Monday, August 25, 2014

Irmler/Liebezeit-Flut; Klangbad Records, 2014

Can  and Faust are first among the list of probably most any fan of German Psychedelic music, and deservedly so. Both bands, early and somewhat visible examples of said genre, continue to influence all kinds of musicians that have followed in their wake, and, obviously, not just in their home country. Disaster Amnesiac swears that their movement has had more influence than many contemporaries', over the long haul of extended time. It's extremely pleasurable to know, and, more importantly, to hear, the surviving members of both bands as they continue to produce top notch music.
Drummer Jaki Liebezeit and keyboardist Hans Joachim Irmler have recently released Flut, an LP's worth of duos, recorded, according the its liner notes, as they contemplated the Danube River from Klangbad Studios in Scheer. Naturlich, Disaster Amnesiac has been digging into it.
Liebezeit's drumming is always fascinating and fun to listen to. He continues to employ a paired down, willed simplicity in his playing. His trance patterns are by no means dumb, however. They are elegant and effective in their iterations, holding down tight rhythmic locked grooves that take their time evolving, and, in doing so, become something bigger. His beats carry the listener along without any sort of fuss; Jaki's aesthetic is one of Zen restraint and egoless-ness. Naturally, his presence becomes that much larger for all that. His deep toned bass drum and tight, small, dry snare drum hits cycle along in set grooves for extended periods, suddenly accented by cymbal splashes at exactly the right time. Musical subtlety often arises from a musician knowing when to accent and when to hold back, and Jaki Liebezeit is a master of this type of control.
On the melodic side of Flut, Irmler lays down wild and heavy organ grooves. Disaster Amnesiac hears echoes of Richard Wright and Terry Riley within his playing, but it's clear that he's got his own thing going. The control that he exhibits between left hand rhythm playing and right hand, high register melodics is impressive. The organ often sounds like much more than merely one instrument. There is so much going on within its sounds: treble-ey attacks that are almost as physical as the drums', deep, low grooves, and purely electronic sounding whirls. It's pretty clear that Irmler, confident with Liebezeit's more than steady hand, feels confident to explore any and all manner of tonal ideas, which he does with aplomb. There are times when he pulls back, adds space, and then....attacks. These moments are such a gas to listen to, so dramatic and equally well timed as the drummer's. Irmler's mastery of the organ is on par with Liebezeit's mastery of the drums.
The album's production is crisp and clear. The drum tones are mixed equal with those of the organ: they're equal players on Flut's sonic field. Disaster Amnesiac presumes that Irmler was the chief engineer, Klangbad Studios being his business. He clearly knows it!
Taken together, the sound of Irmler/Liebezeit makes for a thick and multi-faceted, grooving monster of a listen. One could put Flut on as simple background music, or space out mentally with headphones on: either way,  or at any place in-between, it's gorgeous and highly worth hearing. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Gamma 2 and In Through the Out Door: Possibilities Left Aside

Disaster Amnesiac figures that anyone reading this blog would be familiar with the dynamic of "purity" in musical output. Hardcore fans of a given genre or act have their gospel statements, held up as lofty untouchables, along with their heretical screeds, at best dismissed, at worst ignored. I also figure that "purity" in that sense is complete horse shit. Disaster Amnesiac enjoys probing those sometimes neglected areas, with the leading questions: "how?" and "why?" I love looking into those lateral moves, if, for no other reason, than to get a break from whichever hegemony is currently putting a bee in my bonnet. With that in mind, I've been listening to two LP's from acts/musicians that were firmly established when they were released; both seem to have been somewhat forgotten, at least as far as I can tell. Gamma 2 and In Through the Out Door were released within one year of each other, and they both strike me as statements of possibility, that, once unleashed, and for whichever reasons, were pushed aside.

Gamma-Gamma 2-Elektra Records, 1980
Ronnie Montrose had already established a Hard Rock archetype with Montrose's first LP. As far as Disaster Amnesiac can tell, that album was a blueprint for many American bands that followed in its wake. Van Halen and parts of Ted Nugent's early solo LP's certainly seem to have taken a huge chunk of their presentation from it. Listening to Gamma 2, I feel like it could have had similar effects on subsequent Hard Rock bands of the 1980's. Ronnie's guitar playing is a fine mesh of melodic restraint, heavy riffing, and, when he solos, blistering finesse. At that time, L.A. guitar players such as Randy Rhodes and Eddie Van Halen were the spotlight kids, but Montrose's sounds, textures, and riffing sound their equal and more. Listen to Four Horsemen, Skin and Bone, or Cat On a Leash for examples of what I mean. His playing is weathered, but far from stale. A fine solo even redeems the borderline cheese of the faux-optimism during a cover of Thunderclap Newman's 1969 nugget Something in the Air. Vocalist Davey Pattison delivers the tunes with a very male, almost gruff, melodic voice. The man could sing, and he was doing so on 2. An improvement on Sammy Hagar's similar style in Montrose, but perhaps taking some of the crooning influence of Paul Rodgers. Disaster Amnesiac wishes that more Hard Rock bands coming down the pike a few years later would have paid more attention to this style, but Davey's thing became outmoded pretty quick. Subsequent biz styled bands had moved to vocalists that aped the chicks that they wanted to meet up with in various ladies rooms, generally. And don't even bring up Eddie Vedder, it just ain't the same. Jim Alcivar provides good synthesizer support: always intriguing, often cutting with great treble-ey wheedles and Sci-Fi runs, especially on Mayday and Dirty City. Had he seen the Screamers? Probably not, but, you've got to figure that he'd been paying attention to Devo. His interjections are non-interfering New Wave touches to a very much Hard Rock overall sound. He certainly isn't wearing a sonic skinny tie. The rhythmic rampage of this LP, courtesy of Glen Letsch on bass and Denny Carmassi is perhaps its greatest asset. They're tightly entrained and focused throughout. Denny's stomping beats and fills on Mean Streak are downright clinical  in their precision, while Gamma's galloping Four Horsemen rides equally rough to Metallica's version of same. A better Rock undertow, one would be hard pressed to find, as Carmassi and Letsch lay it down. Gamma 2's great stylistic meshing, under a Hard Rock rubric, could have been just as much a template for succeeding bands' efforts as Montrose's debut, but, this was not to be. A few years later, and bands were either doing Hair Metal poodle dance or the Thrash Metal pit slam. Gamma 2, with its dry, booming sound, sits by itself now, with a foot in neither camp, but it sure provides a pleasurable listen. Kind of a shame that no one really took notice for too long.

Led Zeppelin-In Through the Out Door; Swan Song, 1979
Disaster Amnesiac feels pretty strongly that, unlike Gamma 2, which could have had tangible effects on other bands, had they chosen to listen and take note, In Through the Out Door must be conceptualized on a more singular level. It pointed to directions for one band: the mighty Led Zeppelin. I've listened to this one a lot, probably more than any other Zep LP, and I always wonder at where these developments could have gone, had John Bonham maybe drank just a few less white russians on that fateful night. By the time of this 1979 release, the band had already become more than established, a stand alone leviathan in the Rock world. Out Door seems to point toward fresh new approaches. Bassist/keyboard player John Paul Jones sounds like the member who instigated many of these new moves. His alternately punchy and swirling keys on Carouselambra, their theatrical mists on All My Love, and their pumping boogie on South Bound Suarez and Hot Dog give Zeppelin's sounds hot and fresh new timbres, sometimes looking back to earlier Rock 'n Roll (no surprise from the band, there), sometimes sounding as if they'd been listening to Morodor or the Stranglers. Disaster Amnesiac recalls an interview with Jones in which he claimed to be just a bit more on point than the rest of his droogies while waxing these tunes. Hopefully they were duly grateful for his focus! This is not to say that Page sounded any less focused than usual. Hear his solo on the majestic Fool In the Rain (hear the sound of rain in that solo) or his Punk Rock noisy squall on In the Evening, and it's clear that he was developing as well. The former points to concise, Pop-ey Rock that I seriously wish that they'd been able to explore more fully in the 1980's. On Out Door, the band seems to have gotten down to more essential, rockin' blasts, using any and all forms from which to draw inspiration, even on longer numbers like I'm Gonna Crawl. Robert Plant's vocals also sound as if he'd been focusing on pairing down to essentials. Gone are the high pitched caterwauls, replaced with a bit more croon, heaping helpings of Southern fried Rockabilly (continued from Presence), and a lot more emotional range in the lyric department. Plant's post-Zep work in the 1980's built upon this striving, so maybe Disaster Amnesiac is just a bit wrong in my initial assessment. Lastly......Bonham. I'd say listen to his ragin' snare pound on Hot Dog and South Bound Suarez, his slamming hi hat work on Carouselambra and In the Evening. All of these songs show more subtlety of touch and development from Bonzo, yes. That being said, listen to his fill that leads to the guitar solo on Fool In the Rain. For Disaster Amnesiac, that long snare drum roll, followed by the best tom tom set up ever, proves why it was such a musical tragedy the Bonham passed when he did. It's a shame that his drum innovations were silenced at the very outset of that decade. Clearly, he was in many ways just getting started. Sadly, In Through the Out Door was where, up until the reunions of the 2000's, Led Zeppelin crashed to a halt. A real shame, that, as, in Disaster Amnesiac's opinion, they were making fine aesthetic breakthroughs, rising up from their tragic late 1970's era, sloughing off some of the excess and getting down to slimmer, rockin' form. Keyboards and all.

So, back to the "purity" thing. Disaster Amnesiac realizes that people like what they like, and that it's near impossible to get them to change their minds, or, sometimes, to even consider alternate possibilities. Even tougher still to change what has already transpired within the linear time stream. Still, I find it fun to imagine what could have been, away from notions of "the pure". From Gamma 2 and In Through the Out Door, Disaster Amnesiac hears tons of appealing "what ifs", both for a collective, in the case of the former, and for established individual entity, in the case of the latter.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Achtungs-I'm Not The One; Going Underground Records 7", 2013

You just gotta love the 7" format! Disaster Amnesiac figures it's one of the best ways for a band to present an introduction to their ideas, short and sweet being the rule. Without having tons of time in which to get the point across, 7"s seem to force musicians to just get down to it.
Getting down to it is just what the Achtungs do here on what appears to be their debut recording. They fill it with six rockin' tunes (at 45rpm, no less!), all of which have that cool Nordic Punk Rock 'n Roll feel: an astute mixture of any and all worthwhile elements from the past sixty years of electric guitar music. Disaster Amnesiac hears 1960's American Garage Rock from vocalist Joni, D-beat Punk from Jussi's slappin' drums, and late 1970's nascent Hardcore from bassist Teemu. Joni rips some nice solo guitar action when he's up for it, particularly on the rippin' title track and Suicide. In keeping with the tenor of the format, he lays it out quickly and gets right back to the riffs, naturally.
This affair whips past with energetic precision and an appealing lo-tech (but non-muddy) feel. Grab it from Bakersfield's Going Underground and feel better for supporting the international scene! It wouldn't take too much time from you, and you'll rock out in the process. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Brandon Evans-Foregiveness: Solo Contra Alto Clarinet (Live in Brussels, Belgium; October 20, 1999); Parallactic/Thought Authority Recordings, Remaster 22; 2013 reissue on bandcamp

Disaster Amnesiac once spent an afternoon hanging out and playing a bit of music with Brandon Evans. On a tip from a mutual friend who knew of my desire to play improvised/Jazz music, Evans came over to the Fillmore District flat that I was staying in. It became quickly apparent that Disaster Amnesiac would not be up to playing the complexly charted sound worlds that Evans had brought along with him, but we had fun singing Steve Lacy songs and talking about musicians and composers that we admired.
A few years later, it did not come as a shock to hear that Brandon had moved east to study with Anthony Braxton. Disaster Amnesiac figured that, of all of the people I'd encountered, it was Evans that could, and should, find a developmental path within Braxton's singular universe. Over the ensuing years, I've occasionally checked on line to  see where Evans' career was leading. It seemed like he'd disappeared for some time, but recently his bandcamp page has been filling up nicely. Dive in? Why, of course!
Seeing as that I really desired to hear Evans' music from a perspective of its core essence, Disaster Amnesiac figured that a solo recording would be a fine place from which to start delving into his work. Forgiveness-Solo Contra Alto Clarinet (Live in Brussels, 1999) marked that starting point for me.
Presumably culled from a longer set of solo music, Forgiveness features Evans wending his way through many melodic torsions on the very interesting looking contra alto clarinet. It sounds as if his approach starts with smaller cells of melody, from which he then extrapolates in many manners. It's really nice to hear the pure tone of this somewhat rarely used (at least in Jazz) instrument; it has a timbre that is rich and, from Evans, sometimes growly and raw. Along with the pure melody, he uses many manner of multi-phonics, tongue slaps, and fast riffs to get a great variety of interesting sounds from the horn. I also seem to hear some sly quotes from certain canonical items from time to time. The set's over thirty minutes of music retains a freshness over that period of time, as Evans explores his ideas, from said low tones to mid register trilling and higher register wails, to the fullest before moving along down their constantly renewing streams. He never lingers too long, but always seems to give each idea its full accounting before leaving it.
Forgiveness is a colorful and entertaining listen, and Disaster Amnesiac is happy to see Brandon Evans getting back to music making. He's put in work, physical and psychic. Spend some time appreciating his sound discoveries, the world could be better for it.