We have survived another year. And when you get right down to it, sheer survival is the reason any of us celebrate birthdays. We are seven years old today — we made our first post on November 21, 2009.
As I wrote at the time of our last birthday (and it remains true), seven years isn’t very long when compared to the lifespan of your average Galápagos tortoise, but measured by the lifespan of your average metal blog, we’re almost ready for a nursing home.
I continue to be amazed and thankful that we’re still here, that so many good friends are still devoting themselves to writing for NCS on a purely volunteer basis, and that so many readers haven’t yet gotten fed up and purged us from their lives.
“Anger trumped hope. Donald Trump’s astonishing victory over a heavily-favored Hillary Clinton on Tuesday is the greatest upset in the modern history of American elections – convulsing the nation’s political order in ways so profound and disruptive its impact can’t even be guessed at.”
And that’s how one article I read this morning began. There are tens of thousands of articles from around the world that in substance began the same way. We did not see this coming, and now many of us can’t see where we are going — or we think we can see it, and it’s a very dystopian vision of the future.
On days like this, it’s hard to go forward with a “business as usual” approach. As much as we love what we do here at NCS, it’s obviously dwarfed in importance by what happened at the polls in the early morning hours of this day, and what that outcome portends for the next four years and longer.
EDITOR’S FOREWORD: We’ve had a few posts over the nearly 7 years of our existence that have focused on works of literature, but very damned few. That’s not shocking, because this is first and foremost a blog about music. But for some musicians who dare to talk about it, and for many ardent fans, there are connections between these two forms of art.
Beyond those connections, some of you (maybe even the majority of those who visit this putrid site) spend as much time reading for pleasure as you do battering yourselves with violent sounds. For those in that group, and for those who are open to finding new inspiration, we bring you a very different kind of list from Neill Jameson of Krieg. I selfishly hope this will spawn both comments on this post and more features on our site about written works of art that dovetail with our interests in metal.
Our thanks to Neill for the following words:
(Andy Synn reviews the debut EP by The Comancheros, headquartered in Columbia, Missouri.)
As my third and final entry this week on the theme of bands beginning with “The” I’m venturing a little bit outside of our usual wheelhouse with the smooth and smoky brand of musical misery served up by The Comancheros.
But Andy, how are these guys in any way relevant to the NCS audience, I hear you ask?
Well, for one thing, one of their members just so happens to be a certain R. Michael Cook of the inimitable A Hill To Die Upon (who, I have it on good authority, are back in the saddle and working on new music themselves), and for another The Comancheros list their main influences as “Lynyrd Skynyrd, Willie Nelson, Judas Priest, and Dwight Yoakam”, which suggests to me that one or two of you might just find something to like on their new EP, Four Horsemen.
(Neill Jameson (Krieg) returns to our site with some remembrances about under-appreciated albums from a formative period.)
Recently I did a piece for Invisible Oranges about discovering Alice in Chains and Nirvana as a young boy stuck in the shitty Pittsburgh suburbs in the late 1980s, and that got me to thinking about that period of time for music and how there’s some really great records that almost never get mentioned because people’s tastes generally stick to what they hear about, akin to how so much great early ’90s black metal is missed because of a lack of a controversial narrative to them.
So I figured I’d share a few records that never really got their due from that era in my continuing mission to be on your newsfeed as often as possible without it being for exposing myself at a playground. And we’re off!
By way of explaining why my own output at the site has been sparse over the last week, I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I have a close friend in the ICU at a Seattle hospital whom I’ve been visiting for hours each day. One week ago she was driving to work in downtown Seattle and was hit in an intersection by a big city aid truck responding to an emergency call. She’s still in a coma, with a brain injury, though there are signs that she is approaching wakefulness.
Yesterday being a Saturday, I spent a few hours at home listening to music before returning to the hospital. I listened to some new metal that suited my mood, which I plan to compile in a Shades of Black post later this morning. But in a sequence of unpredictable but serendipitous events I also happened upon all the music collected in this post. There’s a bit of metal in the first and last items, but mostly this music is way off our usual beaten paths, yet these songs also suited my mood. I hope you’ll appreciate them, too.
A Russian friend in Novosibirsk (and a member of Station Dysthymia) recommended this first band, calling the music “hauntingly beautiful” — and so it is. The band’s name is Offret, from Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. I’m not sure if this is a one-man project or a group. What I heard was a self-titled EP released on April 25, 2016, via Bandcamp.
Prince Rogers Nelson, born in Minneapolis on June 7, 1958, was found dead today at his home and recording studio, Paisley Park, in Chanhassen, Minnesota. This is according to numerous reports, including one by the Associated Press, which seem to be true.
I’m posting this because it is hitting me just as hard, and maybe harder, than the deaths of Lemmy and Bowie. I’d be giving away more about my age than I want to give away if I went into too much detail, but let’s just say that I was an ardent fan of his music in the early years and it was a point of connection between me and my then wife-to-be.
I’m not capable of trying to explain what it was like when he burst upon the music scene, and there will be obituaries and retrospectives galore in the coming days written by people much more eloquent than me. But although I won’t try to write it, I can show you.
Gaelynn Lea is a musician in Duluth, Minnesota. According to the biography on her web site:
“She has been playing violin for over twenty years. First classically trained, she began learning traditional Celtic and American fiddle tunes at the age of 18. During her college years Gaelynn started sitting in with various folk/rock musicians and developed an improvisational style all her own. Eventually she also began singing and dabbling in songwriting.”
“Dabbling” is a humble word for it. Gaelynn was one of more than six thousand un-signed musicians or bands who submitted music videos in NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest. Under the rules of that contest, the song had to be an original work created solely for the purpose of entering the contest, and it had to be performed “at a desk (any desk!)”. All those thousands of submissions were reviewed by a panel of six judges, and they picked Gaelynn Lea’s submission as the winner.
I read the judge’s comments about the song and the video before I heard it. The judges were Robin Hilton, Bob Boilen, Dan Auerbach (of The Black Keys and The Arcs), Son Little, and Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of the band Lucius. You can read their comments about the song here. In a nutshell, they were all profoundly moved. They explained that they heard other songs that displayed better musical craft and skill, but what Gaelynn did was to create something unusual and memorable.
I can’t separate the song from what I watched in the video and what I knew immediately about Gaelynn Lea from seeing it. It makes the song more poignant and powerful — but I believe (though I’ll never know for sure) that I would have found it tremendously poignant and powerful anyway.
Artwork by Anton Semenov
I mentioned yesterday that I’ve had to fly across the country from Seattle for my fucking day job. It’s a quick trip, because I’ll be getting home again late tonight, but what I’m having to do is leaving me with no time for NCS.
So far, I’ve had no time to listen to music, much less to write about it. And I doubt that’s going to change before I get back on an airplane this afternoon to head home.
(Grant Skelton shifts our focus from music to writing — and draws a connection between the two at the end of this article.)
This piece is perhaps a little to the left of our usual norm here at NCS. What I’ve got here are a few podcasts that I think will interest readers of our site. I’ve also included a few literary resources for any aspiring authors, poets, lyricists, bloggers, or other writers who might visit our site. I see you, I know you’re there, and I feel your pain. You are not alone.
Lore is a podcast I heard about from a writing friend. You can find it on iTunes (here) or download the episodes directly from Lore’s website. Each episode runs between about 15 – 25 minutes. Created by novelist Aaron Mahnke, the subject matter covers true occurrences of horror that are the basis for legend and folklore. They are full of historical accounts of murders, grave robberies, bizarre accidents, the occult, and paranormal encounters.
Consider this synopsis from the episode, “The Others”: