CRUSHED!

I first encountered the music of Olympia, Washington’s Clayface during the summer of 2016.  At an early show show at the long since shuttered Obsidian bar to, be precise.  The music moved me for sure, but it was more of a gentle sway, and not the kind of elegant goth in black lace with a raven’s nest of hair sway, but just a “Hey, this sad music is pretty alright.  I’m fucking old and my back hurts and how come it’s so hard to go anywhere in this town without feeling like a thousand eyes are on you?” sway.  In fairness to Clayface, my inability to properly goth-sway had nothing to do their music, and everything to do with the sunlight creeping in through the door.   You see, dear darklings, these gloomiest of gloomsters, the heirs to 40 years of darkness and forgotten bedroom recordings with the feeling of a cold grave in autumn (in the best way!) simply had the rotten luck of opening the gig just after the 7:30 door time.  ‘Round the Pacific Northwest in the summer, well the sun doesn’t go down until 9:00.  We were stuck watching music I would later affectionately come to refer to as “Like if Robert Smith had way less money, and way more genuine misery” while the sun was still up, and goddamn if it wasn’t hard to feel the darkness a little less in the presence of the sun.  Creatures of the night don’t stalk the streets during the light of day, and I can all but gurantee you Peter Murphy would throw an absolute prima donna shitfit if Bauhaus had ever been asked to play a gig beneath the burning day-moon.

Somewhere in the years that followed ( I don’t remember when, because so many gray days long since blurred together and I always joked that every year spent in Olympia aged my pretty face twice that.) I came to actually know the music of Clayface and call Jacob a friend.  I couldn’t tell you when, but I’m pretty sure I was standing on the back table next to the devil statue at Cryptatropa watching the band absolutely scorch through Sister Is Dead, the title track of their sole LP when I just sorta got it.  The story behind the record is not mine to tell, but I will say this:  Lots of people experience tragedy.  Sometimes its hard to not feel like life is just a series of reprieves between the tragedies that define us.  I can also say that I know few people who people who have come out the other side of their tragedies making art as painfully honest, vulnerable and beautiful as Sister Is Dead.  It remains one of my favorite records to come out of Olympia.  A quiet and sadly dignified, criminally overlooked slab of wax sulking in the shadows between your RVIVR’s and your G.L.O.S.S’s and your Wolves In The Throne Room’s.

I was lucky enough to go on tour with Clayface and Harsh R, an equally beloved project making fucked up abyssal noise in the dank and dark venues of Olympia.  To this day, I count that week traveling up and down the west coast just at the end of a dry summer, heavy with wildfire smoke lugging heavy ass equipment and boxes of records as the highlight of my 2018, if not the entirety of my time in Olympia.  Last spring when I left for an extended absence, my last night in town, I went to see Clayface play and stood at the soundboard next to Avi laughing and crying all at once.  Thinking “Goddamn, if this song doesn’t just rip my heart out every time, and I love that Avi is all grins anyway.”  A perfect sendoff from a town I loved and hated to drive three thousand miles through the rain into uncertainty.  I wore my Clayface shirt the whole drive.

The morning was already hot and dry this July when Jacob and I caught up at a vegan restaurant on Capitol Avenue.  I was sad to hear him say he was thinking of retiring the Clayface moniker for something fresher, maybe a little less heavy.  I was relieved to hear him say the project already had a name and was beginning to play gigs.  Only recordings so far are a nightmarish soundtrack to a short flim made by Jacob.  I haven’t seen the film, but after listening to this, I fear the images that might haunt me in my sleep when I inevitably pass out as soon as I’m done typing this mess.  The first track is deceptively soothing, drawing the listener in, lulling them to a false sense of rest before the nightmares move in.  My first thought was how much this too short of a recording reminded me of the Hellraiser Themes by Coil without sounding derivative.  I mean that as a compliment of the highest order.  I’d like to think John Balance and Peter Christopherson are smiling from whatever acid-laced glitched out afterlife they inhabit.

Listen to Crushed here!

Clayface

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Clayface, September 2018.  Riverside, California.  Photo by Sass

HARSH R

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Harsh R.  September, 2018.  Arcata, California (I think) Photo by Sass

 

Signals Fill The Void Mix Volume One: Apocalypse Dread In A Dead City/Gravity Pulling In Reverse

It has been one of those days.

It’s one of those days where the gray sky has been dripping cold rain on my face for days and days without relent.  In my anxious state, it’s just all too easy to worry the winter sun may never come back when it sinks beneath the slate gray sheet of sky at four PM.  As the long night falls, the ever-pervasive clouds snuff out starlight and moonlight alike, giving an eerie abyssal feeling to the sky.  The darkness is pervasive as it is consuming.  So much so that I get the feeling walking home sometimes that the blackness towering above me wants to reach down and pull me into its maw, swallowing me whole.

Like I was never here.  Like I was never supposed to be here. Like gravity pulling in reverse.  That’s how I described my feelings of alienation and displacement in conversation once.  Like the world as it spins now, does not hold a place for any of us.  It’s like that episode from The Twilight Zone, where the three astronauts return from a mission, crash landing their space shuttle.  One by one each of them gets the feeling “they aren’t supposed to be here” and fade away.  That’s what lonely nights in this city feel like.

Like gravity pulling in reverse.

On quiet nights like this one, were it not for the internet and panic paced twenty-four hour news cycle, I think it one could almost forget the world exists outside this city and its dim streetlights.  As if the world just falls away into nothingness once you hit the city limits. So I go it alone one more night, hunkering down to write to my favorite songs in my small bedroom, shut away from the world I’m so desperately afraid of fading away from, but don’t know how to rejoin at the same time. Tonight it feels like all the clocks died at two minutes to midnight.  Fuck, the whole last year feels like that.  The kind of apocalypse dread and desperation that reminds you what attracted you to punk in the first place.

So tonight I lose myself for the millionth time, slipping into the spirit of sound.  Ensconced in the wail of guitars and D-Beats drumming out a battle march with all the rest of the lost souls and bitter children.  Screaming at the madness and sheer fucking senselessness of it all.  Because I don’t know about you, but I haven’t gotten a good night of sleep in what feels like weeks.  Ever since that intercontinental ballistic missile false alarm last week, mushroom clouds have haunted my dreams almost nightly.  All across the city, everyone I love just wonders when the hammer might fucking drop, and that then that’s it; lights out for all of us and the roaches have their go.

Punks have been freaking out about the end of the world for forty years now, my entire adult life.  I inherited these deep fears as much as the next oversensitive ex-spiky kid.  I mean, shit.  Discharge made a few flawless records (Let’s just pretend for tonight that Grave New World just never fucking happened, okay?) and a career off these fears. Beyond that they inspired legions of leather clad, paranoid emulators.

I don’t really know how to end this, except to say that I’m scared sometimes.  I’m sad sometimes.  I’m strong most of the time.  If you’re reading this and we know one another, I love you so much, and I’m glad you’re alive.  I want you to keep living.  If you’re reading this and I don’t know you: I probably like you.  I love your lives and your stories because you have them and they count for something.  Here’s some tunes that I love that have been on heavy rotation the past few weeks.  I hope you find something you like.

This mix represents my first attempt at what I hope will become a more regular feature of incorporating my love of music and my love of sharing music into my writing practice.  As always, thank you for reading.  If you’ve got feedback, or just wanna tell me what songs you loved or hated, I wanna hear it.

Track List:

  1. Chaos UK – No Security
  2. Icons Of Filth – Fucked Up State
  3. Skinny Puppy – Nature’s Revenge
  4. Confuse – Hate (Is It War?)
  5. Black Flag – My War
  6. Ash Borer – Waves With No Shore
  7. Body Of Light – Burn As One
  8. Larm – Chemical Suicide
  9. Cemetery – 4:30 Blood City
  10. Gauze – Unknown Title, unreleased song. Live, May, 2011.  First show back after the Fukushima Disaster
  11. Lydia Lunch – Suicide Ocean
  12. After The Bombs – To The Void And Back
  13. Youth Code – The Dust Of A Fallen Rome
  14. Nausea – Here Today
  15. Killing Joke – This World Hell
  16. Broken Bones – Death Is Imminent
  17. The Comes – Ningen Gari
  18. Part 1 – Pictures Of Pain
  19. Pharmakon – Sleepwalking Form
  20. Lebenden Toten – Near Dark
  21. Drift – Mirage
  22. Bellicose Minds – Orwell’s Troops
  23. Scumraid – Tsar Bomba
  24. Crude – Stand And Fight Again
  25. Life – The World Lies Across Them

Late night panic blues.

The things you think of, late at night when the hours have stretched long past the point of no return.  You are just trying to calm your mind down You just want to let it all go and surrender to the mercy of sleep.

First and foremost:  You are absolutely certain that there have been roughly seven thousand, seven hundred and sixty nights that you have spent just like you are spending this one.  That’s twenty-one years.  Twenty-one years of sleeplessness and dread coming for you at night.  Twenty-one years of late night hours passing in crawling flesh.

If your feel like being honest, or melodramatic (you can’t always tell the difference.) you could call it an even ten thousand.  Ten thousand, nine hundred and fifty-seven point twenty-seven.  That’s roughly thirty years.  You did the math.  You remember being six years old watching the crack of light from the hallway in your childhood room, waiting for the radio to lull you to sleep.

“This is Power 96!  Greater Miami’s party station giving you greater South Florida’s dance hits all night long.”

The red lights on the clock radio change almost imperceptibly.  2:27, 2:28.  It’s a school night, even.  You wonder how you will pay attention to you lessons tomorrow.  You wonder how all the other people up this late at night are occupying their time.  You wonder what the streets of quiet neighborhood are like this late at night.  You get a sinking feeling that the clock might as well read 2:28 AM for the rest of your goddamn life.

You think of all the time passed since your childhood room.  You think of all the nights, in all the rooms that led to this one.  Childhood, childhood’s end, and adolescence and onto the rigors and ruins of adulthood.  Each year, you swear is gonna be different.  Each year you find yourself right here; in another empty feeling room, late at night holding court with your own ruined nerves.

You think about them.  Oh, how you hate thinking about them.  Really, you just hate thinking about love.  You loathe thinking about anyone you’ve ever thought you loved, or said you loved, convinced yourself you loved.  You convince yourself that love is just some bullshit word lesser humans say.  Something we say to justify our appetites, or fill our cavernous voids. The thought of being vulnerable right now makes you shudder.

The hours crawl, and you convince yourself you’re so above it all.  You find a certain sickness in being soft.  You hate yourself only a little bit for letting them in.  You marvel at how we reach into each other and sink our teeth into the most tender parts.  We get a taste of forever.  We sate those hungers.  We come and go.

The minutes pass like pouring rain flooding gutters outside the window.  You are absolutely sure now, that you have never been loved, and have maybe never loved anyone in return.  You know you have been everyone’s favorite maladjusted mutant since the day you rode your skateboard to the cemetery in eighth grade.  Rumbling wheels rolling past crumbling civil war graves, she’s standing there beneath the graveyard trees.  You make out in the summer breeze.  Her mouth tastes like cigarettes and lip smackers.  You finish kissing.  She makes a joke about your dick, and you skate home.

“My friends will never know.”

“Oh, I know.”

You laugh to yourself as you skate home, because it’s all so fucking hysterical.  It’s all so fucking cheap.

You wonder what that girl grew up to be.  While you’re at it, you wonder about the boy who called you a faggot every day, but then asked you to suck his dick in the locker room when no one was around.  You wonder if they grew up bruised and without hope just like you.  You could look them up on facebook if you wanted and make fun of their ugly kids and shitty tattoos.  It’s not that late.  You remind yourself that you don’t actually care, and when was the last time you went to Pennsylvania anyway?  You certainly fucking write about it enough though.  Six years in a place that felt like it was too small raised by people who wouldn’t let you stand tall, and motherfuckers wonder how you got so hostile.

Like you could ever stop.  You know some things they’ll never know.

The hours crawl behind four walls.  You’re spiraling now, remembering it all.  You remember every last step and misstep, stumble and fall, all the time hard spent with so little to show at all.  You are absolutely sure that the world you knew is gone, and everyone else has moved on.  You are absolutely sure that you are still staring out through alien eyes and the world never actually had a place for you at all.  The hour is late now, and no one is going to call.

You have now convinced yourself you can’t breathe, even though you can.  You worry you might just die in your sleep.  This is a familiar and funny dance you’ve danced before.  You think of it as a well-known, and much loved song.  Coughing black mold out of your lungs and clutching at a lover’s sheets for a bummer of a summer.  There’s no lover-comfort offered tonight.  You wouldn’t want it anyway.  You are alone and you ask for no quarter.

You smile.  Finding glory in the rasping pain of being alive.  A moment’s certainty creeps in.  Maybe death is still stalking you, but you are pretty sure it’s neither heaven or oblivion waiting for you in the sky above.  You thank your blessed and still breathing body for pushing through the night.  You give thanks for all the nights before this one that could never hope to swallow you whole.

You think about your reckless and not so reckless youth rusted and left long behind.  In the morning the light will creep ever so slightly through the blinds.  You think about your excuses.  You think about your failure to thrive.  You think about your failure.  You still worry there might be no future, even though you’re living in it.  You still think dying young is stupid.  You still feel too obstinate to do anything other than die of old age.  So you push through, like always. Most of all; you soften and think about love, and how you are luck to have loved and been loved so much.

Or if we truly are in the end times, you could at least go home and die with your friends when the hammer fucking drops and it’s lights out on the world one last time.  That doesn’t sound like the worst option either.  You always had a feeling you and your one friend were going to die in a hail of bullets together anyway.

You think about the hidden and holy world you inhabit.  The world of fucked up noise filling crowded rooms made by mutants bruised and never quite broken, just like you.  You decide there’s time for one more song.  One more song to calm your nerves before the mercy of sleep, better make it a good one.  You flip the record over.  In the silenced that fills the air, you wonder if you’ve ever been home at all.  The needle drops and a hiss, and the spirit of sound rushing to fill the void.

Of course.  You don’t know where else you ever would have gone.