Monday, January 18, 2021

Sticks And Stones-Unbreakable Strings; self-released, 2007

 

A week or so back, Disaster Amnesiac was rooting around in the "S" box of CD's, looking for some Stooges to listen to, when I came upon Unbreakable Strings, the 2007 release from San Francisco-based Sticks And Stones. Upon seeing it, I figured that it was high time I play the disc again, having probably not done so for good number of years. 

It's quite possible that I bought the disc from drummer Sam Adato at his drum shop on 9th St. in the City, or that Sam just gave it to me. So many years later, it's tough to remember the details. As I remain a a music nerd, and feel genuinely interested in what people are doing musically, especially people like Sam, I am glad to have kept this one. 

Sticks And Stones are/were an instrumental band that pulled from various strands of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal to get their point across. Disaster Amnesiac hears the influence of guitar greats such as Michael Schenker, Alan Holdsworth, Edward Van Halen, maybe a bit of Frank Marino, Randy Roads et al in the six string approach of guitarists Gretchen Menn and Mickael Tremel. Perhaps a bit of Davie Allen in there, too. You know, players that played. I can't seem to make exactly who is soloing at certain times, but it's clear that whomever it is is very interested in the more melodic side of the guitar's solo sounds. That's not to say that they don't get down into the rough stuff at times; just listen to May Be the One or The Bat Signal for proof of that. Plenty of heaviness in those tracks. Still, one can clearly hear the sound of players that practice their craft, and get things said with their own, thought-out and worked out instrumental voices. It's also really cool to listen to and feel the way that the rhythm guitarist within a given piece keeps things harmonically interesting within the context of the song's movement. There is just so much great guitar going on within Unbreakable Strings, as further evinced by a faithfully executed version of Kashmir by way of the Dixie Dregs, a cool tribute to Roads on Stay On the Roads, with its spot-on quote from one of Randy's shining Blizzard of Oz moments, and the close to ballad lyricism of Siddhartha. Menn and Tremel swagger, swing, shred, and riff in dozens of exciting ways, all the while never seeming rest on the lazy "cool" that sometimes seems to infect guitar players, especially in urban scenes. These two never slack, and it's fun to hear them dig in. 

Along with all of this great guitar playing on Strings, the listener is also treated to the bitchin' drumming of Hard Rock master drummer Sam Adato. Disaster Amnesiac feels confident in saying that Sam's talents would shine within any musical form, but it seems safe to say that hard 'n heavy guitar music is his forte (I have heard him swing the shit out of a Surf band, just fyi). Just pick any song on this disc: the rolling, stomping Wagon Wheel and A Line In The News, or energetic Turn the Page, with its fast fills, or the intricate Struck Sleepless; you'll find Sam's big bass drum, crackin' snare, and tasteful cymbal beats all over the place. The man just drives these tunes in ways that are rock solid and just perfect for the task at hand. Sam additionally adds really subtle percussive touches throughout, spicing things up with shakers, cow bells, and tambourine shakes. Disaster Amnesiac can recall going into his shop and seeing him in front of a practice pad or sitting at one of his many drum kits so many times. Sam seems to live and breathe drums, and that dedication really shines within the music of Sticks And Stones. 

Taken as a whole, Unbreakable Strings is a very well thought out and executed slice of Progressive Instrumental Hard Rock. Bring your ambitious listening side to it, for the players in Sticks And Stones certainly brought and executed theirs. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Naturaliste-Temporary Presence; Almost Halloween Time/Gertrude Tapes/Public Eyesore/Unread Records, 2020

 


Wait, what? More product from the Public Eyesore/eh? Records nexus? If things continue apace over there, it'll be SST Records circa 1988 all over again! Pace yourselves, dudes! Not that Disaster Amnesiac is complaining, especially when really fine releases such at Temporary Presence by Naturaliste show up in the mail. 

This quartet, made up of Bryan Day, Christopher Fischer, Charles LaReau and L. Eugene Methe, seems to have, in whole or in part, convened in Shanghai a couple of years ago, borrowed some instruments from a shop there (presumably to be paired with whatever unique rigs these guys were able to get past customs), and laid down some heavy sounds. These sounds were then augmented with sounds from the group members' various studios, and the whole thing pressed up onto a nice, thick, black slab of vinyl for the public's consumption. 

That public should be very damn glad to have access to Temporary Presence, too. Well, at least those members of the public that enjoy improvised Electro-Acoustic and Noise sounds whirling about their senses. See, this work fires on all cylinders within those aesthetics. Within its mix of strange piano chords, percussive clatter, keening feedback, and disembodied voices, the album treats the listener to two sides of consistently gooey and downright deep sonic exploration. Each piece is paced in such a way as to hook your senses in. Once this happens, their effect burrows down further and further, taking your mind with it. Disaster Amnesiac has been particularly enamored with It's Just the Air Conditioner, side two's longer track. This piece lowers a sonic boom that is consistently mind altering. Seriously, when that track has played in my house, things have just stopped and I've been frozen into a state of pure, immersive bliss. It's here wherein all of the various elements just combine into a very compelling whole, one which is just so consistently pyschoid and downright deep as to be a mind blower with every single hearing.  Elsewhere, you have the mysteriously titled The Swallows Have Returned with its ominous thrumming electrics and warped piano, Vitals which features some cool,  by turns glassy and popping percussion, and At the Worst Of It, which concludes things with a nice, thick atmosphere. All the tracks on Temporary Presence just exude this undeniable mood; clearly something special transpired at Sandy Music in Shanghai. 

Along with the great sounds, Temporary Presence benefits from a rich and sumptuous package that has some great Bryan Day asemic writing and cool type face. Dunno if the inner sleeve insert is just a blur by design, but that's kind of cool in its own way as well. 

As usual, Disaster Amnesiac is chuffed to be on the receiving end of another package from the House of Day. Temporary Presence checks all of the boxes for me. Seek this one out, as it probably will for you if you're at all inclined to dig the kind of psychedelia that Naturaliste are so adept at dishing up. 

Saturday, January 9, 2021

EKG-200 Years of Electricals; ernstkarelbandcamp.com, 2021

 


If Disaster Amnesiac was tasked with explaining effective ways to interact with Electro-Acoustic music to a person not familiar with its dynamics, I would consider using the graphic image of EKG's 200 Years of Electricals as a kind of portal into the discussion. One sees a small patch of grass, some chaff, and not much else, yes? Not so fast. One can delve further into the grass, getting down into the roots and the dirt and the filaments of the chaff, further and further, breaking these elements down into their constituent pieces. This act would surely reveal new dimensions, new thoughts, new insights into the tableaux. Far from being a simple patch of grass, this space is transformed into a world of interaction. 

This insight can be used for listening and analysis of 200 Years as well. Comprised of four pieces, this recorded has Kyle Bruckmann and Ernst Karel delving into their two decades long collaborative world, turning over the elements with which they interact and then combining into various zones of sound wonder and manipulation. St. Paul Suburb, episode 1, for example, fuses field recordings with analog electronics for a lengthy trip that takes a listener from Mayberry to Sirius B, with many stops in between. One isn't going to get through this trip without sitting back and paying some attention, but if one allows the time and attention, many cool sounds bubble up, or slash out, or emerge from the clouds of previous movements' dynamics. Again, it's really all about the focus that you bring to it. Periodicities mit Wurlitzer shows a very clear example of how Electro-Acoustic music often has a goal of taking the timbres and methods of instruments and seeking to find unexplored or under-explored facets within them. Disaster Amnesiac has sworn that I've heard said Wurlitzer and its amp hum here, but can by no means be certain. Ditto the oboe that Bruckmann plays. Are those clicks and clacks coming from its pads, or are they emanations of some other sound making device? It's all really heady and fun if you put your attention to it. Likewise, Rondo has scratching, scraping scenes that have me wondering what physical element is being played live or manipulated for its result, after which it flirts briefly with a more Noise-based feel before fading off. St. Paul Suburb, episode 2 floats along, mostly in a pensive quiet, with what sounds like wind hitting a mic for that field recording vibe again. 

Reading the press blurb for 200 Years of Electricals, Disaster Amnesiac sees that it is the result of many years' work by Bruckmann and Karel. Clearly, they've labored over its pieces in order to make a statement of Electro-Acoustic music that pleases them. After this recording releases next month, go into their sound garden, and start digging. If you're paying attention, you'll find a lot of neat stuff to please your ears as you go 'a grubbin'. 

Friday, January 8, 2021

Manifesto-History; Fire Records Blaze 42T, 1990

 

The first thing that attracted Disaster Amnesiac to  Manifesto's History 12", in some S.F. record store cutout bin most likely, was the bold cover graphic of a despairing lumpen dude and its strong lettering. Then, turning it over in my hand, I noticed the players: Michael Fellows, Bert Queiroz, and Ivor Hampton. Anyone familiar with these names will immediately intone "..D.C.!", as I surely did in my head as I held the cover. These three represent major sounds within the District's Punk and Post Punk developments: Untouchables, Faith, Rites of Spring, Embrace, Rain.....all groups that put out great, influential music, music that I have enjoyed for many years. Naturally, History stayed in my grasp and ended up within the Disaster Amnesiac stacks. 

Of course, it's stayed there, too. Lately I've been spinning it again, and really enjoying its three songs. Starting off with the title track, which features a great, chiming guitar lead line from Hampton and driving rhythms from Queiroz and Hanson, I am inclined to hear an almost Beach Boys influence from the hopeful lyrical intonations, delivered sweetly from Hampton. These songs, likely being written in D.C. in the mid-to-late 1980's, there is naturally a post-Revolution Summer slant to them as well, and well buttressed by the melodic guitar approach that characterized that aesthetic. I could play this track over and over, and indeed, that's one thing that I've been doing of late. Its clean lines display a sharp skill for song craft. Plus, that tambourine chatter helps a lot as well. Very cool stuff on History

On the flip side, we find the darker vibe of Burn, pushed by another stomping beat from Hanson on the tom toms, with what sounds like maybe a bit of help from some kind of rhythm generator, cool guitar picking that always makes Disaster Amnesiac think of flames rising up, and a catchy chorus. This tune must have moved some butts on some Urban dance floor somewhere in the world. It seems equally designed for that as it does for rocking out. Did these guys ever play live? History ends with Who Walks the Wire, which features a bit more of a fast pace from the rhythm section underneath yet another eminently catchy, melodic guitar riff. The group gets into some nicely syncopated changes in place of a guitar solo, then heads back to that cool verse phrase and repeats "then the world means nothing". Pretty spot on, Manifesto!

As stated, Disaster Amnesiac wonders if this configuration of D.C. stalwart players ever presented itself live at the D.C. Space or 9:30 Club or something. If you're a fan of any of these guys' work, and see History out in the wild or online, you'd likely want to swoop on it.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

One Hour Classic Rock with Disaster Amnesiac

 

The assignment was simple: "Disaster Amnesiac, you will listen to one hour of Classic Rock, and write your impressions" Mind you, I have NO idea where this assignment came from, but it rattled around in my head for a few weeks, until, finally, I had to submit to it and spend an hour dialed in to my local Classic Rock station. 

Has Spotify changed the listening habits of Classic Rock fans? Do they still tune in to those higher end of the dial stations for their musical fix? Or have their kids and grandkids turned them on to the streaming services? I'm sure that this has happened, and yet, those stations continue to soldier on and on. The Classic Rock format will not die, and why should it, really? Some of these songs are really cool. At least for the first 7000 times.

Tune in date and time: Tue., 12/29/20, 2-3 PM Pacific Time

Station: KSAN FM, 107.7 The Bone, est. 2000

Judas Priest-You've Got Another Thing Coming-song already on when I tuned in. A cool riff, nice pounded simple drum beat; what happened to the finesse of Stained Class?  The solos shred, of course. I guess that that's where the Metal fan finds satisfaction in this tune, along with Halford's defiant lyrics and growling vocal delivery. A fine song, it's what, 40 years old now?

Eddy Money-I Think I'm In Love-the drummer has a nice, clean cymbal beat, especially on the bell portion of the cymbal. Boy misses girl song. He thinks he's in love. He can't get enough. It's gotta be love. I hope it worked out for him and his armour. Pretty neat slide playing during the truncated guitar solo section, at least at first, but then it resolves in cheez whiz.

Def Leppard-Love Bites-a power ballad, full of longing for a departed lover. Those Leppard dudes definitely know what to say to the ladies. Then they bite Nazareth again, this time for a lyrical approach. That's one thing that they also know how to do: synthesize other groups' ideas into a more marketable formula. Really "80's" solo action, kind of trip to Ibiza with a bunch of coke 'n champagne and just livin' the "good life" all over the place for 30 seconds or so. Then the guy opens his yap again, hoping for that 'tang.

The Doors-Break On Through-snappy guitar riff, snappy drumming, atmospheric organ that gets a nice lead break which leads back into the singer telling us about how great his baby is. She get high and stuff, and you know that's cool. A short, sweet blast of Sunset Strip, circa 1966, and that shit stands up to the ages, you know it do. 

Black Crows-Hard To Handle-starts off with a Hip Hop worthy drum break, and then the singer shows us to be a guy who listened to the Grateful Dead's 1960's Pigpen phase. This one has groovy keyboards that really push the updated guitar riffs along. Was that person a session player or a bona fide member of the Crows? Nice, gritty, short blast of a guitar solo; then the guitar player dices it up with the singer to bring it all back home. A few years later, and they'd have it frickin dialed.

Guns & Roses-Paradise City-even if you've been tired of this band since 1990, you can't really help but sing along with Axl and the guys at the start. Slash does some guitar hero thing before the main riff, at which point you're either driving too fast or headbanging to that stompin' drummer's magic. Izzy Stradlin', Slash's secret weapon. Not sure what the point of the "so far away" portion is, but, thankfully they get back to that riff and you're OK. But then, there's that chorus again and you may start feeling a bit, ah, stunted. Boogie down ending primes a possible audience member for a sore throat from screaming so loudly for an encore. These guys knew what they were doing, even more than Def Lepperd could've ever dreamed. 

Rolling Stones-You Can't Always Get What You Want-some kind of subversive move, getting a youth chorus to start your joint up. Lovely trumpet and acoustic guitar strumming. Mick's friends are all hopeless losers, and Charlie is the best drummer in London. Bluesy slides, congas, organ swirls, girls singing along in harmony, what a mix. Is that, like, Jimi? THE Jimi? Dudes, did you kill him, too? Damn, ruthless motherfuckers, them Stones. But one has to admire their marketing savvy, plus Keith can play really well, even while stoned. I can't hear Bill Wyman, but seriously doubt that he even cares that much. Did I say that Charlie is the best drummer in London? 

Stone Temple Pilots-Interstate Love Song-a very fitting title, because this riff has "road" written all over it. It just moves that way. People tended to rag this band, but their drummer has some simple swagger, as does their bass player. It's all about the rhythm section, right? The guitar player, if he wrote the main riff, also deserves some props. As for the singer, he's the guy that most people think of, I believe, when they go "YEEEEAAAAHHHHHH", and he was that trick's master. There's that cool guitar riff again. No real solo, who needed that sort of thing in the 1990's, anyway?

Aerosmith-Walk This Way-yet another slammin' drum break to start things off, yowza! The singer's gibberish is sexay, the guitar players choogle along famously, then someone hits a cowbell, and your ass sure as hell best be shakin'. Like this. They turn around and do it again. The singer gets laid, then someone hits the cowbell again. Joe Perry's sharp tones sure are gritty and cool. The drummer knows just exactly how to take care of business. This song has rocked for close to fifty years. The good shit lasts, bro. 

Billy Idol-White Wedding-this is the song that Disaster Amnesiac was most sure I'd hear for this session, and sure enough! Snappy 2/4 beat to keep the riffs moving. I can't figure out whether or not I like Billy Idol's singing, at least until he goes deep croon about half way in. That's a cool approach, Billy! The session dude does a post-Zappa shred solo before an almost KFMDM-style break down and Billy swears fealty to some slut. Hey, what else is Rock 'n Roll for, anyway? Bad snare drum sound, fuck the '80's. 

Van Halen-Ain't Talkin' 'bout Love-how you will be missed, Eddie VH! Will Alex continue to drum? It'd be a shame to let that killer player just ride off into the sunset. Jeez, what a rhythm section. David Lee Roth lost a lot of friends there, and he never did mess around. He meant it, always did, always will, and that's why he rocks.  This version is better than the Minutemen's version, even the one on The Blasting Concept II, sorry D. Boon. Hey! Hey! Hey! 

U2-With Or Without You-the main reason that I like this song right now is that it's 2:58, and I won't have to listen to its entire duration. Just can't stomach these Jesus Christ Pose types of singers, sorry. 

Post Script-I'm super bummed that there was nothing played from Mountain, but at least I didn't have to endure any Green Day. It's the simple things that matter.


Monday, December 28, 2020

Chowder-Passion Rift; I, Voidhanger Records, 2012

 

Frickin' lead singers and their bullshit, amirite? One has to figure that, for many instrumentalists, that type of sentiment must have arisen at least a few times within the pursuit of musical aspirations. Sometimes, these folks act upon them, forming purely instrumental combos for projects long and/or short term. Disaster Amnesiac has witnessed a few over the years, and I'm always stoked to hear the players just get down to the business of playing without having to leave room for those pesky frontmen/women. 

Lately, I've been digging into one such group, Chowder, and their very cool 2012 release, Passion Rift. Chowder's bio states that guitarist Josh Hart and drummer Chad Rush had been working on this music since 1992, and it really does show. Along with bass player Doug Williams, the group navigates all kinds of intricate Prog Rock changes. These changes are blended with the Doom that courses, seemingly with the greatest of ease, through these northern Maryland players (what in the hell are they putting into the water up there?), along with perhaps just a touch of Punk Rock street level grit just to keep things from getting too heady. 

Tunes such as Salt Creep and Custody wend their way through any and all manner of these blends, taking the attentive listener on a great ride through their various zones. Chowder navigates their changes with the assurance of seasoned Prog Rock players, but all the while, one feels the mentioned Doom tones and colors. It's these aspects that really make Passion Rift a fun listen, at least for me. Even while each member goes off, the rest of the other two keep things salty and focused upon a nice, pummeling swagger. Dig on the CD's title track for this, especially, wherein everyone gets some kind of solo turn within its chugging refrains, starting off with a really lovely bit of acoustic picking from Hart. These guys are most adept at keeping the dynamics of band playing going, even while stepping off into their own, deserved spotlights. 

Along with the great tones from the guitars and drums, Chowder astutely add mellotron and Moog sounds at certain points, which give some very juicy counterpoints to the strings and percussive hits, especially cool on Mysteroid

All of the sounds on Passion Rift benefit from this type of attention to small details, along with the ace recording by Mike Potter and the mastering by James Plotkin. Cool too is the surreal cover art of Scott Simpson, which brings to mind the Goth aesthetics of D-Beat Punk more than, say, Hipgnosis graphics. 

So, yeah, let the lead singers take a hike for a while as your ears feast upon Passion Rift. They'll still be around when that ride's finished. 


Thursday, December 24, 2020

Goodbye Leslie West

 

Sad news for guitar fans this year, again! Disaster Amnesiac also mourns the passing of the great Leslie West, known primarily for his stint with the incredible Ur Heavy Rock band Mountain. For me, Ur is a fitting description for them. The way that I see it, Mountain are one of those influences that are felt by pretty much any band that makes heavy music, even if they are not necessarily known by them. West damn near invented the heavy riff style that so many bands make such great use of. Now, there are obviously a ton of musicians that acknowledge this master of the form, and cheers to them; still, I can't help but wonder how much of a forgotten influence Leslie and his work have become over the years, even though they are vital. I recall a conversation in the 1990's with Crucifix guitarist Jimmy, in which he spoke of how much he loved Mountain and West's guitar playing in that band. If you want to hear how inventive he was, find Mountain's version of Satisfaction, what he did to its form is really damn cool, and HEAVY. Goodbye Leslie West, your influence will abide!