Tuesday, October 30, 2007

On The Fall Line, Someone's Giving It All Back, Goin' Down

On The Fall Line

When I was a kid, I was into light reading like The Book of Revelation and Hal Lindsay's pop concordance The Late Great Planet Earth.

It was a matter of time before some song of mine would reflect an end of the world vibe. Though this could have as much to do with Randy Newman's "Burn On".

Someone's Giving It All Back

From water in flames and sundry apocalypse, we turn to the mystery of a world suddenly ours.

Goin' Down

Ah, that ever lovin' debt postmodernity (or life of any stripe) owes the dust beneath the dust beneath. Or, if that's too opaque or somber, I'll quote Futurama: "vaguely folkish alterna-rock."

Monday, October 29, 2007

Middle of May, Not The Place, Still We Love

Middle of May

Not The Place

Still We Love

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Running Scared, Mary Magazine, Justine

Running Scared

(UPDATE: This song & the ones below now out on Six Songs In July.)

In the late spring, early summer of 1984 I was malingering in a house some friends Jenny and Jim were subletting on Baker Street in Charlottesville. Yeah, watching cable (my first extended exposure to MTV), washing dishes at an Indian restaurant (until I was fired), eating lentils (and little else).

And recording songs on an 8-track reel-to-reel that Brian Daley was nice enough to let me use. Indeed it was Brian's generous offer, with no prompting from me. Downtime when he and his band mates from Rude Buddha weren't recording in the basement, I could thread a scratch reel of tape and record a song of my own.

In spite of my lack of experience with serious recording equipment, I recorded four songs. Running Scared was one of those.

Mary Magazine

While Running Scared had already been written weeks before, I believe Mary Magazine had just been written.

I only recall that in the months previous, when I'd lived above a pipe shop that mostly sold sweatshirts, my neighbor Sean was constantly playing Elvis Costello's Imperial Bedroom. I loved that record, every damn song on it, and could not get sick of hearing it. So you can blame Sean and Elvis for the above.


Here and in the other songs above there's the beat of a Synsonics drum machine. It was a fun gizmo and I'd used it for a while by this point. An early rack delay of Brian's gave the guitar its gallop. I think there's a keyboard part in there somewhere played on a tiny Casio my friend Jim had.

It's Time, the fourth song, is good in some ways and embarrassing in others. I'll sneak it on when no one's looking.

Aside from Rude Buddha, I recall Baby Opaque playing at Baker Street. The guitarist Todd was an actual (i.e. non-malingering) housemate. The drummer Michael was one of the first person in my undoubtedly sheltered life to mention Weekly World News.

After several weeks in this house of music, it was time to malinger someplace else. My friend Bob and I flew standby on People Express to England and wended our way to Paris . . .

Another Good Morning, Busker's Holiday, Rubber Band Z-Box Blues

Another Good Morning

Busker's Holiday

Rubber Band Z-Box Blues

Breathe and Sway, Dream Song, Spiritus Monday

Breathe and Sway

Dream Song (Open So High)

Spiritus Monday

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Veteran's Day, Listen, Music and Candlelight

Veteran's Day

Here's another fave of mine, another bigger and better than me surprise.

Being just enough of a geek to connect my old two tapedeck recording setup to a mixing board (my bandmate Dale's ARP gizmo), I could do almost decent recording of songs. Something of a old habit that was now half-justified (& half-obviated) by playing in a band. I could record demos . . .

Being more of a control addict than a team player, I'd get all fancy with the production and effects galore. And thanks to Dale, there was a Roland drum machine to do my rhythmic bidding.


This is another demo recording.

There's also a studio version that Dale, band mates Dan and Dan and I recorded as Nobody Home. By that time, the song had been kicking around a while, but I still liked it. I still thought of it as a pleasant surprise.

Music and Candlelight

Years before this recording, my friend Bob and I were loitering in our friend Pete's apartment. It was in Paris, someplace I'd never been and would likely never go again. Montmartre was close by and we could see Sacre-Coeur Cathedral through the window. Strumming along on Pete's classical, this song kinda just fell out of thin air.

In like fashion, this recording came along. Thrown in there was the sound of my brother Alex's verdigris'd saxophone (same one used on Grunt Grunt Pig). Not really planned, not really perfect, it was yet another surprise.

I am responsible for me: 12 Bit Jimson's spooky machine

Some years after the goofy (if gallows) humor of Zsa-Zsa's Bra, I went all Sybil again and sprouted another musical persona: 12 Bit Jimson.

Glen/Harry Glen/Harry was the flagship tune. The most nutty and least problematic of the Jimson armada.

Listening to sensationalist talk radio while processing expense reports for some engineer's business trip to Malaysia, I had my boombox taping (yep, that same boombox . . . pictured here). After hours, I sampled the better parts of what was passing for public discourse, sampled my own absurd two cents worth and there you go.

Wick (Not Exist)
I bothered to send reel tapes of Glen/Harry to a few local college radio stations. But something like Wick, dependent on audio clips taken from a few movies (mostly The Loved One), seemed to be an invitation to litigation. Even in those early, innocent days of sampling everything in earshot.

While it seems the height of hypocrisy that visual artist can freely collage items and appropriate and aural artists can't, such is the way of things.

And though these are my works to which I claim authorship & copyright, I post them here as fun things I did without commercial intent. Add to that my lack of deep pockets and I think we can move on to other controversy . . .

Just so you're warned:

Our next tune plays postmodern havoc with a widely practiced and revered prayer. It also plays havoc with advertising promises, talk radio advice and the male voice of authority. It plays havoc, period.

If that's not your sort of thing, don't go listening to this next tune.

Blesséd (Grace)
Blesséd is a bit like Glen/Harry. Both have exponents of old and new, faith & reason. More important is how in both there's a balance of trust a listener has in one voice or another, perhaps agreeing with words spoken by one but preferring the tone of the other.

I didn't even know the prayer I had sampled was Hail Mary. I wasn't raised a Catholic and I'm not one now. But the tone of the priest in terms of pure sound (low, resonant) and emotion (calm, abiding) is a ground for the whole piece. And yet the sense of the words is held in suspension, floating with the more overwrought, overplayed tone and rhetoric of the other voices. Held in the same skeptical regard.

My personal views aside, I think a more powerful bias of mine is sound over sense, musicality over meaning, context over content.

So the person I should have the most common cause with in Glen/Harry, the man who insists "I am responsible . . .": I really can't trust the guy. He tries too hard, strives too much to be reasonable. In my sonic drama (where this man is only a character, not his full-blooded self), you can hear he's doomed to break from the strain.

There's more to say down the line, about life in the wake of Massive Resistance or some such. Later, maybe.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Left Behind, Right Through

Left Behind

Right Through

(Also on Box.)

As it is with children, it seems bad form to have favorite songs, much less to profess them. Every song or instrumental created has its value, its own identity.

But from terms of ego & striving, some things work out more the way you wanted. And better still, some things surprise you to the point of rising above one's abilities or intentions. The fact that you made them (and may've even made them with noticeable flaws) can't stop them from joining in the mystery of the world at large. And leaving you feeling more humble than proud.

I like being surprised that way.

These songs surprise me, as do some of these others (Be Here Soon, Deep and Drifting come to mind). All of them surprise me here and there, but my faves surprise me most.

Without positing or denying some metaphysical substrate, I see mystery in the world as it exists. And it's nice occasionally to add to that mystery and not simply observe it.

Egypt Lane, Deep and Drifting

Here are a couple of songs I made a few years apart.

Egypt Lane

Deep and Drifting
(Also on Box.)

Both songs mention snow. And both trade in a dim if not dark sort of incandescence that can come from how snow can cover or scatter or hold onto the light.

Egypt Lane was inspired by if not literally about the landscape around a little road of the same name. That landscape figures prominently in a homebrew music video I made for the song. Plus another version. And a recent video of the area.

Deep and Drifting was written about 3 years before with no particular landscape in sight. There's more of a heat without light aspect, a terrain imagined. And the singer, "dressed in white", isn't seeing the snow, he is the snow. A single flake holding on.

Anyway, some friends seem to like Egypt Lane, consider it a favorite. At least one friend likes Deep and Drifting. And as you might guess, I like them both.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Zsa-Zsa's Bra by any other name . . .

Aside from the aforementioned Bengal Burlap, I have assumed many personae to suit my musical purposes.

Here's a couple of tunes done under the guise of Zsa-Zsa's Bra:

Creepy Death Dude

Just Bones

As you may expect, ZZB are just some super sweet biker dude sociopaths whose motto is "Live Free or Kill". Misunderstood by most, they just want a little space of their own in which to live and drive around. "The whole world . . .!"

It was near Halloween I think and I had entirely too much time to think at a mailroom temp job. And thus the notion of ZZB was born.

In my typical untimely fashion, I also, um, had ZZB cover Jessi Colter's "I'm Not Lisa". Then someone pointed out that Killdozer had covered that song. But you know, I saw Killdozer. And fine gents tho' they be, they're no Zsa-Zsa's Bra. So maybe I'll post that cover someday.

Anyway, when I played the ZZB for some old friends down Virginia way, they didn't believe it was me singing. Heh.

Wanting to go out on top, ZZB disbanded so I could go on to develop some additional multiple personalities. But I hear tell that late on a Saturday night you can hear their tunes cranking out of white van riding through Laconia.

Be Here Soon, Unmooningwise

A song and an instrumental from circa 1993 . . .

Be Here Soon (Also on Box.)


Encounters With Insects, Hey Little Darlin'

More of the Bengal Burlap collection, created during that same summer as "Grunt Grunt Pig".

Encounters With Insects

(UPDATE: Encounters . . and Hey Little . . are out on Bengal Burlap, available at Bandcamp.)

Everything of this vintage was created in layers. First I'd record something on one tape recorder, then I'd play the tape on another recorder in the background while adding something new and recording the old & new together on a second tape.

Hey Little Darlin'

Along with any other instrument or gizmo I could lay hands on, I had an MXR flanger I got second hand from my friend/musical mentor/never-to-be bandmate, Mark. I ran practically any sound I could through that flanger, including my voice.

my wife's favorites: Cascade, Lonesone Yodel

These are two of my wife's favorite songs from what I've done.

Cascade is from around the same time as Francis Bacon. (Also on Box.)

Lonesome Yodel is from a few years before that.

She likes plenty of other stuff, including Bengal Burlap (more of that later).

Francis Bacon

Now on Bandcamp, released as part of Mood Wring Reenactment . . .

Francis Bacon (It's also on Box.)

Preferring to jump around in regards to time, style & approach, I'm stopping off circa 1992 when two things happened.

The painter Francis Bacon had died.

And sometime not long before that, a podiatrist at Beth Israel Hospital was nice enough to remove an ingrown toenail in my right big toe.

Not so subjectively speaking, the death of any person, cultural hero or whoever, far exceeds a little outpatient procedure.

But I had never had anything other than a couple of wisdom teeth removed. I was creeped out and I think the doctor was too. And somehow I had retrieved the excised toenail or had some other clipping from before and in morbid facination had drawn a small doodle of it in red ink in a small notebook of drawings & stray lyrical ideas. The image of the clipping met the news of Bacon's death and words were scribbled.

Well, all that and some half-remembered biographical data a friend Dave (himself a damn fine artist) had once read in a bio about Bacon.

It all collided in a swirling musical goulash that seemed an ironical and earnest testimonial to the artist's life, his work and the themes contained therein.

Yeah, I know: big words for a three-minute song.

Later, when I presumed to send out cassettes of this song (and 3 others) to local rock 'zines, it actually jumped out at one reviewer, Francis DiMenno of The Noise. I think the others said the early 90s equivalent of "meh".

Scary video of me playing Francis Bacon live. And not so scary music video.

they call me Mau-rice . . .

Okay, no one calls me Maurice. And this, um, song bears little relation to the Steve Miller Band. Press the play button below (or click here) and we'll continue . . .

Grunt Grunt Pig

(UPDATE: Grunt Grunt Pig is out on Bengal Burlap, available at Bandcamp.)

One old friend, Dom, suggested I make a t-shirt for myself that reads "I am the author of Grunt Grunt Pig".

Sometime back circa 1982 after:

--an even older friend had convinced me to take up the electric bass to play in a band he & I never actually started

--I had heard the records of Fred Frith, Laurie Anderson, Wm. Burroughs, Brother Dave Gardner, the Go-Betweens and heaven knows who else

--I got a Panasonic cassette boombox at Best Products to go with my trusty all-in-one record/cassette/AM-FM stereo

I thought I was some artsy hipster type ready to record some music.

This I believed even though I was actually a twenty year old college student who was spending the summer where I'd grown up--on my parents' hog farm in rural southeastern Virginia. Rows of peanuts, soybeans and corn stretched out to dusty lots where the sounds of metal hog feeder lids clanging shut echoed in the trees beyond.

I was a hick from the sticks. Armed with some obscure records (mostly those of my friend & never-to-be bandmate), aforementioned consumer electronics, some stray musical instruments, and sheer delusions of grandeur.

Many of my friends from around this time who heard the resulting din still think Grunt Grunt Pig is one of best things I ever did. Well, it's certainly one of the first things I ever did. And yes, I like it.

All these years later, no matter how near or far any new bit of music may be to this first thing, I am still the author of Grunt Grunt Pig.

And no one calls me Maurice.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

long beginning: wayohh

Now and then, I'd want some way to incorporate sound into blogging. I'd try an option or so but it seemed kind of a bother.

Plus, as I:

A) was totally unconvinced of the need to share my own music with folks at large

B) only occasionally had a field recording that may be of interest

C) was already crossing the palms of most friends or other interested parties with CD-Rs

I had to wonder if audio blogging was any big deal.

But here, in the spirit of compartmentalization to the nth degree, is an experiment. My third and hopefully final blog: audiokayness.

For, while looking at the sound blog of visual & audio artist Juan Matos Capote, I noticed he was using Twango to host audio files of his DIY electronic contraptions, recent sound collaboration, etc.

So thanks to Juan's initiative & Twango, here's my first submission--a long spacy chant like improv thing I did in '04 called Wayohh. Click on the play icon below (or click here) and away we go.


As the music is here to hear, I'll almost leave it at that:

It's neither typical of what I do, or what I've done. Nor is it all that atypical.

What I may one day explain is the stylistic breadth of what I perpetrate. Generally tho', my stuff is somehow closer to pop music than this.

Have fun. Here and/or somewhere else.