I thought it was San Francisco where the spirit of the Residents might have loomed largest over the years, but it looks like L.A.'s been getting a trickling of it as well more than usual. Edan Serge Gillen's CDR a few years ago caused a few head-swivels around WFMU, and now in 2008 Blk Thndr Rkrds has finally committed his five strange songs to 7" wax: panicked rock-a-boogie via turntable surface noise, atonal car horn-honk keyboards and toxic dayglo flank both sides of this one. I don't know if it's a windup or not, but his label claims all straightfaced that Edan hooked up with Tracii Guns and his kid in 2006 to play 20 shows in a revamped L.A. Guns around the world (including a somewhat heralded-on-the-press-release 20th Anniversary show for Rickki Rachtman's Cathouse on Sunset. Real Audio: "My Love Is a Fire."
In 1977 four New Englanders of varying musical goals convened for a private press LP under the name Orange, that by all accounts, was born under stressful circumstances (sneaking into studios, band members at odds), and upon release got no love from friends or family of all members involved (one of which being modern free-blowing stalwart Paul Flaherty). Now reissued on DeStijl, In the Midst of Chaos is an interesting peek at a short-lived combo at odds with itself: Flaherty obviously pushed for the freedom aspect while the others were split between trad leanings, fusion/bloozy needs, McCoy Tyner fixations, but all willing to go into freak-form mode after they got all of that outta the way. The result of the recording is a very cool LP of some basic mic'd interplay with some almost MX-80 moments of electric guitar flurry from Barry Greika, tranquil soundscapes with a few electronic flourishes and of course some hippo-charging sax action from Flaherty. MP3: "And Then She Appeared In the Midst of Chaos" (MP3).
Varghkoghargasmal online discussions seem to attract metal-purist hatred akin to the kind that the late Anton Maiden received. "Retarded" seems to be the key phrase uttered, in fact. This stuff, however, is brilliant and completely original. Label tUMULt has been calling it "Wooden metal", maybe due to the fact the evocations of forests are clear in the sounds of the music. It definitely is Black Metal in essence, though there's no distortion on the instruments (all played by a fellow named Avenger) despite them being electric. Drum beats are struggling, guitar pluckings run into a few stutters, keyboard lines amble around, and even weirder, I can hear bits of stuff like the Norton Records King Usniewicz vibe drifting through this thing. That is, stumbling, amateurish American roots-rock! Buggy surf-guitar runs etc. Drowned In Lakes is an amazingly atmospheric and mood-setting record despite the bizarre descriptions above, enjoy "Tanz der Walteufel" (Real Audio) from an earlier EP, and check out "Far Away From Earth" (Real Audio) from Lakes.
On a somewhat more direct but still unconventional angle of darkness, I've been waiting for a solo release from Norway's Runhild Gammelsæter and I'm happy to say it's been worth the wait. Runhild first joined a pre-Sunn o))) Greg Anderson and Stephen O'Malley in the band Thorr's Hammer when she was a 17-year old exchange student, and two years ago did a great collaboration called Khlyst with James Plotkin. Her new Utech release Amplicon swings between darkly beautiful passages and jarring, Diamanda-esque explosions of vocal mayhem, both soundtrack-like and extreme within short timeframe. Challenging listening, but painting an intriguing tapestry of sounds. "Love" (Real Audio)