Good April to you! It’s almost Spring wherever you are, or perhaps Fall down under? If so, welcome to it! We dig the seasons, all of ‘em. Change is important – remember we said so! And welcome as well once again inside the doors of Drag City, where weird gets wired into the system all year long, and every hour is another one in the endless loop known as record store day – because isn’t music forever, folks? Don’t we hear it in our heads even when it isn’t raining (never streaming) down on us everywhere we go? Don’t we hear music even when we’re not flipping thoughtless corporate-spawned reproductions of it on eBay? We do – and God bless records anyway. We love ‘em, no matter what evil ends humans conceive for them. And even though records will likely be melted into slag in the final flaming throes of Ragnarok, so then will we too. Until such time descends upon us all, we’ll do records, thanks.
Yeah, we tend to get a bit heavy with you in these newsletters - metaphysical even! It’s not because we hate you (at the moment…but if New Bums sales tail off, get ready. They just toured, people! The album’s amazing! Try something new, you shits!); it’s because you need to feel at least some of the seriousness involved in the business and pleasure of releasing new (and gently freakin’ used) music in the world today. Plus, if we didn’t present all the issues in play with at least some sense of remove, we might just shit our pants with excitement because…well, records! Records! Records! Gee. They’re the greatest. We got so many great new records planned for this year, it is just SUPER FUCKING great. Records!
And what do we mean by records? Well, first and foremost: LPs, EPs and 7” singles – what the kids (and their grandparents) call ‘vinyl.’ Then there’s CDs (yep, still in the mix – it’s not comeback time…yet!); and, cassettes, which everyone calls ‘tapes’ too, FYMFI. So if you actually didn’t know…now you do? Oh and after that, it’s the digital shit: mp3s and FLACs, and we’re there for you more or less with them too – the stuff’s all available online, but not in 24/96 or whatever it is that you’re wondering about, Poindexter. And streams? ….well. You’ll have to forgive us if our sense of joy and indeed, investment isn’t engaged by the “possibilities” of this non-format, despite it currently sitting in the spot reserved for the future of music. It’s not just because we’re too hipster/luddite for that. No, we did the math too – or tried anyway. There’s no math there, really – instead, the compensatory plan for streaming presents a set of intangibles, much like the possibilities behind door number three on The Price Is Right (always a dishwasher, never a car – or if a car, always a Ford Taurus, never a Prius (that’s right, we care)). This shell game is just the same kind of corporate culture that Drag City was created to prosper (love the optimism! – unironic actuarial ed.) in spite of! The music business collapses and do we all learn our lesson? Hells to the m-effin’ NO, we don’t! With the rubble barely cooled, once again the very rich (relative terms here, people) have devised ways of growing richer (Ibid.) off of musicians convinced to cede their music for compensation-lite while simultaneously selling main street America on a miraculous form of music “delivery” as the way they’ll prefer to “interface” with their favorite sounds in years to come! So just plug in and – whoops, it’s the Matrix all over again. If you’re streaming, they can track you – even in Zion! But worse, you’re just buying their latest miracle device, making you nothing but a slave to the music – or the hard and soft (increasingly soft – we’re not turned on at all!) ware, surrendering your control (illusory or not – Matrix Reloaded–(just the first half)-ed.) over the delivery system (porn’s not the only thing you lose when the lines are down). And then they send their tiresome shills out to Secretly extol the virtues of this method, people we might just (mistakenly) regard as our “trusted” industry insiders. Numbers are alluded to but never produced – are they selling music, or fear? So horrid, hearing this propaganda spouted by people we thought were our friends (or at least human). But why might tomorrow be any different? We know what made Sammy run, and he will again. Well damn that – Drag City’s gonna walk before they make us run – in fear, natch! Their soulless recommendations will not move us. Our love’s not for sale - just the physical music (and those digital files). And if there’s a hell, it’s got music streaming 24-7, Satan just sent us his playlist! It’s pretty awesome, actually – surprising amount of doo-wop.
So as you can see, it’s not just new records that cause our pants to bulge with sweet, sweet excrement (our farts are sweet too – or so our acupuncturist says); it’s the world that they’re sent into that looses the shit as well. And that’s it, that’s all you’re gonna hear about the outside world. The rest of this bulletin is about that rare and well-deserved shit of joy – the sounds that make us one with the universe, free of definition, at peace for once in the fucking days of our lives.
DEATH WILL TAKE US ALL
... no, we don’t mean “the termination of our mortal coil” here – who are we preaching to, choir? You must know that we’re talking about that crazy little band called Death, whose rediscovery in the past decade set into motion events that are have shaken the very history of punk rock! In 2009, underground rumblings over the single “Politicians In My Eyes” b/w “Keep On Knocking” led us to hear, then release those two songs plus five others from the same 1975 recording sessions. When released, For the Whole World to See was seen by the world as a vital piece of proto-punk music, made all the more notable by having been created by three teenage African-American brothers with a strong appreciation for the rock and roll going on in their hometown of Detroit. The Hackney brothers were insiders in their perspective but outside in almost every other way. Their recordings were passed on by all who heard them, largely because of their intense sound – and the equally intense sound of their chosen name. Five frustrating years later, they changed that name, then broke apart, with eldest brother and leader David Hackney giving way to alcoholism before succumbing to cancer in 2000. And ten years later, the whole world began to see Death in a whole new light – including the surviving Hackney brothers as well! Bobby and Dannis began to perform again as Death, then found a set of practice tapes that were released as Spiritual-Mental-Physical in 2011. Last year, a Death documentary was completed and began making the rounds, bringing even more attention to A Band Called Death. Today, we have a third volume of archival Death music – and dare we say, it tends to rival the first! While the first album clearly showcased their hard-rock fixations, played at a speed that pushed them into a punkish mode and making them seem like a band out of time, Death III realigns the band’s place in their own time, featuring studio recordings from 1975, 1978, 1980 and 1992. The songs remind us of Jimi, Funkadelic, and the MC5, all of whom were to some extent contemporaries and/or forebears of Death. The songs themselves have here have similar drive and fidelity as For the Whole World to See; two of them were recorded at the same sessions. The combination of outrage, optimism and soulfulness is felt throughout. The more recent songs on the album have a modern gospel vibe to them, an r’n’b groove that reunited Death with their earliest influences. III is a powerful listen, and brings the archival saga of Death to a close with a highly enjoyable rush.
PURCHASE YOUR DEATH BOX NOW!
Don’t wait until it’s too late and the money’s all gone – order your coffin today! That’s what you thought we were going to say, isn’t it? Because we’re not only morbid like that, but we care about what happens to you after you die! These are two things that are true. Still, that’s not what we were going to say! You remember how we were talking about the new archival disc from the band called Death…like, just a few dozen words ago? Yeah? Yeah! Well, we’ve observed how the majority of you Death lovers prefer the LP format to hear your Death jams. So okay! Here and in neon-cool green is a slipcase in which to put all three of your Death vinyls! It’ll probably burn like the rest of your vinyl collection when sweet Armageddon’s embrace comes – but until then, it’s gonna simply LOOK hot. And who knows, if you make it into the dystopian post-apocalyptic world that’s coming, your Death box may survive too, along with the records contained within, and then you’ll end up as the undisputed king of your local rubble-patch. Start by taking up in an abandoned Target and play your Death records on the total-crap turntables you pulled from the wreckage! A Crosley or a Jensen - they suck, but who will know? You’ll run out of batteries fairly quickly, so for electricity, you’ll find a generator in the heap down the block that used to be a Home Depot! And this will be your kingdom. Everyone will know you are The One! You’ve got your hot-green Death box with the killer jams depicting in song the fallibilities of the world that fell! Like an oracle or some kind of royalty, you will live out your life like a king or queen, or perhaps a transgender leader, depending on who you have come to know yourself as. Thank you, Death box!
PRELUDE TO A HISS
2014 is shaping up to be a year of many things Death, New Bums, Dead Rider, to name but a few – but it’s also gonna be a BIG year of Purling Hiss too! Straight out of Philly, Purling Hiss has been releasing records for the past five years and straight-up KILLING people doing it too, with their basement-born home-tracked layers of guitars and blowed-out vocals and their capacity for hooking ears with more than just sounds and jams. Colonel Hiss’s secret recipe? The songs that are being buried always turn on something super-melodic and the guitar solos always have a sweet tone, even when they’re screaming extra-crispily from the grooves. A bit of evolving had to occur to bring this essentially one-man project out into the world, and since sometime before 2012’s Water On Mars, an actual band has been accompanying Purling Hiss masterhead Mike Polizze in his endeavors as they’ve reached further and further outside of the confines of Philadelphia (thank you, god!). This year, Purling Hiss reached the west coast at last, where their first shows in LA and San Fran were balls-to-the-roof affairs, suggesting another tilt out there ASAP would be best. And ASAP it shall be, as there’s a senses-shattering Hiss album on the horizon set for a fall release. Expect all kinds of dates when that happens, hopefully some en Europa aussi! Everyone deserves high-quality, no-nonsense, singalong rock to play LOUD, no matter where they live. Until then, we’ve got a freshly-released album from the annals titled Dizzy Polizzy, which is the name Mike was gonna use for the band before a man appeared before him on a flaming pie and said to call his band Purling Hiss. And so he called his band Purling Hiss! But before that, the recordings on Dizzy Polizzy are from this heady, pre-Hisstory period… say, 2004-2006, right before the period already showcased on the Public Service Announcement LP. And that album’s how a lot of us got into Purling Hiss to start with, so…fuckin’ A! Dizzy Polizzy is some formative work in the key of Hiss, establishing ground rules and tweaking on a few things not followed through on later albums, but always kicking it with that yearning vibe that makes even the most savage Purling Hiss moments reach for the sky in surrender. Those early Dizzy days sound pretty sweet from here, and Dizzy Polizzy will give everyone a taste of where Purling Hiss came from, before we shift focus towards where they’re going later on this year. If you want to fall over yourself for something you’ve never heard, get Dizzy! Dizzy Polizze, by Purling Hiss. OUT. NOW. RIGHT.
BELIEVE THE (OVER)RIPE
What’s this? You’re sick of spring already? Dude, you want another snowstorm up your ass? Take what you’ve got, stop your silly idolotry of the Summer season! These seasons all have their value, but why has it become the summertime that everyone wants a record for? Don’t worry, because just as we have scorn for your slavish ways, we also have exactly what you want as well. More to the point, it’s what you NEED, too. It’s called Electric Brick Wall, the second album from Black Bananas, and it’s gonna play in all kinds of weather – hot, hotter and extra-freaky. Fuck, it’ll play in cold temps too, so bring along a boombox when you’re dicing rails in the air-conditioned comfort of the bathroom at your favorite hang. Black Bananas have been bringing the club into the ultra-digital environs with increasing doses, and while we thought that it couldn’t get jumpier than “Hot Stupid” off their debut album Rad Times Xpress, we’re like, agape at the way dance has met rock out on the scraped concrete in the scorching sun dressed all in black and managed to make rock its total BITCH-hag. And if you don’t believe us, well don’t worry – we don’t believe you either, dickpunch. Hopefully you’ll believe your ears anyway, because they’re not gonna lie when the new single “Physical Emotions” bounce-struts it’s way into your life. This a summer jam, sweet and clean on the surface but made out of the orgasmic cries of ostensibly of-age chicks (but then, nobody was checking IDs at the studio door) with runs of synth guitar and rhythms that Daft Punk would have Nile Rogers killed for! Plus, the b-side of the single is a remix of their RTX song “TV Trouble” by the one-and-only Hot Chip, who we assume are somebody! Even if they’re not, they strip out “TT” and fill it up again with angel-light radiations of groove, and it transcends. Awesome dance single for an awesome rock album with prismatic beams flickering in its eyes. “Physical Emotions,” available for you to feel now, Electric Brick Wall for you to be driven up in June. Black Bananas, what!
ALONG CAME A RIDER
The future, whatevs - sure, but we’ve got stuff out now too. Who doesn’t? That’s the business. The trick is, what are we all gonna do about the stuff we put out last month? Here’s one answer: let’s talk about that shit. In March we put out the Dead Rider album Chills On Glass, and we felt pretty good about that. We’ve loved Todd Rittmann for years, since he spearheaded the four-figured no-count outfit known as U.S. Maple. Todd’s guitar playing and composing are unlike everyone else’s and now that he’s three albums in to the Dead Rider thing (the first album was credited to D. Rider, get it), he’s just kicking so much ass. The album is a sleek supercollider of rock and roll elements, ranging from the trash-assed to the elephant-bottomed to the elegance of the chamber-born, and the whole of it is, like, so completely realized from stem to stern – topgallants included! We knew this was seaworthy craft, so prior to the release date, we discussed with Dead Rider how they totally needed to play, like, EVERYWHERE, and they agreed, they said they’d get to it. Everyone says that, by the way. You get used to that in this game, everyone wants to make a record, but nobody wants to pay the toll And yet! The album release came and there they went, Dead Riding out, ready to conquer the world once again with their music unlike anybody else’s for a week or two out east – and it’s kinda easy to connect the dots out east, where there’s always a city coming up down the road. We were glad of it, naturally, but then when they came back to town to play their homecoming gig, we found out right then that we should have been ecstatic. What we saw them do there was play just about the best damn rock show IN AGES. It was tight-ass rock with wild solo sections and breakdowns that just about broke our mind! It swung, it was high-strung, there was a bit of theatre – rock-opera style, without a lot of words ruining it – just something that soared and told a story while it did it! Thick synths, screaming guitar, backing vocals, a couple trumpets and an incredible drum clinic going on too. Just really awesome performing, the crowd loved it and we felt exactly the way you’re supposed to feel at a show. Like, young. Or in our case, younger anyway. You can do it too – there’s lots more Dead Rider dates coming up, including a nice little run to the west coast, which wasn’t something we were taking for granted. But them in SF with a bunch of those bitter-yet-well-monied weirdos in the house, it’ll be something. And don’t get the idea that we’re talking about a band that’s just awesome live. They are, but they managed to deliver an incredibly glossy studio album that also rocks and sways and thrusts and plunges and THEN they do it total justice live. It makes listening to the album even more fun. That’s Chills On Glass by Dead Rider – what we’d call essential listening in 2014. Don’t be dumb – check it out.
Also amazing and in March was the Woo album, When the Past Arrives. Woo’s been around for ages, making records when we were still pissing our didies (in high school!). Now that you’re doing the same (we don’t judge, we just accuse), why not give a listen? Woo’s the bedroom project of Mark and Clive Ives. The 80s was their breakthrough time, but they’d begun making records in their curious way in the early 70s, sequestered in their house in Wimbledon UK. Things like krautrock and Eno were inspiring no doubt, but they used a bit of clarinet, guitar and some keyboards to make a fragile, gentle sound all of their own. It wasn’t a sound that too many people wanted to touch, and they didn’t get an album out until 1982. Then it took another seven years to get an official release on their second album, It’s Cosy Inside. By the mid-90s, it appeared that the world had heard the last of Woo – but Mark and Clive kept going until the sun wound round to catch them up again. A couple years ago, Yoga Records brought It’s Cosy Inside to our attention and when we reissued it, people began to see the light, because the whole nu ambient thing was beginning to take off. That brings us to the recent present, at last! When the Past Arrives is neither reissue nor new album. These tracks were mostly in some state of completion throughout Woo’s many years, some things coming from the 70s and some from the 80s, with certain overdubs coming years later, some as recently as the nineties, some from the aughts! When we listen to it all together, it has a copacetic quality that even their original albums don’t have. When the Past Arrives has the new age haze in spades, and the drum machines, synths and woodwinds sound utterly fresh. When the Past Arrives is a breeze blowing from the past that’s reached where we stand today at a really nice time. Woo – woo!
HOT IN THE SHADE
As entrepreneurs after a fashion in the business and pleasure of music, we love having a pal like Stephen O’Malley. Sure, he can be kind of scary, but he’s into what we do and he does such interesting things too – plus, he’s got loads of friends that he’s always recording with, so every once in awhile he’ll give us a record he did and it’s got the most amazing players doing really mind-melting stuff. Like that Ensemble Pearl album from last year, teaming him up with guitarist supreme Michio Kurihara and Boris’ drummer Atsuo. Coming from Sunno))), you’d expect Stephen’s two-guitar projects to be absolute noise-fests, but he’s much more of a collaborator than that – he and Kuri found lots of room for each other and did things we definitely didn’t expect – and that’s true with this new record with Oren Ambarchi and Randall Dunn called Shade Themes From Kairos. Like Ensemble Pearl, these guys are expanding on material made for a soundtrack and ending up with a record that has its own thing going on. We’re huge fans of Oren Ambarchi and it’s a gas listening to him and O’Malley putting their styles together, creating loads of space more than filling it, and taking paths neither one have done before. Plus, there’s a nice set of analog keyboard textures woven into the space by Randall Dunn. At times, it’s jammy in a 70s Miles kind of (silent) way, and possessed of an acoustic guitar song too (!?!), Shade Themes From Kairos is a very colorful production, expanding effortlessly over four sides. Featuring artwork from modern master of the uber-macabre, Dennis Kostromitin, Shade Themes From Kairos is a very complete, yet spontaneously charted journey. Coming in May!
BOOGIE WITH A SUITCASE
Also in May, “The Radio-Video EP” is back in circulation! On the run and having fun back in 1999 were the late-lamented, one-and-only, worst-to-first, try-some-buy-some, tempest-in-a-teacup, Adam-and-Eve-cast-out-of-the-garden of 90s rock and roll, Royal Trux. They’d been to the majors and back, making a couple of insanely great albums for mass public consumption (guess what? Virgin blew it, man) and then taking a buy-out to make more classic records for us in the form of Accelerator and Veterans of Disorder. In the early part of their career, they were an albums-and-singles band, but by this time, their creative drive was so well-tuned that they could be counted on for an inter-album EP even when it wasn’t quite a year between records. The “3-Song EP” blasted swampy grooves in between the metallic fizz of Accelerator and the grab-bag of styles perfectly upended on Veterans. And that brings us to the latest entry in our Royal Trux reissue roll-out, “The Radio-Video EP.” Veterans of Disorder had some pretty wack moves that had left us with our jaws on the floor in pure admiration, but “The Radio-Video EP” was straight stupid, and we’re singing along with it still. Drawing from the modern-R’n’B side of the radio dial circa 1999, the body of the record plays off that facile bounce, aggro’d up and tweaked Trux style, with both Neil and Jennifer trading off verses with coarse hip-hop style – loads of jut-jawed braggadocio, cultural references and mega-dry humor on top of beats and faux-sampled soul melodies, but all of it juxtaposed so opaquely, even Steely Dan would be hard-pressed to sort it out. In the center of it all was a bit of poetry recitation on the topic of a “Victory Chimp” set against a hard-driving beatnik-inspired bongo jam-out. The whole thing was so wrong it was right! Smelling bucks, music supervisors leased “The Inside Game” for the High Fidelity film, but “Dirty Headlines” and “On My Mind” would have worked just as well. Listening to the fresh-plated test pressing, “The Radio-Video EP” is just as amazingly fucked as it was then. Back on LP for the first time in ten years, “The Radio-Video EP” represents Royal Trux in their late-period height of powers. Coming in May!
GOT A FEELING
What a great year, 2014. Just loving the vibe, and the records are simply smashing! Can’t ask for anything more. Except – hey, it’s been kind of weird, nothing from Ty Segall since Sleeper last fall. He did that Fuzz record and tours for our esteemed peers-petition, but since the dawn of the year, other than some shows, what’s he got? Is it writer’s block? Or will there be five albums by the new year? Dunno, but FUCK the idea that he’s got no idea – we just got the the new single in, and DAMN. “Feel” is the name of the A-side and it is two things – a) a thrasher with high-flying spiritural lyrics, and b) a thrasher with the basic riff played on acoustic. Yes, the guitars eventually come in and WIN, but before that, there’s a grooviness to it that is pretty great, even as it rocks us OUT. And an extended percussion break-down…some new flavors afoot in Ty-land! The B-side is a mega-mellow acoustic tune called “The Fakir,” that will burn your candles down to the bottom of the stick. For a single, Ty’s given us a hell of an all-nighter – all you gotta do is keep flipping. May 20th is the date.
Also in May is the CD version of Andrea Belfi, David Grubbs, Stefano Pilia’s first record, Onrushing Cloud. After the second album Dust & Mirrors, came out on LP and CD back in February, it was clear that the first album should be on CD too. So hear it is, coming in May.
IS JUNE TOO SOON?
Yeah, time is moving unconscionably fast, it’s true. Here it is April and we’re still writing ‘2000’ in our checkbook. And we’re still WRITING IN OUR CHECKBOOK. So clearly, shit’s getting behind us. But if you think June is coming on too quickly, that’s just cruel. Why would you want to delay any longer in taking the sonic acid-bath that Black Bananas have drawn for you? It’s hot, there’s bubbles of an uncertain nature and you’re gonna be thoroughly cleansed by it. Electric Brick Wall is the name, and turning your mind on its ear is the game (FYI, it’s a different ear than the ones on your head – anatomically correct ed.). Plus, in and amongst the sonic squalor are some of the best songs of the year! “Physical Emotions” is just the tip of the iceberg – actually, it’s its own iceberg and the other ten songs are also floating there in the darkness, and they’re all gonna run into your ship from all sides and you’re gonna sink, thousands will die - from the awesomeness of freakin’ crazy new rock music!! As was rumored, there are two songs credit to both Hagerty and Herrema – the first of their sort since before the breakup of Royal Trux back in the year 2000. So that’s like, really weird. Since it’s now the future, such things can be done in different rooms, on different hard drives and nobody has to talk to each other, which makes it easier – and better too, right? The future has to be better, otherwise what are we doing there? Whatever; also in June is – wait for it – the former other half of Royal Trux, Neil Michael Hagerty and his once and current other half, The Howling Hex! Small world! So weird. Neil’s been submerged in Howling Hex action for ten years now – in fact, this is his first personal credit on an album since 2003. If this implies changes afoot to you, nice call Shakespeare – the “Fool’s Watch” 10” single departs from the past couple Howling Hex LPs in ways both subtle and extreme…ly stimulational! Both songs are extended performances, based in Border Sound beats before departing into other rhythms and textures that are intensely thrilling! Loads of surprises on this one. It’s packaged nicely as well, with a limited run and a steep price tag to encourage only the BEST kind of customer. Good luck, NMH&THH – we’ve been looking for (and finding) that person for 25 years now…Also in June and also very limited and very expensive is a record from television’s own Pusswhip Banggang. Their song “Jambalaya” was debuted on Adult Swim, but this special studio version has been whipped up especially for Pusswhip’s “Swamp Rock” tour of the Deep South. Excessively packaged, the “Jambalya” 12” has everything you want from a single – plus the songs! This is a record that has to be seen and heard to be believed – and there are people out there who want to see and hear such things, so we’re pretty excited about that.
Also in June is a new 7” single on GOD? from the Chicago hard-metal outfit ZATH. It’s precision-rage-rock and we expect that this will burn down the singles scene – but hopefully not for good, as GOD? has another amazing single slated for July. More on which soon.
Because – July! That’s when things start to get REALLY insane. We’re not gonna talk about it yet, because of this thing called anticipation? Maybe you heard of it while you were putting condiments on your hamburger or hot dog? It’s a good thing, you should definitely try it sometime.
So whatever. You’ll hear from us soon. Until then, have fun on the internet. You know. On your PHONE –
Because we love you,
Drag City Inc.