Friday, December 6, 2013

Black Flag-What The....; SST Records, 2013

Ron Reyes' abrupt departure from Black Flag took Disaster Amnesiac by surprise. I have to say, if there were bad vibes at their Oakland show in July of this year, they fooled me. Perhaps the tour went on a bit too long, as, judging from Ron's open letter to Greg (and its hint of mea culpa to Flag and their background staff), some serious rot had set in by the time they reached Australia. All this, just in time for the release of the first new recordings by Black Flag since 1986, to boot!
Disaster Amnesiac must note that any reviews of What The... that I have seen have been thinly veiled character attacks on Greg Ginn, perhaps with a bit of musical critique thrown in, and that, mostly of the "it's not Punk" or "stop it old man you're embarrassing our scene" variety.
And, let's not forget the cover, but more on that later.
Let me say that sound wise, my perceptions of music are very evenly divided between "before Black Flag" and "after Black Flag". The band, and Greg Ginn's guitar tone and approach, changed my perceptions, changed how I hear music, what I hear in music. That's been a constant since that first exposure to the band in 1984 or thereabouts.
So, that said, Disaster Amnesiac would like to give this already much maligned LP a listen, from a musical perspective, and to try and be a bit more objective about the non-Soap Opera aspects of Black Flag's 2013 output.
For fans of Greg Ginn the guitar player, there are tons of sounds, riffs, and solos to enjoy. One song in, and Greg rips out a definitive Black Flag-styled noise blast on the album's opener, the rampaging My Heart's Pumping. One will also find similar Ginn-shard mid-song solo blasts on Slow Your Ass Down and Go Away, along with a song ending fret fingering on To Hell and Back. All of the sound elements that made Greg Ginn's solo turns so dramatically mind destroying are there: the "wrong" notes in the scale, the abrupt stops, and the dripping angst emanating from his guitar vocabulary. His solos have always reached high levels of abstraction, and he's clearly retained his ability to do so on What The...Punk and Hardcore, rooted as they are in early Heavy Rock and Metal, are, of course, riff-based forms of guitar music. Greg Ginn always brought the great, circular, machine gunning repetitions to his riff crafting, and, along with his solo style, they are in full effect on the album. Take for example Down in the Dirt, Blood and Ashes, Now is the Time, and the rollicking The Chase as just a few of the band's really powerful moments on the LP. Disaster Amnesiac defies any Rock listener to listen to these songs and not feel that energetic body buzz that results from a great riff. Elsewhere, we get strange icicle-like sounds on This is Hell, crazed cross-rhythmic writing on same, clicking riffage on Bitter End, and even post-Hardcore Art Rock in Off My Shoulders. Say what you will about Greg Ginn's business practices, or his personal habits, but if you say that the man has lost a step from his guitar stylings, and Disaster Amnesiac will have to opine "you're full of crap" and then rock some more to his sounds, in mind and in body.
Seeing as the tunes on What The... were recorded before touring bass player Dave Klein came on board, Greg also handled the bass chores. Disaster Amnesiac knows, from seeing him play entire sets on the bass, Ginn has pretty much mastered that axe as well. He provides pumping, often double timed (and doubling the six string riffs), thick bass, holding down the melodic structures and rhythms of the tunes. Come to think of it, the whole affair starts with the bass, those low end sounds kicking off My Heart. Incidentally, I've read interviews with Ginn in which he states a love of bass playing equal to that of guitar playing.
Drummer Gregory Moore has endured almost as much slung mud from the Official Punk Rock Voices as Ginn over the past seven months or so. The attacks on him being posted at the Flipside Facebook page were particularly noxious and mean spirited at certain points. Disaster Amnesiac tried to really focus on Gregory's drumming on What The..., tried to listen as closely as I could to his beats and creative ideas, along with his overall feel.First and foremost, Gregory's feel strikes this listener as being "behind the beat". In that, I mean that if, when put up next to a metronome, his hits would likely land just a bit off of the actual beat. Punk rock rhythm just can't accommodate that sort of feel, so, of course the punks are going to hate on his playing for that. I just want to say that Armando Acosta had pretty much the same tendency, and no one ragged him. Anyway, when listening to the LP, Disaster Amnesiac is impressed by Moore's ability to roll for extended periods over a bar on Down in the Dirt, along with the drum part's nice 16th note high hat beat. Moore's snare sound is pretty great in Blood and Ashes, his right foot kick gives punch to I'm Sick and The Chase, his rampaging double time drumming pushes My Heart's Pumping and No Teeth, among others, he mixes it up seriously with the guitars on Give Me All Your Dough and keeps pace with the weird compound meter of I'm Sick. The way Moore's ride cymbal playing matches with his high hat playing is also impressive in it's smoothness. In short, there's a lot to enjoy in from his drumming, and he's clearly not the talentless hack that so many have accused him of being.
One thing that strikes Disaster Amnesiac as I listen to Ron sing on What The..., maybe for others, too, is the "what if" factor. What if Reyes had never quit the band, had remained the singer into the 1980's? How different would things have been for Black Flag? One for the Speculative Fiction genre writers, of course. Reyes the Black Flag singer of 2013 was powerful and present live, the guy had swagger. On the LP, it's great to hear his Puerto Rican Punk Rock shout not diminished. His delivery is still powerful and emphatic. At times there seems to be a possible Iggy influence (him too, eh?) If they do put out another LP, who will Black Flag use to replace Ron? Anyway, his presence will surely be missed.
Lastly, about the cover. Disaster Amnesiac sort of likes it, in that it's so far from the norm, Punk Rock wise, as to be truly head scratching. Perhaps Ginn was trying to use the Manga-like image to appeal to a younger demographic? Only Greg knows, I guess. Oh, and the image looks a bit better to me on the vinyl cover.
So, there you go, one non-scene Punk Rock fan's impressions of what I find to be a pretty damn good album from Black Flag. Disaster Amnesiac finds the sideshow aspects of the Black Flag 2013 saga to be tedious at best, and tragic at worst, but, then again, tragedy has always been an essential component of that saga. As for the band post-Reyes 2.0, who knows? There's only stony silence over at SST, and Black Flag on Facebook is posting essential tunes from Adrenalin OD and similar bands. Perhaps they're having secret meetings, plotting a reunification of the Ginn/Dukowski/Migdol/Morris unit? Or the Ginn/Roessler/Stevenson/Rollins road show? I guess we'll find out in 2014, or maybe Greg will just bench Black Flag for a few years and work on new solo stuff. Regardless, Disaster Amnesiac will be listening. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Post Thanksgiving 7" Turkey Shoot!

Disaster Amnesiac is very grateful to be employed at a place where I get not only Thanksgiving Day off, but the  next day as well. I figured the down time would be a great opportunity in which to dig into a few 7" record purchases of the last five years or so. These seven discs were chosen pretty much at random, but it would be a bit of a fib if I said I haven't wanted to describe and enthuse about all of them at some point.  Alright, grab a slice of pie or some left over grub from yesterday and enjoy!

A.H. Kraken-Gianna Michaels/Je Suis Ton Marecage; Sweet Rot Records
It seems like the brilliant Metz Punk Rock scene of the mid to late 2000's has tapered off production a bit, but Disaster Amnesiac still very much enjoys the raw and rippin' sounds from groups like the Anals, Plastobeton, and the mighty A.H. Kraken.  Here we get two trebly tom tom pounders from these Alsatian kings, skull pounding repetitive riffs with slightly cooler and less angst-ey vocals than on the LP. Sort of like a tighter version of Mars's early No Wave crush.

2X4-Six Drum Solos; no label listed
This one's always been a head scratcher to me. I ordered it from Chi's venerable Dusty Groove Records, but can't recall what exactly sold me on it. If you like the sound of relatively simple beats played on a rather beat up old drum kit, you'll find sounds to enjoy here. Disaster Amnesiac wonders if this one is intended mostly for DJ's to use. There is scant info listed on the equally primitive cover here. The world's full of mysteries, and 2X4 counts as one of 'em.

The Normal-TV O.D./Warm Leatherette; Mute Records
Of course, this is thee Post-Punk jam. It's so nice to hear the crisp, computerized percussion of this one, paired with the dour lyrical delivery and swirling, whirling synths. Disaster Amnesiac has somewhat embarrassing personal memories of doing the Spooky Dance to these tunes as a Goth-like adolescent creature at some dorky club in Mannheim, but I'll spare you the details of that and just say that this 7" is an English musical high point for sure.

Jack Brewer & Kava-Major Punk Statement; Carducci.2 Records
I was stoked to be able to find this early 1990's Underground gem on eBay for a relatively cheap price a few years back, being a fan of all things from all principles herein. Wilmington Poet Laureate Brewer gets all confrontational with some Chicago cue ball and brilliantly titles a track We're All Created By the Same God or Martian, while Kava gives Art Punk a good name with whirling energetic rhythms and crazy guitar skronk. Quoting Sonic Youth seems a bit beneath Jack's spieling skills, but he quickly ramps things up to his high levels of Word on the title track.

The Blue Humans featuring Rudolph Grey-To Higher Time; New Alliance Records
Speaking of Skronk, here's Rudolph Grey, Alan Licht, and Tom Surgal paying tribute to Beaver Harris and Charles Tyler. Surgal's rolling Free Jazz drumming pushes Licht's and Grey's guitars to ridiculous levels of six string madness, the whole eleven minute affair making music interact with the listener in the same way that a tornado interacts with a prairie. Massive slabs of fired, energetic sound, on delicious blue vinyl.

Minutemen/Saccharine Trust split; Water Under the Bridge Records
Greg Ginn gets thanked on the  liner note of the Minutemen side, and Disaster Amnesiac must wonder if that will be the case of subsequent reissues of this one, in light of the past summer's internecine war of the South Bay. The music included here features the cream of early 1980's comps, with D. Boon and his pals showing up with some pop culture philosophizin' on 9:30 May 2 and two tightly Wired bass-ey instrumental blasts to follow. Marc Bolan's Prelude sounds like they may have been drinking Pabst with the Plugz before they went into the studio to lay these tracks down. Saccharine Trust's side features their early, arty Punk grit, pushed energetically by Rich Wilder's awesome drumming on two tracks and free form piano jangles from Spot on a third. Baiza's in the house of course, what with his cutting SG tones and great art. Pettibon? Check.

Rara Percussion & Horn Ensemble-House of the Rising Sun/Love Song for the Widow Paris; Self released
This Atlanta based band got deep into the New Orleans vibe with this one, covering the Animals whiskey raw and horny (in need and in instrumentation), a bit more gritty than the original, while dancing a funky second line strut on the flipside, grooving all clickety clack for Marie Laveu, the horns harmonizing greatly and in lock step. Passionate red is the color of this wax.

That'll do it for this installment of the Disaster Amnesiac Chronicles. Can I also say that I'm thankful for every view over the past five years? I will, and I am. Until next time, have a great weekend!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Peter Broetzmann/Paal Nilssen-Love Duo-Duende, Oakland; 11/15/13

While crossing Broadway Ave. en route to Duende last night, Disaster Amnesiac had memories of listening to the bikes of the Hells Angels one summer evening in 2007, as they converged to celebrate the fifty year anniversary of the Oakland chapter.
I've gotta say that Peter Broetzmann and Paal Nilssen-Love's deeply energetic playing would probably give that rumble a run for its money, what with its full force balls to the wall blasting action. They came out swinging and pretty much did not let up for their entire one and one half hour set. Paal laid down a continuous poly-rhythmic road upon which Peter blew with abandon. Disaster Amnesiac is not sure that you could find a better drummer than Nilssen-Love; his energetic force really propelled the mens' duo exchange to intense heights of improvisational frenzy. Broetzmann's tenor, clarinet, and soprano playing invoked Ayler's ghost and Coltrane's sheets, but of course he's his own man, uncompromising in quest for improvisational Freedom. His tones just shred.
To whomever is booking at Duende currently, I tip my cap! Bring more Improvised Music Giants to Oakland!

Above: Broetzmann/Nilssen-Love Duo shake the walls of Duende down!
Below: Broetzmann exits
Below: vids!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Grateful Dead-Dave's Picks Vol. 8: Fox Theater, Atlanta GA 11/30/1980; Rhino Records 2013

OK, OK, you can go ahead and count Disaster Amnesiac as a convert to early 1980's Grateful Dead appreciation. After listening to the tight, hot set from Atlanta's Fox Theater from November 30th, 1980, I've got to agree with Deadheads: the band had plenty of juice in the earlier part of that decade.
Juiced in many ways by their new-ish (at that point) keyboard player Brent Mydland. This, the first edition of the Dave's Picks run to feature the late Antioch, CA native, shows him invigorating the band. Disaster Amnesiac feels as if, with his addition, the Dead got not only a shiny new palette of sounds from his passel of keyboards (in contrast to Keith's primarily acoustic focus), they also got an "on key Donna", a harmonizer that could actually do so with a ton more precision than Mrs. Godchaux. There are so many examples of this new found excitement over the course of the Dave's Picks Vol. 8's three discs, so I'll just mention a few, such as his glassy fills during Lost Sailor or his Glass-ey Minimalism during Playing in the Band's ferocious middle jam section. The band sounds tightly focused throughout, even when spacing out during the fluttery Bird Song or knocking out the requisite cowboy jams of Me and My Uncle>Big River, and I can't help but feel that this clarity was in no small measure due to Brent's presence. Even ballads such as It Must Have Been the Roses and China Doll sound un-shambolic and on point.
Further examples of this set's robust vigor can be found in Loser's broad, heavy groove (topped off with an emotional solo from Garcia that drops with precision right back into the chorus), Cassidy's Allman Flavored twin guitar harmonic focus (a result of playing in the Peach State?), and Samson and Delilah's tight rhythmic strutting. Dave's Picks Vol. 8 features a band that is greased, primed and stompin'.
Disaster Amnesiac has seen at least two references to this show's Scarlet Begonias>Fire on the Mountain  suite as being one of the top examples of same, and, while I tend to like the more shuffle-based Scarlet of the 1970's, as opposed to the cut time feel found herein, its middle jam, featuring blazing Jerry/Brent duo exchanges and a precision pull into Fire from Phil, is most definitely a high point for the song(s).
Bob Weir has been quoted as saying that the 1980's were his favorite period of Grateful Dead musical production, and hearing his great slide playing on Little Red Rooster and the rockin' showmanship he brings to Around and Around (what's with the faux Brit accent, Bob?), the listener can hear him as he takes the reins of the band in many ways. If Garcia was The Leader, Weir was The Worker, the increasingly more effective mover and shaker of the whole thing as time progressed.
It would be difficult to mention any one tune on which the drummers sound great, in that they sound tightly locked throughout. Kreutzmann and Hart's tandem battery was really working for this show, and Disaster Amnesiac has thrilled at the Hart bongo-beat tom tom runs as they skitter over Bill's fluid ride cymbal sticking. Their solo feature is filled with interactive, often really quiet talking drums/tar chatter that leads into the full Beast onslaught. Powerful.
Despite being in the thick of The Heineken Years, Phil also sounds focused and present,laying down thick bass rumbles during tunes' changes and keeping pace with Jerry and Brent during the jam portions. Phil was having a good show, the band was having a good show, in 1980 even!
It's clear that there are tons of people who have been in on what was a secret to Disaster Amnesiac: the Grateful Dead could be just as powerful in the early 1980's as at any other time in their storied career. Take a listen to Dave's Picks Vol. 8 (if you can find a copy, it sold out in minutes!), and hear a sublime, powerful mixture of their formula as it unveils new aspects, grounded in what was at that time fifteen years' road experience and kicked into gear by new blood. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Aboombong-Adumbral: Etudes Dans Le Controle Imprecis; Pen and Mallet, 2013, digital download

It had been a while since Disaster Amnesiac had looked into Aboombong's musical output, but I'm certainly glad to have done so recently, and downloaded his brilliant recent release, Adumbral: Etudes Dans le Controle Imprecis. Consisting of seven tunes, each designated by the letter K and then a number (Braxtonian influence?), Adumbral provides the listener with seven unique electronics/drums fields into which he or she can journey. Take for example the electronics as percussion of K1 and K4, during which Aboombong seems to make distinctive rhythms from his arsenal of electronics gear. Or, one might be more inclined to mentally fracture within the glitchy starts and stops of K7 before it ascends into Kraut-ey rainbows of sound. Long time fans of Aboombong will probably want to hear some of his great trap kit-centered beats: these can be found within K6 and K10, both wrapped within spare electronic zones. K6's later morphing into somewhat harsher sounds is particularly groovy to this listener. The album winds down with the desert mysteries of K11, in which the drums and electronics fuse into wisps of discrete movements over shifting sands of atmosphere. Lovely.
Adumbral comes wrapped in a gorgeous cover, an abstract, colorful calling card for a great statement from the experimental powerhouse known as Aboombong. Disaster Amnesiac is really looking forward to new releases from him, but, how will he top this?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Arthur Doyle Benefit News

Disaster Amnesiac has been a fan of Arthur Doyle ever since reading Byron Coley's description of his sound as something akin to "gargling with Albert Ayler's razorblades". Doyle's tones are delightfully raw and skewed, and his albums never fail to blow my mind.
It's fitting that this music, so spaced out and inwardly directed (of course, you're welcome to come on in, the water's fine), was recorded in Sun Ra's home Magic City of Birmingham, Alabama.
Mr. Doyle is apparently not doing well right now on the physical front, and this downloadable document's proceeds are going directly to him. Buy it, and help out a Great American Artist!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Motorhead-Aftershock; UDR, 2013, digital download

Disaster Amnesiac figures that if there is one band among the polyglot soundscape of Rock that unites everyone, it's just got to be Motorhead. I'd imagine that the first mook in any Rock crowd, from any of its various offshoots, to diss Lemmy and his pals, would get the business pretty quickly, and this is how it should be. The guy found the absolute perfect formula, refined it a bit, and has subsequently stuck with it for decades, inspiring and influencing pretty much everyone, all the while maintaining a genuinely cool and honest persona. Just as it's impossible to listen to Motorhead and not rock, Disaster Amnesiac figures it would be impossible not feel the presence of Greatness from Mr. Kilmister. Dude's just like that, and ever shall be.
I'm sure that every Motorhead fan will be pleased with the band's new offering, Aftershock, especially in light of Lemmy's recent health problems. If he's sick, it sure as shootin' doesn't show on this LP. It starts off with two great tunes cut from the classic Motorhead template, Heartbreaker and Coup de Grace. This template being heavy, amped up Rock-n-Roll riffs from Kilmister on treble-ey fuzz bass and Phil Campbell on wild leads (the man's been in Motorhead roughly five times longer than Fast Eddie!), while new guy (21 years) Micky Dee pushes them along with his stompin' double bass drum/open high hat thrashing.
Following these signature calling cards, the listener is treated to all manner of variations, from the Trower blue feel of Lost Woman Blues and Dust and Glass to the confrontational swagger of Silence When You Speak To Me and the piano boogie dance sleazy of Crying Shame, Motorhead put their stamp on all kinds of feels, and rock every damn one of them. Disaster Amnesiac hears Alice Cooper (the band) during the shuffled coda of Lost Woman, a Stoicism worthy of Marcus Aurelius in Silence's lyrics (Lemmy has always had a blunt honesty in his lyrical output). I hear Lemmy redeem a silly 1980's Scorpions lyric in Do You Believe (listen closely). Rare would be the person who makes "hell on roller skates" sound so kick-ass, but, Kilmister does just that, also on Believe. Sun Ra's Space is the Place seems to be quoted in End of Time's riff, and Motorhead pretty much quote themselves on Going to Mexico, but the band just has that kind of gravitas. They can pretty much do no wrong, owing to the refinement of their approach. Motorhead's music has an essential quality that allows them to put their indelible stamp on just about any approach that they care to try. Following up on all of these audible treats, Aftershock winds down with two more Motor-stomps, Keep Your Powder Dry and Paralyzed; I challenge any listener to not spool right back to the beginning and groove with the whole rockin' enchilada again and again. The album is just that great.
Things change, the center cannot hold, but through it all, year after year, Motorhead remain, Sphinx-like, sitting atop the Rock Music landscape.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Goodbye, Shannon.

Disaster Amnesiac is very sad to hear about the passing of the great drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson. I am so sorry that I did not get to see him live more than one time.
Spring of 1992, I believe, at Kimball's West on Grove St. in San Francisco. There could not have been more than twenty people in the crowd that evening, but Shannon was a gracious presence as he climbed the staircase from the street, up into the club. I recall him looking at me, and saying simply, "hello!" Since that time, he's been a much beloved figure in my world.
Going forward, the man will be missed. One HELL of a drummer, who played with so many great names in music, internationally.
Farewell, Shannon. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

L.A. Witch-Self Titled Digital Download, via Bandcamp

Disaster Amnesiac was made aware of L.A. Witch from this site (I tip my cap to you, sir), and I've been 'podding their sounds a lot lately. You've just gotta love the way they craft their tunes, the way that they swing with a down-tempo Avant Garage Rock simplicity. This does not sound like a stupid simplicity, mind you, but an effectively paired down simplicity that gives these three tunes an undeniable heft. They do not buzz pass the perception, but instead ooze into it as you listen, their Gothic Swamp sound sticking to the mind like gooey mud.
Opening track Get Lost last track You Love Nothing move with ballsy swing and buzzing chords, while the spooky ballad Heart of Darkness provides a acoustically strummed and chorus chanted link between them.
It comes as no surprise that sounds this great have been coughed up from L.A.'s La Brea tar pit of underground sounds. Disaster Amnesiac heartily encourages everyone to pay for this download. Perhaps L.A. Witch can use some of the proceeds to press up 7" copies, with the corpse painted kitty kat on the cover. I'd buy one just for that!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Human Eye-They Came from the Sky; Sacred Bones Records, 2011

Scheduling conflicts prevented Disaster Amnesiac from attending Human Eye's recent show at the Hemlock Tavern, but I have been consoling myself with repeated listens to their most excellent 2011 recording, They Came from the Sky.
The album, featuring eight thematically linked tunes, seems to tell the story of an ontological encounter with some other, the story narrated by group leader Timmy Vulgar. What's really exciting for this listener is the aesthetic variance on display within this Alien Rock Opera. From ragin' Punk Rock 'n Roll on Brain Zip to heavily Psych Detroit on Junkyard Heart to Shel Talmy-like production on Impregnate the Martian Queen and We Are the Peopleoids and the Horror Punk equal to the Misfits' Die Die My Darling on the title track, They Came from the Sky's overall sounds cover so many exciting bases from within the Rock Music spectrum, all the while evincing Human Eye's distinct identity.
Vulgar's great, noisy, wah wah guitar playing leads the tunes. His riffs are solidly Psych in nature, propelling forward with Punk Rock energy, but colored with and infused by nice analog tones. They do not sound generic, particularly when he gets all Ron Ashton on tunes like Alien Queen and They Came from the Sky.His tones are juicy as they spray outward from his axe.His vocals remind this listener of classic manic front men such as Paul Stanley and Iggy Pop, even a bit of Chris D. at times, but, these are just touch stones. His unique story telling gives him a very unique presence, and his delivery does not sound affected, but compelling. Of course, his caterwauling wail is  helped by the originality of the overall narrative, too. He sounds believable. Disaster Amnesiac is convinced that he believes it, anyway.
Pairing up with Vulgar in the treble department, synthesizer player Johnny LZR give all manner of tripped out space sounds, providing deep space popping and 3-D depth to the tunes' overall architecture. He gets great Tommy Gear-isms going on Alien Creeps and (Hawk)lords it over The Movie Was Real with his sounds. You've got to figure that a story involving Outer Space Contact absolutely needs these types of sounds, and LZR does a great job of providing them.
Deeper in the rhythm section, drummer "Hurricane" William Hafer (what an apt name!) provides a rolling, rumbling beat. He's particularly effective when flaring around his kit, Moon style. He's on point throughout, pushing and pulling bassist Brad Hales with him, rocking the tunes' rhythms and then dramatically filling the sound with long tom tom set ups. Their tandem pacing is masterful on every tune.
Hopefully Human Eye will head back to the SF Bay Area soon, and hopefully Disaster Amnesiac will be able to get to that show. Until that time, I'll take much pleasure in spinning the strange apocalyptic alien sounds of They Came from the Sky, among other releases from this great Detroit band.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Rent Romus' Life's Blood-Live at Duende; Oakland, CA 9/25/13

Disaster Amnesiac got to Oakland's Duende a bit early, at which time Rent Romus suggested "we're going to play some Jazz for you".
That they surely did, working from charts and building up heated improvisational crescendos (aside from one calm and cool Chico Freeman piece).  Their piece 6th St. Breakdown was particularly crazed.
Bassists Kim Cass and Markus Hunt lay down a thick low tandem, upon which drummer Timothy Orr spreads his percussive mastery and Rent blows his always stunning alto/soprano tones.
Life's Blood damn well rock their Jazz.
Below: Life's Blood marching in
Below: individual Blood cells

Below: video!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Changes in the City, Sam Adato Addition

Last week Disaster Amnesiac spent an inordinate amount of time in San Francisco during after work hours. I had a chance to see a small slice of the burgeoning Bourgie look of the "new" Mission, along with the cha-cha new boutique that inhabits the space formerly utilized by Sam Adato's Drum Shop.
It was absolutely strange to feel that, walking along at 22nd and Mission, I was hearing conversations reminiscent of Melrose Ave. or Manhattan. Additionally, the immaculately scrubbed and primping people inhabiting that space are not familiar to Disaster Amnesiac. I won't deny them their right to pursue whatever it is that they feel is their right to life, liberty and happiness, but goddamn it's strange to have that feel so much on display in the Mission.
Likewise, it was odd to not see Sam's big blue banner at 9th and Howard. His shop was such a landmark for a wide cross section of musicians. I always loved going there. Sam had vintage posters of Ginger Baker and Black Sabbath on the walls, and he'd always have some great, pre-Punk Rock going on the stereo, provided that there wasn't a Giants game on. He sold all manner of drum gear; his "snare drum wall" was truly a thing of beauty. Sam had a deal with a local machinist, and could put rivets in cymbals or have a piece of vintage gear physically replicated flawlessly. He is also a friendly person, supportive of just about everyone. He gave me a ton of pointers about drum hardware, as I'm sure that he still does for others at his new shop in Eugene, OR. Somehow, I doubt that the new proprietors at 283 9th St. have quite the same vibe going.
Disaster Amnesiac has always tried to remain realistic about the  changes that happen in San Francisco and the Bay Area. I don't dismiss the fact that this area was built on speculation, that its principles are firmly rooted in boom and bust cycles. Still, the last week's forays into SF made it glaringly obvious that the changes are indifferent to me, too. I am humbled before this fact. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Bl'ast-Blood; Southern Lord, 2013 reissue of 1987 recording

As Disaster Amnesiac has spent the last few days listening obsessively to Blood, Bl'ast's reissue of 1987 recordings, it strikes me that, at that time, they had assumed the mantle of high energy Rock band from Black Flag. You've gotta figure that if Greg had not heard something worthwhile in their twin guitar attack, he would never have bothered to bring them on board at SST Records. As I recall that time, most of the really energetic and creative Rock bands of that period were emerging from within Hardcore Punk, which was definitely the case for Bl'ast.I figure that SST got all kinds of demos from all over the Hardcore scene, and for some reason, they chose Bl'ast. SST's criteria for signing bands were first and foremost musical, as opposed to scene-based, and, as such, Bl'ast obviously passed the test and gained entry. Let's look at these musical merits, shall we?
First and foremost, Disaster Amnesiac would like to describe and enthuse about drummer Bill Torgerson. Some years back, I opined about Bill's SST cohort Jim Thompson of the Alter-Natives, describing him as like an over-caffeinated Tony Williams. Similar adjectives would suffice to describe Bill's playing on Blood in particular within Bl'ast in general. His hyper playing, characterized by fast paced rolling motion, sudden stops, and head over heels tom tom fills, moves the band's tunes with a manic energy. I'd say that his rhythmic conception is a ton less linear than his peers in that era; far from doing the Hardcore Polka beat, Bill is clearly after some inner vibe with his drumming. On occasion his meter wavers, but it's in that wavering that a lot of tension and release feeling is pumped into the tunes, giving added boost to the guitarists' manic energy as a result.
Ah, yes, the guitarists. The dual six string attack of Mike Neider and William Duvall packs such heavy punches throughout the album's eleven tracks. Neider's dramatic lead lines, so sweetly distorted, wend their way through the structures of the tunes while Duvall doubles them into a thick wall of sound. Bl'ast's guitar sounds strike this listener as being rooted as much in Iommi as they are in Ginn. They give off a kind of psychedelic shimmer along with their high end wails and thick, dark chords. Again, reflecting on that time period, Disaster Amnesiac thinks of groups like Void and Corrosion of Conformity, along with Black Flag, of course, as bands that were integrating Hardcore's over the top energy with older Rock's genuine heaviness. Bl'ast's sound fits nicely into that pocket, standing shoulder to shoulder with those great bands in those terms. Bassist Dave Cooper must have had his mind and hands full, what with all of that twelve-stringed din and spastic drumming, and he was clearly up to the task. His presence in the mix is somewhat negligible, but you've got to figure that the rest of the group absolutely depended upon him to keep the melodic lines going in stable rhythm. That era's bass players were definitely not recipients of much glory (well, except for maybe Larry Boothroyd); I can imagine Cooper feeling quietly proud of his prowess as the other instrumentalists in Bl'ast went-the-fuck-off!
Bl'ast lead singer Clifford Dinsmore has always reminded Disaster Amnesiac of a Hardcore Punk version of Apocalypse Now's goofy foot captain, played by Robert Duvall. You know, the "Charlie don't surf" guy, in the way he melds Cali surf cool with a military macho. Dinsmore's lyrics are pretty far removed from being desirous of military action though. They often seem to deal with the inner tensions stemming from reflections upon the impending doom of the planet, or the pains of betrayal within personal relationships. His gravelly Punk Rock delivery, inflected with Santa Cruz surfer drawl, barks them out on point of the rhythm section's alternately stuttering or full throttle changes. Clifford was and remains a unique front man. It's tough not to be effected by his barreling, compelling declamations.
Back in the early 1990's, Disaster Amnesiac paid some attention to Bl'ast's demise. It seemed to be that they were somewhat unfairly attacked and then hounded by the Elite of the Hardcore Scene, and I'm sure that this added to what was already a pretty high strung situation (judging from the intensity of the band's delivery and the low return tenor of those times for real Rock bands). It's really great to hear "new" versions of their tunes at decades' remove from all of the dorky psychodrama.  Their current web page shows shots of the re-vamped group, so hopefully some touring is in the works. Rest assured I'll be blasting my copies of Blood before and after any live appearances that the band may make.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Big Drum in the Sky Religion-Hell Hath No Fury; 3 CD-r set; Beard of Snails Records, 2013

Disaster Amnesiac completely understands why these three separate releases from The Big Drum in the Sky Religion have been packaged into one deluxe package from Beard of Snails. Each of them features this big, bombastic drone, under which different instrumental or Musique Concrete passages reside. A bit more on the latter shortly. First, I'd like to describe the former a bit, seeing as it is such a vital element to all three discs.

The best way that Disaster Amnesiac can describe the central drone that runs across all of the well over three hours of music on Hell Hath No Fury is to compare it with that of Metal Machine Music, in that it has the same high end, ultra-treble-ey ping. Within that densely layered wall of sound reside all kinds of micro-tones and high end frequency whorls. As I've listened, it has brought up images of mighty rivers, clanging junkyard action, windy mountain peaks, humans screaming and crying, and tornadoes, just to list a few. For those that love to listen to these types of massive drones, the appeal seems to reside within the endless variations of sound that can be heard within the ostensible chaos. The Big Drum in the Sky Religion has presented a masterful example of such a drone herein.
Now, for the component parts of the release:

Hymn to the Beast With Two Backs-this one is the most traditional of the trilogy, featuring guitar and drums dueling it out for most of its over 70 minutes' duration. Breaking up the scrawl is one floaty, almost ambient passage, after which the cathartic pounding continues, eventually leading to some plaintive banjo strumming. This one is like a Metal Machine Music dance mix.

Rangda Electric-here we find the overall drone paired with Indonesian-sounding bells and what sounds like chanting. Disaster Amnesiac wonders if these are recording made by the principle artist of  The Big Drum in the Sky Religion, or older field recordings from an LP? Rangda runs continuously for over an hour before ending with yet another banjo piece.

Vodou Chile-simultaneously my favorite disc of the release and the biggest disappointment for me. Disappointing because my copy has a skip that just won't go away, no matter the cleaning solution used. Favorite because of its percussive, almost steel drum sounding banjo and cutting electric guitar caterwaul. The banjo achieves Doc Boggs levels of mountain primitive underneath the pervasive drone. Disaster Amnesiac just wishes that he could get to the end of this ceremony!

The Big Drum in the Sky Religion has been shamanizing in and around Harrisonburg, VA for many moons now. There are many recordings available, and for free to boot, at their web page. Anyone who enjoys long drones or noise would do well to avail themselves of a few of their rituals.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Grateful Dead-Dave's Picks Volume 7: Horton Field House, Illinois State, Normal, IL; 4/2/1978; Rhino Records 2013

In terms of the Grateful Dead, the year 1978 does not generally warrant much enthusiasm from Disaster Amnesiac. This is probably due to the absolute love that I feel for all 1977 recordings, that year evincing a kind of lightning in a bottle magic, a psychedelic juggernaut of a band casting pearl after pearl of musical greatness. It may also be due to fact that the tapes from the former year that I have heard (and watched, via the Closing of the Winterland DVD), feature the group with a sound that is just different from the latter. It is tough to qualify what makes a band's sound magical or not so magical; that said, 1978 Dead sound has often struck Disaster Amnesiac as a bit less fleet-footed, not showing as much of the quicksilver energy so much on display in '77. It's often sounded to this listener as if the band is just sort of tired, maybe burdened by a bit of "business as usual" lackluster.
It has been from this vantage point that I have listened repeatedly to Dave's Picks  7. I say repeatedly in truth. This recording has been so very enjoyable, the band so surprisingly (to me) on, that it has been a mainstay during my coveted Listening Time for several, full version, delightful spins. Dave's Picks 7 has been an ample reminder of the fact that, for anyone inclined to enjoying their sometimes elusive (save 1977,of course), X Factor, the Grateful Dead were capable of unleashing it during any of their eras.
It's all there: "question everything" humor in the form of extensive quoting of the then-current hit single Stayin' Alive during Me and My Uncle and Big River and a slightly less obvious Time Has Come Today riff on Rhythm Devils, a goofy, wise cracking version of Werewolves of London; throbbing rhythmic subtleties on Friend of the Devil; Bob's hot rockin' macho on Passenger and Around and Around; deeply emotive Jerry-sing on Must Have Been the Roses and Black Peter (it has occurred to Disaster Amnesiac how much this song could be used to describe Mr. Garcia's life, post 1978); Phil's booming bass attacks and silences; Keith's Baroque/Boogie Woogie fusion; and heavy interplay in the form of a somewhat slower, yet towering Scarlet Begonias>Fire on the Mountain>Good Lovin' second set stomp.
Dave's Picks 7 offers new sounds, too. Take for example Weir's slide playing, which gives the Scarlet>Fire an Allman-like ride and adds new aspects to Ramble on Rose. One may also notice the change in timbre from Garcia's guitar. The Dean Markley sound had been dispensed with, and there are many examples of the sound that would emerge fully in the 1980's, particularly during the coda of The Music Never Stopped, which reminds me a lot of his work on Ornette Coleman's Virgin Beauty LP. I'm no expert on his pedal set up, but it sounds to me like he'd been tweaking it to get new sound aspects. Disaster Amnesiac has also been mightily impressed with the group's vocal harmony blend, too. In fact, this aspect is equal to or even better than their 1977 efforts, especially as regards Donna Godchaux. If I've heard a better performance from her within the Dead context, I'm unaware of it. Check out her solo spot during the transition from Scarlet Begonias>Fire on the Mountain for a fine example of what I'm talking about. Grateful Dead writers often mention her and Keith's malaise at this late date in their later Dead days, but, wow, she had a great night in Normal.
Not necessarily new, but on full display on Dave's Picks 7 is the way in which Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann lock in with such effectiveness throughout the show. Their duo playing runs the gamut from chunky funk to spitting lighting on the tunes, and their Rhythm Devils spotlight strikes Disaster Amnesiac as being easily as "primitive" as the earliest Amon Duul at times, always a good thing with psychedelic hippie drum jams. I have thought about how much these two carried the band during the hazier periods post-1980, and one can hear this dynamic in its early incarnation here.
Along with being simply a highly enjoyable listening experience, Dave's Picks 7 may have convinced Disaster Amnesiac of the merits of the Grateful Dead's 1978 sound. I wonder if this three disc set is a precursor to Volume 8 being a feature for a 1980's or 1990's show. A lot of comments at have been suggesting such a release. Perhaps those that have been making said comments are aware of some unreleased shows in which the band was able to kindle their patented interactive gestalt?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Sun Ra Arkestra/sfSoundGroup/Hans Grusel's Krankenkabinet-Victoria Theater, SF; 8/3/13

Disaster Amnesiac feels certain that last night's concert at the Mission District's venerable Victoria Theater will go down as a high point for live music in the Bay Area for 2013.
Waiting in line for admission, I felt a great, freaky vibe emanating from the hundreds of music fans and Mission street people. Thankfully, the vibes were realized inside, despite lengthy delays in getting everyone seated and starting the music.
Owing to that delay, Disaster Amnesiac felt a bit inhibited as regards taking photos of the first two groups. Let me say this: Hans Grusel's Krankenkabinet performed a great piece for strings and electronics, in which a Power Electronics blast was paired with Black Metal vocalizing and really neat costumes and props (Grux?). Their sounds gave this listener a nicely powered lift. sfSoundgroup played two long pieces, the first by Luciano Berio and the next by Krzsztof Penderecki. Berio's sound worlds, free-standing spaces of their own, must be entered at their terms, and if this is done......yeah, BEAUTIFUL. Note to the SF Orchestral Establishment: performances of this music can make $$$$!
Standout players from this group were John Ingle and Joshua Allen, with their saxophone POWER, and equally strong bassist Scott Walton, who drove the Penderecki piece ferociously.
As for the Arkestra? Their Space Jazz music, so abstract and so warm, so swinging and so fiery. Disaster Amnesiac had not seen them since a Halloween show at Slim's in the early 1990's, and I wept tears of joy upon realizing that I was being treated to the amazing sounds of Sun Ra, his myth living in arrangements that he left behind, sparked by the loving mind of Marshall Allen and his big band cohorts. It strikes me that the Arkestra means a lot to a lot of people, and this shows when they play. The make people happy with their mixture of standard tunes, Ra originals, New Orleans funkiness and 21st Century space blasts. I just can't sing their praises enough.

Above: the Arkestra lives!

 Above: Travellin' Spaceways!
Below: Happy Outer Space Citizens

Major kudos to Kirschner Concerts and their partners for putting on this great event! Space is indeed the Place!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Up Half-Known Roads: Solo Drumming Records, Installment 2

Where does the time go? The other day, while checking out the post listing for this humble blog, Disaster Amnesiac noticed that it's been almost a full year since my last installment of Up Half Known Roads. When I had initiated this mini-series, I had planned on posting them with more frequency! With that fact in mind, I figure it's high time to describe and enthuse about a few more solo percussion records! Drummer jokes welcome in the Comments Section, naturally.

Simon Barker-Driftwood; Kinmara, 2012
In the 2009 film Intangible Asset Number 82, Australian drummer Simon Barker is shown as he embarks upon a quest to Korea, in search of that country's top practitioner of their intense shamanic drumming style. Throughout the film, Barker's deep and abiding love for the form and all of its musical and ontological complexities is in evidence as he overcomes many obstacles in order to finally meet up with Kim Seok-Chul, who is literally a national treasure in that country. Driftwood definitely exposes the fruits of that labor. Simon incorporates the jing, a large gong (and overdubbed shakuhachi on one track), into his trap set for six tunes of somewhat contemplative soloing. Not that he doesn't get intense at times, for, when he wants to, Barker can roll around the traps with the best Jazz drummers, beating out quick tattoos and around the kit flourishes. For the most part, however, he seems to try to stir up more intensely intimate vibes, as he uses the long-ish tones from the jing to voice, in concert with his beautifully low tuned bass drum and floor tom tom, spiritual, speaking sounds. Simon's mixture of space and notes, particularly on the track For Dong Won, give the proceedings a serious, darkly ritualistic air. At one point in Intangible Asset, Barker and a Korean shaman talk about letting the sound flow in a more natural sense, away from the ego and its showiness. On Driftwood, Simon Barker goes to those deeper, more meaningful places with his drumming. Find a quiet place to sit and listen to Driftwood, and hear those subtler pulses of life.

Nick Hennies-Objects; Kendra Steiner Editions #189, 2011
As opposed to Driftwood, with its roots in older spiritual streams, Nick Hennies' Objects takes for its conceptual inspiration from the more modern matrix of Object Relations, a subset of psychoanalytic theory. Object Relations stresses, according to Hennies' liner note, "an innate desire to form and maintain relationships[.]"  He proceeds to use a very minimal approach on congas, woodblocks, and claves, striking them with incessant, repetitive eighth note patterns. This aspect of the piece brings images of Plains Indian pow wow action to mind, along with the perhaps more obvious reference to post-Cage Modern Composition. It is with the addition of of vibes as a kind of resonating apparatus that the composition takes on a really interesting effect. Paired with the sound of sticks striking surfaces, or wood hitting wood, the vibes are vibrated with waves that make up those sounds; with careful attentiveness, the listener is treated to all kinds of micro-sounds from this blending. Disaster Amnesiac assumes that the point of this action is to reveal how entities transform each others' effect through their interaction. Disaster Amnesiac also just really enjoys sliding this disc into the player, putting on headphones, and trippin' out on the all of the echoing micro-tones that bounce around my head. Highbrow, I know. Seriously, though, Objects rewards close listening. Read the liner note in its entirety, too, and get a bit more educated as you drift.
KSE-14080 Nacogdoches Rd. #350; San Antonio TX 78247

This will conclude 2013's first edition of Up Half-Known Roads. Disaster Amnesiac can't promise another installment this year, but, rest assured I'll be filling my ears with more solo drumming delights. Perhaps I've convinced you to do the same some time. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Factrix/Bronze-The Night Light; Oakland, CA 7/26/13

Disaster Amnesiac was dog tired from a long, manic week as I made it once again back to Oakland for the first Factrix show in decades. So tired, I only had the energy to, aside from listen, lift my weary arm to snap a few shots.
Bronze opened the show. Their sound fits nicely into the SF Post Punk aesthetic. Their melodies are for the most part produced by some kind of hand held synth or ring modulator, and kicked into action by a really talented drummer. His slow beat mastery moves their grooves, atop of which echo-ey, reverbed electronic tones float and bounce. The singer seems to come from the Martin Rev/David Thomas school, his voice a bit more formal, though. He's fun to watch, and witty. How did Disaster Amnesiac sleep on this band? I must see them again.
Above: Cole celebrates

Factrix were downright amazing. Their current sound is much more tuneful than their 1980's dirges, but within the tunes there remains a dark Psychedelic element. Doubled from their previous trio format for their reemergence, they sounded big, the keyboards and guitars driven by yet another great drummer and a bass player who held things down with a thick, low sound. Bond's guitar playing, so crunchy and beautiful in its processed tones provided welcome colorful light shows in my mind. Cole was clearly ecstatic. His singing and stage presence were pretty emotionally up. You just have to be happy, watching him perform. And moved, as well. Major kudos to Factrix. Hopefully they'll find ways to perform with more regularity!
Above: Factrix, light in the darkness

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Black Flag/Good For You; Oakland Metro Opera House, 7/23/13

Despite the fact that I'm still reeling from the news of the death of my friend Jason, Disaster Amnesiac absolutely had to get over to Oakland to catch the revamped Black Flag. Oakland Metro Opera House was packed, and the vibe was great. I have to hand it to the younger music demographic: these kids are cool, and they don't suffer from a lot of the same hangups that plagued the Punk Scene many years ago. Seriously, Disaster Amnesiac was happy to be talking to people in their teens and twenties who displayed no artifice whatsoever. I tip my cap.

OK, the music! First up, Mike Vallely's Good For You brought their Southern California inflected heavy Rock vibes, equal parts post-Flag SST and Palm Desert bake. I dug their dirge-ey sounds a bit more than Mike's previous band, Mike V and the Rats. Seeing as that the band is essentially Black Flag (Ginn, Moore, Klein), you know that they're going to be groovy and full of dramatic stops and starts. Moore and Klein, on drums and bass respectively, pushed and pulled the songs, and Ginn had tons of room with which to shred out his six stringed abstractions, along with his exploratory theremin moves. Mike's got a cool shamanic front man thing going on. To the guy who was screaming for them to "play fast!", screw you, shut up and feel the groove, numb nuts. Seriously, let it ooze.
Above: Mike Vallely brings down the muses
Below: Good For You are a band, too

Below: Ginn stretches strings

As for Black Flag, Disaster Amnesiac wants to say this: the band is not so much about a specific time or movement. Black Flag is a process. As such, it has living qualities. Black Flag sure as fuck felt lively to this audience member, too. Ginn does not seem to doing some nostalgia trip. The group played four or five new songs, and they all fit within the growth-focused model that he always had for the band. They are unique to this era. The group also played tunes from the earliest iteration (Fix Me, I've Had It, Nervous Breakdown), through the Damaged era (Rise Above, TV Party), My War (Can't Decide) and up to Slip It In (Black Coffee). Ron Reyes was incredible, his voice was strong and his stage presence natural and fun. Gregory Moore, wow, what a beast on drums. His rhythmic sense seems a lot more manic than some of the other drummers that Greg has employed, but Ginn seems to love to play with him. Dave Klein did a fine job of keeping everything tied together. And Ginn's solos? His abstract noisy quests remain wigged out and psychedelic; what a joy to close the eyes and listen to him expound upon his personal musical vocabulary.
One particularly striking moment occurred when everyone seemed a bit out of phase on Can't Decide, but the way they all simultaneously found the one, hammered home by Reyes' shout, was breathtaking. Black Flag always seemed like a "warts and all" group, one in which the physical process and effort would trump mere proficiency. They have retained that magic up into their current era.

Above: Black Flag, a living band

The last time that Disaster Amnesiac saw Black Flag, in 2003 in San Jose, CA, it seemed a bit faltering, as if Greg was unsure of it. Not so, ten years later. Him and Ron seemed to be having fun while displaying a real swagger. You know, Rock band stuff. Real band stuff.

Above: Four dudes, one band

Below: Davo?