BAND OF THE WEEK: STRESS WAVES

5 Dec

It says something about the regard with which we hold GNOD – that is, the highest possible, with an infatuation that verges on the unhealthy, certainly absurd – that we will listen to anything and everything released through their Tesla Tapes imprint.

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Will we love everything? No. But we will take their endorsement as an invitation to try, and long before we ever even had to think about trying, we fell in love with Stress Waves and their sickeningly addictive release, “Orphic Ruin.”

But then, what’s not to love? We know little about the why’s and how’s of Stress Waves, apart from knowing that they are apparently composed of two guys from Australia who have a drum machine, a synth, and a bone to pick with the shadows that darken our lives.

Stress Waves sound like Rain Parade if someone truly did rain on their parade and, not only that, proceeded to cancel the entire parade, then broke the band’s guitars over their knees, doused their drum-kit in kerosene before setting it aflame, and eventually put two of the band members in the figure-four leg-lock, laughing at their anguished cries for release, and calling the finished product “Orphic Ruin.” Which, we suppose, is to say that Stress Waves sound nothing like Rain Parade, but for an overwhelming shared sense of melancholy coloring their sound.

“Orphic Ruin,” perhaps more than any music that wasn’t written and recorded by Venom, sounds like orphic ruin. Which is to say, it sounds like your world is falling apart. The pace is funereal, the “hooks,” as it were – or as it would be, if the hooks were anything like hooks – have been melted down, drippy and disfigured, long before they ever reach your ears, and the vocals are one giant, cavernous moan, genetically predisposed to carrying the melody, but not wanting much to do with the job. It’s overwhelming. We kind of get woozy just thinking about it. Stress Waves is so good, we get woozy. That’s is the highest possible recommendation from this stupid website.

But then, was it not Rain Parade who sang the words, “what’s the point of anything that brings you down?” For all the melancholia in the sound of Stress Waves – massive, thick ribbons of melancholy, threatening to stain your clothes if not your very soul – “Orphic Ruin,” doesn’t bring us down, and whether it’s the sound of castles burning or drum machines churning, you won’t find us turning this one down.

Stress Waves “Orphic Ruin” is available for download now from Tesla Tapes.

“Sometimes I feel overwhelmed. But I try to work one day at a time. If we just worry about the big picture, we are powerless. So my secret is to start right away doing whatever little work I can do. I try to give joy to one person in the morning, and remove the suffering of one person in the afternoon. That’s enough.

When you see you can do that, you continue, and you give two little joys, and you remove two little sufferings, then three, and then four. If you and your friends do not despise the small work, a million people will remove a lot of suffering. That is the secret. Start right now.”

- Sister Chân Không

FUNNY FLASHBACK: PATTON OSWALT

4 Dec

If there’s one thing I love as much as music, it’s comedy. And my family. And cookies, too. So that’s three things …

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.

Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to interview some of my favorite comedians, and since I started this stupid website … I figure it’s as good a place as any to stick the ancient transcripts, for the sake of posterity and general amusement.

In anticipation of his soon-to-be-released book, “Silver Screen Fiend: Learning About Life From An Addiction to Film,” here’s a transcript of the September 29, 2002, phone chat I had with the always inspiring Patton Oswalt.

 

What year did you first start performing stand-up?

1989.

And how old were you then?

Nineteen.

Was this during college?

Yeah.

And you attended William & Mary?

Yep.

And you’re from Virginia, originally?

Yeah, Northern Virginia.

What drew you to stand-up initially?

Uhhhh . . . I don’t know, I was always trying to be funny, around people and around my friends. And I guess I had a lot of confidence that I could do it because around the time I entered into it, the comedy scene was really very saturated.

What surprised you most about stand-up at the beginning?

It was hard to be personal.

In what way?

Bringing that element of personal reality to it. That was a lot harder than I thought. And I was also surprised to learn that it was actually an art form.

How long did it take you before you began to view it as an art form?

I think I realized it was an art form at the beginning, but it took me a really long time before I was able to view what I was performing myself as an art form.

How long was it before you had confidence in what you were doing an part of the art?

Oh, God. It took a really long time. I really didn’t feel good about what I was doing until about 1995 or ’96, around the time I moved to Los Angeles.

What were the biggest hurdles in performing for you to clear personally? Were you uncomfortable on stage …

I was a little uncomfortable at first, and then I became very, very focused on what would work for me to help my career. Things like how should I look, what should I wear, what should I be doing, as opposed to focusing on the actual stand-up, which I think I had a pretty good handle on.

Marc Maron said the biggest challenge is going from faking fearlessness on stage, to actually being fearless on stage. Does that ring true to you?

Yeah, but I like to keep a little bit of the fear. I like the idea that things could maybe go wrong. I think that brings a different element to stand-up. You don’t get the courage to do whatever you do in stand up if you know that people are always going to laugh at you, every time.

Do you feel you usually excel when maybe the audience isn’t quite with you?

Yeah. I like the feeling of winning people over, and that’s one of the things that you get by going out on the road. I don’t believe in the “hot house” atmosphere. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with a room like Largo or The Uncabaret. They’re great rooms, but for the most part you really are preaching to the converted. I like winning people over that are completely separate from what I am doing.

When you achieve a certain amount of name or face recognition, can audiences ever be too willing to laugh at you?

Sometimes. Sometimes, but I’m not that recognizable. I mean, people see me on “The King of Queens” and they have this certain thing in their mind, and what I do is not really that, but it’s not something that they can’t accept.

What is the perception that audiences have if they know you from “The King of Queens”?

I think it’s actually a lack of perception. I think they like that character on TV and that’s about it. I don’t know. I’m not sure how to articulate that.

What was the best advice you ever received about performing stand-up?

Don’t get too high on the highs and don’t get too low on the lows.

And by contrast what was the worst advice?

I don’t think I ever really received any really bad advice, but I remember one night a guy was onstage and he was doing a bit about how he was a non-smoker and he didn’t like smokers, and when he got off stage, the club manager came over to him and explained that the prevailing notion was that people didn’t like non-smokers, or people who were actively anti-smoking, and what he needed to do was find a way to put that point of view across on stage, and one day maybe that would change, and then he could just change it around again, but right now what he needed to do was to pay less attention to his material and more attention to what was going on around him. I mean, the guy was just clearly insane. And I overheard the whole thing and I was just blown away with what horrible advice he was offering. And this guy used to do stuff like that all the time. Actually, he wasn’t even the club’s manager, he was the owner’s husband. And he would sit people down all the time and tell them nonsense. It was actually pretty entertaining after awhile.

When you first began doing stand-up, did you ever get sucked into doing something really lame like taking a course on stand-up or anything like that?

Nothing like that. The only thing I ever did was I got sucked into doing were things like radio gigs and charity events that I probably wasn’t appropriate for. There were a lot of cable TV programs I did coming up when there was this huge explosion of comedy on cable TV that, in retrospect, I’m glad I did, but when it came to do my half-hour special or Conan, the ones that really counted for something, I was already very, very comfortable with performing on camera.

What was the downside to doing those TV shows?

There wasn’t really a downside. There was a risk of me getting a really bad idea of what I needed to be doing as a comedian. Luckily for me, those tapes don’t seem to have survived, and the shows have all disappeared, and I have learned not to do that sort of thing, especially in re-watching the tapes and saying, “Boy, that was bad.”

I think there’s something amazing about original comedians who make it through the beginning and intermediate stages of a comedy career without quitting or killing themselves. What do you make of that? Is it just sheer persistence? Was there a time you thought, “You know what, I’m just not fitting in with these people, this isn’t working …”

Yeah, there were a lot of times, but there were also things that just kept me going. There’s the fear of failure, there’s the idea that you don’t want the assholes to be right, there’s a lot of spite in it. There’s also a subconscious sabotaging, like you can’t go back to the beginning anyway, so you just have to press on. There was a time when I was living out in San Francisco, and things were not going well, and I was thinking I would just come back to Virginia. I was engaged, and I broke up the engagement to move out to San Francisco, and I was going to go back to Virginia and just beg this girl to marry me, but I didn’t do it, and I’m not really sure how I did it. I can’t really give you details of how I managed not to quit, but I didn’t.

How would you say stand-up comedy has changed since you started? For the better or for the worse?

It’s definitely changed for the better. It died. Everything that people thought stand-up should be, in the late eighties and early nineties, proved to be wrong. All the sort of impersonal, jokey, crafty thing, it all just kind of failed. I think right now is the best time for stand-up, ever. I sincerely do.

Why is that?

Because there are so many amazing people doing it right now. And there really is no clear entry way to a saturation point. In other words, there is no more “A & E’s Evening At The Improv,” or “Caroline’s Comedy Hour,” where they just plug comedians in until people just get sick of them. There’s nothing to really give people a bad idea of what stand-up is right now. It’s really just for the connoisseurs, for the people that really want to go see it. And there are comedians that have day jobs, and they want to go out and do it anyway. I mean, the death in the late eighties and early nineties really shook out a lot of hacks. The pond just sort of dried up for a lot of really bad comedians.

At the tail end of the boom, before the hacks were shook out, as you said, did you ever begin to sort of hate stand-up, and hate where it was?

Yeah, there were a few years in the early nineties where I really began to hate what was valued as funny and just sort of what was valued in stand-up, period. That was starting to piss me off. I remember one time I was performing in this comedy competition in Newport News, and there was this little comedy magazine that got published, and there was this one comedian on the cover, who shall remain nameless, and there were a bunch of comedians around, and I picked up this magazine and said, “Hey guys, you know what’s funny?” and they said, “What?” and I pointed to the picture of this comedian on the magazine and said, “Not her.” And they all went, “I don’t see you on the cover of a magazine. She’s rich. I don’t see you on TV. Where’s your TV show?” Like, as long as you’re on the cover of a magazine or are making money, that erases everything else that is wrong with you.

Financial success is the ultimate indicator of whether or not a comedian is funny.

It really was. And there was this thing where, now, luckily, or hopefully, I hope, this has died out, but the thievery of material was just rampant, especially at the tail end of the boom, and it increased that feeling of the end justifies the means. There really was this feeling of, “Whoever does the joke the best, that’s their joke.” There really was a point, and it didn’t last long, but it really was about acquisition and not about creation. Which probably paralleled the go-go eighties stock market. I remember a comedian who had a lot of heat on him, who has now mostly crashed and burned, who blatantly stole just huge chunks of material from a friend of mine named Blaine Capatch. I mean, just huge chunks of material. And Blaine and I were still MC-ing, while this guy was featuring. And this kid was only like twenty or twenty-one at the time, and he started featuring with Blaine’s material. And Blaine confronted him about it and the guy was so shameless about it. He wasn’t angry at Blaine and he wasn’t trying to defend himself. The guy’s argument was, “Look, I’m doing feature gigs and I don’t have a half-hour of material. If you were doing feature gigs, I certainly would let you do your material. But I’m the one featuring right now, and I need the material. You’re only MC-ing right now, you only need ten minutes of material.”

Completely unremorseful.

He completely saw no wrong in what he was doing. He had no ill feelings towards Blaine, and he wasn’t even being sneaky about it. He was only shocked at Blaine coming to him saying, “What the hell are you doing?” And he’s saying, “What do you mean what the hell am I doing? I’m featuring! I’ve only got five minutes of material!” Like Blaine was an idiot. And that was literally his reaction.

Do you think his theft was sort of a function of the amount of work that was available at the time? Like, anyone who could cobble together thirty minutes, whether or not they created it, could feature?

Yeah, there was just so much work. Now, luckily again, when the boom died, all of that died. And a lot of these guys . . . well, there were so many reasons . . .

Hello? Hello? [PATTON’s CELL PHONE DIES … HE CALLS BACK]

Sorry about that.

No problem. Can you recall the first time you heard the phrase “alternative comedy”?

Ummm . . . no. I must have been living in L.A. at the time, but I don’t remember.

Did the term ever mean anything to you at all?

No.

Should it ever mean anything to anyone?

No. I mean, all alternative comedy is are comedians that have being doing it for so long, for so long, that they were relaxed enough to start becoming personal on stage. I had been doing it for about six or seven years before I started doing places like The Largo and The Uncabaret. I mean, ninety percent of all comedians are just boring people, and ninety percent of alternative comics are shitty comedians. You take the good ones in the ten percents between the two, and that’s where you get the good stuff. So I’ve never differentiated between the alternative and the mainstream. There are plenty of alternative comedians, and I mean ones that sort of started off as alternative comics . . . that’s like saying, “I’m going to start off as a jazz improvisor.” Well, do you know how to play scales? “No. I’m going to start off by improvising.” It’s like a guy saying, “You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to start off as a four-star chef.” Well, can you cook a cup of rice? “No.” Can you cook an omelet? “No.” Well, why don’t you start off learning how to cook rice, and by the way, that takes about a year. Four star chefs take a full year learning how to cook rice and how to cook omelets. “Well, I’m not going to do that.” Well, then you’re never going to be a four-star chef. So many guys start off going, “Well, I’m just going to be alternative, like Janeane Garofalo.” Well, Janeane Garofalo was banging away for ten years. She was a brilliant joke writer, a brilliant comedian, and then got so good that she could do it in her sleep, and started to challenge herself. I mean, it’s the same thing with Richard Pryor. Guys watch Richard Pryor and think, “I can do that. He just goes up onstage and says ‘motherfucker.’” Not realizing he had been doing it for fifteen years. I mean, guys go up on stage thinking, “I’m just going to go up on stage and talk about my day like Janeane does.” Uhhh, no, you’re not, actually. You should actually go and write a joke first. You know what? Go and write a knock-knock joke first. Seriously, can you write a fucking knock knock joke? I remember one time I was at Largo and a guy said, “I love seeing mainstream, headlining comedians come in here trying to be alternative, because they just sweat, sweat, sweat and say, well, it doesn’t really have to be funny! Hahaha.” And I went up after him and said, you know, that is fun to watch, but you know what’s even more fun? Watching an alternative comic out on the road. That’s hysterical. They’re on stage going, “Yeah, me and my friend Terry … you guys know Terry, right? … Huh. Well, we went to Blockbuster and Terry rented “The Wedding Planner” … I mean, if you guys knew Terry … Hell-oooo? Ok, fine, you guys are fucking idiots.” That’s my impression of an alternative comic on the road. Here’s my other impression of an alternative comic on the road: “Ok, you guys aren’t listening to me.”

“The Wedding Planner” is the punchline for their joke. That’s all they need.

“Uhhh, I mean, if you guys knew Terry, you would know … I mean, weren’t you guys there when we all went and played Putt-Putt? Ahhh, you guys are morons. I can’t believe that my thirty friends are not in this room in Ohio right now. This is the shittiest comedy club on the planet.”

At the same time, I think you’re an original comic, whose jokes are somewhat intricately worded, whose premises take a fair amount of thought to get …

Hang on. [To cab driver] Get off on Olive, and then over to Buena Vista. No, you should have gotten off on Olive. Ahh, fuck it take … no, no, that’s the wrong exit. Get off on the next one and take me back to Burbank. Yeah, Lincoln. But not the Lincoln exit … no, no, no. Take Burbank Boulevard. Jesus Christ. Yeah, go west. [To me] Where were we?

I think I’m going to skip where I was going, ‘cause I may just be covering the same ground. I found something online called the ChildCare Action Project . . .

The CAP Alert.

Yeah, you’ve seen that?

Oh, yeah. That guy’s got a real hard-on for me.

But why you, of all people? I thought the funniest part of in was at the beginning, it says, “ A family’s sixteen year-old child was developing a strong interest in Patton Oswalt.”

Ahhh, let me be! Creepy. I like when he says I focus on the male demon anatomy … [To cab driver] Go down to Olive … no, Olive …then right on Buena Vista, right on Park, and then a left on Lincoln. Not Lincoln up there, Lincoln down here. Oh, Jesus. Keep going straight. Stay on Burbank Boulevard. {To me] So, the CAP Alert …

I thought it was funny how absolutely filthy it makes you sound.

It makes me sound ten times filthier than I actually am. I don’t think anything I do is all that controversial. I’m not the type of guy that sits down and says, “I’m going to piss some people off so bad.” My thing, the hat trick to getting people to laugh at things they normally wouldn’t laugh at. I mean, anyone can go out there and be offensive. That’s the easy part. Anyone could do that. I could go out there and go, “Hey, Nigger!” Boom. I win. You know? But …

This thing makes it sound like you walked on stage, talked about stomping midgets, talked about necrophilia, talked about golden showers, and said good night.

Well, you know … if anything, that should attract more people to my show.

You mentioned before people knowing you from “The King of Queens.” Are they then ever offended by what you say on stage?

Yeah, a couple times. I mean, usually if they are offended, they don’t tell me.

Do you ever consider that reaction beforehand?

No. Like I said, I don’t think I’m that type of person. If someone is going to be offended, I don’t think it’s because of me, I think it’s just …

They would have had a problem with whatever comedian they saw that night.

Oh, yeah. Good lord … [To cab driver] Take a left on Buena Vista, take a left on Clark, take a left on Lincoln. [To me] I’m sorry.

No problem. There’s a new book out co-authored by Tom Shales …

Yeah, about “SNL.”

Right. Do you think there could ever be a book like that about “Mad TV”?

No.

If that book ever did exist, what would your role in the book be?

Minimal. I was only there for the first two seasons, and I was kind of an asshole.

You were kind of an asshole?

Yeah.

Why do you say that?

I was just very contentious with what we were doing. I had a lot of problems with the show the show was set up and structured. I don’t think anyone there would have much to say about me.

Before that, did it feel like, “Wow, this is going to be great.”

Yeah, I was very excited.

When it turned into an unpleasant experience, did it feel like, “Well, that was my big shot.”

At the time, it certainly did, but now I feel like, if I’m not enjoying myself . . . I just figured I really don’t need that much money to live. And that way I don’t get sucked into doing things I don’t really want to do.

How did it come about that you toured with Aimee Mann and Michael Penn?

They saw me perform at Largo, and they asked me to open up for them, and just do the banter for them. It kind of just happened organically.

Did they say, “Come along and do it like this,” or more like, “Come along and do whatever you want.”

They said, “Come along and do the tour,” and that was that.

It seems like everything I read about it had a really positive reaction to having a comedian as part of the show.

Yeah, all of the gigs went really well. The only one where I had a problem was one in London, and that’s because the manager didn’t let people in the door until five minutes after I started performing. He was like, “Well, you do your comedy while they’re sitting down,” and I was like, “No, you don’t.” And he was like, “Well, it will work if you’re funny. If you’re funny, they’ll laugh.” And I was like, “Oh, Ok. You’re one of those guys. I remember guys like you from back in the eighties.”

[CELL PHONE DIES … PATTON CALLS BACK]

Hello?

Sorry about that.

No problem. I wanted to ask you how your role in Magnolia came about.

Paul Thomas Anderson was hanging out at Largo and saw me perform, and said, “He do you want to go do this thing for my movie?,” and that was it.

That was a big laugh for me, seeing Magnolia for the first time in the theater, and within the first five minutes, there’s Patton Oswalt on the big screen.

Thanks.

I thought the thing you did with Jimmy Kimmel for “Crank Yankers,” the radio team of “Boomer and The Nudge,” was just really, really great. So what is it about radio that just sucks so bad?

Yeah, I don’t know. It’s just so awful. I mean, there are a few radio shows that I think are really great, like “The Phil Hendrie Show” and a few others, but for the most part, it’s just awful. It’s just like, why do they have to talk like that? Why can’t they just play music? And I’ll never understand why comedy club owners insist comedians go on local radio shows. It never enhances the comedians work at all, it never gets people interested in seeing the show. I just don’t know.

Well, I think I’ve wasted enough of your time.

Hey, thanks, man.

I really appreciate you taking the time to do this and I’ll email you a copy of it when it’s done.

Yeah, great.

Take care.

I’ll talk to you soon.

BAND OF THE WEEK: TOMAGA + MOSES NESH

20 Nov

There is the past, and there is the future, and they both exist in this present moment. And in this present moment, we choose to listen to the music of Tomaga, along with the music of Moses Nesh.

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Separating the past from the future when considering music is to some degree a fool’s errand, presupposing that time – and our flawed memory of it – can simply be subdivided, sliced into even, definable pieces, like nothing more than a quantum loaf of bread. Who can separate past and future, right now? Who can detach Sun Ra from The MC5, and why would you try? Who put the bomp in the bomp-bah-bomp-bah-bomp?

Still, we’ve never claimed not to be foolish (and we have this website to prove it), so the sounds of Tomaga and Moses Nesh have us pondering past and future, right now.

Futura Grotesk” is the title of the latest release from Tomaga, out now on the always-reliable Hands in the Dark Records, so there is at least some justification for our focus on the future. As for the grotesque? The black gate is still closed. Separating the grotesque from the gorgeous may just be another fool’s errand when it comes to Tomaga, whose “Futura Grotesk” – while sometimes minimal in approach – yields maximum repeat listens, surreality submerged across landscapes of lunacy, uncovered and delivering the listener through a fully realized thirty minutes of intergalactic haze, through the terror-dome and into a place where you can still hear the drummer get wicked.

It takes about two minutes into album opener “Alphabet of the Night” for Tomaga to begin speaking their own language, a native tongue at once comfortable with and combating chaos, our beloved bleeps-and-bloops steadily spacing out while spacing in, creating an alternate universe where a dub-drenched alternate mix of “Hall of the Mountain Grill” seems not only possible, but probable. And by the time we scale the heights of the album’s penultimate track, “Mountain Opener” – an eight-minute open-flame of space and time in and of itself, like Albert Ayler taking a smoke break and inviting us to once again focus on those drums, those drums, those drums – we’re fluent in the future provided by Tomaga here as well, just in time for a song titled “Days Like They Were Before” to end this magnificent album and return us to home safely, if forever changed.

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It would be comforting to think an album like “Futura Grotesk” can be compartmentalized into being “about” the future, while the songs and sound of Moses Nesh, presented here on the cassette entitled “The Lovely Ohio,” are “about” the past. A fool’s errand, we say again, and we’re ‘bout it, ‘bout it.

To be clear, the music of Moses Nesh is quite a different thing than that of Tomaga, the limitless expanse of “Futura Grostesk” exchanged for the finite fire of a beat-up guitar and a beat-down voice. Still, to these ears, it’s only an example of how different paths can deliver strikingly similar results. “The Lovely Ohio” captures discomfort, desire and deliverance as clearly and capably as any dystopian, sci-fi vision of a future filled with neuroprostetics and “Neu! ‘75” on repeat. That the tools used by Nesh to achieve this end are more familiar only makes the results more extraordinary. Whether unfolding from the Appalachian Mountains or from mountains of Mars, the songs on “The Lovely Ohio” cut to the cosmic core, perhaps none more so than “The Battle of Austerlitz,” elegiac and angelic all at once, whether heard from the perspective of the past, the future, or – our highest recommendation – this present moment.

“Our life is momentary, and, at the same time, each moment, you know, include its own past and future. Next moment will include its own past and future. In this way, our momentary and eternal life will continue. This is, you know, how we lead our everyday life, how we enjoy our everyday life, and how we get freedom from various difficulties. How we not suffer from difficulties and how we enjoy our life, moment after moment, is our practice, based on true understanding.” – Shunryu Suzuki

“14th FLOOR” – NEW VIDEO FROM WILD WILD WETS

11 Nov

Every time we hear the name Wild Wild Wets, we smile. Wild, wild smiles. We don’t know why.

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We do know that we stumbled upon these Californian’s seven-inch, “Criminal Blue,” some months ago, and that makes us smile, too, particularly the track “Totem,” three-and-a-half minutes of musing masquerading as purring pop perfection. What is there to not smile about?

So how could we not smile when we heard the news that Wild Wild Wets are taking the elevator up to the “14th Floor,” the title – and title track – of their upcoming full-length debut? We may have even smiled more than the time we heard that two of the cats from Wild Wild Wets have a side-project called Jeans Wilder.

So smile along to the video for “14th Floor,” a track perhaps more criminally catchy than anything we’ve heard from Wild Wild Wets thus far, particular in the form of the utterly intoxicating backing ahhh-ahhh’s. We took the “14th Floor” to the seventh heaven of smiles, courtesy of Wild Wild Wets, dude.

BAND OF THE WEEK: RITUAL HOWLS

30 Oct

There’s a band from Detroit called Ritual Howls; they have an album out now, titled “Turkish Leather” (felte Records). We think it’s brilliant.

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We know this not because we have any special knowledge of “Turkish Leather,” of Ritual Howls, of Detroit, of bands in general. We know this only because a brief message caught our eye, a brief message from a writer familiar with haunted locales, creepy grace and, as it turns out, werewolves.

The word that came was something about the spirit of sisters, and mercy, we can hear that, muffled as the memory may be in our head, coursing through the half-baked corridors of a mind filled with visions of the dark-cloud monk named Lenny singing similar sad songs.

Our own go-to reference point for the general atmosphere that unfolds across “Turkish Leather” is usually located somewhere in the vast and venomous fields of the Nephilim, though our initial thoughts upon repeat listening to the album’s first song, “Zemmoa,” brought something more frightening to mind. A monstrous, maddeningly perfect alienation anthem, and the start of an astonishing album that could wear that same description throughout its entirety, the insistent “Zemmoa” brings to mind nothing less fearsome than the Easybeats gone sinister, risen from the grave and manifesting a “Suspiria”-wind that blows directly through the headphones and the brain, with a creaking, brittle-bone electricity.

Certainly, none of these descriptions serve to fully explain the sound of Ritual Howls, nor the depth of “Turkish Leather” as a complete album, its brooding and beauty in equal measure, its panoramic embrace of frailty and frustration. Good thing we’re not interested in trying to fully explain Ritual Howls, nor the depth of “Turkish Leather.” We’re just listening to the werewolves.

“Turkish Leather” by Ritual Howls is available now. Thanks to Matt Maxwell for the recommendation.

“Fear takes us to that point beyond which we think we can’t go. Breathing into the center of the chest, taking that one breath directly into the heartspace, opening to the pain that feels like it’s going to do us in, teaches us that it won’t do us in. We begin to experience the spaciousness of the heart, where our harshest self-judgments and our darkest moods lighten up. We begin to understand that awareness heals; and to open to this healing, one more breath into the heartspace is all that is required.

To willingly reside in our distress, no longer resisting what is, is the real key to transformation. As painful as it may be to face our deepest fears, we do reach the point where it’s more painful not to face them. This is a pivotal point in the practice life. Feeling the limitations of our fears and breathing them into the heartspace allows us to penetrate the protective barriers that close us off. As we begin to move beyond the artificial construct that we call a “self” – the seat of all of our emotional distress – we enter into a wider container of awareness. We see that our emotional drama, however distressful, is still just thoughts, just memories, just sensations. Who we really are – our basic connectedness – is so much bigger than just this body, just this personal drama.”

- Ezra Bayda, “Bursting the Bubble of Fear”

BAND OF THE WEEK: JANE WEAVER

23 Oct

And then there are the times that you buy an album, burn that album to a disc to take along on a long, country drive, and promptly, fully, unfailingly fall in love with that album, making plans to listen to it again and again, to sing its praises, to fully investigate the world of communist-era Polish sci-fi films that inspired it. That’s the type of album Jane Weaver’s “The Silver Globe” is, or more accurately, that’s the type of experience we’ve had with it.

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And after falling in love, what more is there to say, really? These words cannot add to the delight of listening to “The Silver Globe,” a delight that seems to emerge both effortlessly and evenly over the album’s forty-seven minutes; it is surely a fool’s errand to attempt to shine a light on an album “highlight,” when the entire album is the highlight, the entire album alive, growing, pulsing with unimaginable, indescribable highlights, one after another, building to a cohesive, utterly brilliant whole.

And as if on cue, as if to confirm our suspicion that these words cannot add to the delight of listening to “The Silver Globe,” is the fact that just yesterday, The Quietus posted a track-by-track breakdown of “The Silver Globe,” helmed by no less an authority than Ms. Weaver herself.

And what’s more, the article turns out to hold nearly as many illuminating, inspiring and poetic passages, as does “The Silver Globe” proper. To wit:

“The grass is never greener, it’s actually an entirely different color altogether, it’s all about how you process your own success and preserve your original motivation, then you create your own system.”

“The song itself is also written in a comic book style but is loosely based on our own power resources as human beings and preserving creative energy in a robotic society and not running too far away from our initial spark.”

“The song itself repeats the same themes about love, religion and secularization but in a totally day-glo context. I like the idea of old religions being presented via bizarre robotic entities, it’s obvious that a lot of the early developments in science and medicine were originally known as witchcraft, people used to think photography stole a person’s soul…”

And that’s without even mentioning the impact of “Church of Hawkwind,” Annette Peacock, Buck Rogers, the flight of Icarus, Aussie-krautrock and Casio keyboards with dying batteries upon “The Silver Globe.”

And so we suggest you forget these words, these meaningless words, immediately, and engage fully with “The Silver Globe.”

“The Silver Globe” by Jane Weaver is out now on Finders Keepers Records.

 

“When touched with a feeling of pain,
the ordinary uninstructed person
sorrows, grieves,
and laments, beats his breast,
becomes distraught.
So he feels two pains,
physical and mental.
Just as if they were to shoot a man
with an arrow and,
right afterward,
were to shoot him with another one,
so that he would feel
the pains of two arrows…”

—”Sallatha Sutta: The Arrow

BAND OF THE WEEK: BUFFALO TOOTH

16 Oct

If only we could decipher the mystery inherent in the album title, we would have the confidence to declare “Gardeners of the Devil’s Lettuce” by Buffalo Tooth (Captcha Records) to be an indisputable, irrefutable, heart-pounding, corner-rounding, out-of-control, high-octane-cosmic-funny car, rock and roll dream of an album.

But there’s something holding us back. “Gardeners of the Devil’s Lettuce” – what could it possibly mean?

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This is the question we ponder. We searched high – high, high, high – and low for a clue, some kind of a sign, even the slightest glimpse of a possible explanation. In this regard, “Gardeners of the Devil’s Lettuce,” however, is playing its cards close to the vest. Or, perhaps, keeping its stash in the hip pocket, so to speak.

In all other ways, however, Buffalo Tooth are willing to share. “Gardeners of the Devil’s Lettuce” burns smooth and strong, all the way through, successfully sheared of any stems or seeds set to clog its chamber. Despite its confounding title, there’s approximately zero-percent of slow-rolled, pastoral garden beauty to be found. There is, however, approximately 100-percent of livin’ for givin’ the Devil his due, and on “Gardeners of the Devil’s Lettuce,” Buffalo Tooth are burnin’, are burnin’, are burnin’ for you.

And good golly, “Miss Molly” sure likes to ball, all ancestral ultra-amped riffing, descending directly from the ghosts of the Grande Ballroom (regardless of Buffalo Tooth chewing their cud in California), unafraid to answer the ultimate musical questions (“Dude, what would have happened if Dr. Know from Bad Brains had replaced Ritchie Blackmore in Deep Purple, right around ‘Fireball’?”), topped off with a ji-ji-ji-ji-ji-ji-jittery vocal attack that threatens to be the star of the show, or perhaps the fire that lights the bowl for the album as a whole (in places, it’s a bit like early Damned with a medical marijuana card – score one for David Vape-ian).

Yet again – what could that title possibly mean? “Gardeners of the Devil’s Lettuce”? It simply doesn’t make any sense.

“Miss Molly” certainly hits the spot. But then, so does “Mr. Vibrator,” as you might expect. Its neighbor on the album, “Mr. Vibrator” is a collection of criminally insane drum fills, topped by commando-guitar assault. And by the time the group gropes itself into “Space Polygamy,” all bets are off (and perhaps your clothes, too), with the song again featuring some of the most effortlessly awesome melodies moaned since Diamond Head went electric, while also magically clocking in at the highly under-appreciated “less-than two minutes” mark. In fact, five of the thirteen songs on “Gardeners of the Devil’s Lettuce” fall in to this holy area of rock and roll perfection, and “Gardeners of the Devil’s Lettuce” is all the stronger for it.

Truth be told, its confounding title is the only question mark throughout the entirety of “Gardeners of the Devil’s Lettuce,” all other elements announcing themselves clearly as an otherworldly, unhinged cosmic rock and roll explosion, delivered with the grace, power and subtlety of a rip from a four-foot gravity bong, genuflecting with all sincerity before the pyramids of Cool Ranch Doritos.

Gardeners of the Devil’s Lettuce” is released by Captcha Records on October 21.

“In this wider sense, our entire life has been training. The question is: training in what? This question means: training in which direction? If we train ourselves to reach for a snack or pick up the phone to text-message whenever we feel frightened or bored, this is definitely training. The next time we feel uncomfortable we will also tend to reach for some comfort outside ourselves, eventually establishing a deeply ingrained habit, another brick in the wall of our mental prison. Are we training in how to distract ourselves from inner discomfort or anxiety? Are we training in numbing ourselves in the face of fear, or training in waking up? Training in opening the heart, or training in shutting down?”

- Gaylon Ferguson, “Natural Wakefulness

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