Things this year pt. 2

Posted in Uncategorized on December 17, 2013 by Tanner

The pathetic declinations of those scrambling to be part of something they weren’t– when all you hear after the fact is paltry summations, indirect observational histories and poor sports. I grew up in the lineage of hardcore punk rock. I claim no ownership other than an unhappy knowledge: I’m part of the club, the tribe, the conditioned membership of getting older and moving on. But like anything of any worth it can get slowly misdirected towards an alien mission, a smelly end unforeseen. Iron Lung refuses all that. They refuse. And they make albums that sound like you throwing your membership card to the blender, to the open maw of infinite culture. They side step power-violence becoming a meaningless summary mission — the entry password to a scene not so unlike the T. Cruiser bumbling through Kubrick’s orgy, where ultimately there’s nothing but fucking, boredom, and loveless advancement. Nope, this is bash and control. This is heartsick and no cash. This is a rose in the lapel and dried curry on the sleeve. This is movement at the expense of regret. I’m along for the whole duration, and I’m laughing at all the jokes. No tunes to hum, no songs to sing. And there’s nothing left to give.



Too many times I’ve fallen on some sort of inner cultural relativism to explain my love for a song. To hear something so perversely itself makes one wonder what the whole criteria should be. I have no explanation. I breathe and I listen. My friend dances, while I sit. She asks for the album. I give it. Because it is joy.




Things this year pt. 1

Posted in music on December 4, 2013 by Tanner

Let’s take turns throwing composition’s rotting head around: it’s getting a bit smelly, a bit squishy in the handling, but it still holds shape nicely in the air. It still can bite once and a while on the landing. Lambkin and Lescalleet. Lambkin and Lescalleet. I might signal my inclinations too often, too readily, but I’m prepared to get obscure here, where no one’s watching but the vultures. Because they speak a language I think I can understand, but only obliquely, as if seeing it from the side, bounced from a mirror and reading backwards– I understand the language, but I can’t understand the syntax. As much as Photographs establishes itself as a dialogue between two musicians, it strikes me more immediately as a dialogue between two friends, two comrades in arms against nothing in particular. They brandish weapons made of their daily lives; obsessions; observations; misunderstandings; dull jokes in the back of a car; music they heard years ago somewhere, someplace. To describe music as personal — and I write personal with a caveat that all music is obviously personal if not as outwardly inward in construction–or direct, while alternately obscure is to sink into a writerly purposelessness. You can hear it all at a click of a button. There is no freedom in description of event. There is no pleasure here for me to write it.

lambkin lescalleet photographs

Pisaro’s Closed Categories in Cartesian Worlds succeeds almost in despite of its title. I’m not against meaning, or provocation, or research. I’m just bored with titles. Let’s not digress (I am bored with meaning). There’s nothing boring about this thing he and Greg Stuart have coaxed out…this anfractuous thing, nuanced in slippery collisions, but on closer inspection pocked with innumerable scars. I find myself shuffling in the inside of a jar, alone in a suffocating glare. Let’s not forget: Crotales and sine tones– so dull sounding on paper, as lifeless as a scorpion in a paper weight and just as triumphantly despicable. It kinda makes words sound as silly as they appear, when you hear music that defies them so, and makes mockery of just what, if anything, you can say about sound.

closed categories

I try to keep in mind my limitations when I listen to music; personal baggage makes things far more interesting. Metal confirms these limitations, and badgers my inner atavism, my dependence on fear and loathing. Nihilism writ large on a canvas of oily skin. This is not reality. It just is what I choose it to be. Grave Upheaval latches on to this program: as listless, hopeless, and revolted as a 13 year mustache in ill-fitting clothes. It trudges along in its murky furrow, borrowing against itself, waiting to collapse into muck and heaps of stones. I find nothing funny about it. It is within itself, and as full of truth as one can find in a culture of sure nothingness. A slow death, hunched against great weight. This does not howl at the moon. It does not scream romantic odes to starry wisdom. It does not bleed under moonlight. It is fucking death metal. Decrepit. Scared. Unbelieving. There is no future. There is no light. There is just this. It’s scabrous. And it’s full of mutiny.


Posted in Uncategorized on June 8, 2013 by Tanner

Best phrase that someone googled to get to this blog: what does dilletantism mean?

Writing about music is a dubious proposition. It’s almost always thankless and time-devouring. It’s generally looked down upon by the musicians it pretends to review; and it’s as easily perceived as mere ad copy to move units rather than some kind of meaningful exegesis. Needless to say I fucking detest most music writing. The bland, artless drivel seems legion; although I fully, sadly acknowledge that it often reflects bland, artless, and bloated music.

I haven’t done much of this kind of writing in the last year or so, concentrating on what I so often have rightly/wrongly considered “real” writing. I don’t know if I will continue music writing either, but at the same time, looking back at this blog after almost forgetting I wrote it I feel slightly inspired again. Certainly there’s been a ton of music released lately that have brought about the kind of self-absorbed flights I call writing here (Portal! Rowe/Lambkin! Column of Heaven!). Either way, I’m not sure if this new writing will conform to the same narrow spectrum I covered here previously, namely the electro-acoustic and noise morass, or spread out more liberally across a broader palette. While no one really cares or needs these place holder accounts of varying varieties of “jeez, it’s been a long time since an update!” — jesus, dude, just fucking write something then — they do kick my own ass into gear, and help define what I feel I need to accomplish. As if there’s anything to be accomplished — what a joke. But I figure, what the hell, let’s see what sticks.

Ok, see you later. Whoever you are.

I probably should know better

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on February 5, 2012 by Tanner

Lately, I’ve been happily subjecting myself to extremity– stuff like The Rita and Sewer Election and Werewolf Jerusalem; and it’s as comfortable as an old chair. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if I’m an aficionado of the genre (and it is a genre), and I’m more than willing to announce my dilettantism. Frankly, I long thought it was a one-note (ha) exercise in extremity – caught up in a haze of pseudo-transgressive imagery and elitist, bomb-the-suburbs-in-your-mom’s-Nisan nihilism. Hey, that’s all fine and good in most ways, I grew up listening to Crass and Misery, and it’s as safe as any other thesis – of course, real chaos doesn’t need a blueprint, or scene.

But if noise has an emo contingent, then it’s harsh noise. This is heart on a sleeve shit here, often going to great lengths to inform you that this is all an emotional exorcism, a soul annihilation that culminates in purifying fire, in shifting blocks of impenetrable sound. Emotional armor in other words. I knew the Dennis Cooper-lite sado-machimsmo of a lot of the stuff was all theatre for fat dudes with turborat fixations – but they ain’t maniacs, they’re pussycats, and they like Con Air just as much as you do.

I was showing a Rita album that took inspiration from various Giallos to my girlfriend today (as she’s been known to dig some Fulci and Argento), and she asked me why it always seemed like sexual violence and the women as object was so often the subject of their transgression, of their emotional retardation, of their quest for the end of the world. I couldn’t really answer her. And she’s right, a lot of this shit is just sexist, even if it’s under the guise of showing the rest of us just how BAD reality is. Thanks for the heads up, dudes.

But still there’s something there. When wall noise hits that right inner ear space, it can help you achieve those trance states, those moments of clarity. And it’s in those moments that the astringency doesn’t seem particularly brutal or harsh, just there, unassuming, reacting against nothing, but itself. And it’s hard not to wonder about the hands behind it, the brootal face in the examination of the big bad world. All existing for a moment in a howl of punishment– the feeling of the great rejection. I imagine it’s the sound the lobster hears when it’s boiling — that great moment of clarity in total meaninglessness. And yeah, Emo as hell, squirming in the nothingness with less pose, but just as much portentious pose. I guess it’s not terribly different than the black metal I dig, festooned in the signifiers that only seem to hide something much more human underneath. Fear.

Of course, this means fuck all when your girlfriend comes and gives you a slice of apple with some goat cheese, while Bill Dixon’s Vade Mecum spurts away in timeless reflection.

But burn away fellas. Please do.

Death by Beuger

Posted in music with tags , , , on January 29, 2012 by Tanner

I’ve stopped listening to music while I run; I find it too easy to lose perspective; music flits against concentration that’s hard-earned, heard in the creak of lungs, and felt in the lactic acid in calves. I’ve been taking it easy this last month – the amount I run is inversely proportional to the amount of snow that falls, and in Ashland it snows a lot. But I squeaked out a little over five miles yesterday anyway. I ran through part of the Chequamegon bay forest, where an atv trail carves a straight line northwest into Superior. In the summer you can count the tiny, dried-up snapping turtles that die dusty and alone, their heads lolling to either side as you prod them with your toe. I cut across a field, horses lolling by their troughs, and out onto the shore of Lake Superior, where I pushed past Ashland’s superfund site where a mass of oil timbers are cocooned and malignant in the clay-rich soil. One could almost forget there was anything wrong, a thick layer of snow covering the black sands that mark its tomb. The snow can’t hide the massive ore dock that sits crumbing and monolithic in the distance. And it can’t hide the power plant and its mountains of cheap wood pulp they burn to create the steam that ends up belching out over the lake, massive turbines humming. But this is Ashland, completely ill at ease with itself, profiting gleefully from natural splendor while doing it’s damndest to fuck it all up.

I’ve always thought of a lot of what I write about on this thing as a kind of urban music, more comfortable in a city’s crush of humanity than out here, if not in the middle of nowhere, than right next to it. Part of this comes from the fact that most of it is made in cities like Tokyo or New York or Vienna or Seoul and seems to reflect a certain acetic neurosis, an idle abstraction. It feels so caught up in itself that it finds itself alone in a crowd, humming. Maybe another reason I don’t listen to music while I run anymore– I don’t quite feel like shutting off like I did when I lived in cities. I didn’t feel the need to escape into shape and form, into the Big Idea. I get tired of the Big Ideas. I like a little room to breathe.

Maybe that’s why I’ve been listening to Antoine Beuger’s un lieu pour Être deux a lot lately. Usually on low volume, allowing it to brush up against my spine—Ben Owens’ field recordings sinking into Ashland’s own small downtown discourse; while Barry Chabala’s guitar in its minute detail startling me, as mysterious in its motivations as the pigeons across the street that suddenly, inexplicably rise off the tar roof to swarm and dip in perfect unison. That is not to say Beuger isn’t about big ideas. That’s obviously not true, but I haven’t the first fucking clue what they are. And I have little interest in finding out. I prefer to listen to this composition as if it allows me to make my own meaning from it. Sorry, dudes.

The subtleness and use of space brands it Wandelweiser– but it’s not the stereotypical minimal anemia. Light tones, integrations of familiar field recordings, guitar plucks are all reminiscent of some Michael Pisaro’s increasingly impressive work, but there is an airier quality here. It’s unforced and refreshingly easy to find some path through its space. I’m used to that feeling with so much of the music that comes from this area of composition, but it’s so rarely captivating; it’s so rarely as generous. What I take from the little of Beuger’s work that I’ve heard (as well as Pisaro’s) is the attention to mundane, to the subtle inflection the music can cast spatially and temporally on everyday life. The sounds create a shading effect to reality, a reinterpretation of normality. Not to say it’s some tired psychedelic journey through Visnu’s asshole (leave that to Keenan or something), but it seeps into one’s space. I’m reminded of Sachiko’s Bar Sachiko, which has a similar effect, albeit much harsher and more angular (unheralded classic if you ask me). However, what’s apparent is its universality, as at home in this small town as Berlin or Hanoi or Chicago.

I understand that music should be independent of place, but we all know it can’t be. Where we are colors our understanding of music as much as our mood at the time. And some things do just work better in an environment suited for it – as much as I dig Blasphemy or Beherit, it makes far less sense wandering out in the woods than it does wandering around downtown Chicago looking for a place to take a piss. But this album seems to shirk these aspects, centering itself in a universality of life. It’s as if the “synthesized tones” simply filter and compliment a day watching those pigeons dip and sway; it’s as if the guitar twinge is a simply a punctuation, exclamation on a sip of coffee at the café. And while one could say that’s all well and good for you, but where’s the music? Thankfully, it’s remarkably musical. It just allows room for the audience. And most music doesn’t do that. Thankfully, there are musicians around like Chabala and Owen who seem to tune into just that, and keep a concise but open interpretation to the score. Letting it breathe for us.

This would be an interesting album to go running to now that I think about it. I’d probably end up sitting in a snow bank, watching the sky, pontificating on the consensus reality of soap on the rope, freezing to death. Death by Beuger. But there’s probably worse ways to go.

You should probably buy this from the excellent copy for your records

A couple albums I liked in 2011

Posted in Uncategorized on January 14, 2012 by Tanner

It’s strange how used you get to dudes going by names like Nocturnal Grave Desecrator and Nuclear Hammer Jesus or whatever. I’m more surprised when metal dudes use their own names now, as these black metal super hero personas are so part of the play at this point, originating with Celtic Frost or Venom and perfected in Blasphemy, the kings of funny eeeevill names. I understand the point of some of the names– how for some, the titles help tap into something beyond themselves, fiction suits that alter their realities. Seems like simple stuff really—but it’s undeniably effective, the pomp of spikes and blood and corpse paint establish the rules of the game, the space for something to occur that conjures dangerous energy. Wrath from Averse Sefira has written rather eloquently about this on his blog it’s hard not to see so many of these affects as shallow poses for so many of the bands now, when not verging on a sort of autistic genius… Caller of the Black Winds, indeed.

That said, one of my favorite lps of the year, Negative Plane’s Stained Glass Revelations, includes the somewhat puzzlingly named Nameless Void and Bestial Devotion in their ranks. If Stained Glass Revelations wasn’t such a unique example of modern black metal than maybe I would chock it up to yet more EEEVILLLL posturing. But there’s something altogether more creative and compelling residing in the grooves of SGR’s lp that sets it apart from the so-called blackened hordes (who isn’t tired of this cliché? Denizens of the Android’s Dungeon is probably more apt), and it’s not just the recorded in a sepulcher production. With the best black metal, there is a feeling of dread and claustrophobia, of a resonance that isn’t entirely explainable. Most of this lost in modern black metal, hidden behind half-assed satanic imagery, hackneyed riffs and interchangeable vokills. And while Negative Plane is certainly a black metal band, it’s safe to say that there hasn’t been one quite like them before. But like a lot of black metal, Stained Glass revelations is couched in a kind of mystery, a shroud of obscure reference and symbol — heavy in meaning and difficult to interpret, but sidestepping the hodgepodge of pseudo-occultism found in so much metal. Instead Negative Plane bleeds a kind of neurotic asceticism, which manifests itself in a cobwebbed sound as indebted to Klaus Fluoride as it is to the Possessed. Everything about the album seems to reach for some aspect of the antiquated, the ancient and forgotten. It wouldn’t be out of place playing in some antique shop; Negative Plane seem more at home in the refuse of the dead than at some show among raised fists, beer, and hair matted in sweat. And like anything of any worth, this takes work. It takes time and investment.

Toshimaru Nakamura’s Maruto on Erstwhile doesn’t have much in common aurally with Negative Plane, but it does share its clarity of vision. It’s by most accounts Nakamura’s most successful solo work. But I don’t really care where it falls in some pantheon. Because this music displays such absolute conviction, a tense and beautiful tightrope act of frequency and structure. As singular, hermetic and air tight as any of the best black metal, Maruto also displays a glistening intensity. The sounds moves like great blocks of electricity made audible, corralled into a twisting, sinuous construction. It’s not the loudest or harshest or softest I heard this year, but it’s the most well-defined. The sounds used here sound quintessentially Nakamura, but also as if he’s stretching out more than ever, exploring new vistas of electronic howl. It’s amazing it seems so lean, and uncontrived. It can get so damn tiring listening to improvisation that drawls, stretching a single idea into a masturbatory meaninglessness. And while Maruto loses none of improv’s immediacy, it sounds completely in control of where it’s heading.

Nothing is lost the more you listen. In fact, I find it more compelling as time passes, the shocks and quivers, the dynamic shifts playing tricks on my insides. The shape of it seems burnt into the side of mind like a cattle brand. Of all Erstwhile’s impressive releases in 2011, this one has left the most lasting impression. Try as I might to consider it’s legacy, I’m left only with the sound. And that’s more satisfying than anything else at this point.


Posted in music with tags , , on September 28, 2011 by Tanner

Drumm’s Imperial Distortion is as good a late night album as any. A few fingers of bourbon sitting on my window sill and the gentle warble of the New Age coming across my living room as I look out to where Lake Superior should be on this starless night. And the black chasm the big lake becomes at night begets all manner of dark ruminations, starry wisdoms better left unsaid. Music as open ended as Imperial Distortion fits that Lovecraftian weird, stewing in the stagnancy of small towns at night, that almost palpable pressure of the atmosphere weighing down on your head, the stars burning holes into all that cumulonimbus, water hanging in the air. Drumm’s music pushes right on through, alien intelligent.

I’m not looking for the next big Miasma tonight. Imperial Distortion sounds just right. Not nearly as static as I‘ve heard it described, a track like Snow moves around my apartment like an undulating poisonous cloud punctuated with random colored lights. At turns ominous, but frankly far more comforting than all that it would imply — high school science experiments with alchemical references, Kelly LeBrock in the shower and you with your jean shorts still on.

The bullshit about Drumm and his “black metal noise” makes me queasy. Conflating admiration with influence. Why is it so much harder to just let the music speak for itself. Don’t get me wrong, I love Carcass, but they ain’t Vivaldi, even if they steal from Four Seasons. And who wants Carcass to be Vivaldi anyway? As if that validates their onslaught. As if their onslaught needs to be validated. And who wants Drumm to be some corpse painted asshole, moaning about the moonlight cascading onto the icy plains of some forefather‘s foreskin? Isn’t this authentic enough? Isn’t this boring or brilliant… or more simply itself enough? But if one wants to go down that road, if there is some tortured darkness to Drumm’s music, I think it’s found far more on these long shifting drones of Imperial Distortion and Imperial Horizon than any of the noise terror he’s so admired for. SHM, Impish Tyrant the rest brim, spit out like sparks from the fire. They’re detrital, layered, subsuming. But Imperial Horizon leaves you behind. It’s down right nihilistic at times, a track like Guillain-Barre taps into a slim coursing eternal line, beginning and ending without a glimmer of recognition, of heeding our calls. Antiseptic glow. Beautiful in its way (and working wonders on the insides of my nasal cavities), but ultimately unknowable. And beauty being so hard to qualify. Like the end of Romantic Sores, all floating indifference but oh so pretty.

I can’t complain. I should go to sleep now, and conjure some personal demons to make myself feel more like myself. But it’s nice to have a piece of music that colors the space for a little while. In this sleepy town. Because I know this is all just words. And probably says more about me than the music. But that’s nice. That’s good. Perception is a fucking tricky thing. Sleep tight.