neon lushell cover

Cheezy as it may be, I’d kinda hoped Workerbee Records would have this thing out in time for Halloween. This is great creep-out music so it would have been seasonally appropriate.

Neon Lushell is a duo of Ira Rat and Switchblade Cheetah lead singer and poet Brian Pitt. Ira backs up Pitt’s disturbing imagery with fittingly disturbing sounds, a mix of bad-trip-hop and cold ambient nausea that smells like a dank old basement with bloodstained granite walls.

Pitt’s performances are phoned-in — literally: he submits his vocal tracks via voice-mail from Tallahassee, Florida. Ira edits these into the final creations in Ames, Iowa, making the most of the distant, disconnected feel with which this process endows Pitt’s varied contributions of aggressive rapping, distracted crooning, madman raving, spoken-word storytelling, and stream-of-consciousness.

Although “Leave Me Alone” and “Sammy’s Rap” build their dark atmospheres around groovy beats, the rest of the album is rhythmically impressionistic, a series of mixtures of floating processed sounds that blur the distinctions between “real” instruments and abstract synthesized ones, even when something recognizable as, say, a mandolin or an acoustic guitar appears, and stubbornly refuse to completely cohere, leaving the listener helplessly adrift. “Everybody Died, I Survived” backs a dreamlike ghost story about a shipwreck with throbbing electronic bass sounds that will threaten to blow your speakers. Various Workerbee figures make guest appearances, including Thunder Bunny on “Grave Bells,” where an wince-worthy abrasive metallic scrape grows to dominate the mix.

Even if you’re already into the experimental/noise music milieu, Modern Purveyors of Filth and Degradation probably sounds like nothing else in your collection, and is likely to be one of the more unsettling sonic trips you will take.

NOTE: the following bandcamp player is for a 5-song advance promo version of the album; the full enchilada is expected to come out on CD like Real Soon Now. Get in contact with Ed and see about pre-ordering.

I was contacted via email by a guy from Victory & Associates because they had seen a review I wrote here recently for the new Poison Control Center album, and they had played some gigs with them out west and hit it off well and he liked what I had written so he thought he’d see if he could get These Things Are Facts slipped into my listen-and-write-stream.

Well, my listening and music-making habits have been on a turn for the weird of late, focusing on noise and agression and heaviness, so Victory & Associates was tough to fit into my mood, but it’s not hard to see how they make sense on a bill with the mighty Poison Control Center. Both play high-energy fun electric guitar music with catchy vocals. Of the two, I’d say V & A is coming from slightly more of the wiseass collegiate power-pop angle. They’re tight in most of the places where PCC lets it all hang out.

Going from the band name and the themes of the songs, I’d say V & A is a bit of a concept band, set up to do songs about victory and everything associated with it. Nearly every track on These Things Are Facts touches on overcoming difficulties, toughing it out, getting a move on, and winning through persistence and determination. This all felt a bit sporto until it occurred to me that these guys may have just got tired of all the defeat and victim-play and slackerism that has dominated popular music for the past couple decades and decided to do something about it. That’s worthwhile.

The whoa-o pop-punk-isms of opening track “Get Tough, Get Through It” were a tough sell for me, but should appeal to anyone who was one of those kids in the ’90s who couldn’t get enough Screeching Weasel. As that’s a description that fits many of my old friends, it’s an artistic choice that deserves respect on its own terms. It’s clear at the outset that Victory & Associates have a way with a hook as they wallop you with one after another. “You Can’t Eat Prestige” measures a little lighter on the cheeze meter, and together these two songs form a vector pointing towards a more indie-friendly approach, hinted at by the gritty fuzz guitar sound, where the album heads next.

I found These Things Are Facts especially appealing through its middle section. The best aspects of pop-punk’s melodic sensibility persist, coupled with a mix of riffy guitar crunch and new-wave angularity that reminds me of Enon or this Chicago band Geronimo! that I’ve been hoping I could get to come play in Des Moines, plus an edge of Nomeansno snark in the delivery. “You Can’t Stop The Signal” resembles a classic Fugazi song. A wide range of stylistic tricks are employed on the guitars including an East Bay Ray style surf-guitar solo in the middle of the reckless “Funundrum” and Gang Of Four scrapes and harmonics in the small-town slam “Not Returning.” Musically there’s enough to like here that I can just about forgive their using the word “haterade” in a lyric.

There are other definite cheezball moments — “Mistake Museum” makes two lyrical references to David Lee Roth, for example. I’m not quite sure what the point of “Turn Down The Guitars (’11)” is beyond a series of ironic self-referential statements about the volumes of instruments in a rock band, something that’s probably more fun live than on record. But I think maybe the whole album is intended to be self-referential, as if a big part of the band’s concept is in telling the story of the band itself. If this realization eludes the listener at first, it becomes clear with the closing track “Home Is Where You Hang Your Hope”, which mellows out the tempo and introduces just a dab of country flavor while full-circle referencing the opening track: “Got tough, got through this,” is shouted, as if declaring a victory in the completion of the album, but the song also declares their readiness for the next challenge they have ahead of them, the laid-back feel of this three and half minutes meant to be just a short rest and recuperation.

It’s hard to miss the inspirational tone of These Things Are Facts, it is indeed the album’s main takeaway, and Victory & Associates indisputably succeed in bringing over the energy level and memorable songs needed to communicate it. It would make a very good album for recovering from a depression, or keeping you motivated when you need it.

More noisy evil goodness afoot! I’ve just received my share of the mighty short run of 3″ CD-Rs of my split release with the awesome Georgia harsh electronics/noise/anything entity Marax, who by the way also has several contributions on Hal McGee’s Contact compilations found in the preceding post and a lot of other fine releases besides.

Have a listen right here and then score the 3″ disc from me (see the “mail order/trade list” link to the right) or from Marax.

A free download compilation of experimental/noise/electronic artists coordinated througha Facebook group</i> by the great Hal McGee and posted to his bandcamp page. 60 artists, 1 minute each. You’ll find yours truly on there along with the likes of Marax, Elizabeth Veldon, Tree, Dave Fuglewicz, MUTATE, The Implicit Order, Subversive Intentions, Hal McGee, The Noisettes… and those are just the ones I was already half familiar with. Plans are for a second volume (which it is thought that The Earwigs will be on), followed by others of collaborative tracks by pairs of group members.</p>

EDIT OCT 28: Volume 2 is out already!

EDIT NOV 6 Coming back from the Ruby Midwest conference last night I see there’s now a volume 3!

Jason had posted to Facebook that the show was at 8, but I arrived at 7:40 to find Rhonda Is A Dead Bitch already playing to an empty room while bands load in. I don’t know what they were thinking starting so early, but they sounded good. They compensated for their current lack of a drummer partly by using some drum machine, and partly by doing some mellower tunes with acoustic guitar in them. These guys are different every time I see them, and this time they were kind of like if you took Jason Lowenstein when he was in Sebadoh (Travis in that role), got him on a 70s fantasy prog kick, then had him backed up by Chairs Missing-era Wire. I really wish they’d have waited until there were a few more people around to see them. Their set was done by 8:06. Afterwards, however, they all seemed very happy with how it had gone, Jason observing “nobody’s mad at us.”

Skin Of Earth set up, sound-checked, then were advised to waste a little time before starting their set since it was still so early, so there was an intermission. Besides RIADB playing so early, Druids had cancelled, so there was no rush for anything. To my surprise, Ember Schrag showed up, having heard about the show four hours before and deciding to drive down from Decorah right away… as it turns out, the connection is that Satanized’s bassist plays bass for her sometimes on the east coast so she took the opportunity to come see them and thereby see some friends.

Skin Of Earth play impressively loud low-tuned instrumental heavy psychedelic post-rock doom stoner whatever you want to call this stuff. They’re pretty rad, I like them. I texted Leah that one of their guitarists looks like a scuzzier Constantine Maroulis, to her amusement.

Statocyst was two guys playing one long loud droney probably-improvised soundscape on guitars with heaps of delay pedal. I’ve heard a lot of this kind of thing so I can’t say that it blew my mind, and I’m not sure so much whether I liked their set or just liked the fact that there is a local band actually doing that kind of thing. Noise music can be pretty difficult to evaluate since the quality standards are so wide-open but yeah, I’d probably listen to these guys more. I kinda wanted to try striking up a conversation with them afterwards but couldn’t figure out how. I’d love to have Distant Trains on the same bill with them a time or two and maybe even collaborate on something, but I can’t find any way to contact them.

By the way, I’ve talked about this before, but playing to half-dozen people is not uncommon in Des Moines on a Tuesday night, but one should still fucking bring it, and Satanized definitely brought it. Remember in the ’90s when you’d go see The Jesus Lizard and they would freak you out? You’d feel like something sick was at work and something awesomely horrible could happen any minute? Satanized have that vibe nailed; not only because the singer seems like he may have taken some performance tips from David Yow, but their sound is something pretty unreal too, a dizzyingly complex avant-prog-math style built on truly ugly guitar and bass tones and dissonances and disorienting time signatures. Also their guitarist eschews a guitar amp in favor of running direct through the house PA, resulting in that ear-lacerating Albini sheet-metal sound only if anything even more painful. It was fucking nuts. I hope they come back around again. Their new album is on Skin Graft and I rather wish I’d have bought one but times are what they are, so hopefully I get another chance.

5-way c-10 cover

This short compilation of noisy fun put together by Igloo Martian just hit my mailbox today. Only 10 copies made ever, and I have two of them available for sale or trade, make an offer, and/or I’ll probably stick then on the merch table at the upcoming Fetal Pig shows. No text anywhere on the tape or insert. The track listing can be found here.