Thursday, August 26, 2010

Wicked Fag - "Wicked Fag" (UUU) CS

Wicked Fag is wicked good, junk in the trunk of the cadillac, sleeper Buddy garage rock from Pittsfield, MA (for the time being). Now if you've never been to Pittsfield, there are some things that you should know...

Since sometime early in the 20th century, a well-known company called General Electric decided that Pittsfield, MA would be home to its transformer and capacitor divisions. They made transformers, capacitors, and regulators there, to be used in the power grid throughout the country. All well and industriously good, right? Sure. Until they starting using PCBs, polychlorinated biphenyls, a man-made chemical manufactured by Monsanto, as a non-ignitable insulating fluid in its products. PCBs give you things like liver damage, rashes, lesions, irregular menstruation, lower immune response, and who knows what else. Well to make a long story short, GE was dumping PCBs into Silver Lake which lies in the center of Pittsfield and flows into the Housatonic River, which flows through Massachusetts to Connecticut. the mastermind behind Wicked Fag is Vincent Ditore. Who, as far as I know, grew up in Pittsfield. Now I'm not blaming GE or even the PCBs directly, but something is off in Vincent's head. Fortunately he likes playing rock music. The result is a subtly twisted, all together damaged, but then bent some more, set of songs. With titles like "[Don't] Dream + Drive!" and "Theme from Wicked Fag" it's clear that some synapses are making contact with each other, but don't be surprised if these tunes take you by surprise.

This is a demo tape with six songs, none of which go past the two minute mark. I've heard that Vince wrote these songs years ago and they have been decomposing until now. Well, I think they have resurfaced at the right moment. The summer of crunk'd ice cream truck jams, and haunted house funk. The time that I saw Wicked Fag play it was Vincent and some rag-tag bunch of scuzzed-out (I mean that with the utmost flattery) Pittsfield kids who called themselves the Prick Bastards. It was at a place called Rebel Sound Records (more on that later), and the "band" hung a big sheet with the words "Wicked Fag" scrawled on it behind them. I found a picture that indicated to me that this was not the sheets debut.

The tape starts off with a true classic of wonkery: "[Don't] Dream and Drive!" The drums are perpetually stuck, the bass is way too voluptuous, the riff pounds round and around, always the same, but never the same twice. Perfect groove. On the second track, "Amparo", Wicked Fag continues to deliver spartan butt fuzz jams with mumbledoubt ramblings about some dude named Amparo. Harmonica says "Hello!". All coated in dense strips of muted fidelity. Next up is the ever-more-jamworthy "Mr. President" - what can I say? Not quite the passionate call for reform that the title might suggest. The feeling here is decidedly more isolated, detached and incomprehensible. But brazen as all hell. This isn't rebel music, it is Survivor music... just got voted off of the island stuff. Wicked Fag is a law unto itself. And in it's own way, real catchy and filled with funk. Don't get me wrong, this isn't any of that Cavebears shit. These dudes may only know how to play half of their instruments, but the damage is addictive. And for that matter, its as dry as a hooker's... spit. Can you say Rocky Horror Picture Show? Mfffgooorrnshhhshhhnmmaa!!

Wicked Fag's myspace keeps getting deleted because of the offensiveness of the band's name. Whack attack. I think the tape is coming out soon on Triple U. For the time being, you can download it here. Triple U just released their debut Suuummuuur Sampluuur which you can download at their site. Keep your eyes peeled.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Altered States - "ROG" (Self Released) CS

Picked this one up at Strange Maine a couple of days ago. Bumped it for the late night drive home just now. Really solid stuff. My tape player was freaky fried and not letting the full sound of the synth through - but that didn't even matter. The deep groove conjured by April Camlin and Albert Schatz rang out far above technical difficulties (almost seemed like it was made for it) and well beyond the delineated song structures that they lay their sweeping fuzz on to.

There is very little that I could find about this tape on the internet. I guess Albert is/was a member of the Chicago group Bird Names which sound like more of a clattery, foot stomping, folk pile experience than this particular affair. I can't say that I've given a thorough listen to Bird Names though, so I'm not the one to draw any real comparisons. That aside, on "ROG", the Altered States duo deliver tight, driving popular-twinged songs that have been injected with a sweet, sweet psych wave long-time. We can dance to this. Sounds are split into drums, vox and synths; some that sound like glitter, and some that sound like Lightning Bolt bass. A thick grounded pound-it keeps pace throughout the recording. The drums snap tightish and journey like you want, and the envelops abound on the horizontal axis, as a nice range (sputter-to-gutter) of electronic sounds make the landscape appear and then disappear again.

An intriguing mix of bedroom intimacy and lush expansiveness. Delicate strength manifests with indecipherable lyrics about darkness and time. With the first song on Side A - "Now Eye Can See" - he gets high and she goes deep for some folky harmonies and Eno (Taking Tiger Mountain) weaving before the whole thing ends too soon - . Camlin delivers more than your run of the mill beats here. She plays the tone of the membrane. Definite glimmers of the BYG Actuel catalog, if not a little on the mathy side of things. ...And then some.

Second tune starts with a spaced intro. It could easily feel like dabbling, but it manages a nice focused burn-a-clearing prep for the intricate haunt that quickly follows. Complex percussion pushes and pulls and the half-hearted spook groove trips away for a jaunt and a half. Come back to me ballad. Side B is where the duo really hit their stride. The last song, aptly named "Paradox" perseveres and kicks us back to the 80's with a kind of Kraftwerk robo funk. An old chant with a totally new kind of syllabic emphasis offers these words of wisdom:

The Sun is a reflection of Earth
Death is just another kind of birth
Perception defies reality
See whatever you want to see

Okay I figured it out. They are jamming like they are Joe Zawinul U.S. Mapling Watermelon Man (and with all the guts) but it's only the two of them - in nowheresville. Big moves are made on small scapes. Less twisted, more zoned. By far some of the most on beat, off-beat stuff I have heard in a long time. Pretty much pretty killer. What can I say? Got me home quick and safe and with enough mojo to spit this out at 3:00 A.M.

Yup. That pretty much sums it up. Instant chart-topping funky fresh freedom psych travel jams from the great lakes region. No idea how many of these are out there. No idea where to get a copy. Other than here. Keep an eye out for these guys - seriously!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Martonomous - "Epiphone Drones + Casio Tones" (Self Released) CS

Got this one in the mail today. This is actually a release from last year which I have been hearing bits and pieces from since it came out. Psyched to be giving it the full ears now. This tape is real fun. Some kind of strange blend of The Books, J Dilla and the hyper chilled-out hypnogogia that has been dominating across zones as of late. Sample heavy and super groovy, sounds here are not just beats (though that is definitely the general vibe). With carefully chosen spoken word samples, and cheesy AM bass lines, Martonomous (Martin Zimmermann) establishes a particular environment. The crackle of a dirty R&B LP folds into reverberant low tones and a plate of pure sound is explored momentarily before sliding off into a dream-time flute meditation. Charge the chariots - ready for the future - here we go - helmets on - Steely Dan's Beckman himself feeding us with illustrious riffage. This stuff is right on the cusp. It's dusty fog keeps me down. Yeah, I'm down.

Side A ends with a nicely handled warped tone drone zone. After the flip, I'm looking over my shoulder for Seal to come soaring in with his honey sweet melancholy voice. Zimmermann works on this lead for a bit, deconstructing into different times and coating everything in tasty licks. Yes friends, today we are having grilled cheese for lunch. Smoked indeed. With the works: Campbells Tomato Soup and all. How many can you get in your body? Once you break the seal, you just can't stop poppin. Its a dairy and dough feast, and we're lovin' it. Good Ol' American Cheese!!

This c60 just cruises, never feeling sluggish or heavy, even through atonalities and more experimental zones. "It's easy. It's like breathing." Says the suspiciously comforting voice of the sample before letting us off in the middle of nowhere at the end of the tape. Suddenly chamber improv-ville into nothing. Click. Noteworthy tracks include the blissed-out "When Will It Be?", and the Casio loaded "Change That Tone!" on the A side, and the more whacked-out "Drone Out" on the B side.

Free download here. Or you can request a tape or CD from Zimmermann himself:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mountain Man - "Sun Dog" (Underwater Peoples) EP

"All of them, all of them have pushed into the air"

The truth is that this record is absolutely beautiful. The other truth is that it was overshadowed by the release of the full-length LP "Made the Harbor" on Partisan. All the songs on "Sun Dog" are on "Made the Harbor" but they are recorded quite differently. Instead of drawing a comparison between the two records, I'm just going to talk about this one. The voices of Amelia, Alex and Molly come across through my speaker with the utmost clarity and texture. I can hear each one of them singing as individuals - which makes the collective sound (they sing all of their songs together, with idiosyncratic harmonies sweeping through each other) wonderfully rich. The sound of their voices is less "bell-toned" then dust, chalk and wood. Each word is distinct here. The friction breaks in an instant and a gust of song blooms. And silence explodes just as quickly.

Mountain Man formed at Bennington College a couple of years ago. Their story has been written about all over the place recently so I'm not going to cover it again here. This NPR interview does a good job though. The group consists of three women who sing songs about nature, sexuality, fear, hope and a sensation that can only be described as "summer in Bennington".

The Sun Dog record, released on Underwater Peoples last month, rescues into delicate oblivion of word and sound. "Let us sing a song to thee, oh my sweet honeybee. You are the one we've been waiting for. You are the dark, you are the buoy." Naked with chance from new voices singing old songs. Songs that don't exist but in the bodies of folks and family. From supple sexy pouting (Dog Song) to majestic yearning (Animal Tracks), this record delivers quite a range of material - sonically, lyrically, and spiritually.

All of those beloved traditionally American musical influences can be heard loud and clear. Sacred Harp, Lomax et al., The Carter Family, etc... And then you also have some Shirley Collins and a bunch of more contemporary influences like Joanna Newsom and Bjork. At the end of the day though, it is just Alex, Molly and Amelia in the Blue House singing and falling in love with each other. Emma is in the kitchen, Drew is at Mightyfood. Later we'll go to Paran.

It is very difficult for me to find the song that I am most taken by. Perhaps because each one feels so completely immersive and inescapable. All of the songs here are free. They drop reference point without hesitation, throw arms open completely, and quiver undying with crazy affirming surrender. Yes. That said, I would highly encourage a close listening of "Mouthwings", the first track on Side B. The version on this record is stunning. In fact, it is worth buying the record for.

Very limited edition of 300 pressed on 180 gram blue/green marble vinyl. Only available at Underwater Peoples and on tour. Artwork by Alex. Get it here.