Buffy Sainte-Marie

Illuminations (Vanguard 1969)

http://www.mediafire.com/?zn4wmvbcwqj

I don’t even know why I picked this one up during a chicken shit jag in Dothan, Alabama where my masochism led me to linger after a slow-moving breakup. No one said “No Mas”, but both parties were constantly on the verge of letting those words fly. During this awkward status quo, I wandered the local mall and picked up Roky Erickson’s Never Say Goodbye and Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Illuminations. I didn’t know much about her other than her stint on Sesame Street, but the cover looked so sparse, pagan and downright alien to me as i ran my fingers over an endless parade of alt-rock detritus. This depressing moment resulted in my first date with two albums that still symbolize love, longing and its eventual decay to me.

Illuminations is the darkest and bizarre album of Buffy Saint-Marie’s career and much of this due to the contributions of Michael Czajkowski who recorded an odd electronic album for the folksy Vanguard label. She definitely plumbed some chasms on past albums, but the vocals and lyrics were the foundation for her angst and eloquence. However, Illuminations transcends her past because the orchestration, process vocals, reverb and general eccentricity comes from a place not unlike fellow travelers 50 Foot Hose, Jefferson Airplane and even the Silver Apples. I love Grace Slick’s embrace of the psychedelic goddess on the first two Jefferson Airplane records, but this less hippie-dippy and more tender and fractured.

It is hard to discuss this album without paying tribute to the pagan mysticism of the opener, “God is Alive, Magic is Afoot.” It is no surprise that Coil covered this song since it seems like a template for most of their excursions into magick and hallucinatory imagery. Only Comus delved into such impassioned psychedelic territory. This song celebrates the existence of spirits all around us, but the fucked electronic effects make it downright unsettling. It is as if your beliefs in sprituality have come back to haunt you as animism takes hold and your surroundings come alive with a cavalcade of good and evil spirits. It is haunting in a literal sense and never fails to creep me out of my fucking gourd.

Maybe my devotion to this album is rooted in its association with a low point in my life, but tracks like “The Vampire” capture the essence of emotional cannibalism where both parties feed on one another in order to prolong the inevitable. Plus, I love the line where the vampire’s victim laments the fact she must bid goodbye to her rosary now that she has crossed the border into another phase of her life. She has been drained and it is time to start a new life. I may be stretching a bit, but I found solace in this morbid tale and still do to a lesser extent.

Illuminations is ahead of its time, but you rarely hear anyone cite her as an influene or embrace her as a newfound love. I wholeheartedly endorse any of her 60s albums, but this one possesses a hoodoo that rivals any record of the late 60s.

Tower Recordings

Furniture Music for Evening Shuttles (Siltbreeze 1997)

http://www.mediafire.com/?dynilt0y3xn

Back when I was a hack for Alternative Press, I had the opportunity to interview Matt Valentine of Tower Recordings and he kept speaking about communal living and a shared lifestyle. I think Spanish Wolfman was listening on the party line. My dumbass thought he was referring to the fact they were a bunch of hippie swingers, but age has taught me that he referring to something more wholesome than my fractured imagination.  I asked to interview them since their Fraternity of Moonwalkers album blew my boo-boo loose with its lo-fi take on English psych and folk. I didn’t know my Comus from my asshole, so it all sounded so strange and otherworldly to me. You know, it still does. I guess youth and age agree on this one occasion. However, I did eventually visit Port Chester, NY where they lived at the time and didn’t see a single commune, just bodegas and urban blight.

Let me get this out of the way before I discuss the album. Their cover of Os Mutantes’ “Q Delmak-O” is on the short list of songs I want to hear on my deathbed. I always loved the original, but Helen Rush makes it even more delicate and airy while the sparse intrumentation makes it even more stunning in its simplicity.

Furniture Music for Evening Shuttles is the best of the Tower Recordings albums. In fact, it is the best thing that any of these musicians have ever recorded. I like MV and EE as well as the Pg six albums, but they lack the cohesion of this one. All that was great about the band is on display here. At times, it sort of reminds me of what the Espers are doing today. However, their take on English troubadours is more troubled and woozy. These are simple, sincere folk songs, but their take on them is just so goddamn fried that it makes you wonder why this one never gets mentioned anymore. Listening to it now, it sounds positively pagan and could’ve been added to the Wicker Man soundtrack. If you thought of Nicholas Cage, please allow me to think badly of you.  However, the sight of him in that bear suit cracks my shit up.

I know it seems as if everyone with a Cd burner and steady access to weed sounds like this nowadays, but Furniture Music for Evening Shuttles is special and inhabits its own little universe. It is the happy meeting place where Takoma, Joe Boyd, Clive Palmer and Siltbreeze happily coexist for your listening pleasure. Helen Rush, why won’t you sing again? You are missed.

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.