DG-307-HYSTORIE/HYSTERIE 2-CD set (Guerilla Records, Czech Republic)
Those of you who barfed over my Umela Hmota II review a few weeks ago will be sure to barf over this one. Springing forth from the same creative Prague underground that gave us the likes of the Plastic People, the aforementioned Uh II (as well as Uh III and just plain ol' Umela Hmota) and a number of bands I hope will be belatededly deified more sooner than later, Dg. 307 were "thee" group on this rather fertile scene that certainly pushed whatever cutting edge buttons were there to be pushed, and in one of the more oppressive political climates of the twentieth century to boot! Dg. 307 (name taken from the clinical code mistakenly believed by the band to refer to "schizophrenia," something which I'm sure that more than one member of this entorauge must have been diagnosed as) were more or less an aggregate than a band, co-led by Pavel Zajicek and Milan Hlavsa (who I believe was in an early incarnation of the Plastic People), and for a buncha longhaired upstart teenage PUNKS (in the purest CREEM sense) they really cut to the core of a true youth against oppression anti-government rebellion with their unique (and some might say "trying") rock music featuring the bizarre instrumentation of, besides the usual rock gtr/bs/drms lineup, cellos plucked as guitars, auto exhausts/mufflers banged or blown through, scrap and sheet metal used to their sonic capacities as well as busting balloons, moaning human voices and whatever else Dg. 307 could get their hands on. However, these guys were far from being yet another Familiar Ugly, Redness or Einsturzende Neubauten given that in many ways they were more extreme than any of their Western compatriots and paid for their over-the-top soundscapading in a big way.
When the Czech government, after years of just plain ol' harrassment of free-minded kids and their bands at concerts and private digs began their purge against the underground in earnest during the late-seventies, amongst those rounded up and given hard labor prison time was Zajicek, the crime being more or less creating a public distubance and being a young anarchist which mighta gotten him sneered at in the west, but things were much different in a world where the government tried to protect people from themselves. When the official organ of the Czechoslovakian Communist Party reported on the harsh sentences handed down (the ones that also made the Plastic People of the Universe cause celebre amongst many of the same people who once lauded communism for its support of the arts), of course the state-sponsored hack reporting on the situation which was beginning to draw western ire just hadda come out for the record and mutter that, despite this heavy-handed crushing of what some may call unbridled creativity (but the Powers That Be find mere snot-nosed hooliganism) the state really is an open-minded and caring about the wants and tastes of its people institution! Yeah, really, and the guy even went on and on about how the benevolent ones who were so aghast at free speech that even the usually communist-leaning NATION magazine was up in arms aren't a buncha pious prigs one bit...heck, they even support a whole batch of young beat groups and disco musicians who perform at various communist youth hoedowns and the like! But only a capitalist paper tiger would think that the "sounds" created by the likes of these "music" combos consisting of nothing but unemployed wasted blights upon the fine face of freckled Czech youth were fit for the fine and cultured tastes of such children of the revolution...OH!!! Besides their obscene lyrics which NO magazine would dare print, these ruffians and drug users were making nothing but a horrifying racket using non-musical devices and glorifying a decadent western vision that certainly clashes with our perfect order...
Really, if you get hold of the book that comes enclosed with the original album version of the Plastic Peoples' EGON BONDY'S HAPPY HEARTS CLUB BANNED, do read these Czech Communist Party press releases dealing with the underground purge. Not only are they a hoot showing just how similar the objections to rock & roll were on both sides of the curtain, but they reveal a not-so-strange sameness in the abject dismissal of creative energies that many an original music high energy group hadda endure at the hands of not only supposed rock fans but many a "critic" during the late-seventies, perhaps the height of local garage band/underground rock energies. After reading these pieces, you too might think that, had the situation been a little different, Anastasia Pantsios herself could have been a commissar of culture over in the Worker's Paradise with little if any effort!
But, thankfully, true rockism righteousnesss did prevail, at least in the former Czechoslovakia to the point where such things as a Dg. 307 2-CD collection of their earliest escapades can exist and leftist ideology is relegated to such unimportant bastions of irrelevance as college campuses, alternative music blogs and American television network programming. And no longer do a bunch of overstuffed bureaucrats have to judge what is permissible or not for public consumption because now we the evil consumer can pick up many easily enough obtainable recordings by their worthy Plastic People, Umela Hmota and now Dg. 307! And hey, if you know the Czech language and want to condemn them for their obscene lyrics go ahead...as for me I'm too busy osmosing to their underground rock splatter complete with twisted takes on everything from John Cage's "First Construction in Metal" to fifties rock riffage slowed down and inverted complete with some of the best clatter to get laid onto tape, thanks to the clandestine spies and photographers who documented all this chicanery in the first place!
Much better than the later (late-seventies on) Dg. 307 tuneage (which was extremely staid and stilted, perhaps due to the ultra-depressing nature of the Big Clampdown and with too much of the "message" depending on their native tongue for furriners like myself to comprehend), HYSTORIE/HYSTERIE features not only most of the material that ended up on their early-nineties Globus album but loads more live trackage recorded at concerts that I'm sure more than a few people would have compared to "happenings." Most of this is gruffly-shouted (by Zajicek) vocalese with a heavily percussive rhythmic backing aided by the clanking found objects and thumping bass guitar or perhaps chanted vocals and nothing but. In some ways this is also similar to famed Maoist Cornelius Cardew's "The Great Learning" which the Scratch Orchestra recorded in the early-seventies, though when you least expect it there may be some electric guitar (perhaps played by Alfred of Umela Hmota doing a little moonlighting) tossed in to add a little Velvet Underground feedback wail. Definitely an acquired taste (I can see one blogmeister, upon hearing it, relegating the entire spew into the same trashcan he callously flung the Plastic People and Von Lmo into), but I can understand the pain, anguish and (yes) rock & roll that went into this music recorded under the iron fist of a government that always spoke of compassion, equality and fairness for its subjects, so you KNOW something evil is amiss! Definitely a classic of Czech underground music that should appeal to the more, er, noisily-inclined amongst us.
Gold Sparkle Trio with Ken Vandermark-BROOKLYN CANTOS CD (Squealer)
Another one of those new avant jazz groups I missed back when Dee Pop was presenting that great Freestyle Jazz series at the CBGB Lounge, the Gold Sparkle Trio (with Ken Vandermark helping out on additional woodwinds) play a fairly good free sprawl slightly influenced by the sixties groundbreakers yet with enough seventies loft intensity to jar me out of my complacency. Might be too slick in spots but at least I enjoyed the unique take of the Revolutionary Ensemble's "The People's Republic" albeit without the African percussive/chant opening. Another reason for me to believe that CBGB was/is much more than a place resting on late-seventies laurels and nth-rate bands rehashing the original spirit for all eternity.
Friday, December 30, 2005
DG-307-HYSTORIE/HYSTERIE 2-CD set (Guerilla Records, Czech Republic)