28 July 2009
Just found out Harbinger Sound label is launching its inaugural issue of a new Noise Culture magazine called As Loud As Possible... Think its long overdue for such a rag. Check out news of the mag here.
The label will also be re-issuing the long deleted 6 cassette box set in CD from one of the most underrated English Power Electronics bands of the 1980s/1990s, Ramleh, entitled Awake!. Also check out The Wire magazine's recent article on the band (from July 2009) by David Keenan of Volcanic Tongue.
Other releases of note of the Noise/Post Industrial scenes in recent months:
Nurse With Wound - Surveillance Lounge
Current 93 - Aleph At Hallucinatory Mountain
Skullflower - Malediction
Various - Michigan
Wolf Eyes - Always Wrong
Posted by Psychmetalfreak at 7/28/2009
16 July 2009
Recently watched the film made last year on the infamous "Commie/Anarchist terrorist" group, the Baader Meinhof Gang, simply entitled "The Baader Meinhof Complex". It was a two hour whirlwind of explosive scenes of riots, confrontation between the Left in Germany in the late 1960s/1970s, the acts of terrorism against the government, the USA, the capitalist tycoons and anyone who represented the Right. Done in the Hollywood/commercial narrative of action-pack sequences, it was not exactly a very good film: it fails to characterise the main figures of the Gang sufficiently to allow the audience to understand where they were coming from ideologically and contextually, the characters in the film were simply just characters without much attempt to establish some empathetic links between the viewers and the main protagonists.
However, the story of the Gang is a moving one: back then (it was only 30 to 40 years ago!), the people were idealistic, single-minded and determined to jump into action becuase of what their believe in, no apathy allowed basically. Both the Left and Right would go to streets, fight their opponents and even kill if need to. I am not advocating anarchy here but I am definitely touched by their conviction and devotion. In today's world, humans are simply caught up in the pure apathetic worldview of consumerism, 24-hour entertain-me people and careerist impetus in what they do.
Perhaps the collapse of the bipolar world of the Communist and the Western democratic worlds also marked the end of ideological fervor. But one interesting thing depicted in the film is that the so-called Islamic terrorists then were allies with the Baader Meinhof Gang and many other Left wing cell action groups around the world (see the demand-to-be-released list of the terrorists who bloodied the Munich Oympics or the training the Arabs provided for the Gang in the early 1970s). A far cry of the simplistic, religious/cultural based confrontational stance we see today between the Muslim fundamentalist groups and the West.
Posted by Psychmetalfreak at 7/16/2009
15 July 2009
The Decadent/Symbolist literary movement has fascinated me for ages and I actually have a few books from these bunch of supposedly debauched chaps sitting on my shelf for years and recently thanks to my resurgent interest for fiction, I finally plucked them off the pile and finished a couple of them: Oscar Wilde's The Picture Of Dorian Gray and Octave Mirbeau's The Torture Garden. The former title brought Wilde infamy and the latter actually earned the title for the sickest piece art of the 19th century. So what's all the fuss about?
Dorian Gray, one of the most popular titles in paperback fiction actually narrate the downfall of a young man who was endowed with such beauty that after his encounter with, a painter who did a portrait of him with such devilish likeness and a amoral man with plenty of suave and class from the aristocracy, that he began his fall from grace. The pivotal event to his slide was his utter disappointment with a girl whom he had fallen in love. Thereafter he became the god of temptation and decadence embodied, feared and loved by all with his misdemeanor. He remains gorgeous for decades while the painting of his deteriorated with much rapidity and severity. At the end he tried to destroy the painting and he kills himself instead. Dorian Gray is a tale of morality despite the claim for its decadent influence on the public then (in the book he openly references another decadent/symbolist classic, Against Nature by Huysmans which also contributed to the fall of Gray). Gray's misadventures in life was eventually terminated due to his own vanity, in other words, he reaps what he sows in the end. The emphasis of physical attributes and the disregard of a person's actions was the zeitgeist during the turn of the century but isn't it more so today than before? Hedonism for the pure sake of hedonism is the rule of the day. At least for Wilde and others based their belief in the transcendant nature of art, the art for art's sake maxim.
The Torture Garden on the other hand was basically an account of the narrator of the story who relates a lurid venture to the Orient and his encounter with the mysterious lady of his love. The second part of the story which gives us an account of the Torture Garden in China is the crunch of the entire book: description after description of horrid, revolting and inhuman ways of torturing and killing humans off with the utmost sense of pleasure and aesthetic attached to them by the lady. Even the self proclaimed decadent narrator cannot fathom and stomach much of what he witnesses. The lady however, goes through a cycle of regeneration after her every visit to the Garden. The book is thus basically a tale of warning of the sternest level: humans are cruel and some of us given the context will push the envelope of such propensity to its extreme as can be seen in the book. So what is morality and what is its role in the world today?
Both books might not shock any in today's world but the message and characters in them still have plenty of value to us: who are we, as humans actually? Are we by nature evil and amoral and that morality is just a cuff to hold us back from a potentially human hell of wilful cruelty and non-repenting course of self-serving hedonism?
Posted by Psychmetalfreak at 7/15/2009
13 July 2009
Retrospective Introspection: Birthday Party, Loop and Flipper - The Glorious 1980s & Some Reasons Why This Is So
It's sad but true: 99% of what the mainstream press called Rock today is just a joke: a dead facsmile of what went before or simply necrophiliac, and I am not even being retro. Where is the pure unrelenting power and energy? How about the sneering attitude with loads of real kick-ass out-of-control guitar riffs, plodding bass digs and no-frills drum thuds? What about the in-your-face confrontational live antics to end it all (even though I was not there but enough rock lore just keep me drooling)? None of the above and then some. Today's bands pose aplenty but there is where their creatvity, vitriol and awareness end. Period.
I have been listening to many 1980s stuff for the past few months: the Wipers, Half Japanese, etc. and I am impressed with these underrated/unsung musician heroes. I am impressed with the pure idealistic drive to play what they believe in with no or little commercial considerations. Yet, they push on hard, no harder than ever. Many of them (the Americans in particular) trawled through the inhuman circuit of the mid-1980s with almost no-pay, wet dorm floors and crammed vans which could break down any moment in the middle of the Mid West. Some went to see them, a few of them had their lives changed forever, and they went on to form bands of their own. Any lovely tales of such today, hardly, really.
I am just randomly picking out 3 bands: the Birthday Party, Flipper and Loop. Three acts of differing ideological. musical or motivational backgrounds to pick up a guitar or mic to rock out in the first place and they are so good that they just blow the hell out of 99% of the current bands (below 5 years of age but making some bucks cos they are so cool and hip with "in" hair-do or hip make-up) out there.
Nick Cave's second band (after Boy Next Door when they were in Australia then changing their name to Birthday Party soon after), Birthday Party is a pure machine of rage and musical debauchery personified. Sloppy at times but when they were together they could take on even their own heroes like the Stooges and the Pop Group. Listening to their live album again recently just reminds me that this is what great rock and roll should be.
Flipper is another great post-punk band from West coast USA. Moving through the circuit during the heydays of Hardcore Punk they were just so different: sludgy, heavy, intelligent but decadent all at the same time. They were able to fuse Black Sabbath, Chrome and Wire into a primal ball of rock energy with no effort at all. The two classic albums, Generic and Gone Fishin' were so ahead of their times that few appreciated what they meant and were trying to do. The Melvins, a seminal band which started their career in the mid 1980s basically tells us what we needed to know: without Flipper, the Melvins and whatever genres they spawned subsequently would have not happen. In other words, they were trailblazers of the highest order.
Loop, on the other hand, was seen as copyist band of another great act of the 1980s, Spacemen 3. But how could they have done so? Even though nominally both acts were influenced by the Stooges and MC5, the Nuggets compilation garage punk bands and etc but Loop added in krautrock and more drone than meandering vibe into their music. They represented the pushing of guitar based molten rock (in the aftermath of the pig-fuck bands on Blast First Records like Sonic Youth, Butthole Surfers and Big Black which first stirred the imagination and furor of the British underground)to near catatonic forward-motion motorik psych rock ooze of the first degree. Their sound has been closer to the post-power electronics rock flail of Ramleh and Skullflower than the more shoegazing contingent which they were sometimes placed together then.
The three acts are just the tip of the iceberg of what real great rock means. They belong to the lost continuum of the alternative Rock genealogy starting from the Stooges, the Velvet Underground, MC5 and 13th Floor Elevators. An alternate history which needs to be told, soon.
Posted by Psychmetalfreak at 7/13/2009
08 July 2009
The passing of a rock legend who though only had one hit on the charts back in the 1960s, went on to influence hundreds of artists and musicians in the past four decades - Sky Saxon. The single "Pushin' Too Hard" was a primitivo-motorik driving piece of rock blast which defines punk before punk actually happened. Grinding, urgent, intense and manic (just listen to Saxon's vocals), Saxon and his band, the Seeds basically handed down the basic mould for hard, garagey psych punk rock. Together with the 13th Floor Elevators and the Sonics, they created a sub-genre of post British Invasion derived bands in the States in the late 1960s.
Saxon subsequently disbanded, reformed, disbanded again, etc the band and released some solo effort, involved in musical and communitarian projects of another West coast legend Yahowha 13 in the 1970s (check out the Captain's Trip Records 13 CD box set for some of his contribution to this infamous cultic psych rock band; a killer set by the way).
Too bad his death has been overshadowed by another lesser legend of popular music, and I simply refuse to mention his name anywhere here...
If you want to pay tribute to this great musician, go to:
Posted by Psychmetalfreak at 7/08/2009
02 July 2009
GIMME SHELTER! - Big Burly Guys on Harley Davidsons, Hippies, Peace & the End of An Era - the 1960s?
I was at the National Museum of Singapore last Saturday to catch the music documentary, "Gimme Shelter", produced by the Maysles brothers, who were actually commissioned by the Rolling Stones to film the much talked about free concert at Altamont Speedway in California in the winter of 1969. Mick Jagger wanted it to be a posterity stance in the vibe of the recent Woodstock filming and as well as to introduce the new guitarist, Mick Taylor, who replaced the deceased elfin Brian Jones, to the Americans. Free concert? Yes, all in the spirit of the 1960s.
What actually took place and filmed on celluloid was more than just documenting a musical event, it became, in the eyes of many keen observers, one of the few key events which marked the end of the innocent, naive and peace-loving decade. What happened? Even before the violence which shocked the world took place at the site, there was purportedly a sense of foul and tense mood hanging in the air, according to many. Some musicians even felt that the concert "smelled wrong" and wanted to pull out even before reaching the site (Spencer Dryden of the Jefferson Airplane). We sure did not see this too clearly in the film though as it was focusing mainly on the Stones. By the way, Mick Jagger looked at times out of sorts or at a loss during his re-viewing of the footage taken during the event and he was looking at himself, not able to do much but just mouthing, in this case, ineffectual words like "brothers", "sisters", "peace", "cool it" and "love" to the audience most of the time before the eventual demise of the concert. Lester Bangs, in one of his articles on the Stones actually commented that Mick Jagger looked more like a lost child as compared to Keith Richards who at least dared to confront the Hell's Angels and the audience in the midst of the whole situation.
So what happened? Apparently, one of the Hell's Angels was interviewed to be saying that the audience became rowdy and "touched" his "wife"/Harley Davidson and of course no one could allow others to touch or abuse their wives and thus retaliation had to be in order. But of course, it was more than that. The film did not really show the fatigued audience much and the ill-conceived preparation the organisers, record company and management biggies which actually contributed to the violence which erupted despite so near comic telephone conversations between them shown interspersed throughout the first half.
The Hell's Angels (the San Francisco chapter), the infamous Harley riding outlaw-like band of wild-hearted chopper lovers who led a care-free but drug/alcohol/crime addled life were engaged as security for the concert (partly due to the short time notice, partly they were involved in Grateful Dead's security previously plus the Stones had used bikers for similar purposes back in UK). However, many underestimated their propensity for violence (see Lester Bangs' account of a gun-point gang bang in one of his posthumous anthologies).
On top of that due to the short notice as it was originally planned at the Golden Gate Park earlier but which did not pan out eventually provided logistical and psychological time bomb for the event on that day. Thousands of fans had to divert from heading toward San Francisco to this barren plot of arid land within a few days with literally no shelter available there. The fans looked tired and beat, as gleaned from the film, and no wonder some of them had short nerves or temper but the time the concert started.
The Airplane played "We Can Be Together" as the opening piece, hoping to ease the mounting tension felt in the air at Altamont but in vain. With hundreds of fans refusing to clear the stage and insisting on "breathing down the neck of the musicians", according to Sam Cutler, the Stones tour manager's plea to the audience to move away from the stage failed just meant that the clash between the fans and the Angels to be more inevitable. Then when the Airplane started their second song a bustle occurred at stage front. Marty Balin, the other vocalist of the band suddenly disappeared into the crowd and before anyone realised it he was knocked out by Angels. The rest of the Airplane tried to reason with the Angels to show "love" but this was definitely not the 'Love-In" crowd of Woodstock or the early days of San Franciscan psychedelia. They valiantly finished the set but the atmosphere had already been doomed.
The Dead did not even perform at Altamont as they had heard about what happened to Balin and the general bad vibes at the scene even though they were not there at the stage but due to a solid network of friends and fans, they were well-informed of the situation. They decided to beat a retreat and headed back for the helicopter which they had taken to the site.
At the end of the disaster, an Afro-American who carried a gun with him to the concert dead in the chaos which ensued when the Stones were playing.
What happened? Was it the organisers' fault? The Stones? The audience? The Hell's Angels? The venue? Or the dawn of the Summer of Love? Noone could and can give a definite conclusion or analysis.
The film was well done, capturing the tension between the audience and the organisers, between the Angels and the audience, between the Angels and the musicians without resorting to much fanciful camera work, as the saying goes, the truth speaks for itself.
At the end of the day, it perhaps marked the beginning of the end of the innocence.
Posted by Psychmetalfreak at 7/02/2009
01 July 2009
Was reading the John Zorn book by John Brackett and was impressed with the insights and overall writing of the author and, illuminated, for me a deeper understanding of this great composer. My relationship with Zorn (on discs, of course) went back all the way to the mid 1990s when I bought his first Naked City album. Zorn together with his excellent band of who's who in the New York Downtown scene plus Fred Frith (ex-Henry Cow and guitar extraordinaire par excellence) basically altered part of my perception of what music was supposed to mean. A blitzrieg of diverse styles and genres within minutes, seconds even for some tracks, the album is full of surprises and shock by turn. But I felt distant towards it, as even though Zorn and co. played some of the grindcore/thrash like passages brilliantly and heavy as hell but somehow the overall vibe felt measured, and even calculated. Of course, I did not know much about him and his background then (that was before the age of the Internet).
Over the years, I bought more and more albums by him/his projects: Painkillers, Masada, Spy Vs. Spy, his more academic compositions, etc. and I grew to appreciate him more. Zorn seems to me (confirmed by Brackett's book) to be a proselytiser of avantgarde and transgressive music and as well as a traditionalist in the avantgarde tradition (thus the title of Brackett's book, Tradition and Trangression). Zorn regularly pays tribute to musicians and composers, film makers and actors, writers and artists and anyone who has been pushing the envelope of their arts in his music: Naked City and Painkillers as tribute bands to his love for thrash/grindcore/death metal, Masada for his Jewish roots but his love for Ornette Coleman (Spy Vs Spy too) as well and list goes on.
He dabbles, yes, but he goes deep and he knows his roots and history and he, in his sometimes oblique ways, follows a fine line of tradition which is at times obscure but forward-looking, shocking to the mainstream but necessary for the progress of the arts. Hence, he is not a postmodernist dilettante like what most critics think he is: he is one of the key nodes of the great modernist/avantgarde genealogy who is able to survive in this postmodernist age with his keen sense of the current socio-political contexts and his awareness of the need to show us the links between the various art forms and genres without flexing the postmodernist pose.
Go here to find out more about John Zorn:
John Zorn Bio
Check this out for his releases and others on his record label:
Posted by Psychmetalfreak at 7/01/2009