Mike Rep is one of those underground dudes with an output that always seemed overwhelming....I would hear about the Ohio based lo-fi legend here and there in reviews for hissy, home recorded stuff I was super into, but just didn't know where to even start. Mighty Mouth Music comes along and says, "Well... how about at the beginning dummy" with Mike's first single recorded in 1975 of which Mike says:
To the best of my recollection it was pressed by Moxie in late '76 or early '77 , but Moxie really did not try to 'market' it for a year or two (Moxie Dave G. used to call it "my funny little record" , I don't even know why he really did it, then later he sold a few to BOMP! / Greg Shaw around '78 and that was the extent of 'distribution' for that record)
I once had a painting teacher who would stress over and over the most important thing about a painting was it's date. She could have been talking about this single. It's impossible to even imagine the hoops Mike would have had to jump through to get this out into the world back when the rest of lo-fi wasn't even a genre yet. To think there was an alternate R. Stevie Moore out there plugging away in his own no-fi version of the world...practically before punk as we know it! Well I'm so grateful this kind of thing is made available by Might Mouth and Siltbreeze still because this is an insanely important document.
The amount of hiss on "Rocket to Nowhere" is insane even by today's standards. The silent hiss takes over the whole spectrum before this even has a chance to be instilled with meldoy or instrumentation. A muffled distortion fades in.. wait now I think that hissy yell is a crowd... people clapping, an enormous live crowd hopefully from another live album.
I know this thing says "33 half stereo", on the center label but I had to try this out at 45 because of a positively disturbing lack of speed on the vocal. But of course it's still deliberately just a little off at either speed. Mike seem to adopt an almost dirty metal persona to crunch into a warbled disrtortion. The whole world is cheering on this maniac and his impossibly low repeating verse "A Rocket To Nowhere', the voices colliding, layered all over this. I love he wanted to create a live album where the audience inexplicable drops out completely at the drop of a hat. Right from the beginning he wants you to know this lives in the deliberate home recorded experimental world...as if the hiss didn't give it away. Save one of those 4 tracks for the crowd sound to mess with. The trick is that there really isn't one, this is heavily manipulated and those awkward 'accidents' are done with a sense of humor that I can completely get behind. Don't take yourself and this rock and roll game so seriously. One of the founders. A mythical story that is pretty incredible to actually have agan on vinyl.
"Quasar" I know those stations exist of 'classic' rock that play the same 20 somgs from 1975 and guess what? This genius was out there crafting away in the bowels of basements and sheds working on this avant garde noise composition. Thank god he pressed a document thad finally got some kind of recognition. Amidst the hiss is a rising weird tone which leaves you with no clue how it was created. Coming into focus occasionally... it's a guitar sine wave, or feedback held at the perfect distance for a slow wavering, falling hum. Insanely controlled feedback, but I'm not sure this isn't synth somehow or at least manipulate tape.
Phillip Glass or Bun Ching Lam, why'd we forget about Mike? Pure experimental sound...and to press this as a B-Side. Mike drops this gem:
Remember songs like "Yummy Yummy Yummy" and "My Green Tambourine?" The label they were on, Buddah Records, used to put CRAZY things on the "B" sides, to make sure the disc jockeys played the side that they wanted them to! Like they would put the "A" side BACKWARDS.....Or they would put something equally unplayable on radio like a guy banging on one chord on a piano just yelling (1910 Fruitgum Co.'s "Sticky! Sticky") while a roomful of people beat on phone books and shouted along, GREAT DADA STUFF!!!.....However "Quasar" WAS a serious music piece, I wanted something to wash through my headphones while ingesting nitrous & pondering the universe......I am sure I had heard Fripp & Eno's "No Pussyfooting" by then, so draw your own conclusions.
Distributors must have thought "this guy has really lost his marbles" until they sat through Rhys Chatham years later. Another layer? A couple of layers have crept into the track, all that same ungrounded cable buzz and rising and falling in pitch? Not even overblown, it's the idea of space, that endless void is coming across here. If I could have been throwing this on anywhere under any context in that time period, it would have been mind blowing. And it holds up. Completely unexpected, but then I expect nothing less now. Criminally neglected (probably just by me). Stays mysterious the entire time.
Harry was kind enough to send an extra copy to giveaway - send me an email and by the 23rd I'll pick a winner. Be prepared, you'll be in for a long Rep ride once you get started.
On black vinyl with gutter messages...get this one over at the label that's changing lives.
There is a double album on siltbreeze that now I have to freaking hear, and a great interview from the Agony Short Hand blog...seems like a cool dude.