Friday, July 27, 2007

En Route to VA Vacay, See Ya in August!

July, eh? The fun we had; the laughs we shared, via the interweb. It’s been a busy, busy month of hard blogging, hasn’t it, and all the while I haven’t even blogged about half of what I wanted to blog about! Foresooth: the for-publication assignments got filed, the day-job sonned somehow, and on and on while life continued to be frustrating and unfair and, at select times, pretty frickin’ fantastic. August promises more cans of whup-ass opened, songs dissected, lists of concepts and other things, more jobs hopefully applied for, chatter about children’s TV, and so on. I’m pretty behind in looking over V. Blenny submissions too; that’s on the agenda, as well. I’ll miss y’all this week, but I can’t remember the last time I needed a vacation as badly as I do right now. There will be many pictures, I promise, of Nodin enthusiastically climbing stuff and Alecia flashing her beautiful smile and me looking all gangly and awkward. Thanks for reading all of this nonsense. Or maybe just some of it. Or whatever.

Courage, “and we out –“

Cornelius review, from


The challenges facing Keigo Oyamada whenever he makes an album aren’t much different than those bedeviling people who design consumer electronics products: how to successfully marry form and function, innovation and comfort, the daringly spiky and the so-chic sleek. Like 1998’s Fantasma and 2002’s Point, Oyamada’s latest album is essentially a compendium of clever solutions to creative problems disguised as a crash-course in 22nd-century pop-music fundamentals. Sensuous opens with the relatively mellow ringing chimes and steel-guitar tone poetics of the title track before taking off in fantastic, nearly new directions. There’s “Wataridori,” a flailing knot of flickering guitar scales cornered by strobing synths. “Gum” reimagines the act of chewing as a Stereolab-ish, mono-chord ax grind to nowhere, dispensing Oyamada’s flatly spoken syllables at rhythmic intervals. “Beep It” could be a drastic-overhaul remix of Nine Inch Nails’ “Only,” flagellating and knifing a similarly mesmerizing bass line with sampled instrumental light sabers in order to repeatedly sabotage its own beat; “Like A Rolling Stone” pairs a harmonizing choir and the flicked-comb electronic effect from Autechre’s “VI Scose Poise.” What’s ultimately the weirdest about Sensuous is that Oyamada’s constructions don’t seem weird at all; a so-kooky-it’s-cosmic logic runs through it. No wonder, then, that this futurist-pop mash-up is as pleasing to the ear as a curvy, compact BlackBerry is to the eye and to the touch. [Everloving,]
—Raymond Cummings

This Friday in Nodin

Thursday, July 26, 2007

pls esplain wahta kudos means? i am putting it out scred shitless bleessyou and nam myoho renge kyo!)( ps

I’d like to believe that Courtney Love is clean and sober as the finishes up her new album – whatever it’s ultimately going to be called, I think Nobody’s Daughter (great title, hope she sticks with it so I can unpack it if I’ve album to review it somewhere) is the present name – but her batshit MySpace blog entries could be described, charitably, as abysmally chaotic. One pours over them because the desire to know the day-to-day details of the ex-Hole frontwoman’s broken, in-disarray life is almost overpowering, but attempting to read C-Lo’s typing is next to impossible. Its sheer, utter madness: words and syllables smashed apart or squished together into a motormouth mush (The name “Ethan” keeps popping up in the linguistic carnage – is there a secret code at work here? Am I underestimating her? Actually, it’s probably that she likes to say “more than” a lot, but because she’s so random with that keyboard, it comes out as “mor ethan” or something similar. Which is disappointing in a way – I was hoping that Courtney was really, really into Passions.) that makes one dizzy. I mean, I know she’s been ripped off and double-crossed with frightening regularity lately, but isn’t there anyone out there the woman trusts enough to maybe take dictation and post her thoughts online in a way that doesn’t require a lotta patience and a willingness to come away with a throbbing headache and one’s eyes totally criss-crossed? (If I didn’t have a life and a family and responsibilities, I might actually volunteer.) I’d like to say “In the blog entries I’m linking to, Courtney Love holds forth on a., b. c., and d.” – but that’s totally impossible. You’re welcome to give it a try.

P.S. Courtney, if you’re reading this, please know that all of us here at Voguing to Danzig industries support you and wish you the best, even though you seem to have disowned America’s Sweetheart (much like your homeboy Billy Corgan disowned Mary, Star of the Sea) and we think it’s the best record you ever made, for reals. But look, you’re always going on about how you’re down with powerful and famous people. Can’t David Geffen or Spielberg or Quentin or whoever front you some cash or hook you up with an ambitious Kelly Girl temp to drop by late at night and take shorthard when there are so many ideas bubbling inside your brain that have to find expression by any means necessary?

On Nicknames

“The Doog” explored this at length on his own blog, and in the spirit of compassion, community, and togetherness, I’ve decided to rip him off by doing the same thing here. The list below is far from all-inclusive because (a) I’ve forgotten a lot and (b) some of ‘em were so short-lived and inconsequential that they don’t merit discussion. Like “Little Brother” or “Blaine Vancouver” or “My African Prince” or “Uncle Goggles” or “Pumpkin” or “Amanda” “The Whitest Black Man I Know” or “The Urinal of Non-Sequiters” or “JJ” or “Battery Boy” or “Crabcake”; more than likely, I’m the only person who remembers the origins of those at this point, and they aren’t worth remembering anyway. Seriously, I haven’t really even started this entry and I’m already stuck by how uninteresting it’s gonna be; for sheer amusement value, I’d be better off rambling on about other people’s nicknames, though this would probably involve stepping on some feelings, so I dunno. Maybe later. Maybe not.

For whatever it’s worth, Doug, I never had a nickname for you, man. You – much like Amal – were so much, I guess, yourself in the moniker your folks gave you that conjuring up something extra just seemed unneccessary. So there.

BJ Lips: It was the summer before fourth or fifth grade, I think, and I was, again, enrolled in the Towson YMCA summer camp program. Someone – I don’t remember who for sure, but it might have been this brunnette witch named Dawn who I had a crush on – decided that it would be funny to call me “BJ Lips.” Being clueless and totally naive youth that I was, I had no idea what an unfavorable thing this was to call someone – or even what “BJ” meant – and was just happy that my fellow skate-gear clad campers, who heretofore had delighted in tormenting me emotionally on a regular basis, had for some reason seen fit to bestow upon me what appeared to be an affectionate nickname. Whenever someone in passing called out “Hey BJ Lips!” I responded with a big, happy smile. Fuck all those people, wherever they are today.

Crackpot: This one can be attributed to my largest and most despised (by the campus community at large) group of college friends, probably Kevin Hoffman or Bill Denton, and had to do with my tendency to spout what they considered totally bizarre and ridiculous ideas. In certain dorm rooms and student newspaper offices where Olde E was prodigously consumed and litigation-inviting news schemes hatched (sometimes simultaneously), it became fashionable for other people to shout “CRACKPOOOOOOOOOT!!!” in unison, often for no reason at all. Variations on the name – Chicken Pot-Pie, Carlpot, and so on – were developed for the widespread amusement of people whose own nicknames never spawned franchises. Really, “Crackpot” never bothered me all that much. It made its last known appearance on my wedding video. My in-laws offered touching, heartfelt wishes and luck...and then all of my pals gathered around a glass table to yell – well, you know. To this day, I remain unsure whether I’m bouyed or horrified by this.

Eightball: Hoffman came up with this one. It either had to do with the tee-shirt advertising Daniel Clowes’ Eightball comic books or all the malt liquor we were drinking. Wasn’t used much outside of Caroline or Kent Houses.

Faeray: So my mom and I used to go to wiccan festivals when I was a kid, and these festivals often doubled as markets where food and goods were sold. At one point I came across a hot-pink button that read, in black type, “Fairies of the World Unite!” I thought this was pretty cool; I thought scattered Tinkerbells were being urged to unionize or something, and by this I mean magical fairies from sci-fi, mysticism, Peter Pan, etc. As I mentioned above, I didn’t quite grasp a lot of stuff back in the late 1980s. Anyway, I bought the button but never wore it. Many years later, as a college freshman, I would share that story with Pearl Pham and The Artist Formerly Known As Jef Frank (a man who is, himself, no stranger to cruel, unbidden nicknames); subsequently, “Faeray” became Pearl’s nickname for me. I called her “Pixie.” We used these names in correspondence, e-mail, and telephone conversation for years, until she got married and dropped off the fact of the Earth.

Fingers: Ryan Bowerman, who I went to high school with until he got expelled for something (I think), found it amazing that my hands are huge. So he called me “Fingers,” which was annoying and uncreative in large part because Ryan Bowerman was annoying and uncreative. Not very compelling Horatio Alger stuff, I know. What can I remember about that guy? We were both in the choir. Dude was a troublemaker and crashed a lot of cars. Went into the military. Ryan, if you’re reading this, don’t take it personally, okay? I mean, as The Doog and I have oft remarked, just about everybody was an asshole back in high school – including us!

Ray Slut: I used to put out a zine called Slut, so naturally I became known as “Ray Slut” among that international postage-wasting coterie of entreprenuers whose hobbies included trading, selling, and buying homemade, awkwardly-xeroxed magazines – cf. also Buzz Yukko, Kevin Sissy, Davida Beyond Hinduism, etc.

Ray-Ray: This one’s all Alecia, and my favorite of her nicknames for me because it actually doesn’t apply to anybody else. I love my wife, but she has a tendency to recycle and redeploy a certain set of pet names for adults, dogs, and children with such frequency that they lose some potency over time: “fart,” “turd,” “dippy-doo,” and so on. “Ray-Ray” is cute and playful and simple; it conveys affection directly and effectively.

Sidekick: This one I actually share with Sanjeevani, we toss it at one another all the time – which is kind of amazing when you consider that just about every other handle in this post has fallen out of use. In one of my countless collegiate mass e-mails – circa. 1995 to 2000 I sent them out constantly, to offer updates on my so-called-life, to share bad poetry, whatever – I went off almost rhetorically about the absence of a Maggie to my Hopey, a Bill to my Opus, a Becky to my Enid, a Lars Ulrich to my James Hetfield. For whatever reason this was a Very Important Issue to me at that time. It didn’t seem fair that Kevin had Jef and Dave Labowitz had John and Bill had Matt and Jen had Eva, and so on, while I seemed destined to be a loner with plenty of friends but, like, no constant companion. (It hadn’t occurred to me yet that going solo most of the time was, really, a better deal all around.) Sanjeevani – who herself had, I guess, Amal or Karen at that juncture – graciously offered to be my sidekick. We never developed that symbiotic relationship where we were constantly hanging out 24-7, but our friendship did flourish, endure, and become something special, and for that I am constantly thankful – even if other people probably think it’s strange for two 30-year old adults to ceaselessly refer to one another as “sidekick.”

* * *

Electric Dress review in Grooves Magazine

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Stop Snitchin’, Indeed!

Up and down Greene Tree Road you stroll, week after week, day after day, in the morning and at night. I see you when I’m driving to work and when I’m coming back later, when I’m taking walks of my own: buds jammed in your ears, arms hanging at your sides or tensed and hoisted in imitation of some martial-arts move, clad totally nondescript in all black (or in black and white), never any other color. This very morning, in fact, I passed you, watching, and you cut your eyes at me in knowing solidarity, as if to say – and you’ve never once, in any of our non-encounters, deigned to actually say anything, as you seem to favor a barely perceptible nod of silent acknowledgement – that you know that I know that you are Cam’ron, a semi-famous rapper, fashion plate, and infamous Andersen Cooper interviewee, hiding out in the predominantly Jewish suburban wasteland of Owings Mills, Maryland.

This is probably not true, but it’s more entertaining to pretend that you are, in fact, the deposed Dipset chairman than to think about the reality that you’re more than likely some crazy dude who’s convinced he’s a ninja or something. Some theories: (a) you are insane but essentially harmless, and reside with relatives in one of the outrageously priced homes or condos nestled along bucolic Greene Tree Road, and all of this walking is an aspect of your mania; (b) you are an uber-successful commodities trader (or something like that) who employs a small army of underlings tasked with handling day-to-day operations, and these loyal kids report conditions to you via your iPhone as you travel up and down the road on your never-ending constitutional, and when it’s necessary to comment or provide direction you do this, offering cryptic or direct orders that are inevitably profitable; or (c) I don’t have any other theories about who you are, aside from this whole unfounded “weird walker dude’s actually Cam’ron” thing. My wife and my mother have both seen you, so it’s not as if you’re a figment of my imagination. (Also: my mom says that what you’re doing isn’t actually kung-fu or jujitsu or any other form of martial arts, even though your body language suggests that you’re fairly sure of yourself. I’m more inclined to believe her because she’s my mother and because Killa Season sorta blew.) You don’t even really look like Cam’ron, who better resembles my step-sister in appearance and complexion. However, Cam’ron favors flashy, vivid color suits and ensembles that make Crockett and Tubbs look like posers: pinks, purples, yellows, anything bright and eye-catching. (No homo!) So if you, er, if Cam – whose music and behavior imply some degree of mental instability – say, decided to flee NYC to regroup and lick his wounds following well-publicized beefs with Jay-Z, 50 Cent, and his former fellow Dipsetters, it would make sense that he would opt for calmer clothes (and no visible bling whatsoever) that wouldn’t attract attention, thereby allowing him to wander affluent Baltimore County side streets constantly like a goddamned coiffed, clean-shaven loon whilst mentally honing rhymes and plotting his comeback.

Your secret’s safe with me, “Gameron Cilles, lovable mute eccentric and perpetual pedestrian!”

Monday, July 23, 2007

This Monday in Alecia and Nodin!

Congratulations Sanjeevani and Prabha!

....and welcome to the world -- as of sometime on Saturday, July 21, 2007 -- Milena Anne Kiren Silva!

More photographs once we get them! The one above, obviously, is pre-delivery! Anyway, here at Voguing to Danzig we're pretty damn excited and junk, and hopefully our Sri Lankan sidekick doesn't mind us posting this here for the (small world of people who read this blog) to see.

Again, kudos and salutations from Uncle Ray, Aunt Alecia, and cousin Nodin!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Things I Learned Watching "Miami Vice"

--“Go-fast boats.” Oh, come on. Just call ‘em cigarette boats like everyone else!

--You know, until I saw the preview for Minority Report on some cable channel this past weekend, I’d forgotten that Colin Farrell was even in that movie at all.

--The cinematography here is flat-out astonishing, resulting in a movie that’s a feast for the eyes – sumptuous darknesses and delectable colors as the action shifts from Miami coastlines to Hiatian slums to Cuban nightclubs to whevever the drug-lord plot leads – which makes up for the fact that it’s a struggle to follow what’s happening. Gong Li’s dialogue is next to inpenetrable, but that’s okay because everybody else is delivering their lines in baffling cop shorthand code-speak anyway. If it all seems needlessly bizarre and confusing, rent some DVDs of the original show and you’ll realize how faithful this movie actually is to its source material. Subtitles, yo!

--Someday, director Michael Mann will film a crime saga set entirely in a bustling, major American metropolitan-area coffee-shop. Dude so wants to do this; I can feel it, it’s palpable.

--A couple of years ago, cousins Kevin, Kandace, and I tried to take the edge off of our grandfather’s funeral by going to see Road Trip at an Edmonson Road theatre that no longer exists. I bring this up because it was the first time I ever heard anyone – Kandace – use the term “cruc” as an adjective, in sort of a slang dress-down of “crucial,” i.e. something necessary or indispensible. Would it be flippant of me to follow a similar course by shortening “palpable” to “palp” in casual conversation? Or would it just make me sound like a jackass?

--Alecia pointed out that Big Booty Trudy is played, here, by the CIA whatshername from post-tuxedo, post-Bond Pierce Brosnan vehicle After the Sunset – a slice of cinema notable for generating lame, studio-paycheck work for a ridiculous Don Cheadle, a not-yet-dead-by-OD Chris Penn (cameo), and Salma Hayek’s ample, heaving cleavage – which is something I never would have realized on my own.

--If real life were anything like this movie, the cresting crash of an Audioslave song would invariably signal the impending arrival of hot hetero booty action.

--Mann et al. deserve a great deal of credit for not turning this into parody/farce ala so many other 70s/80s TV shows gone big screen (see Starksy & Hutch, which was actually pretty, uh, cruc, and Dukes of Hazzard, which was a total waste of time). The sinister, malevolent gravity James Edward Olmos brought to the role of police (chief? captain?) Castillo is sorely missed, but forget that these are different actors and the milleu’s contemporary and this could double as a 4-part storyline from the show’s small-screen run. When I learned that Farrell and Jamie Foxx were gonna be starring as Crockett and Tubs, I was among those who cried BS. Surprise - they pull off these roles way better than imagined, right down to the so-intense-it’s-lethal stylized garbage (cf. Bloom County) chatter.

--Mogwai’s tasteful integration into the soundtrack = not as surprising as a Nonpoint cover version of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” during ye olde climactic gunfight face-off. Speaking of that gunfight, it reminds me of the running street cops’n’robbers throwdown in L.A. from Mann’s own Heat, which succeeds in making extended gunplay seem really boring, tedious, and confusing (moreso here because it’s happening at night).

--Mann loves him some gratuitous shower scenes, huh? Wow.

--Not feeling the Crockett mustache. Heavy stubble’s a no-brainer, but a stache? Nah.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Draw Yr Own Conclusions, Fill in Yr Own Blanks

Thanks to the lovely Alecia for forwarding these – among many others – to me!

Khate article

This article will run in Signal-to-Noise Magazine later this year.


By Raymond Cummings

Psych-rockers troll dusty music stores for vintage effects pedals. DJs scrounge through fifth-hand vinyl bins in record shops for sample fodder. Ethnomusicians meld vacations with scouting trips, scouring the globe for obscure instruments. Khate Gausman’s hunting grounds include flea markets and yard sales, where broken-in toys that emit tot-pleasing sounds – the tools of her trade – can be had for a song, even if the multi-layered electronics/noise she’ll eventually bleed from them is likely to terrify your kids and alienate your co-workers. Gausman, who resides in Newport News, Virginia and daylights as an audio-visual tech, is a circuit-bender.

“In a nutshell, circuit-bending involves opening up some sound-making or -altering device - toys, keyboards, guitar pedals, etc. - and re-wiring it to create sounds the manufacturer never intended,” she explains in an email interview. “The results can be controlled effects or random glitching. Sometimes I play the instruments; sometimes, the instruments play me. With certain bent instruments, it's often seemingly up to chance what they will spit out. In those instances, I record gobs of material and then edit it down into interesting and digestible chunks. Other times, I'll have a theme in mind and either use the reliable bent instruments or my straightforward gear. Most often, it's a combination of the two, layered upon each other and ‘iced’ with field recordings and samples. Part of the allure - for me, anyways - is also modding or re-housing the case, so the instrument becomes not only a unique source of strange sounds, but a work of art unto itself.” Photos of Gausman-modified “instruments” are available on her website.

Since 2004, Gausman has self-released six solo CDs and a pair of collaborative recordings with Wayne “FERALCATSCAN” Jacobs, her partner both in love and circuit-subversion.

“Back in '98 I bought a CD & book set called Gravikords, Whirlies and Pyrophones, which features work by Reed Ghazala,” Gausman recalls. “Flash forward two years, when I find a Speak & Spell in a thrift store and think ‘Wait, can't I do that circuit-bending thing on that?’ Curiosity soon became an obsession. I come from a visual art background and only started making noises in the late 90's, so the idea of constructing a unique sonic sculpture was a very happy marriage of old interests with new.”

One of the most intriguing – and ironic – aspects of her prolific catalogue is a gradual shift from early, relatively beat-oriented material to more atmospheric compositions that can’t be properly classified as “songs” in the traditional sense; rather, they suggest sonic tye-dying or collaging. Thus, texturally, Gausman’s early, relatively concrete music has transitioned into a more abstract, atmospheric realm that reflects her Master’s degree in art therapy. While fritzing crackle, sticky-sick static, AM/FM dial-twist samples, and Conet Project foreign-speaker code enunciation characterize Khate’s entire body of work, definite separations can be made.

There’s 3-inch CD-R Apertif (2004), which mined a original, hybrid vein of muddily dramatic trip-hop and glitch – “Teratogenic” even sported, seemingly, simulations of starved birds of prey contemplating a apocalyptic landscape. This doomy, foreboding structural stalk was followed by stylistic hodge-podges Ononharoia (2005) – an album Gausmann declares a personal favorite – and Circadian (2006), the spiked, angular, jolts’n’edges Parts (2006), and the shadowy, humidity-hemorrhaging amorphousness of Composition of a Recorded Mass (2007).

There are methods to Gausmann’s madness: “Within the last year, I've accrued a backlog of material that has only recently been mastered; with more tracks to pick from, it's easier to arrange them by theme. I don't mind the potpourri approach to album mixing, and will probably release some like that in the future. It's simply that the most recent work has sounded better grouped with neighboring themes, and I have enough of it to do so.”

Field Report, Gausman’s latest effort, holds an unusual distinction. While Report is what she terms “an orphanage of an album,” a grouping of songs that “didn't play well with others, so they're forced to play with each other,” it nonetheless adds up to her most engrossing release to date: a darkened, entropic rumble that sneaks up on the listener. “Riesling” presents overlapping, bass-level concentric tones that continually expand outward, simulating bloated indigestion; “Imaginary Numbers” suggests loops of a live microphone-recorded thunderstorm with vintage 50s public-access samples folded in. Gausman created the latter using a 1980s record of office sound effects: “Lots of clunky teletext and now-antiquated copy machines. It employs the Vinyl Translator a great deal, a circuit-bent turntable that runs forwards and backwards from about 10 to 50 rpm. It's very fun to play, and gets trotted out to live gigs regularly.”

Field Report is available now. For more information, visit

Wooden Wand review

In the transfer from draft to final version, this review lost some crucial info somehow, so I present the original below:

Wooden Wand
James and the Quiet
(Ecstatic Peace!)

This latest chapter in James Jackson Toth’s ongoing “Gospel according to Wand” is an immeasurable improvement over its predecessors. The further he’s removed from – or at least, less directly influenced by – his Vanishing Voice peeps and their collective New Weird Americanisms, the more ground Toth’s staggering-geezer folk evangelism gains. Harem of the Sundrum & the Witness Figg and last year’s Skygreen Leopards-assisted Second Attention bore this out. Now James & the Quiet completes his gradual emergence from the cdrs’n’sloppy-psych-jamz wilderness; a contact high minimum’s no longer prerequisite to luxuriating in Toth’s worn grooves.

Credit for this is due in large part to producer Lee Ranaldo, who with co-arranger Jennifer Toth – that’s Mrs. Wand, to you – orchestrates old Voice hands and fellow Sonic Youth Steve Shelley to forge a disciplined, succinct Quiet. Consider the stunted-scuzz guitar line that appears partway through the acoustic drizzle of “In a Bucket”; typically Wand bewitching, it’s little more than a fried cog in the tune’s trad verse-chorus-verse structure, an accent to non-sequiters ala “Sometimes you’re shook like a firefly inside a jar/or like a dizzy honeybee in a bucket of tar.” Toth’s conversational, Chick-bookish affability is what matters here; that he’s on a lyrical plateau is a plus, that his fellow musicians frequently harmonize gently – as on preachin’-at-gunpoint fable “Invisible Children” – is a bonus. “We must also love the thieves/And we must also love the liars, because some truth can be found in these,” he drawls instructively against “Thieves”’ stumbling, slumping dice roll of drumkit stutters, tambourine rattles, and Parkinson’s fret trills.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Odd Girl Out feature

Here’s a link to the final Baltimore City Paper version, while my original draft appears below:

“I feel like the name of the band, right from the get-go you know it’s a girl band,” Odd Girl Out lead guitarist Kristen Brzowsky suggests thoughtfully.

“We’re girls and we always play, nine times out of ten, with guy bands – so we’re always outsiders,” singer Mary “Tawni” Tawney reasons.

“We’re all part of the gay community, so automatically, we’re on the outside,” guitarist Eva Blackmer offers.

“Bethany [Petr] came up with it. Bethany comes up with everything!” Tawney interjects, then adds sardonically: “My friend Ethan calls the band ‘Eat Girl Out’!”

The five members of Odd Girl Out – clustered around Petr’s cell phone at the band’s Silver Spring practice space for an interview in late June – then burst into simultaneous, uproareous laughter. They’re mulling over the many possible connotations their name carries, but, as with every other response, this one dissolves from direct answers into zings and good-natured ribbing so infectious that even a reporter feels almost in on the jokes. Considering the obstacles Odd Girl Out overcame to arrive at the self-release of adrenilized debut Hurry Up and Wait, the loose, playful mood is both understandable and ironic: understandable because the album took some 30 months to complete as various musicians joined and left – roughly a month for each punk-rockin’ minute – ironic because while such impediments routinely scuttle promising acts before they can make a mark, OGO’s travails have strengthened it.

“The lows have been all the times when past members indicated they didn't share the sort of interest and investment in the band that I have,” says drummer and unofficial publicist Petr. “I give this entity everything. It's really personal for me, so it's been sad and disappointing when we had members who didn't really care about it the same way.”

Tawney is more blunt. “Basically, we had crazy bitches in the band that we had to throw out before we could finish the record,” she quips. “Now we have crazy bitches that we like.”

Odd Girl Out was born in late 2004, when Petr, Tawney, and a few others broke away from a blues/swing covers band to form a different breed of covers outfit – one that specialized in pop-punk and rock songs recorded by female artists. Among their early performance staples were songs by the Bangles, the Killers, Jill Sobule, and Hole. Until, that is, Petr tried her hand at songwriting for the first time and discovered a knack for it.

“The first song I wrote was about how crappy and annoying the band we had left was,” she remembers. “We later revamped it, and it’s now our song ‘Lost in Translation’ – no longer about that other band. It's not the first one we worked up – that was ‘5 Years.’”

The tunes – which, in Odd Girl Out’s hands, eventually became thunderous potential hits that owe as much to 80s rocker Joan Jett as they do to 90s riot-grrls Bikini Kill – kept coming, but personnel havoc hindered their wider dissemination beyond sets at various Baltimore, Northern Virginia, and Washington, D.C. venues. The keyboardist/rhythm guitarist and the bassist – still moonlighting with the swing/blues group – eventually quit due to a combination of scheduling conflicts and lack of avidity for the material; an “erratic and insane” lead guitarist lasted a year, only to be followed by another who bolted after only a few weeks. At different intervals, batteries of auditions brought new recruits into the fold: Blackmer to handle rhythm guitar (though she’d later switch to bass), Brzowsky on lead guitar, and Blackmer’s friend Selena Benally to chip in an additional ax. As the turmoil raged, the band was nonetheless playing out and laying down tracks for Wait at Baltimore’s Wrightway Studios. The turnovers – and the difficulties faced in trying to find compatible players in between – meant that new members had to learn the songs and re-record guitar and bass parts, further delaying the record’s completion.

“It’s harder for us because there aren’t a lot of female musicians that are into what we do – they’re too old or two young or into folk,” explains Tawney, who sweetly dodges the question of OGO’s ages by giving the band’s averaged age as 24. “People don’t understand what it takes to be in a band. They think we don’t practice or play very much, and that’s not us.”

Given the uncertainty surrounding its genesis, Wait is a surprisingly composed, coiled, and concise initial salvo. Lyrically, Petr’s protagonists are women whom, when faced with dangerous, difficult, or just plain frustrating traps they can’t avoid, respond by re-framing the dramas as something easily controllable, coolly dissecting what’s happening and laying out all the evidence. Tawney’s belting, boisterously passionate delivery obliterates any sense of tedious calculation that description might imply, carried along by the sort of off-the-cuff, three-chord strikes and walloping drums that recall Letters to Cleo and a pair of underrated, femme-fronted 90s punk bands: little-known NYC trio Fur and Oakland’s fiery, uncompromising Tilt. In the crunchy “Picture,” with its pointed-yet-diplomatic, anthemic chorus – “Sing me a song about the depths of your disappointment/Paint me a picture of your pain” – what could become a lover’s quarrell is forestalled in an invitation to talk things out instead of going nuclear. For the narrator of “MySpace,” though, the fun’s over; the song, which teases with faux-Extreme, prom-dance scaling before thickening into a catchy, lumbering behemoth, is a bullet-point ‘Dear Jane’ letter-list: “Do you recall a time I lived up to your expectations?/Do you recall a single joke without my defamation?” At times, Wait resembles a kick-ass empowerment seminar – or the ideal CD to blast en route to a girl’s night out.

The peppily high-octane “5 Years,” meanwhile, wouldn’t have been out of place on the 10 Things I Hate About You soundtrack – perfect for those scenes where Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles engage in madcap paintball warfare, as it’s a rowdy, celebratory buildup to a romantic spark between people whose love seemed unimaginable. The song also works, unintentionally, as a metaphor for OGO itself: liner-note shots suggest a group of vastly dissimilar women thrown together, a last-ones-picked-for-teams quintet lacking a unifying mindset or fashion aesthetic – goth, grrl, glam, and granola. Indeed, members are so scattered – geographically, vocationally, and in terms of musical influences – that their dedication to OGO appears all the more incredible.

Soft-spoken, San Diego-born Benally is a full-time student at the University of Southern Maryland and a Metallica fan. Petr digs Green Day and teaches computer programming at the Columbia high school she attended. Tawney, who grew up in Baltimore but today resides in Cockeysville, is a nanny, a co-owner of SHE Productions, and partial to Madonna and Queen. Blackmer grew up in St. Mary’s County on a steady diet of “angry girl music” like Hole and Bikini Kill; she calls Greenbelt home and works at the Maryland Center for Environmental Training. Baltimore County native Brzowsky somehow juggles a job as a “professional flapjack flipper,” two bands (OGO and Celia Kipp & the Last Ditch), DJ gigs, and a love of NOFX, Fat Wreck Chords, and the Smashing Pumpkins. Sexual orientation’s a nominal uniting force – Baltimore Pride served as Wait’s unofficial release party, and sold well there – but a shared love for their sound, mutual admiration, and friendship seem to be the ties that bind OGO together as they begin their preliminary search for a record deal. Tawney uses an anatomical metaphor to explain the band’s dynamic: “Bethany is the mind, I am the mouth, and Kristen, Eva, and Selena are very vital organs.”

“They take something I write with my sort of meager guitar/bass skills and turn it into something totally awesome,” Petr gushes.

Odd Girl Out play the Charm City Rollergirls Bout at Skateland on July 15. For more information, visit

Also: my new Singles Going Steady piece, Christy & Emily "Noah," and a Benni Hemm Hemm live preview.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


--“Bros before hoes!” I don’t agree with that sentiment, and I’m pretty sure I’ll never actually utter it because it’s sexist and immature and total bs but I thought I’d throw it out there because this movie represents the only time in my life I’ve actually heard anyone say it, even if it was a moronic minor character in a reprehensible Hollywood blockbuster/CGI-commercial directed by Michael fucking Bay. If I have time I’ll track down the gif pic of Hilary and Obama, standing side by side and smiling, with the legend “Bros Before Hoes” below their faces, and post it here. Just knowing that thing exists brightens my day, even though it’s totally un-P.C. and I’m leaning towards casting my vote for Hil in the primary. One more time: “Bros before hoes!” Okay, okay.

--So this is what Danny McCoy was upto on Las Vegas when Special Forces showed up at the Montecito and was all “you’re going back to war”!

--Mean jock assholes in not-getting-inevitable-comeuppance shocker!

--Driving home after seeing Transformers with my cousins was weirdly scary in that I was convinced that my car and the ones behind me would suddenly turn into giant sinister robots and start beating the transistor fluid out of each other.

--The government eventually buries the carcasses of destroyed Decepticons in an undersea graveyard to ensure that no-one will ever know what happened and debriefs the humans involved. WTF? When a dozen alien robots slaughter hundreds of people and cause millions in property damage on highways and in major cities – and much of it is televised in the process -- the general public and countless witnesses can attest that some crazy, out-of-the-ordinary shit went down and plausible deniability isn’t an option. Even Dick Cheney would concede that. Oops – I didn’t say “spoiler” before I wrote that, but I don’t care if I somehow ruined this movie for you because it’d be a waste of time and beer money for you to watch it.

--Speaking of which, somebody in the theatre where I saw this last night had a royal buzz on; all I could smell was hops.

--Wait, Bumblebee’s a Chevy – not a VW? I cry revisionism! Right, right: Chevy’s a major sponsor. At least there’s a contextual nod to the 80s comics/tv-show/ toys version of the canary-yellow chrome dude. (Props to the music-licensing supervisor for busting out Tomoyasu Hotei's “Battle Without Honor or Humanity” from Kill Bill when Bumblebee upgrades himself from a rusty 70s Chevy clunker to a sleek 00s Charger because, you see, Uma Thurman sought vengeance in a yellow bodysuit, etc.)

--This Voguing to Danzig post was brought to you in part by Pontiac, Nokia, Chevy, Nike, Hasbro, the U.S. Military-Industrial Complex, eBay, Mountain Dew, Hummer, and, um, the Strokes.

--Yep, the Strokes. Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf, channeling One Crazy Summer-era John Cusack like his life depended on it and thereby becoming the only enjoyable aspect of this disaster) inexplicably rocks a Strokes tee during most of Transformers’ running time. I mean, shouldn’t there be at least one Strokes tune in this flick – as opposed to Taking Back Sunday, the Used, and Disturbed? The possibilty exists that, I dunno, “What Ever Happened” pops up somewhere in the action (if not on the retail OST) and I totally missed hearing it all together what with all the shouting and explosions and violence and steel-on-steel mortal combat and cars full of passengers being crushed like afterthoughts and whatnot. Honestly, I can barely remember any music at all besides some stock film score crap that happens while Jon Voight, John Turturro, and Anthony Anderson are chewing scenery and trying to transmit Morse Code from inside the Hoover Dam while a Short Circuit-cum-Gremlins II beastie slings throwing stars at them, then we get a Corgan-less whiff of new Pumpkins song “Doomsday Clock” (I think) when Michela (Megan Fox) is driving a towtruck in willy-nilly reverse through traffic whilst a legless, jury-rigged Bumblebee blasts Decepticons from the back, then the sappy-ass ending cues up Linkin Park’s “What I’ve Done” as Michela and Sam gear up for that first liplock and Optimus Prime checks out a sunset. God, what a horrible, soulless movie this is.

--Side note: Sam, as a character, is so haplessly uncool that it almost makes sense that he’d be a Strokes fan in 2007, when even critics and hipsters en masse don’t care about the Strokes and can’t quite recall now why they ever did. Village Voice movie reviewer Nathan Lee on Sam: "Whack Attack” and “Wit-wickety-wickety-whack.” These rank among the funniest things anyone’s said about this garbage-fest yet, which is saying something. (I think Jess Harvell was overly conciliatory in his Baltimore City Paper assessment, but I dug it nonetheless.)

--By this point, you may be getting the impression that I didn’t like this movie; not only are you right, but my estimation of Transformers – both the celluloid itself and my extreme childhood fandom -- is actually sinking the more I think and write about it.

--Cameo from that short, annoying-but-cunning Jewish defense attorney guy who guested on Law and Order a few times a coupld seasons ago, as Sam’s bored teacher. Good to see him getting some work and probably a nice paycheck; hopefully this is the first in a long series of a career of largely overlooked character-actor roles that’ll help put food on the table.

--Too much Frenzy, not enough Starscream! But then, there never was enough Starscream, by my reckoning.

--One point that I’ll defend Bay on: the blurred, hard-to-discern robot fight sequences. The crit mafia is whining that the shifting parts of the Transformers move too fast when they change and that the action can be jarring, confusing, and disappointing. But look: the movie basically unfolds from the human POV – unusual for this franchise – and if you’re a puny little human being on the ground experiencing this chaos first-hard, chances are that it’ll look something like it’s presented here. Loud, scary, crazy, etc., and hard to keep a handle on because you’re in the middle of a war zone with no control over what happens. (Which is actually a pretty on-point description of how it feels to watch this movie.)

--On the other hand, fuck Bay and this movie for glorifying destruction and death to an unforgivable extent. “Oh Ray, lighten up – it’s mindless summertime popcorn fare, you’re overreacting. Big robots that turn into stuff and back! Explosions! Car chases! Scantily-clad chicks! Optimus Prime’s booming yet comforting voice!” Sure. I might have agreed if this had been released in 1995, when I was 18 and the world was a decidedly less frightening place and people weren’t dying everyday in a pointless, atrociously managed war. That was then, and this is now; Autobots and Decepticons alike are now rendered as totally creepy mechanical monsters, real people die real deaths (in cinema like this implication equals reality), etc. It isn’t really entertaining or fun; somehow, in the transition from cartoon-to-live-action my favorite childhood toys have turned sinister and frightening and seriously dangerous, a heavy threat that even Megatron’s ruthlessness couldn’t touch back when Reagan was sweating the Iran-Contra hearings and people were buying Duran Duran records. I remember being a second grader at recess, and fourth-graders teasing me by telling me that Transformers weren’t real; I replied “They are too real, and they’ll beat you up!” Man, I was stupid, and in my youthful delusion couldn’t imagine how a world infested suddenly with warring factions of robots could be a deadly one. A couple years before I gave up on X-Men related comics, the various X-books had a crossover storyline titled “Inferno” wherein a demonic presense flooded New York City, resulting in mailboxes and beauty-shop chairs and buildings and gargoyles and other inanimate objects turning into demons with evil demon grins and teeth, attacking and eating people. Other stuff happened but that’s what stayed with me – the freakishness of things coming to life to wreak havoc. There’s a scene in this movie when Sam, urged on by Prime, is dashing through the streets with the Allspark (don’t ask) and assorted machines nearby grow sentient; the results are far from pretty. That Bay leavens this disquieting, sub-Terminator 3 scenario with sub-80s horror/action silliness (see above refs to Short Circuit and Gremlins II, throw in various John Hughes teen movie plots) dilutes this mess even further.

--Oh, come on, Hasbros: wasn’t showing a little girl in bed with a gigantic My Little Pony a smidge too crassly gratuitous, too obvious? Grown fanboy bros before Kid Sista hoes!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Tape Architecture: Nodin Mix #3, "Cool Points Are Out & You Got Me All Mixed Up in the Game"

I won’t be burning and mailing this compilation for at least four or five more months, but I’ve been playing with the structure and tracklist for that long, if not longer. The original intention every time out is to tell a sort of story about my son Nodin or about me; inevitably that plan gets thrown out the window as I attempt to create an interesting collection of songs that transition smoothly instead. In all likelihood the songs below will be switched or replaced or something between now and Christmas – until recently Lily Allen, Yoko Ono, OOIOO, Lagwagon, Love of Diagrams, and Islands were included, but were ultimately scotched because the thing was starting to feel totally cluttered and out of control; I think I had like 23 tracks here or something equally ridiculous. Really, I guess, these projects are a way of sharing with my wife, my parents, and my friends some of the music I’m into at any given time, minus, for the most part, rap and noise, because the audience for these things would be turned off by it and I’m trying to appeal to every recipient on some level. Alecia, Thom, Doug, and my dad aside, I get no serious feedback on these discs so I have absolutely no idea if anyone is driven to investigate any given artest further, and I’m frankly tired of asking people what they thought or if they even listened or whatever. Maybe that sounds bitter, ungrateful, but I suppose if people didn’t want me to send these CDs their way anymore they’d say “Ray, stop sending me these weird bullshit CDs full of nonsense I can’t relate to and don’t give a fuck about.” If anyone wants to say that, please just say it already; it’d be a surprise on one level but I’m way past the point where I expect anybody to agree with any aspect of my musical tastes. As for the unweildly title, I ripped it off from Bringing Down the House; you get three guesses which character said it. (Hint: it wasn’t Steve Martin.)

1. The Grateful Dead “Crowd”

Not an actual song. Just a means of opening the proceedings: crowd chatter, warm-up chords, some dude announcing “Remember, this is only a test!” to audience cheers. For a while the idea was to stick this at the end of the CD, and I still think it could work there, but I’ve always liked comps that kick off with something that isn’t actually musical, something like this, ala Jay-Z, who always seems to make it a point to speak directly to his listeners before the beats start banging, or slanging, or whatever.

2. Brainbombs “???”
3. Black Flag “Wasted”
4. Minor Threat “Minor Threat”

I downloaded two Brainbombs songs – quick, punkish bursts of noise – from the Load Records site; either one will do here for my purposes. Then you get slivers of self-depreciating 80s HC punk proper, bang bang. (For the sake of irony I guess I could have gone with that Minor Threat song about worthless Deadheads.)

5. Smashing Pumpkins “Glass Theme”

Angry dirty alterna metal! Billy Corgan inna-demonic-pissy-rawk-idol style! He’s irked! He’s annoyed! He’s bitchy! He’ll be “by the pool, playing with [his] thoughts”! (I don’t believe there’s any truth in this because Corgan’s perpetually vampire-pale. Does he even own a pool? Is Chicago especially sunny, ever?) Which is interesting in part because “Glass Theme” arrives immediately on the heels of two equally rough’n’raw tunes, the difference being that those guys were broke and living in squalor and traveling together in shitty vans when they wrote thse songs, but Corgan was loaded and co-writing big-ass Hollywood movie scores and world famous – if way past his popular prime – when he wrote this one, from Machina II, aka the album his label wouldn’t release so he gave it away on the internet for free.

6. The Mendoza Line “It Helps to Leave the House”
7. Blitzen Trapper “Wild Mountain Nation”

Now we shift into a less furious, more playfully relaxed gear: it’s alt-country tyme, though in a just world both of these songs would be serious CMA awards contenders. Unfair!

8. Hauschka “Paddington”
9. Kieran Hebden & Steve Reid “Greensleeves”

A classical, prepared-piano delight that acts as a transitioning shunt. Then a distorted, abstracted but still reasonably recognizable take on the traditional holiday number that reminds us that it’s starting to look a lot like $mas and effectively shepherds us into the mix’s experimental block.

10. The Orb “Oxbow Lakes”
11. Taylor Deupree “Everything’s Gone Grey”
12. Lappetites “Stop No. 394 Falkirk Street”
13. Khate “Riesling”

“Oxbow Lakes” brings to mind the Olympiad in Greek and Roman times, or maybe Icarus flapping around idly before getting too close to the sun and plummeting back to Earth. Equally lengthy but considerably more minimalist is “Everything’s Gone Grey,” which – depending on how much attention one is able to pay while it splays – may go unnoticed altogether; if so, the Lappetites’ herky-jerky laptop avant-garde will provide a rude awakening before Khate’s circuit-bent rumble quakes endeavor to lull you back into complacency.

14. Bumps “A Safe Balm”
15. Deerhoof “Cast Off Crown”
16. Dinosaur Jr. “Back to Your Heart”
17. Why? “Sanddollars”
18. The Beach Boys “Busy Doin’ Nothin’”

Here’s where, I hope, hearts will be warmed somewhat. The Bumps track is simply a tangle of percussion, transitional and fun. “Cast Off Crown” pulps a bundle of disparate genres together into this sugary, yearning slush of emotions and falsettos, which doesn’t really say much, specifically, as a description; trust me, though, when I tell you that it must be heard to be believed. Dinosaur Jr. drops some balladic/anthemic mid-tempo indie that I take to be about doing what one does for the wellbeing and love of one’s family, a theme I identify very strongly with, which is half of the reason it’s included here; it can be read, if you like, as a dedication to Alecia and Nodin and the life I hope to make for all of us. The final pair of songs are for my friends: the Why? song is drawn from Elephant Eyelash, a record so heavy on a sense of nostalgia that I get weird chills through-and-through whenever I listen to it. When I say nostalgia I don’t mean that I can directly relate to what Yoni Wolf is singing/rapping about, exactly – after all, I’m not Jewish, dad wasn’t a rabbi, I’ve never been in a touring band, never wore hoodies and jeans “as was the style that year” – in the sense of, say, when we were all watching Stoned Age back in the summer of 1998 at Steve Fuchs’ house outside of Chestertown and Labz kept saying “My life was just like that, we used to do stuff like that all the time” back in south Jersey. It’s more just the reflective style of what’s being expressed and the sort of carefree, halycon 90s college rock hooks that sends me cruising down memory lane, revisiting the tentative establishment of what are today lasting, valuable comradeships and maybe getting a little misty-eyed because I feel lucky to still know all these awesome people even though hundreds of miles separate us. The Beach Boys song, which isn’t as well known as “I Get Around” or “California Girls,” has a welcoming, mellow present-tense vibe (if maybe a little OCD and slightly unnerving for that) and acts as an florid, brassed-out invitation to come over, to visit, to get caught up and hang out: let’s make some new memories.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Tuesday Afternoon Nit-Picking

Work here is at a trickle right now, and the inspiration to plow through the writing I’m supposed to be doing is proving elusive, so I’m going to blow some digital Voguing to Danzig acreage on a subject that’s been gnawing on my cerebelum for the past few weeks: tattoos. Now, I don’t consider myself an especially conservative person. I’m cool with homosexuality, multiple piercings, and Manic-Panic’d hairdos – even if PDAs w/r/t the first make me uncomfortable (which isn’t really saying anything since hetero PDAs have the same effect), I ditched my earrings a decade ago, and the third causes me to shake my head in encroaching-geezerhood “kids!” bemusement. (You may not know/remember this, but once upon a long-ass time ago, in college, Tracey Renfro bleached my hair and helped me dye it green. Some SGA stooge subsequently informed me that I looked “like a stalk of celery,” which was only sorta funny then. Ah, youth.)

I enjoy Miami Ink as much as anybody, and support everyone’s unalienable right to get totally inked out by licensed professionals with sinister nicknames. But earlier, en route to the lunchroom to get some water, I passed a woman from a different department with a smudged, fading tat of something or other on her shoulder. It was so horrible and sloppy and amorphously meaningless and blotted to behold that I almost forgot where I was going. In response – and at no charge to the general public – I offer Voguing to Danzig’s official tattoo dictums, which are as follows. Voguing to Danzig admits to having zero tats and not being in any hurry to acquire some. So here goes:

1. Tattoos are pretty cool, in theory at least.

2. There’s nothing wrong with covering one’s body with tattoos, or clustering tattoos on the back, torso and/or apendages. Rock on!

3. Respect is due to you, should you choose to adorn your skin in such a fashion, because we have it on good authority that (a) getting tattoos really fucking hurts, and (b) tattoos that are visible no matter what you’re wearing can make getting a good job pretty difficult. Rugged!

4. Voguing to Danzig has no truck with you if you are a super-tattoo’d-up person who isn’t a Jackass star, biker, punk, metalhead, or other “tough customer” sub-demographic stat-whatever; Voguing to Danzig is, for the most part, above that sort of juvenile shit now. Voguing to Danzig doesn’t care if you’re a loquacious, animated tax attorney/DJ who blows off your friends for no apparent reason or Nelson Mandela or a frat guy or a high-powered accountant or maybe a high-school principal, though that would be pretty funny. Tat it forward, I say.

5. If you decide to get just one or two little tattoos, you must have them applied in a place where no-one can see them. You must do this because tats stranded in an ocean of un-inked skin look stupid, regardless of whether you’ve opted for a Chinese symbol that translates as “power,” Zippy the Pinhead, or a Bryan Adams lyric that doubles as your personal motto. On ankles, shoulders, and arms – especially on pale skin – these needle-jackhammered orphans seem so inexplicably stark and lonely that they register first as fakes and second as statements of dillentantism: they scream “Via a fifth of the Captain and a lot of peer-pressure, I found the courage to have a butterfly emblazoned on my forearm” or “Please recognize that I’m a subcultural dabbler/mid-life crisis victim and smirk at me.”

6. If you’re like most Americans, it’s likely that you’ll eventually gain a bunch of weight and generally let yourself go – at which point that “Black Flag prison bars logo” tat on your bicep will come to resemble the spot where somebody – I dunno, one of those people who routinely exclaim “Shut up!” when you say something surprising, then toss a friendly jab for some unknown reason – has punched you repeatedly for an hour. Which is to say, a severe bruise.

7. All of the above probably comes across as mean, vicious, and decidedly un-American (pretty harsh, what with tomorrow being Independence Day and all). After all, who the hell is Voguing to Danzig to tell anyone how to live his or her life? Voguing to Danzig, whose own career(s) is a joke due to a relative lack of ambition and awareness, who’s a frickin’ blogger of all things, who lives with his mom during the week in Maryland because he can’t find a job in Pennsylvania while his wife has to raise their son mostly on her own, who still gets acne, who’s never sat down for a tattoo himself. What right do I have to judge the great, semi-inked masses? Well, none really; I’m just someone who’s already outraged enough by the despoiling of our (great?) nation by environmental pollution, Hinder, and Dick Cheney that dragon tats on scrawny bone-white ankles and jailhouse tats on flabby brown arms really gets to me, you know, really pushes me to the edge like a forgotten Linkin Park hit single or some shit like that. Metaphorically, you understand: I’m not actually gonna go postal. Neck scarves and midriff-bearing tees on teen girls and woolen sweater robes (thank God that trend bit it), you know? It’s all just too much, a concerted-yet-indifferent assault on the eyes, and there’s no legit reason it has to be that way if people as a species take the time to actually think before acting, or, er, tatting.

So that’s it. Go to a barbeque tomorrow, or see Transformers – which I’ll be seeing next week, myself, with my cousin Kevin – or just sleep in, but please, for the love of Ron Burgandy, don’t get a set on musical notes inscribed on your wrist unless you’re gonna back that bad boy up with Antonio Vivaldi’s sheet music for the Four Seasons wrapping all the way up around your “temple.”

Truth Continues To Be Stranger Than Fiction Could Ever Hope To

Was tooling around on and came across the above, which is the cover for "Tarantula" -- the first single from the Smashing Pumpkins' upcoming re-formation album, Zeitgeist. (Their best song in ages, seriously.) All indications are that I'm not hallucinating or dreaming this because when I pinch myself, nothing in my frame of reference is changed in any way; the photographs, papers, CDs, and other crap in the cubicle is solid and constant in appearance, there's no blurring or bleeding of colors, etc. (You posting a response is further confirmation that I'm not high or losing my mind.) So this is real. Still, WTF, Billy Corgan? You broke up your band seven years back because you were sick of competing with the "Britney Spears' of the world"; now you're back and Paris Hilton - a vacuum who actually has less of a right to be famous than the former Mrs. Kevin Federline (or Federline himself) - is your covergirl? Life is insane. And yet I can see the thought processes that probably led Corgan to do this: (a) he's a fairly hated-on rock celeb personality, and probably felt a connection with the even-more hated-on (if not an iota as talented) Hilton, (b) he wanted his comeback to make waves and generate as much hoopla as possible (i.e. releasing this album in like 13 different editions via various retailers) in a world where any news story/icon's lucky to sustain anybody;s interest for 10 second before clicking on the next blurb link, and (c) he's so far beyond his popular culture peak that, like Lil Wayne, he just doesn't care, knows this could be his last shot at worldwide fame, so eff it. Whatever - I know my day's just been made.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Monday Afternoon Nit-Picking

1. David Broder’s op-ed columns have always been worth at least one read. But somebody, please talk this dude outta agreeing to anymore reader Q&As if he’s gonna have nothing to say whatsoever about anything political. It’s rare that I’m able to call something out as a total waste of bandwidth, but damn. He should’ve just gone for a manicure or something. (No, seriously, don’t read it! I’m wasting still more bandwidth just by calling it out -- don’t perpetuate this vicious cycle of noncontent pretending to be content!)

2. As I’ve made clear elsewhere, I’ve no love for the new Wilco album, mostly because I haven’t been a Dad quite long enough. But the commercials Volkswagen chose to yolk the Sky Blue Sky cuts to are entertaining enough, continuing the automaker’s quirky advert winning streak – sublimely weird for a few years (da da da, etc.), then prettily weird (I’m thinking of the nu-Bug ones circa the late 1990s where they were licensing Stereolab and Spiritualized songs), then weird again but maybe not quite weird enough (How’d that VW get up in that tree? And why is all this happening in a Super Bowl ad?), then heart-attack jarring (“Things don’t ‘like’ happen,” cue sudden car crash) and today sorta weird but in a new and slightly thoughful way. Maybe I missed a few steps in the evolutionary chain, but if you’ve wasted enough time in front of a TV then you probably know what I mean. “Thoughtful” may be too generous for the entirety of the current ad crop, but I’m thinking mostly of the one where the dude steals a red VW and cruises around town just kind of enjoying the attention he’s attracting with the top down, eventually just returning it to where he got it (memo to runners who like to drive to public parks and leave your autos open with the keys “hidden” in the sun visors: you’re morons) instead of dropping it off at the friendly neighborhood 2 Fast 2 Furious chopshop. That particular spot gives the impression that the guy has been led to reconsider his line of work, but I prefer to think he’s simply decided to save up his ill-gotten gains for a VW of his own, or better yet, a VW dealership of his own, and in fact declined to steal this one for karmic purposes. Or something. Maybe he just breaks into VWs then drives ‘em around town for kicks or because he can’t afford one? Either way, I’m just saying. These ads have had the interesting effect of (a) making me miss driving a VW even more than I already do and (b) giving me a great deal of respect the hipster moxie of whoever’s pimping VW these days, while (c) not making me want to listen to Wilco at all.

3. This is pretty funny, in a space-as-final-frontier way.

4. Longtime World's Strongest Man fandom + tight reporting yields great alt-weekly story.

5. So I’ve been enjoying this new 3xCD noise box set a lot, but I don’t understand why the fuck noise dudes need secret code names when this is the first most folks are hearing of their projects (are you Thurston Moore? John Olson, Leslie Keffer, Carly Ptak, Pete Swanson, Mark Morgan? Then yes, go ahead with code names to build mystique or what have you). I don’t even care what your real names are, folks! The question is more, can you bring the goods? Can you scare me? Can you scare people who can hear the sheet-metal screech bleeding from my headphones? All you need in the liners for these things are, like, (a) your group name, (b) an email address, and (c) the song title itself, and (d) a website (or a myspace page, which is turning into a must for this scene - which is weird because all of these people are anti-authoritarian art/eff the system/eff dictators/eff-Bush/eff-something types and yet they’re promoting themselves via Rupert Murdoch, which doesn’t seem subversive or whatever so much as it seems lazy). Throw in your actual names if you like! But don’t call yourself Bruce78888 or something stupid. Why does each member of your no-wave grind trio need code names? You;re not a wannabe Diplomats or Wu-Tang Clan; you won’t be referring to yourselves in the music itself, and for all anyone knows one person’s doing the drones/tapes/banshee screams. This isn’t Final Fantasy gaming or a chat room; no-one thinks you’re funny for going by a name you came up with in 10 seconds, and the person formatting and laying out the box info, probably for free, doesn’t need the added hassle just because you’re an idiot.

Interview with Khate

Khate Gausman is an electronics/noise/circuit-bending artist based in Virginia. A few weeks ago, we did an email interview for a magazine piece I'm writing about her (hopefully I'll be done with it is week - fingers crossed!). I'm posting it all here, pretty much unedited. because there's no way I'll be able to squeeze all this info into a several-hundred word story.

Enjoy! Buy her records! If you're unsure whether you'll like her records, download/sample a few of the many great mp3s on her site!

What sparked your interest in circuit-bending related tunes? Was there a sort of "eureka" moment? Is there anyone who you would count as an influence?

Back in '98 I bought a CD & book set called "Gravikords, Whirlies and Pyrophones", which features work by Reed Ghazala. Flash forward two years, when I find a Speak & Spell in a thrift store and think "wait, can't I do that circuit-bending thing on that?" Curiosity soon became an obsession. I come from a visual art background and only started making noises in the late 90's, so the idea of constructing a unique sonic sculpture was a very happy marriage of old interests with new.

Your two latest albums - Composition of a Recorded Mass and Parts -- seem different from your previous work in the sense that each seems to hew to a certain sonic idea. i.e. the former is less solid and sort of shadowy and amorphous, but the latter is full of quick jolts and sharp edges (to these ears, anyway). Meanwhile the older CDs struck me more as collections of odds and ends, potpurri style. Was this intentional? Do you find yourself increasingly wanting each album to
stick to a particular mood? (or am I totally off base, here?)

You're correct --- recent albums adhere a bit more to a sonic theme, but for reasons as practical as aesthetic. Within the last year I've accrued a backlog of material that has only recently been mastered; with more tracks to pick from, it's easier to arrange them by theme. I don't mind the potpourri approach to album mixing, and will probably release some like that in the future. It's simply that the most recent work has sounded better grouped with neighboring themes, and I have enough of it to do so.

I notice that Composition (and a few tracks on other records) incorporates samples from the Conet Project (radio recordings of people talking in code, forgive me if I'm getting the name wrong). Is there a particular significance to the inclusion of those samples in your work?
There's something hypnotic, alien, and totemic about that stuff and it fits >in well with your music.

[I like to use them because they are hypnotic, alien, and totemic --- waitaminnit, quit preempting my good answers. :P] I was familiar with spy number stations before I'd heard of the Conet Project; most of samples come from SW enthusiasts' websites. My dad was into shortwave for a while when I was growing up. I can't help but think I was influenced by hearing the foreign voices and disturbing interference on Friday nights as I labored on artwork in the next room. I've always been fascinated by codes and ciphers and mysterious communiques, so the idea of a code I could inject into audio artwork delighted me.

what, exactly, does circuit bending entail, and what do your tools and materials consist of?

In a nutshell, circuit-bending involves opening up some sound-making or -altering device (toys, keyboards, guitar pedals, etc.) and re-wiring it to create sounds the manufacturer never intended. The results can be controlled effects or random glitching. Part of the allure --- for me, anyways --- is also modding or re-housing the case, so the instrument becomes not only a unique source of strange sounds but a work of art unto itself.

the article mentions that circuit bending is a pasttime both you and your partner share. Do you two ever collaborate on projects? Does he make records as well? What's the dynamic like when both of you are teasing noise from sound chips at the same time?

Wayne indeed does his own musical thing; we met at a gig in Richmond, VA we were both on the bill for. He goes by FERALCATSCAN, and we often collaborate making noise as well as circuit-bent artifacts. It can be nice having another bender in the house, in order to get a second opinion on design or technical challenges. The biggest hurdle we have while bending is occasionally wanting to throw the other's toy out the window, having heard "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" or somesuch 673 consecutive times during an afternoon of searching for good bends and mods.

Do you consider what you do experimental electronic sound, noise, or some other genre classification?

I use "noise" casually because it's easy to say and only 5 characters to type. Albums like Circadian, though, I don't find particularly "noisy" in the genre sense of the word. I like to dabble all over the electronic spectrum from strange rap remixes to glitch techno to dark ambient to noise. It's tough to pigeon-hole myself.

Tell me about how you came to be involved with the Women Take Back The Noise compilation. Have you been featured on any other comps?

Ninah, the incredible force behind WTBTN, invited me to be on the comp. I sent some tracks, two of which got selected. I was fortunate to see the compilation in progress when I was in California last year. One thousand circuit boards waiting on cookie sheets to be hot-glued into boxsets is an impressive sight, indeed. I've had tracks on Dark Assembly I & II, which were Virginia-based goth/industrial comps, as well as a handful of noise comps released in DIY (and now OOP) fashion.

How do you make a living outside of music, and where has your artistic career taken you thus far? (in an earlier email, you mentioned doing a BBC interview) What have some of the highlights of this experience been for you?

By day, I'm an a/v tech for a public library. We set up conference room equipment, fix the circulating tapes and discs that the patrons abuse, and run lights and sound for events in our 268-seat theatre. I've always enjoyed working for libraries, and this combines my bibliophilia with plugging in cables. It's a good gig.

A definite highlight was being asked to give a talk at UC Santa Cruz last year. They have an MFA program in Digital Arts and New Media, and asked me to speak about circuit-bending at their colloquium last year. Meeting the folks who came to the talk was well worth the trip alone. Thank goodness this was before the "liquids can explode" TSA regulations; it was enough fun at the time flying to California with circuit-bent devices in my carry-on.

Tell me a bit about Field Report, and the contest you held in relation to it.

2006 was a very productive year, track-wise, so I had quite a bit of stuff that could be released after the winter mastering season. I was in a visual art doldrum, and decided to loosen my DIY reigns for a change. The album was made available for mp3 download, and folks were encouraged to come with their own album covers. The selected artist would win a Khate-for-life subscription (free albums in perpetuity). I thought the contest would free me from agonizing in an OCD fashion about artwork for a new release, but instead I just chewed my lip over selecting others' artwork. After picking through some fine submissions, I went with David Waldman's excellent photography.

Field Report is probably the most "live" full-length album. There's alot of straight-to-tape sessions with minimal computer editing on it. If you're curious what an average Saturday night in my house sounds like, there you go.

Do you have a favorite of any of your records?

Here's where I'm supposed to say "they're my children, I love them all equally!" But truth be told: if I'm feeling down on my work, I listen to "Ononharoia" to trick myself into thinking, "eh, I'm not so bad."

What are some of your favorite mainstream artists/albums? Have you ever considered sampling from any of them?

Honestly, I don't listen to a heckuva lot of recent mainstream (if by that, you mean "can be heard on antennae radio in a car"). When I lived in NY and managed a used CD store, I was a bit more in touch with genres outside the ones I favor. Now, the closest I come would be occasionally enjoying the local rap/hiphop station. So, I have done remixes of Busta Rhymes and Missy Elliot, and sample lots of old school like Public Enemy, Slick Rick, Big Daddy Kane. With the exception of PE (who seem to be sample-friendly), these tracks tend to get released for friends only, as I'm afraid of lawsuits I cannot afford. Shame, as I think they're pretty interesting.

How's your D.I.Y. process working out, i.e. recording and releasing everything yourself working out? Is it a course you prefer to recording for a label, or have you ever considered signing somewhere?

If I knew I could get signed to nature's perfect label, where I'd maintain complete creative control, keep CDs affordable for fans, and it was run by honest folks, then I'd probably sign. I'd like the added publicity a label could generate, but I'm so terribly wary of getting embroiled in some sort of contractual hell. Being DIY also means keeping costs low, and I'd rather have 100 people buying a CD for $5 than 33 fans buying them at $15.

You mentioned teaching circuit bending in the newspaper article. Do you have a lot of students, or a number that's surprising to you?

I've done two workshops in Richmond at noise festivals, and was pleasantly surprised at the the turnout. When we knew the Daily Press article was going to run, we set up a meeting place for Williamsburg, and got about a dozen attendees. For a podunk town such as that, I was again happily surprised. A handful have followed up and we regularly have folks over to teach them the arcane arts of bending.

How does your songwriting process operate?

Sometimes I play the instruments; sometimes, the instruments play me. With certain bent instruments, it's often seemingly up to chance what they will spit out. In those instances, I record gobs of material and then edit it down into interesting and digestible chunks. Other times, I'll have a theme in mind and either use the reliable bent instruments or my straightforward gear. Most often, it's a combination of the two, layered upon each other and "iced" with field recordings and samples.

Seasons and weather play a big role in what I work on. If I start a track and don't finish it within the season, it will usually get shelved until the following year because I simply can't get into it once the weather changes.

When and why did you decide to change your first name to "Khate"?

I got the name from Wildy Petoud's short story "Accident D'Amour", a truly horrifying bit of splatterpunk. At the time I was making angry, stompy industrial music and needed a nom de synthesizer, so putting the "hate" in "Kate" made sense. It stuck, though I drifted into less angry genres. The only place it actually says "Khate" in paperwork is at the auto repair shop, because I have vanity plates on my car and they just assumed that was how it's spelled.

What's next for you? I know Field Report is out soon and you mentioned playing a show in NYC with Z'ev. How was that experience, and what sort of reception did you receive? Do you think you'll play out live >more in the future?

Opening for Z'EV in Rochester was a fantastic experience, even though it involved driving through a foot of snow in April the next day. The incoming nor'easter kept the audience small, but everyone involved was very enthused. I would like to play out more, but the area I live in doesn't have much in the way of venues which cater to the experimental set.

I notice that every track list on your CDs is shadowed by a comment on
each track title. Why do this? Is it a means of sharing a bit of literal, lingual self, since these songs are for the most part "instrumental" in form?

Yes, since there aren't lyrics (aside from the odd sample) for my songs, I like to give little hints in these footnotes. I try to make them vague enough that the track is still open to interpretation and the impressions of the listener, but perhaps points towards the direction I was feeling at the time of creation. Plus, I've always enjoyed descriptive, illustrative liner notes in general; why do classical albums have them, and yet far more mysterious electronic albums do not? At best one seems to get a name-dropping list of thank yous. I used to include thank-you's, but I'm afraid of leaving someone out, and the "you know who you are" is a cop-out. Best to simply thank the listener.

You work in a library, right? You ever find that your day job influences your music, and if so, how?

While I work for a library, it's as an AV tech. Our department fixes abused media, sets up equipment for conference rooms, and runs lights and sound for our 268 seat theatre. If nothing else, running sound for our concert series has certainly given me a great deal of empathy for soundguys*, and so I try to make my live rig as soundguy-friendly as possible. It may take me an hour to plug in the miles of cable, but once I'm ready to go, all the soundguy has to do is make me loud. I'd be the last person on earth to be some diva whose monitor check takes longer than the house check. Running sound for a variety of genres has also enhanced my mixing and production chops; if I ever decide to incorporate, say, a hammered dulcimer, at least I know how to mic it.

*I call myself a soundguy; while it may seem obvious coming from a woman, let me be plain: no sexism is meant, I just like the term, regardless of gender.

You said you had a fine-arts background; did you go to school for
arts, or was this a personal pursuit?

A bit of both. I've been drawing as long as I can remember, focused on art during my primary school education, and started off in college as an art major. I switched to studying psychology during college, and then found a happy marriage of the two in art therapy and got a master's degree in that.

My visual art pursuits have taken a backseat to the noise-making in the past few years, album covers and custom-painted bent instruments not withstanding. In recent months I've been trying to get my art mojo back, though. I've been keeping a sketchbook and just spent the July 4th holiday working on some found object sculpture (an alien Virgin Mary shrine made from an overhauled Barbie; a circuit-board dragonfly with wings cut from the acetate matrices found inside PC keyboards).

How was the track "Imaginary Numbers" crafted?

Like many tracks on FR, it's got a very "live" feel and technique to it.
It employs the Vinyl Translator a great deal, a circuit-bent turntable that runs forwards and backwards from about 10 to 50 rpm. It's very fun to play and gets trotted out to live gigs regularly. The working title for the track was "The Office" because it heavily uses an 80's record of office sound effects --- lots of clunky teletext and now-antiquated copy machines.

The spoken samples reflect my love of number theory. I'm no math genius, yet number theory intrigues me greatly; it tantalizes and confuses my brain at the same time, like hearing a Catholic mass in Latin. I sense the power and the mystery even though I don't fully grasp it. Imaginary numbers are among those mysteries, so this became something of a hymn to them.

Does Field Report, in your mind, have an overall/overarching
theme? It reminds me of Composition in a way but it's sort
of...darker, more enthropic (even with the samples).

FR was arranged more as a potpourri album, an assortment of odds and ends that hadn't fit well on previous releases. They didn't play well with others, so they're forced to play with each other. It's an orphanage of an album. The chaotic and darker feel probably stems more from my general mindset in the late summer and fall of '06, when most of the tracks were composed, than a conscious effort to group tracks thematically.

The title was picked after selected the winning album cover artwork. It fit the feel of Pighood's lovely cover photo "Hose Nazi in the Wheat", as well as the nature of the track selection. Might not fit together, might not be pretty, but here's what's out there. Just reporting in, sir.