Sonic Youth's NYC Ghosts & Flowers

Sonic Youth's NYC Ghosts & Flowers was released in May of 2000 by Geffen Records. I didn't get the CD until the fall of that year. At the time I was finishing up my master's degree and had been on a big Sonic Youth kick for the duration of grad school. I was more of a casual fan of the band until about 1998. I knew their music from various skateboard videos, MTV, and friends listening to their albums, but I'd never invested in owning their discography before then. I collected most of the Sonic Youth albums and got a sense of the band. Even though I hadn't been obsessive about them, I realized I already knew a good bulk of the songs from over the years so there was a large degree of familiarity with the music already.

I know I listened to NYC Ghosts & Flowers a bunch in the studio after I got the disc. However, it didn't register with me and I didn't remember much about the music. It didn't have the sticking power of some of Sonic Youth's previous records. The only thing I did remember about the album was that it got a few bad to mediocre reviews at the time. That was probably about the last I thought of this particular Sonic Youth release.

I did some reorganizing of my music collection this past summer and I decided to give NYC Ghosts & Flowers another listen for the sake of curiosity. I was pleasantly surprised by what I heard. The music sticks to the more experimental side of Sonic Youth. There's prepared guitar, spoken word vocals, and electronics. This is an arty record. I'm inclined to think that after enjoying a decade of alternative success the band was interested in reinvestigating a few things from their early days since they were getting older. The couple of noise jams off A Thousand Leaves from 1998 could be considered an example of this historical investigation as well.

If you're looking for another Daydream Nation or Washing Machine or even a Sonic Nurse, then this probably isn't the album for you. One thing to keep in mind is that Sonic Youth were around for a long time and everybody in the band kept up with the variety of things that were happening in underground music. Some of these things don't always turn up on their proper albums, but the influences are always there. The listener just needs to know how to interpret them because many of these sounds are drawn from difficult, lesser known places such as no wave, noise, musique concrète, and avant-garde composition. It's not always going to be straight forward alternative rock songs with a little bit of guitar weirdness.

For more information:
Sonic Youth


Moth Cock

Moth Cock is the duo of Doug Gent and Pat Modugno from Kent, Ohio. They create this backwoods type of noise that could only come from the mysterious parts of the Buckeye State. If you are familiar with the early days of the Alien Workshop skateboard company and their abstract video Memory Screen, then you know what I mean. I found out about Moth Cock from Alex Moskos of Drainolith/AIDS Wolf.

Gent and Modugno use a slightly different batch of instruments than your typical noise jammers by using a variety of woodwinds and horns. I think that's the musical term I'm looking for. Anyway, they run said wind instruments through a variety of effects pedals to produce a sprawling wall of sound. There's also chirps, bloops, and bleeps added into the mix for good measure. It's glorious.

Moth Cock have a bunch of tapes and records on such labels as FairChild Tapes, Tusco Embassy, ITDN Group, Pizza Night, and others. Tusco Embassy released their full length self titled album this summer in an edition of 300 so grab one while you can. It's got a vibrant green and orange screen printed cover and one side plays from the inside out.

For more information:



My favorite band is breaking up.

For the last couple years my favorite band has been AIDS Wolf. I liked them a whole bunch before 2010, but they weren't at favorite status until then. They are from Montreal, Canada and are the trio of Chloe Lum on vocals and electronics, Yannick Desranleau on drums, and Alex Moskos on guitar and electronics. Chloe and Yannick started the band in 2003 with two guitarists. Over the years there was a decent amount of turnover at the guitar player position, so they reached a juncture where they had three committed members and decided not to worry about having anybody else in the band.

Of course my favorite band plays utterly abrasive unknown wave music.

I found out about AIDS Wolf in 2006 from a slightly less than glamorous Pitchfork review of their debut album, The Lovvers EP. Calling the review slightly less than glamorous is being polite. Never the less, I was intrigued since I was getting into bands like Lightning Bolt and Wolf Eyes at the time and bought the album. A friend I worked with was also into them so I had somebody to discuss their music with. We both thought they were brutal in a good way. They now were a band that I kept track of and would watch for new releases. Their was soon a split with Athletic Automaton and a second album, Cities of Glass. Both were released by Skin Graft, a label I used to be into and sadly had forgotten about over the years. I started checking out Skin Graft again and keeping up with their new releases. It was nice to see that they were still around to put out quality music. The next AIDS Wolf album was March To The Sea and was their last as a four piece. It was available for public consumption prior to the band's first tour as a trio in the fall of 2010. It maybe wasn't the best idea to have a new album that you will be playing zero songs from on its tour, but it wasn't like the band made any radical stylistic shifts that would alienate fans. If you were stoked on AIDS Wolf before, you would still be stoked on them. The band was taking chances and exploring exciting new sonic possibilities.

AIDS Wolf toured a lot and I caught them at Soundlab in Buffalo twice. In 2010, they announced a new tour. There was no Buffalo stop, but I noticed there was an open date for shows in cities that Fredonia was in between. I contacted their booking agent and was able to set up a show in Fredonia. I'd never booked a show before and was terrified that something would go horribly wrong. Fortunately, I think everything turned out alright.

The band was pretty haggard when they got to town as they had been on tour all over the US for the last month with a break at Dub Narcotic in Olympia to record Ma vie banale avant-garde. Dinner was a little awkward, but things got better as the evening went along. They perked up once their friends in D. Rider arrived. Once the show got going I think everything fell into place. Both bands played really well. I think all the people who needed to be there and would enjoy it were there. I had friends who came from Buffalo, Jamestown, and Cleveland for the show. Everybody was in a good mood by the end of the night. I was very much relieved. At this point AIDS Wolf officially became my favorite band, as I had gone the last few years without anybody occupying that spot.

Ma vie banale avant-garde was released in the fall of 2011 with a corresponding cross country tour to go with the double album. There weren't any nearby shows that matched up with when I could take off from work, except for one in Binghamton. This tour was also cryptically billed as the last tour so I felt I had to go. As luck would have it, a friend of mine from skateboarding was living in Binghamton. He knew the house they were going to play at and was down to go to the show.

The show was in a punk house that probably is only a few years away from being condemned and demolished. Every inch of the basement was covered in dripped and splattered paint so it looked like a Jackson Pollock painting. Decrepitness aside, it was a neat looking space. When we got to the show, AIDS Wolf had set up their merchandise table in a small room between the kitchen and the living room. They were with Val Martino, who is Unicorn Hard-On. It was great to see everybody again and meet Val. It was fun interacting with the various kids at the show and watching how the band handled them. For example, there was a guy who was blown away by the concept that bands still sold tapes. Needless to say, he didn't buy any tapes.

As for the show itself, it was a little weird. This band called Cloud Becomes Your Hand played first. They did some type of experimental psychedelic pop and wore funny costumes. I wish I had paid more attention to them and taken a couple of pictures because they were friendly guys. The next band was a relatively local hardcore band. I saw none of their set and hung out upstairs the whole time. I think a good chunk of the crowd was there to see them because they were releasing a 7". Their crowd wasn't feeling AIDS Wolf at all. At shows with a variety of bands, you can always tell who is there for what band, who is going to be open minded about things and who maybe needs to leave. So there was a little bit of tension in the air.

AIDS Wolf set up after the hardcore band. While they were plugging in and turning on their wall of amps and gadgets, a girl in the crowd took offense to the loud noise. She said something that Chloe called her out on for saying. It got dicey for a second, but calmer heads prevailed. I'm positive the girl and her crew left about two songs in. The best part was that Alex kept soundchecking the entire time. With the hassle behind them, AIDS Wolf got to play. I think they had one of the best sets I've seen them do. Val ended the night with a batch of warm and fuzzy electronic beats. I'd never heard Unicorn Hard-On before, but any band that is friends with AW always turns out to be good. The bands were supposed to crash at the show house, however the party didn't seem to be dying down and they wanted some quiet. My friend was cool with them staying at his house so we all escaped to there. It was much calmer and there were cats so everybody was happy.

This past March, the band made the announcement that they were breaking up. Academic pursuits, art world opportunities, difficulties in touring, growing older, physical distances, and changes in what passes for underground music versus what should actually serve as underground music were factors in the decision to call it a career. That last reason is why AIDS Wolf matters more than ever. It was a little surprising that they decided to end the band, but I sort of had a feeling it would happen sooner or later. David Yow of The Jesus Lizard had said something to the effect he knew his band was going to have limited life span when he started and it wasn't going to be forever. Given the similarities between the two bands, you just have to enjoy the ride while it lasts.

I think the appeal of AIDS Wolf for me goes beyond the music alone. As a printmaker, I think it's great that Chloe and Yannick have the Seripop screen printing entity. Their artwork has been used on most of the band's releases, which provided a well defined visual image to go along with the music. I like it when a band puts in that extra attention to detail. It has been fascinating to see Seripop evolve from doing gig posters to doing large scale sculptural installations made out of paper in museums and galleries. Alex has his Drainolith solo project, which explores fractured synthesizers and guitars to create a different type of noise. They have influenced me as to what other bands I should check out, too. I've learned about Athletic Automaton, Outer Space, Pre, Sightings, Unicorn Hard-On, and U.S. Girls. Anybody they pick to tour with always turns out to be worthwhile, even if I had completely never heard of them before. It's all of these things that make me like band. And I should mention that they are wonderful people as well.

While I am sad that AIDS Wolf is coming to an end, it doesn't feel like it is an unhappy ending. The band is going out on the top of their game and on their terms. Even though this is an ending, it isn't the final ending. Alex has a Drainolith full length out on Spectrum Spools by Editions Mego. Chloe and Yannick are going to continue with Seripop and pursue academics. There's also going to be one last recording from AIDS Wolf. Nine years is a long time and to have four albums that don't suck, plus a bunch of singles, splits and tapes is quite an accomplishment. I'm happy I got to be there for part of it.

Last show:
05/11 - AIDS Wolf, Child Abuse, Gordon Monahan, and Not The Wind, Not The Flag - The Garrison, Toronto

For more information:
AIDS Wolf on Blogspot
Scroungy Glamour



About ten years ago, I decided that I was going to start keeping track of how many CDs I bought each year. I was doing this mostly for curiosity's sake, so I'd mark down on a little sheet of paper a hash mark every time I got a new disc. Gradually my note taking got a little more detailed as I would include data on how many albums I bought from the current year and the year immediately prior. I wanted specifically to see how much new music I was buying for some notion about being up to date with what was happening in the present day. I also started marking down if an album was from a Canadian band. I have no idea why I started doing that, but after doing it for a decade, I'm not going to stop now. Within the last couple of years, I've started buying more vinyl and then I began picking up tapes again, so those were added to my list. I keep track of the total number of releases I buy each month for control purposes. Sometimes I add wrong and it helps to have a second set of numbers to square away the math. After looking at last year's slip of paper covered in hash marks, I decided that I was going to make a form to record all the data on. This is what I came up with. It has columns for CDs, records, tapes, the current year, the previous year, the Canadian content column and a total for each month.


Best Of 2011

These are my favorite albums of 2011. As always my rules are that they have to have been released during the calendar year, they have to be proper albums, not compilations, and that I have to have listened to each a lot during the last twelve months. That last one, along with the formality of the release date, should be the two main criteria in determining an album of the year. I also tried to pick only one release from each band or label. No real reason for that, I just felt like having as much variety as possible.

The list goes band/album/label for those with questions of that nature.

01. AIDS Wolf - Ma vie banale avant-garde - Lovepump United - Fugazi could do no wrong for me in the 1990s. AIDS Wolf is at that point for me in the 2000s. 24 songs on two LPs of heavy duty unknown wave music. Brilliant. The cover art is by Robert Beatty. Beatty also does Three Legged Race and his "As Ed Sunspot" tape on Night People is great.

02. Cave - Neverendless - Drag City - Proving the earth is not a cold dead place, Cave take you on a warm and bouncy ride that you don't want to get off. This is epic driving music.

03. Disappears - Guider - Kranky - Old fashioned 1990s Space Rock a la Bailter Space. And it's on Kranky, the original home of all things far away sounding.

04. Factums - Gilding The Lily - Assophon Records - Gilding The Lily is a double LP of murky and weird Krautrock tunes. They only made 700 of them and I grabbed one at Spiral Scratch in November after hearing their tape on Night People. I wasn't sure what to expect as it was somewhat of an impulse buy. I'm glad I got this record as it became the best purchase of the day. I feel like I use the word Krautrock too much and it might not even be the right word, but I feel it vaguely fits what I'm liking.

05. Kitchen's Floor - Look Forward To Nothing - Siltbreeze - This Australian band reminds of Guided By Voices and Pavement in a way. Not that they are trying to copy either, but it sounds as if they could have been contemporaries of the two in the early 1990s. There's a big difference between being inspired by and flat out copying.

06. Sightings - Future Accidents - Our Mouth - Sightings make utterly massive and abrasive noise as a power trio. It took me a while to get into them for some odd reason and it finally clicked with this record.

07. Six Organs Of Admittance - Asleep On The Floodplain - Drag City - Ben Chasny has blended a good mix of mostly instrumental acoustic guitar songs with smidges of random sounds here and there for texture. This is probably my favorite Six Organs album as whole from the last couple of years since it feels a little lighter and looser than other recent releases.

08. Pete Swanson - I Don't Rock At All - Three Lobed - Pete Swanson used to be in Yellow Swans. "I Don't Rock At All" was released as a bonus CD with the deluxe edition of Three Lobed's 10th anniversary box set. Swanson recorded a few tracks of swirling guitar atmospheres for the project. It has the best album title ever.

09. Trailblazer - Successor - Night People - I'm a sucker for things that are honestly done in a lo-fi manner. I've been getting more into analog and/or cheap synthesizers, too. As always repetitive driving beats are great. Treating the vocals as another instrument by keeping them even or down in the mix is how I prefer my singers. Trailblazer does all of these things.

10. Woods - Sun & Shade - Woodsist - Yes, I like Woods. It doesn't seem like I should, but I do. In particular I want them to make an all instrumental album of Neu! sounding songs similar to Out Of The Eye and Sol Y Sombra.


These were things that I liked a real lot, but weren't necessarily proper albums, although some were. The same rule of listening to a lot over the year still applies.

01. Cloaked Light/Pale Blue Sky - split 12" EP - Arbor Infinity - Blissed out drone. This is two beautiful pieces of music to crank first thing in the morning.

02. Dirt Eyes - You Are A Kind Magician, Indeed - Bad Drone Media - Three songs of non-techno drum and bass destruction. I always listen to Dirt Eyes on the iPod on the walk downtown to the bars. Sometimes it gets depressing to go from listening to this to whatever music is playing at the bar.

03. Medecine Rocks - cassette - self released - This is a collaboration between John Elliott of Emeralds and Alex Moskos of AIDS Wolf. Elliot plays synths and Moskos plays guitar. There's drumming, too. It's awesome. Also deserving a mention is the Outer Space/Alterity Problem split cassette on Deception Island. Anything with Elliott's analog synthesizer magic is worth buying.

04. Slutever - Pretend To Be Nice 7" - Bantic Media - Slutever is two girls from Philadelphia playing skuzzy and fun punk rock. They played the best show I saw all summer at Sugar City in Buffalo.

05. various artists - Not The Spaces You Know, But Between Them box set - Three Lobed - Three Lobed Records made a box set to celebrate their ten year anniversary of releasing Bardo Pond albums. It is a four record set featuring unreleased material from Sonic Youth, Comets On Fire, Eternal Tapestry, Mouthus, Bardo Pond and a couple others. The cover art for each record is a dated piece of technology, such as a rotary telephone, typewriter or film camera.