Top 5 w/ Frank Lee
Today’s Top 5, we feature the man in every band: Frank Lee. Frank plays in Red China, Shiva, Jura, Forget, and many more. He also is avid in culture jamming via the Axis Mundi Collective. Here is his Top 5:
Repetition is incredibly common in so many subtle ways. Listen to the songs playing on the radio station at your work, repeating phrases, hooks, and the chorus over and over again. All this from the same playlist that alters inconspicuously over an extended period of time, a perfect backdrop to the day in, day out of life. The same people have the same conversations and arguments about the same things, following the same work routines, broken up by the same distractions and escapes, oblivious to it because the details are different. But, when people get a glimpse past the facade of change, they become uncomfortable and reject it. No one wants to believe that they are not a unique and special snowflake, no one wants to see the common ground they hold with everyone else, and no one wants to accept that we are all the same, and it’s only our subjective perceptions that define us as anything different from anything else. Our whole reality is an algebraic lie of minute measurements that we’ve devised to make us feel like were more than the sum of our parts. Try telling that to your social circle when they’re asking you why they keep dealing with the same damn bullshit all the fucking time.
Personally, I like what happens when you subject yourself to extreme repetition for an extended period of time. When you cut out almost any change, new details emerge. As you play a single chord repeatedly, you start to notice the slightest differences in each stroke; can you play the same thing more than once perfectly? Even machines in a loop, whose endless shuffles bounce into your ear, make you wonder if their sound is still exactly the same. Can anything be the same thing more than once? Is it our ability to detect a repeating pattern what draws us to create change, or is it the natural failure of a perfect loop that pulls us into a pattern as a means for stability in a random universe? Can an acceptance, and, even an embracing of unyielding repetition be a key to the process of evolution beyond our simple understanding of existence as conscious beings?
Existential questioning aside, I love repetition. This is a list of a few of my favorite examples that have led me to my own experiments with it. Grade-A stuff for all you Heads out there, so let’s begin.
So let’s begin.
So let’s begin.
So let’s begin.
So let’s begin.
Neu! – Hallogallo
This might have been my first taste, back when I worked at Harmony House and read Mojo magazine incessantly. Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger formed the band after playing in an early incarnation of Kraftwerk, and crafted three records of perfect minimal ambient rock. Reissued by Astralwerks in 2001, this one is probably my favorite. I got lucky and picked up a vinyl reissue when my girlfriend and I were visiting New York. Sidenote: David Bowie wanted them to back him up on the album ‘Heroes’ but there were scheduling conflicts. Damn.
Spacemen 3 – Suicide
Spacemen 3 were two real huge assholes from England who took more drugs than you could even imagine and completely reinveted psychedelia. Written as a tribute to the New York synth-punk band, this completely blew my mind when I heard it. Until then, I didn’t know you could make a song out of one chord. Got into these guys working my way back from spiritualized; picked up a copy of the first album at record time Ferndale on the suggestion of one of there employees. Attn: Jason Pierce and Pete Kember: if you are reading this, sorry to call you assholes, but I read the bio, you guys were real shitheads to each other. Put it behind you already, you’re too old for that shit. And if you should tour again, have me open for you, pretty please.
Red China – (The Room At The End Of) A Blind Man’s Penis
So this falls into that rapper-self-referential category, although I did not play on the recording of this song. It was performed many times live in the early days of me being a musician. There is much I owe to the China, and both Mike Ross and Jason Worden for graciously (and randomly) pulling me into the fold nearly 8 years ago. Somehow these two genius madmen (probably in a fit of Pabst Blue Ribbion and Fly Pan Am) wrote two extended masterpieces of repetition, playing until they couldn’t anymore, or the tape ran out, which ever came first. Later we perfected our own repetitive mind fucks on songs like Sudanese Disco (featuring Ray Thompson on baritone sax) and A Grown-Ass Man. After practicing this the first time, I exclaimed ‘Wow, I feel like I learned how to play drums.’ That is an entirely true statement. Thanks guys, words cannot express.
Oneida – Sheets Of Easter
I still can’t remember how I found this band (maybe from their spilt with Liars). I downloaded this back when I spent my time trying to hear everything and amass it all in a library of burned CDs. Three mad geniuses from Brooklyn on a whole other trip than anyone else on the planet, Oneida could be the best thing humanity has ever produced, and this song would be proof. There’s really not much I can say about it, the whole thing speaks for itself. I got to see them play it live, when they came to town with Kinski; beautiful from start to finish.
My Disco – You Came To Me Like A Cancer Lain Dormant Until It Blossomed Like A Rose
A few years ago, when my then roommate told me about Summer Pledge and Child Bite opening up for some awesome touring bands, it seemed like a good show to go to (he was very enthusiastic about the headliner, Young Windows, and for good reason). When I saw the name My Disco, I was not impressed. When I saw and heard them play this, I was impressed. I was shamed by previous opinions. Absolutely brilliant minimalist heavy art-punk from Australia, this is some of the most important music being made right now, no bullshit.
Honorable Mentions: Fly Pan Am (who basically were the new Neu! in their existence), and Unwound (for their album Repetition, which deserves so much more than a nod on this list). Also, any album with a lock groove; next time you listen to one of those, let it play for a few minutes, you’ll see what I mean.
Thanks to Frank. Make sure to catch him live at The Old Miami this Friday with Pupils, Mod Orange, and Mathue Read. Frank describes his performance as, “It’s my first solo show, I’m Shiva. It’s guitar and drum machine, two loud amps and one chord for 30 minutes. Should be fun!”