31 January 2009

Frankie Dymon, Jr. - 1971 - Let It Out

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

Let It Out is an interesting obscurity hailing from the Achim Reichel corner of the kraut-rock scene (Reichel often makes me think of a slightly crappier, yet still solid Cosmic Jokers). The star of the show is apparently a 'poet,' which is tag that I never really trust in the context of rock n' roll. He's a pretty entertaining dude, recalling the contagious, yet goofy sincerity of Cyrus Faryar on the Zodiac's Cosmic Sounds, and the odd pronouncements of William Shatner on his infamous albums (I think I mean this as a complement). Fortunately, Mr. Dymon is supported by some truly interesting musicians. The vibe is very different that what you might hear on a proper Achim Reichel disc, but it's no less well done.

"The City" is a nice funky start, and the pastoral sound of "Sylvia" is pleasant enough. The real fireworks begin with the kraut-blasting "Aftermyth." There are some screaming guitar lines and flute winding around each other before a creepy chorus and random percussion sounds back Dymon's pleading to his mama about smack and the sorry state of early 70's society. Then this
all shifts into orchestral backing. Yow! Side two manages some real hard-core funk with "Together Train" (it must be the funkiest Germanic players ever managed, although Can typically faked it pretty well). The rest of the disc is more of a comedown with lots of acoustic guitars, piano, and a couple organ tones. The last track is like Primal Scream doing the Stones with a stranger vocalist.

Yes, Let It Out is a horrifically pretentious album. But it's one of those things where it's been so overinflated that the eventually bursting is pretty amusing as well. I'd say this works out a lot better than, say, Sergius Golowin's spoken word/kraut-rock mismatch, which actually did have involvement from the Cosmic Jokers.

The Oscillation - 2007 - Out of Phase

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

This is one of those album that pretty much caught my attention on the merits of the album cover alone. That eggy look is a little creepy, but the color treatment is very groovy. I suppose that's probably a fair assessment of the music as well. The sound here exists in some sort of state lingering between the guitar wildernesses of Deerhunter and 80's Sonic Youth, and the more metronomic side of kraut-rock, all punctuated with a touch of industrial noise. So, yeah, it kind of a dark, but strangely catch affair.

The first couple tracks are a pretty awesome intro with the alien landscape of the instrumental "Visitations" juxtaposing with "Liquid Memoryman," which kind of makes me think of the Butthole Surfers covering Can. Later, we get to visit a narcotic happyland, complete with chimes, on "Head Hang Low." It's like the 80's guilty pleasure pop hit of the apocalypse (turns out it's a Julian Cope cover; so I guess my reaction makes sense). There is some new wave spazziness present on "Comatone (Part One)," and "Respond in Silence" is like the electro version of the aforementioned Deerhunter. "Gamelan Mindscape" has some sounds that are probably intended to reprogram your brain, but it doesn't quite come off as well as I would like as it's throuwn up against a jerky Gang of Four-like groove. I'm always partial to the extended instrumental freak-out myself, and the closing "Visitation (Exit)" pretty well delivers on that. Although the Oscillation is a profoundly obscure act, the production here is very crisp and lively sounding.

While there is a lot here to impress, the Oscillation does have some growing room. As the many comparisons above may suggest, the band hasn't completely internalized its influences in the way that a classic band does. It's pretty well straight up on their sleeve. Additionally the band relies on a lot of grooves to propel their songs, and these sometimes flirt with cliches. Fortunately, there are typically a few wild-ass sound flying around in the mix as well. I'd be pretty curious to hear some future albums from these folks. If they can pull everything together a little tighter and find some original focus, they might manage greatness. They're just not quite there yet.

Buy Me:
The Oscillation - 2007 - Out of Phase

24 January 2009

Steve Reich - 1974, 1986 - Mallets

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

I have to admit that this is probably my most listened to of Steve Reich's highly regarded body of minimalist works. While I'm often a sucker for lots of strange instrumentation, I feel like composers in this genre are often at their best when confined to a small selection of instruments. As the track titles explicitly tell you what you'll hear, this music fits that bill.

First off is "Six Marimbas." "Under My Thumb" is one of my favorite Stones songs, so it may be no surprise that I have an affinity for the marimba sound. The track has sort of a jungle-like, monkeys banging around sound. At first it may even seem like a new age song, but where that genre would start slathering on the cheeseball melodies, Reich plunges deeper into the jungle with the relentless marimba rhythms. I'm not quite as big a fan of the second track, but it is still top flight Reich work, with the mallet work once again taking center stage as the other instruments add a variety of color. As good as it is, this one more overtly recalls Reich's seminal Music For 18 Musicians (you should probably go here if you are new to Reich).

This is the kind of music that I can listen to all day. It is wonderful as background music, but really starts to shine brightly if you are willing to give your attention to the myriad of texture and tonal variety.

Terry Riley - 1983 - Descending Moonlight Dervishes

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

Here we are for another Terry Riley freak-out. Sure the man is a legitimate composer, using plenty of classical theory and existing as one of the prime movers of minimalism. But at it's heart this is music that can only be experienced. From what I understand, this one is a live organ recital, but with the different patterns of sound it's often difficult to imagine that this involves only a single organist. I guess the man is able to synchronize his hands and feet like clockwork.

I only have a single track for this one, although I understand that the piece is often paired with something else. At 52 minutes, though, there is no lack of music to sink your teeth into. For once, I'm more or less at a loss to describe the music. Pretty much everything is a series of interlocking organ patterns that travel at often breakneck speeds and are far more trance-inducing than 99% of other sounds that bear a 'trance' label. If you already dig Terry Riley, than this will be manna from heaven. If you're not and can deal with a very extended track, this is not a bad place to start.

I wouldn't quite put this up with A Rainbow in Curved Air or In C. Those pieces have more instrumentation and thus provide more tonal color. This piece is even more minimalistic than those classics, but it does have the benefit of distilling Riley to his essence and providing an even more meditational sound than the others.

09 January 2009

The Vertigo Swirl - 2009 - The Vertigo Swirl

Quality: 3.948 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.25 out of 5

Here's a bit of brand-spanking new psychedelia via a fellow named Brian Andrew Marek. He seems to draw inspiration from many of the bands lurking around this blog, with touches of 1960's psychedelic pop, krautrock, and a dash of 70's rock informing the melodies. The production is also of note. Although definitely shifted over to the more lo-fi end of the sound range, the instruments stand out crisply and blend in all the right places. This stuff was recorded very well and mixed even better.

The album is clearly divided between more compact vocal contributions and more extended instrumental space explorations. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you may surmise that I'm more attracted to the instrumental tracks. "Welcome to My Carnival" and "Thank You Thank You" do a fine job of evoking prime late 1960's psychedelic pop; maybe too well. They sound strangely dated despite being brand-new recordings. I guess it's best thought of as a kind of a Dukes of Statosphear re-creation; this is stuff very much of a kin with the Merchants of Dream or Paul Perrish. "Thank You Thank You" also seems to also be an (un?)intentional tribute to the similarly titled Big Star tune, although it functions well enough under its own power. "I Get the Visions" pushes things even farther into a seventies sound. It makes me think of the Who's Next-era Who trying to evoke Pink Floyd's Meddle.

Alas, I'd like to think that you would forge a firmer connection with the hypnotic instrumentals. "Baited Breath" is a swirling world of sound. We get backwards guitars and sitars and everlasting synthesizer drone, improbably but effectively stitched together by an almost AOR piano riff. The main course in both length and content is the sprawling title track. It sounds like an LSD ceremony presided over by Manuel Gottsching's delayed guitars before plunging into the abyss (or vertigo swirl I'd presume) at about the 12 minute mark. The hypnotic quality is also of note. It achieves the rare quality of sonic time dialation. It ends, and I can't convince myself that the thing is longer that 1o minutes, although the track actually goes on for 23 minutes.

You're not going to do too much better than this if you're on the prowl for new psychedelia (at least not of the hypnotic type). Everything here is finely crafted, and the instrumental tracks in particular will provide some mind transportation for your entertainment and enjoyment.

Magical Power Mako - 1975 - Super Record

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

This is a pretty strange collection of tunes, but in comparison with Magical Power Mako's debut, Super Record is much more conventional. There's a lot of diversity with Mako trying out different world folk styles along with a few space rock freakouts. The album, however, doesn't veer off into musique concrete like the previously album does.

"Andromeda" comes across as a variant of the style of jamming that early Ash Ra Tempel employed. There are unique touches, though; especially in the way the midsection of the track seems to disintegrate and then reintegrate. I'd say that the name of the tracks is often a good pointer to the sound with "Tundra" having a positively icy sound and "Silk Road" having the sonic texture of a caravan (with an acid rock guitarist in tow) traversing the Gobi Desert. I guess "Woman in South Island" continues this mold if we consider that southern island to be part of India. It's probably worth mentioning that this album is almost entirely instrumental. There are some wordless vocals on "Pink Bitch," but that woman sounds half insane. The last four tracks of the album all have the same intro, but they don't seem to be a song suite. They do, however, continue the festival marching rhythms, with each track getting progressively stranger. The band amps up, threatening to dive into one last power freak out on the closing "Sound, Mother Earth," but they never quite get there.

Realistically, this is a far more listenable album than the debut. You can actually follow what's going on, but it doesn't make your jaw drop in disbelief quite as much. They stay pretty weird inside their more defined instrumental bounds, though. If you've exhausted your experimental kraut-rock outlets, Magical Power Mako is probably a logical next step for you.

Buy Me:
Magical Power Mako - 1975 - Super Record

Magical Power Mako - 1973 - Magical Power Mako

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

First off: YES, THAT IS THE REAL ALBUM COVER. I confirmed this only through years of painstaking research.

I'm at pretty much of a loss to describe this one. While a large percentage of Japanese pop music is simply tired echoes of Western sounds, a few bravely trudge on in the other direction and make some of the more extreme music that you're likely to hear. This debut from Magical Power Mako is about as weird as you're going to get for psychedelic music in 1973. While there are hints of a rock band on the album, any semblance of a recognizable framework goes flying out the window as we mix in found sound, Japanese folk tones, odd electronic noise, children singing, and more.

Let's see if we can't take a quick tour of the album. We start with a news report a little like Hendrix's "ESP," but without the screaming flying saucer guitar sounds. This plunges directly into what sounds like a Japanese summer festival at its drunken height (and probably the ingestion of the wrong kind of mountain mushrooms), interrupted by a variety of odd noises and found sounds that eventually envelop the song. It's practically indescribable and completely unclassifiable. It has the potential to actually drive you mad. The next track, "Tsugaru," manages to scale things back with a wild koto and strange muttering. In fact, nothing here is identifiable 'rock' until a bit of space jamming at the end of "Flying," which is the sixth track. "Retraint. Freedom," while still completely demented, sound positively normal in this context with its discernible drum rhythm and churning guitars. This is immediately followed by what sounds like a Japanese "You Can't Always Get What You Want" backed by a local elementary school. After a few more tracks of various flavors of oddness, "Look Up the Sky" takes twelve minutes to shift from solo piano, to something kind of Berlin school-like, to an utterly strange wall of sound.

Nothing I write is really going to capture the tone of this album. It's a completely unhinged journey into whatever trip as flowing through Mr. Magical Power at the time. I can't promise that you're going to dig it, but something here will managed to bend space-time and blow your mind; probably frighten you a bit as well.

Buy Me:
Magical Power Mako - 1973 - Magical Power Mako

01 January 2009

Damaged Tape - 2009 - Psychedelic Anthropology

If you would allow me, I'd like to take you on a trip through mythological history. Using state-of-the-art-technology, Damaged Tape has electronically recreated some of the sounds that once graced lands such as Atlantis, Shangri-La, and the holy kingdom of Priester John.

I've spent the fall working on this collection of music, and possibly sacrificed a bit of my sanity making it. The tracks here are heavily layered and include things such as ghost melodies hanging just underneath the surface while rhythms cross each other in a uneasy alliance. The main focus here was on analog synthetic pomp, but you'll find things like curiously haunted guitars and acid-house beats lurking around in the mix too.

My collaborator on the other side of the world for this one was Scott Atkinson, my pal from down under. Both of us are history dorks, avid connoisseurs of things psychedelic, and we were more or less on the same trip for this one. Beyond his very tripped-out artwork for Psychedelic Anthropology, he has contributed some haunted spoken-word beat poetry on the first and last tracks to fill in the thematic blanks. If you dig his contributions, more of his work can be found here: www.redbubble.com/people/floatingworld

As usual, I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments and I hope you dig the tunes.

Listen to Me:
Damaged Tape - 2009 - Psychedelic Anthropology

Glaze Of Cathexis - 2009 - Cloud Machine

I haven't been recording much rock lately, but I'd like to share with you some recording that were left off of previous albums for various reasons. This isn't to suggest that the songs here are scraps. I'm actually quite happy with many of these tracks; they simply didn't fit on the previous albums. In fact, "Endless Sky" and "Running Into the Ground" are among the few Glaze of Cathexis songs that I've had the opportunity to play live. Many of these have a little more of a synth-pop/new wave vibe than the other albums do. "Mystery to Me" is still one of my favorite tracks with its blend of Talking Heads, Echo and the Bunnymen, and Television. The first two tracks seem to have unconsciously tapped into the early Cure sound. I could never really decide if instrumentals like "Cloud Machine" and "Voodoo Doctor" were destined to be Damaged Tape or Glaze of Cathexis tracks (until now of course). "Every Day" was supposed to be the closing track on Tokyo Rainbow Bridge, but I didn't notice the omission until the thing had already been released. "Something to Bend" was left off of The Holographic Universe because I felt like it had a similar vibe to "Frigid Season." I find "Never in Synch" and "Out of Step" slightly embarrassing for some reason, but not enough to keep them under wraps. I'd love to hear your comments about these tracks as I'm finally getting around to recording new Glaze of Cathexis material (check out Dr. Schluss' Best of 2008 for a little preview).