Sunday, January 12, 2014

AMIRI BARAKA / R.I.P. to R.I.P.?




I had this idea that I wasn't going to do the R.I.P. thing anymore. The internet is taking care of it already -- do I have to chime in? Of course I too want all these great artists who are leaving their body week after week to rest in peace, and/or in power, and/or attain a new plane of transcendent existence, but I don't want my twitter and/or my blog to be 80 percent RIP notices. I mean, let's face it, as far as the 1960s counterculture is concerned, we are entering the kind of period that scientists coldly call an "extinction event or biotic crisis." Sometimes I feel like the job is to share the work of these great artists, both alive and deceased, every day except on the day they pass on.

I have to say something about the passing of Amiri Baraka, because as a poet he was simply one of the boldest and most uncompromising artists of the 20th Century. He was also a brilliant essayist/thinker/historian, even when polemical, and his books Blues People and Black Music were completely foundational for understanding how deeply the music I love was forged by the transatlantic African diaspora. His work was fundamental to the free jazz & fire music movements of the 1960s, through journalistic coverage (as collected in Black Music) and also through performance. He said that "Poetry is music and nothing but music. Words with musical emphasis," and when he read his fire music poems, with or without additional musical accompaniment, who knows what unknown tongues were unlocked in his listening contemporaries.

Here's two posts where his name shows up if you do a search on this here blog, including some writing about one of his most powerful recordings ever, "Black Art" with Sunny Murray and Albert Ayler. By the way, I humbly think these are two really good posts of music writing, not just for the Baraka content ... I know people are always saying "Blastitude doesn't review records anymore, blah blah blah," but I do occasionally if you pay attention, and why would I write twenty-seven lukewarm reviews of all the latest underground flash-in-the-pan oversaturation bands when I could be writing shit like this instead? Sorry, end of mini-rant.

I'm sure a lot of you and even most of you have already delved into the works of Baraka for yourself, but if you haven't, read some poems right now on this web page. Listen to "Black Art" and "Black Dada Nihilismus." Dig deep into all the other fascinating related YouTubes down the right side of your screen. While you're at it, check out the crazy "mad stressful" LP he released in 1972 on Motown Records spoken word subsidiary label Black Forum. Also Digging: The Afro-American Soul of American Classical Music is a fantastic sprawling anthology of his jazz writing that was published just recently in 2010 -- I got it at my local library. And, if you can find a VHS copy, Amiri Baraka: In Motion is a great documentary covering some days in the life of Baraka and his family during the 1980s.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

TOP 7 SONGS I LOVE RIGHT NOW

 1. First of all, RIP Phil Everly.

 

(John Lennon did a beautiful dream-fragment piano-demo version of this once too, you should listen to it.)

2. Circuit Des Yeux "Lithonia" This is probably my favorite new song I heard in 2013. It's completely incredible. I'm gonna be 'that guy' and say I prefer this more raw version, recorded at Magnetic South in Bloomington, IN and released on 10", to the re-recorded version with strings that leads off her great newest album Overdue. Both are superb though.

 

3. Velvet Underground "Sweet Sister Ray" Recently purchased the newish re-boot of the Sweet Sister Ray 2LP. The first record is a single performance of "Sweet Sister Ray" split over two sides, and I haven't even made it to the second record yet. Just been flipping "Sweet Sister Ray" over and over again. It's almost all the music I need in the world, and when I'm not simply blissed out, I'm fascinated by the difference between Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison's guitar styles.

 

4. Anonymous "Sweet Lilac" Completely haunted by this one. How could I not be with these melting heavy folk-rock song structures, stunning electric/acoustic guitar work, and a love-song hook that goes "You teach me/You're a school"?

 

5. Rake Kash "Foreign Lands" This swooning red-wine-infused piece of home-recorded deep romantic psych isn't on YouTube. To hear it you have to buy this record. In the meantime here's another Rake Kash number that is on YouTube.



6. Charalambides "Namaste" Market Square was the first Charalambides album I ever bought, back in 1996, and even though I haven't listened to it in a good 10 years I just put it on and realized it's still my favorite of theirs.



7. Syd Barrett "Swan Lee" Psychedelicious indeed.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

YOUTUBE COMPANION TO ROBERT BEATTY'S PORTAL FOR THE WIRE

If you just read Robert Beatty's piece for The Wire website that listed his favorite experimental films with electronic soundtracks, and wished there was YouTube links, here ya go. If you didn't read it, go here first: http://thewire.co.uk/in-writing/the-portal/robert-beatty_s-portal and then watch 'em here. (UPDATE: You can watch 'em on the Wire site... you just have to be a little web-savvier than I am.)

Les Jeux Des Anges by Walerian Borowczyk

 

 Et Cetera by Jan Svankmajer

 

 I couldn't find Pixillations by Lillian Schwartz but here's 1976 doc Lillian Schwartz: The Artist and the Computer

 

The Midnight Parasites by Yoji Kuri

 

Bedsitters by Frans Zwartjes

 

Atman by Toshio Matsumoto

 

Feherlofia by Marcell Jankovic

 

 SPECIAL BONUS MUST-SEE SOVIET SCI-FI MADNESS NOT ON BEATTY'S LIST, The Contract by Vladimir Tarassov:

 

Saturday, October 05, 2013

SPIN ME ENDLESS IN THE UNIVERSE

That's the name of a big 12-minute centerpiece song on the new Richard Youngs album Summer Through My Mind (Ba Da Bing Records), one of my favorite new songs of the year. Here are some great live versions of it from his just-finished U.S. tour.

First up, already the big cosmic grandaddy of them all, Richard solo on WFMU's Airborne Event, accompanying himself on a vintage Lowrey Organ. WFMU had just acquired one of these colorful instruments, and it was conveniently there in the studio when Richard arrived for his session. Host Dan Bodah pointed it out to his guest, who asked if he could try it out, and then after getting acquainted for a few minutes, famously left his acoustic guitar in the case and busted out an incredible version of his whole set on the organ, right then and there. (Garth Hudson's "Chest Fever" intro was also played on a Lowrey, so there is a cosmic music precedent.) The first song was an absolutely zoned take on "Spin Me Endless In The Universe" that incorporates the organ's canned "drum roll" sound effect to jarring/mesmerizing effect. This was around three weeks ago, September 16th, the last performance of Richard's tour, check it out:



And, to bring it down a little, here's a live haunting acoustic guitar version with Ben Chasny on slide, at Feeding Tube Records in Northampton, MA, the first performance of the tour, September 2:



And here's one from right in the middle of the tour, September 10th, completely solo with acoustic guitar at the Black Cat Backstage in Washington D.C. At around the halfway point I'm wondering if this is even better than the WFMU version....

Thursday, August 08, 2013

(NOT NECESSARILY) AMERICAN TOP 41


"The hits from coast to coast to coast to coast to coast to coast to coast....."

41. Miles Davis "You're Under Arrest"
40. The Fuckin' Flying A-Heads "Watching TV"
39. Howard Nishioka "Odyseas Over Seas"
38. Forest "Hawk the Hawker"
37. Aaron Rosenblum "Live At Zebulon"
36. New Order "Leave Me Alone"
35. Friction "Cycle Dance"
34. Friction "Crazy Dream"
33. Crazy Dreams Band "Feels So Good"
32. King Sporty "Choice of Music"
31. Horace Andy "Money Money"
30. Ed Kuepper "Ill Wind"
29. Maan "Damocles"
28. Matthew Young "Caitlin's Reile"
27. Forest "Fading Light"
26. Sand "Helicopter"
25. Demdike Stare "Matilda's Dream"
24. Demdike Stare "The Stars Are Moving"
23. Dr. Strangely Strange "Sign On My Mind"
22. Tapiman "Love Country"
21. Balaclavas "Snake People"
20. Monostat 3 "Beyond the Rim"
19. Led Zeppelin "Achilles Last Stand (Live at Knebworth 1979)" (this is actually #1)
18. Bob Dylan & the Band "Sign of the Cross"
17. Gene Clark "Some Misunderstanding"
16. The Byrds "Universal Mind Decoder"
15. The Byrds "Goin' Back"
14. Rolling Stones "Back Street Girl"
13. Les Vampyrettes (aka Conny Plank & Holger Czukay) "Biomutanten"
12. Red Krayola "Duke of Newcastle"
11. Tough Troubles "Paraplegic" aka "Help Me" (pick to click / buzz bin favorite / #11 with a bullet)
10. Gil Scott-Heron "Pieces of a Man"
09. Cedric Im Brooks & the Light of Saba "Words of Wisdom"
08. Matthew Young "Traveler's Advisory"
07. Valley of Ashes "Yellow Fog"
06. Siloah "Feast of the Pickpockets"
05. Siloah "Aluminum Wind"
04. Mighty Baby "Virgin Spring"
03. Dieuf-Dieul de Thies "Na Binta" (super special heat seeker debut at #3 with a bullet)
02. Pierrot Lunaire "Narciso"
01. Claudio Rocchi "Volo Magico N. 1"

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

(NOT NECESSARILY) AMERICAN TOP 57

01. Neil Young & Crazy Horse "Driftin' Back"
02. The Wicked Lady "Out Of The Dark"
03. Lee "Scratch" Perry "Womans Dub"
04. Wolf Eyes "Choking Flies"
05. Sonny & Linda Sharrock "Peaceful"
06. Brightblack Morning Light "Everybody Daylight"
07. Ted Berrigan & Anne Waldman "Memorial Day (Poetry Project at St. Mark's Place, May 5, 1971)"
08. Ma Turner & Weepjoy "I Will Not Bow"
09. Tear Jerks "Splash 1"
10. Stone Coal White "You Know"
11. Burning Spear "Creation Rebel"
12. DJ Dawn & Ranking Queens "Peace Truce Thing"
13. Jimi Hendrix "Peace In Mississippi"
14. The Magik Markers "I Trust My Guitar, Etc."
15. Prince "All The Critics Love U In New York"
16. Black Devil "Timing, Forget The Timing"
17. Cop City/Chill Pillars "Jennifer"
18. Lloyd Young & Augustus Pablo "Our Man Flint"
19. Neil Young & Crazy Horse "Ramada Inn"
20. Roy Richards & Brentford Disco Set "Natrual Dub"
21. The Upsetters "Shining Dub"
22. Alton & Soundemension "Mad Version"
23. Alton Ellis "African Descendants"
24. Andy Stott "Hatch The Plan"
25. Bedemon "Touch The Sky"
26. The Wicked Lady "Run The Night"
27. Arthur Russell "Soon-To-Be Innocent Fun/Let's See"
28. Fabulous Diamonds "Wandering Eye"
29. Axe "A House Is Not A Motel"
30. Barry & Soundemension "Give Love Version"
31. A Beautiful Machine "Dream It Back"
32. Pentagram "Be Forewarned"
33. Black Sabbath "Instrumental jam (edit)"
34. Abigail "The Bonehunter"
35. Blues Control "Good Morning"
36. Bob Dylan "Wigwam"
37. The Trypes "Eternal Ice"
38. Eugene Chadbourne "Hippies And Cops/Luxury Liner"
39. Milk Music "Fertile Ground"
40. Bob Marley "Soul Rebel"
41. Michael Chapman "Slow Coach (live at WFMU)"
42. Jaap Spek "Impulses (1959-1960)"
43. The Heptones "Young Generation"
44. Freddie McGregor "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart"
45. Cheveu "Unemployment Blues"
46. Jah Shaka "Zion Chant"
47. David Crosby "The Wall Song"
48. MV & EE "Turbine"
49. A Certain Ratio "Do The Du"
50. Zoltan Pongracz "Mariphonia (1972)"
51. Weed "Sweet Morning Light"
52. Buffalo "Dead Forever"
53. Plush "More You Becomes You"
54. Neil Young "Harvest Moon (Irving, TX, 14-Mar-1992)"
55. Gunter Schickert "Kriegmaschinen, Fahrt Zur Holle"
56. Sound Dimension "Down Presser Version"
57. Joni Mitchell "This Flight Tonight"

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

SOUNDCLOUDS, YOUTUBES, CDRs, MP3s, STREAMS, SPOTIFIES (?), RECORDS, TAPES, NEW ARRIVALS, NEW ARRIVALS FROM 5 YEARS AGO, ETC.





















JAMES BALJO "Leaving USA Blues" soundcloud; WOLF EYES No Answer: Lower Floors CD (DESTIJLLive solo guitar/etc piece by the newest member of Wolf Eyes, and no wonder their new album sounds so lean and sharp if this is what he's bringing to the mix. Tons of space, tons of shiver, but still propulsive throughout. And by the way I can't say enough how much I like the new Wolf Eyes album No Answer: Lower Floors. I liked it so much on Pitchfork Advance and I got so tired of waiting for the vinyl  that I bought the damn thing on CD. And ya know, I'd forgotten how playable a CD is. I played this damn thing 5 times the day I got it. It helps that it's a very intriguing album that rewards repeat listens. I've always liked them best when they're sparse, and especially when they're sparse but with a backbeat (for an early reference, check out my personal all-time favorite Wolf Eyes track, "Desert of Glue/Wretched Hog"), and this new album is a masterpiece of sparse rhythm, especially the 'video single' "Choking Flies" and the 12-minute "Confession of the Informer."

VEILED soundcloud, "Previews of our most recent recording. January 2013 - Barcelona, Catalunya. This set contains 2 sounds, total time: 8.06."

ROBERT A.A. LOWE aka LICHENS, intense YouTube from 2007

GEOFF TATE EPK (Electronic Press Kit??) as posted by @Holy_Mountain, my goodness

mp3s of LEE PERRY Revolution Dub (CREOLE) One of the top... three heaviest Lee Perry albums? Too heavy for YouTube?

98.7 WFMT Chicago is turning me on to some Saint-SaĆ«ns right now...

The 1970s-British-folk-supergroup-doing-American-rock'n'roll-covers LP Rock On by The Bunch didn't sound that great to me at first, not even much better than The Band's covers album Moondog Matinee, which is not very great indeed. I do really like the version of  "When Will I Be Loved" sung by Sandy Denny and Linda Peters (later Linda Thompson), and now Richard Thompson singing a choogling "Jambalaya" is growing on me (youtube not available). The song, and really most of the album, is pretty corny though. Basically, I prefer British folk-rock musicians to be playing British music.

TERRACID Out Dual Head Vibration CD-R (MUSIC YOUR MIND WILL LOVE YOU) I remember hearing about this Music Your Mind Will Love You collective, aka MYMWLY, back in the mid-2000s psychedelic CD-R underground heyday, but I don't think I ever heard anything from 'em until the other day, when I finally tackled a tall, precarious, and deeply buried pile of as-of-yet-unlistened-to CDs and CD-Rs, all sent in for review over the years. There I went, steeling myself for deep dives into untold neglected sounds, some appropriately neglected, some inappropriately, and from what turned out to be the latter category, I pulled out a 2008 CDR release by a group called Terracid. I remember their name... they may have even been the, dare I say it, MYMWLY flagship group. From Australia, I believe, arriving just a year or two before the recent flood of underground/punk/etc bands from there. I put it in the player, and was instantly taken by a sweet & sour rambling extrapolative jam approach, improvised music but with a good amount of musicianship behind it, inflected with big knowing whiffs of good old folk, jazz, and blues... sometimes it ends up sounding like goddamn wildly recombinant Canterbury prog. For seconds at a time! The key to the whole thing is that they have a light touch, which opens up all kinds of space for movement and extrapolation. The collective is from Australia and according to their blog are currently "shut down for unknown time." I'm hoping to dig some more of their stuff out of this pile... (aaand actually I did, another CDR called The Palace Carries The Eggtooth As Its Crown, this one from 2006. So far I don't like it as much, but that may be due solely to the long and annoyingly blown-out noise-rock opening track, which obliterates that light touch I enjoyed on Out Dual Head Vibration. I haven't really been able to get past it, and therefore have barely heard the rest of the album.)

mp3s of RSO Awl 7" & Bonus Tracks (SELF-RELEASED) 

mp3s of THROBBING GRISTLE Beyond Jazz Funk CS (ROUGH TAPES) 

HOLDERLIN Holderlin's Traum (OHR via SPOTIFY) I was introduced to this album (and many other favorites) by that epochal global underground folk primer in issue #5 of Badaboom Gramophone. Haven't listened to this in many years, and it's holding up nicely. I've been reading Electric Eden, an excellent history of British folk and folk-rock by one Rob Young, and it's getting me to pull out some of the best German folk jammers too (even though it doesn't mention them). Also notable: Witthuser & Westrupp Trips und Traume, and of course Broselmaschine s/t. Next up: Emtidi Saat! P.S. I still enjoy referring to really good records as "jammers."

DONOVAN A Gift From A Flower To A Garden (SONY MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT via SPOTIFY) Of course I like plenty of his tunes, but I have never before sat down with any one album by Donovan. Maybe he's more of a singles artist... but this album, which I'm also listening to because of Electric Eden, is sounding quite good at work today. "Isle of Islay" is a really great song.

JOHN ALLEN's WFMU show from Wednesday (January 30th), streaming from WFMU Recent Archives page (http://www.wfmu.org/playlists/shows/49233) For me, John Allen's show is "the best show on WFMU." Standouts from this week include Fennesz Daniell Buck, Michael Chapman (don't miss Allen's on-mic analysis afterwards), Kathleen Yearwood, Scott Walker, Jeff Greinke, and Elklink. Always a great show but I've really enjoyed the last two (here's the one from the Wednesday before last). (ED. NOTE: This was written in January because time flies.)

XHOL CARAVAN "Electric Fun Fair" on car radio tuned to WNUR. Now that's a good tune to hear on the radio when you're driving the car home from work on a Friday night! And I only drive on rare occasions, like once a month. Thanks, unknown WNUR drivetime DJ.

BEACH BOYS Pet Sounds LP (CAPITOL) Jammed side one super loud tonight and danced exuberantly around the living room with my daughter the entire time. Did not post pictures of it on Facebook.com. (But it's cool if you and your young daughter do it and post pictures of it on Facebook.com.) (P.S. The reason I got this album back off the shelf, and the reason it's sounding better than ever, is the Behind the Sounds series of YouTubes. Big thanks!)

HUSKER DU Zen Arcade (CESSTONE MUSIC via SPOTIFY) Just finished the Bob Mould autobio, a good read. I admire and respect the guy, but to this day I'm not a huge fan of his music. A fan? Yes. A huge fan? No. Not even of Husker Du. I do love Zen Arcade, and gotta say it sounds pretty beautiful and perfect tonight. The most beautiful song is Mould's "Chartered Trips." Also standing out more than ever are the "Hare Krsna" jam, Hart's "Masochism World," and the way Mould's "Newest Industry" is like a Side 3 mirror to Side 1's "Chartered Trips," the mirror then crack'd by the psychedelic room-spinning dream-world outro that is Side 4's "Reoccurring Dreams." The thing is, I don't really have a 2nd favorite Bob Mould album. Hell, it might even be Copper Blue. Even though I often like loud and blurry music, Land Speed Record is actually too loud and blurred for me to get into. I've never even particularly enjoyed New Day Rising or Flip Your Wig, even though they're probably the 3rd and 4th best albums that Bob Mould has been a part of. I did give his solo debut Workbook several CD/cassette spins back in the day (and a couple tentative Spotify spins just this week), and it's not great, but I might still put it at fifth. Bob erred a little too far on the beige side with that one, but "See A Little Light" is great, and there's a lot of other nice touches, like opening with an instrumental (it's like an actual workbook!) and having an interesting assemblage sculpture on the cover (by Mould's then boyfriend Mike Covington -- in the book Mould writes that he still owns the original and looks at it every day). Quick story: Workbook came out in 1989, and I was in college, listening to all of that college rock, and the video for the super-catchy "See A Little Light" was all over dorm-room MTV. A couple fellow students bought the CD, and I even made a Maxell dub of it from somebody. Listening, I decided that Bob's solo move from Husker Du was a lot like Pete Townshend's from The Who; out of a rather chaotic and loud rock band comes a more folky, gentle introspective solo sound. "See A Little Light" was like Bob's version of Pete's "Let My Love Open The Door," a gentle and melodic lead-off single by a former rock wildman. I thought this theory was airtight enough to run by a cool and jaded employee at one of Lincoln, Nebraska's most independent and "import" focused record stores. We'd been having a nice enough chat until he heard my theory, which he dismissed with a conversation-ending "I don't know about THAT." I didn't yet realize that comparing a 1980s underground darling to a 1970s stadium-rock dinosaur was a major faux pas. But here I am 25 years later, reading Bob's memoir, which is called See A Little Light, and what should he say about Workbook, starting right there on page 162: "I sensed there was a part of the punk audience that would feel betrayed, but it was important to move beyond the sound of the past eight years. In the generation prior, Pete Townshend's Empty Glass would have been the model -- the Who were a bombastic group, but Pete tackled difficult emotional matter with a more mature view." That's why I'm now a popular web-based music writer, and that record store employee is . . . probably a lawyer or something. 

MILK MUSIC Cruise Your Illusion (FAT POSSUM via PITCHFORK ADVANCE) I tend to ignore rather than write about records I don't like, but this one has really gotten me wound up, maybe because I was really looking forward to it. Their 2010 debut 12" Beyond Living ruled, introducing an Olympia, WA guitar/bass/drums trio with a killer power-grunge guitar sound, playing driving/yearning heavy/melodic songs about being high and free and independent. Things seemed like they might be getting even better on a 2011 live session on WFMU, the band blisteringly road-sharp and the set list containing a superb new song called "I've Got A Wild Feeling." Unfortunately, that seems like it may have been the peak. Soon after, the band went from being a trio to a quartet and I don't think it helped. I understand why singer/guitarist Alex Coxen would want a second guitar in the band, because it's pretty damn hard to handle lead vocals, lead guitar, and rhythm guitar all by yourself all the time, but that responsibility pushed the trio into a razor-sharp focus. Now that they're able to relax that vise-grip on the songs, it sounds to me like they're relaxing a little too much. The vocals have become more mumbled than melodic, the songs feel truncated and underwritten, and now there's suddenly lead guitar sprouting all over the place, the same two or three pentatonic guitar licks constantly ambling through the songs. I haven't been keeping statistics or anything, but it feels like every time a song is begging for a third verse and chorus, it instead meanders into another sub-Allmans guitar solo and then winds down to a premature close. When I saw 'em live in Chicago last summer, I have to admit Coxen didn't always seem that interested in playing his own songs, acting like he was going to kick over a monitor speaker here, leaning on one of those same two or three pentatonic guitar licks there. On Cruise Your Illusion, he definitely doesn't seem interested in the lame version of "I've Got A Wild Feeling" they ended up using. Maybe it's one of those songs that got written too soon after a debut and too long before the follow-up; either way, instead of being proud of having written a great song, they've allowed themselves to get bored with it and spend almost all of this version making fun of it instead. Coxen only actually sings the chorus once, the first time through, refusing to sing the hook the way he used to, mumbling something about "I can't even a hit a fucking note that high" the second time, and then adding a sarcastic "baby" at the end of the song, after a third mumbled chorus. Jeez guys, sorry we liked your song! The 8-minute closer "The Final Scene" has a really nice wistful feel, but they mumble the lyrics, make fun of their own intermittently great doo-wop backing vocals, noodle a bunch more unfocused guitar solos... oh well, it's not my band, so I'll stop complaining. I'll also stop listening to this album. Good thing they've already recorded Beyond Living, which already sounded great, and sounds especially great when played right after Cruise Your Illusion.