Thursday, January 7, 2010
Toy Killers, THE UNLISTENABLE YEARS
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/