RECENT LISTENING #11
The Daoui, XV, C. Cirocco, Russ Waterhouse, Bons, Mythical Creatures, Cory Hanson, Hot Tuna
|Larry "Fuzz-O" Dolman||Nov 2, 2020||1|
THE DAOUI Message From The Daoui (OUIENNUI.BANDCAMP.COM) Serious sci-fi quarantine jams by a Chicago duo called The Daoui. This record got on my radar when one-half of the Daoui, Angel Bat Dawid, started posting excerpts of their amazing festival set at Tusk Virtual 2020 on Instagram. Imagine if you will some dude somewhere, could be anywhere in the world (but he’s in Chicago and his name is Oui Ennui), chilling in the lab making sick dreamtone beats, and then imagine Angel Bat Dawid herself floating in above on a magic telecommunal carpet, meaning that she’s with him inside your computer screen jamming sick clarinet solos and vocals from home, somewhere else in Chicago, but they’re both in a different dimension anyway where they form The Daoui (which I just realized is a portmanteau). Anyway the Tusk performance was less than a month ago, in early October 2020, and it coincided with the release of a digital album called Message From the Daoui with pretty much the same track listing as the Tusk performance. I almost wonder if it’s the same audio too, but irregardless (as the kids say) it’s one of the more intensely new-concept albums I’ve heard this year, dank and drony trip-hop sci-fi psy-jazz in full effect, complete with a mythopoetic concept libretto in the tradition of Octavia Butler or Drexciya, and an epic 22-minute album closer with the remarkable title “Mandatory Sherm Limits.” Another fave track is “Hired Bae,” a wistful jazzed-out chord change and melodic feel that gets big-takeovered by the ancient-to-the-future drum programming, or sampling, or whatever Mr. Ennui is cooking up percussion-wise. Check out the whole aforementioned Tusk Virtual 2020 YouTube, they get into “Hired Bae” right at the 10-minute mark. There’s another superb song/visual combo at the 17:06 mark, where the “Mrs. Lennon”-like Daoui dirge “Meander (Me and Her Through the Oleander)” is accompanied by lovely secret-life-of-plants visuals, to where I already know this performance clip is much better than that entire movie I haven’t seen (1978, d. Walon Green), Stevie soundtrack notwithstanding. The Tusk performance also gives us a definitive version of “Mandatory Sherm Limits” (my theory is that it’s different audio than on the Bandcamp release), which I have starting after “Meander” with a quick and chill beats/prayer interlude/intro at 20:17 .
XV Basement Tapes CS (NO LABEL) Like many of us, I missed having my own vinyl copy of the debut 12” EP by Detroit’s XV, released as it was in an edition of 100 just over a year ago (August of 2019). The LP was sold out, the tracks weren’t streamable on Bandcamp, and the only reason I even heard it at all was because a friend living over 2,000 miles away made me a cassette dub and mailed it to me. I thought it sounded great, so was quick to buy this follow-up released last May (guess I’m destined for cassettes when it comes to XV). XV is a trio of Claire Cirocco, Emily Roll, and Shelley Salant, a guitar/bass/drums trio, as simple as that, in fine fresh and timeless post-post-post-post-punk style. I’m guessing Salant plays guitar, because she does so excellently on her solo releases as Shells and in the legendary Tyvek. Not sure who plays bass and drums between Cirocco and Roll, nor who does most of the fun and casual singing, and maybe they all switch around anyway. They do all sing or otherwise vocalize on sweet fun interludes like a goofy verbal exercise called “Starting Over/Please Stop Talking” and an a capella run-through of lady Madonna’s “Into the Groove.” The whole tape has that playful feel; where the LP was playful too, but also pretty lean and mean and focused in its sequence and edit, this cassette is a rougher draft. As it says on Bandcamp, the content is “XV practices, unreleased songs, and other miscellaneous performances not available anywhere else.” I wouldn’t be surprised if a good chunk of this stuff predates the LP. Still a strong document of an excellent band making excellent music.
C. CIROCCO Commute CDR (HOLOGRAM LABEL) The XV scene gets even more interesting as you go… I started out with the s/t debut, added The Basement Tapes, threw in related projects like the Shells 2 album by XV guitarist [bassist - ed.] Shelley Salant and assorted spoken word performance strangeness from other XV member [drummer/saxophonist/vocalist - ed.] Emily Roll, and now this hand-packaged edition-of-50 CDR release by other other XV member [guitarist/vocalist - ed.] Claire Cirocco, which is called Commute and consists of one 21 minute synth/electronic/keyboard composition… see what I mean? “Commute” is on the pleasant/ambient dreamtone side, with no vocals or guitars or live drums to be found. It changes imperceptibly, but you’re definitely in a different place at the end than you were at the beginning. Hey, just like a commute! (Whoa.) Can’t help but be reminded of a similar punk-to-electronic move, Huggy Bear guitarist Jo Johnson releasing the excellent ambient synth album Weaving back in 2014.
RUSS WATERHOUSE 1 Minute 2 Midnight LP (DRAG CITY) Journalists love to give full disclosures so they can use the phrase “full disclosure,” and full disclosure, I’ve been real-life friends with Russ Waterhouse for literally over 20 years, before there was even a Blastitude web zine. Hell, I was friends with him before I liked his music, when he and I were around the noise scene, or at least a noise scene, whatever that actually was in 1999-2000 (a vibrant underground, to say the least, super open creative people connecting through early list-servs, primitive websites, and the postal service). Russ was playing some music, solo as Rhuem, in a duo (?) called The Animals, and with a (pretty damn good) long-running larger group called The SB, and also curating and making high-quality hand-made cassette and CDR releases on his label White Tapes. This was all pretty low-key, but around 2004 or 2005 he joined forces with Lea Cho and they carefully forged a path into the 2010s with something that was musically almost completely their own. This happened most visibly with their duo called Blues Control, a band that transcended any one noise scene into a beautiful heartbreaking true new age sludge fusion version of heaven with their stunning 2012 release Valley Tangents. Flash forward 8 years, and Blues Control are not making music anymore. Russ just put out this solo album (in October of 2019) called 1 Minute 2 Midnight, somehow more of a harsh noise album than anything he’s ever done, even going back to those halcyon late-90s days when noise cassette culture was still a big influence. It has a cold droning bleakness that befits the title, which I guess turned out to be prophetic, because three months after this album was released the Doomsday Clock jumped closer than ever to midnight, and is now only 100 seconds away. That’s 20 seconds more dire than the warnings of the prophet Dickinson, still 40 seconds less dire than the warnings of the prophet Waterhouse, but that was before a global pandemic. Let’s just say that the music is suitable for these times we live in, two side-long tracks, the cold pulsing bone-minimal steelscape of side one “Hopewell,” followed by children shouting in the distance while the steelscape grinds on in a same/different way throughout side two “Too Many People.” Different because the children fade out, and the steel takes over and crawls its way into an extremely loud bass grind that scrapes through filters like some mutated DJ Screw version of Phuture’s “Acid Tracks.” The vinyl itself is thick as a brick, and the way it handles these gut-wrenching frequencies is a credit to the mastering job; in fact, the only credit on the back cover besides “Recorded in Virginia September 2018 - January 2019” is “Mastered by Josh Stevenson at Otic Sound.” And then, late in the track, the sounds of the kids come back into the mix, intermittently laughing, ghostly in the distance, and it’s a very bleak vibe indeed, and you see again that the title of the track is “Too Many People,” and as the children’s laughter fades away completely forever, you find yourself staring at the single lovely gold-embossed three-letter word in all-caps on the cover: “FIN.” That’s right. One minute to midnight on the Doomsday Clock. Sorry listserv-equivalent noise-equivalent dudes of today: this album is probably more dystopian than yours.
BONS Gras H’utsi LP (SPILLAGE FETE) A 2017 album of pastoral/synthetic electronic musical miniatures, in a tradition that includes Nuno Canavarro’s 1988 masterpiece Plux Quba and goes all the way through Flanger Magazine’s 2018 release Breslin. The key word is miniatures; there are sixteen tracks on Gras H’utsi, and only six of them break the two-minute mark. All tracks are under three minutes. And there’s something miniature about the sound itself, that blend of acoustic guitar and synth/electronics, its own inchoate subgenre, augmented here with what I think are other small instruments, combining in mysterious ways as they play curiously lovely chamber melodies. Though the album has an instrumental feel, close inspection reveals textural vocals hovering throughout, almost imperceptibly. I like this album a lot. Uncle Meat & potatoes.
MYTHICAL CREATURES Groove CS (OLD GOLD) The Old Gold label has been around for a while, pre-Blastitude even, having started in “like 1994.” They’ve had an interesting roster, with some kinda Pavementy bands on one hand, but also more experimental/eclectic sounds on the other, including releases from the great Atlanta-area 90s free jazz collective that spawned groups like Gold Sparkle Band and Charlie Parker (the band not the man). Now it’s 2019 and Old Gold is still making moves, with this new cassette release by a project called Mythical Creatures, definitely on the experimental side of the Old Gold spectrum. A good 10 minutes in and I’m still not sure what I’m listening to, whether it’s a group of people making sound together in real time, or if it’s all solo tape/weirdness collage/overdub madness by a single person, possibly by the Old Gold label proprietor Ben Young himself. I almost think it all could’ve been generated as extremely obtuse and/or processed live duo or even trio improvisations… oh hey, I guess if I actually opened the scrappy J-card (more like J-paper) insert, I would’ve seen the credits, which say “Mythical Creatures are Ben Young & Marshall Avett,” so it’s been a duo all along, although guests do appear on 7 of the 21 tracks, most frequently (Chips & Beer editor/publisher!) Stewart Voegtlin, who is on 4 of the 7 tracks. That’s right, I said 21 tracks, and none of them seem to be all that short either… this is a long, dense, experimental, and immersive cassette release.
CORY HANSON The Unborn Capitalist From Limbo LP (DRAG CITY) I already filed a review of this over on our Drag City reviews page, but still haven’t filed the LP itself. Nope, it still sits near the stereo and I keep throwing it on every couple weeks, including just now, and man, it’s a really good album, with a strange timeless sound. It’s under the guy’s name, so I can’t help but think of it as a singer/songwriter album, and specifically a 1970s baroque orchestral folk singer/songwriter album, a tradition that a lot of other present-day Drag City artists continue, not just Cory Hanson. You already know that 1970s-style baroque orchestral folk singer/songwriter albums will never go away, and taken as a whole it’s all a bunch of aural wallpaper, unless the songs are good, in which case it could be baroque singer/songwriter or hip-hop or K-Pop or (makeshift) Swahili Techno. If the songs are good, then the music is good, and the genre doesn’t matter. Which is a funny thing to say in a review of this album, because as of yet I’m still not remembering, thinking about, or otherwise internalizing any specific hooks or lines from The Unborn Capitalist From Limbo, even after a few listens. I’m just remembering, thinking about, and internalizing the overall sound, which I’m admittedly rather smitten by, even though this is the very thing I try to warn about in these pages: choosing sound over song, that is, style over substance. If there is indeed substance, and not just style, you’ll remember the substance specifically, and the style generally; if there are no specific memories of the music, only general ones, then there is no substance, and the material is only style. The question remains: does Cory Hanson’s LP have substance, even if I couldn’t hum you a specific line from it yet? Since I’ve taken the time to write this second record review about it, I think the answer is probably yes.
HOT TUNA Yellow Fever LP (GRUNT) I know there’s revisionist love out there for Hot Tuna, because I see it on the internet, and there’s revisionist love for Hot Tuna right here in Blastitude HQ too, but this 1975 album, their sixth, gets off to a rough start with me. I mean, I’m already overlooking that they have either the first or second worst band name of all time, because I like their music, but this album title and cover art use racial stereotypes, which is an even worse look when the first two tracks are white dudes playing older black blues songs, in this case Jimmy Reed’s “Baby What You Want Me To Do” and as far as I can tell a not-even-credited “Hot Jelly Roll Blues” (the Yellow Fever wikipedia page credits 1920s blues musician George Carter). What’s more, the tracks are both midtempo and long, so the album starts sluggish and stays there for a while, letting those stereotypes wallow a little bit. But we already knew Hot Tuna played their own versions of black blues songs, and singer/guitarist Jorma Kaukonen in particular does it really well, especially for the Finnish/Russian Jewish American white guy that he is. And wouldn’t you know it, by the end of the “Jelly Roll” track, the band is going on a pretty hot instrumental ride-out, and I’m starting to hear them as an alternate-world American Led Zeppelin, rumbling away on an alternate-world track from an American Presence. (Indeed, checking it now, I see the real-world Presence was released just four months after Yellow Fever.) But then, track three “Free Rein” is the first band original, and it’s almost straight-up power pop. I mean, take this song out of the context of this album, give the band a different Nazz-like power-pop name, and I think it would pass as a great track by an unknown regional band on one of those hip 1970s power pop compilations. Next track is the side-one closer, “Sunrise Dance With the Devil,” which goes back to the midtempo blues feel, though it is also an original, with just a touch of Eastern flavor, and most importantly another killer double-time instrumental/improvisational ride-out. Waitaminnit, how did I end up doing a track-by-track of the sixth Hot Tuna album?! I’m outta here! (But dude, you’re gonna skip out on “Song for the Fire Maiden,” and deny us your theory on its place in the “Green Manalishi” continuum of dark electric guitar riffage — ed.)