Gastr Del Sol

Camoufleur (Drag City 1996)

http://www.mediafire.com/?2kwjgzztl5j

Forever will I be a hopeless sucker for the changes in season. It isn’t always a basket of puppies and Wawa hoagies since fall’s slide into winter gives me a taste of the lonesomes. Since it is safe to say that I’ve bid those months adieu, spring has definitely fulfilled its old role and friend and rejuvenator of withered spirits. No matter how many rings accumulate inside my trunk, spring serves as an annual starting line for  a giddy gambol filled with newfound optimism, budding friendships, repaired and broken hearts and the liberating feeling of being out and about in this grand old world. It’s when you rediscover the fact that it’s time to get your hands dirty and hit those high notes or fall flat on your foolish face. Pardon my hyperbolic descriptions of the seasons, but they are all so distinct to me that it seems I sometimes view life as the passing of seasons, not years. Then again, I am also the one who harbors an irrational fear that sharks lurk in every body of water.

Oh yeah, this is supposed to be about an album isn’t it? Well, there is actually a method to my malingering. “The Seasons Reverse,” the opening track on Gastr Del Sol’s grand finale Camoufleur, always embodied these sensitivities to the seasons.

september reverses and the equinoxes flip

winter turns into fall

when glimpsed in leaps of nine months or more

the seasons reverse

they swing back and fall forward

they reshuffle when you touch down at long intervals

they shuffle because it’s been more than two years

first seeing you in a snow bank

then a sweater

then a swelter

they rehsuffle with leaps of some time

or reshuffle with leaps of distance

This song kind of epitomizes the reasons behind the band’s demise. I love it because it sounds like two musicians doing their own thing in total separation from the other. David Grubbs aims for minimalism as he croaks his off kilter harmonies while Jim O’Rourke opposes him by tossing everything but the kitchen sink into the mix. However, that’s what sparks the magic here. O’Rourke performs an extreme makeover on Grubbs, removes his horn-rimmed glasses, messes up his hair a bit and transforms the asexual into the sensual. The damn song even ends with a steel drum coda. Now, we’re talking! It just symbolizes the joy of the new and the comfort to be found in the romanticizing of the old. It’s conflicted and full of regret and positivity. It’s all over the goddamn place, but I like folks who are goddamn all over the place.

On one level, Camoufleur is a lot like the Mirror Repair ep and Upgrade and Afterlife ep with its dependence on spare piano jaunts, mournful melodies and sparse aesthetic. However, you can sense that Jim O’Rourke didn’t give a shit about following Grubbs anymore and he sabotages each song in the best way possible. Field Recordings, french horns, long organ solos and grimy bursts of noise punctuate many songs. It’s a schizophrenic listen, but somehow it flows together perfectly in an unexpected and jarring way. Then yet again, I’m the kind of creep who would eat risotto, pad thai and kielbasi in one sitting.

Pencil me in as a sucker for Markus Von Oehlen’s stark cover art. It’s a depiction of two sets of hands joined in unison while two sets of mouths vie to be first in line to grasp a set of musical instruments below.  Plus, I love how it’s so wintry with its abundance of whites and smudgy greys, but the lines are in constant motion as if a change is gonna come. Whether its inclusion was intentional or not, it sums up the end of a partnership and the a shift of season all in one. Any way you slice it, Camoufleur tackles the end of a partnership while making something elegant out a potentially awkward situation

Bailter Space-Robot World

August 4, 2008

Bailter Space

Robot World (Matador 1993)

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

How in the hell did they pull this one out of their hat? A New Zealand band assembled after the breakup of the Gordons, Bailter Space released a couple albums that built upon their loud, hypnotic psych perfected by their previous band. I love the Gordons and Bailter Space’s Thermos and Tanker Lps and their shaggy dog take on Sonic Youth’s Sister and Evol albums. These albums just grooved as the rhythm section peaked alongside each wave of feedback. I was hooked, but unprepared for what came next.

Bailter Space signed to the Matador label. Since Gerard Cosloy was always a big supporter of the Flyinmg Nun label and New Zealand pop in general, it was not much of a surprise. What was urprising was how the band somewhat abandoned their musical blueprint and borrowed a few pages from My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, Wire’s 154 and Chairs Missing and recorded an industrial strength shoegaze album. Now, this album bears little resemblance to the the ethereal muckity-muck of the era, but it does duplicate the amniotic sac of sound of the genre and transforms it into a cold, harsh space.

I always thought that Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation was the perfect soundtrack to the claustrophobia of life in the city. I tend to view things from this perspective since I grew up in the city and always looked for sounds that emulated my surroundings. “Teenage Riot” “Silver Rocket” and especially “Hyperstation” really spoke to my teenage self as I worked as a bicycle messenger in Philly. I’m sure other albums could serve as a substitute, but this encapsulated the dread of life under Reagan and Bush in a way i understood.

I still am dumbfounded that a group from New Zealand almost beat this band at their own game, but they did. Robot World is such a dense, thick slab of music. The bass overtakes most of the vocals and drives each song along to each depressing conclusion. It is almost depressing to a level of Joy Division and sort of reminds me of how modern bands like Jesu have attempted a synthesis of metal and shoegaze. Half of this album fails to live up to these words, but the rest was so far ahead of its time. It still sounds fresh today and would probably garner more respect today than at its release date. I thoroughly love every narcotic, emotionless second of Robot World and hope you will as well.

Jennyanykind

Revelater (Elektra 1996)

http://www.mediafire.com/?mt0ddyvcbnu

The major label frenzy to sign anyone within sniffing distance of your Nirvanas and Sonic Youths resulted in greater exposure for some and ruin for others. Were advertisements in shitty rags, MTV airplay and product placement in the rural malls really going to make Jennyanykind, Scrawl, Jesus Lizard and Jawbox more palatable to most folks? Hell, most of these bands weren’t even palatable to me by this point.

I have no clue why a major label like Elektra decided to sign a band that was enamored by Jesus Christ, Jerry Garcia, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Howling Wolf, Flaming Lips and Pink Floyd and market it as an indie-rock album. Sure, their work had a raw, punky edge at times and their earliest work was released by the No. 6 label(Beme Seed, Crystallized Movements, Luna, Nada Surf, etc), but this was surely a big ass square block in a teensy-weensy round hole. It’s a shame since Revelater cuts the fat from their meandering jams and rants which results in bizarre southern rock songs about the apocalypse, humility in the face of god’s power, the dangers of a sinful life and repentance.

This isn’t a shtick–No sight of high pitched whines and tree costumes ala Danielson. Michael Holland’s lyrics are earnest explorations of his own struggles with faith and the misdeeds of his past. He comes off as troubled and angry on half of the tracks while the other half play loose and fancy free with light-hearted hippie psych that wouldn’t sound out of place on an early 70s Dead record. I’m more interested in the angry, conflicted side of Holland that searches for meaning in the universe in a three-minute pop song on his major label debut. What were they thinking? It was commercial suicide and sit kind of sunk the band for good. Yes, they released many more albums, but they sort of blew their cosmic, soul searching load on this one.

Revelater got no respect from anyone. Its been dismissed by hipsters, hippies and christian rockers alike. However, I believe it may be one of the most underrated albums to result from the major label feeding frenzy of the 90s. Revelater is a fried, almost paranoid ode to the power of a vengeful god masquerading as an indie-rock album. Love it to death and like most of this band’s work. i’ll be posting more this week.

Slowdive

Pygmalion Demos

http://www.mediafire.com/?um1ms1lcuri

During my teenage years, I heard some tracks from My Bloody Valentine’s Isn’t Anything and the resultant eps and they had me at hello. I loved Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation, but had no frame of reference for the sounds emanating from my shoddy boombox. I bought all I could and discovered the Creation label which led me to collect a string of eps from Moonshake, Telescopes, Swervedriver and most importantly, Slowdive. The s/t and Morningrise eps contained music even more alien than the MBV releases since it borrowed from them, but made it so sluggish, noisy and it sounded like a funeral dirge. I loved this point in their development and still hold it in the highest of regards. However, Slowdive’s full-length, Just For a day, relied on ep tracks for traction and the rest was underwhelming. Souvlaki was another bag meat shavings that we’ll for another day.

I liked Just For a day and Souvlaki just fine, but sort of wrote them off a bit until their grand finale Souvlaki was released. This album didn’t even get a proper release in the United States. The album was generally ignored in comparison to its more readily available counterparts. However, I picked up the 5(In Mind) eps and was amazed at how they had taken a u-turn from shoegaze and even traditional song structures involving choruses and crescendos to a more amorphous approach.

Souvlaki is sparse to say the least. In my mind, it gets bunched with Flying Saucer Attack’s excellent Further album as the two finest examples of a progression of English acid-folk recorded by actual English bands. Pygmalion. It’s shoegaze on a handful of qualudes and serious personal issues. It is the sound of a breakup, both musically and personally. However, I wouldn’t peg Pygmalion as a particularly sad album. It’s a doped-up bummer to be sure, but there are glimmers of optimism throughout. This charade has gone on long enough and it is supposed to be about the demos for Pygmalion. Well, the demos bear little relation to the actual album. It is obvious that the band had an overflow of songs and ideas as these demos include many songs left on the cutting floor. Many aren’t even songs, but sketches. However, this collection of demos stands on its own as a viable album, albeit even more ghostly and gloomy as its official brethren.

3Ds – Hellzapoppin’

June 26, 2008

3Ds

Hellzapoppin’ (Flying Nun/First Warning 1991)

http://www.mediafire.com/?jmxgj0z2umx

One of the benefits of being a youngster in the early to mid 90s was the major label rush to sign anything remotely related to Nirvana and Sonic Youth to a lesser extent. It provided such anomalies as major label deals for Foetus and the Boredoms and provided leeway to indie bands like Sebadoh and Pavement to fly obscurities like Dog Faced Hermans and the 3ds over to be their opening acts on tour. Yes, it also resulted in countless pretenders and imitators out for a buck, but when hasn’t that been the case with a genre’s short-lived popularity.

I haven’t really delved into my undying love for New Zealand’s Flying Nun label and how bands like the Verlaines, Bats, Chills, Magick Heads, Dead C, Snapper and others warped my young mind and altered my view of a pop song. I got to see the 3ds on tour with Pavement around the time of their Venus Trail album that was released on Merge. Hel, I may have hallucinated this, but i remember seeing a video for their “Outer Space” video on MTV’s 120 minutes. Go figure. I picked up the 3Ds’ Hellzapoppin’ album a few years earlier and fell in love with how they took inspiration from Sonic Youth’s noisier attempts at a pop tune and made it their own. Although it was a larger venue, they filled up the theatre with a kaleidoscope of feedback and were much heavier than their records hinted. Consisting of members of Snapper and Look Blue Go Purple, their albums are filled with unpretentious pop songs slathered with lots of noise and sweet sentiments. It’s a really catchy album that gets forgotten when put in context of New Zealand’s “kiwi pop” scene. Although their music was accessible, the band had enough rough edges and personality that their music still sounds fresh today. I guess I can cut to the chase and say that fans of pop songs buried in feedback with a few quiet moments in between will find much to love here.

Crystallized Movements

Revelations from Pandemonium

http://www.mediafire.com/?3osgyictj1l

This was Crystallized Movements’ finale and it was a perfect summary of all that was great about this band while pointing towards the psychedelic balladry of Magic Hour as well as the crushing heaviness of Major Stars. In my humble opinion, both of these later projects are superior to Crystallized Movements attempts to combine the two, but Revelations From Pandemonium straddled the line so well.

The core unit of all of these acts are Wayne Rogers and Kate Biggar, who run Twisted Village, an influential label and records store. They have had a hand in many releases on the label by B.O.R.B. and Vermonster. You can count on the Twisted Village label if you love fried, amp-destroying feedback with a taste for the 60s.

If I had to sum up Revelations From Pandemonium, it would be “fuzzy.” I guess a lazy comparison would be to Sonic Youth’s Sister and EVOL filtered through psych-folk, but then again that doesn’t do it total justice. Wayne Rogers’ guitar playing is kaleidoscopic in that so many sounds can be perceived in his lo-fi wall of sound. His playing is majestic and regal when he avoids the noise and reels off a riff worthy of Jimi Hendrix Randy Holden. His vocals are deadpan and don’t add much, the lyrics are meaningless, but his voice works because it adds a monotone accent on the main attraction–the instrumental brilliance of this band.

This album is an acquired taste and requires a few listens to grasp its brilliance, but anyone in love with scruffy psychedelia will eventually find much to love.