Afterdays Media focuses on archaeological views of our contemporary culture. Artifacts, art, or cultural phenomena that picture us in the past tense.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Post Punk at the Drive-In

So, previous posts have examined the postmodern relics of drive-in theaters, as well as the ruins of punk-scene landmarks. Now for some appropriate music to complete this rather odd thread.

Perhaps you have noticed how some of the guitar and synth work on early 1980s post punk recordings (for instance some of the stuff on the Cherry Red label, or even a few of Wire’s early melodies) had a jingle-esque sound to them? No, you probably didn’t. Well, right or wrong, we did notice....
This new song (link below) recycles and artificially mutates old drive-in intermission relics, while incorporating/grafting some choice riffs from the Golden Age of post punk. As camouflaged as they may seem, all guitar melodies on this track are actually from the world of rock and roll, not hot dog retailing. Test your Hi-Fidelity quotient, and see how many you can identify.

The track is from our as-yet-unreleased album The Day 1982 Contaminated 1971. Meanwhile, be sure and check out the new 25-year retrospective of Fossil Aerosol’s work, Decades of Fake Resurrection,  available NOW at the iTunes concession stand….

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Hip Blight That Was "Extra Place"

Extra Place in 1934, before it became a hip landmark of decay.

We have numerous and odd relationships with our own recent past. And of course with liminal places of decay and neglect. The little alleyway known as “Extra Place” in the Lower East Side of Manhattan provides a good example. Located just off the Bowery, the alley was in the heart of a pretty exotic landscape during the 1970s. Plenty of urban decay, homelessness, empty lots, empty buildings. Decline, blight, and the present becoming a crashed and burning version of the recent past.

But the neighborhood also buzzed with artists, writers, and musicians living in unheated lofts, pioneering an urban frontier. The alleyway, called Extra Place, ran behind a little club called CBGB’s, now legendary for its role in the birth of the New York punk scene of the mid-to-late 1970s. By 1975, CBGB’s had become a new music incubator, clubhouse, and scene, surrounded by the very real grime and despair of the Bowery. Inside, Television, The Ramones, and Patti Smith were developing something new on a little stage in front of an audience of local artists and non-local visitors interested in “slumming” for the evening.

The legendary alley in 1978 (Bob Mulero).
As one can imagine, the alley out back wasn’t a pretty place. A dark corner in the Bowery of the mid-1970s. This corner was a little different because pioneering artists were peeing and puking alongside the homeless and mildly deranged. It represented a picture-perfect backdrop of the decaying Mean Streets – so perfect it graced the cover of the Ramones' album Rocket to Russia like a license for street cred. Bands booked in the club often had their photos taken in the debris behind the bar – sitting on burned out cars abandoned at the back of the dead end street. An apocalyptic version of tourist photos in front of a local landmark. So ugly, but so hip.

A photo session in the blight, with the Ramones.
The club was losing its cache by the 1990s, and the neighborhood was getting cleaned up as part of the Giuliani makeover of much of the city. CBGB’s closed in 2006, and no one cared about the cruddy alley anymore. That is, until gentrification leaked into Extra Place.

A few years ago, there were a number of news stories and blog posts about developers’ plans to not only clean and pave the alley, but to transform it into an outdoor courtyard / retail mall. Their vision of the place was much like those seen dozens of times over in the new New York, and hundreds of times over in other American cities and suburbs.

Artist's rendering of the reinvented alleyway.
Some folks were saddened, some were outraged, but the gothic decay behind the fabeled art incubator was swept clean in such an efficient manner that a passing tourist would never imagine what happened in the shadows back there 30 years earlier. Now, a once sad, scary, exciting, illicit, filthy, legendary place (depending on one’s perspective) is considered a lost historic site by the old timers. A few period photos have become historic documents.  A new generation of residents paints the new sidewalk with eco-friendly, neighborhood sponsored art-graffiti with slogans like “the birthplace of punk.”

This is a facet of our strange perspective on our own past, and our on-again-off again relationship with the natural forces of neglect and decomposition. I doubt the visitors to Extra Place desired to spend much time back there in 1975. Yet upon its passing, we realize we need such dark corners. A weird nostalgia now hangs in the sanitized air at the back of Extra Place. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fab Four Appropriation

The Fossil Aerosol Mining Project makes music from audio artifacts. The idea is essentially one of a sonic version of an archaeological midden – a suite of interrelated artifacts, fragmented and decayed to various degrees, and lacking most of their original contexts. The Project has a penchant for sounds from 1980s post-apocalyptic and zombie films, for their double-whammy of irony and postmodernism.

There have been other themes, however – including the deconstruction of pop songs to create new sets of dislocated artifacts. These can be rearranged and artificially decomposed in such a way as to create a certain distance that allows for new perspective on familiar icons.

The Blank Album was one such project. Recorded in 2009, a suite of songs and soundscapes was modeled from fragments culled from an iconic White Album by a certain Fab Four. This had been done before - notably the Grey Album by Danger Mouse five years earlier.

The Blank Album was a little bit different. Some of the tracks were little musical Frankenstein monsters with a beat, and others were more elongated passages of heavily decomposed Beatlemania.

For obvious reasons, the album was not commercially released. But here are two tracks. The first is an example of a more pop-related song (unusual for Fossil Aerosol), and the second will be more recognizable to those familiar with their 25+ year catalog. There was also a music video, even.

Click on the track names below, and as the backwards record once said, “turn me on deadman”…. Enjoy.

Fossil Aerosol Mining Project

Fossil Aerosol Mining Project

If you like the material, check out more Fossil Aerosol HERE.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Death and Resurrection at Stax Records

Stax Records in Memphis, Tennessee opened in 1957 as Satellite Records. The name was changed in 1961.The recording studio, operated in a converted movie theater, recorded some legendary stuff by the likes of Otis Redding and Booker T. & the M.G.s. There was a record store in the building as well.

Stax went bankrupt in 1975, and the theater was abandoned shortly afterwards. The ruins of the building appeared briefly in Jim Jarmusch’s film Mystery Train in 1989, and the place was torn down the same year.

Mystery Train (1989). Another abandoned theater used in the film.
The 1970s and 1980s were strange times for historical preservation, landmarking, and abandonment. In most major cities, folks had become accustomed to the slow decay of their built environment, and were living in neighborhoods that represented faded versions of their more gloried pasts. Even the decay of places of legend, such as the little theater building that had been Stax, was accepted as inevitable.

Things changed during the 1990s. There was more funding around, and also a enhanced sense of history provoked by nostalgia, preservation, and tourism development. In Memphis, attention turned back to that empty lot on McLemore Avenue. By 2003 (less than 15 years after the demolition of the original building) there was a replica of Stax Records, containing a polished and visitor-friendly museum that reclaimed the neighborhood’s role in the history of American Soul music.

For those of us that have been watching empty places and their revival over the last 30+ years, there comes a strange sense of whiplash.