This LP (well I have a CD-r version) unites two of the weirdest of North-eastern weirdos, ID M Theft Able and Cave Bears. Feeding Tube records, a certifiable weirdo in its own right which is also responsible for the best youtube channel ever (!), put it out.
Believe it or not, I’d never heard any of ID M Theft Able’s stuff before so needless to say I was excited to see what the hubbub was about. I have to say it surpasses my expectations (though I’m not sure what I actually “expected.”) Anyhow, his side is split into 5 tracks, the first being a short one balancing recordings of kids singing “If You’re Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands” or whatever that song is called with eerie organ and crooning. The second track features all manners of percussive, noisy sounds with unintelligible vocals. It’s bizarre, cut-up shit but the dude’s pulling from so many places (samples of someone slurping, a field recording of a jungle?) that you can’t help but get into the madman energy. Plus there’s a recording of a drunken person calling someone a “jackass!” which makes me laugh pretty hard. The track returns often to a sample of what sounds like coins dropping and a haggard croon. Some sections capture the dynamics of aggressive harsh noise without completely drenching everything in distortion. Composing with such strange source material gives ID M’s music a much different, unique texture. It’s not just the source material though, it’s the skill with which he wields it that makes his work stand out. The third jam has gotta be the LPs single. It’s a weird little fucker that grooves relentlessly on a synth/percussion loop with strange samples and a croaking Tom Waits-ish voice (I’m guessing this is ID M himself) that’s making all the ladies swoon with his deep, soulful vowels. So damn weird but totally addictive. The next track is reminiscent of the second one but maybe a little sparser at times and at others indulges in more of the harsh noise vibes without getting too busy for a few plucked guitar/banjo notes here and there. The jowly grunts make another creepy appearance around halfway through over a short lived but strangely normal arrangement. Of course the track the veers back into sonic psychosis. The thing I dig about it though is it has a very, very loose verse/chorus structure. It’s not a pop song by any stretch of the imagination, but different segments that happened previously show up later. The final track messes around with slicing/dicing drum programming over a loop of mellow feedback. It’s actually pretty scaled back considering the audio onslaught that just occurred over the previous 15 minutes. It’s a nice respite though to end on a vaguely standard percussion+melody+voice-style piece. Dude’s got a great sense of proportion, what can I say. I don’t know how this stuff stacks up to his other work but I can say this is pretty damn good and I’m kinda bummed I wasted all this time not checking out his stuff. Really weird and really dense, and by the way has this guy had anything on Ultra Eczema yet?
Cave Bears turn in a 20 minute live recording called “Germicide” (EDIT: just discovered through some googling that this set consists entirely of Germs covers--hence the title--which is fuckin' rad as hell though I'll be damned if I can recognize any of them.) After the first song a riotous, scatterbrained guitar/drums/vox assault, which is around a minute twenty, the band says they’re done and a priceless moment occurs when an audience member exclaims “That’s it!? That’s all!?!!” in disbelief with a hint of feeling like the victim of unthinkable betrayal. Luckily Cave Bears continue on, eventually, after a long bout of amp hum and people shuffling around they get started, sort of. Nonsensical, slurred vocals eventually take the lead over a slippery snare drum and occasional input from guitar. There’s a great oddball guitar solo in there as well. Cave Bears seem to push rock music about as far as it will go while still being categorize-able as rock music. Their “pop” songs have a weirdly amorphous quality where the songs move in a general direction but each of the instruments kinda bobs and weaves in it’s own way down the same path. It’s surprisingly listenable cause most of the bands that go for the non-pop music thing just end up making shitty pop music. It’s also amorphous in the way that (besides the initial song) the other songs just kind of stretch and blur seamlessly or organically into the next ramshackle stomp. I wonder what it’s like to see these guys play with the relentlessly buoyant drummer, the angular skronk mechanics of the guitarist and whoever is doing the blank, sloshed vocals. Each element seems in it’s own world at times which weirdly makes sense in the all-enveloping Cave Bears world they’re playing in so I wonder how that essence manifests itself in the physical world.
This tape entitled Jazz Hands is one of the many CB cassettes put out on their label Serf Released. This tape is really anything-goes with the only possible guideline being the material must be recorded on degraded tape. In the first piece there’s weird disco or techno or something mixed alongside drum solos and jazzy guitar chords all shrouded in a perma-static blanket. The second piece is only a minute long but touches on slow piano pieces and frantic drum machine programming. The third piece has a bit of an ID M Theft Able vibe with scrambled, gnarled tape noise and frenetic rhythmic wrecks. The track moves between searing, noisy sections, mellow slowed tape loop segments and other parts with a vigorous drummer pounding away excitedly. A bit of a live recording is spliced in there. What I appreciate about a lot of the bands in New England is that you never really know what the hell you’ll hear next. Don’t know if it’s something in the seafood or what but nothing is off-limits for these people and more often than not it’s pretty good stuff. This piece moves into a killer nearly hypnotic section before segueing into broken down sing-alongs and split second clips of R&B. I love the next piece (these are just “pieces” as I determine them, there’s no tracklist) which is a recording a little over a minute of some small accordion-led ensemble. It’s steeped in grainy static and I literally don’t know where they found it but it provides a fleeting, melodic lilt in the middle of tape; an excellent choice to include it. The next piece consists of a series of screams that I don’t much care for at first but around halfway through something begins to accompany the screams though everything is so blown out and fuzzy I really can’t say what it is. Despite that though it gives the jam a strong rhythmic presence. The next one is a really fuckin’ zonked (due to pitch shifting) banjo and voice duet that I guess would qualify as a ballad, barely. I like an odd little keyboard piece that pops in the second half that segues into Forbbiden Planet-ish spaced out synth warbles. Next piece ends up with a jaunty little banjo-led ditty which yields to the wild noise and cheers of the second half. The next piece underneath all the warped electronics is a couple of acoustic instruments and a stereo playing Texan blues. The tape closes with a repetition of a 4-second loop of free jazz. The flipside has also blown out, also awesome foreign-language pop music that ranges just about every badass popular musical form from 50s rock n’ roll to Tex-mex(!). I have no idea who the band is but it sounds like something from Asia, maybe Thailand, but it’s seriously pretty fucking awesome. Even if you can’t get into the Bears’ loopiness I guaran-goddamn-tee you you’d love this stuff. Total bonus.
So yeah, in conclusion, Jazz Hands is a weird fucking tape but quite charming overall. It’s what you might expect from a band that defines songwriting as “a collaboration between tape and a magnet” (one of the few revealing nuggets I dug up on their website which is as befuddling as their music)
Both items are still available and look amazing!