of what they sound like live. The drums are full and rich, the guitar is sci-fi, there are textures of tones and ambiance. You can have a late-night drum freak out in yr ears, on demand.
Isn't the internet wonderful!

It was a real pleasure to play on a legit noise bill for the first time, a dream come true. Holy Filament, from Vancouver, Wa, freaked out some squares on a date, and 3 moons channeled Brion Gysin's servitor for the occasion, overcoming technical difficulties to summon the trance, as always.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Thug Entrancer - Mystic Minds Vol. 3

Some jams for the blossoming spring, for the inevitable BBQs and late-night drives.

Ryan McRyhew is a co-founder of the Laser Palace label and member of Hideous Men and Bdrmppl, He started the Thug Entrancer project to deal with the dislocation of moving from Denver to Chicago, reviving the ageless art of transforming dark times into positive vibes. He does this by finessing a battery of analog electronics to make hand-made techno, folk music for replicants.

On the third volume of Tropics Mind, a whole slew of electronic visionaries, mostly from the Denver Arthouse rave axis, re-interpret Thug Entrancer tracks. 'Tight Lean,' from the first Tropics Mind, shows up twice, with Iuengliss taking the fluttering beat of the original and shoving it into a bucket of water, before atomizing the whole thing into a particle swarm of glitchy breakbeats. Mystic Bummer leaves the ghetto fabulousness intact, funking it up with some 808 cowbell and enormous hand claps that would have Grandmaster Flash grinning, finally tearing it up into a barrage of breakbeats. Low-slung and super cool, this track is my fave, gonna be buzzing in my ear drums until the next Equinox.

"They Live" also shows up twice, once by Popdrone, once by Alphabets, the first sounding like an after party in The Dark Backward, and the latter's Dawn Mall Remix sounds like some cognitive disorder where unrelated memories collide into one another, creating a bizarro slipstream of alternate time, space, and identity.

The last track to get the double-feature treatment is "Spiritual Growth", also from the first Tropics Mind. The Gathering The Light remix turns the electro-minimalism of the original into a chrome-polished night drive down a slick highway at night, open fires reflecting on the asphalt, while Jedediah Logsdon's takes the electro-minimalism of the source material and turns it into a plasticine byte of mnml tech-house.

"Head Computer" from Vol. 2 gets the treatment from Greencarpetedstairs, who takes the burbling bassline and b-boy electro-funk and drops it down a well. Its like listening to a rave going on in the basement of the hotel where yr trying to sleep, with the occasional punctuation of blood-curdling screams making you wish you had shelled out the extra six dollars for the HoJo by the airport. Venacavaca's version of "New Violence" sounds like a vengeful spirit hanging in the air around the midnight ninja strike of the original's bassline.  A bad omen. "Dark Days (drift station remix)" takes "Dark Ages" chopped-and-slurred soul vox and taut, wiry beats and reconfigures it into a lo-fi girl group sing-a-long, finalizing the record with some glammy disco, before trailing off into the sunrise.

Its cool to hear how the various remixers work with the source material, revealing their personalities along the way, as well as the adaptability of McRyhew's song-writing. With the homespun feeling of the hand-made electronica, there is a spark of humanity in this bent and broken circuit boards and chip tune vocals. There is no trace of irony here. With crisp, warm beats and solid musicality, this is bound to sound great through systems and headphones alike, so DJs take note and listeners beware. The fact that this is a free download from Thug Entrancer's bandcamp means that there is literally no excuse for not checking out. Unless you just don't like good music.

In case this is not enough analog wizardry for you, you can hear some of Ryan's modular synth experiments over here:

Sunday, May 6, 2012

(calm inferno archives) - joining you (Den Of Dead Trees Recordings)

(calm inferno archives) is the solo project of Ryan Tomatsello,  from San Jose drone architects Blood Into Water. He creates drone movements to break down religious mindsets and have a direct spiritual experience without contradictory rules and dogmas interfering. With song titles like "Drones For God" and "Cathedral Side Stepper," what we have here is the sound of a new cosmology, contemplation of the empty spaces, vastness and creation, full blown sonic mysticism.

Joining You is short and sweet, clocking in at a scant 25 minutes, which is a minor miracle for a drone record. Like Oscar Wilde said about smoking, a short drone record is a;perfect type of a perfect pleasure. It is exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied. It shows consideration and self-restraint, it indicates that Ryan Tomatsello knows what he is trying to say, and ruthlessly self-editing, mandatory instincts in this day and age of media deluge. What we are left with is a type of Dark Ambient music that does not rely on boring New Age pads and Lustmord pastiche. Instead, Joining You is a modern take on musique concrete, with hypnotic tones perfectly poised in the stereo field, ricocheting around the room to create a mesmerizing, ritualistic atmosphere, made with an early 80s industrial sensibility. One imagines a mad scientist's laboratory, with sparking Tesla coils and spinning reels spitting out esoteric data. It sounds like a radio telescope, pontificating on the boundaries of space.

Den Of Dead Trees is a noise label run by Andrew Consiglio, from Vancouver, Wa. Its a non-profit labor of love, dedicated to spreading the gospel of noteworthy experimental musicians that he knows, which allies him with the mission over here at j's heaven. Just trying to put good art out into the world. Just trying to make something holy and pure. What was once subterranean and unknown comes to the light of day, ripe for the picking, and those with a curious mind can find such riches, such wisdom. With (calm inferno archives) talk of sonic mysticism and wide-eyed wonder, the Den of Dead Trees roster seems like kindred spirits and worthy of yr attention.

My band Meta-Pinnacle is playing with Andrew's solo project, Holy Filament, (previously discussed here) at Ella Street Social Club, this coming Wednesday. Its an honor and a pleasure to be participating in an honest-to-god noise happening, which is a rare event in Portland. Come on out and experience the weirdness.