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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

THE DAVENPORT FAMILY: "THE HANDS OF WORM HEAVEN"

Been living with and lovin' this wonderous undead monstrosity since the summer...sometimes it's the only way.



Nice artwerk by Dylan Nyoukis (aka Prick Decay/Decaer Pinga, yeah?), doing a sort of beautiful low-rent Richard Sala theatre of disgust thang here. Rural Guignol, anyone?



On "The Hands of Worm heaven", The Davenport Family play some sort of strange devolved Troll-Drone: earthy, (earthen), subterranean...it's my first encounter w/ these folk, but it certainly won't be my last...and it's available from those lovely people at Time-Lag records. Word is, that The Davenport Family are moving away from CD-R releases and into vinyl LPs and 'official' CDs. This collection of tracks blew my mind, frankly, so it's got me wondering what's round the corner and salivating over what the future might bring.

Some random images/thoughts/visions induced by this little beaut:

Diagonal and crosshatched lines scratched on a whitewashed wall by a rusty nail: someone’s secret name spelt out in hieroglyphics…broken guttering spits rainwater…rakes and shovels rusting in the shadow of a broken wall…puddles of muddy water gathering in the tire-tracks of an pick-up truck: old chewing gum wrappers, may-fly larvae hatching underwater in slow-motion, shedding veils of chitin…her eyes as grey as an autumn seascape, sky and water so close they could kiss….Earth’s other moon, mottled and blotchy, as red as a drunkard’s eye, only visible every 13th year of the Aerolean Calendar; the day and month have no name, but are represented by a series of ochre finger-painted smears on a crumpled piece of note-paper found blowing in the cold November wind…

The sidereal clank n clatter of star-worshipping trailer-park clans...Children of the Invisible Sun: Dog-Star Sirius B seen as an over-exposed blue/black ink-smear of kirlean voltage...blind albino cave-fish spawn of The Nommos...faked UFO and Big Foot photos...blurred, silent super-8 footage of the cast of "Race With The Devil" goofing-off between takes (Fonda sheepishly smoking a joint; Loretta Swit sharing a wordless joke w/ the late Warren Oates) is spliced in w/ shaky handicam shots of college kids, stoned and daubing each other w/ paint and mud, giggling and swigging hooch...no sound, badly-edited, over-exposed film-stock: the sullen whirrr of an 8mm projector somewhere behind me, flickering in and out of sync w/ internal alpha-wave rhythm...eeirie, dappled, late summer sunlight falling wearily down between the trees: spores, pollen and seeds hang in the air, tiny stars catching the light, exploding like minute flashbulbs as they collide with streams of tired photons from distant X-Ray stars...fetish-dolls and grotesque totemic 'faces' sewn together from tree-bark, twigs and reeds hanging from the lightning-blackened trunk of an old lichen-scabbed tree...polaroid photos of strange carvings; symbols painted on pebbles at the edge of the trail...flickering shadows somewhere out of the corner of your eye...1938, in a back-alley curio-shop that I never noticed before, I dreamt I found a box of decaying tape-spools: ancient field-recordings of dark backwoods dung-rituals sung by banjo-wielding troglodytes. The shop-owner smiles toothlessly as he hands me a mouldering shoe-box...



A run-down smallholding in rural Wisconsin...distant motorised burrr of a helicopter engine somewhere off to the East...flies buzz lazily round the burnt-out remains of a barn...from inside the house: rumbling drones and muffled scratching sounds, someone hammering on cymbals, shrill-sounding whistles, a window-sill for percussion...rural space-dirges: grinding electronic/organ-noise, howling vocals, sloooow scrratch-splash of hit-hats, shrill ducimers, wooden recorders pitched above human hearing...the chanting gets louder, more intense...echoplex'd ampnoise hummmmmms over something that sounds like a castrated oboe...spooky ghost-flutes and jury-rigged electronics...a melancholic cats-whisker violin...train-noises, a loose-skinned drum wobbles and vibrates...luna/tic howls and rattling skull-bowls full of copper rivets...uh-ho: they're summoning the Anti-ohmmmmmm...fever-visions of blue-bottle flyswarms feasting on spoiled food...deathshead moths fluttering from the woods in their hundreds...batsqueak and owlshriek: hysterical birds dancing in and out of the trees at twilight...crackling ions preceed the ominous rumble of approaching thunderheads...



"Little marsh will overflow/We stealin' crosses for the spells we know/Open ruby under perverse possession/Cocaine trails on the sun/Bandits becoming one/Wrap around their faces/A mask of faeces/Opposite doin' the ties that bind/Wiggle, little piggy, with moth-balls for eyes/Coming down fast...."

Man, this shit is beautiful. Dark, but beautiful.

The Davenport Family (formerly Davenport) hail from all over the US...an amorphous crew of psychedelic migrants that orbit like an exploding nebula around Clay Ruby, mainman of the Wisconsin-based 23 Productions imprint.

Thanks to Clay for taking some time out to answer my usual slack-off questions...

Are you still located in Madison, WI....?

CLAY: "We are in the middle of an exodus out of the city. Some of our kindred have already left the city, but we all intend to relocate to a unified rural homebase for our community. As for now, we are scattered between apartments and our communal studio in Madison; also a few folks are living in trailers or abandoned properties out in the country."

You've probably recorded loads of material since "The Hands of Worm Heaven" (so apologies for being so backwards-looking...), but have you got any rememberances of when/where it was recorded...?

CLAY: "Most of "...Worm Heaven" was recorded in December of 2004. Some of it came from other sessions, like "Frozen Country Dub" was recorded at a live action we did at an abandoned rural schoolhouse where our friends live. "Sheep Meadow Invocation #5" was recorded in Sheep Meadow area of Central Park, NYC. It was the first thing we did together as a large group since returning from our first tour in August of 2004. I remember a lot of our sessions quite well because we don't get a chance to have large group workings like that very often..."

I read that you sometimes record out in the open, in fields, woods...was that the case here?

CLAY: "Other than "Sheep Meadow Invocation #5", all of this CDR was recorded indoors. All of our outdoor recordings done over the course of the last 3 years were boiled down into what became the "Field Tales" 2xCDR. Otherwise the Davenport Family has released a bunch of live and demo CDRs and tapes. Only recently our studio albums, which we have been working on since the inception of this project, are starting to be released on CD and LP...

Do you ever have a specific 'aim' when you record/play....by that, I guess I mean, do you try and capture a particular mood or emotion, or invoke a spirit or 'group-mind' within the musicians...

CLAY: "Yes, we have used various techniques in both recording and occult technology to attempt to express the various ideas and spirits that inspire us. Each song, session and spirit has it's own own unique characteristics and objectives."

And does the locale play a part in that process...?

CLAY: "Almost too much. We often have problems on tour because of being overwhelmed by our environment. It is always an experiment to see how the drive, the venue, the city, the crowd, the soundman, the situation, etc conspire to create music that we didn't know we had inside us..."

How do your live shows work? Do you just go out there and play with no preconcieved notion of what might happen...?

CLAY: "Every single live show we have ever done, we have never done much more than smoke a joint together before we played. We have always relied on telepathy and intuition for any live action."

There's a very dense, 'tribal' feel to the music on 'Worms'...at points it gets really intense, and almost kinda scary, but in a cool way...almost like going into a trance...The Davenport Family sound like a gang or a tribe of like-minded folk who are just totally into your own thing, but it's also extremely infectious....my 5 yr old daughter and I started hitting chairs and stuff with pencils and spoons in time to one of your tracks w/out realising we were doing it... Then we both snapped out of it, looked at each other and went 'woooah'...

CLAY: "The tribal element comes from the fact that the music is generated from within a family structure. When this musical project started in 2002, I was just planning to make wyrd folk and pop music. When it came time to try and play live, I looked to the family for players and musicians whom I've been playing with for years, and we just got together and freaked out. It was good, so we kept doing it and recorded it all. We are all very into our own thing. We have allowed our own folkish culture to emerge from within our family and now we are living it. We try to express elements of this life in our songs and improvisations. However, it never did make sense to try and reinvent Davenport Family songs live. So we just allowed our musicianship and imaginations run the live show and group jams. The songs and studio workings are all much more scripted and sculpted compositions and involve very little live jams. For our albums I often chose material from each end of the Davenport Family spectrum by placing group jams alongside composed studio recordings."

I was interested and curious by what you meant when you said "techniques in both recording and occult technology"....are there any examples of this that you could describe or share? I know people like (for example) Julian Cope used to try all sorts of different stuff to vibe himself and his band up when recording, like wearing 'themed' costumes, using musical instruments or 'power' objects that used to belong to personal heroes, 'redecorating' the recording- or living-space...it's all about creating personal mythologies and investing part of yrself in the music, I guess...

CLAY: "I really cannot go into specific details of anything we are doing. It is very difficult to communicate about occult practices between two people in person, much less to someone online. Though, your Julian Cope analogy is quite apt. We are very interested in personal, ancestral and regional mythologies. We tend to be very captivated and informed by our environment, and we try to be very sensitive to our own headspace and any contributing factors to it before recording any music."

Thanks, Clay.

There's a run-down of The Davenport Family's extensive discography here, complete w/ links to the heroic labels that put 'em out, so there's no excuse for not stocking up w/ an armful of recordings of their unique blend of mind-damaging psychik-stew...mug yr mama for small change, if you have to, but check these guys out soonest.