Friday, December 31, 2010
The early drummer for the Velvet Underground, Angus Maclise, artist, occultist, musician and avant-gardist of the Terry Riley ilk, was a key, though somewhat invisible figure in the development of progressive eastern influenced avant-garde electronic music. His album, Astral Collapse, exhibits a wide array of techniques and styles from spoken word and musique concrete tape manipulations to tambura influenced drones and Arp 2600 synth freak-outs that lead to Coil and Carlos Giffoni. The one track that contains Maclise's percussion, Beelzebub, is so processed so as to make it a gitchy morass of sound. Dracula, his Arp improv, is breath-taking in its free-form explorations and caustic cascades of sound. Ira Cohen's mylar twisted portrait shot presents Maclise in all his cosmic beauty, a perfectly imperfect reflection of the music's psychedelic heart tempered by the 20th century's seething electronic pulse drone smoothered under astral collapse.
Monday, December 27, 2010
It is not with a little surprize and much sadness that I note the passing of Don Van Vliet, better know as Captain Beefheart, a musician and visual artist who threw brickbats at convention and challenged us to make some kind of curious sense of it all. My introduction to the Captain was his album Lick My Decals Off, Baby; it threw me for a loop initially, all jerky meter, stop and start guitar and bass parts that made arcane ourobourous knotted snakes negotiating each other, and the Captain's elastic extreme multi-octave voice that was drunk with expressive potential. I must admit to confusion, but I stuck with it until suddenly I experienced a state similar to "satori," a small awakening that somehow allowed me to make sense of it all; all the pieces fit; everything made sense! I was lucky enough to meet the Captain when he performed at My Father's Place in Roslyn, N.Y. in 1980. He was affable and charming, but clearly a man possessed by his own personal muse. He kissed my then wife Lorraine and autographed a scrap of paper(see above) for her. He then went on stage to perform songs from what was then his newest opus, Doc at the Radar Station. The Captain's mixture of blues, free-jazz, and his own eccentric take on reality, art-making, and dada have always made for a satisfying poetic musical banquet of the sort not heard since he "retired" to paint. He will be missed.
"Man is a baby that doesn't accept his natural function" Don Van Vliet
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
s2.1-6 (recent sketches) by Jason R. Butcher
Made using the magical Buchla 200, Jason R. Butcher has concocted six pieces of compelling timbral invention, textural variation and overall "negative beauty." These are self-generating patches that while not the result of gestural actions are proof of Mr. Butcher's mastery of the complex interactions between modules, a kind of frequency painting that is simply breath-taking in it's expansive expressiveness.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
What started as The New Demographic soon became a similarly evocatively titled piece, Sisyphus in Denial. (see detail) Sisyphus' endless task, similar to the prision that we make for ourselves, is the result of a protracted dellusion based on The Dream we (americans) embrace, or some acceptable popular mysticism. Instead of committing to what George Orwell called "significant mental rebellions," we, like Sisyphus, "carry on." And astondingly we do anything to carry on even if it is mind-numbingly fruitless. It seems Sisyphus' time has finally come, never to cease.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
As Wire continued to perfect their avant-pop recipe, Bruce Gilbert and Graham Lewis sought a more challenging soundtrack to their collective exploratory leanings. Dome 1 appeared in 1980; so did Dome 2. But while Dome 1 was a somewhat fragmentary affair with rudimentary experiments that did not always produce anything of particular value, Dome 2 was a fully realized statement of "Dome-ness." As a visual artist producing series of conceptual drawings at the time, I was drawn to the cover art drawings of both releases. I loved the beautifully cursory "unfinished" dome drawing on the cover, rich graphite with a sketchy Dome 2 title erased into the graphite. This, unlike Dome 1, was a darkly-tinged vision. Track 2, "Long Lost Life" contained the line "...there's a dark shape growing inside" sung by Bruce Gilbert that emphatically exposed an environment filled with dread. The third track, "Breathsteps" presents an aural picture populated by a sure-footed mechanical beast plodding along buoyed by guitar/bass counterpointed beauty. All the future Dome elements are here: tribal rhythmic elements punctuated with noise bursts, snakey ourobourous guitar, abused synth vocalizations with distressed textured guitar parts disguised as arcane faux orchestrations, and song titles that suggest the pleasure obtained from rubbing up against the "other." Any Wire material that contained these sonic strategies to any extent benefited and so did we! This is music of penetrating power that continues to impress.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
William S. Burroughs, an artist of no small talent and influence, oftens overshadows the accomplishments of his partner in crime, Brion Gysin whose work in a myriad of artistic forms has served to give inspiration to a number of contemporary exploratory artists. His "cut-up" method, essentially a classic surrealist game, can seemingly be applied to almost any improvised artistic form. He is probably best know as the inventor, along with a Burroughs' associate Ian Sommerville, of the "Dreamachine," whose production of a flicker effect is said to produce visions in those who freely allow the play of light on their closed eyelids. Gysin's essentially calligraphic paintings suggest musicality. He is often name-checked by Cabaret Voltaire, 23 Skidoo, Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV, and other "industrial" artists. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge is a living "cut-up" whose devotion to Gysin's "Third Mind/Third Being" continues to influence his/her musical/artistic production. Brion Gysin's legacy has yet to be fully appreciated though it can be seen everywhere.
Saturday, December 4, 2010
All in the spirit of wounded galaxies spinning out of control, surveilance by unknown entities, and the ever-present control machine tapping into your thoughts, Richard H. Kirk's Burroughsian LoopStatic(amine & ring modulations) is both frightening and inviting, the kind of dystopian musical vision Kirk's earlier group, Cabaret Voltaire, coaxed into existence under the guidance of William Burroughs, Brion Gysin, and the dadaists. Beautifully realized, Mr. Kirk created this 1999 Touch release with an ear for dynamic contrast, and especially, finely honed moments of silence that perfectly bring the "electricity" into high relief. While Brion Gysin claims that "poets don't own words," Kirk, on the other hand, makes the utterings of preachers, politicians and assorted agents of control into deranged mantras imbued with a kind of visionary poetry cut open to expose the "truth." Like Cabaret Voltaire's later works, this is purely electronic "dance" music but with an unrelentingly dark edge where noise co-mingles with more musical beats and sounds ever negogiating the processed words of religious and militaristic zealots Mr. Kirk knows only too well.