Ode To Karin Krog

Man, the air seemed brand new today; sharp, cool, and crisp going into the lungs. It was like walking out of an underground bunker from a four-month stay and having the first blast of air hitting you. I don’t know why I don’t usually notice the air that surrounds me normally, but today it hit me. Could be that driving the company van from the plant to one of our suppliers gives me the urge to just keep driving and not look back until the sun has sunk into the west. It’s probably the fact that every time I’d get out of the van that fresh air taunted me and begged me to stay in it. Just leave that lousy van running and start walking. Where? Who cares. Just keep your feet moving, one in front of another until you come across something worth stopping for.

If only I’d a worn my walking shoes today.

Be that as it may, I didn’t leave the company van running in the parking lot of the local anodizer and begin walking the earth like Caine in Kung Fu. I merely took a couple big hits of that freshly squeezed oxygen, hopped in the van, and made my way back to my lonely desk that sits on a large dock and received in those anodized parts. I couldn’t just walk away from it all. I have yardwork to do and Marvel flicks to see with my son this year yet. The wife and I have plans to hit a brewery or two in Michigan and stay the night up north sometime soon. We’re heading to Chicago at the end of the month so my wife and daughters can go see Hamilton at the Chicago Theater, while the boy and I pretend to be men of wealth and fame in the hotel for the afternoon. Maybe we’ll swim or drink scotch in the hotel bar. Maybe even hit on a beautiful baroness or an Italian beef sandwich, whichever one comes with steak fries and an IPA.

Plus, I’ve only just begun to get to know Karin Krog.

Karin who? What? Whaaa? Hey now, just simmer down and let me talk here. You see, I found out that one of my favorite record labels Light In The Attic was having this spring clean sale where they were parting with a bunch of albums at nearly half off the original price. My local record guy said he could get ’em direct from LITA and save me the shipping. Well hell yes! So I headed to the sale page and started perusing to see what I could find. I figured I’d do the old blindfold and dart trick and pick some random albums. Some stuff I wouldn’t normally buy but since it was half off why the hell not? I picked out Jane Birkin/Serge Gainsbourg, Martin S/T by Donald Rubinstein, and Karin Krog Don’t Just Sing An Anthology : 1963-1999. I put my children through the Gainsbourg album last night. Through the moans and breathy whispers of “Je t’aime…moi non plus” my son asked as he sat in the living room with an aural advantage “What are we listening to?” Birkin and Gainsbourg will be for me on those lonely afternoons and evenings. Or when the wife and I want to get all French New Wave on some tawdry Saturday evening. I haven’t listened to Romero’s vampire soundtrack yet, but I did crack the gatefold sleeve of Karin Krog’s 2LP gatefold and I have to say I’m loving it.

Prior to this, I had never heard or heard of Karin Krog. The album cover appealed to me, and also the fact that it was a double LP they were selling for $12. Oh, and Dexter Gordon played with her on a few of the 60s cuts(bonus.) Krog is obscure here in the states, but in Norway she’s a household name as a famous jazz singer, collaborating with a who’s who of musicians over her 40+ year career. In 1994 she was the first Norwegian artist to ever release an album on the US jazz label Verve.

So the album. I have to say my favorite is album one. It seems to have the more bop-style jazz with bits of experimental vocal stuff. Krog has a hell of a voice and she shows it off beautifully on a be bop cover of Bobbi Gentry’s “Ode To Billy Joe”. It’s groovy and full of swing, with Gordon laying down some great tenor saxophone. The rhythm section of Neils-Henning Orsted Pedersen on bass and Espen Rud on drums is a pivotal ingredient here. Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage” gets the Karin Krog treatment here as well, and to stunning effect. “Lazy Afternoon” is another great one with Krog showing her precise melodic skills vocally. She uses her voice like an instrument playing its part. At times she’s like a psychedelic Rosemary Clooney, and other times she’s something quite cosmic, chanting, panting, and squealing through drone-y experiments like “Glissando”. I don’t care for the experimental stuff as much, but I can appreciate it for sure.

Most of these tracks were recorded in the late 60s and early to mid-70s, with just a handful scattered throughout the 80s and 90s. There’s a killer cover of Joni Mitchell’s “All I Want” that is as soulful as it is unique to Krog. “Cloud Line Blue” has some seriously amazing horn playing by John Surman. Seriously, holy cow. And there’s even a reading of Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” that closes out this anthology. It’s nothing but Karin Krog singing and Nils Lindberg on a church pipe organ. It’s actually quite haunting as Krog sings Coltrane’s Psalm from “A Love Supreme” poem. I guarantee you haven’t heard anything quite like it before.

Occasionally I like to do the blind grab with music. I’m not independently wealthy so I need to make my money stretch as far as I can, especially with this horrible vinyl addiction of mine. So far I’m not disappointed with my “go for it” choices. If you like jazz and occasionally adventurous music, I can’t recommend Karin Krog enough. She’s 79 years young and still creating music in her home country of Norway. She sounds amazing on this LP set, and it’s a beautiful sleeve with a great booklet inside that includes an interview with Krog. Grab it. Why not?

I wonder if the air will be as crisp tomorrow? I’ll bring my walking shoes, just in case.

 

 

Grindhouse : Joel Grind’s ‘Equinox’

An equinox is when the day and night are of equal length, usually around March 20th and September 23rd. An equinox is also usually the start of spring or fall, or metaphorically the beginning of life or the end. I’m weird, so I like to look at it in terms of one’s life. I can remember being in high school and writing terrible poetry and going heavy on the metaphors. There was one in-particular that I wrote about how each season was a representation of one’s life span. Born in spring, living and growing through summer, aging through fall, and death comes in winter. Ridiculous crap to impress some girl or my creative writing teacher(it did neither.) But at 17 it was some profound shit, I tells ya.

I imagine musician/producer Joel Grind was more interested in the fall equinox, where everything starts dying. The days get colder, the nights start to become longer, and the glowing, orange-hued harvest moon makes its appearance. And I bet his favorite Peanuts cartoon is It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

When you see a picture of Joel Grind, with his bleach blonde hair and bandana tied around his head, he looks like an L.A. glam metal dude. It would be a mistake to assume anything about Grind. He’s not that at all. He’s a true metal dude with a love for horror and classic synthesizers. Grind is also a heavyweight producer, putting his handiwork on some of today’s best extreme metal albums. With each thing he does he seems into it 100%, whether it’s extreme metal, hardcore, or in the case of Equinox, gloomy synth music. It’s a great shot of retro horror and dystopian synth sounds.

Joel Grind? Who? What? When? For those not in the know, Joel Grind is a one man musical operation. His main gig is the speed/thrash outfit Toxic Holocaust. He records everything in the studio and then tours with a band. He’s one of these super talented guys that can do everything without anyone’s help. I mean, they say if you want something done right you should do it yourself. Grind takes that very literally. Besides the Toxic Holocaust stuff, he records under his own name. There’s The Yellowgoat Sessions that sounds a bit like the Toxic Holocaust stuff, with maybe more of a hardcore slant. Goat heads, pentagrams, and songs about masters of Hell and bloody vengeance. Then there’s his synth-heavy stuff. There’s the two song EP Fatal Error that has the hallmark of a doomed group of cosmonauts heading into a black hole or some dark star purgatory. Then you have his full-length Equinox. Equinox, Grind’s debut on the Mondo/Death Waltz Originals label celebrates all that is dark, gloomy, and sprinkled with dust, cobwebs, and bad juju. In other words, it’s a hell of a fun listen.

My affinity for retro 70s and 80s synth is no secret(you didn’t know? Stay after the meeting and we’ll talk.) Death Waltz and Mondo have taken a good portion of my money(and my childrens future fortune I imagine), but I’m not complaining. The trip these albums take me on are worth not having any sort of inheritance when I pass onto the great beyond. Joel Grind seems to appreciate all those old horror soundtracks created heavily by the synthesizer. A song like “Secret Oath” wouldn’t exist without A Nightmare On Elm Street and that film’s music composer Charles Bernstein. Then there’s “Psychic Driving”, a cross between John Carpenter and Ms. 45s composer Joe Delia. It’s sickly synth and sleaze disco groove make you feel like you need to take a shower. “Open Wounds” has a dystopian, post-apocalyptic vibe to it. It puts me in mind a bit of Finland’s Nightsatan, with even some touches of Depeche Mode. “Funeral Arcana” is a big nod to Carpenter and Fabio Frizzi. It has a bit of a metal vibe as well with the drums and driving bass.

Grind tips his hat to Carpenter, Tangerine Dream, Fabio Frizzi, and Jean Michel Jarre as influences and inspirations for Equinox and you can definitely here their spirits haunting these tracks. But the cool thing is that Grind has been doing this for years and that experience and the style he’s developed permeates the album. There’s a harder edge to these tracks. You can definitely bliss out on something like “Seance”, as well as the ominous vibe of title track “Equinox”, but there’s always an existentially heavy vibe looming just around the corner.

We’ve just passed the spring equinox. Only six more months till the fall equinox. Until then, pass the time with Joel Grind’s Equinox.

 

 

No Country For Black Mollies

So I saw this show once on TV where there was this ragtag group of kids that befriended another kid that was different from them. These kids had lost one of their pals and the pal was presumed dead by everyone. But these kids(and the missing kid’s mom) knew different. They knew their friend and son wasn’t dead. He’d been taken away to a dark place. A place where the world had been turned inside out…upside down, even. It was a pretty amazing show. The acting was great, it was shot beautifully, and the music was absolutely unbelievable. Dark, hypnotic synth that surged throughout the entire series. It was wonderful.

No, the show wasn’t The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Yes, it was Stranger Things. I’ve been obsessed with the show and its music since I first double-downed on the entire 8-episode series on a Friday and Saturday night in July. By the 3rd episode my son had even said “Too bad they didn’t have this soundtrack on vinyl.” Well by October they did and I had it. Played it with vigor, and relish. That soundtrack was created by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein(yeah, I’m sure you know that already.) They’re in the Austin, TX band SURVIVE, which is a heavy synth 4-piece. I thought they’d released their debut album RR7439, which I bought up as quickly as it hit my local record shop. It ended up being one of my favorite albums of the year, but it also ended up that it wasn’t their debut album. Well, it was their debut with the most excellent Relapse Records, but they self-released a record called mnq026 back in 2012. After much procrastination and contemplation I found a copy of that debut on the fantastic(and quite dangerous) Discogs for a decent price and couldn’t pass it up.

img_2837After a few listens I’m comfortable in saying that I think it’s my favorite SURVIVE release. I love RR7439, but mnq026 feels a little darker; heaped up with the atmospheric haze and woozy soundscapes. There’s less beat-driven songs and more dreamy noises on this one. I’m pretty impressed with fact that they’ve been doing the whole heavy synth thing since 2009(though Slasher Film Festival Strategy has been rocking the synth game since 1998, son.) This album certainly sounds like three years worth of EPs and lots of basement jams with Junos and Moogs. mnq026 sounds like a group that’s found their sound and are relishing that fact.

I love an album that after a couple listens starts revealing hidden messages and layers. SURVIVE are a band that layer. With 4 dudes all playing synthesizers you can be sure there’s some heady layering going on. “Deserted Skies” opens the record with some of those dense layers. It plays like a film score. Some strange sci-fi flick, I’d imagine. Something from the mid-80s, I’d imagine. Seems to be this Austin crew’s modus operandi, and I’m good with that. Another major banger is “Floating Cube”. It sounds like a cross between Tangerine Dream and The Human League. If there were some female vocals hanging overhead this could’ve been a hit in 1984. Speaking of 1984, “Hourglass” is another time machine of a track and one of the few tracks with some serious Casio-leaning drum programming. It also puts me in mind of Brad Fiedel’s underappreciated score to Fright Night(the 1985 original, that is.) “Omniverse” keeps that vibe going nicely with a pulsating synth throughout. “Black Mollies” has a Rudiger Lorenz vibe, but more dark synth and less new age-y. It’s also an epic track that lingers on for over 6 minutes.

Elsewhere, “Scalar Wave” is ominous synth groaning. Much like RR7439′s “Low Fog”, this one feels like a trip through a black hole with your mind on fire with hallucinogens. “Shunting Yard” and “Dirge” end the album nicely, complete with existential motifs and analog beauty to fall into the abyss to.

img_2839I’m interested to see where these guys go from here. At the moment they’re still the current favorite flavor. Whether that remains the case for long remains to be seen. They’ll at least get a bit of momentum when Stranger Things 2 arrives next October, but I hope that’s not all they get. SURVIVE are a unique beast in the genre, as they seem to be able to find a nice balance between heady noise making and catchy melodies. There’s a real intellectual side to the music they create, yet even the novice can walk into the middle of a SURVIVE song and dig it.

mnq026 is one hell of a debut. It’s inspired some pondering, meandering, and some serious air synth. Yes, air synth is a real thing. Google it.

Just The Alternative Facts, Ma’am

Okay, so here’s some alternative facts about me:

I’m 6’6″, 255 lbs with long wavy hair. I can bench press 455 lbs and can dead lift 575 lbs. I own 40,000 acres of land and I’m what you’d call a gentleman farmer. I dedicate 30,000 acres to growing produce that I give away free to those that need it. The other 10,000 acres I use as miniature schnauzer farms where I make sure the endangered miniature schnauzer can repopulate so they can one day take their rightful place as supreme leaders of Terra. When I was 15 years old I was a roadie for a Christian rock/funk band called Lovewar. My great-grandfather owned a record shop on Hollywood and Vine and hit it big in California oil fields in the 60s and for a short time I was the lead guitarist for the 80s rock band Cinderella.

Since alternative facts don’t have to be factual, I’m standing by each and every one of those, umm, facts. Okay, okay, you got me. I wasn’t ever the lead guitarist for Cinderella, but I sure did dig that first album Night Songs.

Night Songs came out in 1986 and I remember getting the cassette right around Christmas break of that year. That previous summer I’d gone through both an AC/DC and Aerosmith awakening(the AC/DC phase continues to this day), so when I first heard “Shake Me” I was instantly reminded of both the Australian crew and the Boston crew. Cinderella seemed to be pulling from both of those bands and making a rather unique and heavy sound all their own. While most bands of the day were more about the European side of metal, pulling heavily from the NWOBHM, Cinderella seemed rather content to pull from earthier roots. Now at 12 years old I wasn’t really looking at it that deeply. I was just thinking “I like this.”

I’d yet to get into true heavy metal, speed metal, or even anything that would remotely be considered alternative. At just the cusp of becoming a teenager I just wanted music that was visceral, loud, and could maybe occasionally pull on the old teen heartstrings. Night Songs covered it all, really. Opening track “Night Songs” was like a cross between “Hells Bells” and “Mama Kin”. It was this doomy track that appealed to the working class dude. Of course I wasn’t a working class dude. But my older brother was. I’d see him come home from working 3rd shift, beaten down and wore out and the only thing that made him feel good was noodling on his electric guitar in his bedroom and cranking up some music on the stereo. In that way I got it. “Drinking gasoline”…yeah, that’s what hard working long hairs do, man. Cool. Of course then you have “Shake Me”, the naughty hit single with the video where hot women dance sexily making teen boys awkward and uncomfortable in a good way. Things are starting to get re-wired in your brain when you hit 13. Girls become something to pine for, not run away from. In all honesty, I never went through a “girls are icky” phase. I’ve always been a fan. I had a crush on a young lady from when we were in pre-school clear to the 4th grade when she finally moved away. Always a lover, not a fighter. So when you come across a song like “Nobody’s Fool” and you have your first real heartbreak, it’s a combination that creates hours of feeling sorry for yourself in your bedroom as the song plays on and on and on.

cintwoI think the one thing I’ve noticed going back and re-listening to this album after years is that it’s still a pretty solid album. So many albums of this ilk were loaded with filler that surround one or two good tracks between two sides. While Night Songs isn’t a classic, it’s a solid listen all the way through. Songs like “Nothin’ For Nothin'”, “Hell On Wheels”, and “Somebody Save Me” aren’t just cushion to fill out sides. They’re damn good tunes. Also going back and revisiting these guys I’ve come to the conclusion that Cinderella was a band that would’ve rather always stuck to jeans and t-shirts, much like Tesla did for their entire career. They seemed like a working class rock band that bent to the current Sunset Strip trends of raiding your sister’s closet and hitting the stage at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go. There’s some glammy strut in a song like “In From The Outside”, sure. But Tom Keifer seems like a guy that could hold his own in a bar fight. “Push Push” is pulling heavy from some serious AC/DC vibes. A nice mix of the Young brothers with some naughty Sunset Strip vibes. “Back Home Again” ends it all with a tip of the hat to Aerosmith’s “Nobody’s Fault”. A good head basher to end things on.

Maybe I might be regressing a bit hitting up all these old albums from my youth. That’s possible. One blogger pal even said as much. This may be true. Or maybe it’s an alternative fact. Or maybe it’s part truth and alternative fact. I will say this, Night Songs is still a pretty solid record after 30 years. Cinderella went the way of blues rock after this album and had a pretty monumental hit with “Don’t Know What You Got(Till It’s Gone)”. I liked Long Cold Winter enough. There were still plenty of girls to break my teenaged heart, so the big ballads and bluesy rockers were a welcomed reprieve from reality. But it didn’t keep my attention quite like that first time around.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some miniature schnauzers to attend to and some compact cars to lift over my head and toss like mere twigs.

Love Crush

As I hit middle school I was knee deep in the hair metal hoopla, but once I made it into my freshman year of high school I’d begun to find more nuanced, less sexually ambiguous music to fall for. I’d been playing guitar for a little over two years once I hit 9th grade and my tastes in music had been steering towards guitar prowess in music. I no longer thought that CC Deville was a fabulous player. Or that Mick Mars was a killer guitar slinger. I’d discovered Shrapnel Records and their line up of 60 notes per second players. A good portion was just “meh”, but there were a few that showed real potential. But once I’d picked up Joe Satriani’s Surfing With The Alien that was it. This was the guy. Prodigious player with lightning fast chops, but he could actually write a catchy tune. He had melody lines that stood in for vocals. There was interesting things going on rhythmically, and he seemed to be pulling influences from all over the the place. He was a blues-based guy for sure, but he obviously dug music from all over the place. I think that was the point where I’d lost interest in “flavor of the month” bands that were featured monthly in the music rags I followed.

By the time I’d bought Alien it had been out for about a year. There was no sign of a new record coming from Satriani anytime soon, so I went back and bought his first LP Not Of This Earth, which lived up to the title. It was pretty out there, showcasing his proficient skills and ability to get weird when he wanted to. But in-between Surfing With The Alien and his 1990 Flying In A Blue Dream there was the short but sweet Dreaming #11, an EP that touted one new song and three live tracks recorded at the California Theater in San Diego, California on June 11, 1988. Dreaming #11 came out in November of 1988, not long before the Thanksgiving holiday which gave me a nice 4-day weekend to really dig into it(I’d also bought the debut Winger album around the same time, too. Don’t judge me.)

At the time this one was nice, but at only 4 tracks with three being older live songs it didn’t leave a lasting impression. The one new song, “The Crush Of Love” was stunning, though. It was this beautifully put together piece of melody-driven guitar rock. It had a nice push to it, with an amazing melody line that stayed in your head long after the song ended. I can remember a few months after it was released I would hear the song being played on the semi-local rock station out of Niles, Michigan 95.3 WAOR. Hearing that on the radio I sort of felt like Satriani was being vindicated or something. He was this guy that I felt needed to be pulled out of guitardom obscurity and have a mainstream audience get into him. This was the kind of song that could’ve been the theme music for anything, really. It was just a damn catchy tune. The three live tracks were pretty stellar sounding, too. Surfing With The Alien’s “Ice Nine” and “Memories” were played to perfection by Satch and the rhythm section of bassist Stu Hamm and drummer Jonathan Mover. The last live track was Not Of This Earth’s “Hordes Of Locusts”, which was the best track on that album. I can remember learning the main riff and playing it ad nauseum. It’s a cool song, but not on par with the Alien tunes.

joeI think what I remember most about this Satriani EP was riding with my dad in his truck and listening to it. My dad had heard a couple of Satriani’s songs on the aforementioned WAOR and had become a fan. He quite liked “The Crush Of Love” so we’d listen to it often. He’d play it in the garage boom box as well when he’d be out washing the cars or working on projects(he would later take a shine to my Suicidal Tendencies cassette Controlled By Hatred/Feel Like Shit…Deja Vu.)

Whenever I could find something for my dad and I to bond over I’d relish it. He was a sports guy. He played football, basketball, and ran track in high school. He had the old letterman sweater to prove it. So when I hit 7th grade he was excited for me to try out for football, which I did and made the team. But about a week into it(well before the first game) I quit. It wasn’t my thing. I’m not a sports fan and never had been. I know he was disappointed I didn’t give it more of a shot, but I think he understood. After a year or so of guitar lessons he saw how much I enjoyed playing and how good I was getting. He saw I’d found my “thing” and I believe he’d become genuinely happy for me. So when he was liking music I was liking, well it genuinely meant a great deal to me.

Today I pulled out Dreaming #11(I found a copy online for pretty cheap awhile back) and gave it a spin. It’s still not a substantial release by Joe, but “The Crush Of Love” is still a hell of a track. It’s a poised, catchy tune that holds up incredibly well. And it still reminds me of my dad.

 

Please Don’t Ask

I’m sitting here feeling a bit under the weather. Spinning some Genesis to help with the healing process. It seems the multitudes of viruses, bugs, and general disease that have made their way through my home the last three months that failed to make their mark on me have, indeed, finally made their mark. I was feeling fine just yesterday. Put a sweaty four miles on the treadmill, lifted some weights like only Adonis could, and bid the gym a fond adieu. This morning I wake up with what feels like a sandpaper-covered frog in my throat, achy, and just a general feeling of malaise hanging over me like some existential rainstorm.

I know the physical aspect of this feeling is from being under the weather. But that existential drift I’m experiencing is from that outside world I’ve been trying to maneuver around like the last breathing meatbag in a mall overrun by zombies. Zombies wheezing things like “Get over it, snowflake”, and “We’re gonna make America great again”.  On a daily basis I see a good number of things that make me lose faith in that good old American spirit. I see a country in the throes of a moral crisis. I know there’s people suffering from “buyer’s remorse”. Those people that voted for the reality TV clown because he was going to do something about abortion, ISIS, immigration, and bring jobs back to the US. They couldn’t in good conscience vote for “that woman”. Try as I might, I just can’t see the logic. Instead of voting for a woman with years of experience in politics and government, but is pro choice, they instead vote for the thrice married, thrice bankrupted, con man who stiffed dozens of contractors and employees over the years with lawsuits following him around like flies to shit. Non-religious casino mogul with the backing of the alt-right(white nationalists) beats the wife of the philandering ex-president. A woman that despite her husband’s laundry list of foibles and faults sticks with him. Figured those fine Christian women would see that as a decent character trait. A hell of a lot better than the guy that fucked around on two wives, possibly a third. A guy that on countless occasions stiffed contractors that did work on his many “yuuuge” buildings. Middle class working stiffs that felt they didn’t have a leg to stand on. Guys that the current POTUS says he wants to help by bringing jobs back to the country.

I can remember when it was easy to say I love you/But things have changed since then/Now I really can’t say if I still do

The thing is, this guy isn’t doing any of this. Once again, a good portion of the voting population was duped into voting in a “Trojan Horse” candidate. Trump walked through the Oval Office doors and brought in with him Steve Bannon. A foul human being that made clickbait hate articles into an artform over at Breitbart. Breitbart isn’t a news site, contrary to what some may believe. It’s a gunk machine. It spews vitriol opinions with the sole purpose of destroying liberal thought. Their main goal is to “whiten” up American society. LGBTQ? Hate it. Equal rights? Unless you’re white, male, and of the superior race, hate ’em. Immigrants? Fuck ’em.  Refugees? Fuck ’em and let ’em die. Muslims? Fuck ’em, too. Only religion that counts is Christianity. They start out by trying to be funny. “Hey man, lighten up. This PC bullshit needs to settle down, man. We’re just trying to have some fun.” But soon enough they start throwing bullshit claims out there and start talking about Sharia Law and that Clinton would enable Sharia Law. They’ll begin taking women away if they speak their mind(now just for reference, I actually heard this insanity at work from a woman my age.) Breitbart is like Fox News on alien steroids. Leni Riefenstahl had nothing on these guys. Breitbart makes the guy too lazy to actually read up on things on his own feel like he’s well versed in politics. They’re telling the completely inappropriate racial jokes and then saying “Hey, I’m just messing with you”, while slipping you a copy of ‘Mein Kampf’ under the table. They’re the smarmy guy at the bar that spews “facts” out at you and when you try to rebuke him he just gets louder and makes a fart joke.

This, my friends, is where America is at.

I’ve never let politics bug me like this before. I’d get mad in the past, but up to 2008 politics had always been a give and take game in this country. Despite whether you voted for the guy in office or not there was always some form of middle ground to be found. There’s always been political discourse. But since 2008 things have gotten so much more personal and ugly. Nasty ugly. I didn’t care for George Bush. I really didn’t care for Dick Cheney. But despite my dislike I still respected the office and felt that there was still at the core some humanity in there. Lots of greed, but still some semblance of humanity. I don’t see that humanity anymore. I see a bunch of fear, anger, posturing, and absolutely no attempts at being empathetic…on either side. I know it’s funny to you, but calling someone a snowflake because they’re not happy that White Nationalists are trying to take over the country isn’t all that cool. Being mature about things doesn’t mean you’re being politically correct. It just means your being decent about things.

Sorry for all of this. I’ll get back to the regularly scheduled program very soon. I just had to get this off my chest. Most of my close friends are rather distant these days. Getting older, growing apart. I’ve got one good friend at work and we see things very similarly, politically and socially. Lone liberals in a sea of gun nuts and Bible thumpers, but I think we’re both getting burnt out on all of this. We’re both at a loss for words anymore when it comes to the thought process of the Midwesterner. I need to find a way out of the hate cycle.

It’s hard not to feel like an elitist when you’re constantly surrounded by such vapidness.

Think I’ll get back to some more Genesis.

 

 

Utopia Is A Doomed Flight To Mars…

Man, I gotta say that I’m finding it harder and harder to read a paper, get on the old interweb, or basically just stick my head out of the front door. It seems everywhere I’m looking it’s nothing but bad news, bad behavior, and bad executive orders. Or worse. Acquaintances, friends, and family are espousing from their collective high horses(or couches) their rather one-sided, jaded, and backwards views on things like equal rights, immigration, BLM, big government, socialism, ISIL, refugees, and pretty much anything else Breitbart, FOX News, or Tomi Lahren tells them is bad(real bad, man. Real bad.) I thought the fear-mongering was bad back in 2002. This makes 2002 seem like a utopian time in American society. Despite great tragedy and loss, we at least came together as a nation and found some sort of collective ground(or at least a collective grief?) You’d think with all of the current Obama bashing and Trump dry-humping going on that Barack had instituted a “Fetal Feast Friday” on the White House lawn, or had gone past one million served on his death panels(remember those? How quaint those times were, huh?)

Most of the folks that I see jumping on this “wall” and “muslim ban” bandwagon actually did pretty well over the last four years. I can’t quite see where they’re coming from in regards to how bad Obama mucked things up. I’m not saying the guy deserves a “World’s Greatest President” mug to drink out of in the mornings. But Christ, there were no illegal wars on his watch. The economy began breathing again. David Bowie released two amazing albums before he left us…on Obama’s watch no less. There wasn’t much he could do anyways, you know with a congress that shot him down at every turn…

But hey, all of this is the reason I’ve been avoiding the bright lights of social media and alternative facts. I find myself so looking forward to weekends nowadays. Not just because, well, it’s the weekend. But because I don’t have to hear the stupid say stupid things while we whistle as we work. No FOX News bloviating throughout the breakroom. No discussions of Sharia Law from people that can’t even spell “Sharia”, let alone know what it is. No yammering about how some asshole thrice married with lots of shady business and bankruptcies under his belt will make America great again. No, the weekend is when I can shut the blinds, unplug from the hate machine and get lost in something far more soothing. Something far more relaxing. Something like the story of Space Shuttle Ambition’s flight to Mars in order to begin the colonization of the Red Planet, only to have the entire crew disappear a mere 18 days after their successful landing on September 6th, 1987.

Now that’s something I can get lost in.

That story is of course not true, but on Slasher Film Festival Strategy’s 2013 release Crimson Throne that’s exactly the story we’re being told. Christopher Ashley, aka Slasher Film Festival Strategy, has a way of telling unique sci-fi/horror tales through his ample supply of synth equipment, new and old. On his 2014 release Wet Leather, Ashley tells the tale of a mental patient wrongly institutionalized and then released 22 years later in order to wreak havoc on the town that put him away. 2015 saw the excellent Psychic Shield, a tale about a religious cult of flesh-eating witches and how those that escaped use their “psychic shield” to protect themselves from the witches and attempt to destroy the cult. Ashley grew up on horror films, hardcore punk, and a southern upbringing, which all play into his music as SFFS. When you listen to his scores you know the guy is a student of those old, sleazy films.

fullsizerender-9I had the great pleasure of interviewing Ashley earlier in 2016 and from our interaction I got the feeling he’s a pretty upstanding guy. He runs his own label(Foreign Sound Records) where he releases his SFFS albums, as well as other like-minded bands in the sleazy synth, hardcore, grindcore, and pretty much all those things that go bump in the night. At that time I hadn’t yet gotten acquainted with Crimson Throne all that much. Since then I was able to get a super rare copy of the ‘Haunt Love’ edition of the album and have played it ad nauseum. Each of Ashley’s records have a certain mood they hit. Wet Leather was ultra sleazy, sickly synth. Something Abel Ferrara or late-era Fulci might’ve poured over one of their exploitative slash fests. Psychic Shield is this mix of late-60s and early 70s Italio horror sounds. Very restrained; almost classicist compositions given life through trusty analog equipment. With Crimson Throne there’s a real mid-80s vibe here. It puts me in mind of Romero’s Day of the Dead at times, with it’s strutty rhythms and boxy synth sounds. But then you’re treated to some quasi-ambient textures that completely throw you through a loop. There’s certainly a lost in space vibe here. Very spatial and galactic at times.

Title track “Crimson Throne” has that synsonic drum strut that puts me in mind of opening credit crawls, while “Terraformer” has a techno vibe with the drum programming and drone-y synth swaths. “Frozen Alter” is very much in the Dawn of the Dead vein. “Doom is on the way” is what this track is relaying. “The Cavern” and “First Death” waver and hover in the air like some death-enchanted specter.

fullsizerender-8As you follow along with Crimson Throne you really do get the vibe of a soundtrack. I’d love to see Christopher Ashley get the chance to do some scoring for films, but I’d hate to see him pulled away from creating his own musical worlds. He has a real knack for the musical narrative. “Thermal Event”, “Cosmic Burial”, and “Surface” have come to us with a fully formed story to tell. “Day 18” gives us the fate of those Space Shuttle Ambition astronauts. It’s the story’s tragic epilogue. A robotic voice tells us it’s most likely dead and that this is a distress call.

Roll credits.

I’m thankful for Slasher Film Festival strategy in these wary times. I’m most appreciative for these albums and the escapism they provide. I’d much rather be a stranded astronaut on the Red Planet than read more about President Bannon…err, I mean Trump.

That’s far scarier.