Tuesday, May 28, 2013


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-Saëns 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) 


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.

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