Intense, surreal, remote, dynamic. Come along with us as we chronicle the adventures of the soul through psychedelic, drone, noise, experimental, pop music based around Chicago bands in particular and local bands everywhere.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Featured release at Permanent!

Our releases are now on sale at Permanent Records, and the gang over there is featuring The N.E.C. and Sunny Muffdivers in their updates this week!

Cinchel's drone.dump is on sale for $5.99 over there, and Sunny Muffdivers and The N.E.C. are $4.99.

Check it out!

From the Permanent Records email update:

Tape - Sunny Muffdivers - All Half Evil (C26, Translucent Neon)

Pay no attention to the silly band name, this tape totally rips. Sunny Muffdivers is from Hotlanta and according to their Myspace page they "are here to send you somewhere you may not want to go". Maybe some people don't want to go to this place, but we absolutely do. The place they're speaking of is the homeland of repetitive, noisy psychedelic ROCK! We imagine that most of you would also like to go to there. Spective Audio is off to a great start as a recently established tape label. Here's what they told us about this one:

"Psych sludge doom. Pure sonic assult from Atlanta, inverting relationships between fuzz and rhythms throughout the four pieces on this cassette. Unrelenting drums and blistering fuzz create spaces for your mind to hide - this one is equally psychological and psychedelic."

We'll agree with that completely. Fans of repetitive dirges and krauty psych will totally love this tape. It's one of the most vinyl-ready tapes we've heard in a while.

Tape - NEC - B-Sides (C45, Tinted Red)

Spective Audio has another hit on their hands with this NEC tape. Here's the scoop from the label:

"The N.E.C. split the difference between the ambient and heavy sides of Atlanta's Psychedelic scene. Between their driving fuz and soul sensibilities, the band drone, meander, and layer their journey, offering signposts that are equal parts noise and pop."

Yet again, Spective is totally right on. This tape also rules!

A big thank you to Permanent for putting these on their site, and a big thank you for carrying these tapes. Go check 'em out!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

2010: Back Catalogs and New Releases

As year-end lists are beginning to roll in, I've encountered one of the issues that I faced all year: what on earth was I trying to do with my record collection this year? This year was the first year that I've had a record player for several years, due to a series of moves and circumstances that made collecting records impractical for a time. Subsequently, I had the pleasure of buying all of the new releases I wanted on vinyl for the first time in ages, but I also had the sometimes daunting task of determining which aspects of my back catalog I wanted on wax.

I frequently asked myself, "why am I doing this?" My urge to buy records often turned into a curatorial ideology, whereby I followed specific trends in new music with loads of records that were released decades ago. Perhaps where others have inherited record collections from various people or parents, and therefore had some pre-existing classic template to work from, I had no such template, which resulted in a year in which I built my collection from the ground up.

While I was working on this unruly beast, I revisited various phases in my music history, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. My wife and I invested in a series of records that we both really liked over the past decade, picking up most of Nada Surf's eccentric pop catalog as well as the brand new Tegan and Sara boxed set. "Turn of the century" collectible pieces also showed up, such as the first two Capitol releases by the Dandy Warhols, which were in fact released by independent labels in their vinyl format.

As my music listening habits gravitated between heavier psychedelic music, as well as ambient and more experimental shades, following my obsession with the Implodes cassette in the previous year, I indulged in reissues by My Bloody Valentine and Spiritualized. Late in the year, I stumbled upon the Acid Archives guide, which truly opened my mind to various fronts of homemade psychedelic and folk records, as well as bizarre major label traditions that sit firmly under the radar of the mainstream pop canon -- the Capitol "psych monsters" were perhaps the most-mind-blowing discovery in this regard, and I learned that I do not need to purchase independent labels exclusively in order to find independent music.

More than anything, I embraced the local bands of Chicago in 2010, buying records from my favorite psych bands here and listening to them almost non-stop at points.

I learned throughout the year that no matter how coherent my musical vision, my purchasing habits will often be completely random, spurred by the fact that when you're rifling through the record store bin-by-bin, you will friendly find records that you had completely forgotten about, or at least forgot that you were looking for. At the end of the year, my first year of record collecting, I can say that I learned an awful lot, and really, I am looking forward to years of discoveries and the excitement of placing a perfectly new piece of wax on the turntable.

The Common People Of..., by..., for.... Although I truly enjoyed the Spiritualized reissue, and the Black Math reissue by Permanent Records was welcome and done well, the orchestrated suite that opens Common People's "lost" Capitol Records release is stunning in its beauty and orientation to the psychedelic years that passed prior to the record's late-1960s release, and before the progressive/psychedelic years that would follow. While the remainder of the record can be hit-and-miss, propelled by a grab bag of sometimes unfocused folk and garage styling, the psychedelic passage that opens the record is completely on the mark, and it opened my mind to a time when psychedelic music was not necessarily fuzzy, but could also be orchestral.

Kaki King, Junior. There are a number of releases that I was completely surprised by this year, including Darker My Love's Alive As You Are record, but I keep coming back to King's tuneful record of broken-hearted songs. The production is dark enough to convince the listener to become introspective while listening to King's voice, and the often dense-but-direct instrumentation conveys that mood even further. Emotional without being exploitative, cheesy, or whiney, King evokes strong moods in their truest form (in this regard, I find it to be a perfect sequel to Tegan and Sara's The Con. I have to admit, I picked this one up on a whim after reading an intriguing review in the Chicago Reader, and I really wasn't expecting this release to win me over, and despite my knowledge of King's guitar virtuosity, I had no idea she possessed such a wonderful sense of songcraft. I will carry this release with me for a long time.

Thee Oh Sees Warm Slime. Gaaaaaahhhhh, it never stops with these guys, and honestly, if they put out one record a month I would buy it without any questions asked because this group absolutely owns the "garage psych" tradition and they have a severe knack for making completely familiar records that you've never actually heard before. Frankly, I think they're better than the Beatles, given that they evoke the raw energy of straightforward pop song structures and psychedelic atmosphere in a manner that is as direct as the Fab Four, but without all the decades of mainstream consumerist bullshit and cultural theory. Months ago, I told a friend that the Beatles are to Thee Oh Sees as Bill Haley and His Comets are to Big Joe Turner re: "Shake, Rattle, and Roll." The Beatles are undoubtedly one of the greatest rock bands ever, but their version of rock is primarily built upon a critique or interpretation of the culture of rock'n'roll itself, and it is no longer an immediate experience of rock. In the same way that Big Joe Turner will always be more immediate and relevant than Bill Haley (no offense), Thee Oh Sees are more immediate and relevant than the Beatles, who nevertheless are championed as cultural masters of rock. I don't want any more cultural theory of rock. No! No! No! And that doesn't mean that I won't go out and buy 100 more copies of the new "Paperback Writer" b/w "Rain" single whenever I find them, it just means that I am finally able to separate the theoretical and consumerist gains that the Beatles have made from their actual songwriting contribution -- great, of course, but no longer the greatest. You can take anyone other than Ringo, I'll take Dwyer any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

Lumerians Burning Mirrors. What on earth is going on in San Francisco? As if it wasn't enough to host Thee Oh Sees and the Wooden Shjips, there seems to be characters like Ty Segall and The Fresh and Onlys and Darker My Love (sometimes) emerging every couple of months or so with exceptionally raunchy, raucous, or just plain fun records. As much as I enjoyed the Bitchin' Bajas/Moon Duo split released by Permanent on Record Store Day, and as much as I enjoyed the first Beatles wax in a very long time (Paaaaaperback Writer!), this here 7" by Lumerians is my favorite of the year, for no other reason than that nasty fuzz tone and drums intro, and freaky sounds that follow. Just as fun as Wooden Shjips and with all the calories, too!

The Fresh and Onlys "Who Needs a Man." While we're on the subject of exceptional San Francisco releases, I have to say that of all the songs I've heard buried within all the sides I've heard this year, this song is absolutely my favorite mid-side song this year. First off, the band completely deconstructs a portion of the riff for Metallica's "Seek and Destroy," improving on that one by making it cleaner, more precise, and waaaaay more groovy. Cool intro, percussive rhythm guitar, hypnotic vocals, marry me! This record honestly surprised me, too, and crisp pop songs such as this one really get me going. Fresh and Onlys are the Reigning Sound of 2010.

Offstrings compilation. File this under, "records you probably have not heard but should." Dan Burke, a veteran of the experimental/noise scene in Chicago over the past three decades under the moniker Illusion of Safety, works with my close friend Travis Bird in a guitar duo that worked on the experimental circuit around Chicago this year. He curated this compilation with other notable Chicago guitarists, including Daniell and Shippy, other veterans of Chicago's experimental avenues. The result in this package is a series of ethereal instrumentals, diverse according to the individual playing styles of the artists, thematically linked through their textures and theoretical approaches. I know that there are heavy hitting experimental records by others in Chicago this year, including Bitchin' Bajas and Ken Camden on the guitar front, and many more I have not named, but this is one compilation I keep returning to due to its timbre, textures, and room for emotional reflection (one of my favorite features of good noise music).

Frankie Rose and The Outs; Deerhunter Halcyon Digest. Needless to say, I was excited to hear the new Deerhunter, waiting for months in anticipation to hear the new one, which had hype that matched the songwriting output. Production on the new record seems more direct than past Deerhunter records, suggesting that the band learned their lessons from Rainwater Cassette Exchange, and moved forward from that release rather than the layered passages of Microcastle. Many sources seem to cite this record as some type of generational signpost, hyping the record as the best of the decade thus far, and here's where I get lost. First, I am not sure that we can justifiably place such a title on an album and then subsequently judge all other albums against that -- and that's what we're doing if we mark Deerhunter's latest as the best of its class; second, I am not sure that Deerhunter's sound is the sound of the generation.

If you take Deerhunter's ambient and krauty interpretations of girl-group pop or doo-wop to be the sound of the generation, the new album from Frankie Rose and The Outs provides just as strong a generational signpost as Halcyon Digest, with equally direct and varied songwriting and crystal clear production, creating dwellings for surprising and fun pop songs. At its best, Frankie Rose and The Outs is majestic, spanning between pop interpretations with ease, providing brief, blissful nuggets that invoke the best of the girl groups, Phil Spectre's wall of sound, and straightforward rhythm and blues/pop.

Darker My Love, Alive As You Are. Yet another surprising 2010 record, Darker My Love flip the coin and show the other side of The Pretty Things, providing a cruising and shuffling entry into the catalog of paisley psychedelia. Reviews of this record that call it a nostalgic replication of a broad spectrum of 1960s psychedelic pop are misguided; the record, written in the wake of personal tragedy and personnel shifts in the band, provides one of the best answers to death that I have ever heard. Instead of providing untamed, layered expanses and fuzzscapes from which to reflect on mind, psyche, and soul, the band embrace direct production and allow the vocals and energy to lead you through a path that is completely new but also perfectly familiar. I couldn't stop laughing, smiling, and reminiscing while listening to this record during my first listens, and instead of nostalgia, I heard an album that perfectly summarizes the importance and complexity of memory. While every sound was familiar to me, it was also revealed in a corner of the universe that I had never visited, but seemed friendly and welcoming anyway. That's quite an accomplishment for a rather brief pop record, and when the dust settles, I see no reason why this album won't be one of the hallmarks of this generation, as well.

Running. This trio suckered me in after a blistering set at Empty Bottle in support of Cacaw -- their rhythmic shifts, frenetic vocals, and feedback help to create some of the best punk songs I've heard in years. Specifically, the regenerative-flanging of the guitar, creating nauseating feedback cycles, is the trademark that best sticks in my mind. Easily the guitar sound of the year, I simply cannot get the chaos out of my mind. I managed to get my hands on a copy of their #2 cassette, and I was thrilled about that release, but their debut LP on Permanent Records presented a full package of punk songs without breaks and phenomenal artwork.

Travis Bird and Daniel Burke, Negentropy. Over the span of several months in 2010, this experimental guitar duo provided thoughtful and dark passages that forged both eerie and dreamy landscapes. From their debut WNUR show to this cassette on Notice to their peaceful contribution on Offstrings, Bird and Burke display a versatile approach to their instruments, and an unwillingness to be pinned down by one single identity or technique. This duo is probably one of Chicago's most underrated gems, and if they flew under the radar with their developments in 2010, I hope they gain notoriety in 2011 for their industrial/pastoral contradictions and challenges.

Permanent Tapes

The N.E.C. B-Sides and Sunny Muffdivers All Half Evil are both going on sale at Permanent Records.

Check out the cassettes and support your local record store while you're there!

Friday, November 5, 2010


Head over to Milwaukee Ave. Reckless to check out the Cinchel tape, they have some brand new copies over there.

I also believe there are some copies at Permanent, via Cinchel himself. Support your local stores and an exceptional local guitar artist!

Email me if you want a copy via mail, we're running low. Feel free to use pay pal for any orders: spectiveaudio [at] gmail [dot] com.

Cinchel drone.dump (including hand-made segments of a large watercolor, individually unique to each package. Kelly green tape.)

Release date: March 2, 2010

This release is personal in the most significant way; I received it as a gift after watching Chicago guitar artist Cinchel play a set at Hotti Biscotti alongside Dense Reduction and Travis Bird. It was handed to me in an elaborate, hand-made watercolor double-CD case, and it featured two astonishing releases: one featuring guitar compositions alongside various found sounds and recordings, and another featuring pure, intense, nearly endless guitar drones, sustaining for an hour.

This is a story about those guitar drones.

Endless notes sustain through both sides, as Cinchel constructs a note, leaves it there, suspends it in time, only interrupting it with sometimes chaotic, unsettling arrangements that pass through the recording with a certain peace that is completely at tension with the endless note. Textures arise with this method, and the surprise of the arrangements add to the suspense of the overall composition.

By cycling the notes, and continuously processing or manipulating the sound, Cinchel creates a dense landscape that is ominous, labyrinthine, introspective. The event of this release is your very own reflection throughout its sounds, and while focusing on its moments, peaks, and surprises, the time stamps on the progression of the tape are your thoughts, emotions, and desires that correspond to, or conspire against, the recording.

As a sonic adventure, the piece closes with an assault on the previous template for reflection, the full 40 minutes of music that precede the finale, the most brutally repetitive passage of the entire recording, a dark timbre, built completely from the sum of the previous arrangements, a climax that did not seem likely and is therefore that much more effective. By the closing loop, the tension decreases, and the mind is once again ready to reflect and encounter the emotional passages of a world that begins once the recording is completed.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Some time ago, my bandmates and I finished practice and headed over to the Empty Bottle for a Cacaw free show. Given my adverse physical reaction to their mind-blowing sound at their 2009 Permanent Anniversary show (I ended up leaving their set early), I came with my trusty ear plugs in hand and was sufficiently ready to be rocked. Cacaw being one of my favorite live bands, and my ears yearning for some remedy for their ailments, the Empty Bottle free show provided a perfect opportunity for me to get the cobwebs out of my head.

I feel like one of the underreported aspects of independent music is the result of continued use and abuse of one's ears -- even with earplugs, going to frequent shows and practicing music frequently can really wear those canals down. In this particular case, the pummeling noise of Cacaw was preferred to rest, and in the course of the evening, I was thrilled that I made that decision.

As the show got going, three indistinct characters took the stage, and immediately blew up the scene with absurd amounts of regenerated flange, relentless drums, and driving bass. In the darkness of the venue, with the continued, endless feedback, the injured echoed vocals, I could not discern any particular songs in their set. I wasn't sure if they played one 20 minute song or twenty 30-second songs. I wasn't even sure who they were -- the bill said Running, and I'm pretty sure one of them announced it at the end of the show -- but my mind was sufficiently blown.

I kept the group on my mind, and was thrilled when I found their second tape one day in the middle of that grim season that exists between winter and spring in Chicago. I can't remember how many times I played that tape in a row, but it reminded me of their dark, mysterious set at the Empty Bottle, and provided me the perfect peace of mind for one of the most depressing times of year.

When I read that Permanent Records would be releasing Running's definitive vinyl collection, I immediately thought that it would be the perfect summary to a great year of records, a sort of keynote address if you will, an excellent statement about the simultaneity of darkness and creativity in Chicago's independent scene. I did not anticipate the exceptional artwork of the release, utilizing a painting and a gridwork concept that perfectly captures the spirit of the release.

First and foremost, I believe in the truism that punk's great contribution is that of an attitude of absolute freedom and creativity. However, I disagree that punk's spirit is best manifest in the history of punk music. There is a real sense in which punk is dead and the formal consumerism of society has eaten away even those most entrenched in the independent music scene (look down at your stack of records the next time you're at the store and ask yourself how frequently you're buying exactly what "they" want you to buy; it's crazy, I know, and I'm not advocating not supporting independent music. Sometimes I simply wonder if we get so caught up in buying music itself that we fail to fully digest what we consume).

I think punk lives in the intensity of psychological or geographical spaces painted by the most intense, atmospheric, or textured music (in this case, truly "psychedelic" music and truly "punk" music converge) and in the communities in which such music is played (this underscores the importance of supporting independent music shops and clubs that feature independent bands).

Running, in this case, is a perfect summary of the power of punk and the escapism or reflection of psychedelic music. Their brief songs bleed into one another, creating something that is more like a collage or a suite than an "album," and the timbre of their instruments, the manner in which they employ their vocals, bass, drums, and guitar create a thematic element that is almost truly cinematic. Cinematic in this sense is a mapping of perception, editing our fields of vision and honing those fields of vision into a concise and programmatic statement.

Running evokes emotions in me that I sometimes lose; for the duration of their releases, I am completely captivated; I feel like a prisoner to their noise, which provokes my reflection on my own desires, perceptions, and thoughts. It is incredibly cerebral music, but it is perfectly executed in that it is entirely intuitive; rather than promoting an atomism that divides songs, tones, lyrics, bridges, verses, etc., their approach promotes the process of creation itself, which engages the listener as well as the band.

I am beyond the shock of the vocals, the insane regenerative flanging, the aggression of the bass, the commanding drums. Running invite me to reflect within their masterful spaces, and each time I accept their invitation, I am rewarded by the depth of their sound.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

'Spective Audio Update

The Sunny Muffdivers All Half Evil C26 have arrived! Crusty sludge psych doom from Atlanta...four relentless instrumental pieces that bludgeon the psyche with exercises in repetitive fuzz lines, from Link Wray to Wooden Shjips. Rhythmic at their core, this release is psychedelic in the tradition of bending the mind through sonic attack. This is not a laid back, airy psychedelic journey. Through the four pieces, the band traces their steps, exploring familiar landscapes obscured by distant memories, through approaches that often wash over the listener.

Contact spectiveaudio [at] gmail [dot] com to inquire, or contact spectiveaudio [at] gmail [dot] com through PayPal to arrange shipment and payment.


The N.E.C. B-Sides (C45, tinted red, limited) $5 (rock / pop / psychedelic)

Cinchel, drone.dump (C60, solid green, handmade art, limited) $5 (drone)

The Sunny Muffdivers, All Half Evil (C26, translucent neon, limited) $5 (psychedelic / drone)

Illusion of Safety / Travis Bird and Daniel Burke


Illusion of Safety / Daniel Burke, Travis Bird Tour

Experimental music veteran Daniel Burke will be touring Illusion of Safety material, along with newcomer Travis Bird, Burke’s partner in Chicago experimental guitar duo, Travis Bird and Daniel Burke. The duo will be touring the majority of the shows to perform Illusion of Safety material, but in several cases, they will also feature their specific guitar focus.

September 16 (Illusion of Safety): Robinwood Concert House (Toledo, OH) 9:00 PM
September 17 (Illusion of Safety, Travis Bird and Daniel Burke): The Shop (Pittsburgh, PA) 8:00 PM
September 18 (Illusion of Safety, Travis Bird and Daniel Burke): Highwire Gallery (Philadelphia, PA) 8:00 PM
September 19 (Illusion of Safety): Fairfax Old Town Hall (Washington, D.C.) 10:00 PM
September 20 (Illusion of Safety): Bar Matchless (Brooklyn, NY) 8:00 PM
September 21 (Illusion of Safety): Starlab (Somerville, MA) 10:00 PM
September 23 (Travis Bird): Think Coffee on Mercer (New York, NY) 8:00 PM
September 24 (Travis Bird and Daniel Burke): Maya Gallery (Greensboro, NC) 7:00 PM
September 25 (Illusion of Safety): Signal Festival, Nightlight (Chapel Hill, NC) 8:00 PM
September 26 (Illusion of Safety, Travis Bird and Daniel Burke): The Warehouse Performing Arts Center (Cornelius, NC) 8:00 PM

Daniel Burke hails from the Chicago experimental music scene, working in that area for nearly three decades. Over the course of his career, Burke has developed a distinct aesthetic that incorporates multi-media sources and other artistic crafts that fall outside of the realm of music. Burke utilizes these aspects to approach and develop music that engages the affective aspects of human experience through a self-described “need to explore the nature of sound and a desire to subvert structure.” Recent releases include a reissue of his Repairs cassette on Notice Recordings and his Probe recording with Jim O‘Rourke on Perdition Plastics, a performance with his new guitar duo (with Travis Bird) on a compilation featuring other Chicago-area experimental guitarists (entitled Offstrings; Complacency Productions), and his debut cassette with Travis Bird, Negentropy (Notice). These releases accent the depth of Burke’s career while suggesting several new directions.

On their main releases, and other live performances in Chicago, Travis Bird and Daniel Burke create eclectic, intense, flexible performances with their guitars that exploit the borders between improvisation and structured songs. Dark and foreboding timbres give way to surreal textures over the course of their releases on Notice Recordings and the Offstrings compilation.

Travis Bird is a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist working in Chicago, crafting a rich identity that engages both pop and experimental realms, showcasing his musical flexibility and songcraft. Previously working on several projects, including a pop collaboration entitled Cedar Wax Wings, Bird most recently stars alongside Daniel Burke, with Notice Recording’s Evan Lindorff-Ellery in Dense Reduction as an experimental duo, and as drummer, songwriter, and engineer in experimental pop trio The Leavitt Ours. His most recent releases include those aforementioned with Burke, as well as several with Dense Reduction (Notice Recordings), and an improvisational recording “Movement” with The Leavitt Ours.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Vital and Joyful Memory

I often reflect on psychedelic music, and what distinguishes psychedelic music as a particular classification in music. I frequently take the position that psychedelic music depends specifically upon a manipulation of technology in order to provoke or provide a template for psychological and emotional reflection and examination. After all, the art form is not itself a genre, borrowing instead from folk, country, and rhythm and blues songwriting conventions with manipulations and templates constructed within those time frames and structures. While I do not think that such a definition of psychedelic music captures the phenomenon entirely, I do think that it explains for the eclectic development of the psychedelic tradition in rock.

One of my friends often challenges me, asking whether psychedelic music is a creative dead-end. In doing so, he often cites efforts by psychedelic bands to dive into the standard conventions of their songwriting backbones, eventually producing records that are more folk or country or rhythm and blues than psychedelic. Of course, there is also the ever-present history of non-psychedelic bands that take a voyage into technological manipulation and indulge themselves for one album, only to return to their standard convention once more. I do not have an answer for his challenges, except to note that technological manipulation cannot be a dead-end so long as technology exists and the mind develops through history with that technology, develops a relationship with it, and interacts with it. In this manner, psychedelic music is more of a challenge, an infinite subconscious beneath all intersections of technology and songwriting, simply waiting for a demigod or mad scientist to unfold developments in music that are ripe for psychological and emotional reflection.

Psychedelic music is necessarily sensual, fully immersed in that which is sensible in order to clear the terrain and barriers between affectivity and intellect.


Darker My Love released their third LP, Alive as You Are, in the United States yesterday. Judging from comments from the band, statements on the development of this record, and the development of their live show, I fully expected something different. My expectations were confirmed when I heard the band's two samples, "Dear Author" and "Split Minute." Upon listening to the record, I found that my expectations reached in the wrong direction, and the result was a listening experience that was completely surprising, joyful, emotionally engaging.

At every turn in the record, the band shows their flexibility, musicianship, and songcraft, showcasing their profound ability to drive your mind through rich traditions without sounding old, tired, or forced. From previous interviews with the band that I have read or watched over time, it is clear that the band fosters a certain honesty about the type of music they want to create, and it is not surprising that I find their explorations through the storied pages of rock'n'roll to be fully unpretentious and completely innocent.

The group already provided a wide pallet of sounds in their first two LPs, and this record continues a journey that does not simply run through the history of rock, but also runs through the band's own catalog. Darker My Love is a group that explores every corner of their sonic space, every implication and aspect of their musicianship and songwriting. This is where the band's flexibility comes from, and it's not a flexibility that denies them identity, but rather a flexibility that allows them to freely create without regard to identity first.

Working through the band's genealogy, the direct recording and dry production were surprising in some regard, switching the balance between vocal performance and musical performance from the previous records. However, the ringing arpeggios, shuffling rhythms, and bright timbre follow aspects of "People" and most of the latter half of the band's self-titled debut, as well as "Immediate Undertaking," "Pharaoh Sanders Tomb," and "Even in your lightest day" from 2. Within their own discography, there are several aspects to Darker My Love, and if 2 followed the path of "Helium Heels" and "Claws and Paws," this one works alongside other trends in the band's development.

Instead of emotionally reflecting against waves of fuzz and dense, layered instrumental passages, the listener is presented with immediate, earnest vocal performances that run through parables in the lyrics that invoke automatic writing, or a method of presenting images to help one to recall navigation through the world's spaces and situations.

The production and imagery of the record created an experience that was immensely enjoyable throughout; the record helped to guide me through my memories, by leading me through places that I have already visited, but perhaps could not directly recall, or failed to see from a specific aspect. This does not mean that the record looks backwards; on the contrary, an engagement in sensation and the sensible world, framing and developing memories, in turn helps us to develop our own actions and attitudes toward the world. This is perhaps the greatest psychedelic achievement of Alive as You Are; inverting the technological manipulation in favor of a direct aesthetic results in a record that sound deceptively simple and straightforward, but rewards with continual focus and reflection.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


So, we're just about set with the Sunny Muffdivers, All Half Evil. Everything is submitted, we should be able to release it by September. Comment / email if you want to order a copy.

There's an excellent bedroom pop cassette on the way, a complete album of songs by Cedar Wax Wings called Orphan Autumn. The album was completed years ago, but never released, and it's going to be the fifth 'Spective Audio release.

Also, the first official Leavitt Ours release is on the way from 'Spective. The trio is releasing a four-song EP. Recording is finished and the band is now working on preliminary mixes and mastering.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

One Dandy Retrospective

In the tradition of classic rock -- and perhaps, contractual obligations -- The Dandy Warhols recently released abroad The Capitol Years, with a stateside release planned for the end of August. Featured on the release are our favorite Dandy jams and singles from their four Capitol releases, as well as one brand-new, previously unreleased song.

First and foremost, as a hardcore fan of the Dandys, I look forward to hearing the new song, and investigate the aesthetic of the release. I am interested in reading between the lines of the release -- that the band leads with "Boys Better," the ill-fated second single from ...Come Down, for which Courtney Taylor-Taylor provides the matter-of-fact note that Capitol failed to promote due to the chart performance of "Not if you were the last junkie on earth" in notorious documentary, Dig!."Holding Me Up," perhaps the most important song of the band's career in terms of linking their new wave / dance aspects to their meandering psychedelia, is the lead song from Odditorium. "Horse Pills" is absent.

As a musician and/or critic, I relish the opportunity to think about what precisely constitutes a discography, and how artistic development of a band is best captured. One of the most interesting aspects of Dig! is the simple note that upon their signing to Capitol Records, the label required the band to take a second attempt at finishing their major-label debut; the first effort is archived as The Black Album. Perhaps unknown to most fans -- myself included -- until last year was the fact that Welcome to the Monkey House featured an entirely separate, prior mix, left unreleased for nearly a decade. These artifacts remain undocumented on the The Capitol Years, which lead me to ask: how do we characterize the Dandys career? Or, what is a retrospective?

I find that one of the most endearing qualities of the Dandys is a pure independence. The band often straddles the line between meaningful free art and pure art-rock excess, but the lessons they provide often indulge in a tradition of psychedelic rock that sometimes flies beneath the surface of the Sgt. Pepper's sixties. Against the pillar of accepted psychedelia -- where Sgt. Pepper's is typically noted as the first meeting between art and pop music (why not "Say Man," by Bo Diddley?)-- we might embrace Notorious Byrd Brothers, Their Satanic Majesties Request, and S.F. Sorrows. In this tradition we will find artistic indulgence alongside the pop development of the rhythm and blues tradition, excessive effects, and meandering passages.

Equally pitted against organic psychedelic -- where subtle productive qualities explore the tradition's folk and country aspects -- and shoegaze -- which is now becoming a fully accepted tradition of focused fuzz and gloom -- meandering passages of joy or bliss provoke memories of the big, loose sounds of the 1970s as manifest throughout the Dandys catalog. My favorite analogy, as the Dandys' psychedelia meets a overt new wave tradition, is Physical Graffiti as a dance record. Often big and loud fuzz sounds are met with sassy or ironic breakdowns, heavy bass, and precise drums.

In terms of the Dandys' own catalog, this development of free art, new wave dance, big, large fuzz, and meandering bliss stands in their Capitol catalog on the structure of their ongoing covert operations. Independence presents itself in surprising ways when it is an authentic phenomenon, and this is the challenge that the Dandys' catalog presents to listeners.

How do you respond to the surprise of freedom when you listen to your favorite records? Or even records you hate? When we find our sensibilities regarding traditional rock or our expectations of a particular strand of psychedelic music to be transgressed by moments of pure freedom or excessive meandering, we might be repulsed, turning away from the potential of exploring open and vacant landscapes, in favor of scavenging familiar and comforting lands. This is the conflict we often find between the accepted, now-institutional development of psychedelic rock in critical circles, and the challenges of actually creating something new, something without bounds.

Isn't this the very tension found in the base of psychedelic rock itself? The mainstream and institutional release of progressive pop against a secret history that is diverse and free? This is the tension that I find at the very core of the Dandys' music, and this is precisely why I find myself returning to each and every one of their records -- mainstream or secret -- time and time again.

Monday, July 19, 2010

More releases!

It seems like forever since we spoke of releases, but we have some serious stuff on the way out of Atlanta. Pure aural assault is coming soon from Sunny Muff Divers, a primal psychedelic project by Chris Kaufmann and Cyrus Shahmir.

Contact Spectiveaudio (at) gmail (dot) com if you're interested in purchasing this one!

Hopefully there will be another new cassette LP available for the late summer season -- keep an eye out for some delightful homemade pop.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Independence / Fortunate Sons

This weekend I experienced the distinct pleasure of celebrating Independence Day at Quencher's Saloon with Fortunate Sons, a CCR cover band of the highest order. I last saw Fortunate Sons at the Cubby Bear, and they blew me away with their powerful pop, swamp, shuffle.

I spend most of my time thinking about music in terms of interpretations, deconstructions, etc. Most bands offer an interpretation of this concept or artistic movement, or a deconstruction of rock classics; A Place to Bury Strangers offers a first rate interpretation of Jesus and Mary Chain and 60s bubble gum pop while enacting a full scale aural attack through a distortion revival; Sleater-Kinney deconstructs classic rock on The Woods by offering rumbling drums and guitar and aggressively reclaiming feminist and feminine sexuality, resulting in one of the greatest rock records ever.

This is the basis of much of my thinking on rock and rock history: I view the genre as a comprehensive whole more and more, the more I listen to the roots of the genre and embrace the historical nuances that comprise the memory that informs our current rock artists.

What occurred to me while watching Fortunate Sons turns this entire basis for criticism on its head. A valid copy, an image of an exemplar, is a well-crafted artifact that is devoid of interpretation; or rather, interpretation and deconstruction cannot be the basis of a valid copy. Element by element, the valid copy grasps the principles of the exemplar, every salient aspect, every shadow, every hidden strand, every potential direction, trajectory of that exemplar.

It is in this copy, devoid of interpretation, that I saw rock and roll presented before my eyes. I saw righteous power pop, I saw intertwined rhythm and arpeggio, I saw loud and soft, I saw emotional abandon, and possessed rhythm. In each of their aspects, showcasing every corner of the original's repertoire, I saw CCR. Better yet, I understood that their differentiation from the original was informed by my memories, my knowledge of history, and my knowledge of music, and not necessarily in their playing. And isn't that the true differentiation of a copy from an exemplar? Where we know an original by its principles, we understand its copy through an entirely perceptual, sensual, affective, realm of memory and desire.

I have had time to reflect on a recent observation during the 4th of July weekend, celebrating our independence from England. It strikes me that our current ideology is completely opposed to the ideology of independence itself; whereas the ideology of Independence expressed by our founders was an extralegal ideology, expressed against a figurehead and state, our current celebration and enactment of independence is completely legalistic and procedural. What I find particularly strange about this development -- which occurred over centuries -- is that as we celebrate the independence of our founders, we fail to take their lessons to heart; that citizenship is a matter of deeds and not documentation, that freedom is proclaimed against and stolen from the powerful and not enforced by bureaus and departments. Against the extreme insecurities of our founders and their grand experiment, we stand as ethical frauds -- we are not valid copies to their exemplification of independence and freedom. We are forgeries. And until we realize the difference, our policies will remain extremely misguided and we will fail to execute the promise, beauty, and justice of the original declaration.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Two Thoughts on Culture

I am now a married man!

In the course of getting married, one of the gifts we received was funding help for a honeymoon to Hawaii. I was excited to check out a tropical climate -- the first of my life -- and rest after weeks and weeks of clerking in the Loop without a break. My naivete lead me to believe that I would be eating fresh fish on a nightly basis in Hawaii, supporting a local culture and local food that I could not possibly find here in Chicago.

In order to obtain a package deal, we booked through a tour agency, which ensured us a ride from the airport. Riding through Honolulu, I was struck by how rough and industrial the city looked -- the road from the airport to the resort sector wound through Honolulu's industrial burnout, with the very graffiti, abandoned warehouses, and railway shipping I see on a daily basis at our Kinzie / South Ukranian Village practice/storage space.

Once our driver reached the resort stretch, he did not hesitate to point out our landmarks to watch. "There's your Jimmy Buffett restaurant." "There's your Louis Vitton," etc. I suddenly felt as though Michigan Avenue was checked and stored in the belly of our aircraft, enduring the same nine hour flight to some strange land that did not really lead us to another culture.

Luckily, we only spent two days on the resort stretch in Honolulu, where I shamefully held my head when I could not provide the cash to the very transients I encountered while clerking in the Loop on a daily basis. If I ever felt homesick, I could surely exit the hotel lobby and pick up a Chicken McNugget meal, or check out the overpriced liquor at the neighborhood convenience store -- of which there are an astonishing number in Waikiki, a succinct statement about the demands of a culture that is composed almost entirely of tourism, with the locals hiding in spaces that are completely, totally off-limits to Continental travelers.

Maui was an entirely different story -- rural, full of natural discoveries I had not ever imagined (much less viewed with my own eyes). And here I stood, in a rural town that consisted of two whole streets, looking for the local fish place, looking for a deal on that Hawaiian coffee that not even my local importer/distributer will sell to me -- too expensive. Of course, even in Maui -- which features local coffee farming collectives -- the local coffee approaches $20 per pound. That's a price I simply cannot afford to pay, even if I am transporting the beans myself. The mahi mahi is pretty much the only fish I found on menus around town -- much like rural Wisconsin, or Milwaukee, or Door County, the places that formed my youth, every place on the street is a diner or sandwich shop, almost abiding by some strange mathematical equation that only deviates as the needs of those transplanted from the continent demand.

The fish isn't any cheaper. The hamburgers are $14. I suddenly dream about home while sitting in paradise, walking to my importer, picking up a pound of Tanzanian Peaberry beans and then grabbing two deep dish spinach slices on the way home. That's usually where my $14 land when I spend that amount of money (or, of course, records).

And then I heard the music. Maui's local rock station -- which features two positions on the dial depending upon which side of the mountains and which side of the island you are currently driving -- is eclectic, independent, and comprehensive. A guide to the entire history of rock. While driving the road to Hana, we listened to deep cuts by Buffalo Springfield and Status Quo, next to singles by Dave Matthews Band, Stone Temple Pilots, The Decemberists, and Pink Floyd.

Suddenly, my senses overflow with a completely unexpected taste of local culture: rock music, unnecessary in a place where seasons do not exist and there is no tension whatsoever with the rhythms of nature, is relegated to one simple statement, approximately 40 years in the making, while cookie-cutter reggae beats dominate all other local stations, providing a true taste of Hawaiian culture.

Local culture, I found, is almost never what you expect it to be, no matter how many opinions you read prior to traveling, no matter how many tips you receive.

Culture is repetitive consumption in many cases -- a thought that I have had numerous times at Permanent Records and Reckless Records, where I often realize that even though I am supporting independent music, I am buying exactly what they say I should buy and exactly what everyone else tells me to buy through a convoluted path of local shows and rock criticism. This fact was drilled home as we spent one particular night walking up the resort stretch looking for a place to eat after one particular restaurant we scouted in hip guides was closed.

In a land far away, farther than I have ever traveled, I found all of the tones of home transported in ways sometimes unique, sometimes stale. The place I expected to visit never existed. Which leads me to appreciate the minute semblance of home-grown Chicago culture even more than I used to -- we enjoy heavy psychedelic rock because we have seasons here. The weather changes. That changes everything -- there isn't any need to actively stimulate the senses with hard, abrasive guitar sounds and reverb drenched, dark production when your only view is the ocean (on all sides) and you can predict the weather within minutes.

And yet I cannot escape the summary of rock n roll that I was provided in Maui. A gift wrapped for me in the most unexpected fashion, presented to my ears immediately: all those genres we hold dear, all those divisions we find on the Continent, they are narrow, they are superficial, they are simply surface battles, family struggles, between parties that have more in common than not.

I wonder how I missed this fact, this interpretation of rock n roll, when I have trumpeted this point about American politics for years. When one looks through the lens of liberal political theory from Hobbes through Gauthier, from Kant and Rousseau through Rawls, one finds that the divisions between American Democratic and Republican parties to be terribly small -- in fact, I'd wager that in the last century, no other "democratic" nation that elects its leaders features two parties that share as many ideological boundaries as the Democrats and Republicans.

And to think, I used to think that Pink Floyd and The Decemberists did not even meet at any point in my appreciation of my music catalog.

Monday, May 3, 2010


June 21, 2010

VIADUCT THEATER (3111 N. Western Ave., Chicago 60618)

The Great Society Mind Destroyers
The N.E.C.
w/ The Leavitt Ours and Cinchel hosting


$8, doors at 8pm

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Cinchel at Permanent

Check out Permanent Records and ask for Cinchel's tape -- there should be copies available at the store!

1914 W. Chicago Ave.
Chicago 60622
Off #66 and near #9 and #50 buses.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Come on out tonight to check out the Leavitt Ours at Angel Island, with El is the sound of Joy and Ol' Boy. Ol' Boy are curating a series of shows at Angel Island, which feature local acts, individual open mic performances some nights, and special guests of the band. Head to 735 W. Sheridan, steps from the #36 and #151, and approximately 1/2 mile from Sheridan L.

Also, on Tuesday, March 16, head to Phyllis' Musical Inn, 1800 W. Division, to check out Truman Peyote, The Lord Jeff, and Julie Byrne. Leavitt/Ours are opening. 9 pm, $3 -- you can't beat $3 to watch psych groups playing their way down to Austin for SXSW!

The Phyllis show will feature the first joint release between 'Spective Audio and Notice Recordings, in the form of a limited show release, including the Leavitt Ours' Movement improvisation and a CDR collection of some of their most recent recordings.

If you can't make the show and want to know what the band is up to, email leavittours [at] gmail [dot]] com to arrange a donation!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Reckless Records

SPCTV CS1 and SPCTV CS2 should be available at the following Reckless Records locations:

3126 N. Broadway
Chicago, IL 60613
(Approximately 10 minutes from Wellington or Belmont L)

Wicker Park
1532 N. Milwaukee
Chicago, IL 60622
(Approximately 5 minutes from Damen L)

26 E. Madison
Chicago, IL 60602
(Less than 5 minutes from Monroe subway and steps from Madison/Wabash L)

Sunday, February 28, 2010

'Spective Audio Release Day!

Hey y'all,

The cassettes are ready! I should have an update on the arrangement with Reckless Records tomorrow, from what they've told me in the past, we shouldn't have any issue with getting the tapes into all three stores, but I need to speak with them all individually.

If you would like to arrange an order, please email spectiveaudio (at) Cassettes will be $6 USA, $7 Canada, $10 international.

The Cinchel releases, including handmade art by Cinchel himself, are going quickly. Get one while we have 'em!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Vertonen / Noise

On Friday, February 19, I made my very first trip to Enemy, and experienced the world of noise in a most direct and profound manner. Previously I associated myself with noise in terms of how to infuse pop music or pop structures with the most noise possible, destroying and then reconstructing the familiar with opaque, distant, terrifying, or bizarre elements. In each of these cases, noise was only ever associated with "noise rock;" this, I learned rather quickly, was not noise rock. This was noise.

Vertonen started a confrontational, short set by manipulating objects and machines that were intended for commercial use, or to air commercial music or commercial culture (as pointed out by my friend, Travis Bird), and after I recovered from the instant shock of the buzz, grinding feedback, metallic screeching, I found an underlying message through what became a hypnotic drone.

Long have I found Karl Marx to be an inspirational cultural theorist, emphasizing the primacy of the concrete world, impacting the senses and forming the creation of our knowledge at every step of the way. It is at points where abstract ideals without grounding in the concrete world, abstracting and atomizing the individual from their situation, that the world begins to run astray, and the materials appropriated for production and the relations of production themselves take on harmful forms in this abstract idealized world -- a false world.

Never did I expect Marx to become a fully salient theorist of art, or theorist of aesthetics (which in the case of noise would be not the theory of beauty, but the theory of re-appropriating and re-configuring industrial, commercial, constructed objects, found, or cultural objects in order to strip them of their conventional aspect of beauty that is assigned to them through a function associated with an abstract, idealized world -- the false world).

Yet, as I stood there, it occurred to me that even where Marxist ideologies failed the Nineteenth and Twentieth century in terms of their actual appropriation by so-called revolutionaries and ideologues, the cultural impact of Marx is as fresh as ever. If the strength of the American bureaucracy and state, now joined through their shared interest of maintaining private property and upholding the ever-thriving and morphing contradictions of capital, require us to abandon a societal revolution towards the state, the revolution must first begin with our very senses, our point of access to the world, senses which have been lead astray by omnipresent commerce and corporate objects, serving to strengthen the false world by upholding stifling representational images and irresistible objects of beauty.

Our ethics, our actions, the very foundation of our knowledge are informed by these misleading images and objects, and it is through the manipulation of objects, reclaiming the commonplace for the common person, reclaiming what is readily available and concrete for actual interaction with a direct and immediate community, that we may find a promising prospect for reorienting our senses to the world and reclaiming the concrete for ourselves and others, knowing full well that we are not abstracted individuals, atomized individuals, but living, breathing, political, sensual agents -- one wouldn't necessarily know that by viewing society-at-large, fully engaged and distracted by chimerical pop culture and excess.

Perhaps these very machines, which strip humans of their agency and their need to act in their own concrete situation, turning them into abstracted ideals themselves, fantastical individuals rather than truthful individuals, these very machines as they are manipulated, stripped, re-appropriated, terrorized, and most of all, claimed, by concrete bodies, concrete artists emerging from the material to engage a new path for knowledge, are once again the key to our freedom.

A freedom that is once again completely insecure, dangerous, vital, loud. Not the formal freedom ensured by piles of deeds and court files at the Clerk's office, but the uncertain freedom of everyday interaction directly with our community.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Shows / News

It's promo week! Spective Audio releases CS1 and CS2 will be available on March 2, 2010. Please feel free to send pre-sale inquiries to

-Go support Travis Bird and Dan Burke, of Notice Recordings, at Enemy on February 19. The doors are at 9, show at 10:30. They are a guitar duo that utilizes driving, abrasive rhythmic attacks and swirling, chiming cycles, calling to mind the clausterphobia and tension of early Sonic Youth and Television with their guitar timbre. Their most recent recordings are available from their WNUR appearance, and they have a forthcoming release with Notice, 2 Guitars, No waiting.

-'Spective Audio / Double Phantom /[ove:evo] artist The N.E.C. will be busy at the end of February/early March, playing at 529 in Atlanta on February 19, with Jeff The Brotherhood and Screaming Females. They are supporting Man or Astro-Man?, alongside Atlanta psych-rockers All The Saints, on March 5, 2010 at Whirlyball in Roswell, Georgia.

Their cassette, SPCTV CS1 B-Sides, will be available at both shows, and the 529 show will be the first time you can pick up one of those tapes in person. Also be sure to check out their latest studio release, Is, available from [ove:evo]/Double Phantom.

-In general, support the work of Evan Lindorff-Ellery, sound artist, and Travis Bird, multi-instrumentalist, and their endeavor, Notice Recordings. They are two of the most principled musicians and fanatics about music that I have ever met, and their vision is available on cassette.

-Check out what local soul band Ol' Boy are doing on 735 W. Sheridan. They are hosting a series of shows at Angel Island. Low cover costs, new artists, and open mic featured.

-Leavitt/Ours will be playing at Angel Island March 10, showcasing new songs after a three month hibernation. New songs are jazzy, ambient, poppy, and just plain fun.

Friday, February 12, 2010

'Spective Audio Cassettes 1 and 2

The N.E.C. B-Sides cassettes are in, completely finished. Press starts next week, and the cassettes will be on sale on March 2, 2010, or through the band sooner.

Cinchel drone.dump cassettes are in, and the artwork simply needs to be added. Press starts next week, and the cassettes will be on sale on March 2, 2010, or sooner through Cinchel.

Please feel free to contact for pre-order inquiries.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Miracle Condition

I was home sick one fateful day, towards the end of 2009, and my credit card and myself embarked on a spiritual journey. After hearing from my close friend / bandmate / spiritual adviser that Chicago rockers U.S. Maple purportedly met at Grand and Western (merely blocks away from our own rehearsal space), I decided that I needed to introduce my eardrums to our chronologically-distant-yet-geographically-near forefather of Chicago rock.

After hours of Amazon searching, weeks of lost packages, and one fateful encounter at Permanent Records, I had 4/5 of the U.S. Maple catalog in my possession (I suppose it'd sound much cooler if I landed an amazing mint copy of their out of print sophomore release from someone who didn't know what they were selling, but unfortunately, everyone knows what they are selling). Each listen destroyed my comfortable disposition towards punk, the relationship between punk and songwriting convention, and challenged my pop sensibilities -- rather, my experimental pop sensibilities.

If you read some online biographies of the band, the term everyone seems to throw around is, U.S. Maple "deconstructed" rock'n'roll. I don't think people know just how significant that phrase is, or, how apt a description it provides for U.S. Maple's music. A deconstruction, in so many words, suggests that someone tears down some convention, dismantling it piece-by-piece, and then placing new elements in the place of those old conventions that somehow create something that looks vaguely familiar, yet challenges the old guard in a very meaningful or important way. (I suppose "meaningful" isn't the best word there, because of course a deconstruction makes some statement about meaning, given that one often sets out to challenge the course of meaning, or challenge an interpretation of meaning when one deconstructs a cultural phenomenon, which in itself is a theory of meaning or statement of meaning. Even a negation or nihilism require some semblance or structure of meaning to foil. But I definitely mean important).

From every direction. The assaults converged on my senses one after another, some in completely surprising ways, others in ways that I expected but found shocking, nonetheless. I wondered what I had been doing in the 1990s; I'll never be one of those aging hipster Lit teachers that is able to brag to his class that he owned first pressings of each of the U.S. Maple records when he was an enterprising teenager. I had only gone as far as the KIDS Soundtrack by age 15, and was fully submerged in the atmospheres of Slint and the blissfully melodramatic world of Lou Barlow. But, somehow, that didn't seem important anymore; I catch the bus at Grand and Western, in different directions on different days, but invariably from the same place; after I blast my ears with my bandmates or pedal-stomping solitaire, I buy myself beer from that seemingly nameless liquor store.

Somehow I feel that the world of U.S. Maple is my own, 15 years later.

This contexts makes the release by Miracle Condition that much more meaningful to my ears, as I have traveled 15 years in the matter of months, gained immeasurable insight on crossing the terrain of the Western Express or the pop song structure, or the lead guitar line, or the true definition of "percussive guitar approach." I understand more about how vocals can be used, how far drums can move in outlining patterns and mapping a song, as well as the radical clean guitar tone.

Each of these elements are advanced in Miracle Condition, not as a continuation of U.S. Maple, not as a clone, or a dismissal, or an interpretation of U.S. Maple, but as something strangely familiar that is nevertheless constructed out of different, new elements. Through time the band traveled, perhaps away from that fateful geographical locale, and it shouldn't be surprising that the sounds of Miracle Condition offer more space, more breathing, more reflection.

With the old catalog fresh in mind, it reminds me of the feeling of recalling an aged memory through the guise of a completely different disposition in life, recalling a memory from a completely different situation, reliving an experience in a completely different position. Finding an intersection on the map in the context of the entire city, and experiencing the immediate and limited view from the ground; meaning is bounded by both, perspective guides the senses in different directions in each situation.

Really, Miracle Condition preempted me. I was planning to write a retrospective on Long Hair in Three Stages, asking one of those grand questions, such as, "Has Independent Music Progressed Since U.S. Maple?" Instead, I get to write about Miracle Condition, and now I am thrilled that I do not need to simply purchase their back catalog and explore their old geographical locale; this time, I get to be right there with them.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Chicago Metaphysical Circus / Psychfest

Finally, a collaboration among every local band I love! I must admit, I am sometimes bad at keeping a show calendar, and the fact that Chicago Metaphysical Circus is organizing these bands, rounding all of them up, and placing them at home at The Hideout Inn builds within me an anticipation I haven't felt for a local show in a least not since the first time I saw Cave at Hideout, or not since the Black Math set at Permanent's Anniversary show.

The batting order is a set of heavy hitting groups that provide space for emotional and psychological reflection in often-distorted passages, claustrophobic rhythms, never-ending-walkabouts (yeah, I went there), and a generally eclectic sonic palate. It's so easy just to say, "oh, these bands stradle the divide between punk and psychedelic," or something like that; I mean, it is true that in Vee Dee's driving rhythms or Plastic Crimewave Sound's abandon, you will find the spiritual grandchildren of that imaginary generation of music about which Lester Bangs often dreamt. A generation where punk is thoroughly grounded in abstract song structures, a measured aesthetic towards fuzzy guitar sounds and -- if you're lucky -- loads of phaser or reverb or wah wah or whatever else.....

It's more than that; this music reflects an environment. You might think I'm crazy, but I honestly think that if you listen carefully enough, you can feel the bizarre isolation of Chicago's scene, the distance that the city affords despite its size and density, the hopelessness the city promotes despite accessible wealthy neighborhoods never more than a stone's throw from the new, morphing bohemia. A lot of us grew up in the affluent 90s, which proved perfectly the despair of economic comfort, and we subsequently find ourselves in a city that begs us to reflect ourselves, our fears, and our desires -- our affectivity -- against its foundations and infrastructures, while those structures themselves often deny us the meaning we seek in our very reflection.

Psychedelic music is not necessarily a genre of music, but a form of technological manipulation in music, and a form of psychological and spiritual development in music. It is more than nihilism; yet it struggles to leave the loud disdain for artistic and pop forms proclaimed by the brief history of punk. So, to say that these bands straddle the barrier between punk and psychedelic indeed misses the point; this barrier is psychedelic adventure, psychedelic exploration, psychedelic development itself. A culture that shares a rich piece of the history of technological advances in music (from The United States of America and The Byrds to The Dandy Warhols and Darker My Love, yes I went there), a culture that matches the enthusiastic contradiction of surrealism, where high art form is matched with the spirit of dada destruction of anything from pop to societal convention; a culture that revels in the alienation of possession, property, commercialism, and totality.

These bands showcase where we are -- physically and mentally, and through their interludes and breakdowns and washes and drones and feedback, tell us exactly how we got there.

You're already there, so I assume you'll be going to the show.


Hideout Inn, January 22, 2010

Dark Fog
Plastic Crimewave Sound
Sadhu Sadhu
Vee Dee
The Great Society Mind Destroyers
Black Wyrm Seed
DJ Velcro Lewis

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Vee Dee

After reading about local psychedelic punk band Vee Dee, it all seemed too good to be true, and so I waltzed out and found a copy of their Public Mental Health System. On first listen, the record proved to be more abrasive than I expected, but featured strong nasal guitar tones and extreme wah and phaser work to shade the guitar. The band's extended jams provide ample reinterpretations of classic rock guitar mainstays, with a driving rhythm section leading the front-and-center guitar sound.

Frankly, the band probably picked one of the best album titles of 2009, and anyone who rides the Red Line late at night probably instantly understands this recording aesthetic and title. Claustrophobic, wailing, and straddling the boundaries between genres while simply moving forward at a blistering pace.

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