Friday, October 31, 2014

Release of the Day: Wolf Blood - Wolf Blood

The album cover on Wolf Blood's self-titled debut is fucking awesome. In the background, poised to sacrifice a nude maiden, is a horned robed figure with two candles lurking in the background. It's ominous, a bit unsettling, and almost archetypal in its recall of religious lore - the Isaac and Abraham story comes quickest to mind. And of course there are dozens of urban legends and verified truths of sacrificial rites in cults and other religious groups. The horns in the picture, in addition to the darkened room, place the viewer into a gothic-lit scenario. Here there be monsters.

Let's face it; the picture fits the ensuing music. The last, and longest, song on the album "Procession of the Witch" ends in agonized wails from the vocalist/drummer Jake, but not before more than ten-minutes of crafty build comes together. It's almost double the length of the next longest song, "Dancing on your Grave," which clocks in at nearly seven minutes, though as both harrowing and rewarding as anything else on the record, and an excellent way to close out an album. Upon first hearing the final two minutes of the record, I couldn't help be reminded of the mysterious, quasi-violent cover of the record. And that's when I knew that the man in horns was really planning on killing that girl.

There is a psychedelic bend to the album too. In the movie realm, this record would be more like Dario Argento's Suspiria or Inferno than a Lon Chaney jr. movie. The band isn't happy with simply being brutal - there are moments of levity too, such as the snaking lead guitar of the aforementioned "Dancing on your Grave." Don't get me wrong, they're still serious as cancer, but this kind of sonic variety is often a reminder that the band can not only play their instruments well, but aren't going to sit pretty while a doom metal riff plows the listener into the ground. Rather than compromise for comfort, the band embraces tempo change to make a song more effective,

Pick it up on Roadburn Records for some dynamite Halloween listening.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Interview with Eric Alexander of Sir Deja Doog

I've already written about Sir Deja Doog's brand-spankin-new album Love Coffin, but it's worth saying twice that I find the record fascinating - it's a record that rewards a close listen, especially for someone keen on mythology and history. The lyricism that Eric Alexander displays on this record is a conglomeration of obvious and hidden influences. He explains that some of his favorite artists are Nick Cave, Scott Walker, and Leonard Cohen, who surely influence the words that lie somewhere between Romantic balladry and "Smokestack Lightning." And that's not to mention the ties to the lineage of vampiric lore and nods to Greco-Roman mythology, which play equally big roles.

Anyway, the Doog doesn't need my prattling to validate how good of a listen the new album is, which can be heard on Spotify as well as on the Sir Deja Doog bandcamp page. There's also a limited edition vinyl copy (limited to 100!!!!) that can and should be purchased through instructions that the Doog includes at the bottom of the interview.

At the present, I'm a bit unfamiliar with his past work, but you can bet your ass that I'm going to wise up and get on the rad times express.

Jordan Reyes: You have such great vocals throughout the album from spoken word to the balladry. Do you inflect your voice a certain way to sing or do you really have that devilishly charming voice?

Eric Alexander: You flatter me! I think something supernatural happens when a performer becomes so engrossed in the character of the piece they are performing they completely lose themselves. I tried to stay in that space during the production of Love Coffin. To answer the question, no that is not my natural speaking voice. It takes a great amount of willpower and focus in addition to decades of practice and training to make it happen.

JR: There are a lot of different types of songs on this record. Are there any artists who inspire you to write this variety of songs?

EA: A lot of people have pointed that out to me, and I'm embarrassed to say that I have no idea what they mean. What am I missing? I think I have spent way too much time thinking about what a song is to even tell what it is anymore.

EA: I can say this, Exuma is the greatest. Beyond that I like Nick Cave, Scott Walker, and Leonard Cohen. I also spent an entire winter listening obsessively to Lux and Ivy's Favorites from their record collection when I first started Love Coffin three years ago. Eighty percent of what I listen to these days comes from the fifties. Apache Dropout is my favorite band. They get me off like church gets people off.

JR: Where did the name Sir Deja Doog come from? Seems like a dude who's kind of been all over the world and maybe all over time as well!

EA: My brother, Sonny (from Apache Dropout), just kind of quipped it at me one time. People had been calling me Doog for a long time. Shortly thereafter we started a Frat Rock cover band for something to do, you know, Louie Louie, Hanky Panky, Diddy Wah Diddy, like that. We called the project Sir Deja Doog and the Wasted Knights. That's when I began exploring the character. By the time Love Coffin was invented he had definitely become that type of dude!

JR: Did anything or anyone particularly inspire or influence the creation of the Sir Deja Doog character?

EA: At first he was just a party dude like Sam the Sham. Later he became more like Vincent Price. He's also influenced by my interest in mythology. I put out a cassette called “Burning Black and Blue” in which he manifests as a Johnny Cash style hobo deity and one release called “An Impossible Darkness” where he succumbs to the Pit. Both of those releases have more of a folk aesthetic.

JR: There's a ton of colorful instrumentation on Love Coffin from saxophones to violins. Did you write all the parts of the songs or do other people get to make their own additions to a foundation?

EA: First I want to say how grateful I am to have been able to play with these musicians. They're all great.  They were fun to be around and we had a great time doing it.  If we had time to be a real band and play all the time I'm sure they would have brought a lot to the project. Because I had just a specific vision for the album, and because we didn't have much time, I actually charted everything out for it. The musicians made changes here and there, but I wrote 90% of it. The sax solos were improvised Sam, but I did jump around screaming and telling him to “blow harder!” Sonny wrote his guitar part in “My Love Bleeds Red.”

JR: It takes a lot of guts to cover "I Put a Spell on You," and you do it so well, especially the snarls and primal noises. Where did you get that idea? How long did it take to do it correctly?

EA: I was hesitate to do that one for that reason, but we decided to do it just because we had tried it and liked doing it.

EA: You might not believe this, but I'm gonna tell you anyway. I had some freaky dreams before we went in the studio— straight up voodoo shit. I decided to take the vocals for that song last because I knew it would kill my voice. Entirely by coincidence this happened during the kind of lunar eclipse they call a blood moon just around midnight. I take the vocals and on playback they just aren't happening. I'm thinking, “I can't do this if it isn't on.” Just then something touches my elbow, something invisible, and I can feel its presence. Without even thinking I said, “Use me.” We rolled tape and that's what happened. I had never made those sounds before and I don't know if I'll ever be able to do it again. That part where I have the lisp and I'm sputtering and everything, it scares me to hear it.

JR: Is a return to "the pit" inevitable for everyone?

EA: Sir Deja Doog says so, but I don't know if I believe him.

JR: I know that the Doog prefers babies to have sprouted a few hairs before they're properly mature for dining. Is this a pretty common preference for baby eaters or does the Doog stand out?

EA: Deja has refined his taste for flesh for millennium. He is respected by cannibals of his kind. These millennials that are setting trends in cannibalism today are nearly babies themselves and can't tell a ripe baby from a half rotten three day old stillborn. It doesn't matter if you put a cool hat on it, kids, it's still a rotten baby.

JR: The Doog seems to have had a plethora of edgy lovers in the past, including Medusa. How does he end up ensnaring such venomous women?

EA: Medusa, The Protectress, is a unique example. His relationship with her is entirely submissive. His attraction to her is different as well. He speaks of her with reverence. The story of their relationship is a quest for hidden beauty and it's fulfillment is salvation.

EA: In a way all of the women in the other songs are about our maiden from the story. I think his relationship with her is the inverse of the dynamic between him and Medusa. He has tremendous power and she is the seeker.

JR: Is this your first release on vinyl? Do you like the finished product?

EA:Yes. Yes, very much. Thanks to Marching Sunn Records and Gotta Groove Records.

JR: Do you get to play live at all? Have you ever toured or plan on touring?

EA: I've toured quite a bit as a solo artist over the years.  I used to play around Bloomington at least three or four times a month. I prefer to play in DIY spaces, galleries, houses, that kind of thing. Unfortunately, my health won't allow it anymore.

JR: What all is in the future for Sir Deja Doog?

EA: I wish I could say.

JR: Anything else you'd like to say?

EA: Get the limited edition vinyl today! Email marchingsunnrecords (a) for more info. I think we only pressed a hundred of them.

EA: Download the album from my bandcamp for only $7. Download includes a PDF of The story of Sir Deja Doog's Love Coffin and the complete art work. You can read the story by clicking each individual track for streaming.

Release of the Day: Ultimate Spinach - Ultimate Spinach

Hands down the most important book I read all year has been the Acid Archives Second Edition. It's an expensive investment, but worth its weight in gold. This book compiles thousands of reviews in addition to boasting short introductions to lesser-listened-to genres like New Age, Exotica, and obscure Soul. It focuses on private press, rare records generally of a psychedelic bent from about 1965 to 1985. The book is quick to admit that not all of the records that are reviewed are great, but many are and have been passed over, only to become collector rarities to the few who spent time digging through crates at record fairs.

Another thing that I've discovered this year is just how many excellent full albums are available to be streamed on YouTube. I mean, you can find anything there (though most is definitely not good). Anyway, Bill Roe from Trouble in Mind more or less hipped me to the "YouTube Album K-hole," which is when you just keep clicking albums on the right side of the screen to see if you hear something cool. It's basically fool-proof and I've discovered some pretty great jams. Maybe it's that I'm easy to please, but I'd say that most of the albums are worth at least a little attention: it's how I have discovered some pretty incredible records like The Bachs.

Today, I'm discovering and listening to Ultimate Spinach's lone long-player album from 1967 Ultimate Spinach. This band came out of Boston and wasn't happy with three-minute nuggets, so they instead decided to really psych out for extended periods of time, which can be heard in the the first song on the album "Ballad of the Hip Death Goddess." I mean, how badass is that title? I'll answer the question for you - pretty friggin' badass. And it's a great song to boot, starting with a uncanny vocal intro.

The album has familiar vocals, somewhat similar to early Kinks, which is a fairly good reference point to this record. "Funny Freak Parade," is a bouncing nug of psych pop like you'd hear on Kinda Kinks, but it also utilizes non-human vocals and exotic sounds to create a more untamed ambiance to the composition. The following song "Pamela," begins with a baroque organ trill before getting into more folk rock area. The use of classical or baroque-rooted instrumentation is consistent throughout the album, though the band never commits fully to either old-world or new-world music, resulting in something far out that could just as equally played in bars as in cathedrals.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Release of the Day: Sir Deja Doog - Love Coffin

“Yes, Deja?”
“What’s your stop word?”
“Play with me.”
“Doog, is it loaded?
“Did the United States put a man on the moon?”
“Probably not”
“It’s no fun if you don’t believe it.”
"Well, they might have."
"THEY PROBABLY DID! Do you really want to take that chance?"

Welcome to the grimly satirical world of Sir Deja Doog, where the horror icons that came from black and white lands commingle with all-ages DIY shows and rock n’ roll. Fronted by singer-songwriter extraordinaire Eric Alexander, Sir Deja Doog's monster-rock-opera Love Coffin is equal parts Howlin' Wolf and Nick Cave's Your Funeral...My Trial.

It goes like this. A girl can't stop dreaming of a dead troubadour who is ultimately resurrected through wish and romanticism. The troubadour is Sir Deja Doog, who, once resurrected, proceeds to party like he's back from the dead, which he is. Things get a bit out of hand, but I'll let the Doog himself finish that story.

Yes, it's outrageous, but that's the fun of it. And when you think about it, isn't everything outrageous? I mean, we're living on a huge rock that not only spins on its own axis that also circumnavigates the sun at more miles per second than the fastest car in existence can get in an hour. So we might as well forget discounting stories for being too absurd. What the record does with the absurdity that it inhabits, though, is pure, unadorned fun.

But it's not dumb fun: there are some absolutely breathtaking moments on the record. For me, "Burn Out" is the perfect mixture of apocalyptic writ and beauty, imploring the listener to "Come to San Francisco and burn out." Surrounding the words is a haunting string quartet. The verses utilize two of the string players, but when the four mix during the chorus with heavy, expansive bass, there's this intense moment of reflection. Maybe, as Deja croons to horny teenagers, punk rockers, and horror movie lovers, he's really trying to impart the lesson that perhaps the veil between life and death is not so opaque and insidious as it's made to be.

The entire work utilizes this sense of binary living. Some songs are straight 50s rock and others are more aligned with the conscientious ballad. That's the fulcrum of the work, though, and what makes the record such a resounding success. There are times to have fun and times to be serious. There are times to celebrate and times to mourn. There are times to live and times to die. Sir Deja Doog is a character that turns the notions of life and death on their heads by coming back to life, something like a macabre, rock-oriented Jesus Christ.

And because the album is so fun, it's sometimes easy to forget that it's tackling the most serious topics that concern us. When I first heard it, I thought it was great weirdo garage rock, but now when I hear it, I can't help but think of mortality and how easily time falls through our fingers like grains of sand. I have found a sense of personal importance within it and I hope you can too.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Release of the Day: The Chicago Triangle - Emergence

Face the facts: we're in the golden age of reissues. Hard to find records are getting their dues by labels like Light in the AtticNumero Group, Sundazed, and 4 Men with Beards (though with somewhat all-over-the-place results on that one). I personally think some of this has to do with the success and limelight of Searching for Sugarman, but I'll take it - oodles of documentaries and reissues and reads are coming out with the same story: someone with a ton of talent got looked over. And General Public Steve and Sally declare "Oh my god! How could they do that to good ol' Sixto?" before resuming a scheduled listen to the new Katy Perry single. That ain't news! Talent gets passed over because talent might be unfamiliar or at least different from the most popular form of tuneage. For people like me, though, it just means getting to see some good flicks and finally being able to buy coveted wax.

So let's talk about The Chicago Triangle. These Latino cats came out of Chicago in the late 70s before disco pissed away all the guitar bands, playing their own amalgamation of funk, soul, prog, and rock n' roll to anyone who would listen - allegedly, they played to about five hundred people at their album release show so why did this album take so long to become possible? I mean, this band isn't even on discogs at the moment of writing - this is more elusive than elusive and don't that just make your inner music nerd squeal? To make a long story short, people didn't know this record but people KNEW OF this record until it was found at a record fair in Austin, TX. From there, the dudes at Permanent did their magic with Rob Sevier of Numero to track down the original band members who turned out to be true lifers! Longhairs with bandanas and first class tickets on the rad times express. These guys are even playing a free show at the Empty Bottle on November 3. A total pipe dream that became reality.

And man, the music really speaks for itself. For my money, there's no better word for the record than "lively." There's a real energy to the music here that could only possibly come from true belief in what they were doing. And now you can get your filthy meathooks on the dang thing!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Interview with Sandworm

For a fan of projects like Ildjarn, Darkthrone, Akitsa and other minimal lo-fi black metal projects, Sandworm scratches a pesky itch. There's never enough of the stuff if you ask me. When I think of lo-fi black metal, I think of bands that come from mostly punk backgrounds because there's usually a distinctly DIY feel to the music, which is often notable in the recording quality. That's not a bad thing, if you ask me: it adds a layer of rawness or edge to both guitar tones and vocals while replacing a crisp drum sound with more of a rhythmic ideal.

That's what could have been said about the sonic quality in Sandworm's Demo, but their new split with the Body brings out the band with a more full range of sound and songs. Three of the songs from the demo are repeat offenders on the split, albeit with a more produced effect. Let's call it as it is: Sandworm recorded the split with better equipment, though the excellent songwriting has been there since the beginning. On this split, though, they REALLY shine. Ben Eberle's guitar is sinister, varying between quick chord changes and icy languishing behind a voice that sounds like snarling, wounded though not defeated wolf after a fight with a bear. And Patrick Reilly's drums are relentless and martial: commanding as a drill sergeant. Yeah. It's fucking wonderful.

I unfortunately missed their show at Chicago's Emporium, though I have high hopes to see them on a future tour. In the following interview, Ben alludes to writing more songs and hopefully recording more music. Here's hoping.
Jordan Reyes: Sandworm is a sweet name for a band. I personally get kind of sick of seeing Black Metal bands pick names of demons out of some grimoire, though I love science fiction. Did you get the name from Dune?

Ben Eberle: Yes. It took us a long time to think of a band name. We agree that picking 'grim' names can get exhausting, plus we aren't really that kind of band. We started the band with very little concept. Sandworm is a band name that is kind of weird but also neutral in a way. 

JR: The easy comparisons after listening to your demo for me are like Ildjarn, Bone Awl, early Darkthrone, Akitsa. Do you find yourselves at all inspired or influenced by the likes of those bands?

BE: Pat and I have very different tastes. I listen to metal more than any other genre and that is the kind of music that I identify with for the most part. I would say that Ildjarn is the biggest influence and I certainly listen to a lot of Darkthrone. I also like Bone Awl and Akitsa. Pat doesn't really listen to metal or associate with it or have any real interest in it. We have overlapping interests in other music genres. 

JR: Your original demo came out in 2011. I guess I'm a little late to the party, but do you guys have any releases other than the demo and the new split with the Body? Was Sandworm on hiatus until now?

BE: Those are the only two releases. We were once on hiatus for a short time while Pat lived in Austin but it has been pretty consistent. At one point our good friend Mindy Stock was in the band. She plays on three songs on the split. 

JR: How did you decide to do a split with The Body? I know you guys are both from Providence - did you guys know each other for a while?

BE: We had been meaning to record for a while. We have been friends with The Body for years and we always play with them when they come to town. Once the recording was in place, I asked Lee if he wanted to do a split and it went from there. 

JR: Your songs on the split sound like mixing and producing took a bigger priority. I know that three of the songs from the split were on your demo, but how different was the process of getting the ten songs from the split down as they are on the split in comparison to the demoing process?

BE: The demo sounds so different because the sound was less developed and we used different equipment and such. The split sounds like our live sound. We wanted it to sound natural and organic. 

JR: Was it weird working with Thrill Jockey? I personally love that label's outlook and output, so I'm curious.

BE: It wasn't weird at all. It was simple and straightforward. Bettina and the TJ crew are awesome. They are professional and very knowledgeable. Really nice group of people. Working with them is great. 

JR: Somewhat an insipid question, but I was an English major so humor me. What do you guys talk about in your lyrics? I can't make out a lot of the lyrics.

BE: I don't have much to say about this really. 

JR: Do you think you guys will do an LP at some time in the future?

BE: No plans yet but we certainly hope so. We already have a bunch of new stuff written. We have been playing it on tour. 

JR: How has your tour gone so far? Anything particularly surprising for you guys?

BE: It's going great. Booking the shows to and back from the west coast was tough for me and some dates fell through. Neither of us have ever been to the west coast so there was a lot of new things to explore. The shows with The Body were especially awesome, of course. 

JR: What else is in the future for Sandworm?

BE: Who knows? Maybe we will tour again in the future and make another record. For now, we'll probably just play shows in Providence and write more songs. 

JR: Anything else you'd like to say?

BE: Thanks for the interest, it was nice talking to you. 

Release of the Day: The Bachs - Out of the Bachs

I've been digging into private press albums ever since my pal Dave McCune hipped me to the Acid Archives, luckily with the help of some buds more in the know. It's been like uncovering a treasure chest - I've had the opportunity to learn about and listen to so many new records, many of which were impossible to track down before the spread of the internet. Out of the Bachs, for instance, was only pressed in an edition of about 150 copies privately. And now you can hear it on Spotify or YouTube or use discogs for a reissue without having to rely on rare record catalogs, books, or word-of-mouth.

So does this detract from the mystique of rare records or enhance it? Well, that's the million dollar question. Is it now easier to develop a mental encyclopedic reference list of records anymore? Yes and no. The process of getting to know a record is still to listen more than once, become familiar with its backstory, and hopefully grace your fingers and eyes with its cardboard sleeve. Listening and familiarizing are the more easy and affordable parts of this learning experiencing, which are hands-down easier feats with the internet. The tactile part, though, requires time and place. There is nothing like holding a record, if you ask me. This feeling for collectors is much more than a simple reward, but an accomplishment. The process of tracking down a record may be made easier with discogs or ebay, but holding or touching a record must still be done in person.

Enough philosophizing: the Bachs were a garage rock band that came out of the Chicago suburbs Lake Forest and Lake Bluff, and played for private parties and dances in the 60s before releasing this record and then calling it quits. The vocals and instruments were recorded at different times, which accounts for some of the shaky balance - sometimes the music will switch speakers if you're listening in stereo or on headphones, but I think that's part of the charm.

Doing a little extra research was really funny to me: for instance, Ben Harrison of the Bachs made an appearance on Rihanna's "Rated R." How weird is that?! It's easy to look up little trivia like this now, which can make the experience more enjoyable, but it can also disprove some of the record legends you might hear. Like, the other day, I was talking to Jamie at Permanent about record trivia and discogs and he told me that that story about Anton LaVey being in the back of the artwork for Hotel California was completely fake and it took away a little bit of the magic or at least the intrigue. The partial truths of record collecting folklore are just as valid and important as the reality, as much of it used to be spread in ways not dissimilar to folk and blues songs of old, perhaps around a campfire o at the saloon.

There is more magic in communion than in loneliness.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Interview with Jack Cooper of Ultimate Painting

The only thing that I knew about Ultimate Painting before seeing them the first time was that Bill and Lisa Roe were putting out their record on their label Trouble in Mind and they were from England. There's yet to be a record on Trouble in Mind that I don't love so I took it as a sign and caught them at a free in-store in Permanent Records with local heroes Negative Scanner.

So, yeah, this is an interview that I did with Ultimate Painting. Read between the lines. Obviously they blew my face off. Bill had explained to me right before their performance that they were somewhat like later incarnations of the Velvet Underground or the Byrds, which to me meant stripped-down pop and that's what I got for the most part, but the spaces in between friendly chord changes and gentle vocals were filled by impressive guitar solos and psychedelic experimentation. At one point, James (who is also in Veronica Falls) bent down to crank his fuzz pedal before embarking on a distorted journey down Rad Times Lane. This duality is necessary to understanding Ultimate Painting: these dudes are not content with being a lullaby. It's like a mischievous baby-sitter rocking a child to sleep, but just as the eyes droop for their final descent to the land of nod, the baby-sitter shrieks, propelling the baby into the land of bad ass rock n' roll.

I picked up their self-titled debut, which is available as they tour around the U.S., but will also be available at your fine, local, independent record shop on October 28. It's an excellent slab of wax for both the music fan and the music historian. See 'em at CMJ if you're going to be in the area! You will not regret it!

The following interview with Jack (also of Mazes) deals a lot with music criticism's fixation with pushing things forward and how it's total bullshit. I strongly believe that there are no original thoughts. There is no original creation. There is no genesis. The only originality comes from synthesis. We weave together what we know and through this act of weaving, we come closer to creating something novel, except it isn't really novel. So why put an emphasis on creating something original when originality is actually a gathering process? Everyone knows Newton's laws - matter is neither created nor destroyed. The same train of thought applies to artistic endeavor.

Jordan Reyes: Saw you enjoying a crowd surf during White Fence’s set. How was that?

Jack Cooper: It was good – I was getting like bro’d around. You get to a certain status band-wise and then there are bros who go and I’ve just never been a mosh-pit kind of guy. It’s weird to me.

JR: It’s weird that it’s White Fence.

JC: I mean, they really play hard but I don’t understand…that’s why I crowdsurfed – because I just wanted to get out of there.

JR: So you’re in Mazes now still?

JC: Yeah, we released an album like six or eight weeks ago, but we’re not going to play out that much.

JR: Do you guys live near each other?

JC: Yeah we live really close together.

JR: What’s the reason for not playing together?

JC: Well, we have. We did like a two week tour after the record came out and we’ve had offers to do a European tour. I think we’re just a bit burnt out on it – we’ve been a band for nearly six years, which is quite a while. I guess the Beatles were a band for only ten or so years though.

JR: That’s a hard standard to live up to.

JC: That’s definitely true. Yeah, so we were burnt out a bit and I won’t go into it because it’s boring music industry stuff. There were just a few things that happened that took the fun out. We were in a position where we could question where we were. Do we continue? Do we split up? And the resounding answer was to just put it on ice for a bit.

JC: I think there’s a lot of bands who make a big deal about breaking up and have a big proclamation, but it’s like, who fucking cares? It’s just a band. I saw that with Thee Oh Sees and I was like “oh, that’s a downer,” but then they announced some shows. Or Frank Sinatra. How many times did he retire?

JR: Jay-Z does the same thing.

JC: Yeah, he does – it’s the oldest trick in the book.

JR: It works for a lot of people too.

JC: It doesn’t work for bands like Mazes though. If Mazes broke up it would just have been something people would shrug and say “another one bites the dust.”

JR: So how did Ultimate Painting come together?

JC: James and I made the record together. Mazes did a tour with Veronica Falls and James and I just really hit it off. I had known James for a while, but London is kind of weird – it’s a bit like New York – it’s very careerist. It seems like every band is really trying to “make it.” I lived in Manchester for a while where no one gave a fuck.

JR: Yeah, I guess Joy Division and Factory Records came out of there and that’s the least commercial stuff that eventually became commercial.

JC: Yeah, that’s kind of carried on with bands that I like in Manchester now. But those bands don’t sound anything like Joy Division now. Manchester’s almost a reaction against that kind of music now.

JR: Really? Well, I guess I know Stone Roses.

JC: Yeah, people get really sick of Joy Division and New Order.

JC: Anyway, me and James met and really hit it off. I guess Mazes is vaguely lo-fi punk. So Ultimate Painting came from that scene in London, more influenced by 90s American music.

JC: First off, both James’ and my favorite band is the Beatles by a million miles. I consider myself an authority. I think I could enter a Beatles trivia contest with one hundred people and I reckon that I could beat ninety-nine of them, but James would be the one who wins it. He’s obsessed with the Beatles. I love them, but James is far and away above me.

JC: It’s come full circle now. I think in the 90s, people began to realize “Yeah, the Beatles are fucking awesome.” You know. The 60s happened and the Beatles were the biggest, most influential band ever and it took until the 90s for people to start talking about them in the same terms again. Even now, you still run across people who will say “Oh, Paul McCartney sucks,” and all I can think is “You’re a fucking moron.”

JR: Well, a lot of people are contrarian and want to prove that they’re original in their thought and it’s just like, “Dude, you’re wrong.”

JC: Every genre of music that is around now, and maybe there are exceptions, but at least in popular music, can be traced back to the Beatles. And that's not to say they weren't influenced by bands back then.

JR: But genius doesn’t require original thoughts, it requires original connections.

JC: Yeah, and processes.

JR: So you recorded this Ultimate Painting record on your own? Over the course of how long?

JC: Over the course of a couple of months where we’d meet up and hang out. Some days nothing would happen or one of us would be in a mood, but it was almost like…well, you must have had it, where you meet a friend for the first time, or a start in a relationship like a boy and a girl or a boy and a boy and you have that thing where it’s super intense when it starts. That’s how it was like with me and James when we started recording. As soon as we were friends, we started recording together. We were recording and figuring each other out. Best artistic experience I’ve had ever.

JR: Where’d you get the story on the back of the record?

JC: It’s a true story. In the mid 60s, there was a collective of artists who bought some land in the Colorado desert and it was the first commune in America, kind of post-beats but proto-hippy. They were like “Fuck this, let’s move” and they were all artists of a sort. Many have actually become very successful architects because they were very interested in that stream. They built geodesic domes where they lived.

JC: But they made a bunch of artwork as well and one that captured me was this piece of art called “The Ultimate Painting,” like the best painting ever. That’s just such a bold statement. Such a cool thing to proclaim. I actually wanted us to be called “The Ultimate Painting” because I think “Ultimate Painting” could be almost a sport.

JR: (laughs) Like extreme painting?

JC: Yeah, like extreme painting.

JR: I’d love to see that.

JC: Yeah, totally. But even if you search us online, as you do, there is that thing. There is competitive painting. I searched it and sure enough there are people that do competitive painting. That’s fucking insane.

JR: The best art is collaborative rather than combative in my opinion.

JC: Yeah, well, I think it becomes invalid if it’s for a commercial or competitive reason, I guess.

JR: I think purity is important in art.

JC: Yeah, I do too.

JR: What’s the story of that one song that’s almost spoken?

JC: Oh, yeah. It’s almost like half of it is stuff I just made up and half of it is stuff that I speculated that could happen. Like this one time I was in a bar and thought my drink had been spiked. So that’s a little bit about what it’s about. Some of it is about my friend Austin, who’s in that band Parquet Courts, who’s from Texas but has a very New York point of view. He’s embraced New York. I mean that in the most complimentary way possible.

JC: When I was over in February right before we recorded the Ultimate Painting record, I was hanging out with him and we’d go out drinking and it’s kind of about that.

JR: It reminds me a little bit of that Velvet Underground song “The Gift.”

JC: Yeah, I mean, it’s even almost the same chords as “What Goes On.” It’s like a Velvet Underground song pretty much. There’s this emphasis nowadays on being original. Journalists are the only – no offense to you, my friend – people who are preoccupied with pushing things forward or being innovative and it’s bullshit really.

JR: Total bullshit.

JC: It’s total bullshit! People will make a movie and it’ll be influenced or inspired by everything that’s come before it and all of a sudden over the last ten or fifteen years that seems to have become less valid. It’s complete bullshit. Everything you do is influenced by things that have come before. No one is influenced by the future or even the present. Everything is influenced by the past. And so to be more overt is to be less valid? That’s bullshit.

JC: So, doing a song, which is almost a Velvet Underground pastiche, like who cares?

JR: I just think it’s fun to make connections.

JC: Me too.

JR: If you like something, try it out. When music loses the fun, what’s the point?

JC: It seems like that’s something that people just expect though in music. No other art form is really as preoccupied with pushing things forward.

JR: I’d say literature is.

JC: Maybe, but that’s ridiculous. I mean, there are only so many words. There are obviously variances on stories, but there’s only so much you can do with a hero.

JR: I’ve often thought that a great thing to do for a book would have this massive heroic cycle story and then the hero gets hit by a car.

JC: Yeah, I agree. No one would read Catcher in the Rye, though, and say, “Oh, the angry young man is too influenced by Hamlet.” No one would say they’d disregard it because it had been done before.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Release of the Day: The Pen Test - Interstate

The Pen Test's Interstate mirrors Kraftwerk's Autobahn pretty perfectly. Each LP begins with a side-long exercise in Kosmische music dedicated to a geographically defined highway system - the Autobahn in Germany and the Eisenhower Interstate. The second side of each record is then comprised of four songs around the five-minute mark that display experiments into the analog and the electronic. Oh, and each album is awesome.

It's a reflection that's done on purpose and it's one that works. This album pretty much hit me at the perfect time too, as I've been listening to more Kosmische, psychedelic music than anything else lately. The Pen Test are a duo of American exercisers (Bryan Hitchcock and Patrick Scott-Walsh) of the electronic and the rhythmic, as the best Krautrockers were in their heyday, sometimes leaning on a motorik bassline, though never completely relying on it. Obviously, it's as effective today as it was in late 60s Germany - there are still very few records that sound as confident and curious as those first few records from Amon Düül II, Can, Neu!, or anything Klaus Schulze touched.

Enough history. Let's get into Interstate. As said above, the record begins with a 20+ minute suite of car-engine-like ambiance on top of gentle percussion and synthesizers with a dash of sparse vocals thrown in as well. This isn't the same catchy song as "Autobahn," by any means, but more an exercise in mood and meditation. And that's a big difference. Interstate is not the joy-filled cruise around a country that Autobahn is, but a controlled thinkpiece on the cultural, psychological, and civic effects of the Eisenhower Interstate. Distance-crossing is also part of the interwoven history of the recording process, as the LP was recorded at Dub Narcotic in Olympia, Washington and produced by Mikey Young (you know, that guy from Australia who has been in a couple bands).

The second side has more vocals and traverses more song-oriented musical landscapes, though still without ever becoming comfortable. It's a rewarding listen, especially with all of the context. I've never gotten to see the band live, which is a damn shame, since I hear that there is a choreographed visual element to the band's performance as well. Rats off to you, Robert, Moniker has another hit on its hands!

They are currently touring the U.S. with a giant subwoofer. Get forked!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Release of the Day: Institute - Salt EP

If you've paid any attention to my blog, you know that one of the bands (if not the band) that has had the biggest "Holy Shit" effect on me this year has been Institute. I've written about two other releases from this year so why the fuck not write about their third release, which happens to be on Sacred Bones Records? The Salt EP is a step up in production, at least from their demo, and another step down in intelligible lyrics, which is fine by me. You get the sense of impending, demented nihilism from Moses' delivery though without a lyric sheet in hand, it is hard to know exactly what he's saying through palsied dribble.

I really wanted to be the first interview with this band, but Jane Chardiet beat me to it, who succeeds wonderfully in her piece, which is a great place to learn more about the band. I'm still holding out for an interview of my own, if anyone from Institute is reading this.

Salt contains my favorite Institute song, " Familiar Stranger," which has this sinister, snaking lead guitar take control of the song. I remember the first time I heard it, which was in a basement in NWI before Destruction Unit played and being fucking floored by how good it was. It hasn't had an official studio release until now, though it's on their live tape, which can be seen in full on this YouTube video. This video has a couple of songs that make their way on Salt, including the title track.

This high-caliber release from a band emerging from gestation is high-profile though, and could easily propel them out of DIY spaces. I wouldn't be surprised to see them on their own headlining tour soon, though I have a feeling that the best place to see Institute will always be in dusty, dark basements.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Interview with Cory Thomas Hanson of Wand

I caught Wand for the first time in L.A. opening for Ty Segall during the Manipulator residency at the Echo and there was this song "Broken Candle" that completely blew my mind. I didn't know the name of the song until I bought the album, but I vividly remember being caught off guard by the alchemical chorus, a repetition of "run for your life," in this gorgeous, cascading voice over a gospel-like synthesizer background. And then there's this sacrificial, messianic ending where Cory proclaims "I don't need you" over and over like he's trying to convince himself and can't quite get to one hundred percent certainty.

"Broken Candle" is one of the more serene songs on Ganglion Reef, which is a total knockout if you had any doubt, with other songs sounding more like energetic, fuzz-driven garage punk, albeit with soft asides and comedowns thrown in to level out the highs. This record sold out quickly from the Drag City subsidiary God? Records catered by Mr. Segall himself. I lucked out buying it from the band soon after release. It may have to be a Discogs purchase at this point, as I'm not sure if anyone still has copies, though it is absolutely worth the effort to track down. And of course there are digital files too. 

Wand recently played Chicago with Ego, Toupee, and House Sounds in late September only to reconfirm my belief that they are a killer band. I then spoke to Cory (lead singer/guitarist) about Kraftwerk and his tour for a bit and we decided to do an interview, which I am now pleased to publish.

Jordan Reyes: Ganglion Reef is one of my favorite records of the year. It's a great collection of psychedelic freak out rock n' roll. How did you write the songs for the album? Had they been written for a while?

Cory Thomas Hanson: Ganglion Reef came out of an urge to make a record with a really organic pulse. Like a living thing or at least some aspect of such. Maybe just one blinking eye, half a digestive system and a big pile of perfect skin all crumpled up In a ball. Sometimes set on fire and sometimes swimming in the water.  

JR: You also put out three seven-inch records this year. Don't you get worn out or stressed writing and recording so much music?

CTH: Yes, writing music is very stressful. We love the stress of it, and thrive on how blocky everything becomes. We feel like a tree that's being genetically modified to grow way too tall and too fast. Sprouting flowers and having them fall and die over and over again. For us it is very painful. We have growing pains.  

JR: I've been really impressed by your guitar-work both times I've seen you as Wand. When and how did you start playing?

CTH: I started playing guitar when I was a baby just making noise and moving the whammy bar around... And that's what I still do.  :-/

JR: Do you think there are any guitar players that particularly impacted your playing? Any moments you saw someone and were just like floored?

CTH: I feel like my playing is a blank sheet of paper that I draw the same landscape on every time, though slightly different. And sometimes abandon the pasture for a new rugged rock forms.

JR: What's the cover? It kind of freaks me out in the best way.

CTH: The cover was drawn by Meghan Tryon, she's an la based artist and filmmaker. She made the video for flying golem as well. She rules. The cover is a demon hand holding a painting of a cave.  Or at least that's what I've come to see it as.  

JR: Is "Ganglion Reef" a reference to like a bunch of cysts?

CTH: Mass proliferation of organic matter covering every surface. All over your face and your tv and your books and computer. Your phone, your ass and your friends.  

JR: Drag City sold out of all the copies of Ganglion Reef super quickly. Has the response to the record surprised you?

CTH: Yes.

JR: Do you think you will repress the album?

CTH: Man, I hope so.

JR: How was your tour been both with the Ty Segall band and without? Any good stories that you guys have?

CTH: It's been insane.  We all swapped minds.  I got Charlie's.  The new Fuzz record is gonna be insane.  

JR: What all is in the future for Wand?

CTH: Who can say for sure.  If the world continues to be a thing I'm sure we will have another record soon.  

JR: Anything else you'd like to say?

CTH: UFOs aren't aliens. Just echoes of the complicated relationship human beings have with the historical logic that defines "perception" and the truly "imperceivable" nature of being.  What the fuck is a thought?  

CTH: We just almost hit two deer.  Catch you later!