Turns out our timing in featuring British avant-percussion group Bow Gamelan Ensemble last month was better than we realized. Not only are they the subject of a gallery retrospective in Scotland that opened this past weekend (and runs through Dec. 15th), they’re also about to see their groundbreaking 1988 album, Great Noises That Fill the Air, get a special 30th anniversary reissue via U.K. label/distributor Cold Spring. This will be the first time Great Noises has ever been released digitally or on CD, and I’m pretty sure the cassette and LP versions were long out of print, as well. So yeah, this is a big deal for fans of avant-garde sound installation art.
The Great Noises reissue comes out next Monday, Nov. 5th, but you can stream the whole thing (and pre-order your copy) right now via Bandcamp. Here’s opening track “Two ‘Marimbas’,” which gives you an idea of the percussive merriment that awaits:
Here’s a riddle for the ages: How is it that no one until 1978 ever thought to title a horror movie Halloween? Feature-length horror films were over 50 years old by then, so John Carpenter really caught everyone else asleep at the switch there.
Bloody Death Skull‘s “Bats” isn’t the first song to use that title, but it has surprisingly little competition — mainly in the form of Tori Amos and My Little Pony, neither of whom, in this writer’s humble opinion, really captured bats in all their creepy glory. One fell on my head once on the way back from a camping trip — it had apparently flown into our RV and taken up temporary residence in one of the overhead storage compartments — and let me tell you, those little fuckers are freaky. They’re like rats with big leathery skin flaps that get caught under your collar and you’re shrieking for your friend Dora to pull over and everyone else thinks it’s so hilarious even though now you’re gonna need a rabies shot and years of therapy. But I digress.
“Bats” represents a new direction for Bloody Death Skull, according to BDS leader Daiana Feuer, who sent us the video for the new song (which you can see below) a few days ago. She assures me that there’s still some of her trademark ukulele buried in the mix somewhere, but mostly this is an electronic song, with big, squelchy synths and drum machine beats. “As an Argentinean raised in South Florida, I grew up on club music of all kinds and I’m trying to bring some of that flavor into the mix,” she reports. The synths are courtesy of Gerard Olson, beats by Andres Renteria, and mixing by the great DJ Nobody of Low End Theory (R.I.P.) fame.
Daiana also notes that the song is actually sung from the perspective of a demon who consumes bats. The video chronicles the hungry demon’s pursuit of a particularly insouciant bat with a taste for swimming pools and disco balls. “The bat has no idea it’s so delicious,” she explains. “To the demon, it’s like a walking slice of pizza.”
So enjoy a little early Halloween merriment, courtesy of Bloody Death Skull. Best song ever titled “Bats”? With apologies to Tori Amos, I say yes.
P.S. While TWBITW was in hypersleep, Bloody Death Skull appeared on The Gong Show — and got a perfect score! You can watch their triumphant performance here.
When we first wrote about Little Big’s “Skibidi” video and its accompanying dance — a cross between the Chicken, the Macarena and a splay-legged, fist-thrusting walk I’m gonna propose we call the Funky Stormtrooper — we suggested it had the potential to achieve “Harlem Shake” and “Gangnam Style” heights of dank memeness. And I think we were right; just three weeks since its release, the “Skibidi” video has racked up over 38 million YouTube views and thousands of video responses to the group’s #SkibidiChallenge (here’s a sample).
It’s also beginning to generate some interest outside of LB’s home country of Russia. So far most Western media, understandably, aren’t quite sure what to make of the whole thing. Mixmag, for example, just posted the “Skibidi” video to their Facebook page with the note, “WTF just happened?” (Here’s what happened, Mixmag: You got skibididdled. You got skibididdled so hard. Also, I just Googled “skibididdled” and this is officially the first online use of that word — so you’re welcome, internet.)
For Anglo audiences still bewildered by the sight of all these Russians jerk-stepping through the streets to bad techno, help has arrived in the form of an explanatory video from, of all places, Inside Edition, the long-running American “newsmagazine” show that I thought was mainly in the business of digging up celebrity scandals and hard-hitting investigative reports like “How Dirty Is Your Gym Bag?” Turns out they also have a segment called “Inside Edition Explains” in which they get experts to break down various pop culture phenomena whose appeal might otherwise elude the average Inside Edition viewer. Usually they set their sights on more mainstream fare, like Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” video and New York Fashion Week. But not even the primetime ratings-chasing folks at Inside Edition could resist the siren call (or is that a chicken call?) of “Skibidi.”
Full disclosure: An Inside Edition producer actually reached out to me at one point to see if I’d serve as their “Skibidi” expert, and I totally blew it and didn’t get back to them in time. But I’m kind of glad I didn’t, because never in a million years could I have explained “Skibidi” as well as the expert they did get, New York-based Russian musician Tessa Lena of Tessa Fights Robots. Tessa seems to be new to Little Big, so I guess I could’ve given a little more context for who Little Big are and their place in the growing global canon of artists who filter a mishmash of EDM, hip-hop and Western pop music through their own cultural touchpoints to surreal effect (keep that in mind for next time, Inside Edition!). But I was clueless about some of the video’s specifically Russian in-jokes, like turning the traditionally dour cashier of a Soviet-style grocery store into a grinning, “Sikibidi” strutting fool, and the dance’s resemblance to the chicken dance, which has apparently been very popular in Russia going back to the Soviet days and is probably at least partially responsible for the peculiarly spastic way Russian lager louts dance to techno (which, in turn, has clearly inspired many of Little Big’s videos, like this one).
Anyway, here’s Tessa Lena dropping some “Skibidi” knowledge. Spoiler alert: She confirms my suspicion that “‘Skibidi’ in Russian means absolutely nothing” — it’s just a made-up word, which kind of makes me love the song even more. I’ve heard that The Clash’s Joe Strummer, when asked what the greatest rock lyric of all time was, replied, “Awopbopaloobop alopbamboom.” OK, so maybe “Skibidi wa-pa-pa” isn’t quite that inspired, but it’s in the same ballpark.
A band like Babymetal isn’t really built to last. Three adorable teen Japanese girls fronting a metal band only works as long as the girls stay young and adorable. Four years after they blew up internationally, those girls are now young women — and as of Friday, there’s one less of them, as the band announced that Mizuno Yui, aka Yuimetal, has left the group, apparently due to a combination of health reasons and a desire to pursue her own solo career. (You can read statements from the band and Yuimetal here.)
Su-Metal and Moametal are carrying on without their former bandmate — and judging from the new single they released Friday, “Starlight,” they’re taking their music and image in a more mature, less kawaii (cute) direction. Which makes sense — Moametal is 19 and Su-Metal is 20, so it would be weird if they were still traipsing around in matching tutus and singing about the joys of chocolate over blast beats. Then again, being weird was what Babymetal was about from the jump — and now they’re, well, less weird. So I’m feeling a little conflicted about this new, less gimmicky direction for the band.
That being said, “Starlight” is a solid slab of pop-tinged power metal, with a catchy chorus and some genuinely heavy instrumental passages. (Even in their early, super-kawaii days, Babymetal’s backing band was always legit.) The video (embedded below) is kind of “meh” in my opinion, but it’s apparently setting up a narrative that will continue in future videos about something called the Chosen Seven that we get a glimpse of at the very end. And that part sounds like it could be really cool. So I’ll withhold judgment until they’ve revealed the full storyline.
Speaking of storylines, Babymetal are also gearing up for the release of their first graphic novel, Apocrypha: The Legend of Babymetal, which looks awesome. It’s due out Oct. 30 and supposedly will explain the story behind the Fox God, a mythical deity the group often cites in interviews as the creator of Babymetal. So hey, they haven’t completely abandoned their weird roots.
We’ve made no secret before in these virtual pages of our love for outsider musician, puppeteer and alien abductee David Liebe Hart. But we’ve neglected to sing the praises of Half Japanese, the long-running lo-fi rock act fronted by brothers Jad and David Fair. Since the late ’70s, they’ve churned out a massive catalog of tunes that manage to be deliriously catchy even when the guitars are out of tune (which they usually are). Kurt Cobain was a fan, as is Daniel Johnston. They’re great, and definitely weird enough to eventually earn a spot on our ever-expanding list.
So what do you get when you cross David Liebe Hart with Jad Fair and another frequent Half Japanese member, Baltimore multi-instrumentalist and all-around weirdness connoisseur Jason Willett? Possibly the best album DLH has ever recorded: For Everyone, which sets Hart’s rants and digressions to music as endearingly off-kilter as his half-sung, half-guy-on-the-bus-talking-to-no-one-in-particular vocals. There are paeans to Valerie Harper and Beatrice Arthur, an ode to a dead pet fish, an electro-funk screed against fake dating profiles (“Robot Girls”), and controversial diatribes on everything from Disney characters (“I Like Donald Duck Better Than Mickey Mouse”) to classic sitcoms (“I Like Vivian Vance Better Than Lucille Ball”).
The album’s Hartiest moment, for my money, is “Lentil Beans,” on which the singer professes his romantic (and occasionally carnal) love for the titular legume. “If you were a lady, I’d marry you,” DLH declares. “You’re better than black-eyed peas.” Personally, lentils give me gas, but I admire the man’s passion for his food. Here, have a listen:
For Everyone is out today via Joyful Noise Recordings and available for stream or purchase (on limited edition orange vinyl — only 100 copies left as of this writing) from Bandcamp. With respect to Jonah Mociun — whose loopy electro-pop has provided DLH with excellent musical accompaniment for the past several years — Jad Fair and Jason Willett have provided the perfect soundtrack for David Liebe Hart’s peculiar brand of endearingly eccentric songwriting. It’s occasionally hilarious, occasionally creepy — poppy, atonal, avant-garde and accessible all at once. It reminds me a little of what might happen if Wesley Willis, Tom Waits and Fun Boy Three (remember them?) joined forces, but really, it’s one of the most original things you’ll hear all year.
I have an uncontrollable urge to leave you with another track, so here’s “Haunted by Frankenstein.” Bump this at your Halloween party and give extra candy to the folks willing to dance to it.
Many of you readers have pointed out that our favorite meat-is-murder goregrind band, Cattle Decapitation, aren’t actually all that weird anymore, since most of their more recent material is no longer quite so specifically about the evils of factory farming and turning cows into cannibals. (And yes, that last part is a thing that actually happens, not just some twisted fantasy of Cattle Decapitation.) But they’re still awesome, so who cares? We’ll continue providing updates on their activities until somebody finds us another deathgrind band with a weirder back catalog and a frontman more unhinged than Travis Ryan.
Besides, their latest release, Medium Rarities, goes all the way back to Cattle Decap’s early days, when Travis would sometimes wear a mask made out of beef jerky and their songs had titles like “Diarrhea for Dahmer” and “Flesh-Eating Disease.” In addition to those early demos, the collection also includes several hard-to-find bonus tracks and all the songs from their 2005 split EP with another of our favorite weird metal bands, Caninus, the dog-fronted grindcore group. Also, the LP comes in special “rare” and “well done” meat-colored versions, as well as European versions that, according to Ryan, “resemble diseased meats.” Those, needless to say, will be highly sought-after collector’s items, at least until the cows rise up from their feedlots and kill us all in an orgy of bovine-on-human torture porn.
Here’s a promotional video for Medium Rarities, featuring its gross-out album art and the 2012 track “An Exposition of Insides,” previously only available in Japan. Oh, and did I mention that Cattle Decap will be on tour starting Oct. 21st, supporting technical death metalers Suffocation? Well, they will be. Full dates after the clip.
CATTLE DECAPITATION w/ Suffocation, Krisiun, Visceral Disgorge:
10/21/2018 Mulcahy’s Concert Hall – Wantagh, NY
10/22/2018 Middle East Down – Cambridge, MA
10/23/2018 Les Foufounes Electriques – Montreal, QC
10/24/2018 Lee’s Place – Toronto, ON
10/25/2018 Magic Stick – Detroit, MI
10/26/2018 The Forge – Joliet, IL
10/27/2018 Amsterdam Bar And Grill – St. Paul, MN
10/29/2018 Riot Room – Kansas City, MO
10/30/2018 Gothic Theatre – Denver, CO
10/31/2018 Metro Music Hall – Salt Lake City, UT
11/01/2018 Diamondz Event Center – Jerome, ID
11/02/2018 Club Sur Rocks – Seattle, WA
11/03/2018 Lola’s Room – Portland, OR
11/04/2018 Oakland Metro – Oakland, CA
11/05/2018 Whisky A Go-Go – West Hollywood, CA
11/06/2018 Brick By Brick – San Diego, CA
11/07/2018 Club Red – Mesa, AZ
11/09/2018 Paper Tiger – San Antonio, TX
11/10/2018 Gas Monkey Bar ‘N’ Grill – Dallas, TX
11/11/2018 White Oak Music Hall – Houston, TX
11/13/2018 The Masquerade – Atlanta, GA
11/14/2018 The Cone Denim Entertainment Center – Greensboro, NC
11/15/2018 Ottobar – Baltimore, MD
11/16/2018 Gramercy Theatre – New York, NY
11/17/2018 Reverb – Reading, PA
Remember when Carrie Underwood stole The Sound of Music? Well, Laibach are stealing it back. The Slovenian pop-industrial collective are gearing up to release their own version of the insanely popular Rodgers and Hammerstein musical via Mute Records on Nov. 23rd. Here’s a video for their version of “My Favorite Things,” which features a children’s choir and, in this live version recently debuted in Austria, a video backdrop of flying steaks, My Pretty Pony, nuns, Campbell’s soup cans and wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings. Like much of what Laibach does, it’s unclear whether they’re serious or taking the piss. Probably a bit of both.
So what inspired the sepulchral-voiced Milan Fras and his bandmates to want to sing about whiskers on kittens? Randomly, it was their much-publicized 2015 trip to North Korea. In preparing to become the first Western rock band ever to perform there, they learned that The Sound of Music is among the few pieces of Western art not censored by Kim Jong-un’s totalitarian government; many of its songs are even used to teach English in schools. So they worked up live versions of “Edelweiss,” “Do-Re-Mi” and other tunes from the musical, hoping that such familiar songs would help them connect with their North Korean audience. In a nod to its origins, Laibach’s version of The Sound of Music will also include a traditional Korean folk song called “Airirang” and another track featuring a gayageum, a Korean zither-like instrument.
Here’s a video for “The Sound of Music” that was actually filmed while the band was in North Korea.
I haven’t heard the full album yet, but already I feel like The Sound of Music represents peak Laibach even better than their previous Laibach-iest moment, their 2006 collection of national anthems called Volk. Their best work has always played with themes of nationalism and totalitarianism in clever, subversive ways — often through the lens of pop music — and using a visit to the most totalitarian country on Earth as the jumping-off point for a reinterpretation of a popular American musical about the Nazi annexation of Austria gives them all sorts of fresh opportunities to explore those themes. I mean, just look at the cover art: