Sunday, June 26, 2011

Jandek- Interstellar Discussion[1984]

Jandek's music is as enigmatic and more-than-vaguely creepy as the man who makes it. Though guesses have been made as to his identity, none have been confirmed, and any record sales or contact are made through a man who refers to himself as "a representative of Corwood Industries". Intrigued by this weird folk-*hero* sort of lore, I decided to go through Jandek's entire catalog chronologically, and it's already become sort of an obsession.

On this, his tenth release, Jandek uses more varied instrumentation, mostly his freakishly distorted and rattling electric guitar (played in his own "black key" tuning), pounding drums, and shrieking harmonica. Jandek's voice itself could also be considered an instrument. It never quite hits the right notes (not that you can tell which ones he's going for) and it's got a tribal sort of whelping intonation to it. This strange little ensemble cobbles together some of the most atonal and creeped-out things ever. I say things, because I can't come up with an apt descriptor for most of these tracks.

The lyrics are just beyond what a normal human mind could create. Think of every single person you know- none of them could generate the sort of thoughts that come out in Jandek's lyrics. Sometimes a lunatic, sometimes a loser, there are a lot of different moods present here, but none of them fall on the sunny side of things. The two lines that make up "Starless"(I must say what I say/Listen-- what I say) really set the mood for the whole experience, an experience that I'd expect to be somewhat similar to being kidnapped and forced to listen to a maniac's shocking memories. Everything's in present-tense, and it's either directed at "you" or "I". Sometimes he throws a phone number in there- who knows?(547-3668). If you read the lyrics, they're a little bit weird, if simple. Jandek's delivery, however, turns them inside out with yowls, groans, and barks.

This is the man who epitomized outsider music. He's the ultimate outsider, somehow making public appearances without revealing anything but his face. I don't think anyone else can play like this, because this twisting vision doesn't exist for anyone else. Even if you just have this on in the background, there will be lines and sections that jump out at you. A burst of noise, a line that you need to hear in context(there might not be any)- you'll find yourself going back to try and understand it a little bit better, not that there's much there for you to understand.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Syzygys- Complete Studio Recordings[2003]

I'm in the middle of packing for the fireside jamboree and a marathon Jandek session right now, so I'll just do a short one about an interesting album that I don't know much about.

Syzygys is one of the longest words in the English language without a single standard vowel. Huh. It's also a Japanese female duo who play fun little pop songs based in Harry Partch's microtonal scale. They're a part of Tzadik's New Japan series, which consistently releases some of the best and weirdest Japan has to offer. This album has a very whimsical feel to it, and while there are vocals, the instrumentals are by and large my favorite part.

Stylistically, this album is all over the place, ranging from faux-Middle-eastern dirges to carnival-esque ditties, there are a lot of unexpected turns. I guarantee that this sounds like nothing else you've heard, but it won't be one of those albums that you only listen to because it's weird. I already find myself coming back to it just for fun.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ruins post for Austin

This will be a post of a smattering of Ruins and Ruins-associated acts, with a brief description of each album.
-<3 Dan

Ruins- 1986-1992
I'm including this in lieu of their first five or so albums. This is a compilation of their early works, and the material here spans three different bassists. Much of this is closer to punk than their later works, but it's still like nothing else.

Ruins- Hyderomastgroningem[1995]
This is where things got weird(er). A shift toward long-form songs, but still maintaining some of the punk trappings of their earlier works.  This is probably the best combination of accessibility and content.

Ruins- Vrresto[1998]
A bit more abstract than Hyderomastgroningem, there aren't really rhythms to speak of. Instead, the songs are extended, nonrepeating exercises in controlled chaos. Includes some random passages of non-drum, non-bass instruments such as vibraphone and violin.

 Ruins- Symphonica[1998]
On this release, Yoshida enlists the help of a pianist/keyboardist, as well as two female singers. Includes remakes of several tracks that should be familiar from 1986-1992. A very interesting listen, and a bridge into the more operatic phase of Ruins albums.

 Ruins- Pallaschtom[2000]
Hard and fast seems to be the operating principle here. Tatsuya Yoshida and Sasaki Hisashi are masters of their prospective instruments, and Pallaschtom is a collection of relatively short tracks showcasing their incredible synergy. Also of note is the trio of medleys at the end- "Classical Music Medley", "Hard Rock Medley", and "Progressive Rock Medley". They're like a light-speed tour through decades of great music.

Ruins- Mandala 2000: Live at the Kichijoji Mandala II[2000]
This goes to show that Ruins is able to pull of all of that recorded insanity in a live setting. It also contains loads of improvisations, so it's almost like an entirely new album.

 Ruins- Tzomborgha[2002]
Sadly, the last proper Ruins album. It's impossible to tell where this one is going. Each track is an organic and highly technical piece, not so much composed as developed. Also contains "Black Sabbath Medley" and "Mahavishnu Orchestra Medley"- Both are amazing. Do not start here, by any means.

 Derek & The Ruins- Saisoro[1995]
Collaboration between Derek Bailey and Ruins. Somewhat like a sparser version of Hyderomastgroningem, though there are plenty of dense and heavy freakouts here and there.

RonRuins- Ketsunoana[1998]
Ruins collaboration with Ron Anderson of The Molecules. Sounds like Ruins with a guitar. Not that that's a bad thing.

 Haino Keiji/ Yoshida Tatsuya- Uhrfasudhasdd[2008]
A maniac on guitar, a genius on drums, and loads of tape fuckery. It's crazy and loud, but actually pretty fun, and almost catchy in some parts.

 Satoko Fujii & Tatsuya Yoshida- Erans[2004]
This is a personal favorite of mine. It's Yoshida and pianist Satoko Fujii, and it's a great combination. The piano is smooth, but unpredictable, bringing the whole album to a sort of extremely avant-garde free-jazz.

 Koenjihyakkei- Angherr Shisspa[2005]
I'm only including one Koenjihyakkei album on here because I've already done a lot of albums. I'd recommend looking into them if you like later Ruins, though. I'd say Symphonica is the closest approximation in the Ruins discography.

 Okay, that's it. There's still loads out there, but this covers most of the bases in terms of stages of evolution and collaborations. Enjoy, there's a lot to work through here.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Naked City- Leng Tch'e[1992]

Leng Tch'e, or the "slow slicing" was a particularly gruesome form of Chinese torture, also known as "death by 1000 cuts". The victim was slowly sliced to pieces, and sometimes given opium to prolong the duration of the torture, which upon imperial request, could last up to three days.

The namesake isn't lost here, as Naked City takes their Grindcore-meets-free-jazz(and god knows what else) style into a distinctly sludgy direction(think Melvins circa Lysol). It's long, slow, and terrifying. The single track here begins with washes of chittering feedback, which, over the course of the first four minutes, slowly build into huge, crashing waves of distorted, writhing bass. The drums join in, sounding almost tribal and ritualistic, swinging between backbeats and extended fills to fill the huge, dark void of this album.

The barbaric riffage continues until about 15 minutes in, when a recognizable beat emerges, and Yamataka Eye(of Boredoms fame) starts shrieking. On early Boredoms releases, Eye's spastic, gibbering vocals lent to the cartoon-gone-weird aesthetics, but here, they complement the instrumentals in such a way that you can really pick up on the whole "torture" aesthetic. From there out, it just gets more and more miserable(that's a good thing). Eye consistently comes up with horrifying new screams, barks, and whimpers, and Zorn himself conjures up some equally devilish sax squeals.

The band constantly shifts from frenzied faster sections(reminiscent of "traditional" Naked City) and slow, crushing sections. Usually, it's just the drums that speed up, and the mountains of bass and distortion keep their glacial pace behind them. The last two minutes or so switch back into the droning feedback from the beginning, but have an oddly positive tinge to them, like most of Earth's "Phase 3". It's sort of an "I may be dead and shredded, but at least it's over" feeling. This is an amazing release from Naked City, and a very interesting look at the nexus of sludge and drone. You should also read more about the torture itself. It was only officially abolished in 1905.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Fuck you, James Blake. Post-Dubstep doesn't exist yet, you are a dumb guy

Look at this girly man. He made a really stupid and boring album and Pitchfork loved it. It's nothing interesting, and I was thinking about how much I hated James Blake the whole time I was working today. What a bitch. Blake, not me, that is.

If you really want to see what all the fuss is about, the link is in the comments.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Monks- Black Monk Time[1966]

The Monks were the kings of cool in mid-60's Germany. Five GI's fresh off of duty, they originally played Chuck Berry covers to young Germans hungry for rock and roll while experimenting with their sound during practice sessions. They "discovered" feedback one fateful day, shaved their heads into tonsures(good luck finding that kind of band devotion these days), started wearing nooses as neckties, and the edgy, proto(proto-punk) sound that characterizes Black Monk Time was born. A combination of a chugging rhythm section (consisting not only of bass and drums, but also of a homemade electric banjo), live-wire vocals, fantastic electric piano, and surprisingly heavy and wild guitar(see "That's My Girl's" distorted whammy freak-out), the Monks' sound here is by turns poppy and aggressive, and always dripping with attitude.

The first minute of "Monk Time," an inflammatory count-off/manifesto, let you know what to expect from the Monks during your time with them: it's going to be on their terms, but that's okay, because "I'm a Monk, you're a Monk, we're all Monks".  "Monk Time" is just the first in a series of varied and, in my opinion, perfect songs, and to expedite things, I'm just going to list some of my favorite parts of the album, excluding the aforementioned "Monk Time":

-The snarling "SHUT UP/Don't cry" call-and-response on "Shut Up"

-The distorted bassline and electric piano solo on "Boys are Boys and Girls are Joys"

-When the vocals finally start on "Higgle-dy-Piggle-dy"("Way down/to heaven/ Yeah!")

-Pretty much the entirety of "I Hate You," a far darker song than I would have expected from 1966

-The bouncy, chugging backbeat and banjo strumming on "Oh, How to do Now"

-Just listen to "Complication"- it's aggressive, it's catchy, it's ahead of its time

-"Drunken Maria"- a pointless little song, but a fun one, with a great chorus

-The members sort of trade off fills on "Love Came Tumblin' Down," some great wah work on there

-"Blast Off" is just awesome. It shuffles along, comes to a countdown, then well, blasts off

-"That's My Girl" is kind of weird(it's probably the sleazy "yyyeaahhhhh"s in the background vocals), but it fits the whole mood of the album. That whammy workout in the middle is pretty awesome, too.

-"I Can't Get Over You" is about as poppy as the Monks get, with clean, call-and-response vocals over a sweet little shuffle. It's still awesome and features more great electric piano

The last three tracks are almost startlingly poppy and bright, but they're good in their own rights. The Monks have been said to have given rise to proto-punk, hard rock, and krautrock, and have been recognized as influences by dozens of widely varied artists. You've probably already heard this, but if this is your first time, then get ready. It's Monk time.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Fist Fam- Al Lover & Gus Cutty- Double/Single[2010]

It's some guys rapping over Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees samples. I don't know why. It's not really good, but there's some novelty value if you like either band.

Get it here