Bongwater-Double Bummer

February 8, 2012

Bongwater

Double Bummer (Shimmy Disc 1988)

Disc One: http://www.mediafire.com/?o1wtzui2jj1

Disc Two: http://www.mediafire.com/?yyymyjzongu

Sprawling in every postive and negative sense of the word, Bongwater’s Double Bummer embraces excess and melodrama at each and every opportunity. If whittled down to a single album instead of a double LP with a later EP tacked onto it, Double Bummer would be hailed as an eccentric masterpiece instead of a nearly forgotten footnote in the unheralded Shimmy Disc catalog. It’s a symbol of all that was right and wrong with a label that seemingly operated in a cloud of marijuana smoke and never met an oddball it wouldn’t sign. For every stroke of genius like the Boredoms’ Soul Discharge, Ween’s The Pod, Damon and Naomi’s More Sad Hits and Shockabilly record, they released streams of utter shit like King Missle, the Tinklers and Captain Howdy. However, this erratic behavior and dalliances with questionable taste is what made Shimmy Disc and Bongwater so charismatic and intriguing to me during the early 90s.

Bongwater centered around the unlikely duo of Mark Kramer, who played with Shockabilly and Gong and produced Galaxie 500, Low and Half Japanese albums, and Ann Magnuson, a performance artist, singer and actress in such films as Desperately Seeking Susan. The partnerships was especially fruitful at first since Kramer’s drugged sound collages, love of drugged ambiance and knack for whacked guitar meanderings gelled perfectly with Magnuson’s quirky monologues about David Bowie and Iranian country clubs and gorgeous covers of Johnny Cash’s “There You Go” and Mike Nesmith “Just May Be the One” and Roky Erickson’s “You Don’t Love Me Yet.”  The album is a document of two kindred spirits going bonkers in the studio as they attempt to string together such disparate elements as a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused” sung in Chinese with slow-motion psychedelic balladry like “Jimmy” where Magnuson channels Grace Slick and absolutely own every single note and becomes larger than life. Not surprising, since Magnuson is a mammoth presence here and effortlessly sheds one persona for another on each song and imbues the album with a theatrical, larger than life aura that propels Double Bummer beyond the stoned, unfocused mish-mash it should have been. Her powerful presence just makes Kramer’s tape loops and sluggish, hallucinogenic instrumentation work as a counterpoint to her fiercely melodramatic turns in the spotlight.

Double Bummer was the apex of their short-lived career because it allowed both members to let their freak flag fly simultaneously where later albums were a tug of war to see which member got the last laugh. Later albums saw Magnuson drink too much of her own Kool-Aid and shift the emphasis onto her increasingly slick, narcissistic  and indulgent point of view while Kramer’s welcome walks on the weird side became less and less prominent. They shaved away all of the lumps, misshapen bits and warts from the surface and the end result sucked the magic from their core. It’s a shame since Double Bummer isn’t quite like anything else I’ve ever heard. Any album that finds a common strain via covers of Gary Glitter, the Beatles, the Fugs, Roky Erickson, Mike Nesmith and Led Zeppelin amidst an eccentric fog of absurd monologues, gorgeous, slow burning guitar solos and an embrace of left-wing politics is alright with me until the day I die.

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.

Charlie Mcalister

I’ll See You in Hell (Tape Mountain 2006)

http://www.mediafire.com/?k3mndj3mf3u

A friend of mine asked for some Charlie Mcalister and I kept putting it off since I didn’t have a copy of his Mississippi Luau lp which is a shame since it is his best album. However, I found a copy of I’ll See You in Hell which is still pretty amazing in its own right. Charlie Mcalister has released about 70 cassettes of mangled banjo-driven tunes, southern charm and warped audio collages.  Supposedly, he listened to a lot of noise label RRR’s musical output which lends an unpredictable air to an already helter-skelter stew. Perssonally, I kind of find much of his recent output to be a noisier, eccentric kin to the Mountain Goats earliest works. Both John Darnielle and Charlie Mcalister have a knack for wordplay and an appreciation of the intimacy that can result from the hiss and gurgle of a cheap recording. Sure, tracks like “Scuzz Rag” and “I Love You/Punch Me in the Eye” lack the eloquence of Darnielle, but he more than compensates with sheer gusto and a willingness to muddy the waters. Some of his prettier moments even remind me of Roky Erickson’s acoustic work or Daniel Johnston at times, but this is something far more chaotic and stream of consciousness. If anyone could send a link to other Mcalister recordings or find a place where I can find his lps, please send word to magicistragic21@yahoo.com

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.