Sunday, October 31, 2004

 

Halloween entry, in which we succumb to the irresistable blogger need to post kitty photos, trick English people into thinking that they'd be right at home in Fort Greene via some old-school rap, and reveal our first name so people will (hopefully) stop referring to us as "Mystical Beast" which is getting kinda creepy.

Happy Halloween. I'm putting up my Monday entry today so I can do a *scary* post.

Last week I forgot to mention that I've now been doing Mystical Beast for one full year. I'm amazed by the amount of change that's happened with the whole mp3 blog thing in that time, though I'm sad that just as the movement has gotten its biggest exposure I've had the least time to devote to this page. I recently read an mp3 blog overview where I was lumped in with the "All good music happened before you were born" crowd, which doesn't exactly describe my feelings. Main problem is I haven't had time to keep up with current stuff as much as I'd like, and most of what I have heard has been well-covered elsewhere. I'm in the midst of a career change that's occupying most of my time, and in the next few months I'm either 1. going to get a more stable routine that'll allow me to devote more time to this, or 2. get so busy that I won't have any time at all. Honestly, possibility number two is the one I'm hoping for, since it'll translate into more money for moi, though I'll miss my days as a fake rock journalist if that comes to pass.

So, back to Halloween. I've been meaning to post something by rapper Dana Dane forever, partly because he and I share the same first name. (Ok, wanna hear something really weird? His mom and my sister also have the same first name.) It was so exciting back in the second half of the 80's when his video was all over MTV: it was one of those rare periods in my life when I didn't have to explain that there are also boys named Dana (how I miss the days when Dana Carvey was on SNL). As a Halloween tie-in, here's Dana Dane's scary story about his Nightmares (Nightmares...scary...Halloween, right? Ok, maybe it's a stretch.). My readers from England may be surprised to learn that people from the projects of Fort Greene, Brooklyn speak with Her Majesty's accent. It's one of those little-known bits of Brooklyn trivia.

And here's another Dana Dane hit, Cinderfella Dana Dane. The album these are from, Dana Dane With Fame (1987, Profile) is pretty great, especially if you like Doug E. Fresh and that sort of thing. Last time I checked, the out of print CD version was pretty expensive, but vinyl copies are cheap. Very bizarre that this hasn't been reissued (unless that happened when I wasn't paying attention).

Unrelated trivia: I'm currently working with someone who played in a band, long ago, with rock critic John Pareles. If I dig up anything interesting/incriminating, I'll pass it on.

Friday, October 29, 2004

 
Wow, so I was just about to post about Hilly Michaels' second solo album Lumia and I was doing some last minute googling and discovered that he now has the beginnings of a webpage! It's here, and includes the fairly amazing (and long overdue) good news that a CD reissue of his two solo albums is in the works. I'll update when I learn more (I emailed him and am waiting to see if he writes back).

So, um, I'm kind of at a loss for what to post today, since I want to hold off on posting Hilly stuff till I know what's up.

(Insert little Ashlee Simpson jig while I try to figure out what to do.)

Lately I've been really liking this song called Fast Boyfriends by a group called Girls At Our Best!. There's a website about them here. If you like The Dolly Mixture (whose Demonstration Tapes is apparently due for reissue in the not too distant future) you'll want to check this out. Think early 80's, Rough Trade, catchy girl-pop with a whiff of post-punk.

And here's The Wedding Present, who covered everybody who was anybody, covering a Girls At Our Best! track Getting Nowhere Fast.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

 
Today's post picks up from yesterday, and it's about Gary Burton, a self taught vibraphoning phenomenon who liked to mix other genres with his jazz, and about Larry Coryell, a guitar player who occasionally liked to blow the roof off before that was exactly an acceptable jazz guitar thing to do.

The four recordings by the Gary Burton Quartet with Coryell on guitar are Duster, Lofty Fake Anagram, A Genuine Tong Funeral, and Live At Carnegie Hall. Of these, the two that are burning up my iPod/turntable are Duster and the live album. All are available on CD, though not always in the US.

What's so neat about these is the fact that they're clearly jazz as far as the bass, drums and vibes go, but Larry badly wants to rock out (though he's trying hard not to go too far) and the tension between the two impulses can be breathtaking. It's not fusion in the funk/electric Miles Davis sense, but it's also not like Larry's more rock and roll efforts that would come later. Not that I'm an expert, but I've never really heard anything quite like what they were up to, which would seem to be straight up jazz with teeny avant leanings and Larry kind of hopping back and forth between jazz and rock guitar. You'd think that the combo of vibes (which I associate with Getz type stuff) and guitar with feedback would be a weird one. That was my first impulse, but they actually work really well together. This is probably due, in part, to the fact that Burton can play just about as fast as Coryell, so when he hits the vibes with a sharp attack they don't sound that removed from the cleaner tons of Larry's guitar.

Anyway, the most obvious example of this back and forth tension is probably another version of the tune Walter L., last heard as a country-western piece on Burton's Tennessee Firebird album (I posted it yesterday). On the Live At Carnegie Hall album, it starts off like it's going to be a Jimi Hendrix tune, but Burton quickly takes over. Subsequently, Larry keeps throwing in riffs that are inarguably rock, but the rest of the band seems to ignore him. It's almost like he's trying to convince them to loosen up, and they're interested but not quite ready to commit.

Where the interplay really comes together, in my opinion, is on the live version of a song called One, Two, 1-2-3-4. This originally appeared on Duster in a vastly different version, which I'm posting here for comparison. On Duster, Larry comes in on guitar right after the intro. There's a little feedback and some fairly percussive playing, but nothing too far out, and then Burton starts playing and things calm down a bit. By the time the group reaches Carnegie Hall, the whole arrangement has changed. This time, Burton follows the intro for a few minutes, subsequently joined by Larry. Coryell starts out cleanly, but you can hear him gradually slipping towards the dark side. Right around the four minute mark, the guitar amp starts to buzz forebodingly. We never quite get the explosion that's hinted at, but over the next couple of minutes, Lary keeps edging toward a full-on Lou Reed-like blowout. Ever time I listen to this, I find myself holding my breath through the latter half of the song. Really amazing track, and I'm pretty angry at all jazz fans who didn't steer me in its direction. Hope you like!

For some perspective, both Duster and Lofty Fake Anagram made Playboy magazine's reader's poll list of the top twenty-four small combo lps released in 1968, with Anagram ranking twelfth, just above Miles Davis' Nefertiti. Number one was a Herb Alpert album and number two was Wheels of Fire by Cream (!). Interestingly, both Burton and Coryell were rated much higher by their fellow musicians than by the Playboy voting public. People who bought their magazines in brown paper bags picked Burton as the sixteenth best artist on "miscellaneous instrument" and Coryell was a pitiful nineteenth best guitar player. In contrast, other musicians ranked Burton number two (behind Milt Jackson) and Coryell number five.

Ok, no more jazz for a while. But seriously, don't let the size of these files scare you away. They're pretty amazing.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

 

I should really be posting tracks from an album called A Genuine Tong Funeral today, as it's the best link I know of between Carla Bley (see yesterday's post re: Nick Mason's Fictitious Sports) and eclectic vibraphonist Gary Burton (who I'm getting to today). It's a wordless opera, composed by Carla for Burton and his combo, and released in 1968. While basically good in a Bley way (slightly goofy, theatrical, lots of trumpet) it's not the sort of thing that grabs you on first listen, so I'm going to skip it and go straight to some earlier albums by Gary Burton.

I first got interested in Burton because Larry Coryell (amazing jazz/rock guitarist who I've written about a bunch of times) played in Gary's combo during the late 60's prior to his solo debut, Lady Coryell, which came out in 1969. Just to quickly recap for the umpteenth time, Larry Coryell is a contender for the title of Person Who Invented Fusion Before Miles Davis Invented Fusion, and a few of Larry's solo albums (Lady Coryell, Coryell and The Real Great Escape) are among my favorite jazz recordings, though my favorite parts are much more accurately described as jazz-influenced rock. I often wish that Larry's early ideas about fusion (basically sans-funk, sans-diddle) had prevailed, but as far as I know, they didn't, at least not within jazz circles.

Larry and Gary Burton recorded four albums together between 1967 and 1968. Last I checked, these were all finally kind of, sort of in print on CD, though in some cases it helps if you live in Japan. You know, for years I've been asking jazz fans what they'd recommend to me, given my plebian tastes, and I pretty much always get the same names: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Sun Ra, Alice Coltrane, assorted fusion types who I never end up liking, and some of the noisier people like Peter Brotzmann, John Zorn, etc. I don't think anyone ever mentioned the Gary Burton Quartet, and I kind of wonder why. Some sort of jazz conspiracy? Now that I've heard the albums, it seems like a complete no brainer. They were out of print and not on CD for a long time, so maybe that's the reason, but vinyl copies aren't hard to find or expensive (that's a hint for those of you who own turntables).

Before I get to the Gary Burton Quartet, though, I'm going to backtrack a little. Right before he hired Larry Coryell, Gary Burton was trying out fusion of another kind: jazz plus country. In 1966 or 1967 he hooked up with a bunch of Nashville session players and recorded an album called Tennessee Firebird. Do I have to mention that it's not in print on CD in the US? Grrrr. [Note: I'm still not clear on whether this is a '66 or '67 release. My vinyl album says '67, but most -- not all -- other sources say '66. Anyone know for sure?]

Well received at the time, it holds up pretty nicely in 2004. It's Burton's group, so the jazz influence is dominant over the country, but things get especially interesting whenever the tempo speeds up. Here's the great, banjo-fueled title track Tennessee Firebird. There are two Bob Dylan songs that are kind of snoozy...most any time a jazz guy covers a rock/folk song such that the sax plays the melody over the original chords, I fall asleep. So let's skip that. One of my favorite tracks is probably an afterthought. It's called Beauty Contest, and it's only a minute or so long, and probably included solely for atmosphere, but it's pretty dreamy. I just wish it went on for a few more minutes. I've included the short epilogue that follows that track and ends the album. Finally, here's a great bluesy song with a lot of harmonica called Walter L. It's going to return tomorrow in different form.

[This post written in a huge hurry, so any corrections are especially welcomed!]

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

 
Solo albums by drummers from prog-ish bands, made in collaboration with a couple of wacky jazz chicks who married Paul Bley (though not at the same time)

I guess the title says it all.

In 1978, Bill Bruford (of Yes and King Crimson) released his first solo album Feels Good To Me. It's kind of too bad that it didn't come out about 6-8 years earlier, as the recording and synth technology that basically destroy the record probably wouldn't have existed then. As it is, the main thing that salvages the album (if you like diddly synthetic sounding jazz, you may disagree with my take on things) is a guest appearance by Annette Peacock on several tracks. My favorite is probably Seems Like A Lifetime Ago (Part One), which is also, conveniently, one of the shorter pieces. It cuts off abruptly because, on the album, it segues into a mostly instrumental Part Two. I thought about posting that, but decided that I'd end up having to make too many excuses for the production. I grit my teeth every time there's a tom fill. If you mentally edit out a lot of the synth sounds and drum production and such, Feels Good To Me is actually a reasonably interesting record, but I'm not sure I'd expect most people to go to the trouble.

Annette sings on three songs on the album (which is available on CD) and, assuming you can find it cheaply, it's probably worth picking up if you're a fan of her stuff. It's really amazing how much more interesting these recordings become the second she opens her mouth.

In 1981, Nick Mason (of Pink Floyd) released one of the most deceptively titled solo albums of all time, Nick Mason's Fictitious Sports. Sounding just about nothing like anything Pink Floyd-related, it's actually a Carla Bley album (I last mentioned her, I think, in connection with the Kew. Rhone album back when I was writing about Slapp Happy). She wrote all the songs and the lyrics, she and Michael Mantler are in the band, and most of the lead vocals are handled by Robert Wyatt. Some female vocals are sung by Karen Kraft, who seems to be imitating Carla Bley. Nick plays drums, competently.

I wouldn't say it's amazing enough to justify what you'd have to pay for a CD copy, but if you spot a vinyl copy (or an mp3) it's a fun record that's worth having. My favorite song from it is the atypical opener Can't Get My Motor To Start...I suspect kids would like this one. It's also pretty catchy, and musically onomatopoeic (in the sense that the main riff sounds like a motor that won't start). It's in a vein that Carla's twin daughter, Karen Mantler, would go on to mine some years later: the "yes, it is a double entendre -- is that not what we jazz people do -- but surely I'm so innocent and scattered sounding that I couldn't really mean it and oh, by the way, my life is going to hell" style exemplified by My Stove from Karen's first solo album My Cat Arnold.

The last track on the album is the other one that gets a lot of attention, thanks to its seriously kooky lyrics and a section of fake Philip Glass. Here's I'm A Mineralist. I'm not particularly a lyric person, but this is one case where you really do want to pay attention.

There's more jazz to come this week, though I hope to get to Hilly Michaels' second solo album by Friday. I know this is supposed to be a rock/pop blog, but I've been on a big Gary Burton kick lately, so that's where things are headed. Just keep in mind that by and large I'm not a jazz fan, so it shouldn't get too tedious.

Monday, October 25, 2004

 
Ok, I'm back from Denver. It was more of a family-visiting vacation than a see-the-town vacation, so I have nothing much to report. I experienced the new breed of chain restaurants for the first time and was duly horrified. I also set foot in a Wal-Mart for the first time ever, but didn't buy anything. Nice airport!

Finishing up last week's post on White Noise - An Electric Storm, here's the epic The Visitation, which sounds like a combination of a pop song and a Twilight Zone episode. That recurring organ motif gets really creepy after a while. If you're on the fence about downloading the file: yes, it's 10Mb, but odds are you don't own anything else that sounds like this. God knows I don't. Just to recap, a bunch of good places to read more about this album, and the people who made it, are:

Head Heritage
A White Noise Page
White Noise
Delia Derbyshire.org
BBC Radiophonic Workshop

A quick peek around the usual spots (gemm, eBay, Amazon) reveals that An Electric Storm (vinyl and CD) shouldn't be too hard or expensive to get ahold of, so go get a copy and scare yourself with the other song from side 2, The Black Mass: An Electric Storm in Hell.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

 

I'm off to Colorado. Back next Friday.

Regarding photo of Mystical Beast command center: inspirational portrait of Chairman Mao found in the trash outside of a Chinese restaurant circa 1996 (they must have decided the coast was clear) and kept due to extreme beauty of the crinkled red tin foil.

Concert update: the band Services (mentioned in a post about a week ago) are playing a show in NYC at Tonic on Thursday the 21st at 10:00pm. Details are here, and the mp3 of theirs that I posted is still up.

Friday, October 15, 2004

 
Many sounds have never been heard -- by humans. Some sound waves you don't hear -- but they reach you. "Storm Stereo" techniques combine singers, instrumentalists and complex electronic sound. The emotional intensity is at a maximum.

Sometimes you want to know all about a record before you check it out, but sometimes it's kind of fun to go in with minimal info. I'm going to present today's album pretty much as I discovered it, and if you want to go out googling afterward, you're more than welcome. There's plenty of info out there, but there's something to be said for running home with random albums that you found in the basement of the used record store and popping them onto the turntable, not knowing what to expect. Consider today's post my attempt to bring you the basement of a used record store.


Hmmm, kind of crude cover art. Heavy Metal? Hardcore Punk? NYC Noise Rock? The sticker says it's from 1973 [the sticker is wrong...it's from a few years earlier]. Early Heavy Metal?


Really crude layout! It's on the Antilles label [this is a reissue...it's originally on Island]. Didn't Antilles put out No New York?


Didn't Delia Derbyshire have something to do with Dr. Who? [If I owned more albums by M, I'd be wondering about David Vorhaus as well.] Didn't that mp3 blog Spoilt Victorian Child mention Delia Derbyshire just the other day?

Ok, we're back home now. Turn out the lights. Headphones!

Side One (Phase-In):

1. Love Without Sound (Derbyshire-Vorhaus)

2. My Game of Loving (Duncan - Vorhaus)

3. Here Come The Fleas (McDonald - Vorhaus)

4. Firebird (Derbyshire - Vorhaus)

5. Your Hidden Dreams (McDonald - Vorhaus)

Side two ("Phase-Out"...yikes) when I get back from Colorado.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

 
News flash. I've just been informed that the long awaited reissue of Lisa Suckdog's Drugs Are Nice is finally available (some of you may know the artist in question as Lisa Carver). Go here to order. I don't have the new version, but the previous CD featured liner notes by Lisa's mom and Thurston Moore, and I was told at one point that the reissue would feature extra photos.

Yes, it's a noisy drug inspired mess, but it's just plain better than anyone else's noisy drug inspired mess. With a straight face, I'd recommend this as an essential purchase.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

 
I'll be busy reading glenn's book for the next day or so. I'll probably have a new post on Friday.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

 

You follow the trail of a Yo La Tengo cover song and find out the weirdest things

I used to do a feature called No Wave Fridays, where I wrote about bands from or influenced by the No Wave scene who didn't have the good fortune to be Sonic Youth or to have appeared on the No New York compilation. One group of people that I never got to was the Mofungo/The Scene Is Now conglomerate. After expending a lot of effort trying to map out some organized strategy, I've finally decided to peck at them from time to time, mostly because there's a lot of material spanning a lot of years, some of which I like and some...not so much.

Since a lot of people know the band Yo La Tengo, I thought that might be a good jumping off point.

If you have this great CD, which contains President Yo La Tengo and New Wave Hot Dogs, you own one of the few available indications of the one-time existence of a band called Information. On New Wave Hot Dogs, YLT cover a song called Let's Compromise, which is probably the most striking track from a collection called Tape #1 that documents three related No Wave bands who aren't very well remembered: Blinding Headache, Information and (somewhat better known) Mofungo.

The best (and only) site I could find online that gives any significant information about these people is here, in the Mofungo tribute at Perfect Sound Forever magazine. If you're a Village Voice reader, you'll recognize the author of that article, Robert Sietsema, because he currently writes the Voice's restaurant review section.

Aside from a pretty hard to find flexidisc (it came with an issue of No magazine) and a promo tape that I doubt I'll ever turn up, I think the only recorded evidence of Information or Blinding Headache is on Tape #1, which was a homemade cassette compilation of a bunch of different songs, blurts and noisy things recorded by those two bands plus an early version of Mofungo. Since No New York is the one well-known document of No Wave, it's easy to forget that there were other groups working that territory at the time. Today I'm posting a teeny bit of some stuff that Brian Eno didn't produce.

From Tape #1, here's Information doing the original Let's Compromise, and here's the somewhat DNA-sounding Nozzles. By Blinding Headache, here's Bali Hai (a lot of the pieces on the tape don't have singing). Not really typical of anything else on the collection, here's the terrifying Mofungo (actually just Robert Sietsema and a neighbor's child) track I Am From Jupiter And I'm Going To Kill You. [I'm going to amend this paragraph when I get a chance. I misread the liner notes from Tape #1 and it turns out that Bali Hai is also a Mofungo song. I'll replace it with something by Blinding Headache soon. Sorry 'bout that. -- MB 10/14]

I should probably stress that what I'm posting is not exactly representative. There are an awful lot of short, mid-fi, instrumental doodles. I tend to doubt that Tape #1 would really entertain people who aren't motivated largely by historical interest. It contains a lot of fragments and, as proudly declared in the liner notes, the sound is often pretty dicey. On the other hand, there's so little of this stuff out there that, in this case, "historical interest" is a better-than-usual reason to investigate.

As a compromise between the Tape #1 version and the New Wave Hot Dogs cover, here's Yo La Tengo performing Let's Compromise with Chris Nelson (from Information and eventually The Scene Is Now) on vocals.

There are two strange little bits of trivia connected with today's post. One is the odd-but-true fact that mod housewife Amy Rigby was a member of Mofungo back in these prehistoric times. I did a double take when I first read this, and had to email her to confirm. Yup, it's true. She doesn't think she played any shows with them, but she was indeed a jamming member. This opens up all sorts of possibilities for the next time you're playing Six Degrees of Alan Licht. I can connect The Cars with Alan Licht in three moves!

Second thing, though maybe it's stranger if you're me: on the page where I got the above mp3, there's also an mp3 of YLT performing Let's Get Rid Of New York at Rhino Records in New Paltz. And that's weird because I was there, but had mostly forgotten about it until the mp3 jogged my memory. After the show I had asked Ira Kaplan if his band was going to be on the then upcoming Beat Happening tribute CD (don't ask, I was going through a phase) and his response was to go on a tirade of sorts about how much he disliked tribute albums. It was pretty off-putting. He did have a point in the grand scheme of things, but in the less-grand scheme of things, where a young fan had just asked him a simple question with a yes/no answer, it was kind of annoying and pretty much put me off of his band for a while. I made an exception for Electr-O-Pura.

Oddly enough, Fish & Roses (Rick Brown's post V-Effect group) did appear on that Beat Happening tribute (called Fortune Cookie Prize) as did part of Love Child (Alan Licht's old band). Everything is connected, and it's all too weird. I have to go sit down.

[Incidentally, The Scene Is Now have a new album out this year. Details are here, and a review is here. No US release yet, but they're working on it.]

A couple days after I posted this piece, Rick Brown wrote with some extra info on the Amy Rigby connection:

1) My version of the Amy Rigby story would be this:

After I quit Blinding Headache, Willie and Jim started jamming with Amy, her brother Michael McMahon and some of these people: Kym Bond (occasional Blinding Headache member), Jeff McGovern (my high school buddy and future Mofungo/Scene Is Now founder) and Mr. Sietsema ... They practiced in the back room of the apartment I shared with Willie. I am quite certain that they did not do any gigs with this unwieldy line-up. The Posner/Klein/Sietsema/McGovern line-up featured on the "Elementary Particles" 7" is the classic original Mofungo line-up. I don't have a copy of the issue of Chemical Imbalance in which it appeared but I wrote a fairly lengthy essay about Mofungo and Chris said recently that he probably has a copy somewhere in his archives. Perhaps he'll let you and me each see that...

2) If you are interested in other surprising Amy Rigby musical action, ask her about the Stare-Kits, the Siouxsie-and-such inspired band she and her brother played in. There's a cool live tape around which also includes a song w/me on sax adding a rather X-Ray Spex flavor... Amy's daughter Hazel is starting to play music and her approach puts me in mind of those Stare-Kits sounds.

Monday, October 11, 2004

 
More on Experimental Aircraft, Boo Radleys/Brave Captain, and my new favorite song "prc-028-01"

It seems like ages ago, but it was just back in May that I mentioned Texas shoegazing types Experimental Aircraft. I'm not what I'd call a huge fan of the shoegaze genre, and I usually find myself liking bands more after they shed that skin (e.g. The Lilys, Ride, Jennyanykind, and I could go on). Must admit, though, that Experimental Aircraft's Symphony (which I'm posting for the second time) is a major keeper. If they were from England and it was 1990, I suspect people would be pretty excited about them.

I was hesitant to order their albums, but finally gave in. There's nothing quite up to the level of Symphony, but there is at least one other song that's noteworthy. Here's Johnny, which starts off in a very off-kilter way that doesn't sound like it's going to work, then abruptly presses the Swirlies/Isn't Anything button and away we go. There's also an especially nice noisy guitar solo thing at one point. Symphony is track #1 on Experimental Aircraft's Love For The Last Time CD, and Johnny is track #2, and it's as if they wanted to show they could do several aspects of MBV (soothing guitar wash and herky-jerky-let's-not-quite-resolve) right off the bat. The rest of their material is solid, though I don't like anything else as much as what I'm posting. People who do like shoegaze a lot probably won't be disappointed. Their website indicates that a new album is getting closer to completion.

Free associating a little bit, that track Johnny puts me in mind of a Boo Radleys b-side that also starts off awkwardly before slipping into a groove. Let Me Be Your Faith is the kind of song that illustrates the reason why you sometimes need to listen to an entire track before judging. Once you've heard the whole song, the beginning makes sense, but on first listen it really sounds like it's meandering around, trying to figure out what to do. About halfway through, one of the prettiest instrumental parts I know of suddenly zips down out of the sky and we float away into a kaleidoscopic bliss. The song originally appeared as a Giant Steps related b-side, but it's one of my favorite songs by the band. (Just as a note, the mp3 I'm posting is ripped from a collection called Boo-Sides Collectionthat you can probably find if you google for a bit. It compiles 2 CD's worth of fairly neat stuff.)

And speaking of the Boo Radleys, songwriter Martin Carr has another Brave Captain album out. Details and samples and such are on his website. I'm not sure that the laptop thing he's so drawn to is really his strength; my ears keep perking up whenever I hear shades of his poppier and more organic past. As with all of his releases, there are a few songs I like a lot, a bunch that are ok, and a couple of more beat-oriented things that I generally skip over. Fans of Aphex Twin and such might have a different reaction. The song I like the best thus far is, kind of predictably, Every Word You Sound which probably could have been a Boo's song.

Last thing. I'm far from the first person to say this, but it's one of those things that apparently isn't getting through. If you're a band or a label that posts mp3s, for the love of god tag them with your band name and the name of the song, at the very least. I don't know about everybody else, but I get up in the morning, skim a bunch of sites and download left and right. Later I put everything into iTunes, and I actually listen while riding the subway or at the gym. So, currently I'm really enjoying "prc-028-01" by unknown band. Everyone run out and buy a copy!

[Ok, actually I don't really like the song that much, but I wanted to use a real example and it was the most recent one I've downloaded.]

Friday, October 08, 2004

 

The 88 come east, and the Would-Be-Goods rock out

I wanted to quickly mention that The 88, who released an album called Kind Of Light last year that made my top ten and got one vote in the Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll, are finally playing some east coast dates. Details should be on their website, but the one I'm happiest about is at the Knitting Factory on this coming Saturday night 'cause that's really convenient for me. Based on their videos and a KCRW appearance, I'm not sure The 88 will be the most riveting band live, but I still love their album after a year and look forward to checking them out (at a reasonable time too...I love it when I like the unpopular band who has to open).

I'm not quite sure what's up with The 88. They seem to be good at getting their songs onto tv shows and movie soundtracks (shades of the Dandy Warhols), but nobody I talk to has heard of them. I'd think that a band that released an album that sounds like a great lost Kinks album (not The Great Lost Kinks Album) would have a huge readymade audience, but I seem to be wrong. I don't think they're touring enough, and it's about time for some new material (re-recording a Kinks song doesn't count). I have this weird feeling that they'll either slip back into total obscurity or that their next album will be a misguided bid for a teen audience. We'll see. Between videos and mp3s, they have five good songs available from their website, so I'm not going to post anything this time around.

The Would-Be-Goods, who don't sound like the Magnetic Fields but probably appeal to a similar fanbase, released a new CD recently, their second since reemerging from a longish slumber. And for a second time, I'm surprised at how well head Would-Be-Good Jessica Griffin manages to rock out (in a Yeh Yeh sort of a way) on a handful of tracks that are, for the most part, the best ones on the CD. I loved the high energy song Emmanuelle Beart from a CD EP that accompanied her last album, and this time I'm especially digging one song, sung in French and with a fuzz guitar on the chorus, called Le Crocodile. It's not that I out and out dislike the less upbeat tunes, but her strength these days really seems to be in catchy 3-chord pop songs, and I'd love to see her ditch the sophisticated music (not lyrics) and just kick out the jams on her next disc. Politely, of course.

A somewhat rudimentary website is here. If by some chance you don't know who Emmanuelle Beart is, a quick google search should bring up all the info and all the nude photos you could ever want for this French actress. She's kind of terrifyingly good looking.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

 

Oriental Head with The Ophelias

Not much of a theme today, or rather the theme is that I'm going to try to exorcise a song that's refused to leave my brain for the last few days.

So, it's back for another dip into The Ophelias. A strange band, and strange in strange ways, led by one Leslie Medford. Lyrics inspired by Shakespearian poetry. Music that's aware of garage rock, olde folk songs, Camper Van Beethoven, The Kinks. Plus trumpet. Rock star chops, and ten-thousand ways of undermining said chops. Silly voices that sometimes work and sometimes don't.

The group's Mr. Rabbit actually hit college radio pretty hard at one time, but only one of the Ophelias' three albums (and one EP...if there's more, I don't know about it) made it to CD. None of the records are good all the way through. All of them have 1-2 songs that you really have to hear. That's why god invented mp3s, downloading, mix CDRs, and friends with big record collections.

So today's track is from the second album, Oriental Head, where guitarist David Immergluck stops by on his way from the Monks of Doom to Counting Crows. And yes, the guitar work is pretty great. Go David Immergluck! And the song that will not leave my brain is Turn Into A Berry, and you know it's the Ophelias because the lyrics go:

She turns into a fairy
So I'll be a berry
And when she comes to suck me
We both will make merry


I also like the way the song zooms in, somewhat cinematically, in the beginning:

In the sky, a cloud
In the cloud, a lake
In the lake, a fish...


Can't wait to see the movie. At one time there was word of some Ophelias CD reissues with bonus tracks, but I haven't heard any news on that front in a while, and none of the Ophelias would write back to me. It is so weird who will and who won't reply to emails, I've gotta tell you.

Some photos and press clippings are here, and the perpetually tantalizing Ophelias homepage is here (don't get too excited).

"Zeus was a Greek I loved! - LM" carved in the run-out groove.

I'll probably do still more on the Ophelias some other time.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

 

Lenny White's Venusian Summer

Has one of the best album covers I've ever seen. And it looks so much better full-size. Yes, there's a belated CD release, but why anyone would buy it is beyond me. This is an album cover that cries out to be airbrushed onto the side of your van.

Anyway, I got this 1975 release as part of my continuing quest to find gems by Larry Coryell. He plays guitar on one song on side two, and people who love fusion get very excited by the fact that it's (I've read) his only 70's appearance with Al Di Meola. Be still my heart!

Unfortunately, the track that Larry is on, Prince Of The Sea, is noodle, noodle, noodle, wank, wank, wank, as I'd pretty much feared. Making up for this a bit is the fact that the last song on side one, The Venusian Summer Suite, is a nice and slightly funky outer space soundtrack that opens with neato vintage synth stuff and finishes with endlessly repeating bloops and bleeps on the run-out groove (so add this album to the list of records that do that and see, CD buyers: one more reason you should have listened to me about buying the vinyl). Part One is mostly electronics, then Part Two brings the funk and the flute (or is that a synth? I'm not sure). Today's mp3 includes both parts. It keeps heading towards the things I hate about fusion, but there are enough mitigating factors to keep it out of trouble. "Dedicated to the crew of the Starship Enterprise," but of course.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

 

The long delayed Flux Information Sciences post

Earlier this year, a band called The Liars created a big stir when they released a second album that didn't sound like their first. You've probably encountered some of the fuss about They Were Wrong So We Drowned. If you haven't, the gist is that some people hated it and acted like it was a misguided and possibly half-assed change to an intentionally difficult style.

Here are a few quotes, just to get a feel for the kind of reaction the album got, and the way people tried to describe its sound:

With a seeming penchant for the more outré and unsettling output of Cabaret Voltaire (circa Nag, Nag, Nag) or Sonic Youth (circa Bad Moon Rising), They Were Wrong, So We Drowned borders on aural torture. -- Steven Long for BBC Manchester

Unlistenable. -- Andrew Beaujon for Spin Magazine

Echoing the dissonance of Sonic Youth and the percussive menace of Einsturzende Neubauten, the album winds tribal drumming, atonal guitars, bloodcurdling screams and spooky vocals around a story about a witch and the kids who kill her. The concept is difficult to follow and the music occasionally unpleasant. But the band’s willingness to stretch in new directions is refreshing. -- Dave Brigham for Junkmedia

an electronic-noise collage that sounds disturbingly rooted in the what-the-fuck? tradition of Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music...Making a record about fear is one thing; making a record you fear listening to is quite another. -- Christian Hoard for Rolling Stone

Though some sections are plodding and one-dimensional, others lock into place. "There's Always Room on the Broom" cobbles a dubious but filling meal together from scrapings at the bottom of the sonic cauldron, and "They Don't Want Your Corn They Want Your Kids" (awful name, that) scratches its itch with beats recalling the Pop Group at their most abrasive. -- Geeta Dayal for The Village Voice

Here, the band's influences remain just as obvious, but they now seem to be skewing toward the more abrasive and self-indulgent sounds of the Pop Group and Public Image Ltd. The grooves are less compelling, and all too often the tracks are subsumed in a mire of noisy effects. Liars appear to be groping for their sound here. Let's hope their next move will be to return to the more accessible, beat-driven music they made on their bow. -- "CM" for Billboard


I picked up the album and thought it was reasonably good. What got me interested, then fascinated, though was the utter lack of mention of one particular group in any of the reviews I read. It's a big world, so I can't swear that I haven't missed something, but at this point I've probably read nearly a hundred reviews of this album (I'm counting blog entries, etc.), and one point never comes up: the "look and feel" or rather the overall sound of the Liars album is incredibly similar to that of a band called Flux Information Sciences. I wouldn't necessarily say that one band copied the other, but the relationship is too clear not to at least note.

By itself, the fact that one band sounds like another isn't big news. The reasons why I think it's important in this case are 1. reviewers seemed to really be groping for comparisons when writing about the Liars' album (it's not that Sonic Youth/PIL/The Pop Group/Cabaret Voltaire are flat-out wrong, but they really only address certain small aspects of the Liars sound) and 2. there was a tendency among reviewers to treat They Were Wrong (either explicitly or implicitly) like Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music, i.e. a lazy attention-getting sudden shift of style, done for the sake of pissing off or pissing on the artist's audience.

A few things worth knowing:

The Liars used to tour with Flux Information Sciences.

Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeah's has gone on record as being a Flux fan.

Nick of the Yeah Yeah Yeah's used to play in Flux.

Karen O used to date one of The Liars.

What I'm getting at should be pretty obvious. This isn't a case where two bands just happen to sound slightly similar. They have all sorts of ties. To be honest, once you've heard Flux Information Sciences you really can't get away from the similarity. If you haven't heard The Liars yet, you can hear clips from They Were Wrong here.

As for Flux, from their Private/Public album which came out in 2001 on Michael Gira's Young God label, here's Liposuction and Love Me, Love Me. It's not that any one Liars song sounds like any one Flux song, but the sounds and the overall organization are very, very close (and a whole lot closer than any of the bands referenced in the reviews up above).

But nobody mentioned this connection in a single review that I could find. I said in another forum that reviewing They Were Wrong without mentioning Private/Public is sort of like reviewing The Raveonettes without mentioning The Jesus and Mary Chain. One response was that the difference is that Flux aren't well known, and I can see that up to a point. But given the reaction that The Liars' album got ("Oh my goodness, why oh why have they suddenly changed their sound to something so strange! Who could ever have predicted this! What were they thinking!") and the large number of people writing about it, it seemed bizarre to me that nobody was talking about the scene that spawned the Liars in the first place. That's one of the functions of music critics, right?

[Ok, the original version of this piece got kind of rant-y at this point, and I've decided to cut or rephrase most of it. Briefly, I wrote to a number of people who'd written about the Liars album and asked them if they knew about Flux, and I wrote to the two bands. The results: none of the critics who responded had heard of Flux Information Sciences, Aaron of the Liars said he couldn't remember what Flux sounded like but that they likely had similar influences, and Tristan of Flux was amazed by the similarity. I was unable to get a response from the Rolling Stone reviewer Christian Hoard or the Spin reviewer Andrew Beaujon. I don't know for sure that Christian got my email. In fact it's very likely that he didn't as I couldn't find an email address for him and finally tried to contact him via his editor, who was probably busy listening to Big & Rich. It did strike me as slightly interesting that it was so much easier to locate and get responses from the band members than it was with their two most prominent critics.

While doing my research on this piece, I also discovered via the magic of Google that the Rolling Stone reviewer Christian Hoard is about 24, used to be a huge Phish fan, wrote a review just about a year ago where he used the phrase "jam-tastic", and that he (in my opinion) writes in a way that implies expertise in so many musical genres that it gets really surreal after a while, given his age. Check his reviews for the Voice and Rolling Stone, then google his not-actually-that-old reviews for the Michigan Daily if you want to see what I mean, sometime when you're bored, obviously. His editors seem to love him, and I can totally understand that given the fact that he's apparently happy to knock something out for any band you care to name.

As for Andrew Beaujon , he's not expanding on this explanation of why he gave the Liars album an F in Spin (more and more, as I read this, I don't get the sense that it really explains much). And I'm left with a lingering suspicion that he just didn't do his homework on the Liars' background. Imagine, just as an example, that it turned out that Lou Reed had been friendly with a band who had recorded an album in 1973 that sounded a whole hell of a lot like Metal Machine Music. You'd expect people to discuss this, right? I guess I'd just like to see a little more in the way of context if a magazine is going to very publicly trash an album. In his explanation for the F rating, Andrew Beaujon charges the Liars with having contempt for their audience (odd, then, that they're the ones who wrote back to me) and that's a charge that doesn't stick so well if you know their history.

One interesting thing I noticed is that Christian Hoard actually had reviewed Flux Information Sciences in the Village Voice back in 2002. I think he would have been an intern at that point, i.e. he almost surely didn't pick the subject, but still this makes me wonder even more why he chose to take the "Metal Machine Music" approach in his review. One guess is that this is one of those cases where Rolling Stone chose to approach things a certain way and told a 24-year-old to make it so. I also noticed that the Rolling Stone review is fairly similar to Hoard's Blender review of the first Liars album (e.g. The Liars have a tall lead singer). Maybe he was just phoning this stuff in. Until Christian starts a blog, who knows.]

The one other thing worth mentioning, as you may have guessed, is that reviews of Flux's Private/Public were almost all good, and there wasn't any blather about them being unlistenable or trying to alienate people, etc. Hey, even Christian Hoard dug 'em. Absent a music press needing to fit a band into some sort of theory about motivation, their album got reviewed based on the way it sounded and nobody got hurt.

Here are a couple more Flux songs. From their album Summer, here's the Karen O fave Charlotte Rampling. I like the fact that Flux don't have to rely on heavy-duty percussion for their sound to work: the rhythm section on this is straight-from-the-box Casio. From Private/Public here's Sit Down, Silly!. It was pretty amazing to see them perform this live and get the timing right. Also from Private/Public here's a kind of catchy instrumental called Love. I really, really like about 2/3 of Private/Public. Some of the tracks seem like experiments that didn't exactly work out, but nothing on it is bad, and much of it is great.

Currently, Tristan of Flux is operating as Services. His website is here. I asked him if he'd send me an mp3, and he was nice enough to pass on Consider, and it's pretty great as well. If the next Liars album sounds like this, don't freak out. Ok?

[I'm sick of re-writing this piece. I don't want it to be about sucky critics, but I didn't want to leave that out either, and it's tough to do without sounding like a jerk. Ultimately I want this to be more about a band that I like a lot, so I hope you'll read it that way.]

Monday, October 04, 2004

 
Sorry about the lateness of today's post. As usual, the delay is courtesy of Blogger "Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't" (I'm suggesting they adopt that as their advertising slogan). And now, like so many before me, I start to consider whether it's better to just switch to another way of posting (a big hassle), or to keep going with something that works about 90% of the time (a big hassle). I hate choices like that!

 

The Name Of This Band Is Personal Effects

One of the many albums that I found earlier this year at The Record Store That Sells Albums From The 80's That No One Has Ever Heard Of is pictured above. I was excitedly planning to track down some whisps of info about it and post them here, but the band beat me to it. Damn.

On the plus side, this means that even though I'm hosting two songs here (Love Never Thinks and Magic) you can actually go to their website and download the whole EP, and eventually all of the band's releases. I asked them when the rest would be up, but didn't get a clear answer. I guess we'll leave it at "eventually."

Not that they really sound alike, but I'd tend to recommend this first EP, which originally came out in 1983, to fans of Game Theory as well as to the regular New Wave crowd. Think New Wave with a lot of slightly psych sonic touches, as played by people with a big record collection who know how to use a guitar when they want to. I had asked the band who their influences were, and got the answer, "We listened and listen to everything for Abba to Xenakis." Normally I'd take that as bullshit, but the sound of the EP actually sort of lives up to that. I'd swear, for example, that the opening of Love Never Thinks reflects someone who's heard R.L. Crutchfield's Dark Day. I forgot to ask them about that.

The Personal Effects EP also has some interesting and reasonably ambitious lyrics that manage not to be dumb, though the line "we were just two lemurs on a high branched tree-top..." just squeaks by on the strength of Peggy Fournier's delivery. She sings lead on all the songs and has a pretty great voice in that detached/sexy mode that falls somewhere between Deborah Harry and, well, lots of other female New Wave singers. She also plays sax from time to time, and I'm assuming that the EP's cover is a painting of her. I don't quite understand why I haven't seen her profiled in a "Women who rock" type thing, given that she writes material, sings, plays an instrument, and looks cute as a button in the photo on the back of the EP.

One of the best things about the Personal Effects' website is that, for once, the Lost New Wave band saved all their cool stuff. Which means that, in addition to the forthcoming mp3s of all of their albums, you get a bunch of vintage videos. Some of these are pretty priceless, including a live appearance on a local dance party show, where the announcer discusses the new-fangled New Wave thing. The video of their earlier incarnation as the Hi-Techs is also worth checking out. I wish they'd post the Hi-Techs' songs as mp3s too, but that's a question that I asked that didn't get answered.

This isn't necessarily the hookiest stuff around -- it's arty New Wave more than poppy New Wave -- so I'm not sure if it'll grab you on first listen. The first time I played the EP I could tell that the group was interesting, but wasn't sure if they were good. Lately, though, I've gotten pretty addicted to this and I'm really looking forward to hearing more.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?