Monday, March 27, 2017

ANNA CLYNE "Within Her Arms" (performed by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra) #HEAVYMUSICINALLSTYLESANDVOLUMES

Last Saturday afternoon, on March 25th, for the weekly Classical & Beyond program on WNUR (89.3 FM Evanston/Chicago), the DJs only played music by women composers, and almost completely focused on works from this still young 21st Century. It was a mind-blowing show, and I had to drive all the way downtown and back on an errand, so I got to hear long pieces by at least three different composers. The only name I remember is Anna Clyne, although I only heard the last minute or so of her piece, a rather harsh electronic and possibly improvisational work that was released on John Zorn's Tzadik label in 2012, on a CD called Blue Moth (in fact it's the opening track, called "Fits & Starts"). Now I'm at home looking for more of her music on YouTube, and ending up on a 2011 performance (embedded above) by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra of her composition "Within Her Arms," and it is absolutely beautiful classical/timeless orchestral music. Wow. She's only 37 years old now, and was only 29 when this piece premiered; it was dedicated to her mother, who passed away that same year, an event that clearly drew intensely heartfelt music out of Ms. Clyne that you will draw into yourself when you listen to it. She was born and raised in England, moved to New York City to work with the NY Youth Symphony in 2008, and as it turns out was a composer in residence here in Chicago, for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, from 2010 to 2014. And here I don't even find out about her until a piece by her is played on a college radio station in 2017... what can I say, there are 8 million stories in the naked city....

Monday, March 20, 2017


Possibly my favorite LP of all time. As a lover of all musics progressive (of which the well-known prog rock genre is a mere subset), I'm always a pushover for a heavy double LP, the most progressive of all formats (releases with three LPs or more -- box sets and whatnot -- are of course still progressive, but not as progressive as the double LP, because the sheer added volume of the extra material inherently begins to weigh down progress, whereas the double LP is just light enough that progress can continue unabated). This one in particular really hits the spot, on the exotic label Shandar, with an epic rich-colored gatefold sleeve, and on the lovely gold-tinted inside, liner notes handwritten in French and an eerie picture of haunted bald bearded psychedelic music monk Terry lurking at the bottom right, sitting on the floor playing his electric organ through his tape delay machine in full all night flight. As for the music in the grooves themselves, I will say this, Dervishes is the album that basically ruined all other Terry Riley LPs for me. Every time I listen to a different one, no matter how good it is, I'm always thinking, "But I could be listening to Dervishes." It seems to have everything that the other LPs have, all the classic Riley moves, but here so raw, so perfectly distilled. It is the true uncut funk. (It's also a double live LP, and as such stands strong next to all the heavy titans... Alive, Alive II, Live Bootleg, Double Live Gonzo, On Your Feet Or On Your Knees, even Live/DeadMade in Japan, and Live at the Fillmore East....)

P.S. Oops, forgot the actual reason I made this post, which is to finally make note of a totally killer part that I've always loved but had no idea how to quickly locate because every time I listen to this thing I'm so zoned out that taking notes seems laughable. Well, this time I actually stood up and left the zone to get pencil and paper, so now (you and) I know that it starts right around the 3:25 mark of "Persian Surgery Dervishes Performance One Los Angeles, 18 Avril 1971, Face 2," which is to say the 3:25 mark of side two (and the 24:15 mark of the YouTube above). There are several of these sudden cyclical spiral double helix zone-outs laying in wait throughout this track... something about this particular bassline mantra seems to inspire Mr. Riley into feverishly active tunnels of vision. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017


(Found this post from almost a year ago just sitting in my drafts folder, and I don't see why I didn't publish it at the time. So, better late than never...)

A new Pumice album has come down the pike on the Soft Abuse label. It's called Puddles and it was released in late 2015. This makes quite a few Pumice albums now, and I certainly haven't heard 'em all, but judging from this one, damned if the guy isn't at the top of his game right now. And it's very much his game, too... I mean sure you can classify it with your other crumbling home-taper free-folk New Zealand type stuff, but there's something about this particular combination of dream-piano, forlorn foghorn vocals, subtly edgy guitar, and carefully applied never-overbearing industrial noise, that is his and his alone. He is Stefan Neville, and he lives and works in Auckland. This is the most I've listened to one of his albums since Yeahnahvienna, which was released (CD only!) in 2006 (!), also by Soft Abuse; now I'm celebrating its 10-year anniversary by playing Puddles over and over.

Starting to dig more into various private press Xtian infamy via YouTube and, the more of it I hear, the more I think that my introduction, Dave Bixby's Ode to Queztalcoatl, is still the best. Maybe it's just because I'm more a loner folk guy than a heartland prog guy. Anyone remember when Bixby reappeared and went on a mini-tour a couple years ago? Seems like ancient ignored music news in today's internet hype cycle. I just looked it up; it was in December 2013. He only played three shows, all in his home-state Michigan. I guess I didn't really know the back story of the LP until now, but as a young counterculturally-inclined man in late-1960s Grand Rapids, Bixby burned out on LSD and, despondent and susceptible, fell in with a charismatic and somewhat sketchy cult leader, a dramatically goateed fellow by the name of Don DeGraaf. He eventually split the scene, but not before DeGraaf had bankrolled Ode to Quetzalcoatl, which was used as a recruitment tool. The story is engagingly depicted in this Far Off Sounds short doc on his reappearance tour, intercut with performances from all three cities (back where it all began in Grand Rapids, as well as Ann Arbor and Detroit). Highly recommended. See also: a video of his full Detroit set, at that crucial Trinosophes spot. As an astute YouTube commenter says, "The man still has it."

One more recommendation: this Loner Folk Playlist on YouTube. Maybe he's just too obvious of a choice, and the compiler wanted to focus on even lesser known artists, but Bixby is not included, even though his music is as lonely as it gets. As he says to the audience at the Trinosophes, after opening his set with the still heart-stopping "Drug Song": "I see it now as a piece of art. As a tragedy."


My take on #tripmetal and #psychojazz is that both are completely real, have been around forever, especially since regional/national/global electrification, and all of the following are both: Alice and JohnCybotron and PhutureBad Brains and Slayer"Maggot Brain" and The Process of Weeding Out. I mean those are just some of the most obvious; there's several hundred more, maybe even a couple thousand.

The Maximum Rocknroll Archive and Database Fundraiser is officially over, but it doesn't matter, you can donate to them year-round. They need it because their archive and database project is huge. Read interviews about it and more at FvckTheMedia and at Terminal Boredom, with head archivist Shivaun Watchorn and magazine coordinator (that's what they call the editor-in-chief) Grace Ambrose. The mag has had a great run of coordinators and I've particularly dug the tenures of Ms. Ambrose and Layla Gibbon, going back what might be 10 years to the mid-00s. The design has been cool as hell and the critical voice as sharp as ever, and not coincidentally punk in the 2010's has a more inclusive and therefore expansive multitude of voices screaming and scorching it out than ever.

Had this my-life-in-Chicago thing happen to me yesterday (Friday, June 10th, 2016) when I read a feature in this week's Reader about how Blues Fest is starting today (Saturday, June 11th, 2016) (first time I've heard about it this year), including a nice David Whiteis write-up on Lazy Lester (first time I've heard of him ever) and how in the 1960s he developed what was regionally popular in the Gulf Coast as "swamp-rock," recording for the Excello label. Whiteis adds that "he also worked as a sideman for other Excello artists, contributing guitar, harmonica, and percussion (including drums, wood blocks, cardboard boxes, folded-up newspapers, and even the studio walls)," which is funky, and as it turns out his tracks under his own name are too, so of course I want to see him, even if (especially if?) he's now 82 years old. He's playing at 3PM on Saturday, and wouldn't you know it, the great Irma Thomas (age 75) herself is playing at 6:30, but then I think how I have to take my 13-year-old son to a doctor's appointment scheduled weeks ago at 2:30, so I'll totally miss Lazy Lester, and then I've got to get him to a Magic the Gathering tournament by 5PM. so maybe I could drop him off there, then go all the way downtown for Irma Thomas and then head back home in time to pick him up around 9PM, but my 10-year-old daughter and I aren't gonna feel like riding the bus for an hour there and an hour back when we could just be chilling at home... which is just what we did, and it was made all the sweeter by this Lazy Lester Excello Singles YouTube playlist....

Stephen O'Malley made a huge Mix for Fact Magazine, and of course that soundhound came up with all kinds of things I'd never heard of before. Along with a lot more "much more" than usual, we get recordings from early 1900s Iran, Italian horror prog by Jacula and Antonius Rex, a scorching 2012 track by Fushitsusha, and stunning early 1990s Morton Feldman-esque soundtrack work by some guy named Francois-Bernard Mache. Check it out:

I was thinking about the video for that seriously heavy jam "Eminence Front," footage of The Who playing live at some sort of sound-stage rehearsal, and it got me thinking of that great 1980s tradition of 'band showing up for rehearsal/filming/recording/etc.' videos... but the only other one I could place was Deep Purple's "Perfect Strangers"! (Also a seriously heavy 80s jam, incidentally.) Maybe "Do They Know It's Christmas," but that song's gotten more than enough ink, wouldn't you say? Van Halen's "Pretty Woman" video was kind of an extended absurdist theatrical riff on the 'band showing up' idea, but it was all costume fantasy; my ideal 'band showing up' video is strictly cinema verite. In other words, the artists must play themselves. Anyway, if you think of more, PLEASE let me know.

#HeavySaturdayShuffle brings us "The Night Watch" by King Crimson (is this in contention for Fripp's greatest guitar solo?), followed by all-time classic "Christbait Rising" by Godflesh ("Don't hold me back/This is my own hell" is some basic heavy personal problems shit, pre-emo), followed by Neil's amazing "Hold Back The Tears" outtake, which would've been on the unreleased Chrome Dreams, a song that was recorded later for American Stars'n'Bars in a more mundane traditional country style with Ronstadt/Larson backing vox. I don't know who did the backing vox on the Chrome Dreams version, but they reach a pitch that is otherworldly even by Neil's standards (actually I think it's Neil overdubbing himself)... and finally, "Free Me (Version)" by Drum Bago & The Rebels. Drum Bago, also known as Drumbago, is the performing name of one Arkland Parks of Jamaica. (Check out this article including great virtual clippings from Jamaica's Daily Gleaner newspaper; typos remain omnipresent.) He was around since well before reggae developed, and in fact one of the key drummers to develop the ska beat, taking it right on into rocksteady. If I'm reading Solid Foundation right, he played on "Easy Snappin" by Theophilus Beckford in 1956, and was still active in 1966 when rocksteady took over. He passed away in 1969, before rocksteady had fully evolved into the reggae and roots that dominated the 1970s. Which makes this 45 kinda strange, because it was released in 1975, and "Free Me" is a very heavy roots/dub instrumental, the B-side to a heavy roots vocal A-side called "Set Me Free," sung by one L. Crosdale. Did Studio One posthumously use a Drumbago track that was laying around since 1969? Plausible, but was Drumbago already getting this heavy on a roots tip in 1969? That I find harder to believe, and my somewhat educated guess is that Coxsone just thought Drumbago was a cool-ass name in 1975 and stole it, or paid tribute to it, or something, changing it slightly to read "Drum Bago" just to hint that something was up.

After going to New Orleans a year ago and hearing all the random second line parades all over the streets, getting back to Chicago with a newly purchased 79rs Gang LP and playing those rhythms over and over for several feverish nights, and soon after reading in Bill Kreutzmann's memoir Deal that his mother was from New Orleans and he grew up listening to her Fats Domino 45s over and over, I now hear so much New Orleans in Kreutzmann's general push and kick-and-snare patterns every time I listen to his band. I mean, he's Ed Blackwell worthy. Here's my crazy opinion: after Garcia, Kreutzmann is the main reason we still talk about the Grateful Dead, the reason we forgive their many varied trespasses, the reason that the original members still draw huge dancing stadium crowds, even/especially with John Mayer as Jerry. It's all because of Kreutzmann, man, and the crazy rhythms are still there; watch/listen to this show they played just last week:

Like you, I was hesitant to enter the Mayer Zone, fearing it would be too full of Mayernaise, but went ahead with it after reading Jesse Jarnow's great review of the aforementioned show on Pitchfork. (Teaser quote: "It's hard to think of another tour this summer that's as friendly to families as it is to psychedelic users. Besides national parks, there aren't many institutions that serve both. But unlike members of the Grateful Dead, national parks don't go on tour.") I would warn you that the above YouTubes are better to listen to than to watch; Mayer's outfit and general visual vibe is very distracting, but his guitar playing is fine and sometimes top-notch. The "Bird Song" for example. As usual with the Dead in any year, any incarnation, you've gotta take the bad with the good; Bob Weir seems off all night long, to where I'm worried the poor guy might still be having health troubles, but then in classic Weir fashion he stands tall and absolutely kills "Days Between" in the encore, singing it with even more gravity than Jerry ever did, bringing certain Robert Hunter lyrics ("phantom ships with phantom sails") and phrases ("a springtime wet with sighs") to sudden haunting life. It's a really heavy song, the perfect sad sequel to that line in "Stella Blue" that goes "All the years combine/they melt into a dream."

Speaking of Jesse Jarnow, I'm also reading his new book Heads: A Biography of Psychedelic America right now... just 30 pages in, but all day at work I found myself itching to get back to it. Tons could/should be said about it, but right now I'll just say he's the most understanding writer on the Dead I can think of since Blair Jackson. (Although John Olson's short takes in Life Is A Ripoff are must-reads as well.) It really is one of the great Grateful Dead books; as its subtitle says, the book is much more than a biography of the band, but it's impossible to have a biography of psychedelic America without them being extremely central to the story.

ON CINEMA, I think a film that goes to credits with me bawling right along with its main character is probably a pretty damn good film, in this case La Strada (1954, d. Federico Fellini). A strong man doesn't know what to do when he falls into a relationship with a strong woman. Completely atypical strong woman, mind you, which makes the siutation even more emotionally complex. There's all kinds of haunting neorealist and proto-Felliniesque aspects of the film you can get lost in too, but above all it's an extremely rich character study. Quinn's Zampano is a typical brute that Fellini develops atypically. Richard Basehart's Fool is a volatile mix of good looks, great talent, and an endlessly sharp tongue. One of the great charming and tragic assholes in cinema history. And of course Giuleta, who everyone loves, taking what starts as a tribute to Chaplin into rare depths of character, especially when played off of Quinn. Throughout the film, she gets the sympathy, but Fellini has a twist ending up his sleeve, and improbably demands that our sympathy go to the strongman instead. Postscript: Interesting to hear Scorsese say in the Criterion extras that he and DeNiro never spoke about Quinn's Zampano, when Jake LaMotta punching the wall at the end of Raging Bull is probably the 2nd most Zampanonian film ending in cinema history.... Been reflecting hard on similarities between La Strada and two films that both came out a year earlier in 1953, Summer With Monika (d. Ingmar Bergman), and Tokyo Story (d. Yasujiro Uzo). All three films could be called neorealist, and all of them use what are called, in Ozu's films, "interstitials," also apparently known as "pillow shots" (I prefer the former term). Were any of them directly inspired by another? It all seems too concurrent. Or is it just that all of these filmmakers were inspired directly by Rossellini? Is he the true one-man neo-realist atomic bomb? Or did his style grow out of clear antecedents? Did Rossellini use interstitials too? These are the questions a lonely cinema geek must ponder. Speaking OF CINEMA, thanks to my son, I finally sat down and watched Good Burger (1997, d. Brian Robbins) and I'll be damned if Kel Thompson's characterization as "Ed" isn't one of the more aggressively weird comic performances I've ever seen... meanwhile, in a 1971 interview Jean-Pierre Melville said, "My guess is that the final disappearance of cinemas will take place around the year 2020, so in fifty years' time there will be nothing but television." Hello, Stranger Things!

LA STRADA (1954, d. Federico Fellini)

SUMMER WITH MONIKA (1953, d. Ingmar Bergman)

TOKYO STORY (1953, d. Yasujiro Ozu)

GOOD BURGER (1997, d. Brian Robbins)

Friday, March 17, 2017


I've been using the #heavymusicinallstylesandvolumes hashtag for a minute now, and I see that one of my favorite music writers Justin Farrar is bringing back his own "heavy music" concept as the title of his new blog (it's been his email handle for at least 15 years, inspired by the 1967 Bob Seger song by the same name). Then, just this morning I watched Cheech & Chong's Nice Dreams (1981, d. Tommy Chong)* for the first time since I was like 12 or 13 years old, and Cheech says the word "heavy" at least 35 or 40 times, and then when the movie's over and I'm done chucklin' about it, I head upstairs to clean the kitchen and do the dishes. Turning the iPod on shuffle like I always do, what song should come on first but "The Great Mu Ga Ru Ga" by Sound Dimension** (or Sound Dimention as it says on the original 45), and what's the first thing the vocalist says, right at the beginning, a capella, even? Well, just listen for yourself, using the YouTube above. (Hint: it's #heavy.)

* So many WTF moments in this. I watched this when I was 12?! Paul Reubens, looking more like a member of Throbbing Gristle than Pee-Wee Herman, muttering "How about the future of rock'n'roll, huh? The future of rock'n'roll? Bruce Springsteen. He's fuckin' it all up." Timothy Leary himself also shows up and really doubles down on the creep factor as a mental asylum director who administers LSD to his patients. Cheech takes a dose and memorably hallucinates Michael Winslow doing his hilarious Jimi Hendrix impersonation (I can't help think it was somehow a nod to Apocalypse Now).

** Sound Dimension, alternately known as Sound Demension, or Sound Demention, or Sound Dimention (as above), or Soundemension, or Soul Dimension, or almost every other possible spelling or variation, were the house band of the Jamaica recording studio and record production facility known as Studio One. Their boss was the facility and label owner, Clement "Coxsone" Dodd, and the bandleader was Leroy Sibbles, who played bass, while also having a career as a sublime sweet lead vocalist for The Heptones. As far as I can tell from carefully reading Solid Foundation, the Studio One house band morphed from the Soul Vendors into Sound Dimension around 1968, when Sibbles took over after bandleader/organist Jackie Mittoo moved to Canada. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


From a date already quickly receding into the mists of time, waaaay back in mid-2012, here's a rather overlooked collabo LP picked up cheap from the ever-lovin' Reckless experimental bin. Long-time regular readers of Blastitude probably know the music of Neil Campbell pretty well, and let's just say he seems to be more in ASC* mode than VCO** mode here, although it's hard to say when his collaborator is Robert Horton, a long-running under-the-radar Bay Area sound artist, instrument inventor, percussionist, electronicist, polymath, iconoclast, et al. In 1981 (which really is waaaay back) he was in a "punk funk" group called the Appliances that put out a 12-inch EP with a "Paranoia Rap," and we're talking live-band-in-studio rap like Sugarhill was contemporaneously releasing, and the rapper Dominique was none other than the daughter of Amiri Baraka and Diane DiPrima (born during her parents' Floating Bear years). That track is on YouTube; the only other thing I've heard by 'em is an unreleased mutant-funk instrumental that is cool as hell. After the Appliances, Horton was completely under-the-radar for many years, until the experimental/noise underground finally caught up to what he was doing during the early/mid-00's CDR/internet boom. Suddenly, he was a recording and releasing all kinds of records, solo releases under various guises like Egghatcher, and lots of collaboration and ad hoc group work, duos, trios, and larger, with people like Charalambides guitarist Tom Carter, and Loren Chasse of the Jewelled Antler Collective. You can learn a lot more about the music he makes and all of his other interests (as well as hear that sick unreleased Appliances track) by listening to this excellent 2012 podcast in which he is interviewed by George Chen, the guy who released Trojandropper on his label Zum. As for the music on the LP itself, both Campbell and Horton play multiple instruments, program mad beats both on-and-off-kilter, and have very full sounds all by themselves, and therefore, when working together, run the risk of overdoing it. Well, risk be damned, they both seem to put everything into the stew, and to their credit the blend is seamless as it slow-boils (and often gleefully boils over). All kinds of crazy rhythms, dare I say danceable for all their weirdness, everything and several kitchen sinks layered atop, often overwhelming in its sheer noisiness, this is yet another record I enter in the 'what I wish My Life in the Bush of Ghosts actually sounded like' sweepstakes.

  * Astral Social Club
** Vibracathedral Orchestra

Wednesday, March 01, 2017


This past month I came across two great quotes about BAD BRAINS on two separate musician interview podcasts. Hearing them randomly just a week or two apart was kinda funny, but also an always-welcome reminder about how amazing Bad Brains were/are. First, on Episode 1 of The Trap Set with Joe Wong, Brendan Canty of Fugazi & Rites of Spring says, of seeing them play locally as a teenager in Washington, D.C., "Bad Brains were obviously a million times better than everybody else on the planet, like immediately." Then, on Episode 94 of the 5049 Podcast, host Jeremiah Cymerman says to interviewee Greg Fox (of Liturgy and much more), "Bad Brains will always be the greatest thing ever. In my mind there is no greater sound than Daryl Jenifer holding down a bass line while Dr. Know solos. It's literally... it's like Coltrane saxophone."

Bad Brains raves aside, both of these podcasts have amassed about 100 episodes, adding up to literal metric tons of music talk. Of particular Blastinterest might be Cymerman's interview with longtime Blastifave C. Spencer Yeh, or an excellent one with Chris Corsano (good Borbetomagus story), but he's got all kinds of people on there: Fred Frith, Mick Barr, Mary Halvorson, Matthew Shipp, William Parker, and Zeena Parkins, to name a mere 6%.... and The Trap Set has conversations with a crazy array of great drummers, not only the requisite underground greats like Mac McNeilly, Dale Crover, Janet Weiss, and pretty much every other cool drummer of the last 20 years, but also world greats like Bernard Purdie, Stewart Copeland, Sheila E., Gina Schock, and the funky drummer himself, Mr. Clyde Stubblefield (RIP).

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