February 2011

McFadden's Parachute: Is This Actually New...Er...Modern...Er...

There’s a lot of fuzzy psych out there either from the first period dating to the sixties or the eighties or even more modern stuff – like last year. And while there’re always going to be ensembles attempting to embolden a passed fad, McFadden’s Parachute might actually be the best recreation of garage and psych that was too shambolic for inclusion on Nuggets. After hearing any cut off of Black Fuzz, a pretty appropriate title, it’d be difficult to not think this thing was from any year between 1967 and 1969. Of course, it was designed to be that way, but still, a pretty stunning accomplishment and one that won’t ever be fully appreciated by the public at large.

Classic Compilations: Music from Mills

Mills College represents a weird spreading out of the avant garde. Pauline Oliveros, who was responsible for directing the school’s music department, experimental in bent, appeared to have settled a bit east of the Bay, taking with her all she was able to glean from a decade and change of listening and synthesizing a variety of unique takes on composition and performance.

Steering the department during the sixties granted the school an open mindedness related, in some ways, to the psych groups on the other side of the Bay bridge. But what’s so remarkable about Mills is that eighty years before Oliveros worked there, the school began a tradition of fostering composers and players who wanted to try new avenues of writing and performing works.

Lost & Found: An International Artists' Psych

International Artists may well rank as one of the more important, but short lived imprints to help the sixties become what it was. Between the 13th Floor Elevators and the Red Krayola, the imprint assisted in the dissemination of not just work that would help solidify a broad understanding of psych, but also some music that wound up helping the marriage of avantness and rock stuff. If the label hadn’t existed, the world would most likely be just about the same. But it’s better to have work from the likes of the Lost & Found than not.

Beginning their adolescent life as the Misfits, the band eventually changed its name, arguably for the better. The newly named group surely came off less like a bunch of reprobates and more like psych foragers – surely that was the intention. But coming out of a scene with the likes of Roky Erikson and even lesser groups like the Golden Dawn, the fact that Lost and Found’s made it through to the new millennia is surprising.

That’s not to say the group didn’t have anything going for it, but the fact that a cover of the Elevators’ “Don’t Fall Down” sits prominently at the heart of Everybody's Here, Lost and Founds’ only long player, hints at the lack of original material – not in a sense of writing new compositions, but writing new compositions that don’t have easily pegged antecedents. There’s even a something that sounds a bit like a jug ringing out at one point on the disc.

Noah Presents Brain Suck

Being biased as a result of being an Ohioan, the story behind Noah (a band, not a dude) getting its album released during the mid nineties isn’t bothersome, but kind of nice in terms of human connections. Yeah, the eventual release came about as a result of people meeting as opposed to digital correspondence. And seeing as this all sprung up originally around Youngstown, of all places, it’s fitting.

Jim Sullivan: Lost and Found

Just having finished a Syd Barrett biography, reading about Jim Sullivan seems equally convoluted. Both men suffer from a mythological amount of unsubstantiated storytelling. Barrett, probably, wasn’t an acid casualty. He just shunned attention people foisted upon him. Sullivan, a relatively unknown singer/songwriter, issued two albums in the early seventies and literally disappeared. No one has any idea what happened to him. But since his first album’s titled UFO, there’s a spate of conspiracy theories floating around.

Freed: Natten Solen Dagen

I wonder how many American bands took the time to learn another language and write all their songs in that newly learned tongue. Probably none. But it’s still interesting to think about how important the market for music is in the States and that hundreds of bands, who English isn’t a first language for, go out and record albums of material for us and England. That’s nuts. I wish the Monkees sang all their songs in Latin to snag that Catholic dollar. Maybe they would have lasted a bit longer and been thought of in a better light.

As for Denmark – and since the US hasn’t had a war there, I’m gonna have a hard time pointing to it on a map – singing in Danish was probably only going to be able to appeal to the country’s own population. But seeing as even in the late sixties, English had been come international currency, so to speak, Freed went and mustered an album rife with Western references – linguistic and otherwise. There’s still some Danish on there, but you know…

“Visions,” which only sports “bam-ba-bas” as lyrics, is just simple hippie, acoustic guitar number. And since Freed intended to use these tracks as a demo to potentially connect with a label, it seems an odd choice. All chorded and going nowhere, the song sports an pleasant enough, airy feel, but it’s not anything just-passable players would be able to come up with.

Following that track, though, there’s a spate of vaguely funky beat combo tracks dating itself in the tenor of not just its music, but the titles. As if “Visions” wasn’t ridiculous enough the three minute “Dreamgirl” is all hyperbolic dreaming even as the music meets the Doors head on for organ led hippie band.

Staff Carpenborg And The Electric Corona...

Apart from simply having an incredible name, Staff Carpenborg And The Electric Corona found themselves compiled on Kraut! Demons! Kraut! a few decades back. The group’s appearance apparently sparked an interest in the ensemble that had existed before. Part of that may well have been as a result of being initially affiliated with an imprint not known for trucking in outlandish German rock stuffs.

Arthur Russell: Echoes, Alone.

Arthur Russell’s career trajectory doesn’t make a tremendous amount of sense. It’s rife with coastal hoping and ignoring genre boundaries, or even creating new ones. Wild Combinaton puts out a pretty personal view of Russell’s life. But to watch it, viewers would never know his dad was mayor of the town he grew up in or that the apartment so prominently discussed in the film was first shared with guitarist Rhys Chatham. Even better is the (unsubstantiated) fact that, since Chatham and Russell were so unfamiliar with having money and paying for bills, Allen Ginsberg, the pair’s downstairs neighbor, ran an extension chord from his apartment to theirs just to help ‘em out.

Toshiaki Yokota: Adventures in Primitive Communities

Toshiaki Yokota’s connected to two different albums, each bearing his name and dating back the early seventies. The flutist and band leader had a hand in a variety of different recordings during the decade, but these two – Flute Adventure with the Beat Generation and Primitive Community with, well, the Primitive Community – are being sought after in a crazed, voracious manner. The latter disc hasn’t been properly reissued to a Western audience as of yet, but Flute Adventure came along not too long ago. Either situation makes for difficult searching seeing as even if works by a guy like this are in print, there’s still not a huge market for them. Just a small, fanatical one.

Brutal Truth: What's a Grindcore?

If one’s not all too familiar with Brutal Truth or grindcore in general – and there’s no great reason you should be – after hearing Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses, released in 1992, the connection between the genre and noiseniks kicking around, twiddling knobs should make sense.

It’s difficult to profess ambient and metal going hand in hand as descriptions, but with the whirring sound of guitars coming off in manner not too different than electronic drones, it works. When Brutal Truth showed up at the beginning of the nineties sporting one time Anthrax bassist Dan Lilker in its line-up, black metal and all of grindcore’s attendant antecedents were firmly in place. Underground music was becoming a marketplace unto itself. And the demand outside major markets for heavy music allowed for all manner of group’s to make a career out of plodding anger.

The Dum Dum Girls Accidentally Prove It's All a Hoax

Variants on a basic garage sound have been brewing for the better part of the last decade. A self-sustaining market’s continued to grow alongside this latest crop of groups who seem to be on the road touring and hawking merchandise every day of the year. While a few bands’ tinny recordings have gained a significant national and international following, Atlanta’s Black Lips for one, there hasn’t been an indisputable, genre-defining ensemble yet. Instead of the scene yielding up a gold-gilded group, record imprints could be responsible for offering fans the definitive garage act.

 “A year ago, the girls literally met at CMJ three days before our first show; we practiced nine hours a day in Brooklyn leading up to it,” Dee Dee Penny, The Dum Dum Girls’ singer and public face, says recounting her shift from solo act to actualized band in last September’s Interview.

The Dum Dum Girls, an all-female garage and pop group from California, are set to perform a few days prior to the Beets appearing in town. With unimpeachable songwriting talent, but admittedly a bit short on the musical acumen, Dee Dee Penny leads the ensemble through a spate of fully realized numbers, replete with emotive vocal-vibrato echoing through choruses. The group’s quick ascent to Sub Pop sponsorship, a graduation from the smaller, newly influential Captured Tracks, and the band’s recent release of the He Gets Me High EP shouldn’t be a stunning revelation at this point. Surely, there are still Smashing Pumpkins fans around. What about Stone Temple Pilots, though? Or Hum.

John Lydon as Public Image Ltd.

Oh, John Lydon. He’s impacted music twice and remained an obnoxious geezer the entire time. It’s worth wondering how much of that’s actually an act and how much it’s just personality. Regardless of the answer, though, the guy’s issued some thoroughly entertaining, if not torrentially twisted music.

After the Sex Pistols basically did all it was capable of over the course of a full length album – well, there was that soundtrack, but it didn’t seem to be a concerted studio affair – scattered band members picked up other groups or did too much smack and potentially killed their girlfriend. Lyond wasn’t a murderer, so he picked up Jah Wobble and Keith Levene in order to sort out Public Image Ltd’s first line up.

Arktis

Two Tries and They're Out...

Ah, more ridiculously rare, privately pressed psych stuffs.

Arktis, in marked contrast to many of its forgotten peers, had a plan in place to achieve commercial success, its stop over in self-produced hell was to only be temporary. During the early seventies as more and more far fetched rock acts were being embraced by commercial radio and its attendant record imprints, Arktis believed itself to be the purveyors of something unique. It wasn’t, but the band was a pretty talented bunch, leaving current listeners to wonder why this German ensemble wasn’t lent an ear, but Genesis is internationally famous. Yeah, that’s an empty comparison, but still, Genesis?

Killdozer: Let the Midwest Get Some...

With a name snatch either from a 1940’s sci-fi novel or its attendant 1970s’ remake, Wisconsin’s Killdozer were clearly a weird band. But before getting into the ensemble’s first album, it’s worth noting that the eighties were a time when towns outside major media markets began to spring bands who’d eventually receive national attention. What the reason for this sort of democratization was can only be guessed at, but it probably had at least a little to do with Black Flag and Sonic Youth records becoming more readily available. Of course, available’s only relative.

Sonic Youth Occasional Puts Out New Music Worth Listening To...

I was going to write up something by Miracle Legion, but it sucked too hard.

Anyway, Sonic Youth’s a perennial favorite among all the keen intellectuals, or at least keen record collectors who fancy themselves intellectually engaged. The band’s a world unto themselves having created not just a wealth of recorded material over the last thirty years, but its various tunings, which one would imagine might be hard to duplicate on the spot. If it ever became a necessity to work up a song, replete with singular tuning, dating back to the early eighties, it might prove straight up impossible.

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