Thursday, March 22, 2007

A few SXSW recollections:

Almost didn't go this year, so I actually only caught Saturday's festivities. Missed too many great bands to list, biggest regret missing Blues Control. Arrived just in time to catch a cpl songs by MV/EE/SL/JM at the End of an Ear record store on south 1st. The version of "Canned Happiness" was just about the most clangy, detuned mongrel boogie I've ever heard from 'em. Halfway through the first song some poor guy went into an epileptic seizure right there in the cramped space. Bad omen. Never saw so much drool in one place. Then again, maybe he was just really into it...

I then booked ass over to the Lakeshore amphitheater to catch half a BORIS set, which was closer to their pop set compared to the monolothic drone jams they played the night before. Fun but underwhelming. Are they on MTV yet?
(Womblife's first instance of product placement, sweet)

Next up, waited in line and was lucky to get in and up close for JANDEK, who along with Tom Carter on burly bass, Shawn McMillan on pump organ and a swell Aussie fellow on drums (sorry!), played the heaviest goddamn Jandek set ever. It will likely drop on Corwood someday. ...more men in black...

The following night we made it down to The Salon Mijangos art gallery in San Antonio to catch three incredible sets: Tetuzi Akiyama (guitar), Tom Carter (guitar) and Chris Cogburn (percussion) trio, the Warmer Milks acoustic trio with Shawn McMillan sitting in and Charalambides delivering the most dynamic and all-encompassing set I've ever seen/heard from them. It was a real revelation and re-affirmation in my faith in this incredible duo. No pics from this night, but here are some youtube vids my friend Nari took of most of the involved, including a clip of the Charalambides gig:




Had a blast meeting new and old friends and heard some amazing stories too. SXSW is all about free beer and great stories, but that's all going in the novel -- sorry folks!

Friday, March 16, 2007

If I was anywhere near Wstern Mass next week and had a beard, I know where I'd be goin'...

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Back into the fold, or breach as it were... Got some stuff here that I think you folks may find interesting, mostly falling on the folky/acoustic side of things.

First off though, RIP Charles Gocher of the Sun City Girls and Cayce Lindner of Flying Canyon and The Golden Hotel (Flying Canyon reviewed here). Two fantastic musicians who checked out way too soon.

Niagara Falls/The Clear Spots (Deep Water) This split CD-R is one of those releases received toward the tale end of '06 but not fully digested till now. Niagara Falls, huh? Got some nerve naming yourselves after that raging natural wonder, but then maybe these Pennsylvania natives are onto something. There is a gorgeous shimmer in these cascading waterfalls that refracts its tonal light fragments in every direction at once. Formless, bottomless stuff that murmurs and trickles in small streams that build to expected tidal waves of singing luminescent noise. One of the few bands I can think of as a distant kindred to San Francisco's great Thuja, but Niagara Falls is more upbeat and uh...watery! The Clear Spots track is a fried up-tempo blast of Canned Heat meets Can that ejects the Roadhouse vibe into deep space and just happens to be one of the coolest things I've heard from the 'Spots to date. Thumbs heavenward.

Daniel Higgs Ancestral Songs (Holy Mountain) This is an amazing album. The Lungfish singer/guitarist enthralls with six songs that fall somewhere between songwriter-ly psych folk and mind-expanding drone noise. Without a doubt it's Higgs' enlightened and honest explo ration of human/cosmic spiritual concerns and more that reels me in and leaves me speechless as nodding in agreement to repetitious recitations of masterful mind-trips such as opener "Living in the Kingdom of Death." Sample lyric: "See the devil in the Christ if its the true Christ that you seek. It abides in you and it abides in me." Simple, it is, but it's also true in a way, no matter what you may or may not believe. Otherwise we get a stunning banjo raga in the Sandy Bull vein (with birdsong accompaniment), a phenomenal instrumental of phased jew's harp and vibes, an 11 min blast of sacred droning electronics cum raga and a couple more fine guitar/vocal workouts. Higgs' voice is a beauty, and this album is simply timeless. One of the best of 2006 according to this hippie.

Birch Book "Fortune & Folly" (Helmet Room Recordings) Another life affirming piece of work from Be'irth (of In Gowan Ring), here exploring his love of the classic songwriter with tender folk tunes lent a somewhat downcast, or simply honest, air. Leonard Cohen, Jackson Frank and Dylan come to mind on those tracks that are each fully contained little song worlds--a couple bookending instrumentals and a good number of unforgettable songs that delve intimately into the lonely life of a young soul today (including "Young Souls," "New Song"--reminiscent of a recent Marissa Nadler tune, "Whisper in the Pine" and more). A few trippy bits but mostly straightforward and genuine.

Anvil Salute New Crusaders of the 11th Commandment (Maritime Fist Glee Club) This OK (as in Oklahoma) unit's transformation is now complete. I've not heard their earliest albums, but it appears they've evolved into full-on psychedelic roots folk ensemble with this excellent CD-R meandering its way through a thick tangle of thorny branches and colored foliage, stripping away all the artifice of life to reveal shimmering undeniable aural light. Meditative and completely handmade in the same breath. "A Word With Every Apple" is the most soaring, hair-standing-on-the-back-of-the-neck instrumental I've heard in at least a three weeks. And just in time for Spring too.

Eastern Fox Squirrels Eastern Fox Squirrels (Last Visible Dog) A fine trio recording of Brad and Eden Rose with the one and only Robert Horton, unleashing their own take on ethnic blues, drone, folk, jazz.... Lord I have no idea how to classify this record, but if you've heard Rose's work as the North Sea and Horton's solo work, shouldn't be too surprised. And hey there's even a Charalambides cover in their lovely take of "Hours" with a dancing sax line standing in for Christina's haunted vocal, and the way the cover phases into the Market Square original is FUCKING BEAUTIFUL! Very nice. Excellent artwork too from Mr. Pumice.

Michael Tamburo and His Orchestra of Pituitary Knowledge
Ghosts of Marumbey (New American Folk Hero/Music Fellowship) Mike Tamburo asked me to write a one-page for this record back before it came out, so I was slightly reluctant to review it myself. Now I'm not at all, because this is simply an incredible album, and in retrospect probably his most accomplished work to date. Definitely his most diverse and all-encompassing blast of avant folk raga, electronic drones, full on kraut-space rawk'n'roll. Don't think enough people have heard this one. Another one of my top o' the pops in '06.

Richard Youngs and Alex Neilson Partick Rain Dance (VHF) Oh yeah...It's been fun watching Masters Youngs and Neilson emerge as one of the most thrilling and bizarre duos in sonic history, and this recent collaborative offering is as good a reminder as any as to why these guys can't be ignored. 5 tracks that go from spastic percussive synth rumbles to piercing free noise splatters, Robert Wyatt vocal segues and beautifully shimmering percussive drone splays. Acoustic/electric sound generators entwined with layered vox to reveal glorious sky-high chaplets of sound. Absolutely me.

MV & EE with The Bummer Road Green Blues (Ecstatic Peace) "Can't pay the rent...with happiness. Can't pay the rent with looooove..." so says one of the mantras of a song deeper into this masterfully gorgeous burst of blurred sunshine. Green Blues is sweet. It's like The Bummer Road's stab at pop stardom, so a few hipsters will hate it, and a few emo kids will scratch their heads, but the rest of us, who remember simply what it's like to just escape from it all for a bit and burn one, to drive, to love Neil Young, to bow at the Altar of Canned Head, and never forget the mysteries that Sun-Ra imparted upon our embryonic souls will have a blast on this trip. Absolutely beautiful. GUEST MELLOTRON BY J. MASCIS! Epic closer "Solar Hill" in particular captures a particularly vivid and inescapable psychedelic dream state and burns her to a crisp. Fun music for weird people.

The Giant Skyflower Band Blood on the Sunworm (Soft Abuse) Glenn Donaldson likens these recordings made with Shayde Sartin as his answer to "bummer psych," which can be traced from Syd Barrett and Skip Spence on up through the Television Personalities and to modern day oddball masters like Nagisa Ni Te and Maher Shalal Hash Baz. I can't help but think of the Incredible String Band in their prime too with the exotic melange of ethnic instruments backing these mostly minimal, semi-stumbling folk-pop arrangements. The star of this show is Glenn Donaldson's pristine high croon, and the songs themselves easily rival the best work with the Sky Green Leopards, but these are a tad more clunky and poppy at the same time via slightly off-tempo percussion. The perfect soundtrack for drifting a hazy afternoon away wearing nothing but torn jeans and an old grass-stained t-shirt. Thank you, soft folk gods'n'goddesses for shining this starlight my way.

That's all for now. Namaste, my friends...