Thursday, September 5, 2013

Guaranteed for the Life of the Bulb

"The Los Angeles Free Music Society had its original heyday back in the 1970s, as much a dada and LSD-inspired piss-take on the high seriousness of experimental music—these were the days when Stockhausen was God—as a shaggy-dog extension of the Zappa/Beefheart/Wildman Fischer axis of dissonance that defined the fringes of “rock” music.

Coalescing around Pasadena’s legendary Poo-Bah record store, the LAFMS jammed, played out, issued cassettes and vinyl (in editions between 20 and 1,000, the average being 200), and published weird mail-art journals from 1974 to 1982, when they fell into a period of dormancy.

This hibernation ended with a bang in 1995 when Gary Todd’s Cortical Foundation/Organ of Corti label issued a staggering 10-disc retrospective box set of LAFMS archival material that was justly lauded by such international tastemakers as Thurston Moore and UK magazine The Wire. The LAFMS were hailed as pioneers of noise music (having allegedly jump-started the Japanese noise scene) and avant-garde deconstructionist turntablism (with the 1977 cassette Dennis Duck Goes Disco), but their collective range extended across the spectrum of experimental sound-making...

The latest and perhaps most unlikely exercise in LAFMS revivalism comes from EoB Books, the hard-copy publishing wing of the oddball online academic journal East of Borneo, shepherded by Tom Lawson and Stacey Allen at CalArts. Since 2010, EoB has offered an interestingly destabilized, populist version of academic scholarship by employing a limited wiki interface to amend art history according to a relatively non-hierarchical model.

With Second Life: Light Bulb 1977–1981, EoB Books pays tribute to a predigital paradigm of non-hierarchical creative networking, the LAFMS’ pay-to-play house organ/artist zine edited by Chip Chapman. Comprising a run of just four issues—the last of which was a double cassette compilation—the original Light Bulb doesn’t exactly offer an overwhelming wealth of material from which to cull an anthology..."

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