A Psychedelic Wedding in Bamako:
11.39 mindblowing minutes from a 2005 set, some weeks before he died:
Гражданская Оборона (English: “civil defense”, or abbreviated GrOb “coffin”) is the most famous and probably the most influential of the 1980s Soviet punk bands. The only constant member was Egor Letov, who was active right up to his death in 2008 (many of his friends, bandmates, etc. ended up committing suicide in the ’80s and ’90s). I don’t speak Russian, but the songs seem to be about anarchism, running from the KGB (they had Letov committed to a mental institution in the mid-’80s), totalitarianism, depression, feelings of powerlessness, and all that kind of stuff you’d expect to hear from a punk band from a country with an overtly repressive government. Musically, it’s lo-fi punk (most GrOb recordings were recorded to tape on boomboxes in various apartments and kitchens) with chord changes and melodies characteristic of Russian folk music. Letov has an extremely expressive singing voice, and, like a good deal of other Russian punk musics, he communicates a desperate pathos commensurate with the fucked-up conditions in which he lived. Complete and total outsider music.
Egor was seriously prolific in his lifetime, with most of his earlier work coming in the form of homemade tapes traded among the Russian punks. My own collection of his stuff doesn’t even scratch the surface, but here is Optimizm (1985), Poganaya Molodej (1985), and a double album of two live performances (which, you must understand, were risky and infrequent events) from 1988 and 1989 in Novosibirsk and Moscow, respectively. It’s as good an introduction to GrOb as any, and the songs are all great. If none of this intrigues you, I have no idea what would. I’ll finish by saying this band is one of the inspirations behind Pink Reason (you can hear Pink Reason covering a Grazhdanskaya Oborona song on Freakout zine).
And here is a WFMU show on which Kevin Failure of Pink Reason plays GrOb and a bunch of other great Soviet underground bands, and shares some knowledge. The Russian sites linked below are pretty readable using Google Translate, so have at it.
Most of their albums are long out of print; You can download some here :
(thanks to Jerry from Creep Scanner for the links)
Others albums can be found on Soulseek.
You are more likely to have heard of Romanian composer Iancu Dumitrescu than to have heard his music. After Stephen O’Malley of Sunn 0))) dropped his name as a major influence in an interview with The Wire in April, 2009, he received his own full article treatment a few months later in October via Philip Clark. Unfortunately, his music remains difficult to acquire, available only through his mail order label Edition Modern and their distributors and in a few clandestine corners of the internet.
Unphased by his relative obscurity in the West, Dumitrescu has been doggedly pursuing his own thing for years. Born in 1944 amidst the turmoil of war, he discovered the harsh nature of dogmatic Stalinism as a child when his father, a philosopher and scholar, was arrested and imprisoned for supposed ideological infractions in 1949. Released three years later, the elder Dumitrescu was determined to protect his son from similar persecutions and encouraged Iancu to pursue the study of music. Fortunately, the intellectual bug had already taken hold and Iancu found himself drawn more and more to the forbidden and wild sounds of the avant-garde composers coming out of the Darmstadt Summer Courses and Olivier Messiaen‘s famous seminars and the ground breaking phenomenological philosophy of Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, and his own mentor conductor/philosopher Sergiu Celibidache. Dumitrescu has disclosed the importance of those early influences in a moving statement:
The musics of Stockhausen, Boulez, Nono, Messiaen, Berio, being prohibited, circulated clandestinely, from one hand to another, as copies of tapes which had become almost unlistenable. But imagination continued to hear what, in fact, did not exist any more for the ears. The spirit of modernism, of new worlds…
Because of his progressive interests, Iancu faced his own battles with censorship and the repression of Romanian communism. During the 1970s he had an increasingly difficult time having his compositions approved by the backwards Romanian Composers’ Union and performed in public. In 1976 he gave up working with official channels altogether and formed his own group, the Hyperion Ensemble, to serve as a workshop and stable of performers for his works. Likewise, fed up by Robert Zank’s refusal to switch from vinyl to compact disc during the ’80s, Dumitrescu split with his label Edition RZ and launched his own venture, Edition Modern. Today, he continues to conduct the Hyperion Ensemble and maintain a steady schedule of releases on his label with his wife and fellow composer Ana-Maria Avram.
Dumitrescu’s music is utterly his own. A unique and personal blend of his avant-garde and
texturalist influences from Western Europe and his own philosophical attitude. During his tutelage with Sergiu Celibache in the 1970s his music began to manifest the very ideas of phenomenological reduction and analysis, producing meditative works that seem to be pure studies in sound and perception. These developments have led some to describe his music as acousmatic in the vein of Pierre Schaeffer or spectral after the French school of composition. Many of these compositions are scored for soloists or small chamber ensembles, illustrating his dependence on the Hyperion Ensemble and personal connections. Gnosis for solo bass is characteristic of his chamber music for strings with
long droning passages and the prominent use of harmonics and varied timbres conjured forth by detailed bowing and fingering instructions.
Later, as he gained access to greater resources, Dumitrescu began composing for large ensembles and using more electronic sounds in his work. These compositions are comparably bombastic and utilize a wealth of instrumental techniques and both prerecorded and live electronics parts. This performance of Étude Granulaire demonstrates Dumitrescu’s lively conducting and his proficiency with incorporating electroacoustic techniques into live performance.
Revenge Of The Carrots used to be a punk band from Zaan, an industrialized district of North-Holland where squats throve around the end of the 20th century, and where The Ex formed.
The only thing they ever recorded was an eponymous 7″, released in 1991 by Konkurrel. Three gripping songs which make the atrophy of their discography all the more deplorable.
Revenge ot the Carrots – Human
Download the whole 7″ by clicking here.
I did more book reading this year than music listening but I can say the best show I have seen in the recent past was Akitsa in NYC – total outsiders and brutal and committed, really amazing. I don’t know too much about them but can say they are French Canadian and rule, like some kind of Flipper/Godflesh rhythm section led by Diamanda Galas manly black metal. Thats live at least. They put records out on Hospital Productions along with other labels.
Akitsa – Les Sentinelles – (Right Click/Save As)
Also Lau Nau at Issue Project Room was incredibly beautiful – rare that you see songs performed that are so surprising and elusive. Totally magical. I’m not one for music adjectives or word descriptions but I could say Lau Nau is a Finnish singer songwriter who lives on an island. She comes from a quiet snow bound domestic existence and her songs reflect that: delicate, subdued and solemn. She played with a Finnish film behind her, and it was the best pairing of music and film i’ve seen in a long time. She puts records out on Locust.
Lau Nau – Painovoimaa, Valoa – (Right Click/Save As)
I love the Circle of Ouroborus new records, beautiful weird work, and the singer is like a stoner Mark E Smith fronting a metal band. This Finnish experimental black metal band put out lots of records (ten LPs, nine EPs, seven splits and seven demos since 2006 !) with lots of different feels.
Circle of Ouroborus – The Prayer – (Right Click/Save As)
Circle of Ouroborus – Staining the Paper to Create – (Right Click/Save As)
My biggest kick of the last week or so has serious meditating on the greatness that was Royal Trux. I was going to write just about them but didn’t want to write about an old band.
But I loved them when I was a kid and have been thinking about them a lot lately.
They totally changed my life, and for that, I owe them a big Gracias!
Royal Trux – Ny Avenue Bridge – (Right Click/Save As)
Entr’acte is a record label based in London and run by Allon Kaye (nom de plume of R. de-Chantecler). Most of the releases (well, all of them except for the 12″ records) are sealed under vacuum. The only way to have access to the music is to tear apart the sleeve, loosing any possible ‘collectors value’. No downloadable versions (except for the ‘illegal’ but well accepted pirate versions). No images, same font and a few variations of shape and color for the sleeve.
Most of the releases come from demos that Allon received, and there’s no difference at all in the way the debut cd of a young artist is presented and promoted in comparison to one of a more established musician.
What the buyer gets is just music (finally !): pure, stripped down, in most cases beautiful, at least engaging / interesting in some way. In an age of ‘amazingly packaged nothing’, and that goes for every field including sound and art, what looks like a suicidal choice, is probably the only possible one.
Last february Entr’acte released my new solo cd, together with the new Bellows (me and Nicola Ratti). What a relief to be able to release music with no cover image, no title and finally no press text !
Giuseppe Ielasi – Entr’acte Mix – Tracklist (times are approximate):
00’00″ – S R Hess: System Failure extract (E88 cassette, out of print)
03’30″ – The Automatics Group: Summer Mix (E130 cd)
08’15″ – Evapori: Transkript 17 (E74 lp)
10’30″ – John Wall / Alex Rodgers: Work 2006-2011 (E114 cd)
13’30″ – Adam Sonderberg: American Hours with German Efficiency (E116 cassette)
15’20″ – Jacques Beloeil: Bidules (E64 lp)
18’10″ – Adam Asnan: Fancies (E101 cassette, out of print, cd reissue forthcoming)
20’10″ – Esther Venrooy: The Spiral Staircase (E50 lp)
24’30″ – Bellows: Reelin’ (E128 cd)
27’25″ – Strategy: Noise Tape Reggae (E62 7″)
30’30″ – Dj Ordeal: Seagull (E39 lp)
31’45″ – Ben Gwilliam / Michel Vorfeld: Laute (E97 cd)
33’40″ – Renato Rinaldi: Time Machines III (cd, forthcoming in 2012)
35’40″ – Adam Sonderberg: American Hours with German Efficiency (E116 cassette)
37’50″ – Ian Middleton: Time Building (E66 lp)
Download the whole mix + tracklist + cover (made by Clarence Manuelo from Volcano The Bear):
Giuseppe-Ielasi-Entracte-Mix.zip (headphones & serenity recommended)
I – RIVALROUS
Rivalrous goods diminish in value the more they are used. For example, a bicycle: if I use it, it gets me from here to there, if you use it, it gets me nowhere. If I acquire your bicycle, you don’t have it any more. Only one of us can have the bicycle at one time. We can share it to a limited extent, but the more it’s used the less it’s worth; it gets dinged up and wears out. The more people use the bicycle, the less utility it has.
All material things – things made of atoms – are rivalrous, because an object cannot be in two places at the same time. Everything in the physical world is rivalrous, even if it’s abundant.
A commons is a rivalrous good. Hence the “tragedy of the commons“: the more people use a square of land, the less valuable it is to each of them. The grass gets eaten too fast to grow back, the soil can’t handle the incoming rate of sheep shit, and degradation ensues.
Rivalrous and non-rivalrous are often confused with scarce and abundant, but they’re not the same thing. Air is abundant, but it is still rivalrous – some “users” could make it toxic for the rest of us, because air is not infinite. Land and water are so abundant in North America that Native Americans couldn’t imagine owning or depleting them, and look what happened. We treat the oceans as infinite, but they are not; human pollution and exploitation is killing ocean life. We also pollute the vast ocean of air – hence acid rain. Air and oceans are commons.
Commons are commonly-held rivalrous goods. Because they are rivalrous, some uses (or over-use) can poison them or otherwise diminish their value. For that reason, Commons(es) actually merit rules and regulations.
But Culture is not a commons, because Culture is not rivalrous and can’t be owned.
II – NON-RIVALROUS
Non-rivalrous goods, as their name implies, don’t diminish in value the more they are used. A favorite example of a non-rivalrous good is the light from a lighthouse. It shines for everyone. No matter how much you look at it, I can see it too.
This is a pretty good example, but it’s not quite right. Theoretically, if enough tall boats are in the harbor, they actually can crowd out your lighthouse light.
Consider sunlight in Manhattan; yes, the sun shines for everyone, but if they build a high-rise next to your apartment you won’t see it any more. There’s only so much sunlight that hits a certain area, and that light is rivalrous. You can always move, of course – except land, while abundant, is definitely rivalrous and not infinite, so you’ll have to engage in some rivalry to do so.
The light metaphor has another problem: is light a particle, or a wave? If it’s a particle, then light is rivalrous. If it’s a wave, then it’s not.
Thomas Jefferson used the example of candle fire, writing “He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.” Of course candles burn out but it’s not the light that’s diminished, it’s the candle. That’s a great metaphor for attention, which is scarce: once our attention is used up, the light goes out.
But Culture is not non-rivalrous either.
Anti-rivalrous goods increase in value the more they are used. For example: language. A language isn’t much use to me if I can’t speak it with someone else. You need at least two people to communicate with language. The more people who use the language, the more value it has.
Which language do you think more people would pay to learn?
More people spend money and time learning English, simply because so many people already speak English.
Social networking platforms increase in value when more people use them. I use Facebook not because I love Facebook (I certainly don’t), but because everyone else uses Facebook. I just joined Google+, and will use that instead of Facebook if enough other people use it. If enough people flock to yet another platform, I’ll use that instead. Meanwhile I love Diaspora in principle (I was an early Kickstarter backer, before they surpassed their initial $ goal), but I don’t use it, because not enough other people do. When it comes to social networks, I am a sheep.
A classic “Nina’s Adventures” comic, which I only realized was anti-rivalrous a few years ago. ♡ Copying is an act of love. Please copy and share.
Culture is anti-rivalrous. The more people know and sing a song, the more cultural value it has. The more people watch my film Sita Sings the Blues, or read my comic strip Mimi & Eunice, the happier I’ll be, so please go do that now and then come back and read the rest of this paragraph. The more people know a movie or TV show, the more cultural value it has. Monty Python references attest to the cultural value of Monty Python – we even use the word “spam” because of it. Shakespeare‘s works are culturally valuable, and phrases from them live on in the language even apart from the plays (“I think she doth protest to much,” etc.). The more people refer to Monty Python and Shakespeare, the more you just gotta see em, amiright? Or not, it doesn’t matter whether you see them, you’re already speaking them. That all culture is a kind of language, I’ll leave for another discussion.
Cultural works increase in value the more people use them. That’s not rivalrous, or non-rivalrous; that’s anti-rivalrous.
IV – SOME EXCEPTIONS THAT PROVE THE RULE
I know what you’re gonna say now: “what about my credit card number? That doesn’t increase in value if it’s shared!!” That’s right, Einstein, because your credit card number is not culture. Here are two things that aren’t made of atoms and are nonetheless rivalrous:
Identity is some mysterious mindfuck that my very smart friend Joe Futrelle says no one has satisfactorily defined yet. But whatever identity is, it’s rivalrous. If more people were named Nina Paley and had my home address and social security number, I’d be screwed. But that should highlight that my name, home address, and social security number aren’t culture. They may be information, but they’re not culture. They don’t increase in value the more they are used.
Secrets have power as long as they’re secrets. They lose their power when they are shared. When I become conscious of some secret that’s weighing on me, I share it with at least one other person (even if they are a confidante also sworn to secrecy): I can feel the secret’s power diffused just by the act of sharing. Notice I use “power” here instead of “value.” Secrets may be of little or no cultural value – most people don’t really care who that guy slept with 6 years ago – but they can certainly have power, especially when used for blackmail. Which is why it’s important they remain secrets, so they’re not used for blackmail, or harassment, or any reason at all. Privacy is important. Because secrets aren’t culture. Culture is public. Secrets are, well, secret. Until they’re public, whereupon we get scandalous stories that are culture – humans love to gossip – but aren’t secrets any more. The story might gain value, but the secret loses it.
Money vs. Currency
And how about money? Money is scarce, right? It has to be, or it doesn’t work (thanks Wall Street & Federal Reserve for screwing that up). But currency has more value the more it is used! Would you rather have your scarce 100 Euros in Euros, or in giant immoveable donut-like stones on a remote island?
I remember when the US dollar was a valuable currency; markets all over the world wanted dollars, because they were so widely used and exchangeable. So you want your money to be scarce, but you want your currency as widely used as possible.
V – CONCLUSION
It’s important to treat scarce goods as scarce, abundant goods as abundant, rivalrous goods as rivalrous, and so on. Wall Street treated money, a scarce and rivalrous good, as though it were infinite/non-rivalrous, and look what happened. Power companies, and the politicians they own, treat the environment, which is a rivalrous commons, as though it were non-rivalrous, and we have dying oceans and mass extinctions and other events you don’t want to think about so much that you’ll just get mad at me if I point them out here so I’ll stop. The RIAA and MPAA, and the politicians they own, treat Culture, which is anti-rivalrous, as though it’s rivalrous. They are doing for Culture what Wall Street did for the economy. If you want to help make this better, treat Culture like what it is: an anti-rivalrous good that increases in value the more it is used.
As far as I understand it, the modern “indie” or “independent” music movement grew out of the late-70s punk bands who chose to manufacture and distribute their own albums, freeing themselves from the decision-making process of the existing record labels. When bands like the Buzzcocks and Crass began to take pride in the fact that their music was being created independently it made the idea of independent production into something to be proud of, not ashamed of, and that is the artistic ideal of many “indie” artists who have followed in their footsteps. But in the 1960s and 1970s it was only the most desperate and driven artists who took the step to self-manufacture their own recordings, artists who were often too strange or too unprofessional to be signed to a record label. These artists and the records they made are often called “Private Press,” meaning they had their albums pressed privately, paid for out of their own pockets, and often in very small print runs, perhaps making as few as a couple hundred or even a couple dozen copies of their recordings. Usually they made up a record label name, but these record labels were not what you might think of as an official label, and usually only existed for the purpose of putting out one or two records made by the same people who paid to press the albums. Millions of these albums exist, and more are being made every day, although there were fewer in the decades before “punk” and “indie” were things to be proud of. The vast majority of these privately made albums are indeed bad or unmemorable, but among the millions of mediocre records there are inevitably a few rare and special gems that rise up above the others, albums which can bring listeners incredible enjoyment but have almost no chance of being heard by very many people. As music lovers it is our job, when we find a gem, to help other people to hear it! So here are some of my personal favorite gems among the lost recordings, some privately pressed albums which were never manufactured in high quantity and were never heard by many people, but are some of my favorite albums of all time. I’m picking three examples from the original “private press” era (before punk) and three examples from the modern era.
Dandelions – Dandelions
Apparently the real name of this 1970 band was “The Children of Sunshine” but on the album sleeve it looks like the band name was “Dandelions.” In any case, the album itself is titled Dandelions, and this song is called Dandelions, and the band was two young girls on guitars, with some drums and bass provided by grownups. The album is totally delightful, and until it is officially reissued you will have to find out more about it from http://www.dandelionsalbum.
Virgin Insanity – Seeking Truth
The first Virgin Insanity record is the best, and it is called “Illusions of the Maintenance Man,” pressed in an edition of 200 copies around 1971 in Texas. They had two other albums which were never released until recently, and this track comes from one of those later albums. However, if you like this song I think you should try to buy their first album, which has more of this sort of feeling. Their best work is very moving, but almost disturbing in its intensity and its lo-fi atmosphere. For more info you can try contacting the original guy at BobLong@VirgrinInsanity.com or BobLong@VirginInsanity.com (it is spelled wrong on their website, and I don’t know if that was on purpose). You can order copies of all of the existing Virgin Insanity recordings, on CD, from their Japanese reissue label P-Vine here.
D.R. Hooker – The Sea
This is the best track on D.R. Hooker’s first album “The Truth” (pressed in 1972 in Massachussetts) but there are some other really good tracks on that record as well, and the second D.R. Hooker album “Armageddon” is also excellent if you like this sort of thing. The photo of D.R. on the album cover makes him look like Jesus carrying a guitar, with beard and robes, walking alone on a hill. Although there are many songs about religion on the albums, the peaceful solo portrait on the first album cover gives you no warning as to the full-band sound you’re about to hear, which is sometimes jazzy and cheesy and sometimes rocking, and when it rocks it rocks pretty hard, like on this track. You might like the lounge-jazz songs too. You can get re-issues of the albums here. D.R. Hooker is dead now, but maybe some of his band members are still alive.
Grey Revell – Glass Hammer
Grey Revell recorded three albums from 1998 – 2000 that I consider lost classics. This song is from his third album, “The Green Train,” from 2000. He was a songwriter who moved to New York City from Los Angeles and began to make a name for himself with his small concerts and self-released albums but he got married and left the city and mostly vanished from the music scene, never having done a single tour, and leaving behind only a handful of CDRs to be remembered by. His music blends folk and rock and psychedelia, with a beautiful sense of lyric and melody, and often a much higher quality of arranging and production than most privately made albums. When you hear these tracks you will not believe that they have only been heard by perhaps less than 100 people – this is not “strange, lost music,” this is popular indie music which has simply never been heard because of circumstance. I just did some searching on the internet and found that all of Grey Revell’s albums, including some recent recordings which I have never heard, are available to download very cheap from Bandcamp here. I recommend you support this lost artist, where ever he is.
Prewar Yardsale – Turn On (live Peel session)
A rough and raw and strange antifolk duo, this band has had a very big influence on me. I once wrote a ten-page essay about their lyrics. The music seems simple and crude, just an acoustic guitar and a bucket for a drum, with the occasional use of a distortion pedal, and strange simple lyrics, but it all adds up to very smart and evocative songs that sound different than anything else I have ever heard. Some similarities to Beat Happening and the Velvet Underground, but even more minimal – most Prewar Yardsale songs are all the same two chords, sometimes three chords. Amazing to make an entire 15-year career out of only using the A and E chord, with just sometimes another chord or two. I have some amazing unreleased recordings that I bootlegged form live shows or got from their home demo recordings, someday maybe I will try to release an album of the unreleased stuff, which is all insane and excellent. As for the officially released material I recommend the first Prewar Yardsale album “Lowdown” but you can find all of their albums here.
Gentlemen’s Relish – Third In A Knife-Fight
People give me a LOT of home made albums at my concerts and in the mail, but this one is the best I’ve ever got. The album is called “An Early Bath for… Gentlemen’s Relish” and it’s very strange. The freakish album cover, a crude drawing of what seems to be a viking in a bathtub, gives no clue as to the sound of the album. It still sounds like nothing else I’ve ever heard, I don’t even want to know anything else about it because that might defuse some of its chills and disturbing charm. Despite the sort of 80s/”New Romantic” angle of it, it somehow fits in well with any collection of underground weird collector’s item “private-press” stuff from the 60s-70s. If you were having a nightmare about Morrissey, these are the songs he would sing in your nightmare, and it would be very hard to recall them when you woke up so you would need this album to help you remember. You can find the full album for sale here. Or you can contact the artist directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Trio Reines d’Angleterre, made up of noise pioneer and veteran Ghédalia Tazartès teaming with younger deconstructionists él-g & Jo, have released a singularly ethnic album. Not that ‘ethnic’ by itself means anything: is it an offensive term for something Other? Does it refer to a specific place, a specific people, a specific style? A specific language even?
No, to all accounts (except, perhaps, the offensive question). On Les Comores, Reines d’Angleterre tightly restrain the free noise and industrial leanings of each member, and the result is an album that bounces and smashes influences and cultures, ethnicities and languages – even/especially Tazartès’ trademark fictional language – off and into each other. There are pieces of Native American drum circle wailing, Exuma-style Caribbean folk, American children’s folk music, gypsy clatter, blues riffs pulled into oblivion, French and English and gibberish. There is singing and speaking, and everything fighting for recognition over the walls of sound that, picked apart, are themselves clamoring pieces broken off of at one time coherent wholes.
Reines d’Angleterre are not curators picking up and showing off the pieces that have built them, they are musicians living within a multifarious and incoherent culture, they are the most recent examples of T.S. Eliot’s self-portrait in ‘The Waste Land’: “these fragments I have shored against my ruins”, because surely Les Comores is an album about ruin as well. No matter the urgency of Tazartès’ voice – that voice – by the end it is almost swallowed by the noise it rises from, the noise it combats and tries to shout into place. Is that the point? Is there a struggle between the human and the inhuman, first pointed at by the title that refers to an African island nation which France still oversees? Whatever the struggle, Reines make it one we must fight from within our contradictory cultural makeups so that we become not universalists, not French, not American or Comoran, but human, owning another poet’s prescient statement, a positive reinterpretation Eliot made negative, Walt Whitman wildly writing: “Do I contradict myself? Fine, I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”
Reines d’Angleterre – Untitled (Track 3 side B)
Reines d’Angleterre – Untitled (Track 1 side B)
Well, yes, our donation platform is finally online.
It is a beta version, we’re gonna polish it during the whole summer, but it is already possible to send donations to any indie band and label in the universe.
Go test it, and don’t hesitate to report bugs !
Ps : The collective webzine will resume in a few weeks, we’re focusing on the donation platform for now.
Pps : Hail to David and Patrick, we will worship you forever.