Saturday, November 28, 2020

Pay Dirt-Error Theft Disco; Blue Screen Records cassette, 2020


Incomiiiiiiing!!!!! It's always nice to get a new package of sounds from Public Eyesore/eh? Records, and recently Disaster Amnesiac opened the mail box to a thick package of goodies from that fine label. Three brand new cassettes, shrink wrapped and everything, ready to be unsealed and dug into. I'll be doing separate posts on each of them, starting with Pay Dirt's Error Theft Disco

This duo, made up of Victoria Shen and Bryan Day, both of whom are inventors of instruments, was recorded in summer of 2020. As Disaster Amnesiac has listened, I've definitely wondered if these were done in personal proximity or through file sharing. No information as to this aspect is given, and I'm curious because the two get a very "live" sound with their various rigs. This sound is one that ranges from large scale junkyard machine scraping action to smaller scale disembodied voices that chitter and then flutter away. Big clangs alternate with pregnant pauses and outright silence. Whooshing, grinding sounds bubble up from the ether. Muzzy feedback clashes with bright bleeps. Error Theft Disco's overall feel has me thinking about older sounds from what was called Industrial Music; jeez, there are so many sub-genres of it now, but Pay Dirt seem to hearken back to the roots of it, the sounds of mad scientist engineers cobbling together wonderful machines in quiet isolation, the kind of machines that make a lotta noise. 

Multiple listens have revealed layers of sounds and the interactions between Shen and Day. I'd advise that one take the time to do them, as for me, the more I've listened, the deeper these layers go and the more sound surprises emerge from their mixing.

It goes without saying that Disaster Amnesiac really wishes that I could see and hear Pay Dirt and their self-made machines in a live setting, as I've felt that that would reveal a lot about the auditory clues thrown around throughout Error Theft Disco and its four tracks. Until such a time, it's fun to puzzle at the sounds of their duo action via this cassette.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Thollem/Parker/Cline-Gowanus Sessions II; ESP Disk', 2019


It's mind boggling, the amount of man hours spent in music by the collective of William Parker, Nels Cline, and Thollem. Think about it. The former two have been active within Improvised Music since the 1970's. The latter since the 1980's. We're talking easily over 100 years' experience within this trio. 

One may ask, "what does this have to do with Gowanus Sessions II?", and Disaster Amnesiac would simply posit that all of these hours and days spent in pursuit of improvisation gives this 2019 release from ESP Disk' and undeniable amount of depth. Pianist Thollem, bassist Parker, and guitarist Cline are possessed of musical riches that were honestly earned through decades of committed effort, and it shines from the sounds here.

The focused richness emanating from Gowanus's two tracks is the kind that rewards multiple listens, that's for sure. The ways in which this trio play together evince the mastery of both their individual instrumental approaches and of their approaches to group dynamics. When playing as a full trio, Thollem/Parker/Cline get into some deep interactions, ones that are characterized by the kind of fiery energy one expects from releases on ESP Disk'.  Even within these fires, though, there's a kind of depth in the sound. Nowhere in Gowanus is there a feeling of the musicians just blasting away for the sake of blasting away. Wonderful too, the way in which the group then break off into quieter passages; at these points, the listener is given lovely views into the various techniques and ideas that overflow from greats such as these men. As these statements are made, the lead voices are commented upon and embellished by one or two of the other voices, and it's great the way that they add just enough, never too much, before the trio then takes off for the denser sound regions. As these flights commence, one finds oneself entranced again by the thickets of the trio dynamics and their colors. 

As Disaster Amnesiac has listened to Gowanus Sessions II, I've enjoyed wonderful memories of seeing all three of its musicians within the live setting. If you're one of the countless others that have also had the pleasure, and you've not heard it yet, you might want to head over to ESP Disk' and dig into some of Thollem/Parker/Cline's time-space continuum.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Thollem-A Day In The Leap; Acousmatique Records, 2020


Despite the Cancellation of Culture, musicians gonna music. Take for example 2020's release from keyboard master Thollem, A Day In The Leap. What can be found here is a set of five pieces, all of them recorded during one session on one day. Thollem essentially plays in duo with a Korg Wavestate, pairing this agile synthesizer with his own acoustic piano agility. 

The resultant sounds are an amazing blend of musical zones. Disaster Amnesiac has heard all manner of vibes from the Experimental Music dynamic. Free Improvisation, Modern Composition, Library Synth sounds, Beat Science....they all tumble and mix together within the improvised matrix of Leap's music. 

What's really enjoyable about this dynamic is the juicy way in which Thollem and the Korg interact. It's often tough to tell which sound is from the fingertips of the human and which is emanating from within the patches of the Korg. Percussive sounds clang up against melodic bursts. Silences are broken with keyboard runs and then embellished by cool electronic tones. Strange, squiggling colors march aside piano arpeggio. Computer beats slink up against melodic leaps. All the while, the listener continues to guess as to "who" is doing "what". That being said, Disaster Amnesiac finds Leap to be more than a simple exercise. Thollem's musical mind and action assures and provides attentive listening with fun and fascinating, enjoyable music. Music enhanced by tech, but not steamrolled by it.

Surely by this time there have already been this type of collaboration between "man" and "machine". The thing about Thollem's A Day In The Leap that Disaster Amnesiac loves is the way in which the former aspect takes precedence over the latter. That is, after all, kind of the point of this whole musical pursuit anyway, right?

Hopefully Thollem will be able to get back to his busy touring schedule soon, and that perhaps he can bring a piano/Korg set to someplace close to Disaster Amnesiac. This music would be so fun to hear in a live setting.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Alan Sondheim & Azure Carter-Plaguesong; ESP Disk', 2020

Right off the bat, Disaster Amnesiac must say that Alan Sondheim & Azure Carters' new ESP Disk' CD Plaguesong is brilliant. As usual, it's wonderful to listen as Alan plays a range of instruments. Whether it's the sparse flute tones of Creatures, or the studied and reverent treatment of Guqin, or the skilled strumming in Promised Land and Derelict, or the fascinating, lonely harmonica tones of As Above So O As Below, or the beautiful violin on Sentence, he demonstrates the kind of mastery of musical thought that Disaster Amnesiac has come to expect from all of his myriad output. Added to this, you have Azure and her wonderful, clear voice. Seriously, a few listens to Plaguesong, and it's guaranteed that you'll be hearing her lyrics in your sleep, as I have. Trip on the straight dada of Mno, or marvel at the clear, simple insights of World; you'll love them as you find yourself singing their lyrics  to yourself, as I have. Such a lovely, clear voice from Ms. Carter.

These two just make great music, music that's forged from deeply rooted personal vision and steadfast effort, effort that has been put in over great spans of time. Sondheim and Carter mean it, and they show it. 

All that said, Disaster Amnesiac seriously struggles with Plaugesong. It's just REALLY tough to listen to. You see, the album is the direct result of Sondheim and Carters' experience during this year's lockup of pretty much everyone on earth. Per the liner note, all of its tracks were recorded in a single room within their flat in Providence. Also per the note, Plaguesong's music is directly the result of "isolation, depression, anxiety, and fear". These emotions are ones that I'm sure it's safe to say we ALL have felt since mid-March 2020. They are also emotions that I'm sure it's safe to say we are going to continue to feel well into the future. As such, Plaguesong hits a bit too close to home. Often when listening to music, Disaster Amnesiac has no trouble being objective. In fact, that objectivity is the reason behind my moniker. An album about the event that is fucking up the lives of me and everyone else, to whatever extent, though? Kind of hard to NOT be a bit subjective! It brings to mind the sage words of Wilmington CA poet Jack Brewer: "...pain is real/as real is pain..." Listening to Plaguesong is just too painful for me, too damn REAL, knowing from whence it springs, and, as such, I have struggled with it. Big time. 

Again, I love the music of Alan Sondheim & Azure Carter. Their output always arrives at chez Amnesiac to excitement and enthusiasm. Plaguesong did as well. After multiple listens, the terror of the experience that it's about looms large on my already frazzled perceptions. It is in no way an easy experience. This is not an easy album to take in.

Alan Sondheim & Azure Carter have documented what they've been going through in honest terms, and, as stated, the music, singing, and lyrics are brilliant, but Disaster Amnesiac has really had a tough time with it. It's the REALITY thing. Plaguesong dips into it fully. Or, as Azure sings in My Life, "....I hate my life/my life does.....SUCK..." Is there a person out there currently that that doesn't apply to in spades, at least for some of the time?

As the recent months have rolled past, Disaster Amnesiac has pondered that someday, someone is going to write the novel that encapsulates this thing that we're experiencing. I feel as though that will only come with some hindsight. For example, Pynchon's Bleeding Edge, from 2013, is a pretty damn great novelization of the 9/11/01 experience. Alan Sondheim and Azure Carter have, with Plaguesong, produced a pretty much in real time artistic document that captures the terrors which most of us wrestle with currently, and into the foreseeable future. Perhaps they'll be the ones to do a music summation of this disaster, after its time has passed, and they have absolutely summed its current state well.

Seriously, I hate what this album is about. So I struggle with Plaguesong, not for any aesthetic reasons, but for purely emotional ones, despite my best intentions. If you're in a dark mental place, you may want to hold off on listening to it, even if you are a fan Alan and Azure. It hits hard, and it seems like we're only in about Round 3 of this World Historical heavyweight match.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Lester Bangs-Main Lines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste: A Lester Bangs Reader; Anchor Press 2003, John Morthland, editor


As this time of cancellation of culture continues, Disaster Amnesiac has been taking advantage of the copious amounts of down time to read, and read just about anything I can get my hands on. 2020 will be looked back upon by me as The Year That I Read Moby Dick, as much as it will be the looked back upon as The Year That Civilization Stopped Culture. 

Along with Melville's incredible chant, Disaster Amnesiac has also finished Main Lines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste: A Lester Bangs Reader. Bangs, he means a LOT to  me. I always marvel at the raw, human sensitivity within his writing. Yeah, sure, he was the Rock 'N Roll Wildman, the Gonzo Boy Howdy Cretin, roving about the music industry, dispensing disses and pontificating about what was great and what wasn't. Absolutely. Still, the aspect of his writing that continues to move me, decades after being it was done, and decades after my initial exposure to it, is the small (ish) voice that emerges from within the best of his stuff, that voice which admonishes himself and anyone else that may read, to not give in to those giant forces of the Machine, the Machine that, given a chance, will take over not only your physical reality, but, perhaps more tragically, your mental reality. That voice is all over the works compiled in Main Lines, and it's one that Disaster Amnesiac always feels grateful to hear, and as much and as many times possible at that. Bangs was at his best when he was stripping that Machine of its artifice, admonishing those who had become entangled in its thrall to come back to themselves, and just generally taking well-aimed potshots at its hulking edifice. Lester loved humanity, in all of its often ugly and disappointing aspects. And I love Lester Bang's writing for that. 

As I plowed through the pieces of Main Lines, I SO wanted for Lester to have avoided his accidental death, and to have remained writing. Disaster Amnesiac would have loved to read his thoughts on MTV, especially the Hair Metal era. Ditto the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion. Or Iran-Contra. Or Lou Reed's New York. Or Nirvana. Or Black Metal church burnings. Or the 2000 Presidential election. Or Britney Spears. Or 9/11. Or the Obama and Trump Presidential elections. Hell, what would Bangs have written about 2020? 

Oh, how the world could use a few more guys like Lester Bangs. Wait a second, Richard Meltzer is still very much alive..........just forget everything above and get back to your Porn Hub account.