Vermonster

Spirit of Yma (Twisted Village 1990)

http://www.mediafire.com/?z0mcdirdild

A lot of folks have downloaded Vermonster’s Instinctively Human from a previous post, so I figured that its predecessor would be a welcome surprise. If you missed the first post, Vermonster is Wayne Rogers and Kate Biggar’s band before Crystallized Movements and Major Stars as well as their many worthwhile solo and side projects. This one has more “songs” but it is still an unholy racket. Instead of a total freakout, Spirit of Yma predicts the direction they would take with Crystallized Movements, but far noisier and fucked. It isn’t easy listening, but listen closely and you’ll hear the beauty hidden beneath the din. Lots of fuzz, wah-wah and shredding strings abound on this one.

Grenadine – Goya

June 30, 2008

Grenadine

Goya (Teenbeat/Shimmy Disc 1992)

http://www.mediafire.com/?oma0m1n3kdm

I know I keep saying that each album is one of my favorites, but each album posted occupies a special place in my heart. Grenadine is no exception. The cover and artwork of the album is pure schtick. Its imagery predates the lounge revival which brought Martin Denny, Les Baxter and Esquivel back into circulation and the liner notes falsely claim the songs are Sinatra and Cole Porter tunes. Thankfully, the band only gives passing nods to the easy listening of the 50s and 60s and reminds me more of Robinson’s angelic harmonies of the title track of his Imperial fffr album.

Consisting of Jenny Toomey of Tsunami, Mark Robinson of Unrest and Rob Christiansen of Eggs, Grenadine was a supergroup in a shaggy dog sort of way. At least, my lonesome sould thought so. Outside of moments on Unrest’s last albums, Goya contains the best performances any of these talented, but inconsistent artists ever recorded. Tsunami had a few great songs, but relied too heavily of Toomey’s husky, moody voice to carry lackluster tunes. Mark Robinson always had too many ideas and genres to explore. Eggs fell victim to the same miscues as well. Goya’s strength lies in the fact that the source material is already classic and their quirky sensibilities elevate instead of dilute the finished product.

It doesn’t hurt that Toomey and Robinson possessed two of the most more interesting voices in 90s indie rock. Their voices never sounded so good as when covering “I Only Have Eyes For You” as Toomey belts it out in such a manner that it makes you take a second look at the song and realize the beauty of its lyrics.

My love must be a kind of blind love
I cant see anyone but you
And dear, I wonder if you find love
An optical illusion, too?

Are the stars out tonight?
I dont know if its cloudy or bright
cause I only have eyes for you, dear
The moon may be high
But I cant see a thing in the sky
cause I only have eyes for you.

I dont know if were in a garden
Or on a crowded avenue
You are here, so am i
Maybe millions of people go by
But they all disappear from view
And I only have eyes for you

She transforms it into a moody meditation instead of blind-eyed devotion. I forgot how wonderful their cover was until reevaluating it for this review. It jangles like indie-pop, it sounds like indie-pop, but it transcends its littler corner and becomes something much more lasting.

Mark Robinson follows up with a one-two punch as he sings “In a World Without Heroes” A good friend who was interested in astrology found this song to be romantic as the lyrics relate his ability to discern the meaning of her star signs and horoscope to find a common bond between them. He seems worries that he doesn’t truly know her, but shows confidence that love can be derived from this celestial moment. It is sweet and tender in the nerdiest way possible. It still arouses a bit of mist in the ol’ eyeballs.

Various Artists

Ruckus Juice and Chittlins

http://www.divshare.com/download/4840211-e87

The jug maybe the the most versatile kitchen staple outside of the crafty spoon when it comes to making music. The saute pan was abandoned as a percussion tool during the Great Depression and the food processor was a failure from the start. My earliest memories of jug bands consist of offensive hillbilly stereotypes in Warner Brothers cartoons and Emmit Otter’s Jug Band Christmas. However, I always found something tragic, but comic about its flatulent “oom-pa-pa” refrains.

The only man to lift the jug to new heights was Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators who utilized an electric jug on their earliest forays into Texas psychedelia. Therefore, we are left with dusty 78s of the 20s and 30s to satisfy a craving for old-fashioned jug band music.

The Yazoo label is an excellent resource for the forgotten history of American folk, blues and country and its catalogue rivals anything found on the Smithsonian-Folkways series of albums. I’ve never heard of a single soul on this compilation and chances are you haven’t stumbled upon King David’s Jug Band or Cannon’s Jug Stompers (How’s that for a image!) either. There isn’t a mournful moment on the whole album. This is a music of celebration as these musicians draw upon or predate blues, folk, bluegrass, western swing and jazz to create a joyous clatter. It’s also interesting to hear how each artists utilizes the lowly jug in so many different ways. Some use it to imitate the human voice, others use it as a percussion instrument of sorts while some use it for comic relief. It provides such a distinctive sound that it makes you wonder why more bands haven’t adopted it today. Ruckus Juice and Chittlins documents a thoroughly American form of music and stands as one of the better comps on the Yazoo label.

Som Imaginário

A Matança do Porco (1973)

http://www.mediafire.com/?in2m0nlgmdo

Brazilian fusion with touches of prog, psyche and bossa nova. This is their third and final album, heading away from the psychedlic-driven sounds of their earlier albums and toward jazz-rock. Wagner Tiso, the keyboardist and now apparently leader of the band is very skilled at what he does (as are all the musicians here), but occasionally takes the album into softer keyboard jazz that may not sound too out of place on a Chick Corea solo album – a bit too light for me. Don’t worry though, there’s still a healthy amount of distorted and rambling guitar parts in the Os Mutantes tradition. High points are the heavy, building guitars of “Armina” and the epic symphonic prog of the 11 minute title track. A cool album that manages to successfully blend a variety of genres into something quite unique.

Slowdive

Pygmalion Demos

http://www.mediafire.com/?um1ms1lcuri

During my teenage years, I heard some tracks from My Bloody Valentine’s Isn’t Anything and the resultant eps and they had me at hello. I loved Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation, but had no frame of reference for the sounds emanating from my shoddy boombox. I bought all I could and discovered the Creation label which led me to collect a string of eps from Moonshake, Telescopes, Swervedriver and most importantly, Slowdive. The s/t and Morningrise eps contained music even more alien than the MBV releases since it borrowed from them, but made it so sluggish, noisy and it sounded like a funeral dirge. I loved this point in their development and still hold it in the highest of regards. However, Slowdive’s full-length, Just For a day, relied on ep tracks for traction and the rest was underwhelming. Souvlaki was another bag meat shavings that we’ll for another day.

I liked Just For a day and Souvlaki just fine, but sort of wrote them off a bit until their grand finale Souvlaki was released. This album didn’t even get a proper release in the United States. The album was generally ignored in comparison to its more readily available counterparts. However, I picked up the 5(In Mind) eps and was amazed at how they had taken a u-turn from shoegaze and even traditional song structures involving choruses and crescendos to a more amorphous approach.

Souvlaki is sparse to say the least. In my mind, it gets bunched with Flying Saucer Attack’s excellent Further album as the two finest examples of a progression of English acid-folk recorded by actual English bands. Pygmalion. It’s shoegaze on a handful of qualudes and serious personal issues. It is the sound of a breakup, both musically and personally. However, I wouldn’t peg Pygmalion as a particularly sad album. It’s a doped-up bummer to be sure, but there are glimmers of optimism throughout. This charade has gone on long enough and it is supposed to be about the demos for Pygmalion. Well, the demos bear little relation to the actual album. It is obvious that the band had an overflow of songs and ideas as these demos include many songs left on the cutting floor. Many aren’t even songs, but sketches. However, this collection of demos stands on its own as a viable album, albeit even more ghostly and gloomy as its official brethren.

Spectrum

Geracao Bendita (Shadoks reissue of 1971 album)

http://www.mediafire.com/?z5gpzouyfgf

Once you stray outside of Tropicalia’s inner circle of Brazilian psychedelic royalty (Gilberto Gil, Gaetano Veloso, Os Mutantes, Gal Costa, Jorge Ben and Tom Ze) there are so many more misses than hits. Therefore, it was a pleasant surprise to find an album that holds its own against any album recorded by the aforementioned artists. This Spectrum has nothing to do with Pete Kember of and his brilliant continuation of Spacemen 3’s work, but this Spectrum was assembled to perform the soundtrack to a Brazilian hippie flick.

Consisting of actors and actresses in the film as well as members of the 2000 Volts band, this Spectrum has much love for Os Mutantes’ first two classic albums, but the Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers and Magical Mystery Tour albums as well. Vocalists jump from English to Portuguese without rhyme or reason as the band professes their love of peace, love and understanding, but it doesn’t really matter anyway. The main attraction is in how this suddenly assembled band deftly builds upon the sound of Os Mutantes and slathers the tracks in fuzz guitar.

However, there is one track on Geracao Bendita that still floors me a year after I first stumbled upon it. “Mother Nature” combines the Brazilian vibes of Tropicalia, the wide eyed optimism of the Beatles and the laid-back West Coast vibes of Haight-Ashbury in one track. It’s Abbey Road, After Bathing at Baxters and Os Mutantes in one sitting. The rest of Geracao Bendita is good, but this track makes me grin from ear to ear. There is not hyperbole in my mutterings. I really, really love this song.

Susanne Abbuehl

April (ECM 2001)

http://www.sendspace.com/file/w9tewq

I sometimes think that the sentimental, sappy side of personality is what causes me to love every release on the ECM label. Yes, some of their 70s output was fresh, confrontational and new, but their overall output is so minimal and pleasant that I feel as if I’ve been brainwashed through constant exposure. How did a label responsible for Bernie Maupin’s Jewel in the Lotus and Julian Priester’s Love, Love give rise to some of Keith Jarrett’s snooze-a-paloozas? The sick shit is that I own a few Keith Jarrett albums. I have a problem. Don’t even get me started on my fanaticism about Meredith Monk. I play these records for people and its like I’m arguing that cocktail wieners or a box of nerds are as special as a truffle.

Thankfully, my addiction is easily sated since it’s relatively easy to find recent ECM releases in local budget bins. I even felt a lame rush of excitement when I found a vinyl copy of Don Cherry’s Codona the other day. Therefore, I get to discover gems like Susanne Abbuehl’s April and share them with my limited readership.

Susanne Abbuehl is a Swiss/Dutch singer and composer who has studied Indian classical music and recorded two albums for the ECM label. April is her debut and it includes a revamp of “Round Midnight” and a few Carla Bley tunes as well as a curious hybrid of cocktail jazz and a raga. On the surface, Abbuehl’s voice could woo your casual fan of Norah Jones or Diana Krall, but there is something far more sophisticated at work here. Her backing band plays so gently and minimally that there are no crescendos or climaxes to be found. The end result is a slow burning, sensual jazz vocal album that is stunning in its own subtle way. I guess it’s a bit of an aural bubblebath complete with stinky candles, but sometimes a fellow has treat himself like he’s got some class.

Ingram Marshall

Fog Tropes/Gradual Requiem/Gambuh 1 (New Albion 1994)

http://www.sendspace.com/file/n6qugm

An American composer whose works have been performed by the Kronos Quartet and Andy Summers of the Police, Igram Marshall’s compositions run the gamut from Balinese fluting/electronic hybrids to orchestral works that sound like they were recorded at the bottom of a well. This is high praise indeed since his best efforts stand up to works by Steve Reich, Philip Glass, John Adams, Iannis Xenaxis and others who pushed the gilded envelope of classical music.

The first piece “Fog Tropes” was composed in 1979 at the request of performance artist Grace Ferguson. Marshall wanted to create a piece reminiscent of the fog-shrouded bays of San Francisco, so he went around the waterfront and made numerous field recordings of different fog horns. Now, the end result sounds nothing like the flatulent fiesta you’d expect after a piece based on fog horns. Marshall marries queasy drones, unsettlingly dissonant strings and the soothing, but authoritatize blare of the fog horn to create a noirish soundtrack to 3am on a lonely pier.

The other two pieces “Gradual Requiem” and “Gambuh 1” have supposedly been altered to fit the theme of the opener. In particular, Gradual Requiem is an especially claustrophobic listen as the flutes become increasingly overdubbed and more intense until it resembles one of Jon Hassell’s “Fourth World” multi-culti nightmares. Then, the insanity gently wanes and gives way to the most angelic mandolin playing this side of Heaven or Nashville.

Listen deeply and hear groundbreaking sounds; Listen shallowly and you have a majestic soundtrack to your morning crossword. Have a fucking crumpet while you’re at it. Fog Tropes offers as much as you are willing to give.

Aphex Twin

Donkey Rhubarb ep (Warp/Sire 1995)

http://www.mediafire.com/?0bidmzbjzmv

Man, I still am amenable to spending a couple hours listening to Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Every buzz and drone sings to my weary soul. Love it just as much as the day I picked it up from a godforsaken Western PA chain store on the day of its release. Now, I like most of his ouvre, but everything he released after this ep makes me wish he expanded on the themes and ideas located here. Donkey Rhubarbs is the most concise summary of all that was good about Richard D. James before he began giggling in his tank and posing for the Wire with pantyhose over his noggin.

Each of the four tracks represent four sides of Aphex Twin. The last two tracks are perfect summations of his rapidfire take on idm, Detroit techno and acid while the openers explore terrain that was sadly abandoned.

“Pancake Lizard” starts the ep in dramatic fashion. It actually redeems trip-hop as a genre instead of the 99-pound weakling it truly was. Outside of Portishead and possiblly Tricky’s debut, name me one worthwhile trip-hop album. Slowed down hip-hop beats, limp drones and diva rejects abounded in this misguided genre. However, Aphex Twin treats the genre like a soundtrack as he melds the slow-motion drama of Selected Ambient Works and grafts it to a simple, but effective beat that ultimately wields all of the tension trip-hop lacked.

However, “Icct Hedral” is the one that really hurts. Why couldn’t he have explored the world of George Crumb, Philip Glass, Steve Reich and Lalo Schifrin as he does here. This collaboration with Glass is breathtaking and frustrating because he never really delved into classical music in such a way ever again. From the forboding chorus and thick bass to the delicate idm tinkling replicated by a string section, this track shows a side of Richard D. James that could’ve been groundbreaking. Before anyone complains, he did use strings and incorporate elements of classical music into his music, but this track is a grandiose moment that points to what should have been. Instead, his attention span got the better of him and jokey drill and bass was the next step.

3Ds – Hellzapoppin’

June 26, 2008

3Ds

Hellzapoppin’ (Flying Nun/First Warning 1991)

http://www.mediafire.com/?jmxgj0z2umx

One of the benefits of being a youngster in the early to mid 90s was the major label rush to sign anything remotely related to Nirvana and Sonic Youth to a lesser extent. It provided such anomalies as major label deals for Foetus and the Boredoms and provided leeway to indie bands like Sebadoh and Pavement to fly obscurities like Dog Faced Hermans and the 3ds over to be their opening acts on tour. Yes, it also resulted in countless pretenders and imitators out for a buck, but when hasn’t that been the case with a genre’s short-lived popularity.

I haven’t really delved into my undying love for New Zealand’s Flying Nun label and how bands like the Verlaines, Bats, Chills, Magick Heads, Dead C, Snapper and others warped my young mind and altered my view of a pop song. I got to see the 3ds on tour with Pavement around the time of their Venus Trail album that was released on Merge. Hel, I may have hallucinated this, but i remember seeing a video for their “Outer Space” video on MTV’s 120 minutes. Go figure. I picked up the 3Ds’ Hellzapoppin’ album a few years earlier and fell in love with how they took inspiration from Sonic Youth’s noisier attempts at a pop tune and made it their own. Although it was a larger venue, they filled up the theatre with a kaleidoscope of feedback and were much heavier than their records hinted. Consisting of members of Snapper and Look Blue Go Purple, their albums are filled with unpretentious pop songs slathered with lots of noise and sweet sentiments. It’s a really catchy album that gets forgotten when put in context of New Zealand’s “kiwi pop” scene. Although their music was accessible, the band had enough rough edges and personality that their music still sounds fresh today. I guess I can cut to the chase and say that fans of pop songs buried in feedback with a few quiet moments in between will find much to love here.