Thursday, January 5, 2012

Guru Guru- Ufo[1970]

Guru Guru were absolutely as heady as their counterparts in Cologne and Berlin, but they didn't have the sterile seriousness of the Kosmiche-elite or the art-communes. Instead, Guru Guru went way psychedelic, using everything from fuzz-boxes to car horns to create thick, rattling soundscapes that would sound especially trippy alongside lengthy wah-everything power-trio jams.

On this, their first album, GG lay down some amazingly thick and fuzzy, yet highly varied and nuanced tracks. I'd say the closest touchstone would be some combination of Blue Cheer and Can. There's a much closer connection to US and UK rock than with say, Faust, but GG were also prone to flights of fancy and unpredictable rhythm sections.

This is, of course, a record to get stoned to. The first track is called "Stone-In," and I'd say it's a pretty apt introduction to the stoniest of German rock, courtesy of Mani Neumeier and co.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Matthew Friedberger- Old Regimes[2011]

The male half of the frequently challenging Friedberger siblings, Matthew has typically been the weird behind the Fiery Furnaces hyper-literate schizo-pop.

Last year, Mr. Friedberger released a six-album series called Solos, of which Old Regimes is the third. I really love this album, it's got sort of a krauty tendency to repeat and play around with simple, yet interesting segments and snippets.
As far as instrumentation goes, it's apparently all harp. Friedberger rarely plays it as we're used to it, instead coating it in electronic effects or slapping the strings for percussion. He gets a remarkably full sound out of just one instrument, and the generally atonal instrumentation goes well with his whispered and chorused vocals, which are as intricate and interesting as ever.

Also, I find it interesting that if you combined the sort of thing Matthew is doing with Eleanor Friedberger's latest album "Last Summer," you would basically get a Fiery Furnaces album.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Orkustra- Adventures in Experimental Electric Orchestra From the San Francisco Psychedelic Underground[2010]

I was trying to think of something to post for Christmas, and I realized that this collection/reissue of the Orkustra's recorded output would do the trick.

Led by young Bobby BeauSoleil, the Orkustra was an attempt at the first "electric orchestra". Fusing techniques, rhythms, and instruments from Indian ragas, bebop and avant-garde jazz, folk, and rock and roll, the Orkustra made quite a mark on San Francisco's fabled underground, despite never releasing a proper album. These guys played with the Dead and Buffalo Springfield, but have been almost completely forgotten. Why? It could have something to do with good old Bobby BeauSoleil himself. In 1969, BeauSoleil killed a man in a drug deal gone wrong, and went to prison. This was after his involvement with the Manson family, of course. BeauSoleil lived on Manson's ranch at some point, but was uninvolved in their famous murders.

The music here is fantastic, truly a gem amongst many. The closest touchstone is perhaps the Third Ear Band, but their Indo-Euro fusion tended to stay closer to raga forms. The oboe and clarinet swing between wailing and crooning, the strings saw away in the background, the percussion is pounding and ritualistic, yet interesting. The occasional guitar touches work well- there are no power chords or solos. Instead, the guitar is treated in a manner more suited to this style of music.

There are 11 songs here, including two practice sessions. They run from three to twenty-five minutes, but the main draw here is the incredible "Gypsy Odyssey," performed live at St. John's Church, Christmas eve 1966. So there, there's my Christmas album this year. Yuletidin's to all.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mayo Thomspon- Corky's Debt To His Father[1969]

Mayo Thompson, who you may or may not know as the leader of The Red Krayola(nee Crayola) has a certain je ne sais quoi about him that really draws me toward his work. I think it's the Texas thing. His Texas roots shine strong here, on an album of music that's certainly country, but also very western, as well as postmodern and a kissing cousin of the Velvet Underground's weird new take on rock music.

First of all, this is one of those albums that could be from any era and still be fresh. It's too much of a stew of various genres and techniques to really become irrelevant, and enough of a tongue-in-cheek poke at the same styles it utilizes. Full of odd and jerky, yet organic and hummable melodies and rhythms and memorable, if sometimes goofy, leyrics, Corky's Debt To His Father is a highly unique singer-songwriter album from the highly unique leader of one of the most violently avant-garde rock bands in America during the 1960s.

"Dear Betty Baby" is what I consider a beautiful song- the lyrics and the simply chopped off chords are very heartfelt and affecting.

I can't really pick out favorites here. I'm a little bit doped up and having a hard time typing, but all the tracks here are unique, clever, and catchy. There are a lot of well-planned moments and arrangements, and you'd have a hard time ever pigeonholing this album into a single style. This really deserves a better review, but I just wanted to finally get this favorite of mine posted.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Camberwell Now- All's Well[1983-1987]

Let it be known that I'm a big fan of Charles Hayward. The man has a background including Gong(big plus here), Quiet Sun(with Manzanera of Roxy Music), and the incomparable This Heat. He's also got a fairly extensive solo career, and has played with Tatsuya Yoshida of Ruins, among others.

Camberwell Now formed after This Heat died in its prime, and immediately, there were signs that this group would be a bit "out there". Hayward's vicious drumming, bass-as-guitar from Trefor Goronwy(worked with Huun-Hurr-Tu, one of the more well-known Tuvan throat-singing ensembles), and sound technician Stephen Rickard's tape-switchboard, along with the hyper-political, far-left, and insanely clever and biting lyrics seen in This Heat-- it was an odd combination.

That said, Camberwell Now made a brand of post-punk that was very, VERY post, but also had a visible thread of punk woven throughout. They only released one album and two EPs, but most of the material is gathered here, on All's Well. Opener "Cutty Sark" is vocals and a drone, eventually joined by tambourine, and it's about a naval cartographer- it's awesome. "Spirit of Dunkirk" is a lock-groove percolation of tape, drums, and half-moaned vocals-- again, awesome. "Resplash," a reworking of an early track entitled "Splash", is an eight-minute groove consisting mostly of a recurring bassline, autoharp, reverbed tape loops, and running water samples, yet manages to stay compelling by subtly screwing with the loops to change around the rhythms.

There are more high-energy, uptempo tracks here- "Daddy Needs a New Throne", "Working Nights", "Sitcom", and "Green Lantern" all snarl over bouncing basslines, often breaking into a new rhythm every few seconds. These are actually among my favorite tracks here, and it's a sound that Camberwell Now pulled of well.

I'm not a huge fan of the material from the "Greenfingers" EP, but it has its merits, namely in the lyrics and use of tape sampling.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Baby Grandmothers- s/t[1969]

The Swedes have had a penchant for heavy psych-rock since it's been a possibility, and Baby Grandmothers may have started the whole scene, which is a shame, because the scene's pretty derivative these days.
Baby Grandmothers supported The Jimi Hendrix Experience during their Scandinavian tour, and they sure deserved it. Vocals are minimal, but the instrumentals get pretty hairy. A little lo-fi, but it sounds great here.

The Millenium- Begin[1968]

Absolutely perfect psych-pop album. The definition of a "lost masterpiece".
This was the most expensive album Columbia records had produced to date, and you can really tell that no expense was spared.
"Prelude/To Claudia on a Thursday" might be the best way I've ever heard an album begin.
The tragedy: the album sold abysmally, and the band was never re-signed.