"It's such a fine line between clever and stupid."
- Derek Smalls
"It's such a fine line between hot and unsellable." - Howie Stelzer
NERVE NET NOISE - Meteor Circuit
Lester Bangs, writing about "Metal Machine Music" in the ‘70s, noted that "never in the history of music has an album had such a polarized reaction…" Japan’s Nerve Net Noise climbs to a similarly exalted rung with their fifth album, "Meteor Circuit." I’ve talked to a lot of people who own this record, and seen lots of reviews, and it’s official: you either LOVE this record and want to hug Tagomago and that other guy, or you want to take a hacksaw to their frontal lobe. With a beauty and economy of prose usually reserved for haiku, the Italian E-zine BlowUp said of this record: "Despite a glowing review from Greg Kelley, this record is nothing more than a big, shitty fraud." Magnificently written though it is, it’s about as accurate as saying that "Here Come The Warm Jets" is just trying to be weird to impress chicks.
Like Emil Beaulieau, NNN know how to ride a noise groove. When they hit something they like, they don’t tinker…they just let it run. When they get something they like, on goes the record button. It’s noise, but it’s very austere and very repetitive. I’ve been saying for years that I hate loops and I hate drone music, but neither of these statements are true. What I mean to say is, if you’re going to do one thing for anywhere from lots of minutes to over an hour, that one thing better be the sound of the universe splitting into quarters and then juicing itself on the Ronco Juicinator of Heaven (i.e. really engaging). Ashtray Navigations transcends drone music because his root sounds are engaging and don’t sound at all "preset" or played out. And NNN (and Emil Beaulieau for that matter) transcend the idea of noise as tape loops (or record skips or rewired electronics) by making the thing being repeated totally fucking essential. This is their "dance music" record (yeah right!), so there’s at least a pulse, if not always consistent rhythms. Track four has this very tightly wound squeaking sound that goes higher and higher, then drops back again, very slowly, over nine minutes. It’s completely engrossing. Like that Zen koan John Cage made famous: "If something is boring for two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, try it for eight, then for sixteen minutes, then thirty-two. Soon, you’ll find out it isn’t boring at all, but very, very interesting." Except that this is interesting at one minute, engrossing at 5, and the only thing happening in the world at eight.
Track 5 plays this out perfectly. Eighteen minutes of what sounds like some sort of newfangled adding machine going completely berzerk while unattended, it’s the sound of digital information being downloaded with no restraining wall. I hear billions of numbers coming down like rain in very measured bursts. It also resembles a grindcore-speed guitar solo in parts. By the time minute nine rolls around, and a significant change is made to the music (must’ve bumped a filter pedal or something), you almost feel gypped. "Hey! Put that back! I WAS JUST GETTING INTO IT!"
"Meteor Circuit" is not without humor either. Track 3 (all tracks titles except for the last one, which is called "Long Mail To Boston," are just the same number as their place on the CD) always cracks me up. If you’re familiar with the Boston noise artist Donna Parker, you may have downloaded her track "A Merry Chase." She says it sounds like a small child running away from someone trying to beat the crap out of it. For some reason, I think the same thing about this Nerve Net Noise track, except it sounds like a child running away from a punishing grownup, only to bump into a door or wall every five seconds, fall down, get back up, and start running again. Like noise Keystone Cops it is! Then the li’ll rug rat speeds up. Then get gets confused and slows down again. For minutes on end this chase continues.
I’ll be frank…this CD might really only be for real sickos. I have yet to play this for many of my friends, and I can’t think of too man who I could play it for who’d dance around the room to it like I do. However, if you’ve felt for years that noise needs to find a way to grow a sense of humor without having to be zany, or if you really like lock grooves and other things that go on and on, or if even if you dig stuff like Ryoji Ikeda but still laugh at jokes, please, please, please, give this record a try.
LOREN BOYER - Des Parasites Risquent de se Produire
Is this still really the only Loren Boyer CD on the market? That’s strange to me, cuz this disc is such a little beauty, one of those things you think would be the biggest thing since Frith’s "Guitar Solos," but no, it sits in wait at Intransitive HQ, hoping for the name recognition (apparently liner notes by Davy Williams aren't enough!) that will force Forced Exposure completists to click "add to cart."
Each and every second of this is crucial, so I’m-a give you a play-by-play:
Track 1. Great thunderous pianoguitar – child squeaking on whiny swings backstage. Drums created by tapping on the mic. The toys squeak…best use of not strictly musical instruments since Sharrock’s slide whistle on the "Monkey Pocky Boo" record!
Track 2. Fidelity AND conception bring to mind ‘60s concrete & electronics. Dings ping’d from electric Coke bottles. Guitar tones present here, country hammer-ons. Derek Bailey sez OK. Rolling glass bottle acoustics, like the first Tart record ("Radio Orange," GET IT!). GREAT sense of composition, and the found music at the end is just a bonus.
Track 3. Percussion briefly induces free jazz, but a stuttery drone vetos. Sick turntablism…Joke Lanz sez OK.
Track 4. Elklink-isms. Very Dockstader-y, like track 2. Tod and Graham Lambert arm wrestle for influence. Voice sounds utilized better than in most "academic" voice poetry found on Alga Marghen. Although not a full-on keeper like the previous three tracks, this sick little track is a must to keep the flow of the album going in the right direction.
Track 5. Opening drone cleanses palette (a la Whitehouse’s "Movement 2000" on Cruise), becomes more subtle as it goes, but not much. Simple construction, exquisite construction. More obvious guitar tone comes forward, almost a fanfare…ta daaaa! This track goes from short to too long to not long enough around the 12th minute.
Track 6. A quick stab in…and back out again! It’s almost too obvious to go from 12 minutes to less than a minute, but whaddya gonna do?
Track 7. More great concerete sound…clock, chimes, reverb, all the scary clock shops of your ‘70s Brian DePalma nightmares. Take your hands from your eyes, you know you love it.
Track 8. The brief snippets of radio from the time when my alarm goes off to the time when I hit the snooze in the past year, all edited together. Apprently I wake up to the BBC, though…I didn’t realize this. ‘cello and guitar…VERY deep manipulations over Frith chimes (at midnight). Feel like I should turn out the lights for this one…the la brea tar pits monster is out to get me!
Final prognosis: The atmosphere is like a small, enclosed space…very dark and small but warm and accommodating. Imagine waking up in a tent on Saturday morning, and it’s raining outside. The tent is dry, though and you’re in your sleeping bag. You realize you won’t be going anywhere for a while.
If you file your collection by atmospheres (you never know), you could file this alongside Ashtray Navigations, Biota, A Warm Palindrome, all blues before the era of portable cassette recorders, Tangerine Dream audience bootlegs, ‘50s and ‘60s musique concrete, and Fred Frith’s "Guitar Solos."
GREG KELLEY, TATSUYA NAKATANI, CURT NEWTON - Field Recordings, Volume One: The Birthday
I know that Howie Stelzer, the head of Intransitive Records, doesn’t consider this a "free jazz" recording. It’s "Music for trumpet, percussion, house P.A., Auto Gain Mic, Audience and Television." Just like Lou Reed’s "Take No Prisoners" is music for guitar, smartass, lackadaisical backup band, drunk audience and satire.
Whatever you want to call this, it’s two percussionists, the horny horn of Greg Kelly, and a sharply divided (and vocal) audience, and a recording setup that can only be described as "uncoordinated." The overamped setup leads to a lot of skuzzy sounding moments that give the percussion sections a ‘40s movie "traveling through the jungle" sound. Like we’re headed to Tangiers via the long and plot-lengthening way.
Kelly recreates a pack of horses whinnying by, before the rambunctious audience blows their cover and starts mumbling or cheering. The extreme volume and pressure of the event doesn’t allow Kelly the luxury of doing his quiet "trumpet that doesn’t sound like a trumpet" sounds like he does in nmperign…he even lays down some ’70 Miles Davis yelps now and again! And I'm guessing Nakatani's howls at the start of track two were a big hit among the "tavern" crowd gathered that evening.
Granted, Howie is right…the weird mix and the extraneous elements do abstract this a bit more than your average free jazz jam, but this is still mostly about two sets of drums and a man with a horn, and all the business they need to discuss in front of a live audience. Much better by far than the last 723 shows at the Knitting Factory.
||LIONEL MARCHETTI - Knud Un Nom du Serpent (Le Cercle des Entrailles)|
||GAL - Relisten|
||V/A - Variious 2CD|
||M. BEHRENS - Elapsed Time|
||THE AMAZING MR. SLUG - s/t 7"|
||NMPERIGN & JASON LESCALLEET - In Which the Silent Partner-Director Can No Longer Make His Point With the Industrial Dreamer...|
||tac + HOWARD STELZER - Object|