never say goodbye
Roky Erickson's story is more often than not a sad one, and not one I have the energy to re-tell in detail. He was in the 13th Floor Elevators, he did a lot of acid, he spent a lot of time in hospitals, and got screwed out of a lot of money by unscrupulous fly-by-night record labels that give capitalism a bad name. A collection of his solo work from a couple years back, You're Gonna Miss Me, goes into a lot more detail. (That record, incidentally, I consider to be unconditionally great, full of rocking love songs, ballads about Satan, and the supremely brilliantly fucked "Creature With The Atom Brain".)
Anyhoo, in addition to the proper recording sessions he did, he had a number of songs that were only ever recorded under the most adverse conditions (for instance, in a hospital, with his wife recording them). This record compiles a number of these songs, and all proceeds go to benefit Roky's trust fund. (I understand that he is still alive, but in no condition to record new songs; as usual, I could be wrong, however.)
The songs on this record are great, mostly. (I could have done without the musical setting of the "Pledge of Allegiance," personally.) But the lousy recording quality really means that you'll have to put effort into this record to get the rewards out of it. A casual listen while you're paying bills will most likely leave you unimpressed. If you're a Roky neophyte, you might want to start with You're Gonna Miss Me, which is an entirely more obvious record. But never say goodbye is worth the effort, and Emperor Jones deserves serious community service points for releasing it. (DD/Fall 1999)
(Emperor Jones Records -- P.O. Box 49771, Austin, TX. 78765)
The Crank EP
I happened to catch Errortype: 11 blind one night, as I had yet to hear of them, when they were the opening band for Gameface. I was pleasantly surprised that evening, though, and was impressed by their particular blend of "post-post-hardcore" (from the band's webpage). The closest parallel that I could draw, band-wise, was Quicksand, yet Errortype: 11 wasn't aping them, but putting their own spin on the post-HC New York legacy. Later I found out that the band's frontman was none other than Artie Shepherd from Mind Over Matter and Walt Schreifels' post-Quicksand project, World's Fastest Car. That just made the band I had just seen all that much cooler. So I went out and got this EP, which consists of five songs that showcase the full musical range of Errortype: 11. There's the aforementioned Quicksand-style post-hardcore ("I Wonder How" and "Right Again"), some emo-tinged rock ("Language of Your Own"), and even a subdued ballad-y track that's good without being cheesy ("Collecting Dust"). This EP was released as sort of a precursor for their sophomore album due out this fall on Some Records. If I were you, I'd get the EP now, and set some cash aside for that full-length. (MHo/Fall 1999)
(Crank! Records -- 1223 Wilshire Blvd. #823, Santa Monica, CA. 90403; email@example.com; http://www.crankthis.com/)
Ryan Rapsy had his first Euphone recording released on the Chicago-based Hefty label in early 1997. Later that year he toured with Joan Of Arc, for whom he drummed, on their debut LP. Also on that tour was Ryan's current band, Heroic Doses, a power rock-trio claimed by Sub Pop Records. In 1998, Ryan is staying active with the release of his second Euphone recording, the breaking parole EP. With help from Bill Dolan playing guitar on various tracks, Euphone tip-toes through Space Age instrumentalism encased by skilled, at times provocative percussion.
"The Suntheme" begins the break from parole dashing off on a sneaky, upbeat, sonic rollercoaster of loops. Not hiding is Ryan and his kit as the ride is interrupted by a jazzed interlude, displaying his possessed skill. "A Hundred Times and More" continues the discreet escapade a couple tracks later with repetitious eloquence, combining soft melodies with friendly beats. "New Dusk Policy" closes the EP, with harmonizing tones falling distantly, yet circling the listener in a peaceful manner. With foundations unfounded and the inability to keep the order, Euphone puts the A in Attention and the D in Deficit. Euphone's scattered taste on the 7 track breaking parole EP is prevalent throughout. The dependability on the percussion is detectable in carrying Euphone through.This showcased evolution is unwelcome as too many times pleasing harmonies are lost and drowned. Not to mention the energy level which fades with time. (JPo/Fall 1999)
(Hefty Records -- 1658 N. Milwaukee, Suite 287, Chicago, IL. 60647; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.heftyrecords.com/)
You've heard of the Ex, right? If not -- highly political energetic rhythmic European punk which will get you going if you like bands like Dog Faced Hermans (whose guitarist is now an Ex) and Trenchmouth. And this record is a fine, fine example of their work -- up there for me with their records with the sadly deceased Tom Cora. Buy it.
Anyway, now that that's out of the way, the frustrating thing about this record is that, for me, the vocals are mixed too high. I heard most of these songs first live when they opened for Fugazi here in Portland a few weeks back, and thought it sounded perfect. The songs are still great, but they're not the mix I prefer. Of course, this is the sort of thing that varies according to individual taste -- I'm sure if the vocals were mixed to my satisfaction plenty of other folks (like the Ex, obviously) would think they're too low.
So, with all of the energy being focused in music these days towards various technical advances (MP3, surround sound with center channels, blah blah), is no one (to the best of my knowledge) working on a way to provide music recordings where you can control the mix? I don't mean mere frequency adjustment, but the ability to really change the way a record sounds. Bring up the guitar. Bring down the vocals. Get rid of that cheesy keyboard part (we're moving on, here, as the Ex record has no cheesy keyboard parts, but you get the idea). Take the reverb off the drums. Put the reverb on everything. Drop out everything but the drums so you can figure out what the hell he's playing. And so on. When band members disagree about a mix, include the settings for "the John mix" and "the Ringo mix."
I can name a dozen technical hurdles, easy -- but I also can't think of any reason why you couldn't create the technology to do this. Any takers? (DD/Fall 1999)
(Touch and Go Records -- P.O. Box 25520, Chicago, IL. 60625)