Friday, December 29, 2017

L. Eugene Methe/Megan Siebe-Revisited, Revisited, Revisited; eh? Records #97, cassette

Christmas arrived a few days late at chez Amnesiac, thanks to another great package of goodies from eh? Records. Bryan Day generously sent along three new cassettes for review and enjoyment. All signs point to maximum doses of both, if Revisited, Revisited, Revisited by L. Eugene Methe and Megan Siebe is any indicator.
Conceived and executed as "a deconstruction of Geoffrey Burgon's main theme for the 1981 TV mini-series Brideshead Revisited", Revisited takes shape in the form of a lovely ascending melodic line played on cello by Siebe, which is then supported and stretched by her violin and various electronic sounds and treatments from Methe.
What Disaster Amnesiac finds so lovely and compelling about this tape's sounds are the ways in which they float with such delicacy. As I've listened, it's felt to me at times as if I've been ensconced in some sort of timeless, beautiful chamber, surrounded and tickled by sublime, glassy sonic baubles.
The main melodic line repeats many times, bringing the perceptions back to its initial Chamber Music feel, and is then tweaked and torqued with subtle electronic treatments, with the violins singing along harmoniously. There's never a feel of exhaustion from these iterations throughout the four cycles that make up this piece though, only clearly stated Romanticism that resonates extremely well with the shorter days and longer evenings currently in effect within this hemisphere. A few days back, Disaster Amnesiac watched footage of surfers chasing freezing waves in the Icelandic winter; the sounds on Revisited, Revisited, Revisited have me thinking back to its shots for some reason.  Perhaps it's the way in which this piece moves with such stately, oceanic pacing. Anyway, I figure that this tape's vibes are exceedingly worthy of those types of soundtracks. Surely, though, Revisited's sounds would enhance the moods of any given mood or movie.
Packaged with a mysteriously delicious cover photo, clearly legible font on the J-card, and cool additional artwork on the cassette itself, to match and enhance its incredible sound world, Revisited, Revisited, Revisited is one not to miss. Yet another bullseye at the target of creative, individualistic musical production within the current scene from eh? Records!
Keep your tape heads clean and stay tuned for words on two more releases soon.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Steppenwolf-Hour Of the Wolf; Epic Records, 1975

It's been an age since Disaster Amnesiac reviewed anything from Steppenwolf, but that most definitely does not mean that I've stopped listening to them. Last week, while pontificating wildly to alto saxophone shredder Tom Weeks about Slow Flux reminded me that I still had not really gotten around to listening to my copy of Hour Of the Wolf, acquired as a two-fer CD with the Flux. Naturally, it's been dug up and heard.
Hour Of the Wolf starts off on a peppy, horn-punctuated note with Caroline (Are You Ready for the Outlaw World), right away distinguishing it from its predecessor. As far as Rock songs with horns go, it's not bad, either, especially when John Kay sings; there's really no amount of affect that can dispel the man's great tenor croon. Also great about the tune are the portions during which the band gets down to their signature Jerry Edmonton-led jamming stomp. Simple rhythm guitar strumming sets up cool keyboard colors from Andy Chapin, which begs the question, "where is Goldy McJohn?" Caroline is a fine slice of mid 1970's Pop inflected Rock. Were the 'wolf under a bit of pressure to deliver another hit? Disaster Amnesiac likes to think that I'd have bought the single.
Up next, Annie, Annie Over, such a great title for song, continues with the somewhat smoother keyboard driven sounds, telling the tale of second time around love. As with Caroline, this listener finds the most satisfaction when Steppenwolf get down to their more jam driven zones, this time as the song tags and fades. Female vocals are utilized, but, thankfully, they're kept harmonically close to Kay's, which strikes me as an aesthetically smart move. They enhance, but don't detract. You've got to hand it to Steppenwolf, they knew well what would not work in the mix.
Heavier Rock relief arrives with Two for the Love of One, a hooky tale of fightin' and boozin', bringing a great slowed down, slicked up biker Rock with a supremely catchy chorus and some of Steppenwolf's best mid-tune workouts. As Disaster Amnesiac has grooved to this song, I've imagined it being a fine vehicle for live call and response interactivity. Here's to hoping that audiences heard it as such! Two for the Love of One hits hard and effectively.
Road woe and its attendant debauchery are touched upon on Just For Tonight. The acoustic strumming brings me back to Smoky Factory Blues from Slow Flux, although instead of lyrics dedicated to a domestic lover, Kay seems to be singing the any and all ladies of the tour cycle. Being a generous dude, he gives them their own voice, in duet with either an actual female or one of the band singing soprano. As with previous tunes, Disaster Amnesiac can't help but wonder if this one had been written and included herein as a potential hit. These types of sentiments can grate a bit, but, the music industry is a tough master and demands these types of considerations from all of its charges. Hopefully it got 'em laid at least.
Things get a bit too razamatazz with Hard Rock Road, a slick bit of coming of age Rock 'n Roll propaganda, featuring the story of newly minted candidate for future treatment on songs such as Just For Tonight.  This song, sadly, kind of sucks, but at least Bobby Cochran plays really fine rhythm guitar throughout. His sounds are clear and clean, punctuating the changes and moving things along with gusto. More horns pick things up at the end, but Disaster Amnesiac ain't feeling them, especially the peppy alto sax to take it home. Serious Jazz Hands there....ah, no thanks guys. How 'bout letting Bobby wail a bit more?
Thankfully, Steppenwolf gets back on track for Someone Told a Lie, a major key riff that indeed allows Bobby to play more.  That signature sound of the mid-1970's, the vocoder, makes an appearance in the mix, and actually sounds pretty cool. Edmonton and bassist George Biondo lay it down, moving things swiftly along as the keys color and the gits strum and riff. Kay's world weary ruminations ring experienced and possibly a bit sad. It must have been rough to face the harder realities of that post-Aquarian era. That said, John's voice is always welcome to these ears, even as they deliver the harsher news.
Wolf's penultimate track, Another Lifetime, continues on with the sadness. Here, Kay sounds even more disappointed. Perhaps the previous decade's hard work with Steppenwolf was starting to catch up with him. I find the lyrics to be uplifting despite that, but their insights are clearly hard won and stinging. Icy keys lift the music as Edmonton give yet another understated, brilliant percussive performance. Another Lifetime has the feel of being a template for the power ballads that so many Hard Rock groups started delivering a decade hence.
Hints of the then-burgeoning New Wave abound in closing track Mr. Penny Pincher. Swirling synths frame the tale of some tight wad tight ass patriarchal type. John Kay damns him to lifetime of downers as the the bass pumps out eight notes and the guitars slash an almost Ska rhythm. This tune sounds as if it's pointing the way toward the second half of the 1970's, meshing hints of New York Punk with touches of Disco, both propped up by Steppenwolf's interactive jamming mastery. Not so much an anthem as a harbinger.
Although Disaster Amnesiac has really enjoyed my interaction with Hour Of the Wolf, I keep getting the feeling that it's the work of men that are exhausted on multiple fronts. It's nowhere near as solid a document of songs as its predecessor is, somewhat flawed in a few of its attempts. Still, the catchier moments are worth hearing, and, as mentioned, any time John Kay is the featured singer, Disaster Amnesiac will gladly lend an ear.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Goodybe z'ev

Late last night Disaster Amnesiac was awakened by some sort of rumbling. Knowing that sleep would elude me for a while, I logged on to social media and saw the news of the passing of Stefan Weisser, aka z'ev.
Along with being tremendously saddened by this news, and happy to have seen him play live, Disaster Amnesiac has been marveling at the man's influence. z'ev's use of metals as percussive instruments within his performances has been incredibly influential. What had been a method utilized seemingly only by Avant Garde composers made the jump over into popular culture in a huge away, in large part on account of his steadfast use of it. A few years back, I saw an ad for an "Industrial percussion line" of some major drum manufacturer, and all that I could wonder was if z'ev was being cut in on the royalties. Surely, others that were familiar with him felt the same way? Additionally, his work with textual cut ups and permutations, approached through the lens of pure poetics, was wide ranging and incredibly deep. In many ways, he took the mantle from Burroughs and Gysin and pushed their innovations further. There's also the hermetic, alchemical research done by the man. The way that I see it, this area of his life has only just begun. It would seem to me that any of his writings within that area will be courses of study for serious students of Hermetic arts. Additionally, he had style. Disaster Amnesiac has seen more than a few Industrial percussionists that had been pretty clearly aping his looks and threads. The thousands of people that have read and obsessed over his RE/search Industrial Culture interview will know exactly what Disaster Amnesiac means.  Hell,  I still haven't forgiven a reviewer for the mid 2000's zine Swingset who mocked z'ev in what to me was an incredibly petty and disrespectful way.
z'ev performed and thrived at the margins of the greater society, utilizing a lot of its cast off materials to make, in his words, "...schonste muziek...". His sounds and actions will continue to influence and effect those that have been exposed to them.
Goodbye, z'ev. You truly were an Artist and Poet.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Sage Pbbbt-invocations of unknown entities; Tone List Records CD, 2017

Late night insomnia-related web surfing lead Disaster Amnesiac to Sage Pbbbt's invocations of unknown entities. A promo blurb showed up on a page that I follow, and its descriptor of the release's nature, "True Shamanic Black Metal", had me hitting "purchase" within minutes. After a bit of a wait (things take time to ship from Australia to the U.S.!), it's been acquired and listened to repeatedly.
Consisting of three tracks, Charms (1), Charms (2), and Trange, which are spread over two discs' length, invocations gets down to some very out there musical production. As Disaster Amnesiac has listened, I've marveled at their incantatory otherness.
Sage Pbbbt pairs down her musical tools to voice and percussion throughout. The drumming, which sounds as if it's done with a kit of two bass drums and a couple of tom toms, rolls and thunders with a deliciously non-linear tack. It feels as though she allowed herself the freedom to play patterns and rolls until the time was right to take space, to let the drums breathe. Additionally great for this fan of drums is the way that they sound here: loosely tuned, big and booming. Along with the lovely timbres, it's great to hear what sound like a few different striking implements utilized on the drums. Invocations' percussion sounds wonderfully live, vigorous, and untamed. Not always a common occurrence, that's for sure. Credit must be given here to engineer Dan O'Conner. What a great job of capturing what can be a very elusive vibe.
As for the entities, Pbbbt channels them through vocal accompaniment to the drums. Disaster Amnesiac has been able to identify a clutch separate ones. Among the vocal emanations (I deeply hesitate to call them "styles"), there are screeching banshee, Tuvan shaman, total alien voice, operatic tenor,  Medieval farmer, and urban wild person. During today's listen, a new voice seemed to arise from the mix, so, presumably, the list could be close to infinite, depending on how closely one can listen. It feels like an absolutely tough exercise in extended technique, but, then again, invocations of unknown entities is expressly described as being a work that aims beyond that type of qualifier. Still, the sheer physical range is impressive.
As invocations of unknown entities has played around Disaster Amnesiac for the last several days, I've wondered too it many Black Metal fans will find their way around to it. It most definitely has the Outsider feel that makes so much of that approach to self expression so vital and great.  It most definitely has entranced this listener. Lastly, major kudos to Sage Pbbbt for using the phrase "exploratory music" on the liner note, as well. A real perception changer for me!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Lindsay Walker-Demo Tape; no date given,

It must have been about three to four years ago when Disaster Amnesiac copped this tape from sound artist Lindsey Walker at a New Year's Eve party in Berkeley. Recent tape organizing/purging lead me back to it. As I've been digging its Minimalist vibes, you can rest assured that my copy wont be ending up at Goodwill.
The A side, Mathematics "UK Lite", features Lindsay in pure vocal mode. What sounds to this listener like a minor scale is sung repeatedly for several minutes. This piece's drama comes from the way in which this scale is processed and cut up. Mathematics "UK Lite" has this great, cavernous delay setting throughout its duration, which gives it a quite unsettling, claustrophobic vibe. Disaster Amnesiac imagines a singer in a room somewhere, perhaps purging, perhaps celebrating. Either way, this imagined presence is most definitely solitary; the intimacy of the piece can really get into your brain. Also of note are cuts that are applied at various spots, which have made my perceptions jump and wiggle. Right as Disaster Amnesiac gets comfortable with the repeated "la la la la la la...." actions, all wrapped up in their echoes, Walker applies a swift, sudden cut that lasts for a few seconds before the singing starts up again. Mathematics "UK Lite" is a great piece of Minimalist vocal artistry.
On the flip side of this demo, we have an extended keyboard meditation, Could've Turned (I.I.#1), which, much like Mathematics, centers around a simple repeated riff.  Walker uses this riff as a vehicle  for movements into to improvised spaces. She coaxes big, billowy tones from her keyboard, sometimes playing simple one note phrases, other times slamming out clusters of notes. It sometimes sounds to Disaster Amnesiac as if she's using her entire forearm to get them, and I love those sounds. Along with these types of tones, Walker gets cool, almost robotic, swirly synth stuff happening, never losing the heavy, billowy timbres while doing so. The cuts in action are similarly utilized, but they feel more organic within the piece, less seemingly a function of taping and more so interior to the composition. Who knows, though? Could've Turned (I.I. #1) has a similar loner Minimal feel throughout its duration as Mathematics, linking them pleasingly as two of a piece.
Disaster Amnesiac has not seen Lindsay Walker since the party at which I got this demo tape from her. It's my hope that she continues to produce such cool, individualistic pieces of music. As mentioned, don't bother looking for my copy in a thrift store, as it'll surely remain here with me.