All of these records are due to be released in 2016. Yes, that 2016. While fending off a sudden flurry of lawsuits, and getting my mysteriously-slashed tires replaced (looking at you, Brownstein -- and eagerly awaiting your forthcoming The Complete Old Navy Commercial Sessions), I managed to absorb these records in order to secrete the following:
Fruit of the Loom presents Lute Of The Froom -- Mitchell Froom
In one of the more appalling sellout moves in recent memory, veteran producer Froom has assembled this all-lute album with the corporate underwriting of Big Underwear. Skull-crushingly benign vocals are accompanied by the kind of lute-centric hooks that make you thoughtfully place your hand on your chin, reflectively sigh "Mmm. Pensive," fondle your wool sweater, and take a warm sip of fuck. Joined by fellow producer Jon Brion on the tracks "Nothing Says 'Cutesy' Like Clinky Percussion" and "Some Mellotron Will Really Winsome Up The Joint."
Complete Upper Mesosphere Tapes -- Bob Dylan and the Band
After getting back to their roots on The Basement Tapes, Dylan and the Band tunneled 200 miles into the Earth's crust. None of the songs on this set can be heard without the ocean drilling platform and drill pipe currently in use by the US Geological Survey, with assistance from Greil Marcus, and presently being transferred to wooden discs only playable with the sharpened bones of Ulysses S. Grant. You'll have to take Marcus' word for it that "this collection is, by definition, the deepest music ever produced. Also, something something America something probably a mule something."
Caravans Awry: A Salute To Santana -- various artists
A seven-hour field recording of Guitar Center customers trying to work out "Black Magic Woman." Either that, or a urinal cake has become sentient and made an album. Released on 5 cassettes and 10 thematically-sequenced frozen waffles.
The NPR Teeny Cupboard Concert -- Gürglefück
Maintaining their spotless record of "authenticity," "the dynamism of muted beige," and "pointlessness," NPR stuffed this 8-piece metal band into a cupboard where their usual screeching heaviness was replaced by frantic knocking as their oxygen ran out. Available as a lint-free cloth.
We've Been Releasing Half-Assed Rehearsal Tapes This Whole Time -- The Smudgy Four
Aloofcore pioneers pull back the curtain on their intentions. Perfect if you would rather hear a violin be plaintively gazed at than played, or if you take personal offense at the slightest hint of effort. The ideal background music to other background music. Currently in the middle of their 6-month residency at the Outback Steakhouse on that road, you know, the one by that mall, no, the other mall, shit, we're lost.
Infinity? More Like OUTfinity, Am I Right? -- The Jeffrey Stanley Gelatination
Instantaneous follow-up to his epically epic recording of an epic on Epic, tenor sax leviathan Stanley's latest release is nine years long. I started listening to it tomorrow and finished 30 seconds ago. Stanley's is the only PR firm to offer rips in the space-time continuum in lieu of promo copies. The compositions build on the increasingly vital "Oh, this restaurant has a little jazz combo? Huh" sensibility currently sweeping the nation. Available only as a collection of flexidiscs included with successive issues of Grit magazine.
Performance notes: I managed to score a ticket to see Jennifer And Her Harp last weekend, but unfortunately, the show was ruined when a single hair from an audience member fell onto the venue floor, drowning out the music, and causing Jennifer to angrily waft off stage.
1. Jennifer And Her Harp -- Lo! The Gentle Woodland Creatures Wake
A first -- a 4TB concept hard drive. Even at 72 hours, every second is utterly earthshaking and tear-jerking -- I went through a gross of Kleenex and put my therapist on 24-hour call in order to come to grips with the harsh realities this album brings to the surface with every sound at every moment, and it was beyond worth it. The melodies, played on a harp strung with gossamer dreams and diaphanous hopes, are enhanced by the wistful melancholy of the arrangements. I'm told that, in live performance, Lo! The Gentle Woodland Creatures Wake achieves a dramatic majesty not seen since the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Bright Eyes collaboration "Barely Audible Fragility: The Song-sation!"
2. The Crumb-bums -- Stop Calling Us The Bum-Crumbs
On their seventh outing (and their first on vinyl, rather than their usual format of gum), these pop-punkers bring their pop-punk chops to a new level of pop-punk, without sacrificing the popiness of their punk, nor the punkiness of their pop, evoking the chaos of urgency, the angst of melody, and the notes of chords. Their publicity photo says it all: four men in their mid-20s, two with beards, two with their arms folded (not the same two, just to keep us guessing, in true pop-punk spirit), looking directly into the camera -- an image that dramatically underscores the earnestness with which they kept their eyes open.
3. Jeffrey Stanley -- The All-Encompassing History of Everything Including, But Not Limited To, Infinity (Plus One)
Stanley honed his spiritual west-coast jazz tenor sax chops in such projects as Jeffrey Stanley's Conceptually Congenial Tredectet, The Jeffrey Stanley Thickening, and Jeffrey Stanley's Self-Referential Project With A Shitty Name. Prior to this album, he spent seven minutes in residence at the Village Vanguard with his Jeffrey Stanley Salutes John Coltrane: I Hope To Hear Him One Day. The All-Encompassing History of Everything does Jennifer And Her Harp one better: Stanley foregoes the hard-drive route (a format which, since I wrote those words, has now acquired fad status of Vintage Hipster Format. Wait, that just ended) and this album is available as an IBM 729V tape data computer storage unit (accompanied by a certificate of authenticity confirming its appearance in old DeVry ads). The sound is beyond analog, beyond live performance, beyond that which oxygen-requiring beings are able to comprehend (although the 180g vinyl pressing is even better). At a total length of 45 days, Stanley manages to play more notes than every other jazzman has ever played, combined. Like other critics, I equate quantity with quality, so by default, it is the best jazz album ever. Also, there's a choir on it.
4. Flen Frenfrum -- That Soft Beige Is Burning My Retinas
It seems almost quaint to call Frenfrum a "laptop composer" -- the very phrase conjures up sepia-toned photographs of shack-dwellers determinedly telling their stories via the crude magic of MaxMSP. Frenfrum's work is about so much more than watching a man stare at a computer screen. It's also about sound. I think. I'm pretty sure this disc is blank. But that's a minor criticism in the face of the overwhelming brilliance of the concept. While the multi-volume leather-bound hardback liner notes (also available in Lite Brite format) purport to delineate the concept herein, nothing, not hardback, not the plastic cases of the 45,000 Lite Brites needed to display the text (an edition available exclusively at Other Music) can contain the trillions of unraveling threads that presumably will knit the most faintly crackly and/or hiss-oriented aural sweater of all. The most emotionally affecting work of the 21st century.
5. Cloy! (original motion picture soundtrack)
Primarily composed by Sufjan Stevens, this soundtrack features "Car Chase (melodica and ukelele)" and "Love Theme from Cloy (toy piano version)." If, like me, you cry at the sight of a single, wan gumdrop, you may find this soundtrack emotionally overwhelming. Limited edition vinyl includes a vial of Stevens' tears (available in original or ranch).
6. Carrie Brownstein -- The Complete AMEX Recordings
This boxed set -- 25 vinyl records, 75 ViewMaster discs -- contains the complete audio and video of Carrie Brownstein's era-defining American Express commercial sessions. You know how boomers always talk about how Sgt. Pepper could be heard coming out of every open window on its release? That's what Carrie Brownstein's AMEX commercial was for millennials. Apart from being ubiquitous, it opened up cultural possibilities heretofore inconceivable -- you can now tell those uptight parents who ask you, "Why are you pseudo-comedically chewing on a vinyl record?" or "Why you think supporting multinational banking conglomerates was a good idea for anyone, ever?" to go right back to Squaresville! The next time someone accuses a musician of being a corporate sellout, armed with the material in this package, you can now counter with the air-tight rebuttal, "Oh yeah? Maybe YOU'RE the sellout!" (Warning: the rapidity required to advance the ViewMaster slides in order to keep pace with the audio will absolutely result in permanent ligament damage.)
7. Ride Cymbal -- s/t
Who doesn't love a ride cymbal? Everyone loves a ride cymbal! See that ride cymbal? Hit it! Isn't that great?
8. Blüb -- The Blübening
Austria's metal meisters take the "heavy" out of metal and replace it with "ample." Past classics like "Jean Jacket Bingo" and "Lazily Point Your Finger In Time To This Song With Your Eyes Half-Closed To Proclaim Your Solidarity With Your Metal Brethren" sound positively quaint next to pancreas-shatterers like "Is That A Crucifix In Your Pocket, Or Are You...Oh, It's Just A Crucifix In Your Pocket" and "Majesty Or Power Or Something, I Dunno, I Give Up." Eschewing the evil-sounding guttural screams of past releases, singer Stüm Stümmürstüm raps all of the lyrics in a delightfully fey upper-class English accent. Not for the faint of heart. Available as a noxious gas-emitting balloon that will require state and local hazmat crews to seal off your neighborhood for three weeks, and CD.
9. Sonny Rollins and Tony Bennett -- After We Die, Down Beat Will Have No One Left To Put On Their Covers
Two titans meet for the first time on swingers like "I Thought You Were Dead" and "Tony, Shouldn't You Be In The Hospital?" Though a 1982 Casio digital alarm watch might seem like an odd choice in lieu of a drummer, it puts forth the most nuanced jazz drumming performance of the year. Also, there's a choir on it.
10. Uncle Joe Foggy -- My Old Brooklyn Home
Leader of the vibrant Pseudo Old-Timey Beardo (or Psoldeardo) movement, Foggy makes the kind of music that people who have heard of music would like to make, but just don't feel like getting out of bed. Songs like "Can You Go To The Bodega And Bring Me Back A Single, Uncooked Noodle?" evoke the world-weariness of a long-suffering banjo-associated artist whose PR firm lost a couple of clients that one time, oh wait, no, it's cool, TinyMixTapes just reviewed it. Fellow almost-literary artist Paul Lynde Impersonator (I Assume) joins him on "These Lyrics Are One-Dimensional And Should Not Be Enunciated (part 1)." Unspeakably essential. Available only via process-server.
My new record, For Teri Morris, is now available. It's a 7" 45rpm record, limited to 150 copies, dedicated to the memory of my friend and Tizzy bandmate Teri Morris. The cover artwork is by Jotham Stavely:
I first saw Tizzy ten years ago today, on August 4, 2001. They were opening for Barbara Manning in an afternoon show at Flywheel in Easthampton, MA. At that time, and I'm not sure why, I rarely went to shows in bars, which was where Tizzy usually played. Because of this, I only saw Tizzy a handful of times before I eventually joined them. Fortunately, it only took seeing Tizzy once to get me hooked.
It was a strange atmosphere: the first incarnation of Flywheel resembled a low-ceilinged church basement, lit only with flourescent lights. It wasn't air conditioned, so it was uncomfortably muggy, and the afternoon sun wasn't particularly conducive to a transporting atmosphere. I hadn't heard Barbara Manning, though I'd heard good things about her. For reasons I don't recall -- likely, because anything following Tizzy would've been a disappointment -- I didn't stick around for her set.
On this particular show, Tizzy played as a duo -- guitarist Caleb Wetmore, Teri's husband, was out of town, leaving bassist/singer Jen Stavely and drummer/singer Teri Morris. I had heard Tizzy on a couple of websites, but hadn't seen them live before. As the disarmingly lilting "Butterfly Party" surged towards its frantic end, I thought three things: 1) who is this drummer?; 2) what is she doing?; and 3) how can I weasel my way into this band? Teri's bass drum pedal was doing things I hadn't thought possible, much less likely. And she was singing.
The next time I saw Tizzy was a couple of weeks later at Ladyfest in Easthampton, MA (August 25, 2001 to be exact). Caleb was back in the lineup. His roaring chords and incisive melodies were always perfect -- his shoes were extremely indimidating to fill when I later joined the band. Their set began with Teri announcing, "Hi, we're Tizzy and we're loud," immediately careening into "Cut Down Fight." After their set, I bought all their records at their merch table, and listened to nothing else for the next few months. I would drive around Northampton with Tizzy blaring out of my car speakers; I felt like everyone needed to hear them. I still feel like that.
Their release of Down With The Furies in the fall of 2001 couldn't have come at a better time, not unlike a life preserver. It included the first Tizzy songs that Teri wrote and sang, "Turnstile Girl" and "Half-Step Century." Her singing was like her drumming: confident, layered, versatile, powerful, and deeply affecting. Later, when I was lucky enough to record with Tizzy, I would be stunned at how self-critical Teri could sometimes be about her singing. I also don't think I ever witnessed such intricate self-awareness of one's own talents and abilities as I saw with Teri. She would record a flawless vocal track, deem it below her exacting standards, record it just as flawlessly two more times, and compile parts from all three into the final track. And she knew exactly which parts to use: "Use the first line from the third take, then the next two lines from the first take, then the first half of the next line from the second take..."
She was similarly meticulous about her drumming, but without the slightest shred of self-doubt. We would work through new songs, sometimes spending hours on one song; at the next rehearsal, Teri would have scrapped everything she'd so carefully worked out at the last rehearsal and come up with something completely different and, though we didn't think it was possible, more stunning. In a couple of instances, she completely re-worked entire songs she'd written, even after they'd been performed live a number of times. I don't think I've ever worked with anyone, in any area of music-making, who was so fearless.
In October of 2001, after another incredible Tizzy set at the Brass Cat in Easthampton, I was encouraged by one Mr. Pabst to approach the band. While I've met a number of musicians I admired (completely by accident, sometimes hilariously so; that's right, Robert Plant, I told you that I DO remember laughter), I've only felt star-struck on three occasions: when I met Rashied Ali; when I met Elvin Jones; and when I first met Teri Morris. I think it has to do with all three being drummers whose abilities I aspired to, drummers I could never even hope to imitate. I asked Teri about one of the new Tizzy songs, "The Day Duran Duran Came To Town," and it turned out that she, Jen and I had all seen Duran Duran on the same tour in 1984 (Teri in Tempe, AZ; Jen in Largo, MD; and me in Chicago). There's a fill she does at 3:14 in that song that still flummoxes me to this day. About a year after first hearing the song, during a rehearsal, I asked Teri to demonstrate that fill for me.
"Teri, how does that go?"
"You mean this?" (plays fill, confuses me)
"Yes! That! What is that?"
"Oh, it's just this." (plays fill effortlessly again, confusion mounts)
"But how do you do that?"
"I just do this." (plays fill again, I give up, open a beer)
When I started writing songs for Tizzy -- something I was reluctant to do, since I felt Tizzy's voice was Jen's and Teri's -- I would have ideas for how I wanted the drums to go. Naturally, these were all swiftly forgotten as soon as Teri started playing her ideas, things I couldn't have ever hoped to come up with: jagged, driving, yet always swinging. Her playing style bears some comparison to Sleater-Kinney's Janet Weiss, but I think Weiss got many/most of her ideas from Teri. Not only had Tizzy been making records and touring for a couple of years before Weiss joined Sleater-Kinney, but one of Corin Tucker's pre-Sleater-Kinney bands played on a bill with Tizzy in Northampton in the early 90s; about a year later, suddenly there's this band called Sleater-Kinney that sounds a lot like Tizzy.
Every time I sit down at the drums to work on a new recording, a show or new song with Thrillpillow, or just to practice, I go into WWTD mode: What Would Teri Do? Her drumming was so distinctive and imaginative that, beyond forcing me to reexamine my own approach, it made me jump up and down. Every Tizzy show I played was, without exception, a dream come true. I was always a Teri fan, and I will always be a Teri fan.
Teri Morris passed away on June 9, 2011 after a six-month battle with breast cancer. Teri and Caleb faced their battle with a strength, fearlessness and humor that was beyond inspiring.
from "Where Do We Go From Here?", a speech given by Dr. King on August 16, 1967, at the Tenth Anniversary Convention of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference:
I want to say to you as I move to my conclusion, as we talk about "Where do we go from here," that we honestly face the fact that the Movement must address itself to the question of restructuring the whole of American society. There are forty million poor people here. And one day we must ask the question, "Why are there forty million poor people in America?" And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I'm simply saying that more and more, we've got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life's market place. But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. It means that questions must be raised. You see, my friends, when you deal with this, you begin to ask the question, "Who owns the oil?" You begin to ask the question, "Who owns the iron ore?" You begin to ask the question, "Why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that is two thirds water?" These are questions that must be asked.
My new record, The Last Of The Six-Cylinders, is out now. It is a new orchestral work incorporating multiple percussion overdubs and electronics. This record is dedicated to the memory of musician-composer Bill Dixon. You can hear a sample and order it here, and read a recent interview about it here and here. The artwork and design are by Jotham Stavely:
On my way to my show in Keene, NH, the other night, I wound through many of the same roads I drove while I was a student at Bennington College. I was listening to Bill Dixon (Intents and Purposes, Papyrus Volume 1), and the memories came flooding back. I sketched out this piece, which I performed at show, entitled "For Bill Dixon." Click here to listen.
In June last year, Barn Owl player Matt Weston's "Not to Be Taken Away"
(7272music) was reviewed in
these very pages, where Robert
Oberlander wrote that "Weston's creations have an uncanny ability
for getting under one's skin and scraping at bone and sinew, making the
listener wince in pain". Not being overly famil' with Matt's work other
than a drum contribution to one track on Smog's "Red Apple
Falls" (!) and with that in mind, I was expecting an aural
bludgeoning. I gotta say "Seasick Blackout" may be some kind of
departure from his "schtick" since it don't come across that way at all;
its more an exquisitely-crafted work of multitracked digital
orchestration than an oppressive harsh noise scenario.
For the first minute or so of the first track, with the neatly
grammatically-woozy title "You're Not That's Right", you would be
forgiven for thinking you were listening to a couple of kids goofing
around improvising duos using sax mouthpiece and digitally-bastardised
electric cello. And a little internal shudder, and setting your
expectations accordingly. (If it's not a mouthpiece its a mic'd up
balloon I reckon, or else the most fucked trombone in the history of
ever). So when the dismantled-radiator piano-frame cymbal-stand
percussion kicks in after another minute or so and you realise with a
jolt it's not a couple of kids goofing, it's Lester Bowie and the Art
Institute of Chicago weirdly playing through some ancient effects rack,
and you relax a little; these dudes are pro, after all.
Now you find now yourself at 3:45 in and you're totally hooked but
feeling a little creepy because the sound is morphing weirdly like your
trip is shifting like rotating shards like helicopter blades; when a
penny whistle and micro-cassette dictaphone voice jam come crashing in
on the back straight just to piss off your mood you know you're in the
hands of some kind of a master manipulator. BLAM hard cut straight into
the next track #2 "I Just Saw Fog And Dust" (I did, too) and right up
front an orchestra warming-up cuts to a lo-res mp3-player recording of
some North Africa headfuck unit like the Master Musicians of Joujouka
(no dis' intended) comin' on like a paranoid psychotic episode of 1,000
mutant clarinettes looped in unison and again BLAM there are two bad men
fighting over that same busted-up trombone and the drummer is still
flailing away on the dismantled-radiator piano-frame cymbal-stand but
has added a couple of timpani to the setup. It's crushing. It's
actually upsetting. It's fantastically, imaginatively evocative of
something unpleasant and so I'm not displeased when it's 6min 50-odd
seconds worth of hassle tails out in a flurry, a tumbling of temple
A blast of lo-freq buzz announces the entrance of pt. 3, "This October,
All Octobers" which honest-to-god rings with the grandeur of a
granularised, reconstituted, 8-bit rendering of Mahler's Eighth
Symphony. The drums are being drummed like the drummer's got somewhere
to be, now, there's sinews of synth/electronic melodies looped over and
over and shards of detuned string sections which blow on and on and on
and on and on and on and start to resemble a train horn blowing at a
level-crossing. And suddenly ends in a cold, dead stop.
Arg, enough gushing impressionistic batshit, now. What you need to know
is that Matt Weston has pieced together this short suite of engaging
electroacoustics in such a way that it has been imbued with the unusual
ability to get the agitated listener feeling like a wretch, a fugitive;
rather than wince in pain at the immediacy of a prolonged blast of white
noise, "Seasick Blackout" has the uncanny subliminal effect of making
one feel like something brutal and horrible is going to occur shortly,
and its going to happen to -- oneself. Last night I fell asleep after
playing "Seasick Blackout" and slept badly, enduring a succession of bad
dreams about creeping, incremental, and ultimately utterly
comprehensive personal failure. This morning when I awoke I knew that
the secret my unconscious was trying to impart was that I needed to
remind my conscious self to look beneath the veneer of sentimentality
and nostalgia, remove the blinkers of aspiration to see the true nature
of the horrorshow of this fuckwitted civilisation and our miserable
existence. An existential, psychological cold-shower, if you will.
At just 17:10 min long "Seasick Blackout" is everything I ever wanted
from a seasick blackout; you couldn't and wouldn't ask for a more or
better queasy sonic pressgang escapade manoeuvres than Weston's
proffered within. 9/10 -- Stephen Clover(24 March, 2010)