Tuesday, December 29, 2020

One Hour Classic Rock with Disaster Amnesiac


The assignment was simple: "Disaster Amnesiac, you will listen to one hour of Classic Rock, and write your impressions" Mind you, I have NO idea where this assignment came from, but it rattled around in my head for a few weeks, until, finally, I had to submit to it and spend an hour dialed in to my local Classic Rock station. 

Has Spotify changed the listening habits of Classic Rock fans? Do they still tune in to those higher end of the dial stations for their musical fix? Or have their kids and grandkids turned them on to the streaming services? I'm sure that this has happened, and yet, those stations continue to soldier on and on. The Classic Rock format will not die, and why should it, really? Some of these songs are really cool. At least for the first 7000 times.

Tune in date and time: Tue., 12/29/20, 2-3 PM Pacific Time

Station: KSAN FM, 107.7 The Bone, est. 2000

Judas Priest-You've Got Another Thing Coming-song already on when I tuned in. A cool riff, nice pounded simple drum beat; what happened to the finesse of Stained Class?  The solos shred, of course. I guess that that's where the Metal fan finds satisfaction in this tune, along with Halford's defiant lyrics and growling vocal delivery. A fine song, it's what, 40 years old now?

Eddy Money-I Think I'm In Love-the drummer has a nice, clean cymbal beat, especially on the bell portion of the cymbal. Boy misses girl song. He thinks he's in love. He can't get enough. It's gotta be love. I hope it worked out for him and his armour. Pretty neat slide playing during the truncated guitar solo section, at least at first, but then it resolves in cheez whiz.

Def Leppard-Love Bites-a power ballad, full of longing for a departed lover. Those Leppard dudes definitely know what to say to the ladies. Then they bite Nazareth again, this time for a lyrical approach. That's one thing that they also know how to do: synthesize other groups' ideas into a more marketable formula. Really "80's" solo action, kind of trip to Ibiza with a bunch of coke 'n champagne and just livin' the "good life" all over the place for 30 seconds or so. Then the guy opens his yap again, hoping for that 'tang.

The Doors-Break On Through-snappy guitar riff, snappy drumming, atmospheric organ that gets a nice lead break which leads back into the singer telling us about how great his baby is. She get high and stuff, and you know that's cool. A short, sweet blast of Sunset Strip, circa 1966, and that shit stands up to the ages, you know it do. 

Black Crows-Hard To Handle-starts off with a Hip Hop worthy drum break, and then the singer shows us to be a guy who listened to the Grateful Dead's 1960's Pigpen phase. This one has groovy keyboards that really push the updated guitar riffs along. Was that person a session player or a bona fide member of the Crows? Nice, gritty, short blast of a guitar solo; then the guitar player dices it up with the singer to bring it all back home. A few years later, and they'd have it frickin dialed.

Guns & Roses-Paradise City-even if you've been tired of this band since 1990, you can't really help but sing along with Axl and the guys at the start. Slash does some guitar hero thing before the main riff, at which point you're either driving too fast or headbanging to that stompin' drummer's magic. Izzy Stradlin', Slash's secret weapon. Not sure what the point of the "so far away" portion is, but, thankfully they get back to that riff and you're OK. But then, there's that chorus again and you may start feeling a bit, ah, stunted. Boogie down ending primes a possible audience member for a sore throat from screaming so loudly for an encore. These guys knew what they were doing, even more than Def Lepperd could've ever dreamed. 

Rolling Stones-You Can't Always Get What You Want-some kind of subversive move, getting a youth chorus to start your joint up. Lovely trumpet and acoustic guitar strumming. Mick's friends are all hopeless losers, and Charlie is the best drummer in London. Bluesy slides, congas, organ swirls, girls singing along in harmony, what a mix. Is that, like, Jimi? THE Jimi? Dudes, did you kill him, too? Damn, ruthless motherfuckers, them Stones. But one has to admire their marketing savvy, plus Keith can play really well, even while stoned. I can't hear Bill Wyman, but seriously doubt that he even cares that much. Did I say that Charlie is the best drummer in London? 

Stone Temple Pilots-Interstate Love Song-a very fitting title, because this riff has "road" written all over it. It just moves that way. People tended to rag this band, but their drummer has some simple swagger, as does their bass player. It's all about the rhythm section, right? The guitar player, if he wrote the main riff, also deserves some props. As for the singer, he's the guy that most people think of, I believe, when they go "YEEEEAAAAHHHHHH", and he was that trick's master. There's that cool guitar riff again. No real solo, who needed that sort of thing in the 1990's, anyway?

Aerosmith-Walk This Way-yet another slammin' drum break to start things off, yowza! The singer's gibberish is sexay, the guitar players choogle along famously, then someone hits a cowbell, and your ass sure as hell best be shakin'. Like this. They turn around and do it again. The singer gets laid, then someone hits the cowbell again. Joe Perry's sharp tones sure are gritty and cool. The drummer knows just exactly how to take care of business. This song has rocked for close to fifty years. The good shit lasts, bro. 

Billy Idol-White Wedding-this is the song that Disaster Amnesiac was most sure I'd hear for this session, and sure enough! Snappy 2/4 beat to keep the riffs moving. I can't figure out whether or not I like Billy Idol's singing, at least until he goes deep croon about half way in. That's a cool approach, Billy! The session dude does a post-Zappa shred solo before an almost KFMDM-style break down and Billy swears fealty to some slut. Hey, what else is Rock 'n Roll for, anyway? Bad snare drum sound, fuck the '80's. 

Van Halen-Ain't Talkin' 'bout Love-how you will be missed, Eddie VH! Will Alex continue to drum? It'd be a shame to let that killer player just ride off into the sunset. Jeez, what a rhythm section. David Lee Roth lost a lot of friends there, and he never did mess around. He meant it, always did, always will, and that's why he rocks.  This version is better than the Minutemen's version, even the one on The Blasting Concept II, sorry D. Boon. Hey! Hey! Hey! 

U2-With Or Without You-the main reason that I like this song right now is that it's 2:58, and I won't have to listen to its entire duration. Just can't stomach these Jesus Christ Pose types of singers, sorry. 

Post Script-I'm super bummed that there was nothing played from Mountain, but at least I didn't have to endure any Green Day. It's the simple things that matter.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Chowder-Passion Rift; I, Voidhanger Records, 2012


Frickin' lead singers and their bullshit, amirite? One has to figure that, for many instrumentalists, that type of sentiment must have arisen at least a few times within the pursuit of musical aspirations. Sometimes, these folks act upon them, forming purely instrumental combos for projects long and/or short term. Disaster Amnesiac has witnessed a few over the years, and I'm always stoked to hear the players just get down to the business of playing without having to leave room for those pesky frontmen/women. 

Lately, I've been digging into one such group, Chowder, and their very cool 2012 release, Passion Rift. Chowder's bio states that guitarist Josh Hart and drummer Chad Rush had been working on this music since 1992, and it really does show. Along with bass player Doug Williams, the group navigates all kinds of intricate Prog Rock changes. These changes are blended with the Doom that courses, seemingly with the greatest of ease, through these northern Maryland players (what in the hell are they putting into the water up there?), along with perhaps just a touch of Punk Rock street level grit just to keep things from getting too heady. 

Tunes such as Salt Creep and Custody wend their way through any and all manner of these blends, taking the attentive listener on a great ride through their various zones. Chowder navigates their changes with the assurance of seasoned Prog Rock players, but all the while, one feels the mentioned Doom tones and colors. It's these aspects that really make Passion Rift a fun listen, at least for me. Even while each member goes off, the rest of the other two keep things salty and focused upon a nice, pummeling swagger. Dig on the CD's title track for this, especially, wherein everyone gets some kind of solo turn within its chugging refrains, starting off with a really lovely bit of acoustic picking from Hart. These guys are most adept at keeping the dynamics of band playing going, even while stepping off into their own, deserved spotlights. 

Along with the great tones from the guitars and drums, Chowder astutely add mellotron and Moog sounds at certain points, which give some very juicy counterpoints to the strings and percussive hits, especially cool on Mysteroid

All of the sounds on Passion Rift benefit from this type of attention to small details, along with the ace recording by Mike Potter and the mastering by James Plotkin. Cool too is the surreal cover art of Scott Simpson, which brings to mind the Goth aesthetics of D-Beat Punk more than, say, Hipgnosis graphics. 

So, yeah, let the lead singers take a hike for a while as your ears feast upon Passion Rift. They'll still be around when that ride's finished. 

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Goodbye Leslie West


Sad news for guitar fans this year, again! Disaster Amnesiac also mourns the passing of the great Leslie West, known primarily for his stint with the incredible Ur Heavy Rock band Mountain. For me, Ur is a fitting description for them. The way that I see it, Mountain are one of those influences that are felt by pretty much any band that makes heavy music, even if they are not necessarily known by them. West damn near invented the heavy riff style that so many bands make such great use of. Now, there are obviously a ton of musicians that acknowledge this master of the form, and cheers to them; still, I can't help but wonder how much of a forgotten influence Leslie and his work have become over the years, even though they are vital. I recall a conversation in the 1990's with Crucifix guitarist Jimmy, in which he spoke of how much he loved Mountain and West's guitar playing in that band. If you want to hear how inventive he was, find Mountain's version of Satisfaction, what he did to its form is really damn cool, and HEAVY. Goodbye Leslie West, your influence will abide!

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Nubdug Ensemble-Volume One: The Machines of Zeno, Nine new compostions for group with electronic sounds and occasional voice; Pest Colors Music#42-NE1 (Stereo)


If you're lucky enough to be acquainted with composer, instrumentalist, visual artist, and all around lovely human being Jason Berry, you might just get a Christmas card from him during the later part of the year. Along with the card, Jason includes a CD or two of some of  his really great musical output from the year. As long as Disaster Amnesiac has been getting these cards, it's been Vacuum Tree Head discs, and I am mad at myself for never getting around to enthusing about them. Seriously, last year's two discs remain in my car, and I still listen to them. 

No excuses for this year, though. Berry has sent out what appears to be the debut of the Nubdug Ensemble, a group that features several great improvisors and composers. Volume One:  The Machines of Zeno, Nine new compositions for group with electronic sounds and occasional voice has been sweetly rocking my ears for a few days, and I've been digging on its great examples of both the stated elements of composition and improvisation. Jason excels at putting together tight, crisp pieces than usually clock in a very short duration. The melodic variation and rhythmic intricacies that he crams into them always amaze and entertain. Fine examples of this on Volume One include set opener Espejo, driven by great drumming from the one and only G. Calvin Weston and the groovy 5/4 of Alea Iacta Est, with its epic sax/violin harmonies from Jason Bellenkes and John Ettinger respectively. The ways in which these great players, along with those previously mentioned to include guitarist Myles Boisen, reed man Sheldon Brown, bassoonist Paul Hanson, bassist Brett Warren, and keyboard player Amanda Chaudhary, navigate the changes and add to them is just groovy and always sublimely in the pocket. Amy X Neuberg cracks me up with her lyrical delivery on Pimento Boots, and then I just marvel at her range on Aleas Iacta Est. Everyone in this ensemble simply cooks.

The lucky recipient is also treated to sweet little electronic episodes such as Logjammin' with its smoky keyboards from Chaudhary or Prelude to Alea Iacta Est, which has trippy sound design elements from Berry. 

As mentioned, Jason is also a very talented visual artist, and this talent shines on the great cover artwork, with its glimpse into what Disaster Amnesiac suspects is a very rich imaginal world that he's dreamed. Additionally, its design is cool in its striking similarity to those great Nonesuch LP's that featured obscure academic composers in the 1960's and 70's. 

The only criticism that Disaster Amnesiac has for Volume One is the way in which the swinging and eminently joyful tune Spicy Mango, with its bouncy feel, ends sort of abruptly. It's like, ".....why'd ya leave me hangin' like that, Nubdug?" Ha! 

A brief internet search seems to show that Nubdug Ensemble has an internet presence solely on Facebook currently. It's probably too late to ask Jason Berry about getting one of those cards for this year, but any fan of extremely well written and executed Fusion music should probably get on over there and see if he has any copies of Volume One: The Machines of Zeno, Nine new compositions for group with electronic sounds and occasional voice to spare. So much tight music packed into such a short duration! More, please......

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Bluebeard-Port of Sorts; self-released CD, 2000


In terms of time and place, and relative to distinctions of raw popularity on their home turf, Bluebeard was a band that faced pretty long odds. Not that any of that was their fault, but, in some ways, this group was kind of misplaced. San Francisco in the late 1990's and early 2000's featured a music scene in which concepts such as the Church of Rock 'n Roll, or Power Pop, or kind of urban ironic gestures seemed to rule the perceptual roost. Bluebeard emerged from somewhere within the City's churn, presenting well thought out and well orchestrated Prog Rock. Not exactly the "sexiest" calling card for a band at that time and in that place. That said, they stuck to their guns, played shows, and produced at least one physical document for posterity, 2000's Port of Sorts.

Disaster Amnesiac grabbed a copy of this CD, and I've thankfully managed to keep hold of it through years of moves, the occasional cull, and so forth. Really glad to have done so, too, especially of late. A few weeks back it entered into my listening rotation, and has stayed there in glowing terms. 

Let's start of our perusal of Port with vocalist/guitarist Kevin Meagher. His reedy, alto range spits out lyrics that are quite quirky in their delivery, but done so in an emphatic, emotionally believable way, at least for me. Whether he's belting or whispering, there's an authenticity to both. Kevin was always an intense front man, even sort of scary when on the mic. Phrases such as "still you breathe/and that means that there's that much less for me" on Nadine give weight to that view! Damn dude!  Equally enjoyable is the weary persona that Meagher inhabits during Dirge, a cool sea shanty which features the then about to become a bona fide Rock Star and master of all things stringed, Eric McFadden and underrated SF vocal blaster Robin Coomer. Disaster Amnesiac is really enjoying hearing his personalized Rock singer delivery all over this disc. It brings back fun memories for me. Also of note are astute touches of double tracked vocal lines that enhance but don't overshadow the main ones. It's commendable, the way that Meagher followed his own instincts for his fronting of Bluebeard. On the guitar side, I seem to recall that Kevin wrote a lot of those parts as well. It sounds as if he sticks mostly to acoustic guitar, and the sound of those strummed stings give really nice texture to most of the tunes. The fact that many of these parts are in compounded, unique time signatures is pretty impressive, too. 

Moving over to the lead guitar spot, we find Stratocaster guy Jon Axtell. Axtell had spent time previous to Bluebeard in Psychefunkapus, a band that had major label backing and a pretty significant following. So yeah, he was a veteran by the time that this group was working on their music. And one can hear it. Jon's fluency and versatility on the guitar. Dig on his cutting riff and tone and Stone, with its by turns funky and then metallic feels, or Waves, which just pummels as it rolls along in very rocking way. Then there his pure solo statements, such as on the emotionally charged Roadside, which harks back to, say, 1970's stadium statements, and the sharpness of his statement on Mustard. Any time Disaster Amnesiac isolates these guitar elements within the overall mix of Port, I find myself blown away by how inventively musical they all are. Really great guitar playing throughout. 

Speaking of inventive, there's the rhythm section of Graham Mclaughlin on bass and Atma Anur on drums. These two are in such a locked mode on every track. The way that these two push and pull with each other, and on the guitarists is really fun to hear and feel. Another veteran, specifically from the Shred Metal scene, Anur puts on a clinic on how to subdivide the beat, all the while keeping things eminently grooving and tasteful. His double bass runs and 16th note hi-hat licks on Waves are worth the price of admission alone. I recall how stoked that Bluebeard were to have him on board, and I can see why as I listen to Port. Mclaughlin keeps a somewhat low profile, but, just as with any great bassist, his stuff is effective in the way that it is felt. Dig on The Stranger for some of his great accenting. The way that these two guys navigate the tricky changes of the songs in an organic, listenable manner is pretty incredible.

Going from the micro to a more macro view of Port of Sorts, Disaster Amnesiac has realized with these recent spins of its songs the cool ways in which Bluebeard fused Progressive Rock ambition with Pop Rock sensibilities. Only one of its tunes goes on longer than the five minute mark (The Stranger), but all of them are jam packed with the twists, turns, and folds that a fan of Prog expects and loves. It's really quite an accomplishment, and it's really quite cool to listen to and be moved by.  

Port of Sorts is a fun, eccentric statement from a band that had the courage to do things their way, in spite of the trends that they were surrounded by. As stated, Disaster Amnesiac is certainly happy to have held on to my copy. Anyone that's interested in music that fuses varied elements into a unique voice may want to seek out their own.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Kal Spelletich-The Blessing of the ZHENGKE ZGA37RG; eh? Records #115, 2020


Land's sake, eh? Records, you've worn Disaster Amnesiac out for a bit! After going around and around with Pay Dirt and Real Tree, I've found myself digging into The Blessing of the ZHENGKE ZGA37RG from San Francisco-based Kal Spelletich, a man that has many siblings (is one of them named Nik?)

Along with being part of a large family, Spelletich has also been prodigious within the Industrial/Noise Music scene for many years. His group Seemen definitely has a name for itself, and he's also been involved with Survival Research Laboratories, which in and of itself should be enough of a bona fide for any fan of underground creativity. 

For The Blessing, Kal utilized his own talents and creativity to produce several different sound making machines. From these inventions, he's coaxed all kinds of roars, and slides, and wobbles, and shrieks, and cries. Disaster Amnesiac's favorite piece is the very dance-able My Own Fibonacci System, which, after multiple listens, has not failed to get my ass up of my chair and moving, what with its wiggly machine shuffle. Other tracks have the effect of moving the perceptions to various places: contemplation, amusement, sheer terror. He gets many and varied sounds from his inventions. This tape is way far from being a one note type of affair, something not always the case from Noise releases.  As the tape rolls along, you can feel yourself inhabiting their varied spaces.

Also of note is the really great live sound on all tracks. Spelletich did a fine job with sound capture, eh? Records boss Day did not slouch when it was time to mix them. There is a presence to the sound qualities of The Blessing of the ZHENGKE ZGA37RG that can make one feel as if one is there among those intriguing creations.

Not to sound like a broken record or anything (well, maybe just a little bit), but damn it would be nice to be able to be in attendance at some kind of release show for this great cassette. How fun would it be to "enter or operate his pieces, often against [your own] instincts of self-preservation". Or, are we past being able to assume that kind of risk now? Hmm..........

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Realtree-Splendor Falls on Everything Around; eh? Records #114, 2020


Moving on to cassette number two from the recent eh? Records delivery, we find Splendor Falls on Everything Around, the recording debut from Realtree. 

Realtree are a quintet, made up of Carley Olson Kikai on B flat clarinet, Michelle Kinney on cello, Patrick Marschke on laptop, Adam Zahller on guitar, and Noah Ophoven-Baldwin on cornet. It seems as though Ophoven-Baldwin is the leader of the group, in that he is listed as the main composer for the music of Splendor

Using derivations from Arnold Schoenberg's Verklerte Nacht as jumping off points for this composition, and consisting of a polyphonic core piece and an appendix of duo and trio works, the music on this cassette presents itself to the attentive listener in really magical ways. The word attentive is key here, for the sounds are never forced. Instead, one is treated to several movements of sublime moments. The way that this quintet interact with each other has been blowing Disaster Amnesiac's mind for days. Splendor features the kind of playing that is not flashy or demonstrative. Instead, the players are clearly paying very close attention to both the score and to their fellow group members.  The closer you choose to listen, the more that you'll hear just how tight this group is. There have been times when, as I've listened, I've felt the same way that I did after being exposed to Gagaku, or Miles Davis, or Albert Ayler, or Karlheinz Stockhausen. You know, that otherworldly stuff. Realtree hits on those levels, and speaking of Miles, I swear that I heard a quote from Bitches Brew coming from Ophoven-Baldwin at some point. The ways that Noah slurs and trills with his horn are really fun to hear as well. This action, paired with the stated focus and attention from everyone in the group, and its resulting sounds, have had me further entranced with each listen. I recall one morning where this music, paired with the sunlight moving across a wall opposite of me, when some kind of deep satori was reached. I also recall imagining the score as some kind of tissue, laid over Schoenberg's score, and its sounds appearing as pinpricks of light emerging through. 

Splendor Falls on Everything Around is a captivating debut from a very special group.

As Disaster Amnesiac writes this, I'm feeling as though I'm not saying enough, or not going as deep as this music deserves to be treated. Don't take my word for it, then. If you're at all interested in current composition, or Improvised Music, you'll want to find and dig a copy of this excellent cassette for yourself, you will not be disappointed for having done so.