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Friday, October 20, 2017

Halloween Covers 2017

I went to a Halloween covers show on Saturday, October 14th. I usually miss these for various reasons, but I really wanted to see the bands at this show. Also, many of my friends were playing, so I knew it would be fun.

I wore a costume that was like a vampire/sorcerer/masquerade attendee. I brought a red masquerade mask, but I did not wear it. Someone compared me to a character from The Lost Boys, which was kind of what I was going for. Originally, I had wanted to create this alien costume I had in mind, but I could not find most of my makeup or some of the prosthetics I would need. It was interesting to ride my bike wearing a cape, skirt, and high-heeled boots.

I got to the show right on time, and the first band to play covered the Cranberries. I am not a huge fan of the Cranberries, though I don't hate them either; I'm just neutral on them. I felt the same way about this. They did a good job with the covers, though I wish there was a full band to add to the sound, especially for songs like "Zombie". Instead it was just two acoustic guitars and two singers. It's tough to get Dolores O'Riordan's vocal style right.

The second band (SFX + Weird Paul and Greg Cislon) covered Pavement.I actually didn't really know any of the songs, or I at least couldn't make them out. I have only heard the first Pavement album though. I liked seeing Weird Paul as a shout-y background vocalist. It was a fun set to see even if I didn't know what they were playing.

The third band was like a supergroup and covered The Donnas. I liked this set. The Donnas have the same kind of sound as The Ramones, The Runaways, and Shonen Knife, all of whom I like a lot. Everybody looked the part here, and they had funny stage banter. I will have to check out the real Donnas more.

The fourth band covered Ween. Their bass player didn't show up, so my friend Mae filled in. She was flawless. The band was really exciting to watch, and I liked the goofy costume and the spot-on vocals. It was another really fun set.

The fifth band (holy cow! and there is still one more!) covered Def Leppard. This band was The Telephone Line, whom I had first seen at Ladyfest this year. They had some really funny costumes with the big hair that everybody expects for a band like Def Leppard. The singer sounded amazing! I was so impressed when she hit all of the high notes, low notes, long notes, and all of the other notes.

Finally, Dumplings (and friends) covered The Damned! This was the set I was most excited to see, and it did not disappoint. It even exceeded my expectations. Jon looked very, very much like Dave Vanian, and the band sounded very good, very close to the real Damned whom members of Dumplings and I saw earlier this year. The crowd was so energized by this performance. People sang along and slam danced and all of that stuff. I hope that Dumplings cover some of these songs in their normal sets.

The Halloween cover show was really fun. It was very laid back and just generally a good time with all very good bands. It was fun to wear a costume too. I had some ideas for playing at this show actually, earlier in the year, but they all fell thru. Maybe next year I will get something together.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Friday the 13th Is Actually Unlucky And You Can Blame Your Own Faults On It

Last week, on Friday the 13th, 2017, I went to see a show at Howlers. I was excited to see Dorothy 6, Dan's country band that I have never seen before, and Aloe, a band that I enjoy a whole lot. However, when I was about to leave for the show, I saw that Dorothy 6 had already started and that the show was not starting an hour after the scheduled event time like most things do. I think this is actually not a good move; I always think of the event time as the time that the doors open. This was all in the event description on Facebook though, so I should have read it more thoroughly.

I zoomed out of the house, trying to rocket all the way to Howlers, but Aloe started before I got there. As I was parking my bike, I saw that they were playing a My Bloody Valentine-esque song. "Wow, I don't think I have ever heard this one before," I thought to myself, "and it sounds really great!" When I had got through the door and into the band room, they were done, pretty much right on the nose. Damn.

I did get to see Lady Bizness, the touring band from NYC, and The Park Plan. Lady Bizness is a really interesting band that I didn't like at first, though they really, really grew on me over the length of their set. The band is only guitar, drums, and vocals. The guitar had a grunge/hard-rock tone, which was the main thing that turned me off at first, playing simpler chord progressions with a lot of energetic fills. I liked the drums, and the singer had a cool style. The songs were tough with a Bikini Kill cover and that's a good benchmark for their sound, though Lady Bizness is its own band. I always enjoy seeing minimalism work out so well with all of the energy in these songs!

The Park Plan was also great. They had a few guest vocalists, including Steph from The Lopez. I really liked seeing those collaborations. A lot of their songs are about street harassment, and the singer mentioned that she wrote many of them while walking. I write most of my songs in the same way but not on that subject. It is an important subject and one that is obviously on many minds, as we can see from the "Me Too" posts about sexual assault and harassment on Facebook recently. I disagree if you are going to tell me that it's just people being political to be trendy. Anyway, I really enjoyed all of the instruments in this band, the house right guitar most of all with its jangly rhythms and flying solos. The bass was really good too. Also, I want to point out that the bass and house right guitar just look so cool, orange and metallic pink respectively.

I'm glad I saw Lady Bizness and The Park Plan. They were very enjoyable, cool bands to see that you should probably check out. I am disappointed to have missed Aloe and Dorothy 6, who you should both also check out; I still have to listen to the latter. The lesson here could be to always read events and stuff, but clearly, the fault lies on this notoriously unlucky day. Sometimes we are all cursed by the stars and the cosmic entities that lie beyond. Watch out for those things! And, yeah, always read the darn event!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Guillermo Pizarro - Harmonic Poems review

Back in 2014, I played a show at Garfield Artworks with Guillermo Pizarro, Christopher Feltner, Stephen Palke, and Ali & the Haitians. I don't remember much about the show. Recently, in the last month or two, I saw that Guillermo Pizarro had released a new album that seemed to be semi-blowing up across the noise groups on Facebook or at least was being talked about by various friends in "the scene". I figured I'd check it out.

The cover art of Harmonic Poems brings the viewer to a strange barren cabin room, the kind that might exist in a modern horror film. There is a focus on the strange chair, perhaps the seating for a garrulous ghost. It's quite a bleak, ghastly image and a good display of what will be heard when the musick is set in motion.

Harmonic Poems starts with "My Guest", sounds the crackling of wood, the invitation to a dark house as pictured on the cover. It is a slow burn, erupting into booms and crashes that sub-octavely pained me to listen to. I had to take off my headphones to hear all the creaky, creepy sounds without like losing my hearing. This track is still incredibly painful and probably damaging to speakers. It's certainly going to an interesting level, but I kind of don't like it for the levels it goes to. The next track, "A Room With A View", scares me. The high-pitched tones and strange screeches made me fear what might come next, but then it just stopped. There were just the sounds of typing or rattling shutters or clicking buttons and switches before the tones returned with more monstrous sounds too. And then everything stopped, and a voice spoke amidst explosions. The voice creeped me out, talking directly to me. I really felt scared. It was dark at night, I was alone in my house, and I almost gave up listening to the album right there.

I'm glad I toughed it out. "Aokigahara" has a different kind of space. It is still a scary space filled with the murmurs of the unliving surrounded by rattling bells, but this one is not claustrophobic. There is air to breath, maybe at the risk of one's health, and there is a space to get lost into. It's really not a good place to get lost though - Aokigahara is the suicide forest of Japan. It really isn't good for your health to be there. The creaking sounds, lost violins on the winds of the damned, build as the track goes on. I became afraid again. "Aokigahara Pt. II" features more violin, more cries, and rain. The violin provides more of a song than before, but the samples are a little much. The cries, which become somewhat annoying by the end, and the storm, drown out the sound of the violin. I don't think it works particularly well.

"Wind Horn (Kaze no Denwa)" recalls another morbid Japanese cultural artifact - a disconnected rotary phone on the shores of the Pacific Ocean to call to those lost in the tsunami of 2011. This track was interesting but the harsh noise blows everything out again. It kind of works here, but I feel like it is strange to use these types of sounds when referencing something solemn like that. I really like the droning sounds that go thru the rest of the track; I wish that was the main focus. When this track ended, I became acutely aware of the fan blowing in the other room. It seemed so loud all of a sudden. I quickly went back to focusing on the album, somewhat unnerved again.

"13 Years - Deep Creek Blues" is the final track. It starts with one or more field recordings, seemingly someone walking through a creek bed surrounded by animals and flies. The same voice from earlier begins to talk, very low and rough. The man says something about going down to the creek, but it's hard to make out the rest amidst all of the other sounds. I don't particularly like the separation of the sounds, obviously sourced from multiple sources. The voice sounds so robotic; of course, that's kind of the big reveal I guess. The track ends in a flood of Iommi-esque guitar and black metal vox.

Harmonic Poems is really an interesting album. It really does try something experimental. There is a narrative, but it doesn't consume the entire album. There are a lot of different sounds in relatively few tracks as well, ambient to metal to harsh noise. Unfortunately the production gets in the way. I didn't like the harsh, blown-out, digital sound of the various samples and effects used. It felt claustrophobic and somewhat jarring with the rest of the track, though on "A Room With A View", it helped create a particular fear. The levels seem off to me; it's hard to hear various sections that seem important. I did enjoy the album, though I also find it hard to listen to. Harmonic Poems tries something different; I don't think it is totally successful, but it made a good effort. Harmonic Poems gets a Good.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

the Miami Dolphins - Water Your Waiting For review

I apologize for the lack of updates recently. There have been a few major, negative changes recently, so I'm not in the best mood. I also haven't actually gone to any shows in a bit. There are still plenty of albums and EPs and singles and videos to review for now, though. Today, let's talk about Water Your Waiting For by the Miami Dolphins.

The cover art is quite a thing of majesty. I think the band is standing in front of a greenscreen that displays industry overtaking a pleasant valley. The Springsteen-esque text and the umbrella really make this what it is. I also really enjoy the toxic colors.

The album starts with a short "Intro" that recalls the false 50s pleasantries of the same kind of intro from The Dead Kennedys' Plastic Surgery Disasters. "Flouride", the next track, warns us of conspiracy paranoia, the truth in the untruth. What can we really trust as true? I'm not worried about fluoride in water, but there is much to worry about that the government does do. Going from a rollicking, jumpy off-ness, the song turns into a more forward rocker with a more deadly message. "Connect the Dots" sounds like Björk fronting the Minutemen, and that might be a good summary of the majority of the album. There are nice melodies here amidst the chaotic musick. I like the staccato guitar attack in the middle and the remainder of the song's breaking down. "Kill Them All and Take Their Money" has a great chord progression. It recalls Bo Diddley with its asking of, "Who do you love?" This song makes me worried about my own future. The vocalist does a great job though. "Map Off" really sounds like the Minutemen, especially "Political Song for Michael Jackson to Sing". I like the goofy doo-wop backing vocals, but the song is pretty dark, ricocheting back and forth. "Protect the Children and Drain Your Boat" starts so deathly - "Nobody wants to go to war! Doesn't mean we shouldn't do it." As I mentioned in my review of the show Miami Dolphins played at Roboto, this song heavily reminds me of the ancient Pittsburgh band The Cardboards. Eventually the band shifts to a collage of voices complaining about the dryness of a hamburger. This is a dense song with a lot to hear; you'll need to do some extra listens or fail the class.

"It Goes On" comes in much different than the earlier songs. It's like a straightforward punk song. "Let the roads crumble and rivers dry". "Kill our parents, take their money, more, more and more". These are true words for the world we live in, espoused as the song descends into wild guitar and fading feedback. "Speak Up" also comes in strong with heavy drums and rocking guitars. The vocals harmonies are strong and impressive here, self-conversing to where I feel like I gobbled a popsicle and am a little froze up. "Bootstraps" sounds like a cleaner Sonic Youth before it goes off dreamily into despair. "Great Deals" comes in like a wild boar, crunching, beating heaviness. Then it breaks off, seperating like a sea hewn in two by a legendary mystic talking about consumerism. The song ends back in the noise heavies. "Miami Oh Yeah" is a little piece of the repeated title phrase through a vocoder and maybe accompanied by a jaw harp. "Interlude"  has a bunch of people talking, mostly a somewhat naive male speaker who seems like he only started looking into different types of economic systems. The title track, "Water Your Waiting For", ends the album. It recalls the initial paranoia with talk of chemtrails. It's a dramatic piece, maybe with some kind of lap steel guitar or horns or something in the background. It makes a fitting end to a difficult album. "Too many dollars and not enough sense". Yep.

Water Your Waiting For is deep, deep water. An orange man would say something like "the deepest! we have the deepest depths! our depths are the best!" That is one of the few times that I agree with that orange man, even though it's just a thing I wrote. Really I'm just agreeing with myself, and that might be a very orange man thing to do. Miami Dolphins make some wild musick on this album that really makes you think hard, and yr brain might sink like a stone into those deep depths. These songs challenge what we know to be true and what we wonder about being true to come to a real conclusion. The production is good, the songs are excellent, and Water Your Waiting For gets a Good. It's one of my favorite albums of the year.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Echo Lightwave Unspeakable - The Horror On Heaven Hill review

Echo Lightwave Unspeakable is a noise artist here in Pittsburgh. I like his work. It is not setup in the camp of harsh noise and gross-out shock value while also not being in the intellectual, collegiate sphere. It reminds me of my own Satyr/Elfheim. When I saw that he released a new album last week, I had to take a listen to it.

The Horror On Heaven Hill looks like a horror movie. Two legs straddle a stream of blood in a bathtub as the person stares down at the mess. The cover uses the gore effectively; it isn't exploitive, though it is shocking. The image really is quite horrific.

"Part 1", which forms the entire first side, opens with some slow drones and the chattering of small impish beings. I imagine a man sitting in a bathtub, staring blankly at the tiles on the wall, noticing some strange things as little bells sound from the twinkling darkness of the basement he has descended into to wash himself away. There are some old radio sounds that transform into a kind of repeated groaning and chirping bats, maybe the same impish monsters. I imagine this as the man remembering something he did with a meat grinder and a human corpse; he can hear the droning sound of the machine and the awful whirring mutates into the demonic. The whirring and noise increase, though the track loses its ambiance for a moment. The ambiance does come back with a lot of interesting elements - more weird radio repeats, chirpy sounds, booms, creaks, and distant bells. A quiet melody builds the horror in the background as all of these sounds envelop the foreground. After a portion of radio sounds, the melody takes the foreground. It's somewhat obvious for a horror movie. The radio comes back talking about work and expectations; these are the things that drove the still unseen crime with the meat grinder. The first side drones out, interrupted by radio broadcasts and small sounds that shouldn't be heard in this mortal world.

As you would guess, "Part 2" forms the second side. It continues straight from "Part 1". There's the same droning and some little creepy sounds. There is a part with some kind of plucking or a kalimba that sounds particularly eerie. After some time of this, everything cuts out and goes to a dream world full of mysterious soap-opera flashback musick and a musick box or baby's rattle. Then, right after, everything goes haywire. That guy in the bathtub is having a panic attack and blood is all about; he bashes his head against the wall. A piercing sound and heavy noise splits the scene. This part is very loud and increasingly high-pitched. There are pulsing throbs of bass, waves of static, and glitchy computer sounds. The old musick box and the whirring fade in and out. The musick box takes over with some small scratching sounds, someone running a fork over a plate, a horn, and other pangs of fear. I await a loud sound to come, but instead, the melody drifts away. Now there is only the scratching, the man cooking the ground up meat, the woman's corpse from last night. There's a hideous laugh that leads into the sound of film running quickly through a reel. More strange sounds and laughs fill the air, and the loud whirring of the grinder returns. It becomes hard to handle, and then, soon, there is nothing.

The Horror On Heaven Hill is quite an experience. I enjoyed the horror soundscapes, the telling of a dark story through only audio stimulation. I created all the details in my mind; there was no narration or anything like that. It speaks to the power of the work that I was able to do so. The tracks do go long, but you really need to experience the whole thing in a short time to get the full effect. It's not something I could listen to very often. Still, I give The Horror On Heaven Hill a Good.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Reptilians From Andromeda video reviews

Reptilians From Andromeda is a really cool garage punk/no-wave/post-punk band from Istanbul formed by Aybike Çelik Özbey and her husband Tolga Özbey. We were gonna do an interview last year, but I got anxious about doing an email interview (we couldn't do an international call due to signal issues) and didn't know what to do. Needless to say, it never happened. They've emailed me a bunch more times about new videos and albums, and since I'm doing this blog regularly now, let's do it! (Sorry Aybike!)

The Reptilians just released a new video two weeks ago for their song "Burning Inside". I love this song! It's a dangerous love song of unhinged desire and BDSM. The guitar has a rockabilly feel and the vocals have a disconnected quality like Niagara from Destroy All Monsters. DAM is a good reference point, at least the punk/Asheton years of that band.

The video itself is not a masterpiece, but it is good. It looks like a contemporary horror movie. I like the desaturated look of the horror scenes, and I like the close-ups of the band. The woman staring at the end is unsettling. The video kind of reminds me of the film, The House of the Devil.

Now let's go back to March of this year. Reptilians From Andromeda released a video back then called "We're Gonna Fight Tonight". This is a really poppy song that reminds me of Shonen Knife or The Ramones. The vocals and guitar are melodic, and it works. It's almost too repetitive, but the bridge sections break it up and relieve the tension. I wish the drums were a little more punchy though.

The video itself is pretty cool. It's super lo-fi, especially compared with the video for "Burning Inside". I like the washed-out VHS look, though it's also a little unpleasant too. That's fine. The video is a montage of clips, mostly of the band playing. I like the strange way it cuts back and forth; it's almost delayed(?) which makes the video really uncanny.

The first video that Aybike sent me was this one for "Get the Power". I like this song a lot too; this might be my favorite of the ones that I have heard. It has an Iggy Pop feel, like something from Lust for Life, combined with Sonic Youth riffs. I love the guitar sound a lot on this one. It propels everything in a sickly cyclone. The drums thump nicely too.

The video for "Get the Power" has a more deliberate VHS look than "We're Gonna Fight Tonight", and the colors recall the early 90's MTV appearances of Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, No Doubt, or Hole. I like the video, though it overdoes the VHS tracking stuff a little. The fuzzy shots that pan around the band work best. Combined with the cool colors, it creates a half-awake dreaming feel to the video.

I see that Reptilians From Andromeda have a self-titled album coming out soon, and I am excited to hear it. I'm glad to finally review the videos, and I appreciate the fact that they kept emailing me even when I was being a mopey loser. Maybe they will do a tour of the United States someday? It's definitely not out of their reach.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Dead Milkmen Grilling

On September 16th, I saw the Dead Milkmen at Jergel's Rhythm Grille. I wasn't originally going to go but I decided to only a few weeks before. It seems like that wasn't actually uncommon. It sold out for a while, but more tickets were added towards the end. I was able to snag one and so were some of my friends.

Since Jergel's is way outside the city, we carpooled together. We ended up missing the opener, Red Locust. I was disappointed about missing them, especially because I sort of know one of the members of that band. Nobody was really excited to go to Jergel's. It seemed like a Hard Rock Cafe and, it has a funny name that I secretly kind of like for the camp factor.

I was surprised when we got there - Jergel's had a HUGE parking lot, like as big as the parking lots at some malls. Interestingly, the actual Rhythm Grille was not that large, smaller than Cleveland's House of Blue where I saw The Damned. It was about the same as Pittsburgh's Hard Rock Cafe, where I have only been to see Guitar Wolf, but the layout was strange. There are two floors with an open, recessed area in the middle. It seems kind of interesting that you could be eating and watch the band, but being in that pit felt a bit claustrophobic. It wasn't really bad, though.

The Dead Milkmen played a good show. They were energetic and played some cool songs including that one everybody knows. It was cute that the singer tried to entertain a little girl that was brought to the show with presumably a parent, and he even brought her onstage to play the keyboard. He also talked a lot about Charlie Daniels, the singer of "The Devil Went Down to Georgia", and about Ted Cruz's porn scandal. It was basically what I expected.

We drove home, thinking the Rhythm Grille was not so bad. Everything was, again, pretty much what I expected. The venue was fine and the band was good. There isn't much to report. These big, more corporate events, create that kind of feeling. I won't say "it isn't rock 'n' roll" or whatever because obviously there is a point to playing well and having a good crowd, but it is sort of like going through the motions when attending something like this.

This asks the question though, "is rock 'n' roll (or musick in general) about the spectacle? Does there need to be a desperation, a chance of failure?" I don't know if there needs to be but it certainly makes a more heroic story, a fantasy world, to see someone making something amazing, perhaps something that seems difficult or impossible or risky, when everything could fall apart at any moment. Musick is a mythologizing force in our world. The modern world is not a world of mythical gods and monsters. We have musicians and celebrities to fill that niche, and we live through them and their actions. We can see ourselves, even just a bit, in our favorite actress or rockstar, and I think seeing something that just works does not give us the sense of accomplishment that we may otherwise obtain.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Neuringer / Dulberger / Masri - Dromedaries review

Around a month ago, Already Dead Tapes and Records released an album that I was really interested in but only got to check out now. This album is Dromedaries by Neuringer / Dulberger / Masri. I've seen Shayna Dulberger play with Cellular Chaos, so I wanted to see what she would do here. I like these kinds of collaborative experimental albums.

I love the art on this album. After seeing the names involved, this is what drove me to listen to it. The beautiful blue nightshade of what looks like North Africa is a trip. The position and font of the text is well done as well. There is a mysticism and mystery to this cover art that calls to the subconscious mind.

Dromedaries starts with some semi-tropical drums beating to a quick and frantic pulse of bass and saxophone on "Passage To The Spine". The track gets more unsettled as it goes, transporting from cool rhythms to dangerous acid visions of heat. The heat clears at the end with a minimalist bassline and little else. "One Foot Lighter Than The Load" has a ping-pong sound, one instrument in and another out. I like the drums on here a lot; they have a watery deepness to them like the farthest depths of the ocean where strange prehistoric beasts still dwell, a place I have visited in my nightmares. There's an amazing mid-section with really wild horns that starts with a long drumroll tense up. "As Is Above, So Is Hello" has a rainy sound, and this would be a good rainy day record. A sweeping dusty sound and a slowly sounding horn arise from ancient texts; it suits the witchy title. This turns into a more reflective piece, Nighthawks at the Diner, a mythos detective going over what he saw in that tomb under the strange hospital as he stirs his glass furiously and awaits the open-face roast-beef sandwich he ordered. Even the waitress's beauty couldn't get his mind off those foul odors of mildew and honey and the arcane symbols written on the walls in blood. This track really takes my mind to the lonely corners of the night.

"A Horse By Committee" comes in strong with strings being roughly bowed, bells, and a steady beat. The horns float around like little ghosts, orbs and bugs and things. It's a fast-moving track and the longest on the album. There are some strange winds or bird sounds or maybe people on a roller-coaster in the middle of the track that threw me off for a second. Then there is a deep and eerie drone on the strings that stands alone for a time before splintering into wild sounds and then a sound like someone drawing with chalk arises in the West (aka the left-side). The whole track transforms into clockwork tinkling and rustling bass like some old, crumbling magick shop. This is such a great track that takes me all over. The last track, "Age of Reprisals", starts with some crickety, night sounds, and then there is a major rustling in that night with crashing cymbals, ringing metal, and harsh rattling and whirring. I think some of these are windup toys. It even sounds like there is a harmonica. The instruments here are really varied and add so much. This is a much calmer piece with little pops, cracks, distant thwomps, and bells. It's spooky, eerie, and unsettling. It made me feel a little sick, recalling yesterday's food poisoning and last weeks' toothaches. It ends on a rhymic clacking and chimes somewhere in a cavern with waterfalls and petroglyphs. It's a perfect end.

Dromedaries was a surprise; I didn't expect a free-jazz album, and this one goes into really interesting spaces. The blue tint of those scrublands matches the tales told in these songs. The production is not harsh and gives the musick space to meet the loneliness of this blue sphere, as jazz is wont to do. When it's not going into a mystic otherworld or a late-night diner on the shores of the Nile, the album also knows how to rock and skronk. This trio has not set their work into a formula. Talking about these diners and Egypt and lonely nights makes me think of the old ballad, "You Belong to Me", which matches this song in a way that I can't really explain, a song I associate, like this album, with a strange cosmic terror (though that one is buried behind a few other surfaces). If you are a fan of no-wave and free jazz, Cold Bleak Heat and various Sonic Youth solo weirdness, this is for you. Dromedaries receives a Good.