October 2009

Austin Psych Circa '67: The Golden Dawn

I should really stop whining and complaining out old tyme psych acts getting some deference for nothing other than being obscure. Being obscure is pretty cool. You probably get to end up doing cooler things without the oversight of some all seeing body, manager, producer or whatever. But when I read anything that says something to the effect of, “These guys are as good as the 13th Floor Elevators,” it makes my stomach turn.

Michael Yonkers Band: Not the Stooges or the Fugs or...

As is the story with so many of these revered, but lost and neglected guitarists, producers and nut jobs, Michael Yonkers didn’t get his deserved attention during the first epoch of his career. Being in Minnesota probably didn’t help too much, but during the mid to late ‘60s when record labels sought to exploit the youth culture, there were a clutch of acts getting swooped up so some suits in order to make a dollar.

Early Notice: Chicago Rock and or Roll in November and December

Permanent Records 3rd Anniversary Showcase @ the Hideout (Nov. 21st): Noise is a genre that’s steadily gained favor in the underground over the last decade or so. It’s obviously been around for a great deal of time, but the explosion in not just digital communication, but the ease of digital recording has resulted in a ground swell of acts. Wolf Eyes has become relatively famous and so has local Bruce Lamont.

The free jazz/improv scene here has its cadre of backers including the folks at Ememy, the Heaven Gallery and the weekly showcase at Hungry Brain.

Tobacco and his White Fish Tapes

I recently attended some conference which focused on creative non-fiction and journalism. And during one of the panel discussions – this one focusing on music journalism – the youngest member of the assembled writers dove into some discourse about how the wide range of available musics offered up through the internet should help to further blur the lines between genres, if not remove them all together.

The Beach Boys: Sunflower (1970)

When discussing the Beach Boys it’s all too common for someone to mention the fact that Brian Wilson is supposedly toting around some sort of mental infirmity that alternately renders him nuts or a creative genius. Bunk. The guy’s obviously a bit odd, but chalking up any part of his talent to being nuts is reductive and useless. Moreover, focusing on that single aspect of Brian’s persona disallows examining other contributions made to the group. Brian, after all, couldn’t have done all of this alone.

Jason Crest: A British (Commercial) Failure

More litter from the dust bins, folks. The ‘60s, much like today, sported way too many bands for the market place to support. Although, there was a frenzy of major label deals in which unwitting freaks received some corporate support in order to dash off some psych rock tracks, so many of these singles and albums were half conceived and constituted only day dreams of some instead of musical talent.

Jandek: He's Like Almost OK...

Everyone has a friend that makes grand proclamations on the subject of music. There’s always a someone willing to argue that Trout Mask Replica is and will remain the greatest rock album of all time. Of course, there’s no way to quantify such a statement, but it still seems inaccurate at best. And that’s where Jandek comes in.

The singer and guitarist has released some untoward number of records since the late ‘70s. And despite not receiving too much more than a few name checks from the rock cognoscenti, he continues to record and release music. At this point, though, it should be assumed that Jandek does all of this as a sort of therapy: a way to get the ju-ju out.

Review: Twofer:: Loose Fur and Peter Searcy

Peter Searcy
Couch Songs
(Initial Records, 2004)

It’s really difficult for anyone other than Woody Guthrie, Ramblin’ Jack and Robert Zimmerman to sound as if he possesses a backbone while singing accompanied by only a guitar and occasionally a harmonica or some hillbillies. Peter Searcy has the benefit of being able to accompany himself with the guitar, cello and piano, all of this though. It sounds as if someone needs to support him with some solid mass in order for him not to vanish off into the ether. That being said, it’s equally difficult to not come across as overtly cheese ball when all you sing are love, being love, loving things and lost love. These are the problems that destroy the second solo effort from Peter Searcy (yes, that’s harsh). Couch Songs refuses to offer up anything other than songs about relationships.  Inherent in almost every love song ever written (save “To Ramona”) are clichés that when heard should make the listener cringe. Searcy is unable to avoid these lyrical glitches – it’s part of his schtick. The upside to all of this is that the musicianship. While simplistic, Searcy’s performances are competent and well arranged. But, after you get through the first verse/chorus cycle of a song, you can skip to the next track, ‘cause ya already know what’s going to happen in the intervening minute and a half. “Gravity” sports a nice guitar progression in the finger style, nothing really stands out about it though. Each succeeding track seems like a downer, and it is. The trite lyrical index hits a high on “Loneliest Girl” with the line, “but it never works, out the way she wants it to / they stick to her like superglue.”  Each track maintains the same pace, even while occasionally, as on “Graced”, Searcy double times the vocal delivery.  This one point is a rare deviation of a style on an album that sounds kinda like dry crackers taste. Couch Songs is really just a dressed up cracker.

Mushroom x Nazi Propaganda

It’s funny that I just had a conversation in which I mentioned Leni Riefenstahl as being a good filmmaker, much to the consternation of my associate, and then found this disc. The cosmos, indeed, are odd. Riefenstahl, though, came to acclaim in German film between the first and second world wars. She starred in what were referred to as ‘mountain films’ in which the protagonist was pitted against some absurd set of odds off in the wilderness and then summarily overcame them.

Sleepy Sun













Sleepy Sun is my most favorite band at the moment. Their songs are heavy sex and psych indie rock genius mashed up into one big glorious hot mess of a sound. I cannot get enough of them. They played recently with a kickass Seattle band, Hypatia Lake and since being introduced to Sleepy Sun, I have not stopped listeing. They are seriously the shiznit. I mean the bees knees. I mean just listen to this.

A-Austr: A Confusing Psych

Only the most adept bands can cobble together a vast array of influence, include each in its music and still yield some end product that’s not only sensible, but also holds value.

A-Austr is one of those bands.

The fact that the band isn’t all that well known isn’t surprising. The group, formed by Holy Ground Records honcho Bill Nelson, didn’t perform outside of its studio setting. But being comprised of some wacked out commune members made those sessions full of musical exploration if not innovation.

Gary Higgins - Red Hash (1973)

After something gets so hyped up, it’s not surprising to be let down after gaining entrance. In this particular case, that thing is Red Hash by Gary Higgins.

Apart from the fact that psych folk is a horrendous genre name, it doesn’t really aptly describe the music that Higgins and company worked out back in ’73. Surely, there are some acoustic instruments, but there’s also a full band performing at times. Red Hash isn’t one thing. But perhaps that’s what defines the nonsensical genre.

The Dutchess and The Duke: Sunset/Sunrise/Back/Again

It messes me up inside to think about what some music means to me and what time it makes me recall – yes, this has devolved into a personal essay. The Dutchess and the Duke released its first album  - She’s the Dutchess, He’s the Duke  - during 2008. I got that promo in the mail during the winter, I believe. It kinda doesn’t matter. What does is the fact that Seattle, while it’s hilly as all get out, is rather hospitable to ride a bike in. There’s barely weather – and you only think it rains a lot if you happen to be a wuss. So, I rode around a lot and listened to that first disc after O cracked it open. I sang, felt feelings and thought I could in some way relate to the stuff that this duo was saying.

I did.

The Creation: Almost the Who

The convoluted nonsense surround the various line ups that comprise the Creation aren’t really a necessary part of the conversation when discussing the British beat combo. As long as guitarist Eddie Phillips – and yes Pete Townsend did ask him to join the Who at some point – was involved, the band was the Creation proper. When Phillips was absent, the band was ostensibly a different thing completely.

Dead Man's Bones: In The Room Where You Sleep

You know what our culture needs more of? It needs more folks working in various disciplines concurrently. I think that the famous-guy overkill hasn’t quite reached its apex, but we’re getting ever closer. It might be unfair to levy that all on Ryan Gossling and Zach Shields (whoever that dude is). Neither guy seems to be a douche and (at least one) does some decent work in film and the like. Even the conceptual stuff that bolsters the band – Dead Man’s Bones – comes off as thoughtful. There’re a spate of rules that the two set for themselves that include caveats about recording and playing instruments. At points these tenets serve the group well – others not so much. But that’s the point.

Tentacle - The Angel of Death (1971/2?)

The internets occasionally so enrage me that I have to step away from the computer for a moment and take a deep breath. I’m sure I’d be able to find a picture of your grandma on here somewhere, but no real information about Tentacle. And that’s crazy.

So what I can surmise, the group comprises some Scotsman – how many, you might query? Well, judging from the record three or four, maybe. Who they were/are remains a mystery to me and will likely remain so.

Tyondai Braxton: An Adventurous Son...

It’s pretty much impossible to mention Tyondai Braxton without conjuring up his father’s – Anthony Braxton – image in some way. Surely, it’s tiresome and unimaginative to understand this multi-instrumentalist through his elder, but the reason that one finds so many mentions of the two together is due to their similarities. Neither would be considered a composer in the classical sense. But Tyondai’s work is too complicated and well thought out for an argument to be made against his composedly qualities. The same could be said for his father, who during the ‘60s and ‘70s truly did attempt to stretch out what jazz was and could be. There were some more palatable and digestible stuffs unloosed from Anthony Braxton – check out David Holland’s Conference of Birds – but his out and out experiments are what defines the guy.

Charles Mason: A Real Freeq Folk

Murder’s bad. I think that we can all agree on that. There isn’t really anyway to figure that killing another human being is acceptable – well, self defense, but that’s about it. How ‘bout profiting off of a killing? That’s specious stuff right there.

Being released first in ’67 and then again reworked and distributed in ’68, Charles Manson’s Lie (The Love and Terror Cult) didn’t really move too well. Released through the ESP imprint, its label honcho figured that again reissuing the disc during the murder trials subsequent to the ’69 spree that the Family went on wouldn’t hurt.

Well, the album probably sold a bit more briskly. And I suppose that the moral aspect to this becomes moot considering that Manson wasn’t able to make a profit off of his crime, but still…you know.