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No Longer Singing From The Same Hymn Sheet

2 Jan

It’s stating the obvious to say I don’t really do Pig State Recon anymore. But as I did do it at the outset of 2011, I figure I’d try to wrap up things, now that the year is toast. This past year saw so much large scale upheaval and horrific devastation around the world – politically, economically, environmentally – that my narrow ass perspective here seems sorta irrelevant. But that’s blogging for you.

2011 saw some really positive developments in my own life: settling into a new job/life up on the cobbled streets of North Yorkshire, watching my wife’s Etsy jewelry shop succeed beyond all reasonable expectations, and finally buying a house – a first for this no-longer young 41 yr old. All this without mentioning our newly adopted black kitty – Cherry’s her name. That little one has expanded our family dynamic here in subtle but wonderful ways, sorta like when Dave Swarbrick started fiddling fulltime in FAIRPORT CONVENTION. Well, sorta.

But if this year has meant something specifically musical to me, it has to reflect the distinct lack of new rock n roll tuneage filling my aural spaces over the past 12 months. This was a natural reaction to my new environs; I now live nowhere near the metropolitan strongholds of new rock action, and the North Yorkshire countryside I drive through to work each day is far too rolling to get me Kicking Out The Jams on a regular basis. So all of a sudden it’s non-rock instrumental sounds of the ambient electronic, soundtrack, and even classical(!) variety that have marked my hours most prominently this year. Go figure.

Now I’m not qualified to blog about folks with names like Gustav Mahler or Giacomo Puccini – even on good days I struggle to tell my counterpoint from my contrapunct. I did hear a few rock-related records released in the past year, and I might as well say a few words about ’em for old times sake. But if some loudmouth American approaches you at the next London Philharmonic Orchestra performance asking you what your favourite SST LP was, don’t say I didn’t warn you.


ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACKWay Of The Morris (OST, 2011) Delicately glistening soundtrack to a great documentary about an Oxfordshire Morris dance side. Reminiscent of the approach Ashley Hutchings took on odd 70’s Britfolk projects like The Compleat Dancing Master and Rattlebone & Ploughjack, here Adrian Corker mixes spoken recitation, traditional song, and ambient field recordings – church bells, bird calls, Morris sticks – with post-minimalist production in a way calculated to dislocate any pat temporal perspectives. Bits of this certainly draw the listener back down through lost centuries of English daily life, which is indeed a wonderful feeling. But other parts put me in mind of the last time I strolled through the English countryside listening to an early 80’s Cold Blue Music comp LP on my I-Pod (this has happened more than once). Such beautiful juxtapositions conjure up the spirit of modern Morris dancing way better that anything linear ever could.

Awesome work, Adrian. Really, the soundtrack ears of the fellas at labels like Trunk/OST and Finders Keepers need to be grafted on to some Hollywood types, so once again the scores of studio pics might overwhelm.

DARK BROWNMiscellaneous, Vol. 1 (Memory Bulldozer, 2011) – Solo tracks by ex-BLUEBIRD gtrist Bryan Lee Brown, portions of which may or may not’ve ended up behind TV commercials I missed over the past few years. This collection is a natural progression from the warm, BLUEBIRD-like textures of his great first solo CD, moving into post-stoner CLUSTER & ENO strum and float terrain. And while this may hit you as just an indie take on incidental gtr/keyboard based music, I’m excited that someone who has played with the likes of FATSO JETSON’s Mario Lalli is actually taking his sonics into mainstream Hollywood studios these days. Yes I’ve got more than a few collections of mindblowing Euro library/catalogue music lurking around Chez Recon . . . but if you’re like me and can’t stop cloying advertising images from wallpapering the inside of your skull, DARK BROWN’s shimmering cues will help you recontexualise it all in far, far more intimate ways. At present, this one’s only available as an I-Tunes download, but totally worth searching out.

EARTHAngels of Darkness, Demons of Light I (Southern Lord, 2011) – I’m one guy who finds Dylan Carlson’s EARTH output in the new millennium infinitely more appealing than the infamous body of work he created for labels like Sub Pop in the 90’s. I like that he’s renewed his interest in melodies – particularly parched, Ennio Morricone-inspired melodies, but melodies they still clearly are. I like that he chooses to play them slow and clean, allowing the full weight of his changes to sink in nice and deep. I also like that recently he’s been taking the stage with an all-female band – a true rarity in the ubermasculine world of doom metal from which he draws so much of his fanbase. Because of the Pachyderm tempos employed, this doesn’t ever cruise the way, say, THE DIRTY THREE or YAWNING MAN can and do so beautifully – but dammit if EARTH isn’t of a similar ilk. The difference being: EARTH give you that much more time and space to really consider the groundsoil that’s churning beneath their feet. This one gets my full attention, every spin.

JJEMMEIIIDebris Cloud (No label, 2011) I spent most of my mornings this past Spring obsessively following news updates on the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, an event so terrifying that it dredged up all manner of childhood Cold War paranoia I didn’t even know I still had in me. And this was only one of the very major weather calamities to slam our planet this year! While I’ve never fully understood how or why “doom drone” became a genre unto itself in the new millennium, I COMPLETELY empathise with this down-tuned aural reaction to Tennessee floods in May 2011. This was released exclusively online, with all proceeds going to the Tennessee Valley Salvation Army and Red Cross disaster relief funds.

“Debris Cloud” is an awesome 18+ minute solo bass/amp excursion that builds, surges, breaks free, and resonates in yr bones looooong after it’s over. The guttural thunderings JJEMMEIII conjures up feel like a very private but modern expression of fear, but also of strength in the face of overwhelming adversary. Like nearly everything else I’ve dug this year, it’s instrumental, so it’ll help score future eco-distasters in gloriously non-judgemental fashion too. Do sing along, you know all the words already.


Oh and *MUSICAL HOPE FOR THE NEW YEAR* up in the North of England springs squarely from the promises of Manchester’s DEAD SEA APES new Lupus album, to be released on the Deep Water Acres label in the next couple months. For this recording, they’ve shifted gears away from full-frontal desert rock attack to introverted kraut rock meditation, a particularly awe-inspiring sidestep. This might be well be the album I play in perpetuity when I eventually nod into cryogenic post-life consciousness.


Sunn Worship

17 Dec


Ally & I went to see the EARTH/BORIS/SUNN O))) show this past weekend here in London – the same night as the infamous LED ZEPPELIN reunion show across town. Some folks in line bemoaned the £1000+ ZEPP ticket scalp nightmare, but the performers refrained from making any such Page/Plant cracks during the evening (a missed opportunity!). Though now that I think about it, BORIS member Takeshi did play a double neck bass/gtr combo thing that, when ya squinted, wasn’t too dissimilar in appearance from Jimmy Page’s “Stairway to Heaven” gtr. Hmm . . .

EARTH’s Dylan C. kept his head down and twanged his gtr in ernest, sounding clean in more ways than one. I’ve never bothered with EARTH releases before, as the one “solo gtr/amp” set I saw of Dylan’s in ’94 was so SMACKED I wanted to put the guy out of his junky misery once and for all. But this revitalized, full-band EARTH sounded powerful indeed, and hit me as nothing so much as a very elongated and relaxed version of the almighty YAWNING MAN. Dylan and his mates utilized the massaging aspects of really-heavy to the hilt (meaning my innards felt all warm/fuzzy afterward) and people were mighty appreciative of everything he did. Me thinks his grunge-survivor status will finally pay off in the long run.

BORIS was uptempo in comparison, though still had time to begin their set with 10-mins. of ultra-slow repetitive riffing. These Japanese longhairs brought a pomp theatricality to the preceedings I’m gonna call “rising-sun prog” (haven’t read the new Julian Cope book yet, or I’d be able to describe this Japadelic thing better!). Whatever it was they were doing, it was clear that these folks didn’t grow up anywhere near the corners of the world I’ve ever inhabited. We thought it especially cool to see the wee chick lead gtrist getting all these overgrown, smelly London hesher dudes to bang their heads in time to her beat.

Now I’m gonna be honest and say I’m not really familiar with much SUNN O))) work, despite the fact my wife’s a big fan – AND that I once considered SUNN O))) member Greg Anderson a casual acquaintance of mine. Yep, Mr. Southern Lord himself used to live in the apts above the record store I once managed in Hollywood, and he’d hang out alot in the store gawking at the ST. VITUS LPs, waiting for his GOATSNAKE pals to show. In fact, I can clearly remember the day when Greg walked in, wearing his biggest shit-eating smile, and announced: “Dude. DUDE! I’ve got a new project going. It’s so cool. It’s all low tones, dude. ALL. LOW. TONES. Dude. It’s SO FUCKING COOL!”

But maybe I shouldn’t’ve ignored em this long – they was potent stuff, for sure – though it took me more than a few minutes to, ya know, acclimate. Atilla Csihar (pictured above) sang, and his spectre-like presence was as singular as his vocals were hypnotic. Not only did it move so very slowly and so very loudly, but gtr downstrokes came in wave-formations that never even attempted to be on beat. This wasn’t rock – though why my default setting expects such input, I know not. It was just gloriously loud, gang-amplification. And without the rock, you’re left with . . . ? UNDILUTED HEAVY METAL RITUAL. Just awesome.

Which, I’ll betcha, was precisely what was missing from that LED ZEPPELIN show we didn’t get to see, cause none of us got that kinda money to burn. Ah FUCK Page & Plant. We still got SUNN O))).