Science Experiment Licks, 2003

Times change: I’d now take Tom Hamilton and pals over Themselves. Art fades: I see no trace of the middle one anywhere on the Internet.

Moon cacti are all the rage this winter!


For an hour and 40 minutes randomly divided into 15 tracks over two discs, keyboardist Hamilton and multi-instrumentalist “sound fingerpainter” Margolis seemingly leave power tools running behind editor Silverton, whose bored recitation of Robert Ashley/Firesign Theater/Tristan Tzara-absurd stories comes off utterly smug. But he knows you know he’s smug, which somehow makes him less insufferable, at least when the whirrs and blurs and static threaten to drown him out. His wiseguy bullshit is impolite enough to amuse, though. He loves pervy multisyllabics; he claims inspiration from Proctology Today; he says “underdog” about 40 times; he insists, “This is poetry, not some goddamn seed catalog”; he mentions the war once so “now maybe people will stop calling me an art-for-art’s-sake fop.” Then on Disc Two, he gives his partners room to record traffic-jam documentaries, reverberate like Emergency Broadcasting System signals, bellow like sperm whales, and roar like elephants in an interstellar bowling alley.

FFEJ The Product

This analog-synthing associate of the oddly unboring Sonicball Seattle Music Collective seems less aware than Mike Silverton that his smugly spoken beatnik malarkey is either smug or malarkey. That makes him less detached, but also cornier and more mundane—he piles on old news about spurned love, seasonal change, space travel, and shitty parties, not to mention an unbearably Jello Biafra-like word-association test. His vocals go dead when he tries to rap, but when his proto-industrial noisebeat brew pushes toward spazzy garage punk, he almost sounds like he’s trying to sing, which helps. One cut has a Sabbath riff, the ones without lyrics are somewhat pretty, and the statement of purpose about making machines out of obsolete garbage should be a single. Folk wisdom: “A song can try to get you dancin’, but it don’t work like hot coals.”

THEMSELVES The No Music of Aiff’s . . . The No Music, Remixed

In which sundry in-house crazies and out-house loonies (from drill’n’bass glitcher Hrvatski to bashful Kraut-rockers the Notwist) pinpoint the fragility hidden in one of undie post-rap imprint Anticon’s more beat-embracing albums. And though “post-rap” there frequently means “nonsense poetry read aloud while rhythms and voices smudge into a puddle of dub ambience,” it still makes both the two art-wanks reviewed above and most of the humorless tedium passing for alternative hip-hop feel clinical in comparison. Japanese koto approximations and a spiel about getting hit by a car in Idaho stand out. But the tour de force is more likely the seven-minute montage that closes the set with a chamber quartet scritching in a suburban library while somebody babbles about Map-Making Contests Along The Railroad Tracks, Then Confesses He’s A Drug Addict.

Village Voice, 30 December 2003

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