Saturday, October 15, 2011

More Minis

Matt Valentine What I Became (Woodsist) LP - Dropping roughly around the same time as MV & EE's Country Stash, What I Became is MV's first solo album in seven years, which makes it long overdo with its bearded mystic sitting atop the Holy Green Mountain vibes, but far be it from me to complain. MV continues his fascinations with pan-ethnic trance states, bong smoke and Philip K. Dick dissections across six tracks of hazed out mountain psych folk.

Jim O'Rourke Old News No. 5 (Mego Editions) 2LP - Sprawling in more ways than one, ONN5 actually spans 20 years of Jim O.'s recorded output with two tracks from the early '90s and two from the last couple years seamlessly merged together to tell a continuous aural narrative. Employing analog synth and tape works across sidelong pieces of deeply immersive sound sculpture, these pieces run the gamut from cycling corrosive drone workouts to fluctuating trance synth lines with a multitude of chiming, clicking points dropped in between. Not to be missed.

Jim O'Rourke / Christoph Heemann Plastic Palace People Vol. 1 / Plastic Palace People Vol. 2 (both Streamline) both CD - Two fine platters of minimal duo work from these masters of avant-garde shadow drone. These two releases feature pieces that are nearly 20 years old but tweaked and mixed more recently. Specifically for Heemann, they offer a snapshot glimpse at his progression from the cut-up/industrial work of HNAS to the more minimal environmental drone work he mastered in Mirror (also featuring O'Rourke at times). O'Rourke was newer on the experimental scene at the time, but there's no denying the kinship both exhibit across these evocative drone pieces. Vol. 1 has a more mechanized Surrealist NWW/HNAS feel. Vol. 2 features one extended track that proves equally compelling while throwing tribal percussive pulse on top of the expected blissed out hums and whirrs. It's probably my pick of the bunch, or at least the more inviting of the two.

Call Back the Giants The Rising (Kye) LP - Wonderfully odd collection of minimal synthscapes and detailed scifi dream composition from Tim Goss (The Shadow Ring), gathering influences from all over the sonic map (early ambient Eno, a dash of Suicide, Heldon and early industrial) to arrive at something that's at once (mostly) seductive but still suitably weird.

Concern Truth & Distance (Digitalis/Latrogenesis) CD - Another fine slice of ambient drift from the Digi-folk, courtesy of Gordon Ashworth, brother of Owen (Casiotone for the Painfully Alone); starts with a quiet celestial hum and breaks right on through to the stellar plane on the 17 min title track, a monumental head cleaner. The next two shorter tracks provide more rousing pathos and enveloping shimmer to drift off to.

Wet Hair In Vogue Spirit (De Stijl) LP - Wet Hair inhabits a vintage sonic space with In Vogue Spirit, evoking classic Neu, Silver Apples and Spacmen 3 across 8 tracks of blissful motorik psych pop. This is their first LP for the always dependable De Stijl, and finest long player to date by my count. Bubbling, pulsating trance rock from top to bottom.

Gunn-Truscinski Duo Sand City (Three Lobed) LP - Gotta love Steve Gunn. Gotta love the Gunn-Truscinski Duo which is Gunn on acoustic raga blues guitar and John Truscinski on percussion. Here they weave spectral raga spells in the vein of John Fahey, Sandy Bull, Six Organs of Admittance and the late, great Jack Rose to glorious effect across 4 tracks of jangling, hypnotic bliss that brings light into the dark space and ultimately leaves the body behind. Highly recommended for this sort of thing.

Factums Guilding The Lilies (Night People) C45 - Fine collection of early Factums musical weirdness ranging from bedroom art noise experiments to rinky dink new wave and third eye tickling pseudo raga jams. I'm into it.

Cultus Sabbati Decent Into The Maelstrom (Land of Decay) C30 - The place where ambient black metal and doom meet free noise. Cultus Sabbati do not perform as much as document dark rituals, or something to that effect. Whatever the case, this 6 track grim noise fest is one of the more original documents that's come across my desktop of late and is assured to put the deep listener into a despondent hallucinatory haze.

Skullflower Fucked On a Pile of Dead Bones (Cold Spring) CD - Took me a bit, but I cannot deny the fury of the destroyed harsh noise/black metal hybrid found here. Rudimentary riffs and percussion beneath screaming distortion squalls recast as tribal trance states. Face-melting hate grind so far over the top if's not even funny (yet, it is). At lower levels these "songs" become something other than sheer noise terror -- oceanic ambient skree, let's say.

Amen Dunes Through Donkey Jaw (Sacred Bones) LP - Feels like the second coming of Syd Barrett fronting the Velvet Underground instead of that other band. Dreamy, broken, lost, sad, harmonic voyages for the affectionately disillusioned. Destroyed torch songs for sad drifters and stoned bedroom dwellers alike.

Various Gaman: A Ceremony For Japan (Electric Temple) 2CS - Very happy to see this benefit comp finally materialize. I know ET ran into some production issues, and I'd all but forgotten about it before finding it in my box a cpl weeks ago. The last time I was this bowled over by a various artists collection might just be the first time I chanced upon the Succour comp, released by The Ptolemaic Terrascope some 15 years ago. Gaman is an epic set, two full albums of material that easily represents some of the most important music in the psych underground today (Steve R. Smith, Glenn Jones -- here tackling Fahey's "Portland Cement Factory," Sic Alps, Amen Dunes, Hive Mind, Lorren Conners, Zelienople, etc) and newer but no less exciting folks like Angel Olson, doing the ghost of Townes Van Zandt proud with her rendition of "She Came And She Touched Me," Forma, Animal Hospital, Derek Rogers and the woefully under-heard Phantom Family Halo. Even Pete Stampfel of the Holy Modal Rounders gets in on the beauty with a fingerpicking bluegrass oddity, "Castor and Pollux," performed in duo with Eli Smith. The rest of the tracks run the gamut from dusted ambient folk drift to bleary eyed free jazz, PSF- like mellow guitar psych, Komische electronics, holy organ meditations and much, much more. A heartfelt sonic message of healing and love, beautifully packaged, and delivered right on time. I hope there's a second pressing on down the line. Though the tapes are sold out, you can still purchase the digital version at Bandcamp.

Coppertone Best of the First Six Months (Night People) C32 - This is the kind of tape that comes out of nowhere and burns its way into the gray matter for longer than a minute. An otherworldly hybrid of synth pop/cold wave, early industrial, homespun art pop with distorted fem vocals that sound piped in from an alternate dimension ruled by gleaming robot Goddesses of the ethereal night. Delightfully warped and engaging.

Locrian "Dort Ist Der Wig" / "Frozen In Ash" (Flingco Sound System) 7" - Stellar single featuring a humdinger of a Popol Vuh cover (taken from their heaviest album, Letzte Tage - Letze N├Ącthe) recast as a blistering hybrid of Spiderland era Slint and early Flying Saucer Attack distorted squall. The guitar dynamics on this one remind me of Wire circa 154 in a wonderful way. The flip is an inspired black metal wind storm with tortured vocal howls that give way to some beautiful Paganist acoustic guitars. Wonder what Florian Fricke would think of all this?

Blasted Canyons Blasted Canyons (Castle Face) LP - More ginchy San Fran garage syke via John Dwyar's (The Oh Sees) label featuring a former member of Bare Wires (and other folks I don't know), harnessing a mighty thunder across these 13 high energy fuzz punk onslaughts. As we all know, Hawkwind really did invent space punk. Bands like Blasted Canyons provide the next evolutionary step up the cosmic ladder. Destroyed yet infectious psych anthems for the tomorrow people.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

May you live in interesting times, as the old proverb says. The Occupy Wall Street movement and all the other occupations happening throughout the States qualify as interesting. I don't know what will come of it all, but this graphic -- nabbed from a Facebook wall -- suggests things are way out of whack, assuming it's even remotely accurate. Who knows? I'm usually not one for taking political positions, but I always pay attention to what's going ahn. For more on the game changing implications of this movement and why things may never be the same again, check out this article by Douglas Rushkoff, a one time member of Psychic TV(!) and media theorist. Also amused by all the Youtube clips of various media outlets' coverage and attempts at ridiculing the movement.

Deeply saddened by the passing of Scottish string bender Bert Jansch, one of the most laid back and understated of all the great guitar gods. Jansch was simply a giant of folk, blues and jazz and pretty much defined the British folk rock sound as a solo performer, in duo with John Renbourn, and finally in his incredible group Pentangle, an intricate, soulful mix of all of the above that released a string of highly influential albums in the late '60s and '70s such as Cruel Sister, Pentangle and Basket of Light (the first one I ever heard). For a supposed folk rock band, Pentangle was always so much more. Solo Jansch blazed a trail that stretched from 1965 to 2006 and proved equally inspirational. Some clips:

Here's a tasty clip of Jansch (with a glimpse of Mike Nesmith) during the sessions for L.A. Turnaround

And a fond farewell to the great square jawed Charles Napier (of Russ Meyer films and well beyond), Steve Jobs and Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth.

Finally caught up with Breaking Bad, and loving it. Walter White enjoys the unique position of being the shows protagonist and antagonist. In each passing season he becomes increasingly harder to like or care about, but there are other rad characters (Hank, Jesse, Gus) to latch onto and keep us guessing. Walt is what we're all afraid of becoming in our rise to the top, and what some of us became long ago. I'm glad there's one more season left. I also recommend the movie Drive, which is kind of a cross between Michael Mann's Thief and Monte Hellman's Two Lane Blacktop with gorgeous night shots of LA, a bare bones narrative and excellent score that combines Angela Badalamente's dreamy synthtopia with memorable synth pop gems that came out today but sound like some sort of alternate version of the 80s where everything was cooler and had more depth (even if it didn't). It's a throw back that's actually something of a step forward. Killer supporting work from Albert Brooks and Bryan Cranston, Gosling's all steel and ice as the quiet driver. Carey Mulligan literally glides through the frame as the unconventional love interest. Keep it practical, Keep it to the point. Director Nicolas Winding Refn is one to watch.