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30 July 2013

Essential Logic - 'Beat Rhythm News - Waddle Ya Play ?' (Rough Trade)

It's easily been a decade since I last listened to this, so it's like hearing it for the first time. Essential Logic is built around Lora Logic, the saxophonist in X-Ray Spex, who comes to the forefront here as songwriter and lead vocalist. It's much less herky-jerky than I remember it being. I daresay this is closer to pop music than anything radical or abrasive, though with weird punk girl vocals (not really a million miles away from Cyndi Lauper) and brassy jazz bits. But was 'punk', in the UK at least, ever supposed to be more than a new form of pop? Logic's songwriting is strong, which I've always overlooked about Essential Logic before. This isn't the verbal territory of 'O Bondage, Up Yours!', but one of more abstract, poetic observations (which is possibly why she clicked so well with Mayo Thompson). The catchiest tune is 'Wake up', which for some reason doesn't have lyrics printed, but it's a perfect guitar hook that moves quickly beyond any trappings of it's milieu. 'Shabby Abbott' does critique organised religion but it's not so obvious, instead built around domestic awareness. Logic is a saxophonist so that's featured on every song, with additional sax by Dave Wright, arranging songs like 'World Friction' into thick, big-band style interplay with a slightly discordant lean. 'Albert Albert Albert' is about as challenging as it gets, with some Sonic Youth chord cadences and some really distinct song structures; closer 'Popcorn Boy' descends into a marching band chant for the album's final moments, and it's an accomplishment, as is the album as a whole. Shit, this is a really great record, and it feels somewhat underrated now (as it's been a decade since all this stuff got reissued and hyped up). Let's keep it in our consciousness. I'm curious about finding a copy of Logic's solo LP, Pedigree Charm -- maybe by the time I reach the L's, I will have found one.

29 July 2013

ESG - 'Says Dance To The Beat Of Moody' (99)

The sad part about only having these two early ESG EPs is that there just isn't a lot of music, so our diversion into Bronx DIY funk-punk is already over. This record is only about ten minutes long, and all three song titles are in the EP title. 'Dance' is just that, but the dancing doesn't stop, lest you think for even a second, on 'The Beat', where vocalist Renee really digs in and emotes in a way we haven't quite heard yet.  But she's not a wordy vocalist -- there aren't many places where she even sings, happy to just let the bass and drums push things along. The repetition is what it's all about, and this is like a faster, funkier version of Pylon, with handclaps and start-stop moments. A strong influence of dub, which oddly I heard in the live tracks of the first EP, is evident here, in terms of production techniques with the echo coming and going. 'Moody' has some real guitar waka-chika but it's thick enough to work.The goofy 1980s Space Invaders artwork is appropriate too as this couldn't sound more "1982" if it tried. But that's a good thing!

28 July 2013

ESG (99)

These six songs are so incredibly strange to behold - trebly, thinly-recorded voices with a sassy, funk/soul edge to them and a super addictive rhythm section, but then the hooks are all missing and it often feels empty.  I mean, this was just a weird band -- all sisters, from the Bronx, playing some form of rock/punk, and it's produced by Martin Hannett on side one and it still feels like a fish out of water, even after three decades of posthumous institutionalisation. ESG don't really fit with any scene - they were a rock band that was danceable, sounding like Rip Rig and Panic in approach but way more simplistic; punk, sure, but undeniably urban; but too amped-up and agitated to fit with soul or funk. This uncertainty isn't really evident in the music, which just feels really honest. The second half of this is live, but it sounds home-recorded -- 'Hey!' ends with a whimper, with a stray guitar note here and there, feeling again like a few layers are missing.  You gotta love bands with a theme song ("Queen of the Ryche", anyone?) and 'ESG' has that too. ESG stood for Emerald, Sapphire and Gold which I guess the artwork illustrated, but for some reason this cover always makes me think of soccer.

24 July 2013

Brian Eno/Harold Budd with Daniel Lanois - 'The Pearl' (Editions EG)

It's a summer day and my window is open while I revisit The Pearl, an album that I remember as being deceptively intangible, always slipping away from a centre. With the voices of children, playing in a nearby park, creeping in with the various wind, traffic and bird sounds, it's difficult to distinguish Eno's production techniques  on this album from what's drifting in. Drift it does, and I realise as soon as I pull this off my shelf that I should really file it under B for Budd (and that is in fact where it will be refiled) but I imagined that one day I would have The Plateaux of Mirrors to put alongside it, which never happened. Budd's piano is the constant, sometimes glowing with a harmonic resonance that is beautiful if a bit easy. It's not a thick sound, and when it really gets sparse, as on 'Against The Sky', allowing its minor key intervals to wire-frame a mood, it's an exceptional entry. Daniel Lanois gets a co-credit here and I'm not sure what he's done and what's Eno, but it's all so delicate that I'm sure the party sessions afterwards were legendary. If you haven't heard this record but know anything about these musicians, you can probably guess what it sounds like. "New age" is the term often thrown about and it's definitely a step closer to it than than, say, Music for Airports - in terms of how 'active' it is, and how much it follows musical conventions of melody/harmony. It's somber as it should be, and because this is such a pre-defined concept there's no chances to be taken. I like this album - I don't listen to it regularly, but at any volume it has the power to completely transform a situation, even if it's more felt than heard. My Eno trip ends here as I don't think his later work tends to appear on vinyl, so no Nerve Net for us.

21 July 2013

Brian Eno - 'Before and After Science' (Island)

This is the most maligned Eno album, at least of the vocal tetralogy, and I'm not sure why. No, it's not as timeless as Another Green World or Taking Tiger Mountain, but it moves relentlessly forward in pursuit of whatever he was interested in in 1977, which is why the earlier records are so great. Sometimes I think people get mixed up with what they want an artist to be vs. what the artist wants to actually be. Of course, there's no accounting for taste and I also don't blanketly accept any choice of direction that any artist makes. But in the case of Before and After Science, I don't think that he's committed any great aesthetic crimes. This is divided into two halves, really - the punchy dustups are on the first half and the gentle, sweet songs come out to play on side two. Clearly, his interest in rhythms and beats is evident, as the opening cut 'No One Receiving' toes the water and 'Kurt's Rejoinder' furthers - the paleo-futurism of My Life in the Bush of Ghosts is almost upon us, and the genius production of those Talking Heads records even more apparent. This warbling, ethnic-leaning affect isn't so egregious; there's striking similarity, in terms of production, as Bowie's Lodger, though this actually predates it. What's different is the voice of the singer-songwriter - Eno is the calm, thinking type, and Bowie the edgy rockstar. 'King's Lead Hat', an anagram of Talking Heads, is probably the one for your mixtape, taking the Fear of Music production techniques to more distinctly Eno songcraft. It's a winner for sure, but my sympathies are more with side two, particularly 'Julie With...' and 'By the River'. The latter is built around a simple electric piano, and here Eno's just crooning romantically without any need for studio/tech wizardry. It's this second side where I think people get lost, as it creeps a bit too much towards balladry; I find this a nice counterpoint. If anything is to criticise for Before and After Science it's that these two sides (the innovative studio genius and the sensitive melodic troubadour) are more separated, where in Another Green World they're perfectly balanced. But that's exactly why it's "Before" and "After" science, right?

19 July 2013

Brian Eno - 'Floating in Sequence' (The Impossible Recordworks)

I think I have three records from this illustrious bootleg label, though this is really just an EP, with only six songs. There's some radio sessions which are of stellar sound quality (though still nice and raw and unproduced) and some live material from the 1976 Reading festival. These two live cuts have an expected level of crowd noise, clearly an audience recording, though that's not without merit. 'The Fat Lady of Limbourg' (an odd choice for inclusion, really) starts with ambient (no pun intended) crowd chatter over a pulsing shaker rhythm, sounding like a Casio beat except I don't think Casios were invented yet. The arrangement doesn't stray too far from Taking Tiger Mountain's version, with obviously a more limited palette. Eno's vocalisations are earnestly precise, enunciating every lyric of this cryptic tale as if he means it. One can only imagine a crowd of festival-goers at various stages of drunk and/or high, patiently sitting through this song in hopes that something more satisfying will come along. The applause at the end is pitiful, but the other live cut is 'Third Uncle' so they probably got their wish. This version is as brilliant as ever -- can this song be ruined? Built to Spill even did a great cover of it, check YouTube -- and a bit grungier than the album version, as to be expected.  Simon Phillips keeps it fluttering along on the drums, and Manzanera shines as always, particularly when it turns into a thrashed-out melee. But the radio sessions are the highlights of this LP - 'Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch' absolutely rips, with the guitars exploding in a violent cacophony and sounding at points like some lost private-press psych LP, like something you'd read about in The Acid Archives, except with vocal exaltations that are distinctly Eno's. There's a cover of 'Fever' which is fun, and not at all tossed-off, suggesting that the band actually worked this out for some release. 'Baby's on Fire' has a speedier tempo than normal (or else this is mastered too fast, a not uncommon trait of bootleg LPs) and the solo/bridge section accelerates into screeching monotony before the band comes back having doubled the pulse. This segues right into 'I'll Come Running', which (as I suggested a few posts ago) is greatly improved with crunchy electric guitar riffs instead of piano arpeggios. I never thought of Eno's band as something I would have wanted to see live, but these two cuts suggest they would have been a sight to see. I now realise that if I had a time machine, instead of killing Hitler or doing anything altruistic, I'd probably just use it to see old bands. And eat cheaper lunches.

Brian Eno - 'Discreet Music' (EG/Obscure)

A confession: I'm not wild about Discreet Music. The first side of this is lovely, sure, but the Pachabel redux on the flip takes so long to get interesting that I usually check out. Just as on his pop records, Eno's melodies are his strengths, but it's a fine line to walk. 'Discreet Music' is presented in the liner notes like some sort of revelation in music-making, but it's really built on the same principles that make the 60s minimalist canon so timeless - the slight shifting phases, the lingering pulse of the harmonies, etc. 'Discreet Music' is really a blueprint for artists like Stars of the Lid, which is not a bad thing - this delicate, group ambience has become old hat to me by now, though this was made by one person alone. Still, it's a lovely half-hour or so, which makes Pachebel's 'Canon in D' deconstruction so tiresome in comparison. By the third movement, which has the title 'Brutal Ardour' (which almost seems like a self-parodic Eno title), it has grown sentient and shaken off its host, but it takes so long to get there that I've lost interest when it finally comes around. Maybe I'm tired of 'Canon in D' from a lifetime of .MOD files, cheap keyboard demo modes, etc. At best, you could dive into this like some pure ear candy, similar to Van Dyke's cover of Donovan on Song Cycle, but the palette is too spare to stay intriguing. This never got classified as part of the 'ambient' series and that's fair enough, cause it's not truly 'ambient' yet, and it's not as consistently great as any of those records, or Music for Films. But side one is great enough that I hold onto this, and the relatively long running time for an LP (due to the low volume of the mastering job) means it's a dangerous thing to listen to, without nodding off and letting my stylus grind into oblivion for all eternity on the run-out groove. There's a big stupid sticker on my copy advertising the EG label (who reissued this from Eno's original 'obscure' imprint) as being a great source for 'new age' music. I guess all genre labels are equally stupid so why not?

18 July 2013

Eno - 'Another Green World' (Island)

I think this was the first Eno record I heard, and I came from the ambient side, not the Roxy Music side. Another Green World was perfect - it was a mix of instrumentals that were futuristic, yet organic; heavily studio-based, yet didn't sound like music made by computers; and a few pop songs that were just so perfect that it didn't need any more singing. Years later I feel mostly the same way about it. 'I'll Come Running' feels a bit too rock-based to fit, though it's a great song; otherwise I wouldn't change a thing. What's funny is that for a record I think of as "half-ambient", it's surprisingly punchy throughout. The electroacoustic processing of the various guitars, keyboards, and drums don't shy away from sharp edges - 'Sky Saw', the opening cut, is aptly named. But the world painted here isn't so much a science-fiction vision as it's an alternate reality, rooted in an ethereal surrealism. This is truly music for the techno-hippies of today, for people who are into organic farming but use Twitter to talk about it. And yet, it was made 38 years ago. There's a few bonafide classics here, mostly 'St. Elmo's Fire', which is almost like a "benchmark" song you can play for someone to see if they are a good person or not. (If they like it, they're cool; if not, find better friends). Fripp's solo there is somehow the wankiest-Yngvie thing ever, yet doesn't feel gratuitous. Certain sounds on here, such as the pulsing organs of 'Golden Hours', are now inseparable in my mind from their placement in some of Peter Greenaway's early films, and The Falls in particular, which is about as cinematically precise of a depiction of 'Another Green World' as is possible. I know I just finished writing about how Taking Tiger Mountain was such a landmark record to me, but this would be the one I'd probably have to choose as Eno's most total and complete statement.

17 July 2013

Eno - 'Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)' (Island)

Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) was made six years before I was born. Yet, I feel as close to this music as to anything made in my lifetime, despite the fact that this is a deliberately obtuse art-rock concept album made by a rich British rockstar at the height of his fame. This is the Eno album with a "narrative", though that's pretty hard to grasp. The far east theme rides throughout, making Eno quite prescient when it comes to world politics, though I guess 'East vs. West' is an age-old dilemma (which all sumo wrestling is based on, I think). The glam trappings of Warm Jets are somewhat dormant, instead allowing for evil pre-"post-punk" throbbing ('Third Uncle'), demented nursery rhymes ('Put a Straw Under Baby'), jittery rock opera ('China My China'), and surreal mini-epics ('Mother Whale Eyeless'). There's some more extremely artificial guitar tones, courtesy of his old friend Manzanera and Eno's own 'snake guitar' (which cuts through 'China' like a nailgun), plus a lot of creatively recorded keyboards, synths, and even some piano. The title track closes it out by looking ahead to Another Green World and it does so with the understated beauty and elegance that Eno's perfect at. So I'm just describing Taking Tiger Mountain again, which I'm sure enough proper critics have done before, but what does it mean to me? I was recently at a party where a bunch of my peers were talking about the first Guns N' Roses album and how significant it was to their cultural identity (though being a party, they weren't using those exact words, instead bathing it in a wash of emotional nostalgia and common familiarity, but that's what I took from it, so whatever) and I realised that I feel the same way about this, even though I didn't hear it until my college years. But those were good years to come of age intellectually and creatively, and Taking Tiger Mountain (which has little, I remind you, to emotionally connect with) seemed to be at the peak ratio between brainy experimentalism and satisfying rock and roll songcraft. Even the cover steps back from the flashy occult-leanings of Warm Jets and shows a multifaceted Eno, his hand placed on his head to show that he's bringing the cerebral to rock and roll. It's not for everyone, but for me, it was like a map of potentialities, none of which I ever actually pursued myself. 

16 July 2013

Eno - 'Here Come the Warm Jets' (Island)

Here come a run of records that will be hard to write about because I've listened to them to death and there's not much new to say. In fact, when I listen now, I have to struggle to hear new things, which is not to say I am in any way 'bored' with Here Come the Warm Jets. But certainly, the iconic cuts have been played to death, so I no longer have much to say about 'Needles in the Camel's Eye' or 'Baby's on Fire' except that when I hear them played in public places (a bar, restaurant, club, or dentist's office) then I'm delighted to know said establishment has good taste. The more disturbing and edgy tracks are the ones I enjoy the most - 'Driving Me Backwards' is possibly Eno's greatest achievement, as it feels like a metaphor that can apply to so many zillions of scenarios - the 1970s British economy, the pressures of creative inspiration - or maybe it's just about nothing. The jets of the title track and 'On Some Faraway Beach' are indeed warm, dragging me into a murky, pleasant sound bath, with genteel melodies circling around some undefined dynamo. 'Blank Frank' is like the evil version of the Beach Boys' SMiLE - psychedelic, sure, but it's all bad vibes and menace, with just as much invention in the studio. These records, especially Another Green World, somehow get away with guitar tones that would sound horrendous in most other contexts. 'Blank Frank's solo sounds more like a paper shredder, yet I wouldn't call it proto-industrial. I have a thing for 'Some of them are Old' and 'Put A Straw Under Baby' (on Tiger Mt.) because I love Eno's pure melodicism; the songs are like nursery-rhymes with bizarre, intangible lyrics and stick in my head deeper than the rockers ('It will follow you, it will follow you...'). The breakdown on 'Some of Them are Old', with it's weird slide guitar arpeggios and buzzsaw/tabla contradicitons, is among the most sublime passages on any Eno recording I've heard, and the reverb-drenched church bell coda is an oft-overlooked island of calm. I'm an unabashed Eno fan, but also a shitty one that doesn't stick with his recent material (recent meaning, oh, the last 25 years or so). A Year with Swollen Appendices, his book from 1995, is maybe his greatest gift to the creative world (even more than the Oblique Strategies) but when viewed holistically, his career somehow maintains a consistent approach to exploration throughout - there's never anything that feels like it wasn't worth trying.

15 July 2013

Don Ellis - 'Haiku' (MPS/BASF)

A record released on the BASF label?!? Was this primarily intended to demonstrate stereo equipment over its artistic goals? Ellis is a good choice for such an approach, because he has a really lush, psychedelic arrangement style and his compositions lie somewhere between Sketches of Spain-era Miles Davis and the more circular meanderings of Moondog, or even Lou Harrison. The Harrison connection is heard most obviously on the opening cut, 'Children', which is an exercise in pure, liquid beauty. There's no easy place to file this - it's trumpet-driven but it's hardly jazz - it's soundtracky, but not a soundtrack - and it's got classical overtones galore, but it's hardly classical music. The more orchestrated moments weave the ear candy into cotton forms, occasionally overdoing it with it's pouncing rhythms ('Summer Rain') but being delightful and elegant when stripped down - side one closes with 'Forest', built primarily around Ellis's trumpet and a bit of harp. But even the parts that sounds clichéd, I can't help but wondering if you threw Van Dyke Parks singing overtop and told me it was a Song Cycle outtake, if I'd be ecstatic. Ellis is probably most famous for the French Connection soundtrack, which has a dirtier edge than anything here. The liner notes talk about how influenced he is by Japanese culture, though there's hardly any Eastern flavour to the sounds. But the photo of a nude Ellis sitting on a rock, contemplating the mysteries of the universe (with those contemplations likely forming into a 5-7-5 pattern), tells me all I need to know. This has always stayed in my vinyl accumulation because even though it's pretty 'soft', it's sometimes just the right atmosphere for a lazy summer afternoon. There's too much work to be done, so instead of romping through the leaves and trees I can stare at the screen and let this carry me off to distant imagined corners of mainstream psychedelic circa 1971. I thought I had a copy of Electric Bath, which has a somewhat more Latin edge, but I must have imagined that.

14 July 2013

Elklink - 'The Rise of Elklink' (Kye)

Elklink is a Graham Lambkin cassette that was reissued here with a bonus track, built entirely from tape and voice. There's a lot of whispers, creaks, and guttural sounds, but it's not so much the source material as the way the overall construction makes an insane, unique atmosphere. Which is the key to Lambkin's genius. This has usual collaborators Tim Goss and Adris Hoyos appearing in places on electronics and voice, respectively, but it's largely Lambkin's game (though Goss's very delicate intrusions make 'Paul, Linda & Minor Members' completely stunning). The two sides of the original cassette are mirror images, in terms of titles - 'Tension Tec' vs 'Utension Tec', and two tracks called 'The Spoons'.  Delicacy is the key; the first 'Spoons', at times, withers to a point that is barely perceptible. Occasionally we hear an outlier - a baby's cry, a distant telephone or the pluck of an acoustic string - but mostly it's the mouth of Lambkin generating all of the ebbs and flows here. If you like Robert Ashley's Automatic Writing but want something a bit more, well, 'rock and roll' --- then Elklink might be for you. The sonority of the tape itself, continually rolling in a loop while this serene madness bubbles around it, is the primary colour here. Sometimes things congeal into soaring, ascending streaks while lots of it lies fermenting. The bonus track, 'You', is more thickly blanketed in white (or is it pink?) noise, a childlike vocal fumble occasionally poking out. This would make a good cut to mix with the numbers stations recordings of The Conet Project which I don't doubt was some sort of influence, if anything was. This was recorded in Florida in 1999 and I strive sometimes to hear a sense of alienation of the Englishman in his new country. I'm a massive fan of Lambkin's work, from the Shadow Ring through his brilliant solo work (just wait til we get to Salmon Run, a recording that I won't be able to throw enough superlatives at) and this certainly ranks among his best releases.

13 July 2013

Electric Light Orchestra (United Artists)

Back before it was cool to like ELO, it was extremely un-cool to like them. Which of course made them cool, until they became cool, but by that point I was mature and confident enough in my tastes that I didn't really give a shit. The El Dorado/'Mr. Blue Sky' ELO is awesome and great too, but this early material, with Roy Wood in the band, is the logical continuation of the Move's more orch-tastic experiments and really must have felt like the world of pop music was going to change forever. When listening to side one of this record (sometimes called No Answer) it's hard not to be dazzled by the approach; Wood's cello saws through the first two cuts like a roundhouse punch, there's a shitload of ideas jammed into every crevice, and it just sounds HUGE, even when there aren't a zillion overdubs. Somewhere on YouTube there's a video of '10538 Orchestra' being performed by Jeff Lynne, Roy Wood and about 700 cellists (if my memory serves me right, though it's probably actually just a few) and it sends chills down my spine.  Lynne's taste for bubblegum merges perfectly with Wood's darker sonorities, and 'Look at Me Now' takes it even further, with a more spacious arrangement. It's a bit like His Name is Alive's 'Cornfield' as if it appeared on Wood's Boulders album, but with an English hunting horn thrown on top. The yin and yang of these guys worked in the Move but it really explodes here, just coming together perfectly. There's a tendency towards old English music-hall styles and relatively restrained production (especially compared to later ELO), and the gatefold cover has cryptic photographs for each song. It's really an art-rock classic, with major progressive tendencies but enough instant gratification to avoid it sounding anything like the bad side of prog. The contrapuntal violin runs, quotes of 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen', and hook-drenched breaks follow from 'Cherry Blossom Clinic' and other madness on the Move's second album; this is a continuation with purpose, and it's really sad that Wood and Lynne didn't stick together longer because they really tempered each other's excesses while simultaneously inspiring each other. And Lynne is great - 'Queen of the Hours' is maybe my favourite song he ever wrote, drenched in a poetic longing that is all flowers and razorblades, a far cry from 'Roll Over Beethoven', which only came an album later. It's almost sad that this perfect pairing only lasted for one album in full Electric Light Orchestra form (cause this blows away both of the Move records with Lynne). Every time I listen to this I want to hold onto it, because as great as Boulders is (and as 'pretty good' as Mustard is), that's really the last great Roy Wood work to me. Though, I never got into Wizzard properly - but there's still time in this long and lonely life to give them a chance.

12 July 2013

Electric Bunnies - 'Through the Magical Door' (Florida's Dying)

The gimmick of this album is in the packaging - a gatefold which opens into a board-game, complete with die-cut pieces. The game is pretty silly, containing commands like 'Smell someone's feet' and 'Admit your a racist'; I'll admit to being enough of a collector, valuing the sacred quality of record packaging, that I never punched out the pieces and played. If you're expecting similarly lighthearted fare on the record then you're wrong, though I wouldn't describe Through the Magical Door as sombre; rather, it operates on a level of sophistication that makes this the high water mark of the bedroom psychedelia glut of 2008-2010. There's as much jangly guitars and revamped 60's worship here as on the rest of the records on labels such as Shdwply -- but with far stronger songcraft and an electicism that transcends the rest. Compare to the Dead Luke LP, for example - that's a good LP, sure, but I think in ten years Through the Magical Door will be remembered much more fondly. How these guys have managed to escape greater notoriety (now a few years down the line) is beyond me. Each song has something distinct, yet it's all held together nicely. The title track leans towards folk-revival sounds and suggests a longer attention span than is immediate apparent. 'Marigold Flower' is pure retro magic, with the affable amateurism of 80s Flying Nun merged with Summer of Love icing. For a bedroom recordings, there's a shockingly huge sound on 'What's Your Favorite Thing?', anchored by a driving floor tom and being the purest bit of indie rock on the record. Closing cut 'Sweet Dreams My Dear Esmeralda' is a long, murky banger with lotsa layers and losta sauce. It would be my pick were it not for 'Psychic Lemonade', which outdoes the Dukes of Stratosphere using nothing more than backwards guitars, a perfect organ pulse, and some DOD pedals. No, wait, 'A Snowman on the First Day of Spring' is actually the best cut, loaded with searing organic tons and just enough electroacoustic bathwater to create something otherwordly and chilling. There's also 'The Green Octopus', a slow, longing ode that breaks into gritty guitar strums and ends with some musique concrete, another surprise. I assume these guys have broken up or gone on to college, which is a shame, because this is a remarkably adept entry into all-time great psych records, something that is very much of its time but also aware of its own antecedents - in just the perfect balance.

6 July 2013

El Jesus de Magico - 'Scalping the Guru' (Columbus Discount)

Scalping the Guru was the original name of Guided by Voices' Alien Lanes album (which we'll get to, eventually) so this may be some sort of reference to their Ohio brethren. The only real influence is in the production, where the dirty, anthemic guitars of 'Summer of Luhv' could be lifted straight from those mid-90s GbV classics. But instead of catchy, hooky melodies, El Jesus's vocalist takes a different approach: less grandiose, without any element of being a 'front man'. The opening cut is more hi-fi though, appropriately titled 'Ancestor Worship', and laying down a pretty good Kraut-like groove, recalling Yeti's tectonic plateshifts (with with a bit less cosmic dust). I file this under E which shows my own Anglican bias towards respecting articles; just like Los Llamarada will appear under Lo, not Ll. But I don't think there's anything hispanic about El Jesus de Magico - this is a great synthesis of white avant-rock influences, an assemblage that is confident and experimental as well. Feedback, synths or some other electronic forms appear throughout - side two starts with a track built from static and space, sounding like a dirty needle, but in a hypnotic compelling way. When the band hits a mid-tempo groove, as on 'Whistle Cock', their improvisational side is allowed to unfold, as the drummer holds things together just barely. But I wouldn't call this noise-rock or even particularly ramshackle; it's a unique balance of together and apart, which is why I'd cite these guys as one of the more interesting rock bands in whatever passes for the American 'underground' today.