Marc Ribot-Saints

August 23, 2008

Marc Ribot

Saints (Atlantic 2001)

http://www.mediafire.com/?s5uawdkaipt

As a bored and lonely teenager, I tended to search for any free or all-ages concerts to fill in the many blanks in my life. There was a series of free concerts at Penns Landing in Philadelphia where I got to see Billy Bragg and Roger Mcguinn as well as lesser lights like Suddenly Tammy. I had never heard of T-Bone Burnett since this was before his work with the Coen Brothers on the Oh Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack. However, the concert was free and my dance card was empty, so what the hell. To be honest, Burnett was kind of a drag, but his guitarist had so much charisma and his playing was electrifying and eye-opening to my young soul. His name was Marc Ribot and I did some research and found that he played on one of my favorite albums, Tom Waits’ Rain Dogs. From that moment, I decided that I would always keep an eye out for any record on which he played.

Sadly, my obsession was never fully rewarded as he hadn’t released any solo records at that point. A few years later, I shelled out a bunch of money for Shrek, a Japanese import on John Zorn’s Avant label, and was kind of disappointed. I plowed through Yo! I Killed Your God and Shoe String Symphonettes and I appreciated and enjoyed some of it, but they didn’t inspire me like those life-affirming moments of his live performance. His work was challenging, but it didn’t speak to me. I put my fascination with Ribot on the back burner and this hiatus lasted for many years until I encountered his Saints album in 2001.

Maybe it is due to the fact that most of the album consists of covers of Albert Ayler, the Beatles, Stephen Sondheim, John Lurie and John Zorn, but Saints was an entirely different beast than anything else I had heard him play. Maybe it is because Ribot is the only ingredient here. It is just a brilliant guitarist paying tribute to his favorite compositions while reinventing them in a new light. Saints is such an intimate listen and he creates a noirish atmosphere that is so minimal and moody. In fact, it is one of the few solo guitar records where I really feel every note that the musician is playing. I want to hear every twist and turn he takes with the source material. To be honest, it’s kind of a sensual record to me because he takes his sweet time mining every ounce of emotion from each composition. I love Albert Ayler and his versions of “Saints” and “Witches and Devils” outdo the master as Ribot replaces the fire of the originals with some meditative, expansive shit. I always say this, but I am shocked that more folks haven’t embraced Saints because it is such an evocative piece of work. The man even takes “Happiness is a Warm Gun” into some languorous, meditative place that Lennon and McCartney never intended. Definitely one of the best instrumental albums of the past decade and possibly one of the first records I reach for when I want to zone out and ponder life.

I’ve been pondering the posting of lists. This will be the first in a series of thematic collections relating to floats my boat. Today’s list was inspired by a humid drive into the barren heart of Delaware County where Peter Jefferies’ depressing Electricity album placed me in one of those pensive moods that went perfectly with the blur of chain restaurants dominating my horizons. Therefore, this led to this list of songs that always make me feel like a maudlin chump. Sorry that these are individual tracks, but I broke it up so you may pick and choose. There will probably be a sequel since I gave up at twenty.

1. Skip Spence-“Broken Heart” from the Oar LP

-he sounds broken down before his life even began. There are many worthy choices on this album, but this captures the weight of love gone wrong.

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

2. Beck-“Lost Cause” from the Sea Change Lp

-he has devoted so much time to being the most wiggity-wack Scientologist in the club that you forget how great he can be without the fixins’. A vivid snapshot of regret, lost friendships and the worry that goes along with new beginnings.

http://www.mediafire.com/?2tst2o2jbts

3. Bread-“Look What You’ve Done” from the On the Waters LP

-a soft-rock classic where the protagonist is pitiful and pissed at the same time. Who knew Bread had such issues with passive aggressive behavior?

http://www.mediafire.com/?nfzg1c4gg91

4. Camper Van Beethoven-“All Her Favorite Fruit” from Key Lime Pie LP

-domesticity gone awry.

http://www.mediafire.com/?r69tkztryc2

5. Codeine-“3 Angels” from the Frigid Stars LP

-I could probably pick any of their songs, but this one crushes you more than the others.

http://www.mediafire.com/?3005tccwn42

6. Galaxie 500-When Will You Come Home” from Peel Sessions

http://www.mediafire.com/?mauo9b1cnem

An old chestnut that deals with those times you miss the company of other humans.

7. Gary Stewart-“She’s Acting Single(I’m Drinking Doubles) from The Essential Gary Stewart

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

-Oh Gary, lemme give you a big old hug. Nevermind, let’s finish the bottle.

8. Gene Clark-“Life’s Greatest Fool” from the No Other Lp

http://www.mediafire.com/?39z1yp4mmog

-an exploration of powerlessness, then hope. Actually, this is kind of uplifting in its own way.

9. Go-Betweens-“Dive For Your Memory” from 16 lovers Lane LP

http://www.mediafire.com/?ify3xjmnyyw

-A man willing to do anything to regain the past. Kind of romantic, but tragic.

10. Graham Nash-“Military Madness” from the Songs For Beginners LP

http://www.mediafire.com/?hiyftjm9pdn

-Sad only because its Vietnam era warnings seem relevant again.

11. The Jayhawks-“Take Me With You When You Go” from Hollywood Town Hall

http://www.mediafire.com/?1tcummrzuyd

-I always imagined this to be about Mark Olson’s worries about his wife’s struggle with Multiple Sclerosis.

12. Kristin Hersh-“Beestung” from Hips and Makers Lp

http://www.mediafire.com/?pqdg46mvcky

-I don’t know what the hell she’s talking about, but it seems to deal with her struggles with mental illness and her pleas for a lover to assist her.

13. Lisa Gerrard-“Sanvean” from Live in Dusseldorf bootleg.

http://www.mediafire.com/?ndelmnjn9an

-I hope these are the sounds I hear as my life enters its last minutes.

14. The Magick Heads-“Before We Go Under” from Before We Go Under Lp

http://www.mediafire.com/?lmy9qzbtgzo

-A song about drowning from a side project of Robert Scott of The Bats.

15. Michael Hurley-“Sweedeedee” from Armchair Boogie(the best album ever made)

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

-another tale of lost love and the attempts to regain it.

16. Mickey Newbury-“The Future’s Not What It Used To Be” from ‘Frisco Mabel Joy

http://www.mediafire.com/?lxmd2y1ddij

-a man discovers that travel and booze won’t solve his problems. Go figure.

17. Peter Jefferies-“Scattered Logic” from the Electricity lp

http://www.mediafire.com/?el1jtm1ej3n

– my favorite song at the moment. A heart-wrenching three minutes.

18. John Cale-“I Keep a Close Watch on My Heart at Night” from Music for a New Society

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

-somebody not only broke this dude’s heart, but squashed it into a pulp.

19. Peter Hammill-“Been Alone So Long” from the Nadir’s Big Chance Lp

http://www.mediafire.com/?semmnz2ejsd

-This is a close second to the John Cale song in terms of crushing hopelessness. A song about a man who has been isolated so long that he’s forgotten how to relate to humanity.

20. Marc Ribot-“Saints” from the Saints Lp

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

-let’s end on a wordless note. His cover of Albert Ayler’s “Saints” is a dark, moody end to this self-indulgence.

Arnold Dreyblatt

Animal Magnetism (Tzadik 1995)

http://www.mediafire.com/?njyjz1mn45n

I have spent an hour or two pondering life while listening to the rich drones of Arnold Dreyblatt. I first encountered the name while paging through an issue of Your Flesh where Jim O’ Rourke listed his favorite albums of the year and christened Animal Magnetism the best of 1995. Being the bleating sheep that I am, there was an immediate order placed at the Wall to Wall Sound and Video in my godforsaken town. I expected something akin to the Scott Walker, Roy Montgomery and Rafael Toral listed in his love letter, but was pleasantly surprised to hear that it wasn’t quite like anything else on that minimalist list.

There are many improbably combinations that our minds can conjure: Peanut butter and cauliflower puree, scallops and butterscotch or Kevin Spacey in a Bobby Darin biopic. Most of these flights of fancy are purely the result of narcotics. However, I cannot explain Kevin Spacey’s unfortunate foray. However, if you had suggested that you could combine Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians with Tom Waits’ Rain Dogs, I would accuse you of putting your mustard in my chutney.

Thankfully, Arnold Dreyblatt’s Animal Magnetism does exactly that. It takes the textured waves of minimalist composition and the musician play like a band made out of junkyard instruments. This is somehow funky in its clunky and hypnotic sort of way. It is a strong, muscular album that removes minimalism from the realm of lanky miscreant and makes a dance party out of it. I haven’t yet been so far gone to attempt an Arnold Dreyblatt dance party, but give me a ring and we shall see what we can muster up.

This is the sound of music hitting ecstatic peaks and mining mournful valleys. This is the sound of repetition taken to new places. This beats the pants off those moments where I pleasured myself with sounds of a single string. It is a joyful cacophony that makes me realize all that is wonderful about music.