Thursday, July 20, 2006

An homage to The Broken Face which regularly featured The Playlist: songs, albums or both that each contributor would try his best to email over to Mats G. on a quarterly or so basis. In a world of podcasts and limited run specialty 3" CD-Rs selling out in two weeks, it probably seems like we were holding something back, like the actual music. But then sometimes I'd throw in little capsule reviews or taglines to lend things a slightly more personal aura, which was sort'a nice, right? So here I am actually homaging those playlists in which I included some amount of criticism. I am homaging myself.

The Womblife Summer Playlist
(complete with capsules)

1. Tim Hardin 2 (MGM 1967/Lilith 2006) - I've heard "If I Were a Carpenter" many times, and this version feels a bit more jazzed up than what I'd heard. Otherwise, this is pretty good stuff, tasteful, direct, weepy tender guy songwriter folk stuff from a golden year, which allows one to excuse the more idealistic bits. But then I like that sort of thing, too. It's just that one might listen to this differently after being over exposed to the likes of Townes Van Zandt. Definitely lacks the bite of some of the heavier hitters of the era, but the songs are good and old sorts and young sorts alike should be able to enjoy it together on a sunny afternoon. The tweens and teens will hate it (sorry, kids). This reissue comes on some weird Russian label I've never heard of.

2. John Fahey Vol 6: Days Have Gone By (Takoma) - embarrassing confession. Until a week ago I'd never heard this record. It's true that Womblife is named at least partly in honor of the Fahey album of the same name, and though I am by no means an expert on the man, I consider Fahey to be one of the most important American musicians of the 20th Century. Just about everyone reading this probably agrees. Ah well, preaching to the converted. Going back to Womblife, I'm pretty sure Fahey himself really liked the record. It's a hard album to get into, hard to "get your head around" as they say, landing it squarely in the grower category, and that category only exists for those who dare approach music as something beyond entertainment. Not to say it isn't entertaining--it is--but it's something else too. Womblife is what Fahey considered a genuine musical expression of how he saw the world, of the very concept of primitivism that he embodied. Its extended tracks, recorded and mixed by Jim O'Rourk, convey a sense of crawling menace as ghostly fingerpicked melodies are swarmed by masses of primitive distortion. It's an album bubbling with life, but much of it isn't traditionally harmonious or pleasing. It's more like a contained atmosphere of hostility and beauty. It's an album that speaks to the reality of life now and millions of years ago.

Days Have Gone By is something else. This is the work of the young, agile, and unbeatable Fahey. His spirit is wide and his shadow long here. There is so much detailed, hypnotic beauty in the fingerpicking and compositional depth of these 11 songs. If Womblife was Fahey's attempt to expose the real, this is his even more successful attempt to live in the dream. Snippets of pre WW2 melodies--be they blues, country, jazz or pop--can be found persisting in these songs, and evolving too for a newer consciousness that still dares to display its ancestral links to the past. This is Fahey's ultimate realization of ethnic American music as transcendentalism.

A central debate arises when comparing these two albums. Monica Kendrick's essay in the liners to Days, written just a month after Fahey's death in early 2001, explores the subject sympathetically. What is art, if not truth? I don't mean "truth" as in the final summation of any place or event in time, but I do mean something that is undeniable. Something that one can't really disagree with. Of course that can kick-start a slew of spin-off discussions, but we'll save those for another day. If Womblife is the truth, Days Have Gone By is what we wish the truth really was.

3. Josephine Foster What Is it That Ever Was? (23 Productions) - Our lady wakes up one Winter morning and decides to spontaneously compose and perform an album. What that means is this is sort of a million miles away from her masterfully constructed Hazel Eyes I Will Lead You (Locust) but not without its own charms as Foster plays piano, guitar, knocks shit around percussively, tries on a variety of singing styles and, in the process, exposes an altogether more demented side to her persona that ranges from haunted piano ballads to spontaneous beat poetry / hiphop (really).

4. GHQ "La Poesia Visiva" (Heavy Blossom) - The coolest thing I purchased at the Merc table of the Majik Markers show the other night (and yes, they were pretty good and annoying)--tantric light beam space folk blues noise bliss that was probably recorded in a basement or living room somewhere, but sounds a tad more cosmically divined than such meager origins might suggest. Let it shine, brothers and sisters!

5. Gene Clark White Light (A&M/Universal) - Now this here is what I'm talking about. This is where I'm at. This is where Mr. Hardin wishes he lived. One of my all time favorite songwriter roots folk psych rock sorts of records from one of the all time greats. Songs like "The Virgin," "With Tomorrow," "White Light," "For a Spanish Guitar," "Because of You" and Clark's take on Dylan's "Tears of Rage" are definitive slices of early 70s soul music in the deepest sense of the word, all delivered with the help of primo session musicians, yet it sounds so intimate. Once again, both young and old should be satisfied. The tweens can fuck off.

6. Holger Czukay - A Mix sent to me in a very nice package of goodies from George Parsons, this seems to be select tracks from the first half of Czukay's solo career, including the 8 part "Ode to Perfume," "On the Way to the Peak of Normal," "Witches Multiplication Table" and so on. Given his solo stuff can be pretty spotty, me thinks this mix will get much play in the coming warm weeks. Thank you, George!

7. Adam Bujag Wave of Tears (Deep Water) Holy shit, is this not the best minimal electro pop dream ever? I can't stop listening. Can't stop being fascinated by every second of its bubbling, whirring textures. I reviewed it already here, and one band I forget to mention then was the Young Marble Giants. Otherwise everything stands. This is vital, deceptively beautiful stuff that has captured my heart and mind.

8. Ike and Tina Turner "River Deep Mountain High" from the album of the same name on Alvorado Music. At the time of this recording, Tina was probably knee deep in Ike's shit, yet this song along with Tina's towering vocal performance (not to mention Phil Spector's avalanche of sound) is a defiant blast of freedom and affection. Feel the swell in your chest as you stretch those arms to the sun.

9. Six Organs of Admittance The Sun Awakens (Drag City) My boy in the west plugs in and ups the distortion and in the process releases one of his finest albums to date. Some folks won't agree with me, but I think this is a bold American answer to Popol Vuh, and "River of Transfiguration" sure is a bad ass side long trance drone that's perfect for staring at the sun for minutes on end (not that I recommend that, but part of me definitely does).

10. Gal Costa, Gilberto Gil, Os Mutantes, Caetano Veloso, Tom Zé and Jorge Ben Tropicália: A Brazilian Revolution in Sound (Soul Jazz) An excellent introduction to this important and most stoned Latin American psychedelic scene. Perfect for the poolside on warm sunny afternoons, along with those fruit drinks with little umbrellas in 'em, though yuppies probably need not apply. Viva la revolucion!

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