July 2009

Lazy Smoke: A North-Easterly Psych

A terrible thing happened to American rock music during the mid ‘60s. Everyone waited for the Brits to cue to the next big thing – and I suppose, hearing the Beatles come outta nowhere in that time would have been just short of shocking, but there didn’t and doesn’t remain a good reason as to why every band in the States copped some of the Limey style. It’s all the equivalent to a mama bird pre-chewing food for its babies – we need not eat from the plate of another, especially if we initially provided the sustenance. That might be a weak metaphor – sorry, it’s Sunday – but some of the limp music that arose in the wake of the British Invasion was worse. Lazy Smoke can’t be said to be horrible – or even bad for that matter – but without the Beatles, the template from which the band worked would have been drastically different.

The Fresh & Onlys Mine the Bay

Perpetually busy and apparently even writing tunes in their sleep, the collaboration of Shayde Sartin and Tim Cohen, who struck up a friendship while working at Amoeba Records, seems to be boundless in its inclinations to include any and all rock sounds from in and around the Bay area. Having worked in the past with the Skygreen Leopards, the Dutchess and the Duke amongst a few others has granted the two – and their live ensemble augmented by no less than four other players – a credence that not too many other new bands possess. But the Fresh & Onlys don’t seem like a ‘new’ band. Instead, the group comes off as a well seasoned combo of adept performers – and they are.

Group Doueh: An African Komische

The drastic effect of colonization on African nations won’t and probably can’t be fully realized. Obviously, the subjugation of a continent to various European nations can’t be perceived as positive in any way. The rape of the African continent for its resources and its people isn’t going to be explained away be any of the potential ‘civilizing’ tendencies that colonizers may have left behind. The one effect of this process, though, that resulted in something positive – apart from the realization of unity and a culture unique to individual locales – comes through the recorded music of the continent.

The Cave Singers

The Cave Singers from Seattle, WA are welcoming a beautiful new album into the world, delivery date is only a few weeks away, on August 18th and will be called Welcome Joy. Highly anticipated and celebrated, the album with be the little brother to firstborn, Invitation Songs released 2007 at the house of Matador. 

Peter Quirk, Derek Fudesco and Marty Lund are good folks, especially when it comes to good folkin' razzmatazz rock music full of heart and soul rainstorm psychedelia, scratching on the wet tin roof of Appalachin whiskey distilleries, calling with the creaking fingers of bewondered black walnut, hard driven by hope and epiphany shaking out in showers of sweetlikesugarcandystardust sparkling with the mysteries of a cosmic forest!!

Or something very similar to that. Look how cute they are!!!


Goldenrod: An Underrated Slab 'o Psych

cHRiSgOEsROCk has had a rough six months or so. His earlier blog had a run in with some deleters eventually resulting in the sites permanent closure. And only about a month or so back, he returned with a new offering to internet geeks called Huddinge Hill – which is no doubt in reference to some esoteric music or place, but I have no idea what. Regardless of that, Huddinge Hill soon suffered roughly the same fate as Chris’ first site. But as many things can be said about bloggers, Chris seems to be rather persistent giving Huddinge Hills a go. And while the disc that’s cued up for the write up is from that second site, it’s good to see that Chris is back. Pay him a visit and learn something.

What Happened to Buckethead?

At one point in my life, I travelled roughly two hours from Cleveland to Columbus to witness Buckethead perform alongside Brain (one time Primus drummer) and Bill Laswell, who in the past sat in with Miles Davis. The performance, a ‘Black Box Show’ at the Wexner Center, was pretty much all that could have been expected. It was a monstrous display of dexterity on any and ever instrument that was present – and there was even a bit of a light show going on behind the curtain where the crowd was, in fact, situated. If my approval of the guitarist and his cohort hadn’t been solidified prior to this event, it certainly was afterwards. I don’t think the ticket was more than fifteen bucks either. Bonus.

As Tall As Lions

Dan Nigro, Julio Tavarez, Saen Fitzgerald and Cliff Sarcona of As Tall As Lions, deliver a sophisticated space lounge sound and romantic Buckley-esque lyrics lined with the silky scream of beautiful guitars. Their modernity is underpinned with clean, classic cohesion while layering ephemeral keys, piano, trumpet, and passionate stream of consciousness-like trailings. The combination of electronic effects and keys mixed with the intimate texture of the vocals and intelligent, deliciously bruised lyrics, make As Tall As Lions a must-have this summer.

"In Case of Rapture" is a brand new song of passion and the out of reach desires of life as an adrenaline junkie (my interpretation) while "Circles", which is another favorite of mine- very soft and dreamy, like watching smoke drift and curl, in slow motion in the sun.

The Zipps are Bilingual Freaks, Daddy...

Some ‘60s groups took an overtly poetic approach to writing lyrics that were able to confuse censors as well as the legion of concerned parents that grew up around the ever expanding cohort of kids getting high and diggin’ on beat combos, psych and jazz. While this obscure approach to writing may have saved a few groups some hassles, just as many bands decided to be heavy handed with either their name or their lyrics – the Mothers of Invention were initially called the Motherfuckers and that obviously wasn’t gonna fly. And while Zappa and his brethren were uniquely American, some Dutch players decided to forego any sort of decorum and boldly advocate the use of weed and LSD.

Blues Control Gets Robotic

Kraut sounds may or may not have gained footing amongst the rock intelligentsia over the last decade or so, but even if it hadn’t I would guess that Blues Control would be plying roughly the same territory that the duo’s in now. There’s not a straight cop from any one specific place – it’s all a mix up of cheapo electronics, a mess of keyboards, drums that don’t drop the beat and enough background atmospherics to disallow any Blues Control track from having empty space at all. None of their works are masterpieces, but I’d assume that they’d not want it that way.

The Final Velvets: Squeeze Stinks

The pursuit of pop success doesn’t usually ensure anything for a band – and especially not for a group that actively works towards achieving a sound that’s at once rock, avant-garde, noise and funky in a junky kinda way. The Velvet Underground today probably count one of the largest underground following of any ‘60s band that was able to miss the radio and the charts. That of course really has no impact on the music that the group created over time. But after the release of Loaded in 1970 – the band’s fourth long player and ostensibly their final disc – a few of the players who participated in the recording process went on without Lou Reed to lay down Squeeze in 1973.

Art Wood and the Artwoods Make Brit Soul

The pedigree of the Artwoods is as impressive as any other underappreciated ‘60s beat combo – the Pretty Things or otherwise. Fronted by the eldest brother of Ronnie Wood, Art Wood – yes the band’s name is clever – wrangled a clutch of British blues and RnB players to go in over a spate of covers that drew specifically from American soul music. That aspect doesn’t make the Artwoods unique in the least and it could be argued that the Animals pulled off a similar coup to better effect. But what Art Wood and his cohort did well – in addition to just re-working some good tracks – was to inject enough soul jazz keyboard as to enliven works that could otherwise have been perceived as average fare.

Under Milkwood: Isn't Literary and Doesn't Sound Good

In the realm of crate diggin’ it’s more than worthy – on occasion at least – to pick up a disc that might hold a lone three minute piece of music that sets the mind a churnin’ for whatever reason. The remaining thirty whatever minutes of the disc might be useless drivel, but held in that one brief section of music is an experience that’s worth throwing down five bucks for. I have a Blues Image disc like that. And while I can’t say that it gets tossed in the rotation too frequently, hearing that one song every six months or so makes the purchase of the album seem worthwhile. All of this could be applied to a band that took its name from a Dylan Thomas work – Under Milkwood.

A Psych Source: Yahowha 13

The hippies that seemed to grow ever more troublesome as the ‘60s progressed weren’t always so politically motivated – which, I believe, in turn makes one callous and disposable. But while there were cults cropping up here and there in addition to the ever popular veganism and healthful lifestyles of the time, no one group fully embodied the whole deal like the Source Family. Yep, they’re still a moderately creepy cult who yielded to a guy named Father Yod (or Jim Baker), but some of the cult’s members played a few good tunes as well.

Astra: Pretends Playing Prog unPretentious

Despite a new San Francisco exhibit of Roger Dean’s work from the past, this disc doesn’t represent some resurrected project that the artist was involved with. No. It’s a band that sounds as if it crept up on listeners from the ‘70s – and probably grew up getting’ stoned and staring at Yes album covers for hours. After taking a cursory listen to The Weirding from Astra, it’s shocking to read that the band hails from San Diego, despite working with a British imprint to issue the disc. There’s a fey bent to all of this that makes the band being American a bit disconcerting.

John Fahey and the Tape Whir

An odd public figure if there ever was one, the musical legacy that John Fahey left behind isn’t done being played out. His ideas and praises can be heard in an ever widening circle of musics. Everything from rock to folk and avant garde noise have embraced the peculiar tunings and odd amalgam of influences that Fahey strove to incorporate in his work during his lifetime. And even if there were times when it seemed as if no one was paying attention, they were. The vacuum that was Fahey’s career in the ‘80s would be exploded during the following decade as he appreciated a second round of much deserved acclaim. He never became a house hold name, but no one really did out of that Takoma roster of folk players.

Vibes: A Bad Name for a Decent Group

At one point in my life I enjoyed nothing more than buying a newly released seven inch single, taking it back home and listening to both sides innumerable times while reading over the annotated liner notes and lyrics, if I was lucky enough to have found that whatever disc in particular had them included. But as I began changing addresses all too frequently, my crate of singles wound up in my mom’s closet, hopefully not lost forever under a pile of shoes, high heels and slippers. I can’t readily recall the last time that I actually purchased a single – and yeah, I do still occasionally peruse that bin at my local record dens. But there would need to be something truly exceptional in there to prompt a new purchase.