Monday, February 27, 2012

BETWEEN And the Waters Opened (VERTIGO)
MINUTEMEN "Ballot Result" Double-Length "Live" Cassette CS (SST)
MINUTEMEN 3-Way Tie For Last LP (SST

The Between album is one of the very best 'second tier' krautrock albums I've ever heard. Sublime synth/bongos/flute/devotional action. Like early Popol Vuh with a bit more singing and a bit more, dare I say, Caribbean influence. But this ain't salsa, it's far too devotional. (Oh wait, the song I posted is called "Devotion." No wonder I keep using the word devotional.)

Enjoying this recent reissue of the Matthew Young LP. He seems to be from the Central New Jersey/Princeton area (you can read a recent interview with him here), and he released Traveler's Advisory back in 1986,  featuring gentle waves of guitar and hammer dulcimer playing simple dream-folk songs. Well, the opener "Objects in Mirror" isn't exactly simple... in fact, it's a little quirky/crafty, with maybe a little too much Bourgeois in its Tagg, but even that one is steadily growing on me, and after "Objects" things really sink in. The third track, a cover of Michael Hurley's "The Werewolf," particularly pulled me into this record's steady whispering undertow. Meg Baird's blurb says it really well, read it here. Drag City, here in cooperation with Yoga Records, continues to pluck the gentlest of psychedelic singer-songwriters out from the mists from the past few decades. (See also Gary Higgins, the George-Edwards Group, These Trails, and I would include that Red Favorite album too for a more contemporary example.)

You know, I try to listen to brand new music, but it's so hard to even make it to the 90s, let alone last month... one of the few brand new CDs I recall listening to obsessively this year (played it five times the day I got it) was of material from 1970-1977 by Erkin Koray. You probably know him, he's the father of Turkish Rock'n'Roll, their Elvis, Beatles, and Hendrix all rolled into one. This CD Mechul: Singles & Rarities consists of never-before-reissued material which was made available to the deserving Sublime Frequencies label by Koray himself, from his personal vinyl collection, and the songs are crushing and beautiful, as I'm not sure anyone else in rock history has nailed the sweet spot between 70s heaviness and Mediterranean elegance quite so perfectly as this guy. The only possible American equivalent would have been if the Walker Brothers and Blue Oyster Cult had collaborated back in '71, which definitely did not happen. The other day my man MAGAS tweeted: "In the part of Erkin Koray's wah-wah pedal, stuck halfway between the 'up' and 'down position'...that's where I'm hangin out." You can hang out there too if you get this CD and we cue up track number two, "Ve," in which Koray's terrifyingly beautiful guitar constructs a supernatural cathedral of the heaviest melancholy right before your ears, the same cosmic cry that Hideki Ishida half-wahed his way into, right around the same time, on the monumental "Satori Part II" by the Flower Travellin' Band. I've already enjoyed a couple of Koray reissues over the last few years, but for some reason this release just nails it for me.

I was late enough to SST Records that I heard fIREHOSE before I heard the Minutemen (although this wasn't rare at all, John Moloney says the same thing happened to him in this interview on the Watt From Pedro show), but I was still early enough to be able to buy a bunch of SST stuff new on cassette, shrinkwrapped, right off the racks at record stores in Omaha, such as the Minutemen's overwhelming My First Bells compilation, and their Ballot Result tape, which I enjoyed quite a bit then, and immensely today, after dusting it off and putting it in the ancient cassette walkman I have running through my work stereo. There's only one phrase for this type of compilation, and that's "odds and sods"... live versions, board tapes, audience tapes, tapes from sessions at radio stations... there's an excerpt from a wild free-form attempt at a film score, self-recorded in "Jack Brewer's garage".... there's a subtle lyric change on "History Lesson" where D sings "I could be in his songs / me as his soldier child"...  and best of all, there's the Ethan James/Radio Tokyo remix of "No One," which is absolutely INSANE, violently cutting in and out with nascent hip-hop blastitude, and really dialing up D. Boon's MENTAL guitar shredding.

After listening to Ballot Result, I had to get out my secondhand copy of the Minutemen's previous album, 3-Way Tie For Last, because it has the ballot itself as an insert. It's kind of amazing, and I've scanned both sides and included them for your perusal below. Listening to 3-Way Tie for the first time in many years brings back memories of me grappling with this album in my dorm room, way back in '91 or whenever it was I bought it, listening to it a couple times and not really getting into it, but like any Minutemen album, or any good piece of art, it filled my head with ideas anyway. Listening to it again now, I realize that I've been holding some of those ideas in my head ever since, everything from the cover painting ("Dude/Local 357"), to the fascinating mix of artists covered (CCR, BOC, Meat Puppets, Roky, the Urinals!), to the unabashed grass-roots idealism of the ballot concept, to 40 seconds of delicate solo Spanish guitar entitled "Hittin' the Bong," to D. Boon's utterly heartfelt "anti-war sympathizer" songs throughout (although I didn't even appreciate "The Price of Paradise" until I heard Eugene Chadbourne's heartbreaking acoustic version of it on Kill Eugene a couple years later). I even just realized that I ripped off the cadence of Mike Watt's "Spoken Word Piece" to write a poem of my own years later. (Unpublished.) Still can't completely get into the album, mainly because the production is really strange, surprisingly "mersh," especially considering that it was recorded with Ethan James at Radio Tokyo just like the wonderful-sounding Double Nickels On The Dime was only a year earlier. At least they were forging ahead and trying new things... or maybe it simply sounded that way because, as the liner notes say, the studio was "Now 16 tracks at $25/hour!"

Sunday, February 26, 2012


TOMMY McCOOK & THE SUPERSONICS The Complete Treasure Island Dub Collection (GOLDENLANE)
SYD THA KYD "Flashlight (feat. Lux)"
THE HEPTONES "Pretty Looks" (STUDIO 1)
JOHNNY CLARKE Dreader Dread (1976-1978) (BLOOD AND FIRE)
WADADA LEO SMITH & ED BLACKWELL The Blue Mountain's Sun Drummer (KABELL)
ROEDELIUS Selbstportrait (BUREAU B)
SUN RA & HIS SOLAR-MYTH ARKESTRA The Solar Myth-Approach Vol. 1 & 2 (CHARLY)

(Today I put my iPod on "all albums, random shuffle" and this is just how it spun... I have a bunch of digitized reggae 45s on there, and instead of album name they're tagged by matrix number, which is different for the A and B side, hence the album shuffle produces a lot of single cuts, which always works well, and today made for a particularly lovely Sunday afternoon and evening... the non-Jamaican artists like Eddy Detroit and Syd tha Kyd blended in beautifully... so did Voice of the Seven Thunders and Nicolas Jaar, for that matter... also great how the Wadada & Bebey albums eased us from reggae into jazz/soul/funk/African, slowly swinging around the Caribbean up the Eastern Seaboard and then out across the Atlantic to Ghana... there was also something very heavy about the segue from Bebey into Roedelius into Chris & Cosey and then Sun Ra.... go ahead and click through the cuts yourself, in order, but remember, to get the full experience, you have to wait for one to finish before clicking the next one!) (And on that note, I'm sorry I couldn't find a youtube for the New Establishment cut.)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

WIZARDLOOK PLAYLIST 2/22/12 - 2/23/12

MOON POOL & DEAD BAND "Patsy" b/w "Patsy (Jack Ruby Version)" 7-inch (CASS)
DEMDIKE STARE Elemental Part Three: Rose 12" (MODERN LOVE)
NATE YOUNG Stay Asleep (Regression Vol. 2) LP (NNA TAPES)
CUT HANDS Afro Noise I (Volume 2) LP (DIRTER)
THEO PARRISH Ugly Edit #7 12" (UGET)
ANDY STOTT We Stay Together 2x12" (MODERN LOVE)
MAGAS live............................................................

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


BILL MONROE Bill Monroe's Greatest Hits LP (MCA)

Started out this last Sunday afternoon with an unintentional Dad-rock theme, during which I realized a few things, that I like Side 2 of Some Girls better than Side 1, that "Before They Make Me Run" is the best Rolling Stones song that Keith Richards sings (I guess I had it as "Happy" before), and that "Beast of Burden" was the closest they ever got to Keith's perennial dream of playing reggae, which is to say not very close (Charlie Watts infamously never could figure out how to play the reggae backbeat), but it's there in the gentle melancholy melodic weave of the Richards and Wood rhythm guitar section. I also realized, after being in denial for over 30 years, that Mick Jagger really does start the song by singing "I'll never be your BUH-NEAST of burden." Finally, on "Shattered," I realized that even though this 1978 album is their "answer to punk," there was no way they were a punk band in 1978. Maybe for a few weeks in 1963, but that's another essay. What they were on "Shattered" was a killer new wave band. The groove is incredible, and Jagger's ad-libbing at the end is genius, which is why you just can't write Jagger off. No matter how much he annoys you, he's always turning around and doing another one of those ad libs, or playing killer rhythm guitar on "Sway," or that glorious doot-doo falsetto hook on "Waiting on a Friend," or the blown-out harmonica solo on "Gimme Shelter," or the majestic melodies of "Moonlight Mile," or . . . there's a lot more.

I've already raved about Dylan's New Morning before in this very webzine, some sort of utterly soulful allusive metaphorical rollicking piano-driven gospel trip, especially "Day of the Locusts," "Sign in the Window," "The Man In Me"...... by this time I was making dinner for the kids, so I had to keep the dad rock going. I dug deep into the pile, every record seemingly some sort of bizarre electronic annoyance to the nuclear family and, passing on some recent Baltimore weirdness by Salamander Wool and a self-described "black metal" album by Nocht the Only Ghouls, got to my trusty Greatest Hits LP by Bill Monroe. I played this one a couple weeks ago because my son is studying the American Southeast in school, and his 3rd Grade Social Studies textbook contained a whole page about Monroe as the father of American bluegrass music, and my thrift-scored LP is autographed "Best Wishes, Bill Monroe" which the young dude found fascinating even though we're both about 99.5% sure the signature isn't authentic. Such beautiful bluegrass music, and Proto Dad Rock!

Next, needing something equally non-agitating but maybe less patriarchal, I dug even deeper and pulled out one of the new Grouper A I A albums. I never have any idea which of the two is which, but this ended up being the one that has "Dragging the Streets" on it, or the suite of connected songs that makes up Side A and includes "Dragging the Streets," and all of them sound literally like dragging the streets, but not in the Godflesh Streetcleaner sense, more like a huge healing angelic weight that is slowly pushing all the garbage into the abyss at the edge of town. It actually does make me think of certain Melvins compositions, the way it seems to be constantly hovering endlessly on a very heavy chord, then seemingly always resolving it by rising upwards, like answering a question with another question. But, however Melvins-influenced this album may or may not be, it is not dad-rock. Grouper makes a full-on Earth Mother sound, and please leave any hippie prejudice you may have towards a statement like that behind you, because this is bigger, the sound of the heavens hovering, holding great grey clouds of heavy water. I mean that seriously, which is why I put both of her albums on my year-end list, and why I played this one twice in a row tonight. (And yeah, I guess "Heavy Water" is the name of one of her songs, from her previous album. I must've done that on purpose.)

After the kids go to bed it's safe to put on this aforementioned allegedly "black metal" Nocht the Only Ghouls record. It was sent to me with an unsigned note addressed to "Blastitude, Larry" which read, in part, "I consider the album to be black metal, but you write the reviews." Well, I don't think I would've thought "black metal." I probably would've thought "folk" and "noise," but don't worry Ghouls, good folk music is 100 times heavier than good black metal (and really good black metal is folk music, but I digress). I mean, it's not a complete stretch to call this black metal, because the music is certainly grim and lonely, but it's mostly very quiet, and not obviously evil in intent (no obvious flatted seconds and fifths, no 'unhuman' screamed/growled/hissed vocals, possibly no vocals at all). Possibly a one-man band (oh, it says right here on the back cover that it's two), no apparent drum kit, lots of acoustic guitar... I don't think electric guitar makes an appearance until the second side. It's not grim like black metal, but it is quite grim, more like one of those austere "jagged acoustic guitars and Kevin Drumm" style jams by Gastr del Sol. And that's good, because I'd much rather listen to Gastr Del Sol on a regular basis than almost all of the "true" black metal copy-cats I've heard this last decade-plus. This Nocht the Only Ghouls record is pretty good too. The name of the label is pronounced "weird word" but spelled Vwyrd Wurd. Here's their facebook and their bandcamp.

Alright, what else in the pile is brand new and not advisable for cranking around elementary school kids?  Ah, the new FNU Ronnies! Perfect! They were the weirdest of weird punk bands back during The Year Weird Punk Broke* and it was probably because no one else was willing or able to compete! I think they were a Philly band, and are now split between Philly and San Francisco, which is one of the (seemingly many) reasons why they haven't released very many records. Well in 2012 they sound weirder than ever, and I feel like the overall flow of this 24-minute EP on the Load label will require multiple listens for me to even begin to understand as music. I mean, they do sound like a band -- I hear the pounding punk rhythms and driving guitar, and things that are probably vocals. Just now I heard an actual singer chanting the actual title of the album, "Saddle Up," in what I just realized is a killer driving punk song. I mean, I know they're a hard-driving sick-cyborg punk band, but there's still confusion around every corner. Can't even tell yet if the confusion is coming from the post-production or from the songwriting itself. I think it might be the latter. Either way, definitely recommended.

* 2008, duh

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

KRAUS A Journey Through the First Dimension with Kraus 7" (PALTO FLATS)
SUN ARAW Ancient Romans (SUN ARK)
MONOTON Eight Lost Tracks (ORAL)

Kraus has been kicking around the underground for a bit now... we first wrote about him a couple years ago, and apparently he's also the drummer in The Futurians, whose Spock Ritual album was so good I'm going to have to pull it back out right now. I think I even heard that Kraus and the 90s-00s New Zealand noise/tapes/Bananafish stalwart known as Witcyst might be one and the same person. I don't think it's true, but both are certainly one-man projects, although Kraus is a lot more song-based and rock'n'roll than the outer limit noise of Witcyst. Still very strange stuff, all instrumental (as far as I've heard), oddly uplifiting, oddly cinematic, but with grungy weird distorto tones. In addition to a bunch of tapes and CDRs, he released an LP about a year ago which I have not seen nor heard. However, this new 7-inch single landed in my lap the other day, and it picks up right off where the earlier material I did hear left off, if anything in a still more direct and accomplished manner, a fine introduction to the man's work, cheaper than the LP, available from

The Dirty Three are back! Toward the Low Sun is their first album in seven years! Street date is February 28th! This may be cause for celebration among many, and I agree that they are an amazing band... at playing one song. That one song where guitarist Mick Turner and violinist Warren Ellis play a sombre, slow, aching instrumental panoramic/cinematic spaghetti western ballad while drummer Jim White passionately subdivides the beat. I mean, c'mon guys, can't you tear into a King Crimson ensemble riff every now and then? Or any other tempo at all? Their song is certainly a heavy song, and sometimes if I'm in a drunken and sullen mood I might go for a whole LP side, but I've never really been compelled to flip it over.  

James Brown's Hot Pants is a sweet slice of meditational funk. The CD reissue has one bonus track: the full 19 minutes of the endless conversation jam "Escape-Ism." I love the part in the song when James is asking everyone in the band where they're from, and everyone is from the deep and mostly rural south, until they get to Fred Wesley, who says, a bit cockily, "L.A.," and everyone goes "Uh oh, uh oh!" until he clarifies: "Lower Alabama!" Great transcription and annotation of the whole song here. (The blog points out that when James is rapping with the band members and doesn't seem to know them all too well, it's not an act, as Bootsy and Phelps Collins had walked out of the band to join P-Funk only a few weeks earlier!)

The Cherry Blossoms album sounded so good tonight... my first listen in a few years.

A Middle Sex is from somewhere in England, I believe Manchester, and seem to be completely unknown over here, but I think they're a really good band. This CDR from 2007 has the kind of "destroyed rock" that continues the work that showed up on certain Siltbreeze LPs in the 90s, a kind of loud and unabashedly atonal jamming that never ignores a rock pulse and instrumental interplay. These guys can play their instruments well, and play them well with each other, and still take detours like the weird spoken-word intro "A Muddled Hex" and the psyched-out drum machine and minimalist feedback glower called "We Drones." Go here and listen to some songs: (I know it's MySpace, so go ahead and make fun of it, or of yourself for using it, on twitter and/or facebook, but it still works, so if you click "Play All" you will be able to hear their music.)  

Sun Araw making music is like a stoked kid mixing paint, throwing in all his favorite colors at once, in hopes of making the most awesome color ever seen..... and every time it just comes up looking like mud. Just replace the favorite colors of paint with the approaches of some of his favorite musicians (Terry Riley, Fela Kuti, King Tubby, George Clinton, Neil Young, anything else that's radical and awesome). The result is still frustratingly muddy. I feel like someone's music should say more than just "what if [someone awesome] jammed with [someone else awesome] and [someone else awesome] and the vocals were unintelligible?" I might be able to enjoy the hero worship as long as he was saying something more with it, something that was his own. (Also, the band name is straight-up annoying.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

CAROL "Breakdown" b/w "So Low" 7" (DIRTY DANCE)
FREDDIE McGREGOR unofficial comp from Magic is Juju blog
This mixtape by KURT VILE
FLIPPER Unreleased Studio Session Tape 1982 (NOT ON LABEL)

The new solo album by Ghost frontman Masaki Batoh, to be released February 28th on Drag City, contains music that he played with his brain. The Brain Pulse Music Machine, which apparently will also be available from Drag City (street date TBA), comes with a head unit that reads your brain's alpha and theta waves and then transmits them via radio waves to a motherboard... but I listened to the album before reading the press release, so I didn't know any of this, and the album sounded like excellent and extremely austere and forbidding ancient-style ceremonial Japanese ritual music, not unlike stuff that would pop up on Ghost albums here and there in between those elegant nouveau psychedelic rockers that Batoh usually specializes in, as one of, in my opinion, the great and defining lead singers of the psychedelic 1990s. I also learned from the press release that Batoh was going to make the album entirely out of brain pulse music, but just before recording sessions were to begin, the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 happened, and he decided to add in the ancient acoustic ritual music element as the kind of prayer/dedication/offering to the gods that people of Japan would (pre)historically perform in the face of disaster. In my opinion, this element is what the album is all about, with the brainwaves taking a back seat, although the album does open with a piercing sustained tone cluster that sounds like an ancient woodwind instrument blending with a high-pitched brain tone, and works as a great cry of lamentation, and a call to attention for the grim ritual to follow. Then again, steadily beating on a drum with your hand is a type of brain pulse too. But like I said, I listened to it a couple times before I knew any of the back story, and what it made me think of the most were similarities between ancient Japanese music and ancient American Indian music and how it might just have something to do with that Bering Strait land bridge of 15,000 years ago. So there's a lot of layers of allusion here.

Once you've got a clutch of King Tubby & Lee Perry records and wanna keep going, you might check out Garvey's Ghost, the dub version of the Burning Spear album Marcus Garvey. Leadoff track "The Ghost" is pretty great, but it's a very low-key album, less arresting than the shattered Tubby or Scratch style you might be into, more in a relatively untreated mellow roots instrumental style. In fact, if you're only gonna get one of the two I'd recommend the vocal set Marcus Garvey, because if I'm gonna check out a Burning Spear album, I wanna hear the man sing!

This Carol 7-inch is crazy good. "Breakdown" b/w "So Low." Continental synth pop done right in 1981, complete with dubbed-out rockers-style rim clicks. If I'm reading the internet right, one recently sold for $333.

The official soundtrack to the film Drive is probably the best new fake 1980s pop music I've heard besides Channel Pressure by Ford & Lopatin. Normally I dislike new fake 1980s pop almost as much as I dislike new fake Italian giallo soundtracks, but both of these records have hit a hitherto unknown sweet spot, the kind of feat that can only happen if the songwriting is good (like the way Ford & Lopatin somehow endlessly extrapolate and improve on the Pointer Sisters' "Automatic"), though that hardly seems the case when considering this soundtrack's execrable-but-somehow-wonderful "A Real Hero" by College (feat. Electric Youth). Can you really call that good songwriting? I guess it turns out you can, but really, I think the reason this music is so good is simply because magic is involved, something beyond mortal understanding. Even the artists responsible for these creations don't understand, and never will. Good weird flick too, if you haven't seen it. Caveat: the pop portion of this soundtrack that I was just raving about is just 5 tracks at around 20 minutes. You've got French vocoder jam "Nightcall" by Kavinsky & Lovefoxxx, the stunning pop obsession of "Under Your Spell" by Desire (which I now see is a new band including Johnny Jewel of Glass Candy), some sort of cabaret/torch song which I'm not that into, and a killer Basic Channel-worthy minimalist jam by The Chromatics, which is another Johnny Jewel project, who I guess is the producer, or "developer" of the pop portion of the soundtrack. He also wrote a score for the whole movie, but it didn't get used. Instead, the film was scored by Cliff Martinez, maybe because he's more of an L.A. veteran. (After all, he played drums on the last Captain Beefheart album in '82 and the first two Red Hot Chili Peppers albums in '84-'85!) His ambient cityscapes are nice, but they go on for 50 minutes and, without being able to support the film, eventually fade into irrelevance.

I thought Flipper's "In The Garden" was maybe, just maybe, still the Van Der Graaf Generator album. I confess that about two minutes in I still wasn't 100% sure that it was a different album, and had to look at the iPod screen to find out. I know that sounds nuts.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Here's a coda to the last post about New Zealand, surf, friends, Surf Friends, and the music of the great outdoors. This is one of the best surf videos I've ever seen and the reason is that there's no overdubbed soundtrack music... after immersion in the ancient cross-rhythms of pounding ocean, the watered-down world music (posing as "dub") or plodding post-Creed achievement-rock these videos often use just doesn't cut it. Plus, just last week I spent an hour or so hanging out on this very "beach" (instead of sand, you have to walk over about 100 feet of volcanic boulders, visible in the first 2 seconds of the clip, just to get to the water). The waves weren't nearly as big and only a couple surfers were out, but it was still a fabulous way to spend part of an afternoon. 

Bonus clip (also without music!) of people surfing the infamous Jaws break in Hawaii. Insane!

Special shout to Erik Davis for getting me going yesterday by posting clips from unknown 1970 surf flick Pacific Vibrations on twitter, like this one:

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