Wednesday, November 04, 2009

This is My Music: Vol 5, (Tanz Der Lemmings), Part 1

Ashtray Navigations Sugar Head Record (Deep Water) 2CD-R - Yet another essential dispatch from our old friends at Deep Water. Though the zine has slowed down a bit, the release schedule remains constant with this delightful mind-melter, along with multiple releases by DW's own in-house prog/psych folk unit, Evening Fires, and a new platter by free psych duo Flying Sutra being just a few goodies dropped in '09. Where to start with Phil Todd and his Ashtray Navigations? Maybe try here. The UK native has been releasing his ecstatic electro/psych/noise/skree mantra music for well over 15 years now with no let up in sight. To hear him at his most indispensable, seek out the Four More Raga Moods CD on Finland's Ikuisuus and hold tight! The newer and even more outer Sugar Head Record is as fine a deep-space head-trip as you will find in the considerable AN catalog. Its hallucinogenic con trails of crumbling feedback weave a story that's at once cosmic and subatomic, as if Todd and collaborators were soundtracking the fabric of existence itself -- microscopic landscapes bubbling over with new kinetic bursts in every second, all wrapped in an impenetrable amniotic pulse.

Boredoms Super Roots 10: Ant 10 (Thrill Jockey) 2LP - One of the most ass-kicking live shows I've seen would have to be The Boredoms in San Francisco in May, 2005. Cosmic gold! Super Roots 10 is the latest in this series which can be traced all the way back to the early '90s. Not sure where this one falls in The Boredoms' larger cannon, but, it's safe to say, be it remix or studio creation (this is a bit of both) and if released post '96, it's probably worth hearing. This also applies if you're a freak for repetitious noise throb on the strobe-lit dance-floor, a musical trend in recent moons which can be traced directly to the Boredoms' recordings and remixes of the late '90s/early '00s as much as anywhere else. Vol 10 offers up kaleidoscopic tone patterns gliding over a constant wall of percussion that derives equally from the golden Kautrock pulse of yore and minimal house-beat precision of the eternal now.

Headdress Lunes (No Quarter) CD - The great stoned award of 2009 goes to the mighty Headdress for their monolithic Lunes. It mostly eschews the more free psych trappings of their earlier work in favor of a massive ghost drone blues that can be traced to recent Earth records, while maintaining a minimal, stoned desolation that's fiercely psychedelic in its own right. These songs rumble and howl through the infinite void with a reverberating doom feel that feeds the imagination and ignites the soul. Lunes is the perfect soundtrack for cruising the cosmic waves or watching fireworks explode in the dead of night, each song like each concussion -- a little supernova to explore in the darkness.

Melvins Chicken Switch (Ipecac) CD - I ever tell you how much I love the Melvins? Not too crazy 'bout their last couple records, but I'd say Buzz and Dale are still trying, and that's good enough for me. From '87 to '05 The Melvins were one of the most unstoppably ass-kicking metallic punk threats on the planet. Wrap your ears around the likes of Gluey Porch Treatments, Stoner Witch and The Maggot to get the gist. The Melvins play real rawk, but it's rock with a healthy dose of irony and a never-ending penchant for surrealist strangeness that regularly leaves the mind befuddled and the mouth agape. Chicken Switch is just the latest proof of this age old maxim. It's a remix album featuring sound technicians from all over the globe, including some of my personal faves, such as Eye Yamatsuka of The Boredoms, Christoph Heemann of Mirror/Mimir/HNAS, Merzbow, Matmos, Panacea and more. Melvins get all IDM on your ass with a record that's dance-floor ready? Bet your ass.

Magic Lantern High Beams (Not Not Fun) LP - Whilst listening to this heavy fuzz psych drone machine, it occurs to me how nice it is that so many bands are crawling out of the woodwork these days that kick up a racket so clearly indebted to Bardo Pond, themselves so obviously indebted to the glory daze of early 70s stoned-to-the-bone psych/prog endless buildup jamathons, which I guess beats the hell out of three dudes trying to sound like the Jeff Healey band. These guys clearly love Spacemen 3 and Hawkwind, and are just completely zonked out of their skulls in the eternal acid wah-wah riff zone. Way gone and not even playin' around. No lyrics, no voices, just endless instrumental lockgroove ecstasy.

Magik Markers Balf Quarry (Drag City) CD - It's been a real trick'r treat in the last few months going back and rediscovering all the great Magik Markers live gigs and long-gone seedy-rs in the world. Truly think they've only gotten better through the years, and Elisa Ambrogia makes one hell of a front whoooa-man. Balf Quarry is their second full length for Drag City (the solid Boss is the first), and it totally kicks ass with slightly sloppy damaged ferocity that's unlike anything else out there in terms of seething primal/sexual rawk energy. It's true that Sonic Youth turned out a solid album this year, but I don't think it was near this continuously listenable, weird and straight up kickass. 'Course it could be said the Markers owe a debt to the 'Youth's early 80s recordings themselves, but this is 2009 and we ain't gettin' any younger. Bring on the ragged glory. Plus, Pete Nolan kicks ass.

Niagara Falls Sequence of the Prophets (Honeymoon) CD - Gorgeous progressive ethnic fusion workouts from this Philly trio, last heard (by me) sharing a side with the sadly missed Clear Spots. This is NF's third full length of ethnic psych fusion, more composed and sculpted than previously glimpsed sonic rituals but never at the expense of the spirit of the songs. Niagara Falls is clearly going for a kind of meditational mind-wash as their namesake might suggest, but Sequence of the Prophets is more skeletal in spots, and fantastically kinetic and propulsive in others. The pre-Kraftwerk ensemble Organization is one possible musical touchstone, where mythical rites of transcendence as evinced via Florian Fricke's Popol Vuh could be another. Absolutely gorgeous stuff here for prog/psych/drone junkies alike, and they're not afraid to kick up a racket either.

God is Good (Drag City) CD - More proof here that the best music is really just tonal meditation with killer drum fills. God Is God represents a bit of a shake-up since the last Om full length dropped. Hakius is out, Emil Amos (of the equally meditative Grails) is in, but not much else has changed. Om circa 2009 employs a bit more in the way of ambient effects. A good portion of this album is straight up flute rock! God forbid, Om has gone all prog on us. GOD BLESS! God is Good is as good as the legendary duo (born from one of the most legendary trios of our times) gets with deep inner probing bass/drum groove mantras that manage that seemingly impossible task of making low-tempo skeletal bass/drum psych workouts into spiritual portals to worlds that seem removed from our own subjective spheres yet can clearly be tapped into. Om is the sonic embodiment of this desire. It's also a beautifully recorded album, once more by Steve Albini. After making my way completely through the last two tracks for the 15th time I can say I'm completely certain that this is not only the best Om record to date, it's one of the most purely tantric hard rock platters you will ever feast your ears with. 35 mins of peerless psychedelic meditation. Absolutely essential.

The One Ensemble Orchestra Other Thunders (No-Fi) We (the voices in my head and I) here in the Womb consider Daniel's other group, Volcano the Bear, one of the most adventurous and visceral bands on the planet, but in no way does this impinge on our opinion that this here, the fourth studio LP under the One Ensemble name, is one of the most perfectly skewed slices of chamber folk we have ever heard. For well over five years now Daniel Padden and his ensemble (often times himself, more lately an ensemble of many) have continuously conjured their own brand of weird and mournful gypsy folk meets progressive, and dare I say, jazz fusion. What else, if you're a fan of the aforementioned 'Bear, and you're even remotely interested in compelling modern exploratory composition, proceed directly to Other Thunders. The unofficial title track (which is actually entitled "The Sun") is truly one of the most glorious things I've heard all year.

Plastic Crimewave Painted Shadows (A Silent Place) - Plastic Crimewave is something of an underground psych institution by now, between his rockin' acid punk band, Plastic Crimewave, the Million Tongues psych fests in Chicago and his holy bible of psych space punk dementia, The Galactic Zoo Dossier (available on Drag City press). I love his Damaged Guitar Gods and Astral Folk Goddesses collector cards, among other tasty tidbits. Pretty much any decent indie type record store plugged into the paranormal now should have issues of said journal. It's one of the last and best all print underground zines around, completely assembled, drawn and lettered by Plastic himself. Quite astounding really. Painted Shadows is approximately the fourth widely available PC album, and it's possibly the best yet, ranging from the Aftermath era Stones charged dark psych of opener "I See Evils" to fully-exploded side-long Hawkwindian space mantra of closer "Ecstatic Song" with plenty of smashing snare and fuzz guitar overload piled on for maximum transport. Oneida fans will love it.

Raglani Web of Light (Kvist) LP - This vinyl offering from one man St. Louis drone/noise project, Raglani, is a collision of minimal drone composition, power electronics and ghostly shoegaze fuzz that coalesces into a building ramp that leads straight to the stratosphere and comes crashing back down again. Drawing as much from the heyday of early analog electronic composition as more modern Kranky-esque drone outfits, a label Raglani has released work with, Web of Light offers two side long portals to spiritual tonal enlightenment and even violent catharsis. There's a point on the first side where the dense swirl of impeccably crafted electronics drops out to what sounds like massed choral harmonies the likes of which I've not heard since Mirror's Nights LP. The flip is an altogether more prismatic power electronics excursion that offers a tumultuous, but no less enthralling, atmospheric burn. All in all primo stuff that's ripe for warm analog late-night listening, plus it's one of Mr. Raglani's very best yet. Comes with a beautiful insert of a mind-bending illustration on one side and a clever film credits listing on the other, all in French no less. Snooty!

Starving Weirdos Into an Energy (Bo 'Weavil) CD - And just what universe do these people come from? Can it really be our own? The perfectly christened Into An Energy is a shimmering, exploding, spontaneous symphony of tribal mantra mind melding that deftly blurs the line between aural communication and a more sacred kind of meditation. It's almost the sound of unknowing. I find myself lapsing into these dense drone passages and wondering where does the time go? Is music like this created or is it channeled? Strings, voices, clattering percussive revelry and more come together in synapse melting charges that bypass the ego and go straight to the primordial id. These pieces contain ideas and concepts that are truly beyond my scope of understanding, but that's the beauty of the Starving Weirdos. Essential deep drone for those who appreciate getting lost in the material strands that weave into the fabric of infinity. Highly recommended for fans of Organum/David Jackman, AMM, No-Neck Blues Band, Mirror and other free-wheeling string and percussion drone masters.

Sun Araw Heavy Deeds (Not Not Fun) LP - This really is the shit right here. Sun Araw is the solo gig of Magic Lantern's Cameron Stallones, and Heavy Deeds is just about the most incessantly compelling psych platter to come out this past Summer. How to summarize? Let's just say Sun Araw has discovered its own musical theory of relativity which depends on a firm understanding of the laws of dub multiplied by fractals of funky fuzz, divided by wigged out vocal chants and squared by a pervasive rhythmic pulse that demands the listener occasionally awaken from his marijuana-stupor and actually dance around the place while diggin' on it. Add in some some delectable acid kissed organ runs and an overall laid back underwater cosmos vibe, you've got endless transcendental groove spirals that will work their magic for those willing to shut off their brains and turn on to the freaky harmony of the spheres. Somethin' else.

Zukanican The Stumbling Block (Pickled Egg) - You wanna dance and take gargantuan hits from the big purple party hooka while doing so? You want to spin round and round to the Komische beat and fall on your side in a confused giggling fit after doing 6 whippits at once? I don't really recommend any of that, but I do suggest throwing The Stumbling Block on the old player sometime soon. You'll be hard up to find a more proper soundtrack for any such endeavors than Dr. Harry Sumnall and company's take on primo vintage komische space fusion. It's probably fair to say that not everyone considers the recordings of various Germanic experimental/psychedelic musical purveyors to be some of the most far reaching sonic incantations the world of has ever known, but some of us actually do. And we mean it when we say La Dussledorf was one of the most important bands of the last 50 years. Zukanican understands. Their music is something of a living, mutating embodiment of this understanding. These propulsive hand-made deep space mantras make me think of other eras and scenes too, but to me this CD captures the mind-expanding properties of so many of those past masters while still being utterly in the now and living today. Fans of ethno jazz fusion like Larry Young, Can, Neu, Herbie Hancock in the early 70s, prepare for blast off. Long live Zukanican!


Cornbiter Deluxe said...

IMHO, the last two Melvins albums (nude and senile) are their best work since Stoner Witch. RELISTEN!

Lee said...

I WILL! Busy Busy....

km said...

Thanks for the Ashtray review Lee!

Oh, and the zine side of the Deep Water empire slowed down because all our writers stopped writing... (hint hint) :-)

Lee said...

It's true. I'm one of their writers. Working on it.

P.Somniferum said...

There are tiny people rotating inside my hands.

Mats said...

"Oh, and the zine side of the Deep Water empire slowed down because all our writers stopped writing... (hint hint) :-)"

Guilty as charged! What a great read, Lee. Keep up the good work.