Dull Knife #6
I was invited to contribute to a curated series of compilation CDRs, called "Dull Knife," distributed for free in Texas. I'm sharing the mix, which is a microcosmic introduction to the world of shit-fi. Thanks to Brent for the invitation!
From Grosse Pointe, Michigan, in 1967 Index released what has become one of the most sought-after psychedelic-era records. “Feedback” is the noisiest of their tracks but their entire first LP demonstrates how sheer ingenuity and geographic isolation allowed them to create quite a riposte to the early Velvet Underground. Except I doubt they had ever heard of the Velvets or even cared much what was going on in the Village in 1967. Confuse, from Fukuoka in the far south of Japan, is one of the most important early 80s “noise-core” bands, but “General Speech,” from their 1989 12", showcases what can only be considered a psychedelic influence (something I believe they hinted at 6 years earlier on their finest release, the “Spending Loud Night” 7"). Eu’s Arse, from Udine, Italy, played rabid Discharge-influenced anarchist hardcore punk; nowhere was their sound more rabid than during this December 1984 rehearsal session, soon before the band broke up. This song puts most hardcore before or since to shame. Wretched, another anarchist hardcore band from Italy (Milan), captures the essence of the Italian hardcore sound. These two tracks, probably dating from early 1984, are played live about twice as fast as on the records, at speeds pretty much unthinkable for that time and place. Insanity, for my money, is the best proto-death metal band and can be credited with having invented the style with flare. Their 1985 rehearsal tape is the pinnacle of that brief moment when hardcore punk and underground metal coalesced to produce a totally new and extreme sound. I’ll just say it bluntly so there is no confusion: Parabellum is the most extreme band ever. From Medellín, Colombia, their sound matches the violence and desperation that characterized everyday life in that city in the 1980s. I would say they invented a genre but no other band has ever sounded anything like them since. This very rare track, recorded live in 1988, appeared on a cassette reissue of their classic “Sacrilegio” 12", which is actually more nutso than this track. The other most extreme band ever is surely Australia’s SPK. Their first 7" included “No More,” which can be considered their “punk” song. They invented industrial music as far as I am concerned, but never has industrial sounded so punk (or punk so industrial) as on this sublime track. This thinking man’s nihilism gives me goosebumps. Beyond the Implode was one of the thousands of UK DIY bands that pushed the boundaries of what punk could encompass in the late 1970s. This track shows them at their most inventive. It captures the playfulness often associated with UK DIY, but it also portends the direction so many bands would take punk’s individualism, away from traditional instrumentation and rocknroll song structures. The Mekons, who, unlike 99% of shit-fi bands, would go on to some international fame and repute, did manage to start out by pissing off the music business through sheer ineptitude (with a punk rock song taking the piss out of punk rock). Their crude and ultra-simple “Never Been in a Riot” is another fine example of the breadth of the UK DIY moment. If you’re weeping at the sound of that guitar, you may be what I refer to as “a grown record collector.” Time to move out of mom’s basement. Australia’s Sick Things seem to channel SPK, as well as nearly every other extreme band that preceded them, with this so-punk-it’s-hardcore antisocial attack recorded on a 2-track in 1982. “Rough” doesn’t begin to describe their “sound.” From Fort Worth, Texas, the Dot Vaeth Group, named after the members’ junior high teacher art teacher, was one of the state’s earliest punk bands. Their crude, lo-fi single, featuring “Armed Robbery” on the A side, came out in 1978. Howls of execration surely ensued. Abraham Cross began in the mid-90s as a relatively typical, though highly accurate, Tokyo crust imitator of England’s Sore Throat, Extreme Noise Terror, and Doom; today, they combine noisy crust with a krautrock influence to create a hybrid sound quite unlike any other band I have heard. “Message from Forever pt. 1” is their most meandering excursion. Bedemon was a heavy, Sabbathy lo-fi basement rock band that shared members with Pentagram. Bedemon’s melancholy, primitive guitar-based metal captures the feel of life for many white working-class men in the early 70s, as the economy began to fall into the shitter and the optimism of the 60s evaporated—in my mind, Bedemon should be the background music to the audiobook of Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son. Bedemon’s story is marked by sadness and unrealized promise, but listening to “Touch the Sky,” one gets the feeling it couldn’t have been any other way. I know absolutely nothing about Ellis Dee & the Dans. This record is rumored to date from the late 1960s but it could just as easily be from the 1980s. Other songs on it are inna wasted 60s garage style but “Wind Awrays” (what?) is shimmering, noisy acid-cas proto-shoegaze. Finally, Les Rallizes Denudés is the finest band that never released a record. They began at Doshishi University in Kyoto, Japan, in late1967 and after a horrendous and shameful experience in a recording studio, band leader Takeshi Mizutani decided to limit the band to live shows only. They spent the next three decades or so playing relentless, blinding, feedback-laden, caveman-simple, bumptious psych. In 1988, 17 years after the bassist helped highjack a Japan Airlines jet under the banner of the Japanese Red Army Faction, Les Rallizes Denudés recorded this version of their most thudding, doomy tune, “The Last One.” It sounds like an A&R guy’s night-sweat nightmare.