ABC No Rio was a performance space and community center in New York City’s Lower East Side. The place was known as a gathering place for left-wing activists and as a center for hardcore punk. It felt dangerous in there, as if the building might topple down while kids jumped around and bands screeched. Indeed, its performance activities went on hold when the building was torn down in 2016. It’s probably a luxury apartment building now. My fondest ABC memory: one of my very favorite bands, Borbetomagus, played their last NY show before guitarist/maniac Donald Miller moved to New Orleans. It was wild! Such an intimate space with a real punk vibe and an audience of mostly family and friends. They were astounding, as they always are and always continue to be. For an encore, tenor sax hero Blaise Siwula (who booked a series of “improv” music events there) sat in and made Borbeto a quartet.
This recording preserves for posterity a trio performance by Siwula, Miller, and percussionist Matt Hannafin at ABC No Rio on November 23rd, 2003 and hoo boy is it a scorcher. Fans who struggle to discern individual contributions from within the Borbetomagus audio-hurricane will enjoy being able to hear every squiggle and clang of Miller‘s guitar. Siwula is a much more conventional (though still excellent) “improv” sax player than either Jim Sauter or Don Deitrich, and Hannafin produces more textures than beats. No idea if this was a regular performing group for awhile, or just a one-off, but I’m glad that this gem is now easily accessible for those who weren’t able to soak in the dank ABC No Rio air in person.
Donald Miller, Blaise Siwula, Matt Hannafin “11-23-03/16:26 (Sixteen Minute Boo-Yah Cataclysm)”
There are many applications that Bandcamp is useful for, but one of my favorites is the preservation of older, obscure music that was published in moribund formats. Active since 1990, the French label Nuit et Brouillard has taken advantage of digital distribution by reissuing older cassettes at their Bandcamp page, and I must extend my gratitude to them for doing so. The label put out some classic tapes by Brume (a long-time favorite artist), Maeror Tri, Big City Orchestra, Fatal Impact and more… but when I think of Nuit et Brouillard, I think of their fine compilations, which really embody the international cassette network of the era and have mostly degraded while biding time in the collections of old goths and trainspotting noise geezers like me. Good on Nuit for dusting ’em off. Two volumes of “Autoplastie” feature industrial gloom by some known artists (Brume, Vox Populi!, Deleted, La Nomenklatur, Pacific 231) and many others who left little trace of their existence (Regard Extreme, Cent ans de Solitude). Other comps are similarly curated with a mix of new (in 1991) artists and those with a following. One quibble: the comps combine several songs into a single track. Wish they’d separated them out. Ah, but a few minutes’ work in an audio editor isn’t too bad a trade-off to be able to hear this stuff in high quality again and support the label while doing so.
Nuit et Brouillard
Big City Orchestra (aka Beck Bird Ostrichea, Bif Cift Ofchxestfa, Pig Shitty Orgestraw, and so on) is an impossibly prolific and marvelously omnivorous band from San Francisco who have been producing whatever-the-heck sort of music/noise they’ve felt like making since the late 1970s and have yet to slow down. Why should they? One of the archetypal “cassette network” bands with an ever-changing line-up, BCO have made more than 230 albums and appeared on probably just as many compilations. Thankfully, the Orchestra’s conductors have taken to Bandcamp to make a massive chunk of their catalog available to all… and most of the albums can be downloaded for just two bucks. Hooray! But where to begin with so many titles to choose from? My advice: start anywhere. You might get a wall of ugly noise, or ominous industrial drones, or densely layered collage… who knows? You can’t really go wrong and at such a low price it’s not much of a financial risk. Just pick an album (or a few) and dive in.
Big City Orchestra
As every child knows, The Dead C. has done more to turn rock n’roll inside out than any other group in the Southern hemisphere. Their staggering, falling-apart-as-you-listen aesthetic remains unique (maybe because no one else could duplicate it, even if they tried to). Guitarist/singer Michael Morley remains very active as a solo artist as well, releasing tapes and LPs under his own name and under the flag of Gate. Where previous decades might have seen him keep most of his experiments and sketchbook-type ideas to himself and perhaps let some of it trickle out on lathe-cut singles and cassette tapes, Morley has recently taken to Bandcamp with a flurry of archival, collaborative (most notably with the filth-encrusted downer smear of The Fuck Chairs), and new music. He’s even released six albums of just bowed acoustic guitar… some containing five hours or more of sound! Sure, it seems as if Morley left some e-bows on the strings, then left the room to prepare himself some breakfast and take a nap, suddenly remembered that he left the recorder running, came back to hit ‘stop’ and immediately uploaded the result to Bandcamp… but so what? I’m into it. Oh, and there’s also a blues album.
If you’re anything like me (and I assume that, if you are reading this, you probably are), then you’ve been a Richard Youngs fan since the dawn of recorded media. Which is ironic, because the self-depricating name of Youngs’ own vanity publishing empire is No Fans Records. He’s made an awful lot of music for all of his no fans since the label began back in 1990, covering a head-spinningly diverse range of sounds from guitar improvisation to abstract noise to lovely songs. It’s an intimidating catalog for the new fan! Luckily, the excellent VHF label (which has released many a slab by Richard over the years, both solo and with frequent collaborator Simon Wickham-Smith) has compiled this “No Fans Compendium” sampler to ease in the noobs. Unluckily, the sampler is 7 CDs long. Yep, seven. I guess a career as prolific and multi-faceted as Youngs’ couldn’t be summarized in a briefer manner without leaving some aspect uncovered. But luckily again, the entire collection is available at VHF’s Bandcamp page for just $20!
Richard Youngs “No Fans Compendium” 7xCD boxset (VHF, US)