It's the year 2008. Pop singers didn't release albums on cassette. Vinyl was a cult artifact. CD-Rs were still an acceptable format for scuzzy punk bands and even scuzzier noise projects, often hand-stamped, stuffed into an irregular-sized envelope and with spraypaint so thick you could still get high from its bubbly coat. One day I'll write a love letter to the underground circa 2004-2011 (an arbitrary span of time that makes sense to me), one that not only informed my taste but taught me how to love sound beyond sound — music meant to wrack, mutate and transform the body.
So, of course, I ran a noise label: Thor's Rubber Hammer. By far, the best-selling album was a 2008 split between Talibam! and Wasteland Jazz Unit. It was the first of three proposed LPs in a series called Ecstatic Jazz Duos, documenting less of an awkwardly self-coined term and more of a thrilling movement in free jazz and improvised music with roots in punk, noise, psych-rock and prog. (The second volume featured Chris Schlarb's I Heart Lung with the virtually unknown-but-rad DWMTG on the flip. The third volume was never released for a myriad of reasons, money being one, but — and I think this is first time I've ever announced this — the split would have had been the Italian duo Valerio Cosi & Enzo Franchini on the A-side, then New Yorkers Jeremiah Cymerman & Matthew Welch on the other. At one point, a Mary Halvorson duo was set to replace Valerio — long story — but it was not to be.)
Cincinnati's Wasteland Jazz Unit has always been a duo bent on total destruction. Hijokaidan and Borbetomagus are the blown-out touchstones — woodwinds shredded through sheets of distortion and feedback. But more than screech and scrawl, WJU's a visceral, gut-heaving experience — you can hear the veins bulging from Jon Lorenz (saxophone, electronics) and John Rich (clarinet, electronics) as they blow venom into their horns… and wraiths emerge. Fifteen years ago, this is why I wanted WJU to be the caustic foil to Talibam!'s goofball prog.
Their recent return as the Wasteland Jazz Ensemble — joined by Dylan Posa (guitar), Edward Ricart (bass), Matthew Reis (electronics), Ryan Jewell (percussion) and Brett Nagafuchi (percussion) — takes me back to the no-fun noise era, but also bombs the present. This ain't for anyone who thinks Sonic Youth's SYR series is too spicy; in fact, if you never illegally torrented or downloaded The Gerogerigegege's discography off Rapidshare, it's a safe bet this isn't for you and that's OK! But unexpected s*** happens with S/T: a mutant blob of a groove tries to escape the rhythm section, guitar clatter spurts off Sonny Sharrock-ian shards of melody, doomy distortion gives moments of slowed frenzy and the drummers, bless 'em, offer solos that breathe embers instead of chaotic fire. But we always return — and give into — relentless mayhem. —Lars Gotrich
Judy and the Jerks, "Rumpus"
Orwell, "Bandsaw Architecture"
Mohamad Zatari Trio, "Black Tea"
Wasteland Jazz Ensemble, "Untitled I"
Saint Abdullah & Jason Nazary (feat. NAPPYNAPPA), "Mirror of Infinity"
ANOHNI (as Fiona Blue), "Rapture"
Patrick Shiroishi & Dustin Wong, "意識の無"
Ad Interim, "Inland Sea"
NOVA ONE, "create myself"
Moussa Tchingou, "Tchidit"
Blazon Rite, "Salvage What You Can of the Night"
Úlfúð, "Where Strange Lights Dance"
Mohama Saz, "Quemar las Naves"
Pest Control, "Buggin' Out"
Siegfried Kessler / Gus Nemeth / Stu Martin, "Persécution"
SKECH185, "Badly Drawn Hero"
Piotr Kurekm, "Peach Blossom"
North Americans, "Classic Water"
The Album Leaf (feat. Bat for Lashes), "Near"
Forgiveness, "Next Time Could Be Your Last Time"
Black Eyes, "False Positive (Cough Demos)"
Babsy Konate, "Erness Fassa"
The Toms, "Other Boys Do"
Sidney Gish, "MFSOTSOTR"
Otto Sidharta, "Kajang"
Allison Lorenzen & Midwife, "Glycerine"
Feast of the Epiphany, "Significance"
Poison Ruïn, "Härvest"
Pïss Bäth, "Sword Swallower"