I have been aware of and intrigued by Unread Records for around five years now. It's a small tape label here in Pittsburgh. They don't do a lot of advertising or promotion that I have seen. I first encountered the label when I saw a Swampwalk tape they put out at Roboto. My friend Stew also mentioned the label to me later, and I booked a show for someone who was friends with the owner. It's like little puzzle pieces put together. I do follow Unread on Facebook, but posts on there aren't always the most visible, as I'm sure you know. Anyway, this album was just released, and it looked pretty cool. Improvised guitar stuff is always interesting, and Unread puts out a lot of good stuff.

The cover art to Unread #231, Spring Suite by C. Worth, is a scraggly print of trees and bushes. There may be some beings in their somewhere, retaining a humanoid form in the barest sense. It's a very stark album cover, just two colors and very rough. There are no words on it. It's definitely very mysterious, though it's a little too basic. I suspect that it would look pretty good on a tape though, which is the original format.

All the tracks on Spring Suite are untitled. The first track sounds like Eno's Music for Airports, a slower and calm guitar with slight reverb and chorus meandering. The second track is similar but a different melody; it's almost if it is a continuation, building on the previous track. There is a slight vibrato making this sound like a deconstructed surf song. The third untitled track is a little more chiming. The fourth track is more like a traditional song, slightly more dramatic, while the fifth one sounds almost like wind chimes. During the sixth piece, things get darker and uncertain.

The seventh part continues in the more dramatic way, a sense of loss, some kind of growth. Part eight is really slow, the notes hanging about in uncertainty to come down into some kind of being. I really like the counterpoint of the deeper notes on this one. The ninth guy comes in more like a morning song, the morning after a dark night. There is some confusion and then a cascade of notes continue on their way. That cascade of notes had me very intrigued. The tenth song continues more into the morning. Track #11 reverberates it's way into some cool cave, the moisture visibly clinging to the walls. The final piece is a little harder and dramatic, ending theme to a film with scenes of a forest in Vietnam shot from helicopter.

Spring Suite is uncompromising. It's basically one sound throughout. As such, it's kind of tough to listen to. No words to somewhat amorphous songs light as air makes it more of background musick. As I mentioned at the start, it's quite a bit like Ambient 1: Music for Airports; I feel the same about that album, and I think that Brian Eno does too. Spring Suite is a little too bare for me and a little too pastoral, so I will give it a Neutral.

Today, I came upon a vision of rotted out tube TVs and reverberating VCRs and a record popped out in a digital format. That record was The Lice's Proto-Rot "87-45" from sunny Long Beach, California. This album is not very sunny despite that weather. A lurking gloom haunts these tracks from beginning to end.

The cover of Proto-Rot "87-45" is almost perfect. I love the pfotocopier-esque image of nurses with flittering moths the size of a human head. The purplish tone and the blue lines enhance this video fantasy further. The text is weak though - it's basically just written on, and it's kind of sloppy, especially the band name. I just wish it was a little neater.

The first song on this rotten thing is "Hiding 4 Kicks"; it's a perfect start. The waves of static mystery had me dreaming in the back of my head. I can't make out the lyrics really, but I love the droning guitar and beat and whirring vocals. The reverb soaks this to near static. The next track is the instrumental "Runout Runt", another looping beat, this time with a musick box melody on top and more metallic devices happening somewhere in the edge of the echo. It's very nice. "Dream on the Brat" is like a Ramones reference that has a slight Ramones style. The fuzzy reverb means I can only really make out the titular chorus, but I very much enjoy this song. It reminds me of Sonic Youth on Master=Dik. "Muzzled in Fuzz" follows with some really glitchy guitar-ing further into dreams. The final track, "Andy M.", starts sounding like it might be some trap rap stuff, but there is no rapping here, just more ghostly vocals. It's over in under a minute.

Proto-Rot "87-45" is such a cool album. The production on this short songlets makes them like strange sequences in a dream that you want to visit again and again, falling asleep with the TV on to awake into some strange realm of infomercials that you never intended to see and only saw in the dim hours of almost no awake. Even though I can't make out the words too much, that works with the weird aesthetic. Proto-Rot "87-45" is one of my favorite albums this year. It receives a Good.

Sorry for the delay in this month's Artist Special. The third Sunday snuck up on me - there are five in April 2018! Anyway, I talked with Dee this month about drawing and making musick. We have been internet friends for some time but only met in person briefly and recently. I have always appreciated Dee's art a lot, so I was very excited when they agreed to do this interview. They make some really interesting stuff, but you need to just see and hear it to understand.

pfoto by Johnny Arlett

When did you start making visual art and musick? What inspired you?
When I was five, I started writing very dramatic and cheesy, sorta atmospheric songs with a Yamaha PSR 420 keyboard. My dad bought me it after I told him that I wanted to make music like Keys to Imagination by Yanni and Autobahn by Kraftwerk, which were two albums he played for me lots, and I just loved them so much. Soon after, my mum & sisters noticed that I had a really powerful voice and an accurate sense of pitch and rhythm, especially for being really young. So that, combined with the grown-ups in my life not knowing how else to contain my extremely high energy levels and big imagination, lead to the decision to get me involved with musical theatre, voice lessons, and various other children's music ensembles. This became a heavy involvement rather quickly. I was constantly competing, which has always been so draining for me. By the time I was set up to begin studying vocal performance at a conservatory, I was super burnt out. That's when I decided to try my hand at making my own music again in hopes that I'd become reconnected to the part of creating that I loved being in as a kiddo. And it just continued to get weirder. However, the things I learned about music in childhood continually prove useful! In particular, the Orff Pedagogy I was exposed to lots; it superstimulates me! My visual art followed a similar timeline. Even as a kid, I was so saddened that I lacked the time (because of a rigorous schedule with the music stuff I did) to scribble and experiment with art. At age eight I was actually convinced that God took away my "art powers" to give me "musical-concentration powers". I went in and out of making art but didn't truly begin developing a style and idea of something that I was excited about 'til I landed an internship at a gallery in my hometown, and I was like, "mmkay... I'm gonna try this visual stuffs again too". 

Yr art and musick both seem very whimsical. It makes me happy very much, though I feel that there is sort of a darker edge at times that is juxtaposed with the whimsical elements. Are these intentional choices like I’m thinking or is it just happenstance?

I get "whimsical with a darker edge" type comments quite frequently actually! Sometimes I'm not sure how to feel about it. While I don't think it's 100% intentional, I'm pretty certain it's just a part of who I am. With that being said, I've actually attempted to escape this perception of my works but to no avail! I'm very into music boxes, and they're pretty much that way, whimsy and dark. So I accept it. A lot of the things I enjoy are whimsical and emotive and scribbly and messy - me too, then!

Where did the name Bruiser Beep come from?
Well, my health is shitty and one thing I experience is bruising very easily. So I liked the idea of "bruise" but couldn't decide how to use it at first. I ended up at "bruiser" becauce people always name tiny, yappy dogs that, perhaps to imply that they're tougher than they look? They'll bruise ya? I can relate to that. "Beep" because I like beeping noises and how they can be contorted and bouncy!

I know that you used to live Oil City, and it seemed like you were organizing some events out there. I’ve never been out that way myself. How did the “scene” compare out there to what’s going on in Pittsburgh? What made you decide to move here?

While I'm grateful to the supporters, artist friends, and collaborators I had in Oil City, I knew that I wasn't going to be able to pursue what I really wanted to there. But I did learn a bunch from booking shows and festivals and working with the art galleries. Also, I had lotsa fun doing it! But yes it definitely laid out some solid learning foregrounds for me. I decided to move to Pittsburgh because its much more open to experimental music and art than Oil City is, I was traveling here to perform pretty often, and had many lovely friends here. It's quite different from oil City here, but it still feels very "Pennsylvania" which for now; I need that comfort. "Phase II Learning Zone" requires some comfort and warmth.

The other day, you had mentioned to me that you had some trouble with a live show you played. Somehow, I have never seen you play live, though I would like to. What goes into a live a Bruiser Beep set?
Oh gosh, I did have some issues at my last show! It happens from time to time when I'm either not completely in it, that affects my ability to concentrate, or if something goes wrong with sound, which I'm still learning about in many ways and tend to get quite anxious about. My set up began as just my old iPad mini and me rolling around on the floor singing about the Snuggle Man, but, nowadays, I like to have heavy wet reverb on my voice, use a chord organ, a toy keyboard, music box parts, tapes of old songs and lectures that I edit and blend up with noises, and various other sounds like android ringtones and things I hear when I'm wandering around the city or just anything else I want to include for each set. And my iPad is still in use of course!

Do you have any exciting events or releases coming up? What should people expect from you in the future? Is there a good way to follow yr work and new events you are involved with?

My priority goal is learning more, more, more! Streamlining my sets is something I'm working on for the future. I just wanna keep adding layers and instruments, noises, and ideas. Confidence is something I need to build. I'm not a fan of how Mr. Zucchini Man has music/art Facebook pages set up, so for now, just become my acquaintance to keep updated. Maybe I'll start hiding clues around the city. I have quite a few performances coming up! And I'm releasing an album on May 1st! It'll be available for digital download then and soon enough on cassette!

Thanks for reading! I hope that you feel informed and also excited about Dee's future work. Be sure to check out those Bruiser Beeps here. I'll be back next month with another Artist Special, and I hope you will be back too.

Welcome back to Outside In(fluence). Tonight I listened to a band called PMA Trio from Sao Paulo, Brazil. Recently they released a new single called "AFROPUNX", and this skate-punk song seemed like the perfect thing for a day like today where I don't have a lot of time for blogging.

The cover art for the single is pretty cool. It looks like a performance shot, and the picture is all in widescreen greyscale. The title is printed across the image in orange, bold, capital letters. It's basic, but it is bold if nothing else. I like it.

The single is a standard 3 minutes, starting with some drums outside the rock standard, almost into dub. Soon the guitars come in with a kind of early 2000's emocore/alt-rock thing, and the rest follows suit. The vocals are strong though and not whiny, lyrics dealing with being proud of who you are. The song goes through a few motions: chugging palm-muting breakdowns, double-bass drums beating to emphatic verses, uplifting choruses, and a soaring and weird solo. The solo adds so much with its odd double-tracked or chorus or octave or something stuff whining and whirring into the sky. The song fades into that static sky.

I really liked "AFROPUNX", though it's not perfect. I wish the bass was more prominent, and I wish the band was a little more unique. I can hear snippets of really cool stuff like that solo and the intro with the dub drums, but too much of it sounds too standard. It's a pumping, fiery single, but I think PMA Trio has much more to offer.

And they do. I noticed that the single was released with an accompanying video (I mean it says so right on the Bandcamp page). That video is awesome, placing the band members and friends among the likes of Angela Davis, Poly Styrene, Marcus Garvey, and The Last Poets. I always love self-mythologizing and it works well combined with the strong statement of the song and visuals of the video. That intro especially is harsh and really hits home the history of racism. Also, I love that they are using the word "punk" beyond musick, which is how I see it as well.

After watching the video, I was especially enthralled. This was real fiery rock 'n' roll, uplifting selves and community. PMA Trio isn't afraid to be bold and make a statement, and that's cool. They are playing a festival called GRU 011 tomorrow that benefits homeless people. I would go if I were in Brazil. I'll just be here playing Dungeons & Dragons. Maybe one day PMA Trio will tour to Pittsburgh. Right now, "AFROPUNX" gets a Good.

On April 8th, I was set to play a very confusing show at Gooski's. I can't say I'm a big fan of that place, and the show had a weird scenario of promoters switching around. I also didn't really have a way there. I had said that I would do it though.

After some serious confusion right before the show was set to start I did leave for Gooski's on my bike. It wasn't so hard to carry my guitar and pedals with me. It was actually kind of fun. When I got to the venue, there was still a lot of confusion. The touring band was at the bar somewhere, one of the performers had left, and the other band was standing around amongst themselves. We got a door person set up after talking, and I set up.

I had planned to play some of my early songs from the Home Life album, and that kind of happened. I had wanted to play the quieter song from that album, "The Elfin Mountans", but the crowd was talking a lot. I figured if I played that, nobody would pay attention. Everybody was already a little annoyed. I played something that started as "Giants of Earth" and evolved into something totally different. I went loud to shut everybody up and then played dissonant prepared guitar chimes. I didn't say anything when I got off the stage, that I was done, or that there were more bands, but the audience, basically just both bands, praised my set. The guys from Tin Foil said it was like Sonic Youth; that's one of the biggest compliments I could get.

Tin Foil played next without any boasting or other nonsense. This show was pretty screwed up, but I think we were all on the same page to just get through it. Tin Foil sounded like Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Standells and other Nuggets bands with their chugging rhythm guitar and fuzzy leads. They also reminded me of the modern band Cheap Time. The musick is that kind of traditional garage sound that's more Rolling Stones than Stooges. The bass provided a nice thick undercoat to the rest of the band, especially during a few bridges and breaks that were played. The lead guitar could really sing when it got the chance. And the backing vocals really added a lot of legitamate singing too to bring these songs to true prominence. Their set was super energetic and made me feel much better. I kind of wanted to go home on that high note, but it wasn't right to ditch the last band.

The last band, Tears of Joy, was pretty cool. They played a rougher pop-punk that meshed well with Tin Foil. This is our generation's garage rock, y'know? Some of the vocals did the whiny thing brought upon this planet by agents of Satan and other villainous jesters of evil. After the first few songs, things changed into something more like Miracle Legion or Gin Blossoms, a kind of 90s alt-rock/jangle pop meets pop-rock. It was pretty cool, much better than expected.

We thanked each other and did the "great set!" thing. Everything was good, but nobody was there to see it. I think maybe three non-band members were at the show. Too bad that the show didn't go the best it could have, but I really enjoyed seeing the other bands and playing the set that I played. I bought a Tin Foil record and went home.

I talked about Jimmy Crouse a little while ago, having discovered the mysterious singer-songwriter through an album of robot musick. Last month, I got an email about a new album. That album is It Stands To Reason Why. It came out a little over a month ago on March 16th, though the songs are decades old. It's a perfect album for this continuing winter into semi-spring.

The cover art leaves me feeling many things. It's plain. Presumably, it's a picture of the man himself. That fits the style, the nothing-held-back rawness of the songs that I have come to know him for. However, the image spoils the mystery for me of the unknown voice from somewhere within the internet, this fulfilling a long-held desire for unknown and uncelebrated art that I had in high school. The robot album that I found this through met that need too. The rawness of the cover wins out over the anti-mystery a bit though. The mystery is in my head, but I'm not sure that it's anything intended by the artist.

The first track on It Stands To Reason Why is "Horse Sense", a song that repeats the title as a point to jump from into some harsh realm. The rhyming scheme is clever, and the guitar floats over the grounded ghostly vocals like some patchwork skyship that shouldn't fly but does a great job. The dilapidated song ends abruptly after a sequence of wriggling down. The writhing vocals, warbling into the monochrome scene of "Crow", made my eyes open in amazement. Again this song uses a phrase repeatedly with long drawn out singing, some wail in the bleak dawn. I'm not exactly sure what it means, but it surely is a beautiful thing. "The Fat of the Land" uses the phrase "cradle to grave" in its various mutations with the titular phrase silencing the somewhat angelic, but still earthy, song when it arrives by carriage. From this song, I get a story of people working to make ends meet over time. It's not presented in a cliche way though, this one almost hopeful. I feel like I won't fail if I try, if I keep trying, if the world one day falls out of the pair of hands that deals a fatal hand to the "unworthy" those who have not. I've been worried about this recently, but I know it in my hear to be true to keep on fighting and never give up.

The last two songs are "Gravy" and "Regular". I felt very emotional from that last one, so here I had to listen to "Gravy" a bit longer to really hear it right. It's over in short moment despite the cooking time for such a recipe. Again, it's about waiting for what will come. There's a harsh edge in Crouse's vocals on this one. "Further what will may be later come the gravy for all of this and more". Another abrupt end means, to me, the assuredness of the words, the message, the tone, the true strike on the Earth of a thunderbolt. "Regular" doesn't use a phrase repeated as much. There's a lot at play here, a true poem. Feces is going out and coming in and fertilizing the ground while the singer is soiled. It's such brilliant wordplay for such a gritty and gross subject. Such is.

It Stands To Reason Why is a true masterpiece of cyclical, clever wordplay and lo-fidelity folk. The production is perfect; you can hear the sounds of the room under the warbling voice and the bare guitar. Nothing is pushed far into oblivion, sounds bursting brains with falsehoods (sometimes those are okay). That production works with these brilliant songs that lack complex nothings but are deep as a night's ocean. I love that each one more or less has a repeated phrase used as a springboard to further ideas. This is true beauty and brilliance. It Stands To Reason Why receives a Good.

I recently discovered a French artist named In Love With A Ghost. They have been making lo-fi electronic musick for a few years now. A lot of these tracks seem to fall into chillwave or chiptune and things like that. It reminds me of Slime Girls or Boards of Canada. On April 1st, In Love With A Ghost released gay story. I thought it was really interesting, so I'm gonna tell you all about it.

The cover art has some witchy teens smoking on a cloud. This image is displayed in glorius sketchy lines and poofy colors. It's almost comforting looking, but the smoking and the big eyes give it a small edge. I like the colors used and the pointy yellow hat.

The first track on gay story is "iced tea for breakfast", which starts with a phaser sound and continues into rain and a light melody. I can hear little animals and things in the background, frogs and birds and things. Lonely echoes swim thru the song as well as little bleeps and bloops. It really paints a picture. "happy when you're not here" really sounds like some Final Fantasy or Chrono Cross stuff. The drums that kick in change it up a bit. It's just a timeless type of song. It could potentially be a hip-hop beat. "feeling empty inside because there's no more spaghetti" has the same kind of tone, but this one has some shy whistling and handclaps. It's a charming song that I wish went on for a bit longer.

"something easy" features another artist named mommy. This has a cool beat with a snappy reverb, tinkling metal objects, and a little chiptune melody. It's very beautiful. "popstar love" might be a reference to the Kirby games. It has more rain sounds channeling into a Boards of Canada sound with the kind of song you might here in the aforementioned games. There's a lot going on with this one, especially for how short it is. You can here little laser sounds, more whistling, cymbals, and weird crunchy things. The track really has a dreamlike quality with the production, though that's true of all of these really. This one seems to do it the most. "hyacinth" features mommy again. The first half doesn't stand out too much, but I really like it once the beats and whistles come in. I love that the whistling is imperfect; the breath is not consistent and the tone seems slightly off at times. The final track is "thinking about u (jk)". This one has a much different tone than the others; it doesn't start with the rain/water, though that does appear later, and the production just seems a bit different. There are sounds of bats and birds. The main melody has a really awesome sound, some kind of chorus maybe. "thinking about u (jk)" would be a great ending song to a film or video game.

gay story is a quiet little album. It sounds a lot like the musick from Chrono Trigger and other SNES-era Japanese RPGs. I really like it. It's not some high-energy rock thing; it's comforting and introspective and small. I enjoyed the varied sounds presented, and I like the short song lengths. I keep wanting to say like, "I wish there was more variance in the songs or longer tracks," but I think gay story works excellently as it is. It's very conceptual and put together. It's a small world, a little street with a water coming down, a person drinking tea and looking out a window at small animals playing in the water. gay story receives a Good.

Some recent moment ago, a friend of mine posted a cool demo on Facebook by a band called Judy And The Jerks. "Wow, that's like the best name!" I said to myself ecstatically laughing in glee. The cover was a rough comic picture of some animals wearing glasses, the pig chewing gum too. That album came out in January 2017, and you can find it here.

Let's talk about a newer and longer release - Live At The Skatepark. I don't know if this album is from a live show, but it doesn't seem to be. It does say that it was "recorded live on a dirty 4-track for real rockers". I'm all about that, though it could be a clean 4-track; that part doesn't matter to me. Live At The Skatepark came out from some weird hole in a brain in November of 2017, but it is just so good that it must be reviewed now in April of 2018. (Spoiler: this album is going to get a Good at the end, which I'm sure you have already figured out because I am just gloating over how awesome it is).

The cover of Live At The Skatepark is pretty cool. It's a weird comic of a cowboy raccoon riding a pig. These may be the same animals from that demo I heard before. I wish the pig was still chewing gum because that is the cutest thing. I like that the animals are breaking through a brick wall though. I like that it's just black on yellow. The font is very nice and hand-drawn. What else do you need?

"I'm pissed off," and so begins "Slugarama". I can't make out of the musick, but it reminds me of the Ramones "S.L.U.G." due to the subject matter and general sound, thrashy guitars living like some spiky creature. The vocals are kind of cute and friendly but also fierce. "Sweet Treat (For Me)" is a little more hardcore, but it is still fun. I really can't make out the lyrics here, though. I like the little breakdown in this short song. The bass maybe doesn't have the best sound. The vocals are like a bunch of sweeties. "Destroix" is a cool spelling, and it's more hardcore-ing. There's a lyric about La Croix that rhymes with boys. That's kind of dumb but awesome. It's a total Ramones/Coathangers/Gland thing.

"Lizard Dog" has a cool and fun little guitar solo, and I guess it's about the titular creature. The guitar kind of swirls around in some water, splashy into everywhere. "Gum" says that "chewing gum is what we do". It's like an ode to chewing gum, and that's cool. It's easier to hear the lyrics on "Greedy Goblin", and they are funny. "Pick me. I'm a goblin. I'm just like you!" "She's greedy. She's a goblin. Be careful, or she'll put you in your coffin." These lyrics are so perfect, trash comix all nite in bright colors. "Ready To Fight" is more hardcore sort of stuff, though it's almost like a parody of machismo. It seems serious too in a sense. I didn't realize it at first, but it is a Negative Approach cover. The song is a rapid-fire attack, all fists and kicks and things. The info on the Bandcamp page says, "yeah so didn't play one of riffs enough times. get over it". This is true rock 'n' roll.

Judy And The Jerks have an awesome piece of trashy punk rock here. It's so good. Everything about the design fits together perfectly. I love the songs, short and punchy and fast and funny with some small weird breakdowns thrown in. My minor criticism is that the production is a little rougher than I would like. The vocals are a little hard to hear at times, and I feel like they are the key part of these songs. The words I can hear are funny and snotty. There's a bit too much treble too, though it works overall. Anyway, I love the garage-y rock 'n' weirdness. I hope Judy And The Jerks play some shows out of Hattiesburg, Maryland, maybe even in Pittsburgh. I would book the show if you wanted to do it peeps. And so, Alive At The Skatepark gets a Good.

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