Wednesday, September 19, 2012
The Dubuque Strange Music Society
The excellent Neon Lushell album that I wrote about recently was my first clue that strange things are afoot in Iowa. Turns out that it was just the tip of the iceberg: Dubuque experimental music maven Bob Bucko Jr. (aka BBJr) sent me a shoebox's worth of cassettes (and one vinyl), as well as a couple of 'zines, that all make a persuasive case for the Iowa experimental music scene. None of it sucks, much of it's exceptional.
You've got yer "A" list music cities that might be major (New York, LA, Berlin, London) or towns with smaller populations that, nonetheless, boast outsized musical reputations (Athens GA, Austin TX, Sheffield UK). And then you got yer "B" cities that no-one's paying any attention to, tho they have folks just as creative as can be found in any of the big boys. Dubuque falls into the latter - noise, ambient, drone, improv, rock, found sounds, all get thrown in the blender whilst steadfastly avoiding cliches. Mr. Bucko has prepared a sampler cd for free download for y'alls:
Personal Archives Digital Mixtape
This collection starts off with a track that resembles "rock" music, before moving into thoroughly unpredictable territory by such artists as Implied Consent, Dead Man's Lifestyle, Distant Trains, and more from BBJr. Instrumentals predominate, veering from crunchy distortion to chilled electronics, sometimes both. BBJr's "At The Bar" recalls '70s cosmic Moog records; Aisle's "crest, fallen" could be one of Nurse With Wound's abstract, but humorous collages, with Chipmunk-y vox over unidentified sounds. The Floating Cave track is an ominous drone that really did make me feel like I was in a deep, dark cave. And Aural Resuscitation Unit's "Dubbing An Arab" isn't the reggae remix of The Cure that one would expect from such a title; it does sound like a (heavily processed) skipping record that might be the Cure, but who can tell? Whatever it is, it's 16 minutes of trippy amazing-ness.
Some of my fave stuff from this scene is only for purchase, like this one:
"On and On We Sing Our Song"
Well worth the mere few bucks it costs for BBJr's fascinating loop-driven sound collages. The industrial-strength funk of "Time is Something" is also worth your pennies. And another band not included on this cd are the Glimmer Blinkken, whose downtown New York c. 1981 sound comes closest to "normal" music.
The history of the scene outlined in the "Ruix" 'zines reveal that many of these cats come from a typical metal/rock background. So how did they end up here? To quote from the zine's new blog: "Like most river towns, Dubuque is teeming with personality, and its residents utilize the cultural vacuum of the midwest to great effect. Without an academy to report to or the bored shrugs of scene- conscious youth to deflect, folks in Dubuque have cultivated a diverse portfolio of artistic expression." Do scenes like this exist all over? Is there some crazy stuff in, say, Missoula, Montana that I should know about?
For further exploration:
Dubuque Strange Music Society
http://lation.org/feltcat/ and http://feltcat.bandcamp.com/