Monday, February 25, 2013

The Bermuda Triangle

We will plunge beneath the surface. We will drown. Force. Half woman, half fish, taking care of the lost fighter pilots; full moon horny devil guy getting full. Little alien dudes doing the disco point. The heart of the ocean.

Isao Tomita is totally an underappreciated genius, man. The Bermuda Triangle is a cheeze-synth suite for sick queers. Every song title is killer: "The Dazzling Cylinder That Crashed in Tonguska, Siberia"; "The Visionary Flight to the 1448 Nebular Group of the Bootes"; "Venus in a Space Uniform Shining in Fluorescent Light".

And: "The Earth - A Hollow Vessel".

Oh yeah man it so is. Scratch the surface.

What if you wanted to tell a story, and you took the legend of the Bermuda Triangle, filled in the details about exactly which extraterrestrial beings were haunting it, threw in Venus, and then you told it with a roomful of state-of-the-art, 1970s electronic keyboard technology? You would rule, I say. But don't stop there, no sir, don't even. Now play a whole bunch of Prokofiev (cause why not?), add the Close Encounters of the Third Kind theme, bring some washes of total noise, do this for a whole album, and end with a seriously frazzed out vocoded echoing decay loop of a voice saying "You're so crazy you're so crazy you're so crazy..." into the mystic, man.

See, this type of shit is so real to me. This is why I can't listen to music that's like, earnest. Like Van Morrison. Dude's voice makes me want to just hide.


Each side of this record contains coded data in the form of certain sound effects. The message can be recovered if the electrical signal from the record is interfaced with the input of a micro computer programmed to the TARBEL System.

Earnest musicians, bow down before the one you serve. Tomita does not give A FUCK. Dude is rocking the TARBEL System.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


A history happened. People came and did things. Names were given, things were buried, flesh was pierced, invocations. Justifications. Cultures mixed. Some say assimilation is genocide.

The past can only live in two ways: memory, and evidence. There is a middle way: history, which is documentation, oral and written, people telling each other things. History has a cousin which is literature. Stories, songs, poetry. Coming in from the side is technology, which offers ways to freeze this previously liquid medium: printing for a super long time, photos for a medium long time, recording since then. And now the digital abstracts all these things to information, thawing the freeze, engendering re-mixture. These forces are amoral and easily appropriated by those who would do good or ill, those who would preserve or destroy, those who would destroy in the service of preservation, who would kill to bring about their vision of peace and justice, who whould act.

In South America, Europeans came, bringing their ideas about God and race and whatever else, their drive for profit and ownership. People do stuff. People can't but be people. One person who lived there was a man named Atahualpa. He had a lot of power and influence in a mountainous region in the west of a continent that he probably didn't call South America, but since the Europeans took the hegemony it's not that easy for me to quickly look up the old names. Some shit happened with Spaniards and he ended up getting killed. Probably some people said some shit that wasn't true or made some promises they didn't intend to keep. Those things tend to happen when people want to take stuff. You can pretty much either pay for stuff or just take it and if someone doesn't want you to take it then you need to like, talk about it, fight, stuff like that. Oil is like that too. Any resource really. Water's like that in some places. It'll probably get more like that in more places. Food too. Money, of course.

Atahualpa was around about five hundred years ago. No cell phone cams, so we get stories and songs. A history that flows like water. Was he a good man? Let's say the conquerors didn't come. Would he have been a good ruler? Led his people to prosperity, or squandered his kingdom's resources on liquor and women? Somewhere in between? Dunno, cause what happened was the Spanish people made him swear his love for Christ and the Pope and then killed his ass so they could take gold and slaves. Shit like that. History flows.

This record is from Ecuador, and it's about forty years old. It's called Atahualpa. There are no vocals on the record. Here's some of what it says on the back of the record:

Decir ATAHUALPA es decir principio, punto de partida de nuestra nacionalidad Sugiere gravura, hidalguía y porte caballeresco a todo lo ancho y lo largo de la expresión.

Decir ATAHUALPA es exponer con un solo nombre toda la belleza de un Imperio coronado por la nieve sempiterna de Los Andes.

Historiadores y poetas han cantando al Inca Quiteño. Faltaba sólo el acento sonoro del compositor. Ahora que ya lo tenemos, escuchémoslo con unción. Dejemos que el gramófono desgrane una a una las yúmbicas notas de "Atahualpa" y hallaremos en nuestras intimas emociones estereotipado el boato de una corte esplendorosa en la terminante grandeza del Tahuantinsuyo...!

INVOKE. Let the breast swell with national feeling. Ecuador.

The record is all hooky instrumental genius. Electric organ, harmonica, acoustic guitar, brass band, piano four hands. I wasn't previously familiar with the players, but I'll list them anyway, because their contribution must be remembered: Carlos Bonilla (guitar); Nicolás Brito (band); Héctor Bonilla and Medardo Luzuriaga (pianos); R.P. Jaime Mola (organ); Rodrigo Barreno (band); Guido Aguirre (harmonica).

Tradition rides on the knife's edge between popular resistance and fascist appropriation. To know your tradition and act freely within it is harder than you think. Invoke with care and vision.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


Frances has raised protests about the photo shoots before. This time, it took forever to figure it out:

Frances: I don't want to look at the record.

Me: How about I put it behind you and you don't look at it?

Frances: I don't like records behind my back.

Me: Maybe you could hold it out to the side and look the other way?

Frances: I don't like to hold my arms like that!!!

And so on. The issue was simple though. She was TERRIFIED of the TERRIFYING cover of the CROMAGNON record. Skeletons sucking in the cosmos through plugs in their trepan-holes, a melty-face mountain moss mustache guy, acid all over everything. Yep. (Actually come to think of it, it was the cover that made her pull it out in the first place.)

Holy crap is this record scary! The hit is "Caledonia", the song that used bagpipes and demon vocals to invent black metal a decade and a half before anyone in Norway thought about burning a church. No, really: "The hands and nails / Frozen black / By twilight stripped of sinew / Sinew splintered / Splendor crackled / Swirling forest castle ride / Funneled through / Magenta hallways / Hell was but the froth..." Then there's like a whole side that sounds like an outtake from The Walking Dead where the zombies decided to have a hippy drum circle. And then side two is like that too except that there's this one track (called "Genitalia") of people screaming and squeaking (yes, squeaking) with a guy crooning over it like demon Bobby Darin. And another black metal song, minus bagpipes, plus hell-viola.

It's like the Fugs, or the Firesign Theater even a little bit, except if the Fugs and the Firesign Theater HATED THE FUCK OUT OF YOU AND WANTED YOU DEAD. This record has a nine-minute song with melting wails over a brutal two-chord acoustic guitar battery, which is called "Crow of the Black Tree".

The reissue I have, on Get Back from the late 90s, has this text in place of the band photo from the ESP-Disk original:

Since we handle the ESP catalog with care, it was our intention to reprint here the original back cover. Now watch what can happen when "The artists alone decide...": Mr. Grassmere didn't want this picture to reappear because his former buddy Brian Elliot died in a car crash long ago, & he didn't know how the third guy came onto the photograph... So what.


So recommendations. This blog is about recommendations.

Don't play the Cromagnon record at a party, unless it's a demon party.

Don't make a child hold the record, unless you want to TERRIFY the child. And you should not want to terrify a child.

If you reissue a record, do it with permission and work with the artist, if at all possible.