Sunday, November 23, 2014
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
You may assume that noise is generally a domain populated by folks scraping scrap metal and twiddling knobs, and yes you'd be right, but guitars, drums, and electricity can result in similar cochlear distress. And those that thought three chords were a kind of minimalist mantra, think again. Rising from the mired filth and hopelessness of downtown NY during the late Seventies, NO WAVE was about artists seeking a voice by picking up guitars, and like art-making in general, caution, technique, and meaning were orphaned or reduced to ruins much like Alphabet City itself. Arguably the "band" that went the furthest in its desire to say NO in the most psychotically immediate way was Mars (Sumner Crane: guitar/voice, Mark Cunningham: bass/voice, China Berg: guitar/voice, Nancy Arlen: drums). Much of their work seemed beyond language and the mathematics of song structure, and relied on a painter's concern for contrast, texture, rhythmic bursts and repetition. The songs were often explosions of bodily expression much like Andy Warhol's OXIDATION series, those paintings that found life in the act of pissing while both undermining and expanding the process of painting. Mars sought a similar expansion through a violent primitivism even as a track like "The Immediate Stages of the Erotic (from THE MARS EP 1978) found its original inspiration from a literary source (Kirkegaard's "Diary of a Seducer" from EITHER/OR). The track's abundant physicality presents its voyeuristic and sensual possibilities in sonic terms rather than a known language. That its intensity put off many listeners was of little concern to the band. NO WAVE was a short burst, but one that still reverberates loudly today.
Sunday, November 16, 2014
THE INNOCENTS may seem a bit old-fashioned by current standards of film horror (PARANORMAL ACTIVITY... yawn), but viewed by anyone with even scant sensitivity to light and dark, troubled sounds, and thoroughly believable performances by all involved will be deeply moved, intrigued, and perhaps even frightened. Based on Henry James' novella THE TURN OF THE SCREW, and directed by Jack Clayton, THE INNOCENTS thrives on ambiguity and the shrouding of evil in its near depiction of the ephemeral. Cinematographer Freddie Francis' black and white photography (you should remember his marvelous work in David Lynch's THE ELEPHANT MAN) is one of the many attractions here, bringing a deep sense of claustrophobic dread to the proceedings. Also notice that Francis' use of superimposition of multiple images and dissolves shows up in Lynch's first film ERASERHEAD to great effect. And without giving anything away one should be prepared for one of film's creepiest kisses, that between governess Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) and her young male charge Miles (Martin Stephens). Truman Capote's script is filled with suggestions of neurosis, repressed sexuality, violence, and yes, perversion. This tale of possession by the deceased should be required viewing for both its restraint and beauty, qualities not regularly seen in current movies of any kind.
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Abstraction is the bridge between the ephemeral and the physical, and as such causes quite a stir amongst the less than thoughtful, those with unresolved childhood issues concerning "play", those preferring to ignore anything resembling a symbolic battlefield, or those that embrace an inflexible non-dualistic universe. Above: a work in progress.
Sunday, November 9, 2014
Like all Merzbow releases this 2002 CD has an air of mystery concerning its content within the context of extreme noise. In this case "Ikebukuro" refers to the commercial and entertainment district in Toshima, Tokyo, and in many respects may be one of Masami Akita's more measured, composed, dynamic, musical, and dare I say it, entertaining CD releases. The "dada" part of the title probably indicates the sensibility at work here, part playfully absurdist and part painfully serious in its presentation of our dystopian environment (a percentage of the profits from this release go to Chimp Haven). IKEBUKURO DADA was originally part of the MUTATIONS-SONIC CITY exhibition at the Arc en Reve Centre d' Architecture in Bordeaux, France, which ran from November 2000 to March 2001. Its four tracks ("Big Foot (Mix 2)", "Ikebukuro Dada Texture", "MB162.2" and "Passage") combine sampled sounds, loops, ambient elements, low-end pulses, caustic noise and even hints of melody within their sonic architecture. If you've never been bludgeoned by auditory frequencies or monumental rhythmic throbbing, this is the taste of deafness you've been waiting for! WHAT?
Sunday, November 2, 2014
After a duo of albums (THE MODERN DANCE, DUB HOUSING) that took garage noise and surrealism and turned them into a kind of strangled pop, Ubu furthered their take on Cleveland's disintegration/alienation precept and headed straight for the door as they themselves fell apart. NEW PICNIC TIME (1979) is less dense sounding than its predecessors, but equally effective in tracks like "Small Was Fast" and "All the Dogs Were Barking", the latter featuring some belligerent EML 200 synth sounds (the RAYGUN SUITCASE indeed!!!). The record has none of the rock elements found on the first two albums; Ubu's nearly listener-friendly racket here replaced by entropy, obsession, and a collapse of language to the max. "Goodbye" sums up everything that is disturbing about NEW PICNIC TIME: repetition and dread, Ravenstine's toxic suitcase leakage (check out Robert Aldrich's film KISS ME DEADLY for another dose of paranoia from a piece of luggage), and a lyric mumbled unto infinity, or was that an unpleasant ending I heard? "The Voice of the Sand" is very much a duet between Ravenstine's sounds of electricity and David Thomas' reading of a Vachel Lindsay poem. Very short and exceedingly desolate. The last track of the album is "Jehovah's Kingdom Come", later dubbed "Kingdom Come" and eventually called "Hand a Face a Feeling" after Thomas' infatuation with the Jehovah's Witnesses and end times came and went, so to speak. The lyrics embrace an apocalypse that would eventually lead to the end of Ubu's best line-up, a group that would leave a legacy that was nothing short of astonishing in its complex of emotions and meaning. There's no putting a finger on anything here. In other words, Art.