October 2012: Did Your Idol Just Punch You in the Face?
by Matthew Moyer
It's an immutable fact, look it up. MP3 is THE MOST BORING musical format in the world. Do you ever go over to a friend's house and flip eagerly through thin fucking air? How about staring at those thumbnail sized covers as you listen to your tinny laptop speakers? Party central, am I right?
The 45, the 7" record, has been the medium for so many musical epiphanies that it's pointless to even list them all, but it was the format of choice for so much epochal soul, R&B, early rock, punk, and just OUTSIDER tuneage, and many a life was ruined/saved when the needle hit the wax. All over the damn world.
45 Grave will be a monthly column dedicated to a physical music medium that is way too fun to go quietly into digital limbo, no matter how eagerly cloud zombies want to fashion the coffin. I'll deal with the records I review herein as a tactile object; so I'm going to talk about the cover, the color or heft of the vinyl as much as I talk about the music locked deep within those mysterious grooves. Eventually I may expand the column to include cassette reviews and other vinyl formats, but let's take it one step at a time, no?
Put it this way, your dad had the right idea when he'd bust into your room and make you listen to all of his soul and doo-wop 45s at earsplitting volume, staging a one-man dance party, and you were an ungrateful shit for rolling your eyes at him.
You can see why people are always beating the living shit out of one another at HOAX shows -- their songs are built around lumbering, diabolical riffs that make "March of the SOD" sound like prog rock -- the very essence of brute sickness, a diseased call to action. These guys are all sharp elbows and combat boots, a mix of the Germs and Black Flag circa My War, but totally streamlined for 21st century living. Totally unrelated but my favorite video of them is this one part where "Fagget" ends and the singer pauses for a second, and there's this kid in the front row psyched to be there, singing all of the words, and the singer just punches him right in the face. And the kid just looks so bummed. I feel your pain, loser.
Painkiller Records: www.painkillerrecords.com
Jamison Williams/AG Davis
Auto De Fe
A series of short, sharp skronky blows to the side of your head courtesy of serial voice abuser AG Davis and saxophone provocateur Jamison Williams. These serrated squiggles are initially reminiscent of Yamatsuka Eye's early, volcanic collaborations with John Zorn and his Naked City; the two things that distinguish this record from der City's death jazz are (1) the weirdo minimalism of stripping it down to just voice and horn (two wind instruments, when you think about it) and (2) that it's Williams trailing Davis' crazed exclamation point blurts. Instead of the other way around.
Vantage Bulletin: www.vantagebulletin.com
The first recorded output from the young goth/synth armada BRANES was purchased after I watched their bulldozing set in Jacksonville, where the duo of Ivy Slime and Susan Subtrakt abused the audience in between dedicating songs to Jonbenet Ramsey and taking falls that would make Iggy Stooge wince. It was with some trepidation that I dropped the needle, wondering if it could live up to the live destruction. Good news -- the synth lines are heavy like Sabbath and Slime sounds even more unhinged on wax. Siouxsie action! -wd Branes: branes.bigcartel.com
So if Robert Lester Folsom captured the early '70s soft focus psych sound for Mexican Summer, then these two rare recordings from culter-than-cult Michael Angelo capture the darker, more defeated latter part of the decade -- dark lacquered wooden walls, curtains shutting the daylight out, sunglasses and cokespoons 24/7, months in the studio, Rhodesy keyboards and vocals more a desperate sigh than anything else. Reminds me a lot of 10cc or Steely Dan if they decided to stop being so fucking clever and surrender to their gnawing inner darkness.
Mexican Summer: www.mexicansummer.com
Produced in a limited edition of 300, this disc (first in the Alone/Together solo series) features two new works by Christina Carter that manage to be somehow diaphanous and full-bodied at the exact same time. No mean feat, but one should expect no less from the enigmatic Carter, one-half of torch-blues-improv duo Charalambides (with Tom Carter), and a solo artist of no small renown on her own. The two pieces collected here are wordless, minimal hymns that owe as much to This Moral Coil (stripped bare) as they do sounds drifting from Japanese Buddhist shrines. The very essence of late night calm.
Emerald Cocoon: emeraldcocoon.com
I have a VERY strong suspicion that one day, many years from now, I will be able to tell some future young whippersnapper -- who has no desire to hear anything I have to say -- that I saw Jeepneys perform in front of just five people. Jeepneys is that good. And unique. Utterly poleaxed by the handcrafted dayglo collages of the Slits, High Places, LA Vampires, dub, and Gilli Smyth, all set to an unshakeable deep groove, I snatched up this platter and mumbled thanks for playing, assiduously avoiding all interaction and eye contact. You really shouldn't ever get that close to your heroes.
Wrapped in The Flame Of illusion, Masked In The Clay Of Behavior
Two slabs of colored vinyl (yellow and purple, for those keeping tally) packed to the grooves with gothic, eerie, broken ambience that owes more to John Carpenter interludes and Coil instrumentals than Whitehouse. This is the stuff from which nightmares are made. Clearly, the melancholic influence of his night job with Cold Cave is still rubbing off on Dominic Fernow -- and his music is all the better for it, though don't get any fancy idea that it's still not filtered through his peculiar aesthetics. Can we call it powerdefeat instead of powerviolence? Oh yeah, cover collaged by Genesis P-Orridge. Zounds!
Dais Records: daisrecords.com
Feel Good About Your Body
There were lots of goodies from this year's Record Store Day that I couldn't get ahold of (Nobunny's MRR EP for instance, damn!), but one of my favorite finds was the reissue of the Feel Good About Your Body EP. It's easy to forget about how utterly violent and epoch-shifting Pussy Galore were -- they often get overshadowed by NYC Noize peers like Sonic Youth and Swans -- until you drop the needle and are utterly awash in nasty, sleazy, goth-blues brutality, executed with total contempt for the notion of song structures and a pleasant listening experience. A cool black and white sleeve, a ramshackle roar -- it's all you need.
Pussy Galore: shop.thejonspencerbluesexplosion.com/pussygalore.html
The one comfort you can take when a treasured band, be it Sebadoh, Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti or Vivian Girls, decides to clean up a bit, learn to properly play their instruments and record their songs, is that there will always be another young misfit just learning the UNPARALLELED joys of quick and raucous creation. It's music! So we have this 7" of scratchy, woozy song sketches from the UK song factory Keel Her, the solo project of teenage Rose Keeler-Schäffeler. It's a wondrous mess, and track durations are almost as brief as those on the OFF! 45s, to which I say fuck yes! R. Stevie Moore is a fan, so there you go....
Critical Heights: www.criticalheights.com
Another charming, rough hewn platter from Critical Heights, Scraps is the solo electronic project of Brisbane's Laura Hill, a scrappy, poppy affair as in hock to Human League as Heavenly. It's made with all of the synth and drum machine rudiments that would otherwise qualify this as minimal synth, but Scraps has tons more rambunctious joi de ivre. Sometimes it gets a little too poppy for my taste -- there is such a thing as too catchy -- but potential arounds.
Critical Heights: www.criticalheights.com
If interested in sending material for review, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.