Saturday, January 30, 2010

Fugazi - "Promises" from the CD 13 Songs

Fugazi 13 Songs coverI commandeered a word for songs like "Promises" and "Sometimes Salvation."

The word was "internalized," and I still use it as a kind of shorthand to describe the way a powerful song can get hardwired into your very guts, when the lyrics and the drum beats and the guitar solos aren't any longer a set of instructions performed by some far away artists, but have instead become a bank of hot buttons touched that activate strong emotions deep down.

A shortcut. Hear the song, feel the joy, feel the pain, some of both if that's what it is.

Of course, I remember when "Promises" became internalized for me. Focus in on this, sixteen, seventeen years ago, but also somehow outside of time, the way that most vivid memories are.

I'm 26 or 27, and therefore still virginal, living in North Miami Beach in the 2/1 rental house with Tim Powell. Door shut for privacy, in my un-air condtioned room, windows open, hot humid July air flowing through the screens behind the jalousies, shortly after the South Florida sun had quit for the day, the early evening a sort of pervasive indigo outside. I'm sure I would hear the chirp of crickets if I didn't have the music turned up so fucking loud. Scrawny chest exposed and sweatslick, my bare feet sometimes scrambling for purchase where my flung perspiration has landed on the ceramic tile, my recently-acquired set of weights lie strewn about me on the floor.

I rock back and forth cyclically, not just in the sympathetic rhythm of the music, but also in the rhythm of my exertions, the concentric contractions and relaxations--pull up, let go, pull up, let go--creating its own cadence of motion.

I guess the personal trainers and kinesiologists tell you that you shouldn't rock back and forth as you do your curls, but what the fuck; I'm new to this, and the simple fact that I am exercising at all is extraordinary enough: I don't worry too much about technique.

That I am in fact exercising as the music blasts forth from the Bose two-ways, instead of just sitting in a chair or lying on my bed, as would be my more natural inclination, can be ascribed to the same reason that most young men engaging in weightlifting then, now, or ever, would cite: I have it in my head that at some point in the future an attractive girl of my acquaintance might notice my more well- developed biceps.

So, a sort of normal and harmless state of affairs, as I watch myself exercise in my mind's timeless eye almost twenty years later, for a young and unattached man, except that the weightlifting self I look upon is most definitely NOT young when you consider him in the light of his virginity, and that the young girl of his acquaintance is not really, when you get down to it, an acquaintance.

Her name is Isabelle, originlly from Montreal or some godforsaken place nearby in the province of Quebec, and to be sure, "acquaintance" is boldly inaccurate in describing her; she is a stripper at "Miami Gold," a decently, though not lavishly, appointed strip club not too terribly far from the North Beach rental house where Tim and I live.

But stripper or no, I am nonetheless impressed, as Isabelle has beautiful brown hair that runs straight down her back, a pretty face with pouty lips, a strong chin, and perhaps most impressively, a good-sized, round ass. She talks to me in a congenial way and allows me to hold her hand when I go to the club and pay to sit with her, and it's all pleasant and exciting for me, especially the parts where she gets naked and bends over in a salacious way.

So as pathetic and sad as it seems to me now, it is undeniable looking back that I had simply found an attractive fantasy preferable to a depressing reality.

And just like it would have been had it been real, Isabelle and I share some similar tastes. One night as we sit in our booth at Miami Gold, in between her recurring dances, she tells me that she had hung out with the members of Voivod back in Canada. Imagine, hanging out with Blackie and Away! And she likes that "Fuck You I Won't Do What You Tell Me" song from Rage Against the Machine. The idea that I might take Isabelle to dinner sometime--which I actually did--or might make Isabelle my first relationship and my first sexual conquest--which I most emphatically did not--becomes a roiling, gestating, evolving concept for me, stoking my libido, and taking a little edge off my long-festering desperation.

So then, back to my room, back to the weights, which I have bought, and have resolved to use, to impress the stripper girl from Canada. Back to Fugazi: I lay on the floor, bringing the bar with its few ten- and five-pound weights down with me. I'd be bench-pressing, but I don't have a bench and make do with the floor. even though I'll have to spread my elbows wide so that I can touch the bar with my chest. My sweaty back slides on the floor as I arch it and push the weights upward, and the first few notes of "Promises"--picked, fuzzed, and in one case deliciously bent--issue from my speakers.

It is a harnessed, beautiful roar. I'm instantly in love with the song, in love with being in love with it, just as I am in love with the idea of being in love with Isabelle.

Maybe you know the deal on Fugazi: Ian MacKaye's second major band, formed after he dissolved Straight Edge traditionalists Minor Threat, songs just full of MacKaye's cathartic bellows, as well as with Guy Picciatto's more guttural and less satisfying exhortations, all of 'em sewn together with a dubwise bass and sheets of skronky guitar noise.

And with a more confessional style of lyrics. Though the genre they perhaps spawned has a very high crap-to-truth ratio, Fugazi were in some senses Emo's progenitor, as they kept punk's harsh soundscapes, but added a contrapuntal melodic element, and most saliently here, dealt frankly with emotions other than anger in their songs.

As you can see in "Promises"
Words and expressions
All these confessions
Of where we stand
How I see you
And you see me
Dedications of symmetry
Together we will be

Promises are shit
We speak the way we breathe
Present air will have to do
Rearrange and see it through

Stupid fucking words
They tangle us in our desires
Free me from this give and take
Free me from this great debate

There were no truer words than when spoken--
Let that stand as it should
There was nothing left when broken
We grab anything when we fall
 Promises are shit
We speak the way we breathe
Present air will have to do
Rearrange and see us through

Stupid fucking words
They tangle us in our desires
Free me from this give and take
Free me from this great debate

You will do what you do
I will do what I do
We will do what we do
Rearrange and see it through

Go where you think you want to go
Do everything
You were sent here for
Fire at will if you hear that call
Touch your hand to the wall at night

Courage is a concept I'll be coming back to in the next post, but for now, let's just say that "Promises" in its original execution--considered separately and apart from any additional ballast I might have weighted the tune down with--bears its traces. The tune's utter frankness, and its not just avoidance of, but complete disavowal of cynicism in the aftermath of a broken relationship is a powerful and rare combination.

It's certainly not surprising that I as an emotionally vulnerable young man found the song moving. If I didn't, as they say, adopt it as my own, I most certainly "internalized" it. "Promises" became the handy musical referent I craved as I sought to fabulize my imagined and hoped-for relationship with Isabelle, as I in paroxysms of loneliness and sexual desperation did the things you do when you convince yourself you're falling in love with a stripper.

While looking back, and carefully clearing away the emotional detritus I still find attached, even after nearly two decades, I can see that MacKaye's song as AllMusic says "examin[es] the pitfalls of trust in relationships of any nature," and most likely chronicles the breakup of a relationship that had started with particular promise for Mr. MacKaye.

Fugazi, Big, Sky Montana, late 80s

Back then, however, no-one suggested to me that it might be dangerous to take meaning of personal import out of a song written from a vantage I had not yet ascended to. Instead, in its honest and clear-eyed view of words once mouthed in earnest passion but transformed to shit, I simply found a self-fulfilling assertion that imparted my fool's errand--even if it were doomed to failure--with, if not a nobility, at least a humanity that I as a socially inept virgin had never experienced before.

I shed some tears listening to "Promises." I stuffed a lot of money into Isabelle's garters. I once stayed at Miami Gold with her, handing the money over as necessary until it closed at 6AM, driving home afterwards through the stark fuzziness of the hangover that's begun before you've even gotten to sleep. And I am here to tell you that there is no weariness like the weariness you feel as you drive home from a bar as the sun rises. I struggled with the difficulty of writing descriptive poetry about a woman whose best feature was probably her rear end. I even got into ELO's awful "Strange Magic"--internalizing it briefly perhaps?--'cause the DJ happened to play it during one of Isabelle's dances.

I was a complete and utter mess, if sometimes possessed by a frantic joy.

For what it's worth, so was she. Over the course of a few phone calls, I gathered that her father had died young or something, so she had created for herself some fucked up version of a born again Christianity that didn't chastise her for the way she picked up spending money. And some Arena football player she'd recently dated had been a complete dick--let's just say abusive--to her.

I suppose it's better to stuff dollar bills into a stripper's garter than to spend those same bills on cocaine, but short of extreme comparisons like that, it's difficult to impart a positive spin onto the desperation of the time, onto the loneliness and the horniness and the naivete that led me to become invested with my money, with my time and with my deepest emotions in a situation that could not ultimately repay them.

I spent eight or ten months going to Miami Gold before the whole rickety construct I'd attempted to fashion broke down, before some shouting, before an early morning phone call where Isabelle told me as if I didn't already suspect that the only reason she ever spoke with me was because of the money, before a good deal of pain and some more of my crying, some of it while "Promises" played, when the naivete finally fucking broke, and waves of repressed sadness simmered upward and it was pretty difficult to keep my soul from breaking apart.

Isabelle's last words to me were pretty much, "fuck you," and let that stand as it should.

But I sometimes wonder where I'd be if I'd shown the indicated discretion and avoided the whole Isabelle episode altogether, if I'd taken the extra money I was starting to make and started playing golf or something instead. As painful and pathetic as it all was, might it be that I would be worse off now, and would be a less able partner in the relationship I have now with Melanie, if the whole stupid thing had never happened?

The immediate impulse is to wish the unpleasant and stupid and painful events of our lives away, but I wonder.

Fugazi - 13 Songs - 13 - Promises.mp3

This file was removed May 22, 2010. If you're still way interested in coming up with a copy of this--and really can't figure out where you might get one--drop me an email and I'm sure I'll be able to figure something out for you.

File Under: We Grab Anything

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Tangerine Dream - "Betrayal" - from the Sorcerer Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

So here it is, for anyone who may have wondered: my nominee in the category of Greatest Original Soundtrack Album.

Funny, that the movie which nearly destroyed its director's career also was most responsible for elevating the career of its soundtrack's composer, but that's fate for you; I'm guessing William Friedkin, if not Edgar Froese, can appreciate its capriciousness here.

It's doubtful that any major film has ever suffered from bad timing so much as Sorcerer did. Friedkin, empowered and emboldened by the successes he forged with The French Connection and The Exorcist, spent $22 million 1977 dollars making a difficult and downbeat movie, then watched it get crushed as it opened the same weekend Star Wars did.

Before it closed, the film lost 10 million dollars, and the direction of Friedkin's career path had been emphatically reversed.

I'm a fan of the movie--not only for its soundtrack--and believe it to be superior to the movie it so famously remade, Clouzot's The Wages of Fear. But though its critical reputation has grown in recent years, I know people can argue and have argued to the movie's failure.

And that's fine. The people who don't like the movie have their own posts on their own blogs, I'm sure.

But I don't think anyone is arguing that T Dream's music for the film was not groundbreaking. Even the naysayers have to give Friedkin his props there, for making the bold and pioneering decision to give sections of his movie over to these odd Germans with their mountainous banks of synthesizers and of sequencers and of mellotrons, and of other strange-looking electronic equipment.

Of course, the music that Tangerine Dream produced for Friedkin's movie was not only a long way from the Tin Pan Alley paradigm that Hollywood had for so long followed. It was also a long way from what directors like Scorsese and Coppola and other fellows of Friedkin's in the New Hollywood had been doing during the seventies, which was, for the most part, recycling and co-opting and repackaging and rebranding as their own certain members of a subset of popular blues-based rock and roll.

I like me some Martin Scorsese, don't get me wrong; he makes the best fucking movies, as others funnier than myself have said. But note the irony, at least when it comes to music. The world has more or less forgotten William Friedkin, while Scorsese is remembered for making his "gutsy" movies.

Well, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but using "Layla" in your gangster flick ain't gutsy. It's certainly savvy, given the numbers, and maybe it's inappropriate, but it is in no way gutsy. Not when you consider the path Friedkin had taken in Sorcerer.

You know, now that I've talked them so high the fuck up, I guess it would be a good time to say how I'm not actually that big of a fan of T Dream.

I first became familiar with "Betrayal," the main title from the film, back in the '70's, shortly after the film was released. My old man used to know some of the DJ's around town, and would grab brown paper bags full of unwanted 45's off them. He'd go through them first and take what he liked or found useful for some of his teaching projects, but he gave me second dibs at the rejected singles. I'd dump a bag of records on the living room floor and, previewing them by eye only, reserve a small pile for myself, and place the rest neatly back into the brown paper bag.

Ramones Sheena is a Punk Rocker 45 picture sleeveWhat I mostly remember are the records I *didn't* snag. I remember seeing--and discarding--a picture sleeve of "Sheena is a Punk Rocker." I remember coming across--but not retrieving--X Ray Spex and Stiff Little Fingers and The Damned and a whole bunch of other original wave punk bands, who might have ended up semifamous and influential, but who had little appeal to the programmers of Miami's commercial radio stations in the late '70's and early '80's, and only slightly more (but still not enough) to a 13- or 14-year old version of yours truly.

The NME Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock 1977One of the records I did keep was "Betrayal." I'm not sure what caught my eye about it. Maybe I'd seen the band's name in my Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock. But maybe not, because I clearly remember thinking at one that Tangerine Dream were a psychedelic band, and if I'd even read even the first sentence of their entry in the Encyclcopedia, I would have been quickly relieved of that misconception.

But anyway, caught my eye it did, and keep it I did, and it quickly became a favorite of mine. When I began smoking pot and making special mix tapes for my late night headphone sessions, "Betrayal" was often a featured selection, inserted on my TDK CRO2 90's in between tracks by Yes and King Crimson and Vangelis. Even then, while knowing nothing of the film or its soundtrack, "Betrayal" felt different from the the prog I was elsewise listening to. Yes simply weren't this creepy, and they weren't as effective in communicating any sense of unease. This sense of unease was a characteristic more often transmitted by some of the music I listened to later in life, in college and beyond. But in 1977, while English prog bands spent their time evoking their bright fantasy lands of flying mountains and Aquatarkuses, Froese and Baumann and Franke, using much the same equipment, had somehow tapped into something just as fantastical but much, much darker.

And, despite the electronics, much more organic, somehow, as well. Focus on the one drum in use on "Betrayal." Even as the sequencer sequences and the synthesizers synth, you can almost imagine the jungle shaman who sits cross-legged and chants while tapping it.

Remarkable stuff, perceived that way now, and back then, too. Yet somehow, while I always prized my "Betrayal" single, I never as a teenager or as a young adult bought the soundtrack album from which it was culled, for whatever reason.

Tangerine Dream Alpha Centauri coverAs we've entered the digital era, I have corrected that oversight, and have found that there is much else besides "Betrayal" to recommend the soundtrack. I also purchased Tangerine Dream's second album, Alpha Centauri, as a digital download, and I've got their soundtrack to Thief, as well. But the Alpha thing, though admirable for its science fiction flavor, is kind of bloated in the way that subpar Rick Wakeman can get, and Thief, though once praised by no less of a protopunk avatar than the lamented Jon Marlowe, sounds much too slick (in the eighties kind of way) to these ears. If Sorcerer is unique in its role as a soundtrack, it may also, for all I know, be unique in its role as a Tangerine Dream album.

Certainly nowhere else have I heard the band sound so goddamned spooky as on the main title I present here, or so plaintive (as on "the Call"), or so otherworldly (as throughout).

Evidently, it is felt in some quarters that the name of the film itself contributed to its poor showing. Sorcerer, these people say, was a misleading title, especially for a movie from the director of The Exorcist, for it promises supernatural content that it doesn't deliver.

To that I say, maybe yes, maybe no. For Whom the Bell Tolls don't have no bells, and The Silence of the Lambs ain't got lambs. Yet those works did well enough at the cash box. But regardless, I'd argue that Sorcerer does indeed have transformative magic of a sort. What has thrown people off is that it resides neither within the pictures presented by the film nor in its dialogue, but can be found rather within the alternately creepy and ethereal music of its uncanny soundtrack.

Tangerine Dream Betrayal Promo 45

Tangerine Dream - Sorcerer OMPST - 12 Betrayal (Sorcerer Theme).mp3

This file was removed May 22, 2010. If you're still way interested in coming up with a copy of this--and really can't figure out where you might get one--drop me an email and I'm sure I'll be able to figure something out for you.

File under: Spooky Electronic Stuff

Friday, January 15, 2010

Ink - "Reflectors" From the CD Ink

Some years ago I wrote a user review of the album pictured above for Insound.

Years pass, as they do, and then, a little bit before the holidays just past, I had the notion of maybe bringing the review onto La Historia, for completion's sake if for nothing else, perhaps I could get my Thorogood review from Amazon onto the blogsite down the road, too, to keep all my music writing on the web in one place, as it were.

My review of Ink had been sitting on the Insound site since I was living in that ten-storey condo on that semisqualid island in the middle of Biscayne Bay; since probably 2001 or 2002, or so, and the review, all 63 words of it, hadn't gone anywhere. Insound had hosted it for seven years, and it seemed safe enough, but still, I thought somehow that it belonged here, with the rest of my scribblings. So I copied the short piece onto the draft form that the Blogger system allows me to save, and let it sit there as I wrote my holiday posts, and then the doom/drone thing last week.

And now, check it out, when I came back tonight to write my post on the Ink album and the words I'd written about it back in the day, I check the Insound site, and my review's gone! Disappeared, replaced by a comeon for user reviews to replace the one that used to be there! How about that?

Here one month, gone the next. Never before the internet has a medium been so relied upon, so universally used, been so trusted, been so integral to the way we run our lives, yet been so fundamentally impermanent. It's as if we decided to write our phonebooks on chalkboards, or construct our encylcopedias on the faces of Buddhist sand paintings.

Let's be honest: The world would not have been a worse place in any way if I had not somehow possessed the fortunate foresight to grab my review just before Christmas. But still, I'm glad I have it. Here it is, short and sweet, unlike so much of my writing:
Words that come to mind are: eerie uncanny frigid metallic stunning wire chilling chilly scary and inhuman. This album reminds me of the everpresent icy fog in Erik Skoldbjaerg's Insomnia, motive and truth are obscured by the omnipresent white. I'll say "stunning" again and will go further by writing that I have not been so blown away by a debut record since Pavement's.

Ten years later, with Ink long since defunct, and with my namecheck Pavement planning a reunion shortly after their 20th anniversary came and went, I still feel that Ink's remains one of the great debut records ever.

And "Reflectors" is exactly what I meant when I wrote that Ink's music was "inhuman" and "metallic." The steady drone of minimally oscillating hum that runs more or less linearly through the entire song seems in its omnipresence to be what the 4-degree cosmic background radiation must sound like. The rhythm guitar track, shrilly plucked, and sharp, even when it's not being briefly highjacked by milliseconds-long bits of piercing microphonic feedback, seems like the gamelan music you'd hear if the orchestra were composed of robots. And the bass sounds less like a stringed instrument than a kind of fluid electronic pulse, systolic current flow, and diastolic, electric pulse contract and expand, contract and expand.

Sometime in late 2003, I found out that Ink--a studio band even when active--had, more than a year after the release of their second album, scheduled a single gig at a club in Washington, DC. I was so ready to go to the thing, ready to do what it took to see this band whose debut album had impressed and excited me so viscerally.

I kept imagining myself in a moderately occupied concert space, darkened so that I can't see the walls around me, and can barely see the stage. Then I hear the background hum and the shrilly plucked notes, a cobalt light shines blindingly, and the band begins their set with "Reflectors."

It was a vivid daydream, to be sure, and one I had more than a few times. Man, I wanted to see that show. But in the years after 9/11, I found myself confronted with a strangely unassailable fear of flying, so it was intuitive to me that any trip would have to be of the road variety. And because of my job schedule and because of the timeframes involved, the only way to get there would be to go with someone and take turns driving. Of course, the only person I knew who might even consider going to see any band like Ink was Cerveza . . . . and I was sure to ask, too, but I'm pretty sure he never really considered it.

So I never saw Ink in DC, and other than a lone SXSW show in late 2003, the band's not been heard from since.

Drag. But I still have the stunning documents that are their two CD's, and I'm lucky to have my single paragraph review. In an impermanent world, I'll be holding on tight.

Ink - Ink - 10 - Reflectors.mp3

This file was removed May 22, 2010. If you're still way interested in coming up with a copy of this--and really can't figure out where you might get one--drop me an email and I'm sure I'll be able to figure something out for you.

File under: minimalist/art, Postrock

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Earth - "Teeth of Lions Rule the Divine" from the CD Earth 2 and
Steve Fitch - "In Hell" from the mp3 Album Manned Drones

One characteristic that the tracks presented tonight have in common is their abrupt endpoints. Both start as if they've been in a process of generation for some time, and after extended running times, both end bluntly, when it seems as if they could have continued in slightly shifted variations just about indefinitely.

This shared characteristics is an ineffable and not quite describable quality of drone music, but not, it seems, of written essays.

An essay or a blogpost has to have a concrete beginning and a firm stopping point. You can't run the last paragraph of your post through an infinite delay. There's a place where it all germinates from, and there is a point at which the conclusion has been reached. If dronology doesn't require structure, the written word does.

So--because I need one, because it's required--I've been trying to think of a place to start this, and I believe that place might just be back in college, back at FIU, in the mid 80's, maybe in 1986. Of course drone/doom music didn't exist in '86--at least not that anyone knew--so you may with some justification wonder what the fuck that year has to do with this post. But it's still the place to begin, I think, that time when, for one thing, so many of my favorite albums were released. Perhaps it was on balance the best music year ever, I have thought maybe so for some time now. A partial list of the great albums released that year would begin as follows: Atomizer and October File and Master of Puppets and Rembrandt Pussyhorse and Reign in Blood and Rrröööaaarrr and EVOL, also.

So let's call it 1986, and we'll come back to it, too.

I've spoken previously of how my experience delivering the The Miami Herald for Allen Hart drew me into his intense world of speed- and thrash-metal, with the implication perhaps having been that when I had been attending college, its experience had been leading me in other musical directions, into the punk and the indie end of the spectrum. And I suppose this is broadly true.

But I always had been into metal. I seem to remember a keg party I attended in tenth grade, where, sometime before we started doing the California shotguns at the abandoned handball court across the street, and were thus still half-assed rational, Jose Gonzalez and I got into it with a couple others about the superior relative merits of Black Sabbath vis a vis the newcomers Van Halen.

And though I'm not quite as sure about their Dickinson-era work these days, Iron Maiden was probably my favorite band in the world on the day that I graduated high school.

Even more to the point, consider the fact that when I first met my lifelong buddy Cerveza in that year of Ronald Reagan and of the Challenger shuttle, in that year of Slayer and of Sonic Youth, when we were both doing the doomed and futile college student thing, I was astonished not just at how well our tastes in sci-fi and punk rock meshed, but also at how disinterested he was in metal.

It seemed to me (and still does I suppose) that punk and metal are mutually complementary, that they're two methods of getting to the same truths. It's true enough that early on in the history of American hardcore, longhaired kids who had the audacity to go to HC shows sometimes had their asses kicked by packs of skinheads. But that violent tide had receded somewhat by the mid '80's, and Miami's HC shows never really had that violent vibe those going down in LA or Boston might have possessed anyway.

So this conception that I'd had of punk and metal simply being different sections along the same continuum of loud fast and angry music wasn't that far out--it made sense for me and for my city and for my time, if not for my friend Cerveza.

And I was like, what the fuck, dude?. I remember trying to prime him so that he might be more receptive to metal, but sometimes I lacked the proper tools. Like this one time at The Rathskellar, over our daily ration of scammed beer, I compared a favorite punk song of ours, Fear's "I Don't Care About You" to the let us say thematically similar tune from Overkill, "Fuck You." Cerveza didn't want to hear about it, saying dismissively and in high dudgeon that the Overkill song must simply be an inferior copy of the Fear one.

What I hadn't known then was that the Overkill song was itself a cover of the original by the Canadian punk band The Subhumans. So of course, if I had known, I could have then asked Cerveza how it was possible that a classic speedmetal band like Overkill should so ably handle the punk source material if the two genres weren't on some underlying level fundamentally connected.

But, you know, I didn't, and at some point, I simply stopped talking about metal around Cerveza. Whatever, right? Plenty of other things to talk about.

Fair enough, OK: but now flash forward about twenty years.

Cerveza has a kid by this time and evidently the five-year-old had heard some metal song somewhere that he's bothering the old man about. So Cerveza wants to get in tune, and he (contritely, got to give the man some credit) asks me if I could burn him a metal CD.

So I do, and the CD I curate for him is a good one, too, check it out. These days, I might include Tech Death gods Atheist, and I would definitely include some Kyuss, but it wasn't a bad CD, considering it was five years ago, made not only before I had the La Historia iPods, but also before I was hooked into the eMule.

So then--and now we shall get back to the drone/doom, I bet you've been waiting--in doing the graphics for his CD, I looked around for a quote, or an epigram, if you will, about the metal genre to use for the back sleeve. And I found the Eno quote you see above. Looked good, I hope you think, and had an aptness about it, too. The whole thing goes like this:

"Ambient is closer to heavy metal than anything else. Because it's to do with immersion and so is heavy metal. It's obvious to me that the next step is going to be something like metal ambient, some extremely harsh, hostile but intriguing sonic environment."

When I listen to drone/doom, and especially when I listen to Earth, because it's missing the camp element so often present with Sunn O))), I feel something like a sense of disconnection. Because it doesn't always seem like this music is meant for me at all. It seems like this is music of and for machines.

I guess if you ask most people what machine music might sound like, they'd tell you that it was mechanical and metronomic, full of clicks and whirrs and beeps, but I instead think of the waxing and waning hum of generators, of the regular emanation of AC compressors, of turbines, and of the sound that your hard drive makes as it spins.

Crank these sounds way up, maybe bend the rotors or the crankshafts so that they wobble a bit to distort the soundcurve some, and I think the waveforms thus generated would be something akin to the power ambient under discussion today: long sustained tones swaying slowly back and forth from pitch, washes of feedback itself feeding back in a near-infinite loop, sound that flows regularly like water--shot from a water cannon.

Now, move ahead five years to the present. I hear about Sunn O))) on ilxor, read about 'em in The New York Times, and see Chuck Eddy make fun of 'em in Spin. And Cerveza discovers them through his own investigations. I buy Black One, but download ØØ Void because I'm not collector scum who can ever justify paying $60.00 for a CD.

So I burn a copy for my buddy, and shortly thereafter we're on the horn and he mentions my metal CD from five years previous and Eno's quote I had there affixed. Pretty astute, is the gist of what Cerveza says to me, that Eno basically predicted Sunn O))). And I hadn't made the connection before, and so said, yeah, it sure as fuck was.

Eno has a justifiable reputation for astuteness and even prescience in matters musical, but on further reflection, and after having read this blogpost from Simon Reynolds about the quote, this actually appears to have been one case where Mr. Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno was actually behind the curve.

In looking quite rightly at Earth, Reynolds points to a band who released their defining work a full 21 months before Eno spoke to the Telegraph, and who had been working with the doom/drone concept, the power ambient idea, at least four years prior.

Please understand I'm not trying to disparage Eno here. The man's a motherfucking musical genius, and no lame-ass after-the-fact sniping from a schmuck such as myself is going to change that. The point might actually be that talking about Eno and Dylan Carlson at the same time makes some sense, as they are two of the few who get to say they've invented a genre.

I suppose even Edison had his precursors, though. In preparing this post, I was vaguely but insistently reminded of a piece of music Sonic Youth had attached to the end of their first official bootleg, called Live at The Continental Club. I received it as a freebie when I joined SY's fan club in 1991. Twelve of the thirteen tracks on LATCC chronicle the show in Austin Texas from April 1986 where the Yoot debuted in a live setting the songs that would make up EVOL. But track 13 wasn't theirs. Lee Ranaldo, in his notes to the CD wrote that "[t]he original cassette recording was made by Austin film-maker Bill Daniels . . . the end music is by Steve Fitch (Summer '86) and came with the tape."

I love me some Sonic Youth, which is why I'd joined their fan club, but still, was a little underwhelmed by the performances on Continental Club. Maybe 'cause the songs were still new to the band, I dunno. But man, did I love the Fitch piece. Calling it merely "Untitled Music by Steve Fitch," I remember putting it on a mix tape I made and cranking the thing while driving around in the Sloshmobile, and when working by myself delivering The Herald.

Like a lot of the weirdo things I'd been into, it got forgotten in the mid- to late-nineties, when acclimating myself to my new, business environment-type 9 to 5 and trying to seem as mainstream as possible to the ruthless girlfriend I'd somehow, miraculously, managed to link with were my biggest priorities.

But in re-discovering the thing now for this post, in looking back, I'll be damned if "In Hell" (for that's what Fitch called his piece upon placing it into his mp3 album) isn't the spitting image of the drone/doom I'm so interested in now. I mean, I don't even know if it's even guitars that Fitch is using to craft his soundscape, but in the end it doesn't matter. The qualities that are important and that the music shares with drone metal are its cyclical, slow oscillations of chromium tone, its amorphous attack and sustained decay, and the overriding requirement that it plays best LOUD.

I guess the moral of our story, (and the evidence that our required structural stopping point has in fact been reached) is the realization that no matter how matter how innovative you are, no matter how groundbreaking, no matter whether you're Dylan Carlson, or Simon Reynolds, or even Brian Eno, there will be if you search long enough somebody who came before and did something essential in your field--even if you've never heard of 'em. Steve Fitch, what do you know? It's one of the things that makes music so awesome in these days of easily shared digital tuneage: there's always room to dig for more, to unEarth, as it were, the underlying roots.

Earth 2 - Special Low Frequency Version - 02 - Teeth Of Lions Rule The Divine.mp3

This file was removed May 22, 2010. If you're still way interested in coming up with a copy of this--and really can't figure out where you might get one--drop me an email and I'm sure I'll be able to figure something out for you.

File Under: Doom Drone

13 Steve Fitch - Untitled Music from Live at the Continental Club.mp3

This file was removed May 22, 2010. If you're still way interested in coming up with a copy of this--and really can't figure out where you might get one--drop me an email and I'm sure I'll be able to figure something out for you.
File Under: There is nothing new under the sun