How to Wreck a Nice Beach

More Crosstalk on the Vocoder
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Something To That Effect

Farmer Frenches Amphibian

By Dave Tompkins at 3:23pm ET

The Votoader returns. This farmer with a frog affair comes from the insert that accompanies the Folkways record, Speech After Removal of the Larynx, released in 1964 and acquired, finally, at Academy Records in 2011. I traded a bunch of disco 12s for a recording of people trying to communicate without vocal chords, with the help of Western Electric, their stomachs, a parabuccal reservoir of air stored between the cheek and gum, and frogs. That’s my Friday night.

The cover art, drawn by Jaap Groendal, “symbolizes a man without a larynx and a violin with broken strings.”

But the photo. The frog appears to flying, not unlike the frog those bored murderers strapped to a skyrocket in The Tree of Life. But alas, no. It’s just an inset of a frog that appears to be in the air (where our voices originate, incidentally.)

I was similarly deceived by the scissors in the picture of Frankenstein’s monster below. As a child I always assumed the giant scissors were flying towards Karloff’s (Glenn Strange’s?) forehead, aiming for a flattop trim.* Upon reading Frankenstein, I was discouraged to find no flying scissors. No monster getting his lugs lowered. A closer look revealed that the scissors were attached to the facade of a barber shop. Not one to let reality get the best of my day, I imagined the scissors—after a visit with Jack Parsons at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena—could drag the building towards the monster’s bangs. This is what happens when a child gets left alone with Denis Gifford’s Pictorial History of Horror Films: giant scissors drag barbershops into outer space.

As for the frog caption:  The farmer “caused it to croak by stroking it with his tongue…so the story goos.”**  I believe the goos wasn’t a misprint but perhaps a gross suggestion. Maybe if the farmer kisses the frog it’ll turn into Prince’s original demo of “Joy In Repetition,” which is just plain sick.

*You are now listening to “Set It Off” by Big Daddy Kane: “Smooth Father, give ’em a flat-top trim.”

**I don’t have time to watch The Wicker Man again, but I believe there’s a scene where a kid sticks a frog in his mouth.

***Here’s a story I did for The Oxford American about how I put Timbaland to sleep with an old bass record back in 2005.

The Hold-Up

By Dave Tompkins at 2:33pm ET

(Courtesy High Country News/Seventh Annual Report of the Missouri State


Sorry for the service interruption. We’ve been fooling with the expanded paperback edition of How to Wreck a Nice Beach, due out in November. Which is to say a giant grasshopper has been standing between me and my blog duties.

Anywizards, one day, I’d like to tell you about a conversation I had with Hellstrom Chronicle director Walon Green in 2002. He was talking about smuggling locusts into the US from Africa. “Apparently it’s illegal to start a plague in the state of California,” he said. Needless to say, this is one of my favorite interviews. I was so happy afterward that I forgot about crossing reality and was nearly flattened by a UPS truck.

For now, the future, I’ll be presenting at Eyebeam next Monday (June 13), along with Steve Goodman/Kode9’s AUDiNT collective, in anticipation of their Dead Record Office exhibition, opening Friday, June 17. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be flushed out the Vietnam jungle by “unsound” Infrabass weaponry, here’s your chance.

(If you’ve ever wondered what’s it like to flushed out of a subwoofer by a Dynamix II vocoder song that says, “Toilet bowl rock you to the ground,” go here.)

On Monday, expect to hear from Operation Wandering Soul, the WWII audio decepticon program, the specter of spectral communications, military use of “vestigial emanations,” and the professor who threw Goethe’s stolen larynx in front of a train.

I will also be playing a special disco gospel vocoder chant called “You Ought To Been There,” recorded in 1980 by Geraldine Stewart. The logo is a pair of flapdancing winged serpents straight out of a Larry Cohen movie that discouraged rooftop sun-bathing. (Is this the voice of Q?) Shattered like a glass goblin.

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