All of your favorites, in one place.
Major archival unearthing that makes available for the first time the bulk of the 'official' releases - plus a ton of unreleased material - from the mythic Butte County Free Music Society, a collective of musical oddballs, 'noise' musicians, art pranksters, record collectors and rock/roll fans who modeled themselves on the Los Angeles Free Music Society in order to create an umbrella organization that would shelter 'out' musicians during times of musical drought, this one taking place in the early to mid 1980s. That most of this crew would go on to produce the legendary Bananafish zine - a magazine that alongside Forced Exposure almost single-handedly created a modern underground music aesthetic - makes it all the more historically potent. Like the LAFMS, the BUFMS was a broad church, one that transcended and confused the narrow contemporary use of the term 'noise'.
This gorgeous 4xLP + CD set packaged with colour collage inserts, individual sleeves, track notes and huge fold-out posters covers a bunch of bases that consolidate much of the freak action that went before, ranging from primitive punk through No Wave, DIY pop, repeat-o psych guitar, garage jams, radio plays, cassette composition, sound poetry, Beefheart-styled avant rock, crude free jazz, eerie late-night home electronics experiments and more. Playing these LPs back-to-back, it feels almost like an indictment of modern noise, highlighting just how monochrome, generic and conservative it has become. A few of the players are still well known, primary amongst these being Barbara Manning, whose early recordings with 28th Day are represented here. This is some of her best work, with a more garage/idiot-avant style than her classic Lately I Keep Scissors LP and some choice diversions into brokedown form that could almost be Half Japanese. Elsewhere Dead Boy 3 make out with classic Teenage Jesus/Harry Pussy styled rock refusals while groups like Unlikely Modernists and The Marques play teenage no-technique pop/rock with all of the naive elan of Department Store Santas. One of the BUFMS's main 'big bands', the Bren't Lewiis Ensemble are particularly well represented and their Industrial Barbecue event from 1984 takes up a whole side, with odd sound events and cut-up collage work that combines the most disobedient Smegma inventions with punked avant garde modes. The set includes a clutch of the original cassette releases from Bren't Lewiis as well as the Everything's DooDoo compilation (minus one track) but for the bulk of the material this is the first time it has seen the light of day. Bruce Russell had an interesting piece on this set published in The Wire but it's worth re-iterating that the bulk of the material here is closer to free rock, basement avant garde experiments and crude pop than four LPs of modern noise and if you're in any way interested in the kind of under-the-counterculture zone inhabited by Half Japanese, Smegma, DIY punk, Beefheart, ESP-Disk, Albert Ayler's Bells, No Wave, Flying Nun et al then this is a major fucking trip. Across the span of its contents it succeeds in articulating a musical aesthetic that is a close to core VT values as anything I can think of. I really can't recommend it enough.