Al Karpenter LP
If We Can't Dream, They Can't Sleep!!
Strange connections -- Bilbao meets Japan via Berlin on a record that will put you in a constant state of WTF. ASMR rock? Post-internet punk? A political manifesto in times of generalized madness?
After his acclaimed 2017 destructo-punk single on Munster Records,
Al Karpenter now delivers his mature, complex debut LP on the world's premier record label for adults, New York City's Ever / Never.
Al Karpenter is an elusive figure. On this record, he comes off like "Che" Guevara fronting Suicide in the year 2020: In halting, quivering tones, he warns us not to fall asleep, even as he slips into a dream state; he reminds us that we must not give up hope even in these times of collective self-destruction; then he shakes our very core with an agonizing scream. There is no resignation, no giving-up, and no mourning for a lost future in his work. Instead, Al Karpenter pits the burning energy of the present moment against older underground musical forms, playing things "wrong" as a technique for exposing the fundamental wrongness of consensus reality. His record is a puzzle, a conundrum, at once conflictive and erotic, violent and beautiful.
Yellow Green Red's Matt Korvette described Al's debut single as ”Very deconstructed and cuckoo, as if one of Fushitsusha’s psychic jams was condensed into a couple minutes of indigestion" -- a perceptive appraisal, seeing as Al is now joined by time-bending drummer and percussionist Seijiro Murayama, whose early credits include Fushitsusha’s Double Live. Further strange connections include key players from Bilbao's exploratory music scene -- drummer Joxean Rivas of Bilbao's demolition unit Killerkume, experimentalists María Seco and Mattin -- alongside the legendary Chie Mukai, of Japan's Ché- SHIZU and the seminal East Bionic Symphonia school of improvised music. Tying it all together everything are the lucid sexophone and electronics of Lucio Capece.
If it is no longer possible to dream of a just and equitable future, Al Karpenter's answer is to shout desperate truths, to disrupt the notion that "weird" music is the province of the connoisseur, the specialist. For Al Karpenter, the ugliest racket and the most sensual textures are instruments for change. He transforms his angst, fragility, and sense of powerlessness into a force for destroying(-)destructive Nonsense. Al Karpenter's love-cry, his healing force, is violent and fragmented and paradoxically smooth. Things are not right, he insists, and we will not make music that pretends they are. -e/n
rec of the day: AL KARPENTER "if they can't dream, they won't sleep" (ever/never LP). nuts debut album from spain's cracked answer to the question, "how to you spell early swell maps?"
Dusted and Social
If communism was haunting Europe like a ghost (Marx and Engels: "A specter is
haunting Europe—the specter of communism"), then Al Karpenter is now a ghost of
rock 'n' roll haunting with his album "If We Can't Dream, They Can't Sleep!!" And like
communism, this record is actually more ghost than solid, transforming into
contemporary culture in many invisible and surreal ways.
Some would say communism is already dead. Or was ruined in the hands of
dictatorships. But what if the magnificent spectacle was in fact a reflection of the
passions of the masses, like the magnificent spectacles generated by rock 'n' roll?
Undermining "all that is solid" and letting it melt away, Al Karpenter gives a lot of
space to a kind of negative form in the music, using fragmentation, and contrasting
shining high frequencies with cloud-dark low frequencies. The ghost drives through us
like a murmur using our bodies like drum set made of flesh.
This is an album for the moment. You can't remember and retell its structure. There is
no beauty that appears again from memory. There is no future promised. Just the
moment of small noise and vast space, the moment in the river of life. It's not about Al
Karpenter's singing and, or Seijiro Murayama's trance drumming overlapping with
Lucio Capece's roaming saxophone, nor the heavy bowed bass by María Seco andMattin's auto-tune transformation... It's about reacting to the ruins of reality at every
floating moment. (The idea that communism is a form of ghost is inspired by Oier
Etxeberria's book "LaLana".)
YJ - Yan Jun (interviwer)
AK - Al Karpenter (artist)
M - Mattin (producer)
YJ: How did you know when to stop working on this record and allow it to be born? Are
there things you considered doing but did not?
AK: Well, there were some recordings that were left off of the record, I have tried to use
them for a forthcoming record "Musik From A Private Hell" which will come out with the
French label Bruit Direct Disques.
M: To answer the first question: when it sounds wrong in the right way. Regarding the
second question, the material can always be changed and adapted. I always wish that
apps like Soundcloud could have a feature to copy and paste directly into the sound so
anybody could take the material and do something straight away. In regard to this LP, it
is already a record, a crystallization in a given time of a set of relations, certain materials,
sounds and thoughts. And when it is out there, it becomes a message in a bottle, nobody
knows where it will end up.
YJ: Chie Mukai's part is short. Is it all she recorded for this album? Or some materials
were abandoned? How much materials or ideas were abandoned during the process?
AK: The recording of Chie Mukai was a proposal from Mattin, as the contributions for
this record from Seijiro Murayama, Lucio Capece and Joxean Rivas. I don ́t know if herrecording was at “Larraskito” in Bilbao, or in another place, but her contribution and all
of those recordings helped to make the album what it is in terms of how it sounds. I ́m
really glad for it. To your next question, two ideas we left behind was making a kind of
“ASMR-type” of song, and making some more “noise-rock” textures.
M: With Chie Mukai we recorded a few tracks in my studio in Berlin, but we did not
record while listening to Al Karpenter's record. The idea was always to put the record
together as an assemblage. This means that not all the material was made for this record
specifically. As we took material from many different places and we could have use
sound already out there, we could even say that all the sounds available in the world that
are not on the record were abandoned.
YJ: How much did you use le cadavre exquis-bira le vin-nouveau (exquisite corpse)
method? Did you change any of the results of the pre-decided rules?
AK: Well, I think I don ́t know that method, sorry... We started - Mattin, Marı́a Seco and
me - recording this with a guitar, drum and bass in “Castle Rock” in 2018, and the next
year we did it at “Bilbo Rock”, both in Bilbao. Of course, not everything from those
recordings is in the final record.
M: There weren't any rules. I see potential in any material that Al produces. It is very
liberating working with him, because we can be extremely playful between hierarchies,
between good and bad sounds, or good and bad recordings. For example, Al records
many of his vocals with his mobile phone and often there are background noises from
other bands playing, so they become like field recordings. Following Marshall McLuhan,
Al Karpenter demonstrates in practice that any medium can become part of the message.
YJ: There are many sudden changes or turns in the structure. What if there was a
demonstration marching to your music but suddenly the atmosphere changed?
AK: The sudden changes in structure is something I have done since I began to record
songs for this project and several past musical projects (Krpntrs, Opus Glory Ignominia),
and Mattin also loves to change structures. I think that ́s a funny thing for both of us.
M: At the structural level, the sudden changes seem to be a reflection of our times. I don't
think that the linearity of playing rock can match the complexity of today's reality,especially if you take into account what the internet does to our perception and
cognition. So even if Al and I come from a passion for rock, we to try to shake it up, leave
behind some of its problematic stereotypes and make music that can be in dialogue with
contemporary reality rather than being an exercise in nostalgia.
YJ: "If We Can't Dream, They Can't Sleep", "Pow'r", and many parts of other songs, have
strong bass sounds, or even pure sine-waves. What if people play it through smart
phones and all of these frequencies are missing?
AK: Those abstract bass parts are from Marı́a ́s unique talent with the bass and the bow,
I just love those parts. I really think that without them would not be the same album and
not the same songs.
M: Many of those frequencies are computer generated. An example of the limitations of
rock is the narrow frequency range that it uses but to be honest I think Al's attitude and
message comes across with or without the frequencies. However in the near future when
we all have neuro and aural prosthetics, there will be no problem to deal with these
frequencies or with other much broader ones.
YJ: How much did the musicians know or not know about the plan, the lyrics or the
method? Have they made any mistakes?
AK: When I start recording one album I don ́t know how will it end, or when... It ́s an
adventure, and it ends when I finally have it in my hands, or in somebody else ́s hands.
Fortunately, there were no mistakes here, all went right.
M: It depends of whom. For example, as Al already mentioned, Marı́a Seco was very
important from the beginning of this record, while Chie did not listen to any of it until it
was finished but she trusted us. Lucio listened to the tracks very attentively and played
in response. The process varied a lot depending on the contributor and how much of the
record was done.
YJ: Is the auto-tune effect of "Riot and Roll" Mattin's idea? How much did you paid for
the pedal or plug-in? Do you mostly use freeware on this album?
AK: Yeah. It ́s an idea from Mattin. I don ́t know what systems he uses to do that... I justknow the way I do my work with my recordings, using a mobile, a sound recorder and a
sound-mixing program, Audacity, which was recommended to me by Xedh.
M: The plug-in is actually called Auto-Talent and is a free software version of Auto-Tune.
The entire record was made with free software: Ardour for editing, Supercollider for
digital sounds, and LADSPA plugins effects, all used under Debian gnu/linux system. For
the drum machine we used a free online version. I cannot remember the name but it
sounded very trap-urban like. There are also some samples.
YJ: How many versions of "If We Can't dream, They Can't Sleep!!" exist? How many
versions could you make? I found the Chinese melody (T) in Youtube version
(https://youtu.be/B1iSYACCKAg) is missing in the album version.
AK: Well, I don ́t know anything about that video... All 7 songs from the album are played
as acoustic versions with my acoustic guitar. And also with the electric one. Next thing is
to play them with keyboard.
M: As far as I know there is only one, but Al is very good at reworking material and
giving tracks another life in another context. With this specific track, there was a
question of whether it should be one or two tracks, but Al decided that it should be one.
I still wonder what would be the difference. Recently a friend suggested we make shorter
tracks for critics and radio, but I thought that did not happen so much in the
I would love to hear that song. Do you have a link Yan Jun?
YJ: Here is the link:
AK: I just watched the YouTube video... Well, the story is that I bought a megaphone that
contained that melody, amazing! But it ́s not in the album, it just appears in the
video-clip from that song.
M: It is crazy, this story of the megaphone, it says so much about globalization!
YJ: Is it true that Al Karpenter is not into technology and new modern gadgets? How do
you fit your body (voice, hands on guitar, and your presence on stage) into today's media
and machines? As Mattin mentioned, social media has changed our perception.
I remember once Mattin was asked about computer coding,M: In regards to coding, I remember a conversation that Miguel Prado and I had with
Patricia Reed and Anil Bawa-Cavia
-of-access-to-complexity ) where they updated the communist expression "seize the
means of production" to "seize the means of complexity." I think it is crucial that we
understand the possibilities that technology can bring us. For us musicians, technology
can allow for different uses of time, structure, frequency, and rhythm. I think it is very
healthy to see the limitations of previous ways of music making from the perspective of
today's possibilities. For many years there was the feeling that everything was already
made, similar to what Simon Reynolds called "retromania." However lately I get the
feeling that new things are appearing that make previous forms of music making
I think Al has no problem with technology at all, he uses everything he has at his disposal.
I am thinking of a concert that we did together some years ago
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PoWZoaiXnc ) and Al was playing the guitar
while taking pictures and videos of the audience but also using the camera as a slide for
AK: Well, I still do the things as I ever did, with one guitar, and a voice, but not doing
what everyone expects with them, but making new noises, playing without notes... That ́s
still my aim.
YJ: Do you think Cornelius Cardew would agree with what you are doing in music?
Specifically the Cardew who abandoned experimental techniques and turned to
neo-romantic popular music. How could music today not serve imperialism without
going into a narrow taste of so-called obscure art?
M: Anthony Iles, a very good friend of mine, said that Cardew playing neo-romantic
realist music was the most avant-garde thing that he could do.
Actually just before Cardew died, he was talking to AMM about playing together again.
We are living now very different times. At that time many people thought that
communism could be (however problematic that was). When Cardew became a
member of the Communist Party of England in the early 70's, one could say that he
turned political revolutionary but musical reactionary. This brings us to the question of
form and content in regards to aesthetics (whether the type of party politics he engaged
with was revolutionary has also been questioned, but that is a long debate for anotheroccasion). I remember an anecdote that Keith Rowe told me about the Scratch
Orchestra (Cardew was a founding member). At that time the Scratch Orchestra was
doing "pocket concerts," which basically means they were playing with whatever objects
they had in their pockets. Around 1971 they were doing a tour in the UK and at some
point they encountered a workers strike. The Scratch Orchestra really wanted to help
them in their struggle but thought it would be completely meaningless to do it with their
pocket concerts. For Keith Rowe the type of political popular music that they were doing
afterwards with Cardew was like a spark or short lived fire in order to encourage
workers in their struggles. While instead with AMM, Rowe thought of if as very slow
burning fire that occurs through the years, decades.
The question is the function of different types of music in society, and this changes with
the times. Rock certainly has no potential to subjectivize young people like it had in the
60's and 70's, when rock musicians thought they could really change the world, and they
actually did. Today rock seems to be more like a language, a very gendered historical
cultural expression with its tropes and cliches, which we cannot negate. In fact we
should do the opposite; to work with these negative connotations in order to give it new
potentialities, and I think this can only be through perversion. Music has something to
say because it functions as a kind of social unconscious that is not yet fully worked out.
Music expresses symptoms. Possibilities and potentialities collide in complex ways that
are yet to be deciphered. Can we call this record obscure art? And if so, for how long,
since never before there has been so much experimentation in mainstream music?
AK: Well, I didn ́t know Cardew... I watched some videos of him and his music, it ́s alright.
I don ́t know if he could agree with our music but I think we would invite him to make
some improvised music, yeah!
YJ: In 2021 would you still see capitalism as the most troubling issue for human society
and our minds? Do you think the mess of this virus and the endless international
political bargaining are evidence of democracy's failure?
AK: In fact, the pandemic and the renaissance of a "neo-fascism" era, is the final proposal
of those ridiculous restrictions of mobility due to a "virus" ruled by governments and big
M: Democracy under capitalism is bound to fail, since capitalism is based in an unequal
set of relations therefore it can never guaranty the necessary equality for democracy to work.
Having said that, I think democracy is an ideological illusion based upon the
assumption that we can be free individuals with subjective agency, which I think
produces what I call social dissonance, a structural form of cognitive dissonance which
has to do with this contradictory belief in personal freedom and a systemic
determination which constantly negates this freedom or makes it extremely narrow. We
certainly don't seem to have the freedom to dictate our future beyond a capitalist
horizon. That is why I think we need to be suspicious of concepts and terms that
presuppose freedom or agency and look very precisely into both their fallacies and
potentialities. Rock, improvisation and noise are cultural expressions which have been
victims of presupposing such a type of freedom but increasingly we can see its
limitations and we need to work with them.
YJ: About dream, what are the dreams that lead us to a better reality and what are the
dreams that keep us far from it? Basically the mainstream talk is that we all should be
dreaming of something far away instead of digging our own garbage.
M: If we want to change things we certainly need to dig into our own garbage, there is no
other way around since we are in deep shit.
AK: The dream for me is to a world with more solidarity, but I think it ́s only possible
YJ: Some of my old rocker friends say this album is "fancy post-modern shit" or
"conceptual arty stuff". But when I post primitive tribal field recordings, they always give
a "like." The sounds and structures of birds, wind, murmurings, and are sometimes
similar to this album. Would you draw any connection between this "post music" and the
wild and primitive part of nature?
M: This comment is interesting in relation to a distinction that has been drawn between
first and second nature. First nature would be the natural form and second nature when
commodity exchange appears which is humanly made. There is always a desire to
achieve a relation to first nature, to look for something pure that is not tainted by
commodity relations but this is only a form of mystification because we only perceive
first nature from the perspective of second nature since we are living in capitalist
relations. That is why I am ok with the kind of description that your friends are giving to
you with regard to this LP. This record shows its artificiality, is fragmentary character. It does not pretend to be pure. In fact it tries to show how purity -of rock and roll, or
improvisation, or noise- can be manipulated both in formal and ideological ways. A proof
of this is that we are talking about it right now.
AK: I think they could be right... It ́s always so easy to underrate what you can ́t
understand. It's nothing new to me.
YJ: Some artists are angry, some are performing anger. Should a performer be their real
self or perform their self? Or, if you say there is fundamentally no "self," then what
should an artist do?
AK: I remember a phrase from John Lydon, "anger is an energy" (from "Rise" by PiL),
with which I agree. I always need some kind of motivation or energy to get onto the stage
and start to play.
M: I think as an artist one deals constantly with the contradiction of an overblown
personification, a kind of performativity or campness that is both painful and playful.
This makes you aware of the processes of mediation and theatricality in regard to the
production of selfhood but you also realize that it can never be stable. A clear
contradictions of our times is that while many people praise authenticity and integrity,
they are doing it often through media that is everything but authentic. Perhaps with
zines and very low-key publications, things are more down to earth but the way that
they can be manipulated in the future is something that we don't know and it might be
worth to take it into account.
YJ: Please ask me, your audience who you never met with this music in same room, a
AK: Well... I imagine a press conference, picking up my guitar and saying: -"What song of
the album don ́t you want to hear... ? I ́m gonna play that song, ha-ha-ha!!"-.
M: What kind of future do you want?
Beijing, Bilbao, Berlin,
Proofread by Bob Ostertag / Anti-Copyright
UHIN #3 Yeray Portillo, Enero 2021, Bilbao
Yellow Green Red April 2020
Al Karpenter faded from my memory after his debut 7″ EP of enjoyably combustible noise-punk, but thankfully Ever/Never is there to keep tabs on fierce weirdos such as he. Now Karpenter’s got a debut album, the protest-titled If We Can’t Dream, They Won’t Sleep!!, and it picks up where he left us, presumably causing a ruckus in Bilbao’s town square. Even though Al Karpenter gets the marquee billing for this project, Mattin is credited with playing a variety of instruments, and the stink of his unique aesthetic is all over this one. Punk songs are disemboweled and strung up; scattered samples are looped out of a computer; a buzzing sine-wave will be the only sonic aspect for endurance-testing lengths of time; muttering and rustling are as prominent as bass and drums. That said, this album is surprisingly listenable (at least relative to other Mattin projects), mixing samples and electronics into the fray and finding a continuous thread to hang onto, even if it’s going to scare away the vast majority of music listeners, even adventurous ones. Most of you could probably make it through the off-kilter dubsteppy gauntlet of the track “2020”, but there are at least a few of you freaks out there that will sincerely enjoy it, which is a beautiful thing.
Revue & Corrigée #126 December 2020
Difficile de comprendre ce qui ce joue là, comme dans tous les projets de Mattin, ici aux manettes de producteur pour son compatriote basque Al Karpenter. Il y règne une déconcertante confusion, salutaire ? Sans doute, en tout cas ça fout une nausée auditive. Al Karpenter a ouvert la porte de sa cellule révolutionnaire aux batteurs Seiijiro Murayama et Joxean Rivas, Lucio Capece au saxophone, Mattin et Maria Seco à l'électronique, lui à la guitare et aux voix. Ca lorgne du coté de la No-Wave, une no-wave graisseuse, plombée, assaults rythmiques d'une guitare tranchante sonnant boite de conserve rouillée, dans une impasse stylistique revendiquée, voulant tout éclater et recommencer une fois encore. De la déconstruction comme esthétique révolutionnaire. Viva la revolution ! Rythmique de salsa indus, noyée dans des poussières de feedback, on songe au groupe séminal Don King qui jammerait avec un quartet d'aspirateurs. Suicide aussi hurlant au fond d'une cage d'ascenseur, confiné. Pour une philosophie à coup de taser, nous rendant claustrophobe ou nostalgique des années disco. Le corps des danseurs est criblé de larsens vicieux, des voix vaudous de Nigériannes sous amphet enlacent la psyché des auditeurs, secondant celle d'Al foutrement maladive, masturbant le sax mélancolique de Lucio Capece. Do you remember Steve Lacy ? Putain dans quel asile de fous sommes nous tombés ? Impossible de s'endormir, pas plus de rester à cocooner dans nos rêves repeints avec des accryliques fluos, ces zombies de l'apocalypse moderne nous balancent des coups de tatanes dans les tympans. Plus improbable encore le fantôme de Chie Mukaï qui joue du Kokyu dans un reste de chanson trouée, un grand moment de blues et de solitude. L'album défile voulant sa fin brutale. « Sing the Battle Hymn » est un pur moment de rock n'roll renouant avec les primitifs pionniers, le « Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboon » de Little Richard ou le « Fun House » des Stooges, nul doute que Lester Bangs aurait pris ce titre pour illustrer son article « Les Suprématistes du Bruit Blanc » si Bangs écrivait aujourd'hui ce texte. Le rock n'est pas crevé juste moribond attendant son corbillard repeint en rouge et noir. Riot & Roll !
brainwashed Creaig Dunton, 02 August 2020
Al Karpenter’s debut album is one of those that feels perfectly aligned with the present day. With performers hailing from the Basque region of Spain, Japan, and Berlin, the entire world’s state of disarray is fully represented in the broken electronics, erratic garage rock, and full on unhinged punk styles. It is entirely unpredictable: a massively disparate backing band supporting Karpenter’s erratic, rambling vocal style that is a ceaseless mix of frustration, paranoia, and anger, but it all makes sense and—while it may not be a casual experience—it is a gripping one.
Karpenter and crew: a backing band made up of Bilbao, Spain’s preeminent experimenters (Mattin, Joxean Rivas, and María Seco), early Fushitsusha drummer Seijiro Murayama, Lucio Capece, and Chie Mukai waste no time in getting weird. Right from the onset, the opening title song is all massive bass, garage guitars, and erratic drum machine loops. With some shifting tempos and intentionally jarring stop/start moments, there is an endearing, and intentional sloppiness throughout. Later on, the crew transition things to more menacing spaces, with Karpenter's megaphone like vocals and shrill electronics giving a greater heft to the proceedings.
That psychedelic tinged garage punk vibe is probably the most consistent thing on here, and is also prominently featured on "Sing the Battle Hymn!" as well. Fading in with a lofi 60s rock mood, it quickly erupts into full automatic drumming and broken guitar squalls. On "No Face" a similar guitar sound bursts out here and there, but in this case it is more of an added flavoring to dreary improvised percussion and elongated strings by Mukai, making for one of the few meditative moments on this otherwise blasting record.
Other songs on If We Can't Dream, They Won't Sleep! lean a bit more into the electronic end of the spectrum. With Karpenter's voice and Mattin's electronics leading the way, the subterranean bass and skittering cymbals, "Pow'r" resembles an extremely bastardized take on Miami Bass. That is at least until the jazzy sax of Capece and improvised percussion from Rivas and Murayama shift into focus. Even with Karpenter’s spoken word and rigid rhythms, album closer "Riot & Roll!!" is another electronics heavy piece of sputtering rhythms and synths, bass guitar, rigid rhythms, and Karpenter's far off frustrated yelling.
For me, the high water mark of the album is the side one ending "If They Sleep…" The up front drumming and jazz-laden outbursts with Karpenter's bizarre re-interpretation of the Stooges’ 1969, lyrically updated for 2019, capture frustration and disgust perfectly. Samples, surging electronics, and a multitude of rhythms intertwine for something that feels simultaneously spontaneous and composed. For its entire shambolic opening, however, the second half makes for an accurate reading of free fusion jazz with just the right amount of noise and absurdity to be had.
As a debut, Al Karpenter's If We Can’t Dream, They Won’t Sleep!! is certainly a difficult one to categorize. At times sounding completely unhinged and random, and at others something that is actually carefully planned and structured, it is challenging to say the least. But regardless, he and his backing band use this to create such an amazing sense of tension, frustration, and confusion that just makes perfect sense. With some pure strain psychedelic guitar workouts and noise outbursts that add a sense of both terror and fun, the album is sprawling and all over the place, yet given how 2020 has been thus far (and is likely to continue), it is the perfect sound for the times.
al karpenter does not write protest songs. what do you protest with a cultural hegemony presented so disparate we just cannibalise? no, al karpenter writes propaganda songs (manifesto on my window, and my fruit).
but who or what the fuck is al karpenter and does it even matter?
ideologically, thematically, it’s a loosely elusive concept. as an album it plays with place, person and time (but is very much of a time, person and place). as an album it’s a mess, a reigning confusion. old picasso said, every act of creation is first an act of destruction, but goddamn this feels more like the befuddled post-coital aftermath or a stumble through wreckage.
it’s on the brink, flirting with collapse, the sweatsoaked and breathless exhaustion of too much, the teetering delirium of endlessly coping with the unknown / unknowing.
which is very twenty twenty.
so it stumbles to life, a band tu(r)ning up, wandering into frame like a lost actor. they try and try again, staggering to feet, sputtering out, the guitar as brief huffing pneuma, a broken fingered hardcore, then nothing.
a faint dying heartbeat, adrift in a fug of electricity, rhyming dictionary mantras (spain, pain, gain, shame). there’s a snare that’s rain falling on a tin roof in the distance.
picture it as occam’s razor. what happens is this; it grows so tired of movement, so stops. what happens is this; the opposite of awakening.
well it’s 2020 and if they don’t let us dream, we won’t let them sleep
repeat as necessary till bored, burned, dead-eyed and staring? i wish i wish i wish that something would happen…
and it does, reeds and voice coalesce around beats. the comedian frozen on stage. gathering moss. here it is, the opposite of shark.
well it’s 1969 okay another year with nothing to do i say oh my and a boo hoo
that stooges echo, that ahistorical line spanning fifty years. rock, still the preserve of bored young men, but the translation into nihilism and destruction has been replaced now by a kind of charmless idiom.
this no-wave creaking asphalt jazz, all feedback and drum rumbles hitting a lumpen funk, feels like a sneer, thankfully. a xerox of a xerox of a xerox of a fifty year old record we need no more of.
let’s call it folk music then, where individualism and the collective collide. right now everything feels very self *and* very communal. loneliness next to godliness.
once we had a house and bread, dignity and a workplace, now we have no place and no face
and / or
power to the sick, power to the meek, power to the tears, power to be bent by the power, to the meek and the lower
in the wrong hands these words are a limp fuddled pete seegerish knit. in the right hands they’re synapses firing. here they’re buried, scorched, torn – the bruised chant of a protest we’ve all moved on from but some fuckers are still singing.
so if it is folk music let’s plot points from alan lomax to raoul vaneigem to this clatter and bleed.
or say it’s jazz, like a post-something jimmy giuffre side, smashed to pieces. jazz in the misphilosophised sense of freedom. it’s picking up and playing whether you can play or not (it’s all play goddammit!).
it’s not radical in the sense of outbursts of volume or violence (though there is some of that). as music it works best when built round a fitful ur- of wry sigh (those repeat ‘ai’ dipthongs again), a monotonous ostinato, and a desire for liberation.
a liberation, politically, musically, socially, that comes via disorientation and disassociation. it’s not the forward marching backward looking 4/4 of punk, but the nagging rattle of not knowing what comes next. a noise for breaking-down. a machine for disruption.
despite the personnel involved it’s not hard work, in fact it’s arguably uncomplex. a lot of it musically feels like happenstance, of marbles rolling down stairs, communication through foggy gestures, to the extent i’m not sure what the album’s called or which of the last two tracks are which as it loops round again but
it’s like the first butterfly to emerge from the cocoon as a caterpillar. there’s shape, unforming.
the battle hymn is the battle hymn of class struggle, of anti-imperialism, not that of a blustering america, sclerotic and holy, thrashing on a freshly shat bed. it’s the truth marching on and on and on, round and round and round…
sonically it’s the lou reed amp tapes, it’s metallic ko all through one channel. it’s a dream of refusing, not flinching, not struggling. it’s all that really comes close to the blown rockisms of that early single or autobiographik blues.
even in the last three minutes when it’s congealed into actual anatomy – hellraiser’s skinless frank cotton – it is not an exit. we won’t let em sleep, feels numb not enraged. the electronics are a weary delirium, one last jig in the face of the unevolving and unenlightening.
in the end it doesn’t feel like a manifesto. it is here, in this moment, part howl of despair, but also a plea, a confused clumsy fumble for understanding at the incomprehensibility of what to do when everything is fractured and all the pieces reflecting.
GRRARW Sep 2nd, 2020
I like to think of the Stooges as some sort of Eastern gods, and their records as scripture. I say Eastern because the thing isn’t (or isn’t supposed to be) about worship or adoration, but more about teaching, and a sort of ritualistic practice. Through the Stooges, through their mantras, one can achieve bliss and knowledge. Now why am I waxing religious here? Because Al Karpenter’s debut LP, If We Can’t Dream, They Can’t Sleep!!, is a bit of a Stoogesian ritual. A bold, arty, difficult statement and a ritual.
The seven tracks, while forced in a sequence by the physical limitation of the grooves, sound as if they’ve been emptied on the record like the contents of a bag. Lines and verses repeat throughout the album, using the famous Stooges mantra as something between a war cry and a fatalist, numb lament delivered through clenched teeth: “It’s 2019 ok, all across the fucking Spain, all across this fucking pain”. By the end of side A, you’re in deep: glitchy noises attacking you out of the blue, fragmented electronic beats, bursts of silence, ghost guitars and incredibly beautiful (in contrast with all the ugliness) saxophone and drums adding jazzy flourishes.
On side B, things slowly escalate from the bitter and creepy “No Face” to the joyous and angry call for “Riot & Roll”—expanding the musical palette so far as to include trap beats with their distinctive hi-hats and autotune, together with analog synths, melodica, saxophones, tortured bass, banging drums.
It’s not an easy album and it’s comparable to what Karpenter’s fellow Bilbaoan Mattin has done in the past (a similar use of the Stooges’ “practice” can be heard on Billy Bao’s Buildings from Bilbao). Mattin’s role in If we can’t dream… seems in fact crucial, and even if he wasn’t listed among Karpenter’s collaborators I could have guessed that he was involved, especially in the mix. It took me a few listens to really get into it, but now that I got it, I’m gonna shake, riot and roll as much as I can.
The Blog of Roland September 10, 2020
BPP-WHAT IS THIS? SOUND LIKE SINISTER INDOCTRINATION SPEECH OUT OF LOUDSPEAKER AT NVA FORCE LABOR CAMP.
RW-It’s Al Karpenter.
BPP (dismayed) AL KARPENTER? FROM 1ST AIR CAV? HE NO SEEM LIKE BOBBY GARWOOD TYPE.
RW-NO, NOT AL CARPENTER. THIS AL KARPENTER IS AN ALIAS FOR THE SPANISH MUSICIAN, MATTIN.
BPP-AH, LIKE SPY NAME.
RW-YES. BUT NO. HE’S NOT A SPY. WELL, MAYBE HE IS, HOW THE FUCK WOULD I KNOW? YOU HAVE OTHER RECORDS BY HIM, REMEMBER BILLY BAO?
BPP-THIS BILLY BAO? NOW I SEE. YES, VERY SIMILARITIES. SUBVERSIVE TENDENCIES.
RW-PEOPLE HAVE MADE COMPARISONS TO FUSHITSUSHA.
BPP (excitedly) FOOSHED!? WHO GOT FOOSHED?
RW-NOT FOOSHED, FUSHI-
BBP (interrupting) REMEMBER TIME YOU FOOSHED COLONEL IN BATHROOM AT OFFICER CLUB IN DA NANG? (laughing hysterically) ROLO WOODBE, YOU CRAZY!
RW (laughing) YEAH, HE SAID TO ME, “SON, JUST BECAUSE THERE’S A LINE DRAWN IN THE SAND,DOESN’T MEAN WE ARE AT THE BEACH.”
BPP-YES, COLONEL VERY WISE. LIKE WITCH DOCTOR. SAME COULD BE SAID FOR THIS ALBUM.
KFJC cinder 10/7/2020
Bizarro, deconstructed, confused, experimental, angry, delirious, ASMR, damaged.Cast of characters include Spain experimenters (Mattin, Joxean Rivas, and María Seco), early Fushitsusha drummer Seijiro Murayama, Lucio Capece, and Chie Mukai.
Skittering electronics, sloshy cymbals, jangled guitar, sloppy garage rock spurts, quivering sax, drunk drums, repetitive words.
Dave “new Yesr New You” R 25 oct. 2020
a statement of intent and representation of certain and apparent influences (Billy Bao, Gil Scott Herron, Burial, Crass) dichung irony for clarity, except maybe not. Crooning and clanking and saxophones and noise and etc.
por Txema Mañeru - 8 septiembre, 20210
Hace ya muchos años que el bueno de Al Karpenter vive en su cielo (o infierno) privado y particular. Años de infatigable lucha musical. Primero con su fanzine Brutus Zine. Luego ya se lanzó de lleno a crear su particular música (solo apta para selectas minorías) y con un montón de publicaciones a recuperar bajo su anterior denominación, KRPNTRS. En solitario va a cumplir pronto una década de vida, pero además sigue con NUZ y Silver Surfing Machine. Ha pasado también por otras historias más o menos puntuales como The Heart Junkies, Mubles, Opus Glory Ignominia, Kontubernio Kriminal Kósmiko, No Jump! o Lapidaciôn Läser.
Siempre sin dejar de apoyar a los grupos locales con su presencia en casi todos los conciertos, además de acudir a otros de más renombre cuando son de su agrado. Son muchos porque su cultura musical es amplia y no se limita solo a la música de vanguardia. En los últimos años como Al Karpenter ha ido adquiriendo cada vez una mayor repercusión en selectos medios y discográficas internacionales. Así el verano pasado el sello neoyorquino Ever/Never lanzó un muy recomendable LP en vinilo titulado “If We Can´t Dream, They Won´t Sleep!!” y que puedes oír en https://evernever-records.bandcamp.com/album/if-we-cant-dream-they-cant-sleep, por si luego quieres hacerte con él. Magnífica conexión Bilbo-Japón vía Berlín que puede definirse como un manifiesto político en tiempos de locura generalizada. Este LP de debut sucedía a su single punk en Munster Records. Lo defines como un puzle conflictivo, erótico, violento y hermoso que combina al Che Guevara con Suicide. Las poderosas colaboraciones japonesas vienen de la mano del percusionista y batería Seijiro Murayama (Fushitsusha’s Double Live) y de Chie Mukai (Ché-SHIZU). Además su ídolo y a la vez colaborador Mattin, con especial presencia con su guitarra, ordenador y voz en los 9 cacofónicos minutos del perturbador tema titular. El saxo de Lucio Capece está también presente y brilla en temas noise-free-jazz (y hasta ritmos tribales africanos) como en los 10 minutos de ‘If They Sleep…’, en los que también brilla la batería y percusión de Joxean Rivas (Killerkume) y el ya citado Murayama. Además María Seco con el bajo y el bow en todo el disco. ‘No Face’ es también inquietante, oscura y con mucha presencia para la percusión. Mattin dirige con su batería el ritmo demoledor de la revolucionaria ‘Sing The Battle Hymn!’ y finalizan la revuelta de estos 45 minutos los dos también a dúo en la juguetona y más electrónica ‘Riot & Roll!!’ que acaba Al gritando de manera salvaje y punk. Sorprende también Mattin con su melódica en la hipnótica narración en euskera con el título y lema del disco en ‘2020’ Buena distribución entre las caras A (“Sleep”) y B (“Dream”).
Pero es que ahora ha repetido jugado con otro prestigioso sello de música vanguardista como es el francés Bruit Direct Disques en el que también tienes trabajos en esta onda noise, electrónica punk y experimental de Terrine, Femme, Stefan Chistensen, Oso El Roto, Kenji Kariu o City Band, entre otros. Ellos son los encargados de publicar, también en vinilo, su segundo LP con el acertado título de «Musik From A Private Hell». En la producción vuelve a repetir su colega y experto en este tipo de sonidos Mattin (Billy Bao). Entre las sonadas colaboraciones no podía faltar Barbara Karpenter, pero además tenemos otras chicas como María Seco y María Medina, o la presencia de prestigio internacional de Werner Dafeldecker. También lo puedes oír y conseguir en http://bruit-direct.org/product/al-karpenter-musik-from-a-private-hell/. Tiene también nuevo y destacado vídeo con uno de los temas más destacados del nuevo disco y que es todo un homenaje a The Stranglers, al menos en su título, ‘No More Heroes Anymore!’. Un tema inquietante, tribal y percusivo. En su realización le ha ayudado Jorge Núñez.
Me encantan las palabras de Guy Mercier al respecto de este nuevo LP: “Más allá de la música incendiaria de los MC5 o Sham 69, antes de la muerte de Arthur Russell, y después del “Lifetime” de Klein, Al Karpenter y Mattin aparecen por detrás de la máscara del “Lulu” de Lou Reed”. También en pleno confinamiento se marcó un sorprendente “The Lockdown Sessions” concebida como una lista “non-stop” con 31 vídeos, cargados de improvisaciones, aunque los temas de “47” incluidos sí están arreglados y mezclados para un trabajo aparte, con su propia “playlist”. Puedes conocerlo en https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLgvZCGcYjPzJbHQJPnW-bG9kcgxZQjbC7.
Por cierto que cuando leas esto ya tendrá también a punto de aparecer una nueva casette con el título de “The Black Tape”. Constará de 9 nuevos temas y lo editará el sello de Burgos Crystal Mine. ¡Vamos, que el bueno de Álvaro no para ni en pandemia ni en confinamiento!
Pero regresando a “Musik From A Private Hell” decir que estamos ante un disco gestado en pleno confinamiento y en total soledad. También es indicado para escuchar en una reflexiva soledad porque tiene muchos matices que pueden ir introduciéndose en tu cerebro o en tus oídos según el momento. Ese Hell del título, que llevamos ya casi 2 años viviendo con esta interminable pandemia, está presente desde la reveladora canción inicial con un pandero casi marcial pero que va mutando con diferentes colores y timbres a lo largo del tema. Además utiliza su voz como una auténtica arma sonora que acompaña muy bien a la experimentación tecnológica. Con esta avanzada tecnología emula violonchelos o banjos y se adentra en terrenos sonoros cercanos incluso al metal industrial. Se trata de la ya citada ‘No More Heroes Anymore’ que encabeza la cara A del disco también con título propio y que es el de “Private”. Hay que escuchar temas como ‘Libertarian Song’ o esa gozada destructiva, noise y casi industrial titulada ‘Eyes Without Faces’ que puede gustar por igual a seguidores de Esplendor Geométrico, Suicide, The Residents o Einstürzende Neubauten o ese ‘1994’, que cierra la cara A para perderse por sus montones recovecos sonoros. En ‘1994’ tenemos delicadeza y minimalismo al estilo del John Cale más experimental y en ella Al repite la frase “I’m The Invisible Man…”.
La cara B se titula “Publik” y se compone de dos brutalidades como ‘True-Man (The Revenge Of Tao)’ (con un poderoso doublé bass a cargo de Werner Dafeldecker) dentro de un gélido manifiesto que suena ultra-coool-wave. Luego está el extenso y clarificador tema titular que nos lleva a ese particular infierno a través de “glissandos” en las cuerdas de violonchelos (rabeles) o banjos (guitarreos de la “AK-47 Guitar”) que resquebrajan géneros como el “rock sureño” o el “metal”. Siderurgias abandonadas y arqueologías de signos industriales que nos quedan lejos. Contiene una hipnótica narración a la vez que desafiante con su voz, percusiones y zumbidos varios. Luego torna en momentos de una mayor agresividad sonora y marcialidad combinada con experimentación noise alucinada. Duro y a la encía sobre todo en esa explosión realmente infernal final. El estupendo y llamativo art-work lo firma el propio Al y la eficaz masterización corre a cargo de Rashad Becker en Berlín. Puedes conseguir ambos discos directamente si te diriges a Al en firstname.lastname@example.org. ¡Tiene algún posible concierto cercano a la vista donde presentará como es debido los temas de ambos LPs!
Big Love Records, Harajuku, Tokyo
泣く子もきょどる唯一無比のレーベルEver/Neverよりまたしても理解不能のアンダーグラウンドAL KARPENTER、2020年1stアルバム。1980年代初頭のジャパン・アンダーグラウンド界に舞い降りたSCOTT WALKER状態のNO WAVEエクスペリメンタル。限定。