The Dolphins Speak, and the Power of Power Electronics

"Nothing says holidays like a cheese log" — Ellen DeGeneres

Music For Dolphins, feat. Dave Dove and Jason Jackson

Galveston Artist Residency, February 13, 6 p.m.

Most of the shows I attend consist of a lot of waiting around for things to happen. Imagine how dolphins feel, out in the endless shallows, hopped up on leaching plastic residuals and spilled fuel, hustling their kicks in between ferries.

People, we’re surrounded by oceans. But where you or I see a horrifying void, Zach Moser of Shrimp Boat Projects and the good folks on the artist board at Galveston Artist Residency saw something else glittering amidst the swells. Visiting artists Dave Dove and Jason Jackson of Nameless Sound already made first contact with our slippery undersea cousins last December; here’s our first chance to hear what they have to say about it, or rather, hear what the dolphins heard and perhaps something of what they had to say in return.

For whatever reasons I've been trying to re-read Hemingway lately, in particular A Moveable Feast, and finding it hard to go on. There's not much language happening between the page breaks, less yet emotion. Between the joyless self-service and the even less joyful bravado, and Gertrude Stein's earlier, lethal summation of the whole Hemingway rap style — Ernest, Remarks aren't literature — the whole thing bellows to whimper. It suffers from the same false purpose and echolalia as wedding guests who make excessively-long toasts in the hopes of redeeming themselves for their own emotional absenteeism. Which is to say, this is a holiday edition, so get out your blackberries and start tabbing.

Dead Roses Valentine’s Eve of Destruction
Big Star Bar, February 13

Houston, let’s not take our own for granted. I’m as guilty as you are of this — I thrill to the new; I get a tape in the mail every month from Columbia House (all the trendiest new groups and soloists); my valet puts my pants on one tight leg after the other, and those are always new and freshly imported from wherever wage slaves still make pants.

This early Valentine’s marks the twelfth anniversary of Ralf Armin’s Dead Roses. From the Einsturzende Neubauten and Roxy Music covers to their own line of fast dirges, Dead Roses spans the tonal gap between Really Red, Cleveland punk, and the New York Dolls. They're catchy, festive, and dour, all at once. There's a lot of invisible work behind their songs, they're tightly sewn, once in, they remain planted in your memory. Out of respect to you all, who are already online and thus empowered to look things up on your own preferred search engine, I’m not going to repeat the CV. Whether you’ve been seasoned on the spit or are still wet behind the ears, you’ve had many opportunities to get turned on by and signed up to the cult of glam damage. Here’s another good one.

At any rate, guilt is garbage, glam is divine. Wear something appropriate.

Consumer Electronics, Pleasure 2, Gerritt Wittmer
Notsuoh, February 13
If you’re more the kind of person who’ll be skulking around downtown anyway, huffing garbage off the gold-plated coke spoons and licking dribble out of the oyster shells dropped by the super-rich in their peregrinations in search of a buzz and a lark, and if your interest could be piqued by the prospect of men in leather wearing no shirts yowling gruff psycho-sexual excerpts of the DSM between towers of old shoes (and also women dressed however they see fit, likewise behaving in whatever manner they see fit), even though none of them may be accepting any unsolicited advice or requests from you, and, furthermore, if you have a thing for the parametric buzz of power electronics and other machine-issued music, do drop in for Consumer Electronics.

A few words about provenance. Is industrial music essentially English music? Must the same thing be said about power electronics? If not, why do most all of its purveyors, here, affect the same English accent? Not that of the England which remains in many ways a green, pre-Renaissance garden in it's adherence to folkways, Morris dancing, and class jokes. The England drawn by JG Ballard, where our understanding of English music begins.

The same imagery of sex and death, of boots ever crushing down on human faces, the same sound of molten sine waves afflicted by static. The English were bombed by the Nazis, not that this is Nazi music whatsover, but the memory of clinical trauma is said to pass on as genetic information with resultant cellular damage, and senseless destruction screams overhead like the V2s in Pynchon's
Gravity's Rainbow; a shadow cast is a shadow cast. Whereas we were not treated in this manner until much more recently, and then in one sudden horrible dream rupture.

So, natural sympathies notwithstanding, can Stockholm Syndrome be transmitted via zine, LP, cassette, CD-R, or Tumblr? There's something international to the phrase, by definition. It was Swedish in origin, like ABBA, and they’re almost as American as the Rolling Stones, which is to say, mostly American. But even if our national horrors are equally reptilian, they tend to remain largely submerged, seemingly slow-moving, and ultra-low in register, like alligators.

Provenance aside, Philip Best formed Consumer Electronics in England in the earliest '80s, while still a teen, just shortly before also joining the slightly more infamous Whitehouse. Both groups alike have made an ethos out of stirring up a hornet's nest of dirty words, filthy thoughts, and hateful feelings staked to sticky static and staccato rhythms, all in the service of a particularly focused and nasty sort of contempt. Like Kingsley Amis’ private letters minus all the college references.

Here’s another taste:

Another friendly tip: Arrive early for the openers. Often you won’t need to see the openers. A lot of concerts begin with a popular sports game on a widescreen TV, or just a lot of undirected milling-around, almost socializing were the truth of it not simply droves of people wordlessly lost in internal mental debates about whether it’s better to rush out for a taco sooner rather than later. But tonight it's worth it, to come early and to wait the interminable wait, for there is the promise of live music, such as you must say with a slight country accent—-Live Music.

Gerritt Wittmer comes correct with a microphone and whatever electronic devices as catch his fancy. It can go like black-metal, minus the dinosaur instrumentation, or to entirely different regions of the ear-mind-body nexus. Stare, stare, stare all you like. Terse, harsh, performative sound, abounding with modulations and decisions you’ll miss for staring.

DJing the night will be Future Blondes, DJ 1Deck and Discipline DJ Andrew Haas, promising a fairly fresh selection of T. Rex, Brainticket, dub, Christian Death, electro, and other pulls from various iPods and old CD-R mixes.

Disclosure: Also playing are Pleasure 2, myself and Erika Thrasher from Indian Jewelry [Rock and Roll Hall of fame Class of 2027 or ‘28; one can never remember the future]. You may have already heard some of this lithium-greased, beatnik-wannabe funk (it’s patented) at 11 in the morning on the side stage at Summer Fest ‘14, or perhaps opening for the short-lived but well-loved wunderkind Subsonic Voices around town a few years ago.

Skullflower, Rosemary Malign, Black Leather Jesus, Rusted Shut, Cop Warmth
Walters Downtown, February 27

Bad Ass Weekend is still navigating the traps and snares of management changes, but it’s still drawing out some heavy real-time energy from the frequencies specific to extreme and marginal music, as well as the hordes of well-pinned marauders and devilishly cute punks coming out for roll call next weekend. If this were a media city, this kind of thing wouldn't just be live, it'd be virtual, and you'd see it heralded on banner ads and pennants. Media cities are echo boxes, but we're not that kind of a box by a long shot, so content yourself with some real rodeo music and shorter lines.

I pride myself on being late to any party. Late to anything, in fact. I am still not sure if I have ever heard Beyoncé, her commendable philanthropy and halftime brio excepted. For a time I thought I'd heard Destiny's Child, but it turned out to be Aaliyah. That said, if I wait until next week to remind you to see Rusted Shut, then I've waited too long. Much like Beyoncé, Rusted Shut is said to be a citywide treasure. 
There was a long time when they seemed to play three to six times a month, ensuring that they’d be taken for granted in true Houston fashion. But now they're becoming a rarity. Rusted Shut hasn’t played Houston in more than a year; really, hasn’t played an announced show in longer than that. So come along, wear your best Stetson, it's a Texas thing, bring your festival-loving friends.

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Tex Kerschen is a Houston based gadabout, dilettante, estimate reviser and the Houston Press music listings editor.
Contact: Tex Kerschen