JONATHAN KANE - February (Table of the Elements) Fife and drum Downtown? In many ways this new LP by former Swans percussionist and Rhys Chatham ensemble member is much closer to his work with Dave Soldier's rootsy Kropotkins than any of the more drone-inspired outfits he's been in. But don't get me wrong, February is a drone-inspired record in a big way; massive walls of chugging Chatham/Branca-leaning dissonant single guitar chords lead the way through long, and at times bluesy workouts. But like the 15.45.60 (aka the Numbers Band) record Jimmy Bell's In Town reviewed in these pages a couple years back, there's a modern melding of blues tradition with Terry Riley-esque flights of lengthy repetition, something that in fact even predates Riley by decades in classic fife-and-drum Mississippi hill music. That music is clearly a big inspiration to Kane, who channeled his mighty wallop birthed with the Swans into true grit snaredrum workouts in the Kropotkins, a group that actively visited spiritual Mississippi kin like the late great Otha Turner (and also featured ex-Velvets Moe Tucker, who knows a thing or two about repetition in percussion). On Kane's new record, that crisp, sharp snare sound looms right over it all, which at first strikes you as a bit odd (considering most 'heavy' psych bands rely on a fatter drum sound) but within minutes you're totally hypnotized. Highly recommended. "Sis" (Real Audio) here.
LAS MALAS AMISTADES - Jardin Interior (Psych-O-Path) Formed by art and film students in Bogota, Colombia in 1994, Las Malas Amistades get together sporadically to create a fascinating miniature sound world with minimal means. Having said that, there's a pretty stunning range in their musical vocabulary: traditional Latin American rhythms, out-there forays into Fluxus (and it's effect on both North American camps like the LAFMS and Residents as well as South Americans like Rogerio Duprat, Caetano Veloso, and Gilberto Gil's sound-poem forays), and UK post punk Rough Trade aesthetic (Young Marble Giants often get namedropped and one can see why with the use of drumboxes, organ and disjointed guitar notes). It's a beautiful mix that comes together rather cinematically and seamlessly here, and again while so many familiar ideas emerge, you continually get the feeling throughout the entire record (recorded in 2005) that it's something entirely new you have yet to hear. Thanks to Psych-O-Path for this MP3 of "El Country."
VARIOUS - Lagos Chop Up (Honest Jons) Along with Ouelele and Nigeria 70, two of my favorite African retrospectives in recent memory, the newly released (and stunningly packaged on vinyl especially) Lagos Chop Up puts the spotlight on the 1970s golden age of Nigerian dance music while it remained truly in its own voice (despite the obvious Western influence of electric guitars and such that had filtered in). By dance music, we mean Juju, Afrobeat, Highlife, and Fuji represented here in some well-chosen and definitely raw selections from such heavies as Dr. Victor Olaiya (aka the Evil Genius of Highlife), Kollington Ayinla, and of course many musicians that have crossed paths in Fela's groups (the Nigerian Army Rhythm Band for example features Fela sideman Ojo Segun Okeji). This music was extremely important to the culture, as music was an powerful expression of the Nigerian people, so much that it intimidated the rulers themselves (as seen in the saga of Fela). With the ascension of Nigeria as an oil resource after the 1940's Lagos became a petri dish of culture and ideas from around the world, yet all these forms of music that sprouted forth could remain diverse while exhuding strong nationalistic identity. The side long track here by Shina Williams and His African Percussions (who also were featured on a killer Nigeria 70 track) is rife with pumping organ and a groove the JB's would kill for. Cardinal Rex Lawson's "Owuna Derina" here (Real Audio from Hatch's show).
VARIOUS - Malpractice (Birdman) - This CD release compiles five years of assorted sounds on the UK CDR label Fflint, which has during that time become a well-beloved staple in WFMU's new bin and airwaves. My friend Andee stayed with these gents in the UK back in the late 90's, raved about their releases and the connection was made. It's sure been a pleasant connection as well, the label even combed WFMU's search engine and noted every song played by various FMU DJs and compiled them into a love letter disc for a marathon prize called "To Effem You" a few years back. But besides the mutual backrubbing going on here (heh), the music is fantastic and sadly overlooked by much of the experimental-music-supporting media. It's not too hard to understand why; the 21st century glut of CDRs took hold over our mailboxes, and the stack of esoteric-looking packages with oblique titles continues to pour in, and to be honest, it's a chore separating the meddle from the muddle. What's most intriguing about these Fflint recordings though is that they don't sound like anything else. There's remnants of weird 80's DIY tape loop experimentation, Autechre-inspired electronica, dark ambient soundscapes, but totally unlike the multitudes who are also doing it. It comes from a very personal place, from Berkowitz Lake & Dahmer's electronic frog-croaks amidst metallic lillypads to Pendro's weird, Terry Riley-esque cyber-bagpipe workouts to Oleum's haunted ballroom sounds, I sense this whole gang is an introspective lot with more design on getting inside hidden recesses of your cortex than being on the cover of some hip IDM magazine and getting in at the Sonar Festival. And wasn't it supposed to be that way all along? Berkowitz, Lake & Dahmer's "Locate and Cement" here (Real Audio) from Liz's show.