No Doctors "Rumble Ring" (MP3) "AAO" (MP3)
These gents kicked off proceedings years ago as wide-eyed Minnesota noise scene teens, and while staking their turf firmly and quickly, admittedly didn't do much at first to move my head around. Yet, as time went on and shifts were made to Chicago and eventually San Francisco, members picked up here and there and unexpected influences started to stick to the ribs of their No Wave skeletons. Lo and behold, there was then an embrace of actual rock tradition, quite an about-face for any band starting its journey in such an out-there mode to begin. It's safe to say the newfound swing did not dull the thump, and in general the progress added some righteous fuel to the bonfire. The ERP Saints EP (No Sides label) back in 04 showed their power coalescing perfectly, splattery sax augmenting dramatic, almost Television-esque forays where brittle, fractured guitar lines flurried into quite emotional passages while not losing their alien vibe. The new full length Origin and Tectonics follows through quite nicely.
Gaseneta "Track 4" (MP3)
Kengo Iuchi "Ushi Otoko No Dokuhaku" (MP3)
The out there fringes of Japanese music have few boundaries as we've learned through the years and these two artists (from 1978 and 1995 respectively) stake some pretty harrowing and unapproachable terrain. I first picked up Gaseneta's Sooner or Later CD on the PSF label down at Kim's Underground in NYC back in the 1990's when I was pretty much scooping up anything on the imprint. I was already a huge High Rise fan, and when the clerk mentioned that these '78 recordings provided a pretty big blueprint for that band I was sold. Gaseneta, which featured Hamano Jun, Osato Toshiharo, and insane vocalist Yamazaki Harumi, had the guitar rampage factor of High Rise locked in, but it's the slobbering speed freak aspect and damaged lo-fi air (definitely a nod to Les Rallizes Denudes) that transformed this band into quite a unique thing as the MP3 proves. Kengo Iuchi, on the other hand, records his sounds clear as a bell. I first heard what he termed as his singular brand of "death folk" on a split/collaborative CD with Japanese noise hounds MSBR in 1998, but thanks to Mutant Sounds' posting of his 1995 solo Inugami To Kachiku disc, I can now safely say I know the sound of what Kan Mikami getting his back waxed sounds like. The guitar definitely evokes the death-strum of Jandek, but the voice is hardly passive or hovering.
The Walkabouts "Loom of the Land" (MP3)
Digging back into the Sub Pop 200 box from back in the day I was drawn to the folkier aspects of the set that maybe weren't so representative of the lumberjack/Marshall stack contingent/grunge draws of the time. The Terry Lee Hale song on there, for example, is just gorgeous, but I really enjoyed rediscovering the Walkabouts, a Seattle group founded in 1984 around the core of Chris Eckman and Carla Togerson, who might have been a more powerful influence on the No Depression / alt-Americana scene had they been easier to peg. While they certainly had a lot of their influences in common with your Uncle Tupelos (Neil Young, Johnny Cash etc.), there was a bit of a lysergic element to the electric guitar and a certain element of more epic, Europeanisms floating around as well. This became quite evident especially with their 1993 Satisfied Mind release (on Germany's Glitterhouse label; once again, leave it to the Europeans to put the spotlight on the best and most ignored American roots acts); the disc was comprised of covers of songs that certainly filtered through the band's subconscious from the getgo. Included: Gene Clark's "Polly", Go-Between Robert Forster's "The River People", Patti Smith's "Free Money", and John Cale's great "Buffalo Ballet." The MP3 here of Nick Cave's "Loom of the Land" stands as a great example of the Walkabouts' ability to transform spare originals to more sweeping arrangements without losing the emotion or eloquence of the song. Togerson's vocal style (along with Mary O'Neil of Virginia Dare) rank among the approaching this music in my opinion. It's too bad they never broke huge in the USA. For now, you can check out this article on them courtesy Perfect Sound Forever.