5 Rue Christine

I was organizing some of my CDs the other night and found a couple of things that I hadn't listened to in a while. This included Hair Police's The Empty Quarter and No Neck Blues Band's Qvaris. I brought both discs to work the next day. As I was listening to Qvaris, I flipped the jewel case over and saw the ≠ that 5 Rue Christine used for their logo. This reminded me that the label is no longer an active entity and how much I liked them back in 2005 and 2006.

5 Rue Christine was a record label that was assisted by Kill Rock Stars. It was started in 1997 by KRS founder Slim Moon and put on hiatus in 2007 when Moon left to take a job at Nonesuch Records. Not to pigeonhole 5RC, but it was the home to all the unusual bands that wouldn't necessarily fit on Kill Rock Stars. Looking over the KRS roster, I really don't see much of a reason to separate the two groupings, but it must have made sense back in the day. I think there might have been the mindset in the late 1990s of the general punk/indie/hardcore scene not to fully accept weirder bands on established labels, so maybe a little subterfuge was needed to get the Xiu Xiu and Deerhoof out to the masses. Or maybe Moon just wanted to start a new project for fun. Whatever the case may have been, I'm glad 5RC happened.

I've always been a fan of more experimental music, thanks in large part to the dearly departed Brave New Waves radio show on the CBC. My level of fascination has varied a little over the years and in 2005 I was bored with a lot of the more popular indie rock. I had been keeping up with some of the newer bands like Hella, Lightning Bolt, Six Organs Of Admittance and Deerhoof from Brave New Waves. I wasn't exactly sure how much I liked what they were doing, but I was more than willing to give them a chance. At that point, I was the photo editor at the local paper. Two of the reporters, Nick and Justin, were younger and into those bands, along with Xiu Xiu, The Advantage, The Locust, Sonic Youth and Pavement. (I'm only throwing those last two in as a reference to connect the old with the new.) Anyway, now I had some people to talk to about these bands and could get a better sense of what they were about. They could help keep me up to date and I could fill them in on older stuff. And/or vice versa.

As a result, I started buying anything that 5RC put out until they closed up shop. In addition to Deerhoof and Xiu Xiu, I picked up Hella, Metalux - pictured, No Neck Blues Band and Excepter, too. I also got the Sur La Mer Samp-le-mer, which had a bunch of unreleased tracks along with a few classics, if that is the right word. There's a great Amps For Christ song on that CD. Of the bands on the label, I probably like Metalux and Hella the most, although that is subject to change depending on what sort of mood I'm in.

One of best things about the label was their artist statement:

1. 5RC gambles in inspiration. It throws out ideas engineered to provoke you. We can't help you understand how they make you feel. We are not here to aid or entertain you, but try to rifle out some kind of reaction.

2. We are nobody's poor cousin. We are not interested in hand-me-downs or castaways. We are not the branch of some other record label, we're a whole fucking forest. Soon you will recognize this.

3. Irony is dead and useless. We don't like irony.

4. Community is important to us. We want the people on our label and our friends and our consumers to be all swimming about in the same pool. We'd all live together in a big house if we could. But we can't.

5. There is nothing we aren't afraid to do. Music is fine but that's just the keystone in this organization. Today we release an album. Tomorrow we're dedicating a bridge in Tangiers. Friday we are all going to the sea-side. You get the idea.

6. We like noises and we like the spaces between noises and words and the sounds of words. We like the sounds of fax machines and static and babbling brooks and drive-thru's. Now that's what i call music.

7. Success has no place in our organization-as long as there's bread on the table and gas in the car that's enough. Sell four records we'll press you to our bosoms-sell a million and we'll gun you down.

8. People we would like on the label-Balzac, John Fante, Alexander Trocchi, all of ESP-Disk, E.S.G., Felt, Sam Fuller, all of EL, John Fahey, No Neck Blues Band, Gertrude Stein, all of cash money records, Balthus, Thomas Wolfe, anyone from Scotland, the whole medway sound, Leonard Cohen, Sunny Murray and The Beatles.

9. It is tasteless to talk about parameters, or to impose any kind of ideology or substance to any form of creative outlet. And so, much of what you come across should be ignored. Gaughin didn't start painting until he was 50, Kafka didn't have a thing printed in his lifetime. John Grisham releases things daily and he's an abortion.

10. "Chaos comes before all principles of order and entropy, it's neither a god or a maggot, its idiotic desires encompass and define every possible choreography, all meaningless aethers and phlogistons: its masks are crystallisations of its own facelessness, like clouds."-Hakim Bey.

11. It is better to be on 5RC than Kill Rock Stars, or anything else.

Maybe 5RC will come back some day. Maybe not. It was a good run while it lasted and made my life more interesting.

Note: The Metalux photo is from their show at Soundlab in Buffalo on July 8, 2009.

For more information:
Kill Rock Stars


Wolf Eyes

"We're trying to bring the good times to the noise, totally. There's a really good vibe going on right now, where it's a bunch of kids who want to have fun but want to listen to interesting music." - John Olson

I've been on a big Wolf Eyes kick as of late. It might have to do with it being winter, but probably not. I don't need an excuse or a reason to justify my listening to them. I like loud noises, dammit. And Wolf Eyes certainly are no strangers to making a gawd awful racket. The truth is that they aren't limited to just loud, but explore the notions of noise and sonic textures as well. Having a quiet build up before the storm can be even more effective than jumping right into a head splitting cacophony. Creepy drones, no wave saxophone, broken electronics and tortured vocals all fill out their arsenal. The band has built quite a vocabulary to work with over the years.

Wolf Eyes is currently the trio of Nate Young, John Olson and Mike Connelly. They operate out of Michigan. Aaron Dilloway was an original member until he was replaced by Connelly in 2005. Young started the band in 1997 and Dilloway joined the following year. Connelly is also a member of Hair Police.

I've seen Wolf Eyes twice in Buffalo. The first time was in September of 2005 at the Mohawk Place. This was when they were still riding a wave of popularity from Burned Mind and there was a decent crowd. The set they did was more song oriented. It reminded me of a hardcore show in a way, minus the dumb crap that can go with those. Black Dice and Et Sans also played. The second time was at Soundlab in October of 2007. The turnout was much smaller for this show. I think there might have been one or two other things happening elsewhere on the same night. The band went with a more subdued batch of songs this time around. Not to say that it wasn't brutal and loud, but it was also more atmospheric.

Like many noise artists, the group is extremely prolific with countless limited edition tapes, CD-Rs and a few seven inches. The 2002 CD of Slicer has a discography with over fifty releases spanning the years from 1997 to 2002. Factoring in solo projects and the collaborations of various members, it is virtually impossible to collect their complete discography. That's probably a good thing, too. It should be noted that in addition to cranking out the tunes, Young and Olson are accomplished visual artists as well. Many of the limited edition releases feature custom spray paint art and/or paintings. The band is a well executed mix of both visuals and sound, even though they would probably tell you otherwise. There is a distinct Wolf Eyes look.

Noise has always been a dweller on the edges of the so called indie rock universe. It's one of those things that many people into the scene like or can at least appreciate. Of course there are just as many folks who aren't into it, like your average Wilco fan for example. Wolf Eyes were taken from the shadows and put into the small spotlight in 2004 when Sub Pop released Burned Mind. If I recall correctly this generated a few complaints questioning the musical nature of what they were doing to go along with an 8.0 rating on Pitchfork. Wolf Eyes even got to open for Sonic Youth, which I'm sure delighted and pissed off an equal amount of people. The fact of the matter is that if you have an understanding of what Sonic Youth's history is and why they continue to endorse all sorts of weird bands, then a band like Wolf Eyes will start to make sense.

For more info:

An interview with the band:
Dusted Magazine

Pitchfork's Decade In Noise:
The Decade In Noise


Justin's Top Ten for 2010

This list is ten of my favorite albums of the year. I picked out a bunch of albums that I have spent a lot time listening to and enjoying. That's always been my main criteria for making any of these lists. I tried to avoid some of the bigger names that dominated the indie rock universe in 2010. This would include Titus Andronicus, No Age and Surfer Blood for example. Nothing against those bands because I like all three a lot, but they have already made a variety of other lists by now.

I'm at a point now where I find lists where the author picks out the more obscure albums that mattered to them a bit more interesting than every major publication and website declaring Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy the greatest of the year. Is Kanye even that good? In five years from now is this selection going to hold up as a worthy critical pick? I don't know and my money is on the answer of no for both questions.

I've been taking in to consideration more about how tastes change, including my own, and what sounds great might not sound so great later on down the road. I'm also considering the opposite, when an album takes a while to grow on you. I'm finding more value in the records that hold up over time and putting in the effort to collect music like that. Not that I won't pick up the occasional flavor of the month, but I'm trying to be reasonable about that sort of thing. Sometimes those flavors of the month end up sticking around a while. Finally, I'm making every effort to stay current with new bands because nostalgia is cool and all, but it isn't that cool.

Hence, my list. In alphabetical order for no real reason.

1. AIDS Wolf - March To The Sea - Skin Graft
2. The Body - All The Waters Of The Earth Turn To Blood - At A Loss
3. Grass Widow - Past Time - Kill Rock Stars
4. Maserati - Pyramid Of The Sun - Temporary Residence
5. Outer Space - s/t - Arbor Infinity
6. People Of The North - Deep Tissue - Jagjaguwar/Brah
7. Rangda - False Flag - Drag City
8. U.S. Girls - Go Grey - Siltbreeze
9. Werewolves - Someday We'll Live In The Forest - self released
10. Woods - At Echo Lake - Woodsist