Friday, March 24, 2017

Two Eyesores and an eh?

Regular readers of this blog will no doubt be aware that Disaster Amnesiac has been getting a steady stream of releases from Bryan Day's Public Eyesore/eh? labels for a few years now. Their output is getting dauntingly prodigious! It seems as though I just plowed through a number of new sounds from them, and yet here I am again having my ears scrubbed by wild, woolly sonic offerings from the great International Earth Oddball Underground. Bryan's most recent mailer to me contained three CDs. Here's what Disaster Amnesiac has been hearing from them....

Bad Jazz-Daymare; eh? Records #93, 2017
Bryan Day has several musical projects going on concurrently. Bad Jazz seems to be one of the more prominent. They're often out on the national tour circuit, hitting house shows, radio stations, and small galleries from coast to coast. On Daymare, this trio conjures up clicking, clacking, scraping, ringing, fuzzy, and warbled tones with the invented instruments of Ben Salomon and Day alongside  the electronics and toys from Tania Chen. The latter also uses her considerable conservatory piano chops to get these big block chords and mysterious little filligrees. These passages have a kind of lonely, haunted feel from her piano playing. Much like Bryan's Eloine tape from last year, Bad Jazz often has the sound of robots or large industrial combines as they spring to animate life and realized their sonic potentialities. Daymare's 39 minute piece also features a lot of intimate listening and quiet back and forth Electro-Acoustic idea slinging, at least until one prankster within the trio turns on some funny Casio-sounding programmed schmaltz that takes the whole thing out. A wacky, surreal finish to a mostly inward and intimate disc. Extra laughs from a pretty hilarious inner liner photo!

Alan Sondheim/Azure Carter/Luke Damrosch-Limit; Public Eyesore Records #138, 2017
Public Eyesore and Sondheim/Carter have a good thing going for sure. Limit is, what, their third CD on the label? They never fail to deliver the goods aesthetically. Their visionary mesh of Azure's plainly spoke/sung soprano lyrics with Alan's prodigious talents on scads of stringed and woodwind instruments never fails to have Disaster Amnesiac blown away by their creative and unique sound. As stated on the liner note (and if you get the disc, be sure and read its revelations), Limit is an attempt to engineer a musical performance to go both ways in time. While Sondheim acknowledges that this is a real impossibility, the live processing of Luke Damrosch renders it almost within reach. While it's sometimes rather disconcerting to mentally process the forward-backward motion of the singing and playing as they're subtly pushed back and back back and then forward, when Alan wails on tunes such as afghaninvdynb and movement5b, the simultaneously simple and complex nature of his vision shines through. The same goes for Azure's lovely, endearing singing on aborrowers and harbinger. Her voice may be the most purely American, in the Ives-ian sense, that Disaster Amnesiac knows of. There's a murky, swampy feel to songs such as thecriesb and holelessb that seems to be the direct result of the the instrumental/processing blend. This dynamic reaches its apotheosis at disc's end on zymphonyb, wherein the layers get maddeningly complicated. Limit is Alan Sondheim's stated desire as being "For a new music-". As with any works of this type, it ain't exactly easy or comforting. That said, it feels to me like the start of a new phase for he and Azure Carter. Disaster Amnesiac looks forward to hearing what's beyond this brink.

Ghost In The House-Second Sight; Public Eyesore Records #136, 2017
Not to take anything away from the two discs preceding this one, but Ghost In The House's Second Sight is definitely the most  juicily varied of the shipment. This group plays out fairly often, and their lineup is pretty stable. Thus, their sound is that of a working band. Disaster Amnesiac has seen them a few times, but can't recall Kyle Bruckmann hitting with them. He brings really great oboe and English horn classicism feels to tracks such as Low and Metal Land Miniatures. These tones contrast the metallic inventions from Tom Nunn and the prodigious gongs of Karen Stackpole. David Michalak joins it all together with stringed accents. This quartet's interactions are subtle but not pensive; one gets the impression that they're playing with and listening to each other. Not always the case in Improvised Music, but Ghost In The House nail that dynamic. Guest appearances from Dean Santomieri with his compelling elocution on The Dream Machine (along with Polly Moller), Dockside Discovery and the really funny The Bats (are hanging upside down), John Ingle's alto sax on Innocence Walks a Dark Path, Cindy Webster on saw, and Bart Hopkin on rumba box thicken the sweet and sour sonic pho of Second Sight. I used to know a guy who'd say about a still-developing band, "it ain't soup yet"; Ghost In The House have gone beyond all that. This group is the stock that some others are basing their stuff upon.

Whilst grabbing cover images for this post, Disaster Amnesiac noted that Public Eyesore/eh? Records already have new releases coming down the pike. It's my hope that I'll be able to hear those as well, of course. Still, in the above, there remains a shit-ton of active listening to be had and enjoyed.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Goodbye Chuck Berry

An early Disaster Amnesiac Rock 'n Roll memory: age six-seven. I am standing in front of my father's stereo. Dad has at some earlier point shown me how to put vinyl onto the turntable. He has also explained to me that this LP with the black cover and white lettering contains music by Chuck Berry, who is the best Rock 'n Roll singer ever. I put the needle on the record and stand enthralled by its sound.
A later Disaster Amnesiac Rock 'n Roll memory. I am at Mountain Winery in Saratoga, California. It is 2002 or 2003. Little Richard and Chuck Berry are co-headlining an evening concert. Little Richard's band is tight and incredibly well rehearsed. Even his off the cuff monologues sound memorized. Mid-way through the show, he has ushers hand out slim paperbacks with Bible verses in them. After Richard's set, I see a Cadillac driving up to the backstage area of the concert venue. I see a tall, slim man with a white cap get out of the Cadillac and move towards the trunk. I see this man then carry a guitar case into the backstage area; a minute or so later, he's on the stage, greeting the backing musicians that have been waiting for him to arrive. I swear to this day that the bass player was Billy Cox, friend of Jimi Hendrix. The group begins to play, and are ramshackle at best. There are tuning issues, timing issues, and nothing sounds like those classic records did. They're playing those same songs,
After thirty minutes or so, Berry tries to get the tony Silicon Valley crowd to sing about ding-a-lings. It's strangely uncomfortable. This crowd does not seem to want to do this, and the response is, at best, lackluster. Chuck jokes around, forgives the audience for their lack of willingly open crudeness, and the band plays a bit longer. Maybe they finally "got it together", I don't know.
Driving home from the show, Disaster Amnesiac came to fully realize the brilliance of Chuck Berry's willful rawness, his unending long middle finger to all things elite and "serious". In that, Chuck Berry truly was the Best Rock 'n Roll Singer Of All Time.
The man seemingly never went soft, and, presumably, was on edge to the bitter end. The failed music biz person in me admires the stories of his pistol packin' demands for the FUCKING CASH NOW. The historically aware American marvels at his success in the face of ignorant segregated St. Louis harshness.
The Rock 'n Roll fan in me still dances a jig to pretty much any one of his songs whenever I hear one.
Chuck Berry truly did things his way. With him, you probably never could tell. Sounds like Rock 'n Roll to me.

Robin Trower-Where Are You Going To; V12 Records, 2016

Ask any fan of 1970's Rock about Robin Trower, and surely you'll get some kind of positive affirmation. The guy and his band never made a bad record; they cooked up their sound, a cool Bluesy Psychedelic tinged Rock, and stuck with it. If it ain't broke, why fix it?
Here we are forty some odd years later, and Trower is still hitting high marks within that initial design. Disaster Amnesiac picked up a copy of Where Are You Going To a few weeks back, and I'm finding it incredibly enjoyable for that guitar music fix.
Across ten tracks, this cool blue flame of an LP burns steady. The Trower template of spare and simple rhythm section action that supports his colorful guitar soloing is in full effect here. Drummer Chris Taggart lays down slow motion zen beats, never over doing things, never being overly demonstrative on his kit. His understated swing on Jigsaw and When Will The Next Blow Fall don't push these tunes, but instead allow them to flow with a graceful ease, and his Funky stompin' on The Fruits of Your Desire and Delusion Sweet Delusion ramp things up a bit more yet still retain an admirable control. The former keeps reminding me of Los Lobos for some reason. That said, Taggart has the Trower drum feel down pat. Robin must smile a lot at him.
It goes without saying that if you're coming to a Robin Trower record, you're coming for that sweet Strat tone and the solos. Disaster Amnesiac can assure you that they're all over the place on Where Are You Going To. There is driving, rolling Rock on In Too Deep, cosmic Jimi jamming on Back Where You Belong, heavy, earthen dirge of Jigsaw, that East L.A. feel I mentioned on Fruits of Your Desire. Robin coaxes Chicago sass on I'm Holding On To You and mystical breezes on When Will The Next Blow Fall. Indeed, every one of the songs on the album feature some kind of seriously compelling guitar expression, whether it's the riff or the solo. Robin Trower just continues to lay it down in the most sublimely understated ways.
Disaster Amnesiac was pretty surprised to see that Robin also handled the bass guitar and vocal duties on Where Are You Going To. Presumably much in the same way that Greg Ginn knows exactly what his six string axe needs from its four string sibling, the bass sits in the pocket for the duration, thick and reliable as a ballast for the guitar and its colorful tones. The vocals remind me so much of James Dewar: cool, spoke-sung, non-shouted tenor tones that deliver simple lyrics of love, hope, and heartbreak. Perhaps he just couldn't find the right person for that style anymore, as it's exceedingly rare in these demonstratively forceful times.
The kind of force that Disaster Amnesiac mentions has never been a factor in Robin Trower's oeuvre. His vibes have always been about setting up a groove and moving within it, letting the music breath and express itself in a bit more of a natural way. On Where Are You Going To he stays within that bag, and it's some of the most solid recent Rock Music that Disaster Amnesiac has had the pleasure of hearing in a good long while. Right on!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Sult + Lasse Marhaug-Harpoon; self released via Bandcamp, 2017

2017 is already shaping up to be a mind bender of a year in Electro-Acoustic music. First there was the great Collision Stories CD, and next up sailed the absolute corker of an LP from Sult + Lasse Marhaug, Harpoon.
Disaster Amnesiac has been having my ears scrubbed out by the this one for the past couple of weeks, and after this repeated listening right off I'll say that it may be the deepest and most richly challenging example of the genre that I've ever had the pleasure of delving in to.
The music of Harpoon was initially performed by Sult, a trio consisting of Havard Skaset on guitar, Guro Skumsnes Moe on bass, and Jacob Felix Heule on percussion. These tones were then processed by Lasse Marhaug.
The resultant 36 minutes of sound is one of extreme density and otherworldly atmospherics. Disaster Amnesiac can definitely understand why they chose the title: it does have an underwater alien-ness to its feel.
It's overall tough, if not impossible, to isolate individual instrument's sounds within the murky density of Harpoon. That said, it's incredibly enjoyable to marvel at this tight composition's musically heavy moods and passages. Clicking, scraping, springing voices tug and pull at each others' strands. High register sighs and deep groans evoke the mysteries of maritime life. Sult are clearly operating at deep (sea) levels of interplay and listening. This is the kind of music and sound that goes way beyond having to prove anything with chops or dramatic showmanship. They're really inventing their own worlds here. Or do they see them as their own oceans?
All of these sounds and more are then wrapped and bound within a crisp sonic net by the processing tactics of Marhaug, and they really leap out at the attentive listener. Marhaug did a great job of integrating the skilled playing from Sult's members into a concise whole. Harpoon is a crisp, dense, sonic projectile.
It's on target and it is damn sharp. You'll be happy to have your perceptions pierced by Harpoon.