December 2009

Index: A Confusing Surf 'n Psych

All of music is beset by innumerable stories that have something to do with one off wonders that disappear into the ether. Index, yes that’s the name of a band, isn’t any different than those other disappearing acts. But what the trio lacks in enticing back-story, it makes up for in its rock and or roll.

Like so much of the rock stuffs that was coming out of Detroit during the ‘60s, Index (which comprised guitarist Jim Valice, drummer John B. Ford and bassist Gary Francis) made good use of its amplifiers. Yeah, the music was still tied to those basic blues progressions – and moreover, the almost passé surf music from earlier in the decade – but the addition of endless reverb and sometimes obnoxious noise set the group apart from its more hippified peers.

Harappian Night Recordings: The Glorious Gongs of Hainuwele (2009)

For whatever reason, site specific recordings that detail a culture or explicate a religious affectation seem to be all the rage nowadays as opposed to times prior when these musics were relegated to the bargain bins and import racks. Oh, new times, you’ve changed.

Those hefty price tags might still apply – or the conversaion rate to the British pound might simply screw potential patrons – but with an engorged market of both buyers and hockers, it seems that everyone should be a bloody winner.

Even if that’s not always the case, it is with Harappian Night Recordings. And while the name of the recording project might sound more appropriate if it was to be attached to a studio or record label, the tag lends Dr. Syed Kamran Ali a disguise to work behind.

Kevin Coyne: A Case History

The best art is a confluence of innumerable ideas hung together in a single medium. So when any performer, artist or writer is able to express a war chest of ideas through music the end result is something more than a traditional and marketable poppy love song.

One should assume that if executed properly the end result is going to be properly received by the general public and the media that spoon feeds the mindless dullards too daft to figure stuff out for themselves. Yes, assuming does generally lead to let downs. And with a spate of ‘60s and ‘70s folk fair it seems that the music buying public was able to just miss out.

Alec K. Redfearn: Weirdo Accordions

One of the most obnoxious and completely worthless ensembles to be married with the punk genre (somehow) is Gogol Bordello. Arriving at some compendium of European centered folksy stuff and aggressive rock workouts doesn’t sound like a good combination. But it does than allow for low brow punkers to believe that their musical palette extends beyond NoFX or whatever other pop styled punk stuff is mostly favored.

Anyway, almost ruining a combination of musics would have been difficult for a band that fancies itself ‘gypsy punk,’ whatever that means. So thankfully, Alec K. Redfearn has been around since the mid ‘90s working out his own recombinant music.

Ikettes: A Cool Beatdown

Ike Turner was a master of a variety of things that while useful in life ostensibly relegated him to being considered a bad guy. There’s not too much arguing to do on his part after the abuse – physical and mental – that he lavished upon Tina. But in addition to that problematic relationship, Ike was something of a manipulative business manager and band wrangler.

Being necessitated to maintain a backing group for Tina, his touring and recording dates, the Ikettes became something of an institution themselves. While the group was comprised of a never ending slew of female singers, the Ikettes, whoever they were, never received anything akin to proper financial compensation. Of course, in hindsight, Ike’s treatment of his singing group isn’t too surprising. And while that might be the case, it’s still a shame that these women never got too much scratch.

Iron Claw: Not as Cheesy as it Sounds

In the wake of Black Sabbath’s heavy riffing a tremendous number of second wave almost-metal bands cropped across Europe and in the States. For the most part, what resulted was lackluster fan boy wanking and Tony Iommi worshipping. And while that’s all understandable, it didn’t yield a lot of memorable stuff. There are, though, lost to the dustbins, a handful of successful Sabbath cops. Iron Claw – during its first incarnation, at least – was one of the more notable ones.

Tony Conrad x Faust

The myth surrounding Faust is only superseded by the wash of mystery that convolutes any attempt to distill what was actually going on in New York City’s underground, experimental music scene during the ‘60s. Part of the problem is due to the fact that everyone wants to recall their own greatness and inventiveness. That’s all well and good, but I’d be interested to know how LaMonte Young, John Cale and Tony Conrad got along together.

With those three personalities kicking around – and the latter two eventually working/hanging out with Lou Reed in various capacities – the landscape from whence the Velvet Underground sprung wasn’t as flat, dark and empty as some would be led to believe.

TWOFER: Medications x Of Montreal

(Dischord Records, 2004)

I’m not sure if every Dischord release is recorded at Inner Ear Studio, but enough of them have been that I’ve noticed. And Brendan Canty of Fugazi fame and glory mixed this one down. Not being in touch with the newest of the new Dischord acts, I have to take for granted that Medications fit into that sound. Ya know the press release says so anyway. Regardless of that, there’s a little Minutemen influence on the guitar, which some how is sung along to almost note for note on a few tracks. Going back to the Dischord family idea; even though I was able to buy the Minor Threat discography ten years ago for the price of this cd/ep, the tracks on here all clock in at about four minutes, so at least I get twenty minutes of new music. As for the notes that come outta your stereo, most of them are good ones, occasionally the band begins to sound like Weezer, but more talented and with louder instruments. So, simultaneously that’s endearing and aggravating. The cowbell rears its’ ugly head on “Excersie Your Futility” while the track somehow maintains the sound of urgency that not too many groups can achieve. Departing from the frenetic pace of other tracks, “Reconcile Awake” is served with smooth drumming becoming tense without the track being overbearing. Unfortunately, someone decided to stick a clunker on at the end of this slab. “The Perfect Target” sounds similar to most average rock songs, only adding in some dissonant chords during the chorus for good measure. I don’t think there’s anything bad about this band or this release, but let us refrain from canonization until a full length comes out.

The Master Musicians of Jajouka x Bachir Attar

I was once chastised for listening to Fela Kuti. There wasn’t any good reason for it, but there was some vague mention of world music being lame.

Music geeqs need to take umbrage with such a statement. The term ‘world music,’ obviously construed by some westerner, seeks to encompass all non-Anglo based musics under a single banner. Absurd. Fela Kuti has very little to do with Burning Spear, but there’s unquestionably a number of record stores where browsers are going to find the Afro-funk band leader sitting in the same bin as that reggae stalwart. Not only is that unfair and damnably disconcerting, but it discredits each man’s work.

Mountain Bus: Psych and Law Suits

The throngs of kids that grew out their hair in the ‘60s resulted in a wash of hippie rock and boogie bands. Pretty frequently these acts wound up sounding like nothing more than your friends getting hammered and playing Bo Diddley songs with extended guitar solos patching things together. Of course, some of those acts work better than others, but seeing as Chicago’s Mountain Bus stayed away from too much of that Bo Diddley beat and opted for a cowboy ethos its recorded legacy isn’t too horrendous.

Michael Hurley: Gets Folksy and Weird

One of the coolest things about folk music – apart from the tunes of course – is the fact that each song has a life of its own. There’re countless derivations on any single standard that differentiate one version from the next in any variety of ways. It might be that the original was played on a piano and subsequent versions were rendered in six string terms. But any sort of snake like tracking of a song requires ample knowledge of Americana’s history. For whatever cultural reason – the impending youth movement, civil rights and work towards social equality – the late ‘50s and early ‘60s saw a ground swell in not just an interest in folk music, but a spate of new performers.

The Melvins Give the Bay a Try

Never having made it to the big time – at least not in the same way as its Northwest brethren – the Melvins have remained a vital part of the underground rock thing for the past twenty seven years or so. That’s a phenomenal accomplishment on its own. But even more impressive is the fact that over that expanse of time, the Melvins have continued to release vital and original music while collaborating with some of the rock scene’s most high profile low-lifes.

Les Rallizes Dénudés: FuzzNoiseFreaks

Maintaining a cult status for the better part of four distinct decades is a pretty phenomenal feat. It’s not that it hasn’t been done countless times in the States and abroad. But a Japanese band called Les Rallizes Denudes ratchets up the weirdness to hitherto untold heights.

Founded in ’67 and making its live debut early the following year, Les Rallizes Denudes, centered around Mizutani Takashi, sought to incorporate as many different modes of expression into performances as possible. There were films, lights, disco balls and the like all functioning alongside the rock-steady drum beat and repetitive bass lines that comprise such a dense block of the group’s catalog.

Early Notice: Bay Area Rock and or Roll in January and February

01.15.10 – Agnostic Front - Thee Park Side

For its 25 birthday, these East Coast hardcore types are hitting the road. At this point it’s more nostalgia than spit and vinegar. But the story that’s taken Vinnie Stigma and Roger Miret from cult status afforded them by covering little known skinhead bands to international stardom is mirrored in punks various rises in popularity over time.

01.21.10 – The Black Lips/No Bunny - Great American Music Hall

Plasticland: A Midwest Paisley

Gigging around the same town that would soon yield the Violent Femmes - Milwaukee, Wisconsin – the guys in Plasticland sound more beholden to ‘60s rock stuff then the stripped down sounds of the ‘70s. There was of course still that revved up aggression that was the hallmark of the punk era, but it was tempered by sappy background vocals and a litany of mid-paced rock with enough twisted guitar soloing to confuse the most sober and even the unapologetically stoned.