Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Steven Jesse Bernstein
Steven "Jesse" Bernstein (Dec 04, 1950 – Oct 21, 1991) was an American underground writer and performance artist who is most famous for his recordings with Sup Pop Records and close relationship with William S. Burroughs. Bernstein's substance abuse issues and mental illness contributed to his provocative local celebrity, though they ultimately culminated in his suicide.
Steven Jay Bernstein was born in LA, California. He moved to Seattle, Washington in January, 1967, where he adopted the moniker Jesse, and began performing and self-publishing Chapbooks of his poetry (the first chapbook was Choking On Sixth, 1978). Bernstein would become something of an icon to many in Seattle's underground music scene. Notable fans included Kurt Cobain and Oliver Stone. Bernstein's mental illness was not as alarming as it might have been off the stage, as his drug-reinforced manic episodes were harnessed and channeled into engrossing, often perverse, entertainment. According to one Seattle newspaper, he opened for music acts such as Nirvana, Big Black, Soundgarden, U-Men, and The Crows:

"He read poems from a stage with a live rodent in his mouth, its tail twitching as baseline punctuation. He tried to cut his heart out in order to hold it in his hands and calm it down. He once urinated on a heckler and tended to throw things: beer bottles, manuscripts, drumsticks, his wallet, a sandwich.”

The concept for the Bernstein album Prison was for Jesse to do a raw, live performance at Monroe, Washington State Penitentiary Special Offenders unit in 1991. Jesse went with his manager Barbara Buckland, Bruce Pavitt from Sub Pop Records, Grant Alden (then with Seattle's Rocket Magazine, now known as the co-founder of No Depression Magazine), photographer Arthur S. Aubry, and various tech people. None of the session except for the photos taken by Aubry was usable. SubPop later contracted Steve Fisk to finish the project. The album was intended to be produced along the same lines as Johnny Cash's At Folsom Prison, but Fisk later decided to score the recordings with jazz and ambient music. The album was only partially completed when Bernstein committed suicide by stabbing himself in the throat three times with a knife. He was 40 years old when he died - about a month and a half before his 41st birthday.
Prison was released on Apr 1st, 1992. In 1994, one of these recordings, Me and Her Outside (No No Man),was used in the film Natural Born Killers.

Monday, 16 June 2008


Killdozer formed in 1984, with members Bill Hobson, Dan Hobson and Michael Gerald. They took their name from the 1974 TV movie directed by Jerry London, itself based on a Theodore Sturgeon short story. They released their first album, Intellectuals are the Shoeshine Boys of the Ruling Elite, in the same year. The band split in 1990 but reformed in 1993, losing Bill Hobson and gaining Paul Zagoras, and continued until they split up in 1996. The band released 9 albums, including a post-breakup live CD, The Last Waltz, released in 1997. Killdozer was a one-of-a-kind band, notable for its unusual song structures, and its hilarious but dead-pan lyrics growled (with dead-serious earnestness) by singer Michael Gerald at the top of his lungs. Many of the lyrics dealt with disturbing narratives from small-town USA or had a jaded, left-wing political content. The band also became famous for its uproarious cover songs, the most memorable of all being Don Maclean’s “American Pie”. A version exists on their 1989 all-covers album For Ladies Only.Killdozer is regarded by many to have set the foundation for grunge music, in spite of that genre’s association with the city of Seattle. The band were stalwarts of Touch and Go Records during its legendary 1980s phase and they often toured with or played alongside stablemates such as Scratch Acid and Big Black. Steve Albini, who recorded Killdozer’s 1995 album God Hears Pleas of the Innocent, has on many occasions cited Killdozer as a band who reach his exacting standards.

(Featuring a cover of EMF's 'Unbelievable')

For Ladies Only can be d/l'd from here. (October archive)

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Miracle Chosuke

From the depths of southern California come the new wave. Miracle Chosuke lay claim to the sounds of synthesize punk rock juvenile but with nostalgically elaborate hits. This album is their definitive recordings. Think Devo but with controlled spazz, which exists, energetic charisma, loud bombing energy and a wall of keyboards and sassy vocals about a girl named Francine to the experiences of being a male prostitute "I'll do what you pay me for". Youthful, energetic but totally challenging musicians, Miracle Chosuke paints an image of Queen writing songs in their 20's but developing their sounds from Kraftwerk to the Germs, the sound you'd imagine is chaotic but amazingly orchestraic with intense time signatures and dance rhythms. These youthful kids don't stop til they're passed out and they play til their blood starts pumping out of their skin.

Monday, 3 March 2008


Trumans Water is an indie-rock band from San Diego, California. Formed in April 1991, members of the unit have included Glen Galloway, Ely Moyal, Andres Malinao, Kevin Cascell, and brothers Kirk Branstetter and Kevin Branstetter. They have released over a dozen full length recordings over their career, wherein they collaborated with notable acts in genre, including Azail Snail, and Thurston Moore.


Influenced by noise-rock acts such as The Boredoms, Sun City Girls and Sonic Youth, they introduced a generation of indie music fans to Beefheartian composition and wild free improvisation. Despite the apparent chaotic quality of their music, however, a large part of Trumans Water's success lies in their dedication to rehearsal.
Other notable personalities who have expressed their adoration for the outfit include Beck, Stereolab and the legendary DJ John Peel, who effectively shot the band to indie stardom in the UK when he unexpectedly played their debut LP, Of Thick Tum, uninterrupted and in its entirety during an edition of his BBC Radio One show.
Brothers Kirk Branstetter and Kevin Branstetter relocated to Portland, Oregon in 1994, sans Galloway and are the only current original members still active in the band. Galloway took on the Glen Galaxy moniker to record as Soul-Junk, an experimental Christian hip-hop outfit. Kevin Branstetter subsequently moved to France in 1995. The two brothers being on different continents for the last several years has curbed their musical output but by no means stopped them. They have managed to put out six albums since the geographical separation.
Trumans Water has recently added bass playerMike (?) after over a decade touring and recording as a three piece (two guitars and drums). A new drummer, John Schier, has been added as well.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Arising from the deepest part of the U.K.'s underground noise-rock scene, Terminal Cheesecake was perhaps best known for their connections to more prominent bands like Skullflower, Godflesh, and A.R. Kane. Similar in many respects to the former two, Terminal Cheesecake offered a spacy, droning brand of neo-psychedelic noise-rock, which also drew from the trance-rock of Loop, early industrial music (particularly Throbbing Gristle, Nurse With Wound, and Chrome), British post-punk, and dub. Much more than their kindred spirits, though, TC played up the drug connections inherent in psychedelia, wrapping their music in a haze of pot smoke and LSD hallucinations; their oddly processed vocals and sheer love of strange noises only underlined the esoteric drug references in many of their titles.

Terminal Cheesecake was founded in London in 1988 by vocalist Gary Boniface, who'd begun his career as a drummer with several rockabilly-revival outfits, then moved on to front the obscure Vibes and Purple Things. He was first joined by guitarist Russell Smith, a tangential member of the A.R. Kane/M/A/R/R/S axis. Accompanied by a virtually anonymous rhythm section, they signed to the fledgling British indie Wiiija and debuted in 1988 with the Bladdersack EP (also the label's first-ever release). Their full-length bow was 1989's Johnny Town-Mouse, which took its title from a Beatrix Potter story. It marked the first appearance of Gordon Watson, a guest guitarist who later joined the band officially. A second LP, V.C.L. (which stood for "Valium Chicken Leg"), appeared later in 1989 and featured a cover of Flipper's "Sex Bomb."

1990's Angels in Pigtails was the band's most fully realized album to date, featuring a stronger rhythm section of Watson on bass and Joe Whitney on drums. It was released on the Pathological label, which also showcased the band on a sampler compilation alongside grindcore acts like Godflesh, Carcass, and Napalm Death, as well as more experimental noisemakers like Coil and God. Russell Smith subsequently left the group, and joined Skullflower in 1992; he also played as a sideman with God from time to time. Watson took over his spot as guitarist, in front of a new rhythm section composed of bassist Steven "Fez" Fesinger and drummer Simon Doling. This core quartet would constitute Terminal Cheesecake for the remainder of their existence, starting with the 1992 album Pearlesque Kings of the Jewmost (for World Serpent). The group next signed with Jackass for 1993's Gateau d'Espace EP, which was followed by the full-length King of All Spaceheads in 1994. This proved to be the group's final album, as they disbanded the following year; Boniface, Watson, and studio engineer Johnno "Poppa" Newman immediately reteamed as Bud Alzir, which pursued a more dub- and techno-inflected direction on their lone eponymous album.

Johnny Town Mouse

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Ben Davis - The Hushed Patterns Of Relief

Ben Davis, formerly of punk bands including Sleepytime Trio and Milemarker, has developed into a musician with diverse interests and influences. His solo career evolved from a quiet four-track project into a full band ensemble with over a dozen releases including singles, compilations, two full length CDs, and a new split with Des Ark. Davis has toured the US and Japan and frequently plays on the east coast After a year of performing solo, Lovitt Records released the critically acclaimed The Hushed Patterns of Relief in 2001, which was recorded at Salad Days by Brian McTernan.

Conceived as a stripped-down solo project, Davis' Hushed Patterns was a tightly knit collaboration of Chapel Hill musicians performing sparse pop pieces. Jonathan Fuller from Engine Down came aboard to record the drums and joined a studio band compromised of members of the Comas, The Mayflies USA, and the Poncho Holly Bullfight Party. A new back-up band including members of Fin Fang Foom and Des Ark emerged and toured to support the record. On this album, cello, lap-steel guitar, and piano accentuate the wash of guitars and full vocal melodies detailing recurring motifs that rise and swell throughout the record.

In the meantime, Davis' other band, Bats & Mice, got busier and he returned to writing new songs mainly on the piano in between tours. As a large collection of new songs accrued, he decided to utilize his vastly talented friends and bandmates to the fullest. Two years later, a collaboration between many friends resulted in his second release, Aided & Abetted. Sixteen musicians and six production gurus came from six states during four recording and mixing sessions to contribute to the album. Members from Engine Down, Milemarker, Denali, Zetamale, Des Ark, and Fin Fang Foom, among others, were involved in the performance of this scintillating work. The album underscores a marked maturity evolved since Hushed Patterns and is a calculated mix of melancholy rock and bright, textured pop.

2006 hearkens the release of Davis' collaboration with good friend and fellow Research Triangle resident, Aimee Argote, who performs as Des Ark. The Battle of the Beards, their 12-song joint effort comprising five songs each and two songs together along with a 20-piece orchestra, is a masterful revelation. The slow builds and soft confessionals of the Des Ark tracks play perfect counterpoint to Davis' pulsing songcraft. The split album shows the potential of alliance and the unspoken complements of friendship.

Davis has played with such artists as The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Mates of State, Pinback, Ted Leo, The Rosebuds, and Rainer Maria with critical and popular reviews. He has toured Japan and the United States and performed on the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage in September 2006.


Wednesday, 9 January 2008


The name of the album was taken from a section of a Childcraft book on health, and you probably can't find a better collection of childhood angst, phobias, and concerns. The drums pound and the guitars shriek and squall mercilessly, all while Mr Anus and Mr Horribly Charred Infant scream apologies/warnings/pleas like, "Pleeeeease don't spank me/I'm too big to be spanked!" Occasionally it congeals into something that resembles an actual song, as on "Not Fade Away" or "Jenny Tried to Kiss Me at Recess," but mostly the instrumentation just provides a backing track to these little slices taken from adolescent nightmares. Very disturbed, and a lot of fun...