Thursday, July 24, 2014

Over The Hill (Halfway): My Life in Records According to 1994 (Part 3)

Took a break from the nostalgia for a bit.  Here are two more albums that spark some remembrances:

In 1994, I got to see Helmet play at the Tower Theater with Rollins Band and Les Claypool's other-Primus, Sausage.  It was a great night: a triple threat that didn't disappoint and left me both awed and deaf.  I'd already been a fan of Helmet's thanks to Meantime, but their albums didn't touch where they were sonically as a live band.  Visually they contrasted with the flannel adoration of the time, four  very clean cut gents with a hint of fraternity to them.  And, then they'd plug in.  Beyond the stage the main floor shifted and moved, a veritable current of bodies acting fluid and shapeless.  The crowd's response at a Helmet show was reliably violent every time I saw them play.

Betty was another album I'd picked up from Record Revival and I remember being unsure about it at first.  The nonsense riff that launched "Wilma's Rainbow" sounded strange for strangeness sake and then the production of the song, once the band truly kicked in, sounded a tad sterile.  I was worried that a pursuance for commercial viability, (as it was in the 1990s post-Nirvana), had diluted one of my favorite bands.  But, then "I Know" came on, a song that still makes my blood run cold once that midway launch of Drop-D heft works beneath Page Hamilton's solo, and my initial fears were assuaged.  After two listens, Betty became another steady listen that year.  The riffs, the grooves—"Milquetoast," "Tic," "Rollo"—the jazz signatures and John Stanier's led foot kick drum.  I still consider Betty one of my all-time favorite LPs from any era and I count myself lucky to have seen that material performed live on more than one occasion.   

KyussWelcome To Sky Valley
I was attending summer school when I discovered Kyuss, so that sort of sets a tone for the state of mind I was in when Welcome To Sky Valley found its way into my hands, a loaner from a friend who'd told me in no uncertain terms to give it a spin.  As with many things regarding adolescence, the impact of piddly, self-important troubles seem monumental given the small, insulated existence one leads.  Not all my troubles were small, mind you, but a slight derailment scholastically didn't lead me into poverty and despair, so...  it really wasn't that big of a deal.  But, at the time, it wasn't the best of situations and that didn't really help at home.

But, I digress.

I consider Welcome To Sky Valley to be my own personal Dark Side of the Moon, an album whose ethereal tone, rugged construct and aural hugeness struck me in a manner not so familiar to me at the time.  I listened to this through a set of headphones one night before falling asleep—lights out, eyes closed—and faded into its expanse and its heat.  That blast of guitar sounds opening "Gardenia" sounded so faraway, as if buried beneath a windstorm of grit, glass and stone.  I felt there was something primordial at work here and, while I'd heard plenty of THC-bloodshot blues bands by this time, I hadn't yet heard or known of a contemporary version of this.  To me, it was if Kyuss had shuffled off the arena grandeur of their 60s/70s hard rock ancestors and crafted a post-punk variety that challenged the supposed superiority of bands like Zeppelin or Sabbath.  They sounded alive out in some anonymous tundra, surrounded by miles of nowhere.  Loud, corrosive.  To listen to Kyuss now, especially Welcome To Sky Valley, I feel this band better demonstrated the supposed muck and mire that many had attributed to the music Alt-rock's darlings.

As quickly as I could, I picked up my own copy, (a promo which, at the time, seemed really cool).  I loved that it was three actual tracks that contained three of four songs, sort of piggybacking off of the "chapter" concept from prog bands like Rush and Yes.  I took it as a way to force one to listen.  It was always interesting queuing up tracks for mix tapes since the ease of track selection wasn't really an option with this CD.

Spacey tracks like "Asteroid" or flashy tracks like "100°" were heavy and vital.  "Space Cadet" gives me chills, its acoustic lick entrancing.  "Demon Cleaner" is one of the best singles of the 90s.

And, like former Kyuss guitarist Josh Homme's managed to do with Queens of the Stone Age in the millennium, the band retains some elements of obscurity.  They don't shy away from hooks and some pop-sensible melodies, but they invest in enough of an avant bent to keep themselves on somewhat of a fringe.  Consequently, they remain a cult band. 

One of the best albums.  Ever. 

Letters From A Tapehead

Monday, July 21, 2014

Daughter of a Tapehead: Black Pus/Oozing Wound

Black Pus/Oozing Wound
Split 12"
Thrill Jockey Records
Released: 6.17.14

*This is the Black Pus track, "Total Eclipse."  Props to the band for sampling Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart. 

**One of my daughter's favorite shows is The Amazing Adventures of Gumball.

P.S. Just a little more about the bands: Black Pus is Brian Chippendale of Lightning Bolt.  He released an album called All My Relations in 2013.

Oozing Wound will be releasing a new LP later this October called, Earth Suck.

Letters From A Tapehead

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Singles: Shabazz Palaces, Paul White, The Picturebooks

Shabazz Palaces: "Forerunner Foray" (via Sub Pop/YouTube)

Paul White: "Honey Cats" (via Force Field PR/Soundcloud)

The Picturebooks: "Your Kisses Burn Like Fire" (via Speakeasy PR/Noisey-Vice/YouTube)

Letters From A Tapehead

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Shopping For Records: The Bought of 2014 — Sunn O))), Protomartyr

Over the past couple weeks, the music blogs and the A-list of the taste informing music press have been pulling together countdowns for the best albums of 2014's halfway mark as if waiting for the normal end of the year to arrive was just too much to bear.


While I'm just as excitable, dorky and self-important when it comes to selecting my various favorites over the course of the year, (I've already amassed a good three-quarters of my annual mix in my head), I'm not sure the "so far" lists are all that necessary, especially since many of these releases are going to be touched upon come December anyway. How many different ways can you summarize your favorite albums of the year without repeating yourself? Just seems a tad redundant.

But, as is the case with many of us struggling to maintain our music-related blogs, I'm trying to satisfy, inform and maybe even grow a loyal and thoroughly engaged readership.  Having said that, with regard to building a mid-year "best of," I'm going to list the 2014 albums I've purchased so far.  While I understand that isn't an actual take on the mid-year thing, it's a way for me to compile new releases in a non-industry or PR manner of speaking and comment on them as a fan as opposed to a critic.  And, of course, this will be ongoing as I acquire more material to discuss.

Hope you enjoy.  Comments are more than welcome. 

Sunn O)))
La Reh 012
Southern Lord/Ideologic Organ
Released: 1.20.14

Sunn O))) released a limited run of the split-label EP, La Reh 012, earlier this year, (sharing credit between Greg Anderson's Southern Lord and Stephen O'Malley's Ideologic Organ label).  It's one track per side, though both tracks are titled as medleys.  The album was recorded in Los Angeles in 2012 and later mixed in Paris in 2013.  This was the first album I bought in 2014. 

While I'm normally fond of the evil Anderson and O'Malley conjure, I haven't been too engaged by this EP.  It's a rehearsal tape basically, so I knew not to expect something as meticulously crafted as Monoliths & Dimensions.  But even to me, La Reh 012 sounds like more of an overlong sound check than a drone piece, especially the A-side, "Last One/Valentine's Day:" 18-plus minutes and only the seemingly haphazard and slow suffocation of a fretboard reverberates throughout its running time.  To some this may sound comparable to other Sunn O))) releases, and I can't argue too much with that logic.  But, there's at least a sense of composition to many of the group's more static drones, tracks like "Richard" from ØØ Void or "My Wall," (which is saved by Julian Cope's recitation of a poem), from White 1 sounding somewhat aimless despite being laden with textures and tones, both of which grow more apparent with continual listens.  There's not a whole lot revealing here, no utilization of the sonic canvas.  The tones are Sunn O)))'s signature—immediately identifiable.  But, it's as if the sound is simply asked to breathe.  There are some interesting tonal changes toward the end of the track, sounds heighten and whine momentarily as if attempting to play some resemblance to actual notes, but they're fleeting. 

Nice little rip there.
For the second track, "Invisible/Sleeper," the material is advanced with some added moog tones and the incidental sounds of suffering, weeping voices.  It's deeper, more composed.  The riffs thrash instead of rest.  The bass tone makes its way beneath the mire. 

My copy arrived with a tear at the top of the sleeve, the album having sliced through at some point during transit.  There are copies of La Reh 012 on Discogs going for anywhere between $50 to $100 because of its limited run, so my copy is essentially worthless with the damage to the sleeve.  Not that I'm a philistine when it comes to my record collection, but I'm still a little burnt about getting a damaged copy.  Some asshole even has a sealed copy he's priced for over $1,300.  

Under Color of Artificial Right
Hardly Art
Released: 4.8.14

Protomartyr's Under Color of Artificial Right is an album that I've listened to almost non-stop since I picked up a copy, interrupted here and there by albums I've had to review or other albums I've purchased. I keep coming back to Under Color of Artificial Right, though. I haven't tired of it.

Minimalist and groove-oriented arrangements that owe some debt to post-punk mainstays like The Pop Group and The Fall, vocalist Joe Casey delivering his observances ("Judge Mathis would never stand for it") in half-sung pronunciations like a midwestern Mark E. Smith, Protomartyr build upon the influences of their very own Detriot rock city and cultivate an excellent blend of art rock and garage punk that's either high-tempo and straightforward ("Pagans," "Son of Dis") or oddly shaped and imbalanced ("Tarpeian Rock," "Scum, Rise!," "Come & See"). What I find fascinating about Protomartyr is that they make a strong case for being strange and accessible, neither disowning their natural penchant for grit and volume or throwing themselves into a full-on frenzy of mashed notes and ear fucks.  There's nothing grating or alienating about this album, but you're also not going to find any easy sell.   

With this album, too, I've found one of my favorite songs of 2014: "Bad Advice," which is a percussively cycled gem that's driven by an excellent bass riff and some well-timed guitar phrasing.  I absolutely love this track: 

I ordered the album directly from Hardly Art and it was delivered with a 'zine styled lyric book.  

Letters From A Tapehead

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

No Ripcord: White Lung

White Lung
Deep Fantasy
Domino Recording Company
Released: 6.17.14

Letters From A Tapehead

Monday, July 14, 2014

Shopping For Records: Superior Viaduct reissues The Gun Club, The Flesh Eaters, Brigitte Fontaine and Heldon

I was on vacation last week, (and offline for the most part), so I didn't get to post about this until today. Howard Wuelfing of Howlin' Wuelf Media sent over two press releases with info about some new Superior Viaduct reissues, the most exciting of which is The Gun Club's Fire of Love, which has been out of print for quite some time. Also reissued are A Minute to Pray a Second to Die by The Flesh Eaters, the 1972 self-titled release from Brigitte Fontaine and Allez-Téia by Heldon (a.k.a, Richard Pinhas).  

As mentioned, but shall reiterate for the sake of credit being properly given, all info has been provided by Howlin' Wuelf Media. 

The Flesh Eaters is the name behind one Chris Desjardins aka Chris D. Taking his stage name from a 1964 cult film, Chris D. wrote for legendary fanzine Slash in the late '70s and assembled the first of many Flesh Eaters line-ups from heavyweights in the burgeoning L.A. punk scene. After releasing a ravenous EP and heart-ripping debut album, The Flesh Eaters unleashed their era-defining statement, A Minute To Pray A Second to Die.

Originally released in 1981, A Minute To Pray brings together the greatest band in American rock history: Dave Alvin (Blasters) on guitar, John Doe (X) on bass, Steve Berlin (Los Lobos) on sax, along with Bill Batemen (Blasters) and DJ Bonebrake (X) providing the album's trademark percussive backbone. Chris D. leads the group like a man possessed. Through a series of grotesque vignettes, his lyrical prowess and indelible growl stand toe-to-toe with the music's powerful shifts.

From opener "Digging My Grave" (resembling a diesel-charged Magic Band) to the gothic groove of "Divine Horsemen," each song is its own hairy beast. Inspired by African tribal music, '60s garage-rock churn and Funhouse-era Stooges swing, A Minute To Pray remains (according to author/archivist Byron Coley) "the best rock record ever recorded."

This first-time vinyl reissue and long out-of-print CD release has been carefully remastered and features liner notes by Byron Coley. Without a doubt, The Flesh Eaters will hypnotize a new flock of listeners in this millennium.

Artist: The Flesh Eaters
Title: A Minute to Pray A Second to Die
Format: LP/CD
Label: Superior Viaduct
Catalogue: SV051-1 / SV051-2
UPC: 857176003515 / 857176003843
Release Date: July 8th

1. Digging My Grave
2. Pray Til You Sweat
3. River Of Fever
4. Satan's Stomp
5. See You In The Boneyard
6. So Long
7. Cyrano De Berger's Back
8. Divine Horseman

* classic 80s underground rock album
* featuring Dave Alvin (Blasters) and John Doe (X)
* first-time vinyl reissue
* CD unavailable almost 15 years
* liner notes by Byron Coley

Fire of Love is the no-nonsense debut from blues-punk legends The Gun Club. Formed in 1979 - when singer Jeffrey Lee Pierce taught a young Kid Congo Powers to play guitar - the band injects the Delta blues, rockabilly and '60s garage with their own amplified fury.

Originally released in 1981 on Slash's sub-label Ruby Records, Fire of Love features the classic second line-up with Ward Dotson on guitar (replacing Powers who left to join The Cramps) and The Bags' rhythm section. Opener "Sex Beat" shakes and stutters in a dynamic slab of American rock n' roll that reverberates throughout the album. "She's Like Heroin To Me" is perhaps Pierce's most famous paean to modern love, elevating him to raucous demigod of the underground.

Take it straight from Chris D. of The Flesh Eaters who (along with Tito Larriva of The Plugz) produced these sessions: "Fire of Love is probably the definitive record to come out of this roots revival movement. Several people have told me that record made them want to start a band and come to Los Angeles."

This long out-of-print CD release has been carefully remastered and features liner notes by Chris D.

artist: The Gun Club
title: Fire Of Love
format: CD
label: Superior Viaduct
catalogue: sv054
barcode: 857176 003546
Release Date: July 8th

1 Sex Beat
2 Preaching The Blues
3 Promise Me
4 She Is Like Heroin To Me
5 For The Love Of Ivy
6 Fire Spirit
7 Ghost On The Highway
8 Jack On Fire
9 Black Train
10 Cool Drink Of Water
11 Goodbye Johnny

* Groundbreaking debut album from blues-punk legends
* Listed in MOJO's Greatest Guitar Albums of All Time
* Domestic CD unavailable for 20+ years
* Liner notes by Chris Desjardins (The Flesh Eaters)

Allez-Téia, the second album by French guitarist Richard Pinhas under the Heldon moniker, was originally released in 1975 on Pinhas' own Disjuncta imprint. Far from the band's Prog-tinged trio line-up, Allez-Téia features a menagerie of guitars, Mellotron and analog synthesizers.

While the opening track, "In the Wake of King Fripp," pays homage to King Crimson in its title, heady textures and rhythmic meditations are more reminiscent of the German Kosmiche movement (Cluster, Harmonia et al) and post-rock experimentalists, such as Jim O'Rourke and Gastr del Sol. Acoustic guitar even makes a rare appearance - on the beautiful and melancholy track "Aphanisis."

With front cover artwork depicting the events of May '68 in Paris (by renowned photojournalist Gilles Caron), these dark ambient sounds make Allez-Téia perhaps the most revolutionary release in Heldon's influential catalogue, foreshadowing Pinhas' incredible solo work for decades to come.

Artist: Heldon
Title: Allez-Téia
Format: LP
Label: Superior Viaduct
Catalogue: SV028
UPC: 857176003287

Release Date: August 5th
1. In The Wake Of King Fripp
2. Aphanisis
3. Omar Diop Blondin
4. Moebius
5. Continuum Mobile
6. Disjonction Inclusive
7. St-Mikael Samstag Abends
8. Michel Ettori

* First-time domestic release
* First-time vinyl reissue
* Original copies going for high collector prices
* For fans of Cluster, Gastr del Sol, Vincent Gallo

Never one to settle on a single musical style, Brigitte Fontaine followed up her debut, Est...Folle, and her astonishing collaboration with The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Comme À La Radio, with the most eclectic release of her lengthy career, 1972's Brigitte Fontaine. It is telling that Fontaine chose an eponymous title for her third album, the sole release from her venerable '70s catalogue attributed to her alone. Here the actress-come-singer has finally arrived.

From the introspective opening track, simply named "Brigitte," seductive melodies are perfectly perched above slithery bass lines and acoustic strumming. On "Moi Aussi," a sparse and trance-like duet with long-time collaborator Areski, Fontaine muses, "They put me in a cage and after they told me 'You fly down.'" Brigitte Fontaine is an unmatched European art-pop masterpiece anchored by both vocal and lyrical dexterity. In many ways, Fontaine's most compelling work and an excellent entry-point for those unfamiliar with this unique French icon.

Artist: Brigitte Fontaine
Title: S/T
Format: LP
Label: Superior Viaduct
Catalogue: SV043
Release Date: August 5th

1. Brigitte
2. Pour Le Patron
3. Moi Aussi
4. Famille
5. L'Auberge
6. Premier Juillet
7. Le Dragon
8. Vingt Secondes
9. Eros
10. Une Minute Cinquante-Cinq
11. Où Vas-Tu Petit Garçon
12. Marcelle
13. Merry-Go-Round

* First-time domestic release
* First-time vinyl reissue * For fans of Yoko Ono, Catherine Ribeiro, Stereolab

Letters From A Tapehead

Sunday, July 13, 2014

On Pause...

To whom it may interest,

Apologies for the lack of content recently.  I was either inundated with my 9-to-whenever, handling responsibilities at home or I was on vacation.  I promise to be active this week.  Much by way of music has found my inbox during my absence, so I will try and disseminate as much as possible. 

Thanks as always for your readership. 

Letters From A Tapehead

Monday, June 30, 2014

METZ: "I'm A Bug (Urinals cover)"

Stereogum premiered a cover of the Urinals' "I'm A Bug," performed by the excellently charged and wildly distorted rock trio, METZ.  As with everything this band has committed to tape, the muddy distortion is prominent, the drums are exceedingly lo-fi and the energy is dialed up.  Apparently a follow-up to the band's self-titled debut is in the works, so we'll be on the lookout.  In the meantime, check out the track below and read up on some tour dates.  METZ will be playing traveling companions to Cloud Nothings for a few dates.

A link to the video and touring info was provided by Sub Pop.

Listen to METZ cover of the Urinals
“I’m A Bug” (Stereogum premiere)

Updated 2014 Summer & Fall tour dates

The ever-mighty METZ have dropped a blistering cover of “I’m A Bug,” originally recorded by Southern California punk band the Urinals. Stereogum, who premiered the track had this to say, “I’m A Bug” is one many fine minimalist outbursts by late-’70s SoCal punk trio the Urinals, but there’s nothing minimalist about METZ. The Toronto trio are the latest to cover “I’m A Bug”...and they’ve turned it into one of their patented noise-rock onslaughts with typically bracing results. Which is to say: Like most METZ songs, this thing will squash you. (Like a bug, see?)(see premiere June 30th).”

METZ are hitting the road this week for a North American west coast tour with Cloud Nothings. The trek kicks-off July 2nd in Portland, OR at Hawthorne Theater and ends on July 8th & 9th with a two-night stand in Los Angeles, CA at the Roxy. METZ will then head to the UK for a short tour, beginning August 10th in North Yorkshire, UK at Beacon Festival and ending on August 16th in London, UK for ATP's Jabberwocky Festival at ExCel London.

Additionally, METZ has three festival appearances to mention: July 19th in Pemberton, BC at Pemberton Festival; October 4th in Sacramento, CA at TBD Fest; And November 7th-9th in Austin, TX at Fun Fun Fun Fest. Please find a complete list of tour dates below.

METZ are currently hard at work on the follow up to their critically acclaimed, self-titled Sub Pop debut.

Tour Dates
Jul. 02 - Portland, OR - Hawthorne Theater*
Jul. 03 - Seattle, WA - Neumos*
Jul. 04 - Victoria, BC - Upstairs Cabaret*
Jul. 05 - Vancouver, BC - Rickshaw Theater*
Jul. 07 - San Francisco, CA - Great American Music Hall*
Jul. 08 + 09 - Hollywood, CA - Roxy LA*
Jul. 19 - Pemberton, BC - Pemberton Festival
Aug. 10 - North Yorkshire, UK - Beacon Festival
Aug. 11 - Birmingham, UK - Hare & Hound
Aug. 12 - Sheffield , UK - Harley
Aug. 13 - St Albans, UK - Horn
Aug. 15 - Saint-Malo, FR - La Route du Rock Festival
Aug. 16 - London, UK - ATP's Jabberwocky Festival @ ExCeL London
Oct. 04 - Sacramento, CA - TBD Fest
Nov. 07-.09 - Austin, TX - Fun Fun Fun Fest
* w/ Cloud Nothings

Letters From A Tapehead

Friday, June 27, 2014

What I Heard This Morning: Dama/Libra

The artfully aware crew over at Northern Spy Records checked in yesterday with a track from Dama/Libra, an experimental and prominently vocal endeavor from Joel R. L. Phelps (Silkworm) and G. Stuart Dalquist (Burning Witch, Sunn O))), Avsa, Goatsnake).  The group has a new album coming out called Claw and its first single is "The Chant," a harmonized vocal at the forefront of an otherwise pulsating and slow drone track, a thudding tom drum and bass strum buried underneath varying synthesizer effects, resultant in a brass-laden exit that's both unexpected and almost celebratory in its surprising and spontaneous glow. 

You can check out the track below.  Tour dates were provided by Northern Spy Records.

Dama/Libra Tour 2014

August 17—Quarters—Milwaukee, Wisconsin
August ?18—The Hideout—Chicago, Illinois
August 20—Middle East—Boston, Massachusetts
August 21—St. Vitus—Brooklyn, New York
August 22—The Brillobox—Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
August 23—Kung Fu Necktie—Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
August 25—Double Happiness—Columbus, Ohio
August 26—Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center—St. Louis, Missouri

Letters From A Tapehead

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Singles: Wolves in the Throne Room, Ought, Pink Mountaintops, Earth, Incarnated, Beige Eagle Boys

Wolves in the Throne Room: "Initiation at Neudeg Alm" (via Earsplit PR/Noisey/Soundcloud)

Ought: "Today More Than Any Other Day" (via Rarely Unable/Vimeo)
Ought "Today More Than Any Other Day" from Constellation Records on Vimeo.

Pink Mountaintops: "The Second Summer of Love" (via Jagjaguwar/YouTube)

Earth: "From The Zodiacal Light" (via Rarely Unable/Soundcloud)

Incarnated: "Madness" (via Earsplit PR/YouTube)

Beige Eagle Boys: "I Saw Your Face on the Pavement" (via Earsplit PR/YouTube)

Letters From A Tapehead


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