Monday, November 27, 2017


Sublime Frequencies is such a rich record label that I'm still wrapping my head around LPs that they released almost 10 years ago, such as the Algerian Rai LP just re-reviewed back in July, and this Eat the Dream: Gnawa Music from Essaouira LP which, from 2012, is no spring chicken itself. This is essentially (in true SubFreq fashion) a barely credited Maleem Mahmoud Guinia LP (though producer/engineer Tucker Martine does prominently include two of his own very cool extended field recording interludes), and as such may be the single best one I know of. Just Guinia hollering and jamming out on that guimbri with his percussion/chant crew, very well-recorded by Martine in 1994, when he travelled to Morocco and ended up in the house of Maleem Boubker Guinia, the father of Maleem Mahmoud, and another son Maleem Abdallah Guinia, who plays the guimbri solo that opens the record. To clarify, Maleem is an honorific meaning "master," in this case a master of the 300-year tradition of gnawa music, and I would say Mahmoud Guinia (b. 1951) is to gnawa music what Marley (b. 1945) is to reggae and Brown (b. 1933) is to funk, that is the leading 20th Century innovator/interpreter.

And good gawd, hit me, look at what's been just sitting there on the internet for over 3 years, Maleem Mahmoud Guinia a year before his death, sharing a big couch in a Moroccan palace with three percussionist/vocalists, jamming as hard as possible for an hour:

Saturday, November 25, 2017

DIANA ROSS "Love Hangover" (MOTOWN)

So I'm finally reading England's Dreaming for the first time ever (what a great book), and on page 186 it mentions that pre-fame Siouxsie Sioux and her friends used to jam out to "Love Hangover" by Diana Ross, a great proto-house disco song, and while jamming out to it myself right now, I got to reading Ms. Ross's wikipedia entry, and saw that she was a graduate from Detroit's Cass Technical High School, and I wondered what other luminaries, musical and otherwise, might have attended, and the list is just as impressive as I'd expected: from the jazz world alone, Alice Coltrane herself, Donald Byrd, Ron Carter, Paul Chambers, Major Holley, Kenny Burrell, Geri Allen, and quite a few more you may have heard or heard of... but also actors Ellen Burstyn, Lily Tomlin, and David Alan Grier... singer/actress Della Reese... session keyboardist Greg Phillinganes (he played on Thriller and Songs in the Key of Life to name a couple)... Kenya Moore (the second African-American woman to win Miss USA, now a Real Housewife of Atlanta)... Jack White himself... sound sculptor Harry Bertoia himself (!!!)... founding father of mail art Ray Johnson himself (!!!!)... John DeLorean (inventor of the DeLorean) himself... Cora Brown (the first African-American woman elected to the United States state senate, in 1952)... and more!

POSTSCRIPT 9/9/2018: Speaking of Alice Coltrane, I just learned (from a back issue of Wax Poetics, #63 to be exact, Gary Clark Jr. on the cover) that "Love Hangover" was written by Alice's sister Marilyn McLeod (who is also the grandmother of Flying Lotus)!!! She probably went to Cass Technical too.

Friday, November 17, 2017


I know there's approximately 8 million amazing podcasts out there that I really need to start listening to, but one of the few I actually have is Kreative Kontrol with host Vish Khanna. The pod persona that he casts is that of a friendly and thoughtful music-loving resident of Guelph, Ontario, Canada, with guests from all across what could be generally classified as the indie/underground rock spectrum, including, in this case, long-time underground-rock-friendly jazz pianist Matthew Shipp. Interviews with Shipp are always good, so I jumped right on it, and not only has it introduced me to his terrific new piano trio album Piano Song, it's got my head brewing on several lines of thought that his words and music have set it on, such as the reality of inner space vs. the outer world, the realms and possibilities and usefulness of the imagination, forms of language that do not use words, and more, all as interpreted through one of my personal favorite musical archetypes, the jazz piano trio. I got so worked up by the interview that I dutifully transcribed a few key exchanges between Khanna and Shipp, but there's a lot more to dig into, so by all means go listen to the real thing, where you can also hear excerpts of this great new album.

SHIPP: [talking about the song "Cosmopolitan"] I view the album as a city. To me, all my albums are metropolitan landscapes of the mind . . . a lot of my albums are involved with trying to see what a futuristic city would be, like the landscape of a city on another planet.
KHANNA: You know, it's interesting to hear you talk about cosmopolitan and the future, because so many musicians when they are trying to conjure such a landscape will revert to synthetic music of some kind, and it's fascinating to hear you talk about this by using rather traditional instruments, if you will . . . it's fascinating to me that the future for you, in your mind, is really connected to the past, I suppose. This future landscape is really anchored in these older instruments, I suppose, in your case.
SHIPP: Well, I think the traditional jazz trio can present a vision of the future just as easy as a synthesizer does. I mean, the future is not all technology. The future is also inner landscapes. I mean, being able to travel inside your mind, or if you want to holographically go inside your mind, you can go to the whole universe . . . with Sun Ra, despite the fact that he has used electronic instruments, and was one of the first to use a Moog synthesizer, and that's a part of his vision, that he actually also understands that acoustic instruments can give a tip to futuristic ideas and landscapes just as much as a synthesizer can. I mean, first of all, a scientist does equations with mathematics, so you know, you can calculate stuff on Pluto in an equation, and scientists were doing that before computers. Obviously computers help mathematics in doing equations that are so cumbersome, you know, but scientists were doing that way before they were doing things on computers.Yeah, I don't sit around thinking about that, but that has been part of the calculation, that I can generate something with a scale or a cluster of notes on the piano that has everything, as much, to do with walking down the street on Planet X than what technology would generate.

SHIPP: [on the song "Microwave"] I actually named that more, I was reading just some physics books I was looking at around that time... it has nothing to do with an actual microwave that you cook in.
KHANNA: You're a physics buff, are you?
SHIPP: I find modern physics to be really good for the imagination . . . It's not a matter of really having an understanding of it. In fact, it's more of a matter of not understanding it, and letting your imagination go somewhere.

KHANNA: I feel like because we live in such dire times in terms of climate change and various administrations around the world, I feel like there's a deeper and more prolonged fascination with this notion of living in space.
SHIPP: Right.
KHANNA: Leaving earth! [Both laugh] Are you someone who is contemplating such things?
SHIPP: Well, we're kinda stuck here! Until we really get out, so... let's just say I always contemplate travelling to higher planes. That doesn't necessarily mean physically moving. It means just trying to get in touch with yourself, and find that bedrock of a place that might energetically, as far as frequency-wise, not be Planet Earth, even though your body's on the Planet Earth at the time.
KHANNA: I don't mean to conjure any kind of cliche, but does music take you to a different place?
SHIPP: (Emphatically) Yes.

Thursday, November 09, 2017


Stopped by Reckless Records for 5 minutes today (October 28th, 2017); it's always hard not to at least browse the New Arrivals bins, but I was illegally parked, my daughter was waiting in the car, and I had one job and one job only: to get my hands on two eagerly awaited psychedelic rock LPs that were just released this week.

Circuit Des Yeux, aka Haley Fohr, has given us a new LP called Reaching for Indigo that may be even better than her last one In Plain Speech, featuring what's gotta be her best song yet, "Black Fly." I've listened to the whole record a few times already, but this song in particular at least ten times, and a hundred more times in my head. All the elements that can make a song great -- lyrics, melody, arrangement, performance, feeling, a killer bridge -- are extremely well-represented. Lyrically, it goes in the Dylan-worthy withering putdown category, the protagonist imagining her ex(?)-lover(?) as the titular insect, with an explosive challenge in the chorus: "Is it a high dive you're looking for/Or a 24-hour convenience store?," the ethereal melody hooking hard on the high dive image. And that's not even getting to the exquisite band performance by the rhythm section of Josh Abrams on bass and Tyler Damon on drums, perfectly paced by Cooper Crain's mandolin and haunting synth whistles, and Whitney Johnson's keening viola. Crain and Johnson have contributed to Circuit Des Yeux for awhile, and are both key presences throughout the LP, Johnson playing viola on four of the eight songs, and Crain co-producing and playing various instruments on six, with his synth and bass on the progressively bluesy/folky side two opener "Paper Bag" another high point. Instrumentally, the band continues to be informed by Chicago's always-burgeoning post-jazz creative music community, and the album includes a blasting triumphant free-form jam called "A Story of this World Part II" that also has Ryley Walker playing electric guitar, massing with Fohr's own guitar playing and thrilling vocal improvisation (her remarkable singing and songwriting might overshadow just how interesting of an instrumentalist she also is).

And speaking of interesting instrumentalists, Headroom is the work of one Kryssi Battalene of New Haven, Connecticut, who also provides scorching lead guitar in the mighty rock band Mountain Movers. Headroom is her band all the way, taking that spacious scorch and sprawling it out into longer and more vocal-free tracks, sick noise psych jams straight-up, for those who like a whole lotta that burnt PSF space in their Twisted Village. It's not entirely accurate to call Headroom a solo project either, as she has a consistent rhythm section throughout the album of Rick Omonte on bass and Ross Menze on drums, and second and third guitarists appear as well, including another rising New Haven underground star in Stefan Christensen. The record begins in medias res with the endless loping/lumbering jam "How to Grow Evil Flowers," the band laying down an implacable trees, grass & stone groove that Battalene layers with sick filtered/processed guitar soloing that I could listen to for much longer than the track's 10-minute running time. "Millers Pond" is one of two tracks with vocals, and could be called a ballad, albeit a solarized and blasted one, with a destabilizing shimmer that unmoors the rhythm section, Battalene's vocal shining through the fissures like a small sun propeller. "The Second Blazing Star" is a side-closing paranoid loop/solo chase-style jam that reminds me of the mighty Heldon themselves. Side two opens with the title track, "Head in the Clouds," which ditches the rhythm section for a wormholing trio of Battalene's effected guitar, farfisa organ drone, and deep-dive synthesizer exploration. And, the album closer "Flower of Light" is the most explicitly PSF-informed thing on here, another scorched-earth desolation ballad that sounds more than a little like the all-time stunning band Shizuka, which is just fine with this listener.

So, it was a very efficient day of LP buying, and I've been luxuriating in these two deep and rich sonic/philosophic spaces all night long, still marveling at how well each one documents a particular scene of music in two different cities, both organized by and filtered through a brilliant female composer/performer/singer.

THIS JUST IN: Here's a brand new video for the opening track on the Circuit Des Yeux LP, "Brainshift," a song that accurately describes as an "invocation." In the video, eerie minimalist vintage-computer-style graphics illustrate the song title and subject matter in a very direct but effective way, and also make me nostalgic for various classic low-budget creepy A.I. imaginings from the sci-fi of the day.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

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