I've been a part of the underground music house show/noise show or whatever scene for ten years now either as a performer, show attendee or venue runner. During that time I've seen some really great stuff come and go, some of it gaining a modicum of national exposure, but much of it remaining woefully obscure to all but the very lucky few. This post is an attempt to highlight some of the best acts from my adopted home of jolly olde New England that you may not have heard before. Initially, one of my selection criteria was lack of web presence, but it's harder and harder to find a band who doesn't put themselves out there in some way these days. The list is by no means complete and is somewhat of a contradiction of terms. Clearly the truly "most undergroundest" artists are ones I or no one else has ever heard of. So please don't take the title too seriously. The list in some sort of rough order that is a combination of how much I like the artist v.s. relative level of obscurity...plus mysterious factors.
19. Peace, Loving - Another one that I wasn't sure belonged on the list at first. Adam Kohl and Kate Lee (who are soon to be expecting their first child) are founding members of the Whitehaus collective in Boston, a house/venue that has hosted hundreds upon hundreds of touring bands for the last 5 or 6 years. While many people are aware of their efforts in the DIY community, I think their strange and prolific musical output is often neglected. From their one of a kind live performance events that feature a mix of music concrete, folk and poetry, to their micro-edition releases, Peace, Loving is one of the most unique groups from New England.
18. Nathan Ventura - Travelling dude and sometimes Boston resident who produces quite a lot of music, but has only played live a handful of times. A debut LP on Anonymous Dog Records doesn't seem to be doing much to spread the word on this guy, and that's a shame. Maybe cause you can't even buy it from the website of the label that put it out (!!!), but I swear his record exists. I have one! True outsider one-man-band fucked up folk noise. Hear much sound on bandcamp: http://nathanventura.bandcamp.com/
|Horse Spirit Penetrates|
15. Visitations, et al. - This mysterious psych folk group from Portland Maine was active for a few years in the mid 2000s and did have a relatively well received full length LP on Time-Lag (again, a case where the band's name appeared nowhere on the physical release), but there's something about their personas that always kept them a secret from the world at large. They don't play (much? at all?) together anymore but you should try to catch a solo set or hear a release from the three members' current projets: Janane Tripp plays solo under her own name and Chris Livengood and Brendan Evans perform as a duo called Video Nasties. Brendan also has a solo record on Don't Trust the Ruin as B.R. Garm. This is the only band on the list that I would call "collectible" in anyway. For the most part I've tried to stray from artists whose releases fetch higher than list price on the internet (thus the lack of Josh Burkett on this list, one of my absolute favorite New England musicians (sorry but I just can't afford a vinyl copy of Gold Cosmos or Where's My Hat...plus the dude's got too many fans in Europe). Check out one track off the Visitations self-titled LP here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jaoZHhgOgc4
13. Astral Plane Junkies - Very confusing and completely unheard of performative noise/metal with psycho undertones. Check out this rare set captured on camera a few years back: http://youtu.be/dA7WVTZSn5Y
12. Dark Rodeo - Some of the bleakest of the bleak here. Truly fucked up lyrical content that sometimes borders on criminality, pornography and other such subject matters, but always maintains a somber and captivating tone. Some of it is folk music, some of it is tidal, elegiac rock. Maybe two highly limited physical releases on cassette, but some more material on bandcamp: http://darkrodeo.bandcamp.com/
11. Martin Chartrand - I'm basing this one on the strength of a single performance at the Frantasia Festival in Livermore Falls, Maine during the summer of 2009. I find it hard to describe what made it so captivating, but it's a set that I will never forget as long as I live. Chartrand sang male/female songs in two different voices in a way that completely floored me. He was backed up by an out of tune "jazz fusion" bassist and an overweight Native American woman on handdrum. Had to be there. He's got a CD-r or two out there and was a member of a collective band which I've since forgotten the name of. I've honestly been afraid to listen to any of his music since that night...Trying to keep the dream alive.
9. Altered Gee - A new group of two just barely twentysomethings from Portland Maine. These guys make chillout keyboard and drum machine jams that are great for making babies to and don't really fall into any kind of trend. Hear ten minutes of their debut LP here: https://soundcloud.com/lanimaux-tryst/sets/altered-gee-rise-from-yr-grave
7. Bryan Gillig - This guy is pretty much known only to me and a few lucky others. A songwriter who I would say is as good as Warren Zevon, but he works in the produce department of the co-op in a little college town in the hills. Bryan's singing and performance style might take you a minute to appreciate, but his lyrics are at the absolute top of the heap. He's got his first band together after many years of playing around campfires. They're called Loudville, and hopefully you'll be hearing something from them soon. http://bryangillig.bandcamp.com/
5. Edith Bunker's Demonized Vomit Insurance - Another guy who's been at it for along time. Edith Bunker is the pseudonym of crazed New Hampshire loner Brent Field, who is sort of like a one man Sun City Girls or Caroliner. Someone told me he's from the same town the Shaggs were from but I'm not sure if that's true. Used to have a confusing myspace page, but I'm sure all the html has been stripped by fascism long ago. Do a google search maybe? I dare you...
4. ANTi - Perhaps the most undeservedly unknown artist on the list, ANTi is a bassist and vocalist from Martha's Vineyard who is kind of like a one-man No Trend, Kilslug or Flipper. Scott Seward, who owns John Doe Jr. Books and Records in Greenfield, MA showed me this guys music and I've been obsessed with it since day one. So cruel sounding, so personal. Check out this sick song "Sacrifice" on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHkQuPW8RHk, but really any of the 92 videos on his channel will do. Many of them have under 30 views! He's also got a soundcloud: soundcloud.com/antibassmetal
3. Moscow Mule - This duo of then teenagers could be found rocking shows in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts from time to time in the mid 2000s. My favorite part of a Mule show was the subtle slide from set-up, to tuning, to banter, to technical difficulties, to half-song noodles, to full frontal shit rock and finally to complete and utter collapse, all in the course of about 25 minutes. Cory Matthews (drums) and Coco Schachtl (vocals, bass) we're probably majorly influenced by Lightning Bolt and their ilk, but the humor and total unrehearsedness gave them a real edge for me. They only recorded 5 songs to my knowledge, all of which were released on a split tape with Laudable Pus on Breaking world records. You can still hear some of that music on an old myspace page: https://myspace.com/moscowmule
2. Taboo - Unlike most of the artists on this list, this trio from rural Maine has actually toured all the way across the United States (though I think they've had shows cancelled due to lazy hippie west coast bookers' concerns with the group's "image." Also, they've got three full length vinyl out too, which makes them un unlikely pick so high up on the list...but there's something truly frightening about this band of true pagan blood sacrifice freaks that will make it so they absolutely never achieve any kind of real acceptance, even in self proclaimed underground communities. I think it's better that way because Taboo are true dark sorcerers whose magick should not be taken lightly. They tour with their own soundsystem in order to create punishingly loud psychedelic rock onslaught, but clean up pretty nicely on record. When I say 'clean up,' I'm probably envisioning a handsome man in drag mopping up a pool of blood. One of my favorite bands in America right now. http://taboomaine.blogspot.com/
Honorable Mentions -
Chris Dooley (Holyoke, MA area show booker extraordinaire and secret genius of horrifyingly loud noises)
The Terribles (Worcester punk band with amazing licks and 15 years of playing together)
Jow Jow the Death Knell Rung (psychedelic jam supergroup with revolving membership)
Turtlecat Symphony (perplexing tiny noises made by a half-deaf woman)
Grey Skull (these guys have toured and released lots of stuff, but they are still criminally under appreciated. Probably because they sound like they don't know what they're doing, but trust me, they do.)
Barn Owl (that is the original spazz noise Barn Owl of Chris Cooper, Andy Crespo & Matt Weston, not the currently semi-popular Barn Owl from SF)
Belltonesuicide (one man noise machine with probably 100 releases and very little exposure)
Pine Tree State Mind Control (patience trying conceptual noise)
Radioactive Prostitute (long running Nirvana inspired rock cum destructive performance art unit)
Codeine Schoolboy (this chick is completely on her own wavelength)
Mystic Out-Bop Review (high quality acoustic free jazz trio from Portland, ME)
Tumble Cat Poof Poofy Poof (profoundly strange costumed performance and tape music, plus the dude is a great visual artist)
Foom (Triple 7" on Stomach Ache came out in the 90s and then only a few CD-rs here and there. Currently doing super chill turntable sets and working in "the music industry")
Sound of Pot (solo project of Conrad Capistran of Sunburned and Tarp. Big man with beard makes movie soundtrack miniatures with an SK-1 and Kaoss Pad)
Andrea Pensado (maybe she's well enough known know, but this miniature Argentinian woman who lives in Boston is one of the best screamers and computer noise artists I've ever seen live. I think she's finally got some tapes and records coming out)
Extreme Beer Trio (cracked out comedy-noise-metal-rock. They also have a recording of them singing fucked up songs while riding on freight train. so unknown...)
Family Pet (another group of weirdos from rural Maine. They did finally make a terrible LP that I'm sure no one would ever want to hear, but the recordings on their myspace used to be so fucking evil. Sounds of metal scraping and saxophone/groaning)
Dan Knudson very unique and subtly bizarre savant pop from Portland, Maine.
Okay, that's all for now. This has been fun.
STRANGE MAINE by Nick Williams 5/5/12
|photo credit - 'the internet'|
Strange Maine is one of the coolest little shops in the Northeast, and should be on the to-do list of anyone making the hour and forty five minute trek up to Portland from Boston...or wherever. Ostensibly a record shop, but there's really so much more housed among the assorted ephemera. This place is a real haven for VHS and cassette junkies in particular, but will surely appeal to vinyl lovers. The LPs are mostly used, but there are a few new discs by Maine artists. The alphabetical browsers have some pretty generic (and cheap) records, but the new arrivals and oddball sections will surely have something you covet. The VHS selection is much more curatorial. An entire shelf is dedicated to films organized by label (Good Times, Anchor Bay, Vestron, etc...) and the rest are separated into genres and alphabetized all the way up to the ceiling. Prices vary based on quality of the flick and rarity. The audio cassette wall is stuffed with great stuff: I've seen The Velvet Underground, Galaxie 500, Crispin Hellion Glover, Minor Threat, Public Enemy and Zappa in the last month, to name a few. The small wall of contemporary underground cassettes is pretty cool (lots of touring bands leave a tape when they play at the shop during the regular summer music events). There are print and zine sections that are well stocked, a rack of vintage video games and systems, 8-tracks and many bins of self released noise CDrs. The whole place is a real work of art, stuffed to the gills with weird artifacts and imagery (much of which resides in the 'permanent collection'). The 'found photo' box is one of the weirdest I've ever seen, and there are binders full of amateur artwork to browse through. I'd also like to add that the three employees are all immenintely cool dudes, and talented folks in their own right: Brendan (Garm, Visitations), Skot (Id M Theft Able) and Mike (Coelacanth comic) have kept this place going for most of the 2000s, making it one of the most lived in shops of this kind I've ever been too. Website
I would be remiss if I didn't mention Moody Lords, another record shop located right above Strange Maine in the old Time-Lag space. They've got a lot of jazz, 60s rock, R&B/Soul and rap on vinyl as well as a few racks of ladies clothes and some circuit bent electronics. There are some solid 'wall records' there. Otto Pizza next door is pretty rad too if you can afford the $3+ slices and draft beers after a dat of record shopping.
I've been away, investigating opportunities for fun with some party partners. Here's a run down of all the shows I went to this week, mostly in Boston.
Monday 4/9/12 - picked up two acts from France at Logan Airport. Max and Alice who plays as High Wolf and Chicaloyoh were really nice and bummed me lots of Marlboro Lights. Show went down at Gay Gardens. Her set was dark, brooding and captivating, while his was blissful and harmonic. I forget. I smoked hash. Gay Shapes from Worcester played last and tore the roof off. Hypnic Jerk opened and was swell. Electric Cactus and Flesh Control, both played from Richmond, VA but I missed their sets cause I was helping out the French kids.
Tuesday 4/10/12 - Moonrises is a very heady psych band from Chicago that features Magma-esque keyboard and drums and High Rise styled guitar shred. Ms. Libby and Plastic Crimewave shared the vocals, a few songs apiece and Ben Baker Billington held it down on the drums. Listen. Tape on Priority Male link also released on LP by Logan Hardware link. The last act was a Mystery Band, whose set was played in the dark. They made acoustic sounds on scrap metal. Heavenly! Earlier Colby Nathan played. He's from the amazing band Hyena link, who's few releases sound like a mix of Brian Wilson and Ed Askew. Show was at the Whitehaus in Jamaica Plain.
Wednesday 4/11/12 - Drove out to Brattleboro VT with a small crew and descended upon not only the town, but also Marlboro College, where a show was going on aways down Route 9. Much merriment was had when I arrived to find my friends Danny and Christina in the midst of performing their best set yet as Ice Cream. Next up was a single song by Zach Philips (Blanche Blanche Blanche, Bruce Hart) which immediately segued into an impassioned set of new songs by Joey Pizza Slice AKA Son of Salami. The Happy Jawbone Family Band took their usual sweet ass time setting up, but it was well worth the wait. They slayed. Exit college students, enter the 11 person Reptar / Quiet Hooves caravan. Many spontaneous configurations of players produced many startling sounds. The Great Valley played somewhere in there. Show ended at 2am with everyone in attendance, including me, having performed at some point.
Thursday 4/12/12 - Spent the morning chilling in Brattleboro, where I simultaneously saw everyone I knew. Hi Chris, Ruth and Sarah! Got back to Boston just for show time @ the Butcher Shoppe where Black Pus played an energetic set to a moderately-packed basement. The show was good and the human pinball machine was in full effect. It was my first time seeing Chippendale play and I wish it had come ten years sooner when I first heard of Lightning Bolt and was more open to being blown away. Well you can't be everywhere at once. My skin tasted like a hotdog afterwards. Opening bands were all kinda alright to varying degrees: Buck Gooter & Mounds. I missed Skimask.
Friday 4/13/12 - Another show at Gay Gardens. Very enthused young metal bands. Me and some pals played one song after the first band. Good vibes all around, but I don't remember anyone's name. I fell asleep during the 3rd band.
Saturday 4/14/12 - Final day in Allston and I saw two great shows. A friendly house party was going on over at the Rotten Apples' place. Two bands from LA: Sister Fucker (with Vanessa from Coughs) and Bleak End at Bernies laid out some good, if kind of generic punk/grind/metal. All those folks were so nice though. Hypnic Jerk played again. They're the house band at the Smokey Bear Cave and their quickly growing on me. Really dubbed out robo-trip stuff. It was also someone's birthday and their was a rainbow cake. There was a fire and rope swing in the backyard. Yeah! Lower Allston! At 11pm I went over to a really cool new shop called Store 54 and saw Bobb Trimble and the Flying Spiders. Caught the first six songs of their set and I was so happy to be able to sing along to tunes from Harvest of Dreams, Iron Curtain Innocence and whatever that newer one is called. All of Bobb's albums came out in the early 80s and the renewed interest in his music has brought forth 3 reissues and a new live band of younger folks who are really doing his music justice. If you haven't checked it out yet, you really should hear the records: beautiful glam-psych with falsetto vocals and phaser on the guitar for every song! After doing that, definitely see him live. This was my second time and I think the band is really starting to gel. I finally ended up returning to the house party to check out a really loud and amazing set from an impromptu pickup band made up of Allston residents: members of Guerilla Toss, Funny Money and Quinn Miller from Great Goblins.
Oh, New England!
p.s. I meant to put links to all the bands, but that's too time consuming for me today, and you can use google just as well as I can.
by Nick Williams (One Kind Favor) 11/23/11
I thought it might be kind of cool to write a little something about what I've learned from putting out scores of cassettes over the years. Forgive me if any of this seems patronizing. I sure wish I had had some of this information when I was making my first crude audio missives! I'm going to take you step by step through the process.
Getting your tape picked up by internet distributors or record stores is based on luck and connections as much as it is merit, so I won't really go into that too much. There is no secret. Just work hard and keep at it, no matter what! I am loath to name names, seeing as these people get enough unsolicited emails. I would suggest thinking about the places where you buy your tapes from and look into who sells copies of your favorite label or artist's work. If you offer your tape for $5 retail, I would suggest asking a wholesale price of $3 to get people interested. Don't sell yourself short though: maybe require a minimum order of 3 to 5 units. You can also suggest trading tape for tape.