Archive for the ‘memory’ Category


April 23, 2011

I’ve got about three more hours of birthday left, but I thought I’d do my traditional wrap-up now due to the massive amount of rainfall, and the resulting high probability of power loss. I turned 33 years old today, and managed to have a good amount of fun with it. One of my favorite improvising musicians, Tom Hamilton, performed a phone-in set for “It’s Too Damn Early” that blew me out of the water. I enjoyed it with my legs propped up, Coke in hand, and the studio monitors at a healthy volume. Although I know otherwise, it wasn’t too much of a mental stretch to imagine myself as the sole listener. It’s a fun conceit, and radio is quite good at providing this sort of mysterious experience. It reminded me of another listener who recently wrote to tell of taking an unscheduled break in his late-night drive to enjoy a drink and the setting moon after accidentally encountering “Sounds Like Radio” in mid-broadcast.

I think it’s important and interesting to let these urges actually move us, so I played along with a couple such miniature adventures today. While record-hunting, I came across a dusty old box of ping-pong equipment. Just the thing for the kitchen table, which ended in a highly-dedicated kids’ cheering section and much left-handed ping-pong action. The hanging light in the kitchen came into play more than once, and the sink appears to be in-bounds as well.

My search for photographic slides did not go as well, despite my unusual Craigslist call for help with making my birthday awesome. I’m still holding out hope for slides!

All this aside, I’ve got some time to myself right now, so I suppose I ought to attempt making some sense out of this year. Earlier, I wasn’t sure I’d really learned anything too important during this trip around the sun, and I suppose that’s true if the only measure of learning is to consider the knowledge one has added to the sum total. However, I think I’ve gotten quite a bit better at figuring out what actually means something to me. If you’ve been following my Litnoise adventure on Twitter, you’re no doubt aware that I’ve been reading a lot of Sinclair Lewis lately. At the end of “Our Mr. Wrenn,” the main character– who has spent much of the book in dreaming of faraway destinations– finds true happiness in a simple, loving relationship. In the closing paragraph, he whistles to himself while carrying home some potato salad. It’s hardly the dramatic tramping about Europe that he envisioned, but it not only works for him, it’s very much a real happiness.

Perhaps, in some ways, I’m finding a bit of myself in Mr. Wrenn. I think that’s nice, since I’ve often found it difficult to find these reflections of myself in others. If I’m finding them in a fictional character from a 1914 novel, that’s quite alright by me. As always, my habit of reading multiple books at once has yielded some especially interesting hybrid trains of thought between Geeta Dayal’s examination of Brian Eno’s “Another Green World” for Continuum’s 33 1/3 series, Patti Smith’s “Just Kids” memoir,” and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s second volume of “The Gulag Archipelago.” I’m not exactly sure where it’s all leading, but I am very pleased to be reading on a regular basis– as a side note, let me tell you that an e-reader definitely helps. I’m rocking three different ones, with multiple books going on each. Try it!

I also need to make a little nod and wave to Anla Courtis’ “Tape Works” album now. I’ve been listening to it a lot in the past couple weeks, just amazed at the simple and assuming work presented within. Listening to it is like being hit over the head with the motto “you can do this”. I think I can– perhaps this coming year will reveal the answer.

15 Albums

September 12, 2010

I’m barely on Facebook, but I still managed to run into this meme– list 15 albums that will always stick with you. Obviously, this will be super-difficult, mostly because I will have to resist the urge to go back and add more in the middle of the night. Here goes…

1) Crass – “The Feeding of the 5000”
2) Patti Smith – “Horses”
3) Jimi Hendrix – “Electric Ladyland”
4) Nirvana – “In Utero”
5) U.S. Maple – “Sang Phat Editor”
6) Metallica – “…and Justice for All”
7) The Ran-Dells – “The Martian Hop/Forgive Me My Darling (I Have Lied)”
8) Henry Cowell – “Piano Music”
9) The Yardbirds – “Heart Full of Soul/Steeled Blues”
10) Dead Kennedys – “In God We Trust/Plastic Surgery Disasters” (I’m not even going to pretend that I had the original, separate albums)
11) Subhumans – “From the Cradle to the Grave”
12) Rudimentary Peni – “Death Church”
13) John Cage, Lejaren Hiller – “HPSCHD”
14) Public Enemy – “It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back”
15) The Diamonds – “Little Darlin’/Faithful and True” (I dig this version so much more than the original, by The Gladiolas.)

Welcome to the FUTURE, suckers

January 1, 2010

It’s 2010. I’m holed up inside, half-expecting a rain of poorly-considered bullets to interrupt my dalliance with some old 78’s. Ringing in the freakin’ new year with Big Bill Broonzy– this is how I earn my music snob cred, haha. “Everybody have a can of beer on me!”

~ORE~ History, pt.2

December 18, 2009

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that my first radio show was ~ORE~, which I co-hosted for two years with Tony Youngblood. Lately, I’ve been exploring the history of WDBX-FM, but Tony’s most THEATRE INTANGIBLE entry got me thinking about digging back into the history of ~ORE~. You’ll want to read the sister entry (fact: like ships, all blogs are female) before continuing here.

I’ve been with ~ORE~ in one fashion or another since it got started, at Southern Illinois University’s WIDB radio in 1998. By that time, I was a confirmed music obsessive, but I had yet to do anything with radio. Tony’s on-air collages caught my ear, and I started helping him compile raw material each week, which we would sift through during the live broadcasts. More often than not, the results were something of a trainwreck– but I gradually began to realize that I was building my listening skills, learning to improvise in a sound environment, and getting a serious education in composition as well. In effect, ~ORE~ was like experimental music bootcamp. The grind of producing a new episode each week with zero budget, amidst a full college workload was often intense. But ~ORE~ opened my mind to the possibilities of radio and music in ways that I hadn’t thought possible. I distinctly remember pitching one show idea to Tony that would take place entirely in engineering, re-routing cables and signals to see what would happen to the broadcast signal. Although we didn’t ever go through with this (admittedly rather hazardous) idea, the concept of multi-layered improvisation existing at all levels of the radio chain stuck with me– we could alter the music, we could alter the broadcast, we could alter the radios receiving it, we could alter the listeners… and they could alter us. The possibilities were simply staggering.

Tony and I had apparently soaked up Wu-Tang Clan’s greatest lesson, too– make it a franchise. Thus, the original ~ORE~ was endowed with “Prefab Audio Extrapolations” as a tagline. Even while fighting to keep up with a one-hour weekly broadcast, we were thinking of the future! At times, it seemed like anyone who was listening was actually AT the broadcasts, or helping make them. Although we were doing something amazingly different on the SIU campus, we didn’t exist in a bubble. Flyers and chalk were our outreach. Wednesday nights, we’d gather under the dim yellow lights of Faner Hall, and begin our amazingly huge chalk runs. We got our friends and family into it with us, making teams to cover as much of the 900-foot length of the breezeway as possible before the chalk bucket ran out. By morning, Faner was a pastel mess of dogs and cows spouting absurdist essays extolling the virtues of experimental radio, mixed with the inevitable Xeroxed flyers cooked up special for the occasion. Although the flyers rarely made much sense, we knew that they would reach others like us– weirdos, makers, noise-enthusiasts, record collector scum, freaks… our people.

When Tony graduated, I tried to carry on with ~ORE~ as best as I could. Now having found myself in the somewhat ironic position of being a more senior member of WIDB (I found this funny, because I had never officially joined), I made some effort to have a positive effect on the greater course of the station. But WIDB was floundering and directionless– and worse yet, it was splitting into two “factions”. On one side, WIDB had a core group of specialty-show DJs and music fans who were happy to continue WIDB’s long tradition of broadcasting in an oddball college radio format. They recognized that the freedom we were allowed for selecting our music brought with it a responsibility to showcase recordings and artists outside the mainstream, something that a commercial station cannot often do. On the other side, there were those who wished to emulate these same commercial stations, rendering WIDB little more than a warm-up “practice” space for those seeking jobs in corporate broadcasting. Worse yet, they wanted to cede more and more time to the automated programming, and were removing the specialty shows one by one.

The climate was rough, to say the least. WIDB had re-branded itself as “The Revolution,” an insipid and hollow slogan ironically describing whole days filled with nothing but a computer playing mp3 files in the back room for the bored, captive audience in the Student Center. I took to showing up at random times, shutting the PC off, and broadcasting miniature shows for anyone who would listen. Other DJs also stepped up to the plate– I heard others interrupting the automation as well, discussing the change over the air, or refusing to play the nonsense dictated by new programming rules.

But eventually, it got to be too much. I was tired, and ~ORE~ was beaten. I’d seen the new programming schedule, which literally crowned the station manager victorious by awarding him my old time slot. It reduced specialty shows by more than half, pushing them entirely to the weekends. The “Quiet Storm” broadcasting, which was arguably our most popular offering, was slashed dramatically. This was bizarro-world WIDB, and I wanted no part of it. On the night of the last ~ORE~ broadcast, the senior staff of WIDB was taking part in a pep rally on campus, attempting to out-shout other student organizations to show their spirit. I couldn’t think of a more fitting end to my days with the station– playing my favorite tunes to a dark student union, while the staff screamed about how amazing we were. After my last record was over, I posted some flyers to announce the occasion… and ~ORE~ Prefab Audio Extrapolations was dead.

Here’s some early flyer art for ~ORE~, and a bunch of other photos besides. I’ll do my best to explain them:

This was the core of the ~ORE~ family. I always liked this flyer, and felt that it represented us all well. Our “Mysterious DJ” was Will Bernel, AKA DJ Shad, AKA Willie Dynamite. I owe him a lot as a fellow DJ, and would love to chat with him again sometime!

This flyer is one of our “stealth” postings. Our flyers were often torn down by a campus Christian group, so I’d try to hide them in plain view for longer shelf life.

I love this one– “who gives a shit about our soundless room?!” Be sure to click these to see them large, okay?

On the surface, this one makes no sense whatsoever. In actuality, it describes the exact plot of “Doug’s Party,” our most infamous episode.

I re-worked the dialogue in this flyer many, many times, even employing it later at WDBX-FM.

I made this flyer in January of 1999, long before Franz Ferdinand would rip me off, lol.

Open these windows in a new tab– here, heeere, and heeeeeeeere— to see more of my flyer art!

Here’s Matty Smith, the station manager who was intent on turning WIDB into a total shitpile. As you can see, he was a complete tool. I got him to pose with a sign that had been posted at WIDB since I arrived, allowing me to subtly alter the content for greater veracity. Also present– a very young DJ Mo!

Here was Matty’s proposed schedule. See all the “pre-programmed” stuff? YIKES!

Long Live ~ORE~

I’ve got to imagine that WIDB is a different place now. New DJs, new ideas, and a couple solid webstreams have seen to that. Do yourself a favor and check them out— tell them DaveX said “hi”.

DaveX, roaming the internet

December 10, 2009

At the urging of Dan Godston, I’ve written an entry for the Fire Music Consortium blog describing my recent experience of performing the world premiere of John Cage and Lejaren Hiller’s “KNOBS.”

In other words, I’m not reviewing anything today!

RIP, Jack Rose

December 7, 2009

Click to see more of Dan Cohoon’s photos of Jack Rose.

Hurricane! OR… The Gruesome End of Chip Bleak!

May 13, 2009

So, Southern Illinois got hit by a hurricane last Friday. My family and I are alright, but I’m enjoying the electricity at my friend’s house a bit too much to say that not having power, water, or a functional net connection hasn’t affected me. I’ve also gotten familiar with using a chainsaw, as I had five trees fall in my yard… on my garage… on my barn… and on the dog kennel. In short, inland hurricanes suck.

But that’s not why I’ve brought you here.

Something gave me a bit of cheer on Saturday, the first day I managed to get out of my neighborhood, to survey the damage. I found a photo of it online, but you’ll trust me when I say that I have many more:

That’s a photo of Absher Motors, a local car dealership. I decided that I hated them some years back, when they built their oversized eyesore of a car lot just outside the hellhole that is Marion, Illinois. It wasn’t the gaudy, overwrought building that drew my ire– it was the sign. Frankly, it was the sort of thing that might have been more at home on Times Square, or visually broadcasting tweets from the moon… at  any rate; it was huge, magnificently bright, and totally useless. I knew I hated it from the start, and as a result, I hated Absher Motors. One of the first things I saw on the sign was an inadvertent misspelling of a salesman’s name– “Chip Bleak”.

Although I didn’t know it to be a misspelling at the time, Chip Bleak stuck with me as the perfect name for a comic foil. I used him as a character to introduce the track “Intermission” on my first Electric Kitten Vomit album. I made him a smarmy little toady, part stereotypical bully sidekick, and part vapid fratboy.

Part of me knows that Absher Motors is probably just a bunch of hardworking sales stiffs less-than-enthused to find their big honkin’ sign has totalled 15 new cars. That part of me is more than aware that somebody is going to have to eat the cost of this damage, and it’s probably going to be an unsuspecting car buyer many months from now.

But another part of me– the part that knows that life is absurd– gets a big kick out knowing that I outlasted Chip Bleak’s giant electronic light-up phallus.

Liveblogging! Commentary for “ITDE” 1/31/09

January 31, 2009

“It’s Too Damn Early” is seven years old today! My inaugural broadcast under the “ITDE” name (changed from the rather droll “Radio Show For Resume”) kicked off January 31, 2002. Although I don’t remember it too well, the playlist was a bit IDM-heavy for my current tastes– Squarepusher, Kanito, Oval– but nothing too embarrassing there. At the time, OiMa were regular contributors to my broadcast, with their “Prayer Wheel” track featuring as my “Lengthy Selection.” Already, I was making committments to play longer and more immersive tracks. A bit of Sun Ra and the Vandermark 5 closed out the broadcast with jazz… probably not a bad start to seven years!

Today’s broadcast started off with recordings from the Cadavre Esquis compilation/collaboration “Imperfect Silence.” This is volume one, and it’s already a very far-reaching set of improvisation and blending of so many interesting musical ideas– I’m wondering what volume two will sound like! Warm Climate’s “Circle Dub/Regrettable Form” was a nice transition. This is a fairly limited-release for Warm Climate on the Phantom Limb Recordings label. I recommend any and all Warm Climate recordings– I’m not sure this is the best starting point, but if you see it, don’t sleep!

Next up, various tracks from the Wooden Sherpa label. A little while back, this self-described “tiny label from Finland” sent me a compilation– I’m impressed! The Kospel Zeithorn work is especially interesting, and really got me going in an unexpected direction for this week’s broadcast. I knew that Hans Grusel’s Krankenkabinet would be go great afterwards– sort of a straight analog chaser to some of the more psychedelic moments of the Wooden Sherpa disc. I’ll definitely be trying to track down more stuff from both of these!

Right now, I’m playing from the Last Visible Dog release of Fabio Orsi’s “Audio For Lovers.” It’s titled like one of those throwaway LPs from the mid-70’s, but of course, puts a new spin on the idea. It’s a two-disc set, so LVD is helpfully including the entirety of an earlier Students of Decay3 x 3″ CDR set from Fabio Orsi on disc two.

I played from Kim Cascone’s recent “Music For Dagger and Guitar” album, specifically the “Language of Ghosts” track, blending it with some of the Fabio Orsi. This sounded terrific, really leaving much more of an ominous mood than I had originally intended. On the upside, it made getting into Thanos Chrysakis’ “A Scar in the Air” disc a bit less jarring. I haven’t had enough time with this release yet, but my initial impression is that it’s another fine release from Aural Terrains, who have yet to compromise themselves with a poor disc.

Of course, every birthday needs a present. This year, Mystified gives us “Pulse Ringer Pieces,” his first effort for vinyl. Available through Droenhaus, it’s another lovely addition to the ever-expanding Mystified discography. I’m playing Side A today– next week, I’ll play Side B.

Looks like I’m keeping the “Lengthy Selection” idea alive, seven years down the line– Bearly Queen’s “Rainbow’s End?” from Luovaja label is 37 minutes long! This is interesting material, though. Towards the end, there is a kind of audio haze… it’s hard to remember that this is a CD, and not some vintage tape! A great mood-setter.

I really dig the Balloon & Needle label. Such amazing releases, all seemingly quite vital. This is one of my recent favorites, though it is a real challenge for the ears. If you can muster your best attention skills, “Sweet Cuts, Distant Curves” will really pay off.

I’m closing out this birthday broadcast with Don Campu’s “Jungle of Misunderstanding,” playing the title track, which features loops from a variety of Tape Germ artists– Ed Drury, 8th Day Rebellion, M. Nomized, Mental Anguish, International Garbage Man, and Insecta Sonic are all represented here.

As a birthday gift for “It’s Too Damn Early,” take a bit of time this week to send me an e-mail! Let me know what you’re wanting to hear more/less of on the show, and also share your “It’s Too Damn Early” memories. As always, I appreciate your musical submissions, ideas, ‘zines, information, etc. Putting together these shows is fun, but it’s also a lot of hard work– if you know something I should hear, let me know about it!–DaveX

Various — Imperfect Silence, Cadavre Esquis Compilation One
Warm Climate — Rehearsal Repulsive
Kospel Zeithorn — Kukkula 70
Ester Poland — Megrez
Atte Nylppanen — Posetiivari-ilmestys ja koynnoshiippaillija
_______ — . (edit) [DJ note: from Wooden Sherpa label album titled “.” ]
Hans Grusel’s Krankenkabinet — Pulse Widthed Doors
Hans Grusel’s Krankenkabinet — Helitude
Hans Grusel’s Krankenkabinet — Dark Waidung
Hans Grusel’s Krankenkabinet — Autzahlungszeiche
Hans Grusel’s Krankenkabinet — Fanfares
Fabio Orsi — Yesterday Love
Fabio Orsi — Rising Love
Fabio Orsi — Secret Love
Fabio Orsi — Pure Love
Kim Cascone, Kathleen Cascone — The Language of Ghosts (monologue)
Thanos Chrysakis — Inscape 24
Thanos Chrysakis — Inscape 25
Thanos Chrysakis — Inscape 26
Mystified — Phantom Ringer
Mystified — Floaty Ghost
Mystified — Pulse Beyond
Bearly Queen — Rainbow’s End?
Choi Joonyong, Hong Chulki, Sachiko M, Otomo Yoshihide — 3/1
Choi Joonyong, Hong Chulki, Sachiko M, Otomo Yoshihide — 3/2
Don Campau — Jungle of Misunderstanding

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!

“The Optimod, the Transmitter, and the Danube”

March 29, 2008

Sound and vision collide in odd ways during my show. Here’s our Optimod 8000, a piece of vintage sound processing equipment circa 1975. Probably not what you’d find at one of those slick corporate broadcasters’ studios– but it’s part of the chain that gets my show out on the airwaves, so I’m not complaining.

Anyways, from this vantage point you get a blend of the transmitter and cooling noise; Annea Lockwood’s “Sound Map of the Danube;” and the mini lightshow provided by the Optimod.

Startling Moniker’s Top 12 Best Happy Neat-O List of 2007!

December 31, 2007

At this time last year, I was worried that I’d mistake a 2005 release for something from 2006. This year, I find myself wishing for such a mistake, as I’ve been unable to winnow down my list of top releases from 14 to 12. In the same spirit that has left me unable to open a checking account for the rest of my life, I’ve decided to fudge my numerical shortcomings, and present my Top 12 Best Happy Neat-O List of 2007 anyway.

In no particular order:

1) Al Margolis/If, Bwana — “An Innocent, Abroad” — With all the ability of producers to realistically render digital unreality, I’m still a little surprised I’m so taken with this disc. It’s not a brand new idea to combine unrelated elements into a working whole… but Al Margolis makes me think it is, putting “An Innocent, Abroad” into my top albums of the year.

2) Sabrina Siegel — “Grace/Precarious” — Yeah, I became Sabrina Siegel’s number one fan this year, sue me. Siegel’s ‘situationist’ approach to recording results in hyper-personal work where setting, physicality, thought, and personality interact as equals. It’s a stunning disc, and you’d be a big dope to miss it.

3) Circle Six — “Night in Kansas” — Talk about a missed opportunity! C6 releases one of the best albums of the year, in an edition of 30… for trade only. Compounding the unlikely scenario that a noise album about Kansas could kick so much ass, my good friends at Roil Noise Offensive actually have a remix album of it in the works. What’s next? A crow-themed double-disc drone set?!

4) Various — “Crows of the World, vol.1” — GET OUT OF MY HEAD!!! But seriously, this is a terrific set. Last Visible Dog, well-known for last years 6-disc outer-limits drone Invisible Pyramid set, once again manages to curate an essential collection of drone wooziness guaranteed to fuel your next excursion to the place between “pleasantly stoned” and “fugue state”.
5) Tom Nunn — “Identity” — Things just keep getting weirder and weirder. Tom Nunn plays moth-shaped instruments (of his own design) with combs, masters the knitting-needle-spring combo, and generally leaves my jaw on the floor the whole time. I could have easily added a few more Edgetone Records releases to this list, but this is the best of the bunch, hands down.

6) The Transhumans — “Into the Maelstrom” — Cursed with a somewhat dorky-looking cover, this disc still provided one of my best listening experiences of 2007. Post-listen, I was physically exhausted; a full believer in The Transhumans unique dynamic utilizing drums, electronics, and more electronics. Don’t worry, nothing remotely techno occurs.

7) Thanos Chrysakis — “Klage” — The folks at Aural Terrains sure know how to kick off a label! With “Klage,” Chrysakis has created a crystal-perfect world of electroacoustic sound with a high level of physicality still present… not an easy thing to do, if the sterile and disembodied releases so often claiming the “EA” title are any indication. As a fun fact, “Klage” has also gotten more people to call in to “It’s Too Damn Early” than any album this year.
8 ) Jeff Rehnlund — “Our Thin Mercy of Error” — Hymns released a ton of killer recordings this year, but for me, Rehnlund’s disc was one of the real high points. Taking the “anything goes” found sound aesthetic of the label, but also combining it with a narrative feeling resulted in a disc not only strikingly open to influence but also notably human.

9) Mike Tamburo — “Language of the Birds and Other Fantasies” — This one is kind of a no-brainer. Seven discs of Mike Tamburo’s exploratory free-folk improvisations and compositions, an 80+ page booklet, hand-made artwork, and a DVD of his film experiments to boot. Last I knew, these were still under $50— if there’s any left.

10) My Fun — “Sonorine” — One of two returning artists from last years list, Justin Hardison continues to send full-color maps and supplies for those interested in exploring the land promised by home recording and CDRs. This album is like the North Star, people! Seriously, I can’t say enough good things about it.

11) Phil Hargreaves, Glenn Weyant — “Friday Morning Everywhere” — Here’s one you can even download for free. I’ll admit, I didn’t really take into account netlabel releases in this list– if they’re free, you should just be checking them all out, right? Lucky for you, “Friday Morning Everywhere” squeaked in when Phil Hargreaves mailed me a copy. I guess he knew my printer was out of ink, cause I got the full pdf-cover workup and everything. Both Hargreaves and Weyant have joined my short list of incredible musicians this year (Hargreaves work with Caroline Kraabel on “Where We Were,” and Weyant’s “Sonic Anta” series are essential listening) so having them both on one disc is fantastic. While you’re ordering the other 13 releases here, why don’t you put on your new download of this?

12) Shelf Life — “Ductworks” — Judging from Public Eyesore’s release page for this disc, I was one of the only people who gave “Ductworks” a good review. You know by now that this means they were all wrong, and I was right. Otherwise, how could it be on a Top 12 list of best albums?! (See what I did there?) But seriously, I’m super-impressed. Collectively, Shelf Life resist the tendency to make something familiar of their sounds, and instead remain wholly focused on wringing every conceivable sound from their respective instruments, whatever they are. The level to which this quartet manages to fully blend their sounds is amazing, pointing away from the call-and-response improv model to something completely new.

13) Robert Ashley — “Now Eleanor’s Idea”— Robert Ashley is the second of the returning artists to my top albums list. Surely assisted by my near-fanatical devotion to Joan LaBarbara’s work, “Now Eleanor’s Idea” fascinates me for many of the same reasons as Ashley’s “Foreign Experiences;” the ordinary human impulses followed to fantastic conclusions, the ability of the performers, and the restrained elegance of Ashley’s music.

14) Various — “Untitled” — A three-label, three-disc untitled noise collection from the Public Guilt, Epicene Sound Systems, and Underadar labels. Everyone seems to have their own unique path to noise music, so it’s hard to recommend an entry point– but as a survey of the impossibly wide-spread noise “scene,” this is probably as close as it gets. Extra bonus points for keeping this release reasonably priced, and in an edition greater than 25– a freakin’ rarity these days, it seems.

Put the “X” back in Xmas!

December 25, 2007

In the spirit of Xmas, I give you five downloadable episodes of “It’s Too Damn Early”– most dating back from when this blog was but a glint in my monitor. I have included commentary and full playlists for each. All you have to do is set your phasers to “download” and enjoy. Now there is still the small matter of what you’re giving your favorite experimental DJ for Xmas… *coughmoneycough* (more…)

RIP Karlheinz Stockhausen

December 7, 2007

I just heard that Karlheinz Stockhausen died today. For a proper obit, you can read the Guardian Unlimited article. I just figured that since I was playing Stockhausen’s work last week, I’d write a little bit about why Stockhausen matters to me– this is, after all, a blog.

I first heard one of Stockhausen’s works just over ten years ago, having been “introduced” to the master by Tony’s older brother Wess, who has long had a serious passion for modern and avant-garde composition. Tony and I could enjoy groups like Negativland, but on a deeper level, I guess I always wanted something more personally meaningful. When his brother started telling me about a German composer who would work months intricately splicing tape shards together, only to discard the resulting few moments as unacceptable… well, I knew I had better find out more about the mysterious Stockhausen.That first day, Wess let me make a copy of his “Elektronische Musik 1952-1960,” which he had ordered from Stockhausen’s own label. With the earliest of his electronic and tape pieces, including the amazing “Gesang der Junglinge,” it was a great place to start. Every track was exciting, full of new sounds, and very much what I wanted to hear.

It wasn’t long after that I found copies of “Mantra,” “Hymnen,” and “Mikrophonie,” all of which took numerous listens. I didn’t even like Mantra for quite a while, being unable to understand the ideas behind the music.

Of course, doing some reading helped. Hearing more of Stockhausen’s contemporaries helped. Even John Cage helped, as odd as that may seem.
It would be foolish to try to enumerate the many ways in which his work has influenced music, but it is amusing to see the unexpected ways he manages to pop up– it was only a few years back that I was remixing Harold Schellinx’s “Vicki’s Mosquitos,” a computer-read story set during one of the yearly Stockhausen summer courses.

There’s a lot more to hear, and a lot more to learn… and that’s the way I’m choosing to look at this. I’m still on my journey with Stockhausen, and perhaps you are as well. Good luck,


Update: A memorial booklet from the Stockhausen Foundation can be found here.


November 11, 2007

It’s funny how time sneaks up on us. Here I am, badgered with every conceivable variation of people’s endless fascination with it being 11/11 today, and I almost failed to realize that in just over three days it will be STARTLING MONIKER’s one-year anniversary.


Yeah, I know. I can hardly believe I’ve managed to stick with this for a year either. Like many of my projects, STARTLING MONIKER exists in the kind of push-pull relationship– usually caught between guilt and duty; but every so often, ambition and resignation.

Before I properly began writing this blog, I had the vague idea that I would enjoy sharing some of the sound-related ideas that seem to pop in my head each day. At the time I had been thinking a lot about my formative listening experiences, both recorded and natural. In my mental picture of the blog, I envisioned me writing mainly about these topics.

As all creative projects are wont to do, though, STARTLING MONIKER took on its own life– less a personal diary of sound musings, and more of a tightly-integrated facet of my radio broadcasts and my own musical work. I was surprised to see this happening, and am still surprised that many of the stories I fully expected to share within the first week of writing are still untold.Why I continue to hold these back, I cannot fully understand.

I’m fairly sure that one good reason is simply that such stories are difficult to tell. The vaporous nature of memory leaves too many gaps, especially in the area of sound. I know what it felt like to hear The Dixie Cups’ version of “Iko Iko;” with its alien lyric, oddly moaned “oh-oh” backgrounds, primitive percussion, and handclaps. What I can’t seem to describe is how it made me feel– confused, excited, swept up in something impenetrable?

My listening habits were equally strange. “Iko Iko” was in heavy rotation alongside the radio edit of Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” following my instant obsession with this song after hearing it on local radio one evening in the family car. I remember my dad calling my grandfather, who was by then a long-time record collector, to inquire about the name of the band who did this song. Of course, I soon learned an 18-minute version existed, though I wouldn’t own a copy of this unwieldy beast until high school.

You kids growing up with p2p have it SO easy.

For me, exposure to music arrived piecemeal, and often without context. To my elementary-school mind, The Surfaris’ “Wipeout” existed in the same time frame as Young MC’s “Bust-a-Move,” a tape I once borrowed from a friend, now deceased. My naivety about the origins and histories of these songs (and others) worked to my advantage– the unexamined connections, proto-mashups, and mental associations have led to all sorts of neat conclusions– and indirectly, to my enjoyment of experimental and difficult music.

It’s expectation and assumption that keeps us from greater ideas, and new paths, whether we’re blogging or listening to music. Hopefully, there will be a lot more wonderfully unexpected things to come in our next trip around the sun! –DaveX

DaveX interviews Justin Hardison, AKA “My Fun”

August 22, 2007

Last week, I reviewed My Fun’s fourth album “Sonorine,” a gorgeous electroacoustic work that has really caught my ear. Justin Hardison, the man behind My Fun and label The Land Of, took some time out of being a busy New Yorker to let me do a little e-interview:

STARTLING MONIKER: “Sonorine” uses a lot of source recordings one might not ordinarily expect to find in a postcard– pianos, birds, traffic, radio… what influenced the selection of sound sources you used?

One of the aims in my work has always been to incorporate sounds I’d find on an average day and then edit and transform those elements into compositions whether they’re musical, environmental, accidental etc. I guess when it comes down to it, My Fun is really about creating romanticized portraits of everyday life. Usually when I start a new project I try to build a collection of raw sounds to work with and I take and capture them from wherever I am at the time. During the time I was recording Sonorine, I was doing quite a bit of traveling and I was making field recordings of these trips as a way to remember them and share them with other people.

Freilassing, image provided by JH

SM: With “Sonorine,” you’ve really done away with the usual concept of the “album-as-listener-trip,” and made it something much more artist-centric– at least if the listener chooses to play along with the overall concept. In what ways did this affect how you went about creating the album?

JH: I think the concept of the Sonorine or sound postcards is very loose and open to experience/interpret how ever the listener chooses. I didn’t even think of the concept for the recordings I was working on until much later in the project. The concept seemed to fit the recordings I was collecting and I think has helped explain the ideas behind this sort of music work to those who usually would have no interest in sitting around listening to bugs or shortwave radios.

I really like to use sounds that are at least semi-recognizable because this way anyone can identify with and possibly attach their own memories to a specific sound. It is that immediate emotional response to sounds that I’m really interested in and I think if a listener is first brought into a composition by a familiar element then it leaves me room to
introduce the stranger and more obscure sounds that hopefully pique their interest and curiosity.

SM: I’ve noticed that on many of the tracks, the more obvious “musical” elements– such as the drones in “Radiant,” or the piano in “Phonopostal”– are framed by what I think of as “environmental” sounds such as clattering, walking, mechanical elements, and natural sounds. How appropriate is it that the listener consider the sounds individually in this way?

JH: I think listeners are used to listening and paying more attention to the musical elements but forget about all of the other noises they might hear around them when they’re listening to a musical recording but I think it is those elements that make the central musical element sound more interesting. I’ve heard others mention this as well but I always loved the ambient and accidental studio sounds you hear on some records, especially jazz records and studio out takes. It is those extra breaths, voices, tape hiss, guitar amp crackle and especially the ends of these songs that give a recording that human and mysterious element. I think listeners should take all sounds into consideration when they’re listening. With that in mind, I think noise pollution is a serious problem and I’ve really noticed it more since moving back to New York. The worse culprits are traffic and aircraft noise. It frustrates me to go out recording and and always capture the roar of traffic or planes in the recordings. With all of the added noise, you really miss out on the more subtle and quiet sounds.

Alghero, image provided by JH

SM: If you’ll allow me to take this interview in a “Guitar Player” magazine direction– what sort of recording equipment are you using? What’s your studio setup consist of?

JH: I recently saw these pictures of some of the old studios where people like Tod Dockstader and Delia Derbyshire worked with the crazy tape machines and ten thousand knobs and wish I could say I had such a place! My studio is pretty simple really. I have a software based studio for editing and composing sounds. For field recording I have a couple of mini disc recorders, Audio Technica and Sony mics, some contact and lapel mics if I want to go more stealth. I sample a lot of old records and use all of those strange extra sounds I mentioned earlier or perhaps a single harp pluck or guitar chord. I also picked up a shortwave radio and record a lot from that and have a acoustic guitar, mandolin and various other noise makers like a music box and some toy rattles and cheap cassette tape
Walkman. I started off a long time ago playing in guitar bands and then made a lot of techno and drum&bass music for a few years. After working with so much hardware, I still find it amazing that you can do so much on a laptop computer.

SM: You’ve always said that My Fun is concerned with narrative works. If each track is a stand-alone “postcard,” how much thought has gone into making them a coherent group?

JH: I spent a great deal of time making them a group and it really is meant to be listened to start to finish. I composed the whole thing as a single track and then edited it down into individual tracks. I know it will be split up by iPods and MP3 players and I do take that into consideration but I think that track sequencing is very important when you’re making a collection of recordings and hopefully this will always be appreciated element in recordings as technology changes over time.

SM: What have you been listening to lately? Anything similar in spirit or sound you’d care to recommend?

JH: Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of different things. There is always a ton of great music to be found on net labels like EKO, SKM, Test Tube and others. I’ve also been checking out a lot of CDs from the library like “Premieres Chansons Douces” by Henri Salvador and the Anthology of Noise and Electronic music on the Sub Rosa label. Also a lot of minimal techno and I highly recommend Billowy Mass by Alejandra & Aeron as well as the Yasujiro Ozu Hitokomakura compilation on and/oar!

SM: What’s coming up for My Fun? How about your label, The Land Of? I see something about a Darren McClure release– what’s the date on that?

JH: I recently decided to turn The Land Of into a label that would release material by other artists. It is something I have thought about for a long time and am really excited about. Yes, Darren McClure has an amazing full-length called Softened Edges coming out on October 15th and I have a couple of other projects in the works as well. The Land Of won’t be releasing a ton of recordings. Right now I’m thinking about four or so a year. My wife Kimberly Hall has worked really hard on a visual identity for the label and is designing and hand silk screening all of the cover art as well.

As far as my own work, I’m always collecting new sounds to work with and I hope to get back working on my sound journal/blog. New York is very distracting! Also, a friend of mine is working on a book of various friends artwork and I’m contributing a sound element of some of those small recordable cards like you’d find in a sound greeting card. Each one has a different recording of a particular place. Too bad they only have a ten second memory!

A bunch of reviews from my vault…

August 21, 2007

Unless you’re a Southern Illinoisian, you probably never had a chance to see any of my reviews in print. But yes, for a few short weeks in 2002, I managed to convince the daily newspaper of nearby Marion, Illinois to fill some of their empty space with my reviews of experimental music releases.  They were short, to the point– written for a readership I imagined had little experience with (or knowledge of) the subject at hand.

To this day, I wonder what sort of reception they received amongst subscribers in a town where Pioneer-class baseball (this being one level beneath the minor leagues) is considered a big deal. I’m quite sure I’m also the only experimental music writer to have published work appear in “The Hub of the Universe,” as Marion is known to residents.

Anyhow, here’s some of the better ones. Nearly all of these albums are still available from the original labels, linked here. For the other few, I have given links direct to the artist or other sale page. Enjoy! (more…)

Crap, I’m old.

June 20, 2007

My traveling companions on last night’s trip to drop a friend off at work didn’t think too highly of me listening to “The Metal Show” on my favorite radio station, WDBX-FM. Of course, a bad headache doesn’t normally incline one to seek out black metal, does it?

I ended up channel-surfing, and caught the opening notes of Metallica’s “The Unforgiven,” a song I surely listened to many times in junior and senior high school, and on a “classic rock” station no less! It stung a bit to see my adolescent faves lumped in with Bad Company and Foghat.

My first thought– “Crap, I’m old.”

Yes, I used to be a little metalhead. I wore through a few copies of Master of Puppets, and could sing along with pretty much every Metallica song… and most of Megadeth’s, too. With my limited funds for purchasing tapes; Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana and these two bands provided more than enough listening material, especially given that this was around the time MCA went beserk and started releasing those “Ultimate Experience” tapes and re-issues to confuse me!

I’m getting sidetracked. Suffice it to say that I spent a lot of time listening to Metallica. I can barely recall my first job as a golf course lackey without simultaneously conjuring the bored, sweaty hours spent picking up balls on the range while lugging my mom’s yellow “Sport” Walkman around– those crummy hard plastic ear bud torture devices jammed deep into my ear canal, channeling James Hetfield’s desperate growl straight to my brain. Most of all, I remember rewinding the solo from “Shortest Straw” over and over, unable to believe in Hammett’s incredible finesse. The rest of the time, I flash back on the lyrics of “The Unforgiven,”

“They dedicate their lives / to running all of his /He tries to please them all / this bitter man he is…” 

My life sucked. Sue me for having an overworked sense of drama! Between working for a pervert, lacking the confidence to assert myself, and generally being a social outcast; I’m surprised I didn’t take the Judas Priest route and “do it”.

Anyhow, I knew I was getting older; there have certainly been plenty of signals. Megadeth signed to Sanctuary Records, who seem to specialize in bands with one foot in the county fair… then Metallica released a steaming pile apparently featuring Lars Ulrich playing his electro-snare/anvil… and then AC/DC actually came back as a pre-teen t-shirt phenomenon– how weird was that? I mean, this is the T-shirt Butt-head wore, right?

I guess I just hadn’t found a convenient frame of reference yet to judge the “now” alongside the “then.” For whatever reason, hearing Metallica on a classic rock station did it for me. And while I congratulate them on finding another radio teat offering the endless flow of royalty manna, I’m not exactly thrilled with the feeling that I’m an old-timer.

BIG HUGE project!

May 23, 2007

My good friend and former co-host Tony Youngblood and I are staring down a BIG HUGE project– revisiting, editing, and remastering two years worth of weekly experimental radio shows– these being our collective radio work ~Ore~ Prefab Audio Extrapolations.  It’s been about eight years since we’ve heard most of these, and looking at hours and hours of this material waiting for me is daunting to say the least.

I’ve been listening to shows as I have time, and I’ve been extremely surprised to see how good much of it actually is! Although I always believed in the worth of our broadcasts, I also had the general idea that we were barely being heard– and an “us-versus-them” mentality was difficult to avoid. I imagine that for every one solid musical decision I made, two were just to roil an unsuspecting listener. But provocation has it’s place, right?

Digital photography by E.J.Still, its incredible how varied the ideas were– everything from a long look at abbreviation, to challenging listeners to create their own listening experience by rearranging their speakers. Along the way, we recorded shows live at a house party, interviewed a “big box” Wal-Mart manager, milked our televisions for every last ironic sample; and used everything from cordless phones to a theremin (oddly, not all that un-alike) as a sound source.

Aside from simply being a formidable task, reviewing this amount of work really requires serious organization skills. I find myself drawing on different aspects of my experience– my work as a DJ has sharpened my skills as a curator, but I’m also pulling from my own artistic and aesthetic ideas while considering where possible edits or improvements may be needed.

Okay, I know… this may not be terribly interesting to the majority of you. “DaveX is whining about having too much work, gee thanks.” But there are a couple things I’ve learned so far, so let me pass them on:

1) If it doesn’t get in the way of what you’re trying to accomplish musically, go ahead and record your work. You can’t know if you’ll end up wanting it later, and you’ll thank yourself if you do.

2) Slap a date on it! Your memory is probably not going to be sufficient to sort out details of when you recorded something, especially if you make a habit of doing so. Give your brain a rest, and break out the Sharpie– recording dates, locations, players, sound sources, it’s all good.

3) CDRs hold up better than you’d think. Sure, they’re not perfect– but with reasonable care, they’ll hold up until you need them next time.

Hope this helps! Now wish me luck.  –DaveX

Rod Poole, 1962-2007

May 16, 2007

I just caught this sad bit of information this afternoon:

“Police have arrested a husband and wife on suspicion of stabbing a 45-year-old man to death in the parking lot of a well-known Hollywood eatery.

The incident occurred about 9:45 p.m. Sunday in the parking lot of Mel’s Drive-In in the 1600 block of Highland Avenue. Officers answered a call of an assault with a deadly weapon and found Roderick Poole, 45, with multiple stab wounds. He was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he died at 10:06 p.m.

Poole, of Hollywood, was walking with his wife when he got into an argument with a woman in a car, said Los Angeles Police Det. Larry Cameron. Witnesses told police the woman, with her husband, nearly ran over Poole. They exchanged words and the couple allegedly attacked Poole, police said. Michael Sheridan, 25, allegedly stabbed Poole several times before the pair drove off, investigators said.

“This was incredibly dumb,” said Cameron, referring to how a minor disagreement turned into a killing. Detectives later arrested Sheridan and his wife, Angela Sheridan, 24, both of Los Angeles. They were being held in lieu of $1-million bail each.” (LA Times)

I first became aware of Poole’s work through the compilation “156 Strings,” a Cuneiform release put together by Henry Kaiser. His contribution, “Kalaidoscopic Sunday,” was one of the first to catch my ear– in a compilation filled with many artists I was not familiar with, I recall this particular track being a real standout; with a loopy, repetitively insistent phrasing I eventually learned was characteristic of Poole’s work.

Oft-collaborator Nels Cline has much more to say on all this than I– here’s the link.

Report on Institute for Creation Research speech

April 16, 2007

This evening, I took DJ Mo to visit a local church, for the purpose of attending a presentation from the Institute for Creation Reseach. Although I don’t generally attend any sort of church, I thought it might be a good educational opportunity for DJ Mo to see how religion is used to abuse otherwise decent folks and relieve them of their money.

And although it would have made for a far more interesting blog, I didn’t ask any questions, start a debate, or otherwise draw attention to myself–my general opinion is that these sort of folks have their minds made up regardless of what is presented, and that logic or evidence just doesn’t matter to them.

Nevertheless, it was an interesting experience, so I’ll share it with you. (more…)