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!

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Goodbye Ginger Baker

This morning Disaster Amnesiac spent some time listening to Ginger Baker's last album, Why? Dunno if you've heard it, but for me, it brings to light the diversity of musical expression that Ginger was able to wring from that aspect of his crazed life.
He started out with Jazz, moved on to the Blues and Heavy Rock, then began to incorporate the music of West Sub-Saharan Africa, and this only the first half of his career! The second half had him surprising Punk Rockers as he slammed beats for John Lydon, developing incredibly unique Fusion music with Bill Laswell and finally returning to his beloved Jazz, that last move probably being incredibly sweet for him as he was greeted with open arms by several of his musical heroes for it.
It's no secret that the man had a completely bonkers tack to his personal life. Surely there was much personal damage, alienation, and outright neglect towards those closest to him.
That said, Disaster Amnesiac has always marveled at his drumming skills, especially on releases like Album by PiL and his incredible 1989 Middle Passage. It's that unmistakable sound of his tom toms, paired with the incessant 2 and 4 click of his hi-hat that has me coming back often. Ginger's drumming surely isn't everyone's cup of tea, but Disaster Amnesiac has loved it for years, and will continue to do so.
Goodbye Ginger. May your spirit travel to where it needs to go. Those of us who were touched by your sounds will continue to bob our heads and tap our feet at your downbeats, as reliably consistent as the days are long.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Goodbye Robert Hunter

It stands to reason that had Disaster Amnesiac been blogging back in 1995, there would have been a "Goodbye Jerry Garcia" post from me. Seeing as that Robert Hunter was in many ways Jerry's creative twin brother, it seems fitting to give him a quick goodbye post.
Robert Hunter's words very much defined the lives, times, and world views of millions of people. One would be hard pressed to find a poet whose writing reached and effected as many people. Walt Whitman? Jack Kerouac? Disaster Amnesiac can't think of too many more. If you can, please do comment. Sometimes these words strike me as deeply sublime, at others times some of them seem kind of dopey. They always do leave an impression, though.
Robert Hunter strove for, and really did achieve, a uniquely American literary vision, one that reflected the striving, heartbreak, and foibles of the people that have walked the North American gauntlet. The Grateful Dead's lyrics, courtesy of Hunter, for better or worse broke down the somewhat naive visions of the scene from which they achieved notoriety and gave a much more honest view the human condition, particularly in regards to humans in the U.S.A.
Disaster Amnesiac always appreciated this, along with Hunter's non-blinders wearing views towards his brother Jerry, especially in the wake of his final demise. Robert Hunter kept it real, always.
Goodbye, Robert Hunter. Surely there are a lot of people that are grateful for your taking up Jerry Garcia on his proposition to help out his band with lyrics so many years ago. You truly helped more than you hurt. 

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Black Flag-Ace of Spades, Sacramento CA; 9/6/19

Honestly the last thing on Disaster Amnesiac's mind while at Black Flag's performance at Ace of Spades in Sacramento was doing a blog post about it. I was just there to enjoy the feeling of being in the same room with Greg Ginn's guitar tones. That being said, on the 60-something mile drive home, it became increasingly clear that it just HAD to be done.
Why, you ask? To put in bluntly, Black Flag DESTROYED! The band were whip smart and tight as a drum; clearly, all of their recent touring has got them seriously gelled.
The new rhythm section were heavy when they needed to be, propulsive when the tunes required that. Disaster Amnesiac did not catch the bass player's name, but I feel strongly that he's Black Flag's secret weapon. How he anchored everything! Just great.
Mike Vallely does an awesome job of singing songs from all eras (save the 2012-13 version, for obvious reasons). I felt as though his understated presence during Ginn's solos was in really good taste, too. Mike delivers the lyrics and gets out of the way for his man Greg.
Speaking of Ginn: he was ON FIRE at Ace of Spades. Holy crap it was great to hear him take those mind bending solos. Disaster Amnesiac still remembers first hearing his guitar sounds, and how they changed how I heard music, permanently. It was THAT Ginn that was on display in Sacramento, with all of the wild, expressive bordering on chaos control that so endears his music to me.
Especially cool was the extended version of Slip It In, where I swear he threw in some Taylor Texas Corrugators licks, the delightful treat of I Can See You (had the 1980's Black Flag ever played that one live?), a nice, choppy version of Bastard In Love, and a throttling, emotional Rise Above. Hell, there was not one dud in the set. The early stuff was driving, the later stuff was oozing.
Black Flag's current iteration remains a divisive topic among a certain set of music fans. I for one find it to be an incredibly ass kicking band.
Greg and Mike, can you please cook up some new songs with your new bass and drums pals? Lord knows y'all have got plenty of talent to do so.

Below: Black Flag laying waste to Ace of Spades

Monday, August 5, 2019

Mitchell Feldstein-Pretty Boss; Flag Day Records cassette/digital, 2019

Holy Reptile House, Batman, what do we have here? Why, yes, it's new Lungfish related product! Disaster Amnesiac is stoked to be hearing this new offering from Mitchell Feldstein, Pretty Boss.
Across the duration, roughly, of a standard poetry reading, the listener is treated to 16 tracks of Mitchell's great writings, delivered by the man himself. What a delight it is to hear his Philadelphia/Baltimore accent as he intones stories of life lived within the cracks and crevices of worlds both physical and temporal. Aging, death, frustration, insights from strangers and intimates are espoused in these pieces, and all are given a glistening dignity from the control that Feldstein obviously has over his craft. There's a Beat grittiness to these poems. Their scenes and the people within them, including the author, are very relatable.
Adding to the wonder of Pretty Boss is the musical accompaniments of Matthew Dermond and Zane Kanevsky. This duo repeatedly conjure up some absolutely perfect sounds that gird, smother, and support the readings. Electronics buzz and whirr, odd scratches break out, keyboards get pointy and funky, all just perfectly placed as they mix with Mitchell's incantations. The closing track, When She Told Him She Was In Love, with its repeated guitar riff and plummy bass picking, will have Lungfish fans weeping if I dare say so. It's just got that sound.
Much like Hammerin' Hank Aaron, one of the poetic subjects that appear on Pretty Boss, Flag Day and Mitchell Feldstein have hit a home run here. Be sure to bring your glove, as you'll want to catch it.