Saturday, July 31, 2010

Warner Bros. (1981)

A label somehow worthy of Kraftwerk's entire discography. Just as our last three posts reflect the particular humanity of the artists at work, (Smog/self-portrait; Kramer/wildman; Spires/creep-out), this label probably reflects Kraftwerk's own brand of humanity rather perfectly.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Nihilist (2005)

Spires That in the Sunset Rise/Panicsville (Josephine Foster) split 7" on Nihilist, with layout by Andy Ortmann. Totally creepy, totally fitting.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Shimmy Disc (1990)

This label is from the 1990 Shimmy Disc album "Rutles Highway Revisted," a compilation of Rutles tracks covered by 90s independent artists and Downtown New York musicians. The compilation was put together by Shimmy Disc founder Mark Kramer, a Downtown producer who was then a member of Bongwater with "Making Mr. Right" star Ann Magnunson. Kramer has been affiliated with pretty much every weird artist working in the US since the late 80s, including Daniel Johnston, Danielson Famile, Butthole Surfers, John Zorn, Ween, and even GWAR. He seems like a pretty interesting guy, but lost active control of the Shimmy Disc label after a lawsuit with Magnunson in 1991. It was later revived as the house label of Knitting Factory, where Kramer still works as an A&R man. Reportedly he's spending less time on music and more on his new love, the theatre--he's become a member of the Actor's Studio, studying with "Bonnie and Clyde" director Arthur Penn. Oh, Kramer... What a character.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Disaster (1990)

Smog's LP debut, "Sewn to the Sky," was the sole vinyl issue on Bill Callahan's Disaster Records, based out of Maryland. In his even-adolescent coolness, Callahan had been involved in the zine scene, publishing a Replacements fan mag, "Willpower," and a generalist music mag called "Disaster." When he began releasing cassettes as Smog in 1988, he appropriated the Disaster name for his home-run label. The label didn't last for too long; Callahan shut it down when he was signed to the nascent Drag City in 1991. In the next few years, Drag City would re-issue "Sewn to the Sky" and "Forgotten Foundation," a compilation of tracks from Smog's early Disaster cassettes.

The label art here, like many of Smog's later labels, is by Callahan himself, and though the side A drawing is a little hard to decipher at first, it appears to be a self-portrait. Callahan rarely drew himself in his later sketchbooks and cover art, but it seems fitting that the introspective Callahan's debut LP would offer up this shadowy, stage-setting image.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Animal Records (1982)

Animal Records, a sub-label of Chrysalis, was founded by Blondie's Chris Stein in 1982. This indulgence was probably granted on the basis of "Call Me"'s massive success, and credit is due to Stein for keeping the label firmly grounded in the changing Downtown scene. Along with James White (née James Siegfried, aka James Chance), the label also hosted Walter Steding, a Basquait pal and solo violinist, Iggy Pop, for his "Zombie Birdhouse" album, and Los Angeles expats Gun Club. Most awesomely, the label has a ton of cred in the hip-hop community for having released the groundbreaking soundtrack to Wild Style, a reminder of hip-hop's New York roots and early reception in the only half-gentrifying LES art scene.

Alas, the run of Animal Records was short lived--in 1984, Stein's illness forced him to shut down the label after only two years. It must have been a rough time for the guy--descriptions of his illness seem kind of weird, and it was around this time that he and Deb Harry ended a relationship that had started before Blondie had even formed. It probably didn't help that Blondie followed up "Call Me" with 1982's "The Hunter," took a nose dive critically and commercially, and subsequently split.

As far as James White and the Blacks are concerned, it was reported that "Sax Maniac" was very nearly a breakthrough album for what was ultimately a very weird, very cool band. But a proposed "Saturday Night Live" appearance never materialized and James White/Chance moved off to Paris and split the core group. The early 80s were probably even worse to White/Chance than to Chris Stein--"Sax Maniac" is dedicated to the memory of his long-time manager/girlfriend Anya Philips, a legendary scene-maker in the No Wave era, who succumbed to cancer in 1981. When White/Chance last appeared in Chicago, backed by Watchers and billed as James White and The New Contortions, his brother served as his hype-man and his parents stood in the front row. He didn't punch anyone in the face this time around, let alone any girls, but it was nice to see him back in the game.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sin (1986)

Thanks to Alexander for the opportunity to contribute here! In gratitude, our first posting is a tribute to this blog's own inaugural entry, highlighting the beautiful Sun Records label via Johnny Cash.

Sin Records of Brixton, London, home only to the Mekons and only for a few years, was born in 1985 with these words: "I was out late the other night/Fear and whiskey kept me going/I swore somebody held me tight, but now there's just no way of knowing." Supposedly, Sam Phillips chose the name Sun Records as a symbol for a new beginning, new opportunity--you know, a new day.* Fitting, then, that the half-joke of Sin Records marked the Mekons' rebirth as a hybrid "country" act, replete with ten-gallon hats and cowboy boots.

In terms of their career arc, the Mekons don't get a good rap or a bad rap, but mostly just a weird rap. It seems hard at first to connect the dots from the Leeds post-punk scene (Gang of Four, Delta 5, Mekons) to Bloodshot records and quiet nights at Chicago's Hideout, but there's an underlying continuity threaded into the band's post-hiatus transition to "country" music.

In contrast to the Gang of Four, the Mekons were always already folk music, in a way. The narrative was remarkably consistent: some poor, disillusioned person trying to keep his or her shit together in the midst of some completely fucked and confusing situation. War, labor strikes, unfriendly strangers, unreliable friends and lovers--these environmental hazards are just as common in the Mekons discography as in the Anthology of American Folk Music. And somehow, there's nothing nostalgic or retro-fit about the Mekons, at all.

"The Edge of the World," Sin's second LP, is the first Mekons LP to feature Sally Timms and Jon Langford together, then in Leeds and now in Chicago, and always, surprisingly, the very same Mekons.

*Supposedly, meaning based on several unsourced websites, of course. It's worth pointing out that one of the four sites we referenced suggested the name was chosen due to the sun's "universal power." Sam Phillips was a weird enough dude where that certainly seems just as plausible. Who knows? Anyways...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Diadem (?)

"Variety is the keynote of this album of well loved gospel songs played by Lester and Grace Place, nationally known evangelistic team...

This recording is produced at the time when the Places have completed 25 years of itinerant evangelistic ministry including the preaching of God's word and the presentation of music...

Features in this album are the Marimba, bells, saxophone, guitar, and the antique triple octave bells. An interesting feature is the song "Cleanse Me" as Lester plays a saxophone solo with himself...

Their life story, conversion and testimony was presented recently on the worldwide broadcast "Unshackled", produced by the Garden Mission of Chicago Illinois."

This record has a really strange sound to it. I love it. I listen to it a lot. Whenever I play it for people, they tell me it's "creepy" and ask me to take it off. There's no accounting for taste, I guess.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

heru productions (1978)

I found this small press New Age record in a stack left on the sidewalk. Homemade sounds. Hey look Aeolian! I'm back to where I started! Thanks everybody!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Takoma (1968)

OK, gotta keep this going. Mm. The Takoma label. So nice to look at. This was also recently found in the dollar bin. Is it because they made a zillion of them? All those sought after John Fahey records used to sell cheap, too. Not just the Christmas one. Now, if whoever I lent my yellow wax copy of The Great San Bernardino Birthday Party to in 1995 could kindly return it, I'd like to cash in... Sigh, shut up you bitter old nerd...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Kicking Mule (1973)

Ahem, ditto. Well, actually - I just got this one in the dollar bin, so it's OK pops. You can still shuffle in & pick up some ragtime guitar music to drag back to your hovel to listen to all alone.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

kaleidophone (1972)

Hm, should I say anything at all? Anything I have to say makes me sound like a loser. Sigh, OK. I used to like to buy records of African music, world music, folk music, etc. Not just because I like the music, but because they used to always be so cheap. I'm kind of a cheap bastard. Not just because I'm always broke, but... well, I'm not always good at taking care of nice stuff, so why have it at all? ...and once I have everything all cozy & set up, I'll end up moving to yet another city, and jettison half the stuff I own. So, why bother? OK... (oh, why am I saying this?) See kids, I used buy records like this because no one else wanted them, and they always cost less than $5. The last time I was in the record store, every single recording of old African music was kind of expensive. So were the Bollywood soundtracks, and the weird old asian pop records. That's what the kids like these days, eh? Good for them. Those records use to sit there for a dollar, because it seemed like nobody wanted them but me. I'm so cool. I was there first, so there. blah blah. I remember when. Oh, man. What am I doing here. Where am I?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

100% Breakfast! (2006)

The Oskarrensaga. Translated from the Bemidji stone, and performed by Fat Day, with artwork by PShaw

Monday, July 19, 2010

CHIMP (1994)

Hired today
Fired today

Perhaps one day, some excited young record collector will track us all down, and discover the true story behind Trollin Withdrawal. Perhaps he will find the Homeless Valet, and somehow - like Daniel Johnston, or Jandek, or something - people will appreciate the insane power of his music, and he will agree to sing his songs for them. I don't think so, though. He doesn't want you to hear his songs. He doesn't trust you.

We were a wild group of young friends with nothing to lose, and nothing to gain. We all had our own agendas, and our own young egos to contend with. I wanted to make the records sound as weird as possible. He did too, on the nights that we recorded them, but certainly not the next morning. His former friends fought and argued amongst ourselves for over a decade about how the LP would eventually be sequenced and released. It never was, which is a very good thing. We never asked him what he wanted, or would even listen to him when he did tell us "because he was so crazy." That was no excuse. There were four 7 inch records. The A side of the last one is the only one that actually sounds like Trollin Withdrawal. His jaws once clamped down on my hand, and he fell into a fetal position on the floor until I let go of the tape. How could I snatch it back and still let it be made into a record against his will? It was only 200 copies, released in a format most people didn't even realize were still being made at that time, but that's not the point.

I'm sorry. Are you listening to this? I don't think so.
There was a real reason though, that we did this, and that we still talk about it. It is because we were so very in awe of the beauty, and visceral nature of the sad stories and poetry of The Homeless Valet. If only we could have somehow helped him. He could have easily had a career making records, maybe even a successful one, who knows? In some other twisted way of untangling the universe, The Homeless Valet could have been the voice of a generation. We really felt this. For a couple of years, recently, no one could find him, and we thought maybe he was gone. He isn't. He's still there. He is still as paranoid, and bitter, and resentful about it all. More so, I guess. Oh.

I'm so sorry, and I wish you could understand. We were young, and stupid, but underneath it all, we were amazed by the way you sang your songs. All we really wanted was to somehow help you see that so many people wanted to hear what you had to say. We didn't want to steal your spotlight, or exploit you. We wanted to bang the drums, and shout your choruses along with you, yes. We just wanted you to show up, to sing into the mic, and to notice that the last couple of shows were selling out, not because of anything we did, but because of you.

I'm sorry.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Akashic Records & Tapes (1999)

What a sweet looking little 7". The music is ethereal and nice. The titles and the design remind me of Sun Ra. I know 3 of the guys in this band, from three different periods of my life. I don't remember which one of them gave this to me, or when. I think it was Neil. How nice! Thank You!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

SST (1984)

Sometimes people think I am being coy when I don't recognize that they are playing Led Zeppelin, or Dark Side of The Moon, or Sabbath or whatever. They don't understand how I could have grown up as an artist, how I could be so interested in music without having an early phase of listening to Classic Rock. This is why. I heard this before I ever got the chance. Black Flag obliterated all other kinds of "bad" music in my young consciousness. It all sounded stale, it all sounded well... limp, bloated, pompous, fake, insincere, and well... light compared to the power that I heard in this.

You're NOT evil. I've got rat's eyes. I'm trapped behind the bars.
Slip It In.
...thank goodness I didn't hear Damaged until a few years later

Friday, July 16, 2010

Post Present Medium (2004)

I saw this record sitting in the sun in the pile of crap in the back of her car for months and months and months. It became so warped that it must have straightened itself out again, because somehow I got a hold of it, and it pretty much looks OK. I know, she has the most beautiful voice you've ever heard. She can sing hundreds of jazz standards from memory. She just saw your band play and she loved it so much! But unless you've really got more copies than you know what to do with, you shouldn't bother giving her your record. She doesn't have a record player, or a CD player. She doesn't own any recorded music - well, except for all of the things that people have given to her. Yes, she'll listen and sing along to the radio, or play that Ella Fitzgerald tape over and over for weeks, but it's to learn the songs. She lives, and breathes in song - every moment of every day is music, and it is happening right now, in the present. It is a beautiful thing to experience. It is a wonderful way to live. Everything in the universe is vibrating. Every aspect of every thing is made of music. She channels all of it, the beauty, the pain, the light and the darkness, every last bit of it can be heard in her voice.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Droll Yankees (1960's?)

Really the nicest hand drawn label art I've ever seen. My lettering style is totally influenced by this. I suppose I'm partial to this material. I was born in Quincy, and raised in Plymouth, Mass. 100% Yankee. - South Shore!

Most of the labels I am posting are from records I've owned for many years, but have never bothered to look up online. The history and catalog of Droll Yankees records is incredible! I want them all!


"while very obviously a droll yankees lp, this one is a bit of a mystery, as no reference to it is made on any of the other records or inserts, and it duplicates the catalogue # from "swearing in the bushes".

droll yankees was a record label founded around 1960 to document "the sounds of old new england", and released records covering material ranging from sounds of the natural world and old trains or boats, to off-color new england humor and farm life. founded by peter kilham and alan bemis, it eventually took a sidelight to droll yankees' burgeoning bird feeder business, and now only a few of these records are available from them as cassettes (albeit with completely different cover art).

the original purpose of the record label is well-explained in the liner notes from dy-1, "the casket sinkers/caused by rum":

"now that the true yankee dialect is disappearing it suddenly becomes of value as does any rare book or scarce commodity. bemis and kilham and a few of their friends, who are real old-time yankees, feel that what little remains of the old-time humor and quaint language should be recorded before it disappears forever. with this in mind the company droll yankees inc. was formed by bemis and kilham, and a series of records is planned, all authentic, and on many different themes."

the later recordings, starting with dy-14, "birds on a may morning", switch to a different type of documentary recording, with the goal of creating a "picture in sound" of old new england, whether it be of the sounds of a particular wild habitat, or those of the disappearing steamboats and steam trains."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Canadian Music Heritage Collection (1980)

"This recording presents the katadjait or throat songs, of the women of Povungituk, a village on the eastern shore of Hudson Bay in the Canadian Arctic. Katadjait are duets performed by women who stand close together to produce guttural vocal sounds through voice manipulation and breathing techniques. In some communities katadjait have texts with intelligible meanings; elsewhere 'meaningless' syllables are used. The women perform standing face to face"

Eskimo women's music is wonderful for so many different reasons. The arctic is a place of such stark contrast, and this music is the most basic and instinctual that I know of. It is some of the most casual music that I have ever heard, and it is also so evidently female in nature. The "songs" are sung by two women, breathing and chanting into each other's faces, until one of them cracks up. Each track on this record ends with giggling and laughing. It's obviously done as a form of play, and a way to keep warm!

It's the most evident, and extreme example of playful feminine music that I know of. Much of the world's music seems to descend from a seemingly patriarchal tradition. I don't necessarily mean controlled or performed by men, but containing traditionally male attributes - the construction of complicated machines or systems of producing incredibly specific sounds - the idea of practice & perfection of the minutia of creating these sounds, and critical examination of musical performance.

I'm not saying that I don't like these things! I just find these sounds so refreshing and exciting because of their beautiful sense of playfulness!

I was introduced to this record in a world music class that I took while on a semester exchange at Otis/Parsons in 1991. The instructor made cassettes of her record collection which we checked out of the library. I made my own mixtapes from these cassettes, which I still listen to from time to time. I was introduced to so much amazing stuff in that class! I was so happy to come across this record a number of years later at a store in Texas while on tour.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Hi-Tone (60's? 70's?)

"In this modern era of television, radio and phonographs, little is heard of the old music box that thrilled the young and old of the '80's. The brilliant tones and colorful rendition of old familiar tunes skilfully punched on metal discs and played on the old music box, still preserve a rare entertainment quality unfamiliar to many of the present day generation"

This 10" is such a perfectly designed, simple object, right down to the large spaces between the identically sized bands. I love recordings of old mechanical instruments. Every other record I have presents a survey of different machines from a specific collection. This one is all recordings from the same kind of machine. This kind of music box uses metal discs that look like records, which are placed under a metal rod that holds several sets of "combs". I've only ever seen one at the Museé Mécanique in San Francisco.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Aeolian Company (1916)

Hello! Being invited to contribute to this blog has made me think quite a bit about my relationship to the nature of many aspects of culture - records, music, writing, journalism, the internet - knowledge, facts, storytelling - collecting, materialism, fetishism. I'm excited to muse about these things in public for the next 2 weeks, as I present the labels of 14 records that happen to be in this apartment with me right now, for one reason or another.

I used to "collect" 78's - or well, seek them out at least. They were (are?) always so cheap, and are a great way to educate yourself about old music, the early days of recording, manufacturing and design. They can also sometimes be an astounding way to glimpse at the very end of an era in humanity's relationship to music. The way that these discs instantly rocketed to every corner of the globe, and changed the way that people relate to the music that they are playing, as well as their methods and reasons for listening to music will always fascinate me.

Well, I move around a lot, and this is the only 78 I have at the moment. It was given to me by Brian Belot. Brian's art & life seems to be centered around the amassing & re-purposing of a vast amount of stuff. I love this about him, and was psyched to see his huge pile of old records while visiting him in NYC. I thought this label looked amazing. He just handed it to me, and told me I could have it. It was so nice to meet someone who appreciated and was excited about old records, but also saw these objects as things that should be shared, and passed on. I had a feeling this record would get cracked in my luggage, which it did. Oh well. I apologize to historians if thing is rare, but I kind of doubt that it is.

The labels of 78's are always the most beautiful. I've come across some sites similar to this one that are dedicated to displaying them. It's not just that old things are always prettier, I think it's just that it was so much harder & unique to make things back then, that so much more care went into them? Well, printing was of course so much better and carefully done in the past. I used to live in Cambridge, and there were of couple of 78 collector dudes who showed me how to tell where & when certain ones were made, how to tell which were recorded with electricity, what the different colors of the labels meant, why silver ink was used, etc.

So, an "Aeolian harp" is an ancient idea of music that is played by the wind, right? Cool... So, as I am looking it up now, it seems that the history of The Aeolian Company is also quite fascinating. They produced piano rolls, built player pianos & organs, and introduced the first one that also could also record what was being played by punching holes into the rolls? There's a lot of early jazz & stuff that was only recorded in this way, right? So - this record would have been their way of attempting to adapt to a new, emerging technology, eh? This record originally cost 85¢. That would have made it quite expensive in 1916, right? I notice that the company, and this label was later absorbed into other larger corporations - AND!

"It was Congressional suspicion of the market power of the Aeolian company during the early 20th century that prompted adoption of the first compulsory license system in U.S. copyright law, for the mechanical reproduction of musical compositions, a category that included piano rolls."

Hm! I didn't mean to start writing about this, but please remember people - the recording, selling, and concept of "owning" music, even the music we create ourselves, is still very new in the history of humanity. Don't get too upset about it. We will always be able to play & listen to music - and best of all, we can still make & listen to records!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Dundee Contemporary Arts (2006)

...patience is a virtue.

David Shrigley, Ding-Dong, 7" limited edition. It is exactly what it says.

[Ahhhh] Simply put: the brilliance that is Shrigley. Yes, the record is true to the labels. In a deep clear voice: “Ding” [flip over] “Dong.” I love playing this single for visitors. It takes longer to flip it over than to listen to either side. Doesn’t take long to flip over either.

It's the delay. And the return. And knowing when to stop.

Ash International (2007)

Mariachi Azteca Principal Performs The Kingdoms Of Elgaland-Vargaland National Anthem #2

These recordings were made during the inauguration of The Embassy of The Kingdoms of Elgaland-Vargaland in Mexico City on August 30, 2002 in the presence of the KREV Ambassador Magalí Arriola and invited guests at Colima 244, Colonia Roma, Mexico City. This is just one of many different interpretations of the anthem, and a very jubilant one at that.

Keep the party on path. Rule number one: Never! Ever! Forget to salute your kings.
Give them their due; they keep the kingdom in disorder.
(Yes, I’m a citizen.)
Raise your glass high!

Povertech Industries (1995)

The B-Side wins again and again, and this time is no different. Just the B-Side this time. Half of the CM von Hausswolff Plays John Cage 7". The other side is a spiritcom version of one of the Imaginary Landscape works. This side is von Hausswolff's cover of 4'33". The great thing is how he recorded this. Cut straight to vinyl, no sound source. The real kicker: instead of time, he translated 4'33" as distance. Vectors, my friend, it is all in vectors. Four feet and thirty-three inches. That's how long the groove is, and determines how long the composition plays. No, it does not translate to four minutes thirty-three seconds. The package recommends you not play this side. I must not love my turntable, because I do anyway.

Locus + and Charrm (2001)

The Kenotaphion project by Jonty Semper. The one minute silence, recorded in Hyde Park, London, 8 September, 1997, from the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Jonty Semper released this 7” as part of his Kenotaphion project. The other part of the project is a two CD set of all the existing broadcast recordings of the two minute silences from Armistice Day or Remembrance Sunday in Whitehall, London.

Simply beautiful and clean, nothing else is necessary. Two great and tragic projects? Walk away. Always leave the audience wanting. Quietly.

Colin Smythe (1971)

Konstantin Raudive, Breakthrough: An Amazing Experiment in Electronic Communication with the Dead

The 7” came free with the hardcover first edition of Breakthrough by Raudive.

An original and without a doubt one of the best. I think the label speaks for itself. I cannot help loving EVP recordings. What other kind of recording asks you to project your belief and hopes as the only possible method to prove its authenticity?

Vacuum Records (1979)

Policeband: Stereo/Mono
A story and then facts.

Several years ago I went to a lecture at the Art Institute by New York curator/writer Bob Nickas. I’d met him a year or so earlier, liked him, respected him, and he seemed to get along with me well enough. We found a quick music and bourbon bond. A late November evening he gives me a call, and tells me he’s coming to Chicago, I should check out the lecture, and that he has a gift for me. “Something you’ll never expect and freak out over.” An obscure record that he learned only recently was actually produced and released by an acquaintance of his; and not just that, this person still had copies. So Bob bought a bunch to give as gifts to the appreciative.

This is great. Fantastic. I’m giddy.

Reality hits--shit, I should give him something. The day of the lecture I grab a copy of a recent book I had published by an artist I am sure he knows and likes. Dike Blair’s Again: Selected Interviews and Essays. Bob and I meet-up real briefly before the talk. He hands me this 7”, I hand him the book. He laughs. Bob didn’t know that I knew Dike and had been working on this book. Predictable really: Dike was the one who released Policeband: Stereo/Mono, the person from whom Bob bought a stack. I love a balance that blindsides you.

Back to the recording: there is a real truth in advertising to the band name and song titles on this one. A nice simple design all around. You can still get a copy.

I’ll let Dike speak for the record:
"Policeband was a one-man act - the man being Boris, a New York City kid and a classically trained musician who picked up on performance art while studying and teaching at Cal Arts in the early 70s. Boris became Boris Policeband after a live performance in 1976 during which he monitored, on headphones, police communications from a scanner and recited their chatter while he accompanied himself on electric violin. Boris was fascinated by cop culture and the often prosaic and sometimes poetic reality of law enforcement. Over the next couple years the cop-talk and violin-screech coalesced into discrete songs. His live performances were extremely loud/edgy aggressive/dissonant, and even though most songs were under a minute long and a set rarely exceeded 10 minutes, Boris could quickly empty a room; and that was something he took pride in. The rooms he cleared included CBGBs, Maxs and the Mudd Club; as well as other venues like the Kitchen and Artists Space. Boris, a self-proclaimed Materialistic-Socialist and Antidisestablishmentotalitarian, was a character and downtown club fixture. His days were spent combing thought thrift and pawnshops for material to add to his collection of used books, sunglasses (which he was never seen without), and wristwatches. Every night he was in clubs where he leaned against a wall while listening to classical music with an ear plug on his transistor radio and bouncing his pink Spaulding off the walls and deftly catching it; all the while engaging in snappy repartee and/or swapping insults with passersby. Boris put Policeband down in the mid-80s to pursue his classical viola practice. His present whereabouts are unknown.”

SOS (1993)

Free Kitten
Företag Special Groupie 7"
"Cleopatra" b/w "Loose Lips"

I have always had a soft spot for Free Kitten (more so than Sonic Youth to be honest). Headed by Kim Gordon and Julie Cafritz, the band usually has Yoshimi P-We on the drums, and then Mark Ibold on bass if need be. This 7” was released for the Lollapalooza tour of 1993, with only Gordon and Cafritz, joined by Wharton Tiers on drums just to mix things up. A true band with an attitude, Free Kitten has cornered the market on a certain insouciant come-hither bratty quality that in a split second of amplifier squall spills over into sweetness or spite. Dreamy. Free Kitten understands infatuation like no other. The less they care, the more I love them. Funny thing is, they can care, aren’t afraid to be fans, and show the love when and where it is deserved. Maybe I just haven’t earned that right.

Who could say it better? “Hey, we want a piece of the action!”

Sympathy for the Record Industry (1994)

"Stop messing with my head with your half baked ragas, dull pseudo ethnic arcana, fake folk etc don't give me 'give and take' improv, and please no 'interesting', I want full-on universal electric blood or nothing (Nothing is pretty good too)…"
— Matthew Bower, from a March 31, 2005 text for Volcanic Tongue record shop.

Happy 4th! In honor of this holiday, I offer a record under the lead of Matthew Bower, one British individual who’d be able to convert us into loyal British subjects again single-handed with just one guitar, an amp and a howl. (As he has in his bands Mirag, Pure, Total, Sunroof! and some later versions of Skullflower.) Thankfully he wasn’t around in the 18th century. We'd be eating grilled tomatoes with fish cakes for breakfast. So I offer a 7” from the first glory days of Skullflower.

I could mention I met him once at the Empty Bottle. Saw him standing alone before a show. I walked up, thanked him for the years of music and pleasure. Bower looked up at me (he's rather short), beer in hand, and replied, in a cold yet somehow not mean or condescending manner, "How do you know who I am?" Didn't have an answer. Then an hour later, electric bliss.

Back to the matter at hand. One of many of the best things about Bower, is his nonchalance about being tough. He came up with a great band name, everything else is malleable. Look at the label. Flies? Gnats? Drooling bumblebees? Ok, maybe a rabid wasp. Not too scared regardless.

And the song titles. You know you aren’t worried about image when you can use these titles for your heavy brutal stomp. If it is gonna pummel you, the title can have a little fun, no? Who needs bluster? I’m skittish just considering encountering any of the fully-grown horses of this “Ponyland.” Only Bower would dream to make a “Fake Revolt” more menacing than a real one. This is the stuff electricity was invented for, to mangle and buzz over paleolithic drums. When other opportunities fall through, sometimes to get the heart racing one must stick out your thumb and hold high that cardboard sign: “Nihilism or Bust!”

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Captured Tracks (2008)

What to say? Probably the most beautiful label I own of a band that has excelled at some very good and at times prickly design work. Teenage Panzerkorps (or Der TPK) have released a smattering of 7"s and LPs. All worth having. After a truly hardcore infused full-length on Siltbreeze they took a turn onto post-punk lane, with lo-fi production, moist reverb and warm echo to spare. Wouldn't have been out of character in early 80s London (or Australia really). A sound I can live in. On top of all that, Bunker Wolf's vocals are nearly legible while sturdy and declarative; a sprechstimme to make Mark E. Smith grouse.

Maybe I should mention it is hard to know what to do with the entire package. The name, the band member names (Bunker Wolf, Edmund Xavier, Boy True, Catholic Pat), the album names (Harmful Emotions, Games For Slaves), song titles ("Arc De Triomphe," "Knut Hamsun," etc.), some of the art uses a decidedly German eagle... certainly looking to push a button, or keep themselves marginalized. A place for discomfort. I don't know, but when the reverb wraps me I'm at home.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Grand Royal (1999)

Must start this holiday weekend off right. That, of course, means Biz Markie doing Elton John's classic, sandwiched by a tiny aperitif and little after-mint. Lovers of classic music and lovers of karaoke will all find a way to lose themselves when this spins. So close to perfection. Except he is not so clear on all the lyrics. What he loses in detail he more than makes up for in emphasis. In fact, I wonder if Markie is a bit of a clothes horse, given the enthusiasm and gusto he throws behind: "She's got electric boots / a mohair suit / You know I read it in a magazine."

This flex-disc came as an insert to Issue #2 of the short-lived Grand Royal magazine. The entire issue is a classic: an abusive interview with Ted Nugent, long winding article on Lee "Scratch" Perry, and Thurston Moore's free jazz top ten. But it's Biz that takes the cake, the cupcake, the cookie and any other sweet you've got laying around, including those mangy M & M's lodged under the couch cushions.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Ecstatic Peace! / Father Yod (1995)

I know the labels are wicked crooked. It is better this way, given we are dealing with Destroy All Monsters. I was going to have to represent for the home state (Michigan) eventually. So I decided the original music destroyers fronted by now LA-based artists Mike Kelley and Jim Shaw, with still Michiganders Cary Loren and Niagara, covering, in a matter of speaking, "Detroit: Rock City" live in Detroit was the logical choice.

(Warning: If you have never been to Cary's Book Beat in Oak Park, MI you have no idea what you are missing.)

Recorded at one of the sporadic Destroy All Monster reunions, this single always gets the evening off to a strange start. I love playing this for guests, and asking them to tell me if it sounds better played at 33 1/3 or 45. The voting is split pretty even to date--which isn't so surprising. My copy came in a screen-printed cardboard box, faux fur-lined on the inside, and accompanied by a random assortment of stickers, photos, paper scraps and misbegottens. No two copies are exactly the same. This is sometimes known as the "Monkey Fur Box," but I have to admit I don't know when those times are. Edition of 250.

Make yourself a Motor City Mule. Fire up the Hi-Fi. Put the feet up and let the bastardized tones curl your toes you Peanut Butter Motherfuckers!

By the way... I don't want to ignore the A-Side here. Lest you forget the immortal words popularized by Roberta Flack, here they are:

Strumming my pain with his fingers
Singing my life with his words
Killing me softly with his song
Killing me softly with his song
Telling my whole life with his words
Killing me softly with his song

I heard he sang a good song
I heard he had a style
And so I came to see him
And listen for a while
And there he was this young boy
A stranger to my eyes

I felt all flushed with fever
Embarrassed by the crowd
I felt he found my letters
And read each one out loud
I prayed that he would finish
But he just kept right on

He sang as if he knew me
In all my dark despair
And then he looked right through me
As if I wasn't there
And he just kept on singing
Singing clear and strong