Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Keith Jarrett - The Koln Concert

Outside of The Ragbirds show the other night, i had a conversation with a guy with pupils like flying saucers, who told me about this record, describing is as, "ripping your tongue out of yr head, so you can taste the universe." That is probably the best possible album review, and highest possible recommendation one could receive in these parts. I don't think i could do any better.
What you get is 55 minutes of solo piano sublimity, completely improvised in Cologne, Germany in 1975. During the journey, you hear flashes of sacral 20th century classical music, boogie-woogie, stride piano; often bluesy, jazzy. Surprisingly sweet, tender, heartfelt, resounding with passion as you hear his whoops, hollers, foot pounding the boards. This record is ALIVE, frozen and transported through time, containing all of the best possible strengths of improvised music. What strikes me the most is hearing him singing along with what his fingers are playing, demonstrating the sounds he hears in his head, and his mastery of manifesting them on this Earth.
After the staggering recommendation i received, i got this record and just let it play. It holds up amazingly well to repeat listening, offer new delights each time. Can be engaging, or just nice mood music. Great to read, to study, to sleep, and at this present moment, to stare out the window of my second story bedroom at the early spring, monochromatic sky.
Highly recommended!
The Koln Concert

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

No Monster Club

No Monster Club, formerly Donald Duck Dispensary, is one Bobby Aherne, from Dublin, and he is making rather enjoyable one-man sunny pop music. Bobby, jaunty, optimistic, pick yr adjective, it is rather appropriate for the warming up weather. Considering the bleepy 8-bit melodies, the twee delivery, and colorful presentation, the stars were aligned for me to absolutely HATE this, but i actually rather like it. Considering how much fuzzy lo-fi pop music with 'tropical' accouterments, like shakers, bird calls, and such, it is easy for this kind of thing to get lost in the shuffle, to sink in the mix. But i feel there is a sincerity here, and it is pretty fun, feel-good music.
Below, i've posted a couple mp3s to check out, links swiped from one Seizure Chicken (awesome blog title, btw,) seeing as how my uploading has been rather finicky lately. So check out their site, as well. No Monster Club will be releasing Tropical Decibels Vol. 1 and 2 on Cass/Flick in the foreseeable future, so keep yr peepers peeled.
Thanks to Bobby for getting in touch. Keep up the good work, mate.

mp3 – No Monster Club -Wish Me Well

mp3 – No Monster Club – Flying Colours

Monday, March 29, 2010

Les Baxter - Ritual of the Savage

I am listening to this, currently, with the intent of reviewing it over here, an Exotica site that i write reviews for. Marco, my editor, is extremely tolerant of posting reviews for whatever random shit i happen to be feeling passionate about that minute, so i am trying to write up some classic exotica that he is so passionate about.
I'm not so passionate about it, myself. I find it interesting, culturally and historically, but i never seem to get beyond a novelty level with the stuff. My skewed brain automatically conjures a perverse 1950s: suburbanites listening to Tiki records as they pop pills and slowly decline into
alcoholism. That being said, there are some real musical innovations being hashed out here, composers dallying with other cultures, as we slowly and falteringly felt out way out of bland, white-bread mono-culturalism. At least they were trying. I've heard it said that the interest in Island Cultures developed from GIs who had been station in Japan and Asia, and thus the idea of Hawaii, the tropical paradise was born.
Like i said, i find the idea of this style of music as a historic curiosity is endlessly fascinating, a unique peak into Cold War era America, people's neurosis and fantasies as filtered through their listening habits. You can grab a sneak peak into the bomb shelters of the American id. Also, this music was designed to be pleasant and unobtrusive. It is fun, upbeat, cocktail hour; its all tans and surf and adventure, chasing beautiful women, wearing nice seats. It is designed to make the listener to feel cosmopolitan and chic. With it. Fans of kitsch, martinis and lounge suits, will go apeshit for this record. And it is a classic, one of THE definitive exotica records, spawning hordes of clones. The song 'Quiet Village,' with its swooping strings, strident piano, and hints of percussion, has been covered more than probably any other exotica track, sometimes with whole albums devoted entirely to it. It is an institution. So those interested in influential music may also find an angle here. And it is masterfully composed, smooth and flowing as the Orinoco, fluttering like colorful plumage. It will soothe away the cares of yr day, relaxing in the hammock of yr mind. It will, no doubt, also improve yr tan, and make you more irresistible to women (don't know about men. This is primarily a bachelor's market).
F0r me, however, i like a little more vinegar in my ears. I no doubt will turn on Messiaen's 'Quartet for the End of Time,' after this, and settle into the comfortable reality of barbed wire and tears. I need discordance, i need chaos. I need burning passion and human endeavoring. I prefer actual world music to the Disney hologram simulacra, even if it means i may not speak the language or might possibly encounter malaria or headhunters. I find it less condescending and less alienating, meeting other people and cultures on their own ground. This music was never designed to be authentic, it is meant to approximate. To be safe, to not rattle the cages of the culture in which was produced, to be in no way offensive. But i've heard it said the purpose of Art is to shake things up, to shatter, a revolution of life and thought. You decide what's right for you.
Ladies and gentleman, i present...

liink removed - but still well worth hearing. If you like this kind of thing...

The Ragbirds

This evening, my buddy Twan dragged me to The Mountain Sun to see his friend's band from Ann Arbor. Sunday is my Friday, so i finished out my work week, even staying a couple extra hours, to jam some trashy '90s house music and frenetically clean.
We made it to the bar a little prior to the second set. The bar mingling scene is not really my cup of jasmine tea, so i took a minute to wander down to the gas station and get a cup of (wonderful) sleazy, Supercharged Circle K coffee, to help perk me up, and get me through the night.
There was an impressively dense throng of people, for a Sunday night at the bar, and the music commenced not long after i arrived. Comprised of the haloed rock trinity of guitarbassdrums, but nicely ornamented by the husband and wife duo of mesmerizing front-woman Erin Zindle on electric fiddle, mandolin, and accordion; and Tim Dzierkan, on percussion. The Ragbirds took us on a tour of various equatorial cultures, most strongly reminding me of Graceland-era Paul Simon, or King Sunny Ade with his sunny African stomp, but also mixing in various South American rhythms, and also throwing in some minor-key Klezmer fiddle work, to prevent diabetic shock, and also to mellow out and let you catch a breath. Make no mistake, this band can ROCK an audience, building it up and breaking it down, from a sweaty maelstrom to a sultry bump 'n grind. All the while, things are rooted in the gentle vocals of Erin Zindle, who coasts and soars over all the clamor going on below, like a breeze through the trees. Sweet, moving, emotional, and very real; i felt like i knew these 5 people after the show.
The Ragbirds have an easy manner, tight yet relaxed and loose. Two of the members are married, and the guitarist, T.J., is Erin's brother. They had some on-stage banter like 'Tell 'em yr story, T.J.,' to announce a solo. This is their 6th or 7th full tour, and they were on the 12th night of a 47 day run. This band has all the makings to truly succeed. If yr in the south, try and catch 'em on some of the dates. I'm posting a link to their tour itinerary, as well as a place where you may purchase their album for a pittance.

Home Page
Finally, Almost Ready

Saturday, March 27, 2010

More Light

Another highlight of my trip to Austin was finally getting to witness J Mascis play. Our paths had criss-crossed at least a dozen times, in the last decade, and due to some bullshit or other, i kept missing him, as my devotion to his squall grew.
More Light, the first record from J Mascis and the Fog featuring Mike Watt on bass and guest-starring Kevin Shields (!!!) and Robert Pollard (although i'm not exactly sure where), came out in 2000. I was just getting out of a marriage, and just about to turn 21, finally able to get into bar shows, after waiting (impatiently) for about 6 years. With my new found freedom, i dove feet first into the indie underground, let the undertow take me away.
One of my first loves, which continues to this day, was shoegazer music. I'd gotten into Slowdive early, and the lush, psychedelic soundscapes wedded to beauty and melancholy were definitely my herbal cup of tea. Loveless blew my fucking head open (still does), and was one of the key components in my decision to start making my own music, to follow this path as far as it would take me. I got into The Fog due to the Kevin Shields connection, never having heard Dinosaur Jr a whole lot. I'm still not all that familiar, to be honest, but i'm working to remedy that.
More Light documents a phase in J's life, in which he was investigating Amma, a Hindu saint, and was seemingly finding a modicum of peace, trading in some of his trademark bitterness and self-hatred for light-hearted jams like 'Same Day' or 'Ammaring', dedicated to the Saint and my personal favorite (which he played in Texas, which has made my year thus far). Make no mistake, however, this record flat out fucking rocks. J's burning, dirtyohsonasty guitar flailing is as choice as ever, if not more so. As i've become more of a fanatical 6 string enthusiast, this guy's skills impress me and draw me into his various projects even more. Not all nastiness, here, some sweetness, some light, some depth; psychedelic flourishes, some tasty tripped out synth (an example can be heard on Ammaring), or the last track, 'More Light', featuring Kevin Shields in all his jet-plane glory. I swear to christ, every thing that man touches turns to dark magick plutonium. This track could be a lost MBV outtake, and for those of us still waiting for Loveless 2.0, we gobble that shit up.
This record conjures a special time in my life, when everything was new and interesting, and i feel that way. It has held up well, over the years, and i still get a tingle when it comes on the speakers. A last trivial footnote, the touring for this record pretty much led directly to The Stooges re-union, as the Asheton brothers would occasionally sit in on the European tour, and they would play classic Stooges' tunes. If anyone has recordings of any of these shows, i'd love to hear 'em.
More Light

Friday, March 26, 2010

True Widows

Another wonderful discovery of my trip to Austin, possibly my favorite , was a trio called True Widow, from Dallas. Guitar, bass, drums; male and female vox. With this, the most quintessential of instrumentation, the SOUND they conjure is staggering, and impressive.
I was outside, on Encore's patio, watching This Will Destroy You (who are also from Texas and also quite wonderful), and i ducked inside to get out of the unexpected chill of the wind. The interior of the Encore is the archetypal Metalhead bar, an axewielder's Nirvana; an enormous oil-paint portrait of Rob Zombie, as well as Sid, G G Allin and a bunch of other heavies. The walls and ceiling corruscated with shivering lights, synchronizing with the music, which was actually pretty neat. And then i hear the SOUND, this velvet wolverine of undulating frequencies, bass drone ecstacy! i am absorbed, swallowed in sound.
In with the vocals, (Nikki Cage, bass, was singing, i believe), and i was mesmerized. The vocals are what really seperate True Widows from the legions of bland, post-rock poseurs. These songs are beautiful, sad, intense, lonely, angry, and they can still rock you like a schooner in a hurricane; all handled so gracefully, so smoothly, letting you be seduced, hypnotized, and left for dead in a ditch in Lousiana.
I offer here, for yr consideration, their self-titled debut, their only recorded output so far, i'm sorry to inform. Hopefully it will convert you to hairy, drooling fanatics as quickly as it has for me, and you will be howling for a sequel. I first heard their record about 3 days ago, and it has been on permanent loop since, with no signs of abating any time soon. It has a dash of Hex-style Earth drone, a hint of Slowdive, a tease of Pixies. It has more of an indie-guitar feel than the p-rock juggernaut i experienced, which just makes me that much more curious for what's to come. No particular stand-out single, in my opinion, i suggest you just let the album sweep you away.

True Widow

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Not Dead, Just Dreaming

Sorry to leave y'all hanging for such a long time. Hopefully, yr individual lives are spinning in a satisfactory fashion. I've spent the last few months getting re-established in my life; new place, new job, new friends, you know the drill. As part of that process, i've been questioning what to do with this little sliver of the internet, if i even felt like picking it back up, if it was necessary to add more music, or more thoughts to the maelstrom. You could go, and find any of this shit any ol' place, probably within 15 seconds.
The reason i started this whole thing in the first place, was the fact that i deeply cared about music and art that has changed and effected my life. It was always intended to be personal, and subjective, and i got into writing reviews as an exercise in how to 'play it straight'. I still hope to learn how to write journalism, but stewing over 'right' and 'proper', let alone 'ethics' and whether my efforts were helping or hurting the cause, left be gagged and silent.
I write this site, cuz i have some things to say. Whether or not those things are interesting to anybody is none of my concern. What i hope to achieve is to have a space with really consistent quality and erratic styles. Seeing as how i spend all day every day sniffing out new and interesting things, i may as well put some of it up here. So i am worrying less about doing things 'right' and 'proper', and just saying whatever the fuck i have to say. However i can think to say it. I hope to put things that are rare and unusual, and believe me, i have come across some pretty fucking rare and unusual stuff in the past 8 months!
The other reason i am resurfacing at this particular moment is that i have just returned from SXSW down in Austin, where i encountered much rad music, and going down there always inspires me to participate in music, writing about, playing as much as possible. So i am coasting on that momentum, and returning to y'all. You were missed.
So my return token is almost arbirtrary, a short little EP by an excellent band called Warpaint, 5 songs and out. I happened upon them, just two days after listening to these songs, at the Mohawk, on a quest for the pisser. They are fabulous live and i recommend seeking them out. 'Burgundy,' the last track, would have to be my pick for single of the week. Insidiously catchy, be warned. I can't wait for them to put out a proper full-length, as this seems to be all they've put out thus far.

Consider this a taste of things to come. If you have anything you'd like reviewed or posted, gimme a shout in the box.

Exquisite Corpse