Bill Orcutt's recent solo forays have consistently found surprising ways to couch the most atonal shards of Orcutt's guitar work in new contexts, marrying a sort of twangy primitivism with an uninhibited free jazz spirit. On Colonial Donuts, the former Harry Pussy guitarist has teamed with percussionist Jacob Felix Heule, who manages to play freely but still add weight and contour to Orcutt's outbursts. For an exclusive second taste of Colonial Donuts, stream “Christmas on Earth” below. The track has maybe the most lyrical guitar work on the album, with Heule hanging back while Orcutt's conniption-fueled melodies here are more lilting than barbed.
Colonial Donuts is out October 16 on Palilalia Records.
"Monstrous" can mean "extremely or dauntingly large" and also "having an ugly or frightening appearance." Three Lobed Recordings' upcoming boxset, for instance, is a monstrous undertaking: Parallelogram, a collection of five split LPs, features Hiss Golden Messenger; Michael Chapman; Six Organs of Admittance; William Tyler; Kurt Vile; Steve Gunn; Thurston Moore & John Maloney; Alan Bishop, Bill Orcutt, and Chris Corsano; Bardo Pond; and Yo La Tengo. As explained by the label, “This collection represents a celebration of this label’s improbable fifteenth anniversary. It seemed appropriate to assemble an equally improbable project to celebrate the milestone.”
The “ugly or frightening appearance” bit makes sense too, though, particularly in regards to Alan Bishop, Bill Orcutt, and Chris Corsano’s cover of Cream’s “Politicians.” Alan Bishop’s ragged, violent caw reveals the lines “Hey now baby, get into my big black car/I want to just show you what my politics are” as the stuff of nightmares, while Corsano and Orcutt provide the disfigured, lurching backdrop. Though surely a cut from one of the box set’s more abrasive acts, “Politicians” is a fine demonstration of the eccentricity a sprawling Three Lobed project promises.
Parallelogram is available September 2015 from Three Lobed Recordings.
Even the barely-initiated can probably identify a track by guitar hero Bill Orcutt within the first two seconds. His singularly manic style has its roots in Harry Pussy's genre-defining noise rock albums of the 1990s, and that atonal twang has only become more pronounced through Orcutt's extensive recent solo output. Despite similarities in his attack, however, Orcutt manages to make each of his releases vital by manipulating his melodic sensibility (sometimes sweet and sometimes nasty) and his tone, either with a switch from acoustic to electric or a change in recording fidelity. On the amazingly-titled (and -covered) Colonial Donuts, the guitarist comes aided-- for further sonic differentiation-- by the pummeling drum clatter of Bay Area drummer, Jacob Felix Heule. And at just a minute in length, album track "Labor and Enchantment" fits in a major rush of feeling, with Orcutt offering a surprisingly ecstatic guitar turn that's lifted even higher by Heule's low-end drumrolls.
Colonial Donuts is out October 16 on Palilalia. Orcutt is playing at Trans-Pecos, Queens on June 28.
Not content with being one of the few batches of weirdos who still prints its publication on paper, Boston Hassle books a ton of real cool shows and an even realer cool festival. November's edition will be the festival's sixth, with announced performers including Blues Control, Orcutt/Corsano, Horse Lords, Drumm/Lescalleet, Prostitutes, Krill, Khaki Blazer, Tredici Bacci, and a bunch more names that could be hyperlinked to old AdHoc posts. The Hassle is running a crowdfunding campaign for the event which only seeks to raise (no joke) a third of the festival's costs, $6,500. More money helps the Hassle update its PA, and $12,000 earns Boston a free Lightning Bolt show. So donate.
"The blues as abstract." - Soundcloud description, in its entirety, for Bill Orcutt's "O Platitudes!," a seven-and-a-half minute track from an upcoming Vin Du Select Qualitite release. Probably the most appropriate (and economical) phrase to describe Orcutt's music, even if, with this new piece and last year's masterful A History of Every One, his music has moved ever-so-slightly closer to just "the blues." Though "O Platitudes!" is expansive, befuddling, jarring, and rife with Orcutt-ian flurries of disjunct notes, there are intact blues riffs, and it's duly lyrical-- beautiful, even-- throughout. Where A History of Every One mirrored the writing of the author to whom it paid homage (Gertrude Stein) with its esoteric musical idioms, "O Platitudes!" echoes, in its inviting-ness as well as its title (perhaps), the work of two later American writers: Willa Cather and Flannery O'Connor.
"O Platitudes!" comes from an as-yet-unannounced release on VDSQ. Worth noting: the label's also streaming previews from Sir Richard Bishop, Anthony Pasquarosa, and Aaron Sheppard.
Although it differs a fair amount from Song of The South's version (or Bob B. Soxx's), Bill Orcutt's take on "Zip A Dee Doo Dah" is, for the former Harry Pussy guitarist, pleasantly light and tuneful. It maintains the vicious and chaotic spirit of his previous solo recordings while adding a straightforwardly whimsical spirit that matches the song's Disney-fied title. The whimsy comes not only from Orcutt's frequent guitar fluorishes, but also from his close-mouthed vocals, quietly and semi-melodically filling the mix beneath the guitar. Despite their somewhat demented nature-- especially near the end of the piece-- the vocals expand Orcutt's sonic palette and push "Zip A Dee Doo Dah" away from the blues, towards a sick, ferocious, uniquely Orcutt-ian take on pop. Maybe?
"Zip A Dee Doo Dah" is from Orcutt's forthcoming LP, A History of Every One, due out September 30 on Editions Mego.
Listening to Harry Pussy's Let's Build a Pussy is like watching your insides being slowly unraveled, torn out, molded like clay while you're perched from a vantage point far from your own nervous system, looking in from way out. If you're one of those people who, when they see their own flesh swirl off of their skeletons after eating really good acid, can view it abstractly and say "whoa, weird!" instead of simply screaming, you'll dig the record. Between the title and the compositional process-- member Adris Hoyos's single yelp being time-stretched into a double LP-length, over-toned static symphony-- it tackles mortality, hinting that deconstruction dovetails with renovation, that death cycles with life, and does so with as simple an ingredient list as possible. Even though Adris' voice, and her theoretical persona, melts before our very ears, something grand and beautiful is created with that sacrifice.
When it was quietly released in 1998, the two constant members of the Miami-based noise rock outfit, Adris Hoyos and guitarist Bill Orcutt, had ended their years-long relationship, broken up the band, and flown far away in opposite directions-- England and San Francisco respectively. Orcutt was on the verge of a new period in his life and music-making: he was about to begin his personal career as a software engineer and began dabbling with electronic music after years of playing a raucous, rude style of dystopian blues guitar-- a style that was heavily dependent on the human touch, impossible to be "programmed." Though it was intended to be a swan song, at first listen it's hard to place the record in a greater Harry Pussy canon, legacy, or sound. After awhile, the emotional immediacy of Adris' destroyed vocals, the eventual de-sensitization to the gradual dynamics of the drone, the extended spaces in between it all, point to as gut-driven a statement as any of their early work, a new leaf turned and a fitting goodbye given.
Now, after fading into obscurity, Editions Mego recently re-released the record with a collection from the early Harry Pussy archives, One Plus One, and as guitarist Bill Orcutt headed on tour with Chris Corsano to Raleigh, NC for the Hopscotch Festival, I got a chance to speak with him on the phone about re-visiting his past and the changing face of the underground.
Ad Hoc: How does it feel to know that this Let's Build a Pussy is going to be more widely available again?
Bill Orcutt: I’m happy, y’know? And there’s also another record, the one that I put out called One Plus One, which is comprised of really early duo recordings. It feels great to get them out of a box in my parent’s attic (laughs) and get them on to a record and have them able to be heard.