rotation

If something on here is violating yr copyright let me know and I'll take it down.
If you want to use my text or pfotos for something that you are creating please contact me at satyrelfheim@gmail.com.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Casper Skulls Amidst

The other day, a friend of mine made a post about going to a show at Spirit. The date was November 12th, 2017. The show looked pretty cool, so I decided to go. I had not seen any of the bands before.


I missed the first band, the Early Thirties. The touring band, Casper Skulls, was starting as I came in. This was the band I had come to see. They have a poppy post-punk sound. It reminds me of the Birthday Party. The bass was super solid, and the drums were snappy. The guitars had a cold thin sound like my own and could really go off into realms of electrical chaos. Some of the vocals sounded like Lee Ranaldo from Sonic Youth, and those songs sounded like his songs from Washing Machine. I really liked this band a lot, and I bought a CD that I will review.



After Casper Skulls, I took a quick trip home and came back just in time to see Tremoravia, the next band. Tremoravia, musically, is a garage/grunge/90s indie rock (think Pavement) kind of band. I remember the vocals having that pop-punk/emo sound that I despise, but I don't hear that on my recordings from the show; they sound more like Kurt Cobain or Steve Albini. The guitar sound was okay. I wasn't fond of the bro-y banter between the songs, though there was also a self-deprecating tone to some of those things that made me more worried. The end of Tremoravia's set was cool, with the bassist and guitarist on the floor screaming.


The final band was One Hundred Year Ocean. This band was the most emo/pop-punk, but the musick had a lot of variation and cool stuff happening; at times, you could say it was more post-rock, though the instruments did not include the more unconventional strings you find there. I really loved the atmospheric, instrumental breaks; they had an epic and emotional quality to them. Some of those guitar lines were so cool with Hawkwind-esque space rock sounds. The vocals resembled some of the pop-punk standard stuff, but they could be cold and deathly at times. I liked the variations from fast and furious to sludgey heaviness in one song. I didn't expect to like One Hundred Year Ocean, so much. I'm glad I gave them a chance.

This was a fun show. I went just sort of looking for something to do, and it was a good choice to make. I found some new bands that I will watch for in the future, and I also heard about another band called Fruit & Flowers, a Brooklyn band whose members were at this show to see their friends Casper Skulls. Since I was going to Brooklyn soon, for other reasons, I planned to see if that band might be playing when I was there. We'll see if I made it at a later date.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Pay The Rent - Soft On Glass review

If you remember, I won a few tapes from White Reeves Productions at the show with Bill Nace and Twig Harper. One of these albums was Pay The Rent's Soft On Glass. Pay The Rent features members of Pittsburgh's Slices doing something totally different than hardcore. Soft On Glass came out back in May, but this is my first time hearing it. The soft sounds left me feeling somewhat damp, a mild ennui of slight, vague despair.


The album cover follows the White Reeves Productions design template with a rectangle border around an image surrounded by, usually, a solid color. This one is particularly simple, but it is a good design and an eerie one at that. The lizard that adorns the tape really creeps me out, in a subtle way, with its double-tail, headless form.

Soft On Glass starts out with the ambient "Knaut". It's like a small choir of mermaids singing underwater. The next track, "Lower Down", starts droning, turning into a John Carpenter-esque synthscape before moving back into New Age territory. "Two Days In" is a somewhat bleak, sad track, meditative. And the first side ends with the swinging "Calf", which reminds me of a bleak highway, shot in black and white, somewhere out in the high desert.

Side two comes in with another more Carpenter-esque track, "Diana". Waves repeat as something builds in the background. Many echoing voices form this space travelogue. "Corridor" has more watery sounds; I imagine walking through an aquarium with huge windows to peer into jet jellyfish. "Knaut (reprise)" sounds more like the sky, a musick box that you might open to reveal clouds and winged humanoids and other things. The sky would be a pinkish orange in color, not blue. This one also reminds me a bit of some of David Bowie's stuff from the Labyrinth soundtrack. "Knaut (reprise)" really is beautiful and might be my favorite track on the album. Soft On Glass closes with "Soft Silhouette", a scarier track like Coney Island at night, some of the abandoned dark rides beckoning from the gloom. There's the sound of the ocean, a pulse, and various creaks and bells and things. And then that's it.

Soft On Glass is a really interesting album. I'm not sure if I have ever heard something that made me feel quite this way. It's gloomy and brooding but not to any sort of extreme. The title fits the musick extremely well. I enjoyed the small slices of synthscapes that would normally be longer, grander epics. Despite the unsettling feeling, this was a breath of fresh air to what could have been a much more typical electronic album. Soft On Glass gets a Good.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Softly Into the Chiffon from the Space Between the Stars

Upon my return from NYC, I was pretty tired, but I went to a show not long after on October 30th. I almost didn't go. I wanted to see my friend Anna Azzizy though; she had a new performance that she had done on her tour this fall. I didn't know the other bands on the bill.

I wore a costume to the show, a priest of "He Who Dwells in the Space Between the Stars". Such an outfit, at least as seen on this plane, consists of a big hat, scarves, and a big red coat. I had meant to bring some gory body parts enclosed in envelopes with me to hand out to members of the audience on behalf of My Lord. This didn't work out so well, the night being cloudy, creating a distance between myself and that cosmic being of the outer void. I just had some slime instead. "Is this edible?" everyone asked. It wasn't. The slime was the liquefied remains of some nobody. I wouldn't eat it.


The first performer I saw was Soft Bodies. They were already playing when I came in. Without any cosmic guidance, I had trouble finding the venue, which was located in a deep, dark wood, a place of true mystery. Soft Bodies made some magical and upbeat trance stuff, a good choice for a house of illusions. The vocals were like Siouxsie Sioux. The many colored lights made the performance fun to see, a rainbow from a prism of dusk.

After Soft Bodies was done, I found out that I had missed Anna's performance. Again, I cursed the dreary cloud cover of the celestial sphere. This grey canopy had brought many despairs to me on this night. I whispered a malediction to the clouds and the rain, a meaningless act as these beings rule this place called Pittsburgh.


The next band was Chiffon. They were really cool. Despite doing more electronic dance musick, the duo was very dancey themselves. I often find electronic performances somewhat dull; I don't like to see people standing still or moving in a sort of bro-y, cool guy way. Chiffon, on the other hand, seemed to really have fun with their performance. I felt good watching them and hearing the upbeat tracks. There were jazzy piano bits, harsh machine sounds, and a deep bassline accompanied with R&B vocals. Again, the lights really made it fun to watch.


The final act was slowdanger. I had heard of them before but never seen them. I did lIke the one single I had heard weeks before the show. slowdanger is a more cerebral act, emphasizing dance in a fine art way. It was cool actually. I really liked the costumes, and the songs were good. The cold sounds were met with vocals like from a dream, airy or octaved down. It was like the sound of water underneath a glacier, the cold depths of the North Sea. Their themes seemed to revolve around sex and gender norms and breaking those norms, but the vocals were more a part of the song if that makes sense. I liked it.

The show was over early, and I went home after some talking. It was a good time despite missing some stuff. One day the Herald of "He Who Dwells in the Space Between the Stars" will return and bestow the gifts of his master to all. Until then, carry on.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Sweet Baby Jesus - Lyres of Ur review

If you've been reading Skull Valley for a bit, you will remember that the Climax Landers/Sweet Baby Jesus show at Roboto really made me want to start writing again. I reviewed the Climax Landers tape back in July, but I somehow forgot about this one, Lyres of Ur by Sweet Baby Jesus. I think I left it in my bag or something, but here it is after it was brought to the light.

Lyres of Ur starts off super strong with the Cheap Trick in the weirdo zone of "Dark Horse". Bright guitars and soulful rock vox make this a great track! "Soul Can" is next. It's another rocker and reminds me of the Rolling Stones, especially the vocals. I like the different sections of musick, especially the waterfall chorus solos and other little speed bumps between the out and out rock 'n' roll drive. "Amaryllis" is a short song with a dark tone. I liked this one a lot. It seems like a sad song using star-shaped flowers for a metaphor. "Wild Wind" is more country than the ones that came before, again in a Rolling Stones way. I really love the slide guitar on this one, and there are some amazing guitar solos that ricochet off the peak of the Sun. "Oh pretty baby, you're the wild wind". That's beautiful. "Center of Seasons" closes side one mournfully. It's not all total livewire energy as before, as we "take a train out to the ocean". There really are beautiful lyrics on this album, especially within the spaces between the notes on here.

Side two opens with the wailing "Rock & Roll Queen", backing vocals and chugging hard guitar. This is a tale of heartbreak, and it makes me sad, as I've been there before too. Next is "Birds of Paradise", a wild country rocker with more backing vocals. It's not as basic as it sounds, sounding off with elastic chords and a voice like Bowie out of Pin Ups. There's more melancholy and melodrama on "Easy Rider". The song is really down and out, all the space of the lonely spaces of the far west, places that I have never been. At least it's like that before the guitar bursts into the scene in full gear once more. All the guitars on this album are amazing! "Sunlight has a toxic hue" in "Nasty Ones". This one is so full of great lines. Some of it reminds me of Badfinger or Big Star but way weirder. "River of Fire" is the end of the line here, and it's a good end, a solid end. It ends, and that's it. I was so enraptured with this song after the whole album, and then it was over.

After listening to Lyres of Ur, I really do want more. Sweet Baby Jesus have constructed one of the best albums I've heard from this year. Seriously. Really. I mean that. The musick takes twists and turns while staying true to soulful, old-school rock 'n' roll roots. I felt sad, uplifted, angry, and in love. This is a magickal album. I didn't know how much I needed this until I heard it. Lyres of Ur gets a Good, and I can't wait to hear the next release from Sweet Baby Jesus.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Hurricane Charlie - Maelstrom Boogie review

Towards the end of September, when everything got really screwy for me, Mirkwood Recordings released a pretty cool garage punk/blues album called Maelstrom Boogie by a band I have never heard of, Hurricane Charlie. The album is a live recording from, I think, earlier in the year. It is not dated, so I'm not sure. I'm all about raw, live albums, so I was pretty excited to listen to this. Now, finally, here is my review.

First off, the cover art to Maelstrom Boogie looks like a vial of poison. I like the look of the text a lot, though I am not particularly fond of the colors used. The image is creepy and reminds me of tarot cards. It's kind of cool and fits the dark blues tone of the songs.

Maelstrom Boogie starts strong with "Death Rattle/Damage Baby", which is a cool name for a song. It's a stupid song with wild guitars and crashy drums and like no lyrics, so it's all pretty good. It's just a two-piece band, but they do a good job here. The vocals really remind me of Alan Vega of Suicide. "Rue the Day" is the next track. It's got really rough, sorta bluesy vocals. I like the guitar line and the snappiness of the drums. "What's the Matter Now?",  originally by The Oblivians, starts with a loud yell, and then Hurricane Charlie starts into a song with more of a dance beat and vocals that really recall Howlin' Wolf or Bo Diddley. The song grew on me as it went along, and I really liked it after the first half. The guitar falls apart mid-solo to leave a sparse drum and vocal pairing that springs back into full gear soon. I like everything about "Leave Me Alone". The guitar has a cool start/stop thing with a cool solo, and the vocals are really rough. "Goin' to the River" sounds like a more normal version of Cleveland's electric eels combined with lyrics from the blues catalog of songwriting. It's a cover of a song by The Gories. Next is another cover, this time by The Standells, "Dirty Water". This version of the famous song sounds a little like Sex Pistols covering Chuck Berry. It doesn't have the heaviness of the original, but it isn't bad. The seventh track is the third cover in a row, John Lee Hooker's "Burnin' Hell". This is the longest track on the album, vastly exceeding the earlier short punk speed bursts; this one is over 6 minutes! It starts a little clumsy. I like the dark lyrics quite a bit. There is a strange bell on this track before the track goes into that semi-dance punk beat that the band did earlier, and then the gravel vocals turn into a fierce instrumental section that gives the song some much-needed energy. Though there are some cool shifts in tone, the song is pretty samey overall.

"It's Gonna Bleed" is not a cover, and I don't particularly like it. The guitar does some cool stuff in the middle, but it's otherwise pretty basic. "Spoonfull" is a misspelled Willie Dixon/Howlin' Wolf cover. I wasn't particularly fond of this one either. The roughness really hurts the swing of the original, despite Howlin' Wolf's similar vocal style. One of the last songs is "Thunderbird ESQ". It's okay. I don't like all the counting, but I do like the chorus part and the single-note solo. Suicide's "Ghost Rider" is done kind of poorly for the penultimate song, though like with the other songs, it builds over time, combining with Rollins Band's "Black and White" and another Suicide song, "Rocket USA". I really like these songs better with Martin Vega's synths. The end would be much better with less cymbal crashes and held guitar notes. The last song is "Under the Sun", and it's pretty good.

Maelstrom Boogie is nothing new, but it's a good addition to the garage punk genre. I enjoyed listening to the wild instrumentals and sawmill vocals, though sometimes I felt like the instruments were lacking. The songs are all over the place, veering wildly throughout the short time frame most of them exist within. It's definitely not the most consistent album, but Maelstrom Boogie still gets a Good. Thinking about this band overall, it would be cool to see Hurricane Charlie play with Pittsburgh's own Spectres. That's something to hope for in the future I guess.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A Deep Dub Dream with Lee "Scratch" Perry

I have known of Lee "Scratch" Perry for a long time. His legend is vast. He appeared in a dream of mine once where he invited me to play keyboards on his new album that he was recording in the Pittsburgh suburb of Glenshaw. Getting deep into punk and post-punk, I had heard his name referenced by John Lydon, Joe Strummer, and others. Though I had listened to some dub-reggae before, mostly by The Clash, last year I got really into that style of musick when I was creating chiptune songs for my YouTube channel. I had read that Chip Tanaka, Nintendo's star composer in their early years in the console game business, was inspired by Linval Thompson's intense echo effects on his album Negrea Love Dub. I started listening to dub with that release, being sure to check out the others that I had heard of over the years, such as Augustus Pablo, Prince Far I, Scientist, Black Uhuru, Max Romeo, and of course, Lee "Scratch" Perry.

This year, Perry released a new album entitled Super Ape Returns to Conquer, a reimagining of his classic Super Ape album, which I actually had heard a while back. This time his backing band was Subatomic Sound System instead of The Upsetters. I was excited to hear the album, and then I saw something amazing - Lee "Scratch" Perry was doing a tour of some of US with that very same band! I couldn't believe it! He lives in Switzerland, and I had never heard of him coming here in the time that I knew his name. Now, of course, I wasn't following him particularly closely before I really got into dub, but I feel like I would have heard if he was coming to Pittsburgh. The thing is that he actually wasn't coming to Pittsburgh this time either. The closest I was going to get was New York City on October 25th, two days after my 28th birthday, and that was something that I was willing to do.

An avocado hummus wrap at Terri
Despite almost having a cool trip to New York with a friend, I ended up having to go alone by bus. I've done it before, so I didn't think much of it. The trip was kind of weird because I ended up being unable to sleep on the overnight bus, arriving in New York at the crack of dawn and feeling like a stripped wire, twitchy and unwell. Like Ginsberg's protagonists of "Howl", I dragged myself through those streets until I found the delicious food at Terri, a vegan sandwich shop. I spent the rest of the day wandering around Manhattan, making sure to finally stop at the Nintendo World Store in Rockefeller Center for once.



I had not brought much luggage, only staying in the city for one day, but it was still annoying to carry around. Plus, I had bought some stuff at the Nintendo store and a few games and books at Book Off and VideoGamesNewYork. I left the luggage at a luggage store using the Vertoe luggage storage system. It's kind of like an Airbnb for bags.

Dinner with a friend at Oasis in Williamsburg
After leaving the bag in that wonderful bag land, I proceeded to buy some other stuff at a thrift store I stumbled upon in the East Village. I really liked that neighborhood, lots of artsy kids and less giant neon signs and snobs. That may seem contradictory, but it makes sense to me. I got some CDs by Wesley Willis and Utra Bidé, some cool Converse shoes with colorful zig-zags, and a compilation of old rock 'n' roll songs. I also ended up meeting a little plush friend at a store called Cult Party in Brooklyn and brought them along to Oasis, one of my favorite restaurants. So much for leaving the bags behind.

With my new bundle of junk, I went up to Output and waited in the line to see the dub master. It was not a short wait. Output is sort of a fancy club, at least more so than any place I have ever been. They check you for weapons and the like and have a mandatory bag and coat check. Pfotos, videos, and pfone usage are not exactly prohibited, as that would be near impossible to really enforce, but they are heavily discouraged. Smoking is prohibited. I actually didn't mind these rules. It made me feel safer inside, and I liked having my belongings stored safely. I don't like being around smoke very much. While the pfoto stuff was a little disappointing, I didn't really mind it; it meant that the musick had to be more important than posting stuff to Twitter and Facebook.

The inside of Output was beautiful. Though I cannot show you a pfotograph, trust me when I say this. There was a slight fog so that trails of light enshrined both the main dancefloor and the open upper level. The lights were purple and green. It felt like a movie.

François K was DJing classic dub reggae songs as the club opened. This seemed more meant to just dance to and have a good time. It was nice and not too loud. Of course, this wasn't the main event.

In about an hour, a man took to the stage. He was not the man everybody was waiting for but a DJ and herald for the rest of Subatomic Sound System. Slowly, and with much fanfare, the DJ welcomed the famous conga player, Larry McDonald, and two horn players to the stage while he provided a bassline. The others joined in as they came in. I was glad to hear an Augustus Pablo cover. Excitement rose and rose as we awaited Lee "Scratch" Perry's arrival, and I feel like they really milked that excitement for all it was worth.

It was not disappointing when Perry did arrive. Covered with small trinkets on his clothes, Perry looked the part that I imagined, and, for a man of 81, he had the moves to back those looks up. Perry and his band went through several long jams, clouded in smoke.

The sound in the venue was excellent. The bass was a bit overpowering when I was right up close to the stage, but even still it was not bad. The vocals and other instruments became more clear on the second floor. The echo effects on the horns were so cool! I had some trouble getting around with the record and shirt that I had bought a the merch table. I wouldn't have got them before the end of the show if I hadn't been told they would sell out. They did sell out before the end, so I'm glad I got them when I did.

After a short break, Lee Perry and Subatomic Sound System returned for more, Perry greeting the audience with a new costume. They played for a whole additional hour! It was a lot to take in, and there were so many people there to take it in, the musick making everyone somewhat like a single being. The songs seemed to drift through each other with the raspy Perry floating over the top like a wizard from another world.


There's not as much to say about this show as I would like to since I was so tired and I have little media to review for myself. Somehow I did end up with that blurry pfoto above. The experience feels like a really weird and lifelike dream. I was so winded by the end, but it was a good experience. I was glad to get back in Pittsburgh, not doing much the next morning in New York except go to the Lego Store and rest inside a cafe. If Perry comes back to America, I will try to see him, though I will not travel again for it. Check him out if you get the chance. He still knows how to bring that deep rumble to yr soul.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Ploughman's Lunch and Dinner

On October 21st, I went to the final show at the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern (BBT). The BBT was not a place that I visited often, but I enjoyed the few times I was there and wished there had been more. My great-uncle had, at one point (I don't think so in the later years), a connection to the ownership of the place. A few of my friends played there often. This show was particularly exciting for me as it was a reunion show for a band that I had heard much about, Ploughman's Lunch.

Ploughman's Lunch was a sort of later version of Carsickness, one of my favorite Pittsburgh bands. Unlike Carsickness' no-wave/punk/new wave, Ploughman's Lunch was part of a trend in the late 1980's to early 1990's of world music/rock bands. It seems like it was a big thing in Pittsburgh, Rusted Root being an obvious example. I was just a little kid then, so don't quote me on that.


When I got to the BBT, I was surprised; the place was totally packed! I had planned to make a nice video of the night, but there was no way to do that with the huge crowd of people there. Maura Moonshine was just starting when I walked in. She is the daughter of Karl Mullen from Ploughman's Lunch/Carsickness. Her set was pretty laidback acoustic singer-songwriter/country. It was fine and certainly spirited, but it's just not in my field of interest. She had some accompaniment on vocals towards the end, which was cool. After Maura's set, we moved some of the tables, so that people could fit in better.







Ploughman's Lunch took the stage soon after. Though there was still the glimmer of the angry Carsickness, even the setup of the band showed that Ploughman's Lunch was a more radio-friendly group. In addition to the core lineup of Karl Mullen (guitar & vox), Steve Sciulli (woodwinds), and Dennis Childers (drums) from Carsickness, this band included a backup singer, violinist, saxophone player, and a bass player (well that last one isn't so unusual). I've heard comparisons made to the Pogues, but I've actually never really listened to that band. Ploughman's Lunch definitely was a more mid-range rock band with some punk stuff still hanging around. Much of the songs draw from traditional Celtic musick with tin whistles and the like. The lyrics still retain their left-wing political stance, one song, in particular, being about a routine traffic stop that led to a man's death back in the 90's. I didn't know any of the songs they played, but I enjoyed the set and the next set. Yes, Ploughman's Lunch actually played two sets that night with a short break in between. They really did close down the BBT, and awesomely snuck in a version of "Bill Wilkenson". Maura joined them towards the end, which was touching, and members of the group led the audience around in a congo-line sort of thing to the song, "Never Walk Alone". Everyone was all together.

Now I should say that the show was a bit much for me. Though Maura Moonshine may have started the show in a laid-back manner, Ploughman's Lunch really went all in. That kind of 90's rock/pop/world music thing is something I will never understand, but I appreciate the energy of both band and audience that I saw. It was a glimpse back in time to something that I know little about, Pittsburgh musick in the 1990's.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Bill Nace and Twig Harper Win the Prize

Actually, I won a prize, but that doesn't encompass the event with its titanic titular labeling. It was October 20th of this year, and I set off for The Tub on that dark night. I had seen Bill Nace many years ago with Sonic Youth at No Fun Fest 2009, the last year of Carlos Giffoni's noise festival, at least in New York City from what I can tell. And I had seen Twig Harper a few months back with Wolf Eyes before all of the chaos. Seeing them play together seemed like it would be very exciting.


I arrived at The Tub towards the end of Anchient Lesbians set. I love the spelling of that name! I was glad to finally see Olivia (from Olivia II) play live. Her new duo is really fun with jammy ambient/psychedelic dance tunes. The last song reminded me of Bowie's "Crystal Japan" or Neu! though.

Right after this, I realized that this was a White Reeves Productions show. Despite being friends with everyone involved with such things, this was the first event under that name that I was attending. I had heard that they did a sort of game show thing at Distro/Palanzo's when that was still a thing, and this had some elements of that as well. As I mentioned, I won the "Dress to Access" contest with my studded leather choker vs. Andrew Kirschner's punk pins. For my troubles, I was rewarded with two White Reeves Productions tapes which I'll review when I get the time.


During the weird, little contest, Andrew Kirschner had set up. He played a droning piano loop that started out with dark and stormy sounds. I liked the piano piece, but it was not the most exciting thing. Mostly, I just wish it had been less trebly. There were definitely some cool elements to it though, and it reminded me of Eno's "Music for Airports".



Finally, Bill Nace and Twig Harper were ready to play. It was nice to have the show moving and finishing before it was a-million-o'clock. For their performance, it seemed like Nace produced various sounds, starting with small pieces of percussion and moving to prepared guitar, while Harper modified the sounds and played them back. Twig Harper also did some vocals, scary breathing and gasps. The piece started slowly, creeping up on the audience as it went along into harsher realms of terror that I envision as a green color, the inside of some hideous worm. The vocals started to become inhuman as well. The rushing noise and space sounds of modulated delay gave way to a calmer rustling peace that faded out to the claps of the crowd in the small room. Then I proceeded to go up to Bill Nace and say I saw him with Sonic Youth in Washington D.C. instead of No Fun Fest as I mentioned above. He was really confused until I realized my mistake. You can't win them all.

Afterwards, I watched as some people ate bites of scorpion peppers, and we tried to kick one of those things that dangles from a ceiling fan. Nobody could really do it. It was quite a night of things, and then I went home to watch horror movies and lament my making a fool of myself to Bill Nace.