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STUFFS & THINGS & THINGS & STUFF (STTS-006)
Fruit of the Spirit blog/label, Christina Carter, Venison Whirled, Sam Sweet, Acetone, Michel Foucault, Nod, Leighton Craig, People Skills, Dolphin Midwives
FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT MAGAZINE, an online-only record label and magazine of the arts. Oldfriend/oldhead Ma Turner and their compatriot Troy Curry (aka IG land’s deep record head @wikidwytch) have started a new online-only label called Fruit of the Spirit where instead of pressing records they just upload albums and instead of buying records you just click on Google Drive files and listen to them. Let’s just say that it’s been a pretty big bounty (of fruit) so far; by my count they’ve released (posted/shared/blogged) eight records already, in basically just three weeks. Who needs a vinyl pressing plant that’s backed up until next year, anyway? If you’re listening to it right now, it got released in some shape or form, right? And so far I’ve listened to Turner & Curry’s own flagship project Grey Windowpane (wild ambient industrial trip-house soundscapery, wait what?); Live at Mystery Train 10.1.21 by Staubitz & Waterhouse (file under noise music, but also under live duo improvisation… I mean this is basically like Voice Crack, or some sort of Smegma duo subgroup… whoa great synthesizer madness from Waterhouse around six minutes in… great synth madness from Russ throughout, actually, while Mary plays “turntables, tiller, and rake,” and let me tell you, her rake playing is much more subdued than Eugene Chadbourne’s); another one by the very promising duo lineup of Kryssi Battalene (Headroom, Mountain Movers) and Anthony Pasquarosa (Gluebag, Weeping Bong Band), recording a self-titled four-song release under the name Junk Orbit (different than what I expected, which was… more guitar? Tracks one and three on here are kind of a loose & krauty bass-loop and drum-machine driven piece of space rock, reminding me of some of the Chicago or post-Chicago stuff I’ve been listening to like Rob Frye’s Exoplanet and Rob Mazurek’s Exploding Star Orchestra, where they vamp and groove with synthesizer patterns, because they sort of do that here, but in less of a jazz way and more of a harsh post-punk way, more lo-fi basement style). We’ve also got a wild release by the Roadhouse Duo, which is Ryan Davis’s solo proj Roadhouse, but as a duo with his Equipment Pointed Ankh and Tropical Trash bandmate Jim Marlowe (and there’s two duo releases in a row where I have no idea which musician is playing what); there’s the Josh Burkett & Jen Gelineau Duo (organ & violin duo drone) with a single-track 22-minute album and/or YouTube of a live performance in Holyoke, Massachusetts from about 5 years ago (this time I can tell who is playing what!); and last but not least for this quick and select overview, The Myriad Moods of Brian Lucas by Brian Lucas, who is also a visual artist, with work displayed in a pop-up gallery on the same aforelinked Fruit of the Spirit blog post as the Google Drive file of this album. His album is a bunch of shoegazey keyboard/guitar songs, with vocal melodies and delivery that have a distinctly lazer-guided sound. I have no idea who this guy is, but I like this music, possibly the biggest surprise of the label. I like his art too. Anyway, that’s already a lot of records, right? And there have been more records since, and posts without a release attached too, stuff like Turner’s revisitation of the Evie record from his childhood, or this no-music post featuring the artwork of Giselle Bolotin. Trust me, it’s all a big worthy blast of art and music, a nice seasonal crop and yield of the fruit of the spirit, brought to us by heads who knoweth.
CHRISTINA CARTER is on Bandcamp. After some deliberation as to what the best release vectors were for her work, and some coming to grips with the frictionless digital present we live in (which isn’t easy for those of us raised on needles dragging through vinyl, and who used the CDR renaissance of the 2000s as a great new private-press self-publishing opportunity), Christina Carter of Charalambides is now on Bandcamp with something of a “soft digital open,” as they (hopefully don’t) say, a small handful of six selections from points throughout her extensive discography, with the promise of more to come. This first batch includes the brand new Offer and Two Times, both digital-only hour-long a capella vocal albums, recorded on the first and second day respectively of June 2021 and then released simultaneously on November 19th. Two hours non-stop of one the most stark solo vocal approaches you’ll hear. “Walk to You” from Two Times is in fact so stark, that when a distant train whistle enters into the recording, you have plenty of space and time to think about whether it’s a tone to be harmonized with or against, or to be treated as a call for a response (or a response to a call, also an option), and whether or not Christina herself also went through this same post-Cageian handwringing when she made her own instant artistic choices that I am pondering right now while listening to it. Doesn’t matter because this is the real-alone, the vulnerable late-night, very gutsy and very fragile at the same time. And like I said, no reverb, as opposed to another album up there Seals, which was a 2009 CDR release on Christina’s label Many Breaths, and starts with more a capella singing but there are clear words and lyrical phrases, and quite a bit of reverb, which is now very noticeable after being immersed in two straight hours of her voice reverb-free. In fact, Seals is so relatively traditional that it even includes things like a singer singing phrases while accompanying herself on guitar. That said, I can’t think of another singer/songwriter that could play a song like “Farm,” where she’s repeating a single guitar riff and a minimal vocal melody over and over, singing short-fiction lyrics like, “Now there’s the television in the living room, and the television in the bedroom, and the phone in the bedroom, and the phone in the living room. She had to calm herself down by becoming more ill. By becoming lethargic, one might say. By becoming extremely immovable.” On the Seals Bandcamp page, she describes this kind of songwriting, what I just called ‘short fiction,’ as “biographical imaginings, truths and not truths,” which is enlightening when applied to these plainspoken yet enigmatic lyrics, but also basically describes every great book ever. It’s true, I do think of her solo music as literary.
Another Avant-Garde Musical Artist from Texas is Venison Whirled, the/a solo performance guise for Lisa Cameron, who you might know from playing drums and percussion in the long-running psych-blast rock outfit ST 37. I remember reading a guest blurb about Venison Whirled on the Volcanic Tongue website (no longer on the internet, sorry no link), written by Tom Carter (who founded Charalambides with the aforementioned Christina Carter), in which he talked about the live shows Cameron had been recently playing in Austin, billed as Venison Whirled, as these kind of heavy post-Amacher deep-drone sound installations that had a very physical presence. Anyway, I couldn’t get my 2011 3” CDR release by Venison Whirled Xibalba to work in the ole boom box any more, so I turned to YouTube and think I’ve found some examples of what Mr. Carter was talking about, one of them embedded above.
Picking up a thread from a previous BlastStack BlastiLetter in which the Cindy album by Acetone was reviewed, I’ve now gone and plunked down $25 (not including shipping!) for a book about the band, Hadley Lee Lightcap by Sam Sweet. This book had been initially released as part of the Light in the Attic archival LP 1992-2001, and is now sold separately from that out-of-print LP, directly from the author and his AllNightMenu press. I’m about halfway through and it’s already worth every penny, not only lovely to look at and hold, and not only a really good rock bio of a 1990s rock band, but also a goddamn post-war cultural history of the greater Los Angeles area itself, with a bit of a microscope on the late 20th Century goings-on at the notorious California Institute of the Arts, scoping out from there to be a meditation on the goddamn human condition itself, specifically the discovery of, increased diagnosis of, and final reckoning with, a distinctly American post-war suburban blues, aka depressive anxiety disorder. Have I wept while reading yet? I don’t think so, but this is the kind of book that makes me weep when I’m not reading it, sometimes more than once a day, and Acetone’s music is going to increasingly be like that too (“How Sweet I Roamed” from their I Guess I Would EP sure got the waterworks going today), especially when thinking about my own artistic and not untroubled teenage kids, and their artistic and not untroubled teenage friends, etcetera. I realize now when I listen to “Pinch” off of Cindy, picked as a single by the label back in 1993 (for obvious reasons because it’s their most hooky and upbeat rocker, in their most straightforward Neil/grunge mode), and the late Richie Lee sings the second verse, “and this is not a joke/there’s nothin’ in my mouth but I feel like I’m gonna choke/I tried to tell the doctor but he just misunderstood/The way I’m feeling, that it ain’t no good,” that he’s describing a serious and critical depressive anxiety attack, which makes you wonder how many “went to a doctor” rock’n’roll songs were really about serious depressive anxiety (very possibly post-traumatic, especially if coming from the historically impoverished American communities of color that produced some of the greatest “went to a doctor” rock’n’roll songs). In the 90s this subject matter had just naturally gotten more up front, more brutally honest and less coded, a transparency and honesty that has perhaps reached a pre-apocalyptic early 21st Century peak in the music of the late Lil Peep.
S*** FROM AN OLD NOTEBOOK.“A colonizer who resists” — Dana. “The results of the interplay between resistance and consent.” SOURCE: Language, Race, and Authority in the Stories of Edgar Allan Poe by Emmy Stark Zitter. These jottings need a little more context; the phrase “a colonizer who resists” only appears a few times on the internet, usually in relation to the work of Michel Foucault, such as here in an article by someone named Nancy Hartstock, with no mention of the mysterious “Dana.” This is the rabbithole that now has me reading Foucault for the first time ever tonight. I had no idea what his deal was other than a cool name, and it turns out to be rather easy to grasp, and incredibly pertinent to these days of daily fascism, simply an extended analysis of the nature of power itself.
Whoa: Nod. Here’s another band from the 90s, even less feted than Acetone, although their 1999 album Radio Giddy-Up on Steve Shelley’s Smells Like Records got played all the time on the (then excellent and hope it still is) University of Nebraska-Lincoln radio station KRNU when I lived in that town. I’d always hear the same two or three tracks while I was driving around delivering pizza (I especially remember “I Love It Too”), and really looked forward to their high-strung laid-back stripped-down shambling/mumbling nervoid/groovoid rock trio moves. Never did buy anything of theirs though, and forgot about them completely until this article showed up in at least one of my social media feeds, previewing a rare then-upcoming now-past live appearance by Nod in their hometown of Rochester NY.
Was listening to Leighton Craig’s 2019 album Diamond Eye (on the Bruit Direct Disques label) and was struck by how much the closing track “Vessel” reminded me of the work of People Skills. Both released records in the 2010s, one is from Australia and one is from Philadelphia. Is it influence, either mutual or one-way? Or is it completely parallel development? I think the latter, though the answers don’t matter… but waitaminnit, this Dolphin Midwives stuff is kinda crazy. Sage Fisher, resident in Portland OR, makes electro glitchscapes that definitely move and pulse, but are more ambient than dance-floor, though definitely not ambient either, too unsettling and startling in their progressions, and she sings otherworldly (as in slightly creepy) angelic vocals over the top, melodies and harmonies/layers/echoes that are actually very wild. Specifically listening to her 2021 album Body of Water right now, and hey, the cover art is kind of perfect for this kind of driving unsettling body/water music…