Saturday, March 18, 2017

Goodbye Chuck Berry

An early Disaster Amnesiac Rock 'n Roll memory: age six-seven. I am standing in front of my father's stereo. Dad has at some earlier point shown me how to put vinyl onto the turntable. He has also explained to me that this LP with the black cover and white lettering contains music by Chuck Berry, who is the best Rock 'n Roll singer ever. I put the needle on the record and stand enthralled by its sound.
A later Disaster Amnesiac Rock 'n Roll memory. I am at Mountain Winery in Saratoga, California. It is 2002 or 2003. Little Richard and Chuck Berry are co-headlining an evening concert. Little Richard's band is tight and incredibly well rehearsed. Even his off the cuff monologues sound memorized. Mid-way through the show, he has ushers hand out slim paperbacks with Bible verses in them. After Richard's set, I see a Cadillac driving up to the backstage area of the concert venue. I see a tall, slim man with a white cap get out of the Cadillac and move towards the trunk. I see this man then carry a guitar case into the backstage area; a minute or so later, he's on the stage, greeting the backing musicians that have been waiting for him to arrive. I swear to this day that the bass player was Billy Cox, friend of Jimi Hendrix. The group begins to play, and are ramshackle at best. There are tuning issues, timing issues, and nothing sounds like those classic records did. They're playing those same songs,
After thirty minutes or so, Berry tries to get the tony Silicon Valley crowd to sing about ding-a-lings. It's strangely uncomfortable. This crowd does not seem to want to do this, and the response is, at best, lackluster. Chuck jokes around, forgives the audience for their lack of willingly open crudeness, and the band plays a bit longer. Maybe they finally "got it together", I don't know.
Driving home from the show, Disaster Amnesiac came to fully realize the brilliance of Chuck Berry's willful rawness, his unending long middle finger to all things elite and "serious". In that, Chuck Berry truly was the Best Rock 'n Roll Singer Of All Time.
The man seemingly never went soft, and, presumably, was on edge to the bitter end. The failed music biz person in me admires the stories of his pistol packin' demands for the FUCKING CASH NOW. The historically aware American marvels at his success in the face of ignorant segregated St. Louis harshness.
The Rock 'n Roll fan in me still dances a jig to pretty much any one of his songs whenever I hear one.
Chuck Berry truly did things his way. With him, you probably never could tell. Sounds like Rock 'n Roll to me.

Robin Trower-Where Are You Going To; V12 Records, 2016

Ask any fan of 1970's Rock about Robin Trower, and surely you'll get some kind of positive affirmation. The guy and his band never made a bad record; they cooked up their sound, a cool Bluesy Psychedelic tinged Rock, and stuck with it. If it ain't broke, why fix it?
Here we are forty some odd years later, and Trower is still hitting high marks within that initial design. Disaster Amnesiac picked up a copy of Where Are You Going To a few weeks back, and I'm finding it incredibly enjoyable for that guitar music fix.
Across ten tracks, this cool blue flame of an LP burns steady. The Trower template of spare and simple rhythm section action that supports his colorful guitar soloing is in full effect here. Drummer Chris Taggart lays down slow motion zen beats, never over doing things, never being overly demonstrative on his kit. His understated swing on Jigsaw and When Will The Next Blow Fall don't push these tunes, but instead allow them to flow with a graceful ease, and his Funky stompin' on The Fruits of Your Desire and Delusion Sweet Delusion ramp things up a bit more yet still retain an admirable control. The former keeps reminding me of Los Lobos for some reason. That said, Taggart has the Trower drum feel down pat. Robin must smile a lot at him.
It goes without saying that if you're coming to a Robin Trower record, you're coming for that sweet Strat tone and the solos. Disaster Amnesiac can assure you that they're all over the place on Where Are You Going To. There is driving, rolling Rock on In Too Deep, cosmic Jimi jamming on Back Where You Belong, heavy, earthen dirge of Jigsaw, that East L.A. feel I mentioned on Fruits of Your Desire. Robin coaxes Chicago sass on I'm Holding On To You and mystical breezes on When Will The Next Blow Fall. Indeed, every one of the songs on the album feature some kind of seriously compelling guitar expression, whether it's the riff or the solo. Robin Trower just continues to lay it down in the most sublimely understated ways.
Disaster Amnesiac was pretty surprised to see that Robin also handled the bass guitar and vocal duties on Where Are You Going To. Presumably much in the same way that Greg Ginn knows exactly what his six string axe needs from its four string sibling, the bass sits in the pocket for the duration, thick and reliable as a ballast for the guitar and its colorful tones. The vocals remind me so much of James Dewar: cool, spoke-sung, non-shouted tenor tones that deliver simple lyrics of love, hope, and heartbreak. Perhaps he just couldn't find the right person for that style anymore, as it's exceedingly rare in these demonstratively forceful times.
The kind of force that Disaster Amnesiac mentions has never been a factor in Robin Trower's oeuvre. His vibes have always been about setting up a groove and moving within it, letting the music breath and express itself in a bit more of a natural way. On Where Are You Going To he stays within that bag, and it's some of the most solid recent Rock Music that Disaster Amnesiac has had the pleasure of hearing in a good long while. Right on!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Sult + Lasse Marhaug-Harpoon; self released via Bandcamp, 2017

2017 is already shaping up to be a mind bender of a year in Electro-Acoustic music. First there was the great Collision Stories CD, and next up sailed the absolute corker of an LP from Sult + Lasse Marhaug, Harpoon.
Disaster Amnesiac has been having my ears scrubbed out by the this one for the past couple of weeks, and after this repeated listening right off I'll say that it may be the deepest and most richly challenging example of the genre that I've ever had the pleasure of delving in to.
The music of Harpoon was initially performed by Sult, a trio consisting of Havard Skaset on guitar, Guro Skumsnes Moe on bass, and Jacob Felix Heule on percussion. These tones were then processed by Lasse Marhaug.
The resultant 36 minutes of sound is one of extreme density and otherworldly atmospherics. Disaster Amnesiac can definitely understand why they chose the title: it does have an underwater alien-ness to its feel.
It's overall tough, if not impossible, to isolate individual instrument's sounds within the murky density of Harpoon. That said, it's incredibly enjoyable to marvel at this tight composition's musically heavy moods and passages. Clicking, scraping, springing voices tug and pull at each others' strands. High register sighs and deep groans evoke the mysteries of maritime life. Sult are clearly operating at deep (sea) levels of interplay and listening. This is the kind of music and sound that goes way beyond having to prove anything with chops or dramatic showmanship. They're really inventing their own worlds here. Or do they see them as their own oceans?
All of these sounds and more are then wrapped and bound within a crisp sonic net by the processing tactics of Marhaug, and they really leap out at the attentive listener. Marhaug did a great job of integrating the skilled playing from Sult's members into a concise whole. Harpoon is a crisp, dense, sonic projectile.
It's on target and it is damn sharp. You'll be happy to have your perceptions pierced by Harpoon.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Collision Stories-Those Missing Will Complete Us; Public Eyesore Records #137, 2017

The earliest memory that Disaster Amnesiac has of Industrial Music enjoyment: being entranced by the hypnotic back and forth of the wiper blades on my mother's Volvo as we zipped through rain storms in suburban Virginia. The sound and rhythm of those blades most definitely primed me for an appreciation of experimental music. It seems to me that one must be willing, when listening to Industrial or Experiment Electronic, both of which fit nicely as descriptors for Collision Stories new release, Those Missing Will Complete Us, to embrace the type of pure sounds that emanate from the machines that surround us as music.
Disaster Amnesiac mentions all of this not as some sort of qualifier for approval, but simply because Collision Stories do such a fine job of making compelling music from within those stated rubrics. Made up of ten interlinked parts, running continuously for a bit over an hour, Those Missing features all kinds of great, mysterious sound interactions between a quartet of highly skilled improvising experimenters. Collision Stories are making true band music, but have simply dispensed (for the most part: Disaster Amnesiac has heard a few guitar strings in the mix) with the usual instruments, instead jamming out group interactions more with electronic patches, stand-alone pedals, contact mic'd stuff, and Public Eyesore Records founder Bryan Day's fascinatingly singular instrumental creations. The disc's ten tracks feature disciplined movement as the group wends its way with a quite sublime mixture of focus and patience, through highly intriguing sound spaces. Themes arise from one player, the rest of group, as they are listening, are able to add to and comment on these themes; this interaction builds up layers that rise and move with a nice organic feel. Additionally, its engineering, so crisp and clear, really allows for deep appreciation these feels.
This is band music in principle and act, top flight Industrial/Experimental band music. As such, it can complement the sounds that whirl around those of us living within the Grid, or, presumably, entertain those that may have the luxury of not having to do so.
In Disaster Amnesiac's case, Those Missing Will Complete Us satisfactorily fits into my mental imprinting, done long ago, for appreciation of the type of action offered from Collision Stories. I guess one could miss out and complete Jorge Bachman, Michael Gendreau, Mason Jones and Day, but, as for me, I'm glad to have broken off a piece or two.

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.