Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bullion presents The Beach Boys vs. J Dilla-Pet Sounds: in the Key of Dee

"Bullion is a UK producer who has taken J. Dilla's vaults a step further by working samples from The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds into the music. It is not a mash up or a remix album, but a conceptual extension to his illustrious catalogue. Bullion does not attempt to place his green thumb on Dilla’s work, but extends his aesthetic into a posthumous tribute.

He’s clearly a student of the J. Dilla technique because his style does not get in the way of the previous works. He employs similar chopping techniques, toying with the harmonies and using the vocal snippets as instruments in the body of work.

It would be easy to get pissed about this record and the excessive fiddling and pillaging the Jay Dee catalogue has suddenly received. It would be easy to write this off as another Jay Dee band-wagoner, capitalizing on everyone suddenly wanting to appreciate a producer who flew under all our radars until his illness became public. But this is a fitting tribute to an influential figure. Even if Bullion only recently discovered Jay Dee, (I doubt that), there is no doubt that his inspiration has changed his life. He has paid attention to Dilla for the right reasons and it shows in his ability to take the genius a step further without stepping on a legend’s toes.

He does not forget what is informing this piece. He maintains a cohesion in style that is not even his own, but an influence, and makes it sound so effortless, as though our hero Dilla actually had the idea.

Crowning achievements are the marrying of “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times” with Jay Dee in a mix I'd like to think both Brian Wilson and Jay Dee would approve of. It maintains its psychedelic lament, but earns a soulful bounce. Compared to trendsetting Grey Album from Dangermouse, this will probably not inspire copycats as it lacks that project's conceptual bombast.

It’s a bizarre ride on the Sloop Jay D."

Before anyone dismisses this as some bullshit pop artist A vs. pop artist B "mash-up," let me please assuage your fears and tell you that this fucking rules. Bullion has done a wonderful and, most importantly, respectful job combining these two heavyweights into a great album. "You Still Believe in Dee" is a particular high point. I will try to get a vinyl rip of this up here in the near future.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Do not be surprised if this gets yanked. It has been a common occurrence lately.

You still believe in Dee

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Thinking Fellers Union Local 282-Lovelyville (1991)

What if I told you there was a band out there that combined the screeching distortion of Sonic Youth and added it with the total absurdity of complete wackos Sun City Girls? Thinking Fellers Union Local #282 fit comfortably within this description. One thing I must make clear though, this band is not for those without patience.

Those who approach this with an open mind and are ready to take in all the sounds spinning around their head will find them to be an enticing, rewarding listen. A factor that contributes to this are the many interludes spread across each album (commonly known among fans as “feller filler”) which are at times amusing, melodic or downright annoying. Supposedly, the reason for this is that the band are such virtuosos at their respected instruments that they did not want to be taken in such a serious way, hence an attempt to include some bizarre breaks from the songs. The ‘feller filler’ is something that takes a while to get used to but eventually they will serve as mood pieces or good ways to flow from track to track.

Another reason is the previously mentioned skill of the players. Thinking Fellers Union Local #282 do not employ the techniques of just two guitar players but three, which makes for some fantastic interplay between the uniquely tuned angular guitars. Another is the brilliant lyrics which are not noticeable on the first listen but slowly unravel to the listener as more listens are required. Take for example a line semi-spoken in the opening track ‘Four O’Clocker 2’: ””She soiled my sheets and stepped on my feet, bled on my towels and opened her bowels beneath my pillow, where my head should rest to escape the rest”… just one of the many strange and mesmerizing lyrics strewn across the album.

“Lovelyville” is the third album in the band’s catalogue and shows when they really started to come in to their own. Away were the practice session jam tapes that clogged up the majority of “Wormed by Leonard” (which, in all due respect, is still an excellent recording) or the dislikeable sheen that shrouded “Tangle”; this was truly when TFUL282 created the idiosyncrasies which would stick with them throughout the rest of their career. Though “Mother of All Saints” would be where the sound presented here would be toned and refined, this still presents a case that startles the listener into locked attention.

‘Nail in the Head’ demonstrates just how well the band works together. The chemistry in their sense of timing and interlocking parts illustrates a unified bond between the members. One thing I forgot to mention is the drumming which is usually superb. There is no heavy primitive pounding of the drum kit nor is there any particular part where the drumming bursts out and takes the forefront, but what is displayed is a real understanding of the instrument. Everything is very set in the background and a closer inspection reveals some very tricky rhythms set in a merger of different styles.

Arguably the centrepiece of the record is ‘2x4s’ which is a melancholic romp through the minds of TFUL282. The parts coalesce so beautifully that I can not describe it as anything else other than a perfect song. The progression of the chords melting in with the pleasant addition of a saxophone creates a perfect consonance between all the textures. What is so pleasant about the addition of the saxophone is that it isn’t really a major piece of the composition but only accents what is already there which makes it’s appearance all the more welcome. My personal favourite is “Sinking Boats” which is cathartic in nature and doesn’t take many breaks from the full-on power environment the track produces. One of the few times I’ve seen a band take dissonance and make it completely catchy and memorable.

If there is a problem I have with this album, it is that it is not as concise as future releases will be but the band are just starting to develop their signature sound which is forgivable. This is still a sprawling soundscape of absurdity, creative melodic passages and dissonance. “Mother of all Saints” may be their magnum opus but “Lovelyville” sits comfortably in their discography as an accomplished piece of work."

I've been feeling weird lately. And this is a wonderful remedy. Weird stuff.

Nothing solid

Monday, February 15, 2010

Michael Yonkers Band-Microminiature Love (1968/2003)

"Just when you figured that every worthwhile rock nugget from the late sixties had already been searched out and unearthed, along comes "Microminature Love" by The Michael Yonkers Band, a previously-unreleased, heretofore-unknown masterpiece from 1968. I could tell you that this disc marries Velvet Undergroundish melodies with odd Sonic Youth-like tunings & guitar experimentation and Link Wray/Sonics garage-bluesrock blamblam ... but such descriptions still wouldn't do it justice, because Yonkers is far more original than any hybridization of other styles. He is sui generis. This disc makes me want to grab people by the lapel and scream "YOU MUST HEAR THIS!"

Here's the story in brief: Yonkers and his band recorded the first seven songs on the disc for a proposed album to be released on Sire Records, but the album was shelved. These songs were, incredably, recorded in a single hour in a small Minnesota studio. The sound is rough, but listenable and the performances are great. The six "bonus cuts" were recorded in 1969 in Yonkers basement, and are more experimental in nature. Since then Yonkers has continued to be active in music, despite indifference to his music and a near-fatal industrial accident in 1970 that has left him a semi-invalid to this day.

Yonker's songwriting is strong- he can hold his own against any contemporary you might name. His riffs are minimalistic, but not simplistic.His lyrics are also top-notch, dealing in complex symbolism yet complete with snappy lines.

"Jasontown" which opens the disc is the most accessable track, with a pleasant folky strum which turns dischordant by verse's end. The title track is pinned to a heavy bloozrawk riff that wouldn't be out of place in a Cream jam, but Yonkers' quavering voice and avant-tuned riffage keep the song miles away from any 60s cliche. "Puppeting" sports a catchy riff and psychologically astute lyrics. "Smile Awhile" is a pounding rocker that Sonic Youth oughta cover.

Two of the best songs deal with war, as Vietnam was obviously on any young American's mind at the time. "Kill The Enemy" deals with the feelings of a young man being asked to kill. A flag-draped "God" sardonically assures the young man that if he survives combat, that he will then be "old enough to vote". In "Boy In The Sandbox" layers of imagery tell a story of loss in the Vietnam war(a boy playing with a toy soldier, the same boy as a young man buried in an ememy battleground, his widow holding the toy soldier as she reads his last letter). I may have made this sound melodramatic and sappy, but it's not: it's frightening, powerful and intense (plus it ends with a guitar distortion/tremolo/echo splooge that would make Jimi scratch his head in wonderment)."

This album is fucking nuts considering the time period, sound, experimentation, and so on. How this album went unreleased for 35 years is beyond me. Rejoice in the internet age, fair travelers

Smile for a while

Friday, February 12, 2010

Blind Idiot God-Undertow (1989)

"For its second album, Blind Idiot God enlisted the services of producer Bill Laswell, but the results show little difference from the attack evidenced on the band's initial release. Once again, the band alternates between surging instrumental barnburners like "Sawtooth" and "Drowning" and spare, evocative dub-oriented songs. Both are handled with the same imagination and confidence that the group had previously exhibited; this was one extremely tight and talented power trio. Andy Hawkins' compositions often take surprising turns during their short duration, themes bending and elongating in a manner providing delicious tension. Ted Epstein's drumming is a marvel to hear, combining an overwhelming strength with an unusual subtlety of rhythmic choices that one doesn't often hear in music as ostensibly rock-based as this. Two tracks stand out as departures from the group's first album: a cover of George Clinton's "Alice in My Fantasies" wherein Blind Idiot God shows that it can also handle power funk quite capably, and the final cut, "Purged Specimen." For this number, the trio is joined by saxophonist, composer (he wrote the piece), and lover of hardcore thrash John Zorn. The track sounds much more like a Naked City song than a typical Blind Idiot God rave-up though, again, it's an example of the band successfully navigating hitherto unexplored territory. Listeners who enjoyed the band's debut album will find more of the same here, even if they suspect that a bit of a rut is being established."

Quick upload. But recommended. Especially for you Dub fans. Trust me.

Watch yer step

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Mandatory Repost/Working link: Parson Sound-Parson Sound (2001)

"Parson Sound was one of the earliest and most radical experimental rock bands of Sweden and the nucleus of a lineup that went on to become International Harvester, Harvester, and eventually, Trad Gras Och Stenar. With their expansive intake of styles as diverse as West Coast psychedelic music and the Velvet Underground's minimalism while still retaining a hint of their Swedish roots, Parson Sound created an unusual sound similar to early Krautrock, though predating its beginning by a year. The group began in Stockholm in the spring of 1967 shortly after a visit to Sweden by minimalist composer Terry Riley to perform his classic "In C," as well as a new work with Swedish school children called "Olson III." Guitarist Bo Anders Persson, a student at the Royal Academy of Music who had already experimented with tape music, participated in the "In C" and was deeply inspired by Riley's open-minded aesthetic in contrast to the stifling atmosphere of the university. Persson started Parson Sound as a free improvisational group with cello player Arne Ericsson, also from the Academy; bassist Torbjörn Abelli, a music student at the University of Stockholm; and radio journalist and poet Thomas Tidholm, who met Persson while working on an article. Thomas Mera Gartz, previously the drummer for the psychedelic beat group Mecki Mark Men, soon joined the group and in the next year, others came and went in the loose collective, including Urban Yman, Bengt Berger, Bjorn Fredholm, and Kjell Westling. By summer 1967, Parson Sound was performing before audiences in cafés, clubs, and festivals and they also gigged a couple times on Swedish radio in September and December of that year. Parson's repetitive and hypnotic riffs were quite similar in sound to the Velvet Underground in its more improvised phase, so it was only fitting that in February 1968 they were part of an Andy Warhol exhibit at Stockholm's Museum of Modern Art. Eventually, the group coalesced around Persson, Abelli, Tidholm, Ericsson, and Yman and by summer 1968, they had changed their name to International Harvester to further refine their sound. This group would eventually become Trad Gras Och Stenar, while several of Parson's alum went on to another progressive experimental group, Arbete Och Fritid."

"During my long holiday break, I not only found time to listen to a lot of music that I'd missed from the past year, but also dove back into the back catalogue of my collection with wild abandon and re-discovered a lot of music that I realized I wish I had more time to listen to on a regular basis. One of the albums that was played on multiple occasions (out of earshot of my wife, as she hates this stuff) was the double-disc self-titled release by Párson Sound, an underground Swedish psych rock band from the late 60s that created insane music that still destroys much of what is being recorded today.

The very early roots of the band were formed in 1966, when a musician named Bo Anders Persson started compositional studies at the Royal Academy, but felt a bit hemmed-in by the emphasis on technique and theories. Only a year later, Terry Riley visited Sweden, and Perrson was one of the musicians who took place in a performance of the classic In C, furthering his notions of creating more experimental and improvisational music that incorporated elements of folk and rock music. In a rapid burst, a batch of musicians came together, playing everything from traditional instruments to tape loops, amplified electric cello, saxophone, flute, and more.

Many members of the group (including Persson) would later morph into such groups as International Harvester, Harvester, Trád, and Grás Och Stenar, and while all of those incarnations had stellar moments, none of them capture the almost feverish intensity of these original sessions. Originally recorded for a wide variety of outlets (including rehearsals, outdoor park performances, and sessions for live radio), the recording quality isn't always the greatest, but the sheer hypnotic quality of the music more than makes up for any deficiencies.

It's music that's hard to classify today, and probably split even more heads open when it was originally recorded. "From Tunis To India In Fullmoon (On Testosterone)" is literally one of the most noisy, minimal psych tracks I've ever heard. Clocking in at over twenty minutes, it chugs forward relentlessly with a doom-riffic rhythm section as guitars, electric cello and soprano saxophone wail away and joust with one another while building up some delicious tension and release. "One Quiet Afternoon (In The King's Garden)" captures a recording from a restaurant performance (I can only imagine being there) where the group layers multiple tape loop, flute, and string drones over pounding drums and guitars before the entire thing gets swallowed up in a creepy haze that sounds like the group is trying to contact spirits from beyond the grave.

In places, they do sound a smidgen more of-their-time, but even the more traditional opening section of "Sov Gott Rose-Marie" morphs into a sort of primordial drone-rock that pretty much melts away any of the more lighthearted melodies that came before it. Showing a completely different side of their personality is "On How To Live," where an open-air recording adds delightful nature sounds to an open-air acoustic park jam that predates groups like The Blithe Sons by over three decades. The release even contains a tape-loop and voice meditation by Persson himself that sounds ages ahead of its time as well.

In their fairly short period under this name, Párson Sound exploded with ideas, and even managed to find some high-profile accolades, opening for The Doors and even playing at the opening of an Andy Warhol exhibition at the museum of Modern Art in Stockholm at his request. It's just over two hours worth of music that's incredibly expressive and intense, and unfortunately out of print again. If you must have the CD, good luck hunting it down, otherwise the excellent digital-only re-release label Anthology Recordings has just made it part of their high-quality catalogue."

Ooooh boy. This one is a monster. A big, scary Scandinavian, doomy, drone-happy monster. Insanely stunning for the time it was recorded (1966-68) and equally perplexing that virtually no one got to hear this until this very decade. I can't say enough good things about these sessions and this band. It's a shame they didn't stick together for the long run but I'm fucking elated with what we've got and I'm betting you will be too. EDIT: NEW LINK

ba ba ba ba-da ba ba

Monday, February 1, 2010

DNA-DNA on DNA (2004)

"DNA on DNA thoroughly collects the studio recordings and live performances of an abrasive and influential New York band. While not compiling every DNA recording, it is the most complete collection so far of the group’s music, including every studio recording (from their first 7”, the No New York compilation, and the Taste of DNA EP; 13 songs in total) and rare live performances, some of which have never been released before. The CD comes on the heels of a similar collection of the band Mars, another group who cracked open rock in the No Wave scene of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

No Wave flashed brightly and dissolved quickly. No band lasted longer than four years. Shows dragged on for a maximum of a half-hour, often evolving into taunting messes. Most songs lasted under two minutes, often under one. Almost no one played outside New York, and precious few recordings documented the time. Yet, in the grand tradition of Velvet Underground moments, it seems that everyone touched by no wave spread its seed far and wide.

Two generations of New York rockers seem indebted: the 1980s (Swans, Pussy Galore, and Sonic Youth); and Five Minutes Ago (Black Dice, Japanther, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs). In between, Chicago took the reigns, with Atavistic Records championing reissues, now-wave bands surrounding the Skin Graft label, and Weasel Walters’ exhaustive online dedication to the scene. Today, the fever has spread through San Francisco, Michigan, and Providence, to name only a few locations.

Perhaps it is fitting that the history of No Wave has been rewritten in the past few years. Reissues abound, compilations trip over themselves, and every sliver of evidence is being dug up. Most notably, this new history looks past the social barriers that divided the tiny scene into No New York and not-No New York. In 1978, Brian Eno produced four bands for that defining compilation, and yet other deserving musicians were intentionally left off the record. Thanks to excellent work from Acute Records and Table of the Elements, Glenn Branca and Rhys Chatham’s huge contributions are now available to fill these gaps (although a fresh disc of Chatham’s groups Arsenal and Tone Death would brush out some cobwebbed corners). Collections of YPants and Malaria also help correct the misconception that No Wave grew from four bands alone.

DNA is the last of those four definitive bands to get the reissue treatment. Along with Mars, DNA emitted a less structured brand of abrasive rock than their No New York partners The Contortions and Teenage Jesus and the Jerks. Arto Lindsay led the group, growling, yelping, and wailing atop jagged guitar shards. Often abstract or unintelligible – and sometimes in Portuguese – his vocals grated and skipped as much as his barbed guitar (or how about the complete lyrics to “Horse:” get out of here / go fuck yourself). Ikue Mori’s drumming pummeled or pattered, driving the group forcefully or meandering around other sounds, never settling on one role. In their first nine months, DNA included the darkly repetitive keyboards of performance artist Robin Crutchfield. When Crutchfield left, bassist Tim Wright joined, fresh from Pere Ubu in Cleveland. His sputtering rolls and murky tones drove the group into even more dangerous territory.

DNA on DNA tracks these changes from the first 7” record to the final performance in June of 1982. Chaotic and explosively dynamic, DNA sounds no less exciting, challenging, and relevant than they did 25 years ago."

This band is whacked the fuck out. What were they thinking? Who knows. But of all the weird ass atonal music that swept New York from the late 70s into the early 80s, DNA is easily the weirdest. Rumbling bass lines, offbeat percussion, squeaking squawking guitar lines and moans and screams emitting from someone obviously suffering from DT. Fucking essential.

EDIT/NOTE: Different link, thanks to Llort over at A Special Plan For This Weekend

Dance with me...