Singing Bulls and Sun Blindness
February 24, 2009 9:27 PM   Subscribe

Imagine 19th Century America. Say you were out on the Oregon Trail, but instead of dying of dysentery, you ate some ergot-tainted bread and stared at the sun until you went blind? Or perhaps you were enchanted by the dulcet tones of a wonderful singing bull? Probably not the vision of 1800's America that readily springs to mind, unless you are familiar with the singular work of a group that has gone by many names since its founding in 1982, but currently rejoices in Caroliner Rainbow Blumbeigh Treason of the Abyss.. posted by louche mustachio (34 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
So I clicked on that first link... Do I have to suffer through listening to what felt like an assault on my senses to understand why it is at all relevant to 19th century America, the Oregon Trail, or tainted bread? I understand the relationship to going blind, but that's it.
posted by pkingdesign at 9:32 PM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

Is this something I'd have to be Hunter S. Thompson to understand?
posted by nola at 9:36 PM on February 24, 2009

Wacky! I saw Caroliner open the Gilman St. Project, waaaay back on New Years 1986 (?) (the very first show held there), and Colburn's been a pal of mine since I was in high school!

So um, in answer to the two questions above, "no," and also "no."
posted by mwhybark at 9:44 PM on February 24, 2009

Excellent. Filed under "Unhappy Banjo"
posted by carsonb at 9:46 PM on February 24, 2009

I applaud your second usage of the batshitgenius tag, but my brain seems like it's still out on the matter.
posted by billypilgrim at 9:51 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

One of the most recent comments on the 2nd link is spot on:

"Sounds like someone putting an accordian [sic] and thier [sic] silverware drawer down the garbage disposal."

I've tried... no idea what this post is about if not simply a band that appears to be very bad.
posted by pkingdesign at 9:52 PM on February 24, 2009

Do they still fill up their record boxes with all kinds of random crap? Used to love that when ordering from them back in the day.

Scott Colburn has been involved in a lot of terrific recordings.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:46 PM on February 24, 2009

posted by infinitywaltz at 10:50 PM on February 24, 2009

I like noise and experimental.

But it doesn't record very well on audio or video, which is kind of one of the points of noise and experimental. Breaking things. Breaking barriers, or recording capabilities or breaking through the limits of the resolution of mediation - pushing sonic boundaries. And the boundaries on YouTube are mighty small.

Most people don't "get it" until they're actually at a noise or experimental show. You kind of have to be there seeing and feeling what's going on. Sometimes with earplugs, sometimes not. It's rare that I can simply play noise for someone and they get it. They don't usually get it until they see something, some kid beating the crap out of an entire table full of guitar pedals and cables or an vocalist or instrumentalist - routed through some decent speakers. I've been lucky enough to see a few folks switch on. With their hands over their ears suddenly their eyes light up, their mouth making the shapes for something like "Oh... Shit! Hah!" and then you have another friend who likes going to noise shows.

These videos probably fail at capturing what's going on as well, but at least I now know why I've seen a dozen random noise bands that like getting dressed up in weird shreds and rags and bits of traffic cones and plastic construction fence and covering everything behind them with fluorescents and glitter so they can gyrate senselessly in front of it under blacklights and strobes and generally behave and play badly. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
posted by loquacious at 11:20 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

OK, I did kind of tater up the description. Watching too many of those videos did things to my head, as did trying to get all my links to work.

The Wikipedia entry is soothing black on white text with no rattling or skronking, though whether it will help, I cannot say.

Caroliner (formed in 1982, in San Francisco) is an Industrial Bluegrass/Experimental/Noise conceptual art Costume Rock band, dedicated to creating a fever dream of American psychedelia - utilizing bluegrass music instruments, weird effects, other-worldly pageantry, and day-glo character outfits similar to those of a "Disneyland ride with a Spike Jones and his City Slickers sense of individuality."
posted by louche mustachio at 11:20 PM on February 24, 2009

This strikes me as one of those 'my five year old (with a bunch of friends) could do that' kinds of art. meh.
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:32 PM on February 24, 2009

I saw Caroliner (as Caroliner Spring Skulls Stoop Forth to Conquer) a few years ago at the excellent Europa in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (an interesting place that does avant-garde music early and then turns into a Polish disco).

The show was reasonably entertaining. Most of the material isn't as harsh as you see on those tapes - it's more like twisted bluegrass music, really - and the part that you might not get from the video is that the entire stage and every square inch of the performers is covered with hand-painted fluorescent tapestries and fabrics and illuminated with black lights.

That said, the music was just OK, and you got over the black light stuff pretty fast. But I was glad to have seen it, and since they only play rarely, I'm sure I'd see them again.

If you like this sort of thing, or even if you don't, Melted Men goes much, much further. The music is extremely challenging and diverse. There are literally dozens of costume changes, each stranger than the last. You never see the performers faces at all - I think there are only three of them but can't be sure. Each song has a very specific "choreography" and some of it is utterly terrifying. The first time I saw them, there was perhaps three dozen total costumes... they did amazing things like lathering up someone in a baby-faced full-head mask and then shaving him with a huge sharp knife - even knowing it was a mask, it was terrifying.

I was totally entertained, but couldn't see how they'd get to a good ending, was willing even not to care... but then there was a lull and suddenly one of the characters appeared on stilts from the back of the audience in a silver costume that was a cross between Ultraman and a giant bug, with two airhorns in his hands, and had a duel in a heavy strobe with a naked Abraham Lincoln on the stage brandishing a whip(!) Oy, gevalt! What a show!
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:10 AM on February 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

This strikes me as one of those 'my five year old (with a bunch of friends) could do that' kinds of art.

If your five-year-old could do it, then you certainly could, right? So whip it out!

I'd even settle for hearing your clear plan as to what you would do for your full-length show. Note that "make a bunch of funny sounds" isn't actually a plan.

(Let me add that for years I secretly felt that photography wasn't so difficult if you had a good eye and understood the basics of your equipment. However, I didn't tell anyone of this opinion until I'd actually had some photos published, including one in Time Out New York.

(Please let us know your tour schedule.)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:23 AM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is why medicine has an expiration date.
posted by basilwhite at 3:32 AM on February 25, 2009

*Sigh* It's amazing what it takes to get noticed these days. They're not doing anything musically that The Residents, or Liquid Mice did better, and I'm sure costumes are fun, but I've seen Gwar.

Also, this is not exactly the best of the web.
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:59 AM on February 25, 2009

Lay off the ergot.
posted by Pollomacho at 4:55 AM on February 25, 2009

Metafilter: an Industrial Bluegrass/Experimental/Noise conceptual art Costume Rock band
posted by kcds at 5:09 AM on February 25, 2009

There's going to be a narrow subgeneration of people born in the early 90's that actually know how to parse Myspace pages.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:34 AM on February 25, 2009

What's the difference between noise and free jazz? $20 and a sheepskin from Berklee.
posted by The White Hat at 6:21 AM on February 25, 2009

YES. Caroliner and their Rise of the Common Woodpile is fantastic.

Mom! Check out this hernia meat music!
Oh dear, there's trash and sticks included with this record, where did you get it?
posted by porn in the woods at 6:28 AM on February 25, 2009

Caroliner is a band you can love without having to ever hear. The titles alone are worthy of recital.
posted by ardgedee at 6:52 AM on February 25, 2009

This band is too much like my life right now. I should listen to something calmer and saner, like Merzbow.
posted by Foosnark at 6:55 AM on February 25, 2009

As an experimental noise outfit, they seem perfectly OK. I kind of find the genre hard to navigate, since when I listen to it I spend most of the time worrying about what is happening to my speakers.

My takeaway from this FPP is that Myspace really needs to be nuked from orbit already. Music industry, migrate to another network because this one HAS GOT TO GO.

Self destruct sequence Anderson Zero Victor: initiated. No further revenue will be generated. Have a nice day!
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:02 AM on February 25, 2009

I'd love it if MySpace sort of accidentally on purpose fell off the face of the Earth.
posted by Foosnark at 7:35 AM on February 25, 2009

Reminds me of Dingleberry Dynasty [myspace :/], an awesome rock opera / sexual ambiguity outfit out of Baltimore... I saw them many years ago out in West Virginia, and it was a killer set, I've never been more entertained at a show. Kind of a cross between Freddie Mercury and WWF. I distinctly remember someone being clubbed with a folding chair. Too bad I guess they're on extended hiatus now...
posted by joecacti at 9:42 AM on February 25, 2009


This reminds me of the Butthole Surfers, or the Residents, when either band was at their best. Those bands might even be influences, but Caroliner seems to be a creature all its own. Thanks very much for this post.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:14 AM on February 25, 2009

Does the intricate drawing of Thomas Jefferson on a paper note denounce a provender to the brain?

Good question.
posted by mrgrimm at 4:20 PM on February 25, 2009

This is amusing to me...

I organized a benefit concert for KSJS, San Jose State's college station, back around '89, and Caroliner Rainbow was the opening act!

I wanted something a wee bit different than what San Jose was usually exposed to that night, I guess... and it was!
posted by markkraft at 12:10 AM on February 26, 2009

Oh, and at the time they were Caroliner Rainbow __________ Throwing Horses, if I remember correctly... and my friend Mike's band Black Box was actually the likely opening act, now that I think of it.

It was a pretty interesting night.
posted by markkraft at 12:21 AM on February 26, 2009

Oh, and having just listened to their new stuff, all I can say is that it's sad to see they've sold out so badly, with sounds approximating actual guitar riffs at times...

Commercial tossers! ;-)
posted by markkraft at 12:26 AM on February 26, 2009

Oh dear god. If that's what you drugged up hippy burnouts consider entertainment, then for crying out loud - hand me the new Paramore album.

And yes, I could do that garbage myself. But I don't hate myself or my fellow man quite that bad....yet.
posted by cerulgalactus at 1:40 AM on February 26, 2009

This strikes me as one of those 'my five year old (with a bunch of friends) could do that' kinds of art. meh.

And that's exactly why it's cool. Because most people's inner 5 year old died long ago. To keep that being alive is the supreme acheivement of art.
posted by telstar at 4:12 PM on February 26, 2009

Saying "I could/my child could do that [artwork]" is one of my least favorite throw-away critiques. It says absolutely nothing more than "this sucks", only in a much snottier way.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:37 PM on February 26, 2009

I don't hate myself [...] quite that bad....yet.

You should.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 3:26 AM on March 1, 2009

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