The Drag City Newsletter November 17, 2009

posted November 17th, 2009

Welcome back to good old Drag City – lucky you, you get to go home between updates! Some of us never leave. Like the essentially homeless types that we are, we’re hunkered up, noses to grindstones (each desk comes equipped with one), trying to get down and get ’er done like the true Americans that we are (now it can be revealed!). Music’s our home, really – and before you get any ideas, lyrics aren’t our bible! We’re agnostic at best…but all faiths can worship at the teat of Drag City. Go on with yer – see what we’re about this time.

Actually, for your humble narrator here, the desks that function as our lean-tos have vanished for the past week while a Drag City splinter caravan rolled through selected European countries, taking an annual stock of conditions on the so-called “other side of the pond.” Frankly speaking (as they often do in Europe [except the U.K., that is — cheers!]), we saw what we’re willing to consider great things on this trip. The poor shape of the world-wide economy that’s of great concern to everyone everywhere in all businesses has caused those of us in the music business to address the way our local tradition of business is conducted, attempting to find a golden child in the soiled diaper (as opposed to the usual soiled child in our golden diaper — script-flipping ed.) that some of us feel perfectly describes our scenario. We’ve found our partners ready to meet today’s challenges with energy and flexibility, which is the only way we’ve ever gotten anything done in any era of any stabliity. In short, what this means for the European fans of Drag City, is that we’re confident that you’re going to continue to enjoy the flow of new music and live artistry in 2010. We still want it as long as you do! Americanos, well, the silent treatment may have to continue for another 9 months, until we birth another soiled child, Caesarian-style, natch!


Our November date, on sale for mailorder freaks everywhere the past few weeks, is now in stores for all the rest of you freaks. Why the harsh language, kiddies? Put simple, you’ll have to be a freak to keep some of the new Drag City releases under the same roof with you and your loved one and everything else you value.

The thing that might revolt you most of all is the DVD called Final Flesh, of course – and if it does, we’re sorry (that we’re not sorry!), dear viewer/listener/reader – we thought you were stronger than that. If you’re not strong enough to deal with a surrealistic depiction of the last day of a sexually sophisticated family before the descent of the atomic winter that has its fair share of nudity and dramatically-challenged acting, well then keep your hands off our Flesh! Brought to you by the folks at PFFR (whose shows Wondershowzen and Xavier: Renegade Angel are steady favorites of ours around the home-entertainment center), Final Flesh will cream your demon - among other things worthy of creaming…


And, truth be told, that’s the freakiest release of November – but perhaps the freakiest of all November releases, not just Drag City’s. Still, we’ve got good stuff from other comers as well. Like take Ryan Trevor, another discovery (uncovery?) from Plastic Crimewave’s Galactic Zoo Disks operation what brought you the outsider-punk sounds of J.T. IV and the low-fi 70s synth-pop sounds of The George-Edwards Group. Ryan Trevor’s album Introducing… hails from around 1977 and leans towards the George-Edwards side of things, fashioning melodies of (Emmit!) Rhodes-(Mike!) McCartney-style smoothness, but in a semi-rough-hewn home setting that recalls the sound of R. Stevie Moore, among no others. Trevor was an aspirant musician who’d graduated from a number of bands into a solo career without ever distinguishing himself on record. The polish of the material on Introducing… suggests greater sophistication somehow, but it never really came to anything and this release represents perhaps the second-only issued Ryan Trevor record. As with The George-Edwards Group and J.T. IV, Introducing Ryan Trevor comes in LP format only and in a highly limited form. So buy two and give one for Christmas. To your best friend. Which be your own self.


Also just in time for Thanksgiving are CDs on Blue Chopsticks from Luc Ferrari and David Grubbs that are guaranteed to bring the festivities to a thundering halt. And that’s what you want, isn’t it, you precious showboat? You want to play the musique concrete and the art-installation soundtracks that represent for your generation - isn’t that so, my smug little pretties?

Then this is awesome, you’ve truly come to the right place!

As you no doubt already know, one of the granddaddys of experimental music passed away a couple years back – Luc Ferrari, who put France on the map,way back in the 1960s (nobody’d heard of it before that) with his unique approach to sound construction. He was still going strong thirty-odd years later, when various natural causes stopped his progress. One of his final projects from the early years of this decade was Les Arrythmiques, a sound-cycle that reflected his own experiences in and out of hospital while dealing with the diagnosis and treatment of his heart arrhythmia. Impressed with the idea of an electric wave passing through his heart in order to stimulate it, he was unimpressed with the process as it played out, and decided to create his own stimulation. If only hospital procedures were as vividly hallucinatory as this, we’d create a lot more reasons to get in there than we already do!

Additionally, Blue Chopsticks is issuing its third solo David Grubbs release, this one a true one-man show. Invited to contribute his distinctive music to Angela Bulloch’s sculptural installation “Hybrid Song Box.4,” David put together a short piece on electric guitar, constructing and deconstructing their sound and sequence in the process. Now, you can take it home with you - no, not the sculpture, the sound! Hybrid Song Box.4 is a wonderfully minimal excursion for David, an excursion into the unlikely (a soundtrack for a sculpture!) and a perfect twentieth release for Blue Chopsticks.


Hey, speaking of unlikely soundtracks, Ben “Six Organs of Admittance, man!” Chasny’s got one that he and I both think you’ll like. It’s not the first time that a soundtrack CD’s ever been included in a book, but it might be the first time the book’s ever been included in the soundtrack LP. Ah, even if it hasn’t, the Empty the Sun package is something cool under the sun whichever way you buy it. A product of the mutual admiration (dare we say “respect?”) between Chasny and author Joseph Mattson, whose hard-bitten travelogue of the gutter is well-matched by the spare strokes of Six Organs of Admittance, playing in a style quite different from the last few 6OOA studio albums. As we mentioned above, both the paperback-with-CD and LP-with-LP-sized-book versions of Empty the Sun are awesomely put together, with great prose and music rewarding the close attention given them. Buy one of each and try to play the LP and CD at once while keeping one eye on each of the books! Then you’ll begin to know the psychosis it takes to write this kind of stuff. We don’t envy Joseph and Ben – but we dig selling their shit.


If the November date were the last date of the year, we’d be happy – but since it isn’t, we’re freakin’ delirious! Just in time for your last-minute Christmas shopping, we’ve finally got those Bert Jansch vinyl reissues all sorted. Those of you who’ve just been introduced to his marvelous mid-70s sounds courtesy of the L.A. Turnaround , Santa Barbara Honeymoon and A Rare Conundrum CD releases from over the summer, get ready to buy them on vinyl before re-gifting those silly, useless old CDs to an unsuspecting friend. God, they may be more beautiful in these new sleeves than they were back in the Famous Charisma Label days. But then, we’re biased…

Also in mid-December, Sea Note serves up another round of live awesomeness from Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, whose Sea Note release Summer in the Southeast still blows fans of live awesomeness away two-plus years after its initial release. The new live album is called Funtown Comedown and it is credited to Bonny Billy and The Picket Line, a bluegrass-pickin’ bunch from Bonnie’s home state of Kentucky. After a couple of great gigs, they went to a studio to capture the magic, inviting a studio-load of friends to bring the live vibe. They did, they did, and it is! Featuring the Mayor of Funtown and a cast of dozens, Funtown Comedown will warm the cocks of your heart.


In this newsletter, we’ve rung some bells of doom, pointed some fingers and issued some strongly-worded commands while pontificating at length about some things that could actually be regarded as very tiresome. However, this doesn’t mean that we’re not looking forward to another year. 2010 begins with another entry in the Royal Trux reissue campaign, restoring their deep and creepy third album to circulation. Also in January is Scout Niblett’s new album, her first since spring 2007 and her Drag City long-playing debut. And it’s fantastic, too! Plus, Major Stars are in alignment, with a return to form that’s called…um, with an album that’s called Return to Form, that is. They don’t have to return to form, they never left, okay? And last but most as usual are The Red Krayola with Art & Language, rocking the conceptual boat with a five-song full-length record (take that, Newsom!) called Five American Portraits. Nuff said? Nope – but we’ll leave it there for the moment anyway.


Reaching out from the Brooklyn underground, Lights have made a couple of records (the most recent released on Drag City over the summer…and it’s called Rites, remember kids?), but have remained somewhat bound to their multipolitan stomping grounds while a booking agent was located to relocate their jet-set sounds to various darkened locations around the world who deserve Lights. Now it’s happening and they’re out there! But are you? A band’s gotta build their following bit by bit, and that’s what they’re doing right now – body by single fucking body. Things’ll perk up a bit when they head out on the road with Bill Callahan (remember him? He put out your favorite album of the year way back in April? No? Goddamn fast-moving modern world...) in December – he’s been at this awhile, and bodies usually pile up at the clubs he plays. So that’ll be fun.


On the other side of the big ditch, Monotonix are subjecting the EU to the kind of treatment they’ve been lavishing on the US for the past two years – extensive touring, with a dive-bombing live show at least once a day! Playing most of their new Where Were You When It Happened? as well as last years’ “Body Language,” Monotonix supply an evening of high-energy rock and roll with an emphasis on the physical. If you’re in the U.K., Germany, France, Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, Slovenia, Poland and/or Czech Republic, check them out. It’ll change your mind about live music – even if you love it, you’ll still be transformed into loving it even more.

Also traipsing down the garden path of Europe is Scout Niblett, fresh off finishing an album (set for release in January, woo hoo!). She’s got just about a month out there and she plans to come back again next year. Scout’s honor - she’ll be there!

If Europe isn’t where it’s at, it’s definitely where it’s going to be at – OM’ll prove this theory in December and January, when they too put in some time there, there and everywhere in their quest for the neverending, the always, the infinite. God Is Good – but OM’ll rock ya! Six Organs of Admittance is doing the same all through December – if you need Shelter From the Ash, duck into one of his shows, and you’ll see the Luminous Night. Shoo, this is fun!

December’s a fun time on both sides of the water for the reinvigorated Papa M. He’s visiting his 1999 classic Live From a Shark Cage in toto at ATP on December 12th, and he’ll warm up for the gig with one at the Knitting Factory in NYC in another couple days, after which he’ll cool down with yet another all-LFaSC gig at CafÉ du Nord in San Fran-muther-fuckin’-cisco. We’re glad you came back, Papa – now make us a new classic and we can start sleeping again at night.

If you’re out and about in January, be sure to take that extra step and get thee to Japan, where David Grubbs will be playing four shows with NoÍ«l AkchotÉ. It isn’t actually that often that David gets to Japan, where they’ve appreciated him since the days of Gastr del Sol. So that’s a must-do – call your travel agent.

If you can’t make it to ATP or anywhere else in the good old world anytime soon, then you’re like us. Fuck the world, we’re going great gigs here in the U.S. too. Neil Hamburger’s opening for Pucifer in November and December and Sic Alps are touring the west coast with a vengeance in December and January. Espers are slowing kicking their engines into gear on the east and west coast, some dates with AZITA. But what about the mid-west coast? Sob!


The occasion hasn’t been built to put us out of commission…yet. We’ve got inventory coming up before we break for the year and one more newsletter before that. Once we’ve got everything counted up, we’ll let you know where we stand – but where we stand today is on the rocket flying forward into the brave old future. It looks shite – but we’re going anyway!

See you there.

Rian Murphy

Drag City Inc., November 2009