Gooey Synthesizer Melismas

It's thought that everyone is born a synesthete, but that most people's minds suppress any of this perceptual hyperconnectivity as they grow older. Presumably this is because there is a bad tradeoff between a sensuous existence and a perceptually lucid one. The limbic system is a more primitive beast, though, and it will not so easily be refused a teensy bit of hedonism.

For example, certain sounds stick with you. Really stick with you, deep down, so much so that when you hear them you reflexively experience any lurid emotions that happened to accompany them the first time. For me, these sounds are mostly organic--the staccato crackles of my dad's neck as he twisted it to the left after getting home from work, the disgustingly hurtful crunch of my friend Matt's finger as he slammed it in the car door in 3rd grade, the very-unexpectedly-bloody squelch that accompanied mine and my 10th grade girlfriend's first sexual gambol--but there are also an embarrassing number whose roots I can trace to video games.

TMNT III: The Manhattan Project is one of these. The track you hear as you totally demolish the stupid greenhorn foot soldiers in Level 1, in particular, has always rivaled post-coital endorphin in its ability to make me happy. I'm sure that for anyone who was between the ages of 16 and 30 in the electro-perfused late-70s and early-80s this is going to sound totally ridiculous, but TMNT III gave me my first exposure to what I choose to call the gooey synthesizer melisma. You've all heard it repeatedly I'm sure--it's that really thick variation on the "square" preset you had on your Casio keyboard, but set up so that it wiggles up and down between notes like Beyonce's being run through a vocoder.

This sound makes me happier than any other sound on earth, and I'd like to share it with each of you. All of the following songs made me cry when I heard them the first time.

Prince, "Diamonds and Pearls" (0:47 and 0:54--the gooey sounds here are actually made by a guitar, but this is the song that gave me the idea for this thread in the first place, so what-the-hell)

Sylvia Love, "Instant Love" (0:26-0:46, etc.)

Laser, "His Name Is Charlie" (0:15-0:21, etc.)

Midnight Star, "No Parking (On the Dance Floor)" (0:25-0:38, etc.)

Love and tears,


Now that we're a solid month into 2007, I guess it's as prime a time as ever to question what the hell happened in 2006. Now that I'm finally getting used to writing 07 at the top of my notes and checkbook, I've come to realize that another year has slipped away. Youth is fleeting, and the cold reality sinks in. But I'll save the depressing life's reflections for another blog post. For now, I'll be content with considering 2006 as it progressed in terms of music. As always, it's hard for me to recall exactly what I did with my time and what I was listening to for a whole 365 days, but there are certain releases of course that stick out in my hazily distorted brain. The following is a list of records that I indulged in frequently, and reflect at least some of the things that I thought made 06 a decent year for music. It still seems to be lacking somewhat, though. Maybe we're on the brink of something. Maybe something will give soon. Whatcha got 2007, seven? Don't be gentle. We need a new movement.


1. MACHINE GUN TV: Go-> (Public Eyesore)
And odd choice for #1, maybe, but this album got more repeated listens in my stereo than any other this year, and for good reason. The infectious J-pop melodies were lodged in my brain for weeks, and completely assaulted thoughts with a deranged sensory overload. The sound conveys an image of one of those cute Japanese schoolgirls smiling seductively at you, all the while holding a machete and a stick of dynamite behind her back. Drum machine beats were buried beneath a mountain of sound and destruction, tearing apart song structures and erasing any trace of mediocrity. Theres so much joy on the brink of insanity, taking ecstatic anthems and sticking a rocket in the ass of the beholder. Im as clueless as you are, but I know that I like it.

2. SKULLFLOWER: Tribulations (Crucial Blast)
Matthew Bower collapsed solar systems with this release, from start to finish. This is what psychedelic music is all about, monumental and filled to the brim with jolting textures and a rumbling sea of electronic chaos. Theres no fucking around, no initial buildups, no time wasted. Mesmerizing and wholly uncompromising, Tribulations will swallow you.

3. CLOUDLAND CANYON: Requiems der Natur (Rough Trade)
I forget how I stumbled across this release, but as soon as I heard it, I was hooked. The tracks were all recorded by Simon Wojan & Kip Uhlhorn over the course of 2-3 years, and showcase a massively wide range of sounds, sonic manipulations and out-there odysseys. Beginning with traces of something that resembles free-folk fucking electronics, things take a turn for the weird as time progresses, incorporating a host of ghastly environments. This one made the walls bend for me, and I do love the feeling.

4. EKKEHARD EHLERS: A Life Without Fear (Staubgold)
Gravelly-voiced and gritty, crackling in a crockpot of scrapes and prophetic mutterings, Ehlers got down dirty on this one. The lyrics are a gem by themselves, and, combined with the lo-fi pool of bluesy guitar refrain make for an irresistible album of doomsday deconstructions. You can feel it down in your stomach, and it rises out to the top, lining up with a hum and whirl.

5. GIRL TALK: Night Ripper (Illegal Art)
Greg Gillis' show at the Local 506 last fall was one of the more amazing experiences Ive had at a live performance in a long time. The party immediately commenced from the first beat dropped, as drunken fans were invited to dance wildly on stage around a laptop and semi-naked man, showing that you can in fact rock out with a computer (see Jason Forrests show at the Nightlight as well). Some said Girls Gone Wild, and I can see the point, but it was still a blast. The fact that this album is completely comprised of works credited to other artists is a testament to the ability of the digital age to allow for the appropriation of existing music/thoughts/ideas to create something new, free from legal prohibition. Illegal Art isnt so illegal anymore, and that is progress.

6. THEO ANGELL: Dearly Beloved (Amish)
I still have no idea what the words to Sheost are, but it hasnt stopped me from singing along at the top of my lungs.

7. POREST: Tourrorists! (Abduction)

8. ANLA COURTIS: Tape Works (Pogus)

9. WOODEN SHJIPS: Dance, California b/w Clouds Over Earthquake 7"/Shrinking Moon For You 10” (Sick Thirst/Self Released)

10. IDRIS ACKAMOOR: Music of Idris Ackamoor, 1971-2004 (EM)

11. LUC FERRARI: Far West News Vol. 2 and 3 (Blue Chopsticks), Son Memorise (Sub Rosa)

12. EXTREME ANIMALS: Music, The Great Communicator (self-released)

13. FOLKE RABE/JAN BARK: Argh! (Kning)

14. YIP YIP: In the Reptile House (SAF)
The above video is Yip Yip playing a high school homecoming dance. Priceless.

15. LOS GAITEROS DE SAN JACINTO: Un Fuego de Sangre Pura (Smithsonian Folkways)

16. BURIAL: s/t (Hyperdub)

17. LE VOLUME COURBE: I Killed My Best Friend
I have no idea where to hide all these bodies.

18. V/A: Good God! A Gospel Funk Hymnal (Numero Group)

19. PEDESTRIAN DEPOSIT: Vestige (Hospital)
Favorite act at No Future Fest last year, hands down. The record isn't as harsh as I expected, but in a good way.

20. MANDALAY MARIONETTES: The Magic of Burma: Mandalay Marionette Music (Blueberry Buddha)

Other Stuff that I highly enjoyed (in no particular order):

Halleleujah Chicken Run Band: Take 1, 1974-979 (Alula)
Mustafa Ozekent: Genclik Ile Elele (Finders Keepers)
Dan Deacon: Acorn Master (Psych-O-Path)
H.B.: The Great Apocalypse (Self-released)
Mohammed Jimmy Mohammed: Takkabel! (Terp)
Tim Hecker: Harmony in Ultraviolet (Kranky)
Comets on Fire: Avatar (Sub Pop)
Bird Show: Lightning Ghost (Kranky)
V/A: Big Apple Rappin'(Soul Jazz)
Oakley Hall: Gypsum Strings (Jagajaguwar)
Sic Alps: Pleasures and Treasures (Animal Disguies)
Ghostface Killah: Fishscale (Def Jam)
Gordon Monahan - Speaker Swinging & Piano Mechanics (C3R)
VA - Less Self Is More Self (Ecstatic Peace!)
Bob Sinclair: Western Dream (Yellow Productions)
Chris Watson/KK Null/Zev
Fe-Mail - Blixter Toad (Asphodel)
Create(!) - Sounds of Freedom (Sounds Are Active)
Oneida - Happy New Year (Brah)
Johann Johannsson - IBM 1401 - A Users Manual (4 AD)
Wolf Eyes - Human Animal (Sub Pop)
Peter Brotzmaan: Alarm (Atavistic)
Snakes Say Hiss: Ill Be Loving You (Famous Class)
Skygreen Leopards: Disciples of California (Jagjaguwar)
Flat Earth Society: Psycho Stout (Crammed Disks)
Dark Meat: Universal Indian (Cloud)
To Live and Shave in LA: Noon and Eternity (Menlo Park)
Peeesseye: Communicating Between the Surface and the Underworld (Evolving Ear/Pax)
Alec K. Redfearn & the Eyesores - The Smother Party (North East Indie)
Clipse - Hell Hath No Fury (RE-UP GANG)
Wzt Hearts - Heat Chief (Hit Dat)
Oakley Hall - Gypsum Strings (Brah)
Xela: The Dead Sea (Type)
Wang Changcun: The Mountain Swallowing Sadness (Sub Rosa)

Live shows that blew me away (I know there were more, but oh the memories come slow):

Jason Forrest (Nightlight)
Girl Talk (Local 506)
Gerbils (Little Kings, Athens)
Gutbucket/Ahleuchtastias (Nightlight)
Orthrelm (Wetlands)
Emperor X (Nightlight)
Pedestrian Deposit (No Future Fest @ Nightlight)
Dark Meat (Kings, Raleigh)
Extreme Animals (everytime is amazing @ Nightlight)
Belong (Duke Coffeehouse, I think that was this year)
Psychic Paramount/ITYOTP (Nightlight)

Up yours 06.



WXYC is Hiring

Ah, spring semester and WXYC is hiring new DJs! This is an open call for all music geeks. We ask of you only two things: that you are currently a student and that you are DAMN EXCITED about music.

Come out to the OPEN HOUSE Tuesday January 23rd at 6pm. 3420 in the student union.

Then, come to the INTEREST MEETING at 7pm on the 23rd in Bingham 108.

If you can't make it, email info@wxyc.org and we'll work something out.


Artist: The Stapler
Album: Metaphysical Haircut
Label: Columbus Discount

Fuzzy Wuzzy was in need of a haircut. A "metaphysical" haircut, more specifically, one that would allow him to dance without distraction. He'd heard of the fuzzy tones being made in Ohio, so he traveled to Columbus where he met up with three rock and roll barbers that call themselves The Stapler. They played music that was so much fuzzier than Fuzzy that it sheared his locks in a distorted ruckus that shaved him clean, leaving him free to dance maniacally in the bright city lights. Jared Phillips of Times New Viking recorded the whole deal on a Tascam 8-track, and named it "Metaphysical Haircut" in dedication to Fuzzy Wuzzy. The record captured rock music constantly on the brink of collapse, with super-catchy riffs and hooks that surfaced long enough to hold things together underneath the heaps of chaos. Fuzzy was very happy with his new hairdo and he thinks you will be too. Especially if you like music that crinkles at the edges, crunches at the seams and careens out of control in sharp distorted harmony. Like Sonic Youth, like Dinsouar Jr., like late '80s, early '90s rawk with a new fun-filled approach to getting your ears lowered. Or your head caved in.

Cheerleading for squarepusher

Sound the alarm! Alert the town crier! One of the most decisive albums of the year is sliding underneath the WXYC radar. Santa's getting confused. The best-of-2007 lists are spilling out the mail slot, but Squarepusher's "Hello Everything" has been suspiciously absent from this year's crop. Look at the nine panels on the cover and understand what this album is -- it is one man, pushing pieces of plastic and steel around with his hands, zipping around electrons to move in metal. The metal of my speakers and his instruments shakes and pulses with hype. Furious hype. And my electrons. 1990s. British scientists uncovered the perfect rhythmic noise -- the Amen breakbeat -- and well, the rest is history. You can speed it up too to slowly so that they move more quickly in time. It's like it's dance music, except way too fast for anyone to dance too. That is, if using your body. Use the electrons!! Listen to this album www.squarepusher.net or watch the videos and understand that "The Modern Bass Guitar" is played on the bass guitar somehow, using fingers. I refer to the cover for proof that they really are fingers. Fingers are doing this.



Artist: Sic Alps
Album: Pleasures and Treasures
Label: Animal Disguise

This overloaded album of feedback and feverish hallucinations was recorded in San Francisco and Mendocino CA in 2005, courtesy of Mike Donovan (Big Techno Werewolves), Bianca Sparta (Erase Errata), and Adam Stonehouse (The Hospials), with Flying Luttenbacher wild-man Weasel Walter doing the mastering. The current incarnation of the band is now a duo consisting of Donovan and Matthew Hartman (Cat Power, Coachwips), so theres no telling what they actually sound like now. But on this release, they destroy rock music to the point of absurdity and beyond, completely drowning your point of view in a garbage dump of distortion and abrasive noise overlaps. Somewhere inside, hollowed out vocals moan out a druggy dirge of busted melody, at times completely obscured by the onslaught of psychedelic sludge. Imagine Royal Trux in their smacked-out Twin Inifinitve days, with crunching guitars jangling in and out of rhythm to tampered time and complete obliteration. It isnt a very settling listen, but the unpredictability and cacophonous jubilee make me a fan, and when it rocks, it fukkin rocks (see track 5). Take a ride with the slow-moving guitar chugs of righteous repulsion, shredding song structure with a machete along the way.

My Spare Time is a Bleary Eyed Sip of Cheap Wine

Not to begrudge this blog, as it is a valuable resource with which XYC jocks might share our vast collective musical knowledge and initiate thought-provoking discussions about new and old musical styles and artists, but right now it seems as though this page is mostly a clearinghouse for youtube links, which while perhaps modestly entertaining, are of the most debilitated visual and audio quality and do little to demonstrate the heavy potential of this space on the interweb. Not to be one to simply smear the format and content and then bail, I must posit this humble observation concerning the potential of the blog format, and issue it as a personal challenge to myself and others to up the bar for our own wastes of time.
For an excellent example of a blog which instructs and inspires, head to the No Doctors homepage. Despite the fact that I consider these dudes my friends, I also admire their homepage for its lively discussion and interesting mix of fact and fiction. I issue a challenge to myself and others for the XYC blog - put some of yourself out there and let the world know what you think about music, the world, and our relationship to sound. If we could but smear some of the email jeezus that we produce over topics such as tuba or the legacy of luc ferrari, we would go a long way.
That said, TIME magazine has certainly indavertantly made an ass of themselves by hailing blogs such as this as harbingers of some new era in pluralistic entertainment provision, insinuating the the whole of America is ready to be entertained by folks with lots of spare time, like myself. Hmmmm. Maybe my own presence on the internet is not ready for my own chagrin at the bevy of crap that shuffles it way through the aether and spurts its electronic spunk all over my slow wireless connection. Blorch.

To Live and Shave the Thursday Night Feature

On last week's Thursday Night Feature, I exploited the work of Miami-based avant/industrial/pre/noise/dub band TO LIVE AND SHAVE IN LA. For three whole hours, listeners were treated (annihilated) to an audio history of the band, starting with main founder Tom Smith's work in Peach of Immortality and winding all the way up to the new album, Noon and Eternity. Mr. Smith was even nice enough to engage me in an interview, which was also included in the show. If you missed it, or you were one of the many who turned off your radios, you can relive the magic by downloading the show in its entirety below.

To Live and Shave TNF

If you like what you hear, be sure to pick up Noon and Eternity, which was recently released on Menlo Park Recordings.

Last Minute Holiday Gift Ideas

It happens every year. You are busy, things get hectic, and in the end you forget to do any Holiday Shopping! Uh-Oh! How will all your loved ones ever know that you love them without a gesture of consumerist reciprocity?!?

The sad truth is that they won't know and will therefore stop loving you. Therefore it is imperative to give them gifts to win their love. What's that? No money?!?

Well, the re-gift is a classic, though tacky, move. But do you know what's better than the re-gift? The modded re-gift.

It's simple really: take the crappy electronic toys and gifts from yesteryear and tweak them to make them completely awesome! The perfect gift!

The Sesame Street Talking Alphabet!

A Talking Pikachu!

A Toy Guitar!

A Playskool Keyboard!

And many, many more!

And for all your other tweaking, building, hacking, and DIY needs, let me highly recommend the MAKEzine blog and their archive of music and audio centered projects.


I'd like to see the full-length, if anyone can find it


Watch the host try to find the rhythm.