22 November 2011

Glaze of Cathexis - 2011 - I Often Dream of the Apocalypse

The title here is a true fact, although my dreams do tend to be like tripped out blockbuster films rather than nightmares, so I pretty much welcome them. The seed for this album started as I was scoring tracks for the 60's styled exploitation film, "The Erotik Castle of Dr. Humpinstein." I was going for surfin', bikin', and all around 60's crunch. I really got going when I had some work days scrapped in the aftermath of the March 11th Japan quake, and kept on recording through the aftershocks. Obviously, some of the palpable paranoia from the prospect of getting irradiated by Fukushima is quite present as well. I remember being told by my boss to wear a mask outside during the radiation spike of March 15th. Not that I was going for a depressing vibe - I want you to rock n' roll to this music. Like the last Glaze of Cathexis album, I'm presenting this in both a rockin' crunchy mono mix, and a 60's styled psychedelic stereo mix with the drum kit shoved in the left channel. I also need to give some props to Gonzoriffic Films' Andrew Shearer, who was groovy enough to serve as the drummer, and pounded away to these tunes. Here are some song notes for your perusal:
1. I Often Dream of the Apocalypse (2:28) – I had already given this album the name, but I thought a title track would be fun. This was originally recorded for Andrew Shearer’s film ‘The Erotik Castle of Dr. Humpinstein’ as a dance number called ‘The F@&k!!!’ For the album track, I felt compelled to try and match the insanity of the original track, so I did my best unhinged Roky Erikson impression on the vocals.
2. Coconut Sunstroke (1:35) – I had a few drinks and tried to record this as a sort of 60’s Marc Bolan acoustic guitar and bongos thing. It was a little short for a real tune, so I decided to use it as an acoustic interlude. It does have a vocal melody that I never bothered recording, though.
3. Nuclear Sundown (3:06) – I came up with this tune while strolling into UGA’s Russell Hall during my freshman year of university back in 1997. For this rendition, I revised the lyrics to reflect the time after Fukushima went wild and tried to give it a groovy Byrds/Velvet Underground approach. Previously I’d tried to make it a punk or soul number, but I think this one fits best.
4. Cold Fusion (3:02) – And how to solve our nuclear problems? Maybe by inventing cold fusion. This started as a surf number for ‘Humpinstein,’ but for the album version I found a list of radioactive elements and sang all the ones that ended with ‘-ium.’ Certainly it’s the best track to follow ‘Nuclear Sundown.’
5. Drifting Concepts (3:51) – I recorded the original instrumental groove about 12 years ago and made a version with lyrics around 2007 (that one can be heard on one of the compilations at the 'Homemade Lo-Fi Psyche' blog). That recording sounded like strangled butt, though, so I’m glad that I made this re-recording.
6. Nothin’ll Ever Let You Down (2:26) – This was another instrumental for ‘Humpinstein,’ but I threw in some lyrics for this version, even if they get entertainingly pretentious. I started recording around the time of the March 11th earthquake, and you’ll hear a flaw in the recording at 1:05 that was the result of one of the aftershocks. Instead of getting under a table or leaving the building as a sane person would, I just kept recording as the room was shaking around me.
7. Technicolour Clouds (4:05) – I recorded this in Atlanta during the ‘Golden Konbanwa’ recording sessions. I recently rediscovered it on my hard drive. The track was a little more electronic and I intended it to be a Damaged Tape track, but I took out some synth parts and stuck it on this album. The tune is meant to be a bit of a palette cleanser. I really dug how ‘Treefingers’ on Radiohead’s ‘Kid A’ sort of served that purpose, and that’s what I want this to be.
8. Explosions in the Sky (2:09) – This was the title track for ‘Humpinstein,’ but a retrofitted it and it kickstarted the apocalyptic vibe, along with the apocalyptic vibes that were all around back in March. I let my Southern accent rip a bit on the vocals, and the lyrics were meant to have a bit of a ‘Major Tom’ groove, with an astronaut watching the world end from a space station. Sonically, I was going for the theme song to the ultra-obscure psychploitation film ‘Psyched by the 4-D Witch,’
9. The World is a Circle (4:03) – This is a Hal David/Burt Bacharach tune from the horribly cheesy ‘Lost Horizon’ musical from the early 70’s. You can find the original on youtube, but you’ll probably regret it. For my take, I was trying to go for John Lennon stealing Kurt Cobain’s amphetamines and recording showtunes.
10. Stream Moves On (3:52) – I wrote this for ‘Underground Sound,’ but didn’t get around to recording it until this year. It ended up a little more acoustic than I originally planned, but I through in some Moog parts to balance that out. Vocally I’m going for the lovechild of Roger McGuinn and Ira Kaplan (from Yo La Tengo).
11. The World Cannot End (3:31) – I also wrote this for ‘Underground Sound,’ and recorded the drums and rhythm guitar during those sessions. I think it came out a little like R.E.M. and Bruce Springsteen in a juke joint
12. Run Again (2:43) – This is a country ditty that I originally wrote and recorded in 2001. I used to try to sing it like Johnny Cash, but I found it was much better to go for a Roy Orbison approach.

If you are groovy enough to give this a listen, I'd love to hear your comments.

Lee Hazelwood - 1970 - Cowboy in Sweden

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

If you've spent any time listening to my Glaze of Cathexis recordings, then you'll know that I have an affinity for old school country and folk that slips through the psychedelia every now and then. Lee Hazelwood first crossed my radar when I was a college DJ, and his late 60's and early 70's albums definitely caught my attention. This is the best of them. Let's face it - a cowboy in Sweden is pretty trippy, and this is just what Hazelwood did in pursuit of a Swedish independent filmmaker who churned out a film of the same name. The tracks here kind of, sort of fit into a country pop sound, but there is some strange gauze informing the music here that at least sounds influenced by the wacky tabacky. The string arrangements are sometimes a touch overwhelming, but the overall effect of this album is worth your attention.

Hazelwood's road worn voice definitely takes us into the sonic labyrinth of his mind on the first to tracks, "Cold Hard Times," and "The Night Before." The well-picked acoustic guitar is well balanced by the arrangements and result in some catchy tunes. "For a Day Like Today," "Vem Kan Selga," and "Leather and Lace" serve up some fine female voices filling in for Hazelwood's old collaborator Nancy Sinatra (think of the 60's classic "These Boots are Made For Walkin'"). "Leather and Lace" in particular presents us with a great haunting melody where the string arrangement works out quite well. You'll find the orchestral arrangements cheesing up the sound a bit on "Hey Cowboy" and "What's More I Don't Need Her." Fortunately, "no Train to Stockholm" and the phenomenal psychedelic Louis Lamour vibe of "Pray Them Bars Away" balance things out.

Whereas a lot of psychedelic bands switched gears to country rock during this time period, you'll find Lee Hazelwood attempting a strange fusion of the two. You'll likely require a touch of a yearning to traverse the New Mexican wilderness by peyote-fueled horse to really get into this one, but it strikes me as a very groovy sonic prospect, and it may do it for your ear as well.

12 November 2011

Robyn Hitchcock - 1999 - Jewels For Sophia

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

This is sort of the starting point for the modern day Robyn Hitchcock vibe, and it's probably the album of his I've listened to the most. I grabbed a promo copy of this one in a groovy purple case at the university radio station that I used to DJ at, although I subsequently lost it to an old girlfriend (although in full disclosure, I probably deserved it). I recently came across a copy of it again, and realized that half the songs on here have been bouncing around in my head for the past 12 years. This is Hitchcock's songwriting at it's catchiest, and the indie rock royalty groove is boosted with the jangling guitar of R.E.M.'s Peter Buck on a few tracks.

Opening track "Mexican God" gets a prime spot in the top of the pops of my head, and the fine lyrics ("Time will destroy you like a Mexican god.") are shored up with an acoustic arrangement backed by a slowly pounding beat. My band at the time of this release seriously considered taking on the name of this track - that or the absurdly referencing 'Sexxxican Gods.' 'Viva Sea-Tac' is a mildly dopey, but infectious stomping ode to Hitchcock's adopted home base. 'I Feel Beautiful' and the closing title track pretty much own the psychedelic ballad, while 'Sally Was a Legend' and 'Elizabeth Jade' are endlessly catchy rockers that suggest what Syd Barrett would have sounded like fronting an indie band. And I'd be remiss not to mention the infamous hidden bonus track paranoidly ranting on about Gene Hackman.

I don't think that this one typically tops most people's list of Robyn Hitchcock albums, but it's pretty near this top of mine. With some wonderfully crisp production and some lyrics that sound hit in the head with a psychedelic paddle, it'll at least keep you entertained for three quarters of an hour. We'll give a pass to the already dated album cover, which would probably be a fitting one for the worst of Sarah McLachlan.

02 November 2011

The Mojo Men -1966-1967 - Sit Down...It's the Mojo Men

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

This compilation covers the second iteration of the Mojo Men, who sprang forth from the primordial San Francisco scene. They started off as a more garage rock affair, but had added singer/drummer Jan Errico and ambled off into fields of folk-rock and sunshine pop. The other big early San Francisco band, Autumn Records labelmates the Beau Brummels, were arguably a little better, but the Mojo Men throws out more sonic signposts to the later explosion of Bay Area rock n' roll. Jan Errico comes across like a less intense version of Grace Slick (who was of course the legendary Starship vocalist), and the folk rock strut here is not too far removed from the Jefferson Airplane's first album with Signe Anderson. You'll also hear some very groovy early touches of psychedelia, and a sunshine pop sheen borrowed from the Mamas and the Papas. It may be heresy, but I think I dig the Mojo Men a little more than that particular musical (kinda) family. There's a touch of the Buffalo Springfield lurking around as well, which makes sense since Steven Stills penned their hit, "Sit Down, I Think I Love You." Round two of the Mojo Men never resulted in an actual album, but we get their awesome singles, some of which include the arranging talents of Van Dyke Parks, and a few tracks from an aborted album.

The production here is nice and chonky, and the sound makes most of this sound like a coherent even though the music is sources from several different places over a two year period. "Whatever Happened to Happy" is a prime sunshine pop singles, with some space echo adding just the right of trippiness to a fine melody. Of course "Sit Down, I Think I Love You" did make it to the charts, and it's a classic folk-rocker. Most of the tracks here are pretty stong, but I really stand up and take attention to "What Kind of Man," which evolves into a full blown psychedelic raga jam. I typically don't dig horny rock (y'know, of the brass kind - am I just digging my hole deeper?), but the arrangements on "Flower of City" does set the song on fire, and if you pay attention, there are also some nice pizzicato strings. The band occasionally threatens to ring the cheese alarm, but they only manage to do so on "Do the Hanky Panky." Really, though, I can't blame the band. Not even musical Jesus can save that song (along with "The Hippy Hippy Shake," which fortunately does not appear on this album).

This is an essential collection for a variety of you seekers. Historically, it's a not-so-missing link on the road to San Francisco rock. It's also prime rib for those that are squinting for sunshine pop. But most of all, it's a catchy set of lite psych, where all of those light touches are primed for maximum grooviness.