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Heavy Rotation 51: Are You Still With Me? Edition

July 4, 2010

At this point, we’ve done nearly a year’s worth of Heavy Rotations. And you all have been simply fantastic to preach music to. But there has to have been a handful of times when you listened to a track I’ve recommended and thought, “The hell?” Maybe even more than a handful. Perhaps this happens quite frequently but you’re all so worried about me and my obviously unhinged brain that you cover up your dismay with streams of compliments and superlatives.

This volume of the Heavy Rotation is an attempt to explain exactly what the hell is wrong with me.

As you’ve heard so many kids say before, “I’m not like the other kids.” Something broke way back in the day. I never was really betrothed to verse-chorus-verse structures. That went away with the acclimation to industrial music. I never really liked over-production or skillful instrument usage. I was more interested in new noises and ritualistic abuse of common musical references.

My brain says, “We’ve all heard enough rock. Enough techno. Enough whatever, done perfectly and repeatedly. What else have you got?”

This is what I found. These are all formative tracks (and one late arrival) that left my musical psyche horribly mutated. I’ve still got a keen ear for beautifully done music and catchy tunes. But this is the shit it must fight through. And this is the shit I turn down before the neighbors can hear. This is the music I don’t introduce to the new in-laws.

There a few things that any one person can truly call their own, especially in terms of culture. But these are MINE.

I do not expect anyone to walk away from this feeling they’ve found a new “go-to” track for their next social event or even hear anything they’d want to hear again. But god help me, I love these songs.

I thank you in advance for indulging me. I also apologize in advance for any damage done to your stereo equipment or relationships with friends and neighbors.

[Right-click to download tracks. All other links open in a new window.]

Easier listening found here:
The Heavy Rotation Archives

The Jesus and Mary Chain – Upside Down.mp3
This is their first single, which I encountered on their Barbed Wire Kisses compilation. It’s an ear-bleeding statement of intent, in which William and Jim Reid pretty much shove their guitars right through their amps, producing a wall of feedback that steamrolls anything Jimi Hendrix had ever done into an unrecognizable white-noise puddle.

Underneath the racket, which one critic memorably described as “a chainsaw in a hurricane,” there’s a hummable melody and some suitably bleak lyrics. But its the banshee-scream of the feedback that acts like a siren song to me, compelling me to place my head between the speakers until every synapse joins in.

And it probably explains the next tune quite a bit. (Still here? I’ll explain…)

Josh Wink – Higher State of Consciousness (Original Tweakin Acid Funk Mix).mp3
An influential breakbeat/acid house classic, featuring the tortured tones of a Roland bass emulator cut adrift of its factory settings and being made to do unpleasant things to sine waves.

Josh Wink allows it to ride a bit of a groove first before gradually winding it all up into a pulse of piercing tones, the likes of which had only been hinted at by early acid house pioneers like Hardfloor and DJ Pierre. An all-around celebration of making your machine(s) say, “Yes,” rather than simply taking their word for it when they say they shouldn’t.

If I hadn’t already been open to skull-piercing treble tones (thanks Jesus & Mary Chain!), I would never have gotten on board with this one.

Moby – Thousand.mp3
As long as we’re still within arrestable distance of club music, here’s techno popstar Moby, who plays around with his drum machine and ends up in the Guinness Book of World Records for “Fastest Song.”

For everyone who only knows him from Play onward may be surprised by his prolific days as a techno producer/DJ in which he produced several underground techno hits during the formative years of the American rave scene. Some of his best work is collected on Rare:The Collected B-Sides 1989-1993, from which this track is taken.

Thousand relies on little more than an accelerating beat and a parallel diva sample to get the job done. Moby takes the tune around the block a couple of times, opening it all the way up on the straightaways.

Should anyone really do this sort of thing, just because the technology will let them? I doubt it. But some people just have to. Moby is one of them. Should anybody call this “good,” let alone “great”? Of course not. But somebody still will. And that person will most likely be me.

The “Thousand” refers to the beats per minute.

Lightning Bolt – Two Towers.mp3
This nuisance of a band joined my intensely personal (and carefully obscured) heavy rotation thanks to my blog partner RF (who’s back, by the way). He shot this over to me along with a selection of other stuff ranging from the tuneful to the aggravating.

And this is where Lightning Bolt stand. They’re a two-person “band,” one playing a bass guitar and the other, a jazz trap set. What do they sound like? It depends on when you ask. They rarely sound like Primus. They don’t even really sound like their closest analogue, Death From Above 1979.

They sound like a fucked-up thrash band most of the time, but they run some amazing bass-propelled grooves, over which the masked drummer screams unintelligibly. (I can see the line forming now, he said tongue planted firmly in cheek, etc…) This track starts out like the most annoying hardcore track ever, with the guitarist wanking all over the place for about a minute in the most show-offy, tuneless manner possible. (Fingers on the “Next” button…)

But at :55, the track takes off. The song coheres and races off to the next transition, grinding and abrading the edges of a lockstep groove, which falls apart now and then, but seamlessly reassembles and continues, yes, rocking, believe it or not.

By all appearances this should suck. But it does not. Not to me. Not to RF. Not to dozens of fans worldwide. It’s brutal without having the decency to at least be efficient. Seven minutes is a lot to take. Unless you’re me. Or RF. I’m used to seven minutes of minimally changing grooves. I love techno. RF loves him some metal, so he’s used to being smacked around for extended periods as well.

It works like a noisy-ass mantra. It’s a drunken god of war parading through your headspace. It’s all so wrong it has to be right.

Skinny Puppy – Download.mp3
Had enough? Well, there’s just one more. And it’s only 11 minutes long. (Cue insane laughter and Persian cat-stroking.)

This is from a last-gasp effort by Skinny Puppy, Canada’s answer to Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire. This is before they imploded. But not much before. Last Rights (from which this is taken) is the sound of self-destruction coupling with drug-fueled paranoia and unfocused rage.

This is the last track from the death knell (although they did reform, but for the sake of this post, we’ll pretend they never did). It’s more Cevin Key’s (keybs, percussion) baby than Nivek Ogre’s (lead singer). It’s an incoherent mess of samples and loops, driveby radio signals, reversed and pitch-shifted vocal snippets, random button mashing and good old-fashioned dial-spinning.

Operates much like Cevin Key’s post-Skinny Puppy work, functioning better as nightmarish soundscape than actual tuneage. Hell, he even named his next project after this track. It’s quite a bit to take, all this cacophony. So I’m going to do you a favor.

I don’t really care for the front half of this track myself. I find it to be pointlessly self-indulgent, much like I find most of Download’s (the band) work. Instead of subjecting yourself to something even I wouldn’t put up with, move on to where I think the track redeems itself.

Spin the virtual dial forward to 5:18. You’ll hear the last fading sonics from the first half meeting the most malevolent selection of bass tones which follow it until the end. They pan and sweep and haunt. They pulse and throb, attack and decay.

That is what I love. 5+ minutes of overdriven, mildly distorted bass lines, sweeping through the headphones and into the most damaged recesses of my personal tastes. It’s like hell’s theremin.

I love these sounds. You can’t make them with rock instruments. You have to work pretty hard to make them with banks of electronics. You have to work even harder to ride this sort of limited idea for 5-1/2 glorious minutes.

[Want a track removed? Would you care to see my blogger’s license? Could I interest you in a new set of speakers/ears? Email me: 2timegrime@gmail.com.]

-CLT

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15 comments

  1. I hear “are you still with me?” repeatedly when speaking with (overseas) tech support. There seems to be some sort of slight relay delay whereby I am asked “are you still with me?” in the midst of my sentence. While tech support gets an emphatic and exasperated “I’m still HERE!!” (cupped phone and muffled “dammit!”), CLT gets “of course I’m still here, silly.” But, even though I was technically ‘here’, I was sorta over ‘there’ during the song selection, with the notable exception of Skinny Puppy (okay, so I didn’t like the other songs, butwhatdoiknowimamusicmoron). Within seconds, it occurred to me that this song could be some sort of a cosmological scan of the Universe. This song had it all: entropy, birth of nebulas, merging galaxies, star formation, gamma-ray bursts, hurtling comets and supernovas. I ‘got it’ (I think).


    • Well, like I was trying to say over 1,445 poorly-chosen words, these tracks aren’t really recommendations as much as a warning/apology for anything I may/may have posted that seemed like it was incredibly out of place.

      I think you’ve got a handle on the Skinny Puppy track. It does run like an lifeform scan, lurching and bleeping away. Just because it’s searching for higher intelligence does not necessarily preclude it from being some of the most highly self-indulgent 5 minutes of knob twiddling recorded.

      I think you’ve “got it.” If only “it” were something worth having…

      (Oh, and not loving any of these tracks does NOT make you a “musical moron.” It just makes you “not me.” There’s a reason I don’t play these out…)


  2. I did it! I made it to the end, and listened (to a portion) of all of them!

    And it safe to say, I’m not you!

    I cant do distortion and feedback, and industrial and hardcore music grates the fuck out of my mind, BUT, I really enjoyed reading this and dabbling with the tracks.

    You would love a lot of the stuff that is produced in the underground electronic scene here, and even though some of it is not to my liking, it is a scene I love for its brash audacity and subversive awesomeness and power, which is why i think I still had so much fun reading this without necessarily loving all the tracks. One hardcore producer here is thoroughly intent on making offensive sounding tunes, his name is ToeCutter. Another infamous producer is Nasenbluten (German for nose bleed). Going to his shows are phenomenal, even for a light weight like me…

    Reading about Moby’s track made me laugh and also remember listening to the radio the other day when some friends of mine were wrapping up their show for the last time after 15 years on community radio, they were reminiscing about how they started ‘back in the day’ with a breakfast show that played acid house at 160bpm from 6 till 9 in the morning! Hilarious. Imagine a fucking thousand per minute for breakfast!!!

    Great insight into yr cracked mind CLT


  3. cracked music mind, that is!!! on all other accounts, I’m sure its thoroughly smooth and cohesive!!!


    • Well, with the list of things you “can’t do,” musically-speaking being pretty much everything on display here today, I can’t thank you enough for at least having the willingness to subject yourself to these tracks, if only for a few minutes.

      I think I’ve heard a few cuts by ToeCutter, but it may be a different ToeCutter. The one I heard did a glitchy, sample-laden remix of Kool & the Gang called “Best Party Ever.” I guess it could be the same person and that was just one of his “dancier” moments.

      As for Nasenbluten, I’d have to admit I’ve never heard of him, but nosebleeding sounds close to earbleeding, which I tend to do a bit of. I’ll have to check him out.

      I would love to see the return of the 160 BPM breakfast show. I think that’s exactly the kind of repetitive kick in the ass everyone needs to get their morning going. I’d much rather listen to that rather than local DJs who think they’re “wacky” talking all over the news, weather and various sponsored activities I’m never interested in.

      Thanks for the excellent comment and for sticking it out, Ruby.

      (I knew which “mind” you were referring to, but thanks for putting it out there in black and white.)


  4. Yes, yes I am still with you. Much like the dreaded Herpes virus, I ain’t going nowhere. My friends used to say that I was loyal to a fault. You can see the fault; I can be a bit clingy. But in a nice, huggy way.

    I don’t think that there is any need to explain what the hell is wrong with you CLT. Not as it pertains to music anyway. To me it’s like romance. You can’t choose who you fall for. Even if it is a 6’3 transvestite prostitute with the dreaded herpes virus. The heart wants what the heart wants. Some people even like that Lady Gaga, and I have to admit that she does have that kind of catchy beat that leaves me coming back just like I always …Nevermind.

    But there was especially no need to explain your tastes when your tastes are so fucking awesome. That would be like your friend coming into town after hitting the lottery with a Lamborghini and a naked Swedish supermodel and trying to explain why he’s wrong. He’s not wrong, he very, very right. And so are you.

    I seriously loved them all but the J & MC was my favorite. It may even be my new ‘go to’ tune when I feel like visiting my ‘girl’ and making sweet, sweet love.


    • Ah, it’s my trusty companion Scott/Herpes. Thanks for being willing to stand up and be counted with the rest of us who publicly declare (sometimes over and over) that we “ain’t quite right in the head.”

      That is a perfect analogy, Scott and even if it wasn’t, the inclusion of lanky transvestite hookers puts it well ahead of the pack. The second analogy works fantastically as well, what with the inclusion of hyper-expensive sports cars and hyper-expensive Swedish supermodels (who might possibly just be lanky, blonde transvestites).

      Thanks for playing along, Scott. Have fun turning your “girl” Upside Down.


  5. I’m glad you recommended Lightning Bolt. They sound like nothing else I listen to and sure as hell don’t look like anything I listen to.

    Being naturally averse to jazz, I can’t really make any of those connections, but I’m sure you know what you’re talking about.

    Hellaciously good description of “Duel in the Deep,” though.


  6. My volume is back, CLT, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

    The best thing about music is that it really is a way for people to express themselves. I remember being young and liking certain songs that being a “prep” I probably shouldn’t have. And to tell you the truth, back then I also pretended to like certain songs, just to stay that way.

    But now I find myself much more impressed with people (and musicians) who do and feel their own thing. And not their own thing as in “I’m just going to do the exact opposite of everyone else and then that will make me unique”, but their own thing as in they really don’t care what everyone else thinks.

    That probably doesn’t make sense anywhere but in my head, but regardless, I really enjoyed these tracks. Josh Wink, Moby and Lightning Bolt are the three I will most likely buy/download, but that’s just because “they’re my thing…”


    • Bschooled –

      Yes, your volume couldn’t have come back at a better time as I don’t think these are songs a mother would approve, especially not when their monitor is still dripping with vodka and orange juice.

      Everything you said about “going your own way” makes perfect sense in my head, too, although it did decide (right about now) to accompany it with Stevie Nicks, who is now stuck inside my head singing the same chorus over and over again.

      I’m glad you found some of “my things” could also be “your things.” That means either a.) I’m not completely crazy or b.) that you’re as crazy as I am.


  7. I love it CLT, this is whack!
    Did I ever tell you how much I love music which is but an audible manifestation of mental turmoil/mania, both organic and artificial in nature?

    Back in the 80s as my fascination with long hair and leather was winding down, my brother, who is 7 years younger than I, began to explore the macabre depths of Industrial (Ministry, Skinny Puppy, Legendary Pink Dots). Since many of his musical tastes of his were fringe, at best, many times the only person he could drag to such shows was yours truly. Skinny Puppy gave a remarkable show that easily took at least 6 or 8 years off my life. I think it was Skinny Puppy (or Ministry perhaps?) who adorned their performance with monitors facing the audience which played back bloody snuff videos. Besides, how can you go wrong with stage costumes and masks that make you look like Jeff Goldblum morphing into a hybrid housefly?

    Actually, if Paul Williams had been born 40 years later I suspect he might have made this cut.


    • Thanks, AUM. I’m obviously also a fan of music as mental state, and no one did it better than Skinny Puppy. “Last Rights” has to be one of the most intensely disturbing records ever made, especially if viewed in this light. There’s no room to breathe anywhere on that album and the few spare areas just sound like the calm of impending doom.

      I would think that Skinny Puppy and Ministry both employed the bloody videos, although I think the Canadians would have led the way, with their 2-3 year headstart. Plus, the industrial scene was so incestuous, I’m sure everyone was co-opting everyone elses’ ideas when not forming supergroups like the Revolting Cocks, 1000 Homo DJs and Pigface.

      Thanks for the comment and the link, AUM. I’m checking out the anomalous Williams as we speak (so to speak…).


  8. I have to recover from that first track for a minute. Okay . . . now I have to recover from that second track. Shit. Okay, now I just have to recover. That was kind of like Hendrix falling face first into his Marshall stack with a power drill set at 100,000 rpms. Ouch. And yet . . . ouch. No, I was impressed how the JMC could actually employ something screeching at such high decibals, but now I have to wait until my family has vacated the house to hear more, because they thought I was killing the laptop. And the neighbor’s cat. At the same time. You’re opening some doors of perception for me, CLT. Always appreciated, and many are on my “must have” list. Over time I’ve discovered that the only music I can’t stand for prolonged periods (ten seconds) would be certain kinds of rap, and certain kinds of country music. The rest always offers something enjoyable. Thanks!


    • I can only imagine what sort of formative experience would have caused the JAMC to deploy the musical weapons they did:

      [Garage interior – night]
      WILLIAM REID attaches a cheap Vox guitar to a distortion pedal, spins a few dials experimentally and leans over his amp and hits the POWER button.

      An ear-piercing tone of feedback fills the garage.

      WILLIAM: Oof. Whoa.
      JIM: Wot’s all that, then?
      WILLIAM: Dunno. I like it, though.
      JIM: Yeah. It’s rather harsh, yeah?
      WILLIAM: Yeah.
      JIM: Well, let’s not fook about learning to play these things. Let me crank up my amp.

      Dueling tones of feedback fill the garage and leak out onto the lawn.

      JIM: ‘Ere’s somefink I wrote: From here I run around…”

      I only wish I still had this bootleg of an early (1985-ish) gig by the JAMC. You can clearly hear the unimpressed and nearly-deaf crowd exhorting them to get off the stage and informing them that they suck. Good stuff. But it went the way of several others during a financial crisis back in the day when you could still sell CDs.

      Good luck with the rest of the tracks, Dan. It’s probably best to keep the kids, neighbors and cat happy.


    • Great scenario, CLT. I could just envision it. Musicians are a very strange lot. The last time I ever played in public, it was a club in Hartford with a lot of other musicians attending. I went with my strongest song, “Black Magic Woman,” and had horrible stage fright, making mistakes that they didn’t notice but I did. It turned into a wild jam with others joining, but I haven’t played since. Yet these bands will say frig it all and kick out the feedback, etc. and bully on. It’s a weird psych thing, eh? Damn psychological. I lost all focus in public. I play great in the basement! I love these bold, fearless MFs you showcase. They show how it’s done.



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