Thursday, October 27, 2005

beta dresses up for halloween

Fools learn the hard way not to get in my way. (Sorry if I pre-empt the next few weeks of Beta jokes).

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

beta dirties three or four

Rock week didn't quite pan out, as I decline on shows by Take off My Pants and Morning Jacket and Devendra Beanfart, preferring to ensconce myself in baseball playoffs. Of course, I missed this on Monday night, as I ventured out to see the Dirty Three instead with some deliciously drunk Aussies, as well as one drunk Irish girl who is training for the New York Marathon. We arrive in time to see these four guys on stage, with one wooly guy looking like this NBA commentator (whose visage is emblazoned in my mind, if not his damned name), long hook nose, grizzly beard, balding long hair whipping wildly about as he furiously plucks a mandolin with his back to us. What the hell is this band?

Oh, so it is the Dirty Three or rather Four, as they have some tiny dude who may be playing an unplugged violin as far as my ears can tell. Warren Ellis decided that between crack and growing a beard, the latter was the best way to get a divorce. A few years back, after being unable to distinguish between any D3 songs, much less any albums, I had all but given them up. It took a good flask warmth on a night out under a new moon to fully appreciate what it is that the Dirty Three do so well: make music for crying jags. All heaving bosoms, teeth-gnashing, shuddering comedowns, such is the music of sawed fiddle, tears not in beers but in bourbon glasses. Mick Turner, all eight feet of him, blushes in the background, waiting for that moment in the eye of each song's sea storm where he can strum each string as slowly as possible without bringing it all to a stop; Jim White swinging his sticks so that they become as fans, catching and reflecting back the red light districts. The only way to move with them is as if drunk on a pirate ship, staggering, swaying, careening with a slight lack of control.

It's this sorta body movement that leads to me continually bump into this school marm lassy wearing lace gloves and a high-necked collar with granny glasses. Figure she must've just crawled out of the Jersey outback or an attic in the Hamptons, and I can't figure out if she's 22 or 52. Blame it on the red lights, but I realize much later that I have been jostling Neil N. Bobb herself. Time for some mouthwash.

Friday night, it's Oneida, who I have written about plenty o'times, as solid and repetitive as ever. Their first song is about as close to Terry Riley circa Persian Surgery Dervishes as I've ever heard a bar band be, and they take a deliciously long time to even get to the first words of "Each One, Teach One."

By the time DC and I get down to Tonic on Saturday night, we're soaked, socks all squishy from the outburst. If my toes are uncomfortable, how can I possibly stand for a band that to their credit, really does sound as annoying as a pterodactyl? But what am I expecting seeing squawky no-wave at Tonic anyhow? Downstairs, in the amontillado casks, I get enrapt in the film flickering against one wall. There's excellent softcore sex every two minutes or so, and it's really no surprise that it's an Emmanuelle movie, but with a long-haired black Emmanuelle as well as a short white-haired one that looks like Penelope Houston.

It sets the mind for the Magik Markers, whose wild mood swings from god awful to God in Awe Full are tough to take. Perpetually on tour, they veer all over the highway, though a year on, I notice they actually play more than just flail about. There's no head-butting guitars, or spazzing out. No blood drawn, very little hair-whipping. Pete plays trumpet into his skins, Leah every once in awhile tip-toes over to the piano and creates new chords with her nails, while Elisa stumps for God times, or at least better posture, making a holy chant about shoulders back, chin up, face light.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

beta turns the heater on

While I wait for the landlady to realize that it actually is cold and crank up the soda machine-sized furnace in my apartment (which will make us schvitz and get dry bloody noses instead), a friend wrote me today to say how much he's obsessing over Keith Hudson.
Yeah, me too.

From the still out of print Torch of Freedom here's some warmth:

Keith Hudson - "Turn the Heater On"
Keith Hudson - "So Cold Without Your Love"

Saturday, October 22, 2005

beta bids you come on

Thursday, October 20, 2005

heep see

Hangable Auto Bulb
"Laughing Butane Bob"

Has it really been ten years? Not exactly, as I don't think I was enthralled enough with the Warp label and the enigmatic Aphex to seek out any and all Dick James records I could until late college, so perhaps I mail-ordered both of these twelves back in 1998. I also wound up with weird twelves by Woodenspoon and Rubber Johnny, who I'm told are not actually the man himself, but I'll be damned if it's really JP Buckle twisting and tightening up that taut snare flurry.

Simon Reynold's recent Aphex Twin piece puts his prime output only up to "Alberto Balsam," but these are my favorites sides, falling as they do between my two favorite Aphex albums. At the time, this was impossible music, delirious to spin and imagine the future possibilities. Friends of mine, excellent musicians in their own right, would marvel at similar tracks, like Squarepusher's "Port Rhombus," its melancholic melody entwined with knotty rolls and rubbery basslines, trying to figure out a way to make all those changes in real-time and finally giving up. A shame that most proponents of this music went up their own arses soon after and that if I really want to hear drum and bass, that now means the new Lightning Bolt.

I also discussed these "Hangable Auto Bulbs" (along with topics ranging from Revenant to reggae) for one of them Stylus Magazine podcasts, y'know, Stycast.

Delia Gonzalez & Gavin Russom
The Days of Mars
"Rise (DFA Remix)"

Matos's disavowal (near the bottom) of this record only confirms my suspicions that this is the aural equivalent of Ritalin. While to his ears, it just sounds like they set up some presets on their gear and left the room (which is sorta what they do for some of their pristine installations), there's a ridiculous amount of arpeggial weaving at work here. Of course, I am into what they do, and I find myself getting stuff done while spinning it, such as hitting deadlines, oiling floorboards, alpha-beta-izing white labels, or checking my thread count. Tom Breihan's comment about this being the perfect album to look at NYC skyscrapers is spot-on, whether he realizes it or not. This drawing on their homepage is from some Nazi architecture sketches.

Dominik Eulberg
Flora & Fauna
"Die Invasion der Taschenkrebse"

It's tough to mention Eulberg without referencing Phillip Sherburne's worthy piece. I still have yet to scope the bio, much less translate the deliciouly elongated titles for his tracks (maybe I should make my German friends translate for me? Or else find the nicest way of putting the above title as "Invasion of the Cancerous Sacs"), and when I did a Stycast recently, I played one of these Eulberg tracks just to make Todd Burns tell me what he knows. A biologist or horticulturalist that makes such the case for intelligent design in nature's patterns? Ja.

"Face B"

I don't know if I've ever worked harder to keep an album on my radar this year and in my sightline than I have for Isolee (yeah, more Sherburne links, I know). Sent to me in one of those little slipcases, I generally lose such wafers the moment they're out of the mailers, and have dozens stacked up that will never ever see the laser-light. And after months of forgetting about it on my iPod or forgetting to dig it back out from under that pile, it's finally paid off for me. It's hard to pick just one track out of it, as each one tucks so many pleasures in so many pockets (sorta like that thing I do every year at the end of winter, where I tuck a few bucks in a coat, so that next time around, I'm nouveau riche), and what may not sound like my favorite the first minute in, unzips and stacks up to reveal its treasures (mega bucks). Juxtapose the way that he uses guitar textures here versus how Boards of Canada listlessly do and it's easy to see who among them is really moving things forward and which one will place in my Top Ten at the end of the year.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

beta hate beards, luv Oneida

It actually happened last summer, when my levels of Devendra Banhart reached toxic levels at his Bowery Ballroom show. That reaction then is described in some detail in my first paragraph about Cripple Crow, and goes along with my disappointment with that album as a whole. Granted, it's not as killer as Nick Catucci's piece, but that axe he's grinding shaves more than beards.

Just the same, my fondness for Oneida perhaps dims in the light of my editor Chuck Eddy's love for them, which may be what led to this gi-normous spread I got to lavish on them for this week's main Music section.

This song below was one of the few highlights on that Rough Trade new artists cover old artists comp from a few years back. Of course, Oneida's "eternally well-read and repetition-happy" (Chuck's words) traits work exceptionally well with this James "Blood" Ulmer joint. And you know how much I luv Ulmer.

Oneida- "Jazz is the Teacher, Funk is the Preacher"

Friday, October 14, 2005

heep see

Fiery Furnaces
@ Town Hall

Lord how I used to love that first one, despite the huge falling out I had with my old friend, who drums on it, his style intimately familiar to my ears. Digging it out today, I'm almost shocked at how well it's held up, since after waxing about Blueberry Boat, Blue Very Bloat has not been much fun to return to.

And so they finally return to rocking and of course it's when everyone is seated in Town Hall. The rhythm section is BoC Godzilla stompy, smashing flat most of the studio nuances. I am shocked that the painful listening that Rehearsing my Choir is at home (it sounds as inaudible as the title suggests) actually shakes loose live with some listenable song-ish qualitites. Of course, my guest, who is not familiar with how the songs are changed around or whatever it is that the devout cling to with the band, finds them bland and boring, with every change the same, the organ flourishes wanky, and Eleanor too stiff and uptight, her singing flat and not right. At least they're not doing that "We're bored of our songs too in a deconstructed sense, so let's do it all as a Vegas medley" that they did last time.

My live review of this show will run at the Voice next week.

The Juan Maclean
@ Delancey Lounge

As I grind out a longish piece on both Juan and James Murphy, the sleek, impervious chrome gives way to something darker, more brittle. Live, the robotic facade is shattered and the album's glossy, synthetic coruscations grow barbed and sawtoothed, the aerodynamic beats harried and frayed. The remixes (Lindstrom and Prins Thomas's "Tito's Way" is ludicrous in its analog elongations while the Cajmere remix of "Give Me" sashays between ecstasy and acid) shake something different loose with each producer, all of which hinges on the alternately vampiric/bloodless vocals of Nancy Whang and what they do to them.

@ Bowery Ballroom

I haven't heard this group at all, but since I run into the PR folks who routinely send me stuff, maybe I just subconsciously buried it in the stacks. They come out to "O Superman" and Emily Haines, classy in her little black dress, gets even more classy by taking off her heels to do this running in place dance barefoot. Sasha's New Yorker blurb mentioned they would've been big in the early nineties, but with the ear towards Laurie Anderson and Blondie, I think it'd have to be the early eighties. That's how catchy it is, if anachronistic. My bourbon thankfully helped me forget the most political lines of the evening.

Excepter/ Yura Yura Teikoku
@ North Six

Coming across some Strawberry Fields Forever in that dank, permanently new paint odious-smelling dungeon of the N.6 backstage area, what better balloon mindstate could there be for Excepter? A hissing kingsnake throb, some smoke machine hooliganism, fauxhawked analords, and just as it seems to stick together like resin, it's just some sticky shit. Call it Village People capped woodblock abuse, or Karl Malden karaoke, but my hatless Beatles haircut is seriously bummed by the proceedings. My friend says it's excellent torture for his studio engineer.

Yura Yura Teikoku (whose name I don't even figure out until Nick's entry the next day) are locked in from the start. It's fine group interlocking, extended without dropping off the edge, but not as jammy as Nick's take suggested. Both the bassist (rocking that slimming black cypher like Keijo Haino) and the guitarist have trousers that match their amps. More than anything, it sounds like dudes that are into Groundhogs and ZZ Top but with the blues root of their boogie snipped. It's Heat, but not Hooker. If they weren't Japanese (yes, I made the Wisconsin jab), it's doubtful so many folk would have shook loose to see them, but it's not like I keep track of every hard rock band from Japan, so maybe they're huge in Brooklyn.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

beta eyes without a face

Not quite realizing it, I picked out a double feature in the form of Vincent Price's centennial feature film, The Abominable Dr. Phibes and Georges Franju's Les Yeux Sans Visage ("Eyes Without a Face" for the Billy Idol-obsessed). Both are classics (prob'ly why the NYPL carries 'em), either of the cheese or realistic chill variety. Won't spend much time lamenting how CGI has scrubbed clean horror backdrops even as they made them more 'scary' and dungeon-drippy, so that once-campy but kaleidoscopic vision of set design and costuming has fallen haplessly deep into muted earth-tones and realistically drab monochromes, to where either in the deranged and ornate dwellings of the revenge-bent Dr. Phibes or else the ensconced black and white laboratory of Dr. Génessier, the films still shudder with wide-eyed horror in the present.

Both movies deal with that peculiar horror of being faceless, to where interacting with society is all but impossible and life of any import is dead even while they still 'live'. Too hideous are the visages of Dr. Phibes and the disfigured daughter of Dr. Génessier, Louise, each burned to the point of losing that most-individualistic of human traits, their face. Now obviously, horror excels when it can best magnify the dread of the everyday into something truly monstrous, be it the cave-day dread of untrackable squeaks, of being lost in the woods, of not being able to run fast enough, of the dark, but being marred beyond recognizability is a frightening prospect that even in a casual viewer causes tremors to the core. The infamous scene wherein Génessier slowly fillets and peels the face off of a young girl is still stomach-turning some forty years on.

Beyond mere parallel plot points, the engine of both men's vengeance is of a rationalized sort of madness, gripping both doctors as they try to atone for accidents beyond their professional grasps. Being doctors (Phibes was also a masterful organist, making him prone to brooding meditations on his glowing ruby pipe organ in-between murders and the winding up of his inflatable jazz band, Dr. Phibes and his Clockwork Wizards) both men are used to controlling both life and death, of being all-powerful, able to save lives, especially their beloved, to exert their wills against all odds. So whether its Phibes' inability to save his wife from a car accident death or Génessier's helplessness in the disfigurement of his own daughter from such a car fire, both men are fueled by a desire to eradicate their mistakes, their own feebleness, by muuuuuuurder.

Phibes is the classic madman, hiding in a castle of some sort, taking the lives of the nine surgeons who were unable to save his young wife on the operating table in twisted variations of the plagues of the Pharoahs. There's a contraption to replicate hail inside a car, a birdcage full of bats, a brussel sprout syrup that makes locusts eat the face off a nurse, a fat Hebrew neckpiece to correspond to each death, for no other reason than to copycat such poetic pestilence nine times. Believe me, it's far easier to create wax busts for each victim, get the special necklaces made, and then melt each face after death than to be prostrate in the face of unyielding fate and admit that your wife is dead and there's little you can do about it.

What makes Dr. Génessier, as Georges Franju tells in an interview, so frightening is that he is someone quite rational behaving irrationally. He's delivering a paper on skin grafts, he's running a clinic successfully, he's taking in stray dogs, he's dealing with the traumatic 'loss' of his daughter by immersing himself in his life-saving work. Such realism made me wonder through most of the film if this might have been a real case after all. Rather than accept his error (the car accident is mentioned as being his fault), his mistakes, his wrongheadness, admit that he's destroyed his daughter even while she still lives, he'd sooner take to kidnapping and performing horrific operations on both young girls and lost dogs, heedless of the consequences or his own daughter's feelings or his own certain yet spiraling madness, and spend forever just trying to mask his own mistakes.

Monday, October 10, 2005

beta in ozla

I need to get out of the labyrinth or something, outrace the rats. Buying a ticket for November is just not soon enough. Gray turn the skies and press down like wet newsprint. Feeling just as soggy and uninspired. Not that it affects my mental wandering, which includes this jaunt to outer LA and Oz.

Since both albums are one forty-minute long noise guitar track, here's a wobbly remix of Triste as done by LAFMS member, Tom Recchion that sounds like a one-man band version of In a Silent Way or something equally brilliant and batty:

Oren Ambarchi - "Triste (Remake by Tom Recchion)"

Thursday, October 06, 2005

beta luv betty and/or bettye

Betty Lavette - "Let Me Down Easy"

This is one of the first soul songs I ever got into, as my old drinking buddy Jones turned me onto the Best of Calla Records and Dave Godin's Deep Soul Treasures one Lone Star'd night. That twinkle of vibraphone, that stinging twang, that sweet voice growing more desperate and frayed with each verse, that pop sheen that just hints at the fissures of heartache beneath, it all came together here, and led me into much deeper, darker fields of human soul.
So it was a thrill to have Bettye return to the scene, even if she has to go through Joe Henry's embalming machine to get to the present. Musing on her down yonder in Nashville...

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

beta shops at d'ags

overheard conversation in the checkout line at D'Agostino's grocery store between two guys in their mid-thirties:

First Guy: "So there's this video coming out of old footage from CBGB's and punk clubs in the eighties."
Second Guy: "It's hard to believe that you used to be a punk-rocker. I just can't see you like that at all. All angry at the world and shit."
First Guy: "Yeah, back then it was all about the music. Punk before it was fashion. Guys like Joe Strummer and the Ramones were my fucking idols. Joe, he was a spokesman for a generation. Music was all I cared about when I was eighteeen, twenty. Now all I think about are my kids. "
Second Guy: "I'd like to be the spokesman for my generation."
First Guy: "You can't be now. You're too old."
Second Guy: "I'm too old to get up on stage?"
First Guy: "Nah, you can still get up, but you're too old to be the spokesman for a generation. It's already past your time."
Second Guy: "I'm too old?"
First Guy: "Yeah, you're too old to be spokesman. You can't be over twenty-five. The kids will never trust you."
Second Guy: "What do you mean? What about Kanye West?"
First Guy: "Who's she?"

Sunday, October 02, 2005

heep see

Recent movies:

The Saragossa Manuscript (dir. Wojciech Has)- Having caught this once before when Captain Trip and Scorsese brought it round to the revival circuit, I could barely recall the title all these years until just recently, though it appeared to be a different edit than either Jerry Garcia or myself remember. The notes mention his appreciation not only of its surreal, circular, interlocking (story within a story within a story within a story...) dream nature of the movie (which is about as trip-structured as any movie I've ever born witness to) and a particular scene wherein a guy keeps moving his bed so as to not have Death stand at the foot of the bed. That scene's not here, and I swear at the movie's end (when I saw it in the theater), it returns all the way to the beginning, to the first soldiers who come across the manuscript, thus completely the journey back to its outermost rings.

Double Trouble (dir. John Paragon)- Turning away from the boring Yankees game on a Saturday afternoon, I stumble upon this early nineties gem. It must've been a knock-off of Jean-Claude Van Damme's Double Impact (full disclosure: I saw this 'twin' movie in the theater and at least three other times) with the Barbarian Brothers playing mullet-topped, neckless, unable-to-put-their-arms-down ripped, Raiders mid-riff tee wearing, svelte-waisted good/bad brothers. It really makes Van Damme's twin movie play like Dead Ringers or something arty in comparison. An obliviously absurd action movie masterstroke (in the brain-crippling sense).

The Black Sabbath Story- Okay, I skipped the whole story just to watch the early live footage. Ozzy, in his somewhat awkward, babyfat, just kinda weird Birmingham lad days, is hypnotizing. By the time of his acid and coke-crazy success period, where he claps along far off the beat and does embarrassing air guitar moves in Elvis-white jumpsuits, he's dreadful. And "Snowblind" kinda loses its edge when he yells "COCAINE!" at the end of every verse.

La Dolce Vita (dir. Federico Fellini)- Maybe I will give it all up to be a publicist.

Short Cuts (dir. Robert Altman)- Captain Planet and his Planeteers? Jeez, the early Clintonian-nineties never felt more antiquated and distant.

Mother and Son
(dir. Alexander Sokurov)- Realize I had already seen this gorgeous, austere movie a few years back (must be getting old). What kind of lenses were they shooting with? The opening scene seems to be a tableau, angled oddly as if a plane. The colors are painterly, exquisitely textured, with landscapes that have infinite depth, and yet there is a distorted flatness and fuzziness as well, almost dizzying in its toggle between the two dimensions. The shot of chilly Russian winds moving through the golden fields of wheat is but one of many perfect shots.

Grizzly Man (dir. Werner Herzog)- Okay, Treadwell was batshit (feeling the heat of fresh bear shit in amazement but one small indicator) but Herzog was right in his appraisal of the man's nearly-unrealized cinema talents. The unintentional capture of nature (meaning, without him fixinng his hair in the shot or pretending he is some sort of action hero) on the shots of humanless trails, with the wind at play, bending boughs and grassblades is evocative, poetic, the accidental amateur equal of Malick, Tarkovsky, Sokurov.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

beta luv shirley and june

Dusting off the Moistworks to talk about autumn, and that quality of voice from the lovely ladies of the British Isle, Shirley Collins and June Tabor, and how they sound in the chilly wind.