Jun 26, 2008

DID I REALLY SAY "A TERSE KLUSTER?" Things I Said About Things I Heard

I'm forgoing the review of Psychedelic Horseshit/Fabulous Diamonds/Suitcases et al from the other night because there was, for reasons I may never know, a strange air of hostility and apathy in the room. Don't get it, didn't dig it. All I'll add is that I went home and shaved off my mustache in one blunt, unceremonious gesture. (It felt different having it on the island. If I couldn't be the Gorton's fisherman, I might as well be a grizzled deckhand, right? Well, the high seas are far behind me now, if you get what I mean. I'm not sure I do...)
Now, moving swiftly along:
Records. I got them. I heard them. I thought about them, drank with them, and generally gave them far more attention than some worthy humans I know. Hey, when the sit-in to protest my phone number gets crankin', I'll put the headphones down. In the meantime, I'm trying to decompress. Culture shock. Y'all have things like stoplights and fast food here. I just returned from the 1940s. I had forgotten about billboards and the stale unction of chicken tenders.

FABULOUS DIAMONDS - Self-Titled LP, Siltbreeze, 2008
Sorry, but when a mint band from Australia shows up in your town, on a tour where they're unlikely to break even, buy one of their records. Hell, buy two. Gas and plane tickets is spensive. Even if they're dicks (they were actually lovely!), you gotta have sympathy for people who are probably traveling with dudes whose code of ethics includes "infrequent bathing." Give an Aussie a break! Plus, the records are good! This keys/sax-and-drums duo screw with recorded time like nothing else runnin, all the while reminding me of a terse Kluster, Teja with live drums, the underbelly of early Primitive Calculators, and the earnest disarray of the Delta 5. They can call out the tunes or call in the demons; either way the songs float by like an echo in the night. Less frustrating, more...appetizing. And when they stretch out (you know, 3 minutes), boy does it pay. Praise be to short elpees.

The seven-inch on
Nervous Jerk is still around and worth all of the 8 or so minutes it'll cost you. Help them sell out the press. Plus, it's an amuse bouche to this amuse bouche to this...

NOTHING PEOPLE - Anonymous LP, S-S Records, 2008
I tried. I really did. Backwards, forwards, sideways, perpendicular, four abreast, in the car, on the porch, with and without headphones, with and without beer, before and after cigarettes, before and after science, with the TV on mute, with the cat on vibrate, shoes or no shoes, and I can't for the life of me care about this. Rock in most of its incarnations, to me of late, is grandpa stuff. This ain't the summer I asked for.

Jun 21, 2008

KRAUT IS THE NEW BLACK - 6 Bands and Twenty-One Hot Inches In Me

Having rolled back into the South, sore (in many ways) from the trip and the pre-trip ordeal, I've set up some semblance of a stereo in a dusty alcove...somewhere. I don't know. At this point, the moment I leave the city but am still close to a state road, everywhere looks like everywhere else. If I play my cards right, this is a layover, not a chapter.
While resisting the urge to unpack and phone up locals who might still wanna know me I've listened to some things. These are they.

STRIBORG/SCURSHAHOR split 7", Southern Lord, 2008
My love of the sole Tasmanian black metal act Striborg is earnest and deep. For those who consider black metal suspect, I assure you the Striborg approach is more Peter Grudzien than Profanatica. His opener, the aptly monikered "Psychedelic Nightmare" is a thumpy and hissy lil capsule bearing familial resemblance to the dark humidity of Pierre Henry's Le Voyage at one moment and an unhinged Silver Apples at the next. Other than that, this got no kin what's recognizable to my ears. "Syncopated Pandemonium" is heavy but not at all tired or even metal, really, in the tradition of Circle of Ouroboros or Sapthuran. I believe in Sin Nanna.
Scurshahor is probably an Oren Ambarchi one-off, given the credentials, the label, and, well, the way it fucking sounds. "Malicious Resplendence" gets you Sissy Spacek drum crumbling on top of chipped Remko Scha axes. There might be vocals, or there maybe there's a bee in my suit. I get why queues of drone dudes dig the black metal and all. Unfortunately, their love is meddled with fear, so their forays into black metal-inspired hum-and-thud come off as pastiche, not participation. I'm sure as shit cats like Ambarchi dig old punk, too, but history's taught them that digital deconstructions of that stuff is a bad and unmarketable idea. At least this probably moved some units. Unfortunately for whomever Scurshahor is (...), I gotta hate the player and the game.
(Also: the plastic inner sleeve? Seriously? Didja get a grant from the Glad family? Just wrap the thing in pig-iron why don't you. I'm lucky this survived the trip between the box and the player so many times.)

SHEPHERDS/IGNATZ - Bored Fortress split 7", Not Not Fun, 2008
We're winding into the end of the BF singles club for this year. If you read my last installment, I ain't so keen on what NNF's been shipping me lately. This chapter, however, is a crispy change of pace. This ain't the Shepherds I was expecting. (I mean, technically, it is.) This bears none of the loft-jazz touchstones nor is it infested with the Borbetomaggots I read about elsewhere. In fact, this is some distillation of the dark and perverse elements of post-punk. Repetitive percussion supports a particularly Aussie/Kiwi clang, capturing that rapturous and sweaty state everyone loves to achieve in the recording space. If this is the energy they always cast about, I'll buy all that balloon juice 'bout the "physical noise" they usually blow. I need a discography...
Ignatz seem to have aligned with the same sonic longitude as Shepherds for this slab, only their branches seed from the Great Unwashed rather than Wreck Small Speakers or One Stop Shopping. Their lone track rises and falls like a string of mountains. We start at the foothills and end in the clouds. It might grow a little long in the tooth, but that's how mountains work I suppose. The surprises keep me listening, like they do. The Ignatz side is what pushed this into my vote for the best of the Bored Fortress 08 class. Doubtful? Read on.

INCA ORE/SECRET ABUSE - Bored Fortress split 7", Not Not Fun, 2008
I can't say I love or even like either of these acts after sitting with this single for a fistful of sessions--and I ain't talkin those kinda sessions. Inca Ore are like the worst portrayal of the Blues Control aesthetic dining on the worst portrayal of Scorces. They've got a pedigree way more interesting than their actual output. Like Pocahaunted and that aforementioned Scurshahor mishap, there's something real disingenuous about good-looking youngsters aping sounds made by lumpy nutjobs from ages past. Hey, I love those records, too, but that don't mean I wanna be them!
Secret Abuse are soundtracky and dull. Touchstones might include the third White Noise lp, if ya must know. It kinda feels like storming out of your parents house in a teenage rage, then going to all the suit-n-tie restaurants they haunt and pretending to be them: nobody's buyin it.
In the end, I suppose I oughta let the kids have their say and maybe somebody'll buy one of those Kluster reissues as a result of all this horse-hockey. (That live Eruption lp is the kitty's p-jays!)

NEXT ON THE BOX: Maybe a live review of Psychedelic Horseshit/Fabulous Diamonds/Suitcases @ Eyedrum? Wayne Rogers? That Nothing People LP somebody tossed at me? For now, a smoke and a steaming lake are calling.

Jun 9, 2008

AIN'T NO WRONG NOTES - A Free-Jazz Playlist

Unless I'm mistaken, my days on the island are numbered. The neighbors are steadily returning and I doubt they're down with the kinda rumblings my house typically produces in the wee small hours. Then again, my frat boy roommates'd probably love to pick that bone, too. They make rumblings of their own, but they've got nothing to do with alternate tunings, if you catch my drift. So unless my bread baker job interview goes stunningly well today and they offer me shit-ton money, I'll be packed and on the ferry by week's end. (I got my fingers crucified.) Where to? I ain't certain.
While I try to figure it all out, here's some free jazz or creative modern or "new music" or whatever tag's been hung on the Ayler & Co. lineage, that I love. I gotta go wring my wash out by the shore.

Any of these players could lead me to a cliff and I just might drink. But the most fascinating part about these sessions is that nobody sounds like themselves! Okay, Parkins can only stretch in so many directions, but even she's kept me guessing all these years. Her shimmering accordion slivers and loping percussion samples alternate between underpinning strokes and wide watercolors. Brown forgoes his usual misbegotten seagull cries for some lyrical, Steve Lacy-inspired lines. Borca might be the most unsung player in the world, so any chance you get to hear her pour spools of deep-red yarn from her bassoon, you do so. Her work with Jimmy Lyons oughta be legendary by now. You mightcould say she's the bassist to this bass-and-drums-free disc. And Joe Morris, well, I've heard a lot of words used to describe his guitar-playing. "Squirrelly" and "obtuse" are among the most apropos. Forget your notions of free-jazz guitar players being weened on Sharrock and Ulmer, cuz although he might use a "Blood" tuning, Joe's sound is always clean and skronk-free. For my money, his ink draws the defining lines here.
Ignore the crummy cover art, if you happen to snatch this up. The artist, Anne, once told me "black is the new 'black'," so, uh, you can imagine...

IDRIS ACKAMOOR - The Music of Idris Ackamoor 1971-2004, EM Records 2006?
If you ask the cats at Aquarius Records, they'll tell you 1971 is the most important year for music in the last 1/2 of the 20th century. Me? I think that date's a movable feast, but after hearing this double-disc, I might stick around for dessert. Typically, I head straight for the Pyramids tracks because they define all that is good about the horrendously-monikered "spiritual jazz" movement. We're talking big, wide organically developing passages that, to my ears, are carved out right between Sun Ra and the exhausted pace of late-afternoon field hollers. Makes me wanna curl up and spoon with them. "Birth/Speed/Merging" and "Black Man of the Nile" are top of my list. The more rigid cat in me thinks "Spiritual Rebirth," a piece by the Idris Ackamoor Quartet, is pretty tight, and lets you know Ackamoor can wrangle structured beauty from his cortices, too.
Ackamoor has gone more of the Threadgill route since the heyday of these recordings, on top of becoming some sort of "cultural consultant" or some damn thing. I don't know; Google him, and then gobble this up before EM runs out.

THE GREAT MUSAURIAN SONGBOOK - Out of a Suitcase, Musikszene Schweiz/Grammont portrait 1998
Hoo, what a puzzler. I've had this for about 5 years and it reveals less and less about itself as time goes on. Maybe that's just me growing stupider, but I think you'll agree that a loose-improv record based on documents found in a suitcase like a postcard from a little kid, a page from a diary, a bill from a public house, a doctor's note, or a random telegram, all played by the national band of a made-up country that doesn't in any way involve the Hafler Trio is deep in "I need a lie-down" territory. What's it sound like? Europe, in all the ways you can conjure: Iskra, Evan Parker-led screech-and-crumble parties, indigenous folk musics, and a bucketful of Dada. I have no clue what Claudia Ulla Binder, Dieter Ulrich, or Alfred Zimmerlin did after this, aside from continue on in the "creative music" camp and sell out tents in Switzerland. If anyone knows anything of note about their more-recent endeavors, give a holler. In the meantime, pick this up and smirk at it for a while; you might be glad you did.

V.A. - Golden Age of Soviet New Jazz, Volumes I&II, Leo Records, 2001
I never got a chance to pick up volumes III and IV, but as I've been slowly picking through these 8 discs (!) for--wow, seven years, maybe I'll finally be familiar enough with them to move on by the age of 50. Aligned under the banner of "Soviet New Jazz" is all kinds of bucket-on-the-head performance art, collective improv, free-rock, berserk prepared piano rolls, and warehouse caterwauling recorded behind the Iron Curtain. Aside from that, the main reason it's taken me so long to drink these in is that each disk is a chronicle of an entire career. So, in reality, we're talkin 8 anthologies! Sometimes, all of the aforementioned buggery is included in a single piece! Who knew so many Noah Howard, Jellyroll Morton, Ya Ho Wa 13, Alexander von Schlippenbach, Henry Flynt, and Butch Morris records got smuggled into Leningrad?
Highlights for me include Sergey Kuryokhin's maniacal, dual-piano history lessons and the larger ensemble stuff like Jazz Group Arkhangelsk--basically, any of the stuff where someone isn't just shouting into a trashcan. Hell, with enough time, I might get my head 'round that, too.