thebrotheregg "Aortica Mor", Kiila "Silmät Sulkaset", Eric Matthews "Six Kinds of Passion Looking for an Exit", Brian Wilson "Smile", Akron/Family "Akron/Family", Bipolaroid "Transparent Make-believe", The Franciscan Hobbies "Walls Are Stuck", Salamander "Bent Hemlock", Jandek "When I Took that Train", Dredd Foole "A Long, Losing Battle with Eloquence and Intimance", Clive Palmer "All Roads Lead to Land".
Mor" (Bingo Lady, P.O. Box 1712, Billings, MT 59103 www.bingoladyrecords.com)
Bouncy propulsive and melodic, and slightly miraculous concentrated goodness
and good will built around the songs and voice of Adam Goldman. This Portland,
Oregon quartet make a bright and deliriously blissed out brand of fey
psychedelic pop that is addictive and infectiously joyous. They bring
to mind a low key Sea and Cake in places perhaps, but they also recall
Olivia Tremor Control, Mercury Rev, the Kitchen Cynics, Dogbowl, Lambchop,
Clive Pig & the Hopeful Chinamen, and other charming eccentrics. Soaring
on harmonic layers of voice and instrumentation, making these intricate
soft spoken miniature pop masterpieces.
Brian Wilson "Smile" (Nonesuch) Many of us have assembled out own sequences and attempts at some semblance of what Smile might have been from the few released tracks and bootleg fragments. Brian Wilson and his incredible and heroic backing band have sort of done the same thing here. Linking fragments of the unfinished jigsaw puzzle into sequential song suites. Incredible vocal arrangements, enormous orchestral power and eloquence from all of the participants; including Brian who has less range than his youth, but sounds great. The missing ingredient to the original Smile album was the love, vision, and good humor Brian found sorely lacking in 1966; it took 37 years, but at last he’s found it, and we are all the beneficiaries of that compassion. Short of some sort of time machine, history will never be rewritten, but anyone with ears can hear what this is, and what might have been in a kinder wiser world; as it is this is easily the album and musical event of the year, if not the last couple decades.
Akron/Family "Akron/Family" (Young God) This quartet is based in NYC though they have a series of sounds that are far beyond any specific region; grand mystical hallucinatory chamber music country-folk based melodic constructions that aspire to the sky and beyond. Compassionate woozy and high, soaring from lonely and spare, to saturated and surrounded communal warmth. The seamless telepathic interplay of the quartet is augmented by half a dozen guests, including producer Michael Gira, who each appear on a track or two. Providing a wide and wise sweeping view; grounded in a spiritual earthly physicality, but reaching for the transcendent and truly psychedelic. Just as often intimate as a shared whisper. Or the soft grace of surrender and acceptance in the full realization of one's mortality, frailty and strength. A brilliant debut; and certainly one of the best albums of 2005 out of the gate.
Bipolaroid "Transparent Make-believe" (Surreal But Kind, P.O. Box 50131, New Orleans, LA 70151 www.bipolaroid.com) This late 2003 release is one of the best psychedelic pop albums I’ve heard in 2004. Based in New Orleans; this quartet is built around the songs and voice of Benjamin Michael Glover, who is augmented by the multi-instrumental skills of Ben Sumner (guitars, keyboards, percussion and string arrangements), and the bass of Tom Stevens and the drumming of Wallace Lester. A set of eleven songs that wouldn’t have sounded out of place in 1967. The strongest reference point has to be Syd Barrett; both with, and without Pink Floyd, though you can also hear echoes of Beatles, Television Personalities, The Misunderstood, and contemporaries like Green Pajamas, Robyn Hitchcock and Dipsomaniacs as well. They veer between melodic harmonic multicolored sugarcube pop constructions and more exponentially expansive extraterrestrial adventures; which is to say, they can spin a memorable tune as well as they can do the space rock thing. The addition of a trio of strings (featuring members of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra) to selected tracks gives an orchestrally rich organic depth, but this entire enterprise feels meticulously crafted and detailed, but it’s also a lot of fun. Conjuring up old ghosts from the folk music of psychedelic pop but infusing them with so much life that they vividly reinvigorate and exemplify the contemporary vitality of the form.
The Franciscan Hobbies "Walls Are Stuck" (Music Fellowship) A factory of shadows thumps and clanks in b&w dusty slide shows. Tilted folk song happily alien sliding sideways in the sunlight; flutes, bells, guitars, drums, and lots of things I can't name, all interacting and listening to each other. Crickets, haunted whispery atmosphere and strumming glimmering reflections and shadows in the moonlight. Radio shifting EVP and circles of mystery and lucky accidents. Jingle of jewels in a string, tuning up symphonics and scattered strum and unfolding flicker and fumble in the firelight. Bright dreamy melodic memory recalled in sunlit colors. Spectral dust of the past and future in a lulling circular universe of questions. Somewhere near that place Tower Recordings goes to, where it's almost quiet and the walls talk; being the most orchestral of all of the Jewelled Antler gang. Here Thuja mates; Glenn Donaldson, Loren Chasse, and Rob Reger, along with a half dozen friends from bands like the Muons, and Leaf Yard, make some fine earthly organic improv.
Salamander "Bent Hemlock" (Camera Obscura) As if to confound any and all expectations out of the gate; Salamander kick things off with supernatural 11 year old guest vocalist Madeline Westby narrating a haunted Brit-folk chiller, over stark shadows, strings and acoustic guitar on Galleon. From there we find ourselves in a dark smoky folk procession; acoustic instruments saw, drone, intone and swirl like gold wire spun in the sun. But, the sunlight here is slim, and twilight gives way to a night that never ends. Stark in the dark.This takes off in a lot of unexpected directions for a band more often identified with a heavier; or at least louder space rock rooted sound. Here it feels like a they all reached into their own genetic ancestors prehistories to illuminate the baker's dozen tracks here. By stretching into new shapes and forms, the band have to rely more on song structures than ever before, and rise to the occasion with some really evocative and fully realized visions. Psychedelic in ways they have only touched upon previously; this fourth album the most interesting, rewarding, and mature Salamander release yet.
Jandek "When I Took that Train" (Corwood) His 40th album; 11 tracks, the longest is the last at almost 7 minutes. Cover is a color photo of our hero somewhere in Europe. A series of lovesick love letters. Moony loony loopy obsessive love letters, with a slightly threatening undertone. Thoughts circling around a love measured out in short chapters. Expectations and hopeful wishes crowding out the possibilities, until it reaches a physically impossible mystical emptiness.
Dredd Foole "A Long, Losing Battle with Eloquence and Intimance" (Ecstatic Yod) This LP is certainly one of the most fully activated Dredd Foole related releases yet sprung upon the sleeping masses. Here it's Dan Ireton stoned alone with his guitar(s), and wide mountain range of a voice. Trying to draw comparisons is tough; some Skip Spence and Jandek meet Tim Buckley unravelling in the psychic reverie of time, soul, and matter that continues to eternally fall apart and come together like almost mundane magic. Absolutely essential listening, and one of Dredd Foole's finest moments.
Clive Palmer "All Roads Lead to Land" (Communion) It sure sounds great to hear this voice again. To anyone familiar with the two early 70s albums Clive Palmer and friends did as C.O.B., this 2004 album of new recordings will be more than welcome. Clive sounds older now, but he still sounds like himself as well; playing with several traditions of songcraft; from British folk, to tinpan alley with equally distinctive results. He can almost make his banjo talk; and his pipe playing is lovely as well. He's joined by additional folks on two tracks; including old Incredible String Band mate Robin Williamson on one track, but mostly this is truly a solo album. Beguiling, slightly sentimental, and entirely lovely.
Antony and the Johnsons "The Lake", Piano Magic "Saint Marie", Textile Ranch "Bird Heart in Wool", American Music Club "Love Songs for Patriots", Ya Ho Wha 13 "The OPERETTA", L "Holy Letters", The North Sea "Locust Grove", Satwa "Satwa", Nervous Norvus "Stone Age Woo".
Antony and the Johnsons "The Lake" (Secretly
Canadian) I couldn't get SC to send a promo, but it was well worth buying.
Beautiful cover photo of Candy Darling on her deathbed by the late Peter
Hujar. Opening with Antony's androgynous gospel flavored mourning over
E.A. Poe's words to the titular track of this 3 song EP. Next it's Lou
Reed that provides the introduction to Fistful of Love; which musically
resembles Van Morrison around the time of "His Band and the Street
Choir". The last track The Horror Has Gone feels like a sad grown-up
lullaby; and may well be the most lovely thing here.
Textile Ranch "Bird Heart in Wool" (Very
Our friend Glen Johnson at home making fragile music box melodies out
of snips of found sounds, and even a few musical instruments. A saw saws
in rhythm as chiming bright synthesizer glimmers and gleams. There are
a couple female guest vocalists who warm things up to a skeletal semblance
of Piano Magic, but often this is more spare. Constructed from delicate
twig, leaf, and bird song rhythms, small ice crystal cathedrals arise
and radiate light and sound. Spectral menace walks on spidery fingers,
haunted pathways hide the light. Tracks like the sprightly Girl with Numbered
Heart feel like something that should have come out on Sky Records in
1978, while French singer Angèle David-Guillou (of Klima) brings
an almost His Name Is Alive spooky vibe to Nightmares of the Deer. Steph
Jaggers narrates the disturbingly dreamlike track aptly entitled: The
Dream of the Murderer's Ship Pulling Out in French. Made without guitars
or computers, this often feels more like a collection of textural sketches
rather than conventional song structures. A couple tracks are site specific,
recalling decades in Glen's youth growing up in the village of Pinxton;
but the feeling of nostalgia imbues much of this with a melancholic resonance.
Ya Ho Wha 13 "The OPERETTA" (Swordfish, swordfishrecords@ btconnect.com) This unreleased album comes from a cassette recording (but it sounds really good) of the Ya Ho Wha 13 family and band in a freezing cold warehouse in Corte Madera on a Spring morning in 1975. In the Summer of that year the mortal form of Ya Ho Wha was broken beyond repair or survival in a fall while hang-gliding for the first time in Hawaii. There's a photo of the old fellow getting launched on his final flight amongst the generous photos, and liner notes. First off he looked like God; or at least biblical, and he undoubtedly had a singular kind of big daddy mojo and magnetism. 72:37 spread over six extensive tracks. The opening, nearly 23 minute piece begins with Ya Ho Wha chanting and praising Jesus, over an elementary guitar line that sounds as questioning as the patriarch's tone, which soon shifts to exhortation, and exposition, while the band warms up (literally), until they boil over in electric guitar layered stratospheric explorations, and thunderous drums galloping across the skies, ending as always with the hearty approving laughter of the mainman. Though this is a showcase for the father and his vision(s), there is always musical room for the participants to express themselves in communal tribal telepathy and energetic exchange. Radiant holy psychedelic overindulgence.
L "Holy Letters" (VHF) This was originally released by Hiroyuki Usui (aka L) as a CD with 7" single in a self published limited edition in 1994; VHF have included all of the original recordings, and added a bonus 10 minute track from the original sessions. Usui has been a member of several legendary Japanese bands, including: Fushitsusha, A-Musik, and Marble Sheep, among others. His collaboration with Six Organs Of Admittance will be out later this year. Opening with a spectral take on Blind Willie Johnson's Cold Was the Ground; we are immersed in a highly personalized musical universe. The second track feels a bit like solo Syd Barrett; except less desperate, and much more peaceful. Rain falls in the background and birds call, a Japanese narrative unfolds while a guttural monk growls like a human didjeridoo. As part of the extensive liner notes; Usui refers to this as "my secret diary" and that feels quite apt. Some spoken pieces feel like stark confessionals. The psychedelic folk sounds spring from ancient roots, earthly holy and truly magical. Lots of imagery and liners by Ben Chasny, and Usui in English and Japanese (thanks to Alan Cummings once again). A handsome sleeve, housing music of timelessly human psychic frailty and strength.
The North Sea "Locust Grove" (Digitalis Industries)
At first I'm sort of reminded of Nurse With Wound doing some sort of salty
tide-pool romance, but soon warm folk guitar and ambient birds, air and distance
colored things closer to Jewelled Antler antics. Fragile curtains are hung
from the lower branches of the trees; the curtain walls flutter as light as
butterfly wings on the air.
Satwa "Satwa" (Time-Lag) This album was first released in 1973; it was the product of the creative collaboration between the Brazilian musicians Lailson, and Lula Côrtes. Big thanks to Time-Lag for making this available to mere mortals after having become soaked in legend, and quite costly to obtain in it's original form. Flowing organic energy channelled though acoustic (and electric) interplay, and old ghosts rising to the surface to join the fray. Primarily instrumental with a few ecstatic wordless vocals.This is Brazilian music, grown out of the folk sounds of generations, but filtered through European traditions, Eastern influences and heady clouds of hashish, sympathy and spiritual generosity. Mastered from the original vinyl, and it shows, but it's a pretty clean copy with only a little surface sound. Alternating between mournful solemnity, and joyous sunny celebrations. Exultant in that sacred haze of the moment; capturing that lingering sweetness of '73, and that eternal vibe that powers such contemporary entities as: Six Organs of Admittance, the Jewelled Antler posse, Tower Recordings, and Fit & Limo, to mention a few.
Nervous Norvus "Stone Age Woo" (Norton) Almost 50 years ago a crazy cat named Jimmy Drake aka Nervous Norvus (though born in Memphis ended up living on the shore of Lake Merritt in Oakland, California) released a classic novelty song called Transfusion. Transfusion is the story of a guy driving too fast in his roadster; who crashes through his own recklessness, and sings out as he lies in the wreckage, asking for a blood transfusion in a rhyming goofy hipster lingo as crashing metallic sound effects surround him. The song was a national hit, and was followed shortly thereafter with Ape Call, which featured a similar simplistic melodic structure, which also charted but failed to rise to the successful levels of it’s predecessor; a third single The Fang went nowhere fast. The three singles (and their flipsides) were released on Dot Records, and until this 33 track CD, those 6 sides were all the wider world had ever heard from Jimmy/Norvus. Before Norvus hit short-lived national attention with his hit single he made a living recording demos of other folks compositions; sort of a variant of the song-poem folks, and he continued to do so for the remainder of his working life. Nervous Norvus was a big fan of Red Blanchard’s humorous radio show on San Francisco radio station KCBS-AM; and he utilized much of Blanchard’s hipster vocabulary in his own work. He sent a demo of Transfusion to Blanchard, and Red added the crashing sound effects (the same recording was also used to spice up the Shangri-Las Leader of the Pack, and Jan & Dean’s Deadman’s Curve among others), that mix with no embellishments was picked up by Dot to become the biggest hit of Nervous Norus’ career; Blanchard also provided effects for Norvus’ other Dot sides. The additional 27 tracks feature many tracks obviously penned by others, and many obviously by the singular vision of Nervous Norvus; though they are all sung in the same reedy voice. The surprise is how strong it all is; and how much it all fits into the wacked-out surrealistic world that Nervous Norvus inhabited with his imagination. By 1968 Jimmy Drake had died of cirrhosis of the liver thanks to an alcoholic lifetime; but he left behind some of the most distinctively fun and demented novelty records ever released. This collection admirably adds to the stature, and legacy of this pioneer, featuring great informative liner notes, lots of photos, history, and insight into this unique artist.
Donovan's Brain "A Defeat of Echoes", Various "The Vegetable Man Project Vol. 3", Saint Joan "One at Twilight", Patty Waters "You Thrill Me", Henry Jacob's Vortex "Electronic Kabuki Mambo", Ivor Cutler "Life in a Scotch Sitting Room Vol. II", MF Doom "Mm..Food?", Beequeen "The Bodyshop", Vibracathedral Orchestra "Resonance Session", Neil Campbell "The Hearing Force of the Humanverse".
Donovan's Brain "A Defeat of Echoes" (Career) There is at least one song here that could be a lost Guided By Voices classic; but where GBV often sounded like a bent hits collection from some lost chapter of British rock, this Donovan's Brain album sounds like a hits compilation of assorted artists from various time periods, places, and styles; though most heavily from the late 60s and early 70s. Decade of Days is the best song Robert Pollard didn't write for the best GBV album that never happened. Whispers and Cries slowly descends a glass staircase like something by the Left Banke. The Boy Who Cried New Town has a weightlessly suspended post Syd Pink Floyd vibe. Colter's Interlude features band member Colter Langan's layers of delicate lace-like acoustic guitars, which serve as a fine prelude to his song Open Your Mind, which feels like George Harrison fronting the Band, or at least the Traveling Wilburys. So Far Gone is another of Colter's songs and it's the kind of song Roy Orbison would have recorded if he was alive, but it sounds more like early Radiohead meets later Motorpsycho; with a fluid snakelike guitar solo from Deniz Tek. When You're Falling is like some sort of merging of the better natures of Spirit and B.O.C., while Invisible Diamond Man is the best slice of Soft Boys I've heard since Robyn was a youngster; but I suspect it's about cashing in on the ghost of Syd Barrett. The lonely frozen streets of Control arrive from a distance, and slowly the wide folky sway sweeps us all into a mesmerized dream state. The over nine minute Bondi Tombstone begins somewhere between Peter Green's Albatross, and the high desert plains of Morricone/Leone, only to shift into a smoking Cipollina inspired guitar duel between Ron Sanchez and Deniz, with some appropriately Nicky Hopkins like piano. There are sixteen musical tracks and an additional movie of different longer version of Control, with nothing less than worthwhile. This finds the extended family of musicians and songwriters that make up Donovan's Brain circa 2005 all rising to the occasion of their finest work to date; everyone really shines here.
Various The Vegetable Man Project Vol. 3 (Oggetti Volanti
Non Identificati, www.oggettivolanti.it)
Like seeing the universe in a grain of sand; this is the 3rd volume of
international artists who have been able to breath some new life into
the battered remains of that Syd Floyd rarity. 20 folks do their widely
varying takes on Syd's fractured fable. From the crushing gravity of Floorian,
to the subtle experimentalism of Italy's Alberto Motta. Germany's Electric
Orange goes through several different stylistic personality changes. Canada's
Le Monochrome offer a deconstructed noisy gurgle collage, while Sweden's
In the Labyrinth do an ambitious acoustic/electric orchestral reinvention.
The Swedish Whistlers do a sorta death metal version with eccentrically
theatrical vocals. Turkish band Baba Zula start as crowd sounds and soon
a tribal synth beat emerges behind a female vocalist, while Jan Van Den
Dobblesteen of the Netherlands do strange spoken word thing. And there's
Patty Waters "You Thrill Me" (Water) This
collection of tapes and acetates was recorded between 1960 and 1979 is a breathtaking
insight into an artist previously defined by her two incredible albums from
the mid 60s on ESP Disk. With loving liner notes by Masaki Batoh, Byron Coley,
and Patty Waters. Some great previously unseen photos; including one of Patty
quite unclothed, which makes perfect sense when you recall the nakedness of
emotion in her voice, and her piano playing. Here she does a cute beer commercial,
and some sessions for the legendary Tom Wilson. Not as wild as her better
known recordings, but just as fascinating and worthy of your attention. The
14:37 minute piano instrumental Touched By Rodin In a Paris Museum is a charming
anomaly on a set that otherwise focuses a bit on the more conventional song
MF Doom "Mm..Food?" (Rhymesayers) Compulsively
rhythmic verbal expositions from Doom, and a few guests in the form of
the magnificently solid and swinging Mr. Fantastik, the confessional rhymes
of Count Bass D, and synchronized soulful precision of Angelika &
4ize. But it should be emphasized that this is really as much a showcase
for Doom's rap skills as it is his legendary beats. Though the theme is
ostensibly food, this often feels like Doom's most life-sized incarnation
yet; sans the Godzilla sci-fi riffage of King Geedorah, or the street
poetics of Madvillain, and previous lifetimes and incarnations. The middle
section of four comic skits is probably most funny the first time through;
but there are some good bits, and collage techniques. Raps concerning
different kinds of girlfriends, smoking, autobiographical details, beer,
blackness, living, fun, MF Doom's plans for world domination, cartoony
surreality, and 3D stoned dimensions. Wrapped in awesome cover art by