Junkyard Genius - "The Diary Of Dick Benito" (Unauthorized Medicine Records/Owl Head Man Music 2002, OHM0002-22-J)
Wiretap - "Hell Toupee" (Unauthorized Medicine Records/Owl Head Man Music 1995, OHM/UMR 0001-1)
From Aural Innovations #22 (January 2003)
From New Jersey, Junkyard Genius is a free-improv ensemble with a decidedly spacey edge. The band consists of Sal R. Pauciello on bass, synth and drums, Greg McGhee on percussion and sound effects, Brian Greenspan lead guitar and devices, and Jacqueline Riera on vocals. (I only hear female vocals on one song but this is the lineup given on the Homemademusic web site.)
The first couple tracks seem to focus on a sort of rhythmic clatter in which we hear all manner of machine tools, whistles, clangs and bangs, and atmospherics, though it all seems to occur on a determined path. But Junkyard Genius display a sense of song as well. "Ghost City Under The Sea" sounds like a jazz version of Computer World era Kraftwerk, though it's heavy on the percussion and the fuzzy space effects take front and center at the end. "The Highlands" is like a bizarre traditional Scottish tune. "Irish Bobby" is a straight ahead Bluesy garage rock song with an acidic feel. And "By The Sea" has a 60's pop-psych sound.
But the wild free-improv space tunes are the highlights of the set. It's all a bit raw and certainly freeform but Junkyard Genius have an interesting way of blending the avant-garde free-improv ethic with good old fashioned space rock. "UFO" is an aptly titled standout tune. Brain blasting air raid horns blare away along with swirling flying saucer sounds and assorted electronic weirdness and earth shattering drones. There's also lots of shimmering Roger Corman space efx and Revolution #9 gone totally sci fi madness to be heard on other tracks. "Where The Hell Is The Court Jester When We Need Him?" and "Native American Lament" are more highlights that once again blend avant-garde experimentations with spacey atmospherics. And Junkyard Genius even do a cover of Hawkwind's "Opa Loka", though I would never have recognized it. One of the more interesting interpretations of a Hawkwind song I've heard.
There are 20 tracks total but one more worth mentioning is "Dick Benito's Frank Zappa Memorial Barbecue". The title certainly sounds like something from a Zappa album. And while the spirit of Zappa may be alive on this song, what we have is 11 minutes of spaced out chaotic fun that sounds like an alien pinball machine with a dozen or so balls whizzing about. Lots of intriguing guitar and percussion ideas strung together though it's not all that seamless from beginning to end. What's really interesting is the varied styles and influences that explore all manner of avant-jazz and free-improv territory. It's raw stuff indeed, and not all of it works well, but listening closely it was clear there's a lot happening, making for an enjoyable listen.
In the same package with the Junkyard Genius CD was a 1995 disc by Wiretap, a quartet that includes Sal Pauciello and Greg McGhee from Junkyard Genius. VERY different! The first two tracks are fairly normal and forgettable rock songs. "New Jersey Blues" features more normality but is an excellent Blues instrumental. But things get more interesting with "Really Music Tonight", which has a spacey Zappa-like atmosphere that sets the backdrop for Beefheart styled spoken word. "Guess What I Found In The Cave" is a short jazz instrumental. Actually it's too short as it comes off like an intro bit that's screaming for more development. "Radical Class War" makes a powerful statement backed by some cool jazz and alien efx. And "Hell Toupee" is a Bluesy jamming instrumental with bits of the Grateful Dead and hints of Zappa. Very tasty guitar. An interesting listen given the direction these folks have taken more recently.
For more information you can email: email@example.com.
Contact via snail mail c/o Sal R. Paulciello; 9 Stanley Street; Irvington, NJ 07111-2527.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz