Jason Lescalleet - Songs About Nothing (lossless)
Lossless AIFF (16bit/44.1kHz)
Songs About Nothing is the third in the ErstSolo series after Keith Rowe's The Room and Toshimaru Nakamura's maruto, and is the first double CD on the imprint. Songs About Nothing essentially contains two independent powerhouse releases (Trophy Tape and Road Test) from the ever-reliable Lescalleet.
3. Tarnished Copper (Copper Will Never Be Gold) 02:33
14. The Future Belongs To No One 43:11
CD 1: Trophy Tape
1. The Beauty of Independent Music (1:27)
2. Old Theme (2:34)
3. Tarnished Copper (Copper Will Never Be Gold) (2:33)
4. The Loop (1:40)
5. Euphoric Sting (2:20)
6. Beauty is a Bowtie (HTDW) (2:14)
7. The Power of Pussy (4:01)
8. Escargot (2:27)
9. In the Morning, In the Winter Shade, On the First of March, On the Holiday (2:28)
10. Friday Night in a Catholic Home (2:06)
11. 10 Amp Waves (2:12)
12. I Killed Another Day (2:31)
13. In Through the Out Door and Another Whore (5:08)
CD 2: Road Test
1. The Future Belongs to No One (43:11)
(released July 25, 2012)
Stunning double disc collection of mind-erasing loops, avant classical drone and minimal cold wave threat from Jason Lescallett, presented as a back-handed tribute to Big Black’s notorious 1992 album Songs About Fucking: Songs About Nothing is the sound of pure entropy, moving from ear-scalding feedback sculptures through nod-out minimal synth repetition through scrambled choral works and widescreen soundtrack drones. The first disc unfolds in a series of stately movements linked by a form of oblique progressive logic with an increasing atmosphere of all-out psychosis until it feels like you’re listening in on advanced surveillance electronics or experiments in sonic/psychological warfare (a quality which often marks out the most extreme Lescalleet recordings). The second disc consists of one massively extended track which expands on the ‘narrative’ feel of the first disc with the sounds of helicopter blades, distant cries, riot tones, hallucinatory/piercing upper register violence and huge blocks of eviscerated silence, with aspects of Masayoshi Urabe’s convulsive approach to orchestrating nada. A stunning release from Lescalleet, his best to date, and a set that demands to be explored repeatedly in depth. This is hardcore. Highly recommended. (Volcanic Tongue)
Matthew Horne, Tiny Mix Tapes
A question one might ask about Jason Lescalleet’s Songs about Nothing: what exactly is this nothing that he’s speaking of? In fact, from its referential cover and song titles down through the countless samples (some recognizable, some not) spread across its mammoth two discs, SAN suggests a whole heap of something. Every bit — from the vignette-length tracks on the first side to the sprawling one-track second — is dense, dynamic, and meticulously crafted. Simply put, SAN is Lescalleet’s most incisive solo achievement (which says quite a bit) and rivals his collaborative works such as The Breadwinner with Graham Lambkin and Love Me Two Times with nmperign (which says even more).
Just as with Lescalleet’s work with Graham Lambkin (which also includes Air Supply), there’s a distinct cohesion to each disc. “Trophy Tape,” the first disc, percolates with a glib vigor, interspersing humor with chilling electronics and careening between the electronic shards and crushing beats of “The Beauty of Independent Music” to the ‘mother fucking’ claustrophobic breathing of “The Loop.” In this sense, it’s possible that SAN’s “nothing” is merely a joke, perhaps a way of emptying the sarcasm from the original for another. But settling for this conclusion misses the forest for the trees. Yes, SAN is humorous in the way that, say, Taku Unami and Takahiro Kawaguchi’s Teatro Assente is, but there seems to be a more profound nothing at work on SAN.
When transitioning into the second disc, “Road Test,” it becomes clear that Lescalleet has recorded more than just a tongue-deeply-in-cheek homage. In contrast to “Trophy Tape,” the second-disc-long “The Future Belongs to No One” finds Lescalleet as a concrète auteur. Stretching across 43-odd minutes, “The Future Belongs to No One” is an attempt by Lescalleet to recreate his live sound, deftly mixing samples of muscle cars, protest chants, and purple drankin’ appropriation with looming electronics. This disc goes far beyond the icy sarcasm of “Trophy Tape,” suggesting an immense emptiness, possibly the titular “nothing.” But there isn’t just a mere sense of bleakness; Lescalleet manages to dislocate each sample’s origin and construct a wholly new environment. The throbbing pulse before the screwed DM, the faint beeps of a truck in reverse, the passing helicopters — they all congeal into “Road Test’s” world of despair, with few, if any, traces of their original signifying qualities.
This approach to samples and field recordings has become a hallmark of both the Erstwhile label as of late and post-eai in general. With last year’s aforementioned Teatro Assente and this year’s Crosshatches (by Michael Pisaro and Toshiya Tsunoda), there’s a consistent application of found sound as not records of a time and place, but literally as sound, arranged within a new spatiotemporal context. They, like Lescalleet, treat their samples as sound objects, as vibrations that refer only to themselves, or at least nothing in particular. In this sense, we can understand SAN’s “nothing” in a dual way: as sentiment (both smarmy and serious) and as sound.
On “I Killed Another Day,” Lescalleet ‘resigns,’ “It takes out the pizzaz, doesn’t it? It just drains you. It burns you out. And so there’s times when… it’s almost like what am I even going through this for? Why am I even doing this?” In what might be the most literal sample on SAN, the listener is forced to answer these questions. My answer? Lescalleet is doing this for the spectacle of Songs About Nothing [In Particular], and it has resulted in one of the strongest releases of the year.
Brian Olewnick, Just Outside
First things first. As has been the case with previous Erstwhile releases by Lescalleet with Graham Lambkin, the disc packaging and, to some degree, the content therein refers to specific recordings by others. Here, the referent is Big Black's "Songs About Fucking", a 1987 Steve Albini-led trio. Not only are the album cover and typography the same (though sans the perspiring lady presumably in the throes of the aforementioned activity) but the thirteen tracks that make up the first of two discs here, so I'm told, duplicate the durations of the original LP to a t. Additionally, Lescalleet's titles for the tracks are variations of those found on the Big Black record.
Now, I have never heard "Songs About Fucking". I take it that it's important--historically, nostalgically, whatever--to Lescalleet but as I don't share that history, I'll just state the above and move on. Well, wait, I see that the entire LP (only about 31 minutes) is on You Tube, so I'll give a listen on the laptop....ok, done. While there's something distinctly 80s about it to these ears, I can see the attraction. Not really my cuppa, but...
Each disc bears a title, the first being "Trophy Tape", containing those thirteen tracks. It's in interestingly tough listen, tough not so much as far as the individual tracks are concerned, but more in mentally soldering them together as a suite (they do pretty much bleed into one another). The approach is quite varied and includes, I'm presuming, numerous (manipulated) samples though I can't identify a one of them. I actually find the trainspotting-ish notion something of a distraction and prefer to listen to it as abstract music which is where the difficulty sets in, but also the fascination. It opens with a cochlear disintegrator that plants us firmly in the world of the Lescalleet we know and love, piercing shards, momentarily descending into a foam of electronics, quickly rising for another assault--primo stuff. And then, abruptly, lurches into the most fuzz-drenched dub-metal march you'll ever hear (cribbed from somewhere? I'd guess so, but no clue, really); even this quickly loses the gristle, settles into an almost jaunty rhythm, trucks for a while. A snatch of shakily recorded piano, classical sounding, skid off into a higher-pitched variant on the initial sounds, that masked by juicy drones (altered strings, I think) and finally a quick snatch of guitar and voice that sounds vaguely Morricone-ish (or, thinking on it, a tiny sliver from Scott Johnson's "John Somebody" for which, if true, I should get a prize); a really odd track stuck amidst an odd set. This kind of melange within a melange continues for a bit, elements overlaid and morphing into one another, not Zorn circa 1990-like, but far more organic without any archness. I find myself going back and forth between simply appreciating the sonics, which are often glorious (and not seldom extreme), and trying to piece together the whole. The sixth track contains spacey, muted vocals that sound almost recognizable, and a phased shuffling rhythm sort of like the backward beats in "Are You Experienced?" The second half of this disc gradually tilts toward the less violent (slightly), with burred washes, distanced throbs; here recalling Lucier, there Barry Adamson. Now a low, pebbly growl, then a light, tinny beat, like atrophied mbiras. Monkish chants, a cut from, perhaps, a film, involving a man rueing that the pizzazz is being taken out, birds and crickets, a very loud car kidding to a stop next to your foot...I'm betting there's a ton more buried in there, mutated, hidden in nooks. But you get the picture, maybe. It ends with a flurry of harsh electronics and a few gentle pops and tidal spatters, really a lovely piece in and of itself but as disorienting as everything else here.
In a different way, but just as intensely, this seems to be as thoroughly personal recording as his extraordinarily moving and amazing, "The Pilgrim"; You have to give yourself up to it more readily than for most music, to kind of wallow in the Lescalleetness of it. (no Lescalleetlessness here).
Disc two, Road Test, is a different creature entirely, a single track some 41 minutes in length, divided into several broad sections, bearing no overt resemblance to the Big Black record as far as I can tell. There's one thing that's seriously frustrating for me, right at the beginning where you hear a voice in recording studio saying, "Wait a minute", then, "Rolling, take one." I know I recognize this but I can't for the life of me place it and know I'll kick myself when I find out what it is. Be that as it may....we drift into some fine electronics (and voices--Arabic? Hebrew? I know Lescalleet did some recording at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem--and a helicopter) which I imagine is sourced from somewhere but whatever, it's thick, mysterious and wonderful. At some almost indistinguishable point (perhaps it was this all along, artfully disguised) I find myself listening to a warped version of the already warped electronic parts that appear late into Terry Riley's magnificent "You're No Good". I cheerfully admit to chuckling when I first heard this. The transfiguration is great, layer upon layer of those buzzerlike pitches swathed in swirls of countless densities, with clangor underneath. I may not be too keen on a lot of reuse of material, but here it strikes a perfect balance between root and elaboration. And it goes on for a fine, long time. I imagine those a bit younger than yours truly, who had the (mis)fortune to mature in the early 80s, might derive a substantial kick from the next referral, following a lengthy, sonorous, complex drone and a fantastic windy/fire crackling sequence. I cheated and googled the lyrics to discover (hide your eyes if you prefer to be surprised) that Lescalleet had unearthed a Depeche Mode track called "It's No Good" (leading me to ponder whether that scrap of verbiage at the beginning might be from something with "no good" in its title...). When I saw Lescalleet recently at The Stone, prior to the set proper he was playing an old Donovan song, "To Susan on the West Coast Waiting" on an ancient 45 box-player, its rotation, possibly due to natural effects of aging, having slowed and skewed. I was reminded of that when the Depeche Mode track kicks in, equally disfigured, a winning combination of humor and, I have to say, nifty song, fading out, ambling away with a bounce in the step.
Even given all this, I bet I'm missing a whole bunch. I still think "The Pilgrim" is the finest music I've heard from him, but this is up there. Give a listen.