26 September 2008

We're Late For Class - 2008 - Trippin' In A Plymouth Belvedere

Hi, everyone. My posts will be a bit sporatic as I just moved and my internet connection is a little dodgy right now. For now though, let me point you back in the direction of We're Late For Class, who have recently posted their latest opus. It's sort off a mini odds-and-sods collection, and is a nice primer to their particular brand of improvised psychedelia. Click on the link below to voyage onto their site and download the thing!

We're Late For Class - 2008 - Trippin' In A Plymouth Belvedere

24 September 2008

Steve Reich - 2001 - Triple Quartet

Quality: 4.5 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.5 out of 5

Steve Reich is an acknowledged master of modern classical music and his music has no lack of class, but if repetition is not your thing, if repetition is not your thing, if repetition is not your thing, then he may not be your cup of tea. Or his magical music powers may lull you into a trance and convince you that you do love repetition, you do love repetition, you do love repetition. Don't knock it until you've tried it.

This isn't so much a fully conceived album as an anthology of works contemporary to its release. I suppose the main event is the titular suite performed by the renown Kronos Quartet. The varying string parts work quite well on their own in the Reich mold. It's a very different flavor than what they achieve when working with Philip Glass, but no less important. My favorite performance here, however, is the relentless "Electric Guitar Phase." The modus operandi of a phase is that several players of the same instrument repeat the same phrase over and over at slightly different speeds, so that the phase eventually disintigrates, oscillates, and recombines in a myriad of different ways (of course recording overdubs make this far easier). Here we get that for 15 minutes with an absurdly rockin' guitar. At least I see that as a good thing. Following that is the "Music For Large Ensemble,' which on this album by far most recalls Reich's seminal Music For 18 Musicians with its more fleshed out, orchestrated sound. Capping things off is the "Tokyo-Vermont Counterpoint;" basically the same idea as "Electric Guitar Phase" but with marimbas or something like that.

This is a fine release, and probably the best introduction to the sonic world of Reich other than the aforementioned Music For 18 Musicians. If you're a Reich fan already, this one is candy for your Halloween pumpkin, and if you're not familiar with Reich, your musical sensibility requires that you at least give him a try. Those of you that don't like Reich can go to hell (wait,no - that's way too harsh).

Buy Me:
Steve Reich - 2001 - Triple Quartet

Flying Karpets - 1968 - Flying Karpets

Quality: 2 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 3.5 out of 5

OK, lets start off here by being plain-out nasty. This is a pretty terrible album. The band can't play particularly well, the lead vocalist is even worse, and that puts the harmony vocals at some exponential kind of vile growth. On top of that, the band's songwriting chops are negligible as they are pretty much just working in terrible covers of stuff like "White Rabbit," "Twentieth Century Fox," and "Mercy Mercy Mercy" (that last one represents their trend to do even worse soul covers). Yet, I'm feeling charitable today.

You see, I just had a viewing of the timeless epic film, "Ghetto Freaks" (aka Love Commune, aka Sign of Aquarius). The film follows the blissed-out trials and travails of flower children weathering out a particularly frigid Ohio winter. Through their stoned apathy is a glimmer of productivity that results in a trickle of terrible art, you know, the kind of thing that all the earth mamas cheer for. I guess it's the only time all parties involved deliriously manage to get off the floor. So the Flying Karpets make me think of that kind of creation, except that they're from the significantly warmer Mexico. I'm really just giving these lovable stoners the equivalent of a cheek pinch as they do their best, which isn't nearly good enough. At least, I hope they were really, really stoned. Otherwise, there's absolutely no excuse for this.

If this kind of extroverted loathing sounds appealing, then this is indeed the album for you. But if you're goal is to hear adeptly-played artistic triumph then you might want to stay away from this one. I doubt this will see another proper reissue, so you could want this as a rarity (no you won't).

09 September 2008

Damaged Tape - 2008 - Ship of Lights

I've been abusing my analog synthesizers as of late, and these are the results. Maybe I haven't been looking so much to the future as the late 1970's, but I'll let you be the judge of that. There's a pretty liberal sprinkling of Moog here, so if you have a soft spot for those sounds, then you might like what I've done here. You'll also hear a bit of the very groovy TB-303 recreation that Future Retro produces. I would definitely give that piece of equipment a thumbs-up for any of you electronic-minded musicians out there. With the first track, you'll get a sample of the incredible Criswell, whose amazing predictions have yet to become true. The rest of the first half of the album is sort of my attempt at Neptunian disco, while I give in to my strange obsessions with Mayan history on the second half. That concept is that from 'Boneyard' on, we hear the warriors and captives enter the city, and the king makes a bloodletting offering that takes his mind on a psychedelic trip to meet the gods and see the fabled ballgame at the core of Mayan mythology. Two tracks here, "Boneyard" and "Lords of Xilbalba" are about three years old. I really dig the tracks, I just never really had a proper home for them until now. It's not that there aren't more recent tracks, the older ones just edged them out. As always, please share the music, leave some comments for me here, and repost elsewhere. Thanks for listening!

1. A Push Button World (5:20)
2. Wet Candy (5:17)
3. Hot Dog Jets (8:03)
4. Tell Me Your Secret (5:01)
5. Boneyard (2:25)
6. Offering (3:50)
7. The Crystal Sphere (3:03)
8. Thin Air (6:15)
9. Lords of Xilbalba (4:24)
10. Hunahpu and Xbalanque (5:22)
Total Time: (48:55)
89.9 MB

Listen to Me:
Damaged Tape - 2008 - Ship of Lights

Creation Rebel - 1980 - Starship Africa

Quality: 4 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.5 out of 5

Dub is the wildly psychedelic offshoot of reggae that I have thus far pretty much ignored in my reviews. Of course if you're unfamiliar with the genre it wouldn't hurt to head for the better works of Lee 'Scratch' Perry or King Tubby. For now though we'll blast out of the Caribbean to find a pretty rare album from British dub producer Adrian Sherwood with his Creation Rebel project. Now, this band had several fine albums (some others of which we may eventually see here), but this is the one that got me hooked onto these guys and is a pretty wild trip into the reggae stratosphere.

Dub is synonymous with weird echoing sound and deformed proto-samples, but Starship Africa seems to take everything one additional step out there. As it should, the tracks rest on a rock solid rhythm, but all the audio effects and sounds drifting around here are fair game for an interstellar interpretation. The original album was arranged into two side-long groupings, Starship Africa and Space Moment. As far as the bedrock of the LP is concerned, most of the tracks are pretty similar. The layering of sounds on top of that is the main bit of creativity at work here, and it's some of the best I've heard in this sort of setting. Spaced-out alien voices, bubbling synths, and ringing percussion are combined and recombined in some pretty mind bending ways.

If you have yet to enter the world of dub, this isn't the worst introduction and this album serves as a fine litmus test for the genre. For anyone, you'll get to hear the best of a practically unheralded master of the form. If you have any love for dub, I think it's worth giving this a spin or three.

06 September 2008

Subway - 1972 - Subway

Quality: 3.75 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 3.75 out of 5

Here's some French acid folk that just begs comparison with the Incredible String Band. Now, I have to admit that I've never really "got" the renowned ISB, so my comparison should probably come with a grain of salt. Technically, I suppose that this is inferior to the ISB at their best, but it's far less oblique and I have to admit that I enjoy it more. As the cover emphatically enjoins, Subway is a duo and their name apparently stems from their regular gig location. Fortunately for this somewhat downtrodden duo, they were signed to Epic Records, and this recording has some nice production values, although I would imagine that sales wise it must be somewhere in that companies bottom 10 sales list.

There's not a ton of diversity on this album, but the general tone is quite enjoyable. The crux of the music is very ISB-sounding vocals, finger picked guitar, psychedelic gypsy violin runs, and usually an interesting production trick or two per song. For example, "Warm You Are" gains some color from shimmering, phased cymbals and a knock or two on a bongo, while "Rosanna of the Roses," "Enturbulston-Free Form," and "All the Good Things" actually end up with a full rhythm section backing up the song and inch much closer to actually being psych rock. Philistine I am, those are my favorites on the disc. "Enturbulston-Free Form" is a freak out that almost seems to meld acid folk with some krautrock, while "Roasanna" comes across as a damn fine and rough-around-the-edges psych-pop number.

Although Subway borrows quite a bit, they've got a few chops that manage to get them to stand out. Those of you out there who consider yourself full-blow acid folk and/or freak folk fans need to hear this, while the rest of us should remain at least mildly entertained. The subtly tripped-out, minstrels-on-acid cover art doesn't hurt either.

05 September 2008

The Aeolian String Ensemble - 1998 - Lassithi/Elysium

Quality: 4 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.75 out of 5

This is a disc that it's almost impossible to pay attention to, but that is among its prime advantages as a swirling whirlpool of ambient sound. The Aeolian String Ensemble is a group that portents to create all of their sound through the use and electronic modification of the ancient Aeolian harp. I suppose that through said electronic modification you can get anything you want, but I swear there are a few underpinning synths here and there, or perhaps we're hearing masterfully controlled wooden echoes from the wooden box of the instrument. Regardless, the star of the show is the harp and this album takes it to some strange and very meditative places.

There are only two tracks making up this release, and the title of the disc includes both of them. "Lassithi" runs at a mind-boggling 58 minutes, and I guess it would be the kind of thing you'd actually want to hear as you're chilling out at the spa (although I must admit that I have little experience with spas beyond the Japanese hot spring variety). The sound is slowly shifting, and is extremely fluid, with the listener just barely discerning the slow changes. I think that last statement is going to help define if you're going to be interested in this one or not. Next up is the brief (at 14 minutes!) "Elysium," which runs on the same basic modus operandi, but spews forth a much darker and clausterphobic sound. If the first track is intended for relaxation, "Elysium" is more for intense contemplation. I suppose that the mood shift is quite welcome after 58 minutes.

There are no melodies and little to grasp onto with the Aeolian String Quartet. What they do present is an ocean of tones that will influence the deeper parts of your brain. This is hard-core ambient music, if you will. I find this disc to be a perfect background setting and I hope that you may also find this useful in that regard.

Lucifer - 1971 - Black Mass

Quality: 4 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4 out of 5

Lucifer is a psudonym for Mort Garson, the electronic madman behind freaky early electronic works such as "The Wozard of Iz." This purely instrumental album isn't quite as strange, but the wall of Moog synth that makes up the instrumentation is still something impressive to behold. It's chock full of that awesome analog clunky sound that so many musicians still strive for.

When I've strolled through Disneyland's Tomorrowland (at least the Tokyo version), they're usually setting the future-retro mood with stuff like the wacky pop interpretations of the Moog Cookbook. Some of this could fit in that mold, but with minor keys abound, the tracks here would probably serve better in the hellish variety of Disneyland; y'know, the one where Donald Duck is creeping behind you with a butcher's knife. That's pretty much where this disc is at.

Trackwise, there are a lot of goodies here. "Solomon's Ring" launches with a soaring yet creepy Moog melody, while "Incubus" dementedly contorts basic synthesizer sounds into a kind of electronic warning system. "The Evil Eye" almost gives us a soothing break, but let's keep in mind that it is quickly underpinned by electronic evil. Later on, we are presented with the sound lab of "Philosopher's Stone," while "ESP" closes the album with what sounds like an alien armada landing (maybe Garson was going for the opening of the gates of Hell).

While not necessarily the best of primitive electronic music, Lucifer does press most of the right buttons for those of us wanting to hear this sort of thing. It's trying to conjure the ghost in the machine using the darkest of magic, and for the most part it succeeds. You can merrily join along for this particular black mass.