traumatic harmony
the pataphysical study of randomized sound
xex - group:xex

I’ve been trying to think of something intelligent to say about New Jersey’s xex for a while now, but whenever I try it always comes out as a silly aphorism or one-liner. Something about their demented, destroyed electro lends itself more to individual lines than coherent, well though paragraphs. This probably is a result of the lyrics, which are clipped and silly and don’t really need to be deconstructed to understood. When they use limericks to talk about a possible Soviet nerve gas attack, they are in fact talking in limericks about a possible Soviet nerve gas attack. There is probably some element of parody there, a kind of post-Perestroika, pre-Reagan black humor (this music was recorded in 1980 after all) that is making fun of the mere possibility, but I doubt it. The vocal stylings add to this, a combination of Devo’s choppy delivery and the kind of inside-out melodies and alternately male-female singing from early B-52s records. Don’t get me wrong, there is definite social commentary at play in here, as in “Fashion Hurts,” which any girl could probably relate to, and the dark “Cops” that is a pretty straightforward rethinking of 1984. “Cops” is also a good place to segue into talk of the actual music. What’s so incredible about this record is that it sounds much more attune with neue deutsche welle than anything going on on this side of the Atlantic. I mean, you could see this as a logical next step from Q: Are We Not Men or the Screamers, but the connection is definitely more tenuous than, say, DAF or Liaisons Dangereuses. I guess this could also be the fallout (or perhaps pre-history) of much of the New York downtown not-disco scene (I do hear connections between this and Madonna’s first recorded appearance with Otto Von Wernherr from around this same time) or perhaps some early Sugar Hill records (Afrika Bambaataa comes to mind). But this is all speculation. Regardless, the combination of drum machines and synthesizers is just right, with bouncy and unsettling lines that make you want to dance but also cower in fear of the impending nano-machine takeover. 
Artanker Convoy

Jam bands are a strange phenomenon. Well, maybe not that strange. Get a bunch of wanna-be jazz musicians who like rock, funk, and pot in one place, and you’ll get a pretty close approximation of a jam band. They’re a common target of derision for the indie rock world, probably for good reason. I’ll admit to once upon a time (ok, junior and senior years of high school) being a Phish-head who was sad to never get to see the Dead. These days, I decry the fact that a local club has gone from booking punk rock bands to appeasing the Bonaroo and bong water crowd. It’s a sad state of affairs that has me crying myself to sleep on a regular basis. Why, then, do I find the music of Brooklyn’s Artanker Convoy so appealing? Their music probably falls squarely in the realm of vaguely funky, vaguely dancy, vaguely jazzy instrumental rock that all those hippies drool over. You have repetitive riffs, hypnotic grooves, percussive polyrhythms, some instrumental solos, and basically the kind of music that would go really well with a few bowls. If someone were to mention them in the same breath as, say, the New Deal, or any number of other bands whose names I don’t know, I wouldn’t flinch for a moment.

They are fundamentally different from those aforementioned jam bands for one simple reason: Artanker Convoy has a sense of history that allows them to transcend the masses. They’ve listened to and digested Arthur Russell, electric Miles (and not the bands that grew out of it), krautrock, and minimalism. When they groove, you can tell that they’ve done their homework and know where they’re going, not just aurally masturbating over their instruments. They carefully construct each block of music, using each instrument just enough to create a sense of flow and to fill out the space. One could call their sound organic, but I find that adjective to be tarnished by the misuse of reviewers and gushy fans; music should, of course, have a sense of growth and continuity to it, as groove based music is wont to do, but that does not necessarily mean that the music is alive. It is the imperceptible change that makes music organic, not its ability to make you lose your way within it. In C is organic; long funky jam x is not.

The most telling difference, though, is their choice of company. Artanker Convoy could have joined up with any number of funky brethren, but instead chose a label whose other artists are much more out there. How many jam bands that you can think of are labelmates with Gang Gang Dance, Eletroputas, Hall of Fame, and the Icewater Scandal? Implicit in this choice is a clear sense of moving beyond the regular tropes of groove music. They subtly bend the rules of the genre, distending a few notes into something much more drawn out. In that way, they fuse the experimental impulses of their Social Registry colleagues with a more popular/populist overall style. Which is why they can appeal both to punk rockers and jam banders alike. Just a few minutes ago, a self-professed Phish fan from down the hall knocked on my door asking what I was listening to and asking to copy it. Could the Convoy be the band, or one of the bands, to bring together the two (life)styles?


My Photo
Location: Durham, NC

well fenestrated

Albums/Things of the Moment

Gal Costa - Gal
X - Los Angeles/Wild Gift
Steve Reich - Music for 18 Musicians
The Factums - The Sistrum
The Dark Knight
Jay Reatard - Matador 7"s
Sub Pop Singles Club III
Mississippi Records
Byard Lancaster

Radio Waves

lexicon devil
agony shorthand
keeping score at home
something I learned today
deadly tango
her jazz
strange reaction
god and a bottle in me
in case of mishaps
20 jazz funk greats
funky 16 corners
moon sash
mental archipelago
crud crud
just for a day
little hits
everything is fire

Odds and Sods
my old wprb playlists
my reviews on dusted
dusty groove

August 2002 / September 2002 / October 2002 / November 2002 / December 2002 / January 2003 / February 2003 / March 2003 / April 2003 / May 2003 / June 2003 / July 2003 / August 2003 / September 2003 / October 2003 / November 2003 / December 2003 / January 2004 / February 2004 / September 2004 / December 2004 / January 2005 / February 2005 / March 2005 / April 2005 / September 2005 / October 2005 / November 2005 / December 2005 / January 2006 / February 2006 / March 2006 / April 2006 / May 2006 / June 2006 / July 2006 / July 2008 /
all posts before december 2004 are old wprb playlists. I wish I could say I've been blogging that long, but that's simply not the truth.

Powered by Blogger