ZZZ’s | Invidia

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So at the ZZZ’s show the other day I thought I was buying a pre-Prescription demo, but it’s a whole new EP with zero press, so…why not get the jump on everyone else for a change? It’s like old timez.

I never got around to reviewing Prescription…other people reviewed it right? RIGHT?! Holy shit. I think maybe it was only reviewed by blogs that deleted themselves. Stop it with that. This is important.

ZZZ’s are fuckin’ COOL. At some point, many bands’ greatest fear became “trying to look cool” and they in fact did not achieve it. So many boring shows and ugly records, who cares? You can take anything too far, including not taking things Too Far. What is the point if it’s not far enough?

I think the most I’ve said about this band was that their 2nd release, Magnetica, was not as good as the first one. (Which the band retweeted. Not a great start for me.) I’m not sure I take it back or that this new one is better, but I get where they are coming from now. They’re calling all of their releases demos so far, and the physical releases (this one is my first) are very uniquely packaged but self-made CDRs. They seem to be showing off different aspects of what they do. Live it’s pretty seamless; they start with minimalistic, trance-inducing grooves and end with early-Sonic Youth noise-churn guitar freakouts. When they get into a groove it’s like Industrial without the machines which is like Krautrock without the light-heartedness which is like…something.

I just thought of them as a noise rock band, more fashionable than most perhaps. But only Prescription fits that. They are describing themselves now as “Post-punk/No Wave”. I’ve always thought of those terms more describing an era of music more than a style or genre, but it seems to be the thing to do lately. Most of the bands doing this don’t do much for me, tho. It’s usually too slavishly copying the sounds of those bands, but ZZZ’s get into more of the spirit. That’s what Magnetica was about. They abandoned the hooks and did the No Wave uptempo chaotic thing. This new one is “Post”. Which is really pre-descent into permanent self-parody Goth. Yes. But don’t let that frighten you, my friend. Let that free you. Come with me.

For a while now, capital-G Goth has just been about dressing up and going on cruises and group trips to Disneyland. No thanks. ZZZ’s are not about that. ZZZ’s are cool. Old School Cool. They are essentially the musical equivalent of this picture of Meiko Kaji. The backward accusing glance, vaguely threatening, maybe not so vague, the mysterious corridor; lotta black. Monochromatic. Reverberant. Plus the drummer even wears a big hat. (For most of their performance. It’s eventually flung off via the inevitable thrashing, but there’s a slow build. It’s all about tension.) I think the g-word is still a good descriptor but you can’t blame people from avoiding association with such a campy sub-culture if they’re not about it. But all-black dresses with gauzy sleeves and ankhs is kinda goth. It can be said.

So, I like this record a lot. It could be the soundtrack to a horror movie that takes place entirely in a dark, wet basement. Where nothing violent happens. It’s psychological horror. Horror isn’t the right word. It’s slow, it’s spooky…it’s goth…goth is the right word, I’m sorry. But I’m not sorry.

I think an unfair comparison might be that they are the goth eX-Girl. Really I’m sure that’s a good comparison, but someone might think it’s unfair, “just because they are a trio of Japanese girls”. Well, they also deal in noisy atonal guitar parts, unique song structures, weird 3-part harmonies, tribal drumming (whole songs go by with nary a snare hit), indecipherable lyrics sung in counterpoint, prominent distorted bass; that’s everything about both these bands. But it’s possible they never heard eX-Girl. The feeling is totally different.

I especially like the bass player’s sound. I took a peek at her pedal set-up (relax) and I should have taken a picture (please) but she seems to be running it through a harmonizer and then through distortion. I forget exactly, but they were modern pedals. It’s a pretty unique setup as far as I know. Funny that J-bands are always accused of copying the sound of a particular genre, but missing the underlying point of it. I actually find the hit-or-miss ratio pretty similar with that of Western bands.

I’m also tempted to compare them to Sleater-Kinney and even more, Cake Like, esp. for the counterpoint thing, which I love. But those bands are further off the mark. The former is earnest and the latter ironic; this band is neither. They are not speaking personal/political truths or taking a clever reactionary stance against other bands. It’s more about constructing a fiction. Gothic fiction, I guess. Give it a chance. It’s not about like, vampires. I’m not sure what’s it’s about except maybe depression, angst, dread, that kinda gothic. Plus they do a lot of the ‘one of them is deadpanning it and the other one is agitated’ thing, but they’re singing about the same experience. Perhaps different forms of PSTD.

The real piece on here is 26/27, which you can easily hear if you google “ZZZ’s Invidia”, but I’m not sure I should post it here. You can hear the whole thing. Yet they haven’t put record on bandcamp or for sale anywhere. This review is totally promotional! Should I get paid for this? I did not get the thing for free. Whatever, just get it when it goes up if you care about that kind of thing. I hope you care about that kind of thing. I care about that kind of thing. I’m just writing this to tell you, the people that care about these things, who are the people that I care about, that this is one of those things you should care about. Are we clear on that? Fine.

So the only really intelligible words in this song are “Boom/Crash/Bam/Bang/What a day/Oh, what a day”. There’s more but I don’t feel print and/or guessing does it justice. I’m assuring you it’s a compelling work but I’m starting to think I might be sounding like a crazy person. Well, I’m not gonna let that bother me. This band might be crazy. Did I mention the guitarist seems to be playing only with her middle finger? I didn’t. She does? I think she does. Maybe she was giving me the finger. They started following me on twitter. I’m a little afraid tbh. It’s a good feeling. I want that in a band.

Anyway, It’s a fine way to end the EP, but then there’s a very anticlimatic instrumental. It’s got a pretty cool ambiance to to it actually. There’s like some drills and a TV in the background, with the skeletal guitar skittering around and the toms thudding. Actually it’s a nice coda. When they put all these pieces together into a full-length it should be Very Cool. %

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V/A | Female Fronted Heavy Metal: 1976-1989

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So I wrote a few reviews of internet mixtapes some of which after they weren’t available for download anymore. Who knows why I do things? Well, here is a massive multi-volume offering that as of this writing you can actually hear for yourself.

I argue this project is actually more essential than the one that inspired it: Kangnave’s Reference of Female Fronted Punk. (Also amazingly still available, but get on it quick if you haven’t.) Punk is hardly gender-balanced performer-wise, but much more so than Metal, and besides, there’s nothing conceptually about Punk to exclude women, where Metal is commonly seen as realm of the Manly Man and/or the Womanly Man. Often the female voice, when present, is in the form of a backup singer who isn’t even in the band. Recently, we’ve seen Female-led Metal bands like Arch Enemy become hugely successful (in Europe), but it’s important to remember they’ve existed almost since the birth of the genre.

Over a period of a few years (2010-13) the Female Fronted Heavy Metal blogspot added volume after volume to the series, reaching 15 in all. It seems safe to say the project is complete. I’m not sure if it’s fully exhausted every single example because I’m not prepared to do dig further than guy has (it was a guy), but looking for full albums by some of these bands I really like will be work enough for me.

I’m tempted to run down all my favorites but I’ll be here all night. And what’s the point? You’ll find a lot to like yourself, if what you like is Metal. I’m mostly interested in the Japanese bands, I think none of which I had heard of before. Guy’s crawling all-Japanese message boards to find these. There’s even a Korean band. (Only a handful of the American bands were familiar to me: Leather, Bitch, Crisis, 45 Grave, Warlock/Doro, Girlschool, and of course, Heart.) I have mostly gone for stuff from the 90s and later in my general Metal listening (except for the big obvious bands), but the genre gets murky or extreme (if you go for the latter, highly recommend the Hymns to the Dead Goddess podcast). A lot of this old stuff is pretty good. If you’re a fan of the Fenriz mixes, or you’re just…old, you know there’s a lot of good, obscure stuff from the era. (There may even be some overlap.) But some of these bands are really forgotten. Some of the people in these bands probably forgot. This is a public service right here.

The sound quality is decent until disc 8. It’s not all lo-fi after that, but there’s some deep, deep cuts. Vinyl and cassette rips, some warped, some live bootlegs of bands probably formerly only rumored to have existed. Rehearsal tapes? There really should be a book.

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Numerical Notation: A Minor Threat

Minor_Threat_-_Out_of_Step Hoo boy. Year of the Sheep, right? Some people only seem to notice when it’s a “cool” animal like a dragon or a snake. We have a name for these people: DILETTANTES. There’s nothing cool about sheep, except this Minor Threat cover, so get used to seeing that I guess. But wait, it’s the Year of the Ram, isn’t it? Rams are cool. What with the head-butting and…that’s it. It’s enough. Give rams a chance. Or goats, who cares.

But I’m not here to review Minor Threat. Or talk about astrology. I’ve listened to enough Minor Threat for a lifetime (since I bought the Complete Discography on CD, in 2006) and it’s unlikely to make it back in rotation, unlike the Chinese Zodiac which repeats every twelve years…of course.

Forget all this happened.

Shit, that’s still the title isn’t it. Look, I’m gonna explain.

I’ve made a system of numerical notation. I call it Numerical Notation. The notes of the chromatic scale are given the number 0-11, starting with A.

In this system, if you care about the Modes (which you should, if you care about why there is a lettered system) the Aeolian mode, or A Minor, is the base scale, not C Major(the Ionian). It’s debatable that A Minor was historically, originally the more important. I think it sounds better. That’s not important. The important thing is to make this a non-vague point. Because I have noticed some other examples using notes for numbers starting with C as 0. I even said in earlier posts that you might as well do this if it makes more sense, but it doesn’t, in the big picture, and I’m gonna make the case that this is not some kind of arbitrary nerd bullshit dicking-around.

Here we are then with example one:

The sharp/flat system has been primarily designed for use in the major/minor system; when speaking modally, it’s a lotta look, to quote a famous fashion designer. All the flats and sharps tend to obscure the simplicity […] We need a different system of talking about melody. If C is assigned the number 0, C# the number 1, all the way up to B = 11, we can study the system numerically, and also universally, as any tonic can be assumed. Zero can just as easily be G#, or E. Also, since the tonic can never change by our definition, it’s not necessary to include it. Here’s an example to show what I’m talking about.

C Mixolydian is C D E F G A Bb C. If we assume that C = 0, and continue from there, then C Mixolydian can also be described as 0 2 4 5 7 9 10 12.

This post is excellent and you should read the whole thing. I should read the whole thing. The point is that here is someone making essentially the same point as me, naming the notes 0-11 (12=0), but starting with C. (Note that is doesn’t predate my initial posts.) Not saying he stole it, but I also said it was an “open source” idea, which is a pretty dumb way to talk because it is not a computer program. But I guess that can be interpreted as “feel free to steal this idea”. I was drinking a lot at the time. It’s not like you can patent this kind of thing anyway.

But let’s run with the open source concept and say he explained the idea better. I’m gonna bring it back around and explain why it’s easier for everyone if A=0.

But first(second), example two:

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This is from a video that goes on to explain a new type of keyboard layout for an experimental instrument called a Terpestra. Now this is the kind of thing you can patent and even sell. Good luck to him. Again, not saying he stole the idea. Even if he did, can you really expect drop-in citations in a video like this? It’s not relevant who came up with each idea in this kind of presentation. It’s also kind of an obvious idea once it’s out there. Not as obvious as starting with 1 tho.

But it’s about to get even more obvious. Check this out:

A a# B C c# D d# E F f# G g#

 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

C c# D d# E F f# G g# A a# B

Which one of these makes more sense? You might still pick C if you are already trained in music, but how would you explain that to a student? The letters and numbers should be going in the same direction. It’s intuitive.

If you never start, you can never branch out into other things, like the higher concepts these other guys are talking about and the simplest way is the best way to start.

So while you are thinking about all this, here’s a video of GWAR covering the Pet Shop Boys:

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