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.