Tuesday, June 26, 2012



This is a list of the albums I bought at the record store this past weekend, in the order I played 'em that night after getting home. It was great to get the new Blues Control album on vinyl, but a couple weeks ago I received a (completely authorized) preview download of it, which I've since listened to 13 times, according to iTunes. By contrast, I did not have preview mp3s for Lucifer, Peaking Lights' hotly-anticipated-by-me follow-up to their lovely album from early 2011 called 936. A week or two ago, I even refused to click on a blog link offering a (completely unauthorized) free preview download of Lucifer, because I knew I was going to buy it when it was in the stores. I hope Emily White, David Lowery, AND Kenneth Goldsmith are all taking notes! I was going to buy it, instead of indefinitely "previewing" mp3s of it, just to own a print of Robert Beatty's cover art, but of course I had high hopes for the tunes themselves, hoping this would be a 936-and-beyond kind of record, especially after listening to the advance track "Lo Hi," a bold fusion of their most obvious reggae skanking yet with extended R&B-dream-prog-balladry and what is hands down the sweetest vocal appearance of an artist's infant child on wax since "Isn't She Lovely." And you know, now that I've listened to the record a good 4 or 5 times, and gotten familiar with a couple songs that I initially missed, I'd have to say that it is indeed a 936-and-beyond kind of record. And even if the tunes are in the background and you're simply viewing Lucifer as a collection of grooves this is still a good funky listen. All the summertime/barbecue/beach/lounge stuff people are tweeting about this record that gets retweeted by Peaking Lights is accurate. But turn it up, come closer to the songs, and you'll hear what lifts the material beyond mere barbecue grooves, that radiant glow of motherfatherhood that was even in full flower with 936, before their son was born. The foundation grooves might be retreating back to basic 70s disco/funk templates, but the way they are embellished with highly personal elements like actual melodic synth playing, Aaron Coyes's sundazed soul guitar licks, and Indra Dunis's simple and lovely melodies glowing through and illuminating it all, well, wow. Also love Beatty's design and the whole Lord of Light concept, including a hefty mandala poster inside. Also special shout-out to a relatively cheap full-length LP on Mexican Summer! ($14.99!)

So yeah, I already talked about the Blues Control LP last post, but special side note here about how cool it is that Peaking Lights and Blues Control are both romantically involved male-female musical duos, both influenced by a melting pot of music, who both just released great peak-performance-so-far type albums on the same summer day, which both have a kind of blue-on-white color scheme on the cover, and even a tilted-axis perspective to the art. For the record, I think it's completely 100 percent parallel development and coincidence, and besides some surface similarities in instrumentation and influence, the bands really don't sound like each other. Anyway, I played Blues Control next because my kids, age 9 and 7, who I have to compete with for early evening media fun time, and don't always want to listen to the records I do, really like Valley Tangents (I think mainly for certain particularly bouncy jazz-fusion passages that sound like really awesome video game music . . . needless to say "Iron Pigs" is a big hit). They're really liking Peaking Lights too, and definitely enjoy Ms. Dunis's sweet and dreamy singing. As for Blues Control, they've been present for many of those aforementioned 13 listens, and I don't think they've even once cared or even noticed that no one is singing at all.

Every time I go to Reckless I can't help grabbing a few of the classic, great, collection-hole-filling, oft-partied-on records in the $3-$10 range that are always stuffing the bins there. For example, why not grab a $2.99 hella-used copy of Axis: Bold As Love? Even though I did have it on vinyl, back in the day (80's reissue bought at the mall), at some misguided point I traded it in so I could "upgrade" to a CD copy, which I still have, from that run where they gave the classic first three Jimi Hendrix Experience albums NEW COVERS, if you can believe that. This $3 copy of Axis is much better, and not just because it has the correct cover. I mean, it is a total beater . . . every possible seam is split and the tunes come with lotsa crackle and some erratic skipping . . . but man, when the music is making it through uninterrupted, it is pure singing and stinging psychedelic honey of the absolute proper vintage. This copy even smells like the 70s . . . and I know because I was there.

Also grabbed a VG copy of Marcus Garvey by Burning Spear for a pittance. One of the great soul singers of all time (though in the service of Jamaican reggae, not American R&B), leading a set of deep roots historical/cultural protest songs from 1975. Not particularly dubby or otherwise notable production-wise, it's all about the intensity of Spear's singing and subject matter. Excellent record, which leaves us with the self-titled debut by the New Riders of the Purple Sage. Honestly, after all this heavy hippie music, this 1970 LP of mellow singer-songwriter country-music folk-rock might just be a little on the light side. I do like the New Riders, but I've always wanted to like them even more, because they play a version of what Gram Parsons called Cosmic American Music, which sounds like a beautiful idea, and they have a Grateful Dead connection, with Jer on pedal steel and Mickey Hart occasionally on the drum kit, and they have one dreamy cosmic nature ballad I really like called "Last Lonely Eagle," and it's on here, as is the 8-minute "Dirty Business," which is my second favorite song by them, with some extremely gnarly distorto fuzz pedal steel madness by Garcia. Overall though, I'd have to say Parsons's own Cosmic American Music band, The Flying Burrito Brothers, was a little more substantial than the New Riders. (Surprisingly, Sneaky Pete Kleinow is just as cosmic on the pedal steel as Garcia . . . also just found out that Sneaky Pete's steel guitar is that glorious sound in John Lennon's "Mind Games," which I always found to be a somewhat underrated psychedelic pop rager, with intense lyrics like "Some kinda druid dude/Lifting the veil.")

Thursday, June 14, 2012


BLUES CONTROL Valley Tangents LP (DRAG CITY) Way back around 2005 the band Blues Control, in the guise of another band called Watersports (same two members, Lea Cho and Russ Waterhouse), were coming out of the noise underground talking about how they played "new age" music. This was a good three or four years before so many of the other equipment demonstrators in today's underground started doing just that, en masse. In the meantime a Watersports side project called Blues Control had started taking up more of Russ & Lea's time, and seemed to assimilate a lot of Watersports' new age concepts along the way. Now it's been a few years and Blues Control are so far ahead of the new new age crowd that their new album Valley Tangents really has very little to do with the term. People have called this a fusion album, and honestly, I think you could even call it straight-up fusion jazz. Either way, Blues Control play MUSIC, that is, series of instrumental phrases that sing from the heart, and have the ability to react to their immediate surroundings with freedom of movement and conversational play. This kind of music is impossible to mechanize, and Blues Control are so far into that zone with this new album that it's really quite a joy. Just listen to the opening track "Love's A Rondo." My iTunes says I've listened to it 9 times this week, and that doesn't count the 2 or 3 times I've watched the video, and how do I count the number of times bits and pieces of the song have been weaving through my head when the album isn't on? The way the short drum intro groove gives way to the gently cascading guitar & keyboard main love theme, which then gives way to a bold and long jazz piano solo by Ms. Cho, which gives way to variations on the main theme that alternate, rondo-style indeed, with deep-digging guitar lead sections from Mr. Waterhouse. Just a jaw-dropping deep heavy gorgeous tune, and honestly one of the great new love songs from the last.... 30 years? It certainly is in my house, and please note that Blues Control remain a 100 percent instrumental band, yet still have more to say than so many bands that actually write lyrics and sing them. And then "Iron Pigs" comes along, and it's kind of ridiculous.... Casio gunshots? Cheeseball synth horn fanfares? Giving way to a stomping and grunting stadium march? It freaked me out the first couple times I heard it, but now I love it. They've often had a track like that... on the preceding album Local Flavor it was the opener "Good Morning." But I digress, and from there I won't give away too much more about Valley Tangents, except that on it, Blues Control continue to venture into more extended, lush, jazzy, and brazenly romantic territories than they ever have before. Long may they rondo! Street date for the LP, CD, and CS (!) is this Tuesday, June 19th, and as of this writing you can stream the whole album at Ad Hoc. Last but not least, Blues Control will be touring the US, beginning this summer. Here's the facebook event page.

VARIOUS ARTISTS Eat The Dream: Gnawa Music From Essaouira LP (SUBLIME FREQUENCIES) It was excellent news that my favorite intercontinental music record label, Sublime Frequencies, was going to release an LP documenting one of my favorite intercontinental musics, the bass-driven trance-frenzy of Gnawa. The Gnawa are a North African people, often described with some awe and mystery, who migrated from deep West Africa to the Morocco region centuries ago. Thus, Gnawa music represents a synthesis of both African and Arabic shamanistic trance styles, and bass freaks unite, because gnawa is really all about one single acoustic bass instrument and that is the guimbri (spelled multiple different ways such as guembri or gimbri and also known as a sintir). This is a rough-hewn three-string rectangular lute that hammers down deep, driving, spiritual chanting lines built from simple pentatonic scales, usually accompanied by percussion and vocal exhortation, and whatever else goes on during deep all-night spiritual trance sessions. This article on Perfect Sound Forever gives some excellent background, and if they're still working, these files are an excellent introduction to the music via one of its masters, Mahmoud Guinia. And for all my anticipation, this Eat the Dream LP is really just about as excellent as I hoped, beginning with a gorgeous, deep, and dark guimbri solo by Maleem Abdellah Chania. He's the son of another Gnawa master, the late MaĆ¢llem Boubker Ghania, who leads the ensemble that plays on the rest of the album. There are also some spacious field-recording interludes as well, all recorded during a1994 trip to Morocco by Tucker Martine, who has already done a few fine releases for Sublime Frequencies. 

ED SCHRADER'S MUSIC BEAT Jazz Mind LP (LOAD RECORDS) Floor tom & bass guitar is the unlikely instrumental combo that makes up this Baltimore-based performing duo, and what's more they use it to build an invisible cavern of reverberating low end in which all kinds of sublimated 1960s-1980s glam pop ballad hooks lurk and cast shadows. They're put there by the singer, Ed Schrader, who also beats the drum. They aren't doing anything overtly minimal with the music, and in fact can almost sound like a regular rock band, except that they can't help but leave more hanging space in the sound than usual. This creates the contours of the aforementioned cavern, and Schrader is comfortable in it. Both the A and B side begin with a rager of a tune (which may point to an unashamed past headbanging to the mainstream industrial twin towers of Reznor and Jourgensen), but most of the record is made up of downtempo ballads, one of them a capella, and Schrader really has a feel for the form.

EGG, EGGS The Cleansing Power Of Fruit LP (FEEDING TUBE) First off, the press one-sheet that came with this album refers to Matt Krefting in the opening sentence, and his name is even bolded, which makes it look like he's in the band, which a couple people have already reported, Stigliano for one. I assumed he was in the band too, but after re-reading the sentence, which does not refer to him actually being in the band, and not finding his name on the extensive personnel listing inside the LP, I've determined that he probably is not actually a member. In fact, the only names I recognize are that of Matt "MV" Valentine and Conrad Capistran, the Sound of Pot himself, and they're mere "special guests." (EDIT: Oh wait, I totally recognize one more name, John Moloney on drums, electronics, and guitar. Sorry, it's a long personnel listing.) The band, like Krefting, is from Western Massachusets, but the frontman/vocalist here is in fact one Dave Russell, and you know, I've heard plenty of "ultra-goofy" and "weird person" lead vocalists over the past decade or so of punk and noise and no wave nowness, and this guy is honestly one of the most compelling ones I've come across. A lot of 'em just sort of get stuck doing their best to shriek/shout/chant/yell/goof right along with the music, but Russell not only rides with the music, he goes against it, in spite of it, instead of it, etcetera, in a disarmingly conversational manner. You feel like you're being communicated with, instead of shrieked at from a kept distance. Shards of strange thought steadily cross your path, like how Russell just told me that "you can dance with an albino bigot!" Then the extremely shambly basement garage noise-rock combo ("a goddamn all-star Valley ensemble") takes over and shuffles him away, but before you know it he's back with more mumbling, chirping, shucking, jiving, and singing. And you know what? It's working for me.

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