Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Magik Markers-A PANEGYRIC TO THE THINGS I DO NOT UNDERSTAND CD (Gulcher, visit the group's own site at

Sorry to disappoint (or dissipate?) all you hearty BLOG TO COMM readers who have been anxiously awaiting my typical weekend blowout (calm down, you know what I mean!), but I gotta admit that this past week just wasn't exactly the tops for osmosing a lotta new 'n different music to tell all you anxiously awaiting guppies about! Oh yeah, I know I could just toss out a buncha reviews of some golden oldies I have been spinning constantly over the past seven days (describing in one or more words exactly why I must repeatedly play these disques that have nothing less than a CAMEL CLUTCH on my musical psyche) like the first Roxy Music album and the first two Alice Coopers, but why bore you even more with heaping praise on items I've already written about over and over again when I can bore you with a review of some totally new item? (I'll wait awhile with regards to Roxy and Alice, at least when such writeups'll come off looking fresh!) Howevah, I do feel that it's my personal and God-given DUTY (as a selfless blogger who dedicates his life to making yours better by giving you a taste of my vastly-superior opines, or something like that!) to at least peck out something to keep all you adoring blogpeons in gear, so sans further ado here's something I hope you'll really like!

Still, why should I blog on about the disque in question for today when there is this el fantastico hypesheet out there where none other than old-timey fanzine maniac Eddie Flowers himself said just all there is that has to be said about the Magik Markers, and a lot better'n I ever could for that matter??? 'n lemme tell ya, Mr. Flowers' "review" for this brand-spanking-new Gulcher release is a real honest-to-Meltzer doozy of a promosheet writeup by this longtime fanzine mafia don which only goes to prove that maybe this here guy is definitely one who shouldn't've left the underground rock writing game while way too many galoobs (myself included) stuck around! And if I could only FIND THE BLASTED THING which got lost in my computer somewhere maybe I should just put that onna post and let Flowers' more-descriptive rant speak for itself, but unfortunately I can't locate it anywhere and since I was pretty much gonna say a lotta what he said I'll just say it but in my own words which I only hope I doesn't get me called on the carpet for plagiarism! But I'll try to keep it cool so don't you worry.

Anyhoo here are "thee" Magik Markers, two gals and a boy from Asheville North Carolina of all places who I guess have been making quite a raucous racket for quite some time with this free rock that doesn't sound moderne with all its negative connotations one bit, but nice dark and feral like the best underground hatchet jobs from the sixties and seventies did before the dorkoids discovered you didn't need "chops" to play rock & roll (but you needed brains which seem to be in short supply given alla the leaden and self-indulgent thud these newbies unleashed on us!) and ran it into the ground. But with the Markers you don't have to worry, because for once their rock & roll sounds like what you woulda thought it woulda sounded like back in 1977 hearing the underground singles and all those stories about punk rock just wonderin' what it was gonna end up like thirty years down the line (like...NOW!).

I recall Eddie dragging around the name of Patti Smith's by-now classic (though pretty much loathed at the time) heavy metal opus RADIO ETHIOPIA in his description of the Markers' raison de DESTRUCTION and how he heard the title track on the FM dial nigh on three decades back thinking that it was the wyldest slice of free-music to come outta the rock & roll genre to date yet was disappointed that the entire shebang didn't have that over-the-top pounce 'n feel. Well, the guy said SOMETHING along those lines, but anyway I can see where Eddie is coming from in his appraisal of this new and exciting trio who have a lotta the same free-rock drive and verve that Smith exuded on that epochal sophomoric run, because these Markers certainly take the best of the past forty years of avant rock and cram the cream into their own special brand of free-splat fortunately jettisoning all the tired post-punk Christgau-approved precociousness in the process!

(And lemme tell you that Flowers' hypesheet musings were some of the best rockscreed seen by these eyes in quite some time making me wish that the man had his own blog just so's he could enlighten us lumpen proles with regards to some of the better soundscapading that's been crossing his ears for the past umpteen years...I mean, his accurate description of the Magik Markers' entire modus operandi comes pretty close if not on-target to what Richard Meltzer did in his beautiful dissection of the Smegma sound that can be found on their website if one wants to do a little hard-nerve searching for it!)

I can agree with Mr. Flowers' comparisons regarding the title track from the second Smith slaughterfest and the Magik ones' approach to the hilt, but then again in order to clue you in as to where these people are coming from I would also toss in some of the music that definitely influenced Patti's extended romp way back during the hump of the seventies. The MC5's original soundscreed "Black To Comm" (which Smith admitted was a bonafide "Radio Ethiopia" influence) comes to mind as well (and it's no accident that lead singer/guitarist Elisa Ambroglo moans the names of such MC5 tuneage as "Sister Ann" in her freeform vocalese) not to mention that infamous un-named group (which might be the Richard Robinson/Lenny Kaye/Robert Palmer [?] aggregate entitled "Man Ray") which Kaye and Patti would spin nightly and gab with Palmer on the phone about. (Facts are kinda sketchy at this point as to whether or not this was Man Ray or yet another Kaye assemblage, but read what you can about it in Robert [not the rockabilly guy] Gordon's IT CAME FROM MEMPHIS tome if you can come across a copy!) And if you can't make anything outta the garble I'm writing I don't blame you, but lemme just say that if you have the same sorta jaded outlook as I over what underground rock hath begat and what it is like here in the present day, and you're one of those old-timey buzzards who likes the sound loud, hot 'n atonal like it was in the sixties and seventies when you were just discovering Cap'n Beefheart and NO NEW YORK, A PANEGYRIC TO THE THINGS I DO NOT UNDERSTAND will more'n satiate you because no matter what, these guys sound like they're sixties bohos (in a pure MAHOGANY BRAIN fashion) playing rock bred straight from a Beefheart/Velvets/Godz taproot without that strange sense of pretension?/studiousness??? that seems to have ruined a lotta the blare 'n bleat by the time "do it yourself" became "please, stop doing it!!!!" And really, only a few people can pull something like this off these days and they're usually oldtimers like Meltzer and his Smegmates, so it's nice to see some youngsters being able to make a racket without coming off like trust-funded darlings with their preconceived notions of what this "new music" is supposed to be all about.

I dunno if I've described the music at hand enough in the previous paragraph, but I hope the following will help a bit. There are two tracks here both running about nineteen-plus minutes, and they're both pretty much atonal and almost free-jazz-inspired drifting avant-rock in a Mahogany Brain cum Godz style with Ambroglio's guitar spazzing out as she talks-sings her equally freeform lyrics like a cross between a tranced out Patti and Michel Bulteau. Bassist Leah "Queequeg" Quimby and drummer Pete Nolan do their best NOT to get in the way of Ambroglio's bliss/blitzed-out visionary play and moan with the resultant spew sounding not as much the predictable amerindie tossout that has been so much in demand these past few decades, but more or less as something that would have transpired in some avant garde artist's NYC loft in 1972 (still being too wild for the Mercer Arts Center!) or perhaps a Paris anarchist convention around the same time. Yes, you can tell that, despite their attempts to be current and all, these Magik Markers are totally RETROGARDE which is perhaps the best thing one can be considering how all the good stuff (in the most brain-searingest, aural-destroying way) was done long ago and its better just to revamp the old ravings rather'n be new 'n tiresome, dontcha think?

There's a ltd. ed. CD-R of a live in Asheville gig that Flowers is sellin', and you can bet that as soon as I get my monthly allotment of entertainment money for February I'm sendin' the guy an order with that item smack dab at the top of the list. That is, unless you pesky blogsters beat me to it by buyin' up all of the available copies after glomming this over-the-top-and-running-down-the-side-of-the-hill writeup! Whaddeva, if you're hankerin' for a good ear-wringing and the new garageoids just don't fill the bill...well, Mark(er) my words (euugh!).

1 comment:

Christopher Stigliano said...

Here's the Eddie Flowers writeup on the Markers mentioned earlier (taken straight from his site where you can buy a copy of it if you so desire!):

A Panegyric to the Things I Do Not Understand (Gulcher Records)

So, you know, I was listenin' to the radio back in '76--surprised to hear the title track from Patti Smith's Radio Ethopia, when the LP was brand new and I hadn't got my copy yet. "Radio Ethiopia" (the track) was this amazing surge of pure sonic madness--total free blow-out--and it left my head reeling. Then I heard the full album, otherwise devoid of the free thing--and I was bummed. Well, 30 years later, here's the Magik Markers. This trio sounds like its ABCs of R&R begin with "Radio Ethiopia" + the breathless free-rock orgasm of the Stooges' "L.A. Blues" + the most open moments of the first Godz LP on ESP-Disk. Of course, a zillion other things've come along in the meanwhile. The Magik Markers were bathed in hardcore as young'uns, and they came of age in the wake of the Dead C, Harry Pussy, and a worldwide noise scene that touches any and every other alleged genre. But at the heart of the Magik Markers is something much older: rock and roll. You know, R+R as envisioned down at the pub by Mark Smith & the Fall--except you can't remember the chord changes. Let's twist again like we did the first time we heard Suicide's "Rocket USA." Drummer Pete Nolan can scatter and merge in a way that you could say references Sunny Murray's free breakthroughs with Albert Ayler, but just as often sounds like he could be playing "Louie Louie" in a '65 garage band. Somewhere behind and beneath the clang and dissonance of guitarists Elisa Ambrogio (also vocals) and Leah Quimby (bass axe), I still hear the distorted blurry notes of Paul Burlinson with the Johnny Burnette Trio--the murderous licks of Pat Hare with Howlin' Wolf. And in between: everything from West Coast Quicksilver/Dead/Love to dark heavy Velvets/Zep/Sabbath/PiL. But remember, these young studs take out all the "fancy" stuff: no songs, no scales, nothin' but room--lots of rhythms, tons of sounds and noises (although don't mistake the MMs for a power-electronics assault squad), even a few recognizable English words. Yeah, the words. They seem spontaneous, but offer tantalizing hints at the magik behind the musicians: "You're my American woman. You're my American thighs. It's a dark night in Vegas. It's a dark night in Vegas" . . . "I am not compassionate. I don't like mercy. I will take your life" . . . "It's a shy, arthritic sky" . . . ?! In spite of their punk roots, the Markers' form tends toward extended breakdowns: this disc is divided into two "sides"--two long tracks--the first running to 19:41, and the other is 19:38. No rules is the rule here. For instance, dig the near-acapella section on the first "side"--whistlin', odd voices, clappin', just an occasional rattle or beep--very casual and simple but mesmerizing. Then there's the part on the second "side" where it sounds like everything is moving in outta-focus slow-mo, like after you've drank waytoomuch cough syrup (DXM)--'n yr legs 've turned t' melted, oooozing plastic. But my favorite part (swoon!) is when Elisa begins an erotic gutter-cat rant: "I'm your ramblin' rose . . . I'm your Sister Anne," obvious references to the MC5. Imagine THAT band jammin' with Yoko Ono--and yer about halfway to here. Elisa raves against the torrent of Quimby's roaring feedback and Nolan's exploding skins in an intuitive way that recalls Patti Smith's lost-in-the-whirlpool moments and/or Damo Suzuki's most tongue-driven gestures with Can. Whew. Formed in 2000, the Magik Markers have moved from New England to Kentucky to NYC--who knows where next? They've played around the U.S. and western Europe, including gigs with alt-rock heavies like Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. The trio has released various CDRs and cassettes on their own Arbitrary Signs label, as well as an LP of "early" material for T. Moore's Ecstatic Peace, and CDR releases for Slippy Town, Imvated, and Apostasy. For their first manufactured CD release, the Markers have landed on the Gulcher imprint--it somehow makes sense that this group of out-crowders would end up with the same label that spewed MX-80, the Gizmos, and other weirdos onto an unsuspecting world. The strange thing is this time the world might be paying attention! Ssshhhhhh--pass the peace pipe--turn up the amplifiers.