HESO Magazine

Photography, Music, Film, Hitchhiking, Craft Beer – Cultural Pugilist

Tag: Sex Wax Creator

Sex Wax Goes Surfing

Sex Wax Goes Surfing

The Spirit of Surf

The Spirit of Surf

The term “Sex Wax” has always fascinated me. As a youth growing up in Long Beach, our tiny house just separated from the beach by the Pacific Coast Highway, my mother told me in no uncertain terms that I was not to “set foot across PCH.” Hearing talk of body boarding and surfing at school every day only made it worse. So close to the ocean, yet so far, the oddly-dropped phrase took on a dirty kind of intimacy–sticky love, naughty touching, a desirable kind of scuzz, imagined of course, for how would I know, not being able to experience it first hand without a parent’s well-meaning yet restrictive hand holding mine through the crosswalk? So I pined and imagined I heard the surf from my window. I listened to the Beach Boys while my grandfather tapped on the arm of his recliner. I listened to the Ventures on remastered compact disk. I listened to Dick Dale and the Del-Tones.

In reality, I had no idea what it actually was. As I wasn’t introduced to surfing until much later, after moving far from Long Beach, I have always carried the term Sex Wax around with me, jangling about in the back of my mind like a misinterpreted dirty secret. When I finally went surfing (and got my ass kicked by the Ocean Goddess herself) and realized the incredible skill, strength and focus it takes to commune with the sea in harmonious glide, I was in awe. Who knew that Sex Wax was an actual thing, a product for staying on your board, useful as all hell?

But, it is so much more as well. The new musical incarnation of Jeff Hassay, of the bands Cockfighter and Creator, which saw the release of last year’s Destroyer cover album Kaputt, Sex Wax is just in time for summer. Or rather summer’s end. While talking to Hassay recently, he had this to say about the album:

“I just finished my surf album, my band is now called ‘sex wax’ because the name rules and is part of surf lingo…The funny thing as well is that I haven’t been surfing in a year–that’s my biggest similarity to the beach boys; as summer started I literally chose to spend June in my room making songs about surfing as opposed to spending June surfing.”

Sex Wax Goes SurfingThe song titles come from the surf lingo that has defined west coast culture for sixty years, and the films that have perforated the world with surfers from Arugam Bay in Sri Lanka, to Bells Beach in Australia, La Libertad in El Salvador, the Pipeline in Oahu, Hawaii, Teahupoʻo in Tahiti, and Supertubos in Portugal (to name but a few): Big Wednesday, Point Break. One almost expects there to be an musical homage to Baywatch, CHiPs and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. But like a surfer making a split second decision to cutback, the album takes another tack: it follows a day at the beach, from sunrise to sunset and beyond.

For all its wannabe Gidget-era baggage it lugs onto the soundboard, the album is far from derivative. Rather than purely instrumental, it’s loquacious. In lieu of the wet reverb sound so alternatively loved and hated the guitars are modern and fresh with unexpected turns and rarely fall into the shuddering tremolo picking style of surfrock heroes come before. On the eponymous opening track, “Surfing” there is no trepidatious dipping of toes to check the water, but rather the warm keyboard notes and progressive bassline propping up a sunny guitar riff. The closing track, “Dreamz”, is a cyclical surfrock saga from raucous riptide to exhaustive water-treading and back into shore. Sparse melodies intertwine around propulsive vocals keynote the album’s theme of bodies undulating in the wetness of life–moving, dancing, surfing.

The only drawback to the album is that–as Hassay confesses–he recorded it indoors. While he may have missed the gloom of June that so plagues southern California beaches, what the album misses is a live, outdoorsy feel: the salt and sand of the sea. Ironically, what may be the saving grace of modern music–the insularity of a one-man band digitally recording analogue instruments in a home studio, democratizing a costly process–also tends to distance us from our beloved environment. We are perpetually one the wrong side of PCH without a hand to guide us toward our Pacific Ocean Goddess. On the plus side, now you have the ability to have an portable orchestra on your device, listenable at your leisure as you laze on the virtual sand before the big blue crushes us all back to dust. Sex Wax goes surfing indeed.

As Hassay intones on Sex Wax, “This is the time for the flood and ions and good ideas.”

Sigur Rós - Valtari

Sigur Rós – Valtari

Sigur Rós - Valtari

Sigur Rós VALTARI

Like any Sigur Ros album, listening to Valtari for the first time is like waking from a nap—groggy and un-lucid. All music is a series of patterns: keys, scales, chords, progressions but somehow Sigur Ros consistently avoids such trappings (four years after the band formed in 1994 they added a keyboard player who was the first member to have any formal musical training). Instead of verses and choruses, the band settle into some dream logic who’s music is as prickly and gentle as a shiver running up your spine and whose lyrics come across like an elfin spell (or perhaps the Twin Peaks dwarf gently cooing you to sleep at your bedside while the fever wears off, or continues, gloriously forever). Is it my tin ear or does Icelandic (or the nonsensical language that Jonsi occasionally sings in “Vonlenska” or “Hopelandic”) sound a bit like English played backwards? It would not surprise me if eventually Sigur Ros released a box set of everything they did in reverse wherein we would discover that each song served as a different lentil soup recipe. Or directions to build a giant rainbow.

This is where the weakness becomes the strength. It is less ambitious. It is a sidestep. A diversion from a path that was itself a diversion. Click To Tweet

Sigur Rós – Valtari

This isn’t to suggest that Valtari is some masterpiece or the high point of Sigur Ros’s career. It is neither. I just am not interested in delving into its shortcomings. I can’t quite explain why this album’s exact flaws become more and more endearing. Here’s an attempt anyway: Our Icelandic boys find themselves wading through a slow, slogging syrup throughout the entire album. Their usual crescendos and rhythmic flurries are all forsaken (aside from a brief attempt at a bpm over 60 in the album’s most churning piece “Valou”) for something that seems to amount to an examination of the void. The hypnagogic void. The subliminal void. The vicodin void—this is the shit I would imagine some phenomenal biopic of Michael Jackson would use, in the vein of Terrence Malick, for the scene where he drugs himself into a death-coma while we watch in slow awe as our hero fades away from this life of sound and fury that, pathetic as it reads on paper, has a glorious tinge of the heroic within.

Sigur Rós - Valtari

Sigur Rós during the recording of Valtari
Jón Þór Birgisson
Georg Hólm
Orri Páll Dýrason
Kjartan Sveinsson

There has been a certain trajectory to Sigur Ros’s albums from 1997’s Von establishing their amorphic ethereal sound through 2008’s Með Suð I Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust which found them trudging their way into a kind of acoustic pop realm that becomes bouncy and melodic. Jonsi’s 2010 solo album Go further clarifies this evolution by focusing his sound, simplifying it. Valtari takes a wild sidestep off of this trajectory. It is interesting that something so hushed and almost lazy can come across as almost wild but in the context of Sigur Ros’s career this is a new wilderness. What was becoming clear and rousing, rhythmic and fierce has now evaporated into an introverted ambience. Valtari is less a band performing together than it is something akin to a symphony warming up while a few kettles whistle with boiling water perfectly on key.

This is where the weakness becomes the strength. It is less ambitious. It is a sidestep. A diversion from a path that was itself a diversion. It is a muscle loosening. The soundtrack to a king’s golden slumber.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén