Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Dirt City Chronicles, Year in Review: 2016 Oct.- Dec.

Death metal is much maligned, due mostly to its inherent preoccupation with subject matter such as; death, suffering, destruction and mayhem..... did I mention death and suffering? The primary characteristic of Death metal that sets it apart from other sub-genres are the vocals. Typically, lead singers will employ a hoarse roaring grunt, sometimes referred to as death growls, which should never be confused with vocal fry, a technique used in other forms of black metal. “The vocal fry register (also known as pulse register, laryngealisation, pulse phonation, creak, croak, popcorning, glottal fry, glottal rattle, glottal scrape, or strohbass) is the lowest vocal register and is produced through a loose glottal closure which will permit air to bubble through slowly with a popping or rattling sound of a very low frequency” Though unproven, growled vocals may have been a part of Viking music.

The difference between the genres is in the details. What primarily separates Black metal from Death metal is the former's adherence to ideological Satanism (not necessarily practical Satanism) Defining the term 'black metal', Euronymous (a founder and central figure in the Norwegian black metal scene) said that it applies to any heavy metal band who are theistic Satanists and write Satanic lyrics. Such extreme ideas repeated by other scene members, eventually caused it to implode upon itself. Not all the musicians and fans were mother loving Satan worshipers, many were bandwagon believers who dropped all pretenses of allegiance to Beelzebub once the shit hit the fan with a pair of highly publicized gristly murders involving key figures in the Norwegian black metal scene.

The entire charade ends with an emphatic chant of “Who's Walmart is this?” to which the now frothing associates yell back “My Walmart!” They should just hand out amphetamine pills at the start of every shift. Wash them down with those Little Hugs fruit drinks that Walmart sells by the millions. Not all stores do the cheer anymore, mainly because it scares the shit out of customers. All in all, Walmart radio isn't that bad. It's a carefully formatted station that mixes Contemporary Hit radio with the that old format warhorse, Good Time Oldies.... sprinkled with just enough country music hits to keep the redneck associates happy. No actual commercials are played, just Walmart ads and friendly reminders designed to keep associates productive and focused. Walmart has licensed tons of music since the days of Walmart Music, so the playlist varies more than that of your average “Hot mix” station. Plenty of hit songs, lots of Beatles, Stones, classic rock, classic oldies and what have you.

Do you have any idea how surreal it is to hear “Sold in a market down in New Orleans, Scarred old slaver know he's doin' alright, Hear him whip the women just around midnight” played overhead in a Walmart at 3a.m.? It gives me the whammy. I still say that the song selections are meant to carry a subliminal message. The Beatles “Don't Let Me Down” plays at crunch time, just as associates are struggling to complete their daily tasks. “When Will I Be Loved” kicks in just after that (I've been cheated, been mistreated) Paul Revere's “Hungry” comes on right before the lunch break and The Guess Who's “No Time” just as the lunch hour comes to a close. Invariably associates will call in with requests for “Proud Mary” ..... “Workin' for the man ev'ry night and day and I never lost one minute of sleepin' worryin' 'bout the way things might have been” or “Working in a Coalmine”.... “Five o'clock in the mornin' I'm already up and gone Lord, I'm so tired How long can this go on?”

The city's music scene also has an inspired progressive side, which we'll be exploring in this episode. I'm partial to DAMN Union a collective of musicians anchored by Danny Graves and Aaron Ransbarger, both formerly of The Rawdogs. Build around jam sessions referred to as The Dona Ana Music Night Union (DAMN Union) the lineup is fluid. I'm reading this off their Facebook page... the current touring roster consists of Graves, Ransbarger, Larry Ramos, Tucker and Andrew Levi Hiller. Other notable members include: Audra Rogers, Neeshia Macanowicz, Joe Hecker, Mike Granado, Ben Cantrell, Chuck Drexler. A variable super group of sorts, especially so when Sean Lucy joins the proceedings. Casting egos aside for the betterment of music, a collaborative effort that sparkles like the starry skies of Southern New Mexico.... the results speak for themselves. 

Sean Lucy is the last of the cosmic cowboys, taking up where Gram Parsons (the original cosmic cowboy) and legendary troubadour, Townes Van Zandt left off. Michael Murphy, another singer/songwriter with New Mexico ties describes cosmic cowboy music as “The cross pollination between Hippie and Cowboy. Early 70s hippie stuff combined with kind of the red-neck mentality. Texas accents and Country music” Boy Howdy. DoStuff Media: “This blonde cowboy hails from Texas, where lots of good things come from.... and then they stay gone” We'll stake a claim on the technicolor cowboy, Texas' loss in New Mexico's gain. Sean is a prolific songwriter with an extensive discography, Eleven albums starting with “The New Vulgarity” released in 2006 leading up his two latest releases, “King Clone Creosote” and “Pearl Snaps & Blunt Wraps”

Pickin' On is a series of tribute albums recorded by studio musicians in a bluegrass style. The series logs in at over one hundred albums, running the gamut from Three Doors Down to Hank Williams Jr. plus everyone and anyone that you can imagine in between. It's hit or miss. When it's good, (Van Halen's “Ain't Talking 'Bout Love” or The Offspring's “Gone Away”) it's really good. The bad stuff amounts to little more than the bluegrass equivalent of a square peg being forced into a round hole. “The Pickin' On series isn't alone in this world. Iron Horse a bluegrass band from Killen, Alabama has perfected the same formula for turning alt-rock songs into bluegrass tunes. It's the Sound-a-Like marketing technique of the early 1970s reinvented for the Americana set. The local tie-in? both Iron Horse and Pickin' On have covered The Shins, with good results.

I will without the least bit of hesitation, admit to crying whenever I hear either Fast Heart Mart or The Handsome Family's original version of “My Sister's Tiny Hands” It's a song that fucks with my emotions. “We came in this world together, legs wrapped around each other. My cheek against my sister's, we were born like tangled vines” We all know the feeling of having someone ripped from us. Such pain being the vehicle that drives this heart rendering tale of sorrow and vengeance. “Every creature casts a shadow, under the sun's golden fingers” Makes ya' wanna grab a sharpened stick and start killing snakes. Fast Heart Mart (Martin Stamper) having completed a series of concerts in Germany and Finland, is still based in San Diego, with his most recent performances taking place at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass held in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.

It took ten years for Kyroburn to drop their first album “Enigmatic Existence” on the Continental Entertainment label in 2005. Recorded at Krank Studios in El Paso, produced by Eddy Garcia (Pissing Razors, he also produced the 6-track N-Cyde demo for the band. Which included a cover of the Simple Minds, Don't You Forget About Me) “Enigmatic Existence” is triumph of crisp, clean production, strong, muscular instrumental performances, and the barking vocals of Todd Brashear. While the exact parameters of this organically appealing sound have been explored before (Fear Factory, Strapping Young Lad) It doesn't detract from the album's overall appeal. Kryoburn carefully culled their influences from the very best of the alt-metal rockers from that period with highly effective results.

AllMusic's take: “This 2005 release is generally decent, at least if one enjoys a big dose of crushing brutality. Not every artist who comes along is obligated to be groundbreaking or innovative” Kyroburn wasn't having any of that “trendsetter” bullshit and once they dropped the hammer on their audience, it's not likely that anyone had any fucks to give about innovation. It's nothing but a party ya'll. Whatever momentum Kyroburn may have garnered after “Enigmatic Existence” quickly dissipated as the band suffered a number of setbacks including a round of personnel changes which left them pondering their own enigmatic existence. “When artists who wear their influences on their sleeves, function as followers rather than leaders, the question becomes, Are they good followers?” 

Behold Boar Worship's oozing sludge emanating from anguished speakers already tortured beyond repair by repeated plays of Inappropriate Necessity. For those who love sludgy stoner rock, Boar Worship is the musical equivalent of comfort food. A relentless static charged sound so dense and heavy that you could cut through it with a knife. This experimental doom outfit was formed in Albuquerque (2009) relocated to Oakland, Ca. and is currently based in Denver, Co. The release of their debut album “The Decline and Fall of the Christian Empire” in 2009 introduced us to their droning rock of ages and a Brahman inspired dogma designed to lift the curtain to those seeking enlightenment. I'm reading between the lines, but hear me out anyway. “Pro Death” an ep released in 2012 touches on the rejection of lower worship by the militant faiths as a way of explaining why they have conquered and kept a permanent dominion over the world's god fearing masses.

This search for profound spiritualism culminated with the release of “Boar Worship” in 2015. “The interior truths, the divine secrets, the real way of salvation are known only to a few. The great majority of men, being timid and ignorant are concerned mainly in propitiating the powerful and malignant influences by which they fancy themselves to be surrounded” The supremely dominant principle of modern times is that the world is on a course of continual evolution... though the current political climate in our nation leads one to think that Devo got it right, devolution not evolution is our destiny. As we gear up for the coming apocalypse, my soundtrack of choice for end of the world warfare shall be this beastly sound. Beats Wagner’s “Ritt der Walküren” every single time. “Boar Worship” is not for the weak-kneed or faint of heart. If you suffer from delicate sensibilities or are easily offended just stick with Slipknot or some other equally cartoonish band

Many have tried to compose a complete history of Albuquerque's music scene and many have failed. The downfall of most music scribes attempting this is that they fail to grasp the complex nature and immense depth and variety within the Duke City's local music scene. A little over a year ago I took on this challenge and set out to write as complete a history of 'Burque's garage / punk / soul beat scene in the 1960s as has ever been written.... I'm leaving it up to you to determine whether I failed or not. While not on the scale of Doctor Zhivago, it is of epic proportions. The size of which led my older sister (a retired librarian and school marm) to say that there were too many words. Well, powder my fuse. Imagine that, a librarian complaining about too many written words.

When writing pertains to historical facts, leaving something out for the sake of brevity is akin to writing a history of the Civil War and ignoring The battle of Gettysburg. If there's anything that I've learned from years of reading Rolling Stone, Creem, Goldmine, Bomp and Trouser Press, it's that pertinent facts such as recording labels, session players, release dates etc. are the holy grail for a music completist. Leave them out at the risk of killing your music nerd street cred. I blame Twitter for this aversion to reading. That social networking service favored by none other than Donald Trump has conditioned users to peruse snippets of text enhanced with emojis. Anything longer than a single line of text is too fucking long. Shortened attention spans, the bane of writers. Fuck Twitter.