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) 
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)
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 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.)

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