Michael Garrison

In the Regions of Sunreturn (Windspell Records 1979)

http://www50.zippyshare.com/v/54145587/file.html (NEW LINK)

Over the past two years since my son was born, I’ve slowly weeded the more aggressive sentiments from my music collection in favor of the mellow, zen vibes I try to instill in my own household. Long gone are the days when I would find some sort of cathartic release while blaring some nihilistic bullshit and tackling my first-world problems with six-pack in tow. I guess that’s why I now find myself sporting some seedy little “dad beard” and soaking in the questionable ambiance of albums like Michael Garrison’s In the Regions of Sunreturn.

I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for hippie-dippy keyboard excursions, but kind of limited myself to a small cache of records by the holy triumvirate of Cluster, Roedelius and Moebius and their assorted offshoots and back alleys. However, I’ve been tripping down a wormhole of new age detritus that my 18-year old self would punch me square in my jaw if he caught wind of some of the shit that’s found its way onto my turntable these days. I read a thread on the Waxidermy message board about PINA, or Private Issue New Age, which is a loosely-defined genre that was entirely new to me. I dipped by toe into some of titles championed there and I now find myself totally enamored by such albums like Daniel Lentz’s Missa Umbrarum and Kay Gardner’s Moon Circles. However, Michael Garrison’s In the Regions of Sunreturn might be the one that takes the cake so far.

A brief description of the record opined that it was an “Oregon classic…by an American private synth wizard record.” That was enough to hook me these days, which is somewhat embarrassing to admit, but it sure paid off when I tracked down a copy of it. In the Regions of Sunreturn kind of falls somewhere in an unforseen nexus of Cluster/Roedelius/Moebius, Mannheim Steamroller and a John Carpenter soundtrack of the early 80s. It all kicks off with a slow-motion hiss then one of those zoned-out beats, like a teutonic pulsation, takes hold and slowly builds in intensity as some majestic synth tomfoolery commences high above the playing field. It’s just one of those beats that taps into your cortex and gets your head a-noddin like its far-flung cousins in such songs as “Yoo Doo Right” by Can or “You Make Me Feel(Mighty Real)” by Sylvester. Yeah, they nothing in common, yet everything in common since they all get your attention right away and suck you into their respective worlds.

Most of this album is a series of variations on the formula trailblazed on the opener, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Michael Garrison obviously agrees with this weathered, but well-meaning cliche and barely varies the pace but does unleash a kaleidoscopic series of cascading melodies that kind of bathe you in mellowness. Yet, the recurrently repetitive beat that chugs through each track has this jubilation and energy that counteracts the haze of synths. It’s hypnotic, yet amazingly kinetic as Garrison maintains this tension between stoned meandering and an electronic choogling that keeps your toe tapping while fight the urge to nod off.

The best parts might be few tracks that serve as intermissions from the incessant variations of that beat where the earth suddenly drops out from the rhythm and Garrison lets it all devolve into some primordial whoosh where everything suddenly becomes echoing and ominous. These ambient interludes are kind of spellbinding only last a few minutes, but they place you in such a stasis that it feels much longer. They are so soothing that the eventual reintroduction of the beat kind of gains an added power each time it sucks you of the morass towards more ecstatic heights.

Yeah, In the Regions of Sunreturn kind of sounds like its title, but that’s a good thing. No one speaks a word on the album, but the music fills in all of the blanks as Garrison kind of takes you on a bit of journey through some candy-coated 80s sci-fi adventure that deserved a soundtrack as worthy as this.

Jonas Reinhardt

Powers of Audition (Kranky 2010)

http://www.mediafire.com/?45o9khcz3lhegsf

Sometimes we are far too eager to dismiss the new simply because it too closely resembles what came before it. That’s a shame because it’s rewarding and occasionally eye-opening if we clear our minds of the canon and embrace an album for what it is, not the artists that laid the groundwork for it to come to fruition. Therefore, cleanse your mind of attachments to Cluster, Tangerine Dream, Moebius, Roedelius, Can and countless other geniuses who planted the seeds from which krautrock sprung and take a close listen to Jonas Reinhardt’s Powers of Audition and you can imagine a world in which it comfortably lies in the same stratosphere as his idols. Despite a few minor missteps, it possesses the same otherworldly grandeur as the classic albums that inspired them. Powers of Audition is absolutely oceanic and slowly unfurls itself into concentric coils of hazy mists of synthesizer drones and stoic melodies that straddle the line between comforting warmth and frigid isolation. My only complaint is that the band should have embraced the epic nature of these compositions and gave them room to breathe beyond the six or seven minute that limits their power and impact here. Next time, they should let their freak flag fly high and aim for the dawn instead of quitting at dusk because there is a primordial power to these compositions that deserve to be stretched to infinity.

Ironically, there is no Jonas Reinhardt in the band and it simply serves as a studious sounding moniker for this four-piece from San Francisco, California. Since Jesse Reiner’s synthesizer work is the focal point of Jonas Reinhardt’s ode to the electronic exploration of 70s Germany, it’s not surprising that he is the leader of this outfit. He has a real knack for layering sounds upon another to build an intricate foundation that allows the other players to let loose and inject the album with an almost driving and playful swagger that serves as an excellent counterpoint to the more cosmic and ethereal hazes that feel like enveloping smears of sound. In particular, the guitar playing of Phil Manley of Trans Am and drumming of Mi Ami’s Damon Palermo is what lends Powers of Audition a cosmic swagger as they take advantage of the opportunity to indulge their longstanding desire to indulge their inner desire to emulate Michael Karoli of Can and Mani Neumeier of Guru Guru. Their contributions shock the album out of its narcotic passivity and they rumble headfirst into almost punky crescendos that make the mellow moments all the more poignant. If you’re going to make an album full of slowly falling and drifting music, it helps to do so after the music has raced into the heavens first. Powers of Audition may lack the pedigree and historical context of its inspirations, but it is one of the few modern albums that pays tribute to the storied past of krautrock while standing on equal footing with what laid the groundwork for its creation.

Aeriel Pink

“Round and Round”

http://www.mediafire.com/?mmiixzh2vgz

Sorry for the long absence. The heart was willing, but the fingers weak. To be honest, life moved at such a pace that rambling about random tunes lost its significance when life grabs you by the boo-boos and drags you off to exciting locales. Sans the metaphor, I just bought a house and will be welcoming my first child on Halloween. Therefore, my inane scribbling about lonesome perverts and their latest musical excerpts took a back seat. However, that itch kept scratching and here I am for another round of conversation with whoever the hell reads this red hot mess.

As the years accumulate, it get a bit tougher to bask in the new. Those moments where your jaw drops for a few seconds and a smile spreads from ear to ear become increasingly rare. Yes, this mostly applies to the big picture in life, but it also rears its ugly head in my difficulty to hit that high one gets when hearing Sam Cooke’s Live at the Harlem Supper Club or My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless for the first time. By no means, do I intend to sow such hyperbole upon Aeriel Pink’s “Round and Round”, but it did catch me by surprise and plaster a shit-eating grin on my face. On the surface, its just a kiss on the toes of 80s nostalgia, but it is such a departure from his weirdo vibe that its sudden accessibility kind of weaseled its way into my psyche and has not left for over a week.

“Round and Round” is the single from Aeriel Pink’s upcoming album Before Today and it sheds the murkiness and willful eccentricity of past efforts in favor of a more cuddly sort of creep. It’s like R. Stevie Moore intersecting with Can during a slow early-80s r&b jam at first before busting into the smoothest chorus this side of Vaseline. Yes, I did just sow the proverbial hyperbole, but it just sounds that great as the flowers bloom and wind takes on a warmer tinge. Each time I hear it, it reveals yet another aspect that makes me wonder where in the hell this song was lurking in this dude’s head. So familiar, yet kind of alien, “Round and Round” is a soothing, yet smarmy anthem about nothing in particular.

Shogun Kunitoki-Tasankokaiku

September 22, 2008

Shogun Kunitoki

Tasankokaiku (Fonal 2006)

http://www.mediafire.com/?hdjt1ugtzii

To many, the sounds of buzzing drones, endless riffs and repetitive chords may appear to be little more that a masturbatory exercise. To me, these are ecstatic moments that put me into a mental space where music becomes something spiritual and magical. I love a well-crafted pop song, driving punk scuzz and elegant classical composition that inspire me to reach for a snifter of brandy. Well, that last reference was a bit fancy for my cruddy mitts, but it does actually happen on occasion. However, there are certain albums that whisk you off into a nodding daze where you can only focus on each progression even though you know the next step is much like the one taken just moments earlier. Terry Riley, Aphex Twin, Seefeel, Morton Feldman, Sleep and others occupy this mental suite, but another has wormed its way into my heart, rendering the others sloppy seconds in my noggin.

Shogun Kunitoki are the ones who have occupied this treasure space in my heart for over year. Drawing from the krautrock masters, Harmonia, Neu, Cluster and Kraftwerk while paying slight tribute to minimalist composers Steve Reich and Charlemagne Palestine. The band crafts interlapping waves of organ playing with sudden swooshes of psychedelic effects that are tempered by a restrained, but focused rhythms that bring it all back into your general orbit. Some psychedelic albums inspire mental sludge while others conjure lofty, ethereal moods, but Tasankokaiku makes my mind feel like a tangled army  of cheap Christmas lights set ablaze during the last moments before Santa Claus rockets down my chimney. If this was released 30 years ago, you would all revere their very name, but they are ours at this very moment and deserve your adulation. This is the sound of repetition at its most audacious and complex. The layers upon layers of organ provide moments not unlike those when you first heard your first krautrock album and wondered where in the holy hell this music has been your entire life.

Siloah-s/t

June 26, 2008

Siloah

s/t(Private Press 1970)

http://www.mediafire.com/?7wo7emtnwzd

I guess you could label this as krautrock since the band is German and it falls under the category of psychedelia, but it bears little resemblance to Can, Faust, Cluster or any other influential groups of this era. Siloah’s self-titled debut shares more with the disjointed, communal folk of Comus’ First Utterance or Amon Duul’s Paradieswarts Duul than anything else. They do not share Comus’ disturbing lyrical bent, but these tracks capture the shambling, expansive qualities of both bands at their best.

Siloah’s debut doesn’t match up to the brilliance of the aforementioned albums, but it is an essential listen for anyone who has spent hours communing with these two classics. Much of it consists of stoned ethno-folk jams that meander in the best possible ways, but I always come back to this album for the 18 minute track “Aluminum Wind” which is epic in all the right places. It has a slow, dissonant buildup complete with distant percussion and flute until the singer starts warbling about Disneyland, Christmas trees, drinking your eyes and other surreal musings. It is whacked and incoherent, but it does tickle my fancy.