Saturday, March 7, 2020

Joy X Libeau-Broken Moon, self-released; 2020

The call came in, and Disaster Amnesiac has answered. Mind you, I have ZERO idea of how Joy X Libeau got my contact info. That said, somehow a promo package of their EP Broken Moon ended up in my email inbox. This Electronic Music duo speaks in said package of collaborating with fashion boutiques and retail shops as means of getting their music heard. Disaster Amnesiac is the last person that would fit into the demographic for those types of spots, mostly on account of being a grubby dude just months short of the Big 5-0. It strikes me that this in itself is a pretty savvy way for a group to get their music heard, that's for sure.
And the music of Broken Moon? It's a really cool Electronic style worked up from the barest of tools: two analog synthesizers, one drum machine, and an Akai MPC. The resultant six tunes feature Minimalist beats and sounds that frame spoken lyrics from one guy and sung ones from one woman. Disaster Amnesiac really enjoys these songs, especially for the sparse Electronic Music modes which they feature. For me, they bring to mind some the early Hip Hop that I was exposed to as an adolescent, along with various strains of Dance Music that I am aware of from being on Boomkat's Manchester-based email list and reading Wax Poetics pretty avidly.
Small sounds pop and bleep into beats that swing in very cool ways, the synthesizers provide dramatic washes above them, and the lyrics are smart and intriguing, along with being astutely delivered. A fave line, "...shame has crumbled the tower/shame has dusted my prowess..." really resonates on multiple levels for this listener.  There's a kind of downtempo darkness within most of the tunes, but the music that frames them provides some light, and, with it, balance.
Broken Moon is a soulful statement that succeeds with creative use of self-imposed limitations. Disaster Amnesiac is puzzled as to how Joy X Libeau figured out to get these tunes to me, but I'm certainly glad that they did and that I got to hear them. .

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Disaster Amnesiac Way Back Machine, H Edition

Over the long course of time in which Disaster Amnesiac has been blogging, there have, of course, been several ideas for posts that have been considered, forgotten, or outright abandoned. Some have been comprised of ideas even sillier than those that have posted, others have just kind of slipped away. Being a bit of an obsessive type, I have a short list of releases that have not ever been attempted but not completely abandoned. Presented here are a few from the "H" section of the stacks....

Hirax-Noise Chaos War, Thrash Corner Records; 2010
If memory serves correctly, Disaster Amnesiac downloaded this compilation of then recent short releases from Hirax right upon its release. Having been familiar with the band since their first LP in the mid 1980's, but also having pretty much tuned them out since that era, I was pleasantly surprised with the group's developments. First and foremost, singer Katon W. De Pena's voice sounds very pleasingly leavened throughout. His high notes are not quite as high, which really works within the Metal setting, at least for this listener. He also affects more of a growled approach throughout, and, again, within this Thrash style, it's much more effective and cool. Tight rhythm section arrangements, exciting Thrash guitar riffs, and balls out post-Slayer guitar solo riffs put Noise Chaos War pleasingly over the top for this fan of the style. Disaster Amnesiac wishes that I could find individual players to credit for these moves, but online lists of the various guys who could have executed this work are baffling. Suffice it to say that Noise Chaos War presents a group, unified around their visionary Metal guy leader De Pena, that knows exactly what it wants to do, and does it in to a T. Since my initial listening to this release, I've had the pleasure of seeing Hirax live, and they certainly do kick out the jams with aplomb. If you're ever in the mood for expertly done American Thrash Metal, Noise Chaos War will set your head a-bangin'.

The Hanuman Sextet-9 Meals From Anarchy, Resonant Music 007; 2010
Here's another one that Disaster Amnesiac grabbed relatively soon after its release. I can't recall how or where I heard about it, but I can recall being really excited by the sounds that Hanuman Sextet achieved on 9 Meals From Anarchy, and I definitely remain so. The sound of Anarchy is a really sweet, juicy mixture of woodwinds, guitar, electronics, electric harp, bass, and multiple percussion. All of these elements mix in a really fine, harmelodic way throughout the disc. Aspects of various world musics, Jazz, Rock, and Improvised Music are all thrown into this mix, and it works really well throughout for this listener. Whenever I play 9 Meals From Anarchy, I delight in the polyglot blending of its tunes, and marvel at how well that they all hang together. The levels of improvisational musicianship and song writing is very high here. I'm not sure of where most of the players in The Hanuman Sextet have ended up. If you do, please let me know. Their stuff is solid, as 9 Meals From Anarchy amply demonstrates.

Hay Fever-Live At Wonder Valley Experimental Music Festival, self released; 2014
Last up we have Live At Wonder Valley Experimental Music Festival from Emily Hay's Hay Fever. Flute player and vocalist Hay leads a quintet of some of Southern California's eminent improvising musicians through five tracks in which their sounds frame her Fluxus singing styles. Hay uses a kind of odd scat approach that is often processed electronically, and the result is otherworldly. The group's sounds bubble, click, and shimmer around this action. Hay always sounds as if she's having a blast, freaking out underneath the desert sky above the Palms Restaurant outdoor stage (where this set was captured), and the band responds accordingly. What Disaster Amnesiac has always loved about this disc is the ways in which the band achieves this kind of bent out of shape, twisted Prog feel as Hay bugs out within and around it. It's truly, and deliciously weird. Live At Wonder Valley presents a group of musicians who are mining a VERY singular sound; this music is incredibly original and delightfully odd. Its sounds really do seem to come from musicians who are totally committed to personal, unique expression. That they manage to pull this off as an improvising quintet is remarkable and great. Find this gem of a disc at all costs!

So there you have it, a few of Disaster Amnesiac's long-contemplated raves for some long-admired releases. I'm currently listening to a more recent release, which I hope to enthuse about soon. Until that time, be kind and don't forget to dig some of your favorites if you've got the inclination to do so.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Lucky-John Carroll Lynch, director; 2017

One afternoon last week, Mrs. Amnesiac brought some dvds home from a trip to the Marin County Library. Among them was a copy of Lucky, John Carroll Lynch's brilliant 2017 film. Lucky is one and one half hours worth of insightful meditation upon the (mostly) human condition of aging, and its effects upon one character and a few of his acquaintances.
The viewer is offered a glimpse into a few weeks in the life of an elderly man named Lucky as he goes about his simple routines: morning rituals of exercise and coffee, crossword puzzles and game show viewings, truncated and awkward conversations with people who share mostly tenuous emotional connections.
The takeaway message that comes across very strongly from Lucky for Disaster Amnesiac is the elemental nature of aging. By that, I mean the way in which we are very much reduced by aging. Harry Dean Stanton does an incredible job of illustrating this fact. It seems not as if he's really acting at all, but simply making statements, statements which are boiled down to an elemental simplicity that is devoid of pretense. The man is there, and he says exactly what he is thinking. He's old, so why bother with an act, right? There is so much to be considered within this message, at least for Disaster Amnesiac, as I approach the middle of middle age.
Lucky's cinematography seems to echo this message. So many of the shots show worn down, aged structures and topography, and these shots' quiet simplicity offer the viewer a visual complement to the stripped down dialogues. The film's desert setting itself belies this.
Disaster Amnesiac does not want to venture into hyperbole, but I really do think that Lucky is a damn masterpiece of cinema. I can't recommend it highly enough for anyone over the age of forty, that is for sure. For those of us "over the hill", the message seems clear: you're fading away, but you're still present, wherever you find yourself to be. Don't fuck around with your old act. Say it straight, play it straight, and perhaps, once in a while, you'll find a little bit of luck with which to work.
Lastly, a belated RIP to Harry Dean Stanton, you always kicked major ass in  your work.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Bones of Brundage-Nathaniel Berg, Director; 2018

Bakersfield, California does not have much in terms of glamor. Disaster Amnesiac would venture to guess that for most people in California, it's a place to maybe pull over for gas or eating, before or after the Grapevine on the way to Los Angeles or San Francisco. That being said, the city does have a very rich musical culture, bulwarked by a rich mixture of hard working people. It's from this mix that arose a very vibrant post Punk Rock scene that is incredibly well documented in Nathaniel Berg's Bones of Brundage.
Berg does a great, very deep dive into this scene in from the 1980's to roughly the present, with interviews of myriad participants. Their stories show a music scene that bursts with energy and creativity, and as Disaster Amnesiac watched Bones, I could not help but feel inspired by all of them. It's a classic d.i.y. tale. Young people want to create things for themselves. They find places, in these kids' case, an old dance hall, a gay bar, a pizza parlor, and a boxing gym, in which to realize their visions. They see these visions come to life in unexpected and magical ways, all the while pushing through indifference and even outright hostility from the outside.
Berg is smart in the way that he lets his subjects speak for themselves about these matters, and it's fascinating to learn about this, mostly hidden, musical history of a city that seems somewhat easy to pass by without too many second thoughts. Particularly compelling are characters such as Big Jed, who could easily have his own dedicated documentary film, the almost lost to history Burning Image, and Korn's Jonathan Davis, who eloquently breaks down his reasons for forsaking Los Angeles for the weirdness of Bakersfield suburb Oildale.
Along with the great documentary video and photographic footage of the years it documents, Bones of Brundage succeeds with a really fine soundtrack and compelling mis en scene of Bakersfield and its surroundings. Disaster Amnesiac absolutely loved this film, and thinks that you would, too. It's really quite inspiring.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Goodbye Neal Peart

As news broke about the passing of Rush drummer/lyricist Neal Peart, Disaster Amnesiac felt content to sit back and just watch. I was amazed at the amount of tributes and mentions that I saw. The freaking Drudge Report even gave a link to his obituary! People that I never figured to be Rush fans of any sort were posting mentions on social media, along with, naturally, the very heartfelt words from those that were lifelong fans of the man and his band. Disaster Amnesiac has been reflecting for a few days on the matter. For one thing, I want to say right off the bat that Moving Pictures, and especially its drumming, is a stone PERFECT Rock album. Everything about it is flawless. Rush scaled to the highest summit therein, and rightfully stayed there for the next 35 years, selling out huge tours while always evolving in the manners of their own choosing. I'd like to posit that Peart's societal and cultural influence going forward may come more from his words than his drumming. Hear me out: the Disaster Amnesiac sees it, there are millions of people whose formative adult philosophical influence came not from a church or some Greek or German dude in an ivory tower. No, these millions where hugely influenced by the writings of Neal Peart, and most of them are not playing the drums or any other musical instrument.  At this point in time, these millions are in positions of responsibility and influence at all levels of our society, whether they're parenting, teaching, or running civil or corporate institutions. We are, in many ways, a culture of Tom Sawyers, and Disaster Amnesiac finds this fact fascinating.
Ride easy, Neal Peart. You did things in exactly the way that you intended to, and your influence will be felt for decades to come.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Some Releases That Have Come My Way

It's been an admittedly slow year for Disaster Amnesiac. Life has gotten busier in some ways, and slowed down in others. Both of these dynamics have made it a bit more tough for me to feel the kind of mental focus needed for the pairing of listening with reviewing, but recently some releases have just sort of shown up. When this happens, I feel it to be a kind of necessity to try my utmost to do both. Here are some thoughts on these fine recordings.

Arc-Monument 35; eh? Records casstte #100, 2019
Before the music even started, Disaster Amnesiac was enthralled by the lovely cover art for this cassette, along with the very mysterious vibes that it exudes. Just dig on that quavery orb! Inside the J-card, that opaqueness continues as four phases of the piece are listed, along with several of what appear to be initials of people that would appear to be "the 36". Definitely the kind of graphic design that I've always found to be quite compelling, as it leaves a ton to the imagination.
Imaginative as well is the music of Monument 36. For the most part, the sounds emerge from what could possibly be synths or laptops, calmly eddying out from their sources. Long form drones are established and occasionally seasoned by small percussive clanks and chord sounds, eventually joined by what I think are viola and bowed cymbals. The longer tones of Arc's playing blend into lovely, room filling waves that tend to freeze Disaster Amnesiac in place; I find my mind floating along within their contemplative, pulsing aural streams.  
Monument 36, with its wide, quietly moving phases, has all of the qualities that make Minimalism such a cool approach when it is paired with attentive listening. Kudos as well for the stellar engineering here, from sound capture to mix to mastering. It sounds really well crafted on all of those fronts, too.
Put this tape on and allow

Coims-The Realisation That Someone Has Been Stood Behind You Your Entire Life; eh? Records cassette #111, 2019
What does Coims mean? Is it an acronym? A surname? Quite mysterious, as is just about everything else on The Realisation That Someone Has Been Stood Behind You Your Entire Life. When Disaster Amnesiac first took in the cover art, I was expecting some kind of tribal music or something, but was instead treated to four tracks of somewhat lo-fi Electro-Acoustic sounds. All kinds of instrumental interplay is at work on The Realisation.  Primitive synth tones merge with mic'd metals, feedback pulses drone and warble, drum machine beats get all glitchey, stringed instruments are plucked and processed, odd voices intone atop the din, and drum kits interact with squalls of electronics. It's a fantastic ride, notable for the very cool meshing of said elements into coherent pieces that do not fail to surprise the listener with their unexpected turns. Coims seem to be onto some kind of as yet unnamed Fusion music, and Disaster Amnesiac considers himself very much on board with it. They have taken the last 50 or so years of truly underground music and blended their elements into a singularly cool statement. Really fun, fine stuff here.

Sean Hamilton-Table For One; pfMentum Records, 2019
If Disaster Amnesiac could find a few more solo percussion recordings, Sean Hamilton's Table For One would certainly be part of a long overdue Up Half Known Roads installment. The peripatetic Hamilton is making his mark within the instrumental music underground with his astute solo percussion statements, of which Table is a fine example. Sean coaxes all kind of sounds from his drum set, which is often enhanced with what sound like small gongs for cool melodic effect. As I've listened, I've marveled at the pinpoint precision of the stick and mallet striking that goes on within the matrix of these compositions. Musical layers emerge from these kit pieces, and interspersed with them are quieter, more meditative actions that feature only one sound source, which set up the more frenetic ones nicely. Sean Hamilton is busy developing his unique solo percussion language, and fans of the genre should be delighted with Table For One.

zBug-Splitting Glass/Twilight Sunrise; SoundToPeople Records, 2014
SF Bay Area stalwart improvisor David Leikam has had his band zBug going for quite a few years now. On a recent Sunday, Disaster Amnesiac was happy to catch their set at Temescal Arts Center in Oakland, at which time David graciously gave me a copy of Splitting Glass/Twilight Sunrise. What one gets on this CD is basically two versions of each of these titles: one full version and one that is edited. Smart move, really. Radio stations would probably be more inclined to jam the latter, while fans of improvised music would likely dig on the former just as much. And there is a whole lot of sound to dig. David gets really wild sounds out of his Moog and electric bass. He builds these huge walls of sound that are "based on architecture". The percussive vim of Sheila Bosco pushes the music forward with great energy, and guitarist Fred Malouf gets all manner of texture from his axe. Splitting Glass/Twilight Sunrise is a heavy blast of what Disaster Amnesiac keeps thinking of as Industrial Jazz as I've listened. Surely this term has been used before, but it definitely describes the sound of zBug. They're a band that packs a real whallop live, and David has bookings for 2020 set up. Get on out and support them!

Ernesto Diaz-Infante-For M.F.; Pax Recordings, 2018
The deeper that Disaster Amnesiac goes into this post, the more it is realized that I could go on for a while, but you have my word that this will do it. Ernesto Diaz-Infante gave me a copy of For M.F. some months back at a bookstore in SF, and I've since marveled at the quiet control of this recording. Diaz-Infante spends about an hour getting very intimate with an acoustic guitar on For M.F., playing a quite minimal set of notes with intense focus. This is music that will surely put the listener into a moods of calm or even entrancement. I've driven with it on the car stereo, spent time puttering around the house to it, and have been blown away by its serene yet intense vibes. This is music that has all of the quiet majesty of, say, Indonesian Gamelan and the heaviness of any number of the current Drone Metal scene. All emanating from the fingers of one man man, mind you. And that cover art! Spooky!

In closing, Disaster Amnesiac wants to thank all of the artists who've supplied me with this music. You folks' music is loved and appreciated by me. I hope that this post will get a few more heads to feel the same way about it.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Two New Youth Chairs Songs!

David Winogrond and his pals in Youth Chairs continue their interesting Renaissance this year with two new tracks of classic Pop Rock jangle!
First up, we have the the gritty guitars of Larry Jacobson pairing with sweet vocal delivery from Kim Dart Hurwitz and Gabriele Morgan on I Want You Different. Disaster Amnesiac really digs the way Youth Chairs utilize both of their vocalists on this tune. What an astute move, both personally and creatively. Regarding the latter aspect, it just works on a harmonic level. It just strikes me as a neat bit of flexibility in the case of the former. Different's 1:49 duration swings by with a classically Los Angeles Pop sensibility, showcasing a sweet little solo riff and a tom tom pounded bridge. Wall of Sound fans, take note, as it checks all of the boxes from that particular aesthetic. Really good stuff, Disaster Amnesiac just wishes that it was a bit longer!

Ho, ho, ho!, and next up, Youth Chairs present a Christmas song! On Santa's On Vacation, we get more of that 1960's straight up rhythmic slide, propelled by higher bass notes from John Richey and Dave's propulsive high hat riding. Morgan's lyrics have Mr. Claus heading south for surf and chicks; why not, the guy's worked so hard for so long. Surely Amazon has given him a run for his money, too? Disaster Amnesiac is really digging the brief instrumental break, which is squeezed tightly into the very well crafted tune. Again, a very Los Angeles bit of sunshine Pop is featured here to great, toe tapping effect.

Fans of Power Pop take note: Youth Chairs continue to hone their considerable skills within that genre. Wax up your boards, fire up your Woodies and dig the beats of Winogrond and company!