Friday, August 10, 2012

Sonny Sharrock - Ask the Ages [1991]

Here's some real classic Sharrock skronk for those of you who were intrigued by the Space Ghost soundtrack.  

Ask the Ages is the last thing released while Sonny was alive. It's got all range of sounds and feelings, rooted in the jazz idiom but journeying far beyond it. The session here is totally stacked, with the masterful drumming of Elvin Jones, Pharaoh Sanders tearing up the sax parts and mind-expanding bass playing by Charnett Moffett. Sonny produced the disk with Bill Laswell, after that guy spent a decade recording the likes of Mick Jagger, PiL, Motörhead, The Ramones, Iggy Pop and Yoko Ono (thanks Wikipedia for that list of names). Anyway everyone on here is doing great things, and people who know this album could probably tell you better than me that this is something to be treasured.

The double bass particularly stands out to me every time I listen to this album, because the playing is so beyond perfect. Just listen to when the sound drops low on "Promises Kept," leaving the drums and bass to conjure up ancient magics out of the thin air of folk history. Equally so on the bass solos in "Who Does She Hope to Be," which might be my favorite song on the whole record.

There is such warmth in the chords of that ballad, and the way Sonny inflects songs with his singular blend of sorrowful jubilance affects my mood for the better in all circumstances. "Little Rock" shines with hope and optimism, and the chorus in "As We Used to Sing" sounds about as triumphant as I could imagine music being, as it slips seamlessly into the nine and a half minute tour de force of "Many Mansions," a space jam if I have ever heard one.

I'm probably belaboring the point, but this is one of my favorite albums of all time and I can guarantee you not a note is wasted during these 46 minutes.

Get a used CD copy of Ask the Ages (pretty expensive, though)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Sonny Sharrock - Space Ghost Coast to Coast [1994]

Sonny Sharrock is easily one of the coolest guitarists ever, and he stayed good to the very end. This, in fact, is what I believe to be his last recording. That's right, Sharrock fans, Sonny did the Space Ghost soundtrack, and Space Ghost fans, this is the name of the guy who plays your favorite theme song. Of course, some of you already knew this from episode 26, on which they played a bunch of these tunes:
Very loosely based on the original Hanna-Barbera Space Ghost series, Coast to Coast was aired in the early 90s as a light-hearted manifesto of post cold-war dadacidal humor, and could be seen as Cartoon Network's attempt to tap into the then emerging "alternative" nation of America. Anodinous, hilarious or plain weird, Coast to Coast reinvented the honorable fake-interview tradition by having pre-recorded conversations with "celebrities" and people like us rearranged by the nonchalant and ego-maniacal Space Ghost. In this very special episode, Thurston Moore incarnates one Fred Cracklin in a brief nonsensical cameo which is but a pretext to pay homage to the great avant-noise-jazz-blues guitar player Sonny Sharrock, who had recently expired. If the Coast to Coast series is bizarre for any standards of good TV conduct, the Sharrock episode is particularly strange in that its plot is a lame excuse to pay tribute to the musician and listen to several minutes of his ethereal noise-jazz guitar, thinly framed by some silly jokes between the Ghost and his adorable sidekicks.

There's plenty of free-kout to go around here, with some vamping on the main theme as well as forays into other sonic dimensions. If it seems like a novelty, it's really not, but as a 15-minute EP it makes for a great punk record. All I know is that Sonny Sharrock makes some of the most joyous and chaotic music I've ever heard, and that you should have this. Space Ghost, while being a brilliantly subversive kids' show in its own right, not to mention endlessly entertaining to re-view as an older child, is also responsible for planting Sonny in my six-year-old head (and, perhaps, many of yours).

WFMU blog entry on the Sharrock episode
And now, Zorak and the Original Way-outs (not to be confused with Chicago's Wayouts)

Batpiss - Batpiss CS [2012]

Batpiss are a noisy death-punk outfit outta Melbourne, Australia who play pretty straight-ahead midtempo punk that ratchets up to hardcore then lurches back to a mid-80s Black Flag screaming crawl. The guitars are crunchy and tuneful, and the vocals are are so nasty you can practically feel the bile in your throat vibrating in concert with the music.

In case I need to intrigue you any further, one of the members of Batpiss is associated with the dude who runs the jamful tumblr Bandcamphunter. Batpiss' self-titled tape is digitally available for free +PWYW on their bandcamp page, linked below.

Batpiss bandcamp

Lark's Tongue - 3 Songs [2011]

Lark's Tongue are another great Peoria band, and I've been banging my head to their EP's stadium-sized heavy guitar jams for a while now. I'm sure the actual stadiums they play in are more basement-sized, which can only mean that seeing these guys live would be an event to pummel the eardrums. However, the best part of this EP might be the vocal harmonies, which come down on high to lift you out of the guitar cloud. Somebody in this band must dig old Smashing Pumpkins albums, and the results are good. 

Lark's Tongue seem to keep busy enough, playing in and around Peoria, throughout central Illinois, Chicago, Milwaukee, and as far as Denver. This demo EP came out at the start of 2011, but Lark's Tongue has a few vinyl releases planned, a 7" due out August 15 which will be available at their Brass Rail gig with Planes Mistaken for Stars, the Forecast, and Angry Gods, for those of you within driving distance of Peoria. September will bring a split 12" with fellow Peorians Men of Fortune. And if that wasn't enough, Cavity Records will be releasing a split 10" with Across Tundras from Nashville later in the fall. Pay attention, these dudes have plenty for you coming up.

Lark's Tongue/Bird Dialect label site
Sophisticated and tongue-tied

Sunday, August 5, 2012

MC5 - Power Trip [1968-1970]

I was planning on posting a version of this MC5 bootleg when I first started this blog. But since I still haven't gotten around to ripping that record, I might as well give you this CD version. This one is superior because it has more songs on it than the 10" vinyl would allow. Opening with a karaoke version of "Looking at You," the bootleg aims to have you singing the whole way through. Next is a 1968 recording of the 19-minute live jam "I'm Mad Like Eldridge Cleaver's Mad," and well, if you don't know who Eldridge Cleaver is, then go do your goddamn history homework on google. There's one other 10+ minute song on here, the 1970 workout called "Head Sounds (part two)", which resembles a bluesier Can session from around the same time. As always, vocalist Rob Tyner shouts like a madman throughout, but especially on the aforementioned tracks and also on their cover of Albert King's "Born Under a Bad Sign," and the title track. Like almost every bootleg of the Five, there's also of course a version of "Black to Comm," this one from late '69.

Come now, this is essential Five material, and true rock and roll.

Let it come on down babe in the midnight hour

Toothpaste - Oh Yeah Come On 7" [1987]

Toothpaste were an '80s Chicago band consisting of Naked Raygun/Silver Abuse/Wayouts folks who played ultra-simple, goofy, self-aware punk that makes me think of what Strike Under would have sounded like if they didn't take themselves seriously. According to the Chicago Punk Database, Toothpaste's first show was in 1981 at a "communist art gallery across Damen Avenue from the Busy Bee diner. Opening act was a performance artist who beat a dead rat with a coffee can." They only have two releases that I know of, and this is their later one, a 7" featuring the ever-so-catchy A-side "Oh Yeah Come On." The title is all of the lyrics, which makes it very easy for you to immediately yell along. Is this the so-called 'Chicago Sound?' I still don't know, but I dig this record a lot.

The B-side is the wierdo jam "Kids Do the Darndest Drugs," which is an apt-enough way of describing the song, really. Anyway if you're interested in the venerable heritage of Chicago punk (which you should be), grab this one for sure.

I'll be uploading their 1983 12" EP soon as well.

Oh yeah oh yeah come on

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

bdphones - Turning Off (Love Songs) [2012]

Okay, so this tape dropped onto the web a couple months ago and I've been continuously meaning (and subsequently forgetting) to post it. For those of you who haven't read my previous Bedphones post (just click the link already), the now-named bdphones plays some rather beautiful pop songs that are hard to pin down stylistically. It's not that the music jumps around a lot; it's more like you can hear that the guy has a lot of original ideas and cool influences that he channels into these very unique, gorgeously-produced, hypnotic folk ballads augmented by synthesized guitar, mandolins, electronic rhythms, and vocals that arrive on your ear's doorstep with a haunting melancholy. I honestly can't recommend this enough, so if you trust anything I ever say about music, dear reader, do yourself a favor and snatch this release. Damaged outsider pop jams, these are, in the best way possible.

Turning Off was released digitally (fo' free) back in May but it doesn't appear to be available yet physically. In the meantime, you can acquire all manner of quality DIY wares from SSF Tapes, who puts out bdphones' music.

bdphones bandcamp
bdphones soundcloud
SSF Tapes bigcartel