31 August 2011

Jaim - 1969 - Prophecy Fulfilled

Quality: 4 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 3.25 out of 5

This blinding blast of sunshine pop arrived from parts unknown (to me at least) back in 1969. Although it's a private pressing extreme obscurity, the squeaky clean sounds found here do rank up the big boys. The production has a nice snap, crackle, and pop, and at least fits into the same ballpark as yr. Brian Wilsons or Curt Boetttchers, even if this album doesn't quite touch that upper pantheon. The songwriting is a fair sight cheesy - but that's really the norm for sunshine pop and most of these tunes are solid constructions. As a warning, though, this is one of the 'whitest' albums that you'll ever hear. Don 'No Soul' Simmons and his brother from the Methodist commune (this is only a guess - I have pretty much no infor on the background of this set) hit all the right notes, but in an extreme 1910 fruitgum company barbershop quartet sort of way. I recommend chasing this album with some early Funkadelic or something.

The songs are pretty much custom fitted for the sounds of late 60's AM radio, we're in the twilight zone between the Grass Roots and Sagittarius on this one. "Your Loving Voice" is a catchy, blue-eyed, porcelain doll, soul ditty that is practically repeated at the start of side two as "Back in Circulation Again." Oops! "Pretty Woman" (not by Roy Orbison) and "Sunday Dawning Morning" are some gleaming shards of sunshine that much be in some parallel universe's top 40, where Jaim still play Vegas and have middle-aged panties thrown at their heads nightly. They nail the lyte-psych pop ballad twice with "Running Behind" and "Ship of Time." These are the sort of tunes that Greg Brady could have chased the girlies with as Johnny Bravo. The not-particularly-authentic-touch of bossa nova on "As the Sun Meets the Sea" does manage to brand the tune as an album highlight nonetheless. Only on "Sparkle In Her Eyes" does the cheese level rise to the point where I end up vomiting on my record player (not that I actually have this on vinyl).

If you've got the stomach for hardcore sunshine pop which comes from a land where 'R&B' only stands for 'recreation and bicycles,' then you'll find that this is a lost classic of the genre. Despite the albums obscure and vague origins, it does have the professional-sounding spit and polish that this kind of music needs to really work. It's still funkier than Harper's Bazzar. Don't you dig the cover shot, too? It's like they're about to include you in their satanic, death-cult ceremony. That's not what this music sounds like.

30 August 2011

Staff Carpenborg's Electric Corona - 1969 - Fantastic Party

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

Although I believe that the intention of this band was to knock out some psychedelic free jazz with a dose of teutonic 'Firesign Theater' thrown in for giggles, in retrospect this album serves as some of the primordial ooze of krautrock. Really, these audio freakouts barely qualify as songs. On the plus side, most of the tracks feature some killer breakbeats (really, if no one's sampled this album someone needs to), perhaps a groovy bassline, and some completely aimless noodling on guitar and organ. It's unfortunately the organ and guitar that really stops this set from being particularly good - that and the horribly annoying vocals when they appear.

As I mentioned, this are more like half-assed studio jams with a great drummer more than tunes than you'll whistle while strolling down the street. 'Lightning Fires, Burning Sorrows,' and the last track I suppose do this best job of recreating an evening at London's UFO Club, although it would have admittedly been a substandard evening there. Avoid 'The Everyday's Way Down to the Suburbs,' 'P.A.R.T.Y.,' and 'Let the Thing Comin' Up' as the vocals will drive you to take out everyone in your neigborhood and finally turn the flamethrower on yourself.

No, this isn't a particularly good disc, but it is interesting for the armchair music historian as an early example of Germans going completely nuts. And there is definitely some fodder for the sample junkie here as I think electronic and hip hop producers have picked the corpse of David Axelrod's music clean.

25 August 2011

Glaze of Cathexis - 2010 - Underground Sound

My original intention for this album was to create mono and stereo mixes to bring out the 60's style grooviness for this album, but some technical difficulties got in my way last year and I just released the mixes that I had. In fact, my work folder for the album was titled 'Mono/Stereo Album.' Fortunately, I found some ways around those problems last month and got these mixes together. The stereo mix is my attempt at a psychedelicized early 1968 vibe complete with ridiculous stereo separation, while I tried my best for an old school mono punch on that mix. If you've already downloaded the album and dig it, take a chance with these versions. If you're new to this and really want the first mix, they remain linked at the original post. Here are the notes I posted last year for the collection:

Here's the new set of Glaze of Cathexis recordings, which has been percolating since May 2009. It was originally going to be a sort of stoner metal thing, then a folk rock affair, and finally I just went straight for the marrow of my favorite 60's bands. 'Pala Ferry' has some elements of all three of those mindsets. This is a lot more guitar heavy than the last set. Every track here is anchored by guitar, and I just went to the Moog synth a few times to add some rubbery density. For once I had the opportunity to record some actual drums, so you get my spazzy drumming all over this album as well as a little bit of drumming from Gonzoriffic filmmaker Andrew Shearer. Hopefully you'll dig these psychedelic rock sounds. Here's some song notes for those of you who have the yen to listen:

Pala Ferry - At various times I was aiming for R.E.M., mid-period Byrds, and Dennis Wilson on this track. I think the Beatles 'Rain' was stuck in the back of my head as well. Lyrically, this is an invitation to join my cult, which doesn't actually exist. I always got that sort of vibe from the Millennium's Begin, which was my first post on this blog and is one of my absolute favorites.

Further Instructions - Here I'm commanding you to do abstract and impossible things. In my head it was going to be a fireside, smelly hippy folk rock chant, but then some Talking Heads style beats, Chuck Berry guitar riffs, and the goofier side of the Beach Boys backing vocals invaded my muse as well. This comes in second as I wanted to continue laying down the groundwork for my meaningless cult.

Launch - I'm not sure what this one's about lyrically, but I wanted to go for a Black Sabbath sort of riff heavy song. Some Cream found its way into the wah-wah'ed out lead guitar as well. Apparently my attention span ran out as the coda takes a sudden and strange turn into electronica.

Sign From Your Face - This is another one from my folk rock phase, and I was going for a Rubber Soul sort of vibe here. One with the Harrison parts being beamed in from the early 70's. My original vocal take tried to emulate Lennon and Dylan all at once, but it sounded ridiculous so I ended up dialing it back for this finished version.

Blues For A Red Planet - This is from a basement jam with Andrew Shearer on drums and myself on rhythm guitar. For the overdubs, I ran my Moog for a vacuum tube for the first time, and I kind of got off on it. I couldn't find my guitar slide for the lead guitar overdub and ended up using a plastic ear cleaner instead. The title is from an episode of Carl Sagan's Cosmos, which you should all watch right now.

Sometime With You - This song has been bouncing around in my head since my university days ten years ago, so I had to record it just to get it out of my damn head. Actually, the lyrics in my head were far dumber, but I was able to get away from those.

My Little Utopia - I wrote this sitting on a 50 meter cliff on a small Canadian island about seven years ago. I re-extrapolated the melody of the Dean Martin standard 'Melodies Are Made of This' for this track, but if Brian Wilson can get away with turning 'When You Wish Upon a Star' into 'Surfer Girl,' I might be safe.

City of the Domes - My buddy had just put a bunch of Iron Maiden onto my ipod, and I got the urge to write that kind of guitar riff and meld it with a tacky sci-fi reference. When it came time for the vocals, I found that I couldn't do a convincing metal growl, so I defaulted to glam Bowie instead. The electronic coda here has a little more relevance if you've spent some time with the strangely awesome film 'Logan's Run.'

Cliffs - I wrote this one back in 1999 on a bit of a bender in my college dorm room. I had recently been introduced to Syd Barrett's music at that time, so this is one of the Barrett-iest tracks I've come up with. I could never get quite happy with a recording of this, but it turned out that it needed those swinging Soft Machine-style drums.

Visions of the Unreality - This is another basement jam with Andrew and myself. My frequent collaborator Scott Atkinson crops up here with a bit of visionary poetry. It's actually the first time we've worked on music together while in the same room (or same country for that matter).

It Means a Lot - Ironically, the lyrics pretty much mean nothing. I set out to rip off "Yur Blues," but got sidetracked by another period of obsession with the Doors, and then decided to top it all off with my Dylan vocal impression. I guess I was getting into that whole Dukes of Stratosphear 'be your favorite band' sort of vibe.

Centrifugal Bumble Puppy - A gold star for those of you who get the title reference. I set out to write a song of my surreal and false triumphs, with each line starting with "I" and then a different verb. Music wise, I wanted to do a 'dude' version of the dronier and harder rocking Stereolab tracks.

Taking the Time Out - This one kept popping up in my head as a crappy emo punk song, but I think I successfully guided it into 'Who' territory instead. If I ever make it onto a neo-Nuggets compilation, I could imagine this being the one.

Hope you dig this stuff. I'd love to hear your comments and impressions, even if you end up thinking that this is a steaming pile of poo.

18 August 2011

Iasos - 1975 - Inter-Dimensional Music

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

Here's an album that I know almost nothing about, but have found myself listening to incessantly. I imagined that Iasos was some kind of new age commune. If you visited their home, I thought you'd find them doing yoga while wearing tight pastel yellow tights and tank tops and frizzy hair, after which then insist that you join them for a trip to the wood-paneled vegetarian supermarket. I didn't want to spend time with them, but I was infatuated with their sounds. Then I look at the All Music Guide, and it said that Iasos is actually one guy who is considered one of the first artists of the new age musical genre. It kind of deflated my vision behind this album, but fortunately the music is still great. Yes, it is new age, but of the 70's variety with analog synthesizers and hazy, groovy taped production (as opposed to the Great Digital Recording Terror of the 80's). Yeah, it probably would have played in that wood-paneled health food store in the 70's, but you would have enjoyed the music and maybe you could have found that awesome Panda cherry licorice somewhere in the aisles of the store.

This is another one of those albums that really works as a continuous whole. It loses quite a bit of its vibe if you isolate the track. That said, when I'm particularly enamoured with a tune and take a look a the track listing, I've found that it's usually "Formentera Sunset Clouds," "Rainbow Canyon," "Angel Play," or the closing "Maha Splendor." The first half of the album tends to be the more tuneful half. Once Iasos 'gets you in the mood' so to speak, the music becomes far more ambient. This does end up making the second half a little more murky sounding (although "Angel Play" shines quite well) and "The Bubble Massage" ends up being just five minutes of percolating bubble sounds, which I could achieve on my own by sticking my head into a jacuzzi.

Really, though, this album is quite a trip and a very groovy musical time capsule of its era. It's on a slightly different plain of existence than Berlin schoolers like Tangerine Dream or Klaus Schultze, but these sound would actually complement those artists very well. So light your opium scented candles, recite a few verses you've memorized from the Bhagavad Gita, jump into your giant round hot tub with several big-haired sexually liberated women (or hairy chested, medallion-wearing men), and give this a play.

17 August 2011

Helium - 1997 - The Magic City

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

I have a bit of a strange history with this band. I was introduced to Helium by a show in Atlanta back in 1998 while under a, uh, somewhat altered state, and then never got back to listening to them again until a few weeks ago. Still, they stuck around in the back of my mind and I probably should've returned to them earlier. The band, led by singer/guitarist Mary Timony, is basically a mid 90's indie-rock affair, but they distinguish themselves quite well with touches 70's prog and a few echoes of shoegazing. Honestly, this is far from outright psychedelic rock, and several steps away from the music I typically rant and rave about on this blog, but I dig it.

The satellite pulsin', girl-group-of-the-future-sound of "Leon's Space Sound" is a pretty hooky place to get acquainted with this album. There's a very groovy string synth riff bubbling just under the surface. "Medieval People" is a standout instrumental, although I imagine that the people in the title are heading for some kind of day glo, Authurian rave or something. Actually, I think they mixed up the titles with the also fine, short instrumental "Blue Rain Soda." Just swap them and it makes far more sense. "Lullabye of the Moths" sort approximates something that might have sprung forth from the late 60' UK psychedelic pop/folk scene, while "The Revolution of Hearts Pts. I & II" really does run too long at eight minutes, but sort of makes up for it with an array of insane sound effects later in the track.

This album probably requires a strong tolerance with some of the more stereotypical sounds of 90's rock, but having said that, it's one of the better albums I've heard that functions within those perimeters. I'd certainly place this far above most of Juliana Hatfield's or Liz Phair's discography (although I'll give Phair's first album a 'get-out-of-jail-free' card). There are some nods to vintage psychededia lurking in the production that really do enhance the songs and for me qualify this set for a mention here at the Psychedelic Garage.