Tuesday, February 21, 2012

MaoTzu - Doodles [2011]

Here is a sweet submission from Chicago. It's another one-man avant-pop project, this one by a certain Jamarcus Drake, and it's pretty crazy. Supposedly created by turning on some TV show and making music while the show is muted, the songs are meant to be partially formed by the subconscious inspiration provided by the shows' images. Or something. It doesn't really need any backstory to be appreciated -- this album's worth hearing on its own merits. The different songs all have pretty different moods, and the music ranges from weird ambience to fully-structured pop (but still kinda weird) songs. There seem to be quite a few instruments one here, all played by Mr. Drake.

The fifth song, 'The Good Ol' Jay Turser, Back in Action,' sounds like Future Days-era Can, which I've really not heard a lot of people steal from very often. Some other sounds I can hear in various parts of the album are Pavement and Sonic Youth-isms, but there is too much originality throughout (jazz breaks, unexpected vocal harmonies, drum solos, boogie piano, beatboxing, wildly optimistic-sounding guitar melodies, etc.) to dismiss this as derivative or something. I dunno, hearing this will give you a better idea than I can provide in words. Best heard in sequence, all in one go.

This album (as well as two other releases) are available for free on MaoTzu's bandcamp.

Don't take lyrics for the truth, I'm probably just sad and high

Sunday, February 19, 2012

MC5 - High Time [1971]

In honor of the passing of MC5 bassman Michael Davis, I give you their third and final 'regular' album, High Time.  I won't say too much about it, but this is the Five so you should be getting this regardless. It's probably their best overall, though obviously Kick Out the Jams gets points for being a live thing. But the production on this record is so good and full, I think I have to say it's my favorite. 'Future/Now' gets pretty psyched-out, but mostly they've got some real strong, turned-to-11 r&b sounds going on here; I honestly have a hard time seeing how High Time, judged on its actual merits (the sound and the songs, and ignoring the commercial hindrances presented by saying "motherfuckers" on a record and the whole White Panther Party thing), could not have been successful. These songs are a perfect fit for the radio sounds of 1971, and they'd been pioneering this stuff, yet success eluded them. The Man had it in for them I tell ya.

I prefer side 2 on this record but the whole thing is good.

By the way, does anybody know if the Five's performance at the 1968 DNC in Chicago (everyone else scheduled to play, besides the Five and Phil Ochs, chickened out) was properly recorded? All I have ever seen from their show is this (soundless) clip supposedly taken by the Department of Defense:

Discogs link for CDs and LPs
They don't know 'coz they're stuck in the past

Friday, February 17, 2012

Acid Kicks - Life Dreams 7" [2011]

Acid Kicks is a 4 piece psych-punk band from Philly, and they're fucking great. You might not know it upon first listen, but three of the members play bass. That's right, three basses and one set o' drums. One of the bass players sent me a link to their 7", so here it is in all its glory. The vibe I get from Acid Kicks is similar to that of the Psychic Paramout [see my list for the end of 2011] -- punked-out psych rock on a tight, driving rhythm, with lots of room for noise. However, while that band is almost industrial in their rhythmic precision, this band is more melodic in their approach.

The first song, 'Life Dreams,' starts out sounding a little like that Pink Floyd song 'One of These Days,' but faster (this is punk rock!), with the basses vibing together and colliding in their shiny metallic way. Then the octave-pedal'd bass kicks in with the drums, and suddenly you're flying on a shoegaze air column. The vocals sway in and out like clouds, and with the same cold intensity.

Probably my favorite development in underground music in the last 20 years has been the constant mixing of punk with noisy psychedelic music, often producing new and exciting results. Acid Kicks call their particular concoction 'dream punk,' and they put it like this in a recent article/interview:
There are no limits in dreams. The dreamer can realize her full potential. No obstacles hold her back. “If you’re a lucid dreamer you can figure out how to fly… you can do whatever you want, and there are no consequences,” claims Kavanaugh. The punk, meanwhile, is an always-active, politically charged character who wants the world and wants it now. Merging these two paradigms, the dream-punk is some sort of heroic ideal–an uberhuman capable of doing anything and going anywhere.
Maybe it's an attempt to shake off the apathy, to turn the nihilists into dreamers with active motivation. Maybe it's an escape from the shite reality we've got, to bring the dream information over into this world and create our own reality. Maybe those are or aren't mutually exclusive, but as always, it's up to you to decide.

You can buy the 7" (or a FLAC copy) from the Acid Kicks bandcamp below (orders come with a hand-made dream catcher for a few extra bucks), as well as download two live sets for free (+pay what you want). The more recent one was reviewed over at Spacerockmountain, so click yer way over to that.

Listen to / buy a copy of Life Dreams
I am the valleys

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Dan Melchior - Red Nylon Valance 7" [2011]

Another groovy single from the great French label SDZ Records, this one by the prolific English singer-songwriter Dan Melchior. This is way different than the Drosofile 7" I posted from SDZ a coupla weeks ago; while that release had a dreary, sickened, post-industrial decay sort of sound, this is '60s-indebted psych-pop. It's probably lazy writing for me to say this sounds like Syd Barrett, but what else could I reliably compare it to? And it's not like Syd is bad to be compared with, right? Anyway, this came out at the tail end of 2011, so it's still quite new.

The a-side has been stuck in my head for a while now. It's a song any head can relate to, seemingly about getting lost on the wrong side of the astral train tracks ("I lost my balance and the echoes started dancing down the hall ... I don't like it here at all"). If you like Piper at the Gates of Dawn ... okay, I'll try and stop it with the Syd Barrett references. But seriously, this song is great. Check out the video:

The b-side is a liberally psyched-out blues sort of a tune, with a couple of acoustic guitar tracks picking away at your (and Dan's) sanity before the synth comes blaring in. The lyrics are about getting bit by a dog and contracting rabies(?) Anyway it's got it's own subdued freakishness, and I like it nearly as much as the a-side. And what do you know, there is a (recently-released) video for this song as well:

Dan Melchior has been in the game for longer than most people in the garage-psych field, and it's totally apparent in the craft he shows in these recordings, from the melodies to the choices of instruments to their timing in the songs. Get into this already!

Buy the Red Nylon Valance 7" on SDZ
Listen to/download it [cheap!]

Jeff Beck - Truth [1968]

Happy Venereal Day, everyone, hope none of you got dumped today (that'd be too cliché, wouldn't it?). This is an album that should keep your spirits high regardless of your circumstances.

A lot of people who are (ostensibly) into music don't take Rod Stewart seriously -- and given the embarrassing body of work he produced over the lifetime of the average 35-year-old, why would anyone? Because: the guy was involved in some hot shit in the '60s and early '70s (don't believe me? listen to his first three solo albums and his stuff with the Faces, you ignoramus), including this record. The dude was a pop singer; blues rock is what was popular in the late '60s, so that's what he did -- just like he did shitty disco in the '70s when that was on the radio.

Other 'reputable' personnel onboard here: Jeff Beck on guitar (before his offshoot into self-indulgent fusion wankery) and Ron Wood, most famously of the Rolling Stones on bass. The drummer on here is Mick Waller, probably the least well-known guy in the group, but if you must know, he played in the Faces and on those aforementioned Rod Stewart records.

Anyway, the music: there is a significantly large group of people in the world who will tell you this is the best rock album ever recorded. Jimi Hendrix was into it. This album is great if you like the whole Yardbirds/early Zeppelin thing. 'Shapes of Things' was a Y'birds tune, but this version is better. 'Beck's Bolero' is the closest they get to psychedelic stuff on this album, and while it's not crazily so by anyone's standards, it is still an awesome sort of song. Most of the rest is blues stuff I doubt they wrote, played real well for a bunch of honkies. There is a take of 'You Shook Me' on here, much shorter (better?) than the one on Led Zeppelin I.

Compared to some of the stuff I post on this site, Truth is a lot less 'out there.' But it plays so damn well, and is one of my favorite records ever. I don't know how else to convey its greatness. And it's better than hearing 'Stairway to Heaven' for the quadrillionth fucking time. Ask your dad, kids.

I dunno, this'll probably get DCMA'd pretty quick, but I just wanted to write about it. Get it if you can.

Buy Truth on vinyl [not at all rare, so it's cheap!]
Get it on CD [still pretty cheap!]
I ain't superstitious, but a black cat crossed my trail

Monday, February 13, 2012

Bedphones - The Exchange CS [2011]

This tremendously ear-pleasing cassette came out on SSF Tapes (+tumblr blogspot) about eight months ago. It's sofa-king good. Bedphones is a one-man avant-pop project from the periphery of Chicagoland (namely, Crystal Lake, Illinois). The sound is pretty eclectic, with acoustic guitars, 'lectric beats, ethereal vocals, mandolins, and keyboard-ish stuff coming together to make a really comfy grey-day listen. (Not that it sounds 'grey' or bland, mind you, but rather it is something to keep your mind awake on that sort of day -- and we get plenty of those during Midwestern winters/springs/autumns). I've been spinning this pretty frequently since I got it in the mail, and it's one of those albums that just kind of feels good to listen to. Relaxing, engaging, and original. I can't speak from experience, but this tape would probably go great with opiates (*not endorsing the use of opiates).

Bedphones will have a new release in the near future, also on SSF, so keep your eyes/ears/nose/tongue/skin/kinesthetic sensors open!

I should also take a second to once again plug the SSF Tapes label, where you can find cheap-as-free tape releases by Acidic Tree, Gunther, and WEYE. In addition to that, there are a bunch of great zines there that are worth buying/trading for and reading/passing around to all your friends. Get into it or pose, dawg.

Buy a tape, or get a free FLAC copy
wet my lips to dissolve her lysergic kiss

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Pere Ubu - Final Solution 7" [1976]

I actually have not yet dug deep into the Pere Ubu corpus (nothing past 1980), but it should go without saying that everything I have heard by this post-punk-before-punk band has been gold. This early single of theirs is no exception. This is in many ways a perfect 7", channeling punk, garage, glam, and the all the alienation needed to make destructive outsider music. I feel like I hear new stuff in 'Final Solution' each time I hear it. The b-side is a sonic mirror image of the a-side, real upbeat and electric, in a way that makes me think of Wire. I could go on, but shouldn't you be downloading this  classic single already?

Anyone interested should also check out the Creep Scanner post on Rocket From the Tombs, the Cleveland group which begat both Pere Ubu and the Dead Boys.

Buy an original and piss off collectors by actually playing it
Seems I'm a victim of natural selection


Today (or yesterday in Europe), hundreds of thousands of people are raising their voices in protest of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), a draconian, corporatist treaty that needs only six more countries to ratify it before it goes into action. This treaty would be a huge blow to the internet community, especially music-related sites like my humble space here. You probably already know about the internet shitstorm that blocked/delayed SOPA and PIPA in the United States. That was a good start, but we are still in the position of having to push this oppression much farther uphill before anybody is safe.

ACTA opposes the interests of the vast majority of people on this planet, both in the developed world -- where the main impact would be on free communication and sharing of information -- and in developing countries -- where generic medicine would be considered "illegal counterfeit," deemed so by the pharmaceutical industry who would rather sell HIV medicine to poor Africans at cruelly high markup. This is one of the kinds of laws that affects everyone. It's been in development for at least four years, but the SOPA/PIPA debacle has drawn more attention to it in recent weeks. The powers that be have tried very hard to keep the public out of the discussion:
Both the Bush administration and the Obama administration had rejected requests to make the text of ACTA public, with the White House saying that disclosure would cause "damage to the national security."[101] In 2009, Knowledge Ecology International filed a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request in the United States, but their entire request was denied. The Office of the United States Trade Representative's Freedom of Information office stated the request was withheld for being material "properly classified in the interest of national security."[102] US Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT)and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) penned a letter on 23 November 2009, asking the United States Trade Representative to make the text of the ACTA public.[103] According to Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR): “There are questions of constitutional authority surrounding whether the administration can enter into this agreement without Congress’s approval ... Either way, when international accords, like ACTA, are conceived and constructed under a cloak of secrecy, it is hard to argue that they represent the broad interests of the general public. The controversy over ACTA should surprise no one.”[3]
ACTA is dangerously anti-democratic. We all have to do our part to fight it. The MPAA, RIAA, pharmaceutical companies, Monsanto, and other "evil" powers who already run our lives with too much control, will always want more from you. They will continue to take more from you if you do not stop them.

"So what am I supposed to do?" you ask. Currently, the front line of this battle is in Europe. A French organization called La Quadrature du Net has a lot of useful resources, such as this ACTA dossier, an analysis of the treaty, and some ideas on how to fight it.

I'll soon return to your regularly scheduled programming.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Janitors - Worker Drone Queen EP [2012]

I was hipped to these Swedes by the always classy Ongakubaka blog, and they have kindly asked that their EP be put up here as well. I'm only too happy to oblige. The Janitors are from Stockholm, and they play a sinister, churning sort of psychedelic music they call 'evil shoegaze boogie woogie,' or alternately, Stökpsych (I was calling it psvensk psych in my head, their names sound much cooler). These jams aren't particularly groundbreaking conceptually, but they lay down the groove so well that that could hardly matter less. This is a band with a very well-developed sense of craft for this type of music. The bass is so simple and so good, and the feedback assaults are ecstatic. I've been listening to this EP repeatedly, the riffs have stayed firmly implanted in my brain, and I don't want them to leave.

You can download this EP at the Janitors' soundcloud, where you can also hear their equally good Sick State EP. The downloads are offered as high-quality wav files, which is awesome, but I posted an mp3 link for those of you with more limited disk space/ipods. Worker Drone Queen will be coming out on wax soon, so get ready to order some before they run out!

Janitors website
Do it again

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Drosofile - Mal [2011]

This is another submission, this time from a label all the way over in Paris! I know very little about the punk stuff going on in France (though I do dig this band The Anals, check them out). This single has a relentless sort of rhythm and austere melodies that evoke the death march of the daily commute, to a job you hate, for a boss you want to kill. I don't know French but the lyrics that are in English are appropriately dreary. Both songs play up the "dirge jam" aesthetic. I dig this a lot.

Check out the video for the a-side:

The folks at Permanent Records in Chicago said it better than I can:
The folks over at SDZ have pressed up a little gem of a single here in the form of Drosofile's first single. These two cuts sound like the result of habitually smoking weed outta coke cans and we can't get enough. Seriously, two songs of Drosofile is simply, not enough – but it’s all we got so here’s to hoping these duders are following this up soon with a full length. If you dig tasty guitar licks and primal drum thuds mixed with air raid siren keyboards and misanthropic French bellowing and are a fan of the Anals, DAF, Colour Buk or any of the La Grande Triple Alliance Internationale De L'est collective's projects than you should probably pick this one up pronto.
I won't post a mediafire link for this one, since it's streamable on the SDZ bandcamp (there's a jam of a 7"  from Dan Melchior and a sweet 20-song comp tape, plus more! -- browse it all). Both the digital purchase and vinyl are very reasonably priced, so buy it if you like it. The timing is good, what with the euro being so shite: the digital purchase of Mal comes out to less than three bucks. So get it now while it's cheaper for you. Besides that, the vinyl's being offered at a sale rate.

Thanks again to Nick at SDZ for bringing this stuff to my attention.

Streaming/digital download
Get a physical copy

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Pink Reason - Stork Club, Oakland CA [2007]

Here's a quick set from Pink Reason for ya. I just found this from a google search today, and I don't know where it came from [edit: it's from here], but it's four songs from the reigning king of damaged, self-loathing drug-punk. Includes his cover of Agent Orange's 'Bloodstains,' as well as a "coffehouse version" of the song 'Going Home,' which was featured on one of those World's Lousy with Ideas compilations.

I made up the cover art on GIMP so if you think it sucks that's why ('coz I made it, not 'coz of GIMP). If you liked Shit in the Garden, download this, why don't you?

Shortly after I posted this, the cool fellow over at Drug Punk posted an interview with Kevin from Pink Reason about what he's been up to recently. Check it out!

My train is losing steam

Jay Reatard - Night of Broken Glass [2007]

Here is a sweet little EP by the late great Jimmy Lee Lindsey Jr, aka Jay Reatard. The title track is a freakout ostensibly about the Kristallnacht (heavy shit, man), followed by a bubblegum synth-garage tune in a transition that is disorienting to say the least. The third song, 'All Over Again,' continues in a similar vein, and Jay shows how good he was at such twisted pop. The EP closes with 'Feeling Blank Again,' which is more or less classic Reatard nervous angularity. This record is a great way to spend eight and a half minutes of your life.

This came out on In the Red Records but I can't find a link to order it from them.

Buy it, if you're a collector snob and want to pay $50 for 4 songs
It was the first, but it's not the last