Saturday, July 31, 2010

Les Yper-Sound - Too Fortiche (1967)

Pierre Henry and Michel Colombier set out to create music for a choreographer friend of theirs (Maurice Béjart) for an experimental ballet performance called Messe pour le temps présent in 1967. The most famous track from these recording sessions produced the song Psyché Rock- which we'd all hear eventually, being used as the title theme song from the TV show Futurama. Les Yper-Sound would also grace the name of a Stereolab track from their Emperor Tomato Ketchup album, so they're no stranger to pop culture references.

What makes this so interesting is the sound effects that Henry added to Colombier's composition- Henry had worked extensively with musique concrète, pioneering the genre in the late 1940's and early 50's with Pierre Schaffer in his Club d'Essai studio at the ORTF (Office de Radiodiffusion Télévision Française), producing musique concrète "noises" as well as some of the first electronic sounds to be used in films and TV shows.

Upon first listen, the songs on Too Fortiche sound extremely dated, but realizing that the space-age sounds were made on such primitive equipment it sounds wonderfully experimental and... groovy.

Harold Land - Choma (Burn) 1971

"Harold Land was one of the major contributors in the history of the jazz saxophone..." says Kenny Burrell, renowned jazz guitarist and head of the UCLA Jazz Studies Program, of which he gave Land a position teaching one of his instrumental jazz combo classes in 1996. And there you have it; one legend speaking about another with reverence and humility, but most importantly truth. Harold Land was another one of the many "figures in the shadows" of jazz that never fully got their due.

Land made an album under his own name for a 1949 Savoy session that now seem to be lost to eternity; his earliest recordings to gain notoriety (as well as survive) were with the Clifford Brown & Max Roach Quintet (he preceded a more famous sax player in Sonny Rollins) and was featured prominently on their first three records. He then left to explore some other things with Curtis Counce, Red Mitchell and releasing records as a leader himself, but he wouldn't find a true creative equal until he started making
music (actually, some of the best jazz albums of the late 1960's) with the one and only Mr. Bobby Hutcherson. They would make 11 records together in an eight-year span, from 1968 on through until the mid-70's.

So this record, Choma (Burn) would feature only one Hutcherson composition, and would lean towards a more fusion-y direction- which would of course mean funky and accessible. This was never released as a CD, so you're gonna have to hunt this down at your favorite local record store...

Harold Land - Choma (Burn) 1971; Mainstream Records
85.3 mb, ripped at 320 kbps (from vinyl)

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Golden Palominos - The Golden Palominos (1983)

I'm obviously drawn to things in the avant vein, so when I see an album that has a bunch of previously featured Out Sounds artists, I most definitely sit up and take notice. Two members of the early-80's downtown New York collective known as The Golden Palominos have already gotten their due; you may remember my Passover-related John Zorn post, or my tribute to prepared guitar wizard (and Oakland resident) Fred Frith. Those two musicians, along with drummer/composer (and former member of seminal new wave band The Feelies) Anton Fier, bassist Bill Laswell (who I learned of through his more recent work with Tabla Beat Science) and guitarist/singer Arto Lindsay (of No Wave-legends DNA) came together in 1981 to create an experimental funk-rock-jazz band that borrowed greatly from the No Wave movement as well as the avant-garde music and performance art of that whole downtown scene.

Conceptually; it's one piece of music that is broken up into its constituent parts; stylistically it flows pretty seamlessly from one track to the next- it sounds like a highly structured jam session where the bass and drum interlock perfectly with Laswell and Fier creating a pocket in which all the soloists improvise their respective parts; Frith and Lindsay weave guitars around each other, sounding at times like buzz saws and electric drills and other times hashing out intense riffs. Zorn's sax is either bubbling just below or comes at you full-force in the face, and "guests" like Jamaaladeen Tacuma on bass, Nicky Skopelitis on guitar and percussionist David Moss are all featured on various tracks. Knowing a little something about the nature of the musicians involved, I can almost guarantee that none of it is really "structured" per se; all the artists involved have carved out huge followings for their improvisational skills.

Now to the "why this record is important"; it features the first turntable scratching (from turntablist M.E. Mitchell) outside of a hip-hop record- and it doesn't sound the least bit out of place. Remember, rap music was still pretty new in 1983, so to hear this outside of a Grandmaster Flash or Rammellzee record might catch ears as strange.

Do yourself a favor; download this album now...

Palace Music - Viva Last Blues (1995)

Will Oldham, along with his brother Ned on bass, Sebadoh's drummer Jason Lowenstein, pianist Liam Hayes (who also records under the moniker Plush) and lead guitarist Bryan Rich set out to record a ragged and raw folk-tinged country rock-and-blues album (with none other than Steve Albini twiddling the knobs behind the glass) and it's probably my favorite thing Will's done under any of his Palace-named projects (the others being Palace Songs, Palace Brothers, Palace Soundtrack, Palace Contribution and just plain Palace...) and my favorite thing he's done outside of his more well known Bonnie 'Prince' Billy character. The man of 1,000 names...

There's nothing I can ever say that would do justice or be enough praise to Mr. Oldham; to pay homage to one of the greatest American songwriters of the last 30 years by writing this little blurb here and giving you one of his loveliest of records is all I have right now. I strongly recommend you download this album, then get your ass to a record store and start systematically buying the bulk of his discography. Whenever I walk into a record store and see one of his albums I don't yet have (and there aren't that many left) I scoop it up.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Paneye - Lying Under Moribund Waves (2010)

Paneye is Australian Will Treffry's vision; it's a veritable ambient psychedelic dreamscape cut with swaths of electronica here and there as well as an occasional foray into drone folk; it's been described in some reviews as "trippy, spaced-out and surreal". Taking a queue from the landscape that surrounds his native Sydney, Treffry has crafted a murky and dense atmospheric record that's as experimental as it is well-honed. Recorded on a laptop with just a mic and an amp, it's not as lo-fi as one might suspect- it's actually pretty accomplished as far as home recording goes.

Plus, it's free! With much kudos to Will for both finding this blog and contacting me to help distribute his music, without further ado, here's Paneye's Lying Under Moribund Waves.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Red Sparowes - At The Soundless Dawn (2005)

Los Angeles-based Red Sparowes don't fit as neatly into the post-rock category as say Godspeed You! Black Emperor or Explosions in the Sky; they share a commonality in that they can build slow-burning atmospheric jams into dizzying cinematic crescendos, but where those two bands are based in classical music and indie rock (respectively) Red Sparowes dip their toes into a more metallic well; after all they share members with bands like Isis and are on Neurosis' label. So there's your metal-influences.

At The Soundless Dawn is (purportedly) the story of the impending apocalypse set to music; the song titles themselves are one of the few clues to this because as most post-rock goes there are no words (except a few samples). It would be a full year and a half between the release of this record and Red Sparowes explanation of it; from an interview with Modern Fix:

"There is an underlying theme to this record. The literature on the subject is almost limitless, but it basically breaks down to this: There have previously been five “mass extinction events” on earth that have been scientifically realized, dating back from 440 million years ago. These events have resulted in the extinction of 19% - 54% of all species on earth at each specific time period. The first five events have been caused by natural elements, including the known impacts with meteors and the like. We are currently experiencing the sixth extinction event, which is the first one to be caused by a single species on our planet, which happens to be humanity."
That's some heavy shit. The epicness of this record is just as heavy...

Diamond D - Stunts, Blunts & Hip Hop (1992)

Another classic hip-hop record that never got it's due; Diamond D and his Psychotic Neurotics' Stunts, Blunts & Hip Hop is a testament to keeping it real. The whole D.I.T.C. (Diggin' In The Crates) Crew were the hardest working DJs and producers in the game in the early 90's, one listen to any of the charter member's albums and you'll know that what you're listening to is pure aural boom bap gold. D was one of the last of a dying breed of beat-maker/rapper; it's a shame more MCs aren't as adept in production as rhyming these days.

Featuring guest verses from Sadat X and Lord Jamar (of Brand Nubian), A Tribe Called Quest's Q-Tip, Big L, Fat Joe and Showbiz and production from Large Professor, Jazzy Jay and DJ Mark the 45 King; it's a posse album if there ever was one. I always felt that this was one of the last great albums from the old school of hip-hop; it came out at the tail end of the golden age, right before Wu-Tang Clan released their game-changer Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) in '93.

Sit back, relax, spark up a blizzy, fuck what u heard- Stunts, Blunts & Hip Hop is the shit, kid.

Ciccone Youth - The Whitey Album (1988)

Minutemen bassist Mike Watt was still reeling after D. Boon's death; it took Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon's Sonic Youth parody side-project Ciccone Youth to pull him out of depression and get him on his musical feet again. It would take the skewering of some Madonna songs (the Watt-sung Burnin' Up and Into the Groovey) as well as a Robert Palmer cover (an "as tongue-in-cheek as possible" rendition of his mega-hit Addicted to Love, recorded in a karaoke booth). It's a tragic reminder of how truly awful some of the music from the 80's was.

Where Sonic Youth was a serious creative outlet for Moore (here on The Whitey Album he dubs himself The Royal Tuff Titty), Gordon (Fly Fly Away), Lee Ranaldo (The Sigh) and Steve Shelley (SS Beat Control); Ciccone Youth shows them exploring "new" territory- pseudonyms, hip-hop beats (samplers & beat-boxes), parody, spoken-word, comedy and electronica. I picked this record up a few years ago when they re-issued it on the Goofin' label- and legend has it that Madonna was totally okay with them doing this (she remembered da Yoof from her NYC days, ain't that a trip?)

If your personality veers more to the serious side and you're a fan of SY's "noise is my beautiful self-discovery" vibe, leave this alone. If you wanna laugh along with the joke (because we're all in on it if we survived the 80s), by all means download this now.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Richard Hell & The Voidoids - Blank Generation (1977)

This is one of those albums that if you don't already have, it will most likely get you a serious palm-to-face transaction from yours truly. You don't have to be a punk aficionado to appreciate it, I'd actually liken it to something closer to New Wave; if it's punk then it's Art Punk; kind of like Television without the intricately woven guitar work- although Robert Quine does kick some serious ass on here.

Richard Hell is the reason for The Sex Pistols, he's the reason for the whole punk movement in general- he's had more to do with the early formation of what "punk" was in 1970's New York City. A brief look at his bio and one can see his imprint is on a little bit of everything; his resume reads like this- formed Neon Boys in '69 with childhood friend Tom Verlaine, the two would later start seminal band
Television; being one of the first "rock" bands to play CBGB; would hang out with Patti Smith (both helping her to kick start her music career); would then leave Television and start a band with ex-New York Dolls Jerry Nolan and thee Johnny Thunders (called The Heartbreakers); eventually starting The Voidoids (with guitarists Quine and Ivan Julian and drummer Marc Bell) and the rest, they say, is history.

This is the 1990 CD re-issue with a Leonard Cohen cover (I'm Your Man) and a
version of All The Way, a song popularized by Frank Sinatra in 1957. You can anonymously download this album so I don't laugh at you for not already having it.

Hank Mobley - Soul Station (1960)

Just one look at this album cover and I thought: night. Yep, this is one of those night time jazz records; upon the first few listens it jumps out as an album that evokes neon lights reflected off the sheen of soggy city streets, cigarette smoke slowly rising up to the ceiling of a dark nightclub, maybe a shady figure standing in the shadow of a doorway. Hank Mobley's presence in the jazz stratosphere can be likened to exactly that- a figure standing in the shadows, never really gaining full notoriety for his tenor sax exploits.

Of course, the premier tenormen of the day, Coltrane and Rollins, have cast such a huge shadow over all of jazz (not just Mobley) it's no wonder he's been lost in the mix. Undervalued, under appreciated- he's really one of the quintessential hard bop saxophonists; never choppy or percussive, always fluid and relaxed. Starting with this record, Mobley would be at the start of a string of four really great hard bop records; Roll Call, Workout and No Room For Squares.

This session, from February 7th, 1960, was cut at Rudy Van Gelder's studio and features none other than Art Blakey on drums, Paul Chambers on bass and Wynton Kelly on piano.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Five Dischord Bands...

Dischord Records, god bless 'em; gotta love the business model that label heads Ian MacKaye and Jeff Nelson created way back in 1980 to get their Minor Threat records out to the public. It's been a wonderful American success story, maybe not in the monetary sense but in the stick-to-your-guns-no-sell-out success story: integrity at all costs. Or at very little cost to us, the general consumers.

I would feel bad about sharing these albums but a) these bands no longer exist and b) I own (or have owned at one time) these actual records or c) have spent money on these bands (via digital download, concerts, etc.) But it still feels like stealing from Robin Hood in a way.

Oh well, morality bullshit aside, let's start it off with one of my favorite bands to break up this past decade, Q and Not U. Post-hardcore-slash-dance punk group extraordinaire; I've chosen their 2000 debut record No Kill No Beep Beep for you- it's a tad rawer, fresher and more exciting than their other two records. Sadly, the boys broke up in September of 2005 leaving a three album legacy to the world, also leaving loyal Washington, DC fans wanting more.

Q and Not U - No Kill No Beep Beep
39.9 mb, VBR avg ~ 137 kbps

Next up is another DC band, math rock stalwarts Faraquet. They only put out one record, 2000's The View From This Tower, but it definitely left an impression. I'd chunk it right between earlier post-hardcore giants Quicksand and Dischord flagship band Fugazi- tight grooves, heavy drums but not afraid to get funky. Then the King Crimson-esque prog rock stop-on-a-dime staccato blasts. They recently reformed to play a string of shows and release an anthology of earlier singles, but no plans to record in the future. I think they should do it...

Faraquet - The View From This Tower
35.4 mb, ripped at 128 kbps (mix of .m4a and .mp3 files)

Black Eyes will straight up fuck your face into an oblivion. Two albums, markedly different- their self-titled debut is far more focused, dare I say listenable? Not that follow-up Cough isn't rad as shit in it's own right, I figured you weren't ready for it. Yet. That's another blog all by itself. For now, you'll have to get by on 2003's eponymous record; an arty, slightly pretentious and noisy version of hardcore punk.

Black Eyes - Black Eyes
47.5 mb, VBR avg ~ 203 kbps

El Guapo's Fake French might be the one album that you couldn't pick out from a police line-up, especially from a band that might not have the typical Dischord sound. A bit more heavy on the synths, call-and-response lyrics and electro beats placed here and there would have your scratching you head a little. That's okay; El Guapo wouldn't mind. They're technically the only band here that didn't break up per se, as they merely changed their name to Supersystem (and shedded their original drummer). Here's their 2003 offering for you...

El Guapo - Fake French
52.6 mb, VBR avg ~ 203 kbps

Antelope started as a side project for El Guapo/Supersystem/Edie Sedgewick member Justin Moyer along with ex-Vertebrates Bee Elvy and Mike Andre, and their sole offering to the world was 2007's Reflector. Heavy on the bass, the sparse drums interlock perfectly providing a pocket for Moyer's angular and pointed guitar lines. It's minimal, it's sleek, and they're gone...

Antelope - Reflector
47.1 mb, ripped at 256 kbps

Dirty Three - Ocean Songs (1998)

Besides being consummate musicians; Warren Ellis, Mick Turner and Jim White craft a sincere emotionality unlike no other, all without the use of words. Masters of their respective instruments (violin, guitar and drums) this Australian trio was founded in Melbourne in 1992 after the classically trained Ellis found being a schoolteacher to be a bit much. Attaching a guitar pickup to his violin... the story writes itself.

This may not be the consensus pick among fans as their best, but it's my favorite- as are most things with a nautical theme. Enjoy one of the most unique bands in music today, stuck somewhere between post-rock, slowcore and traditional folk...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Jackie McLean - Destination... Out! (1964)

Saxophonist Jackie McLean did three albums with vibes player Bobby Hutcherson and trombonist Grachan Moncur III all together in the same line-up, 1963's One Step Beyond, Moncur's 1964 record Evolution as well as this gem from '64 credited to McLean. Only the bass and drums were interchangeable; these three played so well off each other that they effectively changed the hard bop landscape into something more freeing- it was a known fact that McLean was enamored with the sounds Ornette Coleman crafted a few years before and the eventual full-on change in John Coltrane's music right around this time would only cement his idea that bop had to change in order to survive.

McLean could be considered one of the major supporting players in the scene; albeit he lived in the shadows behind some of the giants- his teenage friendships with both Kenny Drew and Sonny Rollins; his adoration of Charlie Parker and subsequent meetings with Bird; his lessons with pianist Bud Powell, it seems as if young Jackie was always right on the verge of making it and... He would get his break
in the early 1950s, playing with Miles Davis for a few years, then moving on to play with Charles Mingus, Art Blakey, Sonny Clark and Hank Mobley before settling into his role as band leader. Drugs and arrests would also plague McLean through these years as well.

The session that produced this record is from September 20th, 1963, from none other than the Rudy Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs, NJ with Larry Ridley on the bass and Roy Haynes on the skins; it's one of the last vestiges of a true hard bop classic before energy music would fully take jazz by storm.

Todosantos - Aeropuerto (2005)

When I was starting out trying to be a music writer, a friend sent me a website that was hiring and urged me to apply. I didn't get the gig, but I became a fan of their fair and diplomatic reviews (probably because they weren't trying to become some massive money-making media conglomerate like that one named after a piece of farm equipment). One review was of this band from Caracas, Venezuela; Todosantos and their album Aeropuerto. I listened to their posted tracks and quickly ordered the physical copy, I had to jump some minor hurdles with the shipping costs and my lousy Spanish while corresponding with their record label, but it arrived a week later.

I'm thinking this album was made in response to (or on the heels of) all the other successful electro-pop albums of the early part of the decade- The Postal Service's Give Up, The Notwist's Neon Golden, múm's Finally We Are No One and Manitoba's Up In Flames, with a decidedly post-punk/glitch edge to it.

Anyway, enjoy one of the coolest electro albums to come from abroad this past decade...

Todosantos - Aeropuerto (2005; La Superagencia)
49 mb, ripped at 128 kbps in lossless .m4a format

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Upsetters - Super Ape (1976)

I haven't been able to listen to "regular" reggae (or "roots" reggae if you're a technical nerd like me) at length for some years now, it's become somewhat rote and boring a bit- there isn't a whole lot of deviation from the norm and there haven't been any huge new strides there since... let's just say there haven't been any leaps taken during my lifetime- I can only listen to so much Bob Marley, Toots and Jimmy Cliff before I want to stab my ears out.

Jamaican artists knew this anyway; hence the birth of DJ toasting, dancehall (and later ragga), and my favorite bastard son of reggae- "dub" to liven up things. Enter one Lee "Scratch" Perry to the mix, maybe not the originator (there's been some debate to who actually got things started- I'm going to go with the story that in 1968 sound system operator Ruddy Redwood went to cut a dub plate
at Duke Reid's Treasure Isle studios for a party that night, and engineer Byron Smith left out the vocals on the record, resulting in the first or accidental dub record being made. The people went crazy for it, and the next day he and King Tubby had to create a "version" of a song by Slim Smith, tweaking the track just enough to create "dub" as we know it).

Anyway, back to Lee- he did more for the cause than anyone else, did more to change reggae in general; by having his own studio he was able to exert more influence and control over the recordings, and by adding more presence to the bass guitar in the mix he ushered in (simultaneously) the golden age of roots reggae and dub- just listen to the leap in styles from Marley's Natty Dread record and Rastaman Vibration, or perhaps the best way to trace this arc is by listening to either his Songs of Freedom box set (the jump from disc 2 to disc 3) or the all-encompassing 4-disc compilation Tougher Than Tough: The Story of Jamaican Music, which starts with a proto-rocksteady track from The Folkes Brothers (Oh Carolina, 1958) and runs up to dancehall (another version of Oh Carolina from Shaggy, 1993).

Enough of the history essay, here's Perry and his Upsetters 1976 dub landmark record Super Ape, probably the definitive statement of the genre (unless you'd like me to post the three-disc Trojan Dub box set...)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Ultramagnetic MC's - Critical Beatdown (1988)

Kool Keith is the shit.

So is DJ Moe Love and fellow Ultramagnetic MC's Ced Gee (who actually did most of the producing here) and TR Love (who appears on the album's cover, but strangely contributed nothing to this record). This album was one of my favorites as a kid, it never really fell out of favor with me- another cassette I think I straight up melted from over-listening. I can remember hearing other hip-hop albums that came after this and being all, "Yo, they totally stole this beat from the UMC's!" before the word "sampling" snaked its way into out collective lexicon. But these beats were relatively new; I was like 12 when this record came out and what did I know (everything I learned about hip-hop back then was from Fab Five Freddy).

The more reading I've done about this record (and Ced Gee's production), the more I realize that it's one of the most important in the history of hip-hop and sampling in general. Gee did most of the work on Boogie Down Production's Criminal Minded, so taken along with this record there's two huge landmarks in the genre; sampling a bunch of James Brown and old soul, funk and jazz records gave poetic license and the impetus to help kick-start the careers of literally hundreds of DJs and producers.

This is the 2004 re-mastered re-issue, complete with remixes, b-sides and bonus tracks...

Exuma - Exuma (1970)

Exuma was the alter-ego of one McFarlane Gregory Anthony Mackey of the Bahamas; his brand of Caribbean freak folk gives the impression that these tunes were all recorded next to a campfire on some deserted island, guided by the spirits encircling and protecting the revelers. Armed with deep soul, shells, triangles, hand drums; it sounds more like a religious ritual (tribal folk tales interspersed with secret voodoo rites or even a seance perhaps?) than a music recording- this is an album for the true music adventurer.

I can go on with all the adjectives I want; spooky, haunting, etc- but really it's a keystone in the freak folk genre; what we would call freak folk (Comus' First Utterance would be a great place to start as well, recorded in 1971; or the earlier work of Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsom,
Akron/Family, CocoRosie or Ben Chasny's Six Organs of Admittance project and the most recent album celebrated as a landmark in the genre; Animal Collective's Sung Tongs). You can trace the lineage right down through to today- I'd say the best place to start would be right here with Exuma. A perfect blend of traditional Caribbean music styles (reggae, junkanoo and calypso) mixed with field hollers and traditional folk.

This is his debut album, and it features backing from The Junk Band and Daddy Ya Ya. Check it out!

Exuma - Exuma (1970; Mercury Records)
90.8 mb, ripped at 320 kbps

Yo La Tengo - I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One (1997)

If I had to put together a list of the greatest records of the '90s, this would be right near the top. Yo La Tengo personifies that decade as far as American indie rock is concerned; I would also have to add Pavement, Superchunk and Sebadoh to that list (two of those three have been featured on this blog as well, and Mr. Barlow, if you're reading this- I'll be uploading some of your tunes as well...)

As for YLT and this album in particular, I don't have enough great things to say about it; I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One is their widest ranging record, stylistically speaking- there's some bossa nova, country, dream pop, folk, krautrock, noise, power pop, shoegaze, straight-ahead rock, tropicália, you name it- it's on here. That's why this is probably the best starting point for you kids looking to get into not only one of the best bands of the last twenty years; one of the best bands ever.

Download this gem of an album now, you shan't be disappointed...

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Wipers - Youth of America (1981)

Greg Sage and his Wipers were another band that was sorely under-rated and unfairly glossed over; I think they received more press because Kurt Cobain happened to be a fan and Nirvana covered a few of their songs, but Wipers was another band that was ahead of their time- they fused raw punk energy with catchy hooks and a taste for experimentation. Think Hüsker Dü starting a band with Mission of Burma that was trying to sound like Television.

Wipers started out as Sage's experiment; only meant to be
a recording project with no touring or promotion- Sage's dad owned an actual record press in their basement and Greg would record songs off the radio and press records for his friends. As Sage would meet drummer Sam Henry and bassist Dave Koupal, they'd cut a single on their own label (Better Off Dead on Trap Records) and play some live shows around Portland, gaining notoriety and achieving some cult status with the release of their first full-length Is This Real?

Exit Henry & Koupal, enter the Brads; Davidson on bass and Naish on drums. This is the line-up Wipers went with to record this album, and it's fair to say that this was the most adventurous album in the hardcore genre at the time, so much so that it coined the term "post-hardcore" because of its song lengths (the title track clocks in at 10:27) and reliance on other instruments and timbres somewhat unknown to hardcore bands at the time. They broke the mold with this record, and forever altered the punk rock landscape in doing so.