Thursday, January 07, 2010

2010: The Year We Make Contact

Sunn 0))) - Arrrggghhh!!

And so it is, my first blog for the year after a longish hiatus since I didn't really have much to write about since I wasted a hell of a lot of time cucking around on that Facebook thing trying to improve my popularity and fame and contribution to the world of aesthetics and other ephermamamia.

So in the past few days of this new year, I have been filling my void with much music of a droney/satanic/spacious variety, mainly due to the fact that I have been driving around in my car listening to long passages of noise and drone to fill the blanks. Starting off with SUNN 0))). Now this curiosity in this psychedelic metal stuff was piqued earlier in 2009 after witnessing the legendary Seattle grungers the MELVINS - a glorious cacophony of expertly wielded and intensely heavy, PUNK informed metal, as most of the best metal is. I never really got into the Melvins, I found them too bogan and one-dimensional for my sensitive tastes, but then I essentially go for the psychedelic/subtle movements in music, often revelations in art come to me unexpectedly rather than furiously mining for the new and fresh. So I downloaded some of the Melvins records and realised why I never got into them in the first place, the records all sound pretty one-dimensional and obvious, much like 98.999999789% of heavy-metal-grunge-punk stuff. Earlier this year, and as reported on this blog, I was blown away by Jim Jarmusch's latest Zen mind-bender movie THE LIMITS OF CONTROL. In that film, as in most of Jarmusch's work, his cinematic experience is informed by left-filed and experimental musics. Jarmusch often mines a classic hipster 70s stylee music field, concentrating on exotic and transcendental rock stylings, from 50s rock n roll to Neil Young psychedelics. Early in the 00s he collaborated with the WuTang's GZA for the soundtrack to his cool GHOST DOG fillum a seamless collaboration as GZA's droney triphop stylings met comfortably with Jarmusch's offbeat visions. Anyway, in LOC Jarmusch's has mined the psych-metal drone scene with music from the likes of Sunn0))), Boris and Texan shoegazers the Black Angels. I imagined these drone-metal groups to be kinda like Black Sabbath, and alas that is what they are, albeit with a more updated flavour that borrows heavily from New York art-minimalist composers like early John Cale, Tony Conrad and the intense trance drone of LaMonte Young (I was fortunate enough to sit in Young's 'dreamhouse' for about 40 minutes last year, imagine the sounds of a 50s sci-fi UFO blasted full bore through 4x4 rock speakers in a yoga practice/techno raveparty chillout room!)..Another band featured in LOC is OM, who I saw last year in Brooklyn, and whilst at the time wasn't totally blown away by their bass/drums harmonia, I was compelled enough to purchase their album Pilgramage, which has grown on me via my 'in car' listening ventures. The thing I'm finding interesting in these drone-doom bands is their investment into ancient Gnostic Middle Eastern /European religious thought and poetry. OM are Greek-Americans, and are probably the most rocking Greeks on the planet this side of J.Mascis, Vangelis and Jimmy Sfetsos. So the OM crew like to mumble about 'godheads', 'Lazarus', and blokes with crazy beards that wear black and still look Old Testament-like. Sunn 0))) I dunno what their religious/satanic affiliations are besides probably shooting heroin with fat hillbillies from Seattle. Their MONOLITHS&DIMENSIONS record come packaged in this nice slipcase. I was also interested to find that Aussie noise-legend Oren Ambarchi is a member of their nebulous collective. Opening bulldozer 'Aghartha' kicks off proceedings with a deliciously thick sound of an over-distorted guitar, so perfectly overdriven that it's almost like they are reminding you what was so exciting and terrifying about the sounds of an over-distorted electric guitar in the first place! These guys revel in the sound of an over-distorted guitar chord, and apparently their live concerts are the things of modern psychedelic-rock legend. It seems quite clear why Jarmusch used these guys, their sound isn't that far removed from Neil Young's 'live rust' and more pertinently WELD explorations. But that's where things stop. Sunn 0))) as I mentioned previously are informed by experimental sound-scapes, and I'd also throw in the crazy-junky hoity-toity New York art expermenta of Diamanda Galas and even the Swans. But where I hated the inbuilt nihilism of those 80s artists, these guys keep things kinda 'warm'. The grand-canyon guitars segue into some Eastern-European Vlad-the-Impaler lunatic grepsing in the lowest most evil sounding growl this side of Darth Vader. The lyrics are strange and expansive, singing about exploding universes and apocalyptic battles for chaotic reform ??? Yeah maybe I'm losing it! They sound like a death-metal band on 33. But then they throw in these Biblical choirs and MetalMachineMusic layers of textured noise so next thing you feel like you may have suddenly tuned in to a 3MBSfm classical music hour. Horns then crash in like some Biblical epic, but they don't remodel that shit into the lousy limp American-Judeo-Christian mainstream of 'niceness and lies that help you become rich materially if you follow our dogmatic rules'. They model it into the harsh, trugeoning, dirge across the Exodus that the Old Testament is. I mean if you don't believe, open your nearest copy of 'the Book'. But it don't stop there, the Eastern-Euro growler in Sun 0))) seems to be conjuring demons in some sort of middle-ages battle between pagan Earth Gods and the man made hell of the Crusade, its like the best soundtrack to a wonderfully satanic Lucio Fulci masterpiece like THE BEYOND or CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD!!!!!! AAAAAARRRGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!

So taking a break from all this pleasant synapse-feeding meshigarse I picked up this re-issue of Aussie-Adelaide noise-punk psychos GRONG GRONG. I used to read a lot about these guys in the pages of legendary Aussie underground-rock journal B-side, but like B-side bands, the artists involved were helpless drug-casualties and being under-aged it was difficult to sneak into gigs to experience these godhead punk compostors. GRONG GRONG are the sound the Birthday Party left behind. In Adelaide. Feral as all fuck their music makes me want to shave my bumfluff with a broken VB stubbie! The interesting thing about GRONG GRONg is their uber-hardcore trash-slash style. They inject amphetamine psychosis into the Birthday Party sound, and Charlie Tolnay's incredible slash-wash of noise and riff is the first to acknowledge the genius of Rowland S Howard's similar, yet more stylistic pioneering sound. Henry Rollins compared RSH's style to Antonin Artaud if he had an electric guitar, but it's probably wiser to give that title to Charlie Tolnay. His guitar kills, slashes, burns, cuts and absolutely fucken flies through the murk of most of the lo-fi noise on this CD, but it becomes clearer in the murky live footage of GRONG GRONG, that appears on the complimentary DVD. First and foremost, GRONG GRONG were a HARDCORE PUNK band, albiet of a more expansive and seminal kind.

Which brings me to contemporary Melbourne noise-punk heroes ZOND. I saw them earlier this year and they were a blast. The have this drug fucked girl on guitar who seems to be the Melbourne un-glammed version of New York's Julia Cafritz(pussy galore) and three nerdy blokes on other guitar and rhythm section. The other guitar bloke has a rack of around 20 shit noise boxes, basically switches them all on, until it's a bleeding surround-sound wash of white noise, as the rhythm section blasts away in motoritik precision. It was like watching My Bloody Valentine do their 'noise' section of 'you made me realise' cut up into discrete, Sex Pistols-like punk 'tunes'. And it was awesome. Happy New Year to you all.

.....It's the end of a decade so I'm trying to throw in my 'best of' list for this decade, and whilst I was listening to a lot of 'reissues' of glorious old shit like Bob Dylan and the La's and the Coloured Balls amongst many others, there was still time for new pleasures, books, films, comics, movies, books...

  • VocalCity- Luomo (album) - Northern European luxurious techno house. Still holds up. Great neo-80s sequencing and set the tone of techno pop for the decade.
  • Rhythm and Sound – album of totally awesome dubbed out neuvo krautrock that cracks, pops, hisses, depth charges and sends you into a very strange and sedate place..
  • The White Stripes – Elephant – took me a while to take to these punks, but after seeing them live and do an incredible mash-up almost techno type gig, I understood why they were and may still well be 'the future of rock'
  • The Drones live at the Tote – as part of this Spooky Records thing, at which my friends the Double Agents were playing. I heard the Drones do their scree by accident live on PBS fm and seeing them live, play the 'cockeyed lowlife of the badlands' was a totally modern Oz-rock experience. I felt like I was back in the POW circa late80s!
  • Mullholland Drive – Lynch
  • Paria – French movie shot on digital. about a young guy trying to get home.
  • YiYi – Korean film
  • Punch Drunk Love, There Will Be Blood (films)
  • Discovering the cinema of Bresson, Chabrol, Rohmer, Antonioni, Giallo and euro cult cinema, Nicholas Ray, Tarkovsky, Larry Cohen, Sergio Leone, Robbe Grillet, Jodorowsky, Zulawski, anime and STAN BRAKHAGE.
  • Collateral and Miami Vice – I grew up on Miami Vice in the mid-80s and rediscovered Mann's cinema work once again. HEAT is possibly the greatest American crime movie of the last 20 year. With Collateral and Miami Vice, Mann started using DV and Hdv in order to get better clarity on his tecture of skies, namely sunsets and clouds. The result whilst not totally mesmerising dramatically, is a gas for the other senses.
  • A.I, Minority Report and War of the Worlds – Spielberg get back to his sci-fi roots, and whilst the films still had his daggy 'happy endings' were still state of the art.
  • Discovering William S Burroughs – oh yeah. Esp. 'the ticket that exploded'
  • Discovering Boris Vian – oh yeah oh yeah. Esp 'the dead all have the same skin' and the even just as totally nuts and wild 'I spit of your graves'!!!
  • 100 Bullets comic – unbelievable comic artistry. Opaque, hardboiled and terrific saga about a war between ultra-crime gangs.
  • MPD Psycho - an absolute mind bender. A cop has multiple personalities, tries to solve some bizarre murders, then finds he is part of a larger mind control conspiracy that includes cult-like rockstars, programmed assassins and some bizarre Government experiment that has become an all-out war between some sort of psychic freaks and something else. Includes some of the most amazing mindblowing action pieces I've ever seen in printed form. A hijacked 747 crashing into the bow of a massive cargo ship/drug laboratory anyone?

  • Jodorowsky's THE INCAL, Technopriests and Metabarons intergalatic sci-fi epics. Totally and unremittingly mind-blowing and brilliant. Fuck Freud and Jung, and take Jodorowsky's intergalactic, brutal and beautiful sagas.
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm – I can't understand how brilliant this story of my fantasised life is! And funny too!
  • The Pianist (Polanski) – the greatest Holocaust story ever told. The triumph of art over adversity has never quite been demonstrated in narrative form like this movie.
  • Limits of Control (Jim Jarmusch) – meditative and fantastic.
  • The Savage Detectives and 2666 – Roberto Bolano. Hmmm, it's like literature is dead right? All pomo-homos and diary-keeping fucksticks that become rich and global. I didn't like Savage Detectives. Bolano just seems like a Kerouac for this era. But I persisted and getting to the end of his long psyhotropic road-epic it all seemed to make a totally unclear sense. Are aesthetics dead? I've only just started 2666, and whilst he seems to be mining similar fields, this time something weirder and stranger is going on. Is reality cracking at the seams? Is this James Joyce meets Philp K Dick. The attack on the simulacra of modern life begins!
  • The Road (Cormac McCarthy) – it was devastatingly awesome. And now there's a film. Whatever.
  • Platform (Michel Houllbecq) – French grump who was also devastatingly awesome, but funny too!
  • Lou Reed live – well when he came out for 'Ecstasy'. The first 15 minutes were worth every cent. Shame it became dull whiny shit after that!
  • Marilyn Manson – best American corporate American hard-rock show razzle dazzle. I find his music cheesy and lame, though I don't mind his single, but live his fantastic bands and wild stage show was probably like what glam rock was like back in the 70s.
  • Synecdoche NY (Charlie Kaufman) – one of the great American art-films of the last decade.
  • The WIRE – TV series. What can I say. Masterpieces never stop. So why complain?
  • Sin City (Rodreguez) – the sexiest and best comic book adaptation of all-time. Easy.
  • Children of Men – best sci-fi film of the decade. Best film as comic book too!
  • Missy Elliot – live techno, hyper-media-multi-mix show, like a KISS concert but now. And I guess that's why it was only 45 minutes long!
  • Finally seeing Spritualized live – the were fucken awesome, an ecstatic arsed-kicked shot of space rock.
  • Seeing GEORGE CLINTON/Parliament live – unbelievable that a guy who is 60+ years old can play for like, what? 3 hours? Amazing.
  • Seeing NEIL YOUNG live – Greendale which while being a bit hippy/Canadian and ODD, was fantastic. Sitting only 7 rows from the front was better. As was the spliff I had during the encore! And the sound was beautiful. A perfect night!
  • Seeing the PIXIES live. My brother saw them in the late 80s and described them as 'thrashy' back then. I'd purged them from memory and was half-arsed about going but it was a worthy punt. They were more 'cow punk' and intense than I expected which was a surprised. But once is enough.
  • Gym and yoga – I love it. Not that I want to get massive. An Iggy Pop physique will do me nicely! Yoga, chill me out, and I get to perv on MILFs at the same time. Can't lose!
  • Brendan Fevola, Eddie Betts, Marc Murphy, Bryce Gibbs, Jarrod Waite, Matthew Kreuzer, Mark Jamieson, Nick Stevens, Michael Jamison – all gave me hope for my footy team Carlton who experience the apocalypse this decade! Two wooden spoons, cheating, drunk bum president, going bankrupt and ..redemption! As much as other people hate them, a good, strong Carlton is still 'good for footy'!!

  • Playstation 3 – I think this is the greatest 'toy' ever. Blu Ray, games, internet connectivity, can watch downloaded .avis, and umm CALL Of DUTY MODERN WARFARE etc...
  • Oh shit where is the addiction/mental well-being therapist?

ROWLAND S. HOWARD R.I.P I was a bit of a fan back in the 80s and did some volunteer work on his never (or soon?) to be released documentary that I will no doubt be written out of. Fuck it, I can be bitter it was a great story squandered - as a friend said, kinda like Wim Wenders 'lightning over water'. Unfortunately this story belongs to another person who probably has more talent and ability to do it justice, que sera, sera..... Rowland had a 'world class' style and attitude. He was one of the all-time great guitar stylist/heroes of Aussie rock, he made an intellectual, rebellious sound that was totally unique, totally memorable. Art. See ya later Rowland, thanks for the great guitar solos in 'guilt parade' and 'hey sinkiller'.