Turn Up That Noise
An eclectic survey of recent recordings.
Stephen Grimstead, Editor
PantyChrist, PantyChrist (Seeland)
With a name like PantyChrist, there's no doubt that this recorded effort from the unholy trio of Justin Bond, Bob Ostertag, and Otomo Yoshihide contains some strong stuff calculated to offend, and will likely drive the average listener over the edge, screaming to the heavens for it to end. Another telling clue is the fact that this is being released on Seeland, the record label owned and operated by those loveable media terrorists, Negativland. But PantyChrist isn't just noise for noise's sake, as there is a definite (if somewhat twisted) art and sensibility at work here.
Justin Bond (better known for his outrageous alternate persona, Kiki DuRane) has one of those inimitable voices that sounds like Joan Crawford after an acid bath. His catty, yet perceptive monologues are ably supported by electronic sample whiz Bob Ostertag (leader of Say No More, collaborator with John Zorn, the Kronos Quartet, Anthony Braxton, and various fringe dwellers of note), and Otomo Yoshihide (manipulator of turntables and guitar, as well as denizen of the Tokyo noise underground).
The very first track, "Overture," separates the diehards from the wallflowers. Creating a caterwaul not unlike seven different shortwave radios being tuned in and out all at once, this piece gives listeners a good idea of what they're in for. A helpful word to the wise: The squeamish should bail out here. But if one makes it through this difficult five minutes, there are many rewards to be found throughout the remaining 14 cuts on PantyChrist.
Despite initial impressions to the contrary, Bond and company know exactly what they're doing, and some of the noises they make will produce definite physical reactions (some not too pleasant). Yet, throughout it all, there's a very deep vein of humor, even if it is bleak and offensive. The pop-culture references are rampant, running the gamut from the bawdy blues tune "Shave 'Em Dry" to such revered children's classics as The Wizard Of Oz and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs -- with a squawked snippet of the '70s radio hit, "Popcorn," thrown in for good measure!
So if your idea of a good time involves listening to a CD that variously puts one in mind of Jerry Lewis enduring a painful prostate examination, a video game gone haywire, Mister Rogers attempting to find the bright side of hell, an attack of rabid bats, or the modern audio equivalent of Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?, then PantyChrist is for you.
Should all else fail, you can count on PantyChrist to clear the room of any unwanted guests and shut up any fundamentalist Christians who may have stopped by unannounced. As for me, I just get a warm feeling from saying PantyChrist over and over (and no, it's not that kind of warm feeling). -- David D. Duncan
Scotty Moore, The Guitar That Changed The World (Razor & Tie)
Guitarist Scotty Moore's presence alongside Elvis Presley can be described glowingly all through the night and on into a goodly part of the next day, but I think the word indispensable is most applicable, particularly as applied to any assessment of Presley's meteoric early days.
In 1964, Moore elected to get together with players who were mostly seasoned Elvis recording-session/live-date vets to cut The Guitar That Changed The World, an instrumental album of tunes which were, by then, already Elvis classics. (An adjustment in terminology: Technically, I guess this record isn't a true instrumental, since the Jordanaires chime in throughout with sung lyrics, oohs, ahhs, and the like; let's call it instrumentally oriented, with Moore's pioneering lead guitar being featured prominently.)
It will be interesting to see how various sectors react to this reissue. Truly hardcore Elvis fans who don't already own a vintage copy of The Guitar That Changed The World will want the CD in their collections, no questions asked -- simply as a matter of collector's obsessiveness, if nothing else. On the other hand, I'm not certain that fair-weather types will accept a set of Presley songs minus the King (although I highly recommend a rethink on that particular issue, as the creeping spookiness of Elvis' absence here is, in and of itself, worth the price of purchase). Guitar freaks of all manner will be attracted to the recording, if they know what's good for them. Finally, the lingering "exotica" culture should find a use for this somewhat weird music.
A refreshing lack of manufactured angst stands as one of the best of this CD's several cool aspects; there's an awful lot of joy here. Even when things get a bit dark, there's rarely an existential wringing of the hands ("Heartbreak Hotel" being an obvious exception), just a simple acceptance of the fact that melancholia occasionally happens. -- Stephen Grimstead
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