After its hiatus, Freak Scene has re-emerged written by FADER contributor Jamie Johns. Every other week she'll be drawing attention to the choicest selections of the weird underground.
I have spent the last two weeks sweating out some mutant permutation of the common cold and the flu, which means that I have not been in the “scene” the last two weeks, but do not fret: I have been living the freak part, as realized by the disgusted expression on my neighbor’s face when I stumbled out of my room after days of illness…PURE FREAK.
As I was in the trenches of illness, I missed so many good events that it makes tears come to my eyes. I would rather be giving my hard earned work study cash to musicians and labels instead of Nyquil. Besides missing a performance by the masterful C. Spencer Yeh at Issue Project Room and a punk rock matinée by Total Abuse, I also missed what was probably a mind-blowing conference on listening and noise in my hood. There is nothing more all-around heartbreaking than walking into your first class and having your teacher tell you that you missed an amazing performance by Otomo Yoshihide. Salt in a wound, dude! I neglected to mention this conference in my previous column—so many new releases!—but this thing looked so good that I had to seriously stop myself from stumbling out of bed, snot-faced and all, to attend. Then I decided that it would probably be better not to pass out during a show because I am saving that experience for when I see the ever-so righteous Bastard Noise in May. The man who organized the conference, David Novak, has a book coming up called Japanoise: Global Media Circulation and Experimental Music. I am excited to read the book but if any of you are interested in getting a long taste, his dissertation is readily available online.
This time around, in an effort to atone for my sins, I am going to run down some good shows coming up in the New York area over the next two weeks. There are probably a million more great shows happening that I am unaware of and if you know of them send a kind e-mail, please. In my dream world I would be able to attend all of these:
February 27th: Beach Fuzz, Century Plants, Chris Forsyth, Weirding Module, and Nonhorse at Silent Barn
Beach Fuzz is an act from Manchester, UK. For those who have never visited Manchester, it is a weird place. There is a massive musical history there but my visit was decidedly uneventful. I was envisioning a magical journey through places where Mark E. Smith once walked but instead, I found one record store and heard rumors of a large warehouse full of records on the edge of town, only to be warned not to go there for my personal safety. Then, I chickened out when I tried to walk to Salford Lads Club because Salford was nothing but abandoned buildings and council estates. I had two questions answered in Manchester: no, it is not a majestic post-punk theme park, and yes, I am kind of a wimp.
However, Beach Fuzz is a pretty stellar group and they make me re-think the answer to at least one of those previous questions. The material I have heard is tangled gusts of sprawling guitar feedback and distortion that squeeze your skull. There are also vulnerable, blissed-out moments that, when combined with the group’s violent guitar work, make for some grand tunes. If you are into drone or experimental psychedelia, this is a group for you.
I have not had the chance to pick up any of Beach Fuzz’s physical releases yet, mostly because I have had both eBay and Paypal blocked on my computer for close to a year to save my bank account but there is hope in this world: some excellent excerpts of tracks are available on their MySpace page. Although by the time this column runs their NY show will have come and gone, they are playing some other shows here in the US, all of which are elegantly detailed on the flyer above.
March 14th: Emeralds, Thurston Moore, Carlos Giffoni, Eric Copeland, Uneven Universe, Sam Goldberg, and Telecult Powers at Glasslands
The whole world is blowing up about Emeralds quite striking recent album, What Happened, on Carlos Giffoni’s No Fun Productions label and rightfully so. The day is almost upon us when Emeralds will grace this city once more with their multi-faceted and transcendental trips. Their set last year at No Fun Fest was a revelation and caused many a young man in the crowd to fist pump into the air which was a little too real.
March 15th: Uneven Universe and Color Dream at Eat Records
Uneven Universe are playing the night before at the Emeralds show but seeing a saxophone and electronics noise duo in the early afternoon whilst sipping a delicate coffee sounds pretty ideal to me.
Records, Records Records
The only thing I actually did the last two weeks besides sweat, sleep, and try to catch up on the massive pile of schoolwork awaiting my return to normalcy, was make a field trip to Hospital Productions, the best record store in New York. The store, the label, and its owner, Dominick Fernow, have all been mentioned before in Freak Scene, check out a guest column Fernow wrote here, but after hearing from an acquaintance that the co-owner of a major independent record label, which will remain unnamed, recently told him that Hospital Productions was the only record store he has ever been “scared” to go into, I decided that I wanted to show Hospital the praise and love it deserves, although I am pretty certain that when people are scared of your store, you are receiving the highest form of praise.
Hospital Productions is a rare treat in this decidedly displeasing world. The depth of knowledge contained in that store is an invaluable resource in New York for discovering new music and the store serves as a reminder to what listening should be about. I suppose the store is a bit intimidating because sometimes the door is locked, sometimes the owners of the Chinese laundromat next door are outside yelling, and sometimes you are the only customer in there but look, if I can go in there as a young woman wearing a Peter Pan collar and feel at ease, the nerds have nothing to be scared about. Spoiler alert! Lots of what is covered in this column can be found at the store or was purchased there. They are there seven days a week on East 3rd Street from 12-6. Don’t be scared! You will sleep well at night knowing that you are engaging in and succeeding at the most dangerous game: record shopping.
This is a recent cassette by Tortured Hooker called Sexual Homicide: Motives and Patterns. According to the internet this is a new Fernow project, but besides a Discogs entry the only other Google result for “tortured hooker” is a film called Koreatown which boasts characters such as: Gerald the Smary Drug Dealer, Boner (OH MY GOD), Sil the Well Dressed Drug Dealer, Sally the Sexy Girl, and of course Terrified Tortured Hooker. There is a part of me that really, really hopes these character names will play a big role in upcoming Tortured Hooker releases. This release takes the lo-fi aesthetic to a new level; the vocals are barely audible over layers of vicious guitars and electronics. The sound is so warped and mangled that it sounds like a copy of a copy of a copy of a tape your friend was handed. True underground aesthetic. I was hesitant about this one at first but it has grown on me.
On to a totally different kind of Freak Scene group, Mutating Meltdown. Featuring members of Austin, Texas’ Finally Punk, who are back from hiatus and better than ever, this group is basically just the opposite of Ash Pool: playful, male-female vocals over synth-driven new-age mutant disco. Since I just picked up their Fantasy 7-inch (whose cover is this column's top photo) on M’lady’s Records, a new-ish 7-inch label that has released records by Tyvek and Bad Thoughts, I wanted to talk about the group, but earlier today I sadly discovered that they may have broken up as per their MySpace, which reads “Ded.” Check out "Fantasy" below.