24 June 2011

Tim Hollier - 1970 - Tim Hollier

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

Tim Hollier clearly dug Tim Buckley's early records. This disc is sort of a slightly psyched-up 'Tim Buckley-lite" affair that manages to hold one's attention pretty well. Hollier's voice is very pleasant and tuneful, although he can't really touch the wild dynamic range of Buckley's voice. The production is is a little muddy sounding, but in a fuzzy way that complements the music pretty well. Although folk-rock is clearly the order of the day, the band does work up a groovy head of steam to give the songs a nice sonic push when needed.

Most of the tunes here are pretty solid, though only a few really stand out. Despite some really clunky, cliched lyrics, "Seagull Song" worms its way into your head with a fine folk melody and some groovy guitar and flute leads bouncing about in the background. "And It's Happening to Her" and "Love Song" are very catchy ballads, with some guitar leads that seem to echo the late night soul vibe of the guitars on the Velvet Underground's third album. "Evolution" is the longest tune here, and finds a pretty fine sweet spot between Buckley, the Byrds, and a touch of Dylan. "Evening Song" is a fine tripped out coda with Hollier's ghostly vocals searching through a forest of tremelo guitar.

I keep referencing American artists, but Hollier is a Brit and the echoes of that islands folk traditions are on display here. Still, it's clear that Hollier likely had a large pile of L.A. folk-rock vinyl taking up space in his 'flat.' This set isn't really a mindblower. It's probably not going to change your life, but it's a very groovy concoction while it's playing - although I do occasionally wonder why I'm not just listening to Tim Buckley's "Goodbye and Hello" instead.

23 June 2011

Rex Holman - 1970 - Here in the Land of Victory

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

This album is a reasonably entertaining set of sort of mellow, singer-songwriter light psych. The production has a nice think woodsy sound, and the songwriting is rarely embarrassing. Holman has a pretty strong 'dude-with-a-mustache' voice, although his vibrato often gets a little out of control - it's like he's singing in a fan or something. Still, this music sits in a strange grey area between Kris Kristofferson and Donovan that should hold your attention for a bit.

The best tracks here blend Holman's 'manly-hippy-on-the-moors' sound with a bit of an Eastern vibe, which basically means a few bongos and a sitar. "Rowin'," "Sit and Flatter Me," and "Debbie" all ride this sort of groove pretty well and are probably the best tracks here. "Debbie" especially has a cool shuffling rhythm and makes me think of Scott Walker before he started using slabs of meat as percussion. I also dig the twilight psych of "Copper Kettle" and "Come On Down." Yeah, for some reason side two seems to be the superior side. Well, the opening title track is pretty solid as well, adorned with chimes, flute, and a catchy Brit folk melody. It's also worth mentioning that Rex doesn't rock. He sort of, kind of gives it a shot on the bluesy "Red is the Apple" and the 'Dylan as bubblegum pop' "I Can't Read My Name," but, y'know, they're both still pretty mellow when you come right down to it.

In full disclosure, this isn't quite up my particular musical alley. I'm definitely cool with the psych and Eastern touches, as well as the general British folk underpinnings, but this really is halfway down the Wonder Bread, 70's singer-songwriter hallway. If you've got a 'thang' for that sort of thing, then you'll probably have some additional appreciation for these recordings.

10 June 2011

13th Floor Elevators - 1968 - A Love That's Sound

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

The third 13th Floor Elevators album, "Bull of the Woods," has always been somewhat of a disappointment. The band had pretty well disintegrated from legal troubles, insanity and various other pressures. With vocalist Roky Erikson and lyricist/electric jug player Tommy Hall pretty much out of commission, guitarist Stacy Sutherland did the best he could and he did manage to pull off a pretty good psych rock album. The problem was that it didn't really deliver as an Elevators album. This collection gives us a much groovier view of what a real third Elevators album could have been. Rocky Erikson sings on all of the tracks that feature vocals, even if a few of them are likely just guide vocals, and the band rocks a lot closer to their signature sound. The monoural sound quality is somewhat muddy, but us longtime Elevator fans should be used to that from years of substandard versions of their first two albums. The electric jug only shows up on one track, but let's face it - the jug was always a bit of a novelty and the band does pretty well without it. Also, we get to lose those damn horn overdubs which marred "Bull of the Woods."

The first six tracks here are first rate, if a bit rough, 13th Floor Elevator rockers and stand up pretty well in comparison to the classics on the first two albums. "It's You" is a fine display of the poppier side of the band with a chorus that will end up stuck in your head forever, while "Livin' On" and "Never Another" serve up a tighter version of the psychedelic guru vibe that the group pursued on "Easter Everywhere." Erickson's version of "May the Circle Be Unbroken" is one of the group's absolute masterpieces, although it does admittedly come across a little better in its stereo version on "Bull of the Woods." Since the first six tracks only clock in at about 22 minutes, the disc is filled out with some instrumental takes called "Sweet Surprise" and "Moon Song." They're relatively dispensable, with the former coming across like a blues based jam and the latter sounding like a rocked up version of "Postures (Leave Your Body Behind)." Still, they're a nice momento of the prime Elevators sound just before it was lost forever.

I typically shy away from recent releases, but I imagine many of you may stay away from this release due the somewhat poor reputation of "Bull of the Woods." Surprisingly, this document of the band is almost as essential as the first two albums. If you have any doubts, note that this is actually the first disc of the set while "Bull of the Woods" is relegated to the second disc. There are some pretty interesting liner notes included as well. Buy it - Roky deserves the royalty checks.

Buy Me:
13th Floor Elevators - 1968 - A Love That's Sound

03 June 2011

We're Late For Class - 2011 - Music of the Spheres

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

These psychedelically-minded musical bloggers have been blasting a few tunes our way every now and again for a few years now, but I think this is one of the better efforts I've heard from them. We're Late For Class is a rather free-form grouping that records whatever abstractions fits their mood at the moment, and it seems that they were in a jazzy, space rock mood for this one. The production quality here is also a nice step up, with a hazy, crisp vibe propelling the sounds into interstellar space. I'm also a sucker for the kind of cosmic cover art that this one sports, and the music reflects it pretty well.

We've got two tracks here that almost form a bit of a musical suite. "Blood Queen of Sun Ra" shuffles along the rings of Saturn, and includes some groovy samples from god knows where. "SOL's Time and Space" drifts along a more conventional, but well played Floydian strut. There's some vibraphone, or xylophone, or somethingmaphone that brands the track with a nice, unique musical identity.

When you need a quick fix of modern psychedelic jamming, We're Late For Class serves well as your sonic dealer with almost 60 shorts sets to tickle your ear. Have a gander at their offerings here: We're Late For Class

Listen to Me:
We're Late For Class - 2011 - Music of the Spheres

02 June 2011

Sister Waize - 2011 - Realignment Series

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

To many, it may seem that creating a drone is a simple procedure - just sit on one note of your synthesizer for 20 minutes or so and let 'er rip. I've given it a shot on several occasions, though, and getting it right is not so easy. This album, happily, gets it right. Sister Waize's latest release isn't so much music as a set of experiences for you to enter. David Mekler, the fellow behind these, calls his recordings 'folding drone music.' I don't quite get that concept, but put these on in the right frame of mind and the visions will surely come.

I typically like to ramble on a bit about the songs, but the tracks here pretty much defy description. Even Mr. Mekler doesn't suggest playing more than one or two of these at a time. In fact, he's created a set of instructions to go along with these albums. I can't write anything better than the man himself, so here's an extended quote to get you ready for this psychedelic dark ride:

"1. Listen at night, before going to sleep. Make sure you are not too tired though because it will be very easy for you to just fall asleep.

2. Be in total darkness, pitch black.

3. Lay in your bed, on your back and make yourself as comfortable as possible. Lay for a minute or two until you've settled into your bed before you start the track.

4. Make sure there will be no interruptions that will take you away from the track before it ends, the whole thing must be listened to in one sitting without interruption (this is extremely important, think about it as losing your train of thought and then trying to continue).

5. Only use decent headphones/good headphones. Do not use earbuds by any means, you will just be wasting your time. Sennheiser is my personal brand of choice, you can easily get a great pair of headphones from them for less than $50.

6. While listening try your best to keep your eyes closed and body still as much as possible. It's very difficult to avoid fidgeting for 20 minutes or so, but try your best. This is so you can give complete attention to the sound as it moves.

7. Keep your mind on the sound and let your mind ride with it. Letting your mind wander is fine, but don't get hung up on anything specific for too long. Just try and let go.

8. If you can, stare at the back of your eyelids while you listen and focus on the colors. This is where the inner eye hallucinations can usually come from, don't stress it too much though, keep most of your attention on the sound.

9. Most songs that I've made which are applicable to what is being talked about here are shorter than a television show... keep this in mind before listening. Understand how long the track is exactly so that you know ahead of time. I say this so that you won't start to think about when it will be over while the song is in progress. I promise you, it will end eventually. They are as long as I feel they need to be, and as short as possible."

I followed the instructions and ended up with a pretty surreal meditational experience. It's certainly far removed from typical music theory, but it serves its intended purpose quite well. It's sort of like what Lou Reed's "Metal Machine Music" could have been if Reed wasn't so busy trying to stick it to the record company. Give it a listen when you're ready. In fact, it's pretty late at night here in jolly old Japan, and I do believe I'm going to go ahead and trip out to a track or two right now. For more of Sister Waize's sonic world, head for this website:
Hidden Dojo

Listen to Me:
Sister Waize - 2011 - Realignment Series I
Sister Waize - 2011 - Realignment Series II
Sister Waize - 2011 - Realignment Series III