Friday, January 20, 2006

beta burnt on bootlegs

Sure, I miss any and all current music videos, and yet I seem to be catching up on my bootleg DVD watching this week, revisiting the evergreens and mistletoes of mythic music-making, musicians I have heard forever but never really seen much footage of their craft. Even while glimpsed now, some dance tantalizingly just out of sight.

The first is a French documentary about Tropicalia, probably from the early eighties. My high school Francophonics challenged yet recollected just enough (brushed up with recent Bunuel and Godard viewing) to follow the translated Portuguese dialogue as the music is set against the political upheavals and tank-fueled (and CIA-funded) coups and the slow calcification of Joao Gilberto's revolutionary ideas in bossa nova.

It's getting nigh on a decade since I first heard the beguiling/ befuddling "La la la la"s of that opening Mutantes song, yet I remain giddy and agog all over again when Os Mutantes rip off astounding versions of "Panis et Circencis" and "Fuga No.II" in front of a studio audience, their prowess evident as they ply at the taffy strands of each song, tweaking it and taking it out further (there's also a surreal music video for "Don Quixote" involving diesel fill'er ups and windmills). The footage of Caetano, young and vibrant on the soundstage as he and orchestra recast "Tropicalia" is swell, but it's Tom Ze's ensemble, in Devo-esque hard hats and boiler suits, that is truly revelatory. Finally, I can glimpse that music laid out with musical saws, poinging hammers, and witness Ze's mythical blender engine doo-hickey device instrument, triggered with a primitive switch box.

The disc is a tease though, as it still doesn't have the Tropicalia television specials that you always see stills from in any documentation of the music. Instead, tacked onto the end is a good half-hour of nth generation VHS dubs of live musical performances from Mutantes, Roberto Carlos, Chico Buarque (playing the ugliest guitar I've ever seen), and Os Novos Baianos, but all seen through a mirror darkly, all warped and distorted tape. Fuzzed out, the whites blinding, the blacks crumbling, all this catchy pop never to be recollected by public consciousness and moth-eaten by time, it transmits from an unimaginable past. But I'll save my Ariel Pink observations for another day.


Taj Mahal Travellers
Travel to the Taj Mahal

I missed this most-hallowed celluloid documentation of the mighty Taj Mahal Travellers when it played at the Anthology last year (due to a certain barbecutie), but finally get to watch the waves coming in now. Otherworldly ensemble spacetime-suspension music that today's longhaired groups (be it Jackie-O, NNCK, WWVV, whatevs) have no hope of even fucking with, I guess this is also an argument for Japanese tourists taking pictures of everything, as the group is basically travelling from the Netherlands through Tehran and Afghanistan to Taj Mahal. The footage of them playing inside some sort of geodesic dome to an audience where everyone looks like Delia, Gavin, or Will Oldham is lobe-blowing. And when it pans to reveal that they are actually performing with Don Cherry, it's pure vents of cosmic dust. Of course, they don't actullay play at at the Taj Mahal, so it's anticlimactic in that regard.


Funkadelic on Say Brother!

I can still recall hearing those echoing words of sucking souls and licking funky emotions for the first time on a road trip to the Dodgeball Fest in College Station, Texas, site of innumerable musical epiphanies, all of the punk rock sort. And even though I picked up the reissues of those first four Funkadelic records last year, coming across this unreleased track (as originally posted here) burned my 'fro something fierce. For those that missed it:
"The Rat Kissed the Cat"

And recently some early live footage of that Parliament/ Funkadelic thang has popped up as well, linked here. Takes forever to load, but it's a sweaty, fonky, flop-hatted affair of the highest caliber. Their hyper-medleys would make for an intense kinetic DJ set these days (think Cherrystones, Andy Votel). It's a mix that burns but never ages or becomes ash.


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