Friday, March 22, 2013

Renewed Areas of Ginn-terest

Disaster Amnesiac is aware of the current "in production" stages of both Greg Ginn's Black Flag and Chuck Dukowski's Flag. I dunno, Hermosa Beach 1978 is LONG gone, and, pretty much everyone involved is still making music. I tend to blame the once revolutionary Punk "movement" and its rise to a kind of hegemony in terms of culture for the demand of these kinds of retreads, but, hey, we'll see. I'm sure that they'll be quite different, as each of the principals vie to show their interpretation of what really made the earth shaking Flag sound so vital.
A re-upped Black Flag is hardly the only musical project that Greg Ginn has been applying himself to. Let's take a look at a few of these more-current expositions of his musical thoughts.

Greg Ginn and the Royal We-Fearless Leaders; SST, 2013
On this second release by Ginn's purely solo band, we find him leading into further refinements of the template first laid down in 2011's We Are Amused. The pace of the record's rhythms is still generally slower, allowing for Ginn's piquant melodic sense to seep into the listener's brain via listening. He also seems to be interested in the idea of two separate rhythms occurring simultaneously, as occurs in Caravan of Will and The Fix is In. His beat programming has advanced, for sure. As also was the case on Amused, Ginn's guitar is held mostly to melodic lines, but when he does lash out, the full Ginn bug out is still very much evinced, as at one particularly frenetic moment on Unbalanced Crop Duster. Theremin and electric keyboards feature heavily throughout; as with his beats, Greg's theremin caterwaul also shows signs of real development. He even plays unison tones with it! The keys are laid down thick, and for the most part carry the tunes' melodies throughout. This approach gives Fearless Leaders an almost Prog-ey feel, along with its Techno buzzing and Ginn-Rock signature elements. The Royal We are developing steadily. How could it be otherwise from Greg's restless mind?

Mojack-Car; SST, 2013
Very different from the stately, slow compositions of The Royal We, Mojack's sound is one of the best current examples of Angeleno Jump Funk, a sound as unique to L.A. as Go Go is to D.C. On Car, the band uses short melodic motifs as jumping off points for their dense, interactive jamming. The proceedings have a particularly live and lively feel; sometimes the songs end rather abruptly, which just proves to Disaster Amnesiac that they are captured moments within a larger matrix of jam. This feature has been consistent in Ginn's recorded output since the mid-1990's, and even it shows a certain refinement. I don't know if he's getting better at amending these cuts at the mix, or if his bands are getting more adept at cutting play in real time.
Speaking of bands, Mojack is indeed that. Drummer Khalil Hebert moves the jams with his four limb Funk mastery, propelling and pushing the vibes. His ride cymbal playing is particularly sweet. No basher, this Khalil. His syncopated kit playing is a marvel, equal to players like Kevin Carnes or Denardo Coleman. Ginn's bass playing locks in with Hebert on all of the tunes. This is one fine rhythm section. Greg's bass playing is thick, repetitive (in the best possible way), and paired with Hebert's drumming, full of the fonque. Disaster Amnesiac wonders whether Ginn tracked the bass live with the band, or his guitar. Said guitar is used to a much different purpose on Car as opposed to its role on Fearless Leaders. Let me just say that if it's the wailing, laterally melodic shards of Ginn-tar that you seek, you will find it here. Greg twists his solo notes, sprays them out until he can go no further withing a particular phrase. In this aspect, Disaster Amnesiac is very much reminded of one of Ginn's acknowledged hero's, Jerry Garcia. Greg's rhythm guitar playing shows interesting new aspects, particularly his "chicken pickin'" riffs on Weirdo Detector and Protecting the Story. I'm guessing these Link Wray-like plucks are residual effects from his Taylor Texas Corrugators period, reflections of his new Southern home. Easily Greg's equal in terms of out and out shredding instrumental abandon, saxophone player Tony Atherton rounds out the Mojack sound with wild playing. Tony goes for it, giving peals of hearty post-Shepp cries and runs, hitting high and often with his Free frenzy. Atherton is firmly in the L.A. Jazz pocket. I'm thinking Coleman, Blythe, and Golia, here.
Car will surely drive the listener to some exciting mental spaces. It has done so for Disaster Amnesiac, anyway.

When they are released, Disaster Amnesiac will be checking out the offerings from both sides of the warring factions in the on-going legacy feud of South Bay Punk. I also need to check out Greg Ginn and Mike Vallely's new band, Good For You. Until that time, though, there is plenty of Ginn music to be heard and appreciated from these two distinct sides of his canon.


Pig State Recon said...

Great Ginn update - I didn't even know these had come out. Trippy cover art too!

I've also noticed that tendency for modern day Ginn to avoid writing actual songs in his projects, and instead jam on a riff or idea until he cutting it off abruptly. A totally valid approach fr sure, but to my ears it can get repetitive, esp after 60+ minutes.

Mark Pino said...

Yes, but I think that he's refining that aspect, too!