More Music For You, Volume One
let the dead poets make way for the others
Big ‡ Brave
I highlight them especially because they have a new album just out, titled Vital. Signed, of course, to Southern Lord Records, Big ‡ Brave is a noisy experimental band with a talent for keening drones that creep along disquietingly while blasts of distortion thump in alongside them, peppered by discordant, wailing vocals that sound like someone crying for help as their village burns. I think of them in the same vein as the Misfits or the Jesus and Mary Chain, bands who use a limited sonic space and formula to great heights, demonstrating the value of knowing exactly how you want to sound and sounding like that all the time. (For an example of the folly that can come from not knowing what your sound is, consider, say, certain periods of the Rolling Stones.) If you’ve got a good horse, you might as well ride, and boy do they ride - sharp and caustic and unique, a shot in the arm for the scene. Enjoy the video, which will leave you feeling unsettled without knowing why!
If you enjoy this artist’s music, please find a way to pay for it. You can find Big ‡ Brave’s website here, their band page at Southern Lord here, their Bandcamp here, and their Instagram here. Stream if you’d like; pay directly when you can.
Perhaps an obvious name at this point, but worth sharing regardless. Championed by record review shops like Pitchfork and the Needle Drop, Kristin Hayter is a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist working in a wholly unique corner of harsh noise, operatic vocals, and intricate harmony. Hayter draws her themes and ideas in part from her complex relationship with the scene most associated with her music, as that scene both produced the music that most influences her and sheltered the man who abused her, himself a musician. Pepper in a health dose of mutant Catholicism and fixation on the nature of pain and self-control and you’ve got Caligula, perhaps my favorite record of 2019. (But who remembers.) It’s a banger from start to finish and shifts tones and registers constantly while maintaining thematic and sonic integrity. Quite an achievement. Incidentally some of her lyrics come the closest to capturing what the delusional and self-destructive grandiosity of bipolar mania feels like. “I’m the fucking deathdealer, I’m the butcher of the world.” You and me both sister.
If you enjoy this artist’s music, please find a way to pay for it. You can find Lingua Ignota’s website here, her Bandcamp here, her Twitter here, and her Instagram here. Stream if you’d like; pay directly when you can.
Lost to us in 2016, Pauline Oliveros was a god of unusual tempos, drifting moans, languid melodies and silent but insistent rhythm. I want to add atonality, but perhaps she just places traditional tonal moves in such stark and unique contexts that it merely feels atonal to me, a musical illiterate. I probably use the word “haunting” to describe music too often but, well, listen to the song above. Oliveros was the perfect example of how the term “artist academic” could be used in an entirely positive sense. A lifelong occupant of self-consciously avant garde spaces, Oliveros believed that music that was entirely free of conventional meaning still expressed passionate messages about what life could and should be. This is music meant to be meditated on, pondered over, listened to while lying on the couch with a negroni balanced on your chest, staring at the ceilings and searching for what clues Oliveros might be giving you about what the right way to live might be, expressed to you in song and sadness.
Pauline Oliveros is gone and I do not believe in inheritance rights for intellectual property, so come to her music in any way you would like.
This one, I should say, is not for the faint of heart. (Yes, those are maggots on her vagina.) Where Lingua Ignota is ornate, thoughtful and soaring, while still being defiantly noisy and dissonant, Pharmakon is dirty, harsh, ugly, and gross. Margaret Chardiet has been making extreme noise music since she was an adolescent. Her music does not seek to entrance in the way all of the other musicians here attempt to, at least to some degree. Chardiet would like very much to rub steel wool on your face, thank you. Which I recognize sounds unpleasant! But Chardiet, like many extreme musicians, has a profoundly human motivation behind her music: to connect by inspiring authentic emotions in her audience, even if those emotions are horror and discomfort. To shake you out of your complacency with music that sounds the way crawling through hell would feel. And she’s very, very good at it. If you’re trying to get into this music and it hurts, it’s just like so many other things in life: you press on until the things that hurt start to feel good.
If you enjoy this artist’s music, please find a way to pay for it. You can find Pharmakon’s band page at Sacred Bones Records here, her Bandcamp here, and I think this is her Facebook here. Stream if you’d like; pay directly when you can.
Meredith Monk has spent a long, highly decorated career embracing vocals while typically disdaining lyrics, or as she puts it, “the word.” Monk has spoken at length about her disdain for the primacy of lyrics in Western music, particularly the idea that they convey a song’s meaning in a way superior to that of melody, harmony, or rhythm. The result is a highly inventive type of choral music that emphasizes the range of the human voice and its limits, stretching particular notes until they slide from one part of the scale to the other in a unique way. Monk is, it’s fair to say, something of a “for me” or “not for me” phenomenon; the above tune will probably give you a pretty good idea if you can vibe with her in general. To me she’s one of those artists who is so fully herself I have no choice but to stan. If you do like what you hear, may I recommend her album Dolmen Music, which shows her at the peak of her otherworldly powers while minimizing the theater kid pretense that sometimes creeps into her work.
If you enjoy this artist’s music, please find a way to pay for it. You can find Meredith Monk’s website here, her band page at ECM Records here, and her Facebook here. Stream if you’d like; pay directly when you can.
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