Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Well a Happy New Year to all of you, may it be half as happy as mine, sitting here home alone tonight cleaning up the house (believe me, it's intentional and I love it), finally getting to a bunch of vinyl that's been sitting in a hidden away stack by my stereo for well over a year, probably well over two years. Okay, okay, it's been THREE YEARS in some cases. It's these records that all came out at about the same time, mid-late 2005 seems about right, and I tell ya, I don't usually get too negative on the ole blog here, but I haven't even gotten to a side two yet with any of these. I keep taking them off instead of flipping them over because they're all this same sort of annoying shriek-tactic art-school (or wanna-be art-school) tantrum-punk. First record was by An Albatross (I can't show you the 'rad' and 'gnarly' silkscreened monster/thing on the cover because I can't find an image online but the album is called Freedom Summer Live if you wanna research it yourself). I didn't even make it through the first side. Next was Abe Vigoda. I know people like them, and it was a better album -- I made it through all of Side A -- but I still didn't see the point. I mean, it punk rocks along all right, but I'm just not getting any specific soul or nuance from it, and the singer doesn't seem to be saying anything as he sort of hum-yells his way along in a strictly sub-instrumental role that might as well be wordless. There's skill and cleverness in the playing and the guitar/bass/drums arrangements and the way the parts move and interlock and forge ahead, sure, and I imagine they can put on an exciting show, but I'll put this one (even with its stylin' Not Not Fun silk-screened and hand-sewn and marbled-vinyl package) in the sell pile. Let me know if you want it... After Abe Vigoda I put on this crazy (great) looking picture disc (lots of cats) by a Bay Area band called So So Many White White Tigers whom I remember hearing about circa 2005... I see that Chris Woodhouse recorded it, I like his bands like Karate Party and the Mayyors, but this So So Many band is just not my cup of songwriting tea, nothing but stiffly fast caterwaul and meaningless aggro. I made it through all of Side A but I think only because it's a 45 RPM. Jeez, what is up with this music?? I'm really glad that around 2006 the weird underground rediscovered KBD or soul music or something, because I feel like the music that's been bubbling up since then has gotten more listenable overall... even when this newer so-called "weird punk" is generic (and it often is), at least it's not constantly frantic-times-ten, at least it can slow down to a fast trot and groove a little (like the aforementioned Mayyors), at least the singers occasionally make an actual statement involving words, ideas, or feelings, and sometimes they're even good enough to do it via actual musical phrasing... instead of just shrieks or aggro sounds. Funny, next record on the pile was Prescribed Burning by the Hair Police... now this is a band I actually listened to and liked in 2005, but I haven't listened to 'em too much lately, and I was like "Hmm, they do shrieks and aggro too, maybe I won't like this anymore," but you know what, this is a much better record than the last three, simply because Hair Police are a much better band. I mean it's not Hair Police's best, maybe not even in their top five, but it's got QUIET PARTS. It's a record that remembers that human beings BREATHE. And it's still plenty noisy too, take that all you 2005 aggro art punkers.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
All photos from the Chicago area, taken this week, lifted from the WGN Weather Center Blog!
Great winter-time listening today and tonight - every album has been a perfect soundtrack for a December-in-Chicago deep freeze that has lasted for basically three weeks now (one of the Top 20 coldest winter starts in the last 150 years... something like that... wait, just figured it out, it's Chicago's "13th snowiest open to a cold season since 1884," to be exact). It's been snowing all day and we're at 4 to 5 inches right now, at 9:19PM. And, of course, I've been listening to music all day too, starting at 7:30 AM and still going strong, and this is how it looks:
EXCEPTER: Dusted Desert Island Dozen podcast, thanks to Kick to Kill blog for the reminder... what better way to start a day at work in a freezing basement than on a virtual technicolor beach...
GROUPER: Dragging A Dead Deer Up The Hill (TYPE) So good... 1970's sweet lady folk rock + 2000's dream noise + 1600's chorale music that indeed sounds like its transmitting directly from the sky over some still frozen planet.
THE CHILLS: 5 songs, Pink Frost and Rolling Moon 7-inches (FLYING NUN) Two or three completely separate times this year I've come across someone saying that "Pink Frost" by The Chills is a great song. I took note, of course, but I've always been more of a post-Xpressway NZ head and ended up never hearing the band or song until today when one of the ladies at work was playing this great sparse eerie driving post-punk mood-pop... I asked her who it was and she didn't know, it wasn't her mix... I googled some lyrics, "I'm so scared" and "Now she's dead," which seemed a little too generic to be effective but there it was anyway at the top of the results: "Pink Frost." Good thing I had finally gotten around to downloading it a couple weeks ago because some blog had posted rips of these two early singles (1984 and 1982 respectively)...
DONOVAN QUINN: October Lanterns (PUISSANT) Apparently this is a sold-out edition-of-1oo CDR-only release... I got this from a blog too and it's pretty good, with a rather grim and cold downbeat folk-rock atmosphere, certainly part of the If I Could Only Remember My Name lineage... although I wonder if he's been listening to the even colder (East Coast) Peter Kelley LPs or those modern-day Kelley acolytes from Chi-town, you know, Jim Collins, Tommy Roundtree, Arian Sample, C.C., Boots, Snake, Remus... Terry... those guys. The label on the other hand says "a bit off-key and folky, and calls to mind the recorded works of Treacy and Kusworth at their most dour..."
GRATEFUL DEAD: Dick's Picks #11 (GRATEFUL DEAD RECORDS) September 27, 1972 at the Stanley Theater in Jersey City. For all the warm California breeze in their music, it's just as easy to imagine it as frozen glinting ice... Ice Nine, in fact....
VELVET UNDERGROUND: 3rd (VERVE) Haven't listened to this in ages, still love it so much...
SOULED AMERICAN: Around the Horn (ROUGH TRADE) HAVE listened to this in ages, still love it so much...
THE CHILLS, those five songs again, perfect while waiting for the bus as snow falls in 20 degree weather. And then, back home:
JOHN FAHEY: The New Possibility LP (TAKOMA) and....
VINCE GUARALDI TRIO: A Charlie Brown Christmas CD (FANTASY) A couple of December staples for those evenings gathered 'round the hearth (i.e. radiator).
CURRENT AMNESIA: Pull On The Floor Board CDR (LEAF LEAF) Great edition-of-3o CDR of chilled and distant electroacoustic improvisational New Brunswick atmosphere... this dude is one-half of Car Commercials but this is much more calm and beautiful stuff...
BLACK TIME: Double Negative CD (IN THE RED) Brand new album by loud booming weird-fi British prole-punks.... didn't put it on intentionally but it was in the player after the Current Amnesia and, with its deep black design scheme, loud but cold amp tones, and general Northern England smokestack winter attitude, it certainly fit the bleak December bill. Dunno if the songwriting is gonna grab me yet or not, but I'll definitely be coming back for the wild production techniques and overall sound...
THE CHILLS, just "Pink Frost" this time, twice...
DARKTHRONE: Transilvanian Hunger CD (PEACEVILLE) "So cold...."
MILES DAVIS: Live in Copenhagen, 1969, a stunning series of Youtubes posted by the Ideologic blog (scroll down a bit)... everyone in the band is great, other than the utterly commanding MD presence I'm really digging Corea and DeJohnette especially.... no other band really sounds like this, chilly and fiery at the same time... "lonely fire," as one of their own titles put it (on the Big Fun album)...
Thursday, November 20, 2008
IN THE MEANTIME.....
(Helmet reference? Yes.)
Mammal has a great new tape out on Ides Recordings, a C60 called Distant Days. It features 12 years worth of previously unreleased demos, outtakes, live stuff, etc, but for an odds 'n' sods cassette collection this thing is really just about as good as his 2007 double-LP magnum opus Lonesome Drifter. A lot of it seems like a sketchbook for that album, with those same bleak distorto-bass/drum-machine vibes cast in an even starker instrumental light, and some cuts are newer demos for the follow-up (ADR 101, to be titled Lago, I'm really looking forward to it). It can be a surprisingly mellow tape too, and even when it comes to older tracks, he seems to have selected only the most minimalist and psychedelic stuff. (None of the 'rave era' beats some of you may remember circa 2001... I can understand if he wants to leave that stuff behind but "Fog Face" from the Fog Walkers LP will always be a fave around here...) Anyway, I've been putting this on every night since I got it. Go order it from Ides and get some other stuff too, it's a really good cassette label.
Another odds & sods compilation has come our way from Load Records, this one featuring the one and only Harry Pussy, called You'll Never Play This Town Again. If you're reading this I probably don't have to tell you TOO much about them, but just in case you missed the 1990s, well, they were from Miami, Adris Hoyos is (was) a holy terror on drums and vocals but so is (was) Bill Orcutt on guitar and they are (were) a blistering impossible Beefheart/Yoko/No Wave/HC take-no-prisoners noise-rock attack that released some 7-inches and a short blast of a 12" on Siltbreeze, all of which and more is compiled on that label's crucial What Was Music? CD. This new one on Load cleans up most of their other releases, stuff like "the long out of print self released tour 12", the Cherry Smash live 10", Live at Salon Zwerge 12", Pelt & Frosty split 7"s & the De Stijl 7"s..." Some of this stuff seems to be compiled with deletions and additions - carrying on the tradition of the What Was Music? CD, the tracklisting isn't clear on the sources, but either way, all the tracks were recorded in 1997 when they were at the top of their game, playing as a red-hot gtr/gtr/drums trio. I saw 'em live in 1996 (on tour with Charalambides and Shadow Ring!) and I can recall some of the songs here specifically from that show... a lot of short blasts but there's this one very memorable track called "Mandolin" where they shift gears and play these slow gnarly tangled free-floating guitar tone clusters over Hoyos's inimitable spread-out sprawl-drumming.... it's the sole track on the one-sided Salon Zwerge record (originally released by Blackbean & Placenta) and appears three other times on here as well. But there's lots more to dig into here, heavy stuff all around, a fine disc for the fan or the newcomer.
AND NOW ON THE INTERNET:
Check out Tony Rettman's interview with Joe Carducci over at Swingset Magazine online, Part 1 and Part 2.
Interview with the late Quorthon of Bathory. As the dust continues to settle I really do find them to be one of the greatest metal bands of the last 25 years.
Nicole Panter has some old photos (and big skies) on her Flickr page...
Bill Cosby portraits from Life Magazine, as tipped by WFMU's Beware of the Blog....
Man, I haven't watched Letterman in awhile but I am digging these Lyle the Intern youtubes! His first appearance is a stone classic and this one is pretty good too... "Best thing to happen on Dave since Chris Elliott"....."omfg LMFFFFAO!!!!!!!! Lyle should be Ben's son on Lost"......"I'm seriously feeling Lyle's walk"....
Friday, October 31, 2008
NY Times obit here. One of the great Chicagoans, master and innovator of the oral history. I've been reading his book Working all year long and will probably be reading it for years to come, and that's just one of many important works. "The average American has an indigenous intelligence, a native wit. It’s only a question of piquing that intelligence."
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Digging the Lau Nau song and video briefly excerpted above, a song from her recent Locust release Nukkuu. Here's the whole thing:
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Hey, Nice Pooper zine from back in the 1990's has a website with some cool archival stuff, more to come hopefully. Check out the interview with Michael Morley (of the Dead C).
AND more NZ interviews at the Radio New Zealand site... 15-minute NPR-style Real Player-type joints... great recent ones with Alastair Galbraith and Bruce Russell...
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Can't front on Billy Preston's organ solo on "I Got The Blues" by the Stones. It's a ripper! Short and sweet. Not enough to forgive him for this (courtesy TLASILA blog), of course, but a good 'un.
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I always love it when reggae singers do a pop/R&B hit, like Junior Murvin combining "Closer Together" and "Gypsy Woman" by Curtis Mayfield & the Impressions on this record, or this one I just stumbled across tonight, Dennis Brown & the Observers doing Lou Rawls' "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine" (you know, this song) as "Moving Away," collected on the Trojan 12-inch Box Set. And then there's my favorite example of all.... y'see, a while back, I was shopping at Reckless when I heard a rather sublime reggae version of "Billie Jean" coming over the store system ("she was more like a beauty queen with an M-16..."). When the vocalist eased his way from "Billie Jean" into a version of "Mama Used To Say," the somewhat cheesy but still great 1982 R&B hit by Junior, I had to go up to the counter and ask who it was. The answer was Shinehead, and the clerk had brought the record in from home. He ordered it for me, and recommended a blog called Who Cork The Dance? that had tons of "blown-out dancehall" mixes for download. I went there and quickly found this 90-minute mix that kicks off with none other than the Shinehead jam in question. Wow, my record still hasn't come in, and probably won't, but thanks dude, that was some excellent record-store clerking!
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The electric side of Rust Never Sleeps is so good... it's perfect. The all-time mighty "Powderfinger," then two startling metalloid punk songs, one with someone dialing a phone number fucking audible over the top of it, and then the closer "My My Hey Hey," one of the bleakest shambling horrors of a heartland rock anthem ever heartlanded. I mean, I know you already knew all this, but damn... and of course the acoustic side is perfect as well. Ever sit down and read the lyrics of "Thrasher"? Ever heard the way that song is used in Dennis Hopper's Out of the Blue?
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Alan Bishop lays it down: "These people are us. There is no separation.... People are crazy and weird everywhere. People all over the world are being socially engineered to trivialize those who are different from them. The price is paid in stacks of human corpses." From this feature on Sublime Frequencies.
Friday, October 17, 2008
This was actually one of the "promoted videos" right there on the front page at youtube.com... literally the first time I've ever watched one of those, and it was a good choice. George isn't always COHERENT (it's because of drugs) but he is hilarious, and pretty damn wise. He not only defines the funk for once and for all (in many different ways), he also gives the most succinct history possible of the rather confusing relationship between Parliament and Funkadelic: "We started out with Parliaments in '56, had a few jive records didn't do nothin', then we had "I Wanna Testify," which was a big record in '66, '67. Got in trouble as most small labels do, we couldn't use the name no more, so we took our little brothers, who was our backup band, we named them Funkadelics... we became their backup singers! And we just stayed together, playin'..."
Embedding is disabled by request, but do check it out:
30 MINUTES LATER:
Help, George Clinton threw me into a YouTube Vortex! I've just watched several Whitney Houston clips, including over 35 minutes of her 2003 interview with Diane Sawyer for an hour-long special edition of ABC's Primetime! This is some of the most stunning television I've ever seen! Don't laugh, it's actually highly appropriate for George to have sent me to Whitney, because a) they're both from the Newark, New Jersey metropolitan area and b) Whitney is actually FONKY AS HELL. I had no idea, her image was so tightly controlled during her early superstar years, but check her out when Diane Sawyer reads from a newspaper that the Houstons had spent 730,000 dollars on drugs in one year. "730?? I wish! No, I wish whoever was makin' that money offa me could share it with me [laughter]! No. No way. I wanna see the receipts! From-the-drug-dealer-that-I-bought-730,000-dollars-worth-of-drugs-from, I-wanna-see-the-receipts!" But still, somehow, Whitney seems like a pretty noble lady, a lot more noble than her husband, holy shit: "But I tested... I tested for... I tested for a substance like cocaine. Which can be anything. It can be an aspirin. It can be a valium. Anything. But it was not cocaine in my system. And this is what I know."
I highly recommend setting aside an hour, starting with Part One (embedded below) and watching the whole thing, but if you're in a hurry, and I'm sure you are, don't miss Part 3. It's got all the drug stuff and all the Bobby Brown stuff, including a rather sinister beginning: "At this point someone has slipped into the room, sitting on the sofa, listening. It's Bobby Brown, hearing me ask if he's jealous of her . . ."
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Lee Perry "Kojak" (Trojan)
Roots Radics "Mission Impossible" (Trojan)
Jesus and Mary Chain "Inside Me" (Reprise)
The Leaves "Hey Joe" (Rhino/WEA)
Soup Greens "Like A Rolling Stone" (Rhino/WEA)
Shira Small "Eternal Life" (Numero Group)
B.J. Snowden "In Canada" (Gammon)
Sun Ra and his Astro Intergalactic Infinity Arkestra "Nature's God" (Saturn/Thoth Intergalactic)
Cutty Ranks "Six Million Ways To Die"
Mobb Deep "The Start Of Your Ending (41st Side)" (Loud)
LL Cool J "Big Ole Butt" (Def Jam)
Terminator X feat. Dubmaster "DJ Is The Selector" (Columbia)
Monster Magnet "Nod Scene" (Caroline)
Monster Magnet "Black Mastermind" (Caroline)
Human Puppets "Faces (Behind Walls And Closed Doors)" (Wierd)
Dead Luke "Rohypnol" (Sky-Fi)
Dead Luke "Break Neck/Stab Back" (Sky-Fi)
Dead Luke "The Thermostat Has Shorted Out" (Sky-Fi)
The Boys "On A Night Like This" (Numero Group)
The Lollipop Shoppe "You Must Be A Witch" (Rhino/WEA)
Television "See No Evil" (Elektra)
The Castaways "Liar, Liar" (Rhino/WEA)
Phillippe Laurent "Exposition Partie 5" (Flexi-Pop)
Mi Ami "Clear Light" (White Denim)
Gastr Del Sol "Work From Smoke" (Drag City)
C.A. Quintet "Bury Me In A Marijuana Field" (Sundazed)
"Mission Impossible" by Roots Radics is a very extreme dub, in that the bassline sounds as underwater and low-level as possible, while the snare hits on the 3 of each measure are as loud and crisp as possible, super jarring. About three minutes just a murmur of a vocal is mixed up and then quickly out again.... perfect. This would probably be a good track to explain dub for someone who's never heard it before. Been getting deeper into the 4-disc box set version of Nuggets lately. So many.... nuggets on here, like these sweet regional/underground versions of classic rock standards by The Leaves (from L.A.) and The Soup Greens ("from somewhere in New York State")... the Shira Small track is from the Numero Group's Ladies From The Canyon compilation, and her track really stands out. Not so much a Joni Mitchell style, more of an, um, B.J. Snowden feel, or June Tyson with Sun Ra (both played next for comparison purposes)... playing some old college favorites in here, no not the Cutty Ranks or the Mobb Deep, I wasn't that hip. You probably were, but I wasn't. LL Cool J was more my reach, and even though Walking With A Panther was not really that great of an album, "Big Ole Butt" had a seriously slammin' groove... and the 1991 Terminator X solo album Valley of the Jeep Beats album was incredibly sick for something on a major label and MTV, for example the way leadoff single "Buck Whylin'" opened with Sister Souljah screaming "We are at war!!" and then cut right into a sample from Black Flag's "Rise Above" over an especially turbulent Bomb Squad beat... but I'm gonna go with a deep cut here, the crazy sci-fi dancehall number "DJ Is The Selector"... I'd say that this track and various KRS-One numbers like "100 Guns" were my introduction to dancehall... then came Shabba Ranks, of course, followed by less world-renowned greats from the island like Cutty... once again go to Who Cork The Dance? for a crash course... ah, Monster Magnet and their album Spine of God... I bought this (on cassette!) back in '92 or '93 because it was on a year-end list in Spin Magazine, and that was a very good call. Such a heavy wasted bloodshot-eyed album of malevolent doom swagger... listening to this today I realize why the whole stoner/doom thing of the last 10 years or so has produced almost zero memorable albums for me, because none of them come close to the gauntlet thrown down by Spine of God listened to on headphones at an impressionable age. On this album the band played with dynamics (extended quiet and atmospheric sections that brilliantly set up the loud and heavy sections... unbelievable how few bands seem to be willing or able to do this) and frontman Dave Wyndorf displayed real individualistic personality (also a real rarity among heavy music frontpeople). A cassette by Dead Luke just showed up in the mail, mere hours before air-time... I really don't keep up with all of this post-TermBo limited-edition Blankdoggery but this tape looked cool so I threw Side A on over the airwaves and it worked just fine, aggressive psychotronic one-man-band trash... sign me up for a 7" by this guy... wait, lemme guess, they're all sold out... here's a power pop nugget that came out in 1980 and was therefore too late for Nuggets, "A Night Like This," my favorite song by Lincoln, NE's finest, The Boys... you can hear this and more by them and others on another Numero Group release, the Titan Records It's All Pop! 2CD retrospective... "See No Evil" by Television is a power pop nugget too, right?... The debut 12" by Mi Ami sounds new and different to me every time I play it, especially this slower/quieter/dynamic B-side track "Clear Light." I missed their followup 12" Ark of the Covenant but I'm looking forward to what they do as a newly signed member of the Touch & Go/Quarterstick roster... I could be wrong but it seems like people rarely talk about what a mind-blowing band Gastr Del Sol was 10 or 15 years ago in those heady days just before "Chicago post-rock" had a solidified genre name... "Work From Smoke" from the Crookt, Crackt, or Fly album just popped up on the iPod shuffle, first time I've heard it in a very long time, and my jaw dropped all over again at this 13-minute epic and its unclassifiable flamenco/prog acoustic guitar duelling, abstract poetic melodic vocals, and especially the smoky foggy bass clarinet driven coda... then the iPod took me to a track from an infamous album I had yet to listen to, Trip Thru Hell by the C.A. Quintet... this band was from Minneapolis and are described as some sort of damaged garage rock outfit but this song "Bury Me In A Marijuana Field" is a woozy Cali-sounding country rock ballad... sounded good after Gastr and that's how I'm going to end the show... smoke them if you have got them...
Monday, October 06, 2008
For the last couple days I've been watching this Curtis Mayfield DVD called Movin' on Up: The Music and Message of Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions. It's basically an extensive oral history in which the talking is interspersed with no less than 19 complete live performances from over the years 1965-1973, with a total running time of over two hours. This is basically the format I wish all music documentaries would follow. Keep the talking, because that's how stories are told and memories live on, but tell the story in chronological order and show live performances as completely as possible throughout... don't bring any 'experts' to talk unless they were actually 'there', and don't talk about the music when you could be showing it... this formula might not make for a fast-moving and constantly riveting final product, but this ain't MTV, this is documentation. This DVD adheres to the formula so well that I found myself fast-forwarding through the Impressions history a little bit, not because I didn't love the tunes (and the great interview subjects: the other two Impressions Sam Gooden and Fred Cash, Curtis's widow Altheida Mayfield, civil rights activist and former U.S. congressman Ambassador Andrew Young, and Chuck D) but simply because it was so extensive, and I just had to get to his solo career, that heavily-conscious float-like-a-butterfly feather-funk he was doing 1971-1973. It really is the best part, and it's really something to hear his cohorts talk about his songs as they get more and more challenging. Ambassador Young was and is shaken by Curtis's challenge "If There's A Hell Below (We're All Gonna Go)" but stands tough and puts a positive spin on it, and the discussion between Gooden and Cash over "We People Who Are Darker Than Blue" gets pretty deep - they agree that when Curtis says "they" in the song, he's talking about white people, but Gooden calls it an angry song, while Cash says he took it a whole different way, as an inspiring call for do-it-yourself uplift.
Of course, we could go on for days about the sociological impact of Curtis's early solo career... but how about that band?! I'm talking about the 1971-1973 era five-piece band, of course, and even though I've been listening to the masterful Curtis/Live! 2LP for years now, it wasn't until watching these clips that these players really clicked for me as an organic touring small group. They are surprisingly unknown musicians, especially considering that they were the band on that beloved live LP as well as what is probably Mayfield's best-known studio LP, the Superfly soundtrack. Curtis of course plays great subtle rhythm guitar with some sparse and clean leads, but very little is said about the band's second guitarist, Craig McMullen. This guy played great wah-inflected counterpoint, combining lead lines and strong chordal playing in a sweet, laid-back, but still completely bad-ass post-Hendrixian manner. Plus, he always wore a rad hat. He appears to have played on a few albums back in the day, by the likes of Donald Byrd and Stanley Turrentine, but I can't find anything on the internet about where he came from or what he's done since. On bass was Joseph "Lucky" Scott, another very solid, aggressive player who really pushed and moved through the band's arrangements with a restless and slightly heavier-than-the-norm style, somewhere between James Jamerson and, I don't know, someone like Tim Bogert. The famous basslines for "Freddie's Dead" and "Pusher Man" were probably written by Curtis but it was Lucky who hammered them down. The rhythm section was rounded out by a smooth drummer named Tyrone McCullen, about whom even less is known than Craig McMullen (although he's introduced as being from Chattanooga, Tennessee on the Curtis/Live album), and last but definitely not least, the only band member besides Mayfield with a Wikipedia page, Master Henry Gibson on "bongos/congas/tumbas" - his hand percussion is probably the single most identifiable presence in the band other than Curtis's falsetto. (Plus, he's an alumni of Phil Cohran's African Heritage Ensemble!) Together, this band played sublime stripped-down heavy soul music, worthy of more notorious bands like the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Funkadelic, but with the pyrotechnics dialed down to an expert simmer. One of their very best performance sessions was in 1972 for the UK show The Old Grey Whistle Test. Here's a couple clips from YouTube:
"Keep On Keepin' On"
"We Got To Have Peace"
Saturday, October 04, 2008
Dead C "Bury" (Siltbreeze)
Dead C "Bury (Refutatio Omnium Haeresium)" (Siltbreeze)
Marzette Watts Ensemble "Play It Straight" (Savoy, aka 'The Internet')
Propinquity "And I A Fairytale Lady" (The Numero Group)
Sir Douglas Quintet "Mendocino" (Takoma)
The Clean "Tally-Ho" (Matador)
Eddy Current Suppression Ring "We'll Be Turned On" (Arrghht!/Goner)
Fuzzhead "A-OK" (Pointless Music)
Fuzzhead "Wake Up America" (Pointless Music)
Studio 1 "Rot 1" (Studio 1)
Drexciya "Dehydration" (Submerge)
Drexciya "Bang Bang" (Submerge)
Vita Noctis "She Likes Me" (Flexi-Pop)
Eric B & Rakim "Microphone Fiend" (MCA)
Ghostface Killah "Nutmeg" (Epic)
The Five Discs "Never Let You Go" (Rhino/WEA)
Cymande "Genevieve" (Sequel)
Curtis Mayfield "We Got To Have Peace" (Curtom)
Socrates Drank The Conium "Destruction" (Anazitisi)
The Gordons "Joker" (Flying Nun)
The Gordons "Sometimes" (Flying Nun)
This Heat "The Fall of Saigon" (These Records)
Rush "Tears" (Mercury)
Terry Callier "You Don't Care" (Cadet)
Man, I've started listening to the Dead C again big time, in anticipation of their new album Secret Earth and a show coming up here in Chicago in a couple weeks. If there were a couple more hours in the day, I would do a mega-post about how I've been listening to this band for 13 years now, starting from when I saw 'em open up for Sonic Youth at First Avenue in Minneapolis in the Summer of 1995. It was the first time I ever heard them and they blew me away with what sounded like aging noisy dirge punk as some sort of harbor-town sea-folk played inside a hurricane. I bought the Metal Heart 7" at that show, which was cool enough but it was two short sides of obtuse instrumental noise jam. My travelling partner K. Brock sprung for an LP however, Operation of the Sonne, and a few days later when we were all back in Nebraska we huddled in anticipation around the turntable.... and heard slow-developing no-developing turgid feedback/drone improv with eldritch thick-accented spoken word muttering over the top. That wasn't what they sounded like at First Ave... where were the SONGS, man? A couple weeks later I bought The White House and it didn't help much either when it started with like 14 minutes of noise improv. But it actually had songs, once you got past the noise, and they turned out to be very good songs. The noise was great too - said 14-minute track was a doozy called "The New Snow," and I still play it every year the first time it really snows. (In fact, this remains my single favorite Dead C record, but more on that some other lifetime.) A few weeks after that, I bought the CD of Trapdoor Fucking Exit, and it was almost ALL songs, and even though I recognized a handful of 'em from the show, it still didn't sound like the same band. Live they had been loud, full, and heavy, but Trapdoor Fucking Exit sounded spindly and thin, purposefully weak and distant, music like dead and torn leaves hanging outside your window, rattling and swaying in a wet greenish grey ocean breeze..... I became obsessed with the album anyway, with its black-on-grey text-only front cover, the Middle East rebel on the back cover, and the blurry band photo on the inside along with blunt track listing. Hell, I was obsessed simply with the way the track-listing looked, these intense one-word song titles typed on the page.... "Heaven".... "Mighty".... "Power".... "Bury"..... "Sky".... "Bone".... "Krossed".... And finally, after listening to the album a lot for a couple years, I came to realize that the songs, these dry and torn leaves, were in fact played much the same way they were played that night at First Avenue. It took me awhile to figure this out because the club was a much different acoustic space than the room where Trapdoor Fucking Exit was apparently recorded, and the equipment used there was probably a lot more "pro," but the real reason is that they play a naturally confounding dream-music and like a dream the details are often distorted and blurry when recalled, whether by memory or by recording equipment. Anyway, we start today's show with three cuts from Trapdoor. (And by the way, this is a great interview with the Dead C's Bruce Russell - excellent stuff about how independent music works and misconceptions about 'lo-fi' among other things.) Holy shit some blog posted the Marzette Watts album, not the one for ESP, but THE OTHER ONE, the Savoy label one that Thurston Moore raved about on his free jazz rarities list for Grand Royal Magazine back in like 1992 or something. So far so good, I heard this album was "cooler" than the "hotter" ESP one, and it is, produced by Bill Dixon, just a nice late-night feel but still plenty out-there and uncompromising. Nice discussion about it here at the Destination:Out blog. Hey, you gotta hear the Wayfaring Strangers: Ladies From The Canyon CD on The Numero Group label. I don't know how they found so many completely unknown and lost Joni-worshipping private-press albums that were actually this good, but they did. Pretty much every track is great, and this one by Propinquity might be the very best. Couldn't resist playing "Mendocino" and "Tally Ho" back to back because of that roller-rink organ dancing through both (I love it how "Tally Ho" is called "the 'Louie Louie' of New Zealand') and then follow 'em up with that super happy keyboard tune on the Eddy Current Suppression Ring album. All the jams by Studio 1 (a project by Wolfgang Voigt, aka GAS) are very minimalist but I think "Rot 1" is the minimaliMOST! I've really only heard two albums by the long-running Ohio psych band Fuzzhead, the recent Burning Bridges and Raining Sparks companion CDs, which are awesome Ameribeat trance-psych jam stuff, but this older cassette Fuzzhead is Love sounds a lot different. I mean, the extended trance-grooves are still there, but this is like noisy industrial avant pop... I'm still baffled. Drexciya are minimalist as hell as well (wax is for Anthrax, still they can rock bells), hard Detroit techno coming out in the early 1990s right on the heels of Underground Resistance. Like UR, Drexciya wore bandanas over their faces and it was a long time before anyone really knew who was in the group. Also, Drexciya had the best band mythos: "...an underwater country populated by the unborn children of pregnant African women thrown off of slave ships that had adapted to breathe underwater in their mother's wombs." Vita Noctis track is on the None Night of Flexi-Pop Vol. 1 CDR release, from the German label Flexi-Pop. I know absolutely nothing about any of this stuff, I just downloaded it off a blog. I'm guessing it's from the 1980s and Vita Noctis is probably from Europe but they could be from Bloomington, Indiana or something for all I know. The genre might be what is known as cold-wave. The aforementioned blog starts to explain everything (and also offers about 30 different entire Flexi-Pop compilations for download, including this one). "Shadazz" is from the very proto-flexi-pop second Suicide album. Released in 1980, produced by Ric Ocasek, it has a really strange tone: total post-Cars pop sheen without washing out any of Suicide's malevolance. "Tears" by Rush is just stunning. It's possibly the least metal thing a metal band has ever done, and Rush has done plenty that is barely metal at all (like more or less their entire career from Grace Under Pressure to the present). It's from 2112, which is such a bad-ass album, of course they could get away with this song in that context, but today I heard it all by itself on shuffle, and it is literally a lush 1970s ballad that might as well be by Helen Reddy... Helen Geddy, anyone?
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Jon Gibson "Cycles" (New Tone)
Phill Niblock "A Trombone Piece (1978-94)" (XI)
Remko Scha "Sweep" (Kremlin)
Gerry Miles "V" (Atavistic)
Gerry Miles "VI" (Atavistic)
Lee Rockey "[untitled, from Underground Series 1 cassette]" (Hanson)
David And The Dorks "Triad" (The Internet)
Sun Ra "Say" (Celestial Recordings)
Ornette Coleman "Bourgeois Boogie" (Columbia)
Pete Fine "Sunrise" (Shadoks)
Pete Fine "Life" (Shadoks)
Perry Leopold "The Windwill" (Gear Fab)
Dead C "Bone" (Siltbreeze)
Muslimgauze "Zionist Leather Clad Koran" (Staalplaat)
JVC Force "Strong Island" (B-Boy)
Biz Markie "Pickin' Boogers" (Prism)
Impact Allstars "Easy Come Dub" (Blood & Fire)
Faust "Jennifer" (Caroline)
Hawkwind "You Better Believe It" (United Artists)
Motley Crue "Too Fast For Love" (Elektra)
Landed "Bahdi Odour" (Load)
Landed "War/Us Vs. Them (And You)" (Load)
Landed "How Little Will It Take" (Load)
Lightning Bolt "Dracula Mountain" (Load)
Lightning Bolt "Fleeing The Valley Of The Whirling Knives" (Load)
Remko Scha "Thrash" (Kremlin)
Starting the show today with some selections from Alan Licht's first Minimalism Top Ten, as published in Halana No. 1 back in 1996. (Thanks to the Allegory of Allergies blog for supplying the music.) Jon Gibson's 1977 22-minute pipe organ piece "Cycles" is a nice way to ease in, followed by Phill Niblock's rather more ominous "Trombone Piece." Next, one of the potentially rarest discoveries Licht hipped us to back then, Remko Scha's Machine Guitars album from 1982: "Scha is a Dutch composer who uses metal brushes, saws, ropes, and bars to 'play' open strings on electric guitars 'without human control or interference'." The sound of these machinations can be surprisingly calm and meditative, as on "Sweep," the track played here. (Another track from the album, "Thrash," will appear at the end - it's definitely more machine-agitated than "Sweep," but still programmed as a cool-down after the merciless Lightning Bolt track that precedes it.) After that we play some of Licht's own music, a track from his one-off Gerry Miles group. You may remember this Atavistic label CD from 1996, in which he convened a quartet to play and record in the acoustically rich St. Peters Cathedral of New York City - it's a good one. Keiji Haino did vocals and percussion, Lucy Hamilton (aka China Burg from Mars) played bass clarinet, Melissa Weaver played piano, and Licht played some heavy church organ (probably thinking about Gibson, who played and recorded "Cycles" at another NYC church). An exquisite somnambulant vibe can be heard on the two back-to-back tracks here, chosen because Haino sticks to percussion. (The tracks where he does vocals are cool too, but they're pretty wild.) The Lee Rockey track is minimalist in its own way, one man playing musical violin against stark electronic patterns. He lived from 1926 to 2002, came from Vancouver, went to New York City and worked as a jazz drummer (first Herbie Mann album among others), got his head turned around by Ornette et al, then went back to the Northwest and settled in Portland where he eventually hooked up with Smegma and all the while made the kind of home recordings that can be heard on the Destijl LP (pictured below) and the Hanson Records comp played here (love that cassette-only Underground Series, now at four volumes, check it out here). Maybe my definition of minimalism is a little too broad, but David and the Dorks are a pretty damn minimalist rock band, especially for an offshoot of the rather maximalist and many-voiced Grateful Dead and CSN(Y). This is Crosby on rhythm guitar and vocals, backed by Garcia on lead guitar and vocals, Phil Lesh on bass, and Mickey Hart on drums. They played a few shows at San Francisco club The Matrix under the D & D name in December of 1970. The exact date of this particular recording is one of those slippery deadbased details.... these mp3s are labeled the 12th, but the great deadlists.com site has the Dead playing a full two sets that night in Santa Rosa so it's highly doubtful... only two David & the Dorks dates are listed, the 15th and the 17th, with a recording circulating that is always labelled the 15th, except that apparently at some point on it Crosby can be heard saying "put limiters on it, I overblew their mics last night," which implies that the recording is from the second night of the run... however, this recording I'm listening to has a different track order than either the 15th or the 17th, which could mean that it's the 15th with the songs presented out of order (because all the songs are the same), except that this page lists another show on the 20th with the same track order as mine, and it might just be real because this other gig posters page lists there "probably" being a David & the Dorks poster for the 20th, while listing another poster that exists for Jerry Garcia & Friends playing a three night stand on the 15th, 16th, and 17th.... got all that? As for the music, heads will of course know that this is the same band that backed Crosby for most of his great 1971 solo album If I Could Only Remember My Name. That record is notorious for its bleak Sixties-hangover comedown vibes, but this show is so enveloped in Nam-rock gutter-ballad San Francisco fog it makes Name sound like Sergeant Pepper. Every tune stretches into 8 or 9 minute territory, with Lesh playing some very lugubrious low-end, slowly pushing these songs along like a stoned tortoise while Hart sort of quietly disappears into the rhythm. Crosby's rhythm guitar is a lot sharper and to the point than Bob Weir's one-of-a-kind discursive playing, which throws Garcia's leads into unusually sharp relief... his solo on "Triad" is pretty much glorious... great song too, previously a great Byrds outtake from 1967, a rather more sprightly and filled-out version (the rest of the band didn't want the song on the album because it was about a three-way relationship... I'll admit the lyrics are pretty ridiculous but they're easy to overlook because the song is so sublime, both versions). Anyway, this is a really striking set, thanks to Justin Farrar at Strawberry Flats for tipping me off. The Sun Ra track is from the Strange Celestial Road album, one of his late-70s groove-inflected albums (see also Lanquidity). The Ornette Coleman track is from the somewhat-maligned Virgin Beauty album, perhaps the apex of his maximal slick-funk sick-muzak Prime Time approach. It was released in 1988... man, how often do people talk about records from THAT year... if you think of a good one, let me know in the comments section, just so I can get a bearing on it... anyway it's certainly not one of his greatest but it's still pretty great because he is Ornette Coleman. And speaking of Jerry Garcia, he plays third guitar on three of the tracks... not this one though... and jumping off from Ornette at his most rococo, we take a brief excursion into rococo early 1970s orchestral acid-folk. The Pete Fine album (On A Day Of Crystalline Thought) was recently mentioned here but Perry Leopold and his album Christian Lucifer are brand new to Blastitude and, though both albums are large ensemble works that are incredibly ambitious and big-sounding for private-press projects, the Leopold album has a little more of that good ol' lone-man downer gravity than the Fine. Also notable was that I was looking at this personnel listing for the Leopold album and thought I might just recognize a name, you never know, and sure enough, 11th on the list is Mr. Charles Cohen, Philadelphia's resident master of the Buchla Music Easel synthesizer, last seen around here playing on The Valerie Project album (from the Drag City label) and in a great improvised music duo with drummer Ed Wilcox (Those Are Pearls That Were His Eyes from the Ruby Red label). (And oh yeah, that Planet Y album from the Public Guilt label was actually quite good as well...) This Perry Leopold album isn't too far from the Valerie Project, actually, except with haunting and moody male vocals about Christ and Lucifer and that sort of thing. Impact Allstars "Easy Come Dub" might have the best echoed tinkling-piano hook in dub history and, yeah, that is saying something. Collected on the Dubwise & Otherwise Vol. 2 set from the Blood & Fire label, and thank you, I thought the transition from it into "Jennifer" by Faust was genius too. Going into Hawkwind was pretty sweet as well, and a Too Fast For Love appearance is always welcome. I've been listening to this new Landed CD a lot, it's a retrospective kind of thing with tracks from their whole decade-plus-and-counting career. It comes with a 3" CD as well, and it's out on Load Records. They were/are kind of a missing link between early-mid-90s Jesus Lizard grind and the 2000s post-everything noise-punk explosion. There's a certain glazed-eyed trance-out aspect to what they do that really has me hooked, whether it's a slow doom tempo with an agitated riff, or a pummeling uptempo riff that they'll drive up towards the 10-minute-mark. There's a lot more that could be said about this band and maybe I'll do it one of these days. After this I had to pull out another late-1990s Fort Thunder/Providence/Load staple and play two Lightning Bolt tracks, my favorite from the Wonderful Rainbow album ("Dracula Mountain") and my favorite from their debut (the ridiculously heavy "Fleeing The Valley Of The Whirling Knives"). And by the way, as we listen to the aforementioned Remko Scha cooldown, I've always wondered, who is that guy with the accent on the first Lightning Bolt LP saying "I thought I'd let you know, uh, next time you go to buy a record and you think you're really alternative and groovy and everyone is into the alternative charts...."? What is that from? And by the way once again, this first Lightning Bolt album RULES. Sure, I'm like you, I got sick of the crowds and them playing on the floor too, and stopped going to see 'em a good five or six years ago.... and yeah, I thought Hypermagic Mountain was actually very strong but still not quite essential... and no, I haven't actually put on this, their first LP from 1999 for like... man.... at least not since the day this CD reissue came out, which I guess was 2002 or something? (The Load Records website says that the LP came out in 1997 and the CD reissue was in 1999 but I SWEAR THAT'S NOT TRUE.... I heard it streamed live on Tom Smith's WFMU radio show in 1999 and then ordered a copy of the LP direct from the label, I'm sure this was in 1999, there's no way the record had been out two years when all that was happening, right?) Either way, I had forgotten how often I played this those first couple years, and it sounds incredible coming after Landed, because it takes Landed's structural innovations (extended repetition, 8 minute plus song lengths, controlling of extreme noise in a rock-band context) and just plays the shit out of 'em, with Chippendale's non-stop scribble drumming and Gibson's ridiculous bass tone. And really, this first Lightning Bolt album makes their next two records seem almost 'pop'... it's noisier, especially a couple of the shorter tracks, with brutal edits and lots of distortion in the mix... also, even though the opening track is a song played live, based on a complex riff, the playing is kind of 'free jazz' for the first few minutes, which will have its detractors, but by the time the riff becomes 100% you've got Black Sabbath, King Crimson, Black Flag, Cliff Burton, Hawkwind, Merzbow, and Phil Glass all fighting in the mix, so it's hard for me to complain. That was the track Tom played on WFMU, "Into the Valley," and it blew my mind. I literally have not listened to The Ruins since. Anyway, memories...
P.S. A FEW THINGS ABOUT WBLSTD 66.6 FM CHICAGO
1. It's not a real radio station.
2. It's not an iTunes radio station.
3. It's not a podcast.
4. You can't listen to it except with your imagination.
5. All playlists document an imaginary two-hour DJ shift by Larry Dolman, but often run long when the next DJ is late, he's a total flake this quarter.
Monday, September 29, 2008
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Relaxin' at home on a Friday night = time to put all 831 of my Dead mp3s on shuffle. Oops, first two songs played are two different versions of "Brown-Eyed Woman." Not a bad song, but not the hottest way to start a sesh. Song three gets it back on track a little, one of those slow-ass versions of "Friend of the Devil" they started doing in the later 1970s, this one from the decent official live Dead Set album, recorded in 1980, released in '81. Mydland's fake-Hammond organ solo isn't helping too much but I really do like this exquisitely slow arrangement, even if Garcia got the idea only after hearing Kenny Loggins himself do the song that way. Another reason I really like this slow version is, believe it or not, Donna Jean's gorgeous harmony vocal on the chorus. She actually was considered a great studio singer for the legendary Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama (she's on Percy Sledge's "When A Man Loves A Woman" and Elvis's "Suspicious Minds"!), but apparently she just never felt as comfortable as a live singer. Of course, there were other adjustments she had to make too: "In Paris, stoned on acid, I found myself lying under the piano, digging the Grateful Dead - and then realized, 'Oh, no. I sing with this band! How am I possibly going to be able to get it together to do that?'" Back to here on earth, hmm, this hasn't been the most exciting Dead shuffle so far - now it's playing a 20-minute "Franklin's Tower" from 1979... it is from a fairly renowned two-night stand at the Cape Cod Coliseum, but this tune, even though it always has some great moments, is ultimately too monotonous for me... the song only has two chords and it never lets you forget it... next up is "China Cat Sunflower" from 1974... it's great, but it's gonna take just a little more than yet another China Rider from 1973-1975 to get me going tonight... in other words, I'm gonna cheat a little and shuffle ahead... oh I know, I'll just play "Operator" from American Beauty, what a beautiful wistful song, a Pigpen composition and he sings it so well... "She could be hangin' round the steel mill/Workin' in a house of blue lights/Ridin' a getaway bus out of Portland/Talkin' to the night/I don't know where she's goin'/ I don't care where she's been/Long as she's been doin' it right"..... hell yeah, that should recharge things... and indeed, up next is a "Goin' Down The Road Feeling Bad" from 1974 that sounds just right. Sweet laid-back boogie tune. It's one of those Dead tunes that seem like it could be totally hateable in an 'I need a miracle to take me to the promised land but it's all good Jack Straw' kinda way, but it wins me over every time with that soft boogie, every bit as chill as what J.J. Cale was doing around the same time.
Alright, enough Dead though, I'm going to put another band on shuffle that I have almost as many mp3s of (757): Sun City Girls. Should be a slightly different vibe. First up is a great forgotten number off of Kaliflower, "Archaeopteryx in the Slammer." Recorded outdoors, probably overseas, 'non-traditional' instruments, I can hear Alan's droning chant vocals over the top, but who knows who is or isn't playing on this one. Next is "Electric Bovine Method," from the 'late-mid-period' soundtrack Dulce, released on vinyl in 1996, just reissued on CD in 2008. Pretty stunning improvisational mood-piece, deep electronics, harsh lightly effected dirge violin (probably by Eyvind Kang), instrumental except maybe those are some deep-reverb hummed vocals, or maybe that's more violin, the whole thing sounds almost as serious as AMM or MEV themselves... then it's into a couple spoken word type tracks from their late-period 'radio show' sequence (CFR's #11-14 to be exact), when a good 66.666667% of each album didn't even seem to be music, more like 'broadcasting,' brief blast-collages, straight-up spoken word, or answering machine messages like the one that just played from Harmony Korine (aka Laird Henn)... and from that right into "Theme 5" from Box of Chameleons, stately but ramshackle 2-minute piano theme, then right into another piano tune, this one a Gocher-crooned ballad from The Handsome Stranger (CFR #8) called "The Calcium Kiss," which Al & Rick were playing on this year's Brothers Unconnected tour... then it's right into another song they were playing on that tour, Gocher's epic "Book of Revelations," originally the final track on the beyond-epic double-disc Dante's Disneyland Inferno, this mp3 being a recording of the only time they ever played it live as Sun City Girls, which was on March 30, 1996, at Moe's in Seattle. This has never been released, but I've got it because SCG heads have been passing this audience recording around for awhile... just like Deadheads, eh? What's next, oh man, "Sun Suck Town," a song that definitely finds them in their 'skatepunk joke band' guise, except that it's better than literally 99.9% of all skatepunk joke bands. "Who's your favorite president?" they ask over an extreme no-minded lunkhead repeato-riff that never breaks for a second. "Mine is a secret/No I guess I'll tell you it's CALVIN COOLIDGE!!!" Oh shit, next is the Torch of the Mystics version of "Cafe Batik." They played this song at the Empty Bottle in November 2002, I was there, and that version sounded even better than this one, Alan nailed every single note. I remember sitting on my couch in 1994, right after buying the Torch CD used for ten bucks somewhere, playing this for J. Merritt of the Cheyntara band (now with U.S. Scientists) and we were just flipping out at the blaring Asian/Venusian falsetto vocal. "WEIRD!" I remember J. exclaiming, and this was a guy who knew weird... next is the 15-minute dust-metal guitar/bass/drums psychedelic instro jam "Libyan Dream," the title track and album closer for the CFR #7 CD, one of the best of the CFR series, "originally released as 50 cassette copies dropped in cassette vendors racks in various cities throughout SE Asia in 1993".... man, more great shit after this... I'm still surprised by the breadth and depth of this band, really... and it's all "punk rock" maaan...
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Hilarious Beatles YouTube. (Lennon's bit at the end, damn! He didn't even write "Eleanor Rigby"!) Here's more of the press conference, it's pretty interesting how surly they are.
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Just realizing tonight how much of the great heavy rock music of the 1970s can be described as POST-CREAM. First I was reading about Rush and how their inspiration for the initial heavy trio years was Cream, and then I'm listening to the I'm Gonna Take You Home album by Yahowa 13, and they are clearly also a post-Cream wandering/driving/improvising heavy power trio. Ash Ra Tempel too, of course, side one of their self-titled debut album is like the ultimate post-Cream expression possible... and even the Jimi Hendrix Experience could be regarded as post-Cream, as they were formed just a couple months after Cream's first gigs... Hendrix was reportedly a fan... hell, Iommi/Butler/Ward were probably thinking of Cream too when they started jamming. I don't even think Cream was that great, I think all the post-Cream bands are better. I mean, of course Cream was great, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker were a MONSTROUS rhythm section, and the band had plenty of good songs too, which is where these bands fail most often. Of course they would have been even greater with a guitarist that wasn't actually God, like Randy Holden or Billy TK or one of the guys from Socrates Drank The Conium or Alex Lifeson or whoever, you could literally name a couple dozen. Now sure, I know it's hip to say that Eric Clapton isn't that great, and sure, I'll admit he made some good music, even outside of Cream . . . I'll give him maybe 60% of Layla and Assorted Love Songs, I'll give him "Let It Grow" and "Let It Rain," and I'll actually give him all of his mellow J.J. Cale imitation stuff (it's just occurred to me that his overall oeuvre is so basically lame that the 1976 Cale-wannabe album Slowhand is probably the strongest non-Cream non-Layla release of his entire career), but that's IT. Seriously, Eric Clapton was NOT THAT GREAT. He is the single biggest example I have ever seen of the fabled lead guitarist who knows a whole buncha hot licks but has a hard time consistently playing MUSIC.
I give you as evidence this YouTube. It should be all you need. I mean, this is Cream era we're talking about, so it should be Clapton at his raddest, right? I mean the guitar paint job is awesome, right? Then why is this such an incredibly lame guitar demonstration? I mean, he gets ready to show us something called "the woman tone" but then spends at least a full minute rambling on about his tone knobs and pickup settings. When he finally plays something, it's a few brief seconds of un-musical un-melodic blues-rock piffle.
Here's some other examples of mediocrity... "Yer Blues" was never really the greatest Beatles tune, it's more a heavy pop-art statement than a song, and Clapton does NOT manage to set it on fire on this kinda turgid and sloppy version by ad hoc John Lennon group The Dirty Mac (from The Rolling Stones Rock'n'Roll Circus, of course). I mean, sure, Clapton's solo has that undeniable "cutting tone," but once again, he's not even trying to play music, just licks, licks, licks, and half-hearted ones at that. Lennon's solo may be absurdist and minimalist but it's a lot more rock'n'roll, and at least it actually tells a story. Keith Richards, even on bass, is definitely playing music and not licks. (Mitch Mitchell does not impress me on this clip either, he sounds perfunctory on the verses and kinda lost during the raveup section.)
And hmm, after this indifferent 'hot licks' intro, maybe I take back what I said about his J.J. Cale era:
Now just for the sake of comparison, after that lethargic blues piffle, check out this Magic Sam video (as posted on the Arthurmagblog)... Magic Sam is a guy who has probably never made anyone's Top 10 Guitar Gods lists, but just look at this.... jump ahead to 3:30 if you wanna really cut to the chase... picture the guy in the three previous clips next to this and please note that he is NOT holding a candle:
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Geez, I've just been watching Paul Thomas Anderson interviews on YouTube all night... It started because I heard Slayer was good on the Henry Rollins Show, so I went looking for that, but I ended up watching a PTA interview from 2006 on there first, for the presumed There Will Be Blood content (I thought it was a really good movie), and things just snowballed. I had actually never seen the guy talk before so it's been interesting. There's been stories about how high he his in interviews, but in this Rollins one I found him pretty cool and down-to-earth (probably because he's a dad now) and I liked what he had to say about TWBB, which he was just about to start shooting.
After that I backtracked to an early interview, with Mike Figgis, mostly about Boogie Nights. This time he's maybe a little too cool, a little too nervy, though waving a piece of half-eaten pizza around is a nice touch.
Someone in the comments section for that one was like "He's not high here, you want to see him all coked-up go to the three-part interview on Punch-Drunk Love," and I think they might have been talking about this next one. It's not insane or anything but it is a little tweaky and kinda unpleasant, mostly because of his affected 'I might be unpredictable!' mannerisms and how little of substance he's actually able to dredge up as he dodges the questions. Big difference from the Rollins interview.
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Geez, I've just been watching 2000s noise-punk videos all night. Started out with a Russian Tsarcasm performance, which was cool, which immediately got me into some Dynasty, not clips from the TV show about Blake Carrington and the gang but the Providence noise/punk/art/damage trio featuring the guy from Kites and a couple other guys.
This clip is my introduction to this band. At first I was impressed by the craziness of this clip but it had dwindled by the end. I think it's because for the last few days I've been listening to the new career retrospective-type CD How Little Will It Take by Landed, a longer-running Providence noise/punk/art/damage band, and after absorbing their music, Dynasty kinda seems like a tribute band, less interested in actual music than they are the 'craziness' that it can generate. I feel like their drummer is the only one actually required to play riffs - the two guitarists can both stop playing their instruments due to whatever isolated melee happens to be erupting and the sound of the song doesn't even change. Compared to this, Landed play music as sleek and sharp and detailed as techno. Dynasty do threaten to hit this mark with one song, in the video below, from roughly 3:00-5:00 - the drummer is still the main riff instrument, but the guitarists do get a serious chug going and some real hands-on transubstantiation occurs instead of just gestures and postures.
After Dynasty, I started watching some clips by The Coughs. Damn, memories... this is a Chicago band and I'll never forget when they exploded into my consciousness, at the 2002 University of Chicago Festival of Marginalized Subgenres, massively and awesomely coordinated by Tim Aher (RIP). Plenty of notable acts put on great sets: Burning Star Core, Vertonen, Cock ESP, Panicsville, the debut performance by Gays in the Military, Behold the Living Corpse, RETSILRATS (they just sat at a table and ate food), a couple hardcore bands, and then this large band I'd never heard of started setting up. They had a lot of people and appeared to have at least two drummers playing 'industrial percussion' and maybe even TV screens playing 'subversive video collage', so naturally I assumed they'd be lame, but then they started and almost immediately reached down the collective throat of everyone watching and ripped our guts out with completely focused steamrolling industrial hate-punk. The singer looked like Mary Poppins's evil twin and spent most of the show stalking the audience like a sharply dressed screaming death angel. About a year or so after that they put out a good full-length on Load, but it didn't come close to that show, and I haven't found a clip that really does either... these are enough to get an idea, at least. As one commenter succinctly states, "They have dark powers."
Shit man, speaking of dark powers, this isn't too bad, The Hospitals live in 2005.
And of course there's always the Magik Markers in their pissing-people-off trio heyday... check out the end, I always like Ms. Ambrogio's 'talking to the crowd nowhere near a microphone' bit.
And somehow all this got me to, holy shit, an 8-minute Venusian blues guitar jam by Moncho Conlazo himself! Not noise rock:
If you don't know, Conlazo was an absolutely crucial member of the Argentinian legends Reynols... they definitely had some dark powers going on too, scan this documentary for the ghost-trance performance sections:
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Geez, I've just been watching gravity blast YouTubes all night... "There's nothin' to it, dude! Here, watch it in real life!"
Saturday, September 20, 2008
SIR RICHARD BISHOP Plays Sun City Girls 7" (NO-FI) This is a great record. When it first came out I passed on it, I mean I already have a good 30 Sun City Girls releases not to mention 5 or 6 of Sir Rick's, but I got lured into Reckless on Milwaukee Ave today by the new Eddy Current Suppression Ring LP and there this was in the used bin for $10.99, and here I was with a good $80 in credit burning the colloquial hole in my wallet, so boom. Not the cheapest price, but considering one is on ebay right now for $14.99 with one bid and a couple days left, not bad. SCG records really are worth some money, it's just that simple. But anyway, I knew this would be a good record, a fine record, but it turns out it's a great record - Ricardo is ON, just sitting in a chair and blowing through a fast and hyper "Esoterica of Abysynnia" and an exquisite "Space Prophet Dogon" on the flip. It also reminds me just how excellent their new Brothers Unconnected tour-only CD is, this time both Rick and Alan sitting in chairs, blowing through 12 or 13 classics, including another "Space Prophet Dogon" for the ages. That CD is so good that even though it was released with no packaging, just a disc in a plain white tyvek window envelope, it's already going for 20-30 bucks on the Bay. (Check here first.)
TITMACHINE We Build A New City 7" (SILTBREEZE) Remember when I used to always quote my kids in reviews? Haven't done it in awhile, but Li'l Phil is 5 now and he likes rock'n'roll, so it was bound to happen sooner or later. Tonight I got this one out of the sleeve and told him it was gonna be "a little crazy." He says "I love crazy music!" I said, "Okay, good!" He says, "What's it called?" and I had to just chuckle and say it: "Titmachine!" He says, "Titmachine?! Alright, I love machines!" Perfect, huh? We play Side A "We Build A New City" and I say "It's not THAT crazy," because it's punk rock and he's fairly used to what can only be called out-and-out noise coming from the stereo, and in fact he comes back with "It's not crazy at all!" I'm sure he was just commenting on Titmachine's natural all-female Dutch-punk charm, because let me assure you, this 7" is pretty crazy. The A side title-track has a lurching harsh stun-bass groove and the high nasal vocal hook just grinds away, I love it. B side "1989" isn't as immediately classic but it's not a letdown either... a fine record.
BILLY BAO Accumulation 7" (XEROX MUSIK) I already have mp3s of this but when I saw it at Reckless I had to buy it in order to complete a Bao trilogy of sorts along with the Fuck Separation 10" and the Dialectics of Shit LP. All three records are great. With each one, the titles alone begin a manifesto that continues throughout the design and concept and words and is finished by the sound itself. Look at the way the Accumulation concept presents itself: 10 tracks, 10 titles, each title a little longer than the last, the titles printed down the front cover as a concrete poem (see below). Each track is exactly one minute long with a short break in between, and the music is wholly appropriate to the increasingly harsh imagery in the song titles. At first it practically sounds like Bao is bellowing vocals over a single pounding drum, but each track gets progressively denser than the last one, bringing in more and more guitars and noise and especially tormented vocal overdubs, you know, a succinct and visceral illustration of the process by which industrial and/or consumerist accumulation leads to self-immolation. (Alternate title in my head: "The Ballad of Malachi Ritscher.")
NED LAGIN/PHIL LESH SEASTONES LP (ROUND RECORDS) Stoked to find this LP from Phil Lesh's infamous 'harsh noise' side project in the Grateful Dead bin at Reckless. It was $16.99 for a cover in so-so condition, but hey, credit. Nice looking LP anyway - Phil (Dolman not Lesh) loved the cover, figuring that if it was called "seastones" the art must represent the sea through a microscope, tiny bits of sand, bacteria, and other things on the molecular level. We even read some of the tripped-out uncredited poetry on the back - "tingling/tip of/beach/downily/oceans of warm rustling/quivering up/thinning likeness/wave planes/splashing/water beads/her own tip/pointed/grass blade dripping/waiting..." Whoah, "her own tip/pointed"?! First "titmachine," now this... On the center labels the album is credited to Ned Lagin and Phil Lesh; on the back cover, there is just a band-style credit list, in which Lagin is top-billed ("written and composed by," not to mention "Piano, Percussion, Computers, Synthesizers, Keyboards*," and ahem, here's what that asterisk leads to: "*Interdata 7/16 computer with high speed arithmetic logic unit, Eu Modular Synthesizer, Arp 2500, Arp Odyssey, Electro-Comp, Buchla Modular System, Programmable Bioelectronic I/O Microprocessor (Intel 8080), prepared piano, clavichord, organ") while Lesh is second-billed with just "Electric Bass." Garcia is credited with "Electric Guitar, Vocals," Mickey Hart is credited with "Gongs," and that's it from the Dead; famous friends Crosby and Slick both lend vocals, and so do Freiberg and Dryden from New Riders of the Purple Sage. But I can't hear any of that stuff. All I hear is electronics and synthesizers, and often not much of that... it's a sparse haunting record and it seems to be Lagin's show all the way. By the way, I asked Li'l Phil what he thought 10 minutes in and he said "It doesn't sound like a record!" (Okay, second time through and I do hear the vocals, but they don't come along too often and when they do they're chopped up and nearly unrecognizable. I still haven't cracked the code as far as hearing Garcia's guitar, or the "Alembic Electric 12 String Guitar" that Crosby is also credited with... must all be processed to hell...)
EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING: Primary Colours LP (GONER) As I said, Reckless had this in stock and it was the bait that lured me in to the store. I was gonna order it direct from Goner but I figured this would be easier, and it was... but I didn't get colored vinyl. I don't usually care about that stuff, but this time I kinda did. It's so thematic for once..... Anyway, I already reviewed this waaaaay back in Blastitude #26 (here), they're one of the best new (minimalist) rock bands I've heard in years and it's probably going to be my #1 album of 2008. Vinyl sounds good.
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GRATEFUL DEAD @ Jai-Alai Fronton, Miami, FL, 74/06/23, 2nd Set, streaming @ Archive.org. And this is not from Reckless, in fact it's not even a record, but it was inspired directly by my Seastones purchase.... while spinning said purchase back home, I poked around the internet for any Seastonestories, of which there aren't too many (although this one is alright, as recounted by Lesh: "German audiences, when they don't like something, whistle. They started whistling because they didn't like it, so Ned just picked up on the whistling and started fucking with them - he made his synthesizer start to whistle, and he whistled along with them. Pretty soon, they were whistling with him and they didn't even know it. He has that kind of sense of humor."). I also pulled out the A Long Strange Trip book and learned that the first time Lagin and Lesh ever played it live was June, 1974 in Miami. Author Dennis McNally reports that feelings were generally positive if a little mixed about the debut performance, but that the second set by the Grateful Dead immediately following was exceptionally good. So I head over to Deadlists.com to get the date (June 23) and then zip on over to Archive.org to stream it... the Seastones set pretty much sounds like harsh noise to me, and McNally was right, the Dead set is pretty sweet. Very slow and mellow (this is only a month after one of their ultimate slow/mellow shows, 74/5/19 Missoula, MT) with a well-regarded "Dark Star." (Kreutzmann being the MVP... such a great drummer... on here he does some repeating martial trance rhythms that remind me of, I don't know, Ed Blackwell??)
(BTW thought I'd use this space to throw up a nice description of Grateful Dead music that I just came across. It's by Joe Gallant, New York City avant-jazz musician and smut producer of some reknown. I actually saw him play once in New York City, his huge 18-piece band Illuminati opening up for the Art Ensemble of Chicago, doing an over-the-top version of the whole Blues For Allah album. It was pretty impressive, sure, but I didn't really like it... I didn't know the album at all then, but I don't think that would've helped too much. Anyway, here's Gallant's description/tribute (it's from this page - the whole interview is worth a look, he's got a way with words and has led an interesting life): "The Dead's alembic contained it all: Rock ’n Roll, Country and City Blues, mountain music, whistling back-alley Burma-Shave Americana, rigorous 20th Century orchestral influences, terrifying dark psychological improvisations, jagged vivisectionist feedback, gentle Celtic whispers, flatfoot carny "Hey, Rube!" goofiness, Mideastern percussion textures. Like a canal city, their tributaries wend and twine."
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Also got this stuff in the mail recently...
SKELETON WARRIOR/PHARAOH FAUCETT split 7" (ROOFLESS) This one comes from the weirdo Sarasota FL scene that showed up on the blog once a few months ago. Package had a Philly address, which is interesting - did they move there to be closer to the roots of today's weirdpunk? And/or to The Roots? Just joking, especially because they already seem to be doing fine at their own game, improving on the already good stuff they previously sent along. Skeleton Warrior play an extended rambling teenage tinkertoy psych-prog with constant scramble and wobble, refreshingly instrumental, with almost-melodic bloops and bleeps and surprise backwards-masking disorientation.... and right at the end an acoustic guitar anthem even emerges, nestled among the warping electronics. Somebody's gotta be the next Parasites of the Western World, is anyone else gonna step up? On the flip the rather absurdly named Pharaoh Faucett play it a little more straight-ahead, with a more standard post-nerd/farfisa panic rock style, but the blow-outage of the band and recording is notably aggressive, with classic male/female trade-off punk vox keening over the top. Works for me. Impressive psychedelic-maze pen-and-ink cover art too.
MARRIED IN BIRDICHEV 7" (GILGONGO RECORDS) This is by a woman who does music alone with voice and FX , with press-sheet comparisons to Grouper and Inca Ore, and the label is run by a member of that fine desert improv collective called Tent City, so I was hoping to like this, but... without all the weird sounds and electronic strangeness venting in the background, I just don't know if the songs could stand alone, like they would be unmasked as middle-of-the-road emo grunge ballads or something.
CALDERA LAKES CS (DEATHBOMB ARC) This is a duo of Eva Aguila, who records noise music as Kevin Shields, and Brittany Gould, who records as the aforementioned Married in Birdichev. The latter's grunge balladry tendency is still in evidence here, but it finds a more challenging and rewarding home in collaboration with Ms. Aguila. Side A "Silent Something" is a killer track, a slowly rising boil that comes to a head as Gould's singing digs deeper and deeper into real actual song territory. She sounds Christina Carter-worthy here, especially 3/4 of the way through when she hits the refrain of "Don't you do that" a few times, cueing Aguila to really stir shit up and turn the track into a full-fledged noise jam. Side B "Shotgun" threatens to take off in a similar way but never quite does... definitely would like to hear more though.
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