Sunday, October 30, 2011


COUNT OSSIE Remembering Count Ossie: A Rasta "Reggae" Legend (MOODISC)
JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH The French Suites [Angela Hewitt, piano] (HYPERION)
MIGHTY DIAMONDS When the Right Time Come/I Need A Roof (VIRGIN)
JOHN CARPENTER The Essential John Carpenter Film Music Collection (SILVA SCREEN)
VARIOUS ARTISTS Written In Blood Volume 5: The Devil's Lullaby (GHOST CAPITAL)

Oh man I got to hear a preview of the Blues Control & Laraaji album, due out from the RVNG INTL. label in November. What can I say, I loved it. Why is Blues Control so much better at deep new age than all the new new age scene heroes of today? Is it because they're over 30 years of age? I think that's part of it. As a wise man recently said, "never trust anyone under 30." Of course, much credit for the success of this music is due to Laraaji, also over 30 years of age and a legit deep new age veteran, who contributes immensely with great vocals, improvisational celestial intangibility... and laughter! A perfect appetizer for the upcoming Blues Control full-length, which will be their fourth 'proper' album if I'm counting correctly, and their first for the great Drag City label. (Check out these interviews with Laraaji and Blues Control by Andy Beta.)

Absurdly heavy and lyrical arco bass solo throughout "Yesterdays" by Paul Chambers, notably reverbed-out for 1957. Great laid-back guitar comping by Kenny Burrell gives it the swing and makes it a tune, so that Chambers doesn't ever really have to stop improvising. Nice to hear him go off, as I know him primarily as the rock-solid and absolutely team-playing bassist on Miles Davis's Kind of Blue, although I'm sure I've heard him go off here or there without even realizing it, as he recorded about a dozen albums each for both Miles Davis and John Coltrane, and a whole lot more besides, which is very impressive for a guy who passed away at age 33.

It was bound to happen; at some point in the last couple years, young Claire Dolman, age 6, caught a glimpse of the band KISS in full regalia, probably in a commercial for Dr. Pepper during a basketball game, and when she learned that those monsters ranting about soda pop actually played music, she instantly became a big fan, fascinated with the idea of Monster Bands, even once overhearing the Misfits and correctly identifying them as a "monster band." Granted, her favorite Kiss song is "Beth," and she requested that tonight, so being El Padro Coolio I pulled out Destroyer, ON VINYL OF COURSE, the same copy I've had since I was way into monster bands myself, circa 1978. I haven't played it in a good 20 years, but it sounded great, just a really good 1970s metallic bubblegum pop record, right up there with Sweet Desolation Boulevard ... although I did play Side 2 first, which starts with the irresistibly goofy and lyrically randy Broadway-pop anthems "Flaming Youth," "Sweet Pain," and "Shout It Out Loud," before settling down for the real note-perfect show-tune action of "Beth," and then right back into the yearning sardonic night-time-world glam-pop majesty of "Do You Love Me?," its sassy lyrics co-written by Kim Fowley. Ah, but then it was back to side one and that oh-so cinematic (or should I just say Ezrin-matic?) "Detroit Rock City" opener... when the song finally starts, I always thought it was a good, dark, patient midtempo riff tune, and it pretty much is, but this is the first time I've listened to the song since watching the Chicago-made MC5 documentary A True Testimonial back in '02, when it premiered here in town before being quickly suppressed by members of the band, a state it is still in today. In the film, drummer Dennis Thompson is asked something, possibly about the MC5's influence on later bands, and after his answer, he closes with "Oh, and Kiss? FUCK YOU." I watched that almost 10 years ago, but tonight "Detroit Rock City" brought back the memory, and I understood it then, but now I really understand it. The refrain where they shout "Get up! Everybody gonna move their feet/Get down, everybody gonna leave their seat/Gotta lose your mind in Detroit Rock City," really sounds like they are playing dress-up in their Kick Out The Jams costumes, but in a really strange and rather cynical way, more like a big-budget fictionalized Broadway musical cash-in based on the career of the MC5 would sound like, and just imagine Bob Ezrin trying to dress up as John Sinclair. After that the band (or Ezrin acting on behalf of the band) wisely follows with another Fowley tune, "King of the Night Time World," pop-metal grandiosity that detours mercifully away from Grande Ballroom wannabe fantasies into their own comic-book bubblegum trip. And after that, "God of Thunder," sheez. Say what you will, it's 10 times better than any of the boring screamo doom sludge I'm hearing these days. Certainly no one has topped the demon-children sound effects. Basically all I'm saying is that not only is it legitimately heavy in a proto doom metal style, but it's also fun, which none of these new bands are, to which they'll say "That's the point," to which I'll say, "Which is why I don't listen." And "Great Expectations"? WTF? I'll just let #1 monster band fan Claire have the last word on it, because when it came on after "God of Thunder" she said, presumably directly to mean Gene himself, "What?? You can't do this! You were born and raised of the demons!" I tried to tell her that superstar producer Bob Ezrin was NOT raised by demons, but I don't think she was listening.

So Destroyer is pretty great, but Hotter Than Hell is still my favorite Kiss LP. It has an absolutely stunning cover design, especially the back cover, one of the craziest things I had ever seen at age 9 or whatever. Looking at it now, it still seems like the most successful musician-as-superhero band photos I've seen, which is all the more humorous now that we know how weak these four guys really are in real life. (Although what about Paul Stanley? Doesn't he have any problems? Hmmm.) Anyway, the cover was great enough, but then there was the sound of the album. Talk about proto-sludge! The band sounds like its playing every song at about 80% of the correct speed, the guitars sound bright, wet, muddy, and dry all at once... but yet it's still great. Can anyone tell me why? That's right, you in the front row, it's because of the songs. Everything tends to work when you have good songs, and this really is a memorable batch, one comic-book power-pop absurdity after another. Just dig how "Got To Choose" kicks off the album with an atonal guitar clash into a sludgy riff that is somehow becomes yearning molasses-slow power-pop love-song hogwash that has an awesome "oo-oo-ooh!" chorus hook! And then the next song is a churning and menacing body-horror stomper written by Ace Frehley called "Parasite"! And then, my god, "Goin' Blind," and if you don't know that unsettling power ballad masterpiece from Gene himself then I'm sure you know it from Buzz. And then Paul throws down the title track, which is probably the most blatant rip-off of Free's "All Right Now" ever recorded. "Hot hot, hotter than hell; you know she's gonna leave you well done." Hoooo boy. It really doesn't let up either -- I think "All The Way," "Watching You," and "Strange Ways" are also all great tunes, and the others certainly don't slow anything down. As funky and freaky as anything the Coop was making at the time.

Now I didn't switch from Kiss to Bach to try to impress you with the stunning eclectic breadth of my musical taste, it's just that Claire wanted to practice some ballet. I mean, she was cool about it; she tried to do it to "Watching You" by Kiss and kept up with it for well over a minute, but then she was like, "Can you just put on some classical music?" and who could blame her? I know I don't want ballet and Gene Simmons anywhere near the same room together. So Bach, here we come. By the way, there's this poster at the place where my daughter takes dance lessons that says "Dance is the only art in which we ourselves are the stuff of which it is made." That's kinda been blowing my mind.

"Super Ape (In Good Shape)" Interlude:

"Lick the chalice / African knowledge / Move and groove deh / African roots deh":

"This is the ape man / Trodding through creation / Are you ready to step with I man?"

(I played Super Ape for the second time this week because it's awesome, and also because I came across this nice piece about it on Upsetter Station: A Lee Perry Magazine, and had to listen along while reading.)

Haven't really gotten into Flying Lotus yet. This is my 3rd or 4th try, and it's especially difficult when it comes right after Super Ape and Satwa, both albums that are light and airy, with lovely and rich room-sound in abundance, only to be yanked suddenly 30 years into the future and into a claustrophobic overloaded direct-into-the-board electronic recording with no air or room to breathe whatsoever. The songwriting too is more overload-oriented than groove-oriented.... okay, now, just past the one-minute mark of the second track "Breathe Something/Stellar ST," and a discernable backbeat and a somewhat melodic groove has emerged. Not bad, the beat and groove creates space, opens up some air, allows the track to develop an atmosphere. Hmm, track 3 "Beginners Falafel" is better still. Definitely some interesting futuristic grooves on here, I'm coming around a little, but overall it still sounds more like someone using their computer to put together jigsaw puzzles than it does someone making music. 

More from Casablanca Records courtesy Parliament! I always thought Up For The Down Stroke was a top-notch underrated album, right up there with Mothership Connection. Worth it for the title track and "All Your Goodies Are Gone" alone, but then you get the 9-minute "The Goose" on top of it. C'mon, chant with me, "Ooh, ah, babe / you're so-oh sweet" (truncated promo single version):


And finally, I will leave you with this seasonal masterpiece:

Saturday, October 29, 2011


ASH RA TEMPEL Best of the Private Tapes (The Early Years) (FM SHADES)
VARIOUS ARTISTS Ouelele - Another Collection Of Modern Afro Rhythms (COMET RECORDS)
VARIOUS ARTISTS Assalam Aleikoum Africa Volume 2 (Traditional & Modern Folk Music of West Africa) (ANTILLES)

We've all known a few older heads who've lent us some awesome LPs, right? This is how I got to have originals of, say, Skip Spence Oar and No New York sitting around my turntable for a few months, and also a copy of what is still my favorite contemporary African music LP comp of all time (yes, even in this day and age of reissued plenty), Assalam Aleikoum Africa Volume 2, released in 1976 on the Antilles label. Still haven't heard Volume 1, but this one is filled with heavy beauty and I immediately made a cassette dub of it from said older dude's copy 15 years ago. It's been close to me ever since, and in fact I just dusted it off this morning for at-work listening. (In case you're wondering: TDK SA100 with Thinking Fellers Tangle on the other side, actually a very good pairing!) The most absolutely you've-gotta-listen-to-it-right-now blistering track is the second one on the album, "Yeye Mousso" by Moussa Doumbia, which was re-comped here and here during the aforementioned 00's reissue windfall, but I think my favorite is this piece of grungy wailing fuzz-guitar soul, "Ahissa" by Kouyate Sory. And, if you look closely enough at that YouTube you'll find a generous link to a blog with more about these LPs and, yes, downloadability.

Two new albums from Loren Connors, one under his own name and one with his 'blues' band Haunted House. Other than one long-ago listen to his early acoustic guitar albums, I think I have loved every single note I've heard this guy play, mostly (if not all) on electric guitar, and that's quite a few (even for a "slowhand" like himself), going back almost 20 years. Some musical careers are like fire, and burn out quickly, but others are like rivers, steady, always flowing, always the same, always different. The Connors streak continues with these two brand new ones... while he is capable of very light and lyrical playing (the 2000 album Portrait of a Soul comes to mind), he also goes into territory that is quite the opposite, not only darker and more abstract, but something I would call downright abyssal. Parts of the 1998 album The Bridge come to mind, and a great album like Moonyean (1994, RoadCone) explores both the light and dark deeply and in various balances. Red Mars, recorded in 2010 with accompaniment by Margardia Garcia on electric double bass, now available on CD and download from the Family Vineyard label, is what I would call an abyssal work, groaning, haunting, distant, somehow both near-ambient and menacingly loud. Abyssal like deep space, and deep space is precisely what this record is about with its Sun Ra-worthy titles like "Showers of Meteors" and "Little Earth."

As for Haunted House, they are their own beast, a quartet made up of Connors and Andrew Burnes on guitar, Connor's wife Suzanne Langille on vocals, and, in the place of a traditional rhythm section, Neel Murgai playing a large Persian frame drum called a daf. This group played together for a couple years in the 1990s, releasing an epic CD called Up In Flames (1999, Erstwhile Records), but have been dormant ever since Burnes moved from NYC at the beginning of the 2000s. They rather suddenly reconvened in 2010 when he was back in town for a few days, and then a few months later got together again and quickly recorded their 2nd album, Blue Ghost Blues, now released on CD, LP, MP3, and FLAC by Northern Spy Records. The album sounds like it came together quickly, not because it's undercooked, sloppy, or hasty, but because it's fiery and urgent, pulsing and boiling with barely bottled aggression. Though I think Connors has a very distinctive style, I'm not sure which guitarist is doing what on here. I like to think he's the one playing against type, locking into a rather nasty and sometimes downright doomy chugging low-E pulse, nary letting it go for the whole album, and that Burnes is the one taking the more 'lead' guitar role. This higher-register distorted sound-shaping never seems to break into those trademark Loren Connor's wailing single-note cries... but who knows. The point is, the group is playing together as one voice, and the one doing the chugging lays down a rock-solid platform for the others to extrapolate on. Both guitarists are in excellent form, and Langille raises the ante with her own song-shaping vocal intensity, Murgai thundering in and around the pulse. This is a band that knows how to work together, whether their last gig was 10 years ago or 10 days ago.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


BIG YOUTH Screaming Target (TROJAN)
VARIOUS ARTISTS Joe Gibbs Mood (The Amalgamated Label 1968-1971) (TROJAN) 
VARIOUS ARTISTS Tribe Vibes Vol. 1 (STRICTLY BEATS) (the linked track is bonkers)
ALVARIUS B Blood Operatives of the Barium Sunset CD (ABDUCTION)

I was listening to the Biosphere album after listening to a lot of Grouper, and one of his tracks in particular, "Times When I Know You'll Be Sad," made me think of her music. Just then I remembered a Q&A with Grouper in which she mentioned Substrata as a good album, or a favorite album, or a recently listened to album, which is why I got hold of it in the first place.

Just noticed another example of the Beastie Boys being way into Jamaican deejay records... "Solomon A Gunday" by Big Youth was sampled in "Funky Boss." Go to for details.

That Amalgamated Label comp hits a total late rocksteady/early reggae sweet spot, a bunch of great tunes and rhythms such as early Lee Perry stuff and other choice cuts like one featuring the very first sound system deejay Count Machuki. All produced by the great Joe Gibbs.

The Sun City Girls/Abduction/Sublime Frequencies axis brings us new CD reissues of two out-of-print LPs by Alvarius B (Blood Operatives of the Barium Sunset, 2005) and Group Inerane (Guitars from Agadez Volume 3, 2010). Alvarius B is Alan Bishop of Sun City Girls, and other than his contribution to the SCG album Funeral Mariachi, this is his most intensive work from a songwriting and production perspective, thematically unified (violent international underground economy intrigue?) and sonically brilliant. The CD reissue reveals all kinds of things I hadn't noticed or remembered from the vinyl. Check out the first two tracks and an awesome Morricone cover arranged for acoustic guitar and multiple AB vocal tracks. And check out the Group Inerane for more of that rolling desert-blues guitar hypnosis. Both discs and so much more available from Forced Exposure.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


MEG BAIRD Seasons on Earth LP (DRAG CITY)
SANTANA Caravanserai LP (COLUMBIA) (big soft spot for this heavy mostly instrumental jammer from '72)
WET HAIR/RENE HELL Flowers Of Light b/w 55 RN gaz split 7" (BATHETIC) (great Rene Hell track!)

KEN CAMDEN Lethargy & Repercussion LP (KRANKY)
HIVE MIND Elemental Disgrace LP (SPECTRUM SPOOLS) as streamed at East Village Radio (welcome back Hive Mind, this sounds great)


GROUPER live in Praha:

GROUPER "Alien Observer" (intense official video):

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

CHICAGO SHOW REPORT: Nautical Almanac, Stare Case, Piss Piss Piss Moan Moan Moan, Baby Birds Don't Drink Milk / BALL HALL / September 14, 2011


Now I know you're well aware that I simply do not write these, what are they called again... oh yes, long-form pieces anymore (that is anything longer than 140 characters), but tonight [now like three weeks ago -- long-form pieces are hard -- ed.] was such a blastitudinous night, such a study in sustained exalted blastopoetics, that I just have to take the plunge and tell you all about it. The evening began with me jamming a podcast special-guest style with Tyson T. at I Hear A New World studios. He's an old friend, and over the last few years he created and released a strange and heavy album that I wrote very nearly 140 characters about a while back. But that's a friendly tangent. I also enjoy his podcast because it really is, as the Blastitude slogan would have it, "about the music." He's done like 4 episodes and I think tonight we laid down #5. My contribution was an 8-song set of some of my favorite 1970s deejay tunes from Jamaica, two tracks by U-Roy the Originator, a bit of Welton Irie, the classic 1979 jam by Lone Ranger about that vampire "Barnabas Collins" (Ranger sez: Barney will chew your neck like a Wrigley), my favorite discovery of 2010 "Minister For Ganja" by Rapper Robert & Jim Brown (released on 7" in 1982), and "Stop The War" by Dillinger, from 1976. During our 'heavy conversation' portion of the podcast, Dillinger's lyrics about "that's what the prophets shall reveal... thou shall not steal, thou shall not steal" got me trying a little too hard to define roots reggae, because roots, like reggae itself, is both very simple and very difficult to describe. I wish I would've just said that it's a blown-out minor-key-laden protest/lament/revival music about the centuries-long biblical level of Jamaican ghetto suffering, but I just didn't have the words at the time.    

That didn't stop us from blabbing though; we didn't even get into Tyson's modern dancehall playlist because I was going on about the History of Blastitude music book that I'm in the process of, ahem, taking notes for. (Coming sometime in 2012: The Two-Page Outline!) As part of my spiel I bring up the Nautical Almanac/Stare Case show I'm about to go to, a mere mile away from the IHANR studio and mere minutes away from starting, relating both bands to my bell curve theory regarding technological progress in music, wherein we have just left the plateau of the bell curve and are starting to work our way back down the other side. Music has been with us the whole time and will always be with us, but the technology has advanced rapidly over the last century, and therefore musical approaches have as well. The plateau was finally reached from roughly 1970-2010, in which time all of the final useful advances possible in musical technology, volume, speed, density, and communication have been innovated and experimented with. A ferocious run from punk to hardcore to noise and into the void tore the whole thing open, and now the dust has settled and we can see and use everything that got us to this potentially liberating zero point, all at once. The gadgets are still here but we can take them as we retreat back into the only things that have mattered throughout this entire curve of social history: singing, playing, creating with sound, having something to say, none of which even require electricity.

And whaddayaknow, all this blather starts to strangely tie right into the show I'm starting to become late for. The band Stare Case is a duo made up of Nate Young and John Olson, who you might know as 2/3rds of the long-running noise rock legends Wolf Eyes. The new band's slogan happens to be "BLUES ROOTS," and they mean it, and for them to come out of the noise scene, and particularly a key plateau band like Wolf Eyes, playing a quieter music with discernable musical motifs and tons of wide open haunted space, indeed represents a return to roots, a dialing back, a retreat from the oceans of noise back into everything that led up to it.

So yeah, I've gotta get to the show. Stare Case is the one band on the bill I HAVE to see, after being very intrigued by a 20-minute live youtube and an advance track from their new-release debut album on DeStijl Records, and I have to see Nautical Almanac too (for the first time since 2002), but sure, I would like to see Chicago-based openers Baby Birds Don't Drink Milk and the "gaddafi inspired jams" of Piss Piss Piss Moan Moan Moan too. Only so many hours in a day, etc. I get there with in fact 5-10 minutes left in the latter's set. It's dark in there and it seems like a cool tucked-away Humboldt Park loft space. The band is jamming, looks like a duo, with a young woman up front doing massed effected vocals and working a massed effected theremin. Young man drummer is playing a hard driving and extrapolative disco beat. Crowd is nodding, good vibe, meat-and-potatoes heavy experimental jamming of a sort that Chicago has always been good for cranking out, at least for the ten years I've lived here. After they're done, teardown and setup procedure slowly reveals that the next band is going to be Stare Case, and I'm feeling excited like a middle schooler at his first punk show. A band is going to do something special, and, if the cops don't show up, I'm going to get to watch and listen. 

After they start playing, I get even happier. It might sound corny to you, but I'm going to say it because it's true: I've been listening to these guys make music for over 10 years now, all kinds of noisy jams, and I am honestly so proud of them for taking this step with Stare Case. Because it really is a bold step back, a true dial-down, and that takes a lot of guts to do in this age of wall-to-wall blown-out internet insanity. It proves that they really love and care about music, not merely trends that have correct sounds attached to them. It's like this Albert Einstein-attributed quote that I swear I just came across: "Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage -- to move in the opposite direction." Blues & roots, very sparse, patient, and earthy music. Young, who was/is the singer (and floorshaking programmer/electronicist) for Wolf Eyes, not only plays a bass guitar in Stare Case, he plays cleanly picked two-and-three note riffs and beautifully spare desert-blues solos that are definititely part of the good old pentatonic scale. Olson plays various reeds and wind instruments, as he has done with several bands before (most notably Graveyards), and his snake charmer lines come right out of quieter post-Coltrane post-Evan Parker modal/circular jamming from the 1960s on. And that's basically IT. Bass guitar and reeds. The rest is Young's vocals (certainly similar to his Wolf Eyes style, but quieter and sharper, and you can hear most of the words, which are very good spare monologue) and Olson's intermittent surges in incidental creep-zone electronics and steady simple shaker percussion. That said, the band never abandons its noise roots either. There was a point mid-set when they did a good 2 or 3 minutes of bare dark investigational ambience that could have come right out of a quieter part in a Wolf Eyes set, but here it worked its way out of or into another killer two-or-three note bassline, another utterly patient Olson drop-out, another SONG. Another BLUES song in fact. With audible ROOTS. Gig of the year, I mean the century, for me.

Nautical Almanac were great as well. You might say, in response to my bell curve theory, that Nautical is a plateau band that are more about the gadgets than they are the music, because they rewire circuits and broken electronics and then react -- maybe musically, maybe not -- to whatever noise it spits out. It's a good point, but it really doesn't matter whether you put gadgets or music first as long as you put soul and personality before both of them, and they always have. Tonight it was the Twig and Carly duo, Twig sitting down at the classic junk gear scrap table and running heavy flowing electronic shadow worlds, Carly running the environment via a sheet hanging on three tall tepee poles with home movies projecting on it, spilling off onto the wall behind it, on the wall opposite it, everywhere in fact, constantly crawling and jumping, Carly moving around with the projector cradled in her arms. It was a brain eraser, and I was worried if I would even be able to write about the show with Nautical being the last band. Not that I was about to pull a 'Cage and Feldman splitting after the Webern portion [see paragraph 3]' or anything....

And as long as everything is relating back to everything else, I should mention how the night ended. I was checking out the merch table, my mind already swirling with thoughts of roots, blues, reggae, noise, and much more, when some dude nearby started singing loudly and soulfully and with perfect pitch, "Is this love, is this love, is this love? That I'm feeling?" I was feeling it, because I love that song (you'll have to check out the podcast for my defense of Legend . . . although I call it Marley's "best work" which was totally incorrect, that would be the Soul Rebels and Soul Revolution albums he cut with Lee Perry), and I swear it set off scattered responses throughout the room, people answering back with "Is this love"s of their own and maybe even an "I-ee-eye-ee-eye-ee-eye... am willing and able..." or two. AND THEN, when I left the show a little bit later, and got out to the car after this incredibly blastifarian night of heavy roots jamming, what should be cranking on the FM radio, dialed as it often is to 97.1 The Drive, but, well:

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