Saturday, November 28, 2009

Invisible, impalpable wires

Artur Nunes, "Mana" & "Kisua Ki Ngui Fuá" (Angola, '60s-'70s?)

Fantastically funky stuff from the former Portuguese colony of Angola: as with virtually every constituent of postcolonial Africa, Angolan music is marked by a combination of European classical and folk forms, rhythms and tonalities inherited from the West Indian & Latin American slave trades, and native musics of various kinds. Nunes, about whom I unfortunately know virtually nothing, has all this in spades -- dig the Spanish-Cuban flavored chord progressions, the re-Africanized western funk rhythms, the Thomas Mapfumo & Hallelujah Chicken Run Band-style arpeggiated fretwork, and that all-important Angolan shaker. "Kisua Ki Ngui Fuá" in particular is ramshackle dark-sunshine soul at its very finest.

Toni Esposito, "Rosso Napoletano", Rosso Napoletano (Italy, 1974)

Some consummate fourth-world fusion from drummer/percussionist Esposito, who's equally at home on Italian prog-jazz discs and in Don Cherry's small groups. The pacing, pattering doumbek sez 'Egypt,' the scatting vocals and rattling percussion 'Brazil,' and the high-drama/extended-harmony pianistics 'Eddie Palmieri,' but the interlocking Fender Rhodes/acoustic guitar webs over a hard-funk rhythm section is '70s Italian goodnuss (and for more transnational problematix, check the quizzical Hermeto-style Rhodes solo and the sparse foghorn interjections of Wayne Shorter/early Jan Garbarek soprano sax).

Horrific Child, "Frayeur", l'Étrange Mr. Whinster (France, 1976)

Not only do I not particularly know what the hell this is, but I'm within freezer-frost's breadth of declaring that no one could possibly know what the hell this is ('this' being without doubt the most lucid and referentiable track on the LP, the other side of which is primarily dedicated to guttural readings of the Comte de Lautréamont's Les chants de Maldoror over sub-Shub Niggurath goth-chamber squeaks). I give you one of the many deformed brainchildren of French bizarro-possible-genius Jean-Pierre Massiera, whose place in French pop music seems to be to Jean-Claude Vannier's roughly what Joe Meek's is to George Martin's in the Anglophone rock world, which is basically to say that JP's technical prowess and imagination are matched only by his penchant for self-immolating bizarrerie. Apparently he trafficked largely in film soundtracks for most of the '60s before moving to Quebec and releasing a string of Curt Boettcher-style exploitation novelty records, allowing of course for the obvious exception that Boettcher's actually sounded like those capital confections of whose fans the man was trying to take material advantage. Massiera, on the other hand, appears grounded with the Captain Beefheart Syndrome, which is to say that his efforts at cheap cash-outs are far stranger than the strangest most of us could aspire to even in a particularly fecund dreamscape -- if you think this is weird, which you should (unless you've been socialized in an environment saturated with fake African drumbreaks, fake Amazonian Popol Vuh vocal histrionics, Stockhausen/Berio tape manipulation, pygmy ritual percussion, atonal fusion ensemble playing, moronic one-chord fuzz guitar, and semi-Lester Lanin horror-movie organ, in which case you'd be me), you've got to hear his disco records.

Goblin, "Death Dies", Profondo Rosso OST (Italy, 1975)

I shan't try to top the Massiera for oddness (tonite), so here's one yeh may well already know, given that Goblin represents the extraordinarily rare case of an Italian minimalist-prog group dont la connaissance est fait plus mieux among film nerds than anyone particularly interested in the music itself -- this cut dates from genius-psychopath Dario Argento's Deep Red, one of the most brilliantly stylized of his films if not one of the more tonally or logically coherent (but then anyone going to him for coherence on any level but the visual one is either a masochist or a sad, lost babe in the woods). Their sound generally tended toward something more like a combination of Mike Oldfield and Le Orme -- think heavily-layered bedroom-symphonic minimalism with occasional outbreaks of Italo-rock grandeur -- but this one's pretty firmly in the camp of an addled Euro-arty appropriation of Hayes/Mayfield soundtrack funk. Drummer Walter Martino in particular is not to be fucked with (well, well, well limber).

Kornet, "Sju Hungriga Ar", Kornet (Sweden, 1975)

Some unreissued Scandinavian jazz-rock of which I know very little except that it quite beautifully splits the difference between the Continental through-composed school of fusion and the more 'Stateside Mwandishi/Headhunters find-a-groove-and-ride-that-shit subgenre. More classically-minded (which is perhaps but to say 'flute-using') fusion groups often take a face-first dive when it comes to bringing some actual funk soil'n'grit, but the groove here is well sepia when appropriate and takes on an early Mothers of Invention stutter-hop, complete with marimba infrastructure, for the chutes-and-ladders synth solo. Good damn stuff -- and yow, Gongzilla: yer a bit late on biting that intro, n'est-ce pas?

Kenny Barron, "Spirits" & "Hellbound", Lucifer (USA, 1975)

Killer-hip jazz-funk shit from the terminally underrated Barron, featuring a whole cast of rock-solid and likewise terminally underrated sidemen (James Spaulding, Billy Hart, Carlos Alomar, et al). The former track won't ruin any fragile unreconstructed Cartesian ontologies, but it gets serious points for the Dolphy-like dissonant head and Charles Sullivan's skittering, glittering trumpet acrobatics; the latter, on the other hand, is going to take the top of your motherfvckin' head off. Barron, going it solo Stevie Wonder-style, creates a tapestry of Rhodes, synth, and acoustic piano that recalls both prime era George Duke and Klaus Schulze and proceeds to develop it steadily for 13 minutes, fire-bombing it with burning-gold Coltranean pillars of modal-chromatic fire on the piano. This is A-1, top grade, superfly-TNT, through-the-halls-of-Montezuma, charge-of-the-heavy-ass-brigade sheeit, and though it's got antecedents on different levels from the aforemention Duke, Schulze, and Wonder to Todd Rundgren and Return to Forever, I have yet to hear anything else precisely like this -- ever. Hey, you! You know who's not fucking around? Kenny Barron. Kenny Barron's not fucking around.

Skaldowie, "Nasza Milosc Jak Wiatr Halny", Stworzenia Swiata Czesc Druga (Poland, 1977)

Ostensibly Skaldowie is best known in Eastern Europe for a string of post-Beatles beat-pop hits, and the eight other people with computers to whom this sort of thing is import seem unanimous in their regard for their 1973 LP Krywan, Krywan, but I've been fascinated of late with the trans-cultural interstices of this particular slab (modesty entitled "The Creation of the World, Part Two," or something to that effect). It's equal and frictious parts moonlit early symph-prog, orchestral Stax soul, and stark, violin-driven Polish folk, something like Michal Urbaniak sitting in with the first King Crimson on their re-arrangement of Isaac Hayes' Black Moses (credibility both established and exceeded -- reconnect schizo-schreberian matrix mainline) -- dig those Trespass massed-choral vocals slipping into flashbulb drum breaks and swooning Smokey Robinson strings.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

FInal flights of « la dinde mélancolique »

In which M. crafts a heathaze/summer-dying-incandescence suite of filmic opportunism for a Super-8 remake of Wild Strawberries, starring the turkey that will be brutally and deliciously thrown on the altar of my own personal bloodfeast tomorruh night. Cheers from Kansas Citeeeeee ...

Le Groupe X, "Crawling," Frrrrrigidaire (Italy, 1973)

Some never-reissued pastoral-sympho-fusion in a way of which only Italians seem, for whatever reason, to have gotten the grasp -- it's an odd balancing act between ornate semi-classicist melancholia as might be found on some cross-country-railway-coming-of-age flick scored by Morricone (maybe Terence Stamp as the worldly but sensitive older friend?) and little bits of Yes (in the Wakemanized Moog themes) and Franco Battiato (in the buzzy synth orchestrations and rather rustic harmonic content). Music to which to break up with yr first girlfriend if ever I've heard it ...

Coste Apetrea, "Ockhams Rakkniv," Nyspolat (Sweden, 1977)

Scintillating Cubano-fusion from the solo debut of the Romanian-born guitarist for Sweden's brilliant art-prog-carnivalesque sonic terrorists Samla Mammas Manna -- think Chick Corea c. My Spanish Heart with spiky, very non-DiMeola/non-shredder fusion guitar and the sense of taste and restraint that has rarely, if perhaps not never, been one of Chick's primary strengths (particularly not in that era: The Leprechaun up through, let's say, Secret Agent represents a remarkable nadir in terms of aesthetic self-awareness in modern music -- which is precisely not to say that they're uniformly awful, and this in a way is the entire problem, given that a total lack of discernment between great and unbearably tacky strikes me as being more disturbing than simple, clean, American shittiness).

Fusioon, "Llaves del Subconsciente, Pt. I," Minorisa (Spain, 1975)

Let me tell yrself something about myself, and in particular something about myself and Mellotrons: I have this recurring dream in which I'm walking along the side of a browning-gold twilight European viaduct and a fleet of pendulous overhanging Mellotrons begins to drown me in the collective scree of their gradually decomposing "three violins" tapesets, and as the ferrous oxide fills my nostrils I am happier than I have ever known myself to be in waking life. While not "true," per se, the foregoing example perhaps displays, in a certain gestural or theumotic sense, a bit of my enthusiasm for the ambiance of thee tape-beast itsveryownself, and this rather Krautrocky/prog-trance track from the otherwise more Euro-symph-inclined Fusioon might well be the aural correlative to my personal equivalent of that Bergman sequence in which the young girl is raped by that giant spider that turns out to have always-already been God. That is actually in a Bergman film, right? ... right?

Exmagma, "25 Two Seconds Before Sunrise," Goldball (Germany, 1974)

They'd frankly have a lease in my private mindgarden for that cover alone (not even so much 'surreal,' in whatever force such a very co-opted word can have at a point in history at which it's taken to refer equally to R. Roussel and Charlie fuckin' Kaufman, as just bewildering -- who had that idea? Why did he have that idea?), but this post-Milesian murkeur sounds like the unmixed reels from two or three different Jarrett/Henderson/DeJohnette-group-era gigs accidentally group-copied onto the same master tape by a stoned Teo Macero, the latter of whom, upon finding within himself the glowing reservoirs of character to tell Miles what had happened, was greeted with, " ... sheeeeit. I dig that, though, Teo. Put some of that echo on it ... that weeeeird sheeit that you do ..."

Hermeto Pascoal, "Tacho (Mixing Pot)," Missa dos Escravos [Slaves' Mass] (Brazil, 1977)

As David Icke once said to the world-controlling race of reptilian alien-kings about the gold-isotope cure for AIDS that they were ritualistically and recreationally injecting, This is what I come here for: the spiraling, Piazzola-like intro is coy and beautifully postured, the surdo groove well membranous, Hermeto's Clavinet-and-voice improvisation lyrical and pithy with that deadpan Brazilian bounce that I've still yet to hear successfully replicated, and the Alphonso Johnson/Chester Thompson rhythm section positively dental in its attention to articulation and timbre. Around 6'30", when Alphonso's utterly characteristic fuzz line arcs over and through the toms-and-bells groove, tell me you aren't menaced with flashes of something altogether telluric and nautical ...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bonus nerd round pt. 39: the revenge of the chaste

Crucis, "Pollo Frito," Los Delirios de Mariscal (Argentina, 1976)

A record that I've never quite been able either to leave altogether, like the Independent Woman that I know lurks inside my fragile but fecund masculine shell, or to embrace fully: I believe I've previously posted its leadoff track, "No Me Separen de Mi," which is some true cracklin', but I always find myself yawning with the lethal Distracted Prog Ennui at least twice during any runthrough of Los Delirios de Mariscal. Crucis is generally considered the top-flight Argentinian prawg group par excellence, but they do tend to lean a bit hard on certain Romantic/Wagnerian clichés and some good-but-uninspiring bluesy guitar monotony. What a thoroughly equivocal reading I've just given you, the Impressionable Viewing Audience! This one's a bit more in the Area/Czeslaw Niemen bugged-out fusion realm and thus commands more of the sinthome energy I slam into the Assassination Mainframe (that's how people talk in my apartment, I swears it), and the Stravinsky/Bartók time-dislocation motif of portentous synth/organ chords against a polyrhythmic bit of guitar crunch is Louis-Ferdinand Céline-gnarled and -spiked.

Honoré Avolonto, "Na Mi Do Gbé Hué Nu" (Benin, ?)

Interesting stuff from the recent Legends of Benin comp (this year, eye think): maybe it's just my desperate Occidental mind trying to differentiate and define, but in this clearly Fela-feeling Afrobeat framework, I get a bit more of the Latino-Carib interchange with so many of the rhythms and structures of arrangement that we call either "Latin" on the one hand or "African" on the other than I do with Mr. Kuti. After the first exploitation of African slaves in Latin and Caribbean America, the lines between Native Latin/Caribbean American-, Spanish-, and African-influenced music become impossibly multivocal and recursive, and what most of us would readily identify as, for example, inescapably Congolese (Staff Benda Bilili or Konono Nr. 1, for example) is as deeply Cuban/Haitian as African, per se. A bit of history toward a chicken-scratch guitar and shekere groove that, as ever, hides its true history always, always elsewhere ...

Belisama, "Belisama (Deuxième Partie)" / Georges Garvarentz, "Nues dans l'eau" (France 1960s)

Je ne sais pas beaucoup des origines de ces chansons; je les ai trouvé par un disc «bootleg» qui s'appele Psychedelic Yé-Yé après l'epoque de la musique pop Français aux années '60s, une musique trés bien connue au Continent mais assez inconnue aux États-Unis ... pour quelqu'un qui sait tant de la culture Français, il faut qu'il sache Serge Gainsbourg, Brigitte Bardot, Chantal Goya, et cetera. Ces sont des artistes, à l'autre main, dont je ne sais presque rien: la première, Belisama, est un bon exemple de la musique de rock «psyché-fuzz», commes nous disons en anglais, mais je n'ai rien d'info historique de cette chanson; l'autre, Georges Garvarentz, a ecrit plusiers chansons pour et avec Charles Aznavour, le chanteur français très célèbre (il a mari la soeur d'Aznavour, aussi), et il a composée la musique pour approximativement 150 films. God, I'm a pompous twat.

Alessandro Alessandroni, "Manhattan Disco" / "Duke Soul Jazz" / "Skyscrapers" /"Sbirro in Fuga (Reprise)", from Sangue di Sbirro (Italy, 1974)

Alessandroni woz in fact none other than the whistler on many of Ennio Morricone's most famous scores, including the immortal The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, A Fistful of Dollars, and For a Few Dollars More; his score for the B-grade 1976 Italian cop-flick Sangue di Sbirro (something like A Cop's Blood and known by a different title in each country that saw its release, which doesn't usually bode too well for yr standards of cinematic achievement -- it even appears to have been flogged for re-release by retitling it Pour un dollar d'argent in France in some marketing hack's attempt at a tie-in with the Eastwood/Morricone/Leone flix) is about 50% shameless Shaft-'sploitation (the title theme manages to lift wholesale both the arrangement and the chord changes while altering the melody jesssssssenough to avoid copyright law), but the three first tracks here are gloss-dripping, coke-sniffing, chest-hair-ruffling Eurotrash (no offence, Alessandro) pseudofunk at its very, very finest, and "Sbirro in Fuga (Reprise)" is some legitimately eerie, unsettling minimalist drama-stabbing that sounds like a Dario Argento score done by David Axelrod.

The Maxwells, "Esther," Maxwell Street (W. Germany, 1969)

You'll see this rekord trumpeted in the blog-o-dise as a lost classic -- don't buy it. It's largely white blues and faux-soul of a thoroughly mediocre rank, but the leadoff track "Esther" summons visions of Tim Buckley as produced by Robert Fripp and Pete Sinfield c. King Crimson's Lizard, all ghostly hints of eroded medievalism and uncomfortably close-mic'd vocals, with a pure Nick Evans trombone solo in the back half. Pity about the rest of yr album, boys ...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Fifth World Tawks to You

Living Funk, "Silver Black Summer Day" (US?, 1973)

Some more musique de la mystère: I know this track from a comp called Club Africa, Vol. 1 that supposedly consists only (but we know what a tenuous position that is) of "original Afro-funk," but everything I can find (very little) about this praticklar single suggests that it's a faux-African or perhaps post-African (or, even better, post-faux) American single, perhaps with some actual Afrikaners involved -- the guitar work and Fela-pawnshop electric piano tone have cette odeur de la Nigéria (it would appear that one of the latent deconstructive effects of Anglo-French imperialism in African was to accidentally distribute RMS electric pianos like Bibles all across the northwestern nations). The groove, that language that's never pan-language but in a certain Kristevan-semiotic-choric sense perhaps the very condition of language, is of course sphincterate and swampy, and the combination of Jimmy Nolen chicken-scratch guitar with Hendrixian fuzz is some Highly Advanced Shit.

We All Together, "It's a Sin to Go Away," We All Together (Peru, 1973)

Apparently WAT's actually a rather well-known Peruvian group, primarily for their early covers of Badfinger and solo McCartney in an era when the originals weren't exactly flooding Latin America. We have here that mixture of post-comedown suicidalism and fraudulent grandeur that the '70s did particularly well, especially in a nation that, by the dictates of modern capital, had to fall hard on a mass scale and couldn't afford the subsequent decades of solipsism into which the Yanquí world has fallen after its navel-gazing Edenic-infantile fantasy period. The tension between the hard-panned fuzz-bass, Hammond organ, and almost castrato-gentle ensemble vocals recalls for me, for reasons I couldn't quite pinpoint, a sort of nightmare-mirror version of Buffalo Springfield, which of course is high, high praise.

Soul Messengers, "Prince of Zeal" (Israel, 1975-1981)

From the Numero Group's brilliant Eccentric Soul series, we have perhaps the grandaddy of left-of-centeur funk finds: the Soul Messengers were one of a number of ad-hoc groups formed from the ranks of the African Black Israelites of Jerusalem, led by Ben Ammi Ben-Israel (née Carter), a proto-Christian Afrocentric Jewish sect that sprung up around Chicago and Detroit in the early '70s aftermath of Black Power, Vietnam, and MLK -- Biblical exegetes that they were, they eventually located a particular spermatikos logos not in the American Black gospel tradition but in its Jewish antecedents and decided to encamp in Dimona, a small Israeli city off the Dead Sea incorporated during the immediate post-founding David Ben-Gurion period, where the community has lived since (and in which it has only recently received full citizenship status -- good lookin' out, Chosen Land). The track itself isn't quite like anything else I've ever heard: there's a certain CTI funk-'fusion' slickness to it, but the head is pure Larry Young/Woody Shaw pyrotekhne and whoever's behind the drums has his warp-speed Tony Williams licks engraved in stone -- to say nothing of the early Wayne Shorter-style flanged tenor solo, of which perhaps nothing need be said.

The American Revolution, "Opus #1," The American Revolution (US, 1968)

Apparently the rest of the LP is some soft-batch Association/Curt Boettcher harmony pop, but this harpsichord-carapace'd gem seems to exist nearly out of time: it's utterly contemporaneous with the first wave of major label psych-exploitation stuff Stateside, but it so uncannily presages the eerier, more self-consciously home-made outsider-pop style of the early Elephant 6 collective (I think, for example, of Olivia Tremor Control's brilliant "I Have Been Floated") that, in the true (true?) lineage (lineage?) of ek-stasis, its-self is outside it-self. The horn-wind arrangement is brilliant and protean, and the mannered faux-Anglo baroquerie with which Johnny Leadvox intones, "Why are you scared to ad-mit / That you've been born in a time into which you don't fit?," crystallizes a certain corner of my psych-pop obsession-metrics.

La Máquina de Hacer Pájaros, "Bubulina," La Máquina de Hacer Pájaros (Argentina, 1976)

My rather well-documented fixation with Argentine rockinroll being what it is, I've probably had occasion to mention Charly García on here before, one of the two most important figures in that nation's modern pop heritage--the other, Luis Alberto Spinetta, has definitely showed up on the Conqueroo in the guise of his early group Almendra's gorgeous "Muchacha (Ojos de Papel)." I frankly can't get that heavily into García's early and rather soporific folk-rock leaning work in Sui Generis, the group that made his name (well, that and the fact that he once waltzed around a public square with a corpse in order to get a mental illness deferment from military service), but this Máquina de Hacer Pájaros (the Bird-Making Machine) track is just about perfect. Gustavo Bazterrica's chattering, flinty guitar is opulent, and the way that the structure of the composition skirts the edges of a fairly standard pre-Romantic/tango-style chord progression but throws in just enough blued notes and replaced roots is truly brilliant. ¡Mierda sagrada!, as I'm guessing no Argentinian would ever actually say.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Like the ghost, I come always as a coming-again

R. Dero, "Whirling" (Belgium?)

Not too much information on this'un: R. Dero (person? group?) appears to have been in the West European library record game and vaguely affiliated with a circle of fake-Latin-soul studio groups of Belgio-French extraction including El Chicles and the Chakachas, the sort of names which, one takes it with a certain amount of faith, incite gnarly tumescence among the netherzones of record collectors everywhere. Bit of a Rick Wright-Pink Floyd vs. Tangerine Dream vibe, with some crispy over-recorded synth and a Bonhamesque drum sound ... heet.

Roy Harper, "All You Need Is," Come Out Fighting Genghis Smith (UK, 1968)

Harper was a bit like the addled, scarily-eccentric backwoods cousin of Donovan, a bit like Nick Drake with a yet more brutal outlook and the decency to temper it with scabrous humor rather than self-pity (Drake traveled to France to hit on Françoise Hardy, only to lose his nerve when she opened her apartment door and return to London in silence; Roy'd likely have torn out a chunk of her hair and taken a photograph of her reaction). As the '70s wore on, he'd progress further and further into a sort of epic-prog-folk, often filling LPs (like his arguable peak, 1973's Stormcock) with fewer than five tracks, each of which tended to flirt with or surpass the ten-minute mark and pirouette dervish-style around a few central themes that came and went like banks of fog. This earlier track finds Roy not quite having given himself over to the allusive/elusive wordplay that would become a trademark, but the Joe Boyd/Mickie Most dark-baroque arrangement is top-shelf.

Focus 3, "10,000 Years Behind My Mind" (UK, 1968?)

Haven't got a great deal of knowledge to articulate upon this virginal body-without-organs either: I found the track on a comp of otherwise obscure stuff recorded at Abbey Road betwixt '65 and '69, and it's got the slightly John Barry/David Axelrod feel of a psych track by an ad-hoc "groovy young combo" that was the front for some anonymous staff producer/arranger (see: Electric Prunes, Mass in F Minor), but, these informations shorn from us like the back hair of a bet-losing short-order cook, we have only the hot drum break and string arrangement to light the path to our own graves ... yes.

The Gaytones, "Soul Makossa" (US?, 1972)

Pretty shameless Manu Dibango rip on every level (he wrote the track, fer chrissakes), but a really damn good one. Again, as per the Gaytones, I've got nothing: this could actually be African, but the fact of its release on Capitol combined with the brief interval between its release and Manu's version (who in Cameroon needs a "Soul Makossa" cover that quickly?) makes me suspect a failed Stateside makossa cash-in attempt, p'raps with an actual Camerounien on the mic. Fish-stink rhythm section, anyway.

Débile Menthol, "Crash que peut," Émile au jardin patrologique (Switzerland, 1981)

Some wonderful Continental post-prog pre-punk: the spiraling, web-weaving guitars are pure Brit symph-rock, the strings and woodwinds strictly from the Henry Cow/Aksak Maboul/Univers Zero playbook, but the vox and rhythm section smell un peu comme Père Ubu, via the venerable Cpt. Beefheart and perhaps Gang of Four. The entire LP (Émile in the Patrological Garden) is just as strangely combinatory and exciting: when all rock is art rock and all music musique de l'art, well, those categorical schematics seem a bit for the tossers, n'est-ce pas?


Just wanningtoo let fools know that I'm gonna be up in this shit with refreshing beverages and golden-brown chimichangas drizzled with mp3 sauce. The 24-hour coffee shops of the world must no longer labor under the tyranny of Ani DiFranco and the Putamayo World Music series ...