Sunday, September 24, 2006


RAFAEL TORAL - Chasing Sonic Booms (Ecstatic Peace, 1997)
I'm suprised Rafael Toral's name isn't currently more prominent in...well, in any musical circles, but especially noise and improv. I still hear about him from time to time, and he's clearly still pretty active, but I don't know, it just feels like he should be talked about more. Part of it might be that he tends to get lumped in with the Branca/Chatham school of symphonic/classical dissonance, or even the Eno/Kranky wing of ambient drift, and while he can certainly hold his own with those camps, his stuff is way more diverse than that, and often pretty annhilatingly noisy. This collection of mid-90's collabs and live stuff is perhaps the best example - all kinds of far-out, sky-seeking sounds on this one, from the spacey insanity of "Sky Rocket" (with Jane Henry on tearing violin), to the air-piercing screech of the radio performance "X-1," which would easily fit on, say, a Chondritic Sound release, to the fuzzy, detonating rip of "Super Sabre" (linked below), taken from one of Toral's first solo live gigs. I think he's a perfect candidate for inclusion in a future No Fun Fest - Carlos has done a heroic job of incorporating the old guard into that amazing festival, and like Smegma, Borbetomagus, To Live and Shave in L.A., etc, Toral is an essential noisemaker who needs to be heard by anyone who hasn't.

HAPPY FLOWERS - Flowers on 45: The Homestead Singles (Homestead, 1992)
In retrospect I realize that Happy Flowers, the Charlottesville duo of Mr. Anus and Mr. Horribly Charred Infant, were just a one-joke punk band, their incompetent hardcore rants from the perspective of a brain-damaged child falling somwhere between Pussy Galore's primitivism, Half Jap's naivete, the goofy stupidity of Black Flag's "TV Party," the juvenility of their desendents Old Skull, and, uh, the commercial appeal of the Garbage Pail Kids? I mean, I even knew it at the time, but in 1990-91-ish, I hadn't heard a ton of noise yet, especially not any that was punk/rock-based, so Happy Flowers' blatantly anti-audience extremity and weird devotion to one dumb, abrasive joke was actually somewhat of a mind-opener. I can't be the only one for whom their drooling, fuck-off fuzz was one of many gateways into All Things Noise. I don't find myself returning to them much - the joke just gets too painful too quick - but if I do, Flowers on 45, a collection of 4 or so singles, live stuff, oddities, etc, is the one I hit. A bunch of it is just retarded punk, but then a lot of it also has some pretty interesting thick guitar noise under the flat ranting, and the cover versions are all priceless. I kinda wish Happy Flowers had done an all-covers record, as their doofus humor and head-beating simplicity works better when applied to something already known, kinda the same way that Shockabilly's sometimes too-clever avant-garde absurdity seemed to get extra juice when the band applied it to rock classics. Such is true of the Echo and the Bunnymen travesty linked below, which has almost nothing to do with the original, but somehow spurs the Mr.'s into uniquely twisted noise that still clicks my brain-cells 15 years later.

BILL ORCUTT - "Solo CD" (Untitled) (Audible Hiss, 1996)
In the last few years, Harry Pussy has been touted a lot as a source for the recent wave of noise, and I can't really argue. I don't think there's any band out there right now that really sounds like them, except perhaps Sightings from time to time, but I can't imagine that anyone who's heard them hasn't been at least a little influenced - their jolting brand of virally unique power is pretty unavoidable. I still remember getting the first HP 7" in the mail and thinking it was a joke based on the name and the goofy woman-holding-a-frog pic on the cover, and then having my skull ring for days after hearing it. On record and especially live, Adris Hoyos' manic drumming and wired screams were focal points, but Bill Orcutt's slicing guitar to me was even more insanely jaw-dropping - a totally unique blare that makes his one solo album as much of a keeper as any HP rec. Just so much crashing, skin-tearing noise on here, and the cool thing is that it's not just all full-speed - there are even some passages of airy, free-improv like slow-clatter, yet it still all has Orcutt's patented urgently crazy feel. Overall, a numbingly accomplished classic which still incurs immediate spine-shiver...I'm not sure what Bill's up to nowadays (last I heard he was in California, I think?), but I'm still holding out hope for a sequel...

RAFAEL TORAL - "Super Sabre" from Chasing Sonic Booms
HAPPY FLOWERS - "Bring on the Dancing Horses" from Flowers on 45
BILL ORCUTT - "Live 71" from "Solo CD" (Untitled)


Anonymous dorkthrone said...

An underappreciated classic for sure. Still gets plenty of play around my place though.

11:26 AM  
Blogger Leafy Green said...

A little irrelevant factoid: Mr. Anus of Happy Flowers is now a senior economist at the International Monetary Fund in Washington DC. Seriously.

1:28 PM  

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