Junkyard Genius - "The State Of Dubya" (Owl Head Man Music/Unauthorized Medicine Records
Junkyard Genius - "Dreaming Of Atlantis" (Owl Head Man Music/Unauthorized Medicine Records 1997, UMR-OHMM 0009-9-J)
Uploaded to Aural Innovations: September 2003
I first heard Junkyard Genius when I reviewed their The Diary Of Dick Benito CD in AI #22. At that time they were a trio, but on the two cassettes I recently received they are a duo of Sal Pauciello on guitars, bass, synths, electronics and vocals, and Greg McGhee on sound effects, percussion, vocals and poetry (The CD included Brian Greenspan on guitar). Listening to these tapes hot on the heels of the Common Ground recordings (see reviews in this month's update) made for a very different experience, and both tapes, recorded some years apart, are completely different from one another in style.
The State Of Dubya tape (from 2002) focuses on short songs that are characterized by plodding guitar, bass and electronics. Musically this is pretty amateurish, but what Junkyard Genius lack in musical sophistication they certainly make up for in humor. The set opens with "CIA Man", which is credited to Kupferberg, so I'm assuming it's a cover of a Fugs song. "Dead Chicken Blues" follows and is only the first in a succession of tunes that had me chuckling. "You're Shit" is a dark, and very strange, electro dirge, with McGhee ranting against someone about being shit and needing to be kicked in the balls. Oooooo-kay. And how can you not like songs with titles like "Brand New Dick-Pump" and "He Took A Dump In The Urinal"? "Last Night Dreaming" features McGhee's poetry. "Tips & TIA" is a hysterical representation of a dope bust. And "Bush League Beer" is a political rant against the Bush administration (Bush the daddy it sounds like) in the form of a commercial.
Musically things get more interesting in the latter part of the set. "Conundrum" is a guitar/bass instrumental that caught my attention but didn't last nearly long enough to really develop. "Bozo Heretic" has a free-improv vibe with drifting, pulsating electronics and bang-on-a-can percussion. Very spacey and the combination of the electronics and basic percussion is a nice effect. "Ballad Of John" sounds like double bass tracks that combine a rolling groove and a heartbeat throbbing bass, backed by electro percussion. This one really got my head boppin.
On the 1997 tape, Dreaming Of Atlantis, Junkyard Genius are in a COMPLETELY different universe. The title track opens the set with ocean wave electronics, galloping patterns, various spacey embellishments, and bits of guitar, that provide the backdrop for a monolog about someone's life in county Donegal, Ireland (at least it starts out that way). I couldn't always make out the words because the music tended to overtake them, but the music does have a very interesting soundtrack feel, and is a neato blend of film styled thematic development and freeform sound sculpture. The monolog went off into completely different topics, particularly the Atlantis of the title, but also the story of Merlin and King Arthur. However, I became completely focused on the development of the dominant electronic patterns, which are simultaneously frantic and drifting, and loaded with cool alien sounds.
The rest of the album is instrumental. "Ocean Road" employs the same ocean wave electronics heard on "Dreaming Of Atlantis", but we also have a simple melody played on what might be a toy piano, and clanging chimes that give the music a trippy percussive feel. The ocean wave textures get increasingly aggressive, sounding more like a wind tunnel, and combined with the sedate melody made for strange but intriguing contrast. The intensity level builds to the mercury bursting point as this 14 minute piece develops, and bringing in real drums adds to the fullness and character of the sound. "Ghost City Under The Sea" is a relatively short, melodic, spacey instrumental with an Oriental sound. "Does The Sphinx Hide The Truth?" features brain piercing recorder (or some similar instrument) against chaotic but determined electro/percussive patterns and piano. I had to turn the volume down on this one. But in some strange way it brings to mind some of Sun Ra's most experimental music. "Pyramid Of Knowledge" consists of Om chants and bubbling space efx. Finally, the 13 minute "Morgan LaFay's Dreams" is very similar to, and feels like a continuation of, "Does The Sphinx Hide The Truth?", though it's waaaaaay deeper in space. Lots of free-improv, and somewhat jazzy percussive clatter, combined with mind-bending pulsating and bubbling UFO sounds. VERY cool!
In summary, The State Of Dubya was a fun set of tunes, but Dreaming Of Atlantis really tripped my trigger and shows what interesting sound explorations these guys are capable of.
For more information you can email Owl Head Man Music at: SRPau@msn.com.
Contact via snail mail c/o Sal R. Paulciello; 9 Stanley Street; Irvington, NJ 07111-2527.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz