Tuesday, May 11, 2004


Weird to read in the latest issue of MOJO that the Red Hot Chili Peppers are responsible for keeping the GERMS's (GI) in print. How? The band insisted to the head of Warner Brothers that they wouldn't sign to his label unless he always kept it active in the WB catalogue. Does that mean we've all got something to thank them for? Oh well, they're probably nice guys...

Finally laid my hands on a copy of the latest (well, from very early this year) ART ENSEMBLE OF CHICAGO disc, Tribute to Lester, on ECM. Since Malachi Favors Moghostut died in recent months, that probably brings an end to this long-running troupe, but what a way to go! If you're not expecting much - like myself - you'll be surprised at just how good this album is. The classic AEOC element of cluttering "little instruments" (which is what they dubbed their sound as containing) is ever-present, though unlike some of the more "abstract" AEOC outings, this never bogs down in its own nonsense or drags. It opens up pensively with a few quieter tracks which work perfectly towards their goal: the eventual full-band blowout. Much more sparse than previous efforts, probably due to the loss of Lester Bowie, the paired-down sound works excellently to their advantage. The Ornette-ish "As Clear As the Sun" is seriously one of the best tracks they've ever laid down. One of the year's best.

I was asked by my good buddy Scotti to write a Top 10 list recently for the Missing Link newsletter. "Just pick whatever and send it to me today", he said. Who am I to resist a good list? I could've pondered and thought about all the amazing bands I could baffle the utterly uninterested public with, but decided to simply pick the nearest 10 LPs and CDs sitting next to the stereo and throw it in an email. Umm, here goes...

1) Khanate - Things Viral 2LP
I wrote about this a few entries ago. Check there. You need it.
2) Swell Maps - International Rescue CD
Been on a bit of a Swell Maps binge lately, after having not bought a single disc of theirs since '93 (the Jane From Occupied Europe LP). Why the wait? Now sure. So much music, so little time and even less money. Sometimes others just take priority. For now, the 'Maps have climbed a rung or two. A band totally worthy of their legend and then some.
3) Robert Wyatt - Old Rottenhat LP
Christ, here's another one I've already written about. I guess it was getting rotation for "research" purposes.
4) Patti Smith - Radio Ethiopia LP
I tend to have a bit of a love-hate relationship w/ Patti. Fact is, prior to my recent surge of Patti-related activity, I probably hadn't spun a single track of hers since 1998. Occasionally she strikes as nothing more than a whining old wheezebag hippie or, worse still, an all-too-typical pretentious NYC "poet rock goddess" (or whatever) who struck it lucky with the critics, but then I give Horses or Radio Ethiopia a spin, and all is forgiven. Yeah, she's pretty OK.
5) Soft Boys - Underwater Moonlight 2CD
I bought this a couple of years back on a healthy recommendation from a friend. I'd known of the band for a long time, mainly through The Eastern Dark's rip-roaring version of "I Wanna Destroy You" (admittedly, it's a hard song to fuck up), though the elusive nature of their material, and their seeming lack of any place within the usual aesthetic I look for in a band had me balking for years. Actually, Underwater Moonlight didn't make a whole lot of sense to me at first. Pretty Beatles-ish pop songs interspersed with ragged Beefheartish rock spruced up with a Buzzcocks-level aggression just didn't fit. Anyway, like they all say: there lies the beauty of the Soft Boys - they just don't fit. OK, now I'm a confirmed fan and when the hell is Ryko or Matador going to put their first album back in print?? By the way, the bonus material on the first disc is superior to the actual album itself, or at least that's how I see it.
6) John Coltrane - Live In Seattle 2CD
I'll write about this in my Top 50 list one day, so maybe I'll wait 'til then for the full rundown. Coltrane live '65 in a six-piece line-up (including Pharoah Sanders) that floors me every time. If you're only going to buy one Coltrane album in this lifetime... Hate to break the bad news, but I think this is out of print.
7) Tar Babies - Fried Milk LP
Wooaah! Where'd this come from? I've been in touch w/ the Tar Babies' head cheese, Bucky Pope, lately (for a Perfect Sound Forever article, possibly a CD), so I've dragged their old albums out of a musty corner for a dust-off. Fried Milk, from '87, is the one that slays me every time. Totally dynamic post-hardcore with a very messed-up, funky, psychedelic edge, if you're currently saying "Tar what??!", then search in a bargain bin near you.
8) Kinski - Air Above Your Station CD
Oh god, here's another one I've already written about twice. Some friends of mine are giving me flak for my current affection for this band. Are they not cool enough? Too standard? Hey, maybe so, but life's too short to waste time listening to music you don't enjoy.
9) Gong - Angel's Egg CD
All hail the mighty Gong! I only bought this fairly recently, putting off a Gong splurge for a long time. The wait was worth it. Search out the first four albums - all still in print - and bask in the pot-damaged pixie-rock space-dementia of Gong. Yeah, you do that.
10) Art Ensemble of Chicago - Fanfare for the Warriors CD
Uh-hu, been on a bit of an AEOC kick of late, and for my two cents this is probably their finest moment, along with their little-known (or appreciated) 2CD excursion with percussionist Hartmut Geerken on Leo, Zero Sun No Point (a stupefyingly great masterpiece of sound; nearly two and a half hours of the greatest non-ESP/BYG/Kraut racket you're likely to encounter). Anyhow, this is their 1973 outing on Atlantic, and their best, most concise recording that covers all aspects of their ouvre: free jazz, ragtime, tribal chants, percussive workouts, the kitchen sink.

No comments: