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.
So we kinda blew this one, guys. For the past three years, the weirdest hip-hop band on the planet has been Death Grips. And before we could get around to adding them to the Weird List, they broke up. Oops.
It’s not like they were toiling in obscurity. If anything, I think we were inclined to pay less attention to them because they were getting so much goddamned attention. Nothing that hyped, that embraced by the mainstream—signed to Epic Records, downloaded over 124 million times on BitTorrent, named one of the best albums of 2012 by NP fucking R—could possibly be that weird, right?
Wrong. Death Grips were a defiant, aggro, unheralded mix of rap, punk rock, noise and electronic glitch that almost gets more mind-blowing the longer you listen to it. And for their short lifespan, they churned out material at such a breakneck pace that even now that they’ve broken up, they’ve still promised fans one last double LP later this year, to go with three full-length albums, an EP and a mixtape, all released over the course of about two and a half years.
They were also totally uncompromising in the way they managed their career. Yes, they signed to a major label, but when that major label wouldn’t release their second LP, No Love Deep Web, less than a year after their first one, they leaked it themselves via BitTorrent (hence that record-breaking number of downloads), complete with cover art featuring the album title scrawled across a half-erect penis. Not surprisingly, Epic Records dropped them shortly after that little stunt.
Then came their breakup last week, which they announced via a scribbled note on a dinner napkin, posted on their Facebook page. “we are now at our best,” the noted began, “and so Death Grips is over. we have officially stopped.” This just weeks before they were scheduled to embark on a massive North American tour opening for Nine Inch Nails. Most of the 5,000-plus comments on the breakup note are variations on this one: “WHY?????” But Death Grips clearly felt they never needed to explain anything they did to anyone.
So what happens now? The band’s most famous member, freak-of-nature drummer Zach Hill, will probably go back to any number of his other projects, the foremost of which is his experimental math-rock band Hella. Producer/keyboardist Andy “Flatlander” Morin will probably make a synth-pop album. Tattooed frontman MC Ride can probably do anything he damn well pleases now, although it’s hard to imagine him ever coming out with anything that matches Death Grips’ intensity.
For those (probably few) of you who still haven’t experienced Death Grips in all their craziness, we’ll leave you with a couple of videos. The first features one of the glitchier moments on their debut mixtape, Ex Military:
Now here’s “No Love” from No Love Deep Web, which captures their balls-out live show. Kinda sucks that these guys may very well never perform together again, doesn’t it?
Finally, we must end this post with a shout-out to the many readers who tried to convince us to pay attention to Death Grips sooner: Patrick S., KrazyTrilla, Matt S., Frostoriuss and Steffon R. You guys totally called it. Death Grips is dead, long live Death Grips.
Our favorite penis-nosed provocateur Anklepants has been having a busy month. Just a few weeks after knocking the entire Internet on its ass with his bonkers Boiler Room set, he’s unleashing a brand-new project this weekend: Clock_yangé (or possibly Clocké_yangé—the spelling seems to vary), a collaboration with a mysterious, tin-foil-faced guitar player called Ratbag. “Clocké_yangé is the übergründé Convict cloud chamber encapsulating Reecard Farché (Anklepants) and RATBAG,” declares the duo’s Facebook page, continuing in the grand Anklepants tradition of sticking accents and umlauts all over the place while making as little sense as possible.
Earlier today, Clock_yangé released what we believe is their first online music, a little two-minute SoundCloud preview of their live set. You can check it out below, but be warned: You may want to listen with someone you’re not ashamed to cower behind. Shit’s kinda scary. Right, Mom? (I cowered behind my mom.)
Rumor has it this unholy duo will unleash their aural onslaught upon an unsuspecting Berlin populace this Saturday. Half the city is gonna wish they left that wall up. (Too soon?)
We’ll leave you with one final fleeting glimpse of Ratbag and his amazing animatronic inverted cross hat. I hope they made extras, because they really need to give one of those things to every member of Mayhem.
Negativland just issued the best Casey Kasem tribute: a remixable version of their banned classic, “U2″
Anyone of my generation was probably pretty sad to hear about the passing of legendary radio personality (and voice of Shaggy) Casey Kasem this past weekend. Kasem, who hosted the weekly show “American Top 40″ for approximately a million years, will be remembered for many things, including something I’m sure he and his family would rather forget: a profanity-laced outtake directed at U2, who were apparently new on the charts at the time, because Kasem dismisses the famously Irish band with the now-immortal line, “These guys are from England and who gives a shit?”
The rant achieved immortality when it was picked up by the pioneering culture-jamming band Negativland and used on a 1991 EP called (0bviously) U2. Because it sampled U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” without permission, U2 became the subject of a protracted lawsuit (obviously) and was eventually taken out of circulation, but it’s lived on in bootleg form (and, in more recent years, on YouTube) ever since. It’s a kind of cautionary tale, really, about the perils of launching into a profanity-laced tirade anywhere in the vicinity of recording equipment—one that politicians, actors and TV personalities continue to ignore to this day.
Now, to commemorate Kasem’s passing, Negativland have announced that they’re reissuing “U2,” complete with Kasem’s “Who gives a shit?” rant, as a free download. But not just any free download—they’re releasing the multi-track masters, so fans and fellow musicians can remix, re-edit and reinterpret “U2″ however they see fit. You can grab the full download (all 278 MB of it) here. Anyone who produces a new version of the track is encouraged to post it on Negativland’s official website or Facebook page.
Negativland first announced this project on Monday, so the interwebs have already swung into action. We haven’t had a chance to listen to all the remixes yet, but so far this one is our favorite:
Rest in peace, Casey.
We found this week’s weird band right in our own backyard. One of their videos was even partially shot in the parking lot of the 99¢ Only Store right down the street from Jake’s house. Actually, we found them in our inbox from a reader named William, because we don’t get out much. Which might be just as well, because Foot Village is not the kind of band you’d want to bump into in the dark parking lot of a 99¢ Only Store.
Foot Village is a self-described “drum-n-shout assembly” that makes insanely intense music almost entirely out of percussion and vocals. We’ve covered a lot of other drum-heavy bands on TWBITW over the years—starting with the granddaddies of them all, Boredoms and Crash Worship—but what Foot Village does with this limited palette is pretty special. Sometimes their songs are like invocations of dark, primal forces, and sometimes they’re like a schoolyard beatdown after a drug deal gone bad. In fact, one of their heaviest gut-punch numbers is actually called “This Song Is a Drug Deal,” and it has a video that’s like a William Burroughs short story set at a Coachella after-party.
Foot Village’s music would be intense enough on its own, but they have a knack for making equally intense videos, even when they don’t rely on gobs of black paint to make their point. Here’s the aforementioned 99¢ Only Store video, a disturbingly fresh spin on child abduction set to a thunderous war whoop of a song called “New Jersey.”
And finally, here’s a glimpse of their balls-out live show, filmed at L.A. noise-rock mecca The Smell.
We’ve had another democracy drive-by here at Weird Band HQ, and the only band spared from the massacre by your votes is a British one-man freak-fest called Free Chow. I don’t usually say this, but I think you guys got this one right. Free Chow is some seriously weird shit.
The man behind the Chow is named Roo Bhasin and we know almost nothing about him, except that he’s apparently in this other band from Oxford called Fixers, who kind of sound like a geekier and way less annoying Coldplay. Hopefully Roo will make some Free Chow videos eventually because this Fixers one is amazing.
Free Chow is pretty much the anti-Fixers. Where Fixers is all polished and anthemic, your average Free Chow song sounds like it was recorded by a sarcastic 12-year-old in his bedroom. This song, “Don’t Touch Kids,” is a pretty good example:
That’s from Free Chow’s one and only album, the awesomely titled Asleep With My Hand in Your Mouth. He also released a Christmas single called “Jesus in Furs” and if you know what that title is a reference to, I bet you know exactly what it sounds like:
Kinda stupid, but also kinda brilliant. Brilliantly stupid, if you will.
Anyway, congrats to Roo for winning our latest poll. Who will win the next one? Watch this space and you’ll find out.
For our 250th Weird Band of the Week, we decided to go the crowd-pleasing route. Over the years, a metric fuck-ton of you* have said we should add Japanese noise rockers Melt Banana to the Weird List. Well, today, you freaks finally get your wish. Now please stop posting embeds of “Sick Zip Everywhere” in the Submit a Band comments, will ya?
Now in fairness to all y’all, Melt Banana are indeed a pretty weird band. In fairness to us, “Sick Zip Everywhere” is nowhere near their weirdest track. It’s just one of the few with an official video, and it does that whole B-movie karate flick “Hey, let’s badly dub American actors trying to sound vaguely Japanese over actual Japanese people!” thing that everyone can’t get enough of.
Here’s a better example of Melt Banana at their weirdest. This is from a “live” album they recorded with John Zorn in 1998 called MxBx 1998/13,000 Miles at Light Velocity and yes, those squeals that sound like turntable scratches or dive-bombing Roland 303s are all coming from Ichirou Agata’s guitar.
Pretty cool, right? The only other guitarist I know who can get tones like that out of his effects pedals is Tom Morello, although I’m pretty sure in a dueling guitars fight, Agata would kick Morello’s ass. Even though he always performs with a surgical mask over his face. What am I saying? Especially because he performs with a surgical mask over his face.
Agata formed Melt Banana in Tokyo in 1992 with Yasuko Onuki, a singer he had been playing with for about a year in another band called Mizu. With the addition of bassist Rika Hamamoto and a rotating cast of drummers, they developed a balls-out style that made even their one-minute songs sound kinda epic. Here, for example, is an early track called “Dust Head”:
By the way, Melt Banana’s first two albums were produced by none other than Steve Albini, the punk-rock “super producer” whose other credits include Nirvana’s In Utero. But he’s also the guy behind this band, so don’t hold that against him. He recorded MxBx (as the kids like to call ‘em) in his basement studio in Chicago and the albums definitely have a dirty, Midwestern basement vibe to them.
Melt Banana are also famous for their covers. Here’s my favorite.
After 20+ years, Agata and Onuki are still at it…although they cut Hamamoto loose in 2012 and now operate strictly as a duo. They released their last album, Fetch, in 2013, and their music is still completely…well, bananas. Sorry, I had to go there.
So there you have it, weirdos! Think we can get to 500 bands? Stick around and let’s find out.
*Metric fuck-ton including but not limited to: Frostoriuss, Spoon, Josh Gold, Alex, Lou and Genericus. Thanks for your patience and suggestions, dudes and dudettes. You complete us and shit.
Today’s weirdness comes from our new MVR (Most Valuable Reader), a dude by the name of William who emailed us a list a few weeks back of approximately eight gajillion weird bands, most of which were new to us. We’re still combing through William’s list but so far, the one that blew our minds the hardest is an all-drums punk band from right here in Los Angeles called Foot Village.
Now usually, all-drum bands are one baton-twirler away from just being a glorified college halftime show. But Foot Village are punk as fuck. They’re like Lightning Bolt minus the bass or Crash Worship minus the naked hippie dance party.
Turns out they’re affiliated with the Deathbomb Arc label, which should come as no surprise. They’re also the folks behind our favorite noise-rappers clipping. and Black Pus, the solo project of Lightning Bolt’s Brian Chippendale. So yeah, we pretty much have a huge label-crush on Deathbomb Arc at this point. Those guys know how to tickle our earholes.
If this blog were a game of street hockey, FCKN BSTRDS would be the fat kid from the end of the block who showed up in full pads and started checking all the other kids into the pavement, screaming the whole time, “You want a piece of me? YOU WANT A PIECE OF ME???” They’re scary weird…intimidatingly weird. I’m not sure if people get physically hurt at a FCKN BSTRDS show, but I’m positive there’s some emotion scarring.
FCKN BSTRDS are from the Netherlands and have been around since at least the late ’90s. They’ve put out a bunch of singles, cassettes and DVDs over the years, but the best way to experience the BSTRDS is through their live shows, which are as close to total anarchy as anything we’ve seen this side of Caroliner or Crash Worship. Dressed up like giant trash monsters, they generate a wall of feedback, noise and primal screams, then run around like lunatics, dry-humping objects, audience members and each other, tossing trash everywhere, and basically reducing the performance space unlucky to have them to a rainbow-colored pig sty. It looks amazing.
The leader of these self-described “misfits from the margins of the Dutch music scene” is a guy named Peter Zincken, who’s been part of the Dutch noise scene since the ’80s. His other projects include Odal and Dr. Bibber, which you should not bother Googling because most Odal results will lead you to a German pagan black metal band (not him) and the Dutch version of the game Operation (still not him). Dude doesn’t have a big digital footprint, as the NSA spies like to say.
We did manage to find this four-minute documentary about Zincken. It’s all in Dutch, but it has some great clips of his old solo Dr. Bibber performances, which are basically the MTV Unplugged version of FCKN BSTRDS. Even minus the costumes and the feedback, he’s still more abrasive than a pair of steel wool boxer shorts.
It’s kind of pointless for me to even attempt further description of a FCKN BSTRDS show, so I’ll just let you view the carnage for yourself. Warning: May contain major dick-wagging.
You might think that such insanity would not work in the harsh light of day, but you’d be wrong. It is daylight that is no match for the awesome power of the FCKN BSTRDS. Behold:
P.S. Shout-out to readers to Blaffie and Steven for suggesting these guys.