Friday, October 31, 2008

Six Finger Satellite

I was recently contacted by Richard Pelletier himself and was kindly asked to remove the links to the 6FS rarities. They are available for full download on the 6FS myspace. Please visit the space and drop these guys some funds. According to Richard, the band is finishing up their new album and are planning a tour this coming spring/summer. I'm sure the band could use all the extra funds they can get their hands on. Also, the mp3 rips available on their site are a much higher quality than the ones I upped. Sorry for any inconvenience. The Sub Pop albums and live set are all still available.

For the most part, the world has all but forgotten Six Finger Satellite. All four of their full length releases have been out of print for longer than they ever were in print for. One of the band's main members, John Maclean, is now far better known as DFA's dark-disco king, The Juan Maclean. Well, it appears, that after close to a decade of inactivity, that Six Finger Satellite may be getting their due. Skyscraper Magazine has just published a full length feature on the tumultuous career of the band, which can be read in full at the bottom of this posting.

I stumbled across SFS sometime around 2001, which was also their final year as a band, albeit an almost completely different lineup from the initial incarnation of the band. At the time I was getting into groups like Brainiac and Trans Am, who coexisted at the same time as SFS, not to mention shared a somewhat similar aesthetic. A friend of mine recommended that I try and seek out some SFS albums. Now, because all of the albums were out of print, it took me a while to find a used copy of one of their albums. After a few months of patience I stumbled across a copy of Paranormalized for about 7 or 8 dollars. My infatuation with the band was immediate. I recall playing the album for anyone of my friends who would listen, and managed to turn a few of them on to this underrated and overlooked band of the 90s. Over the next year I was able to track down all 4 of their full lengths and even a 7 inch or two. By this point, the disco-dance-punk movement was in full swing, and groups like The Rapture, Radio 4, Liars and The Faint were all the rage. Most of the groups remained indebted to the initial blast of danceable post-punk; Gang of Four, ESG and PiL, all of whom had laid the foundation for this "new" movement of the early 00's. Surely some of these groups had to have been influenced by the jittery punk rhythms of SFS. Some of these bands must have witnessed SFS live at some point, or even copped one of their albums from an older sibling. These new wave of bands sure weren't letting anyone know if that was indeed the case. It seemed, for a moment, that the band would slip through fingers of the mainstream music media. There does, however, seem to be a bit more recognition for the band nowadays. First there were rumours of a new album, which appear to be true, and now there is a full length article in the widespread, well read Skyscraper. Is the band finally about to get their due?

The Pigeon Is The Most Popular Bird (1993) Sub Pop
Much more mature than their Weapon EP debut but still lacking the precision bite of the next few albums, Pigeon is a great entry point for anyone looking to get into SFS. The album was recorded by Bob Weston (Shellac's bass player and producer extraordinaire) and definitely showcases his penchant for a chunkier sounding rhythm section and explosive drum sound. In fact, Shellac was so impressed with this debut that they ended up naming one of their EPs after them, The Middle Finger is the Most Popular Bird. The band does share a kinship with Shellac as well as other "futurist rock" groups of the time like Brainiac or Unwound, who would also go on to near obscurity and cult status after disbanding. The main tracks on Pigeon are separated by short instrumental tracks that veer between short garage-y numbers and weirdo synth squalls. Personally I find them to get tedious after a while and cause the momentum of the album to start and stall. The next two albums would not suffer the same fate.


Severe Exposure (1995) Paranormalized (1996) Sub Pop

Sister albums Severe Exposure and Paranormalized came out within a year of each other (1995 and 1996 respectively) and are worth examining together. Both albums featured a different lineup from the original incarnation of the band and were recorded at the band's newly built studio. The band had found it's focus, and Severe Exposure and Paranormalized were the results of a band who had fully immersed themselves their craft. Both albums are near-relentless in their assualts on the listener. Tracks rip out of the gate with metallic, harsh and ringing guitars and are backed up by menacing synth workouts, which would be pushed louder into the mix upon each successive release. The vocals are now spit out and shrouded in a layer of almost indecipherable distortion, giving the two albums an incredibly menacing feel. The rhythm section of SFS swings rapidly back and forth like a razor blade pendulum. The Big Black influence is strong on these two albums but so is the obvious debt to the dementia of early Chrome, which can be found in the slower paced tracks like Coke and Mirrors (Paranormalized). The track is a disco beat at half speed backed up by lazy, sleazy synths. A perfect soundtrack to a futuristic sci-fi horror flick taking place on the moon. Moments of lunar calm are very rare on these two albums but do offer a welcome and brief respite from the relentless, abrasive whiplash assault of most of the tracks.



Law Of Ruins (1998) Sub Pop

Law of Ruins' album opener, Race Against Space, contains the same bite of the previous albums, but the clanging, distorted guitars are now sharing the stage with dance floor synths. The vocals still shred and frighten but are pushed a little farther back into the mix. The band, with the help of new producer, James Murphy (the dude behind DFA and LCD Soundsystem), are clearly going for a moodier atmosphere, rather than just pummeling the listener over the head for half and hour. There were a few complaints about the rhythm section being decimated (read article below), but I think that those are largely unfounded. The bass is incredibly prominent on all the tracks, and the drums, though not as thunderous as they once were, still deliver the necessary punch. This time around, the band seem to be dwelling in a kraut hole throughout this record. Sea of Tranquility Parts 1 and 2 find the band hammering out a repetitive riff and drum beat for close to 12 minutes, meanwhile, eerie synths weave in and out of the mix. 6FS were really on to something with Law Of Ruins, it's just too bad that they were never able to capitalize on it. John MacLean, who was largely responsible for the new direction of the band, would soon leave, causing the rest of the band to scramble for a replacement. A fifth album was recorded, Half Control, but would never see the light of day. Apparently, though, Load Records has plans to release it in the near future.



Weapon EP (1992) Sub Pop
The Weapon EP was the demo that 6FS initially sent to Sub Pop. The label was enamoured enough to sign them and release the EP as is. Hearing it now, it's no wonder they were picked up by Sub Pop, as the EP sounds like a hybrid between the Jesus Lizard and Tad. By 1994, most of Sub Pop's "grunge" bands had dissolved or been signed to major labels, so it makes sense that, after hearing this demo, they signed the band up right away. I'm sure to Sub Pop's surprise, 6FS moved away from this sound rather rapidly with their ensuing albums.

DOWNLOAD WEAPON EP HERE--->taken down by request

Machine Cuisine 10" (1994) Sub Pop, and Companion Cassette (Self Released)
Here is what Trouser Press had to say about Machine Cuisine and it's accompanying mail-order only cassette...

"After collapsing behind a swirl of drug rumors, the band re-entered orbit with Machine Cuisine, a conceptual mini-album of eight songs on 10-inch vinyl. Temporarily restaffed as a scientific guitar-free trio, 6FS plays heartless Germanic proto-techno with amoral undertones. The pulsing flow is about as warm as Ian Curtis' ashtray, but the construction is genuinely clever and dryly hilarious. Robotic vocals revisit Devo's neurotic erotica, stoking the fires of computer desire on the opening "Love (via Machine)"; catchy electro-pops like "The Magic Bus" (an original) and "The Greek Arts" modulate G-funk style synth over tight Kraftwerk rhythms and intentionally trite lyrics. (The mail-order Machine Cuisine Companion cassette footnotes the platter with MX-80 Sound-inspired jams, a Suicide cover and much more Moog madness.)"

DOWNLOAD MACHINE CUISINE HERE--->taken down by request


Massive Cocaine Seizure 7" (1996) Sub Pop
This was the last gasp of the Severe Exposure/Paranormalized era. Either one of these two tracks would have fit nicely on either album.


Clone Theory 12" (2000) Load Records

Recorded in 1996 after their Paranormalized album had been complete for Sub Pop, Clone Theory is made up almost entirely of electronics. Some of the tracks almost come of as extended pieces of the interludes on Pigeon. The album would be released 4 years later on Load Records.

DOWNLOAD CLONE THEORY HERE--->taken down by request
Thanks to COD-Music for the upload

Live--Grand Rapids, Michigan (10-15-95) Bootleg

As an added bonus, I've included a live set from a show in Grand Rapids, Michigan from 1995. The quality isn't the hottest but the manic energy of their live show still shines through pretty well. The setlist is entirely comprised of tracks from Severe Exposure and Paranormalized.


As promised above, here is the entire 6FS article from the most recent issue of Skyscraper (scanned, without permission, by yours truly. Apologies, Skyscraper).
Note: Click on the images to enlarge them. Right click to save.

Note: All 4 full lengths were ripped and uploaded by yours truly. Everything else (except for Clone Theory) copped from Soulseek over the last several years. All of these albums, singles and EPs are well out of print. Spread the seed. Also, there are several singles that I couldn't find on the interweb, namely...

Declaration Of Techno-Colonial Independence 2x7" split with Green Magnet School

Rabies (Baby's Got The) / Mistaken Street / Swing Alone 12" (White label 12") and

Man Behind The Glasses" (b/w "War Crimes" & "Dark Companion") [a.k.a. "Live At The A.C.I."] 7"

If anyone has these, please share 'em.


Bjorn said...

Yes this band is wicked.

PromQueen said...

The f-ing motherload....this band pwns. Can't wait for them to finish the new stuff.

Thanks for the great post!

Anonymous said...

Awesome Mark! 'Duchess Says' from Quebec City do an awesome cover of babies got rabies. But I'm sure you've heard it. I've been trying to track these down myself...thanks!


Mars said...

I was a 6FS 'mega-fan'. Being from Maine, there were few bands in the North East in the mid nineties to get excited about and 6FS were it.
I'd go see them every time they played Boston, which was great as they brought up their own sound guy and loaded their set with dub FX. And the bass was DEEP.

I remember (attempting to do some) talking to a sweaty John Maclean at the Middle East with the idea that we'd bond over the greatness of the Roland GR-707 synth guitar (all over Paranormalized) and being surprised by the trapped animal look he gave me - HAWHAW.

Anyway, I was positive they were going to blow up - people just needed to hear them, right? So I tried to get them booked in Portland, but absolutely NO clubs would take them (and I had about as much pull and sway as you could) it was depressing (and the new Arab On Radar were going to open!). In fact, it was the final straw and helped me decide to split town.

I moved to Atlanta and when 6FS rolled through town in support of Law Of Ruins they played at the club I worked at (Echo Lounge - 700 capacity) to 12 people including the 5 staffers. On top of this, they had hired Alex Minoff (Weird War / Golden) to replace the junked out John MacLean. This was a terrible move: at every possible moment, Alex would throw in these blues licks that just clashed with the overall tone the band was going for. It sucked.

Then 'Dance-Punk' hit and I realized that they couldn't have gone too far anyway - Six Finger were always more about the dissonance and far less about the disco.

They were awesome for the time!
"There's Trouble In The Monkey House!"

bigfatsatanist said...

great post

Davis Presley said...

Love the post, and the blog also. I just broke out the Law of Ruins double LP, with the transparent theme, for the first time in years. The next thing you know I find this. Keep up the excellent posts.


Anonymous said...


mrrey23 said...

Big up and thanks for the 6FS shiznit! Really & truly appreciate you sharing and exposing the awesomeness of this criminally neglected band!

mrrey23 said...

Big up & thanks for giving a truly remarkable band their long-deserved recognition. Their place in US Indie history should be acknowledged more often. Really & truly appreciate the killer aural gems you shared.

James said...

Wow. Big fan of these guys ever since I saw them open for Jesus Lizard. David Yow got pissed at the crowd because they barely moved a bone during 6 Fingers set.

Never even occur to me to look for their rarities. Should check it out. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Great site. Saw them many times during the Severe Exosure / paranormalized tours. Definitely one of the loudest and most interesting bands. Using Moog Liberation keyboards at that time was a definite anomaly. Their records were only surpassed by their live sound. So much volume, you felt them in addition to hearing them. Your discography is missing the Gun Court 7 inch. Two untitled songs, not sure who the line-up was on this, but I bought it after Law of Ruins was already out.
Saw them in October 2009 with the new line-up and they were fantastic. They wisely chose to focus on the 2 new releases, with only a nod to the last 3 studio albums in their set. Rick's guitar playing is percussive, uniquely his style, but still managing to sound like 6FS. The 2 new albums are brilliant and should be hunted down.

Nick the Hat said...

One of the best bands ever, and have continually been in heavy rotation with all my music. I love all the Kraftwerk and Chrome influences, the spaztick sci-fi angle and the overall frenetic horror of it all. I've seen these guys live a few times in Seattle, last time was at a Shellac show, I wore my lab coat to the show and the singer asked, from stage, if I had any pills. Ha! These guys made mince-meat outta the crowd, especially the confused hipsters who were there to be seen because Albini has huge indi cred (and whome most hipsters have probably never sat down and given an honest listen to Big Black or Rape man). SFS fit the perfect blend of what I love about music. Looking forward to the new efforts.

MZ said...

FYI, the live show has one track mis-named. Instead of White Queen To Black Knight it's actually Massive Cocaine Seizure.

Thanks for the post. I have everything else, but I'd never found the live show before.

SNSE said...

Crazy - the live set is my friend's bootleg recording. I uploaded it to soulseek years and years ago. Show was at The Reptile House. This incarnation of the band was frightening - so much intensity and presence. All hail