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Sightings “Terribly Well”

April 23, 2013 By: M*P* Lockwood Category: albums

sightings terribly well cover

Several years back, a friend, commenting on a new Sightings album, said “They don’t even sound like a band anymore.” And despite Sightings’ claim that it’s still just rock music, try playing this record for your mom and see if she believes that it’s the sound of a rock band. At the same time, Sightings have never sounded more confident and sure-footed in their style. They broke through the walls defining the boundaries of rock music long ago and have become masters of their new territory. Sightings are one of very few groups to have created their own unique musical language and then mastered it as well.

Sightings’ members all have very distinct playing styles. Drummer Jon plays looping, skittering percussive sounds more than beats. Bassist Richard plays wobbling subsonic pulses. And Mark Morgan’s guitar exists almost entirely in the mid-to-high frequencies, often sounding like a train wreck at the end of a tunnel while his vocals are confused mutterings and unhinged rantings. They’re even joined by Pat Murano playing synth on most tracks, something I didn’t even notice on first listen, which is a testament to how well he’s blended into the Sightings vibe and sound. The first track, “The Loafer” starts out with some guitar notes that are deep into the Psychocandy reverb zone, and might almost lead you to believe for a moment that a steady beat will drop and you’ll hear something that sounds like post-punk. Until the other instruments roll in like irregular boulders and the guitar sound starts stretching past the breaking point, cracking and sizzling. The closest precursors to Sightings’ style might be Mars, early Public Image Limited, and Royal Trux’s “Twin Infinitives.”

This album is not radically different from the last couple Sightings have done, but it might be even better. More focused, more confident. One of the all-time great bands, reaching a new peak. Good stuff.

Listen to the track “Better Fastened” on Soundcloud.
Purchase from Dais Records

 

Best Albums of 2012

January 01, 2013 By: M*P* Lockwood Category: albums

The year has ended and I now present the No-Core Best of 2012 list! Or as it may more accurately be named, the albums I should have reviewed in 2012 round-up. Despite 2011 being The Year the Noise-Rock Bubble Burst, there was a load of killer noise-rock/no-wave in 2012, including several exciting NEW bands. This list is in no particular order, and I didn’t limit myself to any number.

Mincemeat or Tenspeed “The Tower”

Mincemeat or Tenspeed "The Tower"

I keep wondering when the larger noise world will discover that Mincemeat or Tenspeed is about the best thing going on. Is it because his noise just rocks too hard or his shows are too much FUN that Davey Mincemeat has still not been on the cover of WIRE magazine or whatever? No clue, but you’d be wise to grab this free digital album. Supposedly it’s a “metal” album and I guess it does lean on the heavy sounds and seems roughly in 4/4 time, not that there are any recognizable instruments anywhere in sight, just Davey’s table of pedals spitting out this rhythmic headbanger.

Download FREE at Free Music Archive

Drainolith “Fighting”

Drainolith "Fighting"

Alexander Moskos, ex- of AIDS Wolf, doing his (mainly) solo project thing. Creepy, fractured, deconstructed rock songs. The midway point between 1st album Royal Trux and 1st album Wolf Eyes? Loose and very focused at the same time. Drainolith pulls at the loose threads of rock music and creates a beautifully tangled mess.

Buy from Spectrum Spools

Xaddax “Counterclockwork”

Xaddax "Counterclockwork"

Maybe like me, just saying this band is ex-members of Dazzling Killmen and My Name is Rar-Rar is enough to sell you on them. But if not, here’s what you get. Buzzsaw math-shred riffs, a blizzard of weirdtronics sounds, and hard, complex drum patterns. It all blows by in a whirlwind, but everything is carefully composed and expertly executed.

Buy from Skin Graft

The Sediment Club “Time Decay Now”

The Sediment Club "Time Decay Now"

These NYC (now Providence) No Wave torch-bearers have just been getting better and better. Still young dudes, and this being their debut full-length, I’m excited for their future. This album is packed with that No Wave/Post-Punk sound that feels instantly classic, even if you can’t peg them as sounding quite like any one band. There’s plenty of Contortions and Bush Tetras in there, but it’s lively and fresh with new ideas too.

Listen/Buy from Softspot Music on Bandcamp

Harry Pussy “One Plus One”

Harry Pussy "One Plus One"
A double album of unreleased Harry Pussy music? SOLD! Actually, some of this material appeared on singles which appeared on the “What Was Music” comp, but here everything is carefully sequenced into a really cohesive and listenable album. That is, as long as you love boombox-fidelity blasts of chaotic guitar anti-playing, drum pounding, and shrieking. (of course you do) Actually, this album does highlight Bill Orcutt’s very unorthodox guitar skills and the band’s chemistry and vibe. I’d call this release ESSENTIAL.

Links to Buy at Palilalia Records

Profligate “Come Follow Me”

Profligate "Come Follow Me"
Despite the haters dismissing noise people’s attempts at electronic music as “techno,” this album from Noah Anthony’s solo project (previously of Social Junk, also of a batch of stellar noise combos) has more in common with electronic pioneers like Kraftwerk and John Carpenter. It’s a dark and thrilling vibe, and Profligate nails the mood with every track. Maybe it’s the grime and grit and texture added by Noah’s second-(or third)-hand gear that makes this all sound so nice, but it is by no means sterile or clean. No matter how crisp those kick drums and handclaps are, you can tell this music is coming from a Philadephia basement.

Listen/Download from Bandcamp (follow link there for LP)

Divorce “Divorce”

Divorce album
I’ve told you before how amazing this band is, right? And how much this album was going to rule, right? Okay, just wanted to make sure I got my credit for knowing what’s what before everyone is singing the praises of Divorce. This album falls somewhere between Doomsday Student and the Melvins. Thee heaviest bass guitar sound of all time, with harsh and sharp guitar attack, some really stellar and creative heavy drumming, and vocals that go from garbled crooning to blood-curdling shriek. Well-paced with some tone-setting tracks, everything is on point, this is powerful stuff. I also must give kudos to the recording and mastering. Somehow everything sounds crystal clear and loud as hell. Please, please help this band become popular enough to justify a U.S. tour.

Listen/Download from Bandcamp

Normal Love “Survival Tricks”

Normal Love "Survival Tricks"
Ambitious No Wave chamber music rock. Live, Normal Love all read sheet music when they play these bonkers compositions. Dropping the word “math” in here would imply some kind of music that you could count to, and “prog” would imply some kind of foundation in recognizable rock. Everything is precise and composed but don’t expect a backbeat, or a riff, or a melody. This is the classical music people listen to in a parallel universe where Fat Worm of Error are The Beatles.

Buy from ugExplode

Guerilla Toss “Jeffrey Johnson”

Guerilla Toss "Jeffrey Johnson"
Let me assure you that, despite that album cover, this is not freak-folk music. It does sound like some members of this band went to music school, and I can almost imagine freaky folkers being into this, but the feel here is distinctly on the abrasive side. I’d put this halfway between the previously mentioned Normal Love and Coughs. When they do throw down in a groove, it’s gnarly and heavy, with screeched out vocals and clamorous guitars. A lurching, leaping beast of a band that’s also surprisingly nimble. Almost reminiscent of Soul Discharge era Boredoms (which really should send you scrambling for that link). I can’t tell if their claim that their next album will be on Tzadik is a joke or not…

Listen/Download from Bandcamp
Buy LP from Feeding Tube

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion “Meat + Bone”

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion "Meat + Bone"
I’ve always loved this band, though I haven’t been super-crazy about every album they’ve done. This new album focuses on their strengths, which is the chemistry these three musicians have when they play together. It also leaves out all the stuff that (in my opinion) never worked for them: trying to make songs that could get on the radio or making Jon Spencer into a singer. He’s a great shouter, frontman, hype man, but just not a great singer. On this record the guitars do all the singing, Spencer is MC, and it’s all short blasts of high-energy rock. This is the album I’ve flipped and listened to repeatedly the most in 2012. That’s right, it’s rock’n’roll. I think I put the word rock’n’roll somewhere in the official No-Core description – I reserve the right to rock.

Buy from the band
or I don’t know, Amazon.com?

Curse “Curse”

Curse
If you like deep analog synth exploration and harrowing doom metal in equal measures, I think I’ve found your new jam. Vocalist/synthist Jane Vincent (ex-Abiku) is also one of the strongest singers in any extreme music genre.

Listen/Buy from the band

The Dreebs “Bait an Orchard”

The Dreebs "Bait an Orchard"
This album might not fully capture the captivating tension of a live Dreebs show, but it’s still an excellent document of their music. Violin, prepared guitar, and drums stir up a clamorous, but strangely soothing, racket – with a distinctly 80s NYC avant-guitar vibe. Reminds me at times of Branca, Mars, and “Confusion is Sex” Sonic Youth. More floating and melodic and textural than any of those, but with some rude wake-up moments. Maybe it’s time for sonic explorers to look into stringed instruments again, because the Dreebs are weaving magic with them. It’s not as if we haven’t also had multiple decades of synth knob twiddling and FX-chain slapping.

Listen/Download from Bandcamp
The label’s website seems to be down. No LP for you.

Mutwawa “Lamashtu Pazuzu”

Mutwawa "Lamashtu Pazuzu"
With this release, the samples & FX duo Mutwawa sharpen up their noise-dance chops, and turn out some music that you could almost imagine moving bodies in the club. And causing everyone to rush the DJ booths wondering what kind of weird lost classic is playing. This lives somewhere between the worlds of post-punk/funk, original Detroit techno, and ’00s electro-noise. This is alive with the energy of discovery, of figuring out how to make a new style of music for the first time. Maybe the elements have been discovered before but never in quite this way, and rarely does music sound this fresh and raw. I also choose this as best album cover art (by Joe Legzz).

Download FREE from Free Music Archive

Microwaves “Psionic Impedance”

Microwaves "Psionic Impedance"
This album I did manage to review this year, but it still deserves a slot on this list. The OTHER sci-fi avant-math-metal duo (besides Xaddax) to put out an album this year and both were amazing.

Buy from ugExplode

Trin Tran “Dark Radar”

Trin Tran "Dark Radar"
I think I did one of those cartoon double-takes when I saw that this album was coming out! Trin Tran is a one-man band featuring an ex-member of LEGENDARY 90’s Now Wave band Xerobot. This project has existed maybe as far back as 2000? but only a few songs have ever made it out to the public. Thank GOD? (“GOD?” being the name of the record label imprint that released this) for this collection of all the early Trin Tran recordings. Jerky, spazzy, robot rock that’s not too dissimilar to what other ex-Xerobotters were doing with their band Numbers. Trin Tran is onto a new, fuller and more rock’n’roll(?) sound these days, but I’m really glad these recordings got the release they deserve.

Buy from Drag City

Aaron Dilloway “Modern Jester”

Aaron Dilloway "Modern Jester"
This has been on a lot of lists, probably because Dilloway is a respected and accomplished experimentalist and this is something of a magnum opus and “best of” double album. The thing I remember most clearly from my first listen was that I kept checking the turntable to make sure this wasn’t in a locked groove. That title, “Modern Jester,” and the fact that this features a lot of loops of exactly 33 RPM length, made me sure I was going to be pranked by some trick before albums end, but no! Or – was I pranked after all? I’m not that crazy on loops, and almost left this off my own list, but gave it a couple more spins recently and discovered all kinds of weird, subtle things happening within those loops. (there are lots of other techniques employed here too) Now I feel like I have to listen again to figure out what I was hearing, and evoking that response is a big win in my book. Music to make you think something is wrong your record player – or just your mind.

Buy from Hanson Records

Lightning Bolt “Oblivion Hunter”

Lightning Bolt "Oblivion Hunter"
We all know Lightning Bolt, and we all know they rule, right? But this record is still one of the best of the year, a collection of practice space recordings that never got developed into songs – but are still some of my new favorite Lightning Bolt songs! Bands are great when they’re the result of unique and magical chemistry between members. The fact that the two Brians of Lightning Bolt simply jammed this material is further proof of what a great thing they have going on. (now I really hope I did understand the concept behind this album correctly)

Buy from Load Records

Sister Fucker “California”

Sister Fucker "California"
If you’re a sucker for harsh, lo-fidelity noise-rock, then man oh man, are you in luck! Seriously impressive heavy jams from this band, featuring members of other notables (but as I’m still confused about the lineage, I’m not going to try). Recommended if you like early Pussy Galore, Coughs, and jeez I’ve tried to avoid mentioning Harry Pussy in every review but I’ve got to play that card with this one. I’m genuinely impressed by the insane noises that are conjured with only (I think) guitar, distortion, and some crude techniques. I love everything about this band and album (except the band name, sorry).

Download FREE from Free Music Archive

Black Dice “Mr. Impossible”

Black Dice "Mr Impossible"
This is the year I checked back in with Black Dice and found them making some totally fun noise-party songs. Garbled, squelchy sounds everywhere and bouncing drum machine beats, packed into a solid batch of song-length jams. Sounds pretty good, right? Sounds a bit like what Skoal Kodiak are doing, but without the live rhythm section.

Buy from Ribbon Music

Infants “Giant Leg”

Infants "Giant Leg"
LATE ADDITION! I don’t know how I forgot this when I first hit publish, but this album was definitely one of my happiest finds of this year. The Infants were some sort of multi-national group (based mainly in England I think?) who did a single in the mid-2000s and I was really, really excited about them. Apparently they split in 2009, but this completed LP just came out! Recommended if you like: Brainiac, Melt-Banana, Pre, and I don’t know if anyone’s going to recognize this one, but who remembers Space Streakings?! Hyperactive ADD freak-out rock, with guitars, synths, noises, lots of various accents shouting over the top of one another. Hairpin turns, heavy riffs, adrenalin. Recommended!

Stream the whole thing on Soundcloud
Buy CD or Download from Tigertrap

Mentions:

I did have to cut myself off from writing about albums at some point. There’s stuff I haven’t heard. There are some other albums that ruled:

Buck Gooter “Consider the Grackles”
Ed Schrader’s Music Beat “Jazz Mind”
Krallice “Years Past Matter”
White Suns “Sinews”
High on Fire “De Vermis Mysteriis”
Dick Neff “Dork Morph”
Lazy Magnet “Acts Without Error”

Some notable singles:

Whore Paint “Menarchy” 7″
fierce Providence feminist noise rock (and side note, who thought feminism would still be a radical idea in 2012?)
SOLD OUT???

Wretched Worst “Funeral Burning” 7″
in theory a rock band, sounds like a scrap yard being demolished with an angry bear on vocals.
Buy from Husk Records

Eric Copeland & DJ Dog Dick “BYOB” 7″
That’s how it was credited on the label the record store put there. Sounds like it’s probably those dudes, but no identifying marks. This sounds like a fun but really weeeeird party happening.
Get it from … UNKNOWN!

Cellular Chaos “Cellular Chaos” digital single
3 tracks from Weasel Walter’s new No Glam band. You’ll want to hear this.
Listen/download from bandcamp

and I may be biased but…

This EP from Radio Shock came out this year and I think it’s pretty good. ;)

Doomsday Student, Ed Schrader’s Music Beat, Dan Friel, Bananas on Strings, Pardalince Bird at 285 Kent, 04-05-2012

April 08, 2012 By: M*P* Lockwood Category: shows

Doomsday Student at 285 Kent, 04-05-2012 .9

Doomsday Student at 285 Kent

I caught this awesome, slightly mixed-bill show last Thursday. Doomsday Student, the sorta-resurrected Arab on Radar was the main draw for me and I’ll jump straight to the main takeaway: They’re amazing. But everyone else was great too, so let me start from the beginning.

Bananas on Strings at 285 Kent, 04-05-2012

Bananas on Strings at 285 Kent

The first act was billed as Ramble Tamble, which is Turner of Guardian Alien’s project with a drummer, but apparently it expanded to include a whole list of guest stars and became a new band called Bananas on Strings. They went straight for a deep and heavy psychedelic rock, like Acid Mothers Temple minus the rock riffs and any of the quiet parts. The lynchpin here was drummer Adam Autry (of Olneyville Sound System fame) who was able to punch through the thick sound and keep things driving ahead with rolling, off-kilter beats.

Dan Friel at 285 Kent, 04-05-2012

Dan Friel at 285 Kent

Then Dan Friel did his thing, which is maximally loud and distorted, but also very melodic and tuneful keyboard music. The rhythms are generally huge, crunching sounds but the lead keyboard lines are usually the type of tunes you could easily whistle while you work. There’s headbanging. 285 Kent’s sound system is booming, but not always really clear, which worked perfectly for Dan Friel.

Doomsday Student at 285 Kent, 04-05-2012 .3

Doomsday Student at 285 Kent

And then Doomsday Student was up. This band is most of Arab on Radar and a member of the post-Arab on Radar band Chinese Stars. Now, I don’t know the whole back story, nor is it fair to dwell on it, but Arab on Radar reunited, broke up again, and then this band was formed minus one original member. There’s a new name and all-new material, but it’s impossible to ignore that this is essentially the new Arab on Radar. So for those of us who fondly remember that band and their cathartic live performances, the main question is how does Doomsday Student measure up? I am happy to report that they are every bit as great. None of the energy is missing. Here’s some video I took of them. The sound is terrible but the video is good.

The anti-melodic guitars, the looping dance-unfriendly beats, the nasally shrieked vocals (all imitated by almost every No Wavey band since AoR). I want to compliment them on the unified look, something I like in a band. Doomsday Student all wore black t-shirts and pants and matching orange sneakers. A band in uniform says that they’re here to do a job, or perhaps go into battle. I also appreciate the stark light show, all the house lights down and 2 very bright industrial lights on the floor. It makes for great photos. (to see more of the photos I took, go to the Flickr account, starting here.)

Doomsday Student at 285 Kent, 04-05-2012 .4

Doomsday Student at 285 Kent

Doomsday Student at 285 Kent, 04-05-2012 .7

Doomsday Student at 285 Kent

After Doomsday Student was Ed Schrader’s Music Beat. I’d heard this band mentioned, but hadn’t seen them play before this.

Ed Schrader's Music Beat at 285 Kent, 04-05-2012 .2

Ed Schrader's Music Beat at 285 Kent

I was really impressed by these guys. They had very minimal instrumentation, just a single floor tom and a bass, but they managed to be totally captivating just by having really great, simple songs and a strong performance. Maybe this is what the Violent Femmes would sound like if they formed in Baltimore in the year 2012? Well, these guys seem way more punk, but I’m trying to get you in the ballpark.

Pardalince Bird at 285 Kent, 04-05-2012

Pardalince Bird at 285 Kent

Dan Deacon’s Pardalince Bird project went on last, despite originally being scheduled to go first. There were some lengthy technical difficulties getting all the 4 channels of sound working too. Then as Dan explained, this would have made a lot more sense if it had happened first since it’s really background stuff, steady synth drones with occasional moany vocals. Lots of digital notes floating up and down scales. So scheduling and circumstances conspired to make this a sort of anticlimactic finish, but I’m not going to complain when this many good acts can be put together on one bill.

Tom Smith and Sightings, Fat Worm of Error, Child Abuse, Don Fleming at Death by Audio 01-04-2012

January 10, 2012 By: M*P* Lockwood Category: shows

Sightings w Tom Smith at Death by Audio 01-04-2012 .9

Sightings w Tom Smith at Death by Audio

I showed up to this show and the place was, surprisingly to me, already full. Sometimes shows that are can’t-miss line-ups of legends in my mind have single-digit attendance so I’m not really able to predict these things. But I was happy to see that these bands are apparently not just legends to me.

I completely missed the first act, which was Tom Smith and Don Fleming playing together. Don Fleming is a longtime NYC avant-rocker and Tom Smith is best known as the central figure from the post-music band To Live And Shave In L.A. Tom currently resides in Germany and was briefly in the states around the holidays, playing a few select shows. So I’m sad to have missed their performance.

The second band, Child Abuse, was going on. No photos, I was in the back of the room and they wouldn’t have been good anyway. Child Abuse are a bass drums keyboard trio who play metally brutal prog. Very technical, very tight, but with very messy and grungy sounds. It’s funny actually, most of the time the keyboard sounds like a distorted bass and the bass (run through some synth pedals I’m guessing) sounds like a keyboard. They were as great as ever.

Then the anti-rock, max-confusion band Fat Worm of Error was up!

Fat Worm of Error at Death by Audio 01-04-2012 .1

Fat Worm of Error at Death by Audio

Notice how it’s not even clear what’s going on in this photo? That’s how they sound, but much moreso. Of course 5 people just noodling and doing separate things would be pretty boring. Okay, maybe I’d think that was pretty cool too, but what makes Fat Worm really mind-bending is the way they have a plan and they’ve really honed their own style of playing – in a way that sounds like chaos at almost every moment. Until both guitarists suddenly play the same sequence of notes exactly together and your brain twists 360 degrees in your head in an attempt to figure out what just happened. More Fat Worm photos:

Fat Worm of Error at Death by Audio 01-04-2012 .4

Fat Worm of Error after one of a few costume changes

Fat Worm of Error at Death by Audio 01-04-2012 .3

Fat Worm of Error, feeling it at Death by Audio

I spent a little time chatting in the back room and realized this was almost like a reunion (to me) of people from a show waaay back – at the Polish National Home, now known as the Club Warsaw. Maybe I’ll write all my recollections from that show someday, but it’s where I first met lots of the people playing or in the audience. Anyway, with all these long-time friends and acquaintances in attendance, there was definitely a very friendly and supportive vibe going on. You could tell from all the chatting and joking and cheers, but also from the huge smile on Tom’s face between songs.

Sightings w Tom Smith at Death by Audio 01-04-2012 .4

Tom Smith with Sightings at Death by Audio

Sightings w Tom Smith at Death by Audio 01-04-2012 .2

Mark Morgan's guitar moves

Sightings were doing their thing, sounding as focused (yet blurred) as ever. I was told there was exactly one practice for this show but it would have been hard to guess they hadn’t been playing this set for a month on tour. Everyone seemed 100% in command, holding back or cutting loose exactly when needed with no nervous or puzzled glances. It’s a pretty perfect pairing too, Sightings and Tom Smith, as they both work in a similar mode: composed but loose, planned but spontaneous. Sightings works with sound shards and Tom works with words, both of them stretching their material to the breaking point.

Sightings w Tom Smith at Death by Audio 01-04-2012 .3

Sightings w Tom Smith at Death by Audio

Sightings w Tom Smith at Death by Audio 01-04-2012 .7

Mark Morgan of Sightings, bending spacetime

Sightings w Tom Smith at Death by Audio 01-04-2012 .10

Sightings w Tom Smith (and Pat Murano!)

Oh yeah, this fellow named Pat Murano also played with these guys. You can see him lurking behind that synth in the photo above. I can’t say too much about his playing, which is probably a good thing because it means it blended right into the Sightings vibe.

The set was short but satisfying. Definitely worth catching, but if you missed it some people seemed to be videotaping and recording so hopefully that will turn up online soon. Great show all around!

Even more photos over at the NO-CORE Flickr.

 

Paranoid Critical Revolution, Altaar, Benn Miller, Deathcrush, Neg-Fi, E.I.D. at Silent Barn 03-13-11

March 25, 2011 By: M*P* Lockwood Category: shows

Neg-Fi at Silent Barn 03/13/11

Neg-Fi at Silent Barn 03/13/11

I am hereby going to dub Neg-Fi “The most punctual band in New York City.” Even though they did cut an agreement with the organizers to start a few minutes after their designated time and put in what, for them, qualifies as an epic set (20 minutes?), I’m pretty sure no other band is in the running for this title. I’m always using the word minimal to describe Neg-Fi’s music, but I don’t think that’s really the right word, because they’re always plenty loud and fill the room with sound. It’s just such tightly scripted and executed music. Punctual is actually closer. Or maybe maximal.

E.I.D. at Silent Barn 03/13/11

E.I.D. at Silent Barn 03/13/11

This was one of the Silent Barn’s upstairs-downstairs shows, and downstairs the one-man noise project E.I.D. (Explosive Improvised Device) was going on. This contact mic harsh noise has been around almost 20 years now if you think about it, though it seems to be less popular at the moment and I think E.I.D. is too early for a retro resurgence – but he’s definitely carrying the flame.

The sounds here were actually really varied and dynamic. Lots of quiet-loud moments. More like a Masonna without the vocals than a C.C.C.C. or something. My only complaint: protective gloves! Does Masonna wear kneepads? Does Lucas Abela put masking tape on the edges of his glass? Bleeding for your noise is just part of the HARSHness, dude. Okay, okay, I’m giving E.I.D. a hard time, but there’s just something about a guy doing the full-on, serious noise thing (in a Macronympha T-shirt no less) that begs for a little heckling. But for real, I was impressed by how good this sounded.

Benn Miller at Silent Barn 03/13/11

Benn Miller at Silent Barn 03/13/11

Back upstairs was Benn Miller, who played a table full of fun, ancient-looking stuff. Cassette tapes, loop station, reel-to-reel, old synthesizer, and saxophone run through effects. There was also a drummer who did a good job of playing along, keeping things loose enough so that the oddball sounds could run free, and just tight enough to add a little rock. My only complaint here is that all the stuff could have been turned up because the drums were by far the loudest part.

Deathcrush at Silent Barn 03/13/11 1

Deathcrush at Silent Barn 03/13/11

Then Deathcrush (from Norway I discovered) played, and at first I honestly thought this was just terrible, but I was totally won over by the end. So many things made it seem like this was going to be awful. First, I’m always skeptical of bands that seem like they spent more time getting their hair, make-up and clothes right than their music. (male or female of course) Deathcrush came out of the gate with rock star “attitude” and “moves,” accompanied by completely un-tuned guitars and beyond rudimentary technique. (except the drummer who clearly had some solid skills) My first impression was that this band did all their song-writing and practicing in front of a mirror with non-functioning prop instruments, and this was the first time they’d been handed the real thing to use. It was like they thought they were in Def Leppard but came out sounding more like… The Dead C?

Deathcrush at Silent Barn 03/13/11 2

Deathcrush at Silent Barn 03/13/11

But as I watched, I found I did a complete 180 in my thinking. First I thought: if they were pulling out rock star moves and sounding like Def Leppard, would that be better? No way, that would be terrible. If they sounded like a sludgy & dirgey noise-rock band but spent the show crouching over their amps and staring at their feet, would that be better? Again, no way. Then at some point they did this one song and by some combination of willpower and magical happenstance it sounded perfect. Even when the guitarist was holding up her guitar and gesturing to her tourmates that a new string was needed, feedback howling away and sounding no different than it was when she was furiously doing something with it a minute ago – there was this great semi-melodic vortex of sound going on, like a Venus in Furs moment – and I officially changed my mind. The headbanging into the audience finale sealed the deal. Deathcrush were kind of awesome.

Paranoid Critical Revolution at Silent Barn 03/13/11

Paranoid Critical Revolution at Silent Barn 03/13/11

The Paranoid Critical Revolution, usually a duo, played without their drummer, who I’m told had quit the band. So it was just member Reg Bloor playing guitar. Reg also plays in Glenn Branca’s guitar orchestra, and on her own she sounds like a whole orchestra of guitars. I don’t really know how it’s done, but using an amp that doesn’t look all that big, she can blow out any eardrums in the room. Earplugs take a ton of the treble away, but it still sounds hellishly loud.

We’d had a brief conversation about black metal before the show started and with that in my mind, I couldn’t help thinking how Reg’s style is kind of black metal. The super-fast strumming with little notes picked out of a hurricane of white noise. It’s like part black metal, part no wave, and part nuclear holocaust.

Because of some overlap, I only caught the end of Altaar’s set. They also had thoroughly filled the room with smoke-machine fog, so my point and shoot camera was useless. This was the band that had been described as black metal, but we Americans do know a thing or two about our metal genres, and just because a band is from Norway does not make them black metal. I’d put this firmly in the sludge/doom metal category. Maybe with a noise-rock bent, given all the pedals in use. So what I saw was about 10 minutes of slow, heavy, thudding noise-dirge – which it wouldn’t really be fair to judge these guys on, as it was probably just the triumphant climax to an epic show. I’m going to assume that’s the case.

Cellular Chaos, Satanized, Drums Like Machine Guns, White Suns at Cake-Shop 2/25/11

March 11, 2011 By: M*P* Lockwood Category: shows

Satanized at the Cake-Shop 2/27/11 - 1

Satanized at the Cake-Shop

The Cake-Shop is one of the last places left in Manhattan that I still go to for shows, with virtually every other show happening in Brooklyn these days, but it’s also just about my favorite place for shows. They’ve got coffee and yes, cake!, and awesome records to browse, and the downstairs show space is great. And of course they host awesome shows like this one, which deserved a far larger crowd than it got.

White Suns at the Cake-Shop 2/27/11

White Suns at the Cake-Shop 2/27/11

The White Suns opened things up with their thunderous noise/rock. For some reason, this sounded better than any previous time I’ve seen them. Things can sometimes sound pretty indistinct when you’ve got 3 different people making 3 different grinding and/or screeching noises, but I could distinguish everything that went into the formula this time. While watching them, it occurred to me that while they look like a rock band, this is really a noise band with some rock instrumentation. They do scripted songs, but elements like rhythm or, um, melody? (ha ha) are distant seconds to sheer noise terror.

Drums Like Machine Guns at the Cake-Shop 2/27/11

Drums Like Machine Guns at the Cake-Shop 2/27/11

Drums Like Machine Guns are a long-time favorite. They’re generally a mixture of oddball experiments and howling, head-banging beats-&-noise. To be honest, this show was noticeably less intense than I’ve seen from them. I mean, these dudes always sound great, but they’ve set the bar pretty damn high for themselves with past performances. On the other hand, they did some different stuff, possibly knowing that most of the people in attendance had seen them several times before – and that’s a good choice too.

Satanized at the Cake-Shop 2/27/11 - 2

Satanized at the Cake-Shop 2/27/11 - 2

Satanized at the Cake-Shop 2/27/11 - 3

Satanized at the Cake-Shop 2/27/11 - 3

Satanized pushed things to new extremes with their music, becoming more obtuse and perplexing than ever. Which is meant as a high compliment, in case you don’t know me very well. Satanized are both heavy-bottomed and high-ended. The chugging bass and heavy, complex drums almost sound like they’re operating in a different dimension than the super-shrill guitar, which sounds like equal parts Mick Barr and Big Black. I’m used to Alex’s maxed-treble guitar sound, but he did some harmonics things this time that went into dog-whistle territory.

Cellular Chaos at the Cake-Shop 2/27/11

Cellular Chaos at the Cake-Shop 2/27/11

I hadn’t seen Cellular Chaos before, but since I’m almost always into Weasel Walter’s projects, it’s no surprise I thought they were great. It’s nice to see Weasel playing guitar too, and some of the heavy-handedness of Lake of Dracula is definitely present, but it’s also nice how there was subtlety and complexity involved too. All the members of this group are definitely players, but mercifully un-showy ones. There were moments of freakout improv and moments of rigid tightness, on-a-dime switches between the two, and times when it wasn’t entirely clear what was happening. Unclear to the audience that is, but the band was in command at all times.

All around great show, killer line-up from start to finish.

Satanized on MySpace
Drums Like Machine Guns
White Suns
Cellular Chaos

 

Rat Bastard, humanbeast, AIDS Wolf, Shawn Greenlee, Diamond Black Heart, DubKnowDub at Death by Audio 01/15/11

January 24, 2011 By: M*P* Lockwood Category: shows

HumanBeast at Death by Audio

HumanBeast at Death by Audio

Phew! Some kind of line-up, right? This is going to be the Brooklyn show to top in 2011. And there were lots of big cameras popping off everywhere, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that this event has already shown up on a bunch of other music blogs. But hey, I was there, I took pictures, it was awesome, I may as well put my show review out into the virtual world too.

dubknowdub – live at zebulon

So first of all, I missed DubKnowDub, but they’re great. I know the show had 6 bands on the bill, but this being Brooklyn, I still didn’t believe the show would actually start before 9PM. So as a consolation, hit play on the above track and let it be your soundtrack to No-Core browsing. (Music starts about the 1:45 mark.) I don’t know who DubKnowDub are exactly, but they get on lots of great shows somehow and they’re tons of fun. Yup, it’s kinda dub, and also kinda noise. Great live. Don’t make my mistake next time!

Diamond Black Hearted Boy at Death by Audio

Diamond Black Hearted Boy at Death by Audio

I did get there in time to catch Diamond Black Hearted Boy, a guy I’ve met before though I didn’t mentally piece together that it was the same person until I talked to him at the show! DBHB comes from the same Richmond freak scene that Narwhalz and Shams do and performance-wise you can tell he’s on the same page. Live, it’s kinda confrontational (for anyone who’s not into it) or just good fun if you are into it. Lots of goofy genre tags have been slapped on him, but honestly, I’d say his music is sort of proto-industrial. Claustrophobic, pushed-too-far-into-the-red samples and loops, usually rhythmic, sometimes with actual beats. Tonight DBHB also made ample use of a piercing whistle blown straight into the microphone which sounded pretty awesome (maybe a little tiresome after a while though) like it was hitting the resonant frequency of your eardrums.

Shawn Greenlee at Death by Audio

Shawn Greenlee at Death by Audio

Shawn Greenlee’s performance was really fantastic. He used some kind of camera to scan from a handmade book, and then what must have been custom software to turn the images into noise. Then there was a weird spinning disk, and he’d use the trackpad kind of like a Kaossilator, and… well, just watch him do his thing here. That’s my best guess as to what was going on. It sounded super-sweet too, better than it came out in this video. I was captivated.

And then, humanbeast. This was SO GOOD.

HumanBeast at Death by Audio 3

HumanBeast at Death by Audio 3

HumanBeast at Death by Audio 2

HumanBeast at Death by Audio 2

Last year at the International Noise Conference in Miami, I, like any mortal person, had to take a break and miss some of the acts. When I got back and asked people what I missed, everyone kept saying “Humanbeast! Humanbeast!” (I’m using the no-space spelling that appears on the tape I got) – so I was excited to finally see these guys. They did not disappoint! Their music was absolutely gorgeous, while at the same time being really dirty and messed up – which was also sort of how their performance played out – and how the theme of their lyrics go – taken together it’s cohesive, deadly effective, and totally entrancing. Amazing music meets amazing noise. Again, I couldn’t really capture the sound in full, but here’s my video of them playing “Come Through the Cloth.” I just watched it again and got chills at the point where she sings at the top of her lungs without the microphone.

Rat Bastard & Co at Death by Audio 2

I don't know if all those expensive cameras are safe there...

And then Rat Bastard of INC and Laundryroom Squelchers fame took to the stage, with his guitar with only 4 strings and 4 tuning pegs remaining. He was joined by Roger of Monotract fame and another guy who I probably should know but don’t, both on guitars. This was basically a performance following the Laundryroom Squelchers M.O. – a terrific squall that sounds at first like sheer white noise. The infamous Nondor Nevai made his trademark after-the-band-has-started appearance and took over vocals, striking poses but largely inaudible over the din. The thing about these Rat performances is that the beginning always seems just like random loud noodling, but if you’re willing to keep listening it starts to take shape and details come out at you. And these guys must have been listening to one another, because somehow they all knew when it was done around the same time.

AIDS Wolf at Death by Audio

AIDS Wolf at Death by Audio

AIDS Wolf went on last, and this was the first time I’ve seen their new(ish) 3-person line-up. (and Chloe’s new glasses!) Losing a guitarist has certainly not diminished the volume or chaos of AIDS Wolf live. In fact, I think I like the new sound even better. The band members really seem to be working toward some sort of Harry-Pussy-like psychic communication music that relies on feeling and intuition more than counting beats. They also introduced some sampled sounds and vocal effects which broadened the sound pallet. At least, I think that was an effect and not just a technical difficulty – but you know what? I really enjoy it when a band can make me wonder what’s intentional and what’s not. Living at the edge of chaos. I was also happy to see that the musical chaos inspired some physical chaos in the crowd. It looks like people are just standing around in the above photo, but there was some serious mosh action happening.

In closing: Awesome show. Good people, good times, great sounds. Show ran on time?!?! (props to Edan) Amazing. I went home feeling reinvigorated about music in general.

Sediment Club/Wharton Tiers Ensemble/Doldrums/Neg-Fi/Knife City/Nat Roe/more at Silent Barn 12/17/10

December 19, 2010 By: M*P* Lockwood Category: shows

I caught this super-cold and super-booked show at the Silent Barn Friday evening. I saw everyone at the upstairs show, but missed a bunch of the downstairs going-ons unfortunately.

Neg-Fi and Doldrums watch

keeping warm at Silent Barn

Did I mention it was cold? I guess the Silent Barn crew is living without heat this winter. Hardcore. Above you see Neg-Fi and Doldrums watching another act and trying to keep warm.

Neg-Fi at Silent Barn

Neg-Fi at Silent Barn

Neg-Fi did their tight and punctual No Wave two-step thing. Got the crowd moving without a single drumbeat.

unknown band at Silent Barn

unknown band in Silent Barn basement

Then I headed downstairs to see what was going on at the more avant/weird-noise show. This band played, and it sounded pretty awesome when they actually played and weren’t just chatting with their 5 friends who were there. I know that seems like the natural thing to do when you feel like your 5 friends are the only ones paying attention, but hey, that’s why I always advocate selling it like you’re playing for thousands no matter what. Because maybe that kid in the back corner is actually really, really into it despite appearances and would have been your fan for life until you let the song trail off and started rambling… Also not into the hunched over facing away from any audience style. But like I said, the sounds were great. Rhythmic mechanical-death-throes noises.

Doldrums at Silent Barn 1

Doldrums at Silent Barn

Up next was Doldrums (who came down from Canada) which started out as some serious post-Narwhalz/Kyle H Mabson thing. Pop song sampling interspersed with short bursts of noises, heckler-baiting, and stand-up comedy. It went on like this for the bulk of their time and was pretty entertaining. Not quite on Narwhalz’ level but still. Then at the very end the Doldrums dude decided to play a couple of songs.

Doldrums at Silent Barn 2

Doldrums encore

The drummer only decided to play after the crowd demanded one more song, and this was by far the highlight. Hard to believe they almost ended without playing this, after setting up the drums at the beginning and all. Melodic but noisy but spooky but edgy. Real nice, and it doubled my positive impression of them.

Cat with Nat Roe at Silent Barn

Cat with Nat Roe at Silent Barn

Back downstairs, this performance was going on. Nat Roe lured a couple of the silent Barn resident cats down with the promise of food and then tested their determination with escalating noise, music, and a vacuum cleaner. Honestly, I’ve got a soft spot for animals and felt kind of bad for the cats here, though they certainly weren’t harmed and were free to leave the scene at any time. I’m pretty impressed with that cat’s willingness to continue finishing its meal even when the vacuum cleaner started up – most household pets’ most-hated appliance.

Wharton Tiers Ensemble at Silent Barn

Wharton Tiers Ensemble at Silent Barn

Wharton Tiers is a long-time NYC music dude, best-known for recording some pretty legendary bands and albums. Here he plays drums along with a bassist, saxophonist, and FIVE guitarists. I don’t know if the knowledge of Mr. Tiers’ CV colored my impression, but this came across to me as a totally classic NYC-flavored experience, part Branca/Live Skull/Sonic Youth, part Television/New York Dolls.

The Sediment Club at Silent Barn 3

Sediment Club at Silent Barn

I think The Sediment Club are one of my favorite bands going right now, doing a fully old-school No Wave, but also fully vital and now-sounding thing. Some of the songs come out swinging with a double-time Contortions attack, others have a more slow-burn approach. But always the rhythm section is tight, the keyboard sounds kinda messed up, and singer/guitarist Austin plays guitar exactly like any dedicated No Waver would: whammy bar in hand, slide on finger, and treble turned up.

The Sediment Club at Silent Barn 1

The Sediment Club in contact mic madness

The Sediment Club at Silent Barn 2

The Sediment Club "No More Earth"

The last act of the night (although I lost track of what was going on downstairs) was Knife City, an all-out chiptune dance attack. Here’s a video of Knife City’s hands and his biggest fan’s feet.


Gay Beast – Satanized – Hot Guts – live at Silent Barn

September 07, 2009 By: M*P* Lockwood Category: shows

I think I promised some photos from this show quite a while ago. (click for slightly bigger files) The Silent Barn is a DIY venue in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and the closest thing you’re going to get to a house show around here. First up, Hot Guts play some hi-NRG garage rock through gobs of effects. It actually sounds kind of like this image:

Hot Guts at Silent Barn

Hot Guts at Silent Barn

Gay Beast played in the middle and I think I’ve raved about them enough, right? It’s twice as great live as on record. Brain-melting nu-math no-wave.

Gay Beast at Silent Barn 1

Gay Beast at Silent Barn 1

Gay Beast at Silent Barn 2

Gay Beast at Silent Barn 2

Satanized closed things out with an intense and sweaty set. They play harsh math/noise-rock, often leaning toward the technical. This night things leaned toward the heavy and pounding.

Satanized at Silent Barn 1

Satanized at Silent Barn 1

Satanized at Silent Barn 2

Satanized at Silent Barn 2

Satanized at Silent Barn 3

Satanized at Silent Barn 3

Awesome. Sorry about the slow blogging, but things will pick up here. And hey, if anyone thinks there is a Brooklyn show that I really shouldn’t miss, be sure to shoot me an email!

GAY BEAST "second wave"

June 19, 2009 By: M*P* Lockwood Category: albums

So, you’ve been waiting for the no-wave/math/prog/noise-rock album of the year? Well, here you go! Heck, this might be the winner in that category for the decade. Double heck, one of the only other serious contenders for that title would probably be Gay Beast’s last album, “Disrobics.”

This is a glorious collision of angular guitar parts, analog synth sweeps and bleeps, sax blurts, and drumming in that complex endless-fill style. And some real singing. (I like me some screeching or hollering too, but it’s nice to hear a different approach here.) Oh yeah, and TUNES.

I told a friend who attended a recent Gay Beast show with me that what I loved about them was how they could make challenging and amazingly complex music and also fill it with catchy hooks. After the show, this person, who is far more inclined than I am to listen to “pop” music, said that “maybe it’s catchy for music that YOU listen to.” Well, point taken. It can be a matter of perspective. Maybe Gay Beast is what Deerhoof sounds like to your average indie rock fan. (if I had pull-quotes, that would be it)

Still, I maintain that the hooks are there. Even to me, they seemed a little hard to “get” on first listen, but now after my 20th listen or so I find myself singing as I walk down the street, “Don’t sweep me a-a-aah – don’t sweep me under the rug – I am only human!” I have even woken up with Gay Beast songs running through my head.

And there may be the best selling point for “second wave” – it will bring great rewards upon many, many repeated listens. By the time you have the songs figured out, you will find that you’ve fallen in love with them. This ranks high as the album most worth your hard-earned dollars. All the more amazing that band singer/keyboardist/saxophonist Danimal gave this to me in trade, after he tried to pay for MY disc which I handed him. Could there be a more stand-up dude? (At the aforementioned show. Photos posted soon. I cannot guarantee this trading trick will work more than once.)

FREE MP3 SAMPLE: “eeexxxpppaaannndddiiinnnggg”

Bonus trivia: see if you can catch the DEVO tune semi-hidden on the album.

LP and CD on Skin Graft Records

http://www.last.fm/music/Gay+Beast
http://www.myspace.com/gaybeast
http://skingraftrecords.com/news_desk.html

Here’s a video of them killing it at the Cake-Shop back in Oh-6.

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