Beyond the 130 - Bongwater / Kramer / Shimmy Disc

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Rayge
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Beyond the 130 - Bongwater / Kramer / Shimmy Disc

Postby Rayge » 10 Feb 2015, 14:31

Maybe it's because I'm so firmly in the vinyl generation, but record labels mean something to me. Early on, it was the UK imprints such as London, Stateside, Pye International and Warner Brothers, because that was where my favourite American acts were, but gradually I came to sort out the points of origins of these tunes, and recognize the ones with a distinct label identity and sound - usually because of the presence of some kind of visionary producer, or a cooking studio band. In the Fifties, there were Sun and Chess/Checker (and Blue Note, although I can't pretend to be anything other than a n00b when it comes to jazz), in the ’60s Philles and TMG (and Stax, except I didn't really like their signature sound that much), in the ’70s, Factory, Fast and Postcard, and after that, well, maybe Sarah (although some of it was just a little too twee for me) but otherwise, the last of the line as far as I'm concerned, Mark Kramer's Shimmy Disc (1987-1998).

For me (and my pal, Howard, even more of an addict/collector than I), Mark Kramer was the most important person in music at the cusp of the 1990s. It wasn't just the bands he played bass in – notably Bongwater, the hard rock outfit B.A.L.L. and Shockabilly, along with several aggregations, left-field supergroups created for the purposes of one album - but just about everything on his label, most of them produced by him: not only all the bands he played in, but also albums by deadpan poet John S Hall and killer guitarist Dave Rick in the minorly magical King Missile, Japanese noise-punks The Boredoms, the absurdly minimalist fractured folk duo, The Tinklers, the frankly absurd songsters When People Were Sorter and Lived near the Water (with their Bobby Goldsboro tribute album}, Damon & Naomi, the duo left over when Dean Wareham split Galaxie 500, aged Beat poet and Fug, Tuli Kupferberg, left field but almost normal singer-songwriters such as Lida Husik and Rebby Sharp as well as the certifiably strange Daniel Johnston, art terrorist Rev Fred Lane, 'shock rockers' GWAR, the tuneful Yorkshire rock band Jellyfish Kiss (how the fuck did they get in here?), the solo work of John Hall's previous collaborator in King Missile, Dogbowl, joint Kramer albums with such luminaries as Daevid Allen and Jad Fair, as well as John S Hall and Dogbowl, all the way to Fly Ashtray :) .

It also specialized in strange and rather wonderful V A comps, such as Rutles Highway Revisited (Kramer is obsessed with the Bea*les and has covered loads of their songs). And the greatest sleeves of any record label ever, including Blue Note (yeah, I went there), most of them using the inimitably strange photography of Michael Macioce. Very New York, very East Village arty all round. The label's heyday was the first five years, but after that things slowed down and finally went kerplunk owing to Kramer handing over most of his money to lawyers in a long-drawn-out spat with his former partner in Bongwater (and IIRC, in life, although I may have imagined or assumed that), Ann Magnuson.

Bongwater - don't drink it, stick it in your ear – led me to the label. I expect most reading this, particularly the Americans, came to the band – if at all – when they had college hits with their third and fourth albums, The Power of Pussy (1991) and The Big Sell-out (1992), but for me the best is the first, Double Bummer (1989), especially the re-release that also contains their EP, Breaking No New Ground.

The core of the group was Kramer and performance artist / actress / New York club face and Pulsallama graduate, Ann Magnusson, to the extent that it was often presented as essentially a duo by some, but as far as I'm concerned, drummer David Licht and particularly the distinctive rock guitar howling and shredding of Dave Rick (who played with several Shimmy acts, including King Missile and B.A.L.L.) were a big part of their sound. Especially on Double Bummer and their second album, Too Much Sleep (1990) this was a kind of psychedelic collage featuring found sounds, some bravura playing by Kramer and the two Daves (as well as the odd famous guest such as Don Cherry and Gary Windo, and the French horn player, Coby Batty) and mostly mostly spoken or screeched vocals from Ann, often lifted from her dream journals and always surreal.

They had a nice line in other people's material, too, reinterpreting songs by The Monkees and 13th Floor Elevators, Kevin Ayers, *ahem* Gary Glitter, Michael Nesmith, Johnny Cash, Led Zeppelin (ann apparently has dream things for Jimmy P and Bowie), George Harrison, Tuli Kupferberg and John Lennon.

I suppose it's time for some videos.

First, a favourite KM track from their Shimmy period


I'd like to include some other Shimmy artists, but am reluctant to embed any of the various comps on youtube. Just go looking. It's all good

Here's four from Double Bummer

Dream Journal
David Bowie Wants Ideas


Beatles Cover
Rain


Led Zep in Cantonese. And why not?
Dazed & Chinese


And a twofer
Lesbians of Russia/Jimmy



I still don't know what caused the implosion and lawsuits, but to sign off, a rather splendid fuck you track from The Captain Howdy, in which Kramer resurrected the Bongwater imprint and format with Ann replaced by Penn Jillette. Yeah, him. Enjoy.
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Bongwater / Kramer / Shimmy Disc

Postby Rayge » 10 Feb 2015, 14:47

Bump to get above the googashit.
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Bongwater / Kramer / Shimmy Disc

Postby Phenomenal Cat » 10 Feb 2015, 14:51

Sorry, Rayge. Not trying to fuck up your thread.
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Bongwater / Kramer / Shimmy Disc

Postby Rayge » 10 Feb 2015, 14:53

all cool.
Just a question of timing
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Bongwater / Kramer / Shimmy Disc

Postby Snarfyguy » 10 Feb 2015, 15:15

Rayge wrote:And the greatest sleeves of any record label ever, including Blue Note (yeah, I went there), most of them using the inimitably strange photography of Michael Macioce.

Yes, the cover Shimmy-Disc art is really important, unifying the label's artists with a particular visual style. The pics themselves are (generally) emblematic of the music: evocative, mysterious and beguiling.

I've been listening to some Lida Husik again recently. Boy, she was great.

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Re: Beyond the 130 - Bongwater / Kramer / Shimmy Disc

Postby pcqgod » 10 Feb 2015, 15:24

Not sure if I remember 'Jellyfish Kiss.'

I liked the '20th Anniversary of the Summer of Love' comp better than 'Rutles Highway.' The latter is probably more representative of SD's fusion of the prettiest pop with the most primitive sub-music imaginable, however. Dave Licht also should get a nod for being an indispensable part of the SD sound.
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Bongwater / Kramer / Shimmy Disc

Postby Rayge » 10 Feb 2015, 15:43

pcqgod wrote:Not sure if I remember 'Jellyfish Kiss.'

I liked the '20th Anniversary of the Summer of Love' comp better than 'Rutles Highway.' The latter is probably more representative of SD's fusion of the prettiest pop with the most primitive sub-music imaginable, however. Dave Licht also should get a nod for being an indispensable part of the SD sound.


JK had a couple of albums on SD, Animal Rites and Plank, both recorded by Kramer at Noise NY. My favourite tyracks aren't on youTube, but the noisier lead track to Animal Rites is:



'Summer of Love' was Shimmy Disc 001 - I'd almost forgotten that. My favourite of the comps is probably SD 034, What Else Do You Do? (A Compilation of Quiet Music)
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Bongwater / Kramer / Shimmy Disc

Postby Phenomenal Cat » 10 Feb 2015, 19:21

This just blew my mind "back in the day"

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Re: Beyond the 130 - Bongwater / Kramer / Shimmy Disc

Postby HarryIrene » 11 Feb 2015, 11:43

Bongwater were really great. I love Double Bummer. Some really great wacked out psychedelic guitar skronk across all their albums. Dazed And Chinese is completely bizarre. Celebrity Compass from their final album is hilarious as is Nick Cave Dolls on The Power Of Pussy.

Kramer's solo album 'The Guilt Trip' was brilliant. I really regret selling the cd of that a good few years back when I was having a periodic clear out. I never see it second hand and it's always really expensive on ebay. One that got away.
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Bongwater / Kramer / Shimmy Disc

Postby billy » 19 Feb 2015, 00:08

Yep. another vote for double bummer - so much so, I even ventured up to the loft yo locate my copy - got to wait till morning to stick it on ...

Had guilt trip on cassette - nice boxy package - where it is now, heaven knows..
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Bongwater / Kramer / Shimmy Disc

Postby pcqgod » 19 Feb 2015, 01:59

Rayge wrote:
JK had a couple of albums on SD, Animal Rites and Plank, both recorded by Kramer at Noise NY. My favourite tyracks aren't on youTube, but the noisier lead track to Animal Rites is:




I found 'Stormy Weather' by Jellyfish Kiss on Amazon and listening to it now. Enjoying it.
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Bongwater / Kramer / Shimmy Disc

Postby pcqgod » 19 Feb 2015, 19:15

I need to check out more Boredoms while I'm at it. I liked the way their music was described in Shimmy Disc catalogs, but I only ever go the Super Ae album.
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Bongwater / Kramer / Shimmy Disc

Postby bobzilla77 » 20 Feb 2015, 00:57

Anyone ever hear the Shimmy Disc band FALSE FRONT? Those were buddies of mine in high school. The singer Guy now fronts the Moistboyz with Mickey from Ween.
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Bongwater / Kramer / Shimmy Disc

Postby Charlie O. » 20 Feb 2015, 04:01

I like a lot of Kramer's stuff in spite of his production.

He produced an album by my friends Unrest, although it didn't come out on ShimmyDisc. I think "produced" means "enabled" in this case (not a putdown!).







My favorite from the Rutles tribute - better than the original:


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Re: Beyond the 130 - Bongwater / Kramer / Shimmy Disc

Postby Sneelock » 21 Feb 2015, 00:18

Great write up, kimosabe.
sigh. where do I even begin? I'm amazed how nostalgiac reading about that stuff makes me feel. It's like my dad talking about hearing The Penguins for the first time. I spent a lot of time with that stuff and that fashions a soft spot in the heart one way of the other.Image
Let's start with Double Bummer. I forced "Double Bummer" on uninterested parties like I was a Jehovah's Witness giving away shiny new books. For about 2 years I told people it was "the white album of the 90's". I'll be the first to admit that this didn't make much sense for any number of reasons (seeing as it bears little resemblance to the white album and came out in the 80's). Still, the phrase grew on me and was fun to say. The phrase helped me win over at least one convert and that's all any true fanatic can really aspire to anyway.

I was a BIG Shockabilly fan. I had a stack of Eugene Chadbourne records. It was easy to see the difference between what EC would do left to his own devices and what Kramer's contribution to those last two shockabilly albums was. He produced the bejesus out of those things. Now, EC and others are of the opinion that he produced them more than mortal man was meant to produce. well, everybody is entitled to an opinion. My opinion is that those last two Shockabilly records were simply de-voone.

So, I was amped for Bongwater. Let me step sideways and say that I don't really like much Kramer does that isn't Bongwater and doesn't have somebody else's name on it. Jad Fair & Kramer? it's great. Kramer, "the guilt trip" you can have it. The afore mentioned Captain Howdy album? fun for the whole Manson Family! "the secret of comedy"? ACK! I think, without the benefit of other hands - STRONG other hands that the old boy get's REAL samey. His vocals especially put me in a coma and pretty damned fast.

So, I think tinkering where others tread was really his strong suit and he was damned good at it. I think Double Bummer is amazing. the earlier "breaking no new ground" tracks have similar strengths but after DB they diminish the goddam returns from then on. How acrimonious WAS the split with those two? I'm guessing pretty fucking acrimonious. I think "the guilt trip" plays a bunch of messages from her on the answering machine that sounded pretty tense. I remember the track because he wasn't singing.

I'm also very fond of the B.A.L.L. album "Bird". that thing rocks. Again, I think D. Fleming has a strong hand and what Kramer is doing is amping things up. I love that whole "bangladesh" travesty. LOL. those were the days. Great record. I agree with our host about D.Licht and D. Rick adding a LOT when present to Kramer's output. Speaking of Licht, did he fall off the face of the earth or what? great drummer.

ok. that's enough. end transmission.
Last edited by Sneelock on 21 Feb 2015, 12:52, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Bongwater / Kramer / Shimmy Disc

Postby Sneelock » 21 Feb 2015, 00:42

I also think Kramer got things out of those other people. Chadbourne rarely tears up his guitar like he does on Shockabilly records. Ann Magnuson's dream diary made for great song lyrics. who knew? maybe K. had something to do with this stuff.
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Bongwater / Kramer / Shimmy Disc

Postby billy » 21 Feb 2015, 05:37

I enjoyed that.

The EC and kramer thing - EC moaned to hell about the kramer production on shockabilly - he even went and remixed and stuck out an extended version of 'earth versus' not that long ago (glorified cd-rs) for interested parties that 'de-kramered' them somewhat ... I think both approaches are equally interesting ... It was all to do with the guitars ...

Ah fuck it, I'll have to come back to this - it's five in the morning and i'm dosed up on paracetamol + ibuprofen, with a furry draught excluder wrapped around my face due to a fucked up tooth and I can hardly think ....

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Re: Beyond the 130 - Bongwater / Kramer / Shimmy Disc

Postby hookfinger » 13 Apr 2015, 20:34

I once did an interview with Kramer and he was a complete dick. I don't know if he was trying to be funny or what but I ended up scrapping the whole interview.

Charlie - On the other hand I interviewed Mark Robinson once and he was a bit quiet but very very nice. It was a odd show because Unrest was opening for Fugazi and despite the DC connection I don't see them drawing the same crowds.
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Bongwater / Kramer / Shimmy Disc

Postby Charlie O. » 13 Apr 2015, 20:43

hookfinger wrote:Charlie - On the other hand I interviewed Mark Robinson once and he was a bit quiet but very very nice. It was a odd show because Unrest was opening for Fugazi and despite the DC connection I don't see them drawing the same crowds.

True. There was some crossover, obviously, but even at their "punkiest" Unrest were on a very different wavelength from the Dischord bands.
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Bongwater / Kramer / Shimmy Disc

Postby Rayge » 15 Jan 2018, 19:17

bump
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