From Aural Innovations #22 (January 2003)
What follows is an overview of a sampling of the recordings in the Taped Rugs Productions CD catalog. Many are CDR reissues of cassettes that Charles released in the 1980's, and some are more recent works. I more or less work my way through chronologically. But as you read you will quickly get the feel for the remarkable range of music and styles that Charles has explored over the years. Discussions of these various projects can be found in our interview with Charles.
C. Goff III - "-Re" (Taped Rug Productions 2002)
-Re is a compilation of music recorded by Charles in 1979-1980, plus one lengthy track from 1984. There's lots of interesting ideas here and having been immersed in Charles' music I enjoyed hearing the budding creative spirit experimenting and exploring with all the ideas that were clearly swimming around in his head. Charles covers varied territory that includes Fripp/Eno styled loops and other guitar experimentations, electronic space excursions, free-improvisation, freaky layered collages of sound, and artsy oddball songs. I really like Charles' vocal style which brings to mind an avant-garde version of Bill Murray's classic lounge singer. "Hallways Of Always" is a standout with its intriguing blend of strained guitar, song, and bang-clang percussion ensemble. "Truth Lies In Trust" gets pretty crazy as Charles has an out of control crying fit accompanied by shooting electronics which sound like a beehive that got whacked with a baseball bat.
"Doublespeak" is a 42 minute tape collage political commentary with racism, the inequalities of American styled democracy, and general policy tomfoolery as the focus. The title of the track seems apt as we're treated to tapes of what sounds like Richard Nixon are played alongside a preaching Jesse Jackson, ads for the sicko conservative Washington Times, and oodles of speeches and discussions. Music is a secondary element, but among the bits that crop up are wailing free-jazz sax and winds, melodic guitar patterns, Beefheart styled guitar, Frippoid guitar, and other fun sounds. This was probably heavy stuff in 1984 when hometaping was just becoming widespread and artists realized what huge statements they could make with a little imaginative (and devilish) cut and splice.
-Ing - "-Ingtrospection" (Taped Rug Productions 2002)
-Ing was a duo of Charles and the late Steve Schaer and features both studio and live recordings from the early 1980's. "Therapy" consists of a spacey psychedelic freakout jam in the Hawkwind Space Ritual vein and with fun crazed vocals. "Whirring During" includes crazed sounds and percussion that have a performance art feel. I dig the wild contrast between the manic male vocals and female singing that reminds me a bit of Dagmar Krause. "The Dance" has male and female spoken word along with additional wailing vocals, clanging percussion and freaky bubbling space efx. "Dark Glasses" features more crazed vocals and spoken word in a strange spacey atmosphere. "Kerosene Soaked Rug", "Trip To The White House" and "Seeming Steaming" are interesting noodling electronics and spoken word tracks. Some of the live tracks are from a live tape loop performance from 1983. "Rosie Notes/The Banquet/Whirring During" starts off as a grungier version of Fripp & Eno's works, though as the music develops it becomes more whimsical and varied, with, what sounds like, multiple guitars and synths working around and developing basic patterns. I like the totally freaky moments with wildly bubbling space synths combined with sparse free-improv guitar. "Hallways Of Always/Therapy/The Aquarium" is even more overtly like Fripp & Eno, but eventually transitions to include some interesting spacey electronics and guitar explorations. And "Louie Louie/King Of The Road/Pop Goes The Weasel" features oddball quirky versions of old time tunes. A fun set featuring more of Charles' early experimentations.
Disism - "60 Seconds Left" (Taped Rug Productions/Disicult 2002, originally released 1987)
Disism was a duo project from Charles and Killr "Mark" Kaswan. All the music was recorded in the same day though the result is two very different sets of music.
Disc 1 opens with a wild cacophony of block percussion, wailing space electronics, drones, and a seemingly endless but well concocted blend of sounds. There are song titles but the whole CD plays as one continually evolving track. The liner notes list a slew of instruments and toys, though electronics and guitar seem to predominate. It's aggressive stuff indeed, and while the music is often harsh it's not in a grating noise based way. Imagine a collaboration between Tangerine Dream and The Residents with both Manuel Göttsching and Fred Frith on guitar (that'd be something huh?!!). The Kosmiche factor is high but it's all firmly in the experimental realm. But after a while the cosmic themes take a breather and a more collage like sound sculpture section kicks in that also displays some avant-prog influences. And of course there are moments when all these elements come bashing together. Overall, chaos reigns, but what makes this such an enjoyable listen is that the music develops smoothly and seamlessly with such a wild and varied blend of sounds and activity that it held my attention the entire time.
Disc 2 is a very different set, opening with tribal chanting, babbling, mad laughter, and haunting growls. Some of the voices have a Residents "Eskimo" flavor, though Disism's approach places the Eskimos in something of a carnival setting... and boy are they having fun! Once again we're treated to one continuous track, and of course nothing stays the same for long as the voices fade and the music transitions to a free-improv guitar and electronics excursion set against a dark atmospheric backdrop. The space element eventually returns but it has more of an avant-garde textural free-improv feel than heard on the first disc, though structurally the music does at times jam along like the great old time Krautrock albums used to.
Overall, this is one hell of a good fun set of avant-garde space jams and sound sculptures. And popping up intermittently are samples from the Iran-Contra hearings, indicating that 60 Seconds Left is something of an indictment of the Reagan years.
Herd Of The Ether Space - "Topical Anesthesia" (Taped Rug Productions 2000)
Herd Of The Ether Space - "Dolly & Jackie & Mr. Wren" (Taped Rug Productions 2000)
Recorded between 1990-1997 and includes several participants. Herd Of The Ether a play difficult to describe and insanely chaotic glom of voice samples and freeform musical zaniness that would be right at home on the old 80's Ralph Records label. Though based around the trio of Charles, Killr "Mark" Kaswan and Robbie Silverman, there have been numerous members that have come and gone at various points.
Topical Anesthesia is a compilation of tracks intended the reflect the Herd's many members. The disc opens with "Every Growing Pressure", an wild parade of voice samples against pulsating phased drones and other freeform sounds. Where IS the toilet?!! "Chewing Gum" is a hallucinogenic glom of tribal percussion, toy piano, lo-fi guitar strumming, drones, miscellaneous found sounds, random crowd samples, chanting, and other voices. "Floss Your Soul" features Charles' lounge singer. There's some killer space freakouts, including a mucho cool piano and guitar duel. My brain hurt after "Mister Bojangles" and I defy any listener to keep up with all that's happening on this sucker. Is this a tribute to Sammy Davis Jr? And is that Bill Cosby dissin' my man Sammy? And "At The Space Bar" is a meandering space trip with some interesting moments and all the expected accompanying wackiness.
My favorite track is "Mourning Has Broken" which features anguished ghostly chanting and Gulf War news samples against a somber symphony. Almost simultaneously we hear a bewildered mother screaming "What is it all about... OIL?!!" along with a man discussing "major ecological disasters". Food for thought from the FIRST Gulf War... and food for thought given current events. The Herd manage to create a haunting tension, an appropriate backdrop for the subject of the new reports, but there's also playful flutes and sax and toy instruments thrown in just to make the whole thing pretty much undefinable. "Farcical Call" is similar in that once again we have a clear subject, in this case the circus surrounding the O.J. murders (we all know the fucker did it).
Recorded in 2001, Dolly & Jackie & Mr. Wren features the core Herd trio consisting of Charles, Killr "Mark" Kaswan and Robbie Silverman. The CD includes two tracks of 14 and 41 minutes. "Level In The Box" opens with dark cinematic sympho atmospherics, trippy wailing flutes and other assorted sounds that add to the mood. A sax (or something like that) soon joins in doing a wacky sort of freeform thing along with some choir-like chanting and jungle animal sounds, and the Herd experiment with a seriously strange choir motif through to the end. Interesting.
"Two Arms" is the epic track. It opens with a background drone, acid Zappa guitar, cool space and alien electronics, and strange vocals. Nothing chaotic here at all folks. Oh sure, there's plenty of weirdness. But the Herd do an excellent job of smoothly developing their theme which includes all sorts of ambient, progressive, psychedelic, and free-improv influences. Tension builds slowly as multiple players act out their parts, all very nicely paralleling one another's efforts. I like the free-improv guitar and wild vocal bit doing their thing amidst a swirl of freaky background psycho-delics. Then about the 20 minute mark we transition to a sort of Sesame Street from hell, but that introduces what becomes a more experimental segment. I like the sax playing against the pulsating orchestral background. And then... our favorite lounge singer replaces the sax to wind down the track by telling us the story of Dolly & Jackie & Mr. Wren. Overall, the entire piece has a linear and determined feel as opposed to the brain damaged stew pot style of Topical Anesthesia. Two excellent but very different releases. And as the Taped Rug catalog indicates more Herd Of The Ether Space releases then any of Charles' projects, I can only imagine the variety of fun sounds that can heard on the rest of them.
Turkey Makes Me Sleepy - "The Fluff Of A Feather Pillow" (Taped Rug Productions/Prion 2001)
Turkey Makes Me Sleepy may well be my favorite Taped Rug project after The Magic Potty Babies. And no surprise given that Charles Goff III and Mikadams are one half of that band. The snoozy Turkeys are a trio and the lineup is rounded out by Eric Matchett. The songs on The Fluff Of A Feather Pillow were recorded between 1997-1999. "Sandman" consists of totally freaked out unintelligible vocals and spacey vibrating guitar chords against an electro rock beat with a semi-dancey feel. This would be a cool soundtrack song to use in Night Of The Living Dead as the zombie hordes are lumbering across the field. Throughout "Faith Healer" we hear a sample of what sounds like a Jim and Tammy Fay Baker type pair doing their PTL shtick. The music is ambient and floating - in an Alice In Wonderland kind of way - and we also hear dreamy oriental themes. But of course mucho weirdness makes its way into the mix in the form of bubbling UFO synths. The first several minutes of the 14 minute "Disquietude" consist of mindfuck music that I can only describe as Phillip Glass meets Dr Who at the Space Ritual for a cosmic alien jam in a psycho ward. The craziness never really lets up though the band does explore a warped form of floating space that is a soothing as it is disturbing. An excellent track, though I'd check with your doctor before listening if you take Prozac or any form of anti-depressant. "Edna Lena Loo" recalls the Residents' earliest fun tunes. "Silvertone Wires" includes guitar that has a Roger Trigaux sound, so that we've got this dark Univers Zero motif mixed with quirky dancing synths and other strange electronics. It's An odd combo that somehow seems to work well, making this the most thematic track of the set. I really dig the blend of intensity and whimsy. But after a while it transitions to more a peaceful sympho-ambient ride. "Nocturia" is another varied blend of styles, this time including free-jazz, Etron Fou organ, and mish mashes of prog rock. Like "Silvertone Wires", much of this has a composed feel and creates a dark and mightily intense atmosphere. Finally, "We're An American Band" is a drugged Bluesy cover of the Grand Funk classic, with hysterical screaming tongue-in-cheek passionate rock n roll vocals. An excellent set!
C. Goff III - "Bean Dip Yo Yo" (Taped Rug Productions/Yippee Bean 2000)
Bean Dip Yo Yo is a compilation of Charles' solo recordings from 1992-1999. It's packed with good fun songs and Charles' trademark creative use of voice samples. Listening to the 14 tracks on this CD I couldn't help but imagine a scenario in which the TV Land channel hired the Residents to record music to go along with all the old television shows and commercials they broadcast.
Among the highlights is "Hall Crazy" which features UFO electronics, miscellaneous sounds and efx, and repetitive percussive bits, all working together to pay tribute to the song "Bicycle Built for Two". There's plenty of robotic dancey Residents styled weirdness on "The Will Of Landru". (I love that Star Trek episode.) "Pus Wheezer" is similar and quite a catchy tune. One of my favorites among Charles' songs. "Me With A Moustache" is also similar but with garagey rock guitar soloing. "Magic Potty Baby" and "FYI" both poke fun at commercials, the former being hysterically scatological. "Fly Away" is a folky acoustic tune featuring Charles' lounge singer guy, and accompanied by ear piercing keyboards. Y'know, parts of this remind me of McCartney's "Every Day". I think Paul would dig this. "Something Strange On My Sensors" consists of rumbling drones and a generally stormy atmosphere along with Native American dance and Star Trek samples. "Serial Cannibal" is an excellent track with space electronics and intense keyboards that make for a wild combination. It's got kind of a lo-fi Magma feel. The lyrics tell the story of an early 20th century Jeffrey Dahmer/Hannibal Lector type who was imprisoned yet continued eating his fellow inmates. Finally, "Orange Nose Cones" gives us an interesting glimpse into Charles' surreal dream world. Overall, Charles covers lots of interesting territory for an enjoyably freaky time.
Machinations (Taped Rug Productions 2002)
Here we have something very similar to the riotous Phloby Vs. C. Goff III "Book Of All Things" CD (see AI #20). Machinations is a roller coaster ride of oddball songs and fun-with-tape collages that makes heavy use of samples from a variety of sources. The CD consists of 28 tracks of Charles' collaborations with Eric Matchett, Buzzsaw, Josh Duringer, Mikadams, and the Tapegerm Collective. The whole thing really boils down to creative editing and the warped sense of humor that pervades throughout the set kept me smiling and often chuckling. I kept feeling like I was at a strange alien 3-ring circus and kept my eyes peeled thinking that at any moment Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones would come in and start blasting away. "Alien Death Trip" and "Systems Stop Fucking", both collaborations with Josh Duringer, stand out from the rest as being darker and more serious spacey tracks, and are the only two on the CD that exceed three minutes. Fun!
Hart/Goff/McGee - "Meshed Mixages" (Taped Rug Productions/InstrumenTales/Haltapes 2002)
Bret Hart, Hal McGee, and Charles Rice Goff III... a trio of DIY underground giants putting their collective heads together to produce music, noise, and sounds designed to captivate and confuse the senses. It's all here too... noise and percussion bits, carnival organ parading around with electro noise patterns, Bret's guitar attacks, scattered percussion, hair raising sonic assaults (caution with the volume!), and plenty more. I dig the avant-garde orchestral and free-improv pieces like "The Alones". "Trigger" is similar but includes voice samples arranged in strange ways with freaky sounds. "Uhura" is a wild free-improv/collage glom of electronics, strings, percussion and samples. And for space fans we've got "Smithy", "Man Dough", "Her Rubber Toe" and "Pectoral Glance" which all feature fun mindfucked alien cosmic weirdness. And the list goes on. The scary thing is I think I'm at the point with these guys that I'm confident I can pick out their individual contributions to each piece. An intriguing set of strangeness that fans of either of these three will surely enjoy.
C. Goff III - "Whirledly" (Taped Rug Productions 2002)
On Whirledly, Charles offers up a set of tunes that are mostly electronic but include guitar, piano and, of course, a hodgepodge of voice samples. The atmosphere is like a dreamy lysergic carnival. I often felt like I was part of a surreal musical child's tale... though the music can be atmospheric and even somber at times. And... well... it's kinda cute... in a seriously-in-need-of-medication sorta way. Actually much of this could get the job as the demented mans Rugrats soundtrack (which Mothersbaugh is perfectly capable of but obviously can't).
The CD opens with "JH1374R", a quirky freaky tune with a nice rockin edge. The keyboard style reminds me of a lot of Carl "Nomuzic" Howard's recordings. "Boom" is similar, consisting of an interesting blend of intricate piano and percussion and voice samples that give a zany complexity to the music. "Jumping Beans" is also similar but with a cool spacey intensity. "Fishbowled Over" is a highlight that has an atmospheric orchestral sound, but there's also some cool acid guitar in the background providing an odd contrast. "Laredo Tornado" is a warped Residents styled cover of an old ELO song. "Hole In The Donut" is like a surreal children's play world that also has an old Anthony Phillips Private Parts & Pieces feel. "Touchingly Neatly Cleverly" is similar but with freaky alien sounds. "Picante" is a zany tune that gets my thumbs up as best of the set. "Marlboro" features Charles singing a heartfelt Marlboro commercial. Pretty funny. And finally, "Queen Beatle" is fun tune credited to Mercury Lennon McCartney. The music is "Killer Queen" OD'd on Valium, though the words are a collage of Beatles lyrics. Overall, one hell of a good fun set of creative songs and crazy collages.
C. Goff III - "Vulnerable & Volatile" (Taped Rug Productions 2002)
Here's something quite different. A set that features Charles singing songs and playing acoustic guitar. I wasn't prepared for serious and personal songs but that's certainly what these are. The music is accessible relative to much of Charles' work, though he throws a lot of passionate weirdness into the mix along with just enough dissonance in the guitar to give the songs an off-kilter edge. Charles also does a couple cover tunes. "Depend On You" is written by Gordy-Robinson, and while I don't know the song I'm going to guess it's an old Smokey Robinson song. Some passionate crooning on this one. And "Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference" is a Todd Rundgren song I didn't recognize, though a quick web search revealed it's from the Almost Famous soundtrack. Actually there's lots of nice guitar here if you can tune yourself into the lo-fi song thing. And I've been growing fond of Charles' singing style so I found the simple combination of vocals and acoustic guitar to work well. It's definitely not the place to start exploring Charles' music. But it's a nice set of songs and certainly a refreshing alternative to the mass market singer/songwriter molded to perfection.