New Blog

Toilet Guppies is dead! Long live Bathwater Radiowaves!

Fret not. This blog has merely moved from the filthiest part of the bathroom to (hopefully) the cleanliest. For more music, rants and raves in the style of TG, take a bath. Don't forget to bring your radio. It's worth the risk.


This Guppy's Gone to Heaven

The last months or year or so I haven't had much time to write a blog, and indeed I'd planned on winding Toilet Guppies down completely. Now it seems someone has done it for me. MediaFire has suspended my account for violations of its terms, deleting all of Toilet Guppies' uploads because some Internet-patrolling corporations don't want copyrighted music to be distributed, even if that music isn't commercially available, in physical or digital format. Only about three uploads had previously been deleted for terms violations; now they've taken almost five hundred other uploads with them down the drain.

Which is apposite, given the blog's lavatory theme. At any rate, I don't care enough to fight MediaFire or to painstakingly re-up hundreds of uploads, so from now on, if anybody wants to download something from old posts they'll have to request it in the comments section below the post in question, in which case I'll see what I can do.

No promises, however. There's more work to blogging than I really have the time or finances to spend much effort on, so it will all depend on, you know, real life, time and such. Anyway, thanks, I suppose, to the thousands of people who have downloaded things without so much as leaving a comment, perhaps after skipping my self-indulgent Internet forum-stylee rants. We really haven't connected in even a semblance of a way, and it wouldn't be worth it for me to get into trouble on your anonymous account. Thanks also to all the people who have followed the blog on Google or Facebook, and not just because they're my friends. And to the country of Indonesia, which, for delightfully obscure reasons, always represented the highest percentage by far of virtual visitors to the Toilet. Thank you!

May all the great rare or unreleased music become commercially available in the future, hopefully to earn their creators something of a living. Until then, I'll not take offence if anybody shares anything they downloaded here elsewhere on this World Wide Web of ours.

So long and see you round the bowl!


HTRK Records New EP

Terrible fashion pretension from about two months back unveils sounds from HTRK's forthcoming EP, currently in progress. A continuation of 2011's brilliant Work (Work, Work), this excerpt confirms the Hate Duo's position as a sort of Radiohead with a sex drive:


Saturday Night, Sunday Late Afternoon #2

Once again, get comfy, people. Whether you've been out all night, filling your body with things that have no business being in there, or whether this is your only day off to lounge about in your secluded back garden, soaking up sun for some free and delicious alone time, here are sounds, stories and even philosophy to make immediate reality take a back seat to flights of fancy/higher truth (delete as appropriate).

Welcome to the second instalment of Toilet Guppies' escapist series, Saturday Night, Sunday Late Afternoon, where voice and instrument collide to create a third eye, transforming the listener into a sightseeing astral traveller. (Tourist, if you must.) This time we're heading to the Orient. That's right, the Orient. A time when Hong Kong was still British, and India was the crown jewel of her empire. An era when most of Southeast Asia was known as French Indochina, the War on Drugs was called the Opium Wars and the Hippie Trail had not yet become the Banana Pancake Circuit. Forget the Taliban, al-Qaeda, the Arab Spring and the fact that everyone's big in Japan these days; we're going to a time before Gandhi, Mao, Edward Saïd and Sai Baba.

Drift off to exotica instrumentals written and recorded by people who never even left the Northern Hemisphere, let alone the Western. Follow the stated intentions of an American to go to spiritual India to get away from American war in Vietnam (and be a little afraid for the Indians). Get a little randy to sultry sitarsploitation by '60s hipsters who must have thought moksha was a kind of particularly intense orgasm. See through early acid enthusiasts trying to lend their cockamamy theories credibility by associating them with the Tibetan Book of the Dead, but allow yourself to float along with the hypnotic sounds and languid narration regardless. Endure idiotic Christian-Buddhist syncretism until eventually you're able to enjoy the sonic textures and unbridled enthusiasm of its hippie reciter, even loving her a little for her ditzy whimsy. (She never hurt nobody.) Marvel at occasionally abrasive instances of original New Age music, from a time before the entire genre degenerated into mere spiritual laxative. Not yet corrupted by washes of synthesizer, wind chimes and whale song, relish in its evocatively sampled field recordings, drones and sudden bursts of disharmony. Concentrate on nice, piano bar Beat poetry inspired by the Buddha, as well as a genuinely Vedic take on ancient Indian philosophy, from one of the first Occidental popularisers of Oriental mysticism, imparting actual wisdom. The latter will be the closest you'll get to the real thing on this collection. But then this is all about fantasy.

If you're an Occidental woman, or man, in an Oriental mood for dreaming, Toilet Guppies prescribes that you either sit upright in the lotus position and close your eyes, or else lie down to smoke a little—opium or hashish, take your pick—as you listen to this drone-and-sitar studded comp. If the lotus position is too taxing on your joints, or you don't have an opium or even hash connection, I recommend making yourself comfortable in plenty of heat and, where possible, breeze.

May you be transported.


Saturday Night, Sunday Late Afternoon #1

For a long time, I have fantasised of a Toilet Guppies soiree—a Sunday salon for hungover dreamers and incoming comedowns. A lounge where people may come to enjoy an afternoon of soothing atmospherics that, unlike café chill out or barely existent ambient music, are tripped up by mysterious sounds, unexpected instrumentation and swirling words. The place would be decked out in soft, Afghan carpets littered with ridiculously large cushions, and lit with scented candles distancing you from the odours of the body. Bearded ladies would serve you space cakes, opium tea and foot rubs. All of it serenaded by a soft, sonic dreamscape.

These sounds are for reclining, not for dancing. They're not for the moment, but for taking you away from your immediate surroundings. Knowing that most people don’t listen to lyrics, I’ve selected spoken word pieces to take the listener on a guided tour away from the body, sequenced in a way to tell a continuous narrative of sorts. Of course, an unbroken series of spoken word pieces would demand too much in terms of attention span, and grate against the patience. So every spoken word piece is interspersed with an evocative instrumental to flesh out the story. Most of these contain soundscapes beyond the merely musical, with field recordings, found sounds and various imitation foleying to convey the sea, wind or places far away from the enclosure of present reality.

Each compilation will have a theme, and for this first instalment it is wind and sea. Hear a mish-mash of exotica, tropicália, easy listening, Space Age pop, New Age folk, surf rock, golden oldies, novelty goofs, avant-garde experiments, field recordings, serious philosophy, earnest poetry, ribbing parodies, horror stories, unintentional outsider art, bandwagon psychedelia and various forms of exploitation genres, and be transported.

Now, these words and tunes may be, in part or in whole, naff, corny, silly, stupid, kitsch or poor taste. But everything is flawed, and sometimes the flaw is the most poignant characteristic. To enjoy something that’s also funny (perhaps unintentionally) is not a form of sarcasm. It is possible to take pleasure in something without taking it or yourself too seriously. There is no posturing smugness on this comp—no pop culture references and obscurity for the sake of it. All of the pieces of music here are eminently listenable, some on multiple levels, even. Nor is this compilation—with its mostly old music—an expression of irony’s kissing cousin, nostalgia. It's good, clean fun, that's all.

Just what you need after a night on the tiles.



Due August 27 (though Young God Records' schedules are notoriously prone to delay) is the new SWANS album, The Seer. It will be made available with a live DVD that, if this new teaser is anything to go by, will give seers unlikely visions of beauteous, fresh-faced young girls straining religiously just to touch the feet of our favourite veterans of frightening rapture:

The album cover's quite dazzling, too—a chance encounter between the Cheshire Cat and Filth:


Elitism... in the Toilet

A dapper and distinguished feinschmecker of my acquaintance turns 33 today. I've already made a compilation of refined elegance for the stereo fitted inside the toilet at the wine importer where he works, but that was last year. There's still many more sounds and words of grace and beauty to be had and heard. Here, then, is volume two of Toilet Guppies' ongoing series of pretension. No, not pretension—you're only pretentious if you fail to deliver on your grandiose ambitions—but rather pomposity. At any rate, what held true of the previous comp of pomp holds true of this one, so 'nough said and enjoy the lofty achievements.

Happy birthday, elitist! May things be good enough, this one day of the year.


Hate-Ashbury, or, War in Peace (What a Funny Combination)

V/A: Hate-Ashbury—Freedom on the RISE, 1965-1970,
vol. 1 [.zip]
vol. 2 [.zip]
vol. 3 [.zip]

(Or, a short sampler of the three volumes:)

With Martha Marcy May Marlene making the cinema rounds, once again that old ghost of the Zeitgeist, Charles Manson, rears his ugly, oddly compelling head. Not that there's anything romantic about a megalomaniacal cult pimp con guru partly responsible for mass murder. Or you could say that's precisely what there is: nothing more than romanticism to his rebel's legend. Chaos does seems to call to us, its sweetly morbid drone always a guilty pleasure (the death drive, blah, blah). But regardless of any juvenile fascination with Manson, there is a legitimately enduring relevance to the whole «Manson Family» tale, and the era it both epitomised and, in a way, put an end to.

Baby boomers, modern day hippies and fancy dress outlets tend to cast the '60s as a time of hit or miss fashion laced with well-meaning, communally held ideals that were scuppered at best, a little naïve at worst—a societal emancipation set to assuaging, innocent music. But if the music wasn't always that soothing, even the gently strummed philosophical lullabies of the age could contain something decidedly raging. Bob Dylan's mystically paranoid «A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall» spun apocalyptic visions on the back of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Then there's his pacifist's assault, vicious and vindictive, on the masters of war:
And I hope that you die
and your death'll come soon
I will follow your casket
in the pale afternoon
And I'll watch while you’re lowered
down to your deathbed
And I'll stand o'er your grave
'til I'm sure that you're dead
And that was in 1963. The counter-culture hadn't even begun.

Manson himself sang and wrote songs a lot less vitriolic. They were greatly admired by Neil Young. One was recorded by the Beach Boys. Manson's partner in crime and alpha coyote rival out there in the desert, Orkustra guitarist Bobby «Cupid» Beausoleil, provided the inspiration for the moniker behind his former band Love. That was before he starred in forgotten soft porn classic Ramrodder, scored Kenneth Anger's «Lucifer Rising» and stabbed a kindly music teacher to death. The Buddhist and, according to one true crime writer, «successful bagpipe musician» Gary Hinman had been held hostage in his own home for three days by Beausoleil, Susan Atkins and Mary Brunner. Manson made a short appearance to chop the captive's earlobe off with a machete. Two days later, once Beausoleil had stabbed Hinman twice in the chest, Atkins suffocated him with a pillow, perhaps to stifle his last ditch chanting of «Nam-myo-ho-renge-kyo, nam-myo-ho-renge-kyo…»

Four years earlier, in 1965, Manson hanger-on Catherine «Gypsy» Share, then going under the assumed artist name of Charity Shayne, had released «Ain't It?, Babe», a catchy jingle jangle single cheerily gloating over a former lover's misery. In 1971, she robbed an arms store in a bid to stock up for the hijacking of a plane, in a scheme to free Manson, by then convicted and imprisoned. One hostage would be killed for each hour that passed until Manson and his incarcerated cohorts were released. But the preliminary robbery ended in a shootout with the police that left Charity wounded, arrested and sentenced to five years.

There's also Beausoleil's former band mate, Arthur Lee, who is rumoured to have been prone to pistol waving antics himself, threatening the life of friends in fits of freakout. And Alexander «Skip» Spence—guitar player for Quicksilver Messenger Service, drummer for Jefferson Airplane and co-founder of Moby Grape—tried using an axe to get through band mates Jerry Miller and Don Stevenson's hotel room, «Here's Johnny!» stylee. Not to mention Sly Stone. In the year of our love 1967, Sly & the Family Stone was touted as the great black-and-white hope: the first interracial band in the US. That claim must surely be untrue, but the band's marketing would have it that they were the personification of peace, love and civil rights. Stone, however, started growing fond of a bit of the old ultra-violence, to some of his band mates' lack of immediate personal safety. Stone is said to have let various incorrigible jailbirds and parasitical pimps, all with an unhealthy obsession with A Clockwork Orange, into his inner circle. There came the night, apparently, when bassist Larry Graham had to flee his hotel room for fear of his life. One of the band's roadies didn't make it out, receiving a gratuitous beating. And that was the end of Sly's Family.

One of the things Manson took from growing up in prison was polarised race relations. He had a fear of black people, not helped by the formation of the militant Black Panther Party in 1966. Elaine Brown started out as a rank-and-file member, cleaning the Panthers' guns, but later became the party's first female Chairman. In 1969 the Panthers commissioned her to record an agitprop album, Seize the Time, which features the Black Panther anthem. A few years later, the badly beaten body of Brown's assistant, Black Panther bookkeeper Betty Van Patter, washed up on a San Francisco beach. Van Patter had discovered irregularities in the Panther's books, just as Brown was running for councilwoman. When Brown published her memoirs—tellingly titled A Taste of Power—she wrote that Van Patter had been a convicted drug dealer. These claims were omitted from later editions when it was revealed they were complete fabrications on Brown's part. Suspicion has fallen on her for ordering the unsolved murder. «All's fair in love and war»—an idiom seemingly tailored for the '60s.

And of course there's the Altamont Free Concert: Hell's Angels stabbing a raving, gun flailing teenager to the strains of mean spirited rant of resentment and control, «Under My Thumb» by the Rolling Stones. The Stones had flirted with being «the bad Beatles» for so long, by 1968 they'd added songs inspired by Albert «Boston Strangler» DeSalvo, Lee Harvey Oswald and revolt to their already defiant repertoire of misogyny, androgyny and, less convincingly, Satanism. Sample lyric:
I'm called the hit-and-run raper in anger
The knife-sharpened tippie-toe
Or just the shoot 'em dead, brainbell jangler
You know, the one you've never seen befo'

So if you ever meet the midnight rambler
coming down your marble hall
Well, he's pouncing like a proud black panther
Well, you can say I, I told you so
To clarify, should there be any confusion or subtlety, Jagger-Richards sign off with, «I'll stick my knife right down your throat, baby, and it hurts!» In hindsight, «Midnight Rambler» sounds prescient. The worst part is that the song is the Stones at their musically most pounding, grinding, crawl-on-your-knees sexy.

Only five months before Altamont, Stones multi-instrumentalist Brian Jones, who scored the film A Degree of Murder and even played saxophone on the Beatles' «Helter Skelter», had been found floating—or rather, not floating—in his pool. It was the first of many '60s rock star deaths, and to some a suspected homicide. Moreover, Mick Jagger had scored the template for «Lucifer Rising», Anger's «Invocation of My Demon Brother» (also starring Beausoleil, as Satan). He also appeared on Dr. John, the Night Tripper's schlock hoodoo album The Sun, Moon & Herbs. And so naturally, when Hell's Angel Alan Passaro stabbed Meredith Hunter, the Grateful Dead—long-time champions of the Hell's Angels, who had recommended using the biker-rapists as festival security in the first place—were quick to blame the disaster on all the karmic indiscretions of the Stones. No sympathy for the Devil, then. The Dead even went on to compose a couple of strangely chipper-sounding ditties about the misadventure. The original hippies, who had thought they could change the Hell's Angels, were unable to grasp what had happened, what was happening and what has always been happening:
I spent a little time on the mountain
I spent a little time on the hill
Things went down we don't understand
but I think in time we will

But even before Altamont, in 1968, the MC5 caused a violent, but as luck would have it not death-inducing riot, when they played impresario Bill Graham's New York venue, the Fillmore East. The gig was organised in conjunction with a hippie militia of sorts—a no-nonsense, anarcho-Dadaist street gang with revolutionary pretensions called the Motherfuckers. (Motto: «We will be free or we will not be.») In the inimitable cattiness of A&R man Danny Fields,
… the Motherfuckers were a radical East Village group who had been demanding that Bill Graham turn the Fillmore East over to them one night a week because it was in the «Community.» My favorite word, the «Community.» They wanted to cook meals in there and have their babies make doody on the seats. These were really disgusting people. They were bearded and fat and Earth motherish and angry and belligerent and old and ugly and losers. And they were hard. …

So they booked a Thursday night, and to placate the Community five hundred tickets were given to the Motherfuckers to distribute to their fat, smelly, ugly people.
(Cf. Please Kill Me—The Uncensored Oral History of Punk.)
But when the supposedly militant White Panthers of the Motor City Five arrived in a limo, the radicals' sensibilities were upset. The Motherfuckers kicked the jams out of them. Guitarist Wayne Kramer had to fend off a knife attack, while Graham had his nose broken with a chain. Literally adding insult to injury, the Motherfuckers screamed that the MC5 were «Pigs!»—the same dehumanising, vaguely anti-establishment epithet that would later be scrawled in the blood of Gary Hinman, Wojciech Frykowski and Leno LaBianca by Bobby Beausoleil, Susan Atkins and Patricia Krenwinkel.

Also in 1968, one of the Motherfuckers' affiliates, the warped but brilliant Valerie Solanas, shot Andy Warhol in his lungs, spleen, stomach, liver and esophagus, killing him… for a while, until doctors managed to bring him back from clinical death. Solanas also shot critic-curator Mario Amaya in the hip, and tried to blow Warhol's manager's brains out, failing only because her gun jammed. Warhol, of course, had previously produced mythic speed reprobates the Velvet Underground (and Nico), bank rolling their S&M flavoured brand of queer junkie hipster rock, which is easily dated to the '60s, though far from summery or lovely.

It's not fair to say that hippies went from being deluded peaceniks to confused and rabid animals that, in some nightmarish collapse of innocence, had to come to terms with their own all too human nature. Hippies were the «original punks» and all that, scuzzy well before 1969. There's even evidence of it in the music. Especially in garage rock—a genre that could be as spitting and vindictive as the worst of them—but also in folk rock, abounding with gleefully sung Schadenfreude and apocalyptic visions, and in chart topping psychedelic pop, milking ideological trends or espousing corny, surprisingly foresighted cautionary tales. These days, New Age vegans who like to see Che Guevara as the Communist with a heart of gold fail to recognise that the '60s quest for realisation delivered people into occult fancies, armed revolution and violent psychosis, as much as Hare Krishna centres, macrobiotic dieting and nirvana. One account of the Manson troupe's move from San Franscisco would have it that Haight-Ashbury, with its overwhelming influx of runaways, on-the-runs and parolees, was becoming too unsafe. For the Mansons. That love was free doesn't mean it couldn't be stolen.

The progression of the 1960s isn't some cautionary tale, nor a romantic one. The mythic aura surrounding grim reaper of love Manson and his band of creepy, crawly midnight ramblers is in no small part due to the wealth and celebrity of some of their victims. Serial killers prey on the poor, and speedfreaks, crackheads, et al. do unspeakable things to one another (and their loved ones) all the time. They're not relegated to the history books for it, nor are they taken to bookend eras. Manson and Altamont provided a neat ending for those subscribing to the superstition that round numbers are somehow significant. That a decade must come to some sort of narrative end. 1969 was seen as worse than '67 or '68 because 1970—that new morning—was fast approaching. The horrors and mishaps of 1969 are taken as omens, as the failure of peaceful hopes and dreams. This in a decade where the mainstream was involved in daily carnage in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, and even in ghettos, universities and, in some countries, secret prisons.

All this is not to be morbid. In all its history, music never seemed to matter as much, collectively speaking, as in the 1960s. The belief in its transformational powers, along with its inextricable links to political events and views, have never been paralleled, before or since. The music of the '60s doesn't merely say something about taste and aesthetics. (These days, politics in popular music is limited to people getting annoyed at Bono and that guy from that band that had that song about the eye of the tiger in Rocky III who sued Newt Gingrich for using the song without their consent.)

Here, then, is a three-disc historical document… that rocks: A compilation sequenced more or less chronologically, tracing the trajectory from anti-war protest through personal and romantic resentment, to attempts at turning people on, to the boundary-crossing mysticism of transcendence and transgression, to calls for what Fields called «a very lovely and attractive, sweet revolution» and, finally, to murder and lunacy. It begins not only with hope, but also with queasy premonitions and various seeds of nastiness, ending in stabbings and schizophrenia. Sticking to chronology is better than imposing a selective progression in hindsight. The confusion this lack of narrative reveals is only fitting to the times. That said, the chronology also offers a glimpse into how perceptions, if not reality, developed. Deadly stabbings weren't invented in 1969, and it's only their connections to celebrities (Sharon Tate and the Rolling Stones) that made it seem so. The songs did become meaner, more militant or mentally unhinged as the decade raced along, hope giving way to disillusionment, psychout and loathing. And yet none of these are completely absent from the earlier songs. It wasn't love, but resentment that blossomed.

The music on this collection—some of it obscure, some of it chart topping—sums up the main ingredients of the '60s counter-culture: The desperate wish to love, even if and especially when resentment still lingers; disdain for the old order; the eagerness to break into new, unchartered, previously forbidden territory; the hubris that comes with strength in numbers; the apocalyptic fantasies of Judeo-Christianity (Heaven on Earth brought on by Hell on Earth); fascination with Eastern metaphysics (all is one, life and death are the same, kill your ego); anti-war pacifism; and, finally, when patience had run its course, revolutionary fervour. Some of the people who glowed the brightest—Skip Spence, Syd Barrett—were left muttering with paranoia, at once sad and creepy, profound and bullshit. Most of the bands had little or nothing to offer in the decade to come. Values had been upended, only for people to find that some boundaries might have been in order. Otherwise freedom is chaos, and chaos has no constraint. Chaos is violent flux and change—Patricia Krenwinkel hacking away as Abigail Folger tells her, «You can stop now; I'm already dead.» Chaos is the kind of «freedom» that leaves 28 stab wounds in one body.

Krenwinkel wrote «RISE» in Leno LaBianca's blood, and that’s what it did: Rise, through the lumpenproletariat of Charles Manson up the middle class runaways, erupting finally in the Hollywood hills. Had the rich & beautiful bitten the hand that fed them? Or had they beaten their dog until it, finally, bit back? Was it the ghetto, the jailbirds and those exiled by the suburbs channelling their vengeance ever upwards—a downward spiral turned on its head, all trance and vertigo—straddling the shoulders of the bourgeoisie so they could strike at the head of society? A petty, powerless blow of great tragedy, no consequence and a value that was only ever symbolic, by now just a frivolous, callous pop culture reference? For all the rhetoric of love, the ambling, aimless seekers were still not getting anywhere. They were stuck with their humiliations, envy and grudges, the failures of their spiritual endeavours.

These guided the hand of Krenwinkel as she kept absentmindedly jabbing at Mr. LaBianca's corpse with a fork, playing with it, making the fork ping out of his abdomen (which had «WAR» carved on it), telling herself, «Now he won't be sending any of his children off to war,» stabbing him 'til she was sure he was dead.


Timber Timbre, Coming Soon to a Berlin Near You

Gothic lumberjacks Timber Timbre have been whittled down from a trio to just the central singer-songwriter Taylor Kirk for a European tour that will take him and his eloquent tales of revenge and failed self-love to Berlin's Heimathafen on Tuesday, 27 March. Toilet Guppies caught him in Oslo, where the audience piped up with an unprecedented amount of shushing whenever a song started up, the likes of which this concert goer has never heard. Expect echoey quicksand guitar and a soulful vibrato croon, denuding the cinematic studio versions to bare bones creepiness, deceptively sexy. Rural music that reminds us of our roots in this urban spell. Country soul, gothic Americana and Sun Studios twang 'n' timbre unite in a bass drum stomping, guitar wrangling, vocal chord warbling essence of loneliness, bedecked in mean spirit and ill will.

So, Berlin, lay down your ketamine and minimal techno/lowest common denominator '80s gay bar hits for just one evening and treat yourself to some existential swamp soul. You need it. You really, really need it.


The Twin Taboos, or, The Revolution According to Anton A. Newcombe

It would be insensitive to talk of you to lovers, former or present. It would be inappropriate to mention certain things—the stuff at the very core, yours and mine—to your family. Or to mine, who have finally taken your picture down. (An act pregnant with delicate symbolism.) There are things your friends wouldn't want to hear, and other things my friends wouldn't want to know. You're not forgotten, but you are a secret.

Of course, a secret and something forgotten are much the same. Forgive me, then, for remembering you in public. But today would've been your 30th birthday.

I recall your balancing act between anger and silliness—feisty opinions and an equally indomitable instinct for fun, each keeping the other in check. Your retro investigations into decades past finally brought you to the 1960s. Which made sense: as a decade it was all whimsy dotted with rage. Paisley naïveté, unintentionally funny bandwagon psychsploitation by the Man (that managed to be simultaneously cute and cynical), outbursts of flamboyant violence, the sweat & stink of rock 'n' roll, headache-inducing Op-Art and radioactive colours like so much astral sick exploding over retinas everywhere… the '60s had it all.

So I've made you a little mixtape of garage revival retro rock from a future you never got to see, sent by mind transferral to a past that still lives at an undisclosed address somewhere in the time-space continuum. This is what I'd DJ at your birthday bash, pouring loudness into the void, had your final birthday not been an unbelievable five(!) years ago now. Garage-psych seemed to appeal to you for its mix of chirpy sing-along melodies, spiralling, childish riffs and the occasional psych-out/vomited vitriol.

You appreciated that Hell hath no fury like a hippie scorned, her anger surfacing despite nobler intentions. A punk is expected to be furious, advertising his insufferably righteous indignation with slashed T-shirt and jagged 'do (all Rage Against The Sewing Machine). A hippie, on the other hand, is supposed to be above the indignity of negativity. Bitterness is selfish—not at all cosmic. Which means you can trust the hippie's rage to be real. She won't wear her pain on a self-harmed sleeve, like so many fashion statements. No, instead she'll steal into some celebrity compound at night to eviscerate the pregnant, love-bliss-consciousness only the slimy sheen atop the cloudy undercurrents of a mind that's bottomless, if not exactly profound.

Between the wide-eyed, chemically enhanced quest for enlightenment and the scuzzy hormones letting frustrations as old as our species rip & tear, some kind of balance is upheld. Whether funny or cathartic, the mid-to-late '60s delivered. The popular conception of the '60s, as curated by nostalgic revisionisms like Forrest Gump and that Doors film, has been amended somewhat by the recent surge of garage in «indie rock». There were similar revivals in the '80s (Spacemen 3, the Jesus And Mary Chain) and the '90s (the Brian Jonestown Massacre, Make-Up), spilling over into mainstream acts touted as «garage» in the early noughties (White Stripes, the Strokes). But some of the most ballsy, grizzly psych-out garage acts have emerged even after that. In the end, even the Stooges were tempted out of hiding, leaving them little option but to reunite.

For post-pre-punk drenched in fuzz and reverb, however, little of late can compete with this batch of electric Kool-Aid freakouts. Catchily pissed or blissed out the one minute, cosmically paranoid the next, these acts have managed to replicate a period that spawned what is arguably the apotheosis of rock 'n' roll: a decade where record companies encouraged experimentation and independent labels spewed forth diamond-in-the-rough-hewn gems at a rate that still bewilders collectors, connoisseurs and DJs. (Before mp3s, mind.) An era where rock, so primitivistic at first, sat down with loftier ideals and artistic ambitions, but before everything got a little «complicated» with synthesizers, endless guitar solos, stadium tours, MTV and narcissism. Its sexual politics notwithstanding, the '60s were still a virgin moment, mythical by now, before prog, pop rock, MOR, grunge, New Romanticism, alt. rock, nu-metal and countless other offshoots jutted persistently against its pristine hymen.

And while goths and metallers obsess over death as part of the wider Christian narrative of Hell and redemption, '60s rock and its adherents were, and are, less taken with childish ideas of mor(t)ality, and more concerned with coming to terms with the inevitable event that, for lack of a better word, we may call spiritual. No crosses and makeup in demonstrably glum black and white here; '60s skulls were dayglo, the emerging exit a psychedelic, decidedly groovy affair for which you have to prepare. Preferably with some drugs, a little sex and lots and lots of fuzz.

And screaming! Twisting and shouting as we know it began in the '60s, its echoes still more spine chilling, more of a call to wild abandon than the gargles of black metal.

To imbue your day with a little innocence absent even from the above '60s revivalism—contrary to popular belief, a fondness for the grit of five decades past doesn't have to be soppy or nostalgic—I'm also posting this old doozy of a playlist of music actually recorded in the 1960s that I never got around to sending you, in those days I was still trying to seduce you, unaware that you had already seduced me:

You had me at «We're in public!», hissed at me after our first night, as I tried to hold your hand in Tesco's…


Net Nuggets 41: SWANS Live at Yesterday's All Tomorrow's Parties, Today!

In October, Young God Records was set to release We Rose from Your Bed with the Sun in Our Head—a live document of material from SWANS' promotional tour of its 2010 reunion album, My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky. It still isn't out, so while we're waiting for Godot, here's a recording from SWANS' appearance at last year's Portishead-curated All Tomorrow's Parties festival, I'll Be Your Mirror, at the Paramount Theatre in New Jersey on 1 October 2011.

The recording highlights the often inadequate distinction between Apollonian and Dionysian art. A studio recording is, generally, a wholly different affair to a live concert. A SWANS gig, for instance, is very much a bodily experience. What was touted as the band's final record (two double albums ago now) was somewhat misleadingly given the title Soundtracks for the Blind. «Misleadingly», because live, SWANS make music for the deaf. You don't need to bring your ears; the propulsion of sound reverberates throughout the entire body as the slow, repetitive waves of bass, drums and noise blow against it, giving the molecules that comprise you a healthy old rattle 'n' shake. Forget about discerning words, melody. We're talking primordial soup of vibrating static, everything a painful blur. SWANS live is pure masochistic joy! The spectacle of a possessed M. Gira riding both his band and audience members' demons like a fifth horseman of the apocalypse, astray and AWOL, to wrest any control you might think you had out of your weak, little hands only adds to the gluttonous punishment.

But as has always been the challenge for live albums, they can never convey the experience they attempt to record. Sometimes that's fine. More than a souvenir, the live album can give you an opportunity to hear details you missed the first time around, in all the eardrum shattering hiss. SWANS' last live album, 1997's Swans Are Dead, contained some of the most blissful, cathartically mournful, erotically frightening and finger snapping moments in the band's recorded history.

Toilet Guppies caught SWANS on their recent European tour in Berlin and in Oslo, and can say with some authority (I said «some») that what was a near-transcendental derangement of the senses in a live setting—the sheer volume obliterating the mind/body dualism—comes across as meandering and a little self-indulgent in mp3 format. Too bombastic to be used as background music, but not pummelling enough at 128 kbps through tiny, tinny iPod headphones or speakers to satisfy the average contemporary attention span, this is not a recording anybody is likely to listen to while taking the bus in the morning or doing the dishes in the evening. Nor while they're dancing, fucking or doing drugs, for that matter. Three of these tracks run for about 25 minutes, most of which is taken up by repeated Wagnerian percussive stomps, or cycles of slowly building marching drums. Live, these give rise to fear for your ears, before finally bringing your resistance to your knees. You surf numberless waves of hypnotic, all-enveloping sound until you wake up from a trance, once the music and the pain in your aural orifice has subsided. Sweat trickles out of waxen ears. Taken out of the concert venue and its formidable PA, however, the pieces drag on a bit. The songs are great—the surprisingly funky «Apostate», in particular, shines here—it's just that by the time they're wrapping up the intro, you've been waiting a quarter of an hour. It's like a particularly conscientious lover's never ending foreplay, always promising, but when will they deliver?

On Swans Are Dead, Jarboe's occasional lead vocal duties and funereal organ lent the proceedings much-needed variety, texture and, dare I say, femininity. There is no such respite on these recordings from the phallic three-guitar, one-bass, two-prong percussion attack. The pieces become much of a muchness, really, bleeding over into one another. Everything has that same structure, always cranked up to eleven, innit?

The above download, then, is mostly a souvenir for those who have witnessed the real thing, or else a curious document for those eager to eavesdrop on the process leading up to the already-recorded, but yet-to-be released follow-up to My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky. This recording was originally uploaded by NPR as one long 128 kbps mp3 file some time ago. I've split the file into individual tracks. A no doubt far superior live document—mixed and mastered, without the glitches, culled from a multitude of concerts and in lossless quality—is set for release four months ago, and should be available in our lifetime. Sign up to Young God Records' mailing list for a notification upon its release.

For more of the same, but in far superior sound quality (at once far more compelling) and with admonitions to the Spanish people to overthrow their government, download a couple of songs performed by SWANS at Barcelona's Primavera Sound festival last May (care of WFMU and Free Music Archive):


Warm Music for the Coldest Month of the Year

The activity on Toilet Guppies has wound down, thanks to better things to do. But I haven't forgotten you, huddled as you must be in a foetal position, trying to stave off the bitter cold of January with heat rub, a flea bitten blanket and the remaining glow of your own inner organs. I still have various rarities, &c. to share with you all, but for now, enjoy this frivolous collection of music intended to warm you from the inside of your mind (and ear canal).

And if the above comp should soothe the chill in your bones, here's more of the same.