Thursday, December 24, 2009

Ho ho ho, yiz'all and peace to all da peeps! In all da places! Happy Solstice as well. Only three more years till the Singularity! All the late afternoon darkness makes me feel like I'm sitting in a coffin instead of an office these days, but that's all right. I'm still kickin'. Hope the same goes for all my friends and kin out there, near and far. You're in my thoughts.

I'm feverishly finishing up a batch of Winter-y treats, in this case some reviews of fine psychedelic folk records that have cropped up o'er the last year, a good chunk of which will make my year end best-of tally. I thought 2009 was just a killer year for psych/acid folk emanations. It was a killer year for other reasons too. I mean, like, a lot of people died! Brittany Murphy died! She's one of those sad ghost girls from Inland Empire now, all fragile and spent on the great futon of life. RIP. Rashied Ali died in '09 too. I don't think I ever mentioned it here, and given the scope of Womblife's coverage and the depth of his contributions to key albums by John Coltrane among so many more (including Keiji Haino, wow!), he definitely deserves a special mention.

Shitloads of movies came out this year too, and I didn't see near enough to draw up any kind of Cinematic Best of '09 list, so instead I'm going to rifle through some Twitter-styled mini-reviews which should express my thoughts in short, concise, geek-speek allotments that you may possibly comprehend, if not flat out enjoy. That said, my favorite theater-going experience of '09 was Dallas Cinemania's showing of a 35 mm print of Deep Red back in October. Best...soundtrack...ever.


@World's Greatest Dad - @Bobcat_G - disturbed/hilarious humanism! @Robin_W - decent tenderhearted loserdom. @Kid.from.Spy_Kids - u deserve an Oscar 4 ur portrayal of an auto-erotic-asphyxiated/shitty human/son = genius!

@The Road - @J.Hillcoat/@Cor_Mc - You two seem close. @Viggo_M. - Eat something for chrissakes! As @George Romero once said, the apocalypse will start in Pittsburgh. A+++!

@Night at the Museum 2 - Much better than a big budget special effects Hollyweird extravaganza has any right to be. @Amy Adams - I am in love with you and wish you'd have my babies.

@Inglorious Bastards - @Q_T- Nice attention to detail, nice NAZI bashing, NICE German villain, kick-ass tension building in that tavern scene! All a bit soulless though, m8. @Brad Pitt - nice John Wayne.

@Avatar - @J_Cam - cool 3-D space shits, dog! Dances With Aliens in Overdrive. Wicked Native Space Peeps - The Horror! The Dividends! SHITTY SOUNDTRACK. Classic Cameron!

@The Maiden Heist - Nice to see @C_Walken, @Morgan.Freeman and @Will_M in the same movie. Like Robin Hood for older middle-aged art geeks. Pretty good, no "Going in Style" though.

@The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans - @Herzog - awkward title/awesome movie! The world is insane/there are creepy crawly lizards everywhere! @Nick_Cage - thanks for honoring yr 5 year rule - 1 good movie every 12 pieces of shit.

@Fantastic Mr. Fox - Dear @W_Anderson - re "Darjeeling Limited" - all forgiven.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Wanted to mention a really special gig I caught last Saturday here in Dallas, at a place called Sandaga Market, on the edge of the arts and apparel district of downtown. The gallery's lush interior decoration -- a combo of indigenous African rugs, throws, paintings, masks and sculptures -- belied its modest warehouse exterior. As much could be said for the musical expressionism of the legendary Dave Burrell, who makes for an unassuming presence behind the grand piano with only the the most minimal, gracious banter between his extended solo pieces. Burrell is a musician any fan of bold free jazz piano flux should be aware of, whether via his countless collaborations with so many of those who helped to write the language of jazz (Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders, Marion Brown, David Murray, William Parker, etc) or his astounding solo releases, such as Echo originally pressed by BYG Actuel. This is a guy that's been in the game for almost 50 years, composing and playing, living and learning, and what struck me most about the two sets he played was the immeasurable berth of his stylistic influence. Burrell is a jazz pianist, but what I heard this night touched on everything from baroque classical to blues, minimal composition, ragtime, show tunes, swing, pop and so, so much more. It was like taking a musical road-trip through every major musical development of the last 250 years, donning a blindfold, spinning 'round and 'round only to find seemingly disparate styles and eras living side by side in total harmony. Burrell, via his ever nimble fingers, tells a story beyond words, beyond time, and beyond my capacity to explain. It is the music of a full life, unfinished still. What struck me most was how how clearly Burrell appreciates so many different genres and styles but is fearless when it comes to combining and exploring it all via his own personal portal. He fits somewhere in the jazz pantheon between Thelonious Monk and Matthew Shipp, coming from a trad background like so many but taking those old bop and swing melodies to bold new, out (and long gone) places. I thought of Jack Rose more than once while comprehending Burrell's ability to juggle so many genres and always keep it movin' and groovin'. Thank you, Mr. Burrell, for making our hearts a little warmer and our minds a little clearer this night.

While researching and preparing to write this review, this just happened to pop up on HBO at the same time. And you say there are no signs. The Jazz Baroness documents the unlikely and quite profound relationship between British born heiress Pannonica Rothschild and jazz piano great Theloniuos Monk, and her unlikely journey from British aristocracy to one of New York's most passionate jazz enthusiasts during some of its most vital periods. Kind of amazing if you ask me. Unquestionably a life lived. Great narration (reading the words of Rothschild) from The Queen herself, Helen Mirren. Excellent archival footage and modern day interviews make this essential viewing, if yr interested.

Speaking of flicks. I'm going to have to break down and go see Avatar, where James Cameron and company appear to rip off Dances With Wolves and himself (Aliens/The Abyss) with MIND-BLOWING/GAME-CHANGING/SUPER-INNOVATIVE MOTION CAPTURE 3-D TECHNOLOGY NOT DREAMT POSSIBLE JUST 20 SHORT YEARS BEFORE! That was fun to type. I'm expecting this to kick-ass/suck of Michael Bay-ian proportions.

Monday, December 14, 2009

This Is My Music: Vol 5, Part 2 (Tanz Der Lemmings)

The Akron Family
Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free (Dead Oceans) CD - Here we have it, yet another master stroke of roots psych progressive rock from Akron's by-way-of-Brooklyn The Akron/Family. Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free covers almost all the bases from the most sun-burnt farm jugband boogie to harmonies up-front roots-folk psych revelries and raging post George Harrison guitar eruptions that should probably sound out of place on a modern arty punk jam-band recording circa 2009 but come off as natural as the dawn here. Be not afraid to celebrate the this kinetic beauty, Womblifers. Sure, some of the songs may be a bit too sing-songy, but they ain't exactly Phish. This rocks!

Monochord (Important) LP - Here is you another fantastic ethno-folk psych transfusion from the awesome Alumbrados, one of many side projects to the perennial third eye dilating Bardo Pond, and I must say that Monochord has lept out as some of the most finely honed, carefully sculpted sonic psych folk meditations I've heard in '09. This is an absolute must in terms of conjuring the old gods and mystical rites through a carefully crafted prism of modern blues, psych and folk as if we've found the missing link between Sandy Bull and Manuel Göttsching. It burns with the incense of the ancients.

Circle Hollywood (Ekto) CD - I can't escape these Finnish lords' of psych/prog repetition. They're still knee deep in their vintage early thrash revisionist phase, which Katapult (No Quarter) basically marked the beginning of with English vokills, shred guitars and uptempo beats all backed by their trademark metronomic pulse. It's pretty silly on paper, but somehow Circle made it work then, and they make it burn brightly here too. With the help of American vocalist Bruce Duff -- channeling Rob Halford and Lemmy equally -- Hollywood is arguably the definitive Circle acid-thrash statement so far with nods to King Crimson, Judas Priest, Loop, the hell of the road and the Pori bad boys' own glorious past all rolled up into one mythical ball of righteous boo that you can pump your fist too while you get all physical and destructive in the listening space. There's more Circle stuff I'd like to cover here, such as their brand new live album Triumph (Fourth Dimension), but I'll have to save that for later. Amazing band.

Ducktails II / Ducktails (Future Sound Recordings) CD-R / (Not Not Fun) LP - Ducktails combines lazy minimal guitar textures like an echo-drenched Durutti Column with infectious/cracked melodies and a stumbling, playful delivery I've come to expect from the ever-dependable Not Not Fun record fortress. Some fantastical little space pop worlds are explored across the minimal pocket symphonies that comprise II (which I think actually predates the self-titled LP on NNF). Case in point: closer "Neptune City, NJ," which sounds sort of like a home-recorded homage to Kraftwerk's The Man Machine and totally fresh and spontaneous at the same time. The longer and, at times, heavier self titled platter offers more of the same with laid back strumming strings doused in reverb, backed by shuffling bedroom percussion and shakers. Absolute bliss drift for the troubled mind after a long day in the coalmines. Ducktails proves that keepin' it fresh really does matter more than keepin' it real, ya'll, though i think this shit is about as real as it gets too with a magical mix that sounds like what if the Velvet Underground was actually Syd Barrett fronting The Silver apples. Come git sum, chilruns. Your solace stew is served.

Endless Boogie Focus Level (No Quarter) 2LP - The third official long-player from these Brooklyn mantra lords comes in a lavish 2Lp package, if you indeed still have the means of listening to such morsels. It's got all the goody good from wound-tight mid-tempo John Lee Hooker trance outs to epic Velvets infused boogie blastoffs that merge the primitive and ecstatic into wailing psychedelic blues jams that touch on everything from the aforementioned Hooker and other blues greats of yore to Hawkwind and Captain Beefheart, in the process mapping the coordinates to the minimal blues Promise Land. Love the wild-ass "spoken in tongues" vocals, and these guys are DAMN FINE live, boys 'n' girls. Should've been from Texas.

Fell Incoherent Lullabies (Camera Obscura) CD - Phineas Gauge is a Denver duo that first came to my attention via Camera Obscura some years ago, and Fell is Josh Wambeke of said duo carrying on the reverb drenched shoegaze flame into a more accomplished and user friendly melodic sound that manages to captivate with only the most minimal means, key to any good dreampop bliss out. The results fall somewhere between Galaxie 500 to prime Chapterhouse or even Bedhead, all blasts from the past I know and you're sitting their scratching your head like WTF? Think of a kinder, gentler, less steroidal Mogwai, then sprinkle with equal doses of heartache and an endless morphine drip.

Jesu Opiate Sun (Caldo Verde Records) CD EP - What the hell is left to say about Justin Broadrick and his transformation from angst drone metal avalanche master to pristine noise pop song bird? Opiate Sun offers four more epic slabs of monumental harmonies and tuneful fuzz guitars that come off sort of like Big Star playing at the bottom of the world or Codeine reborn from the slow-core ashes like a magnificent fiery phoenix, course set directly for the heart of the opiate sun. Glorious.

Lightning Bolt Earthy Delights (Load) CD - It's been a while since the mighty Providence, RI duo unleashed its flailing limbs spastic cyclops attack on an unassuming public, and if it's only gotten tighter, more dynamic, splattered and calibrated at the same time with a furious precision that feels telekinetic at this point and is as fiercely uncompromising as it is listenable and fist-pumping to the heavens. Easily some of the most down and dirty, grooved out cosmik splooge that's as intelligently designed as it is spontaneously created. Hammer of the Gods.

Moon Duo Killing Time (Sacred Bones) - 12" EP - Four more groovy drone psych concoctions from this righteous Wooden Shjips off-shoot that draw from Suicide, Loop, Krautrock and the aforementioned 'Shjips themselves with epic trance raves that conjure images of alien spacecrafts landing on enormous strobe lite dance-floors overrun with indigenous creatures doused in day-glow and zonked in ecstatic revelry.

Oneida Rated O (Jagjaguwar) 3CD - Oneida recently dropped one smokin' 3CD platter that just may be their ultimate psych punk transcendence opus to date, and the price is definitely right. We're talkin' 3 CDs for the price of one -- Rated O for orgasm. These three discs represent a big part of the story of Oneida, though they comprise the second release in the so called "Thank Your Parents" trilogy. If last year's Preteen Weaponry was a roaring blast out of the cosmic gate, then Rated O is a work of greater diversity and further-along probing depth, encompassing aspects of new wave, no wave, Krautrock, 70s proto punk and art punk, dub, psych rawk, sitar laced trance minimalism and good old fashioned caveman stomp. It's a beast to sit through in one sitting, but no one ever said you had to do that. Throw in disc 1 at your next Saturday night disco house party. Pop in CD 2 for the garage punk freakbeat shuffle that following Tuesday, and just think of CD 3 as the perfect go-to spin for straight up third eye astral projecting. Highly recommended for hardcore acid punks, Circle fans and those who enjoy headbanging in the lotus position.

Quo (Soft Abuse) CD - Stefan Neville, recently heard hitting drums at Renderers gigs down south, released one of my favorite solo weird noise pop sorts of albums of recent times in Pebbles (also Soft Abuse). Seek it out if looking for the missing link between Alastair Galbraith and early John Cale/Tony Conrad styled minimalism. Quo sort of picks up where Pebbles leaves off, offering up an all encompassing commentary on all that is and ever will be Pumice. That means fractured, skeletal folk pop, angular art punk, no wave, minimal drone, tape hiss and manipulations are all accented by Neville's peculiar/affecting croon singing songs of heartache, loss, need and confusion. It's the human condition all thrown into a very old, noisy blender and set to puree. Quo falls somewhere between the shambolic folk psych of Sky Green Leopards and the deconstructed art pop of Maher Shalal Hash Baz, while sounding like neither. Roundabout praise, but praise all the same. Highly recommended.

Peaking Lights - Imaginary Falcons (Night People) LP - While spacing out and drifting down stream this year, I don't think any soundtrack carried me further along than Indra Dunis and Aaron Coyes' homemade shoegaze duo, Peaking Lights, via the brilliant kaleidoscopic tone patterns of their Imaginary Falcons, which also dropped in the cassette format from Not Not Fun. The mood is playful and dreamy across these seven sonic vessels touching upon early Eno, Velvets, Nico, Xpressway, Krautglam and Young Marble Giants. I'm also reminded of the lovely Grouper in spots, only the moods of Imaginary Falcons reveal their own brand of hand-traded cassette tape drift and drone that's perfect head fodder for a lazy day shimmer or a rainy day trickle, and all points in between. Great stuff to fall asleep to.

Rahdunes Untitled (Qbico) LP picture-disc - When Mr. Coyes above told me about this here mind-melting sonic artifact and that it was an actual rock record to boot, I had a sneaking suspicion that I'd never actually get to hear the sucker. Wrong again! Found it in the racks at End of An Ear on one of my recent Austin trips, last copy of course. I'm not a big fan of reviewing things that are next to impossible to find, but I'm making an exception in this case and and just gonna say this is a true outer free psychedelic third eye melter that is as fun to look at is it is to smoke pot and badly dance to. Psychedelic freedom splendor unleashed and completely obliterated.

Wet Hair Dream / Glass Fountain (Not Not Fun) both LP - More righteous tones here from Shawn Reed, recently heard to make asses shake and minds convulse as a key member of Racoo-oo-oon -- now sadly defunct -- but that's okay as long as cool shit like Wet Hair continues to roll out of the green fog. Dream is rife with organ drones, minimal rhythmic backing with live and programmed drums beneath echo drenched vocal howls merging into some of the most chilled out handmade sci-fi bedroom psych I've bedazzled my mind with lately. Released soon after is the equally levitated Glass Fountain, a companion piece of sorts to Dream which could have quite easily joined with its sister recording into a 2LP platter of mythical proportions. Hard to say why the split, although like many of the freer improvised groove merchants out there today, Wet Hair is less about songs than psychedelic moods -- ecstatic revelries, primal dub-inflected dirges, floating electronic clouds of sound -- it's all here in an abundance just waiting for your lung-burnt, bleary-eyed perusal.

Zelienople Hollywood (Under the Spire) 2x3" CD-R - This Chicago trio continues to weave its levitated spell with a minimal/drone/improv wash that spreads out and fills every corner of the room with a glowing luminescence. This 2x3" CD-R is probably long gone, but can be downloaded, what you wanna bet? Seems just about anything can be downloaded today. The masterstroke is beneath all the shimmering feedback layers is an almost slow-motion alien swing jazz buried beneath all the phosphorous hum to help to help dazzle the subconscious while the ego zones out in tonal submission. Worth your time if you have a remote interest in minimal drone composition, the Kranky label and aural meditation of any kind.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Jack Rose 1971 - 2009
(photo courtesy of Keith Wood)

Jack Rose is gone. What an abysmal weekend. I don't really want to write this, but I have to. It's very hard to put into words what this guy means to me and tons of folks. He and I weren't that close, yet anytime I was able to just sit down somewhere and shoot the shit with Jack Rose I felt like part of his inner circle. He was a larger than life, robust, big bear of a man. He died two days ago of a heart attack at only 38. Lots of fine folks out there are offering up their own tributes and remembrances, so I'll try to keep mine short (yeah right!).

The first time I actually met Jack Rose was at Terrastock 6 in Providence, RI in 2006 (though I'd seen him in concert with Pelt twice before that). After the first night's festivities, Jack, Larkin Grimm and I walked down to a nearby Irish pub (complete with thumping disco background music), and he bought ME a beer of all things, after only just meeting me. I think I'd given him my spiel about how important Pelt's and his music had been to my old friend Mats (editor/publisher of The Broken Face) and I over the years, how Empty Bell Ringing in the Sky did as much as any other album in terms of turning us onto a different way of listening to music and exploring sound. Meditation as music, basically, or music as meditation, and forgetting where one ended and the other began. He could tell I meant every word, and I knew he was a friend from that moment on.

Later that night we ended up in a basement below the taqueria that connects to AS220, one of the venues where Terrastock was held that year. A lot of amazing musicians and some close friends were there: Jeffrey Alexander, Miriam Goldberg, Tara Burke, Larkin and Jack, Alan Davidson, Nari Mann, Travis Johnson and someone else I'm forgetting. Sharron Kraus? We drank beer and talked blues and guitars, about folks we knew, and I remember Larkin and Jack having a kind of pseudo-debate about feminism and folk music as the beer flowed and the smoke wafted upwards. A discussion of old primitive blues sparked up, and the name Skip James came up, a guy I'd just started to really get into. And Jack declared one of his classic aphoristic summations of James and his musical oeuvre, a sentence I'll never forget:

"Skip James is Whitehouse!"

And somehow I knew exactly what he meant. Guess you just have to listen to a li'l Whitehouse, and then listen to a li'l Skip James, to fully get that analogy. Made perfect sense to me, then and now. A little later that night, I remember Jack looking at me dead on: "You're not gonna write about any of this shit in your your blog are you?" 'Hell no," I said, and I meant it. Well, meant it at the time.

About a week later back in Dallas, I passed on an opportunity to see Mogwai live, completely unaware who the opening act was. My friend, Mike Maxwell, called me from the show and left a message asking, "Where are you? Jack Rose is playing, and he put you on the guestlist! Why aren't you here?" For whatever reason I couldn't make it, but I remembered being fairly impressed that this guy I'd only just met remembered my name, remembered where I lived, and put me on the guestlist, simply to be cool. I wish I'd have been there that night, for so many see those post-rock kids' confusion and/or enlightenment in the face of Jack's tantric string fire, to shake his hand or give him a hug. I think about these things, and I think about the true beauty of the man. It's so weird to think that the music comes second.

But he was a guitar player too -- some would say the best raga-picker today -- a blues scholar and a real fan. His transcendent style derived as much from Skip James and other pre WW2 blues men as ragtime, country, John Fahey, Robbie Basho, The Grateful Dead and John Martyn, just to name a few. And, of course, his friends. Key albums? Hard to say. Red Horse/White Mule and Opium Musick (both on Eclipse originally) get the ball rolling with raw slide work, fluid fingerpicking and epic open-tuned raga mind wash. Both can be found on VHF's Two Originals of Jack Rose CD. The definitive Kensington Blues (VHF) would come a few years later, and a two more years later the concurrently released self titled and Dr. Ragtime and His Pals, both available as a 2CD from Tequila Sunrise. There's more too, like his long gone echoplexed 7" single, Untitled, which can at least be downloaded if nothing else. And don't get me started on Pelt! His 10th solo album, Luck In The Valley, is due in early 2010 on Thrill Jockey.

And now a little music:

The last time I spoke to Jack was at Terrastock 7 in Louisville, KY, but it's the time before that that really sticks with me. I flew up to St. Louis to visit my friend Travis, and while there catch a Jack Rose/D. Charles Speer/Raglani gig. It'd been a couple years, but he remembered me. I told him how much I was looking forward to seeing his buddy D. Charles, who is super sweet cat too, and I'm sure feeling his own heartbreak right about now. The show was in an art space called Open Lot, which is basically an old converted firehouse from what I could tell. All three acts killed that night -- D. Charles with his drunken country roots psych, Raglani with his minimal electronic storms, Jack with his mind-bending ragas and ragtime jigs. I think I bought a vinyl copy of Kensington Blues and the aforementioned 2CD on Tequila Sunrise.

At one point I remember walking up the stairs to watch Raglani's performance, and looking back and seeing Jack just sitting there on a big brown couch in the main room. "Aren't you comin'?" I asked. "Nah, I can hear it just fine down here. I'm just gonna enjoy this old couch and relax a little while," and he outstretched both arms on either side and gave us one of those big wide Jack smiles. Something tells me he listened closely and probably liked what he heard. Jack always had eclectic tastes, and he meant every word. He will be missed. Check out some of his music if you never have. It comes highly recommended. Here's to that big brown couch. Rest easy, Jack.

Deepest condolences to Jack's wife, family and friends.

Some more remembrances: (a collection of thoughts by Phil McMullin and other members of the Terrastock Nation, including Bill Kellum, owner of VHF Records) (Windy Webber of Windy & Carl)

Addendum: (excellent in depth/recent interview with Jack by

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

LAST MINUTE weird country/free noise/deep drone gig
happening DEC 2 @ WASTED WORDS HOUSE. As in tomorrow (Wednesday)!
2404 S. Fielder, Arlington, TX 76015.

Semi-early show (from 8 - 11). BYO-whatever. Donations welcome.


Promises to be one of WW's more eclectic shows.

--Ohioan (

--Ah Holly Fam'ly (

--Welby (

--Wu Fru De Lu (