Various - Mario de Andrade: Missao de Paquisas Folcloricas (Centro Cultural Sao Paulo)
Mario Andrade was Brazil's true renaissance man, pushing forward modernist ideas, introducing poetry and avant garde sensibilities into large pockets of his society, and reshaping the country's literature, all before his death way back in 1945. He was also a great ethnomusicologist, and as part of a shortlived 1930's project called the Mission of Folklore Research he did Lomax-like excursions into the furthest realms of rural Brazil to record its inhabitants making their music. The result is a fantastic 6CD set issued by the government itself (who had been housing the tapes) culled from 1938 acetates, and cleaned up remarkably well. These recordings languished for decades, with Mickey Hart actually compiling some of them for a Ryko single-disc issue in 1997 or so. One reason the Mission was set up was for Andrade to give access to folklore to inform the modern artists of his country; clearly people like Charles Ives and Henry Cowell were not alone with their intentions in those early days. Despite the spare nature of these sounds (often revolving around voice and one or two instruments) it's incredible to hear the musical language at hand; African, South American, and leftover European roots are all evident. You won't find serious composers or attempted popular songforms, instead it's very focused on assorted localities and their social interactions in the musical realm; rites and rituals being front and center. Yet there is an unmistakable beauty: that Paraiba region's disc showcases an amazing alien stringed instrument recording that sounds like an open-tuned Eastern version of Doc Boggs, the acapella selections especially moving. The package is great too, more Portuguese than English unfortunately and not chockfull of photos, but there are quite a few great ones. Where to find the box? Seems like Samba Store and Dusty Groove might be the best bets, but I don't think they'll be around for long. There's a site up for the set here, and here's some Real Audio: Tore Canto de Casa de Farinha e Cantoria.
Machinefabriek - Weleer (Lampse)
There's such an avalanche of music to overwhelm the senses these days, especially all the artists who have been making epic, album long journeys into drone, ambience and doom. For every Sunn o))) record (and there are sure enough), there's your William Basinskis, Nadjas, Slomos, hourlong Utech CDs and Boredoms Super Roots reissues, all very enjoyable, but I tellya, if I want to sit down and have a 75 minute long headphone experience, there's just so many hours in the day, you know? I think I still have to answer the door or attend to a burning dinner everytime I throw that Gavin Bryars record on I've been trying to listen to since 1996. And more Terry Riley reissues picking up where Cortical left off? Forget it. Who are these people with 7,000 drone albums in their Soulseek folders, and when do they get anything done?? It's my job to listen to stuff and I still have a giant Santa/reindeer combo up on the roof that's begging for me to pay attention and deal with it five months later. Yet it continues. It still keeps coming, especially now that CDRs have grown into such a commodity. I know that I'm going to spend an hour with that new single-track Abruptum CD (and probably kill yet another little corner of my soul when its over). Maybe I will just get rid of everything and only keep that Jud Jud 7". I will, however, also keep this Machinefabriek double CD, which I was so into that it warrented a full listen in one swoop, twice in one week.
This is a great collection of recordings culled from older 3" CD releases from Dutch musician Rutger Zuydervelt, yet arranged and sequenced in a way that makes it a perfectly flowing listening experience. The warm ambience definitely harks back to some groundlevel krautworks, but almost every instrument blurs into placid soundscapes that are constantly shifting and evolving, electronic crackles rise out of dark lakes of guitar drone; the sounds are very intimate, immediate, not overwhelmingly dark but definitely indicating Zuydervelt's past as a guitarist in a doom band. With both live instruments and assorted programming, the sheer human emotion injected into a machinated music form is stunning, and the variety of places these tracks go to (even within the course of a piano-based 20 minute composition) are timed perfectly to hold the listeners' attention and reveal a seemingly limitless bank of ideas that I can't recall being utilized since the golden days of Seefeel's Polyfusia record. Very grand.
Soundtrack - The Holy Mountain (Abkco)
Filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky pretty much defined the midnight movie aesthetic of the early 1970's with the Beatles-endorsed El Topo, and its follow-up Holy Mountain (bankrolled by Allen Klein). A total splatter of unique and outlandish psychedelic imagery, the film has garnered a huge cult despite the fact Klein made it unavailable for decades due to a financial squabble with Jodorowsky. Many critics unanimously abhor it to this day, calling Jod out on grounds of quasi-spiritual mumbo jumbo mixed with ill-placed elements of slapstick as Earth-inhabiting individuals representing different planets go on a quest for truth and immortality. It was the biggest film production in Mexico at the time, though the country itself ran him out for the controversy it stirred. Scenes therein include: hundreds of toads dressed to reenact the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs, men with leopard-heads for breasts shooting milk, various religious symbols flying around. In its second half, Jodorowsky claims it actually becomes a documentary as he fed acid to all the actors climbing the mountain and let the insanity take over (the whole film's events unfold in a fairly loose manner and apparently almost everyone involved were untrained as actors.) Regardless, it's completely incredible to look at, as this trailer reveals, (You Tube) and one can't help but revere the filmmaker for stepping outside, way outside, convention in such a colorful and extreme way. After finally patching things up with Klein, Holy Mountain, El Topo and a few others have gotten proper restoration and reissue in this brand new box set, with many items therein worth the price of admission alone. For one, Jod's commentary where he talks about how HM lost potential millions because he nixed George Harrison's interest as the star because the Beatle wanted to forgo the scene where he had his ass washed in pool with a hippo. The long-desired proper CD soundtrack of Holy Mountain is the other great gift.
Composed by Jodorowsky, Ronald Frangipane, and none other than Don Cherry (there is also rumored uncredited Lennon involvement), the score for this flick is a fantastic montage of psychedelic symphonia, ethno-drone and total cult weirdness, and after numerous bootlegged versions taken from unsanctioned videos, it's terrific to hear the music straight from the masters. My only complaint really is that some spoken elements from the film weren't dropped into the proceedings, as those bits within themselves would certainly heighten the surreal audio element of the score. And while it's informative to know some of the tech aspects (1973 New York studio locales, engineers etc.) it would have been great to have insight into what went on during these sessions. Somebody forgot to invite Sun City Girl Alan Bishop on board to pen notes, that's for sure (seriously, he would have really captured it in words better than anyone!) Nonetheless, happy this is finally flying. Real Audio: "Rainbow Room".