Slow Ginn Fuzz

25 Dec

I’m gonna take a stab at articulating just what these three new GREG GINN CDs are really all about. Feel free to alert me if my obscure ramblings are making no sense whatsoever.

Grey Ginn

A few words of warning: these CDs don’t pretend to be nuthin’ but what they are. They were not made by cohesive bands, but rather by Ginn & a choice few others who could do things he couldn’t (like play sax and drums). So although some of this approximates the full band thing, these are best approached as solo statements. And while I admit the graphic layout/artwork on these things leaves much to be desired, that’s nothing new . . . Ginn hasn’t had any decent cover art on his recs since his brother stopped lending him drawings back in ’85. Finally, these CDs come with nada in the way of liners, pics or extra info. That, too, is pretty much all we’ve ever got from ornery ol’ Ginn.

So what is here? Well, brother . . . swing that spotlight down to stage right. It’s time for the gtr player to take a turn.

1. GREG GINN & THE TAYLOR TEXAS CORRUGATORSBent Edge (SST Records, 2007): It was this kind of thing that I always wanted to unearth in the minefield of 90’s-era Ginn releases. That is, a recording of this incredibly idiosyncratic musician applying himself to Country, BlueGrass, Blues and Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers. Here he’s delivered 70 minutes of walking jazz/blues riffage explored in fine detail on gtr/bass/piano, along with real-time drummer Steve DeLollis. In such an intimate setting he’s free to play around with all manner of odd harmonic material, emphasizing his wonderfully fractured sense of melody and polarized tonal palette. This is a record not of SST overkill but of nimble, CHET ATKINS-style understatement. And although it’s a long, winding journey (too long to listen to in one sitting, I’d say) it’s one that should be utterly fascinating to anyone still enamored of Ginn’s lucite Dan Armstrong 80’s heyday.

A gtr lover’s rec, for sure – but if you buy just one of these, I’d say make it this one. It speaks reams about this man’s ability to reinvent traditional idiom in his own, very peculiar image.

2. GONEThe Epic Trilogy (SST Records, 2007): Oh man, do I ever struggle with the sound of rock musicians playing over programmed drums. It’s just not right: to have all that beautiful, real-time fingermagic and gorgeous sonic imprecision bumping heads with – ack! – the icy rigidity of a beatbox. The only time I ever remember thinking otherwise was as a teen listening to BIG BLACK’s Songs About Fucking LP, and that was only because Steve Albini and co. were playing like KRAFTWERK’s robot kid brothers (albeit one’s weaned on punkrock, not krautrock). And the new GONE record does little to shift this belief.

What I can’t for the life of me get my head around was Ginn’s aesthetic choice to use programmed drumming, rather than the swingin’ arms and legs of a real human being. Lord knows, he must know a few capable drummers. To my ears, the programming brings an awkward, Frankensteinian stiffness to the whole shebang, which is something that I don’t particularly want to experience on a daily basis.

Not without reason is this set titled The Epic Trilogy, as this stands as Ginn’s most ambitious solo set yet. In hindsight, a lot of what he released in the 90’s could be seen as test-runs of this sorta sound. The lengthy pieces (all 15min.+ in length) are are built around highly structured, shifting blocks of overdriven, repetitive gtr strumming over programmed beats. Outta this, Ginn occasionally decides to peal one of them mindblowing, cascading breaks/solos I’m always waiting on baited breath for. One astute listener (Mark P.) rightly noted such moments are mighty fine indeed, and sound as righteous as anything off of BLACK FLAG’s Slip It In. But as quickly as he starts a-rippin’, he’s right back into a lengthy set of chunky gtr reps. Makes for one herky-jerky, unnatural trip, indeed.

Oh! And he’s gone and really rubbed it in: this is a double CD – one instrumental, one with martian vocals supplied by BAD BRAIN singer HR. Sometimes, more is not merrier.

3. MOJACKUnder the Willow Tree (SST Records, 2007): A plugged-in companion to the CORRUGATORS recording, here Ginn turns it up and takes a more rockin’ approach to similar material. A few of these riffs, in fact, have that same walkin’ blues feel, only here they’re grounded by some seriously loud ‘n’ powerful funk/rock rhythmations. As with his ‘GATORS, this feels more like riff exploration rather than well-rounded songcraft; the tape often cuts off abruptly, as if someone decided hastily ok, ok this jam’s done with. But that just serves to highlight Ginn’s gtr invocations that much more singularly. Sonically speaking, I reckon this one’ll go down easiest of these three CDs, especially if you’ve ever warmed to high-powered jazz rock things like THE SORT OF QUARTET, THE MECOLODIACS, and BAZOOKA. And in fact BAZOOKA’s Tony Atherton is on hand here with his sax, nudging things even further in that improv-rock direction. Could definitely imagine Ginn bringing a full-band version of this project on the road and slaying all pretenders 10 ways to Sunday.

—–

And after all this, you might ask: what of PUNK ROCK? Well, Ginn’s saving that for another day.

Thanks to Medusa Oblongata for a recent grey-haired photo of Greg

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10 Responses to “Slow Ginn Fuzz”

  1. mark December 25, 2007 at 7:52 pm #

    Give in to the drum machine! I know what you mean re: programmed beats. That said, Greg has been asserting for years that he loves techno music. Hell, I’ve even seen Gone listed as an electronic band in “genre” marketing lists. Once I made that connection, I found myself enjoying the hell out of all Gone releases. Maybe that’s a copout. It’s still worth it when his signature as hell tone hits the brain centers, though. At least to this drummer.

  2. mrowster December 27, 2007 at 7:49 pm #

    Mark: What can I say? I just don’t have the same reaction to it. And I suppose, there’s all those old and new Ginn recs with real drummers that still have me riveted, that keep me comparing efforts like “The Epic Trilogy” to something a little less programmed. I guess I’m still hoping he’ll dive headfirst into that band thing again.

  3. mark December 28, 2007 at 1:22 am #

    It would be great to hear Gone w/ an actual drummer. I’m just guessin’ it’s a control thing.
    Ginn seems to want the rhythm as close to perfect as possible. Maybe that’s why he gets drum tracks programmed? He had a wild drummer w/ him when I saw him play in San Jose (2003). Too bad they only played Black Flag tunes. I wanted to hear them go off, Gone-like. He does what he wants, that’s for sure.

  4. Steve January 4, 2008 at 10:54 am #

    Don’t you think that Ginn w/a drum machine is actually the logical culmination of his powertrip?! (psychologically – not aesthetically).

    I’d love to see you reappraising all the myriad 90s stuff though…

  5. mrowster January 4, 2008 at 6:49 pm #

    Steve: You may well be right re: Ginn’s personality, but I don’t actually know the man. So I’m gonna refrain from guessing. And anyway it’s always been aesthetics that bring me a-knockin’ on Ginn’s door . . .

    Glad to see you’re interested in reading more. I plan to write about his 90’s stuff, but there’s lots of bits I’ve never heard, and want to give em a listen before I write. Keep a lookout.

  6. mark January 5, 2008 at 4:04 am #

    Start with Let it Burn, Cause I Don’t Live There Anymore.
    That’s a great record.

  7. bopst January 30, 2008 at 3:45 pm #

    I’m just happy he’s playing again…

  8. Keith February 25, 2008 at 7:14 pm #

    Greg will begin a 10 week US tour starting in late April.

    The bill is Jambang and the Greg Ginn and the Taylor Texas Corrugators – try to get that on a marquee!

    His new project “Jambang” is an audio visual experience featuring joey keeton (the guy who did the Texas Corrugators and Gone videos)

    More details to come…

  9. simon gajewski March 19, 2008 at 2:13 pm #

    ive downloaded the new albums, these are the only things ive hard of ginn outside of black flag. The Gone album is very brilliant. From the tiny tiny info i can find out about these new projects, nothing is too clear. Is there a place where ginn fans congregate, or is that here?!

    What are the chances of seeing ginn live in europe? 0%?

  10. mrowster March 19, 2008 at 6:31 pm #

    Well if there’s a Ginn fan site/community, I haven’t stumbled upon it yet.

    But do check over at Lexicon Devil for Ginn updates – this guy is crazy/smart enough to wanna release Ginn’s latest group (Jambang) Down Under! He’s also mentioned that Ginn might be touring the world with TEN EAST soon – though he’ll haveta comfirm that.

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