Joseph Hammer - Joe & Joe (LAFMS LP)
I like to think of myself as a pretty ignorant dude, and every now and then I like to expose such ignorance for all the world to see, using some kind of a "web blog" as the means with which to do so. See, I don't really know the Los Angeles Free Music Society. I mean I know a bit of the history, I know the names of the bands and people involved, I've read Edwin Pouncey's Wire article and I've even heard some of the music, but on the whole I'm just pretty well clueless. I've been meaning to get around to purchasing the "Lowest Form of Music" 10xCD set but you know it's a lot of money for a lot of music and it was a bad time and I had a thing and...you know. But when the intellectuals at I Hate Music dropped bucketfuls of praise on this brand new LAFMS transmission, I just had to grab hold. Actually it was in a Hanson Records distro update and Aaron Dilloway adding an enthusiastic "BEST of 2006...HANDS DOWN!!" to the mix sweeten the deal. I don't really know what I'm talking about so I have to trust that other people do, see. And Dilloway may make lots of claims and use lots of exclamation points in his mini-reviews but I'm telling you he's bang on with this one (okay maybe not BEST, but up there).
Information on this record is extraordinarily difficult to come by. What I've gleaned is that although the record is under Joseph Hammer's name, it's a collaboration between him and LAFMS founder Joe Potts, who I think also played in Solid Eye (well I know for sure that Rick Potts does at least) and Airway. Not sure what kind of pseudonyms/band names Hammer has worked under, but I can tell you he's worked with Thomas Dimuzio, Cindy Bernard, Mitchel Brown, Tom Grimley, and so on (and that's in addition to all other LAFMs cohorts). Okay? Got it? As if. As for instruments, Hammer is the so-called "tape maestro" so it's safe to say he's using and abusing reel-to-reels and any other gadgets you can put magnetic strips though. I'm really uncertain about Potts, it sounds like a synth but it could be his homemade Chopped Optigan, a "Seventies optical sampling consol organ that he has customized and rewired in order to create dense undulating chords of up to 64 notes at a time" (thanks Soundnet). I've never knowingly heard the Chopped Optigan so I couldn't say for sure, but it's a possibility. Anyway, none of that's really important in the end right? I mean it's all about the music that counts man right? And oh baby it counts. The sounds on "Joe & Joe" are so unearthly yet so woozily familiar, lulling you into a state of awe and ecstasy and horror. The LP is two long tracks of intimidating aural threat, lots of vocal samples played a different speeds (Hammer) buried way 'neath a ludicrously heavy, churning, cosmic din (Potts). If I had to place it "in league" with something else of the day I could maybe compare it 80's industrial/power electronics/dark ambient a la TG, early Whitehouse, Maurizio Bianchi, and so on...but that's just superficial. "Joe & Joe" comes from a whole 'nother angle playing from a whole different rulebook. Once you're fully immersed in side A (after being hypnotized by the nonsensical babble that floats in and out of the speakers) you begin to notice the rather beautiful, dark shimmer that Potts' drone has going. It's just, I don't know. Like the sonic manifestation of "that tingly feeling". Play it loud and get fuckin' spooked. Worst part of the side is when it ends - the louder you have it, the more of a psyche-shattering jolt you're info as you're unwillingly snapped back to reality.
Thankfully the B-side picks up just about where A left off, with the same gloopy, spaced drones silhouetted by barely-there chatters, whispiters, mutters, and the delicate sound of tape spurts and splicings. Only difference on this side is that you can actually start to hear some kind of humanity behind it all - the sound of Hammer fast-forwarding or rewinding, and a long stretch of muffled yet audible porno moans. Towards the end some tape samples start coming in that are reminiscent of animals chewing ferociously and gnashing their jaws but I'm sure no such recording was involved. And speaking of which the set "ends" with a locked groove. I left the groove on for a good ten minutes (too dissolved to stand up) and I swear I could pick out the word "advancement" repeated for infinity...I won't even begin to get into the ramifications of that discovery, we'll leave it to the philosophers.
I'm not quite sure what to make of the (lack of) packaging involved. "Joe & Joe" comes in a clear sleeve and that's it (the light blue background? My bedspread, thank you very much). The label, as you can see, bears the LAFMS name and record title but doesn't say who's involved. The etching tells you the category number (LAFMS-101). Apart from that, you're on your own. You'll have a tough time getting your buddy the record clerk to order this one in for you. In fact I think the only place I've ever seen even on the internet to score this LP is from the Hanson distro. Joe Hammer has himself a website (not to be confused with JoeHammer.com) and he's posted a "new mix" of this very record, free for you to download as an uncut 50 minute MP3. I heard it a while back a long time before I played this record and it didn't blow my socks off in quite the same way, but then again I don't really remember it either. Maybe it's just because wax is so much better than digital yada yada you know how we do. Regardless. This record is outstanding and all involved deserve your Green Stamps so...go get Hammered!
(I'm sorry that's like the third time I've done that this week).