FM DUST ARCHIVES: Better Late Than Pregnant

The Ypsilanti/Ann Arbor axis may be one of the best, weirdest melting pots for homemade aut sound-fuckery in the whole United States. Don’t give me your shit about NYC, either: in New York, you actually have an audience for this kind of thing, because there’s an audience for everything in New York. Thus, any attempts to make uncompromisingly weird sounds are soon thwarted by commercial concerns, not to mention a greater-than-average influx of outside inputs. That, my sweets, is why every shitty noise artist in New York is now a shitty EDM artist. That, and because of molly and cocaine.

If you make abstract improv, electronic harsh noise, or high-falutin’ conceptual guff in SE Michigan, though, you’re usually doing it for one of two reasons, if not both:

1)      You’re studying composition at U of M, with designs on going on to “bigger and better” things elsewhere (probably NYC); or

2)      You’re a dyed-in-the-wool weirdo freak who would do this whether anyone was paying attention or not.

Either way: if you’re playing shows, you’re playing to your weirdo peers, plus a couple of other EVEN WEIRDER people who actually LIKE this stuff (or, at least, their significant other does). It’s rarely enough people to fill a living room, let alone a club, anomalies like “Noise Is Over” dudes Wolf Eyes notwithstanding.

That may sound limiting, but to me, it’s liberating. It lets noise be a hobby, which I tend to think is the best way to pursue it. If it’s just a hobby, you play with your friends not because it puts you in front of more people, but because it’s fun to play with your friends. Being as we are, raised in a perverse capitalistic society that puts more value on what can be sold later than on what can be enjoyed in the moment, noise may be the one music left where nobody (well, outside of New York) has any illusions about becoming rich and famous as a musician.

 

That said, in the tiny microcosm of SE Michigan noise, Better Late Than Pregnant was kind of a supergroup, one which rose out of Ypsi’s premiere noise house venue, The Pleasure Dome (whose residents also included Thom Elliott (who runs the label named after the house), Eric Wozniak (of Witch Putty), Patrick Elkins (of Rainbow Vomit Family Band/Hot Meat For Young Lovers/don’t get me started…), and many others over the years). BLTP’s co-founder Michelle Birawer’s solo project Strange Brew released a cassette, Live Weird Die Weird, on Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace! label; the other core member, Brian Polsgrove, was in Wasted Recovery, Blood Necklace, and Daytime Television (DT’s core member, Jonathan Lockhart, is also on this particular tape, but was not a regular member). Depending on the show, members of other bands like Scared To Death or Oak Openings might get in on the action; Stevo “Doc” Doccerson, who plays on this tape, was also in Ypsilanti limbo-rock goof troupe Manhole, wore his hair like Morrissey, and to this day performs as a troll at renaissance fairs. It was a real “family band” of local oddballs (and yes, FULL DISCLOSURE, I played with them several times, albeit not on this tape).

BLTP were a noise band by my definition, but not at all in the ‘00s harsh noise/power electronics sense that became codified in the wake of Wolf Eyes, Prurient, and the like. Theirs is a broader history than a lot of their peers, informed as much by acid-fried hippie jams as by electronic spew, not to mention SE Michigan’s proud past/present/future of sound-addled freaks: the lineage of the original Destroy All Monsters and the Time Stereo crew were strong in BLTP’s spirit, even when their sound swayed in directions far afield (BLTP were also heavily influenced by coming of age in the 1990s, as evidenced by Michelle’s tendency to go into meditative recitations of Gin Blossoms lyrics while performing).

As much as I liked the shows and recordings, though, I must emphasize that Better Late Than Pregnant were merely a moment, an example, of something that precedes them, and will continue in their absence. They were one among many, something to point to when explaining why, while I do not miss the shitty weather nor my own myriad hang-ups about the area upon moving away, I miss the SE Michigan noise crew like one misses their own family. See you at the family reunion, kids.

 

Dustin Krcatovich is a cartoonist, writer, designer, founder of FM DUST, and a collector of certain curios and ephemera (with a focus on 20th century "junk culture"). His writing and illustration work appears frequently in The Quietus, Tiny Mix Tapes, and Esquire's Culture Blog. He is also a former editor and contributor to Secret Zen Garden,Saagara's illustrated mindfulness/wellness blog for young people. He currently resides in Portland, OR.

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