Archive for April, 2008

Cristopher Cichocki – “Elemental Shift”

April 30, 2008

It’s not even May yet; but I’m tempted to call it early– “Elemental Shift,” the opening DVD-R volley from new label Table of Contents, may very well be the best noise release of the year. Unfortunately limited to 250, I’ve begun treating my promo copy with kid gloves, thankful it had somehow arrived safely through the mail with only a thin cardboard shield to protect it.

I’m not usually anywhere near this finicky.

What’s got me so worked up is Cichocki’s seamless blending of video and sound. Although it would be a stretch to define me as a visually-oriented person, I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to suggest that “Elemental Shift” is a work that not only would be lessened greatly by the absence of picture or sound, but would be fundamentally transformed through either loss. I can also say that this is certainly not an hour-long music video– in fact, it is exceptionally difficult to determine which sounds or visuals may have preceded, as they inform and shape each other throughout.

I’m not certain I possess the visual vocabulary to describe “Elemental Shift” adequately, but I have to try! For starters, there are a lot of extremely quick cuts fashioned into loops. I don’t know if these have been constructed from individual film frames or photographs, but the results rely heavily on our persistence of vision, creating pulsing layers of eye-blinding activity. Initially, Cichocki seems to go no further than quickly revealing one image after another, but he has a real talent for selecting images that reflect the tone of the accompanying electronic scree and clearly is not operating in a random manner. In this sense, the visuals follow the music, providing a harmonious optical quality, if extraordinarily frenetic.

For me, one highlight was the use of a Wal-Mart shopping cart in a portion of the video. Viewed entirely through the hexagonal mesh of the basket, Cichocki takes us on a hyper-speed tour of the store, enhancing that tunnel vision attention-deficit state so encouraged by the bombardment of corporate messages upon store patrons.

However, where Cichocki really gets going is when the visuals encourage the sound itself. Having always found noise art to be a somewhat “rooted” music, I was thrilled to see how Cichocki’s use of successive frames (and even motive-based iconography such as traffic arrows) could impart a tactile sense of movement to the sounds. Whereas previously something I might have perceived something like “wall sound” as an immobile block, now I could imagine it as having purpose and direction. It’s interesting, to say the least, and will definitely have me re-examining many aspects of noise.

I took dozens of screen captures from the DVD, none of which come close to providing an accurate representation of “Elemental Shift” any more than a drawing of a rose might conjure its scent. If you try looking at all of them at once, you might get close. Those familiar with the accompanying videos for Merzbow performances will be surprised to find Masami Akita’s work a mere jumping-off point for “Elemental Shift,” and far less detail-oriented as well.

Finally, I should add that I don’t recommend this DVD-R to epileptics. Table of Contents seems somewhat aware of this in their press release, but I think it should be mentioned in a serious manner. If you’re prone to this sort of thing, stay far away!

For the rest of you, however, I can’t recommend “Elemental Shift” more highly.

I <3 Tomorrowland!

April 29, 2008

Miss Information picked up a lovely set of vintage Tomorrowland photos last month, while browsing at one of my favorite junk stores. The set first appeared to be postcards, but that didn’t make a lot of sense to me upon closer inspection, as they are printed front and back. I’m guessing the postmark area means the purchaser might choose to send the whole set as a single piece of mail?

Anyways, I had some fun trying to figure out when the photos date from, since Miss Information happily pointed out the absence of everyone’s Tomorrowland fave. You guessed it, there’s no Space Mountain! Back in the old days, folks were happy with the People Mover and the motorboats.

Back to what I was saying about the photo dating– it’s been a bit problematic, as the photos seem to have been taken at somewhat different times, given some important details shown. Before I continue, I’d like to add that the folks behind Yesterland provide a wealth of information, without which I would have been hopelessly lost. Thanks, Yesterland!

The main discrepancy seems to be between the Skyway and the CircleVision Theatre. In the photos of the Skyway, the first-generation round buckets are shown, which were replaced in 1965 with a differently-shaped bucket. That would initially suggest the photos date from no later than 1965. However, the CircleVision Theatre did not begin playing “America the Beautiful” until 1967, when it was re-opened. Clearly, there’s no way these photos could have been taken at the same time.

There are also a few other interesting details! See the Alweg Monorail? When it first opened, the red and blue trains only had three cars each– but the ones pictured have four. The additional cars were added in mid-1961; shortly before the addition of a third, yellow, monorail later that year. With the monorails featured so prominently in the photoset, I suspect the yellow monorail didn’t yet exist, placing these photos very near the mid-year of 1961. The text, which touts “extended” 2.4 mile monorail, also support this date.

Enough Disney-geekery for now– here are the photos! (click to view full size, please)

Now you can see what you missed!

April 28, 2008

For those of you who missed the live set by Karthik Kakarala on my last “It’s Too Damn Early” broadcast, I’m happy to say that it was extensively documented. Along with my short embedded video below, you can watch a large portion of the set at YouTube, thanks to Tom Vasilj. Apparently, this guy never puts the camera down– so don’t make his work for naught– check out both parts here and here.

John Cage Demands It!

April 27, 2008

There’s been a bit of fuss amongst WordPress bloggers about a surprise new feature added recently– the “possibly related blog posts” thing that is now dangling at the end of some of my entries. So far, it seems to be a goofy extra that mostly tries to direct readers to my own pages, which may be a sign that I’m the only person who writes about this sort of stuff!

I decided to scroll back through my entries to see if there were any useful links I would have made myself, and really didn’t find anything too mind-blowing. If anything, the whole process got me thinking about how fun it would be to have a random link generator for my own site…

Luckily, one already exists. As I gather, it was released as something of a secret, and probably as more of a curiosity than anything. Clicking on it will take you to a random Startling Moniker entry, and you’ll find it in the sidebar, titled “John Cage Demands It!”

Feel free to click the above link, or its sidebar doppelganger.

Liveblogging! Commentary for “ITDE” 4/26/08

April 26, 2008

There’s a nice little audience here to see Karthik tonight– and it looks like he’s brought everything but the kitchen sink in for some noise-making. Seems like 5am is going to be the magic hour, so stay tuned!

Zbigniew Karkaowski, Damion Romero — 9 Before 9, part 1
Zbigniew Karkaowski, Damion Romero — 9 Before 9, part 2
Rune Lindblad — Death of the Moon
Rune Lindblad — Fragment 0
Rune Lindblad — Fragment 1
Dr. Mint — Summon the Shadow Sun
George Korein — Liftoff
George Korein — Peak Altitude
George Korein — Evasive Measures
George Korein — Acceleration
George Korein — Crash Landing
George Korein — Flying Corpse Flies Again
George Korein — Gleaming Corpse I
George Korein — Singsong Corpse I
George Korein — Gleaming Corpse II
George Korein — Singsong Corpse II
George Korein — Gleaming Corpse III
George Korein — Pulsing Corpse

Another radio reminder…

April 25, 2008

Interview with Yann Hagimont of ‘O’

April 25, 2008

Back in August of 2007, I sent Yann Hagimont some interview questions. At the time, I had just learned that ‘O’, (a duo featuring Hagimont and Sylvain Ducasse) had just split up. ‘O’ had been one of my favorite groups since I heard their split with Tin.RP, so I wanted to see if ‘O’ might move on in some fashion. Hagimont was a good sport about the interview, and insisted on translating his original French answers for STARTLING MONIKER readers. It’s taken a while, but I think this interview was well worth the wait.

STARTLING MONIKER: First off, what’s happened to Sylvain? Will ‘O’ continue as a solo project?

YANN HAGIMONT/’O’: Well, just what often happens when two people play together for a long time. After some disagreements, we’ve decided to stop our collaboration and to follow different directions. I only know that he focuses on his scientific research (sounds like he’s a really respected archaeologist), but we didn’t talk together for a while… about two or three years ago. So “O” continues as a solo project– or more exactly, as an “orchestra non orchestra”… But as interactions are really important in the “O” creation process, I’ve also prepared some collaborations with artists I really respect. Some years ago, I’ve said that “O” will die after “Numero 0”… Of course, it was metaphoric. It was the death of a concept.

SM: So much of ‘O’ seems to do with duality– the personnel of ‘O’, the split-releases with other artists, and now a split-release in two parts across two labels, even the cooperation ‘O’ expects from listeners to “finish” creating the music. Why this emphasis on duality?

YH: Basically, you’re right… But behind all these dual elements, there’s always a third value– not limited to the fusion of the two others. In reality, there’s no emphasis on duality. To be honest, duality is probably what I hate the most… and that we hated the most. At the beginning, we had created “O” as a way to escape to duality, Manicheism, SYMMETRY, perfect repetition (L’Imperfection est la cîme” ). Duality is sterile: it only permits to create lifeless structures. This aesthetic position could be summed up like this: a + b = c, or possibly, c = a + b + x (consider that “c” is “O” music and “x” all accidents, aleatory events. I’m not sure that’s a good image.

Have you ever seen Henri Meschonnic‘s works? He develops a really specific conception of rhythm, based on a re-definition of rhythm; rhythm in language, rhythm in poetry, etc. According to him, rhythm isn’t a binary shifting… it’s movement, and it doesn’t require regularity. A consequence of this re-definition is that all art productions are unique. And it’s not only an aesthetic approach: it is also applicable to politics. Now I must give another reason: duality goes against my political ideals. Duality is an enemy of freedom, of individuality, of specificities.

If splits with other artists have many positive aspects (as all collaborations, it has positive economic aspects, creates communities and it determines creation), they’re also really stereotypical in underground scenes (which are ruled by many codes) and in many “pop” music scenes. As stereotypical objects, they must be disfigured. That’s the reason of our first split (with Tin RP): it wasn’t a “horizontal” split but a “vertical” split– a stereophonic split. The “O” vs Je split was a split between me and myself. The split with Moon was another variation of disfigured split (a split in two parts on Lona Records and Burning Emptiness). And the next split (with Joe Post, an ex-Monitors member) will be our first conventional split release.

About the cooperation of listeners, I don’t see it as a figure of duality. Oh! A little remark about this. I’ve said in the past that “O” needs active listeners, but all sound productions need active listeners to become music; there are just different degrees to this . Perhaps I was a bit clumsy or naive to focus on this point. At the same time, it was a good way to contest the cliché of “feeling.” Many people consider that music “speaks to their heart” (sorry for my English) but it’s just a romantic vision. They find feelings in music because they have learned how to find them in what they listen to.

SM: I have always been interested in works that fall between the world of “useful” crafts, and art. Obviously, you put a lot of work into ‘O’ recordings, but you also deny that they are communicating something concrete– and even that they are completed! How is it that you came to work in this middle ground?

YH: Of course, there’s months and months of work upstream from “O” music, especially in recent pieces. But this work is not an end. Of course, I must be sure that I can bear “O” approximations (“O” is not exactly music) and in the past we’ve said that “O” wasn’t music. One of the first steps of creation is to listen many times to the raw version. Then, a great part of the work consists in “sculpting” of this raw material: to “organize” it, create different spaces… and arrange this with all non-musical things I can find in the studio. Sometimes, the “non-musical” (more exactly the “concrete” elements) can be used first… I’m not sure that I’ve really answered this question!

SM: Your use of the ‘O’ symbol seems deliberately confusing– it can be seen as a whole, as a nil sign, a closed loop, a vessel to be filled, or a process without end. I have always thought that ‘O’ begins at one of these interpretations when starting to create. Is this true?

YH: Well… When we found this name – “O” -, we were looking at the full moon. We were speaking about more than a polysemic name, but at the same time minimalist and complex. Perhaps you’ll find it ridiculous, but when we found this name, it delighted us. It was like our first aesthetic production. The stupid sound of the letter “O” in French, the mathematical values (not positive, not negative) and the circle had totally charmed us.

But I keep in mind that the interpretation of a sign like “O” totally depends on the context. A text? An equation? A geometric exercise? A diagram? A child’s drawing? That means “O” is nothing. Or all.

To be honest I don’t really like symbolist explanations, which assume a preexisting sense to the form. A symbol doesn’t have any existence outside of a culture anymore. All these interpretations of “O” can be subsumed under the category of subjectivity. Consequently, the only real sense of “O” is the affirmation of the subjectivity. And our main musical objective (ah, ah!…).

SM: Does your recording process assume a listener? Who do you imagine? What are the qualities of this listener?

YH: Of course! And the recording process includes a listener twice. As I’ve said before, an important part of my preparation’s work consists in listening to the raw material. Oh! Even when I play guitar, I play as a listener– I try to introduce “errors;” things I don’t expect, things which can break listening codes. It can take me several months (I need to “multiply” me…). But it also assume other listeners at each step of the creation. How could we really imagine music without any listener?

I can’t believe people who release records and say that they do their music only for themselves, or for none. I don’t know if you ever read Umberto Eco’s “Lector in Fabula”. I think the reading processes described can work as well in music. Even if you say that you don’t (or can’t, which is probably my case) imagine your listener (and by this, I mean someone in particular), an entity determines many of your choices. Unfortunately, it’s probably connected with your environment– cultural, social.

I can’t say– or more probably don’t want to say who I imagine. A listener probably composed with a part of you? The qualities of a listener? Mainly confidence. And doubt.

SM: You have a release on Antenna Records, “Numero 0″… There’s something else I’d love to hear– any chance of a collaboration with The Telescopes?

YH: Ah, ah!… I’d like to work on something like that, but our problem is always time. Never have time enough. I have a deep respect for The Telescopes and Stephen; they produced so many awesome things since their start. They’ve never done the same music, and they’re more and more non-commercial. They follow their way and don’t care about any trend. Their journey into music and sound must be considered as an example.

SM: What music are you excited about right now?

YH: So much! I’m into a lot of contemporary music (my favorite remains Claude Debussy, one of my first discoveries)… and I do love all Messiaen works. Of course I love what some people call “abstract”, but I’m also a great fan of No-Wave, experimental rock, and I even listen to “arty” grindcore. I’m really interested in traditional music too. The only thing I really hate is pretentious popular music. Sometimes, people making popular music are dumb enough to imagine that they’re as great as “real” composers… but we’re not.) Never forget that popular music; from indie to techno, from harsh noise to grindcore, from folk to idm (I’d like to know how dance music can be intelligent. Just another stupid fashion.) are clichéd combinations. Don’t imagine that I’m a snob– I love clichés, and I love playing with them too!.

SM: What is coming up for ‘O’? Is the Monitors split still going to happen? Any touring, other albums in progress?

YH: Unfortunately, The Monitors no longer exist… I really miss them; it was a promising band, a really interesting prog no-wave. Even though they no longer exist, a split EP (the first “O” vinyl ever!) with Joseph Post (ex-member of the Monitors) will be released this August on Golgonooza Records (who also release music from Sberms, G.I. Joe, Gay Beast and many others). Another split (with S/T, ex-bassist of the Japanese band Green Milk from Planet Orange) should be out on Skyr Records really soon as well. The “O” part is totally different from what I usually do– it’s mainly a minimalist electronical work, and was composed between 2001 and 2007). There’s no full album planned for the moment; I’m just thinking about a new approach of “O”… I can’t use a same concept twice.

My super-cool birthday!

April 24, 2008

For those few readers who give a damn, my birthday was great. I had a surprise party, which was made more interesting by the fact that I was already AT my house. So everyone actually had to contrive a reason to show up, and then arrive simultaneously. Miss Information had taken her recent Sweeney Todd obsession into the realm of vegetarian-friendly “meat pies” and some yummy hazelnut cookies as well.

She also found me some REAL COKE. For the uninitiated, real Coke is made with actual sugar, and comes in a tall glass bottle. None of that high-fructose corn syrup nonsense to spoil things!

A well-timed bit of spending money (a rarity around these parts) enabled me to pick up a new memory card for my camera, so I upgraded from 64 megabytes to 1 gig! Now I can take high-quality video for nearly 30 minutes… my brain is enjoying tossing this possibility around for future projects. I also got some punch balloons, and three tiny basil plants.

On a somewhat surreal note, the girl checking out our purchases was very excited to tell us about a hotel “somewhere in the midwest” that does not have beds, but is “all murder rooms.” Not sure what that meant exactly, but I think she may have been describing some sort of home-grown history museum. Or just getting too much of the home-grown herself…

Taking our leave from Homicide Ho-Jo, Mister and I had our photostrip made, with props! For the record, bubbles are finicky partners in a photo setting.

Upon returning home, DJ Mo presented me with the keys to Dave City, a sim of which I am not only the man-about-town and concurrent five-time homeowner, but also the mayor. My approval rating is pretty high, but apparently, I need to get a fire station built before this highly-desirable real estate goes up in flames.

New Nashville homeowner Tony capped off my birthday with a much-appreciated gift card for Amazon. Winging their way to my door are John Cage’s “Silence,” David Toop’s “Haunted Weather,” “The Soundscape” by R. Murray Schaeffer, and a Dover Thrift Edition of the “Tao Te Ching.”

All in all, a great birthday. Thank you, everyone!

Saying goodbye to my twenties…

April 23, 2008

In a little over 8 hours, I’ll be thirty years old. Although I always have a good time making a tremendous fuss about my birthday– mostly for present-gathering purposes– the truth is my birthday doesn’t usually mean a whole lot to me. And while I haven’t gotten weepy or anything, I have to admit that thirty seems like a bigger deal somehow.

I’ve grown up quite a bit since 20, and a heck of a lot has changed. This time ten years ago, there was no Google. Seriously– reflect on that for a minute. I probably hit Google 300 times a day. What the hell was I using back then? Excite? iMacs were just coming out… now I have one my eight-year-old will barely bother with.

I’ve been through more crappy vehicles than you’d believe if I numbered them, buried three people and two dogs, crossed the country a few times, watched two kids take their first breath, lost half as many friends as I did cars, held about a half-dozen jobs, and personally spent at least a week in the hospital.

I don’t remember a lot of it. I’m not even sure I’d want to.

Mostly, I’ve learned to let go. I figured out that control was a big elusive carrot, and that I was a lot happier letting things come as they may. I found the mental flexibility to come to terms with the world’s absurdity, and started trying to live more in the moment– not just the lip service most folks pay it, either– but accepting the loveliness that comes with knowing that tomorrow simply does not exist.

“The crack of Doom / is coming soon / Let it come / it doesn’t matter”

I still haven’t quite made it to 30 proper yet. Ended up in the woods last night, in a deep culvert somewhere around the center of my block… dashing a flashlight about, whose failing battery cast a dim yellowness on my surroundings. I couldn’t see a thing, but I sure could hear my puppy, the aptly-named Squeaky. He was trapped in a neighbors garage somehow. So there I was, well past midnight, introducing myself to a guy named Randy– “I’m sorry to be on your porch so late, and I know this sounds crazy, but I think my puppy is in your garage.”

So it begins.

PS: Forgot to get me something for my big day? Make it up to me by recommending Startling Moniker to someone who wouldn’t ordinarily read such a thing, and leave me a comment. Thanks!

Interview with Karthik Kakarala

April 22, 2008

Karthik Kakarala, currently a Carbondale-based student and musician, will be this week’s live guest on “It’s Too Damn Early.” Naturally, I’m encouraging everyone to tune in. In the meantime, here’s a short e-mail interview in which Kakarala spills the beans about the habits of underground artists, the relationship of noise to Peking opera, and future recordings.

STARTLING MONIKER: How do you approach explaining noise to an interested (but otherwise uninvolved) party?

KARTHIK KAKARALA: This is the ongoing trick, isn’t it? Well, I’m not going to trivialize it by suggesting I’ve solved how to do so, nor insist that it’s impossible due to how many different ways there need to be in order to fit with the types of listeners that exist. Of course, these explanations depend entirely upon the listening experiences of the individual(s) in the conversation, and that must be determined first.

Rock ‘n roll: I’d say this is perhaps easiest, in terms of an inherent thirst for excitement that is obviously there, even in the oldest fossil who’s still into rock music. Old-school rock music (the popular edge of which is actually far less controlled in sheer percentages due to the advent of sophisticated compressors that can, with a couple of clicks, successfully steal all heart out of a track now) flagrantly is reachable via blues, and in any case blatantly points to Hendrix. Anyone worth their salt knows that it’s more than the basic “note” sounds that make him so damned interesting in his time, and focusing the person’s attention on the compositional possibilities of those non-note sounds for expressing fuzzier, more abstract concepts. I go back that far because not everyone gets into Radiohead (as a band that has almost always required multiple listens to form an opinion of, whether or not the particular album was up to snuff), not everyone ends up listening to the ambitious steps of The Who or Pink Floyd, and most people don’t hear Sonic Youth’s “Confusion is Sex” when they’re eleven years old, even though the latter’s not the end-all reason as to why I’m here typing this.


Sad Sailor – “Link to the Outside World”

April 21, 2008

Seven-piece outift Sad Sailor turn out three competent drone-rock tracks in this 28-minute EP, mostly focused on the progression familiar to all– the slow plunge from layered noodling into sweaty chaos. Unfortunately, Sad Sailor’s focus is too intent on this outcome, with little other emotional range apparent excepting a lovely section opening the EP.

Sad Sailor \

And it’s too bad. For the first three minutes or so, Sad Sailor surround the listener with subtly-mingled guitar lines, watery cello, and floating peaks of occasional noise. It’s nothing astoundingly new, just rather well-done, with effortless shoring up of one another’s phrases that shows a real bond between players. The trumpet kicks in, and the whole thing lifts off… if a bit predictably. Even the false end to first track “Juice the Room” fails to surprise, like watching James Brown do the cape routine for the fifteenth time.

That’s why it’s odd when “Juice the Room” is suddenly cut off, and “Radiant Evil” begins– especially given how it almost immediately launches into the same trip the first track took us on at about the five-minute mark. Another lift-off into 4/4 time, but this one seems stuck somewhere in the middle stage throughout. Sad Sailor seem to think it a dud, so why not reset and try again?

At this point, you’re really wondering what the purpose is. “Down at Weirdo Park” rolls back the tape, gets a bit of momentum, and aims squarely at the “let’s blend some guitars together over drum and bass while the trumpet solos” territory so thoroughly juiced in the first track. Listeners shouldn’t be surprised to find only pulp and rind here.

I guess this is the modern day equivalent of one of those generic 60’s surf records; it is serviceable, but too predicable and staid to elicit much serious reaction. For such competent players, and the Eh? label who generally have such fantastic releases, this all seems like setting the bar a bit low. Even for the relatively short duration of this disc, Sad Sailor hold the ecstatic playing too long, ultimately depriving “Link to the Outside World” of necessary emotional contrast that would have sharpened the whole.

For kicks, here’s Ampersand Etcetera’s review of the same. Never say I’m not a giving person!

Don Campau – “Silo”

April 20, 2008

As a solid collection of solo acoustic guitar work from long-time KKUP-FM DJ Don Campau, “Silo” presents an easy-going face of improvisational music less-often heard than its more academic counterparts. Throughout, Campau features a simple fingerpicking style with traces of many musical genres without making much effort to “belong” in any. What did you expect from someone hosting a show called “No Pigeonholes,” anyway?

Sounding a lot like a more fluid version of my own acoustic explorations, Campau lets his fingers wander where inspiration strikes– a clawed chord here, a sudden slide there, unexpected beginnings and endings. As often as Campau hits upon an intriguing figure, such as the bluesy vamp in “Flax;” he’ll shift to something unanticipated, like the double-picking and pulloffs ending “Quinoa”.

This is the stuff that is the makings of genres, and it is nice to encounter those not already working within an established area of music, if only for a short while.

Technically, the sound quality is pretty damn good– I believe you can actually hear Campau breathing on a couple tracks. A simple pressed-paper sleeve rounds everything out, and was a great introduction to Campau’s Lonely Whistle Music label for me. Recommended for fans of John Fahey, Mike Tamburo, or Derek Bailey’s less brittle material.

Make Cally a Cylon!

April 19, 2008

I’m freaked out– Cally’s dead! I never much cared for Tori’s character, and now she’s just a rotten, Cally-murdering bitch. YUCK.

But all can still be well if Cally turns out to be a Cylon!

She’s the dental student with the funny bangs, and the ultra-white teeth, probably the only character who could have conceivably shacked up with the Chief. Let’s face it, the man was a headcase before he was a toaster.

So yes, the whole series focus has shifted for me. The final five? I don’t give a shit. Let’s get Cally back, even if it means waking her up in the goo bath.

Liveblogging! Commentary for “ITDE” 4/19/08

April 19, 2008

It’s now officially the WDBX Spring Membership Drive! I hope you’ll all give me a call, whether you plan to become a member or not– 618-457-3691.

Karthik Kakarala came to sit in for the back half of this week’s broadcast, and gave me quite a scare popping out from around the side of the building while I was catching some refreshing night air. He also has the honor of being the first official new member of WDBX, having made his pledge shortly before the close of the show.

Not that one thing has to do with the other, but Kakarala will be next week’s live musical guest– I’ve heard discussion of possible tape loop work, amplifiers… not sure what exactly to expect, but I’m sure it will be highly interesting. Don’t miss it!

Mary, Jon, Jonathan, Priya, Elembe, Lisa — Untitled, from Gold Record Studio
Inca Ore, Lemon Bear — Untitled, from Gold Record Studio
Muck — Sensation
Miminokoto — Dokonimo ver.2
Miminokoto — Tokedasu
Business Lady — Slow Motion
Wether — Solar Volt
Area C — Star Names
Unagi Patrol — Pine Soul
John Cage — HPSCHD
The Lords of Outland — How to be a Good Citizen in 3 Easy Steps
Sad Sailor — Down at Weirdo Park
John Dikeman, Jon Barrios, Toshi Makihara — We Need You (excerpt)
Eddie the Rat — I Sleep Away
Eddie the Rat — Hyperactive-atrophy
Eddie the Rat — Satori Kumquat
Eddie the Rat — Dark o’ Clock Came Early
Murmur — Discovery of Mother Voidness
Augment — Dilation
Body Collector — La Santisima Muerte
Raperies (like Draperies) — One of the Beautiful

Rothkamm – “Just 3 Organs”

April 18, 2008

I’m blogging through aftershocks here, so I figured I’d review something appropriate. For the past week or so, I’ve had Frank Rothkamm’s “Just 3 Organs” laying about in my computer, enjoying the somewhat random intervals VLC will decide to spool up and start playing it. With the nice subwoofer I have hooked up, it’s pretty apparent when the album starts; the ultra-low rumbling kicks in like some sort of ominous film cue. The track, “Kris Kristofferson of the Avant-garde,” is quite physical– the sort of thing that demands attention, and receives it.

Frank Rothkamm \"Just 3 Organs\" cover art

In an earlier playlist, I described “Just 3 Organs” as “hypernumerally-obsessed,” which is true… due to my general ineptitude with mathematics, I’ll let Rothkamm show you why:

“Just 3 Organs is 33 minutes and 33 seconds or a 3 times 3 tracks long long-player played with 3 times 2 hands and feet on the 3 times 2 manuals and 3 pedals of 3 vintage Yamaha 205D Electone home organs each assigned a primary color and tuned a micro-tonal 33 cents apart then amplified with 3 speakers for each organ suspended in mid-air in a triangle just in front of the observer with a monophonic reverberation phantom channel circling at 3 rotations per minute between all speaker triangles.”

Got all that?

The fact of the matter is, though, that “Just 3 Organs” is far more than a mathematical gimmick. There’s also a bit of fate, combined with an artistic openness I love to find in others. While on holiday with family, a young Frank Rothkamm had an opportunity to play a reed organ he found in an unlocked chapel of a Swiss village he was visiting. Finding nobody about to tell him “no,” he did what I would have done: played that organ like it was nobody’s business, finishing with some held tones. As he left the chapel behind, the idea of floating “tone shapes” occurred to him, a concept that stuck until 23 years later when he encountered an organ in a thrift store– an organ that had been built exactly nine months following the conception of his tone-shape idea.

What listeners end up with is a compelling album filled with odd shapes, bold movement, and a wide range of unusual technique. In “Sleepy Bullet,” a large portion of the track is played on the lower third of the keyboard, allowing for a bumpy low-end filled with key clatter. A few tracks make extensive use of the fast release available to the organ, with a chirpy and intermittent sound not irreminiscent of a skipping CD. Spacial effects and phasing play a large part in the final track, “B and B plus 33.”

All in all, this is a masterfully-rendered work, with excellent sound quality. Drone fans may find a leaping-off point here, especially in regard to reproduction quality and nuance. Recommended.

Preview \”Just 3 Organs,\” courtesy of Frank Rothkamm


April 18, 2008

I was awakened last night by an earthquake— pretty much known to be the only thing that can wake me up at night, haha. My wife, the former Californian, gave a mid-yawn guess that it was a 6.0 and that we weren’t too far from the epicenter. Not too shabby, Miss Information!

What I’m reading this morning says it was a magnitude 5.4, and that we’re about 100 miles off the location of the quake. I’ve spent some time reviewing the surely-underutilized Illinois Emergency Management Agency “earthquake safety and preparedness” pages, seeing as how I really didn’t know what to do in such an event. In Illinois, earthquake readiness is kind of like planning for a manatee attack… not exactly the first thing on your mind.

I’ll grant you, living on the New Madrid fault comes up now and again. It’s sort of an elephant in the room among Southern Illinoisians; a ticking time bomb we all tend to accept with a certain fatalistic “what can you do?” attitude. Doubtless, it will be popping up in conversations around the area all day.

Still, the eyewitness accounts from the 1811-12 New Madrid earthquakes are terrifying. In a series of quakes peaking at magnitude 8, an area ten times as large as that affected by the famous 1906 quakes of San Francisco was beaten for a span of two months. For a short time, an uplift underneath the river actually caused the Mississippi to flow upstream!

Gold Record Studio – “Live at Laney Flea Market”

April 18, 2008

Up until now, I thought Negativland had the market cornered on bizarre covers of “My Favorite Things.” That was true until I heard Mary, Jon, Jonathan, Priya, Elembe, and Lisa do their version. Alongside a plodding waltz beat; the sextet calls out global warming, noses, and schnitzel-covered space geese. Are they poised at the brink of fame? Probably not– they just happened to be down at the Laney Flea Market last year, when some fun-loving folks decided to set up the Gold Record Studio.

The studio, in reality a record cutting machine plopped in the midst of an otherwise-mundane flea market, offered free recording to anyone who wanted it, and the instruments to make it happen. From the presence of the “sales pitch” opening the first disc (it’s a double set!), it is clear that most market attendants were in capitalism mode. “What’s the catch?” was surely heard many times over by all involved.

Enough about that– there’s a lot of fun music here. I can’t pick out all the names, but there’s more than one track sporting a known musician or two. Rent Romus, Eddie the Rat, Inca Ore, and a former DJ for the Ghetto Boyz all make appearances. Completists take note!

Now I don’t know about you, but if something like this happened in Southern Illinois, you’d have one disc of people singing “Jesus Take the Wheel,” and another split between wannabee rappers and some guy trying repeatedly to pick out the opening bars to “Sweet Child of Mine.” This doesn’t seem to be the case in Oakland. Aside from a handful of American Idol castoffs who go for the “big finish,” and the tone-deaf guy absolutely butchering “Let It Be,” the 83 tracks of “Gold Record Studio” are filled with nothing but originality.

Naturally, there are numerous sub-audiophile moments– bass guitar peaking, a dog barking at one bit of electronic improvisation, and at least one stubborn youngster who will only sing when the art moves her– but that’s all part of the fun. This is a weird ride through eight weeks of Sundays, surely one of the more entertaining compilations you can get your hands on.

New Juche / Whores of Leith – “Bangkok Fanny-Rat”

April 17, 2008

Originally, I had wanted to review this disc along with Annea Lockwood’s “A Sound Map of the Danube,” as a study in how two projects so dissimilar in outcome could start out so much the same. Upon greater reflection, I think it would have been a bit unfair to both. Like Lockwood, New Juche’s Joe Rotheray is interested in a subject, and gathers together material about it. That Rotheray’s subject in “Bangkok Fanny-Rat” is the sex trade in South-east Asia should immediately be of no difference than Lockwood’s fascination with inland bodies of water– at heart, both projects are documentarian in nature.

But the word “documentary” conjures more of an ideal than a reality in most cases. From Disney’s infamous tampering with lemming movements, to Michael Moore hamming it up, to whatever the heck Ben Stein is pushing; there is often a feeling among those involved that the material has to be sensationalized or pushed for consumers to be satisfied. The documentary-maker becomes less of an impartial observer, and more of a pimp. For someone whose subjects are those already literally being pimped out, it does leave a bit of a bad taste.

Unfortunately, the premise of “Bangkok Fanny-Rat,” that someone interviews those involved on both sides of the cash flow; is far more interesting than the results. Rotheray asks little of his subjects but the most obvious trivialities: “Do you suck cock? Do you want an operation to make pussy?” and reveals no more than the participants might reveal to any john. Whether this is due to language barriers, Rotheray’s skill level as an interviewer, or the hopelessness of his subjects, it is difficult to ascertain.

At one point in time, Rotheray throws out the question, “What do you do for fun?” and receives the answer “I don’t have fun, I don’t have fun.” It’s a nibble, and a good interviewer might set the hook here. Instead, Rotheray asks if they have any children. So another interview passes, something like a darker version of a MySpace survey.

Frankly, the included music isn’t a lot better. It is unimpressive, repetitive, and doesn’t seem to have much to do with anything that is going on. Unlike Lockwood’s disc where the interview subjects and the natural recordings are allowed to mix, “Bangkok Fanny-Rat” treats them as bookends, isolating one pointless track from the next. Personally, I would have been more interested in hearing sounds and music taken on location.

It is doubtless that Rotheray took upon both a fascinating and difficult topic, so some understanding and sympathy should be extended his way. Prostitutes make their living (and most likely, protect themselves) by putting serious psychological distance between themselves and their customers. An Englishman with a microphone probably was going to get only so far. At present, New Juche has another bull by the horns– interviewing Cambodians on both sides of Pol Pot’s former regime. It’s a daunting project, to say the least, and should be interesting to hear the results. With any luck, Rotheray will have improved his techniques, and may have better results next time around.

Annea Lockwood – “A Sound Map of the Danube”

April 17, 2008

On this formidable 3-disc release for Lovely Music, Annea Lockwood revisits techniques utilized in her “Sound Map of the Hudson;” albeit in far greater depth and the inclusion of interviews with Danube bank inhabitants.

Annea Lockwood, \

Spanning five separate trips to the Danube, and comprising 59 sites and 13 interviews, Lockwood is able to convey not only some of the majesty of this exercise, but provide a fascinating voice to her subject. Most interesting is Lockwood’s willingness to allow her work to be shaped and informed by the Danube itself– rather than stressing the ordinary role of the “artist-as-communicator,” Lockwood acts as more of a translator and sounding board– posing the question, “what is a river?” Lockwood allows the Danube (and those nearby) to answer.

In a society where we all too often impart our own desires for relaxation on every natural recording, “A Sound Map of the Danube” is a refreshing assertion of sounds’ own life and drive, in contrast to the usual belief in field recordings as mere raw material for later manipulation. Even the personal interviews reflect this to a point. Without an audible translator, listeners are free to consider the voices musically, and seem encouraged to by their being interwoven with the natural sounds. Later on, the liner notes can be consulted, revealing a full-size foldout map of the recording sites along the Danube and English-language translations of all interview subjects.

As can be expected, I am highly impressed with this release, and eagerly encourage you to check it out. As a musical document, Lockwood subtly demonstrates the power of listening; and as a sort of impressionistic journalism, she has gathered evidence of not only our influence upon the river, but its workings upon us.

Liveblogging! Commentary for “ITDE”

April 12, 2008

I’ve been talking with Don Campau from KKUT-FM’s “No Pigeonholes” about doing a bit more talking on-air. But here it is with less than an hour to go, and I still haven’t said a word! Maybe next week, Don…

I started off this morning’s broadcast with a bit of a flashback. The first Lexaunculpt track used to be featured in an early promo of mine, and one attentive listener noticed this. It’s nice to know people are still listening, especially after so long ago. Following this cut, and a little more in a similar vein, I played from a new Public Eyesore release– Anla Courtis, Seichi Yamamoto, and Yoshimi’s “Live at Kanadian.” I’m pretty pleased with this disc, and it’s as far out as you’d expect from the lineup. Speaking of which, wasn’t it just last week that I was writing about finally being “caught-up” with Courtis recordings? How odd that these two came so near to one another!

Last Visible Dog is always good for this time of day– the syrupy moments when the night begins transitioning into dawn. I think this time should have a proper name, but all those of us who’d care enough to bother are too tired.

Wondrous Horse! Yet more Vanessa Rossetto recordings! This girl never lets up, which is great, because there is a uniform goodness to everything she’s had a hand in so far. For this Fire Museum release (her first for the label was as Pulga) Salvatore Borrelli’s musical armada of instruments joins forces with Rossetto’s typical horde of noisemakers. “You got wondrous in my horse! You got horse in my wondrous!” But seriously, a good album– a touch of Valerio Cosi helps, too.

Jose Lewis Redondo’s “La Response est aux Pieds” from Etude Records was next. Etude has been turning out high-quality releases for as long as I’ve been aware of their existence, and this disc is no different. Redondo’s unique take on playing string instruments is a little bit Derek Bailey, and a little bit Rod Poole. Not so much a marriage of the two, mind you– just a jumping point.

Lexaunculpt – Plus and minus m
Eight Frozen Modules — In the Midst of a Breakdown
Eight Frozen Modules — Acute Episode
Anla Courtis, Seichi Yamamoto, Yoshimi — Live at Kanadian (excerpt)
Renderizors — Under the Wheels
Renderizors — Twister
Wondeous Horse — Non Dicible
Wondrous Horse — Ogni Intuizione e il Tangible Segno del Declino
Wondrous Horse — Fuoco Sacro
Wondrous Horse — Mentre ci Vediamo Misti a Foglie
Jose Luis Redondo — 2 8 2
Jose Luis Redondo — Dragon Gemini
Jose Luis Redondo — Young Blues
Gen Ken Montgomery — Drilling Holes in the Wall