Wednesday, March 23, 2005


TORE ELGAROY – The Sound of the Sun CD; ARVE HENRIKSEN – Sakuteiki CD; NILS OKLAND – Straum CD
There’s more to contemporary music in Norway than Turbonegro and black-clad church-burners. There’s also the Rune Grammofon label. I’ve been meaning to give this excellent label a swift rundown for a while, though laziness and the seemingly Herculean nature of the task have kept it at bay.

Dedicated to Norwegian musicians of many shades and stripes, though if you could put a tag on RG’s schtick, it’d be “electro-acoustic” or thereabouts, Rune’s roster is something even non-Wire subscribers will find of at least some interest. Their catalogue, every release housed in the patented patched and abstract art of graphic designer and musician Kim Hiorthoy, is a goldmine of the weird and the wonderful. You’ll find the post-post-rock of Supersilent (yeah, Wire pin-up boys, but good nonetheless), the minimal electronics of Information and Monolight, the fiery jazz squall of Raoul Bjorkenheim and his Scorch Trio (highly recommended for all Sharrock fans), the dark, haunting textures of 20th century composer Fartein Valen, and, well, a whole lot more besides. Then there’s these three, barely-pronouncable clowns.

Elgaroy is, from all reports, a stalwart of the Norwegian scene, though you’d be forgiven for being ignorant of that fact. A guitarist in the Fred Frith mode (the closest comparison I can muster), this is a purely solo album of heavily treated six-string action, most of it, much like Frith’s groundbreaking Guitar Solos LP, unrecognizable as sounds emanating from a six-stringed instrument, much less the work of simply one man (there’s obviously a mountain of overdubs at work here). A wildly eclectic disc, one which sounds like it could've been released on United Dairies, now that I think of it, it really works and never bores. Now that's an achievement.

Arve Henriksen is another mainstay of Norway’s avant-garde scene, and this disc is produced by Supersilent knucklehead, Helge Sten (otherwise known as Deathprod). A solo effort with a Japanese theme, the main instruments on show here are trumpet, organ and bells, and whilst the idea of a Norwegian releasing a minimal album with a Japanese theme may not get one rushing out the door, credit card in hand, it perhaps should. Make an exception here. Ever flipped a lid to the sounds of Bob Wyatt’s Rock Bottom, Eno’s On Land, later Talk Talk, In A Silent Way-era Miles? There’s some reference points for ya.

Nils Okland is, from all reports, a well-respected fiddle player and folk musician in his homeland, so who am I to pass judgment? This is one of my favourite releases on the label (and yes, I’ve heard nearly the whole discography). With minimal accompaniment from other players on guitar, trumpet, organ, harmonium, etc. the sounds of Straum is at once sound modern, yet ghostly and ancient. Partly “avant-garde” and partly submerged in a grand tradition I don’t yet understand, this is a brilliant zone-out platter to spin on a lonely, rainy day. Norwegian folk music… now there’s a can of worms I need to open one day.

This has been sitting around for reasons I do not wish to go into (it’s a “work-related” issue). If I’ve ever “considered” the ‘Groovies at all, which is rare, it’d be as the runt of the pre-punk litter. Gimme the Stooges, NY Dolls and MC5 ‘til I die. Hell, throw in those first three Blue Oyster Cult LPs whilst you’re at it. But the ‘Groovies? I’ve always found them to be tepid at best, stone-cold freezing at worst. My brother had their Supersnazz LP growing up and it did nothing but collect dust for a decade (as it still does). I know it’s not considered their finest work even by fans, though I’ll blame that for throwing me off the trail for nearly 20 years. Not that Slow Death (on the Norton label, by the way), a collection of demo and TV broadcast recordings from 1971-73, is a masterpiece, though it’s a step in the right direction. The recordings are rough, as expected, but at least in this context they actually sound like a rough ‘n’ tumble rock ‘n’ roll band, and not the candy-assed power-pop revivalist outfit I had them pegged as. There’s still a whole lotta stuff here I could gladly live without (covers of “Roll Over Beethoven”, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, etc.), though the title track and the amazing “Shake Some Action” (always my fave song of theirs, and a track which was, and probably still is, a staple of Melbourne public radio) mean I’ll probably hang onto this for a while. Some of the most absurd, rambling and shamelessly name-dropping liner notes, c/o the band’s Cyril Jordan, I’ve ever read, are included in the swish booklet.

Gamelan Semar Pagulingan from Besang-Ababi/Karangasem: Music From Bali CD
Never heard of this one? Rolls off the tongue beautifully. Apparently it’s all The Kids are talking about. I’ve been through a few hyperventilating “World Music” phases in my life, most notably in the late ‘90s when I went on the grand search to locate any and all Nonesuch Explorer, Lyrichord and Smithsonian Folkways “ethnic” titles (I wasn’t very successful, by the way), and about two years back when I found myself in the unlikely situation of living in a house (my house!) which seconded as a warehouse for a record company specializing in the genre (long story, maybe one day I’ll tell you all about it). This CD is a remnant from that second phase. Released on the excellent Wergo label out of Germany, who have two divisions: Classical and World, Music From Bali is 70 minutes of banging, scraping and bell-shaking Gamelan aktion. Once you’ve graduated from the Sun City Girls school of white Westerners pulling this stuff off, you should go straight to the source. There’s a whole world of music out there, why would you want to set a personal limit on any of it?

THE EX – Turn 2CD
A little while back I wrote a semi-negative review of an old Ex LP (which I borrowed off my brother, having not heard it in 10 years), and received a proverbial slap across the face from man-about-the-web, John Righter. If he was present in the room at the time, I’m sure I would’ve been wiping the spittle off my face as he berated me for the pig-ignorance I showed in deriding The Ex as, well, not all that. John, you may have a point. Soon thereafter I spotted this, their 2004 double-CD epic, going cheap, and grabbed it in the hope of giving our fave Dutch anarchist friends a second chance. I did, after all, used to be a big fan of these chaps when I was an angry and impressionable student (you can shoot me… now) and felt that it was perhaps my ensuing 30-something crankiness which didn’t give them a fair shake (not to mention the fact that I was reviewing an album from 1984; not really an accurate, or fair, summation of what they might’ve been up to the last decade). So, the verdict?

For now I’m saying it’s a hung jury with two members who just won’t budge. That’s still a strike rate of 10/12, though there’s a few things holding me back from an unequivocal recommendation. Well, firstly, I gotta say it, even though it’s really irrelevant to the argument, but for this mini-genre of music, I still prefer the awe-inspiring sounds of the Dawson and the Dog Faced Hermans, but secondly, the one beef I have with The Ex is that they rarely stray from the galloping, vaguely Beefheartish beat which every song appears to be mired in. For a song or two that’s fine, maybe even half the album would be OK, though I find Turn to be a little same-y. Sameness of a good thing isn’t something to drive one to despair, but still, too much of even a good thing can be a bad thing. John, I haven’t given up yet!

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

THE FEELIES – Crazy Rhythms CD
My first ever ebay-bought item. Break open the champagne. Did I pay an arm and a leg for this out-of-print doozie? That’s for me to know and you to pester me about. Anyway, in a word: NO. I don’t pay that kinda money for anything, and since it’s rumoured this – along with the Feelies’ other efforts – is/are to be re-released on CD this year some time, I’d be a sucker for dishing out the big pennies… Wait a minute, who in the fugg cares??!! Let’s get to the goddamn music, fer chrissakes…

I heard this album many, many times whilst working at Shock in the mid/late ‘90s. It was part of the Ace Records roster, Ace being the big UK indie which holds the rights to the Stiff back catalogue (hey, these are the trivialities you pick up on whilst working for record companies). It was a disc I liked a lot, myself also being a long-time admirer of the Feelies’ Good Earth LP, but I never bought it. Now I have. It remains quite an anomaly in the history of American independent music. For one, it didn’t even get a US release at the time (1980), an unusual predicament for a Velvets-y agit/avant-pop band from New Jersey. Only roughly a decade later did it get a domestic issue via A & M. The cover, a gawkish photo of the band geeked to the max with a hideous blue background screams but one thing: complete and total commercial failure headed straight for the cut-out bins… possibly to be rescued later by ensuing cult status.

It’s also kind… err… musically confused as to what it wants to be. There’s an unusual bevy of exotic percussion in use from future ‘Ubu man, Anton Fier, lots of skittering rhythms I could imagine various “New Wave” types shaking their asses to in a very white manner at the dawn of that decade (that’s 25 years ago… I guess this is Classic Rock), a weird mix of short, almost punkish numbers mixed up with lengthy jams, and… covers of the Beatles and the Stones. That kinda shit probably didn’t cut the mustard with the more muscled-up baldies of the day, but looking back it’s a pretty unfashionably ballsy move. The Feelies never really broke any musical barriers – they were in essence a “bar band” (actually, that makes them sound horrible: I’ll call them a “club band”) – they simply played with the given forms and fucked with them ever so slightly. God bless ‘em.

I got a pal of mine – let’s call him Robin (for that is his name) – into Caroliner about a year back. Remember those clowns, anyone? I trade label stuff with Ron at RRR and sell Caroliner LPs to the shops around town in return. It’s a pain-in-the-ass way of getting money for your CDs (don’t get me started on RRRon’s outdated commercial practices…), but it has its perks. I bought a pile of Caroliner LPs some time back in ’93, then again in the late ‘90s, and again the last remaining few a couple of years back. I think I now have the lot. One day I’ll actually really sit down and listen to the things. Robin has made it easier for me. So enthused with the world of Caroliner Rainbow Pig In A Blanket (or whatever their full name is this week), he burnt 5 of their albums onto CD and has made some fancy-assed covers for them to give to friends. Since their records are a nightmare just getting out of their art-school-disaster packaging, this has made their music a shiteload more approachable for a lazy a-hole like myself. Thank you.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


Some people get caught bullshitting, others get caught believing the bullshit. I'm the latter. I was dutifully informed yesterday that the story regarding Striborg wearing corpsepaint on a sunny day in Melbourne was complete and utter horseshit. Well, not completely: he was wearing the t-shirt and was in town to see The Goodies, but the clincher to the story - the corpsepaint - was a load of bollocks told to me by my friend Neil Sweeney. Neil, I mention your name because you made a fool out of me, so now it's your turn. Like a friend said last night: Dave, it serves you right for actually believing one of Neil's stories.

Monday, March 14, 2005

STRIBORG – Mysterious Semblance CD
I was given this by a friend a couple of days ago. I don’t believe I’ve ever written about Striborg in the pages of this blog, though I did rattle on about his music in the comments box over at Agony Shorthand a few months back in relation to Johan Kugelberg’s listing of Great Primitive Shit Music in Ugly Things magazine. I think my mentioning of Striborg was met with a stunned (or possibly bored) silence and the topic was quickly changed. Now I’ll discuss him (Striborg is one person: Sin Nanna!) in perhaps a little more depth.

Or maybe not… you can go here to a WFMU blog for a brief spiel on the man instead. Mysterious Semblance is his new album, and it’s a scorcher. Friends of mine will be surprised by that last comment, since I’m often heard deriding the music of Striborg as the most ridiculous, incompetent and musically absurd load of mess this country has spewed up in recent years, but given the current conservative musical climate of this land, I’ll also be the first person to applaud the sheer, unwielding strangeness of the man and his universe. After all, he is The King Of Tasmanian Black Metal. You know and I know that someone had to take that crown, but I’m glad it’s him.

More than anything, Striborg proves that the genre now known as “Black Metal” actually encompasses a myriad of musical styles, the term BM really denoting a certain aesthetic of the music as opposed to any kind of straightjacketed sound. Naturally, when it comes to BM, I like the weird shit, and that ol’ cat Sin Nanna is about as weird as you get. A one-man unit where Sin (do I call him that? Mr. Nanna?) plays all the instruments, or at least tries to (you really gotta hear the guy try to play drums, it’s a killer), I will now jump out on a limb and hail Striborg as the Hasil Adkins of Black Metal.

The guitar once again sounds more like a wall of radio static than a six-stringed instrument; the bass is a rarely plonked beast setting the mood when necessary; the eerie keyboards make some excellent, creepy and atmospheric sound scapes, much like Burzum’s earlier work; barely decipherable vocals come to and fro throughout, this time awashed in a cake of distortion; and most of all, those drums, man, the drums: imagine cardboard boxes being hit with chopsticks – in and out of time – and you’re thinking Striborg.

None other than Oren Ambarchi (yeah, that guy) hailed Striborg as “pure Australian genius” to myself about six months back. I didn’t believe him. Actually, I still don’t. Striborg is not genius or anywhere near it, but it’s real good stuff. More well-adjusted types (which means 99.999% of the population) would no doubt think such a statement to be laughable, especially if they heard the actual music of Striborg, and you know what? They’re probably right. This stuff is laughable and idiotic, but it’s also a lot of fun. Seriously, one of the “better” Australian albums I’ll hear this year. Striborg? File next to early Half Japanese and Meat Puppets, Shaggs, Thug, Amon Duul, etc. under the banner of Primitive Shit Music.

ENDNOTE: This story is apparently “confirmed” (I consider the source reliable): Sin Nanna, AKA Striborg, was seen in a certain book/CD store in the city last week. He revealed his identity to the manager, engaged in a pleasant conversation and then slipped forth the fact that he was in town, not to attend the What Is Music? Festival, but in fact to see The Goodies! What was he wearing? A Striborg t-shirt and corpsepaint. Yep, it’s the middle of the day in sunny Melbourne, and the guy was stalking the streets of the city donning a t-shirt of his own band and a full face of corpsepaint. If it’s true, I tip my hat.

Wanna buy some Striborg? Type in the name to Google (or Yahoo or whatever) and check the entries: for a backwoods-dwelling guy from the forests of Tasmania, he really gets his music out there. Uh, like those ad guys say, Watch This Space.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Bring me the head of a morally consistent human being and I’ll bring you the head of a unicorn. They don’t exist. That’s my rationalization for buying a small army of bootleg CDs and DVDs whilst in Vietnam. Yep, that’s right, despite my constant caterwauling on the evils of burning and file sharing, I joined the gang whilst overseas and wrote off whatever credibility I may have to the devil. So be it. When they’re staring you right in the face with an 80-cent price tag brandished on their cover, sometimes you just gotta throw your high ideals out the window and buy an armload of bootlegged pleasure. And that I surely did.

I’m going to give a briefer-than-brief rundown on the CDs I purchased, and you can take it from there. Remember: with a price tag that low, sometimes your standards are similarly lowered. In fact, you may just find your taste being stomped into the ground as you find yourself buying CDs you’d otherwise never give the time of day to. Some bum on the street recommends a disc? Well, I’ll give it a shot…

DINOSAUR JR. – You’re Living All Over Me
Used to own this on LP; for some reason I sold it. Now it’s back. If you buy but one Dino Jr. CD this lifetime… well, come to think of it, this is probably the only Dinosaur album you’ll ever need anyway.

THE BAND – s/t
Have this on LP as well, so why the CD? Couldn’t get that damn “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” song outta my head the whole time I was away. Blame it on The Last Waltz.

THE KINKS – The EP Collection
Again, I think I’ve got it all anyway, but it’s a nice thing to play in the car.

Crushing lo-fi doom from the Earache stable, ca. mid/late ‘90s. I was working for Shock at the time this came out and they licensed it locally. It sold absolutely nothing. My prediction: as the “doom” scene becomes more of a commercial entity, these guys will be seen as a great, “lost” cult band who coulda been champions but were doomed to failure, no pun intended. Great disc.

SONIC YOUTH – Experimental Jet Set, Thrash and No Star
I told a friend of mine when I got back of this purchase and he simply sighed deeply, paused, then proclaimed Sonic Youth’s post-Daydream Nation discography as the most pathetic collection of useless, go-nowhere nonsense in the history of rock music. He may have a point there. SY stopped pushing the buttons some time 15-odd years back, that is true. But there’s still some treasures there. Avant-garde this will never be. It wouldn’t challenge a monkey. BUT… it’s still pretty OK.

GRATEFUL DEAD – Dick’s Picks Volume 5 2CD
This is really a 3-CD set, and I got shortchanged! I want my 80 cents back! I have no idea what era this is from, but the ‘Dead are in great form and you’d probably hate it anyway.

METALLICA – Kill ‘Em All
Their first album, from ’83. Standard Motorhead-ish punk/metal thrash. This is OK, but if I’m going to listen to Metallica, I actually prefer the metal-muso wank and prog-ish theatrics of Ride The Lightning and Master of Puppets.

CHARLES MINGUS – Blues & Roots
Mingus and crew from ’59. Next!

LITTLE ROY & FRIENDS – Packin’ House
Archival dub from the Pressure Sounds crew. The CD’s a bad burn, and hence this is pretty unlistenable. It’s probably pretty ace, but who am I to make a call when this mostly sounds like a wall of static?

ISAAC HAYES – Hot Buttered Soul
His masterpiece, an epic soul opera. No, really

BRUTAL TRUTH – Extreme Conditions Demand An Extreme Response
Politico grind/death nonsense from a gang of pothead deadbeats who keep it short, sweet, ridiculously fast and pretty damn fun. Saw these guys in ’97 and didn’t know whether to laugh or dance. Gotta admit, I enjoy this a whole lot more than I probably should.

LEE PERRY – Scratch & Company/Blackboard Jungle Dub
Lee Perry does proto-grunge from the ‘70s. I jest. No, seriously, they’re dub-reggae albums, believe it or not. Two of his better discs, so the critics say, though I doubt I really need more Perry and co. in my collection.

All their hits on one disc? What the fuck, add it to the pile…

TALK TALK – Spirit Of Eden
When I was 12, I’d watch Donnie Sutherland’s Sounds program on a Saturday morning. I recall that day in 1984 when I first saw Talk Talk’s “This Is My Life”. I thought it was the worst thing I’d ever heard. Now, here I am 20 years later singing the praises of their notoriously “difficult” later works. Truth be told, this is a really good album and if the sounds of MilesIn A Silent Way or Bob Wyatt’s Rock Bottom float yer boat, then you’d better get on the Talk Talk bandwagon, post haste!

AC/DC – Powerage; Back In Black
is primo no-brains-allowed shitrock from their peak period; Back In Black I’ve written about elsewhere, already have on vinyl, but since my LP copy plays like a piece of shit and jumps on the crucial opening riff to the title track, I thought I’d make the 80-cent investment on a CD version for those long & lonely work trips in the car.

Curtis’ 3rd solo studio album, and no slouch on the first two.

MILES DAVIS – Panthalassa
Cheesedick studio “whiz” Bill Laswell “reinterprets” the works of prime-era electric Miles. I used to listen to this a lot when it came out and I was working in a record store, but never dug it enough to bother with a purchase. For the Right Price, it’s worth a gamble, but I say stick w/ the originals.

Ethiopiques Volume 1; Ethiopiques Volume 3
My introduction to this highly-touted series. Uuuhhh… give me more time to digest these before I give the final verdict. At this early stage they’re sounding mighty good, like a North African/Arabic take on ‘70s funk and free jazz.

TOM WAITS – Real Gone
His studio effort from last year, featuring (gasp!) apparently no piano. Or something like that. With a fairly steady funk/trip-hop-ish backbeat, this is kinda uneventful but not without its charms. If you like Waits, that is.

Zappa’s last, great gasp before he crawled up his own backside for a lifetime. Psychedelic jazz-rock w/out the related fusionoid meandering which would destroy his music for two decades, this is a fine bong-hit platter I can listen to and not feel too embarrassed about. “Willie The Pimp”, with Beefheart on guest vocals, is the obvious standout, a rough ‘n’ ready rocker quite out of place w/ the rest of the album.

SERGE GAINSBOURG – Couleur Café; Histoire de Melody Nelson
Gainsbourg has quite a following in ‘Nam, which I guess is due to the French influence still felt throughout its streets, architecture, food and elsewhere, so naturally I had to indulge myself in his (apparently) strongest output. The former you can sink a latte to, though the latter is the clincher. Which means you should start there (or Comic Strip… I care).

MASSIVE ATTACK – Blue Lines; Mezzanine
Now let me explain… When these came out in the ‘90s, I could not have given one half of a fuck for them if my life had depended on it. I used to openly mock workmates who loved them, claiming the likes of Massive Attack to be a gang of artistically shallow, worthless idiots who made music precisely for a similarly-minded clientele who probably thought sipping lattes in streetside cafes should be deemed a national sport. Then, a couple of months ago, an old friend of mine who has always shared somewhat of a similar musical outlook as myself, said he’d “discovered” these very albums and, you know what, they ain’t so bad after all. After that glowing recommendation, I made the $1.60 investment. And now the verdict? They’re OK. I realize now I’ve actually heard both of these albums probably a dozen times before, swimming in the back of my mind in various workplaces, so they’re really not so foreign to me. I’ll admit there’s some nice tunes here which demand little from the listener (which can be a good thing, sometimes), though in all honesty I doubt I’ll be listening to these too often, if at all. I certainly don’t hate them, but they hold little of interest for me.

FELA KUTIV.I.P/Authority Stealing; Zombie; Yellow Fever/Na Poi; Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense; Coffin For Head Of State; Monkey Banana/Excuse O; J.J.D./Unnecessary Begging; He Miss Road
That’s a dozen Fela albums all in one hit. Come back to me in two years time and I’ll tell you all about them. Every single one of them.

Live 1964 w/ Euro avant titan Misha Mengelberg on piano. You know what? I discovered when I arrived home that I actually already own this. That’s a sign that you’ve got either a really bad memory or just too much music cluttering up your life.

THE BYRDS – Ballad Of Easy Rider
The last great Byrds album. A little so-so in places, though there’s some killers here, including the title track (even though I do prefer the Fairport Convention version).

JOANNA NEWSOM – The Milk-Eyed Mender
You read that right: you can even get pirated Joanna Newsom CDs in South-East Asia. Where’s Dan Koretsky’s phone number?! Call the lawyers! Everyone else has reviewed this before me, so I feel little need to say much. “Sprout and the Bean” is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard in recent years, and there’s a few other top-shelf numbers on display here, though I find the minimalist arrangements a bit of a slog in the long haul. Still, I won’t piss on Joanna’s parade of admirers: this is a pretty excellent debut.

VAN MORRISONVeedon Fleece; Moondance; Saint Dominic’s Preview
No other CD left a greater impression on me in ‘Nam (there was a DVD/CD player in our hotel in Hanoi, by the way) than Morrison’s Veedon Fleece. It is truly one of the great unsung masterpieces, and in my mind beats his highly-touted Astral Weeks for dead. Maudlin ballads of the saddest nature litter its landscape, it’s depressing enough to bring a man to tears, though the level of songwriting is at a human pinnacle throughout. I say that with a straight face. Play it at your next fondu party and see the looks you get. The other two concentrate on Van’s more R & B ouvre and are no duds themselves. Van? He’s pretty OK. Ignore the last 30 years of coma-inducing tuneage and head straight for the crucial 1968-’74 output.

ROXY MUSIC – The Best Of Roxy Music
First night in Saigon we head straight for a French-style café/bar/nightclub and sit around sipping cheap cocktails. The place is completely dead (as, it seems, just about every place in the whole country is, 7 nights a week), with only the crooning vocals of Bryan Ferry on “More Than This” to keep us company. I have an instant flashback: Austin, Texas, 1999. My good buddy Dixon, whom I was staying with, played this song endlessly on his car stereo. I figure it’s an omen and swear to buy it the next day. Sure, it’s lightweight enough to sound like it could’ve been lifted off an old Spandeu Ballet LP, though there’s little denying its subtle charms and pseudo-sophistication. The rest? An 85% strike rate, a few points deducted for the meandering numbers culled from dull late-‘70s LPs.

JIMI HENDRIX – Band of Gypsys; BBC Sessions 2CD
Two Hendrix platters I’ve put off from buying for nigh on a decade, perhaps only due to laziness and monetary reasons. Band Of Gypsys is much better than expected; maybe my expectations were just too low, given I’d always heard this to be Hendrix’s “return to the blues” (Zzzzz…), though the seemingly aimless jamming holds up tight enough to hold interest throughout. A winner! BBC Sessions is exactly that. A hit-and-miss affair with some excellent, manic renditions of his hits and a few forgettable covers (Cream, Beatles, Elvis, etc.) he ripped out when I can only assume he was out of his mind on something.

MAYHEM – Grand Declaration Of War
By-the-numbers Black Metal from a band more renowned for the grisly deaths of its various members than its capability to create any kind of interesting music.

JOHN ZORN – Filmworks 1986-90
Well, you probably know what you’re in for, and you’re gonna love it or hate it…

The following is a list of the $2.50 bootlegs I bought. I was actually under the impression these were totally legit releases, since they look exactly like the real thing (the above, 80-cent versions come in plastic slips with high-quality [and occasionally very low-quality] colour photocopied covers and could never be mistaken for anything but pirated copies). These $2.50 items even have their own catalogue numbers! I figured they were Japanese or Malaysian or Thai or… Well, of course I’ve since learned, after discussing this with a friend who travels throughout Asia a few times a year, that these are in fact “top shelf” (his words) pirate copies from Malaysia. Geez, everything is so damn cheap in ‘Nam, how was I supposed to know? I figured people paid 80 cents for bootlegs and $2.50 for the “real thing”.

MAYHEM – Chimera
Again, this doesn’t budge me an inch. Grunting, occasionally howling vocals, thousand-mile-an-hour drum beats, screeching guitars, songs of death and destruction and little else. I shouldn’t really expect any better from a genre as dumb as Black Metal, but I figured one of the “leading lights” of the scene would have more to offer than these guys.

EMPEROR – Equilibrium IX
It just gets worse… Oh man, late-period Emperor… this is awful. Clean-as-a-whistle production, thumping double-kick drums, operatic backing vocals, overbearing keyboards soaring throughout. This is not my idea of a good time, and definitely not my idea of what Black Metal should sound like. Gimme the inept, no-fi laugh-fest of Wrath Of The Tyrant any day of the week!

ENSLAVED – Beneath The Lights
This is much more like it. Enslaved belong to the little-known sub-genre of Black Metal known as “Viking Metal”. All one must do to belong to said genre is sing about Vikings, raping, pillaging, ancient Norse mythology and wear ridiculous outfits on stage (I can’t believe I passed on getting that Enslaved live DVD I saw). Once you’ve stopped laughing you can get around to listening to their music. Musically, at least, this is fantastic. Often referred to as “the Voivod of Black Metal” (by no less an authority than Aquarius records!), such a description fits them like a steel helmet with bull horns (ie. very well indeed). Mixing up the screaming and blast beats with a smorgasboard of smarty-pants riffs and tempo changes, spaced-out keyboards which sound pilfered from Space Ritual or Here Come The Warm Jets, and even a pinch of acoustic guitar and erm, flute (which I could’ve done without, though it works OK in the context of absurdity), Enslaved are like Darkthrone, October File-period Die Kreuzen, Tweez-era Slint and early Hawkwind all rolled into one. Ladies and gents, we have the ultimate Space-Rock/Post-Rock/Black Metal/Viking Metal genre-smashing release of the last 5 minutes!

BRUTAL TRUTH – Sounds Of The Animal Kingdom
More inane brutality from these smelly NYC men. Includes, believe it or not, a cover of Sun Ra’s “It’s After The End Of The World”. You ain’t experienced nothing ‘til you’ve heard those cookie-monster vocals grappling that chorus.

BATHORY – Jubileum Volume II
Don’t know why I bought this. It was just there, staring at me. Bathory are, along with the likes of Venom, considered by many to be a precursor to the whole Norwegian Black Metal scene of the ‘90s, and indeed share many musical similarities with their talentless British brethren (though Bathory is one guy – Quorthon – who hailed from Switzerland… or was that Sweden?). What I meant by that previous remark is that this, in the most part, is completely tuneless, lo-fi punk/rock/metal/noise with little to recommend outside of comedic/gimmick value. That’s not to say it’s worthless – it’s raw as hell and “rocks” at a very primitive level – though I hear little in the way of songs I can grab on to. A “Best Of”, by the way.

NEUROSIS – The Eye Of Every Storm
Their 2004 studio album, Neurosis seem to be dipping ever more into the quagmire of becoming a heavy metal post-rock band. I’m not sure it’s such a good place to be. This is not bad by any means, and I have actually listened to it a fair bit in recent days, though they’re quickly mutating into the most musically constipated band in show business. Like, fuck the 10-minute build-up, get to the point already! Anyway, if you’re looking for the missing link ‘twixt Master Of Reality and Spiderland, you might wanna start right here.

The 1989 Elektra/Nonesuch showcase, with guest Eye Yamatsuka on vocals. Not quite as manic or revelatory as the follow-up LP released a year later, but quite a bowel-clearer in its own right.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Two releases I recently received in the mail which will very likely be in my top 10 for 2005: Velende by Italy’s Jennifer Gentle and Trunk Lunker by Milwaukee’s Aluminium Knot Eye.

JG I have a sentimental attachment to (for obvious reasons… and if said reasons are not obvious to you, then I’m not doing the plug just now). A duo w/ a bevy of hangers-on who fill out their sound in a live setting (touring the US soon, too, apparently), JG are haunted by the ghosts of Syd and Roky and not afraid to show it. Lush psychedelic pop with melodies which ache and soar, friends of mine compare them to Olivia Tremor Control and their ilk, though since I’ve never heard any of that ilk, I’ll stick to the obvious comparisons thrown around in the press kit, since they’re right on the money: the songwriting of Roky and Syd w/ the production techniques of a young (did he ever get old?) Joe Meek. Way more accessible than previous efforts, this time the gamble pays off.

I actually used to write to AKE a few years back. They contacted me after reading an article I wrote on the scene in Milwaukee for Perfect Sound Forever, we wrote back and forth, they promised a cassette or two and then the correspondence dropped off. Such is life. They had/have a swell web site with a list of “influences” I took to meaning only one thing: a roving band of record collectors. Joe Carducci held the belief that such people should not form bands (or at least not be allowed on SST). He held a staunch policy that such parasitic creatures do not make worthy music. Despite my initial trepidation that AKE would be an audio garbage dump of obviously hip influences driven through a blender and spat out like a name-dropping mess, such fears were for naught. This is a really fine album. Imagine, if you will, a no-fi concoction which brings together the sounds of early Mike Rep and the Quotas, Vertical Slit, early Cramps, Crime, Chrome and the Screamers and you’ll be nearly hitting the region known as Aluminium Knot Eye. Better still, they never sound like they’re trying too hard. I didn’t think “they” made rock albums as good as this anymore, and I fear that their presence on the relatively low-profile Trickknee label means this will be passed on by far more people than it should. Had it gotten the In The Red stamp of approval (literally, that is: though I bet Mr. Hardy digs this, too), you’d be hearing way more about it. Maybe you’ll be hearing a lot more about this anyway. It really is a good ‘un.