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.

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