Thursday, February 26, 2009

The best Product name, ever.

As seen on a crushed can, Harrison and 5th St., SF CA, 7:00 AM, 2/26/09:



Sunday, February 22, 2009

Mills Music Festival 2009, Opening Night Concert

During her introductory speech, Mills College President Janet L. Holmgren disputed the notion that academically produced music is inherently dry. Sitting here, watching the rain pour down upon Oakland, and reminiscing about the sounds I heard last night from Pauline Oliveros, Roscoe Mitchell, Terry Riley, and Joan Jeanrenaud, I have to agree with her contention.
Oliveros started the concert off, playing the first notes within the renovated, restored, and vastly improved Littlefield Concert Hall. Her piece Sound.Light.Migrations was delightfully spacey and minimal. Her characteristic accordion playing was enhanced by something called "expanded instrument system" which she controlled by use of her laptop. Sounds within the piece ranged from pointillist single notes to fast clusters, all of them ringing around the acoustically amazing space of the hall. Towards the end, she brought the listener back to earth by using beautiful, sonorous chords, a kind of soft earth landing from the outer reaches of space. Sound.Light.Migrations also featured visuals by Tony Martin, a genuine pioneer in the field of light show art. His work was often as minimal as the sounds, with a large screen that remained mostly black, while white and green squiggles undulated on the margins, sometimes leaving blurred trails in their wake.
Next up on the program was Roscoe Mitchell's piece 8/8/88, composed for and performed by pianist Joseph Kubera. 8/8/88 was filled with dense, spiky chords, often played in advanced time signatures. Roscoe's Jazz background could be heard within the rooted left hand bass lines, which at times had an almost Ragtime feel. The melodies in the piece were rich and fascinating, often blue-colored on Disaster Amnesiac's closed eye lids.
After a brief intermission, Terry Riley took the stage to a rapturous applause, and proceeded to play his brand new work, For Margaret. Riley's use of Raga technique within solo keyboard playing has been a work in progress for four decades, and it still sounds fresh, innovative, and real. Beginning with a more Western melodic motif, he slowly segued into a very Indian modal approach, achieving his always meditative and tranced-out Minimalist. Mid-way through the piece he added vocal chant a la his mentor Pandit Pran Nath; Riley's approach radiates pure LOVE, and his use of vocals gave a real air of sanctification to the work. The piece ended the way it began, with simple melodic motifs. Standing ovations ensued.
Last up was former Kronos Quartet cellist Joan Jeanrenaud. She played two works, Vermont Rules and Strange Toys. Both pieces utilized looped cello phrases, over which Jeanrenaud played various techniques, ranging from purely Classical in sound to Avant-Garde, Jazz, and Rock. Her control of the cello is breathtaking; she makes the instrument sing, weep, squeal, any sound she wants is there for her to use. It's not enough to say she's just a virtuoso, though. Her sheer musicality and inventiveness are key within her compositions, and take them, and the listener, higher than mere displays of technique ever could.
The Mills Music Festival 2009's slogan reads "Giving Free Play to the Imagination". All of the opening night's featured composers/artists made this statement come alive on the stage and within the ears and minds of the listeners. There was nothing dry about this concert at all.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Predator Vision/Sun Araw-Split LP

Although it's been passe for well over a year now, I still love myspace. Yes, it makes my Mac seize up something terrible, but at work I use a PC, and "hang out" there often during the work day. Mind you, I'm not doing the same thing all those REALLY COOL people at Facebook are doing, updating each other with minute by minute twittering about how "Suzy just figured out that the toaster burned my toast", and other inanities. Oh, no. I'm trolling for bands. See, in my opinion you just have to love myspace for it's band links. Choose just one group you like, then surf through all of their friends, and presto! you're sure to find a least a few more which can satisfy that eternal craving for some bitchin new sounds that you just won't be able to live without. Added satisfaction comes from the friend updates bar, in which bands often post regarding their upcoming shows and releases. I try and be supportive of bands that I like to listen to, and chances are, if you post about your new release, CD/LP or otherwise, you'll promptly be receiving a money order from Disaster Amnesiac.
No Not Fun Records in LA received just such a money order a few weeks ago, and promptly shipped out the split LP by Predator Vision and Sun Araw, two great, and as far as can be ascertained, current Psych groups.
Of the two, Predator Vision is the more "standard", using two guitars and drums to play spaced-out, raw, and sprawling instrumentals. Their side of the album is divided into three distinct pieces. Drummer Etienne Duguay gets a big sound from his ride cymbal-heavy pattern playing, accenting with tom tom rolls in a manner akin to Jaki Leibezeit's Can approach. His playing is well-paced for the trancy effect that Predator Vision seems to want to achieve. Guitarists Matt Mondanile and Ben Daly weave in and out of each others' lines, with one sometimes soloing while the other plays simple, repetitive riffs. The effect is generally hypnotic. One gets a sense that these guys spend a lot of time jamming, and probably listening to other peoples' jams, to boot. The last jam on their side is notable for the way in which it begins to resemble Lou Reed and Sterling Morrisons' most mind-melded tandem riffage. Seeing as this was recorded in NYC, it stands to reason, I guess. I just wish the fidelity on the recording was better, but for a hand-held tape job, it's not bad.
Sun Araw, a project lead by Cameron Stallones, is a bit more overtly experimental. On the side-long track Hey Mandala, Stallones uses heavily processed samples, guitar, organ, and percussion to produce a heavy, ambient wall of sounds. It's all echoes and crashes, a sort of subdued, funky Industrial, in that it doesn't pound, but more quivers and throbs. Guest musician Phil French provides nice Cosey Fanni Tutti-styled trumpet warbling. His primitive playing style fits in nicely with the doomy ambience of the piece. Occasionally, voices rise to the top of the mix. They never sing, but instead make ecstatic exclamations. Hey Mandala is really well recorded, and although no engineer is listed, whoever it is deserves real credit for their work. This is music that can provide real, lasting listening pleasure for the Psych fan.
This split LP is beautifully packaged, with a cover reminiscent more of Les Baxter or some other Exotica than the more brutal aesthetics of most basement Psych being produced these days.
It's finds like this LP and these bands that keep myspace worthwhile. Facebook folks can keep their polls and questionnaires. Disaster Amnesiac will be over at their uncool cousin's house, digging new great sounds and STILL supporting the underground.