IT'S A LIVING… BUT IT'S NOT A LIFE #11.3
The Nocturnal J Church and Honey Bear Records Newsletter
Barely Summer 2003 ­ J Word Still Kills Girl Love

 

LADYFEST LONE STAR STYLE…

Good ol' Ladyfest came through town a week ago and I have to say that I missed most of it. Sorry. I was working most of the time. All I could do was pat myself on the back for getting the video store I work at to make a donation. I also bid on some artwork at the silent auction (Why is it that all of my friends are so much artistically inclined than me? Maybe I should try more. Maybe I should just work on my piss poor grammar!). I won a grand total of zero paintings. Fuck!

I did, however, make it to the first film program of documentaries during the second night of the fest. No matter who it is ­ Asian, Gay and Lesbian, Jewish, documentary ­ when I go to a Film Festival's short program, I expect the worst. It's usually needle in the haystack work for me finding the few that I will really love hiding in the primordial ooze of young filmmaking.

Not so the case with Ladyfest TX! I found myself thoroughly enthralled by all the films regretting the loud groan I editorialized with when it was announced that it would be an uninterrupted two hour long program. Here's a small rundown of some of the highlights. I don't know if these kinds of films ever wind up where you live. But they're all worth seeking out in some way or another.

Don't Need You by Becky Goldberg is sort of the who, what, where and why for Ladyfest and Riot Grrrl. It's kind of like when you get your first job at Pizza Hut and they make you watch a training video. But this is fun. All the usual suspects are here giving interviews from Kathleen Hannah, Corin Tucker and Madigan Shive (who has a great story about her mother's profession as a wrestler) to Ian MacKaye. Okay, maybe that's not the hugest leaps. But we're talking a collection of people who always give great interviews. It was cool seeing crazy footage of the first Bikini Kill show and Bratmobile at the first Ladyfest. Speaking of which, there's obviously a lot of Allison Wolfe in this movie, which is great. I love that girl and it's funny to see nerds I know up on the big screen.

Live and Let Ride: Girl Skateboarding by Tara Cooper was probably my favorite flick. It's totally fucking rad watching these bad-ass chicks skating and starting to get the respect they deserve. It's fucking cool. But some of the most amazing and affecting moments come from a young amateur named Pookie talking about being a really young girl learning to skate. More than any other film, you've gotta track this shit down.

Sam, Age 11 by Elizabeth Skadden has some similar vibes to it and was also one of the real standouts. This great little film follows 11 year old Samantha as she shoots her very first Super 8 film. Mixed with footage of her endeavors and a separately recorded interview is the actual footage from her film. It's completely expressionistic and beautiful. This is the kind of thing that would make Greta Snider proud.

Unwrapped by Ashley Nicole Cook and Mike Gomez is a hilarious film about a nudist group here in Austin. Not that the film in any way makes mean spirited fun of the subject matter - quite the opposite. The filmmakers embrace the nudist agenda and join in on the fun. Okay, it's not Erroll Morris. But it's great seeing the filmmakers becoming part of the story.

Hot and Bothered: Feminist Pornography by Becky Goldberg created a lot less controversy than some would have thought. There were a few groans from the prudes in the audience during some of the graphic sex stuff. But the biggest groans came from any footage of semen. It's funny. It reminded me of an article by Susie Bright about how many upper middle class feminists were mostly opposed to pornography because they thought sperm was "dirty" and "gross". They're happy to make lesbian porn as long as nobody got sperm on it. Pretty funny… Anyway, like most treatise pro and against on the subject, nobody really gets into the issue of fantasy versus reality in terms of power and staged violence. Everyone debating the subject should take a few days out of their busy schedule to read a little Foucault and Baudrillard. `Nuff said.

There are many other interesting titles, all worth checking out. It seems like it would be cool if Ladyfest pooled all of their film resources and put out a "best of" DVD or video.

 

TOUR UPDATE

Okay, the tour is starting to get finished. Here's where we are at:

JULY
23 W Denton, TX Rubber Gloves
24 Th drive
25 Fr Phoenix, AZ Modified
26 Sa LA, CA tba
27 Su LA, CA Chain Reaction
28 M SF
29 Tu SF Bottom of the Hill
30 W Portland, OR
31 Th Seattle, WA 2nd Ave. Pizza

AUGUST
1-5Canada - TBA
6 W Minneapolis, MN Triple Rock
7 Th Chicago, IL Fireside Bowl
8 F Cleveland, OH Grog Shop (confirmed)
9 Sa Pittsburgh, PA Roboto
10 Su Philly Calvary Church
11 M Boston, MA or Providence, RI TBA
12 Tu NYC North Six (w/The Plungers)
13 W Hoboken, NJ Maxwell's (w/ The Plungers)
14 Th Washington, DC St. Aloysius Church
15 F Baltimore, MC Talking Head Club
16 Sa Chapel Hill, NC Go Room Rehearsals
17 Su Atlanta, GA Echo Lounge
18 M Columbia, SC New Brookland Tavern
19 Tu Gainesville, FL CG Coffeehouse
20 W somewhere in Florida
21 Th
22 F Houston, TX Fat Cat's (AKA Mary Jane's)
23 Sa Austin, TX Emo's

 

IN THE J CHURCH LISTENING ROOM

DEVIANTS, THE - Ptooff! CD

A lot has been made about the Deviants sucking as a band, you know, like that was part of their charm. So, I guess I was sort of expecting something along the lines of Germs ROIR cassette. Instead I gotta pretty raging garage punk record that seems like an especially challenging record for 1967.

I mean, there's quite a range of sound here. Some of the blues based stomps are like caustic versions of Tombstone Blues. It's like if Dylan ever really wanted to kill a cop. Surely he must have. Why did he never come out and say it. The farther they wander from Dylan, the closer they get to Waiting For My Man or Run, Run, Run territory. In fact, if you love THAT side of the Velvets, you'll love this. I mean, wouldn't it have been great if the Deviants and the Velvet Underground really were the anti-establishment?

Mick Farren, of course, was a journalist for International Times and Oz. Giovanni Dadomo was a writer before he sang for the Snivelling Shits. So was Patti Smith before she got the Group. Lester Bangs and Richard Meltzer wrote songs. Some of the best films were made by people who started off as journalists (Goddard, Nagisa Oshima). Why don't more writers put their money where their mouth is? Fuckers!
(Alive Records)

DUNCAN, JOHN - Phantom Broadcast CD

Do you ever wonder what Metal Machine Music would have been if Lou was on Ecstasy instead of Meth? Did you ever feel like My Bloody Valentine would have been perfect if they had just gotten rid of the "songs"? Do you believe in ghosts? Do you love a good hoax?

These are just a few of the reasons I came up with to buy this disc. John Duncan is a man with a short wave radio and a degree saying he can make it into art. This entire recording is allegedly a short wave found sound that repeats at a high velocity making a harmonic hum, a single tone from which much more is revealed… allegedly. Ever since the Ghost Orchid scam there has been a lot of blab about spirit voices turning up on electronic tape. Any good anarchist will laugh at that. Well, I've always been a bad anarchist and while I don't, uh, believe it… it certainly makes me a little uneasy for some reason only a very good analyst can tell us.

Either way, the medium is the message and it's beautiful. The ringing IS Metal Machine Music as a ballad. I at least would like to believe in ghosts. At the very least, I like it when art can play a trick on me.
(www.allquestions.net)

MEPHISTA - Black Narcissus CD

I feel very fortunate that I was able to see Mephista perform live here in Austin. It's funny, this seemingly shy (or at least extremely restrained) trio of women would smile silently before each piece. Then they would dive into full improvisation with such voracity, I at times found myself leaning away in my seat. It was a very powerful performance. At the end of the set, Susie Ibarra, Ikue Mori and Sylvie Courvoisier stood shoulder to shoulder for a well-deserved bow. I swear, I thought they were summoning Mothra.

I was a little apprehensive about this record. Not so much because of the idea of three important female improvisers possibly ending up with a set of mundane music; but also because I have to admit to being a little nervous about the meeting between acoustic music and electronica. I'm certainly no expert in that area. But I know I haven't heard anything convincing. Usually it sounds like a more standard instrumental group with someone tinkering on a PC creating sounds that don't necessarily gel with or relate to the structure of the music.

With that in mind, this record is a major success. Not only do the three work together fluidly, but the result is unlike anything I've ever heard. I'm a big fan of Susie Ibarra's. She's the performer I'm most familiar with on this record. Her playing is tops here switching between bombastic runs at the tom toms with rapid fire hi-hat work and metallic percussion shimmering and beautiful.

Courvoisier's piano is not as percussive as I was led to believe. She does play inside and out of standard tonal structures and is able to make the transitions smoothly. Like some of Paul Bley's post-synth freak out, her playing mixes the familiar with the unfamiliar.

While I would hate to say that any one person is the "leader" of this group, Ikue Mori is inadvertently showcased seeing as her sounds are so fresh and surprising. Her ability to improvise with a generally contrived form is both intellectual and aggressive. Her hums, clicks, buzzes and whatnot compliment the other two while propelling the music forward into the unknown.

It's also worth noting that this record is beautifully recorded allowing for great contrast with the raw live performance. Mephista is not to be trifled with.
(Tzadik Oracles)

RADIGUE, ELIANE - Geelriandre ­ Arthesis CD

For those unfamiliar with experimental electronic music, Eliane Radigue is one of the most respected figures in the forms sordid and fragile history. Born in Paris, she studied electroacoustic music techniques at RTF in the late `50s, which at the time was one of the only places to do so.

Her music, as is the case with these two recordings, is almost entirely composed for the ARP synth. The first piece, Geelriandre was first written in 1972 but wasn't recorded until 1979. Those "lost" years were spent becoming a Tibetan Buddhist. It's a meticulous meditation on space with the addition of a piano at times almost sounding influenced by the sound of meditation bowls. The pacing is at times excruciating ultimately resulting in a massive calming effect. If this post-enlightened, revamping of the piece is an attempt at catharsis, it's effective in a most subtle way. Very Buddhist.

The second piece, Arthesis was recorded in 1973, but is drastically different in sound. I guess if I had to use a more contemporary comparison, the whirling, Leslie-like soundwaves are not so far removed from some of the things Throbbing Gristle were doing in their most creative period. In particular, it reminds me of Hamburger Lady without the trite exposition.

This will not be most peoples cup of tea. Those drawn to the soothing mood of the first piece will be rejected by the challenging, distorted waves of the second and vice-versa. But it's fantastic in different ways and if you can transcend it, well, you'll feel at least a little enlightened.
(www.fringesrecordings.com)

STEPHEN MALKMUS & THE JICKS - Pig Lib CD

It's funny to me how everyone reviewing this record is sort of dancing around it, only half committing and half warning Malkmus about not making any more mistakes like his last "solo" record. Shit, Everett True was warning Malkmus about the danger of becoming Frank Black with some really odd comparisons between Pavement and the Pixies. Does he really think the Breeders did anything especially relevant? God help us. And why would anyone reference Prag Vec?

So I'll come out and say it. I don't care. I love this record. Hey, I like it better than the last two Pavement records and I loved those records. No doubt about it. It's a consistently good rock record with great pop moments, challenging arrangements and some excellent playing. Yeah, the band is great. I'm sure they really wish the records had just come out as The Jicks and not Stephen Malkmus… Maybe more people would have given them a break.

Think of `em as a band and not as one man's solo record. That first album was a pretty solid debut. It wasn't "Slanted and Enchanted 2: Electric Boogaloo". That's not what the world needed anyway. The Jicks second album has them moving into more complex areas and as long as they can keep the melody somewhere in the frame, it's a captivating picture.
(Matador Records)

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, THE - s/t CD

Dorothy Moskowitz has one of the most alluring voices in the sordid history of psychedelic rock. The United States of America only ever released one record. If the world was a better place, this record would hold the same influence as the Velvet Underground or at least Syd Barrett. Instead, we're left with this one brilliant record from a band of totally untapped potential.

Behind the lead of experimental composer Joseph Byrd, the group could be seen as a contrived attempt to use the psych scene for his own ends. But in many ways, the groups contribution helped advance the musical movement and at least helped establish it's respectability several decades later under the scrutinizing reevaluation worshippers of Goldmine and Mojo love so much (It truly verges on revisionism at times).

So what's so great about this record? First of all, the band is really storming. The songs range from For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite-type quirkiness (apparently not a strictly British infatuation) to brutal, fuzzed-out garage music. At any given moment, the songs can go over the edge to completely unstructured noise Terry Riley or Metal Machine Music. No two songs sound the same, and yet it's totally cohesive. A lot of it is due to the beautiful tones of Moskowitz' voice. She's note perfect and vaguely raspy. You can't help but think that she was some totally foxy, quasi-Beatnik intellectual type. What would Julie Christy's character in Billy Liar sing like?
(Edsel Records)

 

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