Awake in the Red Desert (1968)
Bill Bissett and the Mandan Massacre
the 1968 zoner masterpiece by poet bill bissett and his fellow Vancouver freaks. We have always been shocked this LP was not included on the NWW list, but Canadian releases often seem to exist in their own universe, so we suppose that's the 'explanation.' Because, in a list of any free-form freakouts, Awake in th' Red Desert would surely have a high place. bissett was a sound/concrete poet of high repute when this was recorded, and he was also something akin to the king of the Vancouver underground scene. The original album was issued by Jim Brown's See/Hear label, which Brown founded as an adjunct to his Talon Books imprint. Backed by a band of interesting musicians (a few of whom went on to straighter afterlives), bissett created an insane mass of sound, comparable to what Mayo Thompson's Red Crayola was doing in Texas around the same time, laced with heavy Fugs overtones. Pure freaked sonics, created while stoned, for an audience that was similarly blasted, and was willing to decode what was going on using the very best acid logic available. Hard for me to describe how much I love this album. And I will attest that this version sounds better than any other available version ever has or could. It is jacked. If you don't feel your teeth wiggling while this plays, I suggest you may never feel that particular feeling. In your life. bill bissett is still going today, and we heartily suggest that anyone who digs this album runs out and tries to nail down one or another of his wonderful books before the sun sets." --Byron Coley
Canadian poet bill bissett was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and started publishing in the 1960s. The author of more than 60 books of poetry, he is also a painter and musician. Known for his unconventional writing style and spirited performances, his collections of poetry include Th influenza uv logik (1995), Loving without being vulnrabul (1997), Scars on th seehors (1999), narrativ enigma (2004), and northern wild roses (2005).
bissett dispenses with standard written English (initial capitals, spelling, and punctuation), connecting with language on an elemental level that some reviewers have considered shaman-like. Jamie Reid, in a review titled “one man civilization; a review of bill bissett over time,” remarked of his work: “[T]here is a glorious sense of incompletion, of form unfinished, unadorned … even in the midst of a varied and repeated, but always expanding repertoire of artistice and audience-pleasing gestures and techniques, for one of bissett’s aims has surely been to create an atmosphere of ecstasy and delight.”
bissett founded blew ointment press in 1964, which published contemporary writers. As a musician, he has composed songs and lyrics for the band the Luddites. His awards include the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award and the BC Book Prizes Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. bissett is the subject of the tribute anthology radiant danse uv being: a poetic portrait of bill bissett (2006).
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