MP3 vonHummer - Ever So Transient
Glam folk rock, fried up middle-eastern style, with pre-Beatle skiffle sensibility.
9 MP3 Songs in this album (40:46) !
Related styles: ROCK: 70''s Rock, FOLK: Psych-folk
People who are interested in Cat Stevens Jethro Tull Richard Thompson should consider this download.
Being a Biography of Him That Wears Lobsters...And thence an explanation of this fascinating album.
vonHummer first formed in September of 2000 as an outlandish costume for Portland’s yearly Dada Ball. Mild-mannered singer songwriter Clark Kent took five plastic lobsters, a pair of eyeball-painted specs and a suit spattered with house paint and unknowingly created an icon. At an event famous for naked women and outrageous spectacle, partygoers went out of their way to photograph and fawn over this lobster fellow.
The costume seemed to exude a bizarre charisma that Kent never did.
Long desperate to escape the ubiquity of being a folkie, Kent incorporated the costume into his act, dubbing the character “Pontifex vonHummer.” (“Pontifex” being medieval German for “clark,” and “vonHummer” translating as “of Lobster,” smacking of Germanic nobility.)
This Ziggy Stardusting seemed to be the perfect finishing touch to add to the unique sound Kent had already developed by re-stringing and re-tuning guitars and basses to his own design in a sound he called “Glam Skiffle,” a rhythmic, celtic-middle eastern drone set to bittersweet pop songs. He set out to put a band together with the unique sound, but gave up after several attempts, as he could find no guitarists willing to adopt his new guitar style and forsake the standard guitar tuning.
Making the best of it, Kent recorded several albums-worth of material with the new sound, playing every instrument himself. After several live gigs, it became clear that this vonHummer character needed a context: to be legendary, not merely a costumed freak playing songs in a bar.
It was Kent’s girlfriend Ann Hammer who suggested putting vonHummer on TV. Portland, Oregon has some of the best-developed cable access stations in the country, of which the pair quickly took advantage, and in the Fall of 2001, the first of an eventual 54 episodes aired.
“The vonHummer Hour” mixed cryptic music videos with quirky, often hilarious, Pythonesque sketch comedy, and within two years became a cable access staple seen not only on every cable system around the metro area, but exported to Boise, as well. By late 2003, vonHummer had developed a significant cult following in Portland, with hundreds of fans downloading free mp3’s seen on the series every week from https://www.tradebit.com.
Kent was able to write, edit, perform and produce the music and the show due to a prolonged stint of unemployment, using family and friends to fill in when additional actors were needed. When the local economy had recovered somewhat, however, and Clark Kent was able to work again full-time as a graphic designer, producing the TV show began to eat him alive. Just short of burnout, Kent wrapped the final episode at the close of 2003 and, leaving the series to rerun weekly, looked to expand his Lobster empire in other directions.
Live at Last
All the time spent over the prior years in front of and behind the camera left vonHummer little time in front of live audiences. A lot of e-mail had come in from fans of the show wanting to see the Lobster Lord play out. But booking shows for vonHummer presented several unique problems.
First of all, to band or not to band? Most of the songs on the show were arranged with three to four instruments, all played by Kent. If a band couldn’t be put together—and it still couldn’t, even with many guitar-playing fans coming in to try—then how could the songs be arranged for a solo vonHummer show in a way that could do the tunes justice?
Then there was the daunting task of learning the material. Over the years, Kent would write the songs, record them for the show, then never play them again. With around a hundred tunes in the vonHummer anthology, re-learning the material, getting sets arranged and audience-ready would take some time.
But by the Fall of 2004, all kinks had been worked out, with vonHummer playing just the 3-string bass split through two amps: a bass amp for low-end oomph and a PA to catch the treble strumming. Combined with a drummer and careful re-arrangement of the guitar parts, vonHummer + drummer = full band https://www.tradebit.comeral elaborate live shows were done, with video effects, belly dancers, and even mechanical dancing black Santa Clauses.
Indiscreet Where You Live
In 2005, a new vonHummer album of new material was recorded, eventually yielding “Indiscreet Where You Live,” released in March 2006 on Kent’s own label, Therisno Records.
“Indiscreet” was a turning point for vonHummer artistically. Originally, the album was recorded with the standard vonHummer full-band sound, but just prior to mastering, Kent decided to re-record a stripped-down arrangement, in an attempt to get in touch with the beauty of the sound of just the one vonHummer bass and voice. “Indiscreet Where You Live,” done live in studio with no overdubs is a stunning album, atmospheric and personal. A “Nebraska” with lobsters.
Meanwhile, with the TV series continuing to run weekly, and six or seven live shows per year, Clark Kent set out to add the next element to the Lobsterfolio: films. His goal was to produce vonHummer movies regularly. Ridiculous Elvis-like musical comedies, with vonHummer plugged into the Elvis roles. From 2004 through to mid 2006, Kent wrote several movie scripts, to little avail. Writing for movies, he found, was very different from writing 3 minutes skits for TV. In May of 2006, however, he hit upon an idea so idiotic, so uncannily stupid, he knew this must be the script fit be the first vonHummer movie.
With a $7000 budget and six new songs recorded, Bübiwulf! went into production in the Fall of 2006. Ann Hammer (“Helvetica Bold”) from the series co-starred as Baretta Columbo, a “B.S. Criminal Psychologist” investigating a boob-squeezing werewolf loose on the campus of an all-feminist college. The Boobiwolf is, of course, esteemed Womens Studies Professor Hendrick Shooting Horse (vonHummer.)
Produced, directed, edited and animated (!) by Clark Kent, Bübiwulf! premiered on Halloween 2007 at the Hollywood Theater in Portland. The alternative papers reviewed the film glowingly with Willamette Week declaring the movie “often hilarious.”
"Bübiwulf!" was intended to be released online and to DVD, but personal difficulties intervened. Time—and especially making the movie-had taken its toll on Kent''s relationship with Ann Hammer, off whom he''d been sponging shamelessly for years. She threw him out and Kent found himself with little more than a camera, guitars, a 16 track recorder, lobsters and a pile of paint suits. Rebuilding the infrastructure of his life for—gasp—independence put all vonHummer projects—like the release of "Bübiwulf!"—on hold until about mid 2008, when Kent began recording some new material which became 2009''s
"Ever So Transient."
Ever So Transient
Always a prolific songwriter, Kent tended to have a rather mindless "first-written, first recorded" policy over the years that would have him putting out new albums of songs that were written several years before. On "Ever So Transient," Kent recorded the best songs that he had written over the last year, giving a more immediate charge to this album than any previous vonHummer work. Unlike 2006''s "Indiscreet," EST is a full-band album—again with vonHummer recording all the parts.
In an update to the vonHummer instrumentation, a "sub-bass"consisting of a single B string run through a lower octave effect was substituted for the standard bass part as a subtle low-end support. (Play this album on your boom-cars and you''ll break windows all over town.) The drum kit was cut back—with a couple exceptions—to exclude cymbals. Otherwise, this is the amazingly full sound of only 3 guitars that sounds like about 5.
Another difference to this album''s sound is the quality: this is the first vonHummer album to be professionally mixed AND mastered. Kent took the 9 new tracks to the Northwest''s legendary producer/performer/all-around genius Pat Kearns (Blue Skies for Blackhearts) at Permapress Studios. The result is the clearest, cleanest vonHummer album ever, though the homemade charm remains.
EST: Song by Song
• "Gemini Days" kicks off the album rather majestically. It''s opening line pokes fun at the opening lines of "Hair''s" "Age of Aquarius," and continues to highlight the current era''s warping of that 60''s anthem''s proclamation of the new age to come. ("...No ''Age of Aquarius, these/These are Gemini Days...")
• "Some Alternative"—with one of the sweetest riffs in the vonHummer arsenal—kicks into a beautiful Cat Stevensian swagger. Faced with the inevitability of a life of hard labor, the songwriter is decides on the only option: "...I made up my mind/Then and there to find/Some alternative..." The end of the song has a superb Queen-like chorus, paying fine tribute to their anthem "Somebody to Love."
• "Working for the Woman" is another backlash song—albeit a comical one—for the 60s and "Womens Lib:" the mutation of feminism into misanthropy, breeding the resentment of men softly crushed by the cruelty of women in charge. "...You can''t have your cake and call it bread/," vonHummer spits,"Give me a break or give me head/..." slyly enlisting Marie Antoinette AND Patrick Henry his an obscene zinger. Not to mention "...She needs chocolate/and yappin''/and shoppin''/and a good hard shag/...hairdo." Ouch! Gloria Steinem, we feel your pain!
• "Knowledge Learning" paints the surreal, dylanesque landscape of a corporate marketing hellhole shuffling along to the Pink Floyd "Cigar" beat. There''s a nice psychadelic breathing effect in the interlude that heakens back to Sgt. Pepper''s "Lovely Rita Meter Maid." Neeto!
• "Never See You" stikes a very melancholy note, starting with the simplicity of vonHummer''s "Indiscreet Where You Live" album, and building in resolve that matches the resolve of the character in the song to stay strong, even in his remaining emptiness. This is great interpretive singing as the single line, "I will never see you again," evolves from dull denial, to outrage, to despair, to matter-of-fact acceptance. Unexpectedly moving for a guy with lobsters in his hair.
• "When We Were Pigs" has a stark beauty, from its Japanese-y, brittle riff to the blistering chorus, as it tells a rags-to-riches story of a vaguely undeserving couple.
• "Nobody''s Employee" could be the theme song for job hunters everywhere and manages to be bitterly funny and touching at the same time, a vonHummer hallmark. "...I do the dumb shit questions/in every interview/..." He sings. "About my strengths and weaknesses/my wins and losses, too/my handwriting sample slants/handshake and shiny shoes/Lay out the benefits/That someone else always gets/While I''m nobody''s employee..." There''s nervousness in the beginning that builds to desperation and despair at the end with the judgement rendered: no employment, no future.
• "Artistry" brightens the album with its very autobiographical mission statement: sacrifice of commercial success to the inherently selfish pursuit of art. "...On their way to pay their mortgages/I wish my peers/good luck," sings vonHummer, the poster child for outsider art. In contrast to the job seeker in "Nobody''s Employee," "Artistry"''s hero isn''t seeking his worth in gainful employment but through an apparently outlaw pursuit of self-expression. The chorus is a guilty plea to society looking to prosecute any escapees from its work farm. And another nice blistering riff on top of it all.
• "Goodbye See You" closes the album with an upbeat-despite-it-all, I-will-survivalist farewell note. A great song all around, but especially for headphone listening as the "see you, see you, see you..." bounces from ear to ear.
Now fully recovered, vonHummer is back in the lobster-decorated saddle with the release of "Ever So Transient." In October "Bübiwulf!" is scheduled to be released for download and DVD, just in time for Halloween. "The vonHummer Hour" now runs in Seattle as well as Portland, as vonHummer marches steadily forward in his conquest of a very unique audience. Them that like their artist usignable, unfathomable, and one who, ultimately, can be depended upon to express themselves selfishly to confound the normals. If vonHummer is indeed Lord—as his bumperstickers maintain—this then is his dominion.