Minimum Country

by Paul Kerschen

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about

I had the title in mind early, and meant it both as a description of my homeland and as a program for genre. I thought there might be a kind of minimalism placed halfway between Woody Guthrie and Gang of Four, that would speak to the time as they spoke to theirs. The results don't sound much like either, but are perhaps more intelligible against those starting points.

The record was made on a laptop, the oldest computer in the house, that could barely play back the mixes in real time. It was the only machine able to run the still older audio software that I'd kept around from a time when software was still traded on CD-Rs.

Making it took just over four years. Everything except the noisy parts was done late at night, in hours stolen from trying to meet the minimum in other areas. One attempt at austerity was to leave out the keyboards. Everything's a guitar aside from cello here and there, and the horn samples on "Wannsee."

Whatever the value of the record, I'm happy to remember it as an act of enormous stubbornness.

Berkeley—Palo Alto—El Cerrito, 2009-2013.

credits

released December 15, 2013

Written, performed and engineered by P. Kerschen.

Artwork by Matthew Besinger.

Thanks to C. Hales for a borrowed amp, and to J. Ferguson and R. Kerschen for time.

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Track Name: What Valens Said to Valentine
I got no reason to be satisfied
I treat my baby like a time bomb
four days and twenty since I been outside
bolt down the cellar for the cyclone
it's just like Valens said to Valentine
he said it's gonna be a long road

who got a reason to be satisfied?
who got the common sense to phone home?
I got a call from city homicide
they run the numbers on some type O
I know they're gonna make the water wine
they're gonna drill it like a sinkhole
it's just like Valens said to Valentine
he said you can't depend on people

out on the border with the simple minds
it takes a score to change a light bulb
it's just like Valens said to Valentine
he said it's gonna be a long road
and would you not feel so all alone
if everybody would just get stoned?
said would you not feel so all alone
if everybody must get stoned?
oh would you not feel so all alone
if everybody must get stoned?
said would you not feel so all alone
down in the cellar with the cyclone?

dropped my pack in the armored car
lost my papers along the way
thought my god was a foreign war
how could thoughts ever get that way?
lost my head in a foreign war
how could thoughts ever get that way?
Track Name: Off the Grid / Gloria
it's not an animal you take to market
it don't communicate to what you want
it's not a cannonball
take out a target
it don't orient to what you want
it got no common cause with what you want
not a stunt

it's not a chemical
you can't enlarge it
push it out the spillway
it won't come back for counting till the creek runs dry
it's not electrical
it's off the grid
hit it

I call the wendigo out on the carpet
it goes subcritical
recalibrate the needle till the steam runs dry
and if you're clinical you're off the list
hit it

get those dirty hands off the ship of state
that's the kind of work made our nation great
I got signatures for figures at the margin rate
so just who the fuck are you to make the nation wait?
I said get your dirtypaws off the ship of state
cause that's the kind of work made our nation great
I got vouchers for the figures at the margin rate
tell me who the fuck are you to make the nation wait?
I said who the fuck are you to make the nation wait?

gloria
Track Name: The Country
I don't know why the rich girls go to the country
what you sell to a rich girl you reap tenfold
spend a day at the flicks get a night at the vineyard
but I don't know why, I don't know why

see those laugh lines on their faces they're getting older
buying sandals though the season's getting colder
cause you don't know what they been through
you buy them drinks, they tell you true
what they need and what they'll do just to get it right

I don't know why your daddy wants to live in the country
selling dope to the rich kids good as gold
dumped his shares at the right time bought him a Cessna
but I don't know why, I don't know why

cause he won't get me at the counter to make his coffee
no he won't get me in the corner to write his copy
yeah you can tell him that we're through
I'll buy you drinks, you tell me true
what you need and what you'll do just to get it

didn't want to live in the city
now you want to go to the country
didn't want to live in the city
why you want to go?
Track Name: Saint Michael
saint Michael and the outland devil in a border fight
south north and the land kept coming
saint Michael was a full-blood angel
had his orders right
but he needed some advice
we said you're gonna find not a track on the way
cause snakes can walk without legs
they chew their words with their fangs
don't you let the devil start talking

saint Michael wouldn't let no rebel up the mountainside
barbed wire on the left
Rottweiler on the right
snake burrows in the dead saguaros and the crystal spines
but he couldn't take advice
no he couldn't see the price of that guard on his grace
he pulled the visor on his face
he watched the stars roll out in space
that's when the devil started talking

about fulfillment
he said this is fulfillment
about fulfillment
witness its fulfillment
and if this is fulfillment
then before the night is over
you'll have to take positions
you'll have to choose a platform
oh you'll have to take positions
you'll have to make a statement
and it might be remembered
and it might be recorded
and if it is remembered
it might be used against you
it might be used for leverage
it might be used for profit
can I get a witness
Track Name: The Minimum
these keys don't fit the locks
the locks don't fit the doors
the doors don't keep anything out
who's got an eye on the kids?
that back step is a deathtrap
can't be responsible
I was carrying on like I owned the place
they'll send you a form for that

I got nothing against the neighbors
guess it takes all kinds
to till the earth and tune the engines
never judged a man by his creed
what'd you bring from the war?
a handshake and a nightmare
he said I saw black rocks on fire
it was the other side of things
hollow and cold
the devil is a word
but the devil's a state of soul
and there's no sleep at night
and there's no rent for June
and there's no pills in the bottle
and there's no sleep at home
and there's no work at the agency
for love or money no love
and there's no sleep on earth
and there's no sleep in heaven
no there's no sleep on earth
so let me tell you something

I think we're down to minimum
twenty years to pay off a roof and a water line
you show me the minimum connection
between what they said and what they had you sign
force is a shepherd
the path of least effort
hammerheads in the tank
working out the minimum compulsion
to man a rifle on a riverbank

no less no more
Track Name: Don't Go to the Wannsee
I lacked the courage to put up a storefront
and now I've lost my heart
they'll strip your curls and sell them by the troy ounce
if you step inside that car
tell me is it hard?
yeah I guess it's hard
it must be pretty hard
cause you got no pull
and you're beautiful
but you got no pull
so I guess it's hard

shit forum where the best lack all conviction
cause they starved to death in school
I guess a presidential election
is just too blunt a tool
when the future's dark
do you think it's dark?
I think it's pretty dark
cause they got no soul
and they're beautiful
but they got no soul
so I guess it's dark

but baby don't you go to the Wannsee
and don't you take nobody down to the Wannsee
the world is wide

I lacked the courage of my own convictions
and now I've lost my heart
well I guess it's hard
cause I lost my heart
Track Name: Little Terror
hey little terror
no one's gonna feed you
until your man comes home
and if he don't have a head for numbers
guess you're on your own this time

hey little horror
no one's gonna buy that inky mind
to earn your bread
black coffee cloves and manifestos
leave you good as dead

you said the train was going forwards
but I can see it moving backwards
so I think you must be cowards
when the train is going backwards
don't you tell me that it's forwards

my baby got me a night job at the weekly
but I couldn't get no higher
so when the district cut my gas and power
I set the place on fire
they had me quarter time reviewing movies
but I couldn't get no higher
and then the district cut my gas and power
I set the place on fire

no one's gonna feed you
Track Name: House on Fire
house on fire
someone spilled the bottle with the daylight
I'm so tired
I couldn't find the words for the goodnight
I don't require anything but you when I feel right
no I don't require anything but coffee on the stove
the planets hanging low outside
and if I stepped out of this service would you sigh?
and if I never broke the surface would you mind?
smell for smoke well if you're nervous
that's the curse
we used to get on like a

house on fire
someone broke the bottle with the moonlight
god I'm tired
I couldn't take the hours up to midnight
I'd be a liar to tell you that it's ever gonna feel right
yeah only a liar could keep up with the questions at the door
the answers and the warning signs
and if you hang it in suspension one more time
I'm gonna shake those bad intentions off their vine
you gotta choose what's worth defending
if it's ending - it'll go up like a
Track Name: Corazón
two dark pigeons came into my room
one was the sun was the other the moon
I left my home just a week before
cause I never seen it snowing in the street before
it was pouring down dollars and a dollar’s shape
is an S for a serpent climbing up a fire escape

Wall Street shadow grabbed my coat and said
didn’t you never see a fitted suit without a head
said brother can you spare that Spanish sun
cause every brother needs a brother now that mother night is come
well I asked those pigeons have you seen my tomb
in my tail said the sun, in my throat said the moon

ay corazón mi corazón
Track Name: Jefe Jephthah
jefe Jephthah sold his daughter
got a permit for grazing a lock on water
gonna raise an oil rig up to the sky
gonna buy more land up than God on high
pennies an acre / get it?

said I earned everything that I bargained for
I built my holy self up from nothing
you'll never see a dime while you trust in people
don't you get it?
and when they plant my feet in the desert floor
I won't take the train out forgotten
the vultures and the mice will be at my table
they'll be laughing at my table

man what'd you bring home from the slaughter?
a busted antenna a stick of solder
well didn't nobody tell you whom the gods destroy
first they print your face up on all the coins
bait for the ravens / get it?

said I earned everything that I bargained for
I built my holy self up from nothing
you'll never see a dime while you trust in people
don't you get it?
and when they plant my heart in the desert floor
I won't take the train out forgotten
the vultures and the mice will be at my table
they'll be laughing at my table