Thursday, November 28, 2013

YOUTUBE COMPANION TO ROBERT BEATTY'S PORTAL FOR THE WIRE

If you just read Robert Beatty's piece for The Wire website that listed his favorite experimental films with electronic soundtracks, and wished there was YouTube links, here ya go. If you didn't read it, go here first: http://thewire.co.uk/in-writing/the-portal/robert-beatty_s-portal and then watch 'em here. (UPDATE: You can watch 'em on the Wire site... you just have to be a little web-savvier than I am.)

Les Jeux Des Anges by Walerian Borowczyk

 

 Et Cetera by Jan Svankmajer

 

 I couldn't find Pixillations by Lillian Schwartz but here's 1976 doc Lillian Schwartz: The Artist and the Computer

 

The Midnight Parasites by Yoji Kuri

 

Bedsitters by Frans Zwartjes

 

Atman by Toshio Matsumoto

 

Feherlofia by Marcell Jankovic

 

 SPECIAL BONUS MUST-SEE SOVIET SCI-FI MADNESS NOT ON BEATTY'S LIST, The Contract by Vladimir Tarassov:

 

Saturday, October 05, 2013

SPIN ME ENDLESS IN THE UNIVERSE

That's the name of a big 12-minute centerpiece song on the new Richard Youngs album Summer Through My Mind (Ba Da Bing Records), one of my favorite new songs of the year. Here are some great live versions of it from his just-finished U.S. tour.

First up, already the big cosmic grandaddy of them all, Richard solo on WFMU's Airborne Event, accompanying himself on a vintage Lowrey Organ. WFMU had just acquired one of these colorful instruments, and it was conveniently there in the studio when Richard arrived for his session. Host Dan Bodah pointed it out to his guest, who asked if he could try it out, and then after getting acquainted for a few minutes, famously left his acoustic guitar in the case and busted out an incredible version of his whole set on the organ, right then and there. (Garth Hudson's "Chest Fever" intro was also played on a Lowrey, so there is a cosmic music precedent.) The first song was an absolutely zoned take on "Spin Me Endless In The Universe" that incorporates the organ's canned "drum roll" sound effect to jarring/mesmerizing effect. This was around three weeks ago, September 16th, the last performance of Richard's tour, check it out:



And, to bring it down a little, here's a live haunting acoustic guitar version with Ben Chasny on slide, at Feeding Tube Records in Northampton, MA, the first performance of the tour, September 2:



And here's one from right in the middle of the tour, September 10th, completely solo with acoustic guitar at the Black Cat Backstage in Washington D.C. At around the halfway point I'm wondering if this is even better than the WFMU version....

Thursday, August 08, 2013

(NOT NECESSARILY) AMERICAN TOP 41


"The hits from coast to coast to coast to coast to coast to coast to coast....."

41. Miles Davis "You're Under Arrest"
40. The Fuckin' Flying A-Heads "Watching TV"
39. Howard Nishioka "Odyseas Over Seas"
38. Forest "Hawk the Hawker"
37. Aaron Rosenblum "Live At Zebulon"
36. New Order "Leave Me Alone"
35. Friction "Cycle Dance"
34. Friction "Crazy Dream"
33. Crazy Dreams Band "Feels So Good"
32. King Sporty "Choice of Music"
31. Horace Andy "Money Money"
30. Ed Kuepper "Ill Wind"
29. Maan "Damocles"
28. Matthew Young "Caitlin's Reile"
27. Forest "Fading Light"
26. Sand "Helicopter"
25. Demdike Stare "Matilda's Dream"
24. Demdike Stare "The Stars Are Moving"
23. Dr. Strangely Strange "Sign On My Mind"
22. Tapiman "Love Country"
21. Balaclavas "Snake People"
20. Monostat 3 "Beyond the Rim"
19. Led Zeppelin "Achilles Last Stand (Live at Knebworth 1979)" (this is actually #1)
18. Bob Dylan & the Band "Sign of the Cross"
17. Gene Clark "Some Misunderstanding"
16. The Byrds "Universal Mind Decoder"
15. The Byrds "Goin' Back"
14. Rolling Stones "Back Street Girl"
13. Les Vampyrettes (aka Conny Plank & Holger Czukay) "Biomutanten"
12. Red Krayola "Duke of Newcastle"
11. Tough Troubles "Paraplegic" aka "Help Me" (pick to click / buzz bin favorite / #11 with a bullet)
10. Gil Scott-Heron "Pieces of a Man"
09. Cedric Im Brooks & the Light of Saba "Words of Wisdom"
08. Matthew Young "Traveler's Advisory"
07. Valley of Ashes "Yellow Fog"
06. Siloah "Feast of the Pickpockets"
05. Siloah "Aluminum Wind"
04. Mighty Baby "Virgin Spring"
03. Dieuf-Dieul de Thies "Na Binta" (super special heat seeker debut at #3 with a bullet)
02. Pierrot Lunaire "Narciso"
01. Claudio Rocchi "Volo Magico N. 1"

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

(NOT NECESSARILY) AMERICAN TOP 57

01. Neil Young & Crazy Horse "Driftin' Back"
02. The Wicked Lady "Out Of The Dark"
03. Lee "Scratch" Perry "Womans Dub"
04. Wolf Eyes "Choking Flies"
05. Sonny & Linda Sharrock "Peaceful"
06. Brightblack Morning Light "Everybody Daylight"
07. Ted Berrigan & Anne Waldman "Memorial Day (Poetry Project at St. Mark's Place, May 5, 1971)"
08. Ma Turner & Weepjoy "I Will Not Bow"
09. Tear Jerks "Splash 1"
10. Stone Coal White "You Know"
11. Burning Spear "Creation Rebel"
12. DJ Dawn & Ranking Queens "Peace Truce Thing"
13. Jimi Hendrix "Peace In Mississippi"
14. The Magik Markers "I Trust My Guitar, Etc."
15. Prince "All The Critics Love U In New York"
16. Black Devil "Timing, Forget The Timing"
17. Cop City/Chill Pillars "Jennifer"
18. Lloyd Young & Augustus Pablo "Our Man Flint"
19. Neil Young & Crazy Horse "Ramada Inn"
20. Roy Richards & Brentford Disco Set "Natrual Dub"
21. The Upsetters "Shining Dub"
22. Alton & Soundemension "Mad Version"
23. Alton Ellis "African Descendants"
24. Andy Stott "Hatch The Plan"
25. Bedemon "Touch The Sky"
26. The Wicked Lady "Run The Night"
27. Arthur Russell "Soon-To-Be Innocent Fun/Let's See"
28. Fabulous Diamonds "Wandering Eye"
29. Axe "A House Is Not A Motel"
30. Barry & Soundemension "Give Love Version"
31. A Beautiful Machine "Dream It Back"
32. Pentagram "Be Forewarned"
33. Black Sabbath "Instrumental jam (edit)"
34. Abigail "The Bonehunter"
35. Blues Control "Good Morning"
36. Bob Dylan "Wigwam"
37. The Trypes "Eternal Ice"
38. Eugene Chadbourne "Hippies And Cops/Luxury Liner"
39. Milk Music "Fertile Ground"
40. Bob Marley "Soul Rebel"
41. Michael Chapman "Slow Coach (live at WFMU)"
42. Jaap Spek "Impulses (1959-1960)"
43. The Heptones "Young Generation"
44. Freddie McGregor "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart"
45. Cheveu "Unemployment Blues"
46. Jah Shaka "Zion Chant"
47. David Crosby "The Wall Song"
48. MV & EE "Turbine"
49. A Certain Ratio "Do The Du"
50. Zoltan Pongracz "Mariphonia (1972)"
51. Weed "Sweet Morning Light"
52. Buffalo "Dead Forever"
53. Plush "More You Becomes You"
54. Neil Young "Harvest Moon (Irving, TX, 14-Mar-1992)"
55. Gunter Schickert "Kriegmaschinen, Fahrt Zur Holle"
56. Sound Dimension "Down Presser Version"
57. Joni Mitchell "This Flight Tonight"

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

SOUNDCLOUDS, YOUTUBES, CDRs, MP3s, STREAMS, SPOTIFIES (?), RECORDS, TAPES, NEW ARRIVALS, NEW ARRIVALS FROM 5 YEARS AGO, ETC.





















JAMES BALJO "Leaving USA Blues" soundcloud; WOLF EYES No Answer: Lower Floors CD (DESTIJLLive solo guitar/etc piece by the newest member of Wolf Eyes, and no wonder their new album sounds so lean and sharp if this is what he's bringing to the mix. Tons of space, tons of shiver, but still propulsive throughout. And by the way I can't say enough how much I like the new Wolf Eyes album No Answer: Lower Floors. I liked it so much on Pitchfork Advance and I got so tired of waiting for the vinyl  that I bought the damn thing on CD. And ya know, I'd forgotten how playable a CD is. I played this damn thing 5 times the day I got it. It helps that it's a very intriguing album that rewards repeat listens. I've always liked them best when they're sparse, and especially when they're sparse but with a backbeat (for an early reference, check out my personal all-time favorite Wolf Eyes track, "Desert of Glue/Wretched Hog"), and this new album is a masterpiece of sparse rhythm, especially the 'video single' "Choking Flies" and the 12-minute "Confession of the Informer."

VEILED soundcloud, "Previews of our most recent recording. January 2013 - Barcelona, Catalunya. This set contains 2 sounds, total time: 8.06."

ROBERT A.A. LOWE aka LICHENS, intense YouTube from 2007

GEOFF TATE EPK (Electronic Press Kit??) as posted by @Holy_Mountain, my goodness

mp3s of LEE PERRY Revolution Dub (CREOLE) One of the top... three heaviest Lee Perry albums? Too heavy for YouTube?

98.7 WFMT Chicago is turning me on to some Saint-SaĆ«ns right now...

The 1970s-British-folk-supergroup-doing-American-rock'n'roll-covers LP Rock On by The Bunch didn't sound that great to me at first, not even much better than The Band's covers album Moondog Matinee, which is not very great indeed. I do really like the version of  "When Will I Be Loved" sung by Sandy Denny and Linda Peters (later Linda Thompson), and now Richard Thompson singing a choogling "Jambalaya" is growing on me (youtube not available). The song, and really most of the album, is pretty corny though. Basically, I prefer British folk-rock musicians to be playing British music.

TERRACID Out Dual Head Vibration CD-R (MUSIC YOUR MIND WILL LOVE YOU) I remember hearing about this Music Your Mind Will Love You collective, aka MYMWLY, back in the mid-2000s psychedelic CD-R underground heyday, but I don't think I ever heard anything from 'em until the other day, when I finally tackled a tall, precarious, and deeply buried pile of as-of-yet-unlistened-to CDs and CD-Rs, all sent in for review over the years. There I went, steeling myself for deep dives into untold neglected sounds, some appropriately neglected, some inappropriately, and from what turned out to be the latter category, I pulled out a 2008 CDR release by a group called Terracid. I remember their name... they may have even been the, dare I say it, MYMWLY flagship group. From Australia, I believe, arriving just a year or two before the recent flood of underground/punk/etc bands from there. I put it in the player, and was instantly taken by a sweet & sour rambling extrapolative jam approach, improvised music but with a good amount of musicianship behind it, inflected with big knowing whiffs of good old folk, jazz, and blues... sometimes it ends up sounding like goddamn wildly recombinant Canterbury prog. For seconds at a time! The key to the whole thing is that they have a light touch, which opens up all kinds of space for movement and extrapolation. The collective is from Australia and according to their blog are currently "shut down for unknown time." I'm hoping to dig some more of their stuff out of this pile... (aaand actually I did, another CDR called The Palace Carries The Eggtooth As Its Crown, this one from 2006. So far I don't like it as much, but that may be due solely to the long and annoyingly blown-out noise-rock opening track, which obliterates that light touch I enjoyed on Out Dual Head Vibration. I haven't really been able to get past it, and therefore have barely heard the rest of the album.)

mp3s of RSO Awl 7" & Bonus Tracks (SELF-RELEASED) 

mp3s of THROBBING GRISTLE Beyond Jazz Funk CS (ROUGH TAPES) 

HOLDERLIN Holderlin's Traum (OHR via SPOTIFY) I was introduced to this album (and many other favorites) by that epochal global underground folk primer in issue #5 of Badaboom Gramophone. Haven't listened to this in many years, and it's holding up nicely. I've been reading Electric Eden, an excellent history of British folk and folk-rock by one Rob Young, and it's getting me to pull out some of the best German folk jammers too (even though it doesn't mention them). Also notable: Witthuser & Westrupp Trips und Traume, and of course Broselmaschine s/t. Next up: Emtidi Saat! P.S. I still enjoy referring to really good records as "jammers."

DONOVAN A Gift From A Flower To A Garden (SONY MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT via SPOTIFY) Of course I like plenty of his tunes, but I have never before sat down with any one album by Donovan. Maybe he's more of a singles artist... but this album, which I'm also listening to because of Electric Eden, is sounding quite good at work today. "Isle of Islay" is a really great song.

JOHN ALLEN's WFMU show from Wednesday (January 30th), streaming from WFMU Recent Archives page (http://www.wfmu.org/playlists/shows/49233) For me, John Allen's show is "the best show on WFMU." Standouts from this week include Fennesz Daniell Buck, Michael Chapman (don't miss Allen's on-mic analysis afterwards), Kathleen Yearwood, Scott Walker, Jeff Greinke, and Elklink. Always a great show but I've really enjoyed the last two (here's the one from the Wednesday before last). (ED. NOTE: This was written in January because time flies.)

XHOL CARAVAN "Electric Fun Fair" on car radio tuned to WNUR. Now that's a good tune to hear on the radio when you're driving the car home from work on a Friday night! And I only drive on rare occasions, like once a month. Thanks, unknown WNUR drivetime DJ.

BEACH BOYS Pet Sounds LP (CAPITOL) Jammed side one super loud tonight and danced exuberantly around the living room with my daughter the entire time. Did not post pictures of it on Facebook.com. (But it's cool if you and your young daughter do it and post pictures of it on Facebook.com.) (P.S. The reason I got this album back off the shelf, and the reason it's sounding better than ever, is the Behind the Sounds series of YouTubes. Big thanks!)

HUSKER DU Zen Arcade (CESSTONE MUSIC via SPOTIFY) Just finished the Bob Mould autobio, a good read. I admire and respect the guy, but to this day I'm not a huge fan of his music. A fan? Yes. A huge fan? No. Not even of Husker Du. I do love Zen Arcade, and gotta say it sounds pretty beautiful and perfect tonight. The most beautiful song is Mould's "Chartered Trips." Also standing out more than ever are the "Hare Krsna" jam, Hart's "Masochism World," and the way Mould's "Newest Industry" is like a Side 3 mirror to Side 1's "Chartered Trips," the mirror then crack'd by the psychedelic room-spinning dream-world outro that is Side 4's "Reoccurring Dreams." The thing is, I don't really have a 2nd favorite Bob Mould album. Hell, it might even be Copper Blue. Even though I often like loud and blurry music, Land Speed Record is actually too loud and blurred for me to get into. I've never even particularly enjoyed New Day Rising or Flip Your Wig, even though they're probably the 3rd and 4th best albums that Bob Mould has been a part of. I did give his solo debut Workbook several CD/cassette spins back in the day (and a couple tentative Spotify spins just this week), and it's not great, but I might still put it at fifth. Bob erred a little too far on the beige side with that one, but "See A Little Light" is great, and there's a lot of other nice touches, like opening with an instrumental (it's like an actual workbook!) and having an interesting assemblage sculpture on the cover (by Mould's then boyfriend Mike Covington -- in the book Mould writes that he still owns the original and looks at it every day). Quick story: Workbook came out in 1989, and I was in college, listening to all of that college rock, and the video for the super-catchy "See A Little Light" was all over dorm-room MTV. A couple fellow students bought the CD, and I even made a Maxell dub of it from somebody. Listening, I decided that Bob's solo move from Husker Du was a lot like Pete Townshend's from The Who; out of a rather chaotic and loud rock band comes a more folky, gentle introspective solo sound. "See A Little Light" was like Bob's version of Pete's "Let My Love Open The Door," a gentle and melodic lead-off single by a former rock wildman. I thought this theory was airtight enough to run by a cool and jaded employee at one of Lincoln, Nebraska's most independent and "import" focused record stores. We'd been having a nice enough chat until he heard my theory, which he dismissed with a conversation-ending "I don't know about THAT." I didn't yet realize that comparing a 1980s underground darling to a 1970s stadium-rock dinosaur was a major faux pas. But here I am 25 years later, reading Bob's memoir, which is called See A Little Light, and what should he say about Workbook, starting right there on page 162: "I sensed there was a part of the punk audience that would feel betrayed, but it was important to move beyond the sound of the past eight years. In the generation prior, Pete Townshend's Empty Glass would have been the model -- the Who were a bombastic group, but Pete tackled difficult emotional matter with a more mature view." That's why I'm now a popular web-based music writer, and that record store employee is . . . probably a lawyer or something. 

MILK MUSIC Cruise Your Illusion (FAT POSSUM via PITCHFORK ADVANCE) I tend to ignore rather than write about records I don't like, but this one has really gotten me wound up, maybe because I was really looking forward to it. Their 2010 debut 12" Beyond Living ruled, introducing an Olympia, WA guitar/bass/drums trio with a killer power-grunge guitar sound, playing driving/yearning heavy/melodic songs about being high and free and independent. Things seemed like they might be getting even better on a 2011 live session on WFMU, the band blisteringly road-sharp and the set list containing a superb new song called "I've Got A Wild Feeling." Unfortunately, that seems like it may have been the peak. Soon after, the band went from being a trio to a quartet and I don't think it helped. I understand why singer/guitarist Alex Coxen would want a second guitar in the band, because it's pretty damn hard to handle lead vocals, lead guitar, and rhythm guitar all by yourself all the time, but that responsibility pushed the trio into a razor-sharp focus. Now that they're able to relax that vise-grip on the songs, it sounds to me like they're relaxing a little too much. The vocals have become more mumbled than melodic, the songs feel truncated and underwritten, and now there's suddenly lead guitar sprouting all over the place, the same two or three pentatonic guitar licks constantly ambling through the songs. I haven't been keeping statistics or anything, but it feels like every time a song is begging for a third verse and chorus, it instead meanders into another sub-Allmans guitar solo and then winds down to a premature close. When I saw 'em live in Chicago last summer, I have to admit Coxen didn't always seem that interested in playing his own songs, acting like he was going to kick over a monitor speaker here, leaning on one of those same two or three pentatonic guitar licks there. On Cruise Your Illusion, he definitely doesn't seem interested in the lame version of "I've Got A Wild Feeling" they ended up using. Maybe it's one of those songs that got written too soon after a debut and too long before the follow-up; either way, instead of being proud of having written a great song, they've allowed themselves to get bored with it and spend almost all of this version making fun of it instead. Coxen only actually sings the chorus once, the first time through, refusing to sing the hook the way he used to, mumbling something about "I can't even a hit a fucking note that high" the second time, and then adding a sarcastic "baby" at the end of the song, after a third mumbled chorus. Jeez guys, sorry we liked your song! The 8-minute closer "The Final Scene" has a really nice wistful feel, but they mumble the lyrics, make fun of their own intermittently great doo-wop backing vocals, noodle a bunch more unfocused guitar solos... oh well, it's not my band, so I'll stop complaining. I'll also stop listening to this album. Good thing they've already recorded Beyond Living, which already sounded great, and sounds especially great when played right after Cruise Your Illusion.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Label: SUPERIOR VIADUCT



The new Wolf Eyes album No Answer: Lower Floors has been streaming on Pitchfork Advance, a nice call by the editorial staff of Pitchfork (which is something I don't say very often, The Out Door excepted of course). The leadoff track "Choking Flies" sounds so good, the sparsest, leanest, meanest and beat-dopest they've been since Dread and Dead Hills, and on the day the stream was announced I saw more than one person, maybe even three, on Facebook compare the track to Factrix. This is a good comparison, though I think it's the first time I've heard someone make it. In fact, I really only recall one other significant mention of Factrix in my entire life of reading-and-talking-about-music, and that was on the WHPK list-serv around 2003 or so, when they were highly recommended by the esteemed DJ War Bride. I think it was on a "synth punk recommendations" thread, so I always figured they sounded like The Screamers. It took almost another 10 years for me to actually hear them, thanks to this 2012 Superior Viaduct reissue of their sole "studio" LP Scheintot from 1981, and find out that "synth punk" is way too limiting to describe them, and that they're much more languid and creepy than the revved-up and synth-overt Screamers sound. They do morose guitar noise like the New York No Wave bands, but with a weird serenity and stillness at the center that even bands like Mars and DNA didn't quite get to. They do harsh antisocial machine music like Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire, but they do it with more humility, in the form of softer and more melodic hooks. They have better bass guitar than any of those groups, what sounds to me like a particularly tasteful deployment of the dub reggae influence, putting them on a level with early Public Image, even if the other half of the "rhythm section" is a sputtering, evil-sounding drum machine. And when all that is combined, they still come off more like a 70s-rooted guitar band than an 80s-reaching synth band. Very compelling, deep, rich music, and I've been listening to this record over and over and over again for months.





















Factrix may have only had one "studio" album but they did have two other releases, a "studio" 7-inch single, and a 1982 live album called California Babylon that was billed to Factrix/Cazazza, also now reissued by Superior Viaduct. You might know of Monte Cazazza from the RE/Search Industrial Culture Handbook like I do, or hey, maybe you were there. As a trio, Factrix seemed to share lead vocal duties and didn't really have a front-man; here Cazazza steps into that role, first-billed on the personnel list with "vocals, tapes, amputated bass, monochord." It's a rougher document than Scheintot, less languid and dreamy, more like being wide awake in the dirty and noisy street, with a lot more squealing microphonic feedback and Reverend Jim Jones ranting in your face about how you and he are gods. In the RE/Search book Cazazza offers some more about these performances; regarding Side A, from June 6, 1981, live at Ed Mock Dance Studio, Cazazza writes: "'Night of the Succubus' in collaboration with Factrix. Films, slides, organic robots, dance by Kimberly Rae, dart gun used for first time by Monte, electro-shock, dental surgery on dead animal-machine. Video available." The CD version of Superior Viaduct comes with a DVD of said video, along with more previously unreleased tracks. About Side B, from December 12, 1980, live at Berkeley Square: "Guest appearance with Factrix. All music, more sedate show." It doesn't sound very sedate to me...




















But wait, there's a lot more... Superior Viaduct is specializing in deep-underground post-punk San Francisco activity, Bay Area bands in the late 1970s and early 1980s that are still barely written into the increasingly comprehensive punk histories that are coming out nowadays... a surprisingly high percentage of the reissues Superior Viaduct is doing were the only album the band ever recorded.  For example, the sole release by Black Humor, Love God, Love One Another from 1982. This was a somewhat notorious record at the time, causing a bit of heat in the letters section of Maximum Rock'n'Roll because there was a swastika (made out of crutches) on the Side B label, and I guess because their subject matter was offensive to some, although perusing the lyric sheet doesn't reveal any of the brain-dead "look ma I think I'm punk" button-pushing one might expect. In fact, a more frequent target is punks and hardcore kids, which is probably the real reason people got pissed in MRR. I imagine the spoken-word/noise/tape collage "KILL THEM!!!" on side two is what really got their pens angrily scribbling, as it dismisses kids who "have a crew cut for the first time in their life and they're telling me they're hardcore," along with some Archie Punker-style equal-opportunity misanthropy buried in its word-stew. Either way, the music itself is what really makes the antisocial statements here. The opening song is a perfect mix of blackly humorous words and grotesque music, reworking "Dancing in the Street" as "Undancing in the Dirt," George Miller hissing and straining out the lyrics over a sly atonal bass-guitar dirge "because death is near/and the time is right/for undancing in the dirt." Funny stuff, but what makes me really like the music is that it also has that languidity that Factrix had... it's just as black-hearted and nihilistic as the bleakest of punk, but it never gets stuck in a rut of raging/slamming/hammering stridency. The vocal timbre is harsh, the musical tonality is dark, but both are squeezed out slowly, calmly, and at a simmer. Even when the rhythm section plays hard, the guitar is often filing away at arcane and substantially quieter upper-register microtonal filigree. "Hometown Vigilante" could almost be described as a mid-tempo ballad, and there are several songs where Miller's vocals also wheeze and hiss against a particularly sparse bass guitar part and nice subtle drum machine programming (a live drummer is only used on the first three tracks, and the difference between him and the drum machine isn't even that noticeable). Really, this is an album that makes nihilism and bleakness endlessly intriguing and listenable, a rare but always welcome combination.





















Superior Viaduct has also released an album by Noh Mercy, a female drums and vocals duo with the great slogan "No Boys On Guitars!" You might not think you want to hear a whole album by a band that is just drums and vocals, but they really create a lot of music between the two of them. (Some other instruments do appear on two or three tracks.) Drummer Tony Hotel is phenomenal, coming from a traditional jazz background in Dayton, Ohio; as vocalist Esmerelda says in the large booklet insert, "She played so well I realized we didn't need anyone else in the band." Of Esmerelda's versatile and fearless theatrical punk vocals, Miss Hotel says "Wow, finally I hear another musician, my own age, my own sex, who is as good as me."  Esmerelda indeed brings that post-Cockettes San Francisco style of cabaret dress-up psychotic flair, evident in the band pictures that adorn the large booklet insert, and just from her vocals alone. But, together they create music that simply isn't reducible into cabaret, punk, avant-garde, no wave, theater, or anything. It's just their own music, like Interstellar Space by Coltrane & Ali wasn't just jazz, it was their own music. This self-titled record was made in 1979, and wasn't even really intended as a record and went unreleased until this Superior Viaduct edition.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg; in the meantime this great label has gotten even greater, having put out several more records, really an even more impressive crop than the one I just ran down. They've reissued three 7-inches by The Avengers, the German Shepherds Music For Sick Queers LP, the great 1983 debut LP by 100 Flowers (previously known as The Urinals), the great sole LP by The Sleepers (Painless Nights, 1981), the weird and dreamy Martin Rev solo LP from 1980, and what appears to be the only LP by the band Monitor. I haven't even laid a hand on any of these releases yet, and already there's rumblings of some potentially even more exciting reissues from the Viaduct, namely the Hardcore Devo compilations and also some Tuxedomoon albums!

And as a related postscript, I just listened to this great podcast interview where George Chen of Zum interviews Robert Horton, who recently collaborated with Neil Campbell on the excellent Trojandropper LP, released by Zum. In addition to an interesting interview, you get to hear some really cool electronic pattern music Horton is working on, as well as some mutant death disco material (recorded from 1979 to 1982) by Horton's old San Francisco band The Appliances that is possibly going to be released by Superior Viaduct as well... it may be postponed or even cancelled but here's hoping that it isn't...

http://www.superiorviaduct.com



Monday, April 01, 2013

NEW ARRIVALS, OLD ARRIVALS, VINYL, MP3s, STREAMS, ETC:

DAN MELCHIOR The Backwards Path CD (NORTHERN SPY) This is one of those records that I fear will take me way too long to review, and by then Dan will have probably released 5 or 10 more full-lengths, so I've gotta write some sort of rushed reaction like this one, just so I can get something posted before his next record comes out (oops, too late). It's just that I don't think I can do The Backwards Path justice. It's really good, you see, and it also carries with it what Dan and his wife Letha are going through right now, as she undergoes cancer treatment with minimal health insurance. (For more on their situation, and to help them out with it, go to http://melchiorfund.blogspot.com/.) If that sounds like it might make for a challenging or difficult listen, it really doesn't, simply because he's a good songwriter, and good songs are rarely difficult to listen to. What's more, he hasn't lost his sense of humor, and he still writes songs that reach out to the listener instead of turning him or her away. When he sings, you can not only understand the words, you get a feel for his personal rhythms, anticipating the various turns of phrase and where the punchlines might come. This is what makes a songwriter good and engaging, as opposed to merely competent and listenable; when you trust that the songwriter has the skill to satisfy your anticipations, and also, if he or she chooses, to disarm them, because when on form, he or she will do one or the other at least a couple times a minute for as long as they're singing. I'll leave you to hear most of the disarming details from The Backwards Path for yourself, but Dan is a prolific writer of thoughtful hooks, and the biggest ones so far include "There's nothing really happening/except the things that are" from "Night Comes In," the "Don't worry/I will follow you" chorus of "All The Clocks," the rather cheeky "Now here we are/Nothing much has changed/No utopia/Just some bullet trains/And the internet/And some other stuff" from "The Old Future," his various riffs on the title of "I Have Known The Emptiness," and of course, plenty more. The overall sequencing of the album is a hook itself, as it alternates an experimental/instrumental piece with a vocal song throughout the entire running order, and the album also has a very cohesive arrangement strategy; each experimental/instrumental track is Melchior solo, and then for the vocal tracks he plays & sings the song and is joined by at least two (but never more than three) guests, all of whom recorded independently at a later date. C. Spencer Yeh shows up on all 7 vocal tracks to float out genius hook-drone VU violin minimalism, Anthony Allman contributes keyboards to 4 tracks, Sam Hilmer plays saxophone on 1 song, and icy, haunting vocals are overdubbed on 3 songs each by Haley L. Fohr of Circuit de Yeux and Ela Orleans, who also plays keyboards and guitar. I guess that's it for now; been playing and thinking about this one a lot.

EMERALDS Just To Feel Anything (EDITIONS MEGO) You've probably heard that this band broke up a couple months ago, as the event set off the predictable flurry of "RIP" facebook posts, internet comments, and sad tweets. When almost anything is trending on the internet like that, I usually give it a couple minutes and then try to tune it out completely; in the two minutes I gave the Emeralds breakup I noticed at least two or three different internet users saying something to the effect of "Too bad they didn't break up BEFORE they released Just To Feel Anything," which had come out just a month or two earlier. These opinions made me think that I really do live in underground-music opposite-land, because I'd heard a couple tracks from the record on WFMU, most notably a track called "Search For Me In The Wasteland," and was thinking it was their best stuff in years. About six years, in fact; the last record of theirs that blew me away was Allegory of Allergies, and that came out in 2007. At some point, they seemed to go from toughing out an ensemble sound with limited means, which was fairly thrilling, to actually improving their gear and their skills on it, which unfortunately made them good enough to imitate Baumann-era Tangerine Dream, and no, I don't think the 3rd or 4th Baumann-era Tangerine Dream records are that great either. Sometimes great gear plus a great record collection leads to merely good music, and sometimes it leads to something that really isn't even music, more just genre exercise and equipment demonstration, here resulting in what Negative Guest List fanzine called "Dawson's Creek Kraut Rock." When I heard "Search For Me In The Wasteland," though, not knowing who the artist was for the first few minutes, it really turned my head, a superb desolate lament, with a nice dystopian title that combined with the music, and the title of the album itself, to create some serious poignance. In fact, I can't help but interpret it as the band yearning to get out of the fake-cosmic genre-demo game, trying to find a way to play real breathing and feeling music again, just to feel anything, and succeeding, at least for one great track. "Through & Through" continues boldly in that vein, with Mark McGuire playing some truly emotive lead guitar, but ultimately they go too far, into straight-up Rush-soundtrack territory, or should I say Clapton-scoring-Dawson's Creek territory, and this straight-faced cheesiness permeates the more upbeat and driving sci-fi Michael Mann crime-drama tunes like "Adrenochrome" and "Everything Is Inverted" as well. Thing is, I don't see it as a late-period misstep... this is basically what they've sounded like to me ever since they started putting out records on Editions Mego.
 
DUCKTAILS The Flower Lane (DOMINO) Look, I'm as leery of present-day major-metropolis fake-80s electro-pop as any other grumpy old Dead C fan, but even I'll admit that a couple times a year somebody comes along and just NAILS it. For example, the pop songs on the Drive soundtrack, or even better, the Ford & Lopatin Channel Pressure album, or possibly best of all, the leadoff single from this new Ducktails album, a shimmering number called "Letter of Intent." It's a slow jam, to use the correct parlance, a straight-up beautiful pop/R&B ballad, and when I first heard the song one Thursday morning on WFMU's The Long Rally program, DJ Scott McDowell back-announced it in somewhat post-Bangsian fashion by letting this blurt: "Ducktails are the Boz Scaggs of 2013! And The Flower Lane is their Silk Degrees!!"  Funny how last time I heard Ducktails it was his first 7-inch and it was fairly imitative but decent post-Blues Control bedroom solo instrumental psych-pop by one Matt Mondanile, who was also in band called Real Estate, playing in the then-popular 'beach pop' style, which took off a little quicker, and took up a lot more of his time. Now a few years later he's back to Ducktails, and now it's a full band too, that sounds, I don't know, maybe kinda like Real Estate. That is, a lot of The Flower Lane is guitar-band indie-pop, with a touch of cleaned-up slinky Ariel Pink discotheque drama, and as such, not too bad, occasionally pretty good. But "Letter of Intent," well, that song is GREAT. And whaddayaknow, the session musicians on the track are none other than the aforementioned Joel Ford and Daniel Lopatin, in which they indeed cement their status as the 2010s version of the Porcaro Brothers.

Just noticed how well-stocked the BLUES CONTROL Soundcloud page is, spanning their entire career up until the latest LP Valley Tangents (Drag City, 2012) with a clutch of studio/demo/live tracks, multiple versions of (most of) the hits, and nice long excerpts from all their official releases, like the self-titled debut tape (Palsy, 2006), Puff (Woodsist, 2007), the self-titled full-length (Holy Mountain, 2007), the lovely "Snow Day" b/w "Paul's Winter Solstice" 7-inch (Sub Pop, 2008), and Local Flavor (Siltbreeze, 2009). The only real Valley Tangents era tracks, as far as I can tell, are an October 2012 live version of "Opium Den/Fade To Blue," from Brian Turner's show on WFMU, and their great appearance on WBEZ's The Morning Shift program, just a few weeks ago in Chicago. This seems to be in keeping with Drag City's bold and admirable policy of keeping their music off of the internet (I don't think they have anything available on Spotify either), which means you need to buy a nice hard copy of Valley Tangents today. But back to this Soundcloud... right now I'm unearthing forgotten jam "Teetotalers" from 2006. Not even sure I've heard this song before, and I'd literally thought I'd heard everything by Blues Control. It's good stuff, but at the same time I can't help noticing how much more musically fluent the duo has gotten with each other. Wait, Soundcloud is weird, I wanted to just stream the whole Blues Control page, but after one track it jumped me to a live track by Blues Control on someone else's page. It's a version of "Good Morning" that isn't from the tour they just finished, as it was added 7 months ago, though they are still playing the song, or at least they did when they were in Chicago a couple weeks ago. OMG, after that Soundcloud jumped me to some dubstep/hiphop monstrosity posted on some other page that isn't even remotely connected to Blues Control. Oh well, see if you have better luck....



WIL HARRIS ReverbNation and MySpace tunes. It looks like we've got another Wicked Witch of the Southeast on our hands, and of course by Southeast I mean the emerald kingdom of Southeast Washington DC Home-Recording Solo Bedroom Funk Madman Geniuses. There was Wicked Witch himself (check out his insane album Chaos: 1978-86) and now there's Wil Harris, who offers up something like a cleaner and soberer sounding version of the same Hendrix/P-Funk/Prince/DC damage. He's certainly a better mimic than Wicked Witch is/was, and can do a very credible Ed Hazel, not to mention having the Mayfield/Hendrix rhythm guitar style down. Most impressively, he can vocally and even stylistically do a Prince impersonation that could actually fool some people. It might have even fooled me if I hadn't just clicked "play" on the ReverbNation page of Wil Harris. The best track of all might be a monster slice of industrial psycho funk called "Lucifer's Fall." Now I'm listening to him play "Maggot Brain" on his MySpace page, and it seems a little unnecessary for him to do covers, but still pretty good, and a lot more necessary than the J. Mascis/Mike Watt version was . . .  whoah, MySpace is lame just like Soundcloud, after one Wil Harris track the player started playing a bunch of late-period Lenny Kravitz tracks.





LONNIE HOLLEY Just Before Music CD (DUST-TO -DIGITAL) Less an album than it is an outpouring, one man from Birmingham, Alabama at a keyboard singing his guts out, in a style that goes back through a capella blues, maybe further back to North African muezzin singing, who knows, pouring out raw autobiographical emotion, with bold phrases that are already haunting me after two listens: "Looking for all to be rendered / Looking for all to come about from my soul / Looking for all somewhere within . . . And one day / One day / At my lowest / At my loooooowwwweeeest, I know..." The solo keyboard accompaniment is quite notable as well, cushioning the rawness of the vocals, placing them within a retrofuturistic dream-space that gets me thinking of not only other classic one-man-at-the-keyboard R&B performances (Wonder, Hathaway, etc), but even more so something like the 1980 Martin Rev solo album (about to be, or already is, reissued by the superior Superior Viaduct label).

GROUPER Dragging a Dead Deer up a Hill LP (KRANKY) The title and the cover image give me the creeps, but that's something I like about Grouper; as ethereal and beautiful as her music can get, she's still not afraid to put down a bad vibe, and bad vibes can make for some endlessly rich and even enjoyable art. Either way, I'm very glad to see Kranky reissue this because I missed it the first time around and it's not only the best Grouper album so far, it's also one of my favorite albums of the last 10 years. What can I say, it finds the sweetest spot of that Venn diagram between hardcore avant-garde 1960s loft drone, 1970s femme-sung folk-pop, and 1460s Renaissance madrigal chorale singing. The controversial (some might say "incorrect") opinion I'm going to go ahead and put forth is that it all combines to create the best shoegaze album since Loveless. Of course literally everyone else who reads this will immediately say "you're wrong," and sure, you'd all be right, but in my rarefied world it is indeed the perfect follow-up. Not so much a follow-up, more like the perfect sonic refraction, radiated back in 2010 after the initial 1991 blast, a 20 year cycle, quiet and open where Loveless is loud and dense. It's very nice to have it, because, like JW said somewhere within this 3-hour Cargo Culte podcast (actually right around 45:40... no I haven't listened to the whole thing... yet), "You can only blow something out so much, and then you have to go back and be able to hear it."

ENO Here Come The Warm Jets LP (ISLAND) Think of some of your absolute favorite albums of all time. As accurately as you can possibly estimate, how many times do you think you've listened to them? How about some of your favorite albums from this year, or the last decade. How many times have you listened to those? One of my favorite albums from 2012 was Blues Control's Valley Tangents. I remember the iTunes play count for the lead-off song "Love's a Rondo" being at 13 at one point, and I've probably listened to it about 10 more times since then. This is pretty damn high -- a lot of records that I bought intentionally years ago, and still own today, have not been played more than twice. Still, I'm thinking that even the really beloved records I own rarely get more than 30 plays. I think 50 and higher is where the real all-time favorites reside. I wonder if I've ever played a record more than 100 times. Have you? To be honest, I doubt I have, but who knows. Either way, I'm pretty damn sure Here Come the Warm Jets is in the 50+ club, and I'd have to say it sounds as good as ever, right now, tonight. Sure he had amazingly fresh electro-orchestrations and production and great experimental solos like the one on "The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch," but what really makes this album great is that he wrote a bunch of great melodies for it, like the ones on "Needle in a Camel's Eye" and "On A Faraway Beach" or the album-closing title track's mostly instrumental ride-out. And what the hell is that solo on "Blank Frank"?? Now that's stun guitar! Or stun synth, I'm not even sure, but I think it's guitar.

ANNA PLANETA Untitled 2CDR (BETLEY WELCOMES CAREFUL DRIVERS) Pulled this one out from deep within the depths of my  1990s experimental CD collection... the only full-length (and boy is it ever full-length) by an improvisational experimental group from England featuring Phil Todd (of Ashtray Navigations, Inca Eyeball, and many more), Andy Jarvis (of several other Phil Todd-related groups such as A Warm Palindrome, Dogliveroil, Jarvis/Joincey/Todd, and the recently reviewed Saboteuse), and Dan Bird (no idea but he's certainly a member of Anna Planeta). "All the Anna Planeta tracks were recorded live on location at an abandoned school building in Yorkshire, using only acoustic and battery-operated instruments." There's only six looooong tracks that sprawl all over both of these discs and fill them up completely (disc one only has two!), foreboding, haunting, uncompromising deep scans across small windows that open into the deepest abyssal inner space... monolithic atonalities, in the British tradition of AMM as filtered through the Mid-Northern soundworld of Phil Todd and company. In other words.... recommended!

GRAND GENERAL s/t CD (RUNE GRAMMOFON) Back in 2009 there was this album I liked quite a bit by a Norwegian heavy rock free jazz power trio called Bushman's Revenge. It was called You Lost Me At Hello, and on it, they pretty much took the sheets of sound of Coltrane and Ayler and swirled 'em right into a Hendrix/Cream/Mountain rhythm section, with rather ferocious results. I don't recall too much chatter about the band, but it was a great ripping record. Turns out they've released a total of 4 albums on Rune Grammofon, and now here's a group called Grand General, also on Rune Grammofon, which features the guitarist from Bushman's Revenge, one Even Helte Hermansen. His playing rips on here too, but keeping up with him all the way is a second lead string voice, Ola Kvenerberg on violins and viola, a sound that combines with the keyboards/bass/drums of the rest of the band to force me to say that if You Lost Me At Hello was The Inner Mounting Flame, then Grand General is their Visions of the Emerald Beyond all the way. Contemporary heavy guitar prog with violin, okay?

TIVOL Interstellar Overbike CD (LAST VISIBLE DOG) From 2007, this is this week's deep catalog pull from the Last Visible Dog label. Heavy driving extendo psychedelic Japan-style from Finland. (Maybe a Circle side project? Can't remember.) 

INVISIBLE HANDS Insect Dilemma/Disallowed 7" (ABDUCTIONAlan Bishop, formerly of Sun City Girls, has already given us a damn good self-titled full-length by his new rock band from Cairo (Egypt not Illinois), but I might like this 7-inch even better. Sure, I might be saying that just because two of the three numbers are revamped Sun City Girls classics (a rather bold reimagining of "Insect Dilemma" b/w a gorgeous female-sung version of "Cruel and Thin" called "Lili Twil"), but shit, SCG are one of my favorite bands of all time, and its really cool to hear the songs given a new life by the very capable Invisible Hands. Apparently this is a Record Store Day release, so I hope you can get a copy.

SUN CITY GIRLS Halcyon Days of Symmetry VHS (parts 1 through 5 somebody put on YouTube) Opens with the sickest of sick VHS collages by Bonnieban, a buncha psychotronic kung fu and horror imagery flying past . . . see if you can name every film . . . I bet you can't name 10 percent of 'em, and don't worry, I think I could only name Phantom of the Paradise. Worth watching for the collage alone but there's tons more Sun City Girls fun on here.... to name just two examples: an ecstatic early runthrough of "Esoterica of Abysynnia" at some sort of hardcore matinee and the most scorching Charles Gocher version of "Let's Pretend" ever. Overall it's my 2nd-favorite of their VHS releases (behind only their very first VHS, the Cloaven Theater release).

SUN CITY GIRLS Singles Vol. 3: Eye Mohini CD (ABDUCTION) Previously reviewed.

SEATTLE PHONOGRAPHERS UNION s/t CD (MIMEOMEME / SPU / and/OAR) Brought to you by a very hard-to-type array of record labels, this is a pretty huge presentation of long austere otherworldly pieces made from people amplifying records and phonographs and creating pure hand-made off-the-cuff musique concrete. Six long, slow, and quietly oppressive/impressive tracks, too much to take in one sitting if you've got a lot of other stuff you wanna listen to, but I wouldn't mind spending the afternoon cleaning the house to this sometime. Rob Millis of Climax Golden Twins is on track 1 (18:48) and track 5 (10:54); as for the other eleven (!) names, none are familiar, but it would seem they are all part of the Seattle underground and they make some assured sound art here. The disc was released in 2009 (which is what I mean by "Old Arrivals"... its been in the on-deck pile for almost 4 years), made up of pieces recorded between 2004 and 2008, and I can actually see this record as a more tentative but just as deep-digging parallel/precedent to what Demdike Stare is/was doing.

REVOLUTIONARY ENSEMBLE The Psyche LP (RE:RECORDS) For some reason this year I've gotten the urge to buy a bunch of LPs by the Revolutionary Ensemble, the 1970s free jazz trio of Leroy Jenkins on violin, Sirone on bass, and Jerome Cooper on drums. They're pretty much all twenty dollar records, but so are most new releases. I've been a huge fan of Vietnam (1972, ESP Disk) ever since Chris Moon played it on Lincoln, NE community radio back in like 1997, and I've been a huge fan of the self-titled 1976 LP on Inner City ever since I checked out a copy from Chicago's Sulzer Regional Library back in like 2002, but I didn't even know about The Psyche until just a couple weeks ago when Scott McDowell played a good chunk of it on one of his Long Rally radio programs. (Oh hey, another link to The Long Rally... you can tell I've been listening to it quite a bit.) This record came out in 1975, and damn, it's a good 'un. There's just something refreshing about free jazz played without horns, although "refreshing" might not be quite the right word for the chillingly spiky and haunting music on s/t and The Psyche, or for the blasting shrapnel terror of Vietnam. Either way, free jazz violin is something I'm going to start digging deeper into... Jenkins has been a favorite for years (gotta get this LP back out!), but next on the list is the music of Billy Bang, which I've barely heard.

NOW READING.... I decided it was high time that I read a book that wasn't either 1) about rock music or 2) a sci-fi paperback, maybe even a good old-fashioned realistic fiction novel like American Pastoral by Philip Roth. About five years ago, I bought it at Powell's Used Books for five bucks because it was briefly discussed about seven years ago in an issue of The Believer magazine w/r/t its extensive descriptions of the glove manufacturing business. (How about that, I mention The Believer magazine and not even one second later I'm using the "w/r/t" abbreviation for literally the first time in my entire writing life, even though it always really annoyed me when David Foster Wallace used it, and annoyed me even more when anyone else copied his use of it. I think there's a connection there.) Anyway, it had been sitting on my shelf for five years now but I'm finally reading it, and I may have came for its documentation of the inner workings of the glove industry, but what I'm really getting is a searing heart-rending soul-scouring rant about how hard it can be to be a parent to a child, even when you're wealthy, good-looking, and successful. Tough stuff. (Bonus points for the book having a character named Bill Orcutt... Roth couldn't resist throwing in a Harry Pussy reference.) Oh, and speaking of being a parent, right now my daughter's book-before-bedtime is a real Thomas Wolfean monster called The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (first published in 1938). Anyone remember this book in their classroom library? It was in mine too, but did anyone actually read it? I doubt many kids got more than 10 pages into these dense and flowery prose-poetic descriptions of rural northern Florida and its hardscrabble early 20th century lifestyle. Here's a sample of almost overwhelming beauty that I just read out loud tonight: "Grandma Hutto called to them and they went into the cottage. Jody smelled its familiar odor. He had never been able to disentangle its elements. The sweet lavender she used on her clothing was plain. There were dried grasses in a jar before the fire-place. There was the unmistakable smell of honey, which she kept in a cupboard. There was pastry; tarts and cookies and fruit cakes. There was the smell of the soap she used on Fluff's fur. There was the pervasive scent of flowers from the garden outside the windows. And above it all, it came to him at last, lay the smell of the river. The river itself was fluid through the cottage and around it, leaving a whirlpool of odorous dampness and decaying fern. He looked through the open door. A path led through marigolds to the water. The river shone is the late sunlight, Guinea-gold, like the bright flowers. Its flow drew Jody's mind with it to the ocean, where Oliver rode the storms in ships, and knew the world." Somewhere in there a story is eking its way along (for 428 pages... after months of reading, we're on page 122), the story that made my daughter ask me to buy her the 2 dollar used paperback down the street at Armadillo's Pillow by being so nicely pictured in the painting on the cover, a story about a young boy raising his very own orphaned baby deer. (Awwwww.) Anyway, between this and American Pastoral, I need to breeze through a few rock books on the side for some relief, so last time I was at the library I checked out this goofy Beatles vs. Stones coffee-table book by Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot! Now that's breezy! For some better music-related reading, I also hit up that Wax Poetics fire sale and bought a bunch of $2.99 back issues! Get 'em while they last! While there I also bought an Earl Zero 12" single on the Wax Poetics Records label for $1.99! I looks like an LP, but it only has 2 songs, though they are extended, so about 15 minutes of music, a tough roots song called "Righteous Works" that slips into a nice dub mix at the halfway mark, b/w a sweetly melancholy ballad called "Heart's Desire." Fine single, especially for 2 bucks!


Thursday, March 07, 2013

YOU'LL NEVER HAVE TO BUY MUSIC EVER AGAIN?

Believe me, I hate to love Spotify, but I give up, because I do love it. Don't get me wrong, I still hate it too. I can't stand about 52 or so really minor things about their interface, and I'm sure you've heard that they pay their artists .00966947678815 cents per play, which is pretty disheartening. I guess I should just pay for Premium, in hopes that some day more money will trickle back to the artists. It would also be very nice to not have to listen to any of those horrible ads again, like the one where some cheery young Pitchfork Fest type says "If you have Spotify, you'll never have to buy music ever again." (Emphasis mine.) Wow. Of course we know that physical media is dying, but that really crystallizes it: music lives on, but people buying records has been replaced by people buying computer devices (which they'll use to play records for free).

So that's a bummer, but I can't deny that I like listening to music on computer devices almost as much as I like listening to records on my stereo, and here in head-in-the-sand internet la-la land, one thing I'm really enjoying about Spotify is making playlists to go with the music books I'm reading. Here's three of 'em that I think are pretty good, whether you're reading the book or not, though I highly recommend all of these books as well.

This first playlist goes with Electric Eden (Faber & Faber, 2011), Rob Young's expansive history of British folk music, that goes back to early 20th Century Classical, and continues all the way up through stuff like Talk Talk and The Orb, turning me on to several excellent groups I wasn't really aware of before, such as Mr. Fox, the Albion Family Band, Dr. Strangely Strange, and Spirogyra... this could also use some tweaking, and I'm not sure if The Orb really fits on there, but lots of great stuff:

 

I think this next one turned out great, though it might also undergo a few more changes and additions. It's inspired by Chapter 6 of the rather overwhelming new book Psychedelia: An Ancient Culture, A Modern Way Of Life (Lysergia, 2012), by the author of the great Acid Archives record guide, Patrick Lundborg. In Psychedelia, Lundborg lays out the entire history of humans using psychedelic drugs, from prehistoric times to the present day, introducing several challenging perspectives in the process. One of them is that 1950s Electronic Music and Exotica were the first (and truest??) psychedelic music. After making this playlist from a bunch of his examples, I feel like I could almost agree with him: 



And finally, if I still threw rock'n'roll parties where everybody got wasted and hung out, I would put on this next playlist and boom, I'd be done DJing. It's an audio version of Nick Kent's "Soundtrack to the Seventies," an addendum to his memoir Apathy For The Devil (Da Capo, 2010) , a real page-turner of a rock book that I think I got through in about 3 hours. Not a whole lot of obscuro choices here, but this is a fine staple diet. Your local corporate classic rock station could easily be this good.... or would corporate financial power be steadily fragmented and decentralized by the subtly progressive and mind-expanding sounds on offer here? A topic for discussion at said rock'n'roll party, though I do wish this playlist didn't have like 5 David Bowie songs, or even 1 by Jackson Browne and/or Elvis Costello. As for Blue Valentine by Tom Waits, it was on Kent's list but I simply couldn't bear to include a song from it. I took the liberty of replacing it with "Space Is Deep" by Hawkwind, who surprisingly weren't on Kent's list.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Time for a quick report on some imminent action from the Alan Bishop/Sun City Girls/Abduction Records camp... let's start with the brand new stuff, a Cairo-based band called The Invisible Hands that is releasing a self-titled full-length album on March 19th. Alan writes and sings the songs, plays bass, guitar, piano, and more, and is joined by some very accomplished musicians from the "popular Egyptian group" Eskenderella. An advance track from this album premiered on Pitchfork recently, and I caught some chatter about how surprisingly orchestral-poppy the song was. Well, it's not too surprising, as he's been going that direction for a few years now, and to me The Invisible Hands album sounds like a logical continuation of what started with his 2005 Alvarius B album Blood Operatives of the Barium Sunset (dark underworld songwriting given clean and ambitious studio treatments), up through the more recent Sun City Girls album Funeral Mariachi (even cleaner, even more orchestral, even more obsessed with vintage Italian film soundtracks, Brian Wilson, etc). Big Al just continues to get more and more assured at blending these ingredients, and there's some really brilliant stuff on this record -- fascinating lyrics ("Bad Blood" is a particular standout), great hooks, beautiful blends of keyboards and strings, a few ripping oud cameos by Sam Shalabi -- and I think more will continue to be revealed. Sure, it's the most accessible, slick, and radio-friendly he's ever sounded, but so what? Don't you like music? Also of note: there's going to be Arabic language version of this CD, only available to purchase in the Middle East, with both versions to be available for digital download and as a limited edition double LP "in the very near future."

Abduction is also going to release another CD on March 19th, this one featuring some classic old stuff by the Sun City Girls, more specifically Eye Mohini: Sun City Girls Singles Vol. 3. The two previous singles comps were superb, but this one collects the entirety of the monumental Borungku Si Derita double-7" EP and the nearly-as-great Eye Mohini 7". I think I once called the former "my favorite Sun City Girls album" -- it has definitive versions of two classic Sir Richard Bishop raveups (the Egyptian surf pounder "Abydos" and the joyful hopped-up-on-goofballs trad-jazz number "Rose Room"), the lovely and mysterious "Carousel Tapsel," a sweetly ratty down-home guitar-guitar-drums trio version of "Esoterica of Abyssynia," the fearsome dirge "Smile," and I'm not even mentioning a couple more great tracks. From the latter, "Eye Mohini" is one of their most heartfelt vocal ballads, "Kal el lazi kad ham" one of their most regal instrumentals, and "Lemur's Urine" features Eddy Detroit on bongos and is called "Lemur's Urine." All this and much more, including a very heavy album-closing 10-minute live version of Torch of the Mystics classic "The Flower" from 1992. RIP Sun City Girls, nice to have you back.

Keep your eyes on Forced Exposure for official announcements these next couple weeks.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

THE MAKING OF BULL OF THE WOODS































Adapted by Larry Dolman from Eye Mind by Paul Drummond [Process Media, 2007]

INTRO: Last time I went out to a show I was standing around talking about music in between bands and blithely announced that Bull of the Woods was my 2nd favorite 13th Floor Elevators album (Easter Everywhere being the fairly undisputed #1 choice). I got some push-back, but stuck to my guns. Now, away from the front lines, I'll admit it's not even true -- can't deny the greatness of Psychedelic Sounds Of..., for historical reasons alone -- but even if Bull is the 3rd best Elevators album, there is no doubt that it's the Elevators album I'm most obsessed with, and it's probably the one I've actually listened to the most. It's an album that feels like it's slipping away from me even as I listen to it, which is partly what keeps me coming back. It also reveals new depths every time. I just listened to it an hour ago and I'll be damned if the rhythm section on "Scarlet and Gold" didn't sound heavier and dubbier than ever, and how about the crashing and echoing waves of Stacey Sutherland's guitars on "Street Song" as he coolly drawls "I saw some windowpane"? (And by the way, the Decal CD from 1991 sounds 100 times heavier than this thing does on Spotify, just sayin'.) So, when I finally got around to reading Eye Mind, Paul Drummond's exhaustive history of the Elevators, I decided to use it to write up a little outline of the making of Bull of the Woods... anything to try to understand this album a little better. I post it here for the hell of it... maybe some fellow obsessives will appreciate it..... (all quoted material besides song titles is directly Drummond's book)...


AFTER the monumental Easter Everywhere is released in October 1967, the physically and psychically fractured band disengages from the intensity of the last two years. Members become scattered around Houston. Roky is not doing well, living a nomadic existence around the city, suffering from performance anxiety and increasingly showing signs of a serious personality disorder. Tommy Hall relinquishes "his totalitarian hold" over the band and tries to build a new non-musical acid community around workshop meetings at his apartment, which effectively promotes guitarist/songwriter Stacey Sutherland to being the band leader. Bassist Danny Galindo leaves the band, and is replaced in January 1968 by Duke Davis. Where Roky and Tommy took the lead in creating Easter Everywhere, it is understood that Sutherland will take the lead in the creation of their next album. Although the band is not necessarily in a good creative space, their label International Artists is pushing them hard for product, especially since they are unable to leave the state of Texas due to various probations, and cannot generate income from touring.

1968

February 7th: The trio of Stacey Sutherland on guitar, Duke Davis on bass, and Danny Thomas on drums start doing sessions for the third 13th Floor Elevators album at Gold Star Studios in Houston. Sutherland is the band leader, creative director, songwriter, guide vocalist, lead vocalist. The song "Wait For My Love" is the first to emerge.

February 21st: The trio has developed enough material to bring Roky and Tommy in. Tommy is developing his concept for the album, dealing with the Electra complex of his then-current relationship with Gay Jones. The working title is Beauty and the Beast. Nothing they work on this day ends up being released.

February 22nd: The previous night's fruitless session ends at 8:30 AM. Roky returns sometime in the early afternoon to find none of the band there. He is convinced to do some solo recording, and lays down a few electric guitar-and-voice takes of his song "May the Circle Remain Unbroken," adding his own Vox organ overdubs. By evening, Roky is joined by Tommy, Stacey and the Duke Davis/Danny Thomas rhythm section. They very quickly lay down "Livin' On," lyrics by Tommy, music by Stacey. Then, they start overdubbing on "May the Circle Remain Unbroken" to frankly legendary effect. This was the only album session for which the entire band was present.

February 29th: Working without Tommy and Roky, the band lays down the music for "Never Another."

March 2nd: Tommy lays down his jug parts.

March 3rd: Roky lays down vocals for "Never Another" and "Livin' On."

March 12th: Stacey and the rhythm section work on the music for "Dr. Doom," lyrics by Tommy.

March 13th: Roky lays down lead vocal and rhythm guitar on "Dr. Doom."

March 20th and 23rd: After these two more sessions, ten tracks are in the can, although six of them don't have finished vocals. "Never Another," "Livin' On," "Dr. Doom," and "May the Circle Remain Unbroken" all do. The band breaks from recording, intending to spend all of April playing shows, doing a club stand in Houston. However, Roky refuses to go onstage, or doesn't show up at all. Not one full show is achieved.

Early April: Impatient for progress, International Artists decides to release a single of "May the Circle Remain Unbroken" b/w Stacey's song "Wait For My Love." This sends Stacey to the studio alone, trying to improve the song with "endless" overdubs. It undergoes a name change to "Someday My Love."

April 20th: In bed trying to sleep, Evelyn Erickson hears her son Roky "screaming" and "talking gibberish" outside. This is considered the first real psychotic episode for Roky. Early in the morning, he is taken to an emergency psychiatrist, the beginning of Roky's fateful involvement with the Texas psychiatric police state. Tommy is still trying to settle on a concept for the album. He begins exploring Gnostic Christianity and writes a mysterious chant called "Jerusalem (Supersonic Highway)" which is performed a few times in a rather desultory fashion.  

May & June: As spring passes into summer, International Artists rejects Stacey's "Someday My Love" as the B-side and decides to replace it with a Buddy Holly cover outtake from 1966. Stacey does more work in the studio in May and June, though it is not certain what is produced here except the controversial horn overdubs on "Never Another," "Livin' On," and "Dr. Doom." These were laid down by two trombonists and one trumpeter from the Houston Symphony Orchestra, on Danny Thomas's invitation.

June: International Artists releases "May the Circle Remain Unbroken" b/w "I'm Gonna Love You Too" (the Buddy Holly cover).

July: Still impatient with the way the third album is developing, International Artists begins production on the fake Live album. Duke Davis drifts out of the band and is replaced by the returning Ronnie Leatherman. The band fragments further when, behind Stacey's back, Tommy and Roky attempt to relocate the band to San Francisco with a new rhythm section.

August: In a final run at the 3rd album by the Sutherland/Leatherman/Thomas trio, 7 new songs are recorded. "Down by the River," "Scarlet and the Gold," and "With You" are keepers. "Someday My Love" uses a new set of lyrics by Tommy Hall and becomes "Til Then." Ensemble vocals by all three members are laid down. In the meantime, the fake live album is released.

September 26th: The third album is declared finished and in the can. Stacey gives it the title Bull of the Woods, reflecting the resiliency and determination it took for him to get the project done.

1969

February: "Livin' On" b/w "Scarlet and the Gold" is released as an advance single.

March: Bull of the Woods is released. "[Stacey's cover concept] was to portray the band's Texas heritage by using the silhouette of a longhorn bull to similar effect as the familiar representation of the proud Spanish bull. [Rather clueless International Artists label head Bill] Dillard took the title literally and lifted an image of a bull's head poking through a wooden fence, from a steakhouse menu he swiped." The record barely sells at all but its deep haunting sounds are still "livin' on".....


ADDENDUM:



Friday, February 15, 2013

SONNY & LINDA SHARROCK














I've been listening to that sublime Sonny Sharrock & the Savages radio session from 1974 that's going around, and it's reminding me how much I love all those classic pictures of Sonny & Linda Sharrock together. I really love the last two, taken by writer/photographer Valerie Wilmer (apparently on the same day, check the outfits). The first one is from the internet, the second one I scanned from the house copy of her essential free jazz book As Serious As Your Life, and posted here without permission, admittedly looking kinda rough compared to the first picture, and will take down immediately if asked (contact larrydolman at gmail dot com). The first of the two in the cafe is such a good picture of Linda, but then pictures of Linda do tend to be good: 

 


She's had a long, obscure, interesting, and mostly European career post-Sonny, stuff like this chamber jazz opera whatsis....



She might be the strangest jazz singer I've ever heard, which is saying something, but not too surprising because Paradise is certainly the weirdest jazz album ever recorded:




I choose to live in the glory that is Black Woman. My favorite song is "Peanut."



THIS JUST IN: At sonnysharrock.com there's an extensive transcript of the on-air interview that took place during the aforementioned Sonny & the Savages session on WCKR. A lot of good stuff in there about Linda's truly individual improvisational singing style, like:

Linda Sharrock: I listened to people like the Miracles, and you know, I mean, I've never listened to any kind of a female jazz singer for any kind of inspiration or anything like that. And I was influenced by horn players, influenced by Albert, and I think Pharoah was a strong influence, 'cause I heard him in Philadelphia, and then when I came to New York I would hear them, you know, and I think he was a big influence on me. So it was horns, you know.
Sonny Sharrock: …The thing that killed me about her singing was that she was, if not the first, one of the few jazz singers who improvise, and I mean, because improvisation is jazz, it's about improvisation, and to bend a few notes or to take liberties with the words. That's one of the reasons she doesn't use words: because it hinders your improvisation, you know.

I can believe that she wasn't into any female jazz singers although you have to wonder if they weren't aware of Max Roach & Abbey Lincoln's "Triptych." Here's another cool section:

Sonny Sharrock: ...what the band is doing is some kind of futuristic electronic folk music. And I never developed the standard techniques for the guitar, and I don't think Linda did for the voice. We never cared about, you know, developing the standard classical European Western techniques or whatever, and I developed my own techniques, Linda developed her own techniques, and I think that's what folk music is about, you know. And jazz: I have a strong feeling that jazz is a folk music, not to put John Lewis down, you know, with his chording of the concert hall, that classical thing, but you know, I feel it's a folk music.
Rich Scheinin: Yeah, sure, I remember Louis Armstrong once was asked something, what he thought about the folk revival, in the early '60s with Joan Baez and everybody, and they said, "What do you think of the folk revival?" and Louis Armstrong said, "I've been playing folk music all my life," you know.
Sonny Sharrock: Right, dig it, yeah. It is, you know. I don't think it was ever meant to be played technically; I think it's all about feeling, like all folk music is. It's not technique in folk music; it's the feeling that you get across, you know. It's a time to put across feelings, you know.

 

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