Indonesian Ritual Drone, German Post-Punk, Russian Hardcore
No one will listen to Jandek CDs with me.
Early in the pandemic, I DGAF. The common room was host to nasty death metal, throbbing drone and shrieking free jazz. Maybe we were just all in shock and anything felt numb by comparison, or everyone just tolerated the noise. But at a certain point, requests to turn down/off were made, the toddler developed her own sense of taste and my (wonderful) father-in-law (who moved in last summer) plays a strict diet of The Beatles, ABBA, Frankie Valli and live Pink Floyd concerts on YouTube… they won't admit it, but my family was over my bulls***.
When it comes to music and shared spaces, I tend to be a people pleaser, playing to the room and pushing around the edges when that makes sense. I once showed up to a DJ night armed with drone records, but, at the last minute, flipped to a mutant dance set so I wouldn't scare away a birthday party in progress. I care, ok?
Lately, my Subaru has offered refuge to my louder, stranger urges on errands and long drives. This has proven crucial in catching up with a large stack of Jandek CDs and their outre explorations of mystery, isolation and identity. So today I'm introducing a new section to be deployed at will:
Viking On Corwood
Mental notes on Jandek CDs while driving. No digital, no vinyl — only available from Corwood Industries.
Philadelphia Saturday (recorded live April 2008, released Jan. 2021): This double disc features an unlikely quartet: Jeremiah Cymerman (clarinet), Sara Schoenbeck (bassoon), Gloria Galante (harp) and the Representative from Corwood on piano and moaned poetry. The music feels like somnambulist chamber music in silhouette — you can see the shapes from their shadows, but they drag and stretch against harsh light.
Rudyard's (recorded live April 2009, released Sept. 2020): I have waited for the famed Jandek Funk Show ever since an ecstatic clip surfaced online. It's the Rep, a square-yet-formidable drummer and a flashy-as-hell funk bassist in a wah-wah pedal-driven, party-hardin' power trio. I can never tell if the audience — in the Rep's hometown of Houston — were privy to the bizarre magic happening or if they were just there for pre-game drinks. They hoot and holler at the Rep's two-word lines ("Money / Girls" gets the loudest whooo!); they gyrate to the Rep's guitar skronk circa mid-'80s Knitting Factory. Keith Vivens, the bassist, knows this is a marathon and not a sprint, yet slaps, wub-wubs and enters a psychedelic funk void previously unknown to humanity, sucking us into the vortex with only the Rep to summon us back: I just imagined you.
A new sixer (almost) every week. Follow my collection on Bandcamp.
Maradudeur, Puissance 4 (self-released): What is going on with this German band? There are five members, but Maradudeur plays paper-thin post-punk as if it were a short-scale power trio. Some songs are en français, others auf Deutsch, some English. Mostly, Puissance 4's lack of standard post-punk signifiers just takes me to post-punk's raison d'être: to reconfigure, mutate and spark. Much like Palberta's excellent Palberta 5000, this is very much its own thing.
Hakobune, above the northern skies shown (Constellation Tatsu): Been a while since I checked in on Constellation Tatsu and, yup, still releasing some of the most tranquil ambient music out there, one cassette batch at a time. There's no wrong place to start with the super prolific Japanese artist Hakobune, but the B-side here blurs a two-chord progression over a tense, yet rapturous 19 minutes … I kinda lost track of time while listening and stared at a barren tree outside my window for just as long.
Talons', new nightmares (self-released): I'm living in the pandemic like everyone else, and musical mirrors to the situation at hand put me in a dark place. Talons' leans into isolation, American depression, power outages and relentless winter with quiet folk songs turned up real loud, as if to drown out his sadness with snow drifts of droning distortion.
Senyawa, Alkisah (Dekorder / Phantom Limb / Katuktu / Rain Dogs, et. al): I have a habit of running away from hype; it's stubborn and somewhat juvenile, but serves me well. (Yes, I'm aware that I love pop music; I contain multitudes.) So when several outlets, including the New York Times, ran stories on an Indonesian avant-whatever album released on 44 labels at once, my instincts kicked in. But how can I resist ritualistic drone-metal gamelan folk music? Senyawa keeps getting compared to Sunn O))), but is nowhere near as monolithic; the duo's spirit towards rhythm and noise actually reminds me of Boredoms, in the way that both capture black holes of sound that bend light.
2nd Generation Wu, Hereditary (Icy Palms): You either lean into the legacy or make your own path; the literal sons of U-God, Method Man, Ghostface and Ol' Dirty Bastard choose the former, loaded with a messy history. On one hand, I seek out hip-hop in the classic Wu-Tang style, and this more than scratches the itch: rumbling boom bap, crate-digger samples, contrasting vocal deliveries. 2nd Generation Wu's more than up to the task: they contend with family, allude to and sample Wu classics, but sometimes the tribute stops me cold and I just want them to do their own thing. I do think they can forge new ways into the Wu, but this debut definitely makes me want to hunt down mixtapes by iNTeLL, PXWER, Son God and Young Dirty Bastard.
[Auto-playing embed removed, but here’s my favorite track.]
Central, Время (self-released): At this point I should just start a zine about the Russian hardcore scene. This stuff is straight out of '90s youth crew (think Chain of Strength, Floorpunch and maybe a little Battery): short, charged pit swarmers with an emphasis on melodic bridges.
31 tracks. Damon Locks' Black Monument Ensemble opens with a flurry of cicadas (literally) and Angel Bat Dawid's humming clarinet. Dawn Richards is eternal inspo. Metal varietals include the dumb (Sanguissugabogg), the blackened epic (Spectral Wound), the traditionally epic (Warrior Path), the bowel-ripping (Esophagus), the Mastodon-gone-prog (Andrew W.K.). galen tipton's possessed fairy-pop gets several assists from names I don't recognize. New Pagans' "Christian Boys" has been filling a Pretty Girls Makes Graves void in my soul. Axolotes Mexicanos' J-pop en español makes more sense when you don't think about it too much. ELIO actually made a sad banger about forgetting your phone charger, and Charli XCX guests on the remix. Taylor Swift really put herself into HAIM's "Gasoline" remix and I respect it. Cameron Knowler and Eli Winter's garland-draped guitar duo is the kind of thing I'd love to see live. Satomimagae’s ambient-noise folk has the spirit of loner blues records released on PSF. Sana Nagano's electric violin shred is worthy of Skin Graft. Dinosaur Jr. finally became Paul Westerberg. Carter Tanton in a Neil Young, guitar-and-harmonica mood. Throwbacks to Charles Mingus, Pell Mell, Portray Heads, Lorelle Meets The Obsolete, Antoinette Konan and U-Roy (RIP).
*Viking’s Choice is back on Apple Music, but only one person has access to NPR Music’s official account, so it may take a day to update.
One Last Thing
If you’re new here because you heard me on WBUR’s Here & Now for the Viking’s Choice mini-sode, hello! This newsletter normally comes out on Tuesdays, but Daft Punk broke up and I didn’t handle it well.