Saturday, December 18, 2010

Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band - Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) 1978

Rest in peace, Mr. Donald Glen Vliet. Thank you for all the music you've left behind. I'm gonna go ahead and upload a bunch of your records (I upped Safe as Milk a while back, the damn DMCA shut that one down) but here's the link to that again: SAFE AS MILK (fuck you, DMCA!)

Anyway, I'm gonna give you my favorite of his later period stuff, and that's 1978's Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller). It's accessible but still arty as all hell; the band is a tightly knitted sweater of weird grooves, the Captain retains his trademark growl- it's considered his comeback album and has a bunch of leftovers from his more (dare I say) commercial attempts (Bluejeans and Moonbeams, etc...) that existed as instrumentals and snippets of songs that were given a full-on re-model here.

I'm gonna up his duet record with Zappa (Bongo Fury) in the next few days as well; it's probably the greatest record from the mid-70s (that gets better and better upon every listen). So without further ado; here's the Captain. Wherever you are, you are loved everywhere by music nerds like me...

Friday, December 17, 2010

El Guincho - Alegranza (2007)

El Guincho is the moniker of one Pablo Díaz-Reixa of the Canary Islands. First time I ever heard this (early '08) I was in the fabled San Francisco institution Aquarius Records. I always feel weird asking the clerks at record stores what we're listening to (I don't wanna out myself as a n00b, that's what I do to you all with this blog here) but the dudes that work there are mad chill and not pretentious at all, so I was like, "uh, is this another Panda Bear record? Cuz I thought he just had one last summer..." and was met with, "no, this is some Spanish guy, El Guincho."

Of course I didn't buy it then and there; I ran home and illegally downloaded it because I'm a massive douchebag like that. Now I pass the douche on to you.

El Guincho - Alegranza (2007; Discoteca Océano)
59 mb; VBR avg ~ 197 kbps

Teenage Fanclub - Bandwagonesque (1991)

Teenage Fanclub are a fine example of power pop in all of its sickening glory- set right in the crossroads of old and new and owing as much to earlier 1970's bands like Big Star as well as the illustrious work of Todd Rundgren and the jangly sensibilities of 80's mainstays The Smiths and R.E.M., not to mention the influence they've had on an entire generation of indie popsters (Belle & Sebastian, et. al.)

Fans and critics alike seem to point to their 1995 record Grand Prix as their finest moment; I think it doesn't have the same urgency as Bandwagonesque and plus; I got this one on a whim when I was in high school- the album cover art coupled with the fact that the CD was $1.99 (the main impetus being that awesome track they did with De La Soul on the Judgment Night Soundtrack).

Anyway; this is something I listen to when I want to remember my senior year of high school; it's inextricably wedged in between going stoned out of my 16-year old mind to football games on Friday night, then awful golf course keg parties on Saturday night to staying up late on Sunday nights to watch 120 Minutes...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Clive Tanaka y Su Orquesta - Jet Set Siempre No. 1 (2010)

I can find literally no info on Clive Tanaka; his website has March 2nd as the release date for this (originally in cassette-only format! The digital will be released on January 11th of next year) and then there's nothing of a personal nature at all. Very rarely do I read about a record and feel implored to seek it out, download it, listen to it three times in a row and immediately post it here, but there's an undeniable charm to the sounds on this album and the gravity that's pulling me to it.

All I can say is that this is going to be at the top of (or at the least one of my three favorite records this year); it's a chill-wavey lo-fi electropop synth-funk hot mess.

Sort of like Daft Punk meeting Toro y Moi in 1987 to
audio track a Jazzercise VHS tape.

Grab it now, because I'm almost guaranteeing this blog post will be shut down in the next three days!!!

Check out this video for the track Neu Chicago:

Monday, November 15, 2010

Björk - The Classic Years

Dear Björk Guðmundsdóttir,

I love you.

I really do.

I love you for all your weird, quirky and inventive songs. I love your half-elf, half-Icelandic lyricism. I love your cute little pixie self. I love the production values on all your records, too- you have both the piece of mind and sense of purpose to work with some really out-there folks, although I guess that's like calling the kettle black, no?

I love that we almost have the same birthday, only three days away. And I get along really well with Scorpios, both my brother and sister are Scorps. That's tight.

Holler at me.

I must also say that your videos by themselves are truly all works of art. I used to have your DVD, Greatest Hits: Volumen 1993-2003 but it was crushed in a box in my trunk when I moved to California so I sold the damaged video to Amoeba Records in Berkeley and some poor chump bought it and later realized that the three videos for Hyperballad, Possibly Maybe and I Miss You were all pixelated and fucked up and the sounds skipped and sounded like glitchy shit.

You're in me, Björk. You're a part of me- and not like that time I washed my clothes with a bag of weed in one of my pants pockets, and then I even dried it and it like totally baked the smell into that entire load of clothes for like ever, not like that. You're like, here.

Right here.

I love you so much, Björk. I'm going to prove this to you by putting three of your best albums up for "sharing" purposes. Yeah, I know, it's really stealing, but whatever, I love you, Björk.

I. Love. You.

Jimmy Mac

Debut (1993; Elektra Records)
77.3 mb, VBR avg ~ 192 kbps

Post (1995; Elektra Records)
67.4 mb, VBR avg ~ 180 kbps

Homogenic (1997; Elektra Records)
64.4 mb, VBR avg ~ 202 kbps

Sunday, November 14, 2010

June of 44 - Four Great Points (1998)

I have no idea what "post-rock" really means, I think we throw it around way too much these days. The term was coined by critic Simon Reynolds in a review of the record Hex by Bark Psychosis in an issue of The Wire back in May of '94 as a way to describe what he was hearing, he's quoted as saying post-rock is "using rock instrumentation for non-rock purposes, using guitars as facilitators of timbre and textures rather than riffs and power chords", but that's not really saying a whole lot about bands with such disparate styles like Mogwai, Slint or Sigur Rós, who are all usually lumped in with the post-rock crowd.

A reductive way of describing post-rock could be as follows: bands that employ in their music such diverse influences like space rock, Krautrock, ambient, experimental rock, jazz, shoegaze, minimalism, math rock and tape music; then forcing it into the neater, all-encompassing sphere of "alternative rock". That's my definition and I'm sticking to it.

That brings us to June of 44- a more emo and math-based version of Slint; but more melodic in the post-hardcore vein of bands from the mid-90s (think Unwound or Fugazi) but with really, really awesome drumming (courtesy of Doug Scharin); the instrumentation is also stellar- mellow and lazy yet shiny and bright guitar work from Jeff Mueller and Sean Meadows and dual duty on bass and trumpet from Fred Erskine.

Check this shit out, post-rocker...

Benga - Diary of an Afro Warrior (2008)

It's taken me a while to come full circle and embrace the genre of dubstep; you could say this is the third time I've tried to accept it (false starts in '06 and '08); I guess I either wasn't listening to the "right stuff" or my head wasn't in the right place- any way you slice it I wasn't getting it, which is disheartening considering my love for all things British.

So here we go; attempt number three- and it's sticking, finally.

Digression: I think dubstep's main problem (as most electronic music for that matter) is that it's somewhat rare for a specific vibe or a particular energy to hold up over the course of a full-length; since it's aimed at the club-goers, a five-to-ten minute slab of beats and synths is usually all that's needed and an artists' worth is measured from week-to-week as far as getting asses out on the floor. I think that's why I've never given most electronic music it's fair shake- I've always been an "album-oriented" kind of listener; give me a cohesive collection of songs packaged together as a statement of the performer's vision at a specific time and date rather than a jam or two. Anyways; I'll be mining the internets for more electro-based music from now on.

The obvious choice and the man that's done the best job at selling dubstep to the masses is Burial; both of his albums are considered the gold standard in the genre and the most representative of both where it's come from and where it can go- but for all its sheer determination, I'd offer you Benga's Diary of an Afro Warrior as a great place to start; it's meditative and funky, got those wonky bass lines throughout.

Give it a try, folks...

Squarepusher - Hard Normal Daddy (1997)

Behold! I have heard the sound of the future, and it sounds like... wait... what?

This record is thirteen years old?


Well, where the hell have I been?

Seriously, what have I been doing that was so important that made me miss this album; this sublime record with some of the best and fastest beats ever made on this planet with some of the most insane robo-jazz ever recorded?

Damn, I'm sorry Mr. Squarepusher. I'm going to let everybody in on this little secret that turns out wasn't a secret at all...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Autechre - Tri Repetae (1995)

The duo of Sean Booth and Rob Brown have been making music together for almost 25 years, hooking up over a mutual love for graffiti, hip-hop and electro music, trading mix tapes and eventually collaborating under the guise Lego Feet. Their first release under the Autechre (pronounced aw-tekk-urr) moniker would be 1991's Cavity Job, and the rest, as they say, is history.

This 1995 release, Tri Repetae, is a decent barometer of Autechre's ouevre; it's right in the mid-point of their earlier, more accessible work (the LPs Incunabula, Amber and the Anti EP) and their move towards a freer, more experimental approach (the albums LP5 and Confield, as well as the arc of their trajectory until present day).

Their advancement of glitchy, techy and ambient soundscapes has
contributed to the growth of IDM as well as influenced many imitators- I'm almost kicking myself for not discovering this wonderful music earlier.

Ancestors - Neptune With Fire (2008)

If you like your sludgy metal with generous helpings of prog rock, this is the record for you. Los Angeles-based Ancestors blend stony psychedelia with doom metal riffs to create one of the most satisfying listens of the last few years within the genre; this two-song, 38-minute monolithic magnum opus from '08 called Neptune With Fire.

It's a huge album, an immense and crushing sonic journey to the center of the cosmos and back; although it predates Mastodon's Crack the Skye by a good year, it's cleaved from the same esoteric stone.

Metal heads, psych rockers, stoners, sludge aficionados; DL this record right now!

Main Source - Breaking Atoms (1991)

First off, these beats- considering this album is almost 20 years old, these beats still sound as incredible to my thirty-something ears as they did to my teen ears. And then there's the rhyming, that archetypal early-90s rap flow done to perfection; and oh, let's not forget the samples- James Brown, Donald Byrd, Ike & Tina, Sister Nancy, Bob James, Lou Donaldson, Kool & The Gang, Miles Davis, MFSB, The Meters and Funkadelic (among many others; it's like walking into the Soul section of a record store and just grabbing all the best shit).

One of the first "international" hip-hop releases; two Toronto natives (K-Cut & Sir Scratch) hooked up with Queens-based Large Professor to give you the Main Source. Listen for the first verse ever from a very young and very hungry Nasir Jones- later known as Nas, as well as some of the most socially conscious and relevant lyricism on any hip-hop release, now or then.

Another insanely overlooked album from the Golden Age of Hip-Hop...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Mastodon - Leviathan (2004)

What can I say about this record that a swift punch in the neck wouldn't convey that much quicker? It's fucking Mastodon; some of the best, most powerful sludge metal to crunch its way out of your speakers in years- add a love for 70's prog and these four Atlantans (two by way of Rochester, NY) have basically paved the way for a massive prog-sludge avalanche that has no doubt wrecked the shit out of your little crap town.

Guitarists Bill Kelliher and Brent Hinds, bassist Troy Sanders and drummer Brann Daillor all met at a High On Fire show in 1999; they bonded over their mutual love for bands like Neurosis and Melvins as well as Thin Lizzy. After trying another singer, they chose to remain a quartet and released Lifesblood in 2001 on Philly's Relapse Records and Mastodon was birthed.

Listen; words fail here big time- just listen...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Deltron 3030 - Deltron 3030 (2000)

What can I say about one of my favorite hip-hop records of all time? As far as concept albums go, it's one of the best- an intergalactic futuristic rap battle over Dan the Automator's productions and Kid Koala's scratching, El Cerrito's Del tha Funkee Homosapien absolutely kills everything in sight. Appearing here (respectively) as The Cantankerous Captain Aptos, Skiznod the Boy Wonder and Deltron Zero; the trio play so well together it's as if their spinal cord is fused into one being, that being is an album named Deltron 3030.

This was the impetus for the Gorillaz; the small-scale success of the Deltron project (is calling 1.2 million albums sold "small-scale" an insult?) gave way to the mega success of the ten-plus million units moved by that first record- just listen to the track Time Keeps on Slipping (featuring Blur's Damon Albarn) to hear an "early" Gorillaz song.

Anyway, if you want to hear what an intergalactic rap battle to save humanity while fighting oppressive governments and evil multinational corporations is all about, download this joint.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Two Albums from... Danzig

Glenn Danzig. You either hear the name and you bow your head in reverence or you bust out laughing. Either are understandable; take his work with The Misfits and you might consider him a legend. Take his post-Misfits work and you may consider him a total chode.

I actually prefer his hard rock/metal solo stuff to his early-80s hardcore horror punk; yes, gasp away you punkers, but the novelty of the devil-lock and The Fiend Club stickers wore off on me by the time I was 12. Yeah, I was a cynical little shit about everything back then, too.

I guess I'm too cool for school, but gimme that original Danzig line-up of Chuck Biscuits on drums, John Christ on guitar and Eerie Von on bass and get the hell outta my way. Or maybe I'm not cool enough. Whatever.

Fucking Danzig. The first two albums...

Danzig (1988; Def American Records)
94.4 mb, ripped at 320 kbps

Coheed & Cambria - The Second Stage Turbine Blade (2002)

Coheed & Cambria have been able to blend prog rock and post-hardcore music seamlessly together to create some intricately layered and dense sounds; along with Tool and The Mars Volta (the only other bands I can think of that do that, post-millennium), they have created a music that's both rhythmically complex yet totally listenable- I've always thought that Coheed is what Rush would sound like if they were born way later and were raised on Fugazi and NoMeansNo.

Anyway, here's their debut record from '02; where it lacks in technical prowess it makes up for in raw emotionality.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Arvo Pärt - Tabula Rasa (1984)

Estonian-born Arvo Pärt calls his minimalist classical compositions "sacred music", but it's really so much more than that- I'd liken it to a spiritual experience. Fellow minimalist Steve Reich has said of Arvo that "his music fulfills a deep human need that has nothing to do with fashion", I'd have to agree- he came along at a time when both the spirit and style of his music were ripe for neglect, but he filled a void that most didn't even realize existed.

Pärt, through his compositions, has been able to combine spirituality, sound and science in a way unlike anyone before or since with his creation of the compositional practice of tintinnabuli; or rather the musical conversation between two voices- one singing notes around a tonic triad (which is the root note, the third and the fifth; think of a power chord in rock music); and the other voice singing a run of notes on the diatonic scale. The track Spiegel im Spiegel is a perfect example of this; it's a conversation between the violin and piano using tintinnabuli; the piano builds the triad with arpeggios and the violin "solos" above on the white notes.

If you can listen to this and it doesn't stir up something deep inside of you, then congratulations! For you have no soul...

Gary McFarland - The In Sound (1965)

Oh, lounge music- why are you so awesome?

Vibraphonist, vocalist,
arranger, composer extraordinaire Gary McFarland's 1965 record The In Sound explores exotica, pop, jazz, space and bossa nova; sometimes incorporating up to three of these styles all in one track. Whether this is going to be used as background music or on headphones (the best way to enjoy this record) it won't disappoint.

Enjoy this "in sound" from Out Sounds...

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Geraldine Fibbers - Lost Somewhere Between the Earth and My Home (1995)

Here on 1995's Lost Somewhere Between the Earth and My Home, Carla Bozulich and company craft an honest sincerity and authentic emotionality while still being able to retain an unapologetic approach to their brand of alt-country and cowpunk; this record exists somewhere in the strata between the layers of the avant-garde and traditional folk, wedged right up against blues-based rock and noise.

This version of the band would feature Carla on vocals and guitar, Daniel Keenan on guitar, Jessy Greene on violin, William Tutton on bass and Kevin Fitzgerald on drums. Later incarnations would include Nels Cline (who's basically played with everyone and anyone in the LA avant-garde and jazz scene, and now of Wilco) and Jessica Moss (who's played with almost every "important" Canadian band of the last ten years), but this debut record would feature less of that straight-ahead guitar sound and focus more on Bozulich's stellar songwriting.

This album here is dedicated to my friend Alison, who's getting married this upcoming Saturday!

Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall (2005)

Recorded at New York City's famed Carnegie Hall from the Novermber 29th, 1957 show as part of their Thanksgiving Jazz series; these tapes sat in the Library of Congress' archives for almost 48 years until they were found and restored (by Monk's son T.S. Monk and producer Michael Cuscuna).

This version of Thelonious' quartet would feature Coltrane on tenor, Ahmed Abdul-Malik on bass and Shadow Wilson on the drums; it was right after Trane finished recording his first "solo" record Blue Train and would mark the final collaboration with Monk as John headed back for another stint with Miles' sextet.

One of the best examples of hard bop out there; this one's for my buddy Timmy Burke. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Dzyan - Electric Silence (1975)

Indian-influenced Krautrock that's heavy on both the free and fusion sides of jazz as well as heavier progressive rock; incorporating ambient passages a la Tangerine Dream throughout. These guys crafted a seriously "out there" vibe, it's one of the great lost Teutonic jazz rock albums; a true landmark in the Kosmiche genre that seems to get over-looked again and again, but I feel this record can go up against Can's Tago Mago, Faust's Faust IV, Neu!'s self-titled or Amon Düül II's Yeti.

Check this out if you like getting super freaky...

Two Albums from... Roy Harper

Roy Harper is the best singer/songwriter that you aren't listening to; don't ask me how I know that you're not listening to him, but I know you're not.

Now you can. Here's two of his records from 1970 and '71 respectively; Flat Baroque and Berserk & Stormcock. One is 12 songs recorded in a more conventional format with lengths ranging between a minute-and-a-half and eight-plus minutes, with some straight-ahead Brit-folk interspersed with contemporary sounding rock and blues. The other is a sprawling, massive four-suite prog folk masterpiece.

Harper was name-checked by Led Zeppelin on the track Hats Off To (Roy Harper) on their third album and also the featured vocalist on Pink Floyd's Have a Cigar from Wish You Were Here. So he's your favorite musician's favorite musician. So you should be listening to him. A lot...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cap'n Jazz - Analphabetapolothology (1998)

I don't know if there's another band from the 90s that has spawned more imitators and at the same time gone so un-noticed; maybe because the imitators they spawned got it all wrong, or did it "cleaner", or were less about having fun and more into whiny self-involvement (you know who I'm talking about), but Cap'n Jazz were definitely one of the most original bands of the early-90s Midwest emo scene, probably because they took a medium that was used mainly for heartfelt self-expression and had a shitload of fun with it.

The brothers Kinsella (Tim & Mike; vocals and drums respectively) along with bass player Sam Zurick and guitarists Victor Villareal and Davey Von Bohlen laid the blueprint for what was to come (basically any "emo" band that can't be tidily described as some form of "hardcore") and all the bands that grew out of their eventual demise; The Promise Ring, Joan of Arc, American Football, Ghosts and Vodka, etc. Here's their 1998 compilation from Jade Tree Records, which basically culls all their tracks ever (except for one song; Naive) so you can trace the arc of their career from early 7-inches to a fully realized, tightly coiled pile of post-emo indie punk rock.

So if you grew up listening to all that early-millennium whiny screamy shit, here's where a lot of it started; except this band was a joyful, shrieking catharsis of sloppy precision...

Buddy Miles Express - Expressway to Your Skull (1968)

I've always held fast to my opinion that Jimi Hendrix's work with drummer Buddy Miles and bassist Billy Cox was far superior to that he did with the Experience; it's a funkier, more soulful incarnation of Jimi's music and it came along at a time when people were more or less doubting (or challenging) Hendrix's "blackness".

So Buddy's drumming gave everything a funkier, dancier swing (fresh off his work with blues rock band The Electric Flag) and Jimi's Band of Gypsys was born. In between being a sideman for Mike Bloomfield's project and Jimi's new thing, he had his own thing, the Buddy Miles Express, with Jim McCarty on guitar and Billy Rich on bass. This is a pretty cool album as far as being a period piece; not every song is a knock-out (the cover of Sam & Dave's Wrap it Up is actually kind of flat) but it's interesting to see on record how one of the first albums to attempt to blend hard rock with funk & soul works out- this basically presaged the whole Funkadelic movement; helping to spawn funk rock.

Anyway, give it a go; you shan't be disappointed (too much)...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Minus the Bear - Highly Refined Pirates (2002)

If you like catchy, guitar-based indie rock that borrows from both prog and math rock, then Minus the Bear's Highly Refined Pirates is the record for you. I'd say this is their masterpiece, it has an urgency missing from the follow-up, the more polished Menos El Oso. Maybe it's a component piece to that record, this is the happy mask next to the sad one; either way I'll take this one for overall hummability and pure enjoyment. It's still tight as all get-out, please don't misunderstand my previous assertion that urgency doesn't equal polish- it's been finely ProTooled for your listening pleasure, without jettisoning the warmth (I've always thought over-produced music felt a little cold).

Made up of former members of such bands as the seminal Botch (Dave Knudson, guitar); Kill Sadie & These Arms Are Snakes (Erin Tate, drums) and Sharks Keep Moving (Jake Snider, lead singer and guitar), the current members of Minus the Bear read like a
Pacific Northwest all-star team in the mathcore/noise/post-hardcore scene; also with Cory Murchy on bass and electronics-tweaker Alex Rose rounding the band out. Matt Bayles left the band in '06 to focus on his career as a producer; you may be familiar with some of his work: Mastodon's Remission, Leviathan & Blood Mountain; Isis' Celestial, Oceanic, Panopticon & In The Absence of Truth; Russian Circles' Station; The Sword's Warp Riders; and some engineering work for some band called Pearl Jam (oh, and Queensrÿche. Remember them?)

So here's another one of my favorite records from this past decade...

Faith / Void - Split LP (1982)

Faith was signed to Dischord Records from 1981-83, not solely because lead singer Alec is Ian MacKaye's younger brother; but because they played a rawer, dirtier (dare I say more urgent?) version of Minor Threat's brand of hardcore punk. They released two EPs (a 1981 self-titled cassette-only release and a 12-inch vinyl from '83 called Subject To Change) and then they were gone. The various members would go on to play in several seminal hardcore bands through the next decades, but this Split LP with Void was their shining moment.

Side 2 belongs to Void, with their more metal-based approach- at times it's terrifying, with all the rage of eventual thrash mavens Metallica and Slayer, barely preempting their two debut records by less than a year. It's ultimately the more rewarding of the two sides; what Faith lacks in chops Void makes up for with sheer moxie. Their career left behind even less music; a posthumous EP called Condensed Flesh and a demo called Hit & Run, because that's literally what they did.

If you're in the mood for some early-80s hardcore, here's your download...

Silver Apples - Silver Apples (1968)

New York City's Silver Apples were way ahead of their time. I've said this about a ton of bands (especially here in print) but these guys were doing what Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream and Cluster were doing five years later and they were considered groundbreaking. Think about that.

They only released two albums before calling it quits; and here is their 1968 self-titled debut- heralded as an electronic breakthrough, with lead Apple Simeon Coxe's hand-built oscillating synthesizer (the eponymously named Simeon, with its 9 oscillators and 86 knobs) as the main instrument and Danny Taylor's polyrhythmic, tight-as-a-tick drumming, the Silver Apples created some of the most interesting electronic-based experimental psychedelic pop music at the same time The Beatles were making The White Album and The Velvet Underground were making their third record. Think about that.

Think about a lot of things, but think mostly about clicking the link under the album cover...

Refused - The Shape of Punk to Come (1998)

It's been brought to my attention that punk, and especially hardcore (and post-hardcore for that matter) have been sorely under-represented in this here blog. Let me remedy that malfeasance by posting one of my favorite punk (or post-hardcore, whatever) records of all-time, Sweden's Refused and their landmark 1998 album The Shape of Punk to Come. This album took such a toll on the band that they had to break up immediately following the completion of recording. Good thing they didn't hang around in the aftermath of this record, they not only set fire to but destroyed preconceptions of how punk was supposed to sound; they basically turned the world on its fucking ear.

Blending as many styles as they could here, it runs the gamut from straight ahead chunky rock riffage to shrapnel-laced blast punk to artier noise stuff to screamo and back again; it seeks to confound ears- every time I think I know what I'm listening to, it changes from one to the other. If it's not a focused arpeggio centered around minor chords then it's screechy string rakes and harmonic Eddie Van Halen-esque tapping sections, and then jumps on to these over-the-top bombastic drumming passages, all the while knob-twiddling galore behind the studio glass (acting as an instrument in and of themselves). I'm out of clichés and adjectives after this paragraph.

Anyway, this is meant to be listened to loud. Turn this shit up, kiddies.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Fujiya & Miyagi - Transparent Things (2006)

I've been on a serious Krautrock kick lately; I'm not talking Can, Dzyan, Neu!, Amon Düül II, Embryo, et al. (those are always in constant rotation) but the bastard sons of Kosmiche Musik- stuff like Brighton, UK's Fujiya & Miyagi and their 2006 record Transparent Things. It's got a ton of Kraut-infected reference points on here, from the motorik drum beat (Klaus Dinger's most celebrated drum pattern found a home on half these tracks!) to the spacey electro atmospherics and dancey vibes all about.

I'm interested in the synthesis of influence- recent bands making homages to
the first wave; like Stereolab, LCD Soundsystem and Super Furry Animals all have the Kosmiche spirit sprinkled around their music, but here Fujiya & Miyagi celebrate it like it's the only style of progressive rock to make it alive out of the 70s.

Which isn't a bad thing at all...

Paavoharju - Yhä Hämärää (2005)

Take two brothers (Lauri & Olli Ainala); insert them into a born-again Christian commune in the Finnish town of Savonlinna with a bunch of instruments and recording equipment, add generous portions of lo-fi ambient psych-folk and dream pop and that's basically Paavoharju in the most reductive of ways. They're so much more than all of that, they defy any genre pigeonholing by employing an extensive use of electronics (to add a perfect balance between acoustic guitars and ethereal-sounding vocals) it's much easier to just call it "experimental".

Yhä Hämärää
loosely translated means "still murky"; as all the song titles revolve around a similar theme (or a poem of sorts): "forever to the world / light oozing through everything / moon consoles concern / depth / gust / air flows / morning sun feels / pure white / I traveled far / it is still murky / black street..."

Yes, I ran all the song titles through Google Translate.

Anyway, this is one of my favorite releases of the last ten years; a real hidden gem full of murky, dense, layered atmospheric folktronica jams from the land of reindeer and cheesy symphonic death metal. Enjoy!

Flower Travellin' Band - Satori (1971)

Heavy psych from Japanese stoners; think Sabbath and Zeppelin channeled through extensive LSD trips, Eastern philosophy and Asian technical superiority- this is the essence of Flower Travellin' Band's 1971 classic Satori (the Japanese Buddhist term for "understanding"). Yeah, I understand that this fucking rocks- it acts as both an homage and an encouragement to American-slash-British hard rock, pushing the envelope a little further than Grand Funk, Deep Purple or Blue Cheer could've hoped to.

Lead guitarist Hideki Ishima may also be one of the most under-rated axe men of all-time; he shreds. Balancing the precarious tightrope between psychedelia, prog and metal; he weaves lines in and out of Joe Yamanaka's harmonica runs, all over Jun Kozuki's outstanding, plodding bass lines and George Wada's tight drumming.

I can't believe I didn't discover this record earlier in life; it's filled a void I didn't even know existed. Do yourself a huge favor; Oh, musical adventurer!- download this shit right now!!!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Esquivel - Other Worlds, Other Sounds (1958)

Juan Garcia Esquivel was the King of Space Age Pop, that quirky brand of late 50's-early 60's bachelor pad music that was meant to be played at cocktail parties; basically- lounge music with elements of jazz and a Latin flair designed to get you laid.

When this album came out in 1958, it blew minds- even listening to it in now in stereo I'm amazed at how well Esquivel played the knobs in the studio, how voices, trumpet blasts, guitar bends, vibraphone runs, etc. all are bounced around back and forth between my various speakers (I'm listening on four). I read somewhere that listening to this in mono would be like looking at the Mona Lisa in black and white.

Other Worlds, Other Sounds opened up a whole new world of what can be done with stereophonic sound, as well as opened up a whole new set of listener's ears when Exotica (or Space Age Pop) underwent a renaissance in the early 90s.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Aesop Rock - Labor Days (2001)

This is kind of a no-brainer for today. Aesop Rock was working as a waiter during the writing and recording of this, so at times it's a bitter record; there's themes of disillusionment, regret, anger- but there's also the light at the end of the tunnel, which is the solution to all these negatives. What do we do to give our lives meaning? We find the work that satisfies us, fulfills us, helps us to transcend all the bullshit of daily life.

It's a concept album based on what it's like for us day-to-day working stiffs- existentially speaking we're just these bodies that get up every morning, drag our asses to our jobs, punch a clock, fulfill certain duties, eat, shit, go home and do it all over again. Ultimately, our jobs begin to define us; construction worker, pre-school teacher, karate instructor, CEO of a Fortune 500 company, etc. How do I want to be defined? By my job title itself or the lives I touch through my work?

So, happy Labor Day, folks. I hope you love your job as much as I do, and I hope you can find a life full of meaning through it...

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Jazz Composer's Orchestra - The Jazz Composer's Orchestra (1968)

This might be one of the great unknown jazz records (even to free jazz aficionados), the mere mention of it to record store clerks has brought me such mixed reactions from the raised eyebrows and "you know about this?" to confused bewilderment to downright derision. Just by the names on the cover you can see how awesome this line-up is, but there's so many more musicians on this they'd have to had a triple-LP sleeve to fit them all.

Carla Bley. Ron Carter. Andrew Cyrille. Richard Davis. Steve Swallow. Alan Silva. Randy Brecker. Charlie Haden. Reggie Workman. John Tchicai. Ed Blackwell. It reads like a who's who of late-1960s avant jazz musicians, all led by producer Michael Mantler; written specifically with Cecil Taylor in mind. Broken into two suites, loosely titled Communication, with #s 8, 9 and 10 making up suite one and the two-part #11 finishing the piece (there's a short track featuring Pharoah Sanders in between) it's really one of the unheralded music happenings within the free jazz movement.

So do yourself a favor, get on this now.

The Jazz Composer's Orchestra - The Jazz Composer's Orchestra (1968; JCOA Records)

170 mb, ripped at 320 kbps

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Josef K - The Only Fun In Town (1981)

Josef K were a short-lived Scottish post-punk outfit named after the main character from Franz Kafka's The Trial. Their entire recorded output was a scant 22 songs in a 3-year period; but their influence has been showing up everywhere lately, especially in the work of bands like Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party (think jagged post-punk guitars over funky bass lines and dance-able drum beats).

Chief songwriter, singer and guitarist Paul Haig broke the band up after what he felt was repeated slights from both the critics and record-buying public (resentful for having never really "made it" outside of Glasgow), he and guitarist Malcolm Ross, bassist David Weddell and drummer Ronnie Torrance all went their separate ways;
their official releases would tally five singles and one album.

I'm thinking this record here is a pretty good place to start with Josef K, there's also the 2006 compilation Entomology that has all 22 tracks of theirs, but this record The Only Fun In Town is a more cohesive statement.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Boris - Flood (2000)

I only have a few Boris albums, but this is the one for me; it starts out with this repeated arpeggio riff that lasts a good six-and-a-half minutes before any other instrument appears, then slowly drums creep in, then...

...I'm not giving any more away. Download it.

I do recommend that you listen to this on really good headphones...

Boris - Flood (2000; Noble Label)
65.1 mb, ripped at 128 kbps

Sebadoh - Harmacy (1996)

It seems that the consensus pick among Sebadoh fans for their best album is 1994's Bakesale; but for some reason I always had a stronger bond with Harmacy. Probably because Lou Barlow and Jason Loewenstein's songwriting duties were split; Jason contributed nine songs here (making Sebadoh an actual "band" as opposed to a Barlow project) and the pair focused more on straight-ahead songs with better production values.

It also has a more cohesive blend of styles here; instead of the genre-hopping madness
and the lo-fi experimentation they explored on previous records this is a really great pop album. Don't get me wrong, I'm not dissing Sebadoh's earlier work; those records all have a special place in my heart (and on my record shelf) but as I've said before I'm trying to get you, my regular readers, friends, fans, well-wishers, countrymen (as well as my enemies) into all this great music.

I feel this record is the best place to start with Sebadoh. Then work your way backwards...

Sebadoh - Harmacy (1996; Sub Pop Records)
50 mb, ripped at 128 kbps (sorry; it's also a sloppy mix of .mp3's and .m4a's)

Conductive Alliance - Water Glyphs (2010)

I love getting submissions because they're mostly pretty good. Chicago's Conductive Alliance is actually really good, they sound like an updated version of that city's once burgeoning post-rock scene; think a futuristic interpretation of bands like The Sea and Cake (but less jazzy), 90 Day Men (and less proggy) or Tortoise (less psychedelic) that was raised on pure pop melodies and electro beats- this would be my loose interpretation of their Water Glyphs EP, a seven-track suite that spans almost 27 minutes. It's a wonderfully crafted and unique blend of all the above styles that both reference their respective influences while never coming close to ripping them off and sheds the arty pretension some of those bands have been accused of; Conductive Alliance is way more accessible than those bands.

Anyhow, do yourself a favor and download this, I'm sure it'll be near the top of one of my year-end lists...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Godspeed You! Black Emperor - The Classic Years

Taking their name from a Japanese documentary about an outlaw motorcycle gang, Montreal's Godspeed You! Black Emperor (often stylized as GY!BE) are to me the best example of the term Post-Rock; a sprawling, cinematic grandeur set to music. They evoke wind-swept and desolate plains in one movement, then on to a post-apocalyptic crumbling cityscape a few minutes later and then back to a dense and forested, seemingly endless orchestration piece after that; all in the confines of one song (sometimes lasting just short of half an hour).

Started in 1994 by Efrim Menuck (guitar), Mauro Pezzente (bass) and Mike Moya (guitar); GY!BE would undergo so many line-up changes and configurations, (sometimes up to 20 members would be performing on stage at one time) the number of credited members for most of their albums would settle somewhere around nine. Adding cellist Norsola Johnson, guitarist David Bryant, Thea Pratt on French horn, violinist Sophie Trudeau, Thierry Amar on bass, percussionists Aidan Girt & Bruce Cawdron, Grayson Walker on keys, James Daytron on guitar, bassist Gregory Borys, multi-instrumentalist James Chau, some guy named simply "Christophe" and guitarist Roger Tellier-Craig, the full scope and tenor of the band's sound would adapt itself around the strengths of the musicians involved.

To listen to GY!BE is an activity in and of itself; what they demand from the listener is unlike any other musical experience I've encountered before or since. I'm basically posting their entire discography here, save for their early cassette-only release All Lights Fucked on the Hairy Amp Drooling (from 1994) and the 2004 Tiny Silver Hammers EP. My favorite of theirs (and my second favorite album by any band of the new millennium) is Lift Yr. Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven; it's an hour-and-a-half, four-song magnum opus that runs the gamut from chamber music and classical ensemble pieces interspersed with post-rock guitars and bombastic drumming, building to explosive crescendos replete with field recordings; all the while experimenting with drony textures and and ambient passages.

If you like any of these albums, please support this band by buying their records or checking out their current (or "side") project A Silver Mt. Zion...

f#a#oo (1997; Constellation Records)
145.7 mb, ripped at 320 kbps

Friday, August 20, 2010

Françoise Hardy - La question (1971)

Of course, when talking about French pop music, Serge Gainsbourg's Histoire de Melody Nelson is unquestionably the best offering from the genre; the next best is La question by Françoise Hardy. I consider Hardy the preeminent of all French female vocalists; sadly, she never earned the respect she deserved on this side of the pond. Let's change all that.

Where Gainsbourg's Melody Nelson was a raunchy and lecherous romp through dirty Parisian alleyways- its seven tracks clock in just under 28-minutes; La question is a mellow affair, like a beckoning fireplace and bearskin rug after schussing down Courchevel all day. Sparely arranged (most tracks just feature Françoise and an acoustic guitar) it could have as easily fallen into the chanson category, the all-encompassing term used to describe most Francophone music that fell outside of standard pop/rock fare; think of Jacques Brel as the torch carrier. Although I would argue that this is a pop/rock album in the same vein that Carole King or Joni Mitchell could be considered her American counterparts.

At the end of the day, Hardy could've made her career alone on her stunning good looks and her status as a fashion icon, but her voice and personality carry the music beyond that; this is really a wonderful album.