Perfect Sound Forever


Part 5 by Angela Sawyer
(October 2016)

"Weirdo was a record shop that I started in my bedroom in 2006. It moved into a storefront for a while in Cambridge Mass., and closed after I got tired of never ever sleeping. While it was around, I wrote reviews of every new title that I sold, and by the end there were more than eighteen thousand reviews. There's only so many times you can call a guitar tone 'crunchy’ or say something disparaging about a singer's hair. So I repeated things, a lot. When compiling this best of, I looked for records that stuck with me, and also for reviews where I thought the writing stood out."

Here we present Weirdo selections from letter M to O.

Angus MacLise New York Electronic LP
John Cale's roommate and bongo-beating member of the very early Velvets, who was (supposedly) let go for being too irresponsible. MacLise eventually landed in Nepal, let his son be adopted by a Buddhist monastery, and then died of curable tuberculosis before the end of the 70s. Performance & practice tapes long unknown to record collectors (some of which could support an argument that the family talent actually belonged to MacLise's undoubtedly long-suffering wife Hetty) that began surfacing in the late 1990s. Though badly recorded, there are strictly electronic tape pieces that show off a yet new side of MacLise, as well as scuddingly loud drone-heavy stuff with Cale & Tony Conrad.

Charlotte Moorman Cello Anthology Vol 1 CD
Moorman was a traditional classical music cellist until she was 30, at which point she became Yoko Ono's roommate and fell all the way off the deep end. She immediately founded an all avant-garde festival that ran yearly for 15 years. She seems to have been good at getting grant-funders, cities or rich people to support extreme performances, but also played with no-holds-barred grit and celebrated everyone from the fringes of Fluxus to European electronic composers. She gleefully played her cello covered in chocolate, underwater (as though it was a dick she was giving a handjob to) and a cello made of ice, etc. She formed a longstanding art partnership with Nam June Paik, and here for their 2nd-ever festival recital at Judson Hall, they use chains, balloons, a robot that Paik built, a tape of a foghorn & more to execute several internationally written pieces. Recorded & aired on community radio station WBAI.

Ennio Morricone 4 Mosche di Velluto Grigio LP
The drum is a heartbeat, and the heartbeat belongs to a victim, and there is a mysterious, beautiful woman who is breathing heavily. Is it because she is lascivious, or because she is about to die? The last movie in Dario Argento's great animal trilogy follows a rock drummer who is being set up for murder. Perhaps someone can find an image of the killer, left forever on the retina of his last victim. Perhaps the killer is simply toying with the young drummer until he becomes a victim too. Morricone's immortal score follows the pulse of the movie through speeding bullets and slo-mo car crashes by centering on percussion. Violins slide queasily, Bruno Nicolai's piano bumps a low threat, and Edda Dell'Orso peeps oddly over several incredible, kinetic, free time drum solos. For the scenes where the main character is performing in the studio, Morricone includes some bluesy psych guitar, testosterone-fueled male scatting, and jazz-prog whose syncopation would have been way beyond the skills of your average '60's rocker. There are moments of full on abstract piano & electronics too, and then for the finale, the Maestro builds an iridescent Bach facade, letting all draperies fall away before Alessandro Alessandroni's "I Cantori" as a celestial choir. Argento originally wanted Deep Purple to make the score, which would have been awful, and arguing led the director and composer to part ways for a full 25 years after this. Back in 1971 though, discomfort and beauty could sit together, like a homeless man who can only tell the truth.

Ennio Morricone Il Gatto a Nove Code LP
Fads come & go, don't they bro? Just lately there's been lots of (expensive, overpackaged) soundtrack reissues afoot & you might be wondering just what the fuss is all about. Well dickwit, it's because sometimes treasure maps point out treasure. And if you had to pare Italy's considerable contribution to grotesque beauty down to a single album, this would be it. Pulsing harpsichords, crimson chamber strings that move whiplash fast from sweet to jarring and back again, atonal bass & door creaks from inside a piano, lullabye and witch whispers, woodwinds that moan like a low wind. Oh, and there's a some amazing funk breaks too. Argento movie about a blind guy (Karl Malden) who tries to protect his little niece when geneticists play god & produce a monster in his neighborhood. Under Morricone's hands, the tension & sexual undertones turn completely bizarre. Bruno Nicolai, Edda Dell'Orso.

Ilhan Mimaroglu/Jean Dubuffet Coucou Bazar 2 CD
A monster release, both in impact and because it sounds like someone let loose a gang of beasts. If you've wondered why noise fans are always going on about Ilhan Mimaroglu, here's one that gets better the louder you turn it up. Flitting electronic squiggles & blorps which suddenly fly out of the background in dizzy attacks upon thick sinews of sine tones & bass burble. The soundtrack to a Jean Dubuffet Guggenheim installation/ballet of 'articulated paintings' from 1973, which basically meant that Dubuffet forced a bunch of dancers to dress up in chunks of foam with fat scribbles drawn all over them and then roll around on the floor. Also a whole extra disc of Dubuffet's own brut music/poetry (where he makes buzzy mouth noises or violin scratch or paper crumpling), plus a later accompaniment to the same exhibition.

John Mannion Slice Through Or/in Glassmetal LP
Stuttering amplified fans, evil whispers, vocals that sound like they're coming through the intercom of a badly damaged spaceship, and big chunks of silence which help give things a creepy-but-deliberate Stanley Kubrick vibe all around. There's even an opera singer to go along with the angry whipcrack-on-metal noises. Truly menacing- sounds like the work of a guy who pulls off his own fingernails for fun, and then goes after yours.

Los Mac's Kaleidoscope Men LP
What's it like to make the Sgt. Pepper's of Santiago? Willy Morales & compatriots had to import all their equipment from Fender, because none of the Chilean bars had their own microphones or PA systems, although they sometimes had bullhorns (!). The band also managed to squeeze string & vocal arrangements onto 4 tracks, and since there wasn't room to use more overdubs, the band recorded their backwards guitar solos by just plain playing them backwards. Willy Morales says: "It was terrible, but very fun." Everybody in Chile hated the record when it came out, & the band shortly packed up & moved to Italy.

Los Mirlos El Poder Verde 2 CD-R
Here's a slew of steamy flanged guitar rippers from my favorite Peruvian cumbia/chicha band. In the early '70's, the oil refining industry brought lots of kids out of rural jungle communities into Lima, where they heard US & UK surf & psych tunes, along with the Colombian rhythms that were sweeping all of Latin America. Mixed in with Andean pentatonic melodies & politicized after the fashion of America's civil rights detritus, Los Mirlos were soon the purveors of 'Green Power.' Their name came from a local bird (it translates to 'The Crows'), their music was named after the local corn liquor (Chica), and they considered it a point of pride to take the criolla songs (and those songs have their own national holiday every October 31st) & accordion tunes of their parents & play them on wah'd to shit electric guitars. Do you really want to miss "The Dance of Oil" ('La Danza Del Petroleo')?

Medico Doktor Vibes Liter Thru Dorker Vibes LP
Guyana is next to Venezuela & it's where Eddy Grant comes from, but also where Jim Jones took his followers to die. Bill Russell's from there, perhaps hence his quest to make an album that makes you lighter through darker vibes (with creole-inspired misspellings as a bonus). Russell served in the U.S. military before moving to Compton, L.A. & making this with a fuzzed up telecaster, thumb piano, Korg MS20 & a lousy drum machine that stays low in the mix. Russell sings with a pretty whispery falsetto, but mostly seems to want to do so straight into his own pillow. His guitar soloing can veer off key, but it's always got just the right heft of low slung distortion. Light folk rhythms & aforementioned thumb piano give the whole record a vaguely tinkly atmosphere. Outsider Caribbean psych is a genre which has exactly one record in it, and I think you'll be glad you know which one it is.

Menstruation Sisters MA LP
Nick Kamiussis (aka Nik the Greek, Nick Rizili, Black Throated Wind) is such a fucking sick vocalist. All I've ever heard about him is that he was once a postal worker in Sydney, but since when does the government hire pig footed bandicoots to deliver the mail? Unholy imitations of Grover, the Tasmanian Devil, a broken weed whacker, a six year old girl getting her teeth pulled by her brother, an oscillator that's having it's insides poked with a wire hanger, etc. Oren Ambarchi ain't no slouch either & I'd say he runs over his guitar with a lawnmover here, then whips out some primo ape-on-the-loose drum bashing. A reissue of their first, the pink Fata CD-R.

Meridian Brothers Salvadora Robot 2 LP
Delightful & captivating textures explode everywhere when Elbis Alvarez, working out of his own studio in Bogota Colombia with a pile of friends, sails back into your ears after a 2 year break following the breathtaking Desesperanza. Songs that are more like cartoon sci-fi beakers broil over with wobbly, dizzying synthesizers, and those percussion twitches are giddily stolen off the last 50 years of Latin rhythms. The band is always keen to balance otherworldly smears and 4th-dimensional itches, and there are precursors to be found in the Residents or Raymond Scott. But Alvarez is also glad to just throw up his hands & use laughs, grunts, bird screams or sheep bleats as instruments. Not as surfy as before, but a worthy follow up and a genuine monster of a record. Let it befuddle you, as these are what the good times sound like.

Mij Yodeling Astrologer LP
Wacked out folk song yowls & yodels from a Swiss sheep herder that Bernard Stollman picked up in Washington Square Park, who said he could write interesting songs because he had a fractured skull & could see auras. Fantastic whistling effects & reedy but quite pretty singsong melodies, so that you get just a little stained glass harmony along with the multiple ripples of reverb. Engineer Onno Scholtze is the man who figured out how to give that verb knob just the right amount of way, way, way too fucking much, so that the slapback would hit rhythmically against the spaces in Holmberg's songs. One of the more timeless titles in the ESP catalog.

Mississippi Fred McDowell I Do Not Play No Rock 'n' Roll LP
If you ever need a reason to quit listening to the dumb ol' Rolling Stones for the rest of your life, it's right here. Fred's 1st album on electric is crippling. Clipped when he wants to show off the rhythm & loose as an old lady's pants when he wants to slide around & underline his bleary voice. Discovered by Alan Lomax & Shirley Collins in the 50s, older blues musicians weren't supposed to suddenly pick up an electric and kill it, but as usual, Fred & his thin, thin moustache did whatever the fuck they wanted. Notes from the time type out what he says (which isn't that hard to understand), misquote him (!), and forget to credit the entire backing band (Dulin Lancaster is the amazing drummer, Jerry Puckett on bass).

Monoshock Runnin Ape-like From the Backwards Superman CD
Grady Runyan says abracadabra & turns himself and his pals into a pile of wallowing, drooling slugs. Then said gastropods grow hands so they can destroy your melted head with their luddite guitar slop. Bass player Scott Derr also ran the formidably wasted & sorely missed Blackjack label. Really, nothing makes me revert to grunting & scratching my pits faster than this singles collection.

Morgen Welcome to the Void LP
180 gram vinyl boot. Welcome to the Void is an overblown fuzz classic, and no one can resist it. Rock like Orson Welles' corpse, that is to say, really fuckin' heavy.

Otto Muehl Psycho Motorik LP
Mmmm, darned if I don't adore the truly wondrous, yummy world of Otto. Viennese Aktionist who, along with Hermann Nitsch, Gunter Brus & a few pals decided that painting had become boring & they would do well to make it more visceral. Shortly thereafter, Otto, who seemed to see the whole world like a big ball of playdoh, began to appear in his own films & others'; pouring ketchup into vaginas, breaking eggs onto pretty girls' boobs, having Barry White-style sex with a goose, poking his dick through fruit arrangements & other fun & visually arresting stuff. Muehl eventually formed a commune to try & break off from typical society, and ended up getting arrested for cavorting with children. Eventually he got out & started a new commune in Portugal. Here he shows off his rather brilliant & under-documented capabilities for blubbering, burping, slapping thighs, and yelling like a deranged Nazi over classical music. Several of his commune children play trad jazz these days, and there's even a band that they all have together called the Sahara Baby Jazz Band.

Robert Mitchum Calypso Is Like So LP
Everybody's favorite noir anti-hero and aw shucks gambling fool was also one genuine helluva singer. Mitchum brought the same stoned 'n' relaxin swagger to his music as he did his movie roles, & could do either a ballad or a hot number justice. This fantastic calypso record (complete with fake Trinidadian accent) is perfectly respectable for those who like Lord Kitchener and not just kitsch. And should you be furnishing a bachelor pad, you won't wanna miss the story of the girl who pickpockets a watch and then hides it up her cooch when the cops show up in "Tic Tic Tic."

Thaddeus Martin Black Dick for President 2 CD-R
Ludicrous blue-humor not-quite-Malcolm-X spoken word, that originally came on a triple LP with a gatefold (reproduced in all its cheap oddity). Endlessly quotable moments; "Black Dick will set you free" and "you need a Black Dick in the White House." And while it's a single joke spread out over 100 minutes, it's also an interesting repository of disenfranchised political common sense. We're certainly into patriotism around here, and so we offer it to you for way cheaper than you'd ever find the LP's.

Walter Marchetti De Musica Inversa 4 CD + book
Marchetti became interested in Cage during the '50's, founded a Fluxus-ish group called ZAJ in the mid '60's, and has spent most of his life trying to erase the line between music and it's surrounding environment. "La Caccia," for example, is an elaborate pun, named after a 14th century Italian fad for songs about hunting or the marketplace, characterized by two voices in unison and a 3rd vocal soloist. Marchetti reproduces the style using bird calls, making a fantasy aviary where geography & climate are ignored. Adaptations of the piece asked the performers to go outside, or for a single performer using a single birdcall to walk off into the sunset looking to match/catch the bird that belonged to his call. There's even a related piece that's a city-wide hunt for the bird of paradise. That's one of the records in this gigantic box. There's also the one where Marchetti attached a 7 foot dildo to a piano, the one where he covered the piano in vegetables, the one where he got a friend to ignore the piano & sit with a chair balanced on his head, the one dedicated to the Greek/Egyptian god of silence, the one where the pianist is wrapped like a mummy & the piano has a bunch of rocks attached to it with strings, the one where somebody plops a bunch of stuff in a pool, and so on. Originally issued on Cramps in the late '70's. In addition there's a 180 page book printed both right side up & up side down.

Bruno Nicolai All The Colors of the Dark LP
An unlucky woman whose mother was murdered, has miscarried a baby and recently been in a car accident starts completely losing her shit. After some dead gorgeous nightmares, she is then tricked by her neighbor into joining a Satanic cult, and a guy with beautiful eyes and a knife starts following her around. Director Sergio Martino ("Torso," "Your Vice Is A Locked Room"), his brother Luciano (a producer), and his sister in law Edwige Fenech (lead actress) all conspire to lead you into a devilish dream that starts where Rosemary's Baby leaves off. And big bad Bruno's score could not be more lurid. He outdoes himself here with trap drums and bass as the footsteps of a killer chasing you, interpolated with his characteristic half-time bells and sudden smashes of strings/vibes meant to make the sound of your mind cracking open. Just when you think you know what's coming, a processed sitar snakes through a choir that screams like they're being burned. 6 bonus tracks. Expensive, but worth every penny.

Max Neuhaus Electronics & Percussion CD
Ah, Max! How you remind us all of the heady days when hippies and avant garde nutters were one and the same bunch. Max strips down to his shorts and shorts out some car batteries while he batters his overly large collection of cymbals. A mean chunk of metallic whine & electronic crackle. Produced by David Behrman.

Milton Nascimento Clube da Esquina 2 LP

Nascimento's mother died when he was an infant, and he was adopted by her employers, a couple for whom she was a maid. At age 21, he moved to the nearest big city and lived in a boarding house along with a family of 12. One brother (Marcio Borges) wrote the lyrics for Nascimento's first songs, while another brother (Lo) was taking guitar lessons and could sing backup. They all started a Beatles-knock off band together called the Beavers. After ten years had gone by, their musical purview had expanded exponentially, to luscious harmony that showcased Nascimento's utterly vibratoless voice (to this day it sometimes reminds me of Barry Manilow). There's also bossa, full stops for shimmering strings, and it's easy to hear that everyone's lived through the flowering of Tropicalia as well. A long series of elegant curlicues & ambling digressions. Nascimento's late '70's crack through to the US market is quite icky by comparison, so if you're old enough to remember that, ignore it & restart here. His best record.

Nerve Net Noise Dark Garden CD
Amazing & completely unique Japanese duo that make stuttering, studded, & stark electronic burpscapes. They currently seem to be after a synth sound that drops out the heaving middles & leaves only the frayed raw edges, making them the one & only band I endorse whose sound sometimes borders on mid-'90's minimal techno. Way more stoned than that style however, & with juicier textures. Even better, NNN are given to bouts of sheer unattended repetition that make for some of the most abstract records released in the last 25 years. Their typical modus operandi seems to be to sit down in a living room with a couple of synths they built from the circuits up, and let them run together, futzing around with joysticks until they break. Members are Tsuyoshi "Tagomago" Nakamaru and Hiroshi Kumakiri. The guy named after the Can record does mixing & effects, while Kumakiri programs/builds the synths (he's got photos of the synths on their website too). Their typical Japanglish/poetry is in full effect in the liner notes: 'However humans are advanced, they never disappear. The light of reason shines on the dark and the dark arises somewhere.' When, oh when, will these guys tour America?

Nihilist Spasm Band No Record LP
Debut platter of these lumbering un-art Canadians, wonderfully large and not at all in charge. Eight members originally met in 1965 at a 'nihilist picnic' held yearly in the Ontario suburbs, and started out by making an all-kazoo soundtrack to a short film one picnicker was working on. This led to weekly Monday jams that have switched locations a few times but continue to run into the present day. Somehow, they've also managed over the years to engender a short lived political party, semi-functional Lacrosse team, publishing company, etc. Little by little, word got around and experimental music luminaries have made a run into town to sit in with the woolly pack. Shout-downer supreme Bill Exley bangs on a cooking pot and gleefully encourages the destruction of America (and you), while no-notes gales storm uncontrolled around him.

Nudge Squidfish Twenty Thousand Leagues Under Nashville LP
Pal of Jim Shep & sometime member of Mike Rep's Quotas & True Believers, who moved briefly to Nashville, & so sent his buddies in Columbus tapes of himself playing. A collection from these pen pal packages launched Mike Rep's label Old Age/No Age. Upon returning home, Nudge also became the bass player of Shephard's V3. Nudge's songs show off that ever-so-slight softer edge (vocal harmonies, keyboards, Syd Barrett melodies, a Christmas song, etc.), which I think is one of the Quotas' most underrated ingredients. Same blasted & blurry 4 track production of course, and the Stooges & warped-sci-fi moments do come on stronger toward the end of side B. Maybe it's not the galliwomp that is "Stupor Hiatus," but there are certiainly flashes. "Backlot of Gilligan's Isle" is about as perfect as songs get- I think even Cole Porter could get down with that one.

Rev. Louis Overstreet An Evening With Rev. Louis Overstreet LP
Louis Overstreet sang in gospel quartets in his younger days, but kept quitting them when the other members turned out to be interested in drinking, gambling, or girls. He became a preacher in the late '30's while still working in a turpentine factory, and slowly eased into doing it full time. By the early '40's, electric guitars were more commonly available and Overstreet bought one on the advice of God, who reportedly provided the ability to play 45 days later. By the early '60's, Overstreet had 4 sons who could serve as his own gospel quartet- one that could never break up. He bade them go out on the sidewalk every day and help him, while he rocked the living crap out of their one guitar, one drum & one amp. And they traveled around the southwest US until the rafters of the local houses just about fell down with the noise they made. After hearing him once, Arhoolie Records founder Chris Strachwitz searched for him for 2 years, and eventually found him in Phoenix. Powerful & dirty uptempo rock & roll that just happens to be on the Lord's side.

100 Flowers S/T LP
Tightly intertwined not-quite-punk with twitchy pop singing that sounds like it could have been from New Zealand (though at the time they were probably just trying to be Londonish), but was instead from the guys who were in the Urinals over at UCLA. Tons of bands who learned their instruments on choppy hardcore could play so fast at this point that they were able to vary up slight differences in rhythm between the bass & guitar and suddenly it sounded like a moire pattern you'd get from laying 10 late Velvets records on top of each other. These guys do it especially amiably. "Motorboat to Hell" is probably the only blemish, as it's a little too cruel a jab at Golden Earring's "Radar Love."

Matsuo Ohno I Saw the Outer Limits LP
A professional sound effects maker who spent much of his childhood escaping to the planetarium or hiking in the mountains to look at faraway things, Ohno used tape loops, an EMS Synthi & a few Roland 100s to make this windy & crinkling spacescape. Ohno constantly fiddled with the record's phasing (meaning that identical material might run at slightly different speeds in the left channel than in the right one) in order to get a more present, trippy experience. He also spent the years right before this album was recorded making self-financed & rarely-screened documentaries about the mentally disabled. A deeper & much darker companion to the friendly bloopage of his famed Astro Boy soundtrack from 15 years earlier.

Pauline Oliveros The Wanderer CD
Oliveros helped start the San Francisco Tape Music Center in 1960 with Steve Reich, Terry Riley & Morton Subotnick. The Center later moved to Mills College in Oakland, where she was its first director. Here, Pauline hangs with David Tudor and a Western Massachusetts orchestra of about 30 high school age kids who all play the freakin' accordion. Talk about nerdsville/paradise. Ms. Oliveros is like the crazy cat lady for a perfect world.

Bill Orcutt How the Thing Sings LP
Orcutt plays like a sewing machine that hits a tangle & suddenly starts retching & chewing up fabric in all directions. His subtly resonant acoustic has a sweet undertone, but also a gloriously cutthroat rattle that he gets stuck on & just contentiously hammers again & again & again & again. Very, very few people play well enough that you'd wanna hear what they're doing every few months just to see what else got tossed in the pot, but in this case, I'd advise a weekly practice tape cassette subscription. Yowling is delicious, the "3 Blind Mice"/"Old Man River" vamp is getting increasingly fucked up, and this here platter sounds sick at both speeds.

See Angela's other entries of Weirdo assortments, including letters A to C and letters D to F and letters G to I and letters J to L and letters P to R and the letter S and letters T to V and letter W to Z and compilations part 1 and compilations part 2

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