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).

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

ONE OF YOU Life Is So Hard b/w Faded Flowers (SCARAB RECORDS)



I think a onetime Chicago friend I haven't seen in at least a decade but follow on Twitter (Ms. Chambers of Ides, is that you?) posted this weird loner folk (?) whatsis, a 7" single self-released in Canada back in 1981. All I can say is wow. UPDATE (45 SECONDS LATER): Just learned the story... the singer for One of You is a Czech woman who left Prague after the 1968 revolution and relocated to Toronto. Sinking into alienation in the cold new North American city, she wrote these rather despairing bedroom dirges about her feelings. "Life Is So Hard" really lives up to the title, getting just a little scary when that "Cry little devil cry / Cry little devil cry" part goes into the chorus. The B side "Faded Flowers" is more of a church/medieval epic, or something, including spoken word, and an eerie chorale part that Ms. One of You builds through what must be overdubs. Maybe not as autobiographical, but still quite an ear-turner. Heavy music in all styles and volumes, or should I say #heavymusicinallstylesandvolumes .....

Thursday, May 11, 2017

ROBERT GLASPER Covered (The Robert Glasper Trio Recorded Live at Capitol Studios) 2LP (BLUE NOTE)



Can't believe I'm sinking deep into an exquisite, moody, delicate/heavy piano trio record on Blue Note, and not only was it recorded AFTER (not before) 1960, it was in fact recorded in December 2014. That's right, I'm actually listening to brand new relatively non-avant jazz music. I've known about Mr. Glasper for awhile, that he was a young jazz pianist who was revitalizing the genre by bringing in straight-up hip-hop and R&B (his music heavily influenced by Miles Davis and Keith Jarrett but also Q-Tip and J. Dilla). However, I didn't start listening to his records until just this week when I happened across this charming appearance on Amoeba's What's In My Bag? series, in which he boldly (and literally) sings the praises of Kenny G. From there I started going through the related videos and sampling a bunch of his albums, such as the Grammy-winning and totally-deserving-of-it 2012 release Black Radio, which is some kind of jazzy hip-hop neo-soul modern masterpiece, each song with a different guest vocalist, really some beautiful stuff. (The 2013 sequel Black Radio 2 seems just as good, really loving the song "Calls" featuring Jill Scott.) But, the record I've got on the turntable right now, and the subject of this record review as referenced in its opening sentence, is the Covered double LP, recorded live at Capitol Studios, and filmed as well, so you can listen to it, you can watch it on your TV with popcorn, you can put it on some sort of streaming service and take a bath by candle light, or you can get the vinyl and flip it all the time like I do. Either way, this is beautiful music, played by top-notch jazz musicians on piano (Glasper), bass (Vicente Archer), and drums (Diamond Reid). Reid is particularly impressive, for example the next-level beat on "I Don't Even Care," some kind of high-speed drum&bass Amen-break vibe. It isn't even immediately apparent that this is a covers album (though the album title does give pause); "Barandgrill" was the first track that seemed to ring some far-off bell, and even after learning from the YouTube comments that it was a Joni Mitchell song, I still didn't realize the rest were covers too until really digging "So Beautiful," which I assumed to be a Glasper original, or maybe even a group improvisation, but upon research turned out be a cover of a sweet 2009 R&B song by someone called Musiq Soulchild. At this point I started to catch on, and have since learned that other sources are Kendrick Lamar, John Legend, Bilal, Macy Grey, Radiohead, and someone called Jhene Aiko, but above all it sounds like a really nice haunting lush and atmospheric Blue Note piano trio jazz album.

POSTSCRIPT: A few more acoustic piano trio favorites: Duke Ellington/Charles Mingus/Max Roach Money JungleBill Evans Trio Sunday at the Village Vanguard (with the great Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian); this all-time great beauty of a track by Alice Coltrane, Ron Carter, and Ben Riley called "Turiya and Ramakrishna"Lowell Davidson Trio self-titled (with Gary Peacock and Milford Graves!); Keith Jarrett with Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette Changeless (ECM) (another new record... wait, I guess 1989 isn't new anymore); Ahmad Jamal Trio At the Pershing (with Israel Crosby and Vernell Fournier), and, THIS JUST IN, on my morning drive to take my kids to school the tradition is to listen to the morning jazz shows on WNUR, and this week they played a track called "Redwoods" by the Eri Yamamoto Trio, which was released in 2008 on the long-heavy Aum Fidelity label.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

I AM JUST NOW POSTING THE "BLASTITUDE BEST OF 2015" #HEAVYMUSICFROMALLYEARSANDVOLUMES

(Almost entirely written December 2015-January 2016, and then left in a drawer until now....)

MEG BAIRD Don't Weigh Down The Light (DRAG CITY) This is the Blastitude Record of the Year, 2015. I wonder if a folk record should be the record of such an electronically advanced year as 2015, but it's beautifully sung and played, and sinks deeper and deeper with every listen, and folk music is always back because it never goes away, and I'm certain we need it more than ever as an option for universal/societal calming, quietude, and deep-breathing. It's the AntiTrumpstitude, and believe me, on Don't Weigh Down The Light the breathing gets very deep via brilliant two-person playing, Meg laying down heavy song after heavy song on guitar and voice, Charlie Saufley's instant electric guitar arrangements equally heavy and beautiful throughout, both of them adding subtle overdubs on piano, organ, etcetera... the atmosphere is incredible.

WOLF EYES I Am A Problem: Mind In Pieces (THIRD MAN) A radical new Wolf Eyes record in many ways. The first thing you hear is a Fender Rhodes piano, and instead of being obliterated by industrial noise terror, it's patiently joined by softly sketching saxophone (which will be familiar to most Wolf Eyes fans already, and especially to fans of side band Stare Case), all building into an incredibly somber track called "Catching The Rich Train" that I can honestly say is a 'genre' of music I've never heard before. And the whole album stays in that genre (#mustbetripmetal), with several more great tracks... the twisting slow (trip) metal riff at the heart of "T.O.D.D.," the devastating (actual) metal chorus hook of "Enemy Ladder," the living Stooges sample that is "Twister Nightfall"... and two more, one of which ("Cynthia Vortex AKA Trip Memory Illness") has me recalling Byron Coley's stark words regarding Skip Spence's Oar ("There's a quality of loss and disorientation on this record that has the palpable taste of LSD"). First Wolf rec (I know of) that comes with a lyric sheet, but it's barely possible to follow along with Nate Young's vocals with the ruptures and disjunctures brought about by the band's always-evolving cutting/mirroring vocal delay tactics. But then, just when I'm sure I won't get a handle on it, I happen to be looking at the lyric sheet during the aforementioned "T.O.D.D." not knowing the name of the song yet, and my eyes fall right on the words he's speaking/singing, just in time for a fully intelligible line that stops me in my tracks: "I burn my dreams just to stay warm." I haven't gone back to the lyric sheet since, as that one line has become the theme of the entire record, encapsulating the back story revealed by the band in interviews, the seemingly incongruous cover imagery now a warm fleeting vision of beauty from another burnt dream...

CIRCUIT DES YEUX In Plain Speech (THRILL JOCKEY) I can't really think of another artist who has taken the leap that Haley Fohr aka Circuit Des Yeux has in the last few years. She first came on our radar as some sort of teenage no-wave siren from the wilds of Indiana, playing what I thought (I'll admit I didn't investigate deeply at the time) were deconstructed punk howls. That was something in itself, but fast-forward a few years and she's moved to Chicago and developed her voice into a stunning operatic baritone that brings to mind Scott Walker himself, her songwriting leaping right along with it, crafting extremely honest and emotional works that leave out none of her many avant-garde inspirations but also clearly aspire to the occult grandeur of her beloved Led Zeppelin. So, like Scott Walker singing a more drummerless "Kashmir" but in the Chicago art damage milieu of a woman in her 20s in the way-too-singular 2010s. The album where this breathtaking style really came clear was 2013's self-released Overdue, but 2015's In Plain Speech, for the higher profile Thrill Jockey label, takes it even further.

ETERNAL TAPESTRY Wild Strawberries 2LP (THRILL JOCKEYExtendo jam psych that actually hits some of those Gottsching/Harmonia nodes we usually only encounter by playing records that were recorded 40 years ago. Besides, what else can you say about a band that lives in Portland but travels to a cabin deep in the woods to record extremely heady psychedelic rock improvisations, each of which they craft into nigh-side-long pieces which they name after a plant indigenous to that region, other than that they are Living the Dream? 


ANTHONY PASQUAROSA Morning Meditations (VDSQ) This is technically a reissue of a privately/barely released cassette from 2014, but that issue was so ephemeral, and only a year older, that I'm going to put this on Best of 2015 anyway. Pasquarosa has several projects and all are interesting... to name just a couple of many, he plays teenage downer punk with Gluebag, cosmic psych folk with Crystalline Roses, and brilliant solo acoustic guitar instrumentals as himself. He can be heard to great effect in this setting on the same label's VDSQ Solo Acoustic Volume Seven, but Morning Meditations is a different strain of music, its structures more intensely minimalist, extremely patient and slow-developing (although 'developing' into 'something' isn't even the goal here, because it already 'is', so never mind).

SHAWN DAVID MCMILLEN On The Clock W/ JJ & Mitch (12XU)  "The title of this brand new 2015 album refers to his band; McMillen plays guitar and sings, while JJ Ruiz plays drums and Mitch Frazier plays bass. JJ and Mitch both sing background vocals as well, so it certainly works from that spaced-out roots-rock Crazy Horse trio template, but this is no carbon copy. JJ and Mitch are light, open, and swinging, and McMillen brings his own loosey goosey voice to it, really coming into his own as a songwriter. I think I saw someone (on Instagram?) compare this album to the Meat Puppets, and they might've even dropped a II into the comment. A big claim, but I really think it's an accurate description of the style." That's what I said back in November.
  
    
MAGAS Heads Plus
MOON POOL & DEAD BAND "MEQ" 2LP
VIANDS Temporal Relic
MICK TRAVIS Face Disappears After Interrogation (MIDWICH
Wrote about these great records and label last year too, read it here!









75 DOLLAR BILL Wooden Bag (OTHER MUSIC) Best LP released this year of microtonal Mauritanian/North Mississippian guitar played by a Korean from New Haven and accompanied by a percussionist whose main instrument is an amplified wooden crate that he both plays and sits on, bar none!








HELEN The Original Faces (KRANKY) Liz Harris AKA Grouper, one of my favorite musical artists of the 2000s, here doing something different in the 2010s as the frontperson of a dreamy raging shoegaze band.








DAN MELCHIOR'S BROKE REVUE Lords of the Manor (IN THE REDI was already loving this material, just from seeing very heavy YouTubes of Dan and the Revue playing it live in 2014. You may remember me openly wondering if there was a studio record that had these songs on it in last year's almost-a-year-late "Best of 2014" year-end post. Well, Lords of the Manor is that studio record, and it is indeed really goddamn heavy.

KURT VILE B'lieve I'm Goin' Down (MATADORAfter loving Kurt's first few albums back in the late 00's (you can read about it in several previous posts), I kinda got off the bus with Wakin' on a Pretty Daze. It seemed like his songwriting was getting lost in his atmosphere, which allowed for pleasant-enough listening while it was on, but not a whole lot to take away. Well folks, the takeaway is boldly back with this one. The reverby wash is dialed down and the instruments and lyrics stand unadorned, leading to what may paradoxically be his heaviest album ever. Central track "That's Life, Tho (Almost Hate To Say)" makes me cry, and it's followed by the almost-as-devastating "Wheelhouse." Like Wolf Eyes earlier on this page, Kurt is also adding electric piano to his sound, and it's great, as on the superb track eight, "Lost My Head There," still melancholy, but more a smiler than a weeper, or the instrumental "Bad Omens," which almost sounds like it could've been one of the piano-driven instrumentals on Garcia (1972)! I'll admit I thought the lead-off single and album opener "Pretty Pimpin'" was kinda annoyingly quirky the first couple times I heard it, didn't like the title, etc., but it's actually a damn good song as well.

RYLEY WALKER Primrose Green (DEAD OCEANS) I've long been impressed by Walker's ability to execute aspects of Buckley/Drake/Jansch/Renbourn traditions at a high level, but not always sure how much from the present day was in it. Primrose Green still seems like it's of another time, right down to the Astral Weeks vibe of the cover art, but this record marks Walker and his band really starting to make this music their own. His songwriting has gotten there, and the musical interplay of a consistent full band (the core seems to be Ben Bowe on keyboards, Frank Rosaly on drums, Brian Sulpizio on guitar, and Anton Hatwitch on the double bass) has gotten all the way there and then some...








BILL MACKAY & RYLEY WALKER Land of Plenty (WHISTLER RECORDS) And with this record Walker does something different, combining his six-string skills with those of fellow Chicago guitarist Bill Mackay, both considerable, songs and traditions and freedom boiled down to pure all-instrumental guitar duo interplay, a really dreamy and haunting thing.

MAMMAL Lake & Sand (ORMOLYCKA) I know there's a small but dedicated group out there who really loved Mammal's Lonesome Drifter double-LP, released in 2007, and have waited very, very patiently ever since for the followup. Gary Beauvais, who is Mammal, told me about 7 years ago via email that the followup was almost done! I was excited, because he said it was "even more 'deserty' than Lonesome Drifter," but the record was not forthcoming... until now. Believe me, I can relate to an artist who is excited about a project but for one reason or another, or many, is simply unable to complete it or release it. (Sort of like how I'm publishing this "Best of 2015" blog post in mid-2017.) Either way, I'm glad Lake & Sand got done because it's a very good record. It is indeed more desert-y than Lonesome Drifter, certainly more subdued, less distorted; the pure-noise genre music that Lonesome Drifter still included intermittently is now almost completely gone. What remains is haunted, fragile, extremely direct and distilled. There is what I would call outright balladry on here, but composed and delivered in Beauvais's cold downer tone. Sometimes the lyrics are possibly too direct, but I like the music enough that I'll forgive certain phrases for erring on the side of precision and candor.

RAMLEH Circular Time (CRUCIAL BLAST) Absolutely monumental most recent album by this long-running British underground ensemble. I've never quite had a handle on this band/project (is it a band or a project?), and have barely skimmed the surface of the vast Broken Flag label that they emerged from. I'm finally making my way through the excellent Gary Mundy/Broken Flag career overview/interview in the first issue of As Loud As Possible, but you really need to be hearing it as you go with an article like that. If only that ALAP paperstock came with some sort of embedded sound samples... c'mon guys, where's the future tech? (Oh yeah, we do it ourselves, and it's called YouTube.) One thing I do know is that much of the Broken Flag catalog, and indeed previous work of Ramleh itself, does not sound like this. Most Ramleh is solo or small-group noise/electronics music, but this incarnation is a full-on pulverizing psychedelic rock'n'roll band. Drums, bass, and two very loud guitars, sprawling way the hell out over two CDs, and all I can say is thank you.








LIGHTNING BOLT Fantasy Empire 2LP (THRILL JOCKEY) Not too far off from what Ramleh are doing! But of course Lightning Bolt can hyperdrive it like no other band, and on this, their 7th full length album, they seem to have more riffs than ever. Sonics are terrific too, recording & pressing wise.

ARCHIVAL:
SUN CITY GIRLS Torch of the Mystics LP (ABDUCTION); BEAT OF THE EARTH & ELECTRONIC HOLE boot LPs; WOLF EYES Slicer LP (ORION READ); THE FLESH EATERS A Minute To Pray, A Second to Die LP (SUPERIOR VIADUCT); VELVET UNDERGROUND Matrix Tapes 4CD (UNIVERSAL MUSIC ENTERPRISES); probably 100 more

PASSAGES: 
Ornette Coleman, Chris Squire, Edgar Froese, Daevid Allen, Andy Fraser, Chris Burden, Chantal Akerman, Anita Ekberg, Leonard Nimoy, Sam Simon, Manoel de Oliveira, Percy Sledge, Ben E. King, B.B. King, Christopher Lee, Roddy Piper, Bob Johnston, Yvonne Craig, Wes Craven, Tadeusz Konwicki, Oliver Sacks, Rico Rodriguez, Setsuko Hara, Candida Royalle, Moses Malone, Yogi Berra, Allen Touissant, Philthy Animal Taylor, Ellsworth Kelly, Haskell Wexler, Lemmy... I'm not even touching 2016 passages until next year...

So, I'm already working on my Best of 2016, and if all goes well it should be done around.... September 20........18? Confused yet? Believe me, I am too, which is why I listen to old records at least 92% of the time. (NP: Marion Brown Vista (ABC Impulse, 1975).)

Sunday, April 02, 2017

YE OLDE "TOO MANY TABS OPEN IN THE BROWSER" CLEARINGHOUSE POST

1.
LOVE STORY DOCUMENTARY - THE TALE OF THE LEGENDARY L.A. BAND LOVE


Love Story (Full Version) from Start Productions on Vimeo.

2.


"The Tribal Eye is a seven-part BBC documentary series on the subject of tribal art, written and presented by David Attenborough. It was first transmitted in 1975. Episode 1 centers on the life and customs of the Dogon people in Mali, concentrating primarily on their masks and mask rituals." After to watch, have a nightcap while listening to "Space Prophet Dogon" by Sun City Girls (recorded in Tempe, Arizona in 1988), and by The Brothers Unconnected, aka 2/3rds of the Sun City Girls (live in Iowa City, 2008). 

3. 
Just going down memory lane watching a buncha Sonic Youth videos. So many great songs... "Bull in the Heather," "100%," "Sugar Kane," "Dude Ranch Nurse," "Little Trouble Girl," "Cinderella's Big Score," "Jams Run Free" of course "Theresa's Soundworld".... this particular YouTube rabbit hole started with the absurdity of them playing "I Wanna Be Your Dog" on the Night Music television program in 1989, jamming on Iggy and the Stooges with David Sanborn, Hiram Bullock, the Indigo Girls, and a guy with a keytar, show stolen by Don Fleming on flute: 



4.
Speaking of the 90s, I'm now reading through this "Royal Trux Appreciation Thread" on the Terminal Boredom message board, part of an RT deep-dive kicked off by another vintage video of 'em playing "A Night to Remember" on that very-90s British TV show The Word. The year is in fact 1995, right there in the middle, they're on the world tour for their major label debut Thank You, and for these 3 minutes they are incontrovertibly the best rock'n'roll band on the planet:



5. 
Modern YouTube channel legend Jimmy is leaving?! How else am I gonna be able to stay at home in my sweatpants and still have all contemporary punk knowledge handed to me on a silver platter?? (Oh, duh.) Regardless, I wish Jimmy the best and would like to thank him for his archival work.



6.
Still don't quite know what to think of Milk Music's new one Mystic 100s (at least it's better than Cruise Your Illusion and "Crying Wand" is pretty fantastic), so I'm revisiting what may still be the peak of their career thus far, a live performance on WFMU from the summer of 2011, as presented at WFMU's Free Music Archive:



7.
Always enjoy reading about Dan Healy, longtime soundman and technological innovator for the Grateful Dead. Here's a 2007 profile on him from the Marin Independent Journal, which is also a profile of the good ole American can-do and stoned autodidacticism that exemplified the entire Grateful Dead organization. (Also recommended is his interview, and many other mentions, in the book Conversations With The Dead by David Gans.) Healy is now 72 years old; let's wish him well and thank him for all he's done for the world of sound.


















8.
I've had another tab open forever to the Spotify Web Player, which I've been using to listen to Robert Glasper's Black Radio and Black Radio 2 over and over.



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

TERRY RILEY Persian Surgery Dervishes 2LP (SHANDAR) #THEHEAVIESTMUSIC



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

STEAL FIFE SHOCK STOP THEN by Greil "Fuzz-O" Dolman II

(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...)

1. 
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.

















2. 
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."

3. 

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.



4. 
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.




5. 
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....




6. 
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: http://www.factmag.com/2014/06/09/fact-mix-445-stephen-omalley/




7. 
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.






8. 
#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.













9. 
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 a couple 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 wondering if the guy's still having health troubles, but then in classic Weir fashion absolutely kills "Days Between" in the encore, singing it with even more gravity than Jerry ever did, bringing certain words ("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 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.


10.
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

SOUND DIMENSION "Great Mu Ga Ru Ga" #HEAVYMUSICINALLSTYLESANDVOLUMES



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. 

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