Thursday, November 7, 2013

October 2013 Mix: The Cusp

10 tracks, 46 minutes. Get it here.
(I shouldn't have to say this – but support working artists & musicians by purchasing records! Links in the tracklist.)
7) Paris 1942 - Move Out Of Wichita
10) Television - Glory (Live in Portland 1978)

Jason Molina passed away in March, in Indianapolis, where I reside. I didn't know he was in town, and hell, I don't think many people he was close to did, either. He succumbed to organ failure from alcohol poisoning. Songs: Ohia's "I've Been Riding With The Ghost" is a ripper that melds together his best traits as a songwriter, the indelible, plaintive acoustic beginning, the Neil Young-esque staccato-electric verse, and the ruminating, glowing lyrics.

"Trying to remember how it got so late / why every night pain comes from a different place / 
now something's gotta change." Hope you're in a better place now, Mr. Molina.

I saw Bitchin' Bajas for the first time this Summer at Indianapolis's premiere musical happening – Cataracts. I'd missed them earlier in the year, but knew based on the Alice Coltrane & Robert Fripp references (as well as their Drag City backing & CAVE-chops), that their higher wavelength was one I needed to tap into. They played a blissful 15-minute set (due to running late) that was pitch-perfect. "Sun City" is tone painting, gorgeously full of guitar fuzz, organ drone, and sunny synth, all flowing together into One. 

Bitchin' Bajas LIVE at Cataracts 2013.

In August, I booked my first show in five years – all it took to convince me was the announcement that dream-wave/drone-poppers Landing were embarking on a rare tour. With an extensive discography that balances gauzy guitar work and more recently, drum-machine powered delicate could I not? "Gathering" is all note-heavy guitar hook and gentle, shoegaze-y vocal lift, building to a blurred haze of guitar that washes out the end.

Landing LIVE this fall at Do317 Lounge.

Ok, time to admit that Camera Obscura is no longer a guilty pleasure. While 2013 LP Desire Lines mellows out a bit – the hooks are still there, the production is pristine, and songwriter/vocalist Tracyanne Campbell still hits all the right notes (and still has that gorgeous Scottish accent...I'm a sucker for it). "Troublemaker" is the lead single and, to prove that serious/romantic nouveau pop isn't all they do, has shown up in video recently with a jab at ridiculous British television.

Note to self: don't ever consider wearing a jumpsuit. Real bad.

I've been on a huge bootleg kick this year, and Television has been leading the charge. If we're gonna get down to brass tax, I recommend this 1978 set (for the noisiness and solos) and Double Exposure (for demos and alternate versions). But somehow I never heard the Neon Boys (pre-TV) or Richard Hell & The Voidoids (replaced in TV by Richard Lloyd). Blank Generation is the succinct classic you might expect from such an ex-pat – "I'm Your Man" is full of attitude and swing and an iconic vocal take, just reined in enough to express instability. 

Classic cover art, too.

Pastiche, on the whole, in rock and roll music usually annoys me, from the dance-rock craze of the early 2000s, to hyperliterate scarf-rock that tumbled out with the Decemberists...yuck. Parquet Courts manage to take a pastiche of lo-fi icons (GBV, Pavement, even Brit post-punk like Wire or Gang of Four) and squish it into their own strange, wiry box. Wry vocal takes and cyclical guitar lines over a rock-solid rhythm section made Light Up Gold one of my favorite records of 2012. "Stoned and Starving" is the centerpiece, five-minutes-plus of a helluva guitar hook, lazy ruminations, and feedback – it's glorious.

(NYC-by-way-of-Texas, the LP cover does hint at the
subtle twang contained within.

From the same universe, but a generation-and-a-half prior, discovering the Paris 1942 record was a jolt to my summer. It's all high-end, dismal punk and no-wave skronk. Part Sun City Girls and part Mo Tucker (the Velvets) – it sounds exactly like what you'd imagine...which is actually perfect. "Move to Wichita" is a grimy pop gem caked in dirty, wet newspapers of sound, like a house show that you're almost too drunk to remember. 

(I imagine the gloomy figure on the bridge actually
just found out they were moving to Wichita.

"Aplomb" – something about Brits and how they have plenty of this to go around. Is it the weather? In the midst of bar bands and Sex Pistol-apers came Swell Maps, a brother-led group that had swagger and artistic ambitions. A Trip to Marineville has feedback experiments, perfect pills of pop-punk, and jam-it-all-in lackadaisical prog. "BLAM!!" takes a primal, bashing, almost-Kraut beat and pounds it into the ground with jagged guitar swell, moaning background vocals, and – surprise! – a sing-along chorus. 

(Swell Maps - "Build A Car". With rare live footage.)

Long Island by Endless Boogie is my favorite record of the year. Who could dethrone the muscular riff that "Occult Banker" rides into the sunset? A band of recordheads and riffheads for recordheads and riffheads – they do one thing: boogie. Choogle. Wah-wah riff. For 5, 7, 9 minutes at a time. Always mutating, hooks gestating and rearing their heads on down the road while their vocalist and frontman mumble-rants like Tom Waits with a chest cold. If that doesn't sound appealing: listen to that riff.

(A beast has awoken in the swamp – maybe this LP is
his foot-stompin' welcome back party. Rise from yr mud
and strap on a six-string, dude.

I've already mentioned Television, and since I just waxed apoplectic about the power of the riff, I thought I'd end this mix with the regal-sounding "Glory" – this live version speeds the studio track up a bit, adds some distortion to the rhythms, but really, it's all about that crushing chorus that blasts immediately into guitar-solo, and back into the ragged vocals of another chorus with extra guitar on top. These guys were locked in in 1978, and it shows with the extra-heavy ending: 

"When I see the glory / I ain't gonna worry."

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