PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Mike Weis: Don't Know, Just Walk

Give a microphone to a musician and he will record the mortality that surrounds him. Give it to a musician with fear of mortality and he or she will describe what life is all about.

Mike Weis

Don't Know, Just Walk

Label: Type
US Release Date: 2014-06-13
UK Release Date: Import

Whatever happened to Mike Weis, it happened for no reason. There are no lessons to be learned from a battle with cancer. There is absolutely nothing a portion of body tissue gone crazy can teach us, apart from announcing its own location and existence. Mike Weis is a musician, and if you’ve ever ventured anywhere near good American experimentalism you know him already and, chances are, you love what he does. Chicago-based trio Zelienople has been around for more than a decade, spawning little underground gems like His/Hers and Give it up in the process. Things got even more interesting when Weis teamed up with metal yoga guru and four and six-string genius André Foisy (of Locrian fame) and Neil Jendon to form Kwaidan, whose debut album, Make All the Hell of Dark Metal Bright, was nothing short of fantastic.

Despite this, Mike Weis felt he had to expand the landscape we knew he naturally inhabited, so he started conceiving his new creature as soon as he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He taught it a lesson. As Weis explains in the press release that came with the CD, the title “references a method of meditation used in the Korean Zen tradition of Buddhism for clearing the mind -- removing all obstructions to get a clear view of the world. Through experience, I’ve come to interpret this as proceeding without mental baggage, without dogma; basically, getting my self out of the way of myself so I can experience the rest of the world with wide openness.” And, boy, it worked.

Don’t Know, Just Walk was recorded at SOMA Studios, Chicago by Norman Conquest, and it is probably best explained as an ambient album focused on percussions, but with little percussive sounds. Take a track like “But the Sound Keeps Coming”, for instance. Before the first, clear hint of some sort of drumming kicks in, we find ourselves lost in a haze populated with birds of all species. Nuthatches, tufted titmice, woodpeckers and even frogs and crickets. If Mike Weis wanted to write a piece of work on the transience of life, he has managed to do so by focusing his inspiration on the less grim aspects of its subtraction, as one could naturally expect an avant-garde musician at ease with the darkest aspects to do. This is the closest one could get to Olivier Messiaen’s Catalogue d'Oiseaux without explicitly referencing it. This is a search for the purest of sounds, for an archetype of music, be it noise or melody, or even the most supreme form of sound: silence.

Space (therefore, time) is dilated and stretched to form otherworldly tones and inflections, with life -- the fauna, the tribal percussions and their combination -- as its centre of gravity. Give a microphone to a musician and he will record the mortality that surrounds him. Give it to a musician with fear of mortality and he or she will describe what life is all about. Weis was in pain, but the final result is a contemporary ode to joy and an album with virtually no overdubs and recorded in one take. The moktak, the bass drum and the janggu allowed for the development of complex rhythm patterns revolving around a feeble prepared guitar, as well as a short-wave radio (“The Temple Bell Stops”), and Conquest’s ARP 2600 analogue synth on “Out of the Flowers”. This is it.

Don’t Know, Just Walk is an album about beauty. One could say that, yes, the influence of artists like Ekin Fil, Jodi Cave, Cyclobe, Mika Vainio and Joachim Nordwall is tangible, but I wouldn’t be surprised to know that Mike Weis has never heard of them. Their paths must have crossed at some point simply because they were all going in the same direction, but nobody paid attention to the others, as they were all looking for purity: the answer to diverse and vaguely silent questions they all had.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.