Net Nuggets 28: Radio Free Indie, or: How I Learned to Stop Dancing and Love Indie

This toilet guppy has been going through a period of unprecedented, almost insolent optimism and enthusiasm lately. Those of you who
received the annual winter compilation CD will have heard a two-and-a-half-year staring contest with the abyss condensed into one utterly bleak, unlistenable CD (for which I do apologise), vomited out, leaving yours truly purified at last! (I win, Abyss!)

Worry not; like anything else it probably won't last, but the days of this being a downer death trip blog may just be a thing of the past. And as the best music is usually somehow negative (sorrowful, aggressive, perverted, or trying desperately to clamber to the top that is transcendence), that means the future of this blog hangs by a thin thread indeed. There's still music to post before I call it quits, however, and since today is Sunday—that grey day of nothing I used to find so heavy as a child—I'm grabbing the opportunity to share some of the self-indulgent, misery-guts music that's left in the ol' iTunes library…

Indie's a mixed bag. The flashes of brilliance—and they are brilliant—are almost swept away by an insufferable tide of collegiate, sensitive artiste blandness or knowing trendiness. It's enough to make you hate the guitar. And singer-songwriters. And the middle class. And suburbia. And institutions of education. And hipsters (if one didn't already hate them so). And hairdos. It makes you want to do extreme sports, or commit a heinous crime that would make even your own mother spit you in the face.

But it's not all navel gazing mediocrity or overly cerebral, sexless wankery with all the passion of a bong-hugging slacker—although you might be forgiven for thinking so from perusing websites such as Pitchfork (Rolling Stone for the noughties' discerning, computer literate hipster) or Internet radio station Daytrotter. But for every dozen or so Sufjan Stevenses, there's a Devendra Banhart; for every ten Pavements there's a Blonde Redhead, so don't lose heart!

Over at Daytrotter, there are so many sessions by so many artists to download, all for free, that navigating it is an autist's dream come true. Naturally, Toilet Guppies has only listened to a fraction of the sessions, but that doesn't stop me from compiling a best-of primer.

The problem with indie becomes apparent at times during this sampler, but that's due to indie overload more than the quality of the songs, which all bear the Toilet Guppies stamp of approval. And worry not, I've sorted away the trite campfire songs (so that you wouldn't have to—you're welcome). So, rock out to Black Lips, grieve to Spoon, dance to High Places, dream to Elvis Perkins, whistle to Grizzly Bear, and (try not to) weep to Will Oldham. Terrific stuff.

WARNING: You may still want to go listen to something like this afterwards, just to regain your equilibrium, libido, sense of humour and overall lust for life… In the meantime, fold your brittle, little self into a foetal position and indulge:

  1. Jana Hunter: «Pinnacle»
  2. Marissa Nadler: «Salutations in the Dark»
  3. Grizzly Bear: «Shift»
  4. Department Of Eagles: «1997»
  5. Deerhunter: «Heatherwood»
  6. Spoon: «The Ghost of You Lingers»
  7. The Dodos: «Horny Hippies»
  8. The Walkmen: «Yellow Kid»
  9. High Places: «From Stardust to Sentience»
  10. Elvis Perkins: «Good Friday»
  11. The Cave Singers: «Seeds of Night»
  12. Bonnie «Prince» Billy: «The Sun Highlights the Lack in Each»
  13. Rodriguez: «Sugar Man»
  14. Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson: «There Will Be Mud»
  15. Akron/Family: «The Land»
  16. The Entrance Band: «Lookout!»
  17. Black Lips: «Take My Heart»
All tracks are in 128 kbps (Daytrotter download standard). Hundreds, if not thousands more mp3s are freely available over at the gracious Daytrotter site.


Love (Pt. 3), or, Hope of the Hopelessly Romantic

«Buckets of Rain» versions [.zip]:
  1. Bob Dylan (original Blood on the Tracks pressing)
  2. Marissa Nadler (live on Phoning It In)
Are you in love? Maybe with an artist? Or a writer? Or a punk? A hippie? A stripper? A singer? A foreigner? A free spirit? A cult follower? A pagan? A teacher? A student? An introvert? An exhibitionist? A sister of mercy? A delicate romantic? A fearless sex beast? A wild child, kept alive inside a feral woman dripping in blood and pheromones? A hedonist? An Adventist? An innocent pervert?

And does this person make you feel blessed? Lucky? Beautiful? Joyous? Saved? Sacred? Scared? Helpless? Top of the world? Like you want to be better? Loved?

But is this object of your desire unavailable to you? Living in another country, perhaps? Or maybe on holiday on the other side of the world? Wrapped up in the world of work? Is the person of your affections lost at sea, trapped in a mine, on an expedition in the jungle, repairing a satellite, taken hostage by terrorists, or already married—to a ruthless drug lord with a decidedly jealous, no, let's make that paranoid streak? Or has she been married off to some snot-nosed would-be patriarch who keeps her in house arrest in some inflexible Muslim country to perform household chores and reproductive duties in his mother's home, controlling her communication with the outside world? Is your soulmate so wrought with issues and dysfunctions he or she is all but impossible to deal with? Is the person in a coma—dead, even?

Or is the feeling simply not mutual? The impossibilities are endless, but whatever the scenario, Bob Dylan has you covered:
Like your smile
And your fingertips
Like the way that you move your lips
I like the cool way you look at me
Everything about you is bringing me
Thank you, Bob Dylan, for writing a lullaby for the unbearable tension of nursing a crush on someone who may or may not be approachable, available, attainable—like when there's just no way of knowing yet! When infatuation makes your mojo grow and you can see the light of happiness glow right there in front of you, almost within reach, and you once again feel alive and like a member of that human race that writes schmaltzy love songs, cheesy rom-coms and queesy Valentine's cards that are otherwise so detestable. You can hardly follow a conversation, let alone work or sleep. Flights of fancy, daydreams, niggling hopes and nagging doubts dog your every move as you commute between Ecstasy and Despair (both perfectly imaginary). All productivity goes out the window, your rationality hanging by a thread of strenuous effort to maintain some sort of self-discipline, lest you turn into some incoherently raving stalker howling pathetically beneath the window of the hapless object of your affections.

In the long run, there really is nothing worth pursuing quite as much as love, but right now, in that endlessly suspended moment where you still don't know which way that obscure object of desire will swing—does this other person (and I do hope you're in love with a person, or else you're in for a wild but doomed ride, friend), does this seemingly irresistible someone actually feel the chemistry and the electricity, or is the connection not noticed by him or her and hence not a connection at all, but a cruel fiction invented by your own excitable self? Right now this uncertainty is torture. «Misery.» The wait for some sort of resolution seems endless, time crawling infuriatingly by, and nothing can quiet the swirling thoughts that amount to just one thought, really, repeated ad ridiculum: «Does s/he feel the same?» Until the answer is given, nothing else seems to matter. Food, friends, hobbies… Even though your mind's entirely one-track, you still can't think straight. In bed, you've been tossing and turning for more hours than are left before you need to get up for work, when those words of Bob Dylan's rise up from the depths of your memory (or is that your downstairs neighbour's flat?), to calm you right the fuck down.
Buckets of rain
Buckets of tears
Got all them buckets comin' out of my ears
Buckets of moonbeams in my hand
You got all the love, honey baby
I can stand

Little red wagon
Little red bike
I ain't no monkey but I know what I like
I like the way you love me strong and slow
I'm takin' you with me, honey baby
When I go
Aw, Bob, thanks! One listen to «Buckets of Rain» slackens that knot within. It's a pep talk for those ravaged by the sweetest thing there is. And because it's the sweetest thing, everything seems to hinge on it. (It doesn't, you know.) What you need is time out. Something to take you out of your tunnel-of-love vision. Like the recognition that this shit happens all the time, everywhere, so don't sweat it:
Life is sad
Life is a bust
All ya can do is do what you must
You do what you must do and ya do it well
I'll do it for you, honey baby
Can't you tell?
So drop your romantic urgency and desperate possessiveness for now, because that's not love anyhow. Be thankful that when thinking of others, you do not only feel regret, resentment, suspicion and disappointment, but something to make sense of your inborn impulse to be with other people. If Hell is other people, Heaven must be, too:
I been meek
And hard like an oak
I seen pretty people disappear like smoke
Friends will arrive, friends will disappear
If you want me, honey baby
I'll be here
Now that's luv, Bub.


Rare or Unreleased 42: Einstürzende Oslo

[Toilet Guppies is abandoning its HQ in Oslo for a trip to Berlin for the weekend. In the meantime, what better way to keep you all satiated than some rare recordings by archetypal Berlin high brow rockers, Einstürzende Neubauten, performing live in Oslo in 2008? I've made a selection from the souvenir live CD documenting the gig, sold by the band at the merch table afterwards, and I'm appending some old ramblings found on my laptop (hastily jotted down upon getting home from the concert). Please bear in mind that there are glitches, surface noise, obvious mixing desk adjustments, &c. on the original CD, which is just a document, not a mixed and mastered product finalised for public consumption.]

They stride determined onto the stage and instantly tear into a power demonstration by charging the crowd in one steadily increasing, expanding wave of sound and thought, new song «Die Wellen»—one of the most powerful songs in their already daunting back catalogue. Alexander Hacke’s black adrenaline stare, fixed on any audience member who’d dare challenge it, leaves you in no doubt as to the band’s intent. They seize the crowd’s attention, not so much commanding as demanding our respect, and getting it.

The first time Blixa Bargeld lets out one of his signature high pitched screams, wild applause erupts and he gives Hacke a wry look that reads something like, «It works every time, the suckers.» In a sense the whole stage is filled with such theatrics, gimmickry. (Neubauten’s live act itself being one big gimmick, in a way.) It’s also a totality constantly avoiding you even as the sound envelops you, as you can only behold parts at a time—an unknown invention here, a tool there, a percussive thrashing about over here, a calm strumming over there, as you try to catch up with what’s going on in front of you, always one step behind as you discover a band member has changed tactic, another his instrument, until you turn and suddenly there’s Jochen Arbeit with a dildo. It’s fascinating, of course, at an Einstürzende Neubauten gig to see what makes which sound, and what that might mean in the context of just this song, and I can’t help but wonder if I shouldn’t reject this spectacle and instead close my eyes to truly absorb these songs. After all, this isn’t Stomp! How could visuals, whatever they are, help or even help but disturb the words and melody and sound and mood of «Ein leichtes leises Säuseln» or «Sabrina»? Doesn’t the instant fascination with their outlandish tools, inventions and instruments lessen or cheapen the impact of the songs, the words, the perspective? The fine sustain of the noise is routinely sabotaged by the audience as the Neubauten waft back and forth between noise and quiet, the crowd ruining the whole point, the dynamic interplay of so many of their songs. The band’s crescendos are turned into gimmicks by the audience as they applaud the blunt show of force and cover up the subtlety that follows it (like on «Unvollständigkeit») with their own thoughtless whoops and claps rising before the song’s even finished (which they may be excused for not knowing, but the point is, are they listening?).

I try to listen, but of course yet another part evades me: The language. So perhaps the reason «Unvollständigkeit»—with its murky, subconscous funk and the near-mystic resignation in the words (I mean, who but this poet of physiology could find an ecstatic state of emptiness in the passing of wind?)—perhaps the reason this song is one of my favourites tonight is because, unlike on the album, Bargeld sings it for us in English (and what a perfect lyric it turns out to be), the climactic build-up of noise not being quite what Michael Gira called the «sound of freedom» (where you can «wash my soul away where it never can be found»), but nonetheless it feels as though that’s where it was going.

Of course it would be wishful thinking to indulge in such romantic reverie and not admit the limitations of this or any other fragmentary din, but that’s precisely the point: The potential barely glimpsed in this noise, the possibility of complete immersion in it and some kind of dissolution, is a wish, sincere as they come. When Blixa lulls us with the final, repeated words, «Finally empty,» he’s voicing the hope and the long shot that some day, although you can’t make yourself fully believe it and you didn’t quite attain it in this barrage of free sound just now, you will in fact be emptied… «Unvollständigkeit» («incompleteness») is like a prayer directed at no one, an imaginary dialogue between the constructive and destructive sides to yourself, agreeing in the end that if you can’t be complete, it’s better to be completely empty than incomplete—riddled with voids and a present absence always at your heel. All the little parts, never the whole.

«Dead Friends (Around the Corner)». It’s not only a great song and a faithful rendition (itself impressive), it’s the very moment it unfolds, with you at the very centre of it, wrapped in the words, the music. «There’s a place around the corner / Where your dead friends live.» Nice idea—comforting—but none of my dead friends are there, here or anywhere. Just some haunting memories and a few fading traces we mistake for «ghosts.» In fact there’s nothing round that corner; as the song concludes, «es ist nichts.»

But the crowd will only understand the English chorus—if they’re listening to the words at all—and the German verses are lost on us. Although you can hardly blame the Neubauten for the cultural or linguistic illiteracy of other people, what point, then, is there to this gig if works of art are presented to people unequipped to comprehend them (even literally)? What have we come for, and what has the band come for?

Bargeld puts on a cabaret act, but then again, what can he do? In general with the Neubauten's ongoing project, you get the sense that the fruits of their creative endeavours aren’t the point (like that cliché about the destination and the road). And now that the band has to go through the motions of presenting their songs, promoting them because no lunch is free and they have to contribute something or we certainly won’t fork over money to them (let alone buy their new album), they can only make the best of it.

And they certainly do so tonight. Bargeld—the neutral but piercing observer, the professor who wrote the lyrics—becomes your vaudevillian host for the evening, gesturing with his hands, e-nun-cia-ting with his mouth. There’s a theatrical backdrop and six red, metallic lampshades hanging from the ceiling, one for each member. They do cabaret, they rock out, they show off their unique gear. But can any show or visuals do any of the songs any justice, let alone add anything? When Blixa sings, «It is as black as Malevitch's square / The cold furnace in which we stare / A high pitch on a future scale / It is a starless winternight's tale / It suits you well / It is that black,» there is no amount of set design that can enhance or drive the point home more than it already has been by these sound sculptures coated with deceptively abstract observation—certainly not flooding the stage in red light, as they did.

Don’t get me wrong, it looks great and is perfectly tasteful. But a bigger production nevertheless amounts to a reduction. It’s like the Neubauten’s video for «The Garden»: There’s no way it could do the song justice, but at least the video was subdued and, by being so minimalistic as to barely even exist, it seemed to concede this dilemma. I just can’t help but feel the Neubauten’s work is meant to be created, then left alone for the artist to move on to the next work in progress, leaving the recording as a self-sufficient expression, meant to be heard, not seen. If the song isn’t perfect, then the artist moves on to another creation in his compulsion to attain the perfect expression. If the song is perfect, then it can’t be further perfected by playing it again and again, anyway, whatever the added visuals and gestures. On the contrary.

Not that I don’t appreciate the performance or want the Neubauten to stop touring. Their performances are stunning. But there’s something like a paradox here; the enjoyment of the performance takes something away from the songs, transforms them into some other art work. A bigger, yet lesser one, and I don’t think anyone can say that of their early work (which was exactly the opposite). The Neubauten have gone from being a live band releasing records that couldn’t quite capture their momentous, momentary intensity, to being a studio band playing shows that, however great, cannot expand upon the impact of the recorded songs. Yet what we do see and hear is still astonishing.

But that’s «Sabrina» I'm thinking of here, and they didn’t play that one until later. For now it’s still «Dead Friends (Around the Corner)», which reminds me of the closing monologue in No Country for Old Men, where the main character recounts a dream wherein he saw his deceased father riding away into the night, carrying a fire. This dream is the perfect image of the desperate comfort—the ultimate wishful thought beyond which the mind simply cannot reach, whether you use a superstititous tactic like your friends tending the light at the end of the tunnel, or a no-nonsense and foolhardy (and always unsatisfying) attempt at dismissing such wishful thinking in the face of what we only know as the unknown. The comfort—of the «light at the end of the tunnel» (or «dead friends waiting just round the corner»)—is a sort of pre-emptive expression of sorrow. It anticipates the inevitable loss of everyone and everything (including, perhaps, yourself), and for the brief moment when it’s bearable, it mourns that loss. The expression of the fear of death takes the shape of superstition’s desperate, yet ultimately inadequate reassurance. The superstition pretends to counter this fear, but is actually a channel for it, because deep down we know that we don’t know, only that this whatever-it-is is inevitable. And there’s the distinct possibility that, once it comes, it is «nichts,» nothing. And there cannot be any larger grief than the loss of everything.

Of course, we don’t know that this series of experiences, of miraculous moments of consciousness we call living will end upon «death». It’s just the idea; the gnawing notion that nothing, not even that last hope of love, can do anything in the face of the terror of the end of everything—of not only all that and all those you know and love, but of everything you possibly could know or love. That possibility. And that’s enough. Suddenly we produce—project—a light. Or friends.

In «Dead Friends», Bargeld has pinpointed the only real comfort we can take: not the irresistable wish that there are dead friends waiting for us, but the knowledge that they have turned the corner too, so that when it’s our turn we won’t be the only one. For now, though, I look around and everyone just digs that hypnotic Neubauten groove and it’s like the words could be anything and really, how many Norwegians listen to foreign lyrics, let alone understand German? It's just atmosphere, but that atmosphere is incomplete at best and meaningless at worst without the words, so the songs seem lost.

But fuck it, that’s for sitting in your armchair listening to the CD in 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound in the comfort of your own sterile environment. Up on the stage, the players are clearly enjoying themselves, as are the mesmerised members of the crowd. This is entertainment; Bargeld makes his dramatic gestures and grimaces, twitches his hands and face and is acting up there and it’s not like Michael Gira or Diamanda Galás on a good night (which is a bad night, I guess, like Devendra Banhart says, «bad things in a good way»), but the Neubauten deliver a damn good show.

But it’s more than that, of course. The songs themselves wouldn’t have it any other way. They can’t help it. There’s melancholy and anxiety and the most fundamental questions brought into things so everyday and mundane it takes a Blixa Bargeld to draw our lazy attention to it. Yet there’s this nagging feeling that this is lost on the crowd. (On me, too, as I’m having these distracting thoughts in the middle of it all.) People are joyous that the performance is so good, so deft and committed, that the meaning of the songs is all but cancelled out. Whatever struggle is described, so abstractly but accurately, obscurely yet illuminatingly, is just the joy of sound to the crowd, as it feeds off the creative energy up there on the stage.

Now, I can’t ever recall seeing, in whatever description or review of the Neubauten, the words «fun» or «humour.» But Blixa’s company is called Bargeld Entertainment for a reason. There are the bizarre musical inventions and uses; Hacke and NU Unruh laughing at each other; the repartée gently disarming any hecklers… At one point, while introducing «suseJ», Bargeld describes the song as a dialogue between the «old Blixa and the young Blixa, or the old Blixa and the new Blixa,» which, beyond the clever wordplay, must surely be one of his best aphorisms, with all that it implies about time, identity, impermanence, regret, hope, language…

And then of course there’s Neubauten’s own mischievous Gyro Gearloose, responsible for constructing the most unlikely instruments that you steal glances at, all through the show (wondering and guessing how and what it’ll be used for, and how it’ll sound), randomly dropping small pieces of metal from containers onto the stage, at one point dressing up in what looks like a plastic cone hat whilst reciting Dada sound poetry… («Hawonnnti!»)

Whereas the gig began with the existential uncertainty of «Die Wellen», it ends with improv comedy courtesy of Dave—the band's by now signature card game. For years now, the Neubauten have ended concerts with «Rampen»—improvisations during the encore that often end up as points of departure for future compositions. This strategy has been expanded to include «Dave»: each band member picks around three cards upon which are written key words—anything from a tuning to a type of material to any kind of adverb or adjective—which give loose instructions, guiding each member's contribution to a kind of jam. On this particular night, Australian tour member Ash Wednesday draws a Dave card and, not being able to read German, walks around, seemingly not knowing quite what to do… Soon enough, it transpires his card is blank.

Unfortunately, this extended part of the encore could not fit onto the souvenir CD, even though it was a high point of the gig. In fact, it's in the Dave/Rampen that the audience gets to witness creation, which is really the raison d'être for the current incarnation of the Neubauten. Instead of beholding a rehashing of older ideas (that perhaps work better as fresher, one-off works of art, self-sufficient and complete, repeated not in inadequate attempts at recreating the creative moment but as documentation of that moment, a CD on your stereo, lyric sheet in hand), with the Dave Rampe we see and take part in the spontaneous energy of creativity. The Neubauten are no longer about the explosive, immolating energy of creation-as-destruction, as much as creation as an expansion, a flowering, from consciousness, or from the word, so to speak. The solution to the Neubauten's problem—or my problem with the Neubauten—lies in this kind of performance. Why cater to the expectations of fans?

Not that the Neubauten do that; whatever they choose to play, revered classics from the old Neubauten line-up are not among them. Which is only one of the things separating Neubauten from other showmen. They play on their own terms. Which means I should shut up now, let them get on with it. It's only rock'n'roll.


Be a Patron of the Arts!

Michael Giraenfant terrible of Americana, big cheese over at Young God Records and the artist Toilet Guppies hates to love, but nevertheless loves more than any other artist—once put his own pinkie finger up for sale on SWANS' website (for U$D20,000, I believe), in order to finance his work. Surprisingly, there were no takers.

Now the man has announced that he is «reactivating» SWANS. (Just don't call it a reunion!) SWANS or no SWANS, Gira is in the process of making a new album, which is always an event to look forward to with what we in Norwegian call «skrekkblandet fryd.» (Something like «horror-infused glee.») And underappreciated artist that he is, Gira needs financial backing. This time around, he has adopted a more realistic (and dare I say, sober) financing strategy than parting with bits of the body that won't detach by themselves unless you have leprosy:

On his website, Gira is currently offering several packages, ranging from purchasing a limited edition demo CD/live double DVD bundle to being a general patron of the arts. For U$D100 or more you can even be credited as «executive producer» of the forthcoming SWANS release, ha ha! (I suppose it's a North American thing to always give something specific in return for money or generosity. A pragmatic mindset, like that time the renegade French mime Philippe Petit breathtakingly tightrope-danced between the Twin Towers, 417 metres up in the sky, and all the Americans could do (besides arresting him) was ask, «Why?»)

I know what you're thinking: «Whatever happened to the anonymous benefactor?» But the ridiculous executive production credit and even the forthcoming SWANS release aren't really relevant here. After a three- or four-album long sojourn into lush and gorgeous, romantic territory that was genuinely uplifting, with his last album Gira returned to music that will uproot the rot embedded in your heart, dangling it in yer face to show you that the pus, death and funky gunk dripping from it will never stop oozing, much like the never-ending «black river» of his song of the same name. Moreover, he’s the only artist who is able, or at least willing to do that. You won’t get that even from Diamanda Galás, Leonard Cohen or Nico.

As well as being a transcendent performer, Gira is a uniquely fearless singer-songwriter and author with a penetrating perspective all his own, so anything that contributes to his further productivity is well worth the patronage. History will thank you. In the more short-term, Gira's stubbornly uncompromising, never-repetitive and intense nature ensures it's an investment you won't regretprovided you have discerning taste and you stick around long enough to hear his next record, or to catch him playing live somewhere.

(Not included in the price is the counselling you obviously need if you identify with Gira's art, or being insulted by him at one of his concerts for apparently no other reason than wearing a T-shirt not to his liking. To be on the safe side, sport a reproduction «vintage» SWANS Filth shirt, like Devendra Banhart in Rolling Stone Magazine or Pitchfork or something.)

In any case, as your blogger, I advise you to forget whatever mp3 album, CD, book, DVD or art investment you're currently considering splashing out on, and to go for something that is as true and direct as you can possibly get from a cultural product. You won't find the limited edition CD currently for sale at Gira's website shared on this blog once the 1,000 copies sell out, so do yourself a favour and at the very least get that. Trust me, the song «Little Mouth» alone is worth it…


Net Nuggets 27: Found Atlas Sound

A while back, I put together a compilation of tracks by Bradford Cox, culled from the extensive collection of free mp3s over at his generous Deerhunter/Atlas Sound blog. Here's a second installment, of more recent material—home recordings that blur the distinctions between electronica, ambient and indie rock. For the most part, this collection is conspicuously (delightfully!) free of the angst that—unfortunately for Cox, one assumes—permeated much of the material he wrote and performed when younger. But this little mini-collection proves that lightness needn't be insipid or boring, or a cop-out. Apart perhaps from «Time Warp», this is the buoyant sound of nothing weighing you, no one holding you down. (Maybe even someone raising you up, Josh Groban stylee.) Truly, enjoy:

  1. Springtime Instrumental
    (B-side of virtual 7" no. 8: «Time Warp»)
  2. Solo, or «The Square»
    (A-side of virtual 7" no. 7: «Solo, or «The Square»»)
  3. Maybe Logic
    (A-side of virtual 7" no. 6: «
    Maybe Logic»)
  4. Balcony
    (B-side of virtual 7" no. 4:
    «Amsterdam MIDI»)
  5. Galaxy Cruisers (for Animal Collective)
  6. Guitar 1 (Bitchfest 08)
  7. Time Warp
    A-side of virtual 7" no. 8: «Time Warp»)
  8. Christmas Synths
  9. Memorial Corridor
    (B-side of virtual 7" no. 7: «
    Solo, or «The Square»»)
  10. Doctor
    (A-side of virtual 7" no. 9: «
All songs credited to Atlas Sound.
That Cox has chosen to make these tracks available for free warrants gratitude and humility. The man possesses rare integrity. His latest album, Logos (under the moniker Atlas Sound) is out now on 4AD in Europe and Kranky in North America. Do the man—and yourself—a favour.


Rare or Unreleased 41: Einstürzende Schlaf

Wer schläft, verpasst!
Gudrun Gut/Beate Bartel
Einstürzende Neubauten: «3 Supporter Exclusives» [.zip]
  1. Tagelang Weiß
  2. Ein Sommerliche Installation
  3. Insomnia
Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, the Birthday Party, King Khan, Peaches, Team Plastique, HTRK, Anton Newcombe... The list of artists connected with Berlin is way out wicked, but none are ambassadors of the city—its history, politics, social psychology and of course architecture—more than the native Einstürzende Neubauten. For someone who's scarcely been to the city (or not at all), listening to Blixa Bargeld's mapping of the psycho-geographical cityscape reads almost like Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities—dizzying and hyperreal—and has allowed listeners to virtually sightsee the city on sleepless nights (such as this) going on 22 years now…

When they started out, the Neubauten were bratty anarchopunks on speed, operating in what was then West Berlin—an isolated island cut off not only from East Berlin, but from Germany and the world at large, and symbolically at the centre of the impending nuclear apocalypse the Cold War propaganda machines constantly threatened with. So much so that the young members of the Neubauten didn't expect to grow very old, and instead embarked on sleepless amphetamine-fuelled days & nights to the point of hallucination (Blixa Bargeld and Nick Cave infamously waging a «war against sleep»). After all, sleep is the cousin of death, and that would come soon enough. Besides, «he who sleeps, misses out!»

But sleep deprivation needn't be self-inflicted, as yours truly should know. And on maddening occasions such as these—when you're an insomniac even in your dreams—what better way to spend your frustrated hours than listening to someone who knows what they're talking about? Who does with sleeplessness what he does with an entire city:
Insomnia at new moon
Imprisoned in circular reasoning
In long familiar confusions
No newly supplied conclusions
Logged in and locked up
Repeated and rehashed
Unable to sleep
Unable to stop
On an empty night of the new moon
So much,
It's all much too much
To sleep, much too much

The thoughts make their nightly round
I've never hunted them down
And they continue their same old rant
About all the things I have lost
About keys, innocence, good friends
About prospects, account balances
Some of which only in passing
Much, much, much dark stuff
Too much
To sleep, much too much
To dream, much too much

Insomnia at new moon
By my own hand—hardly any relief
Nothing helps, at least not for long
In this stifling summer night
The homeless thoughts keep dancing around
No clarity in this state of affairs
A knockout is not within my power
It's missing
'Til morning not much longer
To sleep, much too much
To dream, much too much
To dream, much too much

(«Insomnia», Blixa Bargeld)
Which brings us to today's batch of rare music. As this toilet guppy can't sleep, and because I'm soon off to Berlin, I thought I'd post these rarities by the Neubauten, released during their now dismantled «Supporter Project» (go here for a quick recap), which lasted from about 2003 until 2008, and spawned the release of three albums available to the general public, two to «supporters» only, and eight (if you count the related Musterhaus project) to subscribers. Add to these various exclusive mp3 downloads, and you have a considerable amount of out-of-circulation goodies.

These three tracks are just a few; lullabies to turn to whenever sleep eludes you—dreamlike gems so atypical of the common conception of the Neubauten as noise-mongering brutes, but not of the Neubauten itself: «Tagelang Weiß» is from 2005's supporter-only CD, Grundstück. «Ein Sommerliche Installation» was an exclusive mp3 download during «Phase 1» of the Supporter Project (and an early version of «Boreas», to be found on Perpetuum Mobile). «Insomnia» was released on Supporter Album #1 in 2003.

Now I'm going to give sleep one more go before I give up. To dream of Berlin.

(If you like what you hear, these highly recommended, same-period albums are available to buy:

Perpetuum Mobile
Alles Wieder Offen
The Jewels)


Net Nuggets 26: Vetiver

Vetiver: «Belles» (demo) [mp3]

Perhaps the best thing about alcohol is the kind of mild hangover you sometimes get, waking up all frisky and full of love. Not that kind of love—why do you always have to be so crude?—but a sentimental and dare I say romantic feeling, bearing good will to all and making you tip your hat to your fellow man when you pass him on the street… And so for all you people who actually have the Sunday off—to go to a museum or meet friends at a café or just cuddle up in bed (you bastards!)—here's a song I got off the Internet so long ago I don't even remember how or where I came across it. It's a demo version of Vetiver's «Belles» (an album track off their eponymous debut), showcasing the almost impossibly gentle vocalisations of Andy «Nacho» Cabic.

I'm brushing off the glitter now and off to work. Have a nice day!


It's Just Not Natural

To those familiar with this blog, it should come as no surprise that yours truly prefers to spend his evenings home alone, drinking either
camomile tea or, when I'm feeling especially inspired, a glass of red wine, listening to old folk records (on the original vinyl) to the sickly sweet fragrances of incense and orange peels, as I read old poetry out loud (practising my French) and contemplate our role in the universe and, occasionally, suicide. Like tonight, when I plan to listen again and again to my favourite song by Leonard Cohen, the profound and exquisite «Master Song», while meditating. Transcendentally.

But not Toilet Guppies' on-again/off-again music consultant, so-called «DJ» Sheik Yerdixxx! Of indeterminate gender, Yerdixxx likes to spend nights sniffing meth off of old strippers' crusty, pierced and no doubt
inflamed nipples, veritably foaming at the mangina—all to the booming sound of nu-R&B tracks that were hits circa three years ago. («Careless Whisper» or «Nikita» when that Brazilian woman's working.) On the few occasions s/he's allowed to DJ in public, Yerdixxx either plays silly avant-garde music (which s/he probably doesn't even get) or abrasive nu-disco remixes of tawdry rock'n'roll tracks. (When s/he isn't happy, that is, and you risk being subjected to an incoherent mix of garage-psych, hard funk and perhaps even sweet soul slipped in with all the electro nonsense.)

And now, would you believe, some art school upstarts have asked to borrow the sheik for a three-hour set(!) at some vernissage tonight (disco at the art gallery?! What would the Old Masters say?), with Yerdixxx working for a pink wig, apparently. That it'll be a «partay» I've no doubt—but will it be art? The title of the exhibition is Natural It's Not, and I'm sure it won't be…

Saturday 9 January 2010 at
Galleri Godteri
Tøyengata 31
0578 Oslo
Doors open 18:00, close 03:00.

Go see and hear for yourself. I'm staying at home, ever since Yerdixxx asked me to upload this track, to be featured in tonight's DJ set—Beck, Devendra Banhart, MGMT & some guy from Wolfmother sullying my beloved Leonard Cohen masterpiece, funking it all up, in the style of that «old school» I sometimes hear about:

P.S. At the exhibition you'll get to see Karoline Hjorth's photos and sound recordings of various Norwegian nanas, such as the late Mia Berner, known to Norwegians as the no-nonsense writer who, ever since her husband died in 1983, wore only red—until her own death just before Christmas. Rage in peace…


Love (Pt. 2), or, Star of the Sea

Einstürzende Neubauten feat. Meret Becker: «Stella Maris» (single edit) [mp3]

It's almost impossible to spot the blurry line that separates love from wishful thinking. A long line of biologists, psychologists, neuroscientists, sociologists and cynics stand ready to ridicule your instincts with their undeniable facts and persuasive arguments whenever that warm, fuzzy feeling casts all reason aside and grabs you by your lipstick-smeared lapel, stuffs a carnation on it, slaps some eau de toilette on your bewildered face, quickly checks your breath and pushes you on your way to some hopefully holy union…

But the party-pooping naysayers are forgetting that love resists rationalisation. That's why whenever some romantic, some Shakespeare or Browning, starts counting the ways they love thee, they're talking absolute gibberish. You could always say you love your special friend because they're «pretty» and «funny», &c., but how many millions of people are pretty and funny? You're not in love with all of them, are you? If it were that simple, you could choose who to fall in love with, and when… No, there's an inscrutable, irreducible, ineffable something-or-other about this love business. Some elusive thing to do with what we call chemistry, spark, whatever. Fact is you can't pinpoint love any more than the scientists, who'll dismiss anything that resists explanation for long (and sorry, scientists, but facial symmetry, pheromones, child-bearing hips and a creepy likeness to one's opposite-sex parent simply won't do), leaving it up to Hope and Doubt to fight it out in the boxing ring they've made of your thumping, heaving chest.

All of which hardly helps us, as we try to tell whether there's actually something real going on here, or whether we're just imagining things. And since love seems so unreal, all the more fitting that Einstürzende Neubauten's Blixa Bargeld—poet of geography, astronomy, physiology, all things nautical and, perhaps surprisingly for an infamous speedfreak, dreams—describes love in the language of dreams, as a dream, as he and the subject of his affections (sung by Meret Becker) go in search of each other. But shall the 'twain ever meet?


Ich träum' ich treff' dich ganz tief unten
I dream I'll meet you deep, deep down
Der tiefste Punkt der Erde, Marianengraben, Meeresgrund
The deepest point on Earth, Mariana Trench, ocean bottom
Zwischen Nanga Parbat, K2 und Everest
Between Nanga Parbat, K2 and Everest
Das Dach der Welt dort
The crest of the world
Geb' ich dir ein Fest
There you'll be my banquet guest
Wo nichts mehr mir die Sicht verstellt
Where nothing more can impede my vision
Wenn du kommst, seh' ich dich kommen schon vom Rand der Welt
When you come I'll see you coming from the world's margin
Es gibt nichts Interessantes hier
Here there's nothing of interest
Die Ruinen von Atlantis nur
Just the ruins of Atlantis
Aber keine Spur von dir
But of you, not a trace
Ich glaub' du kommst nicht mehr
I don't think you're coming anymore
Wir haben uns im Traum verpasst
We missed each other in our dreams

Du träumst mich ich dich
You dream me, I you
Keine Angst ich weck' dich nicht
Don’t worry, I won't wake you
Bevor du nicht von selbst erwachst
Before you wake up yourself
Über's Eis in Richtung Nordpol dort werd' ich dich erwarten
Across the ice towards the North Pole is where I'll expect you
Werde an der Achse steh'n
I'll be standing on the axis
Aus Feuerland in harter Traumarbeit zum Pol
From Tierra del Fuego in hard dream labour to the pole
Wird alles dort sich nur um uns noch dreh'n
There everything will revolve only around us
Der Polarstern direkt über mir
The Pole Star directly above me
Dies ist der Pol ich warte hier
This is the pole, I'll wait here
Nur dich kann' ich weit und breit noch nirgends kommen seh'n
Only I cannot see you coming from anywhere for miles around
Ich wart' am falschen Pol
I'm waiting at the wrong pole
Wir haben uns im Traum verpasst
We missed each other in our dreams

Du träumst mich ich dich
You dream me, I you
Keine Angst ich weck' dich nicht
Don’t worry, I won't wake you
Bevor du nicht von selbst erwachst
Before you wake up yourself

Bitte, bitte weck' mich nicht
Please, please don’t wake me
Solang ich träum' nur gibt es dich…
Only as long as I dream do you exist…

Wir haben uns im Traum verpasst
We missed each other in our dreams

Du träumst mich ich dich
You dream me, I you
Keine Angst ich weck' dich nicht
Don’t worry, I won't wake you
Bevor du nicht von selbst erwachst
Before you wake up yourself
Lass' mich schlafend heuern auf ein Schiff
Enlist in slumber on a ship
Kurs: Eldorado, Punt das ist dein Heimatort
Course: El Dorado, punt, that's your home
Warte an der Küste such' am Horizont
Wait on the coast, look on the horizon
Bis endlich ich sehe deine Segel dort
Until at last I see your sails there
Doch der Käpt'n ist betrunken
But the captain is always drunk
Und meistens unter Deck
And mostly below deck
Ich kann im Traum das Schiff nicht steuern
I can't steer this ship in my wildest dreams
Eine Klippe schlägt es Leck
On a cliff it springs a leak
Im Nordmeer ist es dann gesunken
In the North Sea it then sunk
Ein Eisberg treibt mich weg
An iceberg drives me back
Ich glaub' ich werde lange warten
I think I'll be waiting for long
Punt bleibt unentdeckt
Punt stays undiscovered
Wir haben uns im Traum verpasst
We missed each other in our dreams

Du träumst mich ich dich
You dream me, I you
Keine Angst ich weck' dich nicht
Don't worry, I won't wake you
Bevor du nicht von selbst erwachst
Before you wake up yourself

Du träumst mich ich dich
You dream me, I you
Keine Angst ich finde dich
Don't worry, I'll find you
Am Halbschlafittchen pack' ich dich
Collared in a doze I'll grab you
Und ziehe dich zu mir
And pull you towards me
Denn du träumst mich ich dich
For you dream me, I you
Ich träum' dich du mich
I dream you, you me
Wir träumen uns beide wach
We dream each other awake

(The full-length album version of «Stella Maris», complete with the last verse as given in the lyrics above, is available to buy on the new reissue of Ende Neu, here.)


Rare or Unreleased 40: Origami Arktika

When the below-zero temperature gets the mucous production going, but freezes the snot before it's had time to run out the nostrils, you know it's time for some arctic sounds…

Origami Arktika: The Symbasic Structure for the Concrete Challenge 3logy pt. 0—Sondring [.zip]
  1. Inertia
  2. The Division of Hemispheres
  3. The Dancing of Shapes
  4. The Splitting of Atoms
  5. The Birth of the Flame
  6. Flux Quanta
In most countries, conservative tradition and the establishment conspire to preach and impose strict rules of conduct on the population at large, resulting in a society where rules are generally accepted, but with quite a bit of commonsense flexibility and a healthy dose of hypocrisy (which is only reasonable). Certain cultures, however, don't take too kindly to bending, let alone breaking, rules. And by «certain cultures,» I mean Norway.

Toilet Guppies hasn't been everywhere in the world, and by no means possesses expertise on the matter, but this country is still the only one we've experienced where rules, written as well as unwritten, are completely internalised. There's no opposition, no rebellion. In so totally accepting the mores and not acting against the surface ethics taught by the State/Church, you could perhaps say that at least Norwegians aren't hypocritical. But do you really prefer mindless servility?

When this almost bureaucratic conformism is combined with the new (oil) money that has spoilt at least two generations rotten—in creating a bubble of historical and geopolitical unreality for an entire population now exempt from the basic realities of the rest of the world (poverty, war, ethnic conflict, class struggle, religious division, pollution)—no wonder you end up with a spiritually bankrupt culture. From literature to design, music to cinema, everything is gentrified and sterile. Nothing can grow in any meaningful sense of the word in such an environment. Welcome to utopia: No one has anything to say.

Thankfully, there are exceptions. Kjell Askildsen in literature, Christopher Nielsen in comics, Kristopher Schau in performance art, Pål Sletaune in cinema, Turbonegro in rock'n'roll, Gunnar Hall Jensen in narcissism. This might seem like a long list of names, but keep in mind it's exhaustive.

Well, almost. Add one: Origami Republika. This international zenarchist noise art co-operative, stretching underground from Argentina in the West to Japan in the East, has as its epicentre and point of origin Norway. And within its ranks you'll find the only true remnant of soul in Norwegian music, like the output of Helge Sten, Tore H. Bøe and Lasse Marhaug. Minimalism is the weapon of choice for Norwegian art («Scandinavian design», etc.), but only within the make-believe, anarcho-dada republic of Origami is minimalism a justified choice, rather than merely a tactic not to risk offering too much, lest you reveal the lack of anything substantial, interesting or important to convey.

Alas, lost at sea among the pride and joys of the Norwegian establishment/population (in Norway, there is no such distinction anyway)—the much more lucrative productions of elevator electro background muzak (Erlend Øye, Röyksopp), New Age easy listening World jazz (Jan Garbarek, Nils Petter Molvær) and Spinal Tap-by-way-of-black metal (Satyricon, Dimmu Borgir)—a lot of Origami Republika's output has been drowned out by the mediocrity, either long since or slowly going out of print. Their contributions remain practically unrecognised in Norway (and elsewhere).

One such ignored item is the album above, Sondring («(act of) distinguishing»). Made by Republika faction Origami Arktika back in 1996, when it consisted only of founding members Tore H. Bøe and Benny Braaten (a.k.a. Origami Galaktika)—none of whom are in Arktika any longer—Sondring is listed as «part 0» in «The Symbasic Structure for the Concrete Challenge 3logy». I have a copy of part 3—the Origami Arktika/Deathprod. collaborative effort, Lat att grinda («close the gate»)—but suspect there are only two installments in this «trilogy»—one of which, then, is part 0. Oh, those artist types!

Although both Bøe and Braaten are noise pioneers, Sondring isn't particularly representative of that genre. Bøe's background as a drummer comes more to the fore, combined with Braaten's hypnotic ambient sounds. The result is what the soundtrack to Apocalypse Now! might have sounded like if set on the North Pole. It's one of the less subversive Origami releases, the avant-garde element consisting mainly in the stubborn minimalism of the vaguely tribal (Sami?) music. But it's a very nice slice of organic, minimalist ambience coming from otherwise quite abrasive maximalists. Enjoy.