Aug 31, 2009

V/A. Own Zone. States Rights Records.

0 Blurts

1. Lucky Dragons - Fake Is Forever
2. Bobby Birdman - And Then It Begins
3. The Blow - Hey Boy (DJ Aldar Forkmin "Alpha-Club" Remix)
4. YACHT - Sometimes I Doubt Your Committment...
5. Andrew Kaffer - Why (Do You Doubt Me Baby?)
6. Thanksgiving - Grandfather Dawn
7. The Dirty Projectors - So Stingy U Reign
8. The September Equation - How Much It Takes
9. MAY.23/2/0/0/7 - October 17th 2008
10. Parenthetical Girls - Love Connection (O Mix)
11. Andrew Kaffer & Adam Bayer - X1
12. Thanksgiving - The Lake At Night
13. Lucky Dragons - Mo Cheeks Edit
14. The Badger King - You Absent Referent
15. Dear Nora - Hey Tiger
16. YACHT - A Head That Smells So Good
17. Bobby Birdman - As Heavy As My Name
18. Jimmyjames - Hater
19. Portland Rhythm Makers - Struggle Riddim
20. MAY.23/2/0/0/7 - May 24th 2003
21. The Dirty Projectors - Jolly Jolly Jolly Ego
22. YACHT - Lulling You
23. Adam Forkner - Re-creation of the audio section of the White Rainbow Full Spectrum Instalation Feb 1-3rd @ The CCA Gallery, S.F. CA
24. Parenthetical Girls - Love Connection (X Mix)

Own Zone

Aug 27, 2009

Soft Boys. 1976-1981.

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Although Robyn Hitchcock made a much bigger splash as a solo artist with the Egyptians, it was his work with the Soft Boys that had the most influence on the first wave of alternative bands. Everyone from R.E.M., the Flaming Lips, and Camper Van Beethoven to the entire ‘90s psychedelic noise pop scene owe him a debt. They were contrarian anti-heroes during English punk’s heyday—a whimsical, twisted beast that combined the Byrds’ chiming chords, the Beatle’s sense of melody, and early Pink Floyd’s tea-time hallucinogens while often sounding like Syd Barrett fronting the Buzzcocks covering Captain Beefheart. Needless to say, they were as odd and charming as any of the things they wrote about. Sort of the Monty Python of indie rock.

1976-1981 collects early recordings from Robyn’s living room, the difficult to find (I Want to Be) An Anglepoise Lamp single, selections from the obscure Two Halfs for the Price of One, and bits of all their proper albums.

Disc 1
Disc 2

Soft Boys on myspace

Museum of Robyn Hitchcock

Mclusky. Mcluskyism. Limited Box Set.

3 Blurts

Mclusky apparently did well critically, but inexplicably never made much of a commercial splash. I only heard of them after they had broken up. I think they would have fared much better in the days of the Pixies, Nirvana, The Jesus Lizard, and Shellac (they worked with Steve Albini a lot), but when they debuted in '98, they had nothing in common with the commercialized "alternative" scene, the atrocious slew of rap rock bands, or the early wisps of the rising psychedelic/fey underground represented by the Elephant 6 collective. Apparently, they didn't even fare well in their native Wales. They really deserved a lot more, and now that Future of the Left is starting to garner acclaim, maybe their work as Mclusky will get a well deserved reappraisal.

Mcluskyism is a posthumous collection of their singles, b-sides, and some live material. At the very least, you need all the a-sides. This is some of the hairiest, grittiest, most acidly funny music ever laid down. They just fucking destroy on every track. It's not that difficult to come off as unhinged, but Mclusky managed to sound absolutely apeshit while still driving their songs forward like lazer-guided missiles. I suspect they had some sort of nefarious master plan, like the serial killers that pop up semi-regularly in their lyrics.

And they had killer lyrics (As well as titles. How can you resist a song called Lightsaber Cocksucking Blues?). Sometimes it's the delivery, as when lead singer Andy Falco screams "I don't wanna talk about it" all through Rice is Nice. Other times it's just poignantly creepy, like on the beautifully restrained She Will Only Bring You Happiness: "Note to invading aliens / Avoid this town / Like this town avoided us / Like murder stalked the valley / Where this woman used to live / And bathe / And breathe and be murdered....". On To Hell With Good Intentions we're repeatedly commanded to "SING IT!" having been previously informed by Falco that "my love is bigger than your love", and "we take more drugs than a touring funk band". The set finishes with what is arguably their best song, the tight, infectious Without MSG I Am Nothing. Loopily howling/chanting "Everywhere I look is darkness, darkness" over a buzzing, menacingly catchy hook that drills its way into your skull, Falco more than conjures the spirit of prime PIL era John Lydon (who should just go ahead and cover this already), while still making it totally his own sound. They simply didn't have any equals.

A Sides
B Sides
C Sides

Mclusky on myspace

Aug 23, 2009

The Charlottes. Lovehappy.

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One of the earliest shoegaze bands, The Charlottes had a harder edge than their billowy pals, My Bloody Valentine or Slowdive, though they never achieved the same levels of success. I think at the time they were regarded more like The Primitives, but it's hard to tell. They fell into that twee-band-with-a-distortion-pedal period that's just on the verge of the prime shoegaze years. It may just encompass this record, actually. They're much tighter than their shambolic forebears, each song a little candy sweetart. It's a short album—barely half an hour—but they managed to get the whole thing just right.

In other unbearably twee news, today is our eighteen year anniversary (my girlfriend and me, not this blog, obviously). So, if you're reading this, my dear Candy-O, I love you.

Lovehappy

Aug 22, 2009

Windy & Carl. A Dream of Blue.

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As kids speculating on the hidden origins of dust, we reasoned that it must come from great, soft clouds of silver winged moths that descended in the night, like a legion of miniature powdered wigs shivering off the accumulated particles of crystallized sleep that grew on their delicate furry bodies, the sediment gradually coating our daytime world in soft-focus nostalgia.

Blue

Windy & Carl's official site

Windy & Carl on myspace

Aug 21, 2009

Taj Mahal Travellers. August 1974.

1 Blurt

Completing our troika of Taj Mahal Travellers posts.

August Disc 1
August Disc 2

Aug 20, 2009

Taj Mahal Travellers. Live Stockholm July 1971.

0 Blurts

It's more avant-garde noise from nature's drone gods. When you have all of eternity, why not spend two hours singing your first note?

I think this was the last of the Traveller's albums to be released, although it was actually the first to be recorded. Paradoxically, they sound more relaxed and assured here then they do on their second album, merging their scrape and rumble to such an extent that no one instrument or member ever takes over, allowing you to float along, caught in their massive undertow.

July Disc 1
July Disc 2

Aug 19, 2009

Taj Mahal Travellers. July 15, 1972.

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UPDATE: I just discovered the download link was redirecting back to this page. That's been corrected. Sorry about that.

Speaking of the Taj Mahal Travellers, here's their second album. I learned of them through Julian Cope's excellent book, Japrocksampler: How the Post-War Japanese Blew Their Minds on Rock 'n' Roll.I'm always amazed to discover that music like this exists, much less was made so long ago. It's psychedelic in the purest sense of being capable of transporting your mind to a completely new and unknown space. It's more landscape than music (one member's instrument was "tree branch"), complete with its own peculiar, unnerving weather.

I've become more and more attracted to music that disorients me from where I am and what I'm doing. There's nothing to hum along to here, the singer has a voice like a rough-hewn wooden bowl (his few vocals are deep, rumbling throat calls), there's no melody or trajectory to anything they're doing, and most of the music is so heavily treated it's hard to tell (or believe) that a human being has mapped out that noise on a known instrument. This (thankfully) isn't even free jazz. It was something completely unique to these guys at the particular time it was recorded. Despite the processing, it remains purely organic. Despite its amorphousness, it's never anything less than compelling.

July 15

Aug 18, 2009

Bonecloud. Drawing Spirits in Crystals.

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I pulled out this album again the other day and was surprised to discover that my memory of it being the snow between stations was completely wrong. It's actually the sonic scree of the Taj Mahall Travellers covering the Harmony Rockets Paralyzed Mind of the Archangel Void.

Spirits

Bonecloud on myspace

Aug 17, 2009

Schema. Schema.

0 Blurts

Musical duets rarely live up to hopes and expectations. Artists usually spend their time just exchanging verses, and never really try to blend their styles. Schema, on the other hand, are almost exactly like what you would want a cross between Hovercraft and Stereolab to sound like.

Hovercraft's afterburner equipped guitars tone down the epic roar in favor of heavy dub (check out the cosmically echoed event horizon that is We Think We're Sane) and a post rock take on Neu! (waves of muted, space-dust feedback, relentless, looped rhythms, and Mary's spacy keyboard bloops). Like a pair of communicating vessels, the album starts out heavy-on-the-Hovercraft/light-on-the-Stereolab with a progressive mixing of styles. Unde builds to Hovercraft's usual racing down a windtunnel trajectory with Mary moaning and murmuring over the top. They find their level in Echolalia...Curvilinear, the sprawling centerpiece, then tilt more towards Stereolab's old school motorik pop on Far from Where We Began and Getting Smart.

Sadly, Mary was killed in a bicycle accident, and Hovercraft disbaned soon after. There had been talk of another album and a tour, but this is all we'll be left with. Not a bad epitaph.

Schema

Aug 14, 2009

Close Lobsters. Headache Rhetoric.

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Whilst flipping through my library's copy of Spin magazine on my lunchbreak today, I was pleased to see one of my favorite "lost" bands highlighted in their 100 Greatest Bands You've (Probably) Never Heard Of.

"After appearing on the legendary C86 post-punk compilation, this Glaswegian quartet released two exquisite albums, offering pleasurably chiming, subtly psychedelic guitar lines that virtually defined late '80s indie pop."

I think they deserve an entire article, and a retrospective box set would be nice, but you take what you can get. They only put out two albums and an EP, but each one is utterly wonderful. Probably some of the best music to come out of that scene.

I was going to say that Headache Rhetoric is a fair bit less sunny than their first album, but Foxheads Stalk This Land isn't so much sunny as sharply lit. Headache is more musically aggressive than their first album, but still underpinned by solid pop structures and wonderfully chiming guitars.

If you enjoyed the 14 Iced Bears, you'll probably dig this, too.

Headache

Close Lobsters on myspace

Official Close Lobsters website

Aug 13, 2009

Harmony Rockets. Paralyzed Mind of the Archangel Void.

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Over forty solid minutes of shimmering, hypnagogic beauty from inside a diving-bell.

Void

Aug 12, 2009

Hovercraft. Experiment Below.

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The reason Hovercraft's members hid their identities behind stage names and generic, vintage science photography is because they were not humans, but giant, autistic beetles that had their limbs replaced by robotic arms and then decided to record instrumental love songs to each other.

Experiment

Hovercraft website

Aug 11, 2009

Fred Schneider. Just... Fred.

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This is one of those weird little lost gems that most people wouldn't think of tracking down even if they knew it existed. Which is too bad, because it's the best thing Fred Schneider's been involved with in his entire career.

Fred sounds astonishingly reinvigorated, lashing each song into a frenzy he hasn't mustered since Rock Lobster. Everything here roars to life like the band just discovered the perfect new sound and are just barely holding on to the songs as they fly out of their instruments. Of course, there actually isn't anything new about the sound—his backing band brings elements of each of their respective groups to the project (Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet, Six Finger Satellite, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion), and nothing sounds too out of place from the early 90's alterna-scene—but their devotion to it, and the amount of fun they're clearly having elevate the entire album to near perfect, rock-candy goodness.

Nearly all the songs are dripping with hooks, and Fred's lyrics are better than anything he'd put on the last decade's worth of The B-52's albums. You'd think the crashing guitars and stomping drums would overwhelm him, but he just surfs on top of it all sounding like it's where he was always meant to be. Of course, you can't help but laugh while listening to this record, but never in a derisive way. You're laughing in astonishment, hearing someone try something they should completely fail at, but actually manage to pull off in spades. Half the fun of the record is the feeling that none of it should work—that the next time you spin it they won't be able sustain the energy, that they'll trip over something and fall on their collective ass—but every time they triumphantly come screeching sideways across the finish line with the wheels falling off and sparks flying.

Best moments:

Whip - "Blunt weapon in a cloud of desire / Velvet hammer in a sheath of lies"..."Your kiss is a whip!"

Bulldozer - The short, ripping, almost Queen-like guitar solo right in the middle. This should have been a hit.

Bulldozer


Just Fred

Fred on myspace

Aug 5, 2009

Garmarna. Vittrad.

1 Blurt
blur red

During our Michigan years we got an early version of the fX Channel, which at the time played kitschy old syndicated shows interspersed between a sprawling, silly "Morning Show" that took place in a fake apartment. They interviewed guests in bathrooms, bands performed in the bedroom, there was a bit much like Antiques Roadshow where people brought in stuff to be appraised and you could call in and bid on it, pets were everywhere, and I believe one of the hosts may have been a puppet. One of the segments was Sound fX which covered a pretty eclectic range of music. They were playing Garmarna in the background one night and the reviewer described it as "medieval Pink Floyd", which really isn't true ("Fairport Convention for Cave Trolls" would have been more apt), but it does have an intricate, interlocking, grinding, wooden clockwork sound. Sort of like A Saucerful of Secrets with a puslating beat; something a gnome named Grimble Grumble would have danced to.

Essentially, it's ancient Swedish folk music played on violins, bag-pipes, violas, lutes, bowed harps, Jew's harps, bouzouki, electric guitars, and a hurdy-gurdy. Only, instead of folk music, it sounds more like the way Page and Plant were approaching their old Zeppelin tunes during their reunion tour. In fact, it's the sort of raw, windswept tundra, viking-metal that Zeppelin aspired to but never reached during their Hobbit-rock phase.

Klevabergselden is particularly apocolyptic. It's world music, but not the kind that gets played in free trade coffee shops. Think instead of something gothy, like Dead Can Dance or Miranda Sex Garden. This is probably Garmarna's most primal album. They got a lot more polished and industrial on later releases, but most of the fans seem to consider this to be their pinnacle.

Vittrad

Garmarna official site

Garmarna on myspace