Members of the Los Angeles Free Music Society, 1976 (photo courtesy of The Box LA and Fredrik Nilsen Studio)
In 2012, the Los Angeles Free Music Society celebrated the 40th anniversary of its founding, and the LA gallery The Box marked the occasion with the exhibition “Beneath the Valley of the Lowest Form of Music.” Now, under the auspices of Box Editions, a selection from every performance that took place during the run of the show has been painstakingly mastered, pressed on an LP side, and collected in the handsome seven-hour, thirteen-disc set LAFMS BOX BOX.
If you’re new to the work of the LAFMS, their music is “free” in every sense. Free in terms of improvisational structure, free expression, and free association; free from generic restrictions, free from inhibitions, free as in liberated, free to come and go, free time, guilt-free, and even free of charge (“The music is free, but you have to pay for the plastic, paper, ink, glue and stamps,” as they say). Perhaps no group of musicians has ever been a better candidate for one of those “family tree” posters head shops used to sell. Not only does the LAFMS comprise a number of interrelated groups, ad hoc configurations of members, and solo excursions—Le Forte Four, the Doo-Dooettes, AIRWAY, Human Hands, Bpeople, Dinosaurs With Horns, and Solid Eye are some of the bands that populate the LAFMS’s alternate-universe Los Angeles, the one that is actually familiar to people who live here—but the society is also a nexus of the whole American underground of a certain period. Over the years the Residents, Captain Beefheart, Half Japanese, Wild Man Fischer, Mayo Thompson, the Meat Puppets, NON, Phranc, Christian Death, and 45 Grave have all contributed in some way to the massive LAFMS oeuvre. And Smegma originated as part of the LAFMS. And Michael Gira was the original singer of the band that became Bpeople. And founding member Dennis Duck is also the drummer in the Dream Syndicate. And artists Mike Kelley (to whose memory LAFMS BOX BOX is dedicated) and Jim Shaw of Destroy All Monsters have played in LAFMS bands and appear on this very set. You get the idea.
The thirteen LPs break down like this. Sides A and B: Opening Reception Improvisation (Dennis Duck, John Duncan, Ace Farren Ford, Joseph Hammer, Mike Kelley, Fredrik Nilsen, Joe Potts, Rick Potts, Tom Recchion, Vetza); Side C: Artificial Art Ensemble; Side D: The Tenses; Side E: Tom Recchion; Side F: The Doo-Dooettes; Side G: Le Forte Four; Side H: Smegma; Side I: AIRWAY; Side J: Ace & Duck / Artificial Art Ensemble; Side K: Dinosaurs With Horns; Side L: Vetza & Joe Potts; Side M: Dolphin Explosion; Side N: F For Ache; Side O: Eddie Ruscha, Jim Shaw, Dani Tull; Side P: Extended Organ; Side Q: Feedback Waveriders; Side R: Artzenkraft; Side S: Small Drone Orchestra; Side T: Albert Ortega; Side U: Points Of Friction; Side V: Rick Potts; Side W: The Jrks; Side X: Joe & Joe; Side Y: Oolies; Side Z: Rahdunes.
LAFMS BOX BOX and some of its innards (photo courtesy of The Box LA and Fredrik Nilsen Studio)
We at DM are happier than a handkerchief at a snot party to premiere three videos that reveal this new box set in all its variegated and sensuous glory. In the first very special clip, members of the Los Angeles Free Music Society join the Pillsbury Doughboy in marveling at the box’s contents. Next comes a very, very special look at LAFMS BOX BOX with Corazon del Sol, pitched especially to members of the ASMR community—you know, those lucky few whisper fetishists chosen by natural selection for no-mess skin orgasms. And finally, there is a very, very, very special video in which the artist Paul McCarthy, who is a member of the LAFMS group Extended Organ, spends over an hour counting every countable item in the box.
There will be a record release for LAFMS BOX BOX at 356 Mission in downtown LA on Sunday, December 18 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. If you find yourself in the Southland, then, as Rod Roddy used to say, come on down. Among other delights, there will be a panel discussion with members of the LAFMS at 3 p.m., moderated by me.