Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Short Apnea

A Short Apnea with Gorge Trio

...Just Arrived (2004)

Wallace Records

At some point, after listening to way too many hip records, you may began to over-think your relationship with music. Throughout your life (and you probably know what I mean, considering you're reading a noise-rock blog) you have acquired this reputation, intentionally or not, as a person who spends a ridiculous amount of time and money on records. And because of this, certain people, naturally, looking to break the ice a bit, will ask you if you've heard the new Radiohead (e.g.), and then tell you how mind-blowing it is. Especially these days, in indie-rock's golden age of sorts, assertions like these can become so profuse, for some of us it's hard to stomach. But it's not arrogance that causes the nausea. It's confusion, really. How is it that so many people still enjoy the same brand of chorus-and-verse lunchmeat every day, breakfast, lunch and dinner? And none of us here are saying that any new trend of indie-rock is indigestible, (it is after all just rhythm and melody, what's not to like about it?) but why dedicate forty minutes of your life to some formula you've heard a thousand times before, this time with mustard?

Naturally, in time, I convinced myself I simply hated music, and that what in fact I wanted to hear was blatant noise; anything with a complete disregard for conventional structures and formulas. But a regrettable series of 'ambient' record recommendations quickly changed my mind about this. The bulk of the genre is good enough for providing atmosphere, which has it's place in any record collection, granted, but it seems incredibly unwise to spend an album's length of your time on anything that fails to engage you, or fails to require your full attention. Good records are not a condiment to your environment, or something to set a mood. They are participatory events. They are not background. Nor are they, for that matter, anything similar to the shockingly ample supply of records that attempt to sound like random, chaotic noise. Because deliberately trying to appear random or chaotic invariably ends up sounding very forced and phony. What I was looking for was a synthesis. An alloy of nothing formulated, nothing dull, and nothing forced.

To find this rare harmony of noise and patterns you have to come to the fringes, the frontier. You have to find a place of natural, unforced lawlessness. In our case, this place is somewhere in Milan, Italy, where Just Arrived was recorded in just three days. The blend is made of guitars, both electric and table, drums, rhodes piano, organ, and tapes, and takes six of the avantiest musicians of the avant-garde to achieve the proper balance. It should really speak for itself, so I won't insult it with any further explanation. Here are tracks 1-3 . Or if you feel you're not quite ready to live outside the indie-rock police-state, then maybe you'll like this album instead. (I heard it's free.)

Buy the CD.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Lustre King

Lustre King
The Money Shot (1996)
Divot/Action Boy
Chicago, IL

Tonight begins a series of six Shellac shows in four days at the Hideout here in Chicago. I'm going to try and catch as many as I can, but right now it's looking like only half of the six. Tonight's show, I've just found out, also happens to feature Mike Lust's Tight Phantomz as an opening act , which naturally has me harkening back to this elegantly scratchy EP from 1996.

Firstly, I have to admit that the Phantomz aren't really my thing. I have the one CD, and it kind of bitez. That being said, frontman Lust still puts on one hell of a live show. It's always plenty full of high leg kicks, jumps, flips, and sometimes that really cool swinging-the-guitar-around-the-waist thing. This standard was set way back in the day when he lead the Chicago three-piece Lustre King, in fact, any time you mention Lustre King to anyone here in the city, it is those antics that they recall first. They'll remember some crazy stunt one of them pulled or how smashed the bassist was one night. And it's all really a shame because beneath the ultra-scratchy guitar tone, and some street-tough shit-talking tin-can vocals, the band played some secretly intelligent music that normally tends to fall by the wayside when the band is discussed.

Listen to the details of this record. Don't let it fool you. It runs past you in just thirteen and a half minutes, so you'll probably have to flip it over and play it again. It's five tracks have a tendency to shift gears mid-way through and become something else. While the guitar is alternating between math-drenched riffage and some really raunchy spats of noise-making, the bass and drums are pulling off some pretty fancy rhythms, some that sputter and some that glide.

Epitonic has two tracks for download, 'Just Hit Town' and 'Gigolo Swing'.
Here is a fansite that has on it some of 1999's Shoot the Messenger, which might interest you, too. Look for the record or CD at Amazon or Music Stack, because I'm pretty sure it's OOP. Or just ask me and I'll upload it.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Home of the Wildcats

Atlanta, Ga
You know, the real purpose of this site is in the links to the music, and the rest is just sort of unnecessary nonsense. But if I just posted the links by themselves it would just seem rather lazy, so I usually just piece together a morsel or two of relevant information and move on. But every now and then I get these ridiculous ideas. And when drafting a post about the aforementioned Home of the Wildcats, the paragraph quickly morphed into an ineloquent rant comparing the band to a frankensteined Beast with an identity crisis and an unsatisfiable hunger that ultimately eats itself. I'm not sure how that happened, but I've decided to just stick to giving relevant facts from now on.

HOTW was 2/3 of Purkinje Shift and 1/2 of Copa Vance. They're from Atlanta. They're a quartet that seemed to intend to incorporate elements of their prior avant/math projects into a more conventional delivery, with simpler structures and added vocals. The result was phenomenal. It seemed like the band had the capacity to reach into that sort of 1990's Touch & Go terrain, give it new life and bridge it to the present. Last winter I first heard of the band's plans to release a full-length, and I must admit, waited very excitedly for many months. The few live tracks that were uploaded to the band's site were all excellent but really only served to exacerbate the waiting period. This past week it has come to my attention that the band has decided to call it quits and shelve the album. Fortunately, bassist Benjamin Davis has made the mastered recordings available free of charge at his blog, Master of None. Tonight I've downloaded it, one full winter later, and have plans to listen to it over a few ales. So here's to the self-eating Beast that almost was.

The record is here.

Knot Feeder

Pittsburgh, PA
Banfield Takes the Lead?
When we first heard Don Caballero we all thought it was pretty amazing, even if you weren't necessarily hip to it you were able at least to be amazed by it. By '95-'97 they had a major hand in popularizing 'math-rock' and introducing the genre's unconventional elements to a broader audience. So much so that today I'd estimate having heard maybe 4 billion or so Don Cab rip-off bands. And although I believe the American Don to be the band's masterpiece, it was the prior records Don Cab 2 and What Burns that were the real ambassadors to the music world. At this time, the lineup was Ian Williams and Mike Banfield on guitar, Eric Emm on bass, and Damon Che on drums. It's interesting to see where each of these four, as a sort of revolutionary coalition, headed after the band's ugly collapse in 2000.
Che went on to Bellini, where he continued to compete against the music with his unnecessary, flashy, self-involved drumming. Despite Che, Bellini was still mildly tolerable, Speaking Canaries not so much, but it was the gross concoction of Non Caballero's World Class Listening Problem in 2006, that solidifies Che's place at the bottom of our tournament bracket. Emm, now mostly does production work but gets accolades for his involvement with the venerable Storm & Stress (listen here), which released two records on Touch & Go and pushed beyond the new frontiers Don Cab had helped colonize. The real force behind S&S, however, was Ian Williams, whose post Caballero resume is by far the strongest of the three. After the follow-up Under the Fluorescent Lights (listen here), seemed to indicate the band had achieved all it could, Williams wisely called an end to Storm and Stress, and upped the ante again as co-author to a series of superb EP's with supergroup Battles. In 2007 Battles switched gears and released its first full-length, Mirrored, which is a whole separate can of worms we won't discuss here. But regardless of your feelings on Mirrored, it is clear Williams chooses to consistently move forward in his career rather than remain stagnant and you can't argue with the logic in that. But if you believe Mirrored is in fact a stumble, as I do, then you should know that the time is ripe for a rally.
2008 has plans to be the year the long-silent Mike Banfield returns to music with his new project, Knot Feeder. Based out of Pittsburgh, Banfields crew includes an Andy Curl on bass, Andrew Grossmann and Rob Spagiare of Tabula Rasa, with the possible opening for a vocalist (though I'm praying they opt to remain instrumental). They've begun recording tracks for a debut using material with some two years of reworking. Not to jump the gun or anything, but listen to these three tracks available for streaming here, and then try convincing me this isn't going to be in the runnings for our best record of 2008.