Robert Ashley

So long Robert Ashley. You remain a major influence. Below I’ve posted String Quartet Describing The Motions Of Large Real Bodies  for an electronic orchestra of 42 sound producing modules, this version was recorded using only seven sound producing modules. Recorded at the Center for Contemporary Music, Oakland, 1972., the cover of which I have pictured below. This is the Alga Marghen edition.

Mergin With Robert Ashley

Robert Ashley – String Quartet Describing The Motions Of Large Real Bodies / How Can I Tell The Difference?

Which sounds like:

I’ve also chosen to post his own presentation in the series Music With Roots In The Aether

Music with Roots in the Aether is a music-theater piece in color video. It is the final version of an idea that I had thought about and worked on for a few years: to make a very large collaborative piece with other composers whose music I like. The collaborative aspect of Music with Roots in the Aether is in the theater of the interviews, at least primarily, and I am indebted to all of the composers involved for their generosity in allowing me to portray them in this manner.

The piece turns out to be, in addition, a large-scale documentation of an important stylistic that came into American concert music in about 1960. These composers of the “post-serial” / “post-Cage” movement have all made international reputations for the originality of their work and for their contributions to this area of musical compositions.

The style of the video presentation comes from the need I felt to find a new way to show music being performed. The idea of the visual style of Music with Roots in the Aether is plain: to watch as closely as possible the action of the performers and to not “cut” the seen material in any way–that is, to not editorialize on the time domain of the music through arbitrary space-time substitutions.

The visual style for showing the music being made became the “theater” (the stage) for the interviews, and the portraits of the composers were designed to happen in that style.”  – Robert Ashley

Simply click THIS LINK and then choose “Robert Ashley,” however, that series is his brainchild, so you can learn a lot about the man by the questions he asks his contemporaries like Terry Riley, Pauline Oliveros, et. al.

No doubt Robert Ashley will be missed, for his contributions to the avant-garde, for redefining opera, recontextualizing it for a media-blitzed, technologically driven culture, for being an individual, for having guts and for his fresh, often odd and always provocative sense of humor.

The first time I heard String Quartet Describing The Motions Of Large Real Bodies it was on par with any major, mind expanding experiencing. Instantaneously, the definition of music, or the relationships of sounds and focus on specific aspects of sound, opened up for me. Though for some, String Quartet isn’t thought of as a “major” work like The Wolfman, Perfect LivesIn Sara, Mencken, Christ And Beethoven There Were Men And Women or Automatic Writingit stands out in my mind as one of his most phenomenal and ambitious works, an extension of Cage and a wonderfully challenging listen that can appeal equally to noise brats and schooled avant artists alike.

Posted in Albums, Art, Avant Garde, Avant Garde Opera, Conceptual Art, Music, Opera | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Your Editor


The Editor

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New Material By Decimus/Pat Murano

If you missed it, you can read the first ever interview with Pat Murano about Decimus right here at DECAYKE.  

Pat Murano, working as Decimus, continues to keep the inscrutable cosmic creep on his latest posts at SoundCloud, one of which is embedded below for your convenience. Maintaining form, he manages to vary his results while sustaining his idiosyncratic aesthetic bent within the framework of Decimus, one of the qualities that has distinguished Decimus over the last few years and made it successful.

Slinking around the usual dense cluster of whatsit sounds, these excerpts feature vocal choirs and snares echoing dark wave minimalism girding stuttered and stunted suggestions of electronic rhythmic pulses. нести́ поте́ри  and нести́ поте́ри excerpt 2 also introduce shimmering synthetic strings braided around early NY hip-hop influences. Clearly more [blatantly] synth driven than past work – perhaps even [dangerously close] to the point of “vaporous,” Murano still wrings his trademark eerie atmospheres consistent with his back catalog amid the present tinkering.

Posted in Art, Kelippah, Music, Pat Murano | Tagged ,

Marco Zamora – The Mobile Lifestyle of the 21st C.

Marco Zamora

Marco Zamora

Marco Zamora

Marco Zamora

Two images by artist California artist Marco Zamora that capture the zeitgeist (and a little bit of the DECAYKE aesthetic). See more at the artist’s website, This image is well composed junk, like a two-dimensional junk sculpture replete with pop iconography. See for yourself.

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I Am The Life

Really no need for editorial here. I did read – I think it was in Ray Crock’s biography or autobiography – that he used to fly over towns and cities across America and look for available land next to churches because he believed that it was that demographic most likely to repeatedly consume his product.

Posted in Religion, Video | Tagged , , ,

Grandpa Simpson’s Grumpy Vinyl Editorial

Stop it! Please quit pressing everything on 180g vinyl. The only thing it’s good for is heat protection. There is no improvement as far as fidelity is concerned. All these labels are doing is driving up the price of their product, making it more exclusive, more difficult to attain, especially for those of us on a limited budget. It’s a curious thing to do in these economically sensitive times, to turn one’s label into a boutique for a few people who can afford to spend $100 on maybe four LP’s.

180g Vinyl Is For SUCKERS!

180g Vinyl Is For SUCKERS!

To make matters worse, if you decide to do a limited run or hand-numbered artist’s edition on one of those murdered-out custom hubcaps you call a record, you further divide those who can afford your releases from those who can’t, because chances are, you’re charging more for those, too. So for all the labels out there who think it’s cool to press all your releases on useless 180g vinyl, it ain’t. It’s dumb, because if your customers are going to put their records in the sun, then they probably shouldn’t have them anyway.

Here’s your incentive. The pricier you make your product, the more likely you lose money to downloads. Sure, the people who download that $30 LP aren’t getting their fetishist rocks off, but they’re getting the sound. And Neil Young – who charged $80 when he released Psychedelic Pill (a poor outing, at that) – screw you for doing that. You should be ashamed. 180g vinyl. Pfft.

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The New Peculiars – Dance Music 2000

Continuing with posts themed around interviews and features (?) in the upcoming issue, I found a blog mention of The New Peculiars which, when you look closely, is a project of The Anti-Naturals Group, aka Idea Fire Company (Scott Foust, Karla Borecky, Glorida Borecky, David Borecky) respectively. I’ve found myself listening to a lot of cold wave, dark wave, blah blah wave lately for whatever reason (curiosity and overlooked music I suppose), so when I ran across this relatively rare 7″ released in ’98 on the Tonschacht  imprint for download, I couldn’t resist posting a link to it here. The titular track pairs well with the underwhelming exploration of the Portion Control back catalog. Salut! Just click HERE to download and enjoy.

Anti-Naturals, Swill Radio, IFCO, Scott Foust & Co. etc.

The New Peculiars – Dance Music 2000

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Preview Series – Scott Foust, (Idea Fire Company et. al.), Mattin, Jesse Richards, William Bennett, Billy Bao

When You Cut Into The Present, The Future Leaks Out

“…and then the walls fell away blowing a hole in his consciousness’ coma, leaving him in what was his room on his what was his chair, now levitating above images in his mind of artist’s renderings of the earth’s core. A projection. Frantically flipping through desiccated pages of memories that crumbled as he turned them over, this useless attempt at orientating himself, actions as necessary as they were futile. Awe wolfed him down its mucus moistened gullet. All that remained of his past was a new, up-to-the-minute clock hanging in front of him that faintly resembled the one that was melting above his fireplace. And this one spoke, each tick a whisper, something like a last, indecipherable wish, something profound, but in reality the clock only said that it would miss McNuggets. Then the blood came, dripping from the joining point where the minute hand met the second. When it went he heard nothing but a slight ‘goosh,’ leaving him with a lap full of blood, mucus and what appeared to be undigested bits of McNuggets.” – Litany Down, “From There It Went” – Random House, 1986

PREVIEW DECAYKE #3: With links to the work and websites of humans and mutants I will be featuring in our next full-blownout issue. While these interviews are about as set in stone as can possibly be, there’s always the chance that there will be more or that I’ll add a few contributors who bring their own thoughts and obsessions to the humble pages of our little zine-who-would-rule-some-ultra-cool subdwarfs about 200,000 light years away.


Scott Foust (Idea Fire Company) – “Open Sesame” From ‘Music From The Impossible Salon’ LP (Kye) 2011

Mattin (with Junko and Michel Henritzi) – “Je T’aime!” ((2008))

Cut Hands – “Black Mamba” (Blackest Ever Black, 2012)

Billy Bao – “My Life Is Shit”  (Parts Unknown Records, 2008)


Jesse Richards “Shooting At The Moon”

<p><a href=”″>Shooting at the Moon</a> from <a href=”″>Jesse Richards</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

REMODERNIST FILM MANIFESTO (Reprinted from Mr. Richards’ site at the preceding link)

Remodernist Film Manifesto

1. Art manifestos, despite the good intentions of the writer should always “be taken with a grain of salt” as the cliché goes, because they are subject to the ego, pretensions, and plain old ignorance and stupidity of their authors. This goes all the way back to the Die Brücke manifesto of 1906, and continues through time to this one that you’re reading now. A healthy wariness of manifestos is understood and encouraged. However, the ideas put forth here are meant sincerely and with the hope of bringing inspiration and change to others, as well as to myself.
2. Remodernism seeks a new spirituality in art. Therefore, remodernist film seeks a new spirituality in cinema. Spiritual film does not mean films about Jesus or the Buddha. Spiritual film is not about religion. It is cinema concerned with humanity and an understanding of the simple truths and moments of humanity. Spiritual film is really ALL about these moments.3. Cinema could be one of the perfect methods of creative expression, due to the ability of the filmmaker to sculpt with image, sound and the feeling of time. For the most part, the creative possibilities of cinema have been squandered. Cinema is not a painting, a novel, a play, or a still photograph. The rules and methods used to create cinema should not be tied to these other creative endeavors. Cinema should NOT be thought of as being “all about telling a story”. Story is a convention of writing, and should not necessarily be considered a convention of filmmaking.
3. Cinema could be one of the perfect methods of creative expression, due to the ability of the filmmaker to sculpt with image, sound and the feeling of time. For the most part, the creative possibilities of cinema have been squandered. Cinema is not a painting, a novel, a play, or a still photograph. The rules and methods used to create cinema should not be tied to these other creative endeavors. Cinema should NOT be thought of as being “all about telling a story”. Story is a convention of writing, and should not necessarily be considered a convention of filmmaking.

4. The Japanese ideas of wabi-sabi (the beauty of imperfection) andmono no aware (the awareness of the transience of things and the bittersweet feelings that accompany their passing), have the ability to show the truth of existence, and should always be considered when making the remodernist film.

5. An artificial sense of “perfection” should never be imposed on a remodernist film. Flaws should be accepted and even encouraged. To that end, a remodernist filmmaker should consider the use of film, and particularly film like Super-8mm and 16mm because these mediums entail more of a risk and a requirement to leave things up to chance, as opposed to digital video. Digital video is for people who are afraid of, and unwilling to make mistakes.** Video leads to a boring and sterile cinema. Mistakes and failures make your work honest and human.***

6. Film, particularly Super-8mm film, has a rawness, and an ability to capture the poetic essence of life, that video has never been able to accomplish.***

7. Intuition is a powerful tool for honest communication. Your intuition will always tell you if you are making something honest, so use of intuition is key in all stages of remodernist filmmaking.

8. Any product or result of human creativity is inherently subjective, due to the beliefs, biases and knowledge of the person creating the work. Work that attempts to be objective will always be subjective, only instead it will be subjective in a dishonest way. Objective films are inherently dishonest. Stanley Kubrick, who desperately and pathetically tried to make objective films, instead made dishonest and boring films.

9. The remodernist film is always subjective and never aspires to be objective.

10. Remodernist film is not Dogme ’95. We do not have a pretentious checklist that must be followed precisely. This manifesto should be viewed only as a collection of ideas and hints whose author may be mocked and insulted at will.

11. The remodernist filmmaker must always have the courage to fail, even hoping to fail, and to find the honesty, beauty and humanity in failure.

12. The remodernist filmmaker should never expect to be thanked or congratulated. Instead, insults and criticism should be welcomed. You must be willing to go ignored and overlooked.

13. The remodernist filmmaker should be accepting of their influences, and should have the bravery to copy from them in their quest for understanding of themselves.

14. Remodernist film should be a stripped down, minimal, lyrical, punk kind of filmmaking, and is a close relative to the No-Wave Cinema that came out of New York’s Lower East Side in the 1970’s.

15. Remodernist film is for the young, and for those who are older but still have the courage to look at the world through eyes as if they are children.

** The only exceptions to Point 5 about video are Harris Smith and Peter Rinaldi; to my mind they are the only people who have made honest and worthwhile use of this medium. (Aug. 2008)

***(The position on digital/video has changed since this manifesto was written in 2008- the group is inclusive toward use of any motion picture format. See recent essay here).

Posted in Art, Art House, Culture, Electronic Music, Film, Music, Photography, Sound Art, Writers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Brief Descriptive Passage – Eric Basso, “Equus Caballus”

The Isolated Quirk, The Uncharted Island’s Blind Lighthouse, The Disembodied Excerpt With Telepathic Legs…

…that transmit messages to invisible arms that pulls us up out from under ground. As readers, especially those of fiction, you occasionally run across a brief description that galvanizes your imagination and further wakes you up to the genius of that particular artist. The passage which immediately follows this introduction has that effect on me. It’s my pleasure to savor it time and again.

The exquisite short story “Equus Caballus (here included in the Asylum Arts/Leaping Dog Press edition of The Beak Doctor) is typical of Basso’s resplendent prose, full of spellbindingly meticulous details informed by le mot juste (or just choosing the right fucking word). There’s really no reason to waste your time supplying background for the story because I’m isolating this passage for its strange beauty and economy. However, in order to just slightly satisfy (or tease) you compulsives out there, here’a a wisp of background.

Asylum Arts/Leaping Dog Press Basso

The Beak Doctor: Short Fiction 1972-1976

From Goodreads:

“Horses, portraits, underground machinery coalesce into a subterranean mystery of strange import.”

“Equus Caballus first appeared in the West Coast review Asylum in 1975, this is its first appearance in the UK.”

The Passage

Trapped, Losing Sense

From Equus Caballus, Eric Basso, 1975

Living in relative isolation as I do, I frequently think about the function of this webzine. Obviously, any media is an attempt to communicate. From my personal point of view, this `zine, along with other tiny, independent, passionate and/or knowledgeable blogs and websites (speaking here only of electronic media) provide me with a remote network of [unseen] breathing pores, a complex means for me to remain engaged with the world.

In “Equus Caballus,” Basso creates a world where the characters maneuver subterranean territory to dig up a central mystery. Not that it’s a 1:1 analogy, but this and other rags (is that term still valid?) kind of do the same graveyard shift labor. We seek out something vital and anathema to the dominant prefab paradigm, whatever that might be, finding all sorts of humanity buried alive and help reorient them…here.

DECAYKE is a last ditch effort to remain engaged with a world on a maddening downward spiral…or so it would seem. I aim to continue to flash light, however dim, on artists and thinkers wh0 force light through to the puzzlingly vapid controlling class. You know, the one that guides us on our package deal to Hell, and thanks to Groupon, we can enjoy half off crossing Styx. Or that’s what they told me. But listen up: too much is almost always never enough, especially when you need ample ambulatory encryption on which to rely because Hell is a hellhole and a real bitch to navigate. You never know when you’re gonna need that leg up.

Posted in Art, Fiction | Tagged , , , , , ,

Clair Obscur – Santa Maria b/w Toundra

Delighting this Omday morning considering the parallels between [The] Screamers and early Clair Obscur output. This now legendary (to niche nerds and hoarders) colddarkwave duo, an apropos ugly cousin of no-wave, here psychotically scrapes the rust off of punk’s irony on this 7″, stuffs it into its void-like maw, throwing up the snaggy bolus in contrast to Mr. Clean’s Generic Radio Output circa ’83, creating a gaseous cloud that still rains down acid on us through a hole of disgrace in our burnt orange sky. Enjoy Santa Maria.

Early Clair Obscur Vanity Pressing

Santa Maria b/w Toundra

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Is It Me Or The Dog?


Is it me or the dog?

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Yes it is.



She’s got a TV EYE on ME

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Mr. Ralf Wehowsky aka Charles Rogalli

RLW (Ralf Wehosky) continues to distinguish himself from the pack with his latest record (I think on Dirter, but don’t kill me if I got that wrong). Here’s the SoundCloud preview, guaranteed to induce thrills…or at least a [free] thrill. There’s so much hyperbole and superlative usage out there when it comes to describing music that I’ve come to appreciate the power of understatement, so please do enjoy this ear-braining, pineal gland pearlescent ooze of globule-drip inducing slice of concrete music. He really is – and has been – one of the best at his trade for decades.

There are usually pics paired with these SoundCloud embeds, but I can’t see them. Must be something I have added on to my browser, but if you would like to see the artwork then simply click on the top of the wave pattern, or thereabouts, and you’ll be guided by RLW’s voices to the appropriate destination. Or you can see it below.

Ralf Wehowsky on Dirter Records

RLW – Fall Seliger Geister Cover Art

Posted in Art, Music, musique concrete, Sound Art | Tagged , , ,

Quicky Record Reviews

  • Blood StereoYour Snakelike King – Academic double-blind studies of homemade contact mics surgically attached to both the internal and external grape parts. Textures galore! Typical anti-riff-pro-ruffian wasteduct rush from BS, here with warped melodies and hook after hook after hook, some you could even call pretty. Pan records couldn’t resist pressing yet another Constance/Nyoukis recording. It’s not drone, but it’s a lot closer to it than was Prick Decay or Ready For The World. Listen to it when you drop whatever they’re calling LSD these days. Man, do I miss when that guy was making all that high-grade Venus syrup in that abandoned missile silo.
  • Helm – Cotton-maw sandstorm drones that may be relevant to this earth in the coming climate change apocalypse. Great sounds if you’re stuck inside on an icy day, like today in Georgia when the heat stopped and the humidity stuck to the drooping power lines. You can look out your window and dream of repetitive drift patterns. Kind of like that Head of David LP cover art for Dustbowl, only the sound here matches the picture there. Ironically, the album is called Impossible Symmetry. Seems quite possible to me, but then I talked to an ashtray for almost half a day once. Pfft…those artists and their hyperbole.
  • John Wiese – Love songs for dissipating smoke rings, exacerbated by the lack of smokers out there. Smoke rings are so lonely. Their cries are characterized by high-pitched electronic whines, and they only get sadder because, when the odds so stacked against them somehow turn in their favor and they find themselves in a room featuring a low-pitched electronic hum with one another, inevitably they disappear into a wall of alternating silence and bad wiring (fire hazard). Hence the yellowing color of sick they leave behind on your popcorn ceiling. That’s exactly what that color is. It’s lost love. The album on Pan is called Seven of Wands.
  • Nurse With Wound/Graham Bowers – Semi-highly-quasi-hyper-orchestrations of boredom, with loony pluvial chorus girl voices in full Doppler allure, lascivious love lasers set to stun. I think these guys are pulling my leg because they call the record Parade, and parades are almost always never nearly boring. What’s her name from Dixie Chicks cameos on fiddle and afterbirth, which she drags behind her on a train made of chiffon. Yes, the horns are laughing at you. Dirter Records wanted it that way, paranoiac.
  • Ilios – Atmospheric recording for people who get wet in casinos. Men get wet, too. It’s that bit of goo that comes out when excitement can’t…quite…be…contained. Can’t stop craps? Well Kenrimono (Pan) may be the record for you. Or it could be a record you keep in a kitchen cabinet as reminder not to gamble, just like that guy from The Days of Wine and Roses. Except his reminder was a bottle of liquor, which they just give away at casinos. How could you lose? This is actually highly amplified sounds of the process of various stages of necrotic spider bites, manipulated and composed with precision.
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Christophe Agou

Under A Cloud

Under A Cloud

Christophe Agou. I was so impressed with these photos that I reblogged these from “Masters of Photography.” You’ll find the link for that blog in the right margin of my page. My gratitude to him for turning me on to Agou’s work.

Posted in Photography | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Noise-Arch – Cassette-Era Download Archive

Some of you many already know about this but I just found out. Takes a little time for news to get to the swamp. The news is famous for steering clear of The Ancient Miasma. On a personal note, it’s a huge bonus for me because I prefer even the mp3 over the trendy cassette revival that’s going on these days. I know a lot of you weren’t around during the heyday of cassette trading, and it was cool, but the format shouldn’t be an object of worship. If you knew how many copies of Piece of Mind and Physical by Olivia Newton-John I had to buy because the tape got destroyed, then you know what I’m talking about. Then again, my copy of the Bad Brains cassette lasted for decades. What can I say? I’m usually enamored of inanimate objects. Either that or I pity them. Anyway, the following link will take you to where you need to go to cleanse yourself of that fetish you have.

“this website is a collection of underground / independantly [sic] released cassette tapes from the days when the audio cassette was the standard method of music sharing, generally the mid eighties through early nineties.

material represented includes tape experimentation, industrial, avant-garde, indy, rock, diy, subvertainment and auto-hypnotic materials… most of what you are about to hear is rather difficult to file under any one category, and thus has not been.”

My commentary on the cassette as a format took the form of a recording project called The Splice Girls. All of those tapes are long gone, and you know why? They were, like a Tinguely sculpture, designed to self-destruct. Whether I treated the tapes chemically to achieve the literal audio effect of disintegration, tied them to bicycle wheel spokes and drug [sic] them around the streets, excessively spliced them or symbolically marinated them in psilocybin broth, the darned things just never seemed to stand the test of time. I actually managed to keep one recording called The Kindness of Ezekiel, which I uploaded to Soundcloud, but even it seems to have disappeared. The tape was housed in the glass of a Baptist church window I threw a rock through one night. Inspiration! It started out alluring enough for the static noise crowd, full of mechanical loops and “unidentifiable sounds,” but it was really just a document of an insane Southern preacher cut up and reconstructed for the general good. But I ramble. As a salute to what truly was a great time in networking artists, I’ll post If, Bwana.

Posted in "Noise, Art, Music, Sound Art | Tagged , , , , , ,

O/M – “Peeking Housing Bloc” From 2004 cd-r “Pitaunce” (Disposable Thumb Recordings)

Braving the binary electro-miasma of the past for the coming crimson maw of aromatic pulses, I’ve decided to post this, because underneath the vortex of amputation detritus (duck!), there are rhythms to be plucked. And that I will do. With hints of melody, even. From 2004.

Posted in Kelly Burnette, Music | Tagged , , , ,

Miklós Jancsó – 27 September 1921- 31 January 2014

Having been looking closely at the work of Tarr recently (see earlier post), I came across a recent obit at the New York Times for fellow Hungarian filmmaker (and a great influence on Tarr himself) Miklós Jancsó. I was watching the “dance” scene at the end of the second third of Sátántangó tonight, where the little girl who had an epiphany about the connectedness of all things, was later looking into a pub window at the risible-yet-empathetic adults stumbling around in a drunken travesty of the tango and I couldn’t help but consider Tarr’s romantic inclinations as embodied in the child and her subsequent disillusionment upon seeing the adults: directionless, senseless, hopeless. The scene is rife with poignancy, working as both a social and existential metaphor.

The circumstances in Sátántangó, the failure of the communal farm, the sadness and poverty there, arise in part due to Hungary’s turbulent history. Enter Jancsó.

Miklós Jancsó Red Psalm

Miklós Jancsó – Red Psalm

“Miklos Jancso, a Hungarian filmmaker who used episodes from his nation’s history to create critically praised parables of war and oppression, died on Friday [January 31]. He was 92.”

When tying the two artist’s work together, as the death of Jancsó has done (not unlike the webs invoked in Sátántangó), we catch a glimpse of history as cyclical, of humanity as grotesquely beautiful, always imperfect,forever changing yet somehow remaining disturbingly the same.

If you haven’t had a chance to see any of his films, they’re quite good, and I believe it’s the opinion of many that Jancsó is a highly underrated director. So it’s worth the effort to find some of his films and watch them.

There is an in-depth essay by Raymond Durgnat at Rouge about Red Psalm.

Posted in Film | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dan Melchior – Live in Philly (Full Gig)

Friend of DECAYKE, Dan Melchior, who did a splendid interview in our last issue has graciously uploaded an entire set he did in Philly. Because we’re such swell fellers, we’re gonna spread it like a free vaccine to heal all pretense and bad rock. This is Dan and co. in basso-continuo mode, not the Assemblage Blues/Lloyd Pack requiring third-eye infrared spectroscopy apprehension gear plus the modal “tooth filling” wavelength adjustment monitoring system necessary to transform light-forms into sonic frequencies material we discussed in the aforementioned conversation. Nope This is lotsarawk. Even hits it sideways. The kids aren’t alright, but the dads sure as fuck are.

Posted in Dan Melchior, Music | Tagged , , , , ,

“Ice Fields” – Eric Basso, From His Book of Poems, “Ghost Light”

Here at DECAYKE we’re tremendous admirers of Baltimore writer Eric Basso. You can read a short bio and an interview with him here and here, at Unlikely Stories. The following poem, just one of the many great ones he has written, captures a contemporary Gothic tone without resorting to corny stereotypes. In fact, it shares the same gravitational pall as Philip Larkin’s seminal work, Aubade.

Basso’s writing, noted for being peculiar, eccentric, and/or high-modernist surrealism is just what we call “brilliant.” He will inevitably be compared to Poe since he is from Baltimore, yet his interstitial writing, often avant-garde in form and complexity, transcends classification, and so all the better to avoid calcification. His is literature which is a labyrinthine Modernist nightmare, simultaneously anachronistic and undeniably up to date.

Ice Fields Eric Basso

“Ice Fields” – Eric Basso

“I look for a fiction, a poem, a painting, a piece of music to take the top of my head off. So, for me, nothing is too weird. For example, John Hawkes’s novel, The Beetle Leg, was so far “out there” that even I couldn’t understand what was going on. But it was great! And that was more than enough for me.” – Eric Basso


“If Kafka and Beckett were to come to life as one, that one would be the avant-garde dramatist-poet Eric Basso…. I cannot imagine a better evening in the theatre than seeing a staging of three of theEnigmas. Taken together, the plays in this handsome volume raise the question of a person’s identity, the manner in which the Other sees the One, and even questions as to the nature of the One. Basso goes beyond realism as he plumbs the depths of a devastating, devastated reality.”

— Rosette Lamont, Cercle de Beckett, in Collages & Bricolages

– See more at:

Posted in Art, Dreams, Literature, Poetry, Samuel Beckett, Writers | Tagged , , , , , ,

A Few Words On The Upcoming Complete Issue Of DECAYKE

I’ve rattled through several publishing strategies for DECAYKE, some of which I’ve discussed briefly here in the past. Well, after trial and error it seems that the most productive and practical way is to publish highlights – posts on artists or topics that serve the overall aesthetic concerns of DECAYKE – in between the full-blown issues. If you’re a long-time reader, which, since we’ve only been doing this a little over a year you probably aren’t, but if you are, you know that at some point in the future I plan on releasing DECAYKE as a handmade art book, complete with all the interviews, novel excerpts and, indeed, all of the content herein, along with an compilation LP of the musicians and sound artists I feature and/or interview and a DVD of, hopefully, exclusive films by the filmmakers we will have worked with at the webzine. I dunno when this will be accomplished. Like a lot of people, I’m on the losing end of this economy. No worries, I’m not going to blast capitalism right now, just saying that the dream of publishing the physical corollary remains just that presently. There have been times when, due to depression or plain old borderline misanthropy, I’ve almost shut this thing down. For whatever reason, I haven’t. I’ve never thought I have needed to compulsively write, but I find myself doing it most of the time, so maybe I do. As an aside, for those of you who know about the book contract, yes, the novel is coming along nicely, but it has evolved over the few drafts I’ve finished.

So, in the upcoming issue, as it stands now, I have interviews on tap with politically-oriented sound artist Mattin, veteran sound explorer and artist Scott Foust of Idea Fire Company, rock and roll degenerator and Mattin collaborator, Billy Bao and filmmaker, painter, photographer and creator of the Remodernist Manifesto, Jesse Richards. There are always surprises along the way as we put together whole issues, so I’m sure there’ll be more to gander at for ya. The way things work around here, we don’t have a deadline for publication date of the proper issue, but until then, enjoy the posts. If you’re interested in having your material reviewed, observed, contemplated, run over by one of those big steamrollers with enormous metal spikes on the roller wheel, or you like to write (and well) about what we like here, then check out the about page and contact us.

– The mgmt.


Hear Ye, Hear Ye

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“Hynningen” – Werner Nekes

Shifting gears from the madness of Richard Foreman in the last post, Werner Nekes’ Hynningen is a short, meditative film exploring light, texture, space and memory via landscape. Light Cone notes,

“He started his practice of film with 8mm and went on with 16mm. He decided to free the film from narration and psychology and organized his films according to temporal units and structural systems.”


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“Strong Medicine” – Richard Foreman – Full-Length Film

Here is the entire film adaptation of Richard Foreman’s Strong Medicine. The New York Times review claims the film format, in contrast to seeing it in theater, depreciates the value of the work. I haven’t seen the play performed under the lights, but critic Vincent Canby seems unable to make the modal shift necessary to appreciate how the work succeeds on film. Where he finds the camera diminishes the apparently naturalistic tendencies of the play, I see an added dimension of voyeurism into the mind of a somewhat paranoid-narcissist, Rhoda, who, if we’re to impose a somewhat feminist critique on her character, we might say that she is being driven insane by her husband and male society. Dangerous to do that, though, because absurdity trumps social criticism in Strong MedicineCanby writes,

“The camera is not kind to this sort of theatrical enterprise. The chorus of middle-aged, middle-class harpies, who repeatedly cry out ”Jesus Christ, my feet hurt,” evoke not an elevated kind of lunacy but appear to be, under the camera’s close scrutiny, simply a group of actresses behaving peculiarly. It’s difficult to respond to Rhoda’s high anxieties, because one is always conscious of the placement of the performers, their relation to the camera, their makeup, their carefully choreographed movements and a number of notso-startling juxtapositions of bizarre images and sounds. Something obviously is going on in Mr. Foreman’s mind, but the film stands like an invisible shield between the event and the audience.”

To the contrary, the camera is anything but invisible, as Rhoda and several other characters address it directly on multiple occasions throughout this hysterical nightmare. While it might well be better in theater than it is here on film, this still works as an absurdist soapy psychodrama with some wonderfully shot scenes.

Posted in Absurd, Absurdist, Art, Film, Psychodrama, Soap Opera, Theater, Theater of the Absurd | Tagged , , , ,

The Incessant Deluge Of Cosmic Poverty, Comic Cruelty And A Bad Blow Job By Gabriel


The first image and a finely significant shot of melancholy and derision during Sátántangó,  Béla Tarr’s grimly humorous rural noirish, static tangle of duplicity and apocalypse. The structure of this masterpiece seems to mimic the corny repetition of the tango, lending it a satirical edge, and resulting in resonant humor. Those cows for example? The opening scene features cattle doing their thing in the mud, (one unsuccessfully attempts to mount a mate, then pretty much says, “fuck it, man, I’ll walk around instead,”) a shot defined by its meticulous patience foreshadowing the action/inaction dynamic of the movie’s bovine characters. These are folk who often talk of escape and freedom, who are able to leave their dreary environment, but they don’t. Instead, they herd together and opt instead for ridiculous, soapy intrigue and pedantic routine. Rather than strictly interpret this as the characters’ choice – which is an option – I think of it more as a meditation on our conceptions of freedom. That word has always been a bit of a misnomer, more noted in sociopolitical rhetoric and further diluted by commercialism, because it’s a word people use when they usually mean “liberty.”

The Road, Plans, Conversations, Schemes, Gossip and a Long, Long, Long, Life
The Road, Plans, Conversations, Schemes, Gossip and a Long, Long, Long, Life

We have certain liberties depending on our circumstance, yet we are forever confined to our collective condition. So in the film, the constant rain, the ubiquitous overcast skies, the sounds of flies buzzing around symbolic of carrion, of death (and, perhaps, a grim comment on the cycle of life), and even insects crawling across the lens all serve to remind us that we are never really free, but rather enjoy certain mortal liberties. Some of us more, some less. For the characters in this film, it’s mostly the latter.

This is emphasized in the hypnotic long shots of landscape under the duress of oppressive weather, when, taken as a whole, sum up Tarr’s evident view of human life in this town, in that space, but not confined to that specific time. What we have here is a cosmic conceit. Our notions of a largely lifeless universe (our views of that are evolving, but the vastness of space is undeniable, therefore we continue to be haunted by the vacuum) are paradoxically echoed and mocked during the hours of Sátántangó. Inaction briefly punctuated by action. All gratitude for the reprieve, thank you. Action: usually schemes to rob money to feed the shared fantasy of escape between the characters, who are simultaneously scheming against one another. The effect is not unlike Waiting For Godot, in that inactivity forms a partial nexus of non-meaning, and that web of non-meaning completes the nexus of meaning wherein a hole is indeed something. Yeah, it’s all very existential, but this movie is so well done, and accomplished with an almost immaculate symmetry so exhaustive it might well make Chekhov envious.

The Deluge And The Slippery Steps To Where
The Deluge And The Slippery Steps To Where

Like the previous posts about Antoine D’Agata’s work, desperation, as it plays out in the discreet moments of the lives of the impoverished, is, like the incessant deluges throughout this opus, a driving theme so universal refutation is impossible. The irony of the simultaneously empathetic yet almost condescending gaze strikes a brilliantly brittle balance of contempt and tragedy, fertile for extrapolation on almost any level, whether it is political, social, the tediously particular or the cosmic. Like the best moments of Ulrich Seidl’s work, the cruel melancholy, though not as icy in Tarr, ascends to the sublime, then slips from our perception like an individual drop of rain into a filthy puddle on a lonely muddy road. Or in other words, I apotheosized and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.

Regardless whether Tarr’s intent was for us to ruminate that the collapse of social order would somehow lead to a new primitivism, an inevitable tribalism here represented by the failing of a collective farm and the void of  consensus it creates, I can’t help but do so, and recall Riddley Walker, each framing our current global trajectory. A path we’re taking, not only in America, but universally, as we’re dominated by the machinations of power and the pursuit of wealth as its own end. Echoing Eliot’s famous line, Sátántangó is, among so many other things, a peculiar and funny amplification of an apocalyptic trumpet blown by bloated Gabriel, who slips up and farts as he raises his triumphant instrument to signal the end of time. Now that’s ironic as we watch rapt in all those strangely seductive scenes of drenched and desolate landscapes that intimate the alpha and the omega.

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Antoine D’Agata Again

This post is part II of a the previous post about Antoine D’Agata and DECAYKE is indebted to Emaho Magazine for the two part interview with him that they published. Click on the previous link to reach that conversation. If you skipped the previous post, there’s a link there (along with a few images) to the first part of the D’Agato piece. Like a lot of the music, film and other media/art we cover here at DECAYKE, D’Agata pushes boundaries, pointedly, with insight, often reminding us that there are no big truths, only that, what fragments of them we happen to perceive, happen in very discreet places in moments that have always just slipped by. In D’Agata’s case, as in much of the material we focus on, that transient, mutable meaning often manifests itself in the counterweights to superficial American optimism: in grief, squalor, addiction, major depression, suicide, and violence, and so we sometimes focus on these themes.

Antoine D'Agata

From ‘Position(s)’

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Antoine D’agata



My life is what it is and of course I’ve been different in my choices but I don’t do it out of pleasure or pathology, I do it because I think it’s my duty as a human being. I live in this world, I want to know what’s going on, I want to be with the people I think I’m like. In meaningful and painful situations, I want to be where I think it’s important to be; where things are at stake. If others are experimenting with the economic balance, I want to be there. So this is my way. I’m not photographing pleasure but my relationship with these girls who are prostitutes or drug addicts or delinquents is a very conscious choice. My relationship with them is based on the knowledge of the conditions we live in and ambiguities and difficulties about how to establish a relationship in this scenario. And we deal with this. Of course violence can be part of it. Some good violence, some bad violence but it is the way. I always question the way I photograph it. Brutality of course, a large part of the picture but I think violence is part of life. It’s part of the beauty of life and part of the ugliness of life. And this violence I don’t show it very distinctly. At times I try to provoke it but it’s never aimed at people I’m photographing and the violence you see in most pictures is not violence against people it is violence which comes out of a situation, usually very physical situations leading to drugs or sex or narcotic sex and so it is a good violence.”


“I think of photography as a language and I think a language should be used to speak, to say what you have to say. So the only things I have to say about my life and what I know about the world, is the way I see it.” – Antoine D’agata

“French photographer Antoine D’agata’s work is dark, introspective and shockingly bold. A photographer for Magnum Photos, Antoine has published over 5 books. Our editor-in-chief, Manik Katyal caught up with Antoine in Siem Reap, Cambodia during the Angkor Photo Festival in December 2012 . Antoine talks about his life, Magnum, his family and his association with the underworld in this two part interview with Emaho Magazine.”


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The Selfie

The Selfie

When people ask me what my sign is, I answer ‘Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.’

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Industry And Family



Abbatoir or Vegetable Factory, 1897-2047

Abattoir or Vegetable Factory, 1897-2047

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“The symbolic view of things is a consequence of long absorption in images. Is sign language the real language of Paradise?” – Hugo Ball

Posted in Anti-Art, Photography | Tagged , ,

Yek Koo – Desolation Peak (Emerald Cocoon)

Helga Fassonaki’s output as a member of Metal Rouge and as a soloist under the moniker Yek Koo (or yek koo, caps dropped, bold mine) has never been easy to pigeonhole because, in both instances, there has been an ongoing emphasis on exploration. Death is a static thing, which is ironic considering the minimalist tendencies on display on Desolation Peak, but more on that later.

Helga Fassonaki

Desolation Peak (Emerald Cocoon)

There are important differences, and on Desolation Peak she explores personal territory (with Kerouac as a distant signifier) in a solitary way that can only be done as a soloist. As she pointed out in my interview with her last year, “Metal Rouge (my project with Andrew Scott) and Yek Koo have a similar approach to playing – always inviting free expression and spontaneity into every rhythm, non-rhythm, concept and structure. The present moment is volatile and affected by present emotion and energy. This provides space to be radical with little space between thought and action. Maybe the main difference is process. In Yek Koo, I do a lot of pre-composing and conceptualizing…”

And that seems to be the case here, where Ms. Fassonaki’s brand of a “dirty kind of free,” the bound unbound, is more prominent than ever, where Desolation Peak becomes a space of paradoxical phonic fracas with herself. It’s a journey to the center of her nadir, the place where, for Fassonaki, down for her is up. Her peak is a barren, often derelict and alien sounding landscape that, when one pictures it, is as different from Kerouac’s mountain paradise as can be imagined, yet is as particular as it is universal. We’ve all visited our version of it. The question is whether we have the guts to stick around for a while and record what we find, or perhaps most important, if it’s the territory we call home. In context of the entire Yek Koo yield, I’m inclined to think Fassonaki is as at home in the icy inferno of Desolation Peak as one can possibly be.

The sounds here wind their way back through strains of outsider minimalism (I’m A Pure Wave), no wave (Future Outlaw) and, as it’s noted at the Emerald Cocoon website, east African chants, highlighting the atavistic feel of these mysterious goings on, in turn benefiting the stripped down sensibilities so befitting of the wan candlelit loneliness ghosting around track by track in an anguish sometimes parallel with that of Jandek, one impossible to divorce from the context of this world driven mad by war and superficial individualism.

Track after track of relentless, pounding monolithic foundations pave purgatory’s road for the star of this LP, the gothpunk-like obliteration of orthodox vocals (existential incantations here vaguely sung and spoken), which, unfurling outward like brilliant silver ribbons into a toxic red atmosphere, espouse dark matters and unlikely optimism, eventually tie themselves beautifully back into the whole, the self, the alien song, the slender figure bleakly braving its desert panorama by wit of oblique strategies. Indeed, the wabi sabi aesthetic evinced throughout the work of Yek Koo remains in play, focused solitary notes driving themes of the beauty of transience and imperfection, with all of those ensuing paradoxes bittersweetly intact. Desolation Peak is yet another irresistible, if beguilingly hostile, locale on the map of Fassonaki’s courageously private universe. It’s an experience, a stop along the way to an inevitable destination about which we know precious little. And in so being, is another outstanding example of her brave willingness to eschew any comfort of form or formula in steadfast favor of discovery in a world in which the genuine is fucking anathema. I would be remiss if I neglected to say explicitly that, at the top of Desolation Peak, we have the opportunity to get to the bottom of the essence of possibility and potential, and the irony that accompanies all  good minimalist work shines through.

Desolation Peak Insert

Desolation Peak Insert

Postscript: Helga Fassonaki – Intermedia Works

Peer through the wormhole into Ms. Fassonaki’s sound and visual work at Olm Hatch. In addition to performing in more traditional band formats, she also focuses on sound installations, interplanetary language exploration, experimental media and sound and film work.


Posted in Albums, Art, Emerald Cocoon, Music, yek koo | Tagged , , , , ,


"There is poetry as soon as we realize that we possess nothing." - John Cage

“There is poetry as soon as we realize that we possess nothing.” – John Cage

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Jar Moff – “Tziaitzomanasou” from the LP Commercial Mouth (Pan)

A possible candidate for an upcoming feature of some sort here at DECAYKE, Jar Moff captured my attention a few days back when I listened to Commercial Mouth released by Pan. Pan is also the label responsible for unleashing the outstanding work of Rene Hell’s Vanilla Call Option, which garnered some well-deserved praise here back around xmas.

Jar Moff

Jar Moff

Jar Moff’s is collage work, but it isn’t collage in the sense that we’ve grown so accustomed to hearing the form lately, i.e. the “smash and grab” anarchic-at-heart work of culture-jammers, but rather seems to me to be more impressionistic and all-encompassing, macro and micro, personal and remote. These compositions somehow belie their outward density due to being so well-constructed, revealing carefully sculpted and arranged sonic artifacts that not only represent multiple objective, subjective and interstitial meanings via the sound juxtaposition and  well-conceived recontextualization, but in fact form a new auropsychogeographical experience, with site specific locations in sonic spaceways (often aided with hints of traditional melody, sci-fi camp, jazz quotations and 20th C. classical influences), which is a difficult feat to achieve considering the jammed, crammed and crowded material Moff opts to employ. Maybe God does roll dice. Maybe IT has a strong intuition about snake eyes looking right at you. Jar also works in the visual medium, so the fact that there’s a tangibly convincing crossover that hovers above mere success isn’t surprising. At all. Be sure to check out his TUMBLR. As always, check with Fusetron Sound to see if they have any in stock.

Posted in Music, Psychedelic, Sound Art | Tagged , ,

In The Room

Leaning In The Room

Leaning In The Room

The Difference The Same Day Makes

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What Does Literature Know? » 3:AM Magazine

“While literature professors are hardly responsible for Rosenberg’s ignorance, we do share some responsibility for the confidence with which he expresses it. In particular, we have done a poor job of describing and defending the kind of knowledge literature can give us. The study of literature is inherently interdisciplinary. Melville’s fiction, for example, contains scientific and economic speculation, images expressive of emotional states, images expressive of philosophical beliefs, linguistically diverse characters, and a kind of technical handbook on whaling. Literary works move across the disciplinary borders of the modern research university.

When we set aside Rosenberg’s fantasy of a purely emotional response to literature, we see there are good and bad ways of responding to literary studies’ interdisciplinary nature. Two decades ago, the infamous “Sokal Hoax” exposed the pretensions of an earlier generation of literary scholars, who — like Rosenberg — made confident pronouncements about fields about which they knew nothing. Literary studies has changed in basic ways since that nadir, but we have been slow to define and defend our new practices. Rosenberg sets literary emotion against scientific knowledge. I want to suggest some of the possibilities of literary knowledge by briefly exploring three different ways scholars are bringing literary emotion into a new, mutually illuminating relation with scientific research.

First, scholars apply insights emerging from the brain sciences to characterize the capacities literature engages for its emotional effects. Blakey Vermule’s Why Do We Care About Literary Characters?, for example, uses recent work on empathy to illuminate how readers come to identify with fictional persons. The cognitive science of perception helps Gabrielle Starr to understand why writers often create literary ‘images’ appealing to multiple senses — as in Elizabeth Bishop’s description of knowledge as “dark, salt, clear, moving, utterly free.” Starr employs new models of cognitive architecture to trace patterns of “excitatory” and “inhibitory” connections between sense-images, patterns which she argues underlie poetry’s aesthetic pleasure.”

What Does Literature Know? » 3:AM Magazine.

The following article, also at 3:AM Magazine, serves as a lively companion piece to the one cited above:

Neither Scylla nor Charybdis: Gauging Crisis


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Shaken Then Cut – I Don’t Think That’s How Bond Ordered Them

This is what happens to a post when things get shaken. Noted before that the earthquake in Italy served a greater purpose for me. Anytime things get shaken up and nobody is seriously injured, there’s a great case to make that it’s beneficial. Truth be told, I can only speak for myself, but that 4.9 Naples twist and shout was a boon for me, and coincidentally, it happened in Italy. Why a coincidence? I’ve been reading a lot of Italo Calvino lately, particularly The Complete Cosmicomics. In doing so I realized that, along with PKD and Ballard, it’s impossible for me to omit Calvino as one of the four or five major writers of the latter half of the 20th C., for his insistence on incorporating various scientific fields into his work (at the service of his art), for his bold experimentation and, like Beckett, his emphasis on the universals of the human experience and cosmic conceits (How It Is). It was apropos to be reading Calvino in Italy during a seismic event. Anyone who has read Calvino will immediately understand what I’m saying.

Here’s an email to a friend. Pardon the vernacular, or don’t. Revel in it.

The Complete Cosmicomics is essentially four books of short stories, utterly mind-blowing in scope and wit and, for reasons same and dissimilar, I put Calvino in the same league of importance as PKD and Ballard for late mid-late 20th C. writers. Calvino is unquestionably the superior writer, more erudite, dextrous and witty, but he shares Dick’s cosmic themes, though more scientifically motivated than religious and/or quasi-mystical, and he swaps lit spit with Ballard in that they’re more overtly sociological and psychological and, dare I say, purely scientific, and at least Ballard kissed experimental form on occasion. They’re all essential for their own reasons, PKD obviously being the easiest to read and easily as prescient as any writer of his time. Calvino is the most challenging and, therefore, by far the most rewarding of the three. It’s hard to construct a triad of The Three Most Important Writers of the Latter Half of the Last Century, but there ya’ go, more lint fallen lint off my tattered cuff.

So not long after I return to the Police State Light, I finally acquiesced to the surgery I’ve been putting off, wherein the doctor removed the C3 and C4, replaced them first with a metal plate and thenimplanted semi-sentient prostheses, complete with dynamic AI which possesses vast potential for information acquisition. Needless to say that tech has been backdoor’d at the manufacturing facility by the NSA, making their ability to potentially harvest my thoughts and create predictive models of my behavior and actions a snap, a rather ironic way to put it if you aren’t aware of what happens to discs as they get blown out over time. Infuriating? Sure it is, but I got this gnarly scar I can brag about next time I’m on a cheap shrimp trawler comparing scars over coffee mugs of rotgut with a posh college boy and a grizzled fisherman.

I got this scar in a drunken brawl with a snarky Tramalfadorian

I got this scar in a drunken brawl with a snarky Tramalfadorian

Music: Ostensibly one of the primary subject of this here “webzine.” I’m currently listening to Rave Tapes by Mogwai. Honestly, I haven’t decided if I truly like them (I loathe the bulk of their back catalog) or if it’s merely an infatuation based on a few tunes that may be the exception to their rule. On Rave Tapes, when they’re good, they’re good, but I’ve not heard anything at all that would qualify them as great; certainly nothing to sustain that description. And they have that awful name. That has to be purposefully stupid, because the most productive thing I can think of when I picture a Mogwai is a Mogwai with a well-manicured Columbian necktie. But the bloody good cut here, for me, is “Simon Ferocious” for all its tactile glory. It may not be the most beautiful (bear with me) slice off this slab, or clever, or the finest composed tune of the bunch, but the textured bass line is the stuff of pineal ooze. I’m so easy sometimes.

In contrast, I was listening to Dan Bodah’s show on WFMU and, speaking of cosmic-ness, he played a tune by bluegrassman Tim Erikson entitled “Every Sound Below” off of the album John Colby’s Hymn which suffused bluegrass with throat singing as successfully as Henry Flynt joined the form with raga. The link above is to Dan’s playlist and, while I encourage you to listen to his entire show (his is one of my favorites on WFMU’s schedule), you can easily pop-up Eriksen’s spellbinder via the playlist. Or, you can listen below to the YouTube clip, but I’m a fan of Bodah’s, so like a good drug, I recommend his direct route because it’s a rush…of sorts. Besides, I think the version Dan played is better for the emphasis on the subject of throat singing, not to mention the juxtaposition of that song in the mini-set. One could make the connection of the preceding track by Cul-de-Sac with John Fahey, a song which brilliantly segued out of The Necks’ excerpt from Open.

I haven’t listened to Cul de Sac since their debut back in the 90’s, a CD entitled Ecim, which was more overtly indebted to German Komische in a more ham-fisted but ultimately satisfying manner. Also, one of the most elegantly subtle and equally sublime tracks ever recorded, World Standard’s Fire And Rain, would have been an ideal addition to that sequence of songs.

As I noted, there are times that he reminds me of Henry Flynt, what with their ingenuity in an allegedly irrelevant genre. Hold on…whether or not the music is “relevant” today seems like an almost inane question or point to make. The answer, as if it deserved one, is only whether the music is relevant to the listener, and maybe why it is, provided the listener bothers to intellectualize about such matters. Or not. When it comes to why Judas Priest is Heidegger in disguise is the often risible (but somehow engaging) cottage industry of the Klostermans of our manufactured and marketed culture. I will admit that his (Chuck Klosterman) best, most “important” essay was the one about the cover band. Was it Motley Crue? Metallica? I can’t even remember right now and I just read the book (Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs) a month or so ago. That’s telling in itself. Not that I forgot who the band covered, but that his subjects are the plastic disposable razors of what he calls American “art.” Oh, he’s so democratic. Stand up and give the guy a round of significant canned applause. Do you think he has an applause sign above his “sleep machine?” His acknowledged ability to write well is exceeded by his desperation for meaning. It’s frequently embarrassing, but I guess that’s what gets you a gig at New York Times these days, alongside the risible Thomas Friedman (strip mall multiculturalist extraordinaire) and vainly clever Maureen Dowd and her puddle-deep, labored puns. But I’ve strayed, haven’t I?

Last thing before I depart tonight. I am working on a write-up of Yek Koo‘s Desolation Peak, but with the transatlantic trip and the journey to the center of my spine that forms a Golden Corral combo-platter of soggy fried chitlins style pain and heat lamp hardened hamburger steak insomnia and despair, I simply haven’t afforded it the treatment it deserves, i.e. the precise angles with which to form the most cogent piece possible on a record that means quite a bit to me. Just think about the title. You other depressives out there will, like readers of Calvino, instantaneously identify my fascination with it.

It may not have been as stirring for you, but shaken, whether it happens to a novel’s structure, or a blog’s post, is as cool as a trapdoor that drops into a shark tank.

Posted in Albums, Art, Bluegrass, Culture, Italo Calvino, Literature, Raga | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Naples Earthquake Benefits Perception Of Time – The Begending



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Selected Pieces: Retrospective

The following pieces are a few interviews and features I’ve done elsewhere. I thought it would be a good idea to collect some of my work here for DECAYKE, my own webzine, giving them an appropriate home. There are some glaring omissions. My interviews for The Broken Face, including Simon Wickham-Smith, Robert Millis of Climax Golden Twins and the boys from Pengo et al still need to be scanned and uploaded.

Quick Links

1. Erik Scott (Of Flo & Eddie et al)

2. Eddie Flowers

3. To Live And Shave In L.A.

4. Interview with LaDonna Smith

5. Dror Feiler

6. Review: For Flowers, by Joëlle Léandre / Mat Maneri / Christophe Marguet / Joel Ryan

7. Review: Vacant Lights/Rara Avis by Organum

8. Free Your Mind And Your Mouse Will Follow: Exploration Of New Forms Of Gift Economy Distribution In Music and Multimedia

9. Who Cares How Long You Sink? Evaporate Big Sky

Posted in Albums, Music | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Interview With Erik “Eski” Scott

This interview appeared elsewhere without my permission after a long, unnecessary battle with a couple of entitled kids whose brief success was built on the backs of writers who knew far more about music than they ever did. I thought I’d give it a permanent home here at DECAYKE, since it was my idea to do this interview with a really great, down to Earth guy.

Erik Scott is a bit of a departure for DECAYKE. He’s an insider, but I don’t think that makes him any less a source of fascination and source of knowledge that any other artist we feature. After all, this is the man who played bass with Flo and Eddie, and, well, you can’t really get any cooler than that. But what Scott represents is so much more. He gives us a glimpse into the music industry proper and does so with a commendable humility and knowledge that few others would or could proffer.

I came across his latest solo effort via a box sent to me and I immediately recognized the name. I made the connection to Flo and Eddie. Here we have a professional bassist who has played with Nugent, with The Coop (during those so-called down years—to which I would recommend anyone to revisit), Sonia Dada and a person who is truly dedicated to his craft. Not only is he committed to his instrument, but he’s also aware of his boundaries and understands his limitations and strengths. He’s a master bassist and much more concerned with music and what he can and can’t do with it as well as his aesthetic preferences than so many amateurs are.

Though there is so much to discuss about his career, I decided that we should focus on his latest material; the material which mostly focuses on the bass, its limitations, but mostly on the melodic possibilities of it. Now, admittedly, for all you elitist, this may not be your cup of tea, but I have a feeling that most of you out there who are interested in music and its history will really enjoy this interview. If it goes well, Eski (as his friends refer to him) and I have agreed to a follow-up where we’ll talk about his past more. We just thought it best to focus on what it is he is doing now—as most artists don’t care to rehash, over and over again, repeating what they’ve already said in other interviews.

The following is an intro partly penned by Eski and partly penned by myself. We both hope you enjoy and we both welcome questions:

Erik’s bio:

Erik “Eski” Scott is perhaps not a name we’re all familiar with, but should be. He has a recording career which stretches back to 1969, making albums with Northern Illinois groups “Food” and “Jambalaya”. It was in 1974 he met and played bass with Zappa cohorts and Turtles members Flo and Eddie, and would later record and tour with Alice Cooper. He was a founding member and worked fifteen years with Sonia Dada. He also made recordings with Pops and Mavis Staples, and many other artists over a forty year career, a love affair and devotion which spans until present day where we find him playing some truly zoned out, interstellar bass on his solo record “Other Planets,” which is as beautiful as it is technically adept. His current material is virtuosic but never ostentatious, with nods toward ambient sensibilities fleshed out through unique and often complex melodies which extend beyond the normal parameters of pop music. Scott exhibits a respect for all aspects, rhythmic and melodic, toward his instrument and his love of music—and the bass– it’s all lovingly evident on “Other Planets.”

On his latest recording, he features a really creamy tone and his work is full of languid, peaceful gestures (a plethora of fretless expertise), and the different styles to which he alludes in the music (country, for instance) are very subtly incorporated into the whole while never dominating his own musical vision or trademark style.

This interview was conducted telepathically between myself, Eski and Maui, his vocalist and pilot.

An Interview with Erik “Eski” Scott
D: In the Bass Sessions interview, you alluded to your versatility and how different people perceive your strengths differently. While there is a strong groove presence on “Other Planets,” you seem to be emphasizing your melodic strengths—and it really shines. If I’m not mistaken, you seemed to intimate it may have had its genesis when you were working with Sonia Dada?

ES:First, thanks for the kind words concerning my melodic sense. The record did have its genesis from “Sundogs,” a piece that I wrote and was recorded for Sonia Dada’s most recent CD “Test Pattern”. The piece, a short musical interlude between Sonia songs, received some nice attention in reviews, and it sparked me to do a full length treatment as the title song “Other Planets”.

As far as emphasizing my melodic sense, as the writer of these pieces, and working primarily alone in my studio, I simply played all my melodic ideas on the bass, primarily in the upper registers. I also played some rhythmic ideas that might ordinarily have been covered by guitar (” Piece On Saturn”) or even banjo (“Proper Son”) on the bass. I even recorded bass-generated sound effects (that might ordinarily have been done by guitars or synths) to create the other-worldly atmospheres I wanted, e.g. [like those on] “Other Planets,” “Proper Son,” and “Bassque Revolution.” There is a whole different soundscape vibe that happens when the melodies are performed on the upper registers of the bass. I was seduced by the warmer sound of these melodies, especially when blended with steel guitar and what I like to call the ‘interstellar’ keyboard drones I used.

D: It’s true. There’s a distance that, I think, is akin to a brass baritone present there, yet you were able to successfully bring it to the fore.

ES: Well, most tracks on “Other Planets” are relatively open, and I was able to bring the main melody up in the mix…plus I shelved some of the low end on the leads, so there wouldn’t be too many lows.

D: The song “Other Planets (Sundogs)” is a perfect example of two of your strong points: You alternate that punchy, aggressive groove which segues right into that melodic, fretless sound which characterizes the CD. I’m assuming you multi-tracked those parts? Did you use different basses? The tones, timbres and styles are distinct, and provide great counterpoint to one another as well as showcasing your knowledge and intimacy with your bass.

ES: Actually, “Sundogs” is all fretless. I used one direct line from the bass, and then split that signal into an effects box for the phased echo sound. It was one performance of a Pedulla Fretless four string. In the second bridge another effect was added to the bass to alter the sound a little for that section of the trip….a bit of an octave thing. I occasionally altered the echo setting for effect. There is multitracking on some of the other songs, but the title cut “Other Planets (Sundogs)” was actually just one bass part with effects, because that’s how it sounds in space.

D: Your music is sophisticated, yet accessible. Perhaps it is the presence of melody on “Other Planets,” yet there is, as you’ve pointed out elsewhere, some strong ambient tendencies you’re working with; are you interested in ambient music—say, the stuff that Eno or Klaus Schultz has done over the years, and was this any influence on you in any way?

ES: I never thought about making ‘ambient’ music….didn’t occur to me once. The only pre-meditated thought about “Other Planets”, was that I could make some music like the “Sundogs” piece on “Test Pattern”, and some folks might like it. So I just went where the muse took me. And then, after the music was done, I gave it a name…kinda’ like having a baby.

D: So it was a beautiful act of creation. As we know, sometimes that’s planned, others not. While you were writing this, was it a largely intuitive process or are you primarily premeditated in your songwriting method?

ES: Your question has made me think about how this stuff got started thematically, and I think I’ve got to lay much of the blame on the writer with Sonia Dada, Dan Pritzker. The first tune ‘Other Planets” came about because I was writing an interlude between two of his songs on the SD album “Test Pattern”. And the second “Des Pues de Guerro” was inspired by another song of his, which dealt with an 18th century battle where the Spanish army put down a rebellion by the local Indians, Cajons, African slaves, and other minorities around New Orleans. I pictured the smoke blowing over the ruins
at the battle scene, and imagined a trumpet playing a Spanish sounding theme over the destruction, and started playing the thing. A third piece “Peace On Saturn”, was inspired by seeing some of the movie he’s making about the birth of jazz, even tho my tune is not jazz influenced.

At other times in my career, composing for Alice Cooper, Pops Staples, Ted Nugent, Sonia Dada, or whoever, I was definitely writing with the identity of the artist in mind. Here, I think the “Other Planets (Sundogs)” piece kind of set the CD’s theme in large part.

D: You mentioned to me once that, if you were to repress the record, you might re-sequence the tracks because you feel that song number two, “Other Planets (Sundogs)” really captures the spirit of the recording. The current opener is a tune called “Bartalk.” In what order would you most likely do the songs?

I would probably put “Proper Son” and “Other Planets” first, as I think they more properly represent the spirit of the album. I would then put the more energetic “Bartalk” third.

D: You brought in a lot of folks from Sonia Dada to work with you on the solo release. I’m interested about the communication between you and the people you have worked with before: was there an unspoken understanding of what you wanted, or did you pretty much grant them the space to bring their own personalities into your record? Did you write all the parts? Have you been fortunate over the years in that the people you have worked with have had, well, let’s say reasonable egos? And if so, how did that shape your experience in making this last record, as being the primary songwriter?

ES: It takes me some time to get to know and trust people, and since I had developed great working and personal relationships with the guys in Sonia Dada, it just felt natural to get them when adding the extra instrumentation I wanted. And remember I had lived in LA for twenty-five years before moving to the Chicago area in late 1997 to work almost daily on the Sonia Dada experience, and I really only knew the musicians in Sonia Dada, without traveling. Even so, only two SD musicians played substantially, Chris Cameron (piano and organ on four songs) and Hank Guaglianone on drums (on eight tracks).

When I got each composition to a place where I thought it would actually be worth completing, I brought Hank (Guaglianone) in to play some real drums. Then, to each song, I wanted to add one other melodic instrument to broaden the sonic landscape, and on four songs it was John Pirruccello and his steel guitar, as I really loved the blend of melodic bass and steel guitar. Then on four others I brought in Chris Cameron to play piano or organ, and Glen Rupp played some wonderful acoustic melodic parts on “Donnie & Sancho.” I wanted to keep the music uncluttered, and this approach helped. There are only three compositions that feature more than one extra melodicist…”Other Planets,” “Foggy Bridges,” and “Bassque Revolution.”

When I took the songs to the other guys, they were already in a condition where I knew the guys would hear the ideas, so I didn’t tell them so much what to play, I just told them where I thought they would be featured, such as, “Chris, verse two is yours”.

D: Were you ready to return home and get away from L.A., or do you plan on returning?

ES: I moved to LA in 1974 for professional reasons, and moved back to the Chicago area in ’97 for the same reason, involving Sonia Dada. A move back to California might be for the same reason, professional, or it may be for the general environment, or the great Mexican food. I’m not sure right now…I hate moving.

D: Did you feel like you had to get away from rock to expand on the bass’ potential for pure melody? There seems to be an almost imperialistic character to the guitar in rock.

Well, I confess there is a part of me that wanted to show what ideas I was capable of performing on the bass, but I have loved and will continue to love rock and guitars… I would have to say that it is a large part of my structural foundation.

If you are referring to the nature of the bulk of music on “Other Planets”, (insert adjective here: dreamy, atmospheric, floating, cosmic, spacey), I think that was simply an expression of my mental and emotional state. After almost forty years of the record-rehearse-tour-write-record-tour cycle, and especially after the previous 15 years of almost daily working within the parameters of Sonia Dada record making and touring, I was a wee bit toasted….and I just chilled it out a bit. And also, in many previous writing and arranging situations, within a more conventional ensemble (band) environment, I naturally had to, as bassist, perform the requirements of the bass chair, in terms of groove and support. On this CD, since I was by and large the only guy here, I just let it all hang out.

But in terms of what genres of music I prefer…the music I love the most contains performances by the players, as well as the singers, and writers. Music with nuanced performances by the artists, where the emotion just leaks out all over the notes, and you can hear the passion and artistry of the musicians.

D: You’ve experienced a lot of changes in the music industry, and you’ve alluded to creative or artistic freedom and the fact that you’ve had that since 1969. What is your attitude to the changes in the industry, say, since around the mid-80’s to what is going on now, particularly with the majors? What is your attitude toward file sharing? How has this, if at all, impacted you as a musician?

ES: In the everlasting battle of art vs. commerce, even more than has always been the case, the ‘major’ labels seem to be about commerce…mass sales. The promotion of music as an artistic expression is purely coincidental. The hunters/gatherers of talented creative artists have lost all power to the accountants. Wasn’t it John Hammond at Columbia who discovered and signed Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, and Bruce Springsteen, among others? And how about people like Ahmet Ertigun at Atlantic? Are people like that given any sway in today’s industry?

I remember reading a book about Columbia Records and Bob Dylan in the seventies, when Dylan’s contract was up. Columbia apparently had to downplay the actual sales figures internally…they wanted to keep him, wanted to be the label of Bob Dylan, but there were people at the label who figured he didn’t sell enough records, so forget him. What’s so ‘major’ about that?”

File sharing: Well, there has been more than enough talk about that, so I’ll just say that I come down in the camp that knows it’s theft, pure and simple. Writers and artists who make the music that supports their families better hope for something else when their income is slashed by 80%. Paradoxically, it points up some good things about the pre-internet ‘major label’ era…the labels served to filter out some of the bad music, and brought attention to some of the more talented writers, players, and singers. Of course, without the internet, I wouldn’t be talking to you right now. Still, there are folks who figure that wouldn’t be such a bad thing….ha! It’s a big, multi-faceted issue.

D: So your attitude toward the majors is, well, ambivalent? It does seem that fairly obvious artistry is devalued. Would you do a record deal with a major under any circumstances?

ES: Oh sure. The apparatus for widespread distribution and exposure is superior with a major label. If you can be on the same page as the guys at the label, and those guys stay at the label, there can be advantages.

D: Back to “Other Planets,” on the song “Bathing Maui,” you feature a rather unorthodox lead vocalist—kind of like “Seamus” by Pink Floyd. I adore dogs, so I have to ask a question about the song…it brings a sense of levity to an otherwise romantically inclined recording. How important is humor in music? And maybe I jumped the gun: do you consider “Other Planets” romantic music?

ES: Well, my nice dog Maui was looking at me with that ‘Don’t I get to be on the record?’ sort of look, and what could I do? And he wanted to be the lead vocal too, no background stuff for him. Geeeze, what could I do? Besides, music should express all the emotional states: love, anger, sadness, happiness, dream-state, and all the other shades of human emotion. Humor is in there. It lightens things up, helps perspective.

D: The inside artwork features a picture of your spaceship. I was wondering if you have a “Maui is my co-pilot” bumper sticker on your flying saucer?

ES: Actually, it’s Maui’s ship, and he drives.

Posted in Albums, Erik Scott, Music | Tagged , , , , ,

Who Cares How Long You Sink – Folk Forms Evaporate Big Sky

Before getting into this review, I want my readers to know that I will never put some form of grade system on it, whether they’re an ostensible joke or not. So, in the case of Foxy Digitalis or Pitchfork, you will never see a grade scale of 1-10 lightning bolts or flaccid cocks or whatever else. There are so many regrets I have about those limp little bolts, but chief of those is that they didn’t lobotomize Brad or Eden. Quick work that would have been, anyway. Funny how the flavor of the month can seem so dominating one minute and then discontinued due to lack of interest the next.

Who Cares How Long You Sink is, or was at that period of time, an exceptional ensemble who achieved exactly what it was they were trying to do. Kudos to them, and my apologies to Jason Ajemian for not following through with that interview. It happens, or rather life does, and often when you don’t have a deadline looming that means a paycheck, sometimes you regrettably have to prioritize. Of the notable interviews and projects that went by the wayside were a collaboration with Kan Mikami (that would be music, not writing, Klimperei, a bona fide sui generis genius and Brother JT, who had the bad timing of having to deal with me during my still-pending divorce to a woman I still love) – Enough of that. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

Who Cares How Long You Sink – Folk Forms Evaporate Big Sky

Who Cares How Long You Sink "Folk Forms Evaporate Big Sky" Sundmagi Who Cares How Long You Sink is one of Chicago bassist and composer Jason Ajemian?s many avant-jazz related projects, and one not to be missed. WCHLYS is a large ensemble of horns, reeds, percussion and strings devoted to, if not timelessness, then the organic time of flux, which aims to summon and invoke the harmonic possibilities and poetic essence of the cloud, of celestial bodies, of daydreams. It is, quite easily, one of the best records I?ve heard this year, and certainly the most exhilarating, refreshing and delightfully shocking. Their second CD, ?Folk Forms Evaporate Big Sky?, employs 31 musicians playing a score which emphasizes natural breathing rhythms over structured time, ?choices? over the set path. Notes and phrases are based on the players? own inhalation/exhalation cycles. What results is a sort of interlocking and overlapping columned music which faintly resembles a symphony tuning up in the distance, but much, much more. There are intimations of forms as the title suggests, but due to the hallucinatory drift created by the collision of personal time signatures, they do exactly as the title intimates, rising like vapor off of a hellish desert highway into surreal skies impossible to define by physical law. This music truly engages a calculus of internal explosions which gleefully blows your head off. What appears to be linear becomes a-linear. What appears be circular and discordant becomes vividly melodic, then soon dissipates?or reforms, gets combobulated, only to restart its strange cycle again from multiple starting points. One thing that makes it work so well is a sense that the musicians are careful to exercise restraint, contrasting abrupt seizures of sound which puncture the minimal motifs, providing that startling jolt which makes this a stand-out. The vox also tears through; I assume it?s Ajemian?s words and voice, rising up wistfully from the gorgeous, sweet morass and mingling with the mimosa and other exotic fragrances of high register and sublime harmonics, only to plummet back into the swirl and disappear. The vocal quality is at times reminiscent of Robert Ashley, citing something vulnerable and calling something wild. And the words, to match, are a stream-of-conscious mix of earthly desire and stratospheric bliss:     Just a dream/She?s just a dream/With eyes I can hold     What all-How much it/Keeps you same, creaking limbs, lubed/     Out of motion action slowed/Focus lost in attention I?d be remiss, also, if I didn?t mention the role chance plays in these five short compositions. There are accidental harmonies set against rolling clashes, providing organic and insouciant tension; even so, it?s a tension built for ecstasy. Like the vocals, these chance encounters of tone and timbre play brilliantly across the sonic spectrum, encompassing a wealth of emotion and spawn considerable envy at the method of execution. ?Folk Forms Evaporate Big Sky? is what music is for?to define, undefine and redefine, to forget and remember, to struggle and release?and most importantly, to be inventively and innovatively musical. 10/10 -- P. Somniferum (14 August, 2007)
Who Cares How Long You Sink is one of Chicago bassist and composer Jason Ajemian’s many avant-jazz related projects, and one not to be missed. WCHLYS is a large ensemble of horns, reeds, percussion and strings devoted to, if not timelessness, then the organic time of flux, which aims to summon and invoke the harmonic possibilities and poetic essence of the cloud, of celestial bodies, of daydreams. It is, quite easily, one of the best records I?ve heard this year, and certainly the most exhilarating, refreshing and delightfully shocking.

Their second CD, Folk Forms Evaporate Big Sky, employs 31 musicians playing a score which emphasizes natural breathing rhythms over structured time, choices over the set path. Notes and phrases are based on the players’ own inhalation/exhalation cycles. What results is a sort of interlocking and overlapping spacetime fuckery which faintly resembles a symphony tuning up in the distance, but much, much more, namely uncanny thematic deconstructions and reconstructions that have the characteristics of a hazy deja vu, and, as a consequence, some radical new musical expression.

There are intimations of forms as the title suggests, but due to the hallucinatory drift created by the collision of personal time signatures, they do exactly as the title intimates, rising like vapor off of a hellish desert highway into surreal skies impossible to define by physical law. This music truly engages a calculus of internal explosions which gleefully blows your head off. What appears to be linear becomes a-linear. What appears be circular and discordant becomes vividly melodic, then soon dissipates?or reforms, gets combobulated [sic], only to restart its strange cycle again from multiple starting points.

One thing that makes it work so well is a sense that the musicians are careful to exercise restraint, contrasting abrupt seizures of sound which puncture the minimal motifs, providing that startling jolt which makes this a stand-out. The vox also tears through; I assume it’s Ajemian’s words and voice, rising up wistfully from the gorgeous, sweet morass and mingling with the mimosa and other exotic fragrances of high register and sublime harmonics, only to plummet back into the swirl and disappear. The vocal quality is at times reminiscent of Robert Ashley, citing something vulnerable and calling something wild. And the words, to match, are a stream-of-conscious mix of earthly desire and stratospheric bliss:

Just a dream/She’s just a dream/With eyes I can hold
What all-How much it/Keeps you same, creaking limbs, lubed/
Out of motion action slowed/Focus lost in attention

I’d be remiss, also, if I didn’t mention the role chance plays in these five short compositions. There are accidental harmonies set against rolling clashes, providing organic and insouciant tension; even so, it?s a tension built for ecstasy. Like the vocals, these chance encounters of tone and timbre play brilliantly across the sonic spectrum, encompassing a wealth of emotion and spawn considerable envy at the method of execution.

Folk Forms Evaporate Big Sky is what music is for?to define, undefine and redefine, to forget and remember, to struggle and release?and most importantly, to be inventively and innovatively musical. 10/10 — P. Somniferum (14 August, 2007)


Postscript BIO:

Jason Ajemian has acquired a high profile in the improvised music scene over the years, performing with Marc Ribot’s SunShip, Matana Robert’s CoinCoin, Rob Mazurek’s Mandarin Movie, Exploding Star Orchestra, and Chicago Underground Trio, Ken Vandermark’s Crisis Ensemble, and his 5 year weekly engagement with Jeff Parker & Nori Tanaka @ the Rodan in Chicago.  Ajemian’s curiosity has ranged far and wide – he’s just as comfortable in the hushed, folksy setting of Born Heller, his duo with Josephine Foster, as he is in the breath-processed arrangements of his large ensemble Who Cares How Long You Sink.  Given such a variety of musical interest, a detour like “From Beyond,” Ajemian’s backwards version of Black Sabbath’s ‘Into the Void’ for chamber ensemble, begins to seem like an obvious stop on this bassist’s journey from the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains to Chicago and his current home in New York City.

– Jacob Kart

Posted in Albums, Art, Music, Poetry | Tagged

“Watch Your Asses, People!” – Eddie Flowers of The Gizmos/Crawlspace

This interview with my pal and, in a way, my mentor Eddie Flowers first appeared in Perfect Sound Forever.

‘Watch Your Asses, People!’
Interview by Kelly Burnette

Eddie Flowers Belts The Guttural Soul

Eddie Flowers Belts The Guttural Soul

Since the early ’70’s, Eddie Flowers has been involved in rock in one form or another, whether it be playing or writing about it. Along with singer-songwriter-guitarist Ken Highland and manager-producer Bob Richert, Eddie created the teen proto-punk band the Gizmos in late 1975 and early 1976. Based in Bloomington, Indiana, the Gizmos were a rag-tag group of fanzine writers, rock cultists, and heavy-metal dudes who managed to record and release three 7-inch EP’s from 1976 to 1978. The Gizmos were rooted in the sounds of the MC5, the Stooges, the Sonics and other ’60’s garage bands, the Dictators, the Velvet Underground, ’50’s rockabilly, Black Sabbath, Led Zep, etc.. From his time with the legendary Gizmos, right up through the his long-running current band, Crawlspace, he’s quietly gone about influencing several generations of rockers. His list of associations reads like a retrospective who’s who of subterranean luminaries. PSF sat down via email with him to get his thoughts on multiple subjects.


PSF: How did you find out about what was going on in “real” rock when you did? Was Creem instrumental in finding out about a lot of that stuff? Was Richard Meltzer a big influence on your adolescent mind?

Eddie Flowers: Well, I was 5 years old when the Beatles hit–just the right age to grow up hearing the ’60’s on the radio and TV. So, “real” rock meant nothing at the time–it was just what was in the air, and I loved breathin’ it in! My older jock brother–like, 9 years older–had some cool records like Otis Redding and Johnny Rivers and the McCoys–but he went to Vietnam in ’67 and passed ’em on to me. That year, when I turned 10, I started saving my pennies for records , and started cuttin’ back on comic books. Paul Revere & the Raiders, the Monkees, the Beatles–but also the first Mothers album! I loved Buffalo Springfield Again! And still do. I also started buying Hit Paradermagazine, which was an excellent read, dealing seriously with rock, soul, a bit of country, even more blues, histories of various scenes and genres, some “real” jazz, intelligent record reviews–nothing like the teen mags I had been seeing. In the small town of Jackson, Alabama, we did NOT get Rolling Stone or, later on, Creem.

By ’69/’70, I was into Hendrix, Cream, CCR, Big Brother, the Airplane . . . I got my first taste of REAL blues from 78 RPM records my Mississippi cousins gave me: John Lee Hooker, Little Walter… Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Goree Carter… it was ALL rock’n’roll to them! Which is so great, right?! White sisters living in Jackson, Mississippi, in the late 1950’s diggin’ it like it was THEIR music, you know? So, I always had that sense of where I came from, even thought it SUCKED in the small town of Jackson (not to be confused with Jackson, Mississippi, where I was born!).

Anyway, I saw my first rock fanzines in late 1970, after reading an article in Rolling Stone (HAD to get a subscription when I turned 13!). The zines were Greg Shaw’s Who Put The Bomp, still in its ’50’s-oldies stage, and Lenny Goldberg’s Stormy Weather, another oldies-oriented thing. Around the same time, I read a Meltzer article in Circus called “This Eric Is No Derek,” a piece on Eric Burdon. It blew my mind! At first, it seemed retarded, although funny. Then I re-read it and realized here was a very smart joker! Also in Circus was a Lenny Kaye piece on the Flamin’ Groovies, which made me track down their records. In late ’71, I saw my first issue of Creem and immediately subscribed. Mind-blower #2: Lester Bangs! Of course. Plus I got a copy of the MC5’s High Time free with my Creem sub!!! My life was changed. Then I got the Stooges’ Fun House!! BOING!!! The Velvet Underground & Nico for 47 cents in late ’71! Yeah, that stuff was “real” rock to me, like so many other “Third Generation” rockers (before we were called punks!). But so were the Beatles, the Raiders, the Stones, Bo Diddley, the Zombies, Beefheart, Jerry Lee, and a big etc.!

PSF: So all of those influences laid the groundwork for you? Were the Gizmos your first band?

EF: Yeah, those influences and lots more. After I found out about fanzines, I started writing for ’em in 1972. The first things were a thing on a fictional Alabama band called Heavy Mother in Andy Shernoff’s Teenage Wasteland Gazette, a piece on the real Alabama band Wet Willie for Dennis Metrano’s Sunshine, and a letter of recommended obscure records in Mark Shipper’s Flash #2. Also in ’72, I first got in touch with Ken Highland, teenage resident of Rockport, New York, and editor of Rock On! I think it was the following year, both of us now immersed in the scattered zine scene, that we both heard from Bob Richert, who sent us his fanzineBeyond Our Control from Bloomington, Indiana. This brought together the original team who gave the world Gulcher magazine in ’75 and the Gizmos in ’76.

First band? Well, before the Gizmos, I had a kid bands of a sort. With my cousins Cheryl and Alan, at age 10 and 11, we had the Young Americans–or something wretched like that–before we became Lord Stenny & the Umberduck. My first name is Stenson, so I was Lord Stenny–and Umberduck was a made-up word that probably meant nothing even then. After that when I was 11-12, I had the Diesel Airplane with my friend David. That was more, um, advanced–HAHA! We did an early version of “Lake Daddy Jim,” which became a Crawlspace song in in the 1990’s–same chorus, different verses. And our theme song “Diesel Airplane” was a noise piece with guitar feedback, drum stick banging on acoustic guitar strings, and crazy drumming on a marching-band snare-tom, or whatever you call it. But yeah, the Gizmos was my first band-in-public. And it was barely that! We were really a recording project that got out of hand. In one fashion or another, the original or slightly original band played a party, two nights at a public library with MX-80 opening, and Cincinnati without Ken Highland or me! HAHA! What a band, huh? But I think the first EP is pretty great, and there are a few good tracks on the other two EP’s. I was NOT involved with the Gizmos after that period–Bob Richert did release more stuff using the name with different people.

PSF: It’s kind of cool to think that a lot of your beginnings had to do with the written word, although you obviously have a long history of playing as well. For our readers, what were some of your favorite cuts off of that first EP and are those songs included on the Studio Recordings CD? It must have been pretty crazy playing with MX-80 back then. What were your recollections of the library gigs? Did they leave for California before you got the urge to jump borders? We’ll get to Crawlspace soon, but I want to create a firm foundation for all things leading up to Crawlspace.

EF: I was always obsessed with books and comics. They offered a way out of my crap real-world existence. Typical, I guess. I’ve never been a true musician–if you know what I mean–but I’ve always used instruments for one reason or another. For a long time, I thought of myself as a writer above all. Now I just don’t care!

My favorite tracks off the first Gizmos EP are ALL of ’em. And yeah, they’re all on that first Gulcher CD. There’s the goofy teen-smut of Ted Niemiec’s “Muff Divin’,” Ken Highland’s “That’s Cool (I Respect You More)” soundin’ young and Stonesy, the Duhamel-Flowers-Highland Dictators-sorta pro-TV anthem “Mean Screen” with me singing, and the ridiculous “Chicken Queen,” cooked up by Highland, bassist Dave Sulak, and yours truly writing lyrics. Love ’em all! It was a fun time that March of 1976–think that’s the right month.

Right before we recorded the Gizmos stuff, there was a show in Bloomington with Patti Smith and MX-80 Sound. I was excited about Patti–we were going to interview her too! MX-80, according to Ken, “sounded like Mahavishnu.” HAHA! Patti turned out to be an arrogant goofball up close and personal, but she and the band did rock. Before that, though, MX-80 altered my world a bit! It was like seeing Captain Beefheart without knowing what to expect! Blew my 18-year-old brain! I’ve loved ’em ever since. And I was stoked that they OPENED for the Gizmos in ’77! Too bad I was so sick I couldn’t get on stage–although I was there in the audience. Creem writer Richard Riegel showed up from Cincinnati, and fanzine writer Claire Panke came down from Chicago. A couple of knuckleheads, names now forgotten, gave the first EP a good review in their zine but then nixed it after seeing the live show! HAHA!

Eddie w/ Crawlspace

Eddie w/ Crawlspace

MX-80 left for San Francisco about a year before I moved to Los Angeles in ’79–if my mind ain’t glitchin’. But remember, after the ’77 Gizmos stuff, I went back to Alabama. I made my first trip to L.A. in late ’77, where I shacked up for a couple months with a somewhat notorious porn-editor/groupie who shall remain nameless! I spent part of the summer of 1978 in Baton Rouge and other places around Louisiana partying and working on the final issue of Russell Desmond’s Can’t Buy A Thrill. Earlier in the year, I had made my way down to Baton Rouge to see the Sex Pistols. That whole period was very heady. I finally moved to fuckin’ Hollywood in the summer of 1979 to try and form a band with fellow ex-Gizmo Rich Coffee. It did not happen for reasons that are all too typical–let’s just say, um, personal and musical differences–HA!

PSF: So we have sort of a picaresque tale emerging. All the better. I remember reading that the likes of John “Cougar” Mellencamp sat in with the Gizmos at one point? How was that? I’m not crazy about his music, don’t like it all, but I admire his rootsiness that he never really abandoned, even though he did get much more commercial– and the way he uses his fame to reveal how corporate America is destroying farmers–just another example of how our country has gone to shit. Any comments on that?

EF: I can’t stand Johnny Cougar Mellencamp! Background Gizmo Davey Medlock and I thought he was so lame that we refused to sing on his lame song “Boring,” which the Gizmos recorded. It stunk so bad that it wasn’t released until the CD reissue ten years ago!

PSF: So you get out to California–at what point to Crawlspace begin to coalesce?

EF: So, yeah. Anyway, Rich Coffee and I were gonna’ form a band in Hollywood. It turned out that Bill McCarter, who I met during the ’77 Gizmos sessions in Bloomington, was now living in L.A. I contacted him, and he joined our not-quite-a-band. We had halfway rehearsals a few times–me on vocals, Rich and Bill on guitars. Some of the songs were later Crawlspace pieces like “The Devil Talks in Tongues” and “Aeroplane.” But it went nowhere.

In 1981, Bill and I continued moving at a snail’s pace. I put an ad in The Recycler, an L.A. paper with free ads–lots of bands met through the ads in there. Karl Precoda, pre-Dream Syndicate, came over to my place and talked. And Dream Syndicate leader Steve Wynn, by coincidence, answered an ad. He jammed with Bill and I once. Same with Greg Davis, later Blood On The Saddle mastermind, who jammed with me, Bill, future Cowgirl Keith Telligman, and a drummer. Once! It was the Lazy Cowgirls who would bring Crawlspace to life. The guys in the band were friends of Bill’s from Indiana, and I got to know them quickly–especially their rhythm section, bass player Keith Telligman and drummer Allen Clark. We became tight, and in 1985, bored with only playing 3-minute punk-rock songs in the Cowgirls, they joined up with the non-band that Bill and I had been planning for awhile. And it was called Big Dad & 10 Lbs. of Swingin’ Meat–HAHA! But only while we were still fuckin’ around–still in the formative stages. It soon became Crawlspace. In 1987, another Hoosier friend of the Cowgirls joined the band–that was Mark McCormick. Then Lenny Keringer, bass player for the Creamers and one of the later Cowgirls line-ups. So, that was the band that started playing live shows and recorded our first stuff in ’87/’88… Mark McCormick on lead guitar, Keith Telligman on rhythm guitar, Bill McCarter on fuzz guitar, Lenny Keringer on bass, and Allen Clark on drums. Plus me, of course, singin’.

PSF: Crawlspace has gone through a lot of musical changes over the years, and you’ve somehow circled back ’round to playing 3-minute rock songs. Any particular reason for the constant change and your current return to rock’n’roll?

EF: The changes were very natural. There has never been a set format for Crawlspace. I’ve always disliked the way people do their “rock” thing and then have side projects to “get freaky.” It seems like a bit of a cop-out, although easily understandable for the career-minded among us. So, you know, we’ve been punkadelic and free-rock and noise and improv minimal and whatever–as the personal moment called for it. I’ve always thought of Crawlspace as a rock band, though–you can see it in titles and approaches scattered throughout our vast catalog of crap.

The specific urge to “get back”–to rock without irony or shame–kinda started after 9/11. My first reaction to those attacks was pure Malcolm X–the chickens have come home to roost. My second reaction was deep nostalgia for the twentieth century! I suddenly found stuff like Sun Records singles and the Sonics far more precious and exciting than the latest UK drone group or cynical turd-suck noise junk. Early 70s rock music like the Faces and early J. Geils came alive for me again. At the same time, I was still hearing tons of noise and underground whatever. The result of all that was The Spirit of ’76–an album of mostly covers from the 60s and 70s, played with free-rock abandon and drenched in noise. Our new album, Ignorance Is Bliss, removes most of the noise and improv from that approach. What’s left is basically 3-minute rock songs–and just a bit of improv. I think it sounds fresh, though–it’s not like we’re some retro garage band that would fit on Bomp Records! And our live shows are mostly still a big mess, albeit with a few songs played–or at least attempted!

PSF: You mentioned to me recently that your politics have been pushed to a more radical place than ever, thanks to some real-world experiences. Would you like to elaborate here?

EF: Sure. I won’t go into the tedious details of my financial situation, but I’ve been going downhill for awhile. For a year or so, I started seeking help from government agencies. After all, California’s supposed to be GOOD at this shit–not like Alabama or Texas.

Well, I spent a year going through psychiatric stuff that just about killed me. Quack doctors doling out death drugs like candy. Therapists who are totally incompetent. I gotta tell you, as a very smart high-school drop-out, it enrages me when I see some of the morons who are awarded college degrees and making good money! I finally went through a few very self-destructive psychotic episodes, while fucked up on THEIR drugs. My pleas for help were ignored, so I finally said fuck ’em and quit everything cold turkey. I went through weeks of intense withdrawal–every day I couldn’t sleep, just building more anger and resentment at the fucking system that’s supposed to “help” me. I also went through three rejections for disability from Social Security–a maddening process of half-truths, cynical workers, and ultimately nothing for me. The only thing concrete I ever received, besides their free death drugs, was $200 a month in food stamps. That’s gone now too.

In the midst of all this, I was pulled over by LAPD pigs. Expired license plates. They scared the crap out of me–flashing lights and that “whoop-whoop” siren right on my ass out of a foggy night. As a result, I veered slightly onto the sidewalk when I turned into a gas station that was right in front of me. The pigs’ reaction was to leap from their car, guns drawn and pointed in my direction–yelling, “Get out of the fucking car! Get out of the fucking car!” When I got out, confused, they lowered their guns. Then came the routine–no registration, no insurance, out-of-date driver’s license. Then I noticed there was a tow truck with them. The pig marked my car as a “wreck” on the towing company’s receipt. When I asked what that meant, he said it was no longer road-worthy because of a missing back window and some body damage. What?! I was stunned. They were already hooking my car up to the tow truck. The pig then gave me the drug bullshit. Fortunately, I wasn’t drunk or stoned. But I did truthfully tell him I was on Lorazepam, a powerful downer or “anti-anxiety” pill as the quack doctors and pharma scumbags call it. The cop’s reaction was, “Oh shit, not again!” and then “Get in the car and tell me where you live.” He drove me home and said, “Get out!” I never received notification of the “appeals” process for my impounded car–not that I could’ve paid all of the fines and fees anyway. As far as I’m concerned, this is legal theft–fucking LAPD cruising WITH towing services, stealing people’s private property. So much for the liberal welfare state, huh?

I know I’m not saying anything that most intelligent people don’t already know, but Obama is the rightful heir to the corporate-state partnership that was begun by Jimmy Carter, cemented by Ronald Reagan, and is now the unquestionable political lie that this country is built upon. If you’re on the left, you need to stop looking at small-government conservatives like Ron Paul as the enemy. And if you’re on the right, stop playing into the hands of racist and religious assholes who have no interest at all in true liberty. The United States, as a nation, needs to END–just like the Soviet Union, it’s too big, too powerful, and does NOT serve the interests of the people it supposedly represents. I don’t own a gun, but don’t let them take your guns away! The shit IS coming–it’s just a question of how long and from what direction. Watch your asses, people!

Posted in Albums, Music, Perfect Sound Forever, Psychedelic | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


This article was highly misunderstood. It was written partly as homage to the style often seen in Forced Exposure in the late 80’s, as well as some of the liner notes or other articles written about TLASILA. It was parody, and for proof of that, it’s the only feature I’ve ever written in this style. No worries. I never really expected anyone to realize that anyway. Regardless, it was very well received, even by Smith who would later disavow it in crying jag, but that’s another story altogether and, to be honest, isn’t worth the picosecond’s worth of non-thought it would take to reproduce it here. Tom undoubtedly has his sustained moments of brilliance, and that’s all that really matters in the end. Brian Turner of WFMU called the article inspiring. For all its purposefully derivative characteristics, I did manage to summon my most reliable muse, anger. This piece was also first published at Perfect Sound Forever. I’m eternally grateful to Jason Gross for giving me those earlier opportunities to eviscerate myself in public.

by Kelly Burnette
(March 2003)

TLASILA were Tom Smith (vocals, lyrics), Rat Bastard (bass, engineering), OM (voice and exteriors), and Ben Wolcott (oscillators and treatments). But the record included a chicken truck full of guests too many to mention here. That didn’t belie the overall sound of this damaged beauty. There’s a continuity on this album that is motherfuckin’ confounding, because at the end you will feel less but more. You’ll feel wholly amputated. The rotten sun of maniacal despair is there for your taking. Go ahead, really…

If the mouth is, as Bataille states, only latent evidence of the animality of man, then To Live and Shave in L.A. is the permanent fixture of it. They’re in an eternal posture of pain and ecstasy; a constant reminder of our purer days, lording over an orgy involving everything that “evolved” man dismisses as lesser and baser. Always with their head tilted back in a painful howl their eyes are only a secondary sense organ, whether they are affixed on a bloody moon or staring belligerently into the sun. No doubt, they are the variety of, well fuck… we’ll call it piss mysticism. The kind of synasthesia you might be delivered while hallucinating over a full toilet. But who wants to do that? Well, me for one.

It’s always been my credo to give the dogshit his day as well as the dog and to live my life as such. While it doesn’t always win you friends, you can alone console yr’self that you live with the bitter dignity of being in a constant state of having gambled everything on a hard 8 and lost. And if yr’ feeling just piss-frisky that day, you’ll damn well gamble it on a hard 9 for a glimpse at what our frontal lobes’ll never allow. Some sort of Satanic paradise. Oh yeah, and an impossibility that only insanity and madness can characterize. And until TLASILA’s The Wigmaker in 18th Century Williamsburg entered the scene finished and shrink-wrapped, I’d all but forgotten this feeling via an external other.

Thank fucking whatever it is you thank and indulge in a bygone frenzy of lust, cuckoldry, vehement and blistering words the likes of which you’ll need to peel from yr’ brain. The music, to relate back to the oral, is the amplified sound of teeth grinding. See here perhaps also ‘oracle’ (for despair and unsaintly trash) or ‘orifice’ as in unholy penetration or “profound physical impulses”1. The fact that it took Tom Smith five plus years to complete the mix on this record may not speak to spontaneity (read: convention), but does yell in the direction of a masterwork, of the true work of excess in all of its infernal denotations scribed by Blake and again Bataille. Think of it as a slow grinding sex act/rape of transcendence. It leaves you with the palace of sordid wisdom, AKA a brick shithouse neither in the form of woman (plane of piece) or artifice, but of mental construct; of Kali inspired creative destruction What is torn down is body, freshness of mind, petering pretenses about noise. What is built up is ROCK, virility, transgression and waste. This music is closer to metal than noise or any pre-conceived blather about theory and any ironic post-modern reclamation project of what was rock. It is, to put it bluntly, the only true rock and roll record of at least the last decade, perhaps longer. I ain’t talking about resurge, but instead about primordial regurge.

It seemed like the last 20 or so years, up until the release of Wigmaker, that folks have fervently tried to recapture the search and destroy essence of rock. Whether it was Mudhoney wailing over “you want my dick and you know it” lyrics, the Mummies or Tom’s once cohorts Pussy Galore, nothing ever quite ascended the dark pyramid of orange-eyed ferocity like humanity saw toward the end of status-quo rock. Punk reclaimed it a few times here and there and the good ones appropriately released it. There have been some noise projects and sidestream shit that have taken a glance in the direction of the Solar Anus, but none have to my mind blindly stuck their tongue in the hole and kept it there a while. This shit is supposed to leave a bad taste in yr’ mouth. And it does.

What Wigmaker concedes that no other will is that to take form, it has to blatantly reject it. Where other groups have taken up the rock pose, or the anti-pose, none have ever quite acquiesced to the miasma like Shave. By admitting as much, they alone have breathed new fire into the face of rock’s extensive establishment. That’s been a long time coming. They’re so goddamned contradictory. They’ll never be reconciled by words or abstractions. And it’s their forthright middle finger pressed in the lost face of irony that somehow lends shape to their hostile purity.

And what about irony? Sometime in ’90’s, Tom and Debby Richardson did a queer little duet in Atlanta2. It was a genuine love song, an intended moratorium for irony. Why? Well, I can’t speak for either of them, but I have my own suspicions. Where irony was once THE satirical tool to lash back at convention, it has been usurped and is now convention (kinda like rock, no?) These things happen. No surprise there. But, like any astute critic, to keep the dialectic turning you have to take a stance against something. And there’s no better meat for the crosshairs these days than irony. As a conceptual tool, the meaning has been all but lost in the hands of ‘misunderstood’ musicians everywhere. The hacks will toy with it all the time, putting it in service to their (really horrible) songs of high school alienation. You know: “He’s the quarterback, he’s popular.” I don’t know why that song from ’90’s airwaves came to me out of the fucking MILLIONS of other shards of refuse, but it did. Insert any of that tripe if ya want. Well, given the choice between the quarterback and whoever the hell penned that little gem, who would you choose to hang out with? Monday Night Football, anyone? And I’m not even gonna get into what’s-her-name from Canada. You at least have to understand what the term irony means to qualify for this caning.

So let it go down here that any consequential and vicious use of irony is, for the time being, set aside due to its now over-exposed effeteness. That TLASILA have arrived and exploded (in their lineup on Wigmaker anyway) is important for our culture. Their existence was a double penetrating prick of hyper-awareness. Kids today (and their rock culture) increasingly take a jaded stance sans experience. What results is fascicle cynicism cultivated by a bunch of spoiled shit-headed pubescent twerps (Limp Bizkit, yes… Eminem, Slipknot… you name it, they all suck). The whining is non-stop, in the form of so-called extreme ‘lifestyles,’ purveyed by sell-out hip-hopsters, rap-rockers and the like (do I really need to mention more names?). What we’re left with is a pool of jackass brats who substitute expletives without weight for meaning. What that means for someone like Tom Smith is that he’s mostly slingin’ verbiage like cinder blocks in a maternity ward. This of course actually assumes that the masses might listen to Shave’s masterful wreckage. And I know that kind of assumption is so far-fetched, so unlikely. And it only bolsters the argument that, when faced with real attitude motive and emotions, these sissies and pixies will go running for mom. Precious, indeed! My inclination to make the comparison is probably a gargantuan mistake anyway. Why bother, right? Well, somebody has to say it. Look back on the record in 15 years. If ya like it, you’ll still be playing it. No worry.

But yeah, if you believe that this rock has any cultural importance at all like me, then Wigmaker is a very important record. You probably wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t. There are a lot of bands that are heavy and harsh, that break down barriers of song and jazz convention. But as far as dealing strictly within the realm of rock itself, none accomplishes what Wigmaker does. If anything comes close in my mind it may be the Strangulated Beatoffs or Caroliner. And while there are certain comparisons that can be made, the Shave have their own little dirty corner of the squat marked. Nobody can or wants to invade their space littered with entrails and cum. Quite simply, nobody can. TLASILA are the true spirit of Saturnalia, updated with nail guns replacing shit and rotted fruit (though they have plenty of that too).

I don’t want to give the impression here that TLASILA are only a distraction or holiday. Far from it. It’s so much more. The deliria brought forth by Smith and company is the kind brewed from self-imposed prisons, and the rage and sonic black elliptical bricks-on-fire produced by the destruction of those walls. It isn’t a reaction as such. It just isn’t ‘re.’ As it states at the top of the liner notes, “This is PRE. The Story is True.” What that ‘pre’ means is probably multiple in its aims. I feel sure for my mind that it’s a blast at post-modernism, at post-anything. And it takes someone like Tom Smith to make such a claim. He wouldn’t wear anything BUT arrogance well. But under the heading of ‘pre,’ I would also point out that it certainly isn’t ‘re’ either. Gotta do the fucker justice.

Now… whether or not there’s a solid narrative or story here, well, I don’t know. What is fascinating is Smith’s adoption or take on an almost neo-classical form for framing his words. You might at first reject the idea of PRE, citing this usage. But the words are thoroughly contemporary. If the form occasionally glances back over the shoulder, it is more incisive satire than deconstructive. You better believe that… if you don’t believe anything else I’ve written. I love this record because it screams, “Derrida is dead and I’m fucking glad he is”. Let’s just hope the students at Yale and Harvard leave this one alone so as not to be sullied by less than straightforward intentions. And oh shit, I’ve revealed my prejudice. I truly apologize. (belch)

By To Live and Shave in L.A.
Lyrics: Tom SmithFlaming out of your stumps and knots
Mouthing the penis of an optimist
Heard his Dublin days of joy propos’d
Failed to double-glass the count-struck soil
An unbroken suck of dreadful darts
Bled sharpshod into “Minar thirty-aught”
It meant killing to clothe a black-boiled drop
Flame out beyond your pop-eye propsNerves are gone, teeth a bloody blot
Corss hair, lock-tight thirty-aught…Painted drapes, the sweat and shit
Thirty-aught fell astride the shootist’s prick
Saucer-shaped pill from a standing start
Had the feeling of death at tide-flat trot
A helpless desire maintained her tension
The cunt-struck count embraced convention
Meant killing to clothe a withered plot
The absolut writhes through thirty-aughtNerves are gone, teeth a bloody blot
Swished gold cope crop like a three-oh-aught…Flame out beyond your dreadful darts
Bled cunt-struck cop into thirty-aught…
By To Live and Shave in L.A.
Lyrics by: Tom SmithHeat is the color of neutral desire
Her presence queered his well-groomed carrion calyx
Formed by its tumbling twigs…
My soothing words and numbing milligrams
Bald man in center the bride of Christ
First voice uncovers this defect.
Dishtowel dismissed as a union jack
Fuzzed like a gracile australopith
The greatest robbery of strictly pedestrian prose
Comb-like and fan-like fronds and screw pines
The herald’s head fed to the shredder
Fouled roadbeds and butchered culverts
Bared his black gums and his lacquered hole
And his sop-trap tongue-clack foil…Let them stew in their juices and rot
Burned in their hovels, coked by bombs
Blandina dipped them all in (her) excrement
Kissed their wide ouths with pooched, leper’s lipsBarbed her coke-black bride of sixty-five fits
Her fucked face running with bad lipstick!
So, maker her cry if the blood gushes–
Let them stew in her tender rushes–

Let’s go on. If any band’s music epitomizes the so-ugly-it’s-pretty theory, then it’s Shave. They possess that kind of repugnance. But even as I write this I cringe a bit. I don’t want to give the impression that this music is in any way beautiful. It isn’t. Not in my most sincere moments of aggravated abstraction could or should I ever make that claim. Not only would it be an injustice to a masterpiece, I would just be perverting it for some vestige of romanticism still souring inside of me. And for fuck’s sake, NO-body needs that, last of all myself. So I’ll retract that original assertion at the beginning of this paragraph. OK, good.

At the opening of the record, “Travelogue One” where we are introduced to some ripped off bass riffing (I guess), our narrator tells us that he and his wife Mildred are venturing to Williamsburg for a vacation- a city that has “turned back the pages of time, to the 18th century.” From this quasi-surreal launching pad, we are thrust into tempest of sound and words that steal, beg, borrow and emblazon. It seems that every passion is exposed and degraded herein. Every truth or institution trampled and pissed on. Any sense of convention disgraced and travestied. The words seem to float across the maelstrom of noise and pastiched musi, tortured and hovering like a sick poltergeist, at once commenting and narrating like only true poetry can. It’s a puncture wound. It’s a hole through yr’ head. It’s a huge line of bombed and burning acreage or your brain. This album goes where no other has. Period. Tom’s hankering and haranguing libretto is filled with a rare desperation that only a few have succeeded in voicing. But as soon as you hear his uneven vibrato swooping from the ceiling straight to hell, the lucidness of his despair and fury become all too real. Some of the vocal treatments are bare bones supernatural, evil. Fuck, if I believed it, I’d say he channeled something. Remember in the Exorcist when Regan was on the bed with the word HELP carved into her belly? Neurotic doesn’t begin to describe this shit. And I mentioned treatments. Not only is his naked voice infernal inspiration but the moments of engineering where the vocals are treated are depraved by any standards. They’re chopped, separated, pornographic (both explicitly and socially) and schizophrenic. The distortions, which are often offset from the same lyric and panned jam fright straight down yr’ gullet. Those fireballs will choke and burn. If you have kids, just don’t listen to this while they’re in the house.

As for the music, it’s an emotion turned dung stew of past elements of Tom’s career. Punk, rock, noise (Peach of Immortality, his former band with the unforgettable album title ‘Jehovah’ My Black Ass – REM Is Air Supply!). It’s all stirred in with seeming calculated abandon and premeditated frenzy. If this record was improv, it wasn’t at the time it hit the street.

On a personal note, thank you for that, TLASILA. Christ, have we not seen the weak end of so-called free improv yet? The Shave ain’t free and understand the alchemy of true conflict. They not only undermine every contemporary brainless practitioner of free improv operating today, they soil it before they give it a burial at the local treatment plant. They, to put it kindly, highlight the weakness, the lack of inspiration and just plain low badness of the endless streams of shit improv today. Tom is notorious in his hatred of Borbetomagus and Merzbow. I don’t know what his reasons are. Maybe he just thinks they’re weak. There’s no mistaking that everyone who worked on this record worked toward a common aim of upset, distrust, insanity and sonic violation. These guys never did take lightly the inspired madman. And it shows like white light at the end of yr’ bed. The sound is jagged and sharp, alternately dense and paper thin, relentlessly building gallows behind Tom’s spew and erudite slobber. It’s especially brilliant in the contrast it brings to the fore, at times phased out white noise bolting from speaker to speaker, other times unclad, untreated sax blurting sophomorically over bass and metallic squeals. But you’ll also find rudimentary, moronic DJ extractions, hard motherfucking repetitious guitar riffs with vocal samples from the high cock rock period. You may hear alternating electronic amplified transistor drones, frosted with something meant not for soft cones. The mix on the entire record is brilliant, inconsistent, oscillating and protruding. The trickery is here and while it sounds reptilian and deprived, it’s actually sophisticated in its realm. And the way you now hear distorted vocals around every corner at Disneyworld, you’ll be hearing the influence of this job of fore by Rat Bastard and OM. Britney Spears will be turning tricks.

There is an undeniable lust of violence on this record. It seems to present it as perhaps its only solution, a no-way-out Catch 22. However, I don’t think it is the same take on violence as say Joe Coleman takes. That’s such a fucking obvious and “pathetic route” anyway. If you’re familiar with Coleman, he claims that if he wasn’t blowing up animals, then he would be killing humans. I’m not even going to begin to rip him here (an obvious and easy target if there ever was one). I’m only bringing him up for contrast. The violence that TLASILA produce is a more significant, more cosmic violence. Where in those moments we gain considerable meaning in transgression, the spirit of Shave is present somewhere. Like the blasphemous stories of Kan Mikami, there’s a feeling of unity, of self-sustaining meaning of and unto itself here- an acidic but stoic coda for the apocalypse. It’s necessity even, in an artistic culture of shit and shadows. What maw is attractive if you don’t fantasize being masticated by it? What towering building can you resist the urge from which to jump? Sure, this is an atrocity exhibition. It’s an atrocity exhibition ultimate. If there were actually absolutes, this would be yr’ rock to cling to, bash yr’ head on, AND both. Bash yr’ head. Sacrifice.


1. “This fact highlights both the importance of the mouth in animal physiology or even psychology, and the general importance of the superior or anterior extremity of the body, the orifice of profound physical impulses; one sees at the same time that a man can liberate these impulses in at least two different ways, in the brain or in the mouth, but that as soon as these impulses become violent, he is obliged to resort to the bestial way of liberating them.” from Visions of Excess-Selected Writings 1927-1939 by Georges Bataille. Published by University of Minnesota Press.

2. Debby told me about the gig. As I recall it was a karoake affair, a straightforward cheeseball lovesong. According to her, there was no ironic intention involved. It was totally heartfelt.

Check out the Menlo Park Recordings website for ordering information for TLASILA.

Posted in Albums, Anti-Art, Music, Perfect Sound Forever | Tagged ,

LaDonna Smith: The Impulse Is The Catalyst, Improvisation Is Action and the Exploration

By Kelly Burnette (August 2003)

LaDonna Smith
The impulse is the catalyst,
improvisation is action and the exploration

LaDonna Smith

LaDonna Smith

LaDonna Smith has been doing improv for almost 30 years. A virtuoso violinist, teacher, and co-founder of The Improvisor (“the international journal of free improvisation”), she is the image of feminine empowerment, the female criminal in pursuit of the ecstatic, potent, subversive and transcendent. LaDonna has done about as much as any of the improvising pioneers Stateside to raise the bar, to obliterate expectations/preconceptions and, in the end, form new vocabularies in music. Never mind that she did this in a scene dominated by men or that she did it from Tuscaloosa and eventually Birmingham, AL., solo and along side her performing partner Davey Williams. The freakin’ odds were stacked not against her, but on top of her. But anyone who has had the singular pleasure of being in her presence will attest to the fact that if anyone might prevail against said odds, it’d be her. She’s incredibly pleasant. She always seems to be aware of everything going on around her. But at the same time, sitting across the table from her can imbue you with a sense of power and belonging rarely felt. And even though I have my suspicions she realizes this she never holds it over your head. She just drops the sonic block on you while she plays. Her eye is your storm.

PSF: What is your background in music? Are you classically trained? What led you into improvisation?

LS: The first real concert I ever went to hear was Carlos Montoya, classical guitarist at the old concert hall at Birmingham Southern College. As a six year old, I got to sit in the balcony, and hang off the rail just over the stage. All I could see was the shining glare of his bald head, hunching over a guitar with his foot on a stool, but when he started to play, I was mesmerized. It was just so startlingly beautiful! And the acoustics were just fabulous and up close. He did some very exciting flamenco, and I was just sure he was making everything up, right there, fingers running around and stopping on the most delicious sonorities! I wanted to learn to play the guitar like that!

I was given my first lesson on the piano when I was 7. I was told if I started it, I could never quit. So far I haven’t. My early teachers were at the Conservatory of Music at Birmingham Southern College. Later on, I took up the guitar on my own. First a Stella from Sears (remember those?), then a flat top, and finally as a teen, I arrived to the classical guitar, about the same time that I also acquired an accordion. Teaching oneself to play these two instruments began my process of free improvisation. Later on in college, I was steered into a music composition degree after writing a beautiful art song to some words by Kahil Gibran. I taught electronic music on instruments, which are now classified as ancient (early patch cord synthesizers) and got into “sound” and “experimental music,” sound collage and synthesis.

Soon, I discovered the viola could make just as bizarre of noises and glissandi’s as the ARP2600, and it was a lot easier to haul around than the synthesizers, B3’s and Leslies of the day, so I pursued it seriously, improvising my way through lessons and the University of Alabama Orchestra. Since I was a late starter and couldn’t really play it yet. What else, then, could I resort to, other than hitting all of the whole notes in the orchestra rehearsals, and a getting by with a little hidden improv? I played piano for the U of A Jazz Ensemble, but was eventually kicked out for “not swinging,” and so that launched me into more creativity (without the rules of theory and swinging). But of course, most importantly, I met my beloved sound artist/guitarist partner Davey Williams, who triggered in me the notion that anything we played was legitimate, and that all we had to do was hear it that way. So LISTENING is a large part of the collective consciousness that we began to explore together musically.

The above is extracted from Locales For Ecstacy, with LaDonna Smith, Davey Williams and Cinnie Cole

PSF: Are you dissatisfied with older modes of music?

LS: I’m not dissatisfied with older modes. I love all kinds of music, except lame Christmas arrangements.

PSF: I remember once I told you that at times I just felt like jumping up and yelling when you (and Davey at that time) were playing. You said, “you should”. I mentioned it to Davey and he was more hesitant. What, to your mind, is the significance of a non-barrier between artist/performer at your gigs? And what do you think differentiates you and Davey, if anything, when it comes to this?

LS: Well, when I said “you should,” I meant it, because if nothing else, it would be the direct cause of a little theater and humor, which always helps a performance. I mean, if people can’t have a good time, then it’s all over. But in all respect, I also love a focus so sharp, it cuts the edge of beauty, in whatever form it comes out. So, Davey probably wouldn’t want to be (or feel) heckled. Who would? There’s a difference.

Audience response can only feed the energy of the moment (good or bad). Response is the key to true communication. If airwaves weren’t moved when a string is stroked, no cause and effect, then nothing is truly happening, is it? Fact is, something is always happening. Why not BE a part of it, if only even as an observer. Better yet, giving feedback for the taking (of the experience).

PSF: What do you think of the volume and quality of improv today?

LS: I feel two ways about the deluge of CD’s that seem to be everywhere, like old tires in the landfill. What’s good is that they represent people’s (singular/or plural) attempts to access their own creativity, and capture a meaningful expression of that. What’s not good is that there’s just way too much emphasis on product and stuff. “Like hey, we got CD’s for sale during the break, blah blah!” Then you get there to the table, and don’t know which one to choose. Big deal, I came to a concert to hear the real action happening. Too much product output. Not enough meaningful encounters, like you said, “audience participation”… either expressing a response, or bringing an instrument to the stage for a brief expressive interaction with the grace of the performer, perhaps… and a thank you.

But on the other hand, it’s important to create workshop opportunities for that, so as not to dilute the pure expression of the artist. We being the obsessive, creative, and individual entities that we are�and so we tend to hold Sacred Space there. And besides that, you have to have patience for a certain amount of mediocrity. It’s only after we’ve waded enough in the shallow waters that we become ready for the deep end. Everybody’s done it.

PSF: How do you know when your muse is speaking? Does it knock you down or just brush you on the shoulder?

LS: Well, not on the shoulder, but in the heart. It really speaks to me in my heart, and I might feel warm and happy, and I see or hear something that I feel I’ve channeled, and not only by my own power.

PSF: That makes sense, because among other things, your music seems to be about ecstatic experience. Could you give me some insight into your views on, well, mysticism and music as a vehicle of transcendence?

LS: That’s of course the GREAT Mystery. I think if you just think about it, when you see the stars all strewn across the sky on a dark night, or see the sight of blood on some road kill on the highway and realize what a miracle of life that dead body was just minutes before the encounter, well… we don’t have the answers, do we? And music IS a vehicle of transcendence, but it takes the mind to make it that way. It takes first and foremost an awareness of what you’re hearing, and what that represents not so much style, or content, although certain musical languages speak to some, and not to others… is understood by some, and not others just like diverse languages divide along the “language-divide.” But if you get on the “ride,” you can go with it just as you might on a carnival ride. It takes you somewhere, even though you may get off just where you started from, but perhaps in a different emotional or psychological state. So where did you go? Did you feel something? What do you remember of it? Don’t remember nothing? Does that mean it really didn’t happen? But you feel different than before, right? Yes? No?

PSF: When you started playing, and specifically when you began improvising, did you or have you ever felt like it was a boy’s club?

LS: Yeah, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, it WAS a boys club with a rare bird here and there. I was a blue bird. But I enjoyed hanging out with grays (guys). They had more radical and in-depth conversations, everything from old shoe leather to Louis IX ‘s underpants, and how many prostitutes and beggars ate in the halls of the royal palace, and spent the nights… or which grey generals tromped through the section of the swamp near Gainesville, Aliceville, Tuscaloosa, or (anywhere between Charleston and the Mississippi). You had to listen to conversations about old muskets and new music…drink coffee and smoke lots of local herbery… You wore the same drab clothes everyday for weeks or months, and ate cheese occasionally. You celebrated Mardis Gras and All Saints Day, and Day of the Dead. You constantly wrote non-sequitorials and painted on the same page with everybody else, and got together frequently for cigar smoking music blasting. The energies were anarchy, dadaistic modes of behavior, surrealism, and poetic terrorism. A very elite bunch of intellectual heavyweights ran the group and women weren’t really allowed, except for me (and Anne LeBaron). I don’t know exactly how we scored, but I think it was because we were intense enough to listen and be present (and we both could actually write music, unlike the grays!!!). So our skills and willingness to go walk the plank of social ridicule with these guys created the slim toleration of our sexual diagnosis.

When Davey, Theodore Bowen, and I finally loaded up our VW vans to head out to Henry Kaiserland, we found nice couples putting us up everywhere, but the musicians were always guys, except for two that we met on the maiden trek, and that was Diamanda Gala (at the time a jazz singer, who had started experimentation) and Jill Burton, another singer. Same in NYC, with the exception of the women that Eugene Chadbourne played with, Leslie Dalaba, trumpetist and Polly Bradfield.

Of course, in subsequent years (beyond 1975), I met others… Sue Ann Harkey comes to mind and in the ’80’s, Myra Melford comes to mind but both of those women were composers. The seventies were a time when American Women Composers (an organization based in Washington D.C.) was founded so it was a beginning for change. Pauline Oliveros was well known at the time and in Europe, Irene Schweitzer was well known. Maggie Nichols was well known in England and along with her, Lindsay Cooper. Joel Leandre in France. Those were the early women that I had heard of, and got the opportunity to meet as our travels extended to Europe. The climate of free improvisation in Europe was much more established and connected than here, at that time. Things have changed a lot since then.

PSF: Are there any specific female musicians or artists that you point to as an influence or inspiration?

LS: Most of the early influence, which I acknowledge, was from association with the crazy grays in my own backyard although I was also influenced by Karlheinz Stockhausen, and always by Beethoven. As for women, although not at that time, but NOW, I can say that I find beautiful inspiration and community through the work and attitudes of Pauline Oliveros.

PSF: Derek Bailey has spoken of his work as being “non-idiomatic.” Do you feel the same way about your work? Can music, like yours which has syntax and an inner logic, truly be non-idiomatic? Isn’t the act of making a coherent music, in a sense, creating a new language?

LS: Yeah, in the early days, we tried real hard not to be influenced by anyone, but to go into that trans: trance…transport…transportation… trans… transcend… transcendence… transcendprovisation… that comes from transfiguration… from tranced out… psychic automatism…! (whew)

We tried to steer clear of anything that sounded “like” anything else and sometimes engage in just raw energies leading the body into making all this noise but with a “listening ear to shape it” like free composition so when you’d hear a rhythmic set up, you’d solo on it, or set something up and watch Davey do guitar theater with it, or duel it out in flights of fury, or float slowly as though drugged, or asleep, or make imaginary landscapes- all of these were areas, not idioms…

But yeah, you are right about musical language. After so much time spent in the laboratory of right brained discovery, who in the name of the left brain, would not be able to recognize personal patterns and preferences beginning to take shape and become signatures? So, yes, now when I play, there are areas which, to me, are very familiar and skills which I have built through practice, that are like the tools of vocabulary ready to refine the next chapter of the epic masterpiece. I suppose I’ve created my own idioms and after having done so, I’m just as happy to borrow from someone else’s snippets for collage, from other idiomatic musics to create a new range of imagery from time to time, that my audience may find as familiar. It after all de-stresses them from the intensity of just having to listen to mine!

For a complete discography and further details about LaDonna’s music and ideas,

Posted in Art, Music, Perfect Sound Forever | Tagged , , , ,

Dror Feiler and the Eternal Return of the Irreal

This was first published at Perfect Sound Forever.

Dror Feiler and the Eternal Return of the Irreal

Dror Feiler

Dror Feiler

“As a new dimension and complement to the orderly dialectics of classical Marxism it uses the theory of complexity: a method of complications and implications as an antithesis to the dialectic method of restricted sequence of cause and effect. To complicate means crossing the borders of categorization, exposing and even creating unexpected relations; like composers do in their computer, sampler and synthesizer based music and DJ’s do in the mix.” -Dror Feiler

When not lulled into the pleasant distraction of catching up on how Nick and Jessica are doing on MTV, there are times when I opt for headier entertainment. I head right for the racks, too. And this last week is no exception. The world was treated to a subversion by art unlike any other in recent history, certainly trumping Serrano’s pathetic Piss Christ episode and playing to a larger, international audience than did any of the hullabaloo surrounding the purportedly pornographic works of Robert Mapplethorpe. Dror Feiler and his wife Gunilla Skold Feiler created an installation entitled Snow White and the Madness of Truth at Stockholm’s Museum of National Antiquities as part of an exhibit meant to coincide with the anti-genocide conference being held there.

Dror is an Israeli-born expatriate living in Stockholm with his Swedish-born wife Gunilla. He has resided there since 1973 after completing service in the Israeli Defense Force. In 1970, as an early exponent of the movement known as ‘the refuseniks,’ he turned down service in Gaza. The commander at that time was Ariel Sharon. As recently as 2002, Feiler was president of Jews For Israeli Palestinian Peace. His anti-establishment, oftentimes controversial roots are essential to understanding his art and music.

The installation featured a large basin full of red water. Atop the water floated a sailboat mounted with a picture of Hanadi Jaradat (as a sail?), who attacked a restaurant in Haifa last October, killing herself and 21 others. “Snovit” or Snow White was written on the side.

In protest to the piece, Israeli ambassador Zvi Mazel unplugged the cables of a mounted spotlight, which then caused the lights to crash into the work (water). Prime Minister Sharon later praised Mazel’s actions. Feiler reportedly called him an “intellectual dwarf.”

When Picasso debuted Guernica at the Paris Exposition in 1937, it was received with contempt, and in many cases dismissed outright as being childish and dissolute. But Picasso opted for a sophisticated and much more “real” representation of the atrocities at Guernica. It was no quick way for him to win friends. But what did he care; he was an artist in search of truth in representation, no matter what ostensible paradoxes that may raise to a more prosaic mind.

A little more than a half-century later, humanity hasn’t advanced much in its perception of the arts. Feiler’s somewhat open-ended, multiple discourse piece has again rigged the adversarial worlds of art and politics with a short fuse. But it would be an unlikely party to detonate an explosive controversy in an act of protest heard the world round. You may question the use of these terms in context of the sad events that continue in the Israeli-Palestinian debacle. In reality, there is no other language to use. Anything else merely pimps dross over a situation riddled with the every conceivable shortcoming of history. And as Feiler’s work strives for a semblance of an honest representation of a bleak fact, our language -at least -must conform to the everyday atrocities of murder, of rival worldviews and of age-old paradigms; worn out and redundant, acted out over and over again. But it must also stand as a marker, as Feiler’s work does, to a potentially more constructive mode of thought. Our language, our art and music, must stand up in the face of stubborn idiocy and point the way to a better world. Consequently, it must damn laziness and embrace complexity as being virtue, not vice. If man continues to demand (or be oppressed by) slothful forms of thought, he will continue to exercise atrophied paradigms and eschew crucibles meant for evolution. In other words, we aren’t going anywhere fast.

At least if one judges our progress by the eroded measure of the status-quo. And it’s certainly a measure that has the world in its grip.

If anything today, the war is a war of opportunities within the war of information. Both Dror and Gunilla seized upon their opportunity to confront a failed paradigm with that of a forward linking, subversive track of thought via a mix up of expectations and politically correct burdens. The results are devastating in their portrayal of tragedy and their condemnation of an over-simplified, near Zoroastrian embrace of worlds so relic as to even make the blustery Museum shudder in chills. Far from being any apology for an act of mass-murder, Snow White is a diatribe against inhumanity. More specifically, it is an indictment of the socio-economic and political systems of which terrorism is a behavioral offshoot.

Dror Feiler’s art and music stand up to this complacency, demanding better of everyone. At least that’s what it attempts. The nobility of the higher goal is intact, no matter how misunderstood.

But what of his art, and moreover, in contemporary art is that takes these formidable tasks to hand? And how does it, if at all, propose to offer any solution to the dilemmas which at present time seem insurmountable?

In Fieler’s case, both his music and visual art are testament as action in the war of opportunity, but to varying degrees of success. One of the premises of Feiler’s art is that it demands that aesthetics take a back seat to truth. It even holds that aesthetics can be a dangerous thing, and no doubt he is right. It’s no secret that in consumer culture, sensory pleasures (and by extension, collective and subjective notions of beauty) exceed substance. Meanwhile, the pursuit of truth has been relegated to a heroic, if failing fifth column. It’s certainly a misunderstood virtue in many cases. But it is precisely this aspect of subjugation that lends historical opportunity to an art and mode of thought fueled by the pursuit of truth, not beauty. There is not a more fertile playground than the art world for the clash of truth and beauty, of class structure and of political and religious arrogance. What must be demanded however, and what Feiler’s work does, is the resolve of the dialectic through travesty, through portrait of tragedy and good ol’ monkey wrenching. At least in this brief instance of liberty utopian ideals have a moment to appear, however apparitional. It was enough to cast centuries of doubt on a miserable situation.

Feiler’s writings often resort to the advocacy of shock value to jar the listener or viewer out of the ordinary realm of associative meaning: “Noise, as sound out of its familiar context, is confrontational, affective and transformative. It has shock value, and defamiliarizes the listener who expects from music an easy fluency, a secure familiarity (it can be a “modern” one), or any sort of mollification. Noise, that is, politicizes the aural environment.”1

Unfortunately for Feiler, noise as an art form (or anti-art) is rarely heard outside of the listener’s comfortable context. It is, for the most part, an esoteric form which appeals to the converted, to those driven by theory, and then by mechanism as a means to an end. In other words, more often than not, the listener expects nothing less than a bone-shaking assault (and wants it). Any number of suppositions might be deduced from the experience, but in the end, noise more often reinforces one’s worldview; it rarely shakes it up. But when the above idea is executed in a setting where normal associations are put into [volatile] play, the scripted theory works beautifully, as it did in Stockholm. At its very core, Snow White was an assault on and critique of presumption. And it became so by being the analog of what noise was to music 15 years ago something which approaches what Feiler contends noise to be in his writings.

In the context of art against anti-Semitism, Feiler’s piece was a charged vehicle of associations at war. By taking his work a step further than did Picasso with Guernica and creating a politicized space where no explicit condemnation is apparent, Feiler was able to successfully pull the veil up on each individual viewer, forcing them to either face their assumptions about the Israeli/Palestinian dilemma or perhaps be faced with their arrogant presumptions. Such was the unfortunate case of Mr. Mazel.

It appears that the ambassador didn’t pause to reflect on the multiple possibilities of meaning the work might contain. He failed to realize the higher considerations of the initial shock The smiling, clean image of Jaradat is a terrible thing floating on a sea of red.’ And the urge to react emotionally must seem insurmountable. Now, has the art worked to reveal this essentially flawed dynamic in behavior? Yes, it has.

One can certainly empathize with his visceral reaction given the circumstances, but does this not perhaps highlight an inherent arrogance, on both sides of the fence, in the pervasive worldviews at work? At the beginning of this new century, does Feiler’s work, with all of its unfolding meaning(s), subtly direct the viewer into a more heterogeneous paradigm? Culture evolves slowly; perhaps too slowly. Might culture be shaken up by fits and starts? A good shock to the system has the ability to do that, but out of the context of an extended space of intellectual liberty, one is more likely to drift right back into the comfortable confines of an exclusive view of the world. While optimism does (and must) exist, people are only jaded by a repetition of history. And at this juncture, Feiler’s visual work subverts that repetition. As Feiler himself states, “The [music] of the NEW AVANT-GARDE is the differential that neither compromises or thinks of surrender, but carries on even in the shadow and disguise like the guerilla fighters and draws active disappearing lines in the field of society. The music of the NEW AVANT-GARDE is a labyrinth, a rich ensemble of relations; diversity, heterogeneity, breaks, unexpected links and long monotonies. It is the vision of a life that opens the ways and allows the horizon of resistance to light up. The right to life, the right to power for all.”2

Those lines certainly describe the action of events surrounding the display of Snow White and the Madness of Truth. As for theorizing on the musicit would have to have a similar space to play out these revolutionary ideas. No doubt the potential is there. But because the signs and meaning of music play differently inside our subjective web of associations, a similar incident is highly unlikely. The meaning of music is more an inference than a direct digesting of sign and letter (direct lyrics excluded); and particularly music like Dror’s The Return of the Real, which is as brutal, fast and cacophonic as any in existence. It’s difficult to deny the revolutionary import of the sound, but by saying that, I’m merely begging the question of what my expectations were/are at the outset of the listening experience. More than likely any real subversion on par with what happened in Stockholm will fail to happen. Quite simply, noise doesn’t have the prominent stage to which more staid forms of visual art may gain access. It does not have the same potential crease in the war of opportunities; it will not, in all likelihood, electrify a vulnerability in history. But it can be a reminder, much like Dada, of the nonsense and absurdity of a contemporary world in the grip of archaic paradigms. And in that it can, at least, be latent impetus for social change.

A friend once said she doesn’t think about art in good or bad terms, only whether it is living or dead. For it to be living, it must spark dialog. Feiler’s work is living work.

1. Dror Feiler – About My Music and Noise (Stockholm, Feb. 1998)
2. Dror Feiler – About My Music, Che Guevara and the Revolution (Stockholm, Feb. 1998)
3. Dror Feiler – Position 2000: About Music & the Anti-Fascist Existence

Posted in Art, Music, Theory | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Review – For Flowers by Joëlle Léandre / Mat Maneri / Christophe Marguet / Joel Ryan

By Kelly Burnette

Joëlle Léandre / Mat Maneri / Christophe Marguet / Joel Ryan - For Flowers

Joëlle Léandre / Mat Maneri / Christophe Marguet / Joel Ryan – For Flowers

In Claude Nuridsany and Marie Pérennou’s stunning 1996 film Microcosmos, the viewer is transported into a sublime space-time continuum thanks to the precision and patience of the filmmaking. All of that exotic natural minutiae typically trampled underfoot bloomed and burst into life before our eyes. Leandre’s ensemble on For Flowers performs the same kind of magical microscopy, gracefully delineating the subtle colors and movements of her plucked double-bass flora with an amplified sensuality that can only be called seductive. Leandre, with more than 80 recordings to her credit, culled these tracks from two performances in France. It’s another impressive installment in a career earmarked as much for its diversity as for its virtuosity. Of note is the effectiveness of Ryan’s computer-generated mirrors, cleverly reintroducing live sound back as treatments, imbuing the landscapes with moving shadows and hyperbolic echoes. There is little music as picturesque and strangely narrative as Leandre and company conjure on For Flowers.

Posted in Albums | Tagged , , ,

Review – Organum – Vacant Lights/Rara Avis

This review was published in Orlando Weekly as Organum‘s Vacant Lights/Rara Avis was being reissued as a combined CD on the venerable Die Stadt label.

Organum – Vacant Lights/Rara Avis

Vacant Lights/Rara Avis - Organum

Vacant Lights/Rara Avis – Organum

By Kelly Burnette

Few figures in contemporary music are as mysterious and opaque as David Jackman, the main force behind the extraordinary sound-experimentation unit Organum. This situation can be attributed to Jackman’s unfashionable reluctance to excessively theorize about his work. The music has every conceivable potential for critical abstraction, for grandiose statements all dolled up in the language of the avant-garde and post-free-jazz intellectual blather. But it is, in fact, a very simple music – one which, in Jackman’s own words, is humane.

The name Organum refers to a genre of Christian vocal music that evolved from unison chanting. Ostensibly, the direct link for Jackman between that music and Organum is his interest in drone. Though this affection is parlayed back into his work, the final sound rarely mirrors any of the more conventional forms of the genre.

Jackman’s involvement in the experimental music scene dates back to the seminal Scratch Orchestra, an incubator for some of experimental music’s liveliest minds. Among those who participated were writer/composer Michael Nyman (who has scored many Peter Greenaway films) and the core members of the vastly influential AMM. It was in this fertile atmosphere that the seeds for Organum were sown. For Jackman, making music is an intuitive process. As he stated in a 1988 interview with Unsound magazine, “Intentions, which are a sort of fantasy about a track, generally go out of the window pretty fast. I find that it’s no use in my trying to force sounds to fit ideas. Sounds have a life of their own which I have to respect if I’m going to get anything done.”

Indeed, the music is improvisational – a sort of extemporaneous process of inquiry. The sounds are often incidental or accidental, created with ordinary objects such as metals and bicycle wheels and sometimes punctuated with handmade bamboo flutes. Though one can sense within every Organum track a direction, the music seems to drive blindly ahead, careening outward along its edges. Its cohesiveness lies in texture more than any relationships of notes that may or may not happen. Now, with the Die Stadt label’s reissue of Organum’s most notable works, Vacant Lights (coupled with a disc of rarities, Rara Avis), an excellent entrée into Jackman’s soundworld has been provided. With collaborators like Jim O’Rourke and Steven Stapleton (Nurse With Wound) aboard, the sound is universal, sublime and undeniably unique.

Posted in Albums, Art, David Jackman, Music | Tagged , , , ,


As part of my selected retrospective, the following piece was written as a feature for The Orlando Weekly and published 8/12/2oo4 and dealt with, among other things, the MP3 and new distro channels, primarily for avant garde musicians or, to put it better, artists who don’t neatly fit into a box. It featured commentary by Vicki Bennett (People Like Us), Ergo Phizmiz, Kenny G of Ubuweb and Otis Fodder of the web label Comfort Stand. Among other issues, the article addressed the concepts of potlach/gift economy, the realization that outdated distribution, which never really benefited out-of-the-box artists anyway, needed to be dispensed with in favor of MP3 downloads to potentially expand the artist’s reach. It also touches on object fetishism and the whether or not a sound file, bereft of context or collateral materials can supply the listener with the necessary context to garner the full intended meaning of the work. Since its publication, many have opted for sites like Soundcloud and Bandcamp with the increasing acknowledgement that the old label system was often times a scam, took control away from the artist, often leaving him, her or them in debt to the company.


Beneath the turbulent and stormy woes of the modern music industry, the avant-garde underground – the true underground, really – has continued to plod along, partially immune from and partially impacted by the problems and solutions of its commercialized cousin. In a sense, much of the credit for the survival of this alternate universe can go to a contemporary extension of the ephemeral cassette-trading culture of the early- and mid-’80s that is still very much alive today, having carried over into cyberspace and the revolutionary MP3. In fact, that file format and the Internet through which it is transferred has – despite the problems inflicted on the mainstream music business – turned out to provide a sanctuary for artists struggling against the troubling state of distribution.

For an artist working on the (way) outside, conventional distribution has never been a reliable way to get material heard. Obviously, major label distribution has a chokehold on any material that gets to the major CD outlets and radio stations. So from the start, innovative and original voices clearly know they haven’t been and aren’t welcome in the mainstream – a situation with which, for the most part, the artists are content. As Kenneth Goldsmith of UbuWeb ( says, “Avant-garde art has never nor will [it] ever sell. UbuWeb is a distribution space for this sort of work.”

This distribution barrier affects nearly every conceivable genre of music which touts even an iota of innovation, and therefore affects any musician or artist with an interest in staking a claim to even the slightest deviation from formula. As the British neo-absurdist, cross-disciplinary bad boy Ergo Phizmiz contemplatively states, “The state of standard distribution is appalling. The entire music industry is stuck in a whole range of cul-de-sacs – music that doesn’t fit into preset genres [doesn’t get an opportunity].” Ergo Phizmiz recently released his new CD, a singular take on the Velvet Underground’s White Light/White Heat, at his website, He’s also published material at UbuWeb and Alt-X (

“The Internet has been responsible in many ways for me having a career at all,” exclaims Phizmiz. “The ease of contact with others and the advantage of having a website makes the work I’m producing accessible to a far wider audience than would have been possible otherwise.”

Although poor music-distribution practices are nothing new, the situation only seems to be getting worse. The odd thing is that there are more independent labels present today than ever before, but the glut of competition doesn’t necessarily assure one of either quality or diversity. If you track various labels’ schedules of releases you begin to see the same names popping up again and again. This is most likely to try to solidify sales with a proven name, but it does little to break any new ground. Meanwhile, the few independent distribution channels that do exist (such as Forced Exposure, Carrot Top and Revolver) become clogged up. As a result, distributors neglect to make payments to labels on time (or at all, in some cases), and the labels come and go quickly, particularly if they are run on a shoestring budget. More often than not, they are. The problems are myriad.

So if distribution channels for independent artists are failing, and truly off-the-radar material isn’t lucrative (or funded by grants), doesn’t it make sense to seek alternative methods of circulating material? It worked out for a number of artists in the early ’80s who, after releasing and trading cassettes, went on to sustained careers. However, the context of the cassette-trading culture was different. It was more autonomous than the ubiquitous Internet, and not blurred into a blatantly consumerist culture.

London-based audiovisual collagist Vicki Bennett (who records under the moniker People Like Us) recently released the material on her new CD, Abridged Too Far at UbuWeb. No stranger to providing her material as free downloads, Bennett claims in her press release that, “Given the poor state of music/media distribution for non-major-label music, People Like Us is favoring circulation of one’s work as the ultimate goal, in the belief that gift culture [economy] ultimately reaps as much, if not more rewards by reaching more people.” Bennett insists that in order to get the music to the public, one must identify who that public is and move the work to them. Given the substantial problems of distribution, she says, “One must adapt to that unless they have a lot of money and contacts. The way forward is to see what model exists in 2004 that effectively circulates information and get the [music] out there fast.”

A gift economy is a self-sustaining economic system in which participants give away things of value to the shared benefit of the community. Given the context of our profit-driven capitalist economy, it is a poignant question as to whether the rather utopian idealism of a gift economy can survive the increasingly commercial context of the Internet. Still, it’s an intriguing proposition, and one begging to be explored fully.

Sensing the inevitability of the Internet as an alternative distribution tool, several websites have popped up over the last decade or so that provide a centrality for these concerns. UbuWeb, Comfort Stand ( and the Internet Archive ( are but three of them, and all are glowing examples of the possibilities of the idea. Their interconnected existence and at times disparate content intimates a burgeoning, tangible counterculture existing in the anti-land of invisible cyberspace.


UbuWeb, which has been in existence since 1996, has morphed into something broader and more all-inclusive than originally envisioned. “Embracing the eclectic, it’s funny to see what now falls under the category of ‘avant-garde,'” says founder Goldsmith. “UbuWeb started out with more streamlined intentions and has, over its nearly 10 years of existence, moved to embrace those artworks which fall between genres. [The site was originally] devoted exclusively to visual and concrete poetry, but as bandwidth increased and materials started flying our way, we’ve moved toward becoming a clearinghouse for the avant-garde – whatever that might mean.

“Today we host everything from Simias Rhodius’s visual poem ‘Wings of Eros in Theocritus/Eidullia Theokritou Triakonta’ (1516) to Otis Fodder’s 365 Days Project, a massive collection of outsider music MP3s (2003). As with Napster, our statistics tell us that UbuWeb users are as likely to download a Renaissance visual poem as they would our MP3 of Louis Farrakhan singing ‘Is She Is, or Is She Ain’t?'”

Similarly eclectic, Otis Fodder’s remarkable Comfort Stand site remains a model of consistency for artists of all stripes to release work online. Fodder remarks, when asked about the motivation for the creation of his website, “A label had been in the planning for the past couple of years and a few business models were thought out, from a full label with product and distribution to a small CD-R-only label [to eventually] a ‘net label. Having dealt with distribution issues before [while] running my own independent label, and being an artist on several labels, I wanted to go the route of the ‘net label.”

Comfort Stand Recordings (2003-006

Comfort Stand Recordings (2003-006

Comfort Stand currently (at the time of this publication) has 54 releases in a variety of genres. Fodder, an acknowledged supporter of music activism, is no stranger to the problems of the industry. While he concedes that there are competent (if structurally flawed) distribution companies in existence, he notes the potential fallout from the recent merger of Sony and BMG, explaining that, “This merger will mean many bands [will be] cut and distribution, once again, is controlled by lesser sources who have the money to do so. What does this mean for independent bands and labels? Well, they get screwed. It’s not a fair, competitive marketplace. It’s hard for new bands and small distribution companies to survive.”

Pointing to the often interdependent nature of the free online-media construct, Comfort Stand’s files are hosted by the incomparable Internet Archive. Far from merely being an outlet for sound, the Internet Archive is actually a public nonprofit founded to build an Internet library. As part of their multimedia collection, the archive provides a central outlet for ‘net labels to congregate, making the search for online material more accessible while providing the backbone of a solid philosophy of free cultural exchange, augmented by the legal support of The Creative Commons (


There are fundamental differences between the traditional formats of media consumption and the MP3 revolution. Proponents of the new formats must contend with the familiar habits of fetishization – the ingrained desire to possess a physical item with which you have something to show for the money and time you’ve spent. Often, and surprisingly, even the fact that these downloads are free does not overcome the lure of the object. Furthermore, there are elements of packaging that cannot be convincingly reproduced digitally. In an interview in the May issue of The Wire magazine, Andrew McKenzie of Hafler Trio said that, for him, people who make MP3s of his material are pursuing a useless endeavor, implying that the accompanying material (art, liner notes, etc.) are as important as the sound itself to the overall meaning of the work. “It’s like pulling every other page out of a book,” he contends, noting his displeasure.

This position mirrors trademark squabbles about authorial intent, and one can arrive restlessly at either side of the argument. Kenneth Goldsmith, in an attempt to lend definition and meaning to the elusive nature of MP3s, states, “In thinking about the way that UbuWeb (and many other types of file-sharing systems) distribute their wares, I’ve come up with a term: nude media. What I mean by this is that once, say, an MP3 file is downloaded from the context of a site such as UbuWeb, it’s free or naked, stripped bare of the normative external signifiers that tend to give as much meaning to an artwork as the contents of the artwork itself. Unadorned with branding or scholarly liner notes, emanating from no authoritative source, these objects are nude, not clothed. Thrown into open peer-to-peer distribution systems, nude media files often lose even their historical significance and blur into free-floating sound works, traveling in circles that they would not normally reach if clad in their conventional clothing.”

More than a simple defrocking of context, the MP3 actually opens up multiple contexts simultaneously occurring with none. In the end, the choice of final meaning is up to the listener. As well, whether packaged in a jewel case or recorded onto a hard drive as a series of ones and zeroes, the ultimate decision about “context” falls to the listener anyway. There will always be those who cannot immediately embrace a new technology as being legitimate, yet this new method of distribution is not meant to be a replacement or proxy for older methods and more tried channels. Its existence is simply an alternative.

Posted in Albums, Art, Kelly Burnette, Music, Ubuweb | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Facebook: Revolution Without A Revolution

“By re-imagining users as the nodal points on a vast, non-hierarchical, decentered network, the very structuration of the system has become celebrated as a return to democracy. Yet following our argument above, we wish to suggest that Facebook is a form of “revolution without a revolution” [5] which is precisely why it has proved so influential to recent political uprisings that follow the same model, replacing one ideology with another that bears structural similarities to liberal democracy. Facebook might now be said to be both the medium and technology of that ideology, where the medium is not representative but now constitutive of the ideology itself. ”

From “The Desire Network” by Maria-Daniella Dick and Robbie McLaughlan


Posted in Theory | Tagged , , ,

DECAYKE: Issue 2.5 with Dan Melchior, Metal Rouge and Emerald Cocoon, Twegen Tu and Ace Farren Ford

In keeping with trying to stay with the idea of webzine issues, I’m trying a little experiment here. The In-Betweenzine.


1. The Wit Of Dan Melchior’s Spiral Staircase

2. Twegen Tu – A Look Back At An Overlooked Release

3. A Blorp’d Ninety-Foot Tall Jello Baby Drunk On Yoyler Dan’s Curiously Gluey Spider Milk – REDUX – Ace Farren Ford Speaks Plainly

4. Some Thoughts On Metal Rouge’s Latest LP “Soft Erase”

5. Together In The Darkness – Emerald Cocoon’s Alone/Together Series

6. Meanwhile Back At The Rabbit Hutch

7. The Decline Of Capitalism – Photography by Mark Lunt

Posted in "Noise, Albums, Anti-Art, Art, Dan Melchior, Los Angeles Free Music Society, Music, Psychedelic | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Foggy Notions: Plans Underway For Regensis.

While Decayke itself is pretty much kaput, I do have plans on another project, which will begin with an interview here with San Diego psychedelic cult leader and interstitial whiz kid, Eyeball Jackson. Tentatively, that interview will be the final one of Decayke and the first of the new zine, as yet untitled.

I hesitate to become too ambitious, but ideally I would like to pick up where I left off. However, I do not know if that will be feasible at this time or not. In any case, the new project definitely involves plans for a physical presence in the real world  and this online tangent being not merely a moon of it. Stay tuned.

Posted in Uncategorized