Sunday, March 19, 2006

heep see

Cluster : '71

While staying in Chinatown recently to elude yet more transit shutdowns, I came across this odd wooden fish with a few black knobs on it that my friend had tucked away in her room. Hitting a red switch on it, a sawtoothed sinewave began to squelch aloud. Every nudge of a knob created new barbs, increased envelopes and attack or else screwed higher already ferocious frequencies. Her roommates were nonplussed that I had found it, as I immediately set about tempering and getting the noise under control. Were I to have mastered that fish, I'd only be creating Cluster '71 some thirty-five years after the fact though, so I just buried it under some of her laundry and went about my business instead.

Loose Fur : Born Again in the USA

Previous Jim O'Rourke excursions were somewhat rote exercises in various facial hair styles, despite the man being clean-shaven throughout. Early on, he worshipped those intellectual beards that AMM grows, then got downright grizzly with "the Fahey" by the time of Bad Timing. Eureka had him trimmed down to Van Dyke Parks's van dyke, but now he seems to be obsessed with both Steely Dan's wu-stache and "the Hitler" that Sparks's Ron Mael rocked, and so is Loose Fur oh so seventies. Not that the Fur is nearing the heights of either band (or sonically mimicking them, as O'Rourke projects are wont to do), as despite chops and parts aplenty, they're simply not razor-sharp enough with their wit to pull off a quasi-concept record about Jesus returning to Midwest Mall American culture and golf-playing carsalesmen for Christ.

Much like facial hair, this really grew on me. "Licks, licks, licks" the Mael bros. might've crooned, with Kotche cowbell just for the clop of it, the coda jazz chords and proggy changes getting pressed into some dinky diamonds. And holy shit, check out the 'power' video for "Hey Chicken") Which makes it fairly easy to forgive some of the shitty lyrics ("Thou Shalt Wilt" is a real shame, just because when Jim whispers like a high school drug dealer "Check this shit out" it always makes me snigger right before hitting the FF button to avoid the Ten Commandments redux). As the crunchy wanking gives way to the oozed wooze of "Wreckroom," it makes for an early quarter highlight.
Loose Fur - Pretty Sparks

Fred Neil : Fred Neil
Vince Martin : If the Jasmine Don't Get You the Bay Breeze Will

Standing on the corner of Bleecker and MacDougal in the middle of a blizzard, I now know what these two New York folkers were doing when they got the fuck out of the Village scene and lounged down at the sparse Coconut Grove in FLA instead, putting the lime in the coconuts. The exhaust smoke out of their clothes, its instead infused with...well jasmine and bay breezes. Both of these were recently reissued and they sound like the sea itself, mighty and deep, simply unplumbable and breathtaking at either sunrise or sunset, flashing you their majesty while also revealing the smallness of humanity. The playing is top-notch throughout (Village all-stars on the former, Nashvillain session men on the latter), and there's really no need to spend time gleaning the strands of folk, jazz, raga, country, and blues that course through the sounds, as its all of a piece. A friend at Other Music deemed it "marina rock" (not to be confused with yacht rock) and you can feel the salty spray coming off the prow of the boat, the dolphins unseen as they course alongside you.
Vince Martin - Snow Shadow

Scott Walker : Climate of the Hunter

No doubt to 'cash in' on the Scott Walker wave that will accompany The Drift when it comes out in May, Climate of the Hunter, Walker's much-maligned 80's album, comes back around. While I am of course kicking myself for not purchasing this on record when I came across a clutch of Scott records (2&3), I could see why I would pass it up on first audition. It opens with the unfunkiest clop of a cowbell I've ever heard. It clamors like, you know, a lolling cow in a field. It has Sting-sleek bass, proggy compressed drum sounds, and Scott's dark theater could easily get mistook for a Phantom of the Opera audition. And Billy Ocean, for fuck's sake! To have giants among men like Tennessee Williams, Evan Parker, and guitarists Ray Russell and Mark Knopfler simply absorbed into the black hole of the man is telling though.
Scott Walker - Sleepwalkers Woman

Santana : III

Before the collab-heavy star-hitching (to have Lauryn Hill be your mule is plain wrong, but I must cop that the Rob Thomas smooth-cringe was a guilty pleasure) Santana owned San Antonio and would stop through every four months or so to play Sunken Gardens. The place remains a refuge for metal: Moxy records are on the walls, Bloodrock goes for money, and senior citizens like Budgie and King Diamond make a stop before touring Brazil or wherever it is they're still treated like gods. When I was in Costa Rica, jamming the official station for middle-aged American ex-pats, Radio Dos, every half-hour or so, the crybaby wails of "Black Magic Woman" would emerge, a decidedly American comfort sound in Latin America. I ignored those hallucinatory Santana gatefolds outright most of my formidable years, but this reissue shreds, making me re-think the man. Playing it at work, the acidic solos always elicit audience reaction of some sort.
Santana : Toussaint L'Overture

Kay Hoffman : Floret Silva

If you're into aural weirdness down in San Antonio, at some point you come across Mister Spacer, who intermittently looses crucial documents on Robot Records. A true heavyweight, the man played this pup some real shit (Pierre Henry's lobe-microwaving Cortical Art III for one, but he was one of the first people I knew in the early 90s to appreciate late-era Talk Talk, too) and he put out singular seven inches from the likes of Merzbow, John Duncan, Organum, and Lithops. But even this release is an oddity for him.

A clutch of poems from unknown monks in the 13th century, their kind eradicated by the encroaching and assimilating Roman Catholic Church, save for these documents unearthed in the 19th century in Germany, subsequently set to music by a lovely young Italian lady named Kay Hoffman. Hoffman and her co-horts have ties to the Italian prog scene, and this album was originally slated to come out in RCA/Italy in the 1970s. Of course, that didn't happen, but it did make its way out in the mid-80s in Japan. So maybe getting reissued in Texas come the 21st century isn't so strange after all. For something 800-odd years old, this sounds timely, anachornistic while simultaneously being medieval, folky, proggy. Themes these minstrels once wrote on include this terrestrial life, spiritual quandaries, love, the dark forces to always contest...meaning it is everpresent.
Kay Hoffman - Tempus Instat

Oh yeah, this marks my 100th post.


Blogger Bizzle Fitz said...

I have to say, the lyrics on "Thou Shalt Wilt" are amazing. Imagine an urban Moses spitting jive to his brethren who are reluctant to join arms and support the 10 commandments because the rules are too square. Even Moses is capable of skepticism, thats's what seven is about. The song is one of the most profound songs I've heard in a long time. And, on an unrelated note, "Wreckroom" is Jim O'Rourke listening to "At Least" off of A Ghost is Born and saying, "Hey, if I had written that song, what would it sound like." Personally, I don't know what Jim is doing with Sonic Youth when his own talents are 100 fold what the faded New Yorkers could ever accomplish.

10:54 PM  
Blogger beta said...

surely you have a much higher tolerance for "an urban Moses spitting jive" than I.

3:46 PM  

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