11 December 2009

A Quick Update

Holidays and moving out of my apartment all at once! Although I might get inspired and make a December post, chances are that I won't be back until January.

27 November 2009

Alan Watts - 1967 - The Sound of Hinduism

Quality: 4.5 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.75 out of 5

On this album, spiritual scholar Alan Watts' limits his focus on Eastern religions to the sphere on Hinduism. To be perfectly honest, there's not a whole lot of music of note here. Basically the album features a drone in the right channel, Watts' spoken word in the left, and some percussion taking up the entire sound field here and there. I'm not sure how accurate or not Watts' thoughts about Hinduism are (I'm assuming that he is not full of poo), but these recordings are perfect to put your mind in a meditational state.

The first track, "Om," consists of Watts' treatise on the basic tenants of Hinduism. The man definitely has a fine way with words, and I'd say the artistic/poetic component here is several notches higher than your typical spoken word performance. "Readings From Hindu Scriptures" is pretty self-explanatory, but once again Watts' spoken word stands out. Sandwiched in between is an instrumental track where we get a touch of sitar melody. It's not up to the standards of Ravi Shankar or anything, but it serves its purpose in allowing the listener to zone out.

I suppose that this is one of those albums that I feel becomes more than the sum of its parts. There is some nice, if a bit light, Indian instrumentation for those of you that dig that, and I feel that Watts' presence is of significant note. It's a fine way to turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream with.

Alan Watts - 1962 - Is This It

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

Alan Watts was a British proponent of Eastern religions, and not so much of a musician. He nevertheless managed to release a few albums of tripped out instrumentals and spoken word to try and increase awareness of Eastern traditions. This one is a pretty abstract affair of throat singing, chants, drones, and percussion. Only with Watts spaced out spoken words does the music peak out of the transcendental aether. Like some of Sun Ra's work from the early 60's, this music is true psychedelia years before popular music began to explore similar avenues. Unfortunately, some of this album also shares the questionable recording quality of some of Sun Ra's recordings. Still, it's perfectly listenable and a fine soundtrack for your backroom opium den.

The best place to start with this album is probably with the shorter tracks featuring spoken word. "Onion Chant" and "Fingernail Poem" both feature Watts' Eastern-tinged poetry. The former matches Watts with some percussion and fierce chanting while the latter includes some abstract jazz piano playing. Once you've acclimatized, take a plunge into the long-form freak-outs of the last three tracks. I've got a soft spot for "Metamatic Ritual," but the creepy laughing in "Umdagumsubudu" and speaking in tongues in "The End" is worth hearing if you're up for wild chanting. The end of "The End" kind of frightens me.

Although this music doesn't really fit into the realm of rock, the sounds are about as psychedelic as you're going to find. The crazed percussion definitely makes me thing of some of the stuff that Sun Ra was doing around the same time, but the manic chants, Eastern instrumentation, and Watts' poetry help to distinguish this as a wholly unique album.

Buy Me:
Alan Watts - 1962 - Is This It

22 November 2009

Damaged Tape - 2009/2006 - The Erotic Couch/Cannibal Sisters Soundtrack

I occasionally do soundtracks for independent films makers, most often for my childhood friend Andrew Shearer who writes, directs, and produces films under the Gonzoriffic Films label. These two are probably the ones that I put the most work into (as opposed to Andrew simply using tracks from my albums). I'll write a bit about them separately.

"The Erotic Couch" is Andrew's most recent directoral effort. The idea was to model it after a sexploitation movie from the late 60's. There is no actual nipple footage in the film, distinguishing it from p*rn, but it is of course a sexy affair. Andrew's instructions for me were to make some pre-disco exploitation music. That said, "The Ravishing Recliner" and "The Lecherous Love Seat" have some serious dub leanings, and "The F**kin' Chair" and "Chair F**k" are based off of "Call of the Cosmic Tribe" from the Glaze of Cathexis disc, "The Golden Konbanwa" (although "Chair F**k" no longer contains any of the original track). I'll also note that "The Lecherous Love Seat" is a 'work-in-progress' preview of an upcoming Damaged Tape LP. You'll notice that I've added Moog noise to all of the tracks to approximate a crackly vinyl sound. This was done to match the intentional film defects of the movie itself.

"Cannibal Sisters" is loosely based on a criminal case in Atlanta from about 15 years ago. Since the movie is mostly based in an urban setting (er..., apartment), I tried to contrast it with as many tribal sorts of rhythms as I could. "Boneyard," which also appears on Damaged Tape's "Ship of Lights," was recorded earlier and served as my basic template for the soundtrack along with 70's Italian horror soundtracks (any Goblin fans out there?). I paid close attention to the drum programming, and I felt like the production of this soundtrack significantly improved my drum programming abilities.

To delve deeper into the world of Gonzoriffic, head on over to http://www.gonzoriffic.com. I'm sure Andrew has some DVDs he can set you up with. Check out "Psychovixens" for a glimpse of my own terrible acting as Oscar (the soundtrack for that one is on Damaged Tape's "Electric Ocean"). As a side note, I don't rate my own music, but most of this is probably not very high on the Trip-O-Meter. I think I back off on the psychedelia a bit when soundtracking films.

Listen to Me:
Damaged Tape - 2009/2006 - The Erotic Couch/Cannibal Sisters Soundtrackhttp://www.mediafire.com/?r0xn1vhfykg312p

21 November 2009

Damaged Tape - 2005 - Futara

This music dates back to my first stint in Japan. You could see the back of the Futara Shrine in the city of Utsunomiya from my apartment, hence the name of this collection. This music was recorded from January to May 2005, which is the same period of time that I recorded the Glaze of Cathexis "Tokyo Rainbow Bridge" tracks. Although I was still at the beginning of the learning curve of laptop recording, and I only had a MicroKorg and Reason to work with, I'm still pretty happy with these tracks. For a while I had considered rerecording "Jakarta" and "The Flower of Darkness," but I doubt I'll get to that anytime soon, so the originals are here. You'll note that "Before the Flood" has a sample of Neville Chamberlain ranting about public heath. Being that I recorded it in 2005, this track is not meant as any commentary on the U.S. health care debate - I used the sample as it seemed absurd that this was Chamberlain's priority in 1939 as the Nazis were about to provoke World War II. "Chonk" and "Kung Fu Glue" reflect my bad habit of making up stupid file names so I can save my mixes, and then never renaming them (I also have songs like "Nork" and "Floob" hanging out on my hard drive). Musically, the band Air was certainly still at the forefront of my influences, as were Moby's more ambient tracks from the 1990's. I consider 'side two' of the album to have some sort of concept, although you'll have to work that one out on your own (although I did read Simon Winchester's book about Krakatoa while making the album). Enjoy and feel free to repost elsewhere.

Track List:
1. The Flower of Darkness
2. March to the Moon
3. Temple of Zoul
4. Titan
5. Kung Fu Glue
6. Chonk
7. Martian Cowboy
8. Before the Flood
9. Jakarta
10. Nightmare
11. Volcano Ballroom
12. A Meeting of Minds
13. Last Night

Listen to Me:
Damaged Tape - 2005 - Futara

04 November 2009

Kim Fowley - 1967 - Love is Alive and Well

Quality: 3.5 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 3.75 out of 5

I've sometimes heard Kim Fowley referred to as a psychedelic huckster, grasping at straws to churn out freakish records of bubblegum psych. This record will do nothing to dissuade that viewpoint, but I kind of like it anyway. There is a distinct cheezy charm as Fowley never quite hits the vocal mark even though he seems to be trying really hard, and the production pretty much throws out every psychedelic pop cliche that it can. It's very much a sell-out of its era, though, and this entertains me at least.

There is admittedly not a whole lot of originality here, but there is plenty of a fabricated Summer of Love sound. "Flower City" is an almost cringeworthy re-appropriation of "Ode to Joy," but it does feature a groovy beat and a short rave-up. "This Planet Love" manages to rip off "Who Do You Love?,' complete with a rabid Bo Diddley beat, and "Reincarnation" nicks the "Pushin' Too Hard" beat, which the Seeds themselves admittedly reused themselves about 57 times. "Super Flower" is a completely useless 'interview' section. You'd think that on a 21 minute album they would be able to avoid that sort of track. My favorite here is "War Game," which is a completely insane bit of orchestrated spoken word which would fit nicely on a 60's Zappa album. I will say that "See How the Other Half Love" is a fine psych-pop rocker that doesn't seem to have a specific antecedent (not that it brings anything particularly new to the table).

This isn't a good album, but it has a lot of charm. It's sort of like listening to a distorted, demented version of 1967 pop radio. If you aren't already familiar with cult stars like the Chocolate Watchband or the aforementioned Seeds, by all means explore that first. This odd Kim Fowley album is really just a little sugar for the already initiated. Half the fun is figuring out all of the things he's sonically stealing from elsewhere.

03 November 2009

Dennis Olivieri - 1968 - Come to the Party

Quality: 3.75 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 3.5 out of 5

It certainly is an odd party that Dennis Olivieri has invited us to. There are components of bad trip lyrics, jazz rock, blue eyed soul, and a touch of psych rock wafting around the grooves of this record. Olivieri's voice does tend to be somewhat warbling, but he keeps it under control just enough that it usually works in a 4am bar sort of way. This doesn't always add up to musical nirvana, but there are a few winners lurking about as well as a couple tunes that will leave your jaw hanging bemusedly.

The first couple tracks serve up some jazz rockers that chug along nicely. Although "Opportunity" has a jaunty, jazzy beat, Olivieri seems to be going on about something significantly more depressing. After a few minimalist tracks like "Mama's Funeral Song" and "Walk Rite Out," "I Cry in the Morning" gives us an eerie psych ballad. It's tremeloed organ is enticing, although the production does seem oddly muffled in this one. Olivieri seems to be trying to channel Astral Weeks period Van Morrison as much as he can on "Lady Fair" and the title track, while he comes across as drunker-than-hell on the closing "Yesterday Wan Nuthin' Like Today." I guess it's supposed to close the album in a similar manner to the Stones "Something Happened to Me Yesterday" on Between the Buttons, but Mr. Olivieri doesn't really have that level of songwriting chops.

This isn't the most wacked out thing that we've come across at the Psychedelic Garage, but there are a few oddball moments to be found. Dennis Olivieri's disc can be quite amusing should you have an affinity for jazz-rock and don't mind a few copied Van Morrison moves. That said, you won't quite get the psychedelic freak out by way of Kenneth Anger that the cover suggests.

18 October 2009

Strangers Family Band - 2009 - Strangers Family Band

Quality: 4 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.25 out of 5

Strangers Family Band pretty much hit the nail on the head in term of psychedelic re-creationists. Other than a slight modern sheen in the recording quality, this is a pretty authentic sounding mix of the bad trip tone of the Doors mixed with some of the freaky garage rock punch of folks like the Chocolate Watchband and the Electric Prunes. I suppose they hit the Doors sound pretty hard, but when you get right down to it, not many bands really emulate the Doors, so I'll give the Strangers Family Band a pass (I really dig the Doors anyway). There are a few excursions into the twee-er sound of British psych as well, but that doesn't excite me quite as much.

Following an enjoyable ominous intro, "Girl I've Been Taken" serves up a slice of Nuggets-ready psych rock right from the outset with its groovy beat and chiming lead guitar. It's a fun example of 60's style 12-bar blues mangling. "Wooden Hands" goes straight for the Doors' sound, almost coming across like an unreleased track from "Morrison Hotel." For me, though, "Strange Transmission" and "Beware the Autumn People" are the main events. Both tracks use the Doors vibe once again as a basis, with "Strange Transmission" building into a fine freak-out jam, ad "Autumn Peopl" borrowing the "Five to One" stomp. "No One Sees Her" and "Tangerine" both have a 'Brian Jonestown Massacre getting really happy and going twee' sound. I'm not as enamored to those ditties, but they work well for what they are.

Strangers Family Band aren't particularly about innovations, but they are extremely accurate in appropriating the sounds of the 65-67 L.A. scene. I've always dug that meaty, produced sound (far more than the San Francisco bands of that era), so while the music here is a little derivative, it goes straight for my musical sweet spot. As a side note, this is technically an EP, but plenty of mid 60's L.A. bands put out 27 minute (or less) LPs, so this plays pretty well as a complete album.


Gas - 2000 - Pop

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

The title of Gas' final album is probably about 90% ironic. I imagine that Wolfgang Voigt drove Gas in general with a very specific aesthetic in mind, and "Pop" does little to break that. We still get oceanic synths and orchestral samples with ghostly house drums blaring away somewhere in the distant background. Still, each of Gas' albums somehow succeed in creating an identity of their own within this seemingly limited framework. "Pop" is no exception to this rule.

Like the other Gas albums, "Pop" sports no actual track titles and is best experienced as a whole. It's the little details that distinguish it. The album opens with the first few tracks featuring almost easy-listening style orchestral samples. Perhaps this is meant to reference the title. Of course, these samples are all phased out and weird sounding, but still, the sentiment seems to come across. The fourth track is based on a surprisingly clear (for Gas) piano synth riff whose syncopated bounce also suggests that the "Pop" title is not intended to be completely ironic. It's after this track that the listened is thrown headfirst into swirling, beatless sound for twenty minutes (this is where your mind is supposed to drift somewhere just east of the Vega system). The final track throws all the pieces together for a definitive example of the Gas sound.

The music of Gas is very much something that can only be experienced. While Voigt's project inhabited a small area of music space, he really managed to artfully milk it to its full potential. While "Pop" doesn't quite inhabit the almost sacred ground that I feel "Zauberberg" did, it's a wonderful ambient album that is certainly near the top of its class.

Buy Me:
Gas - 2000 - Pop

05 October 2009

Gas - 1999 - Oktember

Quality: 4.25 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 5 out of 5

This is an EP from ambient master Wolfgang Voigt. As far as I can tell it's practically impossible to find (my own search was quite exhaustive). The sound of the music is very much in the basic Gas mold: heartbeat percussion, endlessly repetitive musical motifs plowing through your braing as you're lifted up on a bed of ghostly samples and synths. Yet, it's amazing how much milage and textural variation Voigt gets out of this template, and there is a dark facet to the Gas ethos that is on display on "Oktember."

The first track here is actually from the contemporous album "Konigsforst." It was on the CD, but not the vinyl, although it is certainly a fine track that has a space lounge twist on the Gas sound. The main event, however, is the second track. This 15 minute epic has a very dark, almost-but-not-quite grinding sound that makes me imagine a tour of a post-apocalyptic industrial wasteland. I don't think it's the best place to begin with Gas, but if you're already familiar with some of the proper albums, it's absolutely necessary listening for a band that only has four album. It's sort of a missing puzzle piece.

Gas - 1998 - Zauberberg

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

Back when Tower Records was still thriving in the US, they published Pulse Magazine, wherein folks would have their ten desert island discs posted every month. This album is a shoo-in for my personal ten desert island discs. Gas' music is formally described as 'minimalist techno,' but to me these ethereal loops and minimal, submerged-sounding percussion exist in their own netherworld which defies any easy classification. More than almost any other music (William Balinski excepted), Gas propels my mind somewhere else.

The tracks on this disc are all untitled, but it's probably best to consider the entire album as a single piece named "Zauberberg." We start upon an infinite ocean of sound, which ebbs and flows for several minutes. As the piece progresses, we start to move upon the surface, with beautiful, strange, and sometimes even disturbing images passing through our mind's eye. The tracks build upon a strengthening heartbeat. Maybe it's the sound of the abandoned lunar disko. Eventually we are returned to rest back in our infinite ocean. "Zauberberg" turns out to be a mystical musical pyramid. As listeners, we are allowed to explore the interior in all of its transcendent glory.

This is music that cannot be hummed while walking down the street, or chopped up into representative parts, but it is amazingly visceral. I imagine that if you're trawling around the Psychedelic Garage, you may be in the market for a musical trip. I don't think you'll find one much better than "Zauberberg."

Buy Me:
Gas - 1998 - Zauberberg

Malachi - 1966 - Holy Music

Quality: 3 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4 out of 5

Here's an early example of an album attempting to run the ambient music sweepstakes. Malachi is a droning, acoustic affair that does manage to break some ground that groups like Arica would
later cultivate, but they unfortunately do it without much of a pulse. Still, there are some interesting musical moments and interestingly oddball instrumentation. To me this is basically a bunch of burnt-out, yet sometimes amusing beatniks trying to approximate the sounds heard from the temple stairs. If nothing else, it's a record that functions well as background music.

All of the tracks are entitled "Wednesday," followed by an ordinal numeral. The sound of the tracks tend to belay that uniform system of titling. We get a great deal of texture amongst the tracks, but not much of a sense of flow or discernible melodies. The music here is kind of static. The "Fourth" and "Fifth" compositions (confusingly tracks three and four on the album) almost dissolve into silence, with very minimal instrumentation defining them.

I keep trying to get myself to like this album, but I just feel like there's not quite enough there. There is the foundation for an awesome album present here, but to me it seems annoyingly incomplete. It's like the group laid out their building blocks, but neglected to actually do anything with them. Give it a listen and you may find some inspiration in the grooves that simply alludes me.

Buy Me:
Malachi - 1966 - Holy Music

21 September 2009

Research 1-6-12 - 1968 - In Research

Quality: 3.5 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 3.25 out of 5

Here's a pretty schizophrenic band for your consideration. At times, they go for the full-on biking hard rock sound, yet then stick in spacey folk-rock songs or honky-tonk songs in between. They certainly get an "A" for diversity. They get a "C-" for album sequencing, however. Unlike the common flaw of front-loading an album, somehow Research managed to stick all of their better songs on side two, with the opening tracks being a little underwhelming. Maybe that's supposed to leave you with a good impression should you make it through the first half without turning it off. Just as a side note, the stereo separation here is particularly annoying, with the drums often hanging out isolated in the left channel. At least it's a pet peeve for me.

On side one we get the balls-out, biker schlock of "Can You Baby" and "Juicy." Those don't particularly manage to keep my attention, but. Neither does the 'old-timey' sounds of "Highway Song" and "The Grass is Greener." I'm down with older styles, and I still love to occasionally put on my Roots and Blues box set, but most of the 60's bands trying to go down that road made a grave mistake. Research is no exception. Fortunately, the side two tunes almost seem to be a completely different, and much better band. "Lip Smakin' Good" comes across like a hairy, freaky, and entertaining Rolling Stones parody. "Omar" is one of those minimalist, reverbed folk-rock tunes. It's like one of the quieter songs from the Jefferson Airplane's "Surrealistic Pillow" with a touch of Donovan thrown in. "The Feeling" is a fun acid rock anthem, and "I Don't Walk There No More" is a more straight faced Stones interpolation.

Do yourself a favor and skip straight to track five or six to give yourself a good impression of these guys. Then decide on your own what to make of side one. This is far from essential, but you never know when music grabs you the right way, and Research gets at least a sporting chance at doing so for you.

Mars Bonfire - 1968 - Faster Than the Speed of Life

Quality: 3.75 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 3.5 out of 5

Mars Bonfire is not the name of the band, but rather the pseudonym of Dennis Edmonton, who played with an embryonic version of Steppenwolf. As soon as you take a glance at the track listing, you'll note the presence of "Born to Be Wild." The version here is in fact the original. As with the rest of Mars Bonfire's album, the hard edge rock is blunted, for a slightly more wacked-out, psychedelic rock vibe. Obviously the connection to Steppenwolf is going to stand out, and the music here doesn't have the thick crunch of that band, but opts for a thinner, yet phased and sometimes sleeker sound. There is a little more instrumentation present here as well, but like the more famous band, rock organ remains in its position of primacy. Really, I prefer the Mars Bonfire vibe and find the version of "Born to Be Wild" here to be superior. It helps that Mars Bonfire is generally a fine songwriter.

As such, there are some other standout songs here as well. The first three tracks really would fit right into your acid rockin' AM playlist. Sure, Mars Bonfire's voice is a little ragged and spazzy, but it gives the impression that he's really trying. I think "Sad Eyes" is a particular winner, splitting the difference between hard rock and AM sunshine pop. As the album moves on, that smaltzy AM pop sound does work its way in. "How Much Older We Will Grow" encroaches on Procol Harum's territory and "Sad" and "Tenderness" sound like something you'd program in to follow the Grass Roots. Still, you get "So Alive With Love" and "The Night Time's For You," which are both basically the same song but at least share the same groovy beat.

If you have any interest in Steppenwolf, it's a no-brainer that this deserves your attention. For the rest of us, there is some enjoyable, single-like material to wrap our ears around. This album may be chock-full of filler, but the highlights really are highlights and nothing here is so bad that I feel compelled to move on to the next track.

09 September 2009

The Beatles Remasters - Stereo vs. Mono

Note: I made revisions to this review on Sept. 12th, having spent more time with the mono box.
Obviously the Beatles are not particularly obscure, but these patron saints of psychedelia deserve at least a little monkey luv at the Psychedelic Garage with their remasters. We'll focus our psychedelic lens starting with "Rubber Soul" and continue through to "Abbey Road," bypassing "Yellow Submarine" because it's not worth it, and "Let It Be" simply because I don't like that album. I've heard most of the stereo remasters at this point, and the sound is quite sterling (I'm patiently waiting for my mono box to show up in the mail, but I have heard them all in Ebbett's form). All the bass missing from the 87' discs have returned, sometimes with a vengeance. I had to flat line the bass listening to "Abbey Road" in my Volkswagen Beetle, whose sound system usually annoys me due to lack of bass. There is some grunge back in the voices, which helps McCartney sound a little more human in those cheeseball moments of his ("Your Mother Should Know," "Ob-la-di Ob-la-da," and the list disturbingly goes on), makes Lennon sound more awesome, and Harrison spacier. Of course in the stereo versions allow for greater clarity in the instrumentation and allows the listener to have greater appreciation for the arrangements. Still, the Beatles were mostly involved with the mono mixes up until around the "White Album," and I'm greatly looking forward to the denser, but in my opinion generally more interesting mono mixes.

The mono set finally came in the mail, and sounds quite phenomenal. They didn't compress and limit and throw all the sound into the red, so it has a very smooth, quarter inch tape sound that the stereo remasters lack (and makes it sound firmly of 60's vintage). The liner notes for the mono are pretty impressive as well, even more so than the stereo version, whch I still enjoyed. Rubber Soul and Help! also include the 1965 stereo mixes. They're not too far off from Martin's 87' mixes, but they do benefit from the more appropriate remastering.

For those of you still stewing over which mix to go for, here are a few of my album-by-album notes:

Rubber Soul
The rockers like "Drive My Car" and "Run For Your Life" end up with a much sharper edge in the mono mix. Still, this album tends to be known for its folk rock cuts (especially in the U.S. version, which isn't part of either set). The stereo gives them a little more of an open, 'playing folk in the field' sort of sound, which is likely appealing for many of you. I still have to give my vote to the mono, which has a more claustrophobic, darker sound. I like my folk-rock a little hairier. Anyway, those of you sticking with the mono disc still get the 65' stereo mix, which is pretty oddball, but not as different from the 87' mix as some would have you believe. both of them feature hard stereo separation, which is a major pet peeve of mine.

I'm pretty split over which mix of this I prefer. In the column for stereo is "She Said She Said" and "Tomorrow Never Knows." The mono mix of "She Said She Said" annoyingly brings down the instruments when the vocals come in. Maybe I'm too OCD, but this almost ruins the mono album for me. "Tomorrow Never Knows" works pretty well either way, but I can't deny that the swirling sound effects in stereo is a major plus. Mono manages to add focus and aggression to rockers like "Taxman" and even "Doctor Robert" that the stereo lacks. "Eleanor Rigby" works a lot better when Paul and the strings are not in separate channels as they are in stereo, and in general George's Indian excursions, like "Love to You" here, work much better in mono. Sitar and tabla work much better when not spread out.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Y'know, I always thought that this album was waaay overrated until I heard the mono mix. Now it stays in contention for my favorite Beatles album. I will give that "A Day in the Life" works better in kaleidoscopic stereo, but the rest of it deserves to be heard in mono. The title tracks rock much harder in mono, as do "Getting Better" and "Lovely Rita." "She's Leaving Home" runs a touch faster and mono, giving it a grace completely lacking in stereo, the version on which I always found the track a drag. Paul knew what he was doing here- it just doesn't sound like that in stereo. Well, almost. I have trouble dealing with "When I'm Sixty-Four" in either mix. Lennon fares well in mono as "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" becomes, like, eight times more psychedelic and "Mr. Kite" is much groovier as well. "Within You Without You" is far more focused in mono, and I no longer consider it a dull excursion as I did with the stereo version. All in all, I'd call the mono a psychedelic masterpiece while the stereo strikes me as a mere shadow.

Magical Mystery Tour
I guess that the EMI engineers had figured out the whole psychedelic mixing thing by this time as the stereo version is generally listenable. The only major flaws are that "I Am the Walrus" infamously switches to mono since the "King Lear" broadcast at the end would otherwise be impossible, and "Baby You're a Rich Man" sounds pretty thin to my ears. Still, I feel like the mono has a groovier vibe - especially for the actual soundtrack songs and "Penny Lane," which comes across too cutesy for me in stereo. Although "Blue Jay Way" loses some elements in the mono, the mysterious vibe comes across just as well, if not better than the stereo track. There is something to be said for the wide open instrumentation of "Strawberry Fields Forever," but in the end I still prefer mono. Basically, this album is a toss-up in the sound debate. Oh yeah, I know the picture cover is incorrect; I just like the EP version better.

The Beatles
By this time the Beatles were taking more of an interest in the stereo mixes, and some of those were even created before the mono mix. In fact "Revolution 1" and "Revolution 9" (the latter of which I actually LOVE) never saw mono mixes and the ones on the mono album are simply fold-downs of the stereo (meaning both tracks are simply shoved together). The mono mix does sound more like a cohesive band than the stereo mix, which led most listeners to assume that the songs were basically solo pieces. There are many differences in the mix, for examples the extra bit at the end of "Helter Skelter" is missing in mono (including the famous shout of "I've got blisters on me fingers!"), and the mono "Good Night" goes straight into the orchestration, while the stereo fades it in. In general, I feel that Lennon's and Harrison's tracks, especially "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," "I'm So Tired," "Happiness is a Warm Gun," and "Cry Baby Cry," tend to have superior mono mixes, while McCartney's and the sole Ringo track are better in stereo. Ringo's "Don't Pass Me By" is sped up and mono and it sounds like he's been snorting helium. In general, the stereo is perfect for cruising in your car or listening on the hi-fi, while the mono is great for a different perspective and headphone listening. For this one, you may very well need both.

Abbey Road
This album never had a proper mono mix (there are a few rare fold-down mono mixes), so at least there's no problem deciding which one to go for. I will say that I never really 'got' this album with my 87' CD, but with the improved sound I totally dig it. The fantastic arranging of the side two suite comes to light, and "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" becomes dynamic proto-metal as opposed to the monolithic slab of dung I always took it for. I've also found myself listening to "Mean Mr. Mustard" repeatedly, which could cause insanity since it's only one minute long.

Past/Mono Masters
I'm totally biased here. Since these are the singles, it seems to me that the mono tracks are the definitive ones simply as AM radio stations in the 60's could only play mono. Of course, with the mono edition you miss out on the great "Ballad of John & Yoko/Old Brown Shoe Single," as well as the superior single version of "Let It Be," which only saw stereo mixes, but you do get the Beatles' tracks from "Yellow Submarine" in never released mono mixes. Harrison's tracks there really flower in mono, and "It's All Too Much" strangely comes across a little more like the Steve Hillage cover from 1976. That's pretty groovy. Meanwhile, "Don't Let Me Down" has a lot more power with the stereo version. With either edition, you get my sentimental favorite Beatles song in mono, "You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)."

08 September 2009

Roland P. Young - 2006 - Isophonic Boogie Woogie

Quality: 3 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.75 out of 5

I don't know very much about Roland P. Young. I've gleaned from the music that he 1) is most likely a saxophone player, and 2) probably completely out of his mind - not that we're viewing that as a necessarily bad thing. The insanity present in these grooves make me recall the sounds of the great Sun Ra. Young definitely emits that sense of adventurous, sonic daring-do. He is missing, however, Ra's method behind the madness. Although obviously lacking in discipline, straight up musical madness can have its own charms.

"Crystal Motions" is pretty interesting, with a tight grid of chiming percussion, eventually interrupted by odd vocals and a blast of saxophone. After a couple of straight-up saxophone experiments, "Loveliness" balances some more conventional (but still out there) sax soloing with a drone and more chimes. The minimalist experiments continue until "Magenta Sky," which sounds like it's from another album with it's programmed slightly askew smooth jazz. I almost hate to admit it, but it's my favorite track here.

Even after several listens, I'm not sure what to make of this one. I want to like it for it's odd vibe, but in the end it's a little too minimalist to truly appeal to me. I doubt it helps that some of the tones here veer into a headache inducing treble range. But hey, maybe you have more tolerance for that than I do.

Sky Picnic - 2008 - Synesthesia

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

It's pretty difficult to actually recreate the psychedelic, garage-punk sound of the 60's. There's a certain sensibility in the playing, a vocal flow that is distinct for the time, and of course the need for clunky, tube-driven production. Sky Picnic is another modern group to make the attempt. Truthfully, they don't get all the way there. The production is way too clean, and I can't help but hear a touch of indie rock sensibilities in the vocals - it's fine but doesn't quite fit. That said, the songwriting does hit the nail on Syd Barrett's head and the playing would fit nicely in an underground, pop-art soaked psychedelic club. All in all this is a pretty fun listen for the heads out there. At the very least, it manages to rate pretty favorably with the better Elephant 6 bands.

"Half the Queen's Face" is definitely a winner, throwing the Floyd's "Astonomy Domine" into a blender and making an groovy beast from the acid-soaked pulp left behind. I love "Moons of Jupiter," which once again has something in common with the Floyd ("Interstellar Overdrive" for those of you not paying attention), but even more so makes me think wistfully of the fake-Chocolate Watchband's "Dark Side of the Mushroom" or "Expo 2000." "The Wise Man Lost His Head" filters in some of the more psychedelic moments of the Beatles while the closing "Sequence IV" goes for the epic, multi-part vibe, although it doesn't quite hit me in the sweet spot that the preceding three tracks do. I imagine that last one works quite well live, though.

This is enjoyable, if somewhat derivative psych-rock. But I don't think that Sky Picnic's goal is some much to innovate as to try and recapture some 60's vintage psychedelic lightning in a bottle. At this they do a pretty fine job. With hindsight as their guide, they tend to hit on the finer points of that musical era while gleefully avoiding the missteps and dross that even the better bands of that vintage occasionally stumbled into.

Visit these folks here:

26 August 2009

LSD-25 - 1967

LSD's a hell of a drug:

I have a bit of a vintage educational film obsession. When entertaining, I usually try and shove a few down my unwitting guests' throats. This is one of the better ones I've come across and definitely among the best 'drug scare' ones I've seen. It'll be on this DVD come October along with another phenomenal drug scare film called "Your Amazing Mind." Thanks to Andrew of Gonzoriffic Films for passing this one my way.
The Love Statue LSD Experience

Sun Ra - 1978 - Lanquidity

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

Although Sun Ra has long since departed for space, it seem that there are always new recordings of the prolific avant-jazz master cropping up. That, or he's transmitting from his space pyramid located on one of the moons of Saturn. Anyway, this one appeared to some cultish fanfare about ten years ago. It far from his most experimental works, but it does have a late 70's jazz funk vibe creeping up that is a bit of a departure. There are no improvised, screaming horn sections here, making this somewhat less intimidating than some of his other work from the decade. I will go ahead and note that side two does crank up the avant-garde voltage a touch, but it all makes for a pretty smooth listen.

The opening title track does of fine job of a slow burn funk intro amongst the swirling sounds of the horns and synths so that "Where Pathways Meet" and "That's How I Feel" can be more straight up funky. It's like an abnormal evening in the weird part of the city. The last two tracks launch a little further into the stratosphere. As a basic reference point, you might think of Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew" period, but in the end Sun Ra rarely sounds like anyone else. These tracks feature some pretty phenomenal, wild electric piano pounding by the sun god.

As Sun Ra dabbled in many styles, there's not a particularly good starting point for his music short of a compilation. This is a fine, accessible album, though, and isn't the worst place to start. Those of you already inducted into the cult of Ra will find this an interesting excursion into electric jazz funk that Ra never really replicated on his other albums (although there are probably five more in the vaults that only 17 people have heard).

Buy Me:
Sun Ra - 1978 - Lanquidity

Andrew Bland - 2009 - Atypical Dimensions

Quality: 4 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.25 out of 5

As usual with this fellow, I should probably point out that this was my college roommate for several years, so I can't say that I'm completely unbiased here. That said, I haven't been in the same general vicinity as him for three years, so I feel able to approach this music with pretty fresh ears - and to those ears this is the best set he's come up with so far. Andrew's M.O. is to create hazy soundscapes with a variety of world and folk instruments alongside his guitars, drums, and an analog Korg. The liner notes suggest that these tracks are destined for a series of short experimental films, and they are mostly perfect for that venue.

Most of the tracks contain an early morning acid hangover sound that has cropped up in fringe music for the past forty years. While it's not quite destined for a David Lynch movie, it would fit in with those inspired by the eerie nightclub vibe of those films. My favorite track here is "Hurdy Gurdy," which comes across like a Brightblack Morning Light track, but is a touch brighter, which I think helps the vibe. I also dig the polyrhythmic percussion and dulcimers in "Sheet Lightning" and "Fuse." "Being in Time" is a fine rhythmic drone, although lacking in dulcimers. Almost everything here is pretty short, so if you do run across a tune that fails to tickle your ear, it's not a long wait for the next bit.

This is a fine album to lend your ear to if you're in the market for some hazy, homemade instrumental psychedelia. Andrew has a few new sound combinations to offer, and the experiments that don't quite succeed (for me the slightly spastic "Paper Lantern") still manage to remain intriguing. Here's his website if you have the urge to poke around: http://andrewbland.net/

Listen to Me:
Andrew Bland - 2009 - Atypical Dimensions

09 August 2009

Steve Reich - 1974 - Four Organs/Phase Patterns

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

Either you like Steve Reich or you don't like music. There, I said it. Granted, I'm not really choosing his best work to make that assertion (for that head for "Music for 18 Musician" or "Electric Counterpoint" off the top of my head), but this is still damn fine stuff. At this point Reich was climbing out of his proto-sampling, pure phase music shell, and starting to make streamlined music with a melodic core. This is definitely a 'transition' work, but the oceans of sound waiting here are worth wading in. Jeez, I hope no one reads that last sentence out loud.

The first piece here is "Four Organs," wherein the four organ players each stick with one note at various lengths while a maracas player drones on. Apparently Philip Glass is one of these organ players, although a piece like this isn't a particularly good showcase for one's musical personality. This is more for sending your mind to Valhalla. "Phase Patterns" is definitely the more intimidating piece here. We get an organ phrase played at slightly different speeds so that in falls in and out of synch. Some bits are wildly beautiful, while others come across as mismatched hell. This one is for brainwashing yourself.

I'll admit that the first half of this gets played on my stereo far more than the second. These pieces do manage to take pure music theory and make something often visceral and always impressive out of it. Reich would later figure out how to combine his experiments into amazing, full-blooded works, but these building blocks are still worth your attention.

Buy Me:
Actually, this doesn't include either of the pieces reviewed here, but it's an awful lot of Reich bang for your Steve buck.
Steve Reich - Phases

Kitaro - 1979 - Ki

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

Kitaro has always been near the top of my scale for new age cheese, although still several notches lower than schlockmeister and Entertainment Tonight guru John Tesh. But like many otherwise fine musicians who committed musical sins in the late 80's and 90's (I'm looking directly at you Vangelis and Tangerine Dream), there are some charms to be found on some of the 70's records. You will have to have a tolerance for synthesized flutes and brass, but at least they're coming out of an analog beast of a machine (maybe a Yamaha CS-80) here. If that fails, Kitaro gets five extra points for his earlier involvement in the Far East Family Band.

Anyway, if you've made it thus far, it's time to consider a few of the tracks. The opening two meld into a nice, drifting suite, but the "dream" sequenced "Kaleidoscope" is the first cut here to get my full attention. It has plenty of fun twinkly sound FX in the background, and some nice creamy, warm analog synth leads to propel it along. "Sun" belongs to the school of rarefied, narcotic washes of sound, which always holds my attention. The epic "Cloud in the Sky" closes the album with more distinctly 70's synth leads, and what I imagine must be a legitimate drum set.

While it does come with a side of cheese, Ki is an enjoyable slice of analog synth dreaminess. I wouldn't rate this with Tangerine Dream's albums from the same period, but it certainly would have made a fine alternate soundtrack for Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" had Vangelis been caught in a wall of Greek fire. Just as a side note, when I first worked in Japan, the company president had several of the trainees try to push him over. He said they failed because of his "Ki," but I was of the opinion that no one tried that hard as to not get fired immediately. Maybe that was in fact his "Ki."

31 July 2009

Bill Plummer - 1967 - Bill Plummer and the Cosmic Brotherhood

Quality: 4.75 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.5 out of 5

You might not be aware of it yet, but you've come to the Psychedelic Garage today to become a fan of Bill Plummer and the Cosmic Brotherhood. I'm willing to say this obscure sitar-infused psychedelic jazz album is one of the absolute best I've heard from the legendary Impulse! jazz imprint. Why they haven't reissued it yet is beyond me. Bill Plummer's primary trade is in the string bass, which does provide the awesome backbone for all of these songs. But someone must have tossed Mr. Plummer in a vat of acid (almost like Jack Nicholson in the 1989 "Batman") before the making of this album. With it's layers of Eastern gauze, occasional blasts of spoken word and free jazz, and oddball covers, this is the most ear pleasingly far-out legitimate jazz album I've come across (the wild fury of John Coltrane's Om, also on Impuse!, is probably the most far out, but it's not easy to listen to).

The first track, "Journey to the East," is far beyond awesome and deserves a place on every psych compilation. It's got a rock-solid groove, crazy chanting, a wall of sitar, and a totally entertaining spoken word rambling. Practically every 60's cliche is packed into the spoken word, but it's all convincingly sold by the dispassionate reading and the phenomenal music backing it up. I think I've listened to it about 600 times in the past week; I can't think of a better complement than that. For your own mind journey to the East, you need go no farther than "Arc 294," which plays as Indo-psychedelic free jazz for about ten minutes. The covers here are of note as well. Seeing "The Look of Love" on a track listing typically makes me groan, but with sitar drones and a groovy beat accompanying the tune, it works out just fine. Even better is the similar treatment to the Byrds great, yet-neglected "Lady Friend." I didn't know that that song required a transcendental Indo-jazz reading, but apparently it did. To hear Mr. Plummer score at making more conventional jazz, head for "Pars Fortuna" and "Song Plum"

This album manages to fuse jazz, Indian music, and wacky psychedelia, while still ending up as more than the sum of its parts. You need to become part of the Cosmic Brotherhood as soon as possible. In fact, I've renamed the 'followers' tab on the side of this page as such so you can (kind of).

30 July 2009

Nino Nardini and Roger Roger - 1971 - Jungle Obsession

Quality: 3.5 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 3.25 out of 5

Before the advent of proper psychedelia, the lounge strain of exotica was arguably one of the better places to look for proto-psych sorts of sounds. Brian Wilson certainly understood this as he tried in vain to put together his psychedelic opus Smile in the mid 60's (obviously the modern finished product reflects this as well). This album is pretty late period exotica, and manages to incorporate a touch of later psychedelia and rock among its generally straight ahead exotica. Note that you'll probably need a love of lounge coming in, but with that in mind this is a pretty enjoyable album.

Many of the tracks here do have a distinct air of familiarity. I'm not sure if that's more from soundtracking use of this material or just from ripping off Martin Denny, but you probably won't have your mind blown. With a rum in juice in hand (well hopefully in a glass first), the groove of this album should become apparent. There's definitely a consistency of jungle-lounge sounds emanating from these French fellows, so I'll simply note that I tend to dig most the wah-wah guitar tracks of "The White Snake" and "Shere Khan," and the light funk of "Bali Girl" and "Tropical." "Mowgli" does a fine job of bouncing back some of the Smile-like sounds. I want to like some of the more mysterious tracks like "Murmuring Leaves" and "Creeping Danger," but I just keep waiting for the damn things to completely morph into "Quiet Village."

I've read a few articles branding this as a classic. I wouldn't go that far, but you're unlikely to find many 70's albums that nail the exotica vibe better than this one. Once again, I must stress that you'll be best off with a rum drink in hand for Jungle Obsession.

Stringsonics - 1972 - Mindbender

Quality: 2.75 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: only fake trips

This is a bit of a depressing album, although well-constructed in a easy listening sort of way. You see, not only are these guys trading in psychedelic exploitation, but they're pretty late to the party. We must note that by 'Stringsonics,' these guys mean syrupy 101 Strings sort of orchestral gloss. There are a few guitars lurking about as well, but much of the album is devoted to the less inventive side of string arrangement. Even with this is mind, we'll give them a couple props for the wonderfully trippy, if ill-fitting, cover art.

"Mindbender" opens the album without doing anything of the sort. Still, this music is generally pretty non-offensive, never stretching into the truly saccharine except on the easily skipped "Freedom Road." At this point, you may wonder why I'm even bothering with the album (barring the cover art). While never plowing any new ground, there are a few hidden surprises on side two. "Dawn Mists," which actually closes side one manages an interestingly ominous vibe with its oddly delayed guitar harmonics. Then for the dumpster diving crowd, the stretch of "Afro-Samba," "Tropicola," and "Safari Park" actually manage some entertainingly funky sounds. The last two even make their way into David Axelrod territory, especially with their rhythm sections. That's a somewhat impressive feat.

So, this is no lost treasure. It will probably entertain those of you hip to the lounge scene, and there are a few surprises hiding in the deeper recesses of this album that may properly catch your attention.

19 July 2009

Flute and Voice - 1971 - Imaginations of Light

Quality: 3.75 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.25 out of 5

Flute and Voice seems to be a bit of a misnomer for this band, but we'll give them a pass as the music is pretty enjoyable. Yes, there are some flutes and voices to be had, but the focus seems to be more on stringed instruments such as sitar and geetar (er, I mean guitar). Although not particularly flashy, the musicians here create a fine flow that brings to mind the pastoral vibe of Popol Vuh's Hosianna Mantra for me.

The opening title track has a strong Indian influence, with the main melody coming from sitar but finding some great space for the namesake flute and voice as well. I still get an image of a bunch of vacationing hippies trying to go Indian, but the result here comes across as classier than the stereotype suggests (check out the still enjoyable Saddhu Brand for contrast). We're then treated to some guitar meanderings which I suppose are striving for some transcendental enlightenment. I don't think they make it there (that would be a five star album), but the attempt is still worth your attention. There's a practically disembodied-sounding vocal helping "Resting Thinking of Time" along its way. "Notturno" aims for a twilight folk sound, and is probably my least favorite as the 'voice' makes it's way a little too far above the surface and doesn't really fit the chill vibe that permeates the rest of the album. There's a bonus track here that manages to nail the Hosianna Mantra sound not just in vibe, but in actual sound as well.

Imaginations of Light is a deeply introspective album that probably is not the first thing that you're going to play for your friends or make it onto a mixtape. Still, I've found myself returning to it constantly as it is very visual and relaxing music. This will definitely make the musical payload when I take my space capsule to Neptune. It's also worth mentioning that the above is only half the cover art as this has a gatefold sleeve. You can stare at the full version for, like, weeks (No, I'm completely sober right now. Why do you ask?).

Buddy Rich and Alla Rakha - 1968 - Rich ala Rakha

Quality: 4.25 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4 out of 5

For those of us living in the West, jazz drumming legend Buddy Rich is the marquee name here, although it's not particularly representative of what you're going to get with this recording. Neither is the trendy, 68' vintage psychedelic exploitation lettering gracing the cover. No, this is in fact a collaboration with the sterling Indian percussionist Alla Rakha, and it's his musical DNA that is most apparent here. Fortunately, the end result is a quite good album of classically-minded Indian music with a few jazz flourishes (although for the most part it seems that Mr. Rich is joining in with hand percussion or just a tom drum).

The first side of this album consists of a few short, percussive pieces. They are uniformly good, but the side opener and closer ("Khanda Kafi" and "Nagma E Raksh" respectively) probably deserve the most attention. It's on these tracks where Rich blasts through as a distinct jazz counterpoint. It's invigorating when his trap kit appears and is one of the more successful renditions of East/West fusion that I've heard. His entry on "Khanda Kafi" never fails to send a chill down my spine. Rakha is far from a slouch himself, providing an amazing tabla pulse for Rich to riff off of, and impressing well with his own solo moments. "Tal Sawari" takes up side two, and includes only Rakha doing impossible things with his tabla, a dim drone, and a touch of chanting. I suppose that the idea was to better introduce Rakha to a western audience, and an impressive introduction it is. As a side note, it seems that Ravi Shankar had a hand in composing and arranging a few of these tracks.

Basically a classicist Indian album with a western twist, Rich ala Rakha will never find a place alongside your typical psychedelic obscurities from the 60's, but that would probably be slumming anyway. This is first-rate music that will transport and perhaps better the mind. It more than deserves your ear and is highly recommended.

The Doctor's Blogging Prescription

I don't make it too far around the bloggosphere these days, with the exception of my regular haunts. The first two of these fellows don't seem to get nearly as much traffic as they deserve judging by the comments. Go there and leave them a comment or three. The third has a strong following, but you should get there forthwith if you haven't already.

Drawing Mountains

This blog manages to dredge up some of the most obscure, yet interesting modern music that I've seen anywhere. There is a bounty of neo-psychedelia, electronica, and wild noise waiting for you here. Pitchfork and Tiny Mix Tapes do not hold a candle to exposing music as interesting as that which appears at Drawing Mountains.

Homemade Lofi Psych

Mike Floyd has been doing a phenomenal job over the past year-and-a-half finding music that fits the bill that his blog name suggests. I've found several of my new favorite bands trawling through his posts, and I bet you will too.

Red Telephone 66

I like to think of myself as a connoisseur of obscure 60's psych, but I have to admit that Leonard has me beat. There's so much appealing 60's finds here, that it's kind of difficult to keep up. In fact, Leonard's is the only blog where I'm not disappointed when there's a break because it gives me time to catch up on the grooviness.

17 July 2009

Cheech 'n' Chong in Tron

A fellow by the name of Casey Basichis is responsible for the (non Cheech and Chong) insanity of this one. It's definitely tripped-out. For some behind the scenes ramblings, go to this link. Here's what the stoned-out duo themselves had to say:

"I don't think you should watch anything like that straight. It'll have lasting, traumatic effects on you." - Tommy Chong

"When I first saw it, I was shocked because I thought we were doing soft porn. And then, 'Oh, it's about finances; that's kind of hard-core porn" - Cheech Marin

Sorry the video spills over into the links. A few more posts should fix that problem.

The guilty parties can be found here (http://www.colorstampede.com/) with some more oddball videos.

13 July 2009

Bob Smith - 1970 - The Visit

Quality: 4.25 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4 out of 5

This album is a very ghostly visit from Bob Smith. On much of the album the music seems to draw together the various strains of west coast psych and folk rock, and then slathers it with reverb and hay production. Mr. Smith's voice also helps with his fine, expressive baritone. He often comes across as a far more chilled out Jim Morrison, complete with metaphysical hippy 'poetry.' The music itself manages quite a bit of variation, with some first rate guitar, fun touches such as vibraphones, and a truly groovy rhythm section. There must be a few samples lurking about in Maury Alexander's and Smith's production for those who have already cashed-out on David Axelrod's albums.

This albums starts of strong, with the first three tracks all making a positive impression. "Please's" bittersweet vibe and distant harmonies are custom for a documentary soundtrack where they cover one of those San Fran festivals with headbands and hippy moms breastfeeding. "Constructive Criticism" does the same before launching into a fun, full throttle acid-guitar and cheese organ groove. I'm sure at the time this music seemed about two years or so behind the times, but I'm willing to say that doesn't matter 40 years after the fact. I find that "Mobeda Dandelions" is a particular standout. It starts sounding much like a "Morrison Hotel" outtake before launching into a wild, almost krautrock-sounding rave-up. "Can't You Jump Rope" also catches my attention through some great interweaving guitar parts. The primary flaw here is really just another example of the double-album curse. The atonal plodding of "India Slumber" really disrupts the flow, and if you also cut the somewhat dull blues of "Source You Blues," you'd have an even better single album.

While there is some mild experimentation, "The Visit" doesn't do a whole lot that you haven't heard before. It is, however, a top rate encapsulation of some late 60's (especially West Coast) styles. With it's distinctively late 60's production and find performances throughtout, I find it's mostly a joy to listen to and a great, poppy psychedelic obscuritiy.

Shawn Phillips - 1970 - Contribution

Quality: 3.25 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 3.5 out of 5

This album is a powerful signifier of the 70's 'singer-songwriter' tradition. The problem for me is that I tend to be bored by that particular strain of music. Still, this is a transition album, with strains of the late Byrds and Crosby, Stills, and Nash also affecting the work. If discovering the missing link between those guys and Jackson Browne sounds appealing to you, then you'll find much to love on this album. For the rest of us, there are a few tracks that might perk up your ears.

The opening "Man Hole Covered Wagon" has a nice groovin' beat and a fine bridge. but it does annoy me that Mr. Phillips has to find every word that he can to rhyme with nation, including constipation. I find little fault with the mostly instrumental eight minute title track, which whips up a nice percussive, acoustic windstorm complete with some phasing effects (actually most of the trippiness on this album comes from phasing effects). The closing two tracks are ok, but still nothing I'd write home about; although it seems I'm willing to write to you about them. "For J.F.K, R.F.K., and M.L.K." is an obviously politically oriented track that makes me think a bit of late-period Jefferson Airplane (early period would be a stronger compliment of course, but I don't dig it that much). Y'know maybe I'll give the early Jefferson Airplane comment to "No Question on the first half of the album. The final track, "Screamer for Phlysis," manages a few fun acid guitar leads, but the rest of the song is still relatively inoffensive folk rock. I guess it ends up sounding like the early Allman Brothers trying to rip-off "Hey Jude."

The rest of the albums breaks various rules concerning what I enjoy listening to. Although "L Ballad" barely registers a pulse, "Not Quite Nonsense" and "Withered Roses" goes for that fake 'old-timey' sound that artists from the late 60's and early 70's almost always managed to bungle.

Plato's Ion has Socrates suggesting that music itself is divine and likens it to a magnetic rock. The artist directly communes with the rock as a bit of metal and listeners can magnetically become part of a chain. This album doesn't really manage to make me a link in the chain, so I have trouble truly appreciating this music (except for the title track). Yet, I can see where this music will appeal to some of you. If you're a fan of that rootsy, late 60's hippy vibe, then by all means give this one a try. It's certainly not bad music, it just doesn't really draw me into its groove. It is a dang awesome album cover, though.

09 July 2009

A Quick Update

This little gal showed up on our doorstep at 5:56pm on July 4th at 8 pounds and 8 ounces. We decided to call her Hana. The first sound is more of a laughing "ha" than the American pronunciation and means "flower" in Japanese. Be back soon with uglier people like Bob Smith and Shawn Phillips

28 June 2009

Glaze Of Cathexis - 2009 - The Golden Konbanwa

This is a bit of a concept album, although it reflects my belief that the best concept albums are somewhat loosely tied together. You'll also find that this collection brings in a bit more of Scott Atkinson, my collaborator. Scott's poems go the farthest in tying the conceptual ideas together. I see it as an awakening and exploration of the world beyond, ending with the need to reconcile that with the world around us. I like to think that this is us at our A-game. Sound-wise, I'm trying to integrate the rock and electronic sides of our music a bit more. I'm definitely happy with the feel of these recordings, which I feel have a fuzzy warmth that was absent on previous albums. I'm far more happy with my vocals as well, and I enjoy the contrast with Scott's spoken word segments. The Dr. Schluss Mix Tape (in the last post) is a fairly accurate gauge of what I feel was influencing me during the recording, and there are some doses of 70's glam guitar along with a "Norwegian Wood" rip-off as well. Feel free to tell me what you hear; the musician often ends up with a blind spot in terms of influences. In all truth, the actual origin of my lyrics tend to gravitate toward my favorite TV shows ("The Ending Will Begin the Start," "Listen to the Voices," "Illusions Disappear") or complete subconscious abstractness ("The Release Will Come Soon"). The artwork is once again all Scott's work. I'd love to hear your comments, and feel more than free to repost this one.

Mike Floyd over at the awesome homemade lofi psych site had this to say:

The latest release from GLAZE OF CATHEXIS - simply their best until now!
Can't say too much about the lyrics (being not a native speaker of the English language - I don't really understand everything), but I very much like the sound of the words and also the singing.
The music is probably the most psychedelic GLAZE OF CATHEXIS have ever recorded, ranging from garage-psych-rockers ("The Release Will Come Soon") to relaxed spaced-out tracks ("Call of the Cosmic Tribe") and more electronic songs ("Into the Aether"). Great stuff, strongly recommended!
Track Listing:
1. The Release Will Come Soon (3:02)
2. The Ending Will Begin the Start (3:50)
3. Call of the Cosmic Tribe (5:16)
4. Listen to the Voices (4:28)
5. Into the Aether (5:02)
6. It Doesn't Matter (4:24)
7. That Halycon Moment (2:08)
8. The Wisteria Garden (3:13)
9. Forget (4:16)
10. Illusions Disappear (3:50)
11. Cosmic Decay (4:18)

P.S. - On a personal note, my wife is due to have our first baby any moment now, so I may vanish for a little while... or maybe not. We'll see. Either way, I'll be back.

27 June 2009

Dr. Schluss' Groovy Mix Tape, Vol. 1

While most of this probably falls under the psychedelic umbrella, there are a few deviations. You'll find some of these albums in the psychedelic garage, but we've also got stuff like a little 70's jazz-funk lurking about, along with a touch of rawk. There's also a fewer newer releases represented here which are too recent for me to feel ok posting the entire album. I made this little compilation to illustrate to Scott, the other fellow involved with Damaged Tape and Glaze of Cathexis, where my musical headspace is currently residing. This is the kind of stuff that I end up playing everyday. It's certainly influenced the new Glaze of Cathexis album (which will be posted in the next few days) and a few even more recent recordings. Hopefully you'll dig at least some of the music that's been catching my ear.

1. Agoraphobia - Deerhunter
2. Rainbow - Thee Oh Sees
3. Half Up Front - Prefuse 73
4. For Our Elegant Caste - Of Montreal
5. Spirit Molecule - Zoroaster
6. ZAP!...That's Witchcraft - Michael Flower
7. Heeding the Call - Bear McCreary
8. Mind Gardens (mono) - The Byrds
9. You Make Me Feel So Good - Bobbi Humphrey
10. Title Music From A Clockwork Orange - Wendy Carlos
11. Motorbike - Wooden Shjips
12. Cardiff in the Sun - Super Furry Animals
13. Wrathchild - Iron Maiden
14. Flower Sun Rain (Japan version) - Boris
15. Zauberburg 5 - Gas
16. It Feels So Good - Grover Washington, Jr.
17. Hold a Desert, Feel Its Hand - Grouper
18. Do You Close Your Eyes? - Rainbow
19. Illusions Disappear - Glaze of Cathexis

Listen to Me:
Dr. Schluss' Groovy Mix Tape, Vol. 1

14 June 2009

Some Groovy Web-Based Music

While I still highly enjoy writing this blog, I do find my time is at more of a premium than when I started two and a half years ago. This means that I tend to focus more on the classic oddities. Still, plenty of folks send newer music my way and I find a good portion of it quite groovy. I'd like you to hear them, so I'm going to try a mini-review format. Here are the ones that I've found myself listening to the most.

Blancanus - 2009 - Singles

Quality: 4.25 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4 out of 5

This Spanish fellow makes music that I feel is very much in the same vein as my Glaze of Cathexis recordings. You'll hear some homemade, relatively clear sounding psych rock with an 80's tinge. Blancanus also strikes a chord of envy as he's adorned these tracks with some live drums. There's a clear progression of quality as we reach the more recent singles, with "The Sea of LSD" standing out as overtly awesome. My only complaint is that these recordings really deserve some proper cover art (I'd be willing to do it, but my covers are a little half-assed).

Caregiver - 2008 - Letters 1

Quality: 3.75 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.5 out of 5

This is an analog synth fantasy well entrenched in the Berlin School, especially the mid 70's Tangerine Dream stuff. While I do wish for a few more organic sounds, music of this nature doesn't necessarily need them. Just be forewarned that you're in for a coldly beautiful ride. The arrangements are pretty spot on with old-school trance sequencing underpinning the whole affair. I'm especially partial to the first ten minutes of "ABC," and the whole of "GHI." That's more than half of the album.

Catasto Elettrico - 2009 - Infinite

Quality: 3.5 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4 out of 5

These jazz-psychonauts have been grooving along on the internet for a few years and eight releases now. This is their most recent. It's got a serious experimental edge to it, and quite a few electronics at the forefront. I tend to enjoy their jazzier parts the best and have an affinity towards the first track. It all depends on what your bag is. Head to their website for more, especially my favorites, Micro and Radio.

Sister Waize - 2009 - The Lights Come From Above

Quality: 3.75 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.25 out of 5

This sounds like the soundtrack for a super-trippy, lost Mega Man game. Now this is coming from a guy who was made his way through all the Mega Man games and even a few of the X's, so I mean this as a compliment. Sister Waize has an enjoyable way of filling up the soundspace with lots of super quirky bleeps and bloops. Although lacking the lush wall of sound, I hear a few echoes of early M83 bouncing around in here as well. Like Caregiver, this is very cold sounding music for the most part. The difference here is that I get to play video games in my head while it's playing.

We're Late For Class - 2009 - Opium Den Music

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

This is the most recent release from the prolific collegiate stoners. My favorite is still the one that re-appropriates Jim Morrison, but I'd say that this one ranks in their upper-tier. Prepare yourself for an enjoyable brain-vaporizing, tranced-out psychedelic jam as these intrepid musicians try to take you along for a ride in the seedier parts of Asia. At least that's what they say. For me, this track would be right at home in one of David Lynch's more surreal bars; that or the Titty Twister.