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Tuesday, September 29, 2009



Brooklyn, New York foursome Psychic Ills are responsible for some of the modern era's most modest space- and psych-rock workouts; the oft-mannered, elliptical swirl-cone throb on 06' Dins evoked Scottish garage-rockers Clinic and krautrock legends Can at their most sober and self-contained. Last year's Mirror Eye - recorded following the departure of founding member Tom Gluibizzi and the addition of new keyboardist/synth player Jimy SeiTang - found the Social Registry signees emerging a sound less submerged but no less trippy.

In a mid-September email interview – which was supposed to run on the web site of an East Coast alt-weekly, but was scrapped, understandably, because it was too pithy – we quizzed droll multi-instrumentalists SeiTang, Tres Warren, Elizabeth Hart, and Brian Tamborello about their handle, their mutating sound, and their arresting cover art. You can tell that the band really, really put their hearts and souls into answering my questions – and for that, I’m so grateful that I’m practically turning blue because I’m poking a hole through my cheek. Cheers!

Ill With The Composition: What, exactly, are "psychic ills"? Whenever I see or think of your name, I immediately flash on the Yellow Swans' Psychic Secession.

Tres Warren: It's just a name--a couple of words put together. I don’t know that record, but I saw them at Tonic a couple years ago and was into it.

IWTC: How did wind up on tour with the Butthole Surfers? That's huge.

TW: We got asked to do it.

Elizabeth Hart: The day we got the email about the tour, I had listened to The Butthole Surfers while on the subway en route to work. Synchronicity. It was kind of a no-brainer.

IWTC: While Dins struck me as songs emerging from then receding back into a sort of primordial static, Mirror Eye seems, in a way, more realized or direct even as it's got a prism-psych feel to it. Did you go into recording Eye with a different methodology in mind?

Jimy SeiTang: Perhaps so. Maybe some of the Moldavite prism crystals were aligned differently when we went and recorded that album.

Brian Tamborello: Not necessarily. We didn’t go into it with any defined methodology. Of course, we had changed as people over the couple years that had passed, and Jimy had joined us, so there were just natural differences in the way we approached the music.

IWTC: Can you tell me a bit about the significance of your album artwork? The cover of Dins had a sort of pop-realism feel, with candy-colored blotches overlaying a grainy, black-and-white photo of a helicopter, while Mirror Eye's cover seems to be a blurred action shot of a woman playing a tambourine that looks as though it were ripped from a magazine.

TW: The cover of Dins is a painting by Wolf Vostell, from 1968, called "Three Hairs and Shadow." The cover of Mirror Eye was pretty much ripped out of a newspaper--well, it was a collage that I removed the collage elements from.

IWTC: You record live to tape, right? Do you find that that process yields more unusual results, happy accidents?

BT: Recording live naturally opens the process up to both pleasant surprises and frustrating confrontations with the music. Sometimes the latter creates a tension that leads to, and can only be shattered by, the former. “Mantis” was basically born of that.

IWTC: What's coming up next for Psychic Ills? After the tour, of course.

TW: Hanging around. Probably make another record. Stuff like that.

JST: New concepts, new ideas through sound and textures - and yeah, lots of hanging around.

IWTC: Bands that make mystical, lysergic music seem to take on an automatic shroud of mystery, even if they don't intend to; they almost become living myths, even if they're just regular folks. What do you think that your fans would be surprised to learn about each of you?

TW: I don’t know. That we were killing time at nudist hot springs between shows the last time we played on the West Coast?

JST: That we all live through another dollar, another day.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


That's how many page impressions Ill With The Composition has received to date! Which means something significant, right? Right?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

ILL MUSICAL MADELEINES: The Kinks, "Lola" (c. 2002)


Driving north from Oberlin, Kansas, toward Valentine, Nebraska. I left home just a week before. Rolling dusty green hills broken by quick crevasses filled with saplings and dry streambeds. A few days earlier, at a gas station near Hermann, Missouri, I bought a few tapes to play in the car--Grandpa Jones, Johnny Bond, and The Kinks. Since then, a stop at the pirate house in Lawrence--no one was in so I unbuckled the typewriter, pulled up a cinderblock, and nothing came out. T. was asleep inside, I found out later. I stayed in F.'s mother's room--she was away in Alaska. In the hallway was a box of communal pornography--I contributed marginalia to some of the more interesting articles. We drank beer and talked all night under flashing neon lights. I woke up early, and wandered down to the living room where a train hopper with horns tattooed on his forehead was watching The Rock. I asked his name and in a dark brown voice he said "fuck." I continued west across Kansas, refueled in Junction City, had lunch in wide-boulevarded Russell, and went to the movies in Colby, twenty-five miles short of the Colorado border. It was windy, then, and I turned north toward Atwood and Ludell. The one motel in town was closed for the night, so I parked in the lot and crawled in the back to sleep. Up with the sun again, I passed through Ludell and Oberlin and once again aimed north, heading across western Nebraska toward the Black Hills. When Lo-Lo-Lo-Lo-Lola ends, I rewind the tape to the beginning of the song and let it go again and again.

ILL ALUMINUM TUNES: John Wiese's "Circle Snare"

John Wiese
Circle Snare
(No Fun Productions)


That John Wiese and his sample fetish, right? You know?

The California-based noise laptopper's last couple - or couple dozen, same difference - recordings have involved warpings and manglings, severe and and less so, of others' already malign sonics. Cincinatti, conceived and recorded with Burning Star Core atmospherist C. Spencer Yeh and released earlier this year, delved into self-sampling-as-aesthetic. But Circle Snare (No Fun), where Wiese built compositions from recordings of "tape, electronics, drum machine, microphone, [and] MSP" is a more slippery, stripped-down affair.

At moments, listening to this, I thought of the sounds of a metal lid being twisted off of a peanut bottle, then back on, then back off, and of barehanded mountain climbers painstakingly ascending, slipping down, then scrabbling back up sheer cliff faces; there's a brute circularity to Snare at first, to how and where snaps, crackles, and stark pops fall in the mix as "Circle Snare (First)" begins its uncertain-to-all-outward-appearances advance. Noise "errors" and detritus that would typically be edited out or relegated to the margins is slowly brought to the forefront over a glowering synth substrata. Then the spits and clicks and whirrs actually seem to go on the attack, a revolving, homicidal constellation of minutiae. The remainder of Snare mines more chaos-theory gold from this idea, approaching things slightly different, no-less-intriguing angles, building from meager table scraps to something that eats, ultimately, like a hearty meal.

Monday, September 14, 2009



As an impressionable young boy - innocent, light of step, totally sold on violence-soaked, prime-time television trash - I watched CHiPs religiously. As with so many other fondly remembered early-to-mid 1980s series (Miami Vice, All In The Family, The Dukes of Hazzard, etc.), I don't actually remember much of anything about the show in terms of dialogue, plots, or what have you; in this instance, all that comes to mind is the iconic intro image of Erik Estrada and whatever white dude was rolling with him riding their highway patrol cycles against an open sky. That, and a flurry of scenes where Estrada's squeeze was hit and killed by a car, but her dog survived; it was a fluffly little white dog; Estrada cradling the dog and stuff.

In any event, Erik Estrada isn't dead. Recently, he appeared in a Burger King commercial with NASCAR's Tony Stewart in which he's hawking signature cop shades with "ESTRADA" superimposed on the lenses. Now, these sunglasses don't actually exist, and aren't for sale. It goes without saying that your corner vender of illegal Armani and Gucci knockoffs should be making a killing off of the things - and if you wait a few weeks, he or she just might be - but that's not stopping me from wondering who'd profit from wearing the things if they became available.


She's spunky! She's quirky! She cannot dance, but dances anyway! She's the host of a daytime talk show imfamous for mercilessly short celebrity interviews! For reasons that defy the laws of space and time, she will co-judge American Idol this winter! Ellen should just - as soon as reasonably possible - start wearing "Estrada" specs all the time. When quizzed about them, she should pretend that the questioner asked "Why are you wearing a pancho indoors?" to which the only reasonable response is "I'm not wearing a pancho, this is a frisky work shirt that I'm rocking like a slightly spazzed-out office drone celebrating happy hour."


Tony Danza's inexplicable, deathless popularity results in the Who's The Boss? star being accosted and smothered in hugs by dozens of menopausal soccer grandmas everytime he goes to Whole Foods, which is, like, every day. Enough of that bullshit. He needs a disguise!


Because a pair of "Estrada" sunglasses could, hypothetically, re-interest the paparrazi class in the doings of Terminator 2 star Edward Furlong.


Ditto. But as I understand it, Ja is a giving fella. Which would mean that the two people in his entourage would also probably receive "Estrada" shades, on him! What a guy. It's MURDA!

Sunday, September 6, 2009


My staycation doesn’t start for another week and a half or so, but I thought I’d hook you up with a bitchin' commemorative online mixtape full of recent faves, like, right now, because I’m good like that.

ONEIDA “What’s Up, Jackal?”

WYE OAK “That I Do”
CAROLINA LIAR “Show Me What I’m Looking For”
GUCCI MANE “Gorgeous”
HALFLINGS “Keep Holding Hands”
WHITNEY HOUSTON “Million Dollar Bill”
WHITE SUNS “Exposable Income”

Hear it here.

And, yeah, this site has been quiet of late - I’ve been dealing with some real world issues. Stay tuned.

Friday, September 4, 2009

ILL CH-CH-CH-CHIA: Three People Who Should Get a "Chia Obama" for X-Mas


You've seen - and loathed - those commercials. You've cracked, rightly, that the Chia Obama looks nothing like Barack Obama. And surely - though you can't quite bear to admit it to yourself or anyone else - you've wondered: if I was inclined to actually buy a few of these things, who would I give them to for Christmas?

We've got some ideas.


She's got the "Yes We Can" tote bag, the buttons, the t-shirt(s). She tracked down mp3s of our president's address on race, his acceptance speech, his inauguration speech, and some secretly-recorded audio of the dude joshing with reporters on a plane between campaign stops. Now she can place a ridiculously inaccurate rendering of Hope's grinning herald on her mantle, one that sprouts vegetative folicles.


They like to talk to themselves, to the carpet, to the dog, to the fireplace, and to the television whenever Maury Povich or Larry King is on, and they like to imagine that those objects respond in kind, taking part in lively, round-robin conversations about which Doritos flavors rule, and which ones are totally bogus, and the plusses and minuses of exoticly-named cannibus strains. Now, because you are thoughtful and know them better than they know themselves, your stoner homies can palaver with the prez - or just convert him into a bong.


Gardening's rough when you can't raise your arms above waist-level. With Chia Obama - or a thousand Chia Obamas, perhaps, if you are a financially secure prankster with access to John McCain's mailing address - the 2008 Republican presidential hopeful can tend a literal plot of Hope with very little effort, while vibrating with geriatric loser's rage.