(Archival post, dumped here to save it from the MFT migration. originally posted there circa 2008.)

As I was going through tapes to digitize, I was quite surprised to discover a long-forgotten direct-to-four-track recording which Dan Willems kindly executed for us sometime in 1990.

The flipside of the tape is a live performance by Hoedown Syndrome, and it’s really great – the crowd sounds as if Andrew had tilted their collective heads back and dumped handfuls of amphetamines in. Dan is looking for his copy of this and with luck it will make an appearance from his more-sensitive hands, but worst comes to worst I did grab it when I ripped this tape.

Vortex was a very short lived project that I put together after the demise of Modock in Fall 1989. I was verrry busy finishing school, working full-time and attending school full-time from September 1989 until I left Bloomington in August 1990.

I don’t recall exactly how I roped everyone in to the project (although I expect that Steve Bouton will have a clearer recollection). I do remember that the idea really started between Steve and I, as in conversation we realized that I had enough gear in the basement of the house I was living in to toss people at it and see what came out. Steve remarked that he knew how to run a guitar, and we were off. I asked my good pal and former Litter Box roomie Mike Goss to sing; I really had to sell him on the idea as he felt very strongly that he had no sense of rhythm or melody, objections I idealistically waved away in the spirit of anybody-can-do-it. Here’s a chord, here’s another: now form a band!

Tim Hommey, I learned somehow (I know he’s on facebook! I must point him over here!), was a pretty good drummer, and somehow a kit was procured. I don’t recall if it was Tim’s or someone else’s.

I should note here that until the photo of our lone gig embedded at the top of this entry surfaced, thanks to Angela Everson, I had forgotten that Tim drummed for us, as well as the existence of this tape.

As I recall, we pretty much just sketched the songs, and I gave Mike a few basic ideas for the lyrics and said, “make shit up.” I was sooo busy that I have little recollection of practice and strangely for me I don’t remember having a specific aesthetic goal or set of practices I was interested in accomplishing with the project. The bass I had at the time, a cheap-ass early sixties violin-body Hofner copy had flatwound strings and the combination of those weird factors meant that the instrument produced these intense overtones, and I wanted to use that in the construction of the songs. Steve suggested he could play along against the surface of this overdriven sound front that was coming out the bass amp and we could go from there.

Dan had recorded Modock earlier using a sketchy direct-to-four-track method that involved closemiking the amps and drums to one track each with no attempt at audio isolation. I remember him kind of crouched behind some storage boxes or something to isolate his headphones as he mixed it down to the tape while we played.

It seems to me that what Vortex did was pretty much just dump the set into the mikes. I was in a big hurry to do everything back then and you can hear me pushing us on to the next song between takes. I doubt we did multiple takes of anything, especially given the feedback howls at the end of the last song – I think we were just running out the tape.

At the time, I remember being really frustrated and disappointed with the sound we ended up with, not so much on the tape, but in general. If I had taken a few minutes to think about it at the time, I would have realized that what was aggravating me was how much of a hurry I was in. Listening to this again with really fresh ears (having forgotten it existed), it’s not nearly as terrible as I recalled it being. If there had been more time, or I hadn’t known I was leaving town, it sounds to me as if the influences of the Fall, ATV, Wire, James White, and other early-postpunk noise-and-rhythm specialists I hear on this today would have borne a more seasoned fruit. Mike’s offbeat sense of time actually sounds cool to me today but at the time I was frustrated with it. I suppose that’s an inherent problem with a bassists’ point of view.