STUFFS & THINGS & THINGS & STUFF (STTS-010)
James Marlon Magas, Unknown Province, Don Cherry, Percy "Thrills" Thrillington, Alan Vega & Anne Deon, Slash Magazine, Magik Markers, -wdo- -collaborations-, XV, Viands, Garcia, Dylan
Magas is back, now recording under James Marlon Magas just like it says on his birth certificate, with a wild new album called Confusion Is My Name that was released on October 21st, 2022. You can call it techno, you can call it electronic, hell you can call it avant-garde electro-pop, call it what you want, but it probably won’t quite nail it. Basically, when it comes to the Magman I think quoting Richard Pinhas is apropos: “it’s always rock’n’roll.” Just watch this super-fun super-scorching new video for the song “Lay My Money” with special guest Electronicat. It rocks!
Unknown Province is a YouTube channel “devoted to audio documents from so-called Canada's underground musical landscape…curated by Félix Morel and Alex Moskos.” They only have two documents posted right now (three! — ed.) (four! — ed.) but I’ll be damned if they didn’t find the two (three! — ed.) (four! — ed.) weirdest records in Canadian history (not including Intersystems of course). There’s a cassette from the 1980s post-industrial boom by someone called Foreign World, a nice representation of the consciousness of an 80-year-old plumbing system sitting down and having coffee with you on an eternal Sunday morning, conversing in the only language it can speak, a language that only you can fully understand. There’s also a cassette from 1994 by a group called The Limptons called Kill, which presents like the work of a punk band but if it is, it’s a punk band that’s been locked in a closet under the stairs for the first 18 years of its life, given only a bass guitar, a shitty amp, and one plate of food slid under the door per day. The third Canadian classic to appear on the Unknown Province channel, uploaded just before “press time,” is a CDR from 2005 by a group called Headspace. Somehow this digital upload conveys everything that was magic about the early/mid 2000s CDR boom… a hand-made slim sleeve decorated with raw mind-bending artwork, housing a disc that most likely had literal spray paint or other crusty artwork pasted directly onto it, and that, when inserted into a player, exuded the weirdest possible soundworlds for the 20 or so minutes that it flickered to life.
I know I’ve heard it before, but tonight I actually listened to “Sidhartha” by Don Cherry while headphone-zoning to the mad serious Organic Music Society double LP from 1973. This track is just too beautiful for all of its deceptively brief 1:58 running time, an A melody and a B melody exchanged back and forth in a dream, sung by Don along with fluttering flutes and horns while he also plays piano that lifts the music into hovering heaven-mode. To call it “jazz” actually doesn’t really make sense. I’m not sure if it’s even remotely related to jazz. To call it “world music” would be beautiful, considering it was played in the early 1970s before “world music” became a mere marketing term like “jazz” already was. To wit, Don (an American living in Sweden) might have copped the A melody from the Beatles (Englishmen borrowing from India), the opening line of “Within You Without You” to be exact (“we were taaaalk-ing/about the [something] [something]”), which makes me think of what his stepdaughter Neneh recently said on the Broken Record podcast: “my parents listened to everything from a recording made in the rain forest in Zaire, to the Commodores, or the Rolling Stones… Don was always buying whatever was coming out…”
Speaking of the Bee-uhls, if you know someone who still hasn’t come around to the whole “but Paul was the real avant-garde Beatle” trope, it might be because they’ve heard Paul’s pseudonymously released Thrillington album from 1977, one of the least avant-garde records ever released, pure unrelieved treacle that easily negates any cred Paul might’ve built up by going to see AMM once or whatever. (P.S. Paul also rules. What’s your favorite Paul deep cut? I think the correct evergreen answer is “Secret Friend” of course, but my current favorite is this fragile beauty, where Linda once again proves herself to be the most underrated and unfairly maligned backing vocalists of all time.)
“TROLL LEVEL: VEGA” says YouTube commenter “koomo801.” That’s a good metric. And now I’m wondering if the dancing lady accompanying Alan Vega in this legendary live performance somewhere in continental Europe is the same Anne Deon mentioned in the NYC scene report by “Speedy” called “A Knife, A Fork, A Bottle, A Cork” that was published in Slash Vol. 2 No. 8 (the September 1979 issue with David Thomas of Pere Ubu on the cover, scan of the scene report below, god bless Circulation Zero, check the bottom of column two for Vega/Deon specific reportage if you’re understandably overwhelmed when parsing Speedy’s super-hip beat(nik) reporting). There is a contemporary painter named Anne Deon with an extremely Web 1.0 site at annedeon.com, and judging from a photo of her on that page I think it probably is the same person, especially considering these lines in her artist bio (all questionable capitalization preserved): “Many young artists of the time also went into Art Rock/Punk Rock music playing such fabled venues as Max's Kansas City, CBGB, and other clubs that hosted the NY Art and Music Scene. Deon spent time performing on those stages in her own avant garde art bands, eventually touring Europe with Elektra Recording Act Alan Vega.”
Speaking of Slash Vol. 2 No. 8 (September 1979 issue with David Thomas on the cover), man what a mindblowing magazine. I mean, just read the first paragraph of that NYC scene report above and all the wild authorial risks it takes while also vividly sketching a social milieu (not to mention capturing the tried-and-true gig custom where the too-cool-but-also-actually-cool locals in the audience all go outside or into the other room when the out-of-towners play). Or how about the way, in the same issue, Jeffrey Lee Pierce’s live review of James Chance & the Contortions falls midway through into this reverie on the punk legacy of “the black Iggy” Mr. James Brown:
Hey everybody, remember how Magik Markers released like 48 CDRs and LPs in the ‘00s? Not to mention CDs packaged like CDRs, like this one, A Panegyric To The Things I Do Not Understand (Gulcher, 2006), which I’ve decided is my favorite Magik Markers album out of all 48 (second favorite is Boss, Ecstatic Peace, 2007). It’s certainly the one I’ve listened to the most, featuring two side-long jammers (clocking in at 19:48 and 19:38 respectively, would make a perfect vinyl LP) that are such pure language/sound/rhythm voice/guitar/bass/drums power-trio jams, always the same, always different, free-falling and freewheeling into and through the Great Vortex, aka The Universe, aka This Collective Living Space-Time Consciousness Continuum That We All Share RIGHT NOW (still free-falling, still free-wheeling, still raining, still dreaming) (Jimi)
A recent Bandcamp blast-excavation is a clutch of 16 digital albums, which is a lot of albums, under the banner of “-wdo- -collaborations-,” -wdo- being W. David Oliphant, who you may know as a 1980s post-industrial maker of experimental electronic music under the name Maybe Mental. He lived in Phoenix at the time, and recorded for the venerable baby-SST post-hardcore hardcore label Placebo, and is now based 200 miles away in the old Arizona canyon mining town of Bisbee, where he self-releases music made in his own home recording studio, to which he has invited various collaborators, including the surviving members of his old Phoenix partners-in-crime Sun City Girls, particularly Alan and Rick Bishop but also another founding member of SCG (and Paris 1942!) Jesse Srogoncik, and with them and others has formed a supergroup-of-sorts called the Bone Stitchers. This ad hoc collective has made three albums so far, all released in the past month (Sept-Oct 2022), and their self-titled one does have that feel where several people are improvisationally taking turns on “misc homemade, odd, indigenous wind, string and percussive instruments, mostly half broken,” creating what one of the Bandcamp tags calls “western-ish” music, and it does feel a little “-ish” overall, meaning a little tentative, a little “first meeting,” but check out another Bone Stitchers album released on the same day (September 2, 2022) called I’ve Never Been Anywhere and the way it starts with a huge cinematic 25-minute piece called “Navigation” where Oliphant’s electronics create a grand blood-meridian canvas for beautifully sparse and submerged creaking from violin, accordion, percussion, and perhaps the clacking together of actual bones (Charles Gocher, Sr. would be proud).
I’ve explained this before somewhere deep in the pages of Blastitude, but I always keep a copy of the Holy Bible™ next to my record player for one reason, and it’s not so I can have a guidebook on how man should worship Himself (monotheism) instead of Nature (polytheism, animism, paganism, et al) and therefore justify the controlling and destroying of it; no, I only use it as a random number generator to help me get through my sprawling ‘on deck’ LP stacks. Priorities! I just take the Good Book, flip it to any Good Page, and whichever chapter or verse number my eyes focus on first is how far in the stacks I go to pull the next LP. 2? 34? 7? Let’s do it! And just now, this Holy Random Number Decree™ bade me to pull two recent/current Detroit LPs in a row, namely XV’s self-titled (2019, Life Like, although my copy is the 2021 reissue on Ginkgo) debut masterpiece of female-fronted-and-backed “automatic punk” (I think credit goes to IG user Adam Grimord-Isham for that one, although he put it in quotes too, which makes me think it’s someone else’s phrase) and Viands’ Temporal Relics (2015, Midwich Productions), two side-long jammers recorded live to no one at crucial Detroit community spot Trinosophes by the weird-American-kosmische latest-night twin-synth live-zoners David Shettler and Joel Peterson. I really love both of these two very different LPs from what has been and frankly will always be one of the greatest and most American of American cities.
Aaaaand now, for this issue’s pearl of Jerome Garcia wisdom, edited from the infamous (and so stoned it’s nigh-unreadable) “Stoned Sunday Rap” interview with Charles Reich, comparing the Grateful Dead’s version of “Me & Bobby McGee” to Janis Joplin’s: “It’s the same words, and the same melody. But it’s not the same song.” Couldn’t help considering this today when listening to the 2:36 studio version of “Dark Star,” as released on a 45 in 1968 with “Born Cross-Eyed” on the flip, and comparing that to say the 26:39 live version recorded on 5/14/1974 at Adams Field House in Missoula, Montana, or the almost 40-minute version recorded on 5/4/1972 at Olympia Theatre in Paris, France. Same words. Same melody. Not the same song.
And finally for this issue’s Bob Dylan insight, from listening to his lovely four-song solo acoustic mini-set within his larger Band-backed electric set at the Isle of Wight Festival in August 1969, which is that his vocal melodies are quite deceptively complex, and have so much room in them, room to roam and play around with rhythm and reinvent grace-note contours within the melodies, even reinvent the words and stories and perspectives themselves. I can’t help but think of this as jazz singing, because improvisationally complex vocal and/or instrumental melodies are dancing over relatively simple and traditional chord changes, and can evolve with each performance, and maybe a pure definition of what came to be called jazz is a performance that consists of ongoing melodic recontouring of pop/folk/ballad themes. But of course it’s not jazz. He’s clearly playing folk and country music in this mini-set, right? Of course he is, which just means that Dylan is a great hybrid artist and really that American music is above all a hybrid music. How couldn’t it be?