Monday, September 20, 2010

bring on the noise

My musical life tends to be a one-track thing. For the past week or more I've been doggedly (but with delight) listening thru the entire corpus of the Mekons, chronologically, as a single playlist on my iPod. I'm maybe 250 tracks into the total 370. I've passed thru the "punk" Mark I Mekons, the country & western Mark II Mekons, the delightfully experimental mid-period Mekons, & am now into the turn-of-the-millennium "retrospective" Mekons (ie, 2 volumes of odds 'n' sods, before they come roaring back in full force with Journey to the End of Night).

Instrumental rock isn't a genre I've given a lot of thought to, tho I'll blushingly admit to owning way too many King Crimson records, and even having once upon a time been able to play "Red" (badly) on the guitar. If you're still inclined to think of the genre in terms of surf rock (The Ventures, Dick Dale) or of noodly jazz improvs, you need to buy the above EP, There Are Crashes. It's by the Bells≥, a new Brooklyn-based band whose drummer – the only reason I know about this group – is the redoubtable Zach Barocas, whom I know as the proprietor of the excellent Cultural Society website. Zach's an excellent editor, a smart & sensitive poet, and a powerful & expressive whaler of the skins. This is muscular & exciting music, continually reaching out for, & then foreswearing, the "big" gesture. It reminds me of nothing so much as Mission of Burma in their prime. A lovely noise.

Hie thee to Bandcamp (for fancy formats) or the iTunes Store.


Steven Fama said...

For an updated take on surf-instrumentals, please consider The Mermen, a trio that's now 20 years on, in San Francisco and Santa Cruz. Hendrix, Wes Montgomery, and other assorted waves of psychedelia and the sea are brought into the sound.

Joe said...

hey mark,

if you want to immerse yourself even deeper with the mekons, you might be interested in the documentary i'm making on them.

check out the facebook page here:

add as a friend and i'll keep you up to date on developments with it. enjoy!

the official website is here:

-Joe Angio

Archambeau said...

Mr. Odious P. Language-Nerd here, raising the question "whaling, wailing, or waling?" I concur that Z Barocas does something amazing on the skins, but what?

I sort of like the Captain Ahab quality of "to whale" on the skins. Relentlessness in pursuit of enigma has it's place in rock. But I'm not sure I can follow how this connects to the sounds produced by, or the skills applied to, the drums. Maybe it's just unfamiliarity that puts me off. If drummers started calling their sticks "harpoons" it might all gel for me. And "whaler of the skins" does have a certain romance to it.

"To wail" also has its charm: one makes a great noise. But surely it is more of a guitar/vocal thing? Percussiveness seems somehow un-wail-ish.

"To wale" does have the unfortunate overtone of wearing corduroy (in narrow or, God forbid, wide wale format), but since a "wale" is a welt, and "to wale" is "to leave a streak, stripe, or ridge produced on the skin by the stroke of a rod or whip" I think this particular verb may be the appropriate one for what Barocas does to his poor, longsuffering drum kit.

Okay. Now I'm going to go to the grocery store and look for quotation marks around words like "tomatoes" and "on sale." Or I could just wale on my own ass for pedanticness.