Thursday, February 9, 2017

Jimmy Page-Outrider; Geffen Records 1988

In all candor, Disaster Amnesiac is truly surprised that this LP has come up for describing and enthusing here. Travel back a few weeks, and as I was digging through a box of compact discs for some good music to hear, it practically popped out of that box. I can't recall when or where I found Jimmy Page's 1988 Outrider, but there it was, practically demanding to be played now. Most assuredly, Disaster Amnesiac places a ton of credence on intuitive leaps of this type, so promptly into the disc player it went.
Damned if the shiny little beast hasn't all but stayed put since that time. Made up of nine tracks, all save one composed mostly by Page, Outrider has a kind of understated yet powerful presence (take the pun, it's fine...) that this listener has been enjoying greatly.
It starts off with the hooky Wasting My Time, a charged and chooglin' slice of prime Hard Rock meat that evokes a very "American" feel for me, very Heartland Hockey Hall, especially in the vocal department. Disaster Amnesiac keeps thinking about 1980's copies of Heavy Metal and muscle cars as this tune rolls over my perceptions. A Google search revealed to me that singer John Miles is in fact English, but damned if he ain't right up there withe Lonesome Dave Peverett in the "out-Yanking the Yanks" league of British rockers. Can Disaster Amnesiac salute you with Old Glory, Mr. Miles? Boss rhythm section strut from Jason Bonham on traps and Tony Franklin on the bass here. The former meshes the swagger of his immortal pop with his own somewhat lighter touch and great ride cymbal bell tapping. Jason doesn't have quite the same weight of John, but, then, who possibly could?  Franklin holds it all together, wisely tucking in between Bonham and his uncle Zoso. Page riffs swooping all atop this action, making great swooping sounds and delivering a fine, colorful solo. If you're at all a fan of Jimmy's guitar playing, your ears will feel nicely treated. Miles remains as the singer for Wanna Make Love, again reaching the kind of high Heavy Rock notes that are so definitive for the genre. The lyrics may seem a bit corny Post-Punk, but surely the little girls understood. Cynical Rock dudes would most likely forgive the vocal affront as Jason's slow hat groove pushes all kinds of trippy tremolo from Page before a leading into a quick two step coda. In Disaster Amnesiac's opinion, the two opening tracks of Outrider are bona fide Hard Rock highs of the 1980's. Here's to hoping that this LP eventually outstrips Appetite for Destruction or whatever Aerosmith was offering concurrently with it.
Page wisely ditches the vocals for Writes of Winter, wherein bassist Durban Laverde joins in the fray with Jason. Their interplay has Disaster Amnesiac thinking of Motorhead and their NWOBHM spawn as they lock street-wise triplet-ey. Jimmy's gorgeous tones and cutting leads evoke the majesty of the Houses of the Holy era, heavy Psychedelic Rock colors leaping off of the strings and out through his amps. All of this leads into what was at the time An Event: Robert Plant joining in with Pagey for a rollin', rockin' dose of their singular Zep-a-Billy on The Only One. Plant's lewd alto is all kinds of grease and suggestiveness. Dude could probably have unlocked Tipper Gore's chastity belt with this number. Page is up for it, too, strummin' mental and wild with his old ice and snow pardner. Jason's a dead ringer for his dad here, so maybe Disaster Amnesiac was mistaken a few sentences back. Felix Krish played the bass, but one has a bit of a hard time finding him. Spending time around Golden Gods is never easy for mere mortals, that's for sure.
After Percy's fine appearance, Page again astutely chooses to go the instrumental route, with the rousing Liquid Mercury. A huge, anthem-style riff leads into more of his expressive, singular tones. One really must marvel at the ways in which he infused Country sounds into the Heavy template. Prog King drummer Barrymore Barlow subs for Bonham on this one, fusing a bit more choppy fuss with solid time playing. Krish gets a bit more of the limelight in this spare trio action. Disaster Amnesiac loves these type of short instrumental rockers. This one may be the best of its type from the major label economy since the Joe Perry's Project's Break Song.
Outrider's feel gets a substantially more Bluesy on the rest of the set. Vocalist Chris Farlow, another British singer with a lengthy c.v. evokes the Muddy Waters sense of class for the tracks Hummingbird (written by Leon Russell), Prison Blues, and Blues Anthem (If I Cannot Have Your Love...). His tenor, delivered clear and articulate, lacks the dramatic vibes from Miles and the raunchiness of Plant, but is pleasingly "male" in its timbre. The rhythm section of Bonham, Krish, and Laverde keeps things somewhat more simple and restrained on these tunes, but Page delivers great solos on Hummingbird and Prison Blues. It's as if they had been supping tea with Roy Harper during Farlow's stay at the Berkshire studio where these tracks were laid down. Definitely evocative of the Led Zeppelin III era. Blues Anthem winds Outrider down with a sweet, almost Garcia-like solo from Page before a very "Euro" anthem-style ending. Sandwiched within this Blues troika is another lovely instrumental, Emerald Eyes, full of the longing sounds perfected by Jimmy during the Physical Graffiti era as he's joined again by Barlow's subtleties. Its layers of guitars, glistening, shining, and melting away that really make the song.
There are some serious highs from the strings of Page all throughout Outrider. Disaster Amnesiac is certainly happy that I stumbled upon this disc at some point. Its vibes have aged exceedingly well, and I recommend it as a hidden gem of 1980's Rock in general and of Led Zeppelin-related output in particular.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Disaster Amnesiac aka Mark Pino Ribosome Radio Podcast

My pal Matt Davignon invited me over to do a guest episode on his Ribosome Radio podcast. While Mark Pino was the person invited over, there are definitely Disaster Amnesiac shades to this occurrence.
More describing and enthusing coming soon!
Many thanks to Matt for being such a friendly host.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Some Tapes Reviewed

It's pretty clear that the cassette tape, if it ever really left, is back as a choice of medium for certain types of musical producers. Think about it, the term "mix tape" always remained within  the American lexicon, even during the supposed Wilderness Years of the dreaded compact disc's delivery dominance. Recently, Mrs. Amnesiac was kind enough to hook her hubby up with a fine, functional cassette tape deck. Naturally, Disaster Amnesiac scurried to the garage in search of some tapes for listening and appreciating. Following are thoughts on a few of them....

Steve Kado-2003 (For Solo Drum Machine); Recondite Industries, 2012
Lately Disaster Amnesiac has been enjoying sounds that are effected or influenced by the Techno side of the musical spectrum, so when this tape tumbled out of the box, it made its way quickly into the deck. Starting with a simple, incessant pulse, 2003 builds up into some really great, cascading Minimalist zones, colored by electronic washes. It strikes me that one of the more compelling aspects of this type of music is its hypnotic effect. The listener must cede to patience as this type of approach unfolds for the mind. Kado paces the release really well, seeming to know exactly when the right time has been reached for these slight added sounds that twist the piece's movement into new atmospheres. Judging by the tape's cover, this is all done with the barest of setups, and 2003 really impresses for that. Plus, one can spend well over an hour dancing to its cool, driving energies.

Linekraft-Kikai Ningen; Nil By Mouth, 2013
As can be seen from the above pic, one really neat thing about this tape is the oversized file clip that holds it together, giving it a kind of dossier feel. Kikai Ningen's cover graphics are a pretty good portent to the sounds contained within this tape: abrasive, sometimes downright scary Power Violence. The tones, not so much coaxed as seized from metal "junks" and electronic devices are harsh and incredibly noisy. Linekraft is not dealing with subtleties on this one. Side A features four tracks pounded out in studio at various time over the course of a year. It must have been pretty jarring for the engineers involved. At times, it's almost too spooky for Disaster Amnesiac to continue listening. This is some seriously bent expression! Side B, recorded live at two different venues in Tokyo, has a bit more, not mellow (no fucking way for Linekraft, I'd imagine), but just somehow more easily digested thing going on. Chalk it up to its sounds emanating more from laptops and room ambience and less from the close-mic'd cacophony of its flip, maybe? Groove on Side A for a maximally violent skullfuck, and Side B for a bit more a Surrealist/Dada mood. 

Tom Djill-Cassette19; eh? Records #90, 2016
Extrapolating somewhat from Tom's eloquent liner notes, Cassette19 is a kind of exorcism for long-time musician and journalist Djill, along with being a rapprochement between "sound vs. structure" in abstract music. A tall order, but Tom's up to it. His trumpet playing on these tracks shows Miles-like finesse at times, at others sounding as if he's been 'shedding with Cosey Fanni Tutti. Disaster Amnesiac has had the pleasure of hearing him play his horn live, and it's not really hyperbole to say that he's mastered it. Really sweet to hear Mr. Djill on trumpet. Along with those brass tones, he gets all manner of warped, glitched, warble-ey, and often downright sick electronic tones from his seemingly considerable arsenal of synths, pedals, and other gadgets. At times thickly pressed, at others highly spaced out, but always raw and real, the songs on Cassette19 display tons about what is great with the underground music scene right now. Disaster Amnesiac hopes that Tom's sleeping better these days.

Eyes Like Helicopter-The Shift Of It All; Biological Radio #19, 2014
Last up for this edition of describing and enthusing we have this beautiful blue piece of plastic from Vermont's Eyes Like Helicopter. The flow of The Shift Of It All is a lot like its cover art,  in that it's sort of divided into two distinct landscapes. Side A has lots of really fine, ringing steel string solo guitar (for the most part) playing and a kind of Appalachian vibe throughout. Disaster Amnesiac keeps thinking "American Primitive", but then saying to myself, " screw that, this is American SOPHISTICATION, dammit..." The way that Darren Myers paces these songs makes them richly ambient and quite fascinating. Small drones and jaw harps seem to be used to embellish at times, along with a dog at one point. When Myers himself steps to the mic he utilizes a great, sloppy Punk Rock delivery, which fits in well with whole alone-er aesthetic of the tape. Side B veers more into a bit more of an experimental electronic zone at times, and while having a distinctly different vibe, it feels connected via the overriding rural pacing of its counter. Things get a bit more messy and psyched out, almost robotic at times, but the connection is still clear. Deeply gooey sounds from perennially (hopefully) Weird America.

As Disaster Amnesiac has ruminated and worked upon this post, I've realized that the cassette tape has never truly gone away. It has mostly become an affordable medium for small scale musicians and sound artists to document and distribute their work.
I'll bet some willing entrepreneur could make more than a few bucks with a quality cassette tape player production company. Somehow it seems unlikely that a vinyl-style revival is possible for the humble cassette tape, but, clearly, it has a niche market that remains stable. Just remember to push down those tabs on the top side if you want to keep your sounds intact, kids.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Vegan Butcher-self titled, via Bancamp; 2016

                   ".....these ones are all stretched out and bifurcated...."

So go the lyrics to opening tune Bifurcated on Vegan Butcher's eponymous release, their first as far as Disaster Amnesiac can tell.
A fitting description of their method, too. The songs on the disc do indeed stretch out, led by guitarist John Shiurba's lead guitar runs and musings. His guitar voices run from the twangy, Country Gentleman sound of Fundamental to Post Punk tonality, albeit clearly fused with lots of pre-Punk influence on Fish Barrel; dig those leads during the vocal passage of Bifurcated! They display a lot of really great melodic flare before giving the hammer. Also exemplary are the fuzzy tones within Toast. Shiurba really shines on guitar throughout Vegan Butcher.
Structurally, Vegan Butcher's songs generally start out with these guitar intros that last for several measures as Shiurba, bassist Will Hendricks, and drummer Suki O'Kane play off the stated guitar themes, building up moody passages around, under and over their tonalities.
Within these generally "dark" moods, Hendricks's pacing is really good. His bass playing leaves lots of room for the guitar strings' resonances, but when bigger riffs kick in, such as happens on Toast, he's right there, active within the instrumental mix as he puts down the low end rumblings.
Drummer O'Kane has a similar approach to the bass parts. Quieter cymbal tapping and snare accents are utilized as the disc's themes are built up within the instrumental ramp ups, quite a Jazz feel really; when Vegan Butcher's moody power trio is ready to drive the riffs home, she switches to great tom tom accenting and a more Bill Ward-styled method of riding the cymbals and thereby those same riffs.
All of the early instrumental interplay of the songs on Vegan Butcher lead up to the lyrical delivery from vocalist Val Esway. As Disaster Amnesiac has come to understand them, they're culled from the somniloquent musings of Shiurba, and, as such their odd, lateral meaning frames put the listener into a surreal mental state. Esway's clear alto is especially great on Fish Barrel as it soars above the melee of the rhythm section before segueing into a cool Musique Concrete tape passage.
Vegans still seem to get a lot of grief within our society. People want their meat, I guess. Somehow, Disaster Amnesiac doubts that Vegan Butcher care what their audience put into their bellies, as long their music gets into their ears. Plenty of aural protein to be had from that!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Youth Chairs-Everything; Self released via Bandcamp, 2016

You just have to love the way that things can come full circle. Right around the turning of the New Year, Disaster Amnesiac contacted drummer David Winogrand after being out of contact for several years. More significantly for David, he mentioned that he'd re-connected with his musical compatriot from the early 1980's, Larry Jacobson, in a chance meeting in Los Angeles in 2015.
Larry and David, along with bassist John Richey and singers Kim Lori Dart and Gabriele Morgan, and keyboard player Bruce Wagner, played together in the band Youth Chairs. The group, which lasted from 1979 until 1981, came to fruition during an immensely creative time for music in Los Angeles. Disaster Amnesiac needn't rehash those particular details, but suffice it to say that Youth Chairs sound is full of  the energy that was flying around the country generally and in Los Angeles specifically at that time.
That sound is a Punk Rock infused Pop Rock. As Disaster Amnesiac has listened to Everything, last year's digital release of the collected demo recordings from Youth Chairs, I've marveled at the strength of their songs' hooks. Jacobson, the main music writer for Youth Chairs, sounds as if he was a student of earlier masters such as Lennon/McCartney, Brian Jones, and, most pointedly, Pete Townsend. Tunes on this collection such as Everything and I See Lisa, and You Is Time move with guitar-driven melodies rooted within the Rock 'n Roll eras previous to Punk Rock, but are driven by the energetic crackle of that then-current force in musical culture. It's to his credit that he shaped these influences into a really fine personal approach that shines in these songs. It's really a pleasure to hear and feel his hooks bouncing around the mind, during and after listening to Youth Chairs. Why these melodic skills did not propel a tune such as You Break Hearts to the Pop charts of that time is beyond me.
To bolster the creative melodies and hook emanating from Jacobson's guitar, Youth Chairs rhythm section shows some seriously snappy interaction with it. Bassist John Richey and drummer David Winogrand (or Tom Brown on four early tracks) provide solid sonic ballasts upon which the songs' changes cruise quite effectively. Dig on the liquid low end bass action on Grownups and Beautiful Music, paired with stompin' tom toms and crisp cymbals, their tight tandem on a cool cover of Paint It Black, and their alternating chugging and tight moves on Army Army for evidence of their simpatico. Their playing is perfect for this type of material.  Bruce Wagner fleshes out certain gaps within the treble registers, accenting 1960's-style with chiming keys on Girls In Cages and solid chords playing on Everything. Again, with playing like this, within this type of Pop matrix, it's puzzling as to why Youth Chairs made such little headway, especially as they were positioned so near to the heart of major label economy. Is Disaster Amnesiac just being naive here?
In the vocal department, Youth Chairs featured Kim Lori Dart to start with, later switching to Gabriele Morgan. Dart seems to have written the bulk of her lyrics, which are delivered in an energetic, somewhat "naive" manner; they strike Disaster Amnesiac as being Garage-sounding in their timbre, sort of "first band" in tone, if that makes any sense. This delivery fits well within the group's energetic framework. Even at my well-into middle age state, they're very compelling in their early adulthood concerns: jobs, post-high school angst, weird people and their issues are all dealt with in tunes such as All Things To All Men and Grownups. Morgan's voice sounds a bit more trained and formal than her predecessor's within the group. Disaster Amnesiac hears less naivety and more "history" from her vocals. She sounds as if she'd been singing longer and had more time to know where to add her own unique inflections into the lyrics, as in I See Lisa and her take on You Is Time. Although somewhat different, they both work well within Youth Chairs sound.
Ruminations upon the passing of time featured pretty heavily in the closing statements of Disaster Amnesiac's last post, and I am loathe to repeat myself too much, but damned if it isn't the case that as the years go by, certain actions show their value. It's so important for groups to document their work. Youth Chairs initial story may have ended somewhat lackluster, but I'm thinking Winogrand, Jacobson, Richey, Dart, Morgan, Wagner and Brown are happy that there are tapes extant. All these years later, their tight, hooky Punk Rock Pop songs can be heard. No doubt there's and audience out there for them within the 'net-scaped world of the 21st Century. Browse on over to their Bandcamp page and hear Everything that they had to offer as a working band!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Internal Void-Unearthed; Southern Lord, 2000

What does light mean to you? Does the way an environment's light falls effect your perception of music? Disaster Amnesiac finds these questions to be relevant while enjoying Internal Void's incredible offering from 2000, Unearthed. It goes back to listening to music during the 1980's, mostly as I tooled around the suburbs of Northern Virginia in a beat up Datsun with a functioning tape deck. There were times, especially in autumn, when hues of the sunlight and their attendant falling upon the environment would mesh with music in  a sublime perfection. Over the ensuing years, Disaster Amnesiac has often felt those same feelings when I hear bands the unique sounds of Maryland Heavy Rock, as practiced by Internal Void, Obsessed, Spirit Caravan, and others. There is just something about the way that the groups that come out of that scene shape their melodies and harmonies that evokes the light of the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S., at least for me.
Those kinds of "insights", obviously purely subjective, may not translate well into a good review, so please allow Disaster Amnesiac to try and be a bit more objective as I attempt to enthuse about how great an album Unearthed is.
First off, guitarist Kelly Carmichael utilizes such great, heavy tones within this set of tunes. Opener With Apache Blood kicks things off, showing his melodic strength before turning into some bruising riff crushes. It sounds as if he put a lot of work in to getting a really sweet tone, perfectly fuzzed but still clear and focused. This action continues on tracks like Pint Of Love and Too Far Gone, as Carmichael puts the lessons of Iommi and Weinrich to great use. Disaster Amnesiac is fascinated by his Allman-flavored sweetness on In A Bit Of Jam, and figures that Kelly is the kind of guitar player that would be well appraised of Dicky Betts' love of Charlie Parker, and be conversant with them, too. Within the Heavy Rock form, there's just no excuse for underdone guitar playing. On Unearthed, Carmichael is seriously cooking.
Obviously, a Rock band also needs a moving, breathing rhythm section, and Internal Void was certainly blessed with one at the time of Unearthed in Adam S. Heinzmann on bass and Ronnie Kalimon on drums. The latter  puts on a veritable clinic in Rock drumming. He's heavily involved in all of the arrangements, and just slays on tunes such as Blindside, Chapter 9, and Beyond Anger, to name just a few. This involvement is always grounded in superior time keeping, and it's simply amazing. The total kick ass drumming on the album alone is worth the price of admission. Listen and marvel. Heinzmann does not slouch on top of his battery mate's chops; the way that he bridges the drums to the guitar riffs has all of the physical push and pull that's necessary with the approach to Heavy Rock. His harmonies with Carmichael's riffs is so sweet: listen closely to With Apache Blood.
Internal Void singer JD Williams utilizes all of the talent emanating from the instrumentalists within the band as a launch pad for a fine performance of his own, delivering lyrics that are Doom'ed, wry, definitely on the darker side, but that never come across as despairing. Knowing is a good way to describe them; fully aware of, and seemingly effected by, the "permanent down" that Bill Ward mentioned, but never submitting to the darkness. His vocal tones, somewhat reedy alto mostly but at times gutturally slung out, fit in with these moods, musical and lyrical, perfectly. Disaster Amnesiac always marvels at his delivery on Too Far Gone and Chapter 9, but, as they say, it's all good throughout.
Time passes: Unearthed is almost twenty years old. Light fades: as Disaster Amnesiac peers out the window this evening, the sun sets, its waning light coloring the sky over the SF Bay in an orange hue, somewhat reminiscent of similar ones seen on freaked out late afternoon drives in doomed Prince William County. Heaviness endures: snag a copy of this great record from Internal Void and hear that for yourself. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Greg Ginn-Let It Burn (Because I Don't Live There Anymore); Cruz Records, 1994

If for no one else than Disaster Amnesiac, the requisite amount of time has passed with no real news from Greg Ginn and SST Records. I find myself wondering, "what's up with Ginn?" a lot these days. The past silent stretches have often been the result of fucked up contracts with distribution companies or conceptual re-ordering of the musical variety; Disaster Amnesiac can't help but wonder, though, if the internecine war of three years back within the SST/South Bay gang put such a damper on Greg as to make him cease musical activity all together.
Being the Ginn obsessive that I am, I've had to turn to older releases for the need Ginn-tar fix that has been an almost daily habit for over thirty years now. Thankfully, as we all know, there's TONS of that floating around, a prime example being his 1994 solo LP Let It Burn (Because I Don't Live There Anymore).
For the longest time, Disaster Amnesiac has pondered the title of this great release. Is it a sarcastic riff on the "Indie-Nation" heroes The Replacements Let It Be title? A very unsubtle jab at the then-crumbling micro-world of SST and his possible true feelings about it? Obviously, only Ginn knew for sure, and he's not one to bother talking about those types of aspects of his body of work. Song title such as Drifting Away, I Don't Want It, and Lame Excuses have always struck this listener as possible clues to the overriding theme, and the the lyrical vitriol of Taking the Other Side and Destroy My Mind seem to back this up. Whatever Greg was thinking about when he penned these lyrics, it was most definitely pissing him off to a huge extent.
In speaking of the lyrics, the subject of Ginn's singing voice, pretty much debuted here, must come up. It's not as though Disaster Amnesiac has ever had a conversation about it, but I've pondered what others have thought of it. I like it a lot. Way more warble-ey than Rollins', obviously, and without the hard confidence of Henry's Flag declamations, but fine for Punk Rock statements and said vitriol. The lyrical subjects aren't pretty, so why should the singing be so? For the Ginn fan, it's just kind of fun to hear him take a turn at the mic, too.
If you've ever seen the footage of Black Flag in Decline of Western Civilization, you'll recall that while the rest of the group was being interviewed at the Church, Greg had his Mosrite in hand and was doing scales during part of that clip. I've always figured that that portion was telling re: Ginn's work ethic when it comes to, especially, the guitar. Say what you want about him, but in many ways, he's all about the music, and moving it forward. Another fascinating aspect of Let It Burn is the ways in which Ginn's developments at that time are on full display. In a fine interview with Mark Prindle in Citi-zine, Greg described his early 1990's fascination with the Techno of that time, and how he'd play along with radio broadcasts featuring that style. On tunes such as Military Destroys Mind/Body, In Your Face Motherfucker, and Hey Stupidface, he fuses Techno drum and rhythm programming to his burning solo riffs. I've been listening to this LP for almost twenty years, and never tire of its blending of Hardcore Techno with Hardcore Punk Rock musical aesthetics. Ginn's guitar voice is diminished not one whit within these moves, and his bass playing is funky and loopy within its moves. The more traditionally rocking tracks such at Let It Burn, Taking the Other Side, Exiled From Lame Street, and Drifting Away all feature more burning guitar solo statements, exemplary tight riffs, and really moving bass/drum rhythm section interaction. I Don't Want It blazes at levels equal to any of the great mid-late period Black Flag pieces, as does Destroy My Mind with its cool cowbell hits and odd, psychedelic voices floating in the background. Indeed, Let It Burn is, across the board, just as finely rocking as any Flag.
Who knows what the future holds for Greg Ginn and SST Records. Disaster Amnesiac has been patiently holding on for any news from them for the past couple of years. It seems as though, like many other labels and performers of that generation, the output is slowing down. Still, it'd be great to hear some new stuff from him and whichever cohorts he may have at this time. Until that happens, and hopefully soon, Disaster Amnesiac will have to enjoy the great merits of releases such as Let It Burn (Because I Don't Live There Anymore). There's scads of fun sounds within it and just about any other project he gets going. Still, I'm kind of begging for more, here. Any time you want, Greg!