Saturday, May 31, 2014

Operation: Doomsday 33 1/3 Proposal

In late February, I submitted a proposal for Bloomsbury’s generally excellent 33 1/3 series. Unfortunately, my proposal for MF Doom’s classic Operation: Doomsday was not accepted, but I am still proud of the work I put in and think it would have made a great book. The process of conceptualizing and putting together a book proposal burned me out, so I took a break from this blog for a few months. I’m starting to have a few irons in the fire again for No Exchange, and I thought it only fitting to kick things off again with the draft introduction and full chapter breakdown from my rejected proposal for Operation: Doomsday. Regular No Exchange content will be resuming in the days to come.

Monday, January 27, 2014

When I'm Gone: The End of the Vivian Girls

Around the middle of the 2000s, there were a few years when it seemed like a ton of indie rock kids rediscovered the pleasures of vintage Guided by Voices and Exile in Guyville all at once. As a result of this (or because all of these kids were broke), lo-fi briefly became a viable trend again. After all of the initial lo-fi excitement subsided, most of these bands were promptly forgotten, but a few left us with records that still stand up to their initial hype. Wavves’ second album Wavvves remains a delightfully cracked collection of surf rock tunes. The Thermals’ first few records, and especially its first album More Parts Per Million, are packed with songs that are still as catchy as they were a decade ago. Times New Viking and No Age ripped apart pop and punk with the kind of noise that only the cheapest recording technology can provide. And a few psychedelic garage punks, including Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees, moved past their lo-fi beginnings to create some of the most exciting catalogs in 21st century rock.

While they were never quite the best of their class of lo-fi rockers, the Vivian Girls possessed an easygoing charm that, paired with their impressive songcraft, pushed them through one of the most consistently satisfying careers of any of their contemporaries. They broke up last week, putting a fitting cap on a final phase of their run that saw the band’s members being pulled in different directions by new ambitions.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

BYG Actuel 14: Acting Trio - Acting Trio

The European free improvisation scene has produced a handful of genuine iconoclasts. While that term tends to get thrown around a lot, especially when talking about free jazz and free improvisation, the greatest of the European free improvisers truly reoriented music permanently. They managed to break free from the bonds of the jazz tradition that ran through the music of their American contemporaries and create something wholly European. Peter Brötzmann, Han Bennink, and Alexander von Schlippenbach from Germany and Evan Parker and Derek Bailey from the UK stand as possibly the most recognized of the titanic iconoclasts of European improvisation. These five are not only representative of the scene as a whole in terms of their musical advancements but in their countries of origin. Germany and Britain have served as the binary stars around which European improvisation has orbited for the last 45 years.

Yet this does a disservice to the other countries that have produced great, innovative players who haven’t reached the level of recognition as their German and British peers. While BYG Actuel primarily released records by expatriate American musicians, it wasn’t totally blind to the advancements occurring in its own country. Michel Puig, Jacques Coursil, and the ever-present Claude Delcloo all led albums for the label, but these artists (with the exception of Coursil) are eclipsed by the mysterious Acting Trio, whose self-titled album was the fourteenth that Actuel put out.

Friday, January 17, 2014

I've Had It: The Sorry State of Black Flag

This is certainly up for debate, but in most fans’ estimation hardcore punk’s ground zero can be found in October of 1978. That month, an inauspicious Southern California electronics company called Solid State Transmitters morphed into SST Records and released the first salvo from what would make up one of the best runs of any record label in any genre ever: Black Flag’s debut EP Nervous Breakdown. With SST founder Greg Ginn on guitar and Chuck Dukowski and Brian Migdol filling out the rhythm section, the young band proved themselves an immediate and exciting force in the world of punk. Frontman Keith Morris found the perfect balance of snotty and intimidating, fashioning his own gritty style out of the remains of Johnny Rotten.[1] It isn’t too surprising that his charisma and amazing voice have allowed him to sustain the most satisfying post-Black Flag career of any member.