Saturday, September 04, 2010

Frontier + Mark Tonight

I am pleased to be joining Frontier on a few songs, tonight, as the band was one of the first challenging experimental groups that I encountered in Chicago, after I moved back from NYC -- particularly as I began to frequent the Empty Bottle, more and more. The Rabid Rabbit/neighborhood connection does not hurt, either. I hope that you can join me, as this destined to be a pretty special night... I hear that they are figuring out how to run more power to the stage!
Saturday September 4, 2010
The Empty Bottle
1035 N. Western Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60622
10:00 PM
Three sets with special guests
(incl. Mark Solotroff on vocals; set two)
DJ Kevin Drumm

Friday, September 03, 2010

Thursday, September 02, 2010

BloodLust! September 2010 Wholesale Update

The new wholesale catalog was just sent out to the mailing list. Distros, stores, webs-shops, etc., who wish to receive the wholesale price list may request to be added to the list via:

The Fortieth Day Versus James Mangrum

Last night was an interesting one. Maybe partly due to being "High on the Hog" after starting the evening at Kuma's (and running running into a couple of Frontier guys)... The September special burger is the Black Oak Arkansas (thus, my need for multiple puns, etc.) - a 10oz patty on a pretzel roll - topped with feral wild boar bacon, red wine BBQ/steak sauce, aged white cheddar cheese, and Three Floyds Alpha King beer battered deep fried shallot rings. Fucking delicious! "Jim Dandy to the Rescue" or a severe Kuma's coma? Whatever the case, Isidro and I started of on a much more subtle path last night, which has been something that I have really enjoyed over the past month, or so. The big build-ups seem so much more rewarding this way. We are definitely adding a greater sense of dynamics to these sessions, which has been evident in the recordings.

Sneak Peek: B!146 Atrax Morgue "Omicidio" 7-Inch

B!143 Atrax Morgue "Omicidio' 7-inch = Front Sleeve

Since folks have been asking, the forthcoming Atrax Morgue 7-inch comprises an "alternative a-side" that Marco Corbelli had sent prior to the release of the "Her Guts" 7-inch (B!039). We knew that "Sinfonia Per Un Sadico" was definitely going to be the b-side, and it was a toss-up between "Her Guts" and "Omicidio," which took some time for us to resolve, as both tracks were very strong. In any case, "Omicidio" is too good to let disappear, and aspects of the song really remind me of the live Atrax Morgue show that I put on in NYC, way back when, as Marco's vocals are so prominent. The b-side is a nice, tight, and heavy edit/remix from the "Autoerotic Death" cassette (B!006). All in all, it makes a great companion to the previous Atrax Morgue 7-inch on BloodLust! More details soon...

Wire on Wierd

The Wire Logo

UK magazine Wire just did a piece on Pieter and Wierd as part of their Retro-Activity special. A fun little gallery of images is currently up on the Wire site, here. A selection of Wierd tracks can be found here.

Image: Wierd Records Logo

The Reader on Frontier

From The Reader

Something Old, Something New

A pal's wedding brings Frontier back together; California Wives marry disco and indie pop.

By Miles Raymer

Frontier circa 1996

Sat 9/4, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $10, 21+.

If over the past couple months you've frequented certain bars and cafes in Wicker Park, the Ukrainian Village, or Logan Square—the Hideout, Atomix, Rodan, the Empty Bottle—you may have noticed in each of them a small square of clear glass with the words frontier returns 09.04.10 screen-printed on it in silver ink. There's nothing else to the message, so newcomers to Chicago could be forgiven for not realizing it's about a local band—especially since it's a band that hasn't played a show in nearly eight years.

If you do remember Frontier, you probably also remember their penchant for audience-confounding stylistic shifts—a survey of their discography, which includes one seven-inch, four full-lengths, a remix EP, and an assortment of band-made eight-track cartridges and cassettes, turns up everything from jazz-influenced post-rock to pure feedback noise to live-band house music. They had a fondness for elaborate packaging too: the CD art for a live album recorded at the Bottle used lenticular printing to create a motion effect, requiring a special case similar to the one for Tool's Aenima, and the CD version of the album Heater came in a slim silk-screened cardboard box that opened like a Zippo lighter.

Even if you had all those discs, though, you still might not recognize Frontier on the street: onstage they were shrouded in dry-ice fog. According to drummer Mike Tsoulos, the sole member of the final trio lineup who still lives in Chicago (these days he tends bar at the Burlington, the Rainbo, and the Flat Iron and drums for Rabid Rabbit), the band's stage show made its members practically anonymous. "For years, even after we stopped, people had no idea who was in the band because of the lights and the smoke," he says. And they never took any traditional promo photos to help clear things up—part of a general reluctance to jump through the hoops rock bands are supposed to.

When I suggest to Tsoulos that Frontier were messing with their audience by skipping from genre to genre and hiding their faces, he takes exception. "I don't know about 'messing,'" he says. "It was more us doing stuff that we liked." But these choices did prevent them from developing much of a casual following—their crowd was heavy on musicians and never exactly huge. Tsoulos remembers a show during their Empty Bottle residency—a Sunday-night series that ran for most of 2000, where Frontier would often segue out of an electronic DJ's set or invite respected jazzers like Ken Vandermark, Jeb Bishop, and Jeff Parker to sit in—where he could afford to buy the entire audience a round of drinks with the money in his pocket.

The fans Frontier did have, though, were often very well placed. Empty Bottle owner Bruce Finkelman put out Heater and the live album on his Tug-o-War label. Teacher, author, and jazz promoter John Corbett wrote a Critic's Choice on Frontier for the Reader in 1996, shortly after he began cocurating the Bottle's improvised-music series, praising the band's "synaesthetic" live shows and connecting its MO to "acts as diverse as Tortoise, Brise-Glace, Flying Saucer Attack, Main, Jesus and Mary Chain, and This Heat." And Steve Krakow, aka Plastic Crimewave, whose taste in music is so well respected that Drag City gave him his own imprint, discovered Frontier shortly after moving to Chicago in 1995. "I think 'psychedelic' was still kind of a dirty word," he says. "I was desperately trying to find bands in town that suited that sort of thing, and as far as I know they were one of the only ones going. Frontier was definitely pushing it and going for a derangement-of-the-senses kind of vibe."

But Frontier isn't reuniting to capitalize on some groundswell of belated popularity. Tsoulos says Saturday's show is happening simply because it finally can. "That's basically the only time the three of us are going to be in town," he says. Guitarist Stephen Wessley now works as a rare-book seller in New York, and bassist Kevin Ireland runs a motel on a two-lane highway in rural Kansas. They're coming back to Chicago this weekend for the wedding of a longtime friend, Mark Ferguson, who runs Hard Boiled Records at Roscoe and Damen. They met him at the same time they met one another—in 1986, as freshmen at the University of Chicago. Part of the proceeds from the door will help pay for Ferguson's honeymoon—he hasn't decided where he and his new wife will be going, and says it depends on how much the show makes.

Frontier will play three sets spanning all their material. Tsoulos is trying to secure guest appearances from Krakow and Bloodiest's Eric Chaleff on guitars and Kevin Drumm on laptop, among others. "I don't even remember who I asked," he says, "probably because half the time it was in bars late at night." Their first and only rehearsal will be on Friday.

Two previously unreleased Frontier albums will be available at the show in limited runs. One has a set of propulsive, aggressive post-rock songs recorded in 1994 on the A side and what Tsoulos calls an experiment in "multiple-input resonance" (aka droning guitar feedback) from 2003 on the flip. The other is a complete album, with everything from psychedelic space folk to drum 'n' bass, recorded in 1999 at Clava's old location in a theater school at 18th and Ashland. "It's probably been turned into condos at this point," Tsoulos says. He lucked out and found a pressing plant that does affordable small runs, so he's got just 100 copies of each. He says he doesn't want unsold vinyl taking up room in his basement.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Time Out on Frontier

From Time Out Chicago

The final Frontier
Empty Bottle’s old house band reunites for more noise and
wedding bells.

By Jake Austen

BLOCK PARTY Left to right, Tsoulos, Ireland and Wessley reunite this weekend for an old friend’s wedding.

Spreading out a bounty of CDs, CD-Rs and screenprinted posters on my kitchen table, Michael Tsoulos is overjoyed to be talking again about Frontier, the band for which he drummed for 14 years. Inactive since 2003, the trio (joined for a time by Nate Bayless) of Tsoulos, guitarist Stephen Wessley and bassist Kevin Ireland reunites this week in a role none of them would have predicted: wedding band. On Saturday 4, a marathon, three-set stand at the Empty Bottle will be performed in conjunction with the wedding of longtime friend Mark Ferguson, owner of Hard Boiled Records & Videos in Roscoe Village.

The threesome, now all 42, began exploring music together as undergrads at the University of Chicago in 1986. Ferguson turned his classmates on to challenging European industrial acts like Laibach, Nurse with Wound and Wiseblood; by 1991, the friends’ music fandom had gelled into a band. Soon, Frontier found a home base at the newly opened Empty Bottle, where Tsoulos tended bar until 2006.

Though forward-thinking jazz and garage-rock bookings put the Bottle on the Chicago rock map, Frontier, which was as close to a house band as the club had, didn’t fit either genre. It borrowed jazz’s improvisation and punk’s sense of showmanship, but Frontier’s greatest asset was a resistance to easy categorization. Hour-long sets of droning noise and feedback, hypnotic electronic manipulations, punishing heavy rock and an occasional pretty pop song were all in its arsenal. The group hosted guitar feedback jams that prohibited participants from touching their strings.

Frontier released 8-track tapes, an album on Emperor Jones, and two CDs on the Empty Bottle’s forgotten and short-lived imprint, Tug O’ War. “Frontier had the potential for genius,” recalls Bruce Finkelman, owner of the Empty Bottle, “but also the possibility of the biggest train wreck. I loved that you never knew where it was going to go.” Buying a Frontier ticket or album was an act of faith, with no guarantee how, or even if, the band members would play their instruments. “They did one recording session in my apartment,” Ferguson says, “where they just leaned the guitars near my windows, so as buses drove by on Division it would set off the reverb.”

Studio exploration aside, Frontier’s true forte was live performance, which overwhelmed small clubs with stadium-scaled lighting, fog machines and projections of slides and light patterns. For the pulverizing rock song “Truck,” the band used two 3,000-watt photo floodlights, air horns and smoke machines to simulate the experience of a semitrailer crashing into the audience head-on.

Tsoulos, who now plays in the skronky art-metal outfit Rabid Rabbit with his wife and fellow bartender Andrea Jablonski, tells me Frontier will again perform “Truck,” with full effects, during a “rock” set on Saturday, between “ambient” and “electronic” sets. Beaming with pride, he converts my table into an overflowing cornucopia of recordings, including two new limited-edition 12" records of unreleased material pressed for the show. “The other thing that made them special was how enthused they always were about their music,” Finkelman says. Yet there are no plans beyond this weekend; Ireland owns a hotel in Kansas while Wessley resides in Manhattan.

Frontier was always its own best audience, perhaps best demonstrated by the Foam Series in 2000–01, the band’s last hurrah at the Bottle: two-hour sets of experimental live-band techno late into Sunday night. “I remember stepping off the stage in mid-set during an ambient portion,” Tsoulos says. “I bought shots for everyone in the bar. All five of them.”

Yet the man most excited about this reunion may be Ferguson, who sees his wedding band as a harbinger of good things to come. “Frontier goes from blissful drone to space rock to electronica,” Ferguson says. “I’m hopeful that my marriage turns out to have that kind of range.”

Frontier reunites at the Empty Bottle Saturday 4.

Electronic Running Music

Yesterday afternoon. 95-degrees. Humid. Oppressive. Running on Madison. Headed back from Cicero. The prostitutes had even taken cover from the heat and the sun. Passing by Out Of The Past Records. House of dusties, R&B, funk, soul, etc. Once and a while something unusual pours from the speakers that sit on the sidewalk, on either side of the shop's doors. After MJ died it was all Michael, all of the time. Once I heard something more electronic but I did not wait around to confirm whether it was actually Kraftwerk or Afrika Bambaataa. I just assumed the later. Yesterday was a pretty weird one. I was dragging. Sweating. Tired. Then I heard a pulse. What, EBM?!? A very familiar synth line. Fuck me, the shop was cranking out the Liaisons Dangereuses song, "Los Niños Del Parqu." Not totally surprising, I suppose, as it was an influence on the Chicago house scene. Just the sort of thing that I needed to hear at that moment to pick things up for the last couple of miles. Later, it was a hot and sweaty practice with Anatomy of Habit. We were hard at work. The air conditioning is damned unpredictable in that building. Overnight, the weather broke. Heading back out for a longer but milder run now... Hopefully, the space will be cooler for The Fortieth Day's session, tonight...

FYI, related to
Liaisons Dangereuses, Beate Bartel (an early member of Einsturzende Neubauten)'s bandmate in Mania D - Bettina Köster (also from Malaria/Autonervous/Nachdenkliche Wehrpflichtige) - plays tonight at Wierd.

Poster for August 28, 2010 Show

This is a pretty cool Heaven's Gate meets Raymond Pettibon design for last Saturday's show. I need to track one of these posters down...

Poster for September 28, 2010 show

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Advance Notice - 10/31

Sunday October 31, 2010
Halloween Doom

The Hideout
1354 West Wabansia
Chicago, IL

9:00 PM


Monarch! (funeral doom from Bayonne, France)

Rabid Rabbit (with guest Mark Solotroff on "Suicide Song")

Mark Solotroff - Mopery - Video

BloodLust! September 2010 Update

The September 2010 Update has been sent via e-mail to the list and it has been posted on the catalog blog. Please get in touch if you want to be added to the mailing list.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Crucial Blast on Recent BloodLust! Releases

As always, I appreciate the well-written and thoughtful write-ups that get posted on the Crucial Blast website

FECALOVE Deadweight 7 INCH VINYL (Bloodlust!)

A vicious new slab of power electronics from Italy's Fecalove, aka Nicola Vinciguerra. My first exposure to Fecalove's murderous power electronics was through the super limited releases fromm the band that Vinciguerra has issued on his Italian division of Turgid Animal which he operates; everything that I've heard so far from this project has been supremely savage, purely visceral PE that's at the evil end of the spectrum, influenced by the likes of Whitehouse and Sutcliffe Jugend, but with nasty black metal style vocals that give these electro-terror shock attacks a real demonic vibe.
The a-side track "Deadweight" is exactly this sort of devilish power electronics. An omnipresent harsh electrical buzz runs through it, a thick static drone that underscores the ugly nihilistic lyrics and fucking evil vocals that start in almost immediately; where a lot of PE can be static and lacking in dynamics, this is's a number of different parts arranged into something resembling an actual song, moving between a couple of different sections and making for a dramatic, terrifying dose of heavy electronic hate. On the flipside, "When" appears as a stirring call to a return to total bestial savagery, a seething power electronic dirge of flesh-tearing high-end feedback, massive low-end synth throb and those evil distorted vokills, blasting your skull with electronic violence until it ends in a violent salvo of crashing scrap metal.
Comes on pink vinyl in a hand-numbered limited edition of 200 copies, and packaged in a full-color sleeve.

GUILT OF, THE self-titled CD-R (Bloodlust!)

The debut full length from The Guilt Of..., the new industrial duo of Mike Williams (Eyehategod/Outlaw Order/Arson Anthem) and Ryan McKern (Wolvhammer). If you've followed Eyehategod for a while, you mightn have noticed that Williams has often cited the aesthetics of early industrial on the visuals and artwork of Eyehategod, in particular the grisly images put forth by SPK, and the bleak, nihilistic music of SPK (as well as Throbbing Gristle) is obviously a primary influence on the warped, deformed electronics that Williams and McKern create as The Guilt Of. The sound is at times comparable to early industrial works like Information Overload Unit, but Williams's hysterical, ragged screams and the occasional distorted guitars give this a weird sludgy metal feel that creeps in from time to time. The combination of primitive industrial, fractured sludge metal guitar slop, and noise/sample collage that appears on these six tracks makes for some strange, drugged soundscaping, with all of the dark, nihilistic imagery and atmosphere that permeates all of Williams's work. Simple plodding drum machines spit out repetitive beats that throb underneath the filthy droning buzz of synthesizers and traces of fractured melodies spinning within the murk; the background is alive with creaking metallic noise and gurgling Moog-like bass. The industrial dirges are creepy and minor key, grim death-marches over minimal electro thump, shafts of synth strings and searing, distorted synth sludge blasting upwards, and blown out guitar noise writhing and convulsing around Williams's gnarled, nightmarish lyrics, which he vomits and howls out, making this at times veer into a kind of sludgy power electronics assault. The first few tracks are all bent, plodding industrial atavism, but later the disc moves into delirious collages of spoken word over dark industrial noisescapes, and sampled Japanese flute melodies, tape noise, and mangled synths on "Allergic To The Infamous Healer". The track "Void Of Regressions" is a bizarre cacophony of Skullflowery guitar noise, drugged chanting, primitive electro rhythms, chugging metal guitar, swirling electronics and blackened vokills, one of the heavier and more hellish tracks here, and "Mechanics Of The Unheard Catalyst" delivers another weird hybrid of formless metal and old school industrial with it's meandering metallic guitar wandering over piles of looped rhythmic samples and thick synth squelch, buzzing drones and fucked-up, processed power electronics and damaged machinery; later, a fractured drum loop comes in, almost like an old school breakbeat, while a guitar shreds in the distance, as the song devolves into a clanking industrial groove. The frustrated, hopeless vibe ends with the droning electronic noise, feedback, and murky synths of the final song "Words Of The Given Past", with more monstrous, blackened growling vokills, chiming melodies, ominous whispers, looped sampled voices and bits of Willaims's spoken word. This sort of hallucinatory, mangled industrial has some of the mutant industrial vibe as some of Maniac's recent recordings with Sehnsucht and Andrew Lilles, but it's nastier stuff, with a feverish sickness seething beneath their sputtering machines and slithering sample-ridden electronic creep. Limited to 200 copies, in jewel case packaging.


Total synthesizer destruction. Getting Caught is the first release from Seattle's Masturbatory Dysfunction, a one-woman synth-noise outfit who debuts here with eight lengthy tracks of crunchy electronic abuse that falls somewhere in between minimal death industrial and extreme synth blast. This stuff is as burly as Sixes, with lots of cold droning synthesizer buzz and sinister dronescapes surrounded with a strange spaciousness, the result of the material having been recorded in a music retail store; apparently, the lady who's behind Masturbatory Dysfunction would go into a major music equipment store in Seattle on her lunch break and blast out walls of noise on the synthesizers that the store had on display, which she would record on a portable recording device. There were several of these "recording sessions" that produced the source material for this album, some of which had to be obnoxiously loud and grating, and yet she managed to assemble all of this material without getting kicked off the premises. The end material was later digitally edited and organized, and mastered at abusive volume levels. It's wild that she was able to pull this off without getting the bum's rush, because a lot of this material is seriously abrasive. The title Getting Caught is an obvious allusion to her surreptitious recording techniques, but it also has creepier, more sinister connotations with tracks like "It Was A Mistake ", "Late Night Filth" and "Bye Mom". Sound wise, the tracks almost feel like field recordings at times, spacious and organic due to the synthesizers blending with the natural room ambience, but as the pieces move through grim, minimal minor-key chordal dirges and clouds of crackling high end static, they become punishing full-bore distortion assaults, walls of overdriven distorted synth shaped into crushing throbbing rhythms and brutal turbulent noise, weighted down with some heavy duty low-end turbine violence. Hypnotic, brain-flattening powerdrone and grim rhythmic plod combines with blasts of spastic 8-bit video game chaos and crushing static hum. The last track is the least brutal, almost pretty actually; a series of very minimal two-note melodies and sustained drones fuse into an oscillating chordal flux, which at first is droning and hypnotic, but gets heavier later on as thick choppy buzzing builds into a massive amplified engine roar. This disc is a powerful piece of industrial synth abuse, and is another excellent dose of extreme electronics for fans of the Bloodlust! aesthetic.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mopery R.I.P.

Mopery R.I.P. Insane night! It was all good until the paint monsters attacked. I headed out at 3:45 AM to grab a cab when the glass really started crashing. The night encapsulated all that was great about the space. On fucking steroids. And maybe why it is a good thing that it closed. There were more people out on the sidewalk when the battalion of cops came than there were inside during the typical show there. It was a miracle that they did not shut things down. If I thought that the Sightings/BLOODYMINDED show in April had a big crowd (I heard approx. 300) then this had to have maxed out at well over 400????? There was nearly no room to move around at the peak of the night... and certainly no air to breathe. Intense!

Really enjoyable sets, overall. Ono in full glam-rock mode was awesome. Sun Splitter totally pummeled, despite the electrical crashes. Loose Dudes set the energy in full hyper mode (I did not know that Maggie from Rager was in the band - BLOODYMINDED played a fun show with them a few years back at Subterranean), followed by an excellent and frantic Running set... and then Lechuguillas took it home in the most spectacular way. I cannot wait to play with them again on 9/11! They have to be among the most exciting bands in the city, right now.

I did a solo microphone set that ran for about nine minutes, and I performed a version of "Leak," the Cadaver in Drag song that I wrote and did vocals on, from their "Absuse/Breathing Sewage" CD. It went smoothly enough, and from the sound of the recording, the crowd actually quieted down once my feedback started rising. I was amused that a big cheer rang out as I hoisted the mic-snake over my head, and that duct-taped monstrosity was at its heaviest and fullest size, ever. Great! It sounded a bit sparse to me, feedback-wise, but some folks said that it was pretty piercing. Thanks to Jason Soliday, for the use of his PA and for watching the peaking levels. Thanks to all of my friends who came out early - or especially - to see me --- and for braving the hot, humid, and smokey conditions inside. And of course, major thanks to everyone at The Mopery for the fun shows that I played there, for the many shows that I saw there, and for the major contribution to the Chicago underground music scene!

Poster For April 23, 2010 Show

BloodLust! Presents June 12, 2009

Hair Police - 2009-03-17 - Poster