Sunday, May 15, 2011

floating somewhere above: april 2011 mix

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1. Cluster - Hollywood (from 1974's Zuckerzeit)
2. Liliental - Wattwurm (from 1978's Liliental)
3. Ash Ra Tempel - Light Look at Your Sun (from 1972's Schwingungen)
4. Don Cherry - Mali Doussn'Gouni (from 1973's Relativity Suite)
5. The Feelies - Original Love (from 1980's Crazy Rhythms)
6. Songs: Ohia - Coxcomb Red (from 2000's The Lioness)
7. Jackie-O-Motherfucker - Bone Saw (from 2003's Wow!/The Magick Fire Music)
8. Times New Viking - Teen Drama (from 2008's Rip It Off)
9. Archers of Loaf - Fabricoh (from 1995's Vee Vee)
10. Jackie Bernard - Jah Jah Way (from 2005's V/A: Studio One Roots 2)

I spent April meandering out of yet another Kraut phase, evidenced here by the first three tracks. Cluster's "Hollywood" is a melodic take on their most accessible work, Zuckerzeit, which was really a combination of solo efforts on the part of Moebius and Roedelius. Unlike the abstract soundscapes of I and II, here melody and rhythm abound, proving that yes, machines can be fun! Liliental's "Wattwurm" is a watered-down version of this, on a record with a slightly island/world pastiche filtered through German jazz/prog-heads. This track crawls along in an oddly satisfying way, continually toeing the line of being too fey, never quite stepping across.

Contrary to what this picture implies, machines can sound fun! Also, cool little article about the passing of Max Matthews, arguably the origin of computer-based music composition.

Ash Ra Tempel's "Light Look at Your Sun" starts with a pastoral, plucked acoustic, whispering like a spring thaw---naturally, things get heavy, and out of the storm wails a lightning bolt of a solo. Yeah, it's your standard dynamic change recently appropriated by any band wishing to adhere to the worst-named subgenre ever (I'm talking about you, post-rock); but it comes across here as bluesy and static-filled, a sense of unease filling the wide swaths of nothingness that comprise the majority of the song. In the same way, Don Cherry's "Mali Doussn'Gouni" evolves from a simple shaker rhythm into rapidly chanted gibberish, musical in its atonality. Of course, leading directly out of that is a fantastically colored cornet solo--a collision of a blank-ethnic rhythm & vocal with equally borderless, piercing jazz.

The fantastically quilted Don Cherry album cover for Relativity Suite. If you have a spare $150 lying around, you're welcome to purchase this gem for me.

I'm not sure what hole I've been living in (oh, wait...that's right), but I hadn't heard The Feelies till April, when I happened upon some recent re-issues. Kinda like the Talking Heads on speed, guitars and drums buzzing around, with a vocalist who generally overpowers anything else going on (though not to David Byrne's extent). Don't be fooled by their Vampire Weekend-cover, which only proves that everything old is new again. "Original Love" is a thin slice of early-80s new-wave/punk that is about as chunky & poppy as they get on Crazy Rhythms. Not that I'm complaining... Solid as well is "Coxcomb Red," which devastates with its simplicity of chords, its insistent rhythm, and above all else, lyrics that hit like hammers. Jason Molina always has a penchant for emotionally invested anti-pop, but this spare arrangement of voice & acoustic may rise above all other of his fine examples. Just a stunning achievement of focus, this song has purpose.

Songs: Ohia - "Coxcomb Red"

"Bone Saw" is an arid neo-desert instrumental, slow-moving in a very deliberate way---indicative of the Jackie-O Motherfucker controlled improvisation mindset. This really reminds me of Neil Young's score for the Jim Jarmusch Western movie, Dead Man. It gets a little more fleshed out, adding meat to Neil's bones. Times New Viking's "Teen Drama" cuts through the heady jams like a knife, albeit a pitted, rusty, anthemic blade. I hesitated to even put anything from Rip It Off on this mix, since my relationship with this record is hate/love, with an emphasis on the former. The sheer volume, everything levelled so that it comes across as superheated & painful; is usually too much to bear. But that pop hook, that plaintive riff that lies at the center of "Teen Drama", it's too much to deny; as are the boy/girl harmonies that reside in the blown-out chorus. This is pop at its most painful, and it's a song I keep going back to.

The halcyon 90s...back before you had to cultivate an image in addition to your music. The Archers recently reunited for a tour, by the way.

Archers of Loaf's "Fabricoh" pulls back from the edges, just an dirty alt-rock standard with a one-note bridge. Eric Bachmann's next-best sing-along to all-time classic "Web in Front," the coda here will have you on the balls of your feet whether you mean to or not. The mix closes with "Jah Jah Way." Roots reggae always excels at its simplest, and this Jackie Bernard number is sublime genius, simple enough to sing, bouncy but not too fast, perfect for the creeping humidity levels of the Midwest. Simply a groove that cannot be denied.

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