Saturday, January 30, 2016

TEIJI ITO "Axis Mundi"

Been awhile since I've listened to the music of Teiji Ito; might even be since the last time I watched a Maya Deren film, which I haven't done since at least the year 2000. (It's okay, they're pretty etched into my brain.) Right now I'm listening to Ito's 32-minute piece "Axis Mundi," and for the first time I'm listening to it from a post-Don Cherry/Organic Music Society perspective, as I had not heard that particular Don Cherry music until the mid-2000s. This is a very interesting perspective; I think Teiji Ito is one of the very few people even close to being on Don Cherry's level as far as what became 'world music' concepts go. Plenty of evidence on the CD Meshes: Music For Film and Theater, which was released in 1997 by the ¿What Next? label. And right now, you can get the damn thing for under $10 on Discogs. CDs are still cheap, so go buy it, because why on earth would you want a 32-minute track released on vinyl instead of CD? Broken up into two sections, separated by a record flip, when you can just sit back and hear the whole thing uninterrupted? In addition to all 32 minutes of "Axis Mundi," which was composed and performed for a 1982 theater production in Baltimore (Mr. Ito sadly passed away later that year at the young age of 47), it includes his late-1950s soundtracks for two classic Maya Deren films, Meshes of the Afternoon and The Very Eye of Night (the entirety of the former and beautiful scenes from the latter handily embedded below via YouTube technology, with Ito's music in full effect).

Ito went on to marry Deren in the year 1960, but unfortunately she passed away in 1961 at the tender age of 44. It is worth noting that the music Ito was making for Deren's films predates Don Cherry's similar music by basically a decade. Of course, the very Cherry-like "Axis Mundi" was recorded almost 10 years after the Organic Music Society album, so it goes both ways. At the same time, Ito's music is also very Sun Ra-like in the late 1950s, at a time when Ra was just starting to scratch the surface of non-canonical instrumentation and open-form improvisations utilizing Asian concepts of silence. (Mr. Ra appears to have been paying attention to Deren & Ito, as his 1973 film Space is the Place drops a huge reference to Meshes of the Afternoon within its first 5 minutes.)

This is another YouTube of Ito's music, not for a Maya Deren film, but recorded in 1964 for a Japanese film production that was never released. In 2007, Ito's score was released on CD as Tenno by the Tzadik label. (That one goes for a little more money, a whopping $11.99!) It's a little more similar to the "Axis Mundi" feel than the Maya Deren works:

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

HASTÍO La Ofensiva Interior CS (NO LABEL)

Limited run of 20. Entire run pictured above. Bottom row center is the copy now sitting in my house! 

Hey, it's another #softunderground tape release from the American soft underground! In fact, this tape is by Hastío, aka PN of Seattle WA, the only other person to ever use the term #softunderground besides me, and of course radio and Twitter's own Jeff Conklin, who actually coined the term and then promptly stopped using it as soon as he noticed a couple of other goofballs had joined in. (Hey, can't say I blame him!) Thankfully, Mr. Conklin still plays lots of music in that style and several others on his weekly radio show on the Best Radio Station in the World, New Jersey's WFMU. He has in fact played this very Hastío tape. It features acoustic & electric guitars, electronics, spacey percussion, and wordless lost moaned vocals. You may have heard combinations much like this before from the post-2000 psych underground, but this one really leans heavily on the guitar. In fact, it's often unaccompanied, with a distinct Latino/Spanish melodic sense which is reflected in the Spanish-language album title and track titles like "Un presentimiento vago y pasajero de triunfo..." Throughout, there is lots of space, lots of silence, lots of pause for reflection, and even a few sections that could pass for a flamenco record on 16 RPM next to a healthy water heater. My favorite track is side one closer "El trueno en la ciudad," which eschews the atmospheric overdubs in favor of simple one-take lonesome zonesome heavy folk strumming. (The title means "Thunder in the city." Which is heavy.) []


Almost absurdly beautiful new music in a soft underground (aka #softunderground) psych/folk/experimental style. No vocals, two side-long tracks; on side A, delicate acoustic guitar eventually emerges from long slow-river washes of electronics; on side B, both the guitar and the washes are on equal footing, blended and interwoven, almost as if one is triggering the other. The Geology label is based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Dura is the work of someone named Mattson Ogg, who could live in Milwaukee, or could live in Scandinavia, or could live somewhere completely different. Point being, there's no info about the guy anywhere in the very nice cassette packaging, or on the Geology Records bandcamp page. (UPDATE: It appears that he lives in Brooklyn, New York just like everybody else!)

Sunday, January 24, 2016


A person on the internet just said:

"It's a favorite for me because it's always inviting the listener in to discover new things about both the record and your own mind. This LP is intergalactic and wants to commune with humans."

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


It might be true that everything is now on the internet, but that doesn't mean you're going to find out about it any faster. Way back in 2009 I was sent a tape of free-improvised acoustic guitar folk music by Cooper/Jones/Nichols, aka Sophie Cooper, Kelly Jayne Jones, and Pascal Nichols. I really dug it and was always interested in more from those responsible; next thing I know it's six years later and I hear about a new solo album by Sophie Cooper called Our Aquarius. I find it on Bandcamp and start listening obsessively, eventually noticing that it was released over a year ago. Oh well, better late than never; this is a fantastic album. As much as I loved the ramshackle homemade goodness of Ms. Cooper's earlier cassette, this solo work of hers is waaaayyy beyond. Those were improvised and cheaply recorded acoustic guitar & percussion room-jams, where these are songs and experimental instrumentals that are built up from carefully layered overdubs that are very well-recorded indeed. The result is what might be called a 'psychedelic folk' album, and sometimes it totally is, but it's also sometimes a noise album and/or a drone album, and sometimes it's a sui generis album, which is the best generis of all. The tracks have many layers and each one carves out its own deep territory. It's not until the 3rd song "Klias Wetlands" that we get true femme-sung psychedelic folk, and it's a doozy, a haunting number sounding like something the lady (ghost?) (hallucination?) across the lake in The Innocents might sing. There are two more relatively 'normal' folk songs on the album, the three of which would make a great EP/single release in themselves, but they sound even better surrounded by her deep instrumental work and heavy tone poems. Released as a CDR, in a beautiful possibly-hand-made wallet-thing with lyric insert, on the Wild Silence label, which is run by French musician Delphine Dora, whose work is worth serious investigation as well, among it a haunting collaborative release with Ms. Cooper.

Sunday, January 17, 2016


MAGAS Heads Plus (MIDWICH); MOON POOL & DEAD BAND "MEQ" (MIDWICH); VIANDS Temporal Relic (MIDWICH); MICK TRAVIS Face Disappears After Interrogation (MIDWICH) 
A favorite new label is Chicago-based Midwich Productions, who debuted in 2015 by releasing four records, all of them superb. One of them was by label CEO Jim Magas, a 12" EP called Heads Plus, one of his very best records in a long underground career, forward-looking post-techno style-melting electronic psychotronic headtrip party music all the way. Bonus points for the cover painting by Mark Salwowski, which was used for a 1985 paperback edition of Brian Aldiss's infamous 1969 psychedelic sci-fi novel about the Acid Head Wars, Barefoot in the Head; I initially and confusedly thought it was maybe a commissioned portrait of Magas himself; it all gets tied together in the Barefoot-inspired video for Heads Plus track "Machete King." (All of the Midwich releases thus far have been graced by amazing Salwowski cover paintings.) Speaking of underground, Moon Pool & Dead Band's Midwich release MEQ takes a great 2010 track from the Detroit duo of David Shettler and Nate "Wolf Eyes" Young, adds seven "deep, dystopian techno-funk" remixes of it by various co-conspirators, and then spreads it all across 4 sides of vinyl. These first two releases are the most dancefloor-friendly on the label, while the Viands record is the least traditional in that sense. It also features Shettler, though in a much different initial setting, playing in an ostensibly softer keyboard/synth duo, doing two improvisational side-long pieces, but their Temporal Relic is a very deeply heavy album that grows and grows as it goes. It's not a 'techno-funk' album like the other Midwich titles can pass as, but not merely a 'side-long jams' experimental/psych/synth album either, thanks to a rarefied light touch, highly musical approach, and a particularly enticing and subtle sense of rhythm. I honestly feel like its correct genre is, get ready, krautrock. Like, this is an actual krautrock album from 1973, even though it was recorded in 2014 by two guys from Michigan. Mick Travis is another guy from (I think) Michigan, who has a release on Aaron Dilloway's Hanson Records, collaborated with him in The Nevari Butchers, and has his own label Medusa. His record is a 12" EP that really throws the hammer down, not only musically, but with the incredible sci-fi title Face Disappears After Interrogation (a title like that paired with another mind-blowing Mark Salwowski cover painting, featuring a drowned man in an underwater car and a young boy on a bike under irradiated skies, is really just too much). It might be the most traditionally heavy of the four Midwich releases (although none of them are slouches in the department), almost like some weird personal filtration of the gabber sound, except that the Side A track "Multiple Roles" might end up the most submerged-sounding thing in the catalog. Great shit, all four records are very worthwhile, and more is coming from Midwich in 2016.

Saturday, January 16, 2016


Speaking of the Thinking Fellers... man, they were a hell of a band. So often they teetered on the brink of 'wacky' and 'quirky', things I usually don't like (okay, so often they WILLFULLY TOOK THE LEAP AND PLUNGED DEEP INTO 'wacky' and 'quirky'), but they were such a viciously good band at good ole PLAYING and SINGING, that it never truly mattered. And, they really knew how to arrange three guitar parts at once, giving their music an always-surprising orchestral wallop. I always felt a special connection to them as well because they were originally from my home state Iowa, and they really did exemplify that state's particular twisted, dry, and frankly stupid sense of humor, which I had also been cursed with. Anyway, my single favorite song by the Fellers is the first one on this here EP, released waaaaaayy back in 1990. (Yep, that's over 25 years ago.) It's called "Hell Rules." It starts with the title, another one of those sardonic/bitter post-pigfuck 90s-indie koans, and then continues into the truly beautiful and haunting music, in which forlorn intertwining African High Life guitar lines delicately cycle around, lonesome in the void, a drum kit is replaced by spacy and intermittent hand percussion, and the vocals alternately sound like someone mumbling in another room and a goddamn choir of angels reminding you that, yes, "Hell Rules." "Narlus Spectre" is another Fellers classic, a loping folk-rock number with spaghetti western guitar parts and high-lonesome cowboy vocal melodies. Because, if there was a cowboy in the TFUL282 universe, of course he would be named Narlus fucking Spectre. "Leaky Bag" is a bit of a rager, and even with their twee vocals and derptastic humor, this band could fucking rage. EP closer "Misfits Park" also rages, with a particulary nasty guitar solo; it also has a 'quirky' ska upbeat in the bassline, and you just know at least one of these people non-ironically played Two-Tone Ska at some point (just like their idols in Souled American used to), and EVEN THAT doesn't bother me.

Friday, January 15, 2016

U.S. SAUCER My Company Is Misery LP (AMARILLO)

 Back in the 90s I got into this band first, because they were a “Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 side project″ (not really accurate, but the two bands did share one member, Brian Hageman), and second, because they were on Amarillo Records (the consistently baffling/humorous/fascinating label run by Gregg “Neil Hamburger” Turkington). What absolutely sealed the deal was a brilliant blurb, presumably written by Jimmy Johnson, in the mail-order catalog in the back of the last ever issue of Forced Exposure, which in part read “…some of the most depressingly liberating outings of non-good-time music you could ever hope to lay your head down next to. Sparse drone song structure sometimes opens up for bursts of heavy noise guitar (almost Haino-esque) and general inspirational lethargy. Can’t imagine a more unimpeachingly ‘outside’ American LP any time soon.” I really love that phrase “depressingly liberating,” and I can’t tell you how drawn I continue to be to music that fits that bill, from Neil Young to the aforementioned Mr. Haino to Doom Metal to Meg Baird to Souled American. And, speaking of Souled American, I now can’t help but think that U.S. Saucer was probably formed to simply BE a West Coast version of them in their post-drummer iteration. Not so much to “rip them off” as just to keep that beautiful depressing vibe going, as its originators got more and more reclusive over the years. David Tholfsen is almost as monstrous on bass as SA’s Joe Adducci, and the guitars by Margaret Murray and Hageman do a lot more than just a great Grigoroff/Tuma homage (FE wasn’t kidding about those Haino-esque noise bursts – check out the long coda to “Scold Mourner” for some particularly satisfying slow-burn scorch). 

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