Last year, we introduced you to San Francisco duo mini and the Bear, and hinted that the duo’s next release would not be released on vinyl or cassette, but as a book. Today, we’re excited to give you an excerpt from that book/album, PWR VOL. PWR VOL is at its core a novella written by Nick Scandy, with illustrations from SF artist Aaron Zonka, layout design by Nathan Sharp, and a soundtrack from mini and the Bear (Scandy and Aaron Eash).
Each chapter has a unique illustration and song to accompany the text, but there is no right or wrong way to experience it. The artists encourage readers and listeners to loop each chapter’s track while reading continuously, taking breaks to explore literary and musical references in the text, read before listening, or vice versa. However you take it in, it’s an awesome concept that should bring you plenty of enjoyment. You can purchase the book from Books of Some Substance, a brand new San Francisco-based literary imprint. Get the book by itself here, or purchase it with a coffee mug to bring yet another sense into the mix here.
You can see mini and the Bearperform live November 18 at Neck of the Woods or elsewhere during their Pacific Northwest tour that began this week.
Check out the illustration, song, and Chapter 10, “chemical.static.hum” from mini and the Bear’s PWR VOL below.
There is a method, a set of rules. With a strict enough collection of steps and calculated precautions, a finely orchestrated chaos can be delivered as planned, as desired. As the piles of amplifiers and speaker cabinets careen under the slow beckoning of risky angles, wobbles, and shakes, only the most meticulous attention to detail can prevent the wall of sound from crumbling mid-song, jarred loose from a shift in the floorboards by a subterranean hum, ripped from the open loop howl of these nickel-wound strings channeling the direct vibrations of the speaker cabinet itself. Tape it all down. Every drum, every cable, every microphone. Plan for the worst, plan to find new definitions of what that can possibly mean.
As we pause amidst an echoing wail of bass feedback, ready to launch into our final two songs, the tried and true closers, I look out through the cracks in my matted, sweat soaked hair, marveling at the arrangement. Fred and his drums float atop the center boat, its barnacled hull calmly rocking, rhythmically revealing and then hiding its christened name—Pinta—chained closely and bobbing in the harbor between my own two vessels—Nina, Santa Maria—each with creaking bow and stacks of gear teetering suggestively. Looking out in the other direction, I spot a large viewing barge, taking in the frothing mass atop its deck, thirty or forty heaving bodies breathing as one, contributing their own pungent waves of salt to the sea air, a few pausing for an extended stare over and into the greenish black of the bay’s swells, worried not about missing prized instants of perfection in time but rather the chance to feel young, to feel right, to feel wrong, to feel strong.
With one more glance out from atop my own personal Nina and Santa Maria, I begin the bass line, comparatively quiet, but still coarse, chunky, rumbling. Fred’s hi-hat signals the upcoming swell—four, three, two, one—and at once the thick distortion switches on and the bright white lights explode from the back of the aquatic stage, both simultaneously ripping new holes in the previously defined range of senses. Leaning into the mics, tasting their metallic, ungrounded electric graze, conducting energy in both directions as we reach deep into our chests you gave it away on a Saturday night bellowing, screaming, crying out, already lacking breath, but always finding more the lines in your head were black and white sweat coating every inch of our wiry bodies lost your head and you buried it deep knuckles bruised and bleeding from contact with drums gone awry under six feet of sand where the widows weep wrist gone numb from the repeated, fast picking of the bottom string, easing up to let gurgling minor key progressions ring out fight at night bright guns ablaze staccato drum hits accompanying the chugs of the bass, pausing for feedback and light to bleed out of the speaker cabinets, pulling thoughts from my brain . . . —What do these lyrics mean? Did they ever mean anything? If they never meant anything, perhaps do they now mean more, something better? . . . thoughts never fully assembled in the moment, nor anytime before or after, yet pulsing through with the vivid charge of a body running on reserve, always capable of finding the supplies needed for getting one second further, deeper, higher you don’t know him as the last crash of drums ushers in a quiet, breathing bass note, walking its way up the scale in a meditative fashion, warmly ominous, hypnotically repetitive. Large beads of sweat roll down Fred’s legs, coating his shins in a sheet of water, a return path for the elements rushing through us as a mere stopover in their own infinite cyclical path, as he builds the drums, slowly at first, then sliding in small accents to increase the swirling, the mass of bodies on the barge rocking in perfect time to the waves, the beat, the chemicals rapping against their own interior walls, sound graciously growing, climbing, swelling, then suddenly pulling back. Lightly plucked bass notes with the pervasive hum of static cutting through, the drums counting off time with as little impact as possible, easing away, bringing the dirge of an interlude to a close, quietly creeping up on the ever elusive silence, when in perfect time everything collapses—distortion, drums, lights, bone structures convulsing as one—and the song turns itself inside out, expanding, not churning in the grinding bliss of the prior number, but in a jagged painting of corners unbeknownst, coating the three ships with a monolithic canvas of noise, chants beginning we won’t carry on pupils receiving the sound waves, ear drums bathed in hot light we won’t carry on scalps prickling with harmonic oscillations we won’t carry on fingers cracking in coordinated rhythmic elation we won’t carry on thighs burning bright, depositing pounds of lactic acid for another day, another time we won’t carry on necks thrown further, pulling spines to new lengths we won’t carry on forearms fiery, cooking in their own moisture we won’t carry on tangled we won’t carry on swathed we won’t carry on smothered we won’t carry on enveloped, bounded, boundless rippling, hulls shattering with the final passion, vehement strengths, frames and forms and figures melding, bursts of light crippling the sensorial definitions, overdriving the laws, the regimes these delicately regulated bodies signed up for, the designs no longer applicable—we will find the saturation, the maximum, the end—and in an instant everything is cut off at the final note, the silence more oppressive in its unheralded arrival, painful in its all-encompassing arms.