Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Tales from the 8th Continent



Its been several weeks since we first noticed the 8th Continent Arts Council, the Denton record label/art collective that includes many of the more respected names in Denton music (including members of Undoing of David Wright, Ghosthustler, Chief Death Rage, C!TR, Oveo and more), and in case you haven't checked in with them in a while (or ever), we'll just tell you that they've been up to quite a bit recently.

Aside from releasing several notable EPs and albums, the group is also putting plans together for an October 26th label launch party at Rubber Gloves that will feature original performance art as well as music, videos, and a fully realized narrative that will require audience participation. Additionally, the group will also be hosting a pre-party on October 13th at Secret Headquarters that will feature performances from 8Cac roster members as well as the debut of Ghosthustler's midnight DJ sets at SHQ, which will occur regularly on Saturday nights under the umbrella of 8th Continent. We'll give you more details on all that stuff in the coming weeks, but for now, we thought we'd give you a look at two of the records available for purchase right now on the 8th Continent Arts Council website:


Christian Teenage Runaway- Holy No No: If you believe some of the critiques that have appeared in various comment sections of this blog, it's possible that you've already dismissed CTR as gimmicky, no talent riot grrrl slop-- and frankly, before I played this record for the first time, I really didn't know what to expect from this band either. After all, if what their detractors have said about them turned out to be true (they can't play, they can't write songs, they're all show, they're a big joke), my enjoyment of the band's debut would probably have ended up being theoretical and process focused at best, and completely nonexistent at worst. Don't get me wrong, I like loud, crudely played conceptual noise as much as the next guy who knows more about music than you, but sitting down at home and listening to a "you really need to see them live to understand them" band isn't exactly my style, even though I often appreciate such experiences for reasons unrelated to an album's propensity to compel repeated casual listens. All that being said, after spending some time with Holy No No, CTR's full length debut for 8th Continent, I'm quite convinced that this review doesn't need to include a discussion about music as conceptual art, and I'm certain we aren't going to have to debate the worth of bands who can't play their instruments. Instead, I'll take this opportunity to chuckle at some of the claims of CTR's naysayers, because they clearly have yet to hear this record.

To set the tone right away, it should be said that Christian Teenage Runaway is a far more talented, listenable and interesting band than many have given them credit for. Some of the apprehension surrounding the band is understandable given the chaotic hit-or-miss nature of their live performances, but even a quick listen to this record should quickly convince most listeners of the band's talent and relative accessibility. This isn't to say that Holy No No isn't abrasive, loud and chaotic either (because it is), but it seems important to point out that CTR is far more Raincoats than Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, even if pieces of the latter's harsh influence can be detected throughout the album's brief but exhilarating run.

The first three tracks provide a nice summary of what I'm trying to tell you: things begin with a slow, feedback laden build up into "Piano Harm," one of the noisier and more loosely structured tracks on the record, indicating the band's apparent desire to take the listener on a challenging noise ride right from the start. But "Black Man," the album's second track, lays down a rhythmic post-punk bass line and a bouncy, highly danceable drum beat that recalls British groups like Josef K and Joy Division, while "Nail Polish" comes off as the perfectly imperfect pop song, seemingly running a girl group doo-wop fetish through the blender of dark minimal innocence a la Young Marble Giants.

It is this contrast between sweet innocent pop and rhythm heavy hardcore and post-punk that CTR successfully utilizes throughout the record to add surprises all over the place, from furious hardcore like "Glass Half Poison" to the drum machine driven album closer "Greatest Lengths," a slow, bittersweet love song. The various vocal performances provide perhaps the greatest diversity and many of the major highlights on the record, as well, ranging from two and three part shrieking recalling the Slits to Siouxsie Sioux-like chanting and forceful half melodic half/yelling delivery in the middle. Jumping from style to contrasting style can be tiring when done by less inventive bands, but each and every track here is put together with attention to detail and the kind of instrumental command that you won't find in bands that try to provoke with a lot of bark and a little bite. The stylistic ADD simply adds to the excitement, and the compelling list of influences makes sticking around a necessity.

CTR hasn't reinvented the wheel here, but with a record as fun, challenging and intelligent as Holy No No, they don't have to. The future of the band is apparently up in the air right now, but we can only hope that a group who has made one of the most intense local rock records of the year will find a way to carry on surprising people. --Stonedranger

Electronik Warfare- Real-ize EP:
The Elektronik Warfare "Real-ize" EP might represent the 8th Continent concept executed in it purest and most fully realized form, but it's also a successful example of a live show translating fluidly into a recording with little lost (and perhaps even something gained) in the process. The reason I say this is that so far, in these delicate beginning stages of the council's infancy, they have had or been readying projects that might have found life elsewhere, including the MP3 issue of the Meat Helmets' complete recorded work, the nearly posthumous C!TR debut, and even work from EW founder Andrew Michael's other project Oveo. This isn't to understate the importance of the group effort required to release, distribute, or bring awareness to all these other projects, and in fact, it's a wonder that 8CAC spokesperson (or as he prefers, "mouthpiece") Lars Larsen can even keep up with it all, given his involvement in other high-profile projects The Undoing Of David Wright and War Wizards. It's just that EW's debut is the first 8th Continent release that was intended to be so from it's infancy, thus providing a preview of the kind of sounds, packaging and marketing that the council may have planned for future intra-artist projects.

The best collaborations shouldn't merely highlight the strengths of the participants, but also challenge the artists to work outside the safety net of their respective strengths. In EW, Andrew Michael seems to have pushed (not necessarily by force, but more as a creative catalyst) Larsen to work outside of his often-assumed role: that of the bold and taunting front-man, screeching at the audience through a distorted screen to emphasize his projected alienation to an uncomfortable degree. This isn't to say that the EP doesn't find Larsen doing his fair share of what he's known for in TUODW and War Wizards, but it's still pretty strange to hear him almost crooning, as on the EP's memorable title track, like (as Larsen tells me) Wall Of Voodoo singer Stan Ridgway, or perhaps Ian Curtis on that alternate version of "Love Will Tear Us Apart" where he admittedly rips off Sinatra. It's great to hear Larsen stretching out his vocal abilities, sure, but it would be a mistake to paint him as the lazy lead singer sauntering in to casually top off the sweat and toil of his fellow musicians, given his production work in EW, a project that initially started as a beat-driven solo project by Andrew Michael.

The opposite result of Larsen subduing his iconic technique can also be found on the EP, as the vocalist's influence and sonic stamp do make themselves known almost immediately. The opening track "Requiem" sees its mournfully romantic live interpretation replaced with the bombast of machine-gun fire shifting in and out of digital manipulation in an uncomfortably literal symbol of "Electronik Warfare" worthy of 70's Floydian sound effects (although one should never fault an artist for "truth in advertising"). From the moment these warning shots are fired, Lars takes a more obvious role as producer, utilizing tactics such as the extremely effective double and triple looping of Andrew Michael's synth-generated basslines and exhuming the exoskeleton of a Korg-generated beat before reworking it into the final product, transformed with the aid of a sample library.

While Lars has done a lot of the grunt work adding sonic flourishes, Andrew Michael has pulled off the rare feat of writing socially conscious and culturally critical lyrics to seamlessly mesh with music that's entirely danceable without being crushed under the weight of preachy preciousness or dissipating into empty sloganeering. Electronik Warfare comments on heavy topics such as hyper-consumerism and prepackaged ideas of reality, but tempers it with a bratty electronic crunch reminiscent of Cabaret Voltaire or Industrial icons Nitzer Ebb. The duo should be proud of having produced something undeniably harsh enough to move the noise hungry crowd at Tinnitus but still danceable enough to mix perfectly into some trashy Sunday night at The Church without sounding as painfully dated or obvious as other Industrial night fare.

The "Real-ize" EP is a short, lean and complete byproduct of the ebb and flow of ideas oozing from the strength of artistic union under the 8th Continent Arts Council banner, including the unsettling and contrast-soaked technicolor abortions of visual artist, Heather Heitman. Overall, the project is a glowing example of the group's abilities, and one can only wonder what else they are capable of-- musically, visually and otherwise. --Defensive Listening

18 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cool!

2:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard c e re boso is doing a Thing on that stuff.

5:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Definitely some of the best shit going on around here. Good article DL.

6:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, I meant SR AND DL

6:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh, and now I have this song stuck in my head.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkGOxMyy55c

I blame that on this article and on that new spoon song "the ghost of you lingers".

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKmgUdRAzxQ

6:10 AM  
Blogger Foodie said...

Ladies, thanks for thoughtful and encouraging reviews.

7:13 AM  
Blogger Lars said...

we are definitely interested in working w/ c e re boso. he's making a CD, but it might be a few months before it's finished.

thank you for the reviews, guys.

don't forget the site: 8cac.net

it's still in prototype phase, but when complete, we're hoping it will be a very useful tool not just for us, but for anyone in the community interested in more organized collaborative efforts.

10:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is pretty great.

10:44 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Very cool stuff. I figured most of these artists collaborated pretty regularly anyway, but I'm interested to see what a more structured approach will bring. Good luck!

12:26 PM  
Anonymous tystamp said...

the CTR record is a huuuuuge fucking suprise. i think it's an excellent record. the sound is delicious.

2:52 PM  
Anonymous pisstress said...

electronik

4:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

its good to see 8cac getting some recognition for what their doing.

6:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hahaha...that spoon song does sound exactly like "runaway"...

11:43 PM  
Blogger The IMG said...

You have managed to give me exactly what I wanted. Thanx!!!

11:57 PM  
Blogger The IMG said...

...love these!!!

11:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

suck a d. larsen dick off

3:47 PM  
Blogger Lars said...

no thanks, 3:47.

4:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

goddamn dude. overwhelmingly amazing.

8:26 PM  

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