D'ja like that? That's the way we say Sic Alps around here, we just say, like SCALPS, cause we don't have time to get all the way Sic. It's on the tip of our tongue freakin' often though - what with the way that their new album titled Sic Alps (d'ya like that?) is topping the charts inside the four walls of our castle (fortified against the street freaks and beggars here in wild wild Chi West). It's been out almost a month now, but we're loving it still, which is an achievement anymore, right? It works because of the way the boys play with our mind and heart and really, the musical core of our being. From the first drop of the needle, Sic Alps come waltzing out with a tea-stained quartet in tow, fruit to the fore, sweet meat up front - but what lies under your teeth once you've scooped it into your mouth? There's precious little fat; instead, strings and glassine strips lace into your gums with a steely set. "Glyphs" is like the greatest Sic Alps can be, blowing our mind - or it is just our hair? Close enough! They prance and stumble in best Sic fashion, then when they rock, they hit a clear spot - "God Bless Her, I Miss Her" and "Moviehead" feature the brightest tempos on the record as well as the cleanest lines. What's going on here? Don't worry, Sic Alps haven't gone all Manilow on you. Not all Manilow anyway. Once the ballads kick in, Pigpen-ish clouds of dirt and blur waft up around them and lines wiggle when drums are struck, like you're used to when you listen to Sic Alps - with or without the drugs! Well but, hopefully with. The tunes are all still the tarnished brass standard we hold Sic Alps to - couplets that grab, choruses you long for even while they're still there. A few new favorites for the phone - "Polka Vat" and "Thylacine Man," (replacing "Battery Townsley" and "Jolly", what!) and the end of the album will knock old Alps fans off their seat and flat on their asses at the way it all winds up! We're all sold out of cassettes here at the home office, but check the boys out on tour, they might be able to provide you as they play well, everywhere, across America on their way back "home." Once they get "there" lookout for more videos! Sic Alps for album of the year, yo.
STURM UND RANGDA
Had enough of great music? Rangda again! As of the same September date, Formerly Extinct has been added to the list of load-bearing new records that are real all the way down to their bones. All the way down to their soul! Humans have this ability to transform themselves, to paint on the blackface and ham it up in some kind of impression of something they're really not. Rangda don't know how to do that. They're animalistic in nature, they do the thing they do because there's no other way. When they first started occupying space together, Sir Richard Bishop, Ben Chasny and Chris Corsano circled each other, hackles raised. Volumes were raised too and the roof had to be reattached after they'd blown it up a bit during the session for their first record, False Flag. This recording was made after very little time together, it really did represent a first meeting and in this light, as well as most other exposures, it is an astonishing body of work. Operating as the band they'd proposed to be, the boys set about creating spaces and then freely roaming through them, moving from mood to mood and suddenly creating a great mass that reflected three personalities as one. This is fun to do, challenging to listen to - but False Flag grows more and more a part of us the listener as time goes by and we listen. Now, Formerly Extinct brings us the eyes and claws of a band that's made a record, toured on the songs while making new things up as they went and then gone and made another record based on the time they'd spent doing it already. Which makes Formerly Extinct a new beast-baby and one rather distinct from the feral False Flag child. The blood that once blossomed so freely throughout their young body is now held and directed by veins - but it courses mightily at the same time, and the liquid nature of their creativity is thus not checked so much as rerouted. The pressures that build during the free section that opens "The Vault" would likely have continued to boil in their initial encounter - now the door kicks open to the stuttering of a beat and then a golden riff atop the rumble. Similarly, the free-tempo'd "Apocalypse Now" vibes at the top of "Silver Nile" give way to an orderly funereal beat that allows the Sir Rick and Chazz to trade elegant lines, the intertwining of which leads to a more upright third section (what, did the opium wear off?). And before one can cry, "Doors Love!" they're off to the next song, a tight coil of licks called "Plugged Nickle," whose punkish fervor that couldn't be more opposite to the naturalism of the previous track - until the rhythm breakdown brings them back to an earthy patch. Which gives way to the middle-eastern riffage of "Majnun," a dervishly danceable beat that sinks into a pool of white-noised rhythm quicksand before blasting back to the head again. And so it goes! It's an evolved system, with more order between the organs, but the lifeblood of Rangda is pure and wild as it races back and forth. Man, we can't wait for the tour, it's bound to be like both albums and more! The best thing is, these guys are two records in and still haven't tapped the full strength we perceive in their collective frame. What the flip's gonna happen when they pull that one off, huh? Shit's gonna peel off shit! Polarities will reverse! They'll take the dark out of the nighttime and paint the daytime maroon! And when that happens, you'll be running for your copy of Formerly Extinct, just to have something you can hang onto in such wild times. You thought you knew freedom? Rangda again!
THERE IS A GOD?
What the world needs now ...is another reissue label!!! Actually, what the world really needs is a reissue label that is in it for the LOVE of music, not the desire to benefit from the obscurity of said music. There's too many stiffs out there reissuing stuff because it was so rare that nobody ever heard it except for those who made it (and their friends), and that's fine. There's room in this world for the music of people we never heard of and their friends. But if the music isn't amazing, what then? Why do we care if not for love? Is this music thing actually just a filing project? Or is it more like topography? Can you dance to the music of a map? Fortunately, the CEO of our new imprint, God?, doesn't have worry about such things - he's a lover, and he's coming through with records to put out there that blew his mind. Now he wants to blow other people's minds with those records - awesome! We're down with that, because we know we can trust God? boss Mr. Ty Segall on the topic of blown minds. The first release on God?, Trin Tran's "Dark Radar" record had just the desired effect when played around the compound - an ecstasy upon hearing something so unlikely as a post-punk one-man band that wasn't all bash and clatter, but instead, sharp stabs of guitar and keys and spartan-yet-driving kick-and-snare beneath. This is music that could be thirty years old, but it's only ten - and this is its first trip to vinyl after a life of CD-Rs and web-based mp3 files. The effect is intoxicating. Who's Trin Tran? What's the story? Doesn't matter. Music, people - and the mysterious impact of its mysterious stance in this world. Who's looking out for this stuff and making sure we get our mind blown good and regular? God?.
THE SUN ALSO ARAWSES
Speaking of blown-good-mind, Sun Araw baby! The Inner Treaty has slid into the world on vinyl and CD like the good analog-digital hybrid it is. The puffs of smoke from under Sun Araw's door have delighted us over the past several years, standing out with their singular odor that won't wash out of our clothes, hair and - gasp! - skin no matter what. Good! We particularly enjoy that stench. Plus, with The Inner Treaty, the smoke is drier and...we can see through its skin and...does it have bones? Makes sense. With reverbs drawn in tight, The Inner Treaty boogies with elbows akimbo, and the burps and bumps seem to come and go to and from much deeper places than before. Naw, deeper than Big Fun - more like Get Up With It - speaking soulfully (and narco-percussively), that is. We're really digging the extra-dead environment that seems to highlight every slap-backed breath of Sun Araw's new creature-constructs; also digging our access to a whimsical vibe that we suspect was always there but was often enveloped in the rolling clouds of Ancient Romans and On Patrol and all those other great volumes. Sun Araw doesn't traffic in songs of the la-la-la variety - instead they create space and like the universe, the space expands while they play in the space with the matter that the space creates while it expands. It makes us giddy to see (that is, hear) and that's when we laugh. Life and love are at their best when we laugh, and we suspect that embracing the self that is at peace with being one with the universe is the bottom line of The Inner Treaty.
LET THE MINUS TIMES ROLL
You know who really likes to get out and party? Librarians. They let their hair down and even if their chin's weak and their skin is spotty and their skin is wrinkled and tight, they're beautiful when they let go. These people put themselves to the task of dealing with words and the organization that goes with them - which isn't just the math of grammar, but also the geometry of the shelf and the trigonometry of the bureaucracy in which they work - nothing but rules and systems and almost all of them dead boring! So once them bookworms and -wormettes get out of themselves and dedicate to having a time, wheee! This is why we've loved reading the gazette you know and we know as The Minus Times for the past twenty years, because Hunter Kennedy has had a foot planted on both sides of the divide since college - the good times of great writing and the good times of the good times. His editorial style is almost musical in its half-improvised approach, placing serious work next to scaps of whimsy, whether found or specially prepared. The humor of it all appeals to the librarians caged within our leather-clad rock and rollin' exteriors (at last the truth can be told!). We know the pain of the literary countenance and the need for deliverance just as well as we know the freedom that comes from not wearing underpants because you don't like wearing underpants that have shit in them - or that smell like pussy, let's say (not everyone has the same, uh, demons). And so we have appreciated as well as published The Minus Times for lo, these many years. Now comes the retrospective no one could have adequately forecast - all 29 of the previously circulated issues in one volume, plus the big 30th issue, previously circulated nowhere! Many members of the outsider literary set of the down-and-way-out 90s have graduated to Being Published, and so seeing their now gilt-edged names in the good old pages of The Minus Times Collected isn't where the shock comes from. Can it be that we've grown up? Nah...the collection features the poems, prose, lists cartoons, interviews and otherwise from, by and with David Berman, Dan Clowes, Stephen Colbert, Patrick DeWitt, Dave Eggers, Robert Frank, Barry Hannah, Jeff Johnson, Sam Lipsyte, Tom McGuane, Brad Neeley, Mark Richard, Jeff Rotter, Jay Ruttenberg, Leanne Shapton and Wells Tower, among many many outrageous others!
Then what? Here we sit, heavy-hearted - tried to finish this newsletter and we're still just getting started. But Friday's fly-day, Drag City town - we're gonna tell the rest of the story tomorrow if it kills us (or makes us stronger), and you're gonna know it. And then we'll do it again next month. But first we'll do it tomorrow.
PS, the heart is heavy as above because it is so full in there. It's got a lot of blood and blood-based love in it. Okay? See you in a few hours!