Vodka Soap - Un Chand Pyramdelier (New Age Cassettes CD-R) & Pan Dolphinic Dawn - Pts. I and II (Beniffer Editions 7")
Here be two solo outings from the members of San Fran nu-drone overlords the Skaters, the first one under Spencer Clark's pseudonym and the 7" by James Ferraro. I read recently that the duo have put out 20 releases since 2003, though I'm not sure if that includes their oft-elusive solo projects...still, pretty incredible how they just keep trucking along putting out limited edition after limited edition. You figure after three years they'd spring for an LP pressed up a thousand-fold, yeah? So I wouldn't have to kill myself trying to get my hands on their music, yeah? But alas, it's not to be, for now. These are (or were) actually two of the more easier ones to secure as of late, as there are definitely more than a few copies of the 7" around and I think the Vodka Soap CD-R even went for more pressings, if you can imagine. So you might be in luck if you snoozed n' loozed the first time around.
We'll start out with the Vodka Soap CD-R, fresh off an absolute scorcher of a Volcanic Tongue review (hence the additional pressings, I guess). Sometimes I fear them folks dole out the hyperbole too quickly - a crime which I would never be caught guilty of - but they're on the money with this, the best Skaters-anything I've laid my cauliflower ears down on. Not that I've heard much, but you know what I mean. There's actually 13 (untitled) tracks here instead of one big one like I expected, and the average running time is about 3 or 4 minutes each. Sometimes they run together, sometimes they don't. And when they don't, they're usually broken up with a weird tape-squeal that kinda breaks up the meditative flow of the whole affair.
It actually does start off in a way that's reminiscent of the duo's side of the "Caliofornia" box, but with a much heavier, sludgier, ritualistic vibe going on. As is usually the case with Skaters-related work, there's a lot of subtle changes and shifting, as the album glides from movement to movement. Sometimes you can make out Spencer's slurred vocals, sometimes you pick up some wild rainy underground tribal percussion, or what sounds like a plucked banjo? Everything comes and goes before you have time to put a finger on what's happening, and coupled with the druggy fog the album bestows upon you...well you haven't got a chance. Outside of the Skaters, it's tough to pull comparisons for this. I'm reminded of Hermann Nitsch, Tony Conrad, maybe even Glenn Branca at times alongside contemporaries the Family Underground, Hototogisu, Grouper, and Mouthus at their slowest-motion jamming. I'm not sure how Spencer did it but this sounds almost exactly like an ungarbled version of the album's title would sound to me - "a chandelier pyramid".
The Pan Dolphinic Dawn 7" features a happy dolphin on the front and a swastika on the back, which might throw your grandpa for a loop. The dots in each quadrant would suggest to me that James is using it in the spirit of Hinduism (where it means something quite different than what we would immediately think of). There's also some strange prose on the back and even Google can't help me with that one. I did turn up a nice page for Boogaloo Sam and the "popping" dance technique, so I'm just going to assume that's what this whole thing is based on.
The 7" is in a similar vein to Spencer's CD-R (so you can see why the two make beautiful magick together) albeit a bit more stripped down and bare-bones. Side A is a deliciously low slice of droned-out breeze the kind of summertime jam that makes me think of Blue Cheer as much as it does, say, the Double Leopards. The flip is more of the same; dense, yawning bluster and dark clouds bearing down on a Sunday sermon. It's all well and dandy but it deserves to be stretched out end-to-end on a 12" - this kind of gobbledygook begs for a lengthier format.
So okay, yeah, sure these two are good and I'd never kick em out of bed, but I'm still waiting for the Skaters to go legit and put out something even remotely available and epoch-defining. C'mon, these dudes can move 500 copies of an LP no sweat (okay, some sweat). I mean, there's only so long you can go toiling in CD-Rs and cassettes with print runs rarely exceeding 30 copies before someone calls your bluff. But don't worry, it won't be me. As if I had the stones for that.