February 1, 2013
Or is it... OW...?
Does staring at the above image inspire feelings of calm and bliss, or is it painful to look at? Because visual art can be polarizing in that way. Thus, obviously, so can aural art. One person's pleasure is another's pain, one person's beauty is just noise to another person. Personally I find beauty in noise, and perhaps vice versa when I think about it. Well that polarization, that attempt at reconciliation between the sublime, the transcendent, and the ugly, the brutal... that's what goes on in the creation of psychedelic and experimental music, of space rock. Well, that's one aspect anyway. On to the music!
This month's installment is a mixed bag of leftovers and odds and sods; many of these tracks continue the list of the Best of 2012 contenders, plus, as ever, some leftfield entries thrown in via free association. Of course the Can reissue of their nominal "Lost Tapes" was monumental, bringing to 2012 tracks that have never seen the light of day since the were recorded in the 60s and 70s. The one that starts this set is one of the best of the collection, showing the band in one of their most intense and expansive grooves. Intense and expansive are also a good way to describe the new Six Organs Of Admittance (with Comets On Fire as the backing band for Ben Chasny's guitar pyrotechnics) and Thee Oh Sees (in this case I chose a song from their previous album to show they've been doing this for a while). Outer Minds bring a revitalization to classic cavern-dwelling garage rawk, replete with tandem harmonies, cheesy Farfisa, searing fuzz guitar, and anthemic rave-ups all cloaked in comforting layers of reverb.
When I included them back in December I called Pink Fairies the UK answer to The MC5, but they obviously had a lot in common with their similarly colored contemporaries in Pink Floyd, as this ethereal track demonstrates. Hearkening from the same era, obscure Italian experimentalists Sensations' Fix were sadly overlooked until last year when various collected works spanning 1971-74 were re-released. At times they remind me of Tame Impala, who I just can't get enough of, and, just as their debut full-length did, you can expect this follow-up to supply multiple tracks in various SRC playlists. Their sophomore album expands their formula to the degree that it's not as immediate as the debut, but it's a real grower, and may be just as good as it gets more seasoned over time. This track is more in line with the Lennon/Wilson/Gilmour flavor of their previous work.
As seen/heard last month, enigmatic Swedes Goat surround themselves with apocryphal back stories (voodoo rites? mythical lands?) but musically they manage to combine acid-prog guitar workouts with afrobeat rhythms and ecstatic ensemble vocal chants, and it really works. Plankton Wat (solo artist Dewey Mahood) is aptly named: plankton for murky oceanic meanderings, wat (a Buddhist temple) for transcendental tendencies. Then continuing this arcane theme is a mystical mantra from monastic minimalists Om, whose leader Al Cisneros (singer/bassplayer) is now accompanied by Grails/Holy Sons multi-instrumentalist Emil Amos in the drummer's seat. IMHO Mr. Amos takes the band to new heights.
And now for some REAL obscurities. I discovered Joensuu1685 after clicking a link from a link from a link from a link... most likely relating to obscure (yet extremely prolific and well-known in the weird music underground) Finnish rockers Circle. Here's what I know: they're also Finnish; Joensuu is a family name (it's a brother band); no idea what the number is for; they're quite the find. They're equal parts languid spiritualized shimmer and face-melting bloody valentine guitargasms, a fairly classic recipe but they add their own spices to the blend (I also don't know why this track cuts off so abruptly, but don't worry, there's nothing wrong with your music player). From there I found out they also did a full-length collab with the incredibly prolific LA shoegazing guitar wizard Brad Laner (Savage Republic, Medicine, Electric Company, Lusk, North Valley Subconscious Orchestra, eponymous solo work, et al.), and if that's not cool enough in itself, check out this track, an unlikely cover version... of a Chicago song!
Speaking of covers, what follows just begs for its own paragraph. Last year the inimitable string manglers of original-lineup Public Image Ltd. reunited... to cheers of joy across the globe from fans of John Lydon (aka the Sex Pistols' Johnny Rotten)'s seminal post punk absurdists. Keith Levine wouldn't know standard chording or scales if he heard them - his approach to electric guitar is one of a kind and immediately recognizable - and Jah Wobble's avant-dub basslines bring an exotic quality to anything he touches, even if it's a cover of one of the Beatles' most psychedelic songs.
Guess what! Animal Collective are still around. Even though they kinda jumped the shark a few albums back, quite possibly pursuing a larger audience and the festival circuit (their early work was simultaneously smaller and noisier, and way less accessible), their 2012 release was quite enjoyable, as this track can attest. Since Animal Collective relies heavily on sampling, it seems fit to go on an electronic excursion here. Pye Corner Audio borrow from the analog qualities of 70s kraut-tronica/kosmische music (think Cluster, Harmonia, Tangerine Dream) but it sounds anything but dated. This is music for a journey. As is Tycho, aka San Francisco producer Scott Hansen, whose icy instrumentals suggest crossing the frozen tundra on a winter day where the sun never really gets above the horizon. One of the most compelling compilations released last year, in experimental electronica or any genre, was a series of tracks remixing material from the illustrious avant garde composer Philip Glass. Most of the remakes found on this collection are reverent toward the original compositions, but the most successful ones also manage to expand and make the work their own. Case in point, the inimitable Amon Tobin, who must ravage obscure bargain bins extensively searching for the vinyl jazz breaks which he then painstakingly reassembles into very organic and live sounding rhythmic workouts. And why not another track from Siinai (see last October), another Finnish freakshow that manages to conjure both Kluster kosmische and Chariots Of Fire schmaltz?
It was nice to see yet another release from progressive noisemongers ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, and this package comes with an illustrated fantasy tale that may or not go with the music. Great album too, if not ranking among their best. While we've got the volume up to HEAVY, time for another monster-psych improv from Portland acidheads Eternal Tapestry! I also can't seem to get enough of Flavor Crystals, and thought this track would show another side to their amorphous bliss-outs due to a nicely flowing motorik beat. And you SRC fans should now be acquainted with Pond, the spinoff/sister band of the aforementioned Tame Impala. But what you may not have heard yet is something from their debut album, and equally impressive release on a par with last year's Beard, Wives, Denim.
And I leave you with something I rarely do: toot my own horn (or those of close friends' bands). But I thought it was time to give sadly defunct and overlooked late 80s/early 90s Los Angeles psych rockers Wood & Smoke their due. Full disclosure: I played bass with them and remain close friends with all the core members. We never got a record label to put anything out, and the demo quality of our recordings lacks a bit, but I think you'll get the idea of what we were up to. There were two lead singer/songwriters, each with their own style, and where they came together with us in the rhythm section, and a passionate fanbase writhing in ecstacy in the audience (or often on stage with us), was a place of magic. This is one of Gary's tracks - next month I'll post one of Lance's.
For you traditionalists who don't mind streaming from this site, the following tracks should appear in the first player below:
The Spacerock Continuum Theme - bRambles
Millionenspiel - Can - The Lost Tapes Box Set
Even If You Knew - Six Organs Of Admittance - Ascent
The Dream - Thee Oh Sees - Carrion Crawler/The Dream
She Calls My Name - Outer Minds - Behind The Mirror
Heavenly Man - Pink Fairies - Neverneverland
Barnhause Effect - Sensations Fix - Music Is Painting In The Air (1974-77)
Apocalypse Dreams - Tame Impala - Lonerism
Diarabi/Goatman - Goat - World Music
Broken Slumber - Plankton Wat - Spirits
State Of Non-Return - Om - Advaitic Songs
Nothingness - Joensuu 1685 - s/t
Feeling Stronger Every Day - Brad Laner/Joensuu 1685 - s/t
Within You Without You - Jah Wobble & Keith Levine - Yin & Yang
Wide Eyed - Animal Collective - Centipede Hz
Sleep Games - Pye Corner Audio - Sleep Games
Adrift - Tycho - Dive
Warda's Whorehouse (Inside Out Version) - Amon Tobin - Rework: Philip Glass Remixed
Victory - Siinai - Olympic Games
Flower Card Games - ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead - Lost Songs
Wholeodome - Eternal Tapestry - Dawn In 2 Dimensions
Sultan's Orders - Flavor Crystals - Three
Duck And Clover - Pond - Frond
Chains - Wood & Smoke - demo
But don't forget, you also have the option of spacerock to go:
1. Click on the Divshare logo instead of pushing the play button in the player above.
2. Click "download" when redirected to the Divshare site (put it on your desktop for easy access).
3. Once downloaded, drag it to yer iTunes and sync it with yer pod.
And I must reiterate, this is the way to take your spacerock mix to go! You can DOWNLOAD it! It's YOURS now! It's an mp3 mix that pops right into your iTunes - it couldn't be simpler.