Saturday, March 26, 2011

Chalk Circle 'Reflection'

It's surprising to learn that Chalk Circle were a part of the Washington DC Punk/Hardcore scene, given their euro-centric sound and that the group was ruled by girls. Formed through connections Sharon Cheslow made working at Yesterday and Today records in 1979, a hub for kids to hang out at the time, an early incarnation of the band included fellow vocalist/guitarist Ann Bonafede, Cheryl Celso (who won the lead singer slot over Henry Garfield) and Bert Quieroz from The Untouchables filling in on bass. It was Cheslow who thought up the name Chalk Circle based on Bertolt Brecht’s book “Caucasian Chalk Circle”.

The Washington DC music scene was governed by men, Chalk Circle experienced how palpable this was at the Unheard Music Festival in 1980 debuting the areas new hardcore bands, none of which featured girls. It was at this time Cheryl left the group and by March 1981 Chalk Circle was an all female affair with; Mary Green (vocals/guitar), Sharon Cheslow (vocals/guitar), Jan Pumphrey (bass), and Anne Bonafede (drums). In 1981 Tamera Edminster would become permanent bassist until moving to New York and forming SHE a year later, with Chris Niblack taking her place before the band called it a day in 1983.

Mississippi Records has compiled twelve songs culled from Outside Records and WGNS compilations, live recordings and unreleased works. Chalk Circles vocals flip from sedated to spry alongside heady bass, swarming guitars with amphetamine rhythms behind the driving force of the songs. "The Look" is a rejection of the rat race, utilizing sound effects of a clanking hammer intermittently personifies the monotony of the daily grind and Chalk Circle's rebellion against it. "High Stress" is a highlight on the album perfectly capturing how their songs run with a caffeine rush pulse.

Accompanied by a 16 page booklet put together by Sharon Cheslow shedding light on Chalk Circle's history along with photos, press clippings and liner notes from Don Fleming, whose group Velvet Monkeys, Chalk Circle opened for on their first few shows. With the resurgence of Post Punk at the moment this reissue has come out at the perfect time. What makes this worth your while is the unexpected place this music comes from. They didn't fit in to the humdrum of daily life nor the mold set by piers in their own music scene, making Chalk Circle one of a kind truly outsider band.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Hygiene "Public Sector"

Hygiene are a London based four piece playing out crunchy guitars, throbbing bass and rattling rhythms with forthright, narrative-heavy vocals. Their first release, a 7" entitled 'Town Centre E.P' on Static Shock Records from 2009 is now sold out, so it's perfect timing that La Vida Es Un Mus has just put out their debut "Public Sector". Hygiene's concentration on the quotidian is indicative of the English spirit as they turn humdrum on its head. Their approach to songs are bursts of direct, no-nonsense adrenaline with an urgency you'd expect from Swell Maps and the vocal finesse of Robert Lloyd from The Nightingales. Having been fortunate enough to see Hygiene play a few times now, I've witnessed them turn basements into swarming, sweaty pits of some of the most fun nights out recently. Hygiene simultaneously pick up from where bands on Messthetics compilations leave off and galvanize the genre propelling Punk today. It's bands like Hygiene that make me glad to be living in London, going to shows and record stores are more exciting places to escape the daily grind with guys like these around.

Hygiene also did an interview for Gilded Gutter click here to read!

Check out a track on SoundCloud

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Hygiene's Blog

Monday, March 14, 2011

Davila 666 'Tan Bajo'

The six members of Davila 666 already have releases on some of the finest independent labels around; Rob's House, Douchemaster and HoZac to name a few. Based in Puerto Rico's capital, San Juan the boys have broken out of their local music scene and made it across to the US and now Europe. 'Tan Bajo', on In The Red follows up 2008's self titled debut.

Recorded in three weeks 'Tan Bajo' stays true to Davila's Punk roots, however picking up inspiration from a few new places. Track "Si Me Vez" pays dues to Velvet Underground and Jesus Mary Chain with chest pounding guitar rhythms hang easy vocals and Panda Davila's tambourine jingles. Singing in broken Spanish the songs sound like they are recorded phonetically. In placing weight on the sounds of words Carlito and AJ Davila's vocals assert meaning in tone alongside melody heavy guitars, encouraging the listener to respond to how the track makes you feel. Utilizing 'ooo's' and 'aaa's' throughout the record as well, on 'Obsesionao' for example, transcends words and language inviting everyone to the party. Also, it seems like a no brainer to figure out what 'Obsessionao' might be about, right?! "Mala" and "Los Cruces" are some favourites for party stompers with The Latin Snake's unrelenting rhythms and forthright, thudding guitars from Gigi and Johnny Otis Davila. Sound effects intermittently placed throughout the record make Davila 666 a band who are as deranged as they are composed inventively spinning songs through a pair of 3D glasses. Primed with a record that thumps, screeches and snarls these scamps are going full steam ahead.

Download tracks performed on WFMU FREE on Free Music Archive!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Kurt Vile 'Smoke Ring For My Halo'

Philadelphia's psycho folk troubadour Kurt Vile has released his fourth full length album, the second for Matador Records. Since 'Constant Hitmaker' (Gulcher) Vile has been turning heads with his transcendent guitar style amalgamating folk, psychedelia and indie producing something entirely unique and unmatched. Those who enjoyed 'Childish Prodigy' will find bursts of heavy psyched out rock on this new album, however, Vile reins it in considerably and offers up some surprises that surpass everything he's done before.

Opener "Baby's Arms" breezes in setting the tone for the record with ethereal, dreamy notes tumbling over each other anchored with aloof musings and metronomic rhythms. An ode to a loved one dealing with finding comfort Vile hums, "I get sick of just about everyone and I hide in my baby's arms". It's these confessions and takings on his everyday life that continue to be a theme on the album. "Jesus Fever" kicks things up a gear with chiming, aerobic guitars at the forefront of the song with piano parts and foot tapping rhythms. "I pack my suitcase with myself but I'm already gone" sung with his commanding yet unassuming vocal style, it's this lone wolf viewpoint that aptly sums up 'Smoke Ring For My Halo'. Introducing sinewy guitars on "Puppet Man" and "In My Time" the record takes twists and turns down rockier, moodier roads. Seamlessly weaving in lyrics from past records, such as "Runner Ups" echoing "Red Apples" ('God Is Saying This To You'), "Hey girl come on over that'd be just fine" is an unexpected delight. Vile summons some sort of voodooism with closing track "(shell blues)" with a soft, disconsolate piano played alongside a single chiming bell that lingers long after the album is finished. This release is nothing short of sheer brilliance, Kurt Vile's gift for song writing makes today's music scene a more exciting place to lose yourself in.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


New York's White Out have just kicked off their series of shows at John Zorn's The Stone space in the Big Apple's lower east side. Tom and Lin spill the beans about who will be playing at The Stone, what White Out have been up to and their individual artistic endeavors too.

You’ve been planning The Stone series for a year, now it’s right around the corner. Can you fill us in on who will be playing? Did you get everyone you wanted to on the schedule?

I think Tom took care of this one.

Highlights of our program include: Paul Lytton, Dave Burrell, Gunter Hampel, Six Organs, Magik Markers, Noveller, Loren Mazzacane Connors, Jozef Van Wissem, No Neck, Ken Vandermark, Joe McPhee, William Winant, Ches Smith, C. Spencer Yeh, Carlos Giffoni, Nate Wooley , Eugene Chadbourne, Alvin Curran, D.J. Olive, Michael Morely and White Out playing two different dates with Thurston Moore and Nels Cline respectively.

No we didn't get everyone we wanted: Mats Gustafson fell through at the last minute, Wizz Jones couldn't make it as well as Evan Parker, Marcus Schmickler, Rudolph Grey, Dos {Mike Watt, Kira} and Peter Brotzmann. Richard Bishop and James Blackshaw had scheduling conflicts, and Jim O'Rourke couldn't be bothered. You have to realize that we are operating with literally no budget, and the club has a small capacity, and no real P.A. or stage to speak of, so many of the artists are basically doing us a favor by appearing there.

Are there any other projects you’ve undertaken since ‘Senso’ came out? Feel free to talk about anything outside of or to do with the band.

We have our first duo record coming out on the Belgian art label audioMER. They are part of Mer. Paper Kunsthalle who publish artist's books. I recently wrote some background music for a TV show and composed a few sound pieces. I also created a sound component for a friend's art installation.

I think we've got like three albums of material ready for release: A live album of material recorded in Europe with Nels Cline, a live album with Thurston in New York and L.A, actually you were at the NY show Kimberly, and our first album as a duet that we recorded for Jim O'Rourke when he had a deal with Sony Japan, which fell through, probably stemming from the prospect of putting us out. Actually that session is coming out as an LP on the Belgian label audioMER, it's going to be titled Asphalt And Delay.

I have no other musical projects, although technically I guess I have a trio with Thurston and William Winant, which tends to rear its ugly head every half decade or so. I am completely content confining my musical efforts to White Out Lin rocks.

White Out’s line up reads like an extended family with you and Lin at the core. How have collaborators such as Jim O’Rourke, Thurston Moore, Nels Cline, William Winant and Mike Watt shaped the bands sound?

Each collaborator brings their own personal taste and experience to the process. When we first played with Jim O'Rourke on the Drunken Little Mass album, he was working with his laptop and max patches. Those sounds impart a distinct quality to that recording. I learn a lot from performing with others and seeing what ideas they come up with.

Well those dudes all posses strong individual voices, so when we musically communicate with any combination of them, vital and original conversation is bound to ensue. Its like a democratic fraternity where nobody dominates and everybody listens to what the person has to say. I like to compare it to the way Abbie Hoffman used to describe The Yippies hierarchy: "We have no leaders, we're all followers."

Is there anyone you’d like to work with in the future?

We have an ever-changing list of people we would like to perform and record with.

Well honestly I think what we'd really like to do is play more with some of the people you just mentioned. We all live in different places and those cats are always super busy. Plus your description of them as an extended family is apt as they are all really good friends of ours and some of our favorite people. It's always nice to play with people you vibe with them on every level. That said we're always trying out new people to play with but at the moment we don't have anyone specifically in mind.

Do you prefer recording or playing?

I prefer recording, but that's just because I'm a perfectionist. I like to perform under the best of circumstances when the sound is good and I can hear everything. Otherwise it can be somewhat frustrating. You are just playing into a void. When it comes to improvisation, if you can't hear what's going on, how can you react to it? One bonus to playing live is that you can just let it rip and be in the moment which is very liberating. That is until you hear the recording later, ha ha.

I know Lin's going to tell you she prefers recording, and O'Rourke's always talking about how he feeds off the energy of the audience. I can honestly say I don't have a preference. I've played in front of a like a thousand people and I've played in front just the sound engineer, it's all the same to me. I'm always just focusing in on responding sympathetically to what the other musicians are doing and as long as I can hear them, nothing else matters.

Being an improvisational band has there ever been a time when something happens on stage that you wished had been recorded and visa versa?

It's always a good idea to record because you just never know when something really special might happen. We played at ATP with Nels and after that set we all looked at each other and went "WOW". We were really disappointed that there wasn't a good recording documenting the show. There is a board recording out there somewhere but we've never been able to track it down.

Our friend Zeena Parkins once recommended to us years ago to record everything, which was great advice. There have been instances where I literally think we're playing like our worst show ever, and I listen back to the recording and it's the best thing we ever did, and conversely the exact opposite scenario can also occur. You never know.

I enjoy White Out shows because you guys never play the same set twice. Although it’s improvised is there any predetermined structure to the shows? Do you try to keep it to a certain length of time for example?

There are no predetermined factors whatsoever.

No we eschew all structure, we never discuss what we're going to play beforehand in fact we don't even practice together in a concerted effort to keep things fresh. We only play together at gigs and recording sessions, I always describe it as being like ceremonial music. Our only time concern is how long the promoter will let us play.

Are there any keyboardists/pianists you look up to for your own practice?

Alexander von Schlippenbach, Sun Ra and Cecil Taylor jump to mind. I don't really think of myself as a very accomplished keyboard player, I consider myself more of a synthesist. There are a lot of people who fall into that category that I admire: Jim O'Rourke, Keith Rowe, Masami Akita, John Cage, Edgar Varèse, Marcus Schmickler... I have always listened to a lot of Southeast and South Asian music which I think has really informed my style.

Are there any drummers you look up to for your own practice as a percussionist?

Well there is a multitude of drummers I look up to, but I don't know if they influence my practice except maybe through osmosis. At this advanced stage in my musical life, I'm just focused on expanding on my own style, I'm not really trying to sound like anybody else. In terms of whom I admire everybody who knows me well knows about my life long idolization of Elvin Jones. He redefined drumming, as we know it. He invented the language everybody else is just quoting. In my estimation he is the greatest musician in human history. I could go on forever listing other notable drummers; in the modern era I really dig the young Rashied Ali, Milford Graves, Andrew Cyrille, Rashid Sinan and Barry Altschul, and more current players like Paul Lytton, Paul Lovens. Gunter " Baby" Sommer, Han Bennink, and Toney Oxley. In terms of the old school, I’m really in to Art Blakey, Max Roach, Tony Williams, Roy Haynes, Joe Chambers, and Jack Dejohnette. Like I said I could go on ad Infinitum, but those are some of the more salient names that come to mind.

The trailer you made for ‘Senso’ featured sculpture is there any relation between the 3 dimensional medium and the music on the album?

Hmmm. Sound waves exist in space so I guess that is 3-dimensional.

I wouldn't read too much significance in to those images, those are just shots that fit the tone of the piece. On the other hand I do really like people like Jean Arp, Brancusi and Tinguely.

White Out stands out to me for being able to blur the lines between audio and visual art. Is this a goal for the band?

I'm glad you see it that way Kimberly. We don't consciously conceive the music as containing a visual component, but if it conjures images in the listeners mind, all the better.

Well I can't speak for Lin, but I feel audio and visual are definitely interrelated, they are often two ways of expressing the same thing. Two quotes come to mind, Blake said that the eye sees more than the heart ever knows, and Nietzstche once described music as being the art form that most resembled life because it was the most abstract.

What if any, visual artists do you admire?

I love the Earthworks artists, Robert Smithson, Michael Heizer... they were so revolutionary in their thinking. The Spiral Jetty is such an impressive piece on all levels. It's so cool that natural elements like rainfall govern it's visibility. I also love the intimacy of Joseph Cornell's boxes, the sheer technical wizardry of Jeff Wall and Anish Kapoor, the emotional depth of Robert Frank's photographs, and anything that Bruce Naumann does. There are so many others... Ana Mendieta, Nam June Paik, Dan Graham, Kurt Schwitters, Robert Raushenberg... and experiemental filmmakers Bruce Conner, Ernie Gehr. Some younger artists I admire are Tara Donovan, Paul Chan, Olafur Eliasson, Thomas Ruff, and some Christian Marclay stuff. His show at the Whitney was so important because it brought live music into the museum setting as a component of the exhibition. I just saw his möbius strip made out of cassettes, so great.

Oh man, I'm in to so many people I almost don't know where to begin: Jean Eustache, Maurice Pialat, Rohmer, Malle,Shinoda. Oshima, Mizoguchi,Kobayashi,Fassbimder,Wellman, Wyler,Visconti ,Bellochio,Losey, Karel Reisz, Lyndsey Anderson,Meleville, Pasolini, Rosselini, Fuller, Bunuel, Pontecorvo, Imamura...... and those are just directors, the list is endless.

It’s bittersweet to watch the ‘Senso’ trailer due to the passing of Dan Asher. Tonic and CBGB’s have bit the dust and now Max Fish is closing, what other changes have you seen in NY and how has this affected the city’s cultural scene?

New York is always a city in flux because it runs on commerce and always has. There are as many venues as ever, it's just that they aren't in Manhattan anymore. I'm not that into a lot of the DIY places in Brooklyn because they don't have good sound systems. There is no venue right now like Tonic that supplied such a wide range of programming but still had a non-corporate vibe. Le Poisson Rouge is the closest thing I can think of. They have a great sound system and it's a fantastic place to play but it lacks the relaxed artists' co-op vibe of Tonic.

That's an almost an impossible question for me to answer, as you know Kimberly I'm a native New Yorker and I'm ancient, so I've witnessed all kinds of quantum change in the course of a lifetime. But you know New York is always in a state of flux, I guess the most dramatic change in recent years has been the cultural shift to Brooklyn, that's where all the music is happening, Manhattan has become like Brooklyn's annex. Unfortunately there is a real dearth of decent venues with good sound and an inviting vibe. But I'm not a nostalgic, places come and go, however Dan's passing was a real tragedy.

Lin, I love your photography work - do you plan on showing your stuff, is there anything you're working on at the moment?

I always take photos. There are many large projects I've undertaken and not finished. I was going to take a photo everyday for the entire year of 2000, I think I got about 3 months worth. I am still working on my portrait project. I hope to one day organize them into a book or a show. I'm in the process of scanning my old negatives, there are a lot of them. It's all about editing them into a cohesive form or series.

Tom, you're also a filmmaker I think the last thing you did was Sonic Youth's 'Sacred Trickster' video do you have anything else lined up? Also, do you ever revisit your work at all? The reason I ask is I was wondering if you can see a progression in your skills during your time as a film maker so far?

Actually the last project I was involved with that reached fruition was the Senso trailer, which by the way I wrote and directed and Lin shot and edited. It was based on an old trailer for Godard's Contempt. The latest project that I've been working on for the last few years is a film documenting the history of the Free Jazz scene I've been interviewing all the fathers of the movement, it's a mammoth undertaking, but should be finished some time in the next year. Yes I've been known to revisit my earlier work, because I'm a total fucking narcissist. You know I've done all sorts of videos for bands like Sonic Youth, Gary Young, The Blues Explosion, Pavement, one likes to think that you get better at everything you do, but I think what it really just comes down to is some ideas I've had are better than others.

Any bands you’re really digging at the moment? Anything you’d recommend?

I recently was listening to a lot of drone "rock" stuff, Emeralds, Noveller, James Ferraro, Oneohtrix Point Never etc. I heard some Grouper tracks I really liked. Most of my listening happens at shows. I saw some fantastic gigs last year: Bardo Pond, Metal Mountains, James Blackshaw, Mountains, Northampton Wools, Oren Ambarchi, Yellow Tears, William Basinski, Omar Souleyman, Tinariwen, Sonic Youth, Sir Richard Bishop... and a bunch of shows at ATPNY by bands that I wouldn't normally listen to like Sleep, The Scientists, Beak, and Kurt Vile. I'm sure there will be many amazing shows to report after March at The Stone, I hope I can make it to most of them.

Pretty much everybody who is playing our series at The Stone. I guess people might not be as familiar with Metal Mountains and Nymph who both rule. Wolf Eyes are still great live, any old school Euro avant improv artist like Alexander Von Schlippenbach and Barry Guy. Emeralds, Talk Normal, Bardo Pond,Tinariwen, Omar Souleyman, Michael Chapman, the whole Finish scene, Cecil Taylor, Peter Evans etc. etc.

‘I’m full of dust and guitars’ – Syd Barrett, if you were cracked open what would be inside?

Old 70s oscillators and electronics (that sill work), indonesian metallophones, and a sprinkle of gold glitter.

I'll just paraphrase Godard and say terror untempered by some great moral idea.

Watch 'Senso' Trailer

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