by Daevid Brock
No, this is not some fancy schmancy reissue of Eskimo. ‘Revisited’ means I have given this classic a fresh spin after not hearing it for many years. I discovered The Residents in the early 80s when I spotted Fred Frith’s name on the back of the Commercial Album. It was their latest at the time, and after a couple spins I quickly scooped up the previous albums. The Residents were not only creating music like I had never heard before, but each album had its own identity. And the bands’ backstory schtick and eyeballed mystery surrounding their identity made them so much fun. I loved those early albums, but Eskimo would come to play a special role in the lifestyle I was living at the time.
Released in 1979, The Residents sought to… I’ll quote: “Recreate not only the Eskimo ceremonial music, but also a living context for its existence, in the form of Eskimo stories”. There’s more but that’s the nub of it. And, of course, this was all done with a singularly unique Residents spin on the idea. There are five titled tracks, but I have always experienced the album as one continuous piece.
The windswept opening, with its chants, hypnotic horn, and water splashing against the shore, makes me feel like I’m right there in the frozen tundra among the natives. When drums are introduced, they combine with the chants to create a reverent feel. Wistfully dreamy synth melodies are the song of the Eskimo, representing their lives and tales amidst hoots, cries, grunts, squalls, Eskimo language narrative and conversation, and more. A stringed instrument plucks a simple melody as the Eskimo minstrel sing- chants his song. The atmosphere is harshly cold and windy throughout, and the sense of isolation is palpable… all part and parcel of the severe environment the Eskimos live in.
The Residents did a magnificent job with the voices and chants, which are, in a way, the stars of the show. The percussion is impressive too. The Residents accomplished a lot with mostly voice, percussion, and effects, with the synths/keys playing a supporting role. The last several minutes of the album are the most purely ‘musical’ and it’s lovely.
I discovered The Residents at a time when I was working 80+ hours a week in restaurants, and I did this with few days off for about three years. My schedule shifted dramatically between days and nights and overlapping days and nights. Evenings meant getting off work around 5am, and when I got home the feeling of being completely exhausted yet still wound up made it difficult to get to sleep. My bed was a mattress on the floor and my stereo and speakers were on the floor at the foot of the bed. Many a night I would put on Eskimo when I went to bed because for me it was like New Age music (‘New Age’ being a trendy genre of music at the time). Eskimo lulled and relaxed me, and most of the time I thankfully managed to drift off before whichever side I was playing was over.
A roommate who worked in the same restaurants had a hammock over his bed. He would lie in it playing an album titled Wood Masted Sailboat, which consisted of a boat bumping against a dock in gently splashing water, over two sides of the LP. One day I handed him Eskimo and suggested he give it a try. 15 minutes later he brought it back with a ‘You gotta be kidding’ smirk on his face. In 2021 I find this album as fresh and exciting as I did 40 years ago.
by Daevid Brock
This is a new C60 split cassette from two Dayton, Ohio bands. Side A features Smiffmaff & The Salesmen, who come crashing out of the starting gate with a glom of noise and rapid-fire pulsations. But this is the briefest of intros, as they quickly settle into an oddly ambient blend of ruminating guitar, saxophone, atmospherics and effects. It’s got a calmly exploratory jazz vibe, but it’s also noisily edgy and the effects add a nice weirdness. After a brief static-drone interlude we’re treated to some tastefully melodic guitar, that is offset by fuzzed up angst from a second guitar, plus disorienting looped weirdness. The music trips along in lightly noisy La-La Land before hurtling into a rocking segment with some seriously anguished and efx’d vocals. I love how these guys are constantly seesawing between high intensity and edgily peaceful passages. Parts of this sound like Neil Young & Crazy Horse in experimental-punk mode and jamming with Anthony Braxton and Merzbow. Really cool stuff that mish-mashes a freakish variety of influences. I’ve got an LP by these guys too.
Side B consists of three tracks from Living Room. In short order they manage to smear a cacophonous mélange of noise assault, hyper-kinetic speed-punk, runaway windmilling effects, and electronic blasts. There’s no danger of being bored by these guys because they are constantly twisting and dead-man’s-curve turning on a dime. I got a kick out of the repetitive segment with a crazed rhythmic pulse, screaming, electronics, and a voice saying “This isn’t music” over and over. Parts sound like screechy noisy doom metal. Others sound like a tape collage version of Henry Cow at their most avant-garde. Another part brought to mind a noisier take on The Residents’ ‘Satisfaction’ cover (yeah, even noisier than that!). Overall, it’s an impressive and good fun blend of experimental collage, creative use of noise, wigged out electronics, and punk/free-jazz. Seat belts required.
The tape and stream/download are available at the Living Room Bandcamp site:
Smiffmaff & The Salesmen have a Bandcamp site too: https://smiffmaff.bandcamp.com/
by Daevid Brock
On October 28, the late Doug ‘Dr Synth’ Walker would have turned 68. In honor of his birthday and memory, I selected a tape to revisit from the massive Alien Planetscapes catalog. I wanted a set that showcased them in one of the ‘big band’ formats, so chose Radio Special Volume X, released in 1993 by Carl Howard’s audiofile Tapes label. Typical of the membership roller coaster that characterized/plagued Alien Planetscapes throughout its history, these two CBGB shows feature somewhat different personnel that were dramatically different in terms of instrumentation.
Side A features a humongous 8-piece band performing on December 20, 1992: Doug on synthesizers, sequencers and flute, Ernest Boyd on drums, Kevin Mapplebeck on guitar, Louis Boone on synths, LG Mair on bass, Valleri Popov on tenor saxophone, Darryl Little on alto saxophone, and Jon Cordes on violin, mandolin, and synth.
After an extended intro, the band launch into a free-wheeling blend of space rock and free-jazz. The saxophones wail, the flute sails, and the band rocks, cranking out high powered noisy, cosmic, space-jazz. I love the parts with dual blazing horns and ripping Robert Fripp styled guitar licks, sounding like Ornette Coleman and King Crimson hijacking Hawkwind’s Space Ritual. At other times the band sound like a blend of Soft Machine and Gong. These guys are tight as a knot and occupied a truly unique spot on the space/jazz/progressive axis, weaving in and out of hard rocking free-jazz and cosmically trippy passages. This is full band Alien Planetscapes at their very best.
Recorded five months earlier on July 21, the Side B performance is a 6-piece with Doug, Ernest Boyd, Kevin Mapplebeck, Louis Boone, Reginald Taylor on bass, and Mitch Markowitz on guitar.
Minus the saxophones and violin, this is a more purely space rocking performance, though with an Alien Planetscapes prog-jazz aesthetic that makes for some intricately interesting jams. The synths and electronics are more front and center, keeping the vibe firmly in space, as the guitars and rhythm section at times go molten volcanic tightly wound caustic ROCK. The second song opens with beautifully ethereal flute, soon launching into a steadily rolling deep space jazz-prog instrumental, with plenty of acidic noisy bits to keep the mood both lusciously melodic and tastefully edgy. This segues smoothly into a deliriously wailing multi-layered keyboard/synth led rocking assault, accompanied by stinging and swirling guitar licks. But there are also peacefully ethereal passages, making for a varied set of high-octane space rock and meditative bliss.
Happy Birthday Doug, wherever you are!!!
by Daevid Brock
Various Artists – Personal Space: Electronic Soul 1974-1984
This 2-LP set compiles American artists who saw opportunity in the proliferation of affordable recording equipment, synthesizers, and drum machines, to create impressive and wonderfully eccentric soul/funk/disco. These artists were not ‘homemade’ in the cassette culture networking sense. They released vinyl singles and LPs on their own homegrown or tiny regional labels, sought wider distribution, acclaim, and most likely record company attention. Nevertheless, this is a fun compilation that is chock full of cool and strange songs and is brimming with homemade charm. Here is a tour of the set. Oh yes, there will be drum machines…
Remember those old Wurlitzer stores in the malls with the cheesiest sounding music? Jeff Phelps’ ‘Excerpts From Autumn’ instrumental sounds like one of the demonstrators from those stores, but someone who really knows how to use it and takes it into soulful space. Phelps gets a second entry with ‘Super Lady’, which uses the same instrumentation, though it’s more intricately arranged and includes vocals.
Guitar Red’s ‘Disco From A Space Show’ is propelled by a tap-tap-tap-tap metronomic beat, wildly swirling synth lines, and a cool grooving space-soul vibe.
Jerry (J.G.) Green’s ‘I Finally Found The Love I Need’ sounds like it was recorded in the bathroom, and is characteristic of some of the 70s most almost-hit pop-soul tunes.
The lyrics on Key & Cleary’s ‘A Man’ is brimming with Black/civic pride, has a beautiful rhythm guitar pulse and fidgety electronic drums.
I love the darkly tense but cool grooving vibe and crafty use of dissonance and effects on Spontaneous Overthrow’s ‘All About Money’.
Cotillion’s ‘If You Give A Dance’ is pure soul for the disco dancefloor. Think K.C. and the Sunshine Band for the Motown crowd.
USAries’ ‘Are You Ready To Come? (With Me) Pt. 1 (and later in the set Pt. 2)’ is Sex-eeeeeee! It lays down a lazy strolling funk-blues vibe, sounding like The Temptations singing to the Shaft theme. Really good vocals and harmonies on this one.
Johnnie Walker was one half of the duo that comprised USAries, and his ‘Love Vibrator’ is a bouncy funk- soul instrumental. (With a title like ‘Love Vibrator’, I’m surprised there were no lyrics.)
‘Don’t Challenge Me’ by Makers is passionately sensual, with excellent vocals and carried along by a cheesy drum machine beat and Casio-ish keys. Regardless, the arrangements and sound are pretty darn good.
T. Dyson and Company’s ‘It’s All Over’ is a great mixture of disco and soul, with a cool variety of synths and keys, and more really good vocals and lyrics. I love the combination of spacey synths and jazzy ivory tickling keys.
Starship Commander Woo Woo’s entry is ‘Master Ship (excerpt)’, and the music is just as freaked out as the band name and song title. The orchestral keys are from the most celestial regions of space and the song is colored by effects galore. This is an oddball entry on this set, being more 80s space-age, experimental synth-pop than funk/soul/disco.
Deborah Washington & the Astros’ ‘Shortest Lady’ relies heavily on its mundane drum machine, but everything else about it is strangely interesting. The female lead vocals are saucy, the male backing growls are creepy, there’s a spacey edge to the song, and I love the over-the-top cheesy funk pulse.
Steve Elliott’s ‘One More Time’ is a fairly straightforward 70s styled sexy soul love song. It’s a got a nice flute solo, good lead and backing vocal arrangements, and spacey synths.
The New Year’s ‘My Bleeding Wound’ is one of the most cool and strange experimental tracks of the set. The music is dominated by a repetitive stinging guitar pattern, later joined by a minimal bass riff. And leading the way are outrageously spaced out James Brown-ish vocals.
Otis G. Johnson’s ‘Time To Go Home’ sounds like it was recorded with a shoebox cassette recorder, but it’s a beautifully heartfelt religious song with a nice melody.
Personal Space was released in 2012 by Chocolate Industries. I couldn’t find any info on the label but it was distributed by The Numero Group, who have been releasing/distributing the most esoteric of reissues/compilations for years. The songs on this set are all over YouTube.
by Rafael González
Thanks to Hal McGee I have had the privilege of hearing a preview of "Selected Sound Works (1981-2021)" by Joseph Nechvatal, which is released in cassette format by Pentiments Records and also available digitally on the label's Bandcamp page.
What did I find in "Selected Sound Works (1981-2021)"? Something really very inspiring and very precious to me!
Joseph Nechvatal is an American artist known among other things for being the co-founder, in 1983, of the avant-garde electronic art music audio project Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine. I greatly regret having never previously heard any of his sound works because of the enormous surprise and pleasure that I have experienced after listening to his sound creations contained in this wide-ranging collection, which includes complete pieces and excerpts of works from the 80's to the present time: live radio mixes, musique concrète, synthesizer and guitar noiseworks, plunderphonics and cut-ups, excerpts from cassette releases, simulated audio viral attacks, tape and computer manipulations, radio plays, and much more.
Many of the readers and friends of Electronic Cottage tend to nostalgia for cassettes, analog instruments and other old gadgets. At least this is my tendency sometimes because all of those lovely things of the past are still very funny and they provide beautiful aesthetic experiences. Listening to Nechvatal's recent works contained in this collection I have had the same pleasure and enjoyment as I might have felt in the 80's or 90's, and listening to his works of those earlier times gave me the feeling that they could have been made yesterday. Because the theme, the substrate remains today. Perhaps the very good remastering of the old pieces has helped to get this feeling, but I haven't had the feeling of listening to a relic. Now all that flow of pop music, noise, news, interference and announcements reaches us via digital, in much greater quantity, it is true, but it doesn't make much difference. If in his early works he used tapes, vinyl, radio and guitars… and in more recent times he uses software, digital information and computer viruses, the conceptual idea underlying the tracks compiled in this release is the same, in my opinion.
It is also very interesting to pay good attention to Joseph Nechvatal's visual works, since they keep a strong interrelation with his sound production, as we can also perceive in the cover of the release of which I am making this small review.
The best summary I can give of what you will hear on this cassette or in its digital edition is … Warning to lovers of cut-ups, no wave, sound collages, musique concrète, radio art, sound poetry and digital noise... you're going to love this release!
by Daevid Brock
rADio eND is the work of Ed End, an artist who is new to me, but comes by way of my old friend Charles Rice Goff III, home recording veteran and ship commander of the Taped Rugs Productions label. For Salvator Salvandus, Charles took Ed’s source material and modified it, blended in his own original recordings, plus assorted mutational fun.
‘Salvator Salvandus Alpha’ opens the set with spacey swirls, heavenly washes, and cascading bell/chime effects, all propelled by a rickety washboard kind of rhythm. In the last couple minutes, the rhythm recedes, and we float to the finale on waves of high-octane space-scapes and a jaunty cosmic toy piano sounding beat.
‘Inner Transmission’ is next and…. really interesting rhythmic work on this album. There’s a strange kind of electronic ‘drumming’ and wavering drone pulse that drives the action, and it’s surrounded by a succession of intensely delirious, spaced out sound waves. In the last minutes there’s a thematic shift as we come in for a landing with a brief angelic chorus, followed by a multi-layered glom of electronic space rocking, hippety-hoppety vibes.
‘Etheric Body’ sounds like a blend of cosmic choir, SETI alien transmissions, throbbing martial beats, and battalions of insect saucers revving their engines. Later in the track things quiet and a voice says…. “The squirrel’s granary is full!” (At least that’s what it sounds like??), and we’re now buzzing around in an eerily ambient yet head-spinning spiral of sound.
I like the combination of clattering bells and machine-like soundscape waves that open ‘Aether Particles’, before settling into a gently intense, ambient roar (with an electrode charged robot voice interlude). At nearly 12 minutes the piece gradually evolves, including traces of Berlin school electronica, various interestingly concocted rhythmic bits, garbles of voice samples, and much more.
‘luva Te, luvabit Te Caelum’ is a grinding and clattering rhythmic rant, the harsh vibe offset by playful horns, effects and voice samples.
Finally, the 10+ minute ‘Salvator Salvandus Omega’ closes the set in deep meditative space, sailing through a cosmos inhabited by spectral beings, alien transmissions, whimsical melodies, and colored throughout by a parade of freaky effects.
I’ve probably listened to this gem a half dozen already. LOTS to discover and digest over repeated listens!
Free download with detailed album notes
Contact through, but also spend time at the Taped Rugs Productions web site
For an index of nearly 300 original audio recordings available at the Internet Archive, produced by or co-produced by Taped Rugs Productions, go here:
by Hal McGee
As part of our ongoing exchange of art items through the postal mail, Heather Chessman and Roger Smith sent to me a CD copy of their recent release on the Besperech`label (Russia), Deep as a depthless pond. JUICE MACHINE break out into new territory on this release, foregrounding field recordings of natural sounds, with their minimal electronics serving as a backdrop. I was a little surprised by this strategy, but it works well and the results are pleasing. There are no doubt hundreds of albums that utilize a similar approach, but this kept my attention throughout its three tracks totaling 64 minutes. I found this audio art to be as suitable for active, attentive listening as for letting it melt into the background as I did chores and straightened up my apartment. The electronics and natural sounds blend together so well that it is difficult to tell the difference. Some of this does get very intense, and I love all of the details that keep my mind busy. It sounds GREAT on headphones!
I really do not want to say much more, because my job as a reviewer is to point you toward recordings that I find interesting that you might find interesting too. You should listen to Deep as a depthless pond yourself and make it an experience of your own, and you can do so on the Besperech`page on Bandcamp, as well as purchase a download. You can also order a copy of the gorgeous four-panel digipak CD for €10. I love the look of my copy so much that I affixed it to my mail art wall along with all of the other awesome visual art that I have received in recent months.
Please also visit Heather and Roger's JUICE MACHINE page on Bandcamp where you will find 37 of their albums of no-input feedback and minimal electronics. They have a new release, charnel ground, which is available as a C-90 cassette and download. It's all about audio adventure and going places with the sounds.
As I followed many of these labels I would often take a chance on some of these new offerings that were perhaps outside my musical vocabulary. One of those releases I recall quite well was Soft Punk by John Wiese on Troubleman Unlimited (a label I knew for releasing albums from emo mainstays Rye Coalition to mathy hardcore by Hal Al Shedad). It was very foreign to me and most likely irritating upon first listen, but I returned to it years later and now have a great affection for the album (easily in my top 5 noise records). Since rediscovering that album I’ve been a follower of John Wiese’s. That said, his noisecore project Sissy Spacek is one that I have less familiarity with. Not that is dislike the work, but sometimes you get so overloaded with music to listen to that bands on your “list” (yes, don’t we all have lists) fall by the wayside.
Recently, Wiese contacted me wanting to hook up a trade for a Cheek Biting/Haters split tape I released. Of course I was game. I requested a more recent release by Sissy Spacek, because the only release I owned of theirs was Scissors which was released early 2000’s. He obliged and days later I had a package containing Sissy Spacek’s Blear C30 on Tape Room Recordings (I’m assuming Wiese’s own imprint since they predominantly release Sissy Spacek recordings) and a bunch of postcards. The postcards were of the promotional variety, but still a neat bonus to receive.
The tape opens with “Things Take Time” and right out the gate we are greeted to a mass of blown out instrumentation. It’s a cacophonous mess of noisecore goodness. There’s really no need to dissect what’s being played or what instruments are used. All you need to know is that it’s a big garbled mess and I mean that in the best possible way.
Next up we have “Gang Reduction”. A departure from the opening blur-core chaos, this track features lots of junk metal clang, bang and destruction. I also hear the sounds of shattering glass and other debris crashing in a seemingly unending downpour. Truth be told, I love shit like this. I once recorded 20 minutes of crushing glass inside of a metal ammo container and It was probably one of my favorite things I’ve ever recorded. This is right up my alley.
“Up a Tree” offers a more subtle take on the previous track. There’s lots of minimal rumbles, digital artifacts and some weird random sounds. I notice some manipulated junk metal rumbles, along with elongated animal sounding growls. My mind conjures images of an enormous steampunk robot moving and barreling forward. I hear the sounds of shifting metal, a reverberating hull, grinding gears….all moving at a glacial pace. Of course, I just watched Ninja Batman last night which takes place in feudal Japan and features a bunch of castles transforming into gigantic hulking robots, so that could be influencing my take on these sounds.
On to side B…
The opening track “Garbage Matte” sounds like a continuation of the final track on side A, which is great because I’m loving this stuff. Footsteps, scraping metal, with some ambient dread in the background. It could very well be field recordings of an active construction site. I guess this could be categorized as musique concrète, but I’m terrible with labeling sounds. Supposedly there is a second track on this side called “Tear Go By”, but I hardly noticed it. That’s not a criticism. I guess the first track segued so well into the next (being a similar sounding) that I didn’t recognize it as another track. That said, I really enjoyed the sounds so I’m not disappointed in the slightest that there isn’t a clear line of demarcation between the pieces.
I completely loved this tape through and through. I haven’t heard enough of Sissy Spacek’s back catalog to comment if this is what they typically sound like. I was half expecting this to be wall to wall blur-core, which I would’ve been fine with, but I also appreciate having my expectations dashed. That said I expect to be investigating more of their back catalog post haste.
Various Artists – “Le-Ultra Live Series Vol. One”
(Liquid Electric Recordings 2018, Cassette)
Review by Jerry Kranitz
The Le-Ultra Live Series Vol. One compilation was recorded live on various dates in Columbus, Ohio from 2014-2018. We’ve got contributions from eight bands, there’s zero contact information, it has some of the shittiest bootleg sound quality I’ve ever heard, and I like it so much I’ve listened to it about a half dozen times so far.
Blood Noize is the only band on the comp I was already familiar with. They get the most space with five tracks, featuring their gutbucket brand of raunchy punk-metal punctuated by oddball pulses and tones. This is pretty thrashy but elusively complex stuff, with interesting rhythmic gymnastics and the guitar
engaging in noisy yet sound exploratory fun. Seriously intense stuff. They’ve got several releases available on their Bandcamp page.
The Unholy Two are a standout, with both their contributions cranking out brain crushing, punk-noise- psychedelic rock. On their first song (“OKC1995”) they lay down a minimalist assault on the senses noise rocking groove and color it with screechy wailing acid mind-fucked freakout guitars. And the second
(“Untitled”) track is similar and a good example of seriously art damaged your-brain- on-drugs psychedelia.
American Jobs are one of my favorites of the set, with both their songs characterized by a punk- industrial-goth- jazz flavor. They’ve got a damn good expressive singer and a cool eerie lounge jazz vibe. Check out their Bandcamp page.
Pink Reason is another highlight, playing good old nasty garage punk with bits of the Stooges and dashes of NY Dolls. Lots of fun noisy thrashy psychy rock ‘n’ roll with damn cool guitars across their three songs.
Gamma World has a powerful Joy Division edge on their songs “Something Hidden” and “Detergent Suicide”. “Chemtrails” is similar but adds a fun rocking punk-a-billy feel with an off-kilter dancefloor rhythmic pulse.
Will Foster is two guys exchanging a spoken word rant titled “Judgement Day”. I hear a sax in the background which may or may not be backing these loons.
Giant Claw is another one of my favorites and the most stylistically different artist in the set. It’s the solo project of Columbus based Keith Rankin. His sole track is a very interesting and varied electronic percussion driven workout with lo-fi proggy keys. LOTS of music on his Bandcamp page which I’ll be exploring further.
Torgo’s contribution is a clever finale to this cool compilation. Titled “Excerpt/Decay”, it begins with barely ten seconds of noise-thrash, which may be the end of a song (presumably the “Excerpt”), followed by a fading screech-fest that must be the “Decay”.
I bought this cassette at my favorite local Columbus record store, Lost Weekend Records. Googling the title and Liquid Electric Recordings labeled revealed nothing other than a discogs.com entry. I went back to the store and asked the owner about it and was told the guy (Chuck Fuck) just drops off cassettes from time to time. I bought the last two copies he had so email me if anyone is intrigued and wants to trade.
Review by Hal Harmon
Another week and another new zine finds its way to my mailbox. In my last review, for Raw Analog, I professed my deep affection for music photo zines. This week that love affair is reaffirmed by another photo zine to satisfy my sweet tooth. Low Level Input by Shea Hardacre presents 20 pages of black & white photography from shows around Chicago. Unsurprisingly, the zine is published by No Coast No Hope, one of the premiere labels documenting harsh noise and scum electronics in and around the Midwest. NCNH started out as a tape label, releasing Hardacre’s own power electronics project Clotting, but has increasingly gotten more into zine publication. On display in Low Level Input are some of the heavy-hitters of the genre, including: Richard Ramirez, Gnawed, The Rita, Developer, Deterge, Plague Mother and many other sonic filth peddlers.
The publisher notes the minimal effort put toward design and composition, but I think it is a fine effort all around. Many of the photos lack staging or are cloaked in shadows, but I never felt that it detracted from the energy of the performers or the copious amounts of gear porn on display. Adding to the lo-fi flavor is the fact that the photography was all taken using a disposable camera. The final page has each artist listed in order of appearance. Copies are still available along with other artistic endeavors from Hardacre at No Coast No Hope.