When they’re not heading up their experimental noise project, Nautical Almanac, Twig Harper and Carly Ptak (that’s them in the above photo) run Be Free Floating, a Baltimore company that puts people in those sensory deprivation tanks. Which is ironic, because their music—and some might take exception with calling it “music”—is kind of sensory overload. Weird vocals and noises made on homemade synthesizers scud along the surface of a thick stew of arrhythmic percussion and guitar feedback that doesn’t so much overwhelm you as totally disorient you. After listening to a few hours of it, you could probably use some time in a sensory deprivation tank just to decompress.
Reader The ∞ NSA sent us this clip of a half-hour performance by Harper, Ptak and a third guy (possibly Max Eisenberg?) from back in 2005, which seems to be the last time they released any new music. Since then, Harper’s done some solo stuff and Ptak has gotten into photography. And of course, they help people float. Wish they had an L.A. branch, because I just had a long-ass week.
Most of Nautical Almanac’s catalog is pretty obscure, but they do have one album, Rooting for Microbes, available on Amazon.com.
When he’s not playing bass in tUnE-yArDs, Nate Brenner is one-third of an even weirder band called Beep! They’re just about to release their latest album, Too Physical, and it’s a wonderland/wasteland (wasterland?) of keyboard squiggles, funhouse vocals and mysterious rhythms. Here’s the video for opening track, “Alien Mating Call,” which wants to know if there’s somewhere we can get down. (Answer: Why, yes, there is! At the Hammer Museum right here in L.A., which is hosting a Too Physical release party on Aug. 7th.)
You can pre-order Too Physical from Beep!’s label, Data Garden. It’s due out Aug. 5th.
Reader Aaron calls Polysics the “bastard Japanese offspring of DEVO.” Polysics themselves call their music “technicolor pogo punk.” We just call is awesome. Next party I go to, I plan to dance by flailing my arms around my head like I’m fending off an invisible swarm of bees, just like the girls in this video. Though I won’t look as cute in a Mylar tutu.
It happens to the best of us: We get old, start having babies, rediscover the joys of blanket forts and bedtime stories, and lose our “edge.” Fortunately for MC Frontalot, nerdcore hip-hop was never especially edgy to begin with. So for him to make a children’s album doesn’t sound like a huge stretch.
But wait: He’s not just rapping nursery rhymes. On Question Bedtime, Front reinterprets classic fairy tales with a whole slew of fellow rappers and famous friends, including Kid Koala, MC Chris, Jean Grae, Busdriver and one of the funniest dudes on the planet, comedian Paul F. Tompkins. The album isn’t due out until Aug. 16th, but you can hear a track called “Much Chubbier” right now over at The A.V. Club. Based on the Norwegian folk tale of the “Three Billy Goats Gruff,” it co-stars rapper Open Mike Eagle as the troll. It’s fun stuff, even for us grownup types.
Frontalot has a slew of U.S. tour dates coming up following the release of Question Bedtime. And need I mention that he’ll also be appearing at Comic-Con? With a Star Wars-themed burlesque troupe, no less. Cue the nerd stampede! (Tickets for that show are available, probably not for long, here.)
MC Frontalot 2014 tour:
Aug. 19—Rex Theater—Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Aug. 20—Tiger Room at CS3—Fort Wayne, Indiana
Aug. 21—Subterranean—Chicago, Illinois
Aug. 25—TBD—Denver, Colorado
Aug. 26—The Stateroom—Salt Lake City, Utah
Sept. 1—El Corazon—Seattle, Washington
Sept. 2—Dante’s—Portland, Oregon
Sept. 4—Brick & Mortar—San Francisco, California
Sept. 7—TBD—Phoenix, Arizona
Sept. 9—Three Links—Dallas, Texas
Sept. 10—TBD—Austin, Texas
Sept. 11—TBD—Houston, Texas
Sept. 12—Northgate Tavern—Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Sept. 13—Beatnik—New Orleans, Louisiana
Sept. 14—Center Stage—Atlanta, Georgia
Sept. 16—TBD—Charlotte, North Carolina
Sept. 17—King’s Barcade—Raleigh, North Carolina
Sept. 18—TBD—Baltimore, Maryland
Sept. 19—North Star Bar—Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Sept. 20—TBD—New York, New York
The World Cup is finally over, which means us Americans can stop pretending to care about soccer and the rest of the planet can get back to their lives. I must admit, I watched more of it than usual this year, but except for that one awesome match where Germany stomped Brazil into the turf, I watched most of it out of the corner of my eye while I was doing more interesting things, like scraping Cheeto dust off my couch cushions and trying to turn my vuvuzela into a beer bong. Jesus, world, could you maybe pick a more interesting sport to be obsessed over? Try golf or something. At least in that game, the ball goes into the hole once in awhile.
But yes, the World Cup is a big deal, the one sporting event that unites the whole planet and blah blah blah. So we here at Weird Band HQ would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge it in some way. Fortunately, gay Nicaraguan leprechaun Donny Varper is here to help. Donny wrote a song in honor of the World Cup called “GOL” and as with all transmissions from the Planet Varper, it’s amazing. Can you feel that Cup in your heart, Germany?
So see you in four years, World Cup. I’m sure there will be plenty more Cheeto dust in my couch cushions by then.
Well, it only took us five years, but we finally hosted our first-ever Weird Band Night, and it was amazing. Why didn’t we do this sooner? Because we’re control freaks and booking live music is the art of wrangling chaos. So many things are so completely out of your control that all you can really do is line up the bands and the venue and tell everyone you’ve ever met that they need to be there and then sit back and hope for the best.
But despite a setback or two (we forgive you, Haunted Garage), Weird Band Night was a rousing success. OK, the venue could have been a little fuller, and the show could have run a little more on schedule. And Satanic Puppeteer Orchestra’s name could’ve been spelled correctly on the marquee. But no one died and the bands were on fire. Plus the California Institute of Abnormalarts (CIA) might literally be the Weirdest Venue in the World (complete with its own oddities museum containing no fewer than two actual mummies) so we couldn’t have asked for a better place to host it for us. We’re putting this one in the win column!
First up we had the Satanic Puppeteer Orchestra from San Diego, playing their first L.A. show. As with all opening bands, they had to contend with the lower energy of a small audience, but they powered through a hilarious set that answered such burning questions as “What’s the most expensive way to feed a zebra?” (answer: Pop Tarts) and “Which species of bird are potentially poisonous?” (answer: all of them).
For a one-man/one-robot act, SPO had quite the impressive setup, complete with their own lighting and an audiovisual presentation that included vintage educational videos and lyric subtitles, so you could decipher the Stephen Hawking-like vocals of the band’s frontrobot, SPO-20.
Next up: The Rhythm Coffin, the ghoulish cavalry who swooped in and saved the day when Haunted Garage were forced to cancel on short notice. Their set was a big horror-punk/surf/rockabilly singalong with lots of great audience interaction, especially when they tossed what felt like about 300 styrofoam dummy heads into the crowd. This was ostensibly only for one song, “The Headless Head Bop,” but once the heads were unleashed, you pretty much had to keep your own head on a swivel for the rest of their set, lest you get beaned from behind by an overeager Coffin fan.
Last but certainly not least: The Radioactive Chicken Heads. What can I say about these guys? Every single song was a show unto itself. They broke out so many props and costumes and extra performers that, had I not met lead singer Carrot Topp in street clothes before the show, I might have started wondering if Dave Brockie faked his death and was now playing in a chicken-themed punk band from Orange Country. Their show was GWAR-like in its mind-boggling parade of wacky characters and costumes.
Thanks again to all the bands, Carl and everyone at the CIA, and most of all, all the friends and fans who came out to support the show. I hope you had half as much fun as we did.
Since our last bit of weirdness from South Africa was an Apartheid-era piece of Euro-pop nonsense called “It’s Amazing (The Incredible Dance),” we figured we’d balance the books this week with something more contemporary and more representative of South Africa’s melting-pot mix of black and white musical influences. Spoek Mathambo is a rapper/producer from Johannesburg who calls his mix of hip-hop, electro and Afrobeat rhythms “township tech.” Here, he covers Joy Division’s “She’s Lost Control” and turns it into a throbbing techno assault, made all the more ominous by the stark imagery of this video.