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More Punks Should Listen To Derek Bailey

There should be more crazy Derek Bailey-style skronk in the midst of wild punk breakdowns. Courtesy of Samadhi Sound hide caption

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Courtesy of Samadhi Sound

There should be more crazy Derek Bailey-style skronk in the midst of wild punk breakdowns.

Courtesy of Samadhi Sound

This past week, the Washington City Paper has been celebrating the 10th anniversary of D.C. post-punk band Q And Not U's No Kill No Beep Beep in a rather unique way: By interviewing some of the folks that appeared on the album's now-iconic front cover. You can catch up on the series here, but here's an interesting takeaway from guitarist Harris Klahr (currently playing bass for The Rapture):

I'm surprised at the number of ideas we were able to generate and pull off with conviction. At the time, we thrived on whatever's the weirdest idea is the best one, whatever one makes you recoil, that's the one you have to do… Trying to marry the guitar styles of Derek Bailey and Greg Ginn seemed crazy at the time. [Emphasis mine.]

Holler, non-idiomatic guitarist Derek Bailey! Now, it's no surprise that Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn influenced Q And Not U's rigid double guitar attack, but listening back to No Kill No Beep Beep now, I'm hearing those touches of the late English guitarist in the midst of the band's wild punk breakdowns. And, darnit, it's made me realize more arty punk kids should listen to Derek Bailey.

Q And Not U. Shawn Brackbill hide caption

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Shawn Brackbill

Kiss Distincltly American

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"Kiss Distinctly American," from Q And Not U, No Kill No Beep Beep [Dischord]. Chris Richards, guitar, voice; Harris Klahr, guitar, voice; John Davis, drums, voice; Matt Borlick, bass, voice. Released 2000.

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Take the slow-building "Kiss Distinctly American," for example. The sparse and squiggly slide guitar that pervades the track is just one of the techniques Bailey explored. His extensive harmonics vocabulary (creating overtones by muting strings on the fretboard) also lightly paints the background of "Kiss Distinctly American" and climaxes into a distorted, overtoned lurch at 3:40. It's a pay-off worth waiting for — one of my personal favorite moments of Q And Not U's brief but excellent catalog, in fact — in a song owes its textures to the imitable sound world of Derek Bailey.

"Niigata Snow, from Derek Bailey, Aida [Incus/Dexter's Cigar]. Derek Bailey, guitar. Recorded at the ICA, London, Aug. 3, 1980.

While it's nothing new for crate-digging (or, more likely, MP3-downloading) musicians to appropriate "out" sounds in a more accessible context (e.g.: Bjork, Animal Collective, Madlib and Sonic Youth — whose own Thurston Moore named Bailey one of his top five acoustic guitarists for World Cafe), it's beneficial for cross-pollinating artists to always dig deeper. It opens our ears and our possibilities. And if such musical ambiguity happens to turn a few more kids onto spontaneous music, then all the better. Derek Bailey will even throw you a bone: Mirakle is essentially a skronk-funk album featuring Ornette Coleman's Prime Time rhythm section. (He politely says, "You're welcome.")

This Time

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"This Time," from Derek Bailey, Mirakle [Tzadik]. Derek Bailey, guitar; Jamaaladeen Tacuma, bass; Calvin Weston, drums. Released 2000.

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More Derek Bailey recommendations:
Topography of the Lungs [1970, Incus; 2006 reissue, Psi]
Drops [1977, Ictus]
Saisoro with Ruins [Tzadik, 1995]
Music & Dance [Revenant, 1997]
Ballads [Tzadik, 2002]

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Album
No Kill No Beep Beep
Artist
Q and Not U
Label
Dischord Records
Released
2000

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Buy Featured Music

Album
Mirakle
Artist
Derek Bailey/Jamaaladeen Tacuma/Calvin Weston
Label
Tzadik Records
Released
2000

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?