Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Sexual Criminal

by Jon Carlson

Sexual murder still can prove interesting these days ( depending on the creativity of the perpetrator), but for the America that had recently emerged from World War II, the crime was considered shocking as well. So one might consider unusual the 1949 publication of The Sexual Criminal, which catalogued Dr. Paul de River's interviews with a wide assortment of sexual deviants from Los Angeles, who had resorted to the most frenzied sort of killing in order to satisfy their bloodlust. Now, a half century later, Brian King has edited a revised and expanded edition, which includes newspaper accounts pertaining to four of the murderers, and a revelatory introduction about the peculiar circumstances that surrounded the professional and personal life of de River.

As one reviews the material of de River and other contributors to the book, it becomes apparent that virtually every sexual act falls under the rubric of perversion, which the glossary defines as "the deviation of the sex impulse from its normal goal." Their introductory and supplementary materials alert us to the evil of "the sex degenerate," and it is the shrillness and certainty of these "experts" that bring present-day evangelists to mind. Even holy wedlock cannot escape the far reach of the law: "Criminals have no monopoly on sexual divergences. It is now accepted by most authorities that many happily married couples engage in mouth-genital, or ano-genital contacts: actions which are considered sex felonies by the laws of most states." However, for all the immoral or illegal sexual practices, nowhere do any of the writers deign to define which behaviors might fit the "normal goal" and thus be appropriate for discharging the sexual appetite of Los Angelenos.

Perversion is most compelling when accompanied by murder, and here de River gives us both aplenty in words and photos. His categories include the juvenile sadist, genteel sadist, lust murderer and others. With each of the accused, de River provides family and personal histories, along with the results of physical and psychiatric examinations. Most interesting are the final segments of the case history, which contain the questions de River poses to the subjects and their responses, followed by the doctor's analysis and conclusion.

By also including photos of disarticulated limbs, multiple stab wounds, etc., de River provides the reader with a smorgasbord of visual aids to flesh out the text and demonstrate vividly to what extent his subjects lost any sense of moderation in pursuit of their sexual needs. This is close-range, hands-on killing with knives, clubs, rope, arsenic--there is not one instance of a firearm used to cause death.

Not every so-called sexual perversion investigated by de River culminates in murder. For example, with regard to sadistic bestiality, de River relates the story of a male preteen who indulged in sexual intercourse with chickens and his pet collie. More absorbing by dint of greater elaboration is the account of a teenage farm girl and Sandy, the family dog (a male, part shepherd). Although the girl longed for stallions or colts, she found Sandy much to her liking, as evidenced by her response to one of Dr. de River's "clinical" questions: "How would you get the most satisfaction from the animal?" Answer: "By his licking my privates until I couldn't stand it."

The Sexual Criminal contains a strong undercurrent of irony thanks to Brian King's introduction, "The Strange Case of Doctor de River." King's extensive research uncovers many concerns about de River's vocation, including questions about his medical training, his conduct dealing with suspects during the Black Dahlia homicide investigation, and his conviction for illegally prescribing narcotics for his wife, who was suffering from spinal surgery. And despite the ostensibly medicolegal justification that underlies the doctor's case histories, the nature of questions he advances in conjunction with the photographs points to a more personal interest. As with anti-pornography crusaders, who must carefully vet all the hardcore material within reach before dispensing their outrage, de River's moral patina is deliciously undermined by his own insatiable voyeurism. As such, it gives this engaging volume an enhanced kick.

In this land where ultraviolence often remains the last resort of those utterly jaded by more normative and stagnated forms of cultural diversion, The Sexual Criminal graphically reminds us that the "simple act of murder," fueled by a rabid sexual urge and carried out well and thoroughly, has always been the ne plus ultra of the true crime connoisseur.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

And more..

"Technically, Ultra chose Roman Holiday as the title for their 1997 album first but it makes sense to see this reissued, along with a huge chunk of material from 7-inches and a 7-inch of unreleased material, at a time when there is another Roman Holiday floating around—is this a sign of our continued descent into Roman style cultural decadence?—and the world’s tolerance for unsavory yet alluring noise-cum-rock records is at an all time high. Bring on the women issues wrapped in noise! All joking aside, this is a great record that avoids completely falling into so many of those trite and sometimes jokey power electronics tropes while still being disquieting and vicious. If you like those tropes though, and sometimes I really do, they are here. After all, there is a whole song, “Letter of Introduction,” about tight orifices, ejaculation and violence. There are two things which are immediately appealing to me about Ultra’s Roman Holiday. First, Ultra uses a variety of methods to express, as per the reissue insert, each track’s “disturbingly prickly quality.” There are piano-based and synth instrumental tracks which are unforgiving and dour. Sometimes they are paired with vocals, like on the industrial chill of “Wad” and “Perfect Pitch and Manchester United.” Simply, the whole thing is very eerie and disturbing and worthy of hours spent examining each track. The ambient tracks are often more troubling than the straightforward power electronics songs and thankfully the second LP of this reissue is composed almost entirely of them. The more straightforward tracks, like “New Centurion,” the aforementioned “Letter of Introduction,” and Ultra’s cover of “I Can’t Stand a Bitchy Chick,” with lyrics like “You bitch…you won’t survive my fury…male dominant, that’s the way I like it,” launch into deranged rants with a wall of noise behind it. Lesson learned: malevolence does not come in a single form. Second, Ultra’s frankness about the content of its music and its effect on listeners is interesting to someone like me…you know, a little white girl. The insert to the reissue, written of Tyler Davis of the Ajna Offensive, features this top notch line, “I’m sure there are a few women who might find this titillating, but not as many as the men who will get off.” If a band is going to run around preaching a masculinist discourse, let’s all acknowledge it and admit that yeah, some dudes are probably going to jerk it to this record. Are we embracing the perverts or critiquing them, and when Ultra makes such striking and disconcerting music, does it even matter?"-Jamie Johns/Fader Magazine

Friday, May 28, 2010


"Ultra were one of the shadiest of the post-Industrial avant-experimental groups, with next to nada available in terms of info and a deliberately cryptic/parodic stance. They were in fact the brainchild of Jon Carlson with contributions from Christoph Heemann and Achim P Li Khan of HNAS, inspired in part by their response to the early Whitehouse and Come Org releases. But in their attempt to lampoon and amplify the urges behind the most transgressive Industrial noise they went well beyond the remit, birthing a form of subtly psychedelic avant garde that is as beautiful as it is hilarious. There’s a sophistication to the recording that bears Heemann’s unmistakable thumbprint (he appears on 11 of the 18 tracks), with hazy drone sunsets that are pure Mirror, elegiac avant piano instrumentals and great barracking Industrial/rock assaults in the mode of Whitehouse/Ramleh, including the classic “New Centurion” and their amazing take on The Sodality’s “I Can’t Stand A Bitchy Chick.” The schizophrenic atmosphere makes for the perfect confusion, lurching from fizzy, melancholy tone-poems to fists full of Industrial brutalism. If you’re at all attuned to the more experimental/avant garde side of Industrial music, the side specifically inspired by the NWW list and articulated by labels like Pinakotheca, then might wanna move in. This deluxe double LP reissue restores their classic 1997 Roman Holiday album complete with additional stray singles and a bonus 7” featuring unreleased material from the Zoll sessions. Edition of 500 copies. Highly recommended."-David Keenan

"Here’s to the libertines, eh? Deluxe vinyl reissue of Ultra’s 1997 CD of the same name, given the business: over an album’s worth of compilation, singles, and unreleased tracks appended, in effect blowing out the impact of a very dense and troubling record to a level of mournful introspection rarely achieved in the noise/taboo timeline. Roman Holiday alone is a visceral lashing of steaming male frustration, made by people who give the impression that they’ve turned a corner few dare to approach.

The uncalculated, everyday volume of masculine anger released by the populace is given a strange new voice by the men who made this record, one which both highlights its overtones of power and dread, and underscores the utter ridiculousness of it all. Wah abuse has rarely been captured in such a telling manner, and the sex dungeon beats of “Doll Rally” are like staring into the dark, waiting for something to attack you. To scream the lyrics of “I Can’t Stand a Bitchy Chick” behind carsick electronics and abrasive, cyclical bursts of noise, is only funny if you think there’s a joke to be in on, and if that’s the case, it’s the most dangerous interpretation of all – though for most, laughter is an acceptable response. Our nerves do that to us. Listen to it alone and you will feel the slump hit you, a blow to your self-control. That’s power. That’s provocative. That’s also somewhat unpleasant, but this music may have been made to draw the beast out of the male ego, and feels so unctuous at spots than many people would gladly run across the room to change the record. Certainly there were points – particularly in the Ted Bundy worship of “A Letter of Introduction” – that sickened me outright. It’s a valid emotional response to something so base and abusive, but the fact that Ultra plays the backing track of soundtrack violins and tape-spliced fear for its intended shock value as well, the interpretation that allows the laughter to cut through the seriousness of the read is there. You may not want to know someone whose voice sounds like that, and who utters these words, but if you did, how funny would it be if he sounded like this hysterical funboy?

This becomes more of a conundrum for the listener who sits in for what comes before and after, particularly the drone-based tracks that make up most of the bonus material. Here, Ultra’s skills in wringing tears out of the dishrag are laid plain. Ambience has rarely been so achingly gorgeous, and it’s in this way that the group proves they have far, far more on the agenda than making you nervous, or of people questioning why something like this is in your home. If TG fucked with decency ‘til it got sick, and Coil let it fester without treatment, Ultra squeezes the infected area until it bursts, proudly oozing forth in a defiant blaze of self-immolation, and it’s only the brave who’ll follow them into quarantine. Fortunately, the people who made this record seem smart enough to escape the piercing, painful one-trick-ponyism of Whitehouse or the Brainbombs (two shockers which the sicklings, who’ll probably miss, have been sweating so hard for some time), and express themselves with an elegance wielded both as a product of restoring beauty through sadness, and as the ultimate faceturn.

Transposing these sentiments to music is neither easy nor acceptable in polite society, so the fact that Ultra gives itself carte blanche to personalize these goings-on with such wild and fruiting abandon, a hat trick that few noise/ambient acts could ever pull off to this measure of success. The easily offended will be better off not knowing this record exists, and the boutique pressing of 500 copies (including a single of outtakes from their Zoll album) will guarantee its obscurity, but as the side three label states, “Ultra offers you a listening experience of unparalleled refinement and sensitivity, and often a great deal less.” This is as fair a self-evaluation as can be told, so I’m gonna leave you to it."-Doug Mosurock

Friday, March 12, 2010

We're gonna have some FUN...


ULTRA -- 'Roman Holiday' 2-LP/7" (DOM US 2LP 21/DOM USS 22)

Double LP reissue of 1997 9-track CD, with an additional 7 tracks taken from various 7"s and compilations to bring you 16 songs of unparalleled refinement and sensitivity (and often a great deal less). Bonus 7" E.P. contains two previously unreleased tracks culled from the 'Zoll' sessions.


'Roman Holiday'

1. Enjoyment or satisfaction derived from observing the suffering of others.

2. A violent public spectacle or disturbance in which shame, degradation, or physical harm is intentionally inflicted on one person or group by another.

3. Album title by a triad of libertines, known as ULTRA, generally assumed to originate from the Pacific Northwest of the US, with ties to musical luminaries from the industrial, avant-garde and power electronics underbelly. An album title that compiles selections from a plethora of sources now long out of print, generally impossible to find and, in a few cases, unreleased. This double LP + 7" reissue represents an even more thorough excretion than the CD version released by g.m.b.h. too many years ago. It is a welcomed purging for those of us who remember when "noise" and industrial" music were more than a cacophony of untalented alterna-culture jocks pretending to be 'different'.

ULTRA has a lengthy history, paralleling that of bands like Whitehouse and The Sodality. It's industrial, avant-garde, electronic music of the likes no longer known. ULTRA combines the fine art of subtlety, poetry and some bizarre sense of decorum here that must be synonymous with piano. Because piano = sophistication, right? The tracks are not necessarily overt or belligerent the way that modern 'noise' musicians tend to be trained, although each track has its own disturbingly prickly quality.

ULTRA creates a mixed sense of elation, ease, discomfort and a wantonness for predation upon repeated listenings. This music has a mercurial nature in that it continues to assume new shapes and presents alternate visions; elucidates novel anxieties; promotes unforeseen paranoias; and instigates troubling moral dilemmas. It's like a subconscious setback, a week spent in stupor chasing the dragon or, alternately, a nighttime prowl for some tail to bloody up real good. It's the catch being better than the chase. It's the fulmination of libertinage and it's strung together with enough instrumentation to disconcert the taker for all he has.

He? I'm sure there are a few women who might find this titillating, but not as many as the men who will get off on such charms like 'New Centurion' or 'Whistle for your Mistress'. The fully depraved will probably drop seed to 'Letter of Introduction'—possibly the most disturbing track I've ever heard alongside 'Danse Macabre' by Celtic Frost or a track or two from Premature Ejaculations. The music becomes Ted Bundy wearing the cast to lure prey into his van. It's the pervert luring the kid into his car with candy. It's the record on the turntable of the bogeyman that propels him before his nightly stalkings.

This is a true celebration and exaltation of personal gratification, no matter the cost to others. Yes, libertine to the bone!"-Tyler Davis, The Ajna Offensive


Limited pressing of 500 copies total.

Special Edition is SOLD OUT. Please do not order.

Normal black vinyl edition is $19 plus postage (see rates below).

Postage rates are as follows:
USA (Media Mail)-$4.50 1st LP, $0.50 each add'l record (this includes delivery confirmation service)
USA (Priority Mail)-$8.50 1st LP, $0.50 each add'l record (this includes delivery confirmation service)
Canada (First Class Airmail)-$8.00 1st LP, $1 each add'l record
UK/Europe (First Class Airmail)-$13.50 1st LP, $1.50 each add'l
Japan/Australia/Everywhere Else(First Class Airmail)-$15.00 1st LP, $1.50 each add'l record

Paypal payments to DOMAMERICA@GMAIL.COM.
Postal or International Money Order (In US funds) made payable to Judd Taylor. Send to:

DOM America
PO Box 4411
Austin, TX

Contact for wholesale or any other inquiries.


Side A
1. Clusterfuck (Family Version)
2. Whistle For Your Mistress
3. Ultratumba
4. Doll Rally
Side B
5. New Centurion (7" version)
6. I Can't Stand a Bitchy Chick*
7. Malaria
8. Perfect Pitch and Manchester United
9. Letter of Introduction
Side C
10. Wad
11. Wad II
12. Yohimbe
Side D
13. Clusterfuck II
14. La ReuniĆ³n
15. Abandoned
16. ...And Forgotten

Side E
17. Subway Etiquette MkII
Side F
18. La Fixation Insupportable