Back for part 2 of the Lightning Round sesh, are we? Come for the music, stay for the … lightning. I mean, that is a pretty cool pic up there. And yeah, I’ve listed the photo credit in case you want to check out any more lightning. I just really like … lightning. I was struck by it once. Seriously.
Once again I’m sifting through the backlist, terrified that I’ll never get to listening to these tunes or writing about them otherwise. They deserve to be heard, and probably written about more extensively than I can allocate time for writing about them. Or maybe you should just listen to them, and forget about the writing. You’re already here, right? Make up your own mind. What am I, your mother?
This is my introduction to Jerusalem and the Starbaskets, and it comes on their final album. Just my luck – I came in right at the end of something pretty fantastic, if you must know. Too bad the band was stuck in Columbia, Missouri, a Midwest buoy lighting the stretch of I70 directly between St. Louis and Kansas City, probably the only spot on this planet where George Brett would secretly meet up with Ozzie Smith to badmouth the late Whitey Herzog or Allard freaking Baird. And hey, maybe they bought a few LPs at Hitt Records while they were in town, the record store–cum–record label that had the honor of dropping this load of wax on the public. You never know. But God, I hope Jerusalem and the Starbaskets are huge in Columbia and will be dearly missed. All the way back in 2008, Wooden Wand’s James Jackson Toth shilled for these indie/non-indie country/non-country hooligans, and if that didn’t start a major label bidding war, there would never be one. Thus, the sunset beckons, L.A., maybe, because that’s where the day ends in this great country of ours. These are classic American tunes for all manner of classic American rock fans – imagine if Grandaddy was fronted by Conway Twitty, which is what my initial impression was, and which was a great first freaking impression, then that’s where we’ll start, and that’s where I’ll hang my hat on the repeat listens. Fine, I guess I’ll mention VU for a second, because people seem to. But this is all disingenuous. It is insincere. It comes from a man who was just like, “OK, yeah, these guys are cool, too bad I missed them.” I can envision a local die-hard scratch-out-eyeballs-for-tix following for these guys. This is the kind of band I wish I had ridden for years in rural Pennsylvania. I gave it up too early, though. I didn’t have the mystique, the cache. Jerusalem and the Starbaskets does. They recall the days of mad discovery at out-of-the-way places. You people on a larger scale are worse off. Remedy that with an online purchase of L.A. Freeze before the locals snatch them all up.
As a writer and editor, I feel obliged to point out that apostrophes denote the possessive, and “One’s” does not need an apostrophe. That’s a peeve, a pet one, one that I’d never forgive myself for not pointing out. So there’s an implied [sic] when I recommend Butcher’s Tears Dry Slower than the Average One’s to you. (And just so we’re clear, I’m not sold that it shouldn’t be “Butchers’,” but look at how much of your time I’ve already wasted.) Moving on, this lo-fi electronic techno freakout comes from Budapest (where my paternal grandmother was born, so that’s cool!), and the hands that wield the samplers and synthesizers belong to Gabor Kovacs. Squirrelly, gutter-dwelling sonics spew through the monitor of my computer, drenching the virtual “desktop” (as it were) with foul seepage. It’s as fucking noisy as a machine shop, but with tinny, adverbial melodies that are forced to define the action as it unfolds, imposing upon it vast amounts of “ly” descriptors in the form of encoded music. Not unlike the great Power Pill Fist, Kovacs spills corrosively sticky material into your ear ducts, initiating a septic response from the brain as it tries to process sheer joy and horror at once. Yeah, I said joy, and if you grease the wheels of your tape deck in preparation for this bad boy, they might present a smoother output. But why in god’s green gables would you want something like that? Let Butcher’s Tears Dry Slower than the Average One’s, with it’s “Butcher’s” and it’s “one’s” (YES THATS ON PURPOSE), oxidize your components and decompose your console as nature intended, no, as the holy almighty lord intended, so that you may delight in his presence and he in yours. Or maybe he’ll just clap his hands over his ears at the righteous outpouring of broken video-game sleeze.
I’ve had Skyjelly’s Black Panthers / Priest, Expert, or Wizard sitting in my queue for a while now, and it’s a shame that I haven’t gotten to it before. (That’s a common refrain at the moment as I sift through these releases.) These Boston psych slingers of course are on a label called “Doom Trip,” the two weird-out entities melding a common mindset when it comes to the vast unpredictability of rock music. It’s entirely possible that I’ve never heard a traditional rock four-piece wiggle so damn much in their music, either. Great news, then, for people who can’t get enough of this stuff, as Black Panthers is one album and Priest, Expert, or Wizard is another one, and you can get them both on one tape. That’s a lotta hott lix! Listen as Skyjelly winds with psychedelic undulations, and behold their complete abandon in the face of traditional songwriting structures! Examine their various paths and excursions through rock history and the ease with which they make their findings their own! Even in the quieter moments, Skyjelly is momentarily the coolest thing on my radar. There are vast amounts of relistenability in this tape. Don’t make the same mistake that I did – buy this now with your money.
Blush Stains – Impurities (Heavy Mess)
Is it weird that the handwriting on the J-card, scrawled in Sharpie, looks remarkably like my own handwriting? Did I write those words? Is this some sort of Mulholland Drive riff on my life where I can’t tell what’s real and what’s in my subconscious? I’m serious – that really looks like my handwriting. Maybe I’m under the influence of Impurities, though, and I can’t tell what’s real from what’s not. I mean, seriously, “lip cinders,” the tape’s opener, is fuzz pop filtered through a broken transistor radio under a pillow, it is so unsettlingly weird and yet familiar that I feel like I’ve got to keep listening to it like my life depends on it. Every melodic component that peeks through is like a nugget of pure gold in the middle of a beach, X marking the spot long washed away by tidal activity, and the bulk of the treasure just a few shovelfuls away. This continues. You could probably label it with some sort of proto-shoegaze tag, but there’s just so much noise, and not a ton of gaze. But. BUT! That’s how I’m liking this, and it’s because of this that it makes sense on the Heavy Mess roster. The implications, the feels, are what drive the enjoyment of Impurities, because it is those blemishes that both obscure and elevate the tracks in equal measure. Take that wash of distortion and stretch it to its logical conclusion, where “shoegaze” the concept becomes so inactive that as it spins its wheels it becomes an entirely new thing. There’s a moment at the end of the tape where the haze clears from the track like it was pollen hit with a massive dose of Claritin, and vast night skies sparkle in the newfound crispness. Maybe that’s the next step for Blush Stains, but it seems like the only place it could end up and still make sense. The tape resolves into majestic gorgeousness. Now somebody seriously just has to explain how I wrote on the cover art without my knowledge, and we’re all good.
If someone were to explain to me that what I was about to listen to was a concoction of “pan flute, modular synth, and field recordings,” I’d have to doff my top hat in kudos to the bravery of the recording individual. Entuning (a word I made up) these sources to various types of space is how Angela Frances Wilson has chosen to communicate to us from across the expanse of time. Is she from the future, the past? Who knows. She is certainly not of this time or this place. But her music gets under your skin, into your subconscious. These pieces start soft, remain soft, burrow. They transition your outlook from weird to weirder. They should also be prescribed as antidepressants. Or pro-depressants, depending on which track you pop on. Wilson says that sometimes her music should make you feel anxious. I feel anxious right now – oh, it’s “12″,” one of the anxious ones. I need one of the at-ease ones! Otherwise I’m going to have nightmares. Not scary horror nightmares, just like unsettled, David Lynch-y nightmares. Or ones where I’m completely not ready for the final exam I’m about to take.