Friday, July 17, 2015

Picks From June 26

Glenn Branca "The Ascension" - The stark cover art features an ambiguous black and white drawing of one man either rescuing or perhaps dragging another man he is fighting. Pulling the prostrate man up, because that’s the only direction that matters, friends. Yes, Branca’s music is the blueprint/inspiration/sound/ethos for what would become Sonic Youth’s signature symphonic guitar wash of alternate tunings. Sumner Crane and his band Mars probably deserving equal credit for birthing SY, but that’s another story for another reissue. Branca is more than just one of the artist’s who gave them the idea though, in the same way that Wire is more than just the band who gave The Minutemen “the idea.”
Branca’s got one foot in the No Wave and one in the Minimalism movement which featured Terry Riley, Steve Reich, La Monte Young, and Philip Glass, among others. He doesn’t fit anywhere very nicely. He never made a pop record. He doesn’t belong in the galleries and museums and he doesn’t quite fit in CBGBs or other punk rock clubs either. This is Hell’s Kitchen, NY, 1981, ecstatic and on fire. Listen. -Simon

Here’s a little clip of Branca performing solo at a loft in 1978. Do you ever see live shows that look and sound anything like this? If not, demand it. Everything real is happening outside the system. I think this song was titled by Nostradamus, “If your CD is available in Starbucks, Mishima yourselves.”

Fred Neil "Self-Titled" - Fred Neil didn’t need fame, he didn’t need recognition. He was an outsider, above the necessary promotional bullshit. Dylan worshipped him and dropped everything to catch his shows anytime Neil performed. He gave Dylan and others permission to stretch out of strict folk/blues repetitions and do something new with it all. Other people made his songs famous so he didn’t have to. He prefered sailing to touring drudgery and was satisfied to meet up with musicians every few years in New York and make a record and then disappear again. He could just do what he did, write incredible songs and sing them with his untouchable, real and lived in, blue voice. A singular voice in the
way that Billie Holiday or Robert Wyatt have signature voices. A commanding, mesmerizing voice which doesn’t pretend, it inhabits. Every Fred Neil album is essential. If you like Tim Buckley, you gotta hear Fred Neil. He wrote The Dolphins, he wrote Everybody’s Talkin’, he wrote my favorite, A Little Bit of Rain. He blended folk and blues and eastern raga. Start here with “s/t” which was later re-titled “Everybody’s Talkin” after the success of Nilson’s cover in the Midnight Cowboy film. Then go for “Bleeker and MacDougal” and “Other Side of This Life” and the sprawling “Sessions.” There should have been twenty Fred Neil albums but he got in and got out and went sailing. There will never be another. -Simon

If this song doesn’t convert you, you’re irreparable, mama.

Shop Assistants "Self-Titled" - Between Shiva’s Headband and Paul Siebel in my record collection shimmers the Shop Assistants, unsung heroes of Scotland’s indie-pop underground. Their only mistake was to make only one record. If you enjoy whatever it is in the water in Scotland (alcohol?) that made the bands so much better than everywhere else at the time, you’ll love the Shop Assistants and their only album from 1986, rescued from obscurity by the kind and careful 4 Men With Beards. Over beers, the arguments start. Who was the best band from Scotland? Glasses clink when you shout the Jesus and Mary Chain, easy targets. We nod approvingly and bend our elbows when Chris Deden suggests the dulcet commotion of the Pastels. “Even Nirvana couldn’t ruin the Vaselines!” says Marasco. “Take a drink!” Bottoms up. Orange Juice, anyone? We all shout, “never forget!” And then somebody walks in wearing a Napoleon Bonaparte mask and drops a twenty on the table to buy the next round in the name of The Shop Assistants. God bless Scotland and pray for their independence, y’all. The armchair critics are landlocked and blind. Blurry objects at a nearby table drinking martinis and other drinks which require plastic swords and candied fruit are muttering something about Belle and Sebastian, whoever they were. I avert my eyes and head for the bathroom. Wrong door. I looked in the closet and there was Donovan. Ah, happy hour. -Simon

Have a little taste, here!

V/A  "I Am Center 3xLP Private Issue New Age Music In America 1950-1990" (Light In The Attic) - A lot of blood has been spilled over New Age music as of late.
Oh sorry, did I say "blood"? I meant "ink". No blood whatsoever has been spilled for New Age.
I admit to always having a penchant for some of it. I can listen through a Steve Roach album, or one by Robert Rich, usually without being driven crazy. Still, I can't stand much of it. However, take some old analog synth takes on the genre, pick out the best from private press releases, and you have pretty much the most adventurous, intense and beautiful music New Age has to offer. It's one of those genres (like gospel and probably reggaeton) whose best examples exist along the margins. These are shimmering, spacious and, of course, meditative, and opposed to most dronetastic that fits into that categorization, it's often rather positive sounding - like a hopeful post-apocalyptic world where grass still grows and all the berries are organic. I've listened to this repeatedly since I got it last year - hearing older electronic music on vinyl is particularly gratifying for some reason. -Ben

Here’s a cute unboxing video that Light In The Attic made for this. Free Domino’s pizza to the first person who puts up a video with this but adds in a salivating collector’s boy reaction shots.

Tor Lundvall "The Park" (Dais) - Don't let the name fool you, because Tor Lundvall was raised in Wycoff, New Jersey, famous (to me) for the Wycoff Ivy Shop, where I was taken to buy my Bar Mitzvah suit. The Park is the third of an instrumental, ambient series, which I find to be my favorites of Lundvall's records. The songs are minor-keyed and ominous, heavy on synth sounds and ringing tones. I find them creating a fine sense of stillness, and this album being a inspired by the sense of visiting a park, there are field recordings of animals, insects and, you know,
"parky" things. It's quite gentle and involving, with a deft touch of mystical darkness. -Ben

Unfortunately, there’s nothing up online that I could find that’s from the album, but this will give you a great sense of what ol’ Tor sounds like.

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith "Euclid" (Western Vinyl) - I've often wondered why I'm so fascinated by early electronic music, and I think it may be the irony of how human the sounds are. Here were people performing on new instruments in new ways, literally discovering new sounds and ways to produce them, then using them as the basis for composition. You can hear the inventiveness in the tracks, how they are forming a new language thanks to one person's thought and creativity. Euclid is clearly a dedication to those early sounds, but Smith takes it further. Instead of merely honoring the time period, she takes the fundamentals of sound which are distinctly of the past and incorporates them with new sounds of today. The structures are a combination of what you'd hear in one of Raymond Scott's adventurous melodies mixed with doses of where electronic has headed since. The result is a gorgeous listen, inventive and playful, and very much based in a sense of humanity. -Ben

Here’s a song from the record called “Careen”

Dick Diver "New Start Again" (Chapter Music) - Dick Diver seems to have gotten a bit of a jump in popularity over the past six months, although maybe it's because I hadn't heard of them before then myself. This is a repress of their 2011 album, and much like Melbourne, Florida, they have a loose, charming jangle of a sound which is just about as unpretentious as you can get. This is a sound you probably know you like even before you hear it, the kind of music inspired by The Clean, Yo La Tengo, and Go-Betweens, that stripping a song down to primarily it's melodic contents, then presenting it raw. Happy music for nonplussed people? -Ben

Jon Gibson "Visitations" - Yet another amazing reissue from those fine wizards over at Superior Viaduct. Can these guys do wrong?
Jon Gibson is considered to be a pioneer of the American avant-garde music, having performed with sacred monsters such as, Terry Reilly, Steve Reich and La Monte Young, "Visitations" is his first solo effort from 1973.
I was elated when this slice arrived at our back door at Grapefruit Omaha HQ. We listened, and listened, and got interrupted, and then listened some more.
"Visitations" works best as the soundtrack to your one-man bar-b-q, where your kielbasa sausages cook perfectly over the fire you made from the toy xylophone you used to make your experimental record and your Dales* stay perfectly chilled.
Rumor has it, that Gibson is performing again. Too bad there is no coast here in Nebraska, for I assume he will never visit us here. If you see this, Jon, text me, I'll put you up. -Mike
*Dales is an IPA as tasty as Jon Gibson's "Visitations".

Have a sample at Superior Viaduct's soundcloud.

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