I have written about the music of Bonnie “Prince” Billy in the past and will continue to do so as long as he continues making music. With a new album due out on March 17th, I would like to direct your attention to this radio interview/live performance that Mr. Oldham recently did where he performs a piece from his new album, “You Can’t Hurt Me Now” and talks about the new album “Beware.” I hope you enjoy this: Bonnie “Prince” Billy – You Can’t Hurt Me Now.
My good friend, Johnny Unicorn is good at doing what needs to be done. His perseverence and competence coupled with an intense drive has kept him busy and productive doing what he loves: making music.
He was recently featured on Lansing, Michigan’s college radio station Impact 88.9’s show, “The Basement.” The above video features an interview, in-studio performance and meta-commentary by Johnny Unicorn, himself.
Johnny Unicorn currently lives in Michigan, but frequently travels to Los Angeles. His full bio can be read: HERE
The more I listen to Vivian Girls, the more I am drawn into their brand of simple, slightly messy, yet smiley shoegaze-surf-punk vibe. Upon re-listening to their self-titled album, I conjure a faint trickle of The Ronnettes or the mutant child of My Bloody Valentine and southern California 1960’s pop with a twinge of anthemic punk. For those of us currently disconnected from any kind of “local” scene, the sound of the Vivian Girls provided an elixer of home, of the kind of shows devoid of media attention and corporate label support. A cassette copy of this material should be in order.
A thirty minute live video from Vimeo (link below), shows me their live presence in what could be, an intimate venue. The lighting is almost non-existent, the cheers from the crowd are powerful yet few in number (sadly). All I know is that somewhere in Brooklyn, this took place – culture brews and is spread through social media channels. Meanwhile, someone in the dark forests of Japan tunes in and uses this music as the soundtrack to his “first day of fall” celebration. Thank you Vivian Girls.
Vivian Girls live at Death By Audio (Brooklyn) (September 2, 2008)
The following piece was crafted and executed by Jeff Jefferson. He is our first “guest blogger.” Please welcome him to the stage.
The title of the piece is Japanese, but you’re not likely to hear it in conversation. No one speaks of unnameable dreams these days. Special Dental Team wrote a song about it and Jeff Jefferson used that song as a guiding light, as a beacon, as a sword.
by Jeff Jefferson
The cowboy won’t return.
He never brought growth without gnashing teeth and that pre-thrash moment when the neck hears warm breath about to end. Energies unlike wide trees in the forest’s plain of here and here and here, in which each are ordered not like soldier gravestones, but still ordered, don’t ignore but rather will always lack awareness of not being surrounded by tiny nibbling beasts, each the same cloned destructive suckling mouth at the stalk and the base. Grassblades do not seedle because degenerative bacteria green like the pusgreen around them and promise growth like a cold steel barrel against forehead skin.
He won’t return to this existence that’s nothing like time standing so still that it’s gone, in which a lifetime never deliberates within an instant. Quality wasn’t equal to quantity in that. Infinite regression did not analyze exponential complexity. These never existed, so he will never regress to a place among their ranks, nothing like the way a bullfrog won’t regress to her tadpole lifestyle.
He strolls through trees and mosquitoes with a huge fly buzzing and biting after him. He expects meditation to trance him away from time and death’s urgency into a mental conception of his life before it. He meditates daily, transforming his psyche to a mountain, cliff, or its trees, feeling vast, even when wind shrieks sometimes. He makes it his tool, like a teleporter.
He sits on a folded blanket with stinking cowboy hat and works toward meditation. Flies still buzz at his sweat, so swatting them becomes a calm. The sun sinks, a conception outside those nonexistent non-spirits preceding life that never threatened living material to further existence. The cowboy feels superior spiritual awareness to everyone on earth, and carries this importance with him. His brain and dreams fill with images of spirits everywhere at day: spiderlike mammals that nibble beaks at toes and roots, threatening “live or die.” He remembers himself one of them, and misses it.
Unsleeping, he calls meditation. He has no Eastern books. He’d been waiting for sleep when he found it, wired awake just after sundown and bright stars, and closed eyes with nothing in his brain. His torso sank into the dry dirt like down into the crust and its massive shelves that move the earth, gaining everything until tentative stick limbs pecked a mount up his leg. He leapt screaming at the scorpion and himself. He crushed it. He learned to practice and repeat, calming himself spiritually. When he rides, he hovers steady just above himself. He thinks he’s alone and unlike anyone, and stays alone. He’d had visions of forests that recurred, so rode here and left that ride outside. He’s sure of his existence before life.
Mosquitoes and leaves brushing like spiders tracking their tiny legs along them fail the cowboy’s meditation. As he quits, a body rushes through distant brush, and before he spots it, the creature barks alien chills through the air. The cowboy knows deer, but never heard this bark. It rattles violence through his brain, screaming with tinny reverberation like through a washboard megaphone. Archaic sonar. He jumps, and it’s dark, and the deer crows again. They stare at each other until the deer bounds away. The cowboy shivers alone like a motorhum in the dark.
Prelife spirits didn’t threaten that deer. It might’ve been a bobcat. Everything’s quiet. There’s nothing around: nothing moaning and silent, yearning for what’s come before, promising sleep, rest, and its motionless quiet. There’s nothing brushing bony fingers like anemonae along his shoulder, just as cold breath did not hush the deer to crow. The cowboy grabs his blanket and tries to return.
Nothing mattered, before, other than finding the spot. He hiked deep inside with daydreams for his divining rod, landing at a tree that looked right. This “right” was every bit as random as the word. Now he wants to escape. He’d lost his direction in this search, so rushes “back.” West seems right, so he follows after set sun.
Philosophies nothing like ghosts don’t haunt the woods, regretting their eternal stillness and quiet with palpable mourning that pulls the cowboy with suction back inside. He doesn’t fight anything as he leads himself with hunting knife; he brushes cobwebs away with it, not eyes everywhere that peel through skin to a cowardly skeleton. Nothing flashes the cowboy’s dry bones to his brain, only himself. Nothing is hunting him, especially not a bobcat. Nor forces that aren’t.
His horse waits for him, nibbling grass, tied up with the cowboy’s possessions. They’re lost from him. He won’t give up looking for them because nonexistent energies couldn’t threaten bears with starvation to hunt in this darkness.
The cowboy hears trainwhistles somewhere, and their dissonance cuts notes in half. He runs where it’s going and backtracks when brush blocks him off. He’s too slow. He can hear the train’s bulky body chugging through its tunnel, but he misses it.
Railway slats run too short or too long for his stride, so he gallops south like he’s gumpy and lanky. There’s a wide path, free from trees, around the tracks, and that’s what he takes out of the woods. The sun rises soon after. He starves all day for his horse and supplies, but they’re gone from where he tied them. He rests there until next morning, hoping the horse will return, but remains alone.
Guns would help. He wants them. He can’t kill shit with a hunting knife, but he marches through the plains. There’s nothing here remotely like ghosts threatening death, teasing him with the threat to live or die. These plains are familiar.
Sleepbot is bliss without a botttle: mind-medicine, explorations, other worlds. Last night, I resigned to my bed early and decided to leave Sleepbot on, which, at that time, filled the room with some kind of vocal incantation in a different language. After reading some of Jack Williamson’s “Darker Than You Think,” the light went out. The drift of a processed tone hovered in the room. This must have knocked me out. Sleep was upon me.
I must have woken up more than four times. I can’t quite clearly remember. I do remember the jazz, jazz like you might hear in a David Lynch film, the jazz of a smokey lounge. I had forgotten where I was or where the music was coming from. I also remember an ungodly hum. Surely, I thought, this is the coming of that big earthquake someone told me about earlier in the day. Then the hum changed, the progression of notes became apparent. It was only Sleepbot. I fell back asleep. My mind twisted around dreams that, at this early morning reflection, seemed all too real. Why was I trying to sell that old Nintendo filled with coffee grounds? Why did the skateboard shop only sell used books in foreign languages? What about the snow storm? Why was I so angry at the clerk? I usually don’t have dreams this intense, this real, I thought. I remember trying to run, not being able to run.
My eyes creeped open, crusted over from the night’s adventures and I realized it was morning. Sleepbot had died down into something barely audible. Saturding morning had come. I was relieved. “I made it,” was the feeling rising from my parched body. A cool 76 degrees and the coffee dripped shortly after. Listening to Sleepbot now, in the morning, in the cool of the morning, is refreshing, welcoming me back to the land of the living.
I’m not sure if I will repeat this experiment again, as I am fond of sleep without waking. The random aural “disturbances” fuel my ability to dream deeper. Sometimes it is best not to experience those hidden dimensions. Being susceptible to the music, I am now aware of the power of Sleepbot.
The 24-hour Sleepbot Environmental Broadcast can be downloaded and streamed from here:
This is the way ambient music should be. Unending.
Kazumoto Endo & Blazen Y Sharp: Ask For it By Name (7″ Vinyl)
Gender-Less Kibbutz, USA
NOTE: The following is an exercise in imagery. I have had this “Ask For it By Name” record for many years and rediscovered it on a trip back home to the USA this summer. The cover art is black text on a pure white background. The vinyl is unmarked, simply a ring of white around cold black vinyl. No information other than the name of the artists and the name of the release are given. I am not sure which side is performed by Kazumoto Endo or which side is performed by Blazen Y Sharp.
The NOISE-VISUALIZATION EXPERIMENT begins now:
The reverberations of a factory, an abandoned factory, perhaps. Scraping against corridors and being pulled into the mechanical churning of a machine, a rusty machine. The obscenity of electricity ignites the situation, briefly, with an intense fervor. The blast continues, eliminating the mechanical repititions. They return, this time in the form of a sine, a rapidly pulsing presence. Exit into darkness.
Crinkling metal against metal. Raindrops of metallic shards rap gently against the window’s exterior. Sky gray turns to sky black while a hovering force steadily approaches, subdued…subdued. The metal breaks. An opening, which mixes the hovering mass with the window frame combine, grinding against each other. The sinking away, sudden bursts of trembling scrapes hang lonely in the air. Exit into darkness.
Hearing new and fascinating music is always time to rejoice. This summer, on a trip from Japan to the United States, I stopped into one of my favorite indie record stores to stock up on new music. One of the releases I purchased is from an engaging and original band/project, “The Secret Chiefs 3”. I remember first hearing SC3 on the infamous Amarillo Records sampler, “You Gant Boar Like An Eabla When You Work With Turkeys” This compilation of Amarillo artists, featured the SC3 song “Assassin’s Blade.” Years later, with my mouth agape, I would hear them perform this gem live at an intimate venue in Detroit, Michigan, USA. Now, in 2008, the Secret Chiefs have created a handful of masterfully self-produced albums and are currently touring in Europe.
The CD release that I purchased this summer, while performed by The Secret Chiefs, consists of pieces composed by New York composer/saxophonist, John Zorn, for his ongoing Masada Series on his own “Tzadik” label. The pieces on “Xaphan: The Book of Angels, Vol. 9” were composed by Zorn and arranged by Trey Spruance, the leader of The Secret Chiefs. In comparison to other Masada releases, the SC3 “style” comes through vividly and the work of Spruance as “arranger” is apparent in the instrumentation and overall “feel” of the pieces. Moreover, this album provides a sturdy bridge from Zorn’s work to Spruance’s work; it is a valuable connecting point for both composers, which clearly showcases their mutual genius. As noted on the inside cover, a majority of the album’s rhythm section (Drums/Bass) was recorded in New Jersey, while other instruments were overdubbed on the West Coast. This is baffling to me, as the performances on each piece are seamless and fluid, with a crisp, tight “live” sound. One can easily imagine this being performed in a “band” context.
I do not know what the word “Xaphan” means and I am yet to read or discover an actual “book of angels,” but this album has illuminated me to what both of those ideas could mean and the world that this album has helped me create is dense, lucid, and enchanting, beyond mere verbal description. It is akin to traversing the waters to a yet unknown world, a world that will change the way that you experience music; it is a wholly fascinating world to those willing to take the trip.
Aside from the rare Amarillo Records releases, the full Secret Chiefs 3 catalog can be purchased through the “Mimicry Records” online music store. For more information about The Secret Chiefs 3 and other Mimicry artists, please visit their website and see the following links: