Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Daniel Hipolito-Eva Kelly-Bill Shute-Fascination; Kendra Steiner Editions #238, 2012

Bill Shute is pretty clearly one of the good guys. Along with raising a family, working a job, and being very approachable (friend him on Facebook and ask him about Austin, TX's experimental music scene!), he's been putting out limited edition CD-rs by fascinating bands/musicians for some time now. His method is DIY in the best sense: limited runs, published within his means, the love for the art showing in his attention to detail. Kendra Steiner Editions are the kind of releases that Disaster Amnesiac really does love the most. Art for Art's sake, produced by people who genuinely care about the product, and their real involvement with it.
It seems important to remember that Kendra Steiner Editions, in addition to being a wellspring for groovy sounds for many other artists, is also one of Bill's primary outlets for his own work, in the field of poetry. Within a recent package from San Antonio's best label to me, Bill included a copy of Fascination (KSE #238).
Recorded in 2012 at Salvage Vanguard Theater in Austin, TX, Fascination features Bill's recitation of what I assume is the poem of the same name. In his sonorous baritone, Shute gives his lament of the "new normal", all the while describing obscure corners of the world in which that is happening. Loners on trains, the track, Wal-Mart type scenes, weird neighbors are all mentioned. One fascinating aspect of the disc is the slow pace in which he reads the poem; he stretches it out over time. It strikes Disaster Amnesiac that, seeing as Shute is a poet, and words do matter to him as such, his pacing is very deliberate. I am sure that he wants their intended effect to sink in to the listeners' consciousness. The subject of the poem is admonished to become more water-like, and the final resignation seems to point to that willful action.
Behind Shute, Daniel Hipolito and Eva Kelly make deep sea sounds with their tapes, electronics, and guitar. Their soundtrack to the poem is never intrusive, instead it is an aural backdrop, as Shute's words rise, fall, appear, and disappear within its envelope. Matching the feel of Bill's spoken recitation, their sounds are quietly intense.
Clocking in at a brisk 21 minutes or so, Fascination is worth the time spent, for poetry or music or noise fans. Send some support Bill's way! He's earned it, and, more importantly, his work merits it.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Monitor-s/t; World Imitation, 1980; Reissue via Superior Viaduct

Disaster Amnesiac has been digging the Monitor debut for many years, thanks to Joe Carducci's inclusion of many of their graphics within Rock and the Pop Narcotic and Mutant Sound's upload in 2007 or so. Despite my absolute love of this album, I have always been hesitant to give it the description and enthusiasm that I've desired to lavish upon it. Superior Viaduct's boss reissue/remaster has sparked my enthusiasm for the task.
Monitor's lone LP is so rich in ideas, so right on so many levels, Disaster Amnesiac feels compelled to go track by delicious track.

We Get Messages-opening with ominous Farfisa strains from Steve Thomsen, and then picked up beautifully by Keith Mitchell's tribal/junk shop drumming, this tune has always felt to me like it's Monitor's calling card. Disaster Amnesiac is continually blown away by its mysterious, psychedelic vibe. Dig on Laurie O'Connell's stellar bass moves and Micheael Uhlenkott's piercing guitar sounds as they melt your perceptions. Thrill at their call and response vocals as they state their case. It makes me think of some coven or tribe, singing out their story, proudly declaring, "we exist!" And how.

Mokele-Mbembe-featuring the most ancient of musical instruments, voices and percussion, Monitor conjure up a just plain gorgeous track here. It is similarly imbued with the tribal vibes of its preceding track, but the beautiful harmonizing of the band gives it an altogether different feel. Like a summer Matsuri ceremony in Japan, the clacking percussive interplay is filled with feelings of sublime human unity. Wonderful.

In Terrae Interium-the album's first really heavy turn, in which the Monitor goes underground, seemingly giving birth to the entire Death Rock genre, at least its L.A. area sound. Mitchell's sparse, minimal drumming is very effective as he moves the tune by holding back, as are the chanted ghost voices and whirling Micromoog runs and spare chords from the guitar and bass. Do the Spooky Dance here, but remember that Death is responsible for itself.

Herb Lane Theme-Disaster Amnesiac often imagines this song as being the soundtrack to some strange puppet show, presented by the visual wing of World Imitation. After the heaviness of its predecessor, Herb Lane rolls happy-go-lucky, a welcome respite from the musings on mortality of Interium. The group's playing sounds like the Magic Band circa 1970, with Van Vliet having left the room for a few minutes, leaving them to play his skewed rhythms at their own, slightly more relaxed pace, and happier for it. Great turnaround at the end, here, too. Let's have a toast to Herb Lane, whoever he was.

Amphibious-in which Monitor give Devo a run for supremacy in the Science Rock genre, but only after an an intro that features delicate acoustic guitar strumming, big Rock chords, and great cymbal hits. The meat of the tune has a twisted carnival sound, with more groovy Farfisa. O'Connell sounds like she's having a blast intoning the evolutionary turns of some creature. The middle freak out parts belies Free Jazz and Musique Concrete influences before landing our amphibian on the shore of.......

Pavilion-driven by a great mid-1970's style Kraut synth, this song is perhaps another of the band's tribal chants. The clinking tambourine and percussion from Mitchell remind this listener of Hare Krishnas convening in some suburban strip mall, while Laurie's ode to joy gives rise to images of the coven evoked in Messages. Great, by turns Western and Arabic sounding guitar from Uhlenkott rides throughout, funking up the motorik drive of the synths. Joy!

Phosphorea-this wispy, organ-led instrumental also features simple, possibly Surf-inspired guitar and chirping synths. It is evocative of early evenings in SoCal, the orange and pale blue sunsets, the dusty smog and fog of the beaches, the dry heat of the afternoon commute. Yes, its brief duration does open up Disaster Amnesiac's nostalgic poet side.

Hair-is this the first and only example of a band giving another band one of their songs to document? If you read this, and are aware of another, please let me know! The Meat Puppets are the recipients of the honor, and they act accordingly, shredding this tune with a spastic beat that sounds like Hawkwind's drummer OD'd on Lemmy's speed. It's their most Hardcore statement, and, it being the Meat Puppets, is completely free of Hardcore cliche, just ripping energy and freak out power. I think that I hear a theremin in the background, but it could just be Curt's guitar feeding back. It's that kind of performance!

I Saw Dead Jim's Shade-what is one of the greatest LP's of the 1980's ends with this Burroughs-ian Science Fiction nightmare scenario, as Monitor return to their Death Rock side. Spooky Moog sounds are paired with O'Connell's burbling bass and more crunchy Scordatura guitar as the band muses on the final passing of some Jim. The man is giving a damn stately funeral procession,  as the drums keep up a steady tattoo and keys march in time. The vocals are particularly disturbed, here. What they saw clearly got to them.

....but wait, there's MORE!!!

Superior Viaduct, in keeping with the very high standards of completeness that are proving so satisfying to their customers (do cop the California Babylon CD/DVD for more proof of that), have also included the Beak/Pet Wedding 7" and one track from an LAFMS comp, Darker Scratcher, Guardian.

Utilizing an insistent jackhammer synth/drum beat, Beak has the group possibly driving away an unwanted guest. The song always gives me visions of some Tahitian ritual, the group members becoming big Islanders in my mind. Disaster Amnesiac seems to recall photos of the performance to which Pet Wedding was the soundtrack. I love the way Laurie intones, "kiss the bride/now DANCE!" to the  animal groom. The tune spirals into a Free break down, similar to the one in Amphibious on the LP, before winding down the nuptials.Guardian, the most overtly Industrial track from a group with real ties to the initial burst of said genre, features strange backward tape sounds and jaunty organ grinding.

In 2009, Disaster Amnesiac found a copy of the Monitor LP at Plan 9 Records in Richmond, VA. I dutifully brought it back to California, sure that its grooves belonged more in its home state. At that time, I was still holding out hope for the World Imitation book release that had been hinted at (and has since seemed to have been shelved). Superior Viaduct has made it more possible for listeners in all states to at least dig on Monitor's Psych/Industrial/Ethno/Goth music grooves, if not their visual art, and for that, they should be happy. Do your ears and mind a favor, and find this release!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tank Battalion Attack/Roma Dune-Elegy of the Machine; Split release, Uma Rex Records cassette, 2012

Disaster Amnesiac found this cool split release in the best of ways.
See, there are these newspaper stands all along Market St. in SF, installed during the Willie Brown dot com boom of the late 1990's, and, needless to say, they are pretty much useless as regards their intended purpose, now that print mass media has begun its death spiral. Some very smart person, however, had the idea of letting independent media retailers use a few of them on select days in order to sell their diverse product. I happened to come across the one at 6th and Market, and, along with many other 'zines, cassettes, and vinyl releases, found Elegy of the Machine.
On the A side, Tank Battalion Attack feature a pretty driving approach, with a lot of electronic abstraction. The experimental electronics, generally moved by hard, pulsing beats, whoosh around the listener's skull, reminding Disaster Amnesiac of groups like Controlled Bleeding or others of the Dry Lungs ilk. According to the Umor Rex website, Tank Battalion Attack is a three man enterprise, and they definitely have the sound and feel of a collaboration. The audio elements mix in ways that only group work can achieve; the jagged edges and juxtapositions duke it out in a very band-like way.
A. Nigh Herdon's Roma Dune gets the B side. Aside from the track Grendel, its vibes are a bit more chilled, sounding more sparse and Hip Hop/Dub percussive. The beats, and their electronic accompaniments, are tighter and more tightly focused, respectively. Disaster Amnesiac could see this side being more dance friendly, but, really wouldn't know for certain as I am not a club person. That said, my perceptions certainly danced to its sounds.
Wrapped in a cool card stock cover adorned with abstract schematics and Latin phrases, Elegy of the Machine is a fun, fascinating example of what I assume to be current sounds in the Electronic Music Underground.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

X-TG-The Final Report; Industrial Records, 2012

Disaster Amnesiac was pretty shocked when Throbbing Gristle re-formed in the 2000’s, and fascinated to read about the subsequent falling out between Breyer P-Orridge and the rest of the group. Best not to dwell on the morbid details, though, and just listen to X-TG's The Final Report, submitted in tandem with a revision of Nico's Desert Shore, which will be reviewed later.
As I listen to the darkened tones produced by the original Illbient artists, what's striking is how the original vision remains, and, without P-Orridge in the mix, the three less flamboyant members of the group's sound move more clearly into focus.
Disaster Amnesiac realizes that Throbbing Gristle explicitly denied any interest in being a band as such, but the ways in which the members' characteristic sounds come out and interact with each other seem pretty undeniably band-like to this listener. It’s all there: Cosey's primitive trumpet and sliding non-sussed guitar sounds, Chris's evocative electronic sound landscapes, and Peter’s rhythmic intent (which seems to have come into sharper focus after time spent in Thailand). The mix is deep, giving the songs dynamic, live, rhizomatic feels. Minus the declamatory, world-weary P-Orridge rants, The Final Report is characterized by a more intimate overall mood. Their Industrial sounds: high speed rail whooshes, electronic shimmers, radio signals, jackhammer iterations, mumbled confessions, and brief melodic episodes, are all there, mixing into what amounts to a great headphone listen. As they always did, X-TG provides the listener glimpses into what sound like secret, internal dialogues. The tone, minus P-Orridge is somewhat more subdued, but no less intense.
I know that Throbbing Gristle have always been heard as noise by many, but would disagree. Listening to X-TG, it strikes me that they just wanted to make their own, personal music, with the means that they had at hand, to express their collective vision. This dynamic remains on The Final Report. Compared to the rhythm-less sheer wall of noise approaches that many have taken in TG's wake, X-TG, with their slow, dub-like repetitions (which have always been there; they never denied loving Disco, right?), move the electronic sounds in a very musical way. After all, they did use the phrase Industrial Music for Industrial People, right?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Book of Shadows-Chimaera; Kendra Steiner Editions #235, litmited run of 150

In order to get a feel for where Book of Shadows may be coming from, Disaster Amnesiac conferred with a close relative, a practicing Wiccan, who described books of shadows as such: "collection[s] of spells, terminology and philosophy around one's magical/spiritual practice". It has struck me that this is not that very far removed from what bands do. Are not their songs and working methods intended to weave spells for the listener?
On Chimaera, Book of Shadows do indeed weave some strong spells. Principal members Sharon  and Carlton Crutcher lead their band through seven shimmering, generally slow-paced improvisations. The contemplative character of these tunes invite the listener to dive into their swirling psychedelic pools of sound. Sharon's wordless vocalizing flies over top of it all, at times a bird-ey warble, at times a Valkyrie schrei. It is always strongly spellbinding. Carlton's guitar and keyboard playing are always trance-ed and full of space. His long career with Texas Psych honchos ST 37 seems to have taught him much about Space Music Practice. He coaxes trippy Moog sounds for the duration of the album's center track, Cherrywood, to mind bending effect. Guitarists Brett Humphrey and Steve Marsh also go off on Cherrywood, spiking its over twenty minute incantation with sharp six string punctuations and electronic bubbling. This tune definitely evokes a magical, big, Texas sky, under which I imagine these Lone Star State coven members congregating. Elsewhere, tunes like To Merry Mary and Little Bitty Bette Easter 1970 (best song title Disaster Amnesiac has read in a while!) and Vineland, Book of Shadows continually show their mastery of the psychedelic vibe, oozing out their wide open inner spaces into the greater Omniverse, pacing the jams to such and extent that they become forms, big slabs of emerging sounds that blossom like nebulae.
Book of Shadows clearly have done a lot of magickal research. Get Chimaera, and be tantalized by their spells.


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Ghost in the House/Santomieri-Farhadian Duo; First Thursdays at the Schoolhouse Series, Ricmond CA 4/4/13

Disaster Amnesiac writes this post with some trepidation, as due to mis-reading the announcement, I showed up about thirty five minutes late for the Santomieri-Farhadian Duo's set, but, the music was so fine, a few days removed and I'm still buzzing from it.

From what I did hear of their set, Thea and Dean sound even more synced up, improvising from themes, commenting upon each others' statements. The S-F Duo are getting quite adept at coaxing electronic music-like sounds from their acoustic instruments (resonator guitar, in Santomieri's case).
Dean also did a great impersonation of New York City mayor F. La Guardia during one spoken piece. His NYC accent seems accurate.

Ghost in the House played three pieces, and were breathtaking. Longtime members Tom Nunn (invented instruments, Google the man), Karen Stackpole (gongs and percussion), and David Michalak (lap steel and percussion), were joined by bassoon player Dana Jensen and bass flutist Polly Moller. Jensen's Free bassoon playing was mind blowing. Disaster Amnesiac looks forward to hearing more of her! Moller, Nunn, Stackpole, and Michalak were equally briliant, of course.
The whole group played their organic improvised Electro-Acoustic soundtrack to great effect, their tones swirling around the listeners' heads, often very reminiscent of the fog that had come creeping into West Contra Costa County from the Golden Gate that evening.
Ghost's longest piece was played to accompany Butoh dancer Kinji Hayashi, who reminded me of the Hermit card of the Tarot deck. He brought a lamp into the darkened room, using  his expressive Butoh gestures to give an even more surreal feel to the foggy evening.

Disaster Amnesiac just can't say enough positive things about the venerable Ghost in the House.
However, next time, I need to read the gig announcement closer!