e a r p e a c e : audio reviews
atari teenage riot,
destroy all monsters,
alan licht/loren mazzacane-conners,
the red crayola,
vas deferens organization,
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- atari teenage riot 60 second wipeout (digital hardcore)
mc5 meets the sex pistols, with body count as referee, except this is the 90s...so the vast majority of the thing is done with samples. i find it funny as hell, and it emanates from germany, not always known for realizing when they were being funny. the "revolution now" lyrics work well with the rap tag-team male/female vox...especially with the speed metallic dj sound behind it. very aggressive, very fast...once again, it is comforting to know that the kids are alright. a definite major strap-on feedbag for the 17 year old trapped in my body.
- bantam rooster the cross and the switchblade (crypt)
it has been my pleasure to be acquainted with the perpetrator of this scrappy masterpiece for several years now. t. jackson potter stood head and shoulders above his bandmates in just say no, and i believe that steve miller's failure to exploit this man's skills within that group was emblematic of the tunnel vision which ultimately prevented them from breaking out of the "pay to play" pack. a while back, potter made the move to the detroit area (from lansing) and hasn't looked back. this is a guy who lives the life, walks the walk...not relying on talk. bantam rooster shows i have seen are always a high-energy good time.
the two-piece lineup is one that is becoming less unusual every year. i keep running into guitar and drums duos which take advantage of the available space provided to keep the vision direct. and tommy's lo-fi distorted p.a. vocals fit the sound to perfection. i believe that his voice and lyrics are very worthy of hearing, and would encourage him to get over any reservations he may have about the quality of that instrument. but i can hear it just fine, thank you, at this time.
- rudiger carl book - virtual cowws (free music production)
this european release is actually made up of an 2 cd retrospective collection, called book, and a full length cd of new recordings, virtual cowws.
book features a variety of cowws quintet-related lineups recorded between 1981 and 1996, as selected by rudiger carl. germany's rudiger carl is a major figure in the free music production scene, as a master improviser on accordion and clarinet, as well as band leader and composer. mayo thompson (of the red crayola appears on several tracks, as does hans reichel. the regular lineup consists of carl, jay oliver (bass), phil wachsmann (violin, electronics), stephan wittwer (guitar) and irene schweizer (piano, percussion). barre phillips or arjen gorter played double bass with cowws following the death of jay oliver. the music is called free jazz. the constellations of musicians seek a purity of texture. some listeners will detect a classical orientation. those classically-oriented may find this disorienting. there is an unquestionable empathy invoked, a familiarity and mutual respect for ideas and ability to execute them that allows each player to restrain themselves from playing until an opening is presented.
virtual cowws presents a final cowws quintet project recorded in a different manner. rudiger carl delivered to each of the players a series of instructions, which each executed in the studio in complete isolation from the others. carl took the results and performed mixes which resulted in this cd. this john cage-inspired approach causes different choices to be made than those which the group had made in previous performances. the resulting sound is definitely more challenging. the textures are present, but the formula has been subverted.
these are sounds which bear repeated scrutiny. i read the liner notes, listen to the overlaid texts by werner buttner and mayo thompson, absorb the interactions of players and instruments. i am engaged, and this is appreciated. recommended.
- eugene chadbourne horror part one (home recordings/house of chadponk)
- eugene chadbourne jungle cookies (old gold)
- eugene chadbourne insect and western vol. 24 termite damage (tape)
i received a call from a friend: "there's an ad in the classifieds of the metro times for a show by eugene chadbourne. isn't he one of those weird musicians you like?" and i was launched into another experience of serendipity and foolishness that confirms by belief in the greater power of art. dr. chadbourne at the press club in windsor. the show itself did not rise to the level of my previous encounter with the mad dr. himself (at the late and infamous zoots cafe), however i was able to procure some more nutricious morsels for my hungry psyche-soul. there is something sweet about putting your greenbacks directly into the hands of the person responsible for irritating and confounding so many no-nothing know-it-alls. i even played fan-boy to the length of having these items defaced by the dr.
horror part one is a cd-r, a cd-recordable. i was thrilled by the insert "about your new home recordings cd-r..." a brief tract which knowledgeably puts forth the idea that this wonderful new technology presented the opportunity to cut thru the requirements of the traditional and obstinate "recording industry," by putting the ability to make small runs of decent-quality productions available directly from you local computer to your cd player of choice. hurrah for utilizing this format.
the music is ostensibly a series of instrumentals paying homage to various horror movie soundtracks. the easily-annoyed will appreciate the lack of dr. chadbourne's vocal stylings. very digestible, and non-fattening.
jungle cookies is billed as "a double cd heavily inspired by trips to amsterdam." so much for the "accessible" chadbourne. this stuff is demented, utilizing as backing material a sammy davis jr. cd buried in his backyard for a year, and various audible events captured by his microphones during his residence in amsterdam. there are liner notes in a newsletter format, and within the dr. refers to his enjoyment of listening to "life," that is, including the sounds which happen all around us as part of the compositional process. and that is what is going on here, on these two cds. since listening to this is not so different than opening up the windows of whatever room you may be in, and interpreting the soundtrack outside as "music," it may not be something you, as a listener, can get your ears around. john cage long ago challenged us to listen without pre-determining what is musical...and what is not. don't neglect to engage the sense of humor, as eugene chadbourne most surely has.
termite damage is an old-fashioned chadbourne cassette package. mine came in a fruit bar box, with inserts including a page from a coloring book, various flyers from chad shows, a page evidently discarded from a typewrtten missive, etc. nearly a dozen musicians are listed on a sticker on the box, with all being credited with casios in addition to their regular instruments. the tape has some brilliantly played improvised-sounding jazz...mostly played using the limited pallette of the ubiquitous casio. in the hands of the insect and western ensemble, the sounds are presented in the same way free jazz musicians would present the sounds of any horn. stops and starts, changes in dynamics, listening to the other players, filling in where the sound is needed. would you believe...a casio epiphany?
- destroy all monsters destroy all monsters 1974-1976 (father yod/ecstatic peace)
this 3 cd collection, culled about 50% from cary loren’s cassette recordings and the rest from mike kelley’s reel-to-reels, and assembled in kelley’s kitchen/studio, has struck a resonance with me. upon listening to this series of excerpts of recordings by whoever happened to be around at the time, i felt that there is hope for some of my own back catalog. the presence of niagara is relatively minimal, which keeps the annoyance factor down to a tolerable level. it was a great pleasure to see that mike kelley and jim shaw had reclaimed the destroy all monsters name from the relatively weak niagara/ron ashton faction who appropriated it.
mike kelley, jim shaw, niagara and cary loren were ann arbor based visual artists who also worked in graphic arts (destroy all monsters was also a 'zine), film and performance events. their approach was irreverent and iconoclastic. ultimately, kelly moved to los angeles, attended cal arts and made a name for himself circa 1976 (see review of his cal arts project the poetics critical inquiry in green, also in this issue). it appears here that destroy all monsters leads up to and complements the work of the poetics, especially in the retroactive manipulation of a nearly mythical legend of a project. there are now destroy all monsters videotapes, graphic collections and even newly recorded cds. i mean it as the very highest complement when i say that i found this set inspiring.
(note: thanx to cary loren for input and corrections)
- kevin drumm kevin drumm (perdition plastics)
solo improvised tabletop guitar that sounds like no one else. in fact, it doesn't even sound like guitar. it more closely resembles the digital manipulations of microstoria, or any of the other electro-acoustic artists working in the cracks of digital technology. except that this was recorded direct to dat (digital audio tape) with his fender jaguar guitar. drumm has worked with gastr del sol and others in the chicago "post-rock" circle, but his session work is less exposed by mixing it into the texture of that work. here, the clicking, buzzing, hissing sounds are laid bare. this is the work of a completely original stylist, one who has found an expressive invention within the well-worn avenues of solo guitar improvisation.
- john fahey georgia stomps, atlanta struts and other contemporary dance favorites (table of the elements)
john fahey has been recording since 1958, but this is his first release of improvised electric guitar, recorded live. there is a mix of old themes intermixed with his "american primitive" guitar techniques. fahey has enjoyed a recent resurgence in his career, after lying low thru years of illness and trouble. he has embraced many of the noise construction techniques somewhat in vogue and has been embraced by many younger practitioners of those arts. this man is an authority on folk guitar, and has done much to make others aware of the work of obscure but important artists. he also is given to deflating reputations with no less candor and honesty. he deserves no less than the utmost respect for all of these contributions to the culture at large.
- don fleming jojo ass runne (god bless records)
brief history lesson, today's topic, mr. don fleming: originally known as the ringleader of the legendary 80's washington, d.c. band, the velvet monkees. he then moved on to work in the new york-based b.a.l.l. with shimmy-disc's kramer. during his spare time he became one of the huge in-demand 1990's producers-extraordinaire for hire, making boucoup (i hope) dinero working with major label "alternative" acts. i still like the story of how he would defuse bands' anxieties in the studio by sitting them down for a few rounds of thrift-store 70's board games. he appeared onstage with sonic youth (playing keyboards). he made some great and near-great recordings with gumball, most notably the wisconsin hayride covers ep and the revolution on ice cd. a while back, he finally released a solo recording on his own instant mayhem label, because tomorrow comes, featuring 3 "songs" with fleming playing all of the instruments, a drumless tour-de-force of psyche-pop-mayhem.
well, now what to say about jojo ass runne? it is aptly-titled. i have been listening to this for weeks, and i still find it impenetrable, all over the map, chaotic, and a true culmination of all the elements of the previous projects distilled into one brown-purple morass of new-old music. it makes no sense. which means i will continue to puzzle over this one until i reach the epiphany concealed within. or at least until he releases another one. a deep bow to you, don, and thank you for the kick in the ass while i do so.
- the frogs the frogs (moikai)
reissue of a 1988 release by jim o'rourke's label. so far, jim has not betrayed my trust in his choices of artists to promote. the liner notes by steve albini are insistent that brothers dennis and jimmy flemion, the duo responsible for the frogs are genius songwriters of the highest order. much has been made of their extravagantly and irreverently anti-pc approach.
while this was recorded at roughly the same time as it's only right and natural, which is probably the frogs most notorious recording, due to its skewering of gay stereotypes, this cd is less overtly provocative. these songs are very pop sounding, with only a few blasphemous comments about jesus indicating the dark side of their vision. the arrangements are well-done, with very melodic vocals. it is not hard to imagine that this was conceived as an attempt to break into quasi-mainstream success, which clearly did not occur, at least in 1988. my best assessment at this time is that this will continue to be a relatively abscure artifact. maybe in another ten years.
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