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1980-1981: The Gulcher Recordings (Gulcher Records) $10

In 1980-1981, punk became hardcore, middle-aged women started spiking their hair, new wave turned into commercial crap, and everything was about to implode into the narrowly focused genres that dominate outsider music to this day. But in Bloomington, Indiana, things were moving a bit slower. MX-80 Sound had split for San Francisco a couple years earlier, and the original Gizmos were never more than a rumor to the post-'77 Bloomington crowd. When the Dancing Cigarettes appeared on the fringes of the Bloomington scene in 1980, they were doing music that still vibrated deeply with the naive/intellectual spirit that had informed much of underground rock since the mid-70s. The Cigarettes fused their high-school geek visions of dada and beat literature with punk energy, the Ralph Records catalog, an obvious love for pre-punk icons like Eno and Beefheart, and the fumes of earlier art-damaged Midwestern bands like MX-80, Pere Ubu, and Tin Huey. Their songs were tight, angular, ironic, and filled with obtuse lyrics. In 1981, the Dancing Cigarettes hooked up with Gulcher Records (who else!) to produce a quite wunnerful 4-song, self-titled EP:  "Puppies In A Sack," "Mr. Morse," "Pop Doormat," and "Best Friend."  Post-punk, Midwest-style (which means it's mostly pre-punk!). They also contributed to Gulcher's Red Snerts compilation LP the same year. This CD collects their '81 EP, two outtakes from the EP sessions, "Broken Windows" from RED SNERTS, and 15 unreleased tracks recorded live at the Bluebird in Bloomington. The Bluebird material shows the live Dancing Cigarettes were just as fiery and capable of sonic trickery as in a studio setting, and adds a bit of noise to the mix. The band continued into 1983, and recorded a fair amount of excellent unreleased material, which was compiled in 1995 on their School of Secret Music CD.

--Eddie Flowers
Kon Taan Kor
(Gulcher Records) $10

Boston's Steve Painter is Dark Sunny Land. He has also recorded as part of the duo 12 Cent Donkey and the trio JAS. Dark Sunny Land uses acoustic and electric guitars (often played in an unorthodox fashion), as well as keyboards, recorder, percussion, various household contraptions and other found sounds. The first Dark Sunny Land album--Kon Taan Kor--was recorded during the summer of 2008 and released in 2009 by Gulcher Records.

Steve Painter: "The original idea if there ever was one was to have the sound be a lot closer to a Skip James record than how it turned out. But the feeling of the blues is still there, even if most of the blues chords and structure got turned inside out along the way. That's happened to me before. 2008 was a strange summer. I didn't have a job or much money and was pondering mortality more than usual. The recording got done mostly at night in my apartment, which looks out onto the Mass Turnpike. Trains run along the highway. While I was doing the recording I was working on some paintings. Looking back, it seems like the trains and the highway and the night affected the paintings and the songs in a big way--the mood of them, that is. I think each song is distinct though. Actually, you can hear the cars and trucks and even a train going by if you listen hard."

Roger Miller (Mission of Burma): "Guitars, mostly. Abstracted, then reconstructed. Prepared, unprepared. The purpose is sound, not chord progressions and scales; but there is organic movement in every track. There are grooves, but nothing you would tap your feet to; time dissolving rather than time insistent. The results evoke environments familiar but alien: a hint of blues behind sheets of distant sound. Ambient? yes, but no new age.Psychedelic? sure, but not 60s-style.Industrial? it's there, but it's not bone-crushing. You can hear the research as it happens, and its workings are intriguing."