Friday, January 29, 2010
(Also referred to as SOLO 1978/79 and SOLO 1978-1979, but it says SOLO 78/79 on the digipak so I'm going with that. The liner notes provide "aka do unseen hands make you dumb?", which may very well be a real alternate title.)
Pigface, 1980; reissued with bonus tracks by De Stijl; available
CD: 4 tracks, 44:57
Most readers of this blog are probably familiar with Smegma (and if you're not, fix that quick!). For his solo outing, long-time member Ju Suk Reet Meate (pronounced "you secrete meat" just for the record) filled two vinyl sides with an intriguing mix of spare noise rock and Reichian tape manipulation. The sides each have a bunch of tracks, but they ebb and flow into each other and are mastered by side on the CD. Side one, subtitled "1978", features a nice contrabass solo and some nifty looped guitars in addition to the rather restrained (and thus highly listenable) sound collages. "1979" seems to be all collages, and it's by far the more experimental and twisted side. That being said, other reviews have pointed out how refreshing it is that Meate doesn't feel the need to go in the red with his noise, and that really is a nice change. Surprisingly enough it all sounds a lot like contemporary turntablist efforts! The De Stijl reissue comes with great liner notes (or "NOISE CLIFFSNOTES" as he calls them) by Wolf Eyes' John Olson, along with two bonus tracks. Both of these date from '79, and both have very descriptive titles, namely "Guitar & Loops" and "Short Wave". They're fairly good but not especially enlightening, considering both are under five minutes. That being said, this is a solid listen and definitely worth acquiring.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Compilation released by Acute(see review for individual dates), 2006; available
18 tracks, 78:50
Being the first band to be signed to Factory Records' American division, you'd have to be fairly special. Ike Yard doesn't fail in that department one bit! Ike Yard* was a quartet of Stuart Argabright (ex-Futants), Kenneth Compton (who was Madonna's boyfriend for a bit and appears in her "Burnin' Up" video!), Michael Diekmann, and Fred Szymanski. Their arsenal of instruments included the standard guitar, bass, and drum kit, but those are the ONLY traditional instruments used. Each member is credited with synthesizers (Compton specifically with bass synth), and other instruments include drum machines, found percussion, syndrum, and who knows what else. Both Argabright and Compton handled vocal duties, with Argabright getting the lion's share. Sometimes considered a no wave group, and having some common ground with that scene, Ike Yard was really in a category of their own. The first six tracks here are from the NIGHT AFTER NIGHT EP, released in 1981 on Les Disques Du Crépuscule; the exception is "The Whistler", which is a session outtake. These tracks find Ike Yard in full-on post-punk mode. The bass and percussion lock into powerful grooves, aided by synth pulses and colored by swooping guitar accents. It actually comes across as an American PiL or a punkier This Heat. "Night After Night" and "Cherish" would be dark club classics in a just world, and the whole EP is impressive. Fast-forward to 1982: Ike Yard have caught Factory's attention and have the honor of becoming Factory America's first signing. Tracks 7 through 12 made up the self-titled LP (often erroneously referred to as A FACT A SECOND, which is actually the catalog number). While still a decidedly American take on post-punk, these six tracks are far more influenced by classic dub and krautrock than by any contemporary groups (except maybe the early industrial and EBM scenes). The synths have a much more pronounced role; I was fairly certain there's no guitar or bass guitar on these tracks until Stuart Argabright assured me there is. "Loss", with its insistent bass pulses and steady electronic drones, is a standout; as the track progresses, random short-wave transmissions and Argabright's monotone vocals combine for a simultaneously disturbing and catchy tune. The remaining five tracks follow a similar path, with little quirks and kinks along the way to give each tune its own identity. As a bonus, this compilation features six previously unreleased outtakes from 1980 to 1982. None of these tracks would have been out of place on the proper releases; in fact, the eerie instrumental "Wolfen" is one of their best songs! I can't recommend this enough to fans of krautrock, post-punk, no wave, etc. You shouldn't have too hard a time finding it. Argabright would go on to Black Rain, Dominatrix, and Death Comet Crew (all worth investigating), and Szymanski made some recordings as Laminar. Diekmann also ended up in Death Comet Crew. Ike Yard made a recent comeback, and now consists of Argabright, Compton, and Diekmann. To hear some of the new tracks, please visit http://www.myspace.com/ikeyard. Their MySpace also has "Loss" and "Cherish", a demo called "Sweep" and an untitled live track from '81. The latter two are not on this compilation (possibly due to time limitations?), but both are very worthwhile. The Argabright-curated NEW YORK NOISE 3 features the otherwise unreleased "A Dull Life", as well as a Dominatrix track, alongside other no wave/industrial/art funk bands from '80s New York.
*The name comes from A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, in case you didn't know.
UPDATE: Check the comments for Ike Yard news and links straight from Stuart Argabright!
Thursday, January 7, 2010
ugEXPLODE, 2008; available
25 tracks, 67:36
Toy Killers was the percussionist duo of Mark E. Miller and Charles K. Noyes. When not providing dual percussion for artists such as John Zorn (on POOL) and Elliott Sharp (on ISM and CARBON), they created some of the most intense and deranged music from the no wave era. This CD compiles the only properly released Toy Killers track ("Victimless Crime", which appeared in '83 on the SPEED TRIALS compilation) alongside more than an hour of rare and unreleased studio and live tracks. Six of these WERE released as a cassette called HUMDRUM, but even Noyes and Miller are unsure when, and it's rare enough that ugEXPLODE's Weasel Walter has never seen a physical copy of it! The first eighteen tracks are a mix of short-to-average-length studio and live works, while the last seven are crazed improvisations. Everything was recorded between 1980 and 1983 (interestingly, some of the tracks aren't dated, but it's a good thing they were saved at all). Naturally, being limited to percussion would get stale after a while; luckily, Noyes and Miller had some great connections! Zorn, Sharp, Arto Lindsay, Nicky Skopelitis, Bill Laswell, and Wayne Horvitz are just some of the names that pop up on these tracks, each adding their identifiable mark while never overshadowing the core duo. One of the improvisations supposedly features Derek Bailey playing a bit and then walking off in disgust, but I can't tell which one. The liner notes by Weasel Walter and Anton Fier provide some great insight, Fier's being about a particularly spectacular glass-smashing incident. It's probably important to note here that "incendiaries", cocktail shakers, and saw are three of the instruments credited, and it's also worth noting that they occasionally set their drums on fire. The music is every bit as potent as that sounds, ranging from short bursts of DNA-esque skronk (Lindsay's vocals especially make the comparison apt) and rhythmic noise rock to such surprises as the sound collage of "24 Handkerchiefs For Roger Trilling" and a short but delightful collaboration between Miller and the Pe de Boi Samba Group (from HUMDRUM). Then there's the improvisations. At times they sound like early AMM jamming with the Blue Humans, and then some are even looser than that. Some reviews have expressed disappointment with the improvs; I think they're actually quite stunning for the most part. The sound quality is superb, and even the live tracks sound remarkably good. This disc would be a great addition to any no wave/Downtown scene fan's collection, and fans of the likes of Captain Beefheart might just like this as well. Look for new Toy Killers recordings soon, featuring Weasel Walter and Henry Kaiser amongst others!
Please visit http://www.myspace.com/toykillers; there are three tracks from this release up to preview alongside newer works, as well as a five-part commentary by Weasel Walter on this compilation's genesis. To purchase this for $10 (postage included!), go to http://nowave.pair.com/ugexplode/
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Two albums on one disc (see review for individual release dates); this compilation issued by New World Records in 1999; available
6 tracks, 66:48
It's an odd pairing, but this compilation works! Consisting of the late Richard Maxfield's ELECTRONIC MUSIC (issued by Advance in 1967 or '69; sources differ) and Harold Budd's THE OAK OF THE GOLDEN DREAMS (also issued by Advance, but in 1972), this is an hour plus of important and little-known music. Maxfield has been previously discussed on this blog (see the review for NEW SOUNDS IN ELECTRONIC MUSIC). ELECTRONIC MUSIC compiled four of his pieces for a short but delightful trip through pre-synthesizer machine music. "Bacchanale" (created in 1963)is essentially musique concrete, with Edward Fields reading a poem over a strange tape collage. Meanwhile, fellow artists Nicholas Roussakis, Terry Jennings, Fahrad Machkat, and Robert Block provide instrumentation (respectively: underwater clarinet, saxophone, violin, and prepared violin). The liner notes claim no sounds are of electronic origin, but there definitely is some sort of mucking done to the tapes. It's a fascinating piece, but the material surrounding it is even better! "Piano Concert for David Tudor" dates from 1961 and finds Mr. Tudor playing a prepared (I think) piano to the accompaniment of tapes featuring Maxfield manipulating the strings of said piano. "Amazing Grace" and "Pastoral Symphony" (both from 1960) are full-on electronic explorations, sounding light years ahead of their time. "Amazing Grace" even uses a tape of a preacher before Steve Reich's "It's Gonna Rain"; the results are at least Reich's equal! Maxfield's works occupy just under half an hour of this disc, while Budd's massive "The Oak Of The Golden Dreams" and "Couer D'Orr" (from 1969 and 1970, respectively) fill up the rest of the space. These are much more drone-based than the work Budd is best known for, and that actually works in their favor. Budd appears to be heavily under the influence of Terry Riley on these pieces while still managing to establish a distinct identity of his own. "Oak" is performed solely on a Buchla synth played with both hands (one providing a rich drone, the other beautifully improvising), while "Couer" features two tape loops of different notes (D-flat major and B major) played endlessly while Charles Oreña provides a saxophone improvisation; towards the end, one of the loops stops to interesting effect. Both of these tracks are peaceful yet never boring, and they provide a welcome counterpoint to Maxfield's considerably more abrasive pieces. The Budd pieces are also an excellent example of minimalism's influence on later developments such as ambient. Every serious fan of electronic music, ambient, minimalism, and related genres needs to find this disc; you won't be disappointed.