Archive Page 2

02
Jul
10

nomeansno – 0+2=1½

Nomeansno haven’t had an original idea since 2006. At least not one so thundering as to give it to the people. Now they’ve decided to smuggle some old material. Yet do not be mistaken. This is not one of those boring deluxe editions – original album + meandering demo filler. It features just the filler. If Nomeansno had decided to call it quits after 0+2=1, this material would be fresh and exciting; however, they re-recorded most of it for other albums. So, there’s not much NEW stuff in here. I guess it can be considered a part-deluxe / interesting hits / B-sides / whatever release. Overall, it is notably all over the place. 0+2=1 is one of their most eclectic albums: not as fucked up as Small Parts Isolated And Destroyed or Wrong, but varied and catchy. Its remains, offered here, follow a similar trend.

“Cats, Sex and Nazis”, probably one of their most intriguing song titles, features a droning bass beat and an increasingly intense sound. Nomeansno have always been relatively Fall-esque in some of their longer, extended pieces, which are based on repetition (something they mastered in One). This is the kind of song that could go on and on forever and wouldn’t get tiresome. Besides it is a celebration of zombies and flesh-eating. The cut is present in the Why Do They Call Me M. Happy album (as it features the line “Do you know why they call me Mr. Happy?), as is “I Need You”, which continues the iterative brainfuck bass à la Flipper, the other two instruments seemingly subdued until three minutes in, when creeping guitar spirals and cymbal waves strike in, eerily. The punk minimalism is barely interrupted, only a brief wall of guitar sound emerges. The “controlled tension” formula sinuously displayed (also, some of Wright’s most melodramatic vocals). Featured in The Worldhood of the World (As Such), “Lost”‘s start promises a rockin’ track, with a pre-climatic screeching guitar-fest and a chantable “I wanted it all” line, yet it’s not until two minutes in that the guys make the song explode in rushing melody – and it doesn’t last long. Again, Nomeansno’s interest relies on the thumping proto-chorus, not the verse designed for the cut (not all that special – standard post-Wipers punk rock). They even manage to include keyboards at one point. ’tis gotta be one of their most “edge-of-the-seat” compositions. Nauseating. “Blinding Light” is a rather sub-par punk effort, which can be found in Nomeansno offspring band Mr. Right and Mr. Wrong’s lone record. The imaginatively titled “John Instrumental” is a delicious post-hardcore affair, although not very distinctive, having archetypal rhythm changes, angular guitars, aggravating bass and mathy melodies. “Victim’s Choice/Happy Bridge/Ghosts intro” – whose title and sound are awfully reminiscent of Victims Family – combines cuts from Worldhood, Happy and 0+2. It is a neat reminder of why Nomeansno are the kings of “jazzcore”. Funky, groovy, noisy shit, complete with yelling. Though the complexity is oppressive and smart, the track suffers, precisely, from being the pinnacle of “jazzcore”. That is, being a treat to listen to – but after it’s over, remaining forgettable. Only the latter part of the song can be somehow recalled. This is tiring music to listen to at home – but a blast to experience live. “Now it’s Dark”, an unreleased track, re-uses the hammering formula of “Lost” and manages to be just as tense. Its little climaxes (with the Wrights exclaiming dark dark now it’s dark!) are vintage messy hardcore, but as usual Nomeansno manage to force the track to linger on, complete with whispered lyrics instantly followed by screams. Fun stuff. Another version of “Cats, Sex and Nazis” closes the disc. As unnecessary as that might sound, it’s always a pleasure to listen to one of their most memorable (and even hummable) compositions.

Nice music from these Wright individuals, expertly designed for completists. Thing is, the tracks included are not particularly among Nomeansno’s best (except maybe “Lost” and “Cats, Sex and Nazis”). You’re better off listening to the albums which followed 0+2=1. Actually, you should go and eat everything the band ever recorded and pray for a new breathtaking release, which is waaay overdue.

Download here.

27
Jun
10

Frank Zappa – Greasy Love Songs

One day, Mr. Robert Fripp found himself wandering around Potland. At first he felt it was a punishment for the snotty remarks he had accumulated among the years. But, as he sat there, aghast at the parade of bongs, weeds, drones and whatnot, that furiously painted the landscape he frowned upon, he pretty much inspected all the insults he had spat and found none particularly senseless or out of place. So he decided to have a walk and interact with the local motorheads. He was given few answers, since all inhabitants of Potland were consistently high and spent most their time constructing fart noises. Especially annoying were Zappa fans, the most smelly, disgusting kind of potheads. Mr. Fripp, unable to discuss guitar atonality and therefore bored, spent his time watching the assholes ramble on and partake in endless Zappa quizzes. For instance,

– What was good ole Frank doing at 3:45 PM on Wednesday the 4th of May, 1971?

– Composing
– Fucking some gal
– Soloing
– Reading MAD magazine

Of course, the answer was almost always “composing” (either expertly designed prog-rock or hilarious blue jokes). Fripp had grown tired of this Zappa fellow. Besides, there is no way Zappa would’ve made it into King Crimson, so he slightly sucked. His technique wasn’t bad, but probably the sick fuck would’ve insisted on crowding violins and silly trumpets. Though, reflected Fripp, he was way more genuinely quirky than that guy he hired for Crimson, whats-his-name Belew. After some of the zappean numbskulls lamely tried to point out the similarities between the two (the most popular one being “shitting a shitload of live shit” and stupendously releasing it), Fripp decided to play it out nice. So he demanded the newest Zappa release (Greasy Love Songs) and sat down to listen to it. He was offered a joint but delicately refused by having a piss on it. “Cheap Thrills” was blasting off the stereo whilst the junkies pogo’d on the grass.

Fripp found himself pretty much in hell.

Were they playing a prank on him? That’s something drugged out Zappa fans would do. But these pissants were too devoted to screw around their hero. “Love of my Life” and “How Could I Be Such a Fool” came next and Fripp’s skepticism grew wider. At one point one of the zappaholics tried to show him how to do the “bop” steps so he could dance. Fripp strangled him nicely and computed. The fourth track, “Deseri”, continued to confuse his mathematical mind. Why the fuck would an impolite meta-rocker lower himself to doo-woop songs? Fripp, purely anxious now, was aware the jerky, ball-breaking nature of Zappa, but this was too much. This was just waste. He grabbed the liner notes and learnt the Mothers of Invention were actually posing as “Ruben and the Jets”, some sort of phony band. A tribute to Zappa’s younghood roots? His foot was tapping out of control – our irrational, natural bestiality has to be found somewhere, after all – but other than that, Fripp decided to slaughter all those potheads. Of all the Zappa material, they had to choose the most retrograde crap to supposedly “enlighten” his taste. His brain didn’t even melt a little at the predictable, nauseating lyrics. They were something his fucking grandmother would enjoy. Well, that verse in “I’m Not Satisfied” which went “Why should I pretend I like to roam from door to door / Maybe I’ll just kill myself, I just don’t care no more” was pretty tense for 50s standards. What a fatal error on Zappa’s part, Fripp thought: his “oh-so-nostalgic” creation wasn’t even credible, there’s no way the boring asses of that decade could’ve stood for such nonsense. They were as dull as a doorstop.

Also, there was an absurd sentence about dog waste in “Later That Night”.

“No, no, no” and its endless repetition of boppa dooayydoo (boppa dooayydoo, boppa dooayydo) sealed the deal and the massacre started. To think that at one point he even considered Zappa to be a decent musician! The guitar line “Stuff Up the Cracks” hinted at awesome prog soloing, and some of the guitar interplay in “You Didn’t Try to Call Me” was decent, but that’s it, the rest was shameful bland stuff. One of the potheads tried to have a neutral conversation before expiring, remarking the greatness of “Anyway the Wind Blows”, superior to its less nuanced version on Freak Out, but Fripp was not going to consent any dialogue at all, much less if it wasn’t centered on his persona. By the time the “bonus” tracks were underway most the potheads were dead. “Valerie” was playing when the blew up the stereo.

Yet as he continued to drift around Potland, the dooayydoos, ooo-ooos, aha-ahaaas and what-have-yous proceeded to torment him. He felt cruisin’ and brown. His standards fell down a hole. He farted a little bit. Unsure about his clarity, undecided to return to his regular concert-perfoming, live-record-releasing shiny life, he decided to stop trying to abandon Potland until his mind had been cleared of such doo-woop garbage. Some junkie delivered him a letter. It said: “Ruben and the Jets is the greatest group since Danny and the Juniors”. Zappa’s voice spoke from the sky: “I always liked rhythm and blues”. A neon sign informed: “Ruben has 3 dogs”. The Moonglows started playing a couple hundred feet away.

“It’s just a nostalgic trip”.

Fripp thought. And his teen innocence surrounded him, snobbery bygone.

And he hopped among the acres of potheads, gay and singin’

Show the world how to get along,
Peace will enter when hate is gone,
But if it’s not asking too much,
Please send me someone to love.

Additional info:

25
May
10

The National – High Violet

Let’s see what critic-darlings The National have for us this year. The cover is a pretty accurate representation of what can be found in this album: some chimney spilling badly written garbly words! Still, it’s worth admiring, since it’s probably the best thing about this sorry excuse for a record. I tried to be patient and understanding, to put my woes aside, yet that wasn’t enough. Let’s do a song-by-song breakdown which will hopefully illustrate the problems of this album. “Terrible Love”, a cut about a guy who METAPHORICALLY walks with spiders and is lovesick etc., features heartfelt marching drums/guitar dynamics with some howling at the background and of course the affected-yet-passive vocals. The song ends in a mess of ugly noise. Kind of a downer, to realize that the first song already resorts to snoozing violin crescendos. This, worry not, will be the pattern for the whole album: and by pattern I mean structure, spirit, goal. “Sorrow” starts things off promisingly by stealing Black Sabbath’s “Supernaut” drum riff yet it notably begins to suck 20 seconds in. Once again a mawkish guitar goes along two notes while the Berninger fella sings about not wanting to get over a girl by saying, precisely, “I don’t want to get over you”. The lyrical genius astounds me, once again. Seriously, how are these guys not considered to be a parody of themselves? Sheesh. The tempo is as tedious as in the first song, and the violins surely appear in a most predictable fashion. Soon joined by a sugary choir. Aural massacre. I keep waiting for something to happen, but it doesn’t. It’s just the same mediocre constant of “notes” over and over. “Anyone’s Ghost” attemps a groovier, post-punkier mood, emphasis put on bass and drums. I guess is supposed to be catchy, yet it’s disstressingly formulaic. I can’t help but notice the drums in most these songs. They’re maybe the “best” instrument in this release, at least their treatment is not insulting, yet whoever mixed this put them on the foreground and they mostly end up being excessively noticeable and annoying. As if they were telling you how to bang your head or tap your feet. Honestly, I can’t get over how lazy this “songwriting” is. It’s not even memorable. I have 8 songs to go and I already know none of them will remain in my head for more than two seconds. All I’ll recall is some twingly mushy guitars, violins galore and some asshole babbling ’bout his penis, repeated again and again and again. What’s the point? Eh well, here’s “Little Faith”. It begins with the pseudo-sound of an orchestra tuning with an ugly electronic lo-fi beat over it. The mess soon evolves into a gentle obvious piano pattern followed by an obvious bass pattern. It’s the same song as before, only more “spacey”. Same development, only something DOES happen after two and a half monotnous minutes; the guitar and strings are left alone with the voice before the full band kicks in YET ANOTHER crescendo. Here the lyrics become more creative, even if they’re full of lies (‘All the lonely kids are getting harder to find’, that is not true. At all). Dunno, reminds me of a fully instrument fleshed version of “Such Great Heights” by the Postal Service. Actually, this album sounds very 2003. I cannot understand how some people can consider this sound to be hip, but more on that later.

“Afraid of Everyone” starts off with Berninger groaning and just plain chord strumming and high-pitched howling. After some of this boring shit they realize they’re going nowhere and decide to go for a more dancey tempo. The song is about a pussy individual, a former junkie, who has the bad taste of owning an orange umbrella. Yey. At a certain moment, it appears as if the vinyl was scratched or stuck (that is, if you owned this garbage on vinyl, something for which I’ll toast) since Berninger starts repeating “soul” to a nasty, disturbing effect. Following that awkward, eerie situation, they go all post-rock on us with an “agressive” guitar wanking up and down in the most unimaginative fashion coupled with swarms of hammering drums. Man, this is so INTENSE. Like, rabid! Reminds me of myself watching the DUSK and confronting my OWN ghosts! “Bloodbuzz Ohio” surely can’t be bad, since it features “Ohio” (which for sum reason I always relate to good times). Wimpy drums and approaching walls of gayish feedback stick around for a while and then Berninger presents us the most easy of vocal melodies. It’s hummable! A peculiar piano and some horns – or synth, the mix is so garbled I cannot at times distinguish the instruments, they all sound as coming from the anuses of the Dessner bros (which they probably are) – provide a triumphant echo for Berninger. After five minutes of this, which feel like fifty, the guitar gets all scratchy and offers a rockin’ riff and then more horns and then fuck it. Again, this ending suffers from saturation of noise. I guess they’re trying to “hardcorize” the tediousness of the song before it concludes with this method, but it doesn’t work at all, since we can see it coming three miles away. In “Runaway” they bastardize the guitar riff from Drake’s “One of these days”, but oddly enough the song is pleasant. There’s another strumming guitar and a piano. A neat ballad. I’m very surprised at this, it’s nothing special, but well constructed, harmless, not bad at all YOU SON OF A BITCH. They HAD to put motherfecking violins and horns to ruin it! Assholes. The National, you are evil. Let me explain this. I do not dislike violins. I think violins are super. That’s not the point here. It’s about their treatment: they have no range whatsoever. They could’ve possibly put the same sweeping string piece in each of the songs and nobody would’ve noticed any difference. Same with horns. If you hear one song with omnious horns or violins crowning over the vocals or guitars, it’s acceptable, even if it’s manipulative (yes, they’re telling you to feel all inspired and fuzzy inside). When EVERY song resorts to this, you got a problem. It’s evident these guys know nothing about classical music, and are unable to addecuately invent sounds inside this “chamber music” range they dwell in. I’m not fond of comparisions, specially since they rarely can be justified (and this is not an exception), but for the sake of it, take Van Dyke Parks. He does chamberish baroque pop the way it should be done. I might loathe that music style, but at least I can appreciate his inventiveness, its intelligence. There are actual compositions. But this, is is just so CHEAP. Yes, that is the word. Cheap. I get it the first time. Now fuck me!

“Conversation 16”, which features Berninger telling the harrowing tale of him being a bad person, further consolidates The National as masters of continiously unoriginal snoozefests. This might very well be the most decent song in here, even if it resorts to the same pattern explained above; boring guitar (“nee-noo-nee-noo”) gets abandoned by the rest of instruments, the singer utters something trascendental and then the band kicks in in a beautifully vomitive amalgam of sugar-coated noises. Listen to this choirish howling, it sounds as if a killer whale was having its dick chopped off. Still, it’s not awful. If I was at home, taking a shit, and heard this on the radio, I’d probably laugh ’til my nostrils hurt at its pretentiousness, but I wouldn’t shut the fucker off, it’s the kind of music that can be pleasantly ignored. “England” features the same tempo as all the songs above it, and for this special occasion, The National crank out a particular, exotic instrument for y’all to enjoy. More violins. The record should have been titled Here’s Where the Strings Come In (apologies to Superchunk) instead of Hay, Violated, that is, High Violet. Still, they must’ve been high on Barney the dinosaur’s semen in order to release this (apologies for this gross image, the saur is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of violet). Speaking of which, Coldplay have a song named “Violet Hill”, which is fortunate, since it could’ve perfectly fit in this National album. Oh yes, I just compared both these bands. Actually I’d rather listen to Coldplay, they’re more consciously mainstream and not as convoluted. Hey! You know what’s violet and also sucks? Yer mama’s lips!

Okay, you get the idea, I wouldn’t want to get crass. It all comes down to wheter you “enjoy” this sound or not. It’s just that I happen not to. I am mostly angry a The National for attempting to shove this album up people’s minds. And it seems as if most are loving it, something which I cannot, in any way, understand. I know many other popular acts nowadays (such as the Tindersticks or the Antlers, which I don’t like much) resort to this so-called “chamber pop” crescendo-based music with obnoxious vocals. Yet it’s just so unoriginal, so uninventive, I feel as if I’m dumber after suffering through this. I’m frustrated and annoyed at the fact that some might consider this to be “teh shit” of todays indie pop/rock. It’s not rocking (shows absolute lack of balls and the guitars are used to sleepy effect), and it’s not poppy (unmemorable melodies, half-assed instrument interplay), it’s just a stream of very mellow and derivative drone. Honestly, you can’t expect much from the guys who did “Boxer”, but supposedly they should be getting “better” as musicians. This shows otherwise: they resort to formulas, un-inspired cliches and lazy songwriting. I believe “Alligator” has a couple of decent songs (with potential) but this is just offensive. Humdrum pedestrian manipulative diarrhea for young adults.

20
May
10

Singles – The Ex / Rocket From The Tombs

Two 7”s from two ‘classic’ bands. One was shortlived, lasted a year; the other has been going for more than 30. Both could be considered pseudo-punk at times. And that’s all the coincidences I can think of. Besides having bald men in their lineups.

Rocket From The Tombs started as some sort of noisy Stooges ripoff band, being active from 1974 to 1975 and then broke up into two different bands; Pere Ubu and Dead Boys, which could be considered to be the ‘arty’ and ‘rocking’ sides of punk, respectively. I know, it’s a beautiful analogy, same as comparing David Thomas to a big intellectual donut. So how come 2010 welcomes a new single from a band who achieved its height in the mid 70s? The reunion epidemic also struck them, in 2003: Ubu Thomas (back in his Crocus Behemoth role), the Boys’ Cheetah Crome and bassist Craig Bell decided to reform the band and got none other than Television’s Richard Lloyd to help them out. They couldn’t get founding member Peter Laughner to reunite FROM THE TOMB (get it?! he’s been dead since ’77!). Anyway, in 2006 they did another tour. Though RFTT are the quintessential protopunkish obscure band (nerds love to point out how the Boys’ “Sonic Reducer” and Ubu’s “Final Solution” are actually RFTT covers, not originals), I don’t believe they’ve left much an impression on the general public, even average punk rockers. Them releasing a single is just weird; reunions are usually more welcome if they come accompanied by new material, but this is four years late. And the cover doesn’t exactly harness our hopes: a cash machine with too much ugly text swarming around. Their trascendence was substantial back in the 70s in the development of punk, yet their sound was not astonishingly original; what now? Well, tell ya what. “I Sell Soul/Romeo & Juliet”, now. It’s a bit awkward to listen to this new single considering most old material recorded sounds slightly shitty and lo-fi. But whatever, the two new songs are catchy: side A features a punkish guitar riff nicely ornamented with Thomas’ grotesque vocals. The (precise) guitar freakout near the end just shows the band is still indebted to the Stooges. Vintage RFTT alright, the harmony will be sticking in your head for a while. Side B begins staggering in a slumpy tempo more reminiscent of Ubu, only more conventional. And the guitar use is pure arena rock, from the background dribbling to the emotional soloing. Just a nice schizo ballad, with a shade of hopelessness thrown in. Overall, two worthy tracks; nothing exceptional. Cool psych-dadrock, yo.

Listen to Side A and Side B.

The Ex are one of the musical underground’s (if such a thing exists) finest assets. A complex discography of more than a dozen studio albums, including some produced by our God Almighty Steve Albini. Three decades on the road, only guitarist Terrie Hessels remains of the original lineup; founding member and vocalist G.W. Sok decided to call it quits last year. The band (complete with Katherine Bornefeld and Andy Moor, both Ex veterans who have been in the band for twenty years) decided to hire a new guy and keep rocking. In 2009, 30th anniversary celebrations were made; back in 1936, a thousand CNT members cheered “Ay Carmela!”. I saw them live last year (after having experienced them with Sok some time ago) with this fresh individual, a fellow named Arnold de Boer, and they cranked out a shitload of tunes which I barely recognized. It was tight since The Ex are the definition of tightness, but Sok’s voice and grave attitude was sorely missing. As if his very presence set a determined mood. It was weird and strangely erotic. This new single embodies the sweat of the new Ex. “Maybe I Was The Pilot” starts with a relatively benign guitar riff soon joined with pounding baritone guitar and cowbell-based percussion. The heavy, monotonous mess then welcomes Boer’s vocals which strangely resemble Sok’s affected, invoking utterances, yet are more “normal”, more melodic even. By the end the guitars get loose and the song adopts a stop/go (quiet/loud) dynamic. In typical Ex fashion, they add a car horn to the whole mix and the tribal frenzied becomes quite unique. “Our Leaky Homes”, side B, starts off with Boer mentioning some toothpaste before the Ex’s idyosincratic groovy rhythms shut him up. The riff melodies displayed here are very Terrie Hessels… on a sunny day. Though ramshackle and noisy, the song is poppish, hammering in a Fall-esque reiteration worthy of a bittersweet headache. Part of this impression might be due to Boer’s carefree vocals, yet the instrumentation doesn’t get too brutal. While not exactly ‘underwhelmed’ I still remain skeptical of this whole new Ex thing. The new compositions cannot be faulted but they strike me as decaffeinated outtakes from Turn. They’ve always been listener-friendly but the guitar freakouts seem more contained than ever. Apparently a new album is due in some months; colour me intrigued.

Download link in comments.

17
May
10

Agustí Fernández and Barry Guy – ‘Some Other Place’

Guy and Fernández are back after their mostly successful collaborations Aurora and Topos (though this is their first duet release) and welcome us to this “other place” – which is not so dissimilar from other jaunts of theirs. Here Guy once again creates some of his trademark haunting bass atmospheres which, after last year’s excellent Sinners Rather Than Saints (with Mats Gustafsson), reaffirm him as an drooling improv monster. I’d say “jazz beast” but he does not belong in that musical style, not exclusively at least. Same as his old pal/bandmate Derek Bailey, to whom you could be listening to for hours without getting tired. Agustí Fernández is a more than adequate companion with his loud/quiet dynamics (not surprisingly he also dueted with Bailey and Gustafsson). Starting with the soothing/tumultuous “Annalisa” and concluding with the distraught “The Helix”, the record alternates cacophonous/messy cuts – “Barnard’s Loop”, in which Guy appears to be humping the bass and Fernández impersonates Cecil Taylor; the rabid noisefest “Rosette”; the haunting drone which is “Crab Nebula”, which conjures a sound so powerful it’s hard not to picture both instruments about to blow up; the exhausting “Dark Energy”, with both players displaying a relentless stream of notes; the (already-mentioned) crusty percussive “The Helix”, which more than a composition feels as its sludgy skeleton – with more spacey, slowly beautiful atmospheres – the head-scratchingly titled and ultra-slow moving “How To Go Into a Room You Are”, with Guy screeching his instrument as if it were a violin and Fernández following some sort of floating pseudo-minimalist Feldman pattern; the balladesque “Blueshift”, arguably the most precious piece here (it is after all dedicated to Guy’s wife, violinist Maya Homburger), so anguished you’ll be pissed when it’s over; the mysterious “Boomerang Nebula” – and then a some material in-between – the title track, which has Fernández lavishly strolling on his piano with Guy joining in for the “noisy bits”. This particular cut is masterful in its tension-and-release (non)structure, formless yet engaging.

That’s the key here – being engaging. The duo has the decency to NOT overdo it and as a result the pieces are rather short (the longest clocking under nine minutes) but most importantly, manage to capture the listeners’ attention. The compositions are very detailed and lack reiteration: it’s an imaginative effort. Improvisation is a tricky word here, however. This is not improv jazz per se, since they’re obviously playing over pre-concieved “guidelines”. They’re not even patterns, just suppositions, ideas, feelings. Even if you’re familiar (which I’m not that much, truths be told) with both Fernández and Guy’s ownage of their instruments, this is a worthy recording. Considering we’re talking about free-form music, it is particularly memorable and definitely emotional at moments. I’d say it’s some sort of achievement. Fernández once spoke of “transparent” music as the way to reach a spiritual state. So there goes nothing.

Download link posted in comments.

The happy improvisin' couple

11
May
10

Michael Gira – ‘I Am Not Insane’

A few years ago, whilst listening to the Swans, I died. “A Screw” from Public Castration is a Good Idea did it. In the midst of depression, it’s not as if had the energy to get up and commit suicide, that’d been too much from my part: deliciously enough, the music was so over-bearing, it ended with my existence. Since my own death I’ve become weary of this Gira guy (ah mean, your excellency Mr. Gira). I don’t think the shady hat he got himself to appear more raunchy is fooling anyone. King of monotonous one-chord anthems, master of theoretical sexual degradation, present in most gothic americana-related nightmares, his cameos’ in one’s subconscious are met with both joy and tapdances. Now, he’s got the balls to declare he’s not insane. Thankfully enough, this new “album” isn’t called “I Am Not a Creepy Fuck”, for if that had been the case, no listener could’ve possibly stood for such a lie and Young God Records HQ would’ve been burnt down.

Still, what could he be insane about? Though his lyrics are usually not pleasant, he sure shows consistency. Is his dementia related to the re-forming of the Swans? Ah, indeed, that must be it. For there’s a reason behind such meandering introduction: surely Mr. Gira decided to drop the Swans monicker and become more light-hearted. Seems like Swans live shows had, by the 90s, become a standard in aural destruction (listening to some old live tapes, they really ressemble religious ablutions or infernal purges more than anything else), and mildly distraught by the forlorn faces of his fans, he called it quits and went on to create the Angels of Light. This new re-forming of Swans, according to his own words in his own webpage in his own internet, was required for him. He describes what he’s seeking for as “a tangible re-emersion in the sensation of Swans music rushing through my body in waves, lifting me up towards what, I can only assume, will be my only experience of heaven”. Unsurprising remarks, yet very moving. Still, Gira don’t fool no one. He has scarcely evolved in all these years. Form is one thing. It can be icky, it can be straightfoward, it can be shitty. It can morph, yet his soul remains the same. Nothing truer could be said about this new collection of songs. The good thing ’bout Gira is that he doesn’t give a crap about whatever surrounds him. In the early 90s, when asked about the “alternative” music scene, he affirmed he didn’t know anything about that, and refused to be “tagged” (it’s not as if he’s gone all indie-reunion on us). He does his thing, and as miserable as that can be, we all love him for it.

This album is, in a (many) way(s), the new Swans era starting point. We the youngsters, who hopped on the zwanz bandwagon when they were already dead, are of course highly anticipating the sight of Gira’s penis in the midst of a spiral of pounding drums and un-guitary guitars. Early speculation concerning the reunion’s first announced concert, at Supersonic superduper festival, implies they’d be back to their roots, yet Gira has said elsewhere the band will follow were Soundtracks for the Blind left off (and that this “re-formation” is not a “dumbass nostalgia act”). Either way, it’s gonna be lots of fun and laughter. Even if this batch of fresh songs will possibly be NEW Swans songs, their value in restablishing the Swans spirit is also monetary; Gira said the album will help raise funds for the “re-formation”. Apparently not much money is needed, since the edition was very limited and there’s no interest on selling a new batch. So, I’m not really overviewing the wholeness of I Am Not Insane, since I have no copy of it and cannot admire its almost-hand-made packaging or sense the smell of Young God. Here’s hoping Mr. Gira doesn’t get pissed off and rams a guitar up my ass.

But what about the music? Well, Gira has done it again. This is an enchanting set of compositions. There’s two ways to look at I Am Not Insane, some might think it’s a bunch of homely recorded, half cooked demos, others may see it as a work of unpolished genius. Well. I see it as nothing more than a creepy fuck at home with his guitar. That image will of course remind everyone of Jandek. Despite his morbidness and much celebrated (that is, until the release of this cd) insanity, Gira’s not an outsider at all: Jandek is (in the following order) more eerie, shaggy, unfocused, unharmonic and strange though, Gira’s way less obscure, and not as insane (if he’ll excuse me). Let’s just say Jandek is of the “what the hell!” variety, while Gira belongs to the “fucking hell!” category. However, both their treatment of the guitar as a “pounding” instrument (sometimes) and the vocal style don’t seem so far apart. Still, these recordings by Gira mainly breathe some sort of self-confident alienation. This is ye olde sick world of Gira, in which he sometimes embodies a god-like entity with the means of ripping the flesh of liars, swallowing sorrows of men, and stealing all oxygen. Humiliation, failure (the title of the final track and also the title of an old Swans track – consistency), weakness, love, the human body and deception are the recurring themes, as usual. The lyrics are definitely closer to late-era Swans, less emphasis put on sentences and repetitions, more interest set on allegorical and poetical significations. Not depressing per-se, but substantially disturbing. Still, of course, he achieves moments of beauty. I mean, for the love of gawd, take a look at the following words! ‘Ride your mechanical beast, hitch to the ultimate sin’; ‘I was born in the place where you kneeled / in the burning white sand / in the blood that you spilled’; ‘May I find my way to the foot of your throne / and may I find your arms ’round my neck / and may I find your little mouth inside of this bend’; ‘the sky is a yellowed vitrine / and my veins are now screaming with gasoline’; ‘[he] would gladly rip the throat of God / if only he could reach his wide ass’. The latter is probably the most comic moment in the record, only surpassed by Gira’s (unintentionally hilarious?) adlib at the start of “Opium Song”: “fucking goddamn motherfucker”, he utters (needless to say, the image of Gira cursing at his house with a guitar is just very amusing). The lyrics are, in a way, the most important part of this release. If it was just Gira crooning away, or no attention was paid to the words, the record would be as monotonous as an obnoxious, badly recorded Nick Cave tribute album. Yet, these lyrics! Oppressive, yet dazzling. Curiously, the most meandering (“experimental” if preferred) track in here is the appropriately titled “No Words” which is angular guitar strumming coupled with Gira babbling random sounds. He controls very well the guitar/voice dynamics, achieving a couple of shivering a capella moments (the ending od “Little Mouth”) and powerful lonely guitar chords – which I particularly enjoy in both “Eden Prison” versions, probably my favourite cuts here. There’s a guitar pounding at the end of the first “Eden” that is so mechanical it almost seems as if Gira was fisting a piano. His voice even becomes melodic and catchy in “Opium Song”; the duet with [unknown female] on “My Lazy Clown” is also an harmonic standout. Gira’s vocal style is disaffected and cavernous, yet oddly compelling. Those familiar with his previous (also limited) album I Am Singing to You From My Room know the drill. After a while the record (as anything Gira’s ever done) does become a tad underwhelming… the hammering guitar feels fatigued, some notes star to fall off… but overall it’s superior to most “neofolk” sub-products. This is not gothic at all… just plain dark folk. “Is this more of the same?” is not the appropriate question, since [who wouldn’t want more of the same?]; what we should be wondering is how these cuts will mutate into Swansongs. That judgment depends entirely on each listener; I believe there’s some with great potential (“My Birth”, “Oxygen”, “No Words”) and others that should remain in this raw form (“Inside Madeline” in particular), but considering the excellent musicians which will be involved in the transforming, I wouldn’t be much worried. Thing is, the whole re-formation thingy shows promise… maybe I’ll have to rise from the grave to assist a couple of their shows. Just imagine swarms of oozing drums and have a good wank.

Oh and for those interested on ART, ’tis yer lucky Gira. The music is complete alongside the 20 drawings he did on the happy occasion. Close your eyes and just try to imagine how Gira would draw, and you’ll probably come close, only erase all potential rabbits. The illustrations are fun though, I can see him as a snobby underground comic book artist. Particularly since one of the main focuses is his (I quote the man himself) “perpetually adolescent fascination with gross, icky things”. Right-O! The limited package also comes with a DVD featuring Mr. Gira hanging around, carrying out domestic chores and walking the dog. Which is something that, for the moment, I can only picture in my mind, while sobbing.

Download link posted in comments.

22
Apr
10

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‘Come with your ears… leave with your ears!’

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