Wednesday, July 12, 2017

BIRD SHOW BAND s/t LP (AMISH)



Two synths and two drummers? Plus Joshua Abrams (of the Natural Information Society) on bass? Playing lumbering post-Miles heavy grooved-out electro-jazz?! I'm sold, especially when it's sitting new & shrinkwrapped, buried in a cutout bin for like $3.99, even though I've had a promo CD copy of it since it was released almost ten years ago. Hell, there's probably even a rough draft of a review somewhere on my desktop. It's not just Abrams... all the other musicians are household names as well, at least in weird households like mine: bandleader Ben Vida and the great Jim Baker both play synth, and John Herndon and Dan Bitney, both of Tortoise et al, play drums. With Abrams on bass you've got a quintet, a sort of double trio minus one. Amish is a New York label, but all musicians were Chicago-based at the time of this 2008 recording, though some have moved away since then. Chicago has always had a bad-ass jazz scene and surely always will. (And BTW, that video embedded up there is great. especially if you like 60s and 70s underground experimental film, kaleidoscopes, and surprisingly good refrigerator magnet poetry. It's a 2000s film made by Theo Angell, who also makes music, like the great record Auraplinth, from back in 2007, around the same time this Bird Show Band LP came out.)


Monday, July 10, 2017

VARIOUS ARTISTS 1970s Algerian Proto-Rai Underground LP (SUBLIME FREQUENCIES) #HEAVYMUSICINALLSTYLESANDVOLUMES



















This compilation LP came out almost 10 years ago, but a couple songs from side one have haunted me since first listen, and I just got it back out again. The songs in question are the 2nd and 3rd tracks on the record, both by Groupe El Azhar, both having a killer circular drum beat that sure sounds like trance rock to me. The first song is kind of in a bad-ass blues minor, fittingly titled "Mazal Nesker Mazal (I'm Getting Drunk)," with the lead vocalist laying down big barroom "yeeaaaaaaah"s, while the second song "Touedar Aakli (My Reason Is Lost)" has sweet major-key love-lorn overtones that make it my favorite of the two.





The LP is a compilation of Algerian Rai music. The word rai roughly translates as "opinion" or "point of view," which is interesting because the self-expression is very unmediated and face-to-face, and in fact gets pretty rough and tumble, and I wonder if England and America in fact translated the concept of rai as punk. Just look at the titles: "I'm Still Getting Drunk... Still," "My God! My God! My Friends!," "I'll Marry Her Whether They Like It Or Not," and the curious "I Cuddle Myself," all over that driving trance beat. According to the liner notes Rai started evolving in the early 20th Century, in the Algerian port town of Wahran (aka Oran). A driving rhythm would be established while a Gasba flute played hypnotic dirge-like melodies that implied rich melancholy chord changes that a vocalist would express themselves over. For much of the 20th Century, Rai was associated with "shiekhs," apparently a somewhat dismissive term for underground ne'er-do-well musicians and entertainers. In 1970, probably due to the global rock'n'roll chic of the Stones et al and the resulting cultural permissiveness, Rai no longer needed to stay underground, and a few Groupes emerged, like our subjects El Azhar. The instrumentation evolved and modernized, the bands, as LP producer Hisham Mayet writes in the liner notes, "reinterpreting the Gasba melodies on trumpet accompanied by a full orchestra of violins, drums, derboukas, accordions, and sometimes synthesizers..." There was a market for 45s, which is where all the cuts on this compilation come from. Sublime Frequencies, man... so many releases to sift through to find these gems among gems, those one or two tracks that still cut just as deep 10 years after you first hear them...

Friday, July 07, 2017

WOLF EYES at TRIP METAL FEST CHICAGO on SWEET BLAHG

Looks like Chicago's got a CHItaper of their own to go along with NYC's NYCtaper, someone recording and posting good old fashioned Mediafire uploads of CHI-area shows on a Tumblr called Sweet Blahg, with some brief, casual, often insightful descriptions of the music. Right now I'm listening to one of the very few shows on there that I was at, Wolf Eyes closing out the first ever Trip Metal Fest Chicago. The band was even weirder than usual this night, and very, very good, so it's a pleasure to hear their set again, perhaps best of all to rehear Nate Young's classic stage banter, such as the spiel at the 30-minute mark when, after about 12 straight minutes of inzane quiet prezzure, Mr. Young pipes up as the music still pulses: "Hey man. We're checkin' in again. How you guys doin'? You okay? I know it's gettin' fuckin' weird, man. It's been weird all night. It's weird every fucking night. Wow, but man, just let us do our thing, man. That's all I want, everyone to do their fucking thing, man. Thank you all. You're bad-fucking-ass, man. You know this. All you. You're good." As for the music, I am loving their current post-Stare Case/Crasy Jim era, and sometimes imagine (in a good way) that they're just trying to take "Desert of Glue" deeper, over and over again (why wouldn't you?), and every time it comes out different and great, so they just keep doing it.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

LONG DISTANCE POISON Rheomodes CS (OXTAIL RECORDINGS)



I finally listened to a recent episode of the Tabs Out podcast (they're on #103 and I've heard maybe two of them, need to do a little catching up), where they play stuff off all kindsa recent cassette releases, and buried deep somewhere in the shenanigans of the second hour (the podcast hosts not only find great music, but they're also hilarious... maybe too hilarious, as they spend what seems like 25% or more of the runtime talking and laughing) was this beauty of a low-simmer dark-lit zone-out that oddly reminded me of some deep ECM my homie S-Mac had laid on me just the previous weekend. It's a fairly tangential/personal thing, and the instrumentation is different, but one thing both records definitely have in common is heavy atmosphere. What Tabs Out played is a cassette release by Long Distance Poison called Rheomodes. They are the contemporary NYC-based analog electronics duo of Nathan Cearley and Erica Bradbury, and on Rheomodes they play three long improvisations; "Artichoke" takes up all of Side 1 and "Holochatter" and "Remote Bluebird" make up Side 2. I think it's crazy good, with several extended passages, especially on side 2, where I forget I'm listening to synths/electronics and just surfing on their double-strange grooves. Tabs Out excerpted a really killer section that comes at least 10 minutes into "Artichoke," so kudos to their selection skills once again, and you can hear album closer "Remote Bluebird" above.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

THIS WEEK IN CLASSIC ROCK #397 by Larry "Fuzz-O" Dolman

1. 


Please don't watch this whole tawdry cheap-TV production (a 1986 episode of A Current Affair* that interviews semi-estranged members of music superstar Prince's family), but jumping to the section in which Prince's father John Nelson talks to a reporter while sitting and playing piano is a fairly fascinating musicological exercise. (It starts at the 6:02 mark, and I beg you, please click here to correctly skip all the other stuff, or immediately jump to the 6:02 mark in the embed above.) Mr. Nelson really does seem like a true artist, like his son, albeit a non-commercial one (advanced soul and jazz harmonies, yes, but he sure as hell never settles on a hook). The program tawdrily implies that he wrote "Purple Rain," just because he can tinkle the ivories while singing a bluesy version of the chorus. He probably did once sing a couplet like "never meant to cause you any sorrow/never meant to cause you any pain" to a young listening Prince, and not gone anywhere with it. Nonetheless, I would give significant credit to his playing and singing, however rambling, for directly influencing his son's legendary style, which was a hybrid of two things: Papa John's soul/jazz/jive/entertainer sensibility and the killer 1970s AM and FM radio of Minneapolis/St. Paul pumping out hook-laden hard-rock, R&B, funk, and pop. When this little Prince filtered the former through the latter it shocked the world. And, if the stuff about the Kid sneaking out and watching his Dad play backup music at a strip joint down the street is true -- and I kinda think it is -- well, that explains a whole lot too.

* I'm not joking about this Current Affair shit. DO NOT watch that poison. You see, A Current Affair was produced from 1986 to 1995 by the film company 20th Century Fox. In October 1996 a subsidiary of this same company called the Fox Entertainment Group launched a 24-hour TV channel that soon became well known as Fox News, and is still going all too strong. Current Affair was essentially a trial run,

HUNDALASILIAH! BONUS VIDEO FOR #PRINCEFREAKSONLY!



Video Soul interview with Prince's onstage dancer/hypewoman Cat Glover and dancer/hypeman/bodyguard Gregory Brooks, both of whom performed with Prince and his band from 1986 to 1989, very notably in the Sign of the Times concert film and on the Lovesexy Tour (which I was lucky enough to view in person on their Ames, Iowa stop of November 21, 1988). Cat is so bad-ass and sweet in this video, not surprised she's from Chicago. Esmond Elementary and Morgan Park High represent! (The interviewer Donnie Simpson is kinda terrible tho, even if he is from Detroit, like Brooks, who seems like a cool dude.)

2. 
Vice's celebrated and maligned disruptive journalism style keeps getting more cloying every time I try to read one of their pieces, but they did publish what might be the definitive article on the Grateful Dead's Wall of Sound (via their music/electronics/culture/lifestyle subsidiary Motherboard).

3.


As a Joni completist (still haven't gotten to the 80s) of course I'm digging her muezzin chorale reinvention of The Youngbloods' "Get Together" (perhaps more in the spirit of its writer Chet Powers aka Dino Valenti than its most well-known interpreter Jesse Colin Young) as backed up by that obscure group Crosby, Stills, Nash & Sebastian, live at the 1969 festival that was documented by the concert film Celebration at Big Sur, and at which Stills notoriously got into a scuffle over the ostentatious fur coat he was wearing with a less sartorially concerned audience member. "Get Together" presumably happened later in the day, as Stills is sans coat, and also sans a front tooth, which I hope he didn't lose in the fur coat scuffle. Must be a feisty guy, and he's certainly feisty on guitar here right out of the gate, and Joni has to gently make eye contact with him and smile so that he gets just self-conscious enough to stop showboating, because, like... she's trying to sing the first verse of the song. Pretty sure she cuts his first solo off too, but after that he knows his place. His guitar playing is killer throughout, don't get me wrong, and Joni knew just how to arrange it.

4. 


Digging on M. Davis's "All Blues" lately, reading how it directly inspired songs like "Dreams" by the Allmans (subtle) to "Strange Feeling" by Tim Buckley (obvious), and just heard this 2009 reinterpretation (embedded above) by the duo of Gary Peacock (bass) and Marc Copland (piano) on the WNUR jazz show.

5.


Time spent on earth by me knowing the song "Joy and Pain" by Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock before actually hearing the original existential slow-jam sweet-simmer summertime masterpiece by Frankie Beverly & Maze that it got its hook from: 28 years.

6. 


Speaking of smooth ass raw soul how about those demos that came with the 2000 Rhino Records CD reissue of the 1970 LP Curtis? "Little Child Running Wild" has that killer main riff, and on the demo version here, called "Ghetto Child," the verses and choruses aren't tightened up yet, which allows the band to experience the riff and zone out on some ragged and raw grooving. I assume that's the one and only Craig McMullen with the exquisite/ruffneck wah-wah guitar soloing, but his name doesn't appear in the musician credits, which this CD reissue presents in one big list at the end, with no reference to track titles or instruments.

7.


And why didn't I know that Lauryn Hill was on some Terry Callier shit, here as recently as 2013??

8.


The Blue Nile are classic rock! Because even though at one time their 1980s music was nouveau and current, that time is now 30 years ago and can be viewed through a historical, and even classical lens. Sometimes I think of all those New Romantics like ABC, Spandau Ballet, even Duran Duran themselves, as a subset of classic rock. But man, The Blue Nile were good, because they were also smooth ass raw soul, even though a bunch of white Scottish dudes. And, lead singer Paul Buchanan might just be the source of Richard Youngs' croon when he gets electro-pop (see Behind the Valley of the Ultrahits for best example), nice nick there, Rich...

9.


Been listening to almost every different version of "These Days" that's on the 'Tube, gotta be at least 20 already, mostly different performances by an inner circle of interpreters over the years (although I did bravely listen to a version by Drake, and I don't mean Nick, and I even kinda like Drake sometimes, but this version was so bad I'm not even gonna link it). Jackson Browne wrote the song when he was 16, but it didn't get released until Nico did a version a couple years later, on which Browne played guitar. Various others did a version at the time, like a rather overproduced Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, but in 1973 Gregg Allman, in my opinion, recorded the best (cosmic country) version there will ever be. It was on his first solo LP Laid Back, and it remained a soulfully heartbreaking song in his repertoire throughout the years, even as recently as 2012 in front of a buncha talkative twits in NYC. Back in '73, Browne apparently heard Allman's arrangement and recorded his first official version in Gregg's style, and it's nearly as goddamn good. (The liner notes say "The Arrangement was inspired by Gregg Allman," even though Gregg's album came out a month after Jackson's. Studio brats!)  As for other arrangements, I might just give 2nd best to this much more recent one by St. Vincent aka Annie Clark performing solo on electric guitar and singing those lyrics like goddamn Vashti Bunyan herself. REALLY good. But Jackson Browne himself playing the song solo back in 2008 at a festival in Claremont, CA is right up there. Hearing him perform a (then-new?) hypnotic fingerpicking arrangement, with careful but still plenty soulful vocal delivery, is like the unveiling of a statue that the sculptor has carefully chipped away at for 40 years (44 in this particular case). And speaking of careful, the always strong final line ("Don't confront me with my failures/I had not forgotten them") certainly takes on new light after his denial of the allegations that he beat up Daryl Hannah in 1992. Many people say it's a great line, but I really don't like the way it leads with "don't confront me"; it could read as "Don't point out how awful I can be, when I'd rather you stayed quiet about it." Also, by ending the whole song, rather than an earlier verse, with this line, it hangs in the air like a command, rather than an immediate emotional reaction that can be elucidated and perhaps resolved by further discussion. At least Allman led with "Please don't" instead (he did often refer to himself as a polite Southern boy), and then, regarding his "failures," changed Browne's "I had not forgotten them" to "I'm aware of them," which isn't necessarily more polite, but is at least a little more self-effacing.

10.


Count Ossie is classic rock! My friend thinks they're quoting an American song with "Four Hundred Years (Instrumental)" from the Grounation 3LP, and it sounds very familiar to me as well, but neither of us can place it. Anyone know if it's a direct quote? And if so, what song are they quoting? Leave a comment if you know. 

Thursday, June 08, 2017

TALSOUNDS Love Sick LP (BA DA BING); MUKQS '11,666,666,666,666,666,666' LP (MIDWICH) #HEAVYMUSICINALLSTYLESANDVOLUMES



The trio known as Good Willsmith has been tearing it up in Chicago for awhile now, to popular acclaim; I've missed out on them entirely other than listening to a couple different 20-minute tracks on Bandcamp which kinda overwhelmed me as dense stews of free-formless electronic future noise. But since then I've heard two members of the trio perform solo, and both times they seem to find beauty and tranquility as if in the eye of the Good Willsmith hurricane. First I saw member Muxqs aka Max Allison play a haunting, lush, eerie solo set a few months ago (word is that his LP that just came out on Midwich is the same material he was playing live, which means #mustgrip, and not just because of the cover art*), and now I'm repeatedly spinning this debut LP by TALsounds, the solo act of member Natalie Chami. She works alone and in real time, looping synths and singing vocals, creating instant compositions that really hit a sweet spot where dreampop, shoegaze, slow jam R&B**, classical string quartets, vaporwave (yes, vaporwave), and vintage synth mantra all hang out. Oh yeah, noise too -- the leadoff single from the LP "Disgrace" has a particularly grinding/strobing synth through-line, and a drumbeat that kinda lurches like a Wolf Eyes groove.



















* #Gripped the Mukqs today, and man, this record is crazy... it does seem to be the same material that was played live, but the recording presents it as brighter and clearer, where in a live setting (or maybe just my memory) it was a little hazier and fuzzier. Everything coming through so clearly has a real relentless brain-scrambling effect, in which complexities emerge and then pile on top of each other in wild permutations, flocking in and out of phase like clusters of cybernetic birds. The first note I took during side one was "an all-robot Steve Reich ensemble going in and out of phase patterns while making an Arthur Russell disco record" but I think it's beyond that already....

** Not too far from say Atlantic recording artist Ravyn Lenae, minus the hip-hop drum programming... and Lenae is a former student of Chami's, as reported in this brand new Chicago Reader feature on TALSounds by Peter Margasak that got me listening to Love Sick in the first place. Hat tips all around!

POSTSCRIPT:  
More TALSounds highlights include this video of her performing a song "Hair" at home, a nice look at her process (and bookshelves), and a great cassette release from 2013 called Sky Face, similar to Love Sick but a bit more raw and even dreamier. Dig in!

Thursday, June 01, 2017

MAZOZMA Heavy Death Head LP (FEEDING TUBE) #HEAVYMUSICINHEAVYSTYLESANDVOLUMES
























There is a back story here, but this review is a more immediate reaction. I already listen to any new Ma Turner (aka Mazozma) record with a certain heightened sense of anticipation, because he really does almost always make strange, challenging, unexpected music, but this new record Heavy Death Head on Feeding Tube has really got my head spinning along with the turntable as I nervously try to crack the code, finally getting somewhere on listens five through seven. For starters, I figured out how to read the insert, which is in fact a track listing, with tiny hand-written credits, and a little pictographic drawing for each song, and now I'm actually paying attention to when each track ends and begins (it's easy to lose track, pun intended), what they're titled and what their lyrics might be, and how tenuous, even with lyrics, their relationship to what we usually think of as songs sometimes gets. Although of course the very first track "Circle (Laa)" is a song, it's a full-on spiritual chant, and it does have words, even besides the chanted (sub)title refrain "laa." Indeed, the tracks that do have lyrics are more or less all chant songs, or vocal trance songs, which is like a very weird spin on Alice Coltrane's 1980s ashram tapes that Luaka Bop just released a 2LP sampler of. but of course coming from different dark levels, yes in the tradition that might start with Madcap Laughs and Oar and runs through Ready For The House and beyond. The second track is called "The Dawn of Time," but it's also the closest thing to a title track, because after a melancholy/pretty passage of sweet organ chords and forlorn drumming, Mazozma chants "oh I must admit/oh I must confess/I've been riding high/on the heavy death." Two equally unsettling instrumentals follow, tortured and obtuse textures and tones, with more of the same on side two opener "Hor-Flora," the entire song's verbal content a single question asked once ("What are the odds of anything evening out?"), and that paranoid/analytic line giving way to maelstroms of guitar, saxophone, and non-verbal voice. It is in fact a comfort that Mazozma is a quartet on this track, as three other pseudonymous people are vocalizing and jamming away with him; at least he's not going through this darkness alone. He's not alone on "Show Yourself" either, which is the most melodic song on here, but still heavy death-(head)-folk, Mazozma singing the forlorn words ("deeper into glass/it's all just sand/pieces alone") along with the mono-named Stella, who also sings very powerfully with Mazozma on the aforementioned opening track. The closing number, "All In Three (Laa)," has the same subtitle as the opener, but no lyrics, subtitular or otherwise, and no singing. Instead it's another Mazozma solo instrumental work, this time conjuring up a mass of tripped-out high-pulsation free-form electric guitar string music to ride the heavy death headtrip over and out.

NON-EXCLUSIVE NEW VIDEO NON-PREMIERE! 
Here's a video Mazozma made for "Backwards Salutation Into Waking" from the Heavy Death Head LP, one of the creeping obtuse instrumentals on side one that help bridge the first half of the album from nothing to nowhere, here set to a strange silent film with a humorous on-location contempo-psychotronic feeling. The way sound develops along with image reminds me of, no shit, Teiji Ito's score for Maya Deren's Meshes of the Afternoon (though the deadpan visual content itself is a little more along the lines of something like Ron Rice's Flower Thief).

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