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!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Nathan Hubbard/Skeleton Key Orchestra-Furiously Dreaming; Orenda Records, 2016

A few years ago, while dining with a pal in Long Beach and listening to two amazing local Jazz musicians play lovely versions of several Standards, said pal said something like "...the great thing about L.A. is the fact that everywhere you turn, real TALENT abounds..." Disaster Amnesiac, after listening to Furiously Dreaming, will just go on and add San Diego to that statement.
Across two CD's containing eight tracks in all, S.D.-based Nathan Hubbard/Skeleton Key Orchestra puts in an absolutely stunning performance of Post-Bop Big Band music that will surely please just about any fan of any number of strains within 20th Century and beyond music.
I figure it can be somewhat of a cliche to brand music with the broadness of scope evinced within Dreaming as visionary, but, damned if that's not exactly the way the Hubbard comes across as one listens. Elements of Jazz, Serialism, Electronic Music, Beat Poetry, Medieval European composition, Turntablism: all are blended within this group's book. As Disaster Amnesiac has listened, I've found myself comparing it with similar offerings from the likes of Mingus, Braxton, Evans et al. Seriously, Nathan Hubbard's scope is that vast, and long, seemingly through-composed pieces such as Crows On The Roof and Other Ideas offer ample proof of that.
This kind of vision can suffer for lack of musicianship or preparation. It sounds as if every player/singer/writer within Skeleton Key Orchestra is very much up to the task of delivering upon the promise of Hubbard's ideas. All the solos are creatively fiery, the group passages are all sounds just so sublimely together and fused.
The liner note of the disc shows that many years' time was spent on the preparation of Furiously Dreaming, and Disaster Amnesiac must tip the cap to Nathan: it must have been trying to have to wait to get this vision out into the world, but holy smokes how that patience has paid off in aesthetic dividends. The tones are clear, and the instrumental mix is beautifully wet and alive.
Jazz and Orchestral music are, ideally, all about personal vision and the execution thereof. With Furiously Dreaming, Nathan Hubbard has utilized Skeleton Key Orchestra to show his own. Many years ago, Disaster Amnesiac read a liner note for one of Gerry Hemingway's Hat Hut discs, in which a writer said that Hemingway has "...written his way into the Big Book..." In my opinion, a new edition of said book must be published, and it must include a chapter for Furiously Dreaming. I'm floored by this CD. Find it!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Eloine-Bizarre Flight; Gertrude Tapes #019, 2016

In conversation, Bryan Day never seems to try to dominate. The times that Disaster Amnesiac has spoken with him, I've gotten a sense that there's a lot going on within his thoughts, but he always listens; his responses are often fascinating. 
Bizarre Flight, his most recent release, under the moniker Eloine, is as good a reflection of that personal style as one can find. Across six tracks, all coaxed from Bryan's self-made instruments, he presents sounds that, underneath their somewhat placid surfaces, are exploding with any and all manner of percussive popping on a track called Hammer Cipher, metallic drones on Gravity Harbor, and a generally mysterious atmosphere for the entire duration.  
Flight, recorded as part of a music series in which sound artists play within unique, non-gallery spaces, has a full, echo-ey feel; this feel gives the listener a very intimate vibe within which to immerse. Pieces such as Wellwater Construct and Cupola do not so much attack as they do envelop the mind with their patient pacing and broad strokes. Corner Sources features a bit more heat, at times sounding like a factory at war with itself, if the battles of that war were all staged within its machine brain as philosophical dialogue.
It's tapes such as Bizarre Flight that make the underground experimental music scene such a cool part of the world in which to do research and discovery. Anyone that's inclined to dig into this type of musical output is advised to book a ticket with Eloine for continuing journeys therein.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Ernesto Diaz-Infante-My Benign Swords; eh? Records #92, 2016

The other day Disaster Amnesiac got lost while driving around the the East Bay Hills near Richmond. As this was going on, I was quite happy to have My Benign Swords, Ernesto Diaz-Infante's new release playing on my car stereo. This, on account of how his adventurous guitar playing provided a mental frame of exploration and wonder, perfect for moving through unfamiliar areas.
The songs on Swords, all coaxed from a nylon stringed guitar, go to many fascinating sound worlds: percussive clanged notes on My Forgotten Stars and Where are you? Hope you're okay?, warbled stutters in Fear of Love, harmonic overtone sliding in Yin, and the floating, wide open spaces of Moving Away From My Mind (Disaster Amnesiac's fave track on the disc) and The Inside Answers. Across all of the disc's tracks, laid down "Next Door to the Jefferson Airplane Studios", and presented with really beautiful cover art, Diaz-Infante displays great control and creativity: he's got a vision and chops with which to achieve it.
My Benign Swords is a recording that near perfectly realizes the fusion of quiet, intimate ideas with challenging experimental moves, and, as such, is highly recommended to those that would get lost within such zones. Disaster Amnesiac should probably keep my copy in the car, as I do tend to get lost fairly often.