Islets in the polypropylene stream, that is what we are.
Mickey Newbury : Looks Like Rain, 'Frisco Mabel Joy
Kris Kristofferson considers him an artist in the Blakeian sense while the Man in Black simply huffs: "Mickey Newbury is a poet." I corrected a new editor when he said Kenny Rogers Roasters wrote "Just Dropped In (to see what condition my condition was in)," perhaps the first psychedelic country tune. Mick wrote it, and his version has some sick sitar on it. He also made Looks Like Rain
, which may be the most perfect rainy afternoon record ever, and it's also doing the trick for an afternoon blizzard. It's one bizarre Nashville country record: melancholic with haunting chorale arrangements, backed with windchimes, orchestral sighs, and subtle electronics, with the sound of rain and thunderstorms filling out the hushed spaces of his quavering sound.
Moondog : The Viking of Sixth Avenue
This is my favorite record of the year so far. Ten years back or so, Moondog was a gateway to modern classical music for us young ears, when his Moondog 1/2 was readily available on disc, and I could come across a cache of his Columbia record at a shop (which I did, handing them out as gifts one year), making folks like Glass and Reich somewhat more sensical when seen through the man's mighty prism. Alot of the ten-inch records I'd never auditioned before, and collected here by Honest Jon's, it's a heavenly delight to hear how his square drums and sung tong rounds mingle with taxi horns and biznessman traffic in Midtown. Hearing him anew now, he places folks like No-Neck and Animal Collective firmly into the tradition of Gotham's tribal sound (not to be confused with the sound of 'urban hippies').
Number 1 de Dakar
Yahya Fall is my new favorite guitar hero. The Sonny Sharrock of Senegal? The Keith Levine of Dakar Afropop? My friend warned me that there's a track on this recent No.1 retrospective where it sounds like the guitar amp is melting, and sure enough, Fall pulls some Ray Russell/Sharrock/Dead C brain-melt four minutes into a long, spritely jam that takes it deep into some dark places only to somehow pop back out into the sunny din.
Mountains : Sewn
Subtle is the word, but it isn't. Humble though, hiding the use of computers on the list of instruments here, and showing that they can both pick nimbly here as well. It's a continuation of the last Mountains album, and sounds born out of their recent tour, meaning there's more straight playing here than segueing, very much the sound of them strumming guitars first and then coloring in the forest clearings later. Hence the computer at the end. Parts remind me of that Brotzmann/ Bennink record from the Black Forest, where they play astride rivulets and little streams. There's plenty of gurgling springs, sticks snapping, and at the moment, the static din of a waterfall that merges with their campfire-warm drones. Ever so subtley, they lift it all so that it buoys on some new stream of sound.
Anthony Manning : Islets in Pink Polypropylene
Apparently Manning now makes his name as a visual artist, but he's a key figure in early 90's abstract electronic music, too. I cannot quite get a handle on what he is up to here. Islets
is oft-considered his greatest work, but I can't really measure it against anything else from the man. On it's own terms, it's an exquisite esoteric listen. I wonder what would've happened had he made himself into a brand name rather than say, Aphex Twin. The software is not quite there for him in '93 or '94 it seems, but he gets great effect from how he runs his tapes backwards, simultaneously letting lines bubble up and get sucked back down to the river bed.
Terry Riley : Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band "All Night Flight"
Speaking of someone who plays against himself in a suspended state of time, Riley is the originator. Due to a recent watching of a bootleg copy of Robert Ashley's Music with Roots in the Aether
series, I am seriously obsessed with the master right now. Going back to stone classics like Persian Surgery Dervishes
, I always wonder why he is considered a minimalist, seeing as how his music draws on the entire keyboard tradition (Bach to Monk to LaMonte) and he gurgles forth like some untapped spring, eternally letting flow a pure crystalline stream of nectar. Or should I say goat's milk? The first half of the doc has him milking a goat and talking about how the subtleties of the environment are reflected in the taste of the fresh goat's milk that he offers to Bob Ashley. The second half then shows the man in his barn, putting on a jaw-dropping recital of "Shri Camel." Pure milky bliss.