Friday, December 21, 2007

Back from the dead and feeling a whole lot better. Thanks to the well-wishers, and to all the nay-sayers, tough shit, I'm still alive and doing fine. Will be on medication for the next few months and I will be having a long, dry summer - that is, no drinking (doctor's orders) - but not getting sloshed on a weekly basis is a small price to pay for good health. Let's not dwell on this too long; I feel like I've had a good 3-4 weeks zapped from my life and I wish to put it in the past. Instead, let's dwell on the past year and give you a BEST OF 2007 list, just like every other putz-publication on earth does at year's end.

One thing you gotta keep in mind in regards to this list: I have neither the time, money nor inclination to check out everything which may be up my alley. 2007 was a nappy-filled, sleep-deprived fog for me, and the vast bulk of what I heard was simply stuff associated w/ my work, so much of this is, err, kinda work-related in regards to what I was actually exposed to and liked. Ya know, I'm sure Neil Young's Chrome Dreams 2 is a killer, and the few tracks I've heard from the latest OM and Wooden Shjips CDs sound right up my alley, but the truth is, I haven't properly heard them yet, and it would be dishonest of me to put them here. So, on with the show...


Dad They Broke Me - Lack CDEP (Missing Link)
Scuzz-rock grind with the distortion pedals set to 11 from this local quartet.

Always - F.I.S.T. CD (Nervous Jerk)
I'm not sure how many times I'll really listen to this, but it's an excellent room-clearer which has my utmost respect. Vocal yelps and hollers looped into an awesomely annoying trance from this local wunderkid.

Throbbing Gristle - Part Two: Endless Not CD (Mute)
Back and sounding good. A surprisingly cohesive statement from these elder statespeople who are back to claim their thrones and pension cheques.

Winter Family - s/t 2CD (Sub Rosa)
Dark, piano/keyboard-driven ballads and misery from this new French duo, obviously taking a leaf out of the Nico/Patti Smith books of woe.

Savage Republic - 1938 CD (Neurot)
See " Throbbing Gristle".

Castings - Punk Rock Is Bunk Squawk CDR (Spanish Magic)
First-rate electro-buzz basement screams from this NSW crew. "I liked it so much I decided to release their next album!"

Magnetics - We Are the Mountains We Are the Fields CD (Sweat Lung)
Captivating heavy-duty drones from this local duo. Good music to nod off to.

Vocokesh - All This and Hieronymous Bosch CD (Strange Attractors Audio House)
Grade-A space-rock adventures from these beloved (at least by me!) Milwaukee vets.

David S. Ware - Renunciation CD (Aum Fidelity)
Recent live quartet recording from the best jazz crew currently existing on earth.

Robert Wyatt - Comic Opera CD (Domino)
Shoulda written about this months ago, but time caught up w/ me. Yet another great Wyatt album to add to his sizeable canon of song. Not his absolute finest, though better than 99.9% of music you will waste your life with.

Jordi Savall/Hesperion XXI - Francisco Javier: The Route Of The Orient 2CD/Book (Alia Vox)
My description of this magnificent set will not do it justice. It comes as a beautifully presented heavy-duty hardbound full-colour book with two CDs and is, for all intents and purposes, a musical accompaniment to the journeys of 16th century explorer Francisco Javier, as he made his way throughout the Orient. Played by famed "early music" virtuoso Jordi Savall (who owns/runs Alia Vox) and his ensemble, Hesperion XXI, if you only like your music to rock and/or roll, you can forget about this and skip to the next entry. If you like to keep your ears open to great music of all stripes, then I'd recommend you check this out. I only just discovered this a week or two back and I get a feeling my musical obsession of 2008 will be, yep, you guessed it: EARLY MUSIC.

The Budos Band - II CD (Daptone)
Second album of ecstatic, eccentric instrumental funk from these New York State honkies linked up w/ Sharon Jones' Dapkings. My quarter-assed description for the Budos Band: imagine the JBs playing the Ethiopiques songbook...

Anthony Pateras - Chasms CD (Sirr.Ecords)
Wall-of-sound prepared-piano from this local extraordinaire which blew my socks off earlier in the year.


Various - Savage Pencil Presents: Lion vs. Dragon In Dub CD (Trojan)
Best. Dub. Compilation. Ever. See a few entries below.

Various - Authentice: The Syliphone Years: Guinea’s Orchestres Nationaux And Federaux 1965-80 2CD (Sterns)
An eye-catchingly packaged collection of Guinean jazz and Afro-beat from the vaults of the country's "official" record label of its day, Syliphone. I dig.

Various Artists - Doom and Gloom: Early Songs Of Angst and Disaster 1927-1945 CD (Trikont)
Much like the Savage Pencil comp' on Trojan, if you're a fan of the genre there probably isn't a great deal you wouldn't already have here (Blind Willie Johnson, Carter Family, Bessie Smith, etc.), but it's the choice of tracks and sequencing which makes this such a joy to behold. A compilation whose compilers obviously lost sleep over the choice of material, but the hard work and sweat was all worth it. Misery never sounded this good.

Noah Howard - The Black Ark CD (Bo'Weavil)
Much needed reissue of this near mythological free-jazz classic featuring the first appearance on record by legendary "crazy-dude" jazz beast, Arthur Doyle. Noah Howard remains one of the great u/ground avant-jazz guys of the '60s/'70s.

Bruce Haack - Electric Lucifer CD (OMNI)
Dawn-of-the-'70s weirdness from this electronic pioneer. Comparable to and just as good as '70s Residents and early Cabaret Voltaire, and you know how good that is.

Chumps - The Problem With Saxophones CD (Afterburn)
First time on CD for these recordings by this brain-fried late-'70s DC crew linked up w/ Half Japanese. No Wave buffoonery of a very high order.

Various Artists - Psychobilly From the Vaults Of Big Beat Records 1981-1984 6 x 7” box (Munster)
Man oh man, this is a timewarp. When I was 14 a friend of my brother gave us a cassette with the classic Big Beat compilation of the day, Rockabilly Psychosis and The Garage Disease, and for a good few years we were quite entranced with this whole "scene". This 7" box set compiles all the debut EPs by the Milkshakes, Meteors, Vibes, Sting-Rays, Bananamen and the Guana Batz, and whilst this little bracket of bands all possessed the musical lifespan of a carton of milk (bar the Meteors, who toured here a few weeks back. Sheesh!) and the idea of Limeys trying to be The Cramps got old real quick, for a moment or two there was something pretty good happening here, and for anyone who thinks this is all just stand-up bass-player & quiff nonsense, the presence of Billy Childish and a 13th Floor Elevators cover by the Sting-Rays should alert you to the fact that this is a whole lot better than you might imagine it to be. Even the cuts by second-tier outfits the Bananamen and the Vibes have enough fuzz up their sleeves to make one imagine what the Cramps woulda sounded like w/ two Bryan Gregorys in their ranks. Absolutely one of the best sets of music I've revisited all year, and Munster has done a stand-up job in compiling it all together to remind me 21 years later just how great some of these bands were for a brief moment in time.

The Pop Group - Y (Rhino UK)
About friggin' time.

Various - Artefacts Of Australian Experimental Music 1930-1973 CD (Shame File)
A well-researched and nicely presented look into Australia's little-known (even by me!) experimental music scene from many decades past. Features some big names (Percy Grainger, Barry Humphries(!!), Tully) and whole lotta other stuff I gotta do my homework on.

Various - Columbia! The Golden Age of Discos Fuentes 1960-1976 2LP/CD (Soundway)
Archival Columbian party hits of the '60s and '70s from the vaults of Fuentes Records, w/ a bit of jazz, a bit of funk, a touch of Salsa and a whole lotta soul. This will make the seemingly undanceable strut their stuff! Just watch!

Tim Buckley - Starsailor LP (4 Men With Beards)
Again, it's about friggin' time... and where's the CD??

The Fugs - Tenderness Junction LP (4 Men With Beards)
There's been a whole stack of killer vinyl reissues on 4MWB this year, but since most of them are already widely available on CD, I won't mention them. Both Buckley and The Fugs get special mention due to their scarcity and utter greatness. Tenderness Junction, originally released in 1967, is the Fugs' finest album, and you need it.

Moby Grape - s/t LP/CD (Sundazed)
Deleted just one month after re-release this year, due to yet more legal tangling between the band's surviving members, Sony/BMG and MG's old management (Google it some day and dazzle yourself), it's pretty goddamn ridiculous that such a classic album of its period remains in constant semi-deleted status. The 'Grape's debut LP from '67 is a magical slice of rough garage rock spiced up w/ forays into country, soul and psych, amped up w/ a three-guitar membership that's like a mixture of the Byrds and Television. As good as the hype would have you believe all these years.... and I didn't even mention Skip Spence!

Bennie Maupin - The Jewel In The Lotus CD (ECM)
Former Herbie/Miles sideman Maupin was there at the dawn of "fusion" before it became a lame duck and the jazz equivalent of progressive-rock: virtuosic masturbation. And he released this album in 1974. ECM finally got off their butts and put it back in print this year, and that's a very good thing. Points off for no original cover art, though the music, which sounds like the missing link twixt Bitches Brew and the Necks - and some would say that isn't too much of a stretch - is what you need this for. Outward-bound cosmic electric jazz you need to get yer mits on. A work colleague turned me onto this 3 months back and it hasn't strayed far from the stereo since.

Harmonia - Live 1974 CD (Water)
Previously unreleased archival live stuff from this Kraut supergroup. Totally ace, off-the-board recordings which I actually dig more than their already-superific studio outings. Bong-hit Aryan trance vibes I can really soak in.


TV blows. You know it, I know it. The only television worth watching comes in the form of DVD box sets compiling seasons of shows such as Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Sopranos, Deadwood, The Shield, The Wire and the sadly-defunct Six Feet Under.


I barely go to the movies at the quietest of times; with an infant it's near impossible. I saw Zodiac and enjoyed it immensely, even though it was too long and needed a touch of tightening up in the narrative, so I'm throwing that one in due to a distinct lack of any competition viewed in '07.


Pig State Recon. Absolutely the finest and most musically unpredictable blog out there.

OK, that's a take! No more "highlights" from me, since many of you probably already know what that was (and I'll save you the gushing). I'll be back soon. I've got 3 weeks off and some itchy fingers (not related to my recovering viral illness!) and I feel like blabbin'. Gary Arce has sent me some rough, unmixed/mastered takes of the new TEN EAST album due for release in March '08 and I can tell you that it will KNOCK YOUR SOCKS RIGHT OFF. No fuckin' shit. Bye for now.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

My absence is easily explained. It's called feeling like you're on death's door. I've suffered an absolute killer viral infection the last fortnight, which included several stays in hospital, and I'm only now, under the guidance of heavy medication (including steroids!), starting to see through the fog. When your body starts to fall apart like that, and there's nothing you can do about it - such as when you wake up to find that your lips look like a bad Botox job, your face looks like you've been punched around the night before, your wrists are swollen up and feel like they're broken and you look and feel like you have hundreds of peas under your skin throughout your neck, shoulders and back region - something is seriously starting to go wrong. Well, I don't want to go too much into it; suffice to say, things are on the mend and I'm starting to feel human again. I would not wish that anyone go through what I've been through the last two weeks, even though I'm all too aware of the fact that millions (billions, likely) go through much worse every single day.

The picture above is of good ol' Stocky, or Karlheinz Stockhausen, as he's more commonly known. He passed away on December the 5th, and I feel that it is my duty to acknowledge him in some way. Perhaps not because I believe he was a particularly wonderful human being. From all reports he was a cantankerous ballbreaker, though his contribution to 20th century music - his positive contribution, I should add - remains enormous. Not only is he responsible for perhaps my all-time favourite "avant-garde" (in a purely classicist sense) outing, 1967's magnus opus double LP, Hymnen - a collection of reconfigured national anthems, shortwave-radio bursts and tape manipulations which ranks as one of the best acid-trip soundtracks released anywhere - but his music was a pivotal influence on the increasingly strange (and interesting) music of the Beatles as they hit their stride ca. '67-'68, the Velvets, Jefferson Airplane and pretty much any Krautrock outfit worth a pinch of salt. I had a major hard-on for all the big-name avant players of the 20th century about 10 years back, just when I was really starting to delve into the worlds of John Cage, Penderecki, Morton Feldman, Iannis Xenakis, etc. It was all a great deal of fun for a while, and along the way I discovered stand-alone works of genius such as Feldman's Rothko Chapel and Penderecki's "Threnody For the Victims of Hiroshima" which will remain with me forever, but for me there's still that one standout: Hymnen. Stockhausen's life is not contained to merely one piece of music; there are, after all, others of his I like a lot and many more I'll probably never even hear, but I'm not writing a professional obituary here. I'll leave that for the papers. I'm simply glad the guy was here.