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Something To That Effect

The Printer’s Bass

By Dave Tompkins at 11:35am ET

Last Friday I played records at the Printer’s Ball in Chicago, along with Dante Carfagna, co-inventor of a speaking device called “Wrong Name Death Scream.”

Dante is responsible for the impulse-buy Venus Flytraps, once available at Woolworth’s of Greater Miami. The flytraps appear in the vocoder book, somewhere between the cackling fly that landed on your sandwich (a narrow escape), and a giant inflatable can of Budweiser. Excellent footage of the flytrapper (and its gooey lunch) appear in The Hellstrom Chronicle.

Occasionally , Dante will send me books like Man With A Shattered World: The History of a Brain Wound or The Case of the Midwife Toad. Or an orange hologram button of Eddie Murphy’s brother’s rap group, K-9 Posse.

(The Midwife Toad, 1971)

Many of the songs that helped Tesser my ass through the gruel of book writing came from Mr. Carfagna: Pure Essence “Wake Up,” John Kaye (The Sparrow) “Isn’t It Strange,” Makers “Don’t Challenge Me,”* “Snake Beats,” The Majestics “Key To Love,” “You Can Drive My Spaceship,” Chico The Leo’s I Love My Momma Hotline, an expensive group called Timeless Legends, Andrew Wartts, and a sub-freak bass song that provided evidence that German U-Boatmen had stolen ashore during World War II to catch Val Lewton movies in Lauderdale. (It’s in the book mix, between Kraftwerk and Jam Pony Express.)

The Ball

The interactive Vocoder Guest Log was set up next to the turntables. People could talk through the EMS-2000 and listen to their robot brains under headphones.

These two little kids with glasses were regular customers. They walked out with all the secrets of the future.

(Photo by Meg Handler)

The sound system at the Printer’s Ball had that MiniMall parking lot Bass. As if copies of Oxford American came with complimentary tube amps and a quad gut-check. This created a more tactile interactive feature: one could sit on the monitor next to the turntables and feel the hot bottom-breath on their legs. It was like bass conditioning  (BC). (The fossils are the future and I promise we’ll get there.) Elsewhere, the low-end seemed to be pooling and eddying in the far corner of the room, where the walls went florescent green and the air caught feelings.

I learned that Trus’Me and Section 25 have bass, but Crime Mob on Friends of Distinction has boom.

DJ Battlecat has boom (and a synthetic cowbell imported from West Palm) but you wouldn’t be able to tell since someone took a claw hammer to my copy.

Polish sausages from Jim’s in the back of a Subaru also, not surprisingly, have bass.

A man with headphones welded to his skull did a thoughtful softshoe from outer space. The headphones came off for “Hydraulic Pump.” He wasn’t homeless, just passing through, “someone who had to have all his shit with him at all times.”

Thanks to the Hughes Brothers and Fred Sasaki at Poetry magazine.

*Not trying to be all secret squirrel about shit, but YouTube doesn’t have all the answers. (And I was lazy.) “Don’t Challenge Me” will be included on Carfagna’s upcoming comp Open Spaces.


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