Sunday, September 30, 2012

Everybody dance the dinosaur

Coyote Clean Up / DenMother - Doubledamage / T-Rex
I Had An Accident Records

Coyote Clean Up urges you to dance; DenMother urges you to dinosaur.

Coyote Clean Up's "Doubledamage," the A side to this split cassette single, features hip-agitating beats and breathy female vocals and twisty, warped synthesizers, and this little, drop-of-liquid-sounding percussive bit that calls to mind the intro to A Guy Called Gerald's acid house anthem "Voodoo Ray," while simultaneously reminding me of that popping sound you make with your finger and your mouth. Two minutes in, I surrendered myself completely.

DenMother's "T-Rex," the B side, is driven by two-ton, pummeling beats. It's like standing 25 yards away from a working pile pounder. The synthesizer is played one drawn-out note at a time creating a sense of perpetual tension. The vocals are muddled and laden with echo, and since your ear can only pick out certain words and phrases (i.e., "Make you go crazy") it sounds like someone talking as they drift in and out of consciousness. The song just plods along—you know, like a Tyrannosaurus rex, which I imagine was DenMother's intent.

Perpetually in transit

Not the Wind, Not the Flag - Music Gallery
Already Dead Tapes #37

Three monks sat arguing about a flag. The first said, "The flag is moving." The second said, "The wind is moving." And the third said, "The wind is not moving. The flag is not moving. The mind is moving."

Lately, my mind is perpetually in transit. Either I'm just getting back from an expedition or just about to leave. I am hopelessly trapped in a sempiternal cycle of departing from the past and arriving in the future. When I close my eyes, I see wigwags and whistling trains.

I rub my temples quite a bit, and have discovered that it's better to do so in the shower than at the dinner table because in the shower no one asks, "What's wrong?" When Music Gallery—by Toronto's Not the Wind, Not the Flag —started spinning the other night, and the xylophones and chimes played their beatific notes, and my heartbeat aligned itself with the metronome-sounding tick-tick-tick in the background, and the 24-minute composition's formlessness became a velutinous quilt to wrap myself in, I realized I was no longer rubbing my temples and seeing trains. This was a good thing.

Friday, September 21, 2012


Various artists - We're Gonna Make It, Parts 1 & 2
MRC-003 and MRC-005

An interview with Jason Pierce first turned me onto Mississippi Records. Said Pierce, "You just think, where does it all come from? Why does it never end?" Mississippi is a reissue label—as I'm sure you gleaned from Pierce's words—that specializes in American blues, country, and gospel, as well as world music (always a fun term).

Some people aren't particularly fond of Mississippi Records, citing copyright infringement or musicians not pocketing royalties they rightfully deserve or—and this may be the most egregious sin of all—a total dearth of liner notes. Personally, I'm persuaded by the argument that goes like this: "None of this material is particularly easy to find on a 12-inch LP or particularly cheap, and since I am fond of 12-inch LPs, I want to buy this material on a 12-inch LP, but also because a 12-inch LP is the most similar format to the one this music was originally released on." There are other arguments, of course: "This is just a case of reissuing what is already public domain material"; "The label sets aside money should any lineal descendants come sniffing for royalties"; "This type of obscure blues or gospel isn't profitable at all—not today, not when it was reissued during the 1960s on labels like Yazoo and Herwin, and with a few exceptions (Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Leroy Carr, Lonnie Johnson, etc.), not when it was first released in the '20s and '30s."

Whatever. Aside from pressing vinyl, Mississippi Records has a tape series that compiles shit from a variety of genres: R&B, folk, gospel, doo-wop, ska, etc. Nobody makes mix tapes anymore, which is okay because you can always get your mix fix with SoundCloud and Spotify. But maybe you’re the type that buys wholesale into the idea that mix tapes trump digital playlists because mix tapes are compiled with so much more love and affection and contemplation and deliberation and STICKERS—LOOK! HE PUT STICKERS ON THE SLEEVE!—and because upon its completion, the creator will present the mix tape to the recipient in an intimate exchange that will cosmically link the two from that day forth until time's whimpering end.

So We're Gonna Make It, Parts 1 & 2 are mix tapes. Just imagine you told a friend that you wanted a soul mix tape that featured the following: a girl group-inspired break-up jingle (Bessie Banks, "Go Now"); a song that fetes the good guys (James & Bobby Purify, "You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down"); a Motown tribute that kicks dirt in your eye (The Ikettes, "Here's Your Heart"); infectious piffle (J.J. Jackson & the Jackals, "Ooh-Ma-Liddi"); a candidate for the first dance song at a wedding (The Mighty Hannibal, "We're Gonna Make It"); a from-the-gut slow-burner (Betty LaVette, "Let Me Down Easy"); a tune that conveys what it feels like to come down from a manic episode (Nina Simone, "Break Down & Let It All Out"); an example of how nature and women have it in for us (James Carr, "These Ain't Raindrops"); exuberant call-and-response vocals (Amos Milburn, "Gloria"); a how-to manual on properly expressing complex sentiments with simple language (Eddie Floyd, "I've Just Been Feeling Bad"); and a display of massive vocal emotion (Beverly Ann Gibson, "Love's Burnin' Fire").

Friday, September 14, 2012

Swagger juice

Fains - Fains
Scissor Tail #3

"The pristine, posthuman pop phuture we now inhabit." Welcome to it! Simon Reynolds wrote that somewhere in Generation Ecstasy. I was sifting through a drawer full of notes—notes of the sticky and loose leaf and cocktail napkin variety. I dipped my hand inside this enormous mass of paper and arbitrarily fished around like a contestant playing Three Strikes on "The Price is Right" and then pulled out a random note. One read, "The Renaissance Faire, mead, Dave Berman, and being hung over. What do all these things have in common? They all involve me and you." Another simply read "swagger juice." Another featured the above quote from Reynolds.

I considered his words as I listened to Fains' self-titled cassette. It's electronica concerned with both the phuture and phormer times, electronic music that winks at Kraftwerk or Aphex Twin or Kid A-era Radiohead, computerized heart-songs that sound disjointed just as much as they sound fully formed.

The electronic melodies are comprised of either three sustained notes played over and over ("Bent Julep") or notes that have no business being linked together in such a manner ("Barrel and Pin"); on some tracks, one melody serves as the backbone to a song, while on others, melodies are married to one another with no regard for how harmonious they sound. The synthesizers are fat and elasticy, while the percussion often borders on the chaotic. And there are strange noises lurking in the deepest crevices, shit that reminded me of the spastic squeal from when you dialed into the Internet or the glitchy buzz from when agents took control of the simulated body of a human wired into the Matrix, and something that sounded like a ferret making ferret noises under a blanket.

My favorite track is "Floating World," which has what sounds like a koto, as well as moaning synths and reversed guitar parts. At one point, all of this aural loveliness was quickly swallowed up by abrasive noise—a neat reminder of how we can destroy the lovely thing we have created in 1/10th the time it took us to create that lovely thing.

Friday, September 7, 2012

"You get what you deserve"

Nutrition Fun - The Legend
Unread #81

The Legend—from an artist I quite admire, Andy Berkley (Nutrition Fun)—is a neat, little box of wonderful contrasts. The intimacy is fixed, precise: Berkley's vocals occupy this hushed space between "library voice" and "normal conversation voice"; his strummed guitar barley agitates the needle on the VU meter; he clears his throat; on one track, you can hear a television playing in the background after the song has ended, which means Berkley is likely recording in his living room—or someone's living room. Contrasting that intimacy is all sorts of hiss and distortion and general lo-fi babble. And lyrics like, "Believe me friend / They're not missing you" or "And that's a wicked curse / You get what you deserve."

So Berkley is drawing you in for a hug, while simultaneously elbowing you out of the way. Or, to use an analogy that makes sense only to me, it's like hearing Berkley play two rooms away and moving to the room next to him for a better listen and then getting up again to go sit in the room he's actually playing in, only to realize he has also moved one room over. You get up again and he gets up again, and the whole God damn game continues.

This is the last Nutrition Fun release I could find listed on Unread's web site. Concerned, I emailed founder Christopher Fischer, asking if Berkley still records.

ryan - ha. well, he would say no, but since he is my roomate, and i force his ass to alot of the times...i guess the answer would be maybe...? we are working on a new split tape, though it may never see the light of day. christopher