Monday, May 15, 2017

RECORD OF THE DAY: 75 DOLLAR BILL - WOOD/METAL/PLASTIC PATTERN/RHYTHM/ROCK



This was originally released late last year, and had I known of its release, it surely would've made my year's-end Best Of list, but hey, I'm always late to the party. Originally released on the US label, Thin Wrist, it's just been reissued on the German imprint, Tak:til, and it getting wider notice, as it should.

Interestingly, and importantly, 75 Dollar Bill are a duo featuring the talents of Rick Brown on drums, and guitarist, Che Chen. Che Chen's background in music, other than his appearance on a number of avant-improv discs, is not one I know well, though I'm certainly familiar with the rather excellent and eclectic career of Rick Brown. He is one of the mainstays of the post-No Wave avant-rock scene which gave birth to such greats as The Scene Is Now (yes, of course I love 'em!) and Mofungo and several outfits who were centred around the Lost label in the 1980s. He was also in Information, the duo featuring Chris Nelson from TSIN, as well as Blinding Headache, a very early No Wave-ish band who also featured Willie Klein from Mofungo. And let's not forget Fish & Roses: their Dear John CD from 1990 on the Ajax label is a beautiful thing. Also featuring the voluminous talents of Sue Garner on board, F & R mined a similar musical vein to TSIN: atypical avant-pop w/ multi-layered songs that stuck in yer craw without you even noticing. And then there's other band's Mr. Brown led, such as Timber, V-Effect, Run On (with Alan Licht, a man who clearly knows way too much about LaMonte Young, a hindrance which has kept him unemployable his whole adult life).

In short, percussionist Rick Brown has a long and storied non-career in the history of underground NYC rock 'n' roll from the past 40 years. That is, in between holding a straight job, being a political radical and a nice guy. Now that the introductions are out of the way, let us briefly ponder and appreciate this rather excellent recording. There are four long tracks on Wood/Metal/etc., two well over the 10-minute mark, two briefer, and they flow into each other perfectly. Brown plays a variety of percussive instruments and handmade horns, rhythms shuffling ably; Chen plays a minimal brand of guitar noise which sounds part Reed/Cale (or Moore/Ranaldo) and equal parts Ali Farka Toure. In fact, Malian, or North African blues in general, clearly casts a large shadow over what they do, and more than anything else, 75 Dollar Bill sound like Ali Farka Toure jamming with The Double, the Jim White combo I wrote about here last year. That is, of course, a great thing, as is this LP. Best 'new' release I've heard in a while. Get it.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

HUMAN BEING OF THE DAY: WACLAW ZIMPEL

Today, you should just sit back, relax and listen to the following three albums featuring Polish multi-instrumentalist (essentially he's a 'jazz reedsman', though such a description barely covers anything adequately), WACLAW ZIMPEL. I came upon his music by sheer chance, or perhaps it was YouTube's smart algorithms which brought me there (they were 'recommended').

Waclaw has these three albums released on the Polish label, Instant Classic, an imprint I need to become deeply familiar with, and pronto. I just spent every spare minute this past weekend playing these albums on repeat.

The first is his latest with a troupe of Indian musicians under the name SAAGARA, whose music has a kind of Don Cherry/Terry Riley appeal; the second is a solo album of his from last year - less jazz, more hypnotic, minimalist electronic rhythms (again, Terry Riley may be a reference point here, and indeed he has played with Terry Riley's son, Gyan Riley); and lastly is a trio recording under the name LAM, which is more along the vein of The Necks, if you must.

Dig in. Thank me later.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

RECORD OF THE DAY: YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA - TECHNODELIC



Yellow Magic Orchestra, the Japanese electronic outfit from the '70s/'80s, are one of those bands who seem to've always been around. I mean, I remember seeing their videos on early-morning/late-night music programs here when I was young. I remember Ryuichi Sakamoto as a music figure from as far back as when I was 11 when he did the Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence soundtrack with David Bowie. I remember seeing YMO LPs for a few bucks a piece when I was a teenager scouring bins for punk rock albums. But I never really listened to their music until fairly recently. I never bought any of their records until fairly recently. I never knew how eclectic and huge Sakamoto's vast back catalogue was until fairly recently. And likewise, I never even knew who YMO mainstay Haruomi Hosono was until, well, about a year ago. These are simply the things which had slipped me by.

Firstly, a couple of things. You should all hear Sakamoto's B-2 Unit and Esperanto LPs from 1980 and 1985, respectively, as well as Hosono LPs such as Hosono House from 1973, Tropical Dandy from 1975, Bon Voyage from 1976, Paraiso from 1978, Cochin Moon from 1978 and Pacific, also from 1978 (what a year!) - and this is merely scratching the surface. Both are still actively making music, and much of it is well worth hearing. Sakamoto has been firing out all manner of experimental/ambient recordings the past decade, mostly on small boutique labels which are often hard to find, but they are worth the time and trouble (and mostly uploaded to YouTube, anyway). The Hosono albums range from rootsy singer-songwriter gaff through to tropical disco, MOR, faux-surf, experimental electronics (Cochin Moon is a masterpiece with strong hints of Cluster/Harmonia and even Suicide-style drone throughout) and all in between. Tropical Dandy and Bon Voyage are in total Van Dyke Parks mode; I can only assume that Hosono was familar with VDP's Song Cycle/Discover America LPs when he made these recordings. If not, then I'm once again musically lost.

And that's not even beginning to describe the greatness of Sakamoto's early catalogue, and I've only chosen two (B-2 Unit is the place to begin) because time is short and YouTube only has so many uploads of these things. In short: you have some homework to do. Now, a lot of this music will be old news to many. Obnoxious DJ types in the west of many a stripe discovered all this hoo-hah decades ago, and I believe the Light In The Attic label is about to (belatedly) do a bit of a reissue campaign on such things. But right here, right now, much of this is still quite new to me - much of it probably spurred on from finally visiting Japan (twice!) last year - and I'm enjoying a new discovery, so just allow me to indulge myself, OK?

That longwinded introduction, which is brief as I could be when attempting to give an overview to a fascinating family-tree catalogue of music, brings us to YMO's fifth studio LP, 1981's Technodelic, which is probably my fave album of theirs. There's some great footage of YMO getting funky in the US of A right here (this footage is quite mind-blowing), but Technodelic tones down the dancing a tad and is much more in the Kraftwerk realm of sound: purely robotic electronics, a dose of austere, Berlin-period Bowie in the more song-oriented material, and straight up one of the most enjoyable non-core releases of 1981 you will hear.

Monday, April 24, 2017

RECORD OF THE DAY: AC/DC - POWERAGE



I've been on an AC/DC bender the past month or more, possibly inspired by the presence of the above clip in my Facebook feed one day. Dear fucking lord, what a band they were. I'm not sure who else was on this episode of Midnight Special in 1978, but I can guarantee that this is the performance everyone would have remembered. Unless they happened to have the Saints or Ramones on the very same show - they didn't - then the sheer rawness of AC/DC on display here would have knocked every other contender for six.

It's not like AC/DC were part of the 'new thing'; they weren't punk rockers and this wasn't like seeing Fear on Saturday Night Live. They were simply a non-aligned rock & roll band on their own trip. Much of their sound was/is rooted in the music of 1972/'73 when they were forming - the booted stomp of Slade et al - and they never really changed this formula a hell of a lot, other than making successively lesser versions thereof, over a near-45-year period. Throughout 1977 the band toured the US, touring with Black Sabbath, playing shows at venues such as the Whiskey in LA (where Keith Morris and Chuck Dukowski cut rehearsal short to see them play) and CBGBs in NY, where they were mistaken for punks by various clueless journalists. But such a misjudgment is wholly understandable, as 'punk' cut a pretty wide definition by a public (and journalists) which largely didn't understand it, and anything which didn't sound like REO Speedwagon or Journey was bound to get caught up in the punk rock whirlwind somehow. But AC/DC disavowed such categoraization, and carried on as they were.


Powerage was the band's fifth LP since they began release records in 1975. Malcolm and Angus Young were ruthless in their work ethic and pursuit of all things AC/DC; if you've read any books on their career (Clinton Walker's Bon Scott bio, Highway To Hell, is a great one), you'll know just how cut-throat and unsentimental they were. They were also breaking the American market big time at this stage, and wouldn't be playing the small-scale venues they'd been slogging away in Down Under for the previous half-decade. On that note - or as a sidenote - I do find it fascinating how many older friends of mine saw the band in all kinds of strange venues when they were cutting their teeth in Australia ca. 1974 - 1976. Like Black Flag, they would simply play any gig, anywhere and at any time. Several friends of mine saw them play in the carpark of Eastland (Ringwood) Shopping Centre in 1975 (I think) in suburban Melbourne for an afternoon show, and they played various high schools around this time, too. Above is a flyer for a show in the plush surroundings of Kew in the Holy Trinity Hall circa February of 1976. Interestingly, supporting is Mandrix, a Hendrix/Hawkwind/Sabbath-style outfit who featured high school students John Murphy (Dumb and the Ugly, Current 93, Slub, Whitehouse, etc. - I have written of John many times before) and Michael Sheridan (Dumb and the Ugly, No, etc.). Mandrix have a track on a John Murphy tribute 3CD set from 2015, released just after he passed, and its heavy-metal space-boogie is an absolute revelation. I must investigate as to whether there are more such recordings lying around (and I can do so by emailing the link on the YouTube clip: it's Mick Sheridan himself, who has lived in Sydney for the past 20+ years). But I digress.

AC/DC released six full-length LPs before Bon passed and things changed forever. I happen to love both Back In Black and its successor, For Those About To Rock, We Salute You, and think Brian Johnson made a fine frontman for a number of years, but the material started to suffer in quality drastically after this period, the band went onto release a slew of recordings I never wish to hear again, and the rest is history. Still, that eight-album run - or six-album run if you're a real purist - is up there with similar uncategorisable rock pioneers such as the Ramones and Motorhead, and that clip above never ceases to blow my mind upon each successive viewing.

Monday, April 17, 2017

RECORD OF THE DAY: CARTER TUTTI VOID - f(x)



Wow. This was one of my favourite recordings of 2015, and yet I only became aware of its existence as 2015 clocked into 2016. So here is a belated appraisal of one of that year's finest releases. Carter Tutti Void, as you may or may not know, is Chris & Cosey (AKA Cosey Fanni Tutti and Chris Carter, ex-Throbbing Gristle... I don't really need to spell this all out, do I?) and Nik Void from the UK post-punkish outfit, Factory Floor. FF were the talk of the town a few years back in Ol' Blighty, but despite this predicament, they're an outfit worth hearing a few times in your life, as they emanate quite a tasty brew of noisy electro-spuzz which sounds like equal parts Rough Trade post-punk, minimal wave and industrial spew like the last 35 years of life on earth never happened. You know what I mean.

Which I guess means he's a perfect collaborator for Chris & Cosey. Throbbing Gristle - let it be put on the national record - were one neat outfit. Conceptually, they were quite brilliant. Musically, I wouldn't accuse them of delivering quite so high as the concept itself (this concept, and I really can't and won't speak for the band, I guess revolves around being offensive and noisy in a non-rock yet constructive way, if I may dumb it down to a simple sentence), but I can listen to LPs such as DOA: Third And Fimal Report, Heathen Earth and 20 Jazz Funk Greats at just about any point in my life and receive great enjoyment from their contents.

For me, however, it's the post-TG projects which bore greater fruit: Chris & Cosey's Trance LP from 1982 is an effin' masterpiece; Psychic TV's career has been epic, prolific and uneven (life is like that when you release albums like most people have hot meals: often), but has created a number of real gems (Force The Hand Of Chance and Dreams Less Sweet are quite excellent, and I'm partial to Genesis's late '80s period when his Brian Jones obsession was coming to fruition; Allegory And Self from 1988 is awesome); and Coil had a number of discs I'll stake my life on (Musick To Play In The Dark, volumes 1 and 2, Ape Of Naples, Astral Disaster, etc.). That is quite the diaspora. TG were clearly onto something.

And then there's Carter Tutti Void's f(x) LP, which sees the three members engaging in a kind of minimal industrial techno, if you will. It's a perfect combination of deep, submersive rhythms with a dark industrial sheen. No song outstays its welcome, not a bum note is hit. It's perfect enough that I wish it was a double album. There are no vocals and the sound and style varies little throughout. I love this sound when it's done well, and I can't think of a better example of - dare I say: experimental electronic music - than f(x) done in recent years.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

RECORD OF THE DAY: SOUL ASYLUM - AND THE HORSE THEY RODE IN ON



God forbid I should be so damn predictable with this ROTD guff. It's time to throw you all for a curveball and come clean with an LP I have really loved for over a quarter of a century, and it happens to be from the highly unfashionable outfit known as SOUL ASYLUM. And that's OK, because this blog is not about fashion. Let me give you some background here...

In late 1990, my older brother travelled around the US for about two and a half months, seeing lots of bands and hanging out with them (from Bastro to Jack Brewer to Clawhammer to a very young Kyuss - known as Sons Of Kyuss then) and, ultimately, bringing back a shit-ton of records from his journey when he came back in February of 1991. At that ripe age, having a couple of crates worth of records to sift through was like you'd won the lottery, and in between records-of-the-day by the likes of The Derelicts, The Fluid, Poison Idea, GG Allin and a whole buncha also-rans on labels like Sympathy and AmRep, there was a copy of Soul Asylum's 1990 LP on the A & M label, And The Horse They Rode In On. To be honest, his purchases could be pretty impulsive at the time - neither of us had ever been a fan of the band, though we had been aware of them for a number of years - but I get a feeling he just threw it on the pile at the time and it found its way back to Australia.

It had received a scathingly negative review in Flipside by renowned dunderhead 'Krk', who derided the band as a bunch of boring flannel-clad sadsacks who'd all 'grown up' (as The Replacements had by then, too) and become a kind of good-time MOR alt-rock band for the masses, and while that assessment may bare some truth - it certainly did by the time they released their breakthrough LP, Grave Dancers Union - repeated spins of the record couldn't assuade me of its undeniable appeal. This is one fucking great rock & roll record, I had to admit, and believe me, I was one uptight motherfucker back then, dismissive of just about everything which didn't fit into my wilfully obtuse, undergroundist worldview of music. I am a more relaxed human being these days, and I still hold this album in very high esteem.

The music of Soul Asylum made prior to and after this sole LP from 1990 means nothing to me, but this one album really is something special, and oddly it's one of those recordings in their discography which few have ever heard of, as it doesn't fit into their earlier, punkier indie period nor their populist arena-rock era once they made it big. It was their last record for the A & M label before they were dropped, was considered a commercial (if not critical) failure and basically sunk without a trace. It's a wonder Columbia signed 'em up for their subsequent recordings. It's also been out of print for decades and for some reason isn't even available on streaming services, even though all their recordings surrounding it are. With all of this duly noted, I will now draw the longest bow you will read this week and hail it as a 'lost classic'.

Take away all your prejudices of Soul Asylum, whatever they may be - Winona Ryder, Bill Clinton, 'Runaway Train', Dave Pirner's pretty-boy looks, the gormless, benign dad-rock band they became for shirt-tuckers the world over - and listen to the songs within. That will be hard, since none of this is on Youtube, either, except for this lead single track, but you'll probably scoop up a cheap copy of this on CD within nary a penny spent. Hell, being clinically insane, I happen to own this on CD and LP, but that's really something to discuss with my therapist. The best song on the disc is actually this one, though this live version isn't really the best way to hear it. I can only assume that there's some weird legal issue with the release, as the only versions on YT are not the studio versions.

Every song on this LP is worthy of an ear. It remains a good-time rock & roll recording which always puts a smile on my face. Perhaps it reminds me of my younger self, when I was full of hopes and dreams, before the weight of the world crushed my spirit - or maybe it simply remains a great collection of songs. After all, I hate some of the shit I fawned over in 1990/'91. It's a record which clicked for me, even though Soul Asylum as a band never did. There are only two types of music: good and bad. Soul Asylum's And The Horse They Rode In On LP from 1990 is better than good. You heard it here first.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

RECORD OF THE DAY: SARCOFAGO - I.N.R.I.



This is an unexpected one, and one born from a typically unpredictable musical tangent in which a middle-aged white guy suddenly discovers - 30 years after the fact - that of all countries on earth, Brazil actually had an amazing Black Metal scene in the mid '80s. In fact, let's not mince words here: a pioneering BM scene, one which prefigured the Norwegian scene by a year or two (perhaps... I mean, I don't want to start a war here), and one which saw teenage Brazilians, influenced by bands like Celtic Frost, Bathory, Venom, Discharge and European hardcore of various stripes to create something new and exciting.

Of course, it's not a secret that death/black/thrash metal (and grindcore and its permutations) found a big audience in Brazil and elsewhere in Latin America early on, and indeed some made it big, the obvious contender being Sepultura, a band whose records up to and including Roots I happen to really like, and one whose roots lie more in a super-raw BM sound. Their 1986 debut, Morbid Visions, is a grim slice of lo-fi nastiness which is a thousand miles removed from the rather dire groove-metal band they became many years later, and definitely sounds Black Metal to these jaded earholes. As a sidenote, Sarcofago's singer, Wagner Lamounier(!), also happened to be Sepultura's first singer.

But back to Sarcofago, because they took it further in sound and approach than their contemporaries (and as another sidenote, contemporaries from their homeland, Holocausto, should also be heard). I guess there are a two main things which fascinate me with this band, and particularly this release. Firstly, it's because it happens to be musically excellent: totally 'punk' in its execution, its raw, chaotic approach, mixed with blastbeats and guttural vocals is the kind of thing I can crank at high volume when the urge takes me, and it ain't a thousand miles removed from the more nutsoid branch of early HC a la Void/Die Kreuzen. And I guess I'm just fascinated by the fact that it comes from, of all countries on the planet - Brazil. Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised, as Brazil has a long and rich history of lots of excellent and eclectic music (you could pinpoint Tropicalia as one of the high watermarks of global psychedelia, and I wouldn't flinch at such a remark), but ultra-grim and Satanic Black Metal from a land known for its beaches and, more importantly, its Catholicism - that's a different thing. But perhaps that also perfectly explains why Sarcofago existed and why they were the way they were. Still, with song titles like 'Satanic Lust', 'Desecration Of A Virgin', 'Ready To Fuck' and 'The Black Vomit', they're unlikely to win the national pride of an Os Mutantes or Gilberto Gil. That is, of course, no reason not to like 'em. I.N.R.I. was their debut from 1987. It must be heard.