Monday, March 30, 2009

Tacklebox


Tacklebox was formed at the end of the fall semester in 1994 when Robert Johnigan, Mark Honnaker and myself left True North over irreconcilable differences. Turned out to be a great decision, which led to two bands that were each better than the original. That’s not to say that either band was particularly great, just that True North wasn’t and I have the incriminating tape to prove it. I’ll have to save the history of True North and it’s demise for another day, as that would be a long and rambling story. Anyway, on to the lost tape of Tacklebox’s Miami Street session and the $150 we still owe the owner.

One of the decisions with the breakup of True North was to allow Tacklebox to take over the designated slot on the upcoming campus CD, sfumato. It was a generous offer from the guys of The Reverend Funk. We jumped at the opportunity and were soon at Miami Street recording “Identifying a Spider’s Web.” It was a fairly layered track with too many guitar parts and probably would have stunk if not for Steve Sostak. Fortunately, he found something in the mix and really turned the song into something decent (Thanks Steve). The song deals with a topic that was a through-line of most of our lyrics – identity. I think this was largely due to me being from the Confederate South and somehow feeling more and more isolated in the Yankee dominated world of South Bend. Could also have been the clich├ęd searching of a young adult trying to find his way in the world. Either way, examining who I was and where I came from was the dominant topic of Tacklebox lyrics and music.

Throughout the remainder of the 1995 spring semester, we continued to write new material and re-work existing material that the guys in True North refused to play. Some of these were recorded in a day and a half at Miami Street in the late spring of 1995. We never did put out an actual tape of these songs. Instead, copies were distributed at random to a very small handful of people. Fortunately, at least one of those 3rd generation dubs still exists and hence this history.


I don’t actually remember a ton about recording at Miami Street, although I’m pretty sure it was overcast. We set up quickly and knocked out as many songs as we could in a day. Most of the parts were recorded separately. We didn’t do anything live in the studio, which you can hear in places. The one thing that sticks out from the session was that we were never able to get the song “Garage Helicopter Umbrella” right, and thus it was never mixed and only lives in our memories. So sad.

After a day in the studio, we headed back for a grueling 4-hour mix. We were incredibly green and leaned heavily on John at Miami St. The one song we were fairly insistent about the sound was “Our Light Bright” – a political song about the budding GLND group and the University’s refusal to recognize them officially. Against John’s wishes, I insisted that we record the guitar really loud and with a bunch of feedback. It’s probably my favorite recorded song by Tacklebox.

At this point, I bet you’re wondering about the missing $150. Well, the band wasn’t making much money so each member of the triumvirate agreed to pay $150 towards the sum for the studio time. I sold plasma to pay my share and buy some PBR. Unfortunately, Mark – the only member with a job – never did go by the studio and pay his share. He kept saying he was going to, but to my knowledge, he never did. I’m still deeply sorry for this and will gladly send John a check if anyone knows his whereabouts.

After the campus CD dropped, Tacklebox pretty much blew up. We played shows in basements and living rooms. Even got to play at Jazzman’s and Club 23 - twice! Pretty amazing. Live, the songs were always played faster and sloppier than the recordings. Fortunately, Robert and Mark were a really good rhythm section and gave the live songs some sense of coherence. That, and the fact that Robert is one of the most fun bass players to watch – ever. I’m sticking to that. That dude from Van Halen had nothing on Robert (although could probably drink him under the table.)

The end of Tacklebox was fairly anti-climactic. We had ambitions to tour with Hace Frio in the summer of 1996. There’s even a little zine/promo piece to boot. Unfortunately, Robert was offered a job at an international corporation and just couldn’t pass up the money. So, we lost our bass player and the will to live. It was a good time and there are plenty of repressed memories to show for it. Long live Tacklebox!

On a side note, we were really lucky to have Rob Adams in our corner. He always pushed us on people and even helped land us a slot opening for the Violent Femmes when they played that dome thing (Stepan Center) way out on the North Campus.

--Chad Shaffler


listen/download:


see also"
Tacklebox on MySpace

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sweep The Leg Johnny - 1995 Demos + Bonus Tracks


(Note: Please see our previous Sweep the Leg Johnny post for a brief disclaimer about the lineup of the band on these recordings and the time period in their history being discussed here.)

When I reminisce on my days with Sweep, I always think of the period immediately after we moved to Chicago from South Bend. By this time, we were refining our sound, making a local name for ourselves, and playing respected venues in the City. I consider this six months the “Golden Age” of Sweep the Leg Johnny. In fairness, I’m sure those members that outlasted me would disagree, and cite their later-released albums as their defining works. But during this period, the band maintained a strong nexus to the South Bend music scene, for we still had many friends at Notre Dame. Although Sweep eventually “outgrew” its South Bend roots, signed with a couple of record labels, and became known as a “Chicago” band, most of the songs on this demo tape were written during our time in South Bend. This is probably the last recorded Sweep work that could claim roots from the South Bend indie rock scene.

Track 1: “Yes, Belmondo, Yes” is a song chronicling Steve’s fandom of Jean Paul Belmondo, a 1960’s French actor and cult icon. This demo starts with Steve’s signature staccato saxophone, followed by the rest of the band mimicking his rhythm. The song continues through a series of rhythmic instrumentation, pauses, starts, stops, and eventually settles into a blues-based groove for the main verses and choruses. Overall, this song is a good representation of the signature Sweep “sound” of this period. Lots of time signature and rhythmic variations mixed with some grooving melody and up and down dynamics.

Track 2: “Abstractions” lulls the listener into a relaxed state before shocking the system with a few bars of distortion. Dynamic variations repeat themselves several times throughout the song before finally settling into a mezzo-forte section that takes us through the song’s end. I always liked the quiet parts where all the instruments are muted except for the percussion. We attempted to simulate the ticking of a clock, and I always thought this made for a terrific ambiance to draw a listener into the song.

Track 3: “Twenty Four”. During the mixing of this song, we were very concerned to get the guitar/bass volume mix just right in the main parts of the song. Of course, no one bothered to go back and listen to the song’s introduction (minor detail overlooked). Regretfully, the guitar is painfully loud in the first moments of the song; however if you make it past this section you are rewarded with a fine mix throughout the rest of the song! In the open chord section immediately after this introduction, I enjoy the echoing interplay between the guitar and the bass. In the midst of everything else being played, these two instruments repeat a phrase back and forth to each other for a pretty cool effect. Sweep also decided to incorporate a couple of tempo changes, at times doing a smooth but dramatic shift from a vivace to an adagio tempo.

Track 4: [Unknown Title]. A plea to readers of this blog: please help us remember the title to this song. While you’re at it, please help me explain what “Action is louder than the catatonic stare of the prime mover, in my shadow...” means. I’m still trying to wrap my brain around that. Lyrical struggles aside; this song has a noticeably darker, more intense feel than the previous songs. The dynamic shifts again take center stage, but are perhaps the most pronounced in this song. The phrases progress from parts almost inaudible to angry and violent distortion. Sostak belts out primordial screams, his timbre removing any doubt of the song’s ferocity. While playing this song, Jim’s limbs and hair would chaotically flail around, abusing all parts of his drum kit. CD painfully communicates his emotional angst, making his guitar roar like a beast and then wail like its wounded victim. The song “unravels” as much as it “ends”... with Chris’ guitar defiantly staggering around the last few measures, unconstrained by any time signature, until nothing is left.

Track 5: “Teach”, as noted earlier, is a song that was previously recorded on Circles All Around. This version breathed some new life into the song with improved equipment, production, and intensity. Although I like both versions of this song, I think the one on this demo tape more closely represents what Sweep sounded like back in the Notre Dame years. This song brings forth a sense of resolution, and appropriately closes this album.

All things considered, I am very fond of the five songs from this demo tape. It’s a shame this was never released as an “official” album, but just a demo. These were the last tracks I personally recorded with Sweep the Leg Johnny, and I will always take away great memories of writing, practicing, and performing these songs with the band. I hope you enjoy these songs also.



As a bonus to those patient enough to make it all the way though my creative (and verbose) musings, I present to you two Sweep the Leg Johnny “oldies”—out of the vault for you listening pleasure. I don’t think the band has played these songs live since 1995 or ‘96.

Track 6: The first of these gems is actually a holdover from Victoria’s Real Secret titled, “First Steps.” This song is proof that it is, in fact, possible to put way too much reverb on a saxophone within a punk-ska song. It’s a straight forward power-pop-punk song that was always fun as hell to play, and never failed to whip the crowds into a fervent mosh pit. For the fun factor alone, this song was one of my favorites. I’m not sure we ever played it live in Chicago, as our style rather quickly diverged from this genre. This was unfortunate, because this song was very accessible to a first time audience, and always had an extremely positive response.

Track 7: The second song, “Disquiet,” was off the Notre Dame campus compilation, sfumato. This was recorded at Miami Street Studios in South Bend, and contains the typical “compressed” production that we got used to from this studio. Not that it was a bad studio—quite the contrary, John turned out some tremendous professional quality work. I believe, however, he lacked experience with the indie-punk, garage band sound (distortion good, compression bad). It is a fairly straightforward song with the exception of some varied time signatures. It packs in lots of distortion and feedback, in an otherwise pretty “smooth” or “relaxing” song (well... as relaxing as Sweep got). I think the slow cadence of the lyrics really contributed to this feel. As the band wrote newer material, this song soon fell out of our standard rotation. I’m not sure it was really that incongruous to our new material; perhaps it was more a case that this song just ceased to excite us after a while. In any event, it’s a fun listen for those that remember our live shows at Notre Dame... I hope you recognize it.

--Wil Freve

listen/download:

Monday, March 16, 2009

decaf


“Thou shalt not partake of the dreaded decaf” – Milo Aukerman, Descendents

Rome, Italy, 1993/1994

Mike C.: The very beginnings of decaf started in Rome, Italy, as did most other fantastic art forms. Brian and I bought an acoustic guitar and would drink and write songs to the point where we both realized that class in the morning just wasn't going to happen.

Brian G.: Both Mike and I were studying Architecture in Italy for 9 months. We were both musicians and needed an outlet for our aggressions while there – vino and cigarettes only got us so far. So, our Italian friend, Max, brought us to a music store and helped us haggle with the owner so we could get a guitar. In our hotel rooms at night for the next few months, we would write songs and drink wine. Mike would usually play while I whistled a vocal idea or another guitar part – then we would trade duties…but I remember being a better whistler. We then asked Ricardo A., a jazz drummer who was also in the program, if he wanted to play drums with us when we formed a band when back at Notre Dame the following Fall – he obliged and we had the following taken care of: guitar (Mike), bass (Brian), and drums (Ricardo). We parted our ways for the summer upon our arrival back in the states.



Notre Dame, IN, 1994/1995

Brian: So there we were back on campus after almost a year in Italy. During the summer, Mike’s old roommate from freshman year, JP, secured a house for us to live in for the 1994/1995 school year. The house, and I use that term loosely – I mean, it had vertical planes that held some “wall-like” qualities, some sort of roof structure, a door and windows (in most rooms anyway)….anyway, the house was known as “The Box.” I understand that the previous tenants were members of Sweep The Leg Johnny. The good thing was is that it had a basement – and we made sure that JP knew this was our only criteria when he went house hunting. In other words, we wanted a practice space.

Mike: We realized we needed a singer, so one night at a party, Steve (of Sweep The Leg Johnny) introduced me to Rob O., we listened to a demo he had and tried him out - he definitely had the pipes to fill the role.

Brian: Rob played with us in the basement at the Box and he was incredible – he had a pitch-perfect scream that perfectly complimented the songs we arranged. We then added Matt S. (who I had known from high school back in Minneapolis) to play second guitar and we were complete. We then went through the motions of figuring out a name and finally ended up with “decaf” which took inspiration from the Descendents’ creed, “All-O-Gistics”.

Mike: So, along came Matt… we started playing shows with the likes of Sweep The Leg Johnny and Krautmiser.

Brian: My friend, Molly (who was a bartender at Senior Bar), thought it would be great to have us play there. We asked Sweep to play with us and we ended up doing a few gigs with them there. This later turned into a Thursday “Alternative Night” at Senior Bar. We always laughed at the whole idea of it and the name itself, but it was a paying gig nonetheless. We played throughout the rest of the school year at house parties, bars, etc. When we were approached to contribute a song for the ND compilation, sfumato, we decided that we would take advantage of paid studio set up time to record that one song “Keeping Up With The Joneses”, and record some others. 7 of those songs made up our cassette EP.

Mike: We were together until Rob graduated, which was about a year..... the ladies were very, very upset.

Brian: So here it is, for your listening pleasure, our 7-song self-titled cassette. Later on we will post our band-only odds & ends CD, We’re The Opening Band, that features 2 songs that did not make the cassette release, “P.R.A” and “Nervous Fingerfood”, and a bunch of live material including some sacred-cow covers that we were never afraid to play.

listen/download:


see also:
decaf on MySpace

Monday, March 9, 2009

Tweak


Tweak was Bryan J. Lanahan (guitar, vocals and songwriter), Noah Gray (bass, vocals), Bob Hoffman (drums). Following are the members' unique perspectives on the songs, group, and experience.

Band Notes:
BJL: The Tweak idea began in mid-August 1992 when Bob Hoffman and Bryan Lanahan met outside Grace Hall at a freshman orientation event. Bob had just finished a summer of playing the suburban Philadelphia scene with Darkhorse, while Bryan had just completed his western NY tour with Honeytree (formerly Willy and the Poor Boys). The group was completed when the two teamed up with Noah Gray in the fall of 1994, who himself had played bass for 2 years in a nasty punk band called Duck around the greater Pittsburgh area.

BH: If by "suburban Philadelphia scene" you mean graduation parties and Maddie’s in Malvern, then okay... Three mod-quadders, our first rehearsal was in the penthouse/attic of Grace Hall.

NG: With drums being the instrument I could actually play without reservation, I was a bit nervous to join these fine musicians as the bass player. But Bryan was patient enough with me, ironed out most of the wrinkles in my technique and essentially made me into the subpar guitarist that I became. With the album being the pinnacle of my bass-playing talent, one can only imagine how low I started coming out of high school.

BJL: Tweak's sound can be best described as theory based cerebral rock and roll with driving rhythmic grooves. The goal was to take the campus sound in a new direction and intersperse jazz chords and unconventional time signatures with a driving rhythm and groovy tracks.

NG: With a hint of the hard stuff, Bryan's innovative and classical guitar-influenced riffs and Bob's anti-Ringo style of drumming, we surprisingly captured a small, but satisfying following.

BJL: The album was recorded in two different locations: "Hiding" and "An American in Paris" were taped in the basement of the girls who lived on Bulla Rd. The acoustics were particularly suited to the live Tweak sound, the band having set up multiple microphones strategically placed about the basement to capture how they would sound to people crowded at a house party. These tunes most accurately capture how Tweak sounded live. The remaining tracks (with exception of "Ardent Palaver") were recorded in the basement of 717 S. St. Louis Blvd.

"The Hiding"
BJL: The first Tweak song. The time alternates between 6/4 and 7/4. The fade-in brings this song from the primordial ooze of the minds of the guys, only to explode with Bob's driving drums, Noah's punctual bass line, and Bryan's sliding chords. The transition section is led by Bob’s drums, which unintentionally turned into a well structured drum solo. Bryan throws some major 13th chords over the top of Noah's steady anchor.
NG: I think this is a perfect opening song for the album because listeners immediately realize that the band’s sound is not going one to which they can tap their foot or relegate to the background while washing the dishes. Bryan's songs were designed to be listened to, demanding attention and effort.
Track notes: The vocal track was recorded by singing into a floor tom with a microphone on the other side. This gives a hollow effect without special effects.


"She Said, She Said"
BJL: Beatles cover from Revolver. The track intro catches Bob's question "how are you going to overlay the beginning?", alluding to the fact that the guys didn’t know how they were going to properly time George Harrison's intro lick. A great cover tribute to the Beatles from a great time period (1966) as they were transitioning from old school (Hard Days Night, Help) to the new sound (St Pepper's, Mystery Tour).
BH: Noah and Bryan sang some really nice harmonies on this song. I was very impressed.
NG: The joy derived from playing this song ultimately opened Pandora's Box when Tweak was faced with playing a shockingly long gig – The Architecture Ball in the basement of the Knights of Columbus building. Tweak rarely performed for more than an hour or so... ever. So when it became known that we had to perform multiple sets at this gig, we needed to increase our repertoire fast. The solution? Learn the White Album. Thus, Tweak continued its tribute to The Beatles by becoming The Roaches one evening in that basement, playing most of Disc 1 and some of Disc 2. All songs were learned in marathon practice sessions 36-48 hours prior to the big night.
BH: A comment on our cover tunes: Conscious of the consequences of being relegated as "a covers band" in the "South Bend Power 90s" culture, we put a lot of thought, and debate, into our cover song choices. I think it showed. They also reflected the range of tastes within the band.
Track notes: Originally recorded in the proper key, Tweak modulated the final track a half step downward to unnaturally slow down the song and accentuate the drug trip intention of the Beatles' version; the effect is most notable on the words "dead" and "sad." The "she" in the song is actually a tripping Peter Fonda, with whom a tripping Lennon was arguing when Fonda was reassuring a bad-tripping George Harrison that he knew what it was like to have an acid trip go bad or make you feel "dead." Note the vocals are just that much slowed by the artificial modulation, as if under the influence of a mind altering substance.

"An American in Paris"
BJL: Written in early fall 1995, inspired by Bryan's trip to Europe in summer 1995, the hottest summer in Europe on record at the time. The "silent beauty" he sings about is the Mona Lisa hanging in the Louvre. The song describes his anger toward the crowds hoarding the masterpiece, flashing pictures, damaging her and others like her with each click and flash despite the no photography policy. The second verse describes his fantasy of walking through the museum "with a squirt gun filled with turpentine", putting the paintings out of their misery and suffering caused by the greedy, disrespectful crowds. Never mind what you see here.
Track notes: For Bryan, this song more than the others has stood the test of time. The groove lay down by Bob and Noah really grabs a hold of you, and Bryan "paints" an efficient amount of complex chords over the top. The minor 9ths accentuate the anger within the lyrics.


"Grey Man"
BJL: At 100 seconds long, "Grey Man" is the most efficient Tweak song. Noah's bass carries the tune as Bryan sprays some major 13th and 9th chords over the top. The lyrics sing about a young man losing his sense of childhood right and wrong (black and white), slipping into what feels like a world of grey in which he can't grasp or feel what are proper beliefs in a now complex world. The song’s narrator recognizes what this young man is feeling and offers words of recognition and encouragement.
NG: If I remember correctly, this was one of the few times in the "studio" we had problems getting useable material in the first or second attempt. But despite the challenges and mishaps here, in retrospect I must say that Tweak was an amazingly efficient recording trio. And with only the use of 4 tracks. I can't remember, did Bob think he was thinking too much before or AFTER having a few Boddingtons at Bryan's house??
BH: Maybe I was just trying to figure out why Bryan spelled gray with an "e."
Track notes: Despite its brevity, the "Grey Man" track was extremely difficult to time and lay down, as evidenced by Bob's frustration in the outtakes.

"The Unspoken Understood"
BJL: "The Unspoken Understood" is an expressive prayer of a young man who feels he is falling out of the grace of God by his own choices, as he explores the new temptations of the world with vivacious licentiousness which results in spiritual instability. This song contains the simplest chords and form of any Tweak song, purposefully lending itself to be played as a power rock and roll song live. Note Bob's explosive fill-ins in which it sounds like he grew extra arms. This song was covered at one time by emiLy, an unexpected tribute.
NG: All I remember is how much fun I always had playing this one. Of course, having said what I did in the description of "The Hiding," one can certainly see how this track was an indulgence. Bryan let loose with some of the best screams and shouts in the recording that have never quite been duplicated since.
BH: Bryan screamed like a rock god on this one.
Track notes: The mumblings in the beginning of the track were purposely recorded at a level such that only the very interested and/or attentive could make out their meaning. The first stanza goes "So I stared down at Time, the crumpled, bleeding infinity at my feet. Time looked up and begged for my mercy; I smiled." The second stanza will remain un-interpreted in these notes. In the "unstable man, waiting for" section, the chords are structured in a very unstable manner with the bass and guitar reversing traditional roles, the bass playing the major and minor thirds with the guitar on the root and fifth. Stacking the chords this way attempts to create a musical instability that goes along with the "unstable man" lyric.



"Brave Captain"
BJL: One of the first songs played by Tweak, "Brave Captain" by fIREHOSE was a perfect cover by nature of the power trio format. Noah does a great job mimicking Mike Watt's playing style.
BH: When this song came together pretty quickly early on, I knew we really had something special in terms of musical chemistry. This was really fun to play live.
NG: Are there any cover songs that would have been a better fit for Tweak? What we have with "Brave Captain" is an anchoring bass line, providing most of the melody, while the guitar does its separate thing with the minimalistic chords to make the song interesting. All accompanied by tempo changes and intricate drumming...
Track notes: In the early days, this song tended to lead off live performance, eventually giving way to "The Hiding."

"Patterns on the Wall"
BJL: Affectionately referred to as "Brubeck" by the band, this tune starts side two's journey beyond power rock and roll into the realm of cerebral grooves. The song alternates between 5/4, 6/4 reminiscent of Dave Brubeck's "Take Five." The vocal track is sung in 10/4 time, synching up with the instrument track every two measures. The lyrics describe the mental journey one may take at a South Bend house party for someone having overindulged in something.
BH: I vaguely remember when Bryan started teaching Noah and me this song, thinking, this is some really cool stuff – it couldn't be more different than the other bands on campus at the time.
NG: Coming from a jazz background in high school, I had already played "Take Five" as a drummer in my earlier life. It was gratifying to transition that 5/4 feeling over to the sound of Tweak.
Track notes: Although easy to record in the studio, this song was extremely difficult to simultaneously sing and play, as the vocals and guitar were sung/played in competing time signatures. Live vocal versions of this song are very rare, coming out regularly only toward the end of spring 1996 just prior to the band's break-up. This song also contains what Bryan feels is the coolest musical section of the album. Found just after the "keep it there" lyric, Noah's bass line leaps up and down on major arpeggios underneath an efficient collection of guitar chords, accented by the drums' well timed crash cymbals. Also notable is the laughing guitar just after the "see me laugh" lyric.


"Xanthippe"
BJL: The riff for "Xanthippe" was written in the third floor flat of 34 Leinster Gardens in London. Although a significant stand alone guitar lick, the guitar played in conjunction with the bass line embodies what could embody what would have been defined as the "Tweak Sound" – syncopated guitar and bass who's independent licks together outline the chords of the song competing over a foundation of "taken-to-the-next-level," unexpected driving drum beats – if the band had continued its musical development after 1996. This sound is most evident in "The Hiding," "Xanthippe" and "Red(2)." All have similar structure: a theme introduced in the beginning (Exposition); a first transition section (T1) helps the song switch into the Development section in which the music is taken into a randomly improvised direction during a live performance. Following a second transition section (T2), the band recapitulates the original theme in the Conclusion. Xanthippe's T2 transition back into the Conclusion is marked by a section in which the guitar and bass play only diminished chords and arpeggios for an extended 24 measures.
BH: Our voyage into psychedelia, with only Guinness stout to thank. Noah and I called this one "Kita the Dog," mostly because we both thought "Xanthippe" was an Olivia Newton-John movie from 1980.
NG: Bryan kept me on my toes with this bass line. This and the end of "Red(2)" (forthcoming) almost drove me to use a pick, but I finally got enough calluses to push on through.
Track notes: The back-track recorded over the song's Development section begins with a Bob, Noah and Bryan conversation describing disobedience unique to Notre Dame students, and ends with a backwards recording of an Ethan Haimo (Professor of music theory and composition, Notre Dame) composition performed by Jeanine Wynton (violin) and Miriam Eckelhoefer (cello) of ND's chamber orchestra.

"Red(1)"
BJL: Performed live only twice, "Red(1)" is a beautiful ballad of a day's progression. Each of three verses describes one section of a day: morning, noon, night. The "red" theme comes from viewing these parts of the day through rose colored glasses.
Track notes: "Red(1)" is structured around major seventh chords that wander upward and downward throughout each verse. This track also contains some very complex overlay harmonies that add an aural depth to the sound. An unexpected mistake by Bryan between verses 2 and 3 ended up adding a nice twist to the song.


"Red(2)"
BJL: The first of the "Tweak Sound" songs, "Red(2)" was the tune with which the band closed all of its performances. Performance length ranged from the recorded 4:45 to the marathon 15:00+ at the band's final performance at the Sheistszimmer.
BH: To me, the quintessential Tweak song. The ending is a musical tornado.
NG: Playing this song live also produced some of my most horrifying Tweak memories. The climactic ending was designed to exude power and elicit emotion, but only with each part precisely in the proper place. I can remember a couple shows where the chronically fucked up Crate bass amplifier had problems and cut out at the most inopportune times. As one can imagine, without the deep undertones, the overlaying sound storm was left nakedly exposed, forcing us to end the show with me kicking the amp.
Track notes: It is difficult to capture the essence of "Xanthippe" and "Red(2)" on a track, as the songs are meant to be performed in a live setting.

"Ardent Palaver"
BJL: "Ardent Palaver" was originally composed for the Sphere Quartet in spring 1994. This version capitalized on the talent of Jeanine and Miriam and captured a tighter (yet not as raw) version on the after-thought portion of the Tweak tape. Sphere Quartet's version of AP was performed at Clarissa Dalloway's by Andy Druckenbrod (cello), Rick Alvarez (double bass), Bryan, and Bob. Unfortunately, the group made it only 1/8 of the way through before the feedback from the cello forced them to abandon the song for the sake of the crowd's hearing. "Ardent Palaver" was never performed live by Tweak.
NG: This is one track that blew me away when I heard the final product. In places, the dissonance was haunting, ultimately leading to a merciful resolution, like a massive rescue from a haunting nightmare.
Track notes: "Ardent Palaver" was recorded in a practice room of Crowley Hall.

listen/download:


see also:
Tweak on MySpace

Monday, March 2, 2009

Streganona - How Do You Feel About Plastic?


Streganona may be the number one reason I am thankful this blog popped into existence, which is a bit ironic considering they were not a South Bend band. They did grace us with their presence a number of times and rocked most mightily. Unfortunately, with the exception of a track on a split 7-inch with Sweep the Leg Johnny, Streganona's musical output is captured only on the less than sturdy medium of cassette tapes, which meant my time listening to them was cut drastically when my commuting experience changed from driving a car with a tape deck to riding a subway with my mp3 player.

How Do You Feel About Plastic?, Streganona's follow up to 4:4, was released on the eSTaTe label, which shared its name with the Chicago house where members of Streganona and Sweep the Leg Johnny lived. The tape opens with "Limit '96", a new version of a track from 4:4 that is every bit as likely to get stuck in your head in this version as it was in the original. "Eleven" encapsulates much of what I love about Streganona: intertwined guitars, furious drumming, simple grooving bass, abrupt switches from chaos to melodic parts, and shouted lines like "Don't let your mouth write checks that your ass can't cash!" or "To the right, to the right, I'm falling out of sight". "Field Trip to the Foundry" is another mini-epic, which shifts through seven parts in three movements in just over five minutes before going out in a mix of crackles and feedback. The closing track, "Esquivel", features a danceable main riff that calls to mind a bizarro version of the eponymous Mexican lounge musician.

The credits for the tape are included as follows:
RECIPE FOR PLASTIC
7 borrowed microphones (c/o S.S, J.d, eSTaTe)
1 borrowed 8-track mixer (c/o Pangaea)
1 4-track machine *2 guitars
1 bass 1 drum kit
1 patient Friend to sound engineer (J.G.S.)
1 streganona (B.N,M.M,M.S,A.H)
* mix plastic ingredients carefully in basement * cook plastic on high for 45 hours * let plastic sit for one day, then mix for 10 more hours * mold into five shapes * blend with aged imported plastic from Indiana: ("encephlapod" from Miami St. with G.H. on drums)
***store in a cool place.


While playing a show in Raleigh, NC in 2002, I was excited to spot a Streganona sticker on the opening band's keyboard. The opening band had played with Streganona several years earlier, and we talked for a bit about what a great yet little known band Streganona had been. So go ahead, click the link below and enjoy this rare relic from mid-90s Chicago.


listen/download:


Photos of Streganona at the Vampire Clubhouse by Jim Jadwisiak.