Friday, June 24, 2005
As promised before the break, here's a short piece on a somewhat forgotten early nineties combo from New York. I previously posted one track of theirs, The Crankcase, which was one of the highlights on a Matador Records compilation called New York Eye & Ear Control.
Timber was, for the most part, the trio of Rick Brown, Mark Howell, and Jenny Wade. The group started as an improv duo of Rick and Mark (joined once or twice by John Zorn for live gigs), then expanded to include Faye Hunter, who eventually left and was replaced by Jenny.
Drummer Rick Brown has come up on Mystical Beast a bunch of times. He was involved in the early No Wave scene, played in V-Effect (a personal favorite), and would later form a band called Run On with the ubiquitous Alan Licht. Mark Howell played guitar and has a website of sorts here. Jenny Wade sang for Rude Buddha (no relation to the current band with the same name) who existed on the fringes of my consciousness during the eighties, as well as Vodka (who'll be making an appearance here shortly).
As with a number of Rick Brown projects, Timber were all over the place. At various times they featured spirited attempts to destroy 4/4 time signatures, hints of Mofungo meets Minutemen folk/post-punk, scattered remnants of No Wave, and signs that they'd been in the Knitting Factory once or twice. There are off-kilter pop songs, tricky instrumentals, and "experimental" tracks capable of enthralling or annoying, depending on your tastes. I'd be tempted to compare Parts and Labor to a better recorded version of Tape #1 but that strikes me as one of those ultra-obscure comparisons that people tend to (rightly) complain about. Read about Tape #1 here [I never did fix that one mp3 in that piece...sorry].
I'm going to post some of the more accessible tracks from Parts And Labor today. If you like your difficult music More Difficult, be aware that there's stranger stuff on the CD. If you like your pop More Poppy, be aware that there are some tracks that you're just plain not going to like on the CD.
Why not start with a cover version? Here's Timber's take on Bad Education, a song originally by The Blue Orchids (the group that Martin Bramah formed after leaving The Fall).
Reminding me somewhat of Yo La Tengo in Ira-goes-crazy mode, here's I'm 30, I'm Having a Heart Attack, I Just Wanted You to Know That. This track was written by Rick and one Ruth Peyser. I didn't know who she was, so I asked Rick, who replied, "Ruth is an animator. She did some record covers also. She also played guitar in Bump, The Biggest Square Thing, and Broken Box (the last group never recorded but included me and Tim Harris of Antietam and Jim Biederman. Go here for details. Bump made a great 7" on LOST Records and Biggest Square Thing did one for Buttrag and have a song on the NY Eye & Ear Control compilation."
[Buttrag was Peter Margasak's label, also a magazine; Peter Margasak wrote for Spin at one time, though subsequent to reviewing Liz Phair's first album and subsequent to Liz Phair whispering sweet nothings into Bob Guccione Jr.'s ear, Peter mysteriously decided to leave the magazine and is currently a rock critic in Chicago; I did a bit on NY Eye & Ear Control the other day; Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo makes a brief appearance on the Timber CD, playing organ on one track.]
One of my favorite songs is Puddle, which really strikes me as what DNA might have sounded like if they were picked up and moved several giant steps towards the mainstream. [Rick was surprised to hear me compare this to DNA. To me, Puddle sounds like it's cut from much the same cloth as DNA's You and You. Drum pulse, minimal bass riff that gravitates back to one note, guitar breaks up the rhythm, vocals delivered like a poem over a backing track. Obviously Timber makes more concessions: the guitar plays notes, the singer sings. Let me know what you think.]
Finally, here's the album opener There's Always 1 & 9 which combines a lot of the things that Timber does well into one short sweet knockout punch. Interesting use of samples or whatever that is.
The CD originally came out in 1992 and used copies don't seem that hard-to-find. Failing that, it looks like you can order directly from Mark Howell at the above-linked web site. Rick and Mark continue to record together, and Rick is also currently finishing up tracks for Les Batteries (his long-standing but largely dormant collaboration with French drummer Guigou Chenevier) with the likelihood that some of them will appear on an upcoming CD release of their first LP Noisy Champs (originally on the French label AYAA). For that record the band included Charles Hayward, best known from This Heat.
Rick, Jenny and Mark were nice enough to forward one unreleased Timber track. As I told Rick with relief, it's very good. Here's Bats. Many of the finicky details of this piece were supplied by Rick Brown. His wife, Sue Garner, is a also a musician and her doings can be tracked here.
Bad Education by Timber
I'm 30, I'm Having a Heart Attack, I Just Wanted You to Know That by Timber
Puddle by Timber
There's Always 1 & 9 by Timber
Bats by Timber
You and You by DNA