One of the cool things about my day job is that I get to work with the great Henry Rollins, whose taste in weird and esoteric music is even more wide-ranging than mine and Jake’s. (He also knows more about music than the two of us put together. Like, a lot, lot more.) He hosts a radio show every Sunday night on KCRW-FM that I highly encourage you to check out — every week, he breaks out some new mind-bending shit you’ve probably never heard of. In the coming week’s, we’ll probably be mining Henry’s show for all sorts of new weird sounds.
Our first raid of the Rollins vaults comes in the form of a gentleman from France who goes by the nom de weird of Lieutenant Caramel. He describes himself as a “hunter of sounds” and collector of “resonant matters,” but his work transcends typical musique concrete and field recordings with a sense of wit and whimsy that makes even his most bizarre compositions as hilarious in places as a Wile E. Coyote cartoon. Most of them clock in at around ten minutes or more, so they’re not for short attention spans — or then again, since they constantly warp and shape-shift, maybe they are.
Lieutenant Caramel is the alter ego of Philippe Blanchard, who lives in the ridiculously picturesque town of Annecy in the French Alps. In 1999, he founded a festival there called “Le bruit de la neige,” which translates to “The Noise of Snow.” Looks like the most recent one was just last month, so I guess Jake and I will just have to start planning now to hit the 2016 edition.
Not everything Blanchard produces as Lieutenant Caramel sounds like cartoon character stumbling through a tool shed. We’ll leave you with a track that’s more Lynch than Looney Tunes. There’s still some funny, distorted voices in there, but this time, you won’t know whether to laugh or hide under the covers.
Any kid who’s ever gone to Disneyland has probably been dragged by their parents to the park’s least entertaining attraction, Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln, at which a creepily dead-eyed Abe Lincoln animatronic intones bits and pieces of the celebrated president’s most famous speeches. If you were ever one of those kids, you’ll probably get a kick out of Negativland‘s latest bit of pop-culture appropriation, “Right Might,” which uses chopped-up outtakes from Disney’s Lincoln voice recordings to deliver a goofily incoherent and frequently interrupted imperialist screed.
The backstory of “Right Might” is maybe even more entertaining than the track itself (which you can stream below). A few years ago, a Disney insider offered to send Negativland a bootleg copy of the Disney audio archives, which included outtakes from most of Disneyland and Disney World’s various theme park ride soundtracks. The corporate prankster eventually sent the Negativland guys nearly 100 CD-R’s filled with sound effects and voiceovers from decommissioned Disney rides, as well as various outtakes, bloopers and alternate takes from rides still in use. Among the treasures never before heard outside the Mouse House: hours of raw, unedited studio recordings of actor Royal Dano declaiming what would become the speeches for Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln.
“Right Might” will appear on Negativland’s first album in six years, It’s All in Your Head, out Oct. 28th on the band’s own Seeland Records.
Negativland’s new album “It’s All Your Head” questions the existence of God and comes packaged in an actual Bible. That won’t piss anyone off.
When last we heard from our favorite sound collage culture jammers Negativland, they were honoring the spirit of the late Casey Kasem by re-releasing their banned single “U2” that featured Kasem’s familiar, woolly voice unleashing a profanity-laced tirade. While that was certainly a worthy endeavor, we’re happy to report that their next project promises to be a bit more substantial. On Oct. 28th, they’ll be releasing It’s All in Your Head, their first album of new material in six years. And this time, they’re tackling their heaviest topic yet: why people believe in God.
But wait, because this is Negativland, the fun doesn’t stop there. The CD release of It’s All in Your Head will be packaged inside actual copies of the Holy Bible. The trailer video even promises a limited run of copies packaged inside the Qur’an. So basically, It’s All in Your Head is guaranteed to piss off both the Christian conservative crowd and the Islamic fundamentalist set. It’s equal opportunity blasphemy!
To be fair, nothing in the trailer or press release suggests that Negativland are actually doing anything especially blasphemous. They’re simply using religious texts as found-art objects, and questioning the existence of, and our belief in, a single, all-powerful deity—which is not the same thing as denying the existence of said deity, a finer point that’s often lost on the zealots. Which is why we’re predicting this will probably be Negativland’s most-discussed release since their 1995 book/CD project Fair Use: The Story of the Letter U and the Numeral 2, which they put out in response to the Casey Kasem/U2 dustup.
Anyway, It’s All in Your Head promises, according to a press release, to combine “found music, found sound, found dialogue, guest personalities and original electronic noises into a compelling and thoughtful musical essay that looks at monotheism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, neuroscience, suicide bombers, 9/11, colas, war, shaved chimps, and the all-important role played by the human brain in our beliefs.” Portions of the record were made in front of a blindfolded studio audience. Other portions were probably just taped off Christian right-wing radio. Which parts are which? We bet you can figure it out. You’re a smart bunch.
Here’s the video trailer. Enjoy! Oh and if you happen to be in Portland on Aug. 29th or Seattle on Aug. 31st, you can catch Negativland’s new show, “Content!”, at the Crystal Ballroom and Bumbershoot, respectively.
So this morning we got a very polite email from a guy from Florida named Robbie Brantley, asking us to check out his band Human Fluid Rot. “Good day to you all,” the email read in part. “I hope you find my project interesting enough to put on your site.” Who says “Good day to you all” anymore? Even with a name like Human Fluid Rot, we were half expecting a chap-hop project.
Happily, however, it turns out that Robbie’s politeness ends with his emails. Musically, he’s as rude as they come, unleashing the kind of shrieking feedback noise assault that clears rooms and busts eardrums. And occasionally, he creates it while taking a dump. He’s our kind of guy, that Robbie.
Anyway, here’s Robbie’s latest sonic stinkbomb, 45 minutes of static and despair called “Kid Songs.” It’s a great way to start your week!
To find out more about Human Fluid Rot, visit their Facebook page.
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.
So here’s an idea Jake and I came up with after too much eggnog: On Sundays throughout 2014, we’ll be sharing some of our favorite weird things that come in non-band form: blogs, podcasts, magazines, record labels, books, films, radio shows, YouTube channels, visual artists and more. There’s just too much good weird shit out there that deserves more than the occasional retweet.
We’re kicking off this new series with one of our absolute favorites: Bepi Crespan Presents…, a weekly radio show and podcast broadcasting out of Canada on CiTR Radio (also home to legendary radio personality Nardwuar the Human Serviette). Host Bepi Crespan plays a self-described mix of “difficult music, harsh electronics, spoken word, cut-up/collage and general CRESPAN© weirdness.” He favors artists like Merzbow, Cabaret Voltaire, Einstürzende Neubauten, Negativland and Ryoji Ikeda, but also features tons of newer bands and composers who probably don’t get airplay on any other FM radio show in the world. He remains, to the best of our knowledge, the only FM radio DJ to regularly play the twisted art-pop of TWBITW favorites Chimney Crow and Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin, and that alone makes him worthy of a hat-tip in our book.
Crespan broadcasts his show every Sunday morning from 6:00 to 9:00 a.m. on CiTR; if you live in the Vancouver area, you can find him at 101.9 FM, and if you live anywhere else, you can livestream his show on CiTR.ca. Past shows are posted in podcast form on the Bepi Crespan Presents… website. So next time you’re in need of a heavy dose of avant-garde noise, give one of his shows a spin. You’re pretty much guaranteed to discover something you’ve never heard before, which is more than we can say for 99.9% of terrestrial radio anymore.
This week we’re adding another band to the Weird List that many of you have been clamoring for: Steven Stapleton’s venerable experimental/industrial/sound collage project, Nurse With Wound. For over three decades, Stapleton and his many collaborators have been producing some of the creepiest (and, on occasion, funniest) music ever to come out of the U.K.—which, considering the Brits also gave us such influential noise mongers as Throbbing Gristle and Current 93, is saying something.
From their very first album, recorded live as a trio in 1978, NWW announced themselves as something completely different. Chance Meeting on a Dissecting Table of a Sewing Machine and an Umbrella was a jarring mix of squiggly electronics, prog/psych guitar freakouts, primal howls and ominous, ambient noise. Though originally released in a run of just 500 copies, it made quite a splash in the emerging London industrial scene—and not only because of its BDSM cover art.
One of the more interesting aspects of Chance Meeting was the inclusion of the now-legendary Nurse With Wound List, an eclectic, expansive catalog of the band’s many influences, from Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire to Stockhausen and Tangerine Dream—though most of the name-checks were far more obscure than those. A handful of bands on our own Weird List appear, including American rock primitivists Cromagnon and French avant-garde accordionist Ghedalia Tazartes. But overall, I have to admit: When you do a blog like ours, reading through the NWW List is a humbling experience. Clearly we’ve got some catching up to do.
By 1981, founding NWW members John Fothergill and the excellently named Heeman Pathak had left the group, leaving Stapleton to forge ahead as a solo act. Enlisting the help of a live drummer and his friend J.G. Thirlwell of Foetus, Stapleton recorded an album called Insect and Individual Silenced that he himself has since dismissed as “terrible.” Then, after a collaboration with power electronics pioneers Whitehouse (a very bleak and atmospheric record called The 150 Murderous Passions, released with the liner note, “This record may be played at any speed”), Stapleton hit his stride with 1982’s Homotopy to Marie, the album he has since referred to as the first “real” NWW release. Full of tape manipulations and dread, Homotopy became the blueprint for what remains Nurse With Wound’s signature style: abstract, slow-moving, cinematic, occasionally abrasive and even more occasionally terrifying. Depending on your disposition, it’s either music that should only be listened to in the dark—or it’s music you should never listen to in the dark.
As weird as eerie noise epics like “The Schmürz (Unsullied by Suckling)” can get, what really makes Steven Stapleton a world-class weirdo are his twisted and often hilarious spins on mainstream music and pop culture. Take, for example, 1985’s The Sylvie and Babs Hi-Fi Companion, an early experiment in sampling, NWW-style. Yes, that’s really the cover art on the YouTube clip. And yes, this track really is called “You Walrus Hurt the One You Love.”
Over the decades, Stapleton has released more than 40 albums and countless collaborations (with everyone from Current 93 to Sun 0))) to Stereolab), singles, EPs and compilation tracks, all exhaustively cataloged on the Nurse With Wound website and much of it now available via Bandcamp. More recently, he’s brought back a touring version of the band, with a rotating supporting cast that includes longtime collaborators Colin Potter and Diana Rogerson (Stapleton’s wife) along with newer cohorts like sound collage artists Matt Waldron and Andrew Liles.
It would be asinine to try to summarize a career like Stapleton’s with a single video—all the more so because he hasn’t released any “official” Nurse With Wound music videos. (A few short films have used NWW music, including this one, but they’re not music videos in any traditional sense.) But this fan-made clip for the 2008 track “The Bottom Feeder,” using the stop-motion art of Czech filmmaker Jiří Barta, actually does a pretty great job of encapsulating all that is spooky and brilliant about Nurse With Wound’s best work.
If you’re still mourning the passing of cult sound-collage duo The Books: Well, first of all, you really need to get over it. Get some therapy or something. But in the meantime, you can now cry yourself to sleep every night listening to Music for a French Elevator and Other Oddities, a double LP set of B-sides, soundtracks and other Books miscellanea previously only available on last year’s massive A Dot in Time box set. I know, you probably already have a shrine to that box set in your living room—but get Music for a French Elevator anyway. Maybe it will help give you some much-needed closure.
Music for a French Elevator is a vinyl-only release limited to 2,000 copies, and last we checked there are only 154 copies left. So as a late-night informercial that The Books might sample might say: Don’t delay, order your copy now!
In other Books news: Nick Zammuto continues to release a steady trickle of groovy tracks from the forthcoming second album of his post-Books project, Zammuto. And Paul de Jong continues to enjoy his new life as a Christian minister in New Zealand. Kidding! He’s actually been working on a solo show called Mild Stimulants. Here’s a sample.
Here’s a SoundCloud player featuring a few of Nick Zammuto’s favorite tracks from Music for a French Elevator, along with the collection’s full track list.
Music for a French Elevator and Other Oddities track list:
4. It’s Musiiiiic!
5. The Joy of Nature
6. Meditation Outtakes
7. A Long Villainous Sequence
8. Millions of Millions
9. Of the Word God
10. Ghost Train Digest
11. You’ll Never Be Alone
12. ‘Ah…, I See’
13. Three Day Night
14. Classy Penguin
15. 8 Frame
16. Smack My Bishop
17. Biospheric Quiet
18. Happy Lawyers
20. John’s Arp
21. Foreign Country and Western
23. Biospheric Doubletime
24. Drowned But Survived
25. Pickup Dark
27. Circle of Fifths Loop
28. Past Comes Welling Up
29. Electro Lawyers
30. Mars, OK
31. Biospheric Dark
33. Running Down
34. 8 Tons of Oxygen
35. 10,000 Crows
36. John’s Epiphany
37. Lawyer Lullaby
38. Hokie Ranch
39. 2over3 Lawyers
40. Glass Glass
41. Biospheric Zither
42. Found Frozen Corndog
43. Cello Song Feat. Jose Gonzales
Well, it’s apparently official: bent pop sound collage artists The Books are no more. Their label, Temporary Residence, is billing a new Books box set as a “perfectly fitting conclusion to one of underground music’s most vital players.” We’ll miss you, guys! Although Nick Zammuto’s first post-Books project has definitely taken some of the sting out of your demise.
Now about that box set: It features The Books’ entire recorded output on seven vinyl records, including a double album’s worth of previously unreleased material; a two-hour DVD of all their videos; a 56-page picture book; and their entire catalog on a cassette-shaped USB flash drive. Oh and there will only be 1,000 copies made. You can pre-order it now from The Books’ label, Temporary Residence, for a mere $150. It’s due to ship “on or around July 15.” You know indie labels, they’re casual like that.
Let’s play this post out with The Books’ take on two of our favorite things: golf and guns. (Although despite watching this video like 59 times, my backswing is still a mess.)
(Photo swiped from BoingBoing.net)
Anticipation really seems to be building for the debut album from Zammuto, the new band/solo project from Nick Zammuto, one-half of sound collage mavericks The Books. Just today, Pitchfork gave a “Best New Track” shout-out to “F U C-3PO,” an almost proggy jam with robot vocals and distortion pedals set to stun. And last week, director Matthew Day debuted a short documentary called “A Day With Nick Zammuto” that shows the musician hard at work on his new music and chilling in his amazing self-built house with his wife and ridiculously cute children. We’ve embedded the YouTube version of the film below, or you can watch the original on Day’s website, Naked Musicians.
Zammuto will be making their live debut on Feb. 3 at Mass Moca in North Adams, Massachusetts. If anyone goes, give us a report!