Monday, December 19, 2011

OMAR SOULEYMAN Leh Jani 2LP (SHAM PALACE)
NEIL YOUNG Zuma (REPRISE)
POWER OF THE SPOKEN WORD The Language of a Dying Breed (SACRIFICIAL) 
PREGNANT s/t (BURN BOOKS)
HOW TO DRESS WELL Love Remains (LEFSE)
KEITH HUDSON Brand (PRESSURE SOUNDS)
TOMMY McCOOK Blazing Horns/Tenor In Roots (BLOOD & FIRE)





















The new Omar Souleyman double LP Leh Jani is the first release on the Sham Palace label, which is Mark Gergis's own subdivision of Sublime Frequencies, which is an interesting move in that I could see Alan Bishop and Hisham Mayet also with their own subdivisions as each of the three do seem to have a distinct area of interest. Anyway, there has been a lot of Souleyman releases by now, so far be it from me to suggest that you may still need more, but Leh Jani just might be my favorite one yet, even though it only has 3 songs on it: the 30-minute title jam split onto Sides 3 and 4, with two more 15-minute jams taking up Sides 1 and 2. Apparently this music made up a C60 that was one of the first Omar cassette releases that Gergis procured on a trip in Syria. He excerpted a few minutes of "Leh Jani" onto Highway to Hassake, Omar's auspicious 2007 debut CD for Sublime Frequencies, but now the entire cassette has been cut onto 12" vinyl at 33RPM and it's a lot of fun, the title track being a totally driving and upbeat chanter in which seemingly about 75 different bouncing and ripping keyboard and electric bozouk solos get exchanged, by Rizan Sa'id and Hamid Souleyman respectively. I swear it never gets monotonous, and when either side of the record ends I instantly want to flip it over. I think the reason the groove stays interesting for 30 minutes is because of how sensuous, light, and airy the musicianship on top of it is. (See also: Can.) The other record features more of those insistent dabke grooves, with "Introduction/Mawal" having a slower tempo, and also a lot of talking, presumably because of the "Introduction" aspect.

When in doubt, jam "Danger Bird." 

It's always funny to watch otherwise intelligent people who aren't from Nebraska talk about bands that are from Nebraska. When the subject is broached, they suddenly turn into self-parodies in a stumbling race to make the first joke about cornhusking and/or lack of electricity. I'll agree that Nebraska is not a premier musical hotbed, but you must admit that great bands can come from there. How can an engaged rock music listener deny The Boys? The Crap Detectors? For Against? For the love of god, Power of the Spoken Word?? This last band of antisocial miscreants released a single LP in 1985, called The Language of a Dying Breed, and if they'd come from California and released this record on SST, or come from DC and released this record on Dischord.... but never mind all that, this record is from Lincoln, Nebraska and was released on the band's own label Sacrifical Records. The stunning "pagan hardcore" cover art by Mott-ly (who, full disclosure, is one of my favorite people of all time, RIP) certainly looks a lot more like something from the deep Great Plains than it does either of the coasts. Also, the bass player was named Tree. Just Tree. As for the music, it's post-Void mutant hardcore, one of the few bands I can compare to the early Meat Puppets, where bass and drums tear through frantic rhythms, ripping dirty guitar solos spill out indiscrimately, and the singer is basically a DMT elf. Add to that a more stern and gothic metal crossover undercurrent (Die Kreuzen and Voivod are other reference points) and a whole bunch of that Great Plains isolation x-factor, and you're close.



Speaking of SST and ripping dirty guitar playing, I feel like there's been a few bands lately, from both here and there (okay mostly from Olympia, WA), that have been doing a kind of scratchy proto-grunge late 80s early 90s Homestead/SST-informed dirt-rock kinda thing. Not that I really know what I'm talking about, but Gun Outfit, maybe? Long-Legged Woman? Milk Music? The seven or eight better examples that I'm sure you can come up with? All I'm saying is, throw Pregnant onto the pile. Am I still speaking English? Yeah, I'm just talking about a band from New York City that I haven't heard too much about, other than a mention in Tony Rettman's Rettsounds column that seems like it might've been a whole year ago. Maybe it's because of their name! Pregnancy and rock just don't mix. Anyway, their medium long-playing (just over 20 minutes) debut finally came up on the iPod and it's really good. Anthemic rollicking yearning melodic tunes driven by big guitar chords and vocals that cut.   



Alright man, chillin' at home, Monday night, hard day at work, havin' a hard time with my lady, you know I gotta put on that new How To Dress Well album.... Ha! Just kidding! It came up on shuffle! First time I've listened to it since the week it was released! Things are fine with my lady and I! But seriously folks, it seems like the hype on this guy didn't really continue past 2010's fabled "Summer of Chillwave," but then I don't look at Pitchfork very often. Maybe it did continue, or maybe it just wasn't that great of an album... to me, the guy seemed a little like a one-hit wonder, that hit being "Ready For The World," which still sounds fantastic. I got the album on the strength of that tune, but the rest didn't connect with me, just kinda hovered at a too-chill remove. Now I've got it on headphones and it does sound better and closer. The songwriting still isn't super strong, but I appreciate the meditative R&B angle a lot more than I do "beach pop" or whatever. He's not a bad straightforward soul singer, although it's kinda hard to tell because his voice is low in the mix, distant, often (as in maybe a little too often) overdubbed into lovely angelic chorales.

If you want a good dub album, get Brand by Keith Hudson. I mean, first get Keith Hudson's Pick A Dub, but if you already have that, Brand is also the kind of dub you hear in your dreams. Unlike Pick a Dub, it has a lot of Keith's own idiosyncratic and gravelly roots vocals dubbed in, which is a caveat for some. His vocals are very heavy with a real wrecked and gravelly emotional quaver, and sometimes are best in small doses even if you like them, which is why Brand is perfect. In other Jamaican news, I've grown to really love the combination of horns and reggae, especially those jazzy vintage horn solos that sound like they're blown in by a warm and salty sea breeze. That's why I'm finally massively getting into the Skatalites and early offshoots, such as anything with saxophonist Tommy McCook's name on it. This Blazing Horns set seems to have been recorded at the later end of the essential 1970s roots era, apparently at Yabby You's studio. Yabby You's stuff is always rock solid but after the 1977 Jesus Dread cut-off there's something a little too clean and sparkly about it... but maybe it's just me, and either way McCook blows lots of lovely solos here, so I won't complain. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

STONE COAL WHITE s/t LP (CALI-TEX)
LEE PERRY Wizdom 1971-1975 LP (ASCENSION)
SKOAL KODIAK Kryptonym Bodliak LP (LOAD)
FACTUMS Gilding The Lilies 2LP (ASSOPHON)
ICEAGE New Brigade (WHAT'S YOUR RUPTURE?)



























It only takes a few seconds of introductory wah-wah guitar vamping for "You Know" by Stone Coal White to register as one of the most dusted late-night funk jams ever recorded, and that's before the moaning falsetto vocals come in and really make the case. You might've heard this track already on the Chains & Black Exhaust compilation from 2002, which was released without a track listing. "You Know" was the last jam on the album before the epilogue & encore, a perfect closer/cool-down/nod-off, and one of the last of the then-anonymous tracks to be identified by the message-board headz. No wonder, because Stone Coal White was an extremely underground band from Dayton, Ohio, more or less the wild and loose house band for a shell-shocked motorcycle gang called Bad to the Bone, and they had such a funky live show that their fliers often required a "Rated X" next to their name. They only released two 45 RPM singles, in small pressings, somewhere very deep in the early 1970s. For the preservation of "You Know" alone, and the other tracks released on the two 45s, this new record is essential, but one possible reason why the band didn't release more material when they were active is evident: things get reaaallly loose on here. A scorched warm-up jam called "Warm Up," humorous Curtis Mayfield goofs, special-guest soul sisters belting unhinged gospel, a Bill Withers cover, that type of thing... like Funkadelic, despite grim trappings, the band had a lot of fun.

I already thought single LPs by Factums were too long, with too many foreboding and severe tracks stringing too many lumbering dystopian synth riffs one after another, so how am I going to approach a double LP with 29 tracks?? It's not that I dislike this band... I think they're pretty awe-inspiring. I have no idea how they assemble these synth-punk Frankenstein monsters one after another, and I just can't process their material except in small doses, which they seem to rarely offer it in.  This release looks and feels real good (nice paper selection, nice typewriter art cover), and it's certainly as good of a place as any to start trying to comprehend what they're up to. Just be prepared, pack an extra lunch and bring some ibuprofen!  

































Just popped by the internet to see what the kids were into these days, and before I knew it I had listened to the whole 24-minute debut album by Iceage, twice. When they toured the U.S. this summer, I never actually heard their music, but I heard quite a bit about 'em, which made 'em sound pretty good, and it turns out that in fact they are. Right from the brief industrial noise intro I was hooked, and they held me throughout 11 more songs of dark and rather frantic Danish teenage punk that skips around unpredictably through emotional flourishes, strange harmonic choices, and a gnarly reverbed-out twin-guitar sound. All presented in a way that does not wear out its welcome, which gives you time to think about what you heard. Canny aesthetic moves abound... for one thing, they inherently understand that the best thing you can do with a black metal influence in 2010 is to not play black metal. 




Saturday, December 10, 2011

I LOVE THE POINTER SISTERS

Serious jam by these West Oakland ladies live in 1974... don't miss the drum solo!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

NEIL YOUNG Archives - Vol. 1 (1963-1972) (REPRISE) (via Spotify)
SIMON H. FELL Frank & Max (Bass Solos 2001-2011) CD (BO'WEAVIL) 
ALAN WILKINSON Practice CD (BO'WEAVIL)
HESSION/WILKINSON/FELL Two Falls & A Submission CD (BO'WEAVIL
VILLAGE OF SPACES Alchemy of Trust CD/LP (CORLEONE)
DAN MELCHIOR UND DAS MENACE Catbirds & Cardinals CD/LP/MP3/FLAC (NORTHERN SPY)
mp3s of ALICE COLTRANE on Piano Jazz with MARIAN McPARTLAND
mp3s of THE SILVERTONES "Young At Heart" b/w FREDDIE McKAY "Love Is A Treasure" 12" (STUDIO ONE)
mp3s of LES TOUAREG Avec les Seigneurs des Sables (DISQUES ALVARES)
BILL FAY Time of the Last Persecution (DERAM) (via Spotify)
BLUES CONTROL & LARAAJI FRKWYS Vol. 8 LP (RVNG INTL.)
SEX CHURCH Growing Over LP (LOAD)
SKOAL KODIAK  Kryptonym Bodliak LP (LOAD)


I continue to have, but barely use, Spotify. Not because it isn't awesome, because of course it's awesome. Not even because they only pay the artist something like .002456 cents per play. (I don't know what it is exactly, but I'm pretty sure the amount starts with a point-zero-zero-two.) I already tweeted about the very first search I typed into Spotify, Ash Ra Tempel, and how it got zero results, which I'll admit I still haven't really forgiven them for. I also haven't really figured out how to use any of the social or discovery options... I realize that's because I'm not trying very hard, but so far there's nothing as inspiring as Turntable.fm chat, or even the good ole "suggestions" column on YouTube. And that's just it, the real reason I barely use Spotify is simply because I'm doing just fine with iTunes, YouTube, and, let's not forget, my own stereo. I'm already comically behind on the listening I need to do, let alone want to do, and at this point Spotify feels like an unnecessary complication.
          I've mainly been using it to look up current hip-hop and pop songs that people talk about, because I don't buy that stuff at all. In fact, there's really only one album I've been using Spotify to listen to so much that I'm probably going to reach my free-account limit. The only other album to even get close has been Ford & Lopatin's Channel Pressure when I binged on it over a couple awesome days this summer (and then promptly bought the 12"), but the winner is Neil Young's Archives Vol. 1 (1963-1972) 10 Blu-ray or 8 CD or whatever set. All 125 tracks are on Spotify, and in all those listens I still haven't even gotten through half of it, and I haven't had to mess around with 10 Blu-ray discs to do it, not to mention a Blu-ray player. (Then again, um, the actual set does sound really, really nice: "Also found on these 9 multimedia discs are 20 special feature videos, film clips, and film trailers, an additional 55 audio tracks of rare interviews, radio spots, and concert raps, and an array of interactive features, including image galleries of archival photos, press, lyric manuscripts, documents, biographies, tour dates, and complete lyrics, as well as an interactive timeline feature which presents an in-depth overview of Young's life and career." You also get "a digital download card to access MP3 files of all 128 audio tracks, a lavish 236 page fullcolor hardbound book that features additional archival materials, tapes database, and detailed descriptions of the music and artwork, a foldout Archives poster, a custom keeper for the 10 sleeved discs, and more." Apparently in there somewhere is a DVD of Young's lost/shelved debut feature film Journey To The Past, and I think I also heard that the audio discs will play film of a cozy burning fireplace on your TV while you listen to the tunes.)
           And of course, the tunes are the single most important thing, and this is one fine listen, starting at the very beginning, disc 0, with some stray tracks Neil cut in Canada before he was famous, mostly with a band called The Squires. I read about these sessions in Shakey, which was somewhat deprecating of them, but man, from the surf instrumental "Aurora" to a very early version of "Don't Cry No Tears" from Zuma, here called "I Wonder," I think they sound absolutely choice, with my fave being the perfectly sublime "I'll Love You Forever." After the Squires jams, disc 0 rounds out with a few early (and honestly not quite 'there' yet) solo hotel-room-style performances of various songs including "Sugar Mountain" and "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing," and then disc 1 goes right into the great Buffalo Springfield songs, including what might still be his finest achievement, the Jack Nitzsche-produced "Expecting to Fly." Disc 2 takes us through his eponymous debut LP all the way to some of Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, and then disc 3 takes a welcome detour to a single live solo gig somewhere on the way, the sublime Live at the Riverboat from 1969. Disc 4 gets into the rest of Everybody Knows and the first half of After the Gold Rush, disc 5 is another detour to a single gig (this time Crazy Horse live at the Fillmore East in 1970, drool), and so on all the way through Harvest. Thanks Spotify! And thanks for paying Neil Young one cent USD so far for my listening to, instead of buying, Volume 1 of the Archives. (That's .002, the cents-per-play royalty rate which I did just see quoted after a cursory google search, multiplied by, let's say, 500 songs played, if I've played this album 20 different times on Spotify, and listened to an average of 25 songs each time I did. Which is a lot of usage... when I buy an album fair and square, I very rarely listen to it that much, which definitely proves something about something.) 

Neil Young Archives Volume 2 hasn't been released yet, but it has been announced that it will cover the years 1972 to 1982, which means it will not only give us the entire Ditch Trilogy (Time Fades Away/On The Beach/Tonight's the Night) but will also take us all the way up through the mighty Trans, in other words incorporating every single one of his truly great albums (though I might throw in Sleeps With Angels and Harvest Moon as almost great... hell, Le Noise too). Jeez, maybe I should just buy both of these sets... it'd be cheaper than the new washer & dryer I hafta get... I guess Spotify does sell records!

This might be the first time I've actually heard British jazz double bassist Simon H. Fell, though he's been on my radar for a good 15 years, around which time he was recording some hardcore British free improv jazz jams with saxophonist Alan Wilkinson, who was in turn recording some hardcore British free improv jazz jams with guitarist and key link between free jazz and punk/industrial music (not to mention punk/industrial film criticism) Stefan Jaworzyn, all deep within the pre-internet bowels of the early-mid 1990s. Now we have here a new CD of solo 4- and-5-string double bass performances by Mr. Fell, assembled from recordings spanning ten years, released in an edition of 300 copies by the Bo'Weavil label. There are two venues, or at least locations, where these tracks were recorded, apparently at various times over the years, though I never got the sense that any one piece sounded 10 years older or newer than any other piece, which means Fell must be a remarkably consistent player. I was also struck by how all or nothing this music is... you've got to turn it up and listen closely to every single note for the music to really be rewarding. You get out what you put into it, as they say. When I listened to it at lower volume, while cleaning up around the house with the kids running around doing stuff, I was asking all kinds of questions of free improvisation as the music made its jagged and often obtuse way. Am I even able to listen to it anymore? Has it served its purpose? (Which seems to have been a two-year crash course in increasing my capacity for musical logic, somewhere in the aforementioned pre-internet 1990s, lessons that I still consider today.) Is that why the music no longer comes to life for me, because I've internalized all the lessons? Or is it simply not turned up loud enough?

Speaking of Alan Wilkinson, and hardcore British free improv jazz, Bo'Weavil also sent along a new edition-of-300 CD by him too, also of solo performances, this one called Practice. I don't think I've ever actually heard his playing before either. Right off the bat it connects more than Fell's stuff. It might be because I have it on louder, by myself at work, without kids running around, but also because it totally swings and reminds me more of Thelonious Monk. He doesn't even use any "extended techniques" until close to the 3-minute mark! But don't get me wrong, he certainly extends himself throughout the disc, and it's a long one at over 65 minutes. Great player though, he can get as blasted and extended as any of the other post-Brotz lions I've heard, but he's also very nimble and capable of lightly skipping stuff. He does a very good 8-minute version of "Lonely Woman" that takes that old chestnut and makes it new in certain ways. And wait, what's this, Bo'Weavil has also put out a new trio album in which Fell and Wilkinson are joined by their longtime cohort Paul Hession on drums! First time hearing Hession too as far as I know. And honestly, this one is kind of going in one ear and out the other. It's a live gig, so you've got some enthused audience reaction, which is cool, but the sound has more of a venue ambiance that isn't as crisp and in-your-face as it is on the solo discs. That means you've got to dig in even further to hang on every note (Fell's bass is particularly low in the mix, which is so common for live free jazz recordings that it almost seems like it might be a requirement), and it just isn't happening for me right now. Still sounds like a good high-energy trio, and I'll have to check it out on headphones. The title is Two Falls & A Submission and this one is an edition of 350 copies.

After the Fell/Wilkinson/Hession extravaganza, the previously listed new albums by Village of Spaces and Dan Melchior und Das Menace got another well-deserved go-round on the 5-disc changer, still in there from last time, both going on my "Best of 2011" list (due sometime in mid-2012). Then I switched to the turntable for more new stuff, because I got hold of a copy of the Blues Control & Laraaji collabo (thanks Zum) (sounds great on wax), and also because a new LP from Load Records is always a must-check for me. For something like 15 years Load has broadcast and distributed the worldwide voice of weird punk, weird heavy rock, and weird noise, and it's important to understand the weird, because thriving colonies of weirdness ensure biodiversity of the species, and biodiversity promotes survival during any sort of near-extinction scenario. Didn't think it was so humanistic, did you? Well it's not, I was actually talking about microbes.
  




















Anyway, we've gotten not one but two new albums from Load this quarter. The first is Growing Over by Sex Church. I knew nothing about this band upon receipt, though it seems that they're from Vancouver BC, and this is a fine little LP of grinding dirge punk rock. Did I say little? Actually, it's kind of big and a bit overlong as an 11-song LP, but the band has a good heavy sound in which they know where to leave space so that the listener can begin to parse the words that are being sung, and breathe in between the impacts of various loud and amplified ensemble dirge rock moves. The cover art and album title even work together nicely. In an earlier post I called another current band of today "meat and potatoes" and it could apply to Sex Church too. It's meant as praise, because these are the bands that keep us nourished and grounded in between visitations from the divine. Such as....

Second new one from Load is a ripper by Skoal Kodiak, which is a band that has apparently been playing in Minneapolis for 6 years. Kinda weird that I just heard about 'em this month, because I thought I'd been keeping tabs on Minneapolis ever since Prince and Twin/Tone Records came along, and especially ever since the late-90s heyday of my all-time favorite Minneapolis label, the unfortunately under-distributed Freedom From. I've even kept tabs on two of the three members of Skoal Kodiak in the past... drummer Freddy Votel during his stint as the last drummer ever for The Cows (1995-1998, according to Wikipedia), and way back in September 2001 (believe it or not, six days before 9/11) I saw vocalist/electronicist Markus Lunkenheimer, credited on this LP with "confusion," perform a 5-minute solo noise set on modified bleach bottle at a Phi-Phenomena event that Freedom From staged in Minneapolis, to celebrate the then-concurrent Phi-Phenomena tour. A month later, as long as I'm fully disclosing, I even played guitar and saxophone in a band with Markus and Freedom From proprietor Matthew St. Germain and another guy named Bob. We opened 6 shows for Reynols on their 2001 US tour, and those were the only 6 times we ever played together. I don't even think I've seen Markus since, but believe me, Skoal Kodiak is ten (or 600) times better than our band was. They are another one of those trios that make a perfect triangle foundation, like ZZ Top, Budgie, Meat Puppets, or Sun City Girls . . . the rhythm section of Freddy on drums and Brady on bass (first names only) not only lay down a heavy noise-rock surface, they also give each tune a subtle and dementedly funky nightclub lope undercurrent that is very addictive. I know it's cliche to work in a Prince reference when discussing bands from Minneapolis, but track two "Hollidazzle" actually sounds like a runaway Prince production... not the popular stuff under his name, I'm talking about some of his weirdo new wave rippers like "One Day I'm Gonna Be Somebody" by The Time or "Drive Me Wild" by Vanity 6, only the Skoal Kodiak version includes transformation by lead vocalist into some sort of frothing were-Prince. Markus is particularly good in the traditional post-Yow post-Am Rep shouter/barker mode, and I think he's probably singing right into that modified bleach bottle, because his vocals are constantly melting into something more like strobelight effects at said theoretical funky nightclub. And where are all those crazy keyboard-type synth-type melodies and tones coming from? Is that the bleach bottle too?? I guess I could watch YouTubes. Either way, it's a hell of a formula and I think Skoal Kodiak is my favorite Load Records signing since Sightings. (And what label did Sightings' debut 7" come out on? Well, as a matter of fact it was......... Freedom From.)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

VARIOUS ARTISTS Ska Bonanza (HEARTBEAT)
KING TUBBY Herb Dub - Collie Dub (JIGSAW)
FUNKADELIC Maggot Brain CD (WESTBOUND)
JOVONTAES Things Are Different Here LP (HELLO SUNSHINE)

Ska Bonanza came up on the shuffle and sounded so luxurious that I was moved to tweet something about how third wave ska, especially during its 1990s heyday, got so terrible that I'm only just now, 20 years later, able to appreciate what a great band The Skatalites were. One of the great R&B bands period, especially if R&B is an creation of the entire African diaspora, and not just something that happened in the mid-20th Century United States. Here's a couple Skatalites burners featuring Don Drummond:







I also already tweeted about how heavy the Herb Dub-Collie Dub album is, released more or less anonymously in 1976, in the killer sleeve below. No artist or band credit, just "Mixed by King Tubbys" [sic] on the label. As far as I can tell, when the album was reissued in 2001 (in a much worse sleeve) it was billed as by King Tubby & the Skatalites, I guess in that the Tubster was remixing Skatalites rhythms, which is weird, because, uh, the rhythms on this album are not ska rhythms at all, right? They are slow roots rhythms? Unless I'm crazy, or Tubby slowed the tape down to like less than half speed, which isn't true...



Wednesday, November 09, 2011

JOVONTAES Things Are Different Here LP (HELLO SUNSHINE)
THE POLYPS Ants on the Golden Cone LP (HELLO SUNSHINE)
YOKO ONO Fly 2LP (APPLE)
mp3s of VARIOUS ARTISTS Rock Steady Coxsone Style (COXSONE)
mp3s of CABOLADIES Psychic Birthmark (SMOOTH TAPES
mp3s of TIGER HATCHERY s/t one-sided LP (PIZZA NIGHT)
an mp3 of "A Dread At The Controls" radio show, December 1978, JBC Radio, Jamaica (DL)
mp3s of VARIOUS ARTISTS Krypton Ten: Christchurch 1981-87 2LP (UNWUCHT)

More new music! This time it's two LPs from Hello Sunshine, a vinyl-only sub-label of Woodsist Records. The first is by Jovontaes, a band from Lexington, Kentucky, probably named after this dude. Lexington has been one of my favorite music towns ever since the Hair Police marched outta there in full riot gear over ten years ago (yes, it's really been that long). In fact, Hair Policeman Trevor Tremaine wrote a blurb for this record that says, in part, "[Jovontaes] emerge from (and possibly define) my town's peculiar skate/Kraut/nihil/garage axis," which is certainly enticing to this mind's ear. As for "skate," this record was recorded in a skate shop (with a killer name: Void) that one of the members owns. The "Kraut" descriptor also makes sense, because these are minimalist spaced-out groove instrumentals with a psychedelic edge, although it honestly took me a couple listens to even realize it. I dug the warm and fuzzy skate shop sound right away, but the grooves really didn't even register at first. The second time I was prepared for the elusiveness, and could enjoy that great shivery sound a little more, especially noting the subtle and potent low end (booming floor tom and distant crawling bass guitar). Still, very minimal stuff. Do I wish they made these jams more into songs? I'm not sure, and that in itself is something. Maybe it is in fact the "nihil." I'm also just noticing that the press release calls this "improvised music," which adds another layer of explanation. I listened to it for a third time last night, and it sounded even better. I think I'm about to listen to it again... it does go well with night-time... now playing, track 3 "Falcon", the best one on here... what was I thinking, these guys are totally grooving.....

Also on Hello Sunshine is an album by The Polyps, who is a guy I've never heard of before named Raf Spielman, who does a label I've never heard of named Eggy Records, but I've played his record like 5 times now, even more than I played the Jovontaes record, even beginning to approach the number of times I played the Stare Case record a couple months ago. I don't know what it is, but it's definitely something, and it's not chillwave, even as it layers electronics, drone, dream-sounds, goofball industrial damage, and slow Funkadelic voices until a couple weird shattered and gauze-wrapped pop songs wobble to the surface before sinking again... regardless of how much I like it (I honestly have no idea), he brings more the table than most . . . Ferraro, for example, brings even more but he doesn't bother to have a table to put it on... just dumps it on the floor... no matter what the style, music has to be foundational and architectural, and the reason I've listened to this record a few times is because it is. 

















My goodness Yoko's Fly sounds better than ever, not only for its time (1971), but for right now and the foreseeable future. A lot of the intense avant solo female styles that bubbled up from the underground in the 2000s, like the recently discussed Inca Ore, were already right here in full flower, and in my opinion this is Ms. Ono's masterpiece. Her Plastic Ono Band debut had the awesome opening double shot of "Why" and "Why Not," but they were also total John Lennon jam sessions, one fast, one slow, and I can't really remember anything about Side 2... oh yeah, that's when Ornette Coleman shows up! Talk about jam sessions! Fly does not shy away from those same extended Lenono one-chord groove-jams, and in fact even stretches one out to 16 minutes ("Mind Train"), but the 4 LP sides are brilliantly balanced by many uniquely crafted and memorable shorter pieces, such as the Fluxmania of "Toilet Piece/Unknown" and "Telephone Piece," pieces featuring Joe Jones and his invented "automatic instruments," even a few good old 4-minute-or-less songs like the intense "Don't Worry Kyoko" and the stunningly beautiful melancholy of "Mrs. Lennon," which was Yoko's first true solo single (as you can see her and John explain on The Dick Cavett Show before showing a video they made for it, clip below). And then on Side D, specifically balancing Side A's "Mind Train," we get the 22-minute non-verbal free-form solo-voice title track, a more potent statement of nudity than the cover of Two Virgins... if you ask me... 



What's up with the iPod constantly pulling up another great Studio One rocksteady comp that I didn't even know was on there? Still liking the Studio One stuff better than the more acclaimed Treasure Isle rocksteady. It has a fuzzier sound, because it was a one-track studio (!) at this point and Coxsone had a certain way of gathering the musicians around the mic. At least I think that's what I read in a book, maybe Bass Culture by Lloyd Bradley or somewhere deep in the vastness of Solid Foundation by David Katz. Here's my choice cut from this comp, "Let Me Love You" (aka "Love is a Message") by a very young Jacob Miller:



More new(ish) music! Also with a Lexington, KY connection! I'm talking about the Caboladies and their 2008 album Psychic Birthmark! Still seem to always like this band better than the Emeralds! Funny how most of the "brand new" music I'm writing about is actually from 2008 or 2009! This Tiger Hatchery self-titled one-sided 12-inch probably is too... ah, it was recorded in 2009, released in 2010... time sure is flying... frying... fading away...

lovely image from the Mimaroglu Music Sales web store

The Krypton Ten double LP is a fantastic compilation of music from the Christchurch, New Zealand underground punk/rock scene, "previously released between 1981-87 on locally distributed cassettes & records." I'm surprised how very little I had ever heard about these bands before this... I guess Dunedin got all the ink. The only band from 1980s Christchurch I could've named off the top of my head is The Pin Group, who aren't even on here, and I've only even heard of a mere five of the bands that are: Scorched Earth Policy, The Axemen, Alec Bathgate, George D. Henderson, and Henderson's long-running band The Puddle. Apparently Bill Direen is on a couple of these tracks, but I only have MP3s and haven't read the apparently informative liner notes (this thing seems to have sold out of distros a couple weeks ago when I wasn't paying attention). Pretty much everyone else on here is completely new to me, like G.O.D. and The Limbo Dancers and Dillinger's Brain and Drowning Is Easy and so many more, and I swear there is not a dull moment over 30 tracks. And hey, Tony Rettman interviewed the Unwucht label founder/proprieter who put together this massive release, read it here.


SIENKO PREDICTS DANZIG TANTRUM!

In earlier times, from The Real Glenn Danzig

























Not only did I have to wince when I read this blow-by-blow account of Glenn Danzig being a Prima Glenna last weekend at Fun Fun Fun Fest, I also had to laugh, because the whole thing was more or less just predicted by longtime Blastitude contributing editor Chris Sienko! He happened to catch the Danzig Legacy tour when it stopped in Chicago on October 7th, and he sent me a great e-mail about it three weeks ago on October 19th, which included this particularly insightful section: 

[October 19, 2011] 
....Danzig and Doyle stomped out for one of four remaining times that Glenn's supposedly going to sing these [Misfits] songs. "I hope you fuckers are getting your rocks off, because this is it!" spat Danzig. Actually, his inner wants and needs were pretty well telegraphed through the whole show. "We're up here sweating our asses off for you guys!" meant "it's too hot in here." "This ain't no Tom Petty, motherfucker, so you better believe we're playing it loud!" meant "it's too loud in here." And "any other fuckin' act would be back in their dressing room right now, combing their hair in front of the mirror" meant "I wish I were back in my dressing room, combing my hair in front of the mirror." Just SAY you don't want to be here, Glenn! Then fucking play the songs we're here to see! The whole crowd chanted along with the wordless choruses and chants, and got all riled up for "Bullet" and "Last Caress." I think he did maybe seven or eight Misfits tunes, tops?! before stomping back off, after which the scrim again became the Danzig skull and he came out for two more of his current songs and "Mother." Couldn't end on a high note, could you?



VARIOUS ARTISTS Mojo Rock Steady (STUDIO ONE)
PASCAL ROGE After the Rain... the Soft Sounds of Erik Satie (LONDON)
KURT VILE Constant Hitmaker CD (GULCHER)
VIVIAN JACKSON (YABBY YOU) Conquering Lion (PROPHET RECORD)
AUGUSTUS PABLO East of the River Nile (SHANACHIE)
CIRCLE Prospekt (EKTRO)
KING TUBBY Explosive Dub (CLOCKTOWER)
MORITZ VON OSWALD TRIO Horizontal Structures (HONEST JON'S
SUN CITY GIRLS Funeral Mariachi CD (ABDUCTION)
VILLAGE OF SPACES Alchemy of Trust CD (CORLEONE)
DAN MELCHIOR UND DAS MENACE Catbirds and Cardinals CD (NORTHERN SPY)
ELEVEN TWENTY-NINE s/t CD (NORTHERN SPY
SOFT MOON Total Decay EP (CAPTURED TRACKS)
BLUES CONTROL Local Flavor (SILTBREEZE)

Mojo Rock Steady is a superb rough-and-tough rocksteady compilation album. It was put together by Clement "Coxsone" Dodd of Studio One, who they say was surpassed as a producer by Duke Reid of Treasure Isle during the rocksteady years, but this just sounds tougher and more together than even Duke's Treasure Chest to me. Sure, Duke's stuff is a little more elegant and romantic, but that's precisely why I prefer Coxsone's streetwise sound. Just take the Sound Dimension jam called "Psychedelic Rock," which was renamed "Rockfort Rock" because a sound system in the Rockfort neighborhood adopted it as their theme song; the LP even features a tag added to the front of the tune in which an anonymous DJ introduces the tune as "Rockfort Rock," big-upping the neighborhood. This album also includes a few sublime jazzy rocksteady instrumentals such as sax master Roland Alphonso's "Take Me" -- Coxsone always was known as a jazz head, and an awesome jazz presence is where ska and rocksteady trump the American R&B they were otherwise so obviously influenced by.

Back in 2007 (has it really been that long?) I attended a live show by Circle and it was great, but today I wasn't feeling that Prospekt album at all really. It's from 2000, and the description I read made it sound like it was one of their best. On the other hand, their 2007 album Tower Featuring Verde is SO GOOD (and nothing like the live show I saw).

Finally catching up with the latest Moritz Von Oswald Trio double LP release, Horizontal Structures, released earlier this year. Side one "Structure 1" has got some kind of faraway ghost-of-Eddie-Hazel ticklish lead guitar going on, which is unexpected and nice, and I now see that it was played by Dominican old head Paul St. Hilaire, who has been collaborating with the Basic Channel crew for some time now. Throughout the album his guitar blends with the sci-fi rain-forest atmosphere of deep dubby percussion and surreal electronics to create another great release by the Trio. The rhythms seem even more overlapping and multilayered than they were on the Vertical Ascent debut, and there are sections on the download-only "Structure 5" that get so spaced-out they basically sound like Harry Bertoia.

Funny how just last post I'm going on about how I never listen to new music, and never talk about it on this blog, and then tonight, without planning to whatsoever, I spin something like 7 brand new and recent albums in a row. It was triggered by listening to WNUR on the way home from work. In addition to a great song (that I have now determined to be "The Light") from the self-titled Hush Arbors album that was released about 3-4 years ago on Ecstatic Peace (2008 to be exact), and which I once had a generic promo CD of that I failed to review at the time and unfortunately can no longer find, the DJ played two tracks from the Sun City Girls' swan song Funeral Mariachi. It sounded so good that I had to dust a copy of it off when I got home, the nearest of which was my lovely gatefold CD edition on Abduction, which made me do the unthinkable: turn on my CD player and use it to listen to music. The album sounded as great as it did last year when it came out and I played it constantly, and then, after it whispered to a gentle close, what should emerge from the speakers next but something wholly appropriate, with a similarly sublime recording clarity rendering still more slow, haunted, elegaic-but-smiling new American folk music. It turned out to be the new CD from Village of Spaces, which I put in my CD changer 2-3 months ago when I received it in the mail, but have not gotten to until tonight, because like I said, I very rarely listen to CDs. I believe this band lives in Maine, and they used to be called Uke of Spaces Corners County, and then just Uke of Spaces Corners,  and then Village of Spaces Corners, and now Village of Spaces, and they've always been good, but this Alchemy of Trust album is really a their-masterpiece-to-date kinda thing. And then what should come on next and next in the ole 5-disc changer but two more very new releases, both on the Northern Spy label, the Dan Melchior Und Das Menace full-length called Catbirds and Cardinals, and the self-titled debut by Eleven Twenty-Nine. The Melchior sounded just as good as it did the first time when I tweeted about it, the third song "Forest of Tin" especially standing out this time with its haunting refrain of "Can you hear my feedback, feeding back/from deep within the forest of tin?"



Eleven Twenty-Nine, which is apparently blues lingo for a one-year prison sentence, is in this case the name of the guitar duo of Tom Carter (Charalambides, et al) and Marc Orleans (Sunburned Hand of the Man, et al). These guys have been duking it out in the underground for a good 20 and 10 years respectively, probably more, and there is no doubt that they are superb guitarists. Mr. Carter gets a life-time pass for the always-massive Charalambides (hell, he'd probably get one for The Mike Gunn alone), although in the mid-00s he was roving around the country guitar-slinging, and I personally ran across what seemed like 3 or 4 sort of ad hoc group-improv albums he jammed on in a row, and while I wouldn't call any of them "bad," none of them felt especially essential. In retrospect, I'm glad he was keeping his chops up, because now that he's in a highly focused duo with Orleans, who really seems to be at the top of his own game (stunning work on the new Meg Baird LP, for example), sparks are flying. These extended avant/blues/folk jams sound composed, but I wouldn't be surprised if they weren't either, beyond the album's dedication/inscription to Jack Rose, which seems to fire the whole album up with his huge heartfelt spirit.

And then, when I give the CD player a break and head back to the ole iTunes album shuffle, the brand new stuff just keeps coming with the new four-song Soft Moon EP on Captured Tracks. This is a (one-man?) band based in San Francisco, and I'm not sure what makes his/their music better than all the other retro-coldwave retro-post-punk bands these days, but it really is. Why do I like it 100 times better than Cold Cave, for example? Well, it does have extremely fresh and well-produced hypnotic krautworthy grooves, and a great "mineralized being" vocal presence that communicates sharply written tunes. At no point does he even try to sing like Ian Curtis! Here's a song that also works an Eno/Roxy-style electronics solo and some out-of-nowhere bongo frenzy into the mix:



And wow, iTunes album shuffle knows what's up, jumping from Soft Moon to another band that is 100 times better than [insert closest competitor here], but I already said that last week: Blues Control, and their absolute megalithic masterpiece from 2009, Local Flavor. Still sounds wonderful. 

Monday, November 07, 2011

INCA ORE Silver Sea Surfer School (NOT NOT FUN)
SOUND DIMENSION "Heavy Rock" b/w "Heavy Dub" (COXSONE) (best horn line & trombone solo, great tune)
JACKIE MITTOO "Our Thing" (BAMBOO) (version!)
CAN Soundtracks (MUTE/SPOON)
PORTER RICKS Biokinetics (CHAIN REACTION)
PRINCE FAR I & KING TUBBY In the House of Vocal Dub (GRAYLAN)
MICHIGAN & SMILEY Downpression (GREENSLEEVES)
THE NEW BLOCKADERS & ORGANUM Salute (FRUX)
THE UPSETTERS Return of the Super Ape LP (UPSETTER)
INCA ORE Birthday Of Bless You (NOT NOT FUN)
GROUPER/INCA ORE split LP (NO LABEL)
INCA ORE Silver Sea Surfer School (NOT NOT FUN)




















It's nice to have the Inca Ore record first up there, because when I list what I'm listening to on a day or a weekend like this, I'm always amazed by how rarely anything new or remotely current gets played, and since I list things in the order I listen to them it's even more rare for a recent record to be listed first, which is the only way its name will show up on my twitter and make it look like it's actually about new music, like a real music writer's twitter would be. Sure, I like plenty of new music, and I keep up pretty well, but whether it's iTunes album shuffle or LPs stacked by my stereo, it just tends to be older stuff. I guess I hold the controversial opinion that anything recorded in the 1960s on up can still be interpreted as technologically and culturally new. Even if we just started at a year like 1964 and worked towards the present, we'd be mining old music recordings and coming up with beautiful new (to someone) gems for as long as we have electricity and speakers. Strewn throughout the last five decades were vast deposits of musical gold that seem to be even more abundant than crude oil, and unlike oil, recordings of good music are extremely reusable. 

Even the Inca Ore record was released two years ago in 2009, so this is hardly a timely mention I'm giving it, but it does seem to be her most recent, which makes it still current, right? Also, I listened to it twice just now, and I'm still not sure what to say about it. Maybe this record needs to be 40 years old before I can begin to grasp it. I really liked her Birthday of Bless You release (2008, also Not Not Fun), and her side of the split LP with Grouper (originally a cassette from 2007). Both of those seemed really focused, clearly stated, and legitimately spooky, and though Silver Sea Surfer School seems ambitious in new ways, which is a good thing, it also seems more stylistically jumpy and unsettled. So yeah, not sure, but I'll keep it on my iTunes for future shuffles to turn up. (Side note: the Discogs page for this record lists style as "Abstract, Noise, Poetry, Therapy." That's the first time I've seen therapy listed as a style... that could be listed for a lot of records, right? Discogs apparently already has it listed for 639. Blood on the Tracks isn't one of them.)

The YouTube channel that hosts the above Sound Dimension "Heavy Rock extended with Heavy Dub" clip is great and I've listened to a bunch of stuff on it this weekend. Great sound, pics of the original labels, lots of seamless mixes between A side tunes and B side versions, and a selection that looks to be entirely pre-digital. For just one great example, check out this mix of Sugar Minott's "I Need A Roof" with the Studio One "Consumer Dub." Thanks PabloWKingStoned!

Raise your hand if, back in the 90s, your copy of the Porter Ricks CD cracked a month after you got it because of that otherwise rad metal tin it came in! Now raise your hand if you forgive Chain Reaction anyway because the album is so awesome!


















Two of the heaviest stylists in reggae history unite on the ephocal In the House of Vocal and Dub, Prince Far I the "voice of thunder," and you know what Tubby does (mix of thunder). Checked out the Michigan & Smiley album because in Check the Technique, KRS-One talks about how their song "Dangerous Diseases," big in New York at the time, was an influence on Boogie Down Productions, as was reggae in general. I do love "Dangerous Diseases" aka "Diseases," cut over one of my favorite dancehall-era rhythms which is indeed known as the "Diseases" rhythm (or sometimes as the "Golden Hen" rhythm, though I'm not sure why yet), and can be heard on a bunch of tracks like another fave of mine "Dance in a Montreal" by Brigadier Jerry. "Diseases" is a funny song too ("I said the most dangerous diseases/I said the most dangerous diseases/I'm talkin' like the elephantitis/The poliomyelitis"). That said, though I do dig a lot of digital '80s dancehall tunes, especially up to like '82 or so, and will surely continue to find more, these days I'm completely happy to spend most of my time listening to reggae recorded before the 1980s digital boom. As mentioned above, the well will never run dry (despite what Prince Alla might advise). (UPDATE: I knew the "Diseases" rhythm didn't start with "Dangerous Diseases," I just knew it!)

I don't really have an original edition-of-75 copy of the Organum & New Blockaders cassette on the Frux label as listed above, I just downloaded it off of a blog. It was recorded in 1984 and it's definitely killer stuff, grinding low-end synth, intangible electronics, clattering concussion/percussion, sounds of large objects being torn apart, perhaps more, perhaps even less... When it first came up on the shuffle I thought it might have been some early No Neck Blues Band... that group actually had a dark industrial vibe at first (circa 1992-1994 or so?), gradually replaced by a somewhat lighter extendo-groove kind of thing, and then fragmenting and reassembling from there. They are still going and I still like their music. I now wonder if the New Blockaders were a direct influence on those initial NNCK jams....doesn't matter of course, but I did just manage to write more about NNCK here than I did about the New Blockaders.....



Love these cheap Lee Perry LPs that are out there, I got Return of the Super Ape for $8.99 at Laurie's Planet of Sound this weekend, possibly Chicago's best non-Reckless record store. And if you really want some nice price reggae vinyl, hit up Ernie B!

Relistened to all three aforementioned Inca Ore records just now. The first two are indeed excellent, and while I still agree with what I wrote at the beginning of this post, I'm starting to get a handle on the third one. There's a tune called "Shine On from the Heaven Above" that really hits a yearning spaced-out spot...

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

JAH LION Colombia Colly (MANGO) (Lee Perry-produced toasting record from 1976)
NICOLAS JAAR Space Is Only Noise (CIRCUS COMPANY)
PARAMETER Galactic Ramble (SHADOKS)
VARIOUS ARTISTS Duke Reid's Treasure Chest (HEARTBEAT)
MIGHTY DIAMONDS When the Right Time Come/I Need A Roof (VIRGIN)
BORED YOUTH Touch & Go EP (LOST AND FOUND)
nice 4-song reggae-on-random-shuffle playlist (see below)  
SANTANA Caravanserai LP (COLUMBIA)
AME SON Primitive Expression (SPALAX)
WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS Nothing Here Now But The Recordings (INDUSTRIAL)

The Nicolas Jaar record is a nice one, which seems to work with some pretty hip contemporary sounds like deep house, dubstep, chillwave, autotune, pitched-down R&B, but actually does the unthinkable and uses them all to make not half-baked genre exercise but MUSIC (in this case just good downtempo haunting-yet-wry new-wavey soul tunes, comparable to another dry'n'wry electronic contemporary, Tin Man). Click here to listen to "Space Is Only Noise If You Can See" (which dare I say has Arthur Russell vibes).





















Duke Reid's Treasure Isle label is generally regarded as the premiere label for Jamaican rocksteady, the transitional style between ska and reggae circa 1966-1968, and the Treasure Chest comp is two CDs compiling the greatest hits he produced during that period. Here's one you might recognize, "The Tide is High" by The Paragons. Some other greats include "Come On Little Girl" by The Melodians, the self-explanatory "Rock Steady" by Phyllis Dillon, and the exquisite Curtis Mayfield reimagination "Queen Majesty" by The Techniques.

I've sung "I need a roof / over my head" to myself at least 2,000 times in the last couple days, after listening to the Mighty Diamonds Right Time album a couple times. It's such a great song, although the version I've heard the most is Sugar Minott's, and I feel like I've also heard it as a truncated phrase echoing through seemingly ten different dub tracks over the years, or maybe just one, or maybe zero. I love the Diamonds' version too, especially the wonderful counterpoint from the background vocals. The Right Time album is regarded as a classic, although the sound always takes a couple minutes for me to adjust to... I'm more used to "dread" roots (dubbed-out, foggy recording, songs in minor keys, scary), and this is more "sweet" roots (more clean and dry recording, more major keys, wistful and melancholy). I just made up that dread/sweet distinction, don't go quoting me at Deadly Dragon or anything, and these are still sufferer's songs... when Tabby sings "I Need A Roof" it's because he lives in a tin shack and he really does need a roof.

















The Bored Youth EP was supposed to be released in 1982 on Touch & Go, the same year as the debut Negative Approach EP, but it didn't get pressed up until someone in Germany booted it in 1990. According to their guitarist Jon Katz, as quoted in Tony Rettman's Why Be Something That You're Not? Detroit Hardcore 1979-1985, "I had just got a new amp and was having trouble getting it to sound right and Rob had a real sore throat, so we just decided to scrap the whole thing." Damn, sounds incredible to me! If this had been released in '82, who knows what history would look like? There might just be some strange butterfly-effect differences. You can listen to it on YouTube:



Random shuffle reggae playlist came out very randomly rocksteady (and speaking of the Duke, the middle two of these four cuts are on the aforementioned Treasure Chest comp): Ken Parker "Have A Good Time" (nice Sam Cooke cover); Alton Ellis "Cry Tough (extended version)" (one of the all-time great rocksteady tunes and rudeboy cautionary tales, here inna dub style); Joya Landis "Moonlight Lover"; New Establishment "Darling" (can't find the last one on youtube but it's a good tune)

French band Ame Son was formed by renegade members of a Daevid Allen backing band, and they've recorded spaced-out free-prog on and off since 1967, including Catalyse, a 1970 release on the notorious BYG/Actuel label. The Primitive Expression release gathers some archival material recorded between 1967 and 1976, and was apparently released in some form in 1976, and reissued on CD in 1998 by the almighty Spalax label. I wish I had a copy because I'm listening to the Mutant Sounds version and I'm not sure which tracks are from what time period. It's all worth a listen, and I'd like to give it a closer and more informed one, but I can tell you this, there is a stunner on here called "Je Vieux Juste Dire," which starts as a weird drony number with delicately sung vocals, and then develops into a highly involving 26-minute jam! Here's part one, listen to it while tripping on the Kirby-damaged cover art! (Or click here to listen to the whole 26-minute jam in youtube playlist form.)



And I leave you for today with a bonus embed of one more super-tough tune from the Treasure Chest!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

#NOWPLAYING (WEEKEND ROUNDUP)

BLUES CONTROL & LARAAJI FRKWYS Vol. 8 LP (RVNG INTL.)
PAUL CHAMBERS Blues On Top (BLUE NOTE)
COUNT OSSIE Remembering Count Ossie: A Rasta "Reggae" Legend (MOODISC)
KISS Destroyer LP (CASABLANCA
KISS Hotter Than Hell LP (CASABLANCA)
JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH The French Suites [Angela Hewitt, piano] (HYPERION)
LEE "SCRATCH" PERRY Super Ape (ISLAND)
SATWA s/t CD (TIME-LAG)
FLYING LOTUS Los Angeles (WARP)
PARLIAMENT Up For The Down Stroke LP (CASABLANCA)
MIGHTY DIAMONDS When the Right Time Come/I Need A Roof (VIRGIN)
JOHN CARPENTER The Essential John Carpenter Film Music Collection (SILVA SCREEN)
VARIOUS ARTISTS Written In Blood Volume 5: The Devil's Lullaby (GHOST CAPITAL)
MAHAVISHNU JOHN McLAUGHLIN My Goal's Beyond LP (DOUGLAS)

Oh man I got to hear a preview of the Blues Control & Laraaji album, due out from the RVNG INTL. label in November. What can I say, I loved it. Why is Blues Control so much better at deep new age than all the new new age scene heroes of today? Is it because they're over 30 years of age? I think that's part of it. As a wise man recently said, "never trust anyone under 30." Of course, much credit for the success of this music is due to Laraaji, also over 30 years of age and a legit deep new age veteran, who contributes immensely with great vocals, improvisational celestial intangibility... and laughter! A perfect appetizer for the upcoming Blues Control full-length, which will be their fourth 'proper' album if I'm counting correctly, and their first for the great Drag City label. (Check out these interviews with Laraaji and Blues Control by Andy Beta.)






















Absurdly heavy and lyrical arco bass solo throughout "Yesterdays" by Paul Chambers, notably reverbed-out for 1957. Great laid-back guitar comping by Kenny Burrell gives it the swing and makes it a tune, so that Chambers doesn't ever really have to stop improvising. Nice to hear him go off, as I know him primarily as the rock-solid and absolutely team-playing bassist on Miles Davis's Kind of Blue, although I'm sure I've heard him go off here or there without even realizing it, as he recorded about a dozen albums each for both Miles Davis and John Coltrane, and a whole lot more besides, which is very impressive for a guy who passed away at age 33.

It was bound to happen; at some point in the last couple years, young Claire Dolman, age 6, caught a glimpse of the band KISS in full regalia, probably in a commercial for Dr. Pepper during a basketball game, and when she learned that those monsters ranting about soda pop actually played music, she instantly became a big fan, fascinated with the idea of Monster Bands, even once overhearing the Misfits and correctly identifying them as a "monster band." Granted, her favorite Kiss song is "Beth," and she requested that tonight, so being El Padro Coolio I pulled out Destroyer, ON VINYL OF COURSE, the same copy I've had since I was way into monster bands myself, circa 1978. I haven't played it in a good 20 years, but it sounded great, just a really good 1970s metallic bubblegum pop record, right up there with Sweet Desolation Boulevard ... although I did play Side 2 first, which starts with the irresistibly goofy and lyrically randy Broadway-pop anthems "Flaming Youth," "Sweet Pain," and "Shout It Out Loud," before settling down for the real note-perfect show-tune action of "Beth," and then right back into the yearning sardonic night-time-world glam-pop majesty of "Do You Love Me?," its sassy lyrics co-written by Kim Fowley. Ah, but then it was back to side one and that oh-so cinematic (or should I just say Ezrin-matic?) "Detroit Rock City" opener... when the song finally starts, I always thought it was a good, dark, patient midtempo riff tune, and it pretty much is, but this is the first time I've listened to the song since watching the Chicago-made MC5 documentary A True Testimonial back in '02, when it premiered here in town before being quickly suppressed by members of the band, a state it is still in today. In the film, drummer Dennis Thompson is asked something, possibly about the MC5's influence on later bands, and after his answer, he closes with "Oh, and Kiss? FUCK YOU." I watched that almost 10 years ago, but tonight "Detroit Rock City" brought back the memory, and I understood it then, but now I really understand it. The refrain where they shout "Get up! Everybody gonna move their feet/Get down, everybody gonna leave their seat/Gotta lose your mind in Detroit Rock City," really sounds like they are playing dress-up in their Kick Out The Jams costumes, but in a really strange and rather cynical way, more like a big-budget fictionalized Broadway musical cash-in based on the career of the MC5 would sound like, and just imagine Bob Ezrin trying to dress up as John Sinclair. After that the band (or Ezrin acting on behalf of the band) wisely follows with another Fowley tune, "King of the Night Time World," pop-metal grandiosity that detours mercifully away from Grande Ballroom wannabe fantasies into their own comic-book bubblegum trip. And after that, "God of Thunder," sheez. Say what you will, it's 10 times better than any of the boring screamo doom sludge I'm hearing these days. Certainly no one has topped the demon-children sound effects. Basically all I'm saying is that not only is it legitimately heavy in a proto doom metal style, but it's also fun, which none of these new bands are, to which they'll say "That's the point," to which I'll say, "Which is why I don't listen." And "Great Expectations"? WTF? I'll just let #1 monster band fan Claire have the last word on it, because when it came on after "God of Thunder" she said, presumably directly to mean Gene himself, "What?? You can't do this! You were born and raised of the demons!" I tried to tell her that superstar producer Bob Ezrin was NOT raised by demons, but I don't think she was listening.

So Destroyer is pretty great, but Hotter Than Hell is still my favorite Kiss LP. It has an absolutely stunning cover design, especially the back cover, one of the craziest things I had ever seen at age 9 or whatever. Looking at it now, it still seems like the most successful musician-as-superhero band photos I've seen, which is all the more humorous now that we know how weak these four guys really are in real life. (Although what about Paul Stanley? Doesn't he have any problems? Hmmm.) Anyway, the cover was great enough, but then there was the sound of the album. Talk about proto-sludge! The band sounds like its playing every song at about 80% of the correct speed, the guitars sound bright, wet, muddy, and dry all at once... but yet it's still great. Can anyone tell me why? That's right, you in the front row, it's because of the songs. Everything tends to work when you have good songs, and this really is a memorable batch, one comic-book power-pop absurdity after another. Just dig how "Got To Choose" kicks off the album with an atonal guitar clash into a sludgy riff that is somehow becomes yearning molasses-slow power-pop love-song hogwash that has an awesome "oo-oo-ooh!" chorus hook! And then the next song is a churning and menacing body-horror stomper written by Ace Frehley called "Parasite"! And then, my god, "Goin' Blind," and if you don't know that unsettling power ballad masterpiece from Gene himself then I'm sure you know it from Buzz. And then Paul throws down the title track, which is probably the most blatant rip-off of Free's "All Right Now" ever recorded. "Hot hot, hotter than hell; you know she's gonna leave you well done." Hoooo boy. It really doesn't let up either -- I think "All The Way," "Watching You," and "Strange Ways" are also all great tunes, and the others certainly don't slow anything down. As funky and freaky as anything the Coop was making at the time.





















Now I didn't switch from Kiss to Bach to try to impress you with the stunning eclectic breadth of my musical taste, it's just that Claire wanted to practice some ballet. I mean, she was cool about it; she tried to do it to "Watching You" by Kiss and kept up with it for well over a minute, but then she was like, "Can you just put on some classical music?" and who could blame her? I know I don't want ballet and Gene Simmons anywhere near the same room together. So Bach, here we come. By the way, there's this poster at the place where my daughter takes dance lessons that says "Dance is the only art in which we ourselves are the stuff of which it is made." That's kinda been blowing my mind.

"Super Ape (In Good Shape)" Interlude:

"Lick the chalice / African knowledge / Move and groove deh / African roots deh":



"This is the ape man / Trodding through creation / Are you ready to step with I man?"



(I played Super Ape for the second time this week because it's awesome, and also because I came across this nice piece about it on Upsetter Station: A Lee Perry Magazine, and had to listen along while reading.)

Haven't really gotten into Flying Lotus yet. This is my 3rd or 4th try, and it's especially difficult when it comes right after Super Ape and Satwa, both albums that are light and airy, with lovely and rich room-sound in abundance, only to be yanked suddenly 30 years into the future and into a claustrophobic overloaded direct-into-the-board electronic recording with no air or room to breathe whatsoever. The songwriting too is more overload-oriented than groove-oriented.... okay, now, just past the one-minute mark of the second track "Breathe Something/Stellar ST," and a discernable backbeat and a somewhat melodic groove has emerged. Not bad, the beat and groove creates space, opens up some air, allows the track to develop an atmosphere. Hmm, track 3 "Beginners Falafel" is better still. Definitely some interesting futuristic grooves on here, I'm coming around a little, but overall it still sounds more like someone using their computer to put together jigsaw puzzles than it does someone making music. 

More from Casablanca Records courtesy Parliament! I always thought Up For The Down Stroke was a top-notch underrated album, right up there with Mothership Connection. Worth it for the title track and "All Your Goodies Are Gone" alone, but then you get the 9-minute "The Goose" on top of it. C'mon, chant with me, "Ooh, ah, babe / you're so-oh sweet" (truncated promo single version):


 

And finally, I will leave you with this seasonal masterpiece:


Saturday, October 29, 2011

#NOWPLAYING

ASH RA TEMPEL Best of the Private Tapes (The Early Years) (FM SHADES)
VARIOUS ARTISTS Ouelele - Another Collection Of Modern Afro Rhythms (COMET RECORDS)
VARIOUS ARTISTS Assalam Aleikoum Africa Volume 2 (Traditional & Modern Folk Music of West Africa) (ANTILLES)
LOREN CONNORS Red Mars CD (FAMILY VINEYARD)
HAUNTED HOUSE Blue Ghost Blues CD (NORTHERN SPY

We've all known a few older heads who've lent us some awesome LPs, right? This is how I got to have originals of, say, Skip Spence Oar and No New York sitting around my turntable for a few months, and also a copy of what is still my favorite contemporary African music LP comp of all time (yes, even in this day and age of reissued plenty), Assalam Aleikoum Africa Volume 2, released in 1976 on the Antilles label. Still haven't heard Volume 1, but this one is filled with heavy beauty and I immediately made a cassette dub of it from said older dude's copy 15 years ago. It's been close to me ever since, and in fact I just dusted it off this morning for at-work listening. (In case you're wondering: TDK SA100 with Thinking Fellers Tangle on the other side, actually a very good pairing!) The most absolutely you've-gotta-listen-to-it-right-now blistering track is the second one on the album, "Yeye Mousso" by Moussa Doumbia, which was re-comped here and here during the aforementioned 00's reissue windfall, but I think my favorite is this piece of grungy wailing fuzz-guitar soul, "Ahissa" by Kouyate Sory. And, if you look closely enough at that YouTube you'll find a generous link to a blog with more about these LPs and, yes, downloadability.




















Two new albums from Loren Connors, one under his own name and one with his 'blues' band Haunted House. Other than one long-ago listen to his early acoustic guitar albums, I think I have loved every single note I've heard this guy play, mostly (if not all) on electric guitar, and that's quite a few (even for a "slowhand" like himself), going back almost 20 years. Some musical careers are like fire, and burn out quickly, but others are like rivers, steady, always flowing, always the same, always different. The Connors streak continues with these two brand new ones... while he is capable of very light and lyrical playing (the 2000 album Portrait of a Soul comes to mind), he also goes into territory that is quite the opposite, not only darker and more abstract, but something I would call downright abyssal. Parts of the 1998 album The Bridge come to mind, and a great album like Moonyean (1994, RoadCone) explores both the light and dark deeply and in various balances. Red Mars, recorded in 2010 with accompaniment by Margardia Garcia on electric double bass, now available on CD and download from the Family Vineyard label, is what I would call an abyssal work, groaning, haunting, distant, somehow both near-ambient and menacingly loud. Abyssal like deep space, and deep space is precisely what this record is about with its Sun Ra-worthy titles like "Showers of Meteors" and "Little Earth."





















As for Haunted House, they are their own beast, a quartet made up of Connors and Andrew Burnes on guitar, Connor's wife Suzanne Langille on vocals, and, in the place of a traditional rhythm section, Neel Murgai playing a large Persian frame drum called a daf. This group played together for a couple years in the 1990s, releasing an epic CD called Up In Flames (1999, Erstwhile Records), but have been dormant ever since Burnes moved from NYC at the beginning of the 2000s. They rather suddenly reconvened in 2010 when he was back in town for a few days, and then a few months later got together again and quickly recorded their 2nd album, Blue Ghost Blues, now released on CD, LP, MP3, and FLAC by Northern Spy Records. The album sounds like it came together quickly, not because it's undercooked, sloppy, or hasty, but because it's fiery and urgent, pulsing and boiling with barely bottled aggression. Though I think Connors has a very distinctive style, I'm not sure which guitarist is doing what on here. I like to think he's the one playing against type, locking into a rather nasty and sometimes downright doomy chugging low-E pulse, nary letting it go for the whole album, and that Burnes is the one taking the more 'lead' guitar role. This higher-register distorted sound-shaping never seems to break into those trademark Loren Connor's wailing single-note cries... but who knows. The point is, the group is playing together as one voice, and the one doing the chugging lays down a rock-solid platform for the others to extrapolate on. Both guitarists are in excellent form, and Langille raises the ante with her own song-shaping vocal intensity, Murgai thundering in and around the pulse. This is a band that knows how to work together, whether their last gig was 10 years ago or 10 days ago.




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