Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Vermonster - Spirit of Yma

Vermonster
Spirit of Yma


Released 1990 on Twisted Village
Reviewed by Dog 3000, 21/01/2003ce


Did you ever think the Velvet's "Sister Ray" would have been cooler without the lyrics and the organ that fetters it with harmonic and narative structure (or even any kind of a "riff" whatsoever for that matter)? That Leigh Stephens' tuneless overdubbed guitar freakouts on the first Blue Cheer album should have been longer, and should have been so loud that they drowned out everything else? That the Stooges' "LA Blues" was pointing the way towards some new musical horizon, but that it would have been even better with three guitarists instead of just one?

Then have I got the album for you!

The mysterious and obscure Vermonster is one of several projects headed by two dueling acid guitar masters from New England, Wayne Rogers and Kate Biggar. They have also released records under names like Crystallized Movement, Magic Hour, Major Stars, and B.O.R.B. (which stands for "Bongload of Righteous Boo"!) All these are on Twisted Village records, a tiny label run by the folks (freeks?) at a record store called Twisted Village in Cambridge, MA right near Harvard Square (this particular record, long deleted from the Twisted Village catalog, was "manufactured and distributed by Forced Exposure.")

Vermonster also features a third guitarist "Jimmy Johnson" and a drummer "David Lynch." Some bassists and other folk are credited as playing "with" them. The Burroughsian cut-up liner notes are credited to "Merrel Frankhauser" and supposedly come from "Beautiful Penis Magazine."

"Spirit Of Yma" begins with a non-tune called "Grease Of The Yak" (5:18) -- first the sound of a skipping record trying to get through the sentence "On stage at the Nickelodeon tonight, Australia's #1 Rock Export, the masters of . . . " something or other, it never gets all the way to the end -- edits into a girl (according to liner notes, Dawn Cook) reading the liner notes to an ultra-obscure album called "Genesis" by two teenager sisters named Wendy & Bonnie Flower. The words are pretentious 60's Youth Movement, the reader's tone is Manson-family menacing.

Then another edit into a wall of superheavy fuzz -- just guitars, gitars and geetarz screaming for their lives. Or do I also hear saxophones, pennywhistles, humans and animals shrieking? Hard to tell in the depths of overtones, harmonics and skrreeeeeing feedback. But don't get comfortable yet! Another edit into . . . cheezy horror movie sounds of blowing wind and creaking wood on a dark and stormy night.

Then FINALLY we get to something that sounds like a song -- the second track listed, "Rainy, Starless Night" (14:40) -- although all of side one of the LP is just one bandless groove. The composition of this tune is credited to "The Index" (an obscure 60's group) and it basically consists of modal noodling around a D chord accompanied by jazzy pinging on the ride cymbal.

The singer (Rogers) vocals' are mixed really low and in general the sound quality on this album is "murky," so you really can't make out the lyrics except it's something about waiting alone at night. After one verse someone steps on the wah-wah pedal, the drummer switches to Moe Tucker jungle toms and VROOOOMMM! More yak grease skrilling off the unjuble fangtom. Or as the liner notes put it, "a kaleidoscope of rainbows the corruption of memory, real bent groove midnight atmosphere, the beautiful cover are perfect! Light up!" Words simply fail to describe the sounds of three acidhead guitar goons going apeshit, batshit, and gorillashit, with absolutely nothing to hold them back or give the music any conventional "structure" whatsoever.

Things simmer down and there is a second verse over the noodly D chord, then back to yakshitland where Moe Tucker dukes it out with an army of Leigh Stephenses, going through such paces as "loud and dense", "loud and spacious", etc. Eventually the noodly D riff is spotted through the haze one last time, but it collapses and segues into more of the "spooky wind and creaking wood" sound effects. End of side one.

Side two begins with "The Lions" (9:21) -- another cover (originally by Bent Wind) -- it starts with a loop of some scary maniac laughter thru some sort of effect (harmonizer?) to give it extra spooky majick powers. Then wham! Another songlike riff kicks in, this time with TWO chords! And an actual bassline! (For most of this record you can't even tell if there is a bass, though there are two bassists credited.)

This time Rogers sounds like he is singing with a cardboard box on his head, or maybe the mic is in a fishbowl or something. He seems to be affecting a british accent. The words are undecipherable, except for the last word of the verse which he screams full throat and which sounds very much like "GUITAR!!!!" and of course that is when the wall of wah-ing, wailing guitars start boring holes in your brainpan again. Actually, there is a second riff here -- basically just going up the scale one note at a time, but played with gusto and grustakkopo!

Things don't go too far off into acidland before there is a second verse, which again ends with the command: "GUITAR!!" This time the ascending riff freakout is accompanied by some lyrics: "yeah! yeah! AHHHHHHH!!!!!" Then there is a third verse, and another "yeah! yeah! AHHHHHHHH!!!!!!" and then everyone really goes for broke. To quote from the liner notes again: "Your reality needs a most beautiful and flipped lounge, it's loaded with sounds from all over. . . . Finally! Here is the sound of SATAN himself singing to you!!!" The tune ends with a reprise of the sinister laughter wot begun it. Then, unlike side one, there is an actual pause between tracks.

Final number is "Black Liquid Slowly Mummifies" (12:44) -- a circular psych beat and droning guitar feedback start things off, a second guitar plays fuzzy little melodies over the drone. Then the martian hornets start buzzing and again there is no bass as far as I can tell. The volume, density, torque and spin vary but the drummer pretty much keeps the beat steady. In contrast to the scrinking frazoonashom on the previous tunes, this one sounds "mellow", even beautiful. It ends as an album like this must: with sustained feedback drone dripping away into the melted horizon.

The cover art is also worth a few words: first of all, though this album is (c) 1990, it looks very old fashioned. It's one of those printed-on-paper-and-glued-to-the-cardboard type deals like you find on old record from the 60's, not the "printed directly on the cardboard" style of the day. Weird. It's also entirely in black & white: the front cover is a photo of a sitting woman with pictures of Yma Sumac's face stuck to her face, a copy of Sumac's "Voice of the Xtabay" LP between her spread legs, and she's stuck a big ol' knife right through Yma's heart on the cover (which needless to say is pointing right at the Vermonster-cover-model's coochie-coo.) On the back the same woman in the same Yma mask poses with the afforementioned "Genesis by Wendy & Bonnie" LP, this time standing up and wearing go-go boots and a fringy leather jacket.

There are two other Vermonster albums in existence: "Instinctively Inhuman" (1991) and "The Holy Sound of American Pipe" (1992), which is a double album!

Good luck finding these babies!


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