ARTIST: The Strange Walls
ALBUM: Home Is Where You Hang Yourself
REVIEWER: Matthew J.
Helmed by Jon Vomit Worthley, New York City band The Strange Walls combine the acoustic eccentricities of early death rock with the avant-garde analog electronics of the first industrial bands. Their full-length demo opens with "Bully in the Alley," a shout-along acoustic piece that sounds something like a cross between on of the Virgin Prunes' folk offerings and The Violent Femmes, with "One Eye Two Eye Three Eye" adding subsequent synthesizers and rambling bursts of guitar noise as accompaniment to the nasal twang of Worthley's vocals. The rest of the album alternates between spooky folk numbers like the rollicking gypsy-inspired "Skin and Bones" and primitive but effective electronic compositions like "Black Mould" and "Shitburg Song," both of which are comparable to the earliest work of the Legendary Pink Dots, right down to the psychedelic circus organ accompanied by screeching violin. While at times the band's forays into self-aware surrealism borders on art school pretentiousness, as on "The Robber Bridegroom," this is by and large exquisitely weird stuff. "Everybody Disappears" is especially brilliant, its deliberately twee music box effects and synthpop beat only adding to the creepiness. While Worthley, guitarist Danya Yushkov, and percussionist Dandrogynous are amateur at times, this release's low-fi qualities only add to its charms, and fans of similar avant-garde death rock acts like The Deadfly Ensemble should especially enjoy The Strange Walls.
Grave concerns ezine, US.
THE STRANGE WALLS
HOME IS WHERE YOU HANG YOURSELF
Who are they? Well, we have three individuals here, Jon Vomit Worthley, Dandrogynous and Danya (Davin) Yushkov, and they've been going since the late 90's, and if you want a clue as to their intentions they initially played live a set primarily composed of Virgin Prunes and Joy Div covers. Interestingly they refer to themselves as Post-Punk crossed with Folk Noir and there is a kind of diseased Dexy's meets a peculiarly prurient Pogues about them. They merge the melodic with the miasmic, spreading the idea wide or snipping it off without a care. The idea itself seems to be what matters and the form is secondary, which I like, a lot. In fact it's a brilliant record, which can also be infuriating, and they know this, the bastards. Their pieces have a point, whether you like the finish or not, as there is nothing ornate, and sometimes a sense of the shambolic, but it doesn't matter because their imagination is superb and you will be impressed, even if it takes a little getting used to.
'Bully In The Alley' is like intruding on some disturbing drunkards manhandling a shanty, while the cruelly terminated 'One Eye Two Eye Three Eye' seems to be The Mekons channelling Village People and just as some startling guitar seems promising it's over. 'Black Mould' is furtive and lively for all its shabbiness but it's so brief, before the inventive, eerie gloopiness of 'Shitburg Song.'
'Brandy Blackberry' begins like a stodgy artpunk mistake, but there's curious violin accompanying crude lyrics and creepy imagery which actually makes for a becoming mess although, ironically, it seems too long. 'Home Is Where You Hang Yourself' is just weird, pootling along, comic-tragic. 'Everybody Disappears' twinkles like shamelessly idiotic pop at heart, sing-song but saddlesore, and just slumps, weirdly, which is still charming.
'The Robber Bridegroom' is a lugubrious enigma, drifting by with some weird lyrical whimsy, and the meticulously slow 'Bloody Wednesday' is oddly hypnotic but becomes irritating. The jaunty mania of 'Skin And Bone' is winningly witty but also quite sad. 'Two Feet Off The Ground' has a delightfully skimpy beat tapping away yet the noodling synth and dribbling vocals create a murky mixture to keep you guessing, and then 'Home Is Where You Hang Yourself' returns to collapse once more.
They're very strange because here are rough ideas better than some bands manage as fully formed songs, and it pulls you in, naturally intrigued, although it doesn't satisfy. You can tell there's greatness here but they need to decide if they're going for the completed picture or some tantalising sketches.
THE INFAMOUS RED SPOTS. cd
Date received: 12/23/2000"
I don't know what this album is supposed to be" writes Jon Worthley, d/b/a Strangewalls. "The original idea was to get gassed and make a cabaret album." Heh, I get the gassed part, but cabaret? Maybe if the club was Cafe Flesh, the sex nightclub in Antonio Pasolini's 1983 avant-porn classic. In its concern with darkness, dreams, madness and general dysfunction,
Strangewalls shares some themes with goth, but really this is has little do with that rather well-defined genre. Closer in spirit to Syd Barrett than Peter Murphy, The Infamous Red Spots drifts from one unsettling scenario to the next, entrancing and disturbing with surreal incantations. FYI,
Greg Forschler of Seattle's like-minded Fear of Dolls contributes violin to "Sunken Eyes" -- another transcontinental collaboration facilitated by Demo Universe!
The Infamous Red Spots. cd
'The music brought here can be called strange at
least. Disturbing sounds combined with piano lines and surreal melodies
added with a voice with a lot of effects or just screaming. This has very
little to do with goth or any other dark genre in the scene. It's rape of
music brought with a lot of devotion. This is only for people who are tired
of the traditional bands and are happy with calm weird music brought in a
punk way. Darker Than The Bat
BLOODY GARMENTS. cassette
Experimental post-punk weirdo Jonathan "Vomit" Worthley has been stalking the fringes of the New England music scene since the mid-'90s. Initially inspired by Dead Milkmen ("Silly Dreams" is not so much covered as shrouded here) and Dinosaur Jr., Worthley was later drawn into Nick Cave, Lydia Lunch, Lou Reed, Clan of Xymox, Cure, Black Tape For A Blue Girl and other such cheerful musics. Soaked in reverb and riddled with eerie sounds and whispers, Bloody Garments orbits a galaxy far removed from where most so-called glam/goth bands live; the average Marilyn Manson fan would run shrieking from Strangewalls, which doubtless pleases Jon to no end.Jim Santo
Strangewalls THE EVIL CLERGY MAN SOUNDTRACK. cassette
The title "H.P. Lovecraft's: The Evil Clergyman" is a reference to a short film produced by the artist behind the Portland Maine project Strange Walls, Jon Worthley. The film was apparently only shown once, and then discarded while the soundtrack was kept and passed around to anyone interested.
The soundtrack opens with a scratchy, skipping melody that one would only put in a silent film setting -- indeed much of overall feeling of this tape is that of a silent film, although lacking the silent part as there is a little dialogue. After the short opening melody, we are treated to a superb work of what I would call minimalist light noise. Often times it seems to be little more than a drone, while at others, the various other elements create an almost insane organic soundscape truly fitting of a Lovecraft tale.
In my opinion this is a very solid soundtrack for this type of film. (I almost wish that I could see the film that goes with it, maybe if the artist reads this.....). The organic elements are what really stand out, making even the music itself an exploration into the whole Cthulu Mythos. The quality of the recording is a little lacking, but that can easily just be attributed to the fact that it was done on tape, but that's hardly a drawback, it only makes me wonder what to expect when he releases a CD. Last Sigh
strangewalls: KEZIA'S STRANGEWALLS.cassette
This is a homemade production recorded onto a blank cassette. From what I gathered from the information sent with this, Strangewalls is a synth-led Duo from Portland, ME. I have to say that this is by far the best piece of music we've ever recieved. The music sounds like early OMD on acid. I heard echoes of Smiley Smile by the Beach Boys when I encountered the strange juxtaposition of pop songs and atmospheric noise. Bizarre stuff and most enjoyable as well. We look foreward to hearing more from them.
strangewalls BLOODY GARMENTS. cassette
Strange walls is comprised of Portland Maine musician and amateur film maker, Jon Whorthly. This is his second self published release (the first being the soundtrack to a H.P. Lovecraft film he produced) currently serves as his demo.
I had already been exposed to Strange Walls before hearing this tape, so I thought I knew what to expect, but I was wrong, this tape is completely different from his previous one. First off, it's much more upbeat and a little more acoustic. the sound stylings range from demented little ballads that remind me a lot of some of Edward Ka-Spels work, to some very nicely done noise tracks. Now I'm not a huge fan of noise, but I would say that these are actually a pleasure to listen to. They aren't overly harsh or abrasive, but just simple and eclectic collections of sound. The artist describes it as "in your face gloom", but I don't consider it to be all THAT gloomy. I felt that there were even some moments when it even felt perky, don't ask me why.
The only real complaints I would have are with the recording itself, since it's all on tape, the quality is inherently bad, making me wonder at times if I was listening to one of the noise tracks or if it really was just the tape, but that can’t really be blamed on the artist. I understand that he's currently working on a cd, and if it's anywhere near as good and interesting as his tapes have been, you can be sure that it'll be a worthy investment.Last Sigh
STRANGEWALLS The infamous red spots (CD)(Own Release)
It doesn’t happen but in the case of this American band I had to listen three times to their CD before I could review it! Even if I was fascinated (otherwise I wouldn’t spend two hours listening to it, you know?) by their sounds I only had one problem : how describe it? I mean, have you ever heard a band who are making an avant garde-industrial version from the Christmas carol "Little Drummer Boy"? I guess not, but from the moment you heard this then you have! So that’s probably Strangewalls in a nutshell….an indusband who are using samplings from known sounds (….and that really can be anything!) and who are waving a sort of industrial atmosphere around it. As said, strange (and yup…their name doesn’t include a lie at all!) but the adventure you’re undergoing while hearing this can only be like drugs…you know it’s bad but you tend to return to it….and that’s Strangewalls : you know it’s bad for the brains (no other record gave me so much headache to write something decent about it!) but the satisfaction you get when hearing this is in no balance with the damaged cells of the brain.
The Original Sin
Infamous Red Spots
Jon Vomit presented me with this, his band’s (1st?) CD, at a rock show in Brooklyn recently. I don’t know who else was involved, but I think he did the vocals and the keyboard parts. It’s an amazing, eerily beautiful collection of songs that reminds me of Bauhaus, Cabaret Voltaire, Brian Eno, and the more meditative sections of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” but without ever being directly imitative or derivative of any of that. The mostly slow paced, haunted sounding sketches create their own world and it is a strange one, indeed.
Songs like “Kate In a Hospital Bed” and “Basil’s Song” might have been titled by Edward Gorey (R.I.P.) and strike me as a possible musical counterpart to his ink drawings of sickly, Victorian children who find themselves in various dreadful yet drily amusing predicaments.
Many of these songs feature simple, pretty piano figures which are subverted by ominous synthesizers and unsettling lyrics. They are like children’s songs or nursery rhymes gone horribly askew. The vocals circle around themselves in echoey, effects laden layers, creating an ethereal mood. Plink plink goes a pleasant piano, while the voice sometimes rises to a mad moan or howl. Some of the lyrics are too soft to really hear so that a narrative is only hinted at (in “Basil’s Song” I thought I heard lines such as “cigarettes and opium/Daddy needs a gun…” and “the diamonds on your face are rich as snow/the garden bed philosophies will rearrange your mind”).
My favorite song here is number 4, “The Valley and the Red Spot,” and incidentally I think it spooked my CD player. After two plays I couldn’t find it anymore. Was it a poltergeist in song form, teasing me? Or did I imagine the song? Finally, by forwarding through song number 3, I found it again. This song sounded the most complete and its lyrics were clearer:
In the valley children sing/see the decorated heads/throwing rocks and stones at people/laughing by the sun/In the valley every spring/the worm avoids the rocks they fling/since the time as I was taken home to when he was young/I remember you and I beside the fountain talking to the worm/as he spoke the red spot swayed around and round/sickly, sickly, swirling, bloody, red spot..
These surreal lyrics are delivered in a detached, conversational tone above synth and piano. Now and then a flute comes in to good effect, echoing the two synth notes that see-saw gently.
“My Electrode” has buzzers going off and “It’s Flattery” has a persistent, synth pop urgency not heard elsewhere on the CD. I like the way it ends abruptly and then there’s one more note. These songs break the drowsy mood of the others and I’d be curious to see where they lead. Near the end, the melody of “The Little Drummer Boy” is played on accordion and the ascending piano part heard on the first song returns, bringing the music full circle and wrapping things up nicely. I look forward to hearing more from Jon Vomit and his musical crew of fellow Maine-iacs.