Saturday, August 26, 2006


Dove deep into my dirt-gathering 7" collection for some retro candidates this week, and found quite a few - my place is still hazy with all the dust-fog this excavation created, as are my ears...

RALPH HAXTON - "Nathicana" / "Ernesticide" 7" (Gyttja, 1993?)
I never quite got the story with Ralph Haxton, despite knowing some of the people "involved"...but I guess that was the point, with Haxton as inscrutable Pynchon/Jandek-like enigma, only with less tangible legacy to dig through for clues. So depending on who you know/what you believe/how much you care, Haxton was either the man the rhBand was created as an homage too, or he was just another pseudonym for the guys who became rhBand. Either way, the rhBand stuff was mostly excellent improv noise, and so is this - at least "Nathicana," a stretch of multi-level screech and abrasive distortion that's both textured and impenetrable (I also think my weathered needle didn't react so kindly to these aged grooves). "Ernesticide" is less interesting, a repetitive bit of edited noise and industrial clang that's vaguely like Wolf Eyes without any density or layers. I can't imagine returning to this again even now that I have it digitized - it's pretty non-committal, caught between not enough dedication to a single idea and not enough different ideas to hold repeat interest - but it didn't make me unhappy, and at least it got me pulling out my rhBand CDs...

Japan Bashing Volume Three: Stamp Out Noise 2x7" (Public Bath, 1991)
Jesus, what an all-star cast: Hijo Kaidan, Solmania, Hanatarash, and Masonna - the Mount Rushmore of Japanese hyper-destructive maniac noise. I know that even in 1991 all of these acts had a bunch of stuff out, but this is one of my first encounters w/any of them that I can remember, and thus it holds a special busted blood vessel in my withering heart, as does the label, Wisconsin(!?)-based Public Bath, which was run by an amazing married and/or divorced couple named David and Betsy, and which churned out tons of great Japanese splatter before burning out so quickly its end somehow predates the internet (just try googling it). Nothing but absolute killer sound-destruction here: Solmania's windy feedback from a brutally-raped guitar; Hijo Kaidan's unbearable firestorm of high-pitched, gut-slicing wail, from a show at which "all the audience were (sic) dead by the end"; Hanatarash's (aka Eye's) goofy crush of warped beat, reggae riff sample, and cycling din (recorded on used tapes - you can still hear the original taped-over sounds); and best of all, Masonna's ferocious (and awfully-titled, see below) air-ripping symphony of power electronics and esophagus-shredding shriek. So many of contempo noise's extremities owe debt to these four (all of whom I think are still going in some capacity), but to me no one has quite matched the combination of dense sound construction and psychotic emotional / physical / mental dumping that prime 80's/90's Japanese noise was drenched in. Maybe it's just a case of first love, but for me this kinda shit will always be the ultimate cracked, mud-caked measuring stick...

DON DIETRICH - "Chinese Root Letter" / "Tabluae Sex" (Ecstatic Peace, 1995)

Speaking of unmatched - 11 years has definitely not subtracted an iota of the power from this, Don Dietrich's lone effort outside of the confines of the skull-reshaping Borbetomagus and his other journeys with fellow massive heroes Jim Sauter and Donald Miller. I'm still so blown away by how unique this sounds - really can't think of a parallel in terms of the sheer insane tone and incomprehensibly alien texture and...uh...I don't know, it's just one of the few records I've ever heard that actually occupies a portion of the sonic spectrum completely by itself. Doubly head-fucking when you consider it was made with a freaking sax, an instrument not only limited in noise-capacity compared to electronic-based tools, but one whose farthest-out sounds should've been exhausted by freaking 1995. You're probably thinking, how can this be such a surprise if you've ever even listened to one second of annhilating Borbetomagus blare - and believe me, I've listened to a lot more than that, yet I still find this blindingly unprecedented. Sure, there's recognizable sounds here, but there are also moments (say about 3 minutes in, for example) where I just can't imagine my speakers have ever responded this way to anything else. Maybe Dietrich's pulverizing insanity has just made me woozy, but if so it's a shot I'm gonna administer myself on a regular basis, and I dare you not to do the same once you've had yr first taste.

DON DIETRICH - "Chinese Root Letter"
MASONNA - "hot licks from a cunning linguist"


Blogger jahbrowski said...

dude, i own Japan Bashing three. i got it when it came out and it was most likely my introduction to all things Japanoize. i used to play MASONNA's "hot licks from a cunning linguist" over & over. indeed that's still the track i return to! too amazing! i think i'll check it out again this weekend, itsbeenalongtime/J

2:00 PM  
Blogger MM said...

Awesome, man - I think you and I and Seyour Glass may be the only ones who still have copies, haha. The Masonna piece is definitely the "emphasis track," as they say.

4:12 PM  
Blogger Outer Space Gamelan said...

Oh man. Your review had me running (not walking) over to the Ecstatic Peace shop to score the Dietrich 7"...wasn't even aware it was around/available. Thanks for the heads up!

I'm a big fan of your blog, keep up the good work! :)

5:19 PM  
Anonymous Marvin Laird said...

You know, the Ralph Haxton thing was later two guys doing all of the heavy lifting, but this first gyttja single was actually works done by none other than Mr. Haxton himself. Nathicana was inspired in part by time spent with Giacinto Scelsi in La Spezia, Italy in the mid 1960s, while the b-side was an improvisation on a prepared electronic string instument with a skipping record in the background that Haxton sent to the gyttja guys. rhBand was once rumored to call themselves the Ralph Haxton Large Ensemble, but they dropped the name when Haxton threatened to sue gyttja for misappropriating his name on the subsequent singles. I don't know the full story, but neither of them like to talk about the nasty legal mess they got involved with him in 1997. Apparently he passed away in 1999, but there appear to be no family members willing to divulge the whereabouts of any lost recordings if they ever existed. Enjoy your blog immensely...

11:56 PM  

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