Sunday, March 30, 2014

Over The Hill (Halfway): My Life in Records According to 1994 (Part 2)

Four more...

As I've been delving into all of this personal history (or old CDs), some of which I haven't revisited in ages, it's apparent which albums have held up in my mind versus those that haven't.  This has proven both interesting and disappointing depending on what I've listened to.  In some ways this sort of makes me regret my decision to reexamine these albums, their impact permanent despite my new assessments.  You sort of go, "Huh...  I wonder why this was such a big deal."  Naturally, exposure humbles your opinions with regard to your milestone records.  Age does, too.  At 17, my musical world tiny next to where I am at 37, I definitely interpreted these releases differently.  But, like I said, some have held up.  For that, I'm grateful.

Nine Inch NailsThe Downward Spiral
When Trent Reznor released the Broken EP, which was much more of a metallic and guitar-driven affair than Pretty Hate Machine had been, I was really into this evolution and figured this was where he would take The Downward Spiral, once word of its imminent arrival had spread throughout the pages of Rolling Stone and SPIN.  Guitars were doing more for me at the time than keyboards, even if Reznor's use of the instrument resulted in something attractively dark, his mechanized environs pointing toward a void of humanity, which I found enjoyable.  Inasmuch as "Head Like A Hole" justified my self-absorbed teenage want of independence, ("I'd rather die, than give you control!"), I found the distortions emanating from "Wish" enthralling and wanted a long player to carry out this direction.  The Downward Spiral, though, turned out to be an excessively wired treatise on sexual tension, nihilism and personal dismay, which managed to align with just about every thought, insecurity and instance of physical longing I was experiencing at the time.  Reznor could plainly express something as blunt and perverse as "I wanna fuck you like an animal" and somehow jumpstart the reproductive works within the bods of every of teenage girl I knew at the time, an enviable position that I certainly had not the balls nor status to ever hope to attain.  Such declarations from my mouth would've earned me a slap across the face.  I eventually discovered the word "charisma," gleaned its definition and realized it was not a word that applied to me.  (Not sure it ever has, to be honest.)   

But, the album:

While for me Nine Inch Nails hasn't translated too well past Y2K, listening to The Downward Spiral now is different.  Whatever old feelings had manifested while running through its 65 minutes notwithstanding, Reznor's talent for arrangement is much more apparent.  While the novelty of a song like "Closer" still remains permanently fixed at its point of reference, the smaller moments in songs like "March of the Pigs," "The Becoming" and "The Ruiner" grabbed most of my attention this time around.  While "March of the Pigs" remains as much of a kick in the head as ever, its momentary lapse of piano ("Now doesn't that make you feel better?") a perfect, sarcastic little jingle that I can appreciate more now.  The acoustic shifts in "The Becoming" are conversely serene next to the song's intensity and the live instrumentation brought into "The Ruiner" as some analog component fits in unexpectedly well.  

The doom behind "Reptile" still resonates.  It's a song that I'd put on more than a couple mixtapes and it still sounds vast and explosive through a set of headphones.


I remember making many copies of Soundgarden's Superunknown for friends of mine, happily distributing them with "you're gonna love it" certainty.  Even before hindsight proved as much, Superunknown felt like a big album, a then new world application of the classic rock paradigm finding relevance in a 90s "alternative" album.  It's long and grand, accessible but still loud enough to appeal to those of us who were above that sort of "mainstream bullshit."  And, part of the reason I put Superunknown in the same league as something like Zeppelin IV is that this was one of the only albums my Dad ever listened to without argument.  Even that ever-reliable and dismissing babyboomer superiority eased up just enough to appreciate what was going on and, like all classic rock, FM radio has more or less driven Superunknown into the ground so much it no longer means anything.  Kind of like "Stairway to Heaven."  Kind of like "Iron Man."  And, I forgot how many singles this album would eventually boast. (Fucking FIVE!!!)  

While the singles might now represent the album's weakest moments, "Fell On Black Days" and "My Wave" still sound great.  I can't say the same for "Spoonman" or "Black Hole Sun," the latter forever associated with a "Pleasant Valley Sunday"-styled suburbia depicted in the track's video, its populace altered by stretched mouths and growing eyes.

The song, though, that made the album for me were the sludgy crawl of both "Mailman" and "4th of July," not to mention the harmonic guitar phrases Kim Thayil performs in "Limo Wreck," which were particularly affecting this time around.  Not sure why I didn't appreciate them as much when I was younger.  Also, Matt Cameron's drum combos in "Head Down" are perfectly relentless.  My favorite track on Superunknown, though, remains "Fresh Tendrils."  It has my favorite vocal melody employed by Chris Cornell.  The song still makes my blood turns to ice.


PanteraFar Beyond Driven
It could be said that there wasn't much room for thrash metal in the early nineties while "alternative rock" was king, but Pantera managed to transcend the climate and somehow embedded themselves within the era.  Far Beyond Driven isn't something I can listen to often, as it conjures unpleasant memories and feelings I'd rather forget.  The album is an intense, artfully brutal masterwork that's had me forever hold Dimebag Darrell, Phil Anselmo, Rex Brown and Vinnie Paul in the highest regard.  From the introductory snarl of Dimebag's six string in "Strength Beyond Strength" to the runaway drum sounds during the middle of "Slaughtered," Far Beyond Driven boasted the highest payoffs, the sweetest drum fills, some incredible guitar work and pinnacle performance from Anselmo.  "25 Years" was the offering with which I could most identify, its second half a monument to confessional styled rage.


Rollins BandWeight
I refer to Rollins Band's Weight as "the one with the hit."  Following the personal revelation that was for the band's 1992 release, The End of Silence, Weight was an album I'd eagerly anticipated and grew with for most of the year.  While it's since become one of my least favorite Rollins Band releases, songs like "Disconnect," "Civilized" and "Liar" sounding rather thin next to some of the more deranged and heavy-hitting songs featured in Weight's predecessor (not to mention the extraordinarily abrasive Life Time and Hard Volume), it's still a solid album, though I find the second half to be its most engaging.  "Volume 4" is an amplified sludge quake on par with the band's more metallic output and "Alien Blueprint" is perfectly energized, guitarist Chris Haskett's tone remarkably clean.  The addition of bassist Melvin Gibbs provided more of a funk sensibility, very prevelant in "Alien Blueprint" and the album's closing track, "Shine."  It was the first Rollins Band album I'd heard that didn't end in a flurry of sonic eruption and Henry Rollins' mic-as-catharsis screaming, which might've seemed a letdown at the time.

Letters From A Tapehead

Monday, March 24, 2014

Daughter of a Tapehead: S.O.A.

First Demo 12/29/80
Dischord Records
Released: 3.14

*Genuine shock.
**Despite my daughter's reservations, First Demo 12/29/80 is completely worth picking up for any fans of D.C. hardcore and, in my opinion, trumps in many ways the performances in the No Policy EP.  

Letters From A Tapehead

No Ripcord: Liars

Released: 3.24.14

Letters From A Tapehead

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

What I Heard This Morning: Bo Ningen

So, Boris and Boredoms dosing Leary style?  Bo Ningen's new single, "DaDaDa," is a rapid, thick mass of guitar noise and vocal melody that caught me by surprise.  Colorful.  Very colorful.  Very loud.  I think it's pretty cool so, if that means anything, please give "DaDaDa" a listen.

Bo Ningen's new album is III and it will be out May 20th on Stolen Recordings.  Tour dates and release info are provided by PIAS. 

Bo Ningen Announce New Album Details + US/UK Tour Dates

Artist: Bo Ningen
Title: III
Release Date: May 20th (US) / May 13th (UK/ROW)
Cat. No. : SR077 CD / double LP / download
Label: Stolen Recordings 

Bo Ningen's third album III will be released by Stolen Recordings on May 20th, 2014 (May 13th in UK/ROW). It is a rich and accomplished album that has seen them evolve musically. Collaborations with Jehnny Beth of Savages and Roger Robinson of King Midas Sound feature and they've sung partly in English for the first time. The album was recorded over several months with the band spending more time on the production and development of the songs. III illustrates Bo Ningen as a group with a singular vision, reaching for what they define as 'pure music', by turns esoteric and a no holds barred sensory assault.

UK and US tour dates have now been confirmed – full details below. Having recently played SXSW, Bo Ningen tour the US in April, the UK in May and play Coachella festival amongst many others this year. They will also be performing an in-store at Rough Trade NY on April 27th.

Album is available for pre-order:

Lead track here: "DaDaDa"

April US Tour Dates
April 13th Coachella Festival
April 15th Los Angeles, CA, The Roxy
April 20th Coachella Festival
April 22nd Cambridge, MA, TT The Bear
April 25th Brooklyn, NY, Knitting Factory
April 27th Brooklyn, NY, Rough Trade Instore
April 29th Philladelphia, PA, Kung Fu Necktie
April 30th Baltimore, MD,Ottobar

May UK Tour Dates
May 7th London,Heaven
May 8th Bristol,Thekla
May 9th Birmingham, Hare & Hounds
May 10th Leeds, Cockpit 2
May 12th Manchester, Deaf Institute
May 13th Glasgow, King Tut's
May 14th Liverpool, East Village Arts Club
May 15th Nottingham,Bodega
May 17th Southampton, Joiners
May 18th Brighton, The Haunt

Bo Ningen are:
Taigen - vocals /bass
– guitar
Kohhei – guitar
Mon Chan

Letters From A Tapehead

Buzz Osbourne: "Dark Brown Teeth"

Melvins Unplugged... 

I, like many of you following the ever-prolific and constancy of the Melvins, have been hearing of this Buzz Osbourne acoustic work.  I hadn't posted anything because I wanted to hear something before fashioning any opinion.  So, Rolling Stone posted this "Dark Brown Teeth" track, which is characteristically aggro.  He maintains a good level of energy, managing to tone it down without betraying his Buzz-ness.  It's pretty cool. 

The album is called This Machine Kills Artists and it's out on Ipecac.  It's out June 3rd.  All info comes courtesy of Speakeasy PR & Marketing.

Photo credit: Mackie Osborne


Los Angeles, March 18, 2014 - Buzz Osborne, the legendary grunge progenitor who has helmed the Melvins for thirty plus years, releases his debut solo full-length album, This Machine Kills Artists, on June 3 via Ipecac Recordings.

"I have no interest in sounding like a crappy version of James Taylor or a half-assed version of Woody Guthrie," said the grunge progenitor of the 17-song offering, continuing, "which is what happens when almost every rock and roller straps on an acoustic guitar. No thanks... This Machine Kills Artists is a different kind of animal."

Rolling Stone gave listeners early access to music from Osborne's acoustic release, premiering the song "Dark Brown Teeth": The magazine described the song as
"doomy, ill-angled" and with the "Beefheartian edge his band is renown for."

Osborne is currently touring for the first time as a solo artist, wrapping up a three-week trek that included a SXSW interview session with The Stooges' James Williamson. Remaining dates are: March 20 at Zanzabar in Louisville, March 21 at Radio Radio in Indianapolis, March 22 at Beat Kitchen in Chicago and March 23 at the High Noon Saloon in Madison. An extensive North American tour kicking off in June will be announced shortly.

This Machine Kills Artists track listing:
Dark Brown Teeth
Rough Democracy
Laid Back Walking
Drunken Baby
Vaulting Over A Microphone
New River
The Vulgar Joke
Everything's Easy For You
The Ripping Driving
How I Became Offensive
Instrument of God
The Spoiled Brat
Illegal Mona
Good and Hostile
The Blithering Idiot
Useless King of the Punks
The Hesitation Twist 

Letters From A Tapehead

Monday, March 17, 2014

Scott Asheton (1949-2014)

From Iggy Pop's Facebook page:

My dear friend Scott Asheton passed away last night.

Scott was a great artist, I have never heard anyone play the drums with more meaning than Scott Asheton. He was like my brother. He and Ron have left a huge legacy to the world. The Ashetons have always been and continue to be a second family to me.

My thoughts are with his sister Kathy, his wife Liz and his daughter Leanna, who was the light of his life.

Iggy Pop

Scott Asheton, founding member and drummer of The Stooges, has passed away at 64.  He's followed his brother, Ron, who died in 2009


While Iggy Pop remains one of the greatest frontmen in rock 'n roll's history, he had the brothers Asheton powering his every utterance with sonic manna from some perverse nether-heaven, guitar work that could slice through steal and a snare hit that rattled senses.  Scott and Ron both changed the game, nailing the lid shut on the 60s and providing a template for what would become punk rock music.  I'm typing nothing that's not already well-known to those of us that have fully absorbed The Stooges (1969), Fun House (1970) and Raw Power (1973), a trio of rock n' roll perfection that continues to inspire and should be played for the extent of the day at full volume in tribute to one of the players that made them possible.


If there's a heaven, it has a garage, some amps and is now privileged to house another of rock's real deals. 

R.I.P., Scott Asheton. 

Letters From A Tapehead

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Over The Hill (Halfway): My Life in Records According to 1994 (Part 1)

I'm not big on nostalgia.  At least, not normally.

It's rare that I bask in the warm glow of fond remembrances or gaze at photos or relics of my youth satisfied with the experiences they depict or the joyous interactions we've shared.  The past for me is empty and I find myself looking ahead most of the time as the unchanging and meaninglessness of yesterday falls deeper and deeper from the grasp of recollection.  Any time I've allowed myself even a second's worth of self-examination via personal history, I wind up irretrievably sunk into a vast network of "what ifs," rethinking my way out of mistakes I've made, pissed off at being young and stupid and incapable of doing things differently.  Truth be told, childhood and adolescence were both obstacles for me, something that had to be negotiated and worked through before being finally rewarded with adulthood.  There wasn't much to enjoy about being young.  I wanted autonomy.  I don't envy the young.  I never have.  I never will.

Having said all that, youth does have its benefits.  The only thing I truly miss about my youth, especially my adolescence, is being relevant and current to my era's music.  This is when albums become YOUR albums.  I would love to be able to experience music like a kid, again.  I would love to have that visceral, life-altering engagement with an album, to be fully shaken to my core and made to see the world differently.  As an adult, I'm no more than an appreciator.  As a kid, I was the demographic, I was affected.  Filing through the CDs I'd acquired in 1994, which wound up a less-than-diverse grouping of albums that I'd listened to extensively over the course of that year, (and in some cases, beyond), was met with both feelings of elation and heartache.  1994 wasn't a great year for me personally, although it was a great year for discovery.  And, because my own life was met with a series of ups and downs, much of what I'd listened to became both therapeutic and cathartic, my company through many lonely nights and my means of escape.  Consequently, many of these albums have become difficult to consider without their contextual and personal connections to me.

My copy of Jar Of Flies by Alice In Chains with the Wall-To-Wall guarantee proudly affixed.

But, aside from where I was in '94, where was music?  Oasis and Blur were happening, though neither were relevant to me at the time.  Kurt Cobain had offed himself, which signaled the beginning of the end as far as "alternative music" was concerned.  His death also meant that every Wall-To-Wall Sound & Video was ready with every Nirvana album they could stock, priced to gouge because you really needed that $16.99 copy of the "Magnolia" single.  As if in the midst of eulogizing the newly grief-stricken "alternative nation," Green Day released Dookie, which led to a very weak punk rock "renaissance" that was cynically appropriated by record execs and a host of emerging/reemerging punk bands.  Direct beneficiaries of this disingenuous trend, The Offspring released its hit-riddled album Smash and "Self Esteem" consequently remains a staple of FM rock radio to this day.  And, Korn's self-titled debut hit the shelves, which inevitably spawned more over-the-counterculture mall rock bullshit than one thought possible and more or less tainted the latter half of the decade.  I'll fully admit that I'd completely bought into that sales pitch myself, resulting in a bad stretch for me musically.  I'll still give Korn's first album some credit, even if I'll never listen to it again.

I learned more about hip hop later, so apologies for leaving out Nas, Method Man and Murder Was The Case.

Here's what I was listening to:

Okay, so I'm not starting off with a favorite.

Cleansing was my first and last foray into the very simplistic and mostly dry Prong, who with this release sounded like they were heavy into the industrialized traits brought to the spotlight by Ministry, Nine Inch Nails and KMFDM.  It's a very thin album and revisiting something as diabolically corny as "Broken Peace" made me question why this album still resides in my library.  Still, I remember "Cut-Rate" made it onto more than a couple of mixtapes I'd crafted back then, so it's not as if Cleansing was completely bereft of merit.


Alice In ChainsJar Of Flies EP
I didn't begin with Facelift or Dirt.  Instead, I waited on acquiring any Alice In Chains albums until Jar Of Flies was released, which is a mostly acoustic seven-song EP that convinced me of the band's worth and remains one of my true favorites of the decade.  I remember seeing the very gnarly, crudely animated "I Stay Away" video, falling in love with Layne Staley's shrill lead into the hook, plus that beautiful phrase Jerry Cantrell uses to introduce the song, and just NEEDING to own this album.  I was late to the game with Alice In Chains, most of my friends having already allowed "Man in the Box" and "Them Bones" to resonate well enough to warrant knowledge of the two albums (and two other EPs) I'd skipped.  I'm happy I started here, though.


Green DayDookie
Yeah, I know, I know.  In the early 90s, Kerplunk was a standard topic amongst skateboarding folk and I was still desperately seeking membership.  When I saw a new Green Day CD available, a band I'd only known at that point from a song in a skateboarding video, I figured I'd give it a shot.  I don't remember "Longview" being a hit at the time, so I'd no preview of its contents to consider.  I don't even think I'd seen any printed reviews, as I would routinely scour through back issues of Rolling Stone and SPIN at my high school's library during study hall.  I had no prior wisdom to help me qualify my purchase other than occasional references in Transworld SKATEboarding or Thrasher.  I bought a promo copy of Dookie from my then-favorite record store, Record Revival, which was located inside the Quakertown Farmer's Market. I was there just about every other weekend when I would visit my Dad.  Prices weren't ridiculous and you could usually find what you were looking for.

So, Dookie...

I wanted something aggressive and Green Day didn't deliver.  They had speed (some of the time) and attitude (very tame), but pop sensibilities that notably surpassed some of the more sugarcoated moments in Nirvana's Nevermind, (of which there were many).  Initially, I liked the album and I still consider some of it worthwhile, ("When I Come Around" will bounce within your head for days), but it just wasn't what I was looking for and it became very stale.  At some point, I put the CD away and never cracked it open again.  I finally pulled it from my collection a couple years ago and exchanged it for new music.


JawboxFor Your Own Special Sweetheart
It dawned on me while making this list of albums that Record Revival was a key resource for many of my findings.  My introduction to Jawbox for instance was a $4 EP, Savory + 3, which had been in heavy rotation through much of '94.  And, while I'd had my sights on it for some time, I didn't have a copy of For Your Own Special Sweetheart until late December, either a Christmas or birthday gift.  It was given to me by my brother, who shares in my love of this album and the preceding EP. 

Jawbox were yet another post-Nirvana major label signing, leaving Dischord behind after a two-album stretch.  I consider, with no hesitation, For Your Own Special Sweetheart to be one of the best albums ever made, regardless of era.  Every riff or bass phrase, every chord in either its sharply askew or rapidly loose articulation, songs from the clattering arrangements of "Savory" and "Cruel Swing" to the attempted delicacy of "Cooling Card" and "Whitney Walks," it's a perfect rock album from start to finish.  To have lived when I could call this album my own is reason enough to be happy I grew up when I did.


Beastie BoysIll Communication/Some Old Bullshit
A summer soundtrack like no other.  "Sabotage" was always on the radio and its video, helmed by Spike Jonze, seemed MTV's lifeblood at the time. Following Paul's Boutique, Beastie Boys had managed to carve out this interesting and strange punk rock/hip hop niche through which they could continue to rhyme and steal while both revisiting their roots in hardcore and composing funk and groove-based instrumentals.  Ill Communication was the second of these releases, (the more mature progression of Check Your Head's formula), to cultivate this highly diverse, yet somehow cohesive, dialect which became quintessentially "them."  For all my "older is better" grandstanding earlier in this entry, Ill Communication is one album that makes me long for youth, its feel permanently affixed to the frame of mind I would experience from time to time: When things felt alright; when the sun was shining and the warm air felt invigorating.

As far Some Old Bullshit, I'd remembered hearing some of the Pollywog Stew EP from a friend who'd owned it on cassette.  While I would never say that the Beastie Boys really excelled at hardcore, (though I still enjoy listening to Aglio e Olio from time to time), it was a good novelty item.  Plus, with regard to "Cooky Puss," the band's early experimentation with record scratching and the hijinx of prank phone calls were damn amusing.

More to come.

Letters From A Tapehead

Friday, March 07, 2014

The Mailbox Giveth: The Unsemble

The Unsemble
Ipecac Recordings
Released:  3.4.14

Peaks and valleys and whatever's in between, it could be that a collaboration joining members of some of the strangest and most aggressive acts to exist in the last thirty years builds up expectations to a summit that's impossible to reach.  It could also just be the nature of improvisation, that whatever develops naturally between those involved won't always garner applause or the complete and total sum of a listener's attention or appreciation.  I'll admit that I was convinced I'd fall in love with The Unsemble, whose combination of both composed and improv'd instrumentals resulted in an album that's been growing on me steadily.  And while I've been able to enjoy it more as I've listened, its compositional strengths point out somewhat of a flaw in its making: that when the band isn't working within an established and tangible construct, it seems to fall short in nurturing spur of the moment ideas.

The Unsemble is a trio comprised of Duane Denison (The Jesus Lizard, Tomahawk), Alexander Hacke (Einstürzende Neubauten) and Brian Kotzur (Silver Jews) and this self-titled album documents, for each member, new territory.  For Denison and Hacke especially, the tendency to alienate or corrupt via guitar riffs or aurally corrosive machinery aren't part of the plan.  Instead, the trio realize a vision uniting the play of experimentation while incorporating instrumental passages that are musically sound, though repetitious.  They don't quite take themselves to the level of progressive, nor do they really fiddle with ambient tonalities or erratic noise. Overall, The Unsemble plays with little to no distortion, clean bass riffs when given focus (as in the excellent "Act 3"), melodic keys and rhythms that almost qualify as "catchy."  While "Circles" percussively drops like dead weight on every accent Denison plucks on his guitar, its mood somewhat severe, the song never leaps into some dissonant or highly amplified enclave where heads bang and ears bleed.  Instead, you get sleek funk-driven periods of cool ("Act 3"), noir'ish post-rock of almost the Mogwai variety ("Neon"), quietly rumbling interactions with high strings ("Waves") and sweetly rendered rock music ("Cyclone").  While "Shadows" takes on characteristics better associated with Tomahawk's debut release (s/t, 2001), the volume is still reasonably tied to the rest of the album's composed entries.

The improvisational moments act as pop length interludes, semi-realized interactions that permit the band a looser, more primitive means of expression.  What some of these pieces have going for them, (many of them simply being numbered variations that are less-than-creatively titled "Improv"), is that they do a good job of setting up the album's stronger offerings.  "Krishna," as the album's No Wave Lite introduction, is short and sweet and mostly reveals the type of experimentation The Unsemble pursues throughout the album.  "Improve 1" nicely precedes "Act 3," tom rumblings and aimless sounds enhancing the very direct, bass-driven instrumental.  "Chaingang" rattles as guitar notes are picked, a bass throb resigned to apply some motion.

As the album sequentially relies upon the improv tracks to break up its more composed offerings, it's as if their true purpose is to fill out the album in a very formulaic way, which seems to discount the band's intent to ad-lib musically.  I almost think consolidating the five "Improv" tracks would've been a more interesting approach, creating a centerpiece with which to both anchor The Unsemble's more musical treatments and lighten up the filler.

Having said that, the album, while not consistently cohesive, still boasts enough high marks to be deemed worth a listen.  If nothing else, for fans of The Jesus Lizard, Einstürzende Neubauten and Silver Jews, you get to enjoy a new creative partnership that inspires something other than what you're accustomed to.

Letters From A Tapehead

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Singles: Pattern Is Movement, La Sera, Lark, Kairos, Odonis Odonis, North, The Socks, Pontiak, Red Fang

Pattern Is Movement: "Climb To Me" (via Force Field PR/Stereogum/Soundcloud)

La Sera: "Losing to the Dark" (via Force Field PR/Soundcloud)

Lark: "Goodbye Man" (via Care in the Community Records/Soundcloud)

Kairos: "Can/Cannot" (via Fin Records/Soundcloud)

Odonis Odonis: "Angus Mountain" (via Force Field PR/Buzz Records/Noisey/Soundcloud)

North: "Hiraeth" (via Earsplit PR/Cvlt Nation/Soundcloud)

The Socks: "Electric War" (via Earsplit PR/Heavy Planet Stoner Rock Blog/Soundcloud)

Pontiak: "We've Got It All Wrong" (via Thrill Jockey Records/Viemo)
Pontiak - We've Got It Wrong from Thrill Jockey Records on Vimeo.

Red Fang: "No Hope" (via Relapse Records/Gear Gods/YouTube)

Letters From A Tapehead

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

What I Heard This Morning: Can Can Heads

Good evening,

Have you ever listened to Bells by Albert Ayler?  It was recorded live in the mid-60s, twenty minutes of formless, twitchy, excited and intense saxophone blasts delivered unto thee by ESP.  It's not for everyone and it's also not something I can treat myself to on a daily basis.  I decided to revisit the album today, though, after I heard "Breakdiscodance" from the Finnish punk jazz outfit known as Can Can Heads.

Ayler and The Untouchables, maybe some aural toxicity resultant from a violent fluid exchange between James Chance and The Mae Shi, Can Can Heads exude a heavy bass rhythm and the solid shriek of wild brass that recounts elements of No Wave and Free Jazz.

The band is releasing its sophomore release, Butter Life, later this March.  The band's first release, Headcracking Lifestyle, came out in 1999. 

Can Can Heads - Breakdiscodance from Tomi Nuotio on Vimeo.

Letters From A Tapehead

Nomeansno: "Dance of the Headless Bourgeoisie"

Good afternoon,

Southern Records has been on a reissue tear over the last two or three years, pushing out classics from Crass (in conjunction with Crass Records), Rudimentary Peni and Nomeansno.  April 28th will see the reemergence of Nomeansno's Dance of the Headless Bourgeoisie, which originally released by Alternative Tentacles in 1998.  The social commentary is still biting, wildly pronounced by Nomeansno's brand of sardonic candor and propulsive funk.  Post 9/11 it's hard to imagine the terrorist bent of the title track flying nowadays without prompting some kind of response from the "persecuted" wealthy in the U.S., but there's safety in obscurity I guess.  

Information on the reissue arrived courtesy of Rarely Unable. 



“...well you know what they say. The world wasn’t built in a day.” - Nomeansno

Originally released in 1998 on double LP and CD by Alternative Tentacles, Dance Of The Headless Bourgeoisie was reissued on CD on the band’s own Wrong Records in 2004, but it’s taken them a while to get around to a vinyl reissue. Now Nomeansno fans the world over finally have the chance to enjoy the album in its full gatefold glory.

The tenth album from Nomeansno was, and still is, a groundbreaking exploration of social and political lyrical statements and post-punk musical workouts. Back in the day, confused people liked to call this “jazz-punk” or “jazzcore” because it involved more than three chords, time changes and slow parts. It still sounds like nothing else, comfortably in a league of its own, chock-full of both celebratory and angry sounds, with a smart lyrical lurch, and enough sharp musical turns to cause severe dizziness.

Released in conjunction with Southern Records, Dance Of The Headless Bourgeoisie will get the double 180-gram vinyl gatefold treatment with an mp3 download card included.

A1. This Story Must Be Told
A2. Going Nowhere
A3. I'm An Asshole
A4. Disappear

B1. Dance Of The Headless Bourgeoisie
B2. The World Wasn't Built In A Day

C1. I Can't Stop Talking
C2. The Rape
C3. Give Me The Push

D1. One Fine Day
D2. Youth
D3. Life-like

Letters From A Tapehead

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

RSD 4.19: More releases announced from Sub Pop, Thrill Jockey and James Williamson

Good afternoon readers,

It's possible that this news has already coursed through the navigable and applicable avenues of the world wide web and that my efforts are largely redundant at this point. However, as I'm one to promote the ever more cynical motivation behind Record Store Day and those lovely little exclusives that eBay will subsist upon from late April till Christmastime, I'm going to waste your time and mention this shit anyway. If you choose to read, hope this is helpful.

This first round of release info was provided by Sub Pop:

Sub Pop Makes Record Store Day 2014 Worth Living

Mudhoney On Top: KEXP Presents Mudhoney Live on Top of the Space Needle LP
Pissed Jeans: The Very Best of Sub Pop 2009-2013: Live at the BBC 12” EP
Chad VanGaalen “I Want You Back” 7” Single
The Notwist “Run Run Run” 12” Single

Herewith, details on Sub Pop’s elaborate and ingenious plans for Record Store Day 2014: a quartet of limited-edition releases comprised of two singles, one EP and a full-length-er, all of which will be available for what we are really hoping is a short-ish period of time on Saturday, April 19th at participating retailers. The list of releases includes:
Mudhoney On Top: KEXP Presents Mudhoney Live on Top of the Space Needle LP: In 2013 both Mudhoney and Sub Pop turned 25, and, in celebration of this milestone, the band performed on the actual roof of Seattle’s iconic and also very tall Space Needle. Due to space limitations up on top, and the obvious safety issues involved, only about 13 people were able to bear witness to this performance (and you can hear each of them, clapping individually between songs). Our friends at KEXP recorded and broadcast this monumentally historic event, and this limited-edition vinyl LP preserves it for eternity. Limited to 2,700 copies worldwide. Pissed Jeans The Very Best of Sub Pop 2009-2013: Live at the BBC 12” EP: Here are four live-in-the-studio tracks that (finally!) give meaning and validation to Sub Pop’s existence. This historic platter is limited to 3,000 copies worldwide, and these versions of the tracks are exclusive to this release.

Chad VanGaalen “I Want You Back” 7” Single: This single features four new tracks from the Calgary artist’s vault of unheard music. Exactly none of these tracks appear on Chad's forthcoming album,
Shrink Dust (out 4/29 on Sub Pop!). The dare-we-say incredible cover art is by Chad himself. Limited to 2,300 copies worldwide.

The Notwist “Run Run Run” 12” Single: “Run Run Run” is from the band’s just-released album,
Close to the Glass, and this single also includes three more, unreleased tracks: one new song, and two exclusive remixes of “Run Run Run.” Both sides of the record feature a special double groove, with each parallel groove containing a different song. Limited to 1,900 copies worldwide.

Please find a complete list of individual release details below.

On Top: KEXP Presents Mudhoney Live on Top of the Space Needle
LP only / Limited Edition of 2,700

1. Touch Me I’m Sick
2. I’m Now
3. The Final Course
4. Into the Drink
5. Chardonnay
6. Who You Drivin’ Now?
7. What to Do With the Neutral
8. I Don’t Remember You
9. Suck You Dry
10. The Only Son of the Widow From Nain

Pissed Jeans
The Very Best of Sub Pop 2009-2013: Live at the BBC
12” EP / Limited Edition of 3,000

1. Romanticize Me
2. False Jesii Pt. 2
3. Cafeteria Food
4. Teenage Adult

Chad VanGaalen
“I Want You Back”
7” Single / Limited Edition of 2,300

1. I Want You Back
2. Candle
3. It Must Be Alright
4. She Calls for Me

The Notwist
“Run Run Run”
12” Single / Limited Edition of 1,900

1. Run Run Run
2. Run Run Run (Ada remix)
3. Magnificent Fall
4. Into Another Tune (Nuel remix)


 The following items were submitted by Thrill Jockey Records:

A Minor Forest reissue two classic albums for Record Store Day

Alexander Tucker reissues his self-titled debut on vinyl for the first time / Instore at Flashback Records

Glenn Jones will release an EP of live selections and one lost track

Record Store Day is Saturday, 19th April 2014

"… look at how much of the San Francisco trio's legacy has been ratified and perpetuated by indie-rock posterity: Hypnotically slithery emo jangle? Check. Appealingly disruptive math-spazz freakouts? Check. Twitchy dynamic shifts under drawling voice recordings? Check. Exquisitely crass song titles? Check" - SF Weekly

A Minor Forest's two classic albums, Flemish Altruism and Inindependence, will be reissued on vinyl for Record Store Day. Flemish Altruism is being presented with brand new artwork featuring many newly unearthed archival photos and was remastered from the original tapes. The records, which have been out of print for nearly a decade, will be packaged together in a special 4 LP set for Record Store Day and includes both albums in their own gatefold jackets with download cards for the first time. A Minor Forest have reunited and will be touring the US this May. All dates can be found HERE.

The A Minor Forest story begins in the late 80's in San Diego, where Andee (the drummer) and Erik (the guitar player) grew up. Andee was studying art at U.C.S.D., working at the college radio station and playing in a metal band. The bass player in said band was still in high school with Erik, who was pretty much Goth at the time. The two met through this mutual friend and began to hang out. In 1990 Andee moved away, eventually relocating in San Francisco. Erik followed in 1992, moving to the Bay Area to study music at U.C. Berkeley. The two began to play music together that spring. After months of searching for an acceptable bass player, John entered the picture in January of 1993. He had attended music school at Berkeley as well, playing clarinet in the symphony. One week after their first rehearsal, the three played their first show.

In the spring of 1994, Dominique Davison, another music student at Berkeley, began playing cello with the group, helping with recordings and occasional live performances. Through Dominique's band, Spitboy, AMF hooked up with Steve Albini in August of 1995. The band went on to record a number of sessions with both Steve and Bob Weston that would make up Flemish Altruism, their debut record for Thrill Jockey. Dominique left the band shortly before the record came out, but appears on some of that material as well as on various vinyl on releases that came out prior to Flemish. After much touring the band recorded their second record for Thrill Jockey, Inindependence with Brian Paulson in Winter of 1998 in Chicago. The band continued to tour and release singles and make compilation appearances for most of 1998, before deciding to take a hiatus in Fall of 1998. A collection of much of this out of print material and a couple new tracks made it onto the Were They in Some Sort of Fight? CD on My Pal God Records in 1999.

During A Minor Forest's hiatus, Andee went on to play in many bands including Lumen and the currently active Imperils. He became co-owner of Aquarius Records, one of the best record stores in the US. He also started his own record label, Tumult. Erik went on to work in public radio and pursue chamber music with Dominique in their group Threnody Ensemble. This led him to attend graduate school in music at U.C. San Diego. From there, he went on to play with the band Pinback for six years. On Nov. 9th 2013, A Minor Forest played their first show in 15 years at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco, which has been followed by jaunts to LA and their birthplace of San Diego. 

"Eddying psychedelia that calls to mind thunderclouds building over an English meadow in the summer" - NME

Alexander Tucker’s self-titled debut was released in a micro-edition on CD-R in 2005, a quiet beginning to a solo career that would establish him as one of Britain’s most forward-thinking songwriters and sound sculptors. In addition to establishing frameworks that Tucker would explore and toy with for the next decade and a half, it also lays the groundwork for his work with Imbogodom and Grumbling Fur, showing his innovation as a songwriter and expert sonic collage-maker. It proves that while his methods have evolved, his bold conceptual schema were set into place from the beginning. This incubative work is being pressed on vinyl for the first time ever for Record Store Day 2014, following the acclaim of his duo Grumbling Fur’s breakout LP Glynnaestra. The download code that accompanies the release features over 20 minutes of additional material.
The album was recorded just after Tucker graduated from a 4 year stint at the Slade School of Fine Art, setting out into the wider world in mildly disappointed and unsure of what was to come next. When he set about recording the album, Tucker imagined a collection of sounds that were purposefully out of time, using new technologies and techniques to make sounds that would sound at home on a lost wax cylinder. Tucker populates his soundworld with rudimentary electronics, traditional acoustic instrumentation, field recordings, and free improvisation, presenting himself as a fearless explorer blending styles in ways that would only become popular years after this album’s release.

Alexander Tucker will be celebrating Record Store Day by playing record stores in his home town of London. He is currently in the studio with Daniel O’Sullivan working on a new Grumbling Fur release.

Tucker further explains the process of writing and recording his self-titled debut:

“The first solo recordings i made onto dictaphone soon moved onto the newly introduced mini-disc recorder into which I recorded guitar noise improvisations and field recordings. It wasn't until 2001 that I got hold of my own 8 track machine. Initially I wanted to make a Faust tapes inspired collage of the mini disc improvisations spliced together with the field recordings, this was until i started processing the material through FX and loop pedals to create cut up assemblages.

Around this time I had been on a steady diet of 60's psychedelia, Krautrock, Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music, Bardo Pond, Dead C, Oval, John Fahey, Alexander Spence, Charalambides and Jandek. These influences began to merged to form the basis for my 1st self titled collection of songs and sound worlds. I liked the idea of primitive guitar work next to rudimentary electronics and combining these elements within the same place.”

Limited quantities of the vinyl reissue will include a one-off artwork design for free, each one unique, designed and signed by Alexander Tucker. This offer will be available at selected record stores (more details very soon).

He will be playing a imitate instore at Flashback Records (Essex Road branch) in London, UK on Record Store Day.

“It’s incredibly calming to watch Glenn Jones play acoustic guitar....there’s nothing flashy about his style, only careful consideration as he gently hops over the frets like a lily-padding frog” - NPR
Glenn Jones has emerged as a clear leader in the new wave of American Primitive music for solo acoustic guitar. Many have mentioned his friendship with the late John Fahey, the genre’s progenitor and demigod, but Glenn’s music is truly all his own. His pensive sentimentality and playful spirit, not to mention his innovative technique, have become just as ingrained in
to the style’s DNA as any hallmarks of the original Takoma school. Welcomed Wherever I Go is a collection of live numbers, one featuring fellow guitarist Cian Nugent, and one forgotten tune recorded, speculatively, during the 2007 sessions for Jack Rose’s Dr. Ragtime and His Pals.
“Island III” and “Against My Ruin” were both originally recorded for Glenn’s 2007 album
Against Which the Sea Continually Beats, and were subsequently played live as a medley. The recording that appears on Welcomed Wherever I Go was recorded in December of 2011 at the well-loved and now shuttered Brooklyn club Zebulon. “From A Lost Session” was a recording lost to time until Glenn discovered an unmarked CD-R in his archives, presumably during that classic session with Jack Rose. It is a particularly meditative track for Glenn, in a minor key with an incessant pedal tone not unlike Rose’s pieces of the same era. The entire b-side of the release is occupied by a live take of “The Orca Grande Cement Factory at Victorville,” a duet with similarly innovative guitarist Cian Nugent. Glenn will only play the song live in duet settings where the second musician has little to no preparation or coaching, letting them add to his instrumental musings, ignore them, or destroy them completely. Nugent’s interpretation leans more toward the former.
Welcomed Wherever I Go is being released in a limited edition, vinyl-only format for Record Store Day 2014. Glenn will be doing limited touring in 2014, mostly in support of a new biography on John Fahey by Steve Lowenthal. Welcomed Wherever I Go follows 2013's My Garden State


Stooges alum James Williamson is releasing an album of reconsidered Stooges songs called, Re-licked.  In an attempt to tease the album, Williamson is releasing a Record Store Day exclusive single of "Open Up and Bleed" b/w "Gimme Some Skin," both of which are sung by singer Carolyn Wonderland.

I caught his rendition of "Open Up and Bleed" via Gregg Foreman's The Pharmacy a week or so ago in an episode featuring an interview with Lydia Lunch.  You can find that here

All the info below comes courtesy of Pavement PR.





While on a break from touring this year, the members of The Stooges (sans Iggy) got together and recorded songs that were originally penned by Iggy Pop and James Williamson in 1973/74. These songs were never properly recorded since the band didn't have a record deal at the time.

James Williamson always wanted to revisit these songs and has done so with a powerhouse lineup of singers who don’t disappoint on his forthcoming album entitled Re-Licked. "Open Up & Bleed"/"Gimme Some Skin" is the first single from Re-Licked, which will be out later this year. The Stooges' James Williamson, Steve Mackay, Mike Watt & touring drummer Toby Dammit are joined on both tracks by Texas blues singer & guitarist Carolyn Wonderland, who adds her own forceful and soul-drenching takes on these two rarely heard gems.

Re-Licked will also feature other lesser-known Stooges tracks properly recorded and mixed for the first time. Songs such as "I Gotta Right," "Rubber Legs," "She Creatures of the Hollywood Hills," "Wild Love" and others will be fronted by a wealth of talented vocalists such as Jello Biafra, Mark Lanegan, Ariel Pink, Lisa Kekuala (The BellRays) and others to be announced soon. 

James Williamson & Carolyn Wonderland's new limited vinyl single "Open Up & Bleed"/"Gimme Some Skin" will be available at independent record stores worldwide on Record Store Day, April 19th.

Letters From A Tapehead

New Selections — Emma Ruth Rundle, Tropical Fuck Storm, Primitive Man, Private Life, Uniform, Erika Wennerstrom, Djrum, Windhand

Starting August off with some new singles. Emma Ruth Rundle:  " Darkhorse " (via Rarely Unable /  Sargent House  / YouTub...