January 2010

Green River: The Band, Not the Murderer

There’s a pretty deep pedigree that runs through most of Seattle’s ‘80s and ‘90s rock scene - bands that no one is gonna ever really hear again, some bands that you should hear (U-Men) and some bands that you’re gonna hear even if it might wind up being nothing more than a brief history lesson.

Green River is of that latter category. And while it can’t be said that the music is horrendous, only the most voracious of Seattle music fans need to take a listen. Figuring that all out, though, still allows for the band to be as historically important as the Gits, who much like Green River are cooler to think about then listen to on a regular basis.

Bert Jansch: All Alone

It’s sometimes difficult to suss out the differences between Brit (and Irish and Scottish) folksters due to the odd and incestuous nature of all of their careers. Bert Jansch as much as anyone else, though, should be credited as the force that propelled the UK folk scene during the early and middle portions of the ‘60s prior to joining some ensemble that your mother might like listening to while making dinner or reading a book.

Wonderland Band: Less than a Wonder...

I snagged this particular morsel over at the Progressive Music House, which categorized the Wonderland Band and its first album, No. 1, as a krautrock extravaganza. Unfortunately, it’s just an extravaganza as the album includes the participation of well over twenty players, but really hasn’t too much to do with krautrock apart from the fact that it was recorded by Germans in Germany. That being said, it’s really a latter day beat record with just a bit more experimentalism injected into its (digital) grooves than any traditional rock combo from the era.

Terry Riley Gets Simple

Oh minimalism! What an odd and dense history you have. Everything from early 20th century composers to some weirdo art movements have been sighted as influences on what became known as minimalism. Of course, to most folks, in terms of music, the genre name doesn’t mean all that much – and it shouldn’t. It’s an esoteric music without a single melodic line that might be rendered in whistled tones. So why does anyone care at this point?

Early Notice: Cleveland Gets Down

02.27 – Pierced Arrows (ex-Dead Moon) – Beachland Ballroom
Fred Cole has been doing music for the past fifty years or so. The Lollipop Shoppe, a ‘60s garage group that the singer and guitarist fronted, released a lone, now sought after long player. Oddly enough, though, that disc would prove to be the blueprint for one of the longest running ensembles in underground music as Dead Moon (comprised of Cole, his wife and drummer Andrew Loomis). That group wound up being cited as an influence by pretty much everyone coming out of the Northwest music scene. But for no other reason other than sheer boredom, the Coles split with their drummer and wrangled a new percussionist (Kelly Haliburton) to join them in Pierced Arrows. The Coles have spent a life time together making music, but this latest group can’t be said to exceed Dead Moon in too many ways.

Fred Lane: The Crazed World of French Toast

The willfully bizarre have as much room in the arts to flourish as anyone else. Even with that, though, there aren’t too many folks that make it on a grand scale: Lady Ga-Ga and Marilyn Manson being two such oddities. But both of those performers fancy themselves something of a cultural marker (well, maybe not Manson anymore, but during the ‘90s it’s pretty certain that he did). Weird Al Yankovic, even as his aim was to lampoon the normals, was able to remain a unique character in pop music while dressing like a neon tramp and sporting one of the few successful white gheri curls.

Los Saicos: A Killer Garage

Technology being what it was during the ‘60s, it should astound even the most casual listener of rock and or garage at how much similarity there was between, let’s say, the Sonics over there in Washington State and any number of groups copping American attitude in the UK and its affiliated territories.

That being said, those two places – and even countries on the continent, Germany specifically – were able to crank out a huge amount of music that bore some striking similarities. That’s not to figure that these groups playing what would become known as garage rock were necessarily all just ripping each other off, but there was a weird moment in rock history when everyone figured the same thing out in the early to mid ‘60s.

Far East Family Band Gets Inter-Galactic

It should be easy to appreciate music from Japan that apes style from not just Europe, but the entirety of the west. Of course, eastern culture has frowned upon borrowing so liberally from out side of its own clutch of creative forces. And during Akira Kurosawa’s career, the film director was occasionally lambasted for using Shakespeare as source material.

All of that notwithstanding, the rock music that’s resulted from Japan keeping an eye on its neighbors has been interesting to wade through. The only commonality that it all holds is players’ apparent affinity for mind altering substances as evidenced by the spate of tripped out music from the island.

How to Blow Your Mind and Have a Freakout Party: Instructions from Unfolding

It’s really easy to get excited about an album part of the way through it only to be completely let down by its conclusion. Of course, the stuff that’s so engaging at the onset, after the duration of the entire ordeal seems to lose its shimmering quality as well.

The word shimmering comes into play here more than just a few times while taking a listen to Unfolding’s How to Blow Your Mind and Have a Freakout Party. From the title alone, it should be clear that the band has a (third) eye towards fistfuls of acid. But even with that predilection made so clear, there’re some pop songs included on the group’s only disc.

Black to Comm: Alphabet 1968

Entrance to Black to Comm’s long player, entitled Alphabet 1968, moves through a corridor of soggy sound, past a child’s whisper and into a wide open space that allows for each ringing piano note to reverberate for as long as it possibly can.

Between the project’s name – which is just a guise for Marc Richter to work under – and its album cover, it would make sense for this particular effort to be a revved up, heavy psych release. It’s not.

The United States of America: NO! The Band...

The life of those that consider themselves experimental musicians isn’t necessarily always that great. Making weirdo music for a small cohort of like minded odd balls has its benefits – the big fish in a small pond thing. But for the most part, there’s a lot of down time and probably not too much acclaim.

That’s how it goes.

For those folks, though, that are able to get passed all of that and unloose an album, single or otherwise, the results (even years later) can be rather impressive.

As a music student Joe Byrd ran into all kinds of influential folks that made up the east coast, intellectual cognoscenti. Byrd, though, high tailed it to the west coast, taking with him enough enthusiasm for a nascent electronic music that was making headways in rock to influence his first group’s and only long player.

Peter Jefferies' Electricity

It’s always hard to figure why and when specific sounds wind up defining a place. For whatever reason, New Zealand, since the late ‘70s, has been a hotbed of low fidelity, weirdo recordings. The impact of Xpressway as well as Flying Nun is incalculable: everyone from Jay Reatard to Nirvana has at one time made mention of the remarkable stuff flying from that tiny island.

Independent of the punk and power pop that Australia cranked out – ie the Saints, Radio Birdman and the Scientists – New Zealand’s underground music expresses some longing sensation that’s absent from its brethren down under. It’s not better or worse, just different. The Pin Group and all of the Chris Knox affiliated ensembles are better known in the west than Peter Jefferies. That, however, isn’t due to his lack of output.