Released October 31, 2006 on Menlo Park Recordings as MPK 7041.
From TLASILA Blog:
Noise punk iconoclasts TLASILA have run through several different lineups over the years; for this four-song hour-long set, the core triumvirate of Tom Smith (vox), Ben Wolcott (oscillators) and Frank “Rat Bastard” Falestra (bass)* return for a way-out ambient foray into the abyss, with Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore diving in headfirst.
* Rat doesn't play bass guitar on the album.
Iggy Pop was inspired by his father’s electric razor and TLASILA’s Tom Smith was inspired by his father’s racecar track.* The influence of noise in their respective childhoods was obviously different, and it shows, as Iggy Pop makes noisy rock and roll, whereas Smith makes noise with a rock and roll aesthetic. More famous members of this noise collective include Rat Bastard**, Andrew W.K. and Thurston Moore. I know, you’re probably thinking— Andrew W.K.and Thurston Moore— how did this happen? But what occurs is the creepy vibe of Sonic Youth’s soundtrack to the Manson family murders, Bad Moon Rising, combined with composer Alvin Lurcier’s “I Am Sitting In A Room.” The dark tones, dissonant guitar, methodical drums and distorted vocals are nightmarish at times, creating an otherworldly feeling. The CD’s sleeve is also somewhat ironic, with photos of track trophies, humorous fictional bios and song lyrics written out in italics like on pop records.
In A Word: Surreal
Grade: Fuck Grades
* My father owned a stock car, and subsequently formed a racing team.
** Rat loves this line.
PAPER THIN WALLS
A new album by To Live And Shave In L.A. gives us the barest excuse needed to talk about the Miss High Heel record, a hectic noise “supergroup” that featured much of the mid-’90s Skin Graft stable as well as TLASILA founder Tom Smith’s distinctive tape sputter and vocal expulsions. Their one 1998 disc on B-Sides was a skull-splitter, and a big chunk of that split was thanks to Smith’s glam dandyism and his tape editing technique, which was as simple as scanning mainstream pop radio and pressing the “pause” button a bunch whilst recording. This was, as Smith chronicles on his official website, an emergent technique based on his conception of dub. It also fits his lyrical methodology, a borrowing of the William Burroughs cut-up technique to create free-associations snarl-spat in a vaguely Tasmanian Devil manner. Smith was the forerunner of a brutal type of distinctly Floridian freak show (running with the same posse as Harry Pussy, Pussy Galore and Cock ESP)* that even its adherents admire at arm’s length. Partnering with Rat Bastard (Laundry Room Squelchers), the core of TLASILA has been reconstituted since the group’s demise in 2000. The wave of spin-offs (Wikipedia counts at least seven) that were not Smith-sanctioned actually started with the Weasel Walter/Rat Bastard-generated To Live And Shave In L.A. 2,** which is rumored to have nailed the coffin in the Bastard/Smith partnership.*** The line up of the 2003 reformation is represented on the new Noon and Eternity—Andrew W.K. on drums, longtime compadre Don Fleming, Sightings’ Mark Morgan, veteran Ben Wolcott, Thurston Moore and Chris Grier. The product is surpassingly slick and sick, taking full advantage of the Echo Canyon studio and outcreeping even the new Scott Walker. It’s the most accomplished TLASILA to date, which seems counter to Smith’s anti-music legacy.**** Whilst noise boners are a-poppin’ across the mediascape, they’ve made a freaking lounge disc. It’s pretty great. The 19-minute “Early 1880s” from Noon and Eternity gets another loving makeover here in this edit/remix. Backwards masking meets the long-lost glich meme in a dub tunnel that loops Smith’s warble and wail into a bad-trippin’ house diva. This vowel-stretching, digital direction should not be a surprise considering Smith's involvement in the Mego project OHNE (with Dave Phillips, Reto Mader and Daniel Lowenbrucke). Still, it’s strange how even the chaos of this TLASILA is comparatively subtle when put against the generation of current noiseniks, or even their own past practice.
* Neither Pussy Galore nor Cock ESP were natives of Florida.
** The late Gerard Klauder's TLASILA 2 predated Weasel Walter's TLASILA 2 by several months.
*** Rat and I made nice in 2001. We'd buried the hatchet - never particularly sharp nor thrown with accuracy - two years prior to taking TLASILA out of deep freeze.
**** Sez who?
There’s Noon and Eternity by To Live and Shave in LA (Menlo Park): noise outlaws Rat Bastard, Tom Smith, and collaborators Thurston Moore, Don Fleming and Andrew WK assemble for a suite of blasted, post-Beefheart clatter and face-hits-the-concrete sonic layering.
Far from a local band (literally)– their lengthy name reportedly lifted from a vintage porn flick –Florida’s To Live and Shave in LA are releasing what may be this year’s most under-the-radar comeback album.* Emerging in the early 1990s with a string of vinyl platters and track-crammed single CDs (including works never-to-be released due to several prematurely belly-up labels),** the band dissolved in 2000. But from the vacuum surfaced The Wigmaker in Eighteenth Century Williamsburg, a double disc set slowly mulled by the band over eight years before finally being served up in 2002 to heaps of praise.*** In the following years TLASILA’s core trio of Tom Smith, Rat Bastard and Ben Wolcott regrouped for live shows and slowly amassed a formidable cast of collaborators that nearly tripled their membership. On Noon and Eternity, one of the many pleasures afforded by this new, expanded brood of audio generators is the previously unthinkable pairing of Thurston Moore scraping away his astral-tuned Fender to the heaving drum fills of Andrew WK. Hardly enamored of the hissy sheets and barbed blocks of white noise favored by most of today’s noiseniks, Noon and Eternity is comprised of four monoliths that linger over a menacing grey void. Drums rattle and toll as splotches of distortion and flashes of mangled radio voices swim through errant electrical currents. Most notable, though, may be Tom Smith’s total rejection of the genre’s equivalent to metal’s cookie-monster vocals: the bile streams of caustic barf. Defiantly, Smith sings in an elastic, writhing croon/moan that is rarely hinged and always fascinatingly erratic. In fact, Noon and Eternity plays largely like the distant, all-American cousin to Scott Walker’s avant baroque The Drift. Both are troubling, dense records of alien provenances characterized by abstractly sketched suites of explorative voicework, obtuse words, haunting stretches of twisted sound (Walker even refers to The Drift as being, wait for it, “shaved-down”) and doom-bearing silence. Noon and Eternity is a slow walk through the shock corridor that is contemporary life.
* Only Rat lives in Florida. Tom left in 1996; Ben in '99. Don and AWK live in NYC; Chris resides in DC, Mark's manse is located in Detroit, and Graham's crib is nestled in the Atlanta suburbs. Ben lives in Los Angeles, and TS hunkers down in southeastern Georgia. Thurston and his fam call Northampton, MA home; Rich Russo gets down to the Tampa sound.
** Two TLASILA albums licensed to labels that went bankrupt in the 90s will be issued in 2007 on the Savage Land imprint.
*** Wigmaker was five years in the making, not eight... A rough haul nonetheless.
Noon & Eternity: Das legendäre Avant-Noise-Kollektiv ist eine der erstaunlichsten Blüten amerikanischer Musikgeschichte. Subversion pur. Sogar MySpace streicht die Segel und und gibt einen „Das gesamte Album in 4 Minuten“- Teaser nicht frei. Muss man TLASILA verstehen? Nein. Man muss sie wirken lassen. The real Avantgarde is smiling. Ja. In den besten Momentenallerdings bleibt es fröhlich im Halse stecken.
(I agree with this analysis.)
Tom Smith and some superb friends churn out a new *studio* release. Still Tom’s got those lectro-huskified vocals that get stretched like silly putty through your headphones. I try hard to follow the lyrics without the sheet, and I’m lost in an elastic maze. And it should be pointed out that even armed with the lyrics, the maze then takes on a whole other dimension. Meanwhile the music is built like a tactile dome: pushing up against your eardrums, guitars sound like damaged aircraft trying to take flight before the runway tarmac melts into the earth. Are these the dreams of sirens? Was this recorded whilst under siege? Barricaded in a studio, and not enough food for all the musicans? The drummer Andrew W.K. had to eat one of his own sticks eventually, often he’s left clubbing out a death march to hold the center while radioactive bursts of sound ignite space. But Tom’s loony croon, along with lyrics that invite investigation rather than hammer down an idea, remain the huge attraction. This feels like a protest album, without being boringly plain-spoken. A trophy (as opposed to atrophy) release, topped only by the inner artwork by Oscar Perez.
(Fans of Nick Cave, Young Gods, and opiates take note.)
Rating: 4 out of 4.
Not a band as much a collective, not a collective as much whoever decides to get with founder Tom Smith at any given moment, the oddly-monikered To Live and Shave in L.A. (TLASILA to their friends) has existed in one form or another since 1990. Smith, usually with a core featuring Ben Wolcott and Rat Bastard, has released a seemingly endless stream of tiny-label discs that explore avant-garde soundscapes and man's inhumanity to man, or something. Much like Negativland, each of the group's releases seems to have a life of its own. Noon and Eternity welcomes a star-studded menagerie to the fold - Don Fleming of B.A.L.L. joins Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore, and beer-commercial rocker Andrew W.K. plays drums! - and the resulting cacophony seems as much performance artistry as it is music. Odd samples and electronic flashes of sonic light blaze across downtuned post-Sabbath guitar skronk, while a maniacal baritone voice rants and raves in barely decipherable tones for the better part of the entire disc - four songs in 66 minutes, and good luck figuring out when each one ends and the next one begins.* This is not music to drive to, nor will it appear on a snazzy mixtape.** But if you put your headphones on and close your eyes, you may just see God.
* There are two seconds of silence between each composition.
** People have driven their cars / bikes / bulldozers while listening to the album.
After seeing the track lengths of this album I'm not going to lie, I shut off instantly and then I heard the album itself. Thurston Moore and Andrew WK need to stick to their day jobs. If I wanted long songs I'd have put on Starkweather or Neurosis, if I wanted interesting music I'd have put on Throbbing Gristle or The Buzzcocks. Despite having at least one musical innovator I know of off the top of my head, this is nothing new. Each track is a dense offering of atonal whaling and crooning breaking through a reinforced wall of aural psych out seemingly cobbled together for the sake of making something "challenging". This is the equivalent of reading a novel written by an academic who should have stayed that way. Maybe it's my age or overall uptightness that won't seem to dispense into the jam band miasma my friends find themselves in. I still enjoy the old art + rock = art rock equation (note the rock element in the formula), I'm not ready to hear the soundtrack to an art student's exhibit of his/her master's thesis. *
* There are no female MFA candidates in TLASILA.
TINY MIX TAPES
Noon and Eternity
Menlo Park, 2006
To Live And Shave In L.A.: Starring Tom Smith's voice.
That's a plausible summation of TLASILA's recorded output. Not exactly helpful and definitely not thorough, but it is more or less accurate. Of course, Tom Smith has been the proverbial Nick Mason, or Anton Newcombe, of the band. That is to say, the only constant member.* And like Newcombe, and not so much like Mason — the alpha and omega — one can, and must, track the evolution of the group through him. So, we go into any TLASILA record with a curiosity as to what TS has dreamt up. And to wit, being a rat of Hamelin has been a worthwhile pursuit: from the collagery and unhingedness of 30-minuten männercreme to the singular brutality of Vedder Vedder Bedwetter to the (comparably) restrained musicality and techno of Amour Fou on the Edge of Misogyny. This brings us to the shining moment of the new millennium's musical output, The Wigmaker in Eighteenth Century Williamsburg. It is this album that wins TS's abhorrence of the explicative "noise" acceptability and furthermore drives you to reconsider appreciating anything that bills itself as noise. There can surely be no music that is simultaneously so pummeling to your visceral senses and so utterly exquisite. Every horrible sound is heard in perfect fidelity, every sonic contrast thoroughly effective. We are thus formally introduced to the real star of a To Live and Shave in L.A. record, Tom Smith's curatorial abilities.
Noon and Eternity marries these two forces in a heretofore unfamiliar way. The previously raw tumult of Tom's vocals has been replaced with disciplined concordance with the whole. No longer fettered with his dense and verbose poetry, his voice can work purely as the worthy instrument that it had only inconsistently been before. And whatever the motives may be, Noon and Eternity is eminently listenable for almost any audience that might be inclined to listen to a TLASILA record, or read this review for that matter. While indubitably canonical, it strikes far out from the pack; it does resemble the new form of psych that the press pack suggests. Rarely does the intent turn to abrasiveness, and if it does, it is entirely justified as part of an arcing narrative. This is the most conventional and, meanwhile, possibly the most completely realized To Live and Shave album. Not quite (nearly?) the achievement that was The Wigmaker, Noon and Eternity ought to make waves not quite as big, but further reaching, this time as a result of Tom Smith and TLASILA as a whole.
* Rat has been a member of the group from almost the outset; his tenure is of equivalent length to mine.
There are some records that, in hindsight through the high-conceptual lens, are like Mount Everest. Why were they made? Because they could be. End of discussion. The holy grail of the Shaggs' first LP; Nandor Nevai's karaoke excretion from a few years back; Having Fun with Elvis on Stage; any five Reynols records; and To Live and Shave in L.A.'s debut long player, 30-minute mannercreme (1994), stand out as testaments. Floridian Tom Smith's first outing under that moniker tipped the what-the-fuck scale with 40 tracks of stuttering cutups purloined from goodwill-bin LPs. Here, too, were skeins of feedback and clipping and all that pre-No Fun goodness, with Smith all snot and slobber over the whole mess as if being forcibly mummified with his own tape-loop collection.
Many of TLASILA's records in between prove either criminally difficult to track down, unrealized, or unavailable altogether, owing perhaps to Smith's spotty label luck (a quick browse at his discography seems to confirm this). It can be reported, however, that Noon and Eternity is a far different beast than Smith's slash-and-burn dub frenzy of old. There's a free-improv session feel that's been maintained throughout, despite whatever degree of digital doctoring, editing and processing it may have taken to ultimately create this weird sort of pop-aware suite. And if no such post-production took place, then hats off to the ensemble, which includes Don Fleming, Thurston Moore, Rat Bastard and TV's Andrew W.K. amongst the noisemakers.
Anchored by a seasick synth patch from the darker end of the new wave, "This Home and Fear" sets up the unsettling mood for the next 66:25. Indeed, these four lengthy tracks seethe and simmer with vicious tension and nearly zero release. Where new themes develop, they seem merely to morph into stepping stones of a slightly different texture, as when straight-up AMM-styled ambience gives way suddenly to a melodic instrumental hook. Or when said lead-off track bobs up from its Scatology-era Coil abyss into a scrabbling, crunching free-guitar duet, before an arena rock + oscillator near-climax and subsequent guitar-approximated plane crash, complete with the tick and crackle of cooling wreckage. Smith's lascivious stage whisper/atonal warble complements rather than undermines the creepiness of "Percent Obstruct Street." As does use of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry-esque lines like "I find myself in structured proximity / good rock show delivers a jolt of three-button herringbone," jawed over a low-bitrate sequence and a chorus of indistinct whines, while a junkpile motorik clangs away beneath. Smith's toothy 19-minute aria "Early 1880s" allows its guitars to shimmer and buzz lazily over broadcast snippets and a steady New Zealand (i.e.: "nonexistent") groove. And Smith as a death-rock high priest? Sure sounds plausible, actually, after a listen to "Mothers over Silverpoint,” with its commanding vocal and somber synth melody that carries on throughout over prickly background din.
Noon and Eternity suggests intriguing territory for TLASILA in its fusion of avant-noise and dark melody. Use this album as responsibly as possible: Namely, to terrify and finger as total poser the bored and boring goth kid in the family at your upcoming holiday get together.
According to To Live & Shave in L.A.'s Wikipedia entry, Tom Smith & Frank "Rat Bastard" Falestra set out to create a sound based on "a mélange of... musique concrète, dub, 70s glam, free-improvised music, and the works of a variety of transgressive authors and filmmakers." What this meant in the past was confrontational songs with obnoxious titles that lived up to a tenet of Smith's philosophy-- "the more exalted one's intent, the more insipid the moniker should be." What this means for Noon to Eternity is a confrontational album that's surprisingly approachable.
This latest collection of exaltations from TLASILA isn't any less confrontational than works of the past-- Noon and Eternity consists of four tracks, none shorter than nine minutes, with two of them taking up two-thirds of the album's total running time. If you're looking for that 70s glam vibe, you'd be better off hitting yourself in the head with Mott the Hoople records. The other reference points mentioned above, however, are all over this thing. The music-- swampy, slow, queasy-- hearkens back to the nascent days of no wave, with Smith's lugubrious vocals not dissimilar to Arto Lindsay's hoarse whispers. Good luck picking out the words, though-- no doubt Tom Smith means what he says, but he's not going to actually come out and just say it. There are a few repeated key phrases that stick out-- "this home and fear," "mass graves are found last year"-- that, coupled with the bronze soldier on the album's cover, hint at a very topical theme. But Smith does his best to make these cogent fragments unrecognizable, strangling the syllables as they slither through the band's tribal cacophony. Even the snippets of sampled dialog get lost amidst the meditative clanging and chiming and bursts of static.
In 2002, Pitchfork's Jason Nickey gave TLASILA's The Wigmaker in Eighteenth-Century Williamsburg the sort of backhanded praise that belies a begrudging respect: "If I ever put this double-disc set on again it's because I'm playing it for a curious friend, or I've sunk so deep into a bout with self-loathing that I want to cause irreparable damage to my nervous system." In contrast, Noon is almost an album of gentle ambiance (in a slasher flick fashion). Smith, in conjunction with bandmates/not-so-strange bedfellows Don Fleming and Andrew WK, produce a mix that makes this difficult racket easy on the ears, while not compromising the intent of the music. "Mothers Over Silverpoint" transitions from the expected crashing racket to a softer wash of noise that would make Goblin fanboys (like Zombi) extremely jealous. When "This Home And Fear" switches from queasy soundscape to ur-rock rave-up, the transition between these states jars the listener gently. And perhaps this is this album's most remarkable trick-- it's a mess of noise that isn't all that noisy.
released October 31, 2006
Recorded at Echo Canyon, NYC, 2004. Mixed by Andrew W.K. at his loft, NYC, 2005. Produced by AWK & TS.
TLASILA: Rat Bastard, Ben Wolcott, Mark Morgan, Andrew W.K., Thurston Moore, Chris Grier, Kim Rancourt, and Tom Smith.
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