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.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Distant Intervals/Ouroboros; Berkeley Arts Festival Building, Berkeley, CA 3/17/13

St. Patrick's Day evening was a study in contrasts for multi-reed man Sheldon Brown, as he led two very distinct combos through their respective Jazz worlds.

First up, Distant Intervals played compositions by Brown, inspired by poetry and the cadences of its spoken form. Disaster Amnesiac was blown away by his note-for-note duets with recorded poetry from the likes of Philip Lamantia and Andrew Joron.
The band was served well by adept brush player Vijay Anderson, great spoken Beat from Clark Coolidge, and amazing improvised Jazz singing from Lorin Benedict.
Brown's compositional approach reminded this listener of the wide spaces of AACM artists coupled with the controlled refinements of European Avant Garde music.

Above: Distant Intervals fill and leave spaces

After Distant Intervals, Brown, Joron, and Coolidge were joined by another mutli-reed practitioner, Joseph Noble, for a set by their new band Ouroboros. This group took a more classically Improv approach to great places, flowing nicely in and out of free zones. As he had more room to play, theremin player Joron gave Ouroboros a much more drone-ey feel, and Coolidge's free trap set rumble moved the group into wilder, more abstract spaces. Disaster Amnesiac thought of Sunny Murry, Ed Blackwell, and Andrew Cyrille! Coolidge lays it down! Brown played a lot more clarinet and bass clarinet; at times he sounded almost Trad. No surprise there, though, as it seems that Sheldon can play any style. Noble's best turn was during a flute solo that easily matched Dolphy or Kirk in terms of expressive gusto.

Above: Ouroboros Eye and Ear Control. ESP Disk' could use a group like this!

Below: Ouroboros short clip

Sheldon Brown's growth continues to amaze.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Gianni Giublena Rosacroce-La Mia Africa; No-Fi Recordings cassette 2012

Disaster Amnesiac is currently enjoying reading Richard Miles' wonderful Carthage Must Be Destroyed, a book that gives a detailed and involving description of the long battle for regional supremacy between the nascent Roman Empire and the mercantile city state of Carthage.
One of the subtle dynamics that Miles postulates is that of the battle between the supposed heirs of High Culture (divine in origin) and those of more syncretic nature (profane, based in real time interactions). The Romans are portrayed as being somewhat obsessed, at least at the governing level, with showing at all times their singular, divinely sanctioned right to their imperial designs; their focus on the "purity" of their origin left no room for the kind of messiness inherent within hybrid cultures such as that of Carthage. Miles brilliantly uses archeological examples of temples, comparing the highly-focused messages of the Roman with the more ambiguous (in terms of pantheon/origin) of  the Carthaginians.
Put another way, it was in many ways a battle between the Institution and the street.
One may ask, "what, Disaster Amnesiac, does this have to do with a cassette tape release by Gianni Giublena Rosacroce?"
Giublena's La Mia Africa, willfully or not, extrapolates upon this divide. I find it instructive that a tape produced by an Italian musician would go so far to honor music and culture rooted in Africa. As such, it's most definitely not Institutional music. Giublena, who plays clarinet, marimba, drums, and percussion, cooks up a nice stew of tunes, all of which mix the African with Mediterranean. The tape's sounds give the feeling of the hot breezes blowing up from the Sahara and into the Iberian and Italian peninsulas. La Mia Africa, as opposed the the idealized, wanna-be High Culture vibes that characterize so much of the product from the World Music sphere, exudes a funky, warts and all sound. It seems to me to be a lot better example of the (at times) messy and "unsophisticated" realities that emerge within less high-minded, more honestly syncretic occurrences.
Much like the Carthaginian culture described by Miles, Giublena's supporting cast appears to be a mixture of people from far flung parts of the Levant. They sound as if their cultures' contributions to these tunes are honored as having worth in an of themselves. This, too, flies in the face of a more "Roman" mono-culture gloss. The tunes' mixtures, while not having the gloss of "perfection", have a more enjoyable quality of "reality".
Wrapped in a lovely, hand screened wrapper, sand and adobe colored, La Mia Africa continues the dynamic of a world mixing in real time, blooming sound flowers from this churn.
All roads may indeed lead to Rome, but the Empire's hinterlands offer pleasurable detours, made up of delightful mixtures, and well away from the mobs and their circus.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Always In Trouble: An Oral History of ESP-DISK', the Most Outrageous Record Label in America; Jason Weiss; Wesleyan Press,2012

 "[I]t was eerie music really, and you would totally forget where you were and what time it was"
           --Marc Albert Levin, on ESP-Disk'

Disaster Amnesiac first became aware of ESP-Disk' in the early 1990's, through Forced Exposure magazine and Val Wilmer's As Serious As Your Life (a book I must have checked out monthly from Fremont Main Library for a few years straight). The music of this famed label was much harder to find in those days, even with their then-current distribution through the German XYZ label. I can recall the ecstasy at finding Giuseppe Logan's LP in Berkeley, or the frustration at not being able to listen to the Milford Graves Percussion Ensemble LP, spied at the KDVS radio library during an in-studio appearance by my band.
Needless to say, Jason Weiss's Always in Trouble: An Oral History of EDP-Disk', the Most Outrageous Record Label in America had been on my want want list for months after finding out about its publication.
Always in Trouble  gives an exhaustive, frank, no b.s. accounting of a label that dared to be different, even within the parameters of its own "framework". Founder and head fall guy, Bernard Stollman, makes it pretty clear that one of his main guidelines was to only produce records by musicians or poets or movements that he found compelling. Disaster Amnesiac finds that approach wonderful. ESP Disk's varied discography, with its polyglot focus on all things strange and other-worldly,  has long been an inspiration for my listening habits.
Following Stollman's opening interview, Weiss gives the floor to many musicians and artists who were involved with, worked near, or inspired by ESP. The one uniting factor is that no one made any real money from the venture, but most if not all interview subjects cop to the fact that the label was never in a position to generate windfall profits. Disaster Amnesiac sees ESP-Disk' as an index of possibilities. Just as with poetry, you're probably not going to get the mass audience interested. I say, "so what", and choose to be inspired by the visionary artists documented by the label and the book.
Given the opportunity, Disaster Amnesiac would amend the subtitle to "the Most Righteous Record Label in America", because, really, what's so outrageous about  people flexing their creative muscles in liberated ways?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Uli Jon Roth/Points North/Bad Boy Eddy; Vinnie's, Concord 3/1/13

Disaster Amnesiac trucked over to Concord with his pal Michael to Vinnie's Bar & Grill in order to see German guitar maestro Uli Jon Roth. I never knew that Concord had such a bustling downtown area, or nightlife. The place was bumpin'!

First up on the bill were Bad Boy Eddy. They play hot, Party Metal anthems, moved by a fabulous, small kit playing, stick twirling drummer. That's their music, it moves, right on!

Above: Bad Boy Eddy stoke the crowd at Vinnie's

Next up, Points North brought their somewhat wacky vibes. Their sound comes from the Emerson Lake & Palmer template, perhaps infused with strains of Zappa DNA. Disaster Amnesiac had to walk away for a bit, as that approach ain't my cup 'o joe. That said, they seemed to generate some heat, later in their set.

Above: Points North play slick

After a somewhat long break, Uli Jon Roth and his septet took to the stage and took control of Vinnie's. The band's smooth, Kosmiche Metal was great, the tunes setting up amazing solo spaces for the Coltrane of Power Rock. You gotta love Uli's vibe, too. He's a venerable, focused presence, surrounded by younger musicians who seemed to really enjoy playing with him. They played old Scorpions tunes, as Roth mentioned that he was celebrating the 40th Anniversary of "that band" this year. Disaster Amnesiac wondered what his relationship to his old mates is, these days. I'd say he won the aesthetic argument!

Above: Uli Jon Roth and group, bringing the heavy Teutonic Rock to Vinnie's appreciative audience

Below: Micheal Lowe-Grandi, after going 0-4 versus Pistol Pete