Each of the clips below was originally published as an editorial recommendation in the calendar of the Houston Press.
Nick Klein, at Vinal Edge
Maybe it’s too much to note that the utopian promise of noise includes its disavowal of commercial and epistemological expectations, and that it helps stave off hard spiritualism, language, and logic, one harsh spa treatment at at time. Sure, the spirit of this age (that exists well beyond the venal monsters in the high rises and the white houses alike) errs on the side of shyness and obliqueness, but who has the time and the loose words to assay the proliferation of underground producers and their prolific, esoteric outputs, in full? Nick Klein is a producer, originally from Miami, now living in Brooklyn. His music has a take-what-you-need-from-it kind of generosity, with beats that are often sticky with gained-up distortion, all fairly slo-mo, and references flying in every direction. His song titles have a literary aptness. The overall approach veers from acid jazz and cassette manipulations to modern underground techno, the messy dirty kind, all the while eschewing death metal histrionics of underground industrial and dance-floor hedonism. He’ll be joined by Enrique and local lumpen intellectuals and superfreaks Stewart Skinner and Jonathan Valdez.
DMX, at Aura Dynamic Nightlife
When they make the inevitable Hot Tub Time Machine reboot that sends the gang back to the beginning of the 21st century, a time of big dreams and total bangers, you can bet there’ll be at least one montage to DMX’s “Ruff Ryders Anthem.” With a voice that sounds like a gizzard full of gravel, and a list of certified hits at least two-deep but entirely inescapable, DMX has earned forever his party-rocker crown. There was never a dance floor that didn’t become crowded beyond comfort the moment the dj starts “Up in Here”. So, if you come around for DMX, only wear that which you cannot afford to get thoroughly wetted.
Dark Entries Houston Takeover, at Walter’s Downtown
Bill Converse, a rising force in underground techno, leaves you little choice but to dance. However it is you choose to move, whether you boogie, you hop, you wriggle, or you define obtuse ellipses with your outermost limbs, the rhythm is going to get you. The night lights are lit as well by Houston expat Joshua Cordova, a deft deejay with a taste for hard-to-find tracks and the bumping side of the avant-garde, and also a music-maker who specializes in the intersection of funk and field recordings.
Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble, at Walter’s Downtown
There was an old tv show, don’t bother searching for it—no one remembers the title or even what it was about, that had a theme song with the refrain, “How do you talk to an angel?” Which brings us around to Laetitia Sadier, the socialist songbird of Stereolab, long since gone solo. Libertarians and conservatives of all extremes, you’d better stuff your ears with grape leaves and lash yourselves to your posts, for the moment this French-born chanteuse let’s fly with her hypnotic couplets, you’ll find out the real meaning of a siren song. As TS Eliot put it, “til human voices wake us, and we drown.” Socialism or barbarism, indeed. with Heather Trost, El Lago.
Jandek, at Rice University, Hamman Hall
Although he said goodbye to near-complete professional anonymity at his public debut in Glasgow thirteen years ago, Jandek may still be the most mysterious man in modern music. Even were he to appear on the Kardashian network, he would still have a claim to that title by virtue of his haunting, nearly place-less music. Though you may hear bits of folk, rock, country, and live, even funk, as well as the post-Schoenberg blues, in a Jandek song, the even those bits will be stripped to the bone of context. Live, you will at once recognize the face that has graced so many Corwood album covers. It’s a memorable face, blanched of expression, occasionally translating a sense of light pain or forlorn repose, but that face is likely all you will recognize. The music follows private paths; forever shifting. This concert is presented by KTRU as part of their 50th anniversary celebration. It’s free, but KTRU djs and alumni and Rice faculty and students have dibs on seating, what remains is first come, first served.
Morrissey, at Smart Financial Centre
There was a time, long ago, when the world was divided on the subject of Morrissey. There were those who despised him for his Wildean affectations and his louche gloom, and there were, on the other hand, people with good taste. These days, Morrissey-penned Smiths anthems like “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” have become the global singalong to three decades of pandemic underemployment and related miseries. Likewise, hits from Morrissey’s solo discography such as “The More You Ignore Me, the Closer I Get” have mapped out the course of the Internet and its psychic sprawl within the pompadoured craniums of millions. Some artists make it hard on their fans; they behave badly, throwing fits and otherwise carrying on like divas, or they just can’t deliver, but the only difficult thing facing a Morrissey fan is dealing with the pain and the shock that occur when his only Houston show in years sells out before one has had the chance to secure tickets. (And then gets postponed for a month because of a band member’s illness.) That, and deciding which Smiths song to put on next. Because he’s a dreamboat, a charismatic performer, a sharp dresser and a smooth operator, with an enviable quiff, an incomparable talent for wit and tuneage, and a croon that induces population booms.
Molly Burch, at White Oak Music Hall
Molly Burch has a voice that could stop an airplane in the sky. It may be early to sink her under the dead weight of the chanteuse sobriquet, but that’s a possibility. Or perhaps she’ll turn up in the remake of Blue Velvet. Tomorrow never knows, except that she’s better than her press release and better than the pack of sequin-dressed songbirds vying for her role at the mic. Upstairs in the White Oak Music Hall, where she plays with Houston’s Dollie Barnes, who was born just too late for a big part in Altman’s Nashville, but hopefully right on time for something, might prove the perfect room for her until Ovations get’s wind of her pipes.
Bestial Mouths, at Arlo’s Ballroom
Arlo’s has a tiny dance floor, an overbuilt smoke machine, and huge speakers, so when Bestial Mouths’ Lynette Cerezo lets out one of her blood-curdling screams, you’re going to feel it just about as quickly as you hear it, and if you can’t place where it’s coming from, you might scream, too. It’s not enough that you control your own frenzied flailings, if those around you lack that poise, someone’s going to be shredded before they get bedded. It’s a packed bill, the kind of death-rock-und-techno convocation that is sure to flip a few circuit-breakers and scare the church.
Ak’chamel, at Rudyard’s
With Lovecraftian song titles like “The Skull Spat Upon the Maiden’s Hand” and “Hearts Melt In Horror,” and with the umber tones and cloaked, antlered skull of the cover art, Ak’chamel’s new cassette Death Chants might give you cause to expect something heavy and neo-Wagnerian, something like Swans or Sleep, but these local tricksters are more slippery than that, more attuned to sublime frequencies than sturm und drang. On tape, their murky drones and moans come across like the kind of liturgical music one might encounter on the Silk Road, under a cromlech or a yurt, wherever it is that druids and Mongolian shamans meet to talk shop. Onstage, Ak’chamel really get into the garb of the old-time medicine — masked, cloaked, mystical and cackling with mischief — all the while beating on balalaikas, finger cymbals and boxes. Fewer costumes on the rest of this bill, though the vibes are just as dank, steeped in comedy and various third-eye unguents and cleaners. Openers Bodyfat and Unified Space are both new-ish bands, but both can trace their steamy, psychedelic bloodlines back to the big space-rock freak show that was ’80s and early-’90s Houston.
Street Sects, at Civic TV
There’s something about a strobe light in an otherwise darkened room that promises an epiphany. Perhaps it’s just the precognitive liftoff of an incoming petit mal, but such blown-out optic-nerve satori goes hand in hand with the kind of homespun, hot-breath industrial assault going down here at David Cronenberg’s putative home away from home, Civic TV. Austin’s Street Sects may as well hail from South Houston; their blastbeat drum-machine tics, unnervingly alien sampler cycles, and road-rage-vs.-Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer vocal delivery evoke the carcinogenic haze of our own refinery rows and killing fields. A little groovier, like Groovie Mann from Thrill Kill Kult minus the disco, but with added inextinguishable aggression, Spit Mask gives their repertoire of punishment, discipline, filth and depravity a little workout in advance of an upcoming European tour. While not exactly “Come On, Get Happy,” the gales of hiss and burning amp tones arranged and invoked by NOLA transplants/noise gurus Joseph and Vanessa Gates, performing here as Peiiste, seem positively life-affirming by comparison.
Arnold Dreyblatt, at The MATCH
Seen up close, the line between sound and image bends into itself. Germany-based sculptor and sound artist Arnold Dreyblatt discovered this in the criss-crossing art and music milieu of 1970s New York City, where he studied with avant-garde giants LaMonte Young, Alvin Lucier, and Pauline Oliveros, the last whom, incidentally, founded the Deep Listening Institute from which Dave Dove’s Nameless Sound organization, tonight’s host, has evolved. Similarly, Dreyblatt’s path as an artist and sound-maker has been an evolutionary one, full of investigations into technology, the physicality of sound, and, as with most artists, the body. At MATCH, he presents a concert of treated contrabass and MRI loops.
Blank Spell, at Walter’s Downtown
Even if you really love your Sunday night tv, all of it can be taped. We live in an age of miracles, though you wouldn’t know it by the lyrics by the bands on this trebly punk bill. Winter is nowhere near us, yet each of these bands are the kind of bands that flash come-hither glances at the end of days. That gum you liked may have come back in style, but so did death rock, so did guitars, so did hardcore, so did punk. Anyhow, we’ve all seen the leaked episodes from this Sunday’s tv already, thanks to the Internet, and this bill is way better.
Sensitiv Southside Boy, at Notsuoh
This Friday night showcase is a de facto expo for the many ways the tick tock of a drum machine clock can fire up your heart and cast a little dot of reflected red or yellow light in the shiny void of your weary eyes. Oklahoma’s Sensitiv Southside Boy brings a rap name for a band name and a Cutting Crew chic to his take on 80s synth-pop. If Tearful Moon’s dark siren songs don’t coax you to an early check-out, Distant Worker, sometimes described as the the Billy Braggs of dance hall, might yet see you subscribe to any number of podcasts and liberation magazines. Elsewhere in the night, the offerings at Notsuoh, the bar at the other side of the Stargate, include Acid Jeep’s sizzler-take on acid house and Electric Sleep’s body rocking course in the promise of the abstract and unfamiliar.
Corey Feldman and The Angels, at White Oak Music Hall
Prodigiously cute as a child actor, Corey Feldman has dipped his toes his several bodies of water, literature Coreyography, reality tv—The Surreal Life, Border Security: Canada’s Front Line, even film, Goonies, Stand By Me, License to Drive, The Lost Boys franchise. The one-time star of reality show The Two Coreys, has been making a real push into music for a few decades, most recently with his Corey’s Angels. Corey’s Angels doubles as a mission for wayward girls as well as backing band for one-time Dancing on Ice contestant. A year after appearing on Celebrity Wife Swap, Mr Feldman resumed his push into music, appearing on various television shows to promote the double-disk concept cd, Angelic 2 the Core. So what should you expect? Angelic boasts a little pop-rock, a soupcon of dubstep, a dash of hip-hop, a little comedy, and more than a few tips of the fedora to Mr Feldman’s longtime friend, the King of Pop. Nota bene, leaked videos from this tour suggest a high likelihood of segway dancing.
Internal/External #7, at AvantGarden
The Internal/External series of experimental music picks up where They Who Sound left off, featuring underground out-music greats doing their thing in the intimate environment of AvantGarden early Monday nights. For the seventh installment, Philip Gayle, native son and experimental guitar handler—think Fahey, Partch, and Chadbourne rather than Crosby Stills and Nash—joins psych guitar hero Tom Carter and the experimental duo Monte Espina.
Count Wiggins Helloween Matinee, at Civic TV
For a city with a seemingly infinite succession of campy identities, in a country with a muddled self-image, at a time when so many have donned some of the scariest masks imaginable, there’s no better holiday than Halloween. But enough of the evil in the hearts of men, here’s wishing you all a fine seasonal mixer, as Civic TV presents a matinee costume rager hosted by the vamp with the amp, the poor man’s Ghoulardi in exile, Count Wiggins. This grab bag of mixed treats features the wigged out ditties of Chase DeMaster of Children of Pop, the 22nd century beatnik noise of Muzak John, with DJ Bloody L potentially playing anything from The Slits to threatening voicemails from Glenn Danzig intermezzo.
Zendrome, at the Secret Group
Resident djs Miguel Flaco (Slowly Losin’ It) and Noey Lopez welcome New Haven’s Heady to this edition of Zendrome, their semi-regular monthly electronic music party at the Secret Group. The Secret Group is new enough to keep a try anything vibe; who knows, you could find yourself dancing with possums, or, scarier yet, stand-up comedians.
Bruised at Notsuoh
Getting one’s references wrong is as unforgivable in punk rock as it was in Victorian society, that said, I’ll venture to say that Bruised’s amalgamation of Devo, the Spits, the Wipers, and the Circle Jerks will be more fun live than on record, and it’s pretty fun on record. They’ll be playing with like-minded locals Frisk, the ungovernable feral prairie cats of Cop Warmth, and the melancholy minor-key cabaret of Tearful Moon.
Percussion Ensemble I: Lou Harrison Centennial, at Moore’s Opera House
Composer and percussionist Lou Harrison was one of the first major composers to really mix it up. A student of Schoenberg’s, he quickly adopted the latter’s twelve-tone technique, then modified it with further investigations into micro-tonality. His own compositions mixed such modern “Western” music theories with the use of found sound and unusual instruments, as well as what we now call, blandly, world music, which spans the entire gamut of musical traditions and practices from Indonesian gamelan to Native American music to ancient scores. Harrison was an early advocate for these musical traditions, a collaborator with the like-minded John Cage, as well as an early promoter of fellow American composer Charles Ives, who acknowledged Harrison’s role in his own success by splitting the proceeds of his Pulitzer prize with Harrison. In addition to his long career of musical innovation, Harrison was a pacifist and a gay man in a time when to be either required a lion’s share of courage. This concert presented by The Moores School of Music, pays homage to this music pioneer on his centennial.
Ambient 3, at Walter’s Downtown
Though we take the psychotropic munificence of our cow fields for granted, it is often hard to find even the stemmiest dirt weed in Steve Hauschildt’s hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, which makes his time-tested commitment to expansive, nonlinear music for the head and etheric body all the more laudatory. Since his time with Emeralds, Hauschildt has issued several solo records of zoned-out synthesizer music, just right for deep space exploration, couch trips, the yoga dojo or the therapy table. Meanwhile, Gerritt Wittmer’s psychologically tense performance art, which abounds with suspense and the absence of confidence in the future, is seldom ambient, unless one’s sense of ambience was calibrated in an animal testing laboratory. Happily, the rest of the lineup falls more in line with the soothing electronic idylls popularized by Cluster, Klaus Schulze, JD Emmanuel and Brian Eno.
An Exchange of Noiz at Sound Exchange
This is the latest edition in Spike the Percussionist’s free showcase of high proof psychedelia, meaning drones, delays, manifestations of feedback, feather-ruffling freakouts, and other impolite soundwork. Part of the pleasure consists in the workouts by experimental music vets Illicit Relationship, Muzak, and Spike’s own Astrogenic Hallucinauting. Part of the pleasure comes from the discovery of new sounds and new sound-makers. Part of the fun comes from the poetry vs glossolalia face-off of band names. Lastly, as any Montrose dolphin will tell you, one always avail oneself of any opportunity to spend time at Sound Exchange, after hours.
Jacuzzi Boys and The Wiggins, at Walter’s Downtown
Our thoughts on The Wiggins are well-documented; we’d commission David Adickes’ Sculpturworx to transmit his bust in plaster, or at least putty, were the resources available. Flocking the Wiggins on this trebly, Friday night earbleed at Walters are San Antonio’s The Bolos, our own Cleen Teens, and Miami’s Jacuzzi Boys, each of whom play big, loud rat-pedal rock the likes of which cannot be contained by your wilted little ear buds.
Stephen Pearcy of RATT, at Proof Rooftop Lounge
Don’t mistake me, I don’t mess with the kind of cheap irony you’re expecting. I’ve owned Out of the Cellar and Lay it Down on multiple formats. Stephen Pearcy, the one and only lead singer of RATT, may or may not be a poet, but the man can write a jingle, and he has the kind of voice that stabs a tune right through like a steak knife. Although they are of a time and a place wherein the prospect of going up in hairspray fueled flames was as likely as an outcome as a car crash, Ratt had some jams. Songs like “Round and Round”, “Body Talk”, “Lay It Down,” and “Wanted Man” occupied a separate place in music than those of most of their flim flam peers. Only early Motley Crue, Guns N’ Roses, and Van Halen rivaled them for punk economy, new wave flair, and rock and roll sleaze. I tried out the other touring version of RATT years ago. It was no good without the voice. People of Hamlin, Stephen Pearcy is your pied piper.
Breakdancing Ronald Reagan, at La Playa
Less a beach than a place where strange sea things wash up, La Playa is a performing arts venue situated within a house in the heart of the Third Ward. On this occasion the haul includes a boatload of flotsam and jetsam from the dark side of the sea. Breakdancing Ronald Reagan, run by Austin noise impresario Jonathan Cash (no relation/don’t bother asking) is a usually shirtless, chaos carny given to making music that could as well be described as a mix-and-match of the central themes of Dancing with the Stars and Weekend at Bernie’s 4 as conveyed by a flock of grackles to a speech-to-text generator, as anything else. The rest of the bill goes deep in the black paint, with OG harsh noise artist TEF, caustic emissions from Colorado’s Clark Nova, and the loosey-goosey, kosmiche tape-loops and electronic throbbin’ of Illicit Relationship.
Rodenticide at Walter’s Downtown
You can have your Thursday on a Tuesday with this last minute bout of clangor at Walter’s, featuring two cult bands and two reed-abusing, out-jazz combos. Kai/ros are a multi-faceted drone cult for futurists and Luddites alike. Ak’chamel create soundtracks suitable for just about any pagan blood-sacrifice, fly agaric cult you can imagine. Rodenticide, from New York, parlays bent brass and spoken word provocations into a nasty mix of no-wave and noise rock. A little closer to the foamy banks of our own Buffalo Bayou, Carl has a line in doom-jazz, the likes of which should speak to our recent woes quite directly.
Tee Vee, at Civic TV
The time that once was, Satanic panic prevailed in the outer rings of every major American town. Nor is it entirely unfair to note that, historically, this was also the heydey of heavy rock lead guitarists. While Teresa Vicinanza’s marquee act, Rose Ette, depends on guitars and all the creatures that attend them, she also has a fey alter ego, Tee Vee, who reclines in fields of winsome electronic pop ala Hearts of Animals (the solo version, not the diabolic large-band version). I have not read it yet, but I have heard reports that the Left Behind series of Rapture reportage has it that every time a rock musician puts down their guitar, a devil is trapped by the toe and restored to eternal fire. To this end, for the release of a new cassette, Tee Vee will be joined by fellow angel of the outfield, Andrew Lee, and bird of a feather Miears.
Sound Series #3, at the Station Museum for Contemporary Art
For the third time, the Station presents a rarefied racket especially designed for the kind of people one seldom sees around the tennis courts. With a very fluxus-taking-over-a-radio-shack vibe, meaning anything and the kitchen sink is allowed so long as it can be plugged in or otherwise coaxed to emit the least sound, this free concert packs a lot of music history in a little time. It’s got the spa-ready, electronic instrumentals of Chin Xoau Ti Won, the dolphins-on-dmt overtures and other spooled goo of Illicit Relationship, the twangy, yurt-ready exotica of AK’Chamel, the intrinsically hardcore whatchamacallit of White Flower, with the added delights of some high-minded qu’est-ce que from the University of Houston’s professor of Interdisciplinary Practices and Emerging Forms Abinadi Meza, and harpist Kathryn Fay Mitchell.
Selections from the “Friday Free For All” column.
Odds are, many of us will give a nod to one sociopathic monster or another for high office this November, but that’s no reason we can’t take a hint from the title of this song and place some faith in strangers in all other matters pertinent to the human condition. I can’t make out most of what the siren at the mike is singing, except that “somebody’s had enough.” I feel you, sister.
A few years back I had to leave New York City in a hurry after a Howard Hughes-like aversion to other humans and their various auras and physical traces (subway filth, fingerprints, crowded noise shows) sent me scuttling back to Texas like a stepped-on hermit crab. This song reminds me of that crab. I’ve been doing a little suffering lately. In part, because my daughter got a boom box and a copy of Yellow Submarine for her birthday, so I’ve had to hear more Beatles than a grown human ever should. Of course there’s more to it than that, but you panoptic voyeurs reading this aren’t privy to the inside of all things, whatever you may think. You see, I’ve tried restorative yoga before? it only provoked the demons all the more, and they nearly pushed me over the proverbial cliff.
Whereas this lovely song is calmative, physically and emotionally soothing, and aptly titled. Go ahead, put it on repeat. Perhaps it’s the low-pass bass frequency reduction on the drum tracks that at once puts the mind to think of dancing, while removing any compulsion to dance. Or the live bass guitar that rolls in like an understated Jah Wobble — inexact, imperfect, human. Or maybe it’s the singer, her voice enrobed in echoes, bookended by synthesizers and brocaded digital-cicada sounds, watching the same film as you, but magically, hypnotically, it all works to block pain and ease the coming of the night.
This song contains multitudes: at once it sounds like an Underworld arrangement for after hours, a dubby Arthur Russell song gone the way of early-2000s IDM, and a less bellowsome Section 25. But most importantly, it conveys sympathy, an awareness of suffering and our common cause. It seems to say the worst is behind you, for now at least.
Newer bands and their whimsy confuse me. Part of that is I’m actually 400 years old (though in a darkened room I don’t look a day over 300). The other part is that leading music magazines have empirically proven that in music peaked with the release of the Beatles’ famous album, Greatest Hits, in October, 1958. With that in mind, I typically only listen to Reader’s Digest mixes, until now. I’m sure that most of you are, like me, ardent fans of of Bobby Conn and Tom Jones, so I implore you, give Alex Cameron a listen.
If you can get past the fact that he’s unwholesomely handsome, virtually a Christian Bale lookalike, you’ll see that Cameron is the newest in a line of poor men’s Sinatras, louche and desperate, with a schtick that lifts from old-guard entertainers like Tony Clifton, Neil Hamburger, and Nick Winters. While there’s a lot of atmosphere and nuance in his cheapo electronic ballads, at times the music glides dangerously close to Bruce Springsteen’s “State Trooper,” but Cameron takes the high road to camp. Like the old axiom about the existence of God, the mere thought that there may have been a time before ersatz earnestness proves the possibility of a time before ersatz earnestness.
Lizzy Mercier Descloux
Back when punks were still bookish and self-aware, Lizzy Mercier Descloux was a punk. More than that, she was a fairly serious bohemian of the decadent Romantic strain, a free-living intellectual artist, a person of modern standards. She had an inquisitive mind, a talent for lyrics, a great look, and transatlantic friendships with various now-famous Lower East Siders like Patti Smith and Richard Hell. What’s more, being French, she had a cool French accent, as one can hear, here, on her cover of Arthur Brown’s “Fire.”
Most of her tracks cohabitated with the sort of classic electro-friendly line of post-punk just then developing, lighter than Joy Division and PIL, a little darker than the more commercially nascent forms of synth-pop. And then there was that split second in the ’80s when everything exploded from grisaille tones into tropical color. There was Agnetha Faltskog’s “The Heat Is On,” Kid Creole and the Coconuts, Haircut 100’s “Love Plus One,” and then there’s this little bit of the hybrid highlife, Lizzy Mercier Descloux’s “Mais Où Sont Passées Les Gazelles?”, later reissued with the less nuanced title, “Zulu Rock.” At the time this was recorded and released, 1984 to be precise, appropriation was a practice in postmodern art still very much en vogue. Europe was still in an early stage of trying to get used to the rest of the world.
Being an artist of greater commitment than many at the time, LMD traveled to South Africa in the apartheid era to work with Soweto musicians. Purportedly, she tried to secure touring visas for the South African musicians she worked with, but was ultimately shut down by the authorities. It’s worth remembering that the apartheid policy in South Africa, thoroughly racist as it was, only legally ended in 1994. Nelson Mandela wasn’t even removed from the USA’s terrorist watch list until 2008. It could be argued that policies very similar to South African apartheid are still in place in some fairly well-lit corners of the world.
It may be that I’ve been in a real Chris Bell-inspired tailspin lately, playing and replaying “I Am the Cosmos” while on the verge of tears for no good reason. Experience proves that there are few tonics for such a malady, one of them being Ben Wallers. Wallers, onetime CEO of the Country Teasers, is also The Rebel, a recording star of the age following the age of digital recording, which is to say that it remains unclear what equipment he uses or eschews; all that is apparent is that he values his time a little too much to waste it in the studio suspended in the machinery of perpetual motion adding and adjusting gentle reverbs, working out compression ratios at the control booth, praying for death. Instead, he’s a kind of comedian of the Anglish sort, attracted to all the words and phrases and subjects that get forgotten when self-styled important or relevant songwriters get caught up in the throes of their Wordsworth-ian passions.
Whereas Wallers, despite hailing from some pastoral BFE in the Jane Austen country, models himself after America’s rappers and old country greats, heavily dusted in psychotropic powders, word-drunk and regular drunk, boastful, poison-tongued, always either tongue in cheek or so cussedly literal (again like a rapper, or a country-music librettist) as to amount to the same thing.
Holograms are a start, but band reunions won’t sit well with me until the actual dead can be exhumed and reanimated. Though I’m the certain the terms of their second life will be damnable, there will be no rest, no peace, it will only be then that we’ll all get to really monetize human potential, obviously embodied largely by rock bands and rappers. For what is this world but a prep line for the world to come, an enormous floating Pet Semetary for dead celebrities and niche talents, whose imminent return to festival stages could certainly galvanize ticket sales. At such a time, with our champions reclaimed from oblivion, the entire untold wealth of history on parade before us in all its venal detail, some Wikipedia Brown in our midst will turn to their friends and loudly remark on some bit of trivia that utterly ruins the vibe. So I guess what I’m getting at is this: from the first time I heard Brainiac (“Go Freaks Go!” eons ago on the late, lamented KTRU), it was love. And my love goes on and on.
If you’re hearing this song for the first time, go ahead and address a box of chocolates to the paper’s main office. Roses are fine, too, but please don’t bother to scent them additionally. Au naturel will do. The rest of you, here’s some piano accompaniment for your early-weekend liftoff. Share some love with the people nearest you at heart. “Like Flies On Sherbert” is one of the finest studio recordings ever made, sly, steeped in a profound love of music and, more importantly, joie de vivre.
Let’s say you’re feeling a pastoral vibe, but you’re in a hurry, and your leave-taking of mind must be brief. In that case, try these two pieces from Dunedin, New Zealand’s finest. Alastair Galbraith’s music is wide-reaching, from singer-songwriter ballads to expansive hurdy-gurdy drones. All of it is incredibly special, calmative without being boring, emotionally restorative without being precious. I just happen to prefer the Syd Barrett mode lately.
One could say Actual Figures is a Danish band, since they currently reside on an island off the Jutland peninsula. One could even call them a Berlin band, as that’s where they’ll be settled by the time this group of songs is released on the Bay Area-based F.R.E.A.K.S. label later this year. Just the same, it’s more emotionally truthful, if entirely factually false, to describe them as a band from around here. Listen to that rough croon, fatalistic, frayed, final. That’s none other than Brandon Davis, my longtime band mate, who did time with me in my groups, as well as his own concerns The Electric Set, and Terrible Eagle. He’s joined here by Marie Mark Andersen, his wife and partner in a number of music and performance-art projects he has undertaken over the past several years of his life as an expatriate.
Davis went rogue long ago. He shook off his home, his car, a steady paycheck, his equipment, his family and many of his friends. He’s borderline stateless, skulking around the margins of Europe, living the kind of life that we often think about longingly and just as quickly dismiss after watching a romantic movie. When he says something ‘don’t matter at all’ (sic) he probably means it. Likely this means nothing to most of you, but from what I’ve seen, this world is small and filled with a lot of faces that are almost familiar yet completely strange. What’s more, our time is not so long as we need, running hardly longer than this song and just as empty.
RIP Alan Vega
Love and respect to Alan Vega. I’m far too shallow a person to properly observe the long, funereal roll of the credits that this year is quickly becoming, but the death of Alan Vega brings us a little closer to the death of the American era, as with him goes a bit more honesty, style, and street-tough optimism. Born in 1938, long assumed to be much younger than he was because he looked so great for so long, Vega sounded like one of the rockabilly greats because he was one of the last rockabilly greats, albeit the only one of his generation to combine lefty folk with completely modern methods. He was a beautiful rooster, a scourge to the wicked and the banal, a dream protector, a comfort to the afflicted, and a warm voice in the dead of night. Judging by the headlines, it’s gonna be a long night.
Gerritt Wittmer: Formerly of Oakland crushers Deathroes and similarly unhinged Names, here at home Gerritt Wittmer goes by his given name, keeps a reasonably low local profile in between international tours and avant-garde appearances, and perambulates avenues of sound and performance that are more medicine man or alchemic rite than straight noise.
Vockah Redu: Vockah Redu has enough style and charisma to lend to the rest of us; we don’t have to come up short anymore. He’s an MC with a light touch and total control; he’s a tireless, amazing dancer; and as an overall showman he is unparalleled, which is to say, free of right angles and other inhibitions.
Rabit: East Coast-raised, Gulf Coast-placed electronic-music producer Rabit, born Eric Burton, is better known in Berlin and London than in his adopted hometown of Houston. His productions concern the atmospheric deployment of dark matter and negative space jammed up with hard rap beats and noise sizzle. His recent appearances at the Station Museum and his live collaborations with the House of Kenzo — equal parts Danceteria and Hellfire Club — have claimed some pretty hefty chunks of psychic real estate.
Craig Mickle: Whether heading up the Bad News Bears of noise-rock, Cop Warmth; tightening up his metal chops in Thundertank; or signing glossy 8×10’s at fan meet-n-greets with the rest of modern hardcore supergroup Lace, Craig Mickle has been holding a place for Houston in a particularly damaged kind of punk-rock sweepstakes for years now.