Afrirampo - Baka Ga Kita (Moonlight)
I had the pleasure of hosting Osaka's Afrirampo (the duo of Pika and Oni) on two programs here at WFMU in the last few years and each time it has blown the collective minds of myself and many listeners. Not just a guitar/drum duo, these sisters harness an entire universe of sound from every recess of their brains and bods and splatter it against the walls at their leisure, alternating from dense, prog-like barrages that constitute what could be a de-testosteroned Lightning Bolt (whom they toured with in 2005 here), to reverb-drenched spaced out excursions though a jungle that evokes the Creatures or Bjork (if Bjork had been raised by actual wild animals), but wilder and more free than any of those above bands while still incorporating structure to their songs. The band calls themselves "naked soul rock", and it doesn't get any more naked the Baka Ga Kita, 2004 recordings of Afrirampo cohabitating for a month in Cameroon with an actual tribe of Baka Pygmies. Mostly devoid of instrumentation besides odd percussion (including waterdrums), these are moments-as-they-happen captured in their purest form: singing, dancing, chanting, leading children's choirs through roller-coaster ride songs and changes. The recordings are joyous, raw and unpolished; there's clearly no sign of Pika and Oni playing "with" or "for" the Baka in their traditional set-up, and except for a song at the end which seems to be recorded with instruments in a setting outside Cameroon. Some You Tube action (though non-Cameroon): "Afrirampo", and a clip from the WFMU studios. Real Audio of a few tracks from Baka played on the air recently here.
The Lurkers - Beggars Banquet Singles Collection (Anagram)
Back as a teen in Pennsylvania I had to put up with my aging uncle Tommy "Tuna" Turner continually rubbing in the fact he was THERE for punk rock in its real day, and that I was a miserable excuse for a music lover with my copies of Madcap Laughs and Heaven Up Here in my collection circa 1984. He didn't even own a turntable, so would get sauced on a Saturday night putting on all his beloved platters on my player while he'd get out of his skull banging his square head against our panelled basement wall (still holes in it my family tells me), careening around in his baggy pants and faux-safety-pinned Blitz wifebeater, acting all yobby and yelling in a cockney accent (even though we are half British no one in the entire current family set foot in the Isles until I went in 2003.) Then he'd run out, go to Plymouth (the town that holds the Guinness world record for most bars in one street's mile run, East Main), and come back even more juiced that he'd keep slapping his greasy paws all over my Technics playing all his Conflict, 999, Disorder, Sham 69 etc. sloshing his stupid Stegmaier mug all over the place, yelling at me abusively (I was only there to make sure he didn't wreck my stereo and the rest of my records), moshing in an imaginary pit with no one there, and putting pencils up the cat's ass and letting it walk around. He though that was hilarious. Tuna would rant for hours about Reagan and Thatcher, announced we should nuke Russia, then France, then by the end of the night England itself. He called Eater "little bastards" and said Johnny Rotten was an "ugly hippy" who should show up at a Discharge show and be gutted. I had to remind him all the time he wasn't English whenever he started slipping drunkenly into his accent while ranting. Ah, Uncle Tuna.
Anyway, while all that stuff was a blur, I always took notice when those Lurkers records went on. "Shadow" made me think they were French even though they weren't, and the fact it sounded so unskilled yet with good production always intrigued me, one guitarist was playing chords totally out of tune with the other guy. "Fullham Fallout Firty Free" (Real Audio here) had this Troggs-Tape-like opening with lots of arguments and studio nonsense edited together neatly, "Just Thirteen" one-upped the Original Sins' "Just Fourteen", and they got sloppy with the Dolls' "Pills" real good. And while they got technically better as they made it out of 1977, there was a great raw spirit throughout their whole career. Anagram just got all their singles together from 77-79 from their Beggars Banquet years, and it's as rockin' as I recall. Tuna is the front desk receptionist at L. Ron Hubbard's big place in Hollywood these days, I wonder where the Lurkers lurk these days, maybe get a reunion tour with Eater going (who apparently played with the Magik Markers this year in the UK)?
Harvey Milk - Special Wishes (Megablade) + Anthem (Chunklet, CD + DVD)
After a long silence (these guys always were about tension), the amazing Harvey Milk return with not only a new album, but a DVD chronicling 3 and a half hours of live performance clips from the 1990s up til their reunion tour of last year. I first heard these guys back in 1996 and had sort of filed them away in my brain as a group of Scouts in a camp run by the Melvins, but how I was so very wrong. Rumbling around Athens, Georgia in a time when all the A&R reps had long packed up and gone home, Harvey Milk perfectly exemplified the fucked-up elements in the sticky air of the rural South that another famous Athens band (more on them soon) added their own dark (albeit poppier) hues to. Though a ZZ Top obsession looms much more over Harvey Milk; in a way you can imagine that band stretching out their songs to ridiculously slow dirges, only to come in like sledgehammers with an avalanche of sludge remarkably created by three normal, unassuming-looking fellows. Frontman/guitarist Creston Spiers is quite a sight in this DVD, his gruff howling like some kind of dog being wounded, looking like he's barely addressing the Gibson guitar in his hands then whipping up a completely fierce and devastating low end racket flipping from dirge to boogie mode at the drop of a dime. Last year's show at Tonic was probably my favorite of the year; starting off with the three guys bickering at each other and Creston seemingly unable to get his guitar and amp plugged in and going. Then he started what seemed like unattentive, random tuning of his pegs and when it seemed like it was all a disaster in the waiting, they unleashed total destruction and power with Creston whipping around his fretboard and slicing out crushing riffs and alien guitar solos while the bassist an drummer communicated on some weird level I've yet to see in a rhythm section. Their new disc and this DVD just reaffirm why they've become one of my favorite bands and perfectly exemplify what you can't really put into words when describing them. Check out Anthem's trailer here (You Tube), and you can also hear a couple live cuts I played from the bonus 3" CD that came with the beautifully-designed-by-Stephen O'Malley DVD package here (Real Audio). The second of which is a cover of R.E.M.'s "South Central Rain", culled from a performance at Athens' 40 Watt Club where Harvey Milk covered that band's entire Reckoning LP (!), and there's hidden footage in a DVD Easter Egg. And I can't resist linking to the Real Audio of their take on "Greensleeves" from the Relapse Singles comp, one of the only Xmas songs I'll pull out to play on the air.