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alan licht/loren mazzacane-conners,
the red crayola,
vas deferens organization
- john lennon john lennon anthology (capitol)
i have often compared john lennon with elvis presley. elvis was unable to survive the death of his mother, the only person in the world who could keep him connected with down to earth reality, at first failing artistically (who would doubt that his post-army career was an unrelenting embarrassment with only a few glimmers of respectable work), then eventually succumbing physically to drug and lifestyle-induced bloat.
lennon had his ups and downs, also lost his mother at a relatively young age, but managed to survive artistically, doing more or less consistently high quality work thru his assassination. he was involved in one of the most misunderstood love affairs of the era, retired from the music industry for nealy five years to raise a son, then re-emerged with mature, communicative work which promised much for the future. his autopsy found only caffeine and nicotine in his system. his death was caused by a mentally-ill person in possession of a handgun.
over the years since, his work has been compiled periodically, with some of the unreleased gems in the vaults only available on bootlegs. here is a 4 cd box with book to augment the rest of his catalog, selected by yoko. she has done a magnificent job. nothing here is available elsewhere in quite the same version. obscure singles and demos of songs given to others are here. alternate versions of the well-known songs are included. a particular emphasis is given to exposing the casual lennon at work, with some pieces intended only as relaxation exercises between takes, others are works in progress. some are scarcely recognizable as his voice. yet all contribute to a realization that this man had an awesome talent for songwriting, singing and communicating. which i have known since my first listen to john lennon/plastic ono band, over 20 years ago. start there, and when you have visited the rest of the finished work, come here for this one.
- alan licht/loren mazzacane-conners hoffman estates (drag city)
the full band credit on the insert is actually the alan licht/loren mazzacane-conners ensemble, a much more fitting name for the group at work here, which includes jim o'rourke, ken vandermark and kevin drumm (whose solo cd, kevin drumm is also reviewed in this issue), among others. the result is a very jazz-esque ensemble recording, especially with the use of double basses, reeds and horns. alan licht is a guitar player whose involvement in run on is noteworthy, as well as other collaborative ventures, to which he also brings an ability to play drums and other instruments. loren mazzacane-conners first came to the attention of the indie music world under the name guitar roberts, then as loren mazzacane. most of his recordings have received a great deal of critical plaudits, establishing him as a prominent figure in solo guitar work. i, personally, really enjoyed his hell's kitchen park, but was turned-off by some of his interviews. and this business with the name-changing game has a real will oldham/palace kind of stink of excessive vanity about it.
that said, this cd is sweet. yet another recording coming out of that whole chicago "post-rock" mafia which has become recognized as a community which trades names among variations on the same core of musicians. the intimidating thing is, that there continues to be a very fertile expansion of ideas being bounced and reflected around by these revolving combinations. the resemblance of this record to a very modern big band is an excellent variation. there is a continued avoidance of formula by making enough changes in approach and goals to continue to reward interest. score another one for the drag city label.
- mutant press bring it to jerome (fleabus records)
self-produced madness from the infamous jerome youngman. super jerome's magic band is a fully integrated midi system which allows jerome to wail on guitar and...well, wail on vocals. he has this interesting desire to achieve some sort of "legitimate" record industry success, balanced against an anarchists illegitimate need to self-destruct. he is able to organize himself perhaps a little too well musically, which results in some meticulously accurate but repetitive drum machine sounds. mr. youngman presents himself as an anti-culture icon, but the cover versions on this cd reflect an old school traditionalism. john lee hooker "dimples," the howling wolf via yardbirds "smokestack lightning," iggy and the stooges "little doll." the originals radiated unpredictable brilliance and danger...elements which might make this cd more essential.
- nashville pussy let them eat pussy (the enclave)
the your flesh mag troops pretty much unanimously picked this as one of the top ten releases of 1998. it is now in the stores again in a remastered package with the naughty pictures covered-up to pique interest. my call is a little less enthusiastic. i imagine that if i were to be drunk and horny, this would be the shit. hard-driving rock and roll with obscene lyrics and pictures of the two females in the group showing off their boobs and "eat me" tatoos. i guess i'm getting old, because i don't find this that new. and the sexual component is kind of calculatedly overdone, like texacala jones of 80s country-punk band tex and the horseheads. she didn't last long, as the wear and tear of the "lets get stoned and fuck" lifestyle took its predictable toll. i hope these folks are able to survive the running of that gauntlet without needing to drown in their own image-mongering.
- n2 submission first kill (no label)
recently i saw a cable access program taped by a crew in hamtramck, and the show included a memorable segment featuring "lady pain" abusing her worm-boy slave. a day or so later, i come in contact with crazee mark, aka wizard st. christopher of n2 submission. he was kind enough to furnish me with a copy of this cd-r, which features the voice of scene veteran "the impaler." so i popped this into the player, and yowzer...more pain/pleasure stuff. now, i do believe i can tell the real big-time scary thrill-chill sleaze from the run-of-the-mill dirt. for instance, kim fowley michigan babylon has it, that edge that makes bad women horny and good men angry. n2 submission has neat-o metallic guitar fills, imposing psuedo-demonic declarations and thudding rhythm section...but it didn't scare me. now the puppets on the crazee mark show...those scared me...ditto markee kraze doing his act for a group of elementary school age future felons...that frightened me...
- the poetics critical inquiry in green (compound annex)
I was a stranger to the collaborative work of Mike Kelley and Tony Oursler until recently. I have been a fan of Oursler's work for quite some time now, experiencing it first hand (on a daily, repetitive basis) at Revolution: A Gallery Project in Ferndale, MI during an internship. I enjoyed the mysterious haunting quality of the installations, incorporating sculptural form along with video and audio. Upon listening to the Poetics Critical Inquiry in Green, I found Oursler's visual work permeating my memory..there was a coincidence, an inherent connection. The music, for lack of a more appropriate descriptive term, presents itself as eerily
psychological. Both the vocals and the accompaniment are trance like in repetition, with computer enhanced alterations. Tappings, moans, clicks and utterances are included; an intermingling of
ethereal bliss with funerary moog. A few lyrics in particular come across as sexually twisted; nonetheless compelling enough to mention
....puppy, puppy, puppy, baby that hurts, hurts, hurts, hurts, harder, harder, harder, pop pleasure button, giddy, giddy, giddy up silly cowboy (twinkling of sounds) ha ha ha (demented laughter) do you know how strong I really am, do you?........sugar-sweet-starvation yellow red....flim-flam, yum-yum-fat slob...pssstttt....
nonsensical pairings of vocals and sounds, much like the information that travels through ones psyche during the duration of a day. 'Freaky', my ten year old commented, but that didn't stop her from
listening intently for the next collage of interesting sounds and words. Critical Inquiry in Green is definitely worth giving a listen. Far from boring, and even further from predictable. Four stars for this one from me...I haven't stopped listening.
- the red krayola fingerpainting (drag city)
- the red krayola "father abraham" (drag city)
- the red crayola live 1967 (drag city)
- the red krayola deliverance ("authorized" bootleg)
the last five years have been a dream-come-true for this longtime mayo thompson listener. after years of sporadic, europe-only releases, drag city has been putting forth a veritable flood of the red crayola product, much of it culled from thompson's archives. i even got to see mayo live at kalamazoo's club soda, something i would have never expected.
deliverance is reportedly an "authorized bootleg" of recordings dating 1969-1996, compiled by the psuedonymous wendy gondeln. is this mayo? david grubbs? the puzzle remains unsolved here at earpeace world headquarters. the mystery continues as the drag city logo appears beneath the cd. however, the folks at the a-musik collective in cologne, germany claim this as one of their (leiterwagen) releases. anyway, i am pleased to have access to this compilation. it features somewhat unfinished sounding versions of several songs from the drag city releases, woof, which has also appeared on a single included with a certain british psychedelic magazine, and a piece called olympia act 1, which is the only recorded evidence i have been able to unearth of the red krayola with art & language opera, olympia, which reported ly concerns a murder in manet's paris. in between these are snippets from, you guessed it, the movie "deliverance". my suspicion is that this is a way to release some of the archival stuff for which some of the rights remain nebulous. by the way, what ever happened to drag city's reissue of malefactor, ade, the 1989 record which originated in germany and was released on glass records? do i sense legal difficulties?
live 1967 is a great double cd from 2 california festival gigs by the original trio (well, at least the group as heard on their 1st lp, the parable of arable land). and either you think it is shitty noise nonsense indulgence, or you think it is brilliant conceptual anti-rock, proto-you-name-it. i think that it is important to keep a sense of humor engaged whilst listening. of note: the presence of american primitive guitar genius john fahey, who joins in and is pretty much indistinguishable from the rest of the tactical noise (see john fahey recording also reviewed this issue). another note: i do not believe this comprises the legendary lost fahey/the red crayola project reported by various sources. another legend: that a dog was killed during one of these concerts by the frequencies generated by the group.
one day i came home to find a drag city catalog in my mailbox, and within, i found listed the "father abraham" remix 12 inch. several calls and a short ride to royal oak later, i clutched in my paws this gem. tranquility bass is one remixer, and that name should be familiar to techno fans. who schorsch kamerun is is unknown to me, but that name wendy gondeln sounds familiar (see second paragraph above). would somebody let me in on that joke? please? to all of you who no longer own a turntable, a resounding thwwwaaaap! of my tongue to you.
fingerpainting is the brand-spanking newest, and within, the revisitation and revision of the past continues. firstly, the participants credited include frederick barthelme and steve cunningham of the 1967 lineup, as well as folks like david grubbs, tom watson, stephen prina, george hurley and albert oehlen. five more or less songs are interspersed with 1999 versions of the freeform freakout segments delivered by the familiar ugly on the parable of arable land. one of these segments is titled "a sow with an abbess's bonnet is sitting on four rock-objects and singing along with them. the song sounds like a cheater, and is imprisoned in a striped toy box because its aims are not recognizable. on top of the box is a head that could be elvis's, if he had survived this.". the song "vile, vile grass" is an old one, having been released on the (bootleg?) epitaph for a legend international artists label compilation in a different version. there are lots of ringing guitars, bleating analog synths and muffled drum machines, produced in much less clear manner than the past couple of studio the red krayola releases, perhaps due to the mixing of tracks recorded over many years? that is only a guess.
also included (with the package i purchased) is a second cd with just one song, "come on down", which is a much cleaner recording, and a rather fetching tune, with very arresting production. upon repeated listening, i perceive a reference to debilitating habits, with mayo wrapping things up by asking, "when are you going to come on down?". but that could just be where i am at.
overall, i think that mayo thompson and company, "in association with drag city inc." have made a damn good case for this body of work deserving some serious examination and enjoyment. intellectually stimulating, you can dance to it, or at least to some of it, provocative, challenging your concept of what music is and ought to be.
one last note: see my attempt at a complete mayo thompson/the red crayola discography for yet more information.
- vas deferens organization sweat your cheeses, but not in my salad (charnel music)
a while back, magnet magazine ran an article on "texas psych rock," referring not to the sixties luminaries like the red crayolaor thirteenth floor elevators, nor to eighties casualties like butthole surfers, but instead to the latest wave of dimentia coming from the hinterlands of psychedelic texas; charalambides, mazinga phaser, j. bone cro and vas deferens organization, aka vdo (magnet no. 30, sept/oct 1997).
so, being partial to that state of mind, i went off in search of the stuff. and it was good. this is my most recent find, tho a certain local store has several high-priced lps by these guys which i have not yet managed to afford. vdo is not only a band project, they are a production team, specializing in altering the sounds offered on their altar by other bands within their circle. which all sounds rather demonic, but it isn't. this cd (!) features a variety of drummers operating in the tribal long-form mode, with various synths, voices and instruments laid on top for a nice concoction of mood-altering sound. the overall effect is a nice american ethnic mood, which has been deemed desirable to others within hearing. look for this one, but save those vinyl treasures for me to scoop out of the discount bins of the future.
- robert wyatt shleep (thirsty ear)
robert wyatt first came to public attention with the first three soft machine records, a group which skirted the edges of progressive-jazz-psychedelic-rock without falling into any of the obvious traps, such as losing a sense of humor. my wake-up call came with a copy of a solo record called rock bottom which i found in a very cheap bin of a record store i once managed. that record quickly impressed me with it's excellent and vibrant songs, plus the variety of instruments and the overall tone. it was years before i realized that the artist was working out of a wheelchair, a drummer without the use of his legs. i was in awe of him not because of that, but because of the strength and value of his work.
he has continued to make records every so often, and they have been worth searching out. shleep is no exception. brian eno, evan parker and phil manzanera play supporting roles, but this continues the strong personal vision of wyatt. the songs revolve around an insomniac theme, and his love for his wife is made apparent. this is not a narcissistic work, there is a strong attitude of humility. the songs are treated to carefully thought-out arrangements which fit comfortably and expressively. the audio pallette and strength of production cut right thru the crummy headphones at the record store when i first picked this up, quickly convinced upon that first listen that this one was a keeper. track it down.
b . w i l d e r e d
except the poetics critical inquiry in green review by j e t
...let us know what you think...your opinions are invited...
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