Monday, March 28, 2005

And then... again

HAPPY CAT "We Fuck You Like Supermen"

Happy Cat was my onetime Bushwick roommate Bill Berger, of Uncle Wiggly, World of Yadoosh, Smack Dab and WFMU fame. This tune is from a strange compilation CD I assembled a dozen years ago for Homestead called Soluble Fish whose name has somehow mutated over the years, but I really don't know how, to include a phrase I have always despised. Hah! Funny how that works. I still love this song for mix tapes.

The name for that comp. came from Andre Breton, who at the time was totally my main man. I wanted to be him! Seriously. When you first get into modernist art and stuff, it's hopefully in high school, as that gives The Banquet Years a lot more of a chance to burrow inside your gestating brain, sending you on a search for all the interesting little supporting and secondary actors like the oft-brilliant newspaper humorist Alphonse Allais and Jacques Vache. Or not. Mostly it's that the whole thing about the primacy and "validity" of the whole deal, from expressionism to fluxus and the last gasps of the giant with the East Village scene in the '80s (which I followed pretty intently from afar, as I didn't arrive in NYC myself until the Fall of '86) -- it just seems to mirror the arc of adolescence so perfectly. Especially since I really got into art in seventh grade via Roger Dean's Yes album covers, which looked so fresh yet again for about three miliseconds a few years ago. Conversely, getting all into postmodernism and its discontents at the college age seemed to mirror the development of one's own critical faculties so nicely.

I was lucky to get turned on to the work of Nancy Spero at a young age thanks to her connection to my then-hero, writer Antonin Artaud. Have you ever seen stuff from her Codex Artaud series? Super rad. I keep going back to her work, especially the Vietnam War series, the relevance of which is at a high point again. That's actually why I am mentioning her just now. Back then I was full of myself and enthused about stuff enough that I used to just look people up out of the phone book to interview them. I was always surprised at who was in the regular old phone book -- as a teenager I had these great and strange though not always very welcome conversations with D. Boon, Lucas Samaras, Mike Watt, Charles Bukowski, Alfonso Ossorio, Thurston Moore, and (my favorite person in the entire world to this day) Steve Albini. Some of them gave me stuff for my 'zine, some of 'em told me to fuck off, but all were a bit surprised that a 16, 17-year old kid was calling them on the phone to ask them retarded questions about their work without a teacher putting them up to it or something.

The day I called Nancy in 1987, she said "why don't you come on by now," so I did of course -- her studio being right near my school, right on the border of the West Village and Soho. She opened the door and we were both wearing the same shirt, a red and white checkered job from the Gap. The coincidence was pretty funny. I was still dressed in clothes my mother had got for me (no one else was wearing beige corduroy pants in 1987, believe me). Anyway, Nancy was so open and sweet and had me in for tea and looking at art and talking about stuff for a few hours. I never knew the importance of the great artist Jean Dubuffet's trip to Chicago (where those guys used to live, both of them I think having gone to the Art Institute) until talking a bou tit with them. That helped me also understand how Chicago was so advanced yet isolated in the '60s, what with the Hairy Who/ Chicago Imagist thing, Spero/ Golub, and the discovering and showing of self-taught/ visionary works by Yoakam, Darger, etc. long before others.

Her husband Leon Golub, a great painter who passed away not too long ago -- both made amazing and largely un-polemical works concerned with human/ civil/ feminist rights -- anyway you probably know their stuff or maybe it looks boring to contemporary eyes? -- not to mine. But so Golub was flipping out over my 'zine which surprised and pleased me greatly and he started bringing out his old issues of ZAP comix to commune with me. It was cool and weird. Later I interviewed Spero with two of my best pals, and the tape got fucked up, so I just got permission to reprint the best piece I'd ever read on her, from a fairly small-run feminist art 'zine, written by Pamela Wye -- not this particular article but that one is pretty good too... They seemed to me to be an amazing and very mutually supportive couple, from what I could tell just being around them a little bit. I still have them in mind though when I picture the perfect couple.

I know that none of this has much to do with music or whatever, but I am interested in the idea lately of what goes into a realistic and functioning "relationship" and yes I know that's boring but it's on my mind. I'm also tripping out over coincidences, which it's very hard for me not to see as a spiritual thing seeing as I am part of the AA/ NA cult and, you know, I've been brainwashed with God stuff as a result (not Jesus stuff, mind you, God Stuff -- I'm sure Christ was a righteous dude and I thank him profusely for the Easter bunny, and for the Swan Silvertones. Amen.)

PS: Of all of 2005's invented trends in music criticism, this one about "instant covers/ tributes" is... probably the most boring. And is it very accurate? OK, he's got a few good current examples on his side, but I recall many '80s/ '90s bands covering contemporaries (totally off the top of my head, Yo La Tengo -- Scene Is Now, the Grifters -- GBV, Minutemen -- Meat Puppets, etc.) or near-contemporaries (Camper Van B. -- Black Flag, Dinosaur Jr. -- the Cure, Nirvana -- Meat Puppets, etc.) Not to mention how many people in the '60s did each other's songs; I realize things were still very songwriter/ Brill Building back then which is a different beast entirely but I don't know, it just seems almost as weak and ill-informed re: pre-Internet music phenoms as a friggin Pitchfork piece... As a freelance writer, I know what it's like to just pitch a bunch of stuff to someone and then, whoops, they pick your lamest and most ill thought-out pitch as the one article they want you to write. So that must be what happened here, right?

Friday, March 25, 2005

Don't take yourself too seriously

SLOVENLY "Enormous Critics"
SLOVENLY "Prejudice"

Here's two songs off 1987's Riposte album. The SF-based group Slovenly were simply one of the best bands around in the mid-late '80s, and remain among the raddest live bands I've ever seen -- they played ca. '88 at Maxwell's in New Jersey, opposite a Pere Ubu show at either the Ritz or Irving Plaza in the city that night, and well, audience members were outnumbered by the band onstage, yet they totally nailed it. (As I recall, Art Black was in the crowd that night -- whatever happened to him? Away from the Pulsebeat was a very very good thing, yes.)

Some of the Slovenly people play with Mike Watt, some are in that band Baculum. Steve Anderson, who had a deep affinity for the writings of John Fante, possessed the most love-it-or-hate-it vocal delivery this side of ummm, Pere Ubu.

PS: I've been sick for most of the past three weeks! As of yesterday I think I have have fricking conjuctivitis, yipppeeeee. If you see me run away.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

In the land of the living dead

BLURT "My Mother was a Friend of an Enemy of the People"

My Moms was here for much of the past week -- was super rad to have her here, and my nephew E. as well. I DJ'ed for Mom last Thursday night, in fact, at Dunes, and thanks to International Pretend To Be Irish By Throwing Up Green Beer On Your Date's Dress Day I guess, hardly anyone was there but my friends and my Mom, while I played with records (it was actually a very clumsy night, be glad you were not there).

Everyone was like "Your Mom is so fucking cool!" And I just replied, "I know!" I'd intended to play this classic by Ted Milton's massively underrated band Blurt, but it was a tad too intense and skronky for the vibe I was laying down, so I backed off on it. I played quite a few gospel "mother" songs and Prince Nico Mbarga's awesome "Sweet Mother" instead. As a groovy coincidence, Brian Turner played this tune on WFMU today (congrats to them for making their fundraising goals). So, here it is for anyone who missed it on Brian's show.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

My nightmares are full of stupid talks...

THIRTY NINE CLOCKS "Radical Student Mob In Satin"

We are gathered here today in utter awe of the German "synth-punk" duo 39 Clocks, a deliriously and studiedly cool early '80s group with a broken drum machine (it seemed to have maybe two settings, total) who anticipated the Spacemen Three's obsession with the Velvets and Suicide but in a fabulously wrong, perhaps intentionally fucked-up, ESL-poetry, bad haircut and pleather pants, more than mildly Gothy and proto-electroclash (excuse me did I just write proto-electroclash? kill me now), very very 'Sprockets' kinda way that perhaps sounds perfect this year, or maybe that was two years ago. Who cares. I adore them and have since my ex roommate, Uncle Wiggly member and WFMU DJ Bill Berger turned me on to them ca. 1989.

They used the English language wonderfully, just peep some of their song titles: Twisted & Shouts/ New Crime Appeal/ Shake The Hippie/ 78 Soldier Dead/ Test The Beat/ Psycho Beat/ 39 Explosion Heats/ A look Into You/ Heat Of Violence/ Dom (Electricity Elects The Rain)/ Psychotic Louie Louie/ Past Tense Hope &/ Instant Fears On 42nd Street/ Virtous Girl/ Three Floors Down/ Rainy Night Insanities/ A Touch Of Rot. How can you not be in awe of this band? My dear God, I love them. The three tunes presented here are taken from vinyl, off 1981's Pain It Dark LP on the No Fun label. It is not their best work but it's their first album, and we will definitely hear more from them soon, and in slightly less crappy fidelity too.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Moving closer to heaven

FAUST "Party 1"
MARKOS VAMVAKARIS "Prépi Na Xéris Michaní"
LES BATTERIES "Resignation"
ELDER ROMA WILSON "Better Get Ready"
ANDREAS THE MUSICAL BAND "Tell Me the Story of Jesus/ Baby Face"

Here's a mini-mix for a Monday morning, my brothers and sisters. Not feeling verbose at all today, and yeah, maybe it's not the most, you know, lively mix for a Monday morning, but I'm sure you can find an advance copy of the new Beck album or something equally exciting on the interweb if you try hard enough:

The Moles tune is from the very fine 1999 Flydaddy expanded reissue of their great 1992 debut Untune the Sky.

The Faust track is from the BBC Sessions + CD.

The song by bouzouki master Markos Vamakaris is from a 1998 Rounder compilation of recordings made during the 1930s.

The Standard Quartette song is a cylinder recording made in 1894 by the DC-based group; it's from the fascinating Document collection, The Earliest Negro Vocal Quartets Volume 1: 1894-1928.

The Les Batteries track is from the 1996 album Bell Systems on Rift.

The Elder Roma Wilson recording was made in Detroit ca. 1948. It's from the Arhoolie collection This Train is a Clean Train, and features Roma on vocals and harmonica accompanied by his sons Clyde and Sammy, who at the time were aged 11 and 13, respectively.

Finally, the last thing is from the collection Lucas & Friends Discover a World of Sounds, one of many albums that collect found home and amateur recordings and are best listened to a few minutes at a time.

Friday, March 11, 2005

"Divine comedy" -- get it?! 'Cause he makes carrrtoooons and is all into that Goethe dude...

GARY PANTER "Divine Comedy" talk

OK it costs like $30 to go but shit, I just tried to price going and I live in Portland. You are hereby strongly encouraged to attend. Gary Panter is gonna be gently interrogated at the AIGA NY office and then is selling that limited edition book of his commissioned three-word drawings there, which someone needs to tell me why I have yet to participate in, the drawing commission thing -- the fact that I'm insanely broke does not really count as an excuse. Panter, by the way, is one of the most talented artists alive.

PS: SUPPORT WFMU. I don't care where you live.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Garra de león...

Download: MARCOS VALLE "Garra"

Andy says yesterday on AIM: "Do you like Marcos Valle?" To which I reply, you know "Fuck yeah -- who doesn't?!" Now Andy Cabic is not only a nice dude and a swell musician and yeah we all are loving Vetiver and wish he had time to still play in Tussle and can't wait for a new Vetiver album to come rolling down the pike from him/ them, and also are super psyched about that label he's starting with Devendra, but Andy's also like one of those people that goes bonkers for shit he loves, be it art, music, literature, food, whatever. I like it when people are like that.

So many people, they just only have like one or two interests, so you know, you talk about teen stars and Throbbing Gristle with that dude and the best cheap Ethiopean food and Surrealist lit. with this broad and contemporary Japanese films and drone music with that geezer... and you're always having to explain and qualify what you really think or are interested in when it comes to other references to people, and you see their eyes gloss over before the first word gets out of your mouth about, say, for instance, how you are so psyched about gospel music lately. But my friend Andy, he's not like that. Plus he emailed me this here mp3. Isn't it fricking groovy?

Andy said he'd been listening to this song all week (he's in upstate NY right now, working on the new Devendra record, which is going to have a seriouslyAfro-Spanish CRUNK groove going on). While I have a few Valle collections, I had no idea I was totally missing out on Valle's best album, 1971's Garra, so now I have to find this thing -- the vinyl, of course. I don't want to spend $50 on a Japanese CD! That's so wrong I cannot tell you... Download this quickly it'll be gone in a day or so. Danke.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

And her love is just a fable that I sometimes try in passion to recall

BRIAN ENO & THE WINKIES "Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch"

These will only be up for a day or so, FYI. I've gotten a lot of requests to post the Eno material with the Winkies, which still remains officially unreleased -- so, here you have it. The Winkies songs are from a March 1974 Peel Session; they also recorded "Baby's On Fire" that day but I don't have that, sorry . Personnel: Eno (vocals and synth), Mike Desmarais (drums), Guy Humphries (guitar), Philip Rambow (guitar), Brian Turrington (bass). This session is available on the bootleg Dali’s Car which also features 801 live at the Reading festival in 1976. The Winkies back up Eno on that "Seven Deadly Finns" single, FYI.

The Ayers thing is also a quaint BBC relic from 1974, I believe. Turn your computer speakers down or the booming bass of Ayers' voice is liable to make your bowels move a bit. You do know that he was used in secret sonic warfare tests don't you? So, Eno supposedly does the noisy piano duet with Ayers on here; maybe he does more, I dunno. I also do not know if the tape speed is correct. I think perhaps it's a bit slow?

Honestly, I'm not even sure how these mp3s even got onto my computer -- sometimes I'm just THAT SLUTTY with the file-sharing -- you know, you wake up with a really bad headache and four hundredRuts DC songs on yourhard drive and you just erase them all and pretend nothing happened.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005


Download: SID HEMPHILL "Come on Boys, Let's Go to the Ball"

That's the amazing Sid Hemphill on panpipes and Lucius Smith on drums there. The song is from Alan Lomax's Sounds of the South collection, which is when Lomax headed throughout the South with radically state of the art stereo field recording equipment in 1959 with money from Atlantic Records. I think that's when he also discovered the brilliant Mississippi Fred McDowell--yessss, the interwebnet proves me right for a change--and it's also when some of the best recordings of fife and drum were made. This recording was a reunion; the versatile Hemphill, who also played string band music, played on the first recordings ever made of fife and drum (by Lomax but with his pops, I think) back in '42 for the Library of Congress. I'm not sure they were ever released until years later, though.

Wait, we all know about fife and drum don't we? It was, clearly, a very African-derived music. It had been outlawed by plantations everywhere but in and around the valley area of Como, Mississippi, far northern Mississippi near to where it borders west Tennessee (yes, Memphis). The stuff was outlawed because slaves would communicate with each other using the drums, and more than once they communicated about things such as running free from the plantation, so it was highly strange/ anachronistic that the stuff survived at all. It's harvest music, celebration music, and is rarely played without the band members being blind-ass, stumbling drunk. This might be part of why the tunes are not that complex. Neither of these things is meant as a diss of course; lots of festival music the world over shares those qualities. I just love the tranced-out and sing-songy fucked-up groove this stuff has going on. Finding any recordings of this music used to be way difficult; thankfully, the late Otha Turner was documented, largely late in his life, in the '90s (and his 80s). If you ever see a record with Napoleon Strickland on it , buy the thing immediately. Your best first immersion into this amazing music is probably the Rounder release Afro-American Folk Music from Tate and Panola Counties, Miss.