Listed: Mudboy + Melt-Banana
Mudboy, a Providence-based filmmaker and artistic polymath, performs solo on homemade organs and circuit-bent keyboards. He puts out a prodigious amount of handmade material on his own Free Matter for the Blind label and stepped into the limelight this year with the Hungry Ghosts LP on Not Not Fun (and CD on Digitalis). The laser-cut cover of that record made it one of the more beautiful audio objects of 2007. Mudboy just finished a month-long tour with Lucky Dragons, during which he donned an animal-skin cape and performed by candlelight with a fog machine, lighting firecrackers and looping the explosions. Settle in for our longest Listed contribution yet.
1. Aki Tsuyuko - Ongakushitsu (Childisc)
Released on CD in 1999 and produced by Nobukazu Takemura, Ongakushitsu was horribly under-reviewed. Nevertheless, Tsuyuko's collection of little moments is a true eye opener. Welcome to some deep realms. In pure texture it stands alongside Raymond Scott's Soothing Sounds for Babies, delivering gentle analog organs, electronic flutes and long sustain on everything. But unlike the rigorous precision of Scott's compositions, Ongakushitsu moves in a fundamentally human way. Every note is connected to a deciding finger somewhere and glides between the immediacy of someone picking out notes to more playful Satie-like composed pieces that shine out like gems. This is the kind of music you expect to hear while drowning, or maybe being smothered by a pillow, a kind of beautiful wallpaper music. Ongakushitsu argues that when it comes to music, what makes something engaging doesn't necessarily come from rhythmic purity, or athletic prowess, an increasing heartbeat or even complicated textures. Sometimes a small girl picking away at keys on an old organ in the back of the house is enough.
2. Sleepy Bones: Treat Lane Tapes #1
"I am Sleepy Bones (Where do I call Home?) / Underneath your phone... (Ringing Ringing Ringing)…”
Every morning I get up as early as I can, put some music on, do a few stretches and try my best to draw. I do my best to keep the serenity of my dreams with me and it’s a very limited range of music that is appropriate. Luckily, I have Treat Lane Tapes #1. Recorded in 2002 by proto members of Urdog, Manbeard and Crude Hill, with beautiful artwork by same, this tape is really two albums in one – one recorded live at the beach, near mysterious caves and singing gulls, and the other is a soundtrack for a fantastical shadow puppet play. Filled with ambient crackles, distorted banjos and haunting vocals, this is the perfect tape for the transition between dreamtime and waking life. It’s really one of my favorite recordings of all time. A rumored re-release I think is in order, in which case you can try and squeeze one out of:
David Lifrieri (tlt) c/o Stereo Discount Center
3. Music Bakery - Free Hynosis Music
I don't know if this counts as an album but this website is sort of the music clip art zone for the business world and I like visiting it. Everything on the Music Bakery is free – heavily midi inspired and my guess is it's supposed to be for filmmakers and corporate presentations. But how about this for a track title?
This clip art music is created for background listening and as sort of a generalization of music, as if it were the sound of a sound. Understanding unconscious expectations of patterns are important to my work, and because when you listen to this kind of clip art music, it reveals the very underlying pattern of what we expect in certain circumstances. Understanding patterns like these - using them, and then breaking them (like when the mentalist goes to shake your hand but stops half way) – is a way to sort of call the subconscious mind to the fore so that you can deal directly with it. But to start, you have to know what the mind expects. This is why I listen.
4. The Great Mantra for Conquering Death (American Sanskrit Institute)
And speaking of "eerie floating compositions, try out the Maha Mrtyunjava Mantra or The Great Mantra for Conquering Death. I ran into this tape while on tour with spookmiesters Wizzards and Irene Moon. We were already heavy into talking about music performance as spellcasting when we heard this playing on the stereo at an Indian grocery in Rochester, NY. Basically this tape is an hour-long recording of Vyass Houston, a man with an incredibly deep voice, slowly singing the same short mantra over and over in Hindi. Every five minutes they give him a little break and let the synth lead under him come up in the mix. It's definitely engaging, hypnotic, and probably too dangerous for listening while driving at night. There are a few versions of this out there in the world but the one I am talking about is a cassette put out by the American Sanskrit Institute. I have heard others and they don’t necessarily stand up.
The translation of the first part of the mantra is worth reading.
Worshipping him may we be liberated from death for the sake of immortality just as the ripe cucumber easily separates itself from the binding stalk i.e.
By your Grace, Let me be in the state of salvation (Moksha) and be saved from the clutches of fearful death.
5. J.D. Emmanuel - Wizards (Bread and Animals)
Speaking of Wizards – no, not the Load records band, Wizzards I talked about above. No, not the German power metal band WIZARD from the late ’80s. No, I mean Wizards, a.k.a. J.D. Emmanuel, circa 1982.
J.D. Emmanuel may be the first professed magician of electronic music mediations. Openly influenced by Terry Riley, and sounding not too far from Tangerine Dream, J.D. Emmanuel used three Sequential Circuits PRO-1s and a Yamaha SK-20 to access "deep relaxation" meditation areas of our brain. But unlike the sort of blandness of the clip art Music Bakery, this is stimulating music, deeply evocative and at times even sad. It comes with a beautiful silkscreen replica of the original cover in silver and black. Here is a quote from the back cover:
Listen to it online at JD's site: http://jdemmanuel.com/wizards.shtml
6. PUIK tapes
Well, if I am going to talk about labels from Antwerp, I have to mention the closely related PUIK tapes by Jelle Crama (it’s pronounced "Yella Krama" not "Jelly Cream-a"). Jelle Crama is basically a silk screener by trade, so everything he turns out of his studio in Antwerp you know is going to look good. Getting a PUIK tape is like ordering a little 5-euro bit of treasure. My favorite is the stuff by Antwerp local Orphan Fairytale and some of the lo-fi breakbeat albums Jelle digs up from around Europe. But the music is not actually what I want to talk about here.
I want to talk about his tape technology. The great thing about tapes is that you are probably only going to make about 100 of them, so it opens up a lot of options for artwork that wouldn't normally make sense for other things. And this is great, if you want spikes coming out of your cassettes or it floating in a sealed bag of hair cream, you can do that – whatever. However, it’s the proportionally wide spine of the cassette that makes it truly unique to the art form. What I really like about tapes is how wonderful they look when you fill up one of those cassette shelves or stack them up like cakes.
The great tragedy with cassettes is that if you make them too weird, which often happens, if they are too misshapen, they almost never stack, or worse yet they come in "self-destructs" that upon opening explode the case into shards. How are you supposed to stack that?
What Jelle and PUIK have done is to innovate the great case-less cassette by replacing the clear box that normally comes with a tape with a piece of cardstock that folds in half and is slightly taller than the cassette. Half an inch or so from where the cardstock meets. It's then sowed by machine – leaving a handy color-coded tab of sort. The cardstock protects the delicate magnetic tape and the tab sticks out from any cassette shelve easily identifying the item. This system saves the earth from unnecessary plastic, has unlimited creative potential - and stacks. Bravo.
7. Andy Hayleck - The Disappearing Floor (Recorded)
You may know this Baltimorean's other work such as the appropriately titled Various Recordings Involving Ice. The surface description of field recordings, bowed cymbals and "effects" implies the sort of aimless light noise meanderings the world is awash in these days, but here it's not the case. Despite its superficial gentle textures, something is happening in this music that is nevertheless very big, very psychically loud, and is able to take you out of where you are and put you in a place that you are not. TURN IT UP! Suddenly The Disappearing Floor becomes a horror film happening in your own house. The disappearing floor is under you. This is really and truly one of the Top 10 on my short list of actually scary music. Not because it is the sound of something that is scary (like a witch’s cackle) but because it is scary itself, with everything that that implies.
8. Brian Eno - Here Come the Warm Jets and Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)
While I am on this sort of platonic thought process, I guess I should talk about the two pop albums I listened to pretty much every day while I was putting together my last record (which I should mention immediately is about as far away from pop music as fantasy noise gets). Anyone interested in recording anything anytime, should spend a little time with these two monoliths.
First of all, there are the recordings themselves. They are truly just themselves – which is to say that they aren't simply well-done documentation of a past events from which you imagine the real event somewhere in the past. Instead these songs exist at their realist – only in their final form as you hear them at home. Even if you were live in the studio at the moment of recording or at any live performance of these songs, that live experience would be a shade of the CD or LP. It’s the Album itself that is the real event and for anyone who cares about recording or even listening to recordings in the modern age, this distinction is critical. It is why these albums have a lot in common with films – which as we all know stopped being the visual recording of theater plays a long time ago.
However, what's particularly amazing is that this realness is all somehow accomplished with a laughter and a playfulness that is deeply integrated. You can tell risks were taken, that it was invigorating and fun to make, and all that energy keeps the album alive despite the heavy interventions on what is clearly a very slickly and cleanly produced series of compositions.
9. Pink Floyd - Live at Pompeii and Russian Tsarcasm - Best of The Bad Year (Cephia's Treat)
Simultaneous projection – two amazing mind bending experiences for the price of one. Well, OK, for the price of two. Music as cinematic experience.
On Television No. 1: Live at Pompeii. I shouldn't have to explain much about this DVD. If you haven't already seen it, get off your high horse and rent it. I didn't listen to Pink Floyd for years just because I didn't hang with those kids in high school. Well, that's all over, and don't let that happen to you! Live at Pompeii is Pink Floyd blowing minds at the ruins of the empty ancient amphitheatre in Pompeii and it rules. There is no audience, no fans, no stage – just the band, the ruins and their towers and towers of amplifiers. Anything that actually happens between the time you press play and the time the DVD stops has happened in your mind.
Meanwhile On Television No. 2: Best of the Bad Year. Just when you thought music was getting old, watch out. Russian Tsarcasm is the dead brain/brawn/beast of Carlos Gonzalez: "collaborator /conspirator of the Tampa renaissance of the early 2000's" and his DVD entitled Best of the Bad Year like Live at Pompeii, it is simultaneously deeply abstract and extremely cinematic.
Best of the Bad Year looks like it was recorded on VHS, a shattered homage to touring on mass transportation while playing in parking lots and at bus stops. As Carlos rolls around in trash, taped to strange objects – sometimes playing inside cardboard boxes or in shopping carts – there is no denying the sheer strength of will, and the power of catastrophe music, to effect internal state change.
Recent experiments in my home lab have shown that if you play both Live at Pompeii and Best of the Bad Year on two separate televisions simultaneously and in their entirety they completely line up (this only works with the “features”). Coincidence? Or science? You can selectively turn on and off the audio; I like to watch gritty videos of a noise maniac rolling around in the mud and thrashing an unplugged amp to Pink Floyd's soaring guitar solos. Watch Pompeii explode to the sound of a zombie's circular mumblings.
10. Andreas Ammer and F.M. Einheit - Radio Inferno (Invisible Records/UbuWeb)
Speaking of zombies….
Listen as the devil tears apart bodies.
Hear that sad son. of Tristan and Isolde.
"LAY DOWN ALL HOPE, YOU THAT GO IN BY ME"
Radio Inferno is a revolutionary operatic take on Dante's Inferno by Andreas Ammer and longtime collaborator F.M. Einheit (member of the band Einstürzende Neubauten). Combining actors, found sounds, music and the enthusiastic John Peel as the "Radio Correspondent and DJ guide," we are taken through the many circles of hell. Ammer and Einheit use everything from recording of the Hindenburg explosions, to Funkadelic and Duchamp as sound sources, weaving a half-German, half-Italian, half-English narrative filled with, chanting and weird looped industrial sounds. What makes this CD so important is that it anticipates the not-yet-realized potential for cinematic expression in radio, the idea that perspective and point of view can be established just with sound. The result is tremendous. I wonder what it would be like if I could understand the other two-thirds of it!
The CD is impossible to find, but you can listen to the whole thing on UbuWeb here.
For over 15 years Melt-Banana have been rending eardrums and shocking audiences with a whirlwind of high-speed rhythms, skyrocket guitar, and percussive, surreal vocals and lyrics. Few bands can truly be called unique, but it's a fact that no other band sounds like Melt-Banana and none should even try. Since their first releases the band has toured relentlessly, finding fans across genres: punk, jazz, noise, and rock are all meaningless when applied to Melt-Banana. The core trio are bassist Rika, guitarist Agata, and vocalist Yasuko (a.k.a. Yako), and they most recently released Bambi's Dilemma in the spring on their own A-Zap label.
Yako picked 10 favorite bands from Aichi and the variety of sushi each brought to mind.
1. Nice View - Chirashi
2. Out Of Touch - Yellowtail
3. Cause - Tuna
4. Rotary Beginners - Mackerel
5. Genbaku Onanies - Fatty Tuna
6. Black Ganion - Eel
7. Tomorrow - Sea Urchin
8. Turtle Island - Octopus
9. Hizumi Goya - Squid
10. Teasi - Cucumber Roll
By Dusted Magazine