"Polluting the Internet one issue at a time"
eP's Stevie Ramone stops by the old folks home and then pays a visit to the maternity ward to bring back Live Reviewsof Motörhead and Babyland; Album Reviews of the Feederz, Golgotha, Sister Machine Gun, Johnny Vegas, Lee Totten, Ginuwine, Basic Food Group, and so much more; metal welding with Blo-torch; trapped in Gridlock's aural matrix of congestion; Earpollution's second installment of the Sixty Minute Soundtrack; and Mark Teppo's 5 Commandments for making music videos in this month's Cool By Proxy.
Seattle's dwindling all-ages scene suffered a blow in May when the Velvet Elvis Arts Lounge Theatre announced that it would be closing its doors at the end of June. Feeling pressured by the development and gentrification of Seattle's Pioneer Square District, the venue felt it was best to close shop on its own terms. Run for six years by a staff of volunteers, the Velvet Elvis was a creative harbor for all-ages music and theater in a city that is doing its best to make it impossible to operate such businesses. Its last show will be June 26th with the Melvins. Not one to be missed--unlike the venue.
Rumored to be suffering from the pain of an unknown illness, the long time Ministry sidemouse guitarist killed himself in mid-May. Having recorded and toured with the Revolting Cocks and My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, Tucker was best known for his session work with Al Jourgensen, and was slated to tour with Ministry later this summer in support of their new release, Dark Side of the Spoon.
"If you are a dreamer, come in
And in happier news, Ted "Can You Say Coo Coo for Cocoa Puffs?" Nugent has officially called off his tourism boycott of Canada. The boycott was in reaction to Ontario's decision to ban its annual bear hunt. "You want to have the bears run rampant? Then you go ahead and figure out how to get them out of people's dumpsters and people's backyards," Nugent was quoted as saying. "And you explain to the lady why Fifi just got gobbled up by an overpopulation of black bears." Canadians and Fifi owners everywhere can now sleep at night knowing they're safe and protected. Thanks Nuge!
Feederz - Ever Feel Like Killing Your Boss?
by Mark Teppo
Last time we talked about the basic idea of music becoming an ambient accompaniment to our lives. To recap: each hour of your day has a mood--what Brian Eno once called a "tint"--and that mood has an aural counterpart. There is music that you only listen to when you're in the shower, or when you're driving in your car, or when that certain someone is finally coming over and you're trying to figure out when to play Roxy Music's Avalon without seeming obvious. We crave patterns and cycles--that recognizable repetition of events which make us feel comfortable, which make us feel at home. My cycle begins with an hour of silence, the only hour of the day when I don't have music playing.
There was a thread on the Ambient music mailing list about a year ago where the list readers owned up to their most embarrassing ambient moment. One story went like this: a guy comes home with a new disc. He puts the disc on and starts puttering about his apartment, half listening to the distant click and pop and hum and whir that he hears. After a while he thinks, "Damn, this is subtle. Really nice and rhythmic, but very subtle." He glances down at the CD player and realizes that he never hit "play." For the last twenty minutes, he has been listening to the natural sound of his apartment. A number of fellow listees admitted to similar experiences and what I came to realize from this discussion was that I sought out this very space every morning before I went to work.
I used to wake up to music--which got me out of bed directly--but I always left the house with my chest tight and my pulse racing. I'm still programmed to get up and get out of the house. But I'm trying to break that programming, and the way I'm doing it is by listening to the silence in the morning. My aural tint is white, clean and pure. It pours over the vestiges of my dreams like a coat of whitewash and snaps around me like a shield before I brave the frantic rush towards Y2K. It came about nearly by accident, really...just stopped listening to music until I got into the car and was blasted by whatever I had been hopping to on the way home the night before. But this clean space has become an important ritual, a purifying emptiness before everything rushes in.
That's not to say that this hour is totally quiet. Not in my neighborhood. I've got Seattle's Ugliest Intersection off my balcony, and, at that time of the morning, all sorts of traffic is jockeying to make it across those six intersected streets without dying. There's a mysterious thumping that greets me from the roof and they've supposedly been done doing work up there for a week or so now. I've got the coffee grinder, the espresso machine, the refrigerator, and sometimes even the water in the pipes from the shower running next door as accompaniment, so to pretend that this atmosphere is pristine anechoic chamber-type silence is denial nearly as extreme as thinking that I'm actually going to make it to the premiere of The Phantom Menace without having some plot detail ruined. What is happening at this hour is, actually, a minimalist environment.
Have you ever listened to the sound of a match igniting? It's late and I just lit the candle on my desk and was captivated by the sound of the match tip erupting into flame. Try it yourself. Turn off, tune out, turn away from everything else around you and just listen to the sound of fire coming to life. Did you hear your breath catch in concert with the crackling burst of flame? The sizzling sound of the match head as it burns away and the dusky chord of the stick as it curls and blackens? If you hold that matchstick close to your ear (not that close), you can hear the fire talk, you can hear the sound of its work, you can hear its rhythm and its melody.
Akifumi Nakajima, under the name of Aube, builds music out of just what you heard from the tip of that matchstick. His release Embers (on the German Ant-Zen label) uses as its source material nothing but field recordings of fire, much like he used the sound of water for Aqua Syndrome (on Manifold Records) and the sound of the Bible for Pages From the Book (Elsie and Jack Recordings). He's used glow lamps, cardiology machines, metal, and God knows what else in his insistent quest for creating ambience from inanimate objects.
And there's an entire sub-group of minimal technoists who are delving into the open spaces between the beats and the airy space beneath the buzz of static: Richie Hawtin aka Plastikman, Thomas Brinkmann (in a few guises), Wolfgang Voigt (under all his aliases), Pole, and Pan Sonic. Like Nakajima, these fellows are pushing at the question of silence in music. They are asking where music stops and space begins. Let's ignore the sound of oscilloscopes and pulsars and steam grates and static and distant spatial beats and just focus on the beginning--on that short space between when you hit "play" and the CD actually starts putting out sound. There's a perfect bit of silence there. This is the place of the Zen Koan. This is where you think you can snatch the pebble from my hand, Grasshopper. This is where you first hear music because it fills this silence. This is the Big Bang moment (which, to me, was always just before the first chord of Rush's "Big Money," the first track on Power Windows).
John Cage has a piece entitled "4'33"" which, over the course of three movements, is nothing but silence. It opens as the pianist lifts the keyboard lid and closes with the reversal of that sound as the lid is shut. When I first heard about this piece, I thought: what a scam; what a pointless exercise in overblown, self-indulgent "art." I was younger then. Didn't have the wisdom granted by yet another birthday. Didn't see the forest or the trees. And I think any discussion of the piece other than the simple presentation of its existence almost detracts from the experience of the concept. What he sought here was focus; not some toe-slapping Grand Ole Opry floor-stomping kind of hoe-down, but rather your attention.
Cage, and the others who followed him, are breaking down the fourth wall of the musical experience. In the theater, the fourth wall is the barrier which traditionally separates the audience from the stage and the actors thereon. The audience was witness to the production and not participants. I don't know whether this reflects more of me, or my perception of Earpollution's audience, but Ferris Bueller's Day Off is a good example of the breakdown of the fourth wall. Music has always been more of a passive activity (in that your participation can't affect the actual music) than an active one, until such time that Cage began to experiment with the idea of the listening environment as an instrument. The audience became an integral part of the sonic experience.
I'm listening to the first track of Embers and all I can hear is the sound of the fan in my computer case. Yes, I did hit the "play" button and there is something coming out of my speakers, but because it is requiring my direct attention, that annoying whir of the case fan is really noticeable. Most of the time I never hear it. But because my focus is sharpened, other elements of my listening environment become louder. Have you ever noticed that the sound of the freeway is louder at night when you are out walking than it is in the daytime? Well, what sense are you using more at night?
I sat down one evening to really listen to the third movement of Mozart's "Serenade for Winds" (K. 361) and realized I have the loudest clock in the entire universe. I couldn't enjoy the opening oboe line or the swell of strings which followed because what dominated my listening environment was the damn tock-tock of that clock's second hand. It had never crossed my consciousness prior, but I certainly couldn't avoid hearing it after that initial shock. That is, until I yanked it off the wall and tossed it down the garbage chute. And, as I listened to the clock bounce and rattle on its way to the basement, I realized there were several things I need from music.
I need that mournful wail of an oboe. I need that distant thrum of a bass drum. I need the breathy rasp of a trumpet's dying note. I need the rattle of static pulled from the ether and looped into a mesmerizing litany. I need that hook, that catchy chorus that drives me to the record store and the singles rack. I need that "young and innocent" guitar or that "pimp-slapping '70s porno funk" bass or that restless croon of a chanteuse just trying to get through this next song so she can have a cigarette. But, most importantly, I need silence. Because none of the rest means anything unless I know how to listen.
John Cage: "There is no such thing as an empty space or an empty time. There is always something to see, something to hear. In fact, try as we may to make a silence, we cannot. For certain engineering purposes, it is desirable to have as silent a situation as possible. Such a room is called an anechoic chamber, its six walls made of special matter, a room without echoes. I entered one at Harvard University several years ago and heard two sounds, one high and one low. When I described them to the engineer in charge, he informed me that the high one was my nervous system in operation, the low one my blood in circulation. Until I die there will be sounds. And they will continue following my death. One need not fear about the future of music." (taken from an address to the convention of the Music Teachers National Association in Chicago during the winter of 1957. [Silence (1961), p. 7]