31.12.11

2011 Weighed & Judged for Your Consumerist Convenience


Toilet Guppies despises lists, from the top ten to the shopping variety, so bravely refuses to come up with an end-of-year ranking of the supposedly best albums of 2011. Make up your own mind. If, however, you'd like a taste of albums or tracks that may have slipped past your fleeting attention in the year that was, here's a random sampler of balmy songs/sounds/grooves/wallowing/ecstasies of the past twelve months—a celebration of the year that was:


So what happened in 2011? Toilet Guppies heard about the genre «salsa trance» for the first time and thought the 2012 apocalypse had come early. As for record releases, Mark E. Smith's the Fall took the piss… again. Lou Reed & Metallica were universally derided, even though they produced the most sonically interesting record by Reed in three or four decades, and by Metallica in their entire career. (The cruel and disconcertingly inspired lyrics were a pervert's delight. Pity there's no room for that in 2011. Critics always come around to Lou Reed's albums a few decades after panning them, though, so watch this space in, oh, 2041 or something like that.) Amy Winehouse died, and people began to talk about the singer's actual music. Nick Cave disbanded Grinderman, sadly ending half a decade of sonic depravity and lyrical men's lib. SWANS tore across the world, obliterating minds by playing music so loud it turned entire bodies into ears and ears into a constant ringing sensation as if heard underwater, every victim/glutton for punishment having to endure rippling waves of sound vibrating in the void between the molecules, atoms and particles of their tenuous beings. Just in time for the 2012 rupture of our world, then.

What else? Download the above comp and hear for yourself. Whatever you do, go buy HTRK's Work (work, work). Despite the lyrics, it's the album of the year.

21.12.11

XXXmas for Your Body

New HTRK vid for perhaps the finest tracks off one of this year's best albums, Work (Work, Work):

16.12.11

A Date with Larkin Grimm's Forthcoming Record

2012 will see the release of Larkin Grimm's fourth album, Soul Retrieval. A follow up to Parplar—that delightfully intimidating (and occasionally creepy) document of brutal truth and compassionate destruction—Toilet Guppies' expectations were set impossibly high. But like Devendra Banhart moved on to make less edgy, but in other ways more accomplished music upon splitting with intense producer M. Gira, Larkin Grimm has delivered a heavily instrumented, but ultimately more uplifting record after slipping out from under the influence of that same producer. The venom and bite has given way somewhat to a perfection of craftsmanship.


Soul Retrieval opens with a slew of folk songs with traditional acoustic instruments quite often playing untraditional arrangements, but nonetheless maintaining an overall rootsy Americana feel. «Paradise and so Many Colors» is a soft and soothing opener that turns into a hearty folk romp replete with cherubic joy. «Flash and Thunder Came to Earth» is—ironically, considering the title—the closest Grimm has come to progressive kindergarten muzak, all flutes, harp and lullaby melody. «The Butcher», one of Grimm's most eloquent compositions, known from her exquisite 2008 WFMU session (and also as a collaboration with Italian trio Rosolina Mar on African relief aid benefit CD Leaves of Life), is revisited and given a more uptempo, instrumented treatment that would be good, had we not already heard two superior versions. «The Road Is Paved with Leaves» offers a languid country soul feel, whereas «Be a Great Burglar» veers into Middle Eastern territory. They're both well executed, but fail to stir the confronting emotions and uncomfortable insights that made Parplar such a crushing beauty.

So far, then, Soul Retrieval is underwhelming. But then the song with the most promising title—«Dirty Heart, Dirty Mind»—comes on, a track less dense with instruments, but with eerie strings that flutter and stab at just the right moments. This is fairytale feel Grimm as we know and love her—who intimidates (and thrills!) us so. Then «Lying in a Pool of Milk» accepts the preceding song's challenge, offering an equally pared down, orchestrally atmospheric performance with perhaps the new songs' first stand out lyric, making you stop to take notice:
«Fuck that child, oh, fuck that child!»
One of Grimm's strongest qualities has always been her fearlessness and liberated pagan perspective, seeing past the Manichaean or Judeo-Christian «good» versus «evil» dualism that so oversimplifies and paralyses. Not that «fuck that child» is a call to pederasty, but most artists simply wouldn't have gone there, whether for lack of imagination, humour or balls.

The next track, «Hello, Pool of Tears» is an embellished rendition of one of the gems off her WFMU session, «One Sweet Drop». Again, the strings flit and sting as the main melody floats mellifluously along, a river beset by killer bees. Finally, a fourth song extends and ends the good run:

Album closer «I Am Not Real» confirms that Grimm is at her best when toned down and minimal almost to the point of mantras. The lyrics are a return to a more immediately accessible spirituality, the melody flowing with easily understood (but perhaps hard won) ways of viewing reality. (Good luck finding that on Pitchfork.) Mysticism is hard to pull off, demanding as it does a certain restraint and balance, lest it devolve into indulgent jiggery pokery for yoga feminists and the ponytailed, all clad in purple and on the run from sex and meat, eating, praying and loving it up all over the place. Thankfully, Grimm elegantly sidesteps the traps, and is never far from contrasting the rainbow-coloured unicorns playing with dolphins under a full moon with some visceral human urge, base and natural. «I am not real» is not an insight from the motivational self-help New Age healing industry. That said, it does provide soul—metaphorically speaking, of course—that you'd be hard pressed to find among the inane reflections of all the ambitious artists out there who only write lyrics because their stylish front person needs an excuse to do all that posturing with their hands and hair.

Soul Retrieval might not be the doozy Parplar was, but where the latter was a bit too long—a bit too much in places—the former keeps it short and sweet. (The last half being particularly dulcet.) And while Gira's production on Parplar was crisp and creepy, imbuing psychosis with lucidity, it could also be overwrought with overdubs. Grimm's own mixing is softer, every sound hidden in the same place (as opposed to competing for primacy). There's about as much going on, strings flowing and pricking, glockenspiel twinkling, but the instruments are understated. Soul Retrieval is also a very acoustic album. No hard brass, sexed guitars or brute percussion. Guitar strings are picked rather than forcefully strummed, and the string arrangements are downright psychoactive. Outside of Gira's brilliant, but primitivistic determination, Grimm's vision is allowed to breathe. Apart from showcasing her subtle, but sophisticated production values—heard through a headset, the album is the sweetest ear candy—Soul Retrieval boasts elegant and inventive arrangements, fine, fine and refined. These are the kind of recordings that grow with each listen. Which is to say buying it is a smart investment.

On her first two albums, Grimm had the tendency to get histrionic, sometimes for better, quite a few times for worse, howling like a banshee being treated to an icy bath by Freud and Jung. Perhaps she's more skilled now, as she relies less on energy and more on craft on this new release. It's one step forward, which is all you can ask of a new album, really.

Besides, pure mathematics state that half a great album makes one good album, so look out for it once it hits stores and whatnot in January or February. Provided you have a soul to retrieve, the four last songs will give you hours of joy, relief and support. You can't say that about Vampire Weekend or Sleigh Bells or whoever it is who's being blogged about this week. (Present blog excluded. Naturally.)

P.S. Should you require added incentive for buying the record, backing vocals on Soul Retrieval come courtesy of Clara Engel (among others), who Toilet Guppies had the pleasure of previewing in March. Also, renowned rock producer Tony Visconti, of Iggy Pop and, er, David Bowie fame, contributes some instrumentation (recorder!) and a little production assistance on the album. Otto Hauser, drummer for more artists than anyone would care to mention, but who has played with Devendra Banhart, Vetiver and James Jackson Toth, also plays on this one.

11.12.11

Wintertime, and the Livin' Is Hard



Winter has its beauty, and a roughness that's only good for you, but there's no getting around it: The cold season makes you wish there were hemispheres, climate zones and a season or two between you and it. With your body in its grip, your mind is already somewhere else, where the climate suits your body and your being actually belongs, more at peace with nature than fighting it. Some place where you're not always having to ward off the world.

And so to a compilation that lets you dream of warmer times in drier climes, especially good on a Sunday that's wet in all the wrong ways (and none of the right). So hush, little baby, don't you cry…

21.11.11

Rare or Unreleased 53: Aid for Helpless Children



Ah, Berlin! What mistress are you! This shall be Toilet Guppies' first winter in the world capital of contemptorary art. (Next to its old nemesis, New York, of course.) A city where salaries are insults added to the injury of already ripe unemployment, but where alcohol is cheap. The ramshackle hedonism, tottering beneath the myths of the Weimar Republic, is wrapped in socially acceptable left wing politics (coming in whatever shape or form leftist radicals may afford), all of it housed by rather unsightly new buildings where the destructive determination of mankind has obliterated the old, as well as old buildings that remain pocked with little bullet hole reminders. This does not intimidate the ambitious bohemian. Every day a new arrival, like so many actress-waitresses flocking to LA… Dare any of us imagine what winter shall bring?

To soften the arrival of snow and below -15 degrees in such a place, Toilet Guppies submits a guppy from way down the toilet: a 1996, since-deleted German language rendition of SWANS' «Helpless Child».

When Michael Gira decided to kill off SWANS (long before their presently ongoing reunion), the band's corpse bloated into the two-disc swan song Soundtracks for the Blind, perhaps the best summary of the varied forms of the band's ethos and aesthetic on any one album. Old loops, found sounds, various live recordings and both new and old studio ones were all jabbed, stomped and stroked into a whole (or hole, whichever you prefer).

As if the resulting two hours and twenty minutes' worth of music didn't suffice, the band also issued a 51-minute «EP» of alternate versions, «Die Tür ist zu». As the Teutonic title—«the door is closed»—indicates, two of the tracks were German versions of songs off Soundtracks for the Blind. Presumably, this was a final gesture of gratitude aimed at the band's German fan base, who absolutely loathed it, cringing at the ham-fisted American accent singing words that may sound cool in exotic English but that, they were quick to realise, aren't exactly Goethe or Rilke in German.

But though the «EP»'s opening piece, «Helpless Child», features one of the least accomplished lyrics by one of rock's most unique and underappreciated wordsmiths, the music still contains one of the most sublime expressions of the band's transgressive-transcendent, Wagnerian excess, combining as it does funereal organs with brute repetition, its third movement building towards a climax that—live, at least—obliterates any sense of the body and isolates the mind in sorrow indistinguishable from joy, elation from heaviness, and the rest of it. More clearly than most of SWANS' output, it encapsulates the band's attempt at unifying opposites into one liberating whole, taking the contradictions, paradoxes and tensions of human logic, feelings and sense experience and accepting that they aren't, in fact, real, except as a totality. One in which, incidentally, you are swallowed up, momentarily relieving you of the feeling of being a separate entity, no longer an ego kicking against the will of the world.

Or something. «Helpless Child» (or «Hilflos Kind» in German) is prefixed with one of Soundtracks for the Blind's ambient noise instrumentals, «I Love You This Much» (re-Christened «Ligetí's Breath»), and so is not merely a German language rendition of the version on Soundtracks for the Blind, but an extended opus. (You know, if you needed a further incentive to download the track…)

I'd include the German version of «I See Them All Lined Up», too, but I'll save that for the day when I'm more in the mood for lyrics like: «I see their bodies in the pyre / leaking black smoke into the flames / And all the people stand around / shaping lips into my name». In German.

«Die Tür ist zu» is out of print, but Soundtracks for the Blind is still very much available, and Toilet Guppies very highly recommends that you part with money for it at the first given opportunity.

18.11.11

Protest Is Best

Freedom of speech, freedom of the body, freedom for women, freedom from the tyranny of humourless, neutered killjoys and prudes everywhere.

Praise be Egyptian blogger and freedom lover (because she's a lover, not a fighter), Ms. Aliaa Magda el-Mahdy.

Oh, and merry Christmas!








P.S. Not to forget Ai Weiwei, charged by the Chinese government with pornography for this act of gratuitous lewdness:

9.11.11

Winter Compilation 2011-20... 12?


Toilet Guppies' annual winter collection is here, for what is possibly the final full winter in the history of the planet and even the universe, so download yours while you still can!

31.10.11

Mp3 Killed the Vinyl DJ 15: The Spooks


Ah, Hallowe'en… Cool for kids, but for adults, Hallowe'en merely caters to conformists who think they're being «crazy» by not conforming to standard measures of propriety by—that's right—conforming to the expectation that they get dressed up for Hallowe'en.

«Toilet Guppies,» I hear you think, «you think too much.» And you'd be right. (Especially if I think I'm hearing your thoughts.)

The best remedy for thoughts, of course, is the moronic noise dredged up by Black Lips. In this case, the three original members of Black Lips in conjunction with members of Deerhunter and the Kiwis, for the silly Hallowe'en act the Spooks:


It's not Mozart. Or Black Lips, even. But the inept vinyl transfer you'll find above—of incompetently composed and performed songs from the Spooks' one and only album, 2009's Death from Beyond the Grave—is the closest Toilet Guppies will ever come to celebrating an obnoxious Anglospherical holiday. (Yes, Valentine's Day, you're next.)

Do me a favour and at least dress up in something wrong.

25.10.11

Toilet Guppies Tries to Connect with People via Mixtapes, No. 6: Easy Listening for the Hard of Hearing


Some time ago, I posted a mixtape containing 30 minutes of poorly engineered punk and lo-fi noise pop. 'Twas quite a doozy, if I may say so myself. And back by popular demand—if one person hinting about more of the same may be called «popular demand»—here's another 30 or so minutes of barely listenable bish bash mess. Screeching treble, ringing cymbals, pathetically thin bass, murky mixes… spanning four decades of rock 'n' roll, the common denominator here is, well, tinnitus.


If high fidelity is a form of naturalism, lo-fi noise is not inability or poverty as much as rock's own expressionism. And as naturalism is a form of sobriety, it should go without saying that low fidelity is far more fun. Hedonistic. Life affirming, as only the death wish can be. Expressionism—brute strokes and all—is hardly subtle, but who's got time for subtlety?



Of course, ineptly taped home recordings became all the rage in the early noughties. Just don't expect warbly acoustic, singer/songwriter noodlings on this comp. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) As the last mixtape stayed clear of tape hiss balladry, so this one sticks to more violent noise. But where the last mixtape veered towards the horny and/or idiotic, this one is moody and brooding and perhaps a little bit killjoy. Artsy fartsy, even.


Yet it rocks, and should you ever feel like dancing and being true to your feelings at the same time, this comp's your stop: 33 minutes to blast the wax right out of your ear and the nihilism out of your mind.

14.10.11

First Day of Winter


In Norway, 14 October was traditionally seen as the first day of winter. To mark the occasion, here's an unreleased, but truly transcendent live record by one of Norway's foremost composers—a man seemingly steeped in winter, by the sounds of these monumental, monochromatic and meditative orchestral pieces.

You may curse it in a couple of months, but winter has its own beauty.

13.10.11

Support Larkin Grimm


The formidable Larkin Grimm has already recorded, mixed and mastered her new album, Soul Retrieval, but has yet to print copies or secure a distribution/promotion deal. As far as Toilet Guppies knows, this is not being done through a label, so funds are needed. The release was scheduled for autumn 2011, now early 2012.

Larkin Grimm saved my life, and if Larkin Grimm saved your life (or got you back with your ex-wife), go here to donate whatever you can to encourage, nurture and pay the dues due an artist who delivers.

Few songwriters are able to pen lyrics like those of Kaliesque Grimm, and you won't find many who can sing with such authority and beauty either, her voice clear and strong and coming out of a cavernous, seemingly prehistoric mouth full of compassionate destruction. Still, her name isn't nearly as known as it deserves to be. Nor is it likely that she'll be hyped by the indie hipster biz any time soon. So, take charge of the marketplace; support your favourite artists now. These interweb times are no time to be a lazy consumer. There's hope beyond the record industry yet, but only if you act.

It's time, then, to stop down-/freeloading art and to give something back to those who transport you to secret places, or who bust you open, whatever needs release releasing all over the place as your cooped up energy once again flows out into the universe in one momentous, bitter sweet moment of messy bliss. Or who simply gave you some grace or perhaps brutal honesty when you thought you really needed it. Patrons who donate, via PayPal, more than U$D 50.00 to Grimm are set to receive an autographed advance copy of the album.

Perhaps one day, Grimm will be routinely mentioned in the same breath as Dylan, Cohen or Cave. But none of those guys got there by themselves...

4.10.11

Hate Rock Is so Successful

Toilet Guppies loathes music videos. This one is the same pretentious superficial-marketing-nonsense-masquerading-as-art wank, but the song will undoubtedly prove itself one of thee stand out tracks of 2011:


Download the demo version of the song here, and—not «or»—buy the album here. You won't regret it.

And if you do, you have more money than sense anyway.

30.9.11

You Know... for Kids!



The son of a friend of mine heard Fela Kuti and, at about only two years of age, stated that it was, and I quote: «Dancing music!» To which I've been told he promptly started moving his extremities about. Such excellent taste at such a tender age is impressive, if not a little intimidating. (And perhaps a little disconcerting; Fela Kuti played some seriously, er, adult music.)

A musical education is not to be underrated. Parental neglect in this regard is to blame for all the rubbish on the hit lists that supplants the intense, intelligent, emotional, sincere, ballsy, gutsy, fun or funny music that is, almost systematically it seems, relegated to obscurity. And so this compilation goes out to the children…


Noise is infantile like poop and stuffing stuff into your mouth. Rock 'n' roll, although people have tended to take it far too seriously for decades now, is childish and puerile. Perfect for kids!

So here's a compilation of idiotic, fun loving music—simple, three-chord, three-minute noise pop with stupid (and out-of-tune) sing-along melodies—ideal for kids who want to shout and bang things into other things and smash toys or their parents' precious furniture rather than be quiet, obedient and bored or boring. As the song goes:
(Freak out!)
When your momma says
(Freak out!)
It's time to go to bed
And so this one goes out to Ask, Ive, Freya, Nico and all other children whose parents are trying to calm them down and put them to sleep, when all they want to do is rock out! And if you want to teach your child English, what better way to make them sing along:
I saw my sisters fight just last week
I didn't know what to do, so I freaked
I climbed the crazy mountain's highest peak
And then I kissed Big Bird on his beak
Let one of the most moronic bands of our time take you to…

PUNKY TOWN!

29.9.11

Larkin Grimm Announces New Album!

What a summer and autumn for music: the War On Drugs just released Slave Ambient, HTRK Work (Work, Work). Guitarist/lead singer of Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band released his transporting solo effort, Efrim Manuel Menuck Plays «High Gospel», and indie's finest idiots Black Lips gave us the decent, if not great Arabia Mountain. SWANS will be releasing a live document from their recent tour, and now Larkin Grimm has announced she'll be releasing her next album, Soul Retrieval, before year's end.


I refrained from using an exclamation mark in that last sentence, but that's only because I'm trying my hardest at retaining my composure in the face of such titillating news. As yet there are no details. No track listing, no release date, no record label. (Last year, Grimm, true to character, wrote that «Young God Records and I have decided to try having an open relationship. It was, at best, a mutually abusive union…») She did, however, assure us that Soul Retrieval is «the best album I’ve ever made, and I’m finally the person in control of its final sound.» We can't wait.

Never mind, then, all this Nevermind re-issue nonsense; there's too much good new stuff around. Pull yourself together, man, this is no time for nostalgia!

19.9.11

Net Nuggets 40: The War On Drugs Soldier On!




Tonight, the War On Drugs are playing at the NBI here in Berlin. Their new album Slave Ambient (and its companion EP «Future Weather») contain some of the most uplifting sounds released this autumn. I don't know how, but somehow their brand of classic rock, veering as it does towards the middle of the road, is still never boring. Listening to their latest releases on a headset is a pure, hedonistic joy any bon vivant should experience at least once. As synthesizers prepare the ground, numberless guitars swirl back and forth and in and out, the wave upon which Adam Granduciel waxes lyrical:
I hear you dish it out, dish it out
well, you want to remain
my friend, no it's not
it's not quite the same
Remember me when you dissolve in the rain
when the rivers run dry through the cold mountain range
and you turn to the name you invented to keep
your identity safe from the smell of defeat
And there is no way
to carve your righteous paths of rage
by holding the candle to those half your age
Your jaw will be locked from hornets and bees
and you'll understand why I leave so suddenly
with the breeze
For a taste of what their new stuff sounds like, check out these free mp3s, courtesy of record label Secretly Canadian:


Then there are these mp3s, of Granduciel performing three Slave Ambient tracks live, solo and acoustic in the studio, courtesy of radio station WXPN:

«Brothers» (live acoustic)
«Best Night» (live acoustic)
«Black Water Falls» (live acoustic)

And if that's still not enough for you, go to the top of the page and download recordings of the War On Drugs playing live in the studio for KEXP, back in 2009 as a three piece, promoting liberating debut long player Wagonwheel Blues (albeit without Kurt Vile). There's a blissful rendition of «Show Me the Coast», and Wagonwheel's five-minute «A Needle in Your Eye #16» is transformed into the 12-minute workout «A Needle in Your Eye #24».


Monday 19 September 2011 at
Neue Berliner Initiative
Kulturbrauerei
Schönhauser Allee 36

15.9.11

Groovin' without Movin'—Trippin' Garage Rock




Enlightenment, people! That's what it's all about, though none of us can ever achieve it. From the Beatles' Tibetan Book of the Dead-by-numbers vision of becoming one with the universe (in «Tomorrow Never Knows»), through the Rolling Stones' marketing ploy response («2000 Light Years from Home»), to familiar '60s staples such as «White Rabbit» (Jefferson Airplane), «Eight Miles High» (Byrds), «Have You Ever Been» (Jimi Hendrix) and «Break on through» (Doors), the radio waves from 1966 to the heroin daze of the early '70s spat out many a wide eyed song about minds being blown, hearing the taste of invisible beige—always brought on by a miracle chemical (usually only alluded to or implied in the lyrics).


The fad saw many embarrassments, of course. The Temptations' psychedelic phase, hypocritically balancing bandwagon celebrations of mind expansion with cautionary tales of bad trips (both equally ignorant of the reality of psychoactives), was a particularly cynical attempt at cashing in (though the music produced some of the most ear tingling sonic textures ever put to tape). And the Hair musical was only the nadir of exploitation films that began in the '60s with Psych-out, The Trip and other unintentionally hilarious misrepresentations of the psychedelic experience.


But these were the success stories among the sell outs. Other hopefuls recorded songs they hoped would catch on, tune in and drop out. Some were sincere in their beliefs that entheogens could free their asses, minds and society as a whole. The 13th Floor Elevators, the Grateful Dead and Golden Dawn thought so. Then there were the garage bands that penned acid anthems more in the hopes that the wave would carry them on high to the very top of the Billboard charts. Or who tried to convey something profound, but whose talent, originality or eloquence never quite matched their ambitions. Others—Kim Fowley and Frank Zappa, to name but two—were merely taking the piss.


This compilation collects not the famous anthems you all know from Hollywood films about hippies, but low budget '60s rock odes to chemically enhanced revelation. And it's sequenced to trace the trajectory of a trip! The whole ordeal kicks off with incitement to ingest illegal substances, followed by descriptions of the first surge of heightened sense experience to tickle your mind & body. Then things settle as the trippy hippie thinks he's getting used to the high, finding his equilibrium, before things start getting weird and not groovy at all and the trip goes bad. Or he just panics (as you do). It doesn't last of course, and in the end, though it's not a happy one, the frazzled tripper finally settles back into his own skin, not enlightened but perhaps a little wiser for it.


All to the scuzzy strains of garage rock!

7.9.11

Thanks!


Recently, I spent three weeks in a town I no longer live in, and sorely needed someplace to crash. Many friends were out of town, others busy or out of space, and I didn't know how or where I would go. Certain people—some friends, others barely acquaintances—took me in when I really needed it, and for that I'm very grateful.


So grateful, in fact, that it warrants Toilet Guppies compilations, one tailored for each of my generous hosts. The honour roll is as follows:

To Katherina, who was listening to a whole lotta João Gilberto when I was staying with her, and to whom I promptly promised a collection of Brazilian bossa nova from the generation of artists following the more suave originators Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes. This is listening less easy on the ears and more confronting to the emotions. Proves that bossas's not bland.

A collection of miscellaneous singer-songwriter indie, mostly quite downtempo (if not downbeat), a lot of it rather recent, all of it for perfect host Karoline. If you like dreamy melodies, this is your stop.

A compilation of vaguely political and at times paranoiac music about empires, the environment and untrustworthy baby huggers for freedom fighter and home entertainment aficionado supreme, Mattias.

Another singer-songwriter compilation, from rock through country to folk. Contains a definite streak of manly 'tude. Dedicated to Håvard, connoisseur of Nazi jokes and classic men's fashion.

5. Ba(d)con [.zip]
Fresh and recent music for unrelenting bacon enthusiast Wenche.

A tricky compilation to compile, as it's meant for two: Matt, a distinguished gentleman hip to what's hot, and Howie, the man who only has room for Kate Bush in his heart, but always lots of room (and rum!) in his home. A lot of funny, silly stuff on this comp, but also flashes of serious brilliance.

7. Trigging Dreams [.zip]
I didn't end up staying with Thanushiga, but was offered shelter by her, which, considering we don't know one another that well, was extremely nice. It's always the kindness of strangers that tugs and pulls at the strings tightly tangled around your heart. I didn't know what music she likes, but as she said she likes anything that «triggers daydreams», here's a rather random compilation of songs about reverie.

17.8.11

Can You Take 12 Inches of Hate Rock?



350 copies only. Of the vinyl edition, that is. Of course, you could just download two of the three tracks for free (and legally) here:

HTRK: «Eat Yr Heart» [mp3, via Ghostly International]

HTRK: «Sweetheart» (Suicide cover) [mp3, via Ghostly International]

4.8.11

Producer Series #3: Hip Indie & Hip Hop


Toilet Guppies' team of DJs, writers and graphic designers is too busy with other things currently to put much effort into the blog, so here's another filler post to give you all something nice to put in your ears while you wait for us to come up with some bona fide rarities.


This is a comp compiling various tracks by miscellaneous artists guided by the expert hand of a superstar producer who first caught the greater public's ear as a hip hop conceptualist, but who's currently renowned for his '60s retro stylings, helping flesh out soulful and bluesy indie with his trademark instruments and arrangements. (No, it's not Mark Ronson.) His work spans said hip hop and indie to folk, punk disco, spaghetti Western and psychedelia, all of it dressed in his distinctive retro-futurist style.


I compiled this with my brother in my mind, who has an ear tremendously sensitive to sounds, levels, mixing, arrangements and rhythmic precision. He should be a producer, really (besides producing his own stuff). If you, too, have a keen ear revelling in sensuous aural delights, Toilet Guppies urges you to download the above sampler ASAP.

14.7.11

Toilet Guppies Tries to Connect with People via Mixtapes, No. 5: «Elitist» Just Another Word for «Better»


A few weeks ago, a wine importer/amateur chef served yours truly a
luncheon of exquisite Spanish sausages and rather civilised French cheeses, followed later in the day by a two-course dinner with his own metaphor-laden composition for starters: sliver of whale served on a purée of green peas. All the while, we were sipping the finest wines I've ever sipped. (Including one from 1930, the name of which I've forgotten. But who cares, it was 81 years old.) Let me tell you, snobbery doesn't get much better, people.

Of course, my palate is that of a senseless zombie brute who smokes, to boot, and I have no head for wine, but Toilet Guppies does consider it-
self something of a connoisseur when it comes to music. And so, as a token of gratitude to the distinguished gentleman who took me on a trip through my own taste buds, I've compiled a collection of music snobbery. Listening to my acquaintance rail and rant quite unreasonably against culinary mediocrity and the common man's ignorance of œnology almost brought a tear to my eye, as I could hear in them my very own words—only his were about French wine rather than music. How sweet is arrogant rage! With the spittle of misguided ire dribbling down his chin, he was like my brother from another mother.

I also want to save him—as he saved me (from inferior ingredients, cheap wine and an unawareness of the pleasures contained within my very own tongue). He mentioned plans to attend a Foo Fighters gig. Which, as we all know, is the musical equivalent to a bottle of 2007 Berberana Evergreen Dragon Tempranillo Shiraz. It simply won't do. Foo Fighters is frozen pizza, sprinkled with E. coli. They're not even worth mentioning, so let this be the first and last time their moniker appears on this blog. (Toilet Guppies hereby refuses to participate in any activity that might lead to their being remembered in any way by future generations, should future generations survive in the kind of culturally vacuous environment that would permit such a group to be curated once they're too old or dead to personally push their insipid stadium plop on us.)

Also, the wine importer my acquaintance works for had installed a CD player that automatically started up every time someone entered the toilet. Its CD was a compilation of the most predictable common denominator hits of the '70s and '80s you could think of, if you weren't already trying so hard to forget them. It made the whole toilet experience even more objectionable than it already has to be. (More crap, as it were.) Imagine the jukebox in a small town gay bar run by a portly, old queen with no head for music, but a nose for youngsters passing through, playing them the hits of his own youth simply because he hasn't really heard anything else. I could scarcely believe that æsthetes with such impeccable taste could sabotage their own ambitions of sensual refinement with this merde! 'Twas a disgrace. You can't listen to ABBA whilst drinking superior wine. Nor Foo Fighters, for that matter.


So I've mobilised my already considerable elitism towards compiling the most snobbish collection of rock the genre will allow and still shimmer with excellence: Refined lyrics replete with astute observations and complex emotions set to subtle musical accompaniment, mixed to reveal delicate aural textures, with both style and substance rich in detail! These are intelligent and sensitive words brought to life by stately arrangements (preferably with strings, or at the very least a piano).


Prepare yourselves for pompous music that manages to avoid being pretentious, simply because the artists are able to pull it off. This is high class, people, from the few singer-songwriters who actually drop in to see what condition the human condition is in without utterly embarrassing themselves. Best enjoyed with a tongueful of decent wine or whiskey.



Speaking of elitism, Toilet Guppies' favourite, most liberatingly snobbish quote of late is DFA/LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy pointing out, quite rightly, that «That black eyed peas [sic] dirty dancing thing is worse than raping a cat. What is wrong with people? Do they hate ears?»

12.7.11

Toilet Guppies Tries to Connect with People via Mixtapes, No. 4: Blues for the Legless


A friend of mine back home was a a klutz the other week and slipped and broke his leg. Now he's probably laying about doing nuffink, bored out of his wits. So I made this compilation for him, to distract him from the stasis.

Besides being a fan of hip-hop, dub/reggae and afrobeat, our friend is a bit of a pervert (with a cheeky chauvinist twist, natch). It's not your typical Toilet Guppies fare, but should you like syncopated grooves with a frisky (at times wrong) edge, this collection could be for you, too.

9.7.11

Singing through the Dark—Blind Blues & Gospel


You can't trust anyone in the music business. And by that I don't mean the record companies. As a music lover who turns to words and sound with which to harmonise your feelings, you can't trust the impulse of artists who may, for all you know, only be in it for their name in print, face on TV, free drugs, easy sex, the roar of the crowd, assistance with their hair and money. Perhaps they just want to be better than people like you (nevertheless having the nerve to ask you to worship them). You can turn to the underground, but there's absolutely nothing to support the prejudice that the indies are any more sincere than the hit list whores.

And, you may ask, where is the music in all this? Remember music? That primal energy conjured to comfort you, cheer you up, transport your mind and bring you closer or even at one with eternity? Yeah, I'd forgotten it, too…

So no trendy, possibly phony recordings for this post. The artists on this comp recorded music in a time (1927-1957) before such massive attention and cash was lavished on song and dance men and women as it is today. In fact, they made music because they had to: being blind, they had to work for their food somehow. And so the history of country blues and gospel is littered with blind singers and players. They'd busk from town to town, playing sinful blues for the adults and switching to gospel whenever the constable was near. (Doesn't look good to arrest a man or woman of God.) Many recorded songs and even had modest hits that since have become legendary among academic blues listeners. And though they might not have been nearly as pious as they often pretended to be, this music has soul.

There's barrelhouse song and piano pioneer Arizona Drane, husband-and-wife teams AC & Blind Mamie Forehand and Blind Benny & Pauline Parrish. There's Blind Willies Johnson and McTell, Blind Joes Taggart and Reynolds, and Blind Boys of both Alabama and Mississippi. Blind Gary Davis was a reverend and street corner preacher. Harmonica whooper Sonny Terry was blind, as was white fiddler Alfred Reed. Of course, legends Blind Lemon Jefferson and Blind Boy Fuller are on here, as is the obscure Blind Teddy Darby, for good measure.

This is not charity music for your sympathy vote. This is deeply heartfelt singing through the dark. Music you can trust… in chronological order.

Shut yer eyes and listen.

7.7.11

While We're Waiting for the War On Drugs

… to release their new album next month, here are some old & new, free & legal mp3s for the uninitiated:


There are the four mp3s courtesy of label Secretly Canadian:
1. «Taking the Farm»
(from Wagonwheel Blues)
2. «Comin' Through»
3. «The History of Plastic»
(from the «Future Weather» EP)
4. «Baby Missiles»
(from «Future Weather» and Slave Ambient, out 16 August)
Also, Pitchfork is currently offering a free download off Slave Ambient, «Come to the City»

Then there's Rcrd Lbl's free mp3 of Wagonwheel Blues highlight «A Needle in Your Eye #16»:


Taken together, that's one hell of an EP, all for free.

You know that insanity you slip into when you fall in love that feels so great you don't care it's stupidly delusional? Perhaps it's even in summer, when the climate is carefree and everything is bright and buoyant. MDMA can't recreate this ecstasy, nor can the War On Drugsquite. But they're as close as sound can come. These songs will lift you up when you're down, convince you you've nothing to lose when you're worried about gain. Make you feel like you're free. They're the wind beneath Icarus' wings. Which is only a temporary escape, of course. But what do you expect? Songs don't last forever… What are they, three to four minutes?


Slave Ambient is out 16 August. Should be good.

28.6.11

Mp3 Killed the Vinyl DJ 14: Hate Rock


A long time ago, Toilet Guppies posted a vinyl rip of «ksext», a menacingly sultry instrumental off Hate Rock's split 10" with Duke Garwood, Keep Mother, vol. 6. The levels on the rip, however, were a bit high (though not more in the red than on the vinyl release), so Toilet Guppies has ripped it anew. No need to have listeners startle every time the song comes on.

Desire is a necessarily unfulfilled state, requiring as it does something not yet had. As such there's a certain unhappiness to sex. A current of dissatisfaction—perhaps despair, bitterness or contempt even—that still carries within it a twinkling hope of fulfilment, even as it makes that fulfilment an impossibility.

This is as close as I can get to describing the emotional space that Hate Rock creates. Lust and dejection in equal measure. Hate Rock negate what they create. Or you could say they negate such a negation. (It's a chicken-and-the-egg type situation, whether the lust is sabotaged by despondency or despondency's alleviated by lust.)

Be that as it may, whether you've got a lust for life or a death wish, this music shows the interconnectedness of the two, giving you a reason to stay if you've got the latter, a dose of reality if you're feeling the former. Pleasure and loneliness, this is masturbation music.

Did I mention damn sexy?

27.6.11

New Dirty Beaches 12"

La Station Radar/Atelier Ciseaux (France/Canada) and Night People (USA) have just released a Dirty Beaches/Ela Orleans split 12".

Dirty Beaches has a tendency to release his material in infuriating formats (tapes and vinyl), but I suppose many of you indie hipster types dig that kind of exclusive materialist, consumerist connoisseur thing infused with trendy retro nostalgia. Good news is that you get the songs on mp3 as well. Bad news is that these are at a paltry 128 kbps. But Dirty Beaches' music sounds loin stirringly transporting, as usual:


Sexiest music currently out & about?

24.6.11

More Hate to Come

HTRK: «Eat Yr. Heart» [mp3 via Pitchfork]

Hate Rock's forthcoming album has a release date: 6 September. Pitchfork just debuted a song off it. Sonically the band has evolved. (Shame about the lyrics.) They're doing something right when in the current art/music climate, every new release of theirs comes as a relief.

But there's no point in reviewing or promoting the song with some blog marketing press release liner note spiel. Download and listen for yourselves. Highly recommended, as always.

21.6.11

Mp3 Killed the Vinyl DJ 13: The Entrance Band

[Download disabled. Mp3s of A-side & B-side now commercially available.]


Before singer-songwriter Kurt Vile grabbed the mantle as liberating one-man resistance movement against the emotional onslaught of demanding/annoying/soul destroying lovers (cf. the biting lyrics to «Heart Attack», «Dead Alive» and «Runner Ups»), Toilet Guppies' darling used to be Guy Blakeslee a/k/a Entrance, who was equally indomitable. But when this wailing, stomping, feedback feeding, banjo mangling freedom fighter went from soulful solo artist to fronting noodling bloos trio the Entrance Band, Toilet Guppies' man crush ended. Enter '70s funk rock riffage, completely unnecessary gee-tah solos at every turn, politically naïve lyrics calling for social change (see their ode to Martin Luther King, «MLK», worthy of a primary school essay, the likes of which we haven't heard since the superficial politics of soul music in the '70s—or that time Primal Scream sang their obituary for US civil rights legend Rosa Parks, only eight years before she was actually dead). All of the above relegated Entrance to irrelevance.

But earlier this year, Black Tent Press released the vinyl-only single «I Want You», b/w «A House Is Not a Motel», which vindicated Entrance and gives us hope that we may still expect terrific things from his camp.

«I Want You» is a cover of the Troggs' scuzzy garage rock classic, primitive to the point of brain death and absolutely brilliant as only the most basic can be. Blakeslee imbues, even elevates the original with his signature quaver of desperation and forlorn lust, as only he knows how. Blakeslee's voice will haunt you forever… Nice!

«A House Is Not a Motel» is a cover of one of the high points on Love's classic, but somewhat overrated Forever Changes record. You can't beat the original, but the Entrance Band brings it as close to doing just that as you could possibly expect. And there's hardly a guitar solo!

Fittingly for covers of '60s songs, these tracks are only available in the most annoying music format known to man, vinyl. If you're into such techno nostalgia, buy the 45 here. 500 copies only!


«I can't stand it alone on my own!»

5.6.11

Annual Summer Romp Comp, Plus Word that Cannot Be Formed

Don't you love receiving a surprise in the post? Not from the tax man, electricity provider or some marketing dick/cunt, but a package with your name and address lovingly handwritten by what surely has to be someone with warm and good intentions?

Every year for, well, a few years now, I've been sending friends mixtapes in the post to celebrate the coming of summer (which, to a sun-starved Norwegian, is a big deal). By now it's become a tradition/compulsion. However, bubble wrap envelopes and postage to all sorts of weird countries run a surprisingly high cost. So from now on, although I favour the delight and surprise of physical objects, I can only afford to give away these mixtapes digitally. Here, then, is this year's summer compilation, for your downloading convenience:


This collection visits sixteen genres in three languages. What unites them, I don't know, except that I imagine they all work best in a park, on a porch, or perched atop a bicycle. To someone in a snow-strewn country, summer is a time for simple, sensual pleasures unavailable in wintertime—the rustle of leaves, the pricking of grass, rays warming your skin (and a breeze cooling it), the sweet explosion of strawberries in your mouth, the smell of burning flesh… Some have said these summer comps are a bit on the laid back side (laidback side, not laid backside—no pun intended), but summer to me is not about vomiting at some street party. Summer is a dreamy, languid time for relaxation and regrouping. Nevertheless, amid the gently psychedelic lounge music on this mixtape I have included occasional bursts of feisty rock'n'roll, lest the listener fall asleep in the sun.

May this summer live up to your grand expectations!

And now for something completely different:

WORD THAT CANNOT BE FORMED

Toilet Guppies is not a literature blog, but the book excerpt reproduced below was written by a musician and instrument maker (of such musical innovations as the dingulator, a kind of guitar made from cars). Besides, it's fucking brilliant writing and it's beyond me why the author's name should remain buried in obscurity. Here, then, is the first chapter of Charles Martin Simon a/k/a Charlie Nothing The Artist's memoir Speeding through Satori: Sex, Drugs, Macrobiotics and Death—in the 60s:
Sakasa Bokei

The wicked doorbell rings, tearing me back from somewhere else, like from an unremembered but nevertheless disconcerting dream.

It's 1965. The middle of November. I'm 24, and Beth Ann, my wife and best friend, also 24, has gone and done it, the one thing finally to which I have no answer, the one thing that cannot be undone, accepted, retrieved, altered, forgiven, mitigated, or in any way fixed. We always used to be able to fix anything. The thing that can't happen has happened. I cannot form the word.

I am at my parents' house, in Clifton, New Jersey, where we came when she got so sick we had to do something; and today is her funeral.

Diiing dong! I forgot about the bell. It's ringing again.

«I'll get it!» I say it loud, so the parents will hear me, but it hurts to raise my voice.

The parents are upstairs. I remember when I was little, they were always upstairs, closed in their room, getting ready to go out or something. Or they were out. Or they were just getting back and busy about that. Whatever, they were always unavailable.

They'll hear me or they won't; it doesn't matter. They're available now, now that it doesn't matter, now that nothing matters and they can't do anything about anything.

«I'll get it! I'll get it!» I say it again, this time to myself. Besides, I need the exercise. I'm ninety-two pounds; and at five feet, ten-and-a-half inches, I look like I just got out of Auschwitz. It's been an ordeal, but it's over. I don't care what happens anymore, and that makes it over.

It takes me a couple of tries to get up out of the chair. The simplest, most every-day movement is difficult and painful to the extreme and requires a focused effort. But I manage to make it to the door and open it up.

There is a blinding wash of light out of which materialize two big men in suits holding badges up in front of my face.

«Clifton P.D.—t' see if yuh want p'leese perteckshun fer de fune-rul.»

Nothing can surprise me anymore, so I am not surprised.

«If you're here asking,» I say, «I guess that means I better say yes.»

«'kay den,» one of them says. «Will be back in time t' take yuh.»

I close the door, and they disappear. Did that happen? The mother's voice, from upstairs, a question mark.

«Police, Ma. Apparently they're giving me protection for the funeral.»

She says something. I don't hear what, but it could very well be, «That's nice, dear.» Because anything she doesn't quite hear or understand, she will always interpret as something good.

Then the father's voice. I can't make out his words either; but with him it will always be the other way. Even the definitely good, he will find the bad in it.

I work my way back to the den and back down into the chair and stare into the hole in the world, the place where she is not. I see her lying there on the day bed where she died. I have so much to say to her. I only need to go back a couple of days, just a couple of little days… Why does that have to be so impossible?

I pick up Ohsawa's last letter to her and read it again for the fiftieth time. There was mystic significance in the way it came to me, but I don't understand such things. I don't understand anything.

Two days after the end, I was walking around the block, when I noticed an envelope on the ground in the middle of a front yard two houses down from my parents'. The incongruity was what caught my eye, the small white rectangle luminous against the green expanse of lawn.

I was not thinking it could have anything to do with us, but something made me go and pick it up. Unbelievably, it was addressed to her, from Japan, from him. And it had not been opened… Why this letter? Of all the letters in the world, why had this one gotten lost? … But no, not lost. It was in my hand—not its intended destination, but its destined destination.

I took it home and opened it, and this is what it said, what it still says, what it is always going to say: «I have made a terrible mistake in your case. Immediately go off the diet. Reread my books and start all over again from the beginning.»

23.5.11

Net Nuggets 39: Tape Worms from Dirty Beaches




Have you of late lost all your mirth, allowing yourself to sink into despondency and fantasies of suicide made all the more pathetic because you have absolutely no intention of going through with them? Not to worry! In such times of emotional paralysis—every thought in any which direction just another imagined road to futility and regret—there's only one thing for it:

NOISE!!!

… some tape hiss to dredge the shallows of your consciousness, plus a little guitar twang and '50s aw-shucks! trembling vox to sex up the muscle memory, make you come alive again, bucking and rearing to go! If all your desire has gone limp and withered up, dissolved into the nothingness you'd like to follow it into, these sounds should do the trick. Things are never so bad kicks can't be had. (Well, not always, anyway.)



Here, then, is Dirty Beaches. They—or he, young master Alex Zhang Hung-tai—started out making homespun, lo-fi instrumental noodlings that were a little unremarkable, but exploded in 2009 with worded songs springing forth from the point where the caveman stomp of rockabilly, the motorik of krautrock, the shit of shitgaze, the aesthetic of Suicide (the band) and the ethereal, yet twisted sensuality of early David Lynch films all converge in a sultry murk of rambling, suggestive sound. Eerie, creepy, sexy sounds—the mutterings (and occasional yelps) of a confused pervert driving his lonely lorry at night, kept awake by speed and reveries I think it best not to mention.

There are few cocktails as potent as lust, fear and confusion. Did I forget fun? Man, I did not forget fun. And if you ever wondered what a grown man crawling on his hands and knees towards the custodian of his pleasure sounds like, wonder no more.

Before releasing their latest album, the highly recommended Badlands, out now on Zoo Music, those Dirty Beetches had a penchant for releasing their music on magnetic tape, and in very limited editions. Here's a sampler of the finest songs and soundscapes from those discontinued releases, starting in 2009 until more or less the present (with the exception of readily available CDs/digital albums and singles, such as Badlands, a split EP with US Girls and the «No Fun» single).
GONE To HELL COME FRIDAY:
  1. Like Dreamers Do
  2. Paris
  3. Black Horses
  4. White Sand
  5. Golden Desert Sun
  6. Motorcycle Rumble
  7. Shadows
  8. Coast to Coast
  9. Low Rider
  10. Forever in Gold
  11. Shangri-la
  12. Gone to Hell Come Friday
  13. The Singer (a/k/a The Folksinger)
  14. Teenage Queen
1, 4, 8, 9 & 11 from Dirty Beaches (2009)
2 & 7 from
Night City (2010)
5 & 10 from
Solid State Gold (2010)
3, 6 & 14 from Omon Ra II/Dirty Beaches split C-30 (2010)
12 & 13 from Dirty Beaches/Conor Prendergast split 7" (2011)

21.5.11

A Mixtape While You Wait


Please excuse the inactivity. More rarities to come. For now, here's an old mixtape from the back of the hard drive. It exemplifies a regrettable axiom of art: That the best is the worst, while the worst makes for the very best.

12.5.11

Doctor, Doctor!


Toilet Guppies' dear friend and very own GP recently had a little setback. He's almost a fully licensed doctor, so he can take care of himself, whether through treatment, self-medication or just the fact that soon he'll be filthy, stinking rich and stalked by gold diggers and hot, lonely women who've read one romance novel too many. Still, a little pep talk never hurt anybody. Here, then, is Toilet Guppies' ode to a very good friend and the best doctor no money can buy—a compilation of catchy ditties and comedy routines about doctors, patients, ailments, surgery and, er, pharmacy

So, if you're a doctor, nurse or just plain sick, go no further. In the immortal words of Dr. Nick Riviera:
The kneebone's connected to the… something
The something's connected to the… red thing
The red thing's connected to my… wrist watch
Uh oh!