Sunday, 16 August 2009
Space City USA were a band from London*, Ontario who - about 13 years ago now - somehow managed to get Toronto's Raw Energy Records (who normally put out punk rock and ska type stuff) to release this bizarre combination of rock, stoned samples, soundscapes and straight-up power electronics noise.
The CD's cover art includes the phrase "The Future of Rock 'n' Roll" - and, between the lo-fi, often trebly mix (perfect for iPods), the somewhat ironic sensibility (inner sleeve has pictures of vintage electronics and big sunglasses), and the exuberant use of noise and collage, one could make the argument that "Chromed" might well have struck a chord if released today (the song "Suzuki Kid" is not unlike Wolf Eyes, for example). Another band 'ahead of their time'.
At that time, I was playing in The Starkweather Fix and was looking for different-sounding bands to play gigs with - when I heard "Chromed", I was initially confused by how plain weird it was, and then intrigued. Gradually I came to love it, it really is its own little world. I approached Raw Energy about playing a show with Space City USA, and recall how thrilled they seemed that someone was taking an interest; indeed, I was left with the distinct impression that they had no clue whatsoever what to do with the band.
In August of 1997, we played together at the El Mocambo downstairs, along with Bunny Hoover and Mangloid. Space City USA were pretty strange live too, as it turned out - for the song "Posathon"(a pastiche of noise bursts as well as Joni Mitchell's famous rebuke of the Isle of Wight Festival audience that they were "acting like tourists") - the lead singer/guitar player not only played a recording of Mitchell's dialogue, but proceeded to lip-sync it as well!
They played a bunch of songs off their record and covered Yoko Ono's classic "Don't Worry, Kyoko (Mummy's Only Looking For Her Hand In The Snow)" in their own inimitable style. I also recall they gave out faux hockey cards with musical figures instead of hockey players; unfortunately, I can't find mine right now. I think it was Eddie Kramer.
"Chromed" has been available online from Western's college radio station CHRW 94.7 for a long time, but sadly only at 128kbps. There's precious little, internet-wise, on the subject of Space City USA and what became of them. It appears that the aforementioned singer guy went on to produce "maximum drum & bass" under the name Suzuki Kid, releasing at least two acclaimed records under that name ("Doom Doom Doom" and "AC/DC CD").
"Chromed" has two 'bonus tracks', and in true 1990s fashion, these appear after a minute of silence at the end of the album proper: one is an aggressively crappy cover of Judas Priest's "Livin' After Midnight", and the other is a noise barrage called "The Treatment". I should add that Track 9 ("New Transmission") has a warning in the liner notes that, "this song may damage your speakers if played too loud. Try it with a few cups JO, and relax". Perhaps the greatest warning of its kind ever?
Space City USA - Chromed (320kbps)
*hometown of the Nihilist Spasm Band of course. Is this whence comes the noise?
***Sept.12/09 - I had a very nice email from Brother Joe (the main man behind Space City USA and Suzuki Kid), who now lives in Vancouver and runs an extremely tasty hard-psych-rocking blog called Don't Feed The Ears Let Them Eat. He's also DJing a Psych Night Wednesday nights at 10pm (BC time) at the Anza Club, with a live internet stream to boot! More info here.***
Saturday, 15 August 2009
Soundheads out there will likely know that Loop has been reissuing their recorded output over the last year or so. Initially slept on, these records are now considered classics of guitar-rock brain-oozing psych, and it's a wonderful thing to finally see Robert Hampson discussing the band after some 20 years of studiously ignoring the subject and focusing on his later Main project.
Now Main is defunct too, and Hampson is actually putting out albums under his own name. The Loop reissues have generously included bonus discs of Peel Sessions, demos, and comp appearances. With the exception of recordings now too damaged to remaster, it seems almost everything that Loop ever released is seeing the light of day. Everything, that is, with one noteable exception...
The history of this Loop live bootleg is largely unknown. Released in 1992, originally in both the double-LP format and as a single CD, this Italian bootleg was famously limited to 1000 copies; the songs were late-period Loop, with many tracks off their last record "A Gilded Eternity". I bought mine not long thereafter at an HMV of all places, and yes, it was expensive even at the time.
According to the Loop discography at glassdarkly -
Appears to be the complete concert from which "Got To Get It Over (Live)" from Dual was extracted. Oddly enough, the sound on this is vastly superior to the version from DUAL (provided that they are, in fact, from the same show). As a matter of opinion, these live versions are given a much more muscular workout than the studio versions, at least as far as the tracks from A GILDED ETERNITY are concerned. "Mother Sky" is a cover of a song by Can.
A 12" Loop EP came out around 1991 consisting of three tracks and entitled "Prisma Uber Europa"; interestingly enough, these three tracks have in fact been reissued on the bonus discs for Loop's "The World In Your Eyes" collection. Now, two of those three tracks - "Afterglow" and "Got To Get It Over" - are the same live versions that appear on "Edizione Limitata di 1000".
Further, that same live version of "Got To Get It Over" also appears on "Dual", which is an official release (although not sanctioned by the band). Again, information at glassdarkly lists this recording as dating from Loop's 1990 tour of the US (opening for The Cult, I believe). So it would seem that the master for all these live recordings may well have been in the possession of the band, at least at one time.
Still, as the write-up quoted above suggests, the sound on the Italian bootleg is superior to that on the official comp album. So who knows? The whys and wherefores aside, I give you now that rarest and most-sought-after Loop prize, a nice 320 rip of the original CD bootleg, the full-length "Edizione Limitata di 1000" --
Loop - Edizione Limitata di 1000 (320)
***ADDENUDUM (Aug. 25/09): I bought the flabbergastingly awesome three-disc remastered edition of the Loop compilation "The World In Your Eyes" yesterday, and the notes for those aforementioned three live tracks list their recording location as, "God only knows" -- which pretty strongly suggests to me at least that Loop must not have recorded the songs in the first place!***
Friday, 14 August 2009
Big ups to my brethren in Toronto blues mavericks CATL, for yesterday against all odds they won the Toronto Blues Society's Talent Search Finals, held at Nathan Philips Square.
This must have been especially nice as it followed a trip down to Detroit to do some recording (their first as a trio) for the follow-up to their debut "¿Adónde Vas? A Ningún Lado" LP. 2009 is shaping up to be the year of the CATL.
Thursday, 13 August 2009
Another great poster by Fort Polio, this time for Poster Show IV (which No No Zero is playing of course) -- not just a great bill, but a wicked poster exhibition and a fundraiser in honour of the late great Mr. Majewski himself (that's him on the poster, in case you couldn't figure it out).
I can tell you that we will *not* be a trio at this show after all, and should have some 'special guests' joining us onstage... aaaaaaaannnd the Michal Majewski fundraisers just don't stop! September 18th will see No No Zero return to the super-sleazy Atria in Beautiful Downtown Oshawa, to raise money for a Majewski trust fund, along with The Diplomats and The Ancestors.
Please note also the new-fangled Upcoming Shows sidebar - which hopefully will be around for awhile.
Sunday, 9 August 2009
I was lucky enough to see Michigan magicians Gravitar play live one time - this very gig in fact*, a release show for their then-new "You Must First Learn To Draw The Real" CD on Monotremata. Me was so crazy about Gravitar's colossal racket, I drove all the way from Oshawa (about a four hour trip one way) to see them - and the band were every bit as good as I'd hoped they'd be and then some.
I was shocked at how small-scale it all seemed initially: Geoff Walker on vocals (and occasionally guitar), sitting in an ordinary chair like some old bluesman, surrounded by effects pedals; his brother Mike on guitar; Eric Cook on drums. They looked like normal enough guys, nice guys.
This didn't visually promise anything like what erupted from the speakers when they actually started playing - immense sheets of gnarly GRIT noise and tripped-out vocal ECHO assault, HUGE psychedelic godhead RIFFS, caterwauling free jazz FILLS coming faster & harder than could be mentally absorbed.
Forget the room, these guys rocked the universe. I bought everything they had for sale and babbled like a goon to them afterwards about how great they were. Eric even mentioned my driving all that way on his website.
So yeah, I was a big fanboy of Gravitar. As far as I was concerned, they were the last word in heaviness at the time. I even bought their box set 'Ten Years of Tears' (from Enterruption) when it came out - this went through four editions, each slightly different, of which I think I have No. 2.
One of the discs in this box was an exclusive called 'Live 1999-2000' -- featuring two sets from the band; the Detroit 1999 set, and another the following year in San Francisco. I have struggled mightily to upload this second set, but the second half of it is stubbornly resisting all my efforts so you'll have to make do with just the one, sorry.
If you'd like to know more, including what became of Gravitar, here is a wonderful recent interview with Geoff Walker and Eric Cook.
Gravitar - Live at the Gold Dollar, Detroit 1999 (@ 320 kbps)
*based on info at the Gold Dollar's archived historical schedule, it was their only show in 1999.
Friday, 7 August 2009
Blind Alley is a project of guitarist Gary Mundy, perhaps best known as a member of (recently reactivated) British noise-rock legends Ramleh. The style is fried psychedelic guitar workouts with occasional percussion, culminating in a brain-melting 22 minute raga called "Until The Light Returns". Very underrated record, this.
"The Ruby Kennel Club" was originally issued in 1996 by now-defunct Freek Records; if you want a hard copy, your best bet would be to contact the man himself through his MySpace page.
And, speaking of re-activation, Mundy's label Broken Flag is back putting out records as well! Happy days are here again.
Blind Alley - Ruby Kennel Club (@ 320 kbps!)