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RECENT LISTENING #33
Emily Robb, Lori Goldston, Harry James, P'Derrigerrio, Philip Krumm/Blue Gene Tyranny, The Gray Field Recordings, Arvo Zylo, Scott Scholz
EMILY ROBB If I Am Misery Then Give Me Affection (PETTY BUNCO) I assume everyone who heard Emily Robb’s solo debut LP from late 2021 called How to Moonwalk became a fan. It’s underground solo guitar music not informed in any way by say Takoma Records on one hand or Incus Records on the other, which is refreshing. It’s fun and it’s rock’n’roll, rooted in things like The Stooges and Sonny Sharrock and Don’t Forget to Boogie by Tetuzi Akiyami. Now Robb’s follow-up album If I Am Misery Then Give Me Affection is here, and not only does it fully satisify that Moonwalk itch, it also takes fearless steps forward, elsewhere, and beyond, to where I’m now thinking of Robb’s use of the word “moonwalk” no longer as a Mike Jackson joke but as each track being an actual psychic one-small-step-for-mankind through the zero gravity of inner space, walking along the universal inner delta mud but also lifting off into the deep inner spaces of kiwipop (at least that’s how I’m hearing the organ/guitar combo of the opening track “Hermit’s Cave,” p.s. feeling seen by that title), country blues (“There It Goes Again”), and minimalism (“Bells”), to name just three of many implications and resonations, to say nothing of side two centerpiece “Solo in A” which almost does bring to mind Takoma Records, but only if they had signed Chuck B himself to do an unaccompanied electric guitar record somewhere on the way to his killer 1969 psychsploitation LP Concerto in B Goode…
LORI GOLDSTON High and Low (SOFABURN) Pretty sure this was recommended by “Yeti” Mike “Maggot Brain” McGonigal, I think on his Instagram, and at some point I clicked all the way in and listened and goddamn. Amplified cello indeed. This is when you love Pablo Casals playing Bach but wish it sounded a bit more like the Dead C playing live on top of an actual streetcleaner. In fact, it’s not even that big of a stretch to apply R. Meltzer’s immortal words describing the piano of Cecil Taylor: “Storms, floods, cascades — all that shit.”* Especially when Goldston is joined by a drummer, as she is on four of the eight tracks here (either Dan Sasaki or Dave Abramson, the latter from Diminished Men and Master Musicians of Bukkake), track six “Moss on Rock” being a trio with Greg Kelley on trumpet where things get even weirder and wilder. And now the internet’s telling me Goldston is based in Seattle and was in fact the cellist that toured with Nirvana back in 1993, which means I saw her play live at Ak-sar-ben Coliseum in Omaha, NE on December 9th of that year, her cello presence on that night’s renditions of “The Man Who Sold the World” and “Jesus Don’t Want Me for a Sunbeam” still haunting me to this day. One week later, the whole world heard this same cello presence when Nirvana’s monumental appearance on MTV Unplugged in New York was aired on December 16th. It had been recorded a month earlier, three weeks before the Omaha show, when the band had been on the East Coast leg of the same tour. (*The Meltzer quote is from his piece “Ten Random Discs,” which might be my single favorite Meltzer piece of all, because it’s actual sincere music writing, which he’s actually very good at.)
HARRY JAMES Buy The Numbers LP (POTIONS MUSIC) Member of long-running Chicago electro-funk cabal Chandeliers makes a fantastic solo album that was released in 2021 on a couple tiny runs by the Queens-based Potions Music label. Potions has also released some recent Chandeliers records such as the excellent Law of Fives LP, among many others, and seems to be a label to watch as their stuff goes out of print quickly, and gets expensive. Why, this here Buy the Numbers is already fetching something like $50-$80 a copy on Discogs, but one listen and you can see why. Some records are just good, worth some money the same way a very fine steak is worth some money. Here’s some info from the label: “Fourteen smoky instrumentals, each under three minutes in length, which find Harry limiting his instrumentation to upright piano and percussion, building fluid compositions whose concise arrangements neatly interweave color and cadence while leaving room for epiphanies found through improvisation.” You wouldn’t immediately think this album was made with just upright piano and percussion, because it’s ultimately made at the mixing desk where those tracks are chopped and looped and EQ’d just right to make the most perfect melancholy soft-spoken rainy-day beat-science miniatures.
P’DERRIGERRIO Live in (a)Basement CS (SPLEENCOFFIN) This artist cold-emailed me with a Bandcamp link, which is definitely not a guaranteed way to get a review, but is always welcome, especially if the sender seems to actually read this here newsletter/fanzine/tipsheet. Still, I can’t guarantee reviews for any records, even ones I really want to review. I’ve started reviews that are still in slowly improving rough draft form, and I can guarantee maybe 1/5th of those getting published, at most. I do try to listen to every solicitation at least once, and the very first time I listened to the P’Derrigerrio, after an uncertain shortwave/noise/drone first track called “Corpulent Ether,” the second track “Golden Hour” put me right into that lovely mid-late 1990s zone where I’m listening to a CD compilation that came with Bananafish magazine, and I get to track 7 or whatever and it isn’t harsh noise or weird solo electronics or Dada spoken word, it’s instead one of those very 1990s home-recorded experimental avant-pop vocal tracks that Bananafish was also expert in curating, the ones that make you scramble back to the magazine to look for the deliberately confusing interview/feature with the obscure band, because the musical vibe is perfect, like some sort of bedroom 8-track post-industrial Thinking Fellers pop music side project. But no! This is not a Bananafish comp from 1998, it’s a 2023 Bandcamp release by a group (or person) I don’t know much about who records as P’Derrigerrio. And by the way, not all the songs have vocals, like I may have implied above with the “avant-pop” comments — some of the tracks are indeed straight-up noise pieces — but when they do have vocals, they’re weird little avant-prog folk-pop gems.
PHILIP KRUMM/“BLUE” GENE TYRANNY Formations CD (IDEA) Whoah, speaking of Idea Records (Frozen Corn LP reviewed last ish) they also sent along this beautifully gatefold-sleeve-packaged 2003 CD release of a 20-minute electro-noise composition performed and recorded in 1968 by a young “Blue” Gene Tyranny still known as Robert Sheff and living in San Antonio, where the composer Philip Krumm also resided, Sheff’s elder and “pioneer of modal, repetitive pattern music.” “Formations” honestly doesn’t sound particularly modal or repetitive to me. It sounds like fractured atonal chaotic noise music, and for 1968 it’s very heavy indeed. About halfway through you realize you can hear Tyranny going off somewhere in the mix on acoustic piano in a way that would make (the aforementioned!) Cecil T blush, and even after you finally can hear his piano, you can still barely hear it at all. Not because of its volume or place in the mix or anything like that, more you can’t hear it the same way you couldn’t see Wilbur Whatley’s younger “brother” in The Dunwich Horror. Anyway, right now you can easily get a copy of this CD for under $5 on Discogs, so go get your mind blown while learning more about Philip Krumm, who really was the true 20th Century shining avant-garde beacon of San Antonio. I’m not sure young Robert Sheff would’ve even grown up to be the “Blue” Gene Tyranny we know and love today without Krumm’s example preceding him…
THE GRAY FIELD RECORDINGS She Sleeps to the Sound of Knives CD (ANTICLOCK) My last encounter with Anticlock, which was then a Stillwater, Oklahoma-based record label, was way back in 2010 when they sent along a split LP they’d released between Cortez and Language of Light. Cortez is a solo project by Scott Cortez, guitarist for Midwest shoegaze legends loveliescrushing, so that was cool, and I believe Language of Light were the folks who ran the label, offering their own heady and strange (folk? electronic? but definitely not folktronica?) brew. In fact, listening to the record again in 2023, I’m hearing Language of Light as straight-up Midwest shoegaze themselves (honorary Oklahoma contingent), and the dreamy last 5 minutes of their side of the split would knock socks off were it anthologized on Southeast of Saturn, believe me. Anyway, point being: Language of Light shares a member with the group reviewed here, The Gray Field Recordings, who have sent along their new Anticlock release, a full-length from 2023 called She Sleeps to the Sound of Knives. In fact, I think this is mostly solo work by Language of Light member Rebecca Loftiss, and I’d call her a songwriter but it’s hard to think of these as songs exactly. I mean, there’s a couple fairly straight numbers on here, like the damn near dance-poppy “Verdant Green” and maybe album closer “Wilderness Takes Over,” but most of it just kind of lays out as strange extended noise-strafed electronic soundscapes that are sparsely populated by spoken-word librettos. Take album centerpiece “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” eighteen slow-burn minutes of a woman who is not Loftiss chanting cold spoken phrases in various languages through various sonic filters while freezing synth dirges wind their implacable way underneath. The pancultural European vibe may have something to do with Loftiss having relocated from Oklahoma to Athens, Greece in recent years, but regardless of psychogeography She Sleeps to the Sound of Knives is a refreshingly odd one, possibly occupying that extremely small and rarefied zone where Bridgett Fontaine & Areski overlap on a Venn diagram with Throbbing Gristle.
ARVO ZYLO 333 CD (NO PART OF IT) Chicago still goes so deep, Arvo Zylo and I both lived here at the same time for basically two decades (though he moved to Seattle a few years ago), and I still hadn’t heard his music until this new 2023 CD release which is itself a reissue of a CDR from 2010 . . . and this stuff is wild. The first track “Quicksand Eggs of a Beaten Pathos” is 33 minutes long and dense and highly active and certainly not the mere “noise music” I might’ve expected. I mean, c’mon, it’s 21st Century Composition, and Arvo isn’t the only “noise musician” making it. 333 starts out with avant-circus piano triggers (the whole album is created from “malfunctioning sequencers” if I’m reading the press release correctly) that eventually morph into a sonic swarm of metallic cyborg locusts which fully overtake the land and rain pestilence upon it for at least 4 or 5 minutes, which as far as I’m concerned is the “second movement” of the “composition.” When the cyberlocusts finally recede from the sky we make our way into a third movement, and I swear I can hear an audience cheering during the transition. Was this madness a live performance? A horror movie? Bloodsport? The imagination runs wild, folks, and we’ve still got some 24 minutes to go just in track one, with two more very long tracks after that, meaning many movements and submovements on this album, those malfunctioning sequencers just acting up a storm...
SCOTT SCHOLZ Whip Sigils (NO PART OF IT) Also newly released for 2023 on Arvo Zylo’s No Part of It label is this extremely high-concept work by Lincoln, Nebraska-based composer/musician Scott Scholz. High-concept when you’re reading the press release, anyway, about how it’s “a project to explore how previous cultures had addressed pandemics musically,” made of “pieces incorporating melodies drawn from Medieval self-flagellants and victims of the Albigensian Crusade,” and if that wasn’t enough, how “the source melodies are embedded in the music horizontally and vertically in a variety of ways analagous to creating visual sigils out of letters”! I mean, what is this guy, a music librarian, or something? (Note: he is.) And still, the first time I listened, I was laying on my couch not really thinking of any of that, just hearing the music with only the vaguest thoughts of Albigensian self-flagellants dancing through my head, and proceeded to lay there without moving for the entire 40-minute album, which just got deeper and deeper and deeper as it went. In some ways it’s a very original take on experimental solo electric guitar (what was I saying about No Incus/No Takoma back in the Emily Robb review?), taking an almost fully compositional route, informed by things like Morricone and the art of the taqsim and of course those Medieval melodies, but it’s not solo guitar either because it’s extensively orchestrated by surprising things like blast-beat drum-machines, shortwave radio static, and synthetic vocal patches, the latter of which reach a near-shocking fever-pitch as the climax of the 10-minute “III. Nu tret herzuo der bossen welle (14th C. geisslerlied),” a section that almost seems like a punchline to the album’s long and patient set-up, or the first kill scene halfway through a uniquely dry period horror film (about self-flagellants, most likely), or just some sort of glitched-out A.I. takeover of the ancient-to-future music; either way I’ve listened to it three times and still find it legitimately frightening. And that’s to say nothing of the subsequent “V. Le bouvier (13th C. Cathar hymn anticipating their imminent demise) (AKA Le Boier, AKA Lo Boier),” which is 13 minutes long and also filled with melodic surprises over long strange held textures and extended submovements. Whether you’re following the concept or not, Whip Sigils is a deep one.