30 November 2008

Dr. Schluss' Psychedelic Pop Explosion!!!

Howdy, folks! I'm not really a big compilation guy on this blog, but I wanted to get together a primer that might help folks become more familiar with the stuff they'll find here. Of course, I've been doing this blog for almost two years and I quickly realized that I couldn't really get an accurate statistical analysis of the entire thing. Thus, I invite you to unleash the more psychedelically poppy sorts of sounds upon your ear. Well, by poppy I guess I mean catchy tracks that generally fit into a pop music structure, but the sounds are certainly demented. Most of the tracks you'll find here are straight from the prime late 60's era of psychedelic weirdness. I've tried to avoid the folks that you've heard on the Nuggets' compilations, although I can't vouch about Pebbles (never really listened to those much). Anyway, give these tracks a listen and then fearlessly plunge into the Psychedelic Garage archives if you dare.

Track Listing:
1. Sweet December - The David (3:07)
2. (We Are) Dream Vendors - The Merchants of Dream (3:42)
3. Psyche Rock - Pierre Henry & Michel Colombier (2:38)
4. Jolly Mary - July (2:20)
5. Cancer (The Moon Child) - The Zodiac (3:29)
6. Whole Earth Rhythm - Saddhu Brand (3:22)
7. Wild Bill Hickock Rides Again - The Open Window (2:50)
8. Quem Twm Medo de Brincar de Amor - Os Mutantes (3:44)
9. 2086 - Bit' A Sweet (3:15)
10. At the Third Stroke - Picadilly Line (3:01)
11. Land of Sensations & Delights - J.K. and Co. (1:46)
12. Walking in the Forest (Of My Mind) - Paul Perrish (2:43)
13. Girl on a Swing - Kevin Ayers (2:49)
14. Cardboard Watch - The End (2:54)
15. Black Sunshine - Kennelmus (2:50)
16. Baby, Let Me Show You Where I Live - Chrysalis (2:35)
17. The Island - The Millennium (3:21)
18. Gas Board Under - Skip Bifferty (2:19)
19. My Sorrow - Chico Magnetic Band (3:07)
20. No - Rainbow Ffolly (2:58)
21. Blue Poppy - Mort Garson & Jacques Wilson (6:51)
22. A Little Star - The Orient Express (2:21)
23. End of the World - Aphrodite's Child (3:19)
Total Time - (1:11:21)
121 MB

Listen to Me:
Dr. Schluss' Psychedelic Pop Explosion!!! (Part One)
Dr. Schluss' Psychedelic Pop Explosion!!! (Part Two)

Los Brujos - 1991 - Fin de Semana Salvaje

Quality: 3.5 out of 5

Argentinean alternative band Los Brujos got involved in the local scene in 1988. Combining '60s beat sounds and '80s hardcore-metal, Los Brujos was pointed out as an experimental group. In addition, their theatrical performances, where musicians created a special atmosphere around them, made Los Brujos a very special rock act. Daniel Melero produced their first album, called Fin De Semana Salvaje, in 1992; soon, their song "Kanishka" hit the charts. In 1993, San Cipriano was released, followed by 1995's Guerra De Nervios, which had contributions by Gustavo Cerati and Juana La Loca's dummer Aitor Graña. The band announced its breakup in 1998.

Los Brujos somos un grupo de rock que renueva la escena musical de los 90, encabezando el denominado Nuevo Rock Argentino. Nuestro sonido es el beatcore, brindamos unos shows hiper energéticos, y poseemos un vestuario único.

No hay mucho más para decir!!!!!

Babasónicos - 1994 - Trance Zomba

Quality: 5 ( for an Argentinian rock band!)

Here`s one of my favourite argentinian bands, they made really good stuff till 2000 (in my opinion). Dig it.

Babasónicos' name is based on a tribute to Hindu prophet Baba combined with the name of a popular cartoon from the '70s. Singer Adrián Rodríguez, keyboardist Uma-T, guitarist Mariano Roger Sónico, bassist Gabo, percussionist Diego Uma, and drummer Diego Castellano recorded Pasto in 1992. That album included their hit song called "De-generación." As the popularity of this Latin rock group was growing, chances to play along with major bands came soon. In 1994, Babasónicos was the opening act to INXS, Soul Asylum, and Depeche Mode. That same year, Trance Zomba was released. In August of 1995, Babasónicos participated in an Argentinean festival called Nuevo Rock, having the chance to play along with Peligrosos Gorriones and Los Brujos, consolidating their presence in the local scene.

28 November 2008

Okko Bekker - 1971 - Sitar and Electronics

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

I'll admit that I have no clue who Okko Bekker is beyond the sounds on this album. It's basically one of those lounge-exploitation affairs where the producers use some unconventional instrumentation to hide the fact that the basic charts provide for music that would be perfect at a 1957 corporate martini party. Mr. Bekker chose to use sitar, and electronics (duh), and tabla, and fuzzed-out guitars (ooh!). All of these things hit my soft spot, so I'm pretty entertained by this album.

Most of the tracks are funky, Bollywood-ready instrumentals that portend to create some kind of Indian imagery. I don't know; I doubt the "Ganges Delta" comes across nearly as 'groovy-like' as it does here, but between the sitar and freaky synth lead, I don't care. There's a psychedelic lounge cover of the Beatles "If I Needed Someone," which is pretty fun, and a barely recognizable rendition of "A Day in the Life." "Himalaya Highway" sounds ready for play in your more confused local Indian restaurant, and "Shiva's Lullabye" is a far finer way to make a chill lounge track than by using 101 strings. "Painted Sails on Ganges" actually manages to be an extended track in a genre where songs tend to stay short, and it's a perfect track for the low-rent, basement psychedelic shack. "Santana" doesn't really sound like that band apart from some percussive similarities, but it does mix sitar and synth on the melody line in a truly odd way.

I can't say that this is any sort of classic, although it's definitely a few cuts above the typical psychedelic exploitation. I can say that it's wildly entertaining for myself, and you may find yourself a fan of its grooviness too. Let me say it one more time: groovy.

Popol Vuh - 1974 - Einsjager & Seibenjager

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

That title deserves a couple of umlauts, but I'm not quite smart enough to know how to get them in there. Anyway, the more important matter at hand is obviously this album, which is quite good, but very disappointing for those that drool over the band early interstellar sounds. At this point, Popol Vuh becomes a much more conventional rock band. Yes, they play well. Yes, new guitarist Daniel Fichelscher contributes some great space rock guitar parts. But I'll be damned if this doesn't sound like a band that would perform at a jam band tribute to Pink Floyd or something.

"Kleiner Kleiner" is a watered-down, but still potent suggestion of the band's mysterious tones, but "King Minos" is a better example of Popol Vuh's new M.O. There are touches of prog and the typical seventies rockin' sound that seem like an unfortunate retreat from the frontier that Fricke explored on albums past. Once you've explored the outer realms of sound, it's sort of a killjoy to return. The first side of the album does present a consistently high quality, and there are plenty of nice folk and space rock moments, but it comes across almost as generic for me. The side long title track seems like it could be a return to exploration, but it's really just several jam band-like sounds strewn about a 20 minute period with a couple of more ambient segues.

I've been throwing around the jam band term a lot here. There is far more of a sense of purpose and inspired instrumental command than you're likely to hear on a Phish or Widespread Panic disc, but this album still makes me think of those band while their earlier stuff (and most of the music I review on this site) does not. This isn't bad stuff, it just feels like serious underachieving from what should be a great band.

Buy Me:
Popol Vuh - 1974 - Einsjager & Seibenjager

Popol Vuh - 1972 - Hosianna Mantra

Quality: 4 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 3.75 out of 5

Now, I suppose that it may make me a little grinchy, but I really don't like 99% of the Christmas music that I come across. I usually find the melodies far too predictable and the typically 'warm' instrumentation annoying. Florian Fricke was not out to make Christmas music with the third Popol Vuh LP, Hosianna Mantra, but some of those Christmas characteristics do rear their ugly heads in the music presented here. Apparently, Fricke had decided to become a more hardcore follower of the Christian faith, and the concepts here very much reflect that. That's not really a problem (although it tends to be a bad omen, the prime example being Dylan's 'Christian' albums), but somehow his new-found faith also convinced him to chuck the Moog and focus primarily on more organic sounds. Here it manages to work pretty well, but as the 70's rolled on, I don't think Popol Vuh's music quite managed to create the otherworldly vibes the the first two albums (and the first side of this one) did. Basically we're looking at a pretty good transitional album with Hosianna Mantra; I just don't really like where the transition was going.

Side one is the keeper here, and best refelects what Julian Cope referred to as psychedelic music for a convalescent home. Fricke seems to be eternally rolling around on his piano on the Hosianna Mantra suite, and he's accompanied by plenty of horns, treated pianos, and other such accouterments. The big standouts, though, are the liquid, delayed guitars of Conny Veit, and the soaring vocals of Djong Yun which commence on the second track. The first side is a pretty major departure from the Popol Vuh sound that we heard on the earlier albums, but it is just as effective in creating a distinct sound world. I'm not so hep towards the second side. "Das V Buch Mose," which is arranged as a side-long suite, falls to what I feel is the Christmas music curse. Right at the start we get a flute part that sounds like it was ripped straight off of a Windham Hill Christmas sampler. Sure there's a sitar in the background for added effect, but that doesn't sate the odd feeling in my stomach. The short "Andacht" sections are pretty cool, but "Segung" provides Yun with a vocal line containing too much syrup (granted the instrumental here works relatively well), and "Nicht Hoch" comes across as a slightly psychedelicized "Silent Night."

There is a lot here worth your attention. For those of you with a ear for warm holiday sounds, you might even rate this as your favorite Popol Vuh album. But some of us psychonauts out there may wish that Fricke had not ejected the electronics and focused more on the otherworldly melodies that cropped up on the first two albums and even the title suite of this one.

Buy Me:
Popol Vuh - 1972 Hosianna Mantra

13 November 2008

Popol Vuh - 1971 - In den Garten Pharaos

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

This is a close kin to the previous album, Affenstunde, but Florian Fricke and his small crew did a fine job innovating the sounds they pioneered on that 1970 release. This is widescreen mystical music, finding an awesome balance between the cold, deep space tones of Fricke's Moog and the the warm, primitive percussive sounds. I do not hesitate to call this one of the cornerstones of electronic music. It's not too hard to imagine modern sequencing and pro tool technology rendering this as IDM ('intelligent dance music' for those that may not know), but I prefer this one just the way it is.

The opening track communicates its imagery perfectly, and I always appreciate music that I can describe in non-musical terms. We stand on the shores of the celestial ocean (or Nile as the title seems to suggest) as the god-like entities slowly enter, scouting the land for possibilities and bringing in their royal processionals. Eventually the building block for human civilization are introduced, both figuratively and literally. Reaching into the future, all traces of man are erased, leaving us with only the sound of receding waters. The organ-like, sunburst sounds of "Vuh" follow as our tour of the great beyond. The sounds combine over 14 minutes, attempting to attain that cosmic OM sound (or maybe Vuh in this context). I'm not quite sure how to fit the organ and detuned Moog sounds coda into my tale, but it certainly sounds fine. The bonus tracks here are a great addition, although they definitely do not fit the tone of the album proper. Forming what may as well be considered an EP, "Kha-White Structures" is much more overtly psychedelic and trance-like. My imagery here typically involves the idea of creatures living inside of of your multicolored-DNA who want to teach you about reality (I should mention that I'm not completely making this up - this somewhat arguable idea comes from Graham Hancock's book Supernatural).

We have here music that demands creativity from the listener. That means that you need to give this a dedicated listen to really appreciate it. The imagery it suggests is the gold at the end of the psychedelic rainbow. I'm happy to give this one my highest recommendation.

Buy Me:
Popol Vuh - 1971 - In den Garten Pharaos

Popol Vuh - 1970 - Affenstunde

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

Popol Vuh is the name of the Mayan holy texts. It is also the name of one of the premier krautrock band, although the mystical implications of the former meaning shine through clearly on this record. Florian Fricke, the band's leader and visionary, seems to have been trying to reach for primitive sounds through cutting-edge technology at this point of his career. He was one of the first in Germany to use a Moog synthesizer, and those extra-terrestrial sounds are often juxtaposed with walls of percussion on this collection. It still manages to come across as sound ahead of its time.

The first side of the original LP is a suite entitled "Ich Mache Einen Speigel," which translates to "I make a mirror." I suppose the shimmering synthesizer sounds and clanging percussion would certainly support this idea, but I get a very different image in my head. I see our ancestors seeking shelter in a dark, damp, and forlorn cave many years past. They tentatively creep out as the spring arrives and begin their hunting anew. Then winter arrives with the third section of the suite. Following that 20 minute piece is the eighteen-and-a-half minute long title track. It's is very good, but much more in line with the sounds of contemporary Tangerine Dream. But the fact that Fricke already had a Moog at that time and Tangerine Dream did not gives this one distinct and impressive coloring. There's a nice bonus track also present on the recent rerelease which picks up the pace a bit with some chugging synthesized train percussion, and actually makes for a pretty nice addition even considering the flow of the album

I think I'm in the minority here, but I feel that Popol Vuh began at the peak of their powers and slowly de-evolved into less-interesting and more conventional krautrock (if there is such a thing) and 70's bloated psych-rock sounds. As such, I see Affenstunde as one of the band's magnum opuses (the next one also deserves that tag) as they tear open the curtains of time to reveal mystical and otherworldly sounds.

Buy Me:
Popol Vuh - 1970 - Affenstunde

08 November 2008

Wendy Carlos - 1974 - Switched-on Bach II

Carlos saw the Moog voice as valid on its own terms, which may be one reason why this album still stands out today, when compared with some of the more flamboyant work that followed from others, such as Isao Tomita -- everything here is musical, with no sound effects to speak of until near the finale (and even that is restrained); and the Moog is working in its own "voice," rather than overtly imitating other, non-electronic instruments.

Wendy Carlos - 1972 - Sonic Seasonings

The same year Carlos finalized the score for A Clockwork Orange, the composer recorded a double album named Sonic Seasonings; it was a complete turn away from the majestic synthesizer soundscapes and classical inspirations that had marked the movie score. Instead, Carlos recorded large amounts of environmental passages to produce a work that cycled through the four seasons. Beginning with bird calls and a thunderstorm to mark "Spring," Carlos phrases the synthesizers only in terms of the nature sounds heard. They rarely interject themselves, and the result is closer to a nature recording with occasional effects than a synthesizer recording with nature sounds. Of course, there was no precedent for "nature," "environmental," or even "new age" music in 1972 -- Sonic Seasonings was basically the genesis for several entire genres of music two decades later. As part of East Side Digital's Carlos CD reissue campaign, Sonic Seasonings was issued as a two-disc set, including the original LP plus a second disc of "natural" recordings, originally begun in 1986 and known as Land of the Midnight Sun.

Dr. Schluss' ratings:
Quality: 5 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 5 out of 5
(I should probably mention that this album happens to be one of my all time favorites; thanks Pablo!)