Monday, February 27, 2012

BETWEEN And the Waters Opened (VERTIGO)
MINUTEMEN "Ballot Result" Double-Length "Live" Cassette CS (SST)
MINUTEMEN 3-Way Tie For Last LP (SST

The Between album is one of the very best 'second tier' krautrock albums I've ever heard. Sublime synth/bongos/flute/devotional action. Like early Popol Vuh with a bit more singing and a bit more, dare I say, Caribbean influence. But this ain't salsa, it's far too devotional. (Oh wait, the song I posted is called "Devotion." No wonder I keep using the word devotional.)

Enjoying this recent reissue of the Matthew Young LP. He seems to be from the Central New Jersey/Princeton area (you can read a recent interview with him here), and he released Traveler's Advisory back in 1986,  featuring gentle waves of guitar and hammer dulcimer playing simple dream-folk songs. Well, the opener "Objects in Mirror" isn't exactly simple... in fact, it's a little quirky/crafty, with maybe a little too much Bourgeois in its Tagg, but even that one is steadily growing on me, and after "Objects" things really sink in. The third track, a cover of Michael Hurley's "The Werewolf," particularly pulled me into this record's steady whispering undertow. Meg Baird's blurb says it really well, read it here. Drag City, here in cooperation with Yoga Records, continues to pluck the gentlest of psychedelic singer-songwriters out from the mists from the past few decades. (See also Gary Higgins, the George-Edwards Group, These Trails, and I would include that Red Favorite album too for a more contemporary example.)

You know, I try to listen to brand new music, but it's so hard to even make it to the 90s, let alone last month... one of the few brand new CDs I recall listening to obsessively this year (played it five times the day I got it) was of material from 1970-1977 by Erkin Koray. You probably know him, he's the father of Turkish Rock'n'Roll, their Elvis, Beatles, and Hendrix all rolled into one. This CD Mechul: Singles & Rarities consists of never-before-reissued material which was made available to the deserving Sublime Frequencies label by Koray himself, from his personal vinyl collection, and the songs are crushing and beautiful, as I'm not sure anyone else in rock history has nailed the sweet spot between 70s heaviness and Mediterranean elegance quite so perfectly as this guy. The only possible American equivalent would have been if the Walker Brothers and Blue Oyster Cult had collaborated back in '71, which definitely did not happen. The other day my man MAGAS tweeted: "In the part of Erkin Koray's wah-wah pedal, stuck halfway between the 'up' and 'down position'...that's where I'm hangin out." You can hang out there too if you get this CD and we cue up track number two, "Ve," in which Koray's terrifyingly beautiful guitar constructs a supernatural cathedral of the heaviest melancholy right before your ears, the same cosmic cry that Hideki Ishida half-wahed his way into, right around the same time, on the monumental "Satori Part II" by the Flower Travellin' Band. I've already enjoyed a couple of Koray reissues over the last few years, but for some reason this release just nails it for me.

I was late enough to SST Records that I heard fIREHOSE before I heard the Minutemen (although this wasn't rare at all, John Moloney says the same thing happened to him in this interview on the Watt From Pedro show), but I was still early enough to be able to buy a bunch of SST stuff new on cassette, shrinkwrapped, right off the racks at record stores in Omaha, such as the Minutemen's overwhelming My First Bells compilation, and their Ballot Result tape, which I enjoyed quite a bit then, and immensely today, after dusting it off and putting it in the ancient cassette walkman I have running through my work stereo. There's only one phrase for this type of compilation, and that's "odds and sods"... live versions, board tapes, audience tapes, tapes from sessions at radio stations... there's an excerpt from a wild free-form attempt at a film score, self-recorded in "Jack Brewer's garage".... there's a subtle lyric change on "History Lesson" where D sings "I could be in his songs / me as his soldier child"...  and best of all, there's the Ethan James/Radio Tokyo remix of "No One," which is absolutely INSANE, violently cutting in and out with nascent hip-hop blastitude, and really dialing up D. Boon's MENTAL guitar shredding.

After listening to Ballot Result, I had to get out my secondhand copy of the Minutemen's previous album, 3-Way Tie For Last, because it has the ballot itself as an insert. It's kind of amazing, and I've scanned both sides and included them for your perusal below. Listening to 3-Way Tie for the first time in many years brings back memories of me grappling with this album in my dorm room, way back in '91 or whenever it was I bought it, listening to it a couple times and not really getting into it, but like any Minutemen album, or any good piece of art, it filled my head with ideas anyway. Listening to it again now, I realize that I've been holding some of those ideas in my head ever since, everything from the cover painting ("Dude/Local 357"), to the fascinating mix of artists covered (CCR, BOC, Meat Puppets, Roky, the Urinals!), to the unabashed grass-roots idealism of the ballot concept, to 40 seconds of delicate solo Spanish guitar entitled "Hittin' the Bong," to D. Boon's utterly heartfelt "anti-war sympathizer" songs throughout (although I didn't even appreciate "The Price of Paradise" until I heard Eugene Chadbourne's heartbreaking acoustic version of it on Kill Eugene a couple years later). I even just realized that I ripped off the cadence of Mike Watt's "Spoken Word Piece" to write a poem of my own years later. (Unpublished.) Still can't completely get into the album, mainly because the production is really strange, surprisingly "mersh," especially considering that it was recorded with Ethan James at Radio Tokyo just like the wonderful-sounding Double Nickels On The Dime was only a year earlier. At least they were forging ahead and trying new things... or maybe it simply sounded that way because, as the liner notes say, the studio was "Now 16 tracks at $25/hour!"

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