Monday, July 28, 2008


D: Alright, I guess we can do D&D. I don't know if you can tear me away from this Souled American though...
D: Oh, you're getting into it now?
D: Oh man, yes. It has completely clicked. I've been listening to Fe, their first album, and this one, Around the Horn, which is I think their third... I mean, I listened to Fe twice last night, and once tonight.... Around the Horn both nights...
D: This sounds great.
D: Oh, this is one of their very best songs, it's called "Second of All."
D: It's so sweet and sad.
D: Now listen, you have to listen to these albums a couple times at least before you even begin to maybe like it. They are a completely off-putting band at first. And I have to be honest, it was an essay on them in the new Believer mag, the music issue, that turned me around. It wasn't even the greatest essay, I mean it was littered with Believer speak...
D: Like what?
D: Well, let's just pull it off the shelf here and I'll read you an example... are you recording?
D: Why yes I am.
D: Alright, this is all going in. (Thumbs through magazine.) Actually, this is really a fine essay. I can't knock it. I mean, there is a certain post-Dave Eggers preciousness about it... like this stuff: "Using an approximate calculus that accounts for current mood and desired mood, I pick an album. Whatever I decide, I decide this: to listen to Souled American." But really, I can't knock it, it states its case really well. He recognizes the exact things that were bothering me about the band, and articulates them really well, and then explains why the band is great anyway. It really worked.
D: Well, this is sounding great to me right now. I have heard them, like one other time, and yeah, it didn't click.
D: Like I said, you definitely have to listen at least three times before you'll even begin to like it. It may take longer than that - the writer of this essay says he's STILL not even sure if he likes them. Anyway.... I think we can start shuffling. Listen to this bass player though, he is absolutely sick.
D: Yeah, I had noticed him a little bit. Totally strange.
D: Yeah, he's incredibly good though. He kind of just clumsily dances around these songs and keeps them totally fired up and in the moment. Plus he kind of lays these weird chord suspensions down from time to time, in a more jagged Phil Lesh kind of way. He never lets the songs become just country songs. He never lets it be Uncle Tupelo. I don't think they would be anyway, the way the guys sing. I think that's the real acquired taste. But it's actually stopped bothering me. We can start shuffling, though.
D: Alright, here goes...........

D: Speaking of Phil Lesh.
D: Man, why does it always go to the Grateful Dead when we're doing D&D?
D: Because you love them.
D: Yeah, I guess it might be because I have 24 complete shows on here and like 16 album releases. Almost four days worth of back-to-back no-repeat Grateful Dead....
D: That's insane.
D: I'm not even gonna say one word to defend it. Anyway we've got a "Bird Song" here, one of their greatest songs.... not sure yet if this is a great performance... sound is a little distant. I'm guessing this is from....... that's Keith on piano.... how about a '77 show?
D: Looks like '72.
D: Okay, okay... oh, is this that Veneta, Oregon show?
D: Yes it is.
D: Alright, I've been warming up to this show... there's quite a bit of lore about it... it was an outdoor show at like Ken Kesey's cousin's farm in Oregon, I think it was a benefit for something, and they made this crude film of it, their first attempt to make the Grateful Dead Movie, basically... it's called Sunshine Daydream and there's some clips on YouTube. The movie is like 63 minutes long and it's never been released, and looks pretty damn good... good live footage, hippies running around in a field, and some footage of Neil Cassady driving the Merry Pranksters bus, with "I Know You Rider" in the background. Pretty sweet....
D: These are our real American icons.
D: Oh fuck you. Anyway, it was like 100 degrees that day so it was kind of a rough show, not musically rough, but everything else.... also one of the last shows where all members were on acid while playing.
D: I still don't understand how they were able to do that.
D: I think they were just so familiar with their own music, and also familiar with not just how to play it, but how to actually use it as a safety zone while tripping. But yeah, I think they were pretty much over it by '72. But man, this song is such a momentum-kill to start a D&D session with. I mean, this is like 12 minutes long, and it's lovely, and mellow, and now I just want to lay back and listen to this all night. But shuffle on we must.......

Oh lord, this is "The Needle and the Damage Done," the Harvest version even... I mean, couldn't this at least be a version from some weird stoned bootleg? I've got over 1000 albums on this thing, we're here to check out the obscure stuff!
D: You probably don't actually have any obscure stuff. And this sounds awesome.
D: Well of course it does. I was just kidding about the obscure stuff.... nothing's obscure anymore. The only time something is obscure is if nobody wants it.

Okay, this is gamelan music from Music From The Morning Of The World. [Track: "Gamelan Anklung: Margepati"] Still not digging very deep there, Mr. iPod. But, this is one of my favorite albums that I own. One of my first serious 'world music' finds. I wanted some gamelan music just from reading about it, because like John Cage and then the Sun City Girls were into it, and this was the album I found in the world music section, original vinyl, cheap. Turns out to be a real classic of the genre. This was actually the first release on the Nonesuch Explorer label, in like 1968. Such alien music.
D: Yeah, the sense of time and rhythm, the way it speeds up and slows down...
D: Incredible. And of course the sonorities, the harmonies, the way the melodies move... it's almost like science-fiction theremin music rearranged for.... whatever it is they're playing it on... I mean I hear all the bells of course but there are other higher tones that sort of float in between the bell hits, and they don't sound like they have the bell attack... almost like a flute tone or something... you hear what I mean?
D: Oh yeah, I hear it. I just think it's total mystery music.

D: OH GOD, this is good. Oh yeah, this is Velvet Underground, my god.... is this on Loaded, or is this an outtake? "Oh Sweet Nothin".....
D: I think this was the last song on the Loaded LP. It's like 7 or 8 minutes long.
D: It's so good. It's actually making me think of Souled American a little bit, this kind of slow and streched-out country style, but.... this is so much smoother and prettier.
D: While still being just as sweetly sad.
D: I think so. When Lou sang like that it was just so sweet... or god, is this Doug Yule? I'm never sure. Like, that can't be Moe Tucker on drums... too much cymbal and hi-hat.
D: Can't be. Just a second.... [googling] Oh hey, says here, "Moe Tucker was pregnant, and Yule's brother Billy sat in on drums for most of the sessions."
D: I'm pretty sure I knew that. I've known it a few different times.
D: It also says, "Doug Yule ended up recording many of the vocals in the final mix." Let's see... [more surfing].... yep, Wikipedia says that Yule sang on "Oh! Sweet Nuthin'."
D: Well there you go. Bravo, Mr. Yule......

Okay, now we're in 'treated field recording sound collage' land. Immersion style. I don't think this is Sublime Frequencies though.... that bird sound is mad annoying.... it might not be part of the original field recording.... oh shit, it's over! And right into "Chameleon" [by Herbie Hancock]! The iPod is really playing the hits tonight.... so who was that field recording? "Chameleon" is sounding tight as hell, by the way. Who played drums on this album?
D: Was it Lenny White?
D: I don't think so...
D: [Wiki-ing] I guess it was... Harvey Mason.
D: I don't even know who that is. But he is the drummer on the best-selling jazz album of all time!
D: Anyway, back to the lecture at hand, who was that previous track by....
D: Yeah, the field recording thing....
D: Well, it wasn't quite Sublime Frequencies, but it was Sun City Girls! [track plays again]
D: Oh really? Proto-Sublime Frequencies....
D: Title is "Bamboo Gazebo Arousal," and it's from Sumatran Electric Chair.
D: I was gonna guess that. I really like that album. It's one of Alan Bishop's favorites too. And those bird sounds are real, of course.......

Okay, now we're in bootleg land... or maybe this is the Tower Recordings or something.... oh, never mind, this is Alistair Galbraith. From a very recent live thing he put out, obviously a lo-fi recording, sounds good though, he's cutting through just fine. I've never heard him like this, with no overdubs, no 4-track trickery. Oh wow, it's over... I guess that was a trick. The way he truncates his songs on tape, I guess he does it live too.

And this next thing sounds like FREE FOLK. Hmm. Really not sure who it is. Goofy sounds. Old-timey sounds. It's kinda waltzy. [Singing starts.] Oh man, this is really quirky. This is practically Elephant 6. But not quite, there's something a little more laid back about it. Oh, he's singing "I hear a new world calling me..." Is this a Joe Meek song?
D: I don't know...
D: This is probably Magical, Beautiful, covering a Joe Meek song...
D: It is Magical, Beautiful, you are correct.
D: This is pretty impressive. It's got that woozy Magical, Beautiful feeling. The slide guitar and stuff like that. Okay, we've got this damn iPod, time to put it to use... jump to the artist Joe Meek and see if we can hear the original. I know I have it on here.
D: Coming up
D: Oh wow. This is super weird.
D: Insane.
D: Literally! I was just reading about Joe Meek, and I didn't know any of that stuff, how he like, I don't know, killed his neighbor or something?
D: Whoah, I didn't know that.
D: He did, he freaked out and killed some innocent stranger and then killed himself I think.
D: Let's see... [Wiki strikes again].... yep, in 1967, at age 37, he used a shotgun to kill his landlady and then killed himself.
D: Sigh. Well, the Magical, Beautiful version was pretty cool.
D: Yeah, it's actually a more fleshed-out version.
D: Yeah, Meek's version is amazing but it's kind of all sound effects. What's this, just the next song on the Meek album?
D: Yeah, it's called "Orbit Around The Moon."
D: I like the surf stuff.
D: Yeah, well his biggest hit was "Telstar" by The Tornadoes... or was it "Tornado" by The Telstars? [wiki wiki wiki wiki] Okay, it's "Telstar" by The Tornadoes.
D: That's gotta be surf.
D: Yeah, there's a link here on the Wikipedia page for you to listen to a snippet of the song, but I can't get it to work. It's an "ogg" file.
D: Yeah, I don't mess around with those. At least not yet. I finally messed around with a FLAC the other day. That was kinda silly. "CD quality!"
D: I thought CDs were supposed to suck, man....
D: Totally! I love it when I see an album ripped at like 120.... it's like some full-length deluxe CD reissue with bonus tracks, and the whole thing is like 39 megs. Alright, this is pretty rad, but let's get back to shuffle here.... adios, crazy Joe Meek....
D: Yeah, I think "Entry of the Globbots" is a good track to go out on...
D: Wow, listen to those chipmunks chattering....
D: Yeah, I mean.... you know, nothing but respect for the victim and her family, but... [points to speaker] didn't they hear the warning signs??

D: Oh great, you shuffled me to some classical music. I love this stuff at work, or at home with the family, but dammit, NOT FOR D&D! It's like, "Alright Blastitude readers, check out this latest obscure break-out underground artist, his name is.... J.S. Bach!!"
D: Actually this is Chopin.
D: I coulda probably guessed that right. Fred Chopin. Hey, guess what, it's beautiful.
D: For the record, this is one of the Nocturnes. Opus 9, Number 3.
D: Listen to you!
D: I care deeply.
D: Next...

D: Oh, you'll like this.
D: Sounds like the Dead doing "Morning Dew."
D: Ha ha, exactly.
D: It is the Dead?
D: No, but that's why you'll like it.
D: This is really nice. Great singer. This isn't from Chile or Argentina or something, is it?
D: Um, it is from the Southern Hemisphere.
D: Oh, is this..... Amanaz?
D: Yes.
D: Oh god, this is a wonderful album. I think it's gonna ruin all the other 70s African psych reissues for me. I already couldn't get into the Witch album after hearing this first. Are they singing "Sunday Morning"?
D: Yep, that's the title.
D: See, I was just thinking how this sounded a little like Doug Yule-era Velvet Underground, specifically that "New Age" song off Loaded, the one that goes "Can I have your autograph?"
D: "He said to the fat blond actress...."
D: Exactly. I think they might've modeled this song on it a little bit.
D: Well they did name the song after a VU song...
D: Oh wait, do you think they were actually influenced by the Velvet Underground? Like they were listening to the banana album over there?
D: Of course it's possible....
D: Yeah, but on like cassettes or something? Was Verve or Polydor or whoever making cassettes in the early 1970s? I mean, I'm thinking of the Group Doueh story, how he only heard Hendrix via cassettes manufactured in and imported from Spain or something like that....
D: The more I think about it, I don't know.... I think the "Sunday Morning" thing is just a coincidence. I mean, hardly anyone in the USA was listening to VU, how could it have made it to Africa?
D: Well you know what they say, only two people in Africa heard the Velvet Underground, and they both started a band!
D: They were both in Amanaz!
D: Wiki THAT, my man.
D: I bet I won't figure anything out. "No page titled Amanaz."
D: Hm. Google "Amanaz + Velvet Underground."
D: Nothing but "CD Now" ads.

D: This is Kurt Vile, another fantastic dusted ballad from the Constant Hitmaker album. "Everyone that I know/Talks to me way too slow/I lose track of what they say/Before they walk away." Skip Spence worthy, right there. Let's just stop recording and listen to this shit.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Bathory (first six albums, especially The Return... and Hammerheart)
Sex Vid Nests 7" (and live)
Box Elders 7" (best "sent a letter to my baby"/"got a letter from my baby" hook in years)
Hearts of Animals 7" (I was gonna say "dream pop" but there's no genre to describe this music yet - I mean what about that driving drum machine?)
Muslimgauze Jaahgeed Zarb CD (slammin!)
Zbiegnew Karkowsi & Damion Romero 6 Before 6 CD
Helena Espvall & Masaki Batoh s/t CD
Caboladies Body Tides CDR
Warmer Milks Soft Walks CD
The Fun Years Baby It's Cold Inside CD
Vivian Girls LP (great!)
Radio Thailand 2CD
Radio Myanmar CD (all Sublime Frequencies always)
I've got all my Butthole Surfers LPs out again
Fabulous Diamonds LP (one of the very best of all the new Siltbreeze)
These Are Powers Taro Tarot EP (some bold new ground)
the new Grouper LP Dragging a Dead Deer up the Hill is pretty much perfect


Anonymous said...

It's great that somebody is discovering Souled American. Once you get into it, you may not want to leave their world for a long time. Wait 'til you hear the last couple of records they did.


Larry said...

"Once you get into it, you may not want to leave their world for a long time."

That's exactly where I'm at right now. And I have gotten hold of Notes Campfire... damn. They just played Chicago in June and I wasn't even interested, I had no idea. Hope it's not another 2 years before their next gig...

Anonymous said...

"Born (free)" on "Notes" is the world's saddest song.


Anonymous said...

If I thought I had it in me I'd volunteer to write a huge epic Souled American piece for Blastitude. I'm not sure I have it in me.

I have everything they've ever recorded and have had several periods in my life of full 100% immersion in their music. I've been lucky enough to see them play live in S.F. twice. I even have a copy of this little book:

Now I'm kind of afraid to even put one of their records on- I'd probably get sucked in again.


Anonymous said...

Say Larry- have you ever heard J.J. Cale's 1st album,
"Naturally?" It's amazing.

It's so fuckin' 'casual' and 'laid-back' that it comes out the other side and is totally intense. I think it must have been a big influence on Souled American.

Larry said...

Oh hell yeah, J.J. Cale is great and I think that's his best album. I love the drum machine and mumbled vibe. I think I'm gonna put it on my Minimalist Top 10.... Souled American Notes Campfire too...

Larry said...

Minimalism Top 10:
1. Velvet Underground "Run Run Run" (or several other examples)
2. Black Sabbath "Black Sabbath"
3. King Tubby
4. J.J. Cale Naturally
5. ZZ Top "Waitin' on the Bus"
6. Fleetwood Mac "Dreams"
7. Souled American Around the Horn (went with this one instead)
8. Melvins Lysol
9. Basic Channel label and offshoots
10. Eddy Current Suppression Ring

Larry said...

Derek - I wouldn't have it in me write an epic on these guys either - but how were those two shows? Right now Notes Campfire is on the same off-putting impenetrable level that Fe and Around the Horn were initally at. That will change, but this album is brutal! You might be right about "Born(free)"... it's either that or the Swamp Dogg version of "Sam Stone"...

Anonymous said...

Larry- To my eternal regret, I never got to see the original
4-piece Souled American play live. I have no doubt that they absolutely killed, though.

After their 4th album ("Sonny", an incredible almost-all-covers album, maybe their best, contains maybe the best "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain" ever which is saying a whole lot), their drummer left. They didn't replace him. Then after one more record, gtrist Scott Tuma (who now makes beautiful minimal music in Chicago under his own name) quit. They didn't replace him either. It was just Grigoroff and Adducci left. The two of them moved to somewhere in central Illinois and holed up. Anyway those were the shows I saw, duo shows.

I have a friend whose band toured with the duo Souled American in Germany and he said they were a)hilarious, like Laurel-and-Hardy team style hilarious, and b)both completely addicted to marijuana. Both of these elements were made obvious to me when seeing them live.

They both wore shades, had the stage in near-total darkness, made really funny off-the-cuff asides and small talk, and played one after another of the incredibly slow-paced, brutal, beautiful, devastating songs mainly from "Frozen" and "Notes Campfire."

Each time, several people in the audience left well before the show was over. Once that started happening, the show got really relaxed and they starting taking requests (I asked for "Rise Above It" at one show and they did it, so great).

Chris Grigoroff is easily one of my 5 favorite living singers. Hearing him sing even better than he does on record was the real treat, along with hearing/seeing Adducci do that mind-blowing bass playing.

I've listened to "Notes Campfire" that past 2 nights. It's a nearly impenetrable album. It seems to emanate from some dismal point in space. It's not easy but it may end up speaking to you.

I would like to close by saying that Souled American is a profound band.

The End.


Anonymous said...

on dereks kick, souled american is a totally classic/(not lost but under evaluated band). so excited you are bringing them into conversation.

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