Archive for the ‘memory’ Category

Grey Park – “Gradient Descent of My Collective Mind”

March 22, 2007

I remember the first time I heard Grey Park. I was listening to a promo that had come in the mail, a compilation from the Negative Foundation label entitled “Halogen Ball.” Sitting in the parking lot of a local hospital, at least a couple years before it would close down for good, I popped in the CD in my Discman and practically had the top of my head ripped off checking out the noise and drone I was in no way prepared to hear. And while my favorite track on the disc ended up being Mnem’s hot-noise therapy “Genocide Mobile;” the last track of the four, Grey Park’s “10 Dollar Habit” grew on me with each listen. With layers of delayed voice, beating CD skip rhythms, disembodied speech, and random electronic artifacts, it was just the sort of track that could keep me coming back to what would otherwise have been just another “various artists” compilation in a growing pile.

Unfortunately, I lost touch with Negative Foundation, or they lost touch with me. I can forgive myself; putting any effort into DJing presents a steep learning curve with lots of artists, aliases, side projects, and labels one tries to keep straight.

So here I am, trying to reconcile a 1999 Grey Park with the 2005 incarnation, on their self-released “Gradient Descent of My Collective Mind.” Why now, and not two years ago? I have no idea– but I’m not the only one confused. According to their own webpage, they were expecting this album to be released earlier on the Nature Tape Limb label, but it never showed. Considering that they’re in Finland to boot, two years isn’t such a bad lag, is it?

But let’s get back to the album. First off, it is far more subtle than the “10 Dollar Habit” track provided for Halogen Ball. The quiet reverberation of machinery, for instance, is all the rhythm needed for the track “10924M,” a chiming drone of clear electronic tones and the occasional buzzing wash. Far beneath even these layers, I can detect some human sounds– a newscast, perhaps. Is this track breaking incredible new territory? No– this is a neighborhood settled some time ago, and Grey Park is just one of the older residents.

Of course, this works to the album’s benefit. Instead of taking an obvious path, listeners can check out some really neat touches a less mature sound could not provide. The unexpected birds in “Heliosis” are a great example. Easily mixed with the grinding gear noise, they are just the right amount of organic element to free up the track as a whole. Excellent.

How Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider saved my life!

March 19, 2007

Back in 1997, my wife and I took a road trip from Southern Illinois to San Diego. With little more than gas money, a near-endless supply of Coca-Cola– thanks to my incredible luck with bottle-cap sweepstakes instant-win games; and my wife’s uncanny ability to actually read the text upside down reflected in the soda itself– and a camera we headed to “America’s Finest City,” a ballsy assertion if there ever was one.

It was a fun but frantic road trip. With a court date to release some insurance money to my wife fast approaching, we had to move quickly to get to San Diego on time. As the only licensed driver between the two of us, the driving fell to me. Luckily, I was up for it– a long drive has always been one of my favorite activities, if you can call ruthlessly commandeering a vehicle’s stereo for thousands of miles an “activity.”

On the second day of driving we traveled from Shamrock, Texas to San Diego (nearly 1,200 miles!) with only the requisite stops for fuel and Coke. Sleep? Forget about it. We arrived in San Diego almost totally broke, and in need of a place to stay before the next morning’s court session to get my wife’s check. Since rest stops had worked so well for us on previous road trips, I suggested to my wife that we “check-in” at the nearest one. As any native of Southern California probably knows, this isn’t exactly the safest thing to do. My wife’s advice was to at least head for Palm Springs, look for a rest area there, and enjoy the peace in comparison to the truly scary rest areas in San Diego.

This all sounds easy enough, right? However, when you consider that I was going on two days with no significant amount of sleep, that I was hopped up on Coca-Cola, and finding myself inside an El Nino-influenced monsoon– well, let’s just say that I was in no shape for driving whatsoever.

Both my wife and I were fading fast. I can vaguely recall asking her to talk to me to keep me awake, but realizing that she was already passed out. I watched as a trucker-album nightmare unfolded before me– white lines blurring, eyes crossing, sudden head jerks when a semi would pass– but when I finally got to the Palm Springs exit, it was closed due to the heavy rains. I knew that I would have to drive nearly an hour out of my way and re-approach from another road.

By this time, the wipers were totally ineffective. The rain was so heavy, and traffic so dense on the eight lanes that I could do nothing but soldier on as best as possible. In my memory, I can only picture the blinding gloss of high beams off the rain-slicked pavement. However, what happened next is crystal clear–

Dee Snider saved my life.

It is very strange. I looked through the windshield and no longer saw trucks, rain, or the glare of headlights. Instead, Dee Snider’s disembodied head– gigantic, actually– filled the sky, floating in the dark clouds. And then he spoke.

“Dave,” he said gently. “Dave!”

I looked up at Dee, totally accepting of the situation as if this sort of thing happened to me all the time. This was not the frightening make-up Dee Snider of Twisted Sister days, but a kinder, more compassionate Dee who authored his “Teenage Survival Guide.”

“Hi, Dee,” I said sleepily.

“You shouldn’t be driving, Dave. You need to get off the road,” he said.

“I know, Dee. I know,” I said softly, resignation in my voice.

At this point I saw Dee’s arm coming through the clouds, as long as the horizon, and pointing to my right.

“Why don’t you stay at my house, Dave?” he said; and I now noticed that he was gesturing to a beautiful, glowing mansion. I even noticed that it was on Dee Snider Avenue, located conveniently off the highway with its own private exit road.

“Thanks, Dee,” I said, with genuine gratitude.

“Anytime, Dave,” Dee said, as he vanished.

I pulled off the highway, and drove up to Dee’s house. I can still recall his circular drive, which I thoughtfully pulled to the side of before falling asleep.

When I awoke, I was surprised to find myself well off the highway, in some sort of factory parking lot, behind the building. In fact, I could not even see the highway from the car. Still a bit groggy, I checked the nearest street sign, which was Ocean something– definitely not Dee Snider Avenue!

We did end up making it to Palm Springs, and spent some additional time sleeping there before being woken up by a crazy man intent on me driving him to Yuma, Nevada. I know he was crazy, because my lame excuse that I was meeting a police officer actually convinced him to leave. The picture below is from this rest stop, taken with the knowledge that I nearly died to reach… this. Later that morning, my wife got her money, and we promptly checked into a hotel for more sleep.

To this day, I have no idea why my brain would choose Dee Snider as my personal highway savior, but I suppose you can’t question these things too closely. I find a healthy amazement at my ability to apparently drive while actively hallucinating, but its not an experience I care to have again. Since that day, I’ve been far more careful while driving, and now hope to only encounter Dee Snider on land.

Commentary for “ITDE” 2/24/07

February 24, 2007

Today’s show went very well, albeit in a different direction than I would have taken things. Oh well! Some might say that this is due to a lack of planning– but I think it is more interesting to actually have a good broadcast than a finely detailed plan for one.

Original photography by DaveX



February 24, 2007

Did you ever wonder where STARTLING MONIKER got its name? In the spirit of giving, I’m going to tell you…


A “3-2-1 Contact” Moment!

February 7, 2007

A nifty comic from XKCD… reminds me of the flow charts that used to be in the “Enter” section of “3-2-1 Contact.”

77 Million Paintings by Brian Eno

January 23, 2007

A few years back, I read a short story about a woman who had passed away, leaving her husband with a sort of “documentary” of her life. The catch, though, was that the camera that had followed her for so many years– the size of a small insect– was unable to capture images concurrently, due to its small size. Instead, while filming of her life proceeded, the contents were saved randomly; resulting in unordered “scenes” of the deceased’s life available for playback at the memorial site.


“It’s Too Damn Early” Turns 5!

January 22, 2007

I just realized this morning that, as of my next broadcast, I will have been with WDBX-FM for 5 years. Well, very close– technically, my first broadcast at WDBX was 1/30/02– but I’m the host, so I’m allowed to fudge a little.

I have to say that I’ve learned a lot in these five years. I’ve always tried to bring listeners the finest experimental music available, but I see the show in somewhat of a different light now– it is a “sketchbook” for my musical thoughts and ideas, it is a long-running work of art, it is also a changing weekly “slice of sound”. I’ve gone from obsessing over the details and successes of individual shows to realizing that the overall arc of my broadcasting is also very important.

Along the way, I’ve had a lot of fun being in contact with artists, label heads, fans, and listeners; many of whom are as excited and passionate about music as I am. I have also had the opportunity to meet a lot of fine DJs, and interesting characters. The gallery of folks that have had the odd time of following or opening for my show has also been a hoot– while part of the power of WDBX is in its diversity, there is nothing quite like the jarring effect of having an experimental show follow a hip-hop show, or be followed by old-time country! Each week, I get a big laugh thinking about the hapless children tuning in a few minutes too early for the children’s show and getting a taste of avant-garde turntable exercises, a shrieking French chorus, or power noise.

My general “mission” has also expanded somewhat. Aside from simply presenting music, I have tried to make the presentation and act of broadcasting a work of art in itself. I have tinkered with, rebuilt, and destroyed the traditional models of broadcasting at times; and I’m always looking forward to new opportunities to challenge myself and my listeners. Without sounding too far-fetched, I’m also serious about “growing” an experimental community of listeners and artists in Southern Illinois. It is taking time– but I’m confident that it will happen.

The show has been very rewarding for me. Early on, a group of supporters actually banded together to purchase a CDR burner for me, a stop-gap solution to the fact that WDBX did not have an online broadcast. Local listeners have stopped by with their albums, or just to chat about music. I’ve been interviewed in the local news a couple times, and had the chance to supply a small-town newspaper with experimental music reviews. In the past couple years, the show has grown enough to attract the attention of touring musicians. Online listenership has also been great! Since very early on, I’ve concentrated on my online listeners– even going so far as to exchange remixes of the shows themselves with some artists, doing sound art live with online listeners, fielding phone calls from as far away as Israel, and getting mail from every continent except Antarctica.

I’ve also had some really silly moments, like my faked “interview” with Bjork, where I impersonated the singer; an actual phone interview with an artist that turned into a technical nightmare– trying to hold the phone to the speaker, talk into the mic, speakerphone wailing away with feedback, etc– doing a live improvisation with a balloon, having two teams hold a ghost hunt live on-air, being shocked endlessly by microphones and touchy equipment, running a show from a boombox while the studio was being completely overhauled, being overrun by pet dogs brought into the studio, telling a drunken caller that a Merzbow track was actually a Lynyrd Skynrd side project (and having him LOVE it), and finding out that my show was somehow being simulcast on local television (whereupon I quickly replied, as any paranoid DJ would: “can you see me?!”)…

It’s been great.

Anyhow, five years is a long time. I hope you’ll join me this week for my anniversary broadcast. Feel free to call in (618-457-3691). See you then!

RIP James Brown

December 25, 2006

This morning, one of my inboxes had the bad news that James Brown had passed away. Brown was a such a force of nature that its almost hard to believe he’s gone. Truth is, you can’t underestimate his contributions to music. He’s one of the people that I internally refer to as a “nexus”– in that he’s at the center of certain musical forms. This is where existing forms collide, new forms are created, and multiple influential musicians are markedly influenced themselves. You don’t have to like these musicians, but you can’t deny their impact. And as debateable as my choices of Elvis Presley, The Beatles, and Hank Williams may be; I will allow no argument with incorporating James Brown into this lineup. It’s MY internal classification, afterall.


James Brown invented rap. He invented funk. Invented disco. He put the crossroads of gospel and rhythm ‘n blues on the map. He may not have invented soul music, but he alone is a main ingredient– flour is to bread as James Brown is to soul. In politicizing his music, he became a powerful voice not only for moving your ass, but freeing your mind. Later on, George Clinton would state this in so many words– but as always, James did it first.

He had the best bands, the best moves, the best songs, the tightest rhythms. Some of my best memories involve his songs– Please, Please, Please… It’s A Man’s World… Papa Don’t Take No Mess… Hot Pants… Doin’ It To Death, all are amazingly fantastic. It’s almost hard to believe the man was from this planet.

Even throwaway stuff like “Living in America” was great. Hell, I was listening to it last night on “Rocky Radio,” believe it or not. I still remember having James Brown kick my ass as a little kid, hearing “The Payback” for the first time. “I don’t know karate, but I know kah-razy!”

Years later, I’d end up with one of my favorite albums, “James Brown at the Organ.” I was getting pretty heavy into funk at the time– Funkadelic, Confunkshun, Cameo, Buddy Miles– and it was especially cool to hear this relatively simple album top them so easily. And as an atheist, let me say that I’d gladly attend church if I got to see something like his performance in Blues Brothers. It was James Brown’s funk in Fela Kuti’s “Colonial Mentality” that turned me on to Afrobeat. It was his sounds (literally!) that sold me on Public Enemy– they hardly needed the help, but damn, what a way to sweeten the deal! I’m in deep enough to get a sick little giggle at what’s facing me on the Wikipedia entry now– “James Brown is dead,” an unavoidable reference to his “death” in 1992, and the subsequent LA Style track.

Rest in peace, James! Thanks for the music. –DaveX

Sound Memories

November 26, 2006

In today’s SoundBlog; HarS wrote about sound-related memories and nostalgia. Although I’ve primarily been writing reviews of music until now, one of the main goals of beginning to write “Startling Moniker” was so I could present entries of this nature. My problem has been that every time I start writing, my ideas diverge into so many directions that I realize the impossibility of containing myself. Sound so completely dominates my memory and thinking that it is difficult at best to single out instances for inclusion. (more…)