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THE MAGIK MARKERS
A Panegyric to the Things I Do Not Understand (Gulcher Records) $10

So, you know, I was listenin' to the radio back in '76--surprised to hear the title track from Patti Smith's Radio Ethopia, when the LP was brand new and I hadn't got my copy yet. "Radio Ethiopia" (the track) was this amazing surge of pure sonic madness--total free blow-out--and it left my head reeling. Then I heard the full album, otherwise devoid of the free thing--and I was bummed. Well, 30 years later, here's the Magik Markers. This trio sounds like its ABCs of R&R begin with "Radio Ethiopia" + the breathless free-rock orgasm of the Stooges' "L.A. Blues" + the most open moments of the first Godz LP on ESP-Disk. Of course, a zillion other things've come along in the meanwhile. The Magik Markers were bathed in hardcore as young'uns, and they came of age in the wake of the Dead C, Harry Pussy, and a worldwide noise scene that touches any and every other alleged genre. But at the heart of the Magik Markers is something much older: rock and roll. You know, R+R as envisioned down at the pub by Mark Smith & the Fall--except you can't remember the chord changes. Let's twist again like we did the first time we heard Suicide's "Rocket USA."

Drummer Pete Nolan can scatter and merge in a way that you could say references Sunny Murray's free breakthroughs with Albert Ayler, but just as often sounds like he could be playing "Louie Louie" in a '65 garage band. Somewhere behind and beneath the clang and dissonance of guitarists Elisa Ambrogio (also vocals) and Leah Quimby (bass axe), I still hear the distorted blurry notes of Paul Burlinson with the Johnny Burnette Trio--the murderous licks of Pat Hare with Howlin' Wolf. And in between: everything from West Coast Quicksilver/Dead/Love to dark heavy Velvets/Zep/Sabbath/PiL. But remember, these young studs take out all the "fancy" stuff: no songs, no scales, nothin' but room--lots of rhythms, tons of sounds and noises (although don't mistake the MMs for a power-electronics assault squad), even a few recognizable English words. Yeah, the words. They seem spontaneous, but offer tantalizing hints at the magik behind the musicians: "You're my American woman. You're my American thighs. It's a dark night in Vegas. It's a dark night in Vegas" . . . "I am not compassionate. I don't like mercy. I will take your life" . . . "It's a shy, arthritic sky" . . . ?!

In spite of their punk roots, the Markers' form tends toward extended breakdowns: this disc is divided into two "sides"--two long tracks--the first running to 19:41, and the other is 19:38. No rules is the rule here. For instance, dig the near-acapella section on the first "side"--whistlin', odd voices, clappin', just an occasional rattle or beep--very casual and simple but mesmerizing. Then there's the part on the second "side" where it sounds like everything is moving in outta-focus slow-mo, like after you've drank waytoomuch cough syrup (DXM)--'n yr legs 've turned t' melted, oooozing plastic. But my favorite part (swoon!) is when Elisa begins an erotic gutter-cat rant: "I'm your ramblin' rose . . . I'm your Sister Anne," obvious references to the MC5. Imagine THAT band jammin' with Yoko Ono--and yer about halfway to here. Elisa raves against the torrent of Quimby's roaring feedback and Nolan's exploding skins in an intuitive way that recalls Patti Smith's lost-in-the-whirlpool moments and/or Damo Suzuki's most tongue-driven gestures with Can. Whew.

Formed in 2000, the Magik Markers have moved from New England to Kentucky to NYC--who knows where next? They've played around the U.S. and western Europe, including gigs with alt-rock heavies like Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. The trio has released various CDRs and cassettes on their own Arbitrary Signs label, as well as an LP of "early" material for T. Moore's Ecstatic Peace, and CDR releases for Slippy Town, Imvated, and Apostasy. For their first manufactured CD release, the Markers have landed on the Gulcher imprint--it somehow makes sense that this group of out-crowders would end up with the same label that spewed MX-80, the Gizmos, and other weirdos onto an unsuspecting world. The strange thing is this time the world might be paying attention! Ssshhhhhh--pass the peace pipe--turn up the amplifiers.

--Eddie Flowers
BILL McCARTER/STALINGRAD SYMPHONY
Secrets/Struggle (Gulcher Records) $10

In the small town of Vincennes, Indiana, way back yonder in the punk-blossomed year of 1978, local musician Bill McCarter decided to do like everybody else in the world and record his own homemade EP. So, he wrote some songs, bought a 4-track reel-to-reel tape deck, and talked some of his musician pals into playing along. Among those pals were future Lazy Cowgirls members Pat Todd, Keith Telligman, and Allen Clark. Also on board was Mark McCormick, who later played with Telligman and Clark in my band Crawlspace. Everything went very well with Bill's recordings--except he never got the EP released!

In 1979, Bill moved to L.A. around the same time I relocated there from Alabama. We had met in early '77 while Bill was hangin' around the Gizmos/Gulcher non-scene in Bloomington, Indiana. He gave me a cassette of the music he had recorded the year before with his friends in Indiana. I thought the music on the tape was wonderful, although nothing like the hardcore and chaos that was beginning to consume the L.A. scene and my own musical head. Still, it was hearing this tape that inspired our musical collaborations, which led to Crawlspace.

Bill's unreleased EP, which he called Secrets, sounded obviously influenced by the Velvet Underground, like anybody with taste in the late 70s. But there was a lot more happening. The first thing that struck me was the strange Midwestern-Anglo vocal style--here was a guy who had spent a lot of time in his bedroom listening to Syd Barrett, Nick Drake, Brian Eno, and other assorted UK imports. The vocals were mostly stuck under the band's sound, which pulsated along in a Velvet-y way, but had strong hints of a small-town "country" vibe. Bill was a huge fan of that very early English-house-in-the-country rock like pre-metal Humble Pie and Led Zep III.

The opening track, "Lady In White," also displays a strong connection to the Byrds, circa 5D and Notorious Byrd Brothers. "Is It Pleasant?" is kinda like middle-period Velvets at their most rocked out, with Mark McCormick goin' psycho on guitar. Bill's spoken lyric on this one is my favorite of the bunch, showing off a very dry and warped sense of humor. One of Bill's "secrets" (?) is that he had lovingly assembled a collection of Charlie Chaplin shorts he liked to watch on his Super-8 projector. Remember how Big Star sounded kinda spacey when they weren't rockin'? That's what "I Hear The Blue Sky Sing" brings to mind--although it kinda rocks (or at least chugs). The final of the four Secrets songs, "(Don't Know) What To Say," is like waitin'-for-the-man Velvets + ride-a-white-swan T. Rex + C&W guitar licks. Beautiful!

During the 1980s, mostly before Crawlspace got off the ground in 1987, Bill was a fixture at Lazy Cowgirls gigs in L.A. He appeared at the beginning of each show as the Reverend Billy Ray McCarter, delivering a short "sermon" (intro) before the band roared through its post-Ramones punk thing. From 1985-1989, Bill was a full-time Crawlspace member, and appeared on the various things we released at the time. Then he seemed to disappear. Actually, he moved from L.A. to Oxnard, which is similar to disappearing.

But in 2001, the McCarter phoenix again rose from the ashes in the form of a very unexpected CDR release called Struggle under the name Stalingrad Symphony. For second guitar and bass, Bill called on L.A. friends Michael Leigh and Leonard Keringer, from the then-current edition of Pat Todd's Lazy Cowgirls. Just to make things a bit more confusing, Keringer also played with Crawlspace in 1987. Bill's long-time Vincennes friend Robert Kemp, who also played on Secrets in 1978, came out to play drums. And what did this group do together when they went into Earle Mankey's studio? Nothing like Secrets, that's for sure. Instead, they whupped up a pretty intense 40-minute piece of improv and free-rock sprawl.

Gulcher Records has collected the never-released Secrets EP and the barely circulated Struggle CDR on one groovy compact disc that should bend back your jaded ears real good. This is high-quality stuff, brothers and sisters--nothin' like the snake oil that now poisons our collective R&R water supply. Dig.

--Eddie Flowers

MEERCAZ (Gulcher Records) $10

UNCLE ED'S GUIDE TO THE MEERCAZ DEBUT CD

Meercaz is Mozzley M. (a.k.a. Muzz a.k.a. Muslim Delgado) of Portland, Oregon. Mozz sings and plays guitar (plus keyboards and bass). He's assisted on his debut Gulcher CD by Jason Dollar, Matt, Jen Stephnick, Clay Silva, Jesse, and Maura Arraj. Muzz is based in Portland, Oregon, and looks not unlike the young Jimi Hendrix (boss 'fro, bro!). He's previously released one vinyl single on his own Point Wrex label.

The Meercaz sound is hard to pin down, which is pretty bitchen considering the fact that it's shameless ROCK! The production is simple yet experimental--the approach is primitive but spacey--simultaneously "retro" and "futuristic" without batting an eye. It's aggressive guitar music that's "punk" in its DIY manic quality, but with an aesthetic that's much closer to the late 60s and early 70s. To my ears, Meercaz is one of the handful of things in recent years that matches what I think modern rock music SHOULD sound like (and rarely does).

(Ed's listening aids: bongloads of good bud & leaf leftovers, half mini-bottle of Mexican tequila, cheap red wine, VHS of Invasion of the Bee Girls [1973 flick w/ biker fave William Smith & big-bosomed Anitra Ford] on TV w/ sound turned down.)

1. "Legend": Clangin' feel-good neo-proto-punk (?!) that sounds like some long-rumored unreleased "pop" track from the first Stooges LP.
2. "Lovesick": Big flyin' wedges of guitar-riff abandon--testosterone power rush--"Portland New Wave Night 1972" (listed as one of Mozz's influences at myspace.com/meercaz. Other influences: "Andy Warhol's Bad Hair [not the musical] 200 Motels Target and old school VCA video Old Britain"). This was the flip side of the 2007 Meercaz single.
3. "Future News": Noisy strychnine-laced fuzzkill instrumental w/ freestyle lead stuff and synth stings hovering throughout.
4. "Manic Mirror": Primitive (and yeah, I'll do the quotes again) "pop" that has a totally DESTROYED London '65/'66 vibe--even intelligible vocals unlike many Meercaz "tunes."
5. "Fan Of A Daze": Extremely listenable instrumental that does "actually" (pardon my french) come on like Muzz's hairstyle predecessor, Mr. Hendrix. Of course it sounds more like a loop of a Jimi lick--beautifully repetitive and aggressive even in its casual lope. Hot stuff!
6. "Unlust": THE hit single of 2007 in Slippy Town! Only 200 pressed, though, so you are welcome from Gulcher Records for its inclusion here. It's a frantic rocker so simple and brief that it leaves you instantly wanting MORE! Well, here it is surrounded by lots MORE!
7. "Nothing": Kinda sub-Hawkwind twiddlin' & riffin' in a way nice manner, while the "song" has all the brain power of David Peel or the early Stooges. GRUNT!
8. "Troubled Hand": In some dimensions, this IS "Louie Louie"--crazy, primitive, spacey--rock & also roll--not to mention a funky bass line . . . and OH MAN THAT GUITAR! GOJOHNNYGONE! Don't you wish you were listening to "Louie Louie" in THAT dimension right now? Me gotta go--- [fade on synth in mad-robot setting]
9. "She Piece": Chunky stew, man. How many modern heavy groups use tambourines? I can count to 1 . . . meet Meercaz, suckers! Ooh, that guitar thing--like the Byrds on steroids! And then the long break-down/out . . .
10. "Defeated At Home": And finally--WOW--it's flower pop (no quotes!), albeit still surrounded by the trademark Meercaz mud. Sit on the floor 'n cross yr legs 'n pass that thang, brutha. Zonnnnnne.

Get it!
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La Luba Mia (Old Gold) CDR $6

Here's a fine collection of noise rock, deep hover, and free clang by Steve Pomberg, John Armstrong, Marshall Avett, and Ben Young, recorded 1994-2003. Great cover photo. Limited edition of 50 copies.