30 August 2012

Musical Stroll Around the Cyber-Block

I get a lot of music sent to my email box, and there's not enough time to work through it all.  If it's not addressed to me personally, it tends to go directly to the trash bin, and those that are need to be psychedelic in some way (although I do have a pretty wide definition for that).  I also scrap the mailings that don't have an mp3 download.  If the music has cleared those first few hurdles, I do what the music department did when I worked at my university radio station, and I give it a 10-second preview.  Music that keeps my attention for a few minutes gets downloaded, and the following sets are the ones that I've found myself listening to over the past three months or so.  Maybe you'll dig them too:

The Karovas Milkshake - 2012 - Freak Out (single)
Freak Out Factory cover art

Quality: 4.5 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.25 out of 5

Man, this group from the Urals needs more of my attention since we've only got two tunes here.  Maybe it's a 'Nuggets' thing where the band has put all of it's spunk into a tune or two (hopefully not), but this is completely authentic-sounding, groovy, psychedelic garage rock.  It presses just the right 'Barrett' buttons while crunching along like the Chocolate Watchband with great vocals in a slightly odd, but endearing, accent.  As an added bonus, the B-side, 'Factory,' has a completely trippy horn arrangement plowing in at the end.

The Karovas Milkshake

Sudden Death of Stars - 2011 - Getting Up, Going DownGetting Up, Going Down - Close Up Records cover art
Quality: 4.25 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4 out of 5

Here's a mindblowing, French brew of 80's indie neo-psych infused with an extra dose of the Velvet Underground's scag and the Byrds' melancholic sunshine pills.  There's a sitar floating around too, and as you probably know, I'm a sucker for sitars.  "Supernovae," "I'll Be There," and "Deeds Beyond the Hints" are some of the better tracks that Spacemen 3 never made, "Free and Easy" comes across like the punkish band  bringing it on at the skid row end of the Sunshine Strip in 1966, and "Chilling Out at Set Time" again presses those Barrett buttons that I mentioned in the last review.

Sudden Death of Stars

Lost Harbours - 2011 - Hymns and Ghosts
Hymns & Ghosts cover art 
Quality: 4 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.5 out of 5

Some ghostly psychedelic folk from what I imagine must be a particularly foggy and bone-chilling spot in England.  The vibes run towards the quieter moments of Flying Saucer Attack, but with some (that's only some) of the gauze lifted away.  The two title tracks sound like the evocation of some ancient, pagan rites from the creepier corners of the British isles.  Maybe like the chill out room for the guys and gals from "The Wicker Man" (the good one with Christopher Lee, not the one with Nick Cage as a bear).  "Morning Song" has a ethereal lift through its mostly instrumental eight minutes, and "Spring Fire" shows you that these folks do a fine job of tripping out the more conventional folk song form.

Lost Harbours

The Ocular Audio Experiment - 2012 - The Witch's Whispering Tomes
The Witch's Whispering Tomes (Part 1) cover art 
Quality: 3.75 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4 out of 5

So these guys told me that this is but the first half of the set - this one is droning psych while the second will feature the same songs played as a doomed, satanic, Looney Tunes ride into hell (their words).  There's not a whole lot of diversity here, but the band grabs onto the thread that runs from the Velvet Underground to Spacemen 3 to the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Black Angels and hangs on tightly.  Plus, there's a lot of surf guitar on top.  I've you've played any of my recent Glaze of Cathexis recordings, then you know that the doctor digs surf guitar.  Especially psychedelic surf guitar.

The Ocular Audio Experiment

Divine Intervention Now - 2012
Demo cover art 
Quality: 3.5 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 3.75 out of 5

I don't know a whole lot about Leonard Cohen, but I have the impression that this comes across like a deranged, mildly perverted version of that particular bard.  The music is mostly layers of crisp, layered picked acoustic guitar (with weird interludes from horns and such), and he sings about our dicks on "The Truth Tickles" (sorry ladies, maybe he'll get you covered on the next one)  I'm down with the gutteral roar vocals, but the Brit-inspired freak-folk of "Cucumbers" when the vocals lift up is probably the highlight.  Honestly, I think some of this set makes me uncomfortable, but that's likely the point - like this is the music that goes along with the brown acid.  Anyway, it's got my attention.

Divine Intervention Now

Audio Dope - 2012 - Chameleon
Chameleon cover art 
Quality: 4 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.25 out of 5

Heading down some more electronic roads here, we've got the sounds of Audio Dope.  This is some well produced, acid-jazz reflecting groovin'.  It flows a little bit like J Dilla's better recordings, so isolating tracks is not really worth your time - just play the thing straight through.  The artist said that he was influenced by some sounds on the blog, so I'm guessing he must have downloaded some Larry Heard.  This has a nice thick sound that should meld nicely with neon ice cube martinis and a touch of blue smoke... Audio Dope.

Audio Dope

23 August 2012

The Peanut Butter Conspiracy - 1967 - Is Spreading

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

Playing for the Californian farm league in the 60's, the Peanut Butter Conspiracy focused on sunshine pop that fused the drive of the Jefferson Airplane with the happiest sounds of the Mamas and the Papas.  I suppose it worked for the most part, but these guys and gals couldn't quite rock with the insane acid-deranged drive of the Airplane, although they give it a shot here and there.  Still, Grace Slick probably could've melted their heads 'Raiders of the Ark' style with her laser glare, y'know, if she really wanted too.  Pushing this a notch above the rest is the production touch of Brian Wilson's buddy Gary Usher, who also produced the Byrds best albums (that weren't Mr. Tambourine Man) and was one of the masterminds behind Sagittarius of "My World Fell Down" notoriety.  So even if this isn't the absolute best sunshine pop, it's definitely a notable slice of the real McCoy.

"It's A Happening Place" gets us started off with a hippy anthem with some powerful vocals and some entertaining fuzz guitar painting a technicolor snake in the background.   I then refer you to the middle of the album, as the groop gets a little too focused on staring at the sun and vaudeville for a few tracks.  When they getting around to rocking properly again we're served up with "You Can't Be Found," which seems to be trying to make the "Paint It Black" melody into sunshine pop.  Fortunately, it doesn't quite get that blissed out - the guitars are gritty and the lead vocalist insists on sneering a little bit.  "Dark On You Now" is the prime female lead vocal on the album, and "You Should Know" and "The Most Up Till Now" would've gotten all the folks bouncing at the Summer of Love happening (and I suppose they likely did).  Apparently, taking too much means that the verses should be super-twee as we discover on "You Took Too Much."

There's a lot of good tunes here and the Peanut Butter Conspiracy were worthwhile contestants in the sunshine pop sweepstakes, bringing in a touch more acid rock than their immediate peers.  Matched with some great production from Gary Usher and fine group singing, this disc can make for a very groovy summertime diversion.

Saturday's Children - 1966 - 2 E.P. Set

Quality: 3.25 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 3 out of 5

Here at the psychedelic garage, we tend to focus on LP's, but as you students of Nuggets are aware, there are plenty of homies that never quite got a whole album in the can.  Beatles obsessives, Saturday's Children, managed at least half of an album's worth of material for your musical archaeology.  This Chicago band indeed set their aim directly for the heart of Beatles '65 just like their fellow Americans in the Knickerbockers and Barry and the Remains.  They did hit the bull's eye quite as intensely as those bands, but they definitely propelled their aural arrow into the blue area of the target.  Or maybe the ripped-from-ragged-vinyl sound quality of these recordings brings them down a notch.  Don't mind me too much, these eight songs are perfectly listenable.

As would make sense, "You Don't Know Better" and "A Man With Money," which lead off their respective E.P.s, are the pop torpedoes.  It pretty much sounds like the Beatles, but if Murray Wilson was their father telling them to smile more, or if Bob Dylan had gotten the mop tops into cotton candy instead of marijuana.  Honestly, "A Man With Money" loses a few points with me since the lyrics refer to the singer as a 'poor boy.'  I really dig "Tomorrow is Her Name," which seems like it's going to rip the Beatles' "Rain," but ends up sounding like a Beau Brummels tune instead.  The real flaw is that the B-sides dip into the realm of novelty filler, which isn't really a good idea on a four-song E.P.  "Christmas Sounds" is kind of groovy, but it's still a mildly schlocky X-Mas tune and is followed "Deck Five," another holiday tune that qualifies this E.P. to have Santa Claus, Jesus, or the both of them having an air hockey match on the cover.  The first E.P. enters the novelty sweepstakes with the mildly music hall "Leave That Baby Home."

I don't know, when I started listening this stuff sounded pretty groovy, but the more I listen to it, the more I want to put something else on.  Still, there are a few prime pop blasts for the ears of the retro-hipster.  I guess the guys would've shined best with those one or two A-sides lurking around on a disc of Nuggets.  I don't think they're on Nuggets - I've got the box set two feet away from me but it's under a large stack of Todd Rundgren and Philip Glass CD's and I'm too lazy to move them and check.

02 August 2012

The Holy Mackerel - 1968 - The Holy Mackerel

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

Urrg... resisting urge to use title... as exclamation... ahhh.... dammit!!!  Holy Mackerel!  This is a groovy album!  The man-engine powering this is Paul Williams, who was apparently a major singer/songwriter in the 70's whom this writer is admittedly unfamiliar with.  No matter - this stuff apparently doesn't sound like his 70's output anyway.  Instead, we get a pristine set of soft psych and sunshine pop, with a few early country-rock tracks invading the second half of the album.  The production and performances are A-list quality, and the songwriting more often than not matches that standard as well.  There's really no innovation or real experimentation here, but the band did a great job of grabbing onto the late 60's zeitgeist and letting it take them where they needed to go.

Well, the album starts great, and ends great, but there is a bit of poo in the middle.  The opening five-song run is pretty phenomenal pop.  I've got to tell that I did "Wildflowers" best with is wacky phased vocals and wanna-be sitar leads (is this perhaps the awesomely infamous Coral Electric Sitar?).  "The Lady In Waiting" gleefully tramples on Simon and Garfunkel's sonic ground, while the first two tracks could have had a death-match punch-out for who would be the king of the AM radio hit parade.  I guess they double KO'ed since you're now hearing about both of the at the Garage of Psychedelic Obscurities.  Then, the band takes a large crap in the middle of the album with the pointless spoken word "Prinderella," and "Bitter Honey," which aims for the Davy Jones vibe.  Unless you were Davy Jones, this is probably a bad idea.  "The Golden Ghost of Love" is a freaky bit of folksy sunshine pop, and the band uses a string arrangement on "!984," but it's not as groovy as the one on David Bowie's same-titled track several years later.  "The Somewhere in Arizona at 4:30am Restaurant Song (And Now I Am Alone)" (blimey 'ell, did I really have to type all that out?), "Nothin' Short of Misery," and "The Wild Side of Life" go directly for early L.A. cowboy country rock.  I guess they were a touch ahead of the curve on that, but none of it really managed to blow me away like the sunshine pop tracks did.

While not a perfect collection, The Holy Mackerel is an unjustly forgotten group of sacred fish.  With the exception of the two tracks of detritus lurking in the middle, the album is a pleasant listening experience through and through, and several of these tunes could've, should've been hits on your AM radio dial.

Note: There is a recent reissue that boasts another ten tracks or so.  I don't have it, but I imagine it's probably worth seeking out.  Oh, here it is: The Holy Mackerel