Monday, April 10, 2017

Ned Lagin-Cat Dreams; Self released via, 2017

Talk about your dark stars: Ned Lagin has, at least for Disaster Amnesiac, been a quietly looming presence over any musings about the Grateful Dead, at least as regards their crucial early 1970's headiness. I've grown to see him as a kind of intellectual shadow for the group, a retiring thoughtful spark that at one time informed the brainier side of the band (Lesh/Garcia) to balance out the more commercial instincts necessary for the whole thing to work.
Do a Wikipedia search for him, and you'll find that his personal growth has continued on the trajectory that preceded his times with the Dead. Ned has the unique distinction of being a keyboard player that actually survived and thrived after a tenure with Jerry and Co.
It seems as though he stopped releasing music after the sublime Sea Stones of 1975, but has never stopped studying, learning and theorizing about it. That is, up until 2017 and the release of Cat Dreams. Disaster Amnesiac first got wind of this disc's impending release in late 2016, and had been seriously looking forward to hearing what Lagin had spent so long developing. The one predictable thing about Ned Lagin is that his music will sneak up on the listener with all manner of sonic surprises, which is most definitely the case with Cat Dreams.
The CD's over all theme, as the title suggests, is a musing on the lives and love of cats. While there are no lyrics, the tones and timbres do suggest the quirkiness and surprise of the feline species. Various manners of music making are utilized. Songs such as Heartbeats (Tyler's Adventures) and Nimo's Song feature fluid electric Rock band jamming. The former features really intricate double drum set chatter from Celso Alberti and Kevin Hays, while the latter has an incredible guitar solo statements from Gary Vogensen and Barry Finnerty. Lagin leads this band action with subtle synth shading and melodic piano riffs. Also of note on Heartbeats is the fluid, almost lead bass (sound familiar 'heads?) from Dewayne Pete. Most of the members of the group on these two songs also appear on the fun, swinging triptych The Big Cat Dance. This tune's three cuts start with the bouncing Carnivale/Mardi Gras strut of Cat Samba, which features some fun scat singing, electronically processed by Ned and more crisp interaction from the drums tandem. This one swings like crazy. It's followed by the warbled Appalachian moonshine of Catnip, which is notable for its skittering banjo leads, played by Ned on his keyboard synth. Disaster Amnesiac has marveled at its authentic sound, along with the gritty harmonies he gets. I mean, it sounds just like a banjo! The Americana vibe continues for Cat Licks, with the romping violin of Dick Bright leading the charge and Barry Sless taking it up on pedal steel guitar while Lagin utilizes his much considered synth tones to meet up and intertwine with them. The Big Cat Dance fulfills the promise of polyglot American Music, pulling from any and all pockets of our rich musical culture. Listen, groove to, and marvel at it.
Cat Dreams being a release from Ned Lagin, one can also expect to be treated to his sublime Electronic Music side. On tracks such as The Creek, wherein he coaxes more acoustic-sounding timbres from his rig, Sun Cats, with its percussive chiming ostinato, the dark abstraction of Starlight or the sunnier beams of Moonrise, Ned provides great examples of this facet within his greater vision. The fans of his earlier electronic aesthetic will find plenty of sounds to love within these pieces.
Along with all of this other pursuits, Lagin seems to have put in serious time studying Native American flute. Another trio of tunes, Night Sounds, Night Journey, and Night Spirits, have him in duet with Alex Maldonado. These three have all of the shamanistic atmosphere that the sparse sounds of the wooden flute is capable of conjuring.
Perhaps the best songs on Cat Dreams are the emotionally charged Someone's Baby, Teddy Sings a Love Song (How His Heart Sings) and G's Star. All three of them have Disaster Amnesiac running to memories of beloved felines. Baby has Ned playing sweet violin tones on his synth, in duet with Finnerty; this duo continues their responsive conversation on Teddy, this time with Ned on cello sounds. G's Star packs possibly the most emotional wallop with its ringing electric piano sounds. If music is the fruit of love, these three songs drip with its bittersweet juices. Hug your partner, call your mom, or pet your cat today, for life is truly short.
In the liner note for Cat Dreams, Ned writes that it was a purely d.i.y. affair. All of its songs were recorded in non-studio settings, and all of them are first takes. While its songs have the living feel inherent to this approach, credit must be given for Ned's clear mix and sound capture. All of the instruments are present, and there is nothing slapdash about them.
Disaster Amnesiac hopes that Ned Lagin doesn't wait nearly as long to produce a follow up to Cat Dreams as he did for Sea Stones. That said, there are pretty clearly at least nine lives' worth of rich, engaging, and enjoyable songs on this much awaited new offering from one of the truly compelling figures in Psychedelic Music. How's about a live show at Marin Civic Center, Ned?

Friday, March 24, 2017

Two Eyesores and an eh?

Regular readers of this blog will no doubt be aware that Disaster Amnesiac has been getting a steady stream of releases from Bryan Day's Public Eyesore/eh? labels for a few years now. Their output is getting dauntingly prodigious! It seems as though I just plowed through a number of new sounds from them, and yet here I am again having my ears scrubbed by wild, woolly sonic offerings from the great International Earth Oddball Underground. Bryan's most recent mailer to me contained three CDs. Here's what Disaster Amnesiac has been hearing from them....

Bad Jazz-Daymare; eh? Records #93, 2017
Bryan Day has several musical projects going on concurrently. Bad Jazz seems to be one of the more prominent. They're often out on the national tour circuit, hitting house shows, radio stations, and small galleries from coast to coast. On Daymare, this trio conjures up clicking, clacking, scraping, ringing, fuzzy, and warbled tones with the invented instruments of Ben Salomon and Day alongside  the electronics and toys from Tania Chen. The latter also uses her considerable conservatory piano chops to get these big block chords and mysterious little filligrees. These passages have a kind of lonely, haunted feel from her piano playing. Much like Bryan's Eloine tape from last year, Bad Jazz often has the sound of robots or large industrial combines as they spring to animate life and realized their sonic potentialities. Daymare's 39 minute piece also features a lot of intimate listening and quiet back and forth Electro-Acoustic idea slinging, at least until one prankster within the trio turns on some funny Casio-sounding programmed schmaltz that takes the whole thing out. A wacky, surreal finish to a mostly inward and intimate disc. Extra laughs from a pretty hilarious inner liner photo!

Alan Sondheim/Azure Carter/Luke Damrosch-Limit; Public Eyesore Records #138, 2017
Public Eyesore and Sondheim/Carter have a good thing going for sure. Limit is, what, their third CD on the label? They never fail to deliver the goods aesthetically. Their visionary mesh of Azure's plainly spoke/sung soprano lyrics with Alan's prodigious talents on scads of stringed and woodwind instruments never fails to have Disaster Amnesiac blown away by their creative and unique sound. As stated on the liner note (and if you get the disc, be sure and read its revelations), Limit is an attempt to engineer a musical performance to go both ways in time. While Sondheim acknowledges that this is a real impossibility, the live processing of Luke Damrosch renders it almost within reach. While it's sometimes rather disconcerting to mentally process the forward-backward motion of the singing and playing as they're subtly pushed back and back back and then forward, when Alan wails on tunes such as afghaninvdynb and movement5b, the simultaneously simple and complex nature of his vision shines through. The same goes for Azure's lovely, endearing singing on aborrowers and harbinger. Her voice may be the most purely American, in the Ives-ian sense, that Disaster Amnesiac knows of. There's a murky, swampy feel to songs such as thecriesb and holelessb that seems to be the direct result of the the instrumental/processing blend. This dynamic reaches its apotheosis at disc's end on zymphonyb, wherein the layers get maddeningly complicated. Limit is Alan Sondheim's stated desire as being "For a new music-". As with any works of this type, it ain't exactly easy or comforting. That said, it feels to me like the start of a new phase for he and Azure Carter. Disaster Amnesiac looks forward to hearing what's beyond this brink.

Ghost In The House-Second Sight; Public Eyesore Records #136, 2017
Not to take anything away from the two discs preceding this one, but Ghost In The House's Second Sight is definitely the most  juicily varied of the shipment. This group plays out fairly often, and their lineup is pretty stable. Thus, their sound is that of a working band. Disaster Amnesiac has seen them a few times, but can't recall Kyle Bruckmann hitting with them. He brings really great oboe and English horn classicism feels to tracks such as Low and Metal Land Miniatures. These tones contrast the metallic inventions from Tom Nunn and the prodigious gongs of Karen Stackpole. David Michalak joins it all together with stringed accents. This quartet's interactions are subtle but not pensive; one gets the impression that they're playing with and listening to each other. Not always the case in Improvised Music, but Ghost In The House nail that dynamic. Guest appearances from Dean Santomieri with his compelling elocution on The Dream Machine (along with Polly Moller), Dockside Discovery and the really funny The Bats (are hanging upside down), John Ingle's alto sax on Innocence Walks a Dark Path, Cindy Webster on saw, and Bart Hopkin on rumba box thicken the sweet and sour sonic pho of Second Sight. I used to know a guy who'd say about a still-developing band, "it ain't soup yet"; Ghost In The House have gone beyond all that. This group is the stock that some others are basing their stuff upon.

Whilst grabbing cover images for this post, Disaster Amnesiac noted that Public Eyesore/eh? Records already have new releases coming down the pike. It's my hope that I'll be able to hear those as well, of course. Still, in the above, there remains a shit-ton of active listening to be had and enjoyed.

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.