+ Tyvek “Origin of What”
This might have been the first time in a decade where a calendar year has elapsed without my catching a Tyvek gig. Impressive to think that they’ve kept at it for so long, with a regular touring schedule that put them on the east coast at least a couple times a year throughout. Tyvek’s recorded output over this time has been steady with demo/live tapes filling the gaps between proper albums, so it always feels like there is something new, but it was surprising to realize that it’s been four years since “On Triple Beams” came out. I keep coming back to their new album, “Origin of What”, which has a unique and memorable sound even when compared to prior works. Guitars with radically different sounds are layered atop each other - the pure buzzsaw of echo and distortion cuts right through the rhythm track in “Can’t Exist”, the scaling solo in “Into The Outlets” two nods louder than you’d expect. “Tyvek Chant” is beamed through an out of range FM station where the band fights the static and loses. I dig this a lot. (Bonus: It is worth mentioning that The Intended, 3/4 of whom played on “Origin of What”, released a great album of their own, “Time Will Tell”. Meanwhile, in addition to the aforementioned groups, Kevin has also been playing with Taiwan Housing Project, who began as a duo with Kilynn and Mark but have become a five or six piece ensemble responsible for some of the best sets I’ve seen in ages.)
I may be wrong, but it feels as though this city is in a brief ebb as bands break up or move into periods of inactivity, venues shut down, people split town and the new wave rushing behind to replace them are still working to establish themselves. (Just as likely, perhaps, is that I am just a step or two behind and out of touch with things.) I mean, it’s still the greatest city in the world. And certainly, it was home to many of my favorite records from the year: In School “Cement Fucker” may be the most ferocious record on this list, a brilliant and devastating example of HC at its best. My favorite moment of live music came this past February, in the midst of In School’s gig at Gilman. I noticed to my right, just in front of the hard-pitting crowd, a young girl, maybe 5 or 6, standing against the stage with giant safety earmuffs and an even more giant smile, watching and waving at the women on stage, hopefully taking notes for when she gets her own band going in a couple of years. JJ Doll followed up last year’s terrific demo with a five song 7” that is equally memorable. Kaleidoscope released a pair of exceptional recordings, “Volume 2 Number 1” 7”* and “Volume 2 Number 2: Zone Explorers” cassette. The Papertown & Company video cassette offered some prime viewing and a welcome excuse to fire up the VCR. And some other local gems: Haram “?? ??????” EP, Crazy Spirit’s 3rd 7”, Nandas 7”, and Exotica demo each got ample playtime in this neck of the woods. Meanwhile, the cheesy broccoli at Toad Style never let me down and was the best meal I ate all year. (*I need a copy of the tour press of this one if anyone can help out…)
The world’s single greatest resource documenting the history of punk rock. Over the last 37 years, MRR has been a consistently polarizing vehicle. But I am noting it here, in 2016, not only because the magazine and radio show continue to be invaluable tools in navigating punk’s global landscape but because this year they began a massive archival project to catalog and preserve their library of 50,000 punk records. When we are dead and gone, this will be the most comprehensive evidence of punk rock’s history and the legwork being done now will set the stage for scholars and fans to make discoveries for years to come. Since this project began, all records and ephemera have been secured in archival settings for their long-term survival and a website with all of the magazine’s content, a database of the collection, and a searchable list of every record reviewed is set to launch in June 2017. (Bonus: In February, MRR organized a fest which I attended and was one of the best show-going experiences of the year.)
+C/Site + Loki
These two tape labels don’t really have anything to do with one another, although Loki released a pair of cassettes by C/Site co-founder Stefan Christensen (SC) and both labels have kept me awash in great new music this year. One could easily stand behind a year-end top-ten of C/Site or Loki or SC releases alone. So much of this music is exploring the fringes of the underground, experimental and improvisational, or just plain uncategorizable. Marginal music on the people’s format. The best of this stuff has been: Stefan Christensen & Friends “Empty Plateaus”, Mordecai “Live! 2012-2014”, Medication “Daily Affirmations”, SC “Empty Continents” + “Cryptic Slang” (and even moreso, “American Pastoral Again” 12” which I am including anyway, despite the fact that it isn’t a tape on these labels), Mountain Movers “Sunday Drive”, the reissue of Grady Runyan’s “Solar Guitar”, and the underrated gem that is Galacto Fidelity Unit (I know, I thought a tape of Byron Coley reading Sun Ra’s poetry was a bit on the nose too, but this one is a gem!), among others. (Bonus: In August, Loki organized a fest which I attended and was one of the best show-going experiences of the year.)
+Another Subculture 3
Three issues deep, it may be safe to say that Another Subculture is the world’s longest running currently active cassette fanzine. Ah, it’s been a while since the heyday of cassette zines, but I really do love the format. This was actually released mid-December 2015, but took its time to land in my Walkman. This issue focuses on the opening of DIY Space For London with audio taped during the first months of the venue’s existence. AS3 commingles discussions about the nature of punks creating their own spaces and the challenges, ethics, and utter necessity of doing so, with noisy audience recordings of some of the bands that played, and interviews portraying glowing post-show rabid enthusiasm, pure enjoyment caught on tape. Listening back to this at the end of 2016 was quite a powerful and emotional experience, contrasting the assaults on DIY venues in America over the last months with the bliss and optimism that was captured so well on this tape.
+The Double “Dawn of the Double”
A completely hypnotic masterpiece, The Double’s “Dawn of the Double” is an experiment in minimalism and endurance. The duo - just drums and guitars - picks up a Bo Diddley beat at breakneck speed and jams on it for forty minutes. And that’s it. The only variances are subtle and natural, slight changes in strumming or an extra cymbal crash. Zone out, dance, focus, this is perfect music and I’ve spun it on repeat more than once. (Bonus: Let this Vine of The Double play for forty minutes, then play the album, and report back with any differences that you can find.)
+Bruce Conner “It’s All True”
A massive and inspiring retrospective of Bruce Conner’s career. This sprawling installation was dense with BC’s works and included viewing rooms for at least seven of his films including A Movie, Looking For Mushrooms, and Crossroads - one could spend several hours on multiple visits and not soak it all in. Included was a small wing of Conner’s punk photography including a wall of his 26 Punk Photos and another with punk collage work, including X Crime, featuring your favorite band and mine.
As I stare middle age in the face, it is comforting to realize that so many of the great, invigorating live sets that I saw during the past year were performed by folks a generation or two older than I am. It’s plain inspiring to think that this “kids game” of marginal culture ain’t just for kids and that we can age gracefully while still making noise. So hats off to X_X, Jayfish, Glenn Branca, Susan Alcorn, Eugene Chadbourne, Yo La Tengo, Gary Wilson, James Chance, Sun Ra Arkestra, The Mummies, and Dead C, whose set in a Brooklyn church was utterly fantastic. (Bonus: To Hesske for showing me that it’s never too late to get a mohawk. I plan to sculpt mine the day I retire and keep it til I die).
+The Only Rule
My baseball fandom is in a curious place. I’m having a hard time rooting for my childhood team in the face of policy decisions that run contrary to my personal beliefs (by hiring players with abuse histories, by setting floor prices on resale tickets and banning print at home options, etc). Plus, as a cord cutter, I have no way to watch local teams anyway; even if I ponied up for MLB’s streaming service I’d be subject to blackout rules. So I find myself turning towards print and audio for my daily baseball intake. Effectively Wild, a baseball podcast hosted by Sam Miller and Ben Lindbergh, has been part of this for a few years. At some point, the hosts wondered what would happen if they were able to implement their data-driven, untraditional, sabermetric ideas on a real team. They found an Independent League team - Sonoma Stompers - who let them try, and detailed the story in a book, “The Only Rule Is It Has To Work”. Most fascinating, the book is less a tale of their crazy ideas than it is the practical battles of implementing them. More about politics than labwork. (Bonus: As 2016 ended, so, too, did Effectively Wild as we’ve known it. Sam hosted his final episode in December, a reminder to all to be grateful for the things we love while we’ve got them.)
After Heron Oblivion’s set at Union Pool, I ran into a friend walking out who said something like, “well, that’s the only guitar rock band that matters.” Hard to argue, and as much as I like their debut album, it is especially true live where the dynamics play out to much greater effect. Quiet passages with Meg’s folksy singing explode into massive shredding, and it is just unreal. Their music has been a constant during this past year, and the two live shows I caught were among the best shows I’ve seen, ever.
++Pouring one out.
I grew up in a small town about an hour plus north of the city, and while you would think being so close to a bastion of culture would be an asset, it felt more like a tease to us isolated freaks trying to figure things out up there. We just knew that we didn’t fit in where we were and that we needed to get out when we could. A neighbor, my little brother’s best friend since the day he was born, was a kindred spirit, too smart and creative to live a life in that town. Inspired by literature, especially the Beats, and the knowledge of a vast world outside our village, he left for adventure as soon as he could. For years I took comfort in the fact that I knew he'd turn up unexpectedly, where we’d pick up a conversation as though we’d never lost touch and he’d share stories from a life lived. And it's been a while and there's a few years worth of stories that I need to catch up on, but an overdose has ensured that no updates will be forthcoming. What a bummer. I am holding out hope that a trove of his writing will turn up before long and we can all find out together. Rest in power, friend.
++++Sneak peak of 2017 top ten:
Mozart 7” (Iron Lung), Reptile Ranch LP (C/Site), Kaleidoscope 12" (Feel It), Lemonade 7" (Thrilling Living), Question LP (Fashionable Idiots), Stefan Christensen 7”, Taiwan Housing Project LP (Kill Rock Stars), Best Show 24/7, Mordecai LP (Richie), Ron House spoken word LP (Loki).
Get in touch! Dave Hyde - PO Box 1407 - New York, NY 10163 - cheaprewards-+-gmail
Rapid fire roundup of some 2016 favorites left out of my narrative above: CCTV “Piece of Paper and an Audiocassette” tour only tape of amazing Red Snerts punk. I traded some french fries for a copy and might have gotten the short end of that deal (they really hit the spot) but this tape is aces. The Chris Gethard Show S2E9 - the dumpster episode. Maybe the finest hour of television ever made. Nots “Cosmetic” LP and even moreso live. For real, one of the best live bands on the planet. I am so stoked on the photobook “Feeding Time” by Alex Kress, amazing photos from DIY HC gigs in Toronto. At the last minute we rearranged our trip to the Northwest after finding out that Uranium Club was playing Seattle the day we were scheduled to arrive in Vancouver. And I’m glad we did, as it was a perfect show, Nuthole punks rule! Awesome records: Counter Intuits “Monosyllabilly” LP, Celebrity Handshake CD, Blazing Eye “Ways to Die” 7”, Barcelona 7”, The World 7” and flexi, Maquina Muerta/DHK split LP, Richie Records summer single series with new discs from Homostupids/Watery Love/Mordecai, Lemonade demo (I love the Lemonade demo almost as much as I love lemonade), Pandemix “Pathological Culture” demo, Disco 3000 demo. Rad zines that I don’t want to forget: “My Last Four Years in Fliers” by Laura PallMall/Nothing Left to Learn, Not Shit #3, New York City Rock’n’roll Forever by Ben Trogdon, Scam “25th Anniversary Issue” (was there an issue #8 and if so can someone send me a copy?), and several issues of Mental Whiff. Finally, this was the 20th anniversary of the greatest movie ever made, I’m Not Fascinating, so that should be noted as well.