One week ago yesterday I loaded some gear into my car, picked up Dave Wren (Moulttrigger) at his house, grabbed some beer, and drove up to Boone, a small town west of Ames that a couple old friends come from but that otherwise doesn’t usually have much going on, where I took part in one of the most epic noise/experimental music gigs I’ve ever been to.
I consider “Zeitgeist 2012″ one of my great triumphs of 2012 even though I honestly don’t feel like I did a lot more than show up and play. But that’s the beauty of it, it came together so organically everybody just put in what they had to offer, though the biggest contributor was no doubt Trent Reis (Juxwl) who hosted it at his occasional show space known as the Elephungeon. I think it was also his PA that we used. Trent really came through big on this. Hell, there was even free food. Going into that weekend I knew this thing would be a success even if this bunch of freak sound artists just ended up playing for each other, because great things were bound to come of our just meeting each other in person, and honestly this scene is very participatory; we don’t care a whole lot about the artist/audience distinction; one thing I’ve noticed happens an awful lot when someone becomes exposed to this scene is that immediately want to start their own noise project. That’s probably why Henry Rollins said in that LA Weekly piece that noise is more punk rock than punk rock ever was. Turned out we got a few people who came just to check out the show, and I think they left with some great tapes and CDs and their minds reeling with sound and freedom. Zeitgeist was the kind of experience that really makes my synapses light up.
Recently my laptop pretty much died — well, the display went out, it mostly “runs” otherwise; I can connect to it on the network — it was getting mighty old anyway and I found a suitable replacement. As I got my files and settings moved in to the new machine, I decided to take the opportunity to organize some of my files a bit better and delete some things I didn’t really need so as to make some space. In the process, I somehow confused the “iTunes” folder on my Seagate GoFlex network drive, where I kept all my music files (not including lossless files or Audacity projects for my own stuff or Centipede Farm releases, that is), for the usually useless “iTunes” folder that I usually have in my home directory on the hard drive of my computer, and, in my trigger-happiness, deleted. the. entire. thing.
I have since been working to rebuild as much of my iTunes library as I could from what I could pull off my iPod Classic using an app called Music Rescue, and of course there’s all the stuff I have on CD that I can rip again anytime, but I’m sure there’s still a lot of stuff I’ve lost — but I realized that a lot of it I couldn’t remember anyway. And what does eventually spring to mind, I can probably manage to download at some point, and might have on vinyl or cassette anyway. Still, that realization, and coming to the grips of the mental overhead of managing my maddeningly large library of downloaded music turned out to be an opportunity to gain some perspective. Apparently, I have a problem. My relationship with music is obsessive bordering on addictive.
It’s not something that’s ruining my life or anything, but I could stand to stop worrying so much about whether I’m missing out on something cool. There’s probably more music being recorded in a single day in the world than I can listen to in my life. But these days, I too rarely listen to something twice, let alone enough to build a real relationship with it.
One effect of this is that my backlog of “stuff I’d like to write reviews of for the website” is about to be mostly purged. My attempt to check out and evaluate all the big important albums I heard about in 2011 is already nine months into 2012 after all, and there’s a bunch of stuff I’ve barely gotten to. I could probably delete it and not even miss it. It’s just downloads, and unpaid-for ones at that. If I cared about these albums, I’d buy them. Because that’s what I already do with music I really like anyway, unless of course I haven’t heard of it yet, and then what’s the big deal?
I like reviewing music but I need to be less hard on myself. I’m probably not going to write as much on this site about music I wasn’t involved in making, from now on. If you send me something and specifically ask me to write about it, I will try my best. I seem to have no trouble keeping up with that. But no point in volunteering myself to write about stuff nobody asked me to.
Anyway The Centipede Farm is obviously becoming more of a “label” than a “music blog” these days anyway and I’m really into that. I have opportunities to put together little cassette releases by a whole lot of really excellent artists. I should probably be placing the focus of this website more on them. I am still open to contributing reviews for other sites, though, so if you have one and you’d like me to write some stuff for it, by all means get in touch and I’ll try to fit something in. And if you’re interested in just keeping up with what I’m discovering online lately, I post mad links to the Facebook page, so you should follow that. And comment a lot, because one-sided conversations are boring.
Anyway here’s a couple things I still wanted to get a few words in about:
The Big Drum in the Sky Religion: Ithyfallacy: A Tribute to Rudimentary Peni – I must admit to not being familiar with Rudimentary Peni, but have seen their name come up here and there in experimental/outsider/oddball music circles. It’s ostensibly a British punk rock band, but supposedly headed up by a rather eccentric fellow with some pretty far-out ideas and lyrics. You don’t need to be familiar with R.P. to get into this “tribute”, however. The booklet deceptively contains a long list of hilarious song titles, but the disc actually contains a single 79-and-a-half minute track, not entirely different in intent and form from Vive la Revelación that I wrote of the other day. The foundation of it is a loop of furious rolling toms and a buzzy bassline that falls in and out of sync with it. Over this, a few things come and go, including some quite nice noise-guitar jamming, some of that upright piano from Vive, and I’m pretty sure I heard a jaw harp in there somewhere. The strong rhythmic drive of the piece, courtesy the toms, makes it nicely conducive to shamanic states of mind, or at least I suspect so, it definitely got me spaced out and grooving along despite being once again a piece of insane length and hypnotic repetition. The artwork, black-and-white drawings, is also pretty stellar, reminiscent of the great Food Fortunata.
The Mighty Accelerator: Back From the Dead EP – Four more tunes from Ottumwa’s sleazemeisters. Mixed by Andy the guitarist, this has a notably rawer sound than Soccer Mom — I could have used a bit more vocals, finding it difficult to understand some of the lyrics without the benefit of headphones, the focus is more on the catchy rhythm guitar riffs which is fine too. The lyrical concepts of songs like “Lesbian Date Rape” and “Werewoofs and Fast Cars” are deliciously goofy. “This Hand Needs A Job” hits all the double entendres you expect but it’s unclear how intentionally, so you’re actually left with a quite sincere lament on small-town blue-collar employment troubles, that builds nicely through and an uptempo multi-part bridge section and some fist-raising whoa-oh backup vocals. “Truck Stop Lovin’” has a similar epic structure and build section. Money lyric: “she’s not much to look at, but she’s out of sight.” The download is free and the CD-R edition available from the band contains all of Soccer Mom as bonus tracks.
Wreck and Reference – Youth – With Black Cassette, Wreck and Reference set about showing to a new generation of metal kids what some crusty old Skinny Puppy fans already knew, that electronics can be heavy. The sampler-and-drums duo have taken an intentionally cleaner production approach with Youth and continue to evolve a sound that evades easy categorization yet carries wide appeal for all lovers of the unpleasant, drawing on a palette of influences miles wide and maybe just as deep but that appropriately draws out references to doom, black metal, industrial, noise, and Swans-y apocalyptic folk. The song structures tend toward the linear, and even in those moments where the sampler is employed making guitar-like sounds the effect is something otherworldly and quite other than you’d hear if it were a live guitarist. Vocal approaches and rhythms are as wide-ranging as the literally infinite palette of sounds from which the hugest and are so tastefully chosen. You can name-your-price for a download but the vinyl edition from The Flenser is gorgeous to behold and totally worth getting, especially the green-and-black vinyl which you should act fast if you want. This album and this band are really fresh and special and you should definitely give them a chance.
Samuel Locke-Ward: Double Nightmare – There is more that I could say about Samuel Locke-Ward and his latest opus (a two-hour, 40-song digital album!) than I have the energy to type here. You should get everything he makes, and give him all your money besides, because he is amazing and beyond explanation.
Mekigah – The Necessary Evil – Australian gothy black/doom project’s second album loses the flimsy storyline and high-school drama-kid vibe that might have marred The Serpent’s Kiss for some, but without sacrificing any of the grandeur of their deliberately-paced metal songs swimming in cavernous concert-hall reverb and symphony-in-a-box keyboards. I hesitate to reference Type O Negative just because I never much cared for that band, but it’s a fitting comparison (especially with respect to the vocals), and I’d even say there’s a little bit of a Candlemass vibe going on at times. On “Bloodlust” the vocals get so low that I’m pretty sure he’s doing that Tuvan throat-singing or whatever it’s called. But Mekigah also do harsh well here, both vocally and musically, resulting in actually quite a fresh synthesis of doomy and “blackened” elements. If the album gets at all maudlin at any point it would be on “Touching a Ghost,” which I would liken to a sort of pop-DSBM version of The Shangri-La’s “Leader Of The Pack” what with the sound-effects bridge to advance the story line. There are some pretty cool noisy ambient interstitial tracks, which help to tie it together as more of a rock album, as opposed to the ambitious opera/concept thing they went for on the previous album, and I think it’s a welcome change.
Orchid Capricorn Like a lot of retro metal or trad doom or “stoner” metal (I wish we get a better name for it one of these days — my own personal appreciation for it didn’t really take off until I could no longer be credibly referenced by that word), Orchid are borrowing pretty heavily from Black Sabbath here, enough that the references are occasionally in danger of getting too blatant, but then again, Sabbath weren’t the only band in the old days doing this kind of stuff, they were just the most well-known. There’s still an excitement for and vitality to this sort of music even after so many decades. I myself am more than glad to listen to heavy riffy rock tunes like this any time. I don’t know what it is about it, but these familiar elements, in the right hands, just never seem to get old, and Orchid seems to have that touch. I also like how their singer can pull off both Ozzy-ish and Dio-ish moments, his own sound hitting a nice territory somewhere between the two. And the title song on this album, “Capricorn”, is just too good to miss out on.
Marax Funeral Liturgy Marax (Eric Crowe) put out an astounding amount of material in 2011, even for a noise or drone artist (of which he is both, and you might as well throw in dark ambient and death industrial and all that into the mix too). This is one of several download-only ambient drone releases put out by Marax right around the same time and feels very much of a piece with them in style. This one is among my favorites, however, perhaps due to its not being or having any 20+ minute tracks, though I do realize that’s not a great bias to have on my part. The title track starts it out as a low, almost inaudible drone that fades in pretty quickly with a thick sepulchral atmosphere. Each of the five tracks, themed around funerals, and one of them even featuring a slowed-down sample of a funeral sermon (possibly backwards? It’s hard to make out the actual words), is a different setting of waves of dark and heavy but also very pure sound flowing in and out of each other. Very meditative and ominous.
Marax/Coma Centauri Coerced to Pull the Trigger The liner notes spell out the concept of this release, and it’s a concept that extends to a lot of Marax’s work that of suicide. According to these notes, Eric and Brandon wanted to explore it as a theme not so much in terms of the “desolate and depressive” modes as it is usually approached, or even the tranquility of a romanticized escape from pain; rather they wanted to explore the mindset of a person leading up to the act, the frustrations and anxiety and trapped feelings that drive one there. That idea is translated by these two artists each through their styles of frantic, nervous harsh noise on their respective sides of this tape.
Marax’s side narrates a suicide by gunshot, the first 13 minutes depicting the emotional states preceding it, then the planning of the event, then the last moments holding the gun just before firing, culminating in the sound of the gunshot and a brief silence; the state of death itself makes up the remaining 17 minutes in the form of a ghostly drone with some amazingly haunting vocal sounds. Marax’s ability to compellingly navigate both harsh and ambient sounds and unite them thematically is unique, and it’s represented especially well here.
Coma Centauri’s side sticks more specifically to the harsh discomfort, and joins this emotional state with third-person perspectives in the form of sparse sampling of news reports about suicides. Overall it’s less of a narrative approach, instead a set of pieces examining different facets of the subject of suicide, its causes and the social issues relating to it.
I greatly respect how these two noisicians approached this release with a concept and an idea of how they wanted to approach it. Noise music as pure abstract and/or physical sound is plenty fun and can even be awe-inspiring, but Marax and Coma Centauri set out here to make a noise album presenting a very honest perspective on a subject, a deeply emotional one at that, and the result succeeds on both viscreal and intellectual levels. Order from Worthless Recordings if they have any left.
Midnight Satanic Royalty — One of the coolest things about classic heavy metal is that in the days before metal got all complicated, it was really just rock and roll amped up on horror, sex, and aggression. Midnight keep this spirit and sound alive and fiery as they delight in evil and depravity. Songs like “Necromania” and “Lust, Filth, and Sleaze” are snarled out fast and furious with simple headbanging riffs, and sound a bit like a cross between Venom and Mötorhead with a dash Social Distortion guitar melodicism. Yes, it kicks ass.
Recent times have seen a surge in “tablehooter” music — a terminology I heard from Hal McGee, and which I’ve embraced for its non-brand-specific superiority over “casio” — that being music made on cheap consumer-level electronic keyboards. I think the boundaries of exactly what models of keyboards qualify as tablehooter or casio might not be clear. Maybe it’s more of an aesthetic. Anyway here’s some good stuff for getting your keyboard vibe:
“Cheap and Plastic” compilation — A newly released huge (49 tracks!) download compilation instigated and compiled by the incomparable Hal McGee and dedicated to tablehooter music. Des Moines is well-represented on it, by the way, as it sports tracks by yours truly, Moulttrigger (Dave Wren), and Brian Noring. This has probably some of the noisiest and most experimental approaches to tablehooters you’re likely to hear, with many of the artists going beyond just overdubbing or adding effects to actually circuit-bending the devices, that is, modifying the devices themselves with custom homemade hacks to their circuitry.
Larry “The Wizard” Sievers “Wizard in a Trancedelic Dream” — Folks not from around Iowa City may not be familiar with Larry, but he’s definitely deserving of wider recognition in the homemade music scene, so here’s the dirt: he’s a 60-something fellow who sorta looks kinda like J Mascis with a mustache, has a devoted love of metal music, and composes these really cool instrumentals on his keyboard. Here is an article about him from the University of Iowa’s newspaper The Daily Iowan. A fair amount of his music has been recorded and come out for public consumption, but fuck knows how much more he has written or locked up in his head. I picked this tape up at Record Collector in Iowa City and it seems to have been put out by one Adam Luksetich (a member of Bongrider and probably active in some other capacities as well), the only contact info being his email address, that being his name all together as one word at gmail. Otherwise you can listen and download at Larry’s bandcamp. It’s a lot of fun, both for reveling in the kitchy keyboard sound and the way that the simple pre-programmed drum parts fall off beat when Larry goes into meters like 5/4 on occasion, and for the triumphant, epic melodic style of the pieces, which are all about cool stuff like wizards, dragons, vampires, you get the idea — good stuff to put on to get yourself pumped up and in the mood to go out and conquer the world.
New Future Wanderer “Palace In My Room” — So Leah and I have been house-shopping lately now that we’re able to qualify for mortgages again. A while ago we hit an open house up in Urbandale. The house was total late-80′s Suburban Playset, built in 1987, and touring it was honestly like walking into a 1987 time warp with its weirdly bland style. Pretty much everything in it was original — the beige paint, blotchy-patterned carpeting, the popcorn ceilings, the beige touch-tone telephone on the wall with the extra long receiver cord, the appliances with that goofy cursive lettering on them, the showers all having those massage-piks with the big clunky head on them that you can rotate the collar to switch it between like 12 different spray patterns. The whole thing flipped this weird late-’80s switch in my head that keeps getting jammed now. I was overtaken with a longing to buy this house and recreate 1987 in it just to hide in. Find an old used Fisher component system, set up my Apple IIe again, take up a Tae Kwon Do class. I felt like the world was just better when I was 12 and it shouldn’t have changed. Lately though, I begin to think it hasn’t actually changed that much.
Had I gone through with this nutty plan, I would right away begin seeking out more music like New Future Wanderer to play in my new place. The artist trading card says that Jeff Roman hails from the “overwhelmingly underwhelming suburbs of central New Jersey,” and from that phrase I get a mental picture of his neighborhood being full of houses like that one.
Despite the name, it’s really on old future that New Future Wanderer conjures up, sounding like a 1980s bedroom-recorded shot at sci-fi synth-pop. Sure, ’80s nostalgia and retrofuturism are probably passé to a lot of you now, but I really love the way Roman does it here. Everything is blown out and distorted, making for some really noisy moments that might seem more modern, but this patina just adds to the effect since it sounds like an amateurish cassette recording like on some underground tape release back in the day. It also makes it hard to make out much of the lyrics apart from a few phrases like “I’m a future man” and stuff about feelin’ good on a spaceship, but the lyrics are secondary; what I think keeps me coming back to this tape is the atmosphere and all the little catchy four-note keyboard melodies.
I was going to stick the bandcamp widget of it here, but Lava Church seems to have taken the album down from their account. The tape is still available on their store, currently on sale for $3.50.
Lovebrrd — speaking of the Lava Church label, it’s run by Patrick McBratney who is also totally owns the casio vibe as Lovebrrd. Lovebrrd recordings sound very homemade, a real basement/boombox vibe, and the keyboards sound kind of blown-out like he’s playing them through the overdrive channel of a guitar amp (he probably is). The keyboard melodies and deadpan vocals, always sung through enough effects that you pretty much give up on trying to decipher the lyrics, have a definite gothy darkwave streak to them. Pat has since applied the Lovebrrd name to a wider variety of sounds and sonic experiments, so it remains to be seen whether he comes back to this tablehooter vibe but he was ahead of the curve on it in the beginning and did it nicely.
It may sound like a copout but I don’t know what I can say about Indonesian rock/jazz deconstructionists SBDD that this video playlist doesn’t say better. Maybe the rough-mix wav file that Fredian sent me of a 22-minute track “Bunga Astral” from their in-progress studio excursion would but I don’t think I have permission to share that.
I love the free-spiritedness of this, the complete lack of given fucks. Is that guitar even in a tuning? Does it matter?
The Kickstarter backlash is in full effect among folks I know if my Facebook feed is anything to go on. Apparently there are bands trying to use it to do things that some people don’t think they deserve to do. Maybe I’m missing these things because I make a concerted effort not to pay attention to bands that suck. But it’s a fair question, why exactly does your pissant little band that’s barely even played out of your hometown think it has any business asking people — friends and family for the most part, probably — to fund the luxury of your getting the first thing you’ve ever recorded pressed on vinyl?
My defense has always been that the undeserving bands are much less likely to meet the goal anyway and their project won’t happen and that’s exactly how Kickstarter should work, it’s sort of a crowdsourcing of whether people think you’ve got something good to offer. I’ve contributed to a couple kickstarter campaigns for artists who I knew well of, had been around the block a while, and that I knew kicked ass. One of those campaigns began with the announcement by Dan Butler that he was retiring his musical persona The Bassturd forever. The campaign was to get the final Bassturd album released on CD. I knew that if such a CD were to exist I would want it, so I figured I’d help make its existence happen.
If you’re not familiar with The Bassturd, well I’ve written about him on this site before. He started out as a kid from Belmond, Iowa that took up residence in Iowa City and started making homemade cassette albums of funny off-the-cuff songs accompanying himself on cheap keyboards. Pretty soon he was showing up at house parties with his accordion entertaining partygoers with thoroughly improvised songs on topics suggested by said partygoers. Then he developed a musical style crossbreeding hip-hop with Devo and all sorts of other random shit to his uproarious lyrics, and built a one-man show around these songs, his keyboard, and a dizzying array of Christmas lights. Eventually he was touring his show around the country whenever he could get someone to drive him, releasing an astounding amount of recordings, writing probably thousands of songs, while constantly upgrading his keyboards and lighting over the next several years during which he moved around quite a bit then eventually landed in Austin, Texas where he resides to this day.
But what was to become of Dan’s music when he decided to hang up The Bassturd? Eventually he started letting out news of having formed a band called The Bumping Uglies. And now, wouldn’t you know it, he’s back on Kickstarter looking to get some Bumping Uglies stuff done up on vinyl. So even with a guy like Dan on board, one has to ask, this being yet another Kickstarter band by some new band out of nowhere, and one that’s currently kinda limping along in comparison to how startlingly quick Dan’s last Kickstarter project funded: should you care?
Well they were kind enough to give me a sneak peek of the album, or at least some 14 songs, on Soundcloud and this much I can tell you: if you’ve ever been a Bassturd fan, you have probably wondered to yourself at some point what he would be like with a band. Not necessarily a typical rock band lineup, but you know, a few extra instruments and a couple regular full-time collaborators to bounce shit off of. What would the result be like? The Bumping Uglies definitely answer that question, and it turns out that what you would get is plenty good, and evidences more than enough of Dan’s trademark grandiose synthesizers, and wacked sense of humor, that there is basically no reason for any Bassturd fan not to get behind this venture and get excited about the prospect of it getting an album out.
It’s not simply a carbon copy of what The Bassturd did either, though. Co-lead vocalist Mary has a strong presence in this set of tunes. Dan and Mary complement each other very well vocally, especially when they sing together, such as on “More War, Less Taxes” and the a capella gospel-folk tune “I Will Stand Here My Lord”. Her presence makes for some of the most interesting moments; a bit of toilet humor like “The Poops” might be pretty standard fare for The Bassturd but hearing a female voice engage in it with him gives it an added bit of shock and absurdity. There are fun self-referential or “theme” songs like “Uglier Than You” and “U R Ugly” and the show-closer “Packin’ Up”, a handful of energetic instrumentals, and several really funny concepts like “Brain Shop” and “Shitty Cowboy”. Somebody is playing a ukelele and a mandolin quite a bit too. I kind of wish they’d put more of the tunes up for streaming to give folks more idea what they’d be in for if they get these records, because there’s nary a dull moment in the whole set.
A little over a month ago I trekked up to Minneapolis for the Minneapolis Noisefest 2012, having heard about it via the Blogspot site of the Darker Days Ahead label, which itself I’d heard of by way of its having released a recent Marax CD-R House Of Malice (much recommended, by the way). Just before leaving I tried to nail down just where to find the venue, and found various confusing conflicting information, but eventually, thinking I had it figured out, I set off. Midway through the drive I received an email from Cory of Darker Days Ahead giving me directions to somewhere completely different than I’d intended to head for. An attempt to bring this new information up on my phone’s navigation app crashed the phone beyond any usability, apparently sending it into an endless loop of rebooting itself. I resolved to hit up one of Iowa’s fine rest stops, since we have wi-fi at those things, and try and work out directions on my iPad from that, but I missed the last rest stop in Iowa along the route and had to stop at one in Minnesota instead, where they don’t have this particular modern convenience. The whole rest stop annoyed me. Even the doors seemed to open from the wrong side. I had to call home from the pay phone in the cavernously echoing lobby occupied by a family loudly shouting at each other, to get Leah to read me off directions from Google.
The directions didn’t even go to the actual location where the show was going down, but rather to a cafe about a block away that it was supposed to be “across the tracks” from. I found the place, apparently an underground DIY sort of spot, which in retrospect makes perfect sense. The grubby, disheveled building looked like it may have formerly been a gas station with a service department in back, and was located on a dead end street directly behind a Metro Transit train station. I’m not sure if it even technically has an address. I arrived around 7, the time I had heard the show was to start, and found the place quiet and locked up, the only person around being one of the scheduled performers (Skin Horse, as it would turn out), leaning against his car with his gear piled up in the back seat, also wondering what was going on.
Eventually someone opened up the gate to the yard and the overhead door at the back of the building and more people started gradually filtering in over the next couple hours, including one whom I recognized as Emil from Cock ESP. I wandered around trying to amuse myself among strangers, making microcassette recordings of the trains. I found it amusing that the trains sound an recording of a tram bell. I wondered aloud to a couple of people as to whether perhaps they had initially used an electronic beep but then some manager decided that it didn’t have enough “soul” and asked for something more “vintage” sounding. The joke was lost. After a couple hours some people showed up with a PA and a shopping cart full of beer. Then there was a long period of setup and sound-checking.
It was at least 10, possibly later, when the show got going. The delay concerned me since there were so many names on the bill, though I had already figured on each of them playing for somewhere in the 10 to 15 minute range, but then again, it didn’t really matter: there was really no “closing time” and no neighbors to complain. The decaying industrial vibe of the building and general old-school punk way that the show operated gave a really cool vibe to the whole experience; I felt as if I had might have just been transported to the early 1980s industrial scene.
Most of the acts were one-man power electronics units getting harsh drones out of a table full of pedals and maybe a mixer or some object with a contact mic attached, with some intermittent hardcore-style vocals. Beyond those common elements however, each had their own distinct approach and sound.
A few artists utilized equipment or methods of particular interest. Cyrus Pireh’s setup involved two guitar amplifiers, one with a cruddy old guitar feeding back through it, while he manipulated the dials, controls, and patch cables of an honest-to-goodness old hearing test tone generating machine set up on top of the amps. I certainly don’t remember hearing sounds like those when I got hearing tests in school as a kid, but maybe he had the thing circuit-bent or something. The ending of his set took on a performance-art aspect as he repeatedly asked a member of the audience “what do you want to hear?” louder and more agitated each time.
Another of my favorites was Skin Horse, who stood onstage behind a kind of small workbench with an old boom box and a desk lamp and who knows what else on it, casually smoking and drinking beer in between angry shouts while coaxing some wonderfully dark mechanized sounds from his setup and generally having a tough “don’t fuck with this guy” vibe. I don’t know what sort of drum machine or whatever it was he had making those rhythmic pulses but it had a really great heavy thunk sound to it. At one point it seemed to be laying down a pretty straightforward industrial dance beat, but then with just a tweak he would knock the rhythm lopsided or speed it up to the point of a loud buzz.
There was a two-person group somewhere in the middle of the show, whose name I never caught and does not appear in the video set above, that employed a large gong, which may have been contact-miked, meshing a drone from the gong with some electronic stuff. The crowd seemed to really like the gong, coaxing them to give it one more good whack before tearing down after their set, and cheering when they obliged.
I also wandered the venue a bit and got into some interesting conversations with Emil, Cyrus, a guy running the merch table, some guys that were supposed to be part of Cock ESP that night, and a couple random show attendees. Everyone was super friendly and cool. I’ve been to very few live performances dedicated specifically to noise music in my lifetime, but if noisers are this friendly in general then I’m glad to be among them.
Upon viewing the above video set I did vaguely remember seeing at least some of Cory Schumacher’s set (he of Darker Days Ahead, though at the time I didn’t connect this) — at least I remember that shirt with the Process cross on it, but I was fading out pretty bad by that time from the combination of the unaccustomed late hour and the beers I had drank so I slunk off to my car for a nap. I awoke well after the show ended and made my way back home. All in all it was a great time, would do again.
So I’ve got a Distant Trains tape coming out soon, as soon as I can come up with a good cover design for it anyway, inspired by this trip and this show, titled Minnesota Is Uncivilized. It will be the first exclusively noise-oriented Distant Trains release, though if you’ve been following my various compilation and split release material of late you are probably aware of these ascendant tendencies. Oddly enough, this release leapfrogs Explortation, which has now been in-progress for several months. The cassette of Minnesota Is Uncivilized will be 90 minutes, in an edition of 12; side A will be two long droney noise pieces, and side B will be made up of microcassette recordings made at this very show, including excerpts of the performances themselves. Will post here when they’re done.
EDIT: The two guys with the gong were Swine Wave. A video of them was added to the set later.
“Mighty Redwood forest / Slay me with your shade.” Two lines that rather elegantly summarize a lot of what Olde Growth is about. I slept on this video premiere for a couple weeks after seeing it on The Obelisk and I also had intended to work up a bit about their self-titled sole studio release into one of my “stuff from 2011″ posts, but have ended up taking a long time to get around to that too. Somehow I suspect Olde Growth wouldn’t have a problem with that, as they take their time with things too, seeming to intentionally grow their profile at the pace of the ancient “giant of the Western shore” that they celebrate in this brilliant piece of transcendental Americana forest doom. The Boston duo first self-released Olde Growth on free download and on CD in eco-friendly packaging back in 2010 and I’m pretty sure it was the now-defunct Doomed To Be Stoned In A Sludge Swamp download blog where I first heard of it (among may other excellent bands such as the distinctly more urban themed Kowloon Walled City; incidentally if you missed it, some of the Swampers now have something to do with Doommantia). Meteor City picked up the band and reissued the album last year, making it now one of my favorite albums of two different years. It is currently one of the $6.66 “Killer Deals” at All That Is Heavy making it one hell of a deal measured in awesome-per-dollar.
It’s gotten a lot of mention from me here on this site as well, which is a lot of words expended on a band with such a scant quantity of recordings out in a two-year span. Probably because I like it a lot. Of course, I’m a sucker for drummer-bassist duos. The fuzz bass is often thickened up with an octave pedal giving it a majestic church-organ-like tone. Stylistically Olde Growth draw from a wide area of doom and psychedelic metal in their riffs and variations of tempos and vocal tones. Many sections have a distinctly bell-bottom vibe, especially those with melodic vocals, fittingly with the mystical and nature themes in the lyrics. Other tracks involve epic battles or fantasy themes. Opener “The Grand Illusion” is particularly notable for describing 20th century warfare in rewind, with such imagery as planes flying backwards vacuuming up bombs. Darker passages, sometimes touching on warfare and/or destruction, draw tastefully from death doom and sludge; “Cry of the Nazgul” (the first section of a three-part track) works a spot-on Noothgrush impression. I’d also definitely recommend this band to Yob fans.
Credits list only the two band members Stephen LoVerme on bass and vocals and Ryan Berry on drums but a couple other sounds pop up. I could swear there’s a guitar solo in “Life in the Present”; “Red Dwarf” is a short synthesizer space-out forming an intermezzo between “Sequoia” and the rest of the album’s second half such that it flows as a kind of suite, intentionally or not, and somewhere in the instrumental “Everything Dies” I’m almost certain I hear some mellotron. Or maybe this could all be clever use of effects on the bass.
Olde Growth should be wrapping up a tour tonight wherein probably the closest they came to Des Moines was Grand Rapids, Michigan but they definitely deserve some attention further west.
The Centipede Farm is a blog about cool/weird music/noise/art and also something of a DIY music label. Started by Chuck Hoffman as an outlet for his own musical activities, it's expanding to involve a variety of interesting artists.
Ira Rat is the quieter half of Neon Lushell, a big wheel at Workerbee Records, and hooks us up with some cool articles here.
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