Weakling-Dead as Dreams

February 17, 2009

Weakling

Dead as Dreams (Tumult 2000)

http://www.divshare.com/download/6581525-ecc

I lack the vocabulary to properly describe Weakling’s Dead as Dreams, which served as their debut and finale. I feel like my father in an art museum when encountering the various permutations of heavy metal whether it be black, death or thrash. We know what we like when we see or hear it, but cannot pin down our new love’s influences and if it is even original or groundbreaking. Basically, we don’t know a goddamn thing about our respective spheres, but go apeshit when we stumble across something that floors us in its immediacy and brilliance. However, my dad painted a flying violin swirling around the pyramids after having some sort of blue collar vision. He thought it was the bee’s knees, so take our opinions at face value.

When it was originally released, it garnered attention due to the involvement of guitarist Josh Smith of the Fucking Champs. However, his work in Weakling bears little resemblance to the instrumental fretwork of that band. Where the Fucking Champs happily absorb inspiration from such disparate sources as Thin Lizzy, Iron Maiden and Metallica, Weakling are a far more bleak and brutal affair. What sets Dead as Dreams apart from most black metal I’ve heard is there is a majestic quality that underlies the pained shrieks, pounding beats and massed riffs. It sounds like the soundtrack to impending doom or your last hurrah. Normally, a batch of 17 minute black metal anthems would wear out their welcome halfway through the smash and grab assault. Maybe it’s because there is an undercurrent of punk that lends it a certain immediacy, but Dead as Dreams somehow keeps coming at you in new and innovative ways throughout each shift in mood and tone. Again, I’ve already admitted that I lack the means to do this album justice, but I wanted to share it since it really hits the spot when you want an album to kick your flabby buttocks and inspire adrenaline rushes of epic proportions.  It’s rare to find an album that never lets up in intensity and keeps its foot on your throat throughout the hour you spend in its ragged company.

California Dreaming

February 17, 2009

A musical ode to California

http://www.divshare.com/download/6573926-7ab

There was a thread on a message board which invited readers to suggest songs from the late 60s and early 70s that were devoted to the beatification of the state of California. This spun the hamster wheel that fuels my brain since there were so many odes to the apex and aftermath of free love and hallucinogens. Some of these songs embrace the innocence of bursting through social norms, others pay tribute to the majestic scenery of its cities and rural enclaves while others bemoan the loss of innocence in the wake of addiction and the realization that love is anything but free. Anyhow, I figured that I would share my contribution here. Here is the tracklisting that I intended, but somehow my upload rearranged its order. Anyway you slice it, it is still a delicious pie.

Sir Douglas Quintet-Menocino

Moby Grape-Hey Grandma

John Phillips-Topanga Canyon

Guy Clark-LA Freeway

Terry Melcher-Beverly Hills

Neil Young-Revolution Blues

Shirl Milete-Love Child

Robert Charlebois-California

Mickey Newbury-San Francisco Mable Joy

Michael Nesmith-Hollywood

Lee Hazlewood-LA LAdy

Laura Nyro-California Shoeshine Boys

Jim Ford-Working My Way to Los Angeles

Jack Nitzsche-Lower California

Jesse Colin Young-Ridgetop

Flatlanders-San Francisco Bay Blues

Flying Burrito Bros-Sin City

David Crosby-Tamalpais High(At about 3)

Terry Allen-Cortez Sail

Mickey Newbury-Frisco Depot

Terry Riley

Persian Surgery Dervishes

http://www.mediafire.com/?jglndi3mn4m

Terry Riley embodies the essence of minimalism. His music has always tapped into the primal recesses of my brain and lured me into some pretty deep meditative states. His mastery isn’t a surprise since he learned under the tutleage of the master of Indian classical music, Pandit Pran Nath, who has also blown a few of my synapses over the years. His devotion to the open-ended nature of composition and performance via his series of All-Night Concerts in the 60s and divine patience in developing themes only to allow them to morph into something even more transcendent is awe-inspiring in my grubby book. Plus, I like the idea of how he would invite people to bring sleeping bags and pillows to his All-Night Concerts so he could play tape-delayed saxophone and the harmonium until sunrise.  I can only imagine what it would be like to experience the incessant undulation and shifts in tone as Riley whisked all of his willing passengers into a trance state. Maybe I am just a born sucker for the hypnotic powers of a slowly developing riff or composition, but my weary heart wishes it could be a part of such a near-religious experience. Alright, enough of my pseudo-mystical banter and butchered romanticism toward altered states of mind, let’s get to the nitty gritty of what makes Persian Surgery Dervishes a welcome addition to my life.

I don’t have the second half of the double cd which collects these dual performance of Persian Surgery Dervishes, but the one pasted here includes a 1971 performance in Los Angeles. I prefer this one over the Paris performance since it is somehow more damaged, yet serene. I am drawn to Persian Surgery Dervishes since there is so much accomplished with two distinct elements. You have a slow-motion organ riff that kind of percolates in the background. It really doesn’t deviate much from its bearings. Its job is to throb in the background while Riley goes bananas on an electric organ. This second element is essential to the piece since it is the motor which drives the composition. Well, this motor gets quite revved up at times, but doesn’t really go anywhere. It is static, yet incredibly busy at time. Riley knows the allure of restraint and pacing and slowly builds from a sensual tease to a goddamn psychedelic frenzy. He really beats the shit out the organ when the piece gets hectic. It’s even hard to type this as I listen to it since there are sections which make your brain feel like taffy left on the radiator for the night. There isn’t really any concessions to melody, but to twisting patterns that kind of collide and coalesce into something larger than the previous motif.  For me, it mimics the many thoughts that bounce around in our minds. There is something soothing about examining one’s life closely and traversing the pathways of thought. Somehow, Persian Surgery Dervishes is the perfect companion for those times when you find yourself in the eye of the storm and can lucidly examine the reasons behind the tumult and transition. Again, I am getting a but too heavy for my own good, so let’s just say that it’ll blow your boo-boo loose and make cole slaw out of your cabbage.

Unrest-Imperial f.f.f.r

February 5, 2009

Unrest

Imperial f.f.f.r (Teenbeat 1992)

http://www.divshare.com/download/6473493-1d9

As a teacher in a hardscrabble inner-city neighborhood, I have recently become disgusted with a certain cliche that is robotically spouted from the lips of my more disaffected and unmotivated students. The offensive phrase in question is “It is what it is” and it sort of a reverse rallying cry for the swells of apathy and one-dimensional worldviews that have rotted tender minds before they’ve had a chance to evolve. No fewer than six students out of 78 seniors chose this call to surrender as their personal quote for the year book. I know that I am being a bit histrionic since each generation has chosen their own brand of bite-size nihilism to embrace as a call to arms. Instead, this one feels different since it is a call to surrender. It signals acceptance of a life  that is static and unchanging instead of one that is ecstatic and unpredicatbly full of sublime moments that will never be summed up in a pithy phrase.

The contrast between the examined and unexamined life recently came into focus for me while listening to the eight-minute title track of Unrest’s Imperial f.f.f.r. There are certain songs and sounds that have pushed me to moments of catharsis, bliss, confusion, sadness and countless other shades of emotional states in between. There is something sublime and larger than the mortar and brick that surround us. It is larger than the accumulated minutia and detritus that threaten to avert our eyes from the larger themes and possible directions of our lives. I’d like to compile a laundry list of these musical moments, but it kind of feels like mental masturbation at the moment. However, this review is probably guilty of the same sin. Anyhow, “Imperial” is just so minimal, elegant and evokes a stream of recollections of those times when your next step in life is alternately  exhilirating and frightening as well. It makes me believe in the gravitas of a simple chord progression, angelic harmony and lyrics that resonate in your own life. In fact, the opening notes of “Imperial” are so full of introspection and melancholy and the eventual addition of Mark Robinson’s awkward choirboy vocals is one of those instants where every coalesces and becomes a positively transcendent harmony. It is a song about dreaming about things vast and undefinable like love, life and where our respectives paths will lead next. I wish it was 80 minutes long instead of eight, but the reverberating echoes that bring it to a premature finish do provide a simply gorgeous end to this meditation.

Unrest were always stylistic chameleons, so it is only fitting that the elegance of “Imperial” is quickly abandoned for the rapid-fire strumming of “Suki.” It’s a sunny ode to the early pangs of lust, but it pales in comparison to “Cherry Cream On” its hedonistic doppleganger. Where “Suki” focused on puppy love, “Cherry Cream On” is all about lusting after every single nook and cranny of your love interest. It’s bubblegum pop with a horny, hedonistic side that joyfully explores the raging hormones and awkward desires of your first sexual encounters. I always found their inclusion to be kind of a humorous contrast to the weighty subject material of the album. However, Unrest never stuck to one theme for too long. Considering the album contains an ode to American painter Isabel Bishop, meditations on the death of a father, clumsy hip-hop instrumentals and churning drones, the shifts and juxtapositions make sense when listening to the album as a whole.

Although Imperial f.f.f.r was released sixteen years ago, it still sounds youthful, fresh and optimistic. It makes me just as wide-eyed and excited about life and love as it did throughout my youth. Just because life has slapped us around a few times doesn’t mean that there aren’t infinite possibilities for adventure and personal growth. Yes, it’s just an album. It is what it is, but much of this “it” has provided a well of inspiration and a aural canvas on which to project my own thoughts and dreams.