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BULL TONGUE “TOP TEN #4″ by Byron Coley & Thurston Moore

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TONGUE TOP TEN #4 - May 26, 2009

Hey little buddies. Been sick as rat turds for a while now, but the covers are peeling back and we are breathing again. Nice.

1. We have made no secret of the boundless enthusiasm with which we embrace Vermont’s Mr. Dredd Foole and all his works, so it should be no surprise to hear that sparks fucking burst when these two new slabs arrived at headquarters. Songs to Despond Ya (Apostasy) is a brilliant solo live LP, with Dredd on acoustic guitar and howler, which demonstrates the warmth of smoke and the magic of his sound. It seems bogus to repeat the mantra for the nth time, but Dredd really takes the impulse of Starsailor/Lorca/Blue Afternoon-era Tim Buckley and throws it into the stratosphere. As casual as it is amazing. And it is icing to report that there is finally graspable evidence of the Dredd & Ed experience, after a couple decades (almost) of scattered live tapes and buzzing memory bulbs. That Lonesome Road Between Heart & Soul (Bo’ Weavil) is a CD by Dredd Foole and Ed Yazijian, who may be known to a few folks for his work with Kustomized or his Gladtree solo LP, Six Ways to Avoid the Evil Eye. Anyway, Ed is a string maestro inside this conceptual bonding, doing violin, lap steel and other guitar stuff, while Dredd uncorks spirals of upful phlegm. It’s glorious buzzing, droneful music, and a great companion piece for the LP. Of course, it should have been an LP itself, but what the hex?

2. Recent trip to that poetry fest in Cleveland went okay. Thanks for asking. Saw a bunch of good stuff. Drove many miles. Got an excellent book. Actually, got a few good books, but we have favorites on our minds right now, and that is a camp into which we will always place the great Valerie Webber and the equally smokin’ Elaine Kahn (late of 50 Foot Women). The pair has collaborated on a solid new volume called Convinced by the End of It (Big Baby Books), split in twain, shared half by each. And it is a motherfucker of a read—one of the best things we’ve read in a long time. Their voices have been very different in the past, these two, but there are similarities here never noted before—a slowly twisting surrealism, combined with casually strident orgone boil. This is powerful, funny, mean and possessed of a magical quality we associate with the incredible early work of Erica “Rikki” Ducornet. This is writing in its highest form.

3. For whatever reason, new jazz/improv disks have not been finding us as regularly as they once did. Maybe we complained about the format too much, and since no one apart from SIWA, QBICO, Eremite and a coupla other places even understand that jazz should be available on LP, it’s usually no big deal. But recent car travel has made CDs a somewhat more useful format (at least in the short term), and we got these three new things from the Porter Records label (previously noted for reissuing a few key Philadelphia pieces), and figured they’d ride as well as anything. And they did. Opus de Life by Profound Sound Trio which documents a show from June ’08. Saxophonist for the date is Englishman Paul Dunmall, who doubles on bagpipes, and really blows like a maniac. Long mired in my brain as a second tier freebopper, Dunmall presents a much weirder surface here than expected, creating raw melodicism with an almost primitive grace. The rhythm section is Andrew Cyrille and Henry Grimes (Cecil Taylor’s legendary Blue Note-era backline). Cyrille sounds as good as always—alternately multi-dimensional and hammy—and Grimes puts in a very solid arco-heavy performance on bass and violin. Had not paid much attention to the rediscovered Grimes, but his work here is fine. Julu Twine by Alan Sondheim and Myk Freedman finds Sondheim’s various strings (he’s been playing, writing and creating in various fields since the early ’60s) paired with Freedman’s lap steel to lovely weird effect. Tones get bent so far they curl back on themselves, and eternity’s whistle is always just a psychedelic heartbeat away. Sondheim’s reactivated musical career has been very interesting to track, and this album’s a good one. Not jazz, but good. Even less jazzic is Folkanization by Francesco Giannico. This young Italian electro-acoustic composer in whose work we can hear tendrils of everything from Luigi Nono to Toru Takemitsu. Filled with odd details, the music is fascinating. Good for the car, anyway.

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4. Much recent fume time has been spent amidst the pages of Steven Brower’s Satchmo (Harry N. Abrams), a book largely dedicated to the visual art of the last century’s premier pothead—Mr. Louis Armstrong. Brower was also responsible for that cool book of Woody Guthrie’s visuals a few years back, but this one is even bonnier on the peeps. Armstrong was an insanely gifted collage artist, who created hundreds of self-referential pieces to adorn reel-to-reel tape boxes, scrapbooks and even—until his wife pulled it down anyway—one of the walls of his house in Queens. The text Brower conjures is cool, but it’s really just a context generator for the wild wild art that crawls all over the pages of this book. Been showing this to everyone who falls by and they’re all blown away. You be, too.

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5. If you held a gun to our heads and yelled, “Quick! Think of a great whiskey!” We’d have no problem rolling out a list that would make you weak in the knees. If, however, instead of whiskey, you asked for a list of great Colorado punk bands, the list would peter out in an embarrassingly short time, even if we stuttered a lot. Consequently, it’s no lie to say we were shocked (SHOCKED!) by the amazing contents of Rocky Mountain Low (Hyperpycnal)>. This 2 LP set is an insanely great insider’s view of the Colorado underground scene of the late ’70s. We’d never even heard rumors about half the bands here, but Joseph Pope (of Angst “fame”) was an active participant, and along with Dalton Rasmussen, he pulled together a great set of unreleased nuggets from demos, rehearsal tapes & whatnot. Like lotsa scenes in their early days, the sounds here are heterogenous—’60s style pop, hard garage, weird experimentalism and Brit-damaged lunge are all part of the mix, just as they were in the day. The book/zine included is a great blend of history, attitude, crappy-looking fliers and the best picture of Jello Biafra you will ever see in this lifetime (or any other) (although this one is good, too). Every town deserves this kind of deep investigation. Superb shit.

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6. One of us (not telling who) recently made the trek down to New Orleans for the Ponderosa Stomp, which is an annual event tracking the trajectory of oddball roots dudes of all stripes. Two stages, ten hours a night at the House of Blues added up to 30-40 hours of solid listening insanity, but the absolute highpoint was the…well, not reunion of the Flamin’ Groovies (pic’d above), exactly, but it was the first time that founding members Cyril Jordan and Roy Loney had been together onstage since ’71, when Loney split in the wake of the Teenage Head LP. They were backed by the A-Bones, with Ira Kaplan on organ and former Groovies fanclub head Miriam Linna, banging the beat, and man, it was insane. Jordan and Loney both have a crazy sorta look going (check the youtube vids), but the sound was so right on you could just cry. They played almost all stuff from the first three LPs, but at show’s end they tackled “Shake Some Action” (from the long-post-Loney days), “Teenage Head” and “Slow Death” (which was recorded after Roy had left). It was unbelievably great. People were screaming like babies and Miriam was singing along with everything and just looking like the cat who ate the canary. There are going to be a couple of reprise shows coming up this summer, and you would be well advised to be there.

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7. Many peeps out there may know something or another about the legendary NWW list. This was a printed insert of recommended obscurities Steven Stapleton included in copies of the first couple of Nurse With Wound albums. The list has been a touchstone for a lot of people over the years, and various attempts to reissue bits and pieces from it have been made. Right now there are actually a goodly number of them available in one digital format or another, but shamefully few have been blessed by vinyl reissue, which remains the king of all known formats. Thankfully, De Stijl has taken the time to do a lovely, lovely LP reissue of the sole album by the Finnish experimental band, Sperm. Entitled Shh!, the album features one side of kosmiche-tinged free-rock with many electronic asides. The flip replaces the kraut proclivities with some free-jazz reed-gush, and it all sounds utterly jake. The original had a silk-screened sleeve, but this one looks dandy and sounds better than any original we’ve ever laid ears on. Gut stuf!

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8. The story of Mad in its EC days is pretty well known. The early issues, edited by the insane Harvey Kurtzman have been reprinted in whole and also in various anthologies frequently during the past 50 years. Kurtzman’s next few projects have been less well documented. He left Mad to do a glossy humor mag called Trump for Hugh Hefner. Hefner killed the mag after two issues, but he allowed Kurtzman to use free office space. As a result, Kurtzman organized a bunch of other artists to pool their funds to create an autonomous humor monthly. It ran for 11 issues in 1957-58 and was called Humbug. We’ve seen occasional loose issues of the ‘zine, but Fantagraphics has compiled the full run in a new two-volume box set, and included lots of interviews, historical context, and info about Kurtzman’s next project, Help! (among many other things). The reproduction quality is great, and the contents—by Kurtzman, Will Elder, Arnold Roth, Al Jaffe and Jack Davis—are far more sophisto than Mad, and less pop-culture-oriented than Help! In a way, Humbug almost feels like a goof-humor version of The New Yorker or something. There’s a lot of fairly serious political/social commentary, cloaked in wry rainment. It’s a blend as interesting as any cocktail, and it’s goddamn great to have this stuff easily available. Hats away!

9. One of the less-known documentaries by D.A. Pennebaker is the hour-long Sweet Toronto, which was filmed at the Toronto Rock & Roll Revival festival in 1969. It has just been issued on DVD under the title John Lennon & the Plastic Ono Band Live in Toronto ’69 (Shout Factory) and is a rather good eye-felch. Pennebaker is a great framer of live concerts and this is no exception. It opens amidst a somewhat half-assed looking group of bikers who seem to be escorting the Plastic Ono Band to the outdoor concert, but soon settles down to matters at hand. There are segments with Bo Diddley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard to start things off (the full line-up was: Milkwood, Nucleus, Whiskey Howl, Cat Mother & the Allnight Newsboys, Chicago Transit Authority, Screaming Lord Sutch, Tony Joe White, Doug Kershaw, Alice Cooper, Junior Walker, Diddley, Gene Vincent, Lewis, Richard, Chuck Berry, Onos and the Doors. MC was Kim Fowley. Wonder where the other footage is?), the Plastic Ono Band hits stage with a boom. It’s crazy to see Yoko crawling around in a white bag while Lennon and Clapton howl through “Blue Suede Shoes”, and the vibe of the whole thing is gorgeously bizarre. By the end, when Yoko’s singing “John John,” Clapton has his guitar off and is kneeling, back to the audience, nudging feedback from his amp as though he was in the Skaters or something. Fuckin’ A!

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10. Just got a little package with three issues of Brian Walsby’s Manchild comics (Bifocal Media), the third and fourth issues of which come with CDs by the always exquisite Melvins. Walsby was extremely active in artifying the punk underground of the mid-‘80s onward, and his books are densely scripted and great reads. Some of the stories are about Brian’s early years, but most are detailed accounts of hardcore bands, what happened to them, interactions Brain had with them over the years, etc. Kinda inside baseball, but totally fantastic if yr into the noise at all. We don’t agree with all of Walsby’s assessments, but we defend to the death his right to say that the Descendents improved over time. Now that’s funny!

Alright, please be a good egg – if you want it licked, send two (2) (TWO) copies to:

BULL TONGUE
PO BOX 627
NORTHAMPTON MA 01061
USA

BULL TONGUE “TOP TEN #3″ by Byron Coley & Thurston Moore

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TONGUE TOP TEN #3 - April 27, 2009

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1. Easily the best-looking LP we’ve had the pleasure of grappling lately is Light by Reiko and Tori Kudo, issued by Siwa. Reiko and Tori are best known for their work with Maher Shalal Hash Baz, but this stuff is even more casual, diffuse and haunting. Mostly just piano and female voice, the sound has an elegance and mystery that makes our veins wiggle. It’s like some sort of otherworldly cabaret, beamed in from Planet X. And while the music is available now as a CD, the LP version is just incredible—a wooden box, with nine separate compartments, each containing a printed booklet with lyrics. Quite unbelievable, even for Siwa, which has long set a tough-to-match standard for packaging. Hats off to the label’s Alan Sherry and all who sail with him.

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Bree


2. Just got a couple of fine new books by the great Cleveland poet, Bree. The bigger of the two (although printed in a wee small format) is was chicken trax amidst sparrows tread (The Temple Inc). This one collects a bunch of Bree’s fantastic prole poesy and uses it to sorta set the scene for a long prose piece about asshole blood. Amazing stuff. There’s also if i cld a body slam on her own imprint, Green Panda Press. This one’s a slim, folded sheet with six “peace poems” (one of which is purely visual). What makes them “peace poems,” we can only guess, but they’re boss and loud, which seems like a good thing. It should be noted that Bree is also hosting the Tres Versing the Pandapoetry festival in Cleveland on May 8-10, this year, which should be an excellent place to be.

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Willie Lane


3. Great new guitar record out by William “Willie” Lane, called Known Quantity (Cord Art). Willie lived up here in Western Mass. for a good long while and was involved in lots of weird musical shit. Not much of it got proper documentation, however, although Child of Microtones did issue a fine CDR, Recliner Ragas , a few years back. Anyway, Willie moved down to Philadelphia a couple of years ago, and we get a chance to hear him now and then when we’re down there, or he chooses to hit the road with one of the MV & EE traveling carnivals. But his solo work has always been amazing and rare. Well, not so rare this week. There’s this new LP, and it was recorded throughout 2006-2008, and is a total blast. Willie’s mostly solo (save for some licks by Samara Lubelski) and his playing ranges from Wizz Jones power-pluck at its cleanest to Michael Chapman electro-smear at its phasingest. But Willie knows his stuff cold and this instrumental slide through the gates of Neverland is one of this year’s great rides.

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Duplex Planet editor David Greenberger and poet Ernest Noyes Brookings at Dunkin Donuts, Jamaica Plain, MA. Summer 1985 photo by Stephen Elston


4. First new issue in a long time of David Greenberger’s vastly entertaining magazine, Duplex Planet. Issue 184 doesn’t revolve around a central theme, but details various conversations David had with the residents at senior centers in East L.A. My favorite is the one with a woman who claims to be the 23rd of 24 children in her family, and also to be a great-great-grandmother. There’s no earthly way to know if she’s full of shit or not, but it’s nice to read her thoughts. Greenberger has a gentle way of probing the memories of these folks that is funny, sad and surprising—sometimes simultaneously. His work is always cool. The same is true of his sometimes collaborator, longtime pal, Terry Adams . Adams, a founding member of NRBQ as well as a legendary Sun Ra collector, has a new CD called Holy Tweet (Clang!).

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Primarily recorded as a trio date with Tom Ardolino and Scott Ligon, the vibe is like a stripped down version of the Q Mothership—rolling bones of uniquely shaped, instantly recognizable goodtime roots pop whatsis that transcend boundaries of “mereness” by a mysterious propulsive force. The stuff is always just off-base enough to keep our interest thoroughly poked (especially as the first zephyrs of spring beckon us to the hill towns beyond). Sometimes it’s enough to just enjoy.

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5. Mats Gustafsson has ten of the busiest fingers in all of Sweden. And yes, his primary focus is record collecting. But he does a few other things and he does them well. Three recent albums attest to this (lord knows how many record he has released since we last met) and they also map a width of style-ass as impressive as it is bounteous. First is The Vilnius Implosion (No Business), which is a solo work for baritone saxophone, slide saxophone and alto fluteophone. What the latter of these two instruments look like is best left unmentioned, but the sounds are swimming! The music (recorded in concert in Lithuania) is explosively sculptural—three-dimensional blocks of sound bursting through sheets of reality as though it was all a crepe paper curtain. That’s the first side, the flip has longer, grouchier masses of tongue flex, approaching jazzic concepts at times. Lovely! Then we have Mats G Plays Duke E (QBICO), a one-sided LP with Mats playing nearly-straight versions of several Ellington tunes on tenor, enlivened by primitive vocls and raw, live electronics. Parts are sweet enough to play for yr grandma, others will just make her ass bleed. The final piece is a split LP with Dutch pianist Cor Fulher on Narrominded. Fulher uses some extended techniques to take his piano sounds into vast regions of new, and Gustafsson is equally adept at squeezing sounds from his sax that are beyond the ken of most of his peers. Using rolling sequences of tongue-clacks, overblowing, breath-splatter, he ends up doing things, making sounds, that seem impossible. But Mats is more than up to the task. Amazing shit.

6. Hisham Mayet is one of the geniuses behind the Sublime Frequencies project, which is attempting to document many strands of ecstatic global culture before they are bulldozed into oblivion by Western hegemony. His efforts have been prolific and inspired, and his latest DVD, Palace of the Winds, is no exception. It combines snippets of performance footage with long shots of Saharan landscape in motion, and various other shots of the sun-smacked towns and people of the region.

Less tripped out than some of his other films, this one is carried along by the amazing guitar music of Group Doueh, Group Marwani and others. As beautiful as any foot.

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7. Have received a goddamn charmer of a split LP from the UK on the new Carnivals Carnivals label. Side B has our old favorites Temperatures, making a bed-splitting racket on a long piece called “Bifurcation.” This finds them moving ever further beyond the shadow of tongue. Side A has a new-to-us trio from Manchester called A Middle Sex (presumably a reference more to Jeffrey Eugenides than Greater Uxbridge) performing a suite entitled “An Unclean Yawn.” An extended blurt of drums, voices, feedback and blood, its parts move together like kittens fitted with large boots—thump, thump, thump.

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The Manchester Musicians Collective


8. Another insanely brilliant weevil with roots in Britain’s gloomy north is the new volume of Chuck Warner’s bodacious Messthetics series (Hyped To Death), which collects the forgotten teeth of the Manchester Musicians Collective from the years 1977-1982. The music here is a glorious pastiche of fully cracked DIY grunt, filled with snarling sissies, moaning keyboards, chopped rhythms and slugged guitars. The booklet contains an incredible wealth of info on the scene, but it’s collated in a manner that makes it as mysterious as most of the bands on here. Really wild stuff, though. As is most of this series. We should write more about Chuck at some point, too. He is one of the legends of record collecting. In the mid ‘80s, one of us—not telling which—was involved in a massive trade with him that involved swapping Ya Ho Wha LPs for a Volvo station wagon. But anybody who likes music in the least should be ALL OVER this series. It’s both the tits and the berries.

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Death Sentence: Panda!


9. Paul Costuros is a frantic sort of gentleman who first came to our attention when he was with the spamsodically massive Total Shutdown. More recently, he has been involved with Death Sentence: Panda!, and those woozy bastards finally have a full length LP, Insects Awaken ((Upset the Rhythm) out, which allows the to extend their strange tentacles more deeply into the room. They seem to owe a certain compositional sense to some of the legendary Bay Area units of the late ‘80s, but they manage to make their sonics far less annoying than some of those bums ever could. Indeed, there is a great beauty to some of the stripped down percussion-based chants, which actually resemble certain gestured invented by the Residents in the mid ’70s. It’s a charming sort of pop/anti-pop mix that will make yr bones feel as soft as butter. Which may be a very good thing. Another good thing involving Mr. Costuros is his site devoted to ESP-Disk. This is one of the best collections of ESP imagery available anywhere in the known universe, and if you study it, you will be revelated. For sure.

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10. Certain records have a kind of intimate feel that makes them immune to any sort of standard critical whatsis. The first records by bands like the Flaming Lips and Guided By Voices are ones we’d lump in this category. Both those bands seemed as though they were content to just do what they did, and they documented the process for their friends, without much thought that there’d be anyone else interested. It’s a cool state-of-being, and one which allows more honesty than most bands will manage in a thousand demos. Anyway, there’s a new LP out, collecting the long-forgotten practice tapes of a rural Pennsylvania band called Suetta, and it has the same kinda feel. The album is called Olympic Stain (Summersteps). Suetta existed for a couple of years in the mid ‘90s and wear their influence on their sleeves (post-scum-rock noise and obscurantist indy-ism). Their album has one studio session and one fake live gig, recorded in the abandoned house where they rehearsed. And while it is perhaps a minor pleasure, it’s one that has been spinning here a lot lately. C’mon, anyone who would do a mock cover of a Noise Addict song certainly deserved props for something!

Alright. That’s it, except that a keen reader pointed out the Sunny Murray LP on Shandar is actually self-titled, not called “Big Chief.” Okay. Fuck us. Bye.

PLEASE DO NOT NEGLECT TO SEND US TWO (2) COPIES OF EVERYTHING GOOD. ARCHAIC FORMATS (VINYL, PRINTED MATTER, ETC.) ARE GREETED WITH ESPECIAL GRUNTS.

BULL TONGUE
PO BOX 627
NORTHAMPTON MA 01061
USA

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