Sprawl of Sound

Philanthropy and Eccentricity: KUCI Benefits from CD Activity, Ariel Pink and Brad Laner Tweak Pop Deep Into Left Field

Chris Girard's CD Gift

Chris Girard is a Los Angeles poet/photographer (according to his blog, www.chrisgirard.com) who donated about 1,000 demo CDs to KUCI (http://kuci.org), UC Irvine's radio station, many of them DIY recordings by punk, hardcore and indie bands. "These old CDs were submitted from all around the U.S. to Koo's Cafe, an all-ages music venue in Santa Ana, before the location closed down in 2002," Girard writes. "I acquired them in 2002 when I volunteered at Koo's because nobody else had sufficient space to store that many CDs. KUCI and Koo's Cafe used to have collaborative shows and bands that would play for KUCI would have shows at Koo's Cafe, which is why I thought it would be appropriate if KUCI had them."

The discs had been stored at Girard's parents' Laguna Niguel home since 2002. Now they can be heard by KUCI's worldwide listeners.

CD philanthropist Chris Girard bestows his precious gifts. Photo courtesy of Chris Girard.
CD philanthropist Chris Girard bestows his precious gifts. Photo courtesy of Chris Girard.

"I believe it's really important for former Koo's visitors, current KUCI listeners and the general indie/post-punk crowd to know what KUCI has now, and the musical talent that comes from across the country for the opportunity to play in Orange County," Girard continues. "I really hope the radio station will have the opportunity to play many of these CDs. A lot of these bands went on to do great things. I kept a handful of demo CDs. One in particular was Xiu Xiu's, which has become a very influential band in the past seven years. Others include Avenged Sevenfold, the Campground Effect and Earlimart."

Eccentric Treats

Muso supreme Brad Laner has recorded tons of albums for loads of labels—most of them amazing—and you probably still don't know about him. But it's not too late to get up to speed. His new opus, Neighbor Singing (Hometapes, out Nov. 6), offers perhaps the most accommodating entry into Laner's vast output.

Remarkably, Neighbor Singing is Laner's first widely available album under his own name. Over the past 25 years, he's played guitar/drums/keyboards in Savage Republic, Steaming Coils, Medicine, Lusk and Captain & Tennille (no, really), collaborated with Vas Deferens Organization and recorded solo projects under monikers like Electric Company, Amnesia and Personal Electronics. (There's much more, but space is limited.)

The work Neighbor Singing most resembles in Laner's canon is 2003's unjustly overlooked The Mechanical Forces of Love by the reformed Medicine. That album melded the weirdly textured electronic music of Laner's Electric Company guise with his deeply ingrained '60s SoCal pop inclinations (Brian Wilson, John Phillips, the Millennium, etc.). Neighbor Singing leans more on the sunshine-pop tip, as Laner runs rich, swirling guitar textures through his dazzling array of effects units. But as withMechanical Forces, the melodies come sweet and thick and bearing solar halos. Laner is a masterly producer as well as a phenomenal player, and he's also a keen student of pop/rock history, so he knows what tricks work—and then puts his distinctive stamp on them. The effect is sundazed and mildly psychedelic. Subtle and languidly beautiful, Neighbor Singing could've come out in 1969 . . . or 2009.

Ariel Pink and his Haunted Graffiti crew have been racking up hipster cred and media acclaim for a few years now with seriously wacked lo-fi pop. Scared Famous (Human Ear/Hall Of, released Oct. 2) isn't the LA auteur's best effort (that would be House Arrest), but it has its share of fuzzy bubblegum gems.

Ariel's artistry consists mainly of warping his perception of AM radio golden oldies into multi-layered simulacra of irony and sublimity, although he'll swear he's sincere. In an earlier feature on Ariel, I wrote, "[H]e erodes pop music's hoary mannerisms into alternative-universe chart fodder," and that still stands.

His tunes are often so chintzy-sounding, they become poignant—and pathetic, but in an ambiguous way. The production is just off and swathed in funhouse-mirrored reverb, but its obliquity somehow lends a touching, empathetic glow to songs that stick in your head like jingles promoting products for which you have no use. Ariel achieves a kind of reverse alchemy, and it's either brilliantly awful or awfully brilliant, depending on your tolerance for meager-budget, cheese-encrusted songKraftT. Recommended if you like R. Stevie Moore, Ween, the Frogs and musicians who spend more money on psychedelics than on recording gear.

 

Harpoon Guns Shoot Back

In last week's Sprawl of Sound, I mentioned that OC band Harpoon Gunsgot ejected from Santa Ana all-ages venue the Clinicfor trying to turn the floor into a huge kitchen (flour and syrup everywhere). The band sent this e-mail in response to that report:

"We did not pour any syrup. [Y]ou have been misinformed. The flour that was brought upon the audience was used as a detergent of mankind. The Clinic was cursed with demons and many of them happened to be in the crowd. We had no way of getting rid of these demons and the flour that stuck to the blood and sweat of these poor beings clung to the spirits and suffocated them. The spirits had no way of escape and eventually ran off and ended up on the cold concrete floor of the Clinic. We do not bring any harm to the Clinic or its management; we just happened to see something that they were not aware and still continue not to know of. Our management has tried to contact the PR manager at the Clinic, but has been only led down a dead-end road. These poor souls who get stuck in that desolate warehouse become a cesspool of sin and continue living their lives blind and forgotten. The vultures have landed and survive on the rotting flesh. May the Mighty Light save them. Amen."

Thanks for the clarification, fellas. Harpoon Guns exist online at www.myspace.com/harpoonguns.

 

DSEGAL@OCWEEKLY.COM

 

 
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