August 2010

High Wolf: More Not Not Fun Psych and Ambience

Not Not Fun is an imprint that doesn’t necessarily concern itself with a single genre of music. Instead, the Los Angeles based imprint seeks to issue any music even tangentially related to psychedelia. And at this late date in music history, that could mean just about anything. Still, the kind of tripped out sounds one locates on NNF releases possesses a modicum of connectivity. It’s an sleepy eyed, kind of mess, but one, apparently, with a point. Pocahaunted doesn’t sound like Sun Araw. And Sun Araw doesn’t sound like High Wolf. But that’s the point.

Cass McCombs: Sings and Writes Songs that You May Have Heard Before

Hearing folks like Sam Cooke and Bob Dylan spit out couplets as well composed as they are well performed has informed that last fifty years worth of musicians and writers. Getting to the middle of any matter was somehow reduced to a pair of lines, sometimes flowery in nature, but sometimes simple and cinematic. Looking out a back to onto a vast sprawl of emptiness hasn’t ever sounded good unless sung by one of these two folks.

So, over the last half century, the fact that people (imitators or not) have approximated the sound of each one of these folks isn’t a tremendous surprise. And certainly, a good portion of the time, recreating either Cooke or Dylan’s sound wasn’t on purpose. These two men have simply changed American music.

Rain Parade: One of the Paisley Underground's Strongest Efforts

Combining two albums by any one band years after the initial release dates works on occasion. But when it doesn’t, the results are so blatantly off kilter as to detract from the grandiosity of either effort. And that’s the main problem with pairing Rain Parade’s album Emergency Third Rail Power Trip, from 1983, and the group’s 1984 EP Explosions In the Glass Palace.

Throbbing Gristle and the Ever-Changing Genesis P-Orridge

Art as music or music as art always presents some sort of problem. Either the art critics don’t get the music or the music critics don’t get the art of it all. Or both. Even beyond that, when attempting to work up something completely new – and actually arriving at something that appears to be so – there’s nowhere for this new thing to fit.

Made in Sweden: Snakes, but No Plane

Bands today might believe themselves to possess the same sort of disregard for convention that acts back in the sixties had, but that’s really not the case. If you head out to pretty much any live performance, each act on the bill is going to sound kinda like the one that follows. To a certain extent, that’s to sate the crowd, but no scene can flourish if bands mining disparate territories are kept from co-mingling. None of that means any one group is going to move deftly between genre tropes, but live scenarios go a long way to tipping off players as to what’s acceptable and what’s not.

Paik: Simple Rock Sounds Abound

It’d be difficult to quantify the general cache Terrascope Music carries around. It was an internationally distributed magazine focused on disseminating criticism concerned with the most obscure sorts of music. And in the new millennium migrated to an online presence, all but withdrawing from a print medium. Perhaps it’s that shift, which so many other publications undertook, that’s mitigated Terrascope’s broad impact. But the outlet still posts on a semi-regular basis, so maybe there’s hope.

Naked on the Vague: Someone Wants Sad New Wave Somewhere

Bands coming from Australia – or anywhere that could potentially prove odd and foreign for American audiences – have been crafting exciting and obviously skewed variations on pop music since the seventies. For the most part, the folks gaining attention in the West have leaned towards to more palatable end of the spectrum-odd. So, figuring that, the group’s not granted relative fame in the States most be really odd. Kinda.

The ECM Influenced Guitar of Loren Connors

This is darkly beautiful stuff.

It’s rare in today’s experimental music cadre for a guitarist to play an electric instrument while restraining the tendency to let loose and churn out fuzz ridden, almost nonsensical noise. Playing free certainly has its place – and always will. But more often than not, it seems as if there’s a reduced number of emotions being exuded during those freeq outs. And while it might be said that introspective music is all dour, without too much aggressive reward, it’s still possible to relate anything from a pensive feeling to exuberance with the least amount of notes possible and in a controlled setting.

Ozzie: Robot References Don't Make '70s Hard Rock Any Better

As crappy as it must have been to be a group attempting to negotiate original music during the early years of the seventies without the support of a major label, it has to be as frustrating for those folks to watch the continual dusting off of old records. Each album touted as the lost link from glam to punk or hard rock to sludge might not really have anything to do with those genres in a conservative sense of the word. But at the time, crossing over into whatever sound was then in a songwriter’s head and moving back towards more distinctive stock was the point. It didn’t frequently result in stardom. But there’s more than a handful of bands being dug up that appreciated prog as much as Zeppelin.

The Moles: Lonley Hearts Get What They Deserve

Recently reissued through Kill Shaman, the same East Bay imprint that brought you the Ty Segall and Mikal Cronin collabo earlier this year, the Moles 1991 album isn’t even tangentially related to garage styles. And for whatever reason, the vast majority of prose spilled on Untune the Sky figures the band as some sort of chamber pop band. There’re problems with that as well, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

Marine Girls: A Low FIdelity Beach Party

Everything in life comprises odd timing and weird coincidences. So, my tracking down the first album, Beach Party, by Britishers Marine Girls, released just about thirty years ago, could have only led me to a piece of writing by Tracey Thorn and posted over at Quietus.

One of the group’s two songwriters, Throne runs through a few odd meetings she’s had over time during which famous people expound on their love of all things Marine Girls. She goes on to figure that ending the group so soon and so suddenly was the only end note possible.

The Godz: Just Lay in the Sun

Yes, ‘tis true. There are two bands that recorded under the moniker of the Godz during the seventies. But only one of them didn’t stink.

Based in New Yawk, the Godz (that didn’t stink) had something of a foot in the door at ESP Disk, the imprint that would eventually release music by the ensemble. At the time the label was working with fair as diverse as Ornette Coleman and the Fugs. That latter group, though, shared a bit of its musical terrain with Godz.

Half Japanese: As Wrought through Film

Alternately referred as a group springing from Maryland and Michigan depending upon the point one’s attempting to make, Half Japanese are somehow still doing just about the same thing it was in 1974. And while folks like Neil Young or Bruce Springsteen can say the same thing, each of those guys has received that magical payday at the end of a tour.

Surely, Half Japanese have made a few dollars – not that Jad or Dave Fair really care. After all, during the latter portion of the seventies, the duo sent out tapes and whatever they figured as art, gratis, to a list of fans they’d kept in correspondence with.

Wild Man Fischer: Recommended Listening, Kinda

This isn’t a hoax or a gimmick. It’s Frank Zappa and his label, Bizarre, being genuinely interested in music that wouldn’t have had a chance at proper distribution otherwise. Of course, it’s then a fair question to ask, why wouldn’t Wild Man Fischer have been able to secure a record deal otherwise?

Good question.

Well, being homeless and schizophrenic doesn’t usually make for a combination readying one for international stardom. Fischer, though, spent his days stalking up and down the Sunset Strip, sparing change. When he was actually able to pick up a few cents here and there, he rewarded the contributor with an original song (there’s a track on Fischer’s album detailing just this activity). And this is, presumably, how Zappa found Fischer.

The Electric Flag: A Few Moments of Psych-Blues Brilliance

Mike Bloomfield was an in-demand guy for a bit during the sixties and even early into the seventies. Of course, if his name doesn’t ring out exactly, it has to do with the Chicago born guitarist ran into a bit of trouble with heroin, curtailing his substantial talents and making him a problematic session man.

If you do recognize his name, though, it well may be as a result of playing on some of Bob Dylan’s most well received electric work. Apart from that, though, Bloomfield did time in the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and was a member of the ensemble during the time during which it issued some of the most essential updated blues albums of the decade.

Pelt: Angus vs. Mo

First off, Pelt was the group that brought guitarist Jack Rose (RIP) to underground music aficionado’s attention. And even if the group didn’t really have anything to do with the solo, acoustic guitar music Rose would eventually become known for, there’s a persistent sense of drone over his entire career.

The band specialized in simplistic work-ups tied to LaMonte Young’s conception of composition and improvisation. It’s not to say that Pelt was unoriginal, but by the early nineties there was no shortage of this sort of music.

Whether or not Rose became bored with performing as a part of the group is unknown (to me). So he endeavored to reinvent himself as an American Primitive Guitarist. It worked. He was great.

Mugstar: Psych Sounds Imported from UK, Not Necessary

The Liverpool-based Mugstar doesn’t so much bridge gaps between disparate musical tastes as simply enjoying them each. There’s as much nineties’ styled hard rock nonsense as repetitive psych tropes unloosed over the band’s catalog. It’s enough to sate just about any fan of any type of rock based music. Granted, there aren’t vocal hooks – or vocals at all. But the strain of tripped out psych stuff that Mugstar emerged from doesn’t need it.