Archive for March, 2007

Leo – “Leo”

March 16, 2007

This solo effort from Leo, drummer for the Virginian folk-noise combo Piasa, is an endearing work alternating solitary drones with surprisingly light sound experiments. Currently available through Medusa Head Records (specializing in limited-edition CDr works), this disc was originally a self-release cassette. It’s also one of the few cassette-to-CDr re-releases that not only seems to have merited an extra audience, but also seems to work well in the new format.

There is an innocence to the sounds on this disc that is the big draw for me. While some tracks, like “Multiple” and “Seek,” present a more studied face with broad highways of droning tone– they are often bookended with less-serious pieces. Tracks like “Cutedrops” and “We Used to Live on Mars,” exude enthusiasm, where Leo found something cool and wanted to share it with us. This infectious spirit of experimentalism is far more interesting than a handful of more self-important releases could ever be.

I also enjoy the cover art– each hand-drawn and unique. Mine features an angular figure that reminds me equally of Aztec pictograms and graffiti.

Matt Weston – “Resistance Cruisers” & “Rashaya”

March 14, 2007

When I’m writing a review, it sometimes becomes rather clear how far off one can be from “getting it right.” In the past, I often declined from writing a poor review, not wanting to give any sort of “publicity” to a bad album. But that was a disservice to potential listeners seeking information, and a misunderstanding of what reviewers do.

Still, it isn’t any fun wondering if you’re the poor sap who just doesn’t “get it,” and I’m sure this worry has led to more tepid semi-approvals of bad albums than payola ever did. After all, everyone wants to be feel included– and very few people are more worried about missing something cool than DJs and music reviewers. Major labels are obviously used to it by now. (more…)

STARTLING MONIKER declared “useful”

March 12, 2007

care.jpgZeno Izen, of the Hollow Tree Experimental Music Report blog, posted… um, tomorrow?… an amazingly positive “review” of STARTLING MONIKER. Keeping in mind that Zeno is not on my payroll, and nor is a cousin of mine, I’m quite pleased with the good things he had to say:

“Still, to try and explain the unexplainable often leads to the accidental production of insightful statements. In fact, you may find that DaveX sums up a thing or two that you’ve thought about yourself, but never thought you could articulate into words. These things probably will have something to do with how much excellent music is available for free downloading, or with the subtler points of copyright issues in this new era of music distribution…”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Besides, if Zeno writes it, nobody can accuse me of bragging. But seriously, its wonderful to know that my writing is not only being read, but is of use to readers. STARTLING MONIKER has allowed me a way to augment my radio broadcasts, and also to present ideas that are not always appropriate for the show– sound art concepts, personal projects, closer examination of the nature of sound and music…

But enough about me. Click over to Hollow Tree Experimental Music Report, and get acquainted with Zeno. He enhances his birds-eye look at the world of experimental music with a plenitude of up-to-the-minute links to music downloads, current posts and feeds from remote sections of the net, and a generous nature that makes any community strong.

Commentary for “It’s Too Damn Early” 3/10/07

March 10, 2007

Today’s show went very well. I’ve still been really excited about the “Friday Morning Everywhere” album from Phil Hargreaves and Glenn Weyant on Whi-Music, so I started with that one. There’s a lot of odd sounds in the first track, which got me thinking about some of the transient noises in Kylie Minoise’s Kovorox Sound release “Spank Magic Lodge.” Four tracks later, I knew I finally had the perfect opening for the whacked-out avant-pop of George Korein, now available from Galvatraz Records, and Peacific Music.

Original photography by DaveX

After this set, I played an older recording I made with a friend as part of our radio show ~Ore~. This particular broadcast, Modular II, was constructed entirely from short sound samples we burned to CDRs specifically for the broadcast.STL-based sound artist Mystified supplied unreleased noise, sound art, and commentary for his guest-host spot. This was a little experiment that went very well. Although I’m always interested to have artists participate in my broadcasts in some creative fashion, it is remarkable (and sad) how few choose to approach me with unique ideas. If you have an idea for something that can stretch listener’s expectations, for a collaborative radio work, or something entirely new, get in touch! (more…)

Copyright, Pandering, and the Universal Library

March 8, 2007

While I was washing dishes today, I found my thoughts turning to the Universal Library– this being the theoretical library that would contain all existing knowledge. This, and the much less useful Library of Babel (containing all possible knowledge, including nonsense) seem to be where my thoughts turn given any sort of down time.

While my mind was frolicking among the stacks, I began thinking about real-life efforts to gather information– Wikipedia, the Internet Archive, Google’s book-scanning efforts– and how lovely it is that so much information is now freely available. Now, I don’t know how things work in your thoughts, but in my head, free-association is de rigueur. So it was no surprise that I had made the leap to my own growing collection of music, and how it is sometimes difficult for me to locate a recording I wish to hear.

In fact, it is sometimes difficult enough (or at least I perceive it to be difficult enough) that I have occasionally downloaded a track that I know I already own– why bother getting up to search out the proper disc when it’s probably on SeeqPod? Although I’ve long been rather liberal in my views on property, I’ve been surprised lately– rather than the Internet creating a desire for material goods, it has actually had the opposite effect. For the past few months, I have had the growing realization that I am no longer attracted to ownership, but to the convenience of ownership.

Just a ten years ago, I’m not sure this distinction could have been made. But now, in a time where a song or television episode can be as easily accessed online as by pulling it off one’s living room shelf, ownership provides little benefit to consumer beyond that of a physical fetish. In fact, not owning something– but allowing it to be commonly “held” in a shifting manner online– has significant benefits. The material in question can be shared by many, requires no redundant storage space, and disappears when not in use.

Naturally, this led me into copyright. Obviously, someone’s rights are being violated if people are just sharing one copy of a new album. But is this a necessary situation, or simply an outgrowth of our refusal to deal with the source of the problem: the artificial marriage of human creativity to business?

It’s no joke that I’m an incredible idealist, but bear with me a moment– copyright supposedly protects creators, with the general idea that this ensures their ability to continue creating. But in my experience, creative people are driven by something other than this. It’s really only those who make things for money who are worried about their copyright– and if their goal is making money, then it is safe to assume that their creations are not necessarily going to have any real “value” for society at large. In fact, the most popular creations (pop albums, movies, books, blogs) are often the least useful. Look at Web 2.0. What is it but tools for marketing oneself? If you look at MySpace, WordPress, YouTube, Blogger, Digg, Del.icio.us– really, any of the big players– it’s all about page views, popularity, marketing, stats. The most successful blogs each day are the ones writing about celebrity gossip, sex, even the promise of sex! Another big draw is a fight– how else could infamous troll posters draw such a crowd?

It’s when the marketing, the page views, and the advertising revenue is removed that we can get a clear picture of what would remain– altruistic work useful for the common good. After all, who wants to write about celebrity gossip if its not driving some sort of money machine?

And back to copyright! If everything is online, who needs copyright anymore? With so many choices, and none with a motive to pander to society, wouldn’t the idea of “popular” vanish? Wouldn’t we instead think of things in terms of their usefulness, and find that the accessing of all music, writing, and technology be evenly distributed throughout the various information available?

Think about the Universal Library if you doubt me– its the end of the continuum, where my ideas are writ large enough to be read, even here in the Dark Ages. In this Universal Library, there exist so many objects of beauty, so many useful texts, so many incredible movies; that it is an impossibility for any one person to come into contact with them all. This information would be like the leaves or sand grains of the world– nobody hoards these, unsure of an unending supply.

This is what I’m working towards. It’s our possible future that we really only have to reach out for now.

Malebolge – “Evil Pouches”

March 7, 2007

This CDR release, released by the Umbrella Noise Collective and Roil Noise, is not unlike the concentric circles of Hell it being referenced from the Divine Comedy– for contained within the disc are many separate concepts, artists, and one seriously dead Italian author.

The quick version is that Rabbit Girls created some hyperactive breakbeat rhythms,  and gave a shopping list of track times to Ctephin for random noise generation. The two were finessed together with the gentlest of nudges, and voila! Instant album. If that wasn’t ballsy enough, Ctephin goes ahead and names everything after sections of the “Inferno” portion of the Divine Comedy. Why not?

Fortunately, it all sounds just fine. Believe me, it’s not the best way to make an album– there’s plenty of things a couple of noise artists might have stuck together that certainly wouldn’t have worked–  so its a happy accident that “Evil Pouches” listeners end up with some really nice moments where the rhythm and the noises switch places, grapple with one another, or dissolve into an aural slurry.

But while I’m not about to give anybody a hard time for a musical experiment, the inclusion of Dante can seem a bit forced, even fraudulent, considering Dante’s inclusion as an afterthought. Do the artists believe noise listeners to be too closed-minded to accept that an album doesn’t have to be “about” something? With any sort of distance, of course, its hard to tell– and there is certainly no need for finger-pointing– everyone involved (well, except the dead guy) lives and breathes for art, and probably works a “real” job besides.

Anyhow, don’t leave yourself in review-land Limbo.  The mp3s are free at Umbrella Noise, or order the CDR from Roil and get the nifty artwork featuring one of Gustave Dore’ woodcuts.

Performance: Tom Nunn in San Francisco

March 7, 2007

If you’re in San Francisco, or planning to be for Thursday, March 8; consider seeing Tom Nunn’s performance at the Luggage Store Gallery. Nunn, a veteran Bay Area instrument maker and improviser, will present an evening of solo and trio improvisations. Nunn will be performing from his Edgetone Records solo CD Release “Identity,” as well as part of trios RTD3 and Axallto.

The performance begins at 8 P.M. The Luggage Store Gallery is located at 1007 Market St. at 6th Street, in San Francisco.

Suggested contribution is $6-10, which will benefit Outsound Presents, an emerging non-profit artist-run presenting organization. All ages are welcome, no one is refused for lack of funds. To get to the Luggage Store Gallery, take BART to the Powell street station and walk a little over a block to 6th & Market. Parking is best on Mission between 6th & 7th Streets.

“Too Many Days”

March 6, 2007

I’m going to try avoiding the overwrought superlatives, symptomatic to reviewers exposed to albums such as this, but be strong– I will most likely fail. George Korein’s “Too Many Days,” co-released by Texas-based Galvatraz Records in the States and across the pond by Peacific Alliance, is a tailor-made excuse for wannabe Wire-staffers to trot out their multi-syllabic prose.

But what else can you do when your jaw is resting on the space bar? Here, Korein’s work shuttles effortlessly from “Too Many Days,” a possible outtake from Dr. Bob’s “Dark Times” school of paranoid moodiness; to the Buddy-Holly-makes-a-ghetto-tech-album of “Quiet Now,” blending into a freak-out Wilson Pickett a la Mayhem “Writhe, Sally, Writhe.” It’s incredible that any of these tracks exist, let along co-exist— and to have them blending together enough that I’m still not exactly sure where one leaves off and another begins?? Baffling!

While listening, I kept thinking that the album sounded something like a mixtape, but oddly, a solo mixtape… It’s the theory that sells iPod shuffles; that a lot of different things are going to sound seamlessly great together, but face it– they’re going to be anything more than just randomly-constructed ironic pastiche. For Korein, who effectively channels Frank Black, US Maple, and The Residents when he’s not tossing off songs that sound like a Breakfast Club soundtrack b-side; “Too Many Days” must have felt great to make. The joy of unrestrained creative is unmistakable, and a marvel to witness.

“Identity”

March 6, 2007

Full disclosure: Tom Nunn has been performing improvisational music on unique instruments of his own design since before I was born, and I’m in no way qualified to really comment on this stuff, since it would be fraudulent to make you believe I had heard of him before sometime last week.

But hey, this is a blog, right? So let’s toss journalism out the window, and press on– I’m absolutely loving Nunn’s “Identity”, a collection of solo improvisational works for instruments of his own design. I am especially enamored of the “Hybrid Mothics,” small, triangular, kalimba-like devices which delight me every time Nunn runs a comb across them. The sounds are deceivingly electronic washes of scattered modem yowlings as interpreted by cartoon motorbikes. From the sound of it, Nunn is picky about his combs, too– I bet he eschews the unbreakable variety for those older, hard plastic types prone to shattering.

Some straight-forward percussive work utilizing Nunn’s “Octatonic T-Rodimba” (a mounted field of angled rods struck and plucked) is interspersed among the wilder Mothic pieces.  “Dreaminator,” the sole track featuring the “Crustacean” (which seems to consist of curved rods protruding from a balloon-supported metal plate) is filled with long shifts in tone; not unlike an alien rendering of Eno’s “Music for Airports.”

Aside from an obviously fun listening experience, this Edgetone release– Nunn’s second for the label– is highly inspiring. Far beyond the common “music from recycled materials?!” reaction, Nunn’s work will also illuminate the more jaded among us. For while many have created new and beautiful instruments, the ability to transcend their most basic function eludes even the most talented of builders. With “Identity,” Nunn finds himself among the virtuosi, genuinely able to speak with the remarkable voice of his creations.

“Love Film Greats”

March 5, 2007

If you thought the world of noise art was deeply paradoxical, try kitsch for a minute. This gaudy beauty– which has alternately been declared the antithesis of the avant-garde, fuel for totalitarianism, and “the absolute denial of shit;” is undeniably popular.

Kitschy albums are like the bizarro-world version of noise– where noise remains relatively unavailable despite the numerous limited-edition recordings of a handful of well-known practicioners, the best kitsch is easily obtained anywhere from a gigantic group of interchangably faceless performers. In the end, both remain more or less obscure, with a large number of listeners who would be hard-pressed to discern one album from the next.

Of course, it is in this twilight area of paradox that the best art is created. The California-based Big City Orchestra seems happily at home here with their Roil Noise release of “Love Film Greats,” a cover disc of an entire album of covers by The Big City Orchestra, surely one of many little-known outfits to record the theme from “A Summer Place.”

The album itself is highly intriguing. BCO re-works well-known themes into jangly electro-folk, unsettling horror-movie re-imaginings (and I’m thinking of the “Love Story” theme here), and even something like electronic exotica. The best feature of this album is that the performers show quite a bit of respect for the original material– retaining the elements that got a song like “Friendly Persuasion” an Academy nomination, but dispensing with the syrupy pandering common to practically everyone covering the material since.

For those with the occasional taste for Les Baxter or Lenny Dee, but not uncomfortable with contemporary sound art, this is required listening. (Also includes volume 15 of the BCO Sound Effects Library!)

“Does Utmost”

March 4, 2007

With two live tracks, the Roil Noise offering of Torturing Nurse “Does Utmost,” is one of those confrontational releases that almost automatically split listeners along is/isn’t “time well spent” lines. The fact is that this simply isn’t a release for everyone– the ecstatic nature of this release (especially of the first track, “You Are My Jonky”) will leave less visibly passionate, inward listeners cold. It’s hard to explain this sort of “release” to people– being within the moment, perceiving the flow of energy and ideas as they channel through you– but it’s a powerful feeling readily apparent here.

Again, especially with the first track, a perceptive listener could make the case that “junk” noise such as this is the musical equivalent of speaking in tongues. It may not be comprehensible thought, but is there such in a speechless cry for help either? In a way, it is our common experience that makes this sort of “speech” understandable– if you’ve “been there,” you’ll get it.

But don’t let me convince you that enjoying this recording is limited to the exclusive domain of wild people living on the periphery. The second track, “Schizophrenia,” is much more controlled. Harmonica, abused snare, ground loops, and pressure-hose noises contribute to a rattling drone with enough detail for repeat listening.

The sound quality of “Does Utmost” is as good as I would expect– it lacks some of the depth a studio recording might have, but doesn’t suffer from any serious loss, either. And the cover! This could easily be a killer poster. I’m loving the rodeo cowboy font– shades of Patsy Cline, yeah!

“Verisimilitude”

March 4, 2007

Currently one of the newest physical releases from Roil Noise’s CDR side, Rabbit Girls’ business card-sized mini lists on the RNO website as “a dreamy remix of the original track.” With more syllables in the title than minutes in the track, there isn’t a whole lot for this reviewer to dissect– Rabbit Girls lay down a push-pull drone of a single tone, occasionally thicken it somewhat, and add fleeting artifacts that often make you wonder if you’re hearing something outside your headphones, or within. Perhaps it was these transient sounds that inspired the title.

As for sound quality, I can’t detect any real flaws, though the track start is a bit sudden. An impressive low end sounds best on my speakers, and gave my desk a good rattle.  After more than a few listens, I’m fairly certain I hear super-slowed vocals as well. Someone with the appropriate software might have fun speeding this up to see if there is a hidden message about the thing on the cover. Is it lumpy soap? A brick? A brownie? Who makes a stamp like this?

Again, with the dubious merit awards…

March 4, 2007

The WordPress stats tell me that today, STARTLING MONIKER is among the top 50 fastest growing blogs of the day– no small feat for someone writing about experimental music, rather than the usual pop culture oriented, YouTube-linking gimmick nonsense out there.

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In fact, STARTLING MONIKER has been growing fast enough that in just over three months, it’s gotten almost as many views as the “It’s Too Damn Early” website has in the past two years.  Granted, most of the information at the “ITDE” site is static, one-time-only sort of info, but I’m still excited to find this many readers– nearly 3,100 since November 15th, 2006. I know this isn’t the sort of traffic that the breathless reporting of Britney’s every haircut receives, (a post submitted to Digg.com, “Britney Spears Shaves Her Head,” got almost 3700 diggs!) but its still encouraging to see a large readership for what is admittedly a niche topic.

 

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I’m a ways off the top 100,000 at Technorati (currently? 280,249!) but I’m making it my goal to crack that list. If you have a blog, consider adding me to your blogroll, eh? Until then, I want to thank you all for continuing to make STARTLING MONIKER part of your day. Thank you! –DaveX

“Glitch Core”

March 3, 2007

Thank the LARD for small miracles. My gut heaved a bit as I first noticed the title of this release. “Glitch Core,” I said to myself, “Sounds like more IDM nonsense.” Obviously, I was wrong. I guess I should have been tipped off by being able to pronounce all the titles on the first try, eh? Anyhow, Circle Six’s cdr release on Roil Noise is a well-constructed work, utilising what appear to be actual glitches, as well as a fair helping of droning electronics. Most fulfilling, though, is Circle Six’s able avoidance of cliche– with purposeful drones, no overused breakbeats, and sound sources that have seen a significant amount of care.

Tracks like “Mygrain,” (which satisfy my geek need to pun on microsound terminology) really show C6’s attention to detail; shortwave scree opens with tonal growls, gradually working into the occasional spastic blurt interrupting chains of tremulous electronics. “Feedback” features an extraordinarily detailed tone embroidered with enough design to make me give up my nice speakers for a set of headphones. Overall, the sound quality is very nice on this release, with a good-looking cover to match.

Kenji Siratori and Torturing Nurse – “Mad Blockhead’s Tale”

March 3, 2007

Six collaborative tracks psychotically pace between two points on a threadbare rug– on one end, Siratori’s electronically-altered mutterings and exhortations; and at the other, blasts of glass-in-a-blender white noise artifacts. But what starts as a “versus” split minidisc ends as more of a collaboration, with increased give-and-take between all musicians. Crippled with severe monolingualism, I have no idea what Siratori is saying– but as a purely abstract noise release, “Mad Blockhead’s Tale” truly works. Bonus points for the somewhat retro cover art, which looks like a true crime paperback. Available from Roil Noise.

Commentary for “It’s Too Damn Early” 3/3/07

March 3, 2007

For today’s show, I decided to have a label “highlight.” In this case, the lucky label was Roil Noise, Kansas City-based net (and cdr) label with an inclusive take on the too-often compartmentalized world of noise. Because I will be posting individual reviews of many of these albums in the next couple days, I’ll just say that I enjoyed being able to present such an in-depth look at Roil Noise. From experience, I am certain there are listeners who will now be inspired to keep working on their own sounds, and to share their work with others.

As always, I made a recording of the show, which I am sharing as a single 64kbps mp3 file. This recording is not intended as a substitute for purchasing the original albums, which I always encourage you to do. In fact, at least a few of the works presented on this show are already freely downloadable directly from Roil Noise, in a much higher quality format.

Original photography by DaveX

Next week, Roil Noise artist Mystified will be guest-hosting a portion of “It’s Too Damn Early,” with a special mix of noise favorites and commentary. This is a first for the show, and a rarity for pretty much anywhere, so you won’t want to miss it.Keep checking for my reviews, which I will be posting throughout the next few days. Until then, enjoy the playlist!

Kenji Siratori & Torturing Nurse — Massacre Gene
Kenji Siratori & Torturing Nurse — Mutant Hell
Kenji Siratori & Torturing Nurse — Abolition Body
Kenji Siratori & Torturing Nurse — Heteromania Syndrome
Kenji Siratori & Torturing Nurse — Corpse Mechanism Fuck
Torturing Nurse — Schizophrenia
Circle Six — Glitch Core
Circle Six — White Swan
Circle Six — Cutting Up The Rest IV
Circle Six — Cutting Up The Rest III
Rabbit Girls — The Lifelong Journey Into Nonexistence
Skillful Means
— Gak II, Untitled track 1/1
Maximum Headlessness — Treading Water
Maximum Headlessness — Cherries
Malebolge — Philosophy in Limbo
Malebolge — Limbo’s Keep
Malebolge — A Conoisseur of Sin
Malebolge — A Cold, Heavy, Dirty Rain
Rabbit Girls — Verisimilitude
Big City Orchestra — Theme from “A Summer’s Place”
Big City Orchestra — “True Love” from High Society
Big City Orchestra — An Affair to Remember

Gizmondo RIAA Boycott? *yawn*

March 1, 2007

Let me get this off my chest right now. I love buying new music. While I’ll admit to some of the baser delights– the shiny jewel cases! new liner notes! the hearty “snap” of the first tine, breaking as I remove the disc!– for me, the real reward is simply hearing new sounds. I truly enjoy hearing artists grow from disc to disc, as well as trying to “place” their music in a greater framework of all music.

But now it’s March, and Gizmondo is taking on the blue meanies over at the RIAA, that bizarro world where art and commerce are hopelessly jumbled into an ugly mess. As someone who has long opposed the ridiculous bullying tactics the RIAA has employed to squash file-sharing, and as an informed DJ more than a little familiar with the lopsided (parasitic, unethical, illegal) nature of the music industry, you’d probably assume I’m excited to participate in boycotting the RIAA.

But really, I’m not.

The truth is, I haven’t participated in any of the RIAA’s reindeer games for a long time. I get new music all the time, and none of it has anything to do with the RIAA– and probably never has. The experimental and underground communities are doing just fine without them, thank you. If anything, filesharing is working quite well for us. It’s easy to find out about new artists, new releases, and to try something out with (often) limited funds before committing to any sort of purchase.

For a lot of avant-garde, experimental, difficult, and underground music; distribution is moving away from money entirely. While the music “industry” is arguing about DRM-crippled ringtones, we’ve been busy creating art– happily moving beyond the cliche of keeping the “suits” uneasy, the underground music communities have ignored them completely. Notice was never served, but here’s the takeaway: the traditional industry is obsolete.

If you don’t believe me, here are 12 netlabels that prove it.

Test Tube

No Type

Out of Obscure

20 kbps rec.

Nexsound

Floppyswop

Kikapu

Comfort Stand Recordings

Roil Noise

Backporch Revolution

Filament Recordings

Panospria

If you find something you like, be sure to post about it in the comments section.