Monday, March 31, 2008

Zbigniew Karkowski & Damion Romero 9 Before 9 CD
Tony Allen & the Afro Messengers No Discrimination
Red Crayola Parable of Arable Land
Holger Czukay & Rolf Dammers Canaxis
Mi Ami "African Rhythms" 12"

"Some audio playback systems may exhibit signs of stress due to reproduction of this material. High performance audio equipment is recommended." That's the warning printed on the inside cover of the Zbigniew Karkowski & Damion Romero disc (on Blossoming Noise)... let's see, I'm playing it on a crappy Sony Discman plugged into a Harman/Kardon 330B receiver that looks like it was built in 1974 and little speakers that were probably built in 1964... which means they were probably built pretty well, so I might be okay... either way we're about 10 minutes in and all I hear is the faintest and most distant vapor-movement. So either it's already ruined my stereo and this is the result, or it gets like 20 or 50 times louder at some point... probably the latter, but at three tracks, each one (according to the track listing) exactly 18 minutes and 18 seconds long, who knows when that will be? Don't get me wrong, I'm liking this ambience, it reminds me of the glory days of Bernhard Gunter and even Sukora! (Update: it never did get louder. 56 straight minutes of distant vapor-movement. Good album. And those crafty evil sound geniuses probably ruined the speakers anyway. I mean they sound fine now, but in exactly one week, they'll just stop working completely, and I'll look closely at them and see that upside down crosses have been subtly burned into the dead center of each speaker grill.) Tony Allen's No Discrimination is a good one, recorded in 1980, a transitional album as he eased from Afrobeat into what he called "Afrofunk," with more synth and electronics and dub inflections trickling into the mix... now I have to dig his 1999 album Black Voices back out, that thing is an Afrofunk monster... This Holger Czukay album is heavy, recorded in 1968 just after Can started playing, but a product of Czukay's time studying with Stockhausen a few years earlier, 1963 to 1966. (Click here for Czukay's recent "Goodbye Karlheinz Stockhausen," which talks a bit about these years, complete with a photograph - is that really Holger?? Hard to recognize him without the white gloves.) Two side-longers featuring a strange melange that takes field recordings from Vietnam and immerses them in disorienting snippets of tape music and symphony orchestra samples blended further into near-intangible original music created in the studio by Czukay and associate Rolf Dammers. Side 2, the title track "Canaxis," is centered around an exquisite haunting slowly piercing drone, a sentimental favorite of mine ever since I taped it off of Chris Moon's radio show back in 1997 or thereabouts and spent several weeks after that listening to it in the car tape deck.... and for more writing by Czukay, his discography/history of Can is a good read.... Mi Ami is a heavy new band from San Francisco, although some or all of them used to live in DC, where some or all of them were in the short-lived but fondly-remembered Dischord band Black Eyes. I never have heard that band, but I am digging this debut Mi Ami record, three songs of a weird in-the-red Afrobeat/Ameribeat/no-wave/trance hybrid. You could describe them with some tired 'dance-punk' designation, but that doesn't explain the heavy contemplation and patience in their sound... so I guess you could say they're 'trance-punk' or something like that instead, but every now and then the singer starts yelping like a hyped-up 8-year-old kid and it totally snaps you out of the trance, keeps you on your toes, a little message from the band that anything might happen, while the fairly monstrous bass sound and looping drum rhythms can actually wake you up or zone you out, the choice is yours. A keeper, and it also sounds like a 'first record', meaning that they still seem to have a lot of room to grow within this sound and I'm definitely looking forward to the next release....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Can confirm that Mi Ami are a pretty great live band. Played a few months ago in Chicago w/ Scalpels. Had a recent conversation with an associate of the band, and he either said that they have a slower, more dub-influenced record coming out (like the second side of the single), or we just talked about how it would be cool if they had a slower, more dub-influenced record coming out. Can also confirm that Black Eyes were a great band, particularly their second album Cough.

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