Thursday, February 21, 2008

Roy Scheider died last week! And ho do I find out? Randomly on the fifth page of the Arts and Entertainment section in a tiny little blurb. He was 75. Most memorable performance? Going to get predictable and go with Jaws ("Smile, you son of a bitch!"), but then can't forget his disturbed turn as the ultimate bad vibe company man, Dr. Benway in Naked Lunch. And then there's Blue Thunder, which has the distinction of being better than its TV rip-off, Airwolf, the last film to feature Malcolm McDowell in a decent role, and Warren Oates' last film altogether. You youngens just don't know how cool American cinema was up to the early 80s.

As I focus on other activities this year, I hope to post some reviews here regularly, and if time/motivation permits, assemble a few more Bones From the Garden pieces for Deep Water. Otherwise, I wont be contributing any reviews or articles to other publications for a while. You can also expect the occasional random live show review, festival announcement, or useless rant here...and I hope nothing more about Britney Spears at all. It's weird. Lately I've been having these bizarre mental lapses where I think for a few seconds that I am Britney Spears. Very scary stuff. Damn tabloid subliminal suggestion.

Four albums (two of which were mentioned recently in this blog), all possibly more amazing than originally surmised:

Om Pilgrimage (Southern Lord) - Ti's true, Hakius is out, which makes me a lucky pup since I got to see these down tempo trance sludge masters in Ft. Worth some months back. Funny thing is I remember feeling privileged that they stretched out "At Giza" a good 8 mins past the original album length, only to read THIS and find that they recently played a five hour set in THE HOLY LAND! Whoa... Kinda what Om's all about. Nice interview there btw. Al Cisneros actually reveals some personal stuff that helps further illuminate the Unitive Knowledge of Om's Godhead. Sure the music is more of the same on this Steve Albini engineered behemoth, but then again that's the point. It's all just different parts of the same song. I love Cisneros's insistence on letting the music speak for itself. Esoteric, deeply spiritual, meditative, moody, bombastic... At least half this album is quiet with hypnotic bass vibrations coiling through a psychedelic headspace that's at once heavy and weightless. Otherwise great, crisp sound, wonderful dark moods and crushing doom fury are the order of the day. Cisneros says that the journey will continue with a new drummer towards The Shrinebuilder, and there's also a live album drawn from the aforementioned Jerusalem gig on the way. Been digging on some sweet live Om boots lately, including 4/29/06 at the Knitting Factory, so I expect total monolithic greatness on all fronts in the future.

The Terminals Last Days of the Sun (Last Visible Dog) - Can I get an AMEN for LVD's Chris Moon and his fetish for all things weird and kiwi? Don't get much weirder than this NZ superunit, but then weirdness doesn't get much more beautiful either. The Terminals are a band that seems terminally (excuse) obsessed with the dark side. Theirs is the kind of subject matter that most of us are supposed to outgrow at some point, but none of us really ever do. We simply ignore it. Such are the demands of sanity. Well The Terminals wont have any of that, but they still understand that need for maturation, settling down and finding beauty in the grimness. Last Days of the Sun is the melancholic glance at that single cataclysmic event that will eventually extinguish all. Enough philosophical mumbojumbo. It's also a deep, hypnotic trek through vintage psychedelic garage transcendence. There's dark magic in the swaying melodies of opener "Vertigo," a masterpiece of building tension that starts with plaintive rhythm guitar and Peter Cogle's subdued voice as distant organ joins with Brian Crook's slide guitar, and when Crook and Cogle come together for the chorus--holy shit! One of the most astonishing moments on anything released in '07, but then one could say I'm biased up the yin-yang in such opinions. Add to this the pile-driving Velvets drone of "Undertow," the moody fuzz wash of the title track, the trademark post punk throb of Peter Stapleton's singular percussion and some genuinely accessible melodies and you've discovered the missing link between early (read as classic) Roxy Music and the brooding fuzz squalls of Sonic Youth, and it's all quite special and addictive. P.S. Anyone heard that new Rendorizers disc on Last Visible Dog? Listening now, mind is melting. Incredible.

Magik Markers Boss (Ecstatic Peace) - I've always been fascinated by the abrasive clang this guys-n-gal trio conjures, but I think this album is the first MM release that I really enjoy listening to at the same time. Who know Elisa Ambrogio had a thing for Joni Mitchell as much as early Sonic Youth and Lydia Lunch? Thankfully, this turn towards actual songcraft leaves none of the 'Markers' penchant for gut-wrenching/brain-squealing rhythmic dissonance behind. If anything, the melodies and lyrics found herein are lent that much more grim weight via the detuned distorted backdrop, all brilliantly propelled by Peter Nolan's ever present backbeat. Just wrap your ears around grooving opener "Axis Mundi," the writhing jaggedness of "Last of the Lemach Line" (with a hellacious vocal from Ambrogio) and "Four/The Ballad of Harry Angstrom," an altogether more spectral slice of piano and distortion drift, and I think you will agree. This is compelling stuff that doesn't just suck the listener in on a sonic/physical level but also digs deeper, burrowing into the recesses of the mind, dislodging existential rot and setting it ablaze in celebratory bonfires. Boss, indeed.

Charalambides Likeness (Kranky) - It's a testament to this unclassifiable duo's resilience that it can still pull me in after all these years. I've had Likeness since the end of last year but didn't really hear it till just recently. It feels like Tom and Christina Carter have come full circle in a way, as much of this is fairly accessible and rocking in a more conventional way, that is if early classics like Historic 6th Ward can be considered conventional, and given the more outer minimal workouts Charalambides dropped in the early '00s, I think that's a fair statement. Some of these songs are definitive to my ears, perfect examples of why this group's performances have left such an indelible impression on the heart/mind/soul for over 15 years. The sad piano and wah-wah drift of "Uncloudy Day," the layered vocals and wandering blues guitars of "Do You Sea" are good enough, but it's later tracks like "The Good Life" and "Saddle Up the Pony," both anchored on little more than Christina's vocal (delivering some of the most direct lyrics I've ever heard on a Charalabides record yet) and repetitious blues raga. "Saddle Up the Pony" in particular is really a stunning jam that I have no doubt will go down in history as the definitive Charalambides ode to alienation. "What You Do For Money" achieves a similar eeriness in its depiction of the moral decay that can come with selling out. Christina sings the title as a mantra in a high restless pitch, mournful guitar slides and drones beneath providing a subtext that describes the kind of wounds that will never heal. All in all deeply moving, contemplative stuff. This may not be the best Charalambides album. For that seek out Market Square (via download cuz you won't find it any other way) or Joy Shapes (also on Kranky), but Likeness is a solid introduction, truly worthy to fans new and old.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen I give you Kraftwerk performing their landmark "Ruckzuck" for WDR TV in 1970:
Even better, baby Kraftwerk aka The Organisation, which was actually a bigger ensemble and earlier, more ethno-cosmically infused version of the electro pioneers, performing the same song.  Tribalicious: Thanks to Travis for pointing these out.