Tag Archives: Lustmord

Tame eclecticism: Think outside the box inside this box

Friends have picked on me before, saying, “He’ll listen to any kind of crap!” Meaning they thought I enjoyed some music that was unquestionably bad. Far from it. I judge music just like anyone else does: Is this good or does it suck? In fact, some of those people enjoy bands that I would describe as sucking. What they REALLY meant was I liked some music they didn’t see how anybody could like. I will cop to that.

I love a wide variety of music and often describe my musical tastes as eclectic. A friend recently noted however that the term eclectic seems to be evolving into a genre of sorts, one that doesn’t exactly have the same meaning I give it. He describes it as “liking music no one can deny has some universal quality.”

He bases his observation largely on a KUT radio show called Eklektikos (on Austin’s NPR station on 90.5 FM) and an online station called Radio Paradise (which describes itself as “eclectic rock radio”). I’ve listened to Eklektikos a lot more than Radio Paradise, but I can say I enjoy both immensely. I can listen for as long as I have time, and I will hear music I might not have heard otherwise. I can also just about guarantee I will like every song they play.  And the fact that I do like every song makes me think my friend might be onto something.

While they do play a lot of different types of music — especially Eklektikos — I know in my bones that If I subbed as a DJ and played what I wanted to play, I would very quickly put something on that would cause the people in charge to say, “Don’t you ever play that again.” (I’m thinking of things like Coil, Lustmord, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum or even Mr. Bungle. If I found people who wanted to play those, I’d probably piss them off by wanting to play the Eagles or ZZ Top. That’s how I roll.)

There does seem to be a restriction on those examples that i can’t exactly put my finger on. While the fans of Eklektikos are very open-minded and enjoy being exposed to new music from unexpected directions, there are probably some directions most of them wouldn’t want to go. I think what it might come down to is the music shouldn’t be too challenging.

My mind is now open to the point that I don’t just enjoy listening to music from many genres or from genres I didn’t expect to like, I actually get a big kick out of artists who give me something I actively hate when I first hear it, who are able to convince me that I should love it. I like to be challenged. Of course there are times when I like to stick with old favorites and things that sound good from the beginning, but if that’s all I listen to, I will eventually get bored. My brain has to be spanked occasionally or I’m not happy.

I’m not sure if the two examples I mentioned are enough to judge whether eclectic is becoming a genre or not. In the spirit of questioning labels, however, I’m not going to cede the territory. Until I can think of something better, I’ll continue to call myself eclectic and mean what I think it means.

And don’t get me wrong. I highly recommend both the Eklektikos on KUT (and other great KUT shows as well) and Radio Paradise.

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Music genres – handles or pigeonholes? (probably both)

It’s a common complaint from musicians: “I don’t do goth/post-rock/folk/trip hop/indie/prog (or whatever). You can’t pigeonhole me!”

Same thing with fans. I’ve read a ton of forum threads complaining about genre names. “What the hell does post-rock mean? Aren’t bands still playing rock? Why isn’t it called post-rap? Post-rock isn’t a real genre.” And various other quibbles from people who hate seeing their favorite musicians get pigeonholed, or resent seeing musicians they don’t like surf their way into undeserved recognition atop some made up fad.

I totally get it. I’m the king of “you can’t pigeonhole me.” I’m 100 percent eclectic in musical taste. Politically, neither fish nor fowl.

I do think there’s a nasty tendency in some circles (*cough* Pitchfork) to use labels in order to dismiss a band or collection of bands. Like, “Oh yeah, we figured out what these guys are. Just another example of X. If anyone still cares about X, this is part of that whole X knockoff crowd. That scene is so quaint isn’t it? Moving right along…”

Just look at this list of genres: http://rateyourmusic.com/rgenre/

Drumfunk, Sqweee, Glitch-hop, Witch House and Turbo-folk are just a few of many genre names that make me scratch my head. Are these really real? Is somebody pulling our legs?

Who comes up with this stuff anyway? It used to be DJs and music journalists, but now I guess it’s mostly bloggers with a lot more hits than I get. Somehow the names catch on, silly or not. Shoegaze is one I use a lot that sounds pretty ridiculous (whatever you want to call it, I like it). It was originally a put-down for bands playing noise-drenched stuff who tended to stand on the stage and look down at their shoes, but now it’s so common that bands will claim the term.

Classifying music into groups will always be a messy business. There are some musicians (usually my favorites) who defy classification. There are musicians who get lumped into a group who sound nothing like their supposed peers.

Television’s Marquee Moon (1977) came from one of the original CBGBs bands, often touted as one of the first punk bands or even “proto-punk.” Yet to me its style has a lot in common with Magazine’s Real Life (1978), which came out just a year later and is considered one of the first postpunk albums. Can you really go from proto- to post- in just one year?

World music is a really messy genre. It can sound like anything, and isn’t everything part of the world? And speaking of the world, now everything has gone global. You have millions of musicians, talented and otherwise, making tunes on laptops and releasing them on the Internet. Anyone can be influenced by anyone. It was hard enough to classify things in the blues-R&B-rock continuum, especially when jazz and classical kept rearing their ugly heads. Now throw in influences from every country in the world and classifying anything becomes virtually impossible.

Yet we have to try. Why? Because if we don’t, we can’t find music we like, and we can’t talk about it.

I understand the principle of “it’s all music.” But don’t you think the average Chuck Berry fan would be a bit put off if you played a Godspeed You Black Emperor album said, “Here’s some of that music stuff you claim to like”? And suppose he had an open mind and even kind of liked it, but just never heard GYBE before and asked, “what is this?” Sorry, but I’m going to have to say post-rock, because he might then find and enjoy Sigur Ros. Post-rock is a clear case of “you gotta call it something.” Would you consider a Chuck Berry song rock? Definitely. Would you consider a Godspeed You Black Emperor song rock? Not too sure… Thus, post-rock.

I agree that genre names often suck, but they can be useful, even some “hairline distinctions.” For example, dark ambient. It bleeds into regular ambient (another term people argue over), as well as industrial (ditto). But there are certain groups that people who say they like dark ambient tend to like.  I like to give and get recommendations. How am I supposed to do that if I can’t pick a genre name? If I just ask for “music” recommendations, I could get anything from Beethoven to the Ramones. I like both of those, but they’re not going to help me find Coil, Lustmord or Voice of Eye.

A genre name might be a stupid word, but once it catches on and people start hanging ideas on it, what can you do? You’re pretty much stuck with it.

Still, I can’t help but wonder what will happen if people are still listening to this stuff hundreds of years from now? Are we going to get names like tenth wave Electro-acoustic-neo-post-psych-prog? Hell, that name probably exists already.

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Loving the Alien – Little Green Mixtape (or maybe not so little)

As a longtime science fiction buff, I have been very excited by recent news that there could be life on Saturn’s moon Titan. Of course, it’s a lot more likely that it will turn out to be a chemical process (although what is life, really, but a chemical process?), and if there is life, it will most likely be microbial. But I can’t help but think there’s something more substantial out there. Little green men. We might not meet them, but it’s a lot of fun to think about them. A while back I put together a CD-R full of songs about aliens. Kind of in the tradition of the mixtape only a lot bigger. You can get a lot of mp3s on a CD-R. I fudged on the concept here and there — the point was to find songs I liked. I had a lot of fun digging through my CD collection and the Internet and I found the following:

Byrds – Mr. Spaceman
Blue Öyster Cult – E.T.I. (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence)
Carpenters – Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft (The Recognized Anthem of World Contact Day)
Creedence Clearwater Revival – It Came Out Of The Sky
David Bowie – Starman
David Bowie – Hallo Spaceboy
David Bowie – Loving The Alien
David Bowie – Life On Mars
DJ Spooky – Object Unknown (w/ Kool Keith)
Dr Octagon – halfsharkalligatorhalfman
The Wipers – D-7
Husker Du – Books About UFOs
Babylon Zoo – Spaceman
Dr. Octagon – Aliens
Jefferson Airplane – Have You Seen the Saucers [live]
Jefferson Starship – Home
Jefferson Starship – Have You Seen The Stars Tonite
Jobriath – Space Clown
Jobriath – Morning Star Ship
Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers – Here Come the Martian Martians
Kelly Family – Fell in love with a Alien
The Kinks – Animal Farm
Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry – Starliner
The Meteors – Attack Of The Zorch Men
Misfits – I Turned into a Martian
Patti Smith – Birdland
Pink Fairies – The Pigs Of Uranus
The Pixies – Motorway To Roswell
Radiohead – Subterranean Homesick Alien
The Rezillos – Flying Saucer Attack
Roky Erickson – Creature With The Atom Brain
Roky Erickson – You’re An Unidentified Flying Object
Seu Jorge – Starman
The Wildhearts – Sky Babies
Sheb Wooley – Flying Purple People Eater
Spacemen 3 – Starship
Yellow Magic Orchestra – Cosmic Surfin’
Judas Priest – Freewheel Burning
Styx – Come Sail Away
UFO – Martian Landscape
Billy Thorpe – Children of the Sun
War Of The Worlds – Eve Of The War (Hybrid Mix)
A Flock Of Seagulls – I Ran (So Far Away)
Joe Meek And The Blue Men – I Hear A New World
Split Enz – Poor Boy
A.R. Kane – A Love From Outer Space
The Byrds – C.T.A. – 102
Lustmord – Aldebaran of the Hyades
Fountains Of Wayne – I Want an Alien for Christmas
The Stranglers – Waiting For The Men in Black
Neil Young – After the Gold Rush
The Legendary Pink Dots – The Saucers are Coming
Kaleidoscope – Beacon from Mars
Deep Purple – Space Truckin’
Björk – Earth Intruders (Mark Stent Extended Edit)
Bikini Kill – Alien She
Blondie – Rapture
Boyracer – Area 51 Revisited
The Comsat Angels – Red Planet Revisited
The Comsat Angels – I Come From The Sun
u.f.o. feat. Dee Dee Bridgewater – Flying Saucer
ESG – UFO
Cletro, Eddie – Flying Saucer Boogie
Towa Tei – Mars
Teenagers From Outer Space – Prepare to Possess Earth’s Women
Monster Magnet – Space Lord
Buddy Clinton – Take Me To Your Ladder ( I’ll See Your Leader Later)
Kansas – Nobody’s Home
Scary Bitches – Lesbian Vampyres From Outer Space
The Wildtones – Martian Band
Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
Buchanan Brothers – (When You See) Those Flying Saucers
Joe Satriani – Surfing with the Alien
Bonzo Dog Band – Beautiful Zelda
Atomic Mosquitos – Alien Roundup
Billy Bragg & Wilco – My Flying Saucer
Creedence Clearwater Revival – It Came Out Of The Sky
Cabaret Voltaire – Venusian Animals
DJ Spooky – The Terran Invasion of Alpha Centauri Year 2794
Dr. Octagon – Aliens
Japan – Alien
Kool Keith – Livin’ Astro
Leonard Nimoy – A Visit To a Sad Planet
Meat Beat Manifesto – Oblivion/Humans
Meat Beat Manifesto – The Tweek
The Residents – You’re a Martian/Home
Robert Gordon – Flying Saucer Rock ‘n’ Roll
Sonny Day – Creature From Outer Space
The Ventures – The Fourth Dimension
Twinkeyz – Aliens In Our Midst
Tool – Faaip De Oiad
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Zero From Outer Space
Dane Cook – Abducted
The Telescopes – My Name Is Zardak (Drop Your Weaponz)
The Busters – Space Patrol Orion
Bela Fleck & The Flecktones – Flying Saucer Dudes
The Cramps – Mojo Man From Mars
Devo – Auto Modown/Space Girl Blues
Feathers – space alien blues
Little Walter – Flying Saucer
Perrey-Kingsley – The Little Man from Mars
Placebo – Mars Landing Party
Smokey Wilson – The Man From Mars
Little Shop of Horrors – Mean Green Mother From Outer Space
Butch Paulson – Man from Mars
Cibo Matto – Sci-Fi Wasabi
Add N To (X) – Take Me To Your Leader
Queen – Flash
The Astral Army – Interstellar Shortwave
Aqua Teen Hunger Force – A Typical Mooninite Weekend
Cacogenic Systems – Alien Probe
Hanzel Und Gretyl – Take Me To Your Leader
Tony Mattherhorn – Man From Mars
Neanderthals – Werewolf from outer Space
Ran-Dells – Martian Hop
Leonard Nimoy – Alien
Klaatu – Calling Occupants (Of Interplanetary Craft)
Marty Quinn – Genuine UFO Contactee
Mellotones – Flying Saucers
Sam Space & the Cadettes – Take Me To Your Leader Cha Cha
Floyd Robinson – My Little Martian
Jesse Lee Turner – The Little Space Girl
klaatu – the loneliest of creatures
Julian Cope and the Teardrop Explodes – Spacehopper
Jesse Lee Turner – The Little Space Girl
Hermann, Bernard – Klaatu
Brownsville Station – The Martian Boogie
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Third Stone From The Sun
Jamiroquai – Cosmic Girl
Jorge Ben Jor – Space Man (Homem Do Espaco)
Pete Johnson – Death Ray Boogie
Pink Floyd – A Saucerful Of Secrets
Pink Floyd – Let There Be More Light
Pixies – The Happening
The Prodigy – Out Of Space
Robyn Hitchcock – Welcome to Earth
Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus 3 – Adventure Rocket Ship
Slowdive – Souvlaki Space Station
Smashing Pumpkins – Spaceboy
Spacehog – Spacehog
Legendary Pink Dots – Terra Firma Welcome
The Webb Brothers – Beyond The Biosphere

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Take a mysterious journey with Voice of Eye

I was driving down a country road late at night in 1993, desperately trying to get something on the radio I could stand to listen to before I fell asleep at the wheel. Somewhere on the left of the dial, drifting in from an almost-out-of-range college radio station out of Houston, I heard something so strange I wondered if I was dreaming. I wasn’t even sure if it was music. It had tribal-sounding percussion, but it wasn’t exactly a beat like a normal song. It was moving, fascinating and a bit ominous. I had to know who and what it was.

The DJ named the song and band just before the signal faded: “The Ascension of Jolene” by Voice of Eye. It sounded so mystical and otherworldly. From then on, for years, I would ask about Voice of Eye at various record stores. Nothing but blank stares. Finally, sometime in the late ’90s – paydirt. Waterloo Records in Austin didn’t have any VoE, but they had heard of it and put in an order for the 1995 album Transmigration. Beautiful and strange, the album’s theme is the journey of the soul after death. Listen to it in the dark and it will take you places.

That was my introduction to a type of music known as dark ambient. And of course straight up ambient. From there I discovered numerous ambient artists, including Brian Eno, who coined the term ambient. I started hunting down ambient collections and discovered folks like Lustmord, Life Garden, Randy Greif, Caul, William Orbit and Paul Schutze.

Eventually I tracked down the album that had that first VoE song I heard, “Ascension of Jolene.” It was on a compilation called Arrhythmia 2 (good luck finding it. It’s way out of print, but you might have luck at Randy Greif’s online mailorder store, which is where I got it.) That compilation in turn introduced me to yet another musical scene, experimental underground percussion by the likes of Crash Worship ADRV, which is a whole other story and something for another post.

I’ve introduced a few people to dark ambient who found it disturbing, comparing it to horror movie soundtrack music (not a bad comparison for some of it). I guess I’ve been expanding my musical horizons long enough that it doesn’t bother me. I like music that challenges me and carries me through a range of emotions. Ambient per se, is usually something you can either listen to or use as background and ignore. Dark ambient, while it can be beautiful and relaxing, often demands your attention. I have no problem with that. I like music that takes me on journeys, something VoE definitely does.

Voice of Eye (Jim Wilson and Bonnie McNairn) aren’t the electronic artists you might expect. They do use electronics, but not synthesizers. They produce their soundscapes organically, making a lot of their own instruments with names like “bass thing” and “jeemna.” According to their “About” on MySpace, “Voice of Eye’s modus operandi is to take sound sources that are acoustic in origin, then process them through little black boxes to warp time and widen sonic perception.” You can see a slide show with pictures of those instruments at the bottom of their MySpace page.

And below are a couple of YouTube videos, one of them showing a live performance (wish I could catch one of those):

VoE took a bit of a hiatus a few years ago, but they are back at it again. Originally from Houston, they have since set up shop in Taos, New Mexico. They’ve also released a few more albums. One of them,  Seven Directions Divergent, I just ordered via PayPal and their website. Apparently it contains more song-oriented material than the other VoE albums I’ve heard, which is intriguing.

They have four CDs available on their website. Check them out here: http://www.voiceofeye.com/

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