Ross Johnson - Make It Stop (Goner)
Apparently there would be a time at Panther Burns shows in Memphis where Tav Falco would shuffle off and leave the audience with Alex Chilton choogling away while drummer Ross Johnson would go on endless rants about his loser lifestyle, clearing (or dazzling) the room. Indeed, Johnson has over the years endeared/alienated himself from his local music scene as somewhat of a leftfield bon vivant with his extended, drunken observations on culture and society, booze, and his failed relationships going back to being age 10, and questionable lifestyle (that is: questioned by himself). He wrote reviews for Creem in the early 70's and attached himself (in his own words "barnacle-like") to local legends like Chilton and Jim Dickinson, and can even be heard on Alex's Like Flies On Sherbet doing his thing. He's also drummed with the brilliant Gibson Brothers and continued to sidecar it with that band's Jeffrey Evans. As time marched on, Memphis regulars came to recognize immediately that when Johnson pulled up to the club, that evening was indeed going to include an extended lost-mind rant somewhere in the proceedings. A more literature-obsessed Memphis parallel to Philly's Mikey Wild maybe? Well, he's been well rewarded with this Goner label compilation spanning years of assorted releases with different combos including luminaries like Jon Spencer, Lorette Velvette, Peter Buck and more, and it's a fine listen. If anything, soak in the most gut-wrenching Xmas song since Culturcide's "Depressed Xmas" here (punctuated with Johnson yelling after the band finishes "Take a knife and cut your head on Xmas!" over and over), the most drunken version of "When the Saints Go Marchin' In", and tons of Charlie Feathers-crawling-to-the-bar genius. Real Audio: "Nudist Camp".
Tropa Macaca - Marfim (Ruby Red)
When I heard the recordings of adventurous sound pioneers the Dead C from a New Zealand show from the early part of this decade I was really intrigued to see that what I had figured was a junkshop-analog band all the way started to integrate some small bits of digital sounds, albeit sparse ones. People started buzzing that these guys had started to embrace some of the minimal house sounds of Berlin, or something similar, but then an interview with the band quickly set everyone straight when they announced that was all complete bullshit and they absolutely never listen to any of that stuff. Still, the idea of integrating Thomas Brinkmann-style pulses into rough-hewn approach to making slow-build trance music from a purely screwed up punk/DIY point of view where the human was still very much dominant over the machine was intriguing, and it seems that Portugal's Tropa Macaca might indeed be running with that ball. The duo of Ju Undo/Joana de Conceiaao and Andre Abel/Si mao Superior, Tropa Macaca's spirit of improvisation is one of building, shifting textures that coalesce into monstrous mutant pulse while still remaining spare and burnt out. Real Audio: "Troncu Nu."
Michelle McAdorey and Eric Chenaux - Love Don't Change (Rat-Drifting)
While these recordings from this Toronto duo are a few years old, they just came to WFMU recently from this fascinating Canadian label. Another disc on Rat-Drifting by the Reveries has been racking up a lot of airplay recently with this group showcasing a strange method of musical interaction: they play live instruments whose pickups are routed electrically into fellow players' mouths that contain celphone speakers! The warbly emissions of the sounds are sculpted via the musicians' mouth movements. On this release, Reveries' guitarist Eric Chenaux goes a more linear approach with his playing; even though mouth-speakers don't seem to be credited, there's still a very woozy performance through some uncertain effects (he's also credited with wammied harmonica), and it's all very spare vocal/guitar for the most part joined by Michelle McAdorey on second guitar, vox, and harmonium. Even with a more naked approach to things compared to the Reveries, Chenaux is a stunning soloist. The extended "Soleil" sounds akin to Tom Verlaine's simmery Warm and Cool playing offcenter while a Hawaiian sun sets, and there's plenty more to soak in that make me want to own this entire label's catalogue. Real Audio: "Amazing Backgrounds".