Monday, January 31, 2011

MUSIC FROM AN IMAGINARY ISLAND pt. 1

Anaphoria is a mysterious, obscure island that Los Angeles microtonal composer Kraig Grady has been exploring for years. His addictive 1994 album "Music From The Island of Anaphoria" is richly exotic, but it's not exotica. No Martin Denny-type Polynesian pop here. Tho the music is sometimes reminiscent of Indonesian/gamelon music, the island's 73 different ethnic groups ensure that no one style predominates. It all sounds like nothing I've heard before. Why so much of this wonderful stuff is out-of-print and not as famous as Radiohead is something I'll never understand.
Pump organs, chants, hammered dulcimer, all manner of clanging, chiming, and thumping percussion are heard here, as well as the strange sounds of native Anaphorian instruments unknown to the uninitiated. Shadow plays are sometimes performed along with the music at Grady's concerts. Hypnotic drones and atmospheric sounds (acoustic? electronic? both?) suggest esoteric rituals and ancient ceremonies. If Harry Partch wrote the music for Disneyland's "Enchanted Tiki Room," it might sound like this.

Also on hand here is
L.A. experimental music legend Brad Laner, a guy I first knew of from his notorious noise band Debt of Nature - I saw 'em get booed opening for Wall of Voodoo way back when. He has since gone on to play with Savage Republic, Medicine, Brian Eno, Yoko Ono, and many others.

Kraig Grady
"Music From The Island of Anaphoria" [UPDATE 2-4-11: Back on line! Music For Maniacs and the North American Embassy of Anaphoria Island proudly co-present this album.]

01 Ecstasy of Exiles
02 Wedding Song (with Petra Haden)
03 Duet With Fogbound Oars
04 Ceremony At Airports Edge

05 Ritual Offering
06 A Sacred Feast
07 Banaphshu Remembers her Father the Clock Maker

08 Shadow Play - The Birds Rout The Demon Of Swords
09 A Farewell Ring


More Kraig Grady and the music of Anaphoria to come in future posts...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

SICK HUMOR

New Jersey's Carla Ulbrich had embarked on a career as a satirical singer-songwriter (or, as she puts it, a "professional smart aleck"), when illness struck. And struck, and struck again. It took years to even get a correct diagnosis before she could start proper treatments. It all resulted in endless hours in hospitals. Not very funny? Actually, it resulted in so much material that she got a whole album out it.

Like a scatological Weird Al, many of these tunes are parodies of everyone from Gershwin to The Pretenders, and sometimes quite scathing ones at that, e.g.: Tommy Tutone's "867-5309" becomes "Patient 294606," a cutting look at how patients can feel like they're on an impersonal assembly line, treated like just another number. Very funny, but the cumulative effect of listening to the entire album is that's it's all really quite awful. What an ordeal. I am genuinely relieved that she recovered.

Two songs are just her and her guitar, recorded live, but most of the songs are full band productions. It's all well played and sung, upbeat and fun...but as great as it is to hear a detailed description of a malfunctioning colon cheerfully sung to that disco lounge classic, "The Love Boat" theme, you might not want to listen while eating lunch. I won't be making that mistake again.

Carla Ulbrich "Sick Humor"

1-Sittin In the Waiting Room
2-On The Commode Again (short clip)
3-Patient 294606
4-Prednisone
5-Little Brown Jug
6-I'm a Specialist
7-The Colon
9-What If Your Butt Was Gone?
9-Happy To Be Stuck By You
10-I Got Tremors

She generously has put the whole thing up for free download on her site. I took all the individual tracks and threw 'em into a zip file for y'all. They're in the m3u format, not mp3 (tho my iTunes converted 'em to mp3), and you only get a short clip of one of the songs, but hey, if you don't like it, get the album.

Ulbrich has a new book hitting the shelves in days entitled
"How Can You NOT Laugh at a Time Like This?: Reclaim Your Health with Humor, Creativity, and Grit."



Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Caribbeana Esoterica #4: Punta

Buried under snow? A trip to the sunny Caribbean should sort you out just fine. But, this being a MusicForManiacs cruise, we'll be steering clear of the (sometimes overly) familiar sounds of Jamaica, Cuba or Trinidad.* So far we've been diggin' the sounds of spouge (Barbados), junkanoo, and goombay (both from The Bahamas,) and fungi (British Virgin Islands.) Now let's move ashore to Belize, and note the African descendants grooving to their own style, punta rock. Ah, but what's this?! Their Honduran neighbors to the north are tired of the usual Latino styles. They want to add a little salsa to that creole gumbo.

Los Roland's "Los Reyes de la Punta"

Album title means "The Kings of the Punta" and I ain't arguing. Punta rock is not rock, but it does rock. Only 8 songs, but wonderful, high energy stuff (the song "Punta Rock" was a staple of my mix tapes in the '90s) with a full electric band, complete with cheezy synths. If you don't speak Spanish, you're not missing much. Lyrics don't translate to anything more meaningful than "Let's go dance the punta rock." But, sometimes, that's all that needs to be said.


*Guess what I heard playing in Starbucks this morning? Bob Marley! What a shock!!!11!


Friday, January 21, 2011

The Everyday Film: "Permanent Patients"

The Everyday Film, the Jandek of electronica, have a new "album" out (it's 11 minutes long) of 7 brief tracks, and we've got it. He/they no longer have a website, but they've kindly let us host this typically disturbing, fascinating burst of noise-tronics and serial-killer vocals cryptically muttering non-sequiters about how he gets his tv friends mixed up with his real friends, and how he hopes he doesn't bleed on your rug. Will make your skin crawl. Have a nice day!

The Everyday Film: "Permanent Patients"

Thursday, January 20, 2011

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART KARAOKE PARTY

One of the indisputable giants of weirdo music, Captain Beefheart, died this past December, as most of you doubtless know. Some have said that since he'd been retired from music for so long, his death shouldn't be much of a shock. But I've been listening to Beefheart so much in recent years that he did feel like an immediate presence - he's the rare artist from my boyhood that I listen to more now then I did then. Took me a while to fully absorb him. After I got increasingly into Delta blues and free jazz, then I could see where the good Captain was coming from.
As a belated tribute, here's a pretty good sounding (as bootlegs go) collection of instrumental mixes of his 1970 "Lick My Decals Off Baby" album. I love the opportunity to really hear The Magic Band's twisted, knotty instrumental skillz in all their glory. Don't be put off by the horn skronk on the first two tracks - they get a-rockin' and a-rollin' shortly thereafter.

Captain Beefheart &The Magic Band: "Lick My Decals Off Baby" (instrumental mixes)

1. Japan In A Dis
hpan
2.
Japan In A Dishpan (take 2)
3. Woe Is A Me Bop

4. Space Age Couple
5. Petrified Forest
6. Flash Gordon's Ape #2 [some vox on here, actually]

7. Doctor Dark
8. I Love You, You Big Dummy
9.
Japan In A Dishpan (bass and Drumbo version)
10. Flash Gordon's Ape
11.
Lick My Decals Off Baby
12. Japan In A Dishpan (take 4)
13. Bellerin' Plain
14. Clouds Are Full Of Wine
15. Big Toe #25
16. The Buggy Boogie-Woogie
17.
Flash Gordon's Ape #1
  • Captain Beefheart - Vocals, clarinet, saxes, harmonica
  • Zoot Horn Rollo - Guitar, glass finger guitar
  • Rockette Morton - Bassius-o-pheilius
  • Drumbo - Drums, broom
  • Ed Marimba - marimba, percussion, broom


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Caribbeana Esoterica #3: Fungi

It's great that we're searching for life on other planets, but there's so many places right here on planet Earth that we know nothing about. Ever heard of fungi music?

Named after a native dish, not fungus, this British Virgin Island style (pronounced "FOON-jee") is somewhat of a throwback to classic '50s style calypso - it's got more of a laid-back feel, with more em
phasis on lyrical cleverness and storytelling. It's performed on banjos and ukulele, with low-key percussion (e.g. triangle, bongos, calabash or squash) adding toe-tapping African dance rhythms. Today's two albums show two different approaches to fungi.

Elmore Stoutt's album features some spoken-word introductions giving you the historical/cultural context behind the folks songs (he is an educator, after all, with a school named after him). But amidst all the funny, sunny fun there's a odd song that seems to suggest that Princess Di was murdered. Huh? An amusingly risque song about Bill Clinton, however, restores the topical subjects to a more down-to-earth level.
If Stoutt seems like grandpa casually spinning tales, The Lashing Dogs sound like his younger rowdy grandkids. Tho still playing trad fungi - no electronics, no rapping - the furiously-strummed banjo and vigorous percussion (rock that triangle!) boost up the energy level. Oddities still pop in tho, like "Only The Gotter," a cranky political tirade with such poor rhymes that it almost sounds like a song-poem, and "Where The Men Dem Gone," which questions modern males' masculinity, even claiming that this situation has led to St. Thomas Island's dramatic increase in lesbianism! Otherwise, it's all rum-drenched groovers designed to "nice up de party." "No Excuse" is a particular favorite - apart from the irresistible music, we get a lesson on the B.V.I. legal system. "Ignorance is no excuse for de law!"
Elmore Stoutt - The Fungi Master "Welcome To The B.V.I."
The Lashing Dogs "What A Difference"

Friday, January 14, 2011

Strange Interlude

By request, here's a re-up of a 1961 album recorded by Lew Davies & his Orchestra for Enoch Light's Command Records label called "Strange Interlude." Unlike your usual Command stereophonic hi-fi upbeat gimmickry, this one's low-key, creepy.  Songs like "The Witching Hour," "Old Devil Moon" and "In A Mist" live up to the odd mood suggested by their titles. Unusual instruments like the theremin, Ondioline (an early electronic keyboard) and hammered dulcimers were featured. After finding it in the dollar bin of a used record store, I played the heck out of it. I had never heard an album quite like it before.

Lew Davies & his Orchestra "Strange Interlude"

Side 1
Riders in the Sky
Strange Interlude
In a Mist
Gone with the Wind
 
Wild Goose
Intermezzo

Side 2
Old Devil Moon
 
Ebb Tide
The Riddle Song

The Witch
ing Hour
Laura

Spellbound

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Hathaway Family Plot

Toy instruments, theremins, vuvuzelas, mandolins, kitchen utensils, instruments I never heard of (Otamatones? Psalteries?) join keyboards and percussion to create a fantastic home-brew internet giveaway that is finally out today - today! - courtesy of WMRecordings.

I received an advance copy of this album by
Buffalo, New York's The Hathaway Family Plot a month or so ago and have been steadily diggin' it ever since. Every track is a new adventure: the Residential guitars of the opener back a distraught, distorted vocal, the suitably noisy "Noise Complaint" followed by lovely vibraphone lounge, Fripp-esque guitar drones, vocals that sound like The Chipmunks being put thru a meat grinder, R2D2-ish electronics, and general assorted buzzes, whistles, and throbbing drums. The song "Home" is a moving, evocative electronic meditation. The last track is the only non-original, a Sparklehorse cover featuring a forlorn toy piano plunking away at lost childhood memories.

There's a welcome righteous fury at the bill of goods we've been sold
that fuels The Hathaway Family Plot, a bitter cynicism at the idea that we are what we buy. There are no "financial crises." There are a handful of people who have set plans in motion to make themselves very, very rich. And they have succeeded. So what if thousands lose their homes and their retirement in the process? Collateral damage. Can't be helped, sorry. Before the recent "housing crisis," there was Enron, junk-bonds, etc., etc. And nothing will change because, as we all know, regulation is socialism. And that leads to eating children in Satanic sacrifices. So shop 'til you drop!

The Hathaway Family Plot "Debt"

Also available courtesy of the Free Music Archive.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Caribbeana Esoterica #2: Junkanoo & Goombay

Continuing our trip around the Caribbean to the other islands (that is, not Jamaica, Cuba, or Trinidad) we sail to The Bahamas. Now I thought that this series would be a way to bring some sunshine to the depths of winter, but actually, our first album today, "Carnival in Paradise" from 1962, begins with "Chippy's Junkanoo Street Carnival," a spellbindingly dark, heavily-echoed track that's all weird noises and panning drums, creating an evil voodoo atmosphere. Pure junkanoo music, like a 1964 Nonesuch album I have called "Junkanoo Drums," is as African as Caribbean music gets, favoring just percussion and singing, with few other instruments. It's the usual party-time calypso-ish stuff, nothing as psychedelic as this track. And yet, it's supposedly a Christmas song!

Didn't think anything could top it, 'til an absolutely deranged woman started singing, and I realized that the second song was almost as mental as the first. Along the way we get some goombay music (more on that later), steel drums, straight-ahead Trinidad-style calypsos, and a tiki bar-ready version of that exotica standard "Yellow Bird." Some familiar so
ngs like "Shame and Scandal" sound fresh here in their new goombay setting. An excellent collection,and one that really sounds like that album cover.
"Carnival in Paradise"

1. Chippy's Junkanoo Champions "
Chippy's Junkanoo Street Carnival"
2. The Eloise Trio "Come To The Caribbean"
3. Richie Delamore "Goombay"
4. Lord Cody & Kasavubu "Gin And Coconut Water"
5.
Richie Delamore "The Limbo" [killer version of a song also recorded as "Limbo Like Me"]
6. Lionel Latmore "Shame & Scandal"
7.
Little Sparrow "The Garrett Bounce"
8.
Lionel Latmore "Wings Of A Dove"
9.
Ray Shurland "Yellow Bird"
10. Tony Alleyne & The Big Bamboo Orchestra "Junkanoo In Nassau"
11.
Ray Shurland "Bahama Lullaby"
George Symonette plays a more typical brand of goombay, the name of both a style native to the Bahamas and the drum used to create it, a big booming thing held between one's legs while seated. Symonette was a popular band leader in the hotels of Nassau, so he had to play some hits - famous Jamaican/Trinidadian calypsos like "Brown Skin Gal" are included on this 1956 album, but there's plenty of local color, too - one track on this album, "Peanuts Plays The Drum," is a fiery demonstration of pure goombay drumming.

George Symonette "Goombay Rhythms"

1. Hold Him Joe
2. Gin and Cocoanut Water

3. The Crow
4. Push Push
5.
Peanuts Plays The Drum
6. Doctor
7. Freckles
8. Brown Skin Girl
9. Come Here Liza
10. Wanna Do Nothing All Day
11. Fishing
12. Can't Get No Sweetness Out Of Me

I noticed that my copy of this record is more worn on side two. Side one's plenty fun, what with Symonette's crow impressions and whatnot, but there's some double-entendre tunes on side two that must have been pretty saucy stuff for the '50s. And I'm guessing that's why side two got so much more play. Shame and scandal, indeed.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

THIS GUY'S A REAL CUT-UP

I Cut People, the diabolical sound-smashers we first reviewed last year, have a NEW! FREE! download album constructed entirely out of Hollywood movie audio. In true film industry fashion, it's a sequel - last year's "The Inside Story" was a similar attack on Tinseltown, but, unlike most sequels, this one's a little better. It's more funny. Highlights include the title track's Mel Gibson-gone-insane collage, and "Be My Wingman" pulling all your favorite stars out of the closet. Trenchant commentary + laffs = my fave I Cut People release yet.

I Cut People "This Is Hollywood"

Vocal critics of the sound collage aesthetic like Steve Albini and Henry Rollins
decry the artist's lack of traditional musical methods ("It's not real music!"). But they're missing a crucial point: the media has usually been a one-way avenue - they produce, we consume. This type of sound-collage (200 films were used, in this case) reverses that, chewing up and spitting all the endless hype back out. It's democracy in action, blowing past the gatekeepers, letting anyone with sound editing software in on the information highway. And besides, recycling all that media waste often results in something far more entertaining and profound than the original sources.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Caribbeana Esoterica #1: Spouge

Ahoy, maniacs, and welcome to a new year...of blogging! Which will began the same way last year's ended: with Caribbean music. Even here in L.A. we're suffering from a bad case of weather. Who needs weather, eh? Weather sucks. But this series of posts that we're embarking on today is the feel-good, sunny, party antidote.

Ska? Pshaw! Calypso? Salsa? That stuff's for amateurs. We'll be cruising far beyond Jamaica, Trinidad and Cuba to explore such other exciting rhythms as goombay, punta, boom and chime, and fungi music, among others. No, I'm not making this stuff up. Listening to this awesomely life-affirming music makes me wonder why it's all so unknown. There's a million reggae shows out there - why is the music of other islands ignored? It takes a blog like this one dedicated to the hopelessly obscure to cover 'em.

The all too short-lived spouge music of Barbados is a great example of how to put a unique spin on Afro-Carib rhythms. Listening to this all-killer-no-filler 1973 album makes me realize how cliched and predictable ska and calypso can be, much as I like those styles. The Sam and Dave-like powerful/sweet soul vocal harmonies of The Draytons Two, the intense energy and drive of The Lunar 7 Orchestra (what a great name), the cowbell-driven ka-THUMP-ah, ka-THUMP-ah rhythm, all add up to a ka-ray-zee Caribbean classic.

Aaah, the smell of Raw Spouge

A1
Drink Milk

A2
Tighten Up

A3
Row Boat

A4
Six & Seven Books Of Moses (covering Toots & The Maytalls)

A5
Soul & Inspiration (a Righteous Brothers cover)

B1
Hush Baby

B2
Can't Keep A Good Man Down

B3
I Don't Want To Have To Wait

B4
Too Late

B5
Spouge All The Way

I have another collection of Draytons Two odds-and-ends that I'll be putting up in the near future. So who were these geniuses? No idea. Anyone planning on taking a trip to Barbados, feel free to do some research, won't ya?