Freak Scene #2

July 02, 2007


The second installment of our weekly column on out sounds takes a look at scuz rock, psych jams and accordion orchestras and takes a shot at Jeff Tweedy. Opinions herein are not necessarily those of some lite-jam loving FADER editors.




When people throw the term “songwriter” around nowadays I start to wretch inside. If I could send Jeff Tweedy fans adrift without hopes of return, I would have no regrets. So if this is the case who the fuck writes a good SONG in this day and age? The answer is clearly Dan Melchior Und Das Menace. If you want to find out what cult stars he’s played with or with which famous rock stars he’s shared stages, go look on the internet [Ed. You’re already looking on the internet.]. If you want to hear rock and roll delivered like Doc Boggs, Mark E. Smith and Gene Vincent wrapped together then I suggest you go purchase Dan’s new 7” on Daggerman Records immediately. The A-side “Elev to Mezz” is classic Melchior with all the bitterness, spite and humor that only he can muster. The B-side “Hippy” is better than most Kinks songs.



Religious Knives has a new 12” out on their Heavy Tapes label, which approaches rock music from a different angle; that being of a drone oriented mysticism. The core of Religious Knives is Mike Bernstein and Maya Miller who formed one half of the drone quartet Double Leopards. The Leopards, now on hiatus, proved to be perhaps the definitive band of the contemporary drone renaissance, a movement that channels the Theater of Eternal Music’s seemingly ancient quest for deliverance through musical spiritualism using chants, electronically or otherwise. Religious Knives initially carried this aesthetic into their early cassette and CDR releases. On this record they show their progression into full on psych rock band, drums, guitar, bass and keyboard. This new era of Religious Knives has deep slow burning grooves, the beats pounded out fantastically by Mouthus’ Nate Nelson, who impresses without showboating in his playing here. The A-side, “Luck” is a downbeat march with fantastic keyboard tones from Miller, which develops into an almost spaghetti western sunset vibe when the melodica comes in. The B-side is my pick though “In the Back,” which is just a scorching full on lock jam of dark psych driving force. Watching these guys develop is certainly keeping my attention. Psych heads take note.



While we’re on the topic of psych rock bands, emphasis being on the ROCK here, then we must surely mention the lords of the genre, Major Stars. If you’re not familiar with the twenty plus years of these guys and their former incarnations, Magic Hour, Vermonster, Crystalized Movements, B.O.R.B., Wormdoom and others then you have a treasure chest of psych magic ahead of you. If you just care about right now and don’t have time for a history lesson, Major Stars are the best they’ve ever been. This 7”, “Portable Freak Factory” b/w “”Can You See Me?” on Important Records is the proof. They have some young guns pounding out the rhythm section; a badass foxy singer and three guitars to blast open your mind. Have you ever wished your favorite classic rock anthems went beyond standard radio formats and after the second chorus burst open into infinity? Well this single will take you where you need to go. For you Twisted Village fans, rough mixes of the next Major Stars LP reveal it to the be the most Crystalized Movements sounding stuff this new band has done. Stay tuned!



If that’s not enough, Important Records also has a new pair of reissues by the incomparable Pauline Oliveros, which are both phenomenal documents of 20th Century composition. First we have The Wanderer from 1982, which has a photo of Oliveros riding an elephant. Awesome. On this record she explores the accordion as a centerpiece of these masterful brushstrokes of sound. Ever wonder what an entire orchestra of Accordion sounds like? Here you go. “The Wanderer” specifically is based off a model scale not unlike Terry Riley’s definitive In C. My favorite piece here “Horse Sings From Cloud” from 1975, played on harmonium, accordion, concertina and bandoneon, is some heavy sound fix. The basic score is something to the effect of “Do not change notes until the desire to change notes has disappeared, then change notes”. This music is full of texture and exploding universes of detail. Accordion and Voice is a stellar companion piece to The Wanderer featuring more deep tonal passages of a similar nature. Both releases are worth your time and are better than most of Oliveros’ Deep Listening work that I’ve heard, but maybe not as bloopy as some of her computer music like Alien Bog. So by all means get your trance on with Pauline.
-STEVE LOWENTHAL



Check back next week for a more noise-inspired platter of monumental contempo reality.

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Freak Scene #2