Monday, June 28, 2010

PIVIXKI = Anthony Pateras + Max Kohane. That's piano and assorted keyboards meshing it up w/ some of the most frenetic percussion you've ever heard. Recommended to fans of Discordance Axis, Cecil Taylor, Iannis Xenakis and Naked City. Debut full-length CD, Gravissima, will be out on Lexicon Devil in early August.
FRED ANDERSON R.I.P. 1929-2010
LexDev is taking a break. Back soon...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

I'm posting this clip, "Teenage Riot" by SONIC YOUTH, because A) It remains a great song; B) I just saw it for the first time in a long time on a DVD compilation a friend gave me; and C) its array of micro-second clips featuring appearances by the likes of Harvey Pekar, D. Boon, Minor Threat, Tom Waits, Half Japanese, MC5, Pussy Galore, Birthday Party, Daniel Johnston, Joni Mitchell, Black Flag, Patti Smith, Sun Ra, Stooges, Mark E. Smith and many more (essentially a grab-bag of SY's influences)still makes it a hoot. Lighten up, enjoy!

















Tuesday, June 15, 2010

New York-based saxophonist Darius Jones made quite a splash last year w/ the release of his debut as bandleader, Man'ish Boy, on the AUM Fidelity imprint, a label which, along w/ Eremite, ranks as the finest avant-jazz imprint of the last 10-15 years. Upon first listen, and the subsequent half-dozen listens thereafter, it didn't make much of an impact w/ my psyche. Admittedly I was listening to it on a shitty little stereo placed in the corner of a fairly large and echo-laden warehouse, the effect being a kind of tin-like coldness which gave the disc no surge nor warmth, so when it received a 5-star rave review in The Weekend Australian, of all publications, I was a little stumped. Was I missing out on something special: the birth of The Next Coltrane? David S. Ware took that mantle nearly 20 years back, when he started making a serious dent w/ his quartet releases on the Silkheart label. So far as I'm concerned, he still owns it. It took for me to play a copy on my own shitty, cheap stereo at home for it to take effect. In the warmth of my own living room with nothing to bother me, it took hold. Man'ish Boy sees Darius in a trio format w/ Cooper-Moore playing the diddley-bo (a one-string bass of sorts) and Rakalam Bob Moses on percussion. The sound itself isn't too far removed from Ornette's trio recordings from the early '60s, or Coltrane just before he started gobbling LSD and heading for the stars. In other words, it possesses a sound of real classicism in the Blue Note/Impulse! sense of the word, and Cooper-Moore's bo-diddley, capable of emitting a low-end rumble along w/ funky plucking, gives the music a real momentum, like it's always on the move. I'm now convinced: Man'ish Boy is one of the finest American jazz albums of the last decade.

Perhaps even better is his debut recording w/ the NY free-jazz/avant-rock/No Wave quartet, Little Women entitled Throat, also on AUM Fidelity. W/ Jones and Travis Laplante on reeds, guitarist Andrew Smiley and drummer Jason Nazary, they explore an inspired, chaotic swell of rock/jazz not heard since the days when Rudolph Grey/Blue Humans were still spewing out releases (Grey is back, by the way). There are moments when the overload has me thinking of Peter Brotzmann's Machine Gun - an album I love, but, like Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music, one I also find near impossible to listen to more than 5 minutes of - though Little Women still have a basic rock'n'roll structure happening beneath the squawl. If I'm going to throw a few Z-grade rock-crit names around, I'd say it sounds like the missing link twixt the Blue Humans and God Is My Co-Pilot. There ya go, try that one on for size. Throat isn't the kinda platter I'll stick on in the car whilst roaming the hills on a pleasant Sunday afternoon w/ the family, though whilst in solitude when the brain craves music of action, it delivers the goods.

Check out the clip above: Darius Jones honking and skronking in a duo setting a la Interstellar Space. I expect big things from this man in the future.

Hot footage of the James Ulmer Trio live in Poland ca. 1983. Violinist Charles Burnham looks like he just left the gym!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Two different bands on two different continents somehow both managed to nail a sound down right at the tail end of the 1970s. So far as I know, they were barely aware of each other's existence at the time, though the musical similarities are startling. I guess one could say "Big deal" about such a fact: similarly good ideas (even bad ones!) often pop up at the same time from different corners of the globe, usually due to the need for, and execution thereof, said idea, to exist. To state the obvious, that bands in such isolated corners of the globe as the Electric Eels and the Saints could both be playing in the year 1975, completely oblivious to the existence of each other, is a beautiful thing. Both obviously recognised the need for their own primitive brand of sound to exist. Both Chrome and Cabaret Voltaire had a bit more media hoopla (relatively speaking) surrounding them in the late '70s than any u/ground outfit could in 1975, thanks to the press attention and network the punk explosion fostered, but they still managed to independently arrive at their peak sound with I can only assume was minimal awareness of each other. But this is all just context, and of little interest if the music isn't great...
Both bands pioneered a genre which would later be bastardised, watered down and eventually spewed out onto the masses as "industrial rock", and both arrived there through entirely different circumstances. CV's roots go all the way back to Sheffield, UK, ca. 1974. There's an excellent 3CD set on Mute which documents this period (actually, it's 1974-'76), when the trio were messing w/ tape loops and guitar feedback. Somewhat similar to Destroy All Monsters' recordings from the same period, they're a fascinating glimpse into mid '70s teen angst within the despressing landscape of Britain at the time. CV have always listed their main influences as '60s garage punk a la Nuggets (they cover the Seeds' "Pushin' Too Hard" on their debut), the Kraut drones of Stockhausen, Can and Cluster, dub reggae (the one key element to their sound which totally differentiates their sound from Chrome: it's a Brit thing, obviously) and the cyclical, cocaine-fuelled minimalist funk of James Brown and Miles Davis' records from the early '70s. Their influences fit them like a pink rubber glove: all those alleged signifiers of their sound are present. Much like Chrome's two best records, CV's share great similarities but also differ in subtle ways, making them a great set of discs to play within the context of each other. 1979's Mix-Up (both of these were originally released on Rough Trade and are now out via Mute) has a more dense sound, concentrating more on harsh electronics, shouted vocals and a Suicide-like claustrophobia; whilst The Voice Of America (1980) is far more spacious, with dub-like effects on the drums and an almost funky repetition (think Can ca. Future Days) which creates a totally zoned, blissed-out effect. Critics from the last 30 years have spoken widely on the greatness of CV's early albums, often using such catch-phrases as "Dystopian nightmare", "Ballardian concrete jungle" and "Burroughsian cut-up techniques". Such pseudo-literate nonsense cut it just fine w/ undergraduates at the time, though I'll refrain from such talk. The fact is, CV managed to make two utterly excellent disks which perfectly married the electronic avant-garde and raw, primal, teen rock 'n' roll sensibilities. They never quite got there again, later devolving into a boring techno band in the latter half of the '80s, before splitting off into solo projects such as the dub-heavy Sandoz and Chris Watson's environmental/ambient recordings (both of which are pretty good), though never make the foolish mistake I did for many a year: figuring Cabaret Voltaire to be a bunch of wet-blanket dancefloor wannabes caught in the shadow of Throbbing Gristle. Both Mix-Up and The Voice Of America prove them to be absolutely one of the finest Brit combos of their time.
When Touch and Go finally issued Chrome's 1978/'79 masterpieces, Alien Soundtracks and Half Machine Lip Moves, onto vinyl and CD in 1990, it was like the heavens had opened. A band I'd only heard about for years - indeed, I owned a couple of Helios Creed LPs on Subterranean and AmRep - yet couldn't hope to find for less than collector prices, had been made available again. I bought the CD w/ both albums intact and proceeded to flog said albums into the dirt for the next half decade. There were few other artists - maybe Die Kreuzen, Half Japanese and MX-80 Sound - whom I played more often during the period 1990-1995 than Chrome. When it came time to writing some blowhard piece in Year Zero zine in 1995 documenting my Top 10 Desert Island Discs, you can bet that Chrome was right in there.
The band - essentially Damon Edge (now deceased) and Helios Creed - already recorded and released an album in 1976 (sans Creed) called The Visitation, a record not usually given high props by the cognescenti. It's often viewed as a failed experiment by the band, or at least one which is still too embryonic in approach, too caught up in '70s cosmic/prog rock w/out the necessary punk oomph of the following two albums. I finally got to hear the thing a while ago (I did used to see it on LP around the traps 20 years back, but was always scared of purchasing it, given its rep and my reluctance to spoil my worshipping of all things Chrome), and if you're curious, go right here and give it a try. Whilst it doesn't scale the peaks of their greatest works, it's by no means a dud: what it does sound like is something approximating Fripp and Eno (on guitars and vocals, respectively) mixing it up w/ the high-energy/lo-fidelity scunge of '73/'74-era Stooges and the psychedelic hysterics of late '60s San Fran ballroom guitar masturbators (think Quicksilver, maybe even a little early Santana). With the arrival of guitar extraordinare Creed on the scene, the band certainly took on a whole new, other-worldly form. Part Philip K. Dick, part Stooges-derived garage band and part Hendrix guitar-squawl overload, the band was an incredible combination of awesome riffs - actual rock'n'roll songs - and barely-together avant-garde electronics, a sound spliced and diced with a thousand different ingredients and kitchen-sink instrumentation masterfully pieced together as a whole. As w/ CV, both albums are cut from the same cloth, with the latter album finding the band some more space amidst the clutter. There was certainly no other band in America doing what they were doing; the likes of the Residents and Suicide shared some basic elements - a total deconstruction of rock music being one - but Chrome don't really sound anything like Suicide or the Residents either. The band went on to record a series of albums up to 1982, peaking again w/ Third From The Sun, a disc which is more pure and elemental riff-rock than its predecessors, though the entity known as "Chrome" was merely a trademark for Damon Edge for much of the 1980s, and as with the similar story of John Lydon and PiL, the results were about as impressive (ie. - they weren't). As with Cabaret Voltaire, you only really need the two studio albums mentioned: everything else is superfluous, though not with its rewards, even if slight in some cases.
Speaking of superfluous, most of that which I discuss in this blog is exactly that: you don't need it. Not the case here: these four records are mandatory. I haven't been shooting my mouth off here for over six goddamn years for no reason: there's no excuses!

Saturday, June 05, 2010

feedtime - s/t LP (Aberrant/1985)
I was at the local supermarket last week on a Saturday afternoon, picking up various sundry items, when I turned the corner of an aisle and nearly walked smack-bang into Kim Salmon. He lives in the area and I occasionally see him around. I don't know him personally; I've met him once or twice - he's friends of various friends - though I'd be lying if I said we were buddies. I happened to be wearing an old New York Dolls t-shirt, an all-time favourite band of his, and he shot me a look and a grimace as if to say, I know that you know who I am, and I similarly shot him back a look as if to say, I know that you know that I know who you are. We both gave a slight nod of half-arsed recognition and parted ways. There may be mega-fans in certain parts of Europe and the USA who would be shocked by the mundane daily existence of such a "music legend", though such is life for cult celebrityhood. I also hear that Mark Arm works in the Sub Pop warehouse, taking care of goods in/out.
So anyway, the point, if there is any, is that the incident in question actually had me pulling out a couple of Scientists records for a spin later that evening. The Scientists then led me onto feedtime, since an inane and fairly fruitless 'net search on the Scientists soon had me checking out some old Mark Arm interview, in which he hailed both the Scientists and feedtime as a major influence on his musical trajectory, and noted, probably more than a little tongue-in-cheek but not w/out a tone of seriousness, that both bands, despite little if any renown in the mainstream music world, played a not insignificant role in the development of the music some know as "grunge". None of this should be news to you, and it's probably not even interesting enough to bother printing, but it does at least give you a roundabout way of understanding why I decided to play this very LP, feedtime's debut and one which made a major dent in the craniums of various influential music types in the US of A. If I recall correctly and aren't simply inventing a false memory, I'm quite sure that Byron Coley rated this as one of the top 10 rock albums of all time back in the day. That's a big deal.
I first heard the album when I was 13 or 14: my older brother bought a copy after reading about them in B-Side (a place where possibly 90% of people first heard of them); in fact it was the original version on feedtime Records (the Aberrant version is essentially a reissue). Obsessed with X at the time, feedtime were a natural progression. That was his bag. I dug feedtime and X quite a bit, too, but I left the obsession for him. I bought a copy of the LP 5 years later when I was at Uni and it was still relatively "available" and in print, and it remains a record pulled out on an 18-monthly/biannual occasion when it's warranted. The band went on to release three more albums, all of which were licensed to Rough Trade/US, gaining themselves a cult following as the late '80s "pigfuck" (AKA Killdozer, Tad, Drunks With Guns, Cows etc.) scene made a ripple, and then they called it quits. feedtime were no ordinary post-punk band. From what I can gather, they were barely aware of such a genre, had little to no interest in contemporary music and would rather spend their days fixing old motorcycles and spinning Bukka White platters. I'd be willing to bet they'd played a few early P.i.L records in their day, but that's it. They got back together again in the mid '90s and released the Billy LP on Black Hole/AmRep, and it was as good as you could hope a "reunion" album to be (ie. - it was actually really good). At the time they played one show in Melbourne at the Punters Club and my brother and I eagerly went, danced our asses off, got drunk as hell and chewed the band members' ears off after the show. They were polite, genuinely interested that a couple of prize suburbanite dweebs as us had spent our high school years knee-deep in their back catalogue, and keen to get the band happening again. The latter never happened; I've heard some nasty rumours as to why the band called it quits yet again, though the stories are so remarkable that I suspect they may be total BS, so I won't repeat them here.
The band then seemed lost to the ages, and by the late '90s feedtime were about as fashionable as a King Snake Roost. Australian '80s underground rock - even the good stuff - wasn't worth a dime, or at least from my secondhand experiences in the day. I even tried selling my Bloodloss/feedtime/KSR records in '99, when I was in the midst of a serious cull as I planned some travelling, and in hindsight I'm glad such records were considered so worthless at the time, otherwise I would've made the majorly stupid move of getting rid of the things. And at some point in the future, I undoubtedly would've bought them all back again. My buddy Rich at Dropkick/Aarght! had the album masters for a few years, procured from Aberrant head and nice guy (and professional comedian/joke-writer!) Bruce Griffiths, and plans were underway for a feedtime box set to be released approx. half a decade ago. That never happened (Rich had his reasons), and I've since heard that Sub Pop could be doing it some time in the near future. So... it's 2010 and feedtime is spinning on the stereo.
They're still not an easy listen. I see that Allmusic compares them to Flipper, Big Black and the Melvins. I'll vouch for the former (though feedtime are no "anti-"band by any stretch; no juvenile hostilities present here), but the latter two are a different breed altogether (Melvins rule, by the way). I understand the surface-level comparison, though: it's not laziness, it's just that there are/were few bands whom you could compare to feedtime. Nominally, they slotted in w/ various post-HC noise-rock types - everything from Big Black to the Swans to Scratch Acid - but it was the band's perceived alienation from any kind of contemporary music scene, their reluctance to analyse their own music and their unique hybrid of sounds, a sound caught somewhere in the middle of 1930s Delta/1950s electric blues, the Stooges, the bass-heavy rumbling of X (a similar outfit w/ few precedents) and the arty minimalism of Wire and P.i.L., that made them such a unique and attractive proposition. Their records, in hindsight, had the cajones to at least back up the bulk of the hype. feedtime rocked. They didn't give you many hooks to hang yer hat on, but the overall pummel was what worked, leaving absolutely no concessions for any kind of hope in a wider, pop marketplace. Rick's guitar tone is murky, dense and almost oppressive; Al's bass rumbles on notes low enough to move your belly; Tom's drums rarely stray from a simple yet effective polka beat; and Rick's vocals bark out simple, folksy tales of riding down the highway and love gone sour. I don't play feedtime all that often because they're really not a band you can flog at any time of the day. You really have to be in the mood, but when the time is right, they're most definitely a band worth the bother.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Time has run away from me of late, so there's been little time for meat 'n' potatoes on this here blog. However, if you're looking to kill the next 10-15 minutes of your life in a rather more enriching manner, you could do much worse than read this excellent BYRON COLEY interview from the latest issue of Perfect Sound Forever. Byron has long been one of my favourite writers (22 years and counting!), and I'd rank him up there w/ the Holy Trio, alongside Joe Carducci and Jon Savage. He's always kept up w/ the best sounds around, from his beginnings in the punk/No Wave scene in New York right on through to the original hardcore explosion, the post-HC fall-out, most notably in Forced Exposure, all derivations thereof. My favourite examples of his writings are odd ones, and you've either seen them before, or can likely track them down on the 'net somewhere (I'm too lazy to look, so you can do some homework of your own there): they're the (mainly) satirical yet highly informative "footnotes" he penned for the Chris Knox interview in the last issue of Forced Exposure mag from 1993, and similarly the ones he wrote for the Dredd Foole piece in a mid/late '90s issue of New Zealand avant-boffin bible, Opprobrium. He can wax lyrical on everything from the careers of Elton John and Can to the works of Tolkein and history of the bellbottoms, proving at least to me that he could write more than a just good record review. I possibly couldn't say the same about the great-yet-over-rated Lester Bangs (in a debate - well, not much of a debate as such; more of a backslapping session as we both similarly agreed on the basic point - w/ a friend last week on the writing career of Bangs, I noted that my one great problem lay with the fact that the guy waited a decade for something like "punk rock" to happen - a scene full of young, angry kids making high-energy garage-rock to the disgust of squares worldwide, yet it's always appeared to me that the moment punk hit [and I mean the Ramones, Pistols etc., not the-then "failed" careers of the Stooges, VU, 'Dolls et al], suddenly the quality of his writing went down the toilet. He turned into a drunken jerk who could stink up Manhattan loft parties in a heartbeat w/ his boorish, booze-fuelled antics, in the meantime penning unending drivel on the Clash, seemingly ignoring a lot of the far superior acts of the day. And as for his coverage of the burgeoning HC movement, he may as well've been dead by the time that hit town anyway. But not to get too rough on the guy, as I remain a fan of his earlier works, and for me his writing tears strips off Richard Meltzer (has anyone else out there found The Aesthetics Of Rock to be a joyless chore to read?). I wish Jason Gross had asked Coley for his thoughts on the "grunge"/major label phenomenon of the early '90s - for no other reason than I'd like to see what his take on it was, though this one hits all the major bases. Funny to see that Coley still lists Big Black as one of his favourites; now there's a band whose records have aged about as well as last year's milk...