RIP Gary Burger
RIP Gary Burger
The Numero Group’s Wayfairing Strangers (here aptly re-named Warfaring Strangers for this installment) series has always been favorites of ours. The label’s excursions into digging up the lost sounds of an old weird America that was always bubbling slightly below the surface have always proved fascinating. Pulling together lost privately pressed vinyl artyfacts into solid collections that help to document scenes and movements, that in most cases its participants were not even aware of at the time. Previous volumes have focused more on obscure folkies. The latest addition to the series takes a bit of a different yet nonetheless rewarding tack. Darkscorch Canticles is dedicated to the sounds of 16 outsider proto hard rock/metal pioneers mostly committed to tape in the early to mid 1970’s. Most of the bands on this collection never made it past releasing one 45. Disappearing down the rabbit hole of commercial indifference, personal tragedy, the lure of a domestic life or a little bit of all of the above. Despite the cruel fate that would await in these bands in the future, the energy and talent of these groups thankfully was preserved for time immemorial on these black rings of vinyl. Searching for new ways to blow people’s minds and inspired by the doom of such groups as Black Sabbath, these Warfaring Strangers set off on their quest. Old Scratch (a.k.a. The Devil) is name-checked on some of these tunes along with other dark fictional warlords and wizards such as Sauron from The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
The comp kicks thing off on the right foot clocking in with the heavy King Crimson flavored Twelve O’Clock Satanial courtesy of the group Air. Sabbath informed ditties abound as well on tracks like Wrath’s Warlord, Stone Axe’s Slave of Fear and Triton Warrior’s Sealed in a Grave. Stonehedge’s King of the Golden Hall almost starts off like a riff on Hendrix’s If 6 was 9 before settling into a harder groove. Junction’s chugging Sorcerer take it’s cues lyrically from tales of Led Zeppelin’s guitarist Jimmy Page’s dabbling in the dark arts. Space Rock’s Dark Days boasts a surprising blues bent. All of these carefully curated songs just go to show how much potential was here for these young warlords, before they got chopped down in their prime on the battlefields of American suburbia. They fought honorably.
Messala is from Letha Rodman Melchoir’s newest split cassette with her husband Dan Melchior. A supremely sliced and diced puree that once was Janis Ian’s Jesse. An excellent follow up to last years’ equally spooky solo outing, Handbook For Mortals released on Siltbreeze. Purchase both here.
Please read more about her harrowing battle with cancer over at her blog. We strongly encourage you to sign her petition to help make sure those who are receiving hospital care have healthier food options available to them.
Donations can be made here.
The first two images that my brain conjured when listening to Voices in a Rented Room (Drag City) were images of my Dad’s old water damaged Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young albums and listening to a warbly vinyl rip of Gary Higgins’ Red Hash that a friend had burned me. (This was prior to the 2005 reissue.) Voices in a Rented Room is the work of a group calling themselves the New Bums. The duo in question consists of two well travelled souls, Donovan Quinn (Skygreen Leopards) and Ben Chasny (Six Organs of Admittance, Comets on Fire, 200 Years, Rangda, etc). This is their debut album (following a self released 7” entitled Slim Volume via bandcamp). It’s music steeped in the classic folk rock idiom, yet it’s fresh and immediate. Gorgeous intimate stuff that features the dual acoustic guitar interplay of the aforementioned Quinn and Chasny along with cryptic lyrics that resound with stark confessions, tall tales, bleak humors and punch lines.
We were lucky enough to catch up with Ben Chasny long enough for him to answer a few questions about the group and the new album before hitting the road.
Can you tell me a little about the genesis of the New Bums?
We met while neighbors in San Francisco. At first the band just existed for years as a get-together to write songs and bounce ideas off of each other. Then we started doing a few shows and now it turns out we’ve sort of turned it into a more “real band” with an intense touring schedule, etc.
How did the sessions that resulted in the Voices in a Rented Room come together? Does the significance of the title of the album have anything to do with that?
The title comes from a few things. One is the fact that we realized that because of what we do, we will never actually own a home and will probably forever have to rent a room, until we die. The record was actually recorded in our respective rooms. Most of it was done at Donovan’s, in SF, but I did some at home in MA as well.
Were there any direct influences or particular sounds you guys were going for with the direction of the album (and also the Slim Volume 7”)? Any shared favorite albums or artists?
There is no one direct influence on New Bums. We’ve been listening to so much music our whole lives that I’m sure a little of everything slipped in there. For this project we tend to me a little more influenced by songwriters with an emphasis on words. We like rock music that has been pushed through the lens of a more loner or folk lens. We both share of a love of artists like Robyn Hitchcock, Rowland S Howard, stuff like that.
Obviously, you both have other bands and projects that you have been involved with. How was the approach to writing and recording different with this one?
We took every song as it’s own entity. We don’t have a template. Some songs are written 50/50. Some songs have one person write all the words and the other the music. They all get created in all sorts of ways. We’re open to anything.
What does the future hold for the New Bums?
Lot’s of touring, more recording. We already have enough material for another record, which will be more scuzzy, depressing and gnarly. Things are looking good.
"It sounded like he had ghosts coming out of him or something." A preview for the upcoming full length Jandek documentary, I Know You Well. Read our interview with one of the filmmakers, Ashkan Soltani, here. We interviewed him a few months back when he was working on Tuning The Pulse, which was a short film documentary about Jandek.
I have had a long relationship with the band known as Guided By Voices. Like any long relationship, we’ve had our ups and downs. The elation of being a teenager in the mid-90’s catching what they now refer to as the “classic lineup,” on the Alien Lanes tour at The Trocadero in Philadelphia has never really wore off. A show, which after all these years, I still consider one of the finest rock shows I have ever witnessed. There are so many memories I have attached to the music Robert Pollard and his hometown crew made. I’m sure I’m not the only one either. I can still remember driving around with my pals going crazy singing along to a cassette I dubbed of the semi-boot Crying Your Knife Away weeks after the show (where I purchased it) or having the newly purchased Under The Bushes Under The Stars CD on repeat while my old drummer and I pulled an all-nighter to finish our high school term papers (we both flunked, if I recall). These memories are just the tip of the iceberg, there are so many more. The music became of part of me. It got in my bones. They were a working class band, a group that never gave up on the dream. Eventually, they caught a break and made it into one of the littlest leagues of rock possible. They even got called up to the majors for a spell (See; Do The Collapse and Isolation Drills). In 1997, when the band shifted and jettisoned all of it’s original Dayton crew. I tried to get with the change. I was lucky enough to get to interview Robert Pollard on the Mag Earwig tour with Guided By Verde (the original band was replaced by Cleveland rockers Cobra Verde) at The Westbeth Theater. He told us (a rag tag crew consisting of my wife, our friend Chris and myself), all about the origin of the track Hanks Little Fingers from Devil Between My Toes and how he thought Forever Since Breakfast sucked. I’m still embarrassed that I handed him one of the first lo-fi demos I had made for my then new band/project, Kid Icarus (it was terrible). Even though we had a blast that night, drunk on malt liquor, the privileges of youth and college radio access; I think something was lost for me as far as the group went that was never reclaimed, at least not for a long time. The years went by, the lineup continued to shift. More and more albums got made and I became more and more of a casual fan. The need to have every single obscure 7” and b-side waned. It wasn’t that the albums were bad necessarily, it just seemed they lacked a certain type of magic. Perhaps, I had outgrown them or maybe it was that the band was outgrowing me. In all likelihood, it was probably a little bit of both. GBV went on to mutate and tour until they called it quits in 2004. Magic is not easy to come by and neither are magical bands. Robert Pollard and his Dayton lineup were and still are.
Flash forward to 3 years ago, Guided By Voices returned from the dead with the “classic” lineup. My wife and I returned to Trocadero in true mid-90’s style to catch them on their first tour back. It was music that was the soundtrack of our early years together. They were great. A little older and perhaps a little less nimble, but still intact. Little did I know, this would be our last rock show for a while. We would find out less than a month later, we would be expecting our first child. We were all getting older, I suppose. I even tried to learn, Your Name Is Wild (a song which Pollard wrote for his daughter) for our daughter. I could just never get it to sound right though. I still remember my eyes misting up a little when I told my wife I was going to try and learn it for her.
All of this brings us to Motivational Jumpsuit; it’s the fifth record (in three years) by New Era GBV. The output of the still somewhat newly reformed outfit, while most definitely prolific has been somewhat erratic. There have been hits, misses and everything in-between from GBV version 2.0. The first three LPs from 2012 range from the experimental mixed bag of weirdness that is Let’s Go Eat The Factory to the smoother, more consistent Class Clown Spots a UFO and finally the (in my opinion) near-perfect Bears For Lunch. I like to imagine an alternate universe where Bears For Lunch was the follow up album to Under The Bushes Under The Stars. Is that weird? It probably is. Last years’, English Little League seemed overlong and underdone. Motivational Jumpsuit is the first record that is really new since I started my foray into music writing with this blog and the first of 2014. It hits almost all of the sweet spots for a GBV fan. It’s like musical comfort food for aging indie rock types (myself included). The album kicks off with Littlest League Possible, a not so subtle commentary by Pollard on his view of where the band stands in the Rock and Roll hierarchy. Tobin Sprout checks in with his trademark brand of wobbly swirling gentle indie rock flavored psychedelia; such tunes as Jupiter Spin, Record Level Love and Shine prove to be highlights while also providing a swirling counter point to Pollard’s more Who-inspired bombast and swagger. Rock moves which Pollard displays in full force on such tracks as Difficult Outcast and Breakthrough. There are also tunes that recall the feel good mid-fi crunch of Under The Bushes Under The Stars (See; Planet Score and Save The Company). Zero Elasticity sounds like a modern upgrade of something that would have shown up on a collection of unreleased pre-fame chestnuts like King Shit and The Golden Boys. For an album, which clocks in at less than 40 minutes, it covers a lot of ground and also provides a good amount of variety. At the end of the day, will Motivational Jumpsuit replace your copy of Bee Thousand, Alien Lanes or any of the other classic ’90s albums in the pantheon of your top 3 favorite GBV LPs (you know all GBV fans have those, right)? In all honesty, it will probably not. It is however, a consistently solid record from a magical band who hails from the magical land of Dayton, OH. We’re lucky to have them back still making music (drum set feuds and all). There’s nothing wrong with that in my book.
Kid Icarus - Bad Timing Now
Over the weekend, I got this touching letter about love from Eric Schlittler:
My name is Eric and I wanted to share a little about my latest tape and myself with you and your readers.
"Another black day is dawning. Just you and your broken heart; the feeling everything is falling apart."
As I sang the lyrics to this song, I had little idea what a self-fulfilling prophecy they would turn out to be. It’s early Winter, 2013. I’m singing a song I wrote for my band Kid Icarus in my friend Nate’s home studio in Scranton, PA. I’ve sang a lot of Kid Icarus songs in various living rooms, basements, bars and private homes in Pennsylvania since I began recording under the Kid Icarus moniker around 1996. The music I make would probably be considered by most to be a strain of lo-fi indie rock. Inspired by the high school sounds of Sonic Youth, Sebadoh, Guided by Voices and Pavement; along with a million obscure 7”s and The Velvet Underground (of course). Have there been other music projects that have called themselves Kid Icarus? Sure, but I would like to think I might be the first to use it. What started as a solo recording project slowly evolved into a band organically over time. With lots of good friends joining me on my quixotic quest and bringing unique contributions, which only helped to make each release its own.
There has never a big breakthrough success for Kid Icarus. A little critical acclaim, an offer to make another record and the sheer force of will; has been enough to keep the project and the band going all these years. It’s partially our own fault; we’ve done little in the way of touring. Instead, I decided to put our efforts and finances towards making the best music possible on a shoestring budget, pressing small runs on CD, vinyl or tape and sending them all over creation. It was and is the economics of a dream.
Shortly after those aforementioned 2013 sessions that would birth and an all but almost totally ignored split 12” with our good friends, Cold Coffee, came the diagnosis. My wife, Cassie was diagnosed with cancer. My best friend since 1994 and wife since 2009, Cassie often lent her voice, art, support, critical ear and even one of her own songs to Kid Icarus. In the early days, it was mostly just she & I mucking around on my cassette 4 track or boom box, singing made up songs about vegetable girls, turtle soup and other unmentionables.
As the Summer of 2013 crept upon us, the dark cloud of sickness loomed large with so many appointments, treatments, preventative measures and surgeries. A distraction from the darkness came in the form of an offer from my friend Matt from Hope for the Tape Deck. An offer to compile a Kid Icarus rarities anthology for his newly minted tape label. The evenings were now filled with attic excavations, digging through mountains of CD-Rs filled with demos, the humming of my old 4 track and lots of great memories of days and people, now long gone. The Summer wore into Fall and the mountain of newly reclaimed tunes was whittled into what approximated a single volume anthology of highlights.
It’s now Winter 2014 and my box of tapes have just arrived from the label. I called it, Dig Archaeology - 13 Years of Lost Songs. The tapes looked great; replete with old school faux Columbia Records style “Nice Price” cassette trappings (courtesy of Cassie) and a picture of her & I on the front. A picture taken some 10 years earlier, an old publicity photo for a public that never seemed too interested. As I opened the tape to inspect the interior art, I noticed a ghostly photo of her lined up perfectly to where the tape rests on the inside of the j-card. There she was staring back at me: standing in the hallway of our old apartment from so long ago. I had a moment of realization that she truly has and has always been my muse. Now, there is much to look forward to. My wife is now cancer free and we are both free of those dark Summer days.
Read more Letters to YVYNYL
As I mentioned once before, I try not to “cross the streams,” and let talk about my own projects show up on here too often. In this case though, I will make an exception.
Morgan Delt’s new self titled album on Trouble in Mind Records has definitely kicked off the new year in the right direction. (See also; our previous post on Doug Tuttle. This label is on fire right now.) Delt’s latest is a sprawling slice of neo psychedelic wonderment and a joy to wrap your head around. Morgan was kind enough to answer a few questions about tapes, time travel, touring, ghosts and more. Enjoy!
Last years release Psychic Death Hole was released on cassette. Are you a fan of the format? Do you have any special memories tied to albums you bought or listened to on tape? Do you have a favorite or preferred recording medium?
I never really bought any prerecorded tapes and wasn’t a big tape fan growing up but I had a bunch of tapes that friends dubbed for me. I like a lot of the labels that are putting out cassettes now though. They’re fun to collect because they’re small and cheap. I used to record on a cassette 4-track but now I prefer to use the computer.
What are some of your favorite psychedelic rock albums? What were you listening to during the making of the album?
I was listening to a lot of LA stuff at the time, especially the LA nuggets boxset, and a compilation of stuff from WEA records. But also records like The Smoke, October Country, The Ballroom, and The Dovers. My all time favorites would probably be Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Safe As Milk, and Easter Everywhere.
Can you tell me a little bit about how you got started making music?
I started playing violin when I was 4 and then eventually guitar, piano, singing etc. I did a lot of performing as a kid, played in various bands in my teens, and then got really into home recording.
Any touring plans?
No concrete plans yet, but I’m working on getting a band together now and hope to start playing shows pretty soon.
Can you tell us little about the recording of your new album? Do you prefer working in Analog, Digital or both?
It’s all digital and then I record the final mixes to tape. I love all of the digital tools and I feel like the original wave of psychedelic music was all about using the latest technology and gadgets of the day, so it only makes sense to explore everything that’s available.
Are you into time travel?
I do like music that transports you to another place or time which is like an imprecise form of time travel. The impossibility of it is what makes it interesting though. If I try to capture a specific atmosphere or state of mind that I’ve experienced in the past, you will never be transported to that exact moment, but hopefully it will trigger something from your own memory that’s somehow related.
Listening to your record gave me the impression you might have a good ghost story? Am I right or wrong and if I’m right do you care to share?
When I was a kid, I did wake up once and see a glowing green guy in my room but I don’t really believe in ghosts now. I think it was probably some kind of false awakening or lucid dream, which happens to me fairly often
I’ve really been really digging Chicago, IL based imprint Trouble In Mind Records' last few offerings. There have been some real fine slices of modern psychedelia coming from that direction as of late. Let's take this track for example, from former MMOSS guitarist Doug Tuttle's self-titled, debut solo album. It doesn’t stop there either, the rest of the album is chock full of surprise left turns and homages to the best of your Dad’s (or maybe even Granddad’s) hip record collection; all while keeping one foot firmly implanted in the hazy and ever shifting present.
Prologue: It’s a summer evening, sometime in the early aughts. I’m at a county fair with my brother in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley. The now-reformed Box Tops are playing two sets that evening. Between sets, Alex Chilton saunters out from behind the bandstand. A few rush the front of the stage area to get an autograph or a picture. I’m one of them. I hand him my copy of Like Flies on Sherbert and a sharpie. He shoots me a bemused look and signs it. A heavy-set guy in a Big Star T-Shirt shouts to Alex, “How does it feel to be an Alternative Rock god?” Alex replied dryly, “It doesn’t feel like anything.”
"I don’t trust my memory," commented Ross Johnson during our conversation via telephone. A near sub zero temperature Pennsylvanian talking to a warm blooded Tennessean in the dead of winter. It’s now 2014 and we’re talking Alex Chilton and the sessions that birthed his still controversial Like Flies on Sherbert album back in the late 1970’s. Ross was Alex’s drummer for a spell during that tumultuous era, in addition to being a purveyor of his own special brand of self described “Asylum Rock.” (For those intrigued, please make sure to check out, Make It Stop: The Most of Ross Johnson on Goner Records.) We talked about a time that saw a big star like Alex shedding so many of the properties that would later propel him to a kind of power pop/cult musician sainthood with the rediscovery of Big Star’s recorded output. Back then it was all about stripping everything down; forget carefully layered melodies, rehearsing or planning. Ross was on his way to a wet-t-shirt contest the night of the first session of the album. Alex asked him to, “come down and play something.” Ross decided to take him up on his invitation. To Ross, the situation all seemed a bit forced, with Alex and legendary producer Jim Dickinson “mugging” for the NEA grant funded video collective (which among its members would include future collaborator Gustavo Antonio a.k.a. Tav Falco) filming the proceedings along with legendary photographer William Eggleston. Some of raw footage can be viewed here. “Alex was very interested in the album Here Come The Warm Jets. Alex knew what he wanted and what he didn’t.” The sessions would prove to be a chaotic exercise in art damage and capturing music in the moment. Mr. Johnson hopped on board for the ride. He was even asked to contribute some of his own unique brand of spoken word vocals to Baron of Love Pt. II. A track born out of some riffing on a Johnny “Guitar” Watson ditty. A song which Chilton, according to Ross, perversely chose to kick off the original U.S. pressing of the album with. The resulting album would prove to be a line in the sand for some fans of Alex’s work. Those who prefer Alex’s power pop tendencies, will not find much to love here; while those who prefer more his more subversive and destructo impulses will find themselves quite at home. The album also planted the seeds for Alex’s collaboration with the Panther Burns (which included Ross as drummer for a time).
Ross and a talented line up decided to pay homage and recreate the album live to commemorate Alex’s birthday. “4 out of the 9 people are dead. Moralities became an issue,” stated Ross. Mortalities that include Alex Chilton himself in addition to Lee Baker, Sid Selvidge and Jim Dickinson. According to Hold Steady guitarist Steve Selvidge, “It was something that Ross had been wanting to do for a while, I think.” He explained, “Well, my dad, Sid Selvidge and Alex were friends. He used to come over to the house a lot. I was about 10 and just starting to play guitar. I was really impressed with Alex’s guitar playing. Anyway, his albums were just around the house. I remember finding the hole punched, promo copy of Radio City and thinking it was so far out. And, my dad’s label Peabody Records put out the original Flies LP, so that was there. Flies really influenced me as a musician. It taught me the importance of really capturing a moment in a take. Rather than trying to get rid of any ‘imperfections’ you just get the right players and embrace the chaos.” The resulting Like Flies on Sherbert Redux show (presented by Goner Records) featured a lineup in addition to Ross and Steve, that included Jake Vest, Jeremy Scott, Kip Uhlhorn, Alex Greene, Adam Woodard (along with guest appearances from Msr Jeffrey Evans, Richard James, Marcella Renee Simien) and Alex’s former Big Star’s 3rd/Like Flies on Sherbert era muse/collaborator Elizabeth Hoehn (a.k.a. Lesa Aldridge), performing a spirited run through of the album’s material on December 28th 2013. The result is as respectful and honest of an homage as is possible for material that by its design had little regard for either of those sentiments in the first place.
Stream the whole concert here, courtesy of the Beale Street Caravan.
While it remains uncertain if this reunion to recreate/reconstruct one of Alex Chilton’s most controversial LPs will happen again or become an annual event. While Ross Johnson felt the reception to the performance was mixed and thought the performance walked a fine line. Steve seemed a bit more positive, “I was very, very happy with how the show came out. Playing and singing I’ve Had It with Elizabeth Hoehn (Lesa Aldridge) was a highlight for sure. I felt exceedingly proud to be a Memphis musician. I would like to do it again, but I think it best to let some time pass and let that gig be kind of special for a while.”
Editor’s note: Please also be sure to check out Omnivore Records' reissue of Sid Selvidge's The Cold of the Morning originally released in 1976. It’s an acoustic, folk, blues, singer songwriter masterpiece. Produced by Jim Dickinson and released initially on Peabody. According to his son, “it’s the perfect distillation of my dad’s God given gift as a singer and his studied talent as a guitarist.”