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Concert Wed Jun 06 2012

Industrial Recollections -- the return of Boy Dirt Car (and Eric Lunde)

Boy Dirt Car.jpg
Boy Dirt Car

Can you remember the first music that scared you? Maybe you were too young when you first heard the eerie, mournful peal of bells that started Black Sabbath's "Black Sabbath" coming from an older brother's bedroom, or you covered your ears in reflexive terror at Vincent Price's infernal laugh at the end of "Thriller." Or maybe you've never been scared by music! This might be all on me, but I remember (and cherish) every moment that a song put the fear in me, every time that a collection of sounds, melodies, or emotions pushed me away, maybe not to return for years after. Ringo screaming "I got blisters on my fingers!" at the end of "Helter Skelter." The alien-sounding whale song in the middle of Pink Floyd's "Echoes." Bob Mould's flayed-alive shriek in Husker Du's "Beyond the Threshold." In some cases, I couldn't listen to the song again for days or weeks afterward. In a few rare cases, I still can't return. In every case where I do return, I return stronger, more calloused to frightening, bracing music, but also a little desensitized. I no longer see demonic sea creatures baying for vengeance during "Echoes," just four well-paid Brits in a studio twisting knobs and going, "oh, jolly good one, Roger!"

But the track that unsettled me for over a decade isn't from the UK. It's from our neighbors to the north, Wisconsin. And this Thursday, they're coming to finish me off.

Like many pre-internet music fanatics, I discovered the world of noise and experimental music from the RRRecords catalog, helpfully advertised in the classified section of Option magazine the early '90s. Unlike all the other record store and distributor ads in the back, RRR made no effort to soft-sell you with a snappy sales pitch. "Experimental electronic music, often of a confrontational nature," it said, simply, followed by a list of bands whose names sent a cold shiver down me. I'd never heard of any of them, couldn't imagine what they sounded like. Half of the project names weren't even in english, and another quarter weren't even words! ("What the hell is a 'Gerogerigegege'?!?!") It was too tantalizing to resist. I wrote for a catalog, which arrived two weeks later and shed NO light on the situation. Unlike every other catalog ever, the RRR catalog featured no descriptions, no press blurbs, nothing. Just band, release title, format, and price. Nowhere to dip your toe in. Until I got to a special offer the last page.

"The RRR Taste Test Cassette Sampler Series" was my rosetta stone. Predicting MP3 samples by 15 years or more, this was a set of 10 cassettes (40 minutes each) featuring 2 minute samples of 20 different bands/albums in the RRR catalog, each helpfully announced (and pronounced) by store/label owner Ron Lessard. Each tape was $2. So, for $20 in 1992 money (plus shipping), I could get a tiny taste of 200 bands in mixtape form. I wrote the check, hand shaking with excitement.

Nearly every band on the set was what you'd call difficult listening. Atmospheric drones, academic tape music, primitive synth-punk, imposing modern classicism. But a few of the tracks legitimately freaked me out. One was a track by a sax/sax/guitar unit called Borbetomagus, from their album "Barbed Wire Maggots." The other is playing this Thursday at the Empty Bottle.

Boy Dirt Car's "He Tore Out His Eyes" (from the Live Without A Body 2LP, RRRecords, 1988) shook me to my core. A truly bleak wasteland of sound, there was no propulsion to speak of, no beat to hang onto. Just dull, headachey static, punctuated with what sounded like far-off CB radio transmissions, the sonic equivalent of a stagnant pond. Over top, a voice slowly, painfully chanted the track's title, over and over. "Heee torrrre out his eyyyyyes..." while a second voice shrieked in response. "He torrrrrrrrrrrre out his eeyyyyyyyyyyyyyes!" Again and again. It was the end of the end of days, and here was the last man on earth, not willing to end it, but ready to end the pain of seeing. I just listened to it again, and even after years of building up my sonic immune system, "He Tore Out His Eyes" still jolts. Though other tracks would have more propulsion, more song structure, this is, to me, still Boy Dirt Car at its best -- abraded disgust from the rust belt of the Midwest.

Boy Dirt Car was founded in 1981 by Darren Brown and Eric Lunde after they met Glenn Branca at a Chicago experimental music festival. Other band members revolved in and out through the '80s, including Keith Brammer and Dan Kubinski of Die Kreuzen. Sometimes sounding like an American analogue to Einsturzende Neubauten (who they famously blew off the stage at Chicago's Metro, of would have, had they been allowed to play at full volume by a touchy sound guy), at others like the mutated birth-twin of Chicago's Illusion of Safety, Boy Dirt Car clanged their way across the states in hopes of wider recognition. They released the bulk of their records on the aforementioned RRRecords label (Lowell, MA), shuddering to an initial stop around 1988 with Eric Lunde's departure. (The previously-unreleased 1987 album Heatrig -- Lunde's last with the band -- finally popped up in 2001 via Australian indie Lexicon Devil.)

Brown re-formed BDC in 2007 (after years of concentrating on his other project, Impact Test) with the release of the surprisingly low-key Spoken Answer To A Silent Question CD, while Lunde released scads of insanely limited cassettes and vinyl missives, showing his interest in Burroughsian tape cut-up, degraded location recordings, and home-built musical technology like the shRAD, a jerry-rigged civilian version of the police's Long-Range Acoustic Devices, or "sound cannons." In 2010, Boy Dirt Car re-tooled and returned with the Familia LP on their After Music Recordings, a return to glory that more resembled the witchy malevolence of the classic albums than Spoken Answer.

This year, BDC put the pedal to the metal and released a new album with deep roots. It's a split LP with fellow Wisconsin psych-rock band F/i (who have shared BDC members over the years), and it alludes to BDC's first vinyl record, a split LP with the same participants nearly 25 years earlier. In addition, the group is celebrating their 30th anniversary by going on their first full fledged tour in many years, stopping at Chicago's Empty Bottle this Thursday. But wait, there's more.

Remember Eric Lunde, the erstwhile former BDC member who split from the band in 1987? Well, he'll be there, too, performing solo! It's like the Sex Pistols/Rich Kids or XTC/Shriekback pairing you never even imagined asking for. Eric's recent output has increased from a steady tumble to "avalanche" range in the last two years, with dozens of tapes, CDrs, and CDs coming out on various labels, many of them on his own Trait Media Works label, including Animal Mirror Self Mirror, a CD on the Chicago-based Crippled Intellect Productions label. His recent 3CDr/DVDr boxset, Localized Noise-Induced Transmissions: The Athens Project, creates a noisy sonic cartography based on a commission from the Athens Museum of Contemporary Art, combining field recordings with performance and theory. The DVDr contains a final report explaining the process and execution.

Eric Lunde

As if all that weren't enough, local noise father-figure Jason Soliday will be releasing his debut CD for Crippled Intellect, titled Nonagon Knives. Karl Paloucek, a longtime BDC member and solo artist in his own right, will open. His live "rig" over the past few years includes tinfoil, sewing machines, scrap iron, water, and pianos. He sets up a surreal yet specific audio space and just lets it reside. It all fits, trust me.

Boy Dirt Car/Eric Lunde/Jason Soliday/Karl Paloucek
Thursday, June 7
9:30 p.m.
Empty Bottle (1035 N. Western)

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »


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