Monday, May 23, 2005

An Amtrak train through the Southwest is sort of like Moss Eisley on wheels. Every kind of human and celestial ride upon its buckling frame on an even keel across a vast and desolate landscape. I saw and conversed with Indians (from India), a 74 yr old guy I will call Bob dressed like a train engineer with earrings, a fellow who resembled Sammy Hagar (sadly the most recent incarnation) named Ted. Ted showed me a pic of he and Gary Busey that looked like Gary and Sammy. Met an actor from the film "Waking Life" who resembled a young Malcolm X, en route to Austin no less. He had just one line. Listened to Jack Rose rolling across the Arizona sand at 3 AM. There were dangerous lolitas, bald ruffians (who no doubt split their time between the railroad and the lockup), mobile outlaws, beached whales, the health impaired (read as terminally ill) and every other kind of person (had breakfast with two cops one morning--sweet dudes!) all sharing in the common task of going to or from somewhere. The more discussions I had with folks, on and off the train, the more I could see the appeal of this mode of travel. It was long and disorienting. Day and night blurred together. The train bounced and swayed on the tracks, one car after the other, as if they were all together a massive 100 ton kite tail fluttering in the wind.

It's easier to be yourself when your past/future successes/failures are hundres of miles and dozens of hours behind/in front of you.

In the past five days I've seen live:

--The Books
--The Boredoms
--Six Organs of Admittance, The Blithe Sons, Sean Smith
--Om, Six Organs of Admittance (again)
--Six Organs of Admittance (one more time at an Amoeba instore...could I be a fanatic? Watch this space!)

What else? Much walking, hiking, riding, drinking, smoking, flexing, decking (I knocked a trolly driver cold) and finally resting ensued. I bought some records at Amoeba (impressive place!):

--Jackson C. Frank "Blues Run the Game: Special Extended Edition" 2CD (Sanctuary)
--Kevin Ayers "Joy of a Toy" [with bonus tracks] CD (EMI)
--Residual Echoes "S/t" CD (Holy Mountain)
--Bert Jansch "Rosemary Lane" CD (Castle)
--High On Fire/Ruins Split 7" (Relapse/Skingraft)

I will write more on all of this for the next Foxy Digitalis update and post some pictures when I hit my home PC in a few days...

Monday, May 16, 2005

This one looks like essential listening:

Volcano the Bear "Catonapotato" (Broken Face/Digitalis)

Certain things just need to be seen and heard to be believed. One of these things is to experience England, Leicester combo Volcano the Bear in the live setting. Nothing I ever say will accurately describe that evening last year when I made the trip down to the unlikely setting of their first Swedish gig (the art museum in Norrköping, a mid-sized town in Southern Sweden) but it goes without saying that it was a night of pure magic and brilliance.

Volcano the Bear was formed in 1995 with the constant idea of being a group with uncompromising and boundless ideas, and they’ve always tried to aim for a live environment where they can do pretty much whatever they please. This results in a live show that beyond grandiose sonic qualities blends the very essence of key words such as surreal, shifting moods, myriad of instruments, humor, beauty and to a certain degree even self-indulgence. That being said, these sonic transgressors are not for everyone but if you’re a fan of free-form improvisations, free jazz, weird drones, pagan folk, whimsical acoustic pieces, disjointed percussive riffs, crackling electronics and actually own more than one record by either the Sun City Girls, This Heat, Faust, Residents, The Shadow Ring or Captain Beefheart than you owe it to yourself to check these cats out.

If you’re not as lucky as me when it comes to attending Volcano the Bear shows I am happy to report that Catonapotato is a perfect example of what they are capable of in the live setting. All eight tracks presented here were recorded live by the duo of Aaron Moore and Nick Mott at four different occasions in 2004. These four shows took place in Leicester (England), Paris (France), Norrk√∂ping (Sweden) and Sheffield (England) and all broadcasts different sides of this talented duo. The number of styles explored throughout seems endless, though words like free, folk and jazz keep popping into my head. Catonapotato is not necessarily free jazz or free folk, but it does indeed display music that is completely free from any sort of constraint and structure. It just floats along however it wants to with the aid of squeaking and skronking horns, corrosive string massage and hypnotic drums that more than once approaches the tribal. It’s mainly an instrumental affair although some vocals come up on a few tracks and as if all this wasn’t enough we’re served some incongruous electric guitar rhythms that recalls the Sun City Girls at their very best.

All in all, it's just a brilliant sonic excursion down a musical path very few are brave enough to follow these days, and along the way the band manages to explain exactly why the true environment for Volcano the Bear is the live setting. If you never have come across this band before I honestly believe that you never have heard anything quite like it. This is meditation music for the drone/noise generation.
The Music Field Lovers Companion Festival is the event of the season, not to mention the first official live Jandek performance. The show at Instal last year actually featured a representative from Corwood Industries. Corwood will be releasing a live album of that show soon. Another once in a lifetime proposition arrives imminently:

Friday 20 May:

Keiji Haino: ‘The Secret of Music’ [a special 4 hour solo set using more than 40 instruments]

Saturday 21 May:

Vibracathedral Orchestra
My Cat Is An Alien
Kazuo Imai
Luc Ferrari & eRikm: “Les ProtoRythmiques”
Takehisa Kosugi

Sunday 22nd May:

Jandek
Nmperign
Shuji Inaba
Kyoaku No Intention [Munehiro Narita/ Shoji Hano]

I wish I could be there, but going to be watching Six Organs of Admittance and The Blithe Sons under a cathedral of sequoias. Check it:

May 20 & 21 Folk Yeah Weekend Mini Festival at Fernwood:

Friday, May 20th:

Six Organs of Admittance
The Blithe Sons
Sean Smith

Saturday, May 21:
BrightBlackMorninLight
Little Wings
Mire
Peggy Honeywell

Saturday, May 14, 2005

More music blab...

Wooden Wand and the Vanishing Voice is another name to keep an eye on in the "new folk happenings." "Xiao" was issued on CD recently by Troubleman, long gone vinyl version some time earlier on De Stijl. Tower Recordings come to mind, and other destroyed folkies of the late 60s/early 70s, but this runs on its own delirium as heard on the slow melting opener, which features echo drenched spoken word on morality/Christ over archaic bells and droning harmonium. Throw in stumbling acid guitar from the stone age, fem siren songs and other charming effects, all informed by a preternatural beauty that never really relents, you've pretty much stumbled onto the archetype for stoned enlightenment. No idea why Troubleman issued this, aside from cashing in on the "stoner folk" revival. Whatevs...

Where's da pop? Somewhere within Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti. This fucked up freak porridge isn't going to take over the charts. Most folk'll give ya sharp crack to the cheek if you throw "Worn Copy" (Paw Tracks) on the changer. It sounds like it was recorded on third generation tape. The guitar tone is straight out of the Fisher Price catalog. And the songs...well they're a bit iffy on first listen. It's hard to tell whether Ariel means to whisk us away to a swirling sonic wonderland or just make us giggle in a plume of pink smoke. Maybe both? Can't help but listen to these rinky dink recordings of prog/psych/funk/hiphop and wonder what they'd sound like in a real studio. If Ariel wanted to he could probably be the next Death in Vegas 0r Beck, but for now I will happily settle for his lunatic, ramshackle madness in the bedroom. If read as negative criticism, you miss my point. It's a simple fact that this guy can take such seemingly disparate elements as early 90s lo-fi fuzz like Guided By Voices, Kraftwerk, Prince, Beach Boys, a borrowed 8-track and meld uniquely musical results. Get past the hiss and mud and you just might discover the first viable collection of original psychedelic muzawk of the new millennium.

Samara Lubelski can be heard cooing like a stoned cherub with the Hall of Fame; the haunted "Waves of Stations" is a sad little gem that I return to often in my more romantically detatched mixtape moments. She's also played with and/or recorded the Tower Recordings, Sightings, but who knew she was such an incredible songwriter in her own right? "Fleeting Skies" (Social Registry) offers 10 delicate strokes of vaguely psychedelic folk pop that's heavily inspired by Nick Drake (and Vashti!) and comes wrapped in a warm, austere production that would make Joe Boyd blush with envy. BUT it's all sung in Samara's blissfully enchanting register, which is about the most hypnotic voice in the world. Tasteful string swells on a few tracks, but mostly stripped down and direct. This Foxy Digitalis review goes into more detail. And looky here...a feature! One of the debuts of 04.

Birchville Cat Motel's latest is arguably his greatest. "Chi Vampires" (Celebrate Psi Phenomenon) builds from a murmur to a wail like the cosmic foreplay that eventually sparked the Big Spooge (though I realize that's a theoretically inept metaphor). BCM does seem to somehow chronicle the sonic trajectories of the heaviest, oldest elements in the universe with great skill. The results alternate between blissful layered minimal tones, harsh alien dreamscapes and tidal flows of distorted metallic screech. Definitely something for everyone here, and the final track (a mass of tinkling piano, feedback swells and power chord thunder) is one of the most perfect BCM numbers in history. Few will ever reach such heights, unless maybe they're hanging off of the wings of this beauty. Fookin' A.

Earth is surely one of the bands that Mr. Kneale of BCM spun regularly in his developmental phase. BCM's music sometimes sounds like a more ethereal counterpart to this legendary Seattle group's turgid subharmonics. Earth basically invented "ambient doom" back in 92 with the release of "Earth2" (Sub Pop), and then kind of faded from the scene as other groups like Boris and Sunn0))) emerged to fill the void, literally, with rumbling waves of hellish sludge that often sounded like Earth2 on 'roids. On board here to offer retoolings of various Earth originals are Mogwai, Sunn0))), Jim O'Rourke, Russell Haswell, Justin Broadrick and more unleashing long spindly deep drone scapes that go from gastrointestinal ooze to Fripp-trippy ambient dreams.

Lau Nau is another stunning arrival on the avant scene as far as I'm concerned. She plays/has played with many familiar Finn noise/folk ensembles at this point, but her solo work on "Kuutarha" (Locust) is probably most comparable to that of her friend Islaja. It's dainty, fractured folk with layered vox that somehow sort of instantly burrow their way into the heart and mind. All sung in her native language, I can't help but listen and think it wouldn't really be possible without the earlier voice/guitar workouts of the Charalambides, yet Lau Nau takes it further out on the ethnodrone ledge and weaves some incredibly alluring aural hypnosis that is entirely of her own making. Moments of this record are about as blissful and raw as anything I've come across in my heady trips through the musical hinterlands.

Finally got something by the Weird Weeds, a self released CD-R called "Hold Me" (Edition Manifold), and I'm happy to report that this is an utterly entrancing work. I think Digitalis will reissue it at some point, so hopefully more people will get a chance to soak up what I can't really put a name on. I can think of bands that come to mind across the expanse of these 10 charming art pop ditties, though--Maher Shalal Hash Baz, the Curtains, Gastr Del Sol and few others. Such comparisons are not made lightly, either. Warmly recorded, vocals often quite upfront (boy and girl) with a delicate--almost psych light at times--lead guitar sound, rougher rhythm strums, plaintive bass and percussion that goes from free jazz airiness to booming rhythms and back again. Addictive and haunting every step of the way. Great expectations, indeed.

Could we be saving the best for last? It's possible. Long Live Death's "Bound to the Wheel" is one extremely enchanting serving of modern psychedelic folk. It sounds very much like the quintessential Secret Eye release: The loud percussion, the rampant acoustic instrumentation, bowed saws, old world pagan folk structures, haunted vocals, stoned to the bone production--it's all here. And thankfully the actual songs are stunners, too. This will appeal to fans of the Angels of Light and the Iditarod equally, and it's far too unique for such lazy comparisons. But it's late and I'm tired, so that'll do, pig. That'll do.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

So... erm Carnivale (the great HBO show about the impending apocalypse set in a traveling carnival during the dustbowl era) was cancelled. Tragic, really. Nothing else on TV comes even remotely close. Someone started a blog dedicated to saving it somehow, some way, somewhere. I'm not typically one for causes, but this one looks worth the fight.
A few quick notes:

Angels of Light/Akron Family gig went off without a hitch 2 nights ago in Big D. Akrons totally smoke live, like a barnyard Zeppelin crossed with the Band (dynamite 4 part harmonies way up in front). The heaviness was a welcome surprise, and they manage to recreate the depth of the studio album easily enough. A few shimmering crescendos, hilarious banter, spontaneous bird song, sheer joy and boundless energy unleashed excessively. They came off sort of like the shadow band that actually played all of the Monkees material... At least that's how Gira described them at one point, and it works.

This incarnation of the Angels of Light (with the 4 Akrons backing Gira) is just about the best one yet. The older songs had a more noticeable twang. The loud parts were louder. At one point Gira stood strumming his black acoustic bent over and shook his ass as he spanked himself repeatedly. No lie. They played a Dylan cover--"I Pity the Poor Immigrant"--and one seriously heavy trance/blues number that'll be released on their upcoming split album which will be recorded after the European tour. Those on the East Coast and Over There really oughtta take advantage of this singular live experience. Still some dates to see yet... Click 'news' for more info here: http://www.younggodrecords.com.

Love ya'll....

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Props to MC for standing up to the vultures in the MJ trial. I've barely followed along and don't care to, really, but something in me sees Culkin as a genuinely credible witness. He's been through the media grinder and made it out relatively unhinged and could probably smell a ratt like Cory Feldman from a mile away. Not saying I think MJ is innocent or that I even care one way or the other. I just think the whole mess is sad, evil to its core, and the accusers and hovering vultures are the real molesters. MJ's been in prison for years now anyway, life without parole as a walking cadaver. Just imagine being him for a few seconds... OK, that's enough.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Have you heard of the Vegetable Man Project? Italian psych indie Oggetti Volanti hopes to release 50 volumes of 1000 different versions (!) of Syd Barrett's titular classic by the year 2030. They're up to Vol. 5 currently. Though I've not heard them all, 1 is truly a worthy document with versions that range from a cappella sung in the shower to the most destroyed acid pop explosions. Each copy of Vol. 1 came with unique artwork by the contributors, some of which can be glimpsed here. They're also looking for future contributors. Any Nordic black metalers wanna give it a shot?

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Yet another ridiculous as fuck link between lsd and infanthood. Very cool.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

So my skull got a little warped last night...

Thanks to Mr. Bacon for the visual aid. If you've never smoked hashish and gotten lost amid the resonating overtones of Mirror's "Under The Sun," try it one day. I then found myself spinning Excepter's "Ka" repeatedly and being completely charmed by its thumping dub-space industrial disco hoe-downs. I also made spiritual love with my best friend. Can't think of a better way to remove one's self from the enclosed tentacles of the society dragon than to reassign the most fundamental meanings, values, artistic statements of any given civilization. That's how it felt last night.

A different friend informed me recently that a unit in her apartment complex was burning down, and given that I've had various friends almost die in apartment fires over the last few years, I felt some sort of protest folk poem was necessary.

"Apartment Livin'"

Apartment livin',
It's your life that you're givin'.
Renting to owe,
Never be on your own.
All alone in a manmade honeycomb of drones.

Apartment livin',
It's your favorite misgivin'.
Chewing the bone, you hear your neighbors groan.
No green fields to roam, never have your own home...
Without a low finance loan.

Apartment livin',
Look at it this way:
You just might own it all one day...
And then when you do...
The landlord is you,
And still nothing gets fixed.
Either way you're still dicked.

Go ahead light that fire...
When you're apartment livin'.
Renting to drown. Goin up, goin' down,
It's bad on the knees.
Can't get no relief.
It's your soul that you're givin'...
When you're apartment livin'.