It takes a healthy amount of swagger to litter ones debut album cover with a collage of rock icons (Beatles, Velvets, Neil etc). Gluebag however, pull it off with ease. Somewhere in the woods of Western MA, this trio of psyched out weirdo’s are thrashing out the kind of heavy guitar psych that feels straight out the back of a late 80s Forced Exposure catalog. A violent, improvised thrash of songs, minimal in their structure, with free-form, sky-opening guitar freak outs that truly reaches other planes worthy of PSF. Lo-fi in aesthetic the music filters channels a 70s proto-punk filter, not entirely dissimilar to Simply Saucer/Hawkwind in its raw and urgent sound. One can feel the lysergic sweat dripping off the wood paneled basement of caged boredom. Confused is an auspicious debut of full-throttle, extended psych rock and the world is a better place for it. Here’s hoping for much more huffing in the future from these freaks.
by STEVE LOWENTHAL on 3/10/2014 in Reviews | Tags: Crystalline Roses, Gluebag
Left: Carrie Mae Weems, Untitled (Woman playing solitaire) (from Kitchen Table Series), 1990. Gelatin silver print. Collection of Liz and Eric Lefkofsky, Promised gift to The Art Institute of Chicago. © Carrie Mae Weems. Photo: © The Art Institute of Chicago. Right: Filippo Masoero, Descending over Saint Peter (Scendendo su San Pietro), ca. 1927–37 (possibly 1930–33). Gelatin silver print, 24 x 31.5 cm. © Touring Club Italiano Archive
The Guggenheim has unveiled two excellent exhibitions that identify and address issues of social transformation and cultural conflict – but, taken together, the pairing makes for an awkward couple.
continue reading "Cultures in Conflict: Carrie Mae Weems, Italian Futurism at the Guggenheim"
by charles eppley on 2/24/2014 in Reviews | Tags: art review, carrie mae weems, futurism, guggenheim
This record of hangover songs from Six Organs of Admittance’s Ben Chasny and Donovon Quinn is a pleasant listen albeit tossed off and rough around the edges. Fitting for a Sunday afternoon slowly nursing beers, the New Bums offer above average guitar playing to the Nikki Sudden/Jacobites dynamics of the pairing. Like Chasny’s other recent duo project 200 Years, the New Bums sounds like the sketches of several good ideas hastily thrown together and executed quickly. Lyrically, Chasny could use some editing on tracks like “It’s the Way” as lines like “Sit down by the creek/ I’ll tell you what you seek” aren’t doing anyone any favors. While inviting and generally predictable in structure, there’s urgency missing that is at the heart of the best Six Organs records. The New Bums sound far too comfortable on this ramshackle debut, neither structured nor loose enough to leave enough of an impression. The best moments are when the duo let the strings do the talking, as their interplay is complementary and at times, lovely. It’s a fine listen and there are certainly worse ways to spend an hour, but if this writer had to choose only 10 Chasny-related records, Voices In A Rented Room would not be among them. Generally, I’m a fan of most Chasny-executed projects. Last year’s four-piece rock band version of Six Organs was perhaps the best live band I had seen that year, watching Chasny playing electric was joyously invigorating. This diversion however, veers off to less exciting terrain.
by STEVE LOWENTHAL on 2/20/2014 in Reviews | Tags: 200 Years, Donovon Quinn, Drag City, New Bums, Six Organs of Admittance
Don’t let the title of this release fool you, there is no actual music from Theo Parrish on this release. Instead, the legendary DJ picks his favorite deep cuts from the early 70s deep jazz label Black Jazz. With no editing or electronic effects, this compilation serves as a fantastic introduction to one of American jazz’ more obscure off roads and is all the better for the hands off approach from Parrish. Combining elements of funk and soul with more traditional jazz styles, the roster of the label, artists like pianist Doug Cam, keyboardist Gene Russell and guitarist Calvin Keys each offer extended forays into deeply meditative yet equally dance-floor friendly. Parrish’s association as a DJ and selector, lends itself to material, the feeling of leather wraparound booths and strong cocktails becomes apparent as the compilation unfolds. Rather than just atmosphere, the Black Jazz catalog leaves some extremely heavy musical revelations. Russell’s take on “My Favorite Things,” a standard that got new life breathed into it via John Coltrane’s infamous Quartet, here receives an even further out treatment, blasting off into territory heretofore unvisited. Russell’s freely melodic runs create unpredictable turns that sound both futuristic and of its time. “Convulsions,” an original by the Awakening, a piano-driven quartet whose heavy post-bop stands up to the heights of the Impulse catalog in its virtuosity and emotive spiritual leaning, have a few entries in the comp, each a testament to their imaginative playing. Throughout the course of this set ranging from the lounge inspired to the free jazz end of the spectrum, the musicians set forth a musical vision that’s coherent, vibrant and a joy to hear. There’s not a weak cut on this comp so for those unfamiliar, dive in headfirst, there’s no filler. The Black Jazz Signature is essential listening for any jazz head.
by STEVE LOWENTHAL on 2/13/2014 in Reviews | Tags: Black Jazz Signature, Calvin Keys, Doug Cam, Gene Russell, The Awakenings, Theo Parrish
Royal Trux: Live at the Cooler, NYC 1998 from Kimosabbe on Vimeo.
Venues in NYC come and go. But only occasionally do they live on far after their close, in the hearts of their patrons years later. In the mid 90’s, when the meat-packing district of NYC was a barren outpost lightly peppered with bodegas and the occasional dive bar there existed a club unlike any other. Descending a steep metal staircase tucked closely behind an unmarked metal door was The Cooler, an airtight meat locker turned music venue. The space was gritty – functional meat hooks dangled from the ceiling, Brion Gysin projections flickered on the sticky walls flanked by smutty photos from Warhol affiliate Gerard Malanga. The music was a mix of free jazz legends like Cecil Taylor, the alluring indie-rock of early Blonde Redhead and NYC original modernists like Suicide. On the right night you’d even find Sonic Youth taking the stage unannounced to test out new material after a set by Japanese noise duo The Ruins. There existed little separation between audience and artists – an intimacy that compounded the intensity of the performances. continue reading "The Cooler NYC- A Look Back"
by STEVE LOWENTHAL on 1/21/2014 in Features, Uncategorized | Tags: Bill Orcutt, Harry Pussy, Ian Sveonius, John Fell Ryan, Monotract, Nancy Garcia, No Neck Blues Band, The Make Up
Dais Records continues their missionary journey into documenting the music of Tor Lundvall, one of the most unique and mysterious figures in ambient music. Transcending genre, Lundvall’s soundtracks of ethereal atmosphere capture a ghostly meditative property unlike any other. After 2011’s four disc Seasons Unfold, Lundvall and Dais bring us another massive round of haunted dreamscapes in this five disc set, spanning material from the last decade of his work, including his most recent album of compositions, the otherwise unreleased Night Studies. Without a trace of redundancy, these five discs present a further dive into the cobalt blue waters of Lundvall’s transcendental musings. At the root of Lundvall’s music is a resonating echo of naturalism as interpreted through electronically altered sounds. This approach may seem paradoxical yet the results are hypnotically transfixing. As a true outsider, Lundvall exists in deep isolation, the music untouched by outside influence. Lundvall’s view of the world is filled with en ever-expanding textual palate. Over the course of these five discs, his consistency and vision remains unmatched. continue reading "Tor Lundvall- Structures and Solitudes- 5xCD box (Dais)"
by STEVE LOWENTHAL on 1/16/2014 in Reviews | Tags: Dais Records, Empty City, Last Light, NIght Studies, Sleeping and Hiding, Structures and Solitudes, The Shipyard, Tor Lundvall
Ali Wells has been operating at the forefront of innovative techno for years under the moniker Perc, both as a DJ and as labelrunner of the renowned Perc Trax. Recently, Wells has established the Perc Trax imprint Submit to document the more esoteric sounds being created on the furthest fringes of techno, where drone and harsh noise take as much precedence as anything vaguely resembling a beat. Submit’s latest, the Feral Grind comp, has been curated by Wells alongside music journalist Justin Farrar, and is as good a place as any to dive into the seedy muck of this virtual nightclub where techno, drone, noise and power electronics hold equal ground. Feral Grind is a perfectly curated, varied but consistent selection of tracks by mostly little known producers toiling diligently at the forward guard of sonic exploration. Wells and Farrar have arranged this compilation to work almost as a continuous whole, as field recordings and static washes (Housefire) fade into undulating synth bass (Prostitutes), only then to fall away into clanging metallic percussion and skittering DIY electronics and back into heavily distorted, vaguely melodic keyboards and beats (Pete Swanson), like a dance music transmission heard through several layers of concrete. Feral Grind is a hallucinogen cocktail disguised as a party drug, a one-way ticket free fall into a subterranean industrial nightclub that exists only in a late-night Euro trash horror movie. – Daniel Vandenberg
by Swingset Magazine on 1/13/2014 in Reviews | Tags: Ali Wells, Feral Grind, Housefire, Justin Farrar, Perc, Perc Trax, Pete Swanson, Prostitutes
The impressive Mike Kelley retrospective currently on view at MoMA PS1 — appropriately titled Mike Kelley – is a strong contender for Best Exhibition of 2013. The show was certainly the most ambitious. Organized after the artist’s unexpected death in 2012, the exhibition successfully avoids any complications from fast-tracking one of largest shows of the year, and the most comprehensive of the artist’s career, portraying an artist whose diverse practice and influence are still being surmised.
continue reading "Destroy All Monsters: Listening to Mike Kelley at PS1"
by charles eppley on 1/7/2014 in Reviews | Tags: calarts, charles eppley, destroy all monsters, detroit, los angeles, mike kelley, moma ps1, sound
Unwound never had the disposition to become famous. They were just three misfits kids who got together in obscurity; unbeknownst of the massive commercial attention their immediate peers would soon receive. But before that was the sound of teenagers playing punk in their garages for their friends, far from any spotlight or illusions, the beginnings of something special. Their barometer of success was Black Flag and that kind of mentality will only take you to the edges of the underground in terms of commerciality. However the route of fiercely sticking to your guns and playing constantly breeds a different kind of devotion and respect. Unwound has attained the kind of infamy that over the years has only reminded listeners how rare of a band they were. continue reading "Unwound- Kid Is Gone (Numero Group)"
by STEVE LOWENTHAL on 12/17/2013 in Reviews | Tags: Black Flag, Born Against, Dinosaur Jr., K Records, Kid Is Gone, Kill Rock Stars, Melvins, Monorchid, Numero Group, Sonic Youth, Steel Pole Bathtub, Tiger Trap, Unwound
Warner Jepson (1930-2011) is not a household name amongst electronic music aficionados, but his unique, gestural approach demands recognition. Jepson was an early member of the San Francisco Tape Music Center (SFTMC), even before its move to Mills College in 1967, and worked with some of the most prominent musicians and artists of the San Francisco Bay area throughout the mid-1960s and 1970s (e.g., Terry Riley, La Monte Young, Pauline Oliveros, Steve Reich, and Yvonne Rainer). Jepson was also one of the first musicians to ever use the Buchla 100 modular synthesizer. continue reading "Silent Night: Warner Jepson’s “Buchla Christmas” (1969)"
by charles eppley on 12/11/2013 in Reviews | Tags: buchla, charles eppley, christmas, modular, san francisco tape music center, synthesizer, warner jepson