Saturday, November 19, 2005

New releases part 2: Three Forks regret that they can't be here tonight, but...

UFM 013 Three Forks 'Seven Layer Ape' CD

So let's say you're a CDR label, got your roots in lathe-cuts; what makes a record jump out and scream "pay these two Australian munters hundreds of dollars and never be short for beer coasters ever again"?? Scientists and shamans alike are undecided.

This is the record of a band that existed from 2002 up until the beginning of this year. They never left Dunedin. I understand that at one point they had as many as five fans. So what's the big deal? In the post directly below I ruminated slightly on time and steeping blah blah blah... and this disc is a perfect example of what can be achieved. It's like Akira Kurosawa's story about the oily emanations of a ten-legged toad being slowly simmered for 3707 days to produce the perfect cure for burns and stretch marks. When they existed Three Forks were a band that could hardly agree on anything; three hugely divergent personalities. What we were doing was barely comprehensible to us, and it's only been with time and distance that from the hours of recordings we made, 3 platters have almost (almost) miraculously floated together to tell the story. The first, 'Firewood', on Metonymic, was a wee taster. It's now out of print but soon to be reissued in Israel. That is a fucking true story. Then probably early next year a CDR will appear on Richard Francis' CMR label. I ended up with this one.

'Seven Layer Ape' is sorta free-folk, but it isn't. It's a little droney, but it's not. The instrumentation is almost entirely acoustic. It starts with a slow, sleepy but waking-up eyerubbing jam, Donald McPherson picking the soul of simplicity out of a home-built guitar. Minutes go by without, seemingly, much progression, but something is happening. Track two, electric guitar and drums enter the mix, but it sounds like free jazz played by people who just returned from an extremely disorientating hovercraft excursion. Then track three: 'Peru'... time is suspended. Heaven is inside that cloud over there. Track four and the acid casualties have infiltrated a bus terminal.... and on and on it goes, never settling. The final track, 'Drunken Traffic', is a complete 15 minute live piece that builds into the most intense, dense, weirdly unfolding melodic constructions until those headlights start slow-streaking past your eyes like auroric pulses.

'Melodic' is kinda the best description I can think of sometimes, but it's a melodicism keeps reaching and reaching and over-reaching and blending and going splat... Donald and I are both massively influenced by electric folk - ISB, Steeleye etc - and the density/clarity thing you find in the best of that stuff was always strong in my mind. Tim Cornelius would throw all sorts of things in, pushing us this and that way. Some of our gnarlier work will be on the CMR disc - yes, 'Seven Layer Ape' is sweet in many ways. It also fucking blows my mind and I'm so goddamned proud of it, I can't shut up even though I know I'm rambling.

Went all-out on these covers - oh boy. James Robinson did the drawings, then Tim and I went to work on 'em. Too much. Every cover is handscreened and handpainted. The recording quality of the tracks ranges from very good to damn-near-pristine, even though much of it was done straight to video camera. Do I have to come out and say it? Please, come on, buy it, please! Please!

I guess for me the real reason I wanted to do this so badly was the completely likely likelihood that this world may never see another record by Donald McPherson. Probably a ridiculous notion, but I started this whole carry-on (the label) because of him and 'Seven Layer Ape' is my little offering. Fans of 'Bramble' will hear another side of the man here, but that's as normal as two consecutive days to him. What can I say - people, start your letterwriting campaign today and get another solo album out of this guy.

So, time for a reunion then? Not on your nelly.

What is Spit? (new releases part 1)

Hell of a question really. Well, apart from being a place (the Aramoana spit, at the very mouth of Dunedin's Otago Harbour, where the artist in question once lived), an art project, a sound-emitting monstrosity, and a word that is plastered over every single piece of clothing and semi-stationary object in Ryan Cockburn's possession, it is also now a website. What was it Al Goldstein said about Ron Jeremy? - "Ronnie really is a walking train wreck: with a website". Yee-haw, yet another comparison we can make between Ryan Cockburn and Ron Jeremy!

UFM 011 Spit 'Trash Music Spitacular" CDR

Some projects take time to mellow, to pick up lint and absorb spilt coffee grounds. 'Trash Music Spitacular' was months and months in the making and was an exhibition (at the Segue Gallery this past April), a master's thesis, a group-participation extravaganza, a public relations bonanza (nice photos of the 'unusual artist' in all the papers) and finally now a CDR. And necessarily, no CDR can give you much beyond basic pointers when dealing with such a whirlwind of activity but lemme tell you a little about what went down. You had, firstly, a room and a corridor strewn - I mean, strewn - with sculptures etched with thought on the nature of recorded sound and the various traceries of musickal hardware. Then, every day for two weeks, performances. You had Kim Pieters painting 'notation' onto graph paper while RC 'played' the piece as the ink dried; a 'street horn' - an absolutely massive length of metal piping with a stylus welded onto one end that was then dragged up and down Burlington St; a pile of wrecked furniture, taller than a man, wound with piano wire and played with anything available by RC and Aliki, with harpist Katrina Thomson (Ray Off) jamming along; a cellist in evening dress alongside a ghetto blaster that was being buried under a four foot high mound of coal; two homies on the 16rpm decks, while a drunken idiot rambled on about the secret punk beginnings of Snoop Dogg... that's a few of 'em. Flux as hell, yes? Well, possibly the best thing I saw was one night in the bellringers chamber of the church next door (the oldest church in Dunedin). Cockburn had the actual bellringers of this place perform a 'chance operation' composition, with each ringer assigned a number and him rollin' the dice. Balls like big fluffy dice, this guy.

You'll hear a section of that on this disc - and much else besides. It's really nicely varied, concisely edited - most pieces are fairly short - and gives a good overview of a guy who's a pretty zoned and imaginative cracked-sound thinker. Ryan was initially known to us music-heads around here as the guy who cut records in half, glued 'em back together all wrong, then made a hell of an invigorating racket - there's none of that here (but plenty on Eye's Black Ice CDR, him being a member of that group). He's just, you know, got a lot to offer.

Nice screened cover as per usual, uh-huh, and a booklet with photos and whatnot.

Oh, and by the way, the other thing that he has in common with Ron Jeremy is that he's really hard to get on the telephone.

Damn ol' Yellow Swans...

Totally best night out! Group fantastic! That's what we all were saying after last Wednesday's Ray Off/Futurians/D Yellow Swans gig at Arc. First of all, thanks to everyone who came despite the remember-last-winter? weather - so fucking great that we had a decent crowd to witness this one. Firstly, we who is Ray Off had a blast with our possibly finally-solid line-up really getting into the swing; and for those who mentioned it afterwards, we promise to keep working on the Japanese opera vocal stylings. Second-to-last gig for The Futurians (at least in current form).... these guys have ruled Dunedin with an iron robotic hand for the past couple of years and not only Dunedin but, I believe, the world is better for it. All the best in Wellington, Ms Duckling. DN folks really, really ought to sober up and drive out to Port Chalmers for the final gig next Friday (the 25th) at the Masonic Lodge, corner of Wickliffe Tce and Currie St.

And then.... well, let me just say this about the Dirty Old Yellow Swans - ANY band that is capable of inspiring spontaneous Butoh dancing among a Dunedin audience is alright by me. Mention these guys to anyone who's met them and the first thing they say is "aren't they just the nicest guys?" Well, yes they are, but what nobody ever mentions is that one of 'em is quite short, while the other one is pretty tall!!! What's up with that? Anyway, best band from OS all year, easy, and we be digging their new album 'Psychic Secession' a lot. Label for that here. The band site here, and a pretty nice overview of their stuff on the Volcanic Tongue site. I really am a big fan of the 'Live During War Crimes' CD, and that's a good title.

Also, it was great that Pete and Gabriel (Denoting Yellow Swans) got to see The Aesthetics and Crude play while they were here (on the Tuesday)... spread the word, brothers.

Pretty soon Eye and Rory Storm 'n' the Invaders will be playing the Masonic too; and then Eye will be heading up to Christchurch for one night only at the Physics Room. Details as soon as....
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