field report no.090317

LOCATION: the Grey Eagle AVL.NC
SUBJECT: Roky Erikson

OBSERVATIONS:
Sometimes you just roll the dice. We hadn't planned on seeing a show, but It was the kind of night where we felt like getting out. I can only claim a passing familiarity with Roky Erickson's music—just the first two 13th Floor Elevators albums, really—but he's a bonafide legend of the original psychedelic rock era. It seemed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. That suspicion felt doubly confirmed as Roky didn'tt lot look to be in the best shape. He was in high spirits; obviously elated to be in front of cheering crowd. They had him sat in his chair, arms hanging almost lifelessly at his side, with a guitar he could obviously no longer play given him like a prop or good luck charm.

When the band stuck to his 60s material, it was like returning to the source. We were hearing an anachronistic, oft-copied sound from one of its original innovators. His 70s material, which veered toward substandard, AC / DC knockoffs best suited for biker bars… well, let's say we spent part of the show on the patio, chatting. Honestly, it's rare when I'll go to a show I'm not terribly invested in. It was a bit liberating to feel free to just walk away for a spell. It was an odd dichotomy of being wowed and non-plussed every few songs.

NOTES: Roky Erikson and band; Death Valley Girls
PRESENT: AMS; Angela F.

Motore Immobile

Giusto Pio, 1979

Reissue culture's constant search for untouched veins to mine has redrawn the lines of the avant garde's borders as well as it's audience. Giusto Pio's little heard work Motore Immobile, is a fine example of a recently unearthed work that sits in no man's land between minimalism, new age and new wave. It's based (as the title might imply) around organ drones, but lacks the sterility of the academia. The edges are softened by a pillowy drift, but Pio's work isn't cloying enough to be New Age, nor does it's easy musicality make it poppy. The definitions process music with are near useless for this sort of thing, especially when it dates from as far back as 1979.

Lately there's been a clutch of new music interested in just this same sort of genre-envelope pushing. It ends up a sort of chicken-and-egg question: are we interested in reissuing records like Motore Immobile because they're more suited for our times than their own, or is the reissuing of so many records like Pio's informing a new generation of artists?

Calculated / Kill My Blues / Invitation

Heavens to Betsy, 1994 / Corin Tucker Band, 2012 / Filthy Friends, 2017

In another world, Corin Tucker would be world-renowned. Instead in ours, she's sort-of-indie-world-legendary. Make no mistake, Sleater-Kinney were a force to be reckoned with: a band regularly discussed as seminal and shortlisted right behind Nirvana as defining the cultural moment that was the 90s (or at least, the suburban, white American 90s). Even within Sleater-Kinney, Corin Tucker doesn't get nearly the attention or deference paid bandmate Carrie Brownstein. Looking at Tucker's work outside of Sleater-Kinney helps triangulate her better. 

Heavens to Betsy, Tucker's short-lived, pre-Sleater-Kinney band was an opening savlo in the riot grrrl movement, in all its awkward glory. My love for Calculated is a heady mix of nostalgia and cultural artifact. The album plays like the working copy of a future masterwork, a demo for a revolution. It's easy to look past the rugged recording and nuance-free lyrics, to witness an artist of power.

The intervening 20 years saw Tucker realize her potential in full. Sleater-Kinney seemed to grow progressively more incisive, becoming subtler in approaching their thorny subjects, all while writing ever catchier songs. I think Corin's legacy was in fact hurt by being the first out the gate with a post-Sleater-Kinney project. The Corin Tucker Band's first album, 1,000 Years, was unfairly panned. It was no misstep, just not what the collective fan-base wanted or expected.

Perhaps those fans were more ready to move on a couple of years later when Tucker delivered Kill My Blues. Of course, Blues was also a substantive improvement. I would readily file it with the best of Sleater-Kinney's work, which is to say among the best rock music of the last 20 years. It's also an album very much of it's moment: charting the shift that many of her era's leaders made—from Sonic Youth to Superchunk—reconfiguring their brand of punk rock into anthemic classic rock. 

If ever there were a telltale rock radio hallmark, it is the supergroup, which is exactly what Filthy Friends were. Taking a break from the Sleater-Kinney reunion and work with her own band, Corin Tucker joined forces with Peter Buck of REM (along with some lesser known—but well established—figures from bands like the Minus 5 and Young Fresh Fellows). Their record, Invitation, merges so many vintage styles, from Byrds-ian jangle to Ramones-esque chug, it easily insinuates itself into your conscious.

Nothing about Invitation seems forced, though. This isn't Corin Tucker putting on classic rock airs, this is an established torch-bearer of a true rock-n-roll tradition, taking rightful her seat at the table.

Biscuits for… Drunken Bogglers

A collection of seasick bass music, lurching and loping into Fall. If you'd like to subscribe to future episodes of this podcast (and check out the back catalog of mixes) you can find sndlgc podcast editions in the iTunes store, or copy this link, to subscribe manually.

Why is Fall is so disorienting? Even in more temperate climes, it arrives abruptly. One day you abruptly have to bring your fragile plants inside while the trees explode into a fireworks display of foliage, almost overnight. It's dark before dinner without you noticing night's approach. You may try and fight it—refusing to believe winter is around the bend—but what felt like a steady climb in temperature since February has now tumbled over an apex into rapid descent. 

This seasonal whiplash made these tracks hang together as a whole to my ear. As Fall approached, I found myself drawn to bass-heavy productions with a lurch in their step. As if some part of the rhythm is drunk. Not just tipsy, either, we're talking embarrass-yourself-kind-of-drunk.

Sticking with the timely theme of the Biscuits for… series, I focused on brand new music. The vast majority of these songs were released in just the last 3-6 months. Hell, most of the artists are new to me, as well.

Once I have it in my ear what I'm searching for, I sift through new releases, mining for gems with the just right kind of unstable bass. With such a tangible sonic element, the resulting mix whipped up can be relatively style-agnostic. It pledges no fealty to any one sub-genre.

The loosed rhythms give the songs a gloomier demeanor. When some element in a track runs rampant and free, it's subconsciously unnerving, a touch menacing. Even when these tracks make to celebrate, they rejoice with a shadow of doubt. 

A dark mood perfectly suits this mix built for the darkening days. So, get ready to set your clocks back and stumble forward, unsteadily, with Biscuits for… Drunken Bogglers.

Powell: The Bust
FYI Chris: Captain's Patilla
Coki meets Trixx: Elevate
Nomine: Slip
Grey Branches: Bevel
Ossia: Tumult (Lurka mix)
Irazu: Shtamm (Regis remix)
Thomas Xu: Alottochewon
Shit & Shine: Deva-State Nineteen 3000
Herva: Afro-Sweep
Nídia Minaj: Biotheke
DJ Osom: Glued
Lanark Artefax: Hyphen to Splice
Bandshell: Polarizing Haircut
Beastie Respond: The Truth that Hides that There Is None
Orogon Pit: Osmic Frqncy
Mumdance & Logos: FFS
DJ Krush: No One Knows
Clouds: Rush In 2 Orbit (Skinnergate)
Spatial: Spin One Over Two
Pan Daijing: A Season in Hell
Palmbomen II: Disappointment Island
Golden Oriole: Approaching of the Disco Void
Bill Converse: Threshold
Echoplekz: Acrid Acid
Zuli: Foam Home
Ismael: Cross System
Sim Hutchins: Some Men (You) Just Want to Watch the World Burn
Nene Hatun: Altruism
Perc: Wax Apple

Rex

S ND Y P RL RS, 2012

It's tempting to file Rex, by S  ND Y P RL  RS (read: Sunday Parlours), in the same pile of the post-SunnO))) experimental drone-metal that's proliferated in the last decade. Something in my brain objects, though. Yes, all the hallmarks are here: guitars distorted and distended into fields of aural gravel; chords that change with the patience of a (Satanic) saint. Rex feels heavy, but without feeling heavy metal. There's a dearth of Iommic riffage. In it's place they've conjured a yearning quality—a mournfulness that evokes the blues, but nothing like Zepplin's stomping, early swagger. This is a blues as an abstract feeling, similar to Loren Connors' more obfuscated missives, like St. Vincent's Newsboy Home. Where Rex ought to rage and quake, it shudders and aches.

field report no.080917

LOCATION: the Mothlight AVL.NC
SUBJECT: Lætitia Sadier Source Ensemble

OBSERVATIONS:
Somewhere around Emperor Tomato Ketchup, Stereolab's output veered studio savvy. Since then Lætitia Sadier's music has been exquisitely constructed, perhaps at the expense of a certain visceral impact. For this same reason, ABC Music—a collection of Peel Session and other live(ish) BBC recordings—remains one of my all time favorite Stereolab records. Those performances revitalize the a human impact the band. This isn't necessarily meant as a criticism of Sædier's work—I'm a firm believer that the live performances and studio recordings living as separate entities. My most damning review of a performance is perhaps "it sounded like the album, only louder".

Sadier's new working outfit, the Source Ensemble continues this tradition. They may not court the rockist outbursts of Stereolab, but their live set still belies the entirely human, endearingly flawed aspects of a music that was originally documented in a slick veneer. The album they were touring, Find Me Finding You (her fourth, post-Lab), is a high-water mark—even given her storied history. Anyone, who carries a torch for the heydays of Stereolab, owes it to themselves to catch up with Sadier.

NOTES: Lætitia Sadier Source Ensemble; Art Feynman
PRESENT: AMS; Angela F.

Ain't It Funky / Doing It to Death / Us

James Brown, 1970 / the JB's, 1973 / Maceo, 1974

While I have a number of records documenting the James Brown legacy, I somehow ended up with only instrumental-(ish) ones. I have platters by the JB's and Maceo Parker, but even my Brown album proper is an instrumental oddity. This gives the impression I have some sort of problem with James Brown as a singer, which isn't true. In fact, I couldn't help but wonder how I ended up in this predicament.

The James Brown LP first called out to me. When an artist has such a vast catalog, I'm instinctively drawn to their curios. All those albums that are just not like the others. Then our reissue culture kicked into high gear and soon enough, the other ones found their way to me. They're all killer albums, cut in the early 70s, when Brown and company were firing on all cylinders with plenty of gas left in the tank.

Chronologically,  Ain't It Funky comes first, credited to 'James Brown and the James Brown Band' (since there weren't any recordings under the JB's name, just yet). The title track kicks it off with the a new vocal single to lure in the record buying public. But like the silhouette on the cover, James fades into the background after that intro, as the band begins to take longer, throatier solos. Ironically, it's the most purely instrumental record of the batch. Even if Brown's name is absent from covers, he's not missing by any stretch.

All three records were all produced as a part of his expanding empire of funk and no one was allowed forget who reigned there. Each has it's own flavor, though. Drummer Clyde Stubblefield dominates Ain't It Funky, not so much in solo time, but there's no denying the entire band marches to his beat. Maceo's Us strikes a jazzer, harmonic tone—more swinging, and less of that emphatic snap. The JB's kept things the most democratic on Doing It to Death (it was before Fred Wesley's name was on their marquee). It comes off like someone hit record at a party in the studio, after the wrapping up one of the boss' records.

Inevitably, if I spin one of these records, the rest are pulled out to follow in line. It's like my own private instrumental funk festival.

and i still miss you

"All the things I hate in this fucking world haven't gone away"

I'm not much of a lyrics guy. I say that like it's some kind of hard and fast rule, but every rule has exceptions. It holds (for the most part). Sure, I own the giant tome compiling all of Bob Dylan's lyrics, but my favorite Dylan songs still depend on his superb lyrics being delivered with a great performance, too. The biggest exception is J Church, the bay-area pop-punk that could.

J Church were never innovators, and were no kind of virtuosos. They were never famous or even up-and-coming, yet they persevered for 15 years. They could afford passable production only about half the time (I'd say only two of their albums sound 'professional'). They had a revolving door membership, singer and guitarist Lance Hahn was the only constant. What endeared them to me was what Lance had to say.

Jawbreaker—by far the most beloved band of the era—were highly persona; proto-emo. Green Day—by far the most successful—were candied confections singing about… well, nothing really. J Churh were a thinking working man's band. Underneath a handful of bar chords and plain spoken words lurked huge ideas.

Like Fugazi, J Church's politics were inherently personal. Unlike them, nothing was so certain in Lance's world. Their views were human, often muddled and always striving. Lance Hahn dealt more in self-examination than in strident edicts. One of his most overt statements, Part of the Problem, simply refuses to be chastised for abstaining from protest demonstrations. His personal songs would seamlessly veer political. Racked might amount to an unrequited love song, but he views it through a drunken, conflicted feminism, citing 'Dionysian polemics' along the way—all in a song less than 2 minutes long.

10 years ago today, I found out Lance Hahn had died. Luckily, I was on a visit home, sitting with a dear friend who could understand the profound sense of loss I felt at that moment. I'm old enough to have seen many artists I grew up with (or otherwise loved) pass. My relationship to them doesn't much change—whatever it was when they died seems fixed in amber. J Church, though, continues to resonate as a living force with me.

J Church seemed to always grow with me. Albums would arrive, grappling with new issues and conceptual nuance at levels I just happened to be ready for. There are some songs, though, that I've found reserved—left like time capsules that have only made sense in my future. He wrote a farewell letter to San Francisco, Satanists Convene, that resonated with me recently, when I was leaving NYC for good. So many of those sentiments rang true. What I loved about the city were memories, whether I'd stayed or left—New York (or I) had moved on already.

I distinctly remember when fellow bay area punks, Green Day found their righteousness—making American Idiot as a commentary on the invasion of Iraq staged by the GW.Bush administration. It was chock full of overly long songs with positions so vague either side of the issue could get gleefully sing along. The same year, J Church released Society Is a Carnivorous Flower. It featured an unprecedented (for them) sidelong, multi-part, epic title track. It was, at heart, an examination of the 1968 Situationist riots in France. Esoteric, for sure, but it didn't feel dated. Lance discussed it with an eye to examining our current world, gaining a palpable sense of presence by toggling between second- and third-person narrative. I'm still unpacking its meanings and references.

I can honestly say I'm a better person for listening to J Church. Sometimes it felt like Lance would articulate what I felt better than I could for myself. Other times, he forced me to look inwards and challenge what I found there. I may have a more profound love for other bands, or I'm more fascinated or inspired by others, but I don't think I'll miss any band more than J Church.

"Tomorrow, if I haven't lost my mind,
I'll beg to borrow all the words I can't define"

BLD

Acid Pauli, 2017

Electronic music's very nature sounds constructed. It's an assemblage. Real effort must be exerted to make it feel spontaneous. What if one embraces the style's inherent qualities and spends that effort instead on making it's construction more exquisite? On BLD, every sound seems to have a cushion of physical space around it, demarcating it from every other simultaneous event in the mix. You are able to examine every key or snap of percussion in isolation or in context, at will. Instead of attempting to create an illusion of the natural, Acid Pauli has opted instead for hyperreal. He constructs a fully three dimensionsal sonic space, sans a blurry depth of field to imitate the real world.

Ovary Lodge

Ovary Lodge, 1973

As a collector, I can be damnably linear. A record, like Keith Tippett's Blueprint, will send me scurrying around trying to collect every thing I can by him. Digesting a catalogue en masse, I'm trying to map it out in my head: Which are significant turns? What are curious diversions?

In Tippett's journey, Ovary Lodge is a major signpost (even if it's out-of-print and hard to come by). It's the point where he travelled beyond the reach of progressive rock. He spent the early 70s in that gray area of jazz-rock, but there is little purchase on Ovary Lodge for a King Crimson fan who happens on it after hearing his playing on Islands or Lizard. They could certainly be forgiven for expecting something more prog-like, given the ludicrous drum cage featured on the cover (plus, it's produced by Robert Fripp, after all). 

No, Ovary Lodge is a jazz trio session with on foot in the free jazz mold and one placed firmly in the European free improv tradition and zero feet left for rockist intentions. While the group pay some respect to tunes, any offerings are kept oblique. Drummer Frank Perry spends most of the record more focused on textures than rhythms. There's a familiar busyness to the proceedings that will sound familiar to anyone acquainted with the early Incus catalog. While there was a modicum of precedent, Ovary Lodge still offered new pastures and rich terrain for Keith Tippett (and his fans). 

field report no.071117

LOCATION: Grey Eagle AVL.NC
SUBJECT: Woods

OBSERVATIONS:
While I've become accustomed to sparsely attended shows since landing in Asheville, I'm inclined to attribute it to the type of music I opt for. This ain't New York City, and Asheville can only sustain so much experimental music. Maybe it was too early in the week or too close in proximity to a holiday weekend, but the Woods played to a thin crowd on this summer evening. Surprising, since I would have pegged their folk-tinged indie-pop as right in Asheville's sweet spot.

Small turnout or no, after well over a decade of touring, Woods are a battle-tested and dependable live act. Not to say they lack ambition or have grown complacent. Many of their songs still bear tell-tale traces of ramshackle psychedelia from their freak-folk beginnings—exploding into extended, sprawling guitar solos. Singer Jeremy Earl's permanent falsetto delivery has settled into a deceivingly wistful lull that still leans forward, pushing the tunes ahead. The denizens of Asheville missed out when they dropped the ball on this one. 

NOTES: Woods; John Andrews and the Yawns
PRESENT: AMS

Mickeranno

Mickeranno, 1985

The internet can be a strange, beautiful place. I came across a copy of Mickeranno's only, self-titled album on a blog I don't remember and is probably now defunct anyways. I downloaded the record and listened to it in short order (shocking, in this day and age). The music was like a the Durutti Column's stately guitar work crossed with the Young Marble Giants' muted, lo-fi charm. Those are lofty comparisons for a post-punk band, but Mickeranno earned them. There's something ineffable abut the restraint on display. It's not that they're virtuosos refusing to shred, but the measured performance on every track seethes with repressed energy and emotion. By the fifth listen (on repeat) I was looking for a vinyl copy.

This is where the internet let me down. Many of the sites I go to didn't even know the record or band existed. In of all the web, I found only two copies, both hailing from Italy (at steep prices). Due to the cost, I waited until this record had burnt a hole in my brain. Eventually, I forked over for it. In my warped brain, Mickeranno remains entirely worth it. Hell, if I had the means, I'd reissue this LP.

Oblique Portrait: Bauhaus

For a band that was so short-lived, Bauhaus' influence is far-reaching. This mix follows the long, often intertwined careers of each member. If you would like to subscribe to future episodes of this podcast you can find it in itunes, or you can copy this link and subscribe manually.

Bauhaus are widely accepted as the godfathers of goth, but that's hindsight. Goth wasn't yet a thing in 1979. No, Bauhaus were a post-punk band, infused with glam rock, dub reggae and punk fury. While their unique take on all that was codified into goth as we know it today, it's not nearly as multi-faceted as the actual bands it's based off.

Bauhaus wasn't fated to last long: 4 albums (at least one of which was merely cobbled together) plus a clutch of singles. Between singer Peter Murphy, guitarist Daniel Ash and bassist David J, they were trying to contain three distinct, competing and prolific voices under one banner. By their last missive, you could hear them peeling away from each other, presaging what they were about to reveal.

Each member had new material waiting in the wings. David J was quick with solo releases, and slung bass for the Jazz Butcher (but that's a different story). Daniel Ash took drummer Kevin Haskins to start Tones on Tail. After an abortive sojourn with Japan's Mick Karn as Dalis Car, Peter Murphy was recording under his own name. Within a couple of years, most of Bauhaus had reconvened as Love and Rockets.

Theirs is a history that's proven hard to outrun. Bauhaus has reunited twice: once in '98 for a tour and again in '06, which yeilded new album. Love and Rockets has broken up and regrouped at least once. Ash and Haskins are back at it, touring as Poptone, performing material from Love and Rockets and Tones on Tail.

While 25 songs can't contain all this history, I tried not to constrain it either. There may be no Bela Lugosi's Dead or So Alive to be found, but I wasn't contrarian about including singles, just avoiding the obvious. It ends where it began, with Peter Murphy performing live, digging deep for a rare b-side off Bauhaus' fist single. 

This is the wild and divergent sound of Bauhaus, not only as they once were, but also what they went on to become.

Bauhaus: St. Vitus Dance
Bauhaus: Kick in the Eye
Bauhaus: Swing the Heartache (BBC session)
Bauhaus: Slice of Life
David J: The Promised Land
Tones on Tail: Rain
Dalis Car: Create and Melt
Love and Rockets: A Private Future
Peter Murphy: Canvas Beauty
Love and Rockets: All in My Mind
Peter Murphy: Crystal Wrists
Love and Rockets: No Big Deal
Daniel Ash: Not So Fast
David J: Fingers in the Grease
Daniel Ash: Roll On
Peter Murphy: Sails Wave Goodbye
Love and Rockets: Body and Soul
Bauhaus: Severance
Peter Murphy: Your Face
David J: In the Great Blue Whenever
Bauhaus: Undone
Peter Murphy: I Spit Roses
David J: Dagger in the Well
Daniel Ash: Too Much Choice
Peter Murphy: Boys (live)

Spore

Scanner, 1995

Robin Rimbaud (aka Scanner) is an electronic artist who rose to notoriety using a loophole in British privacy laws. Building music from pirated cellphone conversations is exactly the type of thing you would come across in the pages of the WIRE, first. I would've too, given enough time (they covered his activity plenty), but the populist techno compilation series, Trance Europe Express beat them to the punch. Even if the eavesdropping puts you off, he'll make a voyeur out of you, with all the overtones that implies—from the lonely loser of Kieslowski's Red to the police state panopticons of 1984. These voices may not say much of anything, but entirely mundane exchanges are supercharged by our knowledge of being an unwelcome listener.

Scanner's first records existed as concrète audio collages—a pastiche of illicit voices and airwave static. It demanded a superior sound sculptor to make them survive repeat listens. Rimbaud eventually inched away from these airwaves dreams. Whether the privacy laws were updated or not, leaning on them for too long would surely devolve into schtick. Spore sits at the cusp of this pivot, merging the still-beating heart of stolen conversations with a dystopian electronica.

Morals and Dogma

Deathprod, 2000

Helge Sten, aka Deathrpod, is far more well known as a member and producer of Supersilent than a solo artist. Even though the core of his ambient output is discussed in hush tones, its remained only intermittently in print. Rune Grammafon re-issued four of them on CD in 2004, and now again on vinyl in 2017.

His ambient spaces are like celestial white noise. There's a hint of the sacred in each track, even if the tonal center is entirely obliterated. The very source of the sound is abstracted. Is Orgone Donor a play on words to impart both sublime airs and also hint at the instrumentation? It may in fact include an organ, but there's also something more tactile amassing as the song goes on; perhaps some bowed strings. The stark presentation—after removing the loose obi strip from the packaging, the entire cover is matte black—leaves the mystery be. The are sounds left to their own beatific allure.

field report no.061217

LOCATION: the Mothlight AVL.NC
SUBJECT: Peter Brötzmann / Heather Leigh duo

OBSERVATIONS:
22 years ago, I came to Chicago from Oregon for school. It ended up being a fortuitous time in Chicago jazz. Ken Vandermark was rallying the troops and the Atavistic label was creating connections with legends of European free jazz by reissuing a pile of classics from the FMP library. inexorably bound up in both parts of this renaissance was Peter Brötzmann, the true saxophone colossus.

The (probably) apocryphal tales of his intensity ill-prepared me for how I was to be excoriated that first night at the Empty Bottle, by the Brötzmann Octet (a precursor to his long-running Chicago Tentet). I've lost count of the times I've seen him live, but the frequency went down once I moved to NYC. When I moved on to Asheville, I didn't even entertain hope. But lo! The jazz barbarian did in fact come to raze our small village on what was speculated as perhaps his last US tour.

Since disbanding the Tentet, Brötzmann's favored small groups—trios and duos mostly. This swing through America was with lap-steel guitarist (and former Charalambide) Heather Leigh. Perhaps the greater jazz community's disregard for Peter Brötzmann's scorched Earth improvisations has made him more willing to reach out beyond jazz's narrow circles for partners. He diverse list of collaborators ranges from Last Exit to Middle Eastern folk musicians. Heather Leigh's history with the ecstatic-improvisation scene seems a readymade fit.

While the pairing is pitch-perfect, times have also changed, and Peter Brötzmann once again defied my expectations (in the best way). The evening was not molten peals, split reeds and broken strings, though I would never call it plaintive. Not to say he no longer has it in him: Brötzmann let loose some frightening cries, but it was not a sustained blitz.

The duo created what could best be described a 'volatile ambience'. Leigh summoned a bed of held and distorted tones, swelling to answer Brötzmann's reeds. Since the lap-steel uses a slide, it gave Leigh ready access to a wealth microtonal dissonances, giving everything a disharmonic edge.

NOTES: Peter Brötzmann / Heather Leigh; Thom Nguyen
PRESENT: AMS

Last Signs of Speed

Music can sometimes benefit from an air of mystery. I've seen Eli Keszler a number of times. He'll string piano wire across large spaces—once in a cathedral-like, open archway under the Manhattan Bridge—then agitate them with animatronic devices at indiscriminate intervals. A full performance features Keszler and other musicians performing alongside these intermittent, metallic rumblings. His installations work better for me than the performances. His drumming can seem one-dimensional: always moving as quickly and lightly as he can around the kit. Half-way through I find myself planning my evening later.

On record, away from the mechanics of it all, it's surprisingly more riveting. Even if I'm well aware of all that's involved, it sounds more mysterious, detached from its human force. Sounds with very real physical origins appear more like musique concrète constructions. 

Last Sings of Speed is a double-LP that rushes by and is on it's jittery way before you realize it. Despite a restrictive palette—just Keszler's insectile percussion playing against a single abstract sound—each track achieves a unique atmosphere. It's not just simultaneity, he's audibly responding to the random sound eruptions around him. He's just duetting with an unpredictable partner. His playing seems to have evolved as well. Many tracks feature lurching stop start quality that gives the music a seasick sway. Last Signs is so engrossing, I'd be tempted to give his live set another chance.

how do i choose?

Once, when going out to brunch, a friend proposed getting an order of waffles for the table, as an appetizer. It provided a novel solution to the constant war of breakfast: the choice between sweet and savory. Unfortunately, her solution was more of an fix for the moment than the problem.

A mad desire to 'have it all' informed my variations to a Cooks' Illustrated granola recipe. For starters I needed to reduce the sugar. As much as I like the idea of candy for breakfast, there's only so much sweet I can consume on a given weekday morning. The solution was to swap out their christmasy cinnamon and vanilla for a mild indian curry and some garam masala. With this heat, I could cut down on the sweet.

½ cup olive (or neutral) oil
⅓ cup maple syrup
⅓ brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbs indian curry powder
1 tsp garam masala
2 cups raw cashew pieces
5 cups rolled oats
2 cups dried currants
1 cup toasted coconut chips (if that's your thing)

easy wins
This is, truly, dead easy to make. First, Preheat the oven to 325˚.

In a large bowl, whisk the maple syrup, brown sugar and oil together. Stir in the salt and spices. Then, with a rubber spatula fold in the nuts and oats. I usually lay the nuts down in a layer over the syrup mix, then add the oats, just so the oats don't soak up the liquid while i'm fussing about. Work it until the oats seem evenly covered.

Pour the whole thing out on to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Use your spatula to smooth out the top and compact the oats down. This way, when it comes out of the oven, it will resemble a big old granola bar. Bake it for 45 minutes or until golden brown, rotating the pan once, half way through. Let it cool for 30 minutes or so. Break your big granola bar into clusters and toss it with the currants and coconut chips. Store in a tupperware in the fridge for 2-3 weeks. Serve frequently with yogurt, milk or ricotta.

easy mistakes
Let's take a moment to learn from some of my mistakes.

  • Unless you have a convection oven, don't forget to rotate the granola half way through baking, or it'll come out half burnt, half parbaked.
  • Don't try substituting the parchment paper with wax paper. No. Really, don't.
  • As an admitted salt-addict, I tried substituting raw cashews with roasted, salted ones. They burnt.
  • For the similar reasons, don't bake the dried fruit, add it in at the end, unless you really like chewing.

field report no.060717

LOCATION: Thomas Wolfe Auditorium AVL.NC
SUBJECT: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

OBSERVATIONS:
Over the years, and especially since the early 90s, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds have honed their skills, evolving into a captivating band for large venues without giving up a very real sense of intimacy. They are playing their music, yes, but they are performing as well. 

That they've endured long enough to grow into this role is stunning. Their origins, stretching back to the Birthday Party, are by no means populist, let alone stadium material. Cave has passed through years of self-inflicted obscurity and even more self-abuse (in the form of drugs). By persevering without compromise, they've now arrived on the other side with with critical acclaim, but also a large and loyal fan base, and a deep well of songs—no small number of which are just awaiting acknowledgement as classics in the canon. 

Their extended set was heavy on recent material: the harrowing Skeleton Tree and the acclaimed Push the Sky Away. They still had plenty of time to touch on crowd favorites from their back catalogue (they had just released a Greatest Hits collection, after all). For the first time, I realized one of his most enduring tracks, the elegiac Into My Arms, was in essence, the best Leonard Cohen song Nick Cave has ever written. It's poetics are unexpected while still managing a sincere and heartfelt sentiment. It's a song sure to be covered often in the future.

As a title, I Need You might seem as plaintive as Into My Arms, but that's a feint. Each verse dwells in a strange key, always feeling out of tune. For a fleeting chorus, the group will rise into beauteous reprieve, only to fall back again. His words revolve in cyclical, maddening mantras. I Need You is pure, confused desperation distilled to song form. Cave's powerful delivery and presence make it impossible to imagine any cover version. I Need You was a singular highlight of the night, even though it's a song I had somewhat passed over when listening to Skeleton Tree.

I've been lucky to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds a few times now. Each has vastly improved upon the last—no mean feat for an artist who's career itself is now middle-aged. While it seemed odd the only show in the Southeastern US on this tour was in Asheville, since I'm both a resident and a fan, I won't challenge such fates. And while I'd love to see the band dig into their back catalogue for dusty gems instead of fan favorites, I'll always be grateful for whatever Saint Nick sees fit to grant us.

NOTES: All Cave
PRESENT: AMS; Angela F.

Kerrier District / Benefist / Stop the Panic / Back on Time

Kerrier District, 2004 / Ace of Clubs, 2007 /
Luke Vibert & BJ Cole 1999 / Plug, (released) 2011

You've got to be a tenacious collector to keep up with Luke Vibert. He cuts at least two records a year, under any number of names. Vibert's savvy enough, all these projects are kept stylistically distinct from each other. In this way I've ended up with 4 records by him without violating my rule of 1-record-per-artist.

With Kerrier District, Vibert digs deep into sweaty disco (along with a with a healthy dose of deep bass). Ace of Clubs is a superlative techno-house stomper. Lap steel player BJ Cole joins Luke to go on a downtempo, easy-listening-inflected excursion. Plug was short-lived haven for Vibert's drum-n-bass excursions (before he went further down the break-wormhole as Amen Andrews). All this and I don't (yet) have an album by his most recognizable nom-de-plume: Wagon Christ.

Luke Vibert is no simple beat tourist, trying on different hats. He's a skilled craftsman who innately understands what differentiates one genre from another, and can evoke any given style without leaning on its most obvious tropes. A talent that lets these four albums sound unique, while each is unmistakably the work of one mind.

While Kerrier District and Benefist are more oriented to your feet, the shocker is Back on Time, which ends up almost as laconic as Stop the Panic. Supposedly, the Plug album was recorded back in the mid-90s and sat unreleased for almost 15 years. All the elements Vibert grafts atop his jittery drum-n-bass framework have a swing that feels downright breezy. It makes an interesting companion-piece to the the exotica-tinged album with BJ Cole.