5/5: Bleak Music for Happy People


At some point I was convinced that Low wanted to be Black Sabbath turned all the way down, but then they released Trust. Ever since that album I’ve thought that Low and Swans were made for each other. They set the tone for this week’s show, which stayed pretty low-key from start to finish. Akron/Family and Fire on Fire provided some light-hearted relief. Speaking of which, the new Akron/Family is a fairly bizarre record. I’ve heard complaints from several fans about their live shows as of late, mostly because their new sound resembles certain jam bands, like Phish. Just check out that video for “Last Year” and you’ll get the idea. It sounds like Ryan Vanderhoof’s input is very, very missed. “Everyone is Guilty” sounds more like the Akron/Family of yore, but I sense a great backlash on the horizon and cries of “hippy” filling the air. There’s a fine line between folk/blues-influenced rock and masturbatory jam band junk.

Proof that playing “old” music on the air is worthwhile comes every time someone calls into the show asking about a record released sometime in the past. I figured that Matmos were universally known by this point, having been covered by everyone from Pitchfork to NPR. But, someone called in at the end of the show asking about “Hashish Master.” It’s from Supreme Balloon, arguably Matmos’ best record. You can read a ton about it right here, at the Brainwashed homepage. I had mentioned that I thought Terry Riley was featured on that song. I was right. Here’s a little bit of background info, again from the site:

We met Terry Riley at a concert in his honor in which we played our piece entitled “For Terry Riley”, which was itself built out of samples of the Kronos Quartet playing his early composition “Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector.” A few years later, after getting to know him a bit through friends in common we finally got up the courage to ask him if he would play some keyboards for our synthesizer album and he generously invited us to visit him at Sri Moonshine Ranch, his rural seat in Northern California. We brought our ARP 2600 along and set it up in his studio and he played some wickedly fast improvisations for us on an ARP patch that Martin created on the fly that had a weird, tangy tuning. As soon as a quasi-Arabic melodic figure emerged, Terry suggested that we were “channeling the Hashish Master of Skunk Hollow” and the song title seemed inevitable. We then chopped up and manipulated Terry’s solo and built it into a song which we often play live in a more “heavy metal” arrangement for synths and guitars. Given the slightly ominous heaviness of the resulting song M. C. felt that it didn’t quite fit the overall mood of the album. Drew pouted and made it into a vinyl only song and a downloadable track available online so that listeners can choose for themselves whether or not it fits. The Master stands alone. There is in fact a neat historical association between hash and the enjoyment of keyboard playing, as evidenced by Theophile Gautier’s pen and ink drawing of J. J. Moreau de Tours playing the piano inside the infamous Parisian gentleman’s haunt Le Club de Hachichins, drawn under the influence of hashish.

You can find plenty of videos of Matmos doing their thing over at Youtube. Here’s a great video for “Exciter Lamp and the Variable Band” from Supreme Balloon. If you don’t know your Matmos, now is a good time to start. They also happen to put on a great live show. Do not miss them if you see them coming your way.

Also featured this week was Interbellum. His 2008 record, available on Flingco Sound, will be reviewed in the coming weeks. Check out Flingco Sound while you wait; the label is fairly new but has already released an impressive series of records, including music from one of Bohren and Der Club of Gore’s principle influences: GORE.



01. Low “Pretty People” from Drums and Guns (2007) on Sub Pop

02. Swans “The Sound” from Soundtracks for The Blind (1996) on Young God

03. Valet “Drum Movie” from Naked Acid (2008) on Kranky

04. Akron/Family “Everyone Is Guilty” from Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free (2009) on Dead Oceans

05. The Sea and Cake “There You Are” from The Fawn (1997) on Thrill Jockey

06. Tortoise “The Taut and Tame” from Millions Now Living Will Never Die (1996) on Thrill Jockey

07. This Heat “Makeshift” from Made Available – John Peel Sessions (1999) on These — recorded 26 October 1977

08. Stars of The Lid “JPRIP” from Carte-De-Visite (2007) on Self Released

09. Fridge “Tone Guitar and Drum Noise” from Happiness (2000) on Brainwashed/Temporary Residence

10. Swans “Love Will Save You” from White Light from the Mouth of Infinity (1991) on Young God

11. Fire on Fire “Amnesia” from Fire on Fire EP (2008) on Young God

12. Sun Kil Moon “Floating” from Ghosts of the Great Highway(2003) on Jet Set Records

13. Interbellum “6EQUJ5” from Over All of Spain the Sky is Clear (2008) on Flingco Sound

14. Ghost “Images of April / Lhasa Lhasa” from Tune In, Turn On, Free Tibet (1999) on Drag City

15. Rivulets “Barreling Towards Nowhere Like There’s No Tomorrow” from Rivulets (2002) on Chair Kickers Union

16. Songs: Ohia “Two Blue Lights / Blue Chicago Moon” from Didn’t It Rain (2002) on Secretly Canadian

17. Cat Power “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” from The Covers Record (2000) on Matador

18. Bohren & Der Club of Gore “Der Maggot Tango” from Gore Motel (1994) on Epistrophy

19. Matmos “Hashish Master” from Supreme Balloon (2008) on Matador



  1. Thanks for playing the Interbellum album. I would like to note that FSS has released a digital album by Gore – not Bohren & der Club of Gore. Gore is a Dutch band that inspired Bohren & Der Club of Gore. And it’s very nice to see Interbellum by Low.

  2. Hey Bruce!

    Sorry about the goof up. Post has been edited w/ correct info. You’d think I would know how to read by now!

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