I wish the ape a lot of success.
Stereo Sisterhood / Blog Graveyard:
- After The Sabbath ; All Ages ; Another Nickel ; Bachelor ; BangtheBore ; Beard (R.I.P.) ; Beyond The Implode (R.I.P.) ; Black Editions ; Black Time ; Bull ; Cocaine & Rhinestones ; Dancing ; DCB ; Did Not Chart ; Diskant (R.I.P.) ; DIYSFL ; Dreaming (R.I.P.?) ; Dusted in Exile ; Echoes & Dust ; Every GBV LP ; Flux ; Free ; Freq ; F-in' Record Reviews ; Garage Hangover ; Gramophone ; Grant ; Head Heritage ; Heathen Disco/Doug Mosurock ; Jonathan ; KBD ; Kulkarni ; Landline/Jay Babcock ; Lexicon Devil ; Lost Prom (R.I.P.?) ; LPCoverLover ; Midnight Mines ; Musique Machine ; Mutant Sounds (R.I.P.?) ; Nick Thunk :( ; Norman ; Peel ; Perfect Sound Forever ; Quietus ; Science ; Teleport City ; Terminal Escape ; Terrascope ; Tome ; Transistors ; Ubu ; Upset ; Vibes ; WFMU (R.I.P.) ; XRRF (occasionally resurrected). [If you know of any good rock-write still online, pls let me know.]
Monday, July 06, 2020
(Cross-posted with Breakfast in the Ruins.)
Of course we knew this day would come, but still.
So, let’s get straight to the point here – Morricone IS film music, so far as I’m concerned. Even if he didn’t contribute to it all directly, a vast swathe of the cinema I love would sound very different without his influence.
Years before I actually saw any of the Leone films, hearing Morricone’s themes from them pop up on the radio (which they sometimes did in those days) was an event. My Dad (who, like many dads, had a yen for all things cowboy-related) would turn up the volume, and for a few minutes we’d soak it in. The drama, the atmosphere, the wild sounds were just completely intoxicating. They didn’t need any context – as always, Morricone’s music creates its own context. That was almost certainly the first time I stopped to think about music in films, about a kind of musical vocabulary which extended beyond lyrics and pop songs, and about the different ways in which sounds and images can combine to create emotion and excitement. Thirty years later, I’m still thinking about those things.
The medium by which I enjoy the Leone scores has moved over the years from radio, to parental vinyl, to CD, and back to my own vinyl, and during my adult life I’ve of course hovered up all the other Morricone I can find within my price range (which of course still only represents the tiniest fraction of the monolithic range of his total achievement).
From what little I know of Morricone’s beliefs and personality, I think it’s probably safe to say that he would wish to be remembered to the world for his work rather than his biography, so instead of rabbiting on further, I’ll share a swiftly cobbled together mix of fifteen (which could easily be thirty, or one hundred) personal favourite smash hits from his vast catalogue, assembled in no particular order. I’ll keep commentary to a minimum, because otherwise my responses to most of these tracks would just consist of variations on a theme of holy fucking shit.
Though the magic which Nicolai, Dell’Orso, Alessandroni and so many others brought to his recordings cannot be overlooked, Morricone remains a giant – one of the greatest composers and musicians of the 20th century, no questions asked.
For ease of ad-free listening, I’ve compiled these fifteen cuts into a mix on Mixcloud (embed below), but will also go through them one-by-one via Youtube links for those who wish to pick and choose.
1. ‘Titoli’ from ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ (1964)
Here’s where it all began.
2. ‘Il Grande Silenzio (Restless)’ from ‘Il Grande Silenzio’ (1968)
3. “Valmont’s Go-Go Pad” from ‘Danger! Diabolik’ (1968)
4. ‘Svolta Definitiva’ from ‘Violent City’ (1970)
5. ‘La Lucertola’ from ‘A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin’ (1971)
6. ‘Guerra E Pace, Pollo E Brace’ from ‘Grazie Zia’ / ‘Come Play With Me’ (1968)
7. ‘Giorno Di Notte’ from ‘A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin’ (1971)
8. ‘Magic and Ecstasy’ from ‘Exorcist II: The Heretic’ (1977)
9. Main theme from ‘The Thing’ (1982)
10. ‘Canzone Lontana’ from ‘Il Serpente’ (1973)
11. ‘Fraseggio Senza Struttura’ from ‘The Bird with the Crystal Plumage’ (1970)
12. ‘Ballabile No. 2’ from ‘La Cosa Buffa’ (1972)
13. ‘Titoli’ from ‘A Sky Full of Stars for a Roof’ (1968)
14. ‘Astratto 3’ from ‘Veruschka’ (1971)
15. ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’ from ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’ (1968)
This theme makes me involuntarily break down in tears each time I hear it. Really, every time, like clockwork. Which has proved quite embarrassing whenever I’ve watched the film in company.
My reaction has nothing to do with any personal/biographical connections, or anything in the film itself (incredible though it is). The sound of the music is just completely overwhelming.
It is simply one of the greatest pieces of music ever recorded, and any classical buffs who want to fight about that are welcome to. Everything that is worth feeling within the human experience, I can hear in this.
R.I.P. Il Maestro.
Thursday, July 02, 2020
Isolation Drills # 3.
Is it just me, or is there something GOOD actually happening at the moment? Purely in terms of recorded music, I mean. In spite of the fact that live performance and collective playing is literally DEAD for the time being, the list of fantastic records I’ve discovered in the past six months is just ridiculous.
Has it simply been because I’m now sitting on my ass at home all day long, following links, clicking play and/or dropping the needle and keeping the speakers ticking over 9 to 5? Or, are we ACTUALLY hitting some variation on that irreducible splurge of accelerated creativity which seems to hit like clockwork about once per decade..?
I don’t know. You tell me.
All I can say for sure is, whereas in past few years I would have had difficulty in scraping together a top ten of new records I’ve really loved come the end of June, here we are in 2020, and I could probably give you a top thirty right off the bat.
I should of course temper this enthusiasm by flagging up the heinous prospect that, a few months down the line (maybe mid/late 2021 or thereabouts), we’re inevitably going to hit a dead zone, reflecting a still-ominously-lengthening window in which the majority of bands and musical ensembles have effectively CEASED TO EXIST, at least in terms of their capacity for actual in-the-same-room playing/recording (which I would still contend is generally the best kind).
I mean… wow. Let’s stop and think about that for a minute. I realise we’re lucky(?) enough to live in an era when solo electronic/producer types and songwriters can sit in their bedrooms and kick it out indefinitely, but… has there EVER been a period, since the dawn of recorded popular music in the early 20th century, when the collective creation of music in the western world has actually STOPPED - dead in its tracks?
It occurs to me that there are already plenty of folks over in Iran, Afghanistan, Mali, Cambodia and elsewhere who can tell us exactly how that feels. So hey, let’s look on the bright side - at least a pandemic-related music shutdown seems unlikely to lead to anyone getting their tapes forcibly wiped or their instruments el-kabonged. Or, more pertinently, to anyone being forced to live under imminent threat of violence, imprisonment and systematic murder as a result of their art (or, not anymore so than they were previously, at any rate – peace & love to the vast majority out there currently living under some form of tyranny or idiocracy).
So, let’s just reflect on that for a bit in six months or whenever, when our favourite record labels start sending out “sorry folks, the cupboard is bare” type emails.
But anyway – enough rambling. Tomorrow (FRIDAY) is another Bandcamp revenue-free day, so I’ll be buying these. I believe they’re all pretty mighty. Let’s get stuck in.
A few weeks back, when my wife’s social media feeds [I don’t have any] seemed to be overflowing with indie-rock / punk listeners suddenly scrabbling around trying to acquire an intense and meaningful interest in contemporary black music, I couldn’t help but think, “what the world needs right now is some OBNOX” - and verily, right on cue, the man has come through, with a sprawling double LP that might well be the best thing Lamont Thomas has put out under the this name to date.
As ever, it’s difficult to really put into words the unique amalgam that comprises Obnox’s sound, but nonetheless, let’s take a deep breath and try again. Mixing up lo-fi cut-up noise, rust-belt garage-punk, mutant p-funk derivations, ghostly regional/outsider soul and aggro-laden, street level hip-hop, ‘Savage Raygun’ makes for an exhilarating tour through the treacherous back alleys of American music, all mixed down with a chopped n’ screwed, basement tape-splicin’ aesthetic that makes the album’s presence on shiny, newly pressed vinyl feel kind of incongruous.
That said though, this is still perhaps a slightly more – cough –‘accessible’ take on the Obnox ideal than we’ve been presented with before, dialling back on the hyper-aggressive saturation of earlier releases, even as Thomas remains an elusive presence within his own music, his vocals often remaining distant and translucent as he slyly works earworms and familiar phrases from semi-well known songs in his material, leaving us trying to source them in the fog of our own memories like some form of archaic, pre-industrial sampling. The exception of course is on the full-on hip-hop cuts, where he’s upfront and in our grill, spitting as angry and unhinged as our stupid white asses could wish for, milling down decades of uncouth working class discontent for some implacably affirmative, ugly shit flow goodness.
Song titles like ‘Hawkwindian Summer’ meanwhile gain my eternal respect [I will steal that at some point, for something], and all of the deep, strange threads Thomas is exploring and tearing here seem to come together, just before the end of the record, on the supremely titled ‘Young Neezy’, looping an ancient tape of Neil’s ‘Southern Man’ riff and gleefully firing it straight off into the resentful depths of twisted r’n’b oblivion. It’s pretty inspired. A few years on from Obnox coining the phrase ‘America in a Blender’ on his mutant, malfunctioning non-“free jazz” LP, he’s still busy making supremely bitter-sweet lemonade from that terrifying concept.
Kahil El’Zabar’s Spirit Groove ft. David Murray.
Kind of a perfect palette-cleanser after the preceding, percussionist/vocalist and Chicago spitirual jazz OG Kahil El’Zabar (whose CV astonishingly includes work with such luminaries as Dizzy Gillespie, Cannonball Adderley, Sonny Stitt and Rahsaan Roland Kirk) here teams up with his long-standing foil, tenor saxophonist David Murray, and proceeds to engage with the mindset of jazz’s 21st century new wave (represented here by bassist Emma Dayhuff and piano/keys player Justin Dillard) in what strikes me as the best possible manner.
Stretching out across the full eighty minutes allowed by two LPs, ‘Spirit Groove’s self-titled debut is a work of long-form, meditative bliss which, though rooted in jazz, often ends up sounding like some form of deconstructed psychedelic soul, with El’Zabor’s expressive, visceral and unbelievably sweet voice taking centre stage, riffing off a central phrase or ascending into pure rhythmic glossolalia as he, Dayhuff and Dillard lay down a suite of eminently relaxed, minimalist groves which, in their furtherest-reaching moments, almost touch upon the fourth world / melodic drone perfection of Joshua Abram’s Natural Information Society across which Murray soars Sanders-like and ego-free, even as El’Zabor’s vocals keep pulling the work back to a more earthy realm of physical exuberance, bodily movement and, I dunno… fun?
Early days listening to this one (as I say, I’m planning to lay down the not inconsiderable amount of scratch required for the vinyl tomorrow, all being well), but it is a supremely enjoyable listen which initially seems to bear all the hallmarks of a real timeless, endlessly comforting record. Highest possible rec at this point, needless to say.
Kawaguchi Masami New Rock Syndicate & Kryssi Battalene.
Yet another project for Headroom / Mountain Movers maximalist guitar wizardess Battalene, and as big fan of both her work and of the old school Japanese psychedelic rock from which she clearly takes so much inspiration, you’d better believe I’m ALL OVER this collaboration with Miminokoto / LSD March veteran Kawaguchi Masami’s New Rock Syndicate.
Time is short here, but let’s simply say that for those who share my frequently reiterated love for this-sort-of-thing, this is pretty damn spectacular stuff, raking the ghosts of High Rise and White Heaven over the coals with aplomb, even as it offers a few oddball diversions from the expected no-holds-barred guitar blitz along the way -the rinky-dink organ and Battalene’s verbed out, somewhat Stereolab-ish vocals which hold sway on the space-garage-y ‘Two Hearts’ being a case in point.
Clearly unafraid of a touch of such psych-cheese effects, Kawaguchi’s boys slather identikit sitar twang and chimes all over the epic ‘Sunday Afternoon’, but can do nothing to spoil its epically atmospheric SF ballroom-meets-Tokyo sunset immensitude. Magnificent stuff. With Kawaguchi’s songwriting easily hitting the heights previously scaled in his work with Miminokoto, whilst Battalene’s contributions hit the drifty, Bardo-ish bliss of her Headroom work from a decidedly different angle, this is full strength beautific psychedelic rock, cooked up just the way it should be, exactly as you’d expect from this hallowed intercontinental meeting of minds.
When my wife and I heard a track from Edikanfo’s ‘The Pace Setters’ on the radio the other week, we initially thought it sounded like music from a ‘70s cop show. It must be from the bit where they go around the streets, ding detective work and showing someone’s picture to people, Satori suggested. Yeah, I said, but I think it must be a show set in some tropical place – like, they’re driving along the beach front in Miami or Hawaii or somewhere, but can’t enjoy the sunshine cos there’s too much on their mind.
Then the vocals finally came in, and…. whoa! Completely off-base! This is actually a West African band. Wow.
Turns out, Edikanfo actually hail from Ghana, where they recorded this set of absolute stone-cold afro-funk bangers at the behest of none other than Brian Eno, who released it on his E.G. label back in 1981. Some elements of the recording have a touch of that indefinable “pro recording in the ‘80s” feel (kinda clean and dry? Gated drums? I dunno..), which is not necessarily to their best advantage, so maybe that’s where I was going with my misplaced Miami Vice type imaginings, but IT MATTERS NOT. The playing on this thing is so red hot, it rips through all that careful-careful dolbified mixing like a knife thru butter.
Heavy on the blasting horns, lurching fretless bass and octo-armed, polyrhythmic drumming, this is just one of the tightest, most consistently energised and imaginative African funk sets I’ve heard in living memory, with, as noted, a kind of cinematic scope to the arrangements which just slays.
Unfortunately however, a violent coup d’etat in Ghana on New Year’s Eve 1981 effectively put a nix on Edikanfo’s local gigging career, and with little in the way of an international touring circuit for ‘world’ artists existing at that point in time, the ensuing years of political instability effectively destroyed their ability to remain as a working unit [see themes alluded to in this post’s introduction].
Four decades down the line though, every right-thinking man, woman and child across the globe loves this kind of stuff, and it appears the group’s surviving members are back together to set the fucking pace once again….. just in time for covid. Shit man, talk about bad luck. Oh well, at least we have this superb (and admirably affordable) reissue on the Glitterbeat label to enjoy.
Last but not least, I’ve been remiss thus far when it comes to finding time to plug Ozo, Mike Vest’s new collaborative outfit with drummer Graham Thompson and saxophonist Karl D’Silva. If their debut ‘Saturn’ earlier this year represented an interesting stylistic development from Vest’s now-standard Blown Out/Reptilian Oblivion MO, their second LP ‘Pluto’ (I guess they skipped Uranus, as well as my personal choice for most underrated planet, Neptune) is where it REALLY comes together, with D’Silva’s sax sounding less relentlessly echoed/multi-tracked, and generally feeling more organically integrated into the boiling lava tides of Vest’s fuzz-bass and guitar layers and Thompson’s rolling rockslide ‘lead drumming’ (particularly on the uncharacteristically subdued expanse of the title track).
Moving at least slightly closer to realising the elusive space-rock / free jazz ideal Ozo are allegedly aiming for, this one is a heavy, heavy trip – a hulking motherlode of King Crimson-accented sonic gloop which feels more ‘high gravity planetary surface trek’ than ‘interstellar joyride’, stumbling over boulders on the way back to the landing module as the low-hanging sky overhead behind to look like this album’s cover. Great work all round on this one guys, it’s a monster.
Thursday, June 18, 2020
Sargassoed: Mystery Ships 2020.
I’m painfully fully aware that I’ve been shirking my self-imposed responsibilities in terms of sharing mixes and radio shows here over the past year or so. The crushingly tedious explanation for this involves new computers, out of date software and conflicting file formats etc etc, and, given that finding solutions to such infernal issues is not exactly my idea of fun, I’ve only just got around to it.
How better to celebrate my return to ersatz DJing then than by unleashing a new instalment of Mystery Ships, my long-dormant series of global psychedelia mixes. (The last instalment was over five years ago at this point, unbelievably. Happy to re-up any of ‘em upon request, by the way.)
Working from home has naturally given me plenty of opportunity to huddle over my beloved circa-2006 iTunes and throw these things together, and in keeping with the effects if lockdown stasis, the theme of this one is HARDCORE PSYCH. By which I mean that, whilst earlier volumes in this series might have veered quite a long way off their stated remit, the cuts included here (excluding the fairly sedate intro and outro numbers) are full-steam-ahead, no nonsense psychedelia – overwhelming, full spectrum beautific sound to zone out to and get lost within. Not all rock-based by any means, but suffice to say, if you’re not in the mood for out of control fuzz guitar, smeary distorted organ textures, backward-masked blather, oversaturated tape sound and roiling, tempestuous rhythmic freakouts, well – just keep on walking ‘cross that quarantine seaweed, fella. It’ll still all be here for you on the way back.
A second mix on a somewhat more laidback / meditative tip will hopefully follow shortly.
Sample/stream via the embed below, or alternatively, the traditional mp3 download link follows the track list. Featured bands and artists who are still a going concern and deserve your support have been linked accordingly.
00:00 The Clean - Are You Really On Drugs?
02:35 H. Tical - Distillation
06:20 Kim Sun - The Man Who Must Leave
14:01 Erkin Koray - Mesafeler
17:42 The Bevis Frond - Window Eye
23:13 Masahiko Sato - Take It Easy
28:31 Oblivion Reptilian - Alien Shit
36:24 Don Cherry - Isla (The Sapphic Sleep)
38:45 The Insect Trust - The Skin Game
42:49 Taras Bulba - The Neon Midnight
48:00 Don Cherry & Terry Riley - Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector [Köln, 1975]
56:26 Headroom - New Heaven
1:02:25 Alice Coltrane - Hare Krishna
1:10:36 Shooting Guns - Feelings (Dub)
1:23:04 Brigadune - I’ll Cry Out From My Grave (God I’m Sorry)
1:25:54 Demon Fuzz - Message to Mankind
(If you’d like me to re-up the file, or send it to you directly or whatever, just drop me a line in the comments - it’d be a pleasure.)
Thursday, June 04, 2020
Isolation Drills # 2.
As you might well be aware, Bandcamp are doing another revenue-free Friday this week, so that seems as good a reason as any to round up another pile of great new(ish) sounds which have helped see me through the past month or so of brow-mopping, early summer heatwave home-working.
(Or alternatively, if you don’t mind waiting a bit and fancy helping out some of our fellow terrorist sympathisers, the site are donating their revenue from all sales on 19th June to the NAACP Legal Defence Fund.)
(And no, Bandcamp aren’t paying me (unfortunately), and I have no agenda to promote their site in-and-of-itself, but…. it’s currently the best place to listen to and obtain contemporary music in this cold, sad world, so makes sense to maximise the percentage of our pennies that go in good directions, no?)
Anyway, let’s get on with it.
Recorded via four track to “assorted dead stock cassette tapes” between 2016 and 2018, the material recently compiled on this double LP finds Tucson-based musician N.R. Safi combining traditional Afghan instrumentation with a bewildering array of loops, radio textures, distortion, digital effects, drums, Western/South Asian instruments and more besides, creating a dense and beguiling set of heavy psyche-blasted quasi-enthno semi-forgeries which basically sound like the wildest dream of some Sublime Frequencies junkie, obsessively scanning the scanning the short wave dials in search of mind-blowing pan-global audio to rip and reconstitute for hungry ears.
Beautiful collage artwork, vintage field recordings and track titles like ‘Blood Can’t Clean Blood’ speak of a legit and powerful engagement with the issues of cultural displacement and transformation which inevitably surround this music, which pulses and shrieks across imagined and real airwaves, like an affirmative signal of resistance for Middle Eastern and North American deserts alike. Righteous stuff indeed.
Angel Bat Dawid.
In what now sounds like an evening of nigh-on unimaginable utopian bliss, one Thursday night late last year found my wife and I heading to Peckham, following up a cracking Italian meal by heading round the corner to drop in on what turned out to be the final hour of an evening of improvised music organised by the International Anthem label.
At the time, I was unable to establish the identity of the musicians we saw performing (no names were listed on the event’s advertising), but the group on stage as we entered was led by a woman conjuring careful, atmospheric textures from trumpet, keyboard, electronics and vocals, whilst another woman, initially seated, laid down wildly ecstatic, free-wheeling exclamations on clarinet, before rising to traverse the room in a state of reverie, powering the music forward in breathlessly thrilling fashion.
Backed up by an obligatory super-tight, laidback rhythm section (still unidentified at the time of writing), this performance was little short of mind-blowing - the kind of casually perfect summation of a particular strain of exultantly positive, welcoming culture which makes you feel humbled to have stumbled into its presence. Having spent almost every subsequent evening stuck in the goddamn flat at this point, I think back upon it often.
And now, many months of bandcamp-surfing later, I’m pretty sure I’ve established that we were listening that night to the sounds of Emma-Jean Thackray, whose new EP ‘Rain Dance’ came out in March, and to Angel Bat Dawid, who has an absolutely beautiful 7” out on the aforementioned International Anthem (see embedded links above).
Both of these short releases stand out as essential listening for anyone who’s been digging into this new stream of open-ended, jazz-affiliated greatness half as heavily as I have been in recent months, and, though the concept of Socially Distanced live music – or indeed any group playing whatsoever – still doggedly fails of compute in any way that makes sense to me, I continue to hope that somehow, someday I’ll be able to reconnect with these musicians and/or their contemporaries in a context that in some way rekindles the spirit of that glorious, random hour in Peckham, at some point before all is changed and gone.
And speaking of memories of wild nights out meanwhile…. whilst I like Grey Hairs studio output just a little bit, the truth is that they’ve always really excelled as a live band. It therefore pretty much stands to reason that their new live LP – recorded last Halloween at exemplary Notts DIY venue J.T. Soar, and mixed and engineered brilliantly by in-house recording guy Phil Booth - is by default their best release to date.
If you like your rock served up with some crisp, hard-hitting Albini-isms, the quality of the sound here will likely floor you, it’s just a superb recording, and the band are on top form, the energy and good vibes palpable. I realise I’ve held forth repeatedly here in the past about the virtues of Grey Hairs’ approach to their craft, so what more is there to say? This is an excellent live album by an excellent live rock band, and how many more of those do you anticipate we’ll see coming down the pike over the next year or so?
Stand in the middle of your living room with a can of cheaper lager than you’d usually tolerate, turn off the lights, hang all your coats and stuff on a bunch of mannequins and chairs blocking your view of the hi-fi, and drink it all in.
Well, here’s at least one more skull-fuckingly magnificent live rock album to keep us going, anyway. Recorded by the god-like Ethan Miller (I mean, OF COURSE IT WAS) when former High Rise guitarist Munehiro Narita played a few dates in California in 2017, backed up by the rhythm section with whom he would subsequently form Psychedelic Speed Freaks, recording one of my favourite debut albums of recent years, this is as much of a roughshod, extremist rock apocalypse as fans of this incredible musician might rightfully expect.
Grinding through raw facsimiles of some old High Rise hits (‘Sadame’, ‘Outside Gentiles’, ‘Pop Sicle’) alongside a few marginally more restrained numbers from his subsequent band Green Flames [with whose work I confess I’m unfamiliar – need to get on that], this recording squashes most of the bassist and drummer’s spirited contributions into a blaring tar-pit thud, whilst Munehiro’s reedy vocals are pretty much an after-thought, just marking out time and space, against which the elastic lightning whip monolith of his infernally inspired guitar playing rages and howls centre stage, with the energy of a live audience and appropriately ripped amplification powering him forward toward some of the most jaw-droppingly exciting six string pyrotechnics I have ever heard - not just from him, but from anyone, ever.
I could, of course, continue spewing out this guff indefinitely, but instead let’s put it simply. If you are a fan of loud rock guitar playing who values actual music over posing and gimmickry, you need Munehiro Narita’s recent and reissued recordings in your life. Failure to heed this advice will be liable to label you as kin to the kind of idiots who sold their copies of the Stooges records in 1971 because they were ‘a bit much’.
Sarah Davachi / Ariel Kalma.
As much as I’ve been enjoying Sarah Davachi’s work recently, her pursuit of monotonal melancholia can sometimes tend to get a bit, well, monotonous after a while – which makes this collaboration from French ambient artist Ariel Kalma feel like just the ticket. Herein, Kalma adds some welcome bursts of melodic and textural colour to Davachi’s pure-tone excursions, complimenting her quietly monolithic, largely synth-based work with the sound of tanpura, harmonium, slightly different synths and Vangelis-esque echo sax.
The simple fact that there are two people working together here helps cut against the barren loneliness that has sometimes made Davachi’s solo releases feel slightly unapproachable, making ‘Intemporel’ stand out as one of her sunnier, more optimistic recordings, with the sublime ‘Adieu de Vie’ in particular sinking into a warm steam bath of exactly the kind of ingratiating, escapist psychedelia I’m hard-wired to enjoy, electronics and delays burbling away like a morning chorus of robot birdies above a lightly LSD-brushed alien onsen resort.
Intense, heavily Coltrane-influenced spiritual jazz from this South African quintet, led by drummer Asher Gamedze. Only the opening 18 minute suite from a forthcoming double LP on the UK-based On The Corner label is currently available for listening, but that alone covers a lot of parched ground, mixing abrasive, ecstatic-yet-controlled blowouts from tenor player Buddy Wells (whose name sounds so much like he should be a famous 20th century jazz luminary, I had to invoke google to confirm that he isn’t) with finger-scrabbling group improv passages and deep, sinuous low end melodies, seemingly drawn from the same well of tribal/traditional influence that Louis Moholo-Moholo and his colleagues have been working with across the decades.
This is heady, no nonsense stuff, foregrounding PLAYIN’ over tonal/textural concerns or sonic surprises, and speaking wordlessly of connection to people and to landscape, and to political/metaphysical engagement and such. It should certainly appeal to listeners whose interest in the J word ceased abruptly on 17th July 1967, although some affecting, poetical contemplation from spoken wordist Nono Nkoane suggests other directions in which the full four sides of this as-yet-unheard set might be apt to travel.
Seemingly demonstrating that you can take the boys out of the Pond, but can’t dry ‘em off no matter how hard you try, this collaboration between Bardo Pond guitarists the Gibbons Bros and a drummer named Scott Verrastro finds the trio initially tip-toeing around each other with a few minutes of uncertain, questioning abstraction, before they apparently make eye contact, exchange shrugs and lock into exactly the kind of stoned, heavy-weight-on-butterfly-wings grandeur which has helped cement the brothers’ main band’s ‘90s output as such an indelible and insurmountable cornerstone of modern heavy psyche.
Although the sound is necessary somewhat stripped back here, I’ve not heard these guys tap into this particular sweetest of sweet spots for some years now, making their decision to break out the big spoons and just dig in across the majority of this three track release feel like a slo-mo, fungoid sugar rush of purest satisfation. Taped in Bardo HQ in Philadelphia in 2018, this was released as a tape and name-yr-price download by the Athens, GA based Null Zone label a few months back, and I’m sure that all concerned would appreciate it if you were to name said price at something higher than zero (see intro above).
Eric Arn & Jasmine Pender.
Heavy duty, oxygen-sucking, cosmic / cloud level Popal Vuh-esque drone-work here from Austria-based American guitarist Eric Arn (Primordial Undermind) and British cellist Jasmine Pender (Rotten Bliss). First cut is perfect for witnessing a pale sun rise across a planetery curve as one falls into the orbit of a frozen, featureless gas giant, or so I should imagine, whilst the second explores more tense, noisy and recognisably instrument-y angles on the same kind of weightless inertia. It’s good, in other words.
And last but not least…. South London keyboard luminary Kamaal Williams aka Henry Wu has his follow up to 2018’s ‘The Return’ up for pre-order, the curiously named ‘Wu Hen’, with a few sample tracks suggesting a more expansive palette than the previous record’s straight trio line up (strings, sax, street chat), alongside some more abrasive, Gameboy-ish tones on ‘One More Time’, but still heavily swathed in darkly sinuous, disarmingly blissful yet inexplicably menacing nocturnal pavement atmos, straight from the heart of some mid-gentrification, pre-pandemic cultural sandpaper zone. Being cautious, I’ll wait until I can catch a stream of the whole thing in July (hopefully), but hey – keep a close eye on this cat, if you’re not already.
(About that title by the way – just like a lot of faux-mysterious hardcore bands, Williams’ Black Focus label seems to have a bit of a fetish for Japanese words and characters, so I’m guessing he’s going for ‘hen’ as in ‘strange/perverse’ here, rather than hen as in cluck-cluck.)
Tuesday, May 19, 2020
R.I.P. Fatigue & Little Richard.
Of course it’s never been my intention to turn this blog into an all-obituaries-all-the-time kind of effort, but my love and admiration for the musical cultures of our fading civilization’s ‘50s-‘70s peak era (plus adjacent decades) remains vast and unquenchable, whilst we are meanwhile faced with the bad luck of living through an epoch in which the remaining denizens of said cultures are, to not put too fine a point on it, dropping like flies.
As some kind of self-appointed memorialiser of such things, it’s really been getting on top of me recently… it’s difficult to find the necessary time to process, let alone get anything suitable down in words.
Sticking strictly to those whose music I am familiar with, or that has affected my life in some small way, there’s Little Richard, Florian Schneider, Phil May, Henry Grimes, Betty Wright, John Prine, Lee Konitz, Henry Grimes…. am I missing anyone here? Almost certainly. Smaller, non-household names and non-band leaders especially, I’m sure. Syphoning news has become increasingly challenging lately, so please hit me up in the comments if there are any other departures I should be aware of.
It’s interesting to note that, of the more elderly folks on the above list, very few have had covid explicitly linked to their deaths, yet the numbers, compared to the quantity of noteworthy musicians we’d normally expect to lose in any given Spring, remain exceptionally high. Makes you wonder, doesn't it…. but this is most assuredly not a good time or place to take one’s wondering off in that direction. It won’t end up anywhere nice. Let’s all just pray daily for our surviving heroes and heroines who are not on the above list. Wishing health, long life and the divine spark of creation to them all.
SO, ANYWAY – Little Richard. That’s a strange one, right? Seems like much of the entertainment media didn’t quite know how to play it. Perhaps in some crazy sort of fashion, we’ve still not quite caught up with him yet.
Seems to me that, for the generation of more rebellious/anti-authoritarian rock fans growing up back in the day, he was little short of a GOD, the real number # 1, not-to-be-fucked-with well-spring for that wild, anarchic rock n’ roll energy, but his perceived importance seems to have waned pretty significantly over the years, to the extent that to those of my age or younger, he’s often not much more than that guy did track 5 and track 7 on that Big Bumper Retro Rock n’ Roll hits CD comp you always had lying around.
Perhaps he’s suffered to a certain extent from “wow, is he still alive, I had no idea” syndrome, a symptom of the long, slow 50 year plus come-down experienced by almost all of the household name ‘50s rock n’ rollers, doomed forever to some gothic, ‘Sunset Boulevard’-esque existence – a long life defined almost entirely by the shadow of some mad shit they laid down without a second thought in their early ‘20s.
For the old timers though, growing up without a supply of raging feedback and animalistic punk/metal nonsense on tap at all times…. well, he was something else entirely. As Simon Reynolds notes, writer Nik Cohn significantly christened his pivotal poetical history of rock n’ roll tome ‘Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom’. I just pulled it off the shelf to check the spelling of the title, and to quote from within (pp. 31-34):
“For instance, the first record I ever bought was by Little Richard and, at one throw, it taught me everything I need to know about pop.
The message went: ‘Tuttie fruiti, all rooti, tuttie fruiti, all rooti, tuttie fruiti, all rooti, awopbopaloobop alopbamboom!’ As a summing up of what rock n’ roll was really about, this was nothing short of masterly.
Very likely those early years were the best that pop has yet been through. Anarchy moved in. For thirty years you couldn’t make it unless you were white, sleek, nicely-spoken and phoney to your toenails – suddenly now you could be black, purple, moronic, delinquent, diseased or almost anything on earth and you could still clean up. Just so long as you carried excitement.”
“Most of his records sold a million each – ‘Long Tall Sally’, ‘Lucille’, ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’, ‘Keep a Knockin’’, ‘Baby Face’. They all sounded roughly the same: tuneless, lyric-less, pre-Neanderthal. There was a tenor saxo solo in the middle somewhere and a constant smashed up piano and Little Richard himself screaming his head off. Individually, the records didn’t mean that much. They were small episodes in one unending scream and only made sense when you put them all together.”
Man, that’s a great book. I should read it again.
Jumping off from this idea, I distantly remember Greil Marcus (I think?!) waxing lyrical about Little Richard as the guy who first introduced a sense of surrealism / situationism to rock n’ roll, marking out a space in which meaning and coherence entirely disappeared – form transmuted into pure energy, combined with a kind of musical glossolalia (and, that’s a trick which naturally ain’t gonna hold up too well over 60+ years).
Personally, I’ve always found Little Richard’s music – great tho it it – makes for an odd fit amongst the first generation rock n’ rollers with whom he is invariably lumped in. Really, his stuff feels less like fully-fledged r’n’r, and more like a form of super-hyped up jump blues, foregrounding horns and piano and powerhouse vocals in a manner that makes it feel more like a weird, ultra-aggressive adjunct to the parallel development of what would soon become soul music, than to anything connected with the thinner, ghostlier, whiter sounds emanating from the Sun/rockabilly universe. A kind of blunt-yet-brilliant musical dead end of the kind more usually dug up on static-drenched compilations of totally obscure, indie label 45s – not on the freakin’ radio, or the Sunday Times obits page.
In a way, he’s always struck me as the kind of anti-Chuck Berry. Whereas Chuck gifted us with smart lyrics and story-telling, emphasising at all times the primacy of the electric guitar, L’il R (as no one has ever called him) made a point of smashing the loose remains of verbal narrative against the wall until they died bleeding, then proceeded to do the same to a brutally over-miced piano, doing his best to drown out the holy rhythm section entirely.
In a sense, perhaps Bo Diddley serves as some kind of weird, stylistic peacemaker here. By which I mean, his songs told stories, but they were nonsense stories, full of his own self-aggrandising, made up blather, whilst he simultaneously drew our attention to the drums and percussion as the most important part of the pie, because I mean, of course they are, you idiots. But, I’m getting off the point….
Whereas Chuck could number the Beach Boys, Beatles and Stones amongst his white boy descendants, Little Richard took a flying leap straight to The Sonics – which kind of says it all vis-à-vis his place in the canon, I suppose. Punk lineage, A plus 1.
P.S.: having just google-searched his image (try it), I’m inclined to realise that, throughout his life, this guy managed to look genuinely insane and frightening about 90% of the time someone was pointing a camera at him. I’d like to see you beat that across six decades, entire world of heavy metal.
Friday, May 01, 2020
I’m pretty gutted today to hear (via The Quietus) about the death of Tony Allen, a drummer whose work with Fela Kuti pretty much defined the sound of afro-beat as it developed during the ‘70s, but whose astounding energy and productivity has since seen his career range far and wide beyond even those fairly unsurpassable early achievements.
For no particular reason, I’ve been listening to a ton of Allen’s music during the current lockdown period, and have been really getting a feel for it. I recently acquired his first two albums as band leader, Jealousy (1975) and Progress (1979), bought a copy of Tomorrow Comes The Harvest, his 2018 collaborative 10” EP with Jeff Mills, and downloaded this astounding Africa ’70 live album (featuring a 16 minute drum solo/duel between Allen and the also recently deceased Ginger Baker) from the Flabbergasted Vibes blog.
These have been more or less random acquisitions, but they all stand as undeniably brilliant records, and the relentless rhythmic drive and sense of questing positivity which runs through them has helped make them a nigh on perfect accompaniment for ploughing through mountains of working-from-home; in fact, they’ve really been keeping me going over a few rough days here and there.
As with McCoy Tyner last month, I’m afraid I don’t have much of an insight to offer into Tony Allen’s life history or personality, but the sheer open-mindedness with which he seems to have embraced collaborations with electronic, rock, jazz and quote-unquote ‘world’ musicians over the past few decades speaks for itself really.
Whereas we naturally tend to expect legendary musicians who have reached their sixth or seventh decade to slow down a bit, to fall back on the core styles which made their name, or to enjoy basking in their past glories a bit (especially when they specialise in a discipline as physically demanding as long-form kit drumming), it feels as if Allen has been all over the map since the turn of the century, doing GREAT work in all kinds of cultural contexts (just check out the aforementioned Mills EP, it's killer), to the point where he seemed like a pretty ubiquitous presence, his name popping up week after week on band line-ups, festival bills, label blurbs, record covers – you name it.
All of which naturally makes me regret the fact that I never took the opportunity to see him do his thing live whilst I had the chance; this stands both as a testimony to my own myopic idiocy, and as a reminder (as if one were needed after the past few months) that these kind of opportunities won’t be around forever, and MUST be taken when they arise. Let’s hope it will be a lesson learned, but for now, R.I.P. to an absolute powerhouse of a musician, his influence and cultural import vast beyond measure, but still secondary to the sheer pleasure of just losing yourself in his mighty groove.
Friday, April 17, 2020
Isolation Drills # 1.
Further deep dips into Bandcamp which have been keeping my ears vibrating nicely (and my bank balance reassuringly low) as I sweat over me work PC in these times of home-based toil… a few longer/proper reviews of other things to hopefully to follow soon, as and when I get a minute.
Gerycz / Powers / Rolin.
Pure, third-eye blasting maximalist fields of bliss straight out of the American south, conjured forth via a 12 string acoustic, hammered dulcimer and some (fairly minimal) percussion, with nary an amp nor pedal in sight. Swings open those bead curtains into blinding sunlight just like I like this stuff to. Pretty magnificent. Sitting comfortably alongside such aforementioned-in-the-pages acts as Woven Skull, Sarah Louise, Sally Anne Morgan & Kryssi B., Elkhorn etc, there seems to be a fresh strain of rustic-minded, pure psyche brilliance starting to bubble up from the Trump-bedevilled underground which needs to be acknowledged and celebrated. Children of Pelt rejoice!
Chicago Underground Quartet.
Although I can’t think of anything terribly pertinent to say about it, I’ve been hitting Jeff Parker’s recent album on International Anthem pretty hard recently, and this first-album-in-donkeys-years from the intermittently convened quartet (previously trio) of which he is a member carries the same spirit of warm, non-denominational good times musicking, casually swinging between trad jazz lyricism, questing chaos and… other realms entirely… in a way that just feels right n’ good. The sultry desert dreamscape of ‘Strange Wing’ is hitting the spot particularly nicely today, for the record. (I’d dearly love to pick this one up on vinyl, but the Astral Spirits label don’t seem to have much in the way of European distribution, and I’d prefer not to risk the extravagant vagaries of overseas postage at present, so… mp3s it is.)
Acid Mothers Temple.
So, did you know that, prior to putting out their excellent ‘comeback’ album Reverse of Rebirth in Universe album a couple of years back, AMT’s revised new generation line-up stopped over in Brazil, where they quietly released this absolute peach of an LP, presumably recorded at around the same time? As previously stated, I realise that getting excited about an AMT record when we’ve all already been suckered into buying a thousand of the things over the years is a tough call, but they’re really firing on all cylinders here, hitting all of their strongest suits at one point or another with a minimum of silliness and faff, and the results are pretty jaw-dropping. If, like me, you find yourself ruing the unlikelihood of AMT’s proposed June tour dates going ahead, this should help tide you over until they’re back on the virus-free road once more.
Some anonymous sleazy ‘70s session blokes.
So, this is just a quick Public Service announcement to let you know that Trunk Records have finally gotten around to setting up a Bandcamp page, and that it’s full of all the weird and wonderful bit n’ pieces you’d rightfully expect. Their new Basil Kirchin archival release is alternately sublime and deeply uncomfortable (as you’d likewise rightly expect), but my # 1 pick is DEFINITELY this anonymous, car boot sale-sourced reel of totally monstrous ‘70s porno jamming. I mean, of course it is. Seriously though folks, forget the novelty / cheese factor here, this music is legitimately fucking amazing, and if some kids dropped it today I’d probably hail them as heroes. As it is, they likely made do with a few packs of B&H and enough dosh for a few brandies in the pub round the corner before they shuffled off forever into the beige, tea-stained night. What a time in which to have been alive.
And, at completely the other end of the spectrum – a new EP of sombre, spiritually bereft meditative drone pieces from Sarah Davachi. Need I say more?
To be honest, I only rarely dip my toes in the lukewarm waters of new indie-rock these days, but if you’re still jonesin’ for something in that general vein that can make an impression, I’d highly recommend these oddballs from Rotterdam. Embracing a laissez faire approach to guitar tuning that the early Fall might have appreciated, the best tracks on their new album ‘In This House’ find them pretty much sanding down the Velvets-via-Feelies-via-Breeders lineage of affectless, cooler-than-thou guitar pop to a kind of shiny, casual perfection (never stretching to two notes when one played twice will suffice), over which one of most distinctive, weird-yet-charming vocalists I’ve heard since Life Without Buildings’ Sue Tompkins holds forth in a clipped, naïve, mid-European sort of fashion that remains entirely his own.
Individual taste may vary of course, and the slower cuts test my patience a bit, but generally I’m inclined to believe that this strange bunch are really on to something. Specifically, their songs exhibit a kind of dead-pan musical humour which charms the pants off me, as exemplified by the triumphant guitar non-solo (refusal to solo?) which forms the LOL-worthy highlight of stand-out track From Never To Once.
Chris Forsyth / Peoples Motel Band.
Back to the hairy handed jamming meanwhile, and… do you know this Chris Forsyth guy? His voluminous catalogue seems to have passed me by up to now, and in truth I’ve yet to really reach a decision on the extent to which I’d wish to recommend it, but if you find yourself with a hankering for some unashamedly manly, free form classic rock guitar noodling in a ‘Dead-on-steroids kind of vein (and who doesn’t every now and then?), there is lots, and I mean lots, of it to dig into here, and this recent live album recorded with the band Garcia Peoples feels like a good place to start. In stark contrast to Lewsberg, when this dude says, “I play the guitar”, he ain’t foolin’.
And last but not least – this new album from The Necks is an absolute banger! I know, hold the front page, right? How such a long-standing group can remain so immaculately consistent whilst simultaneously managing to break new ground within the carefully-monitored constraints of their “always different, always the same” methodology frankly defies all reason, and has done for many years. Given that I’ve long since given up on trying to find new ways to put the unique alchemy of what they do into words, let’s simply say that, for my money, ‘Three’ is their best, most instantly striking and thoroughly engrossing recording since the ‘Unfold’ double LP set in 2017, distinguished by a zen-like internal symmetry (three tracks, three musicians) whose refusal to countenance the horrendous prospect of a blank fourth side presumably explains why they’ve opted to skip a vinyl edition this time around.
Thursday, March 19, 2020
Bandcamp Revenue-free Friday Recommendations.
Following up on my hopelessly naive post from earlier this week, you’ll probably already be aware that Bandcamp have announced that they will be waiving their revenue share on all sales made this Friday, allowing all revenue to go straight to the artists and/or labels.
Now, Bandcamp ain’t perfect (I know some people have issues), but it’s probably about as ethical a way to buy/enjoy music as exists when face-to-face interaction is no longer an option, especially during the window when they’re kindly not grabbing their own cut off the top, and if there is one rallying cry that can surely unite us in these dark, working-from-homey times, it’s “fuck Spotify”, right?
As such then, here is a swift list of a few things new and (slightly) old I will buying on Friday.
Mako Sita / Hamid Drake – Ronda
I just today discovered this 2018 collaboration between ubiquitous avant-jazz luminary Hamid Drake and “Chicago’s premier free-rock trio” Mako Sita (whom I confess have passed me by until now), and my freaking god, it’s exquisite. Sounds like Ennio Morricone, Charles Mingus and Alessandro Alessandroni recording a soundtrack to a moody, post-apocalyptic spy thriller set in the Near East. Kind of fits the current mood quite nicely, if you want to go there. Partially recorded at Electrical Audio (tho not with Albini), the sheer SOUND of this thing is incredible…. just a hugely evocative mess of all-points brilliance. [The same line-up of players have a follow up album currently on pre-order from the Astral Spirits label, and the sample track is equally inspired.]
Slum of Legs – s/t LP
Slight cheat here, because technically I already own this, but I was incredibly happy to discover earlier this month that Slum of Legs, one of the most exciting, idiosyncratic and imaginative bands to have emerged from the UK DIY milieu in recent memory, have returned from a five year hiatus with their first full length LP, and that furthermore it’s pretty brilliant, mixing wildly exuberant renditions of all the great songs I remember them playing back in the day with a bunch of equally inspired new material.
Very much deserving of a full write-up at some point in the future, but for the moment, let’s just say that the six members of Slum of Legs still sound like an unruly gaggle of entirely disparate, equally strong voices, all pulling in different directions whilst still somehow coalescing into some unholy, unified whole that’s almost, well, pop, Jim, but not as we know it. I hate reviews that end with “For Fans of…” lists with a passion, but if you can find me another band somewhere in the world whose hypothetical list might include The Mekons, Broadcast, The Raincoats, Marianne Faithful, Rudimentary Peni and Fad Gadget, I’d probably really like to hear them. Thanks in advance.
Tamikrest – Chatma
Playing some of the best Tuareg rock (can’t quite ring myself to call it ‘desert blues’) I'ver heard this side of the mighty Tinariwen, Tamikrest have been about for at least a decade, but they’re a new discovery to me. They too have a new record on pre-order this month, but further investigation soon led me back to this 2013 release, which rules pretty mightily. The band’s line-up seems to have undergone a fair few changes over the years, but this earlier release is definitely enhanced by the presence of female vocalist Wonou Walet Sidati, whose declamatory, pop-savvy style and defiant presence in the midst of what is still very much a male-dominated sphere adds a real fire to these fret-blazin’, hand-clapping songs of displacement, defiance, struggle and survival.
As ever, bands from this scene/genre represent a strange paradox, in that they are professional touring outfits who enjoy a higher profile, bigger bookings etc than most of the other contemporary groups I’m liable to cover on a blog like this, but at the same time it’s a fair bet that, as members of an embattled and disenfranchised itinerant culture without a homeland to call their own, they still really, really need your effing money right now, more so than, say, some guy in Leeds or Chicago with a day job in IT. Not that that really matters one way or another in view of the fact that their music rocks like an absolute bastard and is assured worth a few dollars of anyone’s pay cheque purely on its own merits, but y’know what I mean.
Headroom – Head in the Clouds
2017 debut LP of fog-shrouded, heavy-lidded fuzz-psych bliss-out from Kryssi Battalene & friends over in New Haven, CT, previously discussed in these pages on several occasions. Nuff said, I should hope.
Bridget Hayden - Pure Touch Only From Now On, They Said So: Outtakes
A late addition to the line-up, Bridget Hayden – who I was looking forwarding to seeing live last week, pre-cancellation – has just uploaded a set of ‘outtakes’ from her exceptionally affecting ‘Pure Touch Only..’ album from 2018 [also available here]. Forlorn, elegiac and beautiful in the sense that that vision of hell at the end of ‘The Beyond’ is beautiful, her quasi-abstract, elemental shut-in blues should provide some appropriately uneasy catharsis for our grim, collective-yet-isolated current predicament.
The Bevis Frond – various records
Meanwhile, I will also be buying some digital albums from The Bevis Frond, because I like The Bevis Frond at the moment. Listening to them makes me feel comfortable and happy, and he/they have more-or-less an entire lifetime’s worth of music up on bandcamp, so this is a good opportunity to fill some of the gaps in my collection. Frankly, if Nick Saloman were to knock on my door and ask for twenty quid, I’d be happy to oblige, so getting about six hours of music into the bargain seems like a good deal all round.
Away from Bandcamp meanwhile, let it simply be said that if London’s best venue Café Oto closes as a result of all this kerfuffle, I for one will be pissed. Their in-house Otoroku label has a huge archive of releases & live recordings available for download – and they also offer a range of downloads in collaboration with the aforementioned & generally great Astral Spirts label - so please, fill yr boots and empty yr virtual wallets upon their counter.
(Regarding other ‘best venue’ contenders meanwhile, DIY Space For London can always be donated to here; I’m not sure if there’s any remote way to support New River Studios or Pulse Studios in Walthamstow during their inevitable periods of closure, but if you know better please let me know.)
Monday, March 16, 2020
Just a Quick Thought…
Given that every single music event or film screening I had pencilled in in my diary for the next few months is now officially cancelled or postponed, it’s difficult to imagine that much of the always precarious world of DIY / non-state sponsored culture will even still exist when we emerge from the other end of this damned thing.
Thus – an idea. A very obvious one, admittedly, so apologies if I’m just reiterating something everyone’s already been talking about elsewhere, but I don’t do social media, so I’ll just throw it out there.
1. If you’re lucky enough to be a music-making person whose work at least some other people know about and like, now is very much the time for home recording. Dust off that long-neglected solo project, play gargantuan improv jams with your co-habitants, wood-shed new songs – whatever.
2. When you’ve made something, put it online to download, for some money. This money should then be donated in its entirety to your nearest decent music venue / community space / pub / rehearsal space / etc, because god knows, those guys are going to need it.
And, that’s it. Creative, fun, can stave off cabin fever and could be genuinely helpful re: ensuring a future in which we can still get together to listen to horrible loud music and drink beer, if enough people were to get going on it.
(And needless to say, if you’re in an existing band/music entity that already sells stuff online, please consider donating proceeds from that too, assuming you don’t desperately need it to recover manufacturing costs and/or pay rent.)
I realise that posting stuff on ye olde weblogs isn’t exactly an A+ way of getting an idea out there in 2020, but if yr reading and you like this idea, please do pass it on via less luddite-ish means.
Tuesday, March 10, 2020
(1938 - 2020)
We interrupt these Frist Quarter Report posts for a few words on pianist McCoy Tyner, whose death was announced earlier this week.
I’m poorly placed to undertake an obit for Tyner, in that his entire (vast) catalogue as a band leader / solo artist remains a blind spot for me, and I know next to nothing of his life and times, personality or beliefs. But, I’ve been on a big John Coltrane kick over the past year or so, and during that time, it’s been McCoy’s contributions to his work through the first half of the ‘60s which have most consistently knocked me out.
Time after time, recordings begin with Trane laying down the law, as is only right and proper, but after that first solo / chorus part / whatever, it’s Tyner’s coveted 2nd solo spot that can really spin yr head around, whether digging baroque new variations out of the architecture of some standard or show tune in the earlier years of their collaboration, or riding serene and siren-like across the broiling sea of chaos once the free/spiritual currents began to take hold. To call his playing “inspired” in this context would be shallow, obvious and unnecessary, but what else can I do with these clumsy, bear-like word-paws?
I know – randomly pick a couple of examples from roughly either end of Tyner’s Trane journey which highlight the singular nature his artistry. That’s what I can do. Here then is ‘Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise’ from ‘Live at the Village Vanguard’ (1961), and ‘Compassion’ from ‘Meditations’ (1965). On the latter in particular, it’s almost impossible to believe that both hands hammering the piano belong to the same human being; just extraordinary, ambidextrous stuff, perfectly controlled whilst simultaneously sailing off in ten completely different directions. Enjoy.
Tuesday, March 03, 2020
First Quarter Report # 5:
Louis Moholo Octet –
Spirits Rejoice! LP
And, on the reissues front meanwhile…
South African drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo (he added an extra ‘Moholo’ at some point subsequent to this recording, in deference to family/cultural traditions) first came to the UK as a member of pioneering Cape Town jazz group The Blue Notes, who collectively relocated to London in 1964. As recounted in a chapter of Joe Boyd’s memoir ‘White Bicycles’ covering the author’s work with the band, The Blue Notes trod a hard road to put it mildly as they tried to establish a place for themselves within the era’s marginal and diffuse British jazz scene, with hard drugs, bad living and, eventually, premature death putting a significant dent in their stride as the members gradually drifted apart and went their separate ways.
Pianist Chris McGregor of course went on to great things with his Brotherhood of Breath, but Moholo-Moholo has likewise kept the fire burning right up to the present day, first hitting back against adversity with his 1978 debut LP as band leader, ‘Spirits Rejoice!’. Reissued late last year on Café Oto’s Otoroku label, the album showcases the impressively massive-sounding eight-piece ensemble the drummer assembled to play the heavily African-influenced compositions he and his fellow countrymen (including bassist Johnny Dyani, featured here) had collectively knocked up, and the sheer, overwhelming greatness of the results is difficult to overstate.
In addition to the aforementioned players, the octet comprises Keith Tippett on piano, Harry Miller doubling up the bass, and a full quartet of brass players including two trombonists (Radu Malfatti & Nick Evans) alongside free improv luminary Evan Parker on sax and gifted stylistic all-rounder Kenny Wheeler on trumpet -- and right from the outset, this thing is just as much of a joyous riot of incendiary sound as you might have hoped.
Opener ‘Khanya Apho’ finds Parker and Wheeler dropping sloshing puddles of searing post-Ayler skronk across a tempestuous rhythmic work-out, as the declamatory, melodic trombone riffs which open the piece are soon submerged in a writhing sea of happy chaos. Probably the album’s highlight, the following ‘You Ain’t Gonna Know Me Cos You Think You Know Me’ (composed by Blue Notes alumnus Mongezi Feza) is considerably mellower, but even more revelatory in its own way, mustering a swaggering, Elephantine swing from the brass players, whose gentle, insistent melodicism and massed, sinuous groove could part the clouds amid a Pacific tsunami and raise a smile from a death row inmate, I daresay. Play it at some more celebratory occasion, such as a street party or carnival, meanwhile and bliss would swiftly be achieved, guaranteed. It’s just such an unrelentingly generous, happy piece of music, its hard-won, monolithic positivity is difficult to put into words.
Subsequent to that, the similarly blue-skied cosmic/modal workout ‘Ithi-gqi’ proves equally sublime, with dizzying depths of interlocking, twinkle-fingered majesty that could have fitted right in on a late ‘60s Pharaoh or Alice joint – just absolutely stunning. Those declamatory brass riffs ring out again meanwhile on side 2’s ‘Amaxesha Osizi’, sounding like the ceremonial entrance music of some long forgotten, jewel-bedecked Nubian monarch, before the composition slides headfirst across eras and continents to become a slinky, hard-bop workout with Parker very much out in front, his playing as lyrical, compassionate and otherly inspired as ever, holding court until Tippett’s piano spins things off in a different direction entirely with some brain-breaking double-speed repetition, before things slow down again for a euphoric burst of collective ecstasy in the piece’s closing minutes. Whoa! - is about the only verdict I can muster.
And finally, accompanied by live (?!) bird song, the closing ‘Wedding Hymn’ reprises the indelible central riff from ‘You Ain’t Gonna Know Me..’ in appropriately solemn, matrimonial fashion, seguing into a beautiful, melancholic solo from Wheeler, gradually expanding into a lengthy, blissed out honeymoon night reverie from the entire ensemble.
There’s so much going on across the course of ‘Spirits Rejoice!’, so many musical, geographic and historical currents overlapping and intersecting, that picking it all apart would prove a formidable task – and a potentially headache-inducing and unnecessary one, I would suggest. For all the big names and notions involved here, this album is absolutely not the kind of disc you need to be some kind of jazz buff to appreciate.
On the contrary, the music herein is just so massively, overwhelmingly enjoyable, so welcoming and universal in its appeal, that it seems like a better idea to quit analysing it altogether, to quit yakking and instead just to drink it all in, exalting in the fact that it exists and is here with us on whatever’s left of planet earth. It’s a language-killing, thought-stopping, gate-opening, soul-fortifyingly amazing record, in the best possible way. It is aptly named, in short.
(Vinyl copies are still available direct from Café Oto at the time of writing.)
Saturday, February 29, 2020
First Quarter Report # 4:
Ryte – s/t LP
(Heavy Psych Sounds)
Staying on a European stoner-rock tip, Ryte appear to dwell somewhere in the vicinity of Vienna, and, though there are a few moments on their self-titled LP which find them stretching out into more atmospheric realms as the fog of feedback ebbs and flows between chords, for the most part they’re keeping it simple here. Which is to say, Ryte deal in riffs. Also solos, plenty of solos. But mainly riffs. Sweet riffs, crushing riffs, comfortingly familiar riffs, cool, tricky riffs, searing, melodic riffs - riffs atop riffs, and verily, these are GOOD riffs. And, to some extent, that’s all that needs to be said here really. Ryte’s riffs, meet the ears of rock fans. You guys are gonna get along great, I just know it!
Fifty word reviews just ain’t the way we roll around here however, so let’s dig deeper. Keeping things about 90% instrumental, Ryte open the first of four extended cuts on their LP with a dense swirl of wah n’ delay-blasted, overdubbed guitar tendrils, sounding not unlike the kind of eternal rockist nirvana envisioned by Mike Vest in his more recent projects, before things eventually thicken up into a meatier, low-end groove which sounds quite a lot like Sleep - a comparison which remains in play across much of the subsequent half hour, particularly coming to the fore during the rare moments in which vocals intrude upon proceedings.
As anyone who has ever detuned an E string in an unventilated room will tell you however, sounding quite a lot like Sleep is easier said than done, and Ryte celebrate their overwhelming success in the doing department by overlaying their riffery with further sick, self-indulgent lead shredding. Also, more riffs. Sweet!
‘Raging Mammoth’! ‘Shaking Pyramid’! Yes, these are the kind of things pieces of music like this should be called, and I commend artist Sandra Havik for her valiant attempts to literally illustrate these concepts on the album’s front cover. Side 2’s ‘Monolith’ is dutifully depicted on the back cover meanwhile, whilst the accompanying track mixes things up somewhat, heading in a more trad metal direction, bringing in NWBHM-ish harmonic leads and moving from curious, almost jazzy/modal passages early on toward some positively Maiden-esque adventures in mid-tempo, dragon-slaying guitar heroism. Probably the all-round best cut here, it’s pretty damn immense.
And as for fourth/final cut ‘Invaders’… well, I suppose the mammoth and/or pyramid might be seen to be ‘invading’ in some more general sense, but otherwise, no dice, art-wise. Music-wise, it proves a a bit of an outlier too, following up a few minutes of consummate – though by this point standard issue – riffage with a member of the band with a reedy, somewhat theatrical voice taking the mic to holler about “space invadeeeeers”, followed up by some seriously wacky theremin action. Hmm.
So: pretty much a “what’s not to like?” scenario here, I’m thinking. Totally flawless, psyched-out riff-rock / full-on metal with a slight edge of off kilter weirdness? Yes please! Frankly I’d be heading to leave this spinning for a good few weeks even without the off kilter weirdness, but it’s all to the good. Nothing ground-breaking here perhaps, but utter, self-indulgent fun of the highest order, destined to keep me putting one foot in front of the other for weeks to come.
Wednesday, February 26, 2020
First Quarter Report # 3:
Domonautas Vol # 1 LP
Returning to the astral plain of pure musical escapism, Domo hail from the golden city of Alicante. Their name doubles as a Japanese honorific (“domo arigato”, etc), which pleases me, and their debut ‘Domonautas Vol # 1’ LP (on the German Clostridium label) finds them infusing their consummate stoner/space-rock with a heroic dose of pre-‘Dark Side..’ Floyd / early King Crimson styled compositional ambience, which pleases me yet further, fooling me for forty-odd minutes into imagining all is right with the world.
For, as long as the dusty string/brass/choral textures drift past like a twilight frolic through Bosch’s Garden on the opening ‘Oxymoron’, languid bass walkin’ the dog until those pyramid-robbin’, Eastern-tinged riffs crash down at precisely the right moment for an extended interplanetary grind on second cut ‘Astródomo’ … we have no cause to worry.
Though they may initially seem to be lurking somewhere on the same general vacinity as Denmark’s Causa Sui and the El Paraiso label, aesthetically-speaking, Domo achieve a mellower, more approachable sound here, digging deeper into the feel (rather than merely form) of their vintage influences, leaving their music enriched by fading echoes of bucolic, analogue-era psych alongside their sinister metal void-gazin’ and, crucially, exhibiting a greater veneration for the supremacy of The Almighty Groove.
If there’s a lot of prog in the mix, well, rest assured, this is prog in the best possible sense of the world, valuing a sense of collective expression over individual ego-trips from the players (though there are, naturally, plenty of ripping solos to enjoy too), making – to my ears at least – for a supremely generous quartet of semi-side long jams, epic as you like whilst keeping a careful check on the bombast, making sure heads keep nodding all the way to the silver gates of infinity. (The cyclical riff on side 2’s ‘Rituel del Sol’ is particularly immense in this respect.)
Basically, this record sounds like it’s cover art (by Maarten Donders) looks, to the extent that I’d wager your instinctive reaction to the cover will very likely mirror your response to the music within. If you have no space for this in your life, I won’t judge you, but personally, I’m down with it.
(Up close you can even see the brush strokes and the texture of the canvas reproduced on the LP cover, it looks smashing. I wish it was made of that lovely textured card material you sometimes get on old ‘70s albums, but shit, can’t have everything right? Might as well demand to see it adorning the walls of some candle-lit beach house, waves crashing upon the shore outside. It’s a lovely package anyway, and I’m happy merely to own this LP; well worth the eye-watering sum you’ll likely pay to some delivery firm to place one in yr hands.)
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