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Give the Drummer Some's
Favorite Downloads from the MP3 Blogosphere
Asked to rank the world's four most populous nations, you'd surely come up with China, India, and the U.S. as the obvious #1, 2 and 3. But how about #4? Try Indonesia on for size. That's right, Indonesia.
Almost as eye-popping a statistic is the number of recordings—more than 1,500 since the beginning of 2010—posted at Madrotter, the Indonesian music blog hosted by the dizzyingly prolific, Bandung-based, Dutchman Henk Madrotter. He's a fellow who clearly prioritizes sharing prized records and cassettes ahead of eating and sleeping.
We're all about celebrating music blogs here at the Motherlode, but the volume of amazing digital treasures Henk has amassed in less than three years online is a trove of entirely different magnitude. It's nothing less than one of the world's great libraries of Indonesian folk and pop!
Earlier this year, Madrotter put up a number of cassettes by percussionist/pop star Darso (a.k.a. Hendarso) that really blew me away. Eager to know more I began Googling, but virtually all the links I came up with led back to more postings at Madrotter! (The blog has nearly 20 recordings in all.) Last night on my radio show Give the Drummer Some, I featured an hour of Darso's music (listen to the archive). Below are five of my favorites shared at the magnificent Madrotter.
Hendarso & Neneng Yeti Syarifah ~ "Beurit"
"Very nice cassette by SUNDANESE pop-legend HENDARSO, all the music is percussion, bambu xylophones, gongs, kendang and beautiful singing by HENDARSO and NENENG YETI SYARIFAH." (Henk Madrotter)
Darso ~ "Badag Kandel"
"Amazing cassette from DARSO a.k.a HENDARSO singing with DEDEH ROSITA... This is a style called CALUNG and If you like percussion you're going to love this one, very tight, very fast, bambu-xylophone, angklung, kendang and a gong.... AMAZING.... I'll be hunting for more of DARSO'S music." (Henk Madrotter)
Darso & Detty Kurnia ~ "Jawaban Mana Tahan"
"Beautiful and very trippy cassette from the great Calung master DARSO with singer Detty Kurnia ripped at a hallucinogenic 320 kbps." (Henk Madrotter)
Darso ~ "Bakekok"
"Another nice CALUNG percussion cassette from Bandung's DARSO!" (Henk Madrotter)
Hendarso ~ "Layung Sari, Vol. 8"
"Diving deep into SUNDANESE culture again with this fantastic cassette from the great HENDARSO, 100% percussion!" (Henk Madrotter)
Listen to my radio show Give the Drummer Some—Tuesdays 6-7pm, on WFMU and Fridays 9 to noon—on WFMU's web stream Give the Drummer Radio.
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I recently became acquainted with E.S.P. TV's trippy live video manipulations at The Index Festival, an insanely well curated festival of experimental music. On one night of the festival at the longstanding downtown avant-haven Milennium Film Workshop, knob twiddling excursions from folks like Shelley Burgon and Twistycat were made a lot more visually exciting by placing the musicians in front of a green screen and superimposing faded out zebras (or what have you...), shifting geometric patterns and video feedback loops.
It seems like only Twistycat's footage from Index is up online at the moment (and is posted below), but ESP seems to post every episode of their shows on Vimeo after editing them down and airing them on Public Access TV. Episode 5 is below as well, with a Forma performance introduced by Sam Mickens, Ana Lula Roman w/ video artist Matthew Caron and video shorts by Aaron Nemec, Derek Larson and Scott Kiernan. One of my favorite bits appropriates an episode of Cheers and superimposes measurements of lengths pointlessly over everything. Long live analog electronics!!
With an earthquake and a hurricane out of the way, New York's natural disaster quota for the next few days seems to be filled, just in time for AMPLIFY 2011: stones. AMPLIFY is a festival curated by Jon Abbey, the founder of Erstwhile Records. While the location shifts (past AMPLIFYs have taken place in Tokyo, Prague, Cologne, Berlin, and New York) and the cast of musicians changes, the consistent taste of Abbey guarantees an incredible festival.
First, a little on Erstwhile. The label, started by Abbey in 1999, focuses almost exclusively on free improvisation, particularly of the electroacoustic variety. Erstwhile's roster includes legends like Keith Rowe, Toshimaru Nakamura, Günter Müller, Axel Dörner, Otomo Yoshihide, Jason Lescalleet, Voice Crack...the list goes on and on. Each Erstwhile release, though, remains consistent to a very specific vision and aesthetic, determined by Abbey. AMPLIFY 2011: stones is set to take place 1-17 September, with 1-15 September at The Stone and 16-17 September at Issue Project Room, with multiple sets each night.
Here are a few words Jon shared on AMPLIFY 2011: stones --
On why he's bringing AMPLIFY to New York again, and why The Stone: "John Zorn asked me to curate for two weeks as a part of his 'label' series, and I started inviting people. Pretty much everyone I asked said yes, despite the lack of funding, and after a certain point, I thought the overall lineup was strong enough to call the whole thing an AMPLIFY."
On the "scope" of the festival: "Each festival is different, depending on what city it's in and where we are in the music at the time. This one is much longer than most of the others, but I don't think the scope is necessarily wider than the 2002 or 2004 ones."
On how to choose which musicians would play when, and how much of a hand Abbey takes in structuring his AMPLIFY festivals: "I guess it's a bit like putting together a puzzle, you start putting in pieces and then see the best juxtapositions and the best overall structure. It's a little hard to explain, but it's something I've prided myself on being good at since the first one in 2001. Second question - again, it's case by case, but generally I don't do too much micromanaging of live shows after setting up the overall structure of the festival."
On particularly exciting individual sets: "Really pretty much all of them to different degrees, but specifically the Keith Rowe solo on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, really curious to see how he'll handle that. Also, Taku Unami's series of six sets, it's extremely challenging to try to do that many different sets before one overlapping and discerning audience in such a short period, so also very curious how he'll handle that."
On the connection between Erstwhile Records and the AMPLIFY festivals: "I consider it my main job to run Erstwhile, but I think that festivals like this are essential for the music to thrive if at all possible, and since pretty much no one else does them, I do them when I can."
The festival includes some sure-to-be-brilliant sets from long time collaborators, like Toshimaru Nakamura and Keith Rowe (the 8th). There are also a host of first-time collaborations and premieres, like those of Bonnie Jones/Maria Chavez (the 2nd), Nakamura/Taku Unami (the 9th), and Graham Lambkin/Vanessa Rossetto (the 3rd), that will definitely not disappoint. There is also the Gravity Wave Festival, a sort of "sub-festival" happening 14 and 15 September as a part of AMPLIFY, featuring what promise to be fantastic sets by, among others, Michael Pisaro and Barry Chabala.
It's rare to catch proper electroacoustic shows in New York, nevermind such high quality ones for not one, not two, but seventeen nights, with multiple sets per night, in a row. Check out the AMPLIFY festival this month, and get to hear, in person, the incredible musicians representing Erstwhile.
By Kristen Bialik
While Mario Bava is known for dabbling in all kinds of genres, he was and is the pioneer of giallo. Giallo, a subgenre of Italian horror cinema in the 1960s, earned its name from cheap, pulp paperbacks published in Italy in the 1930s and 40s. Giallo means “yellow,” the bright and striking color publishing giant Mondadori chose to coat their crime novel covers in -- a practice that other publishing companies would soon imitate, making the terms "yellow" and "mystery" a synecdoche of sorts. As a name, giallo is perfect. The movies that characterize it were, like the trademark yellow paperbacks, low budget and, on the whole, commercially unsuccessful. Yet there are other associations. Despite it’s sunny exterior, the color yellow takes on more sickening undertones. Yellow fever. Yellow journalism. Yellow belly. That third notch in the rainbow is connected to disease, sensationalism, and debilitating cravenness. Yellow is the last color in blood-drained cheeks met with fear and left with sallow complexion.
Emerging in 1963 with Mario Bava’s film The Girl Who Knew Too Much, giallo came right on the tail-end of Italian neorealism. Bava himself worked as a cinematographer while directors like Roberto Rossellini and Vittorio De Sica were making the masterpieces of destitution. In post-WWII Italy, neorealism afforded Italian filmmakers the opportunity to consider the relationship between reality and representation in a way that addressed the economic and moral climate of the country. Combine a believable, though often upsettingly sad, reality on film with horror and you have yourself the roots of giallo.
Yet giallo also comes at the root of another interregnum. Major world events, like the rise of space travel and atomic research, helped make 1960 a pivotal time in the world of horror. For centuries before, horror and mystery was predominantly built around the threat of some kind of monster. Giant squids. Man-eating whales. Vampires. Dragons. The threat of a horror story, and the challenge for any plucky sword-bearing hero, was to take down that monstrous “other,” the clearly defined and easily demarcated beast with its green skin or excessive fur. And then the 20th century happened.
How could any advanced-weapon toting aliens compare to the horrors of World War II? Dracula didn’t stand a chance against the fear of economic desperation that crept in at night. What cinematic realism led to, as much as anything else, was the realization that we are the monsters. Reality was made that much more terrifying with the understanding that horror was everywhere, that it didn’t hide in evil lairs or haunted castles. Horror is the mind unhinged. Horror is the emotions that tug out reason. Horror is peering over the edge of a ship, checking the depths for signs of blood-sucking tentacles, and catching your own reflection, sallow and mad.
Mario Bava straddles the lines between myth and man, between legend and life. At the crossroads, Kill Baby… Kill is at once a supernatural thriller set in a cursed Transylvanianesque village (with all the folklore trappings) and an inversion of every expectation that comes with such a premise. The set has all the cobwebs, fog, dark rooms reliant on the ever-capricious candlelight, and human-eyed portraits that a mystery film could ever need. It calls to mind any vampire novel you’ve ever read. The characterization of the townspeople plays with these expectations. We know early on that there is a legend, a curse that plagues the town, yet no one will speak of it. Dr. Eswai, the coroner who comes into the village to perform an autopsy on a dead girl and to help Inspector Kruger solve her demise is, like the Inspector, disgusted by pandemic superstition. He knows there must be a logical reason for the terrors of the town, that whatever is happening in Villa Graps must be real and unimagined. And he is right. And wrong.
The killer is both a ghost and a little girl. The citizens are being killed as much by supernatural forces as they are by a deranged and vengeful mother. Known to play with appearances, Mario Bava confirms and inverts our every assumption about the killing and saving forces in the world. The killer is a 7-year-old blonde girl who likes to play with a little white ball. Yet this girl is also a monster seeking revenge for her ignored and bloody death. Similarly, the unexpected heroine is not the handsome, logical Dr. Eswai but the scary, dark-haired witch-lady who roams the streets at night in her dark cloaks, ready to whip anyone with a leech vine if she thinks Melissa (the demon child) has set her sights on them. You know, bleed them to save them. But it’s scary witch-lady Ruth who ultimately rids the town of Melissa’s haunting spirit. It is both real and entirely unreal, and the terrors within the dichotomy are equal parts otherworldly and just-down-the-street.
Casting the angelic-looking little girl as the monster is something that goes so far against our expectation of evil that the proposition itself is immediately unsettling. Yet there are very real horrors buried within it: the death of a child by trampling, a mother’s psychotic reaction to the pain of that loss. An interesting distinction, though, is that Melissa doesn’t touch a single one of her victims. She kills by the victims’ self-killing. In each case, the citizens, no matter how fearful, become entranced and end their own lives by ramming stakes through their hearts or slitting their own throats. Melissa doesn’t kill. She watches. Perhaps this, of all things, is the most realistic aspect of the film. It suggests that our great killers are our own weaknesses; that the terrors we imagine are nothing compared to the unseen realness of fear itself. Each supernatural suicide suggests that we run the risk of killing ourselves the moment we give in to what terrifies us. The monster’s weapon is our yellow belly.
Balmain, C. (2002). Mario Bava's "The Evil Eye": Realism and the Italian Horror Film. Post Script, 21(3), 20-31. (Can be accessed free here)
Ishii-Gonzales, Sam. "Mario Bava." Senses of Cinema 3122 Apr. (2004). Web. 22 Aug. 2011. < http://www.sensesofcinema.com/2004/great-directors/bava/>.
Needham, Gary. "Playing with Genre: An Introduction to the Italian Giallo." Kinoeye 12.1110 June (2002). Web. 22 Aug. 2011. < http://www.kinoeye.org/02/11/needham11.php>.
Alice Cooper's show at the Community Theatre in Morristown could have been a fashion event! The first item revealed was the "Spider Jacket" (right), with performance of Black Widow accompanying it, the extra arms may be ineffective for some, but Alice wore them elegantly, and stylishly. Throw in some sparklers for good measure, and Alice is on his way to a stellar fashion season! There was the "New Song" jacket, which I failed to get a photograph of - Alice's runway technique is a little to fast paced...let the audience savor, Alice, savor!! It was a black pleated denim jacket with the words NEW SONG spray painted in stencil lettering on the back in large white letters. Here is a photo of the shirt underneath, which reveals the title of said new song.."I'll Bite Your Face Off" (pitcture disc out soon).....Boas are back, but not the feathered kind. Alice adorns himself with a live creature...much more attractive than the minks and foxes of old!
Studded oversize top hat. This is an example of an article for high end fashionistas: only the daring can really pull this off, Alice Cooper included, but not many others. While it may look great on the runway or on the stage, the combination of spikes and the size itself ranks it right up there with Fergie's daughters hats at the royal wedding. NOT the regular guy look, although Alice wears it well. Do not try this at home, or even at a Destruction or Watain show.
Saturday on Surface Noise, Joe McGasko had Jean and June Millington of the rock group Fanny on his show. Fanny was one of the first all female rock bands, formed in 1970. "I Love Your Hair" was one in a set of tracks the Millingtons played live during their visit. Listen to this next to their 1970 recording of "Charity Ball." Then listen to another female band from the era, The Deadly Nightshade, produced by the Rascal's Felix Cavaliere. On The Fro Show, Jesse played The Nightshade's "Nose Job."
Here is a mind greater than mine thinking in tandem with me. Last week I wrote about the Canterbury progressive bands, and the night before the column published, Stan played Caravan's 1971 "Nine Feet Underground." Of the Canterbury cluster, Caravan used melody most, almost as the Beatles may have if they had continued into the progressive era, making more Abbey Road side two-like suites. Listen to how each part of "Nine Feet Underground" could have made an amazing individual rock track.
To hear far more obscure prog, listen to Scott Williams playing Spain's Absolute Fusioon, recently issued on Andy Votel's Finders Keepers label.
Marty McSorley played "Ritual Feast Of The Libido" by Cromagnon--a group who put out records of cave-man-like sounds in the late 1960's. You can take the side you wish in the music/sound debate (or, like me, decide the distinction doesn't matter, the visceral impact does), but hearing this completely primal work next to the art rock in the above archives puts both in stark perspective. Primal urges exorcised, Marty played the voodoo rock of Exuma, certainly more organized sound than the Cromagnon, but sound that absolutely does bawdy work on the senses.
Since I stuck my foot in the music/sound compost pile, let's end with Jeff M, playing Nurse With Wound's "Space Music" on Noise And Syrup. The piece starts with electronics, polished in stark contrast to Cromagnon's work, and ends with samples of early 1970's AM pop and modern rap. Music, sound, what is in a name when Nurse With Wound uses both without regard to the demarcation. If you still think about which is which, perhaps "Space Music" provides the answer.
Stay safe during this stormy weekend and I'll see you next week.
During Kraftwerk's initial inception, the group in hindsight operated in a more, for lack of a better word, "traditional" school of Krautrock exploration, one that due to it's often under-referenced influence (at least in comparison to the more universally celebrated strides they made with 1974's Autobahn and onward) makes for what I'm sure is a point of intense fascination for many fans of the group. Frustratingly, the band themselves have very sporadically acknowledged the merits of the first three records that Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider released under the Kraftwerk name. These early video clips, as one should expect, exhibit a wonderfully bold collective that had a distinctly malleable identity, weaving a sound that functions with audible strength between the distinctive traits that would form the basis of their many contemporaries and descendants, from Kluster's ominous and atonal improvisations, to the more traditional psych-rock elements that cropped up in some of Faust's early output, to Neu!'s more serene divergences into proto-ambiance, to Agitation Free's use of international and fusion influences to inform a consistently transfixing groove. I've heard that Kraftwerk have hinted that a box of their first three LP's (Kraftwerk, Kraftwerk 2, and Ralf und Florian) may at some point see the light of day, and I'm sure I'm only one of many who hopes such a vague promise might come to pass. Below, some excellent footage of Kraftwerk's early years:
Pat Murano waited a good, long time to fly completely solo, but when he did, it was worth the wait for performer and listeners alike. Starting out as a founding member of the No Neck Blues Band, and during that time, co-founding and co-piloting the excellent project K Salvatore (I owned and enjoyed many K Salvatore recordings before I made the connection that Pat was involved), Pat became even more active in the past half-decade or so, starting the outstanding and distinctive black-metal band Malkuth (or "Mal-koot," as our French friends render it.) Malkuth was, to say the least, a surprising move, that someone from two of NY's premier improvised-music combos would also have up his sleeve a groundbreaking, one-of-a-kind voice in metal's much-maligned and misunderstood bastard-son subgenre. (You can hear Malkuth's Jan 2010 live My Castle of Quiet session by clicking here.) As if that weren't enough, in the last year, Pat whipped out yet another great improv duo, the excellent Key of Shame, with Mark Morgan of Sightings (you can hear KoS on Brian Turner's show, coming up September 6), and last but surely not least, his mind-expanding solo project, Decimus, which made its WFMU debut two weeks ago on My Castle of Quiet.
It goes almost without saying that Pat has a lot of music in him, all of it remarkably parsed out with little or no stylistic overlap, and without question, Decimus is the most melodic, uniquely psychedelic and focused (naturally, being a solo oeuvre) of the lot. This performance, rendered live without a score and only minor beforehand preparation, is a supreme effort in patient, mindful listening, and responding in kind, a focal point, a beam of individual will with little precedent in New York music. To render evolving, encompassing drones, and/or high-volume collage or "wall" noise as it's called, is an achievement in and of itself, and we've heard many a great session along those lines on The Castle—hopefully I've presented the "cream" of local and nationwide artists working in that milieu—but to do something like Decimus is another matter entirely, in that it's one individual really sounding like a "band," and as Pat expressed in the post-session interview (and I paraphrase), to change the environment in this way is to change people's minds via suggestion. In my personal view, the Decimus works achieve this in spades, and as a result sit comfortably alongside some of my most-favorite music—because a true journey occurs, and to follow that composer's gentle yet powerful suggestion, to take the journey, is the great joy of listening.
This particular set, "Decimus H" (as Decimus LPs are numbered, and digital and/or live works are lettered) is highly recommended for fans of Conrad Schnitzler (R.I.P.), Asmus Tietchens, instrumental works by Throbbing Gristle, and for a more contemporary reference, Hive Mind. It's sure to please, in general, fans of the more electronic side of Krautrock music, and post-TG global-"industrial" electronics.
Huge thanks to engineer Ernie Indradat for helming yet another successful Castle session, his sensitivity to many types of music is plainly evident in the body of work he's done with the show. And yet again, Tracy Widdess saves the day by making a valid rendering of my amateur photo capture of an artist who plays in near-complete darkness. Boundless gratitude to Pat for sharing this excellent work with WFMU and My Castle of Quiet listeners.
Decimus has many recordings available, including several on LP (two of them very new) and more for listening and download or purchase on his bandcamp page.
Give the Drummer Some's
Favorite Downloads from the MP3 Blogosphere
Nothing earth-shaking here. Just your standard issue Motherlode with another knee-knocking quintet of marvels offered free of charge:
(1) Tropicália obsessives will recognize the Brasil Ano 2000 soundtrack as its own sort of motherlode; (2) Thurston Moore included this historic duet between Milford Graves (happy 70th!) and Don Pullen on his enormously pleasing free-jazz Top 10 list; (3) India's Simla Cigarettes sponsored killer band competitions in the '60s, giving the winners record contracts—check out the results. (4) Don't let the anti–Sharia law nutjobs in on the secret delights of Pat Martino's psychedelic sonic Koran rendering! (Thanks to WFMU's Scott McDowell for suggesting this gem.) (5) Nicknamed for a small bird with a big voice Brazil's Augusto Calheiros' crooned exquisitely for nearly five decades.
Who needs terra firma?...
(1) Rogério Duprat, Gilberto Gil, et. al ~ "Brasil Ano 2000"
Marcel Cruz of SacundinBenBlog proclaims "The missing link! The gap that existed in the Tropicália discography has just been filled!" in his post sharing this soundtrack to Walter Lima Jr's 1969 post-apocalyptic Brasil Ano 2000. Arranged by Rogério Duprat, the music features Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, José Carlos Capinam, Gal Costa.
(2) Milford Graves & Don Pullen ~ "Nommo"
(Blog: Sybylys - Silentsprings)
"Milford may be one of the most important players in the Free Jazz underground. He enforces the sense of community as a primary exponent of his freely improvised music. His drumkit is home-made and he rarely performs outside of his neighborhood. When he does perform he plays his kit like no other. Wild, slapping, bashing, tribal freak-outs interplexed with silence, serenity and enlightened meditation. This LP was manufactured by the artists in 1967 and is recorded live at Yale University. The interplay between Milford and Don (piano) is remarkable and very free. There’s a second volume which also is as rare as hen’s teeth." (Thurston Moore, from Top Ten From the Free Jazz Underground, Grand Royal)
(3) Various ~ "Simla Beat '70/'71"
(Blog: Resin Hits)
"This is an Indian garage psych comp compiled from talent shows hosted by a cigarrette company called Simla in the '60s. A weird cross-promotion between two of the greatest products circulating earth: rock music and cigarettes. As far as the bands go, the eruptions are really good distorted surf rock, and fentones/hypnotic eye have the best cuts overall. and let me tell you, the cross-promotion works. I've smoked more bones listening to this one than even Simla Cigarettes could support, dood." (By Josh Klimaszewski, at Resin Hits)
(4) Pat Martino ~ "Baiyina (The Clear Evidence)
(Blog: The KingCake Crypt)
Does This Get Pat Frisked at the Airport?
"Adventurous fusions of Indian, psychedelic, rock, funk, and jazz music by one of the great risk-takers of the electric guitar. Baiyina features fluid guitars, exotic Indian percussion and drone instruments, unique time signatures, swirling flute and sax, deep grooving bass, and in-the-pocket drumming, making it one of the most unique acid-drenched albums to come out of the late '60s. As the album’s subtitle reads: 'A psychedelic excursion through the magical mysteries of the Koran.' Indeed, each track takes its inspiration and name from different parts of the Koran." (By John Ballon, at MustHear.com)
(5) Augusto Calheiros ~ "A Patativa do Norte"
(Blog: Toque Musical)
Bird Is the Word
"Augusto Calheiros, a singer of enormous success in the golden age of Brazilian song, introduced northeastern rhythms in Rio with his group Turunas da Mauricéia. Known as "Patativa do Norte," he moved with his family to Recife PE, becoming acquainted with Luperce Miranda's family, all musicians. When the Miranda siblings -- Luperce Miranda (mandolin), João Miranda (mandolin), Romualdo Miranda (violão, or acoustic guitar), the blind Manuel de Lima (violão), and João Frazão (violão) -- teamed together to form Turunas da Mauricéia, they called Calheiros to be the group's singer." (By Alvaro Neder at AllMusic Guide )
Listen to my radio show Give the Drummer Some—Tuesdays 6-7pm, on WFMU and Fridays 9 to noon—on WFMU's web stream Give the Drummer Radio.
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So here's a long overdue follow-up to a 2007 Beware Of The Blog post about country music records featuring fuzztone guitar sounds. Call me nuts, but I find extraordinarily endearing the improbable blend of country music traditionalism with tastefully restrained space-age guitar pyrotechnics that can be heard in these tunes.
A quick recap: the fuzztone guitar sound was born in the summer of 1960, on Don't Worry (MP3), a Marty Robbins country record that featured Grady Martin's fuzz-drenched 6-string bass guitar coming through engineer Glen Snoddy's mixing board. In some accounts this new sound was the result of a malfunctioning channel in the sound board, while others attribute the sound to a loose wire in Martin's amp.
Some hold that the fuzztone sound was born earlier - in the 1950s, with the jolting guitar blasts heard on some amazing-sounding records by the Johnny Burnette Trio, like Train Kept A Rollin' (MP3) or Link Wray's Rumble, but I tend to side with the experts who refer to those wild sounds as distortion, rather than fuzztone.
In any event, here's another dozen country fuzz tunes for those who enjoy exploring the odd sounds heard on the fringes of country music.
Johnny Dollar - Do Die (1:39)
Cowboy Copas - Sold The Farm (2:19)
Bob Morris - Queen Bee (2:32)
Johnny Dollar - Windburn (1:49)
Sanford Clark - The Fool (2:33)
Billy Gray - Rotten Love (1:47)
As a person who's been working at haunted attractions since I was 14, and as someone whose job has evolved to include screaming with unwavering voracity, I've come to be able to pick out people who do the fake screaming; yelling from the throat rather than the chest, using mannerisms to punctuate a form of beckoning that otherwise leaves much to be desired. I can tell you that Pharmakon is not one of those people. The work of Margaret Chardiet encapsulates by far the most authentically hair raising maelstrom of shrieks that I have heard in a long time, and the end result of her creative output finds me at the only point where I would use words like "gut-wrenching" for want of better ones.
While I don't own all of her material (it is scarce), and I've yet to have the luxury of seeing her live, I'm also impressed by the bounty of staunchness; the facilitation of quite poetic lyrics and dangerously musical noise elements in a genre whose simple-mindedness often seems to be seen as its strength. While others are releasing short run cassettes on a monthly basis, or performing live with lyrics so precocious that they're written out on crumpled notebook paper (I've been guilty of this); Chardiet's work, which has been in existence for over 3 years, is sparse and pronounced, well produced, and most importantly an opus rather than a document. In the videos of live Pharmakon performances, the absentee accoutrements of studio settings are augmented by a menacingly cat-like swaying, focus and intensity.
In person, I'd be surprised if Margaret weighed more than 100 pounds, but she seems to strike fear in people, and rather than barrelling through the audience pretending to lose her proverbial shit, for her, it looks more like she's using members of the crowd to conduct electromagnetic energy. In the relatively short time that Chardiet has been active, she's also worked with WORK/DEATH, BLOODYMINDED, and Ryan Woodhall (Yellow Tears). The night that she came to Chicago, I absolutely could not make it, but I came home and listened to her EP on repeat for several hours, a danger to myself; brooding, manic, and very angry. All the alcohol in the world couldn't calm me down (but I'll be damned if I didn't try).
The first thing that happens, when one gets introduced to the world of "noise music," is that someone older and wiser takes you under his wing, to teach you about the different "schools" of noise, for as any noise enthusiast knows, not all noise is created equal. Generally, it seems, all Noise 101 lessons start with the harsh sounds emanating from urban centers in far-away Japan, and then move into homegrown American noise schtuff. From there, you are taught to link these two classes of noise-makers into one ear-splitting transcontinental breed of artists coexisting but rarely interacting in the "heyday" of harsh noise in 1990s Japan and America. I'm sure it's slightly different for everyone, and as someone only recently christened into her 20s, I apologize to those readers who make up the "older and wiser" demographic mentioned above, but this trajectory seems like the standard introduction.
Inside, the booklet accompanying the release features one page, each one designed by the artist, ranging from almost blank pages to those featuring artfully-designed manifestos. Even the design of the album, with the prerequisite warnings against hearing damage and the DIY feel of the booklet, is exactly what is required of a 90s noise comp.
What is shocking about the album is how little both Japanese and American noise have changed since a decade and a half ago. First off, the names are really the same (at least, for me), with Merzbow, Masonna, and Solmania some of the biggest hitters on the Japanese disc, and Haters, Macronympha, and Daniel Menche some of the top guys on the American one. Sonically, the album is really superb - certainly one of the best noise comps I've heard, in its completeness and breadth. Honestly, listening to the pieces now, I can't imagine anything being made now sounding all that different, unless what you define as 'noise' 'music' radically shifts. Which is to say, listening to these tracks, I get a bit worried -- where does noise music really have to go from, say, the chaos of the 40 second Masonna track "Epistle to Dippy," or grimey filth of Pica's "Tightening the Pilliwink"?
There has been change, certainly, but in terms of American noise at least, I can't really see the change having been for the better. While "The Japanese-American Noise Treaty" certainly presents a somewhat blunt take on the most fertile period of noise music, it is far from a musical retrospective relic. Rather, the album is a sort of guideline for what noise should, and generally does, still sound like in 2011.
The New Orleans Healing Center Grand Opening is this Sunday, the day before the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. It should be an amazing time featuring live music, an art show, panel discussions on art, spirituality and health, and more. Since my physical body will be in rural West Virginia I thought I would take some time to chat with one of the main organizers of the center, Sallie Anne Glassman about its origins, what it means and where it is going.
What is the origin of the healing center?
After Katrina, a group of concerned citizens came together and formed a salon group to explore ways we could contribute to the rebuilding of New Orleans. We knew that we had to reach into ourselves and find our greatness.
One of the joys of being a serious collector of song-poem records is that I'm never sure quite what I'm going to run into, and today I'm offering up a recent find that comes from the "what the hell was that" file.
Song-poem mania has already led me to the ownership of a big collection of 45's on the Fable label (shared here and here), many of which are not song-poems, but which share some of the oddness of that genre. Sandy Stanton, who ran Fable, later turned his talents towards the Film City label, where, among other things, he bought a Chamberlain and hired young Rodd Keith to be a one-man-band on most of the new label's releases.
While most of Film City's 45's do indeed appear to be song-poem records, Stanton also farmed out Rodd Keith's talents to those wishing to make vanity records of their own compositions. These are distinguished from the label's song-poem releases primarily by the fact that on the vanity releases, the singer and the songwriter are typically the same person. As far as the sound, though, they still carry the standard Film City "Swinging Strings" sound, which is a unique one, peculiar to this label and its offshoots. The key feature is the mechanized sound of Rodd Keith at the Chamberlain, one of my favorite musical sounds ever desived.
I have no direct knowledge as to whether these vanity records feature a Chamberlain overdubbed onto existing tapes sent in by the songwriters, or if the writers came in and performed live in the studio with the Chamberlain. I suspect that for today's record, by Lana Johnidas, that she (Lana) was in the studio with whoever was playing the chamberlain (almost undoubtably Rodd Keith). However, I've heard other vanity records from the Film City family of labels in which I believe additional Chamberlain flavoring was added to a previously recorded song.
Today's record is both typical in that it features two examples of amatuer songwriting and singing, accompanied by two of these weird backing tracks, and yet also unique, in the utter weirdness of the song "Scotch Tape", and the equal weirdness of the vocal performance by the author of that song.
Lots more Film City madness can be found here
We're back with more of the intrepid pair "A and L" (identities protected for reasons easily discovered on the tapes) on their wild and wooly vacation in Europa, Summer of 1983. In this final installment we will hear the delightful story of Donkey Kong in Greece, and hear some bizarre station IDs made on location ( by "Lurch" and "Putz" ) for my Santa Cruz radio show from those days. I actually had a request ( ! ) to hear more of this material when I posted parts one and two on WFMU here, and I'm happy to be finally wrapping it all up. As to "what became of them..." I will say that they are both doing extremely well in their chosen careers and are probably just as outspoken and scatalogical as ever (I hope!).
So - on to the last surviving tape, all four cuts worth:
By Jake Goldman
Being human is tough business. From the moment we’re born, expectations are hung heavily around our necks. Parents dream of what their children might amount to and years of anxious hand-wringing begins. The pressures don’t get any easier as we grow older, either. Perhaps there’s a peak as we enter whatever one might consider life’s “twilight,” but up until that point societal pressures of finding success, starting a healthy and wholesome family, and generally being an impressive human being poke at us constantly like little needles breaching our skin. There are constant reminders too, like the people around us that seem to be more successful or happier or put together. Shit is hard, man.
But, what we often forget is that so much of our lives are wildly out of our control. You may be gunning for a promotion, busting your ass staying late at the office, taking on extra tasks but the CEO may have always had his nephew in mind. You might have the most astonishing singing voice anyone’s ever heard but the agent you audition for is more interested in finding a hot piece of ass that can only sing okay but will look amazing sprawled out on a velvet couch for a Maxim photoshoot. You can only do so much, it turns out.
That isn’t to say that hard work gets you nothing; of course it does. But, when it comes down to it, we humans have very little control on how our lives might turn out. We can make decisions, sure, and steer ourselves down certain “paths,” but what happens along those paths might surprise the hell out of us.
Jack Kevorkian believed in this. You might know him as Dr. Death, the man who helped upwards of 130
Forgive my ignorance connoisseurs of international psych-rock and historians of Polish music if I come across as ill-informed in this post about the band Breakout. I came across these folks, here led by the vocals of oft-member Mira Kubasinska, a little while back while searching for videos of the strangely-alluring-and-near-cornball-but-somehow-not lounge-jazz/doo-wop foursome from Poland, the Novi Singers. To make a short post shorter, I was instantly enamored with Breakout's "Poszlabym Za Toba," and true to its vivid constitution of everything great about late 60's heavy-psych/garage, I've gotten a good share of ecstatic feedback whenever I've decided to DJ this one out. The bass-drum groove has just the proper amount of funky sophistication tempered with a perfectly subtle smattering of raunch and clamor that really gets boiling once the guitar riff comes in. The flute interlude is the frosting on the cake, seeming initially like it may kill the momentum, but proving instead to be an effortlessly effective detour that really heightens the tension created as the refrain comes back in. "Gdybyś Kochał Hej" rides a similar groove, with this thick, fuzzy garage-pop masterpiece perhaps being a little more ebulant, while the sax-driven hints of Stax soul that pepper "Na Drugim Brzegu Tęcz?" suggest my favorite paradox of simultaneously "loose" and "tight" musicianship.
Sadly, I can only find scant information on the band in English, though their Wikipedia page suggests that "they were arguably the first group to play blues rock in Poland" and thus eventually ran afoul of social conservatives in the country who felt threatened by the band's embracing of Western ideology (however vague all of that might come across in their music). Their Discogs page similarly offers scant detail, but at least offers what seems to be a rather comprehensive run-down of their proper releases. Some of the later material I was able to find from Breakout traverses into more pedestrian or overly slick territory, but these early nuggets below stand unshakable in their steadfast ferocity. Anyone who can offer additional insight in this band, please feel free to offer up whatever information you've got. Enjoy:
This week I'll focus on underground bands from 1970's Europe.
When the Beatles were breaking up and "singer songwriters" like James Taylor were replacing acid rock, bands from Germany developed darker, far riskier music, sometimes labeled "Krautrock". "Brainticket" was one, played on The Fro Show by Jessie next to a remix of Can, also German. The two tracks work with flat, repetitive progressions to allow for improvisation. Notice, though, how Can emphasized small shifts in instrumental texture, while Brainticket exploited bad--trip nuance expressed though the vocalist's spoken word.
Amon Duul II were also German, and specialized in polished, layered space rock. Mike Van Laar played their "A Short Stop At The Trans-Sylvania Brain-Surgery" Watch them play live below, then compare this to the driving approach of England's Hawkwind. Fabio played "Orgone Accumulator" from the live Space Ritual album on Strength Though Failure. This 1973 track was recorded before punk, and is layered with electronic effects. But played next to the studio sophistication of the Amon Duul II piece, "Orgone Accumulator's" grind and urgency takes on a punk feel.
England's Canterbury bands used far more formal structures, mixing classical composition with jazz improvising. Scott Williams played "Rivmic Melodies" by "Soft Machine" (see video below) from a side long suite from their 1969 second album, which placed jazz soloing into short pieces. (Bonus, Scott played some more Brainticket earlier in the set). Henry Cow emphasized complex composition over improvising. Listen to "Half Asleep, Half Awake" played on Dan Bodah's Airborne Event.
Glam, blues-rock, proto-ambient and many other movements thrived in Europe in the early 70's. This post mainly dealt with music bridging the end of psychedelia and the start of art rock. We'll deal with other styles of the period in future posts.