Monday, December 21, 2009

'On a living pavement of aborted bastards, no doubt'

John the Conqueroo, online repository for the audition of that interstitial meeting-zone between Slingshot Henderson and Père Urbain Grandier, is happy to be hitting that Gummy Bear azz with full albums for the very first time today (in addition to the usual mystery morsels). Enjoy, you mang-nificent bitches.


Orquesta Mirasol, Salsa Catalana (Spain, '76?)

A band/group on which even the trusty bulwark of can find precious little; they were Catalan, ostensibly, and at some point morphed into the virtually identical Mirasol Colores, but aside from that brief and paltry attempt at indexing, we have but the music. That music is, happily, what Frank Zappa circa autumn '74 in Helsinki would term "a barrel of motherfuckers": the salsa quotient, at least in any recognizable West Indian/Latin-American form, is fairly minimal, and that with which we're presented is more like a Spanish folk group's take on Soft Machine. Skirling scribbles of Elton Dean-style soprano sax, thick McCoy Tyner/Hermeto Pascoal modal piano comping, and some of the only cuica overdubs of the 1970s in no way related to Airto Moreira -- this is some hot shit. Dig in particular the opening duo of "To De 'Re' per a Mandolina i Clarinet"/"Reprise," two readings of the same quartal theme that span the language-gap between Triana or Anacrusa in their more folklórico-minded moments and Missus Beastly featuring a pith-minded John Surman on Hot Baritone Injection ... all this before the shake-your-machinery Amazonian drum break. "Molt Trist" is vaguely more salsa-minded, at least in its early moments, but the bubbling Hugh Hopper-Richard Sinclair bass work eventually forces into precipitation a Picchio dal Pozzo high-pressure zone of glimmering keys and cascading woodwinds. Brilliant stuff; apparently there's a European two-fer CD with this and Mirasol Colores' later La Boquería, of which you should buy two and give them both to me if ever you glimpse it.

Cos, Postaeolian Train Robbery + Classroom bonus tracks (Belgium, '74)

Cos and its predecessor Classroom were both early projects of Daniel Schell's (who may be known to some of you depraved Euro-types, or anyone who consistently drops his frozen pizza with excitement on Soulstrut Record Day, for his later psych-folk-oriented work with the Dutch troubador Dick Annegarn). Fantastic, pellucid, intricately- but sparely-orchestrated jazz-rock with the rather Meredith Monk-style vocal work of Pascale Son skittering along atop the glacial Rhodes of Charles Loos and Robert Dartsch's limber, Billy Cobham-meets-Robert Wyatt drumming. Check Classroom's "La Patrie," which sounds something like Chantal Goya yé-yé gotten hold of and Cubistically reconfigured by Jean-Claude Vannier or the Moving Gelatine Plates, and the alternately stately and obsessively minimalistic "Coloc," with a monstrous, barely-in-control Schell guitar solo.


Elvin Jones, "Song of Rejoicing After Returning from a Hunt," The Main Force (U.S., '75)

Techo-organic future-tribalism from Jones' all-too-overlooked early '70s experiments with fusion (we have Scott Yanow, credulous and enthusiastic as he is, to thank for this, presumably -- you know, Scott, there were jazz records made between Bitches Brew and the Catastrophic Marsalis Event). Jones apparently crafted the loose structure of the track by adapting for drum kit an actual pygmy ritual rhythm (the 'djoboko of the Ba-Benzele pygmies' according to the very, very period liner notes), and he tramps and rumbles multidirectionally through the webs of Angel Allende's friable percussion, the reed ostinati of Pat LaBarbara and Frank Foster, and Ryo Kawasaki's vocalic wah-wah guitar scintillations whilst Steve Grossman twists and scratches in his idiosyncratic post-Coltranean way. Ironically for the man driven from Coltrane's band as the final, nearly genre-less period of collaborations with Rashied Ali, Pharoah Sanders, and Alice Turiyasangitananda reached its vertiginous apex, Elvin actually sounds not unlike a more focused, weighty Ali here, interspersing his trademark Afro-Latin-American ambidexterity with tempo-less runs and stealth-bomber interjections.

Finnforest, "Koin Slipesi," Finnforest (Finland, '75)

Some rather Krautrocky-ECM moves from this primarily more Mahavishnu-leaning Finnish trio: much of the rest of their debut sounds like a stripped-down Nordic take on Birds of Fire, but we're a bit more in the territory of John Abercrombie's Timeless or the latter end of Damo Suzuki's tenure with Can here. Interesting and all-too-rare contrast between the solemn, open-ended post-bop chord changes and the hint of Hendrixian psych in Pekka Tegelman's running wah-wah commentary ... 2'52" of lovemakin' with yr favorite iceberg.

Dzamble, "Dziewczyna, w ktora wierze," Wolanie o slonce nad swiatem (Poland, '71)

No idea what it is with Poland and grimy Stax soul, but beginning with Czeslaw Niemen and following hard thence, them bearded Krakowites seem to have had a serious thing for Otis Redding, Percy Sledge, Wilson Pickett, et al. Dzamble tends more toward the Blood, Sweat, and Tears/early Chicago thide of sings, a move I'd normally abhor but for the aplomb with which they manage this regimen: all too often, early American "jazz-rock" means semi-competent sub-Claptonisms over the very corniest 2-5-1 chord changes in the Ellington catalogue, but the montuno drumbreak at the outset smooths over worries for at least the necessary 3'45".

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Jerry? ... Xerxes?

Ice, "Ozan Kouklé," The Afro-Instrumental LP (France, '78?)

Seriously high-gloss faux-Afro-funk from these Franchmens, who I think may have been largely or completely erstwhile members of the also notable faux-Afro-funk troupe Lafayette Afro-Rock Band (why this sort of inexplicable and excellent mummery apparently ended in 1980, I'll never be sure). This goes in for some Big Sleep exotica harmonies one would be hard-pressed to find on an actual African record of the era, but the groove maintains a certain unimpeachabillity.

Lula Côrtes & Zé Ramahlo, "Trilha de Sume," Paebiru (Brazil, '75)

Some ridiculous shit from a digger's-dream Brazilian psych LP of which virtually the entire original pressing was destroyed in a warehouse fire; not having contracted that particular brand of fetishism myself, I'm among that rare and pitiable minority which cares mostly about what the music sounds like, and Paebiru is no-disappointment territory. The rest of the LP tends more toward addled, effects-ridden chamber folk, but "Trilha de Sume" rides out a Holger Czukay bassline, ritualistic chanting and percussion, and manic Liebman/Grossman flute and soprano sax runs to fantastic effect.

Bohemia, "Horké letni stmivani," Zrnko Pisku (Czech, '77)

Young, aspirationally, terribly naïve record nerds of the world: you'd do well to develop a congenital suspicion of anything called "funk-fusion," lest you wind up owning hour upon hour of facile riffing around the chromatic scale by studio dudes too ashamed to give full reign to the inner funk-gloss d(a)emons but too damned lazy actually to write a worthwhile fusion record. The Czech group Bohemia is a happy exception: "Horké letni stmivani," which I assume/hope doesn't mean anything ideologically offensive, has Elton Dean-style sax over psychy pools of wah-guitar and nearly atonal through-composed sections on the transgressive seam-bursting tip -- dig the Zappa-esque guitar/soprano doubled lines around 6:00.

Planetarium, "Infinity," Infinity (Italy '71)

Juice from the ever-productive Italian Mystery Rind; a learned sociocultural scholar such as, if I may be so humble, myself should at some point inquire deep into the post-fascistic social structures that compelled Italian youths to band together across beard-bridges and record hip-as-fuck one-off prog records for the first five years of the '70s, only to vanish into undeserved but perhaps sought-for obscurity. "Infinity (A)" future-jacks the hand percussion and burning Hammond organ from Santana's brief period of experimentation and, though the utterance possibly verges on harshness, cultural value (I'm thinking Caravanserai in particular); I'd post the second half of this very, very loosely-conceived 'suite,' but it's frankly some half-competent blues guitar and samey organ riffing over a "Lust for Life" drumbreak redeemed only slightly by some distant choral-orchestral frameworking, and I'm curious to see to what degree your lives will suffer as a result of its lack.

Wigwam, "Hot Mice," Fairyport (Finland '71)

Some fantastically tactile through-composed chamber-fusion from the frozen lands, apparently the work of bassist Pekka Pohjola in rather obvious nominational tribute to Zappa's then-recent Hot Rats; particularly during those scored clarinet runs, he gets damn close, and the thing-in-toto (as if it were a possibility) is better than its self-consciously derivative status might imply. Wigwam and Pohjola fans, for whatever reason, seem to be among those groups that take the objects of their interest, to use the polite term, really, really seriously, so I shan't pretend to any further or more penetrating knowledge as is my usual modus operatic ...

Island, "Zero," Pictures (Switzerland '77)

Really quite shockingly good post-symphonic prog (Présent plus Gentle Giant wouldn't be too far afield) regarding which even Thee Dread Interwebs fail to turn up much information; probably safe to assume that they were fairly into Alien and had rough experiences in high school, which would make them indistinguishable from me along a certain rubric, except of course for the fact that their country is presently banning minarets and delivering 1920s rhetoric about "the Islamic invasion" in a country with about as many Muslims as go to my university whereas as 'my' country considers simple not-in-my-back-yard xenophobia some amateur shit and actually extends its Randian military phallus into the Middle East, creating neo-Vietnam revolutionary states with which it hasn't any goddamn idea how to deal ... music?