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.

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.

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