id m theft able
and the smell of a blown out candle.
The Portland experimental musician Skot Spear, who performs as id m theft able, is the type of artist for whom the line between life and art is so thin and so blurred that maybe it’s not there at all.
Spear’s music is crazy and strange, repetitive yet unpredictable, bewildering but capable of creating moments of pure wonder — just like reality in 21st century America. On his recordings and live radio sound-collage shows on WMPG (“Rssd Uul Maang,” Tuesdays at 11:30 p.m.), Spear takes the detritus of pop culture and the industrial sturm und clang of the tuneless machinery behind it all, chews it up and spits it into your ear. His 2016 album A [heart symbol] Named Spooky was available on cassette and via an OKCupid online dating site account that, I’m guessing, did not result in a love connection.
The latest i dm theft able release, and the smell of a blown out candle., is a double live album documenting performances last fall in Philly, Nashville, Little Rock, New Orleans and South Portland. It’s available on cassette and via the id m theft able Bandcamp page.
Spear’s live performances are oriented more toward his vocalizations — a kind of rapid-fire, cartoonish acid scat — and stream-of-consciousness word salads than found sounds and instrumentation. On “Hulk Hogan,” he impressionistically re-creates the scene at a teenage sleepover in somebody’s Westbrook basement by repeating snippets of memories between single keyboard notes and the conjunction “and then…”: “a picture of Jim Rice,” “a stack of hair-metal tapes,” “sound of the toilet running ’cause nobody flushed it right,” “a stack of pornos well out of sight,” “a sweaty, sweaty, sweaty, sweaty sheet,” “a picture of Lita Ford,” “the smell of a blown out candle.” No, it ain’t poetry, but I for one am glad we have artists like this who bring such otherwise mundane events back to life in surreal fashion.
The two most remarkable pieces document shows in which audience members become part of the act. During “Fly, Allison, Fly,” recorded in Little Rock, a woman on some sort of psychedelic drug can be heard tripping out. At over 34 minutes, this track is not easy listening, but it’s hard not to stick it out just to find out what happens.
On “Enter Sandman Seeping Through the Bathroom Wall,” a pair of deeply drunk Southerners who happened to be at a Nashville dive bar on the night of an i dm theft able show get into a confrontation with Spear, who adeptly weaves them into the performance to hilarious effect. I’ve heard something like this before: “Redneck Eats,” from Frank Zappa’s 1971 mind-fuck of a movie soundtrack, 200 Motels, in which the Lonesome Cowboy Burt character responds to a section of musique concrète by saying, “What the fuck was that? … Hey, twerp, play me something I can enjoy.”
The thing is, that was staged, and this is real — and really entertaining. These rednecks think they can bully this weird bearded Yankee, but Spear verbally bats them about like a cat paw-punching a stunned rodent, repeating their words back to them to the rest of the crowd’s delight. At one point the drunk woman approaches Spear and his sound equipment in a vaguely menacing manner. “Watch out, she’ll blow yer fuckin’ machine up,” her male companion drawls. But hecklers everywhere take note: a performance artist with a microphone will crush you every time. Spear, who’d previously been whispering and sputtering at low volume, turns the mic amp up into feedback range and bellows, “DON’T LEAN ON MY TABLE! BACK THE FUCK UP!” After a quick, quiet “thank you,” he then resumes his tsunami of gibberish.
“Boy, that’s better ’n sex,” the male rube declares when Spear finally pauses. “I almost come.” No, you didn’t, you tool. You just got owned by i dm theft able for 27 minutes and change. Now finish your piss-warm Bud, get back in your big-boy pickup truck, and crank some major-label metal until you feel like a man again. We won’t wait.
— Chris Busby